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September 19, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel's Iron Dome Air Defense Intercepts 2 Mortar Shells Fired from Syria - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
    Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system shot down two mortar rounds from Syria for the first time on Saturday.
    Defense officials said the system's detectors initially indicated the shells would hit Golan Heights communities, and interceptor missiles were launched before their final trajectory calculation showed they would land on the Syrian side of the border.
    Since becoming operational in 2011, Iron Dome has been upgraded and is now able to shoot down several types of mortar rounds.
    The IDF assessed that the mortars were errant fire from Syria connected to the civil war there and not a sign of escalation involving Israel.
    See also Mortar Shells over the Golan Heights - Yossi Melman (Jerusalem Post)
    The Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system has its limits. It can't "kill" rockets which fly for less than 25 seconds and are launched within a range of 5-6 km.
    IDF sources estimate that the two mortar shells were heavy 120mm. mortars fired from a distance of at least 7-8 km. from the border.
    Israel has 10 Iron Dome batteries, mostly financed by the U.S., but for full coverage of the country, the IDF needs at least 14 batteries.

Israel Is Helping Syrian Villagers across the Border - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israel is helping the people of the Syrian villages on the other side of the fence in the Golan Heights.
    The IDF has set up a unit in the Golan to coordinate assistance to the villages - evacuating wounded to Israeli hospitals and providing medicine, food, clothing and blankets in the winter.
    This work is underway along the fence in areas under the control of local militias.
    These efforts assist the volunteer work of Israeli NGOs including Amaliah and Israeli Flying Aid which are happening far from the public eye, helping to save lives in Syria.

Al-Aksa Mosque Preacher Calls on Allah to Blow Up Moscow, D.C. (Jerusalem Post)
    At the al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem on Sep. 14, Palestinian cleric Abdallah Ayed beseeched Allah to "to vanquish America and Russia," MEMRI reported.
    In a video of the prayer posted online, Ayed says, "Oh America, let me tell you about the day when the call to prayer will be heard from atop the White House, from atop the red palace in the Kremlin in Moscow."
    Ayed says that Allah will attack both America and Russia "because Allah promised us both places."
    "Oh Allah we ask you to subjugate them and burn them...burn all they have with your fire."

Swimmer Earns Israel 3rd Medal in Rio Paralympics (JTA)
    Swimmer Inbal Pezaro, 29, earned Israel's third medal in the Rio Paralympic Games, winning a bronze medal on Wednesday in the 200-meter freestyle.
    Pezaro, paralyzed in her lower torso since childhood, won three medals in each of the previous two Paralympics.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • ISIS Claims Responsibility for Minnesota Mall Attack - Chandrika Narayan and Steve Visser
    The man who stabbed nine people at a St. Cloud, Minnesota, mall Saturday before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer was a "soldier of the Islamic State," according to the ISIS-linked Amaq news agency. Witnesses said the man, wearing a private security company uniform, entered Crossroads Mall, made a reference to Allah and asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he attacked. The St. Cloud Times identified the attacker as a member of the Somali Muslim immigrant community. (CNN)
  • U.S. Airstrike in Syria Kills Syrian Troops - Anne Barnard and Mark Mazzetti
    The U.S. acknowledged on Saturday that its planes had carried out an airstrike in Syria that resulted in the deaths of Syrian government troops. American military officials said the pilots in the attack, in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, believed they were targeting the Islamic State. Russia's defense ministry said the U.S. attack had killed 62 Syrian troops and wounded 100 more. A partial cease-fire that started last Monday continues to steadily unravel. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Designates Senior Hamas Official as Global Terrorist
    The U.S. State Department on Friday designated Fathi Ahmad Mohammad Hammad as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign persons and groups determined to have committed - or pose a significant risk of committing - acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the U.S.
        As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Hammad served as Hamas' Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. (State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

    New Wave of Palestinian Terror Attacks

  • Two Israel Police Officers Wounded in Jerusalem Stabbing Attack Monday - Nir Hasson and Gili Cohen
    Two Israel Police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack near Herod's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday. The Palestinian assailant approached from the direction of Damascus Gate, walked behind the two officers, and stabbed them a number of times. A female police officer was stabbed in the neck and is in very serious condition. The other officer then shot the assailant, a resident of east Jerusalem in his 20s. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Stabs Israeli Soldier in Efrat on Sunday - Tovah Lazaroff
    An IDF officer was wounded in a Palestinian stabbing attack in Efrat in the West Bank on Sunday. Efrat's security team had been on alert for the terrorist, who hid in the bushes and then surprised and stabbed the soldier. Another soldier shot and disabled the terrorist. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Woman Found with Knife at Israeli Community in West Bank - Gili Cohen
    A Palestinian woman with a knife was stopped by an Israeli security officer near Itamar in the West Bank on Sunday. No one was injured in the incident. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Israeli Soldier Wounded in Hebron Stabbing Saturday - Noam Amir
    Security cameras captured a terror attack Saturday when a Palestinian man, Hatem Abed al-Hafiz Shaloudi, 25, stabbed an IDF soldier near Hebron's Tel Rumeida neighborhood before being shot and killed by another soldier. (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Soldier Wounded in Hebron Stabbing Friday - Elisha Ben Kimon and Yoav Zitun
    An Israeli soldier was wounded Friday in a stabbing attack at the Gilbert Checkpoint in Hebron before the Palestinian terrorist was neutralized by security forces. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: Jordanian Man Attacks IDF Border Police in Jerusalem on Friday
    A Jordanian man, Saeed Amro, 28, attempted to stab an IDF Border Policeman at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday following afternoon prayers. The man ran at the policemen while yelling "Allahu Akbar" before he was killed. Jordanian authorities had expressed doubt that Amro had assaulted the Israelis, saying he was merely a tourist. Israel's Foreign Ministry on Sunday sent video footage to Amman clearly showing Amro brandishing the knives and moving towards security forces. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinians Try to Run Over Israeli Civilians near Kiryat Arba Friday - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Two Palestinian terrorists attempted to carry out a vehicular attack with a pickup truck on Friday, aiming for Israelis at a bus stop outside the entrance to Kiryat Arba in the West Bank. One attacker was killed and another was wounded. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A Milestone in U.S.-Israel Ties - Abraham Ben-Zvi
    The new defense aid deal Washington signed with Jerusalem is a meaningful upgrading of the American-Israeli pact and an important landmark in the partnership between the two countries. Its overriding importance is reflected in the solidity and scope of the infrastructure it provides for the support of Israel, which exists on many levels among the American people and their representatives in Congress. America sees Israel as a strategic asset of the highest order in an environment rife with instability, challenges and threats to the national security of the American nation. The writer is professor of international relations at the University of Haifa. (Israel Hayom)
  • Gulf States Gain from New U.S.-Israel Aid Package - Ran Dagoni
    The agreement on the new U.S. military aid package for Israel is definitely a cause for celebration in some Persian Gulf states. By assuring Israel of finance for the procurement of dozens of F-35I ("Adir") aircraft - thereby assuring the IDF's qualitative advantage - this paves the way for the sale of some of the world's most advanced combat aircraft (F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s) to Qatar, Bahrein and Kuwait.
        The initial cost of the F-35s in 2006 was about $50 million each. Since then, the price has shot up to $200 million each, according to an estimate in Defense Industry Daily, limiting the number of planes that Israel can purchase with U.S. aid. (Globes)
  • Even Peace May Not Save Syria - Robin Wright
    "I don't know whether or not Syria and Iraq can be put back together again," CIA Director John Brennan said earlier this month. "There's been so much bloodletting, so much destruction, so many continued, seething tensions and sectarian divisions. I question whether we will see, in my lifetime, the creation of a central government in both of those countries that's going to have the ability to govern fairly."
        "The CIA still estimates that there are fifteen hundred opposition militias," said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. "The government [in Syria] getting weaker. It is defaulting to strongmen in villages, who form their own militias....They're like mafias. They have become their own powers." Syria is being re-tribalized. "All the little local identities - clan, village, tribe, sect - all pop up and accrue authority," Landis said. (New Yorker)

How the Saudis Are Coming Clean on Funding Terrorism - Zalmay Khalilzad (Politico)

  • On my most recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I was greeted with a startling confession. In the past, when we raised the issue of funding Islamic extremists with the Saudis, all we got were denials. This time, one top Saudi official admitted to me, "We misled you."
  • He explained that Saudi support for Islamic extremism started in the early 1960s as a counter to Nasserism and then became a way of resisting the Soviet Union, often in cooperation with the U.S., in places like Afghanistan in the 1980s.
  • But over time, the Saudis say, their support for extremism turned on them, metastasizing into a serious threat to the Kingdom and to the West. They had created a monster that had begun to devour them.
  • In their current thinking, the Saudis see Islamic extremism as one of the two major threats facing the kingdom - the other threat being Iran.
  • One byproduct of the Saudi focus on ISIS and Iran seems to be a more enlightened view by Riyadh toward Israel. The Saudis stated that they do not regard Israel as an enemy and that the kingdom is making no military contingency plans directed against Israel.
  • They did emphasize the need for progress on the Palestinian issue, but the tone on this subject was noticeably less emotional than in the past.

    The writer is a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

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