Friday, July 24, 2020

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Stability for our enemies
Since the 1990s, the dominant view in Israel's national security community has been that Israel's top priority in relation to the Palestinians is to maintain the stability of their leadership. This is the case in relation to both the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and the Hamas regime in Gaza.

The rationale behind this view is that despite their hostility, if the regimes lose control, things will be worse, not better for Israel. Israel will have to take over, at great cost in lives and international stature. In other words, it's either Fatah and Hamas or the Israel Defense Forces. And Israel's security establishment prefers the former.

To achieve the goal of preserving the Fatah regime, Israel's generals and their think tank colleagues have long insisted the government ensure its financial viability. In practice, this has required Israel to collect customs and other indirect taxes for the PA and transfer the funds, with no strings attached to the PA every month. The fact that the PA has always used large portions of its budget to finance terrorism was of little consequence to the generals and their colleagues.

In the case of Hamas-controlled Gaza, preserving the terrorist regime has required Israel to permit the PA to transfer funds to its employees in Gaza, even though by paying their salaries the PA effectively enabled Hamas to devote its resources solely to waging its war against Israel. Preserving Hamas has also involved Israel allowing Qatar to send truckloads of cash to Gaza to keep Hamas's terror state afloat.

Safe in power – thanks to Israel – Fatah has been free to devote its energies waging its multidimensional war against Israel. It funds terrorists – with the tax arrears Israel collects for it. It incites terror on its media organs – again paid for by the taxes Israel transfers. It pays its security forces and indoctrinates its members to seek Israel's destruction. It engages in large-scale theft of government lands and illegal construction in Judea and Samaria to choke off Jewish communities. And the Fatah-PA wages diplomatic war against Israel at the UN, in the world capitals, and increasingly at the International Criminal Court.

Safe in power in Gaza, Hamas builds up its forces. It develops collaborative ties with Hezbollah and the Houthis and strengthens its client relationship with both Iran and Turkey. And every so often, it opens another missile offensive against aimed at killing and terrorizing Israeli civilians.

Whether they like it or not, the denizens of Hamastan and Fatahland alike have no choice other than to live under the jackboot of their regimes. Thanks to Israel – and its stability minded security experts – they have no chance of competing for power or rebelling.

Oslo revisited
The days of the Oslo Accords were dark days for Israel. Fortunately, the public put a stop to the Oslo trend before it endangered the very fabric of the State of Israel.

As Tisha B'Av rolls closer, it behooves us to ponder how Israel managed to extricate itself from the trap laid for her in the 1990’s by the infamous Yasser Arafat and by the “liberation” terror organization that he led.

The Oslo Accords cost us over one thousand casualties, but the dangerous veering toward the sea, eventually slowed. Nowadays we are discussing sovereignty – not “victims of peace”. There is plenty of room for improvement in our diplomatic discourse even today. But everything is relative.

In contrast, remember what happened in the darkest days the Jewish people ever experienced, ever – in Nazi Europe. You remember the famous poem, by a German Lutheran leader called Martin Niemöller, about being passive and keeping silent:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Oslo Accords, horrific as they were and still are, never reached anywhere near the point Europe reached during Nazi days. Why? Not because Palestinian Arab leaders are lacking in antisemitism. They are not. The central reason was that during Hitler’s day, there was no State of Israel. But there was also another reason. The second reason was that prominent people in Nazi Germany simply did not do very much about it, when ugly things began to happen in their country.

In Israel however, way before things slid into a complete abyss, people did things. People stood up and said, this is not cool. Not just the downtrodden, not just the persecuted, stood up and banged on the national table. Prominent people stood up and said this – not many of them, but enough of them.

Head of PA’s Mission to UK Lies and Distorts 1948 History
However, the op-ed in The Times (paywall) by Sammy Stein, co-chair of Glasgow Friends of Israel, he’s referring to doesn’t even allude to the Zomlot family’s dislocation during the Arab-Israeli war, and doesn’t accuse Palestinians of lying about their flight during that time.

In other words, Zomlot’s accusation — that Stein accused Zomlot of lying, is itself a lie.

Rather, Stein’s piece largely focuses on what he refers to as the “politicised hijacking of a term Nakba,” and characterizes “The Nakba” as self-inflicted by the Arab leaders who launched a war of annihilation against Israel instead of accepting partition.

Zomlot continues to mislead in a subsequent paragraph:
Palestinian refugees, scholars everywhere, as well as a growing number of Israeli historians, have all attested to the reality of al-Nakba (the “Catastrophe”), when hundreds of towns were depopulated, looted and destroyed. Overall, more than half the population of Palestine was expelled. This is what Mr Stein refers to as “Israel’s success”

First, it’s not true that all of the refugees were expelled. Most fled due to orders from Arab military and political leaders, or of their own accord — to escape the war. More deceiving, however, is Zomlot’s claim that Stein referred to the Palestinian exodus as an Israeli “success.”

Here are the relevant paragraphs from Stein’s op-ed, where he refers to Israeli success:
The politicised hijacking of a term Nakba which bemoaned the absence of pan-Arab unity and castigated Arabs for their failings, into a term of abuse against Israel is a calculated and continuous act of deception, designed to absolve Arab states of blame and condemn Israel for successfully defending itself against attack.

Today Palestinians and their apologists worldwide might stop to consider these realities and face up to the fact that Nakba describes their failure, not Israel’s success.


It’s clear that Stein is referring to Israel’s survival in the Arab war as an Israeli “success” — not the flight of Palestinian refugees.

To see more deceit from Zomlont, read this post on his recent appearance on BBC’s “Hardtalk.”



'World gradually changing its perspective on Israel'
After five years in the halls of the United Nations outgoing UN Ambassador Danny Danon has a lot to say. In an exclusive interview with JNS, the 49-year-old politician, a Likud veteran, spoke about his experience in New York and his plans for the future.

Danon touched upon key issues during his tenure, including US-Israel relations and the international view of the Jewish state in the halls of the United Nations; recent efforts towards applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and parts of Judea and Samaria; the ever-present Iranian threat, in addition to the actions of its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah; Israel's growing diplomatic relations with neighboring Arab countries and the Persian Gulf states; and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Q: How does it feel to be back in Israel after serving as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations these past five years, especially now that we are in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic? Also, what did you miss the most not living here?
"It's always good to be back in Israel, even as we are experiencing the coronavirus crisis. While New York has one of the strongest Jewish communities in the world – where we met great people and had amazing Shabbat dinners and holidays – it's great to be back here with family and friends.

"I hope that we will overcome this second wave. We must follow the guidelines so that we can celebrate the High Holidays [this fall] with our families. I'm hoping that my children can catch up with their grandparents and spend time with them now that we are back."


Q: What do you feel were your biggest accomplishments?
"I think that in my five years I had many victories, as well as many challenges and even disappointments. But the biggest accomplishment for me, which is really a win for Israel, is the moment when I walked into the General Assembly Hall as chairman of the GA's "Sixth Committee," which deals with legal issues. This was the first time an Israeli ambassador has ever served as head of one of the UN's permanent committees. It wasn't easy to get elected – 109 countries voted for me, while 43 voted for other countries [essentially against me]. There was a lot of tension with that vote. But I'll never forget entering the hall and chairing that first meeting."
Europe’s NGO cold war to ‘mitigate pro-Israel voices’
The cold war between Europe and Israel over the politics of nongovernmental organizations escalated sharply with the discovery of a Belgian strategic document that includes funds for “mitigating the influence of pro-Israel voices.”

It is hard to imagine NGO funding objectives aimed at “mitigating the influence of pro-Palestinian voices,” or, going beyond our conflict, to “mitigate the influence of pro-European Union voices” during the United Kingdom’s intense Brexit debate. But what seems absurd in other contexts is standard policy when Israel is involved.

The specific targeting of “pro-Israeli voices” through NGO funding is part of a plan (known as the Joint Strategic Framework, or JSF) prepared for and approved by Belgium’s Ministry for Development Cooperation. It is a public document, written by five NGOs that are also major recipients of the funds – including the Catholic aid group Broederlijke Delen, Oxfam Solidarity, Solidarité Socialiste, and Viva Salud. They are leaders in anti-Israel political campaigns, using taxpayer funds from Belgian citizens. From 2017 to 2021, at least €8.6 million will have been allocated to these organizations.

The Belgian strategic plan is further evidence that European NGO funding needs fundamental reform. For many years, the EU and individual European governments have provided tens of millions of euros, kronor and pounds annually to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, under headings of development aid, human rights, international law, peace and democracy.

For many Israelis, including the actual representatives of Israeli democracy, European funding for these organizations is seen as a major source of political warfare, including boycotts, lawfare and, in some cases, antisemitism. The NGOs that produced the Belgian strategic plan are deeply involved in propaganda that singles out Israel. In addition to targeting pro-Israel voices, their planning document includes “advocacy work on the Belgian and European level” for campaigns such as “Made in Illegality... and organizing advocacy tours to Palestine and Israel for policy-makers.” “Made in Illegality” is a boycott effort led by the Belgian National Center for Cooperation Development.
Rivlin scolds lawmakers for early elections talk: Israel is not your rag doll
President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday issued a public rebuke to Israeli politicians, saying they were dragging the country behind them like a “rag doll,” amid reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to trigger new elections after weeks of coalition infighting.

“I would like to address all members of the government. I, like the other citizens of the country, follow with great concern the developments in the Knesset, which are repeatedly shaking the already fragile partnership between all the coalition factions,” Rivlin tweeted.

“As a citizen and on behalf of us all, I say: Get a grip! Stop the talk of early elections, of that terrible option at this time, and save yourselves from it,” he said. “The State of Israel is not a rag doll that you drag around as you squabble,” Rivlin added.

“Our citizens, all of us, need you focused, clear, working to resolve the unprecedented crisis in which the State of Israel and all of humanity have found themselves. It is up to you to do it.”

The rare public scolding came hours after two senior Likud MKs threatened new elections and after a report the previous evening that Netanyahu had decided against passing a state budget by a late-August deadline, in a gambit that would trigger a national vote in November.

Quoting sources who have spoken with Netanyahu and his associates, Haaretz reported Wednesday evening that the premier is seeking to create a sense of chaos in the coalition to shore up public support for breaking up the government.
US Senate Votes to Continue Security Aid to Israel
The US Senate passed a $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2021 on Thursday that includes the continuation of American assistance to Israel for missile-defense programs and other initiatives.

The vote tally was 86-14.

The Pentagon blueprint for the upcoming year would authorize $3.3 billion in annual US security aid to Israel, including $500 million towards missile-defense systems in Israel, such as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow 3, in accordance with the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, between the United States and Israel worth $38 billion over a decade.

The Senate NDAA would authorize $12 million over the next three years for an initiative to enhance partnerships between companies in the United States and Israel to develop innovative medical projects primarily aimed at detecting and treating the coronavirus.

It would also establish a US-Israel Operations Technology Working Group to focus on research and development in key battlefield technology.

Additionally, the Senate measure would authorize the establishment of a directed energy program with Israel; the establishment of a directed energy program with Israel; a total of $18 million for US-Israel cooperation in energy, water, agriculture and alternative-fuel technologies; and $10 million over the next five years to finance cooperative projects among the United States, Israel and developing countries.

Moreover, it would extend authorization for the US War Reserve Stockpile in Israel through fiscal year 2025 and authorize an additional $200 million annually in stocks.
IDF Preparing for ‘Third Wave’ of Coronavirus, Expected to Peak in October
The IDF has begun preparations for a “third wave” of the coronavirus, which it predicts will reach its peak in October and continue throughout the winter.

The Israeli news site Walla reported that the IDF believed the current second wave of the virus had topped out, and the time to get ready for the next wave was now.

In particular, it was thought the winter weather could lead to the worst outbreak yet.

The IDF chief of staff has ordered the purchase of enough flu vaccines to vaccinate all soldiers before winter, thus removing a possible complication due to the ease of confusing the symptoms of the two diseases.

Plans are also in place to substantially ramp up testing. The head of the IDF’s Technological and Logistics Directorate has been ordered to conduct a thousand tests a day and to significantly shorten the waiting time for the results.

The IDF Medical Corps is planning to immediately isolate soldiers who display coronavirus-like symptoms. If tests reveal that a soldier has the flu, they will be sent home. If they are diagnosed with the coronavirus, they will be transferred to a special IDF recovery center.

As a last resort, the IDF itself would be locked down, with soldiers forbidden to return to their homes, be in large groups or go to clubs, pools or the beach.

There have been more than 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 400 deaths in Israel so far.
Blasts reported on Syria border; shrapnel hits car on Israeli side, none injured
Explosions were heard along the border with Syria on Friday morning, with shrapnel apparently damaging a nearby Israeli civilian car and building, the Israel Defense Forces said, following unconfirmed reports of either anti-tank or anti-aircraft Syrian fire at an Israeli target.

The blasts came amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Hezbollah terror group, which maintains a presence on the Syrian Golan Heights, after one of the organization’s fighters was killed in an airstrike attributed to Israel on Monday night.

The military said the explosions occurred on the Syrian side of the border, but shrapnel had “likely” caused damage to the building and vehicle inside Israeli territory.

The IDF said it was looking into the nature of the explosions.

Syrian media reports said the anti-aircraft fire targeted an Israeli drone that crossed the border into Syria. The drone then returned to Israel, the report by the pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen said.

The incident occurred near the Druze town of Majdal Shams in the northern Golan Heights.
Is the Golan incident linked to tensions over Hezbollah’s 'retaliation'
On Friday afternoon, just around noontime, an incident unfolded near the large Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights. Initial reports by the IDF said that explosions were heard near the security fence on the Syrian side, and damage to a building and vehicle occurred on the Israeli side from shrapnel.

This comes amid heightened tensions with Hezbollah. On Thursday Israel sent additional forces to the north. Hezbollah’s social media has been full of claims they will retaliate for what they say was the death of one of their members in a July 20 airstrike in Syria. That man Kamal Ali Mohsen was given a funeral and martyr’s burial.

The pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen media, based out of Beirut, has highlighted Israel’s recent tight-lipped discussions about recent strikes, asserting that Israel is no longer discussing strikes “attributed” to Israel. This appears to be in light of recent tensions and an attempt to not stoke more tensions than are already there.

In addition, Iranian sources tried to blame Israel for intercepting an Iranian Mahan air flight in Syria on Thursday, and pro-Iran media have continued to push stories about cyberattacks on Iran and the sabotage at the Natanz nuclear facility. That is the context in which the incident in the Golan unfolded, where many are on edge in the region.

In the past Hezbollah has warned about retaliation for the killing of any of its members, whether in Lebanon or Syria. That means that it was under pressure after the death of Mohsen. Earlier this year, Hezbollah cut three holes in the fence along the Lebanon-Israel border and bragged about doing so as a message to Israel.


Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Victims of Arab Racism
Lebanon's anti-Palestinian sentiments show that it has no intention of helping the Palestinians who are living there. On the contrary, the statements of Bassil and other Lebanese politicians demonstrate that Lebanon is eager to rid itself of its Palestinian residents, the sooner the better. Like most Arab countries, Lebanon cares nothing about the suffering of the Palestinians. Other than lip service, it is not prepared to make the slightest effort to assist them.

"Palestinians in Lebanon do not enjoy several important rights; for example, they cannot work in as many as 39 professions and cannot own property (real estate)." — United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), unrwa.org.

Lebanese law considers Palestinians workers as "foreign workers" and bans them from working in professions such as medicine, law, and engineering, and even as barbers and taxi drivers.

The international community evidently has no problem with Arab racism and discrimination against the Palestinians. Indeed, why should the international community, specifically the UN, care about this -- after all, it is a situation about which Israel cannot be held responsible.
Qatar set to deliver another $10 million to Gaza, envoy says
Qatari envoy to Gaza, Mohammed Al-Emadi, who heads the efforts to rehabilitate the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave, confirmed on Thursday that another monthly cash installment to help needy families would be delivered on Saturday. Altogether $10 million will be delivered.

Al-Emadi said in an official statement that the funds would be distributed via post offices throughout Gaza to some 100,000 families, with each family receiving $100. The distribution process is expected to continue until next Wednesday, July 29.

Qatar has approved the delivery of $150 million to Gaza throughout 2020, primarily earmarked for humanitarian initiatives and families in need. Since 2012, Qatar has transferred upwards of one billion dollars to Gaza for various purposes.

Qatar often serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas. The energy-rich Gulf state also has overseen large reconstruction projects in the war-battered territory.
PA blames Israel for coronavirus cases in West Bank
The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of deliberately spreading the coronavirus in the Palestinian territories as the number of active cases has begun to climb again.

Over recent weeks, prominent Palestinian politicians have laid the blame for coronavirus within the Palestinian population squarely at Israel's feet, blaming soldiers entering Palestinian homes and manning checkpoints - even while admitting that large gatherings may also have had an effect.

On July 17, the official PA daily newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida reported Qadura Fares, Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club as saying “[Israel] is striving to spread the Coronavirus via the invasion of soldiers who are likely to be sick into Palestinian homes and mixing with the civilians and prisoners,” according to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)

His comment followed an earlier report in al-Hayat al-Jadida that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh had blamed Israeli soldiers at border crossings for coronavirus in the West Bank.

"The main reason for the severe trend of increase of the Coronavirus… is the fact that the Palestinian [PA] Security Forces are being prevented [by Israel] from fulfilling their role and supervising the movement at these crossings… The fact that we do not control the crossings and borders – in addition to the occupation’s measures – is the main reason for the increase in the number of those infected with the Coronavirus,” Shtayyeh was reported to have said, according to PMW.

In fact, the PA has never supervised the 1949 Armistice lines.


MEMRI: Lebanese Hizbullah-Affiliated Journalist Calls For Popular And Armed Resistance To U.S. Forces In Iraq And Syria In Response To Economic Strangulation
In an article on the Lebanese website elnashra.com, Hassan Hardan, a Lebanese journalist affiliated with Hizbullah, calls for popular and armed resistance to American forces and those who collaborate with them in Iraq and in Syria, in response to the economic war which he claims the U.S. is waging against Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Calls to strike a blow at the American presence in Lebanon specifically were also heard a few weeks ago, following U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea's criticism of Hizbullah.[1]

In the article, titled "Respond to the American Attack with a Counter-Attack,"[2] Hardan writes:
"It is clear that the U.S. has managed to create crises in Syria, in Iraq, and in Lebanon by means of an economic war which has exacerbated the economic and social controversies and crises in an unprecedented manner. It is obvious that the administration of President Donald Trump has decided to wage 'a clean war,' in which the U.S. won't pay with money from its Treasury or with its soldiers' blood…

"The question is how we can cope with this policy which kills people with the weapon of economic strangulation in order to compel them to surrender to the imperialist American government.

"The answer is not to remain in a state of passive defense but to respond immediately… by means of a counter-attack that will turn the tables on the U.S. and create an economic upheaval that will break the siege that spills our blood, and neutralize the card for economic war which is held by the U.S...

"This counter-attack should simultaneously integrate economic and military measures.

"On the economic front – we must generate fundamental change in the economic possibilities and open a channel of economic cooperation and integration among all elements of the axis of resistance, as well as between them and China and Russia…

"On the military front – we must undertake popular and armed resistance against the American forces and against those who collaborate with them, to lead the U.S. to pay a price for the continuing occupation in Syria and in Iraq, and this should be done by causing material damage and human casualties among its forces, which will lead to internal problems for the American administration in advance of the approaching presidential election. And in this way we will force the American administration to face the necessity to withdraw from Syria and from Iraq for the continuation [of the American presence there] will [mean that the U.S. will have to] contend with a war of attrition… The alternative to withdrawal is involvement in a new war which will oblige them to send tens of thousands of soldiers [to the region] and lead to a further immersion in a war of attrition whose price will be tremendously high…

"The American imperialist should take note that it cannot continue with the economic war it is waging to wear us down and kill us by means of economic strangulation, without its own blood being shed and without [paying] an economic price which will continue to rise…"
Congress Moves to Sanction Chinese, Russian, Iranian Hackers
Congress is considering new legislation that would level sanctions on Chinese, Russian, and Iranian hackers who steal sensitive U.S. data, including new research on the coronavirus.

The legislation came the same day the Trump administration unveiled an unprecedented indictment against two Chinese hackers who the United States alleges stole proprietary American data, including coronavirus research from medical institutions. U.S. law enforcement officials said the Communist Party-backed hackers had been running state-backed espionage operations for at least the last 10 years.

Congress is now moving on the issue, with the first salvo being a bill by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) that would expand U.S. sanctions to cover those who engage in any hacks that endanger American national security. This would include Chinese hackers, as well as those serving rogue regimes like Iran and Russia—both of which have launched scores of cyberattacks on the U.S. government and officials during the past several years.

Frustration with China has been mounting among Democrats and Republicans as the Communist regime continues its coronavirus disinformation campaign and steps up cyber-espionage operations across the globe. Republicans argue that sanctions could help deter hackers, but it is unclear if Democrats would join their colleagues to forward such a measure. Both parties, however, have expressed a desire to hold China accountable for its actions.

While the Justice Department has indicted at least 38 Chinese companies and individuals for cyber-espionage operations in recent years, only two of them have been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, which is responsible for all American sanctions. GOP lawmakers seek to compel the Treasury Department to take further action against cybercriminals across the globe.

While both Iran and Russia have faced severe economic sanctions for human rights abuses and other matters, their hack attacks have gone largely unpunished by the Treasury Department. McCarthy's bill would help rectify this by requiring the federal government to issue a report that identifies the countries behind severe hack attacks and determine whether sanctions would be appropriate.
Iran condemns US after warplane fly-by panics Iranian airliner passengers
Iran said on Friday a US fighter jet "harassed" an Iranian civilian airliner in an act of terrorism which injured and panicked passengers, dismissing a US account that the jet was merely conducting a visual inspection.

State TV video footage of the inside of the Iranian airliner shows a passenger lying immobile of the floor and another with a wounded nose and forehead, presenting his bloodied face mask to the camera.

Several passengers, some seen screaming and shouting, were injured in the flight maneuver over Syria, according to Iranian media, but the US military said its F-15 was at a safe distance.

Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Friday as saying Iran had lodged a formal complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization, describing Thursday's incident as a "terrorist act, one of aggression."

"The explanations provided so far (by the US military) are unjustified and unconvincing," Laya Joneydi, vice president for legal affairs, was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

"The harassment of a passenger plane on the territory of a third country is a clear violation of aviation security and freedom of civilian aircraft."
Unraveling the mystery of US F-15s intercepting Iran’s Mahan air
The US Central Command says that the F-15 was on a routine air mission near Tanf and that is conducted a “standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters.” The US did the inspection to ensure the safety of Coalition personnel at Tanf garrison. The US took almost twelve hours after the incident to release the statement.

The incident happened in Syria when it was nine in the morning in Washington, DC Iranian media reported it several hours later, so it was already in the afternoon when the US would have been asked to react to the reports. Only in the late afternoon did CENTCOM release its statement. Correspondents in Washington began hearing about the US reaction between seven in the evening and nine in the evening, which is twelve hours after the fighter jets first encountered the Mahan air flight.

While Iran has now denounced the US “harassment” of Flight 1152 as “unlawful” and a “terrorist” act, the US says that it conducted the inspection as a professional intercept in accordance with international standards. Iran disagrees and says the passenger plane was moving in a normal flight corridor and the US fighters conducted an unlawful maneuver.

The US says its aircraft, apparently one that came close to the plane and a second that hung back, opened distance when they confirmed it was just a Mahan Air passenger aircraft. Iran wants Lebanon and Syria to file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization. It is not clear by what law the US operates fighter aircraft over Tanf and the Syrian regime as well as Russia have both complained about the US presence in Syria.

The Tanf air corridor is regularly used by Iranian aircraft. In fact, 1152 seems to have used this route often between January and February. There is also apparently a radio beacon that uses VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) and directional measuring equipment (DME) near the Tanf base across from route 2 in Syria. Social media user @RedIntelPanda notes that the beacon enables pilots to use it to cross the area.

The incident over Tanf is only in its early days of being explained and answer sought. Iran will want to show that the US harasses civilian airliners, at a time when Iran is being critiqued for having shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner in January after Iran carried out ballistic missile attacks on US forces in Iraq. Iranians point out that the US has also shot down an Iranian passenger plane in the past. In 1988 The USS Vincennes guided-missile cruiser mistakenly shot down Iran Air flight 655, killing 290 people. Iran-US tensions are already high in the region. Now they are worse.




Former Iranian Diplomat Defends Qasem Soleimani's Honor with a Barrage of Curses at a Saudi Panelist
On July 19, 2020, Al-Etejah TV (Iraq) aired a debate about Iran’s involvement in Iraq. Dr. Khalil Al-Khalil, a former member of the Saudi Shura Council, said that Iran has entrenched its claws in Iraq and that IRGC Qods Force Commander General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in January, 2020, had been a criminal. The host interrupted Dr. Al-Khalil when he referred to General Soleimani as a criminal. He asked Dr. Al-Khalil to be considerate of the feelings of others. Former Iranian diplomat Seyyed Hadi Seyyed Afghahi then responded that Dr. Al-Khalil is a contemptible and good-for-nothing individual. Calling Dr. Al-Khalil a dog, a Zionist, and a lowlife, Afghahi praised General Soleimani for having been a “great martyr,” and he said that Soleimani had been greater than Saudi King Salman Al-Saud, the entire Saudi ruling family, and U.S. President Donald Trump.




Thousands attend prayers as Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia reopens as a mosque
Thousands of Muslim faithful made their way to Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia on Friday to take part in the first prayers in 86 years at the structure that once was one of Christendom’s most significant cathedrals, then a mosque and museum before its reconversion into a Muslim place of worship.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to attend the inaugural prayers inside the sixth-century monument along with around 500 dignitaries, as he fulfills what he has described as the “dream of our youth” anchored in Turkey’s Islamic movement.

Thousands of men and women, including many who traveled from across Turkey, quickly filled segregated areas outside of Hagia Sophia to be part of the first prayers. Several camped near the structure overnight. Dozens of worshippers broke through one police checkpoint to rush toward Hagia Sophia and social distancing practices, in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, were being ignored, Turkish media reported.

Orthodox church leaders in Greece and the United States, meanwhile, were scheduled to observe “a day of mourning” over the inaugural prayers.

Brushing aside international criticism, Erdogan issued a decree restoring the iconic building as a mosque earlier this month, shortly after a Turkish high court ruled that the Hagia Sophia had been illegally made into a museum more than eight decades ago. The structure, listed as UNESCO World Heritage site, has since been renamed “The Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque.”

The move sparked dismay in Greece, the United States and among Christian churches who had called on Erdogan to maintain it as a museum as a nod to Istanbul’s multi-religious heritage and the structure’s status as a symbol of Christian and Muslim unity. Pope Francis expressed his sadness.




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