Thursday, June 19, 2014

In The News: Updates From The Middle East

IDF Meets Growing Resistance From Palestinians In Raids To Find Kidnapped Teens

Security forces continued to focus their searches for three kidnapped youths in Hebron overnight Thursday. Meanwhile, soldiers arrested 30 Palestinian suspects in raids, most of them Hamas members, including two who were released in the 2011 Gilad Schalit exchange with Hamas.  Intelligence information led to the two prisoners that were released in the Schalit deal, a security source said Thursday morning.

In total, some 280 Palestinians - including 200 Hamas members - have been taken into Israeli custody since the start of the kidnapping crisis. During raids on Thursday morning, 14 Hamas civilian institutions, used to propagate its ideology and spread its influence (known as Da'awa institutions), and a Hamas student university union (known as a Kutla) at Birzeit Univeristy were targeted. At Birzeit, equipment was seized that is linked to managing the student union.

Security forces say there is growing friction with Palestinians during West Bank raids. Clashes broke out overnight at Birzeit, Jenin, and Bethlehem. In Jenin, two Palestinians hurled explosives at soldiers. Soldiers shot and struck the two attackers. Their condition is unknown.

The IDF does not expect the coming Friday to be different from past Fridays. The Ramadan holiday, due to begin in eight days, has in recent years seen 250,000 Palestinians arrive at the Temple Mount for prayers, and in past years, during the Eid El-Fitr holiday, Israel gave  Palestinian youths access to Tel Aviv beaches. "The coming holiday is expected to be different, this will be determined in the coming days," said the source.
All the while, an ongoing intelligence effort to gather information on the whereabouts of the abducted youths is taking place, the source stressed. The threat of additional kidnappings "exists all of the time throughout the Judea and Samara sector, effective for these days too," the source warned.
Meanwhile, the Israel Air Force struck five terrorist targets in Gaza early on Thursday in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, which damaged a home.
Targets included an underground rocket launcher, and two operational sites in northern Gaza, and two additional sites in central Gaza.

The IDF arrested 30 Hamas men across the West Bank early Thursday, as part of its ongoing large-scale operation to find the three Israeli teenagers – Naftali Frankel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach — who were kidnapped last Thursday.

“Overnight, IDF forces searched approximately 100 locations and carried out approximately 10 operations against ‘Dawa’ institutions — the civilian lifeline used by Hamas to recruit, disseminate information and enable cash flow,” the IDF said in a statement.

“During an operational activity in Jenin, a violent riot erupted, during which Palestinians hurled IEDs and opened fire at the forces. The forces responded with live fire, identifying hits. In addition, an IED and rocks were hurled at forces exiting Nablus. The forces detained several rioters,” the statement said.

Israeli forces have embarked on a massive campaign to locate the boys and kidnappers while simultaneously destroying parts of the Hamas terror infrastructure in the West Bank.
The military has been conducting nightly raids and sweeps in cities across the West Bank since the teenagers disappeared, arresting more than 250 suspected terrorists, many of them Hamas men, since last week.
Fifty of them, all Palestinians who were released in the prisoner exchange deal Israel signed with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, were arrested overnight Tuesday.
The military has indicated that it will continue the campaign to find three abducted teens and root out terrorists from the West Bank “at full force,”an Israeli military spokesperson said Wednesday, as officials said they were ready to ramp up a crackdown on Hamas.
Early Thursday morning, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, hitting five Hamas positions in the Palestinian enclave.
The strikes which came in response to a rocket attack on Wednesday that struck a home in a kibbutz in the Sha’ar HaNegev region outside Gaza.

Alongside the military operation currently underway to locate the three kidnapped youths and to weaken Hamas, Israel is also waging an international diplomatic campaign with two goals: delegitimizing the Palestinian unity government, and validating the IDF’s actions in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seizing every opportunity to call on world leaders to condemn the kidnapping, which Israel blames on Hamas, and in the same breath, to pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to break up his deal with the Gaza-based Islamic extremist group.

The international community, Netanyahu said Tuesday, “has to condemn Hamas for its terrorist activities and I think it has to support Israel’s right of self-defense and I think it also must call on President Abbas to end his pact with Hamas.” Supporters of peace “must tell the Palestinian Authority that they cannot build a government that is backed by the kidnappers of children and the murderers of innocents.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has been busy over the last few days calling his counterparts in Germany, France, Britain, and many other countries across the globe, to thank them for condemning the kidnapping Thursday of Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach. He also told his counterparts that Israel will do everything in its power to bring about the release of the teenagers, and will “severely punish” those responsible for the abduction.

Liberman instructed the Israeli delegation to the United Nations in New York to ensure the issue of kidnapping will be discussed at the next meeting of the Security Council on June 24.

By now, virtually all Western governments have officially denounced the kidnapping, and as of Thursday morning there had beencalls for restraint but no criticism of the IDF operations in the West Bank, which have included the arrest of some 300 Hamas men, and other actions Israel is taking to pressure the organization.
However, Netanyahu on Wednesday spoke of a “wide-ranging operation” that will “yet include many actions” against Hamas, and Israeli military sources added that even the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on June 28, will not deter them from finishing their mission.

Iran and world powers have started drafting a comprehensive nuclear agreement but still face many sticking points, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, according to the AFP news agency.
"Today we have slowly begun to draft the final agreement... but there are still many differences" over the text, the ISNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying from Vienna.
"This does not mean we have reached an agreement," he stressed, adding that “fundamental disagreements" continue to divide Iran and the P5+1 powers - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany.
A new round of negotiations between Iranian diplomats and those of the six powers that opened Monday in Vienna had been "very difficult" so far.
The talks, which run through Friday, are aimed at clinching a comprehensive nuclear deal by a July 20 deadline set up by an interim agreement.
Iran's top negotiator Abbas Araqchi earlier told the IRNA news agency that Iran hoped to settle all differences with the six powers by the target date.
The main sticking points are the timetable for a full lifting of crippling U.S. and EU sanctions, and the scale to which Iran would be allowed tocontinue uranium enrichment, he said.
The ongoing talks seek to turn an interim deal reached in November into a permanent agreement. Under the interim deal, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent and is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief.

Last summer when CNN reporter Arwa Damon interviewed Ahmed Abu Khattala, thesuspect behind Benghazi attacks (whom Obama just arrested) was freely roaming the streets in Libya without any concern for being picked up. Now the timing of the news of his arrest should be cause for skepticism.

It was Ansar al-Sharia that prompted the attack and is actually made up of former members of Abu Obayda Bin Aljarah Brigade and the February 17 Martrys Brigade (F17MB).

And Khattala was once a leader in the same Al-Jarrah Brigade whose members co-mingle with F17MB to form none other than Ansar al-Sharia (See here and here). Here is an excerpt:

Ahmed Abu Khattala was a commander with the group that attacked the Benghazi compound. He had also been a leader in the group charged with protecting the compound.
Witnesses said they saw vehicles with the Ansar Al-Sharia logo at the scene of the attack, and that Ansar al-Sharia commander Ahmed Abu Khattala was present. Khattala was once the leader of Al-Jarrah Brigade, which formed the February 17 Martyrs Brigade. has done extensive work on Jamal's much lesser known but perhaps even more dangerous partner in crime, Tarek Taha Abu Al-Azm. This is a terrorist figure most Americans have never heard of before. This is likely due – at least in part – to the fact that Al-Azm was trained by the U.S. Air Force and appears to have been a key figure in the Benghazi attacks. He was certainly implicated in the June 2012 bombing of the SMC building at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi from a video clip we obtained from these terrorist sources (start at 2:30):

Who is Khattala? has written somewhat extensively about Ahmed Abu-Khattala [here, here, here, and here]
There is no disputing the fact that Khattala was at the scene of the Benghazi attacksand that he is an Ansar al-Sharia commander who was involved. There is also no disputing his close connections to the terrorist group the U.S. State Department put in charge of security of the SMC – F17MB.
Burnett's canned special in addition to a couple of other distractions at about the same time – A separate CNN news report of a bogus CIA scandal and on the same day, reports began to surface that U.S. Embassies all across the Middle East would be closing due to terror threats. This too smacked of suspicious timing and contrivance. Obama bemoaning the "phony scandals" known as Benghazi and IRS and recently, the VA scandal, the Bergdahl swap, the ISIS march on Mosul, and news of a lame excuse that Lois Lerner's emails have been lost in a computer crash have been compounding Obama's problems.
So why not attempt to neutralize all of those troubles with the announcement that a top Benghazi suspect had been arrested and is on his way to the U.S?
Conveniently, this figure has been roaming free and giving interviews to media entities like the AP, Reuters, Fox News and CBS for nearly two years without consequence and all before Damon sat down with him last year!?
In much the same way that questions about Bowe Bergdahl's loyalty to his countryblew up in Obama's face, coupled with the latter's elevating what appeared to beBowe's Taliban-sympathizing father in the Rose Garden, there at least exists the potential for something similar to happen relative to Khattala, whose background demonstrates how incestuous the relationships are between terrorist groups. The Administration's failure began to show when the Administration approved The February 17 Martyrs Brigade (F17MB) to be responsible for providing security for the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi. The Obama Administration was intentionally deaf when in testimony before the House Oversight Committee last year, whistleblowers Gregory Hicks and Eric Nordstrom explained, but the decision was final and was not to be re-litigated:

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