August 15, 2022

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02/08 Link Pt1: Hundreds mourn Ori Ansbacher, 19, murdered in Jerusalem; PMW called on FB to close terror supporting account

From Ian:

Ori Ansbacher, 19, named as Jerusalem murder victim
Ori Ansbacher, 19, from the West Bank town of Tekoa, was named Friday as the murder victim whose body was found a day earlier on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

President Reuven Rivlin sent a message of condolence to the victim’s family, saying “the heart breaks at the loss of life.”

On Thursday evening, Ansbacher’s body, with “signs of violence” on it, was found in Ein Yael to the south of Jerusalem, police said.

She had been reported missing since early Thursday.

Ansbacher’s parents, Noa and Gadi, told Hebrew-language media their daughter was “a holy soul seeking meaning, with a sensitivity for every person and creature and an infinite desire to correct the world with goodness.”
Israeli security forces search the scene where a body of a 19 year old woman was found in Ein Yael, in the outskirts of Jerusalem, February 8, 2019 Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One of her high school teachers told Channel 13 news that Ori was “a smart and honest girl with an original and creative intellectual openness. She cared for the environment and was sensitive to others.”

Ansbacher was carrying out a year of national service at a youth center in Jerusalem at the time of her death.

‘The heart breaks’: Hundreds mourn Ori Ansbacher, 19, murdered in Jerusalem

Hundreds of mourners attended on Friday the funeral of Ori Ansbacher, 19, whose body was found a day earlier in the outskirts of Jerusalem. The funeral was held in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, where Ansbacher lived.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on the murder, saying Ansbacher was killed “with shocking brutality.”

“At this difficult hour we all embrace the Ansbacher family and the people of Tekoa. The security forces are investigating the murder — we will find those responsible for it, and we will bring the matter to justice,” the prime minister pledged.

President Reuven Rivlin sent a message of condolence to the victim’s family, saying “the heart breaks at the loss of life.”

Ansbacher’s sister, Tama, eulogized Ori to the gathered mourners. “Last Saturday you said that you do not believe that you will be 20 years old at the end of the year, and now you have gone. You taught me so much — to sing, to dance with all your light. All the time you tried to fix things and to grow. I love you so much and I’m sorry I didn’t always tell you that, goodbye Ori,” she said.

Ansbacher’s father, Rabbi Gadi Ansbacher, tearfully told mourners that he was at a loss for words.

“I do not believe it, I do not know what to say. I think about you now – how you saw everything so sharp and clearly. In the last year you did it, Ori, you won. You lived a whole life,” he said.

Netanyahu: we will find those responsible for murdering Ori Ansbacher

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed great sorrow at the murder of Ori Ansbacher of Tekoa, who was murdered Thursday in Jerusalem.

“In this difficult hour, all of us embrace the Ansbacher family and their home town of Tekoa. Security forces are investigating the murder; we will find those responsible and bring them to justice,” said Netanyahu on social media.

President Reuven Rivlin also mourned Ansbacher’s death, saying “the heart shatters when faced with such a loss of life at the peak of bloom, and the pain is too great to bear, Ori’s generous doing to help others and her kindness will shine even after her great light was put out.”

PMW Report on Fatah’s Facebook in 2018: PMW called on FB to close terror supporting account

The many examples of glorification of terrorists and terror promotion from all periods cited in this 2018 overview report, demonstrate that Fatah continues to be an active terror-promoting organization and that Facebook allows itself to be a part of that terror promotion.

Facebook rules and regulations
Facebook policy is to prohibit all glorification of terrorists or terrorist acts as well as encouragement and endorsement of violence, as is explicitly written in Facebook’s Community Standards:

“We [Facebook] do not allow any organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence, from having a presence on Facebook. This includes organizations or individuals involved in the following:
Terrorist activity
Organized hate
Mass or serial murder
Human trafficking
Organized violence or criminal activity

We also remove content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders, or individuals involved in these activities.”
[Facebook’s Community Standards, I. Violence and Criminal Behavior,
2. Dangerous Individuals and Organizations, accessed Feb. 3, 2019]

This report demonstrates that Fatah’s Facebook page is repeatedly in violation of Facebook standards and that there can be no justification for Facebook to allow its continued operation.

This Palestinian Media Watch report demonstrates that the Fatah Movement used its official Facebook page throughout 2018 to glorify terror and terrorists, and to support continued Palestinian terror against Israelis. As its fundamental policy, Fatah glorified terrorists from all periods of its history including mass murderers and suicide bombers. Significantly, immediately following terror attacks, Fatah used Facebook to praise the contemporary terror and glorify new terrorists throughout the year. Although Fatah’s use of Facebook for these purposes is in direct violation of Facebook’s guidelines set out in its Community Standards, Facebook has not deleted these terror glorifying and terror promoting posts, and has not closed down Fatah’s Facebook account.

The terror glorification and promotion of violence by Fatah together with Facebook’s willingness to be a platform for the dissemination of these messages is a lethal combination. As Palestinians see their colleagues, friends, and neighbors being honored as heroes just days after they have killed Israelis, and as they read that Fatah pledges it will use “all means” including the rifle against Israel, the seeds for future terrorists have been planted.
Click to read the entire report as a PDF

State Dept misled Congress on Palestinian textbooks, according to gov’t report

A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) blames the U.S. State Department for misleading Congress in recent years on the steps the Palestinian Authority was supposed to be taking to reduce incitement in PA-sanctioned textbooks.

The report — directed to Sen. James Risch, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism — has been declassified. The push for the document’s declassification was led by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) in the House.

The State Department “submitted required reports to Congress, but one contains inaccurate information, and reports do not include some information that could be useful for Congressional oversight,” the GAO report charges. “We found that State/Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) 2017 report inaccurately described certain UNRWA actions to address textbook content not aligned with UN values.”

Jewish Insider also obtained a copy of the State Department’s reply to the GAO report where they acknowledged their shortcomings. “We agree with GAO’s recommendations that the Department must take additional steps to ensure that its reporting to Congress is accurate, with thorough and relevant information to support effective Congressional decision-making and oversight.”

The State Department admitted to including inaccurate information received orally from UNRWA that they believed to have been accurate at the time but did not verify.

Melanie Phillips: Is Netanyahu making deals with the devil

Across the West, millions are now in revolt against this dogma — an uprising that has taken the form of Britain’s Brexit, the election of US President Donald Trump and the rise of parties in mainland Europe standing for national values and defending their country’s borders against mass immigration and Islamization.

Some of these parties, such as Germany’s AfD or Austria’s Freedom Party, have backgrounds or views which should indeed put them beyond the pale. Democratic politicians should enforce red lines against fascists, racist hooligans or present-day antisemites.

But the reason these troubling groups are gaining power is because the entire Western political establishment abandoned the cause of historic cultural identity, creating instead a vacuum to be filled by moral decline and Islamization.

Many Jews think nationalism threatens their safety and interests. They couldn’t be more wrong. The main threat to Jews arises when societies fragment and are no longer confident in their own identity. That’s why antisemitism is now rampant in countries such as Britain, Ireland, France, Sweden and others where liberal universalist dogma holds sway.

To liberals and many Jews, all nationalists are incipient Nazis and antisemites. Untrue, and Holocaust revisionism may be driven by a different impulse. To some of these nationalists, pride in their country means sanitizing its terrible past.

This is reprehensible and wrong, but it’s hardly in the same league as, say, the Palestinian or Iranian agenda of murdering Jews and wiping out Israel.

Yet the Palestinian and Iranian regimes are given a free pass or are even actively supported by many of those who portray Orbán and other European nationalists, who stand against such genocidal antisemitism, as enemies of humanity.

The battle between nationalism and universalism is making for some messy choices and uncomfortable bedfellows. But in these confused and complex times, liberal hypocrisy is perhaps the most deadly charade of all.

Evelyn Gordon: Why the U.S. Must Support the Saudis in Yemen

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives advanced a resolution to end American support for the Saudi-led war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. A similar resolution is making its way through the Senate. To Evelyn Gordon, this effort is wrongheaded on both strategic and moral grounds:

On the strategic side, let’s start with the fact that [the Houthis,] an organization whose official slogan is “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam” isn’t one Americans should want ruling anything, much less a country whose location enables it to dominate a strategic waterway vital to the global oil industry. And without the Saudi-led coalition, the Houthis would long since have taken over Yemen. In other countries, like Syria and Lebanon, Iranian military and financial aid has repeatedly enabled its proxies to overwhelm the opposition; that this hasn’t yet happened in Yemen is only because there, unlike in Syria and Lebanon, the Saudi coalition has provided its local allies with substantial assistance, including airstrikes.

Second, empowering allies is always better than empowering enemies. Granted, Saudi Arabia is a highly imperfect ally, but it is at least nominally in America’s camp. Iran, by contrast, has been America’s avowed enemy since 1979, and its proxies have been responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths in Lebanon and Iraq. . . .

Still, how can America possibly support a coalition that’s committing gross human-rights violations in Yemen? The answer is easy: horrible as Riyadh’s behavior is, the Houthis are worse. Thus, by ending support for the Saudi coalition, America would empower an even greater evil.

As Arab Leaders Warm toward Israel and Jews, Are Arab Publics Following?

In the Arab Middle East, known, deservedly, as a global hub and disseminator of anti-Semitism, something is astir of immense interest and importance.

First, the bad news—which is hardly news at all. Even as some Arab leaders are visibly warming toward Israel and Jews, the widespread culture of rejectionism and anti-Semitism persists at key levels of their societies. Ingrained over generations through Arab media, schools, and mosques, and more recently reinforced by Iranian and jihadist propaganda, it permeates Arab establishments and much popular sentiment alike.

As Israel’s “cold peace” with Egypt and Jordan has abundantly shown, official treaties do not, on their own, ameliorate this culture of animosity. And though a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could substantially mitigate the problem, prospects of achieving such a settlement are themselves obstructed by it. From North Africa to the Gulf, opposition to an accommodation with the Jewish state amounts to a check on any rulers inclined toward signing a treaty.

But then there’s the new news: across the region, seeds of an effort to challenge Arab rejectionism and anti-Semitism have unmistakably been sprouting. Beyond official circles, a growing number of Arabs not only view Israel and Jews in a positive light but espouse, openly, a “peace between peoples.” For their part, Israelis and some Jewish activists in the West have developed means of engaging in Arab public discussions, breaching historical barriers to such communication and holding out the promise of forward movement.

Between the spread of positive Arab sentiment and a modest opening for its public expression in Arab media lies the potential for a more coordinated effort to complement and reinforce the warming taking place at the topmost level of international diplomacy. This is an opportunity begging to be seized.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Foreign States Meddle in Jerusalem

Not only does the Palestinian Authority (PA) operate in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in ways forbidden by the Oslo Accords, but Hamas, Islamic State (IS), various other Islamist organizations, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the EU all have a presence there. Their activities, writes David Koren, undermine Israeli sovereignty and sometimes encourage violence and unrest. Although the PA does not pose the same immediate danger as the IS cells operating in Jerusalem—which, incidentally, have mostly threatened Arab Christians—it might be the most pernicious force in the city:

The PA exerts extremely heavy pressure on parents registering their children for Israeli matriculation programs [which would qualify them to attend Israeli colleges], seeking to persuade parents to cancel the registration of their children for this program and leave them in the Palestinian matriculation program. The PA and Fatah agents thereby prevent parents and their children from freely deciding on their educational and professional future. . . .

[Moreover], the violent and aggressive discourse instigated by the PA and its agents in eastern Jerusalem against anyone cooperating with the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli authorities is extreme and unreasonable. Even leaders in the Arab neighborhoods who are in no way “pro-Zionist” are verbally and physically attacked by PA agents for intervening with the Israel authorities in order to improve the residents’ lives. These neighborhood leaders are subjected to social and public blackballing. Such threats and intimidation have included the burning of two Jerusalem municipality community centers in eastern Jerusalem by Fatah members. . . .

As a rule, the PA takes aggressive and violent action to prevent Jerusalemite Arabs from behaving as residents with equal rights and duties. The PA wants to keep them from exercising those rights with Israeli authorities. It seeks to prevent healthy interaction with the Israeli government and its institutions and with Israeli society in general. There is no doubt that the PA ceaselessly undermines the foundations of Jerusalem’s unity and works toward de-facto division of the city by strengthening the Arab residents’ attachment to Ramallah instead of Jerusalem.

Kushner, Greenblatt to visit Mideast to seek backing for peace plan

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other administration officials are headed to the Middle East later this month to brief diplomats in at least five countries on the economic section of a US proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kushner, who is US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, will be joined by US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, US envoy on Iran Brian Hook and other administration officials who have worked on the economic part of the plan.

Stops are confirmed in Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Other stops could be added to the trip, according to a White House official.

The plan includes an economic development proposal for Palestinians that foresees major infrastructure and industrial work, particularly in Gaza. For the plan to succeed or even pass the starting gate, it will need at least initial buy-in from both Israel and the Palestinians as well as from the Gulf Arab states, which officials say will be asked to substantially bankroll the economic portion.

Also, Kushner is to participate next Thursday in Warsaw in a discussion to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a senior White House official.

“I Have Signed My Actual Death-Warrant”

Collins’ death and those of the civil war’s other victims were tragic but less so than the alternative. Imagine for a moment that Collins and his compatriots had not signed the treaty, that the war with the UK had gone on all over Ireland as it did in Ulster for 30 years (1968-1998)… and on… and on…

One need not imagine very hard because there is a case study available of just such a situation – namely, the Palestinians. On multiple occasions over the past hundred years, Palestinians have been offered a state of their own, on condition that they make hard compromises in return. Israel’s 2008 proposal by Ehud Olmert, and 2000 Camp David proposal, and the UN’s 1947 partition plan, all proposed final resolutions that would have created a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. (Another offer, the UK’s 1937 Peel Commission plan, proposed to create a Palestinian state united with Jordan.) The Palestinians neither accepted any of these offers, nor put forward any proposal of their own.

Why not? Former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross suggested that Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat “could live with a process, but not with a conclusion… Our great failing was in not creating the earlier tests that would have either exposed Arafat’s inability to ultimately make peace or forced him to prepare his people for compromise.” What Ross seems to imply was that, at the end of the day, Arafat was not willing to compromise Palestinian claims, not willing to share the land, not willing to tell the descendants of Palestinian refugees that they could not “return” to Israel.

Was it purely personal opposition to making the necessary compromises, or was it fear of the consequences? Perhaps both. Arafat, and his successor Mahmoud Abbas, certainly remembered the fate of Anwar Sadat after he made peace with Israel. Perhaps they knew Michael Collins’ story, too.

Birthing a nation is dangerous, not least because it inevitably requires compromise, which may set the willing compromisers against their most extreme partisans. The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing failure to educate for peace — indeed, its opposition to doing so — is both symptom and cause of the strength of the anti-compromise camp.

US blocks Security Council criticism over Israel’s decision to remove observers from Biblical city of Hebron

Last year, Israel’s foreign ministry expelled a Swiss member of the TIPH for slapping a 10-year-old Jewish boy in Hebron. Another TIPH observer was expelled for allegedly slashing tires of an Israeli-owned car in Hebron’s Jewish quarter last year.

Fleisher told Fox News that does not mean both sides cannot coexist. He said the Hebron Jewish community has lived in the ancient city for 3,800 years and said that, “Arabs and Jews will be able to work it out…and things are going to be fine and dandy here without TIPF. Instead, it will be even better than it was before.”

The Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, was not as optimistic and told reporters outside the Security Council that settler violence had risen in Hebron and called the situation, “very alarming.” He said he hoped that, “the Security Council can rise to the level of taking steps to ensure the safety and protection of the civilian population international law calls for.”

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia School of Law specializing in constitutional and international law, told Fox News that international criticism saying Israel ended TIPH is “simply wrong.”

“TIPH ended under its own rules. Moreover, the criticism at the U.N. of Israel’s decision to not renew the mandate discourages Israel from making any further diplomatic agreements with the PA,” he said. “If it gets slammed when it fully adheres to the terms, what’s the point?”

He added that there was never an intent to make it a permanent institution.

“But diplomatic inertia has kept it in place for over two decades,” Kontorovich said. “The force’s mission has always been one-sided against Israel…They have violated the terms of their mandate in many ways, and it was time to officially end it.”

The foreign ministers of the five nations that contribute to TIPH – Norway, Turkey, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland – said in a statement they were concerned that the decision would, “have a negative impact on the situation.”

US: Israel had the right to remove Hevron observers

US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said on Thursday that it was Israel’s right to decide not to renew the mandate of the international observer force in the city of Hevron.

Palladino was asked in a press briefing about the US decision to block a proposed UN Security Council statement expressing regret over Israel’s decision to end the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

“The 1997 agreement on the temporary international presence in the city of Hebron clearly states that the consent of both the Israelis and the Palestinians is required in order to extend the mandate and presence of the TIPH. Furthermore, Oslo II and Hebron Protocol of 1997 also stated that the agreement from both sides was necessary for that to continue,” replied the spokesman.

“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the Israeli decision not to renew, it would be inaccurate to accuse Israel of not having the right to make this decision under the 1997 agreement. This is a sovereign decision and it’s the right of either party to make that agreement,” he stressed.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced last week that he would not renew the mandate of the 64-member team, saying, “We will not allow the continued presence of an international force acting against us.”

Why these Democratic presidential hopefuls voted no on an anti-BDS bill

AIPAC sounded relieved by the substantive Democratic backing in the Senate this week for a controversial pro-Israel bill initiated by Republicans.

The Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act (S.1), which the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said “contains critical pro-Israel provisions,” passed 77-23, earning yeas from every Republican but one, Rand Paul of Kentucky. It codifies $38 billion in defense assistance to Israel and provides legal cover to states that target the boycott Israel movement.

“These provisions — contained in one of the first major bipartisan bills adopted by the Senate this year — pledge security assistance to Israel and clarify that state and local governments have the right to counter boycotts of Israel,” AIPAC explained.

Not only that, the bipartisan numbers were good: Of 47 senators in the Democratic caucus, 25 voted for the measure to 22 against.

The exceptions, however, were notable: Of the seven Senate Democrats who have declared for the presidency or seem poised to, six voted no. Only Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota voted yes.

JTA asked all seven for explanations, and five sent replies. Klobuchar’s staff said she was caught up in hearings, and the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., never responded.

The five no voters based their opposition to what has been called an “anti-BDS bill” on free speech concerns about its anti-boycott element, which would provide federal protections for states penalizing boycotters.

Some emphasized their support for the other components of the bill, including the defense assistance for Israel, as well as sanctions targeting Syria’s Assad regime and the reinforcement of the alliance with Jordan.

One in two Israelis has negative view of Poland, new survey shows

One in two Israelis has a negative opinion of Poland, although a large majority believe that Poles, too, suffered at the hands of the Nazis, according to a new survey commissioned by the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv.

At the same time, two-thirds of respondents said Poland has been reluctant to admit its complicity in the Holocaust.

The poll, presented to a handful of reporters Thursday in the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, is an effort by the right-wing government in Warsaw to examine and improve the country’s image in Israel after a recent controversy over the roles of Poles in atrocities against Jews during World War II.

“We commissioned this survey because we know very well that bilateral relations are very important for Poland and for Israel — more important than relations with other countries,” Ambassador Marek Magierowski‏‎ said, opening his remarks in Hebrew.

“We wanted to know if we have to change something in our policy, here at Polish Embassy in Israel, and in the Polish government in Warsaw,” Magierowski added.

Continuing in English, Magierowski‏‎ said he was not surprised by the poll’s findings, adding that in Israel there was “low awareness of what modern-day Poland is.”

Journalists say alleged Brussels Jewish museum shooter tortured them in Syria

Two French journalists on Thursday told a terror trial in Brussels that Mehdi Nemmouche, the main defendant in the May 2014 Jewish museum murders, had imprisoned and tortured them in Syria.

The journalists, who were freed in April 2014, came to the Belgian capital to testify about the character of Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman, who faces a life sentence if convicted in the murder of four people during the anti-Semitic shooting attack on May 24, 2014.

“I have absolutely no doubt about the fact that Mehdi Nemmouche, who is present here, was my jailer and torturer in Syria under the name of Abu Omar,” former hostage Nicolas Henin told the trial.

His colleague Didier Francois also said he “had no doubt” Nemmouche had held him hostage, along with fellow Frenchmen Edouard Elias and Pierre Torres who were not present Thursday.

Francois said Nemmouche hit him with “around 40 blows of a truncheon,” among other abuses, during the time the journalists were held by the Islamic State in the hospital turned prison.

Israel Thwarts Jordanian Weapons Smugglers

Israeli security forces thwarted Jordanian weapons smugglers intending to sell weapons to top-ranking Fatah officials in the West Bank, Channel 12 reported on Thursday.

The weapons included 82 assault rifles and 80 guns, the clients are said to be top ranking Fatah officials who are arming supporters ahead of an expected civil-war which will likely take place over leadership when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dies.

While the names of the officials are known to the reporters they were asked by Israel’s security services not to make them public, the report said.

Abbas Pledges Security Cooperation With Israel

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged to continue security cooperation with Israel, despite the United States cutting all security assistance to the PA.

In front of a gathering of Israeli and Palestinian activists on Wednesday, Abbas said that Ramallah has a “joint agreement to fight terrorism” with Israel and “will not violate it” because were the P.A. to do so, “nothing will remain.”

Abbas’s remarks come as the United States officially ceased last week all $60 million in security assistance to the PA in addition to the US Agency for International Development closing its operations in the West Bank and Gaza.

The cut-off in such assistance and the USAID closure occurred in accordance with the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), signed into law in October, that provides protections for American victims of international terrorism.

Israel has reportedly urged the Trump administration to fix the ATCA to preserve the security assistance.

Report: Two Palestinians killed by IDF fire during weekly Gaza protests

Two Palestinian teenagers were reportedly killed and five Palestinians were injured in clashes along the Gaza-Israel border during the continued weekly March of Return protests, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported 14-year-old Hasan Shelbi and an unidentified 18-year-old were killed today by IDF sniper fire during the clashes in the Gaza Strip. Shelbi was shot east to the city of Khan Yunis, which is in the southern region of the Strip.

Roughly 7,000 protesters confronted IDF forces throughout several locations across the Gaza Strip on Friday during the weekly protest.

Protesters charged at IDF positions, threw rocks and makeshift bombs as well as attempted to cut the fence in order to enter Israeli territory. The attempts were thwarted by IDF soldiers.

Palestinians have been staging weekly protests since last March at the border, an enclave controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas. The enclave’s health ministry says that more than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops at the protests. One Israeli soldier has died.

Israel says it has no choice but to use deadly force at the protests to defend the frontier from militants trying to destroy the barrier and infiltrate.

US Military Aims to Withdraw From Syria by April: WSJ

The US military is preparing to withdraw American forces from Syria by the end of April and a significant portion of them will be out by the middle of March, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing current and former US officials.

A US official confirmed the April target to Reuters, saying the withdrawal included a pull-out from the US military base at Tanf, near the Syrian border with Iraq and Jordan.

President Donald Trump announced in December he was pulling all 2,000 US troops out of Syria, saying the battle against Islamic State there was almost won.

The president’s sudden decision surprised many in his own administration as well as coalition allies such as Turkey and an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that fought Islamic State with US military support.

Washington has been trying to reach agreement with Turkey, which considers the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia a terrorist organization, for the safety of the YPG fighters after it pulls out. It is also discussing setting up a safe zone along the border to address Turkish security concerns.

Israel said to find new Iranian precision missile factory in northwest Syria

Israel has discovered a new ambitious precision missile factory being constructed by Iran in Syria together with the Syrian government and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, after Israel bombed and destroyed a previous one, an Israeli TV network reported Thursday evening.

The report on Channel 12 said the new factory was recently built near the northwestern city of Safita in hopes that Israel wouldn’t discover it in the location, which is far from previous Iranian sites struck by Israel elsewhere in Syria. The factory is intended to focus on producing precision missiles, dramatically upgrading the threat to Israel from the vast arsenal of rockets and missiles deployed against it in southern Lebanon by Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah.

To build it, Channel 12 reported, Iran had to bypass international sanctions on its missile program via a series of straw companies established by Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), a government agency that manufactures weaponry and whose facilities have repeatedly been targeted by Israel in the past.

Those companies — established specifically for that purpose — ordered missile parts from Italy, China and other countries in eastern Asia, the report said. The companies are named the Organization of Technological Industries (OTI) and ANAS Group, according to the report.

Israel has nevertheless discovered, tracked and uncovered the facility, the network said, as part of its effort to thwart Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.

Top U.S. Commander: Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah Operating in Latin America

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda, and Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah maintain a presence on the Western Hemisphere and present an “immediate threat” to the region, a top U.S. commander told lawmakers on Thursday, warning that the jihadi groups could use drug trafficking routes in Latin America to infiltrate the United States.

Adm. Craig Faller, the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) chief, warned:
Established drug trafficking routes and techniques provide opportunities for the illegal movement of other commodities and people—including terrorists. Several years ago, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) dedicated an article to a scenario in which its followers could leverage established trafficking networks to make their way to our border. This remains a potential vulnerability we watch as closely as we can.

Faller’s comments are part of SOUTHCOM’s annual posture statement, presented by the admiral to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday in the form of written testimony. SOUTHCOM is responsible for overseeing U.S. military activities in most of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the statement, Faller listed violent Islamic extremist groups as a top “immediate threat” facing his area of responsibility (AOR) along with drug cartels and activities by U.S. rivals like Russia, China, and Iran.

Saudi study: Millennial jihadis educated, not outcasts

A study by a Saudi research center is challenging the notion that jihadi fighters are necessarily disenfranchised and lacking opportunity, with its lead researcher saying Thursday that a new generation of Saudi militants are relatively well-educated, not driven purely by religious ideology and show little interest in suicide missions.

The 40-page study, published by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in conjunction with the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London, looked at 759 Saudi recruits who joined the Islamic State group mostly between 2013 and 2014. That’s roughly a third of the overall number of Saudis who fought in Syria. The data was drawn from leaked Islamic State group entry documents.

The Saudi Interior Ministry previously said that 2,500 Saudis had gone to Syria in the years before the kingdom criminalized fighting abroad in early 2014. Only Tunisia sent more foreign fighters. Subsequently, the kingdom was the target of numerous ISIS group attacks that killed dozens of people, as well as in Kuwait.

Researcher Abdullah bin Khaled Al-Saud said the fighters were neither loners nor social outcasts but appear to have been motivated by the heightened sectarianism that began to color the 2011 Syrian revolution as it slid into armed conflict.

A turning point came when Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah decisively committed to join the conflict in May 2013 to defend the Syrian government against the mostly Sunni Muslim resistance.

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