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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
October 20, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Seeking "Many Billions of Dollars" in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
    Iran is seeking billions of dollars in payments from the U.S. in exchange for the release of several U.S. hostages still being detained in Iran, according to reports by Iran's state-controlled press.
    Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens.
    "We should wait and see, the U.S. will offer...many billions of dollars to release" American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who were abducted by Iran, Mashregh News, which has close ties to the Revolutionary Guards, reported Tuesday.
    "Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Zarif have been bragging for months that they're going to force the U.S. to pay them several billion dollars more," said a senior congressional adviser familiar with the issue.
    "Iran senses weakness in the U.S. leadership as it constantly tests the administration through a chain of provocative actions," said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Despite Reconciliation, Turkey Continues Trial of IDF Officers (Times of Israel)
    The recent reconciliation deal between Israel and Turkey hit a bump on Wednesday when a Turkish court refused to dismiss a case against members of the Israeli military, a key condition of the agreement.
    Israel Channel 2 reported that a court in Istanbul on Wednesday refused to dismiss the case and, instead, postponed the hearing until December.

Iranians Seek to Win U.S. Visa Lottery - Ramin Mostaghim and Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times)
    Nearly 500,000 Iranians and 432,000 spouses and children sought a chance to immigrate to the U.S. under the Diversity Visa lottery in 2015, among the most of any country.
    About 5,000 Iranians were selected for visas among the 50,000 winners.

Fear of an Imminent Terrorist Attack Runs Deep around the World - Carol Morello (Washington Post)
    Fear of an imminent terrorist attack is one of the top concerns of people across the globe, with most expecting extremist groups to acquire weapons of mass destruction, according to a new poll conducted in eight countries by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
    In Turkey, 7 out of 10 said terrorism was their No. 1 concern, as did 4 out of 10 in France. In the U.S. and India, it was the second-most important issue.
    In virtually every country, at least 3 in 4 said they expect a terrorist attack to occur within the next year.
    In France, Britain and the U.S., majorities blame "radical Islamic fundamentalists."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. General Suspects Iran in Yemen Missile Launches - Kristina Wong
    Iran is playing a role in recent missile launches by Houthi rebels in Yemen against U.S. ships in the Red Sea, U.S. Central Command leader Army Gen. Joseph Votel told the Center for American Progress. Last week, U.S. ships were fired upon at least two times off the coast of Yemen, prompting a U.S. destroyer to destroy three radar sites that U.S. officials say they believe were used in the missile launches. Officials said the missile launches were from "Houthi-controlled territory" in Yemen. The Houthis receive weapons and military support from Iran. (The Hill)
  • After Losses in Syria and Iraq, ISIS Moves the Goal Posts - Anne Barnard
    As the Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, the group has been making preparations for retrenchment and survival. Hundreds of Islamic State fighters and their families have fled to the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the group's de facto capital, in recent days. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Builds Force to Retake Islamic State's Syrian Headquarters - Maria Abi-Habib and Dion Nissenbaum
    With an assault underway to dislodge Islamic State from its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, the U.S. is working to assemble a force to retake Raqqa, the extremists' de facto capital in Syria. Top U.S. officials have met in recent weeks with members of the anti-Islamic State coalition, including Turkey and Kurdish leaders, to hammer out an agreement to launch an offensive soon.
        The plan is complicated by the limited American military role on the ground in Syria, where a few dozen Special Operation Forces work with Turkey and its allies, supported by U.S. and coalition airstrikes. Turkey opposes U.S. proposals to use a Kurdish-led force to take part in the Raqqa offensive, and wants Arab rebels to spearhead the operation. Arab rebels, meanwhile, are bogged down fighting the Syrian government elsewhere. U.S. officials are skeptical of Turkey's ability to quickly train and arm enough Sunni Arab fighters to replace the highly effective Kurdish fighters. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Photos: Thousands Flock to Western Wall in Jerusalem for Priestly Blessing on Sukkot - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    Tens of thousands of Jews participated in the traditional Priestly Blessing (Birkat Hakohanim) ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Antiquities Chief Compares UNESCO to Islamic State - Ilan Ben Zion
    Israel Antiquities Authority Director Yisrael Hasson said Wednesday that the UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem holy sites put the UN organization in the same league as IS jihadists who have destroyed archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq. IS overran Palmyra - a UNESCO world heritage site - in May 2015, blew up temples and tower tombs, and used the ancient amphitheater for public executions. "And recently UNESCO in essence joined this system of destruction by diplomatic means," Hasson said. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Border Police Thwart Stabbing Attack by Palestinian in West Bank
    A Palestinian woman who approached border police with a knife at Tapuach Junction in the West Bank on Wednesday was killed by security forces, Israeli police said. (i24news)
  • Five Palestinians Arrested for Shooting at Soldiers in West Bank - Yoav Zitun
    Five residents of the Palestinian village of Ni'lin were arrested for shooting at IDF forces on Yom Kippur, October 11, it was announced Wednesday. The arrested individuals were: Barkat Huajah, 39; Hazme Nefa, 20; Khalil Othman, 23; and Mohammad Huajah, 24; and a 16-year-old. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Temples of Jerusalem in Islam - Martin Kramer
    The First and Second Temples in Jerusalem are both attested by precisely the same Islamic sources which render the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock holy to Islam. The Qur'an refers to the existence of both temples in verse 17:7. Muslim tradition is especially adamant about the existence of the First Temple, built by Solomon, who appears in the Qur'an as a prophet and a paragon of wisdom. Verse 34:13 is an account of how Solomon summoned jinn (spirits) to build the Temple. Accounts of the Temple are offered by many of the early Muslim historians and geographers (including Ibn Qutayba, Ibn al-Faqih, Mas'udi, Muhallabi, and Biruni).
        For Muslims to question or even deny the existence of the Temples, in disregard of the Qur'an and Muslim tradition, is to cast doubt upon the very sources which underpin their own claim. The writer was the founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy-18Sep2000)
  • The Battle for Mosul, and Its Aftermath - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    Iraq's second most populated city, Mosul, fell to ISIS in the summer of 2014. At that time, 1,500 ISIS fighters defeated three fully-equipped Iraqi regular divisions entrenched in the city. Today, Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, assisted by thousands of American, Western and Iranian advisers, face 5-10,000 ISIS combatants in Mosul, with the U.S.-led alliance providing air cover.
        A key element in the battle of Mosul is the role to be played by Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkish forces will participate in the "liberation" of Mosul even if the Iraqi government is opposed, which it is. The Iraqi decision to start the offensive on Oct. 17 took the Turks by surprise and preempted a Turkish move toward Mosul.
        The battle of Mosul signals the last gasps of the Islamic Caliphate. Yet Muslim radical movements will continue to flourish as long as they are fed with hatred of Western civilization. The writer was former deputy head for assessment of Israeli military intelligence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Militants in Nablus Rebelling Against Palestinian Authority - Joshua Mitnick
    Sun-bleached posters of Palestinian militants adorn storefronts in the Balata neighborhood of Nablus in the West Bank in tribute to those killed in an uprising that faded more than a decade ago. But rebelliousness remains in Balata, much of it directed at the Palestinian Authority rather than Israel. Since June, four police officers have been killed by gunmen and four Nablus residents have died at the hands of police. Palestinian security officers say a recent crackdown is part of a campaign to restore order and break up gangs. With arms trade flowing freely in Nablus, gunfire at night is a regular occurrence.
        "Nablus is the epicenter of the anti-Abbas movement in Palestine right now," said Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The longer Abbas goes on in this stagnant rule, where Fatah remains divided, and factions are positioning themselves for a post-Abbas vacuum, the more instability there is. The camps [such as Balata] are the front line."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also The Fraying Palestinian Political Entity in the West Bank - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Fatah Prepares for War with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)

  • Some 300 members of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - The Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division, from the Palestinian Fatah faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, have begun receiving "military training" in Gaza in preparation for war with Israel. The Al-Amoudi Division is one of several Fatah-affiliated militias that continue to operate in Gaza. These groups pose no threat to the Hamas regime, which is why they are allowed to operate freely.
  • Instead of training their men to liberate Gaza from the oppressive regime of Hamas, the Fatah "fighters" are busy preparing for war with Israel or fighting among themselves.
  • At least five other Fatah armed groups function in Gaza: The Abu Rish Brigades, the Jihad Jibril Brigades, the Abdel Qader Husseini Brigades, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Fatah Sukkur (Hawks). These Fatah groups regard each other as rivals and political foes rather than comrades.
  • Many of the members of these groups are former Palestinian Authority policemen who remain on the PA payroll. In other words, these Fatah gunmen who are preparing for war with Israel are indirectly receiving their salaries from Western donors, including the U.S. and many EU countries, who fund the Palestinian Authority.
  • Make no mistake. These are not breakaway groups. They believe that they represent the real Fatah, the one that never recognized Israel's right to exist and holds on to armed struggle as the only way to "liberate Palestine." In their view, they are following the principles of their former leader, Yasser Arafat, who never truly abandoned the option of an armed struggle against Israel.
  • The international community continues to perceive Fatah as the "moderate" Palestinian party with whom Israel should make peace. Yet Fatah is far from a single united bloc; many groups within the faction, in their own words, continue to seek the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle.

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