Palestinian Central Council To Meet In Mid May To Tackle ‘Deal Of The Century’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian Central Council Meeting to Tackle ‘Deal of the Century’

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019 – 09:45
A Palestinian boy is evacuated after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
The President of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Salim Zanoun, said that he has started contacting members of the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) to convene mid next month, upon the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This meeting holds significance as it precedes the announcement of the anticipated Deal of the Century.

Jamal Moheisen, a member of the Fatah central committee, said in statements to the official Voice of Palestine radio that the central council will be held in difficult circumstances.

“The Palestinian issue is exposed to strategic risks that require everyone to stand up to their responsibilities and raise the requirements of the stage in order to address this project, which threatens the future of our Palestinian issue,” Moheisen added.

The PCC is supposed to tackle previous decisions that haven’t been implemented including decisions to cancel deals and sever ties with Israel.

A PCC member, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the members will push towards clear decisions and not recommendations that fail to be implemented. He added that the PCC decisions are binding but they are not being applied for known reasons – and this will be discussed in the meeting.

“The agenda of the next session of the central council will discuss a number of important issues related to how to crystallize an Arab Islamic and international position to support the abortion of the so-called Deal of the Century,” said Wasel Abu Yusuf, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO.

He added that the central council will discuss the relations with Israel, “especially under the US and Israeli plans to legitimize the settlement blocs in the West Bank and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

Fatah official spokesman Usama al-Qawasimi stated that facing the deal of “shame”, achieving national unity and ending division require tangible acts, not statements. Qawasimi described the situation as extremely dangerous.

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Oded Balilty/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz

The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”

Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians now live in in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.

Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.

“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.

Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.

Gantz has accused Netanyahu of inciting against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and embracing extremists by allying with the far-right Jewish Power Party.

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

Image caption Israel has established more than 100 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday and Mr Netanyahu is competing for votes with right-wing parties who support annexing part of the West Bank.

The settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Last month the US recognised the occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, as Israeli territory.

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements make a future independent state impossible.

Israel says the Palestinians are using the issue of settlements as a pretext to avoid direct peace talks. It says settlements are not a genuine obstacle to peace and are negotiable.

What exactly did Netanyahu say?

He was asked during an interview on Israeli TV why he had not extended Israeli sovereignty to large settlements in the West Bank.

“You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage,” he said.

“I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters: “Any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed.”

Presentational grey line

Potentially explosive comments

By Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs editor

These comments by Benjamin Netanyahu are potentially explosive over an issue that has helped stall peace efforts for years.

They will resonate with several parties with which he’ll try to form a coalition government if he wins the biggest share of votes.

But the very idea of annexation will rouse new Palestinian fury, as well as international condemnation.

Mr Netanyahu may have been emboldened by the Trump administration, which just last month recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Presentational grey line

What is the political background?

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in a tight race with the new centre-right Blue and White alliance.

However other parties, some of which support annexation, could end up being kingmakers when they try to form a governing coalition.

In Mr Netanyahu’s own Likud party, 28 out of the 29 lawmakers running for re-election are on record as supporting this approach. Until now the prime minister was the only exception.

What is the situation of peace negotiations?

Mr Trump’s administration is preparing to unveil a long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which US officials say will be fair.

However the Trump administration has carried out a series of actions that have inflamed Palestinian opinion and generally pleased Israel.

In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.

In response Mr Abbas cut off relations with the US, saying the US could no longer be a peace broker.

Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency(Unrwa), which has been looking after Palestinian refugees since 1949.

In March President Trump officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he warned a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”, in an effort to make the case to Jewish voters to support his re-election.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.

Joined by Netanyahu, Brazilian president makes trailblazing trip to Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Joined by Netanyahu, Brazilian president makes trailblazing trip to Western Wall

Braving Jerusalem rain, Bolsonaro becomes first foreign head of state to be accompanied by Israeli PM on visit to the holy site

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of  Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was joined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall on Monday, becoming the first foreign head of state to visit the site together with a senior Israeli official.

His unprecedented step could be seen as a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty over that location in Jerusalem’s Old City, which the international community generally considers occupied Palestinian territory. The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

After Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch read a chapter from the Book of Psalms, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro approached the wall, braving the rainy Jerusalem weather.

After the Brazilian president placed a note in one of the cracks, the two leaders leaned against the ancient stones for several seconds in quiet contemplation.

After the short ceremony, they toured the Western Wall tunnels, which are located underneath the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro visits the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem’s Old City with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 1, 2019 (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

At a visitors center, the two men viewed a virtual reality recreation of the Jewish temple that once stood on the Temple Mount.

Volume 90%

During his election campaign, and even in the weeks that followed his victory, Bolsonaro promised to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in transferring his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. But before he arrived in Israel on Sunday morning, he appeared to backtrack, indicating that he would open a trade mission in the city instead.

Meeting Netanyahu on Sunday, Bolsonaro announced the opening of a “trade, technology and innovation office” that would be “an official office of the Government of Brazil, in Jerusalem,” the prime minister said.

“I hope that this is a first step toward the opening in time of the Brazilian embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said on Sunday evening during a joint press appearance at the Prime Minister’s Residence on the capital’s Balfour Street.

“Recognizing the historic ties of Jerusalem with the Jewish identity and that the city is the political heart of the State of Israel, I announced today that Brazil will open there a Brazilian office to promote trade, investment and exchange in innovation and technology,” Bolsonaro tweeted later that night.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

Reconhecendo os vínculos históricos de Jerusalém com a identidade judaica e também que a cidade é o coração político do Estado de Israel, anunciei hoje que o Brasil abrirá lá um escritório brasileiro para promoção do comércio, investimentos e intercâmbio em inovação e tecnologia.

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So far, the US and Guatemala are the only countries to have their embassies in Jerusalem. Paraguay moved its embassy to the city last year, but has since relocated it to Tel Aviv.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă on March 24 announced that her country would move its embassy to Jerusalem, but an actual relocation seems unlikely because President Klaus Iohannis — who is staunchly opposed to the move — has the last word on the matter.

On the same day, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández announced his intention to “immediately” open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem that would “extend our embassy to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem.”

In recent weeks, several countries have opened or announced plans to open trade or cultural centers in the capital, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

The international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and so visiting foreign dignitaries generally refrain from going there in the company of Israeli officials.

Those who do want to tour the holy site usually do so in a private capacity, though in recent months an increasing number of foreign leaders have defied standard protocol and allowed Israeli diplomats to join them at the wall.

On March 20, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first American top diplomat to visit the site together with an Israeli prime minister, underlining the recent trend.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
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Religions: At War With The World

Religions: At War With The World

 

When I was ten or eleven years old I started going to a local Church of Christ and I remained going there regularly until I was 17. I say this to help those who don’t know me to understand me a little better. I married a lady whom was a ‘non attendee’ Jehovah’s Witness.  I do not claim to be a Bible Scholar, I am not. I have studied the Bible now for just over 50 years. I have done a lot of reading on different beliefs within different Church denominations as well as doing a lot of reading material from Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and several other large ‘Religious’ groups and beliefs. So, this article to you tonight is just simply my views and beliefs on this matter. Like in all of the letters I write to you I am requesting that you take a few moments and think about the subject matter I am speaking with you about.

 

In the Old Testament teachings in the Books of Moses (Jewish Torah) G-d ordered the destruction of all the people who possessed the lands that was to become the Land of Israel. At that point in history G-d did order the deaths of many thousands of ‘Creatures’. (I will explain in a moment). Even Jesus Himself referred to non-Jews as “dogs” and as “people who were not a people”. You see, before the resurrection of Christ the only ‘people’ who had any chance of salvation were the Jews. Since the resurrection of Christ Jesus everyone on the planet is born with the chance of eternal salvation. Now, once the people under the leadership of Joshua did invade the lands but they did not do as God had ordered. The people did not totally wipe the people off of the land, they let many live as since they disobeyed G-d He told them that there would be a remnant of these people mixed in within them and that these people would be a continues thorn in their side. Look at the reality that is Palestine today, that is one hell of a thorn folks. But, in answer to the main question of if it is okay yesterday, today or tomorrow for the Jewish people to use the Scriptures for guidance to commit violence against other people? The answer to that is no, it does not. Scripture does however give all people the right to protect themselves when an act of violence is being lain upon them or their family. Also, nowhere else in Biblical Scripture does the ‘Word Of G-d’ tell the Jewish people or later on, the Christian people to be killers of the ‘non-faithful’.

 

I had been thinking about writing a paragraph of so concerning the ‘Christian Bible’ but simply put, there is no place in the New Testament that Jesus ever told anyone to go and kill people. If a person is a follower of or believer of the Biblical Scriptures then there marching orders is to love, not hate. If we say we are a Christian but our heart is filled with hate toward any people, then Christ is simply not with us. G-d is indeed at war with the world but what He is at war with is the evil upon it and meaning mainly the Devil and His tens of thousands of Dark Angels. G-d hates the sin, not us sinners. And truly, we should all thank G-d for that every day we are still breathing.

 

Now, Islam. I do not claim to be a scholar of Islam but I have studied a lot of their material now for decades. One of the things that the world and our politicians ( especially the Democrats in the U.S.) do not understand is that Islam is not a race, it is not a minority, it is the world’s most dangerous ideology though. I as a person, I as a Christian have no hate for Muslim nor Persian people even though most believe in the Islamic Faith. What the Religion of Islam tries very hard to hide is the fact that they have two ‘Holy Books’ not one. We here in the West when we hear about Islamic teachings and the Islamic Holy Book we are all used to hearing about the Quran and that’s all. What is the Quran then? This is a simple fact, the Quran is one of Islam’s Holy Books, what is it though? It is a book of the ‘saying of the Prophet Muhammad’. If the Quran was the only ‘Holy Book’ that the believers of Islam believed in the world we all live in would be a whole lot safer and friendlier place to live. There is a huge problem though and that is the fact that the ‘real’ Holy Book of Islam is called the Hadith. What is the Hadith and if it is such an important book to the believers of Islam shouldn’t they be quoting ‘in public’ the works of ‘the Prophet’? You see, the Quran is ‘the sayings’ of the Prophet, the Hadith is ‘the works’ of the Prophet. All good believers of Islam if they wish to be a follower of the Prophet must also emulate his works. Read the Hadith people, if there is a sin that Muhammad did not do it would be a rare thing. This man teaches his followers to be liars, cheats, thieves, pedophile and mass murderers, that is how true believer are supposed to live their lives. Islam is at war with the world as are the Christians yet the difference are as different as the Sun and the Moon. For a true believer of Islam all people must convert to their brand of Islam or you will be enslaved or murdered, it is that simple folks.

 

War, really? We are all at war right now yet it seems that the politicians of ‘the West’ have their heads stuck so far up a sand crabs butt it is scary. Will the politicians sell out the people of this planet? What do you think?

 

 

 

Jewish voters are furious at Dems’ defense of Ilhan Omar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Jewish voters are furious at Dems’ defense of Ilhan Omar

Jewish voters furious at Democrats’ defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar say they’re done with the party that has held their support for generations.

“We felt we had a home there,” said Mark Schwartz, the Democratic deputy mayor of solidly blue Teaneck, NJ. “And now we feel like we have to check our passports.”

Jordan Manor of Manhattan, who calls himself a “gay Jewish Israeli-American,” laments, “The party I thought cared about me seems to disregard me when it comes to my Jewish identity.”

Mark Dunec, a consultant in Livingston, NJ who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2014, says, “I’m physically afraid for myself and for my family,” adding, “I see my own party contributing to the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.”

Omar, a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota, sparked the firestorm in February for using anti-Jewish tropes: saying that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins” and accusing Jewish-American legislators of “dual loyalty.”

Many, including some fellow Democrats, deemed her comments anti-Semitic — but the party’s lefty activists pushed back.

“No one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities,” complained Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a March 5 tweet.

Omar issued only a partial apology.

In response, the House passed a resolution condemning all “hateful expressions of intolerance” with kitchen-sink language that named nearly a dozen different groups.

“I feel confident that [Omar’s] words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Many Jewish Dems in the city aren’t buying it.

“The fake defense she doesn’t know what she’s saying? I don’t believe it,” said Sara, a Queens teacher who asked not to be fully identified. “This is a grown woman and a member of Congress. Trying to excuse this as naivete is inexcusable.”

For her and others, anger is sparking immediate action.

“The watered-down resolution triggered my decision to walk away from the Democratic Party,” said Allison Gangi of Manhattan.

“I never dreamed anti-Semitism would have become mainstream on the left, but it has.”

Sara said she is “not comfortable anymore being a Democrat” and will register as an independent.

Among his Teaneck neighbors, Schwartz said, “Our only question now is, do we start voting Republican, or do we become Republicans?”

Others say they feel like the wandering Jew of legend.

“I’m homeless. I don’t think I can vote for Trump, even though he’s great for Israel,” said Jason, a start-up owner from Long Island who asked that his surname not be used. “But as a Jew, I can’t see a way to support the Democratic Party. It’s supporting your own destruction.”

Last week, President Trump issued two tweets boosting “Jexodus,” a new advocacy group — advised by a prominent GOP strategist — that encourages moderate and conservative Jews to find a new political home. More than 4,000 people have signed on, organizers said.

“Since launching this, the anti-Semitism we are seeing is so blatant and obvious it’s terrifying,” said Elizabeth Pipko, the group’s spokeswoman and a volunteer on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The organization’s Instagram and Facebook pages are regularly targeted with hateful messages, she said.

“I leave them up, because people have got to see it,” Pipko said.

FILED UNDER     

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

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Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

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SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

Embedded video

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News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

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Israel holds major drill to practice fighting Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel holds major drill to practice fighting Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously

Ongoing 10-day exercise by Commando Brigade tackles battling Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in north at the same time, a prospect military fears is liable to occur

  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group  in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military’s Commando Brigade launched a large-scale exercise this week to practice fighting the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip and the Hezbollah terrorist militia in Lebanon simultaneously, the army said Saturday. The drill is continuing into this week.

In the past, Israeli defense analysts have speculated that concerns over the prospect of a two-front war prevented the military from launching a major campaign in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

The exercise, and the Israel Defense Forces’ publicity of it, appeared to serve as a message to the two terrorist groups that Israel was prepared for such an eventuality.

According to the military, the commando exercise began earlier this week and was expected to last 10 days. Soldiers from the Maglan, Egoz, and Duvdevan units took part in the drill.

It included significant cooperation with the Israeli Air Force, which both transported the commandos and carried out airstrikes alongside them.

“During the exercise, the brigade practiced fighting between different landscapes and arenas, combat in open fields and urban combat,” the army said.

The military said the purpose of the exercise was to improve the commando brigade’s preparedness for war. It was the unit’s sixth brigade-wide exercise since it was created in December 2015.

Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot observed the exercise earlier this week.

During his visit, the head of the Commando Brigade Col. Kobi Heller told Eisenkot that his unit was “ready and prepared for any scenario in which it is needed and will stand up to any enemy in any arena.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, and other senior officers visit an IDF Commando Brigade exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, is believed to possess an arsenal of some 10,000 rockets and mortar shells. Israel has fought three wars with the terror group in the past decade, and has repeatedly been on the verge of a fourth over the past eight months as Hamas has led a campaign of border violence and occasional rocket and mortar fire at southern Israel.

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Earlier this month, the terror group, partnering with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, launched some 500 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, killing one person and injuring dozens more.

In response, the Israeli military launched strikes against some 160 targets in the Gaza Strip connected to the two terror groups, killing seven people, most of whom were later identified as members of terrorist organizations, including some who were in the process of launching projectiles at Israel at the time they were killed.

The battle ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which has largely held since November 13, but with considerable criticism within Israel, including by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who resigned in protest of it, calling it “capitulation to terror.”

However, the IDF does not see Hamas as a serious military threat. Rather, the terror group is effectively allowed to remain in power as the Israeli government fears an even more extremist organization could take its place were it to be defeated.

The Iran-backed, Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist army, however, is considered by the military to be a significant strategic threat. With over 100,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, Hezbollah is seen by some defense analysts as more powerful than some Western militaries.

Fighters from the Hezbollah terror group are seen at a rally marking the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon on August 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Israel fought a 34-day war with the terror group in Lebanon in 2006. Since then, the Lebanese border has been quieter than in the years preceding the conflict. However, Hezbollah has used the time to build up its arsenals considerably, with more precise and dangerous munitions, and has gained considerable experience and training by fighting alongside the Russian and Syrian militaries in the Syrian civil war in support of dictator Bashar Assad.

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Netanyahu Says No Need For Elections Now As He Tries To Save His Coalition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu says ‘no need for elections’ now, in apparent bid to save coalition

Citing ‘period of sensitive security,’ PM slams junior partners in government for threatening to bring it down

In what seemed like a last-ditch effort to save his government from breaking apart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that there was “no need” to go to national elections, suggesting it would be dangerous to do so “during this period of sensitive security.”

“In the past few days, I have spoken with all the heads of the coalition, and I will meet with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon this evening in a last attempt to prevent the government falling,” the prime minister said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

The meeting between Netanyahu and Kahlon is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Party leaders Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), both significant members of Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition, have agreed to push for national elections to be held on March 26, 2019, Hadashot TV news reported Saturday night.

The report came as both party leaders voiced their clear support on Saturday for a national vote well ahead of November 2019, when the current government’s term is set to end. The Jewish Home party has threatened to bolt the coalition if Bennett is not be given the defense portfolio in the wake of Avigdor Liberman’s resignation from the post, a move reportedly opposed by Kahlon.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (r) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, at a press conference regarding the reduction in vacation days in the education system at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on January 8, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Sunday that Netanyahu had agreed to give Bennett the defense ministry, but that the Jewish Home chair was determined to go to elections.

At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu accused Bennett and Kahlon of ushering in left-wing administrations and therefore endangering Israel amid threats to the country’s security.

“At this time of sensitive security, there is no need for elections, nor would it be right,” he said. “We all remember what happened when elements in right-wing governments led their downfall, as in 1992 and as in 1999, which brought about the Oslo disaster and the catastrophe of the [second] intifada.”

Bennett threatened last week to pull his party out of the coalition and force new elections if he is not appointed defense minister instead of Liberman, who, in announcing his resignation on Wednesday, condemned Israel’s ceasefire with Hamas after a deadly exchange in the south.

Slamming the government for what she described as a “leftward slide,” Jewish Home’s number two, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said on Sunday that “the only justification for the continued existence of the government until November 2019 is if Bennett will be allowed to revolutionize security and restore to Israel the deterrence lost under Liberman.”

Despite Netanyahu’s apparent criticism of his junior coalition partners, neither Bennett nor Kahlon have said definitively that elections are inevitable.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. (Abir Sultan, Pool via AP)

“There is still a possibility that the government would be able to continue. However, the slim majority of 61 would make that highly unlikely, given some of the important legislation that remains on the docket for the remainder of the Knesset,” sources close to Bennett told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Top surrogates of the prime minister nonetheless continued to rail against Bennett, accusing him of forcing the early collapse of a right-wing coalition and threatening to return the left to power.

“We have a nationalist government that could continue for another year,” coalition chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) said in an interview with Israel Radio Sunday morning.

“Let there be no doubt, we’re going to elections because of Naftali Bennett. In my view the talks [to prevent the government’s collapse] are borderline hopeless. Naftali is pitting us all against each other, giving us grades. It’s unprecedented chutzpah,” he charged.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), meanwhile, said that he opposed giving the Defense Ministry to Bennett, saying that a member of his own party should be appointed instead.

“There are a number of suitable candidates in the Likud,” he told the Ynet news site. “At the moment of truth, a defense minister from a small party will prefer considerations of political survival over considerations of the state.”

Asked if Bennett was the best person for the job, Katz said the question reminded him of when John Lennon was asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world and replied that Ringo was not even the best drummer in the Beatles.

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Israel: Supreme Court nixes deportation of US student accused of BDS support

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Supreme Court nixes deportation of US student accused of BDS support

Lara Alqasem’s lawyers hail ruling rejecting state’s attempt to bar her entry to study; interior minister calls decision a ‘disgrace’

US student Lara Alqasem at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

US student Lara Alqasem at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that an American student accused of advocating boycotts of Israel can enter the country, putting an end to a weeks-long saga that drew scrutiny of an Israeli law allowing alleged anti-Israel activists to be barred from entry.

Lara Alqasem, 22, had been held in detention for 15 days after arriving in Israel for a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The state alleged that Alqasem, who headed the local chapter of the pro-boycott Students for Justice in Palestine group while she was a student at the University of Florida, currently supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In court, Alqasem insisted that she has not participated in boycott activities for a year and a half, and promised not to engage in BDS in the future. State lawyers argued that Alqasem’s deletion of her social media aroused suspicion and that she remains a threat.

In accepting her appeal, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a lower court that upheld the ban on her entry under a 2017 law forbidding BDS activists from entering Israel.

Alqasem, whose father is Palestinian, was released shortly after the Supreme Court decision.

Justice Neal Hendel, one of three Supreme Court judges who heard the appeal, affirmed in the ruling that while the state has the authority to bar BDS activists from the country, the law was not applicable in Alqasem’s case.

Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“In this case, preventing the entry of the plaintiff does not advance the purpose of the law and it was even argued, for example, by the Hebrew University that it harms Israeli academia,” Hendel wrote.

“The fight against boycotts is fitting and vital, as are the actions taken by the State of Israel on the matter. However, the concrete action before us clearly deviates from the range of reasonableness and cannot be accepted,” he added.

Alqasem’s lawyers praised the Supreme Court ruling and her “principled and brave stand” against the ban on her entry, calling it a “gross misapplication” of the anti-BDS law.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law. Israel has the right to control its borders, but that right does not give the Interior Ministry unchecked power to turn away anyone it deems unwanted,” attorneys Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor said in a statement.

“Lara has ensured that no one else should be denied the right to enter Israel based on sloppy Google searches and dossiers by shadowy smear groups,” they added, referring to the sources of the state’s argument that Alqasem supports the BDS movement.

“Lara’s case proves that thought-policing has no place in a democracy.”

Hebrew University, which joined Alqasem’s appeal, also welcomed the court’s decision.

“The Hebrew University of Jerusalem looks forward to welcoming our newest student, Lara Alqasem, as she begins her MA in Human Rights & Transitional Justice at our law school next week,” it said in a statement.

View of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus seen from Jerusalem’s Old City, on June 10, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Supreme Court ruling also was also welcomed by left-wing lawmakers and organizations, while right-wing politicians assailed it.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry is tasked with enforcing the law, called the ruling a “disgrace.”

“Where is our national dignity? In the US would she also dare to act against the state and demand to remain and study there? I’ll examine ways to prevent the recurrence of a case like this,” he wrote on Twitter.

Thursday’s ruling was a blow to Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, whose ministry oversees anti-BDS efforts. He rejected a promise from Alqasem not to take part in boycott activities while in Israel as insufficient and was the most vocal opponent of allowing her to enter the country.

AP contributed to this report.

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