Posted tagged ‘Israeli security’

Iran’s Foreign Legion in Syria

June 12, 2017

Iran’s Foreign Legion in Syria, Front Page MagazineJoseph Puder, June 12, 2017

(Please see also, Syrian-Hizballah massacre in Daraa: 140 dead. — DM)

The Iranian strategy, it appears, is to consolidate is forces in southwestern Syria facing the Druze area of Dar’aa, and gradually move their commanded forces toward the Israeli border in the Golan.  Iran has sought for a long time now to establish its proxies, including Hezbollah units in the Golan facing Israel.  Israel however, was able to dislodge these Iranian efforts.  Nevertheless, the Iranian cooperation with Russia in Syria, and the lucrative arms deals between them, may persuade Russia to consider the Iranian efforts.

Iran is the leading state-sponsor of international terrorism, and the IS attack has given Tehran a taste of its own deadly medicine.  The oppression of Sunnis in Shiite Iran is likely to drive Sunni Baluch and Ahwazi Arabs into doing the IS’s bidding, translated into acts of terror in the heart of Tehran.  It demonstrates a hard truth – that Sunni jihadists can assemble a foreign legion, just as the Iranian jihadists have done in Syria.

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Arab News reported (6/7/2017) that “Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian capital.  Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament.”  The twin attacks on Wednesday killed 12 Iranians, and embarrassed the radical Islamist regime by showing its vulnerability at home.  IS terrorists hit the most potent symbols of Iran’s Islamic Republic on Wednesday.  It has brought into sharp focus the high cost of Tehran’s involvement in Syria, which according to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) leadership, was meant to ward off terrorist attacks at the home front.  With an economy that has barely recovered from sanctions imposed on it by the international community, the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can hardly justify the huge cost to the treasury of exporting its revolution and backing Assad in Syria with Iranian cash, if not in blood.

Given the Sunni-Shiite conflict engulfing the Middle East, it was inevitable that IS will ultimately strike at Iran – the patrons of Shiite-Islam.  The antecedents of IS in Iraq proved that the Sunnis who ruled in Iraq albeit, as a minority with a Shiite majority, won’t easily allow Shiites to disenfranchise them.  In Syria however, the Sunnis are the majority, and have been ruled for almost 50 years by the Alawite (Shiite) clan of the Assads.  It was never a question of whether or if IS will strike at Iran but rather when.  The array of Shiite militias fighting IS, and non-Islamist Sunni militias, under the command of Maj. General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Division of the IRGC, is clear enough reason why Iran is, and will continue to be a target.

To expand its influence throughout the Middle East region, and extend the Shiite Crescent, the Ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran has devoted huge resources to protect its turf in Syria, and maintain it as a bridge to Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea.  In essence, it means the preservation of the Bashar Assad, Alawi-led (Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam) regime.  The Syrian dictator who has now earned the moniker “the butcher of Damascus” can count on the Iranian ‘Foreign Legion’ made up of Shiite fighters from Lebanon (Hezbollah), Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. They provide the manpower that serves the Iranian agenda in Syria.  Besides Hezbollah, there is the Afghan “Fatimiyoun and Khadem  el-‘Aqila Brigades; the Pakistani Zainebiyoun Brigade; Yemeni Houtis “Liwa Al-Saada Brigade, the Iraqi Shiite militia Al-Nujaba Movement.  The Iraqi Shiite contingent is the largest force engaged in the defense of the Assad regime.  It is estimated to number around 40,000 fighters.

According to the Qatari based outlet, Al-Jazeera (1/22/2016), “Some 20,000 Afghan Shia fighters alone are said to be fighting alongside Iran to help save the government of the Syrian President Assad.”  Iran, the publication pointed out, recruited tens of thousands of Afghan Shiite fighters, offering them salaries to join the fight to save President Bashar Assad.  The Afghan Shiites are refugees from the ongoing war in Afghanistan between the government of Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban.  They escaped to Iran due to economic and political hardship, and sought asylum there.  Given the inability of young Afghanis to find work in Iran, they are easily manipulated into being cannon-fodder for the Iranians.  Unlike an Iranian fighter, an Afghan illegal migrant killed in action would not be a burden on the Iranian treasury.  Moreover, its foreign mercenaries provide Iran with deniability with regards to their intervention in Syria.

Captured Afghan Shiite fighters revealed that they are attracted to Syria by the promise of a financial reward.  The Iranian regime paid recruits supposedly between $500 and $1,000 a month.  Some Afghans claimed that they joined the fighting brigades as a way to escape prison sentences or even the death penalty for drug trafficking, one of the few outlets for Afghan refugees in Iran. Anas al-Abdah, the secretary of the opposition Syrian Coalition committee told Al-Jazeera that “Iran considers itself the one and only reference point for all Shia people in the whole world.  It organizes them into political, social and military organizations, both in their local communities and abroad…This is part of the main mission of the Iranian regime in terms of exporting the revolution.  Iran recruits, motivates, organizes, finances, and trains Shias from all over the world to help support Bashar al-Assad’s regime from collapsing.”

In Israel, there is particular attention being paid to the Al Nujaba group.  Israeli Col. (retired) Dr. Jacques Neriah, suggested that at “The end of February, 2017, the leader of Al-Nujaba’, Akram el-Q’aabi, declared in an unprecedented announcement that his forces were to fight together with the Syrian army to ‘liberate’ the Golan.  El-Q’aabi justified his position by stating that the terrorism of ISIS is but a part of a grand plan designed by the Zionists, supervised by the Americans with Turkish-Gulf implementation. Therefore, it was time to decapitate the head of the Zionist snake.”  Neriah added, “The Brigade announced in March, 2017 the creation of “The Liberation of the Golan Brigade” (Liwa’ Tahrir el-Jolan). The Brigade whose members have fought in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq will have one mission: to assist the Syrian army in liberating its “stolen lands.” According to the spokesman of the Al-Nujaba, ‘The creation of this Brigade was but a step toward liberating the holy places in occupied Palestine.”

The Iranian strategy, it appears, is to consolidate is forces in southwestern Syria facing the Druze area of Dar’aa, and gradually move their commanded forces toward the Israeli border in the Golan.  Iran has sought for a long time now to establish its proxies, including Hezbollah units in the Golan facing Israel.  Israel however, was able to dislodge these Iranian efforts.  Nevertheless, the Iranian cooperation with Russia in Syria, and the lucrative arms deals between them, may persuade Russia to consider the Iranian efforts.

As a result of the IS twin attacks in Tehran, the Golan front is a secondary priority for now. The IRGC, whose position in Iran has strengthened, despite the overwhelming reelection victory of the more “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani in the recent elections, will now increase its operations in Syria and Iraq, and more Iranian resources will be spent there.  Iranian President Rouhani will now find it more difficult to reduce spending on foreign arenas such as Syria, as he has promised to do in his election campaign.

Iran is the leading state-sponsor of international terrorism, and the IS attack has given Tehran a taste of its own deadly medicine.  The oppression of Sunnis in Shiite Iran is likely to drive Sunni Baluch and Ahwazi Arabs into doing the IS’s bidding, translated into acts of terror in the heart of Tehran.  It demonstrates a hard truth – that Sunni jihadists can assemble a foreign legion, just as the Iranian jihadists have done in Syria.

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.

How an Iranian general duped US command in Syria

June 10, 2017

How an Iranian general duped US command in Syria, DEBKAfile, June 10, 2017

Our sources cannot confirm for certain what part the Russians played in Iran’s underhand maneuver. Were they in on it, or were they hoodwinked by Soleimani like the Americans? However, the bottom line of this incident is that Syria’s neighbors, Israel and Jordan, face a new and distinctly troublesome downturn in the strategic situation on their borders. The next arena of potential US-Iranian confrontation is building up in Syria’s oil-rich Deir ez-Zor region.

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The Iranian-made Syrian drone downed by US F-15 fighters in southeastern Syria on June 8 was presented by American media as a “pro-regime” drone. It was in fact, as DEBKAfile’s military sources can disclose, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Shahed-129, which was fired as a part of a complicated ruse to dupe the US commanders while pro-Iranian forces surreptiously moved in on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The Americans had drawn a line in the Syrian Desert sand 55 km outside the Al-Tanf border crossing embedded in the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle, which is under the control of US, Western and Jordanian special forces, together with a US-trained Syrian rebel group. The Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the US military command in Syria and Iraq were confident that by securing this perimeter, their forces would keep the pro-Iranian advance at bay and the border safe.

When the hostile drone flew past this line, it was shot down. But the Americans were reluctant to let the incident escalate into a major clash, while the Iranians were smarting under the Islamic State attack on Tehran’s national sites. And so they played it down. The next day, therefore, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis reported that “hostilities between the coalition and the pro-regime forces had been avoided thanks to Russian influence. He went on to say: “The calm we see today is largely due to their efforts.”

What brought the Russians onstage?

The sequence of events which unfolded over 48 hours in the Syrian Desert is revealed her by our military sources. The drone was fired as a deliberate provocation to cross the 55-km line enclosing the US-controlled border garrison, on the orders of the Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It was intended as a diversion from the real action.

The Russians entered the picture at this stage with an attempt to cool the situation and restore calm. While they were busy assuring the Americans that the Syrian army, Hizballah and its other pro-Iranian allies would refrain from crossing the 55-km line, Qassem moved a large-scale force up to a point just a few hundred meters from the American line.

By Friday, June 9, as Russian de-escalation diplomacy with the Americans wound down, Soleimani’s forces were found to have quietly reached new positions on both sides of the border.

1. He had moved those forces to a point 56km north of Al-Tanf to a rendezvous with pro-Iranian Shiite militias which had come from southern Iraq. That rendezvous breached the Iraqi-Syrian border and attained Iran’s strategic goal of opening up a land bridge between Iraq and Syria.

2. A second pro-Iranian force captured and cut off the roads from northern Syria to the southeastern town of Deir ez-Zor, thereby segregating US and pro-American forces in the north from the American garrison in the south.

Our sources cannot confirm for certain what part the Russians played in Iran’s underhand maneuver. Were they in on it, or were they hoodwinked by Soleimani like the Americans? However, the bottom line of this incident is that Syria’s neighbors, Israel and Jordan, face a new and distinctly troublesome downturn in the strategic situation on their borders. The next arena of potential US-Iranian confrontation is building up in Syria’s oil-rich Deir ez-Zor region.

Israel Steps Up Fight Against ISIS, as Terror Group Wages ‘War’ for Control of Egyptian Border

June 7, 2017

Israel Steps Up Fight Against ISIS, as Terror Group Wages ‘War’ for Control of Egyptian Border, Washington Free Beacon, , June 7, 2017

A picture taken on April 16, 2017 shows a general view of the Monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt’s south Sinai, where a policeman was killed and three others wounded on April 18, 2017 when gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint near the monastery, the interior ministry said, in an attack claimed by Islamic State jihadists. Security forces returned fire, wounding some of the attackers and “forcing them to flee”, it said. / AFP PHOTO / Pedro Costa Gomes (Photo credit should read PEDRO COSTA GOMES/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli military officials are conducting scores of intelligence gathering operations along the border in conjunction with Egyptian officials, the source said.

“We have a very good working relationship with the Egyptian army, both in the intelligence and with actual” military officials, the IDF officer said. “We definitely work in tandem with the Egyptian military,” which has requested Israel’s help in gathering intelligence on ISIS and keeping tabs on its activity in Sinai.

Israel also has offered Egypt various military technologies to help combat the threat.

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Israeli military forces are quietly conducting operations to counter the threat of Islamic State terrorists along the Sinai border area with Egypt, according to senior Israeli defense officials who described ISIS as the “most quickly advanced threat we’ve ever had.”

ISIS terrorists have been locked in what Israeli military officials described as an “ongoing war” along Sinai Peninsula, as they attempt to wrench control of the key territory along Israel’s southern border from Egyptian hands.

The daily battle, which has received little coverage in the Western media, has become a chief concern for Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) personnel operating along the Jewish state’s southern border, eclipsing even Hamas terrorists in the region.

Officials estimate that there are anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 “active members of ISIS” operating in the Sinai region, a sizable force in an area that is largely lawless and has been seen as a primary terrorism tension point for some time. ISIS orchestrates terror attacks nearly every day of the week along the border, Israeli military officials disclosed.

With the rise of ISIS—an extremely well-funded and inter-connected network of some of the globe’s most vicious Islamic terrorists—the threat along the Sinai has significantly increased, becoming a primary focus for the IDF, which has been conducting intelligence gathering and military operations in a bid to prevent ISIS terrorists from crossing the Israeli border.

“ISIS is the most quickly advancing threat we’ve ever had,” one IDF officer working in the region told the Washington Free Beacon. “The rate with which they advance in resources and both capabilities and civil military training far outweighs and outpaces” the threats posed by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

“There is what can be considered an ongoing almost war in the Sinai Peninsula now,” said the officer, who was not authorized to speak on record when discussing Israeli operations to counter ISIS.

“Not a day goes by where there is not an attack against the Egyptian army or Egyptian civilians by the faction of ISIS that is in the Sinai Peninsula,” the official disclosed.

ISIS conducts anywhere from five to seven terror attacks per week in the region, including sniper attacks, road side mine attacks on Egyptian military convoys, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, the official said.

ISIS terrorists in Sinai also are in possession of advanced military technology, such as anti-tank missiles, mortars, and long-range rockets, according to Israeli assessments.

“We’re talking about 10 casualties a week” as a result of ISIS, according to the Israeli military official.

One senior Trump administration official praised Israel’s efforts to combat ISIS, telling the Free Beacon that the president is encouraged by the Jewish state’s renewed efforts to work with Egypt and other Arab nations that often have had chilly relations with Israel.

“Of course it benefits the United States when our close partners and allies like Israel increase their capacity to defeat ISIS—but Israel’s long experience combatting terrorism is also one of the things that is bringing Israel closer to our Arab friends in the region,” the administration official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “That was one of the key messages from President Trump’s recent trip.”

Despite the amount of violence in the contested border region, the Western media has largely ignored the battle.

The threat of ISIS has fostered increased cooperation between Israeli and Egyptian military officials.

Israeli military officials are conducting scores of intelligence gathering operations along the border in conjunction with Egyptian officials, the source said.

“We have a very good working relationship with the Egyptian army, both in the intelligence and with actual” military officials, the IDF officer said. “We definitely work in tandem with the Egyptian military,” which has requested Israel’s help in gathering intelligence on ISIS and keeping tabs on its activity in Sinai.

Israel also has offered Egypt various military technologies to help combat the threat.

“There have been times we’re we’ve been called on to aid in various missions,” the officer said.

ISIS is a particularly nefarious terror force that wholly embraces violence, making it more dangerous than even Hamas and Hezbollah, which tend to be more calculated in how and when they sponsor terrorism.

“Both Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon have outgrown being regular terrorist organizations and are almost governments,” the military official explained. “ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula has not reached that level yet so they have a lot less to lose and lot more to gain by carrying out bolder and stronger terrorist attacks. They most definitely have more of an edge.”

ISIS’s ability to galvanize support over the internet on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube has made it a particularly virulent threat.

ISIS operatives routinely conduct intelligence-gathering operations using Facebook and other social media sites. Terrorist operatives are known to pose as Israeli and attempt to strike up online relationships with military personnel and other officials.

ISIS also is locked in a battle with Egyptian smugglers who have long operated a drug trade along the Sinai border. The terror group is attempting to wrest control of the trade from the smugglers who deal in drugs.

The money helps to fund ISIS’s operations, but could also arm them with highly coveted smuggling routes that would enable the group to funnel arms and even terrorist forces into Israeli territory.

“This is one of the major issues and struggles going on right now,” according to the Israeli military official. “That’s the major fear of the Israeli military down south, this skirmish going on between ISIS and the Bedouin smugglers. When it comes to a head we’ll suddenly start seeing a lot less hashish and heroin, and a lot more guns and even road side bombs right on the border.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Iran’s ‘Preferred Proxy,’ Arming in Gaza

June 5, 2017

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Iran’s ‘Preferred Proxy,’ Arming in Gaza, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, June 5, 2017

Iran provides PIJ with both “military and financial support,” ITIC noted in its report.

“PIJ is the preferred organization for Iran, due to the problematic nature of the relationship between Iran and Hamas,” ITIC Director Col. (ret.) Reuven Erlich, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Although Iran continues to fund Hamas’s military wing, relations between Shi’ite Tehran and the Sunni Islamist rulers of Gaza have been unstable since 2012, when the two found themselves on opposite sides of the sectarian war raging in Syria.

PIJ has around 5,000 members in its armed wing, the Quds Brigades. The organization has its own Gazan rocket production industry, and PIJ possesses the second largest arsenal of projectiles in Gaza, thanks to Iranian manufacturing knowledge. The organization has been working on improvements to its rocket launch systems. It also digs combat tunnels.

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second largest terrorist army in Gaza, recently issued a video threat about its willingness to end the three-year truce in place with Israel.

“If the Israeli enemy continues its normal game and plays with the lives of the Palestinian people, we will break the cease-fire,” PIJ leader Ramadan Shallah says in the video, according to an Algemeiner report.

The footage is laced with images of gunmen in camouflage, rising out of the ground, moving through tunnels, and watching areas of southern Israel near the Gaza border. It is interspersed with scenes from a rocket factory, and a close up shot appears of a senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer, who is placed in crosshairs, before a bullet is loaded into a rifle.

“Don’t try to test the resistance,” says the video’s last message.

PIJ remains Iran’s favored proxy in the Strip as relations between Tehran and Hamas continue to fluctuate.

The Gaza-based Al-Ansar charity, a Palestinian branch of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, announced May 21 that it would provide financial grants to “families of martyrs” whose relatives were killed between 2002 and 2014.

A parallel Iranian funding channel is in place for families of “martyrs” killed in the 2014 conflict with Israel.

The Al-Ansar charity is “affiliated with PIJ,” according to a report released by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC).

Iran provides PIJ with both “military and financial support,” ITIC noted in its report.

“PIJ is the preferred organization for Iran, due to the problematic nature of the relationship between Iran and Hamas,” ITIC Director Col. (ret.) Reuven Erlich, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Although Iran continues to fund Hamas’s military wing, relations between Shi’ite Tehran and the Sunni Islamist rulers of Gaza have been unstable since 2012, when the two found themselves on opposite sides of the sectarian war raging in Syria.

Thus, Iran does not currently fund Hamas’s non-violent operations, including the salaries for tens of thousands of Hamas government employees.

In recent days, a Hamas senior official even took the trouble to flatly deny Arabic media reports that Iran had resumed full-scale funding for his regime, describing the claims as “fake news.”

PIJ, which plays no governmental role, has no such issues with Iran, and it continues to enjoy a high level of Iranian financial support.

A snapshot of that support can be seen in the estimated $8.7 million that was transferred from the Iranian Martyrs Foundation to Gaza over the last three years. Not all the money went to families of those killed in conflict with Israel. “We can assume that some of that money also went towards financing groups like PIJ,” Erlich said.

The Al-Ansar charity is used by the Iranian Martyrs Foundation “as a pipeline to funnel funds into the Gaza Strip, in indirect support of terrorism. The money also serves to increase Iran’s influence among the Palestinian people, and sends a message to the Sunni Arab world, that it is Iran which is supporting the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel,” the ITIC report said.

The Al-Ansar charity is fed with cash by a branch of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon. A second branch of the foundation in Lebanon supports Hizballah.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated the Iranian Martyrs Foundation and its branches in Lebanon as sponsors of terrorism. Israel banned the Al-Ansar charity in 2003, but it reestablished itself in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal in 2005.

The reelection of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to a second term is unlikely to dent Iranian funding for terror groups like PIJ, as Supreme Leader Khamanei, who is committed to arming and financing jihadists intent on fighting Israel, continues to exercise control over foreign affairs and military policies.

PIJ has around 5,000 members in its armed wing, the Quds Brigades. The organization has its own Gazan rocket production industry, and PIJ possesses the second largest arsenal of projectiles in Gaza, thanks to Iranian manufacturing knowledge. The organization has been working on improvements to its rocket launch systems. It also digs combat tunnels.

PIJ is a quarter of the size of Hamas’s 20,000 armed operatives, but that did not stop it from having numerous past run-ins and power struggles with Hamas.

Since the end of the 2014 conflict with Israel, however, Hamas has improved its ability to coordinate and control the other armed factions operating in its territory.

It remains unclear whether the latest PIJ threat to violate the ceasefire represents a warning of a possible split with Hamas’s leadership.

“What matters most is the ideological distinction between the PIJ and Hamas,” said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.

“While Hamas, [which is] the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, has a strategic cooperation with Iran, PIJ has a religious affinity with the Khomeinist doctrine and regime, since their [former] leaders Fathi Shaqaqi and ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ‘Odah, from the inception of their group, acknowledged the importance of the Iranian revolution and its influence,” Karmon told the IPT.

“Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas leader,  wrote nothing on religious matters (and did not write about any other issues either),” Karmon noted. “Shaqaqi wrote 5 books in which he praised the Iranian revolution.”

“In this sense, the PIJ is the real proxy of Iran, and not Hamas,” he added.

PIJ leaders integrated themselves into the Iranian-Hizballah camp when Israel expelled them to Lebanon in 1988, Karmon noted. Then, PIJ leader Fathi Shaqaqi was assassinated in Malta in 1995, representing a dramatic blow to the organization.

It took his successor, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who is still the current leader, five years following Shaqaqi’s assassination to build up the group’s infrastructure, with the aid of “major Iranian financial and military support,” Karmon said.

“Ironically, Shallah, who spent five years at Durham University [in Britain] writing a thesis on Islamic banking in Jordan, was called to lead the PIJ from the U.S., where he taught at the University of South Florida,” Karmon added.

When Hamas released a document that represented an update to its policies last month, feigning a softer stance and a willingness to accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, PIJ’s response was unequivocal.

“As partners with our Hamas brothers in the struggle for liberation, we feel concerned over the document,” said Islamic Jihad’s deputy leader, Ziad Al-Nakhala.

“We are opposed to Hamas’s acceptance of a state within the 1967 borders and we think this is a concession which damages our aims,” Al-Nakhala said, in comments posted on PIJ’s website.

Accepting a state on the 1967 borders would “lead to deadlock and can only produce half-solutions,” Al-Nakhala added.

Ultimately, the dispute between PIJ and Hamas is one over tactics, not strategy. In light of its acute isolation, Hamas is seeking to rebrand itself somewhat, without any intention of giving up its long-term goal of destroying Israel.

PIJ, enjoying firm Iranian backing, and lacking all of Hamas’s dilemmas of sovereignty, rejects the very idea of a rebranding. It insists on openly advertising its jihadist, Iranian-influenced ideology. Hoisted on Iran’s shoulders, PIJ prepares for the next round of fighting with Israel.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

Palestinians: Israel’s Goodwill Gestures Send Wrong Messages

June 2, 2017

Palestinians: Israel’s Goodwill Gestures Send Wrong Messages, Gatestone InstituteBassam Tawil, June 2, 2017

Here is what is being said on the Palestinian street: Today Israel runs away from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip; tomorrow Israel will run away from Ashkelon, then from Tel Aviv and from there to the sea, and we have achieved our goal of destroying Israel. Therefore, we need to continue attacking Israel.

As with the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal from Lebanon taught the Palestinians that terrorism could drive Israelis out of their country.

Never have the Palestinians given Israel credit for its goodwill steps. On the contrary, they scoff at these moves and describe them as “cosmetic changes”. The Palestinian line is that Israel’s steps are “insufficient” and “unhelpful.” Its concessions are regarded as gestures of a terrified people and as the rightful reward for terrorism. Far from satiating the appetite of the terrorists, such steps prompt them to step up their attacks against Israelis.

The West suffers under a major misconception concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that “goodwill gestures” and territorial concessions on the part of Israel boost the prospects of peace in the Middle East. The facts, however, suggest that precisely the opposite is true.

Last week, Israel’s Channel 10 television station reported that the U.S. administration was pushing Israel to transfer parts of Area C — areas under full Israeli security and civilian control in the West Bank — to the control of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA). According to the report, the U.S. believes that the transfer of the territory to the PA would be a “goodwill step” towards the Palestinians, paving the way for the revival of the stalled peace process with Israel.

This assumption, of course, has already proven wrong. The experiences of the past few decades have shown clearly that Israeli concessions have always sent the wrong message to the Palestinians.

In fact, Palestinians read Israeli goodwill steps as signs of weakness and retreat. This misinterpretation on the part of the Palestinians then leads to more violence against Israel. It would be hard for anyone not to conclude that if pressure works, keep on pressuring.

The past 24 years are littered with examples of how the Palestinians react to Israeli concessions.

The Oslo Accords that were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993 were seen by Palestinians as a first step by Israel towards total capitulation.

The accords, which brought the PLO from several Arab countries to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, came after five years of the first Palestinian Intifada. By allowing the PLO to assume control over large parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel sent a message that it was caving in to the violence and terrorism of the First Intifada.

Barely a breath after Oslo, Israel was again asked to conciliate the Palestinians: this time, hundreds of prisoners, many with Jewish (and Arab) blood on their hands, were released from Israeli prison in order to create an atmosphere “conducive” to the peace process.

Instead of viewing the prisoner release for what it was, namely a generous gesture, many Palestinians considered it a “victory” for terrorism and violence. Worse, it was not long before many of the released prisoners were rearrested for their role in further terrorism against Israel. The release of prisoners also sent a message of recidivism to Palestinians: terror does indeed pay! A short stint in an Israeli prison is sure to lead to release in some Israeli “confidence-building measure” or other.

According to statistics, at least half of released Palestinian prisoners have returned to terrorism.

Despite the grim statistics, the international community regularly demands that Israel release more convicted terrorists as a “gesture” towards Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinians.

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK – OCTOBER 30: Released Palestinian prisoners stand on a sage as they arrive to the Mukata Presidential Compound in the early morning hours on October 30, 2013 in Ramallah, West Bank. The 26 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel as part of the terms of renewed U.S.-brokered peace talks. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Getty Images)

Since 1993, Israel has complied again and again with such international pressure, only to reinforce the message to Palestinians: terrorism is indeed worth the trouble.

Let us consider, for a moment, Gaza. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, after destroying 21 Jewish settlements and expelling more than 8,000 Jews from their homes there.

In Palestinian eyes, however, the Israeli “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip was anything but an olive branch of peace. The withdrawal came after five years of the bloody Second Intifada, when Palestinians waged a massive campaign of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israelis.

Thus, for Palestinians, Israel was once again retreating in the face of unremitting bloodshed.

Here is what is being said on the Palestinian street: Today Israel runs away from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, tomorrow Israel will run away from Ashkelon, then from Ashdod and Tel Aviv and from there to the sea, and we have achieved our goal of destroying Israel. Therefore, we need to continue attacking Israel.

Moreover, it was also precisely the Israeli pullout from Gaza that launched Hamas to its current pinnacle of popularity among Palestinians. Hamas took credit for expelling the Jews from the Gaza Strip through terrorism. A few months later, Hamas even won the Palestinian parliamentary election because Palestinians gave Hamas total credit for driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli pullout told Palestinians in no uncertain terms: Why bother negotiating when terror will do the trick?

Five years earlier, the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon also had the same effect: it emboldened the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group. As with the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal from Lebanon taught the Palestinians that terrorism could drive Israelis out of their country.

In the past few years, additional Israeli goodwill gestures, such as removing security checkpoints and the easing travel restrictions in the West Bank, led to yet more violence, claiming the lives of yet more Israelis.

Abbas and his top officials have always responded to Israeli gestures with cynicism. Never have they given Israel credit for its goodwill steps. On the contrary, they scoff at these moves, and describe them as “cosmetic changes aimed at beautifying Israel’s ugly face” or as public-relations stunts.

For the sake of clarity, let us say it clearly: handing over areas in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, and the release of convicted murderers, does not contribute to any sort of “peace process;” it only contributes to the death of more Israelis.

The Palestinian line is that Israel’s steps are “insufficient” and “unhelpful.” Its concessions are regarded as gestures of a terrified people and as the rightful reward for terrorism. Far from satiating the appetite of the terrorists, such steps prompt them to step up their attacks against Israelis. The next time Americans and Europeans think of asking Israel to cede yet more to the Palestinians, let them consider what Israel might be receiving in return, other than the spilling of more Jewish blood.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.

The Limits of Israeli Power

June 2, 2017

The Limits of Israeli Power, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, June 2, 2017

(As to Jerusalem, please see Turkish takeover in Jerusalem. — DM)

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Washington and the rest of the governments of the world know that their refusal to recognize Israel’s capital does not endanger Israel or its control of Jerusalem. They are free to bow to Arab pressure, safe in the knowledge that Israel will continue to protect the unified city.

The time has come, at the outset of the second 50 years of Israeli control over Judea and Samaria, for Israel to take matters into its own hands. Our leaders must stop beating around the bush. They need to use the powers they have to secure Israel’s military and civilian interests in Judea and Samaria for the next 50 years as best they can. And they need to stop waiting for someone else to solve our problems for us.

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On Thursday, US President Donald Trump bowed to the foreign policy establishment and betrayed his voters. He signed a presidential waiver postponing the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem for yet another six months.

Ahead of Trump’s move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a last-ditch bid to convince Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem. But it was not to be.

Israel’s failure to convince Trump to do what he repeatedly promised US voters he would do during his presidential campaign shows the disparity in power between Israel and the US.

Israel lacks the power to convince foreign nations to recognize its capital – much less to locate their embassies there. The US, on the other hand, not only has the power to recognize Jerusalem and transfer its embassy to Israel’s capital whenever it wishes to do so, it also has the ability to convince dozens of other countries to immediately follow its lead.

The disparity between what the Americans can do and what Israel can do was on display on Monday evening in a glittering hall at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. There, Bar-Ilan University conferred its Guardian of Zion award on former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton. In his acceptance speech, Bolton presented his vision for the resolution of the Palestinian conflict with Israel.

Bolton’s views are important not merely because his past work at the State Department and the UN brought the US some of its only diplomatic victories in recent decades. His views are important as well because of his close relationship with Trump.

Bolton began his discussion Monday evening by rejecting the “two-state solution.” The two-state model, he noted, has been tried and has failed repeatedly for the past 70 years. There is no reason to believe that it will succeed now. This is particularly true, he said, given the lack of Palestinian social cohesion.

Hamas controls Gaza. The PLO, which is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner, barely controls parts of Judea and Samaria. At a time when more cohesive Arab societies are unraveling, the notion that a Palestinian state would survive and advance regional peace and stability is laughable, Bolton argued.

Bolton then turned to his preferred policy for resolving the Palestinian conflict with Israel, which he dubbed “the three-state solution.” Under his plan, Egypt and Jordan would work with Israel to solve the Palestinian conflict. Egypt would take over the Gaza Strip and Jordan would negotiate the status of Judea and Samaria with Israel.

The crowd at the King David responded enthusiastically to Bolton’s proposal. This is not surprising.

Since 1967, Israelis have hoped for Jordan and Egypt to work with them to solve the problem of the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza who lived under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation from 1949-1967.

Unfortunately, Israel’s support for Bolton’s plan is irrelevant. Israel is powerless to advance it. Israel cannot convince Arab nations to help it resolve the Palestinian conflict any more than it can convince the PLO to cut a peace deal with it.

Like PLO leaders, the leaders of the Arab world know that they cannot help Israel with the Palestinians.

Doing so would involve disowning the Palestinian narrative.

The Palestinian narrative claims that the Jews of Israel are colonialist interlopers who stole the land from the Palestinians, its rightful owners. The narrative makes no distinction between Tel Aviv and Hebron. All of Israel is a crime against the Arab world. All of Israel is illegitimate.

The overwhelming majority of the Arab world believes the Palestinian narrative. For an Arab leader to walk away from it or even to signal an attenuation of his fealty to it in the interest of regional peace would be the riskiest of moves.

Israel has nothing to offer Arab leaders that could induce them to take that risk.

Although it is far from certain, the US may very well have the ability to convince Arab leaders to do so. If Trump decided that this is the way to advance peace in the Arab world, chances are he would make some headway. In other words, Bolton’s three-state plan is a plan that only America can adopt. It cannot be an Israeli plan no matter how enthusiastically the public supports involving Jordan and Egypt in solving the conflict.

Given Israel’s inability to offer the Arabs anything valuable enough for Arab leaders to risk life and limb to accept in exchange for helping to solve the Palestinian conflict, as Israel considers its own options in relation to the Palestinians, it needs to limit its goals to things that it can achieve without them. In other words, the only steps that Israel can take in relation to the Palestinians are unilateral steps.

For the past 50 years, hoping that the Arabs – and since 1993, the PLO – would finally make peace with it and so settle the permanent status of Judea and Samaria, Israel refused to take any unilateral actions in relation to its permanent interests in Judea and Samaria. Rather than apply its legal code to Judea and Samaria, it opted for the stop-gap measure of installing a military government to run the areas on the basis of Jordanian law.

Between 1994 and 1996, Israel canceled the military government in the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria and Gaza. In 2005, when it withdrew, it canceled the residual military government in the rest of Gaza. Since then, the only area that remains under the Israeli military government is Area C in Judea and Samaria. Area C includes all of the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, and strategically critical areas including the Jordan Valley, the Samaria mountain range and the south Hebron Hills.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an interview with Army Radio where he set out part of his vision for the permanent status of Judea and Samaria. He limited his statement to the military status of the areas. He said that under any possible future scenario, Israel must retain full security control of the areas. This, he said, is the lesson of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

That pullout led to the transformation of Gaza into a Hamas-controlled hub of global jihad. Moreover, under Hamas, the Palestinians turned Gaza into one big, densely populated missile-launching pad against Israel.

While justified, Netanyahu’s position obscures more than it illuminates about his long-term vision for Judea and Samaria.

What does he mean by security control? Would the IDF remain in sole control over Israel’s eastern boundaries or would it serve as an overall coordinator of foreign forces operating along the border? Would IDF forces be confined to fortified positions while the Palestinians reign free in the open areas, as was the case in southern Lebanon in the years leading up to Israel’s disastrous withdrawal in 2000? Or would the IDF have freedom of action and maintain the initiative throughout Judea and Samaria? Moreover, does Netanyahu envision the IDF remaining the only military organization operating in Judea and Samaria in the long term? Beyond the security issues that require clarification, Netanyahu’s statements make no mention of the rights of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.

Does he believe that Jews should be permitted to live permanently in the areas that Israel controls? If so, why are they subjected to the Jordanian legal code used by the military government and which proscribes their right to purchase land and register land sales? This brings us to the issue of governance. What does Netanyahu think about the military government in Area C? Does he believe that the 50-year reign of generals should continue until the Arabs choose to resolve the Palestinian conflict with Israel? What if this means that the generals will continue to rule over hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens for another 50 or 100 or 150 years? Does he, on the other hand, prefer to transfer governance responsibility in Area C to the Palestinians and place the nearly 500,000 Israelis in the area under Palestinian control? In the course of his remarks, Bolton noted that if Jordan is responsible for the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, the issue of Jerusalem will be removed from the equation. After all, if their capital is Amman, Israel has no reason to divide its capital city.

And this brings us back to Jerusalem, which Trump spurned on Thursday.

As is the case today, 50 years ago, Israel had no power to influence the positions of foreign governments regarding its capital city. But in contrast to its decision to establish a military government in Judea and Samaria, Israel didn’t wait for foreigners to give it permission to act where it had the power to act in order to change the status of the city and ensure its ability to govern and control its capital for generations to come.

In 1967, the government voted to expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include the eastern, northern and southern quarters that had been under Jordanian occupation since 1949.

Everyone benefited from the move – including the foreign powers that still refuse to recognize the simple fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

Washington and the rest of the governments of the world know that their refusal to recognize Israel’s capital does not endanger Israel or its control of Jerusalem. They are free to bow to Arab pressure, safe in the knowledge that Israel will continue to protect the unified city.

Trump’s decision to sign the waiver delaying the embassy move is a betrayal of his campaign promise, but it doesn’t change the situation in Jerusalem. Last week, Israel celebrated 50 years of sovereignty over its united capital. Jerusalem will be neither more nor less united if and when the US moves its embassy to the capital.

Perhaps Trump will eventually keep his word and move the embassy. Perhaps he will continue to breach his promise. And as far as the Palestinians are concerned, perhaps Trump adopts Bolton’s three-state plan in relation to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Perhaps he will maintain his predecessors’ slavish devotion to the establishment of a PLO state.

Israel can’t control what Trump will do any more than it can influence what the Arabs will do. And so it needs to take a lesson not only from its bitter experience of withdrawing from Gaza, but from its positive experience of taking matters into its own hands in Jerusalem.

The time has come, at the outset of the second 50 years of Israeli control over Judea and Samaria, for Israel to take matters into its own hands. Our leaders must stop beating around the bush. They need to use the powers they have to secure Israel’s military and civilian interests in Judea and Samaria for the next 50 years as best they can. And they need to stop waiting for someone else to solve our problems for us.