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April 3, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Covers Up Its Failures - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
    The assassination of senior official Mazen Fuqha at close range in the heart of Gaza City on March 24 was a serious blow to the prestige of Hamas.
    Despite its claims, Hamas has no proof of Israeli involvement in the killing.
    Moreover, a Fatah website in Gaza reported that Fuqha's wife told a relative that a few days before he was killed, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar refused her husband's request to receive protection.
    On April 2, Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman hinted that Fuqha was killed within the framework of internal power struggles within Hamas.
    Even if Israel was not involved, Hamas sources expect that in the coming days, a number of collaborators with Israel will be publically taken out and executed in order to show that it succeeded in its investigation.
    We may even see fabricated confessions by collaborators who will say they were sent by Israel to kill Fuqha.
    These messages from Hamas will be aimed to cover up its security failure.
    The writer is a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television.

IsraAID Helps Peru Rebuild after Floods - Tamara Zieve (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israeli NGO IsraAID is helping teachers in Peru prepare to reopen their schools after more than two weeks of flooding and mudslides that have devastated areas of the country.
    "One of our biggest concerns is water access," Naama Gorodischer, IsraAID programs director and head of the mission to Peru, said Sunday. The IsraAID team is offering water purification solutions.
    "Our approach is relying on rebuilding the capacity of the community to respond to their own needs, rather than doing direct activities," Gorodischer said.

Egyptian Army Gains Full Control of al-Halal Mountain in Central Sinai (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
    The Egyptian Armed Forces has declared its complete control over al-Halal mountain after purging all the caves, killing several extremists, arresting others and confiscating huge amounts of ammunition.
    Al-Halal mountain is one of the areas where extremists took shelter, but the armed forces were able to gain full control, military spokesperson Tamer al-Refai said on Sunday.
    24 caves with huge stores of ammunition and weapons were found, as well as vehicles with guns installed on them, huge amounts of spare parts, and communications devices.

China to Help Build Ramallah Ring Road in West Bank (Xinhua-China)
    The Chinese representative office to Palestine and the Ramallah municipality signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Saturday to build a ring road connecting the expanding neighborhoods of the West Bank city.
    Ramallah Mayor Mousa Hadid said China will provide a grant of $8,320,000, of which $7.7 million will be used for road construction.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • New Terrorist Laptop Bombs May Evade Airport Security - Evan Perez, Jodi Enda and Barbara Starr
    U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe that ISIS and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that FBI testing shows can evade commonly used airport security screening methods. Terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to effectively conceal explosives in laptops and other electronic devices. The intelligence played a significant role in the U.S. decision to prohibit travelers flying out of 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa from carrying laptops and other large electronic devices aboard planes.
        Intelligence officials received a wake-up call in February 2016, when an operative from al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, detonated a laptop bomb on a Daallo Airlines flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti. The bomber was blown out of the airplane but the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing. (CNN)
  • In a Shift, Trump Will Move Egypt's Rights Record to the Sidelines - Peter Baker
    The White House signaled on Friday that it would no longer allow human rights issues to become a public point of conflict with Egypt, as President Trump prepares to host President Sisi of Egypt on Monday. Although aides said human rights remained a concern, Trump prefers to deal with those issues in private.
        A White House statement released Friday praised Sisi for waging a vigorous war against terrorists and making efforts to strengthen Egypt's economy. "President Sisi has taken a number of bold steps since becoming president in 2014, including calling for the reform and moderation of Islamic discourse," the statement noted. (New York Times)
  • Syria's Civil War Produces a Clear Winner: Hizbullah - Maria Abi-Habib
    After years of growing engagement, including training thousands of mostly Shiite Muslim fighters, Hizbullah is today stronger, more independent, and in command of a new Syrian militia that its officials say is ready to be deployed to other conflicts in the region. Hizbullah now fights alongside Russian troops, and it was Hizbullah that devised the battlefield plan for conquering Aleppo used by Syrian and Russian forces last year, according to Arab and U.S. officials.
        "Russian stocks [of weaponry] are open to Hizbullah," said a Hizbullah official who travels frequently to Damascus. "Our fighters eat and sleep alongside theirs and we're sharing everything, always." Western diplomats estimate the number of Syrian fighters loyal to Hizbullah's command - which Hizbullah calls al-Ridha Forces, and are known locally as "Hizbullah in Syria" - in the tens of thousands. In Syria, Hizbullah is playing for lasting political and social influence, Western and Arab diplomats say. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • New Israeli Missile Defense System Is Now Operational - Gili Cohen
    Israel unveiled on Sunday its latest addition to its multilevel missile defense system with David's Sling, designed to intercept medium-range missiles. It is meant to fill the gap between Iron Dome, meant to intercept short-range rockets, and the Arrow system, designed to shoot down long-range ballistic threats. David's Sling is designed to intercept Hizbullah's highly accurate missiles and large rockets such as the M-600. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu Lauds U.S.-Israel Cooperation on Missile Defense
    At a ceremony Sunday marking the operational integration of the David's Sling air defense system, with the participation of Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "Admiral, today marks an important milestone in our joint development of cutting-edge missile defense technologies. We face, both of us, increasingly sophisticated threats, but we have repeatedly demonstrated that together we can meet these challenges a lot better than any one of us could do so alone."
        "But despite the importance that I attribute to our defensive capabilities, I reiterate: Whoever seeks to hit us - will be hit. Whoever threatens our existence - places himself in existential danger. This approach has ancient sources. Not far from here is the Ela Valley where David defeated Goliath with his sling. King David defended the People of Israel against its enemies 3,000 years ago. He did so with a combination of extraordinary daring and extraordinary ingenuity."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Palestinian Stabs Three Israelis in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday
    A Palestinian assailant - Ahmad Jazal, 17, from the West Bank village of Sebastia - stabbed two Israeli civilians aged 18 and 20 and a border policeman on Saturday in Jerusalem's Old City before he was shot and killed by security forces. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Stop Denying the Israeli Consensus on the Palestinians - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Yair Lapid, who leads the Israeli opposition Yesh Atid party, was reported by Ha'aretz as saying that any negotiations with the Palestinians would need to be conducted "in very slow stages" and that it will take "15-20 years, the main element of which is security arrangements." Why so slow when so many claim it is a matter of urgency to withdraw from the West Bank as soon as possible? His answer: "I don't believe the Palestinians."
        His stance is similar to that of the head of the opposition in the Knesset - Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union party - who issued his own peace plan in which he asserted that peace would have to wait until at least 10 years passed, during which the Palestinians would need to completely refrain from anti-Israel terror.
        Rather than advocate a surrender of the disputed territories in order to create a Palestinian state as soon as possible, the two opposition leaders agree peace is nowhere in sight. Their reason is that Palestinian intentions toward Israel are such that all Israel would be doing is attempting to trade land for terror, rather than for peace.
        In a remarkable demonstration of a broad consensus, Netanyahu, Herzog and Lapid all understand that until a sea change occurs within their political culture that will render peace acceptable to most Palestinians, Israel has no alternative but to hold its ground. (
  • Israel's Arrow Intercepts a Syrian Missile - Uzi Rubin
    On March 17, 2017, the Arrow missile defense system successfully intercepted a Syrian antiaircraft missile that had been fired against Israel Air Force aircraft engaged in a deep penetration mission inside Syria. The Arrow was originally optimized against medium- and long-range ballistic missiles, with the Arrow 2 for high atmosphere interceptions and Arrow 3 for space interceptions.
        The system was extensively tested but did not feature in any of the last decade's wars against short-range rockets from Lebanon and Gaza. The March 17 interception was thus its first-ever reported combat action. Even more impressive is the fact that the destroyed threat was not a ballistic missile but an antiaircraft missile. No missile defense system dedicated to the interception of antiaircraft missiles has yet been developed.
        That is because it is more feasible to neutralize them through "soft" defenses like electronic warfare and decoys. A previous firing of antiaircraft missiles against IAF planes took place in January 2017. In neither case was the Israeli plane hit, indicating that they carried sufficient "soft" defenses to thwart the Syrian missiles.
        On March 17, a Syrian SA-5 interceptor, dimensionally very similar to a Scud, missed its target, did not self-destruct, and continued to fly in a stable ballistic trajectory toward Israel. It was picked up at a distance by the "Green Pine" radars, its predicted impact point was seen to be within Israeli territory, and it was classified as an imminent threat. Using a single interceptor, the Arrow system detected, locked onto, and neutralized a threatening missile of a type never envisaged during its original design. The writer was founding director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, which managed the Arrow program. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

Knesset Members from Across the Spectrum View the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Ira Stoll (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  • A group of members of Israel's Knesset, visiting a Boston-area synagogue, were asked, "I want to know what you are doing to make peace with the Palestinians....Where is the compassion and the justice?"
  • Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin of the Zionist Union (formerly Labor) party recalled that her first childhood memory was of an alarm going off marking the start of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. And now, "my children's first memory is the alarm going up and down in Tel Aviv because of the missiles going over...from Gaza." As for the Palestinians killed in Gaza, Nahmias-Verbin told the questioner that they had been used as civilian shields by Hamas. "So please take a deep breath before being so judgmental."
  • Rachel Azaria of Kulanu, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, responded: "My four children are going to join the army. It terrifies me. To think that we enjoy living with terror, and enjoy living with our rifles? We hate it, we all hate it....When you are thousands of miles away, it looks simple, and it is not. I think you have to trust us that if it would be easy, we would be there."
  • Amir Ohana, the first openly gay member of parliament from the ruling Likud party, replied with a quote he attributed to an earlier Israeli prime minister: "When the Arabs would lower their guns, there will be no more war. When the Israelis will lower their guns, there will be no more Israel."
  • Mickey Levy of Yesh Atid had two brothers killed in the conflict. He told a story about two of his sons who, during a period of frequent suicide bombings, were both enrolled at the same high school: "I said to them...'When you come home, don't take the same bus.' Do you understand why? I didn't want to lose both of them."

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