Posts Tagged ‘Israel Defense Forces’

Trump’s Catch-22 With Iran and the Palestinians Could Blow Up at Israel

January 16, 2018

Like his threats to cut Palestinian funding, the U.S. presidents new demands for the Iran nuclear agreement suffer from inconsistencies that cannot be resolved

TOPSHOT - Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel, on January 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel, on January 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABEDMOHAMMED ABED/AFP

Lately, U.S. President Donald Trump is looking like a suicide bomber loaded with explosive devices that he’s releasing in different corners of the world. Fortunately, in most cases we’ve only had threats, finger wagging, shocking tweets and fake bombs, but there is no guarantee that the next one won’t be real.

At least two of these bombs could blow up in Israel’s face. Trump’s threat to significantly cut the funds the administration provides to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and the aid it gives the Palestinian Authority in order to force Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to launch negotiations with Israel is already shaking up refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, making the Jordanian kingdom tremble and sending Lebanon into a panic.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, January 10, 2018.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, January 10, 2018. Evan Vucci/AP

In 2016 the administration gave UNRWA $355 million, a third of the agency’s budget. The expected cut is $65 million, around half of the first contribution that had been scheduled for 2018. Add to this the cuts to the PA funding, which amounted to $357 million last year and whose extent for this year isn’t clear. The significance is that the PA, Jordan – home to more than two million Palestinian refugees – and the government of Lebanon, where 175,000 refugees live according to a recent survey (previous UNRWA estimates put the number between 400,000 and 500,000), will have to finance the education, health and welfare services that will be affected by the cuts.

Jordan and Lebanon already bear the heavy burden of aiding Syrian refugees, which is only partially funded by the United Nations and donor states and which isn’t enough to assure them a reasonable quality of life. The Gaza Strip, where most of the Palestinian refugees are concentrated, has been in crisis mode for some time, and the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service believe the economic stress could lead to its total collapse. Rich Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are helping the PA, but it’s doubtful they will step in to fill the gap created by the American cutbacks, especially since they are coordinating their positions with the U.S. administration on the peace process.

It isn’t clear how Trump’s sanctions strategy against the PA will lead to a change in the Palestinian stance. Abbas has made it clear that he no longer considers the United States a fair broker and that economic pressure won’t make him adopt any program Trump presents.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI

There is a paradox here: The IDF is asking – or even demanding – that the Israeli government consider steps to alleviate the dangerous economic pressure on Gaza’s two million residents, and announced that it intends to approve a few thousand more permits for Palestinians to work in Israel. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration is adopting a policy aimed at curbing the threat of a violent outburst that could lead to a war with Israel, which undermines this demand.

The second potentially explosive charge, the sanctions on Iran, is no less worrisome. This week Trump gave the world powers four months to change the nuclear agreement that was signed with the Islamic Republic in 2015. Among other things, the new deal must include a ban on developing ballistic missiles, a halt in support for terror groups and a clause that keeps these restrictions in place forever in order for the United States to remain party to it. The U.S. president made it clear that if there was no progress in talks with his European partners, Russia and China, to fix the agreement, he would withdraw from it even sooner.

Like the threat to the Palestinians, this demand suffers from an inconsistency that cannot be resolved. The requirement to eliminate the nuclear deal’s time frame testifies to the faith the U.S. administration has in the Iranian leaderships desire and ability to uphold its terms, even as the administration itself (not just the EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency) admits that it hasn’t violated it to date. In other words, the deal may not be perfect, but according to Trump himself, the Iranian partner is a rational and responsible entity, to which one could make the demand that it sign to an eternal agreement – otherwise, what’s the point of making such a condition? In fact, what’s the point in signing any agreement with Iran at all?

Under the agreement, Iran is not required to subject its ballistic missile program or its military bases to international inspection. It announced this week that it does not plan to respond to the American demand to begin talks on changing the deal’s terms.

Meanwhile, Congress has so far refused to take up the gauntlet, passed to it by the president in October, to begin legislating new sanctions on Iran; the EU fears the new initiative, which could create a rift between Europe and the United States and freeze the huge ongoing European investment in Iran. Russia termed Trumps decision extremely negative, and China, Iran’s largest oil customer, is concerned about factors liable to complicate the agreement, as the Chinese foreign minister told his Iranian counterpart. It’s therefore doubtful that Trump will find partners among the agreement’s signatories to realize his latest demand.

In the worst-case scenario, Iran revives its nuclear program if the United States imposes new sanctions on Tehran or pulls out of the agreement. Under the more comfortable scenario, Europe, Russia and China continue to do business with Iran and thus push Washington into an isolated corner internationally. In such a case Trump could respond by punishing the states and international corporations that don’t uphold the American sanctions, but that would turn the U.S. into a Western country hostile to the West.

Israel’s great interest is for Iran to abide by the nuclear deal and not risk it being voided by its most important ally. The real concern regarding Iran’s ballistic missiles must lead to the opening of a parallel negotiations channel with Iran, but not by holding the nuclear agreement hostage.

Israel achieved one of the most important strategic achievements in its history when it succeeded in mobilizing a strong international coalition against the Iranian nuclear threat. Trump might now crush that achievement and sabotage any chance of reaching any kind of agreement with Iran on its nuclear program or its ballistic missiles in the future. In the cases of both Iran and the Palestinian Authority, where Trump treads, Israels toes get broken.


Illegal Israeli Settlements — And how the authorities are involved in de facto legalization

December 25, 2017

Israel Helped Establish 14 Illegal West Bank Outposts Since 2011

State support ranges from turning a blind eye to offering government funds ■ Review reveals system that helps clear the way for ‘legalization’

By Yotam Berger Dec 25, 2017 7:06 AM

Israeli settlers start to build a new illegal outpost in the Jordan Valley, October 25, 2016.

Israeli settlers start to build a new illegal outpost in the Jordan Valley, October 25, 2016. JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP

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Israeli authorities in September placed one of the so-called hilltop youth under house arrest at Havat Itamar Cohen – an illegal outpost in the West Bank. That’s one example, and not the only one, of how the authorities are involved in de facto legalization of illegal outposts. (The teen, who asked that his name not be published, said he’d had a falling out with the owner of the farm, who was going to beat him. A few hours later the Shin Bet security service and the army placed the teen in another, legal facility. People at the farm declined to comment.)


Another example is that of Hill 387, a small illegal outpost established on state land near Kfar Adumim east of Jerusalem. At the outpost, surrounded by privately-owned Palestinian land, an NGO called Haroeh Ha’ivri (“the Hebrew Shepherd”) operates. Its official purpose is to rehabilitate violent settler teens known as hilltop youth. In fact, the association itself established the illegal outpost. Its documentation shows that it is funded solely by the Education Ministry, with an annual budget of a few hundred thousand shekels.

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The Education Ministry at first denied that the NGO established the outpost, but the documents it filed with the Civil Administration show that not only did it establish the outpost illegally, it is also seeking to have it legalized retroactively.

In 2014, Amira Hass disclosed in Haaretz that the Shomron Regional Council was behind the establishment of the illegal outpost Havat Shaharit. The Shomron Regional Council responded at the time that “the work was carried out by law and in coordination with the relevant officials.”

Yet another illegal outpost, a kind of farm in the Umm Zuka nature reserve, was connected a few months ago to a water pipeline by a nearby Israel Defense Forces base.

Hill 387, the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost where Jewish Shepherd operates a rehab program for teenage dropouts, in Jan. 2017. The photograph shows a few rudimentary buildings in a rocky area near a larger community.

Hill 387, the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost where Jewish Shepherd operates a rehab program for teenage dropouts, in Jan. 2017.Olivier Fitoussi

Ostensibly, after the report on illegal outposts submitted to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by attorney Talia Sasson in 2005, no more illegal outposts were to have been established, certainly not with government assistance. The report, which revealed that the government had invested hundreds of millions of shekels directly and indirectly in the establishment of dozens of illegal outposts, was to have put an end to this phenomenon. But aerial photos and Civil Administration data show that it has not stopped, it’s only gone underground. Over the past six years illegal outposts are once more being established, some in recent months.

Most of these outpost are hastily cobbled together, a tent or a prefab where “hilltop youth” – most of them under 18 – live off and on.

The authorities are fighting against these outposts tooth and nail, removing them and sometimes arresting residents, among other reasons because the security forces see them as a source of violence against Palestinians. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seems almost pleased to order their evacuation – perhaps because they don’t have a political lobby or economic backing. Last summer, in speaking to journalists covering the West Bank, he called them “disturbed” and “idiots.”

The law is not being enforced when it comes to the better-planned and more establishment-supported outposts; they are sometimes recognized and receive assistance and protection. Since 2011, 17 illegal outposts have been established, 14 of which are known to the Civil Administration. The way they were established shows their planning. The founders or planners examined aerial photos and the location chosen was not coincidental: They are built on government land, not privately-owned Palestinian land, which increases the chance that they will be legalized in the future. They are mainly built in fairly remote locations with a commanding view of the surroundings.

Three of them are near but not connected to existing settlements, such as the so-called “prefab neighborhood” set up near the outpost of Sde Boaz, which was evacuated about two weeks ago. Eleven outposts were set up as farms with living quarters for a few people who raise flocks or crops. No plans are known for evacuating these outposts, although they are all illegal.

Dror Etkes, of the left-wing organization Kerem Navot, says that the founders of these outposts chose the locales and built their structures on state land so they can claim that they should not be evacuated. “They take over as much surrounding land as possible, including private land, which they steal by other means, such as cultivation or barring access [to the Palestinian landowners].” Etkes, who is in possession of Civil Administration maps, believes the settlers saw them before they established the outposts.

At the outpost of Nahalat Yosef, east of Elon Moreh, Etkes says: “Huge surrounding areas are private, and were taken over by planting or barring access, and have very much increased the area of the outpost. It’s methodical, and they know exactly what they’re doing.”

 Umm Zuka nature reserve
Umm Zuka nature reserveGil Eliyahu

Civil Administration data obtained by Haaretz show that dozens of demolition orders have been issued against these outposts. Nine such orders were issued against Havat Itamar Cohen, and eight against Haroeh Ha’ivri. But the Civil Administration doesn’t issue demolition orders against outposts within settlement master plans, such as Neveh Ahi near the settlement of Halamish, which was established after the murder this year of the Salomon family in the unused area of where a master plan is in force.

But the flood of demolition orders is misleading. In fact, these outposts can expect the authorities to turn a blind eye to them, if not support them outright. “Except for Sde Boaz, there are no evacuations,” said Etkes. “This is clearly sweeping immunity against enforcement of the law. Add to this all the infrastructure around it, electricity, water, road-building; this isn’t being paid for with settlers’ private money.”

A resident of the evacuated outpost at Sde Boaz, which was established with the assistance of the regional council, told Haaretz: “They told us that the High Court had decided that it had to be dismantled. We were told there was no choice, that it could harm the settlements – so we left. We’re not hilltop youth, we’re good, law-abiding people we understood there was no point in going on.”

West Bank outpost of Nahalat Yosef, east of Elon Moreh
West Bank outpost of Nahalat Yosef, east of Elon MorehOlivier Fitoussi

We might learn about the future of the illegal outposts through the case of Malakhei Hashalom, a small outpost on an abandoned army base near Shiloh in the northern West Bank, with a sheep pen that is presented as a farm. Visits to the site revealed it is inhabited by one family and visited occasionally by teens. The Civil Administration has evacuated the site a few times, but according to officials familiar with the case, a few months ago it was agreed between the Civil Administration and the site that its inhabitants would evacuate it of their own free will. The state sent them trucks and they piled their belongings on them. The Civil Administration proudly touted the evacuation. But within a few weeks later the outpost was established elsewhere, with the same sheep.


Yotam Berger
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Israel targets Hamas site in Gaza after rocket fire

December 18, 2017

An Israeli F-15 fighter jet takes off during an exercise at Ovda Military Airbase in southern Israel in this file photo from 16 May 2017. (Reuters)

JERUSALEM: Israeli aircraft targeted a Hamas facility in the northern Gaza Strip early Monday, hours after two rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave struck southern Israel, the army said.

“In response to the rockets launched toward southern Israel, IAF (Israel air force) aircraft targeted a Hamas training compound in the northern Gaza Strip,” a statement from the military said. “In the compound three structures and other terror infrastructure were targeted.”
There were no reports of injuries from the health ministry in Gaza.
On Sunday night, two projectiles fired from Gaza hit southern Israel, one damaging a home in a border town.
Another projectile flew short of its target and hit Gaza, the army said.
The Sunday attacks ended a three-day lull in the latest wave of rocket fire amid anger over US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Militants in the Palestinian enclave have fired both rockets and mortar rounds into Israel since Trump’s deeply controversial announcement.
Trump’s announcement was followed by protests across the Palestinian territories, with six Gazans killed — four in clashes with Israeli forces along the border and two Hamas militants in an Israeli air strike in retaliation for rocket fire.
The rockets are often fired by small Islamist groups but Israel holds Gaza’s rulers Hamas responsible for any attacks from the territory.
“The IDF (Israel defense forces) holds the Hamas terror organization accountable for this hostile act originating from the Gaza Strip,” the Monday statement from the military read.

More Rockets From Gaza, More Israeli Air Strike in Retaliation — Israel, Militants Trade Fire for Eighth Straight Day

December 14, 2017


© AFP | A Palestinian child rescues belongings from his home which was damaged in an Israeli air strike on a nearby Hamas base in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 13, 2017

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Israel carried out a series of air strikes against Islamist group Hamas in Gaza early on Thursday, the army said, hours after rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave.In a statement, the Israeli army said it had targeted three Hamas military facilities in different parts of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

“The military facilities were used as training and weapons storage compounds,” the army said.

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Rocket fired from the Gaza Strip — FILE Photo

“This was in response to the projectiles fired at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.”

A Palestinian security source said there were more than 10 strikes on the targets, which included a Hamas naval facility and a military base near the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The source said there had been significant damage to the targets, as well as lesser damage to nearby houses, where some residents suffered minor injuries.

There was no immediate confirmation of the injuries from the health ministry in Gaza.

The strikes came hours after Israel’s air defence system intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza.

Such rockets are generally fired by fringe Islamist groups but Israel holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for any fire from the territory.

The army also announced it would close the border crossings between Gaza and Israel — Kerem Shalom for goods and Erez for people — from Thursday “due to the security events and in accordance with security assessments”.

A military spokeswoman could not say whether the closure would be for one day or more.

There has been an uptick in violence from Gaza since US President Donald Trump announced he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week.

Four Gazans have been killed, two in clashes along the border and two Hamas militants in an Israeli air strike in retaliation for rocket fire.


Gaza Tensions Rise as Israel, Militants Trade Fire for Eighth Straight Day

Israel strikes Hamas targets after three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel earlier on Wednesday

By Yaniv Kubovich Dec 14, 2017 10:11 AM

FILE PHOTO: An area reportedly hit by an Israeli strike in Beit Lahia, Gaza, Dec 12, 2017

FILE PHOTO: An area reportedly hit by an Israeli strike in Beit Lahia, Gaza, Dec 12, 2017 Mahmud Hams / AFP

The Israeli military struck three Hamas targets late Wednesday night in response to three rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel earlier in the day, the IDF confirmed.

A statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit noted that the targets struck were Hamas weapon storage facilities and training sites, and that Israel will not allow for its citizens to be harmed or targeted by “the Hamas terror organization that leads Gazan residents to a life of poverty, devastation, and despair.”

Three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel earlier Wednesday. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and one fell into an open area as alarm sirens sounded in southern Israeli districts and cities including Sderot.

Magen David Adom emergency responders said that a 30-year-old man wounded his leg while running for cover, and two others were being treated for shock.

The rocket fire on Israel from the Gaza Strip Wednesday evening is returning the residents of the Gaza border region back to a state of tension they haven’t experienced since Operation Protective Edge over three years ago. No less than 15 rockets have been fired into Israeli territory since U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, and although the Israel Defense Forces  has been showing restraint, it will have a hard time holding back for much longer.

Israel struck a Hamas military compound in the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday morning after a rocket was fired from the Strip toward southern Israel Tuesday. The exchange was the latest incident in a week of escalated tensions along the border, marked by rocket fire at Israel by terror groups and responses in turn from the army.

The Health Ministry in Gaza on Wednesday said that three people in Gaza were lightly wounded in the Israeli strike.

The Israeli military said late Monday it struck Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for two rockets fired at southern Israel. One of the rockets was shot down by Israel’s missile defense system.

Yaniv Kubovich
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Israel, Iran duel on Syrian soil

December 5, 2017

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Israeli F-15 — Nov. 8, 2017. Credit Amir Cohen for Reuters

On Nov. 15, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted: “I just completed a two-day visit along the northern front. We will not allow Shiite Iran to establish itself in Syria, and we will not allow it to transform Syria into an advance position against Israel. Anyone who doesn’t understand this, should.”

On the night between Dec. 1 and 2, unidentified aircraft bombed a military base about 14 kilometers (9 miles) southwest of Damascus while it was undergoing renovations. On Nov. 11, just four days before Liberman’s tweet, the BBC released satellite images as evidence of the extensive construction and renovations underway at the base that was later bombed. According to the British news service, the base was planned to house troops and weaponry. Western intelligence sources added that these would be fighters from the Shiite militias inspired by Iran, who have operated in Syria over the last few years during the civil war there. In other words, this would be the first time that the long arm of Iran was about to hunker down in a permanent military base on the outskirts of Damascus, within mortar range of the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.

According to foreign news sources, this was the second time that Israel launched such an attack, intended to prove that the red lines it laid out over the past few months are still very much in force. Furthermore, it plans to stand behind these red lines and use military force whenever they are crossed. The previous attack occurred on Sept. 7, when air-to-surface missiles were fired at a factory that installed “kits” on missiles to enhance their precision. Israel has declared Iran’s “precision project” in Syria and Lebanon to be another clear red line and a casus belli, which it would not let pass in silence.

While Israel did not take responsibility for this week’s attack on the base, the Arab media in general and the Syrian media in particular say there is no doubt that the Israeli air force was behind it.

In other words, an attack on a military facility being built by the Iranians for the Shiite militias, which operates under Iran’s command, is being attributed to Israel. What this really means is that Israel and Iran are already at war, even if it is only on a low flame and at low intensity. It is not a direct war yet. It is being fought by Iran’s various proxies in the region. Nevertheless, the fact that it is being fought at all cannot be denied. It is being waged steadily, in the air, at sea and on the ground. The two parties are sizing each other up as much as possible. They are stretching their intelligence capacities to the maximum and trying to maneuver according to the obscure rules of the game, which are being set while the game is being played. Each party is trying to deter the other, while in the same breath to prevent the situation from deteriorating into an all-out war. It sure is complicated.

There can be one clear conclusion from the activities attributed to Israel over the past few months: Israel’s warnings were serious. It has decided to use force to prevent any crossing of the red lines that it set. It attacked when it discovered a manufacturing facility for precision rockets and missiles, and it attacked when it learned that a base for Shiite militias was being built near Damascus. It did not take responsibility for these attacks, but no one has any illusions about the identity of the jets that conducted the assault.

What this really means is that Israel and Iran are already at war, even if it is only on a low flame and at low intensity. It is not a direct war yet. It is being fought by Iran’s various proxies in the region. 

Al-Monitor has learned that in recent meetings that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Liberman held with their Russian counterparts, Israel announced unequivocally that it is reserving the right to act at its discretion and that it plans to launch attacks to ensure that its security interests do not suffer. Israel also insinuated that it would prefer if the Russians themselves took steps to enforce the status quo, keep the Iranians at bay and help prevent Hezbollah’s missiles and rockets from attaining greater precision. If you don’t do it, said the Israelis, we will have to do it ourselves.

Some recalled a similar threat made by Israel in response to the Iranian nuclear project. Then, too, Israel terrified the West with its threats of an attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. These threats actually expedited the imposition of sanctions on Tehran significantly. Back then, however, between 2009 and 2014, Israel blinked first. It hesitated and eventually decided that it would not attack. In 2017, it blinks less. Today, Israel is far more determined, even if the current attacks are far less demanding.

Could these attacks deteriorate into an all-out war? The answer is yes, although there are still enough forces on the ground to rein things in and enough conflicting interests to contain the new situation and prevent it from deteriorating into war, even if local skirmishes continue to break out here and there. Israel must take into account that the Syrian-Iranian ability to absorb its blows has limits, too. Another working assumption is that if these attacks continue, Syria could, sometime in the future, develop its own policy of reciprocity, which extends beyond the sporadic firing of anti-aircraft missiles, which don’t actually hit anything, just as Syria has been doing until now. The Syrians could, for instance, fire a single missile at the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) command post in the Northern Command or at the Golan Heights. This would not be a comprehensive war, but it could initiate a series of actions and reactions that could deteriorate quickly. Things like that have happened before in this part of the world.

According to Israeli intelligence, there are now some 9,000 Shiite militia fighters in Syria under Iranian command. These need to be housed in permanent bases as long as they are in the region to assist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad re-establish his regime and extend his control over the shattered country. While 9,000 militia fighters do not pose any threat whatsoever to the IDF, the problem is not in numbers. “It’s actually a matter of principle,” one senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Once there is a presence, it can strike roots and eventually be expanded. We have reached the decision that Syria must not become an advance position in Iran’s conflict with Israel. We will do whatever it takes to show how serious we are about this.”

As of now, this war is being waged by proxies, on a low flame and at low intensity. It is, essentially, a war of nerves. Israel hopes that the Iranians get the message and initiate, of their own volition, the withdrawal from Syrian territory of all forces identified with them. Israel also hopes that the Russians realize that by continuing to turn a blind eye to Iranian activities, they could put their own interests in the region at risk.

But what Israel really hopes is that once the US administration determines its positions in the region, it will reconsider its own withdrawal from the Middle East in general and Syria in particular. “The last word and the final decision on the matter has yet to be made,” a senior Israeli diplomat told Al-Monitor this weekend on the condition of anonymity. “The Americans will not abandon this region. They are aware of how important it is to the Middle East as a whole and to their aspiration of renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

So now, everybody is waiting for President Donald Trump while the faltering duel between Iranian measures and Israeli responses continues to fester beneath the surface.

Ben Caspit is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He is also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers and has a daily radio show and regular TV shows on politics and Israel. On Twitter: @BenCaspit

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Israel’s Air Force Strikes Iranian Position Near Damascus, Syria

December 2, 2017


 DECEMBER 2, 2017 06:27


Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has repeatedly warned of Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.

 Report: Israel vows to destroy Iranian positions within 40 km of Syrian border

IAF F-16 fighter jet

IAF F-16 fighter jet. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE)

Israeli aircraft attacked a base outside Damascus according to media reports in Syria.

According to foreign media reports, the Israeli fire was carried out from Lebanese airspace. The reports said that in response anti aircraft missiles were fired on the plane.

In the past, Israel has reportedly carried out attacks against Syrian convoys and installations, in order to prevent Syria from transferring sophisticated weapons to Iran’s local proxy Hezbollah.

Recently, Israeli officials have said that the IDF would not allow Iran to establish a military foothold within 40 Kilometers of the border.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has told Israel that Moscow has agreed to expand a buffer zone along the Israeli-Syrian border, where Iranian and Hezbollah forces will not be allowed to enter. The statement attributed to an Israeli diplomatic official by London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, said Russia had refused the Israeli request for a 40 kilometers (25 miles) buffer zone, but expressed willingness to extend a 10-15 kilometer off-limits zone.

In September the BBC news agency reported that Iran had established a military base at a Syrian army site south of the capital of Damascus. According to the report, which is based on a western intelligence source, the base is some 50 kilometers north of Israel’s Golan Heights and has several buildings which likely house soldiers and military vehicles.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has repeatedly warned of Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country, saying in mid-November that Israel “will simply not allow for Shiite consolidation and Iranian entrenchment in Syria nor will we allow Syria to become a forward operating base against the State of Israel.


Israeli warplanes launch airstrike near Damascus, Syria – reports — Was an Iranian military base hit?

December 2, 2017

Published time: 1 Dec, 2017 23:53
Edited time: 2 Dec, 2017 01:03

RT — Russia Today

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Aircraft from the Israel Defense Forces have launched a number of missiles at a strategic target close to the Syrian capital, Damascus, Israeli and Arab media report.
Several missiles were reportedly fired toward a target in the countryside south of Damascus, with some intercepted by the Syrian Air Defense and others hitting their intended target.
Arab outlet Al-Masdar News, citing its sources, reported that the target was an ammunition depot of the Syrian Army, located between the towns of Kiswah (Kesweh) and Sahnaya. “Loud explosions” were heard as the missiles hit their target, the news service said.
Other sources, however, claim the target was an Iranian military base in the Kiswah area, some 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the city of Damascus.According to a report by I24News at least one missile reached the base, while others were stopped by Syria’s anti-missile defenses.The warplanes reportedly launched the missiles from Lebanese airspace.

Videos have emerged on social media purporting to show the moment one of the Israeli missiles was intercepted by Syrian Air Defense.
Israel has previously carried out airstrikes targeting Syrian territory, either claiming to be targeting positions of the militant group Hezbollah or retaliating in response to stray projectiles that occasionally cross the border into the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights.

However, in early November an Israeli attack hit a copper factory in the Syrian province of Homs, prompting Damascus to urge condemnation of Israel’s actions at the UN.

READ MORE: Netanyahu threatens Israel will ‘act alone’ against Iran in Syria

Israeli officials have long accused Iran of trying to establish a military foothold in Syria, where Tehran has been supporting Damascus’s fight against ISIS and other terrorists. According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, the goal is “using Syria as a base from which to destroy Israel.”



Both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post published similar articles and then delted them.

Peace and Freedom Editor

Image result for Kiswah, syria, map

Israeli Military Chief Gives Unprecedented Interview to Saudi Media

November 16, 2017

By Amos Harel


Israel and Saudi Arabia are in full agreement about Iran’s intentions, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot tells Elaph, noting the two states have never fought each other

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Israeli military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot. IDF Spokesperson

A Saudi newspaper published an unprecedented interview on Thursday with the Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. It marks the first time any senior Israel Defense Forces officer, let alone the chief of staff, has been interviewed by a media organization in Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

In the interview to the Saudi online newspaper Elaph, Eisenkot called Iran the “real and largest threat to the region.” He said Israel and Saudi Arabia are in complete agreement about Iran’s intentions.

He also noted that Israel and Saudi Arabia have never fought each other.

Eisenkot said that Israel’s military situation has never been better. He said that was why it is “highly regarded by the moderate countries in the region.”

Israel’s military chief accused Iran of trying to destabilize the region by building weapons factories and supplying advanced arms to guerilla and terrorist organizations across the Middle East.

“Iran seeks to take control of the Middle East, creating a Shi’ite crescent from Lebanon to Iran and then from the [Persian] Gulf to the Red Sea.”

“We must prevent this from happening,” he added.

Eisenkot said Israel has no intention of initiating an attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon. “We see Iranian attempts at bringing about an escalation, but I don’t see a high chance for this at the moment.”
He cautioned, however, that local flare-ups could “lead to a broad strategic conflict.”

The interview follows the news that broke two weeks ago of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s tumultuous resignation, and the wave of arrests of Saudi princes, ministers and businessmen – along with direct public threats by Saudi Arabia, and Israel aimed at Iran and Hezbollah.

Eisenkot also commented on the Middle East policies of the American and Russian governments. He said he welcomed U.S President Donald Trump’s announcement that it is necessary to put an end to the Iranian ballistic missile program and Iran’s growing hold in Syria and Iraq.

“I view it as hope for the region,” he said.

“With President Trump. there is an opportunity to build a new international coalition in the region. We need to carry out a large and inclusive strategic plan to stop the Iranian danger. We are willing to exchange information with moderate Arab countries, including intelligence information in order to deal with Iran,” added Eisenkot.

As to whether Israel has already shared such information with Saudi Arabia, Eisenkot said: “We are willing to share information if there is a need.   We have many shared interests between us.”

Eisenkot said Israel and the Saudis are on the same page about Iran: “I participated in the meeting of chiefs of staff in Washington and heard what the Saudi representative said. It is precisely what I think concerning Iran and the need to deal with it in the region and the need to stop its program of expansion.”

Eisenkot was blunt about what extended Iranian presence in Syria would mean.

“Our demand is for Hezbollah to leave Syria and for Iran and its militias to retreat from Syria. We have said openly, and also quietly and secretly too, that we will not accept Iranian consolidation in Syria in general, and their concentration west of the Damascus – Sweida Road [about 50 kilometers from the Israeli border on the Golan Heights]. We will not allow any Iranian presence, we have warned them against building factories or military bases and we will not allow it,” he said.

He described as “complicated” the internal situation in Lebanon.

“Hariri’s move in resigning from Riyadh was surprising, but I see that Hezbollah has begun to feel financial pressure. They have run into serious problems with supplies. We also see a drop in support for Hezbollah and there are also cracks in the public that supports Hezbollah, as well as demonstrations in the Dahiya [neighborhood of Beirut, a Shi’ite stronghold]. That is something we haven’t seen in the past.”

He also gave additional insight into how Israel views American and Russian policy in the Middle East.

“The United States is trying to strengthen and support the moderate Sunni axis in the region without bringing in [American] troops or fighting on the ground. At the same time, there is a Russian policy that sees only the Russian interests in Syria,” said Eisenkot. “The Russians know how to get along very well with all the sides. They forged an alliance with Assad, Iran and Hezbollah on one side (and) with the Americans in the war against ISIS.”

He added that the system they have worked out in which Russia acts as a channel between Turkey and Israel in order to prevent potential friction between the two countries has worked out very well.

“The United States is trying to strengthen and support the moderate Sunni axis in the region without bringing in [American] troops or fighting on the ground. At the same time, there is a Russian policy that sees only the Russian interests in Syria,” said Eisenkot. “The Russians know how to get along very well with all the sides. They forged an alliance with Assad, Iran and Hezbollah on one side (and) with the Americans in the war against ISIS.”

He added that the system they have worked out in which Russia has channels with both Turkey and Israel in order to prevent potential military friction between the two countries has worked out very well.
“ISIS has been severely beaten and the elimination of the organization will come soon. But its ideas can return in the guise of other names and groups in Syria and the region,” he said.

He also explained Israel’s long-time policy not to get involved with the fighting in Syria.

“We have a clear policy. We will not intervene in the fighting in Syria, unless we see an attempt to harm our Druze brothers. We intervened in Khader, we prepared tanks on [Mount] Hermon and warned the Al-Nusra Front that we will attack them if they enter Khader. This put an end to the crisis.”

When asked if Israel provides aid to Al-Nusra, the Syrian jihadist group with links to Al Qaida,  Eisenkot rejected such claims are totally unfounded. “Al-Nusra and its ilk are our enemies, like ISIS. We have attacked them more than once. We aid the villagers on the Golan medically and we help our Druze brothers. We help only in humanitarian ways.”

Amos Harel
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Israeli military says ready to protect Druze village in Syria

November 3, 2017

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Israel’s military said on Friday it was ready to protect a frontier village in Syria held by the Syrian government, where Damascus said jihadist rebels exploded a car killing at least nine people.

The statement was an unusually explicit Israeli pledge to intervene in the war in Syria, where Israeli officials are voicing deeper alarm at the role of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which are fighting alongside the Syrian government.

The Israeli air force says it has struck arms convoys of the Syrian military and Hezbollah nearly 100 times in recent years. Its most recent strike was on Wednesday according to the Syrian government.

Quneitra province in Syria, where Hader village is located, is particularly sensitive to Israel because it is adjacent to the Golan Heights area that Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

Syrian rebel factions launched an attack on Syrian government-held territory in Quneitra on Friday, with the aim of connecting two insurgent-held areas.

The attack included the car bomb in Hader, which Syrian state media attributed to the jihadist group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

Syrian state media accused Israel of giving various kinds of support to the Nusra Front. In its statement, the Israeli military denied any involvement with jihadist groups in the fighting.

Hader is populated by members of the Druze, a minority religious sect present in Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon.

Israel’s Druze, some of whom have reached the senior echelons of the Israeli military and government, have been calling for help on behalf of their brethren in Syria, both at home and abroad. The flashpoint village of Hader has been of particular concern.

After Friday’s car bomb there, Syrian state television broadcast footage it said was of residents of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights attempting to cross the border to assist people in Hader.

Druze residents tried to cross into Syria, but were held back by Israeli soldiers, Israel’s military said on Twitter.

“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared and ready to assist the residents of the village and prevent damage to or the capture of the village Hader out of commitment to the Druze population,” the military said in a statement.

Israeli officials have previously said they were looking at the possibility of assisting Hader, whose residents have Druze kinsman lobbying on their behalf in Israel.

Speaking In Arabic, Israel Warns Syrians on Social Media — Israel will retaliate

October 22, 2017

© AFP | Smoke billows from the Syrian side of the armistice line on the Golan Heights on June 26, 2017 after fire into the Israeli-occupied sector sparked retaliation by the Israeli army

 OCTOBER 21, 2017 12:48


Israel Defense Forces (IDF)  Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee issued a stern warning to Syrians in a viral social media post after projectiles fired from Syria hit Israeli territory over the weekend.

Speaking in Arabic, IDF warns Syrians on social media

IDF Arabic spokesperson unit He who warns is just . (photo credit:IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

The Israeli military’s spokesman for Arabic media, Avichay Adraee, took to social media over the weekend to issue a stern warning to the people of Syria after five projectiles were launched at Israel from Syria early Saturday morning.

Three of the projectiles landed in an open area on Israel’s Golan Heights, causing no damage or injuries. Later on Saturday, the IDF retaliated by attacking Syrian army positions.

In a post he penned on his official Facebook page, Adraee warned: “Even if this is an unintended spillover from a conflict in Syria to Israel that does not matter. More spillover spillover will lead to harsher and stronger [Israeli] attacks.”

Image result for Israeli F-16s, photos

To further drive his point home, the Arabic spokesperson included a graphic in his post of a tank with a caption in Arabic that read:
“Consider yourself warned: for he who gives a warning is just.”

The latter is a well-known Arabic proverb, which the 1.2 million Arabic speakers who are following his page are likely to recogn.

Due to the IDF using Arabic social media to better communicate with Arab speakers in Israel and the world an unusual discourse in Arabic often springs to life in the comments section, with Arabic speakers from countries Israeli passport holders can’t visit using this rare chance to speak their minds.

Most of the reactions to Adraee’s post were negative, including warnings that it is the Jews, and not the Arabs, who should be worried about future attacks.