Archive for the ‘Jordan’ category

Israel’s red lines in Syria long crossed by Iran

August 24, 2017

Israel’s red lines in Syria long crossed by Iran, DEBKAfile, August 23, 2017

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set out for President Vladimir Putin Israel’s red lines against Iran establishing a permanent, expanded military presence in Syria. This theme dominated their three-hour conversation in Sochi on Wednesday, Aug. 23. Netanyahu stiffened his warning with a veiled threat that should Iran or Hizballah cross those lines, there would be a regional war.

It was the first time that the prime minister had publicly threatened to go to war against Iran and Hizballah. After talking to Putin, he said to reporters that what is new today is Iran’s attempt to “Lebanonize Syria.” in the same way as it seized control of Lebanon through its surrogate, Hizballah. “We are looking at Tehran’s future takeover of Syria through its Shiite militias.

If that happens, “we will not remain passive,” he said – nor if Syria becomes a link in Iran’s overland corridor via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. And we certainly can’t accept Iranians and Hizballah close to the Golan.

“We told President Putin plainly that we won’t put up with Iran using Syria as a military base for attacking Israel.

Putin, in the part of the meeting to which reporters had access, did not address Netanyahu’s remarks about Iran’s role in Syria, nor his warning of unilateral military action. The Russian president just repeated the standard Moscow line that foreign forces would not stay in Syria at the end of the war, but offered no timetable or guarantees.

The Russian leader would clearly prefer not to see an Israel war against Iran and Hizballah breaking out in Syria, DEBKAfile’s sources say, especially since Russian special forces, naval and air force contingents are deployed there – albeit not in large numbers.

At the same time, he may well find Netanyahu’s strong words useful for boosting Russia’s clout in Syria. If Tehran believes an Israeli war against its forces and Hizballah is potential, it will be in Iran’s interest to strengthen its military ties with Russia so as to gain its military and political backing.

For Putin, this would be a welcome change from the atmosphere of acrimony prevailing for some weeks between Iranian and Russian officers in Syria. Russian colonels have been posted at the most sensitive sectors in Syria, such as Aleppo, Hama, Homs and eastern Damascus. They are taking over both the military and civilian administration there and, in effect, shouldering the Iranian officers aside.

In Iraq, the Iranians seized control of the country from within, by setting up armed militias and getting them integrated in the national army, as Trojan horses. Tehran knows how to manage this ruse on the quiet, without drawing unwanted attention from the powers on the spot.

In Syria, the problem facing Israel is quite different. If Netanyahu shared sensitive intelligence with Putin that he had not known before, he can’t help noticing that Israel’s red lines for Iran’s expansion were crossed months ago, some of them with Russian assistance.

Four instances stand out:

1. Iran and Hizballah have already set up a chain of military bases in Syria – notably in the Qalamoun Mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border, from which missiles can be launched against Israel.

2. Iran has already won its coveted land bridge through Iraq to Syria. Bashar Assad’s army has taken over whole sections of the Syrian-Iraqi border, and opened the door for pro-Iranian Shiite militias, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite groups to move into strategic positions on both sides of the border.

3.  Netanyahu warned of the danger of planting an extremist Shiite entity in the heart of the Sunni Muslim region. But this is already underway. On orders from Moscow, the Syrian army’s 5th Corps is in the process of absorbing the pro-Iranian Shiite militias which fought for Assad.

The prime minister did not inform Putin of any timetable for Israeli action. But the Russian leader will take it for granted that the Israeli army will not move into Syria without a nod from the Trump administration in Washington.

For now, Putin and Trump are synchronizing their operations in Syria with better results than Netanyahu’s understanding with the US administration.

Deadly False Narratives Drove the Temple Mount Crisis

August 2, 2017

Deadly False Narratives Drove the Temple Mount Crisis, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, August 2, 2017

Until the attack, Israel had been relying on intelligence alerts, rather than physical security measures, to defend the site. But the shootings led the Israel Police to ask the Israeli government to beef up security, and install metal detectors.

The government agreed, despite the misgivings of the Israeli defense establishment, which was concerned that the move would fuel the propaganda of fundamentalist forces, leading to unrest and instability.

Iran helped fuel the unrestIsrael Hayom reported, by sending protesters “tens of thousands of … prepackaged meals along with notes in each one citing a famous quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: ‘With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.’ The note also depicted the Dome of the Rock and the Palestinian flag.”

Additionally, a senior Iranian official reportedly met with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad representatives in Iran, offering them assistance for Palestinians injured in clashes. The IRGC released a statement, condemning “the Zionist regime’s  aggressive and criminal actions against Al-Aqsa mosque.”

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The crisis between Israel and the Palestinians that raged in recent weeks over the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa holy site in Jerusalem has died down, but the affair provides important clues about the rising ability of fundamentalist Islamists to seize control of the narrative.

Radical rhetoric espoused by those who sought to inflame religious conflict dominated the Temple Mount crisis.

“Israel wants more than ever before to implement its plan for complete control over al-Aksa Mosque,” Hamas politburo chief Ismael Haniyeh said, even after Israel moved to defuse the situation. Days earlier, Hamas had called for a “religious war” against Israel.

Islamists in Gaza, Jordan, east Jerusalem, and within the Israeli Arab community, had the upper hand in their ability to push their interpretation of events. They claim Israel wants to take over the holy site and destroy the mosque to make way for a third Temple. This baseless narrative sweeps away the terrorist attack that caused the crisis and presented three Palestinians killed in subsequent clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem as martyrs who died defending Islam.

Not to be outdone by their Islamist rivals, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders peddled the same falsehoods. Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Yusuf Idai’is told the official PA television channel that Israel “has plans to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and establish the alleged Temple in its place.”

Those seeking religious strife were able to mobilize masses onto the streets, with the help of self-organizing demonstrators and rioters who were infected with the Islamist fervor, and spread it themselves on social media.

Together, these elements forced pragmatic Arab leaders – who do not subscribe to Islamist ideology – to adopt the Islamist narrative, and to deal with Israel as if it was guilty of the Islamic hard-liners’ fabricated accusations.

A recap: The crisis erupted when a terrorist jihadist cell, made up of three Arab-Israeli gunmen, used firearms smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – to shoot dead two Israeli police officers. Security forces then returned fire, killing the gunmen.

Until the attack, Israel had been relying on intelligence alerts, rather than physical security measures, to defend the site. But the shootings led the Israel Police to ask the Israeli government to beef up security, and install metal detectors.

The government agreed, despite the misgivings of the Israeli defense establishment, which was concerned that the move would fuel the propaganda of fundamentalist forces, leading to unrest and instability.

The defense establishment’s concerns came true. Rioting erupted in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Mass demonstrations were held in Israel’s eastern neighbor, Jordan, and included members of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.

A Palestinian knife attacker, pledging to “die for Al-Aqsa” on his Facebook page, massacred three members of an Israeli family in their home in the West Bank.

All of these events were driven by incitement to religious violence. The unrest was sparked by the false accusation that Israel was seeking to change the status quo at Al-Aqsa, and that the site needed defending from Israelis schemes. It is a conspiracy theory that has been peddled by Palestinian hardliners for decades, dating back to the days of Hajj Amin Al Husseini in the 1920s and 30s.

Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the Temple Mount shooters as “heroic,” and called for more attacks. They issued a rallying call to defend Al-Aqsa. A Salafist-jihadist group in Gaza fired two rockets at southern Israel.

Israel responded with tank fire at a Hamas military post.

Turkey, ruled by a pro-Hamas variant of the Muslim Brotherhood, exploited the tensions to urge all Muslims to “protect Jerusalem,” and called on Israel to end the crisis. Israel’s Foreign Ministry called it “absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region. The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.”

Iran helped fuel the unrestIsrael Hayom reported, by sending protesters “tens of thousands of … prepackaged meals along with notes in each one citing a famous quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: ‘With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.’ The note also depicted the Dome of the Rock and the Palestinian flag.”

Additionally, a senior Iranian official reportedly met with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad representatives in Iran, offering them assistance for Palestinians injured in clashes. The IRGC released a statement, condemning “the Zionist regime’s  aggressive and criminal actions against Al-Aqsa mosque.”

In Israel, Sheikh Raed Saleh, the former leader of the now banned Islamic Movement – a sister organization to Hamas – led a funeral procession for the three Arab Israeli terrorists. Thousands of mourners marched belligerently by the coffins of the terrorists, shouting, “By fire and with blood we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa,” and, “You are the martyrs of Al-Aqsa.”

Palestinian social media buzzed with calls to defend Al-Aqsa. The Islamist narrative had won the day.

Israel tried to challenge this mythology by directly addressing Palestinians. “So that the truth is clear, when did the Temple Mount incidents erupt?” IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai asked in Arabic on Al Jazeera. “A week ago. After a terror attack was committed by three Muslims, who entered the Temple Mount with weapons and opened fire. Israel does not want to change the status quo. This is a clear message to the world from the Muslim world.”

His message appeared to largely fall on deaf ears. With the fundamentalist rhetoric leading the way, even pragmatic Arab leaders, some of whom rely on cooperation with Israel for the very stability of their rule, felt the need to play according to the radical playbook, in order to avoid being tagged as Israel’s ‘abettors.’

The most obvious example was Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Without Israel’s steps to quell Hamas in the West Bank, Abbas’s Palestinian Authority would have faced multiple armed attempts by Islamists to depose him .

During the Temple Mount unrest, Abbas cut security coordination between his forces and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

“Jerusalem is ours. It is our capital and our sovereignty. As long as the situation in occupied Jerusalem does not return to what it was before July 14 [when Israel installed metal detectors], there will be no changes [in our position],” Abbas said, according to a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translation.

Promoting the lie that the Al-Aqsa Mosque required protection from Israel, Abbas told east Jerusalem Palestinians, “What you did was defend your honor, your religion and your holy sites. It was the true answer to those who wish to harm our holy sites and the principles of our faith. We supported you in what you did and are [still] doing. We decided to suspend the security coordination; [that decision] still holds. We [decided to] defend the holy sites; that still holds as well.”

The Fatah movement, which runs the Palestinian Authority, added fuel to the fire. With the full knowledge that it was risking new clashes, Fatah’s Central Committee called for mass protests.

Egypt and Jordan, both of whom are busy combating Islamist threats at home, called on Israel to remove the metal detectors.

The situation in Jordan became even more complicated when an Israeli embassy guard was stabbed by a local youth. The guard opened fire to defend himself, killing the attacker and accidentally shooting dead a second Jordanian citizen who was nearby.

Jordan’s King Abdullah refused to allow the Israeli guard to leave Amman, reversing his decision only after Israel said it would remove the metal detectors.

King Abdullah, one of the Arab worlds’ most moderate leaders, whose Kingdom shares many common interests with Israel, still felt the need to issue a statement vowing to prevent the “Judaization” of holy sites in Jerusalem.

Jordan controls the Jerusalem Islamic trust in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, called the Waqf. Behind the scenes, Jordan helped end the Temple Mount crisis, which threatened to destabilize it.

The Waqf told Islamic worshipers that they could re-enter the Temple Mount after Israel had removed the metal detectors.

Even after the crisis reached a resolution, the Palestinian Authority remained highly wary of being labeled as a collaborator with Israel.

An aide to Abbas said security coordination with Israel would only be resumed “gradually,” to avoid giving the impression that the Palestinian Authority is too enthusiastic about working with the Israeli military in the West Bank.

The crisis provides a clear indication of the influence that Islamist propaganda has on the area. Even Arab leaders who are directly threatened by radical forces feel they must march according to their drumbeat, or risk their very legitimacy.

Israel’s decision to dismantle the metal detectors was designed to prevent the Islamist pyromaniacs from using the Al-Aqsa crisis to set the region on fire.

The fact that the Islamists came so close to succeeding, however, is the latest indication of who is in charge of the popular narrative in the region.

Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out

July 12, 2017

Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out, DEBKAfile, July 12, 2017

Israel has so far objected to any Russian military presence along its borders with Syria, even in the capacity of ceasefire monitors, preferring Americans to police the truce in the Qunetra region. If that proved unfeasible, then Israel would leave the Syrian rebels controlling this area in place.

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Russian troops stepped into southern Syria for the first time Wednesday, July 13, when they entered the embattled town of Daraa to start enforcing the partial ceasefire agreed by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg on July 7.  DEBKAfile’s military sources report this exclusively.

The Russians, including military police and Chechen paratroopers, were sighted getting out of the vehicles of their convoy and taking up positions in the center of Daraa. As they moved into the town, our sources report that tank units of the pro-regime Syrian army’s 5th Armored Division were seen driving out, along with Hizballah.

Their withdrawal cut short the Syrian military’s Operation Big Dawn against the Syrian rebels in Daraa, which breached the ceasefire Monday, July 11 – less then 24 hours after it went into force.

The Russian deployment in a southern Syrian border town Wednesday was the first step in their posting along Syria’s Israeli and Jordanian borders, as agreed between Washington and Moscow. President Trump had assented to this arrangement to bolster the first stage of the Syrian ceasefire going into effect in the de-confliction zone of the southwest.

Jordan also assented, in the interests of de-escalating tensions on its border with Syria.

The Russian troops and Chechens in Russian military police uniforms were armed only with light weapons. On July 5, Putin’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, Alexander Levrentiev, said that the Russian troops deployed in Syrian ceasefire zones would be lightly armed for self-defense. Most would consist of Russian military police. This description was intended to cover the presence of Chechen paratroops, who were seconded to the Russian police force for this mission.

Israel has so far objected to any Russian military presence along its borders with Syria, even in the capacity of ceasefire monitors, preferring Americans to police the truce in the Qunetra region. If that proved unfeasible, then Israel would leave the Syrian rebels controlling this area in place.

But our sources predict that, after the arrival of Russian troops in Daraa to preserve the ceasefire, both Washington and Moscow will lean hard on Jerusalem to accept Russian troops at Quneitra too, that is, opposite the Golan.

New Syrian-Hizballah offensive defies ceasefire

July 10, 2017

New Syrian-Hizballah offensive defies ceasefire, DEBKAfile, July 10, 2017

The Assad regime, for its part, felt free to resume combat because the Trump-Putin ceasefire deal had not set out demarcation lines as dividers between the opposing armies, leaving that task to US and Russian officers on the ground to take up.

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Less than 24 hours after the US-Russian sponsored ceasefire went into force in southwest Syria, it broke down early Monday, July 10, when large-scale Syrian army and Hizballah forces launched a general offensive on Syrian rebel forces in the Al Suweida province. This region was listed with Quneitra and Daraa as one of three demilitarized locations to be covered by the truce.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Syrian’s army’s 5th Armored Division led the offensive which the Syrian army’s general command designated “Operation Big Dawn,” to mark it as the opening of a new phase in the war in southern Syria.

Our military sources described the attack as focusing on the northern rural areas of Al Suweida province to provide the Syrians and Hizballah with a pretext for claiming they are not part of the town and therefore not part of the ceasefire agreement reached by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg last Friday, July 7.

In the early hours of their drive forward, Syrian and Hizballah troops captured 11 villages and small towns, including Tal Asfar and Al-Qasr, which lie 33km from the town of Suweida, 70km from Daraa on the Jordanian border and 78km east of Quneitra and the Israeli Golan border.

They forced the rebels defending them to retreat; most belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces, who were trained and armed by the US and Jordan.

According to our sources, Damascus decided to terminate another short-lived ceasefire in the six-year Syrian war when the Jordanian army and intelligence took advantage of the pause in fighting to transfer large quantities of weapons and military equipment to allied Syrian rebel forces defending Daraa. Under no illusions about the sustainability of the US-Russian ceasefire deal, Jordan moved fast to bolster its Syrian allies for the next round of fighting.

The Assad regime, for its part, felt free to resume combat because the Trump-Putin ceasefire deal had not set out demarcation lines as dividers between the opposing armies, leaving that task to US and Russian officers on the ground to take up.

Golan battles bring Hizballah near Israeli border

June 25, 2017

Golan battles bring Hizballah near Israeli border, DEBKAfile, June 25, 2017

But for now,  both these warfronts hang in the balance and are undecided. Also undecided on how and when to react are Israel and Jordan. Hizballah is already 3km from the Golan border, although Israel’s government and military leaders have pledged repeatedly that they would be allowed to come in so close.

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In the last 48 hours, Israel has conducted air strikes on and aimed tank fire at Syrian army positions near Quneitra’s northern suburb of Baath city, 3km from IDF Golan border defenses. (See map). Those positions were the source of the mortar shells that exploded on the Israeli Golan – 10 on Saturday, June 24 and three the next day. They came from a battle in which Syrian and Hizballah units were fighting off a Syrian rebel offensive around Quneitra.

The rebel militias set up a coalition to coordinate their offensive. It is dominated by the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Damascus claims is an arm of Al Qaeda-Syria. In fact, it is an alignment of dozens of Islamist groups, some of which belonged and still do to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – the former Nusra Front.

Fighting on the side of the Assad regime are the remnants of the Syrian army’s 90thBrigade, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards South Syrian command center, and the pro-Iranian Afghan Shiite militia.

They are joined by members of Hizballah’s Southern Shield Brigade.

This brigade is made up of Palestinians, Druzes, Circassians and local Syrians, whom Hizballah recruited and has posted in Hermon villages ready to launch terrorist attacks inside Israel.

The battle around Quneitra was preceded on June 17 by the assassination of Majd a-Din Khalik Khaymoud, commander of the Southern Shield Brigade and his two lieutenants, who were caught in an ambush near the village of Khan Arnabah. No party took responsibility for this attack.

Then, on Saturday, June 24, the rebel coalition launched its offensive on the Syrian-Hizballah units at Al-Baath, boasting that they would not stop until they reached Damascus. Although they caught the enemy by surprise, they were unable to follow up with a rapid advance, because they were pushed back by superior fire power. Since the Syrian mortars were aiming their fire at the rebel units concentrated around Quneitra, i.e., from east to west, some of the shells spilled over the border into the Golan.

When the rebels saw they were falling short of their objective, they drummed up a more modest goal: It was to open a second front in order to lighten the pressure on a separate rebel organization which for nearly three weeks has been fighting off fierce assaults on their positions in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, close to the Jordanian border.

Assad’s army, combined with large-scale Hizballah units and pro-Iranian forces, are therefore in full flight to seize control of Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel. Amman and Jerusalem therefore face a twin peril on the Daraa and Al-Baath fronts.   Both are anxious to keep Hizballah as far as possible from their territory.

But for now,  both these warfronts hang in the balance and are undecided. Also undecided on how and when to react are Israel and Jordan. Hizballah is already 3km from the Golan border, although Israel’s government and military leaders have pledged repeatedly that they would be allowed to come in so close.

Syrian-Hizballah massacre in Daraa: 140 dead

June 12, 2017

Syrian-Hizballah massacre in Daraa: 140 dead, DEBKAfile, June 12, 2017

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, any Syrian rebels surviving the initial onslaught on the town had no choice but to fall back. They could only find sanctuary in two places – Jordan, to the south, or the Al-Tanf Syrian-Iraqi border crossing to the east, which is held by US and Jordanian special forces. Those forces did not intervene in the Daraa debacle.

After capturing Daraa, the next victim of a Syrian-Hizballah massacre is most probably Quneitra, which lies less than 9km from the Israeli border. Its capture would bring every last Syrian town bordering Jordan and Israel under their domination.

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Bashar Assad’s troops and his allies, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hizballah, are notorious for their barbaric cruelty to the populations they conquer. But even by their own appalling standards, the massacre they wreaked against the 100,000 citizens of the southern Syrian town of Daraa this week must stand out as a milestone from hell.

Posted in the town, just one kilometer from the Jordanian border, were 3,000 anti-Assad rebels, some of whom joined the Free Syrian Army to be trained and armed by the United States and Jordan. The offensive the Syrian government army and Hizballah launched against their positions on Sunday, June 11, left 140 dead and hundreds injured in its first hours.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that it started with dozens of Syrian air force helicopters dropping 150 explosive barrels on those positions, while Syrian bomber-fighter planes conducted at least 25 sorties against rebel rooftop positions atop the highest buildings, and Syrian artillery fired off some 120 ground-to-ground missiles against various key points in the town of Daraa.

Syrian and Hizballah forces advanced into the town under this hellish blitz.

Our sources report that the spearhead consisted entirely of Hizballah’s Al Qaim Brigade, followed by units of the Syrian army’s elite 4th armored Division, armed with advanced Russian-made T-90 tanks. The commander of the offensive was Col. Ghayath Galla.

(On June 6, DEBKAfile disclosed in an exclusive report that the 4th Division’s commander, Bashar Assad’s younger brother, Gen. Maher Assad, and his officers were sighted inspecting the terrain around Daraa in advance of the offensive.)

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, any Syrian rebels surviving the initial onslaught on the town had no choice but to fall back. They could only find sanctuary in two places – Jordan, to the south, or the Al-Tanf Syrian-Iraqi border crossing to the east, which is held by US and Jordanian special forces. Those forces did not intervene in the Daraa debacle.

After capturing Daraa, the next victim of a Syrian-Hizballah massacre is most probably Quneitra, which lies less than 9km from the Israeli border. Its capture would bring every last Syrian town bordering Jordan and Israel under their domination.

Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount

May 30, 2017

Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount, The Jewish Press, May 30, 2017

Turkish Flag over the Temple Mount

The Jerusalem municipality’s eastern Jerusalem experts have revealed in recent days that Turkey has been competing with Jordan over influence among Arab residents as well as over control of the Temple Mount, Hashiloach—an Israeli journal for thought and policy, created by the Tikvah Fund—reported last week.

The city’s experts, David Koren and Ben Avrahami, also revealed that Turkey has begun pouring millions of dollars into NGO in eastern Jerusalem, in order to strengthen Ankara’s status among the Arab residents, at the expense of Jordan and Israel. Which explains why more and more Turkish flags are hanging in windows in the eastern part of the city.

The Arab population of Jerusalem numbers approximately 320,000, with another 50,000 residents of Judea and Samaria who are staying in the city illegally or through family reunification. Jerusalem Arabs constitute about 37% of the city’s population and about 20% of the Arab population in Israel. In fact, Jerusalem is the city with the highest Arab population density between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (excluding Gaza). Ramallah has 280,000 residents, and Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, has only 75,000.

The vast majority of Jerusalem’s Arabs are Muslim – the Christian population is estimated at between 10 and 15 thousand.

“The growing involvement of the Erdogan regime, which is now the main patron of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide, shows that the Turkish actions in Jerusalem are part of a wider process of creating regional Turkish hegemony at the expense of other players,” wrote the Jerusalem mayor’s advisers on the eastern part of the city, noting that “the biggest loser from the increased Turkish presence is Jordan, which for many years had enjoyed the status of Custodian of the Holy Places and the protector of the residents of eastern Jerusalem. The greatest threat to the Hashemite Kingdom on the Temple Mount comes from Turkey.”

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israel for “massacring the Palestinians,” calling on the Turks to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and dubbing Israel’s control of Jerusalem “an insult.” He also attacked President Donald Trump’s plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and declared that “all Muslims must defend Jerusalem.”

The experts added that in May 2015, Muslim worshipers expelled the chief Jordanian Kadi from the Temple Mount, while at the same time receiving with great honor the Turkish minister of religious affairs. “In recent years, the Turks have poured considerable sums of money into the Temple Mount for a number of activities: Koran reading groups, transporting worshipers to and from the mosque, Ramadan meals, renovations, and cleaning. As a rule, whether deliberately or not, Muslim groups on the Temple Mount are acting in favor of Turkey and to the detriment of Jordan.

“In their view, replacing the Jordanian presence with Turkish presence would be a positive and welcome step,” Koren and Avrahami wrote.

“Erdogan’s Turkey now enjoys unprecedented popularity among the residents of eastern Jerusalem,” wrote the two wrote. “Turkish flags are often seen hanging from rooftops in the eastern part of the city and even on the Temple Mount, and Turkish culture is being revived, which is reflected in Turkish language courses, Turkish music and Turkish cuisine.”

One hundred years after the last Turkish soldier was chased out of Jerusalem by the invading British Empire, “Turkey’s public support for the Palestinian cause and the Al-Aqsa conflict, and their channeling of millions of dollars into eastern Jerusalem, bear many fruits in the form of sympathy and support,” the experts concluded, adding that the Turks’ “involvement is made possible by their cooperation with Muslim Brotherhood elements in the city, who are often being used as their allies and collaborators.”