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Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

by Arutz Sheva Staff

Hassan Abboud, leader of Ahrar al-Sham, killed with other top commanders in a bomb blast in the north-western town of Ram Hamdan.

Hassan Abboud, the leader of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, has been killed with other top commanders in a bomb blast at a meeting, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

Activists said a suicide bomber detonated a vest in the attack in the north-western town of Ram Hamdan.

Ahrar al-Sham is part of the Islamic Front, a coalition of seven Islamist rebel groups.

In February, Ahrar al-Sham blamed the rival Islamic State group for an attack which killed several of its members.

Activist groups say at least 40 people may have died in the attack, although the exact death toll is not clear.

Although Ahrar al-Sham is hard-line Islamist in orientation, it has opposed and clashed with the Islamic State (IS), noted the BBC.

IS was blamed when another Ahrar al-Sham leader, Abu Khaled al-Suri, was killed in a suicide bomb attack on his headquarters in Aleppo in February.

The death of Hassan Abboud comes at a moment when the Americans are seeking to unify the Syrian opposition into a coordinated fighting force against IS, although Ahrar al-Sham would have made an unlikely partner in such an American-led campaign, the report noted.

In an interview with the BBC in June, Abboud had denounced IS, saying it represented “the worst image ever of Islam”.

Abboud said that, unlike IS, Ahrar al-Sham would never pledge loyalty to outsiders and would only fight in Syria.


Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

by Arutz Sheva Staff

Israeli ministers voice support for anti-Islamic State coalition, but worried that Obama admin drawing closer to Tehran as a result.

US airstrikes have directly aided Iranian-backed Shia militiasReuters
Israel on Wednesday hailed US efforts to form an alliance to fight jihadists in Syria and Iraq but raised concerns of a rapprochement between Washington and Israel’s arch-foe Iran.

“I praise the American initiative to take action and form a coalition against the Islamic State, and hope those efforts will succeed,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in comments broadcast on public radio early Wednesday, shortly after he left for a visit to Lithuania and the United States.

His remarks came as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit at the start of a Middle East tour aimed at building a regional coalition to combat the extremist Sunni militants who have taken over swathes of territory either side of the Syria-Iraq border.

Liberman’s comments follow calls yesterday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for greater cooperation between global intelligence agencies to defeat IS.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who is close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, also praised the initiative but warned it may signal closer ties between the United States and Iran, which has also pledged to join the struggle.

“There could be some kind of flexibility vis-a-vis Iran by the Americans in the fight against IS,” he said.

American airstrikes have already directly supported Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias, including during the breaking of the Islamic State’s siege of the Shia town of Amerli last week. Apart from funding, equipping and training Iraqi Shia militias, Iran has also sent some of its own special forces to back the push against IS – a push that is being aided by US bombers.

Israel bitterly opposed an interim deal that Washington and other powers reached with Tehran last November, paving the way for the talks on a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s future nuclear activities.

Iran and the six powers – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany – had been working to a July target date for a comprehensive agreement to allay international concerns about its ambitions.

But they agreed to extend the talks until November 24 to allow more time to reach a historic deal. The new talks are to open in New York ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly on September 16.

Israel has refused to rule out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent any possibility of it developing the technology for an atomic bomb.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

By Arutz Sheva Staff

Residents of cities throughout Israel had front-row seats to a successful test of the IDF’s long-range missile defense system Tuesday.

The Israeli Defense Ministry, together with the American Missile Defense Agency (MDA), conducted a drill simulating a ballistic missile attack by Iran on Israel, firing a single Arrow (Hetz) 2 missile in what was described as a successful operation.

“The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) of DDR&D and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted today an intercept test of the Arrow 2 interceptor missile,” the defense ministry said in a statement. “The Arrow 2 is an operational system currently providing the Arrow Weapon System (AWS) with an interceptor engagement capability and the test was conducted at an Israeli test range over the Mediterranean Sea.

“An Arrow 2 missile was launched and performed its flight sequence as planned. The results are being analyzed by program engineers.”

After a summer in which the skies above Israeli cities – including in the center – were often peppered with similar smoke trails and puffs of smoke as the Iron Dome intercepted short and medium-range rockets fired by Gazan terrorists, the Arrow missile defense system is designed to intercept long-range ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) of the type currently held by Iran.

It constitutes one of several layers of defense for Israel in the event of an attack, and is part of a joint project between the Israeli and United States militaries.

Whereas the Arrow 2 is geared for interception within the atmosphere, the Arrow 3 – which was not involved in the latest drill – goes higher still, taking out missiles before they even reenter the earth’s atmosphere.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

by Arutz Sheva Staff

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah continue, as Hamas spokesman levels accusations at Abbas.

The tension between Hamas and Fatah continued on Monday, with Hamas accusing Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas of trying to sabotage a fragile reconciliation agreement.

According to AFP, Hamas’s accusation came after Abbas accused Hamas of running “a shadow government” in Gaza.

In a sharply worded attack on Hamas, Abbas on Saturday threatened to break off the unity agreement over the group’s de facto control of Gaza.

But Abbas’ words sparked an angry response from Hamas, with spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accusing him in turn of trying “to destroy the reconciliation and play into the hands of the Americans and the Israelis.”

Hamas forcibly took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, ousting forces loyal to Abbas and sparking a bitter and bloody split with his Fatah movement.

The two rival factions formed a unity government several months ago but there have been multiple indications over the past several months that the union has been slowly crumbling.

Differences of opinion have surfaced over several issues, including the war in Gaza, reactions to the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and the delayed payment of wages for government workers in Gaza in the weeks leading up to Operation Protective Edge.

Last week, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmad Bahar, accused the national unity government and its Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of “negligence” towards Gaza.

Speaking at a symposium held in Gaza City, Bahar urged the government to fulfill its duties in Gaza, particularly the reconstruction of buildings destroyed by Israeli forces and the payment of monthly salaries to civil servants who were employed by the former Hamas-run government.

“We still want the national consensus government and we will support it in its work especially the reconstruction of Gaza,” he added, but called for the government to carry out its duties in return.


Monday, September 8th, 2014

by Ari Yashar (Arutz Sheva News)

Recently inducted President Reuven Rivlin met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende on Sunday at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where they spoke about the ceasefire sealed with the Hamas terrorist organization on August 26.

“I would like to welcome you once again to our state and to the region,” opened Rivlin. “We appreciate very much your concern and your idea to come to us once again, and the appreciation goes with the understanding that you are very much worried about the situation with the people of Gaza.”

Rivlin spoke about the ceasefire condition stipulating that Israel allow construction materials in to rebuild Gaza, despite the usage of such materials in building an extensive network of terror tunnels used lethally against Israel in Operation Protective Edge.

“The reconstruction of Gaza is one of our interests as much as it is of the all the free world,” stated Rivlin.

However, he warned that “the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza should go along with the demilitarization of Gaza because otherwise we can see the next round (of fighting) in no time, because the Hamas people once again will spend all the money that the whole world is trying to help them with in order to reconstruct Gaza, and will put it into military aims and the ability to attack Israel.”

Hamas has flatly rejected the lone Israeli demand for the disarmament of Gaza. Rivlin concluded by warning “we can come to a dead-end once again and we could find ourselves in a very, very serious situation.”

Indeed, Hamas threatened during the operation that if it reached a ceasefire with Israel it would only be so as to plan the next terror war. It has been revealed that each terror tunnel, of which over 30 were destroyed, cost millions of dollars to build in money and materials that were siphoned off of aid to the Hamas stronghold.

Gaza in context of Islamic State?

Responding to Rivlin, Brende remarked “I know that this has been a very difficult summer for Israel. I was here in July and I saw this. It has been tough on Israel and tough on the Palestinian people.”

During his July visit, Brende saw fit to call on Israel as an “occupier” to show “restraint” in the escalation leading up to the counter-terror operation.

“I know now that there are important negotiations on a more permanent ceasefire and the conditions in Gaza under Egyptian leadership and I think that this is important,” said Brende, a day after a senior member of the Palestinian Arab delegation said ceasefire talks will resume in two weeks.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister concluded by claiming “we cannot discuss the Israel and Palestinian situations without looking at it in a broader context,” specifically referring to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terror group conquering Iraq and Syria.

The statement brings to mind that of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who said last Wednesday that the lack of “peace” in Israel leads to a “fertile environment for the growth and spread of extremism, violence and terrorism,” blaming Israel for IS.


Monday, September 8th, 2014

by Ryan Jones (Israel Today News)

A senior government official in Jerusalem on Sunday told the Israeli press that Hamas is already digging new terror tunnels and smuggling a new stockpile of missiles into the Gaza Strip in preparation for its next war against the Jewish state.

“Hamas did not wait a single moment after the last round of fighting, and began its rearmament in anticipation of another round,” the official said.

Indeed, Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar vowed over the weekend that the ceasefire reached just two weeks ago would soon be violated in the most blatant way as the terror groups “built new tunnels” with which to threaten Israelis.

The discovery of dozens of terror tunnels running from Gaza into southern Israel shocked most Israelis, particularly those living within “tunnel distance” from the volatile coastal enclave.

Many Israeli residents of what is known as the “Gaza envelope” still have not returned home, and many who have said they no longer feel safe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken harsh criticism for agreeing to end the war before Hamas was fully defeated. Most Israelis do not believe that expected guarantees by America, Europe or Egypt can be relied upon to prevent future Hamas attacks.


Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

by Ari Soffer (IsraelNationalNews)

Shurat Hadin civil rights group turns to International Criminal Court over Hamas’s summary executions of dozens of ‘collaborators’.

The Shurat Hadin civil rights group has announced it has submitted a criminal indictment against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal at the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC).

Shurat Hadin, which prosecutes international terrorist groups and their supporters, said the indictment was in response to the summary execution of 38 Palestinians in Gaza during the final days of Operation Protective Edge. Such executions without any legal due process is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, the NGO pointed out.

The men were shot dead – some of them publicly – after being accused of cooperating with Israel, following the assassination of three senior Hamas military leaders and the attempted assassination of the terrorist group’s military chief Mohammed Deif.

But rights groups say the charges of “collaboration” with Israel were simply used as an excuse for Hamas to kill off several high-profile political opponents, including members of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.

The indictment noted that Mashaal run’s Hamas’s “murderous rule” of Gaza, and thereby is responsible for the executions. Indeed, Mashaal is Hamas’s most senior political figure, and as chief of the group’s “political bureau” has direct control over affairs in the Gaza Strip.

Shurat Hadin founder and chairwoman attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner noted that Mashaal is a Jordanian citizen, and can therefore be prosecuted by the ICC because Jordan is a party to the Rome Statute. Despite that, Jordan has never requested Mashaal’s extradition from his base in Qatar, nor has it sought to fulfill its legal obligations to prosecute other Hamas leaders with Jordanian citizenship over war crimes or terrorism charges.

Hamas proudly took responsibility for the executions, and celebrated them as a “victory for the resistance”. Footage aired by CNN shows Hamas executioners publicly reading out the verdict against some of the condemned men in a Gaza mosque.

The Islamist group received harsh condemnation as a result of the killings, including from leftist NGOs which are usually sparing in their criticism of Palestinian terrorist groups. The brutal executions also sparked parallels between Hamas and the Islamic State terrorist group (formerly ISIS) in Iraq, coming at roughly the same time as the jihadi group aired footage of the beheading of US journalist James Foley.


Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

by Ari Soffer (Arutz Sheva News)

Islamists declare their intent to use captured planes to attack Assad, Moscow, warn: ‘prepare yourself for what’s coming’.

Islamic State terrorists fresh from the conquest of the last Syrian military base in the north of the country sent a “special message” to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, as well as his key ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tabqa airbase was taken after prolonged and intensive fighting which left hundreds of Islamic State and pro-regime forces dead. Its conquest meant that the Islamic State now controls all of Syria’s northern Raqqa Province, as well as much of the northeast of the country.

After finally taking the base, the Islamic State released a video showing the mass execution of some 250 regime fighters, who were first ordered to march through the desert stripped to their underwear. Jihadis also circulated pictures of heavy weaponry and Russian-made MiG fighter jets they had seized.

In a video dated August 31, a group of Arab IS fighters address Assad directly from inside a hangar in the base.

“You’d better watch out Bashar – we’re coming for you in planes!” declares one terrorist from atop a captured Russian aircraft. “We’ll be coming for you from the skies, with these planes, Allah willing.”

“Brace yourself for what’s coming, you pig.”

A second, young fighter then addresses Putin, whose military and political support has been crucial in keeping Assad in power.

“Vladimir Putin, these are the Russian planes that you sent to Bashar. Allah willing, we will take them back to your own turf, and liberate Chechnya and the Caucasus, Allah willing… Your throne is being threatened by us,” he said.

It is unclear, however, if any IS fighters currently know how to operate such aircraft, or indeed if the planes themselves – which appear somewhat aged – are operational at all or obsolete. Indeed, it is thought that all operational aircraft were removed from the base before it was hastily evacuated last week.

Either way, the loss of Tabqa is a severe blow to the regime not just in terms of territory, morale and manpower, but also insofar as the base was key in providing air-support to its thinly-stretched forces in the north of the country – both against IS and other rebel groups.


Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014


The government stands by its decision not to conduct peace talks with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, officials said on Tuesday amid renewed attempts at restarting some kind of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in the wake of the fighting in Gaza.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas plans to present a new diplomatic initiative to Arab foreign ministers during their meeting in Cairo on September 7, Mahmoud al-Habbash, Abbas’s adviser on religious affairs and chief of the PA religious courts, told the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad. The plan envisages a full Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines within a period that does not exceed three years, a senior PA official was quoted Tuesday as saying.

The plan calls for the Israelis and Palestinians to resume the peace talks within nine months, the official said.

“President Abbas is keen to obtain Arab support for his plan,” Habbash said.

The first three months of the negotiations would be devoted to drawing the borders of the future Palestinian state, after which the two sides would proceed to discuss final-status issues pertaining to refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, water and security, he said.

“The talks will begin with the borders, during which time there will be a freeze of settlement construction and the release of the fourth and final batch of prisoners incarcerated before the signing of the Oslo Accords, who were supposed to be freed last March,” Habbash added.

If Israel does not accept Abbas’s initiative, the Palestinians will resort to “diplomatic and political measures to impose peace,” he warned.

The PA’s options include joining international treaties and conventions, including signing the Rome Statute as first step toward membership in the International Criminal Court, Habbash said.

Abbas has dispatched chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and PA General Intelligence Service head Majed Faraj to Washington to brief US Secretary of State John Kerry on the initiative.

Abbas said recently that he does not expect the Americans to like his plan.

An Israeli government official said that the diplomatic focus should be on the Gaza Strip, and that “in many ways the ability to get things moving in the right direction in Gaza will be a test case for the Palestinian Authority. If they would succeed in reestablishing a security presence in Gaza, that would be an important example that could then create a new dynamic.”

The PA’s inability up to this point to confront Hamas terrorism, and Fatah’s political alliance with Hamas, “remains a serious problem,” the Israeli official sad.

Relating to calls to leverage the fighting in Gaza into a resumption of peace talks, the official said that Jerusalem wants a peace process, “but it has to be a process not based on illusions, but reality.”

It is important, the official said, that the PA act in a way that is conducive to a diplomatic process.

“If we go back to the same old game – exploiting automatic majority in the UN for one-sided resolutions condemning Israel – that is obviously not a mood that would be conducive to moving forward,” he said.

Going this route would “condemn” the Palestinians to the status quo, he added.

“If the PA shows it is serious about peace in word and deed, and as a first step would act seriously in Gaza, that could create a whole new dynamic,” the official said.

Asked whether Israel’s declaration on Sunday of 400 hectares in Gush Etzion as state land, a move that has drawn criticism from around the world, is conducive to a peace process, the official said that despite the perception, “no one has made any decision to build anything yet.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday warned that a diplomatic process with the Palestinians that would lead to Israel pulling forces out of the West Bank would lead to rockets and mortar shells being fired at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Speaking at the Calcalist National Conference in Tel Aviv, Ya’alon said that whenever the IDF pulled out its forces from Palestinian areas, whether areas of the West Bank under the Oslo agreements or the 2005 Gaza disengagement, terrorism brewed. Israel paid a heavy price to retake West Bank cities in 2003’s Operation Defensive Shield operation in order to restore calm during the second intifada. In Gaza, even when the PA was in charge, Hamas sprouted beneath it and eventually took over, he said.

Instead of rushing to withdraw from the West Bank, Israel should pursue an “outside the box” diplomatic process including “moderate” Arab states that share Israel’s strategic goals, Ya’alon said. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states (except Qatar) could align against Islamist terrorism, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, he said.

Meanwhile, Hamas called on Abbas to pull out of the peace process with Israel “immediately.”

Abbas should instead seek to reunite the Palestinians and “achieve a comprehensive national strategy in response to the occupation’s decision to confiscate Palestinian lands,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.


Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Ari Yashar (Arutz Sheva News

Poll finds Haniyeh upsets Abbas among Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza 62%-32%, gaining boost from terror war on Israel.

Support for the terrorist organization Hamas has skyrocketed in Judea, Samaria and Gaza according to a new poll, after Hamas “skyrocketed” Israel with a massive missile barrage and terror war in Operation Protective Edge.

A full 61% of Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza would pick Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for unity government President if elections were held today, according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll reported Tuesday by Associated Press (AP).

By contrast, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was found to have dropped sharply to a mere 32% in support.

The survey also found a “grass is greener” effect, with support for each of the two higher in the area under the other’s control; Haniyeh received 53% support in Gaza and 66% in Judea and Samaria, while Abbas got 43% in Gaza and 25% in Judea and Samaria.

The poll also suggested that a majority of Arab residents of the region support appropriating Hamas’s active terrorism against Jews in Judea and Samaria as well, a trend that accompanies a recent rise in terror incidents there.

The polling agency said Haniyeh gained a majority of support for the first time in eight years; the survey included 1,270 respondents and had a 3% margin of error.

Just in May a similar poll found jailed arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti of Abbas’s Fatah faction was favored for President of the new unity government, outpacing both Abbas and Haniyeh.

In an open letter last month, Barghouti called for a Fatah revolution, urging the group to further unify with Hamas and reject negotiations with Israel in preference of “resistance.”

The new poll also confirms another survey last Wednesday conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO), which found 89% of Gazans support indiscriminate rocket fire against Israel civilians.

On the other side of the Arab support for the terror war, an Israeli poll late last month after the ceasefire found a 59% majority of Israelis felt Israel did not win Operation Protective Edge, signalling the frustration over a perceived lack of decisive military action against Hamas.

The poll likewise found that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s approval rating has taken a nose-dive during the operation, plummeting from a high of 82% at the time of the IDF ground entry to an abysmal 32% after the ceasefire with Hamas.

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