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Latest News in Israel – 21st December

IDF attacks targets in Lebanon in response to rocket fire

The IDF attacked targets in southern Lebanon with artillery fire on Sunday evening in response to earlier rocket fire from the country on Israeli communities in the western Galilee.

The IDF stated earlier that three rockets were believed to have fallen in open territory in the North. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack.

The army said that it sees “the Lebanese army as responsible for activities in Lebanon and will continue to act against any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty and the security of its citizens.”

The IDF added that, at this point, there was no change in safety instructions for residents of the North.

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said on his official Facebook account that the IDF had completed a special security evaluation led by chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

“The IDF is ready in the north and on all borders to thwart any possible threat to Israeli residents,” Almoz said.

Lebanese media reported that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was responsible for Sunday night’s rocket fire.

The exchange of hostilities on the usually quiet northern border came after Sunday morning’s reports of the assassination of Lebanese terror leader Samir Kuntar, responsible for murdering the Haran family in 1979 as part of a PLO operation and later joining Hezbollah following his release from Israeli prison.

Israel welcomed Quntar’s death, saying he had been preparing attacks on it from Syrian soil, but stopped short of confirming responsibility for the strike that killed him.

A former national security adviser to Israel said he doubted the strike would escalate hostilities between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah, whose last major confrontation was in 2006.

Israel has formally kept out of Syria’s civil war which started almost five years ago but has bombed Hezbollah targets there without publicly acknowledging these sorties.

Hezbollah, a powerful Shi’ite Muslim group that has sent hundreds of fighters to Syria to support President Bashar Assad against rebels trying to topple him, said Quntar was “martyred” in an Israeli raid on the residential district of Jaramana in the Syrian capital, but gave no details.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was due to speak on Monday evening as both supporters of the group and Syrian loyalist groups said the death of Quntar would be avenged and not be in vain.

Jailed in Israel for his part in a 1979 raid in Israel that killed four people, Quntar, a Druse, was repatriated to Lebanon in 2008 in a prisoner swap with Hezbollah, which he is then believed to have joined.

Hezbollah’s official media said Quntar would be buried on Monday in a Shi’ite cemetery in its main stronghold of Dahiya in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The party opened a condolences hall to receive the public.

“Such acts of the Zionist regime (Israel), which have become a consistent method, are the most dangerous forms of state terrorism,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari was quoted as saying by Iran’s ILNA news agency.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al Zubi pointed the finger at Israel but fell short of blaming it directly.

“The party that gains most from the assassination of Quntar is the Zionist enemy whom we have long known for these cowardly attacks,” Zubi told Hezbollah’s Manar television station.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Three wounded in Ra’anana stabbing attack

A Palestinian terrorist stabbed and wounded three people at two locations on Saturday afternoon in Ra’anana, a city north of Tel Aviv.

Security forces neutralized and apprehended the attacker.

Authorities had originally looked into the possibility that another terrorist was involved in the incident, however it appeared that one attacker had carried out the stabbings in both locations.

The IDF said the arrested terrorist was a 20-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Jenin.

One wounded man in serious condition and a woman with light wounds were evacuated to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba for further medical treatment.

According to Magen David Adom, the attacker stabbed a man and woman in their 40s on Anilovitch Street and then entered a residential building on another street where he lightly wounded a woman in her 60s.

Following the attack, the mayor of Ra’anana called for residents of the city to stay in their homes.

“I am calling for residents to stay in their homes – don’t go outside. After an incident such as this there is no need for public gatherings,” Army Radio quoted Ze’ev Bieleski as saying.

In October, two stabbing attacks in Ra’anana left several people wounded in the span of a couple hours on the central Israeli city’s main thoroughfare.   (Jerusalem Post)

Would-be Palestinian assailant shot dead in aborted car ramming attack

No reported Israeli injuries on attempted attack at Kalandia checkpoint.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian who tried to ram them with a car in the West Bank on Friday, the military said, and the Israeli army killed another Palestinian during a border protest in the Gaza Strip, medics there added.

A campaign of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians has killed 19 Israelis and a US citizen since October. Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 116 Palestinians, 69 of whom authorities described as assailants.

The army said a motorist tried to run over Israeli soldiers during a violent demonstration by Palestinians near the West Bank town of Silwad. An Israeli police spokeswoman said the Palestinian had a knife with him in the car.

In central Gaza, Palestinians massed near the fenced-off border with Israel, throwing rocks at troops beyond. Gaza medics said Israeli army gunfire killed one protester and wounded 37.

Israel maintains a no-go buffer zone near the Gaza fence in what it describes as a precaution against Palestinian infiltration or ambush attempts. The army said it discovered and defused two improvised explosive devices on the fence on Friday.

Another Palestinian was shot and wounded by Israeli police on Friday during a car-ramming attempt at the West Bank checkpoint of Qalandia, a police spokeswoman said. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, medics said a Palestinian was wounded by Israeli army gunfire during a violent protest.

The surge in violence has been partly fueled by Palestinian frustration over the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks in 2014, the growth of Jewish settlements on land they seek for a future state and Islamist calls for the destruction of Israel.

Palestinians are also angry over stepped-up Jewish visits to Jerusalem’s al-Aksa mosque compound, which is revered by Muslims as Islam’s third holiest site and by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical-era temples.                       (Jerusalem Post)

PA reveals Hamas has ordered suicide bombings

A senior Palestinian Authority (PA) source on Friday revealed to Israeli media that Hamas is changing its tactics in Judea and Samaria, and has given new orders to launch suicide bombings against Jewish targets.

The source told Walla! News that the bombings are to be along the lines of the horrific assaults recorded in the 2000-2005 terror war that came to be known alternately as the Second Intifada or the Oslo War.

According to the source, information extracted in investigation from Hamas operatives recently arrested in Judea and Samaria by PA Security Forces led to the conclusion that senior Hamas officials in Gaza and abroad have given new orders to Hamas terrorists in the region.

Those orders call to escalate the role of the Hamas terrorists in the current terror wave, from encouraging stabbing attacks and riots to actively launching suicide bombings.

The source claimed Hamas will weaken the PA if it succeeds in its plans, and that doing so is, in fact, a major part of its goal.

Indications that Hamas is planning suicide bombings have been on the rise of late; a radio station in the Hevron region that is a Hamas stronghold late last month was shuttered by the IDF after playing songs explicitly calling for suicide bombings.

In late October, it was reported that Hamas leaders in the Shechem (Nablus) region had ordered suicide bombings, with PA Security Forces revealing they had thwarted a six-man bombing cell. Shortly afterwards, a senior Hamas leader, Hassan Yousef, was arrested by the IDF near Ramallah, with experts revealing the move was meant to prevent suicide bombings.

There has, in fact, already been an attempted suicide bombing among the knife, car and shooting attacks blighting Israel of late.

Back in early October, a female Arab terrorist was stopped near a checkpoint outside Ma’ale Adumim to the east of Jerusalem and detonated a bomb – she was wounded but caused no harm to her intended victims. Her car contained other bombs that she apparently intended to smuggle into Jerusalem to enable more attacks.

Hamas calls for suicide bombings are not new, as the group back in August – before the current terror wave – likewise demanded suicide attacks.

However, Hamas is not alone in such calls – the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terrorist organization of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction called for suicide bombings in late October, saying such attacks are “the top of our priorities.”              (Arutz Sheva)

Terror chief Samir Kuntar said killed in Israeli strike

Arab media reported Sunday morning that Israel assassinated Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar. Several Israeli Air Force missiles struck the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing Kuntar and eight other operatives, in the early hours of Sunday, the reports said.

Hezbollah on Sunday morning confirmed that Kuntar was killed in an Israeli airstrike. The Assad regime initially blamed “terrorist groups” for the strike.

There was no official Israeli confirmation of the attack, although officials expressed satisfaction over his death.

A Lebanese Druze, Kuntar became infamous for a brutal 1979 raid from Lebanon in which he helped kidnap an Israeli family from Nahariya, then smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl, Einat Haran, with his rifle butt, killing her. Three other Israelis, including her father, Danny Haran, were killed in the attack. He was 16 at the time, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front.

He spent 29 years in an Israeli prison before being traded to Hezbollah in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. After that, he took on a senior role in the group, was honored by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and helped to organize Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights and elsewhere into terror cells charged with carrying out attacks against Israel.

According to Reuters, the “National Defense Forces” in Jaramana, a militia loyal to the Assad regime, mourned his death.

“His body has been sent to a Damascus hospital moments ago,” Reuters quoted the group as saying.

Kuntar’s brother Bassam took to Twitter to mourn his death.

At least eight others were said killed in the alleged targeted assassination, including a senior National Defense Forces commander who Israeli media said was himself involved in attacks against Israel.

The building in which Kuntar was believed to have been residing was “completely destroyed” in the attack, according to initial reports.

Roni Haran, the brother of Danny Haran, told the Ynet news website he “waited for this moment for seven years, since Kuntar was released from prison.”

“Samir Kuntar never regretted his actions, and there is a small consolation in this [his assassination], although it doesn’t take away the pain,” Haran said.

“I hope that this gets the message across that whoever murders Jews in Israel and in the world will end up like Samir Kuntar and the Munich murderers [of Israeli athletes],” he added. “As it stands, in the Middle East, this seems like the only language they understand.”

Kuntar was previously reported killed by Israel in July. The report, by Channel 2 and based on Arab sources, turned out to be false.

Five men were killed in that strike, which targeted a car on the Syrian Golan. Three were identified by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as belonging to a Druze militia based in the Syrian Druze village of Hader and loyal to the Assad regime and Hezbollah. The other two men were members of Hezbollah.         (The Times of Israel)

Hamas vows to repeat success of Shalit swap and free more Palestinian prisoners

A Hamas spokesperson said that the organization plans to barter with Israel by using the remains of IDF soldiers that the group is believed to possess following last year’s Operation Protective Edge. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is seen in this video grab released on October

2, 2009

The military wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas vowed Friday that it will secure the release of more prisoners held in Israeli jails by means of another swap similar to the 2011 exchange involving captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

During a public demonstration in the Gaza City quarter of Shejaia, a Hamas spokesperson said that the organization plans to barter with Israel by using the remains of IDF soldiers that the group is believed to possess following last year’s Operation Protective Edge.

“Rest assured,” the spokesperson said, aiming his remarks at Palestinian prisoners. “The ones that are coming for you are heroes. They are following the same path, so your liberation is soon coming, with the help of god.”

Hamas held Shalit for five years in captivity, releasing him after reaching agreement with Israel on the release of hundreds of Palestinians who were incarcerated for various terrorist-related offenses.

Earlier this week, the parents of Golani Brigade soldier St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, 22, killed in action in the Gaza Strip in 2014, held a press conference Sunday in their hometown of Poriya and demanded the government do more to recover their son’s remains.

“The current situation has to change. This requires us to change our strategy. We have no doubt that we must think differently in order to bring Oron and Hadar [Goldin] home,” Shaul’s mother, Zehava, said.

The body of Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from the Givati Brigade’s Reconnaissance Company, has also not been recovered. He was killed in a Hamas tunnel in Rafah during Operation Protective Edge, and Shaul was killed in an ambush in Gaza City’s Shejaia neighborhood.

“Despite the efforts that have been made or not made, we have not seen a change in the situation and Oron has not been returned home. Mr. Prime Minister, a year and a half and the situation remains the same,” she said, addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an unusual step, she also turned directly to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

“I am turning to you again, for a second time. I want to believe you. Present me with concrete evidence on the condition of Oron. We will turn over the country, and the world, to ensure that the deal [for his return] will be carried out.”

Even though their bodies have not been found, the IDF Rabbinate classified both men as soldiers who died, but whose place of burial is not known. Hamas in 2014 immediately claimed to have kidnapped Oron Shaul, something later disputed by the IDF.

Zehava Shaul told reporters she was “demanding from her country” that it quickly bring back her son, together with Goldin.

This past summer, Israel had begun backchannel negotiations to return the bodies of Shaul and Goldin, according to Hamas officials.

A Hamas source claimed that a European mediator contacted Hamas and inquired about the status of the bodies of the two soldiers.

The source added that Hamas refuses to discuss this issue until Israel releases all the detainees who were traded for tank gunner Gilad Shalit and were rearrested last summer after Hamas terrorists abducted and murdered three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion.

The Prime Minister’s Office had no response on the issue.

Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin issued a statement saying that the government was doing everything it could to keep the Shaul and Goldin families quiet.

“The government claims that every word will increase the price for the return of the boys, but silence makes us forget the issue,” he said.    (Jerusalem Post)

Average of 24 Rock Attacks Per Day Since Start of Palestinian Terror Surge in September

Thousands of rock-throwing attacks have been carried out by Palestinians since the start of the current terror wave, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Wednesday.

Channel 2 marked the September 13 stoning of Alexander Levlovich’s car — and subsequent death of the motorist, who drove into a pole as a result — as the beginning of the surge in Palestinian violence that has been directed at Israelis on a daily basis.

According to the report, in the three months since that date, there have been 2,225 rock attacks — an average of 24 per day.

Following the attack on Levlovich on the even of Rosh Hashanah, another 290 incidents of rock-throwing were carried out in the second half of September. In October, the number rose dramatically — to 915 attacks — and slightly decreased in November, when there were 730. Thus far in December, there have been 290.            (the Algemeiner)

‘The EU just undermined its own arguments against Israel’

In marked contrast to its decision to label Jewish “settlement” goods, the European Union (EU) on Monday announced it will fight a decision by its own courts to stop trade in the Moroccan occupied Western Sahara

To make sense of the state of affairs, Arutz Sheva spoke with Professor Eugene Kontorovich, a renowned legal expert at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and head of the International Law Department at the Kohelet Policy Forum.

The law professor explained how the EU has tried to justify its double-standards regarding Western Sahara, a region Morocco has occupied since 1976 when it was handed to its troops by Spain as it ended its colony there. The area is under a territorial dispute, with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) that holds a government-in-exile in Algeria claiming rights to rule.

“The EU’s defense of their discriminatory labeling rules – which for example they do not require for Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara – has been based on a remarkable claim that Western Sahara is not actually occupied, but rather a ‘special case,'” he said.

That status quo was ruptured last Thursday, when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided to strike down a 2012 trade agreement between the EU and Morocco in Western Sahara, ruling in favor of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front that fights for independence in the region.

“The ECJ rejected this view, saying Western Sahara is occupied,” emphasized Kontorovich.

Applying the new ruling to the EU decision to label Jewish goods in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the professor said the case has exposed the fallacy of the EU’s claims once and for all.

“Given that the EU allows products there (in Western Sahara – ed.) to be labeled ‘made in Morocco’ (and this case does not change that), it totally undermines their labeling arguments about Israel,” he said. “At this point, it would be folly for Israel not to challenge the labeling in legal fora like the WTO (World Treaty Organization). The Europeans’ arguments have been stripped from them by their own court.”

EU approves business with an ‘occupier’

Turning his attention to the details of the ruling by the second highest EU court last Thursday, Kontorovich explained that “the Court rules that there is absolutely nothing wrong in itself about having treaties extend to occupied territory, or doing business with an occupier in occupied territory.”

“This goes against all the EU’s arguments in relation to Israel. In particular, the EU used the ‘principle of non-recognition’ to justify everything from its ‘funding guidelines’ for Horizon 2020 to not having diplomats and visiting officials across the ‘Green Line,'” he said, referring to the 1949 Armistice line.

“The ECJ has rejected this broad view of recognition: even making a treaty with Morocco about occupied territory does not constitute recognition.”

Kontorovich then detailed exactly how Israel should go about taking advantage of the exposure of the EU’s double-standard, as it makes the case for not being targeted in a discriminatory fashion.

In light of the court ruling, “the Israeli Government should now revisit and resist the EU funding guidelines.”

“The MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) should be aggressive about having foreign officials come to government offices across the Green Line, as the ECJ has made clear such action is not recognition, and thus their protests to such visits are pretextual and discriminatory.”                     (Arutz Sheva)

French PM Valls condemns BDS: ‘Criticism of Israeli policies that turned into anti-Semitism’

The French government firmly condemns boycotts of Israel, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls this week said, warning against the phenomenon of organizations criticizing Israeli policies turning to anti-Semitic activities.

Valls made his statement Wednesday in response to a question from French MP Meyer Habib, who pointed out the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel is active in France despite laws against boycotts, and called for better enforcement.

Habib, a French-Israeli binational who represents French expats from several countries in the National Assembly, asked French Prime Minister Manuel Valls why there have been no investigations or indictments of BDS activists in keeping with laws against boycotts.

“Despite a court decision on October 20 that the boycotts are illegal, the BDS movement is expected to host a lecture in Paris 8 University, public officials, including Socialists [Valls’ party], support the movement openly and actively, and continue initiatives against Israel,” Habib said in his speech to the National Assembly. “Last June, on the eve of Ramadan, former MP Jean Claude Le-Fort called to boycott a [French] company that produces kosher products. In the Val D’Oise region, pharmacists were asked to stop selling Teva medications, and in September, there was a campaign against French media company SFR because its CEO is a French-Israeli Jew.”

Habib said he wrote two letters to French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira on the topic, and received no response. Meanwhile, no investigations have been opened or indictments given on these cases.

“Mr. Prime Minister, when there is discrimination, anti-Semitism and racism, there are no innocent actions. These actions undermine the Republic, especially when they are unpunished. The boycott creates an atmosphere of hatred in France. Have we forgotten that in January, a terrorist specifically chose the kosher store Hyper Casher as a target?” Habib asked.

In response, Valls said Habib is right: “Let me say this as clearly as possible: We condemn any campaign of boycotts against Israeli products.”

Valls the French government is against boycotts and will fight them with the necessary means, while pressing for dialogue towards a two-state solution.

“Unfortunately, there are too many initiatives that intentionally mix legitimate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Zionism that turns into anti-Semitism,” the French prime minister added. “I am warning anyone who takes part in such activities.”

“Behind the scenes, they are taking part in activities that are not criticism of one policy or another, but a condemnation of Zionism, which has truly become anti-Semitism,” Valls emphasized.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu tried for six years to free Pollard by swap or diplomacy

Pollard was discussed as a potential diplomatic bargaining chip during Obama’s first term, as part of efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, source says.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s representatives made a serious effort to bring about the release of US spy Jonathan Pollard in negotiations related to the peace process and the settlement issue, starting in 2009, a source aware of the talks revealed Thursday.

It had previously been known that Netanyahu asked US Secretary of State John Kerry to persuade President Barack Obama to commute Pollard’s life sentence to time served, to help pass a proposed release of Israeli Arabs convicted of security offenses in April 2014. Obama reluctantly agreed in an unsuccessful effort to extend peace talks Kerry was brokering.

But the source revealed for the first time that Pollard was also discussed as a potential diplomatic bargaining chip during Obama’s first term as well, as part of efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians.

The source said Pollard was unaware such discussions were taking place and later told Israeli officials he would not have agreed to leave prison as part of such a deal.

“Pollard told me when I visited him that he would have objected to being traded for any concession in Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria,” said MK Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the US, who visited Pollard at his North Carolina prison in 2012. “He came up in every conversation I had with senior American officials.”

Pollard was released from prison on parole on November 20 after serving 30 years of a life sentence for providing Israel with secret documents.

He lives in New York with his wife, Esther, awaiting a ruling from New York District Court judge Katherine Forrest about whether his parole conditions may be relaxed.

Pollard’s lawyers have challenged three of the restrictive probation conditions imposed since his release: the monitoring of both his home and work computers; the monitoring of his whereabouts via an electronic GPS anklet; and his 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew.

Asked why he did not ask Forrest to enable Pollard to make aliya, attorney Eliot Lauer indicated on Thursday that the time for that had not yet arrived.

“Parole has full discretion to restrict travel,” Lauer said. “At some point they will have to justify such restrictions. I am not suggesting how long that might be at this time, but ordinarily all parolees are required to stay close to base at first.

The president can moot the restrictions by commuting his sentence.”

Haaretz reported this week that Pollard’s wife Esther asked ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer to relay a letter to the White House pleading for a relaxation of Pollard’s parole terms. The Free Pollard campaign called the report inaccurate.

A representative of the Israeli Embassy in Washington had no comment.             (Jerusalem Post)

New York Times Arab Correspondent: Israel Oppresses Palestinians With Parking Tickets

The Arab journalist whom The New York Times has hired to report on Israel has come up with the most “terrifying” example yet of Israeli oppression: the issuing of parking tickets to Palestinians.

The reporter, Diaa Hadid, who describes herself as “an Australian of Lebanese & Egyptian descent,” previously served as public relations officer for the pro-Palestinian group “Ittijah.” Its director, Amir Makhloul, is in an Israeli prison for espionage on behalf of Hezbollah terrorists.

Hadid’s resume also includes a stint as a columnist for the anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada. With that kind of track record, you almost expect her articles for the Times to exhibit a pro-Palestinian bias. And she has indeed lived up to those expectations.

But one would hope that her editors back in New York would exercise a little more discretion before rushing her dispatches into print. This week’s blast from Hadid is a good example of what I mean.

In her Dec. 17 report, Hadid played the usual moral-equivalence game with the casualty statistics: “Since the uprising began in October, Palestinians have killed 18 Israelis and an American citizen. More than 115 Palestinians have been killed in the same period.”

Get it? Six times as many Palestinians “have been killed” as Israelis. This, of course, makes the Israelis the bad guys and the Palestinians the innocent victims. Anybody who knows the casualty figures for Americans and Germans in World War Two will instantly understand that body counts tell you nothing about right and wrong.

Hadid later mentions that of those 115 dead Palestinians, “60 have been shot dead while attacking Israelis.” What about the other 55? Her implication is that 55 innocent, defenseless Palestinian civilians were murdered by Israelis.

Was there some horrendous Israeli massacre of 55 Palestinians that the rest of us never heard about? Not quite. Those 55 were shot dead while hurling deadly firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, who fired back in self-defense. But mobs of Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails don’t count as “attackers” in Diaa Hadid’s book. They’re “protesters.” So they were killed while “protesting.”

But the most inventive aspect of Hadid’s Dec. 17 article was the ghastly new example of Israeli persecution that she has uncovered:

“Palestinians say the Israelis are going too far, taking vindictive steps meant to remind them who is in charge. Residents of one East Jerusalem neighborhood awoke one day to find vehicles blanketed with parking tickets, in an area usually ignored by the police.”

Parking tickets on illegally parked cars! What will those dastardly Israeli oppressors come up with next?

If Diaa Hadid thinks that a parking ticket is an example of “vindictive” Israelis trying to show the Palestinians “who is in charge,” she ought to try a little experiment. On her next visit back home to her native Australia, or to her parents’ childhood homes in Lebanon or Egypt, or to meet with her bosses in midtown Manhattan, she should park her car illegally.

Then, when her car is “blanketed” with tickets, she can report on how the New York Police Department is persecuting her, an innocent Arab journalist, in order to show her “who is in charge.” Perhaps the Council on American-Islamic Relations will hold a press conference to denounce this outrageous example of “profiling,” and the American Civil Liberties Union can sue Mayor de Blasio. You think I’m kidding? Hey, crazier things have happened.                      (the Algemeiner)

Ex-ICC prosecutor praises, but doesn’t endorse, Israeli report on settlements’ legality

The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court this week praised Israel’s Foreign Ministry for the recent publication of a report arguing that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are legal under international law.

While not endorsing the report’s content, Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was visiting Israel this week, said a thorough discussion about the settlements’ legality was sorely needed and could be beneficial to all sides involved.

Earlier this month, the Foreign Ministry, under the directive of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, published a report arguing that Israel has “valid property claims” to West Bank territory, as “Jewish affinity” with the region dates back thousands of years. The document, authored by the ministry’s legal adviser, also seeks to refute the claim that settlements violate the Geneva Conventions and thus constitute a war crime. The effort to portray Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal “ignores the complexity of this issue, the history of the land, and the unique legal circumstances of this case,” the report concludes.

Many Israelis scoffed at the report, doubting its effectiveness in a world where there is near-total consensus about settlements’ illegality. But Moreno Ocampo, who in 2003 became the ICC’s first chief prosecutor and held this role until 2012 when he was succeeded by Fatou Bensouda, praised the ministry’s attempt to present Israel’s point of view.

“That’s perfect. That’s exactly what they had to do,” he told The Times of Israel Tuesday in Jerusalem. “I never read the report. But I think that this is the way to do it: you explain your opinion.”

Israel’s report will naturally prompt a legal debate, with the Palestinians and others arguing against it, Moreno Ocampo allowed, adding that precisely such a conversation about the settlements’ legality is desirable, especially in the framework of the ICC’s current probe into the conflict.

“So there would be a lot of discussions, and that’s what we need. We need this debate to better understand — what’s this crime, how does it apply? How can it be committed?” the Argentinean-born legalist said. “There are many legal debates that can be done here and that’s why I think it’s a great idea that the deputy minister put out the report.”

Moreno Ocampo is referring to settlements as a “crime” because the 1998 Rome Statute — the ICC’s founding document — in article 8 (2)b(viii) explicitly defines a war crime as the “transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

This phrasing was inserted at the behest of Egypt and Syria, clearly with Israeli settlements in mind. Moreno Ocampo admitted that this definition was proposed by Arab states but emphasized that it was eventually accepted by the 120 states that signed the Rome Statute. “Now it’s the law. But it’s a law that was never applied,” he said. Therefore, the debate whether and how it applies to Jewish West Bank settlements should be conducted even before the issue reaches the court, he said.

At the Palestinians’ urging, the ICC is currently conducting a preliminary examination into the “situation in Palestine.” Besides the settlements, possible crimes that might have been committed include Israel’s actions during the 2014 Gaza war. However, since Israel’s legal justice system investigates any allegation of wrongdoing by Israeli soldiers, it appears unlikely that the court will open a full-fledged investigation.

“If Israel conducts genuine proceedings, then the court will not intervene,” Moreno Ocampo said.

However, no Israeli court is investigating the settlements, which means that the ICC might choose to open an investigation into that matter.

It is a matter of legal debate whether the building of housing units in East Jerusalem or Ariel fulfill the court’s gravity requirement. In laying out the ICC’s raison d’être, the Rome Statute speaks about the need to prosecute “unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”

Clearly the world has seen worse crimes, and the court never probed other cases of population transfer into occupied territory, such as Turkish settlements in Northern Cyprus, which could indicate that the court does not deem such activity deserving of its attention. But Palestinians argue Israel’s “illegal land grab” is an ongoing injustice that calls for the ICC’s intervention.

This difference of opinion is precisely why Moreno Ocampo calls for an in-depth debate on Israel’s settlement enterprise. Does the Israeli government’s encouragement to settle the West Bank constitute a “transfer”? Or does this term only apply when moving to occupied territory is mandatory? For Palestinians it’s obvious that the West Bank is occupied, and they have a legal basis for their claim, Moreno Ocampo said. Yet Israelis argue that the territory is not occupied but disputed. “All this should be discussed,” he said.

(Interestingly, the Foreign Ministry’s recent report, entitled “Israeli Settlements and International Law,” merely rejects the claim that Jewish communities in the West Bank are “colonial,” but does not dispute that Israel is an occupying power in the territory.)

Moreno Ocampo, who came to Israel this week to lecture at the Fried-Gal Transitional Justice Initiative at Hebrew University Law School, said he understands Israelis’ apprehension regarding international human rights organizations, many of which are biased, but maintained that the ICC is different. While bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council or the UN General Assembly are political, the Hague-based court is above politics and exclusively focuses on the enforcement of the law, he insisted.

“In Israel and Palestine, it’s not just about the law; it’s about survival. I understand that, and I respect that,” he said. “But the Jewish people have to understand: this idea of international law, of international justice in particular, was created to protect minorities, [such as] Jews. The first international criminal justice system was Nuremberg, which punished the Nazis for the Holocaust.”

Israelis aren’t the only ones wary of the ICC, Moreno Ocampo said. Before coming to Israel earlier this week, the 63-year-old Buenos Aires native spent some time on Palestinian campuses, where he heard disappointment with the court. “They don’t feel ICC is standing up for them,” he said. “I feel the same in both communities: a fear that the ICC doesn’t understand them and is not working for them. Both sides feel the same.”

While the Palestinian Authority eagerly provides the court with documents ostensibly incriminating Israel, Jerusalem is more reluctant to cooperate with The Hague. Israeli officials have met with the prosecutor’s office but mostly to argue that the ICC doesn’t have jurisdiction to probe Palestinian complaints because Palestine cannot be considered a state.

Moreno Ocampo, who during his term as prosecutor rejected the Palestinians’ requestto prosecute Israelis over alleged war crimes, encouraged Israelis to fully cooperate with the current preliminary examination. “You have great lawyers in Israel,” he said. “You have to present your side of the argument.”              (The Times of Israel)

‘Bar Refaeli failed to report income totaling tens of millions of shekels’

Israeli tax officials are alleging Thursday that supermodel Bar Refaeli and her mother, Tzipi, failed to report tens of millions of shekels in income earned for work done abroad.

Authorities lifted a gag order on Thursday permitting the press to report that Refaeli was questioned for hours by tax officials in Tel Aviv as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged financial irregularities.

Investigators also suspect that Refaeli was delinquent in reporting “celebrity perks” that she received, the value of which exceeded tens of thousands of shekels.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Thursday agreed – with the consent of tax authorities – to release Refaeli on NIS 750,000 bail. She is also required to remain in the country and to leave a deposit of NIS 250,000 in cash.

Tzipi Refaeli, who is also being subject to questioning, has also been released on bail.

Tax officials quizzed Refaeli as to why she did not pay NIS 40,000 in rental fees for her apartment at the W Prime tower in Tel Aviv. Refaeli told investigators that her mother kept the apartment ready for her once she had decided to return to Israel.

The model was also questioned about the circumstances of services rendered to her by a designer at a steep discount. Tax authorities suspect that Refaeli paid the designer – who was also questioned – NIS 40,000 for work that is believed to be valued at NIS 100,000.

The designer acknowledged that he did, in fact, give Refaeli a significant discount in exchange for which she would offer public relations services on his behalf.

Tax authorities also grilled Refaeli about a luxury car that she is alleged to have received for free. Officials say that Refaeli did not report receiving the gift, and that in lieu of payment, she made promotional appearances and did public relations work on behalf of the car manufacturer from whom she accepted the vehicle.

The supermodel was also asked why she claimed that she resided abroad. Tax officials say that Refaeli and her mother did not divulge tens of millions of shekels in income generated from her modeling work abroad.

In response, Refaeli told investigators that she considered herself to be an expatriate, thus necessitating less tax payments to the Israeli government.

Officials are trying to determine whether Refaeli can be considered a resident of Israel, which will go a long way toward determining the amount of taxes she needs to pay.

Refaeli and her mother were the subject of a lengthy, undercover investigation by tax officials who allege that they filed false reports while claiming that the supermodel was living abroad.                      (Jerusalem Post)

No, I don’t carry a knife on Israeli buses

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a little boy on a Haifa bus.

by Saja Abu Fanni                Ha’aretz

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.692232?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&v=E2D003F67BE52C2F0EA32238CB240E29

When hatred of the other becomes a religion, when evil becomes a faith and cruelty a reality, when racism is the supreme social value, children’s world is destroyed. It collapses all around them.

This happened two weeks ago in Haifa, the ostensible city of coexistence, the town currently celebrating its Festival of Festivals. I got on a bus after a long day of studies. I sat by a window and a pretty woman in a hijab – a head covering for those who don’t know – sat beside me. Across sat a mother and her son. She was wearing a red dress and the boy had shiny blond hair.

It was a routine day. The bus continued along its route and the woman next to me (whom I didn’t know) asked me in Arabic about certain stops in the area. I replied in Arabic that I didn’t live in Haifa so I didn’t know the area well. She smiled and thanked me and got off after a few minutes.

The boy sitting across from me looked at me – a good-looking boy with a winning smile. I smiled back and he plucked up the courage to ask if I was an Arab. I answered with a smile that I was.

Complete silence followed. He looked out the window and then gazed back at me, this time with an embarrassed, lost, bashful look. He asked: “Do you have a knife?”

The role of the immediate suspect isn’t new to me; I’ve gotten used to playing it. Still, I wasn’t expecting this from a small child. I remembered something I had written on Facebook in November 2012 after a bus attack in Tel Aviv.

I wrote about a conversation I had had with my younger brother, Mohammed. I told him about the attack and he got angry and asked why people did such things. In an attempt to evade a direct answer I told him about what the occupation had done to us Palestinians for decades and what it still does.

And my brother Mohammed, with the angry look of a 9-year-old, a pure soul all innocence and naiveté, still unsullied, said killing was killing and that we’re all people. If the occupation is evil, he said, we won’t be like that. We’ll never let it defeat us.

Today Mohammed is 12 and he’s changed. I’ve changed as well. Maybe we’ve switch opinions; it’s possible.

While the boy’s mother was reprimanding him for his question, I thought about Mohammed. He also has blond hair and the face of an angel. Something made me reply without hesitation: “No, I don’t have a knife, but I have something else for you.” The boy’s eyes grew large. “What?” he asked. “A hug” I replied.

I’ll never forget that little boy who slid off his seat and gave me a big hug. I’ll never forget his tiny hands at the back of my neck. I’ll never forget how that little boy, who a moment earlier thought I might have a knife, left behind his Jewish mother and rushed toward an Arab passenger with the innocence of a child, burying himself in her arms.

I’ll never forget the tears streaming from his mother’s eyes as she said “I’m sorry,” while her son’s arms were clasped around my neck. “It’s not your fault,” I whispered back.

Saja Abu Fanni is a student in communications and political science at the University of Haifa.

When All Else Fails, Erdogan Calls Israel

by Shoshana Bryen                The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7069/turkey-israel-relations

Erdogan came to office in 2003 with a policy of “zero problems with neighbors,” but has since led Turkey to problems with most, if not all, of them.

Turkey’s foreign policy choices and current crises have combined to make Erdogan reach out to Israel for help.

Israel has weighed the price and found it acceptable: Israel will pay Turkey $20 million; Turkey will expel the Hamas leadership from Istanbul and will buy Israeli gas.

The restoration of relations with Israel is less a political reconciliation than an admission of the utter bankruptcy of Turkey’s last five years of diplomatic endeavor.

The announcement of the restoration of Israel-Turkish relations should be seen in the context of Turkey having nowhere else to go.

Turkey’s relations with Israel have been strained, to put it mildly, since 2010 when, through a non-profit organization, Turkey funded the 2010 Gaza Flotilla aimed at breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

After a bloody confrontation, which ended in the deaths of nine Turks, Turkey demanded that Israel be tried in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and subjected to UN sanction. The ICC ruled that Israel’s actions did not constitute war crimes. In addition, the UN’s Palmer Commission concluded that the blockade of Gaza was legal, and that the IDF commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara ship had faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers,” and were therefore required to use force for their own protection. The commission, however, did label the commandos’ force “excessive and unreasonable.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already in the past show hostility towards Israel. Already in 2009, then Prime Minister Erdogan denounced Israel’s President Shimon Peres publicly at the Davos World Economic Forum. “When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. You know very well how to kill.” When Hamas was thrown out of Damascus, Erdogan invited Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh to put the terrorist organization’s “West Bank and Jerusalem Headquarters” in Istanbul.

Speaking at the Paris rally in January 2015, after the murderous attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the terrorist murder of four Jews in a kosher supermarket, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “Just as the massacre in Paris committed by terrorists is a crime against humanity, Netanyahu… has committed crimes against humanity.” Erdogan, speaking in Ankara, said he could “hardly understand how he (Netanyahu) dared to go” to the march in the French capital. Just last month, Davutoglu told an audience, “Israel kneels down to us.”

Not exactly.

Turkey’s foreign policy choices and current crises have combined to make Erdogan reach out to Israel for help. Erdogan came to office as Prime Minister in 2003 with a policy of “zero problems with neighbors,” but has since led Turkey to problems with most, if not all, of them. Alon Liel, former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, “Turkey didn’t do very well in the last five years in the region. Turkey needs friends.”

That is an understatement.

Turkey helped Iran evade international sanctions, but has since fallen out with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its support of Syria’s Bashar Assad. A Muslim Brotherhood supporter, Erdogan was close to Egypt’s former President, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, and has been an outspoken adversary of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Turkey was and remains a conduit for arms and money for various parties to the Syrian civil war. The U.S. has demanded that Erdogan seal Turkey’s border with Syria, which he has not done. Turkey also has bombed Kurdish fighters; deployed its forces to Iraqi territory and declined to remove them; and sold ISIS oil on the black market. There are allegations that the Turkish government knew sarin gas was transferred to ISIS across Turkish territory. In November, Turkey shot down a Russian military jet, in the biggest move down the current slide of Turkish-Russian relations, which began when Vladimir Putin stepped in to prevent the collapse of Syria. [This is on top of historical animosity between Turkey, the successor to Muslim Ottoman rule, and Russia, the self-proclaimed defender of the Christian Orthodox Church.]

Russia, furious at the downing of its plane, instituted a series of economic sanctions against Turkey, the most important of which is suspension of the TurkStream project, designed to boost Russian gas exports to Turkey. Turkey is the second-largest importer of Russian gas, after Germany.

As a corrective to all of Turkey’s “problems with neighbors,” Erdogan raised the possibility of renewed relations with Israel — which is currently finalizing the mechanism for developing large offshore natural gas fields. Erdogan told Turkish media last week that normalization of ties with Israel would have benefits for Turkey. Insisting that Israel must still end the blockade of Gaza (not happening), apologize, and pay reparations for the flotilla, Erdogan nevertheless made clear his desire for progress — or at least for Israeli gas.

It’s not as if Turkish-Israel relations were ever entirely severed. Since the flotilla confrontation, Turkey-Israel trade doubled in the past five years, to $5.6 billion. While arms deals signed prior to 2010 have been put on hold, trade in civilian chemicals, agricultural products, and manufactured goods has increased. And, in one of those “only in the Middle East” stories, Turkish businesses have been shipping goods to Israel by sea, then trucking them across the country to Jordan and beyond, in order to avoid having to ship overland through Syria.

The basis for increased trade, including gas sales, is there, and Israel has weighed the price and found it acceptable. Israel will pay Turkey $20 million; Turkey will expel the Hamas leadership from Istanbul and will purchase Israeli gas.

After entering office in 2003, Erdogan offered Turkey as a model for democratic governance in a Muslim country. President Obama called him one of the foreign leaders with whom he was most comfortable. But Turkey’s was always a double game. The restoration of relations with Israel is less a political reconciliation than an admission of the utter bankruptcy of Turkey’s last five years of diplomatic endeavor.

IDF preparing for increase in terror shootings

by Yaacov Lappin                The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Security-and-Defense-Preparing-for-escalation-437674

Senior army sources say that terrorists, seeing that knife attacks are ineffective, will turn to armed attacks and attempts to infiltrate communities.

Two soldiers in full combat gear motioned to a white Palestinian car to slow down, as it approached a checkpoint, complete with concrete barricades, west of the Palestinian village of Nahalin.

Grey clouds and cool December air enveloped the rocky slopes of the West Bank, and rain pierced the air, as one soldier approached the car and began talking to the driver. The other hung back, assault rifle at the ready, watching, and alert.

After a few minutes, the soldiers, from the Home Front Command’s Ram Battalion, told the driver to drive on.

“If everything is okay, they continue on their journey. We set up a lot of checkpoints like this recently,” a senior IDF source told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “This was not here a week ago.

“Any vehicle that isn’t checked could contain a terrorist who can continue on to Gush Etzion junction and carry out an attack. We’ll scan the vehicle for potential attackers who are out to stab or run over Israelis.”

But the army and the Ram Battalion are not expecting the months-long campaign of Palestinian attacks to stay in its current form.

It is preparing for a significant escalation, in the form of a rise in firearms attacks, as well as attempted intrusions by armed attackers into West Bank settlements, according to the source, who is from the Ram Battalion.

“This will not end tomorrow. The wave of terrorism will continue – no one can predict for how long.

We will encounter more shootings. It will not be an organized shift, but I expect to see more gun attacks and attempts to infiltrate communities,” the officer said.

“They will try new things, because the current attacks aren’t working. We’ve studied them. Stabbings have not been very effective recently. They will try something else,” he warned.

Security coordination with the Palestinian Authority remains in place, but villages in the Gush Etzion region are under the radicalizing influence of Hamas in Hebron, he added.

His assessment for the future is not particularly optimistic.

“There will still be lone attackers in Gush Etzion, going on stabbing attacks, alongside shooting attacks and attempted intrusions. This is a much more challenging threat,” the source stated.

And the Ram Battalion is preparing accordingly. It is training heavily with firearms and in Krav Maga combat.

“Ultimately, it comes down to one attacker against one soldier. This has become the widespread pattern,” the source said.

Intensive first aid instruction has also become a feature of training.

“What will decide if a wounded person survives an attack or not is the quality of first aid,” he added.

The soldiers from this co-ed battalion secure positions across the western sector of the Etzion territorial brigade, standing for eight hours at a time in the winter cold.

Several years ago, when the Home Front Command’s Ram Battalion was created, it was far from clear that its soldiers would become a central pillar of West Bank infantry security units.

The fourth battalion in the Home Front Command, Ram, in its previous incarnation, was responsible for operating antiaircraft guns in the air force.

It was then shut down and moved to the Home Front Command’s conscripted brigade, whose battalions today serve a dual role. They are infantry units, and they undertake search and rescue missions during wartime, specializing in dealing with rocket and missile impact zones.

The Ram Battalion has been in the West Bank for six months, and still has a few months to go.

“Most of the year, we have been engaged in Judea and Samaria. We are supposed to skip over to the Binyamin Brigade next,” the source said.

Despite its intense schedule, the battalion must still prepare for its core role, search and rescue missions during wartime.

It trains every week, at the squad and platoon level, to ensure readiness, and holds a battalion-wide exercise once a year.

“When we entered in June, the sector experienced incidents. On the Hussan bypass road, we saw Molotov cocktail and rock throwing. We went to work and lowered the number of incidents, down to between one and two a week. Weeks went by with no incidents. Then, from October, the escalation began. Violence increased here, too. We still managed to keep the level of incidents relatively low,” the source said.

On the other hand, reality here has become more stark. The increase in rioting has also meant that soldiers operating in villages have been increasingly confronted by masked attackers.

“In the past three weeks, we saw a decrease in incidents. Our way is to be one step ahead of the other side. We act offensively, deep in the field. We initiate a lot of activities, such as arrests, conversations to issue warnings, in which we visit homes where we know inhabitants are planning terrorist acts. We warn them. This occurs in cases where the Shin Bet can’t make arrests. It’s very effective,” said the officer.

“We are working to prevent intrusions by terrorists into communities. That is something that could occur in the future,” he cautioned.

“Ultimately, we also wish to safeguard a sound fabric of life for the Palestinian population. We understand that those carrying out violent attacks are a small percentage of the population.”

To some extent, normalcy still exists here. The battalion sees Israelis from nearby Betar Illit shopping in the village of Hussan, and hundreds of workers from Hussan entering Betar Illit on a daily basis.

The co-ed battalion treats its male and female soldiers and officers equally, giving them the same missions.

The battalion experienced a few stabbing incidents since October, including an attack by a female knife assailant on a security guard, and a male stabber who wounded a Beduin IDF scout in late October.

The Ram Battalion has two commanders.

The first, the Home Front Command brigade commander, deals with the force buildup process, while the second, the Etzion brigade commander, is the one who activates the battalion on a daily basis, as it spends more time than ever in the field. Its units are deployed all around Gush Etzion.

Although the battalion is preparing for a spike in shootings, the source said that there has been no change whatsoever in rules of engagement.

“The rules are very clear. Every soldier knows when to shoot and when not to. In cases where it wasn’t clear, we clarified matters. The soldiers are clear on this,” he said.

“We open fire in life-threatening situations.

We differentiate between a rock thrown at a civilian vehicle and a rock thrown at an armored jeep. Where there is no clear immediate threat to life, we do not open fire.”

Kuntar killed for future plot rather than past attack

The strike underscores Israel’s commitment to maintain full operational freedom and disrupt imminent threats to its security.

by Yaacov Lappin                 The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-Kuntar-killed-for-future-plot-rather-than-past-attack-437888

The air strike that targeted Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar on Saturday night was not an act of revenge for his brutal past acts of murder, according to Western sources.

Prior to his assassination, Kuntar had become a full-fledged Iranian operative, and went against Hezbollah’s attempt to downgrade its anti-Israel operations from Syria.

The alleged Israeli targeted assassination, reportedly using long-range precision-guided missiles, was designed to disrupt future terrorist activities planned by Kuntar – plots that were directly supported and funded by Iran, though, somewhat surprisingly, not by Hezbollah, according to Lebanese reports.

Iran can be expected to feel the need to respond to the assassination, and it is not clear whether Hezbollah will be able to avoid being part of any retaliation. If Iran orders Hezbollah to respond, the Lebanese organization may try to comply while refraining from escalating the situation into a wider clash.

After sustaining some 1,300 casualties and 5,000 wounded from its bloody intervention in neighboring Syria, Hezbollah is licking its wounds and not seeking a confrontation with Israel.

That, together with Israel’s alleged air strike in January on a convoy of Hezbollah and Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operatives near Quneitra, significantly decreased the Lebanese Shi’ite organization’s appetite for a clash with Israel.

But Iran remains committed to attacking Israel from Syria, and its IRGC operatives helped Kuntar set up an operations room in greater Damascus, from which he coordinated plots against Israel. It is in that operations room where Kuntar was killed, together with his PR man, Farhan Sha’alan.

Kuntar’s cross-border terrorism plots against Israel posed the risk of opening a second front against Hezbollah at a time when the organization is keen to deal with its costly intervention in Syria.

Last month, while up on Mount Hermon overlooking Syria and the Druse village of Khadr, where Kuntar helped recruit attackers in the past, a senior security source told The Jerusalem Post: “There is someone who gets up every morning and asks, how can I carry out an attack on Israel? Most of the time, they run into great difficulties.”

Indeed, Kuntar was one of those people.

He had been active in Syria, working at Iran’s behest to establish cells that can plant border bombs, fire rockets or carry out cross-border infiltrations across the Syria-Israel border.

Any decision to launch an air strike against Kuntar would be guided by intelligence about his future intentions, not by any desire to take revenge for his past barbaric crimes in 1979, when he and fellow terrorists arrived from Lebanon by sea and murdered a father and his young daughter.

Yet Kuntar was only one part of a wider Iranian effort to set up a platform in southern Syria, according to Ely Karmon, senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.

“I think his main goal was to draft Syrian Druse who were close to the fence. He could have also dealt with intelligence activities aimed at infiltrating our side of the Golan. I assume this was also part of his role,” Karmon said.

If reports that the air strike brought down a multi-story building are true, Karmon added, “maybe Iranians were also there.”

Karmon drew attention to an important aspect of alleged Israeli operations in Syria at a time when Russia is heavily involved in the region.

Referring to reports that long-range Israeli missiles were allegedly used in the attack, Karmon said standoff weapons could help Israel strike a target in the heart of Syria without IAF jets entering Syrian airspace, thereby ensuring there would be no confrontation with the Russian air force.

“The Russians have the S-400 battery in Syria. I assume it can detect this type of aerial activity. Using long-range missiles could be a sign of hitting the target with extra care, without the need for the planes to approach [Syrian airspace],” he added.

Yet, as Karmon indicated, the strike underscores Israel’s commitment to maintain full operational freedom and disrupt imminent threats to its security.

Jerusalem Street Comes Alive With Street Performers

It was raining in Jerusalem but it didn’t stop the buskers; here is a violinist and Chassidic dancer expressing themselves musically