September 25, 2018

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01/04 Links Pt1: Sharansky: The West Should Stop Dithering and Show Its Support for the Protesters in Iran; Iran’s Endgame In Gaza

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2018/01/0104-links-pt1-sharansky-west-should.html

From Ian:


Natan Sharansky: The West Should Stop Dithering and Show Its Support for the Protesters in Iran
An opinion piece in the New York Times recently argued that the best way for the U.S. government to help the Iranian protesters is to “Keep quiet and do nothing.” It is vital to understand why failing to support the protesters at this critical juncture would constitute a moral and strategic mistake.

In 2009, when Iranians came out in large numbers to denounce their country’s rigged presidential election, the response they received from the American government was decidedly tepid. This policy of non-interference discouraged protesters and reinforced the regime.

My experiences as a political prisoner and my decades of involvement with democratic dissidents around the world have shown me that all democratic revolutions have some elements in common. It is the drive of ordinary citizens to free themselves from government control over their thought, speech and livelihoods that has propelled dissidents and revolutionary movements around the world.

Any regime that refuses to respect its citizens’ most basic rights, and especially the right to think and speak freely, can maintain its power only by intimidation and force. Revolutions take place when enough people simultaneously cross that fateful line between silent questioning and open dissent. Once they do so, the regime can no longer contain the upsurge of opposition and must either begin to liberalize or collapse.

World powers should warn Tehran – and thereby reassure protesters – that it must respect its citizens’ rights if it wishes to continue receiving benefits from their countries. Articulating a clear policy of linkage would put pressure on the regime to make genuine changes and give hope to protesters that their sacrifices will not be in vain.

It is time for all those who value freedom to state clearly that the Iranian people – like all people – deserve to be free, and that when they fight for this right, those of us who already enjoy it will stand unequivocally by their side.

Iran’s Endgame In Gaza

One week of popular protests in Iran has brought into stark focus the country’s deep internal divisions, along with widespread resentment towards the mullahs, which have remained relatively dormant since regime forces brutally quashed the Green Revolution in 2009. What started last Thursday in the city of Mashhad as a small economic rally—with participants primarily venting frustration over the lack of trickle-down effect from some $100 billion in sanctions relief granted to Tehran in the 2015 nuclear deal—has morphed into nationwide, deadly demonstrations against the rulership of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Across Iran chants of “death to the dictator” have become common refrain as pictures of the ayatollah are set on fire. Among the many grievances being aired is anger over the Islamic Republic’s deep military, and thus financial, involvement in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, in addition to support for Lebanese-based Hizbullah. Somewhat less pronounced is the regime’s bankrolling of the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, although protesters have reportedly recited slogans such as ‘Let go of Palestine’ and ‘Forget Palestine’ while invoking the Gaza Strip in particular.

In this respect, relations between Shiite Iran and Sunni Hamas have thawed since the former froze ties with Gaza’s rulers after they refused to support the Assad government at the onset of the Syrian war. Now, Tehran’s renewed funding of Hamas is part and parcel of the Islamic Republic’s attempt to increase its regional influence and, on the micro level, its presence along Israel’s borders. The latter entails accelerating Hizbullah’s militarization in Lebanon and establishing a permanent presence in Syria, including the entrenchment of Shiite proxies in the Golan Heights.

According to Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser (ret.), former director general of the Israeli Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy, Iran’s growing involvement in Gaza is based on a convergence of interests. “On the one hand, Hamas has become weaker as it lost the ability to rely on its usual supporters, while its effort to forge unity with the Palestinian Authority appears to have failed. “On the other hand,” he explained to The Media Line, “the Iranians want to increase the strength of the ‘resistance’ axis that opposes Israel and promotes radical Islamic ideology and Hamas can be a useful ally in this cause.”

Sohrab Ahmari: More Iran Nonsense From the New York Times

Thomas Erdbrink is at it again. The New York Times Tehran bureau chief told readers in November that Donald Trump’s tough rhetoric had pushed the Iranian people into the arms of a regime they detest. Iranians begged to differ: A few weeks after Erdbrink’s story appeared, hundreds of thousands of them poured into the streets in opposition to clerical rule.

Confronted with this apparent discrepancy between reality and his thesis, Erdbrink filed a December 29 dispatch–from Niseko, Japan–that described the protests as “scattered” and concerned mainly with the “government’s handling of the economy.” Meanwhile, in actually existing Iran, the protests had spread from Mashhad, in the northeast, to some two-dozen cities. And the protesters were chanting “Death to the Islamic Republic,” “Death to [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei,” and “Death to the Principle of the Guardianship” of the mullahs–not “Death to Inflation.” Erdbrink could have gotten wind of these slogans via Twitter and other social media outlets. Instead, he mostly relied on quotes from regime figures and pro-regime think-tankers keen to frame the uprising as apolitical.

Nearly a week since the protests erupted, Erdbrink remains committed to his earlier conclusions. Witness his January 2 dispatch, this time from the Iranian capital. “Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now Both Are Protest Targets,” reads the headline, and the body of the article suggests that the current revolt was instigated by these two competing factions inside the regime.

The Tehran regime is invested in the hard-liners-versus-moderates-and-reformers narrative. It is a classic good-cop-bad-cop routine with many useful applications in foreign diplomacy. Numerous Western statesmen and intellectuals have fallen for it since the regime’s founding in 1979. Back then, another writer for the Times, Princeton’s Richard Falk, wrote of how the Ayatollah Khomeini’s “entourage of supporters is uniformly composed of moderate, progressive individuals”–shortly before the Khomeinists staged a decade-long orgy of torture and summary execution. Ever since, finding and supporting regime moderates has been a cornerstone of U.S. and European policy toward Iran.

Giulio Meotti: Western feminists ignore Iran and boycott Israel

The most deafening silence is that of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al-Hussein, the Jordanian prince always ready to condemn Israel and the United States, but who has never spent a single word on the victims of Iran’s repression.

Then rhere is the silence of the Human Rights Council’s committees. Not a single urgent declaration by these “experts” on arbitrary detention, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and torture?

But the silence which is more surprising is that of the feminists.

The Iranian girl waving her white hijab to say no to the Islamic Republic of the ayatollahs has become the iconic picture of the protests. Many young women in Iran are imitating her gesture to say “no” to any form of oppression.

Western feminists are silent.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeteed that she is “following” the demonstrations in Iran. Not so much from a minister proud to lead “the first feminist government in the world”.

A year ago, Swedish Trade Minister Ann Linde and ten other female members of the Löfven’s government marched in front of Iranian President Hassan Rohani wearing hijabs and long coats, in accordance with the “modesty” laws that in Iran made the Islamic veil mandatory. Ann Linde’s tweets were against online hate speech and climate change.

The tweets of Federica Mogherini, responsible for the foreign policy of Brussels, speak instead of “monitoring” the situation in Iran (she too has drawn long veils on her visits to Tehran, including many selfies with the ayatollahs).

Faced with the attacks of the liberal leader Jan Björklund in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, Ann Linde defended her hijab by saying that she was not ready to violate Iranian law.

So the Iranian girls are abandoned in their struggle against the dictatorship.

What Washington can do to support Iran’s protesters

Next week, Trump will have to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran. With the Iranian people crying out for a new government — and given the bank’s continued involvement in terrorism, missiles and human-rights abuses — sanctions should be reimposed on this financial backbone of the regime’s non-nuclear-related illicit activities.

President Trump must also confront Iran’s regional aggression, especially by blocking Iran’s attempts to establish a permanent presence in Syria. Iran, as well as our regional partners, needs to understand that America isn’t abandoning the Middle East.

Finally, the administration should put its talk about peaceful regime change into action. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has publicly endorsed a peaceful transition in Iran and in his October Iran speech, Trump said, “We stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people.”

The president should announce a comprehensive review of US assistance to the Iranian people and reallocate and increase funding to groups and activities that have the best chance of assisting change from inside Iran.

In response to the growing protests in Iran, Trump declared on Twitter, “The world is watching!” Indeed, the world is watching and wondering what the White House and Congress will do next.

Failure to change US policy at this moment away from the amoral approach of recent years would send a message that America does not care about the fate of the Iranian people. It would repeat the original sin of the Iran nuclear deal at great cost to both our security and moral standing.

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People’s Bread?

In the holy city of Qom in Iran, on December 30, 2017, anti-regime demonstrators shouted “Death to Hezbollah”, “Aren’t you ashamed Khamenei? Get out of Syria and take care of us”, and “Not Gaza, or Lebanon”.

In an Islamic country, whose official slogan is “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, to see Iranian people shouting “Death to Hezbollah” is totally surreal.

By wishing “Death to Hezbollah”, Iranians demonstrators were not only protesting a “rise of the price of eggs” as the Ayatollahs’ propaganda machine tried to claim. The demonstrators were demanding that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spend Iranian money for Iranian people — and only for Iranian people.

Ironically, Iran’s receiving more than $100 billion in frozen assets for the hapless “nuclear deal” succeeded in breaking the solidarity between Iranian people and the Ayatollahs’ regime better than the sanctions did. During the tough time of sanctions, the Iranian people stood by their leaders. The people only broke with their leaders when they saw that the “liberated” money was benefiting everyone but them.

Is Hezbollah eating the Iranian people’s bread? The answer is yes, absolutely. Hezbollah is an Iranian foreign legion, a tool of an imperialist Shia war being conducted in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and against Israel. This Arab Shia army was created in Lebanon by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1982, right after Israeli defense forces expelled the PLO from Lebanon. The aim of this Arab Shia legion was to demonstrate to Sunni Muslim Arabs in the Middle East that Shia Iran was a better fighter against the “Zionist entity” than any Sunni regime.

Iran Sends More to the Gallows

Iran’s judicial authorities “continued to impose and carry out cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments that amounted to torture, including floggings, blindings and amputations. These were sometimes carried out in public.” At least one woman, Fariba Khaleghi, remains under a sentence of death by stoning. — Amnesty International.

What is worse, the vast majority of those put to death in Iran have not committed crimes that would be punished with that severity (or at all) almost anywhere else in the world, least of all in Europe, Israel, or 23 states (and the District of Columbia) in the USA.

Even before their trials, individuals accused of anti-state convictions are mistreated, tortured, kept in solitary confinement for months on end, and denied access to their families and lawyers. “‘Confessions’ extracted under torture were used as evidence at trial. Judges often failed to deliver reasoned judgments and the judiciary did not make court judgments publicly available.” — Amnesty International.

As for the mullahs, they brook no criticism from any quarter and intend to keep Iran and its people under their iron grip forever, even if that means putting to death every dissident voice.

Iran: United States meddling in our affairs (not satire)

Iran on Wednesday angrily accused the United States of meddling in its domestic affairs after President Donald Trump backed anti-government protests, AFP reports.

Iran’s UN Ambassador, Gholamali Khoshroo, said in a letter that the U.S. government “has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs under the pretext of providing support for sporadic protests, which in several instances were hijacked by infiltrators.”

Khoshroo charged that the United States had violated international law and the principles of the UN charter, and urged countries to condemn Washington’s statements.

“The president and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts,” said Khoshroo in the letter which was addressed to the Security Council and to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The U.S. Department of State went so far as admitting that the US government wants to encourage protestors in Iran to change their government, admitting that the U.S. is engaged in interfering with the internal affairs of Iran through Facebook and Twitter,” claimed the Iranian envoy.

Trump believes Palestinians are ‘spreading falsehoods,’ White House says

US President Donald Trump lashed out at the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday in response to what he views as attacks on his administration by its leadership, a senior White House official said.

The president in a Twitter storm threatened to cut aid to the Palestinians if they refuse to reenter serious peace talks with Israel. PA officials have dismissed Trump as an honest broker after he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month.

“The president is a master deal-maker and is as committed to trying to achieve the ultimate peace deal as ever but he will not tolerate falsehoods being spread about America and our positions—and he certainly will not spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize those who spread them,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “In the meantime, we remain hard at work on our comprehensive peace plan which will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians and will be unveiled when it is ready and the time is right.”

Trump has assigned his son-in-law and special representative for international negotiations, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, to bring Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table. They have been working on a plan to do so for over a year and remain undeterred, despite growing distrust on the Palestinian side, US officials say.

How much aid does the US give Palestinians, and what’s it for?

Three types of US assistance to the Palestinians

According to the US Consulate in Jerusalem’s website, the United States has been the largest donor of aid to the Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994. This aid has totaled around $600 million annually in recent years, and can be roughly divided into three categories.

The first is USAID, the conduit by which the State Department provides aid to countries across the world. The second is the economic support for law and order in the Palestinian Authority. These two categories were perhaps the aid that Trump had in mind in his tweet, though the president did not specify. The third is the US support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, as addressed by Haley.

Over 5 billion in USAID since 1994
Since 1994, Washington has provided the Palestinians with more than $5.2 billion through USAID. This money is used for developing and sustaining the Palestinian Authority, including support for debt relief (such as helping to pay the medical debts of Palestinians in Israeli or other foreign hospitals), sanitation, economic development in the public and private sectors, infrastructure development, education, governance, health and essential humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

The USAID money is also a lifeline for dozens of NGOs that work in the Palestinian territories on the grassroots level to support conflict mitigation and instill values of non-violence and peace-seeking.

Separate from this USAID money, which in 2016 equaled $290 million, the US also gives a large sum every year to support law and order.

This support, for which almost $55 million was budgeted in 2016, includes training and supplying equipment to the PA security forces and the police force, firefighter training, rehabilitating courtrooms and training judges as well as lawyers.

Israel sometimes works together with Palestinian security forces in order to foil terror plots against Israeli or Palestinian citizens.

US aid already threatened by Congress

Long before Trump thought about cutting aid to the Palestinians over their refusal to work with his administration in the peace process, Congress was already working to freeze assistance to the Palestinians until the PA discontinues its practice of paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists who kill Israelis.

CAMERA Op-Ed: World Media Silent as Mahmoud Abbas — Israel’s ‘Peace Partner’ — Undermines Talks

Just how bad is the media bias against Israel? In a week filled with extensive coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — much of it poor — the leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA) can give an antisemitic speech and most of the press will ignore it. Or worse still, they will selectively edit his remarks.

In a December 13, 2017 speech in Istanbul, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history.” Abbas told the emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — whose audience included the Sudanese war criminal Omar al-Bashir — that Jews had no historical connection to Jerusalem, a city whose historical and religious ties to Judaism predate the creation of Islam by thousands of years.

Abbas’ speech then took what Middle East analyst and Jerusalem Post commentary editor Seth Frantzman, described as an “anti-Jewish tone.” Abbas claimed that Palestinian Arabs are descended from the ancient Canaanite people, a common lie, exhorting: “If they [Jews] would like to fake this history, they are really masters in this and it is mentioned in the holy Quran they fabricate truth and they try to do that, and they believe in that — but we have been there in this location for thousands of years.”

What is surprising isn’t that Abbas — feted by press and policymakers alike as a “moderate” and a “peace partner”– denied Jewish ties to Jerusalem. In 2012, for example, Abbas issued a statement saying that the city will “forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.” That is — not Jewish.

Singapore Bans Propaganda Film Starring ‘Shirley Temper’

Years ago, I posted about Radiance of Resistance, a film made by a video production company based in Oregon called AMZ Productions, and starring children of the Tamimi clan, including Ahed aka Shirley Temper.

I subsequently discovered they liked an antisemitic comment on their Facebook page, and their owner Jesse Locke had dressed up as a Nazi. Anti-Zionist-not-antisemitic, much?

As Shirley Temper finds herself in the news, now so does Radiance of Resistance, but by coincidence.

Authorities in Singapore have banned “Radiance of Resistance,” a U.S.-made documentary about the Palestinian-Israel conflict as see through the eyes of two Palestinian girls. The film had been set to screen Thursday at the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival held at independent cinema The Projector.

The Info-communications Media Development Authority gave the film a Not Allowed for All Ratings classification, which means it cannot be shown in any circumstances in Singapore. The IMDA said that the film had a “skewed narrative” and could cause disharmony among races and religions in Singapore.

While NAR ratings are considered quite rare, at least three were issued in November.

“Radiance” was directed by Jesse Roberts and has played on the international festival circuit since 2016.

Haley hosts reception for diplomats who voted ‘no’ on Jerusalem UN vote

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley hosted her counterparts from 64 nations on Wednesday night who abstained, voted ‘no’ or remained absent last month on a General Assembly resolution condemning the Trump administration for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The reception was cast as a “friendship reception” by Haley. “It’s easy for friends to be with you in the good times, but it’s the friends who are with you during the challenging times that will never be forgotten,” Haley said. “Thank you to the 64.”

Photos posted by Haley and the US mission to the UN in New York on Twitter show the reception included wine and live music, held at the US facility across the street from UN headquarters.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, also was in attendance.

After the reception, Danon told the Post that the US move has “unveiled the hypocrisy of the Palestinians, who speak of peace while doing all they can to avoid negotiations.”

“I was honored to take part in a reception hosted by Ambassador Nikki Haley for the countries that stood by the US during the UN vote on Jerusalem,” Danon said. “Israel has no better friend than the United States, and the US has no more steadfast ally than Israel. We thank Ambassador Haley and the American people for their strong stance on behalf of truth and historical justice.”

Israelis overwhelmingly oppose partition of Jerusalem

A solid majority of Israeli Jews opposed Palestinian Authority demands that Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, be partitioned as part of a future final status agreement.

According to a poll released Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, a paltry 12.3% of Israeli Jews say they would accept the partition of Jerusalem, following after a stable peace with the Palestinian Authority was achieved.

The overwhelming majority (71.7%) responded that the city should remained unified, and stay the capital of Israel – and not be shared as a dual capital with a future Palestinian state.

Of those, 19.9% said Islamic holy places could be excluded from Israeli control.

Another 6.8% said they would accept Jerusalem becoming a ‘corpus separatum’ – a sort of international city administered by the United Nations, as proposed by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 in 1948.

Even fewer endorsed the idea of Jerusalem becoming a dual capital for both Israel and a future Palestinian state, while remaining under full Israeli sovereignty, with just 5.5% of Israeli Jews backing such an arrangement.

But Israeli Arabs overwhelming support fundamentally altering the status quo of Israel’s capital, with 43.5% backing partition of Jerusalem, while 21.9% say the city should remain united, but as the joint capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. Ten point six percent said they backed Jerusalem becoming an international city.

Guatemala offers to help countries move their embassies to Jerusalem

Guatemala hopes other countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, the country’s foreign minister said this week, indicating her government’s readiness to help in this matter.

“I believe that it’s a sovereign decision that each country needs to make for itself based on its position. Nevertheless, we as a country are willing to support other countries who want to follow Guatemala’s example,” Sandra Jovel told The Times of Israel in a telephone interview.

“Hopefully, some of the countries that have wanted to do it will be able to follow Guatemala’s example and the decision we’ve taken.”

On December 24, the Central American nation became the first country after the United States to announce its intention to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Other countries, including its neighbor Honduras, have been rumored to be intending to follow suit, even though El Salvador this week said it would not relocate its Israel embassy.

Jovel, who has been Guatemala’s foreign minister since August 2017, said that planning for the move to Jerusalem has started but that it would take some time before the actual relocation can get underway.

“We’re not rushing into it, but we’re also not taking it slowly,” she said, speaking in Spanish. “We’re proceeding calmly, looking into the administrative, political and logistic aspects of moving the embassy. We want to make sure that it gets done, and that it gets done right and at the proper time.”

Poll: Most Jewish Israelis think Trump is good for Israel

While the US declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel continues to cause diplomatic disputes, a poll released Wednesday revealed that the majority of Jewish Israelis believe the announcement was good for Israel and that President Donald Trump understands Israel’s interests.

The monthly Peace Index of the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University found that 65% of Jewish Israelis believe Trump’s December announcement was in Israel’s best interest, while two-thirds of Arab-Israeli respondents think it was not.

Furthermore, 64% of the Jewish public thinks that the recent United Nations resolution rejecting the US declaration, is not likely to cause harm to Israel’s interests.

A clear majority, though smaller (59%), also thinks Trump understands Israel’s interests to a very great or moderately great extent.

Segmentation by political camps shows that the overwhelming majority of those on the Right believe the declaration well served Israel’s interests (81%), while more than half of those in the Center (56%), and a minority on the Left (24%) agree.

‘Kerry wanted to evacuate the Golan Heights’

MK Motti Yogev (Jewish Home) on Wednesday spoke with Arutz Sheva on the issue of construction in Judea and Samaria, the debate over the Supermarket Law and MK Yair Lapid’s threats to turn to the Supreme Court to thwart Knesset legislation.

“Those who travel in Judea and Samaria see that there is construction, maybe not enough construction, but we are building and will continue to build,” Yogev said, adding, “We are releasing construction plans and we will release more construction plans.”

“We concluded eight years of Obama’s construction freeze, which were eight difficult years. The prime minister was required to withstand very difficult pressures, some of which I just recently found out about, such as when John Kerry sought to evacuate the entire Golan Heights and turn it into a Syrian-controlled nature reserve. There was also pressure on Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Now the pressure is slowly being alleviated,” he continued.

Yogev made clear, however, that the current pace of construction in Judea and Samaria is insufficient. “I am not satisfied with what we are building, definitely not. We are constantly calling for the planning of more construction and the approval of additional building plans,” he said, adding that by the end of January, both the government and the Planning and Building Committee will approve another 3,000 housing units.

“The people of Israel are growing stronger in their country. The decision of the Likud Central Committee, which is ‘narrowing the gaps’ from the Jewish Home, is welcomed as well, and I hope that with the help of God, together with the additional construction, we will eventually reach full sovereignty between the sea and the Jordan,” said Yogev.

EU blasts Israel over death penalty for terrorists bill

The European Union slammed Israel Wednesday, hours after a bill aimed at encouraging prosecutors to seek the death penalty for terrorist murderers passed its first hurdle in the Knesset.

The Knesset voted 52 to 49 Wednesday in favor of a bill pushed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party which would ease the conditions under which terrorists convicted of murder could be sentenced to death.

Under the proposal, a terrorist could be sentenced to death with only a simple majority of judges, rather than a unanimous decision, as is currently required. While Israeli law already provides for the death penalty, prosecutors have avoided requesting it be applied. The death penalty has not been used in Israel since 1962.

Hours later, however, the European Union criticized the move and reiterated its opposition to the death penalty.

“The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity,” a statement released by the EU read. “It constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment, does not have any proven deterrent effect and allows judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal.”

Israel strikes Gaza terror infrastructure following rocket fire

The Israel Air Force struck terror infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip early Thursday morning following three mortar shells which were fired towards Israel on Wednesday.

A statement released by the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit stated that the airstrikes targeted a “central terror infrastructure” and while Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything that occurs in the Strip, the statement did not mention the group, which rules the enclave.

The IDF also did not elaborate on the exact nature of the target struck.

“The IDF will continue to use all the measures at its disposal, above and below ground, to thwart attacks against Israelis,” said the IDF, adding that it is “prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios.”

A resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council told Walla News that the intensity of IDF airstrikes was different on Thursday.

“It was clear that this was something different, the response to the rocket fire was not only directed at abandoned warehouses, as in the past, tonight was something else,” Daniel Matry was quoted as saying.

PM: Jewish killer of Palestinian family also deserves death penalty

The Jewish Israeli who firebombed a Palestinian home in Duma, killing a baby and his parents, deserves capital punishment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a Knesset debate on Wednesday.

Netanyahu defended legislation that would make it easier for a military court to sentence terrorists to death.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi asked Netanyahu if the bill would apply to the Duma killer, and the prime minister responded: “In principle, yes.”

Amiram Ben-Uliel was indicted in January 2016 on three counts of murder, attempted murder, arson and conspiracy to commit a racially motivated felony, for the arson attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in July 2015 that killed Ali, 18 months, and his parents, Sa’ad and Riham. A minor whose name is under a gag order was also charged.

Two years later, a verdict has yet to be issued for Ben- Uliel. Hearings have been held behind closed doors, at the Shin Bet security agency’s demand.

Despite rift, Israel and PA cooperating closely against Iran

Despite the ongoing political rift between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, security coordination between the two governments, much of it covert, remains tight in an effort to keep Iran from expanding its reach to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through the assistance of pro-Iranian elements in those areas.

Senior Palestinian security officials told Israel Hayom that while security coordination with Israel remains tight, it is mostly covert so as not to harm either party’s security interests.

A senior representative from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ office told Israel Hayom that many in the Palestinian leadership are angry with the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani. Officials in Ramallah say Soleimani’s pledge that Iran would provide Palestinian factions with funding and weapons poses a serious risk to Palestinian national security, as well as the stability of the Palestinian leadership and the region in general. Officials say Iran’s meddling must therefore be stopped at any price – including through increased security cooperation with Israel.

PA outraged over lamp in the Cave of the Patriarchs

Youssef Ideiss, the Palestinian Authority (PA) official in charge of religious affairs and endowments, on Wednesday accused Israel of desecrating Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and Hevron.

According to the Hamas newspaper Felesteen, Ideiss described the actions of the “occupation forces” in December 2017, including an “assault and desecration” of the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 30 incidents and the prevention of the call of the muezzin for prayer in the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) in 53 incidents, a charge he already made earlier this week.

His list also includes the following incidents: the arrest of four guards at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the summoning for questioning of the official responsible for the guard unit at the mosque, the suppression of processions in the Bab al-Amud area in protest of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and three “break-ins” by the Antiquities Authority into the Bab al-Rahma cemetery, which is adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in which trees were cut down and several graves were desecrated.

Ideiss further claimed that placing an Israeli flag and a lamp in the area of the Ibrahim Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) constitutes a violation of a place that is holy to the Muslims.

He also accused Israel of continuing the excavations around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, building synagogues and gardens in the area of the Western Wall, and preventing Muslim worshipers from arriving at the mosque.

Turkish Banker Convicted of Conspiring to Violate U.S. Sanctions Against Iran

Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty Wednesday in a New York federal court of conspiring to conduct financial transactions for the Iranian government and other entities, violating U.S. sanctions.

Atilla was one of nine co-defendants in the case but was the only one to be tried before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman., and Atilla was found guilty on five of six counts, the New York Times reports. Seven of the co-defendants remain at large, but one of them, Reza Zarrab, pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution, implicating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and helping prove Atilla guilty.

“For years, Mehmet Hakan Atilla conspired to use the American financial system to conduct millions of dollars’ worth of illegal transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran,” Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana Boente said in a Justice Department statement. “He used his high rank at a Turkish bank to disguise the transactions as humanitarian food payments and deceive American officials, but now, after receiving due process of law, he has been held accountable in court, by an impartial jury.”

“This successful prosecution is another example of our resolve to pursue and bring to justice those who violate our sanctions and other laws that protect our national security,” he added.

Erdogan denounced the U.S. case and registered his complaints with President Donald Trump, but the prosecution continued in spite of those protestations. Zarrab testified at the trial that Erdogan had ordered the transactions go forward.



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