Monday, May 28, 2018

From Ian:

Amb. Alan Baker: Did Israel Use “Disproportionate Force” to Protect the Gaza Fence?
The Gaza border clash was not a situation of armed conflict, nor had it anything to do with the laws of armed conflict and occupation of territory. It was routine border protection by a sovereign state, from within its sovereign territory, facing a blatant threat of border violation by violent elements on the other side of the line.

Accusing Israel of committing war crimes, massacres, and violations of international humanitarian law, as well as invoking criteria and norms – including the customary international law rule of proportionality – characteristic of situations of armed conflict, has no relevance vis-à-vis the situation along the delimiting fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The highly publicized visit by the Palestinian Foreign Minister to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), armed with a new set of complaints of war crimes and violations of the Geneva Conventions along the fence, cannot be considered to be anything other than a flawed and cynical manipulation of the Court.

Israel to Issue Its Own Report on Gaza Riots, Won’t Collaborate With United Nations Human Rights Council
Israel will not collaborate with the United Nations Human Rights Council on an investigation into the recent riots on the Gaza border. Instead, it will issue its own report on the events, Hebrew media outlets reported on Sunday.

Around a hundred Palestinians were killed in the riots, most of them terrorists. The events were marked by attempts to breach the border fence, the planting of explosives, and the use of kites equipped with incendiary devices.

The UNHRC recently voted to establish a committee to investigate the riots, with only the US and Australia opposing the idea.

Israel views the UNHRC as wholly biased and therefore unable to conduct a fair investigation. The overwhelming majority of the council’s resolutions are anti-Israel, and the Jewish state is the only country that is the object of a permanent agenda item.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said of the council, “The results of the investigatory committee are known in advance and are written into the language of the resolution itself. It is clear to everyone that the council’s goal is not a real investigation, but to harm Israel’s right to self-defense and the specific demonization of the Jewish state.”

In response, Israel will issue its own report. According to the Hebrew news site Walla, a top legal official stated, “Previous experience teaches that the best response to the false narrative put forward by the Human Rights Council is to present a direct and professional presentation of the facts for their approval.”
Amb. Alexander Downer: Feckless West can't keep falling for Hamas propaganda
So that brings us to the Hamas protest against the US Embassy on the Israeli/Gaza border. Hamas' strategy is to build international opposition to a Jewish state. Since they don't care about human life, any tactics will do.

They sent their fighters – as well as women and even some children – to try to breach the Israeli border and attack Israelis within Israel. The Israelis tried to stop them breaching the border with tear gas and even leaflets. But they kept coming trying to breach the border. The Israeli army fired at the invaders feet but even that didn't work. In the end they did shoot dead some of the attackers.

That may have been tragic. But 80 per cent of the victims were Hamas fighters, not Sunday afternoon protesters. For Hamas it was a triumph. They got what they wanted. Martyrs, as they like to call the victims, helped them win a media propaganda war worldwide. They saw it as a price worth paying. Even thrusting children and babies into a conflict zone is okay by them.

How feckless are so many governments to be taken in by these cruel tactics. And where, ultimately, will this lead? Will the Jewish people, mercilessly persecuted for centuries, give up their own state? Will those great people who have given so much to science and scholarship give in and let cruel extremists like Hamas define their future? I think not.

Explosive-laden Gazan drone found in southern Israel
A drone armed with explosives was launched from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and fell in southern Israel last week, the IDF confirmed.

The drone, which was launched from the northern Gaza Strip at night, was recovered whole “a few days ago” after it landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

According to a report in Haaretz, the military is examining whether the drone was launched with the intention of injuring Israeli soldiers and fell before reaching its intended target, or if the individual operating the device lost control of it.

Both Islamic State and Hezbollah have used weaponized drones to carry out attacks. Since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas has invested in drone capabilities. In recent years, its drones have on occasion come near and sometimes breached Israeli airspace, leading the IDF to scramble jets or fire missiles.
Hamas prepares for all scenarios
At this point, Israel is still pacing its response. ‎The tank strike that killed jihadi operatives Sunday ‎was a tactical one and the Israeli Air Force's ‎strike on Hamas posts in Gaza was in line with the ‎known rules. ‎

It seems that both sides are wary of the kind of ‎operations that would lead to a full-blown war and, ‎despite their denials, are continuing to give ‎serious thought to the possibility of an Egyptian-‎brokered truce. ‎

However, if those efforts fail, Hamas will again ‎find itself painted into a corner. For this reason, ‎it aims to preserve the tensions on the border, which can be used as a pretext for an escalation, as ‎well as a way to keep international public opinion ‎focused on Gaza. ‎

Israel believes it still has significant leeway against Gaza, as well as ways to generate ‎significant deterrence. This was one of the reasons ‎the IDF decided to go public on Sunday with its ‎latest project: constructing a sea barrier off ‎Zikim beach, where a terrorist infiltration was ‎foiled during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. ‎

The message to Hamas is clear. Israel remains one ‎step ahead and all the money and efforts Hamas ‎has been investing in terror tunnels and training divers are ‎in vain.‎

Past experience has proved that news of IDF ‎obstacles is unlikely to sway Hamas, but that is ‎not Israel's concern. The faster the sea ‎barrier is completed the better, and hopefully it will plug this security hole before the next Gaza ‎campaign. ‎
Why the month of May did not see an all-out Middle East explosion
On paper, the month of May swept in some of the most combustible elements at one time the region has seen in years.

Iran was entrenching itself in Syria and threatening revenge for alleged Israeli attacks on Iranian assets in Syria; US President Donald Trump was going to decide on the future of the Iran nuclear deal; the “Great Return March” was continuing in the Gaza Strip; the Palestinians were to mark Nakba Day, the “Day of Catastrophe,” marking Israel’s independence; the US was going to move its embassy to Jerusalem; and Ramadan, a month often accompanied by terrorism and violence, was to begin.

All the ingredients were in place, some feared, for an all-out explosion.

Yet, despite some tense and ugly days – specifically May 14 – the all-out explosion did not materialize. On May 14, the same day the US moved its embassy, some 40,000 Palestinians in Gaza marched on the fence with Israel, hoping to breach it, and 62 people were killed – 50 of them, by Hamas’s own admission, were their own men.

Nevertheless, May was not apocalyptic.

Israel and Iran did not go to war in Syria; the Iranians did not dash for a nuclear device with the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal; the “Great Return March” did not lead to the breach of the border fence with Gaza; the Nakba Day protests were limited; the move of the US Embassy did not lead to the orgy of violence in Israel, the territories and around the world that many warned of for years; and Ramadan has so far been relatively quiet.

Looking back, Gaza pullout was a mistake
The recent developments on the Gaza border lead to a grim political conclusion: The experiment called the disengagement failed.

Gaza isn’t controlled by the Palestinian Authority, as the supporters of the disengagement—myself included—expected. Gaza was basically handed over to Hamas, which failed to establish a civilian government there. Instead, it established a wild military regime seeking conflicts and lacking any civilian goals. Israel, for its part, tried to rid itself of Gaza, suffocate it and hand it over to Egyptian responsibility.

At the end of the day, neither option was implemented: Gaza is stuck in our throats, today more than ever. The conflict isn’t over. It has worsened, and it likely won’t end on its own.

The disengagement wasn’t an initiative of the “peace camp”; it was the personal initiative of late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On paper, it seemed like the right solution—the beginning of a process to end the occupation. That’s how it was presented by Sharon too.

But immediately after Israel pulled out of there, it turned out the strip wouldn’t be like Singapore—but rather like Benghazi. The Hamas militias had no interest in an organized transfer of the production and real estate assets Israel had left behind. They preferred to build training camps in greenhouses than grow tomatoes there. And the PA vanished from the area. That sealed the enclave’s fate.
Hamas militant killed by IDF tank shell after gunfire on Gaza border
One Palestinian was killed in an exchange of fire in the northern Gaza Strip after IDF troops arrested two Gazans after they were caught trying to breach the security fence armed with knives, wire cutters and incendiary material.

According to a statement released by the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit, troops were targeted with gunfire during the arrest, leading to the IDF responding with tank fire against a nearby observation post.

While no Israeli soldier was injured, the Palestinian ministry of health reported one Gazan was moderately wounded by shrapnel and another, Muhammad Ahmad a-Radai (25), was killed.
As Gazans Attack Border Crossing, It’s Israel, Not Hamas, Coming to Their Aid
Despite Hamas’ repeated assault on the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the only lifeline that supplies basic goods to civilians in Gaza, Israel has been battling intensively to keep it open.

The episode underlines a much wider phenomenon in which Hamas seeks to create a crisis in order to bring in outside funding for Gaza’s needs, so it can ensure the stability of its regime and keep supporting its military wing.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority seeks to choke off Gaza’s economy to punish Hamas for refusing to disarm its military wing and force it to pay a price for splitting off from the PA.

However, those paying the price for this are the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Three times this month, Kerem Shalom was attacked by mobs acting under Hamas instructions. Rioters destroyed fuel pipes that carry critical energy supplies and looted the Palestinian side of the crossing terminal.

According to Israeli intelligence assessments, these actions are part of a wider effort by Hamas to ramp up the pressure on Israel and the international community in order to obtain fresh funds for the collapsing Palestinian economy. The deadly border incidents orchestrated by Hamas this month are part of the same effort. Hamas wants someone else to foot the bill for the civilian economy so it can rescue its regime from collapse.
BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure
Now let’s take a look at how the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell presented that story in a report aired on BBC World Service radio’s “Global News Podcast” at 13:00 GMT (15:00 local time) on May 15th.

04:41 Knell: “We have had the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh…he left Gaza and went to Egypt where he’s been meeting members of the Egyptian intelligence. A lot of speculation that there is a lot of diplomatic pressure – international pressure – being applied to try to calm things down. Even though Israel had said that it was going to close the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing – the one commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza – indefinitely, it has now opened that crossing. There have been some supplies going in. And the Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been opened and we’re told it will stay open for an extended period beyond what was initially imagined at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. So it could be that these kinds of moves as well, going on behind the scenes, give people in Gaza some kind of hope.”

So what did Knell do there? First of all she steered audiences towards the belief that Kerem Shalom had been reopened on May 15th after “international pressure” rather than – as was actually the case – on the recommendation of the IDF and COGAT. Secondly, she failed to clarify to audiences that the reason for the prior announcement of indefinite closure of the crossing was the serious damage done to its infrastructure rather than some Israeli caprice. Third, she refrained from telling BBC World Service listeners that the extensive damage was deliberately caused by Palestinians themselves on three separate occasions within eleven days. And fourth, she completely avoided the topic of the refusal by Palestinian officials to allow some types of goods to enter the Gaza Strip on the day of her report.

That is apparently what passes for “accurate and impartial news [..] of the highest editorial standards” at the BBC.
South African Interviewee Calls to ‘Punish’ Israel Supporters
It’s no surprise that hostility towards Israel has found a comfortable home on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Criticism of Israel in the aftermath of the recent Gaza border violence has been particularly virulent in South Africa. One-sided statements of condemnation from the government as well as the recall of its ambassador to Israel have added to an already hostile environment for Israel and its supporters.

The South African government even went as far to tweet a call for Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip for which it received a great deal of ridicule given Israel had done exactly that back in 2005.

In a interview on SABC News, Zwelinzima Vavi, the former General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions was given almost eight unchallenged minutes to spew hatred against Israel culminating in a thinly veiled threat against the South African Jewish community.
The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act
On Thursday, May 17th the BBC News website published an article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” which makes no mention of the fact that the vast majority of those killed were members of terror groups and BBC World Service and domestic radio programmes dropped all coverage of the story.

So perhaps the BBC was not aware of the fact that over 85% of those killed had been claimed by terrorist organisations? In an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ aired on May 18th – presented by Jon Donnison (from 17:14 here) – we discover that the corporation was perfectly aware of Bardawil’s statement.

Donnison: “Now the UN’s Human Rights Council has voted for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli forces in Gaza this week. Health officials in Gaza say 60 people were killed by Israeli forces on Monday and a further 2,700 Palestinians injured, many of them with live fire. A Hamas official has said 50 of those killed were from the Islamist group which is in power in the territory. Israel has insisted that its response to the protests was proportionate but that is not the view of the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who said Israel’s actions were wholly disproportionate. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Nevertheless, on May 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’” in which it failed to state that the majority of those killed on May 14th had been claimed by terror groups while continuing to promote the notion that they can be described as “unarmed civilians”.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out “massacres” of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted its troops acted in self-defence and blamed the militant group Hamas, which orchestrated the protests, for the deaths.”

The public purposes laid down in the BBC’s charter oblige it to provide its audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. In order to meet that obligation the BBC would have had to inform audiences of the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed a very high proportion of those the BBC spent days describing as “protesters” on multiple channels and platforms.

Significantly, it failed to do so.

Labor MK: Annex the West Bank until Palestinian ‘Mandela’ arrives
Veteran Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel caused an uproar over the weekend, when he announced his support for applying Israeli law to West Bank settlement blocs while freezing construction beyond the blocs until both Israel and the Palestinians have what he called “a Nelson Mandela.”

Cabel wrote in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper that the “Oslo paradigm” that began with the negotiations in the Norwegian capital when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister 25 years ago had failed and that a new pragmatic approach was needed. According to Cabel’s plan, Israel will define what the settlement blocs are and apply Israeli law to them, while freezing and evacuating communities beyond the blocs and compensating their residents who leave.

“This is a plan to save chances for long-term peace,” Cabel told The Jerusalem Post. “My ideas come from my fear that Israel will become a binational state while there is no one on the other side that can or wants to talk to us. Every day that passes makes the situation harder to solve.”
WaPo Letter($): In 1948, Palestinians lost land. But not to Israel.
The May 9 The World article “A modest opening for new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem” described what the Palestinians call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” as the anniversary of the date on which Palestinians “lost their land when the Israeli state was created in 1948.” That is partially true: In the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, the Palestinians did in fact lose what was offered to them with the loss of the West Bank; the Palestinians did in fact lose what was offered to them with the loss of Gaza. But the dark little secret that the manipulative sentence left out was that the Palestinians lost the West Bank not to Israel but to their land-grabbing brethren Jordan. And they lost Gaza not to Israel but to their land-grabbing brethren Egypt. This set of facts is critical to assess what happened to the Palestinians and who is culpable. As most know, but The Post routinely omits, the war was started by the local Arabs and neighboring Arab countries. If the Palestinians had accepted the two-state solution of 1947, there would be no conflict today, and the two-state solution would be going on its 71st year.

The problem stems from the seminal point that the Palestinians have time and again refused the two-state solution and have continued this refusal to this day. Hopes and wishes by the media will not change this fact. The empty words of peace by Palestinian leaders are in no way consistent with their actions. It’s time this is acknowledged. The truth may not bring peace, but culpability will shape world opinion and perhaps push the Palestinians to realize that their 70-year attempt to defeat Israel is over.
Knesset Speaker pulls Armenian Genocide recognition from Knesset agenda
The expected vote on recognizing the Armenian Genocide was not on the Knesset’s agenda for this week as of Monday.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein pulled the item from the agenda, his spokeswoman said, to avoid an embarrassment to the Knesset, because it was unclear there would be a majority in favor. Edelstein has repeatedly voiced his support for recognition over the years, including last week.

The vote on recognizing the Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman Empire during World War I, was set for Tuesday, after a motion to do so by Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg was approved 16-0.

Zandberg accused Edelstein of putting politics ahead of morality, dismissing the Knesset Speaker’s words in favor of her motion.

“Holding this debate, with a historic vote to recognize, is the right thing to do. Some preferred politics to doing the right thing,”

Zandberg said at a Meretz faction meeting Monday. “The Knesset should do what it promised. This is a matter of historic justice.”
First-Ever Delegation From Azerbaijan Visits Israel During US Embassy Opening
On May 14, as the United States was inaugurating its new embassy in Jerusalem, senior officials from Azerbaijan visited Israel for a first-ever meeting meant to strengthen economic ties between Israel the two countries.

An Azeri delegation headed by the Azeri tax minister stayed for three days, meeting with Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin on ways to promote economic, commercial and business ties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the country in December 2016 to strengthen relations between the countries.

Azerbaijan is a major customer for Israeli weapons, having purchased nearly $5 billion in arms from the Jewish state, including radar systems and drones, which it uses in a protracted war with Armenia over control of territory.

Reports also suggest that Israel uses Azer territory to surveil neighboring Iran. The Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida quoted an Israeli source as saying that the massive cache of Iranian documents Netanyahu recently displayed in a televised presentation on the nuclear threat of Iran were smuggled by Mossad agents to Israel through Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan provides Israel with energy, and receives high-tech, medical and agricultural supplies from Israel.
Palestinian leader Abbas leaves Ramallah hospital after 9 days
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was released from a hospital in Ramallah on Monday where he had been for treated over a week, ending rumors about his medical condition.

Leaving the hospital flanked by his two sons and Palestinian officials, Abbas said he was well and would be returning to work on Tuesday. He was walking without assistance.

Abbas, 83, had been hospitalized with pneumonia during which doctors refused to confirm a schedule for his release.

Pictures and video of Abbas walking around the wards and reading a newspaper were published last Monday, in an apparent attempt to calm rumors that his condition was worse than officially reported.

Abbas was admitted on May 20 to the Istishari Arab Hospital near Ramallah in the West Bank with complications following an ear operation, including high fever.

Officials later confirmed he was being treated for pneumonia.
Former Hamas leader calls Abbas in hospital to wish him well
Khaled Mashaal, the former head of the Hamas terror group, phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to wish him a speedy recovery.

Abbas has been hospitalized for the past week with pneumonia. A source close to him said he may leave hospital on Monday but the hospital director said no date had been set for his discharge.

Ynet news site reported on Mashaal’s call to the 83-year-old PA president, but said that so far the current leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh had not contacted Abbas.

In October 2017, after a decade of strife stemming from Hamas’s violent 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip, the group and Abbas’s Fatah party signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo in which they pledged to set aside their differences and pave the way for Palestinian unity. However, the two rival parties have since failed to reach understandings on the implementation of the deal, and continue to hold each other responsible for its failure.
'Hamas terrorists don't deserve to watch soccer World Cup'
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has instructed Israel Prison Service Commissioner Ofra Klinger to prevent Hamas operatives jailed in Israeli prisons from watching the upcoming World Cup soccer championship.

Erdan issued the directive in coordination with the special negotiator for hostages and prisoners of war, Yaron Blum, in an effort to turn up the pressure on the terrorist organization over its holding of Israeli bodies and captives. Hamas is holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers – Golani Brigade's Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Givati Brigade's Lt. Hadar Goldin – who were killed in the 2014 conflict in Gaza, as well as holding two mentally challenged Israeli civilians – Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu and Bedouin Hisham al-Sayed – who crossed into Gaza voluntarily in 2014 and 2015. The fate of Jumaa Abu Ghanima, an Israeli who crossed the border into Gaza in 2016, remains unknown.

The directive runs contrary to the Israel Prison Service's position that all prisoners should be permitted to watch the games.

Erdan met with legal authorities on Sunday to examine the options for changing the existing regulations to prevent security prisoners from watching specific television channels.

Israel Prison Service officials told Israel Hayom last week that various parties have attempted to exploit the suffering of bereaved families to make similar demands in the past.
PMW: Volley and Violence - PA Ministry of Education names teachers tourney after terrorist
Not only Palestinian children compete in championships named after terrorists - so do their teachers.

The Qalqilya Directorate of Education, which is a branch of the PA Ministry of Education, recently held the "Martyr Abd Al-Jaber Abd Al-Qader Khaled Volleyball Championship for Teachers," named after a Palestinian terrorist and member of Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Together with an accomplice, Khaled attempted to carry out a combined shooting and suicide bombing attack at an Israeli army training camp in 2002. (See below)

The championship was sponsored by Abbas' Fatah Movement and the Jayyous Municipality in the Qalqilya district.

Palestinian Media Watch has exposed the PA's policy of indoctrinating Palestinian kids to view terrorist murderers as heroes and role models. The PA has named 31 schools after terrorists, and sports tournaments are frequently named after terrorists too. In November 2015, a school football tournament for young kids was named after 13-year-old terrorist Ahmad Manasrah, who a month earlier during a Palestinian wave of terror attacks stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli boy and an adult, injuring both seriously. The Ahmad Manasrah Football Tournament named after the young stabber showed Palestinian kids of the same age that murdering or wounding Israelis makes you a hero to the extent that tournaments will be named after you. In this way, the PA creates an incentive for young Palestinians to become murderers and use violence.
Report: Syrian Air Force bars Iran from using its bases
The commander of the Syrian Air Force has decided Syria will no longer allow Iranian-backed Shi’ite factions to use its bases to store ammunition and host fighters, the Syrian opposition newspaper Zaman al-Wasl reported on Monday. The report claims that the decision was made "following recent Israeli attacks."

Citing a source in the Syrian army, the report stated that this is the first step in a process leading to a Syrian demand that Iranian backed-forces leave Syria.

The report goes on to claim that the Syrian regime is experiencing panic since Israel attacked Syrian Air Force sites used by Iranian-backed forces.

The London based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on May 26 that Israel delivered to Russia a list of "Red Lines" it would not tolerate and warned that it would act to prevent Iran from building up its forces in the whole of Syria, not only in the southern part near Israel.

Among these "Red Lines" were the delivery of rockets to Iranian-backed militias, including Hezbollah, and the prevention of rocket-producing factories or permanent army bases anywhere in Syria.
'Israel, Iran reach back-channel understandings on Syria operation'
Israel and Iran recently used back channels to reach ‎behind-the-scenes understandings over Syrian ‎maneuvers in the southern Golan Heights, Saudi media ‎reported Sunday.‎

According to the independent Arabic news website Elaph, Syrian ‎President Bashar Assad's military is scheduled to ‎carry out large operations in Daraa and Quneitra, in ‎the Syrian Golan Heights, to counter ‎rebel forces in the area.‎

The question of whether Iranian forces or Iranian-‎backed militias, including Hezbollah, would take ‎part in the operation sparked concern in both Jordan ‎and Israel. ‎

According to the report, Jordan made it clear to the ‎Syrians and their Russian allies that it would ‎not tolerate the deployment of Shiite militias near ‎its border with Syria. ‎

Jordan also made it clear that military maneuvers ‎involving Iranian-backed forces could trigger a ‎military confrontation between Iran and Israel. ‎

The report indicated that Iran used Jordan as a go-between to relay a message to Israel, saying it would not operate in southeastern Syria near the border with Jordan.‎
Russia, backing Israel: Only Assad troops should be on Syria’s southern border
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that only the Syrian regime should field military forces in the country’s southern border areas.

Lavrov’s comments, made at a press conference in Moscow, apparently referred to areas including the Syrian Golan Heights region abutting the Israeli Golan Heights and the border with Jordan, and indicated that Russia was open to Israeli demands that Iranian forces should be kept far from Israel’s borders.

The area is currently held by various rebel groups and Israel has accused Iran of trying to establish a presence in the area. Israel also accused Iran of firing a salvo of rockets at Israel from the area earlier in the month.

“Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow.

“The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel,” Lavrov said.
In rare face-off, Russian jets reportedly intercept Israeli planes over Lebanon
In a rare incident Israeli warplanes were reportedly intercepted by Russian fighter jets over Lebanon early Monday morning, despite an understanding in place between Moscow and Jerusalem to avoid conflict between the two countries.

Hadashot news, citing Lebanese and Russian media outlets, said that 2 Israeli Air Force F-16 planes were challenged by Sukhoi Su-34 jets over Tripoli and forced away.

There has been no official confirmation from Russia or Israel.

Video circulated of the Russian planes flying over Lebanon, but the clip did not show any Israeli jets.
UPDATE: Moscow: Reports Israeli jets intercepted over Lebanon ‘amateur nonsense’

Iran 'settled the score' with Israel over Syria strikes, official says
A senior Iranian official claimed Sunday that the Islamic ‎republic has "settled the score" with Israel over ‎its attack on Iranian "advisers" in Syria.‎

Iran vowed to deal Israel a "painful blow" over ‎an April 4 strike on the T4 air base in Homs ‎province, which housed an Iranian drone unit. Seven ‎Revolutionary Guards officers were killed in the ‎strike, which dealt a crippling blow to Iran's drone ‎deployment in Syria. ‎

In an interview with Qatar's Al Jazeera network, ‎Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National ‎Security Council, said, "Iranian advisers are in Syria ‎at the invitation of the legal Syrian government, to ‎combat terrorism."‎

He said that the "Zionist regime's claims that it ‎hit Iranian assets in Syria are false because ‎Iran only sent military advisers to Syria. It does ‎not take an active part in the fighting." ‎

Shamkhani called the strike on T4 a "strategic ‎mistake."

"The Zionist regime has paid ‎the price for this great mistake. The score has been ‎settled,"‎ he said.
Tehran Divided on Pompeo's Wish-List
Right now, Iran holds 32 American and allied hostages. None has been properly charged, let alone tried and found guilty. At least 10 of them, US and British citizens, were enthusiastic campaigners for the Islamic Republic in America and Britain. Among them are founders of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a lobbying group set up and funded by Iran to help it circumvent sanctions imposed by the UN, the US and the EU.

Secretary of State Pompeo's wish-list made no mention of respect for human rights or, at least, and end of repression inside Iran. This shows that, contrary to claims, Pompeo is seeking a change of behavior by Tehran on a set of specific foreign policy issues, not regime change.

To justify the ceasefire, the editorial claims that "the Zionist regime is on the slippery slope to destruction" and is bound to "disappear in the future" thus, implicitly, there would be no reason for Iran to take military action.

Khamenei said Iran's quarrel with the US reminded him of Tom and Jerry cartoons with Iran playing the mouse. "All that the mouse has to do is to dodge the cat," the ayatollah said.
French magazine harassed for asking if Erdogan is a new Hitler
French magazine Le Point said it had suffered harassment and intimidation by supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after it labelled him “The Dictator” on its front cover.

Police were deployed in the Pontet suburb of the southern city of Avignon over the weekend after a group of pro-Erdogan activists attempted to remove, then cover up advertisements for the magazine at newsstands.

Another poster of the front cover — a portrait of Erdogan above the headline “The Dictator. How far will Erdogan go?” — was targeted at a newspaper kiosk in the town of Valence on Sunday, Le Point said.

“After a week of harassment, insults, intimidation and anti-Semitic slurs and threats towards us on social media, now has come the moment when supporters of the AKP (Erdogan’s party) are attacking symbols of freedom of expression and diversity in the press,” Le Point said on its website.

The left-leaning weekly, one of France’s most popular news magazines, published an investigation into the Turkish strongman in its latest edition which also included an editorial asking: “Is Erdogan a new Hitler?”

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