Sunday, August 25, 2019

From Ian:

US State Department removes all mention of Palestinian Authority
The US State Department website has deleted the Palestinian Authority from the list of countries and areas on its website.

Until recently, 'Palestinians' appeared on the site under the name 'Palestinian Authority' and before that the 'Palestinian Territories'.

Over the past year there has been a significant devaluation of the Palestinian status on the US side, with the State Department ordering to remove any reference that included the word 'occupied territories' in reference to the Palestinian Arabs.

Now the very existence of a Palestinian Authority is not present on the official website representing the US State Department.
How Trump Started a Civil War Between the UN and Hamas
Even within the United Nations, a sprawling multinational bureaucracy linked by luxury dining, corruption and complicity in terrorism, the UNRWA stands out for waste, corruption and terror.

The UNRWA’s abbreviation leaves out its full title, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and its heavy focus on Gaza. The UNRWA classifies 1.4 million or 73% of the people living in Gaza as “refugees” even though it’s an independent territory run by Hamas.

There are really two UNRWA agencies. One is a UN agency run by a small number of international staffers. Another is an arm of Hamas which employs thousands of “Palestinians”. Many if not most of these are members of Hamas. Some, like Suhail al-Hindi, the former head of the UNRWA union, who was also a member of Hamas’ leadership, serve in the upper echelons of the terror group.

While a handful of European UN employees act as the public face of UNRWA, the actual agency is run by Hamas operatives who control its schools, using them to recruit and to store weapons. The union representing UNRWA employees is controlled by Hamas and its employees implement Hamas policies.

Hamas had announced as much when its newspaper responded to a call to fire UNRWA Hamas members by writing, “Laying off the agency employees because of their political affiliation means laying off all the employees of the aid agency, because…they are all members of the ‘resistance.’”

The power struggle between the UN employees and Hamas was tested before during clashes over the teaching of the Holocaust in UNRWA schools and the use of UNRWA schools to launch attacks on Israel.

The real crackup came when the Trump administration cut off all funding to UNRWA.

On a Rosh Hashana call, President Trump told Jewish leaders that the free ride for terrorists was over.

“I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians,” he announced. “The United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money.”

New Zealand suspends funding to UNRWA.
New Zealand has now joined the Swiss, Dutch, and Belgium governments in suspending donations to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) following an internal report that found “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses including “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

Originally, Foreign Minister Peters and officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said

“We are aware of recent media reports of allegations of ethical issues and mismanagement within UNRWA. We expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with any investigation and to report back on the investigation’s findings and recommendations.”Rt Hon Winston Peters

However, after seeing a draft report from The Israel Institute of New Zealand (IINZ) that shows MFAT officials did not brief Ministers on substantial failings within UNRWA, did not record meetings where concerns about UNRWA were raised, and took the word of UNRWA officials without any apparent attempts at independent corroboration, MFAT responded that

“the Ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report once the investigation is complete and provide advice to the New Zealand Government. New Zealand will not make any further payments to UNRWA until we have reviewed the report’s findings and assessed UNRWA’s response to any recommendations.”MFAT staff

This is the first time New Zealand has suspended donations to the UN agency.



BREAKING: At least 6 said killed in drone strike in Iraq on pro-Iran militia
At least six members of a pro-Iranian Iraqi militia, including a field commander, were killed in an airstrike by an unidentified drone along the Iraq-Syria border on Sunday, amid escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, according to Arabic media reports.

The Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site reported that the strike occurred in the al-Qaim region of Iraq, an area that is home to a number of pro-Iranian militia groups.

According to the outlet, the six were members of the 45th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of militias that fight alongside the Iraqi military. The 45th Brigade is specifically affiliated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi organization loosely connected to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

“An unidentified drone targets two cars belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces’ 45th Brigade in al-Qaim in the border region between Syria and Iraq,” according to Al-Mayadeen.

Al-Jazeera reported that six people were killed in the drone strike.
Israel Says Air Strike in Syria Sent ‘No Immunity’ Message to Iran
Israel said on Sunday an air strike against an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Syria that it accused of planning “killer drone attacks” showed Tehran that its forces were vulnerable anywhere.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander denied that Iranian targets had been hit late on Saturday and said its military “advisory centers have not been harmed,” the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck “Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days.”

The elite Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), which the US has designated a terrorist organization. Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters the forces on Thursday had been preparing to launch “killer drones” armed with explosives at northern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military had thwarted the planned Iranian attack.

“Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression,” he said on Twitter. “If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.”
Netanyahu in North confirms: Israel prevented Iranian attack on the Golan
Less than 24 hours after attacking Iranian forces in Syria, and less than a month before the elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured the north on Sunday and – in a rare confirmation of a cross-border operation – quoted the Talmudic dictum: “If someone rises to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

“In a complex operation by the security services, we discovered that the Iranian Quds Force sent a special team of Shi’ite militants through Syria to kill Israelis in the Golan Heights, using explosive drones,” Netanyahu said.

"I want to stress this was Iran's initiative, it was under Iran's command, and it was an Iranian mission," he added.

The prime minister's comments came as he toured the North and held security consultations with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and other senior IDF officials.

Israel preempted the Iranian attack, Netanyahu said, adding that Israel will uncover all efforts by Iran to attack it and to hide behind various excuses.

“I want to emphasize that we will not tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the region,” he said. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences, and I stress, the country will beat the consequences.

Israel is believed to have attacked Iranian assets in Syria on dozens of occasions over the last two years, though it rarely takes such public credit for the action.
IDF spokesperson releases video of Iranian forces prepping drone
The IDF spokesperson released on Sunday a video of Iranian forces preparing a drone launch in Syria on Thursday.

The video shows the Iranian forces carrying a drone and preparing it for its planned launch point located in the village of Arneh, Syria.

The would-be terrorists were members of the Quds Force, an Iranian militia.

The Israeli military said on Saturday night that it foiled an Iranian drone attack against northern Israel from Syria.


Netanyahu: States hosting Iranian attacks on Israel will ‘bear the consequences’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned neighboring countries that they would be held accountable for any attacks against the Jewish state emanating from their territory, hours after Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria to foil an Iranian drone attack.

“We won’t tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the area. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences. I stress: The state will bear the consequences,” Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said during a tour of the Golan Heights with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

Hours earlier, the IDF said the attack drones that Iran intended to use against Israel on Saturday night were flown into Syria from Tehran several weeks ago, along with Iranian military officials to act as advisers. The plan was personally overseen by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, the IDF chief of staff said.

The statement by the military came as the death toll in the Israeli raids on Saturday night climbed to five, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
48 Hours in Israel


IDF chief: Iranian commander Soleimani personally oversaw drone attack plan
The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday said the attack drones that Iran intended to use against the Jewish state on Saturday night were flown into Syria from Tehran several weeks ago, along with Iranian military officials to act as advisers.

The plan was personally overseen by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, the IDF chief of staff said.

The statement by the military came as the death toll in the Israeli raids on Saturday night climbed to five, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

According to IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, four members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force were sent to Syria to form a team that would fly explosive-laden kamikaze drones into targets in northern Israel.

“Each one of these attack drones would carry several kilograms of explosives,” he said.

Conricus said the military has been monitoring the Iranian plot for “a number of weeks.”

When the IDF spotted the Iran-led team — made up of the four IRGC advisers and Shiite militiamen — moving to launch the drones on Saturday night, the Israeli Air Force took action and bombed their base.
Israel Mocks Iran Over Failed Drone Attack Launched From Luxury Villa With Pool: ‘That Sounded Good in the Morning Meeting’
At the same time, details began to emerge about the background to the planned Iranian attack.

According to Israeli news website Mako, the failed attack was planned by Iranian operatives together with members of Shia militia groups. They were brought to Syria by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, which coordinates Iran’s terrorist operations abroad.

They arrived at Damascus airport together with the weapons and technology required to carry out the attack and were taken to the village of Aqraba.

According to the IDF, the operatives were then hidden in a private luxury villa that included a storage room, a large garden, and a swimming pool.

IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis said that the villa belongs to the Quds Force and “that’s where the attack and other activities were planned. In addition, there is also a warehouse where the cargo is kept — all this, inside a civilian village in Syria.”

Veteran Israeli analyst Amos Yadlin said in a lengthy twitter thread that the Israeli strike proved “a wide, multi-dimensional (geographic, operational, intelligence, technological) campaign is waged in the Middle East, far beyond last night’s strike in Syria.”

“Impressive IDF Intel and AF capabilities last night. High quality RT intel along with a precise surgical operation prevented a significant attack on Israel,” he added. “I would not want to be in Qassem Suleimani’s shoes this morning.”

“Israel’s decision to take responsibility 1) signal as warning to the enemy to avoid further escalation, 2) increases readiness of our forces for an Iranian response, and 3) serves political purposes by distracting from the deteriorating security situation in Gaza and the [West Bank],” Yadlin stated.


An angry Qasem Soleimani won't give up on his dream to attack Israel
It must have hit Quds Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani in the gut: Another one of his plans to attack Israel blown to pieces by the Israel Air Force.

Soleimani had been personally involved in this latest attempt to strike Israel with armed drones, likely motivated by the alleged Israeli jets targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and their Shiite militias in broad daylight in Iraq.

Tehran even hinted that a response was forthcoming, with a commentator close to the IRGC writing in Iran’s Kayhan daily newspaper that IAF operations would lead to “surprises” including the launching of drones towards sensitive targets in Israel.

Sounds familiar, no?

Last year an armed Iranian drone infiltrated into Israeli skies armed with explosives that had been launched to carry out a sabotage attack in the Jewish State. The advanced Iranian drone believed to be a copy of a US stealth drone that was downed in Iran in 2011, took off from the T-4 airbase deep in the Syrian province of Homs and crossed into Israeli territory via Jordanian airspace.

The drone was intercepted near the Israeli town of Beit She’an by an Apache attack helicopter.

Perhaps Soleimani learned his lesson from that failed attack and chose to strike Israel with Qasif type drones used by the Houthis in Yemen against Saudi Arabia.

But Israel’s intelligence community closely monitors events in Syria, especially movement and plans by Iran allowing for successful strikes, easily disrupting any plans by Soleimani.
Seth J. Frantzman: Drones, Shiite militias at heart of Iranian threat to Israel
More recently, in June, an airstrike hit Tel al-Hara, a hill that overlooks the Israeli Golan from the Syrian side. Syrian state media accused Israel of another airstrike near the Golan in late July. Syria also accused Israel of other strikes near Damascus on July 1, May 19, January 7 and 21, and December 1 and 25, 2018, and December 1, 2017.

The August 24 airstrikes therefore come in the context of rising tensions across the region, from Yemen to Iraq. This also includes tensions in the Persian Gulf, where the UK has said it is sending a new warship this week.

In addition, the US and Iran are ramping up rhetoric. Some Iranian-backed Shi’ite paramilitaries have condemned the US for the airstrikes in Iraq, and there are calls for US forces to leave. Iran openly brags that it dominates the Persian Gulf, as quotes in Tasnim news revealed on Sunday. Iranian drones are now becoming more advanced, and Iranian allies in Yemen are showing off new air defense, claiming they shot down a US drone and Saudi drones. Iran also said over the weekend that it fired a new missile, and unveiled new air defense technology. Iran says its new missiles and air defense and even a new IRGC drone unit are part of a new IRGC doctrine of deterrence.

Iran’s major concern now is where to trigger that deterrence in the arc of influence it currently controls across Iraq into Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. According to US claims, it has sabotaged six ships in the Gulf of Oman. It has also used its proxies to fire rockets and mortars near the US Embassy in Baghdad in May, and next to three US bases in June, and it has downed a US drone and seized a British ship. Iran says this is in retaliation, arguing that the US drone was flying over its airspace in June, and that in July, the UK seized its oil tanker in Gibraltar. Iran’s drones, militias and other assets are arrayed across the Middle East, for thousands of kilometers of potential flash points. The August 24 airstrikes hit one of those assets, according to the IDF, but the context is regional.
Israel-Iran conflict exposes bleeding edge of a war for the entire Middle East
Iran has tough financial problems and hardships faced by the average citizen like rising prices, poverty, drugs and prostitution in large cities, but these all take a backseat to the megalomaniacal games played by Soleimani and his IRGC buddies.

Billions of dollars are spent keeping arms flowing to Hezbollah in Lebanon, putting bases in Syria, waging endless war against the Saudis in Yemen and, of course, sending thousands of freelance militiamen, including from Pakistan and Afghanistan, to build up Shiite strongholds in Iraq.

But Israel is not going to just allow the Iranians to put a foothold where they want. And this means that the level of fighting between Iran and Israel will only ratchet higher and higher. Along the way, it may change shape in some ways; it’s eminently possible that, instead of drones, we’ll see an Iranian attempt to take revenge through some other sort of attack.

The contours of Israel’s actions may also shift away from the familiar routine of airstrikes in Syria and Iraq (according to foreign reports, of course; Israel doesn’t admit carrying them out).

Israel has shown more than once that it knows how to take out dominant Shiite-Iranian personalities, like Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in 2008 and his son Jihad Mughniyeh in 2015.

According to American reports, while tracking the senior Mughniyeh, an opportunity opened up to assassinate Soleimani, but it was stopped by the US government, then under president George W. Bush.

Should the opportunity to hit Soleimani present itself to the US or Israel now, it’s unlikely there would be anyone in either government to call off the attack again.
Analysts speculate UAVs that crashed in Beirut were Iranian, not Israeli
The release of photographs of a drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital Beirut early Sunday morning cast doubt on the claim by the Hezbollah terror group that the craft belonged to the Israeli military, with some Israeli analysts speculating that the unmanned aerial vehicle was in fact an Iranian model.

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, one UAV exploded in the air outside the offices of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, causing damage to the building. A second crashed nearby and was retrieved by the terror group.

Both Hezbollah and the Lebanese military claimed the drones were sent by Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri later condemned Israel, saying the UAVs were a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty” and “forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension.”

Later that afternoon, official Lebanese state media released a photograph of the quadcopter-style UAV that crashed. It appears to be a civilian drone with extremely limited range that the Israeli military would likely be unable or uninterested in using for a sensitive operation like conducting reconnaissance in a Hezbollah stronghold.

Several well-connected Israeli commentators, including a former IDF general, said the drones appeared to be of an Iranian origin.
Hezbollah vows 'appropriate' response to Beirut drone incident
Hezbollah will retaliate to an alleged overnight Israeli provocation in Beirut by Sunday afternoon, sources close to the Shiite terrorist group told the Lebanese media hours after the incident, but the threat was later walked back by Hezbollah.

Two Israeli drones reportedly crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in the Lebanese capital overnight, a spokesman for the organization said on Sunday, saying the first fell on the roof of a building housing Hezbollah's media office while the second landed in a plot behind it.

Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Afif said that a small, unmanned reconnaissance drone fell on a building housing Hezbollah's media office in the Moawwad neighborhood in Dahiyeh, the group's stronghold in southern Beirut.

He said a second drone, which was supposedly sent by Israel to search for the first one less than 45 minutes later, exploded in the air and crashed in an empty plot nearby, causing damage to nearby buildings. He said the second drone was likely armed judging by the damage that it caused.

Residents said they heard a loud blast that triggered a nighttime fire.

"We did not shoot down or explode any of the drones," Afif told The Associated Press.

He said that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was to give the official and "appropriate" response in a previously-scheduled televised appearance later on Sunday.
Superficial BBC reporting on incidents in Syria and Lebanon
A part of that story which the BBC chose not to tell – even though the information was readily available – is as follows:
“The Israeli military said its strike late Saturday targeted operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives. […]

[IDF Spokesman] Conricus said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an “advanced attempt” to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said. […]

“This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months,” Conricus said. “It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force.”

He said the Iranian attack was believed to be “very imminent.””


Neither did the BBC bother to inform its audiences that, as reported by Ha’aretz:
“A commentator close to the Revolutionary Guards wrote [on Thursday August 22nd] in the Iranian newspaper Kayhan that Israeli actions in Iraq and Syria would be met with surprises, such as launches of UAVs at sensitive security targets, ports and nuclear sites in Israel. The plan that was foiled, according to the IDF, was identical to the action threatened beforehand by the commentator.”






Condition of rabbi, son injured in West Bank bomb attack improves
The condition of a rabbi and his teenage son who were both seriously injured in a deadly bombing at a West Bank nature spot has improved and they were set to be moved out of intensive care, a doctor told media Sunday.

Rina Shnerb, her father Eitan, 46, and 19-year-old brother Dvir were all wounded in the explosion at a natural spring outside the Dolev settlement. Rina was pronounced dead from her injuries, while her father and brother were hospitalized in serious condition.

Akiva Nachshon, a doctor in the intensive care unit at the Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem, said Sunday that Dvir had improved and was now considered in moderate to good condition.

Eitan, the father, he said, was in good condition.

Both father and son were to be moved from intensive care to the regular surgery ward later in the day, Nachshon said.

The IDF has made several arrests as it hunts for the terrorist cell responsible for the attack, carried out with a remotely detonated explosive device.
U.N. official: ‘Despicable, cowardly attack must be condemned by all’
Envoys from the United Nations and European Union sharply condemned Friday’s terrorist attack in which Lod teenager Rina Shnerb, 17, was killed and her father and brother were wounded.

“Shocking, heinous bomb attack in the #WestBank today. There is nothing “heroic” in murder! NOTHING! It is a despicable, cowardly act! #Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter.

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret also spoke out on Twitter.

“Appalled by the news of the heinous attack on a father and his children in the West Bank this morning. My thoughts and condolences are with victims of this despicable act,” he wrote.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman wrote, “No words to describe the sadness of the moment as we grieve and pray for the injured to recover. May they receive God’s blessings.”

US special envoy Jason Greetblatt tweeted, “Another savage attack by Palestinian terrorists kills an Israeli teenager enjoying time with her family. This isn’t the path to peace, just endless suffering.”
BBC News ‘contextualises’ terror attack with ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’
Roughly four hours after a terror attack took place near Dolev on August 23rd the BBC News website published a written report headlined “Israeli teenage girl killed in West Bank bomb attack” and a filmed report titled “West Bank bomb blast kills 17-year-old Israeli girl”.

The synopsis to the filmed report states:
“An Israeli teenage girl has been killed and her father and brother injured in a suspected Palestinian militant attack at a natural spring near a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military says an improvised explosive device was used.”


All four versions of the written report similarly opened by telling readers that:
“A 17-year-old Israeli girl has been killed in a bomb attack near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military says.”

A Tweet promoting the article used the same terminology:
“Israeli teenage girl killed in bomb attack near Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank”

All four versions of the report also closed with the BBC’s standard but partial mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the story being reported.
PMW: PA fails to condemn murder of 17-year-old Israeli girl, but when murderers are caught PA will reward them
Hours after a bomb exploded at the "Danny Spring" on Friday Aug. 23, murdering 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and injuring her father and brother, US President Donald Trump's Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt took to Twitter to demand that the Palestinian Authority condemn the attack. He added: "If they don't, donor countries should demand the PA answer for why their donor funds continue to be used to reward attacks."

Despite numerous checks, and notwithstanding the fact that the PA media has referred to the attack on multiple occasions, Palestinian Media Watch could find no statement whatsoever of any PA official condemning the attack. Rather the PA media chose to falsely claim that Rina was a "soldier" and a "settler."

PA TV reported that Israeli forces had set up road blocks around Ramallah "on the pretext" that someone had killed an Israeli soldier.

Official PA TV newsreader: "The occupation forces closed the main roads to the villages west of Ramallah and increased their military presence at the entrances to the Ramallah and El-Bireh district. This took place on the pretext of the killing of a female Israeli soldier and the wounding of others near the settlement named Dolev, which is located on the [Arab] residents' lands of west of Ramallah."
[Official PA TV News, Aug. 23, 2019]

Needless to say, 17-year-old Rina was not a soldier and no Israeli authority ever claimed she was a soldier.

WAFA, the official PA news agency, printed a number of articles relating to the event. While Rina was a resident of Lod, a town in Israel (within the 1949 Armistice lines), the reports systematically described her as a "settler" and focused on the measures taken by Israel to apprehend the terrorists who carried out the attack:
Ahlam Tamimi pleased Jordan refuses to extradite her to the US
Released terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, led suicide bomber to target, 15 people murdered: "We were released in the Loyalty to the Free People Deal (i.e., Shalit prisoner exchange) in October 2011. Our release was a great joy for us, the beginning of a new life after the Zionist entity had sentenced us to life sentences... Seven years after our release, now the American [authorities] are demanding to re-arrest me. This has shaken our lives to a certain extent... My being in Jordan strengthens me, as there is no extradition agreement between Jordan and the US. This has led to the issuing of a legal decision not to extradite me, and Jordan’s position on this matter is clear. Why are we defined as ‘terror’? Why is Ahlam defined as ‘a terror[ist]’? I’m part of an independence movement, a national liberation movement, a resistance movement acting for its freedom. The clauses of the UN General Assembly [charter] are on my side." [Al-Jazeera.net website, March 28, 2019]




PLO: Hamas responsible for assault on our Gaza offices
The PLO condemned an “assault” on its offices in the Gaza Strip and said the unknown assailants were backed by Hamas.

The assailants stormed the PLO’s Department for Refugee Affairs, destroyed furniture and stole various items, sources in the Gaza Strip said. No group claimed responsibility for the “assault,” and the motives of the attackers were unknown.

A Palestinian journalist in Gaza said he did not rule out the possibility that the incident was simply a break-in by burglars. Crime has soared as poverty has spread in the impoverished and lawless Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

The incident drew strong condemnations from the PLO and its largest faction, Fatah, which rushed to blame Hamas for the “assault.”
The “pre-planned assault by rogue individuals and groups was carried out under the patronage and support of Hamas and its gunmen,” the PLO Executive Committee said in a statement on Sunday.

Noting that the offices that were targeted are responsible for following up on the interests of Palestinian refugees, the committee warned that such practices “reinforce the division” between the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Fatah accused Hamas of “facilitating the assault and providing protection and support for the assailants.”




Iran’s top diplomat blows into G-7 summit after surprise invite from France
A top Iranian official paid an unannounced visit Sunday to the G-7 summit and headed straight to the buildings where leaders of the world’s major democracies have been debating how to handle the country’s nuclear ambitions.

France’s surprise invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was a high-stakes gamble for French President Emmanuel Macron, who is the host of the Group of Seven gathering in Biarritz.

Zarif’s plane left Tehran on Sunday morning and touched down a few hours later at the Biarritz airport, which has been closed since Friday to all flights unrelated to the official G-7 delegations.

A senior French official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Zarif went directly into a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Zarif flew to Biarritz at the invitation of the French foreign minister. Mousavi said on Twitter that there would be no meetings or negotiations with American officials during Zarif’s trip.
Trump Dampens Macron Optimism on Iran Talks
US President Donald Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran on Sunday, saying that while he was happy for President Emmanuel Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.

European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Macron, who has pushed mediation efforts in recent weeks to avoid a further deterioration in the region, had told LCI television that the G7 had agreed on joint action on Iran.

The French presidency said G7 leaders had even agreed that Macron should hold talks and pass on messages to Iran after they discussed the issue over dinner at a summit in southwestern France on Saturday evening.

However, Trump, who has pushed a maximum pressure policy on Iran, pushed back.

Asked if he had signed off on a statement that Macron intends to give on behalf of the G7 on Iran, Trump said, “I haven’t discussed this. No I haven’t,” adding that Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were free to talk to Iran.

“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Iran Issues Sanctions on Top Trump Admin Officials, Sen. Cruz
Iranian lawmakers are preparing to issue a salvo of sanctions on top Trump administration figures and their supporters in Congress, according to reports in the country's state-controlled press that have already elicited reaction from those officials targeted.

Iran's parliament has set the stage for Tehran to sanction White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) for what Iranian officials have described as their "long record of animosity towards Iran."

The sanctions would ban each of the Americans from ever traveling to Iran, bar them from engaging in any sort of talks with Iranian regime figures, and deny them the ability to trade with any Iranian entity.

"The bill calls for lifetime bans on U.S. National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and American senator Ted Cruz and their family members' traveling to Iran, in a reaction to Washington's embargos on Iranian officials, and these figures' strong hostile measures against Iran in the past few years," Iran's state-controlled Fars News Agency reported, adding the measure is payback for Bolton, Mnuchin, and Cruz seeking to isolate the Islamic Republic.

Cruz, speaking through a spokesman, brushed off the Iranian sanctions, telling the Washington Free Beacon he has no interest in traveling or speaking to a country that wants "to use nuclear weapons to attack American cities."

"Senator Cruz already avoids travel to terrorist regimes that take American citizens hostage and want to use nuclear weapons to attack American cities," a spokesman for Cruz told the Free Beacon on Saturday. "He urges all Americans to do the same, especially since interacting with Iran's economy in any way carries significant sanctions risk, including some sanctions that he's personally helped author and more that he intends to introduce in the near future."
Terror-sponsor Iran threatens Washington think tank with actions by 'security apparatuses'
Iran, an international sponsor of terrorism, has announced sanctions against a hawkish Washington think tank, threatening that any actions taken against it by "security apparatuses" will be "considered legitimate" by Tehran.

The ominous warning to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its chief executive officer Mark Dubowitz was carried in state-controlled media, which cited a law titled "Countering America’s Human Rights Violation and Adventurous and Terrorist Actions” that was passed by the Iranian Parliament in 2017.

Iran's foreign ministry said the move had been made because of "economic terrorism" by the FDD, which has been sharply critical of the Iran nuclear deal and has advocated harsh American sanctions against the theocratic regime.

"Accordingly, taking any actions by the judicial and security apparatuses against the FDD and their Iranian and non-Iranian accomplices will be considered legitimate as their actions are against the Iran’s national security and the interests of Iranian people and government," the state-run Mehr news agency wrote.

The think tank addressed the news in a statement, and its leader Mark Dubowitz told the Washington Examiner, "The regime has a history of targeted assassinations on European soil, places in the Gulf, Latin America, Asia ... We're treating it as a targets list, not a sanctions list."


What can Israel expect when Amazon comes to town?
Amazon’s approach to Israel gets more confusing by the day. Only a few months ago, the retail giant appeared to have given up on the idea of online trading in Israel. Now, it seems, it has changed its mind again.

A few weeks ago, a number of Israeli suppliers received a message from Amazon, in Hebrew, informing them that they could add “Local Delivery” for customers in Israel. Local Delivery would imply that these customers will receive goods they have ordered within 5 days, but how Amazon aims to achieve this is still unclear.
New Services?

The messages invited merchants to become part of a “select group of sellers” that would be the first to offer Amazon deliveries in the country. For local delivery services like this, merchants may take orders from customers via the Amazon platform, but will ship goods from stocks held in Israel. Though sellers will get the advantage of trading under the Amazon name, the company will otherwise not be involved.

The move is similar to those that Amazon has made when it has expanded into other countries and territories. Amazon always starts with seller deliveries as the first stage of its activity,” Nir Zigdon, founder and CEO of eCommunity, an approved Amazon supplier, told Globes. “We’ve seen this happen in Australia, India, and now in Amazon Turkey. Later on, subject to viability, Amazon opens logistics centers and enables Amazon Prime membership.”

It may take some years before a fully-featured Amazon service comes to Israel, though. At the moment, customers in the country will use the US site to order products, since there is still no version of the Amazon website in Hebrew.
LISTEN: How Mobileye sees commercial robotaxis on streets by 2022
The Times of Israel is pleased to host the fifth episode of a series of seven special edition talks on Israeli startups, as part of Firewall, a podcast about tech, culture and politics hosted by Bradley Tusk.

In this episode, Tusk, the CEO of Tusk Ventures, and Michael Eisenberg of Israel’s Aleph VC talk to Erez Dagan, the executive vice president for Products and Strategy at Mobileye, a maker of technologies for self-driving cars that was snapped up by Intel Corp. in 2017 for a whopping $15.3 billion. Dagan, 42, has been with the firm for 16 years. After his army service, as part of his degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dagan took a course in machine learning given by Prof. Amnon Shashua, the founder of Mobileye. He fell in love with the subject and the rest is history.

Together, they discuss how the firm’s first robotaxis — driverless autonomous vehicles hailed via an app — will likely hit the roads commercially in 2022. They also talk about the technological and political implications of autonomous vehicles, the social contracts that govern different driving cultures globally, and the business side of the self-driving industry.



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