August 1, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

UN Panel Finds Further Evidence of Iran Link to Yemen Missiles (AFP)
    Yemen's Houthi rebels are still arming themselves with ballistic missiles and drones that "show characteristics similar" to Iranian-made weapons, a report to the UN Security Council by a panel of experts has found.
    The panel said it "continues to believe" that short-range ballistic missiles and other weaponry were transferred from Iran to Yemen after an arms embargo was imposed in 2015, and that there was a "high probability" that the missiles were manufactured outside of Yemen.

What Israel Should Do When a Stone Falls Out of the Western Wall - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The Herodian-era stone that fell from the Western Wall last month miraculously missed worshippers.
    The Muslim Waqf insists that its own committee investigate why the stone fell off.
    Israel needs to take back the handling, control, and maintenance of the walls of the Temple Mount.
    If more stones from the Western Wall fall, or if the Temple Mount and its mosques are damaged, Israel will be held responsible.
    The writer is a journalist and commentator who has documented Jerusalem for 30 years.

Hamas Preparing for Cyber War - Tal Shahaf (Globes)
    In recent weeks, a series of cyber attacks aimed at Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers which bear the fingerprints of Hamas hackers has been revealed.
    An Israeli source familiar with the offensive cyber sphere says, "Hamas does not have the capabilities of a power....But they are making efforts, using mainly tools that they download from the Internet, and their successes are a fact."
    "They know how to make people click on all sorts of links, download all sorts of things to their computers, and to break into systems that have not updated their servers."
    He adds that it is possible that the source of the attacks is neither in Gaza nor the West Bank, which share their Internet infrastructure with Israel, making it very easy to track attackers. It is very likely that foreign Hamas cells are involved.

Uganda Government Hails Israel for Health Services - Dan Wandera (Daily Monitor-Uganda)
    Uganda's Health Minister Dr. Jane Aceng has hailed the Israeli government for supporting health services delivery in the country at the commissioning of a diabetes clinic at Kiboga Hospital, which was established with support from Israel.
    Israel is also undertaking a bigger project at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mulago National Referral Hospital.
    "The Israeli medical volunteers have been with us for a long time," Dr. Aceng said on Friday.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia: Iran Distanced Forces in Syria 85 Km. from Israel Border
    Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said Russia is respecting the interests of the neighboring countries, including Israel. "As we took into account the Israeli concerns, we managed to attain the pullout of Iranian units 85 km. [53 miles] from the Israeli border." Asked whether Israel was becoming less concerned over the pro-Iranian units' presence near its frontiers, Lavrentyev answered, "Yes, of course, we are certain of this."  (Sputnik-Russia)
  • U.S. Seeks to Revive "Arab NATO" to Confront Iran - Yara Bayoumy
    The Trump administration is quietly pushing ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, in part to counter Iran's expansion in the region, according to U.S. and Arab officials. The effort, known as the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), might be discussed at a summit in Washington in October. "MESA will serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism, and will bring stability to the Middle East," a spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council said. (Reuters)
        See also Towards an Arab NATO? - Irina Tsukerman (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Russia Using Syria as Testing Ground for New Electronic Weapons - Lara Seligman
    American troops deployed in Syria are increasingly having to defend themselves against Russian jamming devices with potentially lethal consequences, according to U.S. military officials. Officers who have experienced the jamming - known as electronic warfare - say it's no less dangerous than conventional attacks with bombs and artillery. They also say it's allowing U.S. troops a rare opportunity to experience Russian technology in the battlefield and figure out how to defend against it.
        "All of a sudden your communications won't work, or you can't call for fire, or you can't warn of incoming fire because your radars have been jammed and they can't detect anything," said Col. (ret.) Laurie Moe Buckhout, who specializes in electronic warfare. "It can negate one's ability to defend oneself."
        Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said that Syria has become "the most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet....They are testing us every day," knocking communications down and even disabling aircraft built for electronic warfare. (Foreign Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Slams U.S. Ambassador's Condolence Call to Bereaved Family after West Bank Murder - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it "condemns with the strongest words" U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman's "recurring visits" to Jewish settlements, after Friedman paid a condolence visit Monday to the family of Yotam Ovadia who was stabbed to death Thursday in a terrorist attack in the West Bank. Friedman said during the visit, "A young woman left alone to care for two toddlers, parents mourning their only son. There are no words that can describe the evil and barbarity of this act of terror."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Arson Balloons Cause 19 Fires in Israel Tuesday
    Firefighters in Israel battled 19 new fires sparked by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza on Tuesday. (i24News)
  • IDF: "Reasonable Force" Employed on Boat Heading to Gaza
    On Sunday, the Israeli navy seized a boat and arrested 22 passengers who were attempting to breach the blockade on Gaza. Israel says the siege is necessary to prevent weapons from entering that can be used in attacks. The Israel Defense Forces defended its use of force during the seizure, saying "an investigation of the incident shows that during the seizure of the vessel reasonable force was employed to overcome the passengers' resistance." Norway called on Israel Tuesday to explain the seizure of the Norwegian-flagged ship. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Helps the West Meet Its Security Needs - David Gerstman
    When the U.S., Canada, and the EU wanted someone to rescue members of the Syrian White Helmets from southwestern Syria last week, who did they call? Israel. Israel briefed world leaders on the half-ton of files it stole this year from a secret Iranian archive of its nuclear weapons program. It was reported last month that an Iranian-backed terror plot in Paris had been broken up thanks to crucial intelligence provided by Israel's Mossad.
        In all of these recent examples, Israel has demonstrated its indispensability to the security of the West. Israel's military and intelligence capabilities that help its Western allies fight threats to their citizens make Israel an essential ally. (Algemeiner)
  • Israel Is Under Massive Chinese, Russian Cyber Espionage Attack - Ronen Bergman
    A few months ago, cyber security experts were asked to examine the security of some of Israel's main civilian computer systems. Their report states that "many computers are infected, including computers in schools, hospitals, the Ministry of Interior, national infrastructures, and more - all infected with malware (malicious software)." Some of the malicious software was found deep inside central computer systems, not just on personal desktops. It was estimated that the manpower required for these cyber attacks against Israel is in the hundreds of people and that "it is a country investing whatever it has in these attacks."
        According to the experts, the malicious programs were not from Iran. A former division commander in the Israel Security Agency said that China and Russia have been trying to attack Israel in a variety of ways, in a manner similar to those carried out against other Western countries. In recent years, at the direction of the ISA, security companies have started implementing various measures against Russian and Chinese espionage in Israel. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Public Diplomacy Blitz Against Hamas Is a Paradigm Shift - Herb Keinon
    Hamas is the principle reason why Palestinians suffer in Gaza and one of the central reasons why there is no movement on the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic track. For most Israelis, that understanding is no great epiphany. Yet when U.S. officials went on a public diplomacy blitz last week stressing that point, it felt a bit different.
        To hear this so forcefully pronounced by the U.S. administration is a break from the past. In December 2016 in the final days of the Obama administration, then-secretary of state John Kerry gave his summation speech on the state of the Middle East diplomatic process and used the word Hamas only four times. Then he turned to the settlements, which he mentioned 27 times and essentially characterized as the main obstacle to peace. That approach has been squarely rejected by the current administration. (Jerusalem Post)

Negative Consequences for Israel from Assad's Takeover at Syrian Border - Ehud Yaari interviewed by Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
  • Veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari believes Assad's successful takeover of the area adjacent to the border with Israel is bad news for Israel.
  • Iran, Yaari said, is by now burrowed deep into the Syrian military. "Assad doesn't have an army....There are remnants of the once-huge army that he had. And mainly what you have is an array, a myriad of all sorts of militias, many of them affiliated in one way or another with the Iranians, with Hizbullah. So when the Syrian army is going to retake the positions along the Golan line, that means that we will see these type of forces positioned there."
  • "I think that the Syrians and Iranians are not interested in any flare-up along the border...because they have different priorities. They have to stabilize Assad's hold on Syria. It's a country which is destroyed to a great extent. They have to rebuild an army. They have to do a lot of stuff before they are seeking to engage the IDF. Therefore, I believe that we will see the Syrians...take the old positions that they had. As long as they don't shoot at us, the Israelis will remain calm."
  • "The Iranians will increase, slowly but steadily, to get themselves not just entrenched in Syria but entrenched within the Syrian army, and this is what they are doing."
  • "What I see is the emergence of growing Iranian proxies within the Syrian army. They will pursue the effort to upgrade the arsenal of missiles and get them much more accurate, will pursue their efforts to establish intelligence facilities, etc."