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February 27, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Report: At Least 15 Hamas Tunnels Extend into Israel - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Hamas has at least 15 attack tunnels that reach into Israeli territory, according to a Channel 2 TV report aired Sunday, quoting sources in Israel's security cabinet.

UK Terror Chief: Islamic State Planning Attacks in Britain - Ben Riley-Smith (Telegraph-UK)
    British citizens are facing a level of threat from terrorists not seen since the IRA bombings of the '70s, the country's new terrorism watchdog, Max Hill, has warned.
    He said Islamic State was planning "indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians" in UK cities.

Egyptian Christians Fearing Terror Flee Sinai - Tamer El-Ghobashy and Dahlia Kholaif (Wall Street Journal)
    Some 118 Coptic Christian families have fled the northern Sinai town of Al Arish after a Coptic man was shot and killed in front of his family on Thursday and Islamic State called for its followers to target Copts.
    Seven Copts have been killed in north Sinai in the past month.

Palestinian Ambassador to Iran: I Pray that Iran Will Produce 1,000 Nuclear Bombs (MEMRI TV)
    In a Feb. 20 interview on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV, Palestinian Ambassador to Iran Salah Zawawi said, "I pray to Allah that Iran will produce 1,000 nuclear bombs," that "would be used to defend the Islamic Republic and its principles."
    See also Iran Requests 950 Tons of Uranium from Kazakhstan (AFP)

Iraqi Militia in Syria Ready to Join in Liberation of Golan Heights (Fars-Iran)
    Sheikh Akram al-Ka'abi, the leader of Hizbullah al-Nujaba, a major Iraqi Shiite resistance movement fighting ISIS in Syria, underlined his forces' readiness to take part in a war to liberate the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights alongside Syrian Army soldiers.

90 Percent of the Land in the West Bank Is Empty - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    90% of the land in the West Bank is empty, with no Palestinian or Jewish construction.
    Most of the land is open territory - barren hilltops, desert, or agricultural land.
    About 7% of the built-up areas are populated by Palestinians and another 3% by Jews.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Forces Play Crucial Role Against ISIS in Mosul - Michael R. Gordon
    As Iraqi forces began their push into western Mosul, American firepower is playing an essential role in softening the opposition from the Islamic State. Self-propelled howitzers fire toward Mosul, 15 miles away. At an Iraq base 40 miles south of Mosul, a U.S. Army task force fires Himars satellite-guided rockets at targets. Apache attack helicopters, equipped with Hellfire missiles, stand ready to carry out their missions. Not to mention the punishing airstrikes by American and allied warplanes and drones. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Changes Rules of Engagement for Mosul Fight in Iraq - Susannah George and Balint Szlanko
    In the fight against ISIS in Mosul, the U.S. has adjusted its rules of engagement as American and other international troops are now closer to front-line fighting than before. During the push to take Mosul International Airport on Thursday, American and European advisers were embedded with forward Iraqi rapid response and special forces units.
        Coalition officials say the changes are helping speed up Iraqi military gains, but they also reflect lingering shortcomings on the part of Iraq's armed forces. (AP-Military Times)
  • Israeli Intelligence Minister: Those Who Want to Create Two States Know that It Can't Be Done at the Moment - Ruth Eglash
    Israel's Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Israel Katz, was asked in an interview if the two-state solution with the Palestinians was dead. Katz replied: "I come from the perspective of reality. This is a concept that is not relevant. Even those who want to create two states know that it can't be done at the moment."
        "President Abbas is weak. He needs security support from Israel. And, Hamas was extreme before, but since changing Ismail Haniya and placing Yehiya Sinwar in the leadership position, this means that Hamas' military wing is now controlling Gaza. If there were nuances before that might have helped us reach the creation of a Palestinian state, they now no longer exist. What kind of Palestinian state can we create in this reality?"  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: We Will Never Relinquish Security Control of West Bank
    Israel will never relinquish security control of the entirety of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Sunday. Israel Radio reported that Netanyahu said Israel's insistence on security control stemmed from the failures of international forces to protect the country from past acts of aggression by its neighbors. (Times of Israel)
  • Three Palestinians Die Inside Gaza Tunnel
    Three Palestinians were killed and five others were injured after suffering from gas inhalation on Friday while working inside a tunnel between Gaza and Egypt. The workers were attempting to renovate a tunnel blown up last week by Egyptian authorities. (Ma'an News-PA)
  • IDF Disperses Lebanese Who Crossed Border - Yoav Zitun and Roi Kais
    Dozens of Lebanese crossed the international border Saturday near Kibbutz Manara before they were eventually dispersed by IDF forces firing tear gas. They were protestng after reports of Israel installing spy equipment in Lebanese territory. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Human Rights Watch's Political War Against Israel
    The Israeli government has denied a work visa for Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Country Director for Human Rights Watch. Shakir is a strident supporter of BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) tactics. Before joining HRW, Shakir was a legal fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), an organization that provides legal assistance and training to BDS activists and has filed "war crimes" lawsuits against Israeli officials.
        "For two decades, Human Rights Watch has been one of the most blatant and aggressive anti-Israel NGOs in the world," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. "Their defenders need to ask why they systematically hire pro-BDS activists for key Israel-related 'research' positions, while lobbying to isolate Israel through false allegations....If HRW and its backers wish to be taken seriously, they need to start acting in a manner consistent with the principles of universal human rights, including with respect to Israel."  (NGO Monitor)
        See also Israel to Reconsider Human Rights Watch Work Visa Request - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
  • Islamic State Cranking Out Car Bombs for the Battle of Mosul - Nabih Bulos
    Lt. Muntathar Ghani, 22, of Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service, had been awake for two days straight, engaged in relentless street fighting against Islamic State jihadists, when he saw the car bomb, a white Chevy pickup sheathed in plates of armor, barreling forward. "I fired two rounds at it, but it kept moving," Ghani said. "I shouted, 'Car bomb!' and ran to the house for cover."
        These civilian vehicles, outfitted like primitive tanks, assembled in primitive factories, have become Islamic State's weapon of choice. Of 1,112 suicide bombings carried out by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2016, 815 of them used vehicles laden with explosives, according to Amaq, a news agency affiliated with Islamic State.
        For security forces, the crucial factor that determines if they can stop a car bomb is distance. Security forces routinely deploy bulldozers to build earthen berms to slow, if not stop, a car bomber. "If they come at you from 1,000 feet, you can get them. But at 300 feet, they're too close for the missile," said Hassan Attiyah, 30, referring to his anti-tank Kornet missile launcher. In close-quarters combat, the troops often rely on the U.S.-led coalition's drones to destroy car bombs.
        Lt. Col. Muntadhar Salam said the first thing his men do when they see a car bomb is use one of their vehicles as a barrier. "We sacrifice one of our Hummers so it won't go into our convoy, then we start firing RPGs and 50-caliber machine guns," he said. "But sometimes, you just have to run."  (Los Angeles Times)

Settlements Would Not Prevent a Two-State Outcome If Israelis Had a Genuine Peace Partner - Colin Rubenstein and Jamie Hyams (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)

  • Israel captured the West Bank in a defensive war in 1967 and, when its offer to exchange land for peace was unequivocally rebuffed by the Arab League, began establishing settlements in the area. This was partly for the need for security, given the hostile intentions and actions of its neighbors, and partly to allow some Jews to live in places that had Jewish communities going back hundreds if not thousands of years, until the Jordanians ethnically cleansed them in 1948.
  • Under the 1993 Oslo accords the Palestinian Authority was formed. 95% of West Bank Palestinians now live under the authority's rule.
  • In 2000, then authority president Yasser Arafat refused the Camp David offer of a Palestinian state and launched the second intifada, characterized by widespread terrorism inside pre-1967 Israel, most notably suicide bombings, that killed more than 1,000 Israelis and maimed thousands more.
  • Israel again offered the Palestinian Authority a state on increasingly generous terms in 2001 and 2008, only for the authority to again walk away.
  • A unilateral total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, intended to allow the Palestinians there to rule themselves as a peaceful entity alongside Israel, instead resulted in a Hamas takeover, more than 10,000 rockets and mortars, terror tunnels and three wars.
  • The settlements, as even Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has admitted, occupy less than 2% of the West Bank. Furthermore, the vast majority of settlers live in blocs that it is generally accepted Israel will retain in any peace deal. Settlements did not prevent the previous Israeli offers of statehood, and they would not prevent a two-state outcome if the Israelis had a genuine peace partner.

    Dr. Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, where Jamie Hyams is a senior policy analyst.

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