Wednesday, January 16, 2019

From Ian:

Matti Friedman: There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’
To someone here in Israel, there isn't an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think. In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren't just two sides. There are many, many sides.

Most of Israel's wars haven't been fought against Palestinians. Since the invasion of five Arab armies at the declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Palestinians have made up a small number of the combatants facing the country.

Today Israel's most potent enemy is the Shiite theocracy in Iran, which is more than 1,000 miles away and isn't Palestinian or Arab. The gravest threat to Israel at close range is Hizbullah on our northern border, an army of Lebanese Shiites founded and funded by the Iranians.

A threat of a lesser order is posed by Hamas, which is Palestinian - but was founded as the local incarnation of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and is kept afloat with Qatari cash and backed by Iran. There are also Islamic State-affiliated insurgents on our border with Egypt's Sinai.

By framing it as only an "Israeli-Palestinian" conflict, Israelis seem stronger, more prosperous and more numerous.

But many in Israel believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won't end the conflict, because it will wind up creating a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos or Iranian proxies. That's exactly what has happened around us in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Reining in Saudi's prince of the blood
The United States has close security partnerships with many leaders who abuse and mistreat people like Samar Badawi. Yet the responsibility of global power requires striking a balance between our interests and ideals and those of our partners, while at the same time not ignoring flagrant human rights abuses.

This is a balance that the Trump administration appears to have little ability to strike. Whether it is the crown prince in Riyadh, the Sisi regime in Egypt that has detained thousands of political prisoners, or U.S. partners such as Bahrain, where a tweet or blog post leads to extended jail time, the United States has remained purposefully silent. The president’s pandering to the Saudis and the broader Arab world, despite the corrosive actions of many of these partners, appears to be a mixture of ideology and practicality.

The Trump administration believes the national interest is served by disengaging from the Middle East and relying on local proxies to advance U.S. interests. The Saudi crown prince was key to the administration’s efforts to further a desired peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as reducing the American footprint in the Middle East. When Trump announced he was withdrawing troops from Syria, he argued his election came, in part, as a result of promising to get out of “endless & costly foreign wars.”

The administration’s national security policy documents embrace a framework of great-power conflict focused on Russia and China, while deprioritizing American engagement in the Middle East. In a late 2017 trip to Israel, the officials and experts I met with spoke openly of an emerging “post-American Middle East.” Obama started the trend, and the Trump administration was accelerating it. Israel has experienced the consequences acutely, with Russia and Iran now on their northern border preparing to fill the void.

Yet it was just such a void that led the Saudis to enter into the Yemeni civil war in the first place. The Obama administration withdrew from Iraq, “led from behind” in Libya, and watched while hundreds of thousands of Syrians were slaughtered in a civil war that destabilized the region and eventually threatened Europe and the United States. Despite differing approaches toward Iran, the assumption by both the Obama and Trump administrations was that Arab partners would bear most of the burden in dealing with the consequences of U.S. policy toward Tehran. On the surface, drawing back from the Middle East and handing off to local proxies appeals to Americans tired of fighting a war for over 17 years with no end in sight. But the Obama experiment in “leading from behind” in favor of “nation-building at home” has repeatedly shown that U.S. partners are wholly incapable of addressing the region’s core challenges.

Khaled Abu Toameh: At UN, another PR ‘victory’ for Abbas
Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah often boast that their diplomatic warfare against Israel has proven to be more effective than Hamas’s rockets and suicide bombings. On Tuesday, these officials were celebrating what they considered another “huge achievement” for Palestinian diplomacy: assuming the presidency of the Group 77 (G77) and China, a bloc that represents 134 nations.

PA officials said that Tuesday’s ceremony at the United Nations, during which Mahmoud Abbas was handed the presidency of the G77 and China, was a major victory both for him and the state of Palestine. The move, they explained, is a vote of confidence in Abbas’s leadership and a severe blow to Israel and the US administration, which opposed the General Assembly’s vote to allow the Palestinians to chair the group of developing countries.

One official called it a “major public relations victory for President Abbas and Palestine.”

Tuesday’s move will undoubtedly enhance Abbas’s standing, especially in the international arena. The 83-year-old Abbas was in his element as he attended the ceremony at the UN. He loves delivering speeches at international forums, especially at the UN.

His radio and television stations in Ramallah broadcasted news and interviews related to the event all day. “Thanks to the efforts of our president, we’re closer to achieving all our rights, and soon we will see a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” declared a radio presenter shortly before the UN ceremony.

The main messages of the broadcasts: Abbas is a hero; he has done it again; he has scored another significant and historic victory for the Palestinians and the effort to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood and rights; this is a slap in the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and all of Abbas’s Palestinian opponents, first and foremost Hamas.

For Abbas, the timing of the ceremony at the UN could not have been better. It came as he continues to face sharp criticism from Israel, the US administration and Hamas. Abbas’s media and senior officials have been depicting him as the target of an Israeli-US “conspiracy” designed to remove him from power because of his rejection of Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, which is also known as the “deal of the century.” They also accused Hamas and Qatar of being in collusion with the purported conspiracy.
Palestinians announce plans to again seek full UN membership
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he plans to reactivate an application for the Palestinians to have full membership in the United Nations, and his foreign minister said that will likely happen in a few weeks.

Abbas made the announcement just before he took over as head of the key group of developing countries at the United Nations with a promise to confront "assaults" on multilateralism and a pledge to seek a peaceful two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abbas delivered the Palestinian Authority's application to become the 194th member of the United Nations to then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 23, 2011, before addressing world leaders at the General Assembly.

That bid failed because the Palestinians failed to get the required support of nine of the Security Council's 15 members. Even if they did, the United States, Israel's closest ally, had promised to veto any council resolution endorsing Palestinian membership.

PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki told two reporters at a reception for Abbas later Tuesday that "we know that we are going to face a U.S. veto but this won't prevent us from presenting our application."

He said the Palestinians' first step is to hold discussions with members of the Security Council.

"So it's only a matter of maybe a few weeks before ... we will go to the Security Council for submitting our application," al-Malki said.
‘Stop Spending 7% of Your Budget on Terrorist Salaries,’ Israeli UN Envoy Tells Abbas Following Palestinian Leader’s G-77 Speech in New York
In remarks in which he addressed the G-77’s main concerns in only the most general terms, Abbas took care to attack Israel whenever he found the right opening to do so.

“Palestine cannot be an exception,” Abbas stated, during a passage of his speech that discussed sustainable development goals. “We also suffer under the yoke of a foreign occupation.”

Abbas went on to condemn Israel’s “colonization and occupation of the ‘State of Palestine,'” accusing the Jewish state of “obstructing cohesive development for all peoples of the region.”

Abbas’s latter observation drew a swift reaction from Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.

“As the United Nations very well knows from all of the development work Israel does, Israel is not what undermines development but actually helps it,” Danon told The Algemeiner following Abbas’ speech.

The ambassador continued: “Instead, it is the Palestinian Authority that undermines its own capacity and development. The PA should stop spending 7 percent of its annual budget on inciting and paying terrorist salaries, and instead use it to develop its infrastructure and help its people.”

The PA spent $355 million of international donors’ money in 2017 on paying salaries and other benefits to convicted or “martyred” terrorists and their families. The US Congress passed legislation in 2018 suspending US aid to the PA until there was a verifiable end to the practice, which critics argue both incentivizes and legitimizes Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.
Malaysia says it won’t let in any Israeli delegates for sporting or other events
Malaysia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the government will not budge over a ban on Israeli athletes in a para swimming competition and has decided that the country will not host any events in the future involving Israel.

Malaysia, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, is among the predominantly Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The government has said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in eastern Sarawak state in July, which serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the Cabinet affirmed last week that no Israeli delegates can enter Malaysia for sporting or other events in solidarity with the Palestinians.

“The Cabinet has also decided that Malaysia will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives. This is to me, a decision to reflect the government’s firm stance over the Israeli issue,” Saifuddin said after meeting a coalition of Muslim groups. The groups submitted a memorandum urging the government to stick to the ban and not to repeat mistakes in the past of allowing Israel delegates into the country.

Saifuddin said the Palestinian cause was not just a religious issue but also a human right violation.

“It’s about fighting on behalf of the oppressed,” he said.
Lawyer for Brussels Jewish museum shooter suggests attack staged by Mossad
The Frenchman on trial accused of murdering four people at the Jewish museum of Belgium denied Tuesday he was the gunman and alleged the court had robbed him of defense witnesses.

Asked by the judge whether he accepted the evidence linking him to the Brussels attack, Mehdi Nemmouche said: “No.”

But he admitted he had been arrested six days later in possession of firearms — a revolver and a Kalashnikov — of the type used in the May 14, 2014, shooting spree.

Nevertheless, he complained that the judge had rejected testimony from witnesses who “could have given a reading of the case at the polar opposite of the federal prosecutors.”

And he told jurors he would not speak further to address the charges, leaving his defense to his legal team.

In laying out their strategy, his lawyers said Nemmouche was innocent and one suggested he was a victim of a murky Israeli plot — a tactic that Jewish groups had warned against.

“Mehdi Nemmouche is not the killer,” lawyer Henri Laquay told the Brussels criminal court. “He did not squeeze the trigger.”

Laquay urged the 12-person jury to acquit Nemmouche.

Both Nemmouche and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who allegedly supplied the weapons, face life in prison if convicted of charges of terrorist murder.

Investigators said Nemmouche was the gunman and attacked the museum shortly after returning from Syria, where he had fought on behalf of jihadist groups.
Head of German Jewish community demands bank shut account of pro-BDS group
The president of Germany’s nearly 100,000-member Jewish community called on the Bank for Social Economy, in an unusual direct and angry statement, on Tuesday to pull the plug on its account with the pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) group Jewish Voice.
“It is overdue that the Bank for Social Economy finally take the consequences and close the account of the Jewish Voice,” Dr. Josef Schuster said. “For months now, the bank’s executive board has beat around the bush about this issue.”

Jewish Voice supports the BDS campaign against Israel.

Schuster, whose statements were first reported by the German Jewish weekly Jüdische Allgemeine, said the bank needs to take a clear position and not hide behind reports.

“There can be no compromise on antisemitism,” he said. “Determination is needed here.”

The Bank for Social Economy’s chief executive Harald Schmitz has hired, according to critics, a controversial academic, Juliane Wetzel, to issue a report on whether the organization, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, is antisemitic.

Schuster said the direction of the “BDS movement is undoubtedly antisemitic.” He added if one works with BDS, then one is more likely to adopt their political attitude. Schuster praised the city of Bonn for deleting a pro-BDS event advertisement from its website that was supported by the Jewish Voice. The city apologized for posting the notice.

Jewish Voice has compared Israel’s political leadership to that of Adolf Hitler. A member of the group, Iris Hefets, held a sign at an anti-Israel rally declaring: “Führer of Israel to the international court.”
Bolsonaro slated for historic Israel visit one week before elections
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will arrive in Israel on March 31 for a four-day visit, Israel Hayom has learned, just one week ahead of Israel's general elections on April 9.

In closed talks with Bolsonaro during a historic visit to the South American country in late December, the Brazilian leader reiterated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his intentions of relocating the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem.

It now appears Bolsonaro will officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital during his expected visit.

Bolsonaro and many of his top aides have repeatedly indicated that Brazil would soon relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Since his election victory, however, Bolsonaro has come under pressure from powerful backers in the agricultural sector – who fear the move could harm their halal meat sales in Arab countries – to abandon the embassy relocation idea.

The Arab League has warned Bolsonaro that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries.

Such a move by Bolsonaro would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy, just as it was for the United States when President Donald Trump relocated the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in May.
Sri Lankan officials to visit Israel to promote tourism
The island nation of Sri Lanka has magical beaches and a rich Buddhist heritage that attract more than ten thousand Israelis each year.

The goal of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Tourism for 2019 is to increase the amount of Israelis visiting the island by 20%.

For that purpose, officials from the Sri Lankan Tourism Ministry will visit Tel Aviv to participate in the International Mediterranean Tourism Market [IMTM] to be held February 12-13 at the Tel Aviv Convention Center.
Police: Jerusalem couple's murder likely a terrorist act
The murder of a couple in their Jerusalem apartment last week appears to have been terrorism, the Hadashot evening news reported on Tuesday. Investigators have reportedly made a breakthrough in the case, but the details are still under a court-issued gag order.

Yehuda and Tamar Kaduri were found dead in their apartment on Sunday after family members said they had been unable to contact them for days. Forensic teams concluded that the two were violently murdered, most likely on Friday, but were unable to determine a motive.

The Kaduris' apartment is in Armon HaNatziv, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem in close proximity to an Arab neighborhood, and on the same street where a stabbing attack took place earlier last week.

In recent days police have been interviewing friends and neighbors, who shed some light on the couple

"Yehuda was such a friendly person, he had so many friends," his sister Rachel said on Tuesday. "After our father died he became religious and we stopped seeing him that often. Tamar was the daughter of Holocaust survivors… she also witnessed several terrorist attacks and as a result, her psychological state deteriorated," the sister continued.

Neighbors said that a day before the murder they heard screams coming from the apartment.
The power struggle between Israel and UNRWA in Jerusalem's refugee camp
Shuafat, one of the 59 Palestinian refugee camps ran by UNRWA, is the only refugee camp in Jerusalem and the only one under Israeli control. More than 30,000 Palestinians live in the camp.

UNRWA, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel compete for ruling the refugee camp. However, groups such as Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front enjoy public support in Shuafat, inciting violence against Israel and creating political and social instability.

“Our message is clear,” said Jihad Abu Zneid, a Shuafat resident and member of the Palestinian government. “We will remain in Shuafat and will not relinquish the right of return.”

“We live in a critical time in Shuafat for many reasons,” Zneid continued. “Especially after [former Jerusalem mayor] Nir Barkat’s declaration that Israel is responsible for Shuafat, not UNRWA, and his declaration that the right of return does not exist.”

In 2018, Barkat said in a statement that UNRWA is a political organization. "Their goal is to maintain refugee status for Palestinians instead of helping them get on with their lives," Barkat had said.

Political instability is one among several issues afflicting the lives of Shuafat residents. The camp is also marked by violence, criminal activities, drug dealing and abuse and poor sanitation.

Social worker and investigative reporter David Bedein, one of the leading voices in the fight for the UNRWA reform initiative, claimed that UNRWA curriculum indoctrinates school children to devote their lives to the Palestinian “right of return” by force of arms.
Court dismisses bid to return Khan al-Ahmar land to Palestinians
The High Court of Justice has dismissed a bid by Palestinians to reclaim the land on which the illegal West Bank herding village of Khan al-Ahmar is situated.

The three judges upheld the Civil Administration’s classification of the property as state land, even though prior to 1975 it had been owned by Palestinians from the village of Anata, just outside of Jerusalem.

The court’s dismissal of the case on January 7, passed almost unnoticed, in spite of the massive publicity Khan al-Ahmar has received.

The Khan al-Ahmar residents had hoped that a positive ruling in the case could provide them with sliver of hope that they could prevent the pending IDF demolition of their homes, located just off of Route 1 near Kfar Adumim.

The Jahalin Bedouin of Khan al-Ahmar had wanted to see court approval for the Palestinians of Anata reclaim the land, so they could bolster their campaign to remain at their current location with the permission of the Anata landowners.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to remove their encampment, which sits on land which Israel plans to develop. The HCJ has ruled that there is no legal impediment to the demolition of the community’s shacks and tents.

But to date, no action has been taken. According to Khan al-Ahmar spokesperson Eid Abu Khamis Jahalin, the Civil Administration this month told the residents that the state now plans to relocate them close to the sewage treatment plant by Nabi Musa.
Report: Hamas releases Italians suspected of being IDF soldiers
Hamas released four Italian civilians who had been held for 24 hours after Hamas fighters suspected them of being IDF soldiers, Israeli media reported Wednesday.

The Italians were part of a diplomatic team who arrived in Gaza for advance security preparations before a visit to the Gaza Strip by the Italian ambassador to Israel.

On Monday, the four Italians drove through a Hamas roadblock. Hamas forces pursued the vehicle and demand they hand over their automatic rifles.

Despite UNWRA's confirmation of their Italian citizenship, Hamas reportedly suspected they were Israelis using Italian passports.
Gaza Health Ministry warns of hospital shutdowns due to fuel crisis
Gaza hospitals are in danger of shutting down due to a fuel crisis, in particular the hospital in Beit Hanoun, the Gaza Health Ministry warned on Tuesday in an English language post on its Facebook page.

“In an unprecedented and rapid tragedy, the fuel crisis in hospitals and primary care centers continues to hit critical levels,” it said.

The crisis threatens 13 hospitals and 53 primary care centers, the Health Ministry said in a dramatic video it posted.

Gaza has a chronic electricity crisis and operates on only about ten to twelve hours of electricity a day. As a result, its hospitals run on generators so that there will be a continual flow of electricity.

But those generators need fuel operate.

“Today, few hours left for the beginning of interruption of the services in Beit Hanoun Hospital due to the shortage of fuel required to operate the generators, which means depriving 350,000 people of the service and health care [we provide]," the hospital said.
Gaza Sewage, Excess Garbage Causes Suffering in Southern Israeli Communities
Raw wastewater and sewage from Gaza is being pumped into southern Israeli streams, and garbage is being amassed along the Israeli border fence, causing an ecological nightmare and the suffering of residents near the border, according to a report in Ynet.

The report stated that polluted sewage is being pumped from the Gaza cities of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia into Nahal Hanun, which travels through Israel before emptying out into the Mediterranean Sea.

In the process, Israeli groundwater is being polluted, and causing an invasion of mosquitoes and flies in the moshavim and kibbutzim adjacent to Gaza.

Due to the difficult conditions, Israel’s Water Authority has established a pumping station near the Erez border crossing and begun to purify the water.

Gaza’s government is responsible for the treatment of wastewater in the region, but the Hamas regime has deprioritized funding for basic infrastructure, opting instead to allow waste to be leaked into Israel and into the sea.

“The dangerous thing is that the Palestinians in Gaza pump water from water wells in an uncontrolled manner, polluting the groundwater we use,” David Rosenberg, director of infrastructure and water in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council told Ynet. “They do not have the knowledge and the tools to pump groundwater. … The environmental damage that’s being done is tremendous.”

Three giant landfills have also been set up by the Hamas government bordering the Eshkol Regional Council, causing the smell of trash to waft into the Jewish communities.

US soldiers killed in Islamic State bombing in Syria
The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that targeted the US-led coalition in the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday that killed at least two US service members.

“Suicide attacker Abu Yassin al-Shami wearing an explosive vest set off towards a patrol including members of the Crusader coalition and the PKK apostates near the Palace of Princes restaurant in the city of Manbij,” a statement posted on the group’s usual social media channels said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, at least 15 people were killed in the rare attack in Manbij.

The US-led coalition confirmed that American soldiers were killed in an explosion while conducting routine patrol in Syria, but did not release further details.

“We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” a coalition spokesman said in a statement posted on social media.

Rubble littered the outside of the eatery in the city center, footage from a Kurdish news agency showed, and its facade was blackened by the blast.

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria, said it was the first such suicide attack in the city against the US-led coalition fighting IS in 10 months.
In the Three Years after the Nuclear Deal, Little Has Been Done to Ensure Iranian Compliance
Today marks the third anniversary since implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—as the agreement to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions is officially known. Since then, the U.S. has formally left the deal, but the other parties remain committed to it, and Tehran insists that it is still complying with it. But, argue Emily Landau and Ephraim Asculai, insufficient effort is being made to ensure that it actually is doing so:

[T]wo major problems related to the JCPOA that arose over the course of 2018 demand immediate and serious attention. The first relates to inspections at undeclared nuclear-related facilities in Iran. The nuclear archives that were removed by Israel’s Mossad from the heart of Tehran in January 2018 include vast amounts of information regarding Iran’s nuclear program and specific plans for developing five nuclear bombs. Included is information regarding specific locations where Iran has been advancing its military nuclear program, and evidence that Iran lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over the years about the purpose of different activities.

Yet, although it received this information, the IAEA has yet to inspect any of these facilities or confront Iran with the evidence of deceit. With a few notable exceptions, . . . the issue is also curiously absent from the principal debate within the arms-control community in the U.S. Moreover, although it is the largest financial contributor to the IAEA, the U.S. has not as yet exerted its influence to bring about the necessary changes to IAEA activities and to improve its reporting culture since implementation of the JCPOA.

The second issue is Iran’s missile program, in particular the recent Iranian test of a medium-range missile that can reach the entire Middle East and parts of Europe, and can carry a nuclear warhead. While this test is a major concern, the European states and the arms-control community prefer to emphasize that Iran’s test is not a clear violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231, which only “calls upon” Iran to cease such activities. The two states in Europe that did demonstrate more concern—France and the UK—were afraid to take concrete action for fear of upsetting the JCPOA. . . .
JCPA: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vs. Qasem Soleimani – The Tehran Tangle
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is continuing to sharply criticize the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF), Qasem Soleimani, for not testifying in favor of some of his associates, including former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The former Iranian president has sent several open letters to Soleimani, who is one of the strongest and most respected people in Iran, and whose name and military triumphs are legendary in his country. In the most recent of these letters, Ahmadinejad complained that the IRGC-QF commander came to the aid of Mehdi Jahangiri, brother of former Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, and he managed to get him released after he was arrested on charges of involvement in an incident of corruption. Mehdi Jahangiri led the Tehran Chamber of Commerce and was also the head of the Tourist Bank.

Yet when charges of fraud were brought against “the loyal and pure” Baghaei, according to which he had received sums of money “from you [the Quds Force], a profound injustice was done to him.” Ahmadinejad continued, “If Baghaei was not given any money — and he certainly wasn’t — why have you and your colleagues been silent about this claim and injustice?”

Furthermore, Soleimani also ignored repeated requests and appeals on his behalf.

In the March 2018 letter, Ahmadinejad threatened to expose the details of a financial incident that created a dispute involving Baghaei and Soleimani. He wrote, “You are investing so much effort into an unjustified war in Syria and other places, so why are you silent when it comes to a bigger injustice occurring in your country?”
Revolutionary Guards commander warns Israel Iran will retaliate for Syria strikes
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Israel Wednesday to “fear the day when Iranian precision missiles hit you and take revenge of all the blood of oppressed Muslims which you have shed.”

The tit-for-tat comes after comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Israel would continue striking Syria so long as Iranian forces remain in the country.

“I'm telling you, get out of there fast. We won't stop attacking,” he said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Mehr News Agency quoted Jafari as saying that Netanyahu’s threat was “ridiculous,” stressing that “the Islamic Republic of Iran will keep all its military and revolutionary advisers in Syria,” as well as “equipment and weapons” with which it aims to “train and empower Islamic Resistance forces and support oppressed people of the country.

"Be sure, we do not take into account your ridiculous threats,” the Iranian commanded said. “You know that if we have chosen to wait against your hostile measures, some considerations lies behind it.”

"Don't play with the lion's tail," Jafari added.
Turkey Applies for Interpol ‘Red Notice’ Against NBA Star Enes Kanter
The Turkish government has officially filed for an Interpol “Red Notice,” a non-binding alert to member nations on a wanted criminal, against New York Knicks player Enes Kanter, Turkish state media confirmed Tuesday.

Kanter – who has condemned the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for years for silencing dissenting voices, persecuting journalists, and criminalizing followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen – published an opinion column in the Washington Post Tuesday predicting that Turkey would relentlessly pursue a Red Notice in his name because of his support for Gülen.

Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, is the leader of an Islamic movement called “Hizmet,” or “service,” and runs a global network of Muslim charter schools. Erdogan claims the charter schools are a front for what he calls the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” (FETO) and has repeatedly demanded Gülen’s extradition. Multiple American administrations have rejected his demands, citing a lack of evidence against Gülen.

Erdogan accuses FETO of orchestrating the July 2016 failed coup d’etat against him, despite the fact that those who organized the coup identified themselves at the time as secularist soldiers.
Jerusalem braces for rare winter snowstorm Wednesday
A rare winter snowstorm is expected to hit Jerusalem Wednesday, weather forecasters said, prompting the municipality to launch snow emergency preparations.

“The Jerusalem municipality is completing its preparations for the possibility of snow,” with the various departments “prepared to handle every scenario,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said.

“Along with the celebration that we’re hoping for, the snow also requires the personal preparation of residents, who are required to act responsibly and to obey the instructions of the municipality and the security forces,” he said in a statement.

Israel’s national weather service said snow is expected to start falling Wednesday in the northern mountains and by the afternoon is expected to spread to the peaks of central mountains, including Jerusalem.
The Western Wall, right, and the gilded Dome of the Rock, among the holiest sites for Jews and Muslims, are covered in snow, Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

The city said it has prepared some 150 snowplows, tractors, salt dispensers and engineering tools to help clear snow on its main roads and has 250 tons of salt on hand.

Schools in Jerusalem were ordered to close by 3 p.m. because of the possible snow, while schools in the northern city of Safed and the Etzion Bloc were to close by 1:30 p.m.

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