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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
August 1, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Intelligence Led to Arrest of Hamas Operative in Austria (Ha'aretz)
    Intelligence from Israel led to the arrest of a Hamas operative in Austria who was sentenced to life imprisonment last week for attempting to persuade West Bank Palestinians to carry out deadly attacks against Jewish targets in Jerusalem.
    The man was released in the prisoner exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011. He had been serving a life sentence in Israel for terror activities.

Top PA Official Saeb Erekat Treated in Israel as He Awaits Lung Transplant - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the PLO, has been receiving treatment at a hospital in Israel for pulmonary fibrosis and is awaiting a lung transplant.

Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad Facing Sentencing over Misuse of Funds (Reuters)
    Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faces sentencing on seven verdicts of misusing billions of dollars in government funds while in office, the public prosecutor at Iran's Supreme Audit Court, Fayaz Shojaie, said Sunday.

IDF Prepares for the Future - Yaakov Lappin (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    The IDF envisions that the Middle East of the future will be significantly more dangerous, due in part to the proliferation of powerful weapons throughout the region.
    A number of non-state entities are arming themselves with precision-guided heavy rockets and missiles, capabilities once reserved for the great powers.

Female Enlistment in Israel's Border Police at Record High - Meir Turgeman (Ynet News)
    252 female soldiers enlisted in Israel's Border Police earlier this month.
    The human resources officer of the Border Police, Chief Superintendent Keren Meir, said, "The desire to serve in the Border Police now stands in line with the desire to get into the pilots' course or to be a combat soldier in Karakal."
    The dramatic rise in demand is linked to the deaths of two female Border Police fighters in separate attacks at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City.

Low-Cost Airlines Boost Tourism to Eilat - Michal Raz-Chaimovich (Globes)
    Since the start of 2017, the number of international passengers from Europe arriving at Ovda airport near Eilat has risen by 33%.
    Most of the flights are operated by Irish carrier Ryanair, Ural Airlines, Russia Airlines, Hungary's Wizz Air, KLM - Air France's Transavia, Finland's Finnair, and the UK's Monarch.
    The coming winter season is expected to see 88 flights per week, with the addition of Scandinavian carrier SAS, Ukraine Air, and Russia's Rossiya FV.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Australia Plane Terror Plot Linked to ISIS Fighters in Syria - Siobhan Kenna and Lara Pearce
    The brother of Khaled Khayat, a Sydney man arrested on Saturday over a plot to bring down a plane, is reportedly a senior Islamic State fighter in Syria. Khaled and Abdul Merhi, who was also arrested, are believed to be relatives of another notorious Islamic State fighter, Ahmed Merhi, a former Sydney man who travelled to Syria in 2014.
        Four men hatched the bomb plot with assistance from ISIS in Syria, and were only discovered when Western intelligence agencies intercepted communications between the men in Australia and Syria. The arrests mark the 13th time Australian authorities have foiled a potential terror attack on home soil since 2014. (Huffington Post-Australia)
  • Ayatollah Khamenei Urges Muslims to Stand Against U.S. and Israel
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday urged Muslims worldwide to stand against the U.S. and Israel's "villainy" during the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage. There is no better place than the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia to voice Muslims' stance in support of Palestine and the Aqsa Mosque, he said. "The U.S. government is more villainous and malicious than the terrorist groups," he stressed. (Xinhua-China)
  • Thousands of Jews Pray at Western Wall in Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av
    Thousands of Jews attended prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to observe the start of the Tisha B'Av fast day on Monday night. Prayer leaders read aloud from the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah's biblical account of the destruction of the First Jewish Temple by invading Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Western Wall is a remnant of the Second Jewish Temple, built on the site of the First Temple. (AFP-Daily Mail-UK)
        See also Over 1,000 Jews Visit Temple Mount on Tisha B'Av - Jeremy Sharon
    More than 1,000 Jewish visitors went up to the Temple Mount - located above the Western Wall - on Tuesday morning during the fast of Tisha B'Av. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Security Cabinet Discusses Concerns over Southern Syria Cease-Fire - Barak Ravid
    The Israeli security cabinet met on Sunday to discuss the cease-fire reached by the U.S. and Russia in southern Syria. A senior Israeli official said Israel is working with Washington and Moscow to improve the agreement and ensure it does not harm Israel's security interests. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Why Israel Is Concerned about American-Russian Understandings on Syria - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    The agreement reached between U.S. President Trump and Russian President Putin about establishing a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria was accepted with mixed feelings in Israel because it tacitly gave legitimacy to the prolonged presence of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces throughout Syria.
        Israel is concerned about Iran's ongoing effort, together with its proxy Hizbullah, to turn the Syrian Golan Heights into a base to launch terror activities against Israel. Iran's presence in Syria also allows for the acceleration of the delivery of military equipment to Hizbullah through Syria.
        Iran wants to turn Syria into an Iranian military base, including establishing a naval base. It may move ground forces, missiles, and even aircraft to Syria, bringing Iranian forces to Israel's doorstep. An Iranian stronghold in Syria could also threaten Jordan. The writer was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel Arrests 33 Palestinians over Temple Mount Riots
    Israeli police arrested 33 men in eastern Jerusalem on Sunday night suspected of playing key roles in recent violent demonstrations in the city. Police said they have been able to identify major instigators of violent rioting. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Palestinian Martyrs Fund Is Flush with Blood Money from America - Editorial
    Cash doled out to Palestinian terrorists and their families is blood money, and it's to the shame of the U.S. government that some of that blood money is lifted from the pockets of Americans. The families of three Israeli Arabs who carried out the execution-style shootings of two Israeli Druze policemen at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City are eligible for money from the Palestinian Martyrs Fund, as well as the families of the attackers who stabbed an Israeli policewoman at Damascus Gate in June. In this way, Palestinian leaders encourage acts of terrorism.
        More than 20,000 Palestinian families receive monthly payments, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. It's a telling indicator that peaceful families with incomes under the poverty line receive smaller welfare payments than killers of Jews. The geopolitics of the Middle East may be complicated, but the morality of terrorism is not. It's evil and U.S. dollars should not pay for it. (Washington Times)
        See also PA Payments to Prisoners, "Martyr" Families Now Equal Half Its Foreign Aid - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
  • Expert: There Is No Way to Boycott Israel - Edward Luttwak interviewed by Vanessa Tomassini
    In the last week 22 new airline routes were announced from Tel Aviv to Europe and China. Israel, one of the most developed, technological and advanced countries in the world, has a dense diplomatic network. Continuing this way, Israel will increasingly be the least-boycotted country in the world. The Swedish government, for example, loves the Palestinians without doing anything for them: companies in Sweden are doing business with Israel. It's all a matter of pretense.
        UNESCO decided that the Jews had nothing to do with Jerusalem because the Bible is a Jewish fantasy. If Jewish history doesn't exist, Jerusalem must belong to the Palestinians. They could easily rewrite the history of Sicily, making it an Arab region.
        In a Middle East upset by major civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where 200-300 people die per day, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a trivial conflict. Edward Luttwak is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russia's Army in Syria: Testing a New Concept of Warfare - Sarah Fainberg and Viktor Eichner
    Russia's military involvement in Syria was supposed to be short-lived and limited to air operations and arms deliveries to the Assad regime. Yet Russia has sent hundreds of expeditionary forces to the Syrian frontlines. The Syrian battlefield permitted Russia to undertake the first large-scale and coordinated activation of its upgraded intervention forces.
        Russia's ground personnel in Syria help portray Russia as a provider of efficient military support in hotspots across the Middle East. Speculation about the deployment of Russian special operations forces and military advisors at an air base in western Egypt near Libya in March 2017 may be another manifestation of this phenomenon. Dr. Sarah Fainberg is a research fellow at INSS, where Viktor Eichner is an intern. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Assad Depopulated Sunni Areas of Syria - Tarek Osman (Foreign Affairs)

  • The war in Syria has fundamentally altered the country's demographics.
  • Over the past three years, the Assad regime and its allies have successfully reduced the presence of Sunnis in the areas closest to the big urban centers, primarily Damascus and the coast. These are areas where Christians and Alawites (Assad's sect) have a strong presence and where the bulk of the country's trade takes place.
  • Assad's goal was to create a geographically contiguous area with a significantly lower Sunni share of the population.
  • Changing the country's demographics by reducing the size of the Sunni majority is the regime's best shot at making minority Alawite rule more sustainable.
  • In reality, however, it will not last. A significant percentage of Syrians blame the regime for hundreds of thousands of deaths, in addition to the dislocation of millions. These feelings run deep and will fuel widespread anger for years to come.
  • The remaining Sunni majority will never accept overhauling Syria's historic Sunni identity. And if some of the millions of Syrian refugees now in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey return to Syria (a likely scenario), they, too, will not accept the identity the regime is trying to create.

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