February 20, 2019

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02/11 Links: Netanyahu: Israeli strikes dealt ‘serious blow’ to Iran, Syria; Media: It All Started When Israel Fired Back


From Ian:

IDF Blog: Air Force strikes Iranian targets in Syria
On Saturday, February 10, 2018, Iran launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Syria, which violated Israeli sovereign airspace. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) dispatched an Apache attack helicopter to intercept the UAV and destroyed it. “The UAV was detected long before crossing Israeli territory” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, Head of the International Branch.

In response, Israeli Air Force aircraft targeted the control vehicle from which the UAV was operated in the Syrian T-4 Airbase near Tadmor. During the attack, multiple surface-to-air missiles were launched at IAF aircraft and hit an F-16I fighter jet. The two pilots were forced to eject and parachuted to safety in Israeli territory.

In total, the IDF targeted 12 military objectives, including 3 aerial defense batteries and 4 Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria. “We carried out a wide-scale attack on the aerial defense system – radars, rockets, batteries, posts, and we performed a substantial strike, which as can be seen – they are trying to hide” says Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein Dar, Head of the Air Group in the IAF. According to Brig. Gen. Ein Dar, it is “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has carried out against Syrian air defenses since 1982.”

“What we’ve known for a long time is now clear to everyone: Iran wants to establish a front in Syria that is aimed at harming Israel. We are not looking to escalate the situation, but we have abilities that we are not afraid to use,” said Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, Head of the Northern Command.

Netanyahu: Israeli strikes dealt ‘serious blow’ to Iran, Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said airstrikes targeting key Iranian military facilities in Syria over the weekend inflicted heavy damage on the Iranian and Syrian militaries, and vowed that Israel would act decisively to counter any further provocations.

“Yesterday we dealt a serious blow to the armies of Iran and Syria,” Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of engagement have not changed in any way.”

“We will continue to strike back at any attempt to harm us,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement. “This has been our policy and will remain our policy.”

The wave of Israeli airstrikes came after the IDF intercepted an Iranian drone that had infiltrated its airspace and an Israeli F-16 was downed upon its return from Syria on Saturday. It was Israel’s most serious engagement in neighboring Syria since fighting there began in 2011 — and its most devastating air assault on the country in decades.

The IDF said it destroyed the drone’s Iranian launching site along with four additional Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, including the Syrian military’s main command and control bunker.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said Sunday that at least six Syrian troops and allied militiamen were killed in the airstrikes. The six included Syrian troops as well as non-Syrian allied troops, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Iran’s Aggression Against Israel

US ‘strongly supports’ Israel’s right to defend itself

The United States “strongly supports” Israel’s right to defend itself, the State Department spokeswoman Heather Naeuert said on Saturday, several hours after Israel hit 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, including Syrian air defense systems, after an Iranian drone launched from a base in Syria attempted to violate Israeli airspace.

“The United States is deeply concerned about today’s escalation of violence over Israel’s border and strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

“Iran’s calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the‎ region – from Yemen to Lebanon – at risk.”‎

A spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department echoed Nauert, saying that Washington supports Israel’s right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its citizens, but emphasized that the U.S. did not take part in the attack on Syrian territory.

The spokesman said the U.S. was interested in generating a tougher global stance against Iran’s actions.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the latest escalation in Syria in a telephone call on Saturday, Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.

“They discussed the situation around the actions of the Israeli air force, which carried out missile strikes on targets in Syria,” Interfax quoted the Kremlin as saying.

Pilot of downed F-16 jet regains consciousness, taken off respirator

The Israeli F-16 pilot who was seriously hurt when an apparent Syrian anti-aircraft missile downed his fighter jet on Saturday regained consciousness on Sunday and was taken off a respirator.

After his condition improved on Saturday due to emergency surgery, Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center reported “an additional improvement in the pilot’s condition” on Sunday.

“The medical team has taken him off respiration,” said Yaron Bar-Lavie, director of the critical care division at the northern Israel hospital.

“He is fully conscious and his injuries are now defined as moderate,” he added. “He is still in the critical care department.”

The F-16 jet took part in Israeli airstrikes in response to an Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace from Syria in the early morning hours on Saturday. A second pilot who ejected from the plane was lightly hurt and is set to be released from the hospital on Sunday.

The Israeli Air Force said it was investigating what caused the pilots to eject and if the aircraft was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles. If the plane was in fact shot down by enemy fire, it would mark the first such instance for Israel since the 1982 Lebanon War.

JCPA: Precursor to the Iranian UAV Intrusion

At the end of January 2018, in the midst of the warnings by the Israeli prime minister, defense minister, and military spokespersons against Iran and its plan to build facilities in Lebanon for manufacturing precision weapons, Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi came for a visit to Syria and Lebanon. Raisi is a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts and is thought to be the designated successor of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

In 2017, he lost the elections for the Iran presidency to Hassan Rouhani. During the elections, Rouhani accused Riasi of being behind the 1988 mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in which thousands were killed.
Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.

Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, custodian the multi-billion dollar Astan Quds Razavi bonyad (foundation), held talks with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.2

In Lebanon, Raisi met with Hizbullah leaders Hassan Nasrallah and Hashim Safi al-Din; Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri; and the chairman of the Shiite Islamic Council, Abdul-Amir Kabalan. Raisi also visited the family homes of the deceased terrorist leaders Imad Mughniyeh and Mustafa Badr al-Din.

The high point of Raisi’s visit occurred in southern Lebanon when he toured the border with Israel escorted by Hizbullah military commanders and Iranian officers. In pictures published by his office, the escorts’ faces were blurred.

Aaron Klein: Iran Massively Miscalculated by Sending a Drone into Israel

The decision by the Iran-led “Shiite Axis” in the region to send an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into Israeli territory was a dangerous miscalculation by Tehran and its puppets in Syria and Lebanon.

Following strategic victories over the Islamic State and Turkey-backed rebels inside Syria, an overly confident Iran apparently decided to test regional boundaries and its own capabilities by sending the UAV over the border into the Jewish state.

Aviation analysts described the Iranian drone as a new stealthy model similar in design to the American RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone that Iran claimed to have shot down and seized in December 2011. It’s likely the Iranians were testing the model’s ability to penetrate Israeli airspace undetected, making Israel’s discovery of the UAV a remarkable display of regional military superiority.

Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have outrageously been attempting to frame Israel’s massive airstrikes as unprovoked aggression, even fueling conspiracies that no drone was intercepted. In reality, the timeline is self-evident. Following Iran’s ill-conceived provocative UAV move, Israeli jets pounded an Iran-controlled airbase outside the Syrian city of Palmyra that Israel says was utilized to launch the drone. Syrian forces then launched anti-aircraft missiles, reportedly forcing an Israeli F-16 pilot to abandon his jet and sending Israel’s northern communities into bomb shelters. Israel in turn dispatched bombers into Syria to target a series of important Syrian and Iranian military installations, prompting more anti-aircraft fire from Iran-backed Syrian forces.

IDF, Syrian rebels identify regime targets hit in reprisal strikes

The Israeli army identified some of the targets of the retaliatory airstrikes it conducted in Syria after an Iranian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace the day before, while Syrian rebel forces provided details on the rest.

The targets included anti-aircraft missile batteries and an anti-missile defense system near Damascus and a mobile command center near Palmyra, according to the military.

Six pro-regime fighters were killed in the raids, according to a monitor.

At approximately 4:25 a.m. on Saturday, an Iranian drone from Syria entered Israeli territory from Jordan and was shot down by an Apache attack helicopter near the northern Israeli city of Beit Shean, according to the army.

Israel said the drone infiltration was a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty,” and warned of further action against unprecedented Iranian “aggression.”

In response, the Israeli Air Force quickly conducted a series of reprisal strikes in Syria.

One F-16 fighter jet was apparently hit while flying over Syria during the raid, but managed to return to Israel, where its two pilots bailed out of the plane, which crashed into a field in the Jezreel Valley, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. One of the airmen was severely injured, while the second was lightly wounded.

Palestinians cheer downing of F-16, warn Israel not to attack Gaza

Palestinians on Saturday hailed the shooting down of an Israeli F-16 by Syria, with some celebrating in the streets and terror groups in the Gaza Strip calling the incident a “severe blow” to Israel.

Meanwhile, the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, announced that it was “raising the state of alert” along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel in wake of the tensions in northern Israel.

Abu Obaida, a spokesperson, said the move was aimed at “defending our people and responding to any Zionist aggression.”

In Jenin in the West Bank, some Palestinians celebrated the downing of the jet and handed out sweets and candies to passersby.

Syrians suffering under Iranian-supported regime praise Israel’s strikes

Qais al-Khazali, the head of the Iraqi Shi’a Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia, celebrated the downing of an Israeli F-16 by Syrian air defense in a series of tweets over the weekend. Although most responses were supportive, one mocked him and Iran for being “pawns, luring children to their death.”

This is part of the much wider debate unfolding between opponents and supporters of the Syrian regime. In this debate, Israel’s actions and any perception of Iranian gains have ramifications across the region. For supporters of Assad and Tehran, the “axis of resistance” has scored a great victory against the “Zionists.” For those who have stood with the Syrian rebellion and watched Assad’s barrel bombs killing civilians for years, the Israeli air strikes against the Iranians in Syria are a welcome sign.

“A happy day that Israeli planes bomb Hezbollah and Iran sites in Syria and other sites of the Bashar [Assad] regime,” a Saudi named Mansour al-Khamis tweeted in Arabic to his 29,000 followers on Saturday. He claimed the Muslim Brotherhood stands with Iran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, but today “I will stand not to salute the Israeli Army but to that the oppressors will destroy the unjust.” Replies to his tweet included accusations that “Wahhabi Saudi Arabia” was collaborating with Israel.

Twelve years ago, during the Israel-Hezbollah war, the region was vastly different. Then, the support for Hezbollah and its claims of “victory” over Israel were more widespread. Now, the cleavages in the region between supporters of Assad, Iran and Hezbollah and those who look on with more favor as Israel targeted a dozen sites in Syria on Saturday, are more stark. Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war irretrievably tarnished the group’s image for many people. Iran has been portrayed in cartoons in the region as a grasping octopus with bloody hands reaching into Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

Former Qaeda leader in Syria ‘welcomes’ Israeli airstrikes

In a rare public expression of support for Israel by a radical Islamist figure in Syria, a former leader in al-Qaeda’s Syrian militia on Saturday welcomed Israeli airstrikes against Syrian and Iranian targets in the country after an Iranian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace, and called on the Jewish state to quickly “uproot” Iran from its northern neighbor.

“We welcome any Israeli aerial or naval bombardment against the [Syrian] regime and Iran in Syria. We urge them to do more. And we say to Israel: Your silence over Iran’s intervention in Syria will turn against you. It’s inevitable. Act with haste to uproot them,” Saleh Al-Hamwi wrote on Twitter.

Hamwi was a founder of the Nusra Front in 2012. In July 2015, the jihadist group said it dismissed him for not falling in line with the group’s internal politics.

He is now reportedly affiliated with the hardline Islamist group Ahrar il-Sham.

Iran Attack: It All Started When Israel Fired Back

Headlines matter. Here’s why: rightly or not, we don’t read most of the articles in our daily papers; we skim the headlines before being drawn to whatever grabs our attention – both on news sites and also on social media. So for better or worse, headlines tell a story: sometimes the only story a newsreader will remember.

The IDF began releasing information yesterday at 6:30 a.m. local time, and all the articles below were written after that time. So there is no legitimate reason why we should be seeing headlines like these:

New Zealand Herald: No mention that the drone was flying in Israel, which is really the heart of the story.

The Observer: The attack wasn’t just “after fighter jet crashes,” but after Iran sent a military drone into Israel, and Israel’s fighter jet was downed while responding. But why mention any of that critical context? It might appear as if Israel had acted reasonably.

The Times UK: Emotionally evocative phrasing (“blasts”) is always a convenient substitute for responsible, fact-based journalism. And of course, as usual, the cause of the whole situation is entirely missing.

Financial Times: Seriously? No context at all?

The Washington Post Claims Israel Used Iranian Drone As ‘Pretext’ For Attack

The Washington Post has treated an Iranian attack against Israel with unwarranted skepticism, using the event to unfairly question the motives of the Israeli military.

The Post asserted in a Feb. 10, 2018 report (“Israel claims incursion by Iranian drone”) that the Jewish state used an Iranian drone’s “alleged incursion” into Israeli airspace as a “pretext for Israeli strikes on what it described as Iranian targets in Syria.” The Post’s claim was part of a problematic and inaccurate caption that accompanied a video that the paper posted online to describe events that transpired in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2018.

As the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) noted, the IDF intercepted an Iranian made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) after it entered Israeli airspace from Syria. During the attack, several anti-aircraft missiles were launched at Israeli fighter jets and sirens sounded in northern Israel. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) responded by engaging twelve targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian military targets, all of which were located in Syria. An Israeli attack helicopter successfully destroyed the Iranian UAV. An IAF F-16 jet also crashed, after its two pilots ejected. The pilots are currently hospitalized and it’s unclear at the time of this writing what led to the downing of the IAF plane.

The IDF has released footage showing the Iranian drone infiltrating Israeli airspace and the IDF’s response.

Following UKMW tweet, Indy corrects claim that Iranian drone was shot down over ‘Syria’

Hostilities over the weekend on both sides of the Syrian-Israeli border began early Saturday morning when an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace and was then shot down by an IDF Apache attack helicopter. On this point – the location of the UAV when it was shot down – there’s been no serious disagreement in mainstream media reports on the incident.

Yet, a report in the Independent by Daniel Khalili-Tari (Russia urges restraint after Israeli air strikes target Iranian forces in Syria, Feb. 11th) managed to get this crucial detail wrong, claiming that the drone was shot down over Syria, despite prior reports at the same publication noting that it was shot down only after it crossed the northern border into Israel.

We alerted the journalist to the error in a tweet shortly after the article was published.

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

However, the BBC – which, notably, recently took it upon itself to launch “a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information” – had no qualms about amplifying Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.”

The third event to take place on the morning of February 10th was an IAF strike on the mobile command vehicle that launched and guided the Iranian UAV at the T4 airbase near Tadmor in central Syria. The BBC reported that event as follows:

“The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria. […]

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.”

In other words, BBC audiences were not informed that the drone was launched from a Syrian airbase used by Iran’s Quds Force.

IsraellyCool: The Most Blatantly Biased Headline About Yesterday’s Syria-Israel Escalation

Despite events being clear, the world media got their headlines wrong, with many going with the “Israeli attacked first” boilerplate.

But by far the worst example I saw was from The Metro, which is, according to Wikipedia, “a free newspaper published in tabloid format in the United Kingdom..distributed from Monday to Friday on many public-transport services and stations in cities and towns across the United Kingdom.” It has a circulation of almost 1.5 million.

Syria has been subjected to brutal air strikes after the Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country. The military said its planes faced massive anti-aircraft fire from Syria that forced two pilots to abandon an F-16 jet that crashed in northern Israel.

Besides the fact the headline and opening paragraph of the report focus on the Israeli airstrikes, the word “brutal” is totally unnecessary and designed to elicit anger towards Israel and sympathy towards Syria. The headline is also wrong – it was the Syrians (and/or the Iranians) who shot down an Israeli fighter jet – we shot down an Iranian drone.

Again, I go back to The Metro’s circulation – 1.5 million UK commuters. Is it any wonder we are seeing so much antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment over there?

Trump: The Palestinians are not looking to make peace

In interview with Israel Hayom Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth, U.S. President Donald Trump says, “I have achieved more than I had promised” in first year of term • “Israel has to be careful with settlements,” he says, adding that Israelis and Palestinians would be “foolish” not to make a peace deal.

“I expect to be here a long time,” U.S. President Donald Trump said to me when I asked him whether the ayatollah regime would still be in place in Iran when he leaves office. “We will see.”

When it comes to the leader of the free world, a remark like this can be taken as a semi-threat. One thing is clear: The U.S. no longer views Iran as a “stabilizing” power, or even remotely as one of the good guys in the region, the way Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, often did.

I interviewed Trump before the latest escalation in Israel’s north, before Israel clashed with Syrian and Iranian forces at the Syrian border on Saturday. But even then, it was painfully clear that Syria and Iran are testing the U.S., checking how far they can push the Americans (including reports of chemical attacks and hospital bombings in recent days).

When I asked Trump if Israel is free to operate in Syria and in Lebanon against Iranian targets, he adopted an air of uncharacteristic ambiguity. But the message was clear – when it comes to Iran, it is best to let actions do the talking. The U.S. is keeping its cards close to the chest.

102 Democrats in Congress urge Trump not to cut Palestinian aid

Over half of the Democrats in Congress are urging US President Donald Trump to rethink his decision to significantly slash aid to the UN agency working with Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

In a letter on Friday, 102 lawmakers said cutting tens of millions of dollars in US contributions to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) would intensify anti-Israel sentiment, damage national interests in the region, and diminish prospects for a two-state solution.

“Continuing to freeze this aid will harm American interests by exacerbating the threats facing both peoples and reducing the United States’ ability to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a two-state solution,” the letter said.

They warned that “deliberately exacerbating the hardship of the Palestinian people and reducing the ability of their government to function would only contribute to the benefit of those who reject engagement.”

“Extremist and anti-Israel groups would be all too eager to fill in the vacuum, deepening their hold in the region and expanding their destructive influence on the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” the US lawmakers said.

Indian PM lays wreath on arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat’s grave

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday became the first Indian prime minister to visit Judea and Samaria, where he held talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as part of a Middle East tour.

The visit, which came weeks after Modi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was seen as an Indian effort to balance its strengthening ties with the Jewish state.

“I have once again assured President Abbas that India is bound by a promise to take care of the Palestinian people’s interests,” Modi said following a meeting with the Fatah leader.

“India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner.”

Modi and his entourage had flown in by helicopter from Jordan, landing near Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters and laying a wreath at the mausoleum of late Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat.

Arafat, who founded the Fatah terrorist organization in 1959, led the PLO, an umbrella organization of anti-Israel terror groups, from 1969 until his death in 2004.

Born in Egypt in 1929, Arafat spent most of his life at the helm of organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and directed numerous terror attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel.

PMW: Fatah glorified Wednesday`s terrorist: “Heroic Martyr… who carried out the heroic stabbing operation”

Contradicting Mahmoud Abbas’ claims that the PA “seeks peace,” his Fatah Movement continues to glorify terrorists and promote terror. On Wednesday last week, just hours after a terror attack, Fatah was already honoring the terrorist. The terrorist, Hamza Yusuf Zamaarah, who was killed while trying to stab an Israeli security guard, was immediately hailed as the “heroic Martyr… who carried out the heroic stabbing operation,” by Fatah’s Bethlehem branch. Fatah also asked Allah to “have mercy on the Martyr, let him dwell in Paradise, and grant his family consolation and patience.” [Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Bethlehem Branch, Feb. 7, 2018]

A second post in his honor showed his picture and wrote: “Praise and eternity to our righteous Martyrs”

Posted text: “Martyr (Shahid) released prisoner Hamza Yusuf Nu’man Zamaarah, 19, from Halhoul. Praise and eternity to our righteous Martyrs” [Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Bethlehem Branch, Feb. 7, 2018]

Fatah doesn’t only glorify terror. It also calls for terror. On Friday, Fatah posted two posters calling for Friday to be a day of “rage” and “Martyrdom.”

Israeli airline doesn’t define Jerusalem as capital of Israel

The interactive map of El Al’s new Dreamliner plane shows Jerusalem as a “holy city” – but not as the capital of Israel, as mentioned of other capitals around the world, reports Makor Rishon.

By clicking on “Jerusalem” on the touch screen a window opens that reads: “Jerusalem combines the old and modern city and is filled with monuments rich in history stretching over 4,000 years. Jerusalem is one of the most sacred sites in the world for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and contains a large number of places that have profound significance for the three religions.”

El Al explained that the application on all Dreamliner planes in the world has been translated into Hebrew for El Al. As a result, Panasonic’s application appears in El Al as it appears on other planes, with text that does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The company said that they are aware of the issue and that it is already being rectified. According to them, this is a complicated amendment requiring intervention of Israeli, European, and US officials, and that in the coming days the text will be updated. The company promises that in the upcoming Dreamliner airplanes, updated text will appear that defines Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Palestinian Terror Official Agrees to Cooperate with Hezbollah to Act Against Israel

Nayef Hawatmeh, secretary-general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has met Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah and the two have agreed to act together against Israel, the Palestinian terror figure told the pro-Iranian Al Mayadeen network based in Beirut.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is the third-most important group under the umbrella of the PLO, behind Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Hawatmeh’s organization has carried out dozens of terrorist attacks against Israel, the worst of which is known in Israel as the Ma’alot massacre in 1974 when armed Palestinians infiltrated from Lebanon and took over a school in the town of Ma’alot before murdering 22 hostages.

The organization maintains a so-called military wing to this day, active mostly in the Gaza Strip under the name of the National Resistance Brigades.

“The meeting dealt with a number of issues, first and foremost the resistance and the need to fight off any Israeli aggression whether on the Lebanon or Palestinian front,” Hawatmeh told Al Mayadeen.

The Palestinian jihadist highlighted that the Palestinian “resistance is the mother of all resistance movements in the region and the Palestinian revolution has managed to survive all attempts to destroy it.”

Palestinian terrorist groups regularly utilize the word “resistance” as a euphemism for terrorist attacks targeting Israelis.

Egypt bulldozes zone by Sinai airport, displacing thousands

Egypt’s army is bulldozing homes and olive groves to build a buffer zone around the airport in troubled North Sinai Province, but the operation will displace thousands, according to residents.

The residents have been told they will be removed from at least a dozen hamlets around al-Arish airport. They say they are being moved to nearby cities where the government has promised them compensation.

Al-Arish is the main airport in the region but has been closed to the public for more than three years. However, it is used when high-ranking officials travel to North Sinai.

The new fortifications underline how the army is digging in for a longer-term insurgency that shows no sign of abating, despite years of fighting in which hundreds of soldiers have been killed. They will stretch 5 kilometers (3 miles) around three sides and 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) to the north, Egypt’s state news agency quoted North Sinai Gov. Abdel-Fatah Harhour as saying.

In what amounts to the latest escalation, Defence Minister Sedki Sobhy and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar, who is in charge of police, were in al-Arish on an unannounced visit Dec. 19 when a missile struck their helicopter. Although they were not in the aircraft, the missile killed an officer and wounded two others.

President Abdel-Fatah Sisi ordered the creation of the zone outside the airport walls two weeks ago, and it is unclear if it will eventually contain fences or other obstacles.

The buffer zone will destroy dozens of hamlets around the airport, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes for an unknown future, sparking some protest by residents despite the government promises of compensation.

Turkey Slams Cyprus for Gas Search, Blocks Rig With Warships

Turkey’s foreign ministry criticized Cyprus again Sunday for a “unilateral” offshore hydrocarbons search after Turkish warships prevented an Italian rig from reaching an area off the east Mediterranean island nation where it was to start exploratory drilling for gas.

Turkish warships on Friday stopped a rig belonging to the Italian energy firm ENI as it headed toward an area southeast of Cyprus.

Turkey, in a statement Sunday, said Greek Cypriots were disregarding the “inalienable rights on natural resources” of Turkish Cypriots and jeopardizing the region’s stability.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the Cyprus government was acting like “the sole owner of the island” and warned it would be responsible for any consequences. It also urged foreign companies not to support the Cyprus’ government’s activities.

Cyprus was split into an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

An ENI spokesman told The Associated Press that the Turkish warships told the rig not to continue because there would be military activities at its destination. The spokesman said the rig would remain where it stopped until the situation is resolved.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said Sunday that Cypriot authorities are taking actions that will neither lead to an escalation of tensions nor overlook the fact that Turkey was violating international law.

Polish PM tells his people to avoid anti-Semitic remarks

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday called on Poles to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements at a time when the country is under fire over a controversial Holocaust law.

“I would like to invite every one of you to contribute to positive thinking… to avoid anti-Semitic statements, because they are grist to the mill for our enemies, for our adversaries,” Morawiecki said at a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Chelm.

“Let’s avoid it like the plague, even the dumb, unnecessary jokes. Most importantly, let’s all explain together how things really were.”

The new law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich — or other crimes against humanity and war crimes” and set off criticism from Israel, the United States and France.

Polish adviser says Israel wants ‘monopoly on the Holocaust’

An adviser to Poland’s president says he thinks Israel’s negative reaction to a law criminalizing some statements about Poland’s actions during World War II stemmed from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”

Andrzej Zybertowicz, a Nicolaus Copernicus University sociology professor who also serves as a presidential adviser, called Israel’s opposition to the new law “anti-Polish” and said it shows the Mideast nation is “clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”

“Many Jews engaged in denunciation, collaboration during the war. I think Israel has still not worked it through,” Zybertowicz said in the interview in the Polska-The Times newspaper Friday.

He said, “The ‘religion’ of the Holocaust has become a sort of symbolic shield for the Jewish state, in which the genocide of Jews was used to create a special status for Israel in the world, a symbol meant to protect it from any criticism.”

Zybertowicz further suggested that Israel had manufactured a crisis with Warsaw in order to distract from the investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Poland’s ‘enemies’ trying to fan anti-Semitism, says ruling party boss

The influential leader of Poland’s ruling conservative party on Saturday accused “enemies” of the country of trying to fan anti-Semitism, as Warsaw is under fire over a controversial Holocaust law.

The new law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich — or other crimes against humanity and war crimes” and set off criticism from Israel, the United States and France.

“Today, the enemies of Poland, one can even say the Devil, are trying a very bad recipe… This sickness is anti-Semitism. We must reject it resolutely,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“But this doesn’t mean that we provide fodder” for those who insult Poland, he said.

Israel this month said it had observed a “wave of anti-Semitic statements” in Poland.

Merkel Dodges Question on Poland’s New Holocaust Law

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on Saturday on a Polish law that imposes jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust, saying she did not want to wade into Poland’s internal affairs.

The law would impose prison sentences of up to three years for using the phrase “Polish death camps” and for suggesting “publicly and against the facts” that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany’s crimes.

“Without directly interfering in the legislation in Poland, I would like to say the following very clearly as German chancellor: We as Germans are responsible for what happened during the Holocaust, the Shoah, under National Socialism (Nazism),” Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.

She was responding to a question from a student who had asked whether the new Polish law curbs freedom of expression.

Israel and the United States criticized President Andrzej Duda for signing the bill into law this week. Israel says the law will curb free speech, criminalize basic historical facts and stop any discussion of the role many Poles played in Nazi crimes.

A Polish government spokeswoman welcomed Merkel’s remarks, the PAP news agency reported. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will hold talks with Merkel in Berlin next week.

A True Humanitarian: Remembering Natan Sharansky’s Release

Remembering the historic day of Natan Sharansky’s release – Sharansky remains a true hero and defender of human rights worldwide. This is his story: Happy Aliyah-versary Natan Sharansky!

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