Netanyahu to Ask Trump to Fight Iran’s Presence in Syria, Iraq

Iran

Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged on Tuesday the world to fight terrorism, accusing Iran of being the root of all terror in the world.

He is expected to address this issue with US President Donald Trump when they meet later this month in New York, said Israeli sources.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Beunos Aires alongside Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Netanyahu said there was no doubt that Iran was behind the two major terror attacks that struck Jewish and Israeli sites in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s.

Netanyahu also condemned Iran’s involvement in global terrorism, saying the regime and its proxies continue to operate even in Latin America.

“Iran’s terror has not stopped since then. They have a terror machine that encompasses the entire world, operating terror cells in many continents, including Latin America,” he said.

He added that all modern states must fight terrorism, especially Iran’s terrorist regime, reiterating that Israel will continue to stand in face of Iran’s terror along with its partners in Latin and North America.

“In the case of Iran, there have been some news stories about Israel’s purported position on the nuclear deal with Iran. So let me take this opportunity and clarify: Our position is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it, or cancel it. This is Israel’s position,” added the PM.

Netanyahu said that Israel is also concerned about Iran’s nuclear weapons, adding that it should concern the entire international community.

“We understand the danger of a rogue nation having atomic bombs,” he stressed.

The Israeli sources mentioned that the Israeli PM will ask Trump, during their expected meeting, to change his policy towards Iran, Syria and Iraq. He also wants Washington to amend the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with Iran or cancel it altogether.

The meeting will be held amid reports that Trump will declare Iran as non-compliant with the 2015 nuclear deal.

In related news, Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz urged Netanyahu on Monday to lobby Trump to change or cancel the Iran nuclear deal.

Katz described the deal as Iran’s protection to get nuclear capabilities in the future.

Sources revealed that the White House plans to declare Iran non-compliant, but without dismantling the deal.

A Tel Aviv official stated that a new US strategy is being drafted which could lead to stricter responses against Iranian military troops in Iraq and Syria.

During a speech at a counter-terrorism conference, Katz also said Tehran is establishing itself in Syria with bases and airports that threaten Israel.

He warned: “Iran is the new North Korea. We need to work against it today so that we don’t regret tomorrow what we should have done yesterday.”

He said Trump needs to adhere to the assurances he made regarding Iran and the JCPOA.

“Iran needs to be forced to sign a new agreement, one that will never let it advance to nuclear weapons, as President Trump promised, and which will also include the issues of missiles and Iran’s support of terror,” he concluded.

Katz said Iran is in the process of signing an agreement with Syrian leader Bashar Assad that would allow it to maintain military infrastructure in the country for the long term.

The minister stressed that even though Iran’s nuclear weapons development program is on hold, the country is still actively working to improve its ballistic missile and rocket technology to make them more precise.

He said Israel has to uphold its “red lines” regarding Syria and prevent advanced weapons from reaching Lebanon’s “Hezbollah”.

Netanyahu Heads to Moscow to ‘Free Syria from Iranians’

Tel Aviv- Following the failure of talks held by an Israeli delegation in Washington last week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office announced Sunday that Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Sochi on Wednesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss Israel’s demands regarding the latest arrangements in Syria.

Netanyahu believes that Russians are interested in finding a formula for cooperation with Israel in Syria and other countries and have more influence on Iran than the United States, “which threatens Tehran but does not leave the impression that it is involved in radical treatment to reduce its influence in the region,” said a political source in Tel Aviv.

A delegation of high-ranking Israeli defense officials returned from Washington empty-handed last week after it failed to secure a commitment from the Americans to ensure any agreement to end the war in Syria that would include the evacuation of Iranian military forces from the country.

Among the delegation’s members were Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, Military Intelligence Directorate (MID) Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, head of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau in the Defense Ministry Zohar Palti (former chief of intelligence for the Mossad), Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and Deputy National Security Advisor Eitan Ben-David.

During its visit to the US capital, the Israeli delegation met with the heads of the US intelligence community, National Security Council officials and President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt.

Israeli intelligence officials said the delegation “presented sensitive, credible and highly disturbing intelligence information,” backed by documents and photographs, which showed the ever-growing spread of Iranian influence in Syria.

The US and Russia are currently working to formulate an agreement to bring an end to the fighting in Syria. Thanks to Russian and US understandings on military coordination between them, there has been a decline in the fighting in Syria since May.

The Israeli defense officials’ talks with their US counterparts were described as detailed and professional while the atmosphere was described as friendly; Greenblatt tweeted a photo of the participants, without ties or jackets, eating dinner at the home of US National Security Advisor Herbert Raymond McMaster.

However, Israel is still concerned by the prospective agreement since the Americans did not commit to demanding the evacuation of Iranian and Hezbollah forces—allies of Bashar Assad—from the country.

Israel fears Iran and Hezbollah would exploit the situation to turn Syria into a protected state.

During their meetings, the members of the Israeli delegation stressed to their US counterparts, “We rushed here to warn of the deployment of Hezbollah, Iranian and Syrian forces; to explain exactly what’s going on there … If you don’t become more involved, tougher and more aggressive, you will leave the Middle East to the Iranians, under Russian auspices.”

Israeli officials are concerned that because of the domestic issues beleaguering President Donald Trump and the crisis with North Korea, the United States might decide not to flex its muscles too much in Syria, fold, and leave it at the mercy of Russia, the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel plans to send a similar delegation to the Kremlin in an effort to convince Russian President Putin to stop the spread of Iranian influence in Syria as part of the upcoming agreement.

At present, the Iranian military forces deployed across Syria include some 500 Iranian soldiers, some 5,000 Hezbollah militants and several thousands fighters from Shi’ite militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

These forces operate as part of a special corps of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), which was established to fight in Syria. This corps is under the command of the elite Quds Force, which is responsible for the IRGC’s foreign operations.

Commander of the Quds Force Qasem Soleimani, who spends a lot of his time in Syria, is working on a special project: Building a separate terminal reserved for Iran and Hezbollah at the Tartus Port.

According to Israeli assessments, Iran and its Shi’ite allies’ strength and influence in Syria would increase exponentially if the US and Russia fail to do anything to end Iranian presence in the country.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, has already started creating infrastructure for intelligence collection in the Golan.

Israeli Delegation in US Attempts to Limit Iranian Expansion

Tel Aviv- A high-ranking Israeli delegation in talks with the US National Security Council (NSC) is attempting to persuade the Americans with the necessity to having a different stance from the Iranian file, to study Tehran’s plans in the Arab region and take necessary steps to stop them, sources in Tel Aviv said.

Israel believes that US President Donald Trump isn’t heeding the Iranian file, especially that Tehran is busy in the war against ISIS, the sources stated.

“There is evidence that the Iranian regime seeks to impose sectarian Shii’te dominance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Yemen, and also has a role in Egypt and Jordan,” the sources added, affirming that this dominance will be faced with a stern Sunni reaction.

According to the sources, the number of Sunni refugees from Syria is mounting and there is a risk of sectarian war escalation. This can destabilize the region and ruin any positive outcomes from the battle against ISIS.

Reliable sources stated that the Trump administration is currently resuming the transformation that had been started by Obama by halting support to Syrian opposition groups.

At the end of July, The Washington Post newspaper revealed that the president has decided to stop the program of providing rebels with arms, and this is a logical decision because the US intelligence wasn’t certain that the arms wouldn’t reach the wrong people or lead to the killing of pro-regime civilians.

Israeli Intelligence Say Gaza ‘Collapse’ Is Due Any Minute

A Palestinian woman walks past the rubble of a residential building

Tel Aviv- Israeli officials on Friday said that intelligence reveals grim prospects facing the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with infrastructure being closer to rubble and uninhabitable than sufficient housing units and facilities necessary for human survival.

Saying that Gaza is racing towards its own collapse, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had previously mentioned that available intelligence suggested the area would be utterly unlivable by 2020.

Nevertheless, other intelligence officials said that it is no longer a ‘2020’ end-of-times in Gaza, predicting a sooner collapse in light of the accelerated rate of deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

Israeli think tanks and intelligence parties have conducted extensive research on the topic primarily to examine the dangers of a new war with the Gaza Strip.

Israeli intelligence concluded that the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip could prompt Hamas to venture into another war with Israel.

More so, Israel has proved reluctant to ease tensions and alleviate the suffering of the Hamas-ruled civilians, as Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman roll the drums of war and push to complete a wall construction being built underground to counter Hamas’ tunnels.

The anti-tunnel barrier, at an estimated cost of 3 billion shekels ($833 million), is on schedule. By November, around 1,000 people will be working on the 65-kilometer-long project. When it is completed — the target date is mid-2019 — the barrier is expected to counter both underground tunnels and above ground breaches of the border. A concrete wall, fitted with sensors and extending dozens of meters below ground, is meant to bisect old tunnels and block the construction of new ones.

The two have also blocked the initiative put forth by the Israeli communications minister on building an artificial island and a port for the isolated Gaza Strip, despite the army’s positive attitude towards it.

In its previous forecasts for Gaza 2020, the Israeli intelligence service reported the expected complete collapse of the underground water network, a difficulty in providing safe-drinking water, and a semi-functioning power network, with a growing unemployment record and high poverty.

Israeli security services believe that until this moment, Hamas has shown indifference towards the Israeli actions and deteriorating conditions, which was labeled as ‘puzzling’ to intelligence services.

Hamas leaders have also toned-down the anti-Israel heated threats and are continuing to act under an impressive rate of self-restraint.

Hamas has been exerting massive efforts in preventing the firing of rockets by unilateral organizations inspired by ISIS and radical ideology.

Two Thirds of Israelis Believe Netanyahu should Resign if Indicted

Israel

Tel Aviv – Two thirds (66 percent) of Israelis want their Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign if indicted for corruption and Likud party will come out ahead of any political party in elections if it was presided by another person, according to a poll by Channel 10 news published on Sunday.

Asked if they believed Netanyahu’s assertion of innocence of all the allegations against him, 51 percent said no, 27 percent said yes, and 22 percent said they didn’t know.

The investigations with Netanyahu revolve around suspicions of bribery, fraud and breach of trust according to the police.

The poll found that if elections were held now and Netanyahu remained the head of the Likud, his party would win 27 seats under his leadership. But if the Likud was led by one of its other leaders, like Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, or Yisrael Katz the poll predicted it would win 31 seats.

The PM lashed out in front of his ministers for not supporting him in the face of all corruption reports and media. After criticism and threats from Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan, more and more of Likud’s senior ministers have begun defending their party leader in the media.

Bitan told Channel 2 News that there are ministers who only care about replacing Netanyahu, threatening: “we’ll settle the score with them in the primaries. The registered voters remember.”

Minister of Transportation and Intelligence Yisrael Katz put out a statement on his Facebook page in support of the prime minister.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be allowed to fulfill his duties in accordance with the mandate he received from the public, in a state of law and democratic rule, not to dismiss a prime minister based on media headlines, opposition demonstrations or partial investigative procedures,” he said.

Katz expressed his trust that the law enforcement system will carry out its work with the professionalism and responsibility required to enable Israel to continue to deal “adequately with the complex challenges it faces.”

Meanwhile, Culture Minister Miri Regev also rushed to Netayahu’s support, saying, “We’re all united under you.”

Speaking to Israel Radio, Regev said that the prime minister should not step down even if charges are brought against him. “When will they [the media] learn that the government is only replaced at the ballot box, not in the media or in an attempt to pressure the attorney general and the legal authorities,” she said.

Party expert Yossi Verter stated that Netayahu is highly supported by the far right and it is possible that many don’t believe what is being said in the media. While those who do believe the news reports about his corruption would still prefer to have Netanyah as PM as opposed to having a leftist candidate.

He added that both Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan are aware that if they want to replace Netayahu some day, they have to support him today because if they don’t do so, the people will not be kind to them.

Verter added that the far-right ministers will test to see, if admiration to Netanayhu was over, their support will vanish. But, if the PM continued to remain on top, they will all stand behind him like loyal guard dogs.

Thousands of Israeli Soldiers Deployed in Quds for ‘Tisha B’Av’

Palestine

Tel Aviv– Israel police, special forces, and border police are being deployed in large numbers in al-Quds to protect Israelis at the Western Wall for the fast of “Tisha B’Av”.

Tisha B’Av events began Monday night and will continue until Tuesday. The fast, which takes place annually on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the two Holy Temples by the Babylonian and Roman empires.

According to Jewish history books, the first temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. Babylon Jews built the temple 70 years later, only to be destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.

Since then, religious Jews commemorate the occasion by refraining from eating and drinking for a 25 hour period of mourning. They also refrain from wearing leather shoes, bathing, greeting one another on the eve of the fast, or attending Torah study because it gladdens the heart.

To mark the occasion, thousands of Israelis arrive at the Western Wall at the foot of the Temple Mount compound, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, near the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque.

Since the Israeli occupation of Quds in 1967, some Jewish far-right groups try to pray inside the Aqsa because they believe the mosque was built on the temple’s ruins.

Calls for destroying the mosque to rebuild the temple are increasing especially that several far-right politicians are using this issue to impose a segregation inside the mosque between Jews and Muslims.

Most Jewish religious leaders forbid prayers inside the mosque given that it was built over the ruins of the temple, in their belief, and thus whoever walks inside is stepping on the temple itself. Yet, certain religious officials are mixing politics with religion and thus allow prayers inside.

This issue became a reason for clashes between Jews who enter under the protection of police and Muslims who refuse Jewish allegations.

In addition, several extremist Jews use the occasion to provoke Palestinians and create clashes between both parties. Police threatened of using force with anyone trying to violate the public order.

Islamic Waqif warned against the repetition of recent Aqsa incidents if settlers entered the mosque, as they usually do every year, under the protection of the police.

Three Palestinians Killed, Fatah Leaders Arrested in Day of Rage

Tel Aviv- Following the Israeli authorities’ insistence on besieging the Aqsa Mosque Compound via dozens of electronic security gates and the rejection of Palestinians to go through them, clashes broke out on Friday between citizens and the occupation forces in East Jerusalem.

The unrest spread to the rest of the Palestinian territories, turning Friday into a day of rage.

The repression of the demonstrations and the clashes resulted in the injury of about 200 Palestinians and dozens of Israeli soldiers and the death of three young men.

Sky news reported that three Israelis were stabbed to death in Halamish south of Ramallah while the Israeli ambulance service said that two other Israelis died under similar circumstances in a settlement in the West Bank.

Although Israel and Jordan have agreed to form a joint committee, with the participation of the Jerusalem Endowments Department, to make arrangements to end the dispute, the Israeli authorities insisted on sticking to their punitive measures and the Palestinians responded with protests under the slogan “Day of Rage to Protect the Aqsa.”

Israel’s security cabinet said that police would decide when to remove metal detectors and turnstiles installed at the compound last week -a disappointing statement to Palestinians who view the measures as collective punishment and an infringement on the status quo, which gives Muslims religious control over the compound and Jews the right to visit, but not pray there.

Israel tightened its grip on the compound after two Israeli security officers died in an alleged attack by three Palestinians, who were killed by Israeli police following the violence.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received recommendations from different sectors of Israel’s security services on the metal detectors.

Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, said the barriers should be removed, while Jerusalem police insisted they stay.

Three incidents resulted in the death of three Palestinians during Friday’s protests. In the first incident, an Israeli settler killed an 18-year-old Palestinian man in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The death of Mohammed Mahmoud Sahraf was confirmed by Israeli security and the Red Crescent.

A second Palestinian was also confirmed killed by live fire during the demonstrations that followed Friday prayers, officials at a hospital in Jerusalem said.

The Palestinian Authority also reported that a third man was killed during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank.

The two other fatalities were identified as Mohammed Mahmoud Khalaf and Mohammed Hassan Abu Ghanam.

Israeli police also fired live ammunition, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at Palestinians protesting against the new measures, including the barring of Muslim men under the age of 50 from the holy site and the installation of metal detectors.

Earlier in the day, police swarmed into Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, particularly in and around the walled Old City where the shrine is located.

At least 3,000 Israeli police and border police units had been deployed to the area, according to a police spokesman.

In this context, Over the past week, there have been daily demonstrations and clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

On Friday, a Palestinian advocacy group said 10 prominent Palestinian activists had been detained in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said Hatem Abdel Khader, the Jerusalem leader of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, was among those arrested.

Fears of Escalation in Jerusalem after Death of 2 Policemen, 3 Arab-Israeli Gunmen

Cairo, Tel Aviv- Three Arab gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen and were then killed by security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The five victims are Arab-Israelis. The two dead policemen are: Hail Stawi, 30, and Kaamil Snaan, 22.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed the police to handle the issue and ordered the Al-Aqsa mosque closed to Friday prayers, forcing Palestinians to perform their prayers in the streets.

At 7 am, the three gunmen arrived at the Lions’ Gate where there was an Israeli patrol and started shooting. Instantly, the soldiers fired back, killing the three gunmen while six policemen were injured. Two of them later succumbed to their wounds.

In a phone conversation with Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident that took place in Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as his rejection of any violent incidents from any side, especially in places of worship.”

Abbas called on Israel to cancel the measures of closing the mosque to worshipers, warning of the “repercussions of these measures” or any attempts “to change the religious and historical status of the holy places.”

The Palestinian authority carried out phone calls with Jordan to push towards canceling the Israeli measures and the Jordanian officials affirmed that they are following the matter with Israel.

A Palestinian official saw that this operation undermines Palestinian and international attempts to end the occupation of Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories. “This operation gives excuse to the occupation to increase its intransigence and escape its responsibility in ending the conflict,” he added.

Hamas stated that the operation expresses the insistence of youths to protect Al-Aqsa from the occupation violations while Fatah described the closure as a dangerous escalation.

Further, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the attack in Jerusalem could ignite more violence and said all sides must avoid escalation.

Iranian Airport in Central Syria, Israel Alludes to Targeting it

Tel Aviv, Beirut- Israel uncovered on Friday that Iran has lately leased from the Assad regime an airport in central Syria, hinting it would target it.

Israeli military sources asserted that Tel Aviv would not allow Tehran to lease an airport in Syria, and would also confront current Syrian-Iranian negotiations to establish a land base capable of supporting Iranian-linked fighters.

According to the same sources, the land base would be able to back 5,000 Iranian militiamen believed to be mercenaries from Afghanistan and Pakistan under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned against any Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

“The establishment of an air and sea base and the attempt to permanently station 5,000 Shi’ite fighters on Syrian soil are not acceptable to us, and will have heavy consequences,” he said.

Separately, the 7th round of the Geneva intra-Syrian talks concluded on Friday without reaching any results at the political level, similar to its previous rounds held in the Kazakh capital of Astana to establish four de-escalation zones and to agree on the mission that would provide safety and security in those areas.

At the end of the Geneva 7 round of negotiations, the Syrian opposition delegation said: “The talks are not advancing in the direction that we want or desire. On the contrary, those talks were fruitless because the regime and its allies still refuse any political solution to the crisis.”

Meanwhile, Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN and its delegation chief, denied there was any agreement to hold direct talks with the opposition.

He said that during Friday’s negotiations, his delegation focused on the issue of fighting terrorism and the meetings of the legal and constitutional experts.

Israeli Defense Minister Receives Greenblatt with Doubts about Reaching Peace Deal

Greenblatt

Tel Aviv – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the US President’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt on Monday to give up seeking a bilateral peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The Trump administration should abandon its pursuit of a comprehensive, bilateral peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and instead focus on securing regional peace between the Jewish state and the wider Arab world,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman spoke as Greenblatt, along with the senior advisor of US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, arrived in the region for a fresh round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.

“Since 1993, several Israeli governments have attempted to achieve peace with the Palestinians based on bilateral agreements, but they failed,” said the Israeli Minister.

Giving examples of the obstacles Palestinians have allegedly put in the way of peace efforts, Lieberman said that the Palestinian leadership refused to condemn the recent murder of an Israeli police officer.

In addition to this, they have promoted a series of hostile resolutions against Israel at the UN.

“With such intentions, I doubt whether we can advance anything, let alone a historic or far-reaching agreement,” Lieberman added.

Israeli and US officials said Greenblatt is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the visit, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss ways to relaunch the peace process.

Greenblatt is arriving three weeks after his previous visit, in which he was accompanied by Kushner.

Kushner met with Netanyahu and Abbas to understand the gaps between the two sides and bring back recommendations to Trump on how to move things forward.

In the coming weeks, Trump is expected to discuss the next steps on the Israeli-Palestinian issue with his senior advisers and the cabinet.

A White House official said Sunday: “This trip is an interim visit as talks continue about potential next steps. President Trump has made it clear that working toward achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him.”

On the same day Greenblatt meets Netanyahu, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will meet with Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in Jerusalem to discuss ways to improve the economic situation in the West Bank.

The Israeli security cabinet’s discussion of a plan to approve the construction of thousands of housing units for Palestinians in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah will likely impact Greenblatt’s visit.

This plan was already approved by the security cabinet last year, but Netanyahu decided to bring it up for another discussion after he was criticized by right-wing lawmakers and even some ministers who were present at the original vote last year.