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Latest News in Israel – 14th December

Palestinians freed in Shalit deal are planning terrorist attacks

Dozens of former Palestinian security prisoners released as part of the Shalit deal are trying to form new terrorist cells in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem, with the expressed purpose of carrying out suicide attacks against Israelis, senior Palestinian sources warned Thursday.

The 2011 prisoner exchange, meant to secure the safe return of Hamas captive Gilad Shalit, saw 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released. The majority of them were expelled to Turkey and the Gaza Strip, but it seems that they are now trying to regain a foothold in Judea and Samaria.

According to a Palestinian source, the driving force behind these attempts is senior Hamas operative Salah al-Aruri, who was released in the deal and is based in Istanbul. Al-Aruri’s efforts are rumored to have the backing of the heads of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

The exiled terrorist has reportedly recruited several former prisoners to serve as cell leaders, and they are the ones recruiting Palestinians for their terrorist squads. The operation is said to be compartmentalized, and each cell leader has a different handler, either in Turkey or in the Gaza Strip, leaving them oblivious to each other’s efforts on the ground.

Nevertheless, the source said that al-Aruri’s efforts have become a bone of contention between Hamas leadership in Gaza and its top operatives in the West Bank, who maintain that his actions contradict Hamas’ policy in the West Bank, which at this point negates carrying out suicide attacks in Israel.

Hamas sources said that as al-Aruri’s operations are funded by Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood supporters, he is actually creating a new militant group with its own agenda, independent from Hamas’ military wing.

A senior Palestinian security official confirmed that al-Aruri was encouraging terrorist attacks, including suicide attacks, against Israel, saying he is trying to force Israel into launching a wide-scale military campaign across Judea and Samaria, which in turn could bring about the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the end of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ term in office.                 (Israel Hayom)

Palestinian gunman opens fire at West Bank crossing; attempted ramming attack near Hebron

A Palestinian motorist attempted to ram his vehicle into IDF soldiers conducting security checks at the Hilhul Junction near Hebron on Friday.

The assailant was shot and killed at the scene. During searches, a knife was found on the person of the terrorist.

No Israelis were wounded in the incident.

Shortly beforehand, a Palestinian gunman fired shots toward Israeli security forces at the Gilboa (Jamale) crossing between the northern West Bank and Israel on Friday.

The attacker approached the checkpoint and fired the shots from several dozen meters away, using a long-barreled fire arm.

In response, Defense Ministry security personnel opened fire toward the gunman.

According to the IDF, the gunman then fled the scene and a Palestinian truck picked him up and drove away back toward Palestinian Authority territory.

While the gunman’s condition was unknown, the Defense Ministry added that one of its personnel who fired at the terrorist saw that he had been hit.

The IDF launched a search for the assailant. There were no reports of Israeli injuries.

In early November, the Defense Ministry reopened the Gilboa Crossing north of Jenin, a day after it was shut following a series of Palestinian knife attacks.

In a joint decision by the Crossings Authority and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, authorities reoened the busy crossing after changing security arrangements in the area. The decision to reopen the crossing will be reevaluated on a daily basis, authorities said.           (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian teen shot trying to stab Israeli in West Bank

A Palestinian teenage girl was shot Sunday as she tried to stab an Israeli in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, next to the West Bank city of Hebron, security forces said.

IDF soldiers at the scene fired on the suspected assailant, wounding her moderately to seriously. No Israelis were reported injured in the incident.

“A stabbing attempt was thwarted,” the IDF said in a statement.

The attacker was taken by paramedics to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood for treatment. She was named by Palestinian sources as 16-year-old Lama al-Bakhri, from Hebron.

Video footage from the scene showed IDF soldiers placing her on a gurney and wheeling her to an ambulance.

The attack was the first since Friday, when two Palestinians were reported killed in clashes with the IDF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following weekly prayers.

One man was killed during violent protests north of Hebron, according to Palestinian media. Meanwhile officials in the Gaza Strip said a second man was killed by Israeli troops in a clash along the security fence. Media reports identified the Hebron man as 21-year-old Oday Irsheid, the brother of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in October after security officials said she pulled a knife at troops in Hebron. Palestinian witnesses have claimed she was unarmed and was shot without provocation.

The army said Irsheid died during a riot in which hundreds of Palestinians attacked forces by hurling stones and firebombs and rolling burning tires toward troops. The military said forces tried to disperse the riot with nonlethal means before firing “toward inciting characters.”                     (The Times of Israel)

Israeli Arab leader refuses to enter ‘Zionist’ offices of US Jewish group

The chairman of the Joint (Arab) List MK Ayman Odeh refused to address the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Thursday, protesting the fact that the New York offices in which the meeting was to be held also housed the Jewish Agency and other Zionist organizations.

According to the meeting’s organizers, Odeh entered the building’s lobby, but refused to go in, citing the fact that the offices on the floor with the Conference of Presidents also housed the Jewish Agency — a quasi-governmental organization that the Arab List claims participates in discriminatory practices against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

“I came here to represent the Arab public in Israel to American audiences,” Odeh later recounted in a statement. “As their representative, I cannot in good conscience participate in meetings in the offices of organizations whose work displaces Arab citizens, just as in the Knesset, we do not participate in the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.”

With some two dozen representatives of organizations that participate in the Conference of Presidents sitting and waiting upstairs, Conference of Presidents Executive Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein came downstairs to try to find a solution. Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli also attempted to deescalate the situation — and a suggestion was floated to hold the meeting on a different floor of the building, which houses the offices of the Reform Movement.

But that facility, Hoenlein said, was occupied — and he emphasized that even if it had been available, he thought the demand to hold the meeting anywhere but in the organization’s offices was unacceptable.

“To move it because I should acknowledge that a Member of Knesset wouldn’t come a floor as if there is some contamination there because there is a Zionist presence?” he asked. The meeting room where they were supposed to meet, Hoenlein stressed, had no signs from the Jewish Agency.

“I asked him, How do you go to the Knesset?” Hoenlein recounted. “I said to him, I have no choice, I have to go up and tell the truth.”

“They were outraged,” Hoenlein continued, referring to his waiting colleagues. “We will continue to have an open forum but we are going to maintain principles that should be inviolate. They can’t manifest an attitude like that.”

“We have Arab leaders come here all the time. We never had one person tell me I can’t come on to your floor,” he said.

Odeh, however, saw things differently.

“Throughout my visit to the United States, I have spoken with Jewish and Palestinian communities about the need for a joint struggle for our shared future, based on mutual respect and independence for both peoples,” he wrote in his statement. “The Conference of Presidents’ refusal to meet in any other location shows a deep lack of understanding and respect.”

In their official response, Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen Greenberg and Hoenlein said that the leaders of the umbrella organization were “deeply disturbed and shocked at the refusal” of Odeh “to fulfill his commitment to speak before a meeting of the Conference, because our premises are shared with the Jewish Agency, and other Zionist groups.”

“We received several suggestions that MK Ayman Odeh be invited and, in keeping with the Conference’s decades long tradition of providing a forum for a wide variety of points of view on issues affecting the American Jewish community’s agenda, we extended the invitation,” the two noted. “We have had leaders of virtually every faction and party in the United States, Israel, from friendly and unfriendly countries, and none ever refused to appear. For a member of the Knesset to assert that he will not enter a premises because it has an association with Zionist entities, like the Jewish Agency, is disturbing and dismaying.”

Hoenlein and Greenberg wrote that after the experience, they “now understand the recent demand of the Mayor of the Nazareth, Ali Salem, that Odeh leave his city because his presence promotes divisiveness.” At the time, Salem said Arab List leaders were provoking and encouraging in recent demonstrations, accusing them of “destroying our future” and “destroying coexistence.”

Greenberg and Hoenlein said that “the Conference will continue to provide an open forum but will not compromise our principles and yield to such an outrageous demand.”

“We hope MK Odeh will reconsider his stance if he, indeed, wants to advance coexistence in Israel and promote understanding abroad,” they concluded. “As a leader, he cannot succumb to the pressures of extremists in his constituency, but should take advantage of such opportunities to provide his perspective, and that of those he represents, to an important and interested audience.”

The 40-year-old lawmaker is on a weeklong visit to the United States. In Washington, he met with administration officials, members of Congress, and representatives of liberal think tanks. In New York, the freshman MK was hosted by the Union of Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs and met with a number of Reform leaders.            (The Times of Israel)

Arab IDF soldier went to fight for ISIS

Arab sources in Israel have revealed that a Muslim Arab citizen of Israel who served as a soldier in the IDF has gone to join Islamic State (ISIS).

The sources revealed to Walla! News Thursday that the citizen is a resident of one of the many Arab towns in Israel’s north.

According to his military ID, he was scheduled to be released from regular army service in January 2014.

It appears he left Israel for Turkey and from there continued to Syria, taking his dog tags from his IDF days with him.

There are around 100 to 150 Arab Israelis currently fighting for ISIS or arrested by the group according to the sources, but this would be the first case of a released IDF soldier joining the Sunni jihadist group.

While Druze and Bedouin Arabs frequently serve in the IDF, most Arab citizens do not serve as they are not subject to a mandatory draft like Jewish citizens – both because many oppose the state and refuse to serve, and because of the security risk inherent in their enlistment.

A recent poll last month found that no fewer than 18.2% of Arab Muslim citizens of Israel said they do not consider ISIS to be a radical terrorist organization, and that they are not ashamed of the brutal jihadist group. That number rose to 28.1% among supporters of the outlawed Islamic Movement in Israel group specifically.

Support for ISIS among Arab Israelis has led to a growing trend of terror cells being formed to carry out attacks for the group.

Just this Tuesday, it was cleared for publication that a five-man ISIS terror cell in Nazareth was nabbed before conducting its planned attacks. The five had obtained weapons and trained in shooting them, ahead of launching lethal assaults on Israeli civilians.                   (Arutz Sheva)

The IDF’s ‘exceeded standards’ of war rules

Israel’s military measures to defend its population during the 50-day clash with Hamas in Gaza last year met, and often exceeded, the expectations of the Laws of Armed Conflict, a group of former international chiefs of staff and senior-ranking commanders has found, following a lengthy examination.

The 14 independent military and security professionals came from around the world to form the High Level International Military Group this year.

They conducted in-depth research into Operation Protective Edge, receiving unprecedented access to the IDF and the government, before releasing their full version of their report this week.

“No country would accept the threat against its civilian population that these rockets and tunnels present to Israeli population centers. Members of the High Level Military Group, some of whom had never visited the country prior to our fact-finding visits, were united in our view that Israel’s efforts were entirely necessary and justified in the defense of that country’s national security,” the report’s executive summary stated.

“We can further be categorically clear that Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries. It is our view that Israel fought an exemplary campaign, adequately conceived with appropriately limited objectives, displaying both a very high level of operational capability as well as a total commitment to the Law of Armed Conflict,” the report said. “The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield at significant tactical cost, as well as in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation.

“Where the high standards of conduct the IDF sets for its personnel have not been met, incidents are investigated, including criminal investigations, through an independent mechanism under the oversight of the democratic institutions of the State of Israel. This mechanism clearly meets the requirements of legal recourse, judicial independence and democratic oversight that our own nations set for ourselves,” the authors said.

“Hamas in turn not only flagrantly disregarded the Law of Armed Conflict as a matter of course as part of its terrorist-army hybrid strategic concept, but rather it abused the very protections afforded by the law for military advantage. Embedding its entire military machinery in civilian locations and sensitive sites, including those of the United Nations, Hamas indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians throughout the conflict with extensive rocket fire and willfully sought to draw the IDF into battle in a prepared urban stronghold amid the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, for which it located its operational headquarters in Gaza’s main hospital,” they said.

The High Level International Military Group is comprised of top military officials from several democratic states, and the members have had extensive battlefield experience. The group included Gen.

Klaus Dieter Naumann, who was the former chief of staff of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, and served as chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1996 to 1999.

Other members include Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, who is the former Italian chief of defense, and ex-deputy chief of defense general staff. He later served as chief of staff of the Italian Air Force, as well as chief of defense general staff.

Lt.-Gen. David A. Deptula is a former three-star general in the US Air Force with extensive operational experience. Deptula was the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm coalition air campaign in 1991. He served as director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan and as the first deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at Air Force Headquarters.

In addition was Adm. José María Terán, who serves in the Office of Strategic Assessment of the Spanish defense minister. A former chief of the joint staff and chief of the Strategic Analysis Group, he has also served as director for Reorganization of the Spanish Intelligence Service.

Maj.-Gen. Andrew James Molan served as the chief of operations for the Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq. He is a former commander of the Australian Defense College and has served as adviser to the vice chief of the Australian Defense Force on Joint Warfighting Lessons and Concepts.

Col. Richard Kemp was commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and has served in Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He has led the international terrorism team at the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee and served as chairman of the strategic intelligence group for COBRA, the UK national crisis management committee.

Other senior former officers came from India, France and Colombia.

The group made two fact-finding visits to Israel and four more research trips between June and August of this year, and its members said they received “unprecedented access, undoubtedly in excess of what our own countries would afford in similar circumstances,” meeting with all ranks of the IDF, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and members of the IDF’s Military Advocate General’s office and the IDF’s International Law Department.

“Hamas’s strategic concept rests in large part on a deliberate unlawful tactic of embedding its military operations deep within the urban civilian infrastructure of Gaza and drawing the IDF into that territory’s urban centers. Hamas thus exploits the advantages of fighting on pre-prepared urban terrain in addition to exploiting the constraints brought about by the IDF’s strict adherence to the Law of Armed Conflict,” the report said. “Fighting in urban terrain is one of the most complex, dangerous and challenging operations of war.”

Additionally, the group concluded, “Israel adheres to the accepted norms and rules that make up the Law of Armed Conflict, including rules embodied in conventions to which Israel is not party, where these form part of customary international law.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by phone from the US, Deptula said, “I am very familiar with the laws of armed conflict.”

“Clearly, what had happened was that Hamas abused international norms and procedures to obtain goals that otherwise cannot be achieved by political or other military means,” he said. “It used law as a weapon. What is so frustrating is to see international organizations, like the UN, fall into the trap and even giving these heinous terrorists the time of day.”

The international US-led coalition currently engaging the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in an air campaign is facing “the exact same kind of lawfare,” he added. “This is really something that modern, peace-loving nation-states have to be very concerned with.”

In 2014 the IDF went “well beyond what is necessary according to the rule of armed conflict, to assure minimal loss of life and avoid unintentional civilian casualties,” he continued. “I think the IDF showed enormous restraint. It often accepted higher levels of risk for its own forces that were necessary under the laws of armed conflict.”

Measures included calling in warnings to civilian to evacuate a facility “known to be harboring Hamas operations,” dropping warning pamphlets and dropping small charges as warning signs on buildings before actually striking them.

“Hamas understood these actions, and prevented civilians from leaving the area. That is absolutely criminal. If anyone should be taken to the International Criminal Court, it is Hamas,” the lieutenant- general argued.

Addressing the ongoing fight against Islamic State, he asked, “What is the logic of a policy that restricts the use of air power to avoid the possibility of collateral damage while allowing the certainty of the Islamic State’s crimes against humanity?” During their visit, the group met IDF units that uncovered cross-border Hamas attack tunnels.

“We really had unrestricted access, not just to the military, but to the political elements of Israel’s leadership,” Deptula recalled.

Democracies forced to deploy force against terrorist- guerrilla forces “need not to be cowed by information operations and propaganda,” he said. “Using truth as a weapon is very important in many cases.

We’ve ceded the information domain to propaganda and lies.”

Kemp told the Post by phone from Britain, “I think the IDF made many efforts to minimize civilian casualties.”

He added, “None of our armies have gone to this extent. Also, the IDF’s actions went well beyond requirements of the Geneva Convention. The real picture… is totally different from the picture the media presents. That was very striking for all of us.”

Israel’s high level intelligence on Gaza enabled discriminate precision strikes, Kemp said. The approximately 50-percent civilian casualty rate in Gaza is far lower than the civilian casualty rate in Iraq and Syria, he added, because “the West is not trying to deal with the problem of the Islamic State. The majority of the operation in Syria and Iraq is for presentational purposes. No politician can stand up and say we are bombing Islamic State and doing something. They can be extremely selective about what they hit. If there is any chance of civilians near the target, [we] don’t need to do a thing.”

Even mass casualty incidents like the Paris terrorist attacks pale in comparison to the risk posed to Israeli civilians from Hamas, Kemp added.

“Hamas fired barrages of rockets into Israel from a short distance. The problem Israel [is facing] is absolutely immediate. It had to be dealt with effectively.

If not, Israeli civilians would have died, and the government would fall. Israel had to take strong action,” he said. “The other point is that Hamas wanted to get their civilians killed.”

Hamas “deliberately lured Israel into a situation in which it had to kill innocent civilians. Hamas planned operations and positioned forces in every way so that [Gazan] civilians would die.”

Looking ahead at the global effort to engage Islamic State (or lack of it), Kemp said, “I don’t think we’d ever be able to match the intelligence Israel has in Gaza with intelligence we’d have on Syria. I know Israel has much better intelligence than we do on Syria, and that it is sharing it with us, which does help.”

If Western countries ever committed ground forces to destroy Islamic State on the ground, they would not be able to mimic the IDF’s efforts to warn civilians, Kemp said.

“It would be impossible for us to issue the range of warnings that Israel gave to the population in Gaza.

British commanders would not be able to send text messages to people in Raqqa telling them to evacuate their homes – we don’t have their numbers,” he said.

“I didn’t feel that the IDF were running a propaganda operation or spinning things,” he added.” I have 30-years experience, and know when I’m being lied to. The same is true of other officers, some of whom were much senior to me. People will say that Israel knows it’s in trouble. But Israel recognizes that its reputation is on the line, that it has come under heavy criticism and it wants to mitigate that.”                    (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli ‘spy’ Ouda Tarabin released from Egyptian prison after serving 15 years

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in his office Thursday with Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Beduin released from an Egyptian prison this week after serving a 15-year sentence on charges he spied for Israel. Tarabin arrived in Israel Thursday morning.

“I feel like I’m in a dream,” Tarabin told reporters. “I don’t believe it. To return after 15 years is a lot of years. Thank God.”

Netanyahu told Tarabin, 35, he can now “start anew.”

“Welcome home,” Netanyahu said. “We had long discussions with the Egyptians for years, and we are happy to see you here with us now. I told you that we would bring you back, and that is what happened.”

Israel simultaneously released two Egyptians serving time in Israeli jails who had finished their sentences.

Zvi Mazel, Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and now a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and contributor to this newspaper, said  that Tarabin’s sentence was scheduled to end next week in any case, but that ”the Egyptians found the right way to get something from Israel for it.”

Mazel speculates that the two released Egyptian prisoners, like others Israel holds, were likely small time spies, involved in drug smuggling, or crossed the border illegally.

“Egypt never asks for the release of their prisoners because they don’t give a damn,” asserted Mazel.

Tarabin “didn’t deserve 15 years and probably was not a spy,” he added.

Mazel said Israel tried to win Tarabin’s release in 2012, offering 67 Egyptian prisoners in return.

“In their mind, they thought because we were willing to release 67 prisoners for one guy that he must be a spy.

The main problem is that the Egyptians are so afraid and paranoid that we are cheating them,” he said, adding that they thought they just could not find the “smoking gun” because “they always suspect we are spying.”

The Egyptian government wanted to be perceived by their own people as releasing a spy and receiving two Egyptian prisoners in return, he said.

Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara took some credit for Tarabin’s release, saying he had been pushing for it for years.

Kara met with Tarabin’s family on Wednesday night and told the Post they did not want to conduct any interviews with the press.

“I thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supporting my request,” Kara said.

Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho had, for years, raised Tarabin’s case with Egyptian interlocutors going back to the days when Hosni Mubarak was in power.

Tarabin, who moved from Egypt to Rahat when he was 10, was arrested in 2000 after illegally crossing the border into Egypt.

Both Jerusalem and the Tarabin family denied the charges that he spied for Israel.

Reports surfaced in 2012 that Israel and Egypt were in talks for a prisoner exchange to free Tarabin, but the negotiations did not succeed.

In May 2014, Tarabin wrote Netanyahu, urging him to secure his release.

“Your government forgot me in an Egyptian prison where I’m being held for no reason.

Had I been Jewish or Druse, you would have fought for me,” Tarabin wrote. “Unfortunately, neither you nor your government took care of me because I’m an Arab.”

His letter described poor treatment in the Egyptian prison and a lack of legal rights.

Tarabin said he was discriminated against and denied consultation with the judge due to his Israeli citizenship.

Tarabin’s mother told reporters after her son’s release: “I am very, very happy, the happiest in the world. For 15 years, I didn’t see him, and for 15 years I was sad. I very much want to get him married, and I am thankful to the prime minister and to all those who helped get him released.”                     (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Military to Install Missile Interceptors on Warships Protecting Gas Drilling Rigs

The Israel Defense Forces is planning to install Iron Dome missile defense batteries on board its advanced warships to protect the country’s gas drilling platforms.

The installation of the interceptors is an interim solution that would remain in place until new ships meant to protect the rigs arrive from Germany in 2019. The ships were acquired in a deal estimated at 430 million euros.

According to a senior officer, the navy’s Sa’ar 5 ships are currently equipped with Barak 1 missiles. The new ships, dubbed Sa’ar 6, will be equipped with the more advanced Barak 8 interceptors. In the meantime, the defense establishment wants to arm the ships with interceptors like those of the Iron Dome that could better protect Israel’s gas drilling platforms from potential missile barrages.

In the near future the Israel Navy is planning to conduct a test in which an Iron Dome interceptor is launched from a battleship at a ballistic threat.

At present the navy routinely conducts patrols around the drilling platforms, and in times of emergency a battleship is deployed near every such rig to protect it from attacks.

The navy is also planning to reinforce aerial intelligence gathering in the area of the drilling platforms. According to the senior officer, the navy’s protection of the rigs will be “improved” by the time the development of the gas reserves in the Leviathan field begins in 2020.                          (Ha’aretz)

IDF officer detained in Britain on war crime allegations from Gaza war

A retired IDF officer was detained for questioning in recent weeks upon landing in Britain on allegations that he was involved in war crimes during the Gaza war in the summer of 2014.

The reserves officer was questioned for hours and was only released following Foreign Ministry intervention.

The British authorities subsequently apologized to the officer.

It is thought that the officer’s name was on a list prepared by pro-Palestinian groups naming IDF soldiers involved in alleged war crimes during Operation Protective Edge.

The Foreign Ministry on Saturday evening confirmed the details of the incident, and stressed that the officer was released only due to its intervention.

Last week a group of former international chiefs of staff and senior-ranking commanders, following a lengthy examination, found that Israel’s military measures to defend its population during the 50-day clash with Hamas in Gaza met, and often exceeded, the expectations of the Laws of Armed Conflict.

The 14 independent military and security professionals came from around the world to form the High Level International Military Group this year.

Operation Protective Edge

For 50 days of war, the home front and soldiers on the front lines were battered by thousands of rockets and mortar shells, as armed groups in Gaza fired 4,564 projectiles at Israel.

This statistic is one of several released by the IDF as the fighting ended on Tuesday night.

According to the army, 3,659 rocket and mortar impact sites were found – counting those fired on IDF soldiers in Gaza. Of those that struck in Israel, 224 hit built-up areas. A further 735 were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Also, the IDF said that there were 197 “failed launchings” – projectiles that never left the Gaza Strip or that did not launch at all.

During the war 70 people were killed on the Israeli side, including 64 soldiers. Gaza health officials said more than 2,100 people were killed in Strip in the fighting and many thousands more were wounded.

Amnesty International, using UN statistics, reported that around 75 percent of the Palestinian casualties who were killed were civilians, including 519 children, while Israeli security sources have said that civilians deaths were likely closer to 50%.

The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the body responsible for running the Israeli border crossings with Gaza, said that since the beginning of the operation on July 8, 959 tons of medicine and medical supplies have entered the Strip through the crossings, and that 5,359 trucks carrying goods entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

A total of 82,201 IDF reservists were called up during the war. Throughout the fighting, 64 soldiers were killed and 469 were wounded.             (Jerusalem Post)

Polish security firm brings volunteers to help defend Israelis from terror

One of Poland’s largest security firms brought to Israel 20 of its top experts to help prevent Palestinian terrorist attacks.

The group arrived last week in Israel, where its members met with officials, including Israel’s deputy defense minister, Eli Ben Dahan. The security experts also joined a Border Police patrol in Jerusalem.

The visit is part of the initiative of Benjamin Krasicki, president of the board of the Warsaw-based City Security, who in October offered to send 100 of his top guards at his company’s expense to Israel.

He has paid $25,000 in covering the expenses of the delegation, according to Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths organization, which does Holocaust commemoration work and is also active in promoting Israeli-Polish ties.

“Benjamin put his money where his mouth is,” Daniels said.

Krasicki’s offer in October came amid a total of 620 terrorist attacks on Israelis that month, according to figures provided by the Israeli Security Agency, or Shin Bet. A total of 11 people who were targeted in these attacks were killed in them. Dozens of Palestinians also were killed in clashes with security services or while perpetrating attacks.

The bloodshed was the continuation of a massive surge in attacks that occurred in September. In November, the number of attacks was nearly halved to 326, according to Shin Bet, but the attacks nonetheless claimed the lives of 10 people targeted in them.

“As Polish citizens, we have unfortunately seen too many attacks against Jews in our history and know that it starts with you and ends with us, as we have seen in the Holocaust,” Krasicki wrote in October in a letter to Israel’s minister of interior security, Gilad Erdan, in which he offered assistance.                  (Jerusalem Post)

From fencing champ to beauty queen: Meet the reigning Miss Israel

Avigail Alfatov eats her pizza upside down and has funny hiccups. Her favorite food is falafel and she makes her face shine by wiping it with green tea bags.

How do we know this and, perhaps more important, why do we care?

Well, Alfatov is the reigning Miss Israel and is the country’s entry in the Miss Universe Pageant, which airs December 20 on Fox. These are just a few of the fun facts listed on her contestant profile.

She is also a national fencing champion, would love to meet Michael Jordan and has volunteered with Akim, an organization that works with people suffering from intellectual disabilities.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and she’s on the phone with JTA from Las Vegas, where the pageant will be held. (Some activities, such as the swimsuit and evening gown competitions, begin December 16; the grand finale is the December 20 broadcast from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.) Alfatov has just arrived from Israel; she’s tired and, as her handler points out, she’s a little nervous about her English skills. So our questioning starts with the easy stuff, her background.

“My parents were born in the Ukraine and came to Israel,” she says. “I was born in Israel. We are not very religious.”

They emigrated because “to be Jewish in other countries is not good, so they didn’t want me to be born in this place [Ukraine].”

Her father is a graphic designer, her mother a teacher. Alfatov was raised in Acre, a coastal community and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Middle East. Its population is a mix of Jews, Muslims, Christians and Bahais.

Acre is also the place where the Israeli Olympic fencing team trains, she says, and every school in town teaches fencing.


“I really liked it and continued,”Alfatov says.

“Continued” is putting it mildly. She is the national youth champion in Israel and hopes — nay, expects — to be part of Israel’s 2020 team in Tokyo.

She is in the Air Force, handling “security of information,” which has something to do with computers. Alfatov has another year to go and then hopes “to study in university and keep going with fencing.”

Alfatov graduated magna cum laude from high school and her ambition is to be an ambassador. Entering Miss Universe is all part of her plan.

“I know it can open many doors,” she says. “I also learn a lot about myself, and [the international experience] shows me how it’s going to be in my dream job.”

She’s already got a leg up in giving diplomatic answers: Acre is a place where “Muslims and Jews live all together,” she says. “I have neighbors who are Arabs. It’s all good.”

“It’s all good” is a regular refrain from the 19-year-old. For example: Has the current spate of attacks upon Israelis impacted her at all? “When I’m walking in the streets, I’m used to it,” she says.” My city is a safe place. You can’t worry. I’m all good.”

Is she concerned that representing Israel in the current political climate might hurt her chances of winning? “No, I don’t worry,” she says. “I don’t think about it.”

At last year’s Miss Universe, there was a significant kerfuffle over a photo of Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, and Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige. The latter was threatened with the loss of her title, but quickly apologized and claimed the Israeli photobombed the selfie.

Alfatov remains nonplussed. “I didn’t know about that,” she laughs.

So all that’s left is to figure out why she uses green tea bags in such a manner.

“The antioxidants,” she says. “It makes my face smooth.”                      (Jerusalem Post)

Artificial wound of Palestinian refugees has festered too long

By Danny Danon              JTA


Every time Palestinian leaders sit down at the negotiating table, or give a public speech, they never fail to raise the plight of the 700,000 Arab-Palestinians displaced when they refused to accept Israel’s existence in 1948.

For too long, the State of Israel and the global Jewish community have done too little to memorialize and honor the other side of that story — the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

For many Jews, these are personal stories, family accounts told around the Shabbat table. It is now our duty to ensure that the world finally recognizes the stories of these forgotten refugees.

For over 2,000 years, places like Algiers and Aleppo, Tunis and Cairo, Aden and Tripoli and so many others across the Arab world were vibrant centers of Jewish life. The Jews in these communities did not always have much in the way of material possessions, but they were rich in culture and in the spiritual heritage of our people.

They gave us the greatest of Jewish leaders, magnificent synagogues, great works of scholarship — treasures of our tradition that we still carry with us today. These Jews contributed immensely to the broader society, in the fields of Arab art and literature, in medicine, in government and in commerce.

It is important to note that despite all this, when Israel was established in 1948, the Arab governments not only fought the new state, they also turned against their Jewish communities that had lived in peace with their neighbors for generations. Facing murderous anti-Jewish riots and government confiscation of wealth, nearly 1 million Jews were forced to flee the places their families had called home for generations, leaving behind everything they had.

Yet these hundreds of thousands of families did not end up in refugee camps isolated from the rest of society. They do not have a special U.N. agency lobbying on their behalf. And the reason is simple: Unlike the Arab countries that refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees, the State of Israel opened its doors to fellow Jews. There was, and always is, more that could have been done to smooth the absorption of these new Israelis, but the fact is that today they are integrated into all levels of Israeli society.

Today, these Jews who came from many places go by many names — Jews of the Arab lands, Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews — but no one ever refers to them as refugees. As they shouldn’t. Their most important name today is the name they share with the Jews around the world: Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel.

We are one people, and this presents us with the obligation to remember where we come from: from Warsaw and from Damascus, from Berlin and from Baghdad.

Together, as one people, we have an obligation to ensure that the stories of the Jews from the Arab countries are not forgotten. We must strive to keep the memory of these communities alive, and most importantly, to give them the recognition they deserve.

But we must do more than just remember. We must ensure that others see the light, and hear these stories, so that the plight of the forgotten refugees will become known across the world. As Israel’s ambassador, I pledge to represent the right and just path of the State of Israel in the parliament of nations.

Israel is a stronger country today because of the unique contribution that each Jewish community made to the world’s greatest start-up at its founding.

We have proven to the world that when nations act responsibly, there is absolutely no reason for a refugee crisis to last for more than a few years. Now is the time for the community of nations to enact fair and practical solutions for the rest of the world’s refugees and put an end to the artificial wound of Palestinian refugees that has festered for way too long.

(Ambassador Danny Danon is Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations.)

The E.U.’s Targeting of Israel Awakens a Tragic Anti-Semitic Past

By Michael Oren                       Newsweek


European shoppers will not see Tibetan products labeled “Made in Chinese-Occupied Tibet” or certain Cypriot goods marked “Made in Turkish-Occupied Cyprus.” Nor will they see tags on items imported from the more than 200 disputed territories worldwide. From this month on, only one country will be branded on European grocery shelves: Israel.

The decision of the European Union (E.U.) to mark all Israeli products from Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—and the Golan Heights represents a return to the darkest chapters in the continent’s history. The move hurts most the very people it is intended to help. And it will cost the E.U. the key diplomatic role long sought by its leaders.

By singling out the Jewish State, the E.U. evokes its 2,000-year history of anti-Semitism, which was often characterized by the labeling of Jewish goods. For Israelis, at least, European labels immediately recall the word Jude painted on Jewish stores by the Nazis. But Israelis also know that the marking of Israeli products from the West Bank means they will be boycotted—what market will even stock them?—and opens the door to the embargo of anything made-in-Israel.

For that reason, Israeli leaders from both the left and the right have denounced the E.U.’s resolution. “I vigorously oppose this harmful and unnecessary move,” Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Camp (formerly, the Labor Party) declared. “It serves only one purpose—the continuation of hate and conflict in the area. Labeling products is a violent act of extremists who want to worsen the situation even more.”

It is also damaging to those about whom Europeans supposedly care. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank are employed by Israeli-run firms. Such enterprises serve as vivid examples of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians and hold out a hopeful vision for the future. But the E.U.’s labeling campaign will force many of these businesses to close down and lay off their workers.

Similar European boycotts helped bring about the relocation of the SodaStream factory that employed 500 Palestinians and payed them rates far above the West Bank average. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum described the plant as “building bridges between us and the Palestinians. I just don’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.” Birnbaum’s view has been confirmed by the recent wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis, virtually none of which have been carried out by Palestinians employed by Jews.

But the E.U.’s decision not only harms Israelis and Palestinians, it also undermines Europe. For decades, European statesmen have tried to play a major role in the Middle East peace process, only to be side-lined by the United States. Yet now, with America retreating militarily and diplomatically from the region, Europe has the opportunity to fill the vacuum and serve as an even-handed mediator.

How can Europe be even-handed when it labels only Israeli-made goods from the disputed West Bank and not Palestinian products? How can the E.U. justify ignoring previous Israeli offers of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank—tabled in 2000 and 2008—which were rejected by Palestinian leaders? And how can the E.U. overlook the West Bank Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate with Israel over most of the past six years and its open promotion of religious-based terror?

Tellingly, the E.U.’s resolution relates not only to the West Bank but also to the Golan Heights, where there are no Palestinians and which can no longer be traded to Syria for peace. Syria no longer exists. Does the E.U. want Israel to return the Golan to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS)?

Instead of revisiting its tragic anti-Semitic past, impoverishing Palestinians, and disqualifying itself as an equitable mediator, the E.U. could make immense contributions to peace. It could gain credibility with Israelis by welcoming difficult concessions, such as limiting Israeli construction to the major settlement blocks. Europeans could assist Palestinians in the building of stable, transparent institutions that will form the foundations of any future viable state. And Europe could lend legitimacy to Israel’s presence in the Golan and so keep ISIS, Iran, and Hezbollah from extending their influence south toward Jordan and Egypt.

The European Union has a historic opportunity to make a real change in the Middle East that will redound to the benefit of all of its 28 member states. That chance must not be squandered by a prejudicial and harmful decision which, on November 29, led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban further E.U. involvement in the peace process.

Rather than branding Israeli products for its shoppers, the E.U. should be positioning itself for a constructive role in the world.

Michael B. Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and a member of Knesset (the Israeli parliament), is the author of Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.

Palestinians’ Biggest Tragedy: Failed Leadership

by Khaled Abu Toameh                The Gatestone Institute


It was recently reported that the commander of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch in Sinai held talks in the Gaza Strip with leaders of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezaddin al-Qassam Brigades, about expanding their cooperation.

President Abbas does not seem to care whether the Palestinians of Gaza are turned into hostages and prisoners. He is probably hoping that the crisis will drive Palestinians to revolt against the Hamas regime, paving the way for his PA to return to the Gaza Strip.

Instead of trying to solve the Gaza crisis, Abbas is too busy waging a diplomatic war against Israel. He wants to file “war crimes” charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court — ignoring the fact that he and Hamas are responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The Palestinians ignore the fact that their biggest tragedy over the past few decades has been (and remains) their failed and corrupt leadership that is willing to sacrifice them for its own interests.

Since June 2013, the Rafah border crossing, the sole crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been closed for most of the time.

Since the beginning of 2015, the Egyptian authorities have opened the Rafah terminal for a total of only 21 days.

Last week, the Egyptians opened the border crossing for two days, allowing a few hundred Palestinians to cross in both directions.

Last year, by contrast, the terminal was open for a total of 123 days, and in 2013 for 263 days.

These figures indicate that the Egyptians have stepped up security measures along their shared border with the Gaza Strip over the past few years.

In addition to the continued closure of the Rafah terminal, the Egyptian army continues to destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. In recent weeks, the Egyptians have been pumping seawater into the tunnels, causing most of them to collapse.

The Egyptians have good reason to be concerned about the smuggling tunnels — especially in light of increased Islamist terror attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians in the Sinai Peninsula. Reports about cooperation between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the Islamist terror groups in Sinai, have also prompted the Egyptians to keep the Rafah terminal shut for most of the time.

A report on Israel’s Channel 2 last week revealed that Shadi al-Munei, commander of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch in Sinai, recently visited the Gaza Strip for secret talks with Hamas leaders.

According to the report, the ISIS commander held talks with leaders of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezaddin al-Qassam Brigades, about expanding the cooperation between the two groups.

But there is another reason the Egyptians insist on keeping the Rafah terminal shut, leaving thousands of Palestinians stranded on both sides of the border: the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.

Before blaming the Egyptians for the predicament of the residents of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians need, for a change, to hold their leaders responsible for their continued suffering.

In recent weeks, it has become evident that the Hamas-Fatah dispute is the main reason behind the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi does not trust Hamas; that is the reason he is not prepared to reopen the terminal on a permanent basis.

Sisi recently told Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas that Egypt would be prepared to reopen the terminal permanently only if Hamas relinquishes control over the Palestinian side of the border and allows PA forces to take control of it, as was the situation before the summer of 2007, when the Islamist movement seized control over the entire Gaza Strip.

While Sisi does not trust Hamas, it is worth noting that Hamas does not trust the PA and Abbas. Hamas does not want to see Abbas’s security forces return to the Gaza Strip in any way, even if that means keeping thousands of Palestinians stranded on both sides of the border and living in an open-air prison.

“Hamas will never hand control over the terminal to the filthy hands that betrayed the Palestinians,” explained Salah Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas can’t sell its people to these hands, regardless of the price.” He also claimed that Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been paying bribes to PA officials in the West Bank to obtain permission from the Egyptian authorities to cross through the Rafah terminal.

By refusing to cede control over the border crossing with Egypt, Hamas is in fact holding the entire population of the Gaza Strip as hostages. Hamas is saying, “We either continue to manage the Rafah terminal, or no one leaves or enters the Gaza Strip.” The most Hamas is prepared to accept is an arrangement that allows it to manage the terminal in partnership with the PA — an idea to which Abbas remains strongly opposed.

According to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, about 25,000 Palestinians need to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal for “humanitarian reasons.” Still, Hamas is not prepared to make any concessions to alleviate the suffering of its people.

Abbas, for his part, does not really seem to care whether the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip are turned into hostages and prisoners. In fact, he is probably hoping that the crisis will drive Palestinians to revolt against the Hamas regime, paving the way for his PA to return to the Gaza Strip.

Instead of trying to solve the crisis in the Gaza Strip, Abbas is too busy waging a diplomatic war against Israel in the international arena. He wants to file “war crimes” charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court, while ignoring the fact that he and Hamas are responsible for the suffering of tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-Fatah dispute has turned the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip into hostages and prisoners. The Palestinians will never be able to solve their problems as long as they continue to ignore the fact that their biggest tragedy over the past few decades has been (and remains) their failed and corrupt leadership that is willing to sacrifice them for its own interests.

‘HMT Dunera,’ the scandal and the salvation

England in 1940 was in the grip of a great panic over the possibility of an invasion by Nazi Germany, whose troops were just across the English Channel, only 35 km. from Dover.

by Stephen Rosenberg              The Jerusalem Post


On Hanukka in December 1940, the Australian public was finally told the whole awful story of the HMT Dunera, the British troopship (HMT stands for Hired Military Transport) in which several hundred enemy aliens, mainly German Jewish refugees, had been deported to their country from Great Britain.

England in 1940 was in the grip of a great panic over the possibility of an invasion by Nazi Germany, whose troops were just across the English Channel, only 35 km. from Dover. In England, European and German foreigners were all seen by Britain as potential spies and agents provocateurs, who would join with the enemy if and when the Nazis invaded.

As a result the British government ordered all adult German subjects to be rounded up and interned, even though the majority were German Jewish refugees who had recently escaped from Nazi Germany and who were implacable enemies of the Nazis.

The majority were sent to the Isle of Man, offshore from the mainland to the west of Liverpool, where they could do little harm, but heavy suspicion fell on those men of military age, from 18 to 65, who were seen as highly dangerous.

They were sent further afield, all the way to Australia; in its nervous panic Great Britain thought them to be a real threat. It was thought that if they stayed in England they might form a fifth column if and when the Germans invaded.

In its panic, the British government had even ordered the removal or obliteration of all direction signs and placenames that might have helped any German invaders.

Those deported to Australia had to be kept under surveillance for the journey, and the British navy was able to supply a suitable troopship, the HMS Dunera. It was a secure military vessel and had originally been designed and equipped for 1,600 troops, but now was to be filled with 2,542 refugees, besides the crew and the army warders, so everyone was cramped and hugely uncomfortable.

Of the internees, over 70 percent were Jewish refugees who had managed to escape from the Nazis and had come to England via Holland and Belgium well before the outbreak of the war.

On board the ship, the internees were all very badly treated by their British army warders, who were under the command of Lieutenant John O’Neill, who did nothing to reduce the brutality of his men. They had all been led to consider the internees to be Nazi spies and, as the army warders searched them, they stole their watches and rings, any loose money, change and notes, as well as other valuables and precious items. They also searched and looted their personal luggage, and threw much of it overboard, to the consternation of the internees who were left with hardly anything except the dirty and skimpy clothes they were standing in.

Later, when the internees had been imprisoned in Australia, they were able to normalize their lives to some extent and they published a weekly magazine, which often contained their favorite song, one that they had sung regularly on board the ship, to a tune they had learned from their British warders: “My luggage went into the ocean, My luggage went into the sea, My luggage was thrown in the ocean, Oh, bring back my luggage to me!” When the internees arrived in Australia, the government kept their arrival secret and immediately sent them all off to a prison camp at Hay, a place in New South Wales. It was 750 km. west of Sydney in a treeless and arid grazing area that was both hot, rainless and above all, completely inhospitable. The internees suffered from the horrible climate and the abundance of stinging flies that had suddenly found new bodies to feed on. The internees had little or no opportunity to escape and anyway there was nothing nearby to escape to. Like the British, the Australians also considered the internees to be potential dangerous enemies.

They kept them imprisoned under harsh conditions, and at first kept their internment and location a secret from the public, for fear of causing alarm and panic.

The internees gradually made a somewhat civilized life for themselves, organized talks, lectures and seminars; many were scholars and professors, and they applied from time to time to be allowed to emigrate to the United States and other more friendly countries. This was not unwelcome to the Australians, who were keen to reduce their numbers, and many internees eventually found their way to countries in South America, countries that were not unwilling to take them. Many who went were in the end able to apply from there for a visa to the US, the “Goldene Medina” that most of them saw as the true land of promise and the one to which they wished to emigrate.

The refugees retained unpleasant memories of their original deportation by troopship to Australia, on which they had been scandalously treated by the British army warders – but there was one positive and amazing thing to be thankful for, of which they only became aware much later.

The Dunera had been followed by a Nazi submarine, of which the crew were not aware. The U-boat was eager and ready to torpedo what it thought was a warship carrying many British soldiers. But the U-boat crew soon became aware of the considerable amount of debris that had been thrown off the boat by the warders, and picked up some of it to inspect it.

When they saw that it contained much in the way of German letters and literature, they concluded that the military boat was not carrying troops to Australia but rather German POWs, and the U-boat commander decided to spare the ship. Thus the boat, the lives of its crew, the warders and the internees were all saved thanks to the harsh and scandalous treatment that had been meted out to the internees by the British army warders.

The author is a Senior Fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem.

The Formulation of a Counterterrorism Strategy – Boaz Ganor (Jerusalem Post)

Even if Islamic State is defeated, its ideology will live on in whatever organization takes its place, unless the dangerous tenets of Islamist jihadism are dissolved.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as well as the causes of poverty, occupation, oppression and lack of education) was not the root cause of the Paris attacks, nor of other terrorist attacks by Islamist jihadist organizations. Israel is not the root cause of processes of radicalization in the Muslim world.

The root cause is the radical religious ideological worldview based on a dangerous interpretation of Islam.

The annihilation of Israel would accelerate the establishment of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East, add fuel to the fire of radical Islam, and reinforce the global jihadist struggle. Israel is the long arm of the Western world, stemming the tide of radical Islam and acting as a buffer between it and Europe.

The moderate Muslim majority must rise against the loud and dangerous minority that is hijacking Islam, because if they do not, these moderate Muslims are the ones who will pay the price, both in Muslim countries and in the West.

The writer is dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.