April 30, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Missile Attack in Syria Kills 26, Mostly Iranians - Bassem Mroue (AP)
    A missile attack in northern Syria on Sunday night killed 26 pro-government fighters, mostly Iranians, and wounded 60 others, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday.
    The attack appears to have targeted an arms depot for surface-to-surface missiles at a base known as Brigade 47.
    See also Report: Underground Missile Production Facility Targeted in Syria - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah-affiliated Al Akhbar reported that the targets of Sunday's strike were Syrian army bases being used by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Shi'ite militias.
    According to some reports, the target in Hama was an underground missile production facility funded by Iran and built with the help of North Korea.

PA Official Slams Hamas for Gaza Border Marches - Yasser Okbi (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
    Speaking in the presence of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, his adviser on religious and Islamic affairs, Mahmoud al-Habash, lashed out at Hamas during a Friday sermon:
    "The Marches of Return gamble with the lives of children and women, which does not serve Palestine. The leadership in Gaza... gamble on the life of the young, when they have many agendas and wish to revive themselves with the blood of our people."

Video: How Hamas Tries to Break Through the Gaza Security Fence (IDF Spokesperson)
    Peaceful protests? See drone footage of the Hamas riots on Friday, showing organized attempts to sabotage the last line of defense separating the frenzied mob and Israeli civilians.
    The rioters are only 400 yards from Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.

Gaza Border Incidents Continue Sunday - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli soldiers shot two Palestinians on Sunday after they tried to damage the border fence. One was killed and the other was apprehended.
    In a separate incident, two Palestinians threw firebombs at Israeli soldiers stationed near the fence before soldiers responded, killing both.
    In a third incident, two Palestinians armed with knives were arrested attempting to breach the border.

Gaza Arson Kite Sets Fire to Israeli Forest - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
    A fire broke out at the Kisufim forest in Israel on Sunday due to an incendiary kite flown from Gaza.
    See also Gaza Arson Kite Sets Fire to Israeli Wheat Field - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
    A wheat field in Israel was set on fire by an incendiary kite flown from Gaza on Saturday.

Video: Palestinian Arrested after Attacking Gaza Security Fence - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    A member of Hamas was arrested by the IDF on Sunday morning at the Gaza border fence near the Karni Crossing.
    A video shows the man climbing the fence under cover of fog and damaging a security camera.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Try to Storm Israel's Security Fence - Iyad Abuheweila and David M. Halbfinger
    On Friday, senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan gave a rousing speech near the border with Israel, urging Palestinians not to fear death but to welcome martyrdom. "When we are brave, we are getting closer toward martyrdom, martyrdom, martyrdom," he said. In response, hundreds of Palestinians rushed the security barrier opposite Gaza City and tried to cross into Israel.
        "Between 500 and 700 rioters assaulted the fence in a way that we have not seen them assault it before," said IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus. "This is not a peaceful demonstration. There's nothing serene about this. They're trying to infiltrate into Israel, damage our infrastructure and kill Israelis." As the crowd began streaming toward the fence, a tremendous barrage of tear gas from the Israeli side did not deter many.
        The attack on the fence was no mere protest: Those assaulting it threw firebombs and rolled burning tires at the fence to try to melt it; at least some carried pistols, according to both the Israeli military and Palestinian witnesses. Four Palestinian protesters said they saw two men with handguns fire at Israeli soldiers and then flee. Hamas has called the protests peaceful, despite the Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli soldiers and firebombs attached to kites that are routinely sailed over the fence, setting fires to Israeli farmland. (New York Times)
  • Pompeo Says Iran Nuclear Deal Could Only Be Preserved with a "Substantial Fix" - Julian E. Barnes
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday in Brussels that President Trump would exit the Iran nuclear deal next month, absent "a substantial fix." "Absent overcoming the shortcomings - the flaws of the deal - he is unlikely to stay in that deal," Pompeo said.
        Pompeo said he was talking with allies about how to fix the deal's flaws. France, Germany and the UK have presented a plan for an additional pact that would seek to curb Iran's ballistic missile program, insist on intensive inspections, and attempt to curb Tehran's influence in the region. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also below Observations - U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo: "The U.S. Is with Israel in This Fight to Counter Iran's Threats"  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Saudi Crown Prince: Palestinians Should Take What the U.S. Offers - Barak Ravid
    In a closed-door meeting with heads of Jewish organizations in New York on March 27, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to an Israeli foreign ministry cable. The bottom line: Palestinian leadership needs to finally take the proposals it gets from the U.S. or stop complaining.
        According to my sources, MBS said: "In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining."
        He made clear the Palestinian issue was not a top priority for the Saudi government or Saudi public opinion, but for Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel there will have to be significant progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (Axios)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Says Its Use of Live Fire in Gaza Riots Is within International Law - Stuart Winer
    State attorneys on Sunday, responding to petitions filed by rights organizations, defended the IDF's use of live ammunition during Palestinian riots on the border with Gaza, saying, "The security forces' rules of engagement in the area of the security barrier are in line with Israeli law and international law," and that the riots organized by Hamas cannot be considered simple civilian demonstrations. State attorneys added that the riots are "part of the armed conflict between the Hamas terror group and Israel."  (Times of Israel)
  • IDF: Palestinian Deaths during Gaza Riots Unintentional - Amos Harel
    Most of the deaths of Palestinians during the Gaza border riots have resulted from snipers aiming at rioters' legs when suddenly the person bent down, the shot missed, or a bullet ricocheted, a senior officer in the IDF Southern Command said. Open-fire directives only let snipers aim at the legs of those approaching the border unless there is an apparent intent to use weapons and threaten Israeli lives. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Attacks Hamas Targets in Gaza after Palestinian Attempt to Breach Border Fence - Elior Levy
    The Israeli Air Force attacked six targets belonging to the Hamas naval force in Gaza on Friday after a large-scale attempt by Palestinian rioters to breach the border fence and enter Israel. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Conference of Presidents Hosts Secretary General of Muslim World League
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held an event Thursday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York honoring Muslims who protected Jews during the Holocaust. Mohammad al-Issa, secretary general of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, was a featured guest.
        Stephen M. Greenberg, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents, said: "Dr. Al-Issa joined us as we commemorated and paid tribute to the immensely important, but too little known, acts of human decency and kindness of people in many majority Muslim countries during the Holocaust that enabled Jews to survive the horrors of the Nazi drive to exterminate them."
        "Dr. Al-Issa continues to demonstrate his commitment to engaging with the Jewish community in meaningful dialog to help bring Muslims and Jews closer together in an atmosphere of mutual dignity and respect." The event also featured a special presentation honoring countries that "hosted, protected, and absorbed Jewish refugees during the Holocaust," including Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Morocco. (Times of Israel)
  • If the U.S. Reimposes Sanctions on Iran, Europe Will Have No Choice But to Go Along - Jamil N. Jaffer
    Should President Trump refuse to continue waiving Iran sanctions and opt to reimpose them, it should be recalled that the key sanctions imposed by Congress in 2011-12 are "secondary" sanctions, meaning they operate by imposing costs on countries that continue to do business with Iran. Every nation must choose between doing business with Iran and maintaining access to the American banking system. This isn't a real choice, since no country can function economically by cutting itself off from the U.S.
        The writer is founder of the National Security Institute at George Mason University's Scalia Law School and worked as chief counsel and senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. After their meeting, they said:
    Prime Minister Netanyahu:

  • "The bold decision by President Trump has prompted other countries, quite a few now, who are planning to move their embassy to Jerusalem as well. It says something about American leadership and about the forthright way in which simple truths are being put forward, and the effect this has on the international scene."
  • "The greatest threat to the world and to our two countries - and to all countries - is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons."
  • "I appreciate the President's and your position on stopping Iran's aggression in the region. That aggression has grown many-fold since the signing of the Iranian deal....Iran is trying to gobble up one country after the other. Iran must be stopped. Its quest for nuclear bombs must be stopped. Its aggression must be stopped, and we're committed to stopping it together."

    Secretary of State Pompeo:

  • "We remain deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel's sovereign right to defend itself."
  • "As part of the President's comprehensive Iran strategy, we are also working to counter the broad set of non-nuclear threats: Iran's missile systems, its support for Hizbullah, the importation of thousands of proxy fighters into Syria and its assistance to the Houthi rebels in Yemen."
  • "We look forward to working closely with strong allies like Israel in countering these threats and rolling back the full range of Iranian malign influence."

        See also U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and Palestinians Have Nothing to Discuss - Gardiner Harris and Isabel Kershner
    During his visit to Israel on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not meet a single Palestinian representative. For decades, American diplomats saw themselves as brokers between the two sides, and secretaries of state typically met Palestinian representatives on regional tours. No more.
        After President Trump's decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Palestinian leaders have cut off political contacts with the Trump administration. (New York Times)