April 10, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Journalist Killed in Gaza Was Hamas Security Officer (Jerusalem Post)
    Yasser Murtaja, the Palestinian journalist who was shot near the Gaza border on Friday, had been an officer in the Hamas security apparatus for years, the Israeli Walla! news site reported Tuesday, citing Israeli security officials.
    "We are dealing with someone who was active in the security apparatus' work on a daily basis and did much to help them," a defense official said.

Gaza "Return March" Splits NGOs and Hamas - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The events at Israel's border with Gaza reflect a deep division between some of the NGO organizers of the Return March, led by Ahmed Abu Artima, and Hamas.
    Abu Artima, who works with European NGOs, opposed Hamas' plan to hold a "Friday of Tires."
    Abu Artima referred to the shahids (martyrs) as "having died for nothing" and claimed that to achieve success in the national struggle it was not necessary to sacrifice any "martyrs."

Iran's Currency Drops 18 Percent in Two Days (AP-Times of Israel)
    Iran's currency has fallen at least 18% since Saturday to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar.

PA Allocates $360 Million to Pay Terrorists and their Families (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    In its 2018 budget, the PA allocated $360 million, 7% of the total, to two institutions that assist terrorists imprisoned in Israel, released terrorists, and families of "martyrs."

Christian Arabs Hardly Receive Any Support from the Arab World - Ray Hanania (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Overall, I think Christian Arabs tend to get more support from Israel than they do from Arabs.
    Arabs tend to pay lip service to Arab Christians, parroting the line that Christians and Muslims have shared the same suffering and challenges. But Christians are not equal to Muslims in the eyes of Arab activists.
    There are only a few places Christian Arabs can turn to for support. One of those places is Israel, which constantly addresses their needs.
    Israelis talk about us; Arab activists want us to disappear.

Israel to Build More Desalination Plants to Fight Five-Year Drought (Reuters)
    With its natural water sources at their lowest in a century, Israel plans to build two new desalination plants, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday.
    Israel has built five desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast over the past 13 years.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Seven Iranians Killed in Airstrike on Syrian Air Base - Ben Hubbard and David M. Halbfinger
    Seven Iranian military advisers were killed in a predawn airstrike at the T-4 military air base in Syria on Monday. Israel had attacked the T-4 base at least once before, in February, after it intercepted an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Confirms Israel Hit Syria - Ken Dilanian and Courtney Kube
    Israel carried out airstrikes against a Syrian air base early Monday and informed the U.S. in advance, two U.S. officials told NBC News. (NBC News)
        See also The Implications of the Syrian T-4 Air Base Bombing - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    The bombing of the Syrian T-4 air force base struck an Iranian drone section of the base under exclusive Iranian command. The commander of the drone unit was killed. On Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, called the bombing raid on T-4 "Israel's crime" and warned during a visit to Damascus that it "will not remain without response."
        The damage to the Iranian target raises the likelihood of a deterioration in the military situation between Iran and Israel. Iran may increase its attempts to strike at Israel via the Golan Heights using Hizbullah and Shiite proxies in Syria. The writer served as military secretary to the prime minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Chemical Attacks Persist as 2013 Syrian Chemical-Weapons Deal Fails - Farnaz Fassihi
    The chemical attack that killed dozens and injured hundreds more in Syria on Saturday again exposed the failure of international efforts to hold accountable those responsible for chemical-weapons violations. At the UN Security Council, the U.S. circulated a draft resolution to set up a new independent panel to investigate the chemical attacks in Syria. A mandate for the previous one expired in January after Russia vetoed a one-year renewal of its work.
        Russia's ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, denied there had been a chemical attack in Douma on Saturday. He said Americans had trained fighters to stage chemical attacks to create conditions for U.S. military strikes. Russia has used its veto 11 times to block UN action on Syria, including five vetoes on chemical-weapons violations. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Strongly Condemns the Chemical Weapons Attack by Syria
    Israel strongly condemns the chemical weapons strike carried out by Syria on April 7. The Syrian regime continues to perpetrate crimes against humanity in using these outlawed weapons. The latest attack joins a long series of similar attacks using chemical weapons perpetrated by the regime since Assad undertook to disarm from such weapons. The attack shows clearly that Syria continues to possess lethal chemical weapons capabilities and even to manufacture new ones. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • In Private, PA Leadership Opposes Gaza Protests - Adam Rasgon
    Despite its public expressions of solidarity, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah privately opposes the ongoing demonstrations at the Gaza-Israel border. Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, "The [Palestinian leadership] is not supportive of the protests because suddenly all of the focus in the Palestinian arena has shifted to Hamas and Gaza and they have become irrelevant. Secondly, they are also worried that the protests will spill over to the West Bank and potentially create security problems there."
        "Third, the protests are thwarting Abbas' attempts to levy new sanctions against Hamas and Gaza. Even though he wants to put new sanctions in place, he feels that he cannot while Israel and Palestinians in Gaza are standing off against each other." On Sunday at a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, PA President Mahmoud Abbas did not mention the protests in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israeli Airstrike in Syria Likely Stopped New Iranian Threat - Yaakov Lappin
    The recent missile strike on a military airbase in central Syria looks like the latest installment in a long-standing Israeli campaign to police its red lines. Usually, such strikes are driven by incoming intelligence of threatening activity.
        If left unchecked, Iran would flood Syria with Shi'a militia groups and terrorist organizations, arm them with missiles, and set up terrorist cells. It would convert southern Syria into a new launch pad for attacks against Israel.
        Israel seeks no conflict with Russia but is unwilling to ignore the activities of Moscow's allies - something Israel has communicated to Russia repeatedly. Statements released by Moscow on Monday indicate Russian displeasure at Israel's alleged actions. Yet Israel has responded that it will not blink when it comes to defending its security. (JNS)
  • West Bank Apathy amid Gaza Chaos - Khaled Abu Toameh
    For the Palestinians in the West Bank, Friday was a day for weddings, family gatherings, and, for some, dining at fancy restaurants in Ramallah and Nablus. Gone are the days when the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza in clashes with the IDF would prompt Palestinians in the West Bank to declare a general strike or take to the streets. Gone, too, for that matter, are the days when the death of a Palestinian in the West Bank would spark protests and a general strike in Gaza.
        The vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have never been to Gaza. For them, Gaza is not much different than Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq. Watching the news coming from Gaza is no longer all that different than watching what happens in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.
        The PA's ongoing security crackdown on Hamas and Islamic Jihad figures in the West Bank, which has resulted in the arrest of more than 200 in the past four weeks, is seen by some Palestinians as a reason behind the relative calm in areas under the control of PA security forces. Apart from the West Bank and Gaza being physically divided, Palestinians now appear to be divided into two people. (Times of Israel)

Israel Is Resolved to Prevent Iran's Entrenchment in Syria - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin (Twitter)
  • The reported airstrike on Monday at the T-4 airbase in Syria is a result of two colliding vectors: Iranian determination to entrench itself in Syria and Israeli resolve to prevent it.
  • The strike's timing drove Syria to first attribute it to the U.S. as a response to Assad's use of chemical weapons (CW) against civilians in Douma. However, the target hit is connected to Iran and not to CW.
  • It is not from T-4 that the CW-dropping aircraft came, while reports of Iranian casualties are a strong testament.
  • That being said, a strike may well serve two purposes, promoting two objectives in a single step: Preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria with advanced weaponry and sending a moral message that using CW to commit mass murder is not acceptable.
  • To that end, even if Israel does not take responsibility for the strike, it is important that Israel make its voice heard denouncing the use of CW.
  • Assad's chemical weapons and their use in Syria awaits a U.S. and Western response, and one cannot rule out the possibility of a U.S. strike on regime targets.
  • Relevant targets in this context may include Syrian regime helicopters and airplanes enabling CW delivery, as well as Syrian air defenses, whose destruction will remind Assad of his vulnerability.

    The writer, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.