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Step toward ‘Normal’? Key Israel-Syria Crossing for UN Peacekeepers to Re-open

October 14, 2018 News

Will peace return to the Israel-Syria border region?
Golan Heights UN Peacekeepers. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Wolfgang Grebien.

The Syrian civil war rages on and Israel continues to be concerned by Iran’s presence in their northern neighbor, but nonetheless this week a small step towards normal will be achieved when the Quneitra Crossing between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights will be re-opened. While this doesn’t signal any type of normalization of relations between Israel and Syria­—rather it is a reminder of their unresolved war—it at least enhances the United Nations peacekeeping between the sides.

A press release last week from the United States Mission to the UN notes that re-opening the border crossing “is part of an ongoing effort” by UN peacekeepers in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), whose mandate includes maintaining the Israel-Syria ceasefire.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley applauded the move, but noted that keeping the border peaceful is a broader effort than just enabling the peacekeepers to do their work. In her comments, which were included in the US Mission press release, she pointed to the importance of upholding 1974 ceasefire agreement that establishes a de-militarized zone between the sides. Israel has highlighted this requirement in the past as well in complaining about Syrian actions around the border, so the Quenitra Crossing re-opening would appear to signal quieter times—at least near the border. … Continue Reading

Israelis Allow Fuel into Gaza as Palestinian Authority Opposes Plan

October 10, 2018 News

Illustrative example of goods shipped to Gaza. Photo courtesy of the Israel Tax Authority.

Israel and an Arab state are coordinating to help Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not happy about it. Qatar has provided funding for multiple truckloads of fuel for the power plant in the Gaza Strip, and the first of the trucks entered the coastal enclave on Tuesday via Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, according to the Ma’an News Agency. The report by Ma’an, a Palestinian agency, said that because the Qatari support was not done in conjunction with the PA, the Palestinian governmental body led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas was opposed to the assistance. The Palestinian Authority is run by Fatah, the political rival of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

The PA’s objecting to providing their own people in Gaza with assistance is not new. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lamented it last week and his Arabic-language spokesman Ofir Gendelman leveled his own criticism of Abbas in an Arabic Twitter post on Tuesday, the same day the Qatari-funded fuel was delivered to Gaza.

“The end of hypocrisy and neglect: Palestinian President Abbas has instructed to send immediate humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims in indonesia, but it is forbidden to send even one bottle of water or one litre of fuel to the Gaza Strip to help the people of his people who suffer the oppression of Hamas terrorist and the stranglehold imposed on them himself!” said the post, which was translated by the Microsoft tool on Twitter. … Continue Reading

US Marks New Military Aid Package for Israel with Iranian Foe in Mind

October 2, 2018 News

PM Netanyahu and US President Trump. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Avi Ohayon (GPO)

The United States’ ten-year, $38 billion military financing package for Israel officially started yesterday, and the Americans weren’t coy about one of their main concerns for Israel: threats from Iran. “Israel is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats, first and foremost from the Iranian regime’s sponsorship of terrorist groups seeking to attack not only Israel but also American interests,” said a statement from US spokesperson Heather Nauert in a State Department press release.

The Israelis also had Iran on the mind when thanking the US for the sizable Memorandum of Understating (MOU) agreement, which was signed in 2016. “Israel and the world face complex security challenges, especially Iranian aggression,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in comments released by his office on Tuesday. “The unreserved US support for Israel’s right to defend itself is among the pillars of the strong bond between the two countries.” … Continue Reading

Palestinians Take US to Int’l Court over Jerusalem Embassy

September 30, 2018 News

PM Netanyahu addresses ceremony marking opening of US Embassy in Jerusalem. Illustrative.
Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon / GPO

The Palestinians’ political battle with the United States has officially gone past rhetoric to legal action: Last week, the Palestinians brought charges to the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICC) that the US Embassy in Jerusalem is a violation of the Vienna Convention, the primary treaty between world nations. A press release from the ICC on their website summarizing the Palestinian claim argued that the Vienna Convention only allows for a diplomatic mission to be “established on the territory of the receiving State” and is therefore “a breach” of the treaty due to Jerusalem’s “special status.”

The Palestinians ask that the Court order the US to move the embassy from Israel’s capital city, despite the fact that neither Israel nor the US have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction.  Not mentioned in the Palestinian claim is that multiple diplomatic missions are located in territory claimed by the Palestinians, despite that territory still being under dispute and no official state of Palestine being established by international law. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly argued that the embassy in Jerusalem recognizes the “obvious” reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. … Continue Reading

Russia Delivering Advanced Air Defense System to Syria within 2 Weeks

September 24, 2018 News

Will Russia stop Israel from attacking Syria? PM Netanyahu & Russian Pres. Putin. Illustrative photo, courtesy of Amos Ben-Gershom (Israel GPO)

Russia will deliver the advanced S-300 air defense system to Syria within two weeks and will also take efforts to jam radar of aircraft attacking Syria—an oblique warning to Israel—Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Monday. Shoigu said the stepped-up defense of Syria is Moscow’s response to the incident in which a Russian plane was accidentally downed by Syrian forces during an Israeli strike in Syrian territory, according to a report by Sputnik International.

Israel, which has denied they are to blame in the Russian plane incident, warned the same day as Shoigu’s announcement that delivering advanced weapons into the region would only make things worse. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone to deliver the message.

According to a summary of the call published by Netanyahu’s office, the Israeli leader “expressed his confidence in the credibility of the IDF investigation and its conclusions, and reiterated that the Syrian military, which brought down the plane, and Iran, whose aggression is undermining stability, are responsible for the unfortunate incident.” … Continue Reading

Israel Uncovers Hamas Terrorist Lead Temple Mount Attack Last Summer

September 20, 2018 News

The Temple Mount is a Palestinian tool for inciting violence. Illustrative Palestinian banner of gunmen and Dome of the Rock. By Joshua Spurlock

A Hamas operative led the attack that launched fireworks at Israeli security forces guarding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem last summer, injuring four officers in a violent event that resulted in the holy site being closed for hours. A press release from the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) said that the terror cell’s leader was Hamas militant Abu Tzabih, who also ordered the fireworks be launched at Israelis and coordinated the purchase of the fireworks that were smuggled into the holy compound for the attack.

Tzabih also instructed the cell to recruit more members for what eventually became a 10-terrorist team that included 8 residents of eastern Jerusalem. Tzabih is not new to violence against Israelis—he had previously been arrested for involvement in another terror group and is the son of Mutzbah Abu Tzabih, who murdered two Israelis in an October 2016 shooting attack.

The Temple Mount is a particularly sensitive area as a holy site for Jews and Muslims, although Muslims are the only sect allowed to pray at the location. The site has been a flashpoint for additional violence either due to events on the Temple Mount—such as the Palestinian’s 2017 shooting attack—or when used in incitement from Palestinian leaders. … Continue Reading

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