US, Russia gave Israel green light to strike Iran in Syria, Iraq

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Report: US, Russia gave Israel green light to strike Iran in Syria, Iraq

Under alleged agreement, Jerusalem allowed to conduct attacks against Iranian threats in Middle East, but can’t publicly acknowledge them

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Israel has conducted several strikes on Iranian-controlled bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks with permission from the United States and Russia, a Western diplomatic source told a Saudi-owned newspaper Wednesday.

Moscow and Washington agreed that the Jewish state could conduct these attacks on Iranian targets in order to “ensure Israel’s security,” the source told the London-based Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat.

In recent weeks, a number of explosions have been reported in Iraqi military installations connected to pro-Iranian Shiite militias, including on Tuesday night in an arms depot north of Baghdad.

As part of the reported agreement, Israel would not publicly acknowledge carrying out the strikes. However, this has not prevented Israeli officials from hinting at their involvement in these attacks.

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Asked about Tuesday night’s blast at the pro-Iranian militia base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli reporters, “Iran has no immunity, anywhere… We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary.”

The explosions have occurred in bases and warehouses belonging to militia groups under the umbrella of the mainly Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The state-sanctioned PMF militias have fought alongside Iraq’s regular armed forces against the Islamic State group.

Iraqi MP Karim Alaiwi told pro-Hezbollah Lebanese network al-Mayadeen on Wednesday that evidence pointed to Israel being behind recent attacks on Shiite militias, adding that the Jewish state was trying to weaken the PMF.

Alaiwi said American forces controlled Iraqi airspace and reasoned that no one could be conducting airstrikes without US knowledge.

The Iraqi Civil Defense said in a statement that Tuesday’s blast occurred near Balad air base, one of the country’s largest. A Shiite militia group is stationed nearby.

Iraqi security forces’ vehicles are seen at the delivery ceremony of four new US- made F-16 fighter jets at Balad air base, 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The officials who confirmed the explosion spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. They said the blast occurred in a depot belonging to the PMF and that an investigation was underway.

The mysterious blasts have given rise to a host of theories, including that Israel may have conducted airstrikes.

No one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blast or other recent explosions.

In July, an explosion took place at a PMF base in Amirli, in Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province, killing two Iranians and causing a huge fire.

Last week, a massive explosion was also reported at the al-Saqr military base.

Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, and there has been speculation that it might be expanding its campaign to target Iranian bases in  Iraq. However, neither the Iraqi government nor Israel has addressed the reports.

Satellite photo of a weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia that was hit in an alleged Israeli operation on August 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Israeli officials have identified Iraq as a likely growing base of operations for Iran-backed efforts against the Jewish state. But Israeli officials have so far neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the strikes.

Raphael Ahren, AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Israeli doctor treating Syrians hopes to save hearts and win minds

(This article is courtesy of the Times of Israel)

 

Israeli doctor treating Syrians hopes to save hearts and win minds

In 2013, Salman Zarka, then head of IDF medical corps in the north, sent injured Syrians who came to Israel’s border to a Safed hospital. Now, he’s running it

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, speaks with a Syrian girl to whom he gave treatment (Courtesy).

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, speaks with a Syrian girl to whom he gave treatment (Courtesy).

WASHINGTON — For Israeli soldiers guarding the country’s northern border, Shabbat morning is often, though not always, quite placid, even with a raging civil war unfolding miles away.

The Israel Defense Forces have naturally been vigilant to keep the Syrian conflict from bleeding into Israel, especially over the last year as Iran has sought to entrench itself in the beleaguered Arab state. But more often than not, it hasn’t been Syrians with weapons that head toward Israel’s borders: it has been Syrians with injuries.

That came to the fore on a fateful morning in February 2013, when seven Syrians arrived at the Israeli border in need of serious medical attention. The medics there provided them with care, but it soon became clear that this would not be enough to save their lives.

At the time, Salman Zarka was the head of the IDF Northern Command’s Medical Corps. He quickly determined that the wounded Syrians needed to go to a civilian hospital where they could receive a higher level of care.

The closest one was the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, an ancient city overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Zarka ordered that they be rushed to the facility, where they were treated, and some underwent surgery. Every single one of them survived.

Ten days later, they went back to their homes in Syria.

Now, Zarka is the director of Ziv — a position he’s held since 2014 — where he has continued to treat Syrians who come to the Israeli border in need of lifesaving medical interventions.

A Syrian man carries two girls covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces on July 9, 2014 in the northern city of Aleppo. (Photo credit: AFP/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)

Since 2013, Ziv has played a small but pivotal role in the treatment of injured Syrians over the course of their country’s ruthless civil war. That is at least partly due to the hospital’s strategic location: roughly seven miles from the border with Lebanon and a little more than 50 from the Syrian border.

At first, Zarka thought 50 miles was too far for patients in critical condition (about a 30-minute drive with sirens), who, he feared, might not survive the trip.

“We decided that if we’re going to have a mission of saving lives, we’ll do it in the best way we know, and the best way with our experience was to have a military hospital just on the border so severe injuries can be treated there,” Zarka recently told The Times of Israel.

Therefore, in March 2013, after consultation with government officials, Israel built a facility on the border, near a Druze village.

But a year and a half later, it closed.

“We discovered it wasn’t needed,” said Zarka, who is Druze. “Most of the Syrians’ injuries were orthopedic. They did not require immediate medical attention and could wait to be treated at civilian facilities.”

Today, most of the burden falls on Ziv to treat Syrians who come to Israel asking for help. Since February 2013, the hospital has treated roughly 5,000 Syrians, according to Zarka.

The experience, he said, appears to have an impact on those rescued — many of whom had grown up thinking their southern neighbor was a villain.

Dr. Salman Zarka treats a wounded Syrian boy at the Ziv Medical Cener in Safed. (Courtesy)

“I’ve met many Syrians. When I met them at first, they were very afraid to meet their enemy and receive medical support from us,” Zarka said. “They didn’t always tell us the truth. We noticed that sometimes they changed their names. But things have changed. They have started smiling and speaking Hebrew. A number have told us that for many years they have been educated that we are the devil and need to be kicked back to the sea.

“Now,” he said, “they understand that we are more human than Assad.”

At Ziv, Syrians are treated confidentially to protect their identity from Syrian authorities, who would not take kindly to their accepting help from the Jewish state.

The patients stay anywhere from a few days to a few months. In a few rare cases, some have stayed longer than a year. While there, Zarka noted, they receive the same level of care as Israelis.

“We offer not just treatment for their injuries, we treat them according to the Israeli standards,” he said. “We do our best not just to try to save their lives, we try to improve the quality of their lives.”

Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance at the entrance to the emergency unit at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, northern Israel, on March 6, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

In one instance, a Syrian woman came to the border with her 10-year-old diabetic daughter after their village was bombed. The girl was unconscious and her mother thought she was dead. Shortly after they arrived at the border, the IDF brought them to Ziv, where the girl was treated for three months.

During that period, the medical staff trained the mother to care for her child once they left the unit — teaching her how to check her daughter’s glucose levels and how to give an insulin injection. They wanted to make sure she could keep her daughter healthy once they left.

When Ziv released her from the hospital, Zarka was fearful for both of their futures. “We were very worried especially about what would happen to this wonderful girl when she got back to Syria,” he said.

Four months later, however, that girl made it back to Ziv for a checkup.

“To see that she is surviving and gaining weight and in a better situation … you believe that you are changing something,” he said.

Zarka said when the girl returned she gave him a present: a drawing of the Israeli flag with a big heart and her name on it.

It said, “Todah Raba” — “Thank you” in Hebrew.

For Zarka, experiences like this one reveal the ability to influence the worldview of Syrians who might otherwise despise Israelis without actually knowing them. It may be a small sample size, he said, but that little girl will grow up grateful for the country that helped her while her own was trapped in a humanitarian catastrophe.

“She will believe Israelis are saving lives, that we are good people,” Zarka said. “Maybe some day, we will have a different relationship.”

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5 Oldest Cities in Asia (Middle-East)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Oldest Cities in Asia

Humans have been building communities for a long time. A really long time. There are people living in places that have seen millennia of human settlement, particularly on the Asian continent, widely considered to be the place where civilization started. Ranking the age of some of these cities is going to be mind-boggling, to say the least, so we’d recommend trying to think about time less as a human would and switch more to a geological scale. It might make it easier. These are the five oldest cities in Asia.

Erbil, Iraq

Erbil, Iraq

Credit: sadikgulec/iStock

~7,000 Years

You may remember learning in elementary school that the earliest civilized people in the Fertile Crescent built their homes out of mud bricks. We do, anyway. We also remember thinking bricks like that can’t be as permanent as ours. Well, they aren’t, which is how the city of Erbil got its start. Roughly located in the center of the city is the Erbil Citadel, a massive fortified dirt mound on an otherwise flat plain. The mound is man-made and the result of thousands of years of settlements built on top of settlements built on top of settlements. The reason people were able to build on top of settlements is the wearing down of those mud bricks we mentioned earlier. Over time, the bricks disintegrate in place, adding a thin layer of dirt to the growing mound. Multiply that by a few thousand years and thousands of residents and Erbil grows from the result.

Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos, Lebanon

Credit: benedek/iStock

~7,000 Years

In Phoenician mythology, Byblos was founded by the god El at the beginning of time. While that might not be completely factual, the mythological truth of the statement can’t be denied. It’s a city so old it’s at least partially responsible for naming the Bible, thanks to its booming papyrus trade (the main thing the Bible was printed on at the time) and the Greek word for book, biblos. Before it accidentally named the second largest religion’s main publication, it was famous for its shipbuilding industry and enabled the Phoenicians to solidify their reputation as world-class sailors. Even before that it was an important port for Mediterranean trade, exporting prized Lebanese cedar to the powerful Egyptian empire. The city’s declined somewhat since its ancient glory, though Ernest Renan, a prominent French historian, contributed to its rejuvenation when he published the mostly forgotten history of Byblos in 1860.

Ray, Iran

Ray, Iran

Credit: mazzo1982/iStock

~7,500 Years

The true age of Ray is difficult, maybe impossible, to determine. A lot of the “archaeology” that went on in the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s amounted to little more than destructive treasure hunting, meaning the trace evidence that could prove the city’s true edge may have been permanently destroyed. But the city’s resilience proved more than treasure hunters could completely destroy. Excavations in the 1990s and 2000s turned up what would be classified as “horizon pottery of Češmeh Ali” and puts Ray’s founders among the very first settlers of the Iranian plateau around 5,500 B.C.

Today, Ray’s been incorporated into the larger metropolitan area of Tehran, no slouch of a city itself. But Ray still has the Iranian capital beaten by a few centuries at least.

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Jericho

Jericho

Credit: Gosiek-B/iStock

~11,000 Years

Jericho’s roots grow so deep that the term “settlers” is more accurate than it is for other places. The earliest traces of human habitation around Jericho point to Mesolithic hunters who just decided to stay put one day. Like the hunters simply got tired and literally settled down. A thousand years after that, the hunters’ descendants started work on a huge stone wall around the town, with evidence of at least one huge tower incorporated into the wall. That’s 10,000 years of walled defense. So while Jericho might not be the oldest settlement in human history, its famous wall certainly is.

Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria

Credit: uchar/iStock

~10,000 — 12,000 Years

Twelve thousand years is a ridiculously long time, almost too long to conceptualize. To put it in some kind of perspective, Damascus possibly being 12,000 years old would put its founding during the Ice Age. During. Humans were settling down in Damascus at the same time half the Northern Hemisphere was buried under 4 kilometers of ice.

To make an even more of a dramatic statement of humanity’s ability to build cities, Damascus retains excellent examples from each of the major civilizations to contribute to its construction. Examples of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture are all on full display in the city, with the major examples being the Roman Temple of Jupiter, Roman walls and gates, and the Great Mosque built by Umayyad Caliphate. Essentially, what the city is today is a living, breathing Arabic city built on a hybrid Greek and Roman city plan in a location that’s seen human habitation since most of the Earth’s surface was made of glaciers.

Saudis: US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

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

 

US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

Tuesday, 6 August, 2019 – 09:45
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Turkey on Tuesday that Washington would prevent unilateral incursions into northern Syria against Kurdish forces.

On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, which already has a foothold in northwest Syria, will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria.

“Clearly we believe any unilateral action by them (Turkey) would be unacceptable,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Japan.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests… the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said.

The SDF stands for the Syrian Democratic Forces. With US backing, the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have taken control over the last four years of much of northeastern Syria from ISIS. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization.

Esper said the United States did not have any “ambition” to abandon the SDF, but stopped short of guaranteeing that the United States would protect them in case of a Turkish operation.

He said the US is trying to work out an arrangement that addresses Turkey’s concerns, adding: “I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

He did not provide details on where progress is being made.

A team from the Pentagon was in Turkey to speak with Turkish officials about the issue.

Esper suggested that a Turkish operation into northern Syria could affect the SDF’s focus on ensuring ISIS did not retake the territory it once held in Syria and the ability of the US-backed forces to hold the thousands of alleged ISIS fighters in detention.

Esper said the US will not abandon its SDF allies.

The Turkish-led campaign, which has for months been delayed due to resistance from Washington, is aimed at evicting YPG forces from a string of border town in Raqqa and Hasaka provinces.

Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on setting up a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the YPG.

This week, Erdogan said both Russia and the United States had been told of the planned operation, but did not say when it would begin. It would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in as many years.

Hundreds of US troops are stationed east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria working with the SDF, and an incursion by Turkey could put them in the middle of any firefight between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Turkey and the US have been negotiating for months over the establishment of a safe zone along the Syrian border that would extend east of the Euphrates to Iraq.

Turkey wants to establish a 25-mile-deep zone. But so far the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

Ties between the two NATO allies have been strained over a host of issues, including the United States’ removal of Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Ankara bought and took delivery of Russian S-400 missile defenses that Washington sees as a threat.

Israel: ISIS fighter captured in Syria asks Netanyahu to bring him home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli Islamic State fighter captured in Syria asks Netanyahu to bring him home

Speaking Hebrew, Sayyaf Sharif Daoud requests PM’s intervention, noting that Jerusalem works to secure release of IDF soldiers held in captivity

Sayyaf Sharif Daoud, an Arab Israeli who traveled to Syria to join IS, speaks with Al Arabiya. (video screenshot)

Sayyaf Sharif Daoud, an Arab Israeli who traveled to Syria to join IS, speaks with Al Arabiya. (video screenshot)

An Israeli citizen captured in Syria while fighting with the Islamic State terror group asked to return home this week, telling news outlet Al Arabiya that he wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to repatriate him.

In an interview with the network broadcast Wednesday, Sayyaf Sharif Daoud beseeched the premier to work to bring him back, noting Israel’s policy of making deals to return soldiers captured by the country’s enemies.

“I am an Israeli citizen. I know you are the prime minister of a democratic state that does not differentiate between Jews and Arabs,” Daoud said at the end of his interview, switching from Arabic to Hebrew.

“Many countries removed their citizens from here. Everyone knows what you did for one Israeli soldier, your country is large and scary,” Daoud said, presumably referring to the deal made to return Gilad Shalit, who was held in Gaza for five years before being released in 2011 as part of a controversial deal with Hamas in which Israel freed over 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.

“I request that you return me to Israel. It is very hard, this jail. It is very, very hard. This is my request and I know it is not hard for you to do. And by god I promise to not go back to how I used to be and to become a respectable person,” Daoud added.

In this undated file photo released online in the summer of 2014, terrorists of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, in Raqqa, Syria. (Militant photo via AP, File)

Captured in Deir Ezzor, the 30-year old Israeli citizen claimed that he had not participated in war crimes, serving instead as a nurse.

He told Al Arabiya that at one point IS had imprisoned him because he was Israeli.

“Any person I have any problems with, could go to the security forces and tell them that I’m Israeli. I would get imprisoned immediately,” he said.

“Imagine, after three years of being in the state, they imprison you and tell you ‘you’re Israeli,’” Daoud continued. “I used to feel ashamed of calling it [a state] that’s following the prophet’s steps. They wanted to record my voice speaking against Israel [but I did not] want to cause Israel or [my] family any trouble.”

“Many of us, not only me, were opposed to the slaughtering style. There are children, there are pregnant women,” he said, denying any role in the mass killings perpetrated by the terror group. “I founded a rescue team to help the injured from strikes. Whenever there was a strike, I’d be there.”

Asked if he had been armed, he replied “I carried a gun. Every person in the state, whether they’re a nurse, or working in the oil field, they need to carry a gun.”

Men suspected of being Islamic State fighters are searched by members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after leaving the Islamic State’s last holdout of Baghouz in Syria’s northern Deir Ezzor province, February 22, 2019. (Bulent Kilic/AFP)

In a previous interview with BBC Arabic that was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Daoud praised Israel, explaining why he chose to join Islamic State rather than any of the Palestinian terrorist organizations.

“I lived through the Second Intifada. I have seen war. I lived in the West Bank and in Israel. Israel has not done one percent of what Bashar Al-Assad has done,” he said, referring to Syria’s president. “There was fighting and all that, but Israel has not raped women or stripped them naked on TV, and it has not killed with such barbarity.”

Noting that his father had warned him against Hamas and Fatah, Daoud said that “Israel is a democratic state. I have not seen injustice there. We Arabs live together in Israel with the Jews. There is no injustice. We are treated just like the Jews.”

Daoud apologized to his parents, saying in Hebrew that he had “made a big mistake” and was sorry for the problems he had caused them.

“I know that my mother thinks of me every day and she is angry and that is very difficult for me because I always think of her.”

Foreign volunteers from around the world have served with Islamic State and many have requested to be allowed to return home. Australia recently moved to bar the return of Islamic State supporters who are demanding to be repatriated from crowded refugee camps in Syria.

In April, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri moved to strip an Israeli man of his citizenship for traveling to Syria to join Islamic State six years ago. Deri instructed ministry officials to take action in absentia against Abdallah Hajleh at the recommendation of the Shin Bet security service. The revocation must be approved by a special citizenship court. According to reports in Hebrew-language media, Hajleh has a citizenship in a second country.

The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals had fought for IS in Iraq and Syria. Most were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested.

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Israel: Israel said to hit Iranian sites in Iraq, expanding strikes on missile shipments

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWS)

 

Israel said to hit Iranian sites in Iraq, expanding strikes on missile shipments

IAF F-35 jets said to be behind 2 strikes on Iran-linked targets near Baghdad in 10 days; no comment from IDF

Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet takes part in a graduation ceremony for IAF pilots at the Hatzerim base in Israel's Negev desert on December 26, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet takes part in a graduation ceremony for IAF pilots at the Hatzerim base in Israel’s Negev desert on December 26, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israel has expanded its operations against Iranian targets to Iraq, where Air Force jets have struck twice in ten days, a report said Tuesday morning.

Israel commonly conducts strikes in Syrian territory, targeting Iranian missile shipments meant for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to use against the Jewish state, but strikes in Iraq by Israel have not been reported since the 1981 bombing of a nuclear reactor.

Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, cited Western diplomatic sources as saying an Israeli F-35 plane was behind a July 19 strike on a rocket depot in a Shiite militia base north of Baghdad.

The IDF has not commented on the report.

The Saudi-based al-Arabiya network reported at the time that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah had been killed in the strike. It said the base had shortly before the strike received Iranian ballistic missiles, which had been hidden inside trucks.

Iraq’s military said at the time that one fighter was killed and two Iranians wounded, saying the strike was carried out by an unmanned drone. The United States denied involvement.

In this photo from July 1, 2016, members of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq paramilitary group take part in a Quds Day march in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

Asharq Al-Awsat also said that Israel was behind another strike in Iraq carried out Sunday at Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the exiled People’s Mujahedin of Iran, located 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad and 80 kilometers from the Iranian border.

That strike targeted Iranian advisers and a ballistic missile shipment, the report cited sources as saying.

The report also mentioned a strike in Syria last week blamed on Israel, in which nine were killed including six Iranians fighting for the Syrian regime, claiming it was meant to prevent Iran from taking over a strategic hill in the Daraa province in the country’s south.

Israeli missiles targeted “military positions and intelligence facilities belonging to Iran and [pro-Iranian] militias” in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra early on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the time.

The other three killed in the strike were pro-regime Syrian fighters, it added.

Illustrative: Explosions seen near Damascus on July 1, 2019, during a purported Israeli airstrike. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces in the country, as well as those loyal to the Assad regime, as part of a stated policy to prevent arms transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of Iranian military forces across from Israel’s northern border.

Israel does not usually comment on specific reports of strikes, but does insist it has the right to defend itself by targeting positions held by Iran and Hezbollah.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi boasted last week that Israel is the only country in the world that has been “killing Iranians.”

In a speech to the UN General Assembly last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression. We will continue to act against you in Syria. We will act against you in Lebanon. We will act against you in Iraq. We will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and defend our people.” An excerpt from that speech was utilized in a recent Likud election campaign clip.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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Saudi’s: Shin Bet Breaks Up Iranian Espionage Network in Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ ALAWSAT)

 

Shin Bet Breaks Up Iranian Espionage Network in Israel

Thursday, 25 July, 2019 – 08:30
Israeli security forces stand in Jerusalem’s Old City, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat
The Shin Bet intelligence agency said Wednesday that it busted an Iranian espionage network that aimed to recruit operatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip “for the benefit of Iranian intelligence.”

The Shin Bet cooperated with Israeli police, the army and other security bodies in this regard.

According to a statement issued by the agency, the network was based in Syria under Iranian guidance and was led by a Syrian operative nicknamed ‘Abu Jihad.’ It attempted to recruit people via preliminary contacts based on fictitious Facebook profiles and later messaging apps.

“Using social networks to recruit people is a method known to intelligence elements including those affiliated with terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The affair joins other recent events in which terrorist elements (including those from Hamas and Hezbollah) have established contacts with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians over the internet in order to recruit them for intelligence gathering and terrorist activity,” revealed the statement.

The Shin Bet added that those who have been recruited were asked to collect information on military bases, sensitive security installations, VIPs, police stations and hospitals, in order to prepare targets for terrorist attacks in Israel at the behest of Iran.

The statement went on, “The internet activity was identified and monitored by the Israeli intelligence community at the outset by closely monitoring both the handlers abroad and people in Israel and West Bank who expressed willingness to cooperate with them.

Beginning in April 2019, an extensive operation was launched against operatives in Israel and the West Bank including several Israeli citizens who are suspected of having been in contact with Iranian operatives.

The Shin Bet said that the investigation revealed the connection with the Syria-based handlers developed to the level of passing information and directives to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, both civilian and military.

However, “the operations have shown that the absolute majority of Israeli citizens refused to cooperate with those who contacted them,” the Shin Bet added.

The Oldest Palaces Still In Use Today

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

The Oldest Palaces Still In Use Today

Many ancient civilizations were driven by excess: excesses of power, of wealth, of pride. And when you have all three in spades, it’s easy to understand why so many cultures sought to showcase their strength by building the biggest and most extravagant palaces in the world. Of course, many of these palaces are now gone. But not all of them are — and many of them are still being used, even today.

Citadel of Aleppo

Credit: tunart / iStock

Location: Aleppo, Syria

One of the oldest structures on this list, the Citadel of Aleppo is a castle in Aleppo, Syria, that has stood for over 5,000 years. This mighty structure features high walls, an entry bridge, and a huge gateway that are all mostly intact, despite being exposed to centuries of war, weather disasters, and natural decay.

From 2002 to 2010, non-profit societies (such as the World Monuments Fund) have tried to preserve the remaining structures of the Citadel, but their activities ground to a halt when the Syrian Civil War erupted in 2011. As of 2017, the site is reopened to public visitors interested in seeing one of the Middle East’s premier historical monuments for themselves.

Topkapi Palace

Credit: RuslanKaln / iStock

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Today, the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, is a large, sprawling museum complex overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. But back in 1458, when the building’s construction was ordered by Mehmed the Conqueror, it was envisioned as a grand palace suitable for generations of Ottoman sultans. And given its impressive majesty, it’s clear that it served this function well — for a while, at least.

By the 17th century, sultans had grown weary of the building, preferring the newer, bigger palaces that had since been built. The Topkapi Palace’s importance continued to wane over the years, moving from royal palace, to imperial treasury, to the eventual museum that we know today. But though it lost favor over the years, you can still go in the palace to see an amazing collection of ancient Ottoman relics, manuscripts, and treasures.

Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

Credit: Lefteris_ / iStock

Location: Rome, Italy

An ancient part of the Roman Forum, the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was built in 312 CE. The building, though not originally conceived as a palace, served multiple functions, including a council chamber, meeting hall, courthouse, and place of worship.

This was a crucial structure for the Romans of the time, but the Basilica wouldn’t last. It was severely damaged by earthquakes over hundreds of years until little remained of the building’s actual construction. So, though the Basilica isn’t technically still used today, it stands as a timeless landmark of Roman history — so much so that several events of the 1960 Summer Olympic Games were held at its former location.

Burg Meersburg

Credit: BasieB / iStock

Location: Meersburg, Germany

Burg Meersburg, or Meersburg Castle, is the oldest inhabited castle in Germany. Reports estimate that the castle was first built sometime in the 7th century, though there are multiple theories surrounding its initial construction. Like many others on this list, the castle has undergone significant renovations over the years, and much of the original construction is no longer visible.

Nevertheless, Meersburg Castle is a popular tourist attraction in Germany, regularly drawing in thousands of visitors a year. You can visit the castle yourself on a self-guided tour, though naturally, several areas are off-limits.

Palace at Pylos (Nestor’s Palace)

Credit: ankarb / iStock

Location: Pylos, Greece

Nestor’s Palace is considered the best-preserved Mycenaean Greek palace of the Bronze Age, located in the town of Pylos, Greece. This ancient structure was actually featured in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, from whence its casual title — Nestor’s Palace — was derived.

Historians aren’t sure when Nestor’s Palace was first built, though excavators report that most of the artifacts discovered inside date back to 1300 BCE. The palace itself was destroyed by a fire just 100 years later, though modern-day archaeologists would eventually rediscover it in 1939.

Due to its historical weight, the area is a huge draw for tourists. You can visit the site for yourself and watch the excavators dig through the rubble, along with checking out the nearby Greek museum.

The Oldest Palaces Still Standing

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Many of the amazing ancient palaces built by our ancestors have been lost to time, but others are still standing. Should you get a chance to see one of these amazing artifacts for yourself, take it! There’s no telling how long these buildings will be around, and getting a chance to see them live will certainly make a trip worthwhile — even if you aren’t a fan of history.

Turkey: 6,000 Unregistered Migrants Arrested in Istanbul

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

 

6,000 Unregistered Migrants Arrested in Istanbul

Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 – 09:45
FILE PHOTO: Migrants in a dinghy paddle their way on the Mediterranean Sea to attempt crossing to the Greek island of Kos, as a Turkish Coast Guard ship patrols off the shores off Bodrum, Turkey, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
A crackdown on unregistered migrants in Istanbul has seen 6,000 arrests, including Afghans and Syrians, in the past two weeks, Turkey’s interior minister said Wednesday.

“We have been carrying out an operation since July 12… We have caught 6,122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told TV station NTV.

He said Syrians were part of the group, without giving numbers.

There has been concern in recent days over reports that hundreds of Syrian refugees have been sent back to Syria, after being forced to sign consent forms in Turkish that they do not understand.

Soylu denied the claims.

“When we catch Syrians who are not registered, we send them to refugee camps,” he said, citing a camp in the Turkish border province of Hatay.

However, Agence France Presse quoted him as saying that some Syrians were choosing to go back to their home country “voluntarily” to areas where fighting has abated.

Turkey has more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees — the highest number in the world.

Most have “temporary protection” permits but these restrict them to the province in which they were registered. The current crackdown is aimed at those who live in Istanbul without a permit to stay in the city.

A coalition of Syrian NGOs said Monday that more than 600 Syrians — mostly with protection permits issued in other provinces — were arrested in Istanbul last week and deported back to Syria, rather than to their assigned provinces.

A survey published this month by Kadir Has University in Istanbul showed growing hostility towards Syrians, rising from 54.5 percent of respondents in 2017 to 67.7 percent in 2019.

The Most Populous Cities Throughout History

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The Most Populous Cities Throughout History

Over the course of human history, the ranking of the most populous cities has changed many times over. Jericho was the most populous city back in 9000 BCE. Now it is Tokyo, thousands of miles away. Population growth, climate change, and political shifts are largely responsible for moving the world’s biggest urban centers, but there are truly countless reasons as to why populations move and fluctuate.

When evaluating the most populous cities throughout history, archaeologists look at the total estimated global population to determine the cultural hubs of the period. Before the widespread use of recorded history, many cultures relied on oral traditions to help keep their chronicles alive. Because of this, it is challenging to calculate how many people lived in cities before recorded history.

But historians have done their best to determine where populations converged throughout history. These cities were at one point considered to be the biggest in the world.

Jericho, West Bank

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Population in 9000 BCE: 2,000; current population: 14,674

Most academics agree that Jericho is among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places, as settlements have been uncovered dating back to 9000 BCE. Jericho is considered the oldest and most populous city throughout history. It is located near Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea in what is now the West Bank. The plentiful natural irrigation from the Jordan River makes it an ideal ancient city for long-term habitation.

Uruk, Iraq

Credit: Marcus Cyron / Wikimedia

Population in 3500 BCE: 4,000; current population: Uninhabited

Uruk was once an agricultural hub that lay the foundation of Mesopotamia. However, Uruk is no longer inhabited. Nestled between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, Uruk was once a thriving trade center that specializes in local crafts, writing, and grain.

Mari, Syria

Credit: Heretiq / Wikimedia

Population in 2400 BCE: 50,000; current population: Uninhabited

Researchers discovered a large population migration from Uruk to Mari, indicating a flourishing trade and livelihood in that region of Mesopotamia. Estimates place the population of Mari, which is located in what is now Syria, at 50,000 people in 2400 BCE. It was the trade capital of the region and had a fully functioning government and recorded history.

Ur, Iraq

Credit: M.Lubinski / Wikimedia

Population in 2100 BCE: 100,000; current population: Uninhabited

Ur was a very rich city in 2100 BCE, with a huge amount of luxury items made from precious metal and semi precious stones. After 500 BCE, Ur was no longer inhabited due to drought and changing river patterns. Today, the Iraqi city of Tell el-Muqayyar is at the site of Ur.

Yinxu, China

Credit: tak.wing / flickr

Population in 1300 BCE: 120,000; current population: uninhabited

Eventually, the world’s biggest population centers shifted away from the Middle East. The earliest forms of Chinese writing can be found in the modern day ruins at Yinxu, sometimes written as two words (Yin Xu). At its height, this city was the academic center of the Chinese world.

Carthage, Tunisia

Credit: CJ_Romas / iStock

Population in 300 BCE: 500,000; current population: 20,715

Located in present-day Tunisia, Carthage was an enlightened civilization until drought and famine sped up the decline of this ancient city. It was not until 1985 that the mayors of Carthage and Rome officially ended their 2,000-year-old conflict.

Rome, Italy

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Population in 200 CE: 1,200,000; current population: 2,754,440

What started as a small village a thousand years ago is now a bustling metropolis. In 200 CE, Rome was the most populated city in the world. It is no secret that Rome has been one of the longest occupied settlements and for a good reason. As a center for government, politics, religion, fashion, ancient history, archaeological sites and culture, it is still a top travel destination for millions of people.

Beijing, China

Credit: Sean Pavone / iStock

Population in 1500: 1,000,000; current population: 22,000,000

Still one of the world’s most populous cities, Beijing broke out around 1500, when it relied on grain and monetary taxes from the population to feed and supply the city. However, that was not enough. The population was so large that commerce destroyed all of the forests in the region. This irrevocably changed the ecosystem in the area.

London, England

Credit: ZoltanGabor / iStock

Population in 1825: 1,335,000; current population: 13,945,000

During the pinnacle of the British Empire, crime and terror in London ran rampant. The city was considered unsafe. However, this did not stop people from finding their way in the Empire’s capital. Today, it remains a global capital that welcomes millions of visitors every year.

Tokyo, Japan

Credit: yongyuan / iStock

Population in 2000: 20,500,000; current population: 36,000,000

After this trip through history, we arrive at the present day. Tokyo is the most populous city in the modern world, home to an astounding 36 million people in its metropolitan area. There was a brief interlude following World War II until Tokyo recovered economically. Prosperity and a strong bond to Japanese tradition, family, and history maintain Tokyo’s high population today.

The draw and allure of cities continue to bring human civilization closer and closer together. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban centers, and this number is expected to climb. The current practice of census-taking will undoubtedly help future historians.

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