Thursday, April 30, 2020

From Ian:

Germany outlaws all Hezbollah activities, including by political wing
Germany on Thursday officially announced that it has outlawed activities by the Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah. In a dramatic departure from Berlin’s previous policy, which was based on the European Union’s stance, the new ban does not differentiate between the group’s military and political wings.

Hezbollah activities “violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding,” said German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The group, headed by Hassan Nasrallah, denies Israel’s right to exist and “supports the armed terrorist fight” against the Jewish state, his ministry said in a statement issued Thursday. “It is to be expected that Hezbollah will continue to plot terrorist acts against Israel and Israeli interests also outside the Middle East.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on his Twitter account that Hezbollah denies Israel’s right to exist and threatens “with violence and terror and massively upgrades its rocket arsenal. It is important that Germany exhausts the means of the rule of law to take action against criminal and terrorist activities of Hezbollah.”

Early on Thursday morning, German police raided four groups associated with Hezbollah in various locations across the country to ensure that “evidence of potential sub-organizations in Germany could not be destroyed when this ban was announced,” the Interior Ministry said.
Netanyahu calls on Hezbollah to be banned worldwide
Israel and the United States have long pushed for Germany to ban the Shi’ite terrorist group. Germany previously drew a distinction between Hezbollah's political arm and its military units, which fought alongside President Bashar Assad's army in Syria.

Hezbollah symbols may not be used publicly in any assembly, or in print, audio and visual material in Germany, and its assets will be confiscated “to the benefit of the Federal Republic of Germany,” the Interior Ministry’s press release read.

The ban is because Hezbollah is a terrorist group, and also because it “calls for the violent elimination of the State of Israel and questions the right of the State of Israel to exist.

“The organization is therefore fundamentally against the concept of international understanding, regardless of whether it presents itself as a political, social or military structure,” the ministry said.

“Its violent denial of the right to exist of the State of Israel also fundamentally opposes Germany’s national ethos,” another Interior Ministry document states.

The order allows German authorities to “use all available instruments of the rule of law to crack down” on Hezbollah and its German sub-organization, the statement reads.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz praised the decision, saying it is “very important and values-based.”

Banning Hezbollah is “significant in the world battle against terror,” Katz added. “I want to express my appreciation to the German government for this step and am certain many governments in the Middle East and victims of Hezbollah’s terrorism share my gratitude.”

The Blood on de Blasio’s Hands
With 160,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 12,000 confirmed deaths, New York City is now the epicenter of the global pandemic. Who’s to blame? Let’s ask our mayor:

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple,” Bill de Blasio tweeted late last night. “The time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”

Ah, so that’s the cause of the trouble. It’s the nasty Jews! The sweaty hordes threatening their innocent neighbors with their diseased bodies and souls, as they did yesterday for a funeral for which the community coordinated with the NYPD. It’s true that throngs crowd Central Park daily, that in Riverside Park it’s nearly impossible to avoid maskless joggers panting their spit well within 6 feet of you. It’s also true that just yesterday hundreds of New Yorkers stood very closely together to watch the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds perform a flyover tribute to health care workers.

None of these other people are problematic, though—presumably because they aren’t a danger to others. The danger to others—the danger that must be broadcast to the mayor’s 1.5 million Twitter followers and to 8 million New Yorkers, some of which have spent the past few years growing increasingly and violently anti-Semitic—is the Jews. It’s the Jews.

Don’t, for example, think for a second of blaming the mayor himself, who on March 2—long after Iran and Italy were both ravaged by the plague, and after New Yorkers already began dropping dead of the virus—tweeted that he was “encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus,” adding a flippant movie recommendation to boot.

Also, you should probably ignore that the mayor’s bungling of this crisis is already singled out as a world historical case study in disastrously inept management. After fighting parents, teachers, and his own advisers and insisting that the city’s schools must remain open, de Blasio suddenly caved. On the morning of March 15 he went on television to assure New Yorkers that the schools won’t be shut; that same afternoon, he shut them down. According to the NYC Department of Education, 68 school employees have died of COVID-19. The morning after he shut down the schools, Hizzoner hit the gym, flaunting the very social distancing guidelines his own administration had issued. The subway, as a recent MIT study has confirmed, continues to spread the virus quickly and efficiently to all corners of the city. Members of the mayor’s own staff, according to multiple reports, are nearing revolt, describing a constantly quibbling boss who refuses to listen to evidence and is incapable of resolution. Multiple municipal agency heads have told Politico that the mayor did not provide any guidelines regarding how they were supposed to conduct their work remotely. His calculations, several aides reported, seemed motivated largely by how they might be interpreted by his political base.
Lawfare Project: Mayor de Blasio's behavior is unacceptable
At a time when hate crimes against the Jewish community are skyrocketing in New York City and so many people are scapegoating Jews for the COVID-19 pandemic, it shocks the conscience that Mayor Bill de Blasio would single out and stereotype the Jewish community, even threatening its members with arrest.

Comments like this promote anti-Semitism and invite hostility. Enough! A true leader would bring the city together, not divide it with hatred.

Just a few days ago, New Yorkers ignored social distancing to watch a flyover by the Blue Angels. According to the New York Post, "Photos from throughout the region show large crowds jammed together in waterfront parks and venues in New York and New Jersey, looking skyward for a glance at the famous jets."

Yet Mayor de Blasio didn't single out these people or threaten them with arrest. Nearly a month ago, crowds of New Yorkers ignored social distancing to watch the USNS Comfort pull into Pier 90. Mayor de Blasio didn't single out these people either. When crowds have gathered during this pandemic, they haven't been identified by race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. Only the Jewish community has been highlighted, in a manner designed to heighten anti-Semitism. This makes de Blasio look not just like a hypocrite, but also like a bigot.

Mayor de Blasio could have spoken about the 3,000 Orthodox Jews in New York who donated blood plasma in the last week, helping victims of this pandemic who are desperately in need. He could have spoken about the 45,000 members of the Jewish community who are expected to follow suit and give aid.

But he didn't.

Instead, de Blasio lashed out at a community mourning a tragic death, singling out the Jewish community in a manner unbefitting of an elected official, let alone a person with human decency. Mayor de Blasio's job is to stop attacks on the Jewish community, not incite them.

This behavior is unacceptable and must be called out!

National Review Editorial: De Blasio the Denier
De Blasio launched a broadside against “the Jewish community” after a large crowd turned out for a rabbi’s funeral in Williamsburg as though the event corporately implicated the more than 1 million Jews living in New York City, drawing criticism from the city’s ADL and other local Jewish leaders.

De Blasio has instructed police to follow a “zero tolerance” rule on gatherings and has threatened to enforce his policy with arrests. Perhaps he has not entirely thought through the social-distancing implications of mass arrests.

The coronavirus epidemic was a test for Mayor de Blasio, and he has been found wanting — which should be no surprise to anybody who has witnessed the dramatic decline in the quality of city life under his watch. The tricky question of balancing the consequences of an enforced economic stoppage against the risks of an unknown and poorly understood viral epidemic in a free society with democratic norms has gotten the better of better men and better mayors than Bill de Blasio.

His incompetence has endangered the lives of his constituents and made the coronavirus situation worse than it had to be. But it is his tinpot-tyrant posturing and his ridiculous preening that really set him apart from your run-of-the-mill municipal bungler.

Unhappily, there is no treatment for what ails Bill de Blasio, and no cure in sight for New York.
Sarsour Reminds de Blasio to Say ‘Zionist’ Instead of ‘Jewish’ (satire)
With New York Mayor Bill De Blasio facing criticism from across the political spectrum for a hostile tweet directed at the “Jewish community,” anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour urged him to use the word “Zionist” instead of Jewish in future anti-Semitic tweets.

“As I’ve explained to Mayor de Blasio several times, it is offensive and improper to direct such hatred explicitly at the Jews,” Sarsour said. “You have to use code words like ‘Zionist’ or ‘occupier.’ Then you can say whatever you want.”

The statement came after de Blasio tweeted: “My message to the Jewish community… is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.”

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has offered to meet with de Blasio to advise the mayor on how to disguise anti-Semitism as a legitimate policy position.

“I accused the Jews – I’m sorry, the ‘pro-Israel lobby’ – of mind control, dual loyalty and being ‘all about the Benjamins’ all in a week, and I got away with it because I never used the word ‘Jew,’” Omar explained. “You can’t just go around yelling ‘I’m calling the cops on the Jews!’ You have to be a little bit tactful.”
Inside story of the funeral of a NY rabbi, a COVID-19 victim, that went so wrong
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea acknowledged at a news conference Wednesday that members of his department were in contact with Hasidic community leaders to discuss “what to expect at that location” ahead of the funeral. That contact, he said, came “within minutes” of the rabbi’s death.

“Plans were put in place, a detail was put in place … contingency plans were put into place, a number of officers were detailed in the unlikely event that large numbers came and we thought that was a possibility,” Shea said. “But absolutely I think we’ve been pretty consistent, Mr. Mayor … that there are to be no gatherings in New York City such as what we saw last night.”

Asked for further detail on the plans made by the police with local community leaders, a spokeswoman declined to comment beyond Shea’s remarks at the news conference.

In a statement distributed to reporters, Jacob Mertz, a spokesman for the congregation that organized the funeral, said organizers had the streets closed for the funeral to allow mourners to participate while following social distancing guidelines.

“Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out, and NYPD had to disperse the crowds,” the statement said. “We shall note that everyone followed the police officers’ orders and the vast majority wore masks. Yet, the confusion and chaos led to scenes of large crowds. We understand Mayor Bill de Blasio’s frustration and his speaking out against the gathering. As said, we thought that the procession will be in accordance with the rules, and we apologize that it turned out otherwise.”

Mertz did not address whether the NYPD was involved in the street closures, but a City Hall spokeswoman told the New York Post on Wednesday that no permits were issued for the funeral.

David Greenfield, a former City Council member and CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, said in a tweet that the police “wanted to work with the chasidic synagogue out of respect for their revered (and well-known) late Rabbi so they literally barricaded streets for this ‘socially distant funeral.’”

“The Chasidic synagogue wanted to honor their saintly rabbi so they came up with a misguided scheme for an outdoor ‘socially distant’ public funeral. They were so convinced they could pull this off they COORDINATED with NYPD and even handed out masks.”
Seven threats facing Israel and how Israel can fight back
1. MURDER ADVOCACY. Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, has enacted an unprecedented law which provides an automatic gratuity for anyone who murders a Jew. The award goes is for the killer and for his family – for life. That is the official PLO incentive to murder.

A. Give Abbas one week to cancel his “pay to slay” legislation. Ask all 74 nations which recognize the PLO to join the initiative.

B. Threaten the PLO: Failure to cancel its “pay to slay” legislation or risk blockage of all foreign aid and business transactions with the Palestinian Authority, which acts under the aegis of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

C. Having confirmed that Abbas does not have any immunity from the law in Israel, the time has come for the Israeli law enforcement system to prosecute Abbas as an accessory to murder. Since Abbas states publicly and repeatedly that he will continue to pay anyone who will murder a Jew, he can be charged with the crime of genocide – one of the only laws on the books in Israel which carries the death penalty. Unlike Eichmann, whose defense was that he only followed orders to murder Jews, Abbas gives the orders to murder Jews.


Fully 54% of the UNRWA budget is earmarked for education, the time has come to mobilize citizens of UNRWA donor nations to remove PLO curricula from UNRWA schools. UNRWA donors would be asked to stop the usage of the diplomatic pouch to distribute curriculum based on terror.
ICC Prosecutor doubles down that Palestine is a state
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Thursday doubled down on her position that "Palestine" is a state in a climax bringing closer a grand all-out alleged war crimes legal battle with Israel.

A major argument Bensouda made was that the State of Palestine was already accepted into the ICC's Assembly of State Parties in 2015 without significant objection by the members of the ICC.

While there were public statements by Israel and some others against this, Bensouda said that no members legally challenged Palestine before the ICC's judges at the time, which is a form of legal acceptance.

She added that it was unclear the ICC Pretrial Chamber even has the power to retroactively kick Palestine out of the Assembly of State Parties five years after it has been participating and where Palestinians have even held offices.

How the three ICC Pretrial Chamber judges rule now that Bensouda has filed her highly influential position will have fateful consequences for Israel on a legal, diplomatic and public relations level.

The case would very likely not proceed if the ICC does not accept ‘Palestine’ as a state since most cases start only if referred by a state.
Why Netanyahu's West Bank Plans Are Closer to Reality
53 years after Israel defeated three Arab armies and took control of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to begin the process of annexing the Jordan Valley area and most of the Jewish communities in the territory.

He will do so at the head of a large government coalition that represents 2/3 of Israelis, and with the blessing of the Americans.

The arguments haven't changed much in decades. What has changed is reality. Today, over 400,000 Jews live in the West Bank.
They are a heterogeneous mix of homeowners who commute to work in nearby Israeli cities.

The Jordan Valley has become Israel's strategic eastern border. It is these communities and that border area that Israel intends to annex in accordance with the American plan.

That plan doesn't leave the Palestinians homeless, as some have suggested. It offers them roughly 70% of the West Bank (and all of Gaza) for a demilitarized state.

Israel can live with that. The Palestinian leadership, so far, cannot.
Trump’s Peace Plan Will Help Israel — No Matter What the Palestinians Do
Now that Israel finally appears to be on the brink of forming a government, and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaling confidence that settlement annexation will begin “within months,” it is worth taking a hard look at the framework dubbed “the Deal of the Century,” under which annexation will likely proceed.

Henry Kissinger called President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan “a responsible first stage and broader approach to the world’s most intractable geopolitical issue.” The proposal provides the most practicable US solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its history. It offers a detailed territorial plan open to compromise, a robust internationally-backed economic plan, highly specific workarounds for access to ports, industrial zones, and travel, and addresses security and refugees. The plan provides remarkable opportunities to all parties if it succeeds, but its true strength is that it is designed to improve the status quo even if the Palestinians reject it, which they have and will continue to do.

The Trump team crafted the most realistic path to peace and Palestinian sovereignty to date, and it is still doomed because of two stipulations that are foundational to achieving peace. First, the Palestinians must accept a final status deal that rejects further territorial claims — they will not. Second, the Palestinian Authority (PA) must bring the Gaza Strip under its control — it cannot.

Unlike prior proposals based on the pre-1967 “borders,” this plan takes as its starting point the current demographics and geo-strategic realities. In this respect, it is more similar to the UNSCOP 1947 partition plan than any of the Oslo-era proposals.

The pre-1967 “borders” were simply the armistice lines of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Using boundaries from the 1940s as a basis for creating a new state in 2020 is nonsensical, yet the wisdom of these borders as a foundation for talks has gone unquestioned by the international community, and by the US as the primary external proponent of peace talks until now.

By working with the facts on the ground today, not the greater part of a century ago, the Trump administration — in consultation with Israel and regional and international partners — was able to draft a partition plan that does not necessitate population transfers and the misery that accompanies them. Regrettably, the Palestinian leadership rejected the invitation to contribute to the drafting process.
Arab League: Israeli annexation of West Bank would be a ‘new war crime’
The Arab League said Thursday that Israel’s controversial proposal to annex much of the West Bank constituted a “new war crime” against the Palestinians, during a virtual conference chaired in Cairo.

“The implementation of plans to annex any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including the Jordan Valley… and the lands on which Israeli settlements are standing represents a new war crime… against the Palestinian people,” Arab foreign ministers said in a joint statement.

The Arab League also urged the United States to “withdraw its support in enabling the plans of the occupying Israeli government.”

US President Donald Trump in January unveiled a peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rejected by the Palestinians and condemned by much of the international community, the plan gives Israel the green-light to annex Jewish settlements and other strategic territory in the West Bank.

An Israeli coalition government agreement reached last week includes a framework for implementing the annexations outlined in the plan, starting in July.
Israeli American voters and Joe Biden
If elected president, Joe Biden would almost certainly reverse President Trump’s policies regarding the Iran’s Nuclear deal. He was VP when the deal was struck. He was a major supporter and sponsor. That reversal will be accompanied by the elimination of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. It would, indirectly, ignore Iran’s malicious support and initiation of terror acts around the world, spawning enough tailwind and less friction on the Ayatollah regime’s destructive objectives, thereby boosting its ability to threaten Israeli citizens’ way of life as well as the state’s existence.

I dread the moment when Iran becomes emboldened by a US president looking for a peaceful arrangement with a religious fanatic, ambitious, blood thirsty anti-Semitic regime, while employing appeasement and weakness reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous agreement with Adolf Hitler.

This is exactly why Joe Biden should not be in a position to repeat the same kind of foolish, shortsighted signing ceremony that unlocked the gate and facilitated the conditions for the launching of World War II, the worst period in human history.

Joe Biden is dangerous, and it’s not because he dislikes Israel. It’s because he is not smart enough to comprehend that the only way to contain Iran’s destructive ambitions is by suppressing their objectives, squishing them inside their own borders.

And if you doubt it, if you don't doubt Joe Biden’s ability to make the right decision, check out what Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George Bush and Obama said more than once: “Joe Biden is the most consistent person I know. He has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

Wow! That conclusion came from a person who had a firsthand knowledge of Biden’s ability to make policy decisions. It came from someone who worked closely with the former vice president.

I am convinced that if Joe Biden becomes President, he will maintain and prolong his consistency. He will make the wrong decisions over and again, but this time his flawed judgment will almost certainly lead to cataclysmic circumstances for Israel and for those Israelis who supported him.

Sudan Leader: Israel Is Not Our Enemy
Speaking to Sudanese TV on Saturday, Sudanese leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan answered a question about hostility with Israel, saying:

"Sudan should not be in a state of hostility with any party, religion or sect. Sudan, after the revolution, must be different from what it was."

When asked about his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, Al-Burhan said that it was for the interest of Sudan.
Report: Israel Suppressed Syrian Radar and Defense Systems during Attack
The pro-regime Lebanese website Al-Masdar, citing a military source in Damascus, said the Israeli Air Force fired at least eight missiles towards Damascus from Lebanese airspace this week, with at least three hitting the southern suburb of Sayyeda Zaynab.

On Monday, the Russian publication Avia.Pro reported: "Israel's unexpected attack...ended mainly in their favor, as they were able to successfully hit targets in the northwestern part of Damascus. But this is not about ordinary missiles, but about Delilah cruise missiles designed to suppress enemy radar and air defenses."

"In the presented video frames, you can see that anti-aircraft guided missiles produced by Syrian air defense systems are by no means moving along a straight path, which indicates a powerful jamming."
Palestinian drives car into West Bank checkpoint in suspected attack
A Palestinian crashed his car into a West Bank checkpoint on Wednesday evening in a suspected attack attempt.

The driver approached the Reihan checkpoint near the city of Jenin, and security officials signaled he should slow for a check.

Instead the man accelerated toward the checkpoint and drove his vehicle into a concrete block, officials said. There were no reports of injuries.

The man, from the village of Barta’a, was arrested by security officials on the scene and told investigators he wanted to die.

The incident came a day after a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli woman in the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, before he was shot by a security guard.

The woman, 62, was in moderate-to-serious condition and received treatment on the scene before being taken to Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

According to police, the suspected terrorist was shot by an armed civilian who was driving by. He was said to be in moderate condition after medical treatment.

“The terrorist, 19, from the West Bank, took out a knife and chased after her. A civilian who lives nearby saw what was happening. He stopped his car and opened fire at the terrorist,” police said.
Sbarro bomber kicked off social media platforms
A terrorist who played a key role in planning and carrying out the bombing of a Jerusalem pizza parlor was kicked off several social media sites this week.

Ahlam al-Tamimi is on the FBI's most-wanted list for her role in the 2001 suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizza shop on behalf of the Hamas terrorist organization. 15 civilians were murdered in the attack, including seven children, and 130 people were wounded.

Tamimi, who currently lives in Jordan, has repeatedly bragged about her role in the deadly attack and has stated that her only regret is that more Israelis were not killed in the attack.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) notified Twitter and Instagram on April 23 that Tamimi was in violation of their policies and using their platforms to promote incitement to hatred and violence. In response, both platforms removed Tamimi's accounts this week.

"This was at least the eighth time in recent years that Tamimi had created and exploited a profile on Instagram or Twitter in order to propagate hate," the ADL said in a statement.

"There has not been a single time Twitter or Instagram has taken down these accounts on their own accord. Instead, it has taken civil society complaints to flag the content and get the company to remove her account."

Tamimi was serving 16 life sentences in Israel for her role in the Sbarro bombing when she was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange with Hamas for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. The US Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint against Tamimi in 2013 for the deaths of two American citizens in the attack, and the American government has sought her extradition from Jordan.
MEMRI: Gazan Journalist Alaa Al-Asi: Any Form Of Dialogue With Israelis – Even Peace Activists – That Takes Place Outside Of The Framework Of The Resistance Is Collaboration With The Enemy
Gazan journalist Alaa Al-Asi said in a video that was uploaded to Facebook by the Shehab News Agency (Hamas) on April 18, 2020 that Rami Aman, a Palestinian activist who participated in a two-hour video conference with Israelis, has been arrested by Gazan police for normalizing relations with Israel and in order to be interrogated about receiving funds from Israel. She said that any dialogue with Israelis that takes place outside of the framework of the Palestinian resistance is a form of normalization that hinders the struggle to end injustice, and she emphasized that all undertakings such as joint activities, cooperation, or dialogue with any Israelis, including Israeli peace activists, must be viewed as collaboration with the enemy.

"[Palestinian Advocate Rami Aman's] Normalization Meeting [With Israelis] Via Skype Angered The Palestinians, Especially In Gaza"

Alaa Al-Asi: "Rami Aman, a Palestinian advocate, participated in a two-hour Skype conversation with Israelis. This normalization meeting via Skype angered the Palestinians, especially in Gaza. On the next day, the police in Gaza arrested Rami Aman for interrogation on cases of receiving external funding from Israel and other issues, including normalization with Israel."

"No Form Of Joint Activity, Cooperation, Or Dialogue With Israelis Is Acceptable... All Such Undertakings Must Be Viewed As Collaboration With The Enemy"

"Dialogue – if it occurs outside the resistance framework – becomes dialogue for the sake of dialogue, which is a form of normalization, that hinders the struggle to end injustice.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Hamas: Reports about progress on prisoner swap 'inaccurate'
Hamas on Thursday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “foot-dragging” regarding a possible prisoner exchange agreement and said he was not serious in dealing with its leader's recent “initiative” to reach a deal.

A Hamas official said that recent Israeli "leaks" about progress in the negotiations to reach a prisoner swap deal were “inaccurate.”

The official was responding to a Channel 13 report according to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the ministerial cabinet last week to discuss a possible prisoner swap with Hamas. Another report on Channel 12 said that “important talks” were underway with Hamas to strike a deal.

Hamas is holding the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as well as Israeli civilians Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayyed, who separately entered the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015.
Coronavirus: The unexpected opportunity for victory over Hamas
Hamas has long exploited its sense of Israel’s “great weakness”: our love of and value for human life.
They have used human shields, and embedded weaponry in schools, hospitals and homes, all the while knowing that Israel is loath to hurt civilians, even enemy civilians.

Another tried and true tactic has been the use the prisoner deals. The most famous was the 2011 exchange of Gilad Schalit for 1,027 Palestinians in Israeli jails, hundreds of whom were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various terrorist attacks that cost the lives of over 500 Israelis. Of course, many of those released went on to commit additional acts of murderous terrorism.

Hamas is currently holding Israeli citizens Avera Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed hostage. They also hold the bodies of slain IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed during fighting in the summer of 2014.

Although negotiations for the return of these Israelis have been ongoing for many years, suddenly the issue has taken on a new immediacy: Hamas leaders have declared that they want assistance in battling the effects of the coronavirus as part of any prisoner exchange.

“We have four prisoners and we are ready for indirect talks,” Ismail Haniyeh said in a television interview with the Gaza-based al-Araby TV network. “I’m optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement with the occupation in order to complete a prisoner exchange deal and achieve our goals.”

A senior Israeli source told Israeli TV that “an exceptional and rare opportunity has been created to reach a prisoner deal with Hamas.”
Khaled Abu Toameh: Is Hamas using coronavirus to gain support in West Bank? – analysis
The Palestinian Authority believes Hamas is using the coronavirus crisis to score points with Palestinians in the West Bank.

In the past week, PA security forces arrested a number of Hamas activists after they were caught distributing food parcels and cash to needy families.

One of those arrested by the PA security forces is Fadel Jabareen, head of the Islamic Charitable Society, a nonprofit organization in Hebron suspected of being affiliated with Hamas.

Several other workers of the organization who were caught distributing food and money to families in the Hebron area have been summoned for interrogation by the PA Preventive Security Force.

Jabareen’s wife said her husband was arrested on Tuesday night because he had been distributing food parcels to orphans in the West Bank.
“My husband was distributing food to orphans, not settlers,” she said in a Facebook post.

Earlier, PA security forces arrested Eyad Nasser, 40, on suspicion of distributing food parcels to families in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm. Nasser is also suspected of being affiliated with Hamas.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Saeb Erekat To Highlight HBO Comedy Special (satire)
A leading cable network and entertainment production company announced today it will harness the comedic potential of a mostly-untapped resource: leading Palestinian spokespeople whose on-stage personae adopt and defend untenable, corrupt positions that they insist represent the height of moral goodness and justice.

HBO Productions issued a press release Thursday to the effect that this coming fall and winter will see a series of comic performances by Saeb Erekat, Hanan Ashrawi, Nabil Aburdeineh, Jibril Rajoub, and other prominent Palestinian officials, each of whom will bring a different angle to what studio executives are betting will draw audiences to experience the hilarious absurdity of careers devoted to portraying a bloodthirsty honor-shame vengeance narrative as the noble pursuit of self-determination.

“This untapped reservoir of comedy gold will set a new standard,” predicted HBO Vice President for Stage Comedy Productions Earnest Partisan. “No one has gone in this direction before, but we at HBO see it as one of the great comedy discoveries of the twenty-first century.”

Partisan disclosed in a telephone interview that he and his staff had approved a pitch for the series after viewing clips of Erekat, Rajoub, and Ashrawi lauding child-murdering Palestinian terrorists as national heroes. “It’s edgy, sure, but that’s what audiences appreciate at the moment,” he observed. “The on-stage characters seem to seriously believe in the morally-inverted universe they inhabit, and it’s compelling in the same absurd way as, for example, a hokey cartoon-character villain, only much more over the top, with the added incongruity of this being an actual flesh-and-blood human who accepts the ridiculous and evil as axiomatically good.”
Pompeo Vows to Stop U.N. From Lifting Iranian Arms Embargo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the Trump administration will not permit the United Nations to lift a ban on Iran's purchase of advanced military technology later this year.

"We're not going to let that happen," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

Pompeo said the United States is laying the groundwork to stop U.N. member nations—primarily Russia and China—from lifting an international arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire under the terms of the landmark nuclear deal.

While President Donald Trump removed the United States from the nuclear accord, the administration maintains that it still has sufficient leverage at the U.N. to stop the arms embargo from lifting. If these efforts fail, the Trump administration could petition the U.N. Security Council for what is known as snapback, the reimposition of all global sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal signed during the Obama administration.

"The failures of the Iran nuclear deal are legion. One of them is now upon us," Pompeo said. "It's now just several months out where China, Russia, other countries from around the world can all sell significant conventional weapons systems to the Iranians in October of this year. This isn't far off. This isn't some fantasy by conservatives. This is a reality."

Pompeo said it is clear Iran will immediately move to purchase a range of advanced military equipment once the embargo is lifted. Russia and China, which have sold Iran military equipment in the past, have the most to gain if the embargo is removed, he said.

"Does anybody think that the nation that today is conducting terror campaigns by Lebanese Hezbollah or Iraqi Shia movements or firing military missiles into the air ought to be permitted to purchase conventional weapons systems in just a few months?" Pompeo asked. "I think the world realizes that's a mistake."
Intel: Key Biden adviser slams 'sheer hypocrisy' of Trump gambit to extend Iran arms embargo
The Joe Biden campaign’s chief foreign policy adviser slammed the Donald Trump administration for relying on a mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal to reinstate multilateral sanctions on Iran should the United Nations fail to extend an arms embargo on Tehran, which is set to expire in October.

“It’s hard not to almost admire the sheer hypocrisy of the action that the administration is trying to take in seeking to, in effect, force countries at the Security Council to find a way to extend the arms embargo on Iran,” said Tony Blinken, the campaign’s chief foreign policy adviser, on a virtual panel today hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

Why it matters: Blinken, who helped lead the Iran deal negotiations under President Barack Obama, noted that the United States managed to extend the UN arms embargo as part of the accord, which Trump withdrew from in 2018. Nonetheless, the Trump administration is still threatening to use a mechanism that allows the deal’s signatories to force a snapback of multilateral Iran sanctions at the United Nations unless Europe, Russia and China agree to extend the arms embargo.

“If you have a veto on the Security Council, this is what we designed into the Iran nuclear agreement, you can in effect unilaterally get that [snapback sanctions] done,” said Blinken. “They’re trying to use this provision in the [nuclear deal] to require the extension of the arms embargo. The only problem is we are no longer participating in the agreement.”

It remains unclear whether the United States can force a snapback of multilateral Iran sanctions given its stated withdrawal from the accord.
FDD: Iran military satellite launch requires US action
The Islamic Republic of Iran is at it again. In addition to resuming its longstanding maritime belligerence that instigated the latest war of words with President Trump, Tehran recently launched its first-ever military satellite. This historic development represents a significant change in Iran’s narrative about its interest in space, as well as another step toward potentially developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could target the United States and all of Europe.

Iranian outlets have heralded the launch of the satellite – dubbed the “Noor” or light – a success, claiming that the satellite sent a signal back to earth from 425 kilometers (km) away. US Space Command has tracked the satellite, which is assumed to be in orbit.

Wednesday’s apparent success follows a string of recent setbacks for Iranian space launch vehicles (SLVs). Just this February, in an attempt to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iran tried but failed to put a new satellite into low-earth orbit. Ironically, the satellite was named the “Zafar,” or victory.

The SLV behind the latest launch, called the “Qased” or messenger, appears to be new. Iran’s Mashregh News Agency reported that the Qased has three stages and uses both solid- and liquid-propellant. Older Iranian SLVs rely on North Korean missile technology, specifically Nodong engines, which use liquid-propellant. Video from the Qased’s launch appears to indicate a liquid-propelled engine, at least for its first-stage.

The Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force (IRGC-AF), Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, confirmed this assessment in a recent interview. While claiming that the Qased’s use of liquid-propellant in the first-stage was a temporary, cost-saving measure using a missile they had in “storage,” Hajizadeh said Tehran will transition to all solid-propellant SLVs in the future.

If true, this growing technical sophistication should set-off alarm bells in Washington and allied capitals. A domestically manufactured, multi-stage, solid-propellant SLV would be a game-changer for Tehran and can make longer-range ballistic missiles possible.
JCPA: Iran Is Operating an Airlift to Venezuela
An Airbus A340 of Iran’s Mahan Air landed on April 26 at Las Piedras Airport, which is in Punto Fijo in the Venezuelan state of Falcòn. The local media reported1 that this was the third flight in a week (the previous ones occurred on April 22-23, some via China). This may be connected to an agreement that was signed between President Maduro and Iran. Despite the sweeping prohibition on flights declared by Maduro, the Iranian airlift to Venezuela is expected to continue, with 20 flights slated.2 Mahan inaugurated the flights to Venezuela about a year ago. A Russian plane also landed there despite the restrictions related to the coronavirus.

Venezuela’s deputy minister for refineries and petrochemicals said Iran had transferred technical equipment and materials to the Cardòn refinery, which is near the airport, with the aim of reactivating it. Some Iranian technicians are also supposed to be flown in. With the collapse of its refineries, Venezuela is suffering a severe fuel shortage, and a rehabilitation of the Cardòn refinery, which can refine about 300,000 barrels of oil per day, can help it somewhat alleviate the country’s ongoing energy crisis after years of neglect and U.S. sanctions.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó warned of the resumption of the Mahan flights; the airline is under U.S. sanctions because of its ties to drug cartels. Mahan serves the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps by transferring weapons to the Houthis in Yemen and Syria, and also in ferrying IRGC personnel and foreign fighters between Iran’s Middle Eastern theaters of activity (Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon). Guaidó says Iran is one of the main epicenters of the coronavirus and implies that the flights to Venezuela endanger its citizens. He claims these flights are perceived as carrying medical crews.

Venezuela and Iran, both of which are under U.S. “maximal sanctions,” continue to maintain a kind of strategic alliance amid this ongoing pressure and keep defying the United States. After Venezuela’s outrageous 2018 elections, in which the opposition candidates were prevented from running, the United States formed an anti-Maduro coalition of 60 countries.
U.S. Urges End to Overflight Rights for Iran Airline Flying to Venezuela
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called on countries to deny overflight rights to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline under U.S. sanctions, which recently delivered cargo to the Venezuelan government. The U.S. maintains sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

"Over the last few days, multiple aircraft belonging to Mahan Air have transferred unknown support to the Maduro regime," Pompeo said. "This is the same terrorist airline that Iran used to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East." The flights "must stop."
MEMRI: Top Iranian Cleric: Humanity Must Fight the "Two-Legged Viruses" of Western Liberalism
Iranian scholar Alireza Ebadi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative in the Southern Khorasan Province, said in a lecture that aired on Khorasan Jonoobi TV (Iran) on April 10, 2020 that the "virus" of Western liberal democracy is even worse than the coronavirus since it has caused the deaths and displacement of millions of people, two world wars, coups in various countries such as Iraq, the spread of cholera in Yemen, and Western intervention in Syria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Ebadi expressed hope that once humanity defeats the "pest" of the coronavirus, it will "make sure the greatest pests of all do not escape." He added: "May God [save] humanity from [the] two-legged viruses."

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