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Latest Israel News – 6th April

Israel arrests Syrian-trained Hamas recruit plotting terror attacks

A Palestinian recruited by Hamas headquarters abroad to promote terror activity in Israel was charged at the end of March by the Samaria Military Court, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said, officially clearing for release information about the suspect on Wednesday.

Qalqilya resident 23-year-old Malak Nazar Yousseff Kazmar was arrested in a joint Shin Bet, IDF and Israel Police operation on February 26 2017.

According to the Shin Bet, it became clear during his interrogation that Kazmar, who had lived in Turkish Cyprus for the last few years, had been recruited by Hamas while he was in Jordan in August of 2015 and sent to a military training camp in Syria’s Idlib province in January 2016. In the military camp Kazmar learned to shoot and underwent theoretical training on the production of explosive devices.

In January 2017, shortly before he returned to the West Bank, he met with Hamas operatives in Istanbul who instructed him to recruit additional Hamas operatives who lived in Israel.

Kazmar was arrested on his return to the West Bank, before he could carry out the instructions he was given to try to find potential activists who could join Hamas ranks.

During his interrogation, he turned over the contents of an encrypted memory card that he had received from his operators on Turkish soil which contained extensive security guidelines and information intended to assist him in carrying out his missions.

“This investigation illustrates the activity of the Hamas headquarters abroad, including on Turkish soil, under the direction of the head of the ‘Gadma’ Office, Saleh al-Arouri” the Shin Bet statement read.

Al-Arouri, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing, was imprisoned by Israel for 15 years before being expelled to Syria. He fled to Turkey in 2012 when Hamas’ offices in Syria were shut. From Turkey he helped orchestrate the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion in June 2014, which later triggered the Israel-Gaza conflict that lasted throughout the summer of that year.

“Hamas leadership continues to be assisted by activists who return to the West Bank to promote terrorist activity, while its leaders operate without interference in various countries abroad.”

Since the beginning of the latest wave of violence to hit Israel and the West Bank, numerous attacks by Hamas supporters and members have been thwarted in the West Bank. Last week, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman warned the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the current calm in violence is “deceiving” and that Hamas and other organized terror cells continue to plan attacks.

“The relative calm that we are experiencing at this time is quite deceiving, it’s misleading and deluding because Hamas and global jihadi infrastructure are working every day in attempting to conduct terrorist attacks in Israeli territory,” he said.      (Jerusalem Post)

Israel summons EU official over support for illegal construction in Area C

The Foreign Ministry said it “summoned” the EU’s Deputy Head of Mission Mark Gallagher on Monday to demand the EU’s stop its “obsessive” support for illegal Palestinian building in Area C.

In the last few years, the European Union has provided modular housing for Palestinian and Beduin herding villages, particularly in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and in the South Hebron Hills.

It has argued that such structures fall under the definition of humanitarian aid and that according to international law, the EU has a right to provide such housing to the Palestinians even if it runs counter to Israeli law.

The Foreign Ministry told Gallagher that Israel was governed by the rule of law and that the EU should respect such laws.

“We asked him to stop being about obsessive about it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Tuesday. “There are 32 humanitarian crises in the world, but [the EU] has chosen to disproportionately deal with what is happening in Area C, that without a doubt is not a humanitarian crisis.”

Just look at “what happened today in Syria,” Nachshon said. The EU Embassy in Tel Aviv had no comment with regard to Gallagher’s conversation with the Foreign Ministry.

The issue came to a head again after the Civil Administration issued demolition orders last month against 42 homes in the Beduin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, where EU member states Belgium and Italy have funded a school and helped build structures for the local population of about 150.

“The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets [including EU-funded] and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law,” Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said, with envoys from all EU member states present. “We therefore call on Israel, as the occupying power, to meet its obligations vis-à-vis the Palestinian population… completely stop these demolitions and confiscations and allow full access of humanitarian assistance.”

Faaborg-Andersen’s intervention was first reported by Haaretz.

The clampdown against Khan al-Ahmar, located in a sensitive area of the West Bank earmarked for settlement expansion, is the latest in a series of demolitions that have been roundly condemned by the EU and the UN.

The High Court of Justice is hearing cases against both Khan al-Ahmar and the adjacent school.

Israel says the demolitions are necessary because the building was carried out without a permit in Area C.

Both Israel and the Palestinians say the area around Ma’aleh Adumim will be part of their borders in any final status agreement for a twostate solution.

The EU says Israel rarely issues permits in Area C and is concerned that by blocking Palestinian development there, and demolishing structures that are built, it is actively undermining the viability of any future Palestinian state.

Figures from the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs show that Israel has sharply stepped up demolitions in Area C over the past year.

While between 450 and 560 Palestinian structures were demolished each year from 2012-2015, the number jumped to 876 in 2016, and in January this year alone there were 121 demolitions. More than 1,200 people were displaced last year.

To underscore concern about the threat to Khan al-Ahmar, delegations from EU embassies have been visiting the site regularly. Officials hope public diplomacy might help secure Supreme Court support against the demolitions.

A similar situation exists in the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the South Hebron Hills, where the international community has also lobbied in support of the community.

“We’re not giving up,” said one EU diplomat, while acknowledging that it was an uphill battle to stop the demolitions. “We have to be realistic.” (Jerusalem Post)

Investigation of Netanyahu to continue for at least two months

The investigation into alleged illegal gifts received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue for at least two months, Channel 2 reported on Monday.

Police reportedly still need to obtain testimony from Australian billionaire James Packer and conduct judicial inquiries abroad. Packer is suspected of giving Netanyahu’s son Yair gifts in an attempt to influence the premier.

This appears to contradict a statement by Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich in early March that police investigators likely would finish “within a number of weeks.” In late January, Alsheich also said that investigation was in its final stages.

According to the report, police are still likely to recommend an indictment in the investigation, termed Case 1000. However, even if recommended, it would likely not be filed by the Attorney-General’s Office until at least the summer of 2018.

Netanyahu was questioned for a fourth time in March on suspicions that he and his wife, Sara, received illegal gifts of cigars, champagne and jewelry, with a total value in the tens of thousands of shekels from Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan.

Throughout the investigation, Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, repeating his mantra: “There will be nothing, because there is nothing.”

In early March, investigators from the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit obtained testimony from Milchan, and Netanyahu was asked about Milchan’s statements in his fourth questioning.

Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017

Meanwhile, police are also investigating criminal suspicions termed Case 2000, in which Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes and Netanyahu are alleged to have conspired to weaken the Israel Hayom free daily in exchange for favorable coverage of the premier.  (Jerusalem Post)

India to receive armed Heron drones from Israel

Two years after buying its first armed Heron unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel, India might be receiving them ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit this summer.

According to India’s Economic Times, 10 Heron TP-armed drones bought in September 2015 at a cost of $400 million are ready to be delivered to New Delhi once a final payment is completed.

The Heron TPs are Israel Aerospace Industries’s most advanced UAVs with a 40-hour endurance, maximum takeoff weight of 5,300 kg. and a payload of 1,000 kg., according to the Times. They can be used for both reconnaissance as well as combat and support roles, and can carry air-to-ground missiles to take out hostile targets.

At the AeroIndia show in Bangalore in February, IAI introduced their Long-Range Long-Endurance Heron TP-XP.

Heron TP-XP constitutes a multi-mission, multi-payload strategic aircraft, the company said, and it is a special export version of the Heron TP, which has been used by the Israel Air Force since 2010.

Heron

While IAI’s export Heron TP variant is almost identical to the company’s domestic version, the export variant carries a 450-kg. payload in order to allow members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to procure the UAV.

While Israel is not a member of MTCR, which aims to restrict the proliferation of missile technology, India joined in June of last year.

Israel has agreed to only export strategic weapons systems to member countries.

The Indian Air Force already operates close to 180 Israeli- made UAVs, including 108 IAI-made Searchers and 68 unarmed Heron 1s for surveillance and intelligence gathering, as well as a fleet of IAI-produced Harpy UAVs, which carry a high-explosive warhead and self-destructs to take out targets such as radar stations.

“India is one of IAI’s leading markets,” IAI president and CEO Joseph Weiss said in January.

“This important market is characterized by long-term collaboration, joint development and production, technology transfer and technical support over many years.”

According to foreign media reports, Israel is considered a leading exporter of UAVs, with IAI and Elbit selling them to Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico and Singapore, among others.

As part of their role in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, Germany signed a $100 million deal with Airbus Defense and Space to lease three Heron in July. The German air force has been operating the Heron in Afghanistan since 2010, where they were involved in thousands of missions, accumulating over 27,000 flight hours.

And while the Israeli-made UAVs in Mali will be used solely for surveillance and intelligence gathering, in early March, Singapore’s Defense Ministry marked the full operational capability for its military’s first Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle, which Singapore Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen said “could be deployed against terrorist threats.” (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli summit concludes: Cyber terrorism world’s greatest threat

Cyber-based activity is shaping up as the greatest threat to world security, Israeli, European and Asian comptrollers said at a seminar hosted by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Tuesday.

Governmental comptrollers and ombudsman from the US, Austria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, and Sweden commended Shapira’s initiative in a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin. The officials – who often act as gatekeepers, auditors and investigators – emphasized the importance of global cooperation in fighting cybercrime.

“The job of defending democracy is not an easy one,” Rivlin said. “The state comptroller needs the skin of an elephant, because nobody likes to be criticized.”

Such independent officers are “a fourth branch of government” and the State Comptroller’s Office is “an important tool for the State of Israel and for Israeli democracy…

Rivlin labeled cyber-based crimes a significant, world-wide threat.

“This has become a very real war in which we all have to fight together,” he said In his comments, Shapira said Rivlin – a friend since childhood – represented the Jewish values of unity, solidarity and mutual responsibility.

He emphasized the need “to stand together” in the battle against undemocratic forces that try to change the life styles and rights of citizens.

State Comptroller’s Office Director General Eli Marzel echoed those sentiments as he spoke of “working together to mitigate this threat on all levels.”

US Government Accountability Office head and Comptroller General Eugene Louis Dodaro called cyber, or computer-aided crime, “the greatest risk.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli firm to provide drinking water — from the air — for India and Vietnam

An Israeli company whose technology made a splash at last week’s AIPAC conference has signed deals to produce drinking water — by extracting it from the air — in India and Vietnam, two countries that have long faced shortages.

Water Gen inked an agreement last week with India’s second largest solar company to produce purified water for remote villages in the country. Earlier, the company arranged with the Hanoi government to set up water generators in the Vietnamese capital.

“The government of Vietnam greatly esteems the technological developments in Israel, and I hope that the Israeli technology that we supply to Vietnam will significantly help to improve water conditions in the country,” Water Gen President Mikhael Mirilashvili said after the signing in Hanoi, according to a statement.

The memoranda of understanding are worth $150 million in total, according to Water Gen, which was founded in 2009 and creates technology that extracts water from the air for use by civilians and soldiers who do not have access to clean sources.

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz demonstrated Water Gen’s technology on stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., on March 26. He touted the device, which he said can produce 15-20 liters of drinkable water a day, as a weapon against worldwide water scarcity and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“There is no weapon more powerful in the fight against BDS than for Israel to develop technologies that the world cannot live without,” he told the crowd. “You cannot boycott products that you can’t live without.”

About 1.2 billion people, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of water scarcity, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Of India’s 1.25 billion people, 75 million lack access to clean water, the Water Aid nonprofit found last year. And Vietnam has struggled to provide its population of 95 million with water because of contamination, poor infrastructure and heavy agricultural demand.

Water Gen devices use thin plastic leaves to condensed water from warm, humid air. The company says that its largest unit can produce 825 gallons of water per day for only 10 cents a gallon (mostly in energy costs).

In India, Water Gen is to deploy its technology to supply drinking water to remote villages in India with solar power from Vikar Solar. The Vietnam project is to generate tens of thousands of liters of water a day for the people of Hanoi. Water Gen also said in a statement that it plans to build a factory to produce technology for sale in the region.  (JTA)

Israel’s loud talk after Syria gas attack unlikely to lead to action

With no interest in getting mired in civil war across the border, politicians high on outrage, but low on what to do about it

By Judah Ari Gross                                                    The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/after-syria-gas-attack-israels-loud-talk-unlikely-to-lead-to-action/

From the left and the right, from the center and extremes, Israeli politicians clamored over one another to declare their disgust at the apparent chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria, on Tuesday. But amid a cacophony of calls for action, it’s not clear what, if anything, Israel can or will do to stop the atrocities next door.

Soon after news of the attack reached Israel, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called for an emergency meeting of the security cabinet to “discuss all the options.” As of Tuesday night, that meeting had yet to be scheduled, his office said.

At least 58 people were killed, including 11 children, in the Idlib gas attack, with unconfirmed reports putting the death toll closer to 100.

The United States, United Kingdom and European Union all laid the blame for the attack at the door of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In Israel, the attack also spurred security officials into action.

The security services prepared what’s known as a “situational assessment,” detailing what the defense agencies know about the attack and the potential risks to the Jewish state, officials said.

According to Channel 10 news, part of that assessment is that Russia approved the alleged gas attack, believing it would “only” draw international condemnation, but no action.

This was not the first reported use of chemical weapons this year. Despite Assad agreeing to give up his chemical weapons in 2013, his regime has been accused of carrying out at least eight gas attacks in the first quarter of 2017 alone.

But most of the reported chemical attacks in Syria since 2013 were said to have been carried out with mustard or chlorine gas. Tuesday’s attack was reportedly conducted with sarin gas, an organophosphate, which interrupts the communication between nerves, preventing regular body functions like breathing.

It has yet to be officially confirmed that sarin gas was used, but videos from Idlib hospitals showed victims with unresponsive, constricted pupils — a tell-tale sign of exposure to the nerve agent.

Israeli politicians’ responses to the alleged chemical attack included including some calls on the country to do more about the suffering across the border, but they uniformly lack detailed proposals.

And military intervention seems to be off the table.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, head of the Institute for National Security Studies think-tank and former head of Military Intelligence, was one of the few people to urge direct action against Assad, calling the chemical attack a “crime against humanity.”

Speaking to Army Radio, Yadlin encouraged Israel to destroy the planes used in Idlib “from afar,” in an apparent reference to a missile attack.

“An action that weakens Assad is right morally and strategically,” he said.

Yadlin later walked back on the call to bomb the planes, but said Israel could use military deterrence to ensure Syria doesn’t use them again to carry out chemical weapon attacks.

Official policy maintains that Israel should stay out of Syria, unless a “red line” is crossed. That refers to: Israeli civilians being attacked; Israeli sovereignty being breached; or the transfer of advanced weapons to terrorist groups. Gas attacks on Syrian children, as horrible as they are, do not cross that line.

Israel has every reason to avoid being dragged into the Syrian quicksand, not the least of which is that it would put the country at odds with Russia. Israel would also be inviting retaliatory strikes by Syria and/or its ally, the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Therefore, should Israel decide to take action in light of this latest apparent chemical attack, it will likely be in a behind-the-scenes or humanitarian way.

Israel could try to be more vocal and exert more pressure on the US and Russia to remove Assad’s remaining chemical weapons stocks.

The Jewish state has already provided medical care for more than 3,000 Syrians, it could expand those efforts as well and begin to take in refugees.

But well over half a decade into a civil war that has torn Syria asunder as the international community has mostly watched from the sidelines, and with little appetite in Israel, the US or elsewhere for expanded military engagement, one would also be forgiven for thinking Jerusalem and the rest of the world might continue to do what they have done to Assad for the past six years: Nothing

Another excellent video from Dennis Prager