February 7, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Syria Says Israel Strikes near Damascus - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli missiles targeted a "research center" in Jamraya near Damascus on Wednesday, the Syrian military said.
    The Jamraya Research and Information Center is known to Western intelligence agencies as a Syrian military complex for the development of missiles and non-conventional weapons.

Report: Gazans Who Joined ISIS Battling Hamas in Sinai - Liad Osmo (Ynet News)
    50 Gazans are fighting for the Islamic State in Sinai, the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported Tuesday.
    Gazans who went to fight in Iraq, Syria and Libya have returned to Sinai and battle Hamas there under ISIS auspices.
    A recent ISIS video shows the execution of Musa Abu Zamat, who was once an ISIS activist but was killed for transferring arms to Hamas.
    In the video, both the speaker and the executioner are former Gaza residents, one saying he was the son of a senior Hamas official from al-Shati in Gaza.
    Al Akhbar claimed that seven more people were executed previously for the same charges.

Germany Extends IAI Heron Drone Contracts for Missions in Mali, Afghanistan - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Germany has extended its agreements for the use of Israel Aerospace Industry's (IAI) Heron 1 reconnaissance drones in Afghanistan and Mali for another year, IAI announced Tuesday.
    The Heron 1 can operate for over 24 hours to provide reconnaissance to ground forces in combat situations, assist in convoying and patrolling, and track down explosives from the air.
    The French Air Force also has been operating a variant of the Heron 1 since the beginning of the UN mission in Mali in January 2013.

Danish Government Plans Face Veil Ban - Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen (Reuters)
    Denmark's government said on Tuesday it planned to fine people who covered their face in public, restricting the burqa and the niqab worn by some Muslim women.
    "It is incompatible with the values of the Danish society or the respect for the community to keep the face hidden when meeting each other in the public space," Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said.
    "With a ban, we draw a line in the sand and establish that here in Denmark we show each other trust and respect by meeting each other face to face."
    France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and the German state of Bavaria have all imposed some restrictions on wearing full-face veils in public places.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel Criticizes Palestinians for Praising Terror Attack
    Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal, 29, of Har Bracha in the West Bank, was stabbed multiple times at a bus stop near the entrance to the city of Ariel on Monday by Ais Abed El-Hakim, 19. On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted: "20 years ago I gave an ambulance to Har Bracha hoping it would be used to deliver healthy babies. Instead, a man from Har Bracha was just murdered by a terrorist, leaving behind a wife and four children. Palestinian 'leaders' have praised the killer. Praying for the Ben Gal family."  (JTA)
  • Palestinian Authority Accused of CIA-Backed Wiretapping
    A document leaked by an employee of the Palestinian wiretapping agency last month alleges that the Palestinian Authority has been wiretapping its residents with the backing of the CIA. The wiretapping targeted thousands of Palestinians, from the heads of militant groups to judges, lawyers and allies of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, according to AP. Now two of the people wiretapped are suing the PA: Tawfiq Tirawi, the West Bank intelligence chief from 1994 to 2008, and Jawad Obeidat, head of the Palestinian Bar Association. (JTA)
  • Hundreds of U.S.-Backed Fighters Leave ISIS Battle in Syria to Confront Turkey's Offensive Against Kurds - Nancy A. Youssef
    Hundreds of Kurdish and Assyrian Christian fighters in the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who played a critical role in the collapse of Islamic State, have begun leaving that operation to counter Turkey's offensive against Kurds along its border with Syria, American officials said. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Stabs Security Guard in West Bank
    An Israeli security guard was stabbed in the hand Wednesday morning when a Palestinian assailant attacked him with a knife at the entrance to Karmei Tzur in the West Bank. A second guard shot and killed the assailant. (Times of Israel)
  • Organized Palestinian Terror Is Back - Ron Ben Yishai
    The murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach on Jan. 9 was a wakeup call for Israeli security agencies. The attack was carried out by a trained and well-funded Hamas terror cell that carefully chose the location of the ambush, escape routes, and hiding places for after the attack. This was no "lone wolf attack." It is now known that the cell had carried out a number of previous terror attacks. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Praises Rabbi's Killer - Adam Rasgon
    Hamas praised Ahmad Nasr Jarrar, a member of its Kassam Brigades who was the mastermind behind the killing of Rabbi Raziel Shevach. Jarrar was shot dead by Israeli security forces on Tuesday in the West Bank. "We affirm that he will remain a point of pride for all of Palestine," Hamas said in a statement.
        Jarrar's mother, Khatam, told reporters in Jenin that she is pleased with her son. On Tuesday, several hundred Palestinians, many holding green Hamas flags, marched in Nablus in a demonstration of support for Jarrar. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Condemns Israel for Killing Hamas Terrorist behind Rabbi's Murder - Khaled Abu Toameh (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Cabinet Mulls Artificial Island for Aid Transfer to Gaza - Itamar Eichner
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed his cabinet to look into proposals to construct an artificial island across from the Gaza coast for the delivery of aid.
        Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi told Ynet: "Israel is ready to provide its technological skills and infrastructure to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, on the condition that the funds come from the international community and that we know that they will not go to strengthen Hamas. We are waiting to see if the world is ready to donate." He said the funds given by Qatar to Hamas were all invested in military and terror activities including rockets. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Can Palestinian Ports Be Developed in Gaza to Relieve the Humanitarian Crisis? - Pinhas Inbari
    Now that the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation initiative has failed, the sporadic opening and closing of the Rafiah border crossing by Egypt continues as the only way for Gazans to reach an Arab country and from there to the world at large. According to the official PA news agency, unemployment among young Gazans stands at 41%. Security sources say that tens of thousands of young Gazans have visas for places abroad but no way to leave Gaza.
        Amid widespread discussion of Gazan Palestinians' desire to emigrate, a system of exit and entry in both directions needs to be devised. Considering that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a terror organization, the system must include the necessary security arrangements. From a practical standpoint, Gaza has no need for a port of its own. Israel's ports, particularly Ashdod port, can supply Gaza's needs. The Palestinians wanted a port as a token of sovereignty. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent for Israel Radio. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Non-Utopian Peace in Northern Ireland - Tirza Kelman
    In the 1990s people would wax lyrical about "a new Middle East" and "eating humus in Damascus." The rhetoric and reality in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is very different. While touring the city on a Sunday, we learned that even 20 years after what is considered to be a successful peace agreement, some gates within the so-called "peace lines" (which are physical barriers) are locked on Sundays.
        When we questioned our hosts about the need for large walls in the middle of neighborhoods, they explained that barriers make people feel safer, and that people throwing stones (from both sides) can happen as often as once a week. In their eyes, none of this contradicted peace. The writer is a graduate student in the Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University. (Fathom-BICOM)

Why the Reduction in U.S. Aid to UNRWA Is Justified - Prof. Eytan Gilboa (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Europe has ignored important reasons for the Palestinians' distress - such as Hamas' huge annual investments of hundreds of millions of dollars in the manufacture of rockets and the construction of attack tunnels, all at the expense of Gaza's needy residents. No one has ever inquired how much money from humanitarian contributions ends up in the private bank accounts of Palestinian leaders.
  • The Europeans started asking questions only when it was proved to them that the Palestinian Authority was using aid contributions to pay sizable salaries to Palestinian terrorists who had been convicted and imprisoned in Israel, and to build public institutions and name them after terrorists.
  • According to the Congressional Research Service, since the Oslo Agreement the U.S. has given the PA $5.2 billion, the highest American foreign-aid total per capita. During the same period, the U.S. gave UNRWA $4.5 billion. The Obama administration doubled American allocations to both the PA and UNRWA. In 2008, the PA received $400 million; in 2009, $900 million. In 2008, UNRWA received $184 million; in 2009, $268 million.
  • The reduction in aid to UNRWA is justified because this agency perpetuates the Palestinians' status as refugees. Most of its employees in Gaza are affiliated with Hamas, and its schools preach hatred of Jews and Israel. Rockets are stashed beneath the floors of these schools and fired at Israel from their vicinity.
  • UNRWA should have been closed down long ago and its functions transferred to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which deals with refugees on a worldwide basis.

    The writer is director of the Center for International Communication and a senior research associate at the BESA Center.