BESA: The Decreasing Effectiveness of Hamas Terrorism
The decline in suicide bombings was followed, starting in 2004, by a spectacular rise in missile and rocket launchings. Hamas continually improved its missiles’ payload and distance – so much so that by 2006, the number of Israelis directly affected by the missiles increased from 25,000 inhabitants in the immediate areas bordering Gaza to the hundreds of thousands who live in major cities such Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and beyond.
For all the feelings of terror the launching of over 14,000 missiles between 2004 and 2014 engendered (the phenomenon largely came to an end after the third bout between Hamas and Israel in the summer of 2014), missile terrorism was not nearly as costly to Israel as suicide bombing had been.
Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP and as a percentage of total government expenditures continued to decline, whereas at the height of the “al-Aqsa intifada,” they remained level.
Missile terrorism was far less costly in human terms as well. Even if we take into account all the casualties of the three rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas, mortalities add up to approximately 120 – that is to say, less than one-third the number of Israelis who were killed during the wave of suicide bombing. Note also that the wave of missile terrorism took place over ten years compared to the suicide bombing wave, which lasted four.
Whereas the effectiveness of suicide terrorism was vastly reduced as a result of the military punishment meted out by the IDF and the Israel Security Agency, missile terrorism became less effective over time due to technological developments that denied Hamas much of the potency of this means of attack.
Daniel Pipes: Israel Victory gains strength
What do Israelis think of the idea of Israel winning and the Palestinians losing?
It’s a radical idea, very different from the 50-year-old-and-counting win-win assumption of “land for peace” that has transfixed governments and monopolized their attention. That old idea holds that putting Palestinians and Israelis in a room together will prompt them to settle their differences. On the cusp of the Oslo Accords’ 25th anniversary, we know precisely how well that worked out: Israelis gave real land, Palestinians rewarded them with false promises of peace.
Indeed, according to a poll commissioned by the Middle East Forum and carried out by Rafi Smith of Smith Consulting, only 33% of Jewish Israelis (and about half that number among those who voted for the current government) still believe in land-for-peace and about the same small number still believe in Oslo. So, the old ways not only failed but are deeply unpopular. What takes their place?
One alternative is the Middle East Forum’s Israel Victory initiative, and it polls well. Respondents were asked, “Do you agree or disagree with the proposition that it will only be possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians when they recognize they have lost their war against Israel?” Fifty-eight percent agreed. This has the makings of a revolution.
A new survey conducted for the Middle East Forum and the Israel Victory Project indicate that 65% of the Jewish public in Israel believes that Israel needs to achieve a clear victory through military confrontations with the “Palestinians” in order to end the conflict, as reported by Channel 20. The survey will be presented to the Knesset on Tuesday.
77% of the respondents agreed that in the next round with Hamas or Hezbollah, the military leadership should decide to “let the IDF win.” It has been a common complaint in Israel that the IDF has been holding back in their battles with the enemy.
The survey found that 59% of Israelis see US President Donald Trump as the most pro-Israeli president ever, compared to only 25% of respondents who expressed concern that in the future Trump will still “charge a price” for his support of Israel.
Only 21% expressed concern about the possibility that President Trump would recognize the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital, while 62% do not believe it will happen.
Most importantly, only 3% of Israelis believe that settling in Judea and Samaria is an obstacle to peace.
Natan Sharansky, who fought the Soviets from inside a gulag, is retiring as head of the Jewish Agency for Israel at age 70.
Sharansky insists that peace could be achieved only between Israel and a legitimately democratic Palestinian Authority – because real democracies do not try to kill one another.
While he is quick to acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians, he lays it at the feet of the entire international community. “It is a thousand times more difficult to be a dissident among the Palestinians than among the Soviets,” he said. “There, you knew that even if you will be isolated, you are part of a much bigger world of free thought, and this world is with you. Here, who cares?”
It is “the free world” that has cynically allowed Palestinian leaders to keep their people in refugee camps for generations and, of late, to send Gaza residents to be shot by Israeli soldiers along the fence.
“And Palestinians will suffer again, and again, and again until the free world will say, ‘Enough’,” and “stop dealing with these corrupt dictators,” save up the money for a future Marshall Plan and instead start helping Palestinians build a real democracy.
He notes that every human being craves both freedom and a sense of belonging, and that freedom cannot be imposed, but must be built from the ground up.
Western nations held a defacto boycott of the Agenda Item 7 debate against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
Only 22%, 43 nations out of the 193 UN countries who could have taken the floor, stood up to condemn Israel.
France, which had initially signed up to speak, changed its mind at the last moment and was not present in the room when its name was called.
The silence marked a slim sign of continued success for the Israeli and US campaign to abolish the UNRHC mandate that requires a debate on Israeli actions against the Palestinians at every council session under Agenda Item 7.
All other alleged human rights abuses around the globe are dealt with under Agenda Item 4, save for Israel, which is the only country with a permanent dedicated agenda item.
This spring the US had unsuccessfully pushed for a UN General Assembly resolution to eliminate Agenda Item 7 before deciding to quit the UNHRC last month.
But in the last five years, European and Western countries, even those among Israel’s harshest critics such as Ireland, have increasingly refrained from speaking under Agenda Item 7.
In a June 13, 2018 interview with Saudi MBC TV, Saudi journalist Mishal Al-Sudairy recounted the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, from Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, who allied himself with Hitler in WWII, through his successor Ahmad Al-Shukeiri, who “lived his entire life in five-star hotels and fought through microphones,” to Yasser Arafat, who, in contrast to Egypt and Jordan, rejected negotiations with Israel. “The mountain turned into the molehill of the Oslo Accords – a monster that came after it was too late, and [after] the West Bank had become full of settlements, even though he had an opportunity – at the  Mena House talks – to regain the West Bank without a single settlement,” he said. “Those people missed [multiple] opportunities,” he said, adding vis-à-vis Hamas’s barbarity against Fatah members in Gaza, “How can the world have any respect for the [Palestinian] cause?”
In his column for the London-based Saudi Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, Al-Sudairy, in May 2018, expressed similar views (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6941 Saudi Journalist To Palestinian Leaders: You Have Missed Too Many Opportunities To Resolve The Conflict With Israel; It Is Time For Palestinian Unity, Peace With Israel May 23, 2017).
Palestine “Was Not Blessed With Leaders Who Assumed Responsibility For The Cause; [This] Began In The 1930s”
Mishal Al-Sudairy: “[Palestine] was not blessed with leaders who assumed responsibility for the cause. It began in the 1930s, with [Hajj Amin] Al-Husseini… Britain more or less agreed to give the Palestinians 60% of Palestine. This is documented. The best proof of this is that the British placed restrictions on Jewish immigration [to Palestine]. A few years later, World War II broke out. Our brother in Islam [Al-Husseini] ruined everything, when he packed up and traveled to Berlin to meet Hitler. He stayed in Berlin for several years during the war, and he would deliver speeches on Berlin Radio. He would attack the Allies, thus arousing the wrath of them all: the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Britain.
Ahmad Shami is the spokesperson to the Office of the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister, Dr. Rami Hamdallah. He received a Master’s Degree in conflict resolution from George Mason University following his Bachelor’s Degree at Birzeit University. Shami speaks to The Media Line’s Felice Friedson in his first exclusive interview.
THE MEDIA LINE: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared the American administration incapable of being an honest broker and therefore unwelcome to participate in the peace-making process. The American peace-making team headed by Jared Kushner seems unfazed and is apparently trying to reach out to the populace instead of the government. Can this strategy succeed?
SHAMI: The Palestinian leadership and also the Palestinian government have worked with the American administration for years based on clear [support for] the two-state solution, backed up by international law. This is how the interim agreements were signed.
The transition took place with the last couple of speeches from the Obama administration and [former US Secretary of State] John Kerry. Those speeches reiterated the importance of the two-state solution and that formula set the relationship between the Palestinian leadership and the American administration.
Since President Trump took over and recently with the baseless declaration regarding Jerusalem, things have changed. The American administration understands the importance of Jerusalem as the key pillar of the two-state solution and the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinian people. If they don’t understand that they can go back to the signed agreement that states it clearly. However, the Jerusalem issue is the final negotiation issue. It has never been that a country can unilaterally decide the capital for another country. It doesn’t work like that.
Palestinian leadership took decisions regarding Trump because of the unilateral and baseless declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation; the use of its veto against the Security Council resolution that came out of the great marches in the Gaza Strip; and what we see as blackmail in cutting UNRWA funding which is supported by UN resolutions and international law.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former envoys from both Republican and Democratic administrations said withholding funds from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency will result in national security implications for U.S. allies in the region, including Israel and Jordan. The letter was also sent to the current U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall due in part to the suspension of U.S. assistance. The U.N. says the agency needs $250 million, or it will be forced to severely curtail programs to provide basic services – from food assistance and medical care to sanitation – for 5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“This financial gap puts into question the ability of UNRWA to continue to deliver education and health care services to millions of people, and has national security ramifications for our closest allies, including Israel and Jordan,” the former ambassadors wrote.
“We urge you to restore U.S. funding to help fill this gap,” they wrote.
The letter’s signatories include Thomas Pickering and Edward Perkins, who served under President George H.W. Bush; Madeleine Albright and Bill Richardson, who served under President Bill Clinton; John Negroponte, who served under President George W. Bush; and Susan Rice and Samantha Power, who served under President Barack Obama.
Palestinian Media Watch first exposed that the PA pays salaries to terrorist prisoners in May 2011, and presented this documentation to the US Congress in June of the same year. The Israeli Parliament yesterday voted overwhelmingly, 87-15, to deduct the amount that the PA pays to terrorists and families of “Martyrs” from tax money that Israel collects for the PA.
The two Israeli MPs who sponsored the law each thanked PMW during the parliamentary voting session, noting the unique importance of PMW’s input and documentation.
Prior to the vote, MP Avi Dichter, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said: “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee received much help in its deliberations, from the families of terror victims and those wounded by terror attacks who came to the discussions and shared their views with us, and with them were people from Palestinian Media Watch who provided us with authentic data that enabled productive and professional deliberations, nuances that are very difficult to achieve without precise data.” [Israeli Parliament website, July 2, 2018]
Following the vote and the passage of the law, MP Elazar Stern said:
“I want to thank… [PMW Director] Itamar Marcus … and everyone who has pushed and accompanied this committee for a long time.”
Click to read more about PMW’s 7-year long efforts to bring the PA policy of rewarding terrorists with salaries to the attention of parliaments around the world, and PMW’s involvement in the process of the passing of the new law.
Top Palestinian Authority officials on Tuesday slammed a new Israeli law that will deduct funds to the Ramallah government equivalent to the amount the PA pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the move threatened the existence of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
The Knesset passed the legislation — supported by both coalition and opposition MKs — in a 87 to 15 vote late Monday night. According to the law, the value of welfare payments paid out by the PA to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives will be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the administrative body.
“This is a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancellation of the Palestinian Authority and is piracy and theft,” Erekat told AFP. “Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people and that is a result of the decisions of [US] President [Donald] Trump, who supports Israel.”
The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday slammed Australia’s decision to end its direct aid to the Ramallah government, calling the move politically motivated and saying it “has no grounding in facts.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Monday that Australia had ended its direct government aid to the PA over fears its funds would be used to pay welfare stipends to families of Palestinians killed or jailed for attacks on Israel.
The funds will instead be provided to UN aid efforts to Palestinians.
In a statement, the Palestinian envoy to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadit, expressed the PA’s “deepest disappointment and concern” at the decision.
He asserted the Australian aid was never used to pay the stipends of convicted terrorists, and said the “stringent auditing procedures” of the governing World Bank trust fund could prove it.
“We have therefore concluded that this decision is political in nature, for its justification has no grounding in facts,” the statement said. “It has less to do with genuine concerns about terrorism and the stifled peace process than it does with domestic political expediency.”
An appeals court has ordered a district court in Washington to issue a new ruling in a lawsuit filed against Iran and Syria by the parents of a murdered Israeli teen, after the district court judge said the family could only sue for a relatively low amount of compensation because it had endangered itself by living in the West Bank.
The symbolic case was brought to the Columbia district court by Racheli and Avi Fraenkel, both US citizens. Their son Naftali, 16, disappeared in June 2014 along with Gilad Shaer, also 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, after the three inadvertently hitched a ride from a bus stop in the Etzion bloc with terrorists from a Hamas cell.
Their fate was unknown for almost three weeks — until their bodies were found and it emerged that they had been murdered mere hours after the kidnapping.
“We filed the suit to ‘harass the bad guys,’” Racheli Fraenkel told Ynet. “There are many ways to fight terror, and in this case it’s about limiting the economic steps they can take.”
The Fraenkels live in the community of Nof Ayalon in central Israel, which abuts the Green Line close to the city of Modiin.
Prof. Yuval Shany, the Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in International Law and former Dean of the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was elected on Monday as chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. The committee is comprised of 18 experts that meet three times a year for four-week sessions (spring in New York, summer and fall in Geneva) to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by 169 UN member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and any individual petitions concerning 116 States which are parties to the Optional Protocol.
This is the first time an Israeli has been appointed to this senior position. Prof. Shany has been a member of the UNHRC since 2013. His term will expire in 2020.
He has also been a member of anti-Zionist NGO B’Tselem, and is generally identified with the most extremist line in the Israeli Supreme Court. He has been a staunch opponent of the Netanyahu government agenda, including its most recent move to allow government ministers to have a say in picking their offices’ legal counsels. Suggesting that unelected civil servants better represented the voters than the politicians who were actually elected by the voters, Shany argues that the very notion of a minister picking his legal advisor inevitably invites corruption.
In 2013, Prof. Shany evaluated the Israeli judicial system – we believe his views foretell a worse scrutiny of Israel by the UNHRC in the next 18 months.
Ukraine’s top military prosecutor has outraged Jewish groups by saying in an interview that they were seeking to cause bloodshed in the country.
In the interview published on June 25 on the Insider website, prosecutor Anatoliy Matios referred to the Jewish activist Alexander Parvus, an ally of the communist revolutionary Lenin.
“In each war, there is always a Parvus, who brought Lenin money for a revolution which drowned Slavs in blood for decades,” Matios was quoted as saying.
“Parvus was also Jewish. In this case, they want to do the same to Ukraine.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, called for Matios to be fired.
“His incitement of hatred against Jews highlights the resurgence of virulent anti-Semitism in the Ukraine today,” it said on Twitter.
IDF Blog: Hamas’ online terrorism
The Information Security Department just revealed Hamas’ method of operation on the internet. In response, the IDF has launched Operation Broken Heart. Hamas cyber terrorists operate as stolen identities in order to talk to people, get their personal information, retrieve sensitive security information, and download malicious applications that turn cell phones into weapons. Thanks to IDF soldiers’ vigilance, there was no damage to Israel’s security.
Almost everyone is active on at least one social network and updates his/her personal profile from time to time. IDF soldiers are not excluded from this phenomenon of information sharing, which makes their social media platforms susceptible to terrorist organizations interested in extracting sensitive intelligence about the IDF.
Hamas cyber terrorists are characterized by the various tools they use to adapt to the changing technological environment. The Information Security Department is already aware of attempts to get information via the internet, as this has happened before. Last year, Operation Hunters Battle exposed the false identities Hamas used in order to raise soldiers’ awareness of the phenomenon and the importance of reporting incidents when they happen.
In January 2018, another report surfaced about a suspicious figure on Facebook named Lina Kramer, who had a conversation with a soldier on Facebook and later on Whatsapp. She even had an Israeli phone number. While this incident was similar to the ones last year, there was one striking difference. Instead of trying to entice the soldier to download a virus through an illegitimate source, the terrorist asked the soldier to download an app called “GlanceLove” from the official application store.
Colonel A., the Head of the Information Security Department said, “Not long after the first attacker approached us, we’d already begun receiving dozens of reports from soldiers about suspicious figures and apps on social networks. Upon investigating the reports, we uncovered hostile infrastructure that Hamas tried to use to keep in contact with IDF soldiers and tempt them to download apps that were harmful, and use the soldiers to extract classified information.”
Sometimes, to try to cover up their incorrect Hebrew, the terrorists running the profiles say that they are new immigrants. Once the infected application is downloaded, terrorists can collect contacts from the phone, enable access to SMS messages and call history, locate the phone and control the volume in order to listen to the user, download and remove files and applications, collect files and pictures, and even take pictures from the device.
In January 2017, the IDF revealed that Hamas attempted to gather intelligence about Israeli soldiers using fake identities on social media.
Following the exposure and thwarting of the plot, the Information Security Department strengthened the guidelines for soldiers on social media and worked to expose similar plots.
As of January 2018, the Department of Information Security has begun to receive requests from dozens of soldiers who claim to have encountered suspicious individuals on social media who tried to make them download applications from the official Google app store. Following the soldiers’ reports, the Information Security Department opened an investigation. The investigation revealed that the network was an intelligence operation of the Hamas terrorist organization. The applications included a World Cup app as well as two dating apps.
The applications the Hamas agents attempted to have the soldiers download featured extensive capabilities including the collection of information about the device, gathering the user’s contact list, collecting SMS messages, locating places, listening volume, downloading additional files, collecting files, photos and videos. It was also revealed that the Hamas agents were more sophisticated in their approach than they had been during previous attempts to gather intelligence from IDF soldiers, and used WhatsApp in addition to Facebook to send messages.
In addition, Hamas uploaded the applications to the official Google store to entice their targets. All this attests to the considerable investment Hamas made in this intelligence infrastructure. Most of the soldiers who were targeted. demonstrated a high awareness of the information security directives and acted accordingly. The soldiers did not cooperate with the suspicious figures, updated their commanders and reported to the security forces.
The plot was thereby exposed before it could cause serious damage to Israel’s security.
The head of the Shin Bet domestic security service last week visited the home of former prime minister Ehud Barak to discuss the latter’s personal safety, amid reported concerns Iran may be seeking to attempt to target him and other prominent Israelis traveling abroad.
The unusual meeting between Barak, who is also a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff, and Nadav Argaman, first reported by Hadashot TV news on Monday evening, took place at short notice.
Barak frequently travels abroad and does not have bodyguards assigned to him.
Barak, a well-known figure in Israel and overseas, has not had any personal security detail for several years, following a controversial ministerial committee decision.
He sometimes carries a sidearm, the TV report said.
Proposed legislation preventing extreme left-wing NGOs deemed to be acting against the IDF and delegitimizing Israel from accessing Israeli schools will move to a final vote in the Knesset plenum in two weeks, after being approved in its final reading Tuesday in the Knesset’s Education Committee.
The “Breaking the Silence” law, proposed by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi), states that organizations delegitimizing the State of Israel and acting against IDF soldiers or the objectives of the Israeli education system, will not be permitted to enter school premises or meet with students.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the bill was necessary because Breaking the Silence had crossed red lines of legitimate discourse and chosen a path of lying and besmirching IDF soldiers on international stages:
“As long as Breaking the Silence operates against Israel and the IDF abroad, I will not let them operate in our education system,” Bennett said. “The education system is in charge of crafting the future generations, and there is no reason for such voices to reach the pupils of Israel.”
Breaking the Silence responded that “shutting the ears of students and the mouths of soldiers will not hide the occupation but give further testimony to how the occupation corrupts us.” The organization said that “even 1000 bills would not help” and vowed to continue to inform people about what is happening beyond the Green line until the occupation ends.
During the Knesset Education Committee discussion on the “Breaking the Silence Law,” MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint List) addressed disabled IDF soldiers who were sitting in the hearing.
“The experience of this gentleman here who lost his eye, may I say that he was in an area that was not his? That he endangered himself and is a victim of himself? Why is a disabled soldier allowed to relate what was done to him, but he doesn’t say what he did during the operation? How can you listen to their experiences and not to the experiences of other soldiers?”
During the discussion over the “Breaking the Silence Law,” Zoabi added, “If you say that the law fights lies, then the best way to fight lies is to expose them to the sun, what you want to bury is always the truth that you are afraid of,” Zoabi said. “You can be impervious to 500 babies that were murdered in Gaza.”
MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home interrupted her remarks and said, “Your place is in the parliament in Syria or Gaza.” MK Ohana (Likud) replied to Zoabi: “Where would you be without the IDF?”
MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz said at the meeting, “This is not the law of ‘Breaking the Silence’ but of ‘Im Tirtzu’ – a foreign-funded and confidential organization that brings Knesset members to a hysterical and pathetic silencing of mouths that will not be used in practice but will poison and stain the Israeli law book.”
Six fires near communities in southern Israel were caused Tuesday by incendiary balloons sent from the Gaza Strip, in another busy day for firefighters battling the new Palestinian tactic.
The blazes were started in the areas of Kibbutz Kissufim, Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, according to the Israel Fire Department, which said that firefighters and KKL-JNF teams were able to gain control of all fires.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the security cabinet, toured the Gaza border area on Tuesday and said that the incendiary devices sent flying over the Gaza border into Israel are “no less grave than mortars.”
“A kite at the Gaza border area should be treated like a rocket on (the city of) Ashkelon,” Shaked told reporters.
“The State of Israel must use an iron fist against those who launch incendiary kites and against terror operatives,” she adds.
Had an Israeli soldier merely shouted at these female journalists, representatives of Western human rights organizations and major newspapers would have banged on their doors long ago, demanding that they justify physically abusing peaceful women who were just doing their job. It is harder, however, to make sense of the behavior of the foreign media and international human rights groups, who essentially champion Abbas’s fiefdom by ignoring its brutality.
The truth is that the Palestinian Authority is a body that has long been functioning as a dictatorship that suppresses freedom of speech and imposes a reign of terror and intimidation on Palestinian journalists and critics.
It is only a question of time before a Western journalist is beaten on the streets of a Palestinian city. When that happens, the international media and human rights groups can look to themselves and their own biased and unprofessional behavior for answers.
Official PA TV: Mother of 6 terrorists is “role model for every Palestinian woman”
A loud explosion was reported at an Iranian munitions warehouse in southwest Syria on Tuesday, with unconfirmed Arab media reports suggesting it was an Israeli strike.
Al Jazeera reported Tuesday that the warehouse, belonging to an Iran-affiliated militia, was located in the town of Daraa, where President Bashar Assad’s forces have recently retaken much of the rebel stronghold.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a number of explosions were heard in northern Daraa, which is under the control of Assad’s army.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to take action to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in neighboring Syria. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the funding mechanism for Iran’s aggression has been shattered. The IDF, including the Israeli Air Force, will continue to act forcefully against Iranian targets in the area. We will defend our borders, our sovereignty and the security of our citizens tenaciously and without compromise.”
Assad’s military recently launched a campaign, with Russian support, to retake the city, considered a symbol of the rebellion at the center of the seven-year civil war in the country. Since the launch of the campaign, more than 270,000 Syrians have been displaced.
The United Nations human rights office and refugee agency UNHCR urged Jordan on Tuesday to open its border to Syrians trying to escape an escalating conflict in the southwest region of Deraa.
An estimated 270,000 people have fled air and ground attacks over the past two weeks, the United Nations said on Monday
“We call on the Jordanian government to keep its border open and for other countries in the region to step up and receive the fleeing civilians,” UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a news briefing.
UNHCR spokesman Andre Mahecic said an estimated 40,000 Syrians were massed near the border with Jordan, which already hosts 650,000 registered Syrian refugees.
The Trump administration is considering designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization, CNN reported Monday.
Current and former officials told the news network that the White House was considering the move as a means of ramping up pressure on Tehran.
The designation of terrorist organizations and individuals is the responsibility of the State Department.
According to CNN, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in favor of the designation. This is in contrast to his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who in October told reporters that a designation of the IRGC as a terror group could have dangerous consequences.
“There are particular risks and complexities to designating an entire army, so to speak, of a country where that then puts in place certain requirements … that then triggers certain actions that we think are not appropriate and not necessarily in the best interests of our military,” Tillerson said.
The Obama administration granted citizenship to approximately 2,500 Iranians – including family members of politicians and other VIPs – during the negotiations leading to the Iranian nuclear agreement, Fox News quoted a senior cleric inside the Islamic Republic.
Fox reports an Iranian member of Parliament confirmed Obama’s White House issued the citizenship orders as a “favor to senior Iranian officials linked to President Rouhani.”
“He claimed it was done as a favor to senior Iranian officials linked to President Hassan Rouhani, and he alleged the move sparked a competition among Iranian officials over whose children would benefit from the scheme,” writes Fox News.
“When Obama, during the negotiations about the JCPOA, decided to do a favor to these men, he granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians and some officials started a competition over whose children could be part of these 2,500 Iranians,” said the cleric.
“If today these Iranians get deported from America, it will become clear who is complicit and sells the national interest like he is selling candies to America,” he added.
According to a Bavarian intelligence agency in Germany that is the equivalent of the American CIA, the Iranian government is metamorphosing its conventional military weapons into a system for weapons of mass destruction.
The 312-page intelligence report released in April states, “Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan are making efforts to expand their conventional weapons arsenal through the production of weapons of mass destruction.” As The Jerusalem Post reports, “The Bavarian report defined proliferation and weapons of mass destruction activities ‘as the illegal propagation of atomic, biological and chemical weapons and the production of their applicable products.’”
According to the report, Iran has been searching among German industries for construction parts; in 2017 German intelligence agencies delineated the Iranian government’s attempts to obtain illegal material and technology from German companies.
The U.S. campaign to pressure Iran aims to reduce Tehran’s oil revenue to zero in an effort to force the Iranian leadership to change its behavior in the region, a senior U.S. State Department policy adviser said on Monday.
In May, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement with Iran, reached in 2015 in an effort to curb Iran’s nuclear efforts. Trump has been a vocal critic of the agreement arguing that it was weak and failed to address Iran’s nonnuclear aggression.
Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, told a media briefing that the U.S. goal was to get as many countries as possible down to zero Iranian oil imports.
“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue on crude oil sales,” Hook said.
“We are working to minimize disruptions to the global market but we are confident there is sufficient global spare oil capacity,” he added.
Over the weekend, Trump said that he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom will increase oil production, “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels,” in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela.
Austria asked Tehran Tuesday to lift the immunity of an Iranian diplomat suspected of involvement in an alleged plot to bomb a rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France.
The diplomat, who is based at the embassy in Vienna, was detained in Germany on Saturday.
Vienna delivered the request to “lift the immunity of the Iranian diplomat” to Iran’s ambassador to Austria, who was summoned to the foreign ministry after news of the alleged plot emerged on Monday, a ministry spokesman said.
Austria also informed Iran on Tuesday that the diplomat would be “deprived of his diplomatic status within 48 hours because of the existence of a European arrest warrant” against him, said the spokesman, Matthias Forenbacher.
The diplomat was one of six people arrested in Belgium, France and Germany over the alleged plot.
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