Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rocket fired from Gaza falls inside Palestinian territory

A rocket launched from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip landed inside the Palestinian enclave on Saturday, the Israeli military said.
A strong blast was heard in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, sparking suspicions the projectile had landed in the area. The projectile was launched from northern Gaza, according to reports in the Hebrew media, and fell in an open field, short of Israeli territory. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
On Friday, Israel targeted two Hamas observation posts along the Gaza border after a gunshot was reportedly fired at Israeli troops serving along the Gaza border.
“An IDF aircraft and tank attacked two military positions belonging to the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip in response to a shot that was fired a short time ago at troops near the security fence,” the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.
The fire came as troops were gearing up for the weekly protests and riots along the Gaza border that have been held almost every Friday for more than a year. (Read More)

UN says 220 killed in two days of fighting over Libya’s capital

BENGHAZI, Libya — The UN health agency says at least 15 more people died in fighting over control of Libya’s capital in the past two days, bringing the total to 220 dead including civilians.
The World Health Organization said late Friday that 1,066 others have been wounded since the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive on April 5 to take Tripoli.
The fighting pits the LNA, led by Khalifa Hifter, against rival militias affiliated with a weak UN-supported government in the capital. The clashes threaten to ignite civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Libya is split between rival governments in the east and west. (Read More)

Greenblatt: Peace plan doesn't include giving Sinai to Gaza

Jason Greenblatt, the US Representative for International Negotiations, on Friday rejected reports that the Trump administration’s peace plan will include giving a portion of the Sinai Peninsula to Gaza. In a tweet, Greenblatt warned against believing unconfirmed reports about the peace plan.

“Hearing reports our plan includes the concept that we will give a portion of Sinai (which is Egypt’s) to Gaza. False! Please don’t believe everything you read. Surprising and sad to see how people who don’t know what’s in the plan make up and spread fake stories,” he wrote.

Hearing reports our plan includes the concept that we will give a portion of Sinai (which is Egypt’s) to Gaza. False! Please don’t believe everything you read. Surprising & sad to see how people who don’t know what’s in the plan make up & spread fake stories.

 Little is known about the Trump administration’s peace plan, which has come to be known as the “Deal of the Century”.

Greenblatt on Wednesday confirmed a Reuters report saying that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be unveiled after Israel forms a governing coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in early June.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been boycotting the US ever since President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of 2017, has rejected the US peace plan before it has even been unveiled.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has promised to consider the plan, saying at a conference in Warsaw in February that it should not be rejected before it is even presented.

A source familiar with the Trump peace plan told The Washington Post on Sunday that it will include practical improvements in the lives of Palestinian Arabs but is likely to stop short of ensuring a separate, fully sovereign Palestinian state. (INN)

Friday, April 19, 2019

PA concern: Trump will agree to Israeli sovereignty

The Palestinian Authority (PA) “foreign ministry” said on Thursday that the US administration is delusional in its belief that the Palestinians' consent to sell their homeland can be bought with money.
 
In a statement, the PA bureau said that the American administration had gradually begun to implement the “Deal of the Century”, as the Trump administration’s plan for resolving the conflict has come to be known, without declaring it.
 
It further claimed that the American declarations about providing economic aid to the Palestinians on the occasion of the month of Ramadan were a false move intended to influence the Palestinians to agree to the “Deal of the Century”.
 
According to the PA bureau for foreign affairs, President Donald Trump's team of advisors coordinated the details of the “Deal of the Century” with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, contradicting the statements in Washington that no one has been updated on the details of the plan.
 
The PA bureau also believes that the US administration will soon announce recognition of the annexation of the so-called settlement blocs to Israel and will encourage the establishment of a separate Palestinian entity in Gaza.
 
The PA, which has been boycotting the US ever since President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of 2017, has rejected the US peace plan before it has even been unveiled.
 
On Tuesday, new PA cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh said in an interview that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be “born dead”.
 
"There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Shtayyeh told The Associated Press.
 
US envoy Jason Greenblatt, one of the architects of the yet unpublished Trump peace plan, later criticized Shtayyeh over his comments.
 
“Why does the new PA Prime Minister hope for our plan to be ‘born dead’ and for peace to fail? By working with us, perhaps something wonderful can happen for Palestinians. We've repeatedly said this won't just be an economic plan,” Greenblatt tweeted.
 
“PM Shtayyeh, starting a new job by condemning a plan you haven’t seen is unfair to Palestinians. You have an obligation to first look at an opportunity before you dismiss it. The PA can continue to push us away, but that will do nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinians,” he added in a second tweet.

PA to launch campaign against US peace plan

Nabil Shaath, international relations adviser to Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said on Thursday that the PA will launch a campaign to counter the US peace plan, known as the "Deal of the Century", reported the Xinhua news agency.
 
The campaign will target "the crime and conspiracy that aim at liquidating the Palestinian cause under the so-called century deal," said Shaath in a statement.
 
He added that "we've seen this plan advancing through the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, disregarding the Palestinian refugees issue, and recognizing Israeli settlements and Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
 
Shaath said that "all steps taken by US President Donald Trump proved that the deal is nothing but a conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause."
 
His comments follow a report on Wednesday which said that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be unveiled after Israel forms a governing coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in early June.
 
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who has been working on the plan with Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, later confirmed the report, tweeting a link to it and adding, “This is an accurate report”.
 
The PA, which has been boycotting the US ever since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of 2017, has rejected the US peace plan before it has even been unveiled.
 
On Tuesday, new PA cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh said in an interview that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be “born dead”.
 
"There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Shtayyeh told The Associated Press.

Key Trump ally urges president to drop 'land for peace' formula

The president of the Family Research Council, a prominent conservative think-tank associated with the American Religious Right, has called on President Donald Trump to drop the land-for-peace formula as a basis for a final status agreement between Israel and the Arab world.
 
Tony Perkins, a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives who since 2003 has headed the conservative Family Research Council, penned a joint opinion piece with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan this week praising President Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, and urging the president not to impose a settlement freeze on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
 
On Monday, Perkins and Dagan wrote in The Washington Times praising Trump as “perhaps the most pro-Israel president ever,” lauding his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory.
 
“Under President Trump, the world sees and understands that the United States is a true friend of Israel. Whether it was moving the U.S. embassy to and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, straightforwardly dealing with the threat posed by Iran, or acknowledging the sovereignty of Israel over its land, Mr. Trump is making history as perhaps the most pro-Israel president ever.”
 
Perkins and Dagan urged Trump, however, not to rely on the land-for-peace formula – the basis of previous US-backed peace plans – in his soon-to-be released framework for a final status agreement, dubbed the ‘Deal of the Century’.
 
“Trump’s decisive actions related to Israel have brought a new level of respect for the United States in the region, and greater stability, and it has resulted in peak approval ratings among evangelicals and others who care about the Holy Land. The Trump administration should stay the course, continuing to avoid the ‘land for peace’ proposals, and the policies that have prevented Israelis from building in Judea and Samaria, which have repeatedly failed to work. This looks even more sensible in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge to extend sovereignty over these areas.”
 
Perkins is considered a key Trump ally in the Evangelical Christian community, and was a strong backer of the president during his 2016 campaign. Evangelical support for Trump surpassed support for previous Republican candidates, despite criticism of Trump’s past support for legalized abortion and two divorces – one of them resulting from a much-publicized affair with Marla Maples. While Mitt Romney won the White Evangelical vote by a 58-point margin, 78-to-20, Trump won Evangelical Whites by 64 points, 80% to 16%.
Last May, Trump appointed Perkins to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hamas & Hizballah set up new March of Return militia on Lebanese-Israeli border

The relative calm prevailing on Israel’s border with Hamas-ruled Gaza is deceptive. Hamas has not changed its terrorist spots, only switched fronts, DEBKAfile’s exclusive counter-terrorism sources report.
 
Hamas’s military wing, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam, was not persuaded by the excessive concessions that Israel and Egypt granted the Gaza Strip to give up the mob violence of firebombs and grenades against Israeli troops guarding the Gaza border in the past year, or to withhold the explosive balloons and rocket volleys aimed into Israel.  Relative calm for the time being was not bought by the monthly river of Qatari dollars or the cash released by a UN fund which had collected $300 m from donor governments. While pretending to Israel and Egypt to be ready for a long-term truce, Hamas leaders have by no means given up on their terror campaign against Israel. Far from it. They have simply decided that the Gaza confrontation has done its work and yielded lucrative returns and were persuaded to switch fronts and move north into Lebanon.
 
This was not Hamas’ brainchild. It came from Iran’s Middle East commander, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. He directed the Hizballah secretary Hassan Nasrallah to sell it to two Hamas leaders, Saleh al-Arouri, head of the organization’s terror networks, who was spending time in Beirut, and Osama Hamdan, head of Hamas’ Lebanese office.
 
The Soleimani plan hinges on Hizballah raising a new Palestinian force of 3,000 recruits from the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon under the label of “The Hamas Return,” the sequel to the “March of Return” applied to the violence emanating from Gaza in the past year. These recruits would undergo a special three-month training course, at the end of which they would be given arms, including heavy artillery and short-range surface rockets, and posted in South Lebanon opposite the Israeli border. But before then, the first Palestinian recruits were to be placed in position in time for Israel’s Independence Day on May 9.
Additional features of Soleimani’s project:
  1. Hamas’ new northern front would be activated in coordination with the Gaza violence, creating a seesaw of terror against Israel.
  2. Israel’s military reprisals are expected to focus on the new Hamas Lebanese force rather than jeopardizing the huge investment made in Gaza by Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the UN.
  3. The Lebanese-based “Hamas Return” militia will be backed by Hizballah, with which Israel has avoided clashes in recent years.
  4. Enhanced Hamas influence in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon will further undermine the Palestinian Authority’s chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
  5. Some of the Lebanese contingent’s officers will be assigned to the Gaza Strip as coordinators between the two forces.
DEBKAfile’s counter-terrorism sources disclose that some 2,500 young Palestinians men have already enlisted to the new Hamas force and are undergoing training at Hizballah facilities in central Lebanon and the Beqaa Valley. Most have come from the refugee camps outside Sidon and Tyre, and in Beirut and Baalbek. Hamas has made its senior representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, responsible for the new militia.
This week, Lebanese intelligence chiefs warned Hamdan and Arouri that Israeli intelligence and its special forces are preparing to attack the leaders of the “Hamas Return” militia and the Hizballah facilities where they are training, in order to nip the entire project in the bud before it is ready for action.

IDF general says Hezbollah still planning major attack despite tunnel operation

The new commander of the IDF’s Ground Forces says that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is still planning on carrying out a surprise invasion of Israel, despite its extensive network of cross-border tunnels having been destroyed by an Israeli operation late last year.
“Hezbollah still has plans to that effect,” he tells the Ynet news site. “Of course we won’t allow that to happen, we will thwart these plans.”
Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick was tapped to lead the military’s Ground Forces in February, amid increased criticism that Israeli troops were not prepared for war.
“In the next war, it would be a mistake for us to distinguish between the state of Lebanon and Hezbollah, since Hezbollah is a political actor and part of the government,” Strick says.
“If it were up to me, I would recommend declaring war on Lebanon and Hezbollah,” he adds. “I have no doubt what the outcome will be… It will be a decisive victory.”

What are advanced missiles doing in Syria?

Iskander missile
New satellite photos published by ImageSat International (ISI) revealed that the Russian military has been deploying ballistic missile systems in Syria, according to the photographs, which are surface-to-surface missile systems capable of reaching 500 kilometers (310 miles).
The Russian army has been training the deployment of an Iskander missile system at the Russian Air Force base in Syria, the Russian news agency IRNA reported.
The Iskander missiles, or the SS-26, are ground-to-ground missiles designed for a range of 500 kilometers. These missiles are very effective because of their accuracy and because of their heavy warhead weighing about half a ton. The range of error of these missiles is about 5-7 meters.
The Russians have used these systems in many cases, mainly as a political deterrent. For example, the Russian army has placed SS-26 missile systems in the Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic coast, threatening Europe. This has often led to a diplomatic crisis between Russia and the United States.

Rouhani urges Mideast states to 'drive back Zionism'

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called on Middle East states on Thursday to "drive back Zionism", saying Israel and its US ally were the root causes of the region's problems.
"The region's nations have lived alongside each other for centuries and never had a problem... If there is a problem, it is caused by others," Rouhani said in an Army Day address.
"Let us stand together, be together and rid the region of the aggressor's presence," he added in the speech shown live on state television.
Flanked by top generals, Rouhani told Iran's neighbors and countries across the region that its armed forces are "never against you or your national interests" but are "standing against the aggressors."
"If we have a problem in the region today, its roots are either with Zionism or America's arrogance," Rouhani said.
He called on Muslim nations to band together and "restore the historical right of the nation of Palestine," saying that "Zionism ... has been committing crimes in the region for the past 70 years." 
"The final victory will surely be with the righteous," he said.
Iran's annual Army Day celebrations are an opportunity for the military to show off its latest weaponry but also for its political leaders to try to reassure neighboring countries that they are for defensive purposes only.

Greenblatt on peace plan report: This is an accurate report

Jason Greenblatt, the US Representative for International Negotiations, on Wednesday confirmed a Reuters report saying that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be unveiled after Israel forms a governing coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in early June.
 
Greenblatt tweeted a link to the report, which was written by the news agency’s Steve Holland, and wrote, “This is an accurate report”.
 
The report said that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner had urged a group of ambassadors to keep an "open mind" the Middle East peace proposal and said that it will require compromises from both sides.
 
Kushner, one of the main architects of the peace proposal spoke to about 100 ambassadors from around the world at Blair House as part of a State Department series of speeches, according to Reuters.
 
The report further said that the proposal has two major components: A political piece that addresses core political issues as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to help the Palestinians strengthen their economy.
 
"He said the plan will require concessions from both sides but won't jeopardize the security of Israel," a source told Reuters. "It requires everybody approaching the plan with an open mind."
 
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been boycotting the US ever since President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of 2017, has rejected the US peace plan before it has even been unveiled.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has promised to consider the plan, saying at a conference in Warsaw in February that it should not be rejected before it is even presented.

Report: Senior Israeli, Lebanese officials meet in Moscow

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil recently met with a senior Israeli official in Moscow, the Saudi newspaper Elaph reported.
 
According to the report, which cited a Lebanese source, the two discussed the disputes between their respective countries regarding the maritime border, and the Assad regime in Syria.
 
The Israeli official also briefed the Lebanese minister on Israel's concern about the activities of Hezbollah's precision weapons factories in Lebanese territory.
 
He asked to convey a message to Lebanese President Michel Aoun that Israel does not view his country as an enemy, but would not hesitate to attack Iranian targets on its soil.
On the other hand, the Lebanese foreign minister requested from the Israeli official that Israel’s defense establishment stop threatening the Lebanese regime because of problems caused by the Hezbollah terror organization.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Syrian military officials’ first criticism of Russia, alleging Moscow’s collusion with Israel

Russia comes under fire from Damascus for the first time, since its 2015 intervention on behalf of the Assad regime, on the charge of collaborating with Israel. Unnamed Syrian military sources said on Monday, April 15: “Israel possesses one of the most powerful military intelligence wings in the world,” and “not only benefits from close intelligence ties with the US coalition but also the Russian military.”
 
Syrian officials have never ventured to criticize the Russian military whose support was critical in rescuing Bashar Assad from an eight-year insurgency. However, dissent was sparked in Syrian army rank and file and the general population by Israel’s aerial missile attack on Syria’s “Scientific Studies and Research Center at Masyaf on Saturday, April 13. The most important Syrian-Iranian production hub for upgrading the surface missile and air defense capabilities of the Syrian army and Hizballah was gutted. Even more infuriating, the Russian S-300 air defense battery posted near Masyaf did not launch a single missile against the enemy assailants.
Still strongly implying Russian collusion, the Syrian military officials declared that the Israelis knew perfectly well that the S-300 was not ready for use and exploited this information. They went on to say: “Russia may disapprove of the Israeli air strikes in Syria, but they will not intervene to stop them as they currently have an agreement with the Netanyahu administration.” Syrian officials have never, in the more than two years of Israel air strikes in Syria against Iranian targets, referred to the Russian military’s non-interference or its connection to a Putin–Netanyahu deal. Damascus’ frustration is further compounded by its inability to take direct action against Israeli air strikes, because they are launched from next-door Lebanon’s air space. The Syrian official made it clear that Damascus has no wish to violate Lebanese sovereignty.

Iran labels US forces in the Middle East as 'terrorists'

Iranian lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill labeling US forces in the Middle East as terrorists, AFP reports.
 
Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami introduced the bill authorizing the government to act firmly in response to "terrorist actions" by US forces.
 
It demands authorities use "legal, political and diplomatic" measures to neutralize the American move, without elaborating.
 
The move follows the US decision to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. The US terrorism designation formally took effect on Monday.
 
The US move aims at "thwarting Iran's influence," and shows that America's longstanding sanctions against Iran have become ineffective, Hatami told lawmakers, according to AFP.
During the debate, some hard-liner lawmakers had demanded listing the entire US army and security forces as terrorist.
 
A TV report in Iran said 204 lawmakers approved the bill, out of 207 present at the session in the 290-seat chamber. Two lawmakers voted against the bill and one abstained.
However, it remains unclear how the bill's passage in parliament would affect the Gourd's activities in the Persian Gulf, where the US Navy has in the past accused Iranian patrol boats of harassing American warships.
 
The US move to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization came amid the ongoing tensions between Washington and Iran following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last May from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
 
The US has since imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in early November. Those sanctions aim to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero in a bid to curb the Islamic Republic’s missile program and regional influence.