Thursday, February 09, 2017

From Ian:

Unlike Obama, Trump isn’t obsessed with where Israel’s Jews live
It takes a curious derangement to conclude from this that all would be well in the Middle East if only Israel would stop enlarging Jewish neighborhoods. Yet that is the mindset of the UN and much of the international community. It was also the mindset of the Obama administration, which rarely missed an opportunity to condemn Israeli settlements — going so far as to facilitate a Security Council resolution declaring even East Jerusalem, with its storied Jewish Quarter, “occupied Palestinian territory.”
To its credit, the Trump administration rejects that paradigm. The Republican platform adopted last summer made no reference to the “two-state” unicorn, and Trump’s ambassador to Israel firmly backs the expansion of Jewish communities in the historic Jewish heartland. Last week the White House spokesman, while advising caution toward the construction of new settlements, made a point of emphasizing that the new president and his foreign-policy team “don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”
Bizarrely, those words were spun in the media as a sign that Trump had come to embrace Obama’s way of thinking about Israel and the Palestinians.
That interpretation struck me as wrong-headed on its face. When Trump warmly welcomes Netanyahu to Washington next week, I expect it to seem even more outlandish.
Anything can change, of course, especially given Trump’s volatility. But on the evidence so far, Obama’s frostiness toward Israel is anathema to the new administration. Palestinian rejectionism has always been the insurmountable impediment to Middle East peace — not Jewish housing. Obama could never bring himself to acknowledge that elementary truth. I’m guessing Trump won’t have that problem.

At least 5 lightly wounded in Petah Tikva shooting, stabbing attack
At least five people were lightly wounded after a Palestinian man opened fire at a bus and stabbed someone near an outdoor market in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva on Thursday evening, officials said.
Police officers arrested the West Bank man, who was still in possession of the gun used in the attack, a police spokesperson said.
The suspected terrorist is 18 years old, a resident of the northern West Bank, according to police.
Just before 5:00 p.m., the gunman opened fire at a bus near the Petah Tikva market on HaBaron Hirsch Street, hitting a man and a woman in their 50s. Another woman, approximately 30 years old, was also injured by shrapnel.
They all suffered wounds to their legs, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
He continued on foot before he was cornered by a group of civilians outside a sewing machine repair shop, according to police officer Ami Ben-David.

David Horovitz: Netanyahu beware: Cheerleading for Trump risks Israel’s vital bipartisan US ties
Benjamin Netanyahu appears to think that Donald Trump is his American presidential dream come true.
On Wednesday, in the Oval Office, Netanyahu expects to sit with a US president who has no delusions about Iran’s ideological and territorial rapacity, and who does not believe for a second that the radical ayatollahs can be moderated by warm words and sanctions relief. A US president who considers Israel a gutsy American ally in the evil black hole of the Middle East. A US president who respects strength, and who by extension appreciates the revived Jewish state’s accumulation and projection of power.
And Netanyahu may well be right.
But Benjamin Netanyahu leads a savvy people. And the people of Israel, when asked ahead of the US presidential elections whom they would choose to run America, preferred Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, even as they told some of the same pollsters that they thought Donald Trump would be a better president for Israel. How to understand that seemingly inexplicable contradiction? Quite simply: Israelis thought they’d know where they’d be with a president Clinton, and it might not be great but it probably wouldn’t be disastrous. As for a president Trump, they figured he might turn out to be the best of allies, far more supportive than Clinton, but they couldn’t be sure. And the unpredictability surrounding a would-be president with no track record, who as far as is known has never set foot in Israel, evidently worried them. When you’re a small country trying to plot a stable course through a region in perpetual, vicious turmoil, knowing exactly where things stand with your key ally, your existentially critical ally, is absolutely vital.
America’s international challenges cannot be fixed with the dramatic flourish of a presidential pen on an executive order
Three weeks in, President Trump is attempting to deliver the rapid remedies for America’s perceived ills that he promised on the campaign trail. But he’s finding it predictably frustrating. No matter how vigorous and determined you may be, protecting America and the free world from radical Islamic terrorism cannot be achieved overnight by imposing a ban on a dubious selection of Muslim countries. Islamic State cannot be destroyed in a month. Iran will not go meekly back into its box because you changed America’s tone and reimposed minor sanctions. Fresh thinking was long overdue, but many of America’s international challenges, just like its domestic difficulties, cannot be fixed with the dramatic flourish of a presidential pen on an executive order. The devil is in the detail. Wisdom lies between the extremes. And while Trump might want to believe that the complexities he has so quickly encountered are being manufactured by lying, dissembling, unpatriotic judges and legislators and journalists, those complexities are real, many of them defeated his predecessors, and they will need to be solved, not griped about, if he is to succeed.
Which brings us back to Netanyahu and Israel.
Deputy foreign minister: Outpost law a ‘just’ solution for Palestinians
Responding to international criticism over Israel’s new law legalizing some West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely insisted the contentious legislation was rooted in a “just legal principle.”
Israel has come under harsh censure from the international community since the Knesset passed the Regulation Law on Monday, criticism she said was misguided.
“The settlement law that the Israeli parliament passed this week reflects a just legal principle,” Hotovely said in an English-language video statement Wednesday.
She said the wave of criticism was based on the incorrect underlying premise that Israeli settlements were built on occupied Palestinian land.
“Israel has both historic and legal rights to this land, and the law reaches the right balance between the rights of the Jewish families to their homes and the right of the owners of these plots of land to get compensation,” Hotovely said.
She said the principle of compensation could be found in all Western legal systems, and “creates the right justice between the Palestinians and the Jewish families.”
Alon Ben-Meir: How Moving the US Embassy to West Jerusalem, While Denying Israel’s Sovereignty Over East Jerusalem, Could Inject New Life Into the Peace Process
If President Trump fulfills his campaign promise to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, there will be major regional and international repercussions.
The Trump administration is currently evaluating the implications of such a move, and no final decision has been made. Given the sensitivity and far-reaching consequences, if Trump decides to relocate the embassy, it is critical that he concurrently engage in a balancing act to prevent the potentially disastrous fallout.
Trump should use the occasion of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington on February 15th to make it clear that relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem will have a price tag: a) Israel must commit to the two-state solution; b) the US will recognize that east Jerusalem will be the capital of the future state of Palestine; c) the expansion of the settlements cannot continue unabated; and d) Israel must not implement the new law that retroactively legalizes scores of illegal settlements built on private Palestinian land.
Relocating the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unconditionally would be a de facto recognition of Jerusalem, east and west, as the capital of Israel. Here is what would happen if the Trump administration makes such a move.
Poll: Most Israelis believe US will move embassy to Jerusalem
Most Israelis believe President Donald Trump will or may fulfill his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a new poll by the Maagar Mochot research institute found Wednesday.
The survey, commissioned by the Besheva media group, the parent company of the Israel National News network, ahead of its Jerusalem Conference next week, polled a random sample of 501 respondents, which is a representative sample the adult population in Israel.
When asked, "To what extent do you believe the president of the United States will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem," 35% of respondents said they absolutely believed Trump would move the embassy. Some 38% said they believed Trump may move the embassy, 22% said they did not believe the administration would move the embassy, and the remaining 5% of respondents provided other answers to the question.
Friedman, Trump’s Israel envoy pick, reportedly behind new settler homes
A recently approved apartment building in a West Bank settlement was reportedly funded by an organization headed by David Friedman, US President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel.
The planned five-story apartment building, which will hold 20 apartments, is financed by American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which Friedman chairs, according to a television report Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2 News. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government OK’d the building in Beit El as part of the first wave of approvals of settler homes since Trump took office.
In the past two weeks, Israel has approved about 6,000 homes in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Most of the homes are slated to go up in the major settlement blocs, which Israel expects to keep as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians. The apartment in Beit El was an exception, which Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said was approved as part of a High Court of Justice decision.
American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which is an American nonprofit organization, raised almost $667,000 for its Israeli counterpart, the Organization for the Sukkat Ovadia Yeshiva of Beit El, Channel 2 reported. Friedman’s name appears on several buildings in Beit El funded by the American organization.
Zionist Group Demands Pelosi Retract Slander Against Bannon
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a prominent pro-Israel group, is calling on Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to retract her recent comments calling White House chief strategist and former Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon a “white supremacist.”
“ZOA urges U.S. House Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to retract her defamatory, ugly and erroneous name calling of Senior Presidential Strategist Stephen Bannon,” the organization wrote in a press release.
“It is beneath the dignity of her office, and sets a very bad example for the nation, for her to engage in name-calling – especially when she hurls attacks that are baseless and untrue,” the press release said. “We are thus deeply disappointed that Congresswoman Pelosi repeatedly defamed presidential advisor and National Security Council member Stephen Bannon on February 2, 2017 by wrongly and falsely calling him a ‘white supremacist.'”
ZOA says the “absurdity” of Pelosi “labeling Mr. Bannon a ‘white supremacist'” is evidenced by the multiple pro-Israel stories published by Breitbart News while Mr. Bannon was the site’s chairman.
Major Jewish Group Highlights: 6 out of 7 Trump Travel Ban Nations Reject Israeli Passports
The Zionist of Organization of America (ZOA) called attention to the fact that six of the seven Muslim-majority nations covered by President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban currently deny entry to travelers who hold Israeli passports.
ZOA President Morton Klein issued a statement Feb. 3 praising British Prime Minister Theresa May’s comment during a recent House of Commons session that “it is absolutely right that this House should be aware of the discrimination and the ban that exists around the world…particularly for those who are Israeli citizens.”
Sixteen countries bar entry to Israeli passport holders, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Of those countries, Trump’s executive order applies to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Somalia is the only country falling under the US travel ban that allows Israeli passport-holders to enter.
Netanyahu to Africa Envoys: Changing UN Voting Patterns Top Diplomatic Goal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a gathering of Israel’s envoys to Africa that his top diplomatic goal is to end African countries’ “automatic” votes against the Jewish state at the United Nations.
“Africa is as high as it has ever been in the pyramid of our foreign policy interests, except perhaps in the 1960s,” Netanyahu said. “The first interest is to dramatically change the situation regarding African votes at the UN and other international bodies from opposition to support.”
Netanyahu told the Israeli diplomats that his top goal is to “change their voting patterns, given that the automatic majority against Israel at the UN is composed — first and foremost — of Arab countries. There are 54 countries [in Africa]. If you change the voting pattern of a majority of them, you at once bring them from one side to the other. We want to erode the opposition and change it to support.”
“While there are many other goals, it outweighs them all,” the prime minister said, adding that “the day is not far off when we will have a majority” of support in the UN.
PA has more diplomatic missions around the world than Israel
For the first time ever, Israel has fewer diplomatic missions worldwide than the Palestinian Authority—103-102. Additionally, while Israel only has representation in 78 countries, the Palestinians are represented in 95 countries.
Over the past year, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has closed four missions—El Salvador, the Caribbean Islands, Marseille and Philadelphia—leaving the country with 98 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions in addition to four representative offices.
Compared to the rest of the world, Israel's numbers are not particularly high: Iran has 142 missions around the world, Turkey has 223, Egypt has 166, Morocco has 135, Pakistan has 118 and Saudi Arabia has 108. The Arab League and Iran together have a total of 1,941 missions.
"It is time for Israel to understand that every embassy is a front against foreign relations challenges," said the Foreign Ministry Workers Union Chairman Hanan Goder. "The more missions there are, the stronger the defense and the brighter the display window. The State of Israel must get to every place possible in the world."
Palestinians Fear Being Sidelined by White House
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who spent hundreds of hours on the phone and in meetings with U.S. presidents and secretaries of state in the past 12 years, has tried unsuccessfully to reach out to President Donald Trump. Abbas and his aides are alarmed by the possibility of being sidelined at a time when the administration is embracing Israel's prime minister who heads to the White House next week. Here's a look at what's at stake for Abbas and Palestinian hopes for statehood.
In December, the Trump transition team refused to meet with Palestinian officials visiting Washington, putting them off until after the Jan. 20 inauguration, according to senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat, the main point man for official contacts with the United States. Other advisers say Abbas tried to arrange a phone call with Trump after the November election and again after the inauguration, but received no response to his requests. The White House did not respond to a January letter in which Abbas expressed concerns about possibly moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem.
Erekat, whose contacts are now limited to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, has been quoted as saying that "we have sent them letters, written messages; they don't even bother to respond to us." In contrast, Trump spoke twice with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone, on Nov. 9 and Jan. 22, and will receive him at the White House on Feb. 15.
Five Reasons The Muslim Brotherhood Is a Terror Group
“For more than 30 years, Muslim Brotherhood associated movements and parties have been a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East.” Professor John Esposito, the Director of the Bridge Initiative, made this remark in a submission to the House Judiciary Committee, when asked to provide evidence concerning the proposed bill to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Here are five reasons his claim is false and the Muslim Brotherhood should be listed as a terrorist organization.
Its stated goal is the establishment of an Islamic State
According to the original bylaws of the Muslim Brotherhood, the stated goal of the organization is the restoration of an Islamic state as a system of government ruled in accordance with sharia. Article 2:E of the bylaws, as posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website as recently as 2011 and recorded by the Investigative Project on Terrorism reads “The need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings. Defend the nation against the internal enemies, try to present the true teachings of Islam and communicate its ideas to the world.”
Russia promises to keep weapons out of Hezbollah's hands
Russian Ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shane, said that his country is working to prevent the transfer of Russian weapons to Hezbollah.
During an interview with the Interfax news agency, Shane noted that Israel presented Moscow with its "red lines" and shared concerns about Russia's cooperation with Iran and Syria.
According to Shane, Israel presented red lines to the Russians about events in Syria, the most important of which were the transfer of modern, advanced weapons to Hezbollah and the establishment of an anti-Israel base with Iran in the Syrian Golan.
"Russia explained to Israel how it thinks the crisis in Syria can be solved in order to unite all forces in the war against terrorist groups and establish a steady future for Syria by Syrians themselves," said Shane.
Shane added that Israel understands was his country is doing in Syria, "but for them, the best thing that can happen is cooperation between Russia and the United States—and not Russia and Iran—to solve the crisis in Syria and the fight against terrorism in the Middle East."
Hezbollah launches donation campaign: 'Arm the Jihadist'
The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has launched a widespread campaign in recent days calling on member of the public to help finance its combatants and military activities.
Under the slogan of "Money for Jihad is a Must", that was hashtagged and publicized on social media, Hezbollah is leading a campaign that has been dubbed "The Initiative to Arm Jihadists."
In a video circulated on the group's twitter account, one of its members can be seen equipping himself and attempting to encourage the public to donate money to the cause.
How to handle Hezbollah in Latin America
In his inaugural address, President Trump pledged to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism “from the face of the earth.” A good place to start is Latin America.
For nearly four decades the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has relied on local expatriate communities to establish vast networks across the region. Over time, these networks have bought political influence among local elites, built alliances with organized crime, and offered financial services to both. As a result, today Latin America is a key center for Hezbollah’s increasingly sophisticated global financial network.
The Trump administration should disrupt Hezbollah’s Latin American sources of revenue by targeting its operatives and their businesses with a sustained sanctions campaign, it should strengthen the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) efforts to try Hezbollah operatives involved in drug trafficking, and it should punish local elites who facilitate Hezbollah’s continuing presence in the region.
Leveraging existing executive orders and sanctions legislation, the Obama administration targeted Hezbollah’s financial operations, mainly in Lebanon and the Gulf, after Congress passed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act in late 2015. However, it avoided taking action in Latin America, despite evidence of Hezbollah’s growing presence there.
How much do you know about Islam and violence? Take the quiz
In his previous capacity as head of US Southern Command, now-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress in 2015 that Hezbollah enjoys support among Lebanese diaspora communities in Latin America. These include merchants and operatives involved in “lucrative illicit activities like money laundering and trafficking in counterfeit goods and drugs.” Drying up their sources of funding is therefore essential to a successful counterterrorism strategy.
Report: Hezbollah-Linked Company Exporting Millions to U.S. Despite Sanctions
A new report says that an African lumber company owned by major financiers of the Hezbollah terror group has circumvented sanctions and managed to export millions of dollars worth of timber to U.S. companies.
The investigation by Global Witness, a D.C.-based group that aims to uncover global corruption, focused on an African-based company called Congo Futur, which was targeted by sanctions from the U.S. Treasury Department because the Tajideen family, which gives millions of dollars to Hezbollah, owns it.
Now, by creating new companies and transferring ownership to proxies, the Tajideen family has managed to circumvent sanctions and export more than $5.5 million worth of luxury timber from Congo to the United States since sanctions were implemented in 2010, according to the Global Witness report.
The Tajideens managed to circumvent sanctions by using the large network of companies that it owns.
It was revealed following the sanctions that one company owned by the Tajideens, Trans-M, was in possession of lucrative forestry contracts from Congo that are valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Congress Wants New Sanctions on Venezuela for Ties to Iran-Backed Terrorists
A bipartisan team of lawmakers is calling on President Donald Trump to immediately sanction Venezuela for its ongoing human rights violations and ties to terrorist organizations that reach the highest levels of government, according to a new congressional communication sent to the White House.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) petitioned the White House this week to take action against Venezuela and sanction leading government officials, including the country's second-in-command, Tareck El Aissami, who is believed to have ties to radical terror organizations.
Venezuela has been devolving into further chaos in recent months as the oppressive socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro continues its crackdown on dissident voices and other reformists.
Maduro caused an outrage in the United States earlier this year when he appointed former regional governor El Aissami to a high-level post that puts him next in line to assume control from Maduro. Aissami has long been accused of having ties to drug kingpins and radical terrorist organizations.
Venezuela may have given passports to people with ties to terrorism
The stunning postcard-perfect vista surrounding Misael Lopez in this town about one hour from Madrid belies his constant anxiety, even fear.
That's because the former legal adviser to the Venezuelan Embassy in Iraq is revealing secrets he says his government doesn't want disclosed.
"I'm concerned about my safety and my family's safety everywhere I go," Lopez said as he walked the cobble-stoned streets of Toledo.
Lopez, 41, says he reported what he says was a scheme to sell passports and visas for thousands of dollars out of the embassy and repeatedly turned down offers to get a cut of the money. But it was the response from his government -- which has denied his allegations -- that surprised him the most.
Misael Lopez
Misael Lopez
CNN and CNN en Español teamed up in a year-long joint investigation that uncovered serious irregularities in the issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas, including allegations that passports were given to people with ties to terrorism. The investigation involved reviewing thousands of documents, and conducting interviews in the U.S., Spain, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.
Israel Eyes Threat of Islamist Takeover of Western Weapons in Arab States
As long as the Sunni governments, guided by concerns over Iran, ISIS and other extremist actors, remain firmly in power, possessing high quality Western weapons in such large quantities will serve their goals of defending themselves.
But should the Sunni countries disintegrate into failed states, or undergo an Islamist revolution – an unfortunate yet distinct possibility in the 21st century, chaotic Middle East - Israel and the West could face an explosively dangerous development.
An organized Islamist rise to power would see the military forces of such states come under the command of belligerent decision makers. Alternatively, a failed state scenario would mean that military bases in these countries could be looted, and deadly platforms taken over.
Either way, the scenario of jihadists seizing game-changing military capabilities is real enough for Israel to acknowledge that it is planning ahead for it as a necessary precaution.
Outgoing Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel spoke explicitly of this danger on Jan. 24 at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Iron Dome intercepts three rockets from Sinai headed for Eilat
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted three rockets headed for the southern city of Eilat late Wednesday night, while a fourth fell in an open area, the army said.
This fourth rocket was not shot down by the missile defense battery as it was headed towards an open field, a military spokesperson said.
There were no injuries or damage reported from the rocket salvo. However, city officials said that five people were treated for anxiety attacks related to the incident. One of them was taken to the hospital, the Magen David Adom ambulance service told Israel Radio.
The rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but the Islamic State affiliate Ansar Bait al-Maqdis — formerly known as Wilayat Sinai — has been waging a bloody battle with Egyptian forces in the peninsula.
ISIS reportedly responsible for rockets fired from Egypt into Eilat
A branch of Islamic State in Egypt's Sinai reportedly claimed responsibility for firing rockets from Egypt into Israel on Wednesday night.
According to reports in Gazan media early Thursday, the Sinai branch of Islamic State was responsible for a barrage of missiles at Eilat, on Israel's southernmost city.
In a message published to the media, ISIS proudly stated they there were indeed responsible for the fire that was directed at southern Israel late on Wednesday, boasting of their intentions to commit further attacks.
"With the grace of God alone, a military squad fired several Grad rockets at encampments of Jewish usurpers in the city of Um al-Rashrash [Eilat] in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders that a proxy war will not avail them of anything."
Threatening to proceed with the aggression, the message went on to say that "the future will be more calamitous with Allah's permission."
2 Palestinians said killed in strike near Gaza-Egypt border
Two Palestinians were killed and five were injured overnight Wednesday in the southern Strip, near the Egypt border, health officials in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave said Thursday morning.
A Hamas official told AFP they were casualties of an Israeli airstrike carried out in retaliation for rockets launched from the neighboring Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday night toward the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat. Reports said they were targeted inside a tunnel in Rafah.
The IDF denied it had carried out an airstrike.
Three of the four rockets in Wednesday’s attack on Eilat were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile system, the army said.
A military spokesperson said the fourth rocket was not shot down by the missile defense battery as it was headed toward an open field.
Sinai Province, the Islamic State affiliate in the peninsula, claimed the rocket attack on Eilat early Thursday. The group has been waging a bloody battle against Egyptian forces in recent years.
Egypt, Israel or accident? Mystery shrouds Gaza tunnel blast
Citing Israeli defense officials, the Arabic Al-Jazeera news service reported Thursday that the Egyptian military was behind an explosion near the Gaza-Egyptian border overnight that killed two Palestinians and injured five others.
After the blast, Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, immediately pinned the blame on an Israeli airstrike, but the Israel Defense Forces denied involvement. The spokesman of Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, Ashraf al-Qudra, named the two men killed as Hossam al-Sufi, 24, and Mohammed al-Aqra, 38.
A Palestinian security source told the Israeli Ynet news outlet that the two were in a weapons smuggling tunnel, located east of the Rafah crossing, at the time of their deaths. He added that the incident took place in an area where the Islamic State group in the Sinai controls smuggling tunnels and keeps its weapons arsenals.
The Palestinian security source also said it was possible the deaths were caused by an internal explosion within the smuggling tunnel, rather than by an airstrike.
That raised a third possible cause for the tunnel’s destruction — a weapons failure, rather than an outside attack.
IDF retaliates after Syrian mortar lands in Golan Heights
A mortar reportedly fell in the Golan Heights near the border fence Wednesday night.
There was no known causalities or damage.
The IDF reported that the mortar was spillover from fighting within Syria, and that in response, the IDF attacked a target in the northern Syrian Golan and confirmed a hit.
Such spillover is not unusual, and the IDF has usually responded, even if it was expected to be accidental, with attacks against Syrian Army positions.
Israel uncovers West Bank-Gaza terror cash pipeline
The Shin Bet security service said Wednesday that it had uncovered a Hamas and Islamic Jihad operation to transfer cash from the Gaza Strip to operatives in the West Bank.
The Gaza-based terror organizations would send debit cards loaded with funds, either via the mail or smuggled by couriers through the Erez Crossing from Gaza into Israel.
West Bank members then withdrew the money from ATMs for use to fund terror attacks, the Shin Bet said.
Two suspects from Gaza and the West Bank were detained by Israeli security forces for questioning during November and December, according to a Shin Bet statement.
Gaza City resident Salim Tutah, 26, received a permit to enter Israel to work as a tractor driver for a Palestinian contractor doing projects for the american government aid agency USAID in the West Bank.
MK Zoabi offers to help ICC indict Netanyahu over settlements law
Arab legislators and any citizen with democratic sensibilities should do what they can to encourage the International Criminal Court to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders for violating international law with the settlement regulation law, MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said this week.
“We will take any action that can encourage the ICC to act against Netanyahu and other politicians,” Zoabi told The Jerusalem Post. “We can’t apply to the ICC as individuals or as a parliamentary movement; only states can apply officially. But we can help with any information. We will do our best to obtain and push for this. Any democratic person should do that.”
Asked for what crime she would like to see Netanyahu prosecuted, Zoabi said: “Stealing others’ land, stealing Palestinian land.” Transferring citizens of the occupied power into the occupied territory is a war crime, according to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court.
MEMRI: Palestinian Authority Columnists: Trump Won Democratic Elections – Like Hitler And Hamas Did
The Palestinian mood following President Donald Trump's inauguration is one of negativity and of support for the protests against him. Several columnists in the Palestinian press even compared his victory to Hitler's, stating that while Hitler hated the Jews, Trump sees Islam as the root of all evil. As president, they warned, Trump could jeopardize the U.S.'s global status, and added that the content of his inaugural speech constitutes an offense to previous presidents and reflects his own vanity and narcissism.
With regard to the Palestinian issue, Palestinian Authority officials formally welcomed the new U.S. president and expressed their desire to work together with him for peace, security, and the two-state solution. This was also evident in a statement by PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas following the inauguration: "I congratulate U.S. President Donald Trump and aspire to work with him for peace, security, and stability in a confused world and a tragedy-ridden region. Together we will contribute to creating a safe future for all."[1]
However, statements by PA officials and articles in PA dailies and Palestinian media in general indicate that the opposite is true, and that Palestinians are apprehensive and pessimistic about the chances that the U.S. will promote the two-state solution or that its policy will be sympathetic towards the Palestinians. These statements and articles also indicate fears that the U.S. will enable Israel to expand its settlements, and especially that the administration intends to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. It was fear of such a move that led to 'Abbas to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah on January 22 in Amman in order to coordinate potential reactions to an embassy move, and prompted Palestinian officials and writers to threaten that it would light a conflagration in the region and open the gates of hell.
Gaza Jihadists Protest Hamas' ‘Torture’ Techniques
Gaza jihadist groups have accused the Hamas government of using torture in their detention facilities.
Hamas has reportedly arrested hundreds of jihadists on suspicion of espousing sympathy for the Islamic State organization against the backdrop of Hamas’ reliance on IS’s chapter in Sinai for goods and weapons.
Ibn Taymiya, a think tank representing jihadist groups in Gaza, issued a statement detailing the torture techniques Hamas employs in their interrogations of jihadi detainees. The statement appeared in official Islamic State-affiliated propaganda organs and was obtained by Breitbart Jerusalem. (The original statement in Arabic can be seen on the right).islamicstatecomplan
According to the statement, the detainees are undressed and left naked in a cold room, then struck with buckets filled with icy water, flogged and immersed in ice.
The statement denounces “Hamas’ oppression” and says to its followers, “Today the power is in your hands, but soon you will be interrogated by Allah. You’d better prepare good answers.”
Top Hamas Official Osama Hamdan Denies Amnesty International Torture Allegations
Says: We Will Accept a State in the 1967 Lines, with Jerusalem as Its Capital and the Return of the Refugees; Our Suicide Bombings Target Soldiers
Top Hamas official Osama Hamdan recently dismissed Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports that Hamas was committing human rights violations against Palestinians, including executions and torture. In the English-language interview, which was broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network on January 27, Hamdan said that Hamas, along with all the Palestinian organizations, had agreed in 2006 "to build a Palestinian state on the lines of June 4, 1967, including Jerusalem." Pressed by the interviewer on whether Hamas would accept a two-state solution if Israel accepted a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, he said that "If they did that, they would create a chance, and then the Palestinian elected government would decide what the next step would be, and we will be okay with that." Hamdan also denied that Hamas attacked civilian targets in Israel, saying that "most of the people who were killed were soldiers, even if they were on buses."

PreOccupiedTerritory: Hamas Propaganda Filmmakers So Comically Ineffective, Must Be Israeli Agents (satire)
The release this week of another Hamas video production intended to intimidate Israelis, but that instead showcased the amateurish skills and thinking of those behind it, has led analysts to the conclusion that the creative team behind the videos must be taking orders from the Mossad.
The animated work, which shows Hamas missiles striking targets in Israel and Israelis cowering in terror, as lyrics in awkward Hebrew play, has caused zero intimidation among the target population, but has become a comic entertainment sensation. Mothers of small children, ostensibly expected by the video producers to cringe in fear at the prospect of rockets raining down from Gaza, have been seized by fits of giggles upon watching the clip. Israeli political leaders, who under other circumstances might voice concern over their constituents’ agitation, have similarly chuckled and shaken their heads at the naivety of whoever put the video together. Because such developments should have been an obvious outcome, given previous pathetic attempts by Hamas, experts believe the only reasonable explanation for the continued production and release of such material involves operations by the Israeli secret intelligence agency to demoralize the enemy by showing that attempts to conduct psychological warfare on the Israeli population have the opposite effect.
Two other productions of a similar nature have garnered laughs in recent years. The first was released during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s military operation to suppress rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. So ineffective was the video that Israelis took to singing the accompanying song for their own amusement, reveling in the technically correct, but stylistically awkward Hebrew rampant in it.
A second production in 2015 involved a dance-mix-worthy song with a rhythm and tune so catchy that Israelis made it a short-lived hit.
US mulls naming Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group
A Revolutionary Guard march in Tehran [Archive]
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is considering designating the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, Washington officials said Wednesday.
The officials said several U.S. government agencies have been consulted on the issue, which if implemented would add to measures the United States has already imposed on individuals and entities linked to the IRGC.
The Revolutionary Guard is by far Iran's most powerful security entity, and it has control over large stakes in Iran's economy and a huge influence in its political system.
Naming Iran's single most powerful military and political institution as a terrorist group could have potentially destabilizing effects, including further inflaming regional conflicts in which the United States and regional archrivals blame Iran for interference. Iran denies those allegations.
It would also likely complicate the U.S. fight against Islamic State in Iraq, where Shiite militias backed by Iran and advised by IRGC fighters are battling the Sunni jihadist group.
Defiant Iran test-fires another missile days after US warning
Iran reportedly test-fired another missile on Wednesday, just days after a series of warnings from the Trump administration that it was “on notice” for previous ballistic missile tests and that a military response to such actions was under consideration.
According to a Fox News report, a US official said the test on Wednesday was of a short-range surface-to-air missile, called Mersad, which impacted 56 kilometers (35 miles) away.
The test came on the same day US officials told Reuters that the White House was considering a proposal that could lead to naming Iran’s most powerful military and political institution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as a terrorist organization.
The proposal is reportedly one of many being weighed as part of an overall Iran policy review, amid a tougher line on Tehran since the Trump administration came into office.

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