Friday, December 19, 2014

From Ian:

The Countdown to the Next Gaza Conflict Has Begun
Hamas could, with a fair amount of ease, cause Israel to end its security blockade by accepting the terms of the international Quartet. These include recognizing the state of Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by past agreements.
Of course, those would contravene Hamas's ideology of Islamist jihad and move it away from its current trajectory of organized violence and religious hatred, the foundations upon which it was established in the 1980s by the Muslim Brotherhood.
For now, it seems, Hamas will try, as it has been doing for months, to orchestrate terrorism in the West Bank, on the opposite side of Israel, while upholding its truce in Gaza.
The Israel Defense Forces, too, has spent recent months preparing to respond if there is a fresh round of hostilities.
UN Watch Calls Out Syria for Murdering Palestinians

JPost Editorial: Whitening the list
Elements within the EU are questioning whether Europe should continue to support the West’s policy of refusing to deal with Hamas until it recognizes Israel, abandons terrorism and abides by previously signed agreements.
A growing number of European politicians, civil servants and officials are motivated by anti-Israel sentiment (read anti-Semitism) and a naive, politically correct belief in Palestinian goodwill, despite the abundant evidence of ongoing incitement and terrorist attacks.
In the words of World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, the delisting “gives Hamas a huge moral victory and will strengthen it vis-à-vis moderate forces in the Palestinian territories.”
Added Lauder, “It is especially ironic that today, at a time when not just Western countries such as Canada and the US, but also moderate Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan, consider Hamas a terrorist group, the European Union shouldn’t anymore.”
The course the PA is pursuing toward statehood increasingly demonstrates that political aims can be achieved through terrorism. Not procedural changes, not unilateral moves, not propagandistic declarations, but only direct negotiations can resolve the conflict.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Analysis: The Palestinian diplomatic battle against Israel
As of now, the Palestinians are willing to negotiate with any Israeli government only about ways of implementing the Palestinian statehood project.
The Palestinians have set the parameters for a deal with Israel – namely that there would be no solution unless Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 lines and accepts east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
As far as they are concerned, it does not mater whether Netanyahu, Isaac Herzog or Tzipi Livni head the next government.
They expect the next government to hold negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the content of the draft resolution or face an escalation of the Palestinian diplomatic offensive in the international arena.
The PA leadership views the Security Council move as part of a diplomatic battle against Israel in the international arena. And, as Abbas said on Thursday, this is a battle that the Palestinians are determined to win at any cost.
From autonomy to sovereignty: The Oslo Agreements and Palestinian statehood
Unwittingly, Rabin and Peres painted Israel into a corner. This flaw was exacerbated by subsequent agreements, such as the road map, which touted a “two-state” model, undercutting the Oslo Agreements and encouraging Arab and Palestinian leaders to reject any recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and to continue incitement and terrorism, and move unilaterally toward recognition of sovereign statehood.
Although Abbas’s demand for statehood is an abrogation of the Oslo Agreements, thus releasing Israel from its contractual obligations, the government of Israel seems unwilling to take a more realistic view of its alternatives.
A revaluation of Israeli policy is imperative. Israel’s ambiguity about the status of Judea and Samaria and the Oslo Agreements has led to confusion and has eroded its diplomatic position. There is no logical or legal reason why Israel is obligated to commitments in the Oslo Agreements and the road map while the Palestinian side violates its undertakings.
This offers a golden opportunity to preserve the structure of the Oslo Agreements and benefit Israelis and Arab Palestinians.
Several years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a commission headed by the late High Court justice Edmund Levy and judicial and legal experts, to evaluate issues concerning Area C in Judea and Samaria. The commission issued a report with specific recommendations that would enhance the Oslo Agreements and advance our national interests.
Inexplicably, the prime minister has refused to allow this report to be discussed by the cabinet.
The Palestinians’ UN Charade Collapses
In the end, there wasn’t much suspense about the Obama administration’s decision whether to support a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing a Palestinian state. After weeks of pointless negotiations over proposed texts, including a compromise endorsed by the French and other European nations, the wording of the proposal that the Palestinians persuaded Arab nations to put forward was so outrageous that even President Obama couldn’t even think about letting it pass because it would undermine his own policies. And the rest of the international community is just as unenthusiastic about it. In a very real sense this episode is the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell: the world wants to do something for the Palestinians but their leaders are more interested in pointless shows than in actually negotiating peace or doing something to improve the lives of their people.
The resolution that was presented to the Security Council was so extreme that Jordan, the sole Arab nation that is currently a member, didn’t want anything to do with it. But, after intense lobbying by the Palestinian Authority representative, the rest of the Arab nations prevailed upon Jordan and they put it forward where it will almost certainly languish indefinitely without a vote since its fate is preordained.
The terms it put forward were of Israeli surrender and nothing more. The Jewish state would be given one year to withdraw from all of the territory it won in a defensive war of survival in 1967 where a Palestinian state would be created. That state would not be demilitarized nor would there be any guarantees of security for Israel which would not be granted mutual recognition as the nation state of the Jewish people, a clear sign that the Palestinians are not ready to give up their century-long war against Zionism even inside the pre-1967 lines.
International condemnations: So what?
As for the current diplomatic campaign against Israel: Internationalizing the conflict and criminalizing Israel was always a central Palestinian strategy, and Mahmoud Abbas has made this centerpiece of his decade as Palestinian dictator. He decided more than four years ago to abandon the track of serious negotiations with Israel, and instead to maximize the window of grace he has with U.S. President Barack Obama to increase international pressure on Israel.
But of course, none of this will get the Palestinians very far, despite the unpleasantness for Israel. No series of condemnatory international resolutions will change the realities on the ground. And the reality is that there can be no sovereignty for the Palestinians without negotiated Israeli cooperation, and without much greater Palestinian willingness to compromise.
There is no mini-state or maxi-autonomy for Palestinians (which is really what we're talking about) without overall Israeli security control in the entire area west of the Jordan River -- and this requires a strong and permanent Israeli military imprint in all areas of the West Bank and along the borders. There is no Palestinian state possible without circumscribing maximalist Palestinian demands for a division of Jerusalem or for refugee return. There can be no Palestinian state without compromise over settlements, and without Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, U.N. and European resolutions that pronounce upon contours and timetables for Palestinian statehood without taking into account these realities, only stiffen the resistance of Abbas (and Hamas) to making the sort of concessions that are required for peace. On the contrary, such diplomatic muckraking only emboldens and radicalizes the Palestinians, and pushes any realistic arrangements far down the road.
US: We won't support Palestinian UNSC resolution on an Israeli withdrawal
The US on Thursday said it plans to veto a Palestinian UN Security Council resolution setting a three-year timetable for Israel and its security forces to withdraw from the West Bank.
“We have seen the draft. It is not something we would support,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“We think others feel the same and are calling for further consultations. The Palestinians understand that. You may have also seen [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas speak to this earlier today.... They support continued consultations and they are not pushing for a vote on this now.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry and US officials had hinted throughout the week that they were unlikely to support a resolution that set such a timetable and attempted to unilaterally impose a solution, as opposed to a resolution that supported a negotiated process.
Psaki’s announcement, which came just one day after Jordan filed the resolution on behalf of the Palestinians and the UN’s Arab Group, cast doubt on whether the Security Council would vote on the resolution.
Diplomatic Sources: Arab pressure forced Jordan to file Palestinian UNSC resolution
The UN's Arab Group pressured Jordanian ambassador Dina Kawar to file the Palestinian resolution for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to the UN Security Council, diplomatic sources reported on Thursday.
The sources said that Kawar was extremely reluctant to submit the draft on Wednesday and had to "practically be shoved out the door" in order to do so. She reportedly did not even want to speak to the press.
Jordan is trying to act as cautiously as it can as it faces US disapproval and Arab pressure. The country itself is a tinder box right now, with its Palestinian population agitated due to events in Jerusalem and the further deterioration of the situation in Syria.
Abbas Hints: Withdrawal First, 'Right of Return' Later
In his remarks, Abbas hinted that the PA seeks to first of all force Israel to concede territory, and then will force Israel to accept millions of “Palestinian refugees” who fled Israel during the 1948 War of Independence and their descendants.
"Yesterday we submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council that aims to set a time limit to end the Israeli occupation of the lands of the State of Palestine...This move was made as part of our political campaign to release the land and end the occupation of the Palestinian state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem...” he said.
"The draft resolution stresses the contents of the decision of the recognition of Palestine by the UN in 2012, and in particular the emphasis that the two-state solution must be based on the borders of June 4, 1967, Jerusalem will be the capital of the two states with eastern Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, formulating a just and agreed solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with the Arab peace initiative, the complete cessation of settlement activities, formulating security arrangements that will ensure the presence of a third international party, an agreement for an international conference to launch negotiations, on the condition that the negotiation period not exceed one year and that the end of the Israeli occupation of the state of Palestine will be before the end of 2017,” continued Abbas.
EU Will Lift Restrictions on Hamas in Three Months if Court Ruling Remains Unchallenged, Expert Says
The EU’s measures against Hamas arising from the designation of the Islamist group as a terrorist organization will disappear within three months, absent a successful appeal against yesterday’s decision by the bloc’s General Court to suspend the terror designation on procedural grounds.
“Since the measures have been annulled, they will only be maintained for the period of three months and will be lifted thereafter, unless the Court’s decision is appealed,” Edisa Korugic, an analyst with the London-based think-tank The Henry Jackson Society, told The Algemeiner by email. “If an appeal is launched, the measures will remain in place until a decision on the appeal is made, a process which typically lasts about a year and a half.”
As The Algemeiner reported yesterday, the General Court’s decision has raised concerns that Hamas will exploit any legal ambiguities over its present status to rebuild its organizational and fundraising network within Europe. If no appeal is successfully launched within three months – a temporary period during which, the court said, the measures taken against Hamas when it was designated in December 2001 will remain in place – Hamas could find itself operating legally in Europe again.
The EU’s Hamas Fiasco Exposes Broken System
However, far from a minor and irrelevant technical glitch, as claimed by EU officials, the Hamas court case provided a long overdue window into the systematic failures of European Union’s foreign policy decision making, particularly regarding complex Israeli-Arab issues. Even a cursory examination of these EU policies exposes the degree to which slogans and myths, as repeated by journalists and officials of non-govermental organizations (NGOs), form the basis for decisions on crucial issues of war and peace. And the NGO input is, in turn, recycled through ready to print press releases, and quoted by the government officials. The result is an EU echo chamber, easily manipulated and cut off from the real world.
For example, last year, the foreign ministers of the EU, acting upon recommendations from their delegates in Brussels, and led by officials of the European Union External Action Service with their own agendas, adopted a policy of “guidelines” or a form of economic sanctions on Israel. This is part of a wider campaign to force israel back to the 1949 cease fire lines (mistakenly labeled the “pre-1967 borders”), and, in theory, impose an agreement without any change in the Palestinian narrative and incitement.
In taking this far-reaching political action, the EU did not create a task force, hold public hearings, or summon expert witnesses with differing perspectives. Instead, the molders of policy making on Israel in the bureaucracy of the EEAS outsourced the process, adopting the claims, biases, and problematic analyses of powerful NGOs, many of which are, in turn, funded by the EU. The steady diet of NGO publications was packaged in EU Heads of Missions reports (HoMs) for easy digestion.
The Day Europe Voted for Another Holocaust
In a single day, Europe's highest political and legal bodies voted as just and legitimate the mass deportation of 600,000 Jews from their historic land, the goal of the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas. Europe also gave a legitimacy to the stabbings, rockets, shootings and suicide bombings perpetrated by Hamas and Fatah, which killed over 1,000 Israeli Jews in twenty years.
Europe voted to create a state founded on the ethnic cleansing of every single Jewish man, woman and child between Beersheba and Afula and the Jordan border and Tel Aviv. Europe wants to ethnically cleanse one third of the Judea and Samaria population.
Mr. Abbas, this Holocaust denier, said it last year in front of those European faces. He proclaimed his Nazi and Stalinist intentions. Lady Ashton, the ridiculous then EU foreign chief, was present. And she stood silent.
On December 18, 2014, Europe voted to see hundreds of thousands of Jews surrendering to expulsion or to becoming refugees like "lambs to the slaughter".
The EU is No Innocent Bystander, No Honest Broker
Centuries of European anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust, made possible not only by the rise of Nazism in Germany, but by the acts of other European countries as well – acts of commission and omission. Two years after World War II, European nations supported the UN plan calling for a Jewish state, support that reflected both a sense of guilt toward the Jews, and national interests.
Although every Arab state rejected Israel’s right to exist, Western Europe forged diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Britain and France even established strategic relations with Israel in the early 1950s when Britain sought to regain control over the Suez Canal from Egypt.
The Israeli media criticized Europe’s unbridled support for the Palestinians, while ignoring their terror campaign. Perhaps the culmination was in 2002 when French president Jacques Chirac invited the head of Hezbollah to a summit of French-speaking nations as an honored guest.
Moreover, Israelis cannot forgive the indifference most Europeans have demonstrated toward Israeli casualties, as respected European intellectuals justify suicide bombings as testimony to Israeli oppression and guilt.
Europe’s support for the Arabs today, based on the mistaken assumption one can buy immunity from Arab terror and ensure the flow of oil, is about as viable as Europe’s sell-out of Czechoslovakia in 1938 for “peace in our times.” In the meantime, by not setting limits, Europe’s shortsighted policy encourages extremism.
Continued support of the Palestinians, despite the terrorism, prolongs violence and loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives.
Gaza Palestinians fire rocket at Eshkol region
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at an Israeli community in the Eshkol region near the Gaza Strip on Friday morning.
The rocket fell in an open area, causing neither casualties nor damage.
It was the third time that Gaza terrorists have fired rockets at Israel since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
IDF soldiers swept the area and found the remains of the rocket.
Danon: The EU Got it's Proof That Hamas is a Terror Group
Former Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) responded to the Gaza rocket attack Friday morning, linking it to the European Union's (EU) removal of Hamas from its terrorist organization list on Wednesday.
"This morning the Europeans received more proof that Hamas is a terrorist organization," released Danon in a statement after the rocket attack which fortunately didn't inflict any wounds or damage.
The MK continued "the rocket that Hamas fired at Israel proves again to European countries that they don't need to wait for any check as to whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, if anyone still had a doubt about it they received their answer now with the (rocket) firing."
Exclusive: IDF indicts alleged perpetrators of West Bank terror attacks
The IDF West Bank prosecution on Thursday filed indictments against the suspects in the Gush Etzion junction and al-Arub terrorist attacks of early December and mid-November, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The indictments, both filed in the Judea Military Court, have not been publicly announced.
In the Gush Etzion attack, the indictment stated, Amal Ahmad, 20, a Palestinian woman from the nearby village of Beit Fajar with no prior criminal record, stabbed Yehoshua Lorch, 31, in early December.
Lorch stood at a hitchhiking post when he recognized a driver who had stopped to offer people a ride. Ahmad, who had hidden a kitchen knife under her clothing, the indictment noted, came at Lorch from behind and stabbed him.
Teen Terrorist in Court for Wounding Baby
A Jerusalem court has brought charges against a teenage terrorist who wounded a young baby last week. The 16-year-old attacker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Arab resident of the city.
He was charged with hurling a brick at a bus last Sunday. The bus was heading for the Western Wall, a Jewish holy site.
Several passengers were hit with shattered glass in the attack, and a baby suffered cuts to his head.
Arab children and teens living in Jerusalem have been involved in several recent attacks. This week, a group of Arab boys ages just 10 to 12 attacked a civilian bus, causing damage but no injuries.
Clashes erupt between Palestinians, security forces in West Bank
In the Palestinian village of Kufr Qadoum and the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, Palestinian protesters were throwing stones at the Israeli forces and set tires alight.
Disturbances were also reported near the villages of Turmusaya, Silwad and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem, according to Israel Radio.
Israeli forces responded with riot dispersal means.
Turmusaya was the site of a Palestinian-Israeli scuffle earlier this month during which Palestinian Authority senior official Ziad Abu Ein collapsed. He later died en route to hospital.
Hamas Claims to Have Caught an 'Israeli Agent'
Hamas is claiming that its security forces in Gaza arrested an “Israeli agent” who was tasked with gathering information on the weapons presented by the Al-Qassam Brigades during a parade held this week to mark the anniversary of the establishment of Hamas.
The Hamas-affiliated Al-Majd website reported on Thursday that the alleged “agent” admitted that an Israeli intelligence officer instructed him to record details regarding the weapons and report about the places where the missile and UAVs that were on display were stored after the parade.
Hamas’s rulers in Gaza regularly expose and execute people who are deemed to be “collaborating” with Israel.
Last summer, during Operation Protective Edge, Hamas executed more than 20 alleged collaborators with Israel.
Only 2% delivered of $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza reconstruction, officials say
Two months after donors pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza after the war between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian, UN and other officials say barely two percent of the money has been transferred.
The conference in Cairo had been hailed as a success, with Qatar promising $1 billion, Saudi Arabia $500 million and the United States and the European Union a combined $780 million in various forms of assistance.
Half was expected to go to rebuilding houses and infrastructure in Gaza destroyed during seven weeks of fighting, and the rest to support the Palestinian budget.
But of the total, only $100 million or so has been received, according to UN and other officials. While the EU and the United States have accelerated some funding that was already in the pipeline, very few new pledges have come to fruition.
UN Doubles Gaza Damage Estimate, Demands More Funds
Despite the fact that world nations pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild the Hamas stronghold of Gaza, the UN on Thursday claimed it's running out of money to house families in the area, and doubled the estimate of homes damaged in Hamas's latest terror war on Israel.
"Unless the situation changes urgently, we will run out of funds in January, meaning we will not be able to provide rental subsidies to many affected families nor provide the support required to carry out repairs," said Robert Turner, the operations director for UNRWA.
He said more than 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the 50-day war, more than twice the UN's original estimate. The high level of destruction is due to the fact that Hamas heavily entrenched its terrorist network in the civilian infrastructure of Gaza.
Report: Hamas using Gaza reconstruction materials to repair infiltration tunnels
Hamas has reportedly begun repairing its network of underground infiltration tunnels damaged in the summer war with Israel, Israel Radio cited unnamed Palestinian sources as saying.
According to the report, Hamas has been reinforcing its tunnel offensive used against Israel by means of diverted cement and building materials that recently entered Gaza for reparation efforts following Operation Protective Edge.
The sources said that while the majority of construction materials have reached their intended destinations for use in rebuilding private home, Gaza's ruling Islamist group has obtained a share, Israel Radio reported.
Hamas's International Triangle of Bases: Gaza, Turkey and Qatar
In recent years, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas has developed into a truly international entity. Today, it enjoys three territorial bases of operation: Gaza, the seat of the Hamas regime, Turkey, and Qatar.
According to Israeli intelligence estimates, each base serves a different purpose. The three branches have worked, alternatively, in harmony and in discord, together and independently, in line with the various terrorist activities they pursue.
"These are not the same leaderships," one security source said, speaking of the Hamas command structure in each base.
"Qatar is home to Hamas's political branch, headed by Khaled Meshaal. In Turkey [in the city of Istanbul], Hamas maintains a military branch headquarters, which sets up terrorist infrastructure. This headquarters is comprised partly of former Hamas prisoners who were ejected from Israel during the [2011] Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. In Gaza, there are both military and political operatives."
Gazans rally for ex-strongman as corruption trial opens
Thousands of supporters of exiled Palestinian strongman Mohammed Dahlan protested Thursday in Gaza against the reported sacking of dozens of members of the security forces who back him.
The demonstration came as a trial opened in the West Bank against Dahlan on charges of corruption, seven months after a Palestinian court sentenced him to two years in jail for defamation.
Dahlan once held the internal security portfolio and headed the powerful security forces in the Gaza Strip, acting as pointman for the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas — his sworn rival.
But he fell from grace in June 2007 when Hamas drove Fatah from Gaza after days of fierce street battles.
Famous Egyptian writer says Hamas is “the real enemy,” not Israel
Egyptian writer and playwright Ali Salem, who has a record of peaceful statements regarding Israel, said Israel is Egypt’s “friend” and Hamas is “the real enemy.”
It is not in Israel’s interest for Egypt to suffer from a lack of security, Salem said on Al-Arabiya TV in an interview Wednesday, the Egyptian El-Watan website reported.
The intellectual said Hamas and Islamic State present the most serious threat to Egypt.
Salem has visited Israel and called for the normalization of relations, drawing strong reactions from critics.
The real enemy is also poverty, ignorance, and disease, he said, adding, “Egypt will defeat terrorism no matter how long it takes.”
Burgas attack said to have put Hezbollah on Mossad spy’s trail
Hezbollah was first alerted to the possibility of a foreign agent in its ranks in the aftermath of a bus bombing in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas in 2012 that killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver, the report said, citing an anonymous security source.
The group’s suspicion was reportedly aroused when the Bulgarian interior minister accused it of being behind the attack. Shorbah had informed Israel that Hezbollah was behind the attack, and Jerusalem, in turn, relayed the information to the Bulgarian authorities, the report said.
Shorbah, who also allegedly played a key role in the 2008 assassination of top Hezbollah official Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, thwarted five attempts by the group to avenge his death, piquing Hezbollah’s suspicions in the process, the report said.
Mughniyeh’s assassination was considered a major blow to the group, and while Israel never claimed responsibility, Hezbollah has blamed Jerusalem for the attack.
‘Powerful Coalition’ of ISIS, Al-Qaeda is Narrowly Averted
An American Jewish lawyer claims he nearly got Al-Qaeda to unite with ISIS as part of an attempt to free an American hostage. The unification of the two terrorist movements could have had huge implications in the Middle East and worldwide.
Attorney Stanley Cohen told the British Guardian that ISIS and Al-Qaeda nearly bridged the gap between them during negotiations, led by him, to free American aid worker Peter Kassig.
Cohen is a radical figure who has worked with Hamas and Al-Qaeda in the past. He openly supports Hamas, which is fighting to obliterate Israel and replace it with an Islamic caliphate.
He says he got involved in efforts to save Kassig after he was approached by Arabs from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. They told him that Kassig, a former US soldier who later became an anti-war activist, was “a good guy.”
Cohen told the Guardian that he was uniquely able to help Kassig due to his contacts in Al-Qaeda. He claimed to have the FBI’s support in pursuing Kassig’s request, although it is not clear if the FBI was aware of the details of Cohen’s work.
Kurds Score Biggest Victory Yet Against ISIS in Iraq
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are claiming their most decisive victory yet against the brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in northern Iraq, by breaking the jihadists' siege of the strategic Mount Sinjar.
Mount Sinjar has been the scene of one of the most high-profile humanitarian emergencies in the fight against ISIS, with thousands of Yazidi Kurds being trapped there for months after fleeing the Islamists' conquest of the town of Sinjar. ISIS has killed countless Yazidis during its bloody push through Iraq and sold scores of Yazidi women into sex slavery, as part of a systematic campaign of ethnic-cleansing. Those trapped on the mountain had been faced with a grim choice: surrender and convert, or die.
But Kurds say their latest operation to break the siege and free those trapped, which began on Wednesday, has been successful. The Peshmerga ground offensive involved 8,000 Kurdish fighters, who attacked ISIS positions in a two-pronged offensive and succeeded in breaking open a wide corridor to allow refugees to be evacuated to safety.
Islamic State fight to take at least 3 years, says US general
The general in command of U.S. forces involved in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria said on Thursday he thought it would take a minimum of three years to achieve a turning point against the group.
Asked at a Pentagon briefing about progress on the ground, Army Lt. Gen. James Terry said that the first U.S. air strikes had taken place only four months ago and counseled patience, estimating it would "at least take a minimum of three years."
Meanwhile, two senior Islamic State leaders were killed in U.S. and coalition airstrikes in northern Iraq in the last week, U.S. officials said Thursday, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved new orders for several hundred troops to deploy to Iraq to train Iraqi forces.
According to one of the U.S. officials, airstrikes killed a key deputy of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and one of his military chiefs. A third militant, described as a mid-level leader, was also killed.
Leaked Documents Reveal Iran Trying to Drag Turkey Into Alliance with Assad
Iran, the main ally of the Syrian regime, is trying to bring Turkey into an alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, according to leaked documents published in Al-Arab (Arabic link). The Iranians are doing this using a variety of methods, including emphasizing the growing conflict between the American and Turkish governments.
In recent days, a series of meetings was planned between officials from Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Officials in the three countries did not provide details of the contents of these meetings, but analysts believe that the meetings were intended to soften the Turkish government’s stance towards the Assad regime and persuade it to stick to the Iranian initiative to resolve the crisis in Syria.
Tehran recently announced a new four-pronged initiative, but did not provide further details on the proposals. According to some leaks, the initiative focuses on keeping Assad in power while reducing some of his responsibilities, primarily in the military and security sectors.
Monument unveiled to Jewish soldiers
Why did Iran this week unveil a monument to Jewish soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988 and saw both countries suffer millions of casualties and billions of dollars in damage? Numbers of dead Jewish soldiers are estimated at 150, a drop in the ocean. The regime has two objectives: to show that it is moderate and reasonable - that the US can do business with Iran in its nuclear talks; and to emphasise the Jews' unswerving loyalty to their country. Haaretz/AP reports:
Jewish community leaders and a number of Iranian religious officials took part in the ceremony on Monday, according to Maariv's website, NRG.
Photographs from the ceremony were published on the websites of Iranian news agencies IRNA and Tasnim, showing banners featuring images of the fallen Jewish troops, called "martyrs," and wreaths placed alongside the monument, which includes a Hebrew inscription reading "Peace forever."
Other images show religious figures laying wreaths at the soldiers' graves and attendees of the ceremony praying together.
Pakistan grants bail to alleged Mumbai attacks planner
Pakistani court Thursday granted bail to the alleged mastermind of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, lawyers told AFP, a move likely to further inflame tensions with India.
Relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals worsened dramatically after the carnage, in which 10 gunmen attacked luxury hotels, a popular cafe, a train station and a Chabad Jewish center.
The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world, as commandos battled the heavily-armed gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of November 26.
The Chabad House in south Mumbai was left bullet-ridden and bereft of its directors Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivky, who were both slain in the siege. Four tourists were also killed on site — Israelis Benzion Kruman, 26, and Yoheved Orpaz, 62 as well as Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, 37, of Brooklyn, and Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, of Mexico.
It took the authorities three days to regain full control of the city and New Delhi has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack.
Alan Johnson: After the Pakistan school attack, we need to talk about Islam
Please. Enough.
The mantra that Islamism "has nothing to do with Islam" is well-intentioned. It aims to delegitimise the terrorists and strengthen the vast majority of Muslims who oppose terror. It is no doubt what the "comms" experts are telling the Prime Minister to say. But they are wrong. The unthinking, kneejerk, pro-forma and near-Orwellian denial of the deep and manifold connections between Islam and Islamism has to stop.
Forget Alastair Campbell. We have to start "doing religion" because, as I learnt in 2008-2010 when interviewing 25 young British Muslims who had taken a journey in and out of extremism, we have to start "doing" Islam if we are to defeat Islamism.
We are petrified of speaking obvious truths. When a lord recently dared to invite Muslim leaders to address the violence in the Koran, he was condemned.
This groupthink has to stop.

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