Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quneitra falls to Syrian army. Damascus: 1974 accord permits Syrian air flights over Israel’s Golan border

Syrian rebel resistance to the Syrian Army advance on Quneitra opposite the Israeli Golan crumbled on Thursday, July 19, in the absence of Israeli military support. The terms of surrender that rebel leaders signed with Syrian army officers obliged them to hand over all their strongholds, including the town of Quneitra. The Syrian army was able to return to the positions held before the 2011 uprising without a shot. Rebels refusing to sign were to be sent with their families north to Idlib province.
 
Israeli officials and military leaders were dismayed by a message received from Damascus claiming that the 1974 Separation of Forces Accord, which both governments resuscitated this week, allowed Syrian aircraft, including assault helicopters and UAVs, to fly over the buffer zones of the Golan up to the Israel border. Damascus relayed a copy of the accord to Moscow with a warning that any Israeli attempt to shoot down a Syrian overflight would be a breach of the 1974 accord, and its endorsement on July 16 at Helsinki by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. DEBKAfile revealed on July 17 that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had partnered the Helsinki deal for the restoration of southern Syria to the Syrian army under Russian oversight.

Israeli officers were handed the Syrian message on Thursday by the UNDOF commander, Maj Gen. Francis Vib-Sanziri of Ghana, who is henceforth responsible for monitoring implementation of the Helsinki deal.

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, this Syrian message for the first time  forbids the Israeli air force and anti-air missile batteries shooting down Syrian aerial vehicles entering the air space over the buffer zones. On July 13, Israel shot down a Syrian drone entering the buffer zone. This is no longer permissible. Israel is even precluded from discovering if the intruder belongs to Iran or Hizballah, leaving both these hostile entities free to fly at will over Israel’s Golan border.  Furthermore, Assad may have those flight painted with Syrian air force markings, just as he supplies Syrian military uniforms to disguise Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen.
 
Our sources reveal that it took the Assad regime no more than four days to renege on Syria’s role in the Helsinki accord. For regaining Quneitra, the Syrian army, led by disguised Hizballah and Shiite troops, was obliged to evacuate the Beit Jinn pocket opposite the IDF’s Hermon outpost. On Monday, July 16, the Syrians pretended to pull back, while actually leaving several hundred troops behind – disguised this time as civilians and farmers.

Report: Israel, Hamas, agree to end escalation

Western diplomatic sources claimed that Israel and Hamas agreed via a third party to end the "escalation," London's Al-Hayat newspaper reported.
 
According to Al-Hayat, Hamas told the third party that it is working "diligently" to stop Gazan terrorists from sending incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, and in exchange received a promise that Israel would not respond to the terror with war.
 
Security sources said Hamas seems willing to end the "kite terror" but until it ends, Israel reserves the right to attack those preparing rockets and incendiary kites and balloons.
On Tuesday, Al-Hayat reported that United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladanov told Hamas in Israel's name that continued firing of incendiary kites and balloons would lead to a fourth war between Israel and Gaza.
 
Other reports claimed Israel's deadline was Friday.
 
On Wednesday, Al-Quds reported that Hamas had agreed to end the incendiary kites and balloons gradually.
 
However, Ma'an reported that Gazan terrorists would begin using helium-filled pool and bath toys to spark fires in Israel, since they "travel farther" than balloons and kites.
 
Later on Wednesday, a Hamas official told Ma'an that the terror organization "did not fear" Israel's "threats" of war and would continue sending the incendiary objects into Israeli territory.

Israeli security, Mideast peace top issues in next Putin meeting

President Donald Trump hinted on Thursday at plans for a second meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, saying that he planned to work with Putin towards the implementation of key issues discussed earlier this week in Helsinki, Finland, including Israeli security concerns, nuclear proliferation, and Middle East peace.
On Monday, President Trump met with Putin in Helsinki for a two-hour closed-door meeting.
 
While the details of the one-on-one conversation have not been disclosed, both Putin and Trump noted that Israeli security concerns regarding the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria were one of the topics of discussion.
 
"We came to a lot of good conclusions. A really good conclusion for Israel, something very strong,” President Trump told Fox News.
 
Putin, Trump added, is a “believer” in the Jewish state and of its Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
 
“He's a believer in Israel he's a fan of Bibi [Netanyahu]. He's really helping him a lot and will help him a lot, which is good for all of us."
 
But President Trump’s comments at a press briefing in Helsinki drew criticism from pundits, Democrats, and even some senior Republican lawmakers, who charged the president had ignored key US issues including the 2014 Russian takeover of the Crimea from the Ukraine, and reports from US intelligence agencies that Russian officials attempted to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.
 
On Thursday, President Trump hit back at critics via Twitter, hailing the Helsinki summit with Putin a “great success” and teasing plans for a second meeting to “start implementing” issues discussed in Finland.
 
Among the issues the president highlighted were Israel’s security, Middle East peace, counter-terror efforts, and nuclear proliferation.
 
“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” Trump wrote Thursday. “I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems...but they can ALL be solved!”
 
Key among Israel’s security concerns is the presence of Iranian and Iran-linked terror groups including Hezbollah in Syrian territory, something the Israeli government has called a ‘red-line’ for the Jewish state.
 
While Russia has in the past has backed the call to withdraw Iranian forces from the Israeli frontier, Israel has insisted on the total removal of Iranian forces from Syria, noting the missile and drone capabilities of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Why Israel stands to benefit from the Trump-Putin summit

“We both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel,” Trump said Monday.
“Both countries will work jointly. Creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.”
During their talks in Helsinki, Putin called for “full compliance” with the 1974 Israel-Syria Separation of Forces Agreement.
“This will bring peace to the Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel and also to provide security for the state of Israel,” Putin said.
Trump and Netanyahu have a long relationship and maintain regular contact, while the Israeli leader traveled to Russia last week for his third meeting in six months with Putin to press for Israel’s security and pushing Iran out of Syria.
Working on the Syrian conflict will take an unusual degree of cooperation because Washington and Moscow back different sides in the 8-year-old civil war.
Both Putin and Trump expressed optimism that working together could help end the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Putin also called for coordination between the two countries’ military forces. READ MORE

If Iran Gets Back to Nukes, Israel Is Better Prepared to Strike

In September 2012, standing at the podium before the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel made one of the forum’s more memorable appearances while holding up a placard showing a cartoon-like bomb. “At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs — that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. Then he drew a red line on the diagram just under the words “Final Stage.”
It’s an image we should bear in mind as the fate of the Iran nuclear deal hangs in the balance.
Netanyahu’s UN speech was the peak of his public diplomacy efforts to mobilize the international community to take action against Tehran’s nuclear program. The implicit threat was as clear as the red line he drew: If the world would not act, then Israel would have no choice but to carry out a military strike.
With the signing of the interim nuclear deal between the global powers and Iran the following year, Netanyahu’s threat never materialized.
Fast forward to today. With the possible collapse of the nuclear deal in the next few months — the result of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it — we may well see renewed threats by both Israel and the U.S. to use force against Iran. This is especially true if Tehran decides to resume its production and accumulation of enriched uranium in similar quantities and purity levels to what it produced prior to the deal. READ MORE

Secret Helsinki deal: US & Israel hand Russia controlling role along Syria’s Israeli, Jordanian borders

The scandal over President Donald Trump’s defense of President Vladimir Putin against US intelligence at the Helsinki press conference – for which he, sort of, apologized – served him too as a distraction from a momentous military-intelligence deal the two presidents secretly contracted at their summit, with Israel’s approval.

DEBKAfile has obtained exclusive access to this deal and can reveal for the first time that it provides for the handover to Russian responsibility of all parts of southern and southwestern Syria abutting on the Israeli and Jordanian borders, including, most importantly, surveillance and observation elevations that oversee all parts of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and the eastern Mediterranean. Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu thereby gave Putin a valuable asset for boosting Russia’s military presence in Syria and the region at large.

'Kill every Hamas leader we can hit'

Israel must launch a concerted effort to eliminate Hamas’ leadership to deter the terror group from continuing its use of airborne incendiary devices and rocket attacks against Israel, a senior Israeli lawmaker says, arguing that the current security situation along the Gaza border cannot be allowed to continue.
 
Beginning on March 30th, tens of thousands of Gaza rioters attacked Israel’s border fence in a series of orchestrated attempts to breach the border. Dubbed the “March of Return”, the riots included attempts by armed terrorists to infiltrate into Israeli territory, and attacks by rioters on IDF soldiers deployed to protect the border.
 
In recent weeks, the size and frequency of the riots have declined – while a new form of terror – dubbed “kite terrorism” has emerged. Using kites, balloons, and even birds to carry incendiary devices into Israeli territory, cells of Hamas-aligned terrorists have launched thousands of incendiary attacks on Israeli targets, causing millions of dollars of damage.
Terror groups in the Hamas-ruled Strip have also escalated the use of rocket and mortar fire against Israeli towns in recent weeks, hitting a home and synagogue in the western Negev town of Sderot.
 
While the IDF has fired warning shots on terrorists spotted launching terror balloons, the attacks have prompted demands by some Israeli leaders that the army strike directly at those responsible for assembling and deploying the airborne incendiary devices. READ MORE

Iran’s Khamenei Celebrates Birthday By Calling for Destruction of Israel

TEL AVIV – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei celebrated his 79th birthday on Monday by calling for the destruction of Israel and slamming President Donald Trump’s as yet unveiled peace plan as a “satanic, vicious plot.”
His Twitter feed on Monday was overlaid with a festive display of multicolored balloons, somewhat incongruous with the deluge of hate messages underneath.
“Everyone should know that the satanic and vicious plot that the U.S. has for #Palestine — calling it the Deal of Century — will never happen,” he tweeted.
“The turbulent dream that Al-Quds [Jerusalem] would be given to the Zionists will never come true.”
He continued: “The Palestinian nation will stand against it and Muslim nations will back the Palestinian nation, never letting that happen.”
“By God’s grace, the Palestinian nation will certainly gain victory over the enemies and will witness the day when the fabricated Zionist regime will be eradicated,” he vowed.
Much of what he tweeted was paraphrased from a speech delivered at a meeting of Iran’s Hajj organization on Monday. Khamenei took the opportunity to blast Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca where the faithful make the Muslim pilgrimage.
“Regrettably, some Muslim governments, due to their lack of faith in the principle of Islam, never mind the Palestinian cause, have chosen to sacrifice themselves for the US,” the state-affiliated Mehr media outlet quoted him as saying. He continued by predicting that “this too will come to nothing and they will see the day when the roots of the fabricated Zionist regime will dry up.”
He added that Mecca’s holy sites “belong to all Muslims, not to the rulers of Saudi Arabia.”
“Today, the Muslim World needs unanimity. Division is forbidden, because the enemy is focused on the Islamic World,” Khamenei emphasized.
He said that in order to conduct a “true” hajj, Muslims must commit to a complete “disavowal of the infidels.”
Khamenei also called for a fresh investigation into a 2015 crush during the hajj that killed hundreds of pilgrims, blaming the tragedy on the Saudi authorities’ alleged indifference to the safety of the participants.

Iran Uranium Stockpile Soars to 950 Tons, Nuclear Chief Confirms

Iran’s stockpile of uranium stands at close to 950 tons despite global bans and a failed nuclear deal with the U.S., the chief of the country’s nuclear agency reassured the nation on Wednesday.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state TV Iran has almost doubled its stockpile in three years. It has imported some 400 tons of uranium since the 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers brokered by Barack Obama, bringing its stockpile to between 900 and 950 tons — up from 500 tons.
Salehi claimed that is enough for Iran to reach its longtime goal of powering 190,000 centrifuge machines for enriching uranium in the future.
To that end, last month Iran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to open a center for producing new centrifuges, a move that drew an immediate response from Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Jewish state viewed that as a grave threat to its future security.
The nuclear accord limits Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent, enough to use in a nuclear power plant but below the 90 percent needed for an atomic weapon, AP reports.
However, since the U.S. pulled out of the deal in May, Iran has vowed to boost enrichment capacity to put pressure on the remaining signatories to live up to the agreement.
The news of Iran’s boost in uranium reserves comes as it looks to talks with Europe designed to salvage the failed nuclear, a top official said Tuesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May he was abandoning the 2015 agreement and reimposing nuclear-related sanctions, threatening global companies with heavy penalties if they continue to operate in Iran.
In a bid to save the accord, the EU and European parties to the deal — Britain, France, and Germany — presented a series of economic “guarantees” to Iran this month, but these were judged “insufficient” by Tehran.
Negotiations with Europe are continuing, and foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Monday they could last several “weeks,” according to state television.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Intel Chair: FBI, DOJ Obstructing Trump Probe in Hope of Dem Takeover in Congress

The chair of the House Intelligence Committee accused the FBI and Department of Justice of stonewalling a sprawling investigation into claims the Trump campaign colluded with Russia with the hope of running out the clock until the November elections, when they anticipate Democrats will regain control of the House and dissolve an ongoing probe that has uncovered evidence U.S. officials sought to cripple Trump's campaign.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), in a wide-ranging audio interview with his House colleague Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), accused top officials at the FBI and DOJ of "putting all their chips on the Republicans losing the House" so that their Democratic allies can "shut down" the longstanding Intelligence Committee probe, which has unearthed information disputing claims of collusion in recent months.
Rep. Duffy interviewed Rep. Nunes for an upcoming episode of Duffy's podcast, "Plaidcast."
Nunes also lashed out at the U.S. media, accusing "90 percent" of reporters covering the Russia probe of being "essentially an arm of the Democratic party," according to an advance copy of the interview shared with the Washington Free Beacon.
Nunes has been running the Intelligence Committee's investigation into claims the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to cement the 2016 election. The committee has unearthed a body of evidence indicating senior officials at the FBI and DOJ worked to take down Trump on behalf of Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
"One-hundred percent, they [the FBI and DOJ] are putting all their chips on the Republicans losing the House and all these investigations will shut down," Nunes told Duffy.
Nunes went on to blast the media for its lack of coverage about Republican findings indicating that senior U.S. officials loyal to the Democratic Party actively worked to open intelligence investigations into the Trump campaign based on a faulty and salacious anti-Trump dossier.
"The media has been horrible on this whole situation," Nunes said." What we've seen since the election of President Trump has been what's been going on for a long time, but now you see what I call the 90-10 split."
"You have 90 percent of the media who are essentially an arm of the Democratic Party," he said. "Then you've got five percent of the media that I believe, for lack of a better term, are right or center right. They don't necessarily follow the establishment of the Republican National Committee or something like that, but they definitely are conservative."
"Then you only have five percent of the journalists that are out there that I would say are legitimate," Nunes said. "That's a problem in this country when you don't have a free and fair media."
The Intelligence Committee's investigation has dragged on for months with little support from Democrats, who continue to push claims of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
"The DOJ and FBI have actively obstructed a congressional investigation," Nunes said, explaining that top officials continue to withhold documents that could disclose that both bodies intentionally worked to undermine the Trump campaign by opening secret investigations alleging Russia collusion.
"This is really serious stuff," Nunes said, criticizing the FBI and DOJ for going to secret U.S. courts with evidence collected in the anti-Trump dossier, originally compiled by Fusion GPS. "They opened up a counter intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign."
Disclosure: The Washington Free Beacon was once a client of Fusion GPS. That relationship ended in January 2017. For more information, see here.
Nunes called the investigation into the Trump campaign unprecedented and an abuse of the American intelligence and security networks.
"After seven or eight months of stonewalling, we realized they [the FBI and DOJ] had no intelligence in the opening of that investigation," Nunes told Duffy.
In a different media environment, these revelations would have been front-page news, but have largely been ignored by the U.S. media, which Nunes views as working to oppose Trump at all costs.
"If the shoe was on the other foot, and this is what's so bad and so corrupt about the media, and why I'm so worried about the future of our country, because without a free and fair and open media we have a major problem in this country," Nunes said. "The media is what we count on to bring the transparency to government. There's no possible way that if George W. Bush had done this to [former President Brack] Obama this town would have been on fire."
"They would have had the FBI and DOJ surrounded by rioting in the street, everyone would have been fired, there would have been people put in jail, and what's happening now is, you essentially have obstruction by the Department of Justice and the FBI colluding with the Democrats to ensure that these investigations do not properly take place," he said.

Netanyahu’s secret consent to hand Golan crossing to Syria led to Trump-Putin deal on Israel’s border security

DEBKAfile Exclusive: Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin joined in their support for Israel’s security at their Helsinki summit on Monday, July 16, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told them both that he had withdrawn his objections to the Syrian army reinstating its line of outposts in the Quenitra district, including control of the Ein Zivan-Quneitra border crossing. This is the only transit point between Israel and Syria. Our sources reveal that Putin insisted on the Syrian army assuming control of this crossing, in the same way as he stipulated the handover to Syria of the Nassib crossing to Jordan.

Monday morning, the Syrian army captured the strategic Tel Al Harrah hills from rebel hands. That line of hilltop positions is the key to controlling the Quneitra district. Our military sources note that only 20 percent of the Syrian army consists of Syrian troops; the other 80 percent are Hizballah and other Shiite militias loyal to Iran. Today’s Syrian and allied victory therefore brings these hostile forces to within 3-4 km from Israel’s Golan border.

Knesset rescinds law allowing PM, DM to declare war

The Knesset rescinded an amendment to a law it passed earlier this year that gave the prime minister and defense minister the authority to declare war.
 
The cancellation of the amendment to the law passed its second and third readings on Tuesday by a vote of 77-16.
 
“It is appropriate that a decision of the Ministerial Committee regarding starting a war or taking significant military action that may at a high level of certainty lead to war be adopted by as wide a panel as possible,” the amendment says.
 
Under the law as it stands, the Cabinet must approve a decision to go to war or to initiate an action that could lead to war.
 
The original amendment giving the power to declare war to only the prime minister and the defense minister was widely criticized.

'Putin believes in Israel, is a fan of Netanyahu' (Has Trump Read Ezekiel 38)?

The much-anticipated one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, Finland on Monday resulted in a series of understandings between the two powers that will benefit Israel, President Trump said Monday night, adding that the Russian leader ‘believes’ in Israel.

The two leaders met behind closed doors for over two hours, in what was initially scheduled as a 90-minute meeting.

During the talks, Putin and Trump focused largely heavily on the future of Syria, with special emphasis on the removal of Iranian forces from Syria, a key concern of Israel.
The meeting also touched on other key national security concerns shared by Israel, including the future of the sanctions regime against Iran and Tehran’s nuclear program.

Following the meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his satisfaction with the understandings reached by the two leaders, and lauded President Trump for his “commitment” to the “security of Israel”.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commends the abiding commitment of the US and President Donald Trump to the security of Israel, as expressed at the meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The friendship between Israel and the US has never been stronger," the Prime Minister’s Office said. 

Putin, Trump added, is a “believer” in the Jewish state and of its Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. “He's a believer in Israel he's a fan of Bibi [Netanyahu]. He's really helping him a lot and will help him a lot, which is good for all of us."