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June 30, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Confirms ISIS Chief Baghdadi Is Dead (Reuters)
    Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was "definitely dead," Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted cleric Ali Shirazi, representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, as saying.
    Russia said on June 17 its forces might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria.
    See also Iran Broadcasts Photos of Baghdadi's Body - Yoni Ben Menachem (Twitter-Hebrew)

Sarin Use Confirmed in Deadly April Attack in Syria (AP-New York Times)
    The international chemical weapons watchdog OPCW confirmed Friday that sarin nerve gas was used in an April 4 attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that left more than 90 people dead, including women and children.
    The U.S. State Department said Thursday, "The facts reflect a despicable and highly dangerous record of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime."

U.S. Special Forces Assisting Attack on ISIS' Syrian Capital - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Three weeks ago the Syrian Democratic Forces, mostly led by Kurdish fighters, began its assault on Raqqa, the Syrian capital of ISIS.
    According to U.S. Army spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon, some 2,500 ISIS fighters remain in the city.
    Daily coalition air strikes focus on suicide vehicles, mortars and ISIS machine guns as well as defensive positions, with 125 air strikes last week.
    Over 500 U.S. special operations forces are involved in the Raqqa offensive, embedded with company-sized units.

Hizbullah Facing Cuts in Financial Support - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Over the past two years, Hizbullah has been in a dire financial situation.
    Iranian support has been reduced by hundreds of millions of dollars; there is a drop in income from taxation and donations; the Americans and Saudis have declared the group a terror organization, and the sanctions are leaving their mark.
    Having no choice, Hizbullah has sold assets and reduced salaries.
    One-third of Hizbullah's fighting force has been in Syria for four years now. One-third of the fighters have been either killed or wounded, and the burden of payments to their families is huge.
    Hizbullah has been burying 16 and 17-year-old boys who had volunteered to fight.

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Israeli Researchers Demonstrate New Firewall that Protects Cellphones from Security Threats (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
    Cyber security researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have developed an innovative firewall program that adds a missing layer of security in Android cellphones and monitors for malicious code.

Israel-U.S. Foundation Commits $7 Million to Hi-Tech R and D Partnerships - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) will invest $7 million in eight new Israeli-American ventures involving autonomous vehicles, biotechnology, digital health, homeland security and nanotechnology, the foundation announced Wednesday.
    The projects include Israel's Atvio and the Telford, Pa.-based Secant Group, which will be creating a three-dimensional culture platform of therapeutic cells manufactured using biomaterials.
    Israel's Check-Cap and Marlborough, Mass.- based GE Healthcare will be developing a new colon cancer screening system for high volume manufacture.
    Nutrino Health and Denver, Colo.-based Welltok will be establishing personalized nutrition recommendations for employers and health plans, while Pill Tracker and New York-based Target Health will be working on a mechanism for medication tracking and drug compliance.
    Over its 40-year history, BIRD has invested more than $340 million in joint projects, yielding more than $10 billion in direct and indirect revenue.

Israeli Startups Raise over $400 Million in June - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    Israeli startups have raised over $400 million in June. They have raised nearly $2 billion since the start of the year. In 2016, Israeli startups raised a record $4.8 billion.
    On Wednesday, image recognition company Trax announced it had raised $64 million. Digital post-print company Highcon raised $20 million.
    Earlier this week, e-commerce fraud prevention company Riskified raised $33 million, neurological therapy company Mitoconix Bio raised $20 million, and personalized nutrition company DayTwo raised $12 million from Johnson & Johnson.
    Cyber security company Cybereason closed a $100 million financing round.
    Connected vehicle company Autotalks raised $10 million more to bring its financing round to $40 million, while Eloxx Pharmaceuticals raised $6 million more, to bring its financing round to $30 million.

Microsoft Buys Israeli Cloud Solutions Firm Cloudyn - Nitzan Cohen (Globes)
    Microsoft has bought Cloudyn, which specializes in analytics and optimization for cloud services, for $50-70 million.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Envoy Slams UN Security Council for Inaction on Iran - Michelle Nichols
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed the Security Council on Thursday for failing to take any action against Iran, which she said had "repeatedly and deliberately violated" sanctions imposed by the body. "The Security Council has failed to even take minimal steps to respond to these violations," Haley said. "We Iran that we will not tolerate their egregious flaunting of UN resolutions."
        While most UN sanctions were lifted 18 months ago under a deal Iran made with key world powers to curb its nuclear program, Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, enshrined in resolution 2231. "The secretary-general's report makes clear that Iran is in violation of the Security Council resolution 2231 and so the question becomes 'what is the Security Council going to do about it?'" Haley said. (Reuters)
  • UN Condemns Fighting in Buffer Zone between Syria and Israel
    The UN Security Council on Thursday strongly condemned fighting in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel and urged the Syrian government and opposition groups to withdraw from the area which is patrolled by UN peacekeepers. A resolution sponsored by Russia and the U.S. and adopted unanimously Thursday by the UN Security Council extends the mandate of the peacekeeping mission known as UNDOF until Dec. 31.
        UNDOF has patrolled the buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974. UNDOF has 959 personnel including 828 military. The resolution condemned the use of heavy weapons, including tanks, by both the Syrian armed forces and armed groups in the area. (AP-New York Times)
  • ISIS Reverts to Insurgent Roots to Pose Long-Term Threat - Eric Schmitt
    The Islamic State has carried out nearly 1,500 attacks in 16 cities across Iraq and Syria after they were declared freed from the militants' control in recent months, providing new evidence that the group is reverting to its insurgent roots and foreshadowing long-term security threats. The information was compiled by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in a study made public on Thursday that warns of the need for increased efforts to restore the security, governance and economies in territory once held by the Islamic State. (New York Times)
        See also The Islamic State's Continuing Military Efforts in Liberated Cities - Daniel Milton and Muhammad al-'Ubaydi (Combating Terrorism Center at West Point)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Thwarts Cyberattack on Hospitals
    Two Israeli hospitals were hacked overnight on Wednesday, the National Cyber Defense Authority reported Thursday. Shortly after the attack began, the cyber department of the Ministry of Health began a joint operation with the National Cyber Action Headquarters to repel the attack, the Walla news site reported.
        The Authority said: "There were attempts to attack several hospitals during the night, several computers in some hospitals were infected, but treated immediately with no damage caused. The incident was halted by cyber personnel from the organizations involved, as well as the Cyber Protection Authority. There was no damage to the functioning of the hospitals."  (i24News)
  • Israel Halts Family Visits for Hamas Prisoners from Gaza - Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury
    Prison Service officials confirmed that Israel has decided to stop family visits for Hamas prisoners from Gaza. Hamas spokesman Abdel Rahman Shadid said, "The aim of this decision is to exert pressure on the Hamas leadership regarding the [Israeli] missing and captives in Gaza." "It is the correct decision," said the family of IDF soldier Oron Shaul, whose body is being held in Gaza. "We hope that it will serve to help bring back Oron from Hamas captivity as soon as possible."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas in Distress? - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    It has been 10 years since Hamas took Gaza by force and the local residents are paying the price for Hamas' isolation in the Arab world. These are no longer the days of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, and when Turkey and Qatar did as they pleased across the Arab world. Bereft of outside support and facing boiling distress at home, Hamas is considering handing over the keys to Mohammed Dahlan - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' detested political rival - who could very well be the only one capable of turning things around in Gaza.
        Hamas hopes that Dahlan will suffice with the symbolic and powerless position of prime minister. But Dahlan is not a child, and with backing from Egyptian President Sisi - and perhaps with a wink and a nod from Israel, as well - he can pull the rug out from under Hamas. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
        See also The Dahlan Plan: Without Hamas and Without Abbas - Zvi Bar'el
    A complex arrangement is being cooked up between the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Gaza and Israel to make Mohammed Dahlan government chief in Gaza. For Egypt, the plan holds the promise of an end to Hamas' cooperation with terror groups in Sinai.
        The plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn't demilitarize it, but with Dahlan, Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation with Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Leader Stuck in Gaza after Qatar Slams Doors Shut - Daniel Siryoti
    Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who in May was elected to replace Khaled Mashaal as the organization's political chief, cannot find a single Arab country to host him. Mashaal operated from Doha in Qatar, but on the heels of an emerging diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf states, and Egypt over Qatar's support of Islamic terrorist groups and its warm relations with Iran, the Qatari government told senior Hamas officials to leave the country immediately.
        Senior Hamas officials said Iran had offered to host Haniyeh and the political bureau, but that Hamas turned down the offer. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Narendra Modi's Israel Tour: Defense, Agriculture, Water Management on Agenda
    Cooperation on defense, agriculture and water management issues will be discussed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Israel on July 4-6, the first prime minister from India to visit Israel, Dr. B. Bala Bhaskar, a senior official at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, said on Thursday.
        He said Israel has expressed "great willingness" over the last three years to participate in India's flagship initiatives like Make in India, Clean Ganga, Smart Cities and Digital India. According to the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv, there are 85,000 Jews of Indian origin in Israel. (IANS-India)
        See also Israel and India: A New Strategic Partnership - Ariel Bolstein
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit next week is special because it underscores the 180-degree turn the bilateral ties have undergone. For many decades, India was led by a staunchly anti-Israel socialist party that supported every diplomatic effort to attack the Jewish state.
        Modi draws parallels between the renaissance of the Jewish people and the challenges facing his own country. Both countries face the same threat from Islamic terrorism. About a year ago, India stopped supporting anti-Israel resolutions at the UN. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Islamic State: Down - The Salafi-Jihad Movement: Up - Yoram Schweitzer
    At the close of three years since the announcement of the Islamic State, it is clear that al-Baghdadi's gamble in declaring the establishment of an Islamic empire has failed, but his influence on the Salafi-jihad movement has grown. A sober understanding is required of the intention of the Salafi-jihad movement to temporarily suspend the caliphate idea, and replace it with the establishment of emirates in territories where the movement has a presence and there are existing problems with national government structures.
        Therefore, in addition to a focused military campaign against organizations, networks, and activists who are part of this ideological movement, action involving close international cooperation in political, economic, diplomatic, legal, and educational aspects should be taken, in order to prevent the threat of terrorism by this movement from reappearing and expanding.
        The writer is head of the research program on Terror and Low-Intensity Conflict at the INSS, following a distinguished career in the Israeli intelligence community. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Path to a New Saudi Arabia - Dennis Ross
    Saudi Arabia's new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, is clearly now slated to succeed his father, King Salman. He has been given very wide responsibilities as defense minister and overseer of the Saudi economy and its transformation. He believes Saudi Arabia must diversify its economy and modernize.
        Yet Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative country where social change will not come easily. The religious establishment will resist change and a diminution of its role. Significant parts of the royal family may also resist as the crown prince cuts off the moneys that have always been available to them.
        The crown prince sees Iran as an existential threat and is determined to counter it. Saudi Arabia drew a line in Yemen when it saw the Iranian hand in the Houthi overthrow of the Yemeni government. The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior national security positions in the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations. (New York Daily News)
  • The UNRWA Problem - Colin Rubenstein
    UNRWA, created in the aftermath of Israel's existential victory in the 1948 war, was formed with modest and sensible goals - to provide emergency aid to all needy refugees of that war with an eye to gradually decreasing the need for aid through job creation, resettlement and regional cooperation. In the early days of UNRWA, it operated inside Israel, and aid recipients included Jewish refugees of the war who had previously lived in areas conquered by Jordan and Egypt. Israel quickly absorbed its internally displaced Arab and Jewish refugees, taking them off UNRWA's rolls.
        Then UNRWA became an advocacy organization for the political goals of Palestinian Arabs and expanded its definition of Palestinian refugee identity to include all the descendants of the original refugees. UNRWA's mandate to resettle these refugees was removed in 1965, formalizing a perpetual state of Palestinian dependency on the organization.
        UNRWA's institutionalized perpetuation of Palestinian refugee camps and culture makes peacemaking more difficult and deprives generations of Palestinians who were not refugees themselves the right to choose their own destiny. It does so at an unsustainable level for the mostly Western countries that financially support the organization. Dr. Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. (AIJAC-Australia)
  • Video: Lessons from Israel's Response to Terrorism - Fiamma Nirenstein
    Europe and Israel continue to be assaulted by radical Islamic terror. The terrorist jihadists have declared that Europeans and Israelis are infidels to be destroyed and conquered. The small state of Israel has always fought back against terrorism. Since its beginning, the Jewish state has been forced to defend against terror every day of every year.
        How does Israel fight as a democracy so well against terror? Israel has developed strategies to maximize national resilience and maintain public morale in the face of unrelenting terror attacks. Israel has also embraced the highest moral standards possible in combatting terror, protecting civil and human rights, as well as protecting privacy, while deterring and preventing future attacks.
        By developing a shared strategy, we can win the war on terror. Fiamma Nirenstein served as a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-2013) where she was Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Lessons from Israel's Response to Terrorism - Fiamma Nirenstein, ed. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • How Reporting from Israel Changed My Worldview - Hunter Stuart
    In 2015, I moved to Jerusalem as a freelance reporter and quickly started selling stories to news outlets in the U.S., the UK and Australia, as well as for Al Jazeera English. One afternoon I went to cover a Palestinian protest at an Israeli-run prison near Ramallah. I fell in with a group of about 100 Palestinian demonstrators as they marched towards the prison, where they were met by a half dozen Israeli soldiers.
        The Palestinians quickly set up a roadblock of burning tires to prevent the Israelis from escaping. More and more protesters arrived, swarming over the hills above the prison, clad in face masks and keffiyehs. Some had knives in their belts. Others had brought ingredients for firebombs. They began using powerful slingshots to hurl rocks and chunks of concrete at the six Israeli soldiers down below. The Israelis were so outnumbered that I couldn't help but question the narrative that Israel was Goliath and the Palestinians were David, because here in front of me it looked like the exact opposite.
        When I visited Gaza a few months later, I again saw the difference between how journalists portray a place and reality. You'd think the whole place was rubble, but, in fact, Gaza is no different in appearance from anywhere else in the Arab world. I didn't see a single war-damaged building until I specifically asked my fixer to show me one. I went out to eat at restaurants where the tables are made from marble and the waiters wear vests and ties. I saw huge villas on the beach that wouldn't be out of place in Malibu, and across the street I visited a new, $4 million mosque. (Honest Reporting)
  • Israeli Wearable Radar Can Help Track Heart Attack Signs Online - Mark Brohan
    Ohio State medical researchers are conducting a clinical trial with patients wearing a web-enabled vest that also features radar technology that was first used by the military and rescue teams in Israel to see through walls and rubble in collapsed buildings. The vest, created by Israeli medical wearables developer Sensible Medical, allows radar to go through the chest wall and obtains an accurate measurement of water inside the lungs.
        This could be a new way to prevent repeated trips to the hospital for the nearly six million patients living with heart failure in the U.S., says Dr. William Abraham, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. The results are promising, with an 87% reduction in heart failure hospitalizations when using vest lung fluid monitoring. (Digital Commerce)
  • New Israeli Diagnostic System Enables Customized Antibiotic Treatments
    A diagnostic system developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology enables rapid and accurate customization of the antibiotic to the patient. The system makes for faster diagnostics, earlier and more effective treatment of infectious bacteria, and improved patient recovery times.
        In order not to leave a patient with a threatening infection without adequate protection while awaiting test results, many doctors will prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic in large doses. This facilitates the emergence of infections with antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and also affects the "good bacteria" in the human body that protect it.
        The innovative SNDA-AST system developed at the Technion quickly analyzes bacteria in urine samples from patients with infections and assesses their level of resistance to specific antibiotics. This enables the healthcare team to choose the most effective antibiotic a day or two earlier than traditional methods. (News-Medical)
  • How Margaret Thatcher's Family Sheltered an Austrian Jew during the Holocaust - Robert Philpot
    In 1939, Edith Muhlbauer, 17, lived in Vienna. The year before, the German Wehrmacht had crossed the border and, without a shot being fired, occupied Austria. The Nuremberg Laws were applied to Austria, Jews were stripped of their citizenship and the doors to many professions barred to them. On Nov. 9, 1938 - Kristallnacht - all but one of Vienna's 42 synagogues were burned to the ground. Mobs attacked and looted shops owned by Jews. The police responded by arresting 8,000 Jews, sending 5,000 of them to Dachau.
        Edith wrote to her English penpal, Muriel Roberts, asking if she could come and stay. Muriel's father Alfred was keen to help. At his local Rotary club, he read out an appeal by Edith's father. His fellow Rotarians agreed to pay Edith's travel, to provide her a guinea a week pocket money and to each host the teenager in their homes for a month or so.
        Edith arrived in Grantham, a provincial Middle England town, and met Muriel and her 13-year-old sister, Margaret - who, 40 years later, would enter No. 10 Downing Street as Britain's first female prime minister. Years later, Margaret Thatcher recalled Edith. "She told us what it was like to live as a Jew under an anti-Semitic regime. One thing stuck in my mind: the Jews, she said, were being made to scrub the streets."  (Times of Israel)

Israeli General: Cyber Terror - Why Are Global Leaders Waiting for Their Cyber 9/11? - IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Eli Ben Muir (Fox News)

  • Cyber terrorists don't respect borders, they don't play by the rules of the game, so why should we? You don't arrest a bank robber with your eyes blindfolded and your hands tied behind your back. You call for backup, you conduct deep intelligence, you work with other agencies.
  • And if the criminals do get away, you use all the tools at your disposal (and at the disposal of your local and international colleagues) to catch them and bring them to justice.
  • In Israel, we have unfortunately been at the forefront of countering cyber attacks. We have plenty of enemies who wish us harm, and we do not enjoy the margin of error that other larger nations (think they) have.
  • The government and military in Israel have therefore fused a centralized, strategic problem-solving mentality with the most advanced technologies, to identify, prevent and protect against cyber enemies.
  • Regional and international cooperation holds the keys to unlock the crucial cyber solutions we so evidently need.

    The writer served as head of the research department of IDF Military Intelligence.
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