June 8, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Eastern Syria Air Raids Kill 12 Pro-Iran Fighters (AFP-Jordan Times)
    "Eight air strikes before midnight on Saturday night targeted a base of pro-Iranian forces in rural eastern Deir Ezzor [province], killing 12 Iraqi and Afghan fighters and destroying equipment and ammunition," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
    It said the latest strikes came after Afghan forces brought in reinforcements from near the Iraqi border to a large Iranian base near Al Mayadin on the Euphrates River.

Collapse of Syrian Currency Accelerates - Khaled Yacoub Oweis (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    On Sunday the Syrian pound was 2,600 to the dollar, compared with 2,000 last week and 1,400 pounds in January. In 2011, on the eve of the revolt, the currency traded at 50 pounds to the dollar.
    The currency decline is tied to the financial crisis in Lebanon, the regional effects of the coronavirus, and toughened U.S. penalties on business dealings with the Syrian regime, which come into effect this month.

Former Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader Ramadan Shalah Dies (Times of Israel)
    The former leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shalah, died on Saturday aged 62.
    Shalah, who led PIJ from 1995 until 2018, had been in a coma for more than three years after heart surgery, and is believed to have died in Lebanon.

PA Forces Claim They Thwarted Attack Against IDF in West Bank - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Palestinian security forces said Sunday they thwarted an attack against IDF troops in the West Bank.
    PA officials said a Palestinian terror cell hid 30 pipe bombs and a shotgun on the outskirts of Jenin, intended to be used to ambush IDF troops.
    See also PA Denies Foiling Attack on IDF - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

Former Dubai Police Chief Calls to Normalize Ties with Israel - Diana Alghoul (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Dubai's former police chief Dhahi Khalfan tweeted Friday: "Instead of saying the Israeli enemy...say the Israeli friend."
    He added that refusing to recognize Israel lacks logic, saying: "Israel is a country based on knowledge, prosperity, and close ties with all the countries of the developed world."

Israel Inaugurates N95 Medical Mask Production Line - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has inaugurated its first production line for N95 medical masks, with the eventual capacity of producing two million per month.
    N95 masks are medical grade, with a filtering capacity of 95%, and are essential for medical teams that come into direct contact with coronavirus patients and carriers.
    The production line was established by the Israel Defense Ministry and Sion Medical in Sderot.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Agency: Iran Violating All Restrictions of Nuclear Deal - Kiyoko Metzler
    In a confidential document distributed to member countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Friday that Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of its deal with world powers. As of May 20, Iran's total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1.73 tons, up from 1.1 tons on Feb. 19. According to the Arms Control Association in Washington, Iran would need 1.16 tons of low-enriched uranium (under 5% purity) to make a nuclear weapon.
        The 2015 nuclear deal allows Iran to keep a stockpile of only 447 pounds. The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal. Iran is also above the pact's limitations on heavy water.
        The IAEA raised concerns about access to two of three locations it identified in March as places where Iran possibly stored and/or used undeclared nuclear material or undertook nuclear-related activities without declaring them to international observers. It said Iran has, for more than four months, blocked access to the two locations. At one site, the agency observed activities "consistent with efforts to sanitize" the facility from July 2019 onward. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also below Commentary: Mossad's Iran Operation Still Paying Dividends with IAEA - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
        See also After IAEA Report, Netanyahu Calls on International Community to Reimpose Sanctions on Iran
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determined that Iran had refused to allow IAEA inspectors access to clandestine sites at which Iran had carried out secret military nuclear activity. Iran has systematically violated its commitments by hiding sites and enriching fissionable material, and has committed other violations. I believe that the time has come...in the light of these revelations, for the international community to join the U.S. and reimpose paralyzing sanctions on Iran."
        "The coronavirus has not lessened by one iota our determination to act against Iran's aggression. I reiterate: Israel will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons and will continue to act methodically against Iran's attempts to militarily entrench on our borders."  (Prime Minister's Office)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Arrests Palestinian Responsible for Killing IDF Soldier - Anna Ahronheim
    Israel has arrested Nizmi Abu Bakar, 49, for the murder of Sgt. Amit Ben Yigal, 21, who was killed in the West Bank village of Yabed in May by a large block thrown from a building where Abu Bakar lived. The Israel Security Agency said he confessed to the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Resurgence in Covid-19 Cases after Israeli Schools Reopen - Yaron Druckman
    Israel's Education Ministry said on Sunday that 130 schools and kindergartens have been closed due to staff and students contracting the coronavirus in the past 10 days. 352 students and staff have been diagnosed with the virus in the current wave, and 17,605 are now in quarantine. 298 people have died in Israel and 23 are currently on ventilators. (Ynet News)
        See also Experts: Spike in Infection Is Reason for Caution, Not Alarm - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    The current rate of coronavirus infection in Israel is not reason for alarm, according to senior health experts. As of Sunday morning, Israel had 2,440 active coronavirus cases, a number that has increased each day for about a week. "We are doing more tests, so we are going to find more carriers," said Assuta Ashdod Medical Center chairman Prof. Shuki Shemer. He said those who are being diagnosed with the virus in this new peak are mostly school children who may not be sick and are just carriers of the virus. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Mossad's Iran Operation Still Paying Dividends with IAEA - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Almost all of the evidence upon which the IAEA bases its current claims against Iran stems from the secret Iranian nuclear archive obtained by Israel's Mossad in January 2018. Off the record, numerous officials with knowledge of the IAEA probe have acknowledged that all of its leads came from the Iranian nuclear archive.
        The archive proved that Iran's nuclear program until 2003 had been military in nature. It also proved that Iran took significant measures to try to cover up and store its nuclear military research even after the 2015 nuclear deal. The archive revealed the exact locations of five nuclear test sites. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Redeploys in Syria amid Covid-19 - Nick Grinstead
    It is now fairly well documented that the coronavirus outbreak in Syria initially hit Iranian fighters and Iranian-supported units hardest. By April 12, 40 pro-Iranian militia fighters had been taken to hospitals in Syria with Covid-19. Russia reacted by ordering both Russian troops and Syrian regime units supported by Russia to separate from Iranian militias in mid-March, at a time when the Syrian government was still denying the existence of Covid-19 cases in the country.
        The reality is that Iran has not withdrawn from Syria but rather redeployed and repositioned Iranian and proxy forces throughout the country. At the same time, Russia has exploited Iran's repositioning in Syria to move its forces to fill the void left by the redeployed pro-Iranian militias. For example, in Deir ez-Zor, the largest city in eastern Syria, pro-Iranian militia units handed over control of a number of checkpoints to Syrian forces under the supervision of Russian military police and the Jerusalem Brigade, which is supervised by the Russian Wagner Group.
        Northwest of Deir ez-Zor in Raqqa Province, Russia stepped in when pro-government National Defense Forces (NDF) units complained that they hadn't been paid by their Iranian and Syrian patrons for months. The NDF fighters cited the coronavirus as the reason why payments from Iran's Revolutionary Guards had ceased. By mid-May, Iranian-supported forces had withdrawn completely from the Maadan area as pro-Russian NDF units deployed. However, the repositioning should be viewed as a shift in priorities away from eastern Syria to the southwest, closer to Israel. (Middle East Institute)

  • There is a growing inclination to frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of race. According to this narrative, Israel was established as a refuge for oppressed white European Jews who in turn became oppressors of people of color, the Palestinians. As an Israeli, and the son of an Iraqi Jewish mother and North African Jewish father, it's gut-wrenching to witness this shift.
  • The majority of Jews in Israel today are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. I am baffled as to why mainstream media and politicians around the world ignore or misrepresent these facts. Israel was established for all Jews from every part of the world - the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, Asia and, yes, Europe. No matter where Jews physically reside, they maintain a connection to the Land of Israel, where our story started and where today we continue to craft it.
  • Those who misrepresent Israel try to position it as a colonialist aggressor rather than a haven for those fleeing oppression. That all but erases the story of my family. In Iraq, my family experienced ongoing persecution. My great-grandfather was falsely accused of being a Zionist spy and executed in Baghdad in 1951.
  • Any erasure of the Mizrahi experience negates the lives of 850,000 Jewish refugees. They would also deny the existence of almost 200,000 descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to Israel in the early 1990s in a daring rescue operation.
  • Israel is a place where an indigenous people have reclaimed their land and revived their ancient language, despite being surrounded by hostile neighbors and hounded by radicalized Arab nationalists who cannot tolerate any political entity in the region other than their own. Jews that were expelled from nations across the Middle East, who sacrificed all they had, have been crucial in building and defending the Jewish state since its outset.

        See also Photo Gallery: Jewish Women of the Middle East from 100-150 Years Ago - Lenny Ben-David
    These are the matriarchs of the Jewish People who lived in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Turkey, and Babylon. Their Jewish descendants were forced to leave their homes and many settled in the Land of Israel. Let no one claim that the Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East. The writer served as deputy chief of mission at Israel's Embassy in Washington. (Twitter)

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