U.S. Delegation Flees Bethlehem Event as Palestinians Protest
Palestinian activists disrupted a meeting between members of an American economic delegation and the head of the chamber of commerce in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Tuesday, forcing the U.S. diplomats to cut short the event.
Samir Hazboun, head of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, said they had been holding a training session for local businesspeople about digital commerce with an American expert and a delegation from the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said, "The United States opposes the use of violence and intimidation to express political views. This non-political program was one part of long-term U.S. engagement to create economic opportunities for Palestinians."
See also Video: Palestinians in Bethlehem Hang, Burn Effigies of Trump, Pence
On Jan. 27,
Palestinian activists, among them official representatives of the Fatah movement, held a public mock trial of U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.
After the reading of the "verdict," nooses were placed around the necks of the Trump and Pence effigies, which were hoisted in the air and then torched.
Fatah's official social media accounts reported the event and posted photographs of the "execution."
In Blow to Saudi Plans, Yemen Allies Turn Guns on Each Other
- Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post
After two days of clashes, the strategic Yemeni port city of Aden appeared to be under the control of southern separatists Tuesday, splintering the Saudi-backed coalition fighting Iranian-backed rebels for control.
Southern Yemeni separatists, supported by the United Arab Emirates, rose up Sunday against former allies loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is aligned with Saudi Arabia.
The separatists, known as the Southern Transitional Council, are seeking the revival of the independent state of South Yemen, which existed before Yemen was unified in 1990.
Tehran's Shia Foreign Legions
- Ali Alfoneh (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Based on press reports of funeral services held in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon for Shia foreign fighters killed in Syria and Iraq, 535 Iranian nationals were killed in combat in Syria between January 2012 and January 2018.
In comparison, at least 841 Afghan, 112 Iraqi, 1,213 Lebanese Hizbullah (including 75 officers), and 153 Pakistani Shia foreign fighters were killed in Syria during the same period.
The writer is a nonresident senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- U.S. General to Turkey: We Won't Abandon Allies Fighting ISIS on the World's Behalf - Kevin Baron
Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said Sunday that the U.S. has no intention of withdrawing coalition forces from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, as Turkish leaders have demanded. He urged Turkey and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to recognize each other's legitimate security concerns but focus on the common enemy of ISIS.
Votal has repeatedly said the U.S. would stand by the SDF counterterrorism force.
"In many ways, the Syrian Democratic Forces, with the coalition, is taking on the world's enemy, here. And remember what this enemy is: this is ISIS, this is heavy foreign fighters, from literally a hundred countries." The SDF "have proven to be the most effective force on the ground in Syria in doing this....We've had a very good, trustworthy relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces leadership." (Defense One)
See also Turkey Confirms Use of German Tanks in Offensive Against Kurds
The Turkish government has confirmed deploying German Leopard tanks against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, provoking heated debate in Germany.
See also below Commentary: Behind Turkey's Military Incursion into Syria - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
- Tests Link Syrian Government Stockpile to Largest Sarin Gas Attack - Anthony Deutsch
The Syrian government's chemical weapons stockpile has been linked for the first time by laboratory tests to the largest sarin nerve agent attack of the civil war, diplomats and scientists told Reuters, supporting Western claims that Assad's forces were behind the atrocity. Laboratories working for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons compared samples taken by a UN mission in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta after the Aug. 21, 2013, attack, when hundreds of civilians died of sarin gas poisoning, to chemicals handed over by Damascus for destruction in 2014.
The tests found "markers" in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017, and Khan al-Assal in March 2013. Inspectors have found proof of an ongoing chemical weapons program in Syria, including the systematic use of chlorine barrel bombs and sarin, which they say was ordered at the highest levels of government.
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- After Netanyahu Summons Ambassador, Irish Senate Postpones Debate on Bill Blocking Israeli Settlement Goods - Noa Landau
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Tuesday new legislation in Ireland that could forbid the import and sale of products from Israeli settlements. He instructed the Foreign Ministry to summon the Irish ambassador in Israel to express Israel's dissatisfaction.
After debating the bill on Tuesday, the Irish Senate decided to postpone further debate until July. This will allow the Irish government five months to make progress on a diplomatic approach and action at the EU level. It also gives more time for changes to the bill, those involved in the matter said.
The idea of boycotting goods from the settlements is not the only goal of the supporters of the BDS movement, said Dan Diker, director of the Political Warfare Project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The BDS movement's goal, as expressed by its founder Omar Barghouti, is to "reject the idea of a Jewish state in any part of Palestine." BDS wants to replace the Jewish state, Diker added. (Ha'aretz)
- Israel to Present Plan to Rebuild Gaza - Noa Landau
Israel will submit a $1 billion plan for improving Gaza's infrastructure at a meeting on Wednesday of donor states in Brussels. The plan includes building desalination plants, installing a new high-voltage line that would double the amount of electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, laying a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Gaza, and building a sewage purification plant and a landfill. Israel is willing to provide technology and know-how for these projects, but not to finance them. (Ha'aretz)
See also EU Ignoring Israel's Humanitarian Concerns - Elior Levy
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Gen. Yoav Mordechai told ambassadors from EU nations that he "is shocked by their inaction and lack of interest regarding the humanitarian matter of IDF soldiers' bodies being held by Hamas in Gaza. While Israel is working to alleviate the humanitarian situation for the people of Gaza, it is only natural that we expect international pressure be applied to solve Israel's humanitarian issue." (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- Behind Turkey's Military Incursion into Syria - Zvi Bar'el
In the three autonomous Kurdish districts of northern Syria, men and women are being called on to enlist, while teenage boys have received weapons and basic training. The heads of the Arab tribes living in these areas say they will stand "shoulder to shoulder with the Kurds against the Turkish enemy."
The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, established in 2014, wrote a constitution that granted equal rights to every ethnic and religious group, and also to women. It seeks to establish a secular, liberal, democratic federation that will in the future be part of Syria.
Turkey claims it is acting to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state along the Syrian-Turkish border. But according to the strategy and ideology that unites most Syrian Kurds, they have no intention of establishing an independent Kurdish state that might threaten Turkey. They seem to have successfully persuaded the U.S. of this, as well as Russia and Syria. (Ha'aretz)
- In Israel's North, Russia Is the Primary Address - Oded Granot
The frequency of Prime Minister Netanyahu's meetings with Russian President Putin is a testament to Israel's ongoing disquiet over developments on its northern front. While the Russians have thus far turned a blind eye to Israel's alleged airstrikes in Syria, they are well aware that if Israel were also forced to attack targets in Lebanon - to curb Hizbullah's missile capabilities - it could spark a conflagration that jeopardizes Russian achievements in Syria.
Israel cannot accept along its northern border the formation of
a menacing "Shiite crescent" comprising Hizbullah units and pro-Iranian militias armed with Iranian weapons and an arsenal of precise missiles. To block the Iranians, Russia is currently the most important and almost sole address. (Israel Hayom)
- The intellectual and political backing given to the "Palestinian resistance" by the European Commission has become the cover for the rampant anti-Semitism and terrorism endemic in Europe today.
- Europe has denied Israel the right of self-defense despite the rain of Hizbullah missiles on its innocent civilians in the north. Europe applied double standards and condemned Israel's security fence in 2004 even after Israel suffered more than 1,000 killed in terrorist suicide attacks between 2001 and 2004. European leaders showed that they could easily vote for the worst lies about Israel in the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies.
- Israel must make its demands on Europe:
- Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital
- Combat incitement and anti-Semitism
- Halt the financing of many anti-Israel enterprises
- Ban the textbooks that encourage incitement in schools
- End the EU's illegal building in the territories
- Refuse boycotts or discrimination against Israeli products
- Deny trade and common scientific work with countries that discriminate against Israel
- And promote relationships with those sincerely friendly toward the Jewish state.
The writer, a former member of the Italian Parliament and Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center.