December 8, 2022

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02/15 Links Pt1: Why is the PA lying to its own children?; Iran Is Playing With Fire in Syria; The price of a bad deal just went up

From Ian:

PMW: Why is the PA lying to its own children?
During an interview on official PA TV in 2013, Mahmoud Abbas was asked about his family history and how they became refugees. In his spontaneous answer documented by Palestinian Media Watch, he did not say that Israel expelled the Arabs of Safed, but, just the opposite. He admitted that the Arab residents of Safed left of their own accord “in a disorderly way.”

The reason Abbas cites for the Arab unprompted exodus is also significant. He admitted that the Arabs of Hebron and Safad committed massacres (pronunciation in Arabic: Madhbaha) against their Jewish neighbors in 1929. The Arabs of Safed, Abbas explained, “were afraid that the Jews would take revenge for the massacre [of Jews] in 1929.”

However, a children’s program recently broadcast on PA TV, taught that “Mahmoud Abbas’ family was forced to leave,” because the “occupation gangs,” the euphemism for the new State of Israel, “ruled” the country and stole “from him, his family, and his friends all of their dreams, their homes, and their lands.”

Interestingly, Mahmoud Abbas when speaking at the UN (Sept. 26, 2013) likewise falsified his history claiming to have been “thrown into exile:”

Excerpt from Abbas’ speech at the UN, Sept. 26, 2013:
“I am personally one of the victims of the Nakba (i.e., ‘the catastrophe,’ Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel), among the hundreds of thousands of my people uprooted in 1948 from our beautiful world and thrown into exile.” [Official PA news agency WAFA, English website, Sept. 26, 2013]

Palestinian Media Watch has documented numerous testimonies from Palestinian refugees, Arab officials, and the official PA media, explaining that the Arab exit from the new state of Israel was the result of demands of Arab leaders, the Jordanian army, the Arab Liberation Army, and Arab regimes, as well as fear of revenge, as in the case of Mahmoud Abbas.

Iran Is Playing With Fire in Syria

With the Syrian rebels on the run and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gaining momentum, Iran is seeking to rewrite the “rules of the game” governing Israel’s actions in Syria. Last weekend’s clashes on Israel’s northern border occurred within this context. An Iranian drone breached Israeli airspace, Israel retaliated by bombing multiple targets deep in Syrian territory, and Syria then shot down an Israeli fighter jet.

Before last Saturday, Israel had established an expectation that its strikes on Iranian-Hezbollah weapons convoys and production facilities in Syria would not be met with an effective military response; Syria and Hezbollah couldn’t afford war with Israel, nor did they have the capabilities to seriously retaliate. This state of affairs was obviously disruptive for Iranian designs in the region and a bitter pill for the Assad regime to swallow.

By launching a sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle into Israeli airspace on Saturday, Iran set off a chain reaction, which led the Israeli Air Force to strike Iranian and Assad regime positions in Syria, including the Iranian command center from which the drone was being remotely piloted. This gave the Assad regime an opportunity to set a new precedent by firing on Israeli jets over Israeli territory, downing an Israeli F-16, and provoking further Israeli Air Force strikes on Syrian targets.

Because it was the first time in over three decades that an Israeli jet was brought down by enemy fire, the immediate response by some analysts was to declare that the conflict in the region had entered a “new strategic phase.” The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said, “The era of hit and run is over,” in reference to Israeli airstrikes on Syrian soil. Even the Israeli news site Walla made the foreboding prediction that this was a sign of ominous things to come along Israel’s northern front.

They are wrong. The loss of one Israeli jet should not be exaggerated; it is not a watershed moment that will alter the strategic balance in the Middle East. After all, the Syrians and Russians have lost numerous aircraft over the course of the civil war in Syria (including recently), and that has hardly ushered in an era in which they do not control the skies over their respective areas of influence.

Looking ahead: Longer term prospects for an Israel-Iran nuclear war

ABSTRACT: With Prime Minister Netanyahu just reaffirming that Israel will strike both Iranian and Syrian targets as needed – most recently, after an Iranian drone briefly entered Israeli airspace, and an IAF F-161 plane was shot down – Israeli defense planners must also plan assiduously for more catastrophic future engagements. At some more-or-less determinable point, even an outright use of nuclear weapons against or by Iran might not be out of the question. In this regard, Israel’s ritually traditional and legally correct reaffirmation of its legitimate rights to reprisal could sometime need to be augmented,inter alia, by substantially more far-reaching acts of “anticipatory” self-defense.

“For By Wise Counsel, Thou Shalt Make Thy War.” Proverbs, 24,6

For the moment, of course, an Israel-Iran nuclear war is logically out of the question, and thereby not meaningfully subject to any tangible calculations. After all, Iran is not yet an operational nuclear power, and there is literally no point in presuming any useful possibilities for systematic or genuinely scientific investigation. Nonetheless, in prospectively existential matters, prudence can (and should) take assorted innovative forms, and the July 14, 2015 Vienna Pact (JCPOA) concerning Iranian nuclear weapons will not constrain Tehran indefinitely.[1]

Inevitably, therefore, Jerusalem will have to plan accordingly, including at least residual preparations for a still-suitable but plausibly limited preemption option.

This assessment is pertinent because, at this already late date, launching any tactically comprehensive preemption against pertinent Iranian weapons and infrastructures is likely no longer achievable. In this connection, even back in 2003, when my own Project Daniel Group had offered a very early report on Iranian nuclearization to then-Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, Iranian targets were already more daunting than was Iraq’s Osiraq reactor on June 7, 1981.[2]

The price of a bad deal just went up

The conflict heating up on Israel’s northern border is a direct consequence of the Iran nuclear deal. Dealing with this threat will have to involve rethinking its terms.

Like everything about the Obama administration, the Iran nuclear deal is old news. Carping about the nuclear pact, we are told, like the discussion of everything else about President Obama’s eight years in office, is a waste of time. With his successor providing fodder for his critics on a daily basis and the world facing a host of new challenges, most observers believe that what happened prior to January 2017 is now the business of historians and no one else.

But the thing about history is that choices made in the past have an inevitable way of influencing the present. That’s why what happened over the skies of northern Israel this past weekend can’t be understood without placing it in the context of recent history.

The Iranian drone that crossed into Israeli airspace and the subsequent battles that included the shooting down of an Israeli Air Force F-16 jet weren’t random events without any connection to the Obama administration’s choices on Iran. By choosing to normalize relations with Tehran—and signing a deal that legalized their nuclear program and ignored everything else it was doing—the United States set in motion a series of events that led directly to the presence of significant Iranian forces in Syria that had no compunction about challenging the Israeli Defense Forces.

US says Iran drone incursion into Israel is a ‘wake-up call’ for world

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Wednesday called Iran’s piloting of a drone into Israel a “wake-up call” to the world regarding Iranian efforts to cement its presence in Syria.

Speaking at the Security Council, Haley called the Iranian drone incursion over the weekend an “egregious and unprompted escalation.”

“The drone flight this week is a wake-up call for all of us. Iran and Hezbollah are making plans to stay in Syria,” she said.

The Iranian drone, which entered northern Israel from Syria near the Jordan border, was shot down by an attack helicopter. In response, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said.

During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was apparently hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

“Iran was once again doing what it does – risking conflict and testing the will of its neighbors and opponents to resist its aggression. Israel rightly took action to defend itself,” said Haley.

“The United States will always stand by our ally when confronted with provocations from Iran, Hezbollah, or the Assad regime.”

Tillerson: Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese politics needs to be recognized

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said the role of Hezbollah in the Lebanese government needed to be acknowledged when dealing with Beirut, seemingly boosting the standing of the organization regarded by the US as a terror group.

“We support a free and democratic Lebanon, free of the influence of others. And we know that the Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This influence we think is unhelpful for Lebanon’s long-term future,” Tillerson said during a press conference with his Jordanian counterpart in Amman.

“We also have to recognize the reality that [Hezbollah] are also part of the political process in Lebanon,” he added.

The statement was a rare admission from the US secretary of state that Hezbollah, which controls a militia of tens of thousands of men and has already fought one war with Israel in 2006 and is constantly threatening to wage another, is a powerful force in Lebanon’s political sphere through its presence in the country’s parliament.

Tillerson, who is on a week-long visit to the Middle East, highlighted the fact that the Lebanese government doesn’t want to see Hezbollah involved in foreign conflicts.

He also noted the US’s support for the Lebanese military.

Russia’s Syrian Conundrum

The recent downing of an Iranian drone over Israeli territory has brought Russia’s regional predicament into full view.

The question is — namely — can Russian President Vladimir Putin remain neutral should another Iranian provocation lead to an additional, perhaps stronger, Israeli response? And what are the long-term implications of Russia’s military intervention in Syria to save the regime of Bashar al-Assad?

On one hand, Russia has reached its main objective — setting up naval and air bases on the Mediterranean, and regaining its position as a major world power rivaling the US. On the other hand, the Kremlin is floundering in the quagmire of Syria’s civil war.

The conflicting regional interests between Russia and Israel — despite the otherwise positive relations between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — is only one aspect of the problem.

Syria has become the playing field of major Muslim and Arab countries, such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who are all bent on furthering their long-term strategic plans through the conflict. Iran is making an all-out effort to establish itself in the country, threaten Israel and pursue its dream of a Shia crescent in the Middle East. Turkey is determined to prevent the creation of a Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria, which would encourage Turkey’s PKK party to renew its quest for autonomy. The war against ISIS, meanwhile, is far from over.

US secretary of state: Mideast peace plan ‘fairly well advanced’

The United States’s work on a new Middle East peace plan is “fairly well advanced,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday, though he provided no details on an initiative which comes amid deep Palestinian skepticism about U.S. intentions.

Tillerson, who was speaking during a visit to Jordan to sign a five-year $6.4 billion aid package that extends U.S. support to a key Arab ally, said U.S. President Donald Trump would decide when to announce the peace plan.

The United States infuriated even its Arab allies in December when Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiated the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not cooperate with the United States in its efforts as a mediator.

“I have seen the [administration’s peace] plan. … It’s been under development for a number of months. I have consulted with them on the plan, identified areas that we feel need further work. I will say it’s fairly well advanced,” Tillerson said.

There has been little detail on the plan so far. Officials said in December it would deal with all major issues, including Jerusalem, borders, security, the future of Jewish settlements on occupied land and the fate of Palestinian refugees, and would also urge Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to provide significant financial support to the Palestinians.

Haley defends Israel’s downing of Iranian drone at U.N.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday defended Israel’s downing of a drone it claimed Iranian-backed forces launched into its territory Saturday, referring to the the inflitration as an “egregious and umprompted escalation.”

At a UN Security Council briefing on the Syrian civil war, Haley backed Israel’s claim that the provocation was Iran’s doing, saying “Iranian-backed militias in southern Syria launched a drone into Israeli territory.”

“Iran was once again doing what it does – risking conflict and testing the will of its neighbors and opponents to resist its aggression,” she said. “Israel rightly took action to defend itself. The United States will always stand by our ally when confronted with provocations from Iran, Hezbollah or the Assad regime.”

Haley tied the incident to an attack by pro-Syrian regime forces on US-backed coalition forces last week, accusing “actors,” likely a veiled reference to Iran, of engaging in “a dangerous game of pushing boundaries, instead of behaving responsibly and committing to peace.”

“The Assad regime has become a front for Iran, Hezbollah and their allies to advance the irresponsible and dangerous agenda for the Middle East,” Haley said.

Russian official: If Iran attacks Israel, we’ll stand with you

Were Iran to attack Israel, Moscow would stand by the Jewish state’s side, a Russian official said this week, days after an Iranian-made drone infiltrated Israel from Syria and was shot down by the IDF.

“In the case of aggression against Israel, not only will the United States stand by Israel’s side — Russia, too, will be on Israel’s side,” Russian Deputy Ambassador to Israel Leonid Frolov said. “Many of our countrymen live here in Israel, and Israel in general is a friendly nation, and therefore we won’t allow any aggression against Israel.”

Still, in a wide-ranging interview conducted at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on Monday, Frolov cast doubt on Israel’s assertion that Iran was behind the drone incursion and suggested Israeli intelligence agencies establish contacts with its Syrian counterparts.

He also predicted that Israelis would not be happy about the forthcoming American peace plan, and dismissed the outrage against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of Israel as a European colonial project with no connection to Judaism.

“We certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself, and the actions of Israeli pilots were entirely correct,” he said of Saturday’s flareup in the north, during which an Israeli fighter jet was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft battery and two pilots were injured.

“We certainly regret that in this incident two Israeli pilots were injured,” Frolov said. “On behalf of the Russian embassy I am wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded pilots.”

House Unanimously Passes Bill Sanctioning Hamas for Using Human Shields

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill which sanctions the terrorist group Hamas and its collaborators for deliberately putting innocent people in harm’s way as a military tactic.

Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who introduced the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act, said of the passage, “The world must face the threat of Hamas terrorists, as they continue to perpetrate atrocities against civilians and use them as human shields. I am grateful that the US House of Representatives took a stand today against this murderous terrorist group, and am hopeful that the Senate will pass H.R. 3542 quickly. I believe this legislation will help ensure the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians are spared by proactively imposing strong sanctions against Hamas.”

Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoed Wilson’s sentiments, saying, “Hamas has repeatedly put the lives of innocent Palestinians at risk by using them as human shields. These men, women and children are forced to serve as cover in Gaza for Hamas terrorists launching indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. Today’s legislation rightly holds Hamas, an Iranian-backed terrorist group, accountable for these disgraceful and cowardly acts that violate international law.”

“Hamas is a terrorist organization, formed and wholly-dedicated to the destruction of our ally Israel,” said Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “This legislation condemns Hamas’s barbaric use of human shields and imposes sanctions on those responsible, and I’m pleased it includes my amendment to highlight Hamas’s use of underground tunnel networks. The bill’s unanimous passage shows Congress’s continued strong, bipartisan support for Israel.”

U.N. calls on Israel to free Ahed Tamimi

United Nations human-rights investigators called on Israel to free 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi from jail during her trial for assault and incitement, warning that it had violated her rights under international law.

They also demanded that her trial, which began on Tuesday at the Ofer Military Court, be held in public view, including to the media, rather than behind closed doors.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel has ratified, clearly states that children are to be deprived of their liberty only as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate period of time,” Canadian legal expert Michael Lynk said on Tuesday.

He holds the position of special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory. He typically reports to the UN Human Rights Council which is slated to open its 37th session in Geneva on February 26.

“None of the facts of this case would appear to justify her ongoing detention,” Lynk said.

Foreign Ministry Offers Support to Moroccan Journalists Facing Criticism for Israel Visit

Israel’s Foreign Ministry celebrated on Sunday the arrival of a delegation of Moroccan journalists to Israel, even as they faced criticism for the trip in their home country.

“Nothing can stop the freedom of journalists to visit #Israel,” spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted. “The world is becoming increasingly free and open to all. Closing their eyes is no longer an option for those who seek the truth. We invite all journalists from the Arab world to visit us.”

According to Morocco World News (MWN), the Foreign Ministry said the purpose of the visit was to give Arab journalists “a closer look at Israel, its policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and coexistence among the various micro-components through meetings with leaders from various political circles in government departments and the Knesset.”

Journalist Boubker Outaadit told MWN, “Journalists are free to go to whatever country they want. The constitution guarantees us this right. It has nothing to do with one’s own beliefs or perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Activist Mounir Kejji also endorsed the visit, saying, “If the government wants to prevent people from flying to Israel, then why not put a travel ban on Afghanistan or Iran … countries that fund and support terrorist groups.”

Netanyahu says coalition stable, polls show Likud gaining power

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that despite police recommendation to indict him for corruption, the coalition remains stable and it is unlikely general elections would be called in the near future.

The Police announced Tuesday that they had gathered sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu in two corruption probes, saying the evidence pointed to alleged fraud and breach of trust, as well as soliciting and accepting bribes.

Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing and has called the police findings “biased and extreme, and riddled with holes like Swiss cheese.”

Speaking at the annual conference of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, Netanyahu said, “I would like to assure you that the coalition is stable. No one, not I, not anyone else, has any plans to call for elections. We will continue to work with you for the good of the Israeli public until the end of the [government’s] term.”

Key coalition partners said rallied around Netanyahu on Wednesday, saying the saw no reason for him to step down until such time as Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit makes a final decision on whether to indict him, a process law enforcement officials familiar with the case told Israel Hayom could take at least six months.

Church heads to boycott Jerusalem mayor’s party over huge retroactive tax bills

The patriarchs and heads of all the main churches in Jerusalem are planning to boycott their traditional annual meeting with the mayor and senior municipal staff Thursday evening in protest against a bill of millions of shekels in back taxes that they say they should not be charged.

The gathering of the various church denominations usually takes place at the start of the new year, but this year, City Hall delayed the get-together, citing budget problems.

On Wednesday, 13 patriarchs and church leaders issued a joint statement condemning the taxation move as “contrary to the historic position between the Churches within the Holy City of Jerusalem and the civil authorities across the centuries” and something that “both undermines the sacred character of Jerusalem, and jeopardizes the Church’s ability to conduct its ministry in this land on behalf of its communities and the world-wide church.”

It concluded, “We stand firm and united in our position to defend our presence and properties.”

A decades-long agreement between the churches and the state has prevented the municipality from collecting property tax from Christian institutions.

2 soldiers killed by truck driver with over 100 traffic convictions

Two soldiers from the IDF’s Golani Brigade, Staff. Sgt. Bar Yakubian, 19, and Staff. Sgt. Eshto Tespo, 21, who were killed in a car crash on Highway 6 on Tuesday, were laid to rest on Wednesday.

Yakubian and Tespo were part of a contingent of Golani soldiers that left the Shraga Base in the Western Galilee on Wednesday for the IDF Central Command’s training base near Beit Gubrin in south-central Israel to prepare for operations in Judea and Samaria. The soldiers were traveling in a mini-convoy of three Hummer jeeps when the driver of a truck that was southbound alongside them struck all three vehicles. Yakubian and Tespo, who were reportedly riding in the back seats of the first and second jeeps, were both killed. Ten other soldiers were injured, one seriously.

An initial IDF investigation into the crash indicated that the soldiers had gotten about seven hours of sleep before setting out for Beit Gubrin and were driving in the right-hand lane. Some police officials believe that the truck driver – east Jerusalem resident Anwar Abu Zinad – failed to see them, ramming into the three army vehicles.

Abu Zinad has 115 driving violations on his record. Following the accident, he was sent for a blood test to ascertain whether he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the braking distance of his truck was also checked.

When questioned following the accident, Abu Zinad claimed that the soldiers had been stopped at the side of the road. The IDF denied the driver’s version of the event and said that all three jeeps had been moving.

Halamish terrorist gets 4 life sentences

Terrorist Omar al-Abed, who murdered three members of the Salomon family in their home in Halamish last year, was given four life sentences on Wednesday.

Military court judge Lt. Col. Dov Gilboa, who held the minority opinion, argued al-Abed should be sentenced to death.

Al-Abed was convicted in December of three counts of murder after the July attack, which claimed the lives of Yosef Salomon, his daughter Chaya and his son Elad. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Yosef’s wife Tova, incitement and stone-throwing.

Al-Abed received three life sentences for the murders of the Israelis and a fourth for his attempted murder of Tova Salomon, who was wounded in the attack. He was also ordered to pay the family NIS 1.8 million in compensations.

The three-judge panel also demanded in their sentencing that the terrorist would not be released in any future prisoner exchange deal.

“These are very exceptional circumstances,” wrote Judge Gilboa in the dissenting opinion. “The defendant, from the inception stage and until the criminal massacre, acted as one who wishes to carry out a slaughter. His offenses are among the gravest in the State of Israel’s aw book. It follows that the defendant must be given the maximum punishment. The question arises whether it is enough to sentence him to a punishment that would result in him never again seeing the light of day, or whether the defendant must return his soul to his Maker.”

“Throughout the trial, I watched him enjoy himself and smiling, even doing so in front of the family,” Gilboa added. “I determine that the defendant’s punishment is the death sentence.”

Intel report: W. Bank stabilized, Gaza on edge after Trump J’lem decision

After a spike in violence following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem in December, the West Bank has stabilized, but Gaza remains on edge, the annual Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report says.

The report, obtained and published first by The Jerusalem Post, summarizes a wide range of Palestinian terror trends for 2017, while also making predictions for 2018.

It also contends that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement have indirectly supported some of the wave of violence against Israelis, calling it “popular resistance” – though not going as far as former PA leader Yasser Arafat who provided direct support.

Broadly speaking, the report notes that the number of serious violent incidents involving Palestinians in 2017 was lower than in 2016, but that the number of Israeli deaths was similar.

Whereas in 2016 there were 134 serious violent incidents, in 2017 there were only 82 serious violent incidents.

Despite the drop in violent incidents, 18 Israelis were killed in 2017 compared to 17 in 2016.

Israel blamed for ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

Bolivia’s UN Ambassador, Sacha Llorentty Soliz, on Wednesday accused Israel of bearing the primary responsibility for what he called “the catastrophic situation in Gaza”, The Associated Press reports.

Llorentty Soliz’s comment came after the UN’s Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, briefed the Security Council behind closed doors at the request of Kuwait and Bolivia on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Llorentty Soliz said following the meeting that Mladenov had told the Council that drinking water is short, hospitals have been closed and “doctors stopped doing surgeries.” Mladenov also cited Gaza’s 47 per cent unemployment rate, rising to 60 per cent for young people, he said.

The Bolivian envoy further said that Mladenov highlighted that the situation in Gaza has been worsened by the U.S. suspension of millions of dollars in funding for the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, UNRWA.

Llorentty Soliz added he told the council the primary responsibility for “the catastrophic situation in Gaza” rests with Israel, according to AP.

Despite the accusations, Israel continues to regularly allow humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, even though its terrorist rulers continue to attack southern Israel with rockets and openly threaten to destroy the Jewish state.

Gaza’s only power plant shuts down over fuel shortage

The closure of the plant, which normally provides around a fifth of Gaza’s electricity, will exacerbate an already critical power shortage.

Gaza’s two million residents receive only around four hours of electricity a day.

Mohammed Thabet, spokesman for Gaza’s energy distribution company, said it had been informed by the energy authority that the power station stopped functioning at midnight because of the lack of fuel.

Usually the plant provides around 20 megawatts per day using fuel imported from Egypt, but now the only energy is the roughly 120 megawatts of electricity imported from Israel.

“The Gaza Strip needs around 500 megawatts (per day). We have an energy deficit of 380 megawatts,” Thabet said.

The distribution company called in a statement for rapid moves to provide fuel to the plant again.

Last week, the United Arab Emirates provided financing for fuel for generators at hospitals and other key facilities. Three hospitals and 16 medical centers had stopped offering key services in recent weeks because of the crippling fuel shortages.

Oman foreign minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Temple Mount

Oman’s foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Thursday after holding talks with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.

Yusuf bin Alawi toured the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem and prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site.

Alawi arrived in the West Bank on Tuesday for a three-day visit to the Palestinian Authority — an unusually long sojourn there by an Arab foreign minister. It was also the first visit by an Omani foreign minister to the West Bank, the Gulf news site AlKhaleej Online reported.

Such a visit would usually require coordination with Israeli officials but an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said he was unaware of the visit and could not immediately comment.

On Wednesday, Alawi visited the central West Bank city of Jericho, where he said the need for establishing a Palestine state was similar to the urgency felt to establish the State of Israel after the two world wars of the 20th century.

“There was a global desire to establish Israel after the first and second world wars… Now the establishment of a Palestinian state has become a strategic necessity for all the world,” he said.

Top Fatah official yells at Israeli police officer to ‘shut up, go to hell’

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub was involved on Wednesday in an altercation with Israeli Border Police troops in the Old City of Hebron, during which he yelled at troops who briefly stopped a member of his group.

Rajoub was accompanying visiting Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi on a tour of the city.

The confrontation, which was captured on video, began when a Border Police officer “intercepted” a Palestinian accompanying Rajoub and the Omani minister, witnesses said. It was not immediately clear why the man was stopped.

During the altercation, Rajoub shouted at an officer: “Shut up, go to hell!”

Rajoub also called the female officer “impudent.”

He was also heard on video calling another Border Police soldier “crazy.”

Rajoub, member of the Fatah Central Committee and Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, hurled the abuse in Hebrew – a language he speaks fluently thanks to the 17 years he spent in Israeli prison for security-related offences in the 70s and 80s.

Hamas Deputy Chief attends commemoration for fmr. Hezbollah militant in Tehran

Hamas Politburo Deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri attended a commemoration ceremony in Tehran on Thursday for former Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh.

Arouri attended the event alongside Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards; and Nabil Qaouk, a top Hezbollah official.

The senior Hamas official has traveled to Iran at least four times in the past six and a half months to meet with senior Iranian officials and attend various ceremonies.

In an interview in late December, Arouri praised Iran for its fiery rhetoric against Israel and support for the “Palestinian resistance.”

“Iran is the only country that says that entity is carcinogenic and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV, using the derogatory term in reference to Israel. “And it is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”

Training for war, Hezbollah builds realistic model of Tel Aviv that’s unaffordable, full of pot smoke & smells like pee (satire)

With this week’s little misunderstanding with our Northern neighbors, it appears that the region is one step closer to war. Yes, despite last Autumn’s highly effective #IsraelLovesLebanon hashtag campaign, it appears that not everyone is feeling the love. In fact, Iran continues to arm Hezbollah with advanced weaponry, including its latest “Ben Rhodes” Missile. Yet today the Daily Freier discovered an even more serious escalation: Hezbollah has turned an isolated part of the Bekaa Valley into a realistic simulation of Tel Aviv in which to train its troops. In fact, this “Little Tel Aviv” is so realistic, it’s overpriced, covered in cannabis smoke, full of electric bikes, and smells like dried pee. In order to get a better picture of the situation, the Daily Freier interviewed a Hezbollah representative named “Ali” via Skype.

“Yesterday, we tested one of our squads on what it would be like to be inserted into the city.” explained Ali. “So they hid out in a cafe until dark and ended up spending all of their allotted funds on 30 Shekel cups of coffee. And when they went outside at nightfall, their bikes had been stolen.”

As Ali continued his description, volunteers were visible in the background chugging large amounts of water and tea in order to help put the finishing touches on the city’s unique aromas. “We had to postpone last week’s exercise after our mortar squad tried to take a shortcut through the Namal port and ran out of funds.” Ali then introduced the mortar team leader, Hassan. “We were moving through the Namal and saw a Shuk, so we said ‘Hey, let’s stop for supplies.’ An hour later we wandered out with 4 white potatoes and a jar of tahina for 150 Shekels….. They said it was organic.”

Haley: Russia Needs to Use Leverage Over Syria to Create ‘Real Peace’

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday that Russia needs to use its leverage over Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria to bring about peace and security in the region.

Speaking to a U.N. Security Council briefing on Syria, Haley put the onus on Russia to use its influence as a key backer of the Assad regime to bring peace to the war-ravaged country. She appealed to the plight of the Syrian people in asking Russia, which occupies a permanent seat on the Security Council, to take action.

“Russia can push the regime to commit to seeking a real peace in Syria, a peace that helps the Syrian people,” Haley said. “A peace that helps ensure the region’s security. Now is the time for Russia to use that leverage.”

Soon after that, she concluded her remarks by calling on all parties involved in the conflict to cease provocations.

“The road to peace will come when all of the parties stop provoking each other, and choose the responsible path,” Haley said. “The path is clear: follow Resolution 2254, support Geneva, and most of all, push the Assad regime to do what it plainly does not want to do. If we rally around these goals, we will achieve real peace in Syria.”

Haley blamed Russia for enabling malign actors in the Middle East. She noted groups such as Iran and its proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah have created instability, and Assad has even resorted to using chemical weapons.

Syria claims it ‘repelled’ Israeli surveillance planes

Syria on Wednesday claimed to have repelled Israeli surveillance planes that breached its southern border, AFP reported, citing state media.

“Syrian air defenses have repelled Israeli surveillance planes over Quneitra, forcing them to leave Syrian airspace,” the official SANA news agency said.

Israel has not commented on the reports, which come several days after the incident an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace from Syria, remaining in Israel some 90 seconds before the IAF shot it down.

In response to the provocation, Israel attacked the drone’s command center. During the IAF operation, Syrian surface-to-air missiles downed an Israeli F-16I fighter jet. Both pilots suffered injuries, and ejected after reaching Israeli territory.

The Syrian government warned Israel on Tuesday that it faced “more surprises” in future attacks on Syrian territory in the wake of the incident on the weekend.

Report: U.N. Money Funding Al-Shabaab Jihadists Fighting U.S. Forces in Somalia

Currently, “more than 500” American troops are fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia, notes CNN.

Of the 193 members of the United Nations, the U.S. is the most prominent donor, contributing more than $10 billion in 2016 alone, which amounted to “roughly one-fifth of its collective budget,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

CNN reports:
A CNN investigation has revealed how money given directly by the United Nations to people displaced by conflict and famine is ending up in the hands of Africa’s oldest terrorist organization.

Former members of al-Shabaab and Somali intelligence agents said the terror group is extorting thousands of dollars per day through road blocks and taxes on merchants attempting to transport food and supplies to sell to internally displaced people in towns where they are concentrated.

CNN learned from a former al-Shabaab tax collector who spoke on condition of anonymity after he was captured by Somalian authorities that “the extraction of tolls at roadblocks was one of the biggest sources of money” for the jihadist group.

Individuals who refuse to pay the transportation tax to the terrorists are “captured and killed,” a former al-Shabaab fighter who collected extortion proceeds for nearly a decade, told CNN.

Currently, an estimated 22,000 U.S.-backed African Union (AU) troops are fighting the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Persians Confused To Discover None Of Haman’s Ten Hanged Sons Gay (satire)

Citizens of this Achaemenid realm voiced bewilderment today upon being informed that despite the method by which their bodies were mistreated, not a single one of the men hanged by order of the Crown was known to engage in homosexuality.

Parshandata, Porata, Aridai, Parmashta, Arisai, Adalya, Dalphon, Aspata, Aridata,and Vaizata, all sons of Haman ben Hamedata, who fell out of the king’s favor last year and was put to death, were killed in battle with Jews they had attempted to exterminate. King Achashverosh decreed their corpses be displayed from the same fifty-cubit gallows from on which their father was hanged last year. However, hanging in Persia carries an almost exclusive association with execution for homosexual activity, leaving residents of the capital and visitors confused as to the men’s sexual orientation, and what offense prompted their deaths.

Passersby voiced their perplexity to reporters. “I’m pretty sure they were family men with plenty of children of their own,” mused one. “The gossip game in this town is strong – it’s the capital, you know? Plenty of scuttlebutt and rumor to go with the currying favor and jockeying for royal attention. But not a whisper of any such thing about these guys. It’s weird.”

“Everyone knows this is what happens to gays in this land, and always will, at least for another 2,500 years,” observed another. “The only explanation I can think of that makes sense is that the king wanted to humiliate them in death as much as possible, so he decreed a sentence that would make everyone assume they were fags. I mean, I don’t think anyone really believes they were, but we get that His Highness wanted to express his displeasure with them.”

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