January 3, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Iran, Hizbullah Bolster Presence, Weapon Shipments near Damascus (Ha'aretz)
    Hizbullah and Iranian forces in Syria have boosted their presence south and west of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday.
    Hizbullah is working to expand an old Syrian military base in the Saydah Zaynab area to be used as a training and operations center for reconnaissance drones.
    Underground construction is meant to protect Iranian drones from Israeli strikes.
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Iranian-backed militias have assumed near full control of the al-Dimas military airbase to receive weapons and drone part deliveries, with additional construction to conceal "strategic weapons" smuggled from Iran.

Iran Powerlifter Defects in Norway - Don Riddell (CNN)
    The decorated Iranian powerlifter Amir Assadollahzadeh is seeking asylum in Norway since his November defection at the World Powerlifting Championships to avoid execution or torture in Iran for his refusal to wear a T-shirt of assassinated military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
    Assadollahzadeh says he tried to explain to his superiors that competition rules prevented him from wearing anything with a picture or logo and that doing so would ensure his expulsion from the competition.

Israel's Population Reaches 9,450,000 (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's population reached 9,450,000 as it entered 2022, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) announced on Thursday.
    6.98 million (73.9%) were Jewish, 1.99 million (21.1%) were Arab, and 472,000 (5%) were from other sectors.
    184,000 babies were born in Israel in 2021 - 73.8% to Jewish mothers, 23.4% to Muslim mothers, and 2.8% to mothers from other sectors.

Israel Seizes $840,000 in Cryptocurrency from Hamas - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
    Israel has seized $840,000 in cryptocurrency from a currency exchange firm with ties to Hamas.
    The currency exchange is known to transfer millions of dollars to Hamas each year and has been designated as a terrorist organization.

In 2021, the IDF Saw Action on Six Fronts - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    In 2021, the IDF was active on six fronts, with thousands of operational sorties by the Israel Air Force and tens of special operations.
    Strikes in Syria destroyed an immeasurable amount of advanced and strategic weaponry, and Iran's air, land, and sea corridors didn't function for 70% of 2021.
    As hopes fade regarding diplomatic talks aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, Israel's military has continued to accelerate preparations for a potential strike on the country's nuclear facilities.
    Military officials have stood behind comments made by incoming Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar who said that Israel could successfully strike Iran's nuclear program tomorrow, if needed.
    But Israel must be prepared for a large-scale retaliation that would come directly from Iran as well as through Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and even the Houthis in Yemen.
    In the Palestinian arena during 2021 there were 5,532 rock-throwing incidents, 1,022 firebombs, 61 shooting attacks, and 18 stabbing attacks.
    See also 2021 Saw Lowest Israeli Fatalities in West Bank in Years - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    While Israel saw an increase in terror attacks in the West Bank over the past year, there were only 2 fatalities from terror activity, the lowest number in recent years.
    There were 3 fatalities from attacks in the West Bank in 2020, 5 in 2019, and 14 in 2018.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Space Launch Fails to Put Satellites into Orbit
    Iran's space launch on Thursday failed to put its three satellites into orbit after the rocket was unable to reach the required speed, Iranian Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini said on Friday. France said on Friday the rocket launch violated UN rules. (Reuters)
  • Drone Attack Foiled on U.S. Forces in Iraq
    Two armed suicide drones were shot down on Monday as they approached an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad's international airport, Iraqi security sources said. Writing clearly visible on the wing of one drone read "Soleimani's revenge," referring to Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated two years ago at Baghdad International Airport. (Reuters)
  • Lebanese President Aoun Lashes Out at Hizbullah - Trevor Filseth
    In a televised speech on Dec. 27, Lebanese president Michel Aoun called for the country's defense strategy to be reworked, in an apparent rebuke to Hizbullah, his key political ally. "It is true that defending the nation requires cooperation between the army, the people and the resistance," Aoun said. "But the main responsibility is the state's. The state alone puts in place the defense strategy and attends to its implementation," implicitly criticizing Hizbullah for conducting its foreign policy independently of the rest of Lebanon. (National Interest)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Foreign Minister: Israel Has Capabilities Many "Cannot Even Imagine"
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was asked by Israel's Channel 12 on Friday if Israel has the ability to strike Iran's uranium enrichment facilities and weapons sites. He replied, "Israel has capabilities, some of which the world, and even some experts in the field, cannot even imagine. And Israel will protect itself against the Iranian threat. Israel will do whatever it needs to do to protect its security. And we don't need anybody's permission for that. That's been the case since the first day we established this state."
        Commenting on the negotiations in Vienna to revive the nuclear deal, Lapid said, "Israel is not against a good deal, it is only against the wrong deal." He added that Israel has shown information to world powers "that proves the Iranians are lying" about their nuclear activities. (Times of Israel)
  • Two Rockets Fired at Tel Aviv from Gaza on Saturday
    Two rockets were fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv on Saturday that fell into the Mediterranean Sea. In response, IDF aircraft and artillery attacked several Hamas targets. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Fires Anti-Aircraft Missiles at IDF Helicopters Striking Gaza - Judah Ari Gross
    Hamas operatives fired two Russian-made SAM-7 shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli helicopters during airstrikes in Gaza early Sunday. The IDF said the missiles missed the aircraft.
        According to Israel's Channel 11, Israeli officials believe Palestinian Islamic Jihad was responsible for the rocket fire. Hamas conveyed to Israel via Egyptian mediators that it was not responsible. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Thwarts Palestinian Stabbing Attack in West Bank - Judah Ari Gross
    In the northern West Bank on Friday morning, "a Palestinian car drove near a military post at the Gitai Avishar Junction," the IDF said. "A terrorist got out of the car with a knife in his hand and ran toward the bus stop in which there were civilians and soldiers. IDF troops opened fire at the terrorist, killing him."  (Times of Israel)
  • Arab Resident of Jerusalem Charged with Aiding Hizbullah
    Ahmad Zahra, 32, a resident of Jerusalem, was indicted in Jerusalem District Court on Friday, charged with contact with a foreign agent and providing information to the enemy in order to harm state security. Prosecutors say Zahra made contact with Hizbullah nine years ago and was given encryption software for the purpose of exchanging messages. He was given various tasks throughout the years to provide Hizbullah with information and he sent photos of satellite dishes he believed were at a strategic site.
        After stopping his activities for several years, this past year during his honeymoon in Turkey, Zahra received funds and a cellphone with encryption technology to allow him to once again contact handlers, which he did. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Video: Falsifying History - The UN's Reinvention of Jerusalem's Past - Dore Gold
    The UN is at it again. On November 26, 2021, the General Assembly adopted a resolution referring to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Temple of Solomon once stood, only by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif. For years now, UNESCO has been systematically pushing false narratives about Jerusalem that deny the historic connection of the Jewish people to their holy city. What was axiomatic 200 years ago is now called into question.
        I'm still surprised by the scale of disinformation and by the depth of ignorance regarding the Holy City in the face of overwhelming evidence of its historical past. This historical connection is engraved in the Old Testament, the New Testament and even in the Quran. The Jewish people streamed back to their historical capital whenever they could. By 1864, the British documented that the Jewish people had re-established an undeniable majority in Jerusalem that continues to this day.
        The writer, former Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is President of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also UN Tries to Erase Jewish History - David Harsanyi
    On Dec. 1, the UN General Assembly voted 129-11 to deny any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, referring to the site solely by its Muslim name of al-Haram al-Sharif. This occurred during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, commemorating the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid Empire and the rededication of the Holy Temple in 167 BCE - 750 years before the birth of Mohammad.
        Judaism is tied to a place, and that place is Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Al-Haram al-Sharif sits on rubble of an ancient Jewish house of worship in a city with a permanent Jewish presence. The UN resolution cannot change irrefutable historical facts. (National Review)
  • PA President Accuses Israel of "Organized Terrorism and Ethnic Cleansing"
    After his meeting on Tuesday at the home of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Friday of practicing "hideous policies of ethnic cleansing and organized terrorism" against Palestinians. (i24News)
        See also Abbas Meets Gantz One Day and Bashes Israel the Next - Herb Keinon
    On Friday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas gave an address to mark the 57th anniversary of Fatah's first attack on Israel. That attack came on Jan. 1, 1965, when terrorists attempted to bomb the National Water Carrier. This was 2 1/2 years before the Six-Day War, when Israel gained control of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. If current Palestinian violence is to get Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 lines, why was Fatah bombing the National Water Carrier before that? And why is that a cause for anniversary celebrations?
        Abbas' meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israel's confidence-building measures had no impact whatsoever on Abbas' rhetoric. For Abbas, the Gantz meeting served a purpose in giving the world what it wanted to see. The U.S., EU, UN and various countries praised the meeting. Abbas surely realized that a speech in which he slammed Israel a couple of days later on New Year's Eve wouldn't garner much international attention. But this is not going to convince mainstream Israel that he is a man who can be trusted to make peace. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Improving Gaza's Economy Will Not De-radicalize Hamas - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad and Col. (res.) Dr. Michael Milshtein
    Israel is working on improving the economy in Hamas-controlled Gaza to make life better, since Israeli officials believe it will give incentive to the local population to stand up against the Jihadist principles promoted by Hamas. Hamas, however, is using the ceasefire reached following the May war to rehabilitate its military power ahead of a future conflict.
        It is necessary to recognize the limitations of the Western belief that good economics can overcome radical ideologies. This model has failed many times over the past decades in the Middle East. The Hamas rocket attacks on Israel in May occurred at a time when the civilian situation in Gaza had been improving rapidly.
        Hamas is driven to take action against Israel in order to fulfill its long-term ideological objectives. Hamas occasionally agrees to a ceasefire when that serves its interests, but a good, peaceful life for the Palestinians is not one of its objectives. For Hamas, the wellbeing of Gaza's residents is not a constraint, and Israelis have a hard time understanding that Hamas is driven by a different set of values.
        Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad is former Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense. Col. (res.) Dr. Michael Milshtein is former head of the Department for Palestinian Affairs in IDF Military Intelligence. (Ynet News)

Tehran Never Intended to Comply with Meaningful Restrictions to Its Nuclear Aspirations - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (JNS)
  • The 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) has always represented a significant threat to the Jewish state's security. The decision to enter the JCPOA in the first place, not the decision to withdraw from it, put Israeli security at risk. The agreement provided the Iranian regime with a safe path to achieving nuclear-weapons capability, using the cover of international diplomacy.
  • The Iranians breached the spirit and language of the deal by keeping at their disposal the plans and knowhow that they accumulated on the weaponization of nuclear material. By concealing from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) critical information regarding the military dimensions of their program, they effectively breached the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • Iran has also failed to this day to provide a meaningful explanation for the unaccounted-for uranium found by Israeli intelligence in the Turquzabad warehouse and the Abadeh facility.
  • The JCPOA was only to become operative upon the IAEA director's assertion that the potential military dimensions of the program were sufficiently explored with Iran. We know today, based on the archives, that they were not, and therefore the JCPOA was based on an Iranian lie.
  • The consistent and clear violations of the NPT through nuclear enrichment in facilities undisclosed to the international community, and Iran's refusal to allow timely access to international inspectors, verified that Tehran never intended to comply with meaningful restrictions to its nuclear aspirations.
  • The JCPOA in any case has become obsolete once the Iranians mastered the production and use of advanced centrifuges, achieved 60% enrichment, produced uranium metal and more. This knowhow cannot simply be walked back.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi served as Head of the Auditing and Consulting Department of the Israeli Defense Establishment and is a former aide-de-camp to the IDF chief of staff.
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, who headed the Research and Assessment Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a Senior Project Director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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