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August 29, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Aid Group Building Shelters for Italy Quake Victims (Times of Israel)
    A team of 20 Israeli volunteers is currently in quake-struck Italy, IsraeAID said Sunday.
    They are building temporary housing camps, distributing food and other items, and providing grief counseling to families that lost relatives as well as to the Italian rescue teams, which suffer from burnout and acute stress.

IDF Preparing for Mass Terrorist Attack from Sinai - Noam Amir (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
    Col. Yehuda HaCohen has worked for the last two years to prepare the Sagi Brigade for threats on the Israel-Sinai border opposite the rise of Islamic State in Sinai.
    "In numbers they aren't big, only about 1,000 members, but there are attacks against Egypt almost daily," he said. "They first are looking to take care of what they consider infidels among them, and then those on the other side."
    "We are preparing our troops....These scenarios involve hundreds of terrorists shooting, with high trajectory fire as well as anti-tank missiles."
    HaCohen also noted that in recent months, the effectiveness of the Egyptian army in fighting ISIS in Sinai has increased considerably.

Iran to Break Ground for Two New Nuclear Power Plants (IRNA-Iran)
    Financial resources have been allocated for the construction of two new nuclear power plants in Iran, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said Sunday.

West Bank Funeral Turns into Palestinian Protest Against PA - Adam Rasgon and Udi Shaham (Jerusalem Post)
    Some 12,000 mourners joined a funeral procession in Nablus on Sunday that turned into a demonstration against the PA.
    Ahmed Halawa, a former leader of Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigade and captain in the Palestinian Police, was beaten to death in prison after being suspected of masterminding the killing of two PA security personnel on Aug. 18.
    The participants continually shouted attacks on PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Nablus Gov. Akram Rajoub and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, calling for them to be held accountable for Halawa's death.

Photo: New Baby White Rhino Born at Israel Safari Park - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
    Tupak, whose name means "warrior" in Swahili, last week was the 28th rhinoceros to be born in the Ramat Gan Safari.
    "Rhinos are highly endangered this is why every birth is very important not just to us but for the entire species," said Gali Berkovich, an enrichment coordinator and animal trainer at the park.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Deploys Long-Range Missiles to Fordo Nuclear Site
    Tehran has deployed a recently delivered Russian-made long-range missile system to central Iran to protect its Fordo nuclear facility, state television said Sunday. A video showed an S-300 carrier truck in Fordo, raising its missile launchers toward the sky, next to other counter-strike weaponry. (AFP-Daily Mail-UK)
  • Iran Forms "Shiite Liberation Army" to "Eradicate Israel" - Salah Hamid
    Iranian Gen. (ret.) Mohammad Ali Falaki, one of the Iranian forces leaders in Syria, recently revealed that Iran has formed a "Shiite Liberation Army" led by Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The Quds Force is responsible for the Islamic Republic's extraterritorial operations.
        "The Shiite Liberation Army is currently fighting on three fronts - Iraq, Syria and Yemen," Falaki told Mashregh news agency on Thursday. "This army is not only composed of Iranians but it recruits locally from the regions witnessing fighting."
        Falaki said the main objective behind the formation of the first nucleus of the "Shiite Liberation Army" is to "eradicate Israel after 23 years, especially now that these battalions are on Israeli borders."  (Al-Arabiya)
  • Yemen Houthi Rocket Attack Kills Two Girls in Saudi Arabia - Ahmed Al-Omran
    A rocket fired from Yemen killed two girls Sunday in the Saudi Arabian border town of Najran, a Saudi civil defense official said, as Houthi rebels escalated their attacks. The attack, which also injured five other family members, came a day after a boy was killed and his cousin injured when a Katyusha rocket fired from Yemeni territory hit their home.
        Saudi officials say more than 500 civilians have been killed along the border since March 2015. Houthi attacks have caused the displacement of thousands of Saudi citizens living in the border regions as well as suspension of schools and airports. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • UN, EU Help Palestinians Build ICC Suit Against Israel - Tovah Lazaroff
    The United Nations and the European Union are helping the Palestinian Authority build its global advocacy campaign against the Jewish state, including its filing of "war crimes" complaints about Israel before the International Criminal Court. According to the details of a $2.1 million empowerment plan for Palestinian women, which were unveiled Wednesday in Ramallah, more than half of that sum - $1.3m. - would be spent on international activities to fight Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank. The plan was prepared by an EU grant issued by the "EU Peace-building Initiative."
        The UN is now preparing to help the Palestinians with a fund-raising campaign among donor countries to raise the $2.1 million supposedly needed for women's empowerment, which would actually amount to $800,000 after $1.3 million is deducted by the PA. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Terror Attack Foiled in Hebron - Roi Yanovsky
    Border Police arrested a Palestinian man from Hebron in the West Bank at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs on Saturday after he was discovered to be carrying a knife. "An initial investigation indicates that the suspect came to the (checkpoint) in order to perpetrate a stabbing terror attack as vengeance for the death of his cousin, who was himself shot during a terrorist attack he perpetrated about six months ago," Border Police officials stated.
        Earlier on Saturday, a Palestinian woman was arrested at the Kalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah with a knife in her bag. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Arab to Be Legal Advisor to Government Ministry - Itamar Eichner
    Maron Halifah, 34, a Christian Arab from Haifa, has been nominated to become the legal advisor to the Ministry of Development in the Periphery. He was serving as legal advisor in the northern district to the Israel Fire and Rescue Services.
        He said, "I grew up in a family that educated me to contribute and to integrate into the country in any way possible. I entered public service after tests and bids as is completely standard procedure. Since then I progressed with hard work and no rest."
        "I never ever felt different because I was part of a minority, I never ever felt any discrimination, and I think that the state does encourage minorities to work in the public sector."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iranian Commercial Airline Flying Fighters, Weapons from Tehran to Damascus - Emanuele Ottolenghi
    Iranian commercial aircraft routinely violate international aviation rules by transporting arms and military personnel to Syria. The Iranian airline Mahan Air remains under U.S. sanctions for its ongoing support for Iran's military involvement in Syria. Mahan Air is the primary airline running illicit flights to Damascus, using the Iranian airport of Abadan as the logistical hub.
        Tehran's military airlift to Syria began in 2011 and has increased since August 2015 from weekly to daily flights, providing fresh supplies and recruits to three U.S. adversaries: the Syrian Armed Forces, Hizbullah, and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
        Iran's state-owned airline, Iran Air, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2011, including for its role in Iran's weapons airlift to Syria. Iran Air was delisted under the JCPOA in January, but Iran Air may still be involved in illicit activities. Its planes have recently flown known weapons resupply routes to Syria. The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Forbes)
  • Muslim Brotherhood Seen as Front-Runner in Jordanian and PA Elections
    The Hashemite kingdom of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have called elections expecting easy wins. Instead, to their surprise, the local arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group, have ended their boycotts of the ballot and are now the front-runners. In Jordan, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) is expected to emerge from the Sept. 20 general elections as the largest single party. In the PA, some speculate that Hamas might sweep all eight of the West Bank's cities in municipal elections set for Oct. 8.
        In Jordan, gerrymandering ensures that East Bank Bedouin get the lion's share of seats. At best, says an IAF candidate, the Islamists will gain 25% of the seats. (Economist-UK)
        See also Poll of Local Government Experts on the Municipal Elections (Arab World for Research and Development)
  • In Hebron, Fatah Faces a Civil War at the Polls - Avi Issacharoff
    As in the other cities in the West Bank, in Hebron there are so many secular slates of candidates for the Palestinian municipal elections that there is a reasonable chance that the more moderate Fatah camp will split the secular vote, paving the way for victory by Hamas candidates.
        Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT (the Israel Defense Ministry body which administers the West Bank), and top Israel Security Agency officials have warned high-ranking PA officials that going ahead with the elections could be a dangerous gamble. (Times of Israel)
        See also Fatah Said to Beg Abbas: Cancel Local Elections, Hamas Will Win West Bank (Times of Israel)

Can Israel and the Arab States Be Friends? - Editorial (New York Times)

  • There is evidence that ties between Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states and Israel are not only improving but, after developing in secret over many years, could evolve into a more explicit alliance as a result of their mutual distrust of Iran.
  • Israel and the Sunni Arab states last fought a war in 1973. Now, after decades of hostility, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is seeking to engage his country's former enemies.
  • The Israelis and the Saudis have reasons to work together. They share antipathy toward Iran, the leading Shiite-majority country. Both are worried about regional instability. Both are upset with the U.S. over the Iranian nuclear deal.
  • For some time, Israeli and Saudi officials have been cooperating covertly on security and intelligence matters. Significantly, Saudi Arabia has also begun a media campaign in the kingdom, apparently to prepare its citizens for better relations with Israel.
  • Mr. Netanyahu is determined to expand the number of countries that recognize his state and to capitalize on the economic potential of trade between it and the Arab states. He has repaired relations with Turkey and has sought to strengthen ties with Africa. Egypt has also been pursuing warmer ties with Israel since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became Egypt's president in 2014.
  • Mr. Netanyahu has made clear his preference for improving relations with the Arab states first, saying Israel would then be in a stronger position to make peace with the Palestinians later on.
  • Of course, improved relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors do not preclude a Palestinian peace deal.

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