Col. Richard Kemp: Mistaken criticism
I was in Israel throughout Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014 and monitored the campaign as closely as someone outside the official machinery could do. Having been involved in the direction of conflict from the top level of government down to command on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, I believe this highly complex and demanding operation, fought under an intensely critical international spotlight, was conducted effectively and with the best possible outcome.
To argue that the war could have been avoided is to simply ignore the diplomatic and political efforts made over several years to do just that, not only by the Israeli government and its ambassadors but also by supporters around the world, including the Friends of Israel Initiative of which I am a member. It is to ignore the actions of international governments and organizations like the U.N. and EU that encouraged terrorist acts against Israel and still do. And it is to ignore the malign intransigence and motivations of Hamas itself and its supporters such as Iran, which are hellbent on the destruction of the Jewish state.
Of course errors were made, as they always are in war. Winston Churchill himself readily admitted making many mistakes in the prosecution of World War II. But to a large extent due to his courage, judgment and leadership, Britain and its allies ultimately defeated their enemies in the most lethal conflagration mankind has ever known.
Caroline Glick: The rise of the networked Left
The claim of course, is ridiculous. There is a world of difference between freedom of expression and freedom of action. When students harass and shout down speakers with whom they disagree, they are not exercising freedom of speech. They are denying the freedom of speech of others.
When BDS operatives coerce university administrations and corporations to divest from Israel and ban Israelis from campuses, they are not exercising free speech. They are engaging in economic and cultural warfare against Israel.
Rather than recognize the distinction, major Jewish groups have embraced the antisemites’ false defense, internalizing the notion that opposing the onslaught against the community is tantamount to opposing freedom of speech.
So for instance, two major American Jewish groups harshly criticized the Knesset’s recently passed law banning BDS operatives from entering Israel. The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League issued statements claiming the move is a blow to free speech.
The riots against Murray and Yiannopoulis alerted non-Jewish Americans to the intellectual and moral decay of their campuses. It is possible that in moving beyond the safe confines of antisemitism – now largely accepted on campuses – the Left has gone too far. Perhaps its wings will be clipped.
But given the Jewish community’s inability to understand, let alone defend against, the campaign being waged against it, it is likely that even if the networked Left curbs its assaults on non-Jewish non-leftists, it will continue and escalate its campaign against Jews and the Jewish state.
Palestinian women’s right group outraged that rapists and murderers of women receive reduced sentences
Women’s rights activist: “In 95% of the murders of women in Palestine, the [victim’s] personal right is waived.”
“Many of the murders in Palestine that were perpetrated due to inheritance or political arguments are altered to cases of ‘honor’ in order to reduce the punishment.”
Palestinian women’s rights groups are demanding the revocation of an article of Palestinian Authority law that they say allows criminals to get away with murder. According to Article 99 of Penal Law No. 16 of 1960, the family of a murder victim is permitted to “waive its personal right” to justice and forgive the crime. In such cases, the length and severity of punishment is significantly reduced.
However, given that the vast majority of violence against Palestinian women is domestic, the family of the murder victim is often the family of the murderer as well. Thus, the Palestinian Director of the Women’s Courts Project in the TAM organization Victoria Shukri explained, “In 95% of the murders of women in Palestine, the [victim’s] personal right is waived.”
Are Israeli Settlements Legal? #1
Is there an Occupation? #2
Is it Legal for Jews to Live in Jerusalem? #3
While it might not seem like it, North Korea is a serious threat to Israel.
Initially, that assertion is far from obvious. North Korea is located in a completely different part of the world and regularly threatens South Korea, Japan and the US, not Israel.
Yet, by possibly serving as an outsourced, clandestine extension of Iran’s nuclear program, by openly cooperating with Iran on various initiatives and by making Iran look less crazy and the US look less strong, North Korea could render the Iranian threat to Israel far more serious.
The latest US-North Korea crisis which could have ripple effects on Iran and Israel follows Pyongyang’s firing of five ballistic Scud missiles on Monday, four of which flew about 1,000 kilometers and hit in the Sea of Japan.
The Trump administration has talked tough, but has struggled with how to respond.
But back to North Korea and Iran.
Hard evidence of how deep the Iran-North Korea nuclear relationship goes is scarce, but experts have been finding Iran-North Korea connections for years.
The United States supports the UN-led Syria peace talks, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday, saying Syria could no longer be a “safe haven for terrorists” and that it was important “we get Iran and their proxies out.”
Haley spoke to reporters after UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on 10 days of talks between the warring parties in Geneva, which ended last week.
She did not respond to questions on whether the United States believed Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down.
All eyes have been on how Washington would approach ending the six-year war in Syria, given pledges by President Donald Trump to build closer ties with Russia, especially in the fight against Islamic State. Trump’s Syria policy has been unclear.
“The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he’s doing, we support the UN process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue,” Haley said.
“This is very much about a political solution now … and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we’ve got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we’ve got to make sure that, as we move forward, we’re securing the borders for our allies as well,” she said.
Iran is backing fighters in Syria from Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah.
US President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will speak by telephone later on Friday, the White House and Palestinian officials said, their first contact since Trump took office.
The call, scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Washington time (7:15 p.m. Israel time), comes as Palestinians are concerned at Washington’s more favorable approach towards Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Trump came to power.
Netanyahu and Trump have spoken on the phone at least twice since the Jan. 20 inauguration and Netanyahu visited Washington last month.
It is not clear what issues will be discussed in Friday’s call, but Palestinian officials indicated Abbas would emphasize his concerns about Israeli settlement building on occupied land and the need for a two-state solution to the conflict.
At a Feb. 15 news conference during Netanyahu’s visit, Trump was ambivalent about a two-state solution, the mainstay of US policy in the region for the past two decades.
Transportation and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz says he is pushing forward with a proposal to build an artificial island with a seaport off the coast of Hamas-ruled Gaza that he believes will alleviate hardship in the blockaded territory and offer residents their first real bridge to the outside world in a decade.
With an independent Palestinian state unlikely anytime soon, Katz told The Associated Press that an island for moving goods in and out of Gaza was part of his broader goal of creating regional security and “economic peace” between Israel and its neighbors.
The plan has been derided by critics as impractical but presents a bold platform for Katz, a powerful Likud politician who has spoken openly of succeeding Benjamin Netanyahu even as the embattled prime minister faces a series of potentially devastating corruption probes.
Katz’s plan calls for an eight-square-kilometer (three-square-mile) island linked to Gaza by a five-kilometer (three-mile) bridge. The island, estimated to cost $5 billion, would take five years to build and include a seaport, a power station, a desalination plant and perhaps a future airport. Israel would supervise security but it would otherwise be run by the Palestinians and the international community — which he says would mark the completion of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.
The military on Thursday launched a pilot program in which women will be trained as tank operators. The program is part of the IDF’s efforts to increase gender integration in infantry combat units.
The screening process for suitable candidates among new recruits is already underway, the IDF said. The pilot will include 15 women, who will begin training in the summer after completing basic training.
As part of the four month-long training program, the women will be assigned to the 460th Armored Division and stationed at the Shizafon Base in southern Israel, home to the IDF’s advanced armored training school.
Unlike their male counterparts, women serving in infantry combat units will be primarily assigned to routine security missions. As such, their training will be adjusted accordingly and they will be expected to master the operation of Merkava Mark III tanks, used primarily in border protection units.
The pilot program will be heavily supervised by Medical Corps personnel and combat fitness experts. An Armored Corps official said that the main physical obstacles the women are likely to face are loading shells into the tank’s gun and dealing with the tank’s tracks coming off.
The Defense Ministry announced a new effort this week to assist Bedouin veterans, including deeply discounted college education, after over two dozen soldiers said they won’t report to duty over what they described as racism towards their community.
A representative for the 25 reservists said they had not been consulted about the issue and that it did not address many of their grievances.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan presented the plan in the Knesset Wednesday on behalf of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is in the United States on an official visit.
Ben-Dahan said Liberman promised a “wide cover of assistance” for Bedouin soldiers, including additional military preparatory programs.
Last week, the inaugural class graduated from Israel’s first pre-army program for Bedouin Israelis.
“There is no Arab-Israeli crisis”
U.N. guards in Golan Heights keep banker’s hours?
The Israeli military on Thursday released video of a tank strike carried out last November on an Islamic State-affiliated cell in Syria, followed by an airstrike that killed its four members.
The November 27 incident came after IDF soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit crossed the security fence with Syria in the Golan Heights that morning to conduct an “ambush operation,” while remaining inside Israeli territory, and came under attack from small arms fire.
The soldiers returned fire but soon came under mortar attack.
Nearby, soldiers from Battalion 74 of the 188th Armored Brigade who were conducting routine morning activities, heard the gunfire and responded by launching a tank shell at the terrorists’ position, appearing to fire at a white structure across the border said to be their facility.
An Israel Air Force jet then took out a truck carrying four men the IDF said were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State.
Israel will close off the West Bank from Friday until Sunday as a preventative measure against attacks during the Jewish festival of Purim, the IDF announced on Thursday.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed the army to impose the closure from 12:01 a.m. on Friday until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, the army said.
Entering and exiting the West Bank will be forbidden for Palestinians during those three days, with the exception of “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases,” according to an IDF statement.
Those special cases will require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories.
The crossings will not be closed on Monday, when Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem.
In the heart of the Gaza Strip’s Shati refugee camp, machines buzz as Mohammed Abu Shanab’s employees sew small, round pieces of cloth: Jewish skullcaps for export to Israel.
It may seem an unlikely product to be made in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas and hit by three wars with Israel since 2008, but with unemployment and poverty rampant, some in Gaza will take any business they can get.
“The Israelis appreciate our products for their quality and our proximity to their market,” Abu Shanab said.
“On the other hand, they fear the crossings will be closed and the delivery of goods will be delayed.”
Observant Jews wear skullcaps — yarmulkes or kippot in Hebrew — as a mark of respect for God.
Israel controls all crossings into and out of the Gaza Strip, apart from one bordering Egypt. One terminal on the Israeli border — Kerem Shalom — is designated for goods.
A once Fatah affiliated armed Palestinian organization, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, said on Friday that it was responsible for the two rockets that were fired at Israel from within the Gaza Strip overnight towards the Eshkol Regional Council, located in southern Israel.
This is the first time in almost three years that the splinter-group declared that it stood behind an attack targeting Israel, with the last such declaration taking place during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.
In the official statement released by the organization, it was stated that two rockets were fired towards the Eshkol Regional Council at around 11:15 p.m., with a clear threat that “the coming days will bring an escalation against the Israeli occupation.”
Earlier on Thursday night Palestinian media reported that one rocket that was fired from southern Gaza landed within the Strip a short while after it was launched. It was also claimed that the IDF responded to the attack by artillery fire aimed at two neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip: the southern city of Khan Unis and the central city of Deir al-Balah. The reports said that none were injured as a result of the IDF retaliation fire.
While Egypt’s regime and its sometime allies in the Persian Gulf share much in common—Sunni Islam, a pro-American outlook, antipathy to Islamist groups, and security cooperation with Israel—its regional priorities are fundamentally different, with important consequences. Eric Trager explains:
[M]uch to its allies’ chagrin, Egypt hasn’t become the anchor of a broader Sunni Arab alliance against Iran. Instead, President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has charted his own course—one that sometimes aligns with this Gulf allies’ interests and at other times contradicts them, but which always follows the same pattern: Sisi supports states whenever they are in conflict with non-state actors.
Sisi’s foreign-policy outlook is . . . an extension of his domestic one. At home, Sisi sees himself as a strongman combating those who seek chaos, foremost among them the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Egyptian government’s narrative, Sisi “saved” Egypt from the Brotherhood, which seeks the collapse of the Egyptian government and the establishment of an Islamist theocracy. . . . Sisi fleshed this out in his September 2016 address at the United Nations General Assembly, when he defined terrorism not as violence against civilian populations by non-state actors but as “a threat to the entity of the state.” To bolster Sisi at home, Egypt’s pro-government media routinely highlight the violence in Libya, Yemen, and Syria as examples of what might happen if the Islamists are allowed to challenge the Egyptian state.
Most analyses of Hezbollah focus on the terrorist group’s intervention in Syria, or its threat to Israel. But the Iranian-backed organization maintains a significant presence in and near the United States, threatening national US security. Current American proposals to strengthen our borders and immigration measures may be limited in addressing this important, yet poorly understood, threat.
A recent Al-Arabiya article examines Hezbollah’s ability to build advanced tunnels on the southern US border, enabling Hezbollah terrorists and Mexican cartel operatives to infiltrate the United States. Relations between Iranian-backed proxies — including Hezbollah — and Latin American drug cartels are well established. Mexican gang members learn from Hezbollah’s combat experience and their use of advanced weaponry. Hezbollah, in turn, derives a significant portion of its finances from the drug trade and other illicit activities.
In recent years, security officials in southwestern US states have noticed a rise in tattoos featuring Hezbollah’s insignia among imprisoned drug cartel operatives. This surprising trend indicates a strengthened relationship between the terrorist group and Mexican gang members. Additionally, Iranian operatives who infiltrate Latin America seek to convert individuals to its extremist Shiite ideology. Over the years, pro Iranian websites have proliferated across Latin America, in an attempt to cultivate support for the Islamic Republic.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres denounced in a periodic report on the implementation of resolution 1701, the recent statements made by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah against Israel, rejecting “deterrence” justifications which “increases the risk of tension and could lead to renewed war,” An Nahar daily reported on Friday.
The report encouraged President Michel Aoun to resume national dialogue among political parties until a defense strategy is agreed to remove weaponry from Hizbullah and other armed groups, according to the daily.
The report, which consists of 91 paragraphs and prepared by the Special Coordinator for the United Nations in Lebanon Sigrid Kaag citing a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, is the first for Guterres since he took office on the first of January.
In the report, Guterres welcomed the “institutional and political progress” made in recent months in Lebanon, saying it “represents an opportunity to further strengthen the Lebanese state’s authority and expand it.” Nevertheless it added that “Retention of arms by Hizbullah and other groups undermines the state’s authority and contradicts with the duties of the country under resolutions 1559 and 1701.”
The report condemned the “threats launched by Secretary General of Hizbullah against Israel on February 16, which can not be justified as a need for deterrence.” It pointed out that “rhetorical threats of use of force by any of the two parties (Israel and Hizbullah), destabilizes the relative calm and stability prevailing between them.”
The Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has boasted that key U.S. Middle East ally Saudi Arabia is the top provider of terrorists for the jihadist group in Iraq, reports Fox News, citing Iraqi military sources.
Sunni Saudi Arabia shares an estimated 500-mile-long border with war-ravaged Iraq.
Nevertheless, Fox News reports that the Saudi jihadists crossed into Iraq over the border the country shares with both Turkey and Syria.
The news outlet learned from unnamed Iraqi intelligence sources that jihadist from the Saudi kingdom comprise nearly one-third (up to 30 percent) of all ISIS terrorists in Iraq, adding that “Saudis comprise the largest single contingent of ISIS fighters, with Russian Chechens making up the second-largest contingent.”
Speaking to the news outlet on condition of anonymity, a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence officer said, “The Saudi presence in ISIS is very large. What we have left are mainly Iraqis and Saudis.”
“The Saudis make up a large number of suicide bombers, as they already have the ground work of radicalization installed in their minds from radical sheikhs in Saudi [Arabia]. And we’ve caught important ISIS commanders,” he added.
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