July 27, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Russian-Backed Militia Gaining Control in Syrian Golan Heights (i24News)
    The Russians have established their own strong militia in the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel's N12 reported Friday.
    The "Huran Army" is headed by a local rebel commander, Ahmed al-Ouda, who fought against Syrian President Assad.
    The militia, with Muslim officers from the Caucasus, is hostile to both Iran and the Syrian regime.
    Many of the militia's recruits were rebels who in the past benefited from Israeli aid, with treatment at hospitals, food and medical supplies.

U.S. Intercepts Iranian Passenger Plane over Syria (AFP-France24)
    The U.S. said Thursday it had intercepted an Iranian passenger plane as it flew over Syria, after Iranian state television accused Israel of the encounter, calling it "provocative and dangerous."
    U.S. Central Command said an "F-15 on a routine air mission...conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters from the airliner."
    "The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards."

Israel Navy: Hizbullah Will Try to Attack Israel's Gas Rigs - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    Hizbullah wants to attack Israel from the sea, and is developing capabilities to do so, warns outgoing commander of the Israel Navy's Haifa base, Brig.-Gen. Gil Aginsky, who last week retired after 32 years of military service.
    In the next few years, the IDF will be receiving a number of new submarines and Sa'ar 6 corvettes, which Aginsky predicts will double the Navy's power.

Abu Dhabi Presses Allies to Normalize with Israel (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is gradually obtaining support in its endeavors to normalize relations with Israel, with economic and security interests behind the rapprochement.
    The Southern Transitional Council (STC), the Yemeni secessionist movement sponsored by the UAE, has recently shown a willingness to establish relations with Israel, with which it is currently in secret talks.
    The same has been said for Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army.
    Palestinians close to Mohammed Dahlan, the chief security adviser to Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, are also committed to normalizing relations with Israel.

British SAS Troops Fight Secret War to Prevent ISIS Revival - Dave Burke (Mirror-UK)
    SAS special forces have killed at least 100 ISIS fighters including British jihadis in northern Iraq and Syria in the past three months.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Military Chief Visits Israel amid Tensions with Iran
    Army Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman, made an unannounced visit to Israel on Friday to discuss "regional security challenges." He met with senior Israeli military and intelligence leaders and held a video conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that in his talks with Milley, he emphasized "the need to continue the pressure on Iran and its proxies."  (AP)
        See also Israel Aid Bill Clears Congress - Ron Kampeas
    The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last week approved $3.8 billion in defense assistance for Israel as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said the money "will help Israel protect itself against continuing security threats."  (JTA)
  • Lebanese Leaders Call to Restore Country's Neutrality - Hussain Abdul-Hussain
    The patriarch of Lebanon's Maronite Church, Beshara Al-Rai, joined a growing roster of Lebanese leaders who think that the main culprit behind the country's free-falling economy is Hizbullah and its endless wars. In a visit to President Michel Aoun, Al-Rai called for restoring Lebanon's regional neutrality. Al-Rai also said that national defense should be the job of the Lebanese Army alone. Al-Rai said later that Lebanon used to be "the hospital of the Arabs, the hotel of the Arabs, the tourism of the Arabs," and that it was Lebanon's neutrality that allowed it to play such roles. (Al Arabiya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Death Toll Hits 473
    The death toll from coronavirus climbed to 473 on Monday morning, the Israel Health Ministry announced. There were 317 patients in serious condition, with 104 on ventilators. 179 people were in moderate condition. Four hospitals were over their capacity for coronavirus patients. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Retaliates, Strikes Syrian Army Posts - Anna Ahronheim
    After munitions were fired from Syria toward Israel on Friday, Israeli attack helicopters struck several Syrian army observation posts and intelligence facilities near Quneitra in southern Syria. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Explosive Balloon from Gaza Found in Israel - Tzvi Joffre
    An RPG head attached to a bundle of balloons launched from Gaza was found in southern Israel on Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Court Approves Seizing Funds from Terrorist Prisoner - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The Tel Aviv District Court ruled Sunday that, in order to deter terrorism, a new 2016 anti-terror law permitted seizing funds given by the PA to a prisoner who helped transport a terrorist killer of six Israelis in 2005. Following a hearing in which the Defense Ministry presented the full intelligence information to the court, it said the evidence was extremely convincing and that the seizure was proper.
        Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, "My intention is to move forward with a variety of processes...to block the transfer of funds to terrorists and terror organizations."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Demolished Hebron Car Dealership Showroom - Not "Covid-19 Testing Center" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A structure built illegally at the entrance to Hebron in Area C, which is exclusively controlled by Israel, was not being planned as a center for coronavirus tests but as part of a private car dealership. Palestinians working at the site told Civil Administration inspectors that they were building a car showroom for a Palestinian businessman from Hebron. The inspectors also spotted a sign with the name of the new car dealership.
        "Contrary to the false claims, this was not a center for coronavirus testing," a Civil Administration spokesman told the Jerusalem Post. PA Ministry of Health officials told the Post that they were unaware of plans to build a coronavirus center in Hebron. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Should There Be a Price for Rejectionism and Terror? - Douglas J. Feith and Lewis Libby
    Decades of peace-processing have been premised on the assumption that Palestinian leaders are ready in principle to end the conflict and live with Israel. But Palestinian leaders have never actually been willing to renounce, once and for all, their claims over any of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. President George W. Bush learned this lesson. He wooed Arafat by giving official U.S. endorsement, for the first time, to a Palestinian state, but Arafat rebuffed his overture and, in violation of formal promises, bought a huge arsenal of Iranian weapons and then lied about it.
        For decades, Palestinian leaders have refused peace offers that were seen as reasonable by top U.S. officials. What is innovative about the new U.S. peace plan is that it favors imposing consequences if the Palestinians unreasonably perpetuate the conflict. If they continue to support terrorism and reject peace, their cause will suffer. Palestinians are now being told that, if they remain violent and uncompromising, the U.S. will not block Israel from advancing its own claims to areas that, in the administration's view, realistic peace talks would leave to Israel.
        The sensible question for the Palestinians is not whether the deal provides everything they think they are entitled to, but whether it is the best deal available - now and in the foreseeable future. The plan's goal is to change the diplomatic circumstances that have perversely incentivized the Palestinian side to keep the conflict going.
        Lewis Libby is senior vice president, and Douglas J. Feith is a senior fellow, of the Hudson Institute. During the first five years of the George W. Bush administration, they served as the principal national-security advisers to Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, respectively. (National Review)
  • IDF Intelligence: Hamas Still Seeks Israel's Destruction, But Not Immediately - Yoav Limor
    "Hamas is not interested in a confrontation with Israel," says Col. Amit, the Intelligence Officer of the IDF Southern Command. "The governing component in Hamas is getting stronger. From the start, Hamas had two identities - a religious resistance organization and a national movement. Since 2007, it has also taken on an identity as the sovereign power in Gaza, and it is being assessed as such on a daily basis."
        "The main factor that determines the reality of Hamas is the economy. It's the first thing that both the leaders and the public wake up to, and the last thing they go to sleep with....It does everything with a long-term ceasefire in mind, because it has no other solution....Ideologically, it has not changed. It still does not want the State of Israel to exist....But there is no urgency for it for that to happen immediately."
        Gaza is one place that has coped with the coronavirus pandemic successfully. Hamas implemented forced isolation of three weeks for whoever enters Gaza, and strict daily rules. "Hamas is a serious organization. They closed everything. Every guideline of our Health Ministry was enforced over there."  (Israel Hayom)

Iranian Regime Grapples with Significant Challenges - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
  • Iranian officials have not been quick to blame Israel or the U.S. for a stream of mysterious explosions and fires over the past few weeks, aside from the July 2 blast at the nuclear facility in Natanz. Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian Diplomatic and Security Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, suspects "somebody's trying to weaken President Rouhani and tarnish his public image."
  • After Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei apparently blocked an attempt to pass a motion of no confidence in Rouhani in the Iranian Majlis (parliament), "all of a sudden, there has been a significant fall in the number of fires and explosions."
  • "In my estimation, the Iranian leadership is trying these days first and foremost to survive, at least until the U.S. presidential election," Javedanfar said. "They understand that even if Joe Biden is elected, he isn't expected to lift the sanctions immediately."
  • "Tehran's stock market is somehow booming," Javedanfar said. "The Telegram channel of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps encourages the public to invest in the stock exchange. Do you understand? People who can't make a living are selling their cars, farmers are selling their tractors, in the hope of getting rich via the stock market."
  • A new agreement between China and Iran has received significant attention, according to which China will invest in Iran. But it is doubtful whether this deal has substance. It seems more like a statement of intent meant to serve Iranian interests by giving hope to the public. The deal includes no concrete elements.

        See also Iran Identifies Person Responsible for Explosion at Nuclear Facility
    The Persian-language Iran Watch news site reported Thursday that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards identified the person who caused the explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility on July 2: "Ershad Karimi, who was a contractor for many years and responsible for launching the uranium enrichment course at the Natanz nuclear plant....Ershad Karimi detonated the centrifuge hall with his team, and caused great damage to the country's nuclear industry as well as the prestige of the system."  (Al-Masdar News)

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