Friday, April 07, 2017

From Ian:

With 59 cruise missiles, US sends message to the world: We’re back
After two days of uncertainty from the US administration, following a chemical attack by the Bashar Assad regime, the Americans sent a message to the world on Thursday night in the least subtle way possible: with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired straight at a Syrian air base.
It was a message directed toward Assad and the people of Syria, to allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, foes like Iran and North Korea, the US’s great frenemy Russia, and to the American public back at home.
Internationally, the 59 Raytheon Co. missiles fired from the USS Ross and USS Porter told American partners — and enemies — that despite the “America First” rhetoric, the US is again very much a factor on the world stage. Domestically, it was a sign that US President Donald Trump, whose administration has seen false-starts, failures and pushback, would take decisive action when he deemed it necessary.
“They are telling their allies in the Middle East: You are not alone,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser and IDF general, in a phone briefing on Friday organized by the Israel Project.
Breaking from the naval gazing so prevalent in this part of the world, the strike on Syria should also be at least briefly considered in the context of North Korea, which has been antagonizing the United States with nuclear and ballistic missile tests — vide the strike occurring during Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who holds considerable cachet over Pyongyang.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Told-You-So Moment
Benjamin Netanyahu will never be popular in America’s major newsrooms. Or among most of the think-tankers who set the tone and parameters of foreign-policy debate. His name is a curse on college campuses. So it’s worth asking whose vision of the Middle East has held up better under the press of recent events.
His or theirs?
The question comes to mind as Western governments confront this week’s chemical atrocity in Syria, and as footage of children’s bodies convulsing in agony once more unsettles the world’s conscience. Even President Trump, who generally lacks a moral language, was moved. On Friday U.S forces fired nearly 60 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, punishing the Assad regime for its chemical crimes.
His predecessor had a rich moral vocabulary and a coterie of award-winning moralizers like Samantha Power on staff. But President Obama refused to act when Bashar Assad crossed his chemical red line. He wanted to extricate Washington from the region, and he saw a nuclear deal with Mr. Assad’s Iranian patrons as the exit ramp.
Such a deal came within grasp when Hassan Rouhani launched his presidential campaign in Iran four years ago this month. The smiling, self-proclaimed “moderate” was the Iranian interlocutor the Obamaians had been waiting for. Mr. Netanyahu posed the main obstacle.
Israeli Arab Newscaster on Syria Crisis: ‘Where Is the Arab Leadership? Where Are You, Traitors? Have You Forgotten Your Own People?’
Israeli Arab newscaster Lucy Aharish issued an impassioned rebuke on Wednesday of regional heads of state over their failure to halt the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Referring to the suspected chemical weapons attack earlier this week in Syria — believed to have been carried out by President Bashar Assad’s regime — in which dozens of civilians, including children, were killed, Aharish said, in English remarks broadcast on Channel 2, “The images that once again struck us yesterday are no fake news, but rather old news.”
She continued, “There is one question that repeats itself — where is the Arab leadership? Where are you, traitors? Have you forgotten your own people?”
In December, Aharish aired an English statement in which she called the situation in Aleppo a “holocaust.”
“I am ashamed as a human being that we chose leaders who are incapable of being articulate in their condemnation and powerful in their action,” she said at the time. “I am ashamed that the Arab world is being taken hostage by terrorists and murderers and that we are not doing anything. I am ashamed that the peaceful majority of humanity is irrelevant once again.”

Netanyahu: I support Trump's decision to bomb Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for the US air strike in Syria, Friday morning.
In the strike five dozen American Tomahawk missiles were fired from the Mediterranean Sea at Syria's al-Shayrat airfield.
The airbase played host to the very planes which on Tuesday laid chemical siege to a civilian town in Idlib province, killing 74 people and incapacitating over 550. It was not immediately clear whether Trump would order additional strikes.
"In words and actions President Trump sent a strong and clear response: The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable," Netanyahu stated.
"Israel fully and unequivocally supports the presidents decision and hopes the clear message will reverberate not only in Damascus but also in Tehran, Pyongyang and other places."
President Reuven Rivlin echoed Netanyahu' statement calling the US airstrike a "fitting and appropriate response" to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Israeli leaders offer wall-to-wall praise for US strike on Syria
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the Tomahawk missile strike “an important, necessary and moral message by the free world, led by the United States.”
The attack on the Syrian airfield shows that the world “will not tolerate the war crimes of the horrific regime of Bashar Assad,” Liberman said.
“The American update to the IDF and security establishment before the attack in Syria is further proof of the strength of the relationship and depth of the connection between Israel and its largest ally, the United States,” Liberman added.
President Reuven Rivlin said the US move was a “fitting response to such unthinkable brutality, and an example to the entire free world.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Friday also hailed the strike, saying it came at the “right time and in the right place.”
The strike “is an important message to the butcher from Damascus,” Herzog said on Twitter.
A string of high-level Israeli officials have condemned the Tuesday chemical attack and urged international action.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar: The missile, the poison gas and the sheer effrontery
A credible threat of his nature will get the entire world to its feet with one question: "What is going to happen if Assad does not give in to the threat and ignores Trump's ultimatum? Putin will have to either enter into a confrontation with the United States or convince Assad to "take a short leave" in Moscow until Trump calms down. The North Koreans will wait impatiently to see the results of Russia's threats, because they are next in line after Assad to be threatened similarly by Trump about their military nuclear plans. Iran will also be on alert during those fateful 48 hours after Trump's speech because Iran's rulers know exactly what Trump thinks of them and of the nuclear agreement Obama had them sign in 2015.
An ultimatum of this nature could give the United States deterrent power once again after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama, the human rights knight in shining armor, intentionally and purposefully made it disappear. If Assad gives in to the ultmatum, Trump will come out a real winner. If Assad refuses to leave and an American operation eliminates him - Trump will be an even greater winner. I do not expect Putin to battle Trump to keep Assad in power, because Russian interests are not dependent on Assad the man but on the Alawite ethnic group and the ports Russia has taken over in Syria. Russia is also interested in what becomes of the natural gas on the bottom of the sea facing Syria's coast. Syria's gas resources are much larger than those of Israel.
The Syrian catastrophe has to teach Israel one important lesson: No one will stand by Israel's side if the country suffers a CBW attack. Assad certainly won't care about Israel's citizens any more than he cares for his own. Israel must face Assad, his friends and supporters fom the, north and east. and present them with a credible threat, backed by clear American support saying that any harm to any Israeli citizen by Syria will lead him straight to hell. Although Israel does not have to take part in the Syrian chaos, it must make its point crystal clear, and stand guard carefully, with not only a finger, but a whole hand, on Syria's pulse.
JPosts Editorial: Syrian imperative
No human being can remain indifferent to the atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime – apparently with Russian and Iranian support – in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Initial reports and eyewitnesses testimonies coming from the Idlib province in Syria say that Assad’s forces used sarin gas against civilians, including infants and young children.
Assad has a clear interest in spurring a mass exodus from one of the last remaining strongholds of opposition.
And Assad and Putin seem to believe that the world will do nothing beyond issuing outraged declarations, particularly if the two deny any connection with the incident, as they have done in the best tradition of cynical dictators.
It hasn’t escaped Trump’s critics that the attack comes just days after the Trump administration made it clear that replacing Assad as leader of Syria as part of any future arrangement there “is not a priority.” Clearly Assad has little to lose by once again crossing a theoretical redline.
The moral answer to this atrocity is a swift, decisive and debilitating military attack that would wipe the self-satisfied smirk off the faces of Assad and Putin. Former IDF Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin was speaking from his gut when he said this week in an interview on Army Radio that Israel should launch a missile attack against Syrian warplanes in response.
Tzipi Livni: Syria proves that ‘Never Again’ has not been learned
So let’s talk not only about or moral obligation, but also about interests — because taking action in Syria is also in our interest. It is the common interest of the free world to free its citizens from the threats of terror and violence. Rogue states and terrorist actors are watching what is happening – and the message that world is sending them will influence their behavior, no less than direct action against them.
When the world demands, and rightly so, that North Korea and Iran abide by its rules regarding unconventional weapons, it is critical that it simultaneously act against unconventional weapons elsewhere.
People die in wars, but even in wars there are laws, rules of engagement, and things that are not done. Unconventional weapons are beyond the pale and unlike collateral damage in a battle, what we see in Syria is a deliberate attack on civilians, war crimes that have the makings of crimes against humanity. Silence and complacency give not only Assad a license to kill, but all radical terrorist actors in the region. An international coalition must address the situation; its immediate task is completing the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons.
The children of Syria are the children of the world - and they are looking at us. Will the world stand idly by as their blood is shed? Can moderate elements still expect that in times of trouble there will be those who will end the horror — or is it better to be on the side of evil? Now is a moment when interests and morality fuse: it is time to act accordingly.
Trump Blows Up Obama’s Foreign Policy Straw Men
President Trump did more than retaliate for Bashar al-Assad's illegal and inhumane use of nerve agents against civilians when he ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles to destroy al-Shayrat airbase in Syria. He also detonated a few shibboleths of his predecessor's foreign policy.
First is the idea that President Obama's 2013 deal to remove Assad's weapons of mass destruction was a success. Susan Rice and John Kerry have lauded the agreement with Russia to supervise the extraction and destruction of Assad's weapons stockpiles as recently as the last year. But Assad's brazen attack on civilians in Idlib Province exposed their celebrations as premature. Trump's swift, decisive, and limited response ended more than a half decade of vacillation toward's Assad's behavior. Obama diplomacy failed, but hard power may yet deter Assad from using weapons banned for almost a century.
The second casualty of the U.S. strike was the absurd Obama line that the only alternatives available to a president are inaction on one hand and a massive ground invasion and occupation on the other. Obama and the architects of his echo chamber would slam any advocate of military measures as a bloodthirsty warmonger ready to repeat the worst mistakes of the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the reality has always been that there are a range of intermediary steps America can take to pursue her objectives and enforce the standards of Western civilization. The destruction of al-Shayrat is an example of coercive diplomacy similar to the airstrikes President Reagan deployed against Muammar Qaddafi and President Clinton deployed against Slobodan Milosevic. The immediate aim is punitive, to deter the further use of nerve gas against civilians. The longer-term goal is to remove Assad from power and reach a settlement that would in all likelihood partition Syria into sectarian zones of influence. Both objectives are impossible through diplomacy alone. Only through the introduction of force might we frighten the Syrians and their supporters into giving up Assad—if not the Alawite power structure—and winding down his war machine.
Amidror: US attack in Syria shows Iran that military option is indeed ‘on the table’
Iran, more than any other country in the world, is carefully taking note of the US missile attack in Syria overnight, former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said Friday.
“More than any place in the world, the decision makers in Iran are learning the reaction of the Americans, taking into account that if they don't behave, the military option is on the table, unlike the previous administration,” Amidror said during a conference call organized by The Israel Project.
Amidror, a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said that Iran bears responsible for Syrian President Bashar Assad's actions, since they and Hezbollah have given him unqualified support over the years regardless of his brutality. Amidror said that Iran supported Assad after his previous use of chemical weapons, and that there was no question that even if they did not have prior knowledge of the attack in Idlib, they are “morally responsible.”
Regarding whether Israel itself will take military action in Syria, as former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin suggested earlier this week, Amidror said that Israel would remain “on the sidelines” but provide both humanitarian aid to the Syrians, and intelligence assistance to its allies acting inside Syria.
In Israeli eyes, Trump’s Tomahawks correct the course of history
From an Israeli perspective, US President Donald Trump corrected the course of history in ordering airstrikes against the Syrian regime late Thursday.
The mere fact that the global superpower took action in the face of Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians — regardless of what military goals the operation accomplished — sends a powerful message that will reverberate beyond Syria, leaders and officials in Jerusalem said.
“In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement backing the airstrikes on the regime-held Shayrat Airfield, north of Damascus. “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the missile strike “an important, necessary and moral message by the free world, led by the United States,” that shows it “will not tolerate the war crimes of the horrific regime of Bashar Assad.”
Chiming in, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz also praised the attack, delivered via some 60 Tomahawk missiles fired from two US destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, as “an important step both morally and strategically and a clear signal to the axis led by Iran.”
The Israel Defense Forces released its own statement, saying it, too, supported the cruise missile strike and had informed Washington of its backing.
Israel’s security establishment was updated by the US ahead of the missile strike, officials said.
Trump’s strike signals to Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad: The party’s over
Through a single, limited strike, Trump’s overnight resort to force signaled to the Shi’ite actors, and to Russia, that the rules of the game have now changed: From now on, there will be a price to be paid for invading, massacring, carrying out terror attacks, using non-conventional weapons.
Such a message ought to have been delivered long ago, years ago. But Barack Obama opted not to do so. And as a consequence, the United States became perceived as weak, as afraid, as a nation that abandoned its allies in the Middle East. The overnight attack sent a very different message, especially to Assad’s opposition.
Moscow’s rapid, angry reaction, and the immediate messages of support from Saudi Arabia and from the Syrian opposition, underline how successful the single US strike has been in impacting all the necessary places.
Not just the physical impact, either. Russia will now have to reassess its handling of the Syrian crisis. And as for Iran, Assad and Hezbollah, they will all have to weigh their next moves in what was once greater
So You Want To Go To War In Syria To Depose Assad. Can You Answer These 14 Questions First?
Here are 14 questions that proponents of war in Syria must answer before anyone considers whether military intervention to remove Assad is the best course of action for the American people.
1) What national security interest, rather than pure humanitarian interest, is served by the use of American military power to depose Assad’s regime?
2) How will deposing Assad make America safer?
3) What does final political victory in Syria look like (be specific), and how long will it take for that political victory to be achieved? Do you consider victory to be destabilization of Assad, the removal of Assad, the creation of a stable government that can protect itself and its people without additional assistance from the United States, etc.?
4) What military resources (e.g., ground troops), diplomatic resources, and financial resources will be required to achieve this political victory?
5) How long will it take to achieve political victory?
Putin slams Netanyahu over ‘unfounded accusations’ on Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the “unfounded accusations” from Israel over the “incident with chemical weapons” in Syria.
In a phone call between the two leaders on Thursday, Putin “underlined that it’s unacceptable to make unfounded accusations against anyone until after a thorough and unbiased international investigation,” the Kremlin said.
“There was an exchange of opinions over the incident with chemical weapons that took place in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4,” Moscow said in a statement.
“Putin in particular underlined the unacceptability of making unfounded accusations against anyone before a thorough and impartial international investigation is carried out,” it said.
Netanyahu’s office confirmed he spoke with Putin, but didn’t comment on the reported scolding he received.
Corbyn Condemns Trump Strike
Corbyn criticises Trump, no condemnation of Assad or Russia:
“The US missile attack on a Syrian government air base risks escalating the war in Syria still further.
“Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account.
“But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.
“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

PreOccupiedTerritory: What I Find Most Offensive About The Syria Strike Is The Cultural Appropriation Of The ‘Tomahawk’ Missile By Holia Thanthow (satire)
Unfortunately, such behavior is nothing new from the US, before or after the election of Donald Trump. The Apache helicopter, developed in the 1970’s and 80’s, is named for a group of Native American tribes, but the US defense establishment had no problem turning their noble legacy into an airborne antitank weapon – and then supplied them and their Hellfire missiles to Israel, which callously loosed those weapons on the innocent Islamic terrorists of the Gaza Strip.
My peers and I long for the relatively enlightened Obama era, when the president had enough cultural sensitivity to understand that chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and other tactics considered crude or illegal by arrogant Westerners might be perfectly appropriate in the cultural context of the Levant – as long as they are deployed by the indigenous peoples of the Levant. Obama understood the fraught implications of insisting that the duly unelected leaders of the region follow modes of behavior at odds with the native culture.
Notice that Obama never employed the Tomahawk even once, and blocked further supply of Apaches to Israel because of the system’s use against Palestinians – regardless of those Palestinians’ involvement in so-called “terrorism” against Israelis. We can rest assured he would never have approved such an offensive move as employing a weapon with an appropriated name.
We need another march on Washington to combat this scourge, which strikes at the very foundations of the progressive ethos. But I worry that, as in Berkeley, the fascist Trumpian authorities will use tear gas and pepper spray against us, behavior that we can only accept from Middle East fascist authorities.
Amb. Dore Gold: Is the Terror Against Europe Different from the Terror Against Israel?
There is one area in which many European diplomats connect the terror against Israel and the activities of the jihadist movements like ISIS. For decades it has been broadly assumed that if Israel would only solve the Palestinian problem, then one of the grievances driving the jihadi movements would be removed and the West would be more secure. This thesis has been proven to be false time and time again.
Looking back at the 1990s, the first major breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians was reached with the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo Accords. In the years that followed, a series of implementation agreements were signed like the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the 1995 Interim Agreement, the 1997 Hebron Agreement, and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum.
But looking in the same parallel period, there was no correlation between Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and the reduction of the hostility from the jihadist threat. For in those very years, al-Qaeda’s threats on the West seemed to only worsen: in 1993, the first World Trade Center attack took place; in 1995 was the first al-Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia; followed in 1998 with the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in 2000, the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen; and finally in 2001, the United States was struck in the 9/11 attacks.
Arab-Israeli diplomacy did not ameliorate this growing problem. There simply is no correlation between Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the attacks by al-Qaeda against the West. The negotiations that Israel undertook had their own value, but its concessions were not in any way a panacea for the strikes of the jihadi movements against the U.S. or its European allies. To neutralize this challenge a cohesive military strategy is needed for the West, the Arab states that are threatened, and Israel. It thus stands to reason that, just as all three face similar threats, the models developed in Israel for dealing with terror merit attention in Europe and beyond.
Stockholm crash that killed at least 3 people was ‘act of terror,’ says Swedish PM
A truck crashed into an upscale department store in central Stockholm on Friday, killing at least two people, according to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who said all indications were that it was a terror attack. One person was arrested.
Swedish radio put the death toll at three.
“There are deaths, and many injured,” Nina Odermalm Schei, a spokeswoman for Swedish intelligence agency Sapo, told AFP, without giving a precise figure.
“Sweden has been attacked,” Lofven said. “This indicates that it is an act of terror.”
Swedish broadcaster SVT said shots were fired at the scene, though it wasn’t clear by whom and police said they could not confirm that.
Andreea Cristea: woman who fell in the Thames during the Westminster attack dies in hospital
Andreea Cristea, who plunged into the Thames as Khalid Masood rammed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge during the recent terror attack, has died.
The 31-year-old Romanian woman passed away while in hospital being treated for her injuries, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed.
She had been receiving medical treatment in hospital following the attack and life support was withdrawn on Thursday, 6 April.
Ms Cristea was in London for a short break with her boyfriend, Andrei Burnaz, who was discharged from hospital shortly after the attack.
Her partner had planned to propose to her during their trip to London.
After the attack, she remained unconscious in hospital until life support was withdrawn.
The PA conundrum
That should be a powerful incentive to the PA to cease paying for terror. But support for violence against Jews and the delegitimization of Israel is deeply embedded in the Palestinian political culture. Cutting off the terrorists would involve considerable risk for Abbas. Considering his unwillingness to accept even the most generous Israeli offers of statehood, there is little chance he is willing to risk a backlash from the clear majority of Palestinians who agree that terrorists are heroes.
This situation continues because Abbas thinks his foreign sugar daddies have no leverage over him. PA leaders and their families have stolen billions in aid they received during the last two decades without ever being held accountable. More to the point, the PA would collapse if it could not continue doling out salaries to supporters for the no show and no work jobs that are the basis of its political power. The costly and unpopular Israeli involvement in Palestinian life that might result from that collapse are why the Netanyahu government continues to tacitly support the continued flow of foreign funds to the PA though it deplores how the money is spent.
In this manner, the PA has not only gotten away with wasting the world's charitable donations but also with policies that perpetuate the conflict their donors seek to end.
But neither Israel nor the U.S. should be so easily cowed by Abbas' threats. The PA's Fatah party leadership fears being seen as soft on the Jews or ready to end the war on Israel but it may also fear bankruptcy just as much. That's why it is high time that someone at least try to make them pay a penalty for their criminal misconduct. Doing so would create some of the leverage the West needs to make the PA behave. It can be argued that the PA is too incorrigible to be reformed even by threats. But until somebody tries, we'll never know if they can be nudged in the right direction on terror subsidies. Despite the risks, that's an unimpeachable argument for passing and enforcing the Taylor Force Act.
What does Jerusalem expect from the ‘new sheriff’ at the UN?
“By changing the definition of ‘who’s a Palestinian refugee?’, you change the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Oren said.
In his comments to The Times of Israel, Danon, the Israeli UN ambassador, also refrained from calling for the US to slash funding for the UN, much less scrapping it. Rather, he demanded more “transparency and accountability” from the organization. “We won’t accept the current reality in which known Hamas operatives are on the UNRWA payroll as they continue to incite and educate the next generation to hate Israelis,” he said. “On multiple occasions we have made clear to the organization, the donor countries and the UN itself that we cannot let such a situation continue and real oversight is needed.”
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley thanks the crowd before she speaks at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference held at the Verizon Center in Washington, Monday, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The coming months will show the extent to which the US administration can live up to the high expectation it created by repeatedly vowing to fight Israel’s battles at the UN.
“At the US Mission, we’re all about changing the culture and bringing positive energy to the United Nations,” Ambassador Haley said last week in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. “People who’ve worked with me know that I have no tolerance for unmet promises and inaction. My team is about action, reliability and results.”
The new administration has “already started to make some progress,” she said, but also acknowledged that old habits die hard, especially at Turtle Bay. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have illusions about how easily an institution the size and complexity of the United Nations can be changed.”
Nikki Haley: Israel Bashing at UN Is ‘Ridiculous’
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke at the Women in the World Summit on Wednesday in New York, where she denounced anti-Israel bias and said the debate about Israel and the Palestinians has become a "habit" among many U.N. leaders.
"Israel and the U.N. That's been a big topic that you've been discussing in the U.N. What's your thought on that?" MSNBC anchor and moderator Greta Van Susteren asked.
"You know I had heard how bad the Israel bashing was, but when I got there, it was really bizarre," Haley said. "Because what you saw was the fact that we would have this session the Middle East. This session happens every single month and has happened for the last ten years, and all they talk about is Israel and the Palestinians."
Haley then discussed her condemnation of a U.N. report last month that compared Israel to an apartheid state.

US hits senior Hamas military commander with terror sanctions
The U.S. State Department announced Thursday that it was hitting a top Hamas commander with terrorism sanctions.
Abu Anas al-Ghandour, 50, was designated as a global terrorist, a move that freezes any assets in the U.S. and bars Americans from doing business with him.
Ghandour leads a Hamas brigade in northern Gaza and spent years in Israeli prison decades ago. The U.S. said he was involved in an attack on an Israeli military post on the Israel-Gaza Strip border that killed two Israeli soldiers in 2006 and led to the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who was freed from Hamas captivity in 2011 in a prisoner swap that saw Israel release 1,027 terrorists.
A statement posted on the State Department's website said the designation came under "Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. As a consequence of this designation, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with Ghandour, and all of his property and interests in property subject to United States jurisdiction is frozen.
Edgar Davidson: Trump: You must personally demand extradition of child murderer Ahlam Tamimi from Jordan
Ahlam Tamimi is the female Hamas terrorist who planned and engineered the 2001 massacre of 16 people, including 8 children, in Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant. One of her victims was 15-year-old Malki Roth (an American citizen) and her parents maintain an incredible blog about the case here.
As a mass murderer of Jewish kids she was the most 'honoured' of all the terrorists released in the ludicrous exchange for Gilad Shalit. She became a major celebrity in the Arab world, presenting a weekly TV programme where she encouraged millions of viewers to emulate her crimes. By inciting terrorism Tamimi was subject to re-arrest under the terms of the release, but by living in Jordan the Israelis were unable to re-arrest her. However, because two of her victims were American citizens the FBI has recently put Tamimi on their most wanted terrorist list and requested her extradition from Jordan. The Jordanians, who also recently honoured child murderer Ahmad Dakamseh, have refused.

Sgt. Elchai Teharlev laid to rest: 'Now you have flown to the sky'
When the funeral was over, nobody wanted to leave.
Twenty-year-old Elchai Teharlev , who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, loved to sing and play music. In one of the photographs his family released after his death, he can be seen standing on the edge of a hilltop with a guitar strapped over his shoulder.
On Thursday, several thousand people stood shoulder-to-shoulder near his freshly dug grave as the sun set, singing and humming soulful religious tunes.
A friend of Elchai’s stood on a stone wall above them, quietly strumming a guitar, as cold gusts of wind blew through the air above Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
His father, Ohad, recalled how imaginative Elchai had been as a small child. “You made yourself some wings. You wanted to jump from the window so you could fly to the sky. Now you have flown to the sky,” he said in a tearful voice.
Army to seal off West Bank, Gaza for Passover holiday
Israel will close off the West Bank and seal the crossings from the Gaza Strip on Monday night for a week as a preventative measure against attacks during the Jewish festival of Passover, the IDF announced on Friday.
The army will impose the closure from midnight on Monday until midnight the following Monday, April 17, the army said.
Entering and exiting the West Bank and Gaza will be forbidden for Palestinians during that week, with the exception of “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases,” according to an IDF statement.
Those special cases will require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories.
It was not immediately clear what exceptions would be made for Palestinian Christians celebrating Easter, which coincides with the final days of Passover.
PMW: Fatah: Israel = ISIS
A cartoon posted on the website of the Fatah Information and Culture Commission repeated the Palestinian Authority’s claim that Israel is in league with ISIS.
The cartoon shows an Israeli and an ISIS terrorist with their arms around each other. The Israeli is holding a bloody hatchet, while the ISIS terrorist is holding a knife dripping with blood.
Israeli: "We will behead everyone who is against us"
ISIS terrorist: "I’m with you"
[Website of the Fatah Information and Culture Commission, March 18, 2017]

UN condemns Hamas executions of three ‘collaborators’
The execution in the Gaza Strip of three Palestinians accused by Hamas of collaborating with Israel has been condemned “in the strongest terms” by the UN human rights office.
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the executions happened despite international appeals to block the sentences and violated “Palestine’s obligations under international law”.
The rights office said the convictions were delivered for treason, which does not qualify among “most serious crimes”.
It noted the defendants were civilians convicted by a military court, “again in contravention of international law”.
The office said the trial did not appear to meet fair trial standards.
With health care faltering, Gazans seek treatments in Israel
For many patients suffering from life-threatening diseases in the Gaza Strip, treatment in neighboring Israel is a much sought-after option. Israel restricts Palestinian passage from the Gaza Strip for security reasons, but Gazans seeking "life-saving or life-changing medical treatment" are exempted from these restrictions.
Ashraf Qidra, a spokesman for Gaza's Health Ministry, says the Hamas-ruled enclave suffers from a chronic shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and specialist physicians.
Egypt, Gaza's neighbor to the south, is an option for those seeking routine medical treatment, not urgent surgery, and patients who are barred from entering Israel. But the Egyptian government is at odds with Hamas and keeps its own border with the Palestinian territory largely closed. It opens the Rafah crossing once every 40 days, for a few days each time.
Qidra claims at least half of those who apply for treatment in Israel are turned down by Israeli authorities.
Airplane Sales to Iran Put Under Critical Review By Trump Admin
The Trump administration is undertaking a critical review of Obama administration-era policies permitting the sale of American airplanes to Iran, which have been used in the past to ferry weapons to terrorists and conduct other illicit activities, according to U.S. officials familiar with the situation.
U.S. airline manufacturer Boeing announced on Tuesday that it had reached a memorandum of understanding with Iran guaranteeing the sale of up to 60 planes pending review by the Trump administration.
Sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon speculated the latest announcement, which was announced earlier in the day by Iran, could be meant to pressure U.S. officials to sign off on the deal.
While the newly installed administration had come under fire earlier this year for seeming to continue Obama-era policies meant to approve these sales, U.S. officials now tell the Free Beacon that all past and future deals are coming under review by the new administration as part of a larger assessment of the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
The review of sales between Boeing and Iran represent a first step to possibly canceling the deals, which have come under criticism by U.S. lawmakers and foreign policy experts who maintain the Islamic Republic will use the American aircraft to boost its air force and illicit weapons trade, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon.
Restraint Not Bahrain’s Problem
Putting aside the fact that the Washington Post is late to the story, the problem here is that, despite the initial blunders of Bahrain, the Bahraini government has shown restraint. In the last three years, Bahraini protestors killed 20 police officers and injured more than 3,000 others. Over the same period of time, however, Bahraini police have not killed protestors. The problem increasingly appears not to be a Bahraini tone-deafness providing inroads to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but rather the Iranian government trying to throw a wrench into Bahrain’s efforts to calm the situation.
I accompanied Bahraini protestors in 2012, the year after the “Pearl Monument uprising” began. They had a compelling list of grievances, some of which the Bassiouni Commission acknowledged in its subsequent investigation. While with the opposition, I was tear-gassed for the first time in more than two decades, but I also witnessed opposition throwing Molotov cocktails—hardly the weapon of the non-violent—at the security forces.
It’s also important to recognize that Bahraini government concern about Iranian interference was never entirely without merit. The 1981 coup attempt in Bahrain was decisively and irrefutably Iranian in origin. Nor does a survey of the graffiti in Manama leave any doubt as to what the protestors’ goal is: the overthrow of the Bahraini monarchy.
Denounced by his brothers, Pakistani Jew says he’s being thrown to an ‘apostate lynch mob’
With dueling allegations of “insanity” and “fear of anti-Semitism,” two Pakistani men have taken to international media to disprove their brother’s beliefs about their deceased mother’s faith.
After a protracted legal fight to be officially recognized as Jewish in Pakistan, based upon claims that his mother was born a Jew, Fischel (Faisal) Benkhald, 29, gained international media attention last week with the announcement that Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADA) will soon issue him a new identification card. It will be the first time in decades that Pakistan registers a citizen as Jewish.
Benkhald, whose story was documented in a 2014 Times of Israel article, maintains a high profile on social media, complete with the Twitter handle @Jew_Pakistani, and has been interviewed broadly about his campaign to preserve Karachi’s old Jewish cemetery.
In the lengthy 2014 interview, Benkhald described his earliest childhood memories of his mother, whom he said was born to an Iranian Jewish family. He recalled the aroma of his mother’s challah baking in the oven every Friday afternoon. He said that before dusk he would watch her recite blessings over the Shabbat candles.
“When she used to put her hands over her eyes it felt so serene, as if she has no worries of worldly life, reciting the blessing welcoming the holy day. Her lovely eyes and smile looking at me are engraved in my memory, I always prayed with her,” he told The Times of Israel.

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