Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

Israeli warplanes hit Gaza after new rocket attack

February 19, 2018


© AFP | Israeli soldiers monitor an area near the border with Gaza on February 18, 2018
GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Israeli warplanes hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early on Monday after a rocket fired by Palestinians slammed into southern Israel, the army said.It did not elaborate on the targets but Palestinian security sources said several missiles were fired at farmland east of Rafah in the south of the coastal enclave.

Israeli “fighter jets targeted underground infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip, in response to the projectile that was launched at Israel earlier,” an army statement said.

No casualties were reported in either incident.

The strikes followed fierce exchanges over the weekend in which Israeli ground forces killed two Palestinian teenagers in the enclave in cross-border fire.

Warplanes also pounded 18 Hamas facilities in two waves of air strikes, according to the Israeli military.

Those raids were in response to an explosion Saturday in which four Israeli soldiers inspecting the border fence were injured by an apparent Palestinian booby trap.

Two of the men were severely wounded but their lives were not in danger, the army said.

The blast and the retaliatory fire marked one of the most serious escalations in the Hamas-ruled territory since the Islamist movement and Israel fought a war in 2014.


Rocket Launched at Israel From Gaza Explodes in Open Territory

February 18, 2018


No injuries or damage has been reported. Yesterday the Israeli army attacked 18 Hamas targets in the Strip

.File photo: Rocket fired from Gaza.
File photo: Rocket fired from Gaza.אילן אסייג

A rocket launched from Gaza exploded in an open territory of southern Israel’s Sha’ar Hanegev regional council on Sunday night, the Israeli army said.

A rocket siren sounded in the southern Israel city of Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev regional council. No injuries or damage have been reported.

Early Sunday morning, the Israeli military said it attacked 18 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, the second such action by Israel in less than 24 hours. The attacks was in response to an explosive device going off on the border with Israel and to rocket fire.

A rocket fired from the Strip on Saturday hit the roof of a house in an Israeli town after sirens sounded in several communities near the border. Rocket sirens sounded multiple times during the night.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that two people were injured moderately as a result of the Israeli attacks and were transferred to receive medical care at a hospital in Rafah. Palestinian rescue forces, the ministry said, were scouting an area east of Rafah that they said was hit by Israeli artillery fire.

Two Palestinians were killed and two others were wounded Saturday night by Israeli shells when they approached the Gaza border, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The two wounded Palestinians were evacuated to hospital overnight and only this morning two bodies were found in the area, east of Rafah, the ministry added. The bodies were identified as Salem Mohammed Sabah and Abdullah Ayman Sheikha, both 17, from Rafah.

This is a developing story.

Israel arrests Palestinians ‘planning attack on defence minister’

February 18, 2018


© POOL/AFP/File | Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman is seen during a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 21, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel arrested six Palestinians suspected of planning attacks targeting Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other Israelis in the occupied West Bank, security agency Shin Bet said Sunday.Shin Bet said the six were affiliated with the Islamic Jihad militant group and were active in the Bethlehem area where they sought to carry out shootings against Israeli civilians and security forces.

In addition, some of the group had been planning to target Lieberman’s vehicle when he travelled to his home in a West Bank settlement.

According to a Shin Bet statement, the suspects had been “trying to obtain explosives to make a bomb, and even reached out to terror elements in (Gaza) for funding.”

“Upon failing to acquire the materials, they decided to create a fake device to receive recognition for their action and enable further attacks,” the statement read.

The six will be charged in an Israeli military court later Sunday.

In 2014, Shin Bet said it had apprehended a Hamas group planning to assassinate then-foreign minister Lieberman by firing a rocket-propelled grenade at his convoy.

Israeli Military Strikes 18 Hamas Targets in Gaza in Response to Day of Hostilities — Rocket fired from Gaza

February 18, 2018


The retaliatory attack follows another ‘large-scale’ strike; it comes after Israel was hit by rocket fire and four soldiers were wounded in an explosion near the border

Israeli soldiers stand at the house that was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza, Shaar Hagenev Regional Council, Israel, February 17, 2018.
Israeli soldiers stand at the house that was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza, Shaar Hagenev Regional Council, Israel, February 17, 2018.Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israeli military said early Sunday morning that it attacked 18 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, the second such action by Israel in less than 24 hours. The attacks was in response to an explosive device going off on the border with Israel and to rocket fire.

A rocket fired from the Strip on Saturday hit the roof of a house in an Israeli town after sirens sounded in several communities near the border. Rocket sirens sounded multiple times during the night.

According to the army, the latest rocket sirens, which souded earlier on Sunday morning, were activated during the IDF’s aerial attacks on the Strip and were a false alarm.

>> Israel’s blind spot may have been found, and the IDF must adjust | Analysis

The military said that eight of the targets it attacked were located in a Hamas military compound, where the group stores weapon, manufacturing infrastructures and carries out training.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

File photo of a rocket being fired from Hamas in Gaza toward Israel

The army also said that an tank attacked two Hamas observation posts.

Earlier, the army said it struck six Hamas targets in Gaza in what it described as a “large-scale attack.” The military said the targets included a Hamas attack tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israeli territory and two military compounds.


Israeli army soldiers stand near the site of the explosion by the Gaza border, February 17, 2018.

Israeli army soldiers stand near the site of the explosion by the Gaza border, February 17, 2018.Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that two people were injured moderately as a result of the Israeli attacks and were transferred to receive medical care at a hospital in Rafah. Palestinian rescue forces, the ministry said, were scouting an area east of Rafah that they said was hit by Israeli artillery fire.

IED explodes on Gaza border

Israeli soldiers who were wounded when a device exploded near Israel's border with Gaza are evacuated to a nearby hospital, February 17, 2018.

Israeli soldiers who were wounded when a device exploded near Israel’s border with Gaza are evacuated to a nearby hospital, February 17, 2018.

Earlier on Saturday, four Israeli soldiers were wounded – two seriously and two others moderately – when a device exploded near the troops at the fence bordering the southern Gaza Strip. The wounded soldiers were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva with burns and shrapnel injuries.

According to the IDF, the incident unfolded when soldiers from the Golani Brigade and the Engineering Corps approached the border fence after noticing a Palestinian flag hung in its vicinity. After the soldiers approached the flag, the device exploded. Two tunnels originating in the Strip and extending into Israeli territory were found in the past near the site.

The military believes that the Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza, an umbrella group made up of militants from different armed factions, hung the flag there during Friday’s demonstration in order to attract the soldiers. The committee described the explosion as “a heroic act in response to the enemy’s infiltration into the Gaza Strip.”

An Islamic Jihad spokesman responded to the exchanges of fire later on Saturday, stating ironically that “the land of Gaza will not serve as picnic [grounds] for the forces of the enemy. The sons of Gaza will respond with rage to the Israeli aggression and the continuation of the siege [on Gaza.]”

Israeli forces near the site of the explosion by the Gaza border, February 17, 2018.

Israeli forces near the site of the explosion by the Gaza border, February 17, 2018. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Popular Resistance Committee was founded during the second intifada. The organization, which operates within the Strip, was behind several terror attacks in the past. Today the group is considered to be a protégé of Hamas and requires the latter’s approval for every action it takes.

However, despite the fact that both the Popular Resistance Committee and the Islamic Jihad expressed their support following the incident, it is not believed that their statements convey that the groups stand behind the events.

Following the incident, The IDF said it attacked an observation post in the southern Gaza Strip with tank fire. IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said the incident is “very serious” and “could undermine stability in the region.” Manelis added that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian reports, Israeli warplanes struck various targets in and around Gaza City. Shortly later, Palestinian reports said Israel had carried out an additional strike on a Hamas compound, while a third report spoke of shots fired toward an agricultural area in southern Gaza. Hamas said it “holds Israel responsible for any escalation in the Gaza Strip.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the explosionthat wounded four soldiers, describing it as “severe.” The premier vowed that Israel “will respond appropriately.” IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot met with the head of the IDF’s Southern Command and other senior officials to assess the situation.

Last Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that over 20 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli soldiers during the demonstration, one of them seriously. The previous Friday, the ministry said that 57 people were wounded in clashes throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, one of them with suffering grave injuries after being shot with live fire near the Gaza border.

Last month, the Israeli air force destroyed an attack tunnel extending from the coastal enclase into Israeli and Egyptian territory – the fourth such tunnel destroyed in recent months.

Eisenkot warned the cabinet last week that the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza could draw Hamas and Israel into a fresh confrontation. Eisenkot called on the government to take substantial steps to head off a collapse of the situation in the Strip. His warning echoed previous statements made by other Israeli security officials.

A few days later, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman contradicted Eisenkot’s assessment, saying there was no humanitarian crisis in the Strip. “The economic state is complicated and must be dealt with, but there’s no humanitarian crisis,” Lieberman told members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party.

In January, Israel presented a plan for the humanitarian rehabilitation of Gaza, along with a request to the international community to fund it, to an emergency conference in Brussels of countries and organizations providing financial assistance to the Palestinians. The plan, which would cost an estimated billion dollars, would feature Israeli assistance in building infrastructure related to desalination, electricity and natural gas and the upgrading of the industrial zone at the Erez border crossing into Gaza.

Palestinians Killed By Israelis in Gaza flare-up after soldiers were wounded by an explosive device

February 18, 2018



Israeli soldiers and border police stand guard as Israeli hydraulic shovels demolish a Palestinian building near road 35, north of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in the so-called “Area C” on February 14, 2018. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli army fire in Gaza in a flare-up after soldiers were wounded by an explosive device along the Palestinian enclave’s border, Gaza medical sources said Sunday.

The fatalities were identified by the Gaza health ministry as Salam Sabah and Abdullah Abu Sheikha, both 17, who were killed during a strike east of Rafah in southern Gaza.

According to Palestinian eye witnesses, the two were killed by shots near the border.

The Israeli army said that its forces had fired “warning shots” at a number of Palestinians approaching the border fence “in a suspicious manner.”

Their death comes after Israel launched a series of air strikes targeting 18 “terror targets belonging to Hamas” in Gaza, after the explosive device wounded soldiers and a projectile from Gaza hit in an Israeli border town.



Netanyahu and Trump to Meet in March; White House Closer to Revealing Peace Plan

February 16, 2018

U.S. dubs police recommendations an ‘internal Israeli matter’ ■ Trump set to meet Netanyahu when he flies to U.S. for annual AIPAC conference

.FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump, left, waves with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump, left, waves with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Sebastian Scheiner/AP

WASHINGTON –  The White House said Friday that U.S. President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to meet on March 5th, when Netanyahu will be in Washington to attend the annual AIPAC conference. Officials in Jerusalem confirmed the meeting was on the books.

This will be the second time the two will meet since Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision that has heightened Washington’s tensions with the Arab world and has threatened peace talks with Palestinians, who now refuse to accept the U.S. as a mediator in the process. Trump and Netanyahu met on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum. At the time, Trump said his decision had “taken Jerusalem off the [negotiating] table.”

The Trump administration is continuing to work on its plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians despite the recent recommendations by the Israeli police to indict Netanyahu for bribery in two separate cases. A White House official told Haaretz on Friday that the police recommendations “won’t impact the content or timing of the plan.”

During a visit in Kuwait on Tuesday as part of his Middle East tour, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the United States hopes to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas resume his contacts with the Trump administration on a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Tillerson added that he “understands” some of Abbas’ concerns about recent decisions made by the administration, but emphasized that the U.S. remains committed to reaching a peace deal.

Earlier this week, the State Department also said that the police recommendations are an “internal Israeli matter” that the United States government isn’t going to comment on. The quote by the White House official makes it clear, however, that this issue is not going to change how the administration constructs its peace plan, or when it is going to release it to the world.

The White House also denied a statement that Netanyahu made in front of members of his Likud faction in the Knesset, saying that he was discussing settlement annexation in the West Bank with the U.S. A White House spokesperson said that any reports that the United States was discussing annexation with Israel were false. Netanyahu quickly retracted his own statement in light of the reaction from Washington.

One reason for the administration’s rare expression of distance from Netanyahu was the fact that for the entire week, Tillerson was in the Middle East, visiting five countries in the region and discussing a range of issues with regional leaders. One that came up frequently in his conversations was the administration’s plan for Middle East peace.

Tillerson assured the regional leaders he met, including the king of Jordan and the presidents of Egypt and Turkey, that the United States under Presidend Donald Trump remains fully committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He also sent a message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been refusing to work with the Trump administration for two months now, following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Tillerson said he still hopes the Palestinian leader will “find the way to return to the table.”

As Gaza deteriorates, Israel turns to world for help

February 15, 2018

In this file photo smoke rises in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike. Four years ago, Israel inflicted heavy damage on Gaza’s infrastructure during a bruising 50-day war with Hamas militants. Now, fearing a humanitarian disaster on its doorstep, Israel is appealing to the world to fund a series of big-ticket development projects in the war-torn area. (AP/Dusan Vranic, File)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Four years ago, Israel inflicted heavy damage on Gaza’s infrastructure during a bruising 50-day war with Hamas militants. Now, fearing a humanitarian disaster on its doorstep, it’s appealing to the world to fund a series of big-ticket development projects in the war-battered strip.
In a windfall, the wealthy Gulf Arab state of Qatar, a key donor, has become an unlikely partner in Israel’s quest, and has urged other nations to follow suit.
But it remains unclear whether the rest of the international community is in a giving mood.
Donors say that while there have been some successes with reconstruction since the 2014 war, Israeli bureaucracy and security reviews are still too slow and Israel’s ongoing blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza is stifling the broader goal of developing the territory’s devastated economy.
“Israel now realizes the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and its impact on the population,” said the World Bank, which has helped oversee international reconstruction efforts. “Donors will be more encouraged to invest if the right conditions on the ground are put in place to allow sustainable growth.”
Gaza, a tiny strip of land sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, has seen conditions steadily deteriorate since Hamas overran the territory in 2007 and took control from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority.
Israel and Egypt clamped a blockade in an attempt to weaken Hamas, and Israel and Hamas have fought three wars. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hoping to regain control, has stepped up pressure on Hamas by cutting salaries of civil servants and limiting electricity deliveries.
The last war, in 2014, was especially devastating. Nearly 20,000 homes were destroyed, and over 150,000 others were damaged, according to UN figures. Hospitals, schools and infrastructure were also damaged.
Following the war, international donors gathered in Cairo and came up with a $3.5 billion reconstruction plan. But only 53 percent of the promised money has been delivered, according to the World Bank, and Gaza’s economy is in shambles. Unemployment is over 40 percent, tap water is undrinkable and Gazans receive only a few hours of electricity a day.
Signs of distress are visible throughout Gaza’s potholed streets. Young men sit idly in groups on sidewalks, shopkeepers kill time on their smartphones as they mind their empty shops and the smell of sewage from the Mediterranean often wafts through the air.
Israel blames Hamas, a militant group sworn to its destruction, for the conditions. It says it has no choice but to maintain the blockade, which restricts imports and exports, because the group continues to plot ways to attack Israel.
But fearing a humanitarian disaster that could spill over into violence, Israel has begun to soften its line, echoing warnings by international officials.
“We are well beyond a humanitarian crisis, but on the verge of a total system failure in Gaza, with a full collapse of the economy and social services with political, humanitarian and security implications to match,” UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov said.
Looking forward, Israel and the international community have different visions for how to fix the situation.
On Jan. 31, Israeli Cabinet Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who oversees Israeli civilian policies for Gaza, appealed to an emergency gathering of donor nations in Brussels to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars for long-delayed projects sought by the international community.
According to a document obtained by The Associated Press, the Israeli list included a power line, natural gas line, desalination plant, industrial zone and sewage treatment facility.
“Israel is ready to provide its technological skills and infrastructure to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, on the condition that the funds come from the international community and that we know that they will not go to strengthen Hamas,” Hanegbi told the Ynet news site.
In a rare interview, Mohammed Al-Emadi, the head of Qatar’s Gaza reconstruction committee, urged other nations to support the effort.
“We have to fund as soon as possible,” he told the AP. “When you want to do work in Gaza, you have to go through the Israelis.”
Qatar, along with the United States and European Union, has been a leading donor to the “Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism,” a system set up after the 2014 war to rebuild the territory while avoiding contact with Hamas.
Under the arrangement, the Palestinian Authority leads the projects, Israeli security officials review and approve them, while the UN monitors the delivery of goods to make sure that items like cement and metal pipes don’t reach Hamas. It relies on various tools, including authorized vendors, security cameras and spot inspections of construction sites.
Israel considers the system to be a success, given the challenging circumstances. According to Israeli figures, nearly 90,000 homes have been rebuilt, while 380 large projects, such as hospitals, housing complexes and water treatment facilities, have been completed.
Qatar has funded some of the most high-profile projects, including an $84 million highway running the 40-kilometer (25-mile) length of Gaza, a $114 million high-rise development in southern Gaza and a $17 million state-of-the-art rehabilitation hospital.
Life-size pictures of Qatar’s former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and his son, current emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, greet visitors at the hospital entrance.
In Brussels, Jason Greenblatt, the White House Mideast envoy, also called for donors to “rededicate” themselves to investing in Gaza’s infrastructure.
Other key donors, however, seem to be more hesitant. It appears unlikely they will open their wallets with internal Palestinian reconciliation at a standstill, the Trump administration unable to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and continued international frustration over Israel’s 11-year blockade of Gaza. US cuts to UNRWA, the UN agency that assists more than half of Gaza’s population, have further complicated the situation.
Illustrating the atmosphere, the new Qatari hospital overlooks a beach contaminated by untreated sewage water that pours into the sea due to power failures.
Guri Solberg, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman for Norway, one of the sponsors of the Brussels meeting, said the gathering was meant to reiterate support for a two-state solution and to enable the Palestinian Authority to regain control of Gaza.
It was “not a pledging conference,” she said, adding it was impossible to say whether countries are ready to pledge more funds. A “number of donors” expressed concerns over the cuts to UNRWA, she added.
UN and World Bank officials say the reconstruction mechanism has worked well on routine projects but that Israeli bureaucracy and lengthy security reviews on complicated pieces of equipment have resulted in delays of up to six months.
Rebhi Sheikh-Khalil, deputy head of the Palestinian Water Authority, said a one-year project to build the first phase of a desalination plant end up dragging on for three years.
“This is due to the Israeli approvals that take a long time and so many procedures,” he said.
In Brussels, the Israelis pledged to ease some restrictions to speed up construction — a step welcomed by the World Bank.
Mladenov, the UN envoy, said that for Gaza’s economy to truly recover, the world must focus on broader goals: enabling Abbas’ government to retake control, ending the Israeli blockade and halting Hamas’ militant activities.
“This will fully enable the international community to support the economic and social revival of Gaza,” he said.

Will Netanyahu Scandal Impact Middle east Stability?

February 14, 2018
 FEBRUARY 14, 2018 18:54

Netanyahu outlasted many of his opponents, from Ahmadinejad in Iran to extremists like Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Tel Aviv, Israel February 14, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Tel Aviv, Israel February 14, 2018. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

When news of the corruption scandal affecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began to be revealed on Wednesday evening, the Middle East was preparing for dinner. In Egypt and Kuwait, major papers reported the scandal on their home pages, but most of the region has remained relatively indifferent. One man from Gaza remarked that Netanyahu’s insistence on staying in office and “talking about conspiracies” reminded him of “some Arab rulers.

It is a testament to Netanyahu’s staying power – almost nine years in office – that he has become one of the stable landmarks of the region.

Those ossifying Arab dictators who were in power when he returned to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009 – Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen – are gone. Two were brutally murdered. Such was the fate of Arab nationalism.

The region’s rising stars, such as Qatar’s Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (aged 37) and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia (age 32), are young compared to Netanyahu, who is 68. Bashar Assad, who has been in power since 2000, and King Abdullah of Jordan, who assumed the throne in 1999, are both in their 50s. In short, Netanyahu is the elder statesman of the region.

MKs respond to police reccomendations that the AG indict Netanyahu on two accounts of bribery, Febraury 13, 2018. (Reuters)

The corruption scandal casts doubt on his ability to govern in the coming years. For regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, this presents a problem. Over the past several years there has been a growing sense that Israel and these two Gulf states see the region through a similar lens. They fear Iran and its tentacles. Along with Egypt and Jordan, the two neighboring countries Israel has official peace with, there is a kind of block against the instability that spread with the “Arab Spring” and the rise of Islamic State.

With ISIS mostly defeated in Iraq and Syria, and the US administration seeking to give wind to a post-ISIS Middle East, Israel has a role to play. Netanyahu sought to cast Israel in the role of the realistic state that forgoes idealistic notions of democracy spreading to the region in favor of hard-nosed policies against Iran and talking up fear of Islamist influence. Mr. Security. King Bibi. But corruption and bribery threaten those two pillars of identity.

For Israel’s foreign policy, which has been in Netanyahu’s hands since 2015 as he refuses to relinquish the ministerial portfolio to any rivals, the problems now add up. Iran is near the Golan, and several Shi’a militia leaders from Iraq have recently been in Lebanon. Hezbollah is beating its chest after the downing of an F-16 by Syrian air defense. The “axis of resistance” thinks it smells weakness in Jerusalem. Now all the fears that Netanyahu has played on, his redlines, his constant warnings, could be closer to coming true.

As the Iranian threat manifests itself, the man who was the foremost opponent of it, and someone that some in the region looked to for guidance on the issue, could be leaving power. Nonscientific surveys posted on Twitter show that many in the region fear Iranian influence and quietly applaud when Israel strikes back in Syria. Netanyahu is seen as the driver of that policy, even if under other leadership Israel would likely maintain the same posture.

Netanyahu outlasted many of his opponents, from Ahmadinejad in Iran to extremists like Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. He also outlasted the Obama administration. When US President Donald Trump went to Riyadh to speak and called to drive out Hezbollah and Hamas, it was a speech Netanyahu could have made.

At the precise time that the region seems to be partly cast in his image, his power base in Jerusalem could be teetering. His fall from power would leave the Middle East wondering what comes next and whether Iran and its tentacles might exploit the political process in Israel.



Tillerson says U.S. Mideast peace plan ‘fairly well advanced’

February 14, 2018


AMMAN (Reuters) – The U.S. administration’s work on a new Middle East peace plan is “fairly well advanced” and President Donald Trump will decide when to announce it, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday during a visit to Jordan.

 Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and indoor

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (not pictured) in Amman, Jordan February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Tillerson also signed a five-year aid package that extends U.S. support to Jordan, a key regional ally, despite Trump’s threat to withhold support from states opposed to his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Commenting on the peace plan, Tillerson said: ”I have seen the plan… It’s been under development for a number of months. I have consulted with them on the plan, identified areas that we feel need further work.

“So I think it will be up to the president to decide when he feels it’s time and he’s ready to put that plan forward. I will say it’s fairly well advanced…”

Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion the process of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv.

The move triggered outrage in the Arab and Muslim world, and led Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to declare that he would not cooperate with the United States as a mediator.

Trump has threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that backed a U.N. resolution calling for Washington to reverse its Jerusalem decision. Jordan backed the resolution.

King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Amman particularly sensitive to any changes of status there.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrive for a meeting in Amman, Jordan February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Tillerson and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi signed the non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) for $6.375 billion in aid starting this year. The previous such MoU between Jordan and the United States was for three years.

“This MOU commitment highlights the pivotal role Jordan plays in helping foster and safeguard regional stability and supports U.S. objectives such as the global campaign to defeat ISIS, counter-terrorism cooperation, and economic development,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

ISIS is an acronym for the militant Islamic State group.

Conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq have damaged Jordan’s economy, forcing it to borrow heavily from external and domestic sources. Jordan has been an important part of the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


Tillerson is also expected this week to visit Turkey, with which U.S. ties have become badly strained over Washington’s support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, regarded by Ankara as a terrorist group.

“With respect to my meetings in Ankara, Turkey is still an important NATO ally of the United States … We need to find a way to continue to work in the same direction. We are committed to the same outcomes in Syria,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson expressed concern over Saturday’s confrontation between Israel and “Iranian assets” in Syria. Syrian air defenses shot down an Israeli F-16 jet on Saturday after it bombed a site used by Iran-backed position in Syria.

Tillerson said Iran should withdraw its forces and militias from Syria, where Tehran backs President Bashar al-Assad.

Responding to the comments, a senior Iranian official, Ali Akbar Velayati, said Iran’s military presence in Syria was legitimate and based on an invitation from Damascus. He called on U.S. forces to leave Syria.

Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi and Yara Bayoumy in Amman; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Gareth Jones

Putin, Russia Become Key To Israel, Middle East

February 13, 2018
 FEBRUARY 13, 2018 07:51


Both Trump and Abbas are relying more heavily on Russia to play a larger role in their relations with Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON —  Facing Iranian adventurism across its northern borders and an irritated Palestinian leader seeking to internationalize his cause, Israel has found itself increasingly reliant on Russia to quell its most pressing diplomatic and national security concerns.

Senior Trump administration officials — including the president — have themselves turned to Moscow in recent days, hoping to diffuse a sharp military escalation along the Golan Heights border between the forces of Israel and those of Iran and its allies.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s been to Moscow,” one senior State Department official noted in a briefing with reporters on Monday, traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson across the region.

“The Russians certainly understand the character of that threat,” the official said. “The party that doesn’t seem to appreciate the consequences are the Iranians, and Hezbollah, with Iran, and that worries us.”

Israeli media noted that a phone call between Netanyahu and Putin was timed with the end of Israel’s largest assault on Iranian and Syrian regime assets in Syria in several years.

And on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with US President Donald Trump, who called to express his condolences over the downing of a Russian passenger jet with 71 on board.

 Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

Then they discussed issues of “mutual concern.”

“President Putin noted that he would meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later today, and President Trump said that now is the time to work toward an enduring peace agreement,” the White House said in a readout. Russian state media was even more detailed, claiming it was Putin who was pushing for a peace effort— one with Moscow at the table.

Abbas’s visit was part of his sustained campaign to minimize America’s historic role in the conflict— a goal that Putin holds for US influence in the region writ large.