August 9, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Diplomat Accused of Running Web of Spies across Europe - Damien McElroy (National-UAE)
    Iran is running a wide-ranging espionage network across Europe with the aim of procuring technology to boost the country's missile arsenal, disrupt opposition groups and carry out targeted assassinations, intelligence reports and opposition groups have disclosed.
    Opposition sources revealed on Wednesday that Asdollah Assadi, the Iranian diplomat in Vienna arrested in Germany in June for orchestrating a bomb plot against an opposition rally in Paris, headed the network.
    Activists said the decision to authorize the attack in Paris was taken by Tehran's Supreme National Security Council in January.
    The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) station in Vienna also supervised MOIS stations in Berlin and Paris.

Muslim Extremists in New Mexico Trained Child to Attack Schools - Trevor Hughes (USA Today)
    Two men who authorities said are extremist Muslims have been arrested in New Mexico, accused of kidnapping at least one child and training another to attack schools from their makeshift compound.
    Court documents say Siraj Wahhaj, 42, taught one of the 11 children in the compound "in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings," the Taos News reported.

Israeli Hospitals Drill for War - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Under the guidance of the IDF Home Front Command, Israeli hospitals across the country are shoring up their ability to shift into war mode should a sudden conflict erupt.
    In such a scenario, hospitals could find themselves under heavy fire, yet still must be able to provide care for existing patients and war-wounded.
    Last week, the Ziv Medical Center in Safed held an intensive drill simulating a situation of heavy rocket fire from Hizbullah.
    During the exercise, the medical center practiced receiving 50 patients "injured" by enemy fire while the hospital experienced power failures and infrastructure crashes as part of the simulation.
    The hospital also had to check on its ability to function under a cyber attack, which could disrupt blood laboratories or patient records.
    The drill included direct rocket strikes on the hospital and the need to evacuate damaged departments.
    Patient evacuations from higher floors, involving rescue by the fire service, were also practiced.

Israeli Runner Wins Gold at European Championships (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, 29, won the women's 10,000-meter run at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin Wednesday.
    Born in Kenya, she first came to Israel in 2008, working as a caretaker at Kenya's embassy in Tel Aviv. She received Israeli citizenship in 2016.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire 180 Rockets at Israel - Jonathan Ferziger and Saud Abu Ramadan
    Palestinians in Gaza fired more than 180 rockets at Israeli towns beginning on Wednesday night, triggering Israeli airstrikes against Hamas military installations. (Bloomberg)
        See also 19 Israelis Injured in Palestinian Rocket Barrage - Anna Ahronheim
    19 Israelis were injured in rocket attacks from Gaza on Wednesday and Thursday. Israel responded with attacks on terror targets in Gaza. At least 30 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Two homes and a factory in Sderot were hit by shrapnel, as well as a home in Hof Ashkelon. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Says War in Gaza Approaching - Michael Bachner and Judah Ari Gross
    A senior IDF officer warned Thursday that Israel was nearing a full-blown military confrontation in Gaza after hundreds of rockets were launched overnight by Palestinian terror groups. "We are rapidly nearing a confrontation. Hamas is making serious mistakes, and we may have to make it clear after four years that this path doesn't yield any results for it and isn't worth it."
        "We are ready to continue attacking, attacking and attacking. Our strikes deeply affect Hamas. It would be better off returning to the understandings reached after Operation Protective Edge [in 2014]."
        A woman who was seriously injured in the Palestinian rocket attacks was a 30-year-old foreign worker from Thailand.
        U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted: "Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself. This is the Hamas regime's choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again."  (Times of Israel)
  • U.S.: Iranian Gen. Soleimani behind Iran's Destabilizing Activities in Middle East - Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne
    Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, on Wednesday described Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, as "an individual who is perpetrating a lot of this destabilizing activity" in the Middle East. "Wherever you see Iranian activity, you see Qasem Soleimani, whether it is in Syria, whether it is in Iraq, whether it is in Yemen, he is there and it is the Quds Force, the organization which he leads, that I think is the principal threat as we look at this and the principle ones that are stoking this destabilizing activity."
        Votel emphasized that the U.S. military can keep the Strait of Hormuz open for shipping despite Iranian threats to shut it down. "Iran has layered capabilities here that include mines, that include explosive boats, that include coastal defense missiles and radars and other things, so they certainly have capabilities there, but I would just suggest we have capabilities as well."  (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Slams BBC for "Misrepresentation of Reality" in Gaza Flare-Up
    Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon issued a scathing complaint against BBC News on Thursday over an article headlined "Israeli Air Strikes 'Kill Pregnant Woman and Baby'," while omitting mention of the more than 180 rockets fired by Palestinians at Israel that preceded the retaliatory airstrikes and injured at least 11 Israeli civilians. Nahshon wrote on Twitter, "This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality (that's the polite equivalent of 'this is a LIE' if you don't get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them."  (i24News)
  • EU Plans Massive Transportation Project for West Bank and Gaza without Consulting Israel
    The EU had formulated a plan to construct a massive transportation grid connecting Gaza with the West Bank without consulting Israel, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. The plan includes Area C of the West Bank which is under full Israeli control. Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the EU plans "are completely unacceptable."  (World Israel News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Sderot Residents Describe Desperate Dash to Bomb Shelters
    Residents of the Israeli town of Sderot described Thursday the desperate dash to safety as 180 rockets, fired from Gaza, rained down on Israel. Residents have 15 seconds from the moment the warning siren sounds to get themselves - and their families - into bomb shelters or reinforced rooms in their homes.
        Sderot resident Etti Kramer told Hadashot TV how she and her husband dashed to get their seven children into their family's reinforced room as they heard explosions around them. "I ran and grabbed the baby. The rest of the children ran but didn't arrive in time. We started to hear explosions and we continued getting the children into the reinforced room. You have to choose which of your children you save. I grabbed the baby and the two-year old and ran to the shelter."
        Yossi Lok said he had retreated to his reinforced room after the rocket alert siren sounded. "I heard a huge explosion and saw a flash of fire. The neighbor cried out that he'd been hit. I came downstairs and saw him really badly hurt, covered in blood. His home was on fire because his gas canister had been hit."
        Wave after wave of rocket attacks set off sirens throughout the night in the Hof Ashkelon, Sha'ar Hanegev, Sdot Negev and Eshkol regions outside Gaza, sending thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters, where many bedded down with their families.
        In addition, on Wednesday there were at least 11 fires in Israel sparked by arson balloons launched from Gaza. (Times of Israel)
  • The Path to Renewed Oil Sanctions on Iran - Peter Harrell
    On Nov. 5, U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil exports will be reinstated. Iran took in an estimated $50 billion from the sale of oil in fiscal year 2017 and oil and petroleum products made up 70% of Iran's total exports. With the value of Iran's currency already falling 50% since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA, cutting off Tehran's biggest source of cash has the potential to dramatically hit Iran's already ailing government.
        Taking Iran's 2 million barrels of oil per day off the markets too quickly could have dramatic impacts on global oil prices. Instead of forcing countries to immediately eliminate oil imports from Iran, the president can offer countries an exception to continue importing Iranian crude, as long as the countries "significantly" reduce their volumes of Iranian oil imports every six months.
        Many energy analysts expect additional oil supplies to come online in late 2018 and the first half of 2019, driven by increasing production in Brazil, Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere.
        China imports approximately 500,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude, or about a quarter of Iran's exports. If Chinese officials decide that cutting imports of Iranian crude offers a low-cost concession to Trump that would win reciprocal U.S. concessions on trade or on regional issues in Asia, China will tell Tehran that it wants to buy less oil.
        The writer, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counter Threat Finance and Sanctions in the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, is an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. (Foreign Affairs)

Hamas-Israel Truce Deal Hinges on Palestinians Accepting Conditions They Reject - Yaakov Lappin (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Former Israeli defense officials have expressed skepticism that a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel is feasible.
  • Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, former deputy head of Israel's National Security Council, noted that a long-term arrangement for Gaza would be possible only if two components are put into place. The first is a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, and the second "is a period of calm between Hamas and the State of Israel."
  • "In order to obtain a long-term period of calm, there needs to be major investment in the Gazan economy and infrastructure. That means bringing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to Gaza. Because this is a condition, it is very problematic....There have been countless attempts, led by Egypt, to reach Palestinian national reconciliation." None of them have succeeded. "Abbas is dragging his feet because he has no interest in promoting this procedure, which would give Hamas gains, but not the PA."
  • Dr. Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, one of the designers of the security coordination between the IDF and the PA, said any attempt to reach a full agreement was very likely to end in failure. Israel will want "full quiet" as part of a large package deal. But "Hamas has never agreed to full quiet. I don't remember it ever agreeing to this."
  • At best, if Hamas finds its back to the wall, it might agree to freeze the activities of its military wing, said Elad. "But they will never disband the military wing" as the PA has demanded. Doing so would symbolize "cancelling the resistance" from Hamas' perspective, which would be unthinkable for them.

    The writer is a research associate at the BESA Center.