March 24, 2019

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01/09 Links Pt1: Abbas Celebrates 14th Anniversary of His Four-Year Term; Fatah burn “coffin” with photos of Pres. Trump and Netanyahu; PA orders Palestinian landlords to seek approval for Israeli-Arab tenants

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2019/01/0109-links-pt1-abbas-celebrates-14th.html

From Ian:


Elliott Abrams: Abbas Celebrates 14th Anniversary of His Four-Year Term
On January 9, 2005—exactly 14 years ago today—Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. For a four-year term.

Today Abbas begins serving the fifteenth year of his four-year term.

That 2005 election was actually a milestone for Palestinians. Yasser Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas. There were loads of international observers, including a U.S. team led by former President Jimmy Carter and then-Senators Joseph Biden and John E. Sununu. According to The New York Times, Javier Solana, who was then the European Union’s foreign minister, said “It has been a very good day. The moment is historic.”

Abbas won only about 62 percent of the vote (compare Egyptian president Sisi’s ludicrous claim to have won 97 percent of the vote in the 2018 election there) and one challenger won 20 percent. Hamas boycotted the election, but was not forced to do so—as we saw when it competed in the elections for the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006.

That 2006 parliamentary election was the last parliamentary election held in the Palestinian territories, and there has similarly been no presidential election since 2005. Abbas just holds on and on and governs by decree. He has now undertaken machinations that will in fact eliminate the PLC entirely, replacing it with an unelected PLO organ. The PLC has been dissolved by the Palestinian constitutional court–whose own term of office expired over a decade ago.

Dissolved Palestinian Legislative Council removes PA president Abbas from power

In the latest development in the rift between Palestinian factions, the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza voted to remove Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas from power on Wednesday.

In a text submitted by prominent Hamas political committee member and spokesperson Salah al-Bardawil, the assembly called the president an “enemy of the state” for committing “a number of constitutional, legal, security and humanitarian violations, which seriously and seriously affected the Palestinian national project.”

The resolution then asked the politician to immediately step down, or face constitutional proceedings aimed at his destitution. It also appealed to national, regional and international institutions to “stop dealing” with the president or any of his delegations.

The PLC, which has largely had a symbolic function since the last elections in 2007 due mainly to the impossibility of assembling in one location. It was dissolved by Abbas at the end of 2018.

The Fatah leader dissolved the institution, in which Hamas has a majority, in order to put pressure on the Gaza-based movement as reconciliation talks between the two factions degenerate into an open conflict.

Last week, Hamas called dozens of Fatah members in the coastal enclave for questioning, and de facto prevented a rally that was meant to commemorate the movement’s 54th anniversary.

PMW: Abbas’ deputy participates in burning “coffin” with photos of US Pres. Trump and PM Netanyahu

Celebrating the 54th anniversary of the Fatah Movement, which is commemorated on the day of its first attempted terror attack against Israel, Abbas’ deputy chairman of Fatah, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, participated in a ceremony at which a black “coffin” decorated with photos of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Trump was burned in front of a large crowd.

A red “X” is painted over the faces of Netanyahu and Trump. [Official Fatah Facebook page, Jan. 3, 2019]

Text on coffin: “The deal of the century (i.e., Trump’s as yet unpublished Middle East peace plan) will not pass, to hell with it and good riddance”

At the event, Al-Aloul praised the terror attacks and the Palestinian waves of violence and terror against Israel (the intifadas) as “accomplishments” of Fatah’s “self-sacrificing fighters,” and “battles of honor,” which have “brought glory to the nation”:
“The Palestinian revolution… depended on our people’s will and was characterized by suffering, sacrifice, and pain. However, it was also full of victories and achievements that Fatah’s self-sacrificing fighters (Fedayeen) accomplished on the ground; and they returned the spirit to the nation. Starting from Eilabun (i.e., attempted bombing of Israel’s National Water Carrier) … the intifadas (i.e., Palestinian wave of violence and terror against Israel killing approximately 200 Israelis from 1987-1993, and PA terror campaign killing approximately 1200 from 2000-2005), and the rest of the battles of honor and heroism with which the Fatah Movement has brought glory to the nation.”

He pointed out that Fatah “is loyal to the team of Martyrs (Shahids)” and that the movement’s identity is one of a “national liberation movement that is fighting for our people’s freedom and independence”:
“We in Fatah are not being lured away by anything – neither power nor government – and we again emphasize our identity as a national liberation movement that is fighting for our people’s freedom and independence. We will complete the path, without any shadow of a doubt, and we still see that our most important priority is to fight our primary enemy – the occupation – and those who assist it.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 4, 2019]

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: While Abbas and Hamas were Hurling Insults at Each Other…

Why, though, should Palestinian leaders care when they are busy fighting each other? When was the last time a Palestinian leader in the West Bank or Gaza Strip seriously addressed the tragedy of his people in Syria? The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank does not care about the Palestinians living in Syria. Palestinian leaders do not even seem to care about their people in the Gaza Strip. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has imposed a series of punitive measures against the coastal territory that have further aggravated the economic crisis there. These measures include halting payment of salaries to thousands of Palestinian employees and needy families.

The Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip care only about keeping themselves in power. Their main objective is to maintain a tight grip on the Gaza Strip and prevent Abbas and his PA from ever returning there. The 3,911 Palestinians who died in Syria in the past eight years were no more to Hamas than a blip on the radar — if that.

For Hamas, life is about fighting Abbas and his ruling Fatah faction — and bringing Israel to its knees. Similarly, Abbas lives to bring about the collapse of Hamas, while also isolating and delegitimizing Israel in the international arena.

While Palestinians were being killed and tortured in Syria, Abbas and Hamas were busy hurling insults at each other.

Perhaps Abbas’s social calendar does not permit him to hear about the suffering of his people in Syria. As the reports about the Palestinian victims were emerging, Abbas was in Cairo socializing with famous Egyptian actors and actresses. He even found time to visit one of them, Nadia Lutfi, in hospital. Scores of Palestinians who are being treated in the same and nearby hospitals in Cairo would have been happy to have received his visit. Where was he?

Abbas is punishing Hamas and Hamas is threatening Abbas. All the while, Palestinians in Syria are dying daily. Will Abbas and Hamas ever utter critical words about the Syrian leadership or any other Arabs who mistreat and murder Palestinians? Not likely. Abbas and Hamas remain silent about the suffering of their people, while the world also yawns.

US Mideast envoy: Palestinians need to accept reality

U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt slammed the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday, saying it has not come to terms with reality.

“PA officials criticize…@AmbJohnBolton and @USAmbIsrael visit to historic Jewish areas of Jerusalem. Will these officials ever realize that peace can only be built on truth and reality?” Greenblatt tweeted.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman were given a guided tour of the Western Wall and the adjacent tunnels earlier this week, drawing condemnation from PA officials who said this was in contravention of international law.

“You cannot wipe away truth or history. Time to get serious!” Greenblatt continued in his tweet.

In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump broke with decades of American policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and several months later moved the U.S. Embassy to the city.

Greenblatt and other administration officials said the U.S. decision did not prejudice the final status of the city as part of a negotiated settlement, as it simply recognized the reality that the city is and will continue to be Israel’s seat of government. The PA, which was outraged by the move, has boycotted the administration ever since.

Greenblatt also attacked the terrorist group Hamas for launching a drone shaped explosive device from Gaza overnight Sunday. The device exploded on an Israeli field.

A window of opportunity

They launched a public campaign to apply Israeli sovereignty on the Golan; a national campaign culminating in hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens signing a petition calling for annexation. The two-and-a-half-year struggle bore fruit. On December 14, 1981, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin presented the Golan Heights Law to the Knesset for approval. From that moment, the Golan Heights became an inseparable part of Israel, for all intents and purposes.

Despite all this, however, five Israeli prime ministers have since negotiated withdrawing from the Golan. The public campaign spearheaded by the communities and supported by the Israeli masses on one hand, and Assad’s refusal on the other hand, helped us avert this national calamity. And while the Golan Heights Law wasn’t able to prevent negotiations, it did lead to Basic Law: Referendum, which requires popular approval for any withdrawal from Israeli territory.

The U.S. response to the Golan Heights Law was harsh. Then-President Ronald Reagan strongly condemned it and froze the Strategic Cooperation Agreement between the two countries – which Begin, in retaliation, completely annulled. The U.S. initiated a condemnation of Israel in the United Nations Security Council. No country in the world recognized Israeli law on the matter.

In all the years since, Israel has never asked the United States to recognize its sovereignty on the Golan, because such a request never had a chance. The disintegration of Syria changed the picture. In Israel, despite a tiny handful of rejectionists, consensus over the Golan has never been stronger, and even the world has started to understand that an Israeli withdrawal would invite Iran or Islamic State to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. U.S. President Donald Trump, untethered by the dogmas of the Washington establishment, is open to innovative diplomatic initiatives. For the first time, a window of opportunity has opened for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights.

The unreliable Sunni alliance

Even when Sunni leaders want a relationship with Israel and derive actual benefits from it, they are essentially incapable of openly saying or doing anything on behalf of the “Zionist entity.” The Saudi crown prince sees us a lifeline against the Iranian threat, but saying so in Arabic will undermine his rule. In a recent interview, the Egyptian president blurted out a couple sentences about tight security cooperation with Israel and immediately backtracked fearing public backlash. The Jordanian king, who relies heavily on Israel to prop up his weak regime, not to mention stave off a mass water crisis, comes out against us in rhetoric and diplomatic measures whenever the opposition in his country gets stronger.

So if they won’t or can’t help us, maybe they can avoid actively hurting us? Here, too, the answer is negative. A Sunni alliance with Israel, even covert and delicate, would exact a hefty price from us in diplomatic concessions, and handcuff us when we need to act militarily in Syria or Gaza – which has already happened. During the Gulf War in 1990, Israel didn’t retaliate after Iraqi Scud missiles hit Tel Aviv because it had to preserve Arab support for the United States. The prize we received for this restraint was the Madrid Conference of 1991, where unprecedented pressure was applied against us to make diplomatic concessions. Now, too, there are those who say we must accept the dangerous Saudi peace initiative or make other concessions for the sake of a Sunni alliance.

It’s critical that we realize we must contend with the threats around us on our own, and make it clear to our American friends that the Sunni alliance isn’t just ineffective but also entirely unreliable. Putting stock in this alliance will only end in buyer’s remorse.

Israel will seek legal steps against Airbnb, says minister

Airbnb must rescind its boycott of West Bank settlement listings, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday at the opening of a 4-kilometer road in the West Bank, just outside of Jerusalem.

He warned that Israel would continue its legal pursuit of the global Internet rental company both in Israel and abroad, particularly in the United States.

“As long as Airbnb does not rescind its policy of discriminating against the citizens of Israel, we will continue to promote steps against the company, both in the regulatory and legal spheres here in Israel and vis-à-vis our friends in the US and around the world,” Erdan said.

He spoke after one of Airbnb’s top executives, Chris Lehane, visited Israel, including the West Bank, in December.
He came to repair the damage done to the company’s ties with Israel, after it decided in November not to list settler rentals on its website.

At the time, he told Israeli officials that the company would review the decision. In the interim, he said, the company would not take any more steps to implement the policy.

Airbnb also issued a statement, explaining that it opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Evangelical Leaders Condemn Airbnb Boycott of Judea and Samaria Properties

Evangelical leaders sent a letter on Monday to Airbnb, slamming its decision to remove listings in Judea and Samaria.

“Evangelicals represent 25%-30% of the American population and strongly support the nation of Israel, the birthplace of our own Christian heritage,” reads the letter sent by the 38 leaders. “Some of our leadership were particularly active in the creation of many state laws designed to regulate against commercial discrimination of this nature. We will request of state authorities that Airbnb be added to their list of companies prohibited from any state investment.”

“Airbnb’s discriminatory action has no place in our community,” it adds. “As leaders of national and international Evangelical organizations and communities, we urge Airbnb to rescind their decision to discriminate against Jewish-owned listings in Judea and Samaria.”

Signatories included, but were not limited to, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the Latino Coalition for Israel, Family Research Council, Faith & Freedom Coalition and Hope Christian Church in Maryland.

“Airbnb’s actions are clearly anti-Semitic,” said Bachmann. “This is blatant racism and bigoted discrimination.”

“Airbnb has singled out Jewish persons and the State of Israel for discriminatory treatment, while continuing to list properties in other disputed territories and conflict areas around the globe,” said Latino Coalition for Israel president Mario Bramnick. “Moreover, it continues to list Palestinian-owned properties in Judea and Samaria; only Jewish-owned properties have been singled [out].”

PA orders Palestinian landlords to seek approval for Israeli-Arab tenants

Palestinian landlords wishing to lease properties to Palestinians who hold Israeli ID cards are now required to receive permission from the Palestinian Authority.

The new measure, which was announced last week by the Ramallah-based PA government, has drawn sharp criticism from Arab residents of east Jerusalem, who hold Israeli ID cards.

Tens of thousands of east Jerusalem residents live in Palestinian cities and villages surrounding Jerusalem and which are located outside the municipal boundaries of the city

The PA government said that “anyone who wishes to rent out a property to a Palestinian who holds an Israeli ID card must obtain permission from [his or her local] authority.”

The PA’s General Intelligence and Preventive Security forces will conduct a security check of the tenants and present their recommendations within two weeks, the government stated.

A PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the new measure was taken for “security and safety reasons.”

Irish Government Should Reject Bill to Boycott Israeli Goods from the West Bank

What could be perceived as a just and well-intentioned bill is, in fact, threatening to make Ireland the most extreme anti-Israel, although not pro-Palestinian, country outside Iran and the Middle East. As a foreign ambassador, I wholly respect the Irish parliamentary process. However, as the Ambassador of the State of Israel, which is specifically (and solely) targeted by this bill, it is my duty to sound alarm bells on the deficiencies of the bill and explain what it really means.

Supporting Palestinians by assisting in capacity and institution building in fields such as democracy, economy, trade, and innovation does not mean one is anti-Israeli. On the contrary – one may find Israel a willing partner in many such endeavors, as shown, for example, by the list of infrastructure projects for Gaza which Israel has identified and presented to potential international partners. However, the clear line between supporting Palestinians and becoming anti-Israeli is a thin one and unfortunately one that is being crossed all too often.

Anyone who has studied the history of the Jewish people, read the Bible, or is acquainted with the past of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) knows that these areas are the cradle of the Jewish people. For over two thousand years, exiled Jews yearned to return to this land and when they did, they re-established communities across the Land of Israel.

Of course, one cannot ignore the presence today of about two million Palestinians in the West Bank, who have their own national aspirations. Israel recognizes that and consecutive Israeli governments have been working for a solution based on mutual recognition and direct negotiations.

In essence, the sponsors of the bill ignore all of those facts and complexities and suggest that Jews have no rights whatsoever in their own birthplace. Furthermore, the bill says that anyone who thinks otherwise and dares act differently, i.e., trading in Jewish goods or services from those areas, might find himself facing a prison sentence or a large fine.

Ignoring the Israeli historical and national connection to that part of the land simply serves to alienate the vast majority of Israelis, regardless of their political views. It is morally flawed, historically void and politically destructive.

News site claims Mossad head met Saudi, UAE, Egypt intel officials on Gulf visit

A Middle East news site claimed Tuesday that the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met with top officials from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates during a trip to the Gulf last month.

During the meeting, which took place in the capital of an unnamed Gulf state, Yossi Cohen and his interlocutors agreed on a series of measures to roll back Iranian and Turkish influence in the region, the Middle East Eye news site, based in London and funded by Qatar, reported Tuesday.

The article further claimed that the representatives of the four countries together “hatched a plan” to help rehabilitate Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and see him returned to the Arab League.

There was no independent confirmation of the report. Assad’s Syria is a sworn enemy of Israel.

The report did not name the other participants in the meeting besides Cohen, but described them as senior intelligence officials from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Unlike Egypt, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia or the UAE, though Jerusalem is said to have developed clandestine ties with both in recent years over the countries’ shared antipathy toward Iran.

In Israel TV interview, Kuwaiti TV host calls for ties, shrugs off death threats

A Kuwaiti media personality made a unique appearance on Israeli television on Tuesday, and brushed off death threats that she received over tweets she made calling for normalization with the Jewish state.

“I didn’t suddenly establish normalization,” the controversial Fajr al-Saeed, 52, said in a video interview from Kuwait with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster. “It’s not like I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport and entered Israel and said to you, ‘Let’s go, I’m normalizing relations with you.’”

“I expressed a wish and a hope. You can take it or leave it, but it’s my personal opinion.”

The founder of Kuwaiti satellite TV station Scope said she has never shied away from controversy.

Saeed, who marked the New Year by tweeting a call in Arabic and Hebrew for Arab-Israeli ties and trade relations, said her opinion of Israel started to change after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

14-Year-Old Girl in Jerusalem Attacked at Bus Stop

A 14-year-old Israeli girl was evacuated to Jerusalem’s Shaarei Zedek Medical Center on Wednesday morning after she was attacked while waiting at a bus stop on her way to school.

The unidentified girl was standing at a public bus stop on Mordechai Alkachi street in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood when she was attacked by an unidentified person with a sharp object. She suffered multiple injuries in her neck and hand, and the attacker fled the scene.

The girl subsequently returned to her home, where Magen David Adom paramedics were called to assist her.

Police have opened an investigation as they search for the attacker.

Israel advances E1 settlement project, opens new West Bank road

Israel opened the first section of the Eastern Ring Road on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Wednesday, taking a further step to advance the E1 project in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.

The road will relieve traffic congestion east of Jerusalem and provide a new security checkpoint on the way to the city. When completed, the bypass will direct Palestinian traffic away from an existing road in the unbuilt area of E1 and facilitate uninterrupted Palestinian traffic between Bethlehem and Ramallah. It will also ease road congestion into Jerusalem from the Binyamin region, allowing Israelis to travel more quickly in and out of the capital.

As part of the project, the road also facilitates the establishment of an additional checkpoint at the entryway into Jerusalem and allows for increased security presence in that area.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that such police presence is a “guarantee of sovereignty” that “I hope will expand to all of Judea and Samaria.”

The project was carried out in conjunction with the Transportation Ministry, the Public Security Ministry, the Binyamin Regional Council and the Jerusalem Municipality.

Former Israeli minister pleads guilty in Iran spying case, will serve 11 years

A former Israeli minister-turned-spy for Iran will serve 11 years in jail as part of a plea bargain negotiated with prosecutors, the Jerusalem District Court was told Wednesday.

Gonen Segev was said to have met with Iranian intelligence officials repeatedly over the past six years, supplying the Iranians with information.

The charge of assisting the enemy in wartime, listed in the original indictment, was removed as part of the agreement, and Segev confessed to reduced security-related offenses, Channel 10 news reported.

Segev was arrested in May and extradited from Equatorial Guinea to Israel.

He had been living in Nigeria since being released from prison on a drug smuggling rap in 2007.

Shin Bet: Foreign state will try to influence upcoming election

A foreign country will attempt to influence Israel’s upcoming April 9 Knesset election, head of the Shin Bet security agency Nadav Argaman warned Monday.

Speaking at a Tel Aviv University conference, Argaman told the audience of a “move that could impact the results of the election.”

Channel 2 News reported that although Argaman made his comments at a civilian event, the military censor placed a gag order on some of his statements. Other remarks may be cleared by the censor in the future.

The Shin Bet declined to comment and none of its officials verified the report.

Channel 2 quoted Argaman as saying, “I don’t know for whose benefit or to whose disadvantage. I don’t know at this stage to identify the political interest, but it will intervene.

“I know what I’m talking about,” he said.

Argaman said the foreign government in question would use hackers or other cyber tools to intervene in the election.

Although the news report made no mention of which country Argaman was referring to, the country is believed to be Russia.

Jewish Voice for Peace hires Hanin Zoabi (satire)

Oakland: In an amazing coup, the Anti-Israel’s Existence Anti-Occupation NGO “Jewish Voice for Peace” just hired Hanin Zoabi to be their newest “Director of Outreach”! Jewish Voice for Peace (Street Name: “The Ridiculous JVP“) snapped up the talented but soon to be unemployed anti-Israel-but-an-Israeli Knesset Member just as soon as it was obvious that Hanin would not make the cut of her Balad Party’s candidates in the upcoming Israeli election. The Daily Freier spoke with JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson to find out just how they were able to hire the Knesset’s most easygoing and chill member.

“This was not a traditional move.” explained Ms. Vilkomerson. “Ms. Zoabi might not meet your outdated and racist definition of ‘Jewish’. And her ideas might not meet your outdated and racist definition of ‘Peace’ either. But her voice is just fine.” The Daily Freier asked Ms. Vilkomerson if her definition of “racist” was “people to the right of me who I disagree with” and she nodded in agreement and we continued the interview.

Incidentally, this power move by Jewish Voice for Peace has caused quite a ruckus among its allies on the Sorta-Jewish-But-Dislikes-Most-Other-Jews-Intersectional-Left. In fact, many of JVP’s peers reacted to the move with a mixture of excitement tinged with Envy. “OMG, they hired Zoabi? I wanted to have her write our special edition for Yom HaAtzmaut this year. Damn their luck!” fumed The Forward’s Opinion Editor Batya Ungar-Sargon. “Please excuse me, but I hear that Hen Mazzig just brushed his teeth with water from The Occupation and I need to go write a 700 word blog post on why this is NOT OK……Wait, do you think I’m acting clingy and obsessed?“

Wary of PA ‘corruption,’ Palestinians launch protest of new social security law

On a sunny, cold morning in mid-December, more than a thousand Palestinians left their workplaces and gathered in a small square adjacent to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office in the West Bank.

The group, largely clad in formal attire, started chanting against the newly established Palestinian Social Security Institution and impending tax hikes required to fund it, as members of the PA security forces stood nearby, blocking the road leading to Hamdallah’s office in central Ramallah.

“The people want the fall of the Social Security Institution,” the demonstrators shouted in unison, while also calling for the ouster of Hamdallah and PA Labor Minister Mamoun Abu Shahala.

For some 15 years, the PA has attempted to establish a social security institution to provide pensions and a variety of insurance benefits to Palestinians in the private sector.

In 2003, the Ramallah-based body passed a law to establish such an institution, but following international criticisms about its sustainability, the PA canceled it.

The PA subsequently sought the assistance of the International Labor Organization, foreign governments and other international bodies to write a new law. After years of consultations, PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed a new law in late 2016, mandating the establishment of the Palestinian Social Security Institution.

In the past couple of months, the PA has attempted to implement the law by registering Palestinians in the private sector with the Palestinian Social Security Institution. However, facing near-weekly protests, Ramallah’s efforts have hit road bumps.

Hamas renews funding for incendiary kite units ahead of expected escalation

An Egyptian security delegation is expected to arrive in Gaza in the coming days in an attempt to prevent a deterioration in the security situation along the border with Israel this weekend.

On Tuesday, the “Supreme National Authority for the March of Return and Breaking of the Siege,” the body officially behind the weekly border protests that the Hamas terror group has been encouraging saince last March, called on the Palestinian public to participate extensively in marches near the fence on Friday.

Over the past two weeks, after a months-long lull, there has been an increase in the number of demonstrations close to the fence, and last Friday also saw a rise in the number of violent incidents at those protests.

There have also been attempts by Palestinians to break through the fence at several locations, and an explosives-laden drone attached to balloons was launched toward Israel on Sunday, followed by a rocket attack.

These moves have been interpreted by Israel as an attempt by Hamas to renew hostilities in light of its ongoing failure to change the reality of life in Gaza.

Monthly cash injections of $15 million from Qatar via Israel over the past two months have been perceived by some in Gaza as designed to ease the living conditions only of Hamas members rather than the public at large. The result has been an increase in criticism of the terror group among Gazans. This is exacerbated by the fact that electricity supply to the coastal enclave has again decreased to only five hours of power followed by 12-hour outages.

Palestinian sources in Gaza report that Hamas is planning to renew incendiary balloon attacks, along with the offensive tactics implemented in the weeks preceding the Qatari cash injection.

Report: Hamas claims they arrested 45 Israeli collaborators in Gaza

The Interior Ministry in Gaza issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that Hamas arrested 45 collaborators who were working with Israel, between the botched undercover mission that resulted in the death of Lieutenant Colonel M. and seven Hamas members in November and the new year.

Hamas claimed that some of the reported collaborators were recruited by Israel over the phone and social media. According to the report, Israel seduced some of these men with fake accounts of girls on Facebook. After Israeli agents started a conversation and they were able to blackmail the men, Israel then turned these Gazans into collaborators and informants.

One man arrested by Hamas said he was recruited to help dispel the Islamic State from Gaza.

In December, The Independent, a British newspaper, reported that the Israeli special forces operation’s failure in early November was allegedly due to the fact that IDF soldiers were posing as NGO members and were then outed.

Iran: Hezbollah, Palestinian Terror Groups Armed to ‘Annihilate’ Israel

Senior Iranian officials are warning that terror groups sponsored by the Islamic Republic have been so thoroughly armed that they can “annihilate” Israel in any future conflict.

As the issue of Iran’s funding of terrorism—which has grown since it received millions of dollars in cash windfalls as a result of the now-defunct nuclear agreement—continues to plague U.S. leaders and Arab countries, Tehran is signaling that its investment in these terror groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah has provided them with the military capability to destroy the Jewish state.

“Friends and enemies admit that today Israel is in its worst conditions and the fighters in Palestine and Lebanon are at the peak of their preparedness to confront any aggression by the Zionists and end the disgraceful life of the fake and criminal regime,” General Ramezan Sharif, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps public relations department, said on Wednesday.

The comments come as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo engages in a weeklong tour of the Middle East to galvanize leaders to confront the Iranian regime. Iran’s support for terror groups targeting Israel and other Middle Eastern allies has topped the agenda in Pompeo’s meetings, according to U.S. officials.

“This is a full-scale reality and it is even admitted by the fronts which support the Zionists,” Sharif said in remarks carried by Iran’s state-controlled media.

Iran’s Supreme Leader appeared to echo these comments in his own remarks.

MEMRI: Iran-Backed Shi’ite Militias In Iraq: We Will Drive Out The Americans By Force

U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise December 26, 2018 visit to the ‘Ayn Al-Assad Airbase in Al-Anbar Governorate in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, sparked furious reactions in Iraq and even threats from Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias to use force against U.S. troops in the country. The rage against the U.S. was particularly fueled by Trump’s announcement during his visit that the U.S. had no intention to withdraw its forces from Iraq and that it has the capability to operate in Syria from its bases there,[1] as well as by reports prior to the visit that the U.S. military had established two new bases in Al-Anbar.[2]

In addition, photos published January 5, 2019, showing U.S. Marine Brig.-Gen. Austin E. Renforth, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, strolling through downtown Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Lt.-Gen Jalil Jabbar Al-Rubaie, commander of the Baghdad Operations Center, also provoked extensive criticism in the country, prompting claims that this constituted a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.[3]

Sabah Al-Sa’di, head of Iraq’s Reform and Reconstruction parliamentary bloc that is part of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s faction, said: “The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria is no excuse or justification for leaving them in Iraq and turning [this country] into one of [the U.S.’s] bases in the Middle East.”[4] Faleh Al Khaz’ali, a pro-Iran MP from the Basra region, said: “The American commanders who were defeated in Iraq want to return [here] on any pretext, but we will not allow this under any circumstances… Trump’s visit to the U.S. troops in Iraq proves that these troops are not advisory and training forces, and the [Iraqi] government must take responsibility [and see to their removal].”[5] Iraqi Prime Minister ‘Adel ‘Abd Al-Mahdi clarified that the U.S. has no military bases in Iraq.[6]

At the same time, as noted, several Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias, all of them designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S., have threatened to expel the U.S. forces from Iraq if they do not withdraw on their own, and said that Trump’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty “will not go unpunished.” A few hours after the conclusion of Trump’s visit, two shells fell near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.[7] Likewise, on January 8, 2019, a spokesman for the Arab factions in Nineveh reported that he had information about a plan by these militias to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. It should be noted that this is not the first time that senior officials in these militias have threatened to use force against the U.S. presence in the country.[8]

Tehran Friday Sermon by Ayatollah Khatami: Christians Should Honor Jesus, Chant “Death to America”

Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, who is a member of the Iranian Assembly of Experts, said during a December 28, 2018 Friday sermon that aired on Channel 1 TV (Iran) that he sends holiday blessings to the Christians throughout the world. He said that some arrogant leaders, such as U.S. President Donald Trump, bring shame upon Jesus by considering themselves Christians, and he encouraged Christians to honor Christ and renounce the U.S. by chanting: “Death to America.” He claimed that if Jesus were alive today, he would be the first to express his disgust with the criminal leaders who are a “disgrace to Christianity.”



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