Tuesday, February 27, 2018

From Ian:

PLO declares economic war on the United States
Saleh Rafat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, on Sunday said that the committee would convene in the coming days to discuss the latest developments on the Palestinian issue and to follow the implementation of the decisions of the PLO Central Council, which called for the severing of ties with Israel.

In an interview with Voice of Palestine Radio, Rafat backed an appeal by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the International Criminal Court in The Hague which would demand that a legal investigation be launched against Israel for its "crimes" against the Palestinian people. He also backed the idea of "Palestine" joining 22 more international organizations.

He called on Arab countries not to agree to the American administration's peace plan which will be presented soon, to withdraw their investments from the U.S., to boycott American products, and to adhere to previous summit resolutions that cut off ties with any country that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Rafat called for the continuation of the "mass demonstrations of anger" in “Palestine” and the Diaspora in order to deal with the American position that is biased in favor of Israel.

The PA officially joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, and immediately filed a series of legal complaints with the court. In addition to claiming that Israel committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war, it also claimed that Israeli “settlements” are “an ongoing war crime”
PMW: PA Mufti warns of “disasters of wars,” if US embassy is moved
After the announcement by the US State Department last week that the US embassy will be moved to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, the Palestinian Authority's Grand Mufti warned that such a move will lead to "disasters of wars" in the entire world, as it is perceived as an "attack" on all Muslims:

"He [the Mufti] explained that the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem, if it is carried out, will not be an attack on the Palestinians alone, but rather a blatant attack on the Arabs and Muslims throughout the world, ...and that it will not serve peace and security in the region, but rather bring upon it disasters of wars, anarchy, and instability." [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 26, 2018]

He further implicitly encouraged Palestinians and Muslims to use violence and seek Martyrdom, stating that they will "sacrifice all that is dear to them":
"[The Mufti] added that the residents of Jerusalem and all of the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims will not submit to this blatant attack, and will sacrifice all that is dear to them in order to confront the American stubbornness."

The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the embassy move "a direct aggression towards our people," regarding it as "a provocative declaration and a blow to the sensibilities of the Arabs and Muslims." [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 26, 2018]

MEMRI: PLO Fatah Faction Gives Apartment To Family Of Terrorist Who Murdered An Israeli
Palestinian media are reporting that the PLO faction Fatah in the Jenin area had given an apartment to the family of Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, commander of the Hamas squad that murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach on January 9, 2018 near the Havat Gilad junction in the West Bank. Jarrar was killed by Israeli troops a month later, in a February 6, 2018 raid.

Fatah representatives noted that the donation of the apartment constituted fulfilment of the national obligation to the family of a martyr who had sacrificed his life for Palestine and whose home the occupation had razed. Jarrar's mother and brother thanked Fatah for its support.

The following are translated excerpts from reports on the matter in the Palestinian media, and expressions of esteem for the martyrs by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials.

Fatah Jenin: This Is The Fulfillment Of A National Obligation Towards Families Of The Martyrs

On February 24, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported: "The Fatah movement in the Jenin region has given a fully furnished apartment to the family of the martyr Ahmad Nassar Jarrar...

"Fatah Jenin secretary Nour Al-Din Abu Al-Rab told Wafa that the donation of the apartment to the Jarrar family was aimed at underlining that the Fatah movement was fulfilling the national duty towards the families of the martyrs whose homes were razed by the Israeli occupation. He noted that the apartment was fully furnished and praised the part played by all those who had contributed to this national task that, he said, proved that our people is united and consolidated and does not forget its martyrs who gave their lives for Palestine.

"The martyr's mother, on her part, praised Fatah for providing her family with an apartment after the occupation destroyed their home."

On its official Facebook page, Fatah posted a video showing Jarrar's mother thanking Fatah for its support of the family.



The embassy will move . . . and the world won’t end
On Friday, the Trump administration said the ceremony converting a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem into an embassy would coincide with Israel's 70th birthday celebrations in May. Unlike Trump's initial announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the reaction to this latest one turned out to be substantially low-key.

By creating a fact on the ground that does nothing to impede a theoretical peace agreement, the U.S. has exposed the hollow nature of the anti-Israel consensus that holds that any Western recognition of reality that forces the Palestinians to give up their illusions is inadmissible. If peace is ever to come, it will be built on realism, not on the appeasement of Palestinian fantasies.

The world held off on recognizing western Jerusalem as Israel's capital in part because of the expectation that a peace treaty was inevitable. The problem with waiting was that holding off only served to reinforce Palestinian rejectionism.

To this day, the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority continues to deny Jewish ties to the city, or that the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are ancient Jewish holy places. In that sense, they are little better than their Hamas rivals.

By holding off recognition of Israel's capital, the world ensured that the Palestinians were not forced to rethink their rejectionist political culture. Yet it has been the willingness of everyone else to indulge Palestinian fantasies that has been the problem.

Nothing Trump is doing precludes the possibility of a two-state solution. But peace will have to await a sea change in Palestinian culture that will make it possible for their leaders to choose peace, rather than, as Abbas has consistently done, to pander to religious and nationalist fantasies that preclude it.
Former Israeli and U.S. top diplomats express admiration, caution on embassy move
After much speculation over when U.S. President Donald Trump would make good on his campaign promise, the United States announced on Feb. 23 that it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement saying, “In May, the United States plans to open a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary. … We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked President Trump during Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “This is a great moment for the citizens of Israel, and this is an historic moment for the State of Israel,” he said. “This will have significant and historic long-range implications. On behalf of the entire government and people, I would like to thank President Trump for both his leadership and his friendship. President Trump, you are a great friend of the State of Israel, and we all thank you.”

America’s announcement in December that it officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that it planned to move its embassy to Jerusalem sent shockwaves around the world. The news caused joy or dismay, depending on who was asked.
Longtime Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, currently president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Longtime Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, who most recently served as Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS: “All I can do is voice my tremendous admiration for the determination of the Trump administration to move forward with moving the embassy.”

“In some respects,” added Gold, “this is a continuation of the U.S. policy from the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was supported by both parties but never implemented. Trump is acting to move forward on something that he had promised.”
Scheer says Tories will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital if elected
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says if his party forms government in 2019, it will follow Donald Trump's lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Scheer's declaration comes in the form of a pledge posted to the Conservative party website designed to gather signatures from members of the public.

"Canada's Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital when we form government in 2019," the pledge says, describing the party as "a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community."

It marks Scheer's first definitive statement on the issue since it became a renewed matter of public debate late last year.

That debate was prompted by the U.S. president's decision in December to not just recognize Jerusalem as the capital, but to promise to move the American embassy there as well.

It's a contentious move: while Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, so do the Palestinians and the status of the city is part of ongoing peace negotiations. The U.S. decision was seen as taking sides in the debate and upending years of American diplomacy.

In the aftermath of Trump's announcement, the federal Liberal government said the issue must be resolved through negotiation.

The pledge from Scheer sides squarely with Israel. "Canada's Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located," it says.
INSS: The Munich Security Conference: Main Points and Implications for Israel
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
The Palestinian issue was marginalized, given its low influence on Middle East problems in general. It was barely preserved in the talking points of outdated actors, such as the Arab League, or manipulative ones, such as Lebanon. Prime Minister Netanyahu called for giving peace and a Trump plan a chance, despite Abu Mazen’s refusal, and presented his own outline for a settlement: less than a Palestinian state, with maximal self-rule but with no compromises on Israeli control over security. Netanyahu responded to Palestinian attempts to shift the negotiations setting to a new international forum by insisting on the vital role of the United States in the process.

Technology
In addition to the classical security components, the conference also dealt with information technologies, with emphasis on artificial intelligence, and on the disruptive effects of social media, and cyberattacks on politics, government systems, and international security. Particular note was made of the tremendous impact of disinformation in social media on political atmospheres and internal divides; the concern that trust in the political system, elections, and liberal democracies is being eroded was loudly voiced. AI and robotics applications are profoundly changing the battlefield, with some comparing this to the nuclear weapons revolution. At the same time, senior hi-tech and cyberspace figures noted that an AI-controlled war machine is still far in the future; one individual said that people have been watching too many science fiction movies, and that he wasn’t even willing to fly in a passenger plane piloted by a learning robot.

Implications for Israel
The strategic environment sketched by the conference’s senior participants has two primary implications for Israel. First, the Middle East is a secondary focus of attention for the international community, currently occupied with the urgent crisis in the Korean peninsula and the potential for nuclear war. This is particularly true for the United States, whose attention is now almost entirely on East Asia, greatly limiting its interest in and influence on the theaters closer to Israel, including Syria and Lebanon. Thus the Palestinian issue has, for better or worse, been sidelined. This leaves Israel significant scope for presenting its own initiatives to shape its future and environment, with emphasis on its relations with the Palestinians. The field of common interests with regional and international players, especially those designed to curb Iran and Sunni terrorism, signifies real potential for progress; positive movement vis-à-vis the Palestinians would help remove obstacles to the fulfilment of such progress. On the other hand, the path to a direct collision given the vector of Iranian influence in Syria and Israel’s resolve to stop it is highly evident.

Two, information technologies, AI, and social media are emerging as the “next big thing” in terms of national security. The downside is the need to prepare for the large scale use of these capabilities by enemy states and forces, in their attempt to destabilize the government system in Israel and to damage the state’s national security, inhabitants, and interests. The upside is Israel’s clear advantages in these fields, which represent the potential for the nation to position itself globally in the technological-operational forefront of military applications – both offensive and defensive – as it did in the past with regard to unmanned platforms.
WHAT'S GOING ON? Poll Shows Arabs Support Israel Over Iran
Now this is an altogether amazing development: on February 10, Faisal al-Kasim, a British-Syrian television personality based in Qatar who has five million followers on Twitter, asked them which side they would support if war broke out between Israel on one side and Iran and its militias in Syria on the other.

Here are the astonishing results:


Al-Kasim reportedly said in 2001 that he is Druze; his show, “The Opposite Direction,” which airs on Al-Jazeera, is considered highly controversial, as it has featured guests who are violently opposed to each other’s positions.

The seeming shift in the Arab World toward Israel owes less to any love for Israel than the fear of Iran and its surrogates; as Evelyn Gordon wrote in Commentary, “As one Syrian wrote, ‘no Syrian in his right mind' would support Israel in most situations, 'but you will find millions of Syrians queuing up with the blue devils’ — his charming term for Israel — ‘against the fascist sectarian regime that has surpassed all the monsters on earth in killing Syrians.’”

Gordon added, “Today, the Arab world still has the numbers and the oil, but it’s siding with Israel against Iran. So for any realist who holds that America should align itself with Arab concerns because numbers and oil are crucial considerations, the top priority now shouldn’t be another fruitless Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but reining in Iran’s malignant behavior. To its credit, that is something the Trump Administration is trying to do. …”
EU Sides with Arab League Against Israel and Trump in Jerusalem Dispute
European Union and Arab League countries insist that Jerusalem must be the joint capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state, as the U.S. prepares to move its embassy there in a step angering the Arab world.

Speaking after talks Monday between EU and Arab League foreign ministers, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the “special status and character of the city must be preserved.”

She said the two blocs also “see eye to eye” that there can only be a two-state solution to the conflict, with Israel and the Palestinians living side by side in peace.

The talks come as Washington prepares to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to a scaled-down, temporary facility that will open in Jerusalem in May.
Do We Have to Support the Palestinian Authority?
It has become a platitude repeated ad nauseam by former Israeli security officials — the Palestinian Authority (PA) must not be weakened, because this might imperil Israel.

The reasoning is that even though the PA is bad, at least they cooperate — to a greater or lesser degree — with their Israeli counterparts, whereas Israel does not know what radical monster would take over if the PA falls.

Last week, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill that would deduct the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) salaries to convicted terrorists and their families from the tax revenues that Israel transfers annually to the PA.

As background, Israel transfers millions of dollars each year to the PA in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that travel through Israeli ports. If passed by the Knesset, the proposed legislation would enable Israel to either deduct the funds from the revenues or “freeze” the payments.

“Soon, this theater of the absurd will come to an end, and the salaries of the terrorists that we will withhold from [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas will be used to prevent terrorism and compensate victims,” Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman said about the proposed bill.
Entire US Senate calls for Israel to be added to expedited screening program
All 100 US senators have reportedly signed a letter calling on the administration to allow Israelis to participate in an accelerated screening travel program, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence and of diplomatic relations between the countries.

The Senate letter, sent on February 20 to the Department of Homeland Security, calls for adding Israel to the Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, which enables travelers to the US from select countries to quickly enter the country via self-service kiosks at airports, USA Today reported Tuesday.

To participate, travelers are required to provide biographical and travel information, including fingerprints, and pay a $100 fee every five years.

“We strongly support Israel’s membership in CBP’s Global Entry program and urge the efforts towards this goal be accelerated as much as possible to help ensure the best travel experience to strengthen the bonds between our two great democracies,” senators wrote in their letter.

“Israel’s membership in Global Entry would not only provide its passport holders a smoother visit to the US but would also help to make our country safer by enhancing bilateral law enforcement cooperation,” the senators said.
After Church of Holy Sepulchre shut, Jerusalem suspends church tax collections
The Jerusalem municipality will suspend a controversial move to tax church-owned properties until a new government committee finds a solution to the issue, which has sparked angry protests from the churches, including the shuttering of Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday.

The government will also suspend all pending legislation regarding church land until the committee examines the issue, the statement said.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have agreed to establish a professional team led by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, with the participation of all relevant parties, to formulate a solution for the issue of municipal taxes on properties owned by churches that are not houses of worship,” the statement said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (right) hold a press conference at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem, February 23, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The team will negotiate with the representatives of the churches to resolve the issue,” it said, adding that “as a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks.

“Israel is proud to be the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship,” the statement said. “Israel is home to a flourishing Christian community and welcomes its Christian friends from all over the world.”
Defense minister: Israel foils 20-30 terror attacks per week
The IDF's Central Command has been carrying out massive operations to thwart planned terrorist attacks, particularly in and around Hebron, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Tuesday.

"We are thwarting 20 to 30 terrorist attacks each week, facing ever-increasing terrorist efforts," Lieberman said.

He attributed the successful anti-terror operations to "quality intelligence and a combination of smart deployment of forces and advanced technology," and emphasized that the IDF had prevented "the vast majority of terrorist activity."

Lieberman spoke during a tour of the Jewish quarter of Hebron, where he was accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

The delegation toured defense installations around the Jewish section of Hebron and at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and met with defense officials for a security assessment.
Jordan foils IS plot to attack Israeli businessmen, US embassy
A terror cell affiliated with the Islamic State jihadist group planned to attack Israeli businessmen, the US embassy in Jordan and other Western and Jordanian targets in Amman, the country’s daily Al Rai newspaper revealed on Tuesday.

Jordan’s security forces uncovered the plot last November and arrested 17 members of the terror cell before they were able to carry out the attacks, the report said.

It said the targets chosen by the terrorists also included the French Institute of Jordan, the private Ro’ya TV channel, a nightclub, tunnels belonging to the country’s Phosphate Company, and a church.

The Israeli businessmen who were slated to be attacked had repeatedly visited a local clothing factory, the report added.

The terror cell, it said, was divided into three groups. The first group’s mission was to preview the targets, the second was to provide technical support and carry out minor attacks, and the third would carry out major attacks and suicide bombings.
Family of Itamar massacre victims sues terrorists, PA for NIS 400 million

IsraellyCool: Promising Development in UK Terror Financing Case
Some positive news from the UK, thanks to the hard work of our own Kay Wilson, with a formal complaint being lodged with the British Police, calling upon them to investigate two MPs, who it is alleged, have breached the terrorism act by giving “aid” to her would-be murderers.

SCOTLAND Yard has been asked to investigate whether the Department for International Development (DfID) and two ministers breached terrorism legislation by giving aid money to the Palestinian Authority.

A complaint made directly to the head of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick claims international aid handed to the Palestinian Authority has been used to pay terrorists in prisons, contravening the Terrorism Act 2000.

The allegation made by Ken Miller, on behalf of pro-Israel group Israel Britain Alliance, follows concerns raised by Kay Wilson, a British citizen attacked and left for dead, while her friend American Kristine Luken was murdered in 2010 by Palestinian terrorists.

Ms Wilson alleged that her attackers are now receiving thousands of pounds in payments from the Palestinian Authority while in prison.

She claims this comes from British government aid money.
Israeli Man Who Received Heart Transplant From IDF Soldier Killed in Road Accident: I Got My Life Back
“I got my life back,” Nissim Cohen — who last week received the heart of an IDF soldier killed in a highway accident — told the Hebrew news site Walla in an interview published on Monday.

Cohen was one of six individuals to receive organs from 23-year-old Staff Sergeant Shilo Siman Tov — who was among the three IDF soldiers who died as a result of a Feb. 13 collision on Highway 6 near the Nitzanei Oz interchange.

“I was at synagogue when my wife called to tell me a heart donor had been found for me,” Cohen recalled from his bed at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. “With his death, Shilo saved my life.”

“We had been waiting for this heart for almost three years,” Cohen’s son, Ofir said. “We thank the family of Shilo Siman Tov, and we wish them only happiness, and no more sorrow.”
Tamimi family and IDF spar over truth in teen’s skull injury
The Tamimi family turned to the media on Tuesday to dispute the Israeli army’s claim that their 15-year old son Mohammed had been injured in a bicycle accident and had not been shot in the head by an IDF rubber bullet as they contend.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major-General Yoav (Poli) Mordechai posted in Arabic on his Facebook page on Monday night that the family was “lying and inciting” against Israel.

The Tamimi family is part of a large clan that lives in the Nabi Saleh village in the West Bank.

Mohammed’s cousin Ahed, 17, is standing trial for assault after a video that showed her slapping a soldier during a December riot went viral.

The family claims that Mohammed was shot in the head during that same riot and then underwent surgery in which the rubber bullet and a portion of his skull were removed.

Mohammed was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on his home Monday along with eight other people in the village on suspicion of involvement in public disturbances and nationalistic terrorist activity, according to an IDF spokesperson.
PA plans to renovate the Cave of the Patriarchs
Rami Hamdallah, who heads the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Ramallah, on Monday toured the city of Hevron and announced his intention to carry out development projects in the city at a cost of $17 million.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said the projects would include the renovation of the Cave of the Patriarchs, the paving of roads and the opening of an intensive care unit at the Hevron government hospital.

Hevron Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneineh, a convicted terrorist, asked the PA leader to support the residents of Hevron and to support the struggle against Israel's plan to unilaterally expand the H2 area, as he put it.

The PA claims ownership of the Cave of the Patriarchs. Last year, the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization declared that site and the surrounding Old City of Hevron would be declared Palestinian Authority heritage sites.
Deposed Fatah strongman slams ‘fascist, corrupt’ PA
Mohammad Dahlan, the ousted Gaza leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, on Monday launched a scathing broadside on the Palestinian Authority leadership, saying it has become an “additional burden” on the people.

Palestinians should not blame Israel alone for all their disasters “because this exonerates us from responsibility,” Dahlan said.

He denounced the PA government as “corrupt and fascist” for “punishing” the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and called for the formation of a “national salvation leadership.”

“I can understand the hardships facing the Palestinians,” Dahlan said in an interview with Egyptian television channel Ten. “But I can’t understand the Palestinian leadership becoming an additional burden on the Palestinians.”

The Palestinian leadership’s duty is to provide solutions, and not explanations, he said. “I can’t understand what the moral and national logic is in punishing the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because they did not revolt against Hamas.”


Brazil and Paraguay Are Letting Hizballah Operate Unhindered in Their Territory
Following a series of social-media postings commemorating the recent death of a Hizballah operative in Syria, Emanuele Ottolenghi finds evidence of its activities in South America’s tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. This region, with its weak border control and law enforcement, has a sizable population of south Lebanese origin, among whom are many Hizballah operatives involved in money laundering, drug running, and other activities that finance the terrorist group. Ottolenghi explains why the Hizballah favors the area:

Countries like Brazil and Paraguay . . . do not seem interested in acting on U.S. terror-finance designations. . . . The lack of interest in enforcement is aggravated by the unusually low threshold for acquiring citizenship in both countries. . . . [H]aving multiple passports facilitates the efforts of these operatives to move seamlessly across borders in pursuit of their goals. And their unfettered presence, as citizens, in countries with weak law enforcement, corrupt political elites, and rampant organized crime enhances their ability to conduct business and raise money for their cause. . . .

[T]he Paraguay-Brazil boundary is largely fictional. Of the numerous individuals whose business activities the United States targeted with terror-finance designations in 2004 and 2006, most have residences on both sides of the border, hold both citizenships, bank in both countries, and play each jurisdiction’s weaknesses to their own advantage.

Unlike the United States, neither Brazil nor Paraguay has designated Hizballah as a terrorist organization, although both have antiterrorist legislation in place which would allow them to do so. If Brasília and Asunción chose to designate Hizballah, they could revoke citizenships, seize assets, and preemptively detain the group’s operatives. The United States would not be the only beneficiary of such moves, since Hizballah operatives were arrested in 2014 and 2017 for scouting high-value targets in Latin America. Clearly the region remains vulnerable to attacks, despite a long period of quiet since the 1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which bore Hizballah’s fingerprints. . . . Yet not even Buenos Aires has designated Hizballah a terror entity.
Britain may join U.S. strikes against Syria if chemical weapon use proven
Britain would consider joining US military strikes against the Syrian government if there is evidence chemical weapons are being used against civilians, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.

Johnson said he hoped Britain and other Western nations would not stand by in the event of a chemical attack, voicing support for limited strikes if there is "incontrovertible evidence" of the Syrian's government involvement.

"If we know that it has happened, and we can demonstrate it, and if there is a proposal for action where the UK could be useful then I think we should seriously consider it," Johnson told BBC radio.

Over the past week, Syria's army and its allies have subjected the rebel-held enclave of Ghouta near Damascus to one of the heaviest bombardments of the seven-year war, killing hundreds.

Britain is part of the US-led coalition involved in air attacks on Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, but the government lost a parliamentary vote on the use of force against Syrian government in 2013.
Russian TV Caught Trying To Pass Off Video Game Footage As Combat Footage In Tribute To Its Troops
Russia’s state propaganda arm honored the country’s troops Sunday, but something wasn’t quite right about some of the combat footage.

In a special broadcast for Defender of the Fatherland Day, Channel 1 celebrated Russian soldiers “who value duty and honor above their own lives.” Combat footage from Syria showed Russian airstrikes followed by the explosion of military vehicles seen through a sniper’s scope. It turns out one of the image came from a video game, according to the BBC.

Apparently, the image was from one of the games in the popular Arma series.

“Mistakes happen,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Monday in response to the incident. The person responsible has reportedly been punished, according to The Washington Post.

This is not the first time Russia has “mistaken” video game footage for actual combat footage.


Israeli hospital treats Syrians suffering from emotional trauma
Given the enormous death toll of the ongoing war in Syria, it is easy to overlook—or fail to attribute importance to—the psychological well-being of those who have endured. But the severe trauma faced by so many Syrians has left an entire generation with intangible scars. It is an issue that, somewhat counter-intuitively, Syria's arch-enemy, Israel, is addressing.

The Galilee Medical Center in northern Israel has treated more than 2,300 Syrians over the past five years, almost half of whom were women and children; this, as part of the Israeli army's Operation Good Neighbor, which grants wounded Syrians access to Israeli health facilities. While patients are generally in need of physical care due to injuries sustained in fighting, the center still places an emphasis on their emotional condition.

Hana Solomon, Director of the Social Work Department at the Galilee Medical Center explained to The Media Line that the hospital “absorbs the bulk of injured Syrians, whereas other Israeli medical institutions such as Ziv, Rambam and Poriya accept smaller amounts.”

Solomon stated that while most of the Syrians at the center have “never had the serious problem of classic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there have been those experiencing suicidal tendencies and acute stress reactions. We have had children with depression who were seen by our psychiatrists.”

Solomon explained that “the acute stress reactions are normal responses to trauma, and include anxiety, difficulty sleeping and flashbacks. With counseling, this usually passes within a month. If it doesn’t, it is usually considered PTSD.


MEMRI: Khamenei Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati: 'Our Presence In The Region Is Inevitable; We Will Continue This Process, So As To Become The Most Decisive Force In The Region'
Speaking on February 1, 2018 in Mashhad, at the Conference for Support of the Palestinian Intifada, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, responded to Iranian critics of the regime who, during last month's uprising, protested against Iran's involvement in various battlefronts in the Middle East. Addressing an audience of students, he stated that Iran would maintain its involvement and presence in the region, in order to thwart the plots of Israel and the U.S., among other goals.

The following are his main points, as reported by the Iranian news agencies ISNA and Fars.
According to Fars, Velayati said: "Let me tell you, you don't have to worry about that mess [i.e. last month's popular uprising], some of whose [participants] stupidly became a tool in the hands of the mercenaries and speak against the sacred goals of the revolution. The call 'Neither Gaza nor Lebanon' conceals a misunderstanding of the developments in the world. Can someone sit at home and say that the conflagration at his neighbor's home does not concern him?

"Everyone wants a foothold in our country. That is the essence of the global developments.

"Let's assume we aren't Muslims. [Even so], could we conceivably [watch] the Israeli flag being raised near our border, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, and remain silent?

"The Lebanese Hizbullah has grown stronger thanks to Iran, and we are proud of this. Hizbullah is now in a situation similar to [its situation in] the 2006 Lebanon war: The Israeli leaders are fleeing from it.

"In the Gaza war [presumably the 2014 war with Israel], the leaders of the resistance in Palestine said, 'Iran supplied us with everything, from bread to bullets.' After the war, [Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader] Ramadan [Shalah] declared this at a press conference. We are proud to sit here and help the Muslims against the Zionists.[1] For 22 days, Gaza, only 300 [square] kilometers in size, was under attack from all directions, yet managed to resist. This attests to the will of the Palestinian people, and to the support we extended. We are proud to have paralyzed Israel...
US Threatens Action Against Iran After Russia UN Veto
The United States threatened unilateral action against Iran on Monday after Russia vetoed a Western bid for the United Nations Security Council to call out Tehran for failing to prevent its weapons from falling into the hands of Yemen's Houthi group.

"If Russia is going to continue to cover for Iran then the U.S. and our partners need to take action on our own. If we're not going to get action on the council then we have to take our own actions," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told reporters.

Haley did not specify what kind of action could be taken.

The Russian veto was a defeat for the United States, which has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program if "disastrous flaws" are not fixed.

"Obviously this vote isn't going to make the decision on the nuclear deal. What I can say is it doesn't help," Haley said. "That just validated a lot of what we already thought which is Iran gets a pass for its dangerous and illegal behavior."

U.S. President Donald Trump warned European allies last month that they had to commit by mid-May to work with Washington to improve the pact. Britain drafted the failed U.N. resolution in consultation with the United States and France.
French FM Calls Iran’s Ballistic Missile Ambitions Very Worrying
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that Iran’s ballistic missile ambitions were very worrying and ran counter to a UN resolution.

Le Drian, speaking at a news conference after talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said it was necessary to avoid the Iranian ballistic program becoming a factor that threatened its neighbors.
Iranian Officials Push Back Against McMaster for Warning Against Doing Business with IRGC
Two top Iranian officials pushed back against comments recently made by American National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster urging the world to stop funding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which he said played “a central role” in Iran’s becoming the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, accusing the United States of violating the 2015 nuclear deal reached with Iran, the Washington Free Beacon reported last week.

“Every statement that has been made by President Trump that he wants to undermine this deal is a violation of the same paradigm,” Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said in a response to McMaster’s speech at the Munich Security Conference. “The U.S. is in violation of the deal, that doesn’t mean the deal is broken.”

“So we believe the U.S. is already in violation,” Zarif said, adding that he demanded that Trump “respect” the obligations agreed to by the Obama administration.

Similarly, last week, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, in an apparent reaction to McMaster’s speech also accused the U.S. of violating the nuclear accord and threatened that Iran would walk away from the deal.

“If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us,” Araqchi told an audience in London, adding, “that’s a fact.”
Erdogan to Five-Year-Old in Uniform: ‘If She’s Martyred, They’ll Lay a Flag on Her, Allah Willing’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was holding a televised rally for his AKP party on Saturday to build support for his military incursion into Syria when he noticed a girl of about five years old wearing a military uniform in the audience.

He called the little girl on stage, admonished her for bursting into tears, and assured her she will be honored with a flag-draped casket if she is “martyred” in service to the Turkish government.

“Look what you see here! Girl, what are you doing here? We have our maroon berets here, but maroon berets never cry,” Erodgan said when the little girl was overwhelmed by the attention from a raucous crowd of flag-waving spectators — not to mention Erdogan hugging and smooching her — and started to cry.

The Maroon Berets are Turkey’s special operations military unit, which has reportedly been deployed into Syria for the Afrin campaign. In less complicated times, they were noted for helping train Kurdish militia forces to fight against the Islamic State. The little girl was wearing such a beret to the rally, which caught Erdogan’s attention and prompted him to salute her as a member of the unit.

“Mashallah, she has a Turkish flag in her pocket, too,” Erdogan told the crowd. “If she is martyred, they will lay a flag on her, inshallah. She is ready for everything, isn’t she?” Mashallah means “as Allah willed,” while inshallah means “if Allah wills it.”

Gulf State Arabs Unimpressed by Israeli “Corruption” (satire)
A survey conducted by The Mideast Beast of Arabs living in the Gulf states has revealed that they are not impressed by what passes for corruption in Israel. This follows ongoing (and ongoing, and ongoing) investigations into allegations of corruption on the part of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While the charges are deemed scandalous in Israel, neighboring countries and their citizens simply aren’t impressed.

When asked about the corruption charges, alleging gifts amounting to hundreds of thousand dollars, one Saudi citizen said, in between fits of laughter, “If we prosecuted every government official who took a few hundred thousand dollars’ bribe, there’d be no one left,” while wiping away tears. “But seriously,” he continued, still chuckling “you Jews are funny; I loved Seinfeld”.

When asked about Netanyahu allegedly receiving cigars and other material bribes, one anonymous Qatari prince responded: “Oh he got a bunch of cigars? That’s cute,” before getting into a gold-plated Lamborghini with a white tiger in the passenger seat wearing the diamond from Titanic as a collar.



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