April 30, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Israel Suppressed Syrian Radar and Defense Systems during Attack (Syrian Observer)
    The pro-regime Lebanese website Al-Masdar, citing a military source in Damascus, said the Israeli Air Force fired at least eight missiles towards Damascus from Lebanese airspace this week, with at least three hitting the southern suburb of Sayyeda Zaynab.
    On Monday, the Russian publication Avia.Pro reported: "Israel's unexpected attack...ended mainly in their favor, as they were able to successfully hit targets in the northwestern part of Damascus. But this is not about ordinary missiles, but about Delilah cruise missiles designed to suppress enemy radar and air defenses."
    "In the presented video frames, you can see that anti-aircraft guided missiles produced by Syrian air defense systems are by no means moving along a straight path, which indicates a powerful jamming."

Sudan Leader: Israel Is Not Our Enemy (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Speaking to Sudanese TV on Saturday, Sudanese leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan answered a question about hostility with Israel, saying:
    "Sudan should not be in a state of hostility with any party, religion or sect. Sudan, after the revolution, must be different from what it was."
    When asked about his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, Al-Burhan said that it was for the interest of Sudan.

UK Supreme Court Rules Against Government Attempt to Curb BDS (Financial Times-UK)
    The UK Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the government's guidance to local councils - which bans boycotts or sanctions against foreign countries or defense companies - was unlawful.
    The legal challenge was brought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
    The Supreme Court ruled by a 3-2 majority that the government could not stop pension fund administrators from making such investment decisions.
    The UK government had argued in court that the guidance had been put in place to ensure that national decisions on defense and foreign policy were not undermined by local boycotts.

Israel's Flytrex Drones Deliver Essential Goods to Shelter-in-Place U.S. Shoppers (NoCamels)
    Israeli startup Flytrex, which specializes in food and consumer goods deliveries via drones, has launched a delivery service to "shelter-in-place" shoppers in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
    The service is operated in partnership with the City of Grand Forks, and will deliver necessities such as food and medicine via drone to minimize contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Germany Bans Hizbullah Activity, Raids Mosques
    Germany has banned all Iran-backed Hizbullah activity on its soil and designated it a terrorist organization, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. German police also conducted raids on mosque associations in four cities. Security officials believe up to 1,050 people in Germany are part of Hizbullah.
        Germany had previously distinguished between Hizbullah's political arm and its military units. "We now hope other European nations will take a close look at Germany's decision and reach the same conclusion about the true nature of Hizbullah," said American Jewish Committee head David Harris. (Reuters-New York Times)
        See also Israel Welcomes German Ban on Hizbullah (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • U.S. Urges End to Overflight Rights for Iran Airline Flying to Venezuela - Jonathan Landay
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called on countries to deny overflight rights to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline under U.S. sanctions, which recently delivered cargo to the Venezuelan government. The U.S. maintains sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.
        "Over the last few days, multiple aircraft belonging to Mahan Air have transferred unknown support to the Maduro regime," Pompeo said. "This is the same terrorist airline that Iran used to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East." The flights "must stop."  (Reuters)
        See also Iran Is Operating an Airlift to Venezuela - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    An Airbus A340 of Iran's Mahan Air landed in Venezuela on April 26, the third flight in a week, with many more slated. Iran is one of the main epicenters of the coronavirus and opposition leader Juan Guaido has warned that the flights to Venezuela endanger its citizens.
        Iran regards its activity and presence in Venezuela - America's backyard - as a move to create symmetry with the U.S. in response to U.S. activity in the Persian Gulf. Iran views its defiant presence in Venezuela as "facing U.S. shores."  (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Woman Stabbed by Palestinian in Central Israel - Judah Ari Gross
    A West Bank Palestinian, 19, stabbed an Israeli woman, 62, in the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba on Tuesday in a terror attack. A security guard who was driving by "stopped his car and opened fire at the terrorist," police said. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinian Wounded as Bomb Goes Off in His Hand near Hebron
    A Palestinian man was wounded Tuesday near Hebron in the West Bank when an explosive device went off in his hand, Palestinian medics said. Israel's Channel 11 said he had been trying to throw a pipe bomb at Israeli motorists at the nearby Tarkumiya junction when it exploded. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Enemies of Israel Have Not Reconciled with Its Existence
    Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that "we have not yet reached the moment in which the enemies of Israel are reconciled with the existence of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, I cannot promise that this will happen in our generation."
        "Even in these days, the Iranian regime...is working to try and harm the State of Israel and its citizens. Only this I can promise: The State of Israel will never place its security in the hands of others." He added that "we have moved from curbing Iran's establishment in Syria, to pushing it away from there, and we will not stop. We will not allow more strategic threats to grow beyond our borders without taking action."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 219 - Adir Yanko
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 219, up from 208 on Tuesday, the Israeli Health Ministry said Thursday morning. 117 are in serious condition, including 85 on ventilator support (down from 94 on Tuesday). (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Plans to Force Extension of Arms Embargo Against Iran - David E. Sanger
    The U.S. has begun to circulate a new resolution in the Security Council that would bar countries from exporting conventional arms to Iran after the current ban expires in October. In an effort to force the issue, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan under which the U.S. would, in essence, claim it legally remains a "participant state" in the nuclear accord.
        The U.S. would then exercise its right to invoke a "snapback" that would restore the UN sanctions on Iran on oil sales and banking that were in place before the accord, on the grounds that Iran is violating the agreement because it is now producing nuclear fuel above the limits in the accord.
        Asked about this strategy, Pompeo told the New York Times: "We cannot allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to purchase conventional weapons in six months....We are prepared to exercise all of our diplomatic options to ensure the arms embargo stays in place at the UN Security Council." Pompeo's aides point to a speech by President Barack Obama in August 2015 in which he warned that if Iran did not comply with the agreement, "we won't need the support of other members of the UN Security Council: America can trigger snapback on our own."  (New York Times)
  • Hizbullah's Growing Internal Challenges - Mona Alami
    Hizbullah has reduced its intelligence footprint within Lebanon, due to operational and financial constraints. "Hizbullah has shut many of its secret outposts it had across Lebanon. Some of these were mainly tasked with intelligence gathering operations," says Hassan, a veteran Hizbullah fighter.
        Sources close to Hizbullah say many of its commanders are deployed regionally, away from Lebanon. "Some are in Syria, others are in Iraq, some are in Yemen. This is effecting deployment on the Lebanese front," says one source. Hizbullah expert Lokman Slim said that after the U.S. killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps top commander Qassem Soleimani, Hizbullah was forced to send dozens of cadres to Iraq to shore up the Iranian faction within the Popular Mobilization Units there.
        Hizbullah's sources of funding have dried up with growing U.S. sanctions targeting its front companies and middlemen. Resources funneled to Hizbullah via Iran have also been on the decline due to U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Already last year, Hizbullah merged many of its institutions, froze hiring, and closed around 1,000 offices and apartments throughout Lebanon, expert Hanin Ghaddar reported. (Al Arabiya)

  • 53 years after Israel defeated three Arab armies and took control of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to begin the process of annexing the Jordan Valley area and most of the Jewish communities in the territory.
  • He will do so at the head of a large government coalition that represents 2/3 of Israelis, and with the blessing of the Americans.
  • The arguments haven't changed much in decades. What has changed is reality. Today, over 400,000 Jews live in the West Bank. They are a heterogeneous mix of homeowners who commute to work in nearby Israeli cities.
  • The Jordan Valley has become Israel's strategic eastern border. It is these communities and that border area that Israel intends to annex in accordance with the American plan.
  • That plan doesn't leave the Palestinians homeless, as some have suggested. It offers them roughly 70% of the West Bank (and all of Gaza) for a demilitarized state.
  • Israel can live with that. The Palestinian leadership, so far, cannot.

    The writer served for five years as director of the Israel Government Press Office.