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September 25, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat in U.S. Awaiting Lung Transplant (JTA)
    Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, 62, is in Washington awaiting a lung transplant. He suffers from pulmonary fibrosis.

Russian General Killed in Syria Fighting (AP-ABC News)
    Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov "was at a command post of Syrian troops, assisting the Syrian commanders in the operation for the liberation of the city of Deir ez-Zor" when "as a result of a mortar shelling by the IS, Asapov was mortally wounded," Russia's Defense Ministry said Sunday.

Iran Displays New Russian-Made S-300 Air Defense System (AP-Washington Post)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard displayed the sophisticated Russian-made S-300 air defense system in central Tehran this week.

U.S.-Backed Forces Seize Conoco Gas Plant from Islamic State in Syria - Raja Abdulrahim (Wall Street Journal)
    U.S.-backed forces said Sunday they had seized the Conoco gas plant in eastern Syria from Islamic State, one of its most important sources of financing.
    The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are racing against pro-Assad forces for territorial gains against IS in Syria.

The Mysterious Death of Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah's Bodyguard - Yasser Okbi (Maariv Hashavua)
    Kuwait's Al-Jarida claimed that Musa Muhamad Wahabi, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's personal bodyguard, was assassinated last week because he knew too much about the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which has been attributed to Hizbullah.
    A source suggested that Hizbullah will eliminate all the people who were related to the Hariri assassination.

23 Israelis Volunteer in Mumbai School - Itay Blumenthal (Ynet News)
    23 Israelis in their twenties volunteered in Mumbai for two weeks - teaching in local schools and renovating buildings - before dispersing for their post-army India trip, in a mission organized by the "Heroes for Life" NGO.
    Word of the Israeli volunteer group spread like wildfire in the neighborhood. "They should be commended for what they've been doing. The entire neighborhood can't stop talking about the Israelis teaching here," remarked one local rickshaw driver.

SAP Buys Israeli Startup Gigya for $350 Million - Idan Rabi (Globes)
    German software giant SAP is acquiring Israeli startup Gigya for $350 million.
    Gigya develops social platforms for Internet sites. It was founded in 2006 and has 300 employees in Israel, the U.S. and UK, including 100 in Tel Aviv.
    SAP already has two development centers in Israel with 700 employees.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Israeli Strikes Hit Weapons Depot by Damascus Airport
    Israeli planes targeted a weapons depot belonging to Hizbullah near Damascus airport overnight Thursday, Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Friday. Israel has repeatedly warned it stands ready to take military action to prevent Hizbullah from obtaining advanced weaponry. (AFP)
  • Argentina Probe Finds Prosecutor Alberto Nisman Was Murdered - Taos Turner
    Investigators in Buenos Aires have concluded that prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered in 2015, hours before he was to testify in Congress against then-President Cristina Kirchner, in a report submitted to a federal court on Friday. Nisman alleged that Kirchner had conspired with Iran to sabotage his investigation into the July 18, 1994, car bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. He filed a criminal claim accusing Kirchner of secretly negotiating a deal with Tehran to offer immunity for Iranian suspects of the bombing in exchange for Iranian oil.
        28 government forensic experts of the Gendarmerie police unit, working at a secret facility for seven months, concluded this week that Nisman was killed and had not committed suicide. Investigators assert that Nisman was sedated with the anesthetic Ketamine and then killed by two assailants in his Buenos Aires apartment. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Argentina-Israel Relations in 2017 - Avraham Spraragen (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iraqi Kurdistan Is Holding an Independence Referendum - Alexander Smith
    America's most reliable ally in the fight against ISIS wants its own country. On Monday, millions of Iraqi Kurds began lining up to vote in an independence referendum, despite huge pressure from other countries to cancel the vote. (NBC News)
        See also Support the Independence of Kurdistan - Bernard-Henri Levy
    Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the very rare areas of the Middle East where Jews and Judaism are viewed positively. On the day that Kurdistan will be independent, the country will foster cordial relations with Israel or, in any case, normal ones. (Tablet)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Convenes Security Cabinet to Discuss Iran Missile Threat
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called a special meeting of his security cabinet following Iran's testing of a ballistic missile that can reach Israel over the weekend.
        Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Saturday: "The ballistic missile that was fired by Iran is not only a provocation and a slap in the face for the United States and its allies - and an attempt to test them - but also further proof of the Iranian ambitions to become a world power and threaten countries in the Middle East and all the countries of the free world. Imagine what would happen if Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. That is what it is striving for. We cannot allow it to happen."  (Times of Israel)
  • Trump Told Abbas: We Need More Time to Formulate a Peace Deal - Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury
    President Donald Trump told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in New York on Wednesday that the White House is working on a new Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, but needs more time to put it together. Palestinian and U.S. sources said Trump asked Abbas to avoid taking any measures that would impede the process. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Wants Hamas to Cut Ties with ISIS in Sinai - Alex Fishman
    Cairo is hosting negotiations to renew the reconciliation process between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. This is exactly what the reconciliation talks between Hamas and the PA in 2011 and 2014 looked like. Statements were made and gloriously-worded agreements were written. Then, like today, Hamas wasn't interested in a reconciliation under the PA's conditions, and vice versa. Hamas' goal in the latest talks is practical: To renew the economic aid from the PA.
        Meanwhile, Egypt isn't opening the Rafah crossing because it doesn't believe Hamas will cut its ties with the Islamic State in Sinai. The Egyptians not only want Hamas to close the tunnels to Sinai completely, they are also demanding real cooperation in turning in ISIS fighters from Gaza. Last week, 16 Egyptian policemen were murdered in Sinai and the fuel supply from Egypt to Gaza was stopped for three days. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran and Hamas Reconnect - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    With an eye to Syria's postwar period, Iran is working to unite the ranks of the "resistance camp" to continue the struggle against Israel and deepen the dissension in the Arab world. Iran views Hamas, despite its independent path, as an important element of this camp that challenges not only Israel but also the main members of the "moderate" Arab camp.
        In August 2017, Yahya al-Sinwar, who was elected in February as head of Hamas' Political Bureau in Gaza, stressed that Hamas was "continuing to prepare its members for the task of liberating Palestine...and the Islamic Republic of Iran is playing a central role toward achieving this objective with financial and military assistance and the training of Hamas' military wing - the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades."
        On August 6, 2017, Ali Baraka, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said, "Iran is aware that the steadfastness of the resistance [Hamas] is vital to it, just as Hamas recognizes that relations with Iran strengthen the Palestinian resistance, especially [since] Iran is the only country that supports the resistance with money and weapons."
        Israeli intelligence has recently called attention to the fact that Hamas is increasing its presence in Lebanon under the patronage of Iran and the Shiite axis that it leads.
        Arab social networks reacted harshly to the participation of the "treasonous" Hamas leadership in the inauguration ceremony of Iranian President "Rouhani the terrorist." The Hamas delegation was accused of brazenly betraying "the Sunni ummah [people]" and of indifference to the Arab blood that Iran continues to spill in Syria and Iraq. The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center and at Alcyon Risk Advisors. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Senior Russian Diplomat and Hamas Delegation Hold Talks in Moscow
    Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, held a meeting in Moscow last week with a Hamas delegation led by political bureau member Mousa Abu Marzook. (Tass-Russia)
  • Fatah, Hamas and a Grain of Salt - Editorial
    A new deal between the PA and Hamas is supposed to have set the groundwork for the establishment of a united Palestinian government. But questions remain, not least regarding the security issue. Since it seized Gaza from the PA in 2007, Hamas has demanded that any single national unity government requires the simultaneous exchange of security arrangements.
        But a security partnership seems almost impossible in the near term. Hamas elements cannot work in the West Bank security services, while Fatah members cannot work in Hamas-run security services in Gaza. For reconciliation to work, either the PA will give up its security collaboration with Israel or Hamas its armed resistance. Neither seems to be likely at the moment. (Saudi Gazette)
Observations: Israeli Search and Rescue Teams Respond to Mexico Earthquake

IDF Search and Rescue Team Looking for Mexico Quake Survivors - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)

  • An IDF search and rescue team landed in Mexico early Thursday and has been working around the clock. The Israeli contingent comprises 70 search and rescue experts, pilots, engineers, and medical staff. They are working at a collapsed building site where 60 people appeared to be trapped beneath the rubble. Col. (res.) Dudi Mizrahi, commander of the Israeli force, noted that there were special techniques for approaching such a site.
  • Meanwhile, the Mexican Jewish community "is providing us with amazing support," Mizrahi said. "They gave us space in one of the Jewish community centers, they're surrounding us with love, and providing us with food. The [rest of] the locals are also welcoming us with open arms, and every time an Israeli soldier goes by, they clap."
  • Mizrahi said his team members "left home at a moment's notice, in the middle of preparations for the [Jewish New Year] holiday, but with great love. Given an opportunity like this to provide assistance, there was no question or dilemma. It's a privilege to save lives, even when it's at a distance of thousands of kilometers from home."
    See also Zaka Volunteers Recover Body of Mexico City Rabbi - Daniel K. Eisenbud and Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
  • Working in coordination with the Mexican Jewish rescue and recovery organization Cadena, Israeli Zaka volunteers on Wednesday located the body of Mexico City Rabbi Haim Ashkenazi, who led the Kehillat Magen David synagogue, in the rubble of the office building he was working in when the quake struck on Tuesday.
  • Zaka International Rescue Unit chief officer Mati Goldstein said Sunday, "The Zaka team, which was on the scene at the time the earthquake struck, will remain until we receive an update that there are no more missing people. The team continued to work throughout Rosh Hashana and Shabbat in accordance with a ruling by the Chief Rabbi of Mexico."

        See also Photos: Israeli Team Continues Search Efforts after Mexico City Earthquake - Yoav Zitun and Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
        See also Video: IDF Search and Rescue Personnel Assist after Mexico Earthquake - Judah Ari Gross (YouTube)

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