Monday, May 22, 2023

From Ian:

Bassam Tawil: The Real Threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque is From Muslims, Not Jews
If anyone has been desecrating al-Aqsa Mosque, it is Muslims who have been rioting and using rocks and fireworks to attack police officers and Jewish visitors. Muslim rioters -- not peaceful Jewish visitors -- are the real threat to the sanctity of the mosque.

Israeli authorities have clarified that the route of the "flag parade" absolutely does not include entry into any mosque.

Assurances by the Israeli authorities, however, have not stopped Palestinians and other Muslims from spreading fake news and libels against Jews.

Iran's terror proxies Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have also used the celebrations in Jerusalem to spread the libel that Jews are planning to "desecrate" al-Aqsa Mosque.

As far as Hamas and other Palestinians are concerned, the very presence of Jews at their holy site and in Israel is supposedly a "provocation."

Hamas and several terror groups in the Gaza Strip, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, also repeated the lie that "al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger."

When the terror groups talk about "resistance," they are referring to the need for terrorism against Israel, including firing rockets from the Gaza Strip, and attacks by stabbing, shooting and car-ramming.

"The people of Palestine have no historical rights to Palestine. They have no right that dates back 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 years. The right of the Canaanites to Palestine is equal to the pharaohs' right to Egypt. Is it conceivable that any Muslim in Egypt would say: 'I am Pharaonic and proud of it?' Well, it is the same if a Muslim in Palestine said, 'I am a Canaanite and proud of it.' To hell with your Canaanite identity and to his Pharaonic identity. People, our history is simple and it is not ancient. It must not be said that the Palestinians have Canaanite roots. Our history dates back only 1,440 years.... The only thing you are allowed to say is: Oh Palestinians, you are Muslims." — Issam Amira, Palestinian Islamic scholar, al-Aqsa Mosque, April14, 2023
The Honest Truth about Hazards to Holy Sites
All too often, critics have charged the Jewish state with limiting Palestinians’ freedom of worship, specifically at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, an honest examination of the facts and relevant international law reveals that the Palestinians are guilty of the very thing they accuse Israel of.

In this piece, we will examine some of the restrictions and threats facing Jewish worship at holy sites and archeological digs in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Temple Mount (Jerusalem)
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City is Judaism’s holiest site — a fact that is beyond dispute. According to oral tradition, as well as mystical sources, the Mount contains the Foundation Stone from where God created the world. The Midrash and Jerusalem Talmud furthermore state that Adam, the first man, was formed from the dust of the plateau. Then Cain, Abel and Noah brought offerings on the same mountain. In Genesis 22, the Jewish patriarch Abraham is commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, identified as another name for the site.

Later, King David purchased the threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite (II Samuel 24:24, I Chronicles 21:22-30) in order to construct an altar. His son Solomon established the First Temple, the focal point of Jewish worship, around 950 BCE, with the Holy of Holies and its Ark of the Covenant placed on the Foundation Stone. Although the Temple is now in ruins, the religious status of Judaism’s holiest place never changed. The Jewish sage Maimonides (1138-1204), in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, concludes that “a person must hold [the site] in awe, as one would regard it when it [the Temple] was standing.”

Nowadays, Jewish tours of the Temple Mount are subject to many constraints. The current state of affairs governing the compound goes back to 1967, when Israel captured eastern Jerusalem from Jordan. Days after the war, defense minister Moshe Dayan met with Islamic leaders in the city. Under informal agreements that are enforced to this day, non-Muslims are only allowed to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours of the day, walk along a narrow police-enforced path, and may not pray there. Furthermore, due to incessant Palestinian violence, Israel is often forced to close the Temple Mount for Jews during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
PMW: Do the Europeans know or care where their aid to the PA goes?
According to a recent European Union report, “Since 2008, the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland have provided over 14 billion dollars in official development assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians.”

As part of the continued aid, the EU recently finalized a new 296 million euro aid package for the PA and the Palestinians for 2023. In the press release following the ceremony announcing the newest EU aid package to the PA, the EU noted:
“To that end 114.2 million EUR will support the Palestinian Authority in the payments of the salaries and pensions of civil servants, the social allowances to vulnerable families and the referrals to the East Jerusalem Hospitals.”

[Website of the Office of the European Union Representative
(West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNRWA), Feb. 2, 2023]

Since a considerable amount of the EU aid to the PA is spent on paying the “salaries and pensions” of the PA civil servants and on the backdrop of the PA teachers strike that has continued on since February 5th, Palestinian Media Watch decided to zoom in on the subject of the PA salaries to its civil servants since 2016.

The results of the examination shows a huge difference between the sum the PA reports to the world that it paid its civil servants and the sum PMW calculated to be the actual PA expenditure based on the PA’s own published labor reports.

PMW’s findings indicate, that in most years, there is a substantial difference between the PA reports - some years over a billion shekels – a sum which is even greater than the aid the PA received from the EU in that year.

For example, in 2022, according to the PA’s budget performance reports, the PA claimed to have paid its civil servants a cumulative sum of 8,114,105,436 shekels. However, according to the PA’s labor reports, the actual sum the PA paid to its civil servants was closer to 6,881,372,495 shekels, leaving a difference of 1,232,732,941 shekels or €302,374,788.

Since the EU is providing substantial aid to the PA, and wants to know exactly where every euro is spent, the question that the EU accountants/economists should be asking themselves is where is that aid money really going?

NGO Monitor: NGO Monitor Letter to the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) Regarding an Event with Al Mezan and Save the Children
Dear Members of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI),

We write to you to express our concern over DROI’s scheduled May 22 “Exchange of views on the situation of children in Gaza,” featuring Save the Children’s local country director Jason Lee and Al-Mezan Director-General Issam Younis. Based on detailed evidence, committee members should be alarmed by the obvious false claims, omissions and distortions that will likely characterize the presentations. Al-Mezan: Cooperation with Terrorist Organizations

Al-Mezan has collaborated and given platform to EU-designated terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). It also is a leader in the campaign for the indictment of Israelis by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On March 18, 2023, Nafez al-Madhoun – an Al-Mezan board member participated in “Jurists Confronting the Occupier,” a legal event organized by the Hamas-affiliated International Center for Law Studies. Speakers included Hamas political bureau members Mahmoud Al-Zahar and Musa Abu Marzouq, as well as Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council member Mohammed Faraj Al-Ghoul.

Madhoun served as Director General of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Legislative Council, from at least 2010 through at least June 2022.
Nafez al-Madhoun (2nd from left) participating in an October 2010 Hamas workshop alongside Hamas spokesperson Taher al-Nunu (far right), Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar (2nd from right), and senior Hamas official Mohammad al-Ghoul (center)

Revealing his rejection of Israel’s legitimacy, in an October 2010 workshop, al-Madhoun demanded to “take steps to start discussing what is the legality of this entity [Israel]…pointing to the illegality of the Israeli entity, even in respect to decisions by the UN…This entity, by its nature, is temporary…It does not have a territory nor sovereignty, and its existence is contrary to international law decisions…It is forbidden that anyone forgive even an inch of Palestine to the occupation…”

Similarly, on April 9, 2015 Al-Mezan, hosted a conference in Gaza about the opportunities for prosecuting Israelis presented by Palestinian ascendancy to the ICC. The event featured Hamas, PIJ, and PFLP representatives. Younis addressed the participants.

According to Al-Mezan, the conference dedicated a panel to “The Vision of the Palestinian Factions,” featuring Hamas’ Khalil Al-Hayya, Islamic Jihad’s Khaled Al-Batsh, and the PFLP’s Saleh Nasser. Al-Mezan’s description of the session included these organizational affiliations.

Israel brushes up against ‘status quo’ atop Temple Mount
U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Monday criticized as “provocative” recent visits by Israeli ministers and lawmakers to the Temple Mount.

After calling for all parties to “respect the sanctity” of the site, Miller emphasized that Washington supports the “historic status quo” at Jerusalem’s holy sites and Jordan’s role as custodian of the Muslim ones.

The status quo was established in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, when then-Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan unilaterally ceded control of the Temple Mount to the Hashemite monarchy of Jordan via the Waqf, or Islamic trust. Since then, Jewish presence on the Mount has been restricted to a few hours a day, five days a week; Jewish prayer and signs of Israeli sovereignty such as flags are outright forbidden.

In recent years, however, this arrangement has become strained.

The official visits criticized by Miller, for example, mark the reversal of a trend stretching back two decades. In 2000, opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount was cited by Yasser Arafat’s PLO as one of the sparks that ignited the Second Intifada, leading to a stark decline in visits by lawmakers and ministers.

According to a recent study published by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research (JIPR), there have been “rapid shifts” in the status quo during the years since.

“The number of religious Jewish visitors has been growing, and a variety of (illegal) religious rituals, including prayer services and Torah lessons, have gradually been shaping a new reality on the compound,” wrote senior JIPR researcher Amnon Ramon.

He attributed these changes to “developments that are taking place among the Jewish public, particularly the national-religious public, regarding the place of the Temple Mount in religious consciousness.”

And the numbers would seem to bear this out: In 2022, 51,483 Jews visited the Temple Mount, up from 34,651 in 2021 and 20,684 in 2020, according to statistics compiled by Beyadenu, an NGO dedicated to strengthening the Jewish connection to the site.
US condemns Israeli decision on Homesh as IDF finalizes repeal of Disengagement Law
The Biden administration rebuked Israel on Sunday over an order that allows Jewish presence in Homesh, a former settlement that was removed as part of the 2005 Disengagement Plan in northern Samaria. The criticism follows a similar condemnation from the US after Israel Hayom reported on the planned move several days ago.

The IDF GOC Central Command signed an order on Thursday that allows Israelis to enter the Homesh outpost area, paving the way for a formal settlement to be built there. The State Department has repeatedly called on Israel to refrain from any moves that escalate tensions with Palestinians, like formalizing settler outposts, and specifically warned it over Homesh.

"We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government's order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The order is inconsistent with Israeli government commitments made in 2004 and more recently to Biden administration officials, Miller said. Israel's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order in question was intended to allow Israelis to keep attending an existing yeshiva in Homesh, and that the government has no intention of rebuilding the settlement or allowing Israeli presence on private Palestinian land.

Direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia likely next month
Israel is working with Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights for its Muslim citizens who will undertake the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca next month, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Monday.

A ministry spokesman told JNS that Israel was working to reach an agreement over the flights. Saudi approval for them would be another step forward in normalization between the nations.

Israel has issued a formal request for the flights and is awaiting the Saudi response, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said earlier this month.

Israel’s top diplomat said this weekend that normalization with Saudi Arabia could happen within six months.

Currently, Israelis who undertake the annual pilgrimage have to travel through third countries such as Jordan, incurring increased expense on both the outbound and return journeys. About 18% of Israeli citizens are Muslim.

Biden administration officials predicted last year that such flights would be arranged.

Saudi Arabia has allowed Israeli commercial planes to overfly its territory since the summer of 2022.

Israeli officials have noted that the confirmation could come next month at the eleventh hour, just before the pilgrimage begins.

The Hajj, which is set to take place this year between June 26 and July 1, is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking it, and who can support their family during their absence from home. It takes them along the path believed to be traversed by the Prophet Muhammad around 1,400 years ago.
Survey: Only 36% of NY Jews Think their State Is on the Right Track
A Siena College poll conducted May 7 – 11, 2023, among 810 New York State registered voters reported that only 53% of Jewish voters as a whole responded with a Yes to the question: “Is New York State on the right track, or is it headed in the wrong direction?” Only 36% of NY Jews said it was headed in the right direction.

Among Catholics, 60% said wrong direction, 31% right direction; and among Protestants, 48% said wrong track, and 42% right track.

The largely blue state did significantly better only with African Americans: only 26% believed it was headed in the wrong direction, while 56% liked the state’s current direction.

Things look even worse for the Democrats among NY State Jewish voters when it came to the question: “Is the United States on the right track, or is it headed in the wrong direction?” An amazing 59% of Jewish New Yorkers said it is, and only 28% believe it isn’t.

However, things turned around when the poll authors asked how respondents felt about President Joe Biden: 58% of Jewish registered NY voters were favorable, and only 39% unfavorable. And regarding the presumed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, NY Jews are 67% unfavorable, and only 31% favorable.

Governor Kathy Hochul didn’t fare so well with NY Jews: only 34% are favorable, and 49% unfavorable. Neither did Mayor Eric Adams: 34% of Jewish voters like him, and 45% don’t.

NY Jews really don’t like the United States Supreme Court: only 28% favorable, 58% unfavorable.

Speaking of judges, how do Jewish registered voters feel about giving judges more discretion to set bail for offenders accused of serious crimes? A whopping 63% like it, compared with only 14% who don’t.

3 terrorists killed as Israel seizes arms, explosives in Samaria raid
Israeli security forces killed three Palestinians during a raid in the West Bank early on Monday, the Palestinian health ministry said, in what Army Radio described as a large-scale operation against militants.

No Israeli troops were hurt in the operation, which took place in Jenin and Nablus. A bomb manufacturing lab was discovered with assembled explosive devices. Arms were also seized during the raids, which included several arrests.

The Israeli military did not immediately release details. Army Radio said hundreds of soldiers took part in the pre-dawn raid and that the three Palestinians killed were terrorists who had exchanged fire with the forces.

No armed group immediately claimed the men killed in the Balata refugee camp in the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, an area where Israeli forces have mounted frequent raids over the past year.

Senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh condemned the Israeli raid.
3 Palestinian gunmen killed in IDF raid near Nablus
Israeli forces conducted two anti-terror overnight raids in the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians continues to rise

AP Improves Coverage on Palestinian Fatalities in Gaza, Balata
CAMERA’s Israel office today prompted improved Associated Press coverage on Palestinian fighters killed earlier this month in the Gaza Strip, along with three more combatants killed early this morning in the West Bank’s Balata refugee camp.

Regarding today’s fatalities near Nablus, in both the headline and the lead, AP buried the fact that the three were confirmed members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a fact which the designated terror organization itself confirmed. The uninformative headline, “3 Palestinians killed in Israeli raid in occupied West Bank; U.S. slams latest settlement expansion,” fails to give any indication of the fact that those killed were combatants belonging to a designated terror organization. The lead likewise conceals this essential information, stating only: “Three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli army raid in a West Bank refugee camp early on Monday, Palestinian health officials said . . . “ Buried deep in the 12th paragraph, where all but the most committed readers would never see it, AP’s Laurie Kellman finally admitted:
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group with connections to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, identified the men killed in Balata as its members. It gave their names as Fathi Jihad Rizk, 30, Abdullah Yousef Abu Hamdan, 24, and Muhammad Bilal Zaytoun, 32.

Reuters, in contrast, ran the clear headline: “Three Palestinian militants killed in Israeli raid . . . ” It also opens with this key information, stating: “Israeli security forces killed three Palestinian militants . . .” (Separately, CAMERA has contacted Reuters to request clarification of its reporting which only clearly identified two of the fatalities as Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade members.)

In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, AP commendably added the following basic fact to the article’s second paragraph:
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group with connections to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, identified the men killed as its members.
Palestinians urge ICC to investigate killing of three men in IDF raid
The Palestinian Authority on Monday called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into Israeli “crimes” and bring those responsible to trial.

The call came in response to the killing of three Palestinians during armed clashes with Israeli security forces in Balata Refugee Camp, near Nablus.

The three men killed in Balata camp were identified as Fathi Jihad Rizeq, 30, Abdullah Yusef Abu Hamdan, 24, and Muhammed Bilal Zaytoun, 32. Another three Palestinians were injured, one critically, during the raid.

Thousands of Palestinians, including dozens of gunmen, attended the funeral of the three men. A general strike was declared in Nablus and its surrounding villages and refugee camps to mourn the death of the three men.

The counterterrorism activity in Balata camp, which came following intelligence from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) was conducted by IDF troops and Border Police officers, the IDF said in a statement.

The troops apprehended three wanted individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism and confiscated three M-16 rifles, ammunition, military equipment and weapon parts, according to the statement. The forces located in one of the houses an explosives manufacturing site containing dozens of kilograms of explosives.

During the operation, gunmen fired at soldiers, who responded with live fire, the IDF said.

Also Monday morning, soldiers who entered Jenin arrested three Palestinian suspects and confiscated military equipment. While the forces existed the city, suspects hurled explosive devices at the forces, who responded with live fire.

Israeli soldier injured in Huwara car-ramming attack
An Israeli soldier was moderately injured on Sunday evening in a car-ramming attack in the Palestinian-controlled village of Huwara, located near Nablus in Samaria.

The Israel Defense Forces launched a manhunt for the terrorist, who fled the scene in his vehicle.

The victim was evacuated in stable condition to Rabin Medical Center’s Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

The IDF recently upgraded the road infrastructure in Huwara to increase security for Israelis driving on Route 60, the highway that runs through the town.

It comes after a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks taking advantage of the congestion that slows down vehicles entering the area, including the murder of brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19—Israelis shot by a Palestinian terrorist as they sat in traffic on Feb. 26.

Dual Israeli-U.S. citizen David Stern, 41, narrowly survived a shooting on March 19 while he was driving through Huwara with his wife on their way to Jerusalem.

Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in a drive-by shooting in the village on March 25. A few days later, dozens of Arabs stoned cars traveling through Huwara bearing Israeli license plates.

PMW: “Fatah [is] the spearhead in this war room” - PA invents active role for Fatah in fighting Israel
Official PA TV newsreader: “There were statements by the Fatah Movement and unity on the ground to confront this aggression on the Palestinian lands. For a long time, Fatah is the pioneer in armed struggle activity on the Palestinian lands.”

Official PA TV reporter in Gaza: “That’s true. We see that in the Gaza Strip, even in terms of the military wings and the joint war room that includes all the factions. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (i.e., Fatah’s military wing) and Fatah are actually considered the spearhead in this war room… In this battle, when we speak about the factions that participated in it and about what’s called on social media ‘partners in blood,’ the intent is mainly the Al-Quds Brigades fighters (i.e., Islamic Jihad’s military wing) and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fighters (sic.), who acted together in the battle as a response to the assassinations of the Al-Quds Brigades members.” [Official PA TV News, May 12, 2023]

These statements by official PA TV reporters show how important it is to the PA and Fatah to present themselves as leading “the armed struggle” against Israel – even when the fighting was in the Gaza Strip and no Fatah terrorists took part.

MEMRI: Article In Qatari Daily Incites Palestinians To Carry Out Terror Attacks Throughout Israel
Against the backdrop of the latest round of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza, Palestinian journalist Samir Al-Barghouti, a columnist for the Qatari daily Al-Watan, called on the Palestinians of all factions to carry out terror attacks throughout Israel, from the north to the south, in order to inflict blows on the Israelis and terrify them. He also urged the Arab countries to open up the fronts against Israel and expel the Israeli ambassadors from their territory, lest it become too late for them to repent. "The historical and religious promise regarding Palestine will soon be realized," he stated, and therefore it is necessary to keep up the attacks on Israel.

It should be noted that Al-Barghouti often calls for armed struggle against Israel. In fact, only two months ago he published a similar article inciting to besiege, pursue and attack the Israelis in Tel Aviv and in every part of Palestine, from the river to the sea.[1]

The following are translated excerpts from his recent article:[2]
"Hit [them] in the depth of the Jerusalem settlements, in Tel Aviv and in all parts of the land they stole and whose people they expelled, from Ras Al-Naqoura [in the north] to Rafah [in the south]. Hit [them], and may your hands be blessed. Even if you do not hurt a single one of them, it is enough to terrify them and sow fear among them. Had there been someone to hit [them] inside the 1948 territories, the Apartheid State [i.e., Israel] would not have continued to exist on our soil to this very day. Had it not been for the Camp David Accords and the Oslo Accords, not a single Zionist would have remained in Palestine [today]…

"Oh members of Saraya Al-Quds [the PIJ's military wing], of the Al-Qassam [Brigades, Hamas' military wing], of the Al-Aqsa [Martyrs Brigade, Fatah's military wing], and of the joint operations room [that oversaw] the Revenge of the Free Campaign [i.e., the latest round of fighting in Gaza]! Hit [them], for the historical and religious promise regarding Palestine will soon be realized.[3] The empty lie of [Theodor] Herzl evaporated as the pure souls [of the PIJ operatives killed by Israel] rose to meet their Creator, weeping over the Islamic and Arab [nation's] neglect of [Al-Aqsa], the destination of the Night Journey of Allah's Messenger and the place from which he ascended to heaven… Oh members of the Al-Quds and Al-Qassam [Brigades], of the Popular [Front for the Liberation of Palestine] and the Democratic [Front for the Liberation of Palestine], of Fatah and of Al-'Asifa [the former name of Fatah's military wing], do not weaken and do not grieve, and you shall have the upper hand, Allah willing [Quran 3:139]. The promise will soon be realized. Set forth, O followers and supporters of Allah! Let [all] the fronts – from Lebanon to the Golan, the [Jordan] Valley and Sinai – be opened up, and let the ambassadors of the [Zionist] entity be expelled from the Arab countries – lest the day come when the repentance of the sinners [i.e., the Arab countries] will no longer be accepted."

Seth Frantzman: Bahrain resumes diplomatic ties with Lebanon
Bahrain will resume diplomatic relations with Lebanon several years after a crisis between Lebanon and several Gulf states led to a break in ties in 2021.

The crisis began in the fall of 2021 with comments by Lebanon’s then information minister George Kordahi. At the time, Bahrain had followed Saudi Arabia in breaking ties with Lebanon. Today the region is working on diplomatic reconciliation and many countries in the Gulf have reconciled with each other and with Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

The announcement of Bahrain’s shift came from Bahrain’s state news agency. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati welcomed the news.

“In implementation of the directives of the leadership, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain has decided to resume diplomatic representation at the level of ambassadors with the brotherly Republic of Lebanon,” Bahrain said. “This decision comes in order to strengthen the brotherly relations between the two countries and its peoples and promote mutual respect, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the Arab League, and the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961.”

Kordahi had resigned in December 2021. At the time, VOA reported that “analysts say Kordahi’s resignation may help unlock the crises with Gulf states that have hamstrung Lebanon's fledgling cabinet since October, but with Hezbollah still in charge, there might not be much improvement…The Hezbollah-supported former information minister, tendered his resignation on al-Jadeed TV, saying ‘Lebanon is more important than George Kordahi and the interests of the Lebanese are more important than my position.'"
Seth Frantzman: Hezbollah propaganda ‘military’ drill showcases its terrorist impunity
Hezbollah held a “military” style drill and it invited the media to show off its forces on Sunday, holding “training” in several areas in southern Lebanon. The display of the terrorist arsenal is an example of how Hezbollah operates openly, as a kind of terrorist army, or state-within-a-state in Lebanon, openly violating UN resolutions, international law as well as norms.

Hezbollah showed off multiple rocket launchers during the drills, an attempt to show off only a sliver of its full arsenal. Hezbollah, a terrorist group backed by Iran, has more than 150,000 rockets as well as drones and precision-guided munitions.

The rocket launchers on display on Sunday looked like either 122 Grad rockets, 107mm rockets or other types that are not as dangerous as the more sophisticated long-range rockets and maneuvering munitions that Hezbollah claims it has.

Hezbollah practicing scenarios?
Yossi Mansharof, an expert on Hezbollah and regional Shi’ite politics, noted in a tweet that “in a recent military maneuver conducted earlier today, it appears that Hezbollah practiced scenarios involving the kidnapping of one or several Israeli soldiers.”

According to the Associated Press, “masked fighters jumped through flaming hoops, fired from the backs of motorcycles, and blew up Israeli flags posted in the hills above and a wall simulating the one at the border between Lebanon and Israel.”

The drill is supposed to coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. However, Hezbollah pretends that it is still the “resistance” against Israel’s supposed occupation of part of the Shaba farms area, known as Mount Dov, meaning that it’s an apparent contradiction for Hezbollah to celebrate Israel leaving, when it claims that Israel has never left.

Al-Mayadeen media, considered sympathetic to Hezbollah, said the drill was held to broadcast to international media “the accumulated capabilities of the resistance in Lebanon, and its special and diverse formations, while the Israeli media focused on the party’s use of combat and suicide marches, and the timing and implications of the maneuver.”

Iran’s latest subterranean nuclear site likely impenetrable to US bunker busters Near a peak of the Zagros Mountains in central Iran, workers are building a nuclear facility so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of a last-ditch US weapon designed to destroy such sites, according to experts and satellite imagery analyzed by The Associated Press.

The photos and videos from Planet Labs PBC show Iran has been digging tunnels in the mountain near the Natanz nuclear site, which has come under repeated sabotage attacks amid Tehran’s standoff with the West over its atomic program.

With Iran now producing uranium close to weapons-grade levels after the collapse of its nuclear deal with world powers, the installation complicates the West’s efforts to halt Tehran from potentially developing an atomic bomb as diplomacy over its nuclear program remains stalled.

Completion of such a facility “would be a nightmare scenario that risks igniting a new escalatory spiral,” warned Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy at the Washington-based Arms Control Association. “Given how close Iran is to a bomb, it has very little room to ratchet up its program without tripping US and Israeli red lines. So at this point, any further escalation increases the risk of conflict.”

The construction at the Natanz site comes five years after then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear accord. Trump argued the deal did not address Tehran’s ballistic missile program, nor its support of militias across the wider Middle East.

But what it did do was strictly limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 3.67% purity, powerful enough only to power civilian power stations, and keep its stockpile to just some 300 kilograms (660 pounds).

Since the demise of the nuclear accord, Iran has said it is enriching uranium up to 60%, though inspectors recently discovered the country had produced uranium particles that were 83.7% pure. That is just a short step from reaching the 90% threshold of weapons-grade uranium. Iran infiltrated the Arab League
The Arab League summit conference ended last weekend In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Syrian President Assad participated for the first time in 12 years. Saudi Arabia pressured Arab countries to return Syria to the Arab League, which had boycotted Syria since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, because of the massacres by Bashar Assad of his own people.

The summary statement of the Arab Summit conference in Jeddah stated:
“We call for an end to external interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries and emphasize the importance of increasing efforts to reach a just settlement of the Palestinian problem. We hope that Syria’s return to the Arab League will contribute to Arab stability.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman managed to overcome all the disputes between Arab countries and return Syria to the Arab League with the help of Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, and Tunisia.

At the head of the countries opposing the return of Syria to the Arab League was Qatar, the primary supporter of the “Muslim Brotherhood” movement, which supports the Sunni Muslims who make up the majority in Syria and who were subjected to the massacres of the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad.

Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad left the summit before Assad’s speech as a sign of protest over Syria’s return to the Arab League.

Vandals shatter gravestone of symbol of Iranian protests Mahsa Amini
A glass pane on the grave of Mahsa Amini, who died after being beaten while in the custody of Tehran's "Morality Police" was shattered by vandals on Sunday, according to her family.

Amini's brother, Ashkan Amini, published a photo of the shattered glass on his Instagram story, writing "the glass of your tombstone also bothers them" and "break it a thousand times. We will fix it again. Let's see who gets tired."

Mojgan Eftekhari, Amini's mother, also published a photo of the vandalized grave, writing in an address to the attackers that "You only prove your dishonor with these actions."

The lawyer for Amini's family, Saleh Nikbakht, confirmed the report of the vandalism as well, stating that "people known to have done the same things in the past attacked and destroyed the grave," according to a statement published by Radio Farda.

Nikbakht added that the family has been prevented by government forces from constructing a canopy over the grave as well, with the person who was supposed to build the canopy being told his shop will be sealed if he does so.

Fencers From Iraq, Kuwait Withdraw From International Competition to Avoid Facing Israeli Opponents
Fencers from Kuwait and Iraq’s national fencing teams pulled out of the 2023 International Fencing Federation (FIE) Men’s Epee World Cup that concluded in Turkey on Sunday to avoid facing competitors from Israel, according to reports.

Kuwaiti fencer Abdulaziz Alshatti, 32, withdrew from the competition in Istanbul when he found out he was scheduled to go head-to-head against a competitor from Israel, according to the Tasnim News Agency. Alshatti wrote in an Arab-language Instagram post, “I withdrew from the tournament because of the presence of a representative from the Zionist entity in the same group. My trust in God is great, and goodness is coming with His permission. His generosity is not delayed, but rather comes at the right time.”

Alshatti also pulled his participation in the 2018 World Fencing Championship when a draw showed that he would be matched up with an Israeli opponent. Other Kuwaiti athletes have done the same in the past and in May 2021, Kuwait’s National Assembly unanimously approved bills that outlaw any efforts to normalize relations with Israel, Tasnim reported.

The Iraqi national fencing team said in a released statement that it was withdrawing from the FIE Senior World Cup also to evade being paired up with members of the Israeli team.

“The Iraqi national team withdrew from the individual races in the World Fencing Championship, which is taking place in Istanbul and is a qualifier for the Paris Olympics, after the lottery set it against the team of the occupying Israeli entity,” the Iraqi Fencing Federation said in a Facebook post on Friday, Press TV reported. “The decision to withdraw came in compliance with the law criminalizing normalization [of relations with Israel as] approved by the Iraqi parliament, in rejection of the occupying entity and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause,” the post added. A legislation passed by the Iraqi parliament in May 2022 bans any normalization with Israel.

The Men’s Epee World Cup finished on Sunday with Kazakhstan taking home the gold medal in the team portion of the competition while Alexandre Bardenet from France won gold in the individuals.

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