March 26, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Has Developed a Vast Arsenal in Gaza - Fares Akram (AP-Miami Herald)
    Over more than a decade, the Islamic militant Hamas group has built up a large arsenal of rockets in Gaza that can strike virtually anywhere in Israel.
    In 2018, Gaza's Hamas chief Yehiya Sinwar boasted that the group had not only replenished the rockets it fired during the 50-day war in 2014, but had many more at its disposal.
    The rocket fired on Monday flew 120 km. (70 miles) before it slammed into a house in central Israel.
    Gabi Siboni, an Israeli military analyst, said Hamas "has a variety of advanced, precise, and effective weaponry."
    They include guided anti-tank missiles and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, both produced by Russia, as well as drones.

France Stops Iran's Mahan Air Flights - Nick Wadhams (Bloomberg)
    France joined a growing number of governments in blocking flights by Iranian carrier Mahan Air, which flew four flights a week to Paris.
    The U.S. contends that Mahan Air has links to Iran's Quds military force.

Syrians Are Practicing with S-300 Air Defense System - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Syrian air defense personnel have reached advanced stages of training on the S-300 air defense batteries deployed by Russia last September, Maariv reported.
    The "question of independent operation of the air defense system is a matter for Russia to decide and not related to the operational capability of the Syrians trained to maintain the system," the report said.
    Russia is aware that if it leaves and the batteries threaten Israel, the system may be destroyed.

North Korean Hackers Target Israel - Oded Yaron (Ha'aretz)
    The North Korean hacker group Lazarus targeted an Israeli security company for industrial espionage purposes, ClearSky, a cybersecurity firm, reported on Sunday.
    On March 7, an employee of the Israeli company received a suspicious-looking message from a colleague on his company's internal messaging system. The email, written in broken Hebrew, contained a malicious file.

Assad Loyalists Are Turning on Syria's Government as Living Standards Deteriorate - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    Syrians who remained loyal to President Assad throughout the past eight years of war are increasingly expressing discontent with his government as living standards deteriorate even as the conflict winds down.
    An estimated 89% of the population is living in poverty and dependent on international food handouts, according to the UN.
    But for the first time, those living in the pro-government areas are experiencing harsh deprivations, including in Damascus.
    Acute shortages of fuel, cooking gas and electricity have left citizens shivering in darkness through an unusually cold winter, while thousands of men who fought on the front lines are returning home without hope of finding jobs.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Proclamation: U.S. Recognizes the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel
    President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Monday stating: "The State of Israel took control of the Golan Heights in 1967 to safeguard its security from external threats. Today, aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hizbullah, in southern Syria continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel."
        "Any possible future peace agreement in the region must account for Israel's need to protect itself from Syria and other regional threats. Based on these unique circumstances, it is therefore appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights."  (White House)
  • British-Israeli Family's Home Destroyed in Hamas Rocket Attack - Bel Trew
    Robert Wolf, 64, a British-Israeli grandfather, told the Independent that after hearing sirens warning of incoming rockets, he was just meters away when the missile from Gaza landed on his home on Monday in Mishmeret, 25 km. north of Tel Aviv. His son Daniel, 30, who happened to be on the couch that night, had been shaken awake moments earlier by rocket sirens and alerted the family, giving them seconds to get to the bomb shelter.
        Wolf's wife, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren had barely made it to shelter when the missile struck. "If we hadn't got to the bomb shelter in time I would have been burying all of them," he said. His wife Sue was still in hospital being treated for shrapnel in the head. The only reason the baby survived was because she was shielded by his daughter-in-law Yael, who was also hospitalized. (Independent-UK)
        See also Israel's UN Ambassador: A Hamas Rocket Has Reached My Home
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Monday: "From within a civilian population center in Rafah, Hamas fired a rocket at my home, in the full sense of the word, when it landed near the house where I raised my children." Danon lives in Moshav Mishmeret. "We will not accept...a reality in which rockets are fired at Israeli children. We will respond as uncompromisingly as any other member state of the UN would," Danon said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Sanctions Iranians Named in Nuclear Archive Exposed by Israel
    The Treasury Department and State Department are targeting 31 proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters linked to Iran's Organization for Defense Innovation and Research (SPND). Some of the names that we are sanctioning are known to us initially coming out of the Iranian archive of material from their weapons program. We are leveraging information from that archive into the present day. This is a concrete example of how we're using the information in that archive as a piece of our policy toolset. (U.S. State Department)
        See also U.S. Sanctions Organizations and Individuals Linked to Iran's Past Nuclear Weapons Effort
    The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, together with the State Department, on Friday designated 14 individuals and 17 entities in connection with Iran's past nuclear weapons effort. Iran procured materials and equipment, and conducted a variety of activities, relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. Iran also re-engineered a ballistic missile's reentry vehicle for probable use as a delivery system for a nuclear weapon. (U.S. Treasury Department)
        See also New Sanctions Will Make Iranian Nuke Scientists "Radioactive" Abroad - Dan De Luce (NBC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Hits Targets in Gaza as Palestinians Fire 60 Rockets at Israel
    More than 60 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel on Monday and Tuesday, even though Hamas announced that a ceasefire had been achieved. One rocket hit a home in Sderot, but no casualties were reported. The IDF attacked dozens of terrorist targets in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad military compounds, the offices of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, a building housing Hamas' general and military intelligence headquarters, and internal security offices. (Globes)
  • "The Undetonated Rocket Was Lying on the Floor of My Son's Bedroom" - Matan Tzuri
    Shlomo Moskowitz of the Israeli border town of Sderot saw his house sustain a direct hit from a Gaza rocket on Monday evening - for the second time. "I was home alone, sitting in my living room when I heard a rocket alert, and immediately ran to the safe room," he said. "All of a sudden, I heard a loud explosion. I went into the living room and it was filled with smoke. I went into my son's room and it was ruined. The rocket was lying on the floor and did not explode....My home was damaged by a rocket a few years ago also."  (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Boy Injured by Gunfire from Neighboring Arab Village - Jacob Magid
    A 7-year-old Israeli boy was injured Monday when shots were fired at the West Bank community of Beit El from the nearby Palestinian village of Dura al-Qaraa, the IDF said. (Times of Israel)
  • Gazans: Hamas Dragging Us into War - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Several residents of Gaza accused Hamas in telephone interviews on Monday of deliberately provoking Israel to divert attention from the recent protests against economic hardship in Gaza. "Hamas leaders are holding our people hostage. Most people here don't want another war," said Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, a social worker from Gaza City. Palestinian political analyst Majdi Hamdan said the Palestinians of Gaza were again paying a heavy price for the "foolish actions and policies" of Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Trump's Golan Decision Is Moral and Strategic - Sen. Lindsey Graham
    President Trump's decision to formally recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel is strategically wise and morally important. Israel secured the Golan Heights in 1967 after the Six-Day War, a defensive conflict Israel fought in response to attacks from Syria and other Arab nations. Since then, the Golan has been a critical part of Israel's defenses.
        Rewarding Syria for attacking Israel in 1967 and again in 1973 would dramatically change the cost-benefit calculations of other expansionist dictators. When a state decides whether to invade a neighbor, it has to take account of the risk that it will lose land. If the Golan Heights are returned, it tells invaders that territory they lose will eventually be given back - a recipe for more aggression.
        Unfortunately, there exists the possibility that the decision could be undone by a future president. To guard against that possibility, Congress should immediately vote on legislation putting both chambers on record in support of the new policy on the Golan. (Wall Street Journal)
  • AIPAC's Washington Conference Will Reflect American Support for Israel - Lenny Ben-David
    The AIPAC Policy Conference will close on Tuesday with wall-to-wall expressions of support for Israel by the 18,000 delegates. Why? Because the American public supports Israel, its values, democracy, pride, bravery, and sacrifices. The Policy Conference will showcase Americans of color who support the Jewish state, Catholic and Protestant clergy who back Israel along with their local rabbis, and wounded American veterans who are benefiting from Israeli innovations and are sharing life experiences with Israeli veterans.
        At AIPAC's 1976 Policy Conference, Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) said: "Columnists, editorial writers have warned us about ethnic lobbies. We've heard careless and, I think, reckless things being said about the powerful Jewish lobby. As if somehow or another, it was against the law in this country to speak up for what you believe in. It is good for the basic democratic process that people who have convictions about what American public policy should be take time to get their fellow Americans and their public officials to understand what they believe and to urge their support."
        AIPAC reflects the best of the U.S. and its people - its political system, its optimism, its spirit, and its selfless mission. That's AIPAC's power. The writer served 25 years in senior posts in AIPAC in Washington and Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Israel Thanks America for Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday:
  • For two decades, from 1948 to 1967, Syria rained deadly fire from the Golan Heights on Israel's citizens below. A generation of Israeli children lived in constant danger.
  • Then, in two glorious days in June 1967, the brave soldiers of Israel scaled those daunting heights and liberated the Golan. One of those brave soldiers was my brother, who was wounded in battle three hours before the end of the war.
  • In 1973, Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel, and those same Golan Heights proved to enable us to absorb the initial, horrific attack and successfully counterattack the invading Syrian forces.
  • While Israel won those two wars, we would have to wait nearly half a century, until this moment here in this room, to translate our military victory into a diplomatic victory. Israel won the Golan Heights in a just war of self-defense.
  • Your proclamation comes at a time when the Golan is more important than ever for our security, when Iran is trying to establish bases in Syria to strike at Israel. We hold the high ground and we shall never give it up.