July 10, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Keeps Base in Eastern Syria to Monitor Iran's Departure - Ibrahim Hamidi (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Western diplomatic sources in London said Saturday that the U.S. and Russia are discussing a proposal to trade "the U.S. presence [in Syria], including Al-Tanf military base in eastern Syria," for "the Iranian military and militia presence across the entire Syrian territories."
    Sources said that while Moscow and Damascus demand that any deal with Washington starts by dismantling the base, the U.S. hopes to keep the strategic intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian borders to "monitor" the exit of Iran from Syria.

Gaza's Best and Brightest Are Intent on Escape - Muhammad Shehada (Ha'aretz)
    More than 18,000 Gazans have seized the opportunity to escape since the border crossing with Egypt opened in mid-May.
    Most Gazans who make it out are the territory's most educated, accomplished, and wealthiest people - resulting in a mass brain drain and human capital flight.
    Local sources estimate that 100-160 doctors have made it out of Gaza lately, including medics and university professors.
    Of the ten staffers I know at a senior Hamas leader's office, seven have made it out, and the ones left, including the Hamas leader himself, long to get out.

Photos: 1,600-Year-Old Biblical Mosaics Found in Galilee - Amanda Borschel-Dan (Times of Israel)
    An archeological dig at a fifth century synagogue in the ancient Galilee village of Huqoq has uncovered a mosaic floor depicting biblical stories.
    "These mosaics, colorful and filled with figured scenes, attest to a rich visual culture as well as to the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods," said University of North Carolina archaeologist Jodi Magness.

100 Nigerians Defect during Pilgrimage to Israel - Fikayo Olowolagba (Daily Post-Nigeria)
    The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, Tor Uja, said Monday that 100 Christian pilgrims absconded during the 2017 pilgrimage to Israel.

Israeli and French Navies Conduct Joint Exercises - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Two Israeli missile boats docked in the French port of Toulon on June 21 for joint exercises with the French Navy.
    Israel Navy Col. Ronen Hajaj said, "France sees Israel as a strong maritime partner in the region."
    On Sunday, a French battleship and frigate arrived in Haifa to participate in several joint activities with the Israel Navy and Air Force.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian General: Forces in Syria "Awaiting Orders" to Destroy Israel
    On June 8, IRGC deputy commander Hossein Salami said: "Seventy years have passed since the policy of England and America planted in the Islamic world an accursed and criminal tree [i.e., Israel]. For 70 years, this poisoned dagger has been embedded in the body of the Islamic ummah, and all the problems of the Islamic world stem from the existence of the false...regime named Israel."
        "The Imam [Khomeini] spread the rationale of eradicating Israel as a new notion in the world's political discourse....The Islamic Revolution created a mighty power called Hizbullah, that today, as the Zionist regime itself acknowledges, has over 100,000 missiles ready for launch."
        "Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan....Orders are awaited, so that...the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now."
        "Iran invites the Muslims to jihad, and the spirit of jihad today breathes in the body of the Muslim nations. The young Muslims who care are proud of fighting the Zionists, the Americans, and their allies, and becoming a martyr is an honor for them."  (MEMRI)
        See also below Observations: Why Israel Must Target Iran's Presence in Syria - Tony Badran (Tablet)
  • ISIS Remnants Fight On in Syria and Iraq - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Islamic State fighters who fled into the desert to escape U.S.-backed forces in Syria and Iraq are now drawing on stashed weapons and ammunition to stage renewed attacks in both countries, as friction among foreign powers hampers efforts to finish off the terror group.
        The U.S. has been going after the largest remaining pocket of Islamic State fighters - believed to number at least 1,000 - in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzour. In May, the U.S. conducted 225 airstrikes on Islamic State positions. In northern Iraq, meanwhile, Islamic State has carried out a spate of attacks. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Closes Gaza Commercial Border Crossing in Response to Hamas Arson Campaign - Anna Ahronheim
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that Israel would close the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza in response to the continued launching of incendiary devices which have burned 8,000 acres in Israel. Only food and medicine will be allowed to cross. The IDF said the step was taken "in light of the situation in which the Hamas terrorist organization exploits the residents of the Gaza Strip - and launches kites and explosive firebombs towards the communities surrounding Gaza."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Firefighters Put Out 33 Fires near Gaza Border Communities on Monday - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
  • Israel Expands the Fight Against Palestinian Arson - Itsik Saban
    Israel's Fire and Rescue Commissioner David Simchi announced Sunday the formation of a special task force to combat Palestinian arson terrorism against Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza. The task force will include firefighters from the IDF Homefront Command.
        Palestinian kite terrorism has so far sparked 860 fires since April, decimating over 8,000 acres of forest and agricultural land in Israel. Hamas operatives have been trying to upgrade the kites to fly deeper into Israeli territory.
        There has been a decrease in the overall number of major blazes, due to the firefighters' improved readiness, as well as the fact that, given the devastation, new fires have fewer areas into which they can spread. Firefighting teams will have all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles at their disposal equipped with special gear to carry water and flame retarding agents. They are meant to be used as a first response ahead of the fire trucks' arrival at the scene. (Israel Hayom)
  • PA TV Honors Terrorists Who Lynched Israeli Soldiers in Ramallah - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    In October 2000, two Israeli reserve soldiers, Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, were lynched and their bodies mutilated by a Palestinian mob after they accidentally entered Ramallah. Many remember the photo of one of the Palestinians joyously displaying his bloody hands to the frenzied mob.
        Three of the Palestinians who participated in the murders and are imprisoned in Israel were recently honored by official Palestinian Authority TV. The reporter visited the families of the murderers and referred to each of them as "heroic."
        Since their arrests, the PA has generously rewarded each of them with a salary as is stipulated by PA law. As of June 2018, their salaries have reached a combined total of $583,606. (Palestinian Media Watch)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The End of a Revolution in Syria - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    For a while it seemed the Syrian rebels could topple the regime, but they failed to form a united, effective diplomatic and military front to lead them to victory. Instead they let radical Islamist groups abscond with their revolution and turn it into a religious war.
        But Assad's victory is hollow and deficient. Syria has been almost completely destroyed. It will take years and billions of dollars to rehabilitate the country. Moreover, Assad owes his victory to the Russians and Iranians, who actually call the shots in Syria now.
        Israel has come to terms with Assad's victory and his expected return to the border frontier on the Golan Heights. Ever since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Assad family has upheld the quiet along the Golan border and Jerusalem hasn't forgotten this. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Continuing Threat from Syria - Udi Dekel
    Israel has chosen to accept that Assad is the winner of the civil war and hope that Russian influence in Syria will take precedence over that of Iran. However, the Assad regime's seizure of control of southern Syria and the Golan Heights will result in the perpetuation of a foreign Shiite presence in the south, whether camouflaged within the Syrian army and within Syrian militias, or as ostensibly local Shiite militias directed by Iran.
        Israel must continue to demonstrate resolve in preventing the construction of an Iranian military infrastructure in Syria, with an emphasis on capabilities that threaten it, and retain its ability to harm the Assad regime if it deviates from the understandings and rules of the game that are established. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel is managing director of INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • The Assad regime's current offensive in southern Syria has been mainly in the eastern part of Daraa province, down to the Jordanian border. The push toward the west - Quneitra and the Golan - carries the risk of Israeli action.
  • Once the Syrian military campaign finds its way to Israel's border, Iran will as well - whether immediately or down the road makes little difference.
  • All the chatter about a deal with Russia notwithstanding, there is a need for Israel to intensify its targeting of Iran's infrastructure, personnel, and logistical lines in Syria to deter the Iranians from moving against Israel on the Golan.
  • "We have just one option," Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shimon Shapira, a senior researcher of Hizbullah and Iran at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told me.
  • "And that is to act with force, overtly and covertly, against the Iranian presence in Syria. Consenting to or accepting the Iranian presence, be it direct or indirect, in the end will lead to a war with Iran in Syria and in Lebanon."
  • As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it recently, "if there needs to be" conflict with Iran, "it is better now than later."