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April 25, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Group Sets Up Field Hospital in Quake-Hit Ecuador (Times of Israel)
    The Israeli disaster relief group IsraAID set up a field hospital in the earthquake-hit Ecuadorean village of Canoa, which began operating on Saturday evening.

London Becomes a Leading Destination for French Jews After Attacks - Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura (New York Times)
    A growing stream of French Jews see London as a convenient option as France grapples with the radicalization of young Muslims and a rise in anti-Semitism.
    About 5,000 French Jews are thought to have moved to Britain over the past two years, according to the Conference of European Rabbis.
    Britain is now a leading destination for French Jews, after Israel, which welcomed 7,800 French Jews last year, said Avi Mayer, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency.
    There are better job opportunities in Britain than in France, it is a train ride away from Paris, and visas are not required for EU citizens to live and work in Britain.

Israel Denies Reports Russians Fired at IAF Jets - Lilach Shoval and Shlomo Cesana (Israel Hayom)
    Israeli diplomatic and security sources over the weekend rejected reports that Russian forces in Syria had fired at least twice on Israeli military aircraft.
    A senior security official said the report was "simply not true. No force fired at any Israeli jets."

Istanbul Bomber Didn't Target Israelis - Tamar Pileggi (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau at the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday said the Islamic State suicide bomber who killed three Israeli tourists in Istanbul last month did not specifically target the group but was aiming at tourism in Turkey in general.
    The bureau said that Israeli security agencies carried out a month-long investigation into the March 19 blast.
    The new assessment contradicts an earlier Defense Ministry evaluation that there was "reasonable basis for the belief that the attack was directed at Israelis."

3,700-Year-Old Egyptian Scarab Seal Found by Israeli Birdwatcher - Michael Zeff (Tazpit-Ynet News)
    An Israeli amateur birdwatcher discovered an ancient scarab seal belonging to a senior Egyptian official of the 18th century BCE, researchers at Haifa University announced on Sunday.
    Alexander Ternopolsky was birdwatching near the Tel Dor archaeological site on Israel's Carmel Coast when he found the seal.
    Dor was a key port city for thousands of years, until the Romans built Caesarea.
    "The scarab must have belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury," explains Prof. Ayelet Gilboa of the Department of Archeology at Haifa University.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Expands Its Military Role in Syria - Gordon Lubold and Adam Entous
    The U.S. will send 250 additional military personnel to Syria to help local forces fighting Islamic State, increasing the number of American military personnel inside Syria from 50 to 300, U.S. officials said. A major focus of the additional American personnel will be trying to get more Sunni Arabs to join the fight alongside Kurdish units in northeastern Syria. The Pentagon has struggled in the past to convince Sunni Arabs to make the fight against Islamic State a priority because many see Syrian government forces led by President Assad as their No. 1 enemy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Denmark to Reinforce Military Fight Against ISIS - Gerard O'Dwyer
    Denmark has significantly strengthened its military commitment to fighting the Islamic State, following approval by the Danish parliament to send new forces to Iraq in the second half of 2016. The new force will consist of seven F-16 fighters, 400 military personnel and at least one C130J transport support aircraft. The ground-forces contingent will consist of 340 troops from infantry combat and specialized training units. The special forces unit will run to around 60.
        Taking the fight directly to ISIS currently ranks among Denmark's "highest ranking priorities," said Defense Minister Peter Christensen. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said, "The Islamic State is a brutal and ruthless terrorist organization, and a powerful response from the outside world is needed to defeat it." Parliamentary backing was overwhelming for the government's force deployment as 90 MPs from mainstream parties voted for the plan, while 19 mainly leftist MPs opposed. (Defense News)
  • Islamic State Assassinates Syrian Rebels in Turkey - Hugh Naylor
    Syrian rebel Zaher al-Shurqat, 36, was murdered this month by an Islamic State militant who fired a round into his head in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. He was the fourth prominent Syrian critic of the Islamic State to be assassinated in the past six months in southern Turkey.
        Islamic State asserted responsibility for his killing, an attack that further demonstrates the group's ability to strike beyond its center of gravity. In Turkey, the group's multiple suicide bombings over the past year have killed dozens, and concerns have grown that the group operates among the more than 2 million Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey, as well as among Turkish citizens. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Tunnel Detectors Still in Early Stages of Development - Yuval Azulai
    While Israel's new tunnel detection system marked its first discovery of an attack tunnel dug by Hamas from Gaza, the system is still in the early days of its development. It uses sensors and sensitive radar systems to provide real time alerts of subterranean spaces or construction such as underground digging. The alert provided by the new system directed the IDF engineers, pointing them to where they needed to drill.
        The system is still being developed and improved. Intelligence sources believe Hamas is constantly digging towards Israel. (Globes)
  • Video: Thousands Attend Priestly Blessing Ceremony at Western Wall on Monday
    Thousands of people flocked to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday for the traditional Birkat Hacohanim ceremony, the priestly blessing, held annually on the intermediate days of Passover. The custom sees hundreds of Cohens (priests), descended from the biblical figure of Aaron and the Israelite tribe of Levi, raise their hands within their prayer shawls and bless those assembled. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Jewish Story Is Under Assault - Yossi Klein Halevi
    All of the factions in the Palestinian statehood movement deny the existence of a distinct Jewish people with a right to national sovereignty. The Jewish calendar tells a different story. On Passover, we celebrate the birth of the Jewish people through our escape from Egypt. The Passover Seder ritual is the retelling of the exodus - "as though you yourself left Egypt" - and the message is: There is no Judaism without the Jewish people and its story.
        The Seder culminates with the affirmation, "Next year in Jerusalem," a reminder that the Jewish story that begins in Egypt ends in the Land of Israel. We're a specific people bound to a specific place. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Israel Border Police Are on the Front Line - Ruth Eglash
    Israeli border police, with their distinct dark-green uniforms and armored police jeeps, are stationed at friction points around the country and in the West Bank. They are the brave heroes of what many have termed a "knife intifada," and the number of young Israelis wanting to join their ranks is growing.
        In the past six months, as Palestinians have carried out hundreds of stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks against Israelis, more than 175 border police have been injured - some seriously - and two officers have been killed as they worked to protect civilians.
        Despite the risks, the number of new recruits to the unit was the highest it has ever been, Israeli media reported last month. "I chose this unit because I wanted to contribute to my country," said Chen Cohen. "I couldn't see myself doing anything else. I wanted to be out in the field," said Mor Hadad, who was close friends with Hadar Cohen, who was fatally shot in Jerusalem in February. "I signed up knowing that it would be dangerous, but it's what I wanted. Now, when I go out, I think about Hadar," she said. Their motivation is high, and their motto is: "Attack us, not civilians."
        "Many of the attacks have been against the border police officers, but there is no other choice because civilians cannot deal with this challenge. It is the task of a country to protect its civilians, and the border police are the best trained to fight this type of war," said Shaul Shay, a lecturer at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. (Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Seek a Back Door to Statehood - Editorial
    Once again the indefatigable Palestinian Authority is drafting an Israel-bashing UN resolution condemning Israel's settlements. What's different this time? The Palestinians hope that the U.S. president won't use the U.S. veto this time to quash the measure. The U.S. customarily defends Israel and has nixed many half-baked Security Council resolutions that seek a back door to Palestinian statehood. These empty gestures are no path to peace but a short fuse to heightened hostilities. The Palestinians may ultimately back off. Ineffectual resolutions served cold at the UN only further the divide with Israel. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

IDF Intelligence: Threats and Opportunities for Israel on Many Fronts - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)

  • According to four key Military Intelligence officers, tunnels in Gaza, a wave of terrorism across the West Bank, Islamic State attacks in Sinai, the Syrian civil war, Hizbullah's improved arsenal, the future of Iran's nuclear program and the stability of the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes are only a few of the challenges facing the Middle East, and Israel within it.
  • Gaza has never been quieter. Still, Hamas is pursuing a steadily intensifying armament effort, as evident by the terror tunnel recently discovered under the Israel-Gaza border. Egypt has turned its back on Hamas and now sees it as no better than Islamic State, and its Saudi and other Arab patrons have more urgent matters that require funding. Iran remains Hamas' main sponsor.
  • In the West Bank, Abbas' regime is fraying at the seams. With no apparent successor, a complex succession battle is almost certain. Hamas may try to seize the strategic opportunity presented by the leadership vacuum and seize control of the West Bank.
  • International efforts to end the fighting in Syria have led to a change in Israeli intelligence assessments. Instead of the prospect of prolonged bloodshed with no end in sight, there may be tangible chances of a diplomatic agreement that will end the fighting in a way that would make Syria a functioning nation again.
  • Any arrangement in Syria will have to include Russia as the keeper of Alawite, Iranian and Hizbullah interests, as well as its own. There are currently over 10,000 Shiite militia operatives fighting alongside the Syrian army, as well as 1,500 Iranian soldiers, thousands of Hizbullah operatives, and significant Russian forces.
  • While it is clear Islamic State will not be overrunning Syria, Iran will not be tightening its grip on it, either. Any future deal will include an Israeli demand to curtail the delivery of Iranian weapons to Hizbullah via Syria, delay the rehabilitation of the Syrian military, and devise a mechanism that would ensure calm on the Golan Heights.
  • The Syrian civil war has exacted a heavy toll from Hizbullah, with over 1,300 operatives killed and nearly 10,000 injured. Some 7,000 of its operatives are currently fighting in Syria. Nevertheless, Hizbullah is investing considerable resources in acquiring long-range missiles that could wreak havoc on Israel.

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