Thursday, April 04, 2019

04/04 Links Pt1: Inside the 37-year search for IDF soldier Zachary Baumel; Survey: Majority of Israelis see healthy Arab-Jewish relations; Iran responsible for deaths of 608 American troops in Iraq

From Ian:

Israel’s Unfailing Commitment to Bring Its Soldiers, and Their Remains, Home to Their Families
Yesterday, the news broke that the remains of the IDF soldier Zachary Baumel—declared missing-in-action in 1982 during the First Lebanon War—have been returned to Israel. While Baumel has long been presumed dead, his name is well known to Israelis, who do not easily forget those who have been captured or gone missing while defending their country. The IDF even employs a special unit, known as EITAN, to find them, and it investigates cases going all the way back to the Jewish state’s first war. Matti Friedman, writing before the return of Baumel’s corpse, describes the unit’s operations:

In the offices [of] EITAN, there are 95 files still open from the 1948 war. A team of about 50 active researchers is tasked with closing them—a hybrid outfit of detective-historians, not regular soldiers but rather reservists called up for a few weeks a year. In their real lives, some of the researchers are academic historians. Others are policemen or computer programmers. The necessary personality type ranges from patient to pedantic. They might spend years on one case. The rule is that they can never give up. . . .

In the Jewish tradition, families must have a grave where they can mourn, explained [Nir Israeli, the unit’s commander]. And they need closure. “This is a commitment we make to our soldiers: we sent this person, and we have to bring him home.” Sometimes [Israeli] tries to demonstrate this value by bringing young soldiers along in his search parties. In a recent sweep to find the remains of four Givati Brigade soldiers who went missing in a skirmish with the Egyptians in 1948, for example, he used soldiers from the modern-day incarnation of the same military unit. (They found traces of the battle, such as old bullets, but no bodies.) . . .

Each file is periodically opened and reviewed for clues—something that might be apparent to a fresh pair of eyes, a hint that that might have evaded researchers in the past. . . . EITAN researchers manage to close a few files a year. In May, for example, after years of searching, they found the body of a thirty-four-year-old fighter, Libka Shefer, who was killed in an Egyptian assault against a kibbutz in southern Israel in 1948. Seventy years after her death, she was finally buried under her own name.

Fallen MIA IDF Commander Returns Home
Sergeant 1st Class Zachary Baumel’s last words to his parents were “Don’t worry, everything is okay, but it looks like I won’t be home for a while.” After 37 years, Sergeant 1st Class Zachary Baumel has finally returned home.

In 1982, during the First Lebanon War, Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel, an IDF tank commander, went missing in action (MIA). Today, we finally brought this fallen soldier home to Israel for a proper burial.

For decades the Israeli intelligence community and the MIA Allocation Team have undertaken various intelligence, research, and operational efforts in order to locate and recover the remains of those who are MIA.

The IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate initiated Operation Bittersweet Song, and following a month’s long process which was just completed in the past few days, the body of Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel was located, identified, and recovered.

Battle of Sultan Yacoub
On the night of June 10, 1982, the IDF’s 362nd Armored Battalion entered the Beqaa Valley in the eastern region of the Sultan Yaaqoub sector in Lebanon. The Israeli battalion found itself facing the Syrian 1st Armored Division alongside forces from Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Baumel has returned home

Inside the 37-year search for IDF soldier Zachary Baumel
Over the course of nearly 37 years, Israeli intelligence officers searched for the remains of fallen tank commander Zachary Baumel, who went missing in the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub against the Syrian army in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

This week, nearly four decades later, Sgt. First-Class Baumel’s body was returned to Israel and will be brought to a Jewish burial at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery on Thursday evening.

In Israel, the bittersweet news was greeted with a sense of awe and pride at the lengths the military was prepared to go for its fallen soldiers. Baumel’s father, Yona, died in 2009 without learning of Zachary’s fate, but the rest of his family, including his 90-year-old mother Miriam, now have some form of closure.

“We want all IDF soldiers to know that when they enlist, the State of Israel will do everything it takes, if they — heaven forbid — fall captive or go missing, in order to bring them home,” Lt. Col. Nir Israeli, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ missing soldiers unit, told The Times of Israel Wednesday.

In total, there are 176 IDF soldiers who are designated as killed-in-action but whose exact burial places are not known, the majority of them — 95 — from the 1948 War of Independence, Israeli said.
Searching for Israel's Missing Soldiers for 37 Years
In the world of intelligence, the saying goes, reality often exceeds the imagination, and yet – the operation to return Zachary Baumel’s remains to Israel, in a mission that spanned the globe, can easily be considered one of the most impressive in the country’s history.

Israeli officials have long known where Baumel was buried. The matter of our missing soldiers was also raised on many occasions with foreign governments, primarily in the midst of peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians. After the Oslo Accords were signed, Yasser Arafat even transferred one of Baumel’s dog tags to Israel, but nothing more ever materialized. Syria has always said it would agree to resolve the mystery, but only parallel to receiving the Golan Heights in return, as part of a peace agreement between the countries.

A little over a year ago, the issue was again raised by then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. If the reports are true that Russia was involved in the operation, we can assume that Lieberman spoke with his counterpart in the Russian defense ministry, Sergei Shoigu. It appears that this time the response was different, and the Russians agreed to lend a hand. Either way, Israeli officials began working vigorously. In a series of intelligence operations, the Military Intelligence Directorate and Mossad pinpointed Baumel’s exact resting place. All the information was gathered into a classified file under the codename “Bittersweet Song.”
Russia, Syria and the Return of a Fallen IDF Soldier
37 years after Israel's first war with Lebanon in 1982, the Israeli Defense Forces said on Wednesday that the body of fallen soldier Zachary Baumel had been transferred to Israel. Baumel's funeral will be held at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery on Thursday night at 7:00pm local time. The IDF spokesperson said Baumel's body was returned aboard an El Al flight through an anonymous third country intermediary in operation undertaken by Israel's intelligence agencies. Five more Israeli soldiers went missing in Lebanon on June 11, 1982 during the Sultan Yaaqub battle including Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, whose whereabouts remain unknown. 20 Israeli soldiers were killed during the exchange of attacks with Syrian forces at the start of the First Lebanon War. Baumel's burial is set to take place this week.

IDF soldier Baumel to be buried Thursday, 37 years after death in battle
Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel will be buried in Jerusalem on Thursday, the army said, 37 years after he was likely killed in the First Lebanon War’s battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982 at the age of 21.

Baumel’s funeral was scheduled for 7 p.m. at Mount Herzl, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

After a complex and secret operation, Baumel’s remains were returned to Israel “on an El Al plane” via an unnamed third country earlier this week, a military spokesman said earlier on Wednesday, without specifying the nation.

The announcement brought to a close a decades-long mission by Baumel’s Jerusalem-based, American-born parents to find their son, which included international pressure campaigns and faint hopes that he may have been captured alive during the brutal Sultan Yacoub tank battle.

Yona Baumel, Zachary’s father, died 10 years ago; his mother Miriam is 90 years old.

The third country involved in the mission was widely believed to be Russia, which said in September that it had helped Israel search for the remains of missing soldiers in Islamic State-held territory in Syria.
Baumel's sister, Osna: “I knew the chances he was alive were quite slim”
On the most normal of days, after monitoring a high school matriculation exam, Osna Haberman received news she had longed for and dreaded for almost 37 years: the remains of her younger brother, Zachary, had been found in Syria.

“I had a regular work day,” she told The Jerusalem Post, less than 24 hours later and she still struggled to absorb the information about her brother’s fate.

That Wednesday, Osna had a particularly heavy schedule because she had to deliver oral matriculation exams to over 20 students.

When she was done, she took the bus home and changed into comfortable cloths when she heard a knock on the door of her Jerusalem home.

“I open the door and 10 people in uniform stood there – even the first time it was three,” she recalled.

Osna brought them into the living room. They sat down, looked at her and said, “We came to tell you something.”
Netanyahu Thanks Putin for Russian Efforts to Locate, Return Remains of Missing Israeli Soldier
President Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that Russian special forces troops in Syria had found the remains of a US-born Israeli soldier missing since 1982, allowing him to be finally buried.

The disappearance of Zachary Baumel, who was 21 when he fought in Israel’s First Lebanon War and was declared missing in action along with two other soldiers in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub, has long troubled Israel.

Speaking at talks in Moscow with Netanyahu who is campaigning for a new term ahead of elections next week, Putin said Russian and Syrian forces had located Baumel’s remains, but that it had been a difficult task.

“We are very happy that they will be able to give him the necessary military honors at home and most importantly… that his close relatives will be able to bring flowers to his grave,” Putin said in comments published by the Kremlin.

Russia handed over a casket containing Baumel’s personal effects, including his combat uniform, on Thursday.

Baumel immigrated to Israel with his parents from New York in 1970. Over the years, there had been unverified reports that Baumel and two other soldiers who went missing at Sultan Yacoub might have survived the fighting and been captured.

The precise location of his remains was not disclosed, but Netanyahu said Russian soldiers had risked their lives to get them.

The recovery was welcomed by the United States, Baumel’s birthplace.
Russia searching for remains of 2 more missing IDF soldiers — senior official
After the return of the body of Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel, Russia is continuing to search for the remains of two other IDF soldiers who went missing in the same 1982 battle in the First Lebanon War, a senior diplomatic official said on Thursday.

Tank commander Baumel, a Brooklyn-born immigrant, was one of three Israeli soldiers whose bodies were never recovered following the battle of Sultan Yacoub, a skirmish between the Israel Defense Forces and Syrian army in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, in which 21 Israeli servicemen were killed and more than 30 were injured.

Though Baumel and the other two soldiers — Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz — were generally believed to have been killed in the battle, there was also speculation and reports that they had been captured by the Syrian military in Sultan Yacoub and brought to Damascus.

The remains of Feldman and Katz were not recovered in the operation to retrieve Baumel’s body, though Israeli officials initially thought Feldman’s body might have been among the other remains recovered in the operation, according to the Haaretz newspaper.
Did a Palestinian militant group sworn to Israel's destruction find Baumel's body?
Wrap your heads around this: Terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) cooperated with Israeli intelligence to bring home the body of an IDF soldier missing for 37 years.

That wild possibility may have led to the remains of Sgt. Zachary Baumel being repatriated this week after the culmination of two-year long Operation Bittersweet Song.

Based in Syria and headed by Ahmad Jibril, PFLP-GC is an offshoot of the PFLP and is violently opposed to any peace with the Jewish State. The group was involved in dozens of deadly attacks against IDF troops in southern Lebanon and Israeli civilians during the 1970s and 1980s.

While the IDF maintains that there had been no negotiations or prisoner exchanges for Baumel’s remains, in 1982 the PFLP-GC swapped three kidnapped Israeli reservists – Yosef Grof, Nissim Salem and Hezi Shai – who had been taken captive during the Second Lebanon War in exchange for the release 1,150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

That prisoner exchange, known as the Jibril Agreement, took more than a year to negotiate and many of those released later became leaders of the First Intifada which broke out in 1987.
MEMRI: International Union Of Muslim Scholars Urges Imams To Preach Armed Jihad Against Israel To Save Al-Aqsa
On April 1, 2019, the International Union of Muslim Clerics (IUMS) proclaimed Friday, April 5, 2019 as "Day of Support for Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and Gaza," and urged Muslim preachers worldwide to devote their sermon on that day to this topic. The IUMS also posted a sermon it advised the preachers to deliver on that date, which calls for armed jihad against Israel and includes antisemitic motifs. The following are excerpts from it:

"[The act of] marking Isra and Mi'raj [in Islam, the Prophet's Night Journey from Mecca to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, marked this year on April 4] contains within it [both] pain and hope... Oh beloved [Muslims], come to the Isra and Miraj compound [i.e., the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem]... and we shall draw inspiration from a few lessons... [conveyed by] this great event [the Prophet's Night Journey] and use them to illuminate the way, for this event conveys an infinity of messages.

"...The first message [offers] a modicum of hope at a time of despair – it is a message to every Muslim: When troubles surround you in force, and the situation is bleak, [when] friends become fewer and enemies multiply... call in your fajr [dawn] prayers, 'Oh Allah,' and trust and be certain of salvation and victory...

"The second message is: You have the right to lead humanity, so why do you relinquish it? There is a message in the fact that the Prophet Muhammad leads public prayer for the prophets, and it is that all the prophets handed over the leadership and control of humanity to the Prophet Muhammad, and therefore his followers have the right to bear this banner after him and to be the leaders of humanity. The path passed down to us by the Prophet is to make the path of humanity successful, and to lead it from darkness to light... It is only when the Muslims relinquish their role and hand the reins of power to those who do not consider humanity important and know only the language of destruction and murder, that humanity is condemned to misery...
Cultural Barriers to Israeli-Palestinian Peace
A Palestinian leadership that turns killers into martyrs won’t be making peace with the country of those they want to kill — which leads to the next obstacle.

Fourth, the obstacle of Israeli rejection.

Not surprisingly, decades of terrorism, Jew-hating, and martyrdom by the Palestinian leadership and people who — let’s not forget — have rejected multiple Israeli officers of a state to call their own have understandably taken their toll on a weary Israeli public.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported in late March that 42 percent of Israelis support some form of West Bank annexation, something that used to be a fringe idea, as compared to 34 percent that still hold out hope for a two-state solution.

So, here’s an idea: Let’s escape the comfort of our irrelevant debates over settlements, borders, and Jerusalem and, for a change, grapple with the cultural obstacles that represent the true barriers to Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Caroline Glick: Egypt and Middle East Peace, Positive and Negative
Next week, Egyptian President Sisi will arrive in Washington for a critical meeting with President Donald Trump. The meeting is considered a preparatory step towards the administration’s rollout of its peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, which Trump has dubbed, “the deal of the century.”

The deal is critical to Sisi, who is seeking U.S. support for his bid to amend Egypt’s constitution in a manner that will allow him to lead the country indefinitely. It is critical to prospects of security and lasting peace in the Middle East as well. To understand why, it is worth considering an event that occurred forty years ago last week.

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt on March 26, 1979. In Israel, the commemorations of the event were modest and mainly limited to university seminars.

In Egypt, the peace deal’s anniversary was ignored.

On the face of it, the absence of official commemorations in either Israel or Egypt is strange. The Egyptian-Israeli peace has long been touted as a watershed event — just as important as, if not more important than, the Islamic revolution in Iran that occurred a month before the peace was concluded.

Until the Khomeinst revolution, Iran had been Israel’s strategic ally and America’s strongest ally in the Islamic world. The revolution transformed Iran into their most fanatical enemy. By the same token, until it concluded its peace treaty with Israel, Egypt was Israel’s worst enemy. It had also served as the Soviet Union’s most powerful Cold War ally against the U.S. in the Middle East.

By making peace with Israel, then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat ended Egypt’s state of war with Israel and transformed Egypt into the pillar of America’s alliance system in the Arab world.

Moreover, at the time, the peace treaty Egypt concluded with Israel was viewed as the basis for a wider regional peace between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors.

Forty years later, Iran continues to be the foremost foe facing America and Israel. But the promise of peace between Israel and the Arab world that Sadat seemed to carry in his suit pocket at the time disappeared. According to survey data, the Egyptian people hate Israel and Jews more than the Iranian people do.
Gradual Improvements, Not Territorial Concessions, Are the Way Forward in the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Acknowledging that Israel cannot simply “end the occupation,” as leftists demand, and that withdrawal from the West Bank would be disastrous for Israelis, Palestinians, and the region in general, Micah Goodman argues in favor of some modest steps that could improve Palestinian living conditions. Among them are building separate roads connecting Palestinian towns and villages and easing economic conditions:

Some 120,000 Palestinians work in Israel, bringing large sums of money to the Palestinian territories and providing a livelihood for 600,000 people. There is a large pay differential between employment in the Palestinian Authority and in Israel; for the same job, workers in Israel earn twice as much. In recent years, the IDF’s top brass have concluded that the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel can be dramatically boosted.

Employment opportunities can be opened up to women and older men with clean records, with . . . minimal risk to Israel. If 400,000 Palestinian workers entered Israel every day, this would significantly improve the Palestinian economy. More than 1 million Palestinians would directly enjoy the fruits of working in Israel, and the whole population would benefit from the injection of new cash into the local market.

Most importantly, such steps can be taken without undermining the policies that have effectively put an end to the suicide bombings of the 1990s and early 2000s:

When it comes to Palestinian terrorism, Israel’s security is based on its forces’ ability to foil the formation of terror cells in the West Bank on a daily basis. Their great success stems from Israel’s wide-reaching intelligence network in Palestinian towns and villages. To guarantee the effectiveness of this intelligence, Israel needs free military access to every part of the Palestinian autonomous areas. This is not the situation in Gaza. Israel pulled its army out of Gaza and consequently wrapped up most of its intelligence network there. The IDF’s ability to stop terror attacks from the Gaza Strip is therefore extremely limited. This mistake must not be replicated in the context of unilateral moves in the West Bank.
The day after the election
The wider Israeli leadership should embrace this truly unique moment to join forces for the future of their country. Immediately after the election, they must put aside the bruised egos and petty differences, to create a stable and lasting coalition government from across the political spectrum that will embrace the Trump administration’s vision for safer, more secure and more prosperous Middle East.

As Pence said at the AIPAC Policy Conference: “Israel and the United States will always stand together because America and Israel are more than friends. We’re more than partners or allies. We are a family, descended from a common tradition of faith. We’re a family that upholds common values. And together, we share a common destiny.”

From day one, the Trump administration has shown its support for Israel has been not only by word, but also deed and action. Therefore, when this administration says it “has Israel’s back,” Israelis overwhelmingly believe it.

The Israeli public, the most pro-American population in the world, can accordingly rest assured that any future peace agreement led by the Trump administration will have the Jewish state’s security interests foremost at heart.

As such, the upcoming peace plan will present a unique occasion for Israel that will require of its leadership courage, commitment and most of all, unity, to seize this unprecedented opportunity by coming together to embrace the vision our American family is creating for a stronger and safer Israel and Middle East.

Trump should support Israel’s annexation of Judea and Samaria now
It is critical to remember that Israel has a legal right to Judea and Samaria, as well as to Gaza, under international law. These areas were part of the Mandate for Palestine which the League of Nations granted the Jews to establish a national home there. The Mandate for Palestine, which is codified in international law, is recognized as legally valid by Article 80 of the UN Charter, which validated all League of Nations Mandates as being legal into the present.

As Eugene Rostow, a dean of Yale Law School, noted, “A trust never terminates when a trustee dies, resigns, embezzles the trust property or is dismissed. The authority responsible for the trust appoints a new trustee or otherwise arranges for the fulfillment of its purpose. Its rules apply till today.”

The time has come for the Jewish people to re-assert its legal, historic and religious rights to the land where Jews became a nation 3,000 years ago and have since lived continuously for thousands of years. The time has come for the Palestinians to say goodbye to being ruled by terrorist thugs. So let’s finally put an end to the falsehood that there is an occupation and that Israel is an “occupier.” Terrorism and BDS will not dislodge the Jewish people. Jews are owners, not occupiers. The time has come for Israel to annex Judea and Samaria while assuring the Arabs there of their civil rights. President Trump should recognize such an annexation.
Mr. President, we thank you for helping Israel on many occasions and for your good intentions. This deal can only succeed by debunking myths created by the Palestinian Arab leadership and those complicit in their lies, who are ideologically opposed to peace and refuse to recognize Israel’s right to the land under any borders.
Survey: Majority of Israelis see healthy Arab-Jewish relations
The majority of Israeli citizens believe there are positive relations between the country’s Jewish and Arab populations, according to a survey published Thursday by online magazine Sicha Mekomit (Local Call).

Fifty-three percent of Jewish respondents said that day-to-day relations between Jews and Arabs are largely positive, with one-third testifying to negative relationships based on personal experiences. Just 13% said they did not have enough contact with the Arab population to answer.

Some 76% of Arab respondents said that, in their daily lives, relations between Jews and Arabs are largely positive. Only 6% said they did not have sufficient contact with the other population group to answer.

The pre-elections survey, led by Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and David Reis, revealed that the majority of Jews and Arabs believe cooperation between the two populations can advance various goals, including environmental protection, workers’ rights and women’s rights.

Germany’s military to have Jewish chaplains for first time in a century
For the first time in a century, Germany’s military will have rabbis as chaplains.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced this week that her ministry will appoint Jewish chaplains to the Bundeswehr based on recommendations from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the umbrella organization that represents the approximately 100,000 members of Jewish communities nationwide.

In addition, a treaty on the military chaplaincy will be negotiated between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Central Council of Jews, as it was for Protestants and Catholics decades ago.

Von der Leyen and Council President Josef Schuster are among those who will address a high-ranking conference that began Wednesday on both the history of Jewish chaplains in the German military and the expectations of such a chaplain today.

According to the Central Council, the future German military rabbi or rabbis will work both in a pastoral capacity, and in instructing soldiers of all religious backgrounds, “enriching their ethical education … with a Jewish contribution.”
Bolsonaro says Nazis were ‘leftists’ following visit to Yad Vashem
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said that Nazism was a leftist movement following his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

The far-right leader was asked on Tuesday during his visit to Israel if he agreed with the claim by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, that Nazis were leftists.

“There is no doubt, right?” Bolsonaro replied, according to Reuters.

It is widely accepted that Nazism was a far-right movement. Yad Vashem’s website says that a range of factors, including Germany’s defeat in World War I, “created fertile soil for the growth of radical right-wing groups in Germany, spawning entities such as the Nazi Party.”

Bolsonaro was visiting Israel just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for re-election. Prior to the trip, the Brazilian leader walked back his promise to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, saying that his government may instead open a “business office” in Jerusalem.
‘Heir of Mohamed Merah’: French Cops Arrest Terror Suspect Inspired by Islamist Behind Jewish School Massacre in Toulouse
French media outlets revealed on Wednesday that a man who described himself as the “heir of Mohamed Merah” — the Islamist terrorist who murdered three young children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012 — was arrested by security agents last week on suspicion of plotting his own terrorist attack against a school.

Broadcaster BFM TV reported that the man was seized in the Seine-et-Marne region near Paris on March 25 while attempting to obtain weapons. According to police, the man had been planning an attack on children at a nursery school, apparently following the example set by his hero, Merah. A second man was also arrested on charges of complicity.

During his interrogation by police officers, the main suspect, a 21-year-old, told police that he saw himself as Merah’s “heir.” He admitted that he had picked out a school as his target, and that his plan had been to kill some children and take others hostage, with the goal of dragging police into a gun battle. The man was subsequently charged on March 29 and remains in custody.

The arrested man was already the subject of a French intelligence file, BFM TV reported. Investigators who inspected his computer and cell phone said that he had attempted to erase his browsing history, including extensive use of the dark web.
Syria vows to recapture Golan from Israel ‘by all means’
Syria will not shy away from using force to reconquer “every inch” of the Golan Heights, the country’s foreign minister threatened Thursday.

“Syria will liberate the occupied Golan by all means and all choices are on the table,” Walid Muallem said at a press conference in Damascus alongside his Venezuelan counterpart.

“US President Donald Trump’s decision on the occupied Syrian Golan has a single effect, as it only enhanced the US isolation,” he said. “Our right in the occupied Syrian Golan is firm and can’t be denied by the passage of time, and every inch of the occupied Syrian territories will be liberated.”

On March 25, Trump signed a presidential declaration formally recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel captured the strategically important high plateau during the 1967 Six Day Way and extended its laws over the territory in 1980, a move that was condemned at the time by the international community, including the US.

“We have will and determination and our war since 2011 is to protect Syria’s sovereignty and independence and to liberate every inch of its territories,” Muallem said.
Satellite images show site in Aleppo allegedly struck by Israel
Satellite images released by the Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat Intl. (ISI) on Thursday show the destruction of an industrial zone in Aleppo in northern Syria allegedly struck by Israel in late March.

The images show destruction to two structures, a hanger and a building, in the north-western part of the Sheikh Najjar industrial area, both approximately 70x35 meters and some 450 meters apart.

“While there aren’t significant signs of massive explosions, it seems that the bombs hit several spots of the hanger and caused a partial roof collapse,” ISI said in its report.

The blasts also caused an electrical blackout in Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city.

“Barriers are detected near some of the entrances to the area where the two structures are located. It is possible that the whole perimeter is under the control and use of the same entity,” ISI said in their report, adding that private vehicles and trucks are seen in the images, both parked and passing by both bombed structures.

According to local reports, the March 28 attack also targeted Iranian ammunition dumps and the Nairab military airport used by Tehran on the outskirts of the city, the second such strike on the installation in less than a year.
Arab Residents of Jericho Loot Ancient Tombs, Defile Graves
On a recent hike in the Jericho region, volunteers for “Protecting the Eternal” discovered a burial tomb that had been exposed in the course of construction work. The graves were looted and human remains were scattered throughout the area.

The ancient burial caves on the outskirts of Jericho date back to the Second Temple period and are apparently part of the extensive burial grounds of the Hasmonean palace uncovered at the site. The cave was recently exposed in the course of landscaping work carried out by local Arab farmers, who rolled tractors over the site to prepare the ground for agricultural work.

Professor Rachel Hachlili of Haifa University’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology, who studied this region, identified these caves as the largest Second Temple-era burial ground in Israel.

Hikers who visited the site over the weekend were appalled by what they found: Human remains were strewn everywhere on the freshly tilled ground, the catacombs were thoroughly ransacked and looted, and the sarcophagi (burial caskets) that had been resting in the caves for more than 2,500 years had disappeared.
PA TV reporter: Israel “steals” Palestinian dishes, "attributes them to its truly fake identity”
Official PA TV reporter: “We will get to know this [food] festival and the Palestinian dishes featured at it that we are preserving. The occupation is recently attempting to steal this Palestinian heritage… We are very happy with this festival, whose messages are important in light of the evil assault on our heritage and on all the components of the Palestinian identity…" Director of the Al-Sham Lands Master Chef Samer Abu Jum’a: “We want to instill knowledge in the young people about the Palestinian cuisine, and to give them a new vision of our Palestinian dishes. Let’s not forget to protect them from Judaization and the evil assault against us, and the theft of Palestinian dishes. A number of dishes have been stolen.” … Reporter: “What was your impression of the Western world, given that the occupation is attempting to Judaize our dishes and attribute them to its truly fake identity? … Tell me how we can spread the Palestinian dishes more and fight the evil assault on our Palestinian heritage and on the Palestinian dishes, which the occupation is of course attempting to attribute to itself.” [Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Jan. 20, 2019]

PA TV reporter: Israel “steals” Palestinian national dish “maqluba”
Director-General of Al-Nasr Grinders Na'im Nasr: The Palestinian spices have become number one in the world. If we prepare a Palestinian mix today... named maqluba spice - there is no maqluba spice elsewhere... Official PA TV reporter: "The occupation has attempted to steal even this-" Na'im Nasr: "True." Official PA TV reporter: "-which is our national dish, or spices, hyssop, or even wheat." Official PA TV, Made in Palestine, Feb. 2, 2019

Lebanese Girl Donates Savings to Hizbuallah, Rewarded with Hijab and Quran Signed by Nasrallah
On April 1, 2019, Al-Jadeed/New TV (Lebanon) aired a report and hosted a show featuring Hawra Nada, a young Lebanese girl who donated money she saved to Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. The report showed Hawra removing money from a penny bank. Hawra said that she loves Hassan Nasrallah, that her life is dedicated to him, and that she gave him the money she saved up so that he could "get a missile and fight the enemies" like she saw him do on TV. Addressing Israel, Hawra said: "If you kill little children, Hassan Nasrallah will kill you." After the report, Hawra was shown in the studio wearing a hijab, which she had not been wearing in the video of the report. The show host explained that Hawra started wearing hijab after she was given a hijab, a copy of the Quran signed by Hassan Nasrallah, and other gifts during an appearance on Al-Manar TV because of her donation to Nasrallah.

The Survival of Assad's Regime and the Challenges to Syria's Stabilization
On March 10, 2019, hundreds of residents of Daraa in southern Syria protested against the restoration of a statue of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, which had been toppled when the civil war began. The protests, alongside the fact that President Bashar al-Assad controls only about 60% of Syrian territory, indicate that the situation in Syria is far from stable.

Today, the stabilization and rebuilding of Syria seems more a utopian vision rather than reality in the making. Syria of 2019 has become a country with multiple power centers that compete with each other for long term influence and control.
These include Assad's formal state-framework, foreign political actors (Russia, Israel, Iran, Turkey), and non-state actors (armed rebel forces, political opposition, Shiite militias, and Kurdish forces). This multi-actor reality will make it difficult to establish an effective central regime, especially a legitimate one.

The massive physical damage caused by the war is joined by the challenge of the refugees, particularly the many middle and upper class families that will not return to Syria. This will make it difficult to find appropriate human resources to operate the reconstructed services.

The defeated Sunni majority has been left more repressed than it was before the civil war.
Iran responsible for deaths of 608 American troops in Iraq
The U.S. military has revealed it believes Iran has helped kill 608 U.S. troops in Iraq since 2003, according to newly revealed and formerly-classified numbers.

"In Iraq, I can announce today, based on declassified U.S. military reports, that Iran is responsible for the deaths of at least 608 American service members," Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, said during a State Department briefing Tuesday.

“This accounts for 17 percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011. This death toll is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies.” Since 2003, more than 4,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq.

This number has been a matter of debate for years, shrouded in secrecy by the Pentagon with the previous estimate put at about 500. Scores of American personnel were killed by highly lethal bombs, known as explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, that Iran manufactured and supplied to Shiite militias across the border in Iraq. Many EFPs were powerful enough to destroy U.S. Humvees and even breach tank hulls.

In July 2015, during the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., pressed him on this. “You have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you know how many soldiers and Marines underneath your command were killed by Iranian activities?” Cotton asked.

“Senator, I know the total number of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that were killed by Iranian activities, and the number has been recently reported as about 500," Dunford replied. "We were not always able to attribute the casualties that we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity, even though we did not necessarily have the forensics to support that.”
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