March 7, 2021

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08/02 Links Pt1: Airstrike kills 7 IS gunmen who crossed from Syria into Israel; Palestinians Have an Anti-Peace Plan; Trump Should Reject PLO and UN Propaganda on East Jerusalem

From Ian:

IDF: Airstrike kills 7 IS gunmen who crossed from Syria into Israeli territory
The IDF said it conducted an airstrike late Wednesday night killing seven Islamic State fighters who had crossed the 1974 ceasefire line into Israeli territory.

The gunmen had made it some 200 meters (650 feet) past the “alpha line” but did not manage to reach the technical fence bordering the Israeli Golan Heights, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said, correcting an earlier army statement that said the “terror squad” had been in the Syrian Golan Heights when targeted.

A number of explosive belts and a Kalashnikov rifle were found during searches of the area Thursday morning, according to the army.

The gunmen had crossed into the Israeli territory through the Syria-Jordan-Israel border triangle.

According to Army Radio, the gunmen were en route to an attack on Israel.

The army later released a short clip showing the IS gunmen heading toward Israel and Israeli soldiers crossing into no-man’s land to search for them.

Jordan says it killed Islamic State jihadists who tried to breach Syrian border

The Jordanian army on Thursday said it had killed a number of Islamic State group jihadists who tried to approach its northern border with Syria.

The incident on Tuesday came as clashes raged between Syrian regime forces and “a gang of Daesh (IS) terrorists” in the Yarm0uk Basin region of southwestern Syria, an army statement said.

It occurred as Israel said it killed seven gunmen believed linked to IS at its own border with Syria.

IS jihadists “tried to approach our border” but Jordanian troops prevented them by pounding them “with all types of weapons” and “killing a number of them,” the Jordanian army added, without specifying how many.

The operation to secure the area continued into Wednesday, the statement said.

The Jordanian army said that on the Syrian side of the border, regime forces cornered the jihadists in a pocket of southern Syria around the Yarmouk Basin and neighboring villages.

Russia says UN peacekeepers patrol Israel-Syria border for first time in years

UN peacekeepers returned on Thursday to patrol the Israel-Syria border for the first time in years, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced — the latest development in efforts to negotiate a solution to the crisis along the volatile border.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff told reporters at a press conference in Moscow that the UN peacekeepers, aided by Russian forces, conducted their first patrolling mission in the area earlier in the day.

The development also marked the first time that forces from Russia, a major ally of the Damascus government, were involved in the patrols.

The peacekeeping mission was halted on the Syrian side of the border back in 2014 amid the violence in the country’s civil war.

Rudskoy also said military police would be deployed in the border area and set up eight observation posts to prevent “provocations,” Reuters reported, citing the Russian Interfax news agency.

“With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the ‘Bravo’ line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia’s armed forces’ military police,” he was quoted as saying.

“As the situation stabilizes, these posts will be handed over to Syrian government forces,” he added.

CAMERA Op-Ed: Palestinians Have an Anti-Peace Plan

“Those who don’t learn history,” the philosopher George Santayana famously intoned, “are doomed to repeat it.” The oft-quoted adage certainly applies to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But the history of that conflict can’t properly be understood, nor the likelihood of its resolution truly gauged, until the media stop ignoring and omitting the long history of Palestinians rejecting reasonable U.S. and Israeli peace offers.

On June 24, 2018, Jared Kushner, the senior adviser and son-in-law to President Trump, announced that the U.S. would soon be presenting a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Kushner’s comments prompted both speculation and media frenzy. Less widely noted, however, was the immediate response by the Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and is led by Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah movement.

Before the terms of the proposed peace plan were even announced, the PA, in their own words, launched a “national campaign to thwart the Deal of the Century.” The authority’s concerted opposition to the deal, sight unseen, has been ignored and obfuscated by many press outlets and policymakers.

As the Middle East Media Research Institute has documented, the PA and Fatah have in no uncertain terms voiced their disdain for a peace plan, irrespective of what it might contain. MEMRI, a nonprofit organization that monitors Arab, Iranian, and Russian media, noted that Fatah official Jamal Muhaisin has publicly denounced the unreleased plan as “the American crime of our era.” Muhaisin has even met with Fatah branches in the West Bank in order to plan “The March of Refusal of the Deal of the Century.”

Fatah has also published and distributed posters proclaiming, among other things, “Palestine is not for sale” and “The Deal of the Century will not thwart the will of Palestine.”

MEMRI: Former Kuwaiti Minister Sami Al-Nesf Blasts Palestinian Strategy In Past Century: The Arabs Have Lost The Wars And Must Pay The Price

Former Kuwaiti information minister Sami Abdullatif Al-Nesf said that throughout history, the Palestinian cause has suffered because of the extremists. “Lands are regained through peace, not through war,” he said. He criticized Jerusalem Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini for thwarting the partition plan, for urging the Palestinians to leave “by blowing out of proportion what happened in Deir Yassin and elsewhere,” and for his insistence on keeping the Palestinians in refugee camps. Al-Nesf, a pilot and former chairman and managing director of Kuwait Airways, said: “Unless we turn to the kind of reasonable thinking that we have lacked for a century, we will continue to accuse the voices of reason of being traitors, criminals, and collaborators, in order to walk in the path of extremism, which always ends in a catastrophe.” He further said that “the issue of displacement is a common thing,” and that “we chose to wage war and lost, so by logic, we should pay the price.” The interview with Al-Nesf aired on the Kuwaiti Diwan Al-Mulla Internet TV on July 11.

“In 1937, the…Peel Commission gave the Palestinians 90% of the land – 25,000 square km. – whereas the Jews were given a mini-state of 2,500 square km….The loud and empty slogans by Mufti Amin Al-Husseini thwarted the two-state plan. Al-Husseini fled to Hitler, betting on the wrong horse. What I’m trying to show is that historically speaking, the Palestinian cause has lost time and again because of the extremists.”

Regarding what happened in Deir Yassin, Al-Husseini “blew it out of proportion because of his theory that the Palestinians should leave to make it easier for the Arab armies to move in….Al-Husseini’s greatest crime of all was his insistence on keeping the Palestinians in refugee camps…and to this day, they are paying the price.”

“In 1917, just as there were extremists, there were also wise, reasonable people. One of them was [Lebanese politician] Shakib Arslan. He said: When I visited the [Jewish] settlements, I realized that they were like an advanced locomotive, which could pull us out of our ignorance, poverty, and so on.”

“There were Palestinians who said the same thing. Some Palestinians said: [The Jews] have been here since 1700-1800 and throughout history. The Israelites and the Land of Israel are mentioned in the Quran. Where was it? In Africa? No, it’s the same land. Let’s reach understandings.”

“It is important to understand – and this has been true throughout history – that if you lose a war, you pay the price. We are the only ones who refuse to pay the price even though we lost the 1948 war. We lost the 1956 and 1967 wars, but refuse to pay the price. It doesn’t work like that. We chose to wage war and lost, so by logic, we should pay the price.”

PM scraps upcoming Colombia trip, citing volatile situation in the south

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday unexpectedly canceled a planned trip to Colombia, citing the volatile security situation in Israel’s south.

“In light of the situation in the south, the prime minister decided to stay in Israel next week and therefore canceled his trip to Colombia,” his spokesperson told reporters, without elaborating.

Netanyahu was set to attend the inauguration of the country’s new president, Iván Duque. During his three-day stay in Bogota between August 6-9, Netanyahu was also expected to meet with various regional leaders, including the presidents of Argentina, Honduras and Guatemala.

It would have been his second trip to the South American state in less than a year. The cancellation is likely to cost the Israeli taxpayer thousands of shekels, given that flights and hotels had already been booked and are now no longer needed, in addition to the cost of preliminary trips to Bogota by his staff.

Duque, of the right-wing Democratic Center party, has said he wanted to improve his country’s good relations with Israel, even openly mulling the idea of moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel again bans gas and fuel into Gaza

Israel banned the entry of gas and fuel into Gaza late Wednesday night to protest the spike in the number of flaming balloons and kites that Palestinians have launchd into southern Israel this weeks.

“A short time ago Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered that gas and fuel be banned from entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom, starting on Thursday and until such time as there is a new announcement,” his spokesman said in a statement.

“The decision was taken in light of the continued terror balloons and continued friction along the [border] fence,” the spokesman said.

Liberman had also banned fuel and gas from entering Gaza in July, but rescinded after a drop in Gaza violence.

Last month he also halted the flow of commercial goods into Gaza until such time as Hamas stops all the violence against Israel.

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov has worked behind the scenes, along with Egypt, to find a way to end the renewed violence between Israel and Hamas.

DM: Hamas using children to send incendiary kites

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday morning explained his decision not to allow fuel into Gaza through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

“We are not planning to play ping pong,” he said. “There was an Egyptian request and we acceded to it. We took half a step, and allowed them to bring gas and fuel in, but Egypt also promised there would be no more rocket attacks, kites, incendiary [balloons], or violence along the border.”

“Since those things are continuing, I decided to close the crossing to fuel and gas. What I am still allowing is food and medicine. And until the whole story with the kites, incendiary [balloons], and violence on the border stops, this is what will be.

“I just want to emphasize that Gaza has no alternative for gas. They can bring in fuel through the Rafah crossing, but not gas. Unfortunately, their exports, especially textile and agriculture, is only through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which unfortunately is also closed.

“I hope the Gaza public will act to pressure the Hamas leadership and understand that there are options which are much better than receiving electricity 4 hours a day, and there are better options for employment…as well. They need to completely stop all the violence, and if they want rehabilitation – so rehabilitation will come in exchange for demilitarization.”

Liberman also noted that Hamas uses children to send incendiary kites towards Israel.

David Singer: Trump Should Reject PLO and UN Propaganda on East Jerusalem

President Trump’s as-yet unannounced “ultimate deal” to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict has received a setback following Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reassuring Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that Saudi Arabia would oppose any Trump peace plan that did not accept the PLO stance on East Jerusalem becoming the capital of an independent Palestinian Arab state.

The PLO claim to East Jerusalem is based on its own propaganda and that of the United Nations which claims East Jerusalem to be “occupied territory”.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 – adopted on 23 December 2016 – expresses this claim in the following terms:
“1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard”

These clauses are flawed – denying Jewish claims in East Jerusalem and lacking legitimacy for the following reasons:
– East Jerusalem is not “Palestinian territory”. Jews had lived there for 3000 years until every Jewish inhabitant was forcibly expelled in 1948 by six invading Arab armies.

– East Jerusalem is “reoccupied territory” – not “occupied territory” – having been reclaimed by the Jewish people in the 1967 Six Day War from Jordanian occupation that had made East Jerusalem Judenrein for 19 years.

– The legal right to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in East Jerusalem was unanimously affirmed by all 51 member states of the League of Nations under article 6 of the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and preserved by article 80 of the UN Charter.

– Jews are the only people to have ever had a capital in Jerusalem:

The Understated Statesman: An Interview With Jason Greenblatt

Behind every pro-Israel president is a pro-Israel staff. With President Trump, it’s most notably Jason Greenblatt, his trusted advisor, who moved seamlessly from the Trump Organization to the Trump administration.

Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew, worked for over twenty years as the president’s chief legal officer before becoming his Israel advisor on the presidential campaign. He currently works as Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, tasked with the seemingly impossible mission of forging peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Regarding changing leadership in Gaza, you wrote, “The Palestinians of Gaza have the opportunity to reject the failed policies of Hamas and turn toward a legitimate governing body.” But the people of Gaza overwhelmingly voted for Hamas. Why would you think they wouldn’t elect them again?

I think it’s clear that after ten years most Palestinians in Gaza should recognize that Hamas’ leadership is a terribly failed experiment. I’m not sure whether they would elect new leadership, and I’m not sure whether they would be willing to let President Abbas come in under the PA to control Gaza. They certainly want reconciliation. But a reconciliation which includes Hamas in its current form would not be acceptable to Israel nor to the U.S. There’s no way to actually know, but I’d like to think that the vast majority of people in Gaza know that Hamas has completely failed them.
jason greenblatt

How do you react to the PA and Abbas’ defiant stance regarding pay for slay, despite the Taylor Force Act?

On Taylor Force, I’m really dismayed that the PA does not understand how abhorrent the Palestinian law is. We gave them ample time to change it, well before Taylor Force became the law of our land. This is not about the need for a welfare system; this is rewarding terrorism. When the Palestinians deny that, it’s just fabrication.

Rather than deny that, don’t they seem proud of it?

Some people deny it, other people are proud of it, I agree. But I think there’s a disconnect between many on the Palestinian street in the West Bank and their leadership. I’ve met a lot of Palestinians in the last year and a half, young, middle aged, etc. They want a better life. They’re not thumping on the table, incitement kind of people.

They are people who are nationalistic, to be sure. I’m not going to say that they don’t want their own state; most do. But they also want their leaders to stop being defiant and stop wasting time running around the world trying to get paper victories and try to resolve the conflict, so that they can get a home, a job, pay their mortgage, send their kids to school. But not at the expense of their national aspirations. Many do want their leadership to think creatively and compromise.

What they don’t remember is that when Israel was founded, it was this scrappy little country in the desert that had to be developed. Look what Israel managed to turn itself into in 70 years. The Palestinian people are very similar to Israelis. They’re educated, motivated; they aspire to succeed. But in my view they were held back by bad decisions over many years; many promises were made to them. I think that was a tactical error for so many years, and my hope is that they might finally come to recognize that.

PMW: PA attacks US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman

On July 30, 2018, US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, visited the grieving widow of Yotam Ovadia, who was murdered four days prior by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist, Tareq Dar Yusuf.

Following the visit, the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates was quick to issue a statement in which it referred to Ambassador Friedman as the “Trump administration’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv,” as opposed to Israel, and condemned the visit:

“The [PA] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates strongly condemns the provocative visits that the ambassador of Trump’s administration to Tel Aviv David Friedman is making to settlements in the occupied West bank, with the latest provocative visit having taken place in the settlement of Adam. These official American visits are always welcomed by the leaders of the settlements, who consider the visit to be confirmation of the American administration’s support for the settlement enterprise on the occupied land of Palestine.”
[Website of the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 31, 2018; Facebook page of the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 31, 2018; Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 1, 2018]

While the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates was quick to condemn Ambassador Friedman’s visit, no PA condemnation of the murder itself has, to date, been published. The opposite is true. The day after the murder, the PA and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party declared Dar Jusuf a “Martyr” (Shahid), entitling his family to receive a one-time grant of 6,000 shekels ($1,643) and a monthly allowance for life of 1,400 shekels ($383).

By declaring Dar Yusuf a ‘Martyr’ the PA is saying that he did an exemplary act according to Islam, for which he will be rewarded in the afterlife by Allah.

J Street Can’t Believe That Israel Is a Jewish and Democratic State

The Israeli Knesset recently passed a landmark piece of legislation that enshrines the State of Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.” The “Jewish Nation-State Law” officially declares that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state, protecting the right of the Jewish people to exercise self-determination.

On the day of its passage, J Street tweeted that the bill “was born in sin.” The so-called “progressive” lobbying group would go on to claim that “its only purpose is to send a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens.”

Contrary to J Street’s assertions, this law does not violate the civil rights of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum explained that there is nothing undemocratic about this legislation, and that it is quite commonplace among Western democracies.

“The law does not infringe on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen, including Arabs; nor does it create individual privileges,” wrote Kontorovich. “The illiberalism here lies with the law’s critics, who would deny the Jewish state the freedom to legislate like a normal country.”

Israeli Arab party asks global forum to act against Israel

Joint Arab List lawmakers on Wednesday appealed to ‎the Inter-Parliamentary Union to take action against ‎Israel over the recently passed nation-state law.‎

The IPU is a global body of 178 ‎countries that has the stated mission to “protect and ‎build global democracy through political dialogue ‎and concrete action.” It has ‎permanent observer ‎status at the U.N. General Assembly.‎

Though largely symbolic, the controversial ‎‎‎nation-state law, which states that ‎‎”Israel is ‎the ‎‎‎historic homeland of the Jewish ‎people and they ‎have ‎‎‎an exclusive right to national ‎self-‎determination in ‎‎‎it,” has infuriated Arab lawmakers, who have labeled it ‎‎”racist” ‎and ‎‎discriminatory against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, ‎who make up some 20% of the population.‎

In a letter to the IPU, Joint Arab List MK Yousef ‎Jabareen said that “the nation-state law ‎dangerously contradicts the basic principles of ‎international law and promotes an apartheid regime.” ‎

Rivlin welcomes new Polish ambassador with unsubtle rebuke over Holocaust law

In an unsubtle censure of Poland’s controversial Holocaust law, President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday told the country’s incoming envoy that Israelis, as opposed to Poles, prefer to let historians determine historical facts.

“The main difference between us is that we leave the facts of history to the historians,” Rivlin told a stone-faced Ambassador Marek Magierowski. “We are not letting any politician interfere or be involved with or creating the facts of history.”

Receiving Magierowski’s letter of credence in his Jerusalem residence, Rivlin started off by mentioning that Jews and Poles had nearly a thousand years of common history.

“It’s a history that cannot be forgotten. And I know that we have differences of opinion from time to time, and we prefer to deal with them. It’s very important from time to time also to discuss differences of opinion rather than abstain from cooperation or discussion,” he said.

US Senate passes huge defense bill including $550 million for Israel

The US Senate easily passed a $716.3 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that includes funding for Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as ramping up military spending and bolstering America’s posture against Russia while avoiding policy changes that would have antagonized US President Donald Trump.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 87 to 10 in the Senate a week after clearing the House of Representatives, and now heads to the White House for Trump’s signature.

The bill includes “the quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah,” and “other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.”

Israel has deployed air defense systems to protect civilians in the north of the country from missiles fired from Syria, as well as rockets and drones sent by Iranian-backed forces in the war-torn country, including the Hezbollah terror group.

Israel also uses the Iron Dome defense system to intercept rocket and mortar fire from Gaza which threatens the lives of Israeli civilians.

Legislation Aims to Make US Aid to Palestinian Refugee Agency Contingent on Reform

New legislation introduced in Congress recently is seeking to make American aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA)—the UN refugee agency that is solely dedicated to the Palestinian refugees—contingent on reform.

According to the legislation, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), the “UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act would return UNRWA to its original framework and address this false narrative of an inflated refugee population.”

The bill seeks to make US funding available to UNRWA to the extent that it resettles the original refugees from 1948.

“Those original refugees must meet the standards in section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is how American law defines refugees. This will reduce the Palestinian refugee population from the inflated 5.3 million to an estimated 40,000,” the bill says.

Lamborn told JNS that UNRWA’s wide definition of refugees has made a “mockery” of other refugee situations across the world.

“UNRWA’s twisted definition of refugee has made a mockery of both those who are true refugees in various conflicts around the world and those who are truly living in horrible conditions throughout the region, such as Syria,” he said.

“It is time to return UNRWA to its original framework and that is what H.R. 6451, the UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act, would do. This bill would ensure that US taxpayer dollars dedicated to refugees only contribute to UNRWA to the extent that it resettles the original refugees from 1948—not their descendants, who UNRWA also claim to be refugees.”

Erekat: No to reduction in number of ‘refugees’

Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet chief Rami Hamdallah said on Monday the Palestinian Arabs needed a stronger stance by the Arab and Muslim world in order to oppose “Israel’s attempts to circumvent international law”, as he put it.

Speaking in Ramallah, Hamdallah said, “What is required today is a serious and united stance that supports [PA chairman] Abu Mazen’s position in his opposition to the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ and a return to international legitimacy and the Arab peace initiative as a basis for a balanced, practical and just solution to peace.”

PA leaders have rejected the Trump administration’s peace efforts in protest over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem of Israel’s capital and his relocating the U.S. embassy to the city.

Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, warned of a new law being promoted by U.S. Congress members that will recognize only 40,000 “Palestinian refugees” instead of 5.2 million refugees, numbers which have been constantly inflated by the PA.

Captain who tried to breach Gaza blockade says Israel broke international law

The captain of a Norwegian boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists en route to Gaza accused Israeli authorities of violating the law by boarding the vessel in international waters and using violent force against its crew.

Norway asked Israel to explain the circumstances surrounding the arrests and “the allegations of excessive use of force,” a Norwegian government spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

“We were arrested in international waters and we were closer to Egypt than Israel,” the boat’s captain Herman Reksten said early Thursday when he returned to Norway after being held for three days in an Israeli prison.

“Israel has broken all the rules; it’s horrific that they board a Norwegian ship in international waters and force it to moor in Israel,” he told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

The IDF on Sunday announced the seizure of a boat off the Gaza Strip with activists on board who were denouncing the land and sea blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinian enclave for more than a decade.

High Court: No avoiding evacuation of West Bank Bedouin village

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday said that there is no avoiding the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and implored the legal representatives of the West Bank Bedouin village to reach a compromise with the state on a new alternative location to move the residents.

After gaining the green light from the top court in May to demolish the Palestinian hamlet adjacent to the Kfar Adumim settlement, the state had planned to move the residents to a site near a garbage dump belonging to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis.

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar — 180 in number, according to the UN — have vehemently opposed moving there, saying they were never consulted, the location is unsuitable for their rural way of life, and residents of Abu Dis have warned them to stay away.

Wednesday’s hearing was convened following a pair of last-ditch petitions submitted by attorneys representing the Bedouin village to prevent the demolition.

Hundreds of PLO flags fly on road to Jerusalem

Hundreds of PLO flags were hung at noon on the road between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea Wednesday afternoon, apparently in response to the Supreme Court decision delaying but not cancelling the evacuation of the illegal village of Khan el Ahmar in the area of ​​Mishor Adumim.

Volunteers and police summoned to the scene collected the flags, in light of the fact that placing PLO flags in Israeli territory is considered a crime.

Amit Ararat, a spokesman for the town of Mitzpeh Yericho, told Arutz Sheva: “I saw two Palestinian flags on Route 1. I felt humiliated. In my heart I cried: ‘Where is the government?’ I got caught up and reported directly to the Ma’aleh Adumim police station and they arrived and made sure to take down the flags. “

Ami Shapira, a resident of Nofei Prat, who was crippled and in a wheelchair, came to the area to take down the PLO flags and stand with an Israeli flag to protest the incident.

Armed, uniformed PA forces tour Israeli-controlled area of Hebron for first time

For the first time, armed and uniformed Palestinian Authority security forces entered and toured parts of the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron, a senior official in the PA Hebron governor’s office said Tuesday.

Under the Hebron Protocol signed by the PLO and Israel in 1997, the Jewish state controls the segment of the West Bank city known as “H2,” where some 500 Israeli settlers live surrounded by 40,000 Palestinians. Hebron’s Old City falls within the area.

The official PA news site, Wafa, published photos on Tuesday showing members of the PA security forces in uniform, some armed, walking around Hebron’s Old City and interacting with Palestinian residents there.

Thirty members of the PA Police and National Security Forces participated in the tour, Col. Hazem Abu Hanud told Wafa.

“This is the first time that our forces have toured the part of Hebron under Israel’s control, carrying their weapons and wearing their uniforms,” the senior governor’s office official told the Times of Israel. “The tour was symbolic, but we hope that it foreshadows us establishing a permanent presence there in the near future.”

The official said that the Israeli army had given the PA security forces permission to tour the area.

Top Hamas leader to arrive in Gaza amid renewed reconciliation, truce efforts

Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chairman of Hamas’s politburo, was slated to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Thursday for talks on renewed reconciliation efforts with Fatah and a truce with Israel, Hamas-linked media reported.

Arouri, who helped found Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank, has been based in various Arab and Islamic countries since Israel deported him from the territory in 2010 and comes to Gaza after holding talks with Egyptian intelligence services in Cairo.

Egypt and the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov reportedly received assurances that Israel will not harm Arouri while he visits the Strip, the Ynet news site reported citing Palestinian sources.

Senior Hamas officials based in Arab countries have not visited Gaza since Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi was deposed in July 2013.

According to a report by the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV, senior Hamas officials Musa Abu Marzouk and Husam Badran, who both also reside outside the West Bank and Gaza, will accompany Arouri.

MEMRI: Calls In Saudi Arabia For Firm Measures Against Iran’s Attempts To Disrupt Shipping In Bab El-Mandeb

On July 25, 2018, the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked two Saudi tankers in the strait of Bab El-Mandeb in the Red Sea. In response to the attack, Saudi Arabia announced it was suspending shipments of oil via the strait “until maritime transit through Bab El-Mandeb is safe,” and underlined “the continued threat of the Houthi terrorist militias to the freedom of navigation and world trade in the Red Sea.”[1]

The attack by the pro-Iranian Houthis on the Saudi tankers took place alongside threats made by the Iranian regime’s announcement that if it will not be possible for Iran to export fuel, Iran will not allow other Gulf countries to do so either.[2] This came against the backdrop of U.S. threats to impose sanctions on Iran, including on its oil exports, to induce Iran to change its policy. Furthermore, in December 2017, the editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, urged the Houthis in Yemen to attack Saudi oil tankers. He wrote: “From my familiarity with [the Houthi organization] Ansar Allah, [I can predict that] in the near future Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden will be a target for Ansar Allah. Ansar Allah must attack the Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. The value of the lives of millions of the children, the women, and the oppressed people in Yemen is immeasurably higher than the value of Saudi Arabia’s oil tankers, and this is the lowest price that they should pay.”[3]

Following the Houthi attack on the tankers, many editorials and opinion pieces in the Saudi press stressed that the Iranians were behind it, and called for a forceful response against Iran. The articles stated, inter alia, that the West had made a mistake by refraining, over the years, from punishing Iran for the actions of its various proxies – the Houthis, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others – and that its continued silence would constitute a “conspiracy” and “capitulation to blackmail.” A Saudi Shura Council member wrote in his newspaper column that the world must decide between securing the shipping lanes and enduring a hike in oil prices. Other articles underscored that Saudi Arabia would continue defending itself and its sovereignty and fighting the Iranian plan in the region.

PM: Israel will help open narrow strait in Red Sea if Iran closes it

Israel will join a coalition of countries to open the narrow Bab al-Mandab Strait at the mouth of the Red Sea if the Iranians try to close it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, on the heels of an attack last week on two Saudi oil tankers sailing through the narrow waterway.

“At the beginning of the week we were witness to a sharp clash between Iran’s proxies that tried to sabotage international shipping in the strait at the mouth of the Red Sea,” Netanyahu said at a graduation ceremony for naval officers at a naval base in Haifa.

“If Iran tries to block the Bab al-Mandab waterway, I am convinced that it will find itself against an international coalition determined to prevent that. This coalition will include the State of Israel and all of its branches.”

Last Wednesday, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two Saudi tankers sailing through the waterway, with one of the ships suffering minimal damage. A day later Saudi Arabia announced it was suspending oil shipments through the strait, sending jitters through the world’s oil markets.

Iranian security forces clash with Isfahan protesters for second day

For the second day in a row, Iranians in Isfahan protested rising inflation and unemployment in the country. Government security forces have been called out in force to quell the protests, the BBC’s Persian-language service reported Wednesday.

Eyewitnesses reported protestors throwing stones and fires burning at the sites of the demonstrations, and security forces using tear gas and water cannons against the demonstrators, according to the BBC.

Truck drivers and shopkeepers in the central Iranian city also protested the day before. Security forces were also present at the earlier demonstration, but did not disrupt the event or attack the protesters.

The protesters in Isfahan shouted “Reza Shah, may your soul be glad,” referring to the founder of the previous Pahlavi dynasty. Reza Shah’s son, Muhammad Reza Shah, was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Videos of the protests chanting this slogan were shared on social media Tuesday.

U.S. Sanctions Turkish Officials Over Pastor’s Detention

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Wednesday that the United States will impose sanctions on Turkish officials in response to the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey.

“At the president’s direction, the Department of Treasury is sanctioning Turkey’s Minister of Justice and Minister of Interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of pastor Brunson,” Sanders said. “As a result, any property or interest in property of both ministers within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

“We’ve seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the government of Turkey,” Sanders stated.

The sanctions are directed at Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu. A U.S. Treasury Department press release said the officials “serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called Brunson’s detention “simply unacceptable.”

Brunson is an evangelical pastor from North Carolina who was arrested by Turkish authorities in 2016 after the failed coup attempt. He was accused of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party and U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is alleged by the Turkish government to have been behind much of the unrest.

On Tuesday, a Turkish court refused to release Brunson from house arrest or lift his travel ban, stating there has been no change in the “strong criminal suspicion” against the pastor.

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