Tuesday, February 11, 2020

From Ian:

Ha'aretz: Requiem to the Israeli Left's Apartheid Argument
In this day and age, with progressives tending to bestow automatic moral rightness on the weak and to assign automatic moral blame to the strong, the left is inclined to be furious at the very suggestion that the occupied are to blame for the continued occupation. Part of this fury is based on denying Palestinian recalcitrance and rejectionism.

But the other part is actually more poignant: Some on the left believe we must end the occupation regardless of the price we’ll have to pay, since it is an evil one cannot acquiesce to. From this perspective, the infringement on Palestinian human rights is so grave that it undermines Israel’s moral foundation – to the point of voiding its very right to exist. If Zionism rests on the universal right to self-determination, the argument goes, it cannot exist at the expense of another people’s ability to exercise that same right.

I don’t know if the historian with whom I dined subscribes to this extreme view, but I think this is what many who see the “apartheid” argument as closing the case believe.

Still, one is obliged to ask if what we are talking about here is an offense so abhorrent, so inhumanly odious, that one must die rather than commit it. Should we really end the occupation even if it means collective suicide for Zionism and probable death to most of its sons and daughters (or at least to those who cannot afford to emigrate)?

Undeniably, there are crimes one should die before committing. Genocide would probably be the obvious example. But it is hard to stretch this argument to include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would seem there is not much moral weight to the idea that we should choose our own death only to save the Palestinians from the consequences of their rejectionism and their turn to murderous terrorism. There is also little point in committing suicide only to replace Israel’s military rule with a more brutal regime that will deprive the Palestinians of human rights to an even greater extent, as Hamas has done in Gaza.

The truth is that, short of attempting to justify collective suicide, the moral argument from “apartheid” has no use. As long as we refuse to die, it will not save us from having to limp along with no full solution in sight to the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire.

We will have to brace ourselves for a long stretch of political awkwardness and moral ambiguity. Which is still far better than jumping together, with our hands at each other’s throats, into the lava around us. The incantation “apartheid” will not make any of those harsh circumstances disappear.

Is ICC being equal with Israeli settlements, Turkish occupation? - analysis
Amid the all-important International Criminal Court debate about whether Israeli settlements are a war crime, almost completely ignored has been the question of Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus.

The Palestinians officially asked for ICC intervention in January 2015, and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda essentially declared Israeli settlements war crimes on December 20.

In contrast, the first complaint by a Cypriot official, represented by Shurat Hadin, against Turkey’s settlements in Northern Cyprus was filed in July 2014 – half a year earlier than the claims against Israel.

Seven weeks after Bensouda decided against Israel, all that has been said about the Turkish occupation of Cyprus is that a decision is anticipated at some undefined point later in 2020.

How did the Turkish case fall to the back burner as compared to the case against Israel?

Does this unequal situation prove anti-Israel bias by the ICC, as some claim?
Will anti-Israel case go unanswered at The Hague? Israeli lawyers already have a plan
The Israel Bar Association will try to represent Israel in the International Criminal Court at The Hague to push against the charges laid by the Palestinians, Israel Hayom has exclusively learned.

The IBA's move is designed to give Israel a voice in the court without having the country officially join.

Israel has refused to sign the Rome Statute and is hence not part of the ICC. The Jewish state also says the court has no jurisdiction on matters pertaining to Israeli territory because Israel is not a party to the convention, but the court has nevertheless begun proceedings that could culminate with a full-fledged investigation against Israel over its actions in the Gaza Strip and in various Palestinian cities.

Israeli leaders have slammed the court for taking that position.

The IBA's governing body approved Monday a motion that could pave the way for the organization to represent Israel in cases concerning the state. "In order to avoid having the Palestinian Authority's position go unchallenged, we have discussed the possibility of becoming an amicus curiae in the court and we have assembled a task force to facilitate that," the motion reads.

PMW: Senior Fatah official: "Palestine" stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and is "waqf" - an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law
Abbas’ Fatah is not only saying adamantly “no” to US President Trump’s peace deal, they also insist that all of the State of Israel is “Palestine.” Senior Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi made this clear in a recent speech when he defined “Palestine” as stretching from “the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.” Tirawi defined “Palestine” as “waqf,” which is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, and therefore it is forbidden to accept non-Muslim rule over it. He further threatened that any Palestinian leader or official who would agree to a “Palestine” covering only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and not including all of Israel would be in danger and “not be able to walk one meter in the streets of our Palestinian cities among our people”:

Fatah Commissioner and Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi: “Who said that we are for a state [on the borders of] 1967? Who said this? In Fatah, this does not exist in our constitution and our charter! They [Israel] want Beit El and Ma’ale Adumim (i.e., Israeli towns in the West Bank) to be Israeli, and we say that Nazareth, Haifa, and Acre (i.e., Israeli cities) are Palestinian, and they will remain Palestinian! Our Palestinian land is from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. I dare any Palestinian, any senior Palestinian official, or any Palestinian leader to reduce the Palestinian map to the West Bank and Gaza! He would not be able to walk one meter in the streets of our Palestinian cities among our people! … Arab brothers… Be with the Palestinian people, the people that lives on land that is all holy and that is all waqf land (i.e., land that is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law.)”
[Facebook page of Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, Feb. 2, 2020]

Diplomats say Abbas, lacking votes, pulls request for UN vote against Trump plan
The Palestinians have abandoned their request for a vote at the UN Security Council Tuesday that they hoped would reject the peace plan of US President Donald Trump, whose administration has put heavy pressure on critics, diplomats said.

Introduced by Indonesia and Tunisia, the resolution was withdrawn because it risked not having nine out of 15 votes in its favor, the minimum required for adoption provided there is no veto by a permanent member, the diplomats told AFP.

A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States has placed “very strong pressure” on other countries on the Security Council, including threats of economic retribution.

Despite the setback, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will go ahead Tuesday and address the Security Council about Trump’s January 28 plan, which paves the way for Israeli annexation of much of the Jordan Valley and settlements but also allows for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

The Palestinians sought to portray the move as a temporary delay and a technicality.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat denied reports that the draft resolution was pulled because of a lack of support, saying in a statement that the “rumor” the Palestinians withdrew the resolution is “not true and totally baseless.”

He said the draft resolution, which initially said the US plan undermined the Palestinian peoples’ aspirations for independence, is still being discussed and will be put to a vote once those discussions conclude with “a formula that represents our positions.”

The original draft resolution, co-sponsored by Tunisia and Indonesia and backed by the Palestinians, also said the US plan violates international law and Security Council demands for a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Mideast war. It would have expressed the council’s determination “to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions, including enforcement measures under Chapter 7 of the (U.N.) Charter,” which can be by military or non-military means.

The resolution had been expected to be put to a vote on Tuesday when Abbas addressed the council. But diplomats said many of its provisions were not acceptable to European members of the council, who support a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, and other council members.
Ambassador Danny Danon: History will remember Abbas as peace rejectionist
Even before the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan was revealed earlier this month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was planning his trip to New York City, where he plans to address the United Nations and protest the plan's outline, which the PA has rejected outright.

That is the Palestinian leader's modus operandi for the past 17 years and it has kept him on the wrong path of sparing no effort to fight Israel in the international arena, which at times seems to be his primary goal; something far more important to him than promoting Palestinian interests that could facilitate statehood.

But the Abbas era will soon end and when he steps down from the world stage, history will remember him as the greatest peace rejectionist that ever was.

Years of historical opportunities to strike peace – including and especially US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century" – have come and gone, thrown away in favor of UN speeches and political terrorism against Israel in every forum and all over the world.

An individual who dedicates himself to incitement against Israel, to the indoctrination of children with hatred toward Israel and the Jews, and who backs and sponsors the "pay-for-slay" policy, paying tens of millions of dollars to terrorists and their families cannot be called a partner for peace.

Hundreds of anti-Israeli resolutions have been adopted by the UN General Assembly over the past decade, most at the behest of the Palestinians and Abbas. During this time Abbas has agreed to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only once. Yes – just once.

There is no doubt that as long as Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority, the peace process is not feasible.
Israel reprimands Belgium again for inviting terror-related NGO to UNSC
The Foreign Ministry summoned Belgium’s Deputy Ambassador Pascal Buffin to Jerusalem for the second time in a week on Tuesday, to protest his country’s invitation to an anti-Israel NGO with ties to the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to address the UN Security Council.

Anna Azari, the head of the European Section of the Foreign Ministry, reprimanded Buffin and called on Belgium to rescind the invitation and stop taking anti-Israel steps in the UNSC.

Azari also expressed surprise that Israeli Ambassador to Belgium Emmanual Nahshon was reprimanded by the Belgian Foreign Ministry because of news reports about Israel’s criticism of Belgium.

“The Belgians cannot expect us to stay quiet when they are taking advantage of being temporary presidents of the UNSC to hurt Israel,” she said.

DCI-P calls itself an organization defending the human rights of Palestinian children. It alleges that Israel is committing war crimes and it supports the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement. It shares several leading figures with the PFLP, a designated terrorist group in the US, EU, Canada and Israel, to the extent that Citibank and the Arab Bank have stopped providing banking services to the NGO.
Arab party head: No support for Gantz unless he objects to parts of Trump plan
The leader of the country’s majority-Arab political alliance said Tuesday that he will not back MK Benny Gantz as prime minister after the coming elections unless the Blue and White party chief makes a clear statement rejecting two key aspects of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

MK Ayman Odeh told Army Radio he wants Gantz to publicly rule out extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and other areas of the West Bank. In addition, he must reject a clause in the plan that would see some Arab Israeli towns and their residents become part of a future Palestinian state, Odeh said.

After elections, the president solicits recommendations from MKs as to who should be tasked with forming a government. The party leader who gains backing from the most lawmakers gets the first shot.

Without support from the Joint List, Gantz is unlikely to have enough MKs behind him to get the nod after the coming March 2 elections. Gantz is hoping to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who polls have shown continues to lead a right-wing and religious bloc of MKs that is larger than the opposition bloc Gantz can muster without the Joint List, an alliance of four majority-Arab parties.

Based on Gantz’s position over the past two weeks, Odeh said, “there is no way we will recommend or back him.”

After US President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan at the White House on January 28, Gantz said he would bring the proposal for approval by the Knesset if he is elected prime minister. Netanyahu also embraced the proposal, while the Palestinians rejected it entirely.

Fearing instability and violence, Arabs ask Abbas to ‘lower the volume’
Palestinians are again planning mass protests against US President Donald Trump’s plan for Mideast peace – this time on Tuesday, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to address the UN Security Council in New York.

Some Arab states, meanwhile, have “advised” Abbas to “turn down the volume” of his rhetorical attacks on the US and Israel, a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post.

“Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have advised President to start calming things down,” the official said. “They are worried that the strong criticism and calls for demonstrations against the Trump plan would cause instability in the region. The president has assured them that he does not support violent protest or terrorism as a way of protesting the Trump plan.”

Palestinians in Ramallah said that some Arab heads of state are apparently worried that widespread protests against the US and Israel on the streets of Arab capitals would see demonstrators also turn against their presidents and monarchs.

Abbas’s visit to New York is aimed at rallying worldwide support for Palestinian opposition to the Trump plan, known as “Peace to Prosperity.”
The PA and the ruling Fatah faction, however, are also planning to turn the demonstrations into a show of support for Abbas.
MEMRI: Egyptian, Emirati And Kuwaiti Journalists And Intellectuals: 'Deal Of The Century' Results From The Palestinians' Mishandling Of Their Cause; They Must Consider It Objectively, Avoid Missing Another Opportunity
The Palestinian leadership has firmly rejected the Middle East peace plan announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on January 28, 2020, which has been dubbed "The Deal of the Century." A week after the plan's announcement, the Arab League foreign ministers convened for an emergency meeting, following which they issued a statement supporting the Palestinian position: they too unanimously rejected the deal while underlining the centrality of the Palestinian cause. This was despite the fact that the ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and the UAE had been present at the announcement of the deal, and despite the supportive statements made by several Arab leaders immediately after its announcement.[1]

Alongside articles condemning Trump's peace plan and echoing the sentiments of the foreign ministers' statement, other articles in the Arab press criticized the official Palestinian position of rejecting the plan out of hand. They urged the Palestinian leadership to find a way to benefit from the plan rather than miss another opportunity to resolve the conflict. The articles also pointedly criticized the conduct of the Palestinian factions over the years, and their concentration on internal conflicts at the expense of the Palestinians' national interests, which, they said, caused a decline in the support for this cause in the Arab world.

The following are excerpts from some of these articles:
Emirati Analyst: The Deal Of The Century Is A Result Of The Palestinian Schism And The Palestinian Leadership's Loss Of Way

Emirati analyst Salam Al-Kutbi, who writes on the Saudi Elaph website, accused the Palestinian leadership of mishandling the Palestinian cause and thereby preparing the ground for the Deal of the Century. He added that the Palestinian must propose alternative solutions to the conflict and recruit Arab support for them, instead of sinking in internal quarrels and turning to countries like Iran and Turkey for help:

"Most of the elements of U.S. President Donald Trump's peace deal that concern the Palestinians did not come as a surprise for most people... It was [all] clear and expected, and the problem is not the [deal] itself but how the Arabs and Palestinians should address the issue to begin with. There is no ignoring the fact that the persistence and deepening of the Palestinian schism, and even worse, the Palestinian leaders' and organizations' loss of way, has led [us] to this juncture.
Poll: 94% percent of Palestinians oppose US peace plan
Palestinians overwhelmingly oppose US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a survey published on Tuesday.

Ninety-four percent of Palestinians are against the US initiative and 4% support it, a poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) found.

Breaking with past American administrations, the White House unveiled a plan late last month that envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Sixty-five percent of Palestinians support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent pledge to end all relations with Israel and the US, while 27% oppose it, according to the survey.
Al-Aqsa Mosque Address by Ahmad Al-Khatwani: There Is Only Room in Palestine for an Islamic State
Palestinian political researcher Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khatwani said in an address at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that was uploaded to the Internet on January 30, 2020 that Palestine cannot geographically or demographically support both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. He said that there can only be an Islamic state in Palestine, which he said will be liberated only by Islamic hands, and not by secularists, nationalists, Pan-Arabists, Communists, or socialists. He said that everything but an Islamic state has been tried and predicted that an Islamic state could easily and swiftly liberate Palestine and annihilate Israel. He also said that an Islamic state would conquer Rome and Moscow. In addition, Sheikh Al-Khatwani said that the Islamic nation and the military power necessary for the establishment of an Islamic state already exist, and he emphasized that the conflict in Palestine should be seen as a conflict between Muslims and Jews and between Muslims and Crusaders.

Malaysia’s Antisemitic Prime Minister Demands Trump Resign
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who in September weathered the latest in a series of scandals over his antisemitic remarks, on Saturday demanded U.S. President Donald Trump resign for offering an “utterly unacceptable” and “grossly unjust” peace plan for the Israelis and Palestinians.

“This deal will only bring more conflict to the region, and will antagonize billions of people around the world,” Mahathir said on Saturday at a meeting of the League of Parliamentarians for al-Quds, essentially an international support group for the Palestinian government.

“We are duty-bound and this responsibility is further amplified when powerful nations that had styled themselves as the defender of justice and freedom choose to be silent while the atrocities are being committed,” Mahathir said of the Palestinian situation.

“In other words, if we too choose to be silent, the blood from the murders and killings of the Palestinians by the Israelis is on our hands as well,” he elucidated.

Mahathir said Israel “should be condemned and punished” for its treatment of the Palestinians.

“Instead, powerful countries like the U.S. which talk so much about freedom and the rule of law choose to legalize the illegal. This President Trump has legalized the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem as ‘the deal of the century,’” he charged.

“This ‘peace plan’ acknowledges only the powerful occupier while completely ignoring the rights of the oppressed,” he complained.

“The deal will never result in a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state, on the contrary, it will only further the domination of an apartheid-like occupation over millions of Palestinians. The last time this happened was when Germany occupied Danzig and Sudetenland,” he said, comparing the Israelis to Nazi Germany.

In Sudan, More Support for Normalizing Ties with Israel
In Sudan, more people support normalizing ties with Israel than those who don't. Among those supporters is Sudan's former deputy prime minister Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, who told Asharq Al-Awsat that opposing normalization with Israel is "irrational," especially since the Palestinians themselves had normalized their ties with Israel after the Oslo Accords. He noted that Palestinians deal with Israel in electricity and customs, and that a large number are working in Israel.

Mahdi, who heads the National Umma Party, said Sudan is in dire need of a waiver for its terrorism-related sanctions, and that normalization of relations will "acquit" Sudan of past support for terrorism by its previous government. He added that continuing to boycott Israel has "become meaningless." If relations should thaw, there are quite a few things Sudan could get from Israel. Among them: technological and scientific aid, assistance in intelligence, and, above all, access to the White House.
‘The intelligence coup of the century’ For decades, the CIA read the encrypted communications of allies and adversaries.
For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.

The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. Flush with cash, it became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, navigating waves of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.

The Swiss firm made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican.

But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.

The NSA’s eavesdropping empire was for many years organized around three main geographic targets, each with its own alphabetic code: A for the Soviets, B for Asia and G for virtually everywhere else.

By the early 1980s, more than half of the intelligence gathered by G group was flowing through Crypto machines, a capability that U.S. officials relied on in crisis after crisis.

In 1978, as the leaders of Egypt, Israel and the United States gathered at Camp David for negotiations on a peace accord, the NSA was secretly monitoring the communications of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat back to Cairo.
Will Israel bypass Palestinians to upgrade to Tomb of Patriarchs?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must seize planning powers from Hebron’s Palestinian municipality in order to advance a project that would make the Tomb of the Patriarchs wheelchair accessible, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (FADC) said on Monday.

“There is no point in delaying anymore," former justice minister and Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked told the FADC during the meeting.

If a tender is issued for the NIS 5 million project by the end of March, an elevator and an access path could be completed within a year.

At present there is no handicap accessibility to the tomb, which can be reached only by climbing up several flights of stone stairs.

The structure, built 2,000 years ago by King Herod, serves as both a Jewish synagogue and a Muslim mosque; each worship space has its own entry way. The structure is on UNESCO's List of endangered World Heritage sites and is registered under the "State of Palestine” along with Hebron’s Old Town, where the tomb is located.

The Israeli military has control of the tomb and the section of Hebron where it is located. But under the terms of a 1997 agreement, the Palestinian municipality is in charge of construction projects in the city, including those connected to the tomb.

Israel is supposed to first obtain authorization for the project from Hebron’s municipality or seize planning power.
IDF to demolish house of terrorist involved in Rina Shnerb’s murder
The family of Kasem Shibli, who is standing trial for his involvement in the terror attack that killed Rina Shnerb, was notified on Monday that the army intends to demolish their house, the IDF spokesperson stated.

The family has filed an appeal against the demolition.

Shibli is one of five men – along with Samer Arbid, Walid Hanatsheh, Abed el-Razeq Faraj and Yzaen Majames – who are standing trial over the summer attack.

Their trial opened earlier this month in the Judea Military Court located at Camp Ofer.

“While the start of the trials is important, the most urgent step needed is for the minister of defense, Naftali Bennett, to order the demolition of the houses of the terrorists who murdered Rina Shnerb," said the family's lawyer Maurice Hirsch at the start of the trial.

17-year-old Rina Shnerb was killed and her father and brother were injured in the August attack at the Ein Bubin Spring near the settlement of Dolev.
Hamas decides to stop launching incendiary balloons into Israel – report
Hamas has decided to stop launching incendiary balloons into Israeli territory, according to the Al-Quds newspaper and reported by Ynet.

Islamic Jihad also agreed to stop launching balloons into Israel, Walla! reported.

According to the report, the decision was made on Monday night after a meeting with the Egyptian intelligence delegation and communicated in the morning to all balloon launching units. For its part, Israel promised to ease restrictions on importing and exporting to and from the Gaza Strip, although no details on the matter were provided.

During the meeting, the Egyptians told Hamas to avoid supporting any militias that harm the region and expressed reservations about the relationship between Hamas, Iran and the Hezbollah terrorist group. Hamas was also warned against becoming involved with Iran in any military escalation.

According to Al-Arabiya, the delegation told Israel that they are working on a long-term armistice, but asked Israel to abide by the current ceasefire without any preconditions.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: The Dangers of Singing
The only songs Hamas and its followers want are those that promote hate and violence.... "I will eat you alive, tastes best without salt, Zionist – Yes, yes, you."

The members of Sol Band did not call for "scattering the body parts" of Jews; that is probably why they are being targeted by Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip.

What is disturbing, however, is the silence of the international community, specifically the EU partners of Islamic University in Gaza, where Farra serves as a lecturer. Do the Europeans working with the university condone threats against musicians?... The EU countries and educational institutions are most likely ignoring such threats because they were not made by Israel.

The silence of the international community emboldens Hamas... and allows them to continue their repressive measures against Palestinians. It also allows Hamas and terror groups to continue calling for blowing up the skulls of Jews and eating them alive.

Egyptian delegation warns Hamas to stop supporting Iranian interests
The Egyptian security delegation that visited the Gaza Strip on Monday warned Hamas to avoid escalating the military conflict with Israel and to stop supporting Iran, according to Al-Arabiya.

During the meeting, the Egyptians told Hamas to avoid supporting any militias that harm the region and expressed reservations about the relationship between Hamas, Iran and the Hezbollah terrorist group. Hamas was also warned against becoming involved with Iran in any military escalation.

Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, stated that the Egyptian security delegation met with Hamas and other factions in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Sawa news agency.

The delegation discussed strengthening Palestinian-Egyptian relations, increasing the volume of imports into Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the "Deal of the Century" peace plan and efforts required for the reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

According to Abu Zarifa, the delegation did not transfer any threatening messages from Israel.

The delegation left the Strip on Monday evening and headed to Israel to discuss stopping the recent military escalation with Gaza, according to Al-Arabiya. The Egyptians called on Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and to stop targeting the Strip.
Egypt makes surprise move against Hamas and Iran
An Egyptian delegation that arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday urged Hamas terror group to defuse the tensions with Israel and voiced Cairo's concern over Hamas' ties with Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

According to Al-Arabiya, Egyptians also warned Hamas against backing militia groups seeking to destabilize the region or joining Iran in any military escalation.

London-based Al-Akhbar also reported that Cairo relayed a message from Israel, saying that the Jewish state would retaliate if rocket attacks and incendiary balloon launches proceed – and the strike will have the support of both the US and larger international community.

The newspaper also said that Hamas chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, chose to skip the meeting with the Egyptian team for fear of an Israeli assassination attempt.

Palestinian sources say that no threatening messages were delivered and that the two sides discussed the ties between Egypt and Gaza and the Trump peace plan.

According to some previous reports, Cairo was losing its patience with Hamas after its senior official Ismail Haniyeh headed to Iran to the funeral for Qasem Soleimani.
Report: Fearing Assassination, Hamas Leader Skips Gaza Meet With Egyptian Delegation
Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar skipped a meeting with a visiting Egyptian delegation on Monday out of fear of an Israeli assassination attempt against him, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

The delegation passed on a message from Israel that if quiet does not return to the Gaza Strip, it will deal a major blow to the group, something the Egyptians warned would have both US and international support, according to Ynet.

The Egyptian delegation was in Gaza to negotiate a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and met with Israeli security officials before heading to the coastal enclave.

Hamas reportedly told the members of the delegation it did not want to escalate tensions but that quiet would not return until an agreement is reached regarding aid to Gaza. The terrorist group also warned that any assassination attempt by Israel would lead to a major round of fighting.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel might have to return to a policy of targeted assassinations if the terror group continued to launch attacks on Israel.
Erdogan vows Damascus will pay ‘heavy price’ for any attack
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday vowed that Syria would pay a “heavy price” for any attack on Turkish troops, a day after five soldiers were killed in regime shelling in the Idlib region.

“The more they attack on our soldiers, they will pay a very, very heavy price,” Erdogan told a televised ceremony in Ankara.

Turkey responded on Monday with artillery fire on Syrian positions and said it had “neutralized” 101 Syrian regime soldiers after the killing of five Turks in Idlib — the last major rebel bastion.

The exchange was the second such clash in a week, after eight Turks were killed in regime fire last week, which again prompted a military response from Turkey.

“The regime … got what it deserved in Idlib,” Erdogan said. “But it is not enough.”

He said he would reveal Wednesday the steps to be taken after the flare up in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Top Iranian official: We’re looking for a pretext to raze Tel Aviv to the ground
A former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has warned that Iran is just looking for an excuse to attack Israel and “raze Tel Aviv to the ground,” blaming Israel for allegedly helping the US kill top commander Qassem Soleimani.

Speaking to Lebanon’s Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV station on Saturday, Mohsen Rezaei was asked if Iran would carry out its previous threats to attack Israel in the event of a war with the US.

“You should have no doubt about this. We would raze Tel Aviv to the ground for sure. We have been looking for such a pretext,” Rezaei said in remarks translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and released Monday.

Rezaei, the secretary of Iran’s powerful Expediency Council, is considered a top politician and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“If they (the US) do something, we can use it as a pretext to attack Israel, because Israel played a role in the martyrdom of General Soleimani,” he said, blaming Israel for tipping off the Americans to Soleimani’s location.

“We were waiting for the Americans to give us a pretext to strike Tel Aviv, just like we attacked Ayn Al-Assad,” he said referring to the US military base in Iraq, which Iran hit with several missiles in response to Soleimani’s killing.

Iran marks anniversary of Islamic Revolution with tributes to Soleimani
Tens of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran and other cities on Tuesday morning to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, against a backdrop of escalating tensions with the United States.

State TV showed video footage of rallies in at least half a dozen cities outside the capital, including Mashhad, Ahvaz and Kerman, with people holding signs that read, "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Iran almost got into a full-blown conflict with the United States last month after a US drone strike killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3, prompting Iran to retaliate with a missile barrage against a US base in Iraq days later. Soleimani was the head of the Quds Force, a terrorist organization that spread Iranian aggression in the region.

Tensions spiked between Iran and the United States after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and reimposed sanctions in a bid to pressure Tehran to negotiate over its ballistic missile program and ties with regional proxy groups.

Missiles were put on display as part of the anniversary celebrations, according to the Tasnim news agency. Iran's state TV showed archival footage of missile launches and underground missile storage facilities as part of its anniversary coverage.
Failed satellite launch causes massive explosion in rural Iran
Iran's fourth failed satellite launch in a year ended with a bang after the Zafar satellite failed to enter orbit on Sunday, crashing in a rural area of southeast Iran. Local residents reported eight massive explosions and saw a large light in the sky, according to Radio Farda.

Iran succeeded in launching the new satellite into outer space, but failed to place the satellite into orbit, according to Iranian reports. All stages of the launch proceeded correctly, but the satellite did not reach the speed needed to inject it into the desired orbit, according to the Iranian Fars News.

According to NASA, the launch appears to have failed during the second or third stage of the flight when the Simorgh rocket reached the 540 kilometer trajectory, about a thousand meters per second short of the velocity required to reach orbit.

An official from the Governor's Office of Zahedan said that parts of the satellite had crashed near the city, the capital of Sistan and Baluchestan Province, according to Radio Farda. The province's Security and Law Enforcement deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that authorities were investigating the source of explosions and lights reported by locals on Sunday, adding that parts of the satellite had been found "in unpopulated areas close to Zahedan and citizens had no cause to worry."

Iran's Information and Communications Technology minister, Azari Jahromi, claimed that the Zafar had landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday and promised to launch another version of the satellite into orbit in May or June.

Jahromi responded to the failed launch by pointing to the US space program's past failed launches and calling Iran "unstoppable."
New Secretive Iranian Nuclear Sites Spark Concern in Congress
Iran is not "complying at all" with the landmark nuclear deal and continues to prevent international nuclear inspectors from accessing key sites suspected of housing the regime's sensitive atomic weapons program, according to the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho) told the Washington Free Beacon in a wide-ranging interview on the Islamic Republic's continued nuclear subterfuge that he is worried by new reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that there are "possible undeclared Iranian nuclear sites" that remain active in Iran.

Risch, who is also a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently met with IAEA head Rafael Grossi to gather more information on Iran's efforts to block access to inspectors and hide undeclared work on the weapons front.

"I don't think they're complying at all" with the nuclear restrictions enshrined in the accord, Risch told the Free Beacon, adding it is now clear Iran intends to continue violating caps on the amount of enriched uranium it can keep in the country.

"They have specifically said they're going to enrich beyond what the agreement said," Risch noted. "And they said they don't care what anybody does about it. You can't say they've been in compliance by any stretch."
Iranians arrested in Ecuador for traveling with fake Israeli IDs
Two Iranians were arrested in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito after attempting to travel to Spain with fake Israeli passports, according to Ynet.

A man and a woman in their 20s were attempting to travel to Madrid when they were discovered with the forged travel documents. They reportedly arrived in Ecuador with the fake passports at the end of January and attempted to travel once more. They also had Iranian passports.

It is unclear why they had the fake passports or if they were affiliated with Iran's intelligence services. Israeli passport holders do not require an entry visa to visit Ecuador, so the forgeries may have been used for that purpose.

In March, two Iranians were arrested in Argentina with forged Israeli passports that contained multiple spelling mistakes in Hebrew.
In gaff, German president’s office slams Iran on Islamic Revolution anniversary
In what observers are calling an embarrassing error, the office of Germany’s president sent a message to Iran to mark the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, even though he wanted to send no message given the political situation there.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s office “mistakenly” sent the telegram, which was prepared in advance in case the president chose to use it, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper reported.

Inside sources told the newspaper that the president had two options: to send either no message or a “very critical” one. Though Steinmeier reportedly decided to break with past practice and refrain from sending a message — and the German embassy in Tehran had been informed of the decision — Steinmeier’s staff sent the prepared critical statement on February 5. The anniversary of the revolution is February 11.

A German government spokesperson had told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper recently that “given developments in recent months in Iran, there won’t be a congratulatory telegram coming from the president.”

A spokesperson told Tagesspiegel that the president’s intentions to withhold a message were not communicated clearly enough to the embassy in Tehran.

Iranian minister is mocked for 'passing off child's NASA fancy dress costume as regime's astronaut suit'
The Iranian regime has been ridiculed for appearing to pass off a NASA fancy dress costume as one of their own spacesuits.

Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, Tehran's information and communications technology minister, last week tweeted a picture of the silver outfit with the words: 'astronaut costume #brightfuture'.

But social media users instantly accused him of flaunting a child's costume which can be bought on Amazon for £20, and simply tearing off the NASA badges.

Closer inspection of the costume does appear to show the faint outline where the logos have been removed.

The spacesuit tweeted by the Iranian minister (left) bares a striking resemblance to a NASA fancy dress costume which can be bought on Amazon (right). Closer inspection of the costume does appear to show the faint outline where the logos have been ripped off

They are exactly the same shape and placement of an Underwraps product sold on Amazon as 'astronaut silver child space explorer costume'.

Other than expunging the NASA badges, the only noticeable difference is the Iranian flag sowed on to the sleeve.

It is unclear if Jahromi was trying to pass off the costume as a genuine cutting-edge spacesuit or just an Iranian fancy dress costume, but he was still scorned by Twitter uses.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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