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August 19, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Rebranded Nusra Front Uniting Syria's Rebels - Alex Crawford (Sky News-UK)
    Syrian rebel groups have united around the militants formerly known as the Nusra Front after they split from al-Qaeda.
    Sheikh Mostafa Mahamed, a key leader inside Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), told Sky News that by severing ties with al-Qaeda, JFS created conditions which allowed dozens of disparate rebel groups in Syria (excluding Islamic State) to work together.
    It has had an immediate effect on the battlefield, leading to the breaking of the siege of Aleppo.
    The collaboration of the different groups may prove to be a significant turning point in Syria's protracted war. But so far, the breaking of the Aleppo siege has triggered even more ferocious attacks from the Assad regime.

Syrian Airstrikes Hit Kurdish-Arab Forces Fighting Islamic State - Raja Abdulrahim and Noam Raydan (Wall Street Journal)
    Syrian regime warplanes launched airstrikes against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria on Thursday.
    Among those hit were members of a U.S.-backed mixed Kurdish and Arab force that has been battling Islamic State.
    The Syrian regime had mostly withdrawn from the Kurdish areas early in the war, but in recent months the two sides have clashed more frequently, though Syrian airstrikes against the Kurds are almost unheard of.

ISIS Launches Wave of Suicide Attacks on Libya Forces (AFP)
    Islamic State jihadists in Libya carried out nine suicide bombings in one day in a failed bid to hold a central district of Sirte, pro-government forces said Wednesday.
    In the attacks on Tuesday, five of the bombers used cars, one used a motorbike and three were on foot. The attacks left nine pro-government fighters dead and 82 wounded.

Hizbullah Fighting Fellow Jihadists - Yaroslav Trofimov (Wall Street Journal)
    Hizbullah today is almost exclusively battling against fellow jihadists, and is increasingly farther away from its Lebanese home turf in Syria's foreign battlefields.
    Portraits of Hizbullah "martyrs" adorn the roadsides across south Lebanon.
    Yet Hizbullah's allies say it can easily sustain the current pace of operations and casualties in Syria without losing the support of Lebanon's Shiite community.

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Twitter Axes 235,000 More Accounts in Terror Crackdown - Glenn Chapman (AFP)
    Twitter announced Thursday that it had cut off 235,000 accounts during the past six months in a heightened crackdown on use of the global messaging service to promote violent extremist causes.
    The suspensions raised to 360,000 the total number of accounts sidelined since mid-2015.

The Israeli Army's Elite Rescue Unit - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    An officer in the Israel Defense Forces' Unit 669, which traditionally rescues pilots, said Thursday that the unit rescued 276 wounded soldiers from the battlefield in the 2014 Gaza war.
    The unit is also involved in locating and extracting drones that have fallen into enemy territory or into the sea.
    See also Video: IDF Search and Rescue Team in Action (Israel Defense Forces)

New 3D-Imaging Sensor Lets You Use Smartphone to See Inside Walls (Times of India)
    A company in Israel has developed a new 3D-imaging sensor that can let you see inside walls using your smartphone.
    Walabot looks into cement and drywall to detect wires, pipes and studs, and can even detect movement behind walls.

UK Cybersecurity Firm Bullguard Acquires Israel-Based Dojo Labs - Beth Daniel (Tech City News)
    UK cybersecurity firm Bullguard, which offers clients web-based identity and social media protection, has acquired Israel-based startup Dojo-Labs.
    Dojo-Labs, which launched in November 2015, provides consumer security and privacy for Internet of Things devices in a connected home.
    Paul Lipman, CEO at BullGuard, said: "More than 4 billion consumer devices are connected to the Internet today, and this number is growing exponentially. Until now, the security and privacy of these devices has been essentially non-existent, leaving our most precious data and possessions exposed."
    "With the acquisition of Dojo Labs we look forward to delivering the highest level of protection to our customers across their entire connected lives."

The Gap Year Investment in Israel - Liran Avisar (Times of Israel)
    Studies have shown that students who invest in a gap year experience between high school and college have higher GPAs, are more engaged with campus activities, and are 75% more likely to report being "happy" or "extremely satisfied" with their post-college careers.
    At Masa Israel Journey we believe that young people's participation in immersive international experiences in Israel will change the course of their lives both personally and professionally.
    The writer is CEO of Masa Israel Journey.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Concedes $400 Million Payment to Iran Was Delayed as Prisoner "Leverage" - David E. Sanger
    The State Department conceded for the first time on Thursday that it delayed making a $400 million payment to Iran for several hours in January "to retain maximum leverage" and ensure that three American prisoners were released the same day. For months the Obama administration had maintained that the payment was part of a settlement over an old dispute and did not amount to a "ransom" for the release of the Americans.
        Sooner or later the U.S. would have had to pay Iran back for military equipment Iran bought before the revolution that the U.S. never delivered. But the planeload of cash sent to Iran that day was timed to ensure that the American citizens, aboard a plane leaving Iran, were released first. John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, conceded that while the deals were negotiated separately, the timing of the final transactions was linked. (New York Times)
  • Report: U.S. Transfers Nukes from Turkish Airbase - Georgi Gotev and Joel Schalit
    Two independent sources told that the U.S. has started transferring nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania. According to a recent report by the Stimson Center, since the Cold War, some 50 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons have been stationed at Turkey's Incirlik air base, 100 km. from the Syrian border. During the failed coup in Turkey in July, Incirlik's power was cut, and the Turkish government prohibited U.S. aircraft from flying in or out.
        A source said U.S.-Turkey relations had deteriorated so much following the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara to host the weapons. The Romanian foreign ministry firmly dismissed the report that the country will house U.S. nukes. While it has never been officially confirmed, it is public knowledge that Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy host U.S. nuclear weapons. (
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two PA Police Killed in Nablus in Clashes with Palestinians
    Two members of the Palestinian security forces were killed on Thursday and two more were injured during clashes with wanted Palestinians in Nablus in the West Bank, while Palestinian security forces killed two armed Palestinians on Friday. Three M16 rifles were found with the armed assailants who were killed. Palestinian security forces spokesperson Adnan Dmeiri said five security officers have been killed in the past month. (Maan News-PA)
        See also The Fraying Palestinian Political Entity in the West Bank - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel to Tighten Security at Outdoor Sites - Eli Senyor
    After the terrorist attack at the Sarona Marketplace in Tel Aviv in June, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan re-examined security arrangements in public spaces that are open-air entertainment centers. New security protocols being implemented will include different security "circles," with alarm systems, CCTV, checkpoints at important points and armed guards on patrol.
        The program's implementation was accelerated following the Nice attack in July and should set a number of obstacles to prevent a similar attack in Israel. Erdan explained: "The difference between an attack without casualties and an attack with heavy the response time of civilians or armed guards, and we must ensure that sites with multitudes of people will always have somebody who can provide a response in a very short timespan."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iran: Improving Our Capabilities for What Comes Next - Brig. Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion
    The early years of the nuclear agreement with Iran are good ones, in which Iran reduces its stockpile of enriched uranium and enrichment equipment, and slows its industrial production of these components in a manner far more effective than any other means of achieving these goals. But in the following years, Iran will be able to legitimately build large-scale nuclear capabilities that would enable it to realize a military nuclear option within a relatively short time of deciding to do so. Thus, over the long term, the achievements of the "good years" appear in a less positive light.
        The value of the nuclear agreement and its long-term significance will depend primarily on how the "good years" are used to prepare for the following years. Israel should seek to build an international intelligence-alert system against regional nuclearization; to build up its capabilities for both covert and military action that might be needed in the future; to prepare for scenarios of either continuity (observance of the agreement) or disruption (its violation or collapse); to shore up its strategic relationships and mutual understandings with its most important ally as well as with its regional partners; and to create more convenient diplomatic and security conditions.
        The writer, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, served as head of Strategic Planning in the Planning Directorate in the IDF General Staff (2010-2015). (Ha'aretz)
  • The Price of Powerlessness - Charles Krauthammer
    Iran's intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now. This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.-Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia-Iran condominium is now dictating events.
        That's what results from the nuclear deal with Iran. The nuclear deal was supposed to begin a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Instead, it has solidified a strategic-military alliance between Moscow and Tehran. (Washington Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Who Should Rule Syria? - Jonathan Spyer
    Any real possibility of rebel victory in Syria ended with the entry of Russian forces last autumn, but the government's forces are also far from a decisive breakthrough. A victory for the Assad regime would be a disaster for the West. Assad, an enthusiastic user of chemical weapons against his own people, is aligned with the most powerful anti-Western coalition in the Middle East - an alliance dominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran. If Assad won, the Iranian alliance would consolidate its domination of the entire land area between the Iraq-Iran border and the Mediterranean Sea - a major step towards regional hegemony for Iran.
        At the same time, the Syrian rebellion today is dominated by Sunni Islamist forces. In the now extremely unlikely event of the Islamist rebels defeating the Assad regime and reuniting Syria under their rule, the country would become a Sunni Islamist dictatorship.
        It is important to understand that "Syria" as a unitary state no longer exists. As a rebel commander told me in June: "Syria today is divided into four projects, none of which is strong enough to defeat all the others. These are the Assad regime, the rebellion, the Kurds and the Islamic State."
        So the beginning of a coherent Syria policy requires understanding that the country has fragmented into enclaves, and is not going to be reunited in the near future. The writer is Director of the Rubin Center (formerly the GLORIA Center), IDC Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Spectator-UK)
  • Mixed Sentiments in Egyptian Discourse about Israel - Omer Einav, Orit Perlov, and Ofir Winter
    The judo match between Israeli Ori Sasson and Egyptian Islam el-Shehaby at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro aroused much public interest in both countries. In Egyptian public discourse, as reflected in the leading media and social networks, one approach emphasized that el-Shehaby's decision not to shake hands with Sasson was understandable.
        A more common sentiment is severe criticism of el-Shehaby's behavior. The most common term used to describe the situation was "pathetic," accompanied by the sense that the Egyptian flag had been disgraced. Press articles also expressed dismay at the scene that portrayed Egypt as unsportsmanlike in front of millions around the world.
        Egypt's image as a peace-loving, stable country combating extremism, rather than a stronghold of radical Islam and backwardness, is regarded by Egypt's leaders as a key to attracting foreign investment, rehabilitating the tourist industry, and increasing growth and development. Egypt's peaceful relations with Israel constitute an integral part of Egypt's positive international reputation.
        At the same time, normalization of ties with Israel remains a sensitive idea for the Egyptian public. Most of el-Shehaby's critics were not motivated by a desire for normalization. At the same time, the very existence of an open public debate on an issue considered taboo for many years constitutes a notable development. (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • What Motivates a Canadian Jihadist? - John Geddes
    A new study by three university researchers who interviewed foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria raises doubts about the notion that the young men who are drawn to violent Islamic extremism must be marginalized loners. Rather than being isolated individuals who self-radicalized in front of their computer screens, the report says they usually found mentors and joined the fighting in "clusters."
        The researchers say "more attention and significance should be given to the repeated affirmations of the positive benefits of being jihadists." They say not one of their subjects suggested that being marginalized socially or economically pushed them onto their extreme path. "It is the positive investment in an alternate world-saving role that matters most, no matter how strange it may appear to outsiders," they say. The report repeatedly stresses that the fighters are "pulled" to Iraq and Syria by religious ideas, rather than being "pushed" by the realities of their lives. (Macleans-Canada)
  • "Arab Susiya" Is a Fabrication - Josh Hasten
    The town of Susiya, a small, ancient and historical Jewish community in the Southern Hebron Hills in the West Bank, has recently been making its way to the top of the news cycle as attention is being given to "Arab Susiya," an illegal encampment built on state land adjacent to a 1,500-year-old Jewish historical site.
        To put it bluntly, "Arab Susiya" is a complete fabrication. Surveys by the British Mandatory powers in 1945, which mention all of the villages in the area, prove there is no hint of the existence of an Arab village named Susiya. Aerial photos as recently as 1999 show nothing resembling a village in that area.
        This is simply a media stunt by anti-Israel NGOs. The squatters are mainly from the Nawajah family who reside in the nearby town of Yatta. If they are removed, they will not be left homeless. They can simply go home to Yatta or to an alternate area offered by Israel on state land adjacent to Yatta.
        It is highly doubtful that the legal system of the U.S., Europe or any other country would conduct itself with such a high level of tolerance and patience in a similar case as has Israel's. The writer is the international director of Regavim. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel's New Man in New York - Carol Giacomo
    Dani Dayan, 60, an immigrant from Argentina and a Spanish speaker, is Israel's new consul general in New York. Dayan met with the New York Times Editorial Board this week.
        Dayan: "Any position that does not preclude Israel's right to exist, is legitimate....Groups that are pro-Israel, that are empathic towards Israel - they love Israel but criticize it, sometimes strongly, and have been disenchanted with Israel on some of its policies or even most of its policies with the current government - they are not only legitimate interlocutors, in some sense they are going to be my main interlocutors in the Jewish community. Look, I didn't come here to preach to the choir. I will allocate a disproportionate amount of my time to those that in some sense love Israel but are disappointed."
        "Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to establishing the Palestinian state as a way to achieve peace if it is a demilitarized Palestinian state and it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and there are security arrangements that will prevent further attacks on Israel. I think that I do not disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the perception that it is not going to happen in the near future and the reason it's not going to happen has nothing to do with Israel or with the settlements. It's 100 percent because of the Palestinian positions."  (New York Times)
  • Proof of Ancient Israel Beyond the Bible - Owen Jarus
    The earliest mention of the word "Israel" comes from an inscription carved on stone erected by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah, who reigned in 1213-1203 BCE. A ninth century BCE inscription created by a Moabite king discusses the conflict between Israel and Moab. An obelisk in the British Museum claims that an Israeli king named Jehu was forced to pay tribute to Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, who reigned from 859-824 BCE.
        In 705 BCE, Sennacherib came to the throne of Assyria and, not long afterward, launched a military campaign against the Kingdom of Judah that culminated in the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE. Both the Hebrew Bible and cuneiform texts tell of the siege. Nearly a century later, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II conquered much of Assyria's former empire and laid siege to Jerusalem, taking the city in 587 BCE and destroying the First Temple. Both the Hebrew Bible and cuneiform tablets written at the time tell of the events that took place. (Live Science)
  • Bedouin IDF Veteran Counters Anti-Israel Activists - Abigail Klein Leichman
    Mohammad Ka'abiya, 26, a Bedouin from the Galilee, served in an Israel Air Force rescue squadron and is today an international Israel advocate. Last March at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, he heard a South African student claiming that Arabs have no rights in Israel. "I came up to him and said, 'My name is Mohammad and I served in the Israel Air Force....You must know that Israeli Arabs have the freedom to live, work, worship and travel, more than many of the Jewish minorities in Arab countries.'"
        "One time a Muslim student said to me, 'How can you fight against your brothers in Gaza?' and I told her...'If they're shooting at me or digging tunnels to kill me and other Israelis, they're not my brothers.'"
        "In my holy book, the Koran, it is written that this land is for the Jewish people and that I have to respect Jews and Christians. How can you use the Koran to fight against the Jewish people?"  (Jerusalem Post)

Declassified: An IDF Commando Force Operated Deep in Hizbullah Territory - Undetected - During the Second Lebanon War - Amir Buchbut (Walla-Hebrew, 14July2016)

  • Operation "Beach Boys," deemed one of the Second Lebanon War's bright spots, was recently declassified and many of its senior participants interviewed. The operation was undertaken by the IDF's elite Maglan unit in response to the intensive rocket fire that Israel's northern towns faced daily in July of 2006. It led to the destruction of 48 Hizbullah targets
  • After a particularly deadly attack on a Haifa train depot that killed 8 people, senior Maglan officers determined that most of the rocket fire was originating from the Lebanese coast. Despite the rocket launchers' positioning deep in enemy territory, the mission to destroy them was given the go-ahead.
  • With secrecy a top priority, a relatively small force was deployed, despite its limited combat ability in the event of its discovery. The Maglan force faced a last-minute change in the location of their rendezvous points, several near-misses with Hizbullah patrols, and the mental strain of being on high alert for days at a time. Many squads of Hizbullah fighters would pass the Maglan force, but never took notice of the tens of soldiers camouflaged directly in front of them.
  • The Maglan force reached its destination and covertly waited two days for the surrounding Hizbullah fighters to slip up and give away their positions. Eventually they did, and the ensuing IDF aircraft and artillery bombardment took Hizbullah by surprise. Hizbullah realized that the IDF had suddenly improved its abilities regarding target identification, but remained baffled as to how.
  • The operation was so successful that it was extended from 48 hours to 11 days, with the Maglan soldiers now having to deal with limited supplies as well. However, the mission concluded without a shot being fired by the Maglan force, and all of its soldiers were able to return to Israel, while rocket fire on Israel from the Lebanese coast was suppressed.
  • According to Captain (res.) A., the fact that the Maglan force was never discovered was an achievement of equal importance: "Our success was not only expressed by how much we shelled and harmed [the enemy], but also in that the area ceased to operate [against Israel]. The fact that we were not exposed was a great success."
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