|MIDDLE EAST UPDATES FROM JANUARY 13th 2011|
Thursday, 20 January 2011
IDF Strike Kills Islamic Jihad Terrorist in Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
A missile fired by an Israeli aircraft on Tuesday January 11. killed Mohammed Najjar, 24, an Islamic Jihad terrorist riding a motorcycle in Gaza close to the border with Israel, the group said. Israeli security officials said Najjar planned a mass terror attack in Israeli territory. Palestinian militants have stepped up cross-border rocket attacks on southern Israel in recent weeks and Israel has responded with air strikes. (Ynet News)
UN official promises help to Lebanon against Israel
UN official Michael Williams announced in Beirut on Monday January 9, that Lebanon “has every right to benefit from its potential off shore oil and gas resources” and that the UN will assist Lebanon in demarcating a clear maritime boundary with Israel which will prevent the Jewish State from drilling for oil and natural gas in Lebanese waters. The two countries are still technically at war and have never bothered to set a maritime boundary because there was never anything to argue about before.
Iron Dome funding secure
Senior officials in the US House of Representatives announced on Monday January 10, that the funding for the development of missile defense systems was still a top priority in the foreign aid budget, even as calls to slash the budget reverberate up and down Capitol Hill. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the new chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) told The Hill newspaper that they will continue to support the Obama administration’s funding request for the Iron Dome and Arrow-3 anti missile program, which stands at more than $442 million.
Europe's Irresponsible Gaza Policy Israeli For. Min. Avigdor Lieberman, Wall Street Journal Europe
In the past nine years, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have launched more than 11,000 rockets and mortars at towns in southern Israel. This extraordinary situation has compelled Israel to take appropriate actions to protect its citizens. I have no doubt that any other country would have employed similar, if not more extreme, measures to fight a threat of this magnitude. Europe apparently could not care less!
Crackdown on Iranian Christians spreads
A brutal crackdown on Christians is currently underway in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with at least 70 people including several pastors having been arrested since Christmas. Although the Iranian government has made much of its official tolerance of traditional Christian denominations as well as Jews and Zoroastrians, this crackdown has targeted Evangelical “house churches” which the government describes as "hard-liners" who pose a threat to the Islamic state, accusing them of trying to convert Muslims (a crime which carries the death penalty) and being agents of foreign governments.
Tourism Ministry promotes Catholic tourism
Israel’s Tourism Ministry announced the launch of a new package for tourists on Tuesday, including an itinerary specifically promoting tours for Catholics making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The launch included a booklet titled “In the Footsteps of the Virgin Mary,” which displayed tour routes for Catholics including many of the most famous sites in the New Testament. “The Holy Land is the homeland of the Virgin Mary, where all the important events in her life took place, and it is only natural to follow a pilgrimage itinerary in her footsteps,” said Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar Nir.
Lebanon inches closer to turmoil as Hizbullah threatens to quit the government
A senior Lebanese official confirmed on Wednesday January 12, that Hizbullah and its allies in the national parliament plan to resign from the Cabinet, toppling the unity government and possibly sending the country into chaos. Some prominent commentators think Hizbullah will not cause chaos but will use the event to gain more power in Lebanon.
Lacking Leverage, U.S. Grasps for a Solution in Lebanon - Mark Landler and Robert F. Worth
As Lebanon's government collapsed on Wednesday January 12, after a walkout by Hizbullah ministers, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both threw their support behind Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, as well as reaffirming the work of the international tribunal that is investigating the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hizbullah's Latest Suicide Mission - Thanassis Cambanis
Hizbullah cannot afford the blow to its popular legitimacy that would occur if it is pinned with the Hariri killing. The group's power depends on the unconditional backing of its roughly 1 million supporters. Its constituents are the only audience that matters to Hizbullah, which styles itself as sole protector of Arab dignity from humiliation by Israel and the U.S.
Israel: Hundreds of Hizbullah Outposts South of Litani River in Lebanon - (Ha'aretz)
Israeli security sources told Ha'aretz that developments in Lebanon are seen at this point as internal and not an immediate risk to Israel. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah engineered the crisis but he is in no hurry to spark a civil war. At a recent meeting between the IDF, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, the Lebanese officers claimed there was no Hizbullah activity in the south of the c ountry. In response, the Israeli officers produced a map with hundreds of dots marking Hizbullah outposts and bunkers south of the Litani River
.S. Grants Jordan an Extra $100 Million in Economic Aid (AP-Business Week)
The U.S. is giving its longtime Jordanian ally an additional $100 million in economic aid in addition to the $363 million in regular U.S. economic assistance. Since 1952, U.S. assistance has totaled $7 billion.
Obama Administration Ramping Up War on Terror - Kimberly Dozier (AP-Washington Times)
The Obama administration has ramped up its secret war on terror groups with a new military targeting center to oversee the growing use of special-operations strikes against suspected militants around the world. Run by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the new center will speed the sharing of information and shorten the time between targeting and military action.
Clinton: Israel Makes Its Own Decisions on Peace
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the limits of U.S. power Thursday January 13, in a combative exchange with an Al-Jazeera reporter, saying, "We can't stop a lot of countries from doing things that we disagree with and we speak out against." "Israel is a sovereign country and it makes its own decisions," Clinton said. Clinton pointed out that Israel has reasons to be cautious. "You often make decisions based on your own experience and history," she said. "And when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hizbullah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets." (AP) (Note: Did Clinton write that piece?)
Clinton: Corruption Is Corroding Arab Economies - Mark Landler
At a regional devel opment conference in Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday January 13 that corruption was corroding Arab economies and making life impossible for foreigners who ran businesses in Arab countries. "Trying to get a permit," she said, "you have to pass money through so many different hands. Trying to open up, you have to pay people off. Trying to stay open, you have to pay people off. Trying to export your goods, you have to pay people off. So by the time you pay everybody off, it's not a very profitable venture." (New York Times)
Iran Rebuffed by China and Russia
Iran's proposal for a diplomatic tour of its nuclear sites floundered on Thursday January 13, after China effectively rejected the invitation and Russia said such a trip could never replace UN inspections or negotiations with world powers. The EU had turned down Iran's offer to allow selected ambassadors to visit two nuclear installations this weekend. The U.S. was not invited.
U.S. Meets with Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators
U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell met separately on Thursday January 13 with Israeli and Palestinian envoys as part of Washington's bid to revive peace negotiations. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Mitchell met first with Palestinian envoy Saeb Erakat and then with Israel's Yitzhak Molcho.
German Submarines Make Their Way to the IDF Navy - Mor Sopher
The Israeli Navy is prepared to receive two new submarines acquired from Germany. (Bamahane-Israel Defense Forces)
Erdogan: Turkey Will Stand by Hamas
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told Al-Jazeera Wednesday January 12, that his country stands by Hamas. "We stand by Hamas when they are right, because the Hamas movement is a resistance movement. I do not see Hamas as 'terrorist.' They are people who defend the land," Erdogan said. (They kill people who get in their way)
WikiLeaks: Iran Searching for Nuclear Bomb Materials (Reuters)
Iran has been developing contacts in more than 30 countries to acquire technology, equipment and raw materials needed to build a nuclear bomb, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten said on Sunday January 16, citing U.S. diplomatic cables. More than 350 Iranian companies and organizations were involved in the pursuit of nuclear and missile technology between 2006 and 2010, according to the cables.
Report: South Africa Seeks Arrest of Former Israeli Foreign Minister (Ynet News)
The South African Media Review Network (MRN) is trying to secure an arrest warrant against Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni for her role in the Gaza war, a local news website reported Saturday January 15. Livni, who served as foreign minister during the Gaza operation, is due in South Africa this month at the invitation of the Jewish Board of Deputies. We have "instructed our legal team to take all necessary measures to secure an arrest warrant and to pave the way for her prosecution," said MRN chairperson Iqbal Jassat
Study: PA Highly Dependent on Foreign Aid - Gil Kol (Ynet News)
More than 60% of the Palestinian Authority's GNP comes from the U.S., EU, UN, World Bank and others countries, according to a study by economic analyst Eyal Ofer in cooperation with president of the Financial Immunities consulting firm Adam Roiter. The Palestinian people receive the largest amount of donations worldwide. For every Palestinian citizen, the PA receives an average of $1,000 per year. The data reinforces the claim that there is no Palestinian economy, and that in reality it is almost exclusively supported by the donation industry. The funds go into the pockets of bureaucratic echelons
PA Probes Palestinian Officials for Financial Malfeasance - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
A special commission entrusted with investigating financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority has begun studying cases involving some 80 senior officials including ministers serving in the current PA government, PA Prosecutor-General Ahmed al-Mughni announced.
Report: Stuxnet a Joint U.S.-Israel Project - William J. Broad, John Markoff and David E. Sanger
Over the past two years, Israel's nuclear facility in Dimona has served as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran's efforts to make a bomb of its own. "The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out," said an American expert on nuclear intelligence.
Russian Scientists Warn: Don't Activate Bushehr Reactor Due to Stuxnet Virus - Con Coughlin
Russian nuclear scientists providing technical assistance to Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr have raised serious concerns about the extensive damage caused to the plant's computer systems by t he Stuxnet virus. According to Western intelligence reports, Russian scientists warned the Kremlin that they could be facing "another Chernobyl" if they were forced to comply with Iran's deadline to activate the complex this summer.
UK to Jerusalem: Request Probe of Group "with Hamas Ties" - Jonny Paul
The British government has invited Israel to submit a formal request that it investigate a London-based organization that Jerusalem accuses of being affiliated with Hamas and "complicit" in terrorist activities. Israel said the Palestine Return Center (PRC) was closely affiliated with Hamas
Netanyahu government stabilizes by bringing in new faction
The coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shored up its support on Tuesday morning January 18, by bringing Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s new Atzmahut (Independence) faction into the government.
Protests in Jordan fuel fears of anarchy on Israel’s Eastern border
Opposition groups in Jordan, Israel’s neighbor to the East, have promised to increase protests in the coming days as fears grow of instability in the desert kingdom. The government headed by Prime Minister Samir Rifai is deeply unpopular, accused of massive corruption and incompetence which has led to widespread poverty and unemployment. The Jordanian protesters are apparently be drawing inspiration from recent events in Tunisia, where street protests led to the toppling of a corrupt and autocratic ruler who was, like King Abdullah, a close ally of the United States. Islamist groups are reported to be organizing many of the protests and openly making plans to take over the country if the government falls.
Warning Time for Missiles Aimed at Tel Aviv Reduced to 90 Seconds - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
The IDF Home Front Command has shortened the warning time for Tel Aviv area residents against incoming missiles from two minutes to 90 seconds, largely due to Hizbullah and Hamas' improved missiles.
Israel Delivers 12 UAVs to Russia (UPI)
Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) has delivered a dozen unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia under a $400 million contract, as part of an Israeli effort to encourage the Russians not to provide Iran and Syria with advanced weapons systems that could threaten the Jewish state.
European Countries Ask Palestinians to Postpone UN Anti-Settlement Resolution - Xiong Tong
Some European countries have asked Palestinians and Arab states to postpone presenting a draft resolution against Jewish settlement to the UN Security Council. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of PLO Executive Committee, said Monday January 16, That the European states want "more discussions" so that the U.S. would not veto the resolution. (Xinhua-China)
Ethiopians Claiming Jewish Ancestry Arrive in Israel - Gil Shefler
350 Ethiopians claiming Jewish ancestry landed in Israel in the past two days, January 16-18., Previous Israeli governments have approved the immigration of around 11,000 Falash Mura, with those arriving this week the last members of a group of 3,000 who received authorization to come to Israel two years ago. (Jerusalem Post)
How Much Anti-Semitism Is Too Much? - Anne Bayefsky
In 2010, 80% of all UN General Assembly resolutions criticizing specific countries for human rights violations were directed at Israel. Only six of the remaining 191 UN member states faced human rights criticism at all, one of which was the U.S. Half of the country-specific condemnatory resolutions and decisions ever adopted by the UN Human Rights Council target Israel.
Intel to Invest $2.7 Billion in Israel Chip Plant (Reuters)
U.S. chipmaker Intel will invest $2.7 billion over the next two years upgrading its Kiryat Gat, Israel, chip plant to produce 22 nanometer technology. The amount includes a $210 million Israeli government grant.
Intel Israel, which employs 7,057 people, will hire 1,000 people over the coming year
IDF Foils Terror Attack at Gaza Border
The IDF fired at terrorists who approached the security fence in northern Gaza in an attempt to plant an explosive device on Tuesday January 18.. One Palestinian was killed and two others were wounded, a medical official in Gaza said. The IDF said Gazans fired five mortar shells at Israel earlier Tuesday January 18. (Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu forms Israeli Ministry of Homeland Security
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a new initiative on Wednesday January 19, to create an Israeli government Ministry of Homeland Security, including a Cabinet level head. He also announced that the first Minister of Homeland Security would be MK Matan Vilna'I of the newly created Atzmaut (Independence Party.)
Hizbullah conducts exercise simulating takeover of Beirut
Ahmadinejad warns against Western “sedition”
Gunman loyal to the Shi’ite terror militia Hizbullah staged an exercise on Tuesday January 18, in Beirut, simulating a takeover of the Lebanese government in a move analysts believe was designed to send a signal of its ability and willingness to take such action as well as provide practical training for its fighters to take the step if the political leadership decides to do so.