News Digest — 11/1/19

Assad Says Israel Behind All Anti-Government Forces In Syrian Civil War

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday (10/31) charged that all the forces it has been fighting during the country’s eight-year civil war were “tools serving Israel directly or through the Americans,” and said he doesn’t recognize the existence of the modern-day nation of Israel.

In a wide-ranging pre-recorded interview on state television, Assad also cast doubt over the assassination of terror chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, defended talks with Turkey, and said Israel “has never been absent” from the Syrian battlefield.

“We fight its proxies, agents, flunkies or tools, in different ways, some military some political,” he said according to a SANA translation.  “They are all tools serving Israel.  Israel is, in fact a main partner in what is happening, and as an enemy state, that is expected.  Will it stand by and watch? No. It will be proactive, and more effective in order to strike at Syria, the Syrian people, the Syrian homeland and everything related to Syria.

Asked if Israel was benefiting from recent developments, in which Turkey invaded the north of the country, Assad said, “This is self-evident.  Even if we do not discuss it, it is one of our national givens in Syria.”

Assad said he did not want to make an “enemy” of neighboring Turkey despite the stand-off between their forces in the north of the country, and explained why he was willing to meet and negotiate with Ankara, as an occupying force, but not with Jerusalem.

“The difference between them and Israel is that we do not recognize the legitimacy of its existence as a state,” he said.  “We don’t recognize the existence of the Israeli people. There is no Israeli people except the one that existed for several centuries BC, now they are a diaspora who came and occupied land and evicted its people.  While the Turkish people exist, and they are a neighboring people, and we have a common history.”

Assad said however that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself was an “enemy” due to policies hostile to Syria and opposed by most of his country’s political elite.

“We must ensure that we don’t turn Turkey into an enemy and here comes the role of friends, such as Russia and Iran,” the president said.



Gaza Rocket Fired At Southern Israel, Drawing IDF Retaliation

Incoming rocket sirens sounded Thursday evening (10/31) in southern Israeli communities, with the military confirming that one rocket had been launched from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists.

Reports said the rocket landed in an open field.  There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The Iron Dome air defense system was activated and an interceptor projectile was launched, the army said in a statement.

The IDF said a tank and fighter jets subsequently launched retaliatory strikes on two posts in the northern Strip belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza.  The Gaza-based Shehab News Agency reported that Israeli security forces had also fired at a jeep belonging to operatives in the border area, near Beit Lahia.

The rocket alarms were triggered in the communities of Be’eri and Alumim in the Eshkol region, just east of the Gaza Strip.

Residents of the communities reported hearing a loud explosion shortly after the rocket sirens began to blare.

On Tuesday (10/29), Israeli fighter jets shot down a drone that was flying at an “irregular altitude” over Gaza, the IDF said.



Fatah Praises Oslo’s Decision To Ban Goods From Judea And Samaria

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday (10/30) praised the decision by Oslo’s City Council to bar from bidding on public contracts of Israeli goods and services originating from Judea and Samaria, reported the PA’s Wafa News Agency.

“Stressing the illegal status of [an] Israeli settlement on Palestinian lands as a violation of international law, the Fatah movement welcomes the decision of the newly-installed City Council of Oslo to ban Israeli settlement goods and services from public procurements as part of Oslo’s platform for 2019-2023,” Jamal Nazza, the European spokesman of the Palestinian Authority, said. 

Oslo’s City Council, led by the recently elected Socialist Left, Labour and Green Parties, passed the ban, reported the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Committee on Monday (10/28).

According to the BDS report, “Oslo’s City Council pledged to investigate the scope of action in the procurement regulations to not trade goods and services produced on territory occupied in violation of international law by companies operating under the permission of the occupying power.” 

The ban applies not only to Israeli corporations that operate in Judea and Samaria, but also to international corporations.

Sunniva Eidsvoll, leader of the Oslo chapter of the Socialist Left Party, said after the ban’s passage, “I am proud that the Oslo City Council is now taking steps to prevent goods and services purchased by the city from supporting an illegal occupation of Palestine or other territories.”

Oslo is now the sixth Norwegian municipality to ban Israeli goods and services that originate from Judea and Samaria.



U.S. Presidential Candidates And Military Aid To Israel – Prof. Eytan Gilboa

Three leading Democratic presidential candidates recently said they would consider cuts in U.S. military aid as a means to pressure Jerusalem into changing its policy in the West Bank.  These statements are completely out of touch with the realities of Palestinian-Israeli relations and developments in the Middle East.

The candidates deliberately distort the nature of U.S. military aid to Israel.  They ignore the Palestinians’ repeated rejection of peace negotiations and peace proposals.  They also ignore the unrelenting Palestinian campaign of delegitimization against Israel and the monthly payments to terrorists convicted of murdering thousands of Israeli civilians.

The term “aid” in the context of U.S.-Israeli defense relations is itself misleading.  The more accurate term is “investment,” as most of the funds are reinvested back into the U.S. economy as it goes to American defense manufacturers.  In return for aid, Israel provides the U.S. military and defense industries with information about weapons effectiveness, develops innovative military technology like missile defense systems and border surveillance technology, and shares intelligence and battle-proven military doctrines.

Despite serious disagreements between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, in September 2016 they signed a memorandum of understanding committing $3.8 billion annually for military aid for the next 10 years, as Obama recognized the value of a long-term investment in U.S.-Israeli defense collaboration.

The writer is director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center.



Ayatollahs Nervous: Iraq, Lebanon Protests Could Spread To Iran, Accuse US, Israel Of Supporting Uprisings

Iran is showing concern over unrest in Iraq and Lebanon and is accusing Israel and the US of supporting the uprisings, reported Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US and its allies are spreading “insecurity and turmoil” in Iraq and Lebanon, Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday (10/30), saying Khamenei urged anti-government protesters in both countries to act in a lawful way.

“Their people also have to know that although they have legitimate demands, those demands can be met only through the framework of legal structures,” he said, according to Al Jazeera, in rare remarks addressing the wave of demonstrations that erupted in Iraq and Lebanon this month.

Khamenei accused “America and Western intelligence services” of inflicting damage and creating “chaos” in the region, said the Qatari news outlet.

The Iranian regime has used both Lebanon and Iraq as bases for expanding the Islamic Republic’s hold on the region.

In Lebanon, Iranian proxy Hezbollah, feeling threatened by Lebanon’s protests this week, turned to violence.  On Tuesday (10/29), stick-wielding Hezbollah supporters attacked a protest camp, burning tents and dismantling others.  Tehran is maintaining “eye contact from afar” with events taking place in both Lebanon and Iraq, for fear the protests could get out of hand and spread to Iran, the Israel daily reported.