Wednesday, February 06, 2019

From Ian:

Marco Rubio (NYTs): The Truth About B.D.S. and the Lies About My Bill
A bipartisan supermajority in the Senate passed the Combating BDS Act on Tuesday. Yet a few of my colleagues recently echoed false claims made by anti-Israel activists and others that the bill violates Americans' First Amendment rights.

That line of argument is not only wrong but also provides cover for supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, who embrace an international campaign of discriminatory economic warfare against Israel, a fellow democracy and America's strongest ally in the Middle East.

In a high-profile case in 2014, the BDS movement drove the Israeli company SodaStream from the West Bank. Five hundred Palestinian employees were left jobless by the move.

The Combating BDS Act does not prohibit Americans' right to engage in boycotts. It focuses on business entities - not individuals - and, consistent with the Supreme Court, it focuses on conduct, not speech. It does not restrict citizens or associations of citizens from engaging in political speech, including against Israel.

Rather, the bill merely clarifies that entities - such as corporations or companies - have no fundamental right to government contracts and government investment.

"Anti-discrimination restrictions on government contractors are commonplace and a normal requirement for government funding," Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at George Mason University, notes.
Senate Passes Anti-BDS Measure by 77-23
The U.S. Senate approved in a 77-23 vote a bill that codifies $38 billion in defense assistance to Israel and which provides legal cover to states that target the boycott Israel movement.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., had stirred controversy because a number of Democratic senators said that while they oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, they were also concerned that state laws aimed at BDS impinged on speech freedoms.

Among the Democratic dissenters were declared presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. Non-declared but likely presidential contenders who voted included Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio who voted against; and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota who voted for. The sole Republican voting against was Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Rubio, writing Wednesday in The New York Times, defended the bill against charges that it would violate free speech. Democrats supporting the anti-BDS component included Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives where the Democratic majority will break it up into its components, and its leadership is likely to bury the anti-BDS section while advancing the other components.

In addition to the money for Israel and the proposed anti-BDS laws, the bill intensifies sanctions on Syria’s Assad government and reinforces ties with Jordan.
David Singer: Hamas and PFLP Embroil USA and EU in Plans to Destroy Israel
A look at just one organisation – Al-Haq – headquartered in Ramallah and operating in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the Netherlands, France, and Northern Europe – indicates the modus operandi that similarly exist in the others.

Al-Haq (established in 1979):
  • Has Governmental Sponsors: European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland
  • Received Grants from Governmental Sources, 2014-2018: Over $3 million
  • Published with a group of French NGOs a report in March 2017 entitled “The Dangerous Liaisons of French Banks with the Israeli Colonization”.
  • Leads the legal effort to delegitimize Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague
Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq since 2006, served as a senior PFLP official in the past and at least until recently maintained close ties with PFLP operatives in Judea and Samaria. Jabarin was tried and convicted for his military activity in the PFLP and has served multiple prison sentences.
Jabarin was described in a 2007 Israeli Supreme Court case by the presiding judge as:
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some of his time is spent in conducting a human rights organization, and some as an operative in an organization which has no qualms regarding murder and attempted murder, which have no relation whatsoever to rights. Quite the opposite, they reject the most basic right of all, without which there are no other rights, that is, the right to life.”

Three other PFLP members arrested by Israel are also identified as working or having worked for Al-Haq: Ziyad Hmeidan, Zahi Jaradat and Majed Abbadi.

European and American funding of these organisations should be banned, their offices in the USA and EU closed – and those identified as Hamas and PFLP members deported.

Terrorists in suits denigrating and delegitimising Israel in slick racist and ongoing deceptive public relations campaigns of lies and half-truths – can be just as dangerous as terrorists armed to the teeth.

The EU and America must stop being played for suckers by these Jew-hating organisations.



Politicizing human rights in Hebron
The prime minister's decision to cancel the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron was criticized by the foreign ministers of the countries that comprise the force, chief among them Norway. Ironically, these same countries – Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey – are the most blatant violators of the Oslo Accords, and as has been documented for years, their representatives in Hebron were the first to violate their mandate by targeting the city's Jewish residents and IDF soldiers.

In 1994, at the behest of Yasser Arafat and in coordination with him, the TIPH mandate was created and implemented. With the years, TIPH's stated mission of protecting human rights was exposed as a cover for its political role. Norway, TIPH's chief coordinator and the first country to send observers, is a prime example. In conjunction with Great Britain and the European Union, Norway funds a mechanism for the submission of thousands of anti-Israel petitions, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, to flood the court system and apply international pressure on Israel. It does this through the Norway Refugee Council, an NGO with an Israeli humanitarian visa that allows it to recruit and train TIPH observers. These observers, who serve in a supposedly neutral body, are recruited by a patently anti-Israel organization.

Norwegian involvement doesn't end there. TIPH's main partners in Hebron are activists from another NGO, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, who enter Israel under the guise of tourists, document IDF soldiers in action and return to their home countries to spearhead anti-Israel campaigns. The primary church group that coordinates EAPPI's activities in Israel and across the globe is none other than Norwegian Church Aid, which is also operated and funded by the Norwegian government. In general, a litany of reports has shown that church-affiliated activists and organizations that are involved in anti-Israel activity are also involved in the TIPH mission and the EAPPI.
Senior White House Official: No Need for Equivalency between Israelis and Palestinians
A senior White House official this week dismissed the concept that the U.S. must be an "honest broker" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "a vestige of talking points from decades ago." "We don't believe that in order for us to work on a peace effort we need to have an equivalency, where we can only say certain things about Israel if at the same time we also say something about the Palestinians. Not only does that not work, we don't think it's right. We say what's on our mind, we speak the truth. The truth may be uncomfortable for some people. But we cannot solve the conflict without being open and honest."

The official reiterated that meetings with "ordinary Palestinians" were taking place on a regular basis. "They express deep frustration with their leadership. They believe that their leadership has eroded their standing in the world....They want to engage with us and they want to see what is in the plan. They want a better future, and they know the key to that involves the U.S."

"We believe we can put forth a credible, realistic and fair plan that could bring this conflict to an end; to dramatically improve Palestinian lives, maintain Israel's security and allow Israel to integrate into the region in a way that even two years ago no one would have imagined it could."
Right Slams Gantz for Supporting Eviction of Jewish Towns; Gantz Pushes Back
Israel Resilience Party leader and prime-ministerial hopeful Benny Gantz raised the ire of Israeli right-wingers on Wednesday after his first interview indicated his favorable opinion of the 2005 Gaza Disengagement/Expulsion, in which 8,500 Jews were forcibly removed from Gaza in a unilateral bid to grant Palestinians land for a state.

“The disengagement was born of Israel’s diplomatic policy. The parties involved got very high grades for managing to prevent a rift in the nation as they carried it out,” said Gantz, despite the ongoing resentment on the part of right-wingers, and a long and costly rehabilitation of the Jews who were evacuated.

When the interviewer asked, “So you’re not saddened that we uprooted settlements from there?” Gantz responded that “it was a legal action; it was approved by the government of Israel and carried out by the IDF and the settlers, with great pain but done very well.”

Former residents of the Gaza Jewish community known as Gush Katif suffered severe unemployment and significantly increased rates of divorce and stress-related health problems in the years following their experience.

In an abridged version of the interview published by Ynet and conducted by famed Israeli singer-songwriter Shlomot Artzi and comedian Hanoch Daum, Gantz added that “we have to take its lessons and implement them in other places,” suggesting that he would implement additional forcible evictions of Jews under his leadership.
Abbas’ Spokesman ‘Encouraged’ by Gantz’s Call to Evacuate Settlements
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, on Wednesday welcomed remarks by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz about his “openness to a future removal of settlements from the occupied West Bank,” Reuters reported.

In an exclusive interview to Yedioth Aharonoth on Wednesday, Gantz referred to the expulsion of some 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, saying, “It was a legal move that was adopted by the Israeli government and carried out by the IDF and the settlers in a painful but good way. We have to take those lessons and implement them in other places.” (Read also: He Talks! Gantz Urges Applying Gush Katif Expulsion Lessons ‘Elsewhere’)
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Gantz referred directly to the settlements in Judea and Samaria when he said, “We—and Bibi said this in his Bar-Han speech—are not looking for rule over anyone else. We need to find the way not to control other people.”

“It’s encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion,” Abu Rudeineh told Reuters.


UNHRC set to blast Israel 7 times, but mum on China’s Muslim imprisonment
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is set to blast Israel in seven separate reports, including one on Gaza border violence, but has not yet published any plans to release a report on the one million Muslims that China is holding in mass internment camps.

Seventeen NGOs called on the UNHRC this week to send a fact-finding mission to the Xinjiang region of China to investigate the situation.

“The Chinese authorities have detained Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims – outside of any legal process – in ‘political education’ camps for their perceived disloyalty to the government and Chinese Communist Party,” the non-governmental groups said.

“In those camps, they are subjected to forced political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment and, in some cases, torture,” the NGOs stated.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were among the 17 NGOs that spoke out in advance of the UNHRC’s 40th session, which is set to take place in Geneva from February 25 to March 22.

The UNHRC has already published a list of at least 79 reports that will be dealt with at the meeting, including those on human rights situations in other countries such as Malaysia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. There are also two reports each on Iran and Syria.

No other country has as many reports against it as does Israel.
Trump: "We Must Never Ignore the Vile Poison of Anti-Semitism"
To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country.

We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people. We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.

Just months ago, 11 Jewish-Americans were viciously murdered in an anti-semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. SWAT Officer Timothy Matson raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times chasing down the killer. Timothy has just had his 12th surgery — but he made the trip to be here with us tonight. Officer Matson: we are forever grateful for your courage in the face of evil.

Tonight, we are also joined by Pittsburgh survivor Judah Samet. He arrived at the synagogue as the massacre began. But not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall — more than seven decades ago, he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps. Today is Judah’s 81st birthday. Judah says he can still remember the exact moment, nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train, and told they were going to another camp. Suddenly the train screeched to a halt. A soldier appeared. Judah’s family braced for the worst. Then, his father cried out with joy: “It’s the Americans.”

A second Holocaust survivor who is here tonight, Joshua Kaufman, was a prisoner at Dachau Concentration Camp. He remembers watching through a hole in the wall of a cattle car as American soldiers rolled in with tanks. “To me,” Joshua recalls, “the American soldiers were proof that God exists, and they came down from the sky.”

I began this evening by honoring three soldiers who fought on D-Day in the Second World War. One of them was Herman Zeitchik. But there is more to Herman’s story. A year after he stormed the beaches of Normandy, Herman was one of those American soldiers who helped liberate Dachau. He was one of the Americans who helped rescue Joshua from that hell on earth. Almost 75 years later, Herman and Joshua are both together in the gallery tonight — seated side-by-side, here in the home of American freedom. Herman and Joshua: your presence this evening honors and uplifts our entire Nation.
Members of Congress Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Survivor of Synagogue Attack, Holocaust
President Donald Trump on Tuesday recognized a survivor of the Holocaust and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which was followed by members of Congress singing him "happy birthday."

Trump delivered the State of the Union address in the House Chamber, where he discussed several issues, including immigration and national security. He also recognized several guests during the address, including Judah Samet.

"He arrived at the synagogue as the massacre began, but not only did Judah escape death last fall, more than seven decades ago he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps. Today is Judah's 81st birthday," said Trump, which prompted members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to give him a standing ovation and clap for him. Several members of Congress then started singing "Happy birthday," to him, which resulted in Samet yelling, "thank you!" afterwards.

"They wouldn't do that for me, Judah," Trump joked shortly after they finished their singing.

Samet was four minutes late for worship one Saturday back in October, resulting in him narrowly missing one of the worst massacres of American Jews, according to the Washington Post. He told the Tribune-Review that he was "very honored" to be invited by Trump to the State of the Union.

"[Trump] invited me, I was told, because I represented two of the biggest tragedies for the Jewish people in the last hundred years," Samet said.


Ambassador urges Germany to change anti-Israel stance at U.N.
In an unusually strong public criticism of its anti-Israel voting at the United Nations, Israel’s ambassador to Germany on Tuesday called on the federal republic “to change its voting behavior.”

The Jerusalem Post asked Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff on Tuesday via Twitter about his views quoted in a Bild newspaper report that said, “Germany, of all places, regularly sides with the enemies of Israel. In November, Germany voted 16 times in 21 resolutions against Israel. It abstained in four resolutions.”

Issacharoff responded by writing on his Twitter feed, “[I] fully agree with Antje Schippmann’s article in Bild that it’s ‘urgently necessary’ to change German voting behavior in the UNGA on Israel and that Germany should adopt an ‘active leadership role in refocusing the common voting behavior of European partners.”’

The normally tight-lipped ambassador has previously told the Post that he holds private discussions with the German government regarding their support for evading US sanctions against Iran and other anti-Israel actions. However, he has declined to comment on those discussions and has issued no public criticism of Germany’s largely pro-Iran regime trade policy.

Schippmann’s article in Monday’s edition of Bild was titled “Germany in the UN: FDP wants to stop anti-Israel insanity. We can no longer be followers.”

Bild, the country’s largest circulating paper, reported that at a Free Democratic Party (FDP) session in the Bundestag, the party passed a resolution calling for a change in Germany’s voting behavior at the UN. The foreign policy spokesman of the party, Bijan Djir-Sarai and a fellow MP, Frank Müller-Rosentritt, introduced the pro-Israel resolution.

According to the resolution first obtained by the paper, the federal government “should clearly distance itself from one-sided, politically motivated initiatives and alliances.” The resolution said the German government should work to counteract the “political forces in the near and Middle East” which “openly threaten” the Jewish state.
Iran pushes back after Trump accuses it of anti-Semitism
Iran’s foreign minister pushed back Wednesday after US President Donald Trump said his country does “bad, bad things” and appeared to link it to the deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last year by an American anti-Semite.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that “Iranians — including our Jewish compatriots — are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us.”

In his State of the Union address, Trump contextualized his Iran policy by castigating the regime for its anti-Semitism.

Iran, he said, “chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people. We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed.”

The need to take a strong stance against Tehran, the president implied, was evident in the attack at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, in which 11 were killed — believed to be deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in American history.

“Just months ago, 11 Jewish Americans were viciously murdered in an anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” Trump said, as he introduced SWAT officer Timothy Matson, who responded to the scene, and Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor who also survived the attack.


IDF, court, liable for ‘war crimes' in Palestinian home razing - B’Tselem
The Civil Administration and High Court of Justice could be liable for war crimes for their policies that led to the dispossession of Palestinians from their properties in Area C of the West Bank, the left-wing group B’Tselem charged in a report issued on Wednesday.

The court’s support of Israeli planning policy is tantamount to support for “forcible transfer,” a war crime under international law, the report stated.

“Therefore, the justices of the Supreme Court – along with the prime minister, senior ministers, the chief of staff and other senior military officers – bear personal liability for the commission of such crimes,” B’Tselem said.

The report comes at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to raze the illegal West Bank Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar.

Netanyahu has pledged to take down the encampment, but has taken no steps to do so since receiving a warning from the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that such a step could be considered a war crime.

The B’Tselem report looked at a series of steps Israel has taken on both the planning and the judicial levels with regard to Palestinian property rights – steps that allegedly were designed to expropriate Palestinian property. This included reclassifying territory in the West Bank as state land. B’Tselem said this was done in many cases without due process and without allowing the Palestinians involved to file legal objections.
Beekeepers losing hundreds of hives to 'agricultural terror'
Vandalism and theft continue to plague Israeli farmers: Two weeks ago, beekeeper Yinon Arkin discovered that 20 of his hives had been destroyed three months before the honey was collected. The damage is estimated at tens of thousands of shekels.

Arkin, 34, who lives in the settlement Avigayil in the South Hebron Hills, owns hundreds of hives set up at various locations throughout southern Israel. While this latest attack was not the first time his beehives have been vandalized, it was the first time damage the damage has been so severe.

When Arkin arrived at the hives he maintains at Beit Guvrin, he was shocked to find the honeycomb hacked up, the hives scattered, and hundreds of thousands of dead bees.

Arkin's wife, Achinoam, says that a month ago, the couple had five beehives stolen from another location.

"And two years ago, 10 hives were stolen. Two years ago, 70 hives were stolen from a friend of Yinon's in exactly the same area," she says.

What made the latest theft different, Achinoam explains, was the violence with which the hives were broken. "They hacked up all the honeycomb and threw the frames away across a large area. Just collecting it all took time. There are millions of dead bees left behind."

The hives were located not far from Israel's security barrier and a crossing that leads to the Palestinian village Tarqumiyah. Arkin thinks that the hives were stolen by Palestinians.
Islamic Jihad, the New Lord of Gaza?
Over the past few months, Israeli security forces have noted the growing influence of Islamic Jihad on Hamas. Seeking to avoid problems with Iran, the Hamas leadership feels it has little choice but to follow Islamic Jihad's dictates when dealing with Israel and Egypt. This was exacerbated following the appointment of Ziyad al-Nakhalah as secretary-general of Islamic Jihad in September 2018. Nakhalah replaces Abdullah Ramadan Shalah, who has been in a coma ever since he suffered a stroke in April 2018. Nakhalah was his deputy.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas fully cooperated operationally during armed conflicts with Israel. Yet Islamic Jihad competes with Hamas over Palestinian public opinion, particularly on who was more loyal to the idea of a genuine armed jihad against Israel. In the last few months, Islamic Jihad has transformed from an organization that takes its cues from Hamas to an activist group that initiates its own activities. On Jan. 22, an Islamic Jihad sniper in Gaza shot an IDF officer in the head during a riot along the border fence.
Hamas Raises Bitcoin Funds Through US Crypto Exchange
The US-designated terrorist group Hamas has raised bitcoin donations through the largest US crypto exchange, according to an Israeli blockchain intelligence startup Whitestream.

The Israeli financial news site Globes reported on Sunday that Hamas, which controls Gaza, has begun funneling funds through Coinbase.

For the first time, a bitcoin address was publicized for Hamas on Thursday through the cloud-based instant-messaging service Telegram. It was discovered by entrepreneurs Itsik Levy and Uri Bornstein, who “succeeded in decoding the bitcoin transfers on the Hamas address and detecting the Palestinian organization’s actions through the digital wallet of US company Coinbase. Whitestream’s findings were forwarded to the security agencies,” reported Globes.

On Saturday, the same Telegram channel publicized a second bitcoin address that allowed Hamas to accept donations, though it was through a digital wallet apparently not linked to Coinbase. In addition to Coinbase, the second address has so far received funds from the American trading platform Bittrex.

The two bitcoin donation addresses totaled $2,500, according to Levy.


PreOccupiedTerritory: Melee In Palestinian Starbucks As Every Patron Claims To Be Real Slim Shady (satire)
Police broke up a riot today at a coffee shop in the de facto Palestinian capital that according to initial reports began when all 15 customers identified themselves as the person whose name the barista had just announced.

Eyewitness accounts indicate that at about nine this morning a worker at the city’s only Starbucks Coffee spoke the name “Slim Shady” into the microphone to summon the person who placed the order. An argument then ensued between two men identifying themselves by that name, whereupon the other dozen or so patrons on the premises joined the cacophony, each one claiming to be the owner of the venti soy macchiato. The barista urged the real Slim Shady to stand up, but the admonishment failed to clarify who ordered the coffee. Police arrived ten minutes later and arrested four men; six customers and the barista sought treatment at a local hospital for light injuries.

“I heard a commotion and got close, but not too close, you know what I mean?” recalled a bystander who gave her name as Minnem. “I could make out some shouting, mostly things like, ‘I’m the real Slim Shady, my ancestors were Slim Shady since the Philistines’ and ‘Impostor! Mine were the real Slim Shady when the Canaanites were here!’ People were pushing and shoving and it was only a matter of time before the stones, knives, and explosives started to feature, so I kept away.”

“It’s kind of what we do,” observed another who gave his name only as Masri, which means “from Egypt.” “We establish our claim to the land or anything else by making the most robust contention we can. Me, for instance, my ancestors evolved here directly from bacteria. Not like one of the people I know who was in the scuffle, whose name is Baghdadi, which I need not tell you is not around here. By the way, I’m actually the real Slim Shady, and whoever ordered coffee using my name is going to hear from me.”
Lebanon’s New Government Shows Hizballah’s Dominance
Last week—nine months since the last Lebanese parliamentary elections—Prime Minister Saad Hariri formed a governing coalition. In accordance with Lebanese custom, cabinet seats are distributed among the country’s various religious groups, but the Iran-backed Shiite group Hizballah saw to it that even most non-Shiite ministers were its allies. Tony Badran explains:

Following its victory in the May 2018 parliamentary election, Hizballah . . . laid out its non-negotiable demands and immediately received Hariri’s acquiescence. Namely, Hizballah wanted to control the lucrative ministry of public health. . . . Then Hizballah proceeded to manage the shares of the other sects and parties. The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, gained seats in the election but Hizballah marginalized it in the government-formation process. . . . Hizballah thus made sure that the defense ministry went to one of its [Christian] allies, Elias Bou Saab. . . .

The government-formation process demonstrated clearly that Hizballah runs the entire political order, underscoring the reality that Lebanon and Hizballah are, in effect, synonymous.

U.S. policy should reflect this reality. It should abandon the fiction that by “strengthening state institutions” it somehow weakens Hizballah. Instead, the Trump administration should freeze all assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Moreover, U.S. law requires imposing sanctions on agencies and instrumentalities of foreign states that move money to Hizballah. Lebanon’s ministry of public health now fits this category. The U.S. should thus block international funds to the ministry. While the Lebanese will surely protest that the new minister is not technically a card-carrying member of Hizballah, there is no doubt as to whom he represents. There is similarly little doubt that Hizballah will staff the ministry. Washington must act accordingly.
Images show S-300 air defense batteries in Syria likely turning operational
An Israeli satellite imaging company on Tuesday said it had for the first time detected that a suspected Syrian S-300 air defense system appeared on track to become operational, signaling a possible threat to Israel’s air campaign against Iran in the country.

However, the ImageSat International firm added that there remained significant questions about the anti-aircraft battery’s condition.

Following the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli airstrike in September, Moscow announced it was providing the Syrian military with the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft system. Russia publicly blamed Israel for the loss of the reconnaissance aircraft and its 15 crew members.

The charge was rejected by Jerusalem, which also rebuffed a Russian claim that Israeli fighter jets hid behind the Russian reconnaissance aircraft following their attack.

Russia has said the S-300 platform it was giving Syria following September’s incident would “cool off hot heads” in the region.

Since the system was delivered in October, Russia has been training Syrian forces to operate the powerful air defense platform, reportedly at a base near Masyaf in northwestern Syria.

Articles - Intercepted chats tie Iranian diplomat to alleged Paris terror plot, official says
"European security officials have intercepted communications that suggest an Iranian diplomat was not only involved in an alleged plot last year to bomb a meeting of Tehran opponents outside Paris, but coordinated efforts with colleagues back in Iran, a well-placed western official told The Independent.

The communications between Iranian diplomat Asadollah Asadi and counterparts in Iran were described as text messages, or chats, that have been collected by European intelligence services...

The French case is among several alleged plots carried out by Iranians on European soil that have strained relations between Tehran and European nations, and potentially jeopardised a commitment to uphold the nuclear deal penned in 2015 but abandoned last year by the administration of Donald Trump...

Mr Asadi, who served as diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna, is currently in detention in Belgium, facing terrorism charges. He allegedly handed powerful plastic explosives to a Belgian-Iranian couple to use against a 30 June gathering of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq organisation, or MEK, a bizarre but influential Iranian political cult dedicated to overthrowing the government in Tehran..."
Iran Criticizes Greece, Italy for Not Buying Its Oil Despite US Waivers
Iran’s oil minister on Tuesday criticized Greece and Italy for not buying its oil despite US waivers and said they had not offered Tehran any explanation for their decision.

The United States granted the two countries exemptions along with six others — Turkey, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan — allowing them to temporarily continue buying Iranian oil as Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sectors.

“No European country is buying oil from Iran except Turkey,” Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

“Greece and Italy have been granted exemptions by America, but they don’t buy Iranian oil and they don’t answer our questions,” he said.

Zanganeh said the US sanctions on Iran were more difficult than the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, but said Tehran will not allow the United States to reduce its oil exports to zero.


Turkey condemns Macron plan for national day marking ‘Armenian genocide’
Turkey on Wednesday hit out at President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement that France would make April 24 a “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide.”

“We condemn and reject attempts by Macron, who is afflicted by political problems in his own country, to try and save the day by turning historical events into a political matter,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement after the French leader’s announcement on Tuesday.

Macron said Tuesday: “France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face,” during a speech to the Armenian community at a dinner in Paris.

Turkey and Armenia have long been at odds over the treatment of Armenians during World War I.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during the war.

But Turkey – the Ottoman Empire’s successor state – denies that the massacres, imprisonment and forced deportation of Armenians from 1915 amounted to a genocide.



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