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July 10, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt: 26 Soldiers Killed in Sinai Suicide Attack (Al Jazeera)
    At least 26 Egyptian soldiers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on an army checkpoint near Rafah in northern Sinai on Friday.
    An army spokesperson said 40 ISIS fighters were killed in a gun battle with soldiers at the checkpoint.
    See also Former Hamas Militants Participated in Attack on Egyptian Soldiers - Adam Rasgon (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said Saturday that four former Hamas militants, now associated with Islamic State, participated in the attack against the Egyptian soldiers.
    "Hamas is not actually helping Egypt to uproot terror in Sinai," Mordechai said, accusing Hamas of providing Islamist militants freedom of movement between Sinai and Gaza.
    See also Sinai Attackers Included Former Hamas Members - Kifah Ziboun (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

Gen. Soleimani Boasts of Tehran's Expanded Footprint throughout Middle East - Amir Toumaj (Long War Journal)
    On July 3, Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Qods Force, boasted that Tehran's influence in the Middle East has expanded as a result of the Syrian war.
    "Several years ago in Syria, we didn't have relations with individuals and movements more than the numbers of fingers, while we have relations with hundreds of thousands today."
    The writer is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Poland to Buy U.S. Patriot System with Israeli-Made Interceptor Missiles - Udi Etzion (Ynet News)
    A deal Poland is expected to sign with the U.S. to buy the Patriot missile system includes interceptor missiles from Israel's David Sling system.
    Poland demanded the Israeli interceptor missile, developed with U.S. firm Raytheon, because of its better performance compared to the American Patriot interceptor and its considerably lower price - only $450,000 compared to $4.5 million.
    Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Israeli company that developed David's Sling, is expected to make $1 billion from this deal.
    According to foreign reports, the Polish Defense Ministry is also in talks with Israel Aerospace Industries on the purchase of two Ofek intelligence satellites.

Earliest Mosaic of Jonah and the Whale Found in Galilee Synagogue - Amanda Borschel-Dan (Times of Israel)
    Unprecedented depictions of the biblical Jonah and the whale have been found at a fifth-century Roman synagogue at the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq in Israel's lower Galilee.
    In the recently discovered mosaic, Jonah's legs are shown dangling from the mouth of a large fish, which is being swallowed by a larger fish, which is being consumed by a third, even larger fish.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UNESCO Declares Hebron's Core as Palestinian World Heritage Site - Isabel Kershner
    UNESCO, the UN cultural organization, declared the ancient core of Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger on Friday, despite a concerted diplomatic effort by Israel and the U.S. to scuttle the decision. The area designated as a heritage site includes the Cave of the Patriarchs, an ancient shrine revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the burial place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. According to the Bible, Abraham purchased the cave as a burial plot for his wife, Sarah.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said Israel would further reduce the membership fees it pays to the UN by $1 million a year and would use the funds to establish a Jewish People's heritage museum in Hebron. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs said the UNESCO designation ran contrary to the Palestinian commitments in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s for the joint governance of Hebron and shared worship in the Cave of the Patriarchs. (New York Times)
        See also Netanyahu: UNESCO Decision on Hebron Is "Delusional"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday: "This is another delusional UNESCO decision. This time they decided that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site, meaning that it is not Jewish, and that the site is in danger. Not a Jewish site?! Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah - our patriarchs and matriarchs! And the site is in danger? It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured."
        "In the Middle East, mosques, churches and synagogues in every other place are being bombed - in places that are not Israel. We will continue to protect the Tomb of the Patriarchs, freedom of religion for all, and the truth."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Haley Calls UNESCO Hebron Motion "an Affront to History," Says U.S. to Review Ties
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Friday: "UNESCO has voted to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory and a World Heritage site despite protests by the United States, Israel, and other countries. The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels. It represents an affront to history. It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency. Today's vote does no one any good and causes much harm."
        In 2011, the U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinians as a Member State, but it is still on the Executive Board. The U.S. is currently evaluating the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO. (U.S. Mission to the UN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Warns of Iranian Entrenchment on Israel's Border
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Israel will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria but this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria, in general, and in southern Syria, in particular. I had deep discussions about this last week with U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson and with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both told me that they understand Israel's position and will take our demands into account."
        "For our part we will continue to monitor developments beyond our borders while strongly upholding our red lines: Prevent the strengthening of Hizbullah via Syria, with emphasis on the acquisition of precision weapons; prevent Hizbullah - or Iranian forces - from establishing a ground presence along our border; and prevent the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria as a whole."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • An Agreement to Open the Gaza-Egypt Border? - Amos Harel
    A developing agreement between Egypt and Hamas would station people loyal to Mohammed Dahlan at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza in exchange for increased civilian traffic through it. The Egyptians are seeking to force Hamas to accept Egyptian authority and to put Dahlan in position to inherit Mahmoud Abbas' crown in the future. Yet achieving Egypt's ambitious goals will be complicated.
        Hamas will never give up power of its own accord, and it has yet to overcome its disgust for Dahlan - who repressed Hamas with an iron fist at the orders of Yasser Arafat in the late 1990s. In addition, Dahlan was the person responsible for the humiliation of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, when PA security forces imprisoned him and cut off half his beard. Dahlan is seen as the most corrupt of all Palestinian officials - even though he faces competition from a huge number of worthy participants. It is likely that his return to Gaza will quickly lead to internal opposition there.
        Moreover, Israeli defense officials warn that the opening of the Rafah crossing under Egyptian auspices will increase the danger of weapons and explosives being smuggled through the crossing into Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Inheritance of the People of Israel - Shlomo Puterkovsky
    The decision by UNESCO on Friday to declare the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site sparked reactions ranging from fury to laughter in Israel. The Jewish connection to the Cave of the Patriarchs is thousands of years old and began many years before Islam was born.
        The Bible talks about three places our forefathers bought for a full price. The Cave of the Patriarchs and the field in which it is located were purchased by Abraham for 400 silver shekels from Ephron the Hittite. The plot where Joseph was buried in Nablus (Shechem) was bought by Jacob for 100 pieces of silver. The site on which the Temple was built was purchased by King David from Araunah the Jebusite for 600 pieces of gold. These are places that all the people of Israel inherited. (Ynet News)
        See also Hebron Ties and Lies - Editorial
    No matter what was decided by UNESCO, there is no denying the Jews' ties to Hebron. Those ties are deeper and arguably date back earlier than the Jews' ties to Jerusalem. King David consolidated his rule in Hebron after Saul's death. King Herod built the wall that still surrounds the Cave of the Patriarchs.
        Have UNESCO officials not heard of the Bible, Google or Wikipedia? Their vote is a form of propaganda. Rewriting history hinders and further complicates efforts to reach a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hizbullah Boasts of Its New Power - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    Al-Akhbar newspaper in Beirut is the unofficial mouthpiece of Hizbullah. Its editor, Ibrahim al-Amin, wrote an editorial on July 3 noting: "In Syria, Hizbullah has become the ally of the Syrian army in waging its battles, while in Iraq, Hizbullah's experts are present in the biggest operations rooms....[Hizbullah secretary-general] Hassan Nasrallah serves as the commander of the Al-Hash Al-Sha'bi [the popular mobilization units] in Iraq....In Yemen, Hizbullah has become a direct partner in strengthening the military capabilities of the Houthi Ansarullah."
        "[Islamic Jihad and Hamas] refer to Hizbullah in Beirut to coordinate their activities....Hizbullah retains the real veto power in conducting strategic affairs in Lebanon, and there is no opposition that can threaten it."
        "Arsenals of big armies have opened their gates to Hizbullah and allowed it to arm itself with whatever was needed. The equipment can be utilized in the preparation and readiness in case of an imminent war with Israel." The writer, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, served as Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry Chief of Staff. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Despite Ceasefire Deal, Iranian Stronghold in Syrian Golan Still Possible - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

  • A ceasefire agreement in southwestern Syria, which went into effect on Sunday, freezes the situation in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, the areas controlled by militias operating on behalf of Iran and Hizbullah, and the areas controlled by the rebels, preventing the Iranian-backed militias and Hizbullah from advancing towards the Iraqi border.
  • For now, as a result, the Iranians and their proxies are unable to create a land corridor connecting Tehran and Beirut and flanking Jordan and Israel.
  • A ceasefire will stop the "spillover" fire into the Golan Heights and Jordan from the battles between the Syrian army and the rebels.
  • However, the agreement fails to completely remove the Iranian militias and Hizbullah from the area, currently 40 km. from the Golan border, as Israel likely demanded behind the scenes. This means that if and when the ceasefire is violated, the forces supported by Iran and Hizbullah would be able to continue their advance towards creating a strategic corridor to the Mediterranean Sea and establish a stronghold in the Golan Heights.
  • The ceasefire agreement for southwestern Syria was reached in direct talks between the U.S. and Russia and was finalized between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in their meeting Friday.
  • Assad and the Iranians have realized that they are incapable of conquering the city of Daraa on the Jordanian border and that the rebels are successfully attacking them near new Quneitra in the Golan Heights, so they agreed to a ceasefire. But the moment the Syrian regime and the Iranians conclude they are strong enough to reoccupy Daraa, they will do it without any hesitation.

        See also Israel a Key Player in Syria Ceasefire Deal - Alex Fishman
    If Israel hadn't promised the Americans to supervise the ceasefire agreement's implementation by those seen as allies on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, an agreement would have been unimaginable. Yet the chance that the agreement will last isn't high. (Ynet News)

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