July 16, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah and Shi'ite Militias Integrated into Syrian Army (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    At least two Iraqi-Shi'ite forces - the Dhu al-Fiqar Brigade and the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade - are part of the campaign currently waged by the Syrian army in south Syria.
    Hizbullah operatives and Afghan Shi'ite fighters of the Fatemiyoun Brigade are also participating in the fighting.
    Based on past experience, the Shi'ite forces have Iranian officers from the Revolutionary Guards.
    Pictures show Shi'ite militiamen wearing Syrian army uniforms, and it is difficult to distinguish them from Syrian soldiers.

Hamas Plans to Launch Exploding Drones into Israel - Itsik Saban and Gadi Golan (Israel Hayom)
    Hamas is planning to launch drones rigged with explosives deeper into Israeli territory, Israeli defense officials warned Thursday.
    So far, kites and balloons have been fitted with fireworks, burning coals, and firebombs that spark fires as they crash on the Israeli side of the border.
    According to Israeli intelligence, Hamas has recently begun adding timers to delay combustion as the kites and balloons remain airborne for longer. A kite with a timer landed last week in a moshav 35 km. (22 miles) from Gaza.
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday, "The number of fires is increasing and more and more incendiary kites and balloons are being launched from Gaza."
    "Our firefighters are doing an incredible job in getting these fires under control quickly, but arson terrorism will not stop unless we deter those launching kites and balloons over the border, and we may also find ourselves dealing with fires in communities much farther from Gaza."

Israel Shoots Down Second Drone Approaching from Syria - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    The IDF used a Patriot missile to shoot down a drone approaching from Syria on Friday following a similar incident on Wednesday.

Israel Said to Strike Iran-Linked Base in Northern Syria (Times of Israel)
    Syria's SANA news agency reported that Israel attacked the Al-Nayrab airbase adjacent to Aleppo's international airport on Sunday night.
    Al-Nayrab has been linked in the past with Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Swiss Observer Expelled from Israel for Slapping Jewish Boy in Hebron - Alexander Fulbright (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Foreign Ministry ordered a Swiss observer from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) to leave the country on Friday after a video showed him slapping a 10-year-old Jewish child across the face on Wednesday.
    TIPH is tasked with "creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron."
    Switzerland's ambassador to Israel Jean-Daniel Ruch apologized for the incident.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Bolton: U.S. to Stay in Syria as Long as the Iranian Menace Continues
    U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday: "The president has made it clear that we are there [in Syria] until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East."  (ABC News)
  • Israel Broadens Fight Against Iran - Sune Engel Rasmussen and Felicia Schwartz
    Israel is ramping up attacks against Iranian supply lines in Syria to block the flow of weapons to Hizbullah and other Tehran-backed militias, as it seeks to drive its foe away from its borders. On June 17, Israel targeted a compound near the Syria-Iraq border, according to a U.S. security official, after carrying out multiple strikes closer to home against Iranian military assets in Syria. The strike targeted a villa where Iraqi Shiite militia were working with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards to traffic weapons into Syria. The strike killed more than 20 fighters from Kata'ib Hizbullah, an Iraqi Shiite militia loyal to Iran.
        Last week, ahead of Monday's U.S.-Russia summit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to enlist his help in pushing Iranian-backed forces further away from the Israel's northern border. However, "Russia doesn't have the inclination or the ability to get Iran out of Syria. It doesn't want to put more boots on the ground and it needs Iranian forces on the ground to win the war," said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank. "What is being discussed are the parameters of Iranian presence."  (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire 200 Rockets at Israel on Saturday, Israel Retaliates with Airstrikes - Anna Ahronheim
    200 rockets and mortars were fired by Palestinians in Gaza towards Israel since Friday, with 40 of them intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System and another 73 landing in open territory. 13 landed in communities bordering Gaza and another two hit the city of Sderot. In response, Israel carried out airstrikes on Hamas targets including attack tunnels and Hamas' battalion headquarters in Beit Lahiya. The strikes destroyed urban warfare training facilities, weapon storage warehouses, training compounds, command centers and offices. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Four Israelis Wounded as Gaza Rockets Hit House, Synagogue in Sderot
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a salvo of rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot on Saturday evening, with two of the rockets hitting a home and a synagogue, wounding four Israelis including two teenage girls. On Friday, an IDF officer was wounded by a hand-grenade thrown during the weekly border riots. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Rocket Unit Commander Killed in Gaza Blast - Adam Rasgon
    Ahmad Husan, head of the missile unit of the Ayman Jawda group of the Fatah-aligned al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, was killed in an explosion in Gaza City along with his 13-year-old son on Sunday. (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Diverts Diesel Fuel Meant for Gaza's Power Station - Avi Issacharoff
    Several hundred Palestinians participated in clashes at the Gaza border fence last Friday, the remnants of the "March of Return" demonstrations. At the same time, thousands of Gaza residents went to the beach, although Gaza's coast is unsafe for bathing due to pollution.
        Gaza still gets only four hours of electricity per day followed by a 16-hour blackout. Generator-powered elevators in high-rise buildings only operate on the hour. Of the water that flows through the pipes only once every five days, 97% is undrinkable.
        While complaining of "hardship" and "the blockade," Hamas spends its funds on terror infrastructure rather than investing in the population. A classic example involves 30 million liters of diesel fuel intended for Gaza's power station that has been brought in since the beginning of the year. Instead of using it all to produce more hours of electricity, Hamas sold 12.2 million liters on the black market for a maximum price or diverted it for military purposes. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pushing the Palestinian "Right of Return" Doesn't Help Peace - Tzipi Livni
    In the past few months, I've heard voices in the UK, including senior members of the Labour shadow cabinet, calling for the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel. As a supporter of peace based on the principle of two-states-for-two-peoples, the demand that Palestinian refugees "return" to Israel is not only at odds with the very rationale of a two-nation-states solution, but, if accepted, would lead to a continuation of the conflict long after the establishment of a Palestinian state. Such a scenario should be rejected by anyone who truly seeks peace in our lifetime.
        Unfortunately, Palestinian refugees have been used as a political playing card for far too long since 1948. Palestinians are the only group since the end of the Second World War to have kept their refugee status and to have passed this status down to over four generations, creating a problem of millions of "refugees" that are kept as pawns in a political game instead of solving their humanitarian situation.
        Attempts to derail the two-nation-states solution by pushing or supporting the idea of a "right of return" will only exacerbate the conflict and is the antithesis of peace. The writer, co-leader of Israel's opposition Zionist Union party, served as Israel's foreign minister and chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians. (Guardian-UK)
  • Palestinian Arson Attacks Breach International Law - Michael Cotler-Wunsh
    In defiant breach of international law, the Palestinian "scorched earth" strategy - using balloons and kites flown over the border - has set fires ablaze that are ravaging Israel daily. This strategy of destroying the food of the civilian population in an area of conflict is banned under Article 54 of Protocol I of the 1977 Geneva Conventions.
        The relevant passage states: "It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population."
        If international law is to have any meaning at all, it is imperative that those who cherish international law hold those in outright breach of it accountable. The writer is a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at IDC Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)

How Israel Stole Iran's Nuclear Secrets - David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman (New York Times)
  • The Mossad agents moving in on a warehouse in a commercial district of Tehran on Jan. 31 knew they had exactly 6 hours and 29 minutes to disable the alarms, break through two doors, cut through dozens of giant safes and get out of the city with a half-ton of secret materials. When time was up, they fled for the border, hauling 50,000 pages and 163 compact discs of memos, videos and plans.
  • Last week, at the invitation of the Israeli government, three reporters were shown key documents from the trove. Many confirmed that Iran had worked in the past to systematically assemble everything it needed to produce atomic weapons. "The papers show these guys were working on nuclear bombs," said Robert Kelley, a nuclear engineer and former inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • American and British intelligence officials, after comparing the documents to some they had previously obtained from spies and defectors, said they believed the trove was genuine.
  • The Iranian program to build a nuclear weapon was almost certainly larger, more sophisticated and better organized than most suspected in 2003, according to outside nuclear experts consulted by The Times. The documents detailed the challenges of integrating a nuclear weapon into a warhead for the Shahab-3, an Iranian missile.
  • Clearly, the Israelis had inside help. They had learned which of the 32 safes held the most important information. They studied the alarm system, so that it would appear to be working even though it would not alert anyone when the agents arrived.
  • Among the most fascinating elements are pictures taken inside key facilities in Iran, before the equipment was dismantled in anticipation of international inspections. One set of photos shows a giant metal chamber built to conduct high-explosive experiments, in a building at the Parchin military base near Tehran.