February 9, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Preparing Military Operation in Northern Sinai (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    The Egyptian Defense Ministry has asked all hospitals in Ismailiyah to be prepared for a wide-scale military operation in northern Sinai, Egyptian media reported Wednesday.
    According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the operation will evacuate people within 5 km. of Al-Arish International Airport.
    A source said heavy military reinforcements have arrived in Al-Arish.
    See also Egypt Bulldozes Zone by Sinai Airport, Displacing Thousands (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Egypt's army is bulldozing homes and olive groves to build a buffer zone around the Al-Arish airport in an operation that will displace thousands.
    The move comes after the Dec. 19 incident when a missile struck the helicopter of Defense Minister Sedki Sobhy and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar, who is in charge of police.
    While they were not in the aircraft, the missile killed an officer and wounded two others.
    President Sisi ordered the creation of the zone outside the airport two weeks ago.

Syrian Kurds Capture Two British Jihadis - Lolita C. Baldor (AP-Bloomberg)
    U.S. Air Force Col. John Thomas said Thursday that British Islamic State members El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey were captured in early January in eastern Syria.
    The two men are among four members of the IS cell that captured, tortured and beheaded more than two dozen hostages including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.

Syrian Soldiers Fire at Israeli Drone, Hit Building in Druze Town in Golan Heights - Yaniv Kubovich and Noa Shpigel (Ha'aretz)
    Shots fired from Syrian territory at an Israeli drone on Thursday hit a house in the Druse village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights.

Palestinian with Pipe Bomb Arrested at Military Courthouse (Jerusalem Post)
    A Palestinian was arrested Wednesday in the West Bank while attempting to infiltrate the Samaria Military Court with a pipe bomb, the fourth such thwarted attack since October.

Putting the Squeeze on Iran via Hizbullah - Kimberly Dozier (Cipher Brief)
    Lebanese Hizbullah was described by U.S. officials announcing new sanctions on Friday as a political party with a military army that does the bidding of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
    The Trump administration has put Hizbullah back on center stage, as a vehicle by which to hit nemesis Iran.
    Two senior officials said they've been working with countries across the Middle East and west Africa to make the sanctions on Hizbullah bite.

Terror Cell Trained by Hizbullah Goes on Trial in Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The trial of four Saudi members of a terrorist cell who received training at Iranian camps of the Lebanese Hizbullah got underway in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
    They were trained in the use of machineguns, manufacturing of bombs using C-4 and TNT explosives, and targeting security forces.

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Israeli Archaeologists Unearth 1,800-Year-Old Roman Mosaic (Reuters)
    A 1,800-year-old mosaic of toga-clad men dating back to the Roman era has been unearthed in Israel, archaeologists said on Thursday.
    The mosaic was discovered during the excavation of a building from the Byzantine period - some 300 years younger than the mosaic it was on top of - in the coastal city of Caesarea.
    The mosaic is of a high artistic standard, 3.5 meters by 8 meters in size, and depicts three toga-clad men, as well as geometric patterns and an inscription in Greek.

Israeli Innovation Makes Up Half of Merck Healthcare Revenue - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    "Roughly almost half of (our) healthcare revenue is based on innovation stemming from Israel," Kai Beckmann, CEO of Performance Materials at Germany's Merck pharmaceutical and chemicals firm, said in an interview on Tuesday.
    The Rebif drug marketed by Merck to help decrease the frequency of relapse symptoms of multiple sclerosis had sales of 1.7 billion euros in 2016, while the Erbitux drug for patients with cancer of the head and neck, also based on Israeli technology, had global sales of 1 billion euros.
    Beckmann was in Israel to inaugurate a new technology innovation laboratory at its subsidiary, Qlight Nanotech, in Jerusalem.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Government Bombing of Rebel Enclave Kills 200 in Four Days - Kareem Shaheen
    Residents of the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta have endured a relentless bombardment campaign by the government of Bashar al-Assad that has so far killed more than 200 people in the past four days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 59 civilians, including 15 children, had been killed on Thursday alone.
        Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the UN commission of inquiry tasked with investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, said, "What is happening in eastern Ghouta is not simply a humanitarian crisis because aid is denied. These sieges involve the international crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also Assad Is Still Using Chemical Weapons in Syria - Krishnadev Calamur
    The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said Tuesday it had received multiple reports "that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib and Douma in eastern Ghouta." The chemical attacks keep coming despite an agreement with Russia, struck in 2013, on the destruction of Assad's chemical weapons. That agreement did not include chlorine. The most recent attacks were all chlorine-based. (Atlantic)
        See also below Commentary: Far from Winding Down, Syria's War Escalates on Multiple Fronts - Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad (New York Times)
  • Israel Warns UN on Iran's Destabilizing Behavior in Lebanon - Ben Evansky
    Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon has written to the UN Secretary General and Security Council to warn that continued inaction by the UN and the Lebanese government will lead to Iran and its proxy Hizbullah further disrupting the region. He described a recent visit by a senior Iranian official, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, to the Lebanese-Israeli border where he was escorted by Hizbullah officials who were uniformed and armed, in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Danon emphasized that Raisi's visit took place in an area controlled by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). His letter lists 356 such violations between October 2017 and December 2017.
        Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said, "The Trump administration should rid itself of the fiction at the heart of the Lebanon policy that the way to weaken Hizbullah is to build up so-called 'state institutions.'...Strengthening a Hizbullah-controlled state is to strengthen Hizbullah."  (Fox News)
  • France Says All Iranian Militias, including Hizbullah, Must Leave Syria - John Irish and Sophie Louet
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that he wanted "the withdrawal of all of those who ought not to be in Syria, including Iranian militia, including Hizbullah." He said international law "is being violated by Turkey, by the Damascus regime, by Iran and those who are attacking (rebel-held areas) eastern Ghouta and Idlib." In November Le Drian accused Iran of harboring "hegemonic" aspirations in the region. (Reuters)
        See also France Pushing Iran Business Ties
    "We are encouraging companies to keep doing business in Iran," Joffrey Celestin-Urbain, director of bilateral relations at the French Finance Ministry, told a Euromoney Iran conference on Thursday. French exports to Iran for the first 11 months of 2017 rose 120% to 1.29 billion euros and imports grew 80% to 2.16 billion euros. The short-term priority this year was to offer euro-denominated credits to Iranian buyers of French goods, he said, a move that would keep bilateral trade outside the reach of U.S. sanctions. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • Britain Says Working to Tackle U.S. Concerns of Iran Nuclear Deal
    Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, told a Euromoney Iran conference in Paris on Thursday that the UK was working with its partners to tackle U.S. concerns over the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but said Tehran must avoid actions that threaten regional security. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Denounces Visit by Arab Journalists to Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority on Thursday denounced a visit by Arab journalists to Israel and called to place them on a "blacklist." Last week, the Israel Foreign Ministry hosted a delegation of nine Arab journalists from Morocco, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. The PA said the visit was aimed at "promoting normalization" between the Arabs and Israel, and called the visit an "inexcusable and unjustified disgrace."  (Times of Israel)
  • Arab Israeli Who Planned Terror Attacks for Hizbullah Gets 14 Years in Prison
    An Arab Israeli man, Diab Kahmouz, a resident of Ghajar, who obtained bombs from Hizbullah and planned terror attacks against Israelis, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Tuesday. Kahmouz made contact with Hizbullah operatives in 2015 through his father, who fled to Lebanon in 2006. The terror group instructed him to carry out an attack in Haifa, though he decided instead to bomb a bus stop at Tur'an, where soldiers gather on Sunday mornings en route to their army bases. The explosive devices to be used were smuggled across the border in May 2016. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Far from Winding Down, Syria's War Escalates on Multiple Fronts - Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad
    Half a dozen newborns were carried from a burning hospital hit by airstrikes. A bombed apartment house collapsed, burying families. Medics doused patients with water after a suspected chlorine attack, one of five in Syria since the start of the year. That was just a fraction of the violence this week in northern Syria as the Syrian government and its Russian ally stepped up their air war on two of the country's last major rebel-held areas. Then Turkey launched a surprise invasion of a Kurdish border area in Syria.
        Since the rout of the Islamic State last year, a misperception has grown abroad that the Syrian war is winding down. Instead, the carnage is reaching a new peak. Since December, 300,000 people have fled new fighting. (New York Times)
        See also Why Is the Syrian War Still Raging? - Ben Hubbard and Jugal K. Patel (New York Times)
  • Gaza Water Crisis the Result of Hamas' Incompetence - Smadar Bat Adam
    The deterioration of Gaza's water aquifers is a reflection of a refusal by Palestinian leaders to take any responsibility for providing basic infrastructure that is essential for preventing disease and death. If only they dug sewer tunnels rather than terror tunnels.
        In the days of direct Israeli administration of Gaza, Arabs had access to the same good water their Jewish neighbors enjoyed, coming from 1,400 local wells. The drilling of the coastal aquifer was supervised and the water was pumped with great care. But in 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza and, unsupervised, unbridled drilling quadrupled the number of wells to 6,000, with most dug by individuals because Hamas authorities failed to provide the population with basic amenities.
        As long as Gaza's leadership prefers to invest in Israel's destruction rather than in Gaza's independence, this situation is not likely to change. (Israel Hayom)
  • The UK Pays Disproportionate Attention to Palestinian Child Prisoners - Jennifer Gerber
    On Feb. 7, Britain's parliament debated the issue of Palestinian child prisoners, the second time in two years that a debate on this topic has been secured. During this period, the House of Commons has not seen fit to expend time debating the issue of juvenile offenders with specific reference to any other country in the world.
        International law bars the application of the death penalty for crimes committed by those under the age of 18. Since 2010, Egypt, Iran, the Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Yemen have all sentenced young people to death. Iran has at least 80 juvenile offenders on death row and leads the world in executing minors. There has, however, been no debate in the House of Commons in the last two years on the execution of juvenile offenders.
        The House of Commons has also not debated Britain's own record on arresting and locking up children over the past two years. England and Wales criminalize children from the age of 10 (the age of criminal responsibility is 12 in Israel and the West Bank). Adjusted for population, 5.5 times more minors were arrested in England and Wales in the year to March 2016 than in the West Bank by Israel.
        Nearly 3/4 of the offenses committed by minors in the West Bank are for violent crimes, including murder, attempted murder, shooting and the illegal possession of weapons. It appears that - once again - Israel is being singled out for disproportionate criticism and scrutiny. The writer is director of Labour Friends of Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's African-Migrant Crisis - Liel Leibovitz
    As of October 2017, there were 38,000 migrants living in Israel who crossed the Egyptian border without permits, the vast majority from Eritrea and Sudan. The Hebrew word for this group is mistanenim, or infiltrators. Israeli courts have ruled in a way similar to their colleagues in the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled last year that the expulsion of Eritrean asylum seekers from Switzerland would not breach the European Convention.
        Rather than see the migrants as helpless refugees, the Israeli government ascertained that the overwhelming majority arrived in Israel simply to find better work, which explains why an overwhelming number are young single men.
        When human rights groups appealed to Israel's Supreme Court, they were rebuked by the justices there for painting a patently false picture of the fate that awaits the migrants in Uganda and Rwanda. "After examining the evidence," wrote former Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor, "it is my opinion that the appellants did not succeed in proving that the [countries to which the migrants will be deported] are unsafe or that they are in any danger." Naor also stressed that most migrants do not meet the criteria of asylum seekers.
        Many of those deported will then leave their African destination in the hope of making it to Europe. But to argue that any tragedy that befalls them in their attempt is in any way the responsibility of the Israeli government is absurd. The Sudanese and Eritrean migrants struggling to stay in Israel aren't Anne Frank. Thinking in these terms is morally unserious, intellectually dishonest, and politically unwise. (Tablet)

  • Weekend Features

  • "We Didn't Have a Childhood": The Youngest Survivor on Schindler's List - Ben Sales
    Eva Lavi was 2 years old when Nazi Germany took over her hometown of Krakow in September 1939. Now 80, she remembers how her mother made her hide outside in below-zero weather as Nazis searched her home in Poland. She remembers seeing her twin cousins shot to death as they ran up a hill at a labor camp.
        "There was no childhood for children my age," she told the UN General Assembly following International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. "Regularly, we saw, heard and understood everything the Nazis were doing to us. At 6 years old, children were cynical old people trying to survive." Lavi is the youngest survivor to have been on German industrialist Oskar Schindler's list. (JTA)
  • Italian Jew Saved Hundreds of Jews from the Nazis - Liron Nagler-Cohen
    At the age of 98, Enzo Cavaglion was presented on Jan. 21 with the Jewish Rescuers Citation for saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation. Cavaglion, who was in his 20s at the time, was one of the 14 founding members of the partisan group "Italia Libera" (Free Italy). In addition to the combat they waged against the Germans and Italian fascists, Enzo and his younger brother Riccardo helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo, putting their own lives at risk. (Ynet News)
  • New French Film Raises Ghosts of Nazi Medical Horrors
    In a new documentary shown on French TV this week about the scale of Nazi medical experiments, Dr. Michel Cymes says the remains of Jews tortured and mutilated by SS doctor August Hirt may still be in the anatomy collection of the University of Strasbourg. Hirt tested mustard gas on Jews at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, 31 miles southwest of Strasbourg.
        Cymes said he had little idea how extensive Nazi medical experiments had been. "I knew about doctors like Josef Mengele and Carl Clauberg and I thought there were two or three others like that, but then I discovered how vast the phenomenon was." 23 doctors were tried at the Nuremberg trials which began in 1946. (AFP)

Video: The Assault on the Jewish Connection to Jerusalem - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • At a meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation last December, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, said that Jews are really excellent at faking and counterfeiting history and religion. I was struck by that because I refuse to assault the principles of their faith. They can say whatever they want about their faith as long as they don't try and assault my faith. Part of the tragedy of the current period is this overall assault on the connections between Israel, the Jewish people, and Jerusalem.
  • In October 2016, UNESCO asserted that the Temple Mount was connected to Islam, but it refused to acknowledge any Jewish connection whatsoever - or for that matter any Christian connection - to the Temple Mount. In the resolution adopted in Paris, it used only the Islamic term for the Temple Mount - Haram al-Sharif, but the actual terminology "Temple Mount," which had been used by international organizations for years, suddenly vanished. A few months later in December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 which called the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount "occupied Palestinian territory."
  • The entire international community met together after World War I and said the Jews have a right to reconstitute their ancient homeland. That ought to be worth something. Israel is the only country in the international system whose historical rights were confirmed by both the League of Nations and the United Nations. To completely dismiss the rights of Israel is to dismiss how our rights have been understood by the international community for more than a century.
  • The cardinal question is who is going to protect Jerusalem in the future. Will it be national movements that doubt the legitimacy of various faiths' connections to Jerusalem, or will it be national movements that understand that there are other national groups that have connections to Jerusalem. If Jerusalem is important to people, if freedom of religious expression is important to people, then only a free and democratic Israel will protect Jerusalem for all the great faiths.

    Amb. Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center, spoke at the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum at the University of Cambridge in England on Jan. 21, 2018.
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