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August 28, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Commands 70,000 Combatants in Syria - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Iran currently has 70,000 combatants in Syria, counting both regular Iranian troops and militias under Iranian control, according to the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that has previously provided accurate information about Tehran's nuclear program.
    These militias include Hizbullah, Shi'ite militias from Iraq, Afghani and Pakistani volunteers, and local Syrian militias organized by Iran.
    Iranian troops and militias have been given Syrian army bases and civilian facilities, like a university located between Damascus and the southern town of Sweida where the Iranians installed SAM-1 anti-aircraft batteries.
    Mohsen Rezaei, who commanded the Iranian Revolutionary Guard during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), was recently appointed an adviser on Syria to Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force. This attests to Syria's importance in Iran's military strategy.

Dahlan Ally UAE Is a New Player in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    This week the United Arab Emirates made its first monthly transfer of $15 million to Hamas in Gaza in exchange for allowing Abbas' rival Mohammed Dahlan a foothold there.
    The Emirates, never previously known for affection toward Hamas, offered the money to help Dahlan and, mainly, to weaken Qatar's influence upon Hamas.
    Dahlan's wife, Jalila, completed another visit to Gaza this week, during which she distributed aid packages to poor families and arranged a mass wedding for needy young couples.

UN Spends 4 Times More on Palestinian Refugees per Person - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    A Palestinian refugee receives a budget four times larger than a Syrian, Iraqi or African refugee, according to a study by the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
    The UN is currently addressing the largest refugee crisis in history involving 68 million people worldwide.
    In 2016, UNRWA, which provides assistance only for Palestinian refugees, spent $246 for each of the 5.3 million Palestinians it defines as refugees, while UNHCR, which deals with all other refugees, spent $58 per refugee.
    Former Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor, who heads the Abba Eban Institute, suggests improving the treatment of refugees around the world by merging UNRWA into the UNHCR.

Israeli-Made Drones to Deliver Food in Iceland - Karen Gilchrist (CNBC)
    Shoppers in Reykjavik, Iceland, will now be able to receive food and other goods direct to their doors via Israeli-made drones, which will significantly speed up delivery times.
    AHA, Iceland's largest online marketplace, reports a 60% reduction in delivery costs and up to 20 minutes of reduced transportation time during peak hours using Flytrex drones.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • For U.S. Mideast Negotiators, Keeping the Palestinians Involved Is a Victory - Mark Landler
    President Trump's Middle East emissaries spent last week energetically selling his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative throughout the Arab world. At the end of their meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt offered a two-line statement saying that the Palestinians had agreed not to bolt from the American-led process. The administration's recruitment of Arab leaders made it difficult for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to spurn President Trump at this early stage.
        "The talks were constructive and substantive," Netanyahu's office said. "We highly appreciate President Trump's efforts to strike a historical peace deal," Abbas said. (New York Times)
  • Buckingham Palace Attacker with 4-Foot Sword Shouted "Allahu Akbar" - Vikram Dodd
    A man arrested outside Buckingham Palace on Friday armed with a 4-foot sword repeatedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" as police struggled to subdue him, Scotland Yard has said. Three unarmed officers were injured while detaining the man. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Machete-Wielding Man Attacks Soldiers in Brussels Terror Attack
    A machete-wielding man yelling "Allahu Akbar" was shot dead by soldiers after wounding a soldier in the center of Brussels on Friday in what authorities called a "terrorist attack."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iraqi Military Reclaims Tal Afar after Rapid Islamic State Collapse - Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim
    Iraq's military reclaimed the northern city of Tal Afar from the Islamic State on Sunday in a rapid campaign, as senior Iraqi military officers said ISIS had lost the will to fight. Before the operation, Iraqi intelligence services estimated that 1,400-2,000 militants occupied the city. Iraq's military said Saturday that 259 Islamic State fighters had been killed, suggesting that many had fled the battle. (Washington Post)
        See also Cornered in Raqqa: The Last Days of ISIS - Raja Abdulrahim
    The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are leading the assault to oust Islamic State from its capital in Raqqa, Syria. The Pentagon estimates there are fewer than 2,500 Islamic State militants left in the city, down from 4,500. Militants had spent months preparing for the assault before it began in June. They dug tunnels beneath streets and homes, set up snipers' nests and planted explosives everywhere to stop people from fleeing.
        Islamic State leaders and many fighters abandoned the city and headed to the eastern province of Deir Ezzour, residents said. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Asks PA to Halt Diplomatic Offensive Against Israel - Daniel Siryoti
    President Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Ramallah on Thursday to freeze diplomatic initiatives against Israel in exchange for an American commitment to submit a comprehensive diplomatic plan within four months to kick-start the peace process, a senior Palestinian official said. (Israel Hayom)
  • Abbas Tells U.S. He Won't Stop Paying Terrorist Families
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday, "I don't intend to cease payments for families of prisoners and martyrs; even if it costs me my seat, I will continue to pay them until my last day," the Kan Hebrew news outlet reported. During President Trump's visit to the region earlier this year, he stressed to Abbas that the U.S. will not tolerate the PA's payments for families of terrorists. (i24News)
  • Palestinian Terrorist's Family Convicted of Failing to Prevent Halamish Attack - Judah Ari Gross
    An Israeli military court convicted five family members of the terrorist who stabbed to death three Israelis in Halamish last month of failing to prevent the attack, the army said Sunday. According to the Judea Regional Court, Omar al-Abed's family members "knew of his intention to carry out the attack and did not work to inform the security services as needed to prevent it."
        Two of his brothers and an uncle were sentenced to eight months in prison. His father, who had told Ha'aretz that his son's actions were understandable, was sentenced to two months. His mother, who was also found guilty of incitement for praising her son's actions in a widely shared video, was sentenced to one month. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Hizbullah: Iran's Middle East Agent, Emissary and Hammer - Ben Hubbard
    Hizbullah has rapidly expanded its realm of operations. It has sent legions of fighters to Syria. It has sent trainers to Iraq. It has backed rebels in Yemen. And it has helped organize a battalion from Afghanistan that can fight almost anywhere. As a result, Hizbullah is one of the most important instruments in the drive for regional supremacy by its sponsor: Iran. Hizbullah is involved in nearly every fight that matters to Iran and, more significantly, has helped recruit, train and arm an array of new militant groups that are also advancing Iran's agenda.
        Hizbullah has taken on increasingly senior roles in ventures once reserved for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps - the force that helped create Hizbullah itself in the 1980s. (New York Times)
  • Hizbullah Has Been Active in America for Decades - Colin P. Clarke
    In June, Ali Kourani, who admitted being a member of Hizbullah's external operations wing, was arrested and charged with casing John F. Kennedy airport in New York City for a potential Hizbullah attack. Around the same time, Samer El Debek of Dearborn, Michigan, was arrested and charged with traveling to Panama to conduct surveillance against Israeli targets and the Panama Canal.
        In February, Fadi Yassine was arrested and charged with arranging to send weapons to a Hizbullah member in Lebanon. Hizbullah has been active inside the U.S. for decades, involved in a range of activities that include fundraising and money laundering. The writer is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation and an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter Terrorism-The Hague. (National Interest)
  • Europe Has a Lot to Learn about Terrorism - Editorial
    Israel can learn from Europe how to battle terrorism, according to outgoing EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen. This breathtaking declaration comes amid a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe by sleeper agents of ISIS. Europe is still light years away from understanding the true nature of Islamist terrorism.
        "Today, the aim of the attackers is to do as much damage as possible without checking who the people are," a security expert from the European Jewish Congress told the Jerusalem Post. "Today, if a Jew, Muslim or Christian walks in the street, they can get hit in the same way. Everyone is a target."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: After Terror in Spain, I Worry about Europe - Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein
    We in Israel are inside the problem of terror, so we are with the Europeans. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Temple Mount Crisis: An Israeli Perspective - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • I am told by Israeli government officials that Jordan was notified of the decision to place the metal detectors at the Temple Mount and initially expressed no objection.
  • From Israel's perspective, the status quo was undermined when terrorists smuggled weapons into the Muslim holy site and subsequently killed two Israeli policemen. Israel bears responsibility for the overall security situation in and around the Temple Mount, and had to respond to the attack. It could not respond in a business-as-usual manner without additional security measures.
  • There is no doubt that Israel understands the importance of Jordan's role in Jerusalem, respects it, and much prefers it to anyone else's. Israel is certainly at odds with attempts by Islamist supporters such as Turkey to meddle in Jerusalem.
  • At the same time, Israel is aware of the limitations of Jordan's ability to play a stabilizing role in times of crisis. The recent crisis demonstrated how difficult it is for Jordan to openly stand up to and contain Islamist incitement and religious inflammation.
  • This crisis also showed that Jordan does not fully control the Waqf administration, which is responsible for daily management of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, even though Jordan pays its salaries.
  • Close coordination with Jordan is extremely important to Israel and should be maintained and continually enhanced. However, such coordination cannot replace Israel's own responsibility for securing the Temple Mount. If violence erupts in this extremely sensitive place, it is Israel, and Israel alone, that will be blamed.

    The writer, a participant in nearly all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 1993, is a former chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense.

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