May 29, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

The Identity of Palestinians Killed in the "Great Return March" (Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    At least 112 Palestinians were killed during the "Great Return March." In an examination of the names of the fatalities, 93 were identified as terrorist operatives or affiliated with terrorist organizations, i.e., about 83 percent of those killed in the "return marches."
    Most of the fatalities (63) are from Hamas (about 56 percent of the total killed in all the marches). Fatah had 21 fatalities. Islamic Jihad operatives (four fatalities) refrained from playing a significant role. The organizational affiliation of 19 of the fatalities is unknown.

Drone Footage Shows Nature Reserve Devastated by Gaza Flaming Kites (Times of Israel)
    Drone footage released Monday showed how hundreds of acres of one of the most scenic areas of southern Israel have been reduced to burned, blackened wasteland by firebomb-laden kites flown across the border by Palestinians.
    By the end of winter, the Be'eri Crater Nature Reserve is normally blanketed with green grass interspersed with red anemones. The park's trees, grass and ground are home to many species of wildlife.

Tajikistan's Top Clerical Body Says Iran Is Fueling Extremism in Central Asian Country - Ahmad Majidyar (Middle East Institute)
    The Council of Ulemmas of Tajikistan, an association of the country's religious leaders, accused Tehran of attempts to destabilize the Central Asian country. "Iran participated in destabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and now it wants to disturb peace in Tajikistan using provocateurs," a statement of the council said.
    According to members of the council, Iran provides funding for Muhiddin Kabiri, head of the Party of Islamic Renaissance, a group designated as a terrorist entity by the Tajik government. Tajik protesters recently claimed the Iranian government aids extremist groups in Tajikistan and plots the assassination of secular personalities.

Croatia Refuses to Extradite Bosnian Sought for Murder by Tunisia (Reuters)
    Croatia's Supreme Court denied on Monday the extradition of a Bosnian citizen sought by Tunisia over his alleged involvement in the murder of a Tunisian who Hamas said was one of its members. Mohammed Zawari, an aerospace engineer and drone expert, was shot dead in December 2016 near the Tunisian city of Sfax.

News Resources - North America and Europe:
  • Dozens of Mortars Fired from Gaza into Israel in Heaviest Barrage since 2014 War - Raf Sanchez
    Dozens of mortars and rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel early Tuesday morning, in the most serious such barrage since the end of the 2014 Gaza conflict. The Israeli military said 28 projectiles were fired out of Gaza at around 7am local time. No one was injured in the barrage, but one shell fell into the yard of a kindergarten. The Israeli military said most of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.
        Immediate suspicion for the attack fell on Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant faction that rulers of the Gaza Strip. (Telegraph - UK)
  • Russia: Only Syrian Army Should Be on Country's Southern Border
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that only Syrian government troops should have a presence on Syria's southern border, which is close to Jordan and Israel. "Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis; this should be a two-way street," Lavrov said. "The result of this work should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic's army stand at Syria's border with Israel." (Reuters)
        See also Pro-Assad Commander: Syrian Army Ready for Southern Battle
    The Syrian army has completed preparations for an imminent offensive against rebel-held areas in southwestern Syria, a non-Syrian commander in a military alliance that backs Damascus said on Tuesday. (Reuters/New York Times)
News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:
  • Gaza Flotilla Pushes Off to Protest against Israel Blockade
    Palestinians launched boats from Gaza on Tuesday in a protest against Israel's blockade, a move likely to further raise tensions after mortar fire from the enclave earlier in the day.
        One main boat carrying about 20 people, accompanied by a group of smaller ones, departed from the fishermen's port in Gaza City. There were conflicting statements about whether the boats would seek to break Israel's blockade, which currently allows them to travel nine nautical miles (16 kilometres) off the coast. (Agence France Press/National - UAE)
        See also U.S. Envoy Slams Flotilla - Raphael Ahren
    U.S. special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, on Tuesday slammed the "reverse flotilla," an effort by Palestinian activists to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
        In a series of Tweets, Greenblatt condemned Hamas for what he termed "deadly theatrics" that needlessly imperil the lives of innocent civilians. "Shame on all involved in inciting the so-called 'reverse flotilla' today. Hamas treats this like a play being acted out for a live media audience. But these are real lives Hamas is cynically risking in a grim bid to hold on to power," Greenblatt wrote. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Hamas Has Changed the Rules, and Israel Will Respond Forcefully to Gaza Barrage - Amos Harel
    Since the end of March, when the mass Palestinian demonstrations began along the Gaza border, Hamas has refrained from launching rockets and has prohibited other organizations in the Strip from carrying out revenge attacks so as not to harm the narrative of a popular Palestinian struggle against Israel snipers.
        Hamas had demonstrated its firm control in recent months and directed the demonstrations on the Israeli border as it wished.
        A change occurred in the past several days. On Sunday, after the IDF responded to an explosive charge placed near the border fence, an army tank fired and killed three Islamic Jihad operatives who were near the targeted Hamas outpost.
        Today, the leadership of Hamas gave the go-ahead, or at least turned a blind eye, to the firing of rockets. It is reasonable to assume that the Israeli reaction will be relatively harsh and will also include Hamas targets. (Haaretz)
  • Caution over Russian Call for Foreign Forces to Leave Syria - Amos Yadlin
    The Russian call for all foreign forces to leave Syria is a positive development with respect to the threat posed by Iranian entrenchment there. That being said,it is important to remember that the Iranians were not party to that announcement and Assad did not ask them to leave. The agreement reported tonight is relevant only to the Syrian regime's efforts to regain southern Syria. The campaign will be waged without Iran or Hizbullah, who will be distanced from the border.
        The core of the Iranian threat are advanced, accurate, long-range ballistic missiles positioned beyond the Golan Heights, and that issue has not yet been resolved. Israel should continue the effort to prevent it, despite all the risks that come along with that.
        There are three red lines for Iran in Syria: qualitative (ballistic missiles with advanced guidance systems); quantitative (Shia militias); and geographic - which the U.S. and Russia agreed to resolve in an important understanding between them. Enforcement or any sort of agreement to ensure that the Iranians or Hizbullah do not cross the quantitative or qualitative Israeli red lines has yet to be achieved. (Twitter)
        See also Israel Sees an Opportunity to Drive Iran Out of Syria as Russia Looks to its Own Interests - Raf Sanchez
    Israel is increasingly optimistic of being able to force Iran out of Syria as Russia comes to see that Iran's presence may threaten its own interests, a senior Israeli intelligence official said Monday.
        Chagai Tzuriel, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence, said he believed that Moscow realized that fighting between Iran and Israel could undermine gains made by Russia during the Syrian civil war. (Telegraph - UK)
  • The Mullahs' Biggest Fear: Iranian Women - Masih Alinejad
    The Islamic Republic's key vulnerability has always been its oppression of women. Since coming to power in 1979, the theocracy has imposed compulsory hijab laws, requiring women to securely wrap their heads in scarves in public. Over the past four years, however, with little help or notice from Western powers pressing the regime on other fronts, Iranian women have countered the most visible symbol of clerical rule.
        Last year, we launched White Wednesdays as a weekly street demonstration in which women either publicly take off white headscarves or wear the color in solidarity. The activism is clearly upsetting the regime. In 2014, when our movement began, Iranian police announced that "bad hijab" had led to 3.6 million cases of police intervention, more than any other type of crime. Women used to fear the Islamic Republic; now the Islamic Republic fears its own women. (Wall Street Journal)

The Ugly Trade in Palestinian Pain - Brendan O'Neill (Spiked - UK)
  • The Israel-Palestine conflict is unique because very often its distant observers, those who watch and comment and hand-wring from afar, play a role in intensifying it and making it bloodier than it already is - without even realizing they are doing so.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that Hamas pushes Gaza's people into harm's way because it knows their suffering will strike a chord across the West. Hamas knows there is a hunger among the West's so-called progressives for evidence of Palestinian pain, and by extension of Israeli evil, and it is more than willing to feed this hunger.
  • The clashes at the Gaza border, in which more than 60 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured, cannot be viewed in isolation from Western liberals' peculiar and disproportionate obsession with Israel. After midday prayers, clerics and leaders of Hamas "urged thousands of worshippers to join the protests."
  • Israel had made clear, including in an airdrop of leaflets, that anyone who sought to dismantle the fence in Gaza, the de facto border between this part of Palestine and Israel, risked coming to harm. And still Hamas encouraged the protesters to strike at the fence. Why would it do this? It knows there is a market for stories of Palestinian pain, and it is happy to flood that market.
  • Most Western reporters and commentators want a morality tale, in which all complexity is chased out in favor of providing readers with a binary story of good guys and bad guys, and providing themselves with the moral kick of feeling like the exposers of simplistic terrible horrors - all executed by Israel, of course. Western observers' receptiveness to stories of villains and victims encouraged Hamas to keep providing such stories.
  • What we are witnessing is the development of an almost symbiotic relationship between Westerners' need for stories of Israeli evil and Hamas's "keen" desire to tell and possibly even assist in the creation of such stories. Hating Israel has become a kind of negative moral framework through which many in the West now advertise their virtue. Westerners' obsession with this conflict, and with an infantile reading of it as evil vs. innocence, has helped to warp the conflict itself.