Fears that Iran and its proxies are pushing the Middle East toward war deepened today in the wake of several incidents and announcements.
The morning began with news that the Israeli Air Force had downed a drone, likely piloted by the terror group Hezbollah, over the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa. Analysts characterized the flight as a publicity stunt designed to deflect criticism over Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian war. The group has poured thousands of soldiers into the country to fight on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime, and rebels have responded by attacking Lebanon.
Within hours of the news of the drone attack, U.S. officials revealed that the Bashar al-Assad regime -- fighting on one side of that conflict -- had used chemical weapons in its war against rebel groups.
Both Hezbollah and the Syrian regime are considered Iranian clients. Neither could sustain their activities without critical material and financial support from Tehran.
Hezbollah had previously piloted drones over Israeli airspace, and Iranian officials subsequently took credit for providing Hezbollah with the technology used in that incident. Iran has also provided drone technology to the Assad regime and to the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
As a publicity stunt, however, Hezbollah's move may backfire. In addition to importing the increasingly bloody Syrian war into Lebanon, Hezbollah may now be seen as courting war with Israel as well. Lebanese leaders responded to Hezbollah's last drone launch by blasting the group for risking exactly that. Hezbollah has yet to take credit for today's penetration attempt.
Also today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel disclosed U.S. intelligence assessments concluding that the Syrian army has used chemical weapons against opposition forces. American intelligence officials had reportedly concluded weeks ago that at least some kind of chemical weapon had been used by Syrian forces. At stake is the so-called "red line" set by President Obama, under which the U.S. would take harsh action in the aftermath of chemical weapons use.
The news underscored the multi-dimensional dangers posed by Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, which is believed to be the largest in the world. The Syrian government's willingness to use those weapons against its enemies, if confirmed, would immediately raise fears that Damascus will also launch them against Israel. Meanwhile, increasingly Islamist Syrian opposition forces are known to be seeking and may already have acquired portions of Assad's chemical arsenal. Elements of the opposition have committed to attacking Israel after defeating Assad.
The Syrian government and the opposition have long traded tit-for-tat accusations that each is using chemical weapons.
Jerusalem, Dec. 9 – Hamas marked its 25thanniversary by making Israel’s destruction its raison d'être.“There is no legitimacy for Israel, however long time lasts,” Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal told tens of thousands of supporters in the Gaza Strip. Since its founding, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization has been committed to Israel’s annihilation.“It will wipe out those organizations which are the enemy of humanity and Islam,” reads Hamas’ founding charter. Not only is Hamas determined to wipe out Israel, it is also overtly anti-Semitic.
“Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails,” the charter states. Jews are referred to 12 times in the document, which refers to them as Nazis.
Speaking in Gaza ahead of the rally, Mashaal made clear his movement’s intentions. “Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa,” he said.
Hamas fired hundreds of mortars, rockets and missiles last month targeting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in addition to the dozens of Israeli towns and communities that have been in the organization’s firing line for more than a decade. Terrorists have fired 2337 projectiles towards Israeli homes this year alone.
Hamas is currently trying to persuade Fatah, the movement headed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, to join forces. There has always been a deep rivalry between the factions, which came to a head in June 2007, when Hamas ousted Fatah from all its positions in Gaza, leaving at least 100 Palestinians dead in bloody street fighting.
Fatah is considering bringing Hamas into the Palestinian Authority government, but that would effectively kill the chances for peace with Israel.
“It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can't have them both. Abbas…is choosing to abandon the path of peace and join with Hamas, without Hamas accepting the minimal conditions of the international community,” Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this year.
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Jerusalem, June 19 – Terrorists in Gaza have fired at least 25 rockets so far today at Israeli homes in the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Sderot. The attacks followed a barrage of rockets on Sderot Monday (June 18).
There have been no reports of injuries or damage, but Israeli defense authorities have ordered tens of thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters as sirens wail across several towns.
A terror cell infiltrated Israel on Monday from the Sinai Peninsula, just south of Gaza, killing an Israeli civilian. The victim, Saeed Pshafsh, was an Israeli Arab from the city of Haifa and a father of four. He was on a construction crew at the time, working on the new border fence between Israel and Egypt.
The fence is being built to prevent such cross-border terror attacks emanating from Sinai and Gaza.
There are 400 to 500 smuggling tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt frontier, according to Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich. Speaking on a conference call organized by TIP, Leibovich said terrorists and arms are easily smuggled in and out of Sinai via the tunnels.
So far this year terrorists have fired 392 rockets, mortars and missiles at Israel from Gaza and more than 13,000 in the last decade.
The military wing of Hamas said it carried out the attack. Israel holds Iran-backed Hamas responsible for all terror attacks launched from Gaza. It has controlled the territory since it seized power in a bloody coup in 2007.
“The IDF will not tolerate any attempt by terrorist groups to target Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers, and will continue to operate against those who use terror against the State of Israel,” the Israeli army said in a statement.
Washington, Feb. 21- President Barack Obama and Netanyahu will meet next month on the sidelines of the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, on the ninth anniversary of a particularly brutal Hamas bombing of an Israeli bus that killed 17 people and wounded 53.
The parents of Asaf Zur, Tal Kehrmann, and Yuval Mendellevich will never forget the date March 5. Their children were among the victims of the Haifa bus bombing.
The bomber detonated an explosives belt packed with 37.4 pounds (17 kilograms) of explosives, killing Zur, 16, Kehrmann, 17, and Mendellevich, 13, along with 14 others. Twelve of the dead were under 21 years old. Nine, including the three boys, were on their way back from school.
Since the tragedy, the families of the three have been vocal in advocating for Israel’s security and drawing attention to the glorification of terrorists by Palestinians. The date of Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu has prompted Yossi Zur, Asaf’s father, to write to the American president.
“Ever since that attack our lives have changed completely, changed in every possible way. Mainly in our daily struggle to keep ourselves sane and alive for our children and in keeping such atrocity from happening again to our remaining children or any other child in Israel,” Zur writes.
In March 2010, when Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel coincided with the Palestinian Authority’s plans to commemorate notorious terrorist Dahlal Mugrabi, Kehrmann, Mendelevich and Zur wrote an Op-Ed in theLos Angeles Times on the culture of hate in the Palestinian society.
“Israelis want a genuine peace with our neighbors. But as long as Palestinian society glorifies terrorists and murderers such as Mughrabi and the ones who killed our three children, we cannot believe that Palestinians are ready to live in peace with us,” they wrote.
Zur said in the letter to President Obama that he hopes the U.S. will confront the danger of Iran’s nuclear weapons program with the plight of his family in mind.
“I am writing to you this letter in order to ask you to hear out my prime minister and to help him, help us to remove the devastating danger that we face. Hear his story with the face of Asaf in your memory, with the faces of all the killed children, men and women of our country,” he writes. “Our country can’t live with a nuclear Iran, our country can’t exist with such a threat.”
Acre, Israel, Aug. 23 – Israel’s President Shimon Peres made a special Ramadan visit to a major mosque in the north of the country on Tuesday (Aug. 23) and called on religious leaders of all faiths to denounce terrorism.
Peres visited the Al Jazaar mosque in Acre, a mixed Jewish-Arab city north of Haifa. He was welcomed by Imam Samir Assiwho has a history of working with religious leaders of other faiths, and who earlier this year, visited Acre's Chabad House to meet with one of the leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Acre.
“Spiritual leaders have an important role in the promotion of peace and the condemnation of terror. Faith and religion reject terror. We must all unite in our struggle for freedom and peace,” Peres said.
"We have to unite our forces to put out fires, and we have to be emissaries who carry the message of peace," he said.
The president’s visit came after a difficult four days in Israel following a series of terrorist attacks which killed nine Israelis on Aug. 18. Over the weekend, Hamas and its allies in Gaza fired over 100 missiles and rockets at Israeli cities in the south.
The Al Jazaar Mosque, which was constructed more than two hundred years ago, is considered to be one of the most important in Israel.
Imam Assi told Peres that Acre is a city which demonstrates that harmonious co-existence is possible. He praised the friendship, cooperation and mutual tolerance between Arab and Jewish residents.
“In the name of Muslims, I would like to thank the honored President Peres for visiting this holy mosque,” Imam Assi said. “From here, I would like to utter a prayer together with you, who is known the world over for promoting peace, that peace will come to us and to the entire world.”
Peres, who turned 88 earlier this month, is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded for his role in reaching the Oslo Accords in 1993 between the Palestinians and Israel.
Throughout his career, Peres pushed for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Recent reports suggest that Peres has been in contact with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to encourage the leader to reenter peace talks with Israel.
He recently told a group of Washington-based ambassadors and senior diplomats visiting Israel on a mission organized by The Israel Project that saving the life of a child, anywhere, is the greatest goal of a public servant.
Washington, Aug. 4 - Around 650 internet activists from 52 countries are gathering in the northern Israeli city of Haifa today for a three-day conference to discuss the future of Wikimedia, the umbrella group of the wildly popular user-created web portals.
Wikimedia encompasses both the hugely popular free online encyclopedia Wikipedia as well as dozens of other sites managed by the Wikimedia foundation. "Wikimania" starts today (Aug. 4) in a city that has become synonymous with Israel's diversity. Haifa has a significant population of Arab residents, living peacefully side-by-side with Jewish, Christian and Baha'i residents.
"I was born in Haifa, and I think it's a great city to show what the Middle East should be like, with all religions living and working together," Israeli lawyer Deror Lin was quoted as saying in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release about the event. Lin, who is heavily involved in the Wikimedia Israel group, was largely responsible for organizing and bringing the conference to Haifa.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is attending the gathering and will deliver his annual "State of the Wiki" address to attendees.
Wikimedia activists will discuss a variety of pressing issues, including current projects, open software and the state of free information on the internet.
Wikimania is slated to be held in Washington, D.C. in 2012. In past years, the conference took place in Poland, Egypt, Argentina, Taiwan and Germany.