Exploited by the enemy
Two Gazan women were caught on Wednesday smuggling explosives from Gaza into Israel for Hamas. The sisters hid the weapons in medical supplies they had been given in Israel, after one had been treated here for cancer.
Last month, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan revealed that Hamas was using Gazan cancer victims as mules to smuggle money and gold into Israel to finance terrorist operations.
Everyone remembers Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss, the 21-year-old Palestinian woman from Gaza who in 2005 was caught wearing 10 kilo of explosives in her underwear, en route to blowup Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba where she was being treated for burns.
She admitted to being recruited by Fatah’s Aksa Martyrs Brigade, and added that she had wanted to kill as many Israeli children in the hospital as possible.
Despite the security risk, Israel annually allows tens of thousands of Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel (and in the West Bank and Jordan).
I know this firsthand. For a decade I served as a public affairs and development officer at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, the largest hospital in the Middle East. At any given time, one-quarter of all patients in that institution’s Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital are Arabs from Gaza.
Barry Shaw: When Palestinians Kill Palestinians
A frustrated Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defense minister, criticized the United Nations in a recent phone call with its Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, for ignoring the ongoing issue of Palestinians killing Palestinians, while “on the other hand, condemning Israel’s justified actions against terrorism.”
Lieberman was referring to the recent killings in Ein El-Hilweh — a predominately Palestinian enclave in Lebanon that has become a battleground for a power struggle among intra-sectarian rivals.
Earlier this month, fighting between the Palestinian Fatah party and a Sunni Islamist group in Lebanon left at least four people dead, and dozens more wounded. Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas executed three men for allegedly collaborating with Israel — a ploy regularly used by Hamas to dispose of rival faction members.
To be fair, Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights, did say that those murders “were carried out in breach of Palestinian’s obligations under international law…which places stringent conditions on the use of the death penalty,” and even Mladenov issued a statement saying that he was “deeply concerned” by the growing tensions in Gaza.
But the fact remains that when Palestinians are not killing Israelis, they are killing each other.
Caroline Glick: Turkey and Trump’s unpredictability
As Friedman explained, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey after World War I on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and its caliphate, he recognized that he couldn’t change the way that his people viewed the world.
Rather than reform Islam, Atatürk repressed it. The secular democratic regime he created rested on the coercive power of the military, not on the consent of the governed.
Erdogan’s rise to power, in contrast was predicated on popular support for his anti-secular, Islamic worldview.
To secure that support, Erdogan periodically signaled his intentions.
For instance, as mayor of Istanbul, in 1997 Erdogan recited a poem at a political rally that included the lines, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”
For doing so, Erdogan was arrested, tried and convicted of inciting religious hatred. He was imprisoned for four months. His party was outlawed and he was banned from politics for life.
For Westerners, the regime’s treatment of the mayor of a major city was inconceivable. All he did was read a poem, after all.
But for the Turkish secularists, the move against Erdogan made perfect sense. The lines he recited were an encapsulation of a plan to undermine the secular regime and replace it with a totalitarian Islamic one.
Due in part to the West’s response to his arrest and conviction, Erdogan has used the US and Europe as allies in his bid to win and consolidate power.
The highly publicized hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, led by terrorist Marwan Barghouti, proves something that should be obvious, particularly as we prepare for Holocaust Remembrance Day next week: Likening Israelis to modern-day Nazis is not only morally abhorrent, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Jews in Nazi concentration camps did not go on hunger strike for better conditions; they were starved to death. The Jews did not refuse to recognize the German justice system, the Nazi regime refused to recognize the Jews – as citizens, indeed as human beings. Jewish intellectuals did not have a chance to further their education; they were slaves until they were killed. They didn’t get family visits and conjugal rights. Jews were rounded up – often with the help of local police, no matter what French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen says – and sent to concentration and labor camps for the crime of being born Jewish.
The Palestinian security prisoners seeking international sympathy have committed crimes ranging from planning and carrying out mass terror attacks to throwing Molotov cocktails at private vehicles, hoping the Jewish drivers and their families will die as flames engulf them.
The Palestinian prisoners come from a society that grants “martyrdom” the highest esteem, but they are not saints. And, no matter how many convicts are released as “confidence-building measures” in the name of peace negotiations, any future state that they create is not going to be a smaller, Middle Eastern version of Australia. It is more likely to be plagued by Syrian-style civil war as tribal loyalties clash.
Israeli prisons are no picnic, but they are not the purgatory Barghouti pretends them to be.
I’ve read over and over the New York Times article by the arch-terrorist, the convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti. As the person who headed Israel’s security agency at the height of the second intifada, I am well aware of who Barghouti is, yet anybody reading his article would not know the true picture.
Only after a public uproar did the Times finally mention, as an afterthought, the circumstances in which Barghouti was arrested, tried and sentenced to five life sentences plus 40 years for pre-meditated murder – the reasons for which he is sitting in jail in Israel.
I remember very well the pursuit of Barghouti during the wave of terrorist violence in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands more wounded.
Barghouti, who several months before the second intifada lost the elections for the position of General Secretary of the Fatah movement in the west bank, decided to leverage the wave of terror that began in September 2000 to regain the sympathy of the masses which he lost in the elections.
And what was the way in which this ‘Man of Peace’ decided to do that? He became the head of a murderous gang of terrorists who launched armed terror attacks shooting and killing unarmed civilians. Barghouti was tried in a civil, not military, court, where he received his sentences for his role in the murders of five innocent people.
A French policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in central Paris on Thursday night in an attack carried out days before presidential elections and quickly claimed by the Islamic State militant group.
President Francois Hollande said he was convinced the “cowardly killing” on the Champs Elysees boulevard, in which the assailant was himself shot dead by police, was an act of terrorism.
The wide avenue that leads away from the Arc de Triomphe had been crowded with Parisians and tourists enjoying a spring evening, but police quickly cleared the area, which remained empty well into the night of all but heavily armed security forces and police vehicles.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said the man had been identified, but investigators were still assessing if he had accomplices.
A police arrest warrant issued earlier on Thursday, which was seen by Reuters after the attack, warned of a dangerous individual who had come into France by train from Belgium on Thursday. It was unclear if that man was the attacker or linked to the shooting.
Officers searched the home of the dead attacker in a town east of Paris, a police source said.
“The sense of duty of our policemen tonight averted a massacre … they prevented a bloodbath on the Champs Elysees,” Interior Minister Matthias Fekl told reporters.
The officials said the gunman was detained toward the end of February after speaking threateningly about the police but then released for lack of evidence.
He was convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in shootings on two police officers.
This photo provided by AP on condition that its source not be revealed, shows Karim Cheurfi. Police have searched a home in a suburb east of Paris believed linked to the attack on police on the Champs-Elysees on April 20, 2017. (AP)
France was picking itself up Friday from the shooting claimed by the Islamic State group, with President Francois Hollande calling together the government’s security council and his would-be successors in the presidential election campaign treading carefully before voting this weekend.
One of the key questions was if, and how, the attack that killed one police officer and wounded three other people might impact voting intentions.
Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron appealed to voters to keep a cool head in the wake of the attack.
A known terror suspect shot dead a French policeman and wounded two others on Paris’s Champs Elysees in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, days before a presidential election.
Observers had long feared bloodshed ahead of Sunday’s vote in France following a string of atrocities since 2015 and the violence is likely to thrust security to the front of voters’ minds.
Here is a recap of major assaults and foiled attempts since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in January 2015.
– 2015 –
– January 7-9: Two men armed with Kalashnikov rifles storm the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo killing 12 people. A policewoman is killed just outside Paris the following day, while a gunman takes hostages at a Jewish supermarket, four of whom are killed. The attackers are killed in separate shootouts with police, but not before claiming allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).
Twenty members of a suspected jihadist network thought to have been behind a grenade attack on a Jewish grocery store in 2012 went on trial in France Thursday on terror charges.
The “Cannes-Torcy cell,” named for the towns where its members were based, is suspected of having planned several other attacks, and was considered the most dangerous to threaten the country when it was dismantled in 2012.
The trial opens as France is grappling with fresh fears of jihadist terror attacks, with the police arresting two men Tuesday suspected of plotting an assault just days before the presidential election — the first to be held in France under a state of emergency.
Analysts say the Cannes-Torcy network signaled a historic shift in France’s struggle against terrorism, to battling mass attacks by Islamic radicals inspired, or even guided, by foreigners.
Of the 20 men being tried by a special anti-terror tribunal in Paris, 10 are in prison and seven are on conditional release, while three others are being sought — two of whom are thought to be in Syria.
She burst on the scene last August when she upset a 44-year incumbent Democrat in the Minnesota state primary elections to become the nation’s first female Muslim state legislator.
Ilhan Omar, the 34-year-old community organizer who came to America as a refugee from Somalia, was touted by Democrats as a model success story.
“From a refugee camp to the State Capitol with intelligence and insight,” beamed former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who endorsed Omar. “This is a wonderful story to tell as Americans, and a great source of pride for the state of Minnesota’s open arms.”
But on Thursday Omar made her mark in another way.
She was one of only two members of the Minnesota State House to vote against a bill that would allow life insurance companies to deny payouts to the beneficiaries of terrorists who die in violent attacks on Americans.
The House voted 127-2 to pass the bill, which now moves on to a vote in the State Senate.
Clint Eastwood has firmed the next film he will direct. He’ll helm a drama based on the book The 15:17 To Paris: The True Story Of A Terrorist, A Train, And Three American Heroes. The book was written by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Jeffrey E. Stern; the life rights of the heroes Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone are part of the package. Newcomer scribe Dorothy Blyskal wrote the script, and Eastwood will begin casting right away to start production later this year. Eastwood will produce with Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Jessica Meier.
This keeps Eastwood on the track of building crowd-pleasing movies out of true stories about ordinary men in extraordinary situations. That included Sully, the hit film about Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), the heroic airline pilot who landed US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the engines were damages by birds right after takeoff. Before that, Eastwood directed the blockbuster American Sniper, about Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) and the toll his precise shooting in Iraq took on himself and his family.
Here, Eastwood makes room for a trio of heroes in Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone. In August 2015, an ISIS terrorist boarded train #9364 from Brussels to Paris. Armed with an AK-47 and enough ammo to kill more than 500 people, the terrorist might have succeeded except for three American friends who refused to give in to fear. Stone was a martial arts enthusiast and airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, Skarlatos was a member of the Oregon National Guard, and all three pals proved fearless as they charged and ultimately overpowered the gunman after he emerged from a bathroom armed and ready to kill. They most certainly averted a mass tragedy.
Ruthie Blum: The North Korean path
Iran is reacting angrily to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s announcement on Tuesday, and to subsequent comments by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis Wednesday, about a review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed between Tehran and world powers in July 2015.
On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a chief negotiator of the nuclear deal, tweeted: “Worn-out U.S. accusations can’t mask its admission of Iran’s compliance with JCPOA, obligating U.S. to change course and fulfill its own commitments.”
Zarif was referring to claims by President Donald Trump’s administration that while it was re-evaluating its Iran policy, it would not walk away from the deal in the meantime.
The part that Zarif and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been leaving out of their anti-American rhetoric — and Iranian assertions that the U.S. is the party violating the agreement — is the real reason for Washington’s review of the JCPOA, which in any case merely delays Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Israel’s concern about Iran establishing a permanent base in Syria the day after the civil war there ends will feature prominently when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday, senior diplomatic officials said on Thursday.
Netanyahu is expected to meet with Mattis, who arrived in Israel on Thursday for his first visit as defense secretary, at his Jerusalem office following the latter’s meeting earlier in the day with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in Tel Aviv.
Just over a month ago, Netanyahu flew to Russia, where he raised the alarm about Iran’s designs in a post-civil war Syria during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Netanyahu-Mattis talks, according to Israeli officials, will also deal with Iran’s deploying proxies in the region, as well as the general situation in Syria and Islamic State.
The remarks regarding the discussion with Mattis about Iran come a day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic Republic, accusing it of “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilizing more than one country at a time.”
Iran is not living up to the “spirit” of the nuclear deal, President Donald Trump said, the latest in a flurry of mixed messages on the deal his administration has relayed in recent days.
“As far as Iran is concerned I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed,” Trump said Thursday in a joint appearance at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that, and we’re analyzing it very, very carefully and we’ll have something to say about it in the not too distant future.”
Trump’s remarks come just a day after Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, affirmed in a letter to Congress that Iran was in compliance with the deal. However, in the same letter, Tillerson said the Trump administration would also review the terms of the deal, considering Iran’s leading role in backing terrorism.
The deal, reached in 2015 between major powers and Iran, swaps sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. It does not address Iran’s backing of terrorism, and the US partners in brokering the deal – including western Europe, Russia, and China – would likely balk at making terrorism an issue after the fact.
With the administration of US President Donald Trump forming a new policy towards the Middle East, Defense Secretary General James Mattis arrived in Israel Thursday afternoon to discuss regional security issues with top officials on Friday, with Iran topping the list.
Greeted by members of the American embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli army’s defense attaché in Washington, Gen. Mickey Edelstein, Mattis arrived from Cairo on his third leg of a 5 country Middle-East tour billed by the Pentagon to discuss to “defeat extremist terror organizations.”
Marking the first time he has visited the Jewish State as Pentagon chief, Mattis will be greeted by an official honor guard at army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday morning before meeting with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. He is also set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.
With the nickname of “Mad-Dog Mattis,” he is no stranger to the Middle East, and is respected by the US military and administration alike for his knowledge and understanding of the region.
Haley has been outspoken in shaming countries for their human rights violations. For example, she denounced the murders of gays that have occurred in Chechnya in strong language marred only by a lack of reference to Russia (Chechnya is part of Russia). “We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association,” she said. “If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored–Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses.”
Haley has also spoken out against abuses committed by Bashar Assad and has not hesitated to point out Russian complicity: “Assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons as long as Russia continues to protect his regime from consequences,” she said on April 5. “Time and time again, Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their allies in Damascus. Time and time again, without any factual basis, Russia attempts to place blame on others. There is an obvious truth here that must be spoken. The truth is that Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace.”
Haley has, in general, been an unsparing critic of Vladimir Putin, saying, for example, on March 16: “We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.” That’s quite a contrast to the more conciliatory message that Trump delivered on April 13: “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time, everyone will come to their senses [and] there will be lasting peace!”
In the case of Syria, Haley actually seemed to be echoing concerns shared by the president, who launched cruise missiles in retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But that is the exception rather than the norm. Mostly when Haley raises the importance of human rights, she appears to be speaking for no one but herself. That’s a shame, but it should not detract from her courage and wisdom in speaking out. Having come to diplomacy from service as governor of South Carolina, she is rapidly establishing herself as a rising star of the Trump administration and perhaps even a contender for the presidency.
It’s high time the United Nations Security Council set its sights on Iran, rather than Israel, United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Thursday during the Security Council’s monthly meeting on “the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”
“Every month the Security Council convenes a meeting on the Middle East. We have lots of meetings on specific countries and conflicts in this region but this debate is our opportunity to talk about the Middle East as a whole. Regrettably, these monthly meetings routinely turn into Israel-bashing sessions. That’s the way the Security Council has operated for years. It’s a formula that is absurdly biased against one country. It’s a formula that is painfully narrow in its description of the conflicts in the region,” said Haley, who is this month’s president of the Security Council.
In her remarks before the 15-member council, Haley condemned Iran, which she said is responsible for regional tumult, from meddling in Yemen and Syria, to its support of Hezbollah.
“Iran is using Hezbollah to expand its regional aspirations. That is a threat that should be dominating our discussions at the Security Council,” she said.
Nikki Haley shifts U.N.’s Israel-bashing to spotlight on Iran
When the democratic opposition takes over in Venezuela, the first thing they should do at the UN is take action to remove Jean Ziegler, a long-time propagandist of the Chavez and Maduro regimes, from the UN Human Rights Council, where he sits as a member of its advisory committee, and previously as expert on the right to food.
The corrupt relationship between Jean Ziegler and the Chavez and Maduro regimes includes:
Ziegler created and co-managed the “Qaddafi Human Rights Prize,” and gave the award to Hugo Chavez
Chavez then nominated Jean Ziegler to the UN Human Rights Council in 2004
Ziegler was a long-time UN propagandist for the Chavez and Maduro regimes, absurdly claiming that Chavez “ended hunger” in Venezuela, saying repeatedly that the food situation was “formidable”, and the “Bolivarian revolution [was] extraordinary” for the whole continent
When Ziegler was re-elected as a UNHRC expert in 2013, he embraced the Venezuelan ambassador on Swiss TV in appreciation for his political support
Palestinian terrorists who murder Americans and Israelis are “martyrs” whose families deserve compensation from the Palestinian Authority – that is, according to the Palestinian Representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour. In a press conference following a meeting of the Security Council on “The Middle East, including the Palestinian question” on April 20, 2017, Mansour was asked to explain why the Palestinian Authority paid the family of the terrorist who murdered Taylor Force, an American who was stabbed to death while touring Israel on March 8, 2016. (The “Taylor Force Act”, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham and under consideration by the Senate, would prohibit U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying the families of Palestinian terrorists).
Mansour responded as follows:
“Listen, this issue is, that it now is in circulation for discussions. If you look at the families of Palestinian martyrs, that the great number of them are killed by the Israeli forces. That will, for example, rob and scheme. In Al-Khalil, in Hebron, he goes to the mosque and murders 27 Palestinian worshipers and injured dozens of them, and the Palestinian Authority, as a responsible party, helped the families of those who are killed. Who is the terrorist in this case? And there are so many cases. Or the family of the Palestinian individual that was killed in cold blood by an Israeli soldier in Hebron after he injured him, and we all saw on television that a bullet went through his head. And helping the family of that individual. Who is the killer and who is the terrorist? I am just telling you that this issue, you cannot cherry pick one case here or one case there, that there are, you know, a large number of Palestinians who are receiving compensation. They are victims of Israeli terrorism or killed by Israeli soldiers.”
Asked to comment about Marwan Barghouti, a terrorist leader responsible for dozens of terror attacks, Mansour praised Barghouti as “a national hero” and compared him to Nelson Mandela.
Clash in Canadian Parliament over UNRWA Teachers’ Incitement Exposed by UN Watch
Opposition Intensifies to Funding Antisemitic UNRWA Teachers
The glorification of Palestinian terrorists like Marwan Barghouti — the jailed Fatah leader who is currently leading a hunger strike — “not only distances us from peace, but dishonors the memories of the innocent victims,” Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon declared on Thursday.
Danon was speaking at a monthly Security Council meeting on Middle East issues. Earlier, Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour told the council, “As we meet today more than 1,000 Palestinians are on hunger strike in non-violent protest of their captivity. This hunger strike is led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian parliamentarian and leader, jailed for 15 years now.”
The 57-year-old Barghouti — the head of Fatah’s Tanzim armed wing and a founder of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — orchestrated a string of deadly terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada before being arrested in Ramallah by Israeli troops in April 2002.
Responding to Mansour, Danon said, “The leader of the striking prisoners is a terrorist and a murderer who has overseen dozens of suicide bombings and the killing of innocent civilians. Marwan Barghouti was arrested and tried in a fair and open trial. He was then convicted of direct involvement in the murder of five people.”
National Union activists held a barbecue to taunt Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike Thursday.
The youth branch and secretary-general of the far-right party, which has two representatives in Bayit Yehudi, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and MK Bezalel Smotrich, set up grills outside the Ofer Prison to “celebrate the hunger strike” and “break the spirit” of the strikers, in hopes that the smell of the meat would waft into the prison.
The prisoners “will enjoy breathing in the smoke and suffer from the smell of the meat, and [we will] show them that we will not give in to their whims,” the group said.
The group also called on the government “not to surrender to the oppressor terrorists and act with full force to free the captives [Hadar] Goldin and [Oron] Shaul,” who are presumed dead and whose bodies are being held by Hamas in Gaza.
Three projectiles fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights on Friday evening, causing neither injury nor damage.
Two projectiles were discovered in an open area in the northern Golan Heights, after having triggered sirens in the Golan Regional Council.
The sirens rang moments after a mortar shell landed in another open area, also in the northern Golan Heights. There were no injuries or damage reported in that incident either.
The Israeli military said both incidents appeared to be spillover fire from the raging civil war in neighboring Syria.
The fire occurred as US Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Israel. He met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier Friday, and warned Syria’s President Bashar Assad against any further use of chemical weapons. “They’d be ill-advised to try to use any again,” said Mattis. “We’ve made that very clear with our strike.”
Jewish People Policy Institute Pluralism Index:
Israeli Jews and Arabs are Happy to Live in Israel, Just not Together
Secular and Haredi Jews prefer separate neighborhoods;
Ashkenazi-Sephardic, Rightist-leftist live together well
• Israelis — Jews and Arabs — comfortable living in Israel “as they are.”
• Israelis do not think Jews and Arabs should live in the same neighborhoods.
• More Israeli Arabs want their children to study with Jews than Israeli Jews want their children to study with Arabs.
• Secular and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews do not think they should live in shared neighborhoods (about half of the Haredim would not mind sharing). “Completely secular” Jews do not want shared neighborhoods with religious (Orthodox – Dati) Jews either.
• The vast majority of Israeli Jews think Jews from different ethnic backgrounds or political views should live in mixed neighborhoods.
• Soldiers are perceived as highly contributing to the success of Israel, even by Arab Israelis and Haredis, who usually don’t serve in the IDF.
• A majority of Arab Israelis and almost half of Jewish Israelis agree that there is “too much freedom of speech” in Israel.
The Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai will re-open to Israelis that would like to travel to Egypt’s Sinai, Ofir Gendelman, the Prime Minister’s Arab media spokesman, announced Friday morning.
Gendelman also stated that the terror threat remains and Israelis currently vacationing in the area should return.
Last Monday, just hours before the onset of Passover, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the crossing would be closed to Israelis at least until the end of the holiday because of “the intensifying activities” of Islamic State-affiliated terrorists in Sinai.
Because of concrete terrorist threats, the government warned Israelis days earlier against travel to Sinai and urged all who were there to leave immediately.
Hamas’s military wing released a Hebrew-language music video Thursday night that taunts the parents of two Israeli soldiers presumed killed in action in a war with the terror group, claiming the men are actually alive and captives in Gaza.
Despite never recovering their bodies, the army has established that during the 2014 summer war between Israel and Hamas, Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin were killed. It maintains that the remains were seized by the terrorist group as bargaining chips.
Hamas has never offered any evidence that the two are still alive, including in the video published on Thursday.
Though Israel has determined there is no doubt that Shaul and Goldin died before their bodies were taken, Hamas has never admitted that the soldiers are dead. Thursday’s ghoulish video appears to seek to reinforce Hamas’s claim that they are alive.
Some 100 Fatah security prisoners have abandoned their hunger strike as of Friday morning, according to the Israel Prisons Service.
Hundreds of other Palestinian prisoners, however, have joined the strike since it began on Monday, bringing the total number of inmates who have refused food in protest of their conditions to 1,200-1,300.
According to the IPS, a Palestinian man who had a preexisting heart condition was transferred to an Israeli hospital for treatment. The Palestinian news site Ma’an named the prisoner as Said Musallam and reported that several other hunger-strikers have also been hospitalized.
The hunger strike has been led by popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for murder over his role orchestrating terror attacks against Israeli citizens during the Second Intifada. He began to call for a strike after talks between prisoners’ representatives and the Israel Prisons Service on improving jail conditions reached an impasse. Those talks began more than a year and a half ago.
The Palestinians on Thursday asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene in a hunger strike being staged by Palestinian prisoners over “legitimate rights” they claim Israel is denying them.
Palestinian envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour told the Security Council that a peaceful effort is needed to compel Israel to comply with international law and respect human rights “to avert the dangerous consequences of deterioration of this situation.”
“We believe that the ICRC can play a positive, facilitating role, and urge all necessary efforts in this regard,” he said.
Mansour saluted the more than 1,000 prisoners on hunger strike and said they were protesting what he called their “inhumane treatment and torture by Israel” as well as calling attention to the over 6,500 Palestinians imprisoned or arbitrarily detained.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri asked the United Nations on Friday to help Lebanon and Israel move towards a permanent ceasefire and end what he called Israel’s “continuous violations” of Lebanese territory.
Israel and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah group fought a month-long war in 2006 that concluded with a cessation of hostilities but without a formal peace deal.
“I urge the UN secretary general to support efforts to secure, as soon as possible, a state of permanent ceasefire. This is long overdue and my government is committed to move this agenda forward,” Hariri said.
Hariri was speaking on a visit to south Lebanon a day after Hezbollah officials staged a media tour near the same area to view what they said were recent Israeli fortifications on the border and to state their preparedness in case of any new war.
The tour drew a response from Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, who said in a Facebook post that Hezbollah’s media tour was to “shake their sabers and pound their chests.”
Under UN resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese army is responsible for security on its side of the border in a zone from which any other armed force, including Hezbollah, is banned.
Lebanon’s prime minister paid a visit to south Lebanon, a day after Hezbollah organized a tour for journalists along the Lebanon-Israel border, and slammed the Iran-backed terror group for its activities there.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized the media tour organized by Hezbollah during which armed gunmen from the group appeared in a UN-created border buffer zone meant to be free of Hezbollah presence, calling it “unacceptable in our opinion.”
The Hezbollah tour, intended to show journalists defensive measures taken by Israel along the border in the past year, was also criticized by other opponents of the Iranian-backed group as a provocation and a violation of a 2006 UN Security Council resolution that created the buffer zone.
Hariri, on his visit Friday, met with United Nations peacekeepers stationed in the area and renewed Lebanon’s commitment to international resolutions.
In Military Intelligence they call it “Fire-by-Six,” a reference to the dramatic transformation of Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal in the 10 years that have passed since the Second Lebanon War.
The first change is in quantity. In 2006, Hezbollah had approximately 15,000 rockets, of which it fired about 4,300 rockets during the 34 days of fighting, an average of 130 a day.
Today, the Iranian-backed group is believed to have around 130,000 rockets and missiles, and is expected to be able to fire approximately 1,000 a day in a future war.
The next five changes are in quality. Hezbollah’s missiles today have, for example, a longer range. In 2006, the group could strike Haifa and north. Today it can strike almost anywhere it wants within Israel. The missiles also have larger warheads, greater accuracy, and the ability to launch from deeper inside enemy territory, and not just from southern Lebanon as in 2006. In some cases, it can even fire the missiles from within fortified and underground silos.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis landed in Israel on Thursday as part of his first official visit to the Middle East. Mattis met Friday with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Tel Aviv, before heading to Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Pentagon chief was also scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin.
While in the country, Mattis plans to discuss U.S.-Israel ties and the challenges facing the Middle East, chiefly Iran and its attempts to consolidate its regional dominance.
During a press conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis said Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of a 2013 agreement to get rid of its entire stockpile.
“The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some [chemical weapons]. It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically,” he said
The US response to a scenario in which the Syrian regime was “gassing Israelis would result in a situation that he [Bashar Assad] could not even imagine,” and be “virtually regime suicide,” Marine Corps Gen. (ret.) John R. Allen told The Jerusalem Post.
Allen, one of the US’s leading voices on security issues, spoke to the Post last week and on Thursday, and discussed whether recent events made a Syrian chemical weapons strike on Israel more or less likely.
The former general was the Obama administration’s special envoy in fighting ISIS and on finding security solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US commander in Afghanistan, and is currently a distinguished fellow and chairman of security and strategy at the Brookings Institution.
The circumstances Allen was confronted with were the combination of the Assad regime’s recent use of chemical weapons against Syrian rebels and revelations that it may possess one to three tons of chemical weapons, along with the Trump administration’s military response.
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was barred from running in next month’s election Thursday while President Hassan Rouhani was among six candidates approved by Iran’s conservative-controlled Guardian Council, state media reported.
The other candidates selected were hardliners Ebrahim Raisi and Mostafa Mirsalim, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, moderate Mostafa Hashemitaba and Rouhani’s ally and vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri.
Former hardline president Ahmadinejad, who ruled from 2005 to 2013, was barred along with his close ally Hamid Baghaie.
Ahmadinejad shocked everyone by registering as a candidate last week against the advice of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — a move which many described as political suicide.
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