Saturday, September 6, 2014

ISIS Threatens Jordan, Israel: Israel's New Worries Come From The North

ISIS Bullseye On Jordan, Next Stop Israel

The terror group calling itself the Islamic State rolled through major parts of Iraq and occupies land in Syria, but its ambitions spread far beyond the land it now controls.

Jordan finds itself on the front lines with the Islamic State.

Looking at the map, Jordan shares a long border with both Syria and Iraq. You can also see that Jordan serves as a buffer on Israel's eastern border.

The group's aggressive moves toward Jordan's border have many worried about the future of King Abdullah and the Hashemite Kingdom.

In a recent video, Jordanians fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq tore up their passports and pledged to slaughter the king.

"From their point of view Jordan is an artificial country. It has to be removed. Next stop is Israel," Jonathan Fine, an Israeli analyst with the Institute for Counter-terrorism, told CBN News.

"In their eyes, the definition of the enemy is Western civilization, not a foreign policy of one government or another," he said. "And when they say they target the Judeo-Christian alliance as their major enemy, they mean what they say."

For now, Jordan, usually a quiet political player, sits on the front lines, part of the new reality in an ever-changing Middle East.

Just 10 days after a ceasefire ended a 50-day Israel-Hamas conflict, the Israeli army is “making plans and training” for “a very violent war” against Hezbollah in south Lebanon, an Israeli TV report said Friday night, without specifying when this war might break out.

The report, for which the army gave Israel’s Channel 2 access to several of its positions along the border with Lebanon, featured an IDF brigade commander warning that such a conflict “will be a whole different story” from the Israel-Hamas conflict in which over 2,000 Gazans (half of them gunmen according to Israel) and 72 Israelis were killed. “We will have to use considerable force” to quickly prevail over the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically,” said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.

The report said Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 rockets — 10 times as many as were in the Hamas arsenal — and that its 5,000 long-range missiles, located in Beirut and other areas deep inside Lebanon, are capable of carrying large warheads (of up to 1 ton and more), with precision guidance systems, covering all of Israel.

Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system would not be able to cope with that kind of challenge, and thus the IDF would have to “maneuver fast” and act forcefully to prevail decisively in the conflict, Goldfus said.

Goldfus said it might be necessary to evacuate the civilian residents of the area. “Hezbollah will not conquer the Galilee (in northern Israel),” the officer said, “and I won’t let it hurt our civilians.”
He said that anyone who thought Hezbollah was in difficulties because it has sustained losses fighting with President Bashar Assad in Syria is mistaken. The report noted, indeed, that Hezbollah has now accumulated three years of battlefield experience, and has greater military capabilities and considerable confidence as a consequence.
The report said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 that, in a future war against Hezbollah, Israel would have to hit homes in villages across southern Lebanon from which Hezbollah would seek to launch rockets into Israel.
As with Hamas in Gaza, the report said there were concerns that Hezbollah has also been tunneling under the Israeli border ahead of planned attacks. A deputy local council chief, Yossi Adoni of the Ma’aleh Yosef Council, said dozens of border-area residents have reported the sounds of tunneling under their homes since 2006 — when Israel and Hezbollah fought a bitter conflict known as the Second Lebanon War. “We are absolutely certain there are cross-border tunnels,” Adoni said.

Israel’s focus on the threat of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) has increased significantly in recent days in the wake of the revelation that the latest American journalist beheaded by the jihadists was Jewish and an Israeli citizen.

“ISIS’ growing power and its proximity to Israel could pose a strategic threat to Israel,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) told reporters a day after the Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff.

Herzog and many other Israeli officials are concerned not only by the fact that the Islamic State is inching closer to its borders both in Syria and by threatening Jordan, but also by burgeoning homegrown support for the Islamists in neighboring states and among the Palestinians.

Islamic State flags have been spotted in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and even Jerusalem. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed an order officially outlawing the Islamic State, a move that would make it a crime to raise money or otherwise express support for the jihadist movement.

While Israelis are happy to see Western powers finally taking the threat of the Islamic State seriously, there is frustration that Palestinian groups like Hamas receive alternative treatment.

But, because Hamas is tolerated by the US-backed Palestinian Authority, and because the Palestinian public voted the terror group into power, Washington has seen fit to place it on somewhat different footing than fellow jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

For the first time in the Syrian civil war, al-Qaeda fighters are hunkered down on Israel’s doorstep, and Israelis in the lush, hilly Golan Heights who have long considered Syrian President Bashar Assad their bitter foe are now worried about something more ominous — that they could become the militants’ next target.

The push into the Golan by the Nusra Front, as al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria is known, comes just two weeks after Israel ended a 50-day war against Hamas on its southern border with the Gaza Strip, giving the conflict-weary nation another cause for concern.

Israelis in the Golan — a long-disputed territory that marks the frontier between the two countries — have grown accustomed to hearing the sound of distant battles between rival forces in Syria’s civil war.

But last week’s seizure of the strategic Quneitra border crossing by a mix of rebels — including the Nusra Front, fighters of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and others — has created an unprecedented situation that has brought the extremists to within just a few meters (yards) of Israeli positions.

For the past three years, Israelis in the Golan have had a relatively safe front seat view of the civil war as Syrian government forces battled rebels attempting to wrest control of the area.
But now the Nusra Front and the other rebels move around in camouflaged trucks and on foot with guns slung over their shoulders, in some cases just 50 meters (yards) away from Israeli military outposts and Israeli farmers’ fields. Some Israelis are convinced it’s a matter of time before the Islamic radicals set their sights on them.
“They’ll come at us in the end, I have no doubt,” said Yehiel Gadis, 56, peering through a small pair of binoculars at an Israeli lookout point across from Syria’s Quneitra crossing.

Aviv Oreg, former head of the al-Qaeda desk on the Israeli National Security Council, said the Nusra Front sees Israel as a “legitimate target.” He said that while the group is preoccupied with the fighting inside Syria, it is just a matter of time before it tries to strike Israel, since its fighters now “have direct access.”
The Quneitra crossing was an important victory for the Nusra Front and the other rebels. It was the Syrian army’s last stronghold in the Golan Heights and sits at the tip of the main access road to the capital Damascus.
The crossing also has symbolic significance, serving as the only portal to Israeli-held territory between enemy countries. While mostly closed, it opens to allow UN peacekeepers, Red Cross workers and Druze university students to cross back and forth.
Israeli defense officials estimate that a few thousand Syrian rebels are now positioned along the border in the Golan, with a few hundred in the Quneitra area, including the Nusra fighters.

The loss of UNDOF would be a blow to Israel and leave Israelis alone “in front of al-Qaeda,” Cohen said. It would also undermine regional stability, he added, since the force has provided an important outlet for Israel and Syria to air their grievances.
“In Syria there are no good guys and bad guys,” said Uzi Dayan, a former deputy military chief of staff. “There are bad guys, very bad guys and extremely bad guys.”

U.S. and Iraqi authorities have jointly ramped up their efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radioactive materials as concerns mount that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) is seeking to recover these sensitive materials and use them in a terror attack.
ISIL now controls about half of Iraq, potentially giving it access to some low-level radioactive and radiological materials, according to a State Department official.
The threat has been deemed “critical” by the U.S. State Department, which announced on Wednesday that it had inked a new deal with Baghdad to ramp up joint efforts to detect and recover sensitive nuclear materials before ISIL and other terrorist entities can get to them.

“The signing and donation of radiation detection equipment reflect the common conviction of the U.S. and Iraqi governments that nuclear smuggling and nuclear and radiological terrorism are critical and ongoing global threats that require a coordinated, global response,” the State Department said in a statement. “Iraq’s central location and the challenging security environment it faces reinforce the urgency with which these problems must be addressed.”

The concern is that sensitive materials could be smuggled outside of Iraq and potentially used by extremists.
“There’s always a concern about radiological or radioactive sources,” said a State Department official who would only discuss the issue on background.
Yet there is evidence that terrorists stole some nuclear materials in Iraq earlier this year.
Iraqi officials revealed to the United Nations in July that insurgents had seized uranium that was being used for research purposes at an academic institution in the northern part of the country.
Nearly 90 pounds of low-level uranium was stolen from Iraq’s Mosul University by “terrorist groups,” Iraq’s U.N. ambassador was quoted as saying at the time by Reuters.
“Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state,” Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim wrote in a letter claiming that these material could be “used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction,” according to Reuters.

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