July 6, 2020

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05/13 Links Pt1: Happy Nakba Day!; Believe Iran’s threats; Israel TV: US won’t oppose extension of Israeli law to all WB settlements; How Palestinian Leaders Punish Patients


From Ian:

Happy Nakba Day!
Most Israeli Jews celebrated Israeli Independence Day (according to the Hebrew calendar) a few days ago. Meanwhile, thousands of Israel’s Arab citizens decried the “Nakba” (The Catastrophe), namely the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, with a day of protest and mourning.

Many more Israeli Jews will have fun, less than two weeks from now, on Lag B’Omer. Israel’s Arab community probably will riot, protest and mourn again, on May 15th (the general calendar date), when the British Mandate was officially terminated, and the State of Israel came into being.

Its also been announced that Arabs in the Gaza Strip plan to stage a general strike on Wednesday to mark Nakba Day. In a statement, the National Authority for Breaking the Siege, also called on “Palestinians” to mark the occasion by taking part in planned demonstrations in Gaza, i.e. riot at the fence. It also warned “the Israeli enemy” against “committing follies against peaceful demonstrators: – aka those trying to attack Israeli soldiers or launch incendiary balloons into Israel.

That says everything…

So while the Jews were happy and dancing, on Independence Day, and then will dance again, on the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochi’s death (hundreds of thousands flock to his grave in Meron annually), the Arabs are crying this time of year over what they see as a tragedy.

Happy Nakba Day!

JPost Editorial: Believe Iran’s threats

US President Donald Trump’s policy toward Iran appears to be working.

Sunday morning, President Hassan Rouhani told political activists in Tehran that Iran is facing “unprecedented” pressure from the international sanctions that were re-imposed by Trump; that Iranians must prepare for difficult times resulting from those renewed sanctions; and that they have led to worse economic conditions than Iran faced during the country’s 1980-88 war with Iraq.

“During the war, we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports – and there were only sanctions on arms purchases,” said Rouhani. “The [current] pressures by enemies are a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution… But, I do not despair and have great hope for the future, and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions, provided that we are united.”

His comments come amid rising tensions with the US. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, announced a week ago the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its strike group over “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”

The Lincoln passed through the Suez Canal on Thursday, according to the US Central Command. Alongside the carrier are three destroyers: the USS Bainbridge, USS Mason and USS Nitze, as well as the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and a Spanish frigate, the ESPS Mendez Nunez.

In addition, B-52s from the 20th Bomb Squadron have landed in recent days in Qatar and elsewhere in “southwest Asia” – possibly the United Arab Emirates. And on Friday, the Pentagon announced it would be returning a Patriot missile battery to the wider Mideast, as well as sending the USS Arlington, an amphibious warship carrying marines, to join the Lincoln.

All these moves are a response to a possible threat to US forces in the region by Iran, according to the White House, which did not specify what that threat is. Iran dismissed the claim as nonsense, but Bolton warned the Islamic republic that any attack on American interests or allies would face “unrelenting force.”

UN Middle East envoy warns of war between Israel, Hamas

The U.N. envoy to the Middle East says it’s the “last chance” to prevent an all-out conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

Nickolay Mladenov said on Monday that the “risk of war remains imminent,” a week after a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers ended the worst fighting since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

The spate of violence killed 25 Palestinians, including 10 terrorist operatives, and four Israeli civilians.

Mladenov, inaugurating a solar power plant for a Gaza hospital, said parties must “consolidate the understandings” of the cease-fire.

The deal, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the U.N., promises to let in fuel and humanitarian aid and ease the movement of people from the blockaded territory.

Israel TV: US won’t oppose extension of Israeli law to all West Bank settlements

The Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal will provide for all Israeli settlements to remain under Israeli rule in any permanent peace accord, and the administration will not oppose the extension of Israeli law to all West Bank settlements, an Israeli TV report claimed Sunday.

Some 400,000 Israeli Jews live in West Bank settlements, and the Trump plan will recognize that all those Israeli-settled areas “will remain in Israeli hands under a permanent accord,” the Channel 12 report said.

To that end, the report said, “the Americans will not oppose Israeli steps relating to the settlements.” Specifically, while the US will not explicitly back the formal “extension of Israeli sovereignty” to the settlements, or their “annexation,” the report said, it will not object to the “extension of Israeli law” to the settlements.

In the run up to last month’s elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised several times to variously “apply Israeli sovereignty” and/or “extend Israeli law” to all the settlements, and said he hoped he would be able to do so with American support. Sunday’s TV report said that were Israel to extend Israeli law to all the settlements, the US “won’t oppose, or will be okay with, or won’t make a fuss about” such a move.

Netanyahu is now expected to go ahead with just such a process, the TV report noted.

Settlers hail ‘historic opportunity’ after report Trump won’t oppose annexation

Settler leaders on Sunday hailed a TV report that said the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal will provide for all settlements to remain under Israeli rule in any permanent peace accord, and that the administration will not oppose the extension of Israeli law to all settlements.

“I call on the prime minister to immediately announce, following the establishment of a government, that he will extend Israeli law to all the Jewish settlements as a basis for any offer that may come,” said Har Hebron Regional Council Chairman Yohai Damari following the report on Channel 12.

“We have to take advantage of this window of opportunity during the Trump administration in the wake of the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of the Golan Heights. Now it is time for sovereignty in Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

“We can’t miss this historic opportunity,” said Binyamin Regional Council Chairman Yisrael Gantz. “It is doubtful it will happen again.”

More than 400,000 Israeli Jews live in West Bank settlements, and the Trump plan will recognize that all those Israeli-settled areas “will remain in Israeli hands under a permanent accord,” the Channel 12 report said.

Michael Oren Cuts Short a Conversation About Israel

Michael Oren, born Michael Bornstein in New York in 1955, emigrated to Israel forty years ago and served in the Israel Defense Forces. After returning to the U.S. to receive a Ph.D. in Near Eastern studies from Princeton, he taught in Israel and published several nonfiction books, covering subjects like the Six-Day War and the American role in the Middle East. In 2009, Oren gave up his U.S. citizenship in order to serve as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Ambassador to Washington. Oren managed to maintain close relationships around Washington while still supporting Netanyahu’s aggressive approach to Iran. But, as Obama’s Presidency was nearing its end, Oren, who had left the ambassadorship and joined the Knesset, railed against the Iran deal. He went so far as to speculate about Obama’s personal motivations for his foreign-policy decisions, writing, in 2015, “I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”

The last several years have seen him take a more conservative turn. Oren is a member of the Kulanu Party, which, despite its relative moderation, is now part of Netanyahu’s government. When Netanyahu was reëlected for a fifth term, last month, defeating a center-left coalition while promising to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Oren was gleeful, both applauding the Prime Minister’s hawkishness and suggesting to the Times that Netanyahu was best suited to bring peace to the region. On Friday, I spoke by phone with Oren, who just finished his term as a member of the Knesset and the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s office. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed Netanyahu’s victory and the state of politics in Israel. But then the conversation took a different turn, and ended abruptly. (h/t Zvi)

MEMRI: Chief Editor Of Saudi ‘Al-Jazirah’ Daily: Do Not Reject The ‘Deal Of The Century’ In Advance; There Is Need For Concessions By Both Sides

Reports about the immanent publication of the American Middle East peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century” have sparked much debate in the Arab press. Most of the articles attacked the Trump administration and called to reject the deal out of hand. A conspicuous exception was a May 5, 2019 article by Khaled Al-Malik, editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, who urged the Arabs and Palestinians not to reject the plan even before it has been published, but rather to wait until it is officially revealed and then study it carefully. He added that the deal cannot be worse than the continued Israeli occupation, and noted that the Palestinians have missed opportunities in the past, which involved better proposals than the one they are likely to be offered today. He called on both sides to show good will and receptiveness, and make the necessary concessions, in order to achieve the goal of establishing a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel and ensure a future of stability and mutual cooperation for both sides.

The following are excerpts from his column:

“It is the greatest mistake to judge America’s proposed plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even before it has been officially announced… [Only] after the details of the plan are revealed, will we be able to examine it, study its positive and negative aspects, and determine whether it is a good option that will yield an independent state for the Palestinians.

“We do not expect the plan to meet all the Palestinians’ demands. But it will not be worse than the continued Israeli occupation, with its systematic policy aimed at causing the Palestinians to emigrate and expelling them from the small areas they still hold under Israeli rule, [which is characterized by] aggression, abuse of the free [Palestinians], and the ongoing construction of settlements on the [Palestinians’] land and the Judaizing of [this land].

“[At the same time], it is certain is that this plan, or any other plan endorsed by the U.S., will be announced only if conforms to the desires of Israel, which [presently] has the upper hand and is victorious. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are still divided on how to respond to any initiative, however flawed, that provides them with an opportunity to [realize their] right to an [independent] state. This has caused them to miss opportunities in the past that involved better [proposals] than what they are now being offered.

“Therefore, the new initiative must be met calmly, without populist slogans, [so as to] derive every possible benefit from it, and then demand, in negotiations, what cannot be implemented at the moment. Good will and readiness for peace must be shown by both sides.

Yisrael Medad: The Qatari Solution to the Gaza Problem

Qatar keeps dumping money on Gaza. Some $30 million today and $1 billion over the past few years.

I have an alternative suggestion.

Qatar is 11,581 square kilometers in area.

Gaza is 365 square kilometers in area.

Qatar’s population is about 2,650,000.

Gaza’s population is almost 2,000,000.

It’s obvious.

Why send Qatar money to Gaza?

Send Gazans to Qatar.

More than enough room.

Germany vows to back Israel at UN, in apparent break from past record

Germany on Saturday said it was deeply troubled by anti-Israel bias at the United Nations and vowed to oppose “any unfair treatment” of the Jewish state in international fora.

The statement, issued on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s accession to the UN, was welcomed by Jerusalem’s envoy to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, who said he hoped it signals a change in Berlin’s voting pattern vis-a-vis the Middle East. Germany’s voting record on Middle East issues has been criticized by Israel and its supporters, as the country often joins other European nations in voting against Israel’s interest at the UN.

“Seventy years ago today — 24 years before the Federal Republic of Germany’s admission to the United Nations — Israel was admitted to the UN as a full member. The Federal Government would like to take this 70th anniversary as an opportunity to reiterate the fact that Germany stands at Israel’s side in the UN, too,” the English-language statement by Germany’s Foreign Office said.

“Germany’s historic responsibility for the Jewish and democratic State of Israel and its security is part of our raison d’être. Germany will always work, including in the UN, to ensure that Israel’s right to exist is never called into question.”

Berlin is “most concerned about the fact that, to this day, Israel continues to be criticized inappropriately, treated in a biased manner and marginalized in the bodies of the UN,” the statement went on.

Pelosi made ‘a bad call’ allowing anti-Israel imam to deliver House prayer

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., told “Fox & Friends” on Sunday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had made “a bad call” by allowing a Texas imam with a history of anti-Israel comments to deliver the noon prayer in the House of Representatives last week.

“Either the speaker’s office did not vet this imam at all, or worse, they did vet the imam and then decided that it would have been OK for the imam to come onto the floor of the House of Representatives anyway,” said Zeldin. “It’s a bad call to have this person. It’s horrible judgment, and after the 2019 that we’ve had so far, where members of their own caucus are pushing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hate, it was a bad judgment.”

The imam, Omar Suleiman of Irving, Texas, was introduced by Pelosi before he delivered the prayer from the rostrum on Thursday. He had been invited to speak by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas.

“We pray for peace, not war. Love, not hate. Benevolence, not greed. Unity, not division,” Suleiman said during his prayer. “And, we commit ourselves to not betraying our prayers with actions that contradict them.”

In 2017, the Algemeiner reported that Suleiman had posted an image on social media supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 and had posted on Facebook and Twitter during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas: “God willing on this blessed night as the 3rd Intifada begins, the beginning of the end of Zionism is here. May Allah help us overcome this monster, protect the innocent of the world, and accept the murdered as martyrs.”

Valerie Plame Downplays Sharing Anti-Semitic Article: ‘It Was Just a Doozy’

Democratic congressional candidate Valerie Plame on Sunday attempted to downplay an anti-Semitic article she shared on Twitter back in 2017 by saying she did not read the full article, but her now-deleted tweets said, “Read the entire article” and “put aside your biases and think clearly.”

Activist and ex-CIA operative Plame, who is running for New Mexico’s open 3rd Congressional District seat in 2020, appeared on MSNBC’s Kasie DC, where she was asked about a recent National Review article resurfacing a tweet she wrote less than two years ago.

Plame tweeted an article from the fringe site UNZ Review in Sept. 2017, accusing “American Jews” of “driving America’s wars.” While she would go on to acknowledge she “messed up,” the Washington Examiner reported she posted nine UNZ articles over the course of three years, including one titled “Why I Still Dislike Israel” and another about “Dancing Israelis” on 9/11.

“You got some criticism for this because the article that you linked to said America’s Jews are driving America’s wars and I know you later backtracked saying you messed up,” anchor Kasie Hunt said. “How much of a campaign issue do you think this is potentially going to be for you? And is there anything you would like to say to correct the record now?”

“Let me be clear. It’s not who I am and it’s not what I believe. It was extremely painful. I had not read the whole article all the way through and when I realized what it was, it was embarrassing and hurtful, so I apologize deeply and sincerely, and I’ve done it multiple times both privately and publicly,” Plame said. “It’s — it was really just a very painful period, but I want to move forward. That’s not who I am and of course there is always going to be people that no matter what I would say are not going to like me, are going to hate me, are going to twist my words and I can’t do anything about that.

She went on to say, “We all make mistakes” and that sharing the article was a “doozy.”

Poland cancels Israeli officials’ trip over Holocaust property restitution row

Poland on Monday said it had canceled a visit by Israeli officials who intended to raise the issue of the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, a matter Warsaw insists is closed.

“Poland decided to cancel the visit of Israeli officials after the Israeli side made last minute changes in the composition of the delegation suggesting that the talks would primarily focus on the issues related to property restitution,” the foreign ministry in Warsaw said in a statement posted to its website.

It said the delegation, headed by Avi Cohen-Scali, the director general of the Israeli Social Equality Ministry, had been due in Warsaw on Monday.

In a statement Sunday announcing the delegation’s visit, the Social Equality Ministry had said it was spearheading efforts to “widen the circle of those who receive restitution,” including promoting legislation to that effect in “additional countries.” It noted especially a bid to promote recognition of Romanian Holocaust victims by Germany and Romania.

In the statement, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel commended the Polish government for “its firm stance in the face of voices of anti-Semitic protest,” while warning that time was “running out” on the effort to restore Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.

Gamliel was apparently alluding to a rally by several thousand nationalists in the Polish capital on Saturday against a US law on the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, an issue that has surfaced ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

Two former synagogues destroyed in Poland and Ukraine

Two former synagogues were destroyed in Poland and in Ukraine.

The 16th-century former synagogue of Pidhaitsi, a town in the Ukraine’s west, collapsed on Saturday night as a result of heavy rains and neglect that eroded one of its supporting pillars, the news website te.20mimut reported.

In Poland, building contractors demolished the century-old former synagogue of Nowy Targ south of Krakow, Gazeta Krakowska reported on Friday.

The demolition was conducted legally because local authorities and conservation activists had failed to register the building as an architectural monument, the newspaper reported.

The Nazis destroyed the synagogue’s interior during the Holocaust and the Polish communist authorities turned into a workshop. It was restituted to the Jewish community of Krakow, which sold it. The building was not registered as a monument during the time that it was owned by the Jewish community, according to Gazeta Krakowska.

Jewish tombstones used by Nazis to build roads found in Poland

Jewish tombstones used to pave a road and pavements during the Holocaust were discovered in Gora Kalwaria in Poland while a highway was being built through the city.

From the Depths founder Jonny Daniels, who was called to the scene by an elderly Polish woman living in the area who uncovered the tombstones when walking her dog, explained that Gora Kalwaria (Gur) was home to the Ger sect of Hasidim.

The area where the tombstones were found is just 2 kilometers from the Jewish cemetery of Gora Kalwaria.

“They told us that some of the pavements or even some of the roads were built during the time of the Nazi occupation here, and built using Jewish tombstones,” he said in a Facebook video last week, adding that after he received the call he wasn’t quite sure. “But what we can actually see here is really quite incredible and quite disturbing and painful to see as well.”

Daniels explained that they planned to bring the tombstones “back to the Jewish cemetery” where they belong. On camera, he pointed out several tombstones that had been unearthed, which were intact with the names and the writing on the tombstones clearly visible.

Lithuanian PM, who backed moving embassy to Jerusalem, loses presidential bid

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Sunday said he would quit in July after he was eliminated from a presidential runoff that will see an independent economist square off against a conservative on May 26.

“The failure to get into the second round is an assessment of me as a politician,” Skvernelis told public broadcaster LRT, adding that he would tender his resignation in July.

Gitanas Nauseda, an economist and political novice topped the first round, partial official results showed, and will face runner-up Ingrida Simonyte, a conservative ex-finance minister, in the second round set to focus on inequality and poverty.

Skvernelis, who was a police officer before he entered politics, has suggested opening dialogue with Russia, a departure from the recent governments in Vilnius, and floated the idea of moving the Lithuanian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Skvernelis said in March that moving the mission could lead to closer ties with Israel and the United States, which Lithuania sees as a key security buffer against Russia.

The embassy transfer “could bring new impetus for relations with Israel, both in the areas of security and trade,” Skvernelis told reporters as he hit the campaign trail to outline his foreign policy priorities.

Paying for calm on the Gaza front, cannot be our policy

For some time, Israel has followed the principle of “quiet will be met with quiet” in dealing with the Gaza Strip—and with its enemies in Syria and elsewhere. In practice this means that so long as Hamas does not launch rockets or conduct other attacks, the IDF will not engage it militarily, but any attacks will be met with a swift military response. To Amos Yadlin, the recent flareups show that this strategy is losing its effectiveness:

The positive aspect of the recent round against Gaza was the return, by the IDF, to the targeted killing of militants, the bombing of rocket-manufacturing facilities and warehouses, and the destruction of military installations and high-rise apartment blocks. . . .

The Israeli public, [however, remains] in the dark about the parameters of the long-term cease-fire agreement being negotiated with Hamas. What is known is that Israel is continuing to [allow the transfer of funds to] a terrorist organization but is refusing to talk to a legitimate, internationally recognized, Palestinian Authority. The message to Palestinians is clear: using terror against Israel is a means to achieve your desired objectives.

Above all else, Israel’s deterrence is shattered. Hamas is no longer fazed by the prospect of a military confrontation. The militant group still fears a full-blown war, but that too will change. The policy of “quiet will be met by quiet” or “quiet in exchange for money” is no longer viable. . . . It is time to begin reinstating Israel’s deterrence by causing massive injury to the military wing of Hamas, enemy loss of life notwithstanding—[including] the use of targeted killing of militant commanders, preferably carried out with surprising, unexpected tactics. The key here is the need to take initiative rather than responding and being led.

2 East Jerusalem men charged with planning Tel Aviv beach shooting for Hamas

Two East Jerusalem residents were charged on Sunday for allegedly planning to carry out a shooting attack in Tel Aviv on behalf of the Hamas terror group.

According to the indictments filed at the Jerusalem District Court, 23-year-old Adam Muslemani and 27-year-old Mahmoud Abed al-Latif befriended each other in 2017, while serving time at Nafha Prison in the Negev for security-related offenses.

The two planned to carry out a shooting in Hamas’s name at a beach in Tel Aviv following their release from prison, the charge sheets said. The pair ruled out an attack in Jerusalem, citing the high number of attacks in the capital and its heavy police presence, which made the coastal metropolis a better target.

Following their release in February 2019, Muslemani and Abdel Latif traveled to Istanbul to meet with a Hamas operative, who allegedly suggested they instead target a public figure. The indictment said the Hamas member named former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, ex-police chief Roni Alsheich, and Temple Mount activist and then-Likud MK Yehudah Glick as possible victims.

In 2014, Glick was shot four times by a Palestinian terrorist in a failed assassination attempt in Jerusalem.

How Palestinian Leaders Punish Patients

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel. Last March, the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, announced that it was halting medical transfers to Israeli hospitals and promised to find alternatives for Palestinian patients in private and government hospitals.

The PA says that it took the decision in response to the Israeli government’s deduction of payments the Palestinian government makes to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax revenues the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinians.

A new Israeli law allows the government to impose financial sanctions on the PA for its “Pay for Slay” policy, which encourages terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis because they know they and their families will be receiving salaries (from the PA government) for the rest of their lives.

One report estimated that the PA spent no less than 502 million shekels [USD $141 million; 126 million euros] of its 2018 budget on salaries and payments to terrorist prisoners and released inmates. At least 230 million shekels [$65 million; 58 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, while another 176 million shekels [$48 million; 44 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorists after they were released from prison, the report revealed. The remaining 96 million shekels [$27 million; 24 million euros] covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorists and their families.

Despite the Israeli deductions, the terrorists and their families are continuing to receive full salaries. The only ones who are paying the price are tens of thousands of Palestinian public employees, who in the past three months have been receiving only 50% to 60% of their salaries.

In the past few months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to continue making welfare payments to the terrorists and their families, even if its costs the Palestinian government its last penny. “We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about,” Abbas said. In another statement, Abbas was quoted as saying: “By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will be spent on the families of the martyrs and prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people.”

Qatari envoy arrives in Gaza Strip, transfers $30 million to Hamas

The Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi arrived at the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing and handed over $30 million to Hamas on Monday, and families are now being asked to check whether they received the $100 grant they deserve.

After the last round of fighting last week, the Qatari Foreign Ministry issued an official statement saying that Qatar would transfer $480 million in support of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

From the promised budget, Qatar will grant $300 million in grants and loans to support the Palestinian Authority and its health and education sectors. An additional $180 million will be transferred for urgent rescue and humanitarian assistance to residents of the Gaza Strip. Qatar also said that the additional $180 million was intended to support the United Nations programs in Palestine, support the electricity services in the Gaza Strip and ensure that the Palestinian people had access to various sectors.

The transfer of funds from Qatar to the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip takes place a week after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader: A Greater Battle with the Zionist Enemy is yet to Come

JCPA: Mustafa Badr al-Din (“Zulfiqar”) and the Ansariya Operation

On May 2, 2019, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech to mark the third anniversary of the death of Mustafa Badr al-Din, who was the commander of the Hizbullah forces in Syria and was killed near Damascus on May 13, 2016. In his remarks, Nasrallah revealed new details about the Ansariya Operation, which was carried out on the night of September 4-5, 1997, against an Israeli commando force of Shayetet 13 operating in Lebanon.

Nasrallah noted that Hizbullah had already revealed in the past that the information that led to the ambush of the Israeli force was collected through technical means. Nasrallah said Hizbullah had managed to intercept, in real time and over two weeks, images transmitted by an Israeli drone that showed the Shayetet 13 force’s designated landing area. Accordingly, Hizbullah prepared ambushes for the Israeli force in advance and succeeded to surprise it. Nasrallah has now added, however, that Hizbullah was able to discover that an Israeli force would land on the shore and that two or three fighters would advance toward Ansariya through an orchard-covered area. From this Hizbullah deduced that the force would be seeking a target to kidnap or kill—something they had not realized.

Based on this information, Hizbullah carried out a situation assessment. Taking part in it were Badr al-Din, who was appointed to command the operation; Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah’s security and military commander and Badr al-Din’s cousin and brother-in-law; Nasrallah himself and others. The strategy considered was to prepare an ambush for the two or three Israeli fighters who had landed on the shore and returned to it several times. Because it was clear to Hizbullah that these fighters were preparing a larger operation, it was decided to wait patiently, track them, and refrain from attacking them. And indeed, Nasrallah remarked, analysis of the information collected made it clear to Hizbullah that preparations were being made for a larger operation. Hence, it was decided to set an ambush that would await the larger Israeli force. The two senior Hizbullah commanders, Badr al-Din and Mughniyeh, personally went to the presumed locale of the ambush. They examined the nearby orchards and walked along the path on which—in keeping with the information that had been obtained—the Israeli force would proceed, and they devised a plan of action accordingly.

The problem that arose was that the orchards were not empty. Farmers came to work each day at sunrise and left after sunset. So it was not possible to lay a booby-trapped ambush in a place where the farmers arrived each morning and departed each evening, even though it was clear that the Israeli operation would be carried out at night.

Saudi Energy Minister says two Saudi oil tankers attacked near UAE waters

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers were among vessels targeted by a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), condemning it as an attempt to undermine security of global crude supplies.

The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels were hit by sabotage near the emirate of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

The UAE gave no details on the nature of the sabotage or who was behind it. It said there were no casualties and operations at Fujairah port were normal.

The strait, a vital global oil and gas shipping route, separates the Gulf states and Iran, which has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the US military’s presence in the region.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement that one of the two Saudi vessels attacked was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude from Ras Tanura port for delivery to state-owned Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States.

The attack did not lead to any casualties or an oil spill but caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels, said the statement carried on state news agency SPA.

Arab League condemns attacks on Saudi tankers

The head of the Arab League has condemned attacks that targeted vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates the previous day, including two Saudi oil tankers, as “criminal acts.”

On Monday, Saudi Arabia revealed that two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to transport to the United States.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said in a statement on Monday that these acts are a “serious violation of the freedom and integrity of trade and maritime transport routes.”

He says the Arab League stands by the UAE and Saudi Arabia “in all measures taken to safeguard their security and interests.”

The announcement by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih came as the U.S. issued a new warning to sailors and the UAE’s regional allies condemned the reported sabotage on Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah.

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