Archive for the ‘Hezbollah’ category

US won’t strike ISIS resurgent in Assad-ruled areas, pushes Russia to curb pro-Iranian Hizballah push near Israel

December 28, 2017

US won’t strike ISIS resurgent in Assad-ruled areas, pushes Russia to curb pro-Iranian Hizballah push near Israel, DEBKAfile, December 28, 2017

Israel has quietly warned the Trump administration that if this combined hostile force moves any closer, the IDF will have no option but to step in to push it back. Clearly, the understandings reached between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were not holding up in this sector.

The next few days are therefore fraught with three critical uncertainties: (a) Will ISIS persevere in its westward movement, or be halted by military counteraction? (b)  Will the Syrian army, Hizballah and pro-Iranian forces push forward from Beit Jinn to Quneitra and Israel’s Golan border? Or will they be stopped? And (c) Will the Trump-Putin understandings hold water, or will they be scuttled by (a) and (b)?

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While openly blaming Syria (and Russia) for giving ISIS free rein, US quietly rebukes Moscow for not reining in the pro-Iranian push towards Israeli border.

“The Syrian regime has failed to prevent the resurgence of ISIS on their own soil,” said British Maj. Gen. Gedney, deputy commander of Strategy and Support for the US-backed coalition to defeat the Islamic State terror group.  And even in areas where Syrian forces have intensified their efforts against ISIS, progress has been, at best, fleeting, he said. “We’ve got no intention to operate in areas that are currently held by the [Assad] regime.”

DEBKAfile places the coalition general’s comments against the backdrop of the quiet deal struck earlier this month between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That conversation charted a division of labor in the Syrian arena to avoid clashes between their forces. It was understood that Russia would reciprocate for US consent to abstain from operating west of the Euphrates (in Assad-ruled domains) by curbing Turkish, Iranian and Hizballah operations, especially in border regions.

Gedney’s comments, while only directly referring to ISIS, also coincided Wednesday with the fall of the Beit Jinn enclave in one of those operations.<

He went on to say that a “limited numbers of ISIS militants… seem to be moving with impunity through regime-held territory,” and pointed to a new concentration outside the US al-Tanf post in the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle. “We’ve clearly seen a lot of operations by pro-regime forces, Russian-backed Syrian forces over to the east of the [Euphrates] river,” Gedney said. “We’ve questioned the effectiveness of some of those operations.” Syria and Russia must do more to wipe out ISIS in areas still controlled by the regime, US officials insist.

The US-led coalition is clearly pressing for a decision as to who will assume responsibility for dealing with this rising ISIS threat. DEBKAfile’s sources note that, alongside this question, is the one the US is implicitly addressing to the Russians regarding another terrorist threat: This one is posed by the fall of Beit Jinn opposite an IDF outpost in the foothills of Mount Hermon to a combined Syrian-Hizballah-militia force under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. At the moment, this combined force stands 11km from the Israeli border and appears to be poised to continue its victorious momentum for an assault on the Quneitra pocket on the doorstep of Israeli Golan, unless it is stopped.

Israel has quietly warned the Trump administration that if this combined hostile force moves any closer, the IDF will have no option but to step in to push it back. Clearly, the understandings reached between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were not holding up in this sector.

The Trump-Putin understanding was first revealed on Dec. 22 in DEBKA Weekly 783 (for subscribers) and the DEBKA Files ILTV show on Dec. 25. According to our exclusive sources, that understanding was sealed in a long telephone conversation on the Syrian question between the two presidents on Dec. 14.

Until now, it was understood in Washington and Jerusalem that Russia would reciprocate for US consent to abstain from operating west of the Euphrates (in Assad-ruled domains) by curbing Turkish, Iranian and Hizballah operations. Their deal hinged on two major points:

  1.  The war on ISIS in eastern Syria. A joint war room run by Russian and US-backed Kurdish YPG militia officers was to be established to deploy troops for blocking the westward movement of ISIS forces. (Hence Gen. Gedney’s complaint about this continuing movement.)
  2. Russia and the US would team up to thwart military operations by Iran, Hizballah and Turkey in areas controlled by the Assad regime, especially in proximity to Syria’s borders with Turkey, Israel and Jordan. On this point, Washington undertook to warn the Turks off their plans to invade northwestern Syria and seize control of Idlib province, whereas Moscow was to have instructed Damascus, Tehran and Hizballah to desist from military activity on those borders. This point has likewise gone by the board.

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, Moscow claims that Putin’s commitment to Trump was met by withholding Russian air support from the disputed Syrian-Hizballah operations. But, in actual fact, the Iranian-commanded force circumvented the Russians and their deal with the Americans by fighting for Beit Jinn without Russian air support and winning the day without its help. This was more than a tactical victory to throw in Israel’s face; it set up a new reality in Syria, whereby Iran and Hizballah can cock a snoot at Moscow, its air cover and its deals with the Americans and go forward to win battles regardless and without Russian help.

The next few days are therefore fraught with three critical uncertainties: (a) Will ISIS persevere in its westward movement, or be halted by military counteraction? (b)  Will the Syrian army, Hizballah and pro-Iranian forces push forward from Beit Jinn to Quneitra and Israel’s Golan border? Or will they be stopped? And (c) Will the Trump-Putin understandings hold water, or will they be scuttled by (a) and (b)?

Palestinians: Where Have They Gone?

December 26, 2017

Palestinians: Where Have They Gone? Gatestone Institute, Shoshana Bryen, December 26, 2017

(Please see also, The night the UNRWA stole Xmas. — DM)

American funding for UNRWA is problematic itself because the organization is inextricably intertwined with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. This may be the right time to review the number of Palestinian “refugees” in the world and the world’s obligation to them.

Ten years ago, in a forum on Capitol Hill, then-Rep. Mark Kirk called for an international audit of UNRWA. Kirk admitted he was unsuccessful, despite such accounting anomalies as a $13 million entry for “un-earmarked expenses” in an audit conducted by UNRWA’s own board.

Palestinians are the only “refugee” group that hands the status down through generations, which is why they are governed by UNRWA; all other refugees are under the care of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has a mandate to settle refugees so they can become citizens of new countries.

Palestinian refugees are a slippery population — but when 285,535 of them go missing from a small country such as Lebanon, it should raise eyebrows.

UNRWA in Lebanon reports on its website that 449,957 refugees live under its protection in 12 camps, but a survey by Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics, together with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, could only find 174,535. The Lebanese government said the others “left.” Okay, maybe they did — Lebanon constrained them viciously, so it would make some sense. What does NOT make sense, then, is the UN giving UNRWA a budget based on nearly half a million people when, in fact, there are far fewer than a quarter of a million. Who is paying and who is getting the money?

We are and they are.

The UNRWA website shows a budget of $2.41 billion combined for FY 2016 and 2017. The U.S. provides more than $300 million to UNRWA annually, about one-quarter of the total. In August 2017, UNRWA claimed a deficit of $126 million. A former State Department official said the budget shortfalls are chronic but that “the funds seemed eventually arrive” after pressing others for more money — some of that additional money is from the U.S.

American funding for UNRWA is problematic itself because the organization is inextricably intertwined with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon; see herehere and here. And specifically for Lebanon, the connection goes as far back as 2007. But stay with the “floating” population problem for a moment.

A July 2015 street celebration in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh camp, which is administered by UNRWA. (Image source: Geneva Call/Flickr)

The huge discrepancy in Lebanon suggests that UNRWA may have trouble counting refugees in the West Bank, Jordan, Gaza, and Syria as well. (We’ll give them a pass on Syria for now.) The problem is not new, but that Palestinian agencies were running the census may help the United States overcome its own long-term obstinacy when it comes to counting and paying.

Ten years ago, a forum on Capitol Hill, then-Rep. Mark Kirk called for an international audit of UNRWA. Kirk admitted he was unsuccessful in generating demand among his colleagues despite such accounting anomalies as a $13 million entry for “un-earmarked expenses” in an audit conducted by UNRWA’s own board. An amendment to the 2006 Foreign Assistance Act had called for $2 million in additional funds for UNRWA, specifically for an investigation of finances, but the amendment was withdrawn at the request of the State Department.

As a Senator, Kirk offered an amendment calling for the State Department to provide two numbers to Congress: the number of Palestinians physically displaced from their homes in what became Israel in 1948, and the number of their descendants administered by the UNRWA. The State Department denounced the amendment, saying:

“This proposed amendment would be viewed around the world as the United States acting to prejudge and determine the outcome of this sensitive issue.”

Far from prejudging the outcome, a review of the number of Palestinian “refugees” in the world and the world’s obligation to them would provide an honest basis from which to make policy.

In 1950, the UN defined Palestinian “refugees” as people displaced from territory that had become Israel after having lived there for two years or more — this is distinct from every other population of refugees that must be displaced from their long-term homes. Furthermore, Palestinians are the only “refugee” group that hands the status down through generations, until there is a resolution of the status of the original group — which is why they are governed by UNRWA; all other refugees are under the care of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has a mandate to settle refugees so they can become citizens of new countries. UNRWA, naturally, produces the only population of refugees that grows geometrically over time rather than declining as the original refugees die and their children are no longer stateless. (See Vietnamese refugee resettlement for an example of how this works for others.)

The original population of refugees was estimated at 711,000 in 1950. Today, there appear to be 30-50,000 original refugees remaining, and UNRWA claims to care for 4,950,000 of their descendants. But 285,000 of them appear to have disappeared from Lebanon.

It has long been understood that there is an undercount of deaths in UNRWA refugee camps — to admit a death means UNRWA loses that member in the accounting for the international community. It also wreaks havoc with Palestinian insistence that there are 6 million refugees (not UNRWA’s 5 million) and that a million people are not registered, but should still have a “right of return” to homes their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents claim to have had inside the borders of Israel.

The numbers game also exists with people who do not live in refugee camps. The Palestinian Authority counts as residents 400,000 Palestinians who have lived abroad for over a year, and according to Deputy Palestinian Interior Minister Hassan Illwi, more than 100,000 babies born abroad are registered as West Bank residents — both in contravention of population-counting norms. Jerusalem Palestinians are double-counted – once as Palestinian Authority residents and once as Israeli Palestinians. The PA, furthermore, claims zero net out-migration; Israeli government statistics differ.

How many Palestinians would there be in these territories if a proper census was taken? How many “refugees” would disappear from UNRWA rolls as they did in Lebanon? How might that affect the budget?

Can we please find out?

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.

Iran Looks to Seize Opportunity as Rivals Fall

December 13, 2017

Iran Looks to Seize Opportunity as Rivals Fall, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, December 13, 2017

(Please see also, Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal. — DM)

Today, the Shi’ite axis is on the move. Iran is the mother ship, and its most prominent agent is Hizballah, which has more firepower at its disposal than most NATO members. The axis has tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members active across Iraq and Syria. And it is preparing to expand.

The threat to international security posed by Iran far outweighs the one ever posed by ISIS.

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As it approaches victory in Syria with the help of Russian air power, Iran and its terrorist axis members are turning their attention to Israel, and trying to ignite fresh Palestinian violence.

Israel’s Channel 10 News reported on Monday evening that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force foreign operations unit, called the leaders Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, urging them to escalate attacks on Israel.

“There is huge Iranian pressure on the Palestinian factions to begin a maneuver,” the Channel 10 report said. “And [Hizballah chief Hassan] Nasrallah is calling for a third intifada.”

It is a clear sign that, as the ISIS caliphate is erased from the map, another radical Islamist force is gaining strength, this one many times more powerful. Radical Shi’ite forces backed by Iran are moving into the vacuum left behind by ISIS.

With confidence growing due to battlefield victories in Syria and Iraq, Iran and its radical proxies are seeking to take over the Palestinian arena as well, increasing terrorism against Israel.

In a speech delivered from Hizballah’s south Beirut stronghold of Dahiya on Monday, Hassan Nasrallah said his organization – which has evolved into a hybrid guerilla-terrorist army – and its allies would renew their focus on the Palestinians, following “victories elsewhere in the region,” Reuters reported.

Thousands of followers chanted “death to Israel,” as Nasrallah promised assistance to armed Palestinian factions and called on them to keep up their conflict with Israel.

These developments are the latest signs of a regional shift, which has left the Iranian axis as the dominant radical Islamist force in the region.

Only a few years ago, the Middle East was the battleground involving four rival blocs:

1. The Iranian-Shi’ite axis

2. The Salafi-jihadist ISIS camp

3. The Muslim Brotherhood bloc, and

4. The pragmatic Sunni coalition.

Today, only the pragmatic Sunnis and the Iranian-Shi’ite axis remain as major regional forces.

ISIS is reverting back to a decentralized terror network, while the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is decimated.

Saudi Arabia leads the moderate Sunni coalition of states, which are allies of the United States. This bloc views Israel as an ally too, out of a recognition that Iran is its real enemy, not the Jewish State.

Today, the Shi’ite axis is on the move. Iran is the mother ship, and its most prominent agent is Hizballah, which has more firepower at its disposal than most NATO members. The axis has tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members active across Iraq and Syria. And it is preparing to expand.

In recent days, a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia member visited southern Lebanon, where Hizballah provided him with a tour of the Israeli border. The visit signals Iran’s intention to direct its regional assets against Israel.

Missiles, a nuclear program, and a growing terrorist influence

The core of the Shi’ite axis is the Islamic Republic of Iran itself, whose regime is guided by Shi’ite Islamist doctrine.

“The Islamic regime in Iran wants to fully implement the Islamic Shari’a. It will be the instrument that triumphs over the enemies of Islam,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei said last month.

Iran’s military industries are flush with cash, and they are mass producing powerful weapons. These arms don’t just stay in Iran – many are exported to Iran’s dangerous clients across the Middle East. . These are the forces moving into the vacuum left by Islamic State’s demise.

“I welcome the recent and great victories of the Islamic Revolution front against the front of lies and the destruction of the accursed regime of ISIS,” IRGC commander Mohammed Al Jafari said recently.

Iran wants to establish a continuous land corridor linking it to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Such a corridor would enable Iran to move fighters and weapons from its border all the way to the Mediterranean coast. It would run parallel to the air corridor used by Iran to traffic weapons and fighters from Iran to Syria and Lebanon.

The Shi’ite axis monopolizes political and military power in Lebanon, via Hizballah, and uses its proxy forces to heavily influence Syria and Iraq.

In addition, it wields heavy influence in Yemen, where the IRGC supports the Ansar Allah radical Houthi group, which recently said it fired a cruise missile at a nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The repeated use of surface-to-surface firepower by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia mimics tactics used by Hamas and Hizballah against Israel.

Terrorism under an Iranian nuclear umbrella?

The idea that the threat posed by the Iranian axis can be limited to the Middle East was recently disproven by Iran itself.

After European criticism of Iran’s ballistic missile program, officials threatened to increase Tehran’s ballistic missile ranges in order to reach Europe.

Israel, for its part, has vowed to stop the Iranian axis from taking over next-door Syria. A recent surge, according to media reports, of Israeli strikes on Iranian axis targets in Syria would seem to be evidence of Israel’s determination to challenge Iranian plans. Earlier this month, the strikes reportedly targeted an Iranian military base under construction south of Damascus, and the CERS weapons development and production site on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

Yet the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, dormant for now, remains the elephant in the room.

A powerful Shi’ite axis operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella would pose a new level of threat to global security. Iranian-run terrorist networks and armed forces could operate with impunity if the Iranians reactivate their nuclear sites in the future, which they intend to do.

The threat to international security posed by Iran far outweighs the one ever posed by ISIS.

Syria attacks Beit Jinn opposite IDF Hermon positions – reprisal for reported Israeli airstrike on Iranian base near Damascus

December 2, 2017

Syria attacks Beit Jinn opposite IDF Hermon positions – reprisal for reported Israeli airstrike on Iranian base near Damascus, DEBKAfile, December 2, 2017

Two significant military events were reported early Saturday, Dec. 2, by Arab and Russian sources – neither of them officially confirmed. The first was an Israeli airborne missile attack on the Syrian army’s 1st Division’s ammunition dump near Al-Kiswah 14km southwest of Damascus and 50km from the Golan. The target was identified as an Iranian military base which the BBC reported on Nov. 10 to be under construction in the Syrian military compound at Al-Kiswah. DEBKAfile’s military sources refuted the BBC report.

Other sources reported that the Israeli target early Saturday was a Hizballah position near the Syrian 1st Division’s 91st Brigade base in the same area. Syrian military sources and Arab social media released videos showing Syrian air defense intercepting some of the Israeli missiles while others hit the target. Some sources claimed they were launched from Lebanese air space. A short time later, the Syrian army announced that units of its 7th armored division and the 42nd brigade of its 4th division had just launched an offensive on the Beit Jinn pocket on Mount Hermon a little more than 4km away from IDF positions on the mount. A Druze village is located inside this enclave. The Syrian military statement omitted to mention the fact that Hizballah forces are spearheading this attack.

Israel and Saudi Arabia: a desert mirage or a new alliance?

November 21, 2017

Israel and Saudi Arabia: a desert mirage or a new alliance? | Anne’s Opinions, 21st November 2017

In the crazy world of Middle East wars, politics and shifting alliances, it is hardly surprising that relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are warming up from their deep freeze. In fact this is an alliance (“friendship” is too strong a word to use) that has been revving in the background for quite some time, ever since the rise of ISIS and more importantly, the tailwind given to Iran by our “friends” in the Obama administration and their European allies through the JCPOA, aka the Iran nuclear deal.

In the interim there has been some political upheaval in the kingdom, with princes and heirs to the throne being replaced at an eye-watering pace. The newest heir to the throne is determined to drag the medieval country into the 21st century, by whatever means:

(CNN)Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to inherit the throne from his 81-year-old father, is not a patient man. The 32-year-old is driving a frenetic pace of change in pursuit of three goals: securing his hold on power, transforming Saudi Arabia into a very different country, and pushing back against Iran.

Mohammed Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

In the two years since his father ascended the throne, this favorite son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz has been spectacularly successful at achieving the first item on his agenda. He has become so powerful so fast that observers can hardly believe how brazenly he is dismantling the old sedate system of family consensus, shared privilege and rigid ultraconservatism.
In the process, however, MBS, as the crown prince is known, is making a lot of enemies.
Much of the prince’s agenda is laudable and long overdue. He has no interest in democratic reforms, but he does want to introduce social reforms, and is making some progress on that front. That, too, is making him enemies among the old guard.
He has vowed to improve the status of women, announcing that the ban on women driving will be lifted next year, and limiting the scope of the execrable “guardianship” system, which treats women like children, requiring permission from male guardians for basic activities. He has also restrained the despised religious police. And just last month he called for a return to a “moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” combating extremism and empowering its citizens.
On the economic front, bin Salman wants to reinvent an economy that became complacent from fantastic oil riches — only to see oil prices crash — and bring it into the 21st century with his ambitious Vision 2030 plan.
But the prince’s revolutionary changes require, above all, making sure he remains in charge, and he is letting nothing stand in his way.

The prince is not bluffing. That became startlingly clear last Sunday, when he unexpectedly ordered the arrest of some of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful men.

Read it all, it makes for a thrilling read, even though this is not fiction but real life with very real and dangerous potential consequences if it fails.

Meanwhile, the latest pronouncements and actions emanating from Saudi Arabia give us pause for a cautious hope, though with each country having an influence on the next, there is always the danger of a domino effect, or maybe we should call it the dangers of unforeseen consequences.

The Saudis called on Hezbollah to disarm, threatening to oust it from Lebanon:

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday called on the Hezbollah terrorist organization to disarm, warning the group that regional efforts were underway to oust them from the Lebanese government.

At a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, al-Jubeir denounced Hezbollah as “a tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”

Saad Hariri, (former?) PM of Lebanon

“Hezbollah has kidnapped the Lebanese system,” he said.

Al-Jubeir added that “consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hezbollah is conducting in Lebanon.”

The minister’s remarks came as the kingdom rejected accusations that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh following his shock resignation earlier this month.

In response Hezbollah raised the alert across Lebanon, which further complicates matters for Israel:

The Hezbollah terror group has raised its alert status across Lebanon, fearing threat of attack by Israel and other nations, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Saturday.

The news came amid a political crisis between Beirut and Saudi Arabia, sparked by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation. Hariri cited Iran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the region as the reason he was stepping down. The November 4 resignation broadcast from the Saudi capital is widely believed to have been engineered by the Gulf kingdom.

The Kuwaiti paper further reported that Hezbollah leaders have instructed a halt to arms shipments sent to the group from Iran through war-torn Syria.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, though it rarely officially confirms such attacks.

In August a former air force chief said Israel carried out dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys destined for the Lebanese terror group over the past five years.

Al-Jubeir warned Friday that there will be no stability in Lebanon unless Hezbollah disarms.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri has thrown Lebanon into turmoil and raised concerns that the country could be dragged into a battle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Indeed Israel has been watching Syria’s actions carefully and taking defensive action where necessary. On Sunday the IDF fired on Syrian targets fortifying positions near the demilitarized zone Golan heights:

The IDF fired upon Syrian army positions Sunday evening near the Israeli border in the Golan Heights on Sunday, the IDF spokesperson’s office reported.

IDF in a military exercise near the Syrian border

Syrian forces had been working to fortify a military outpost in the buffer zone, in violation of ceasefire agreements, and an IDF tank fired deterring shots in response.

A similar incident occurred on Saturday, when an IDF tank fired a warning shell near Syrian forces after identifying a Syrian army-built outpost in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel, similarly contrary to ceasefire agreements.

According to the IDF, the outpost was located close to the Druse village of Hader on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights.

Earlier this month, following intense fighting in the village, the IDF said it was willing to provide assistance and prevent the capture of the Druse village by anti-regime forces.

Meanwhile Israel is continuing its humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. For the first time ever, the IDF permitted Israeli TV Channel 2 News to film the crossing of some refugees, and one Syrian mother of a sick child said “All Syrians want to come to Israel” – a mind-boggling statement considering that Israel and Syria have been deadly enemies since Israel’s establishment and even before:

Extraordinary footage showing Syrian mothers crossing into Israel with their sick children for medical care was broadcast by Israel’s Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) on Sunday after the Israel Defense Force (IDF) permitted the channel to film for the first time operations part of its ongoing policy of providing care for civilians and select combatants injured in the country’s raging civil war.

In interviews accompanying the footage, several Syrian mothers expressed deep gratitude to Israel for providing medical assistance and said that many Syrians living near the border no longer view Israel as the enemy, while another said that “all Syrians” would come to Israel if given the opportunity.

“Israel was thought of as the enemy… Now that you are helping us, most [on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights] are with you. They love Israel. They see the true face… the reality,” one mother said.

Another added that the real enemies are “Islamic State, Hezbollah, Bashar [Assad]. They’re all the same.”

“I wish we could stay here for good,” another interviewee told the reporter. “I’d be the first to cross [if the border were open]” she said, adding that “all of Syria would follow me. All the civilians left in Syria would come.”

Read their heart-breaking stories of abuse, murder, executions and more at the hands of the various Syrian factions and the regime.

Watch the video below:

With this in mind, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman called on the Arab nations to make peace with Israel and confront Iran:

“After Daesh, Iran,” Liberman tweeted on Saturday, referring to the Islamic State by its Arabic name. “[Late Egyptian President] Anwar Sadat was a brave leader, who went against the stream and paved the way for other Arab leaders to recognize the importance of strategic ties with Israel.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman looking through binoculars during a visit to the Israel’s northern border, November 14, 2017. Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

“40 years after his historic visit to Israel, I call on leaders in the region to follow the path of President Sadat, come to Jerusalem and open a new chapter, not just in terms of Israel’s relations with the Arab world, but for the whole region,” Liberman wrote.

Sadat famously flew to Jerusalem ahead of signing the Camp David peace deal with Israel, the first Arab leader to do so. Sadat was later assassinated for his actions.

“The Middle East today needs, more than anything else, a coalition of moderate states against Iran. The coalition against Daesh has finished its work, after Daesh, Iran,” Liberman wrote in remarks that appeared to be directed in part at Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has in recent days stepped up its efforts to counteract Iran and its proxies in Yemen, and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

All these shifting alliances hold great potential benefit for Israel, especially Saudi Arabia’s turnabout, but Melanie Phillips wonders if it is all too good to be true:

According to the Turkish Anadolu news agency, reported here, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al Sheikh, has issued a quite remarkable religious ruling. Answering a question on TV about the Palestinian Arab riots over Temple Mount last July, he didn’t merely denounce Hamas as a “terror organisation”.

Much more significantly he actually issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, forbidding war against the Jews; and he said that fighting against Israel was inappropriate.

How can this be anything other than highly significant?

With a religious fatwa coming on the heels of a Saudi realignment as well as their internal political upheaval, it is probably good news – we will just have to be patient, to wait and see:

We can all obviously see the politics behind this. Saudi Arabia is in the fight of its life with Iran, to which end it has forged tacit and not-so-tacit alliances with Israel as well as the US. The new, reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not only supported this alliance with Israel but, more remarkably, has said that now is the time for the kingdom to get rid of Wahhabi extremism and revert to “what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions”.

… the fact that the Prince made such a statement about now getting rid of extremism, in public, followed by this fatwa from the Grand Mufti, in public, surely suggests that the tectonic plates might just be beginning to shift within the heartland of Sunni fundamentalism.

Too good to be true? Just more smoke and mirrors? Of no more significance than a temporary alliance of expediency? Maybe. Nevertheless, a religious statement goes beyond politics. Neither the Prince nor the Grand Mufti needed to open up the religious issue in public at all. Watch this space, eh.

I’m sure the Israeli authorities are proceeding with caution. כבדהו וחשדהו is what they say in Hebrew: Literally: respect him and suspect him. Verify and justify.

German Intelligence: Hizballah Fighters Posing As Refugees

October 16, 2017

German Intelligence: Hizballah Fighters Posing As Refugees, Investigative Project on Terrorism, October 16, 2017

While the European Union, including Germany, designated Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist entity, Germany allows Hizballah’s political wing to operate freely. The U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization entirely. Even senior Hizballah officials have noted the futility in distinguishing between its political and military wings, acknowledging that Hizballah is a hierarchical organization with a clear chain of command. The organization’s terrorist and military wings answer to its senior leadership and political echelons, including Iran – its primary sponsor.

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Hizballah terrorists are exploiting Germany’s refugee policy and entered the country as part of the recent wave of Middle East migrants, according to the Jerusalem Post’s review of a German intelligence report released this month.

“Since mid-2015 there are increased indications of fighters from Shi’ite militias entering Germany as legal refugees,” the report says, and “roughly 50% [of the fighters] show a direct connection to Hezbollah.”

A growing number of Hizballah operatives are settling in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, the report says. The region hosts the Imam-Mahdi Center – a traditional hub for Hizballah operatives. The report also cites a growing and open Hamas presence in North Rhine-Westphalia, despite Germany’s terrorist designation of the Palestinian organization, where Hamas supporters exploit Germany to “collect funds” and “recruit new members to spread their propaganda.”

There are roughly 950 Hizballah members throughout Germany, according to a 2014 Berlin intelligence report summarized by the Jerusalem Post. Though the number of Hizballah supporters is believed to be far higher in Germany than listed in the report.

Radical Islamists are “the greatest danger to Germany…Germany is on the spectrum of goals for Islamic terrorists,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

Hizballah operatives serve as senior employees of a German government-funded theater project aimed to assist refugees in the country, a 2016 Berliner Zeitung daily report said.

Germany’s interior ministry previously accused Iran of conducting significant espionage activity in the country during the past decade, including plotting attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets.

For example, German prosecutors allege that Haidar Syed-Naqfi was ordered to identify Jewish and Israeli institutions in Germany and other Western European countries for potential terrorist attacks. He allegedly monitored the headquarters of a Jewish newspaper in Berlin and identified several Israel supporters. German authorities believe his preparations were “a clear indication of an assassination attempt.”

Between July 2015 and July 2016, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) al-Quds Force paid Syed-Naqi more than $2,200.

While the European Union, including Germany, designated Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist entity, Germany allows Hizballah’s political wing to operate freely. The U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization entirely. Even senior Hizballah officials have noted the futility in distinguishing between its political and military wings, acknowledging that Hizballah is a hierarchical organization with a clear chain of command. The organization’s terrorist and military wings answer to its senior leadership and political echelons, including Iran – its primary sponsor.

Moscow: US-backed SDF faces “destruction.” Pro-Iranian Iraqi force crosses into Syria

September 21, 2017

Moscow: US-backed SDF faces “destruction.” Pro-Iranian Iraqi force crosses into Syria, DEBKAfile, September 21, 2017

Israel’s strategic situation took several steps back in the first week of the New Year, chiefly: The US pulled back from E. Syria under Russian threat, allowing Iran to move in.

In just one week, the dire perils, which many military and political experts warned against for years, are suddenly looming on Israel’s northern border.

        1. From Sept.15-17, Syrian and Hizballah forces crossed the Euphrates to the eastern bank on pontoon bridges provided by Russia.
        2. Last Saturday, Sept. 16, Russian jets bombed the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) in the Deir ez-Zour region, as a warning against their obstructing the eastward impetus of those Syrian and Hizballah units.
        3. On Monday, Sept. 18, US Marines began blowing up buildings at the Zaqaf military base in eastern Syria and then retreating to the Jordanian border. The US set up Zaqaf early this year in the Syrian Desert as a barrier against this very Syrian/Hizballah crossing to impede their advance to the Syrian-Iraqi border.
        4. The following day, on the heels of the US withdrawal, Hizballah troops took charge of the Zaqaf base.
        5. On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Iraqi Hashd Al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units – PMU) crossed into Syria and linked up with the Syrian-Hizballah force. The PMU is under the direct command of Gen. Qassam Soleimani, head of Iranian military operations in Syria and Iraq.
        6. Iran, through its Iraqi, Lebanese and other foreign Shiite pawns, is now in control of 230km of the Syrian border, from Abu Kamal (still held by ISIS) in the north, to Al Tanf in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle in the south – where, too, US and coalition special forces have begun packing up ready to exit.
          Iran in recent years imported some 20,000 Afghan and Pakistani Shiite fighters to reinforce the Syrian army and Hizballah in their battles for Bashar Assad. The new Iraq arrivals boost that figure by tens of thousands and more are coming in all the time.
        7. On Thursday, Sept. 21, the growing disconnect between Moscow and Washington over Syria suddenly erupted into an open breach with a crude threat from the Kremlin: “Russia has officially informed the United States via a special communications channel that Russian forces will strike immediately US-backed forces if they attack or shell Syrian or Russian task forces operating near the Deir Ez-Zour city. Any attempts at shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed. Russian forces will suppress firing points in these areas using all means of destruction.”

      A threat of this degree of ruthlessness has not been encountered in the Middle East for decades, it may recall Moscow’s threat to Israel in 1956 to end its invasion of the Sinai without delay or else…

      Where do these menacing steps leave Israel?

        • The US has washed its hands of central and southeastern Syria.
        • Russia is wholly, unreservedly and openly in lockstep with the Syrian army, Iran and Hizballah in all their objectives in the war-torn country, and moreover, willing to threaten any pro-American entity with total military punishment. Is this an indirect message to Israel too?
          Iraqi Shiite forces are surging into Syria; they have given Tehran the gift of control of a 230km segment of the border.

      And what does the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott have to say about all this?  In an interview to Israeli media as recently as Wednesday, Sept. 19, when it was all happening, he said: “If Iran  does entrench itself in Syria, that will be bad news for the entire region, including the moderate Sunni camp, and even more for the countries of Europe.”

He went on to explain: “That is why we have given the Iranian threat and halting its expanding influence very high priority as an issue to be dealt with.”

Gen. Eisenkott underlined the IDF’s focus as being to prevent [Israel’s foes] from obtaining weaponry, i.e. missiles – of high targeting precision.

The trouble is that, while the IDF focuses on this objective, commendable in itself, Russia and Iran are focusing and in full flight on a far wider-ranging goal, the precise and systematic deepening of Iran’s military presence in Syria. Iran and Hizballah have already established military commands at Arnaba just 6 km from Israel’s Golan border.

Yet the IDF chief is still talking about this as an untoward event that may – or may not – come some time in the future.