English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For January 17/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 16-17/2024
The necessity of defeating Hamas, the mullahs, and all branches and groups of the Muslim Brotherhood/Elias Bejjani/January 16/2024
IDF carries out ‘significant wave’ of strikes on Hezbollah targets
Israeli troops train on 'attacking Lebanon' as general stresses 'readiness'
Franjieh holds talks with Jumblat in Clemenceau
Israel says hit 'dozens of Hezbollah targets' in major Wadi Slouqi attack
'Mouth of the volcano': Tensions surge as Hezbollah leader and Israeli commander exchange war rhetoric
Mikati: Hezbollah enjoys rationality and wisdom
Class in session: Lebanon's private schools resume regular work amid agreement
Franjieh holds talks with Jumblat in Clemenceau
Kataeb political bureau's strong rejection: Mikati's statements tying Lebanon's fate to regional war
Former Minister Youssef Fenianos 'cleared' as arrest warrant revoked in Beirut blast case
Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon grow in intensity amid reports of army infiltration
Rights group urges Lebanon to free Qaddafi’s son
Lebanon’s top court suspends arrest warrant for former cabinet minister in Beirut port blast case
Without stigmatizing diaspora communities or profiling their members, Western intelligence services must work against radicalization and incitement by targeting Hezbollah agents/Emanuele Ottolenghi/The National Interest/January 16/ 2024 |
Middle East faces stark choice between diplomacy and escalation, Lebanon’s caretaker PM Najib Mikati tells Arab News/TAREK ALI AHMAD/Arab News/January 16, 2024

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 16-17/2024
Iran strikes targets in northern Iraq and Syria as regional tensions escalate
Iraq recalls ambassador from Tehran after missile strikes
Iran launches missiles at militant group in Pakistan: State media
US National Security Advisor: Washington seeks 'de-escalation' despite strikes on Houthis
Cargo ship hit by missile off Yemen: maritime risk company
US Navy intercepts sophisticated Iranian missile components headed for Houthis
US ‘not seeking regional conflict’ in Middle East, security adviser Jake Sullivan tells WEF
Hamas tunnels are 100s of miles longer than thought with 5,000-plus entry points
Gaza war: Latest developments
Palestinian ambassador to U.N. calls on Non-Aligned Movement to pressure Israel into cease-fire
Gaza combat surges anew as Israeli tanks storm back into areas they left
Hamas fights with patchwork of weapons built by Iran, China, Russia and North Korea
Isolation measures and backlash: Israeli Knesset member Ofer Cassif faces ouster for South Africa support
Saudi Arabia ‘incredibly concerned’ about Red Sea, Gaza security, FM tells WEF
Qatari PM says US/British attacks on Houthis risk regional escalation, urges diplomatic efforts
Iraq recalls Iran envoy in rebuke to ally over deadly strikes
Egypt, UN stress need to step up flow of aid to Gaza
Sudan says it suspends contact with IGAD mediation group
Sudan suspends ties with east African bloc for inviting paramilitary leader to summit
After days of confusion, Trudeau government says it will abide by ICJ on genocide case against Israel

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on January 16-17/2024
How to End the Suffering of the Palestinians/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/January 16, 2024
Hitler and the Jihadists’ ‘Struggle’ against ‘the Jews’/Raymond Ibrahim/January 16, 2024
The US Should Not Tie Israel-Saudi Normalization to a Palestinian State/Enia Krivine/The Algemeiner/January 16/2024
Genocide allegations against Israel endanger Jews everywhere /RABBI WARREN GOLDSTEIN/JNS/January 16, 2024
October 7 was a feature, not a bug/SHLOMO FISCHER/ JNS/January 16, 2024
The intentions behind the West’s ‘very late reaction’/EYAD ABU SHAKRA/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 16, 2024
Return of piracy adds to Red Sea’s troubled waters/Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/January 16, 2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published
on January 16-17/2024
The necessity of defeating Hamas, the mullahs, and all branches and groups of the Muslim Brotherhood
Elias Bejjani/January 16/2024
Can anyone imagine what the situation of Lebanon and the rest of the countries would be like if jihadist Hamas won the war, and behind it were the mullahs, ISIS, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood? They will certainly take us back to the law of the jungle and to pre-lithic eras

"Elias Bajani/Video and Text/Dangers and Disasters of the Victory of the Jihadist and Terrorist Iranian Governance Model, Represented by its  proxies: Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)/  & Baku Haram
Elias Bejjani/January 17, 2024 The Video is in Arabic)
There is a significant and vast difference between the culture of life, peace, and human rights represented by most Arab countries, led by Lebanon and the Gulf states, and the culture, schemes, delusions illusions, and hallucinations of the so-called political Islam embodied by ISIS, Al-Nusra, Baku Haram, and the Muslim Brotherhood in all its jihadist branches. In the same diabolical and jihadist category, we can freely list the terrorist, jihadist, and expansionist regime of the Iranian mullahs, along with all its terrorist proxies like the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas, PMF, and others.
The model of political Islam, with all its sectarian variations, knows nothing but invasions, wars, destruction, expansion, bigotry, hatred, eternal enmity. This evil model practices its destructive, oppressive, revengeful, arbitrary, dictatorial, suppressive, and impoverishing culture and satanic education and governance in Iran, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza. The unprecedented destruction caused by Hamas in Gaza is a bold example.
As for the Western and civilized model, it strives for peace, stability, decent living, securing and maintaining the rule of human rights, respecting humanity, democracy and freedom.
Therefore, the victory of the Hamas's model and its sponsor Iran will only bring disasters of all kinds and forms not only to the region. (Middle East), but definitely to the whole world.
It is imperative to defeat Hamas, the mullahs, and all branches and groups of the Muslim Brotherhood, or otherwise the whole world will know no peace or stability at any level.
Can anyone imagine what the situation in Lebanon and other countries will be like if the jihadist war led by the Iranian mullahs are victorious? Surely, they will  drag humankind to the law of the jungle and for stone age and prehistoric eras."

IDF carries out ‘significant wave’ of strikes on Hezbollah targets
JOSHUA MARKS/JNS/January 16, 2024
IDF: The strikes were the most extensive carried out by Israel in Southern Lebanon during the war to date • Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper reports U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein delivered a "final warning" to Lebanon. Combined Israeli ground and aerial forces carried out an “extensive” series of strikes on Hezbollah targets in the Wadi Saluki district of Southern Lebanon on Tuesday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Among the targets were dozens of Hezbollah posts, military structures and weapons infrastructure. Israel accuses the Iranian terror proxy of exploiting the Wadi Saluki area for its terrorist activities against Israeli civilians and soldiers, saying that Hezbollah hides assets and infrastructure in the forested areas. “This morning, the Northern Command carried out a significant wave of…attacks using fighter jets and artillery, against many targets of the terrorist organization Hezbollah in the Wadi Saluki area,” said Lt. Col. Y., a ground fire officer in the IDF’s Northern Command. “In a few short minutes, a powerful attack was carried out against dozens of positions, military buildings, infrastructure and launchers. The attack in Wadi Saluki is one of the most extensive we have carried out since the beginning of the fighting,” said Y. “The Northern Command will continue to do whatever it takes, with determination and strength, to protect the residents of the north, and will continue to strongly damage the capabilities and infrastructure of the terrorist organization Hezbollah,” he added. Overnight Monday, an Israeli Air Force craft struck a Hezbollah anti-tank missile launcher in the Kafr Kila area in Southern Lebanon, according to the IDF. Israeli special forces also mounted an operation overnight to remove an unspecified threat in the area of Ayta ash Shab in Southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the IDF determined that a report of a hostile aircraft infiltration in the Galilee was a false alarm. Hochstein visit disappoints Lebanon
Beirut didn’t like the message U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein brought about Hezbollah‘s escalation on the border, Ynet reported on Tuesday, citing articles in the Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper Al Akhbar. According to the report, Hochstein’s visit was interpreted in Lebanon as a final warning before an Israeli military campaign to remove the Hezbollah threat from the border. Hochstein reportedly delivered a message to “return security to Israel and return the residents to their homes.” He also reportedly demanded that Lebanese authorities move Hezbollah 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) north of the Blue Line, delineated by the United Nations after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. According to the report Hochstein called for the Lebanese Army to replace Hezbollah in this 7-kilometer zone “so that the northern residents of Israel can return.”Hochstein also reportedly said that a full withdrawal north of the Litani River was not necessary. This despite U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, according to which Hezbollah is not allowed to maintain a military presence south of the Litani. Hochstein reportedly warned that if Hezbollah does not withdraw, Israel will attack

Israeli troops train on 'attacking Lebanon' as general stresses 'readiness'
Naharnet/January 16, 2024
The Israeli army’s northern region commander, Major General Ori Gordin, has inspected a military exercise in which troops trained on “waging an attack on Lebanon as part of raising the level of readiness,” the Israeli army said on Tuesday. “We are more prepared than before and we’re ready to act even tonight if needed. We will continue to strengthen our readiness and preparedness in the future,” Gordin told the forces. “We have struck a very large number of cells on the other side, more than 150 cells have been hit, alongside the destruction of many of the enemy’s capabilities. We are largely working on destroying capabilities, stripping Hezbollah of its assets and pushing it backwards,” Gordin added. “There are many things that still need to be dealt with to secure the success of the aspired result, represented in boosting safety so that we can return the residents of the northern region to their homes,” Gordin went on to say.
Since the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip erupted on October 7, the Israel-Lebanon border has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces. Violence on the border since October 7 has killed 190 people in Lebanon, including more than 140 Hezbollah fighters and over 20 civilians including three journalists, according to an AFP tally. In Israel's north, at least 15 people, including nine soldiers, have been killed, according to Israeli authorities. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.

Franjieh holds talks with Jumblat in Clemenceau
Naharnet/January 16, 2024
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has met with Marada leader and Hezbollah presidential candidate Suleiman Franjieh in Clemenceau. "The Progressive Socialist Party is working on crystallizing a domestic solution with all parties," PSP MP Bilal Abdallah said. PSP al-Anbaa news portal reported for its part that despite the differences between Jumblat and Franjieh, the two leaders still have a lot in common and still can cooperate as border tensions escalate in the south.

Israel says hit 'dozens of Hezbollah targets' in major Wadi Slouqi attack
Naharnet/January 16, 2024
The Israeli army on Tuesday said it carried out a combined strike with warplanes and artillery on dozens of Hezbollah military buildings and infrastructure in Wadi Slouqi in south Lebanon, a strategic valley that lies a few kilometers away from the frontier. In a statement on the X platform, Israeli army Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee said the attack was completed within a short period of time and targeted “Hezbollah combat assets.”“Hezbollah uses Wadi Slouqi for terrorist purposes, planting in the rugged area dozens of terrorist assets and infrastructure with the aim of using them to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers,” Adraee claimed. Since the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip erupted on October 7, the Israel-Lebanon border has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces. Violence on the border since October 7 has killed 190 people in Lebanon, including more than 140 Hezbollah fighters and over 20 civilians including three journalists. In Israel's north, at least 15 people, including nine soldiers, have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.

'Mouth of the volcano': Tensions surge as Hezbollah leader and Israeli commander exchange war rhetoric
LBCI/January 16, 2024
The southern border stands at the "mouth of the volcano" with occupied Palestine. Hezbollah's Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, welcomed war a few days ago if imposed on Lebanon. Just hours ago, Northern Command chief Ori Gordin declared that his army was more ready than ever to carry out the operation within a few hours of the decision. Gordin's statement came during his inspection of exercises conducted by the Israeli army on Mount Hermon, simulating a scenario of war with Lebanon involving both land and sea forces. As revealed by Israeli media, a notable aspect of these exercises is that they include a reserve unit from the Israeli 228th Brigade. Inside Israel, war seems to be racing ahead of diplomacy, with escalating media discourse about a lack of agreement with Hezbollah during a tour with the US envoy, Amos Hochstein. While Tel Aviv, according to its media, discloses that Hezbollah is using new missiles of the Kornet type not used before, Lebanon, in return, observes precise new Israeli missiles in Aita al-Shaab on Monday. As Israel escalates and issues threats amid military mobilization on the borders, Hezbollah monitors and responds. Amid the Israeli escalation, Tel Aviv's media reports that the Golani Brigade, an elite force that fought in Gaza and withdrew from there, will move to the north after a brief rest for its fighters for a few days. However, Lebanese sources suggest that some units of the Golani Brigade are already positioned on the southern Lebanese border.

Mikati: Hezbollah enjoys rationality and wisdom

Naharnet/January 16, 2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Tuesday stressed that a ceasefire in Gaza would be the cornerstone for the beginning of all solutions in the region. “Hezbollah enjoys rationality and wisdom and it has said that it puts the Lebanese interest above any other interest,” Mikati said in remarks to Al-Jazeera television. “Our choice is diplomatic and we want permanent stability on the border with Israel. We are committed to the U.N. resolutions on Lebanon and we respect them all,” the premier added. Calling on the international community to “press Israel to cease fire in order to reach a solution based on the two-state choice and establishing stability,” Mikati noted that “the solution lies in fully implementing Resolution 1701, halting the Israeli aggression and consolidating calm and stability on the border.”Since the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip erupted on October 7, the Israel-Lebanon border has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces. Violence on the border since October 7 has killed 190 people in Lebanon, including more than 140 Hezbollah fighters and over 20 civilians including three journalists, according to an AFP tally. In Israel's north, at least 15 people, including nine soldiers, have been killed, according to Israeli authorities. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.

Class in session: Lebanon's private schools resume regular work amid agreement
LBCI/January 16, 2024
The Private School Teachers Union in Lebanon announced that Wednesday is a regular working day in private schools, based on the agreement at the Ministry of Education. The agreement involved the union, represented by President Nehme Mahfoud and Secretary-General Osama Al-Arnaout, and the Union of Private Educational Institutions, represented by the Secretary-General of Catholic Schools, Father Youssef Nasr, and Hajj Mohammad Samaha. The agreement was reached in the presence of parent committees and is awaiting official signing within 48 hours to take the appropriate stance. The union affirmed that its primary concern is advocating for retired teachers and ensuring they receive salary increases on par with their counterparts in public education through official mechanisms within the compensation fund.

Franjieh holds talks with Jumblat in Clemenceau
Naharnet/January 16, 2024
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has met with Marada leader and Hezbollah presidential candidate Suleiman Franjieh in Clemenceau. "The Progressive Socialist Party is working on crystallizing a domestic solution with all parties," PSP MP Bilal Abdallah said. PSP al-Anbaa news portal reported for its part that despite the differences between Jumblat and Franjieh, the two leaders still have a lot in common and still can cooperate as border tensions escalate in the south.

Kataeb political bureau's strong rejection: Mikati's statements tying Lebanon's fate to regional war
LBCI/January 16, 2024
The Kataeb Political Bureau rejected the statements made by Prime Minister Najib Mikati following his meeting with international envoys seeking to spare Lebanon from the worst. The Bureau considered that Mikati's statements officially cemented the link of Lebanon's fate to the ongoing war in the region. It asserted that Mikati has jeopardized the future of the Lebanese people by tying it to the end of the war in Gaza and issues that are not its concerns, with no ability to bear the consequences alone. After its meeting chaired by the party's leader, MP Sami Gemayel, and after monitoring developments in Lebanon, the Kataeb Political Bureau pointed out that military operations are expanding daily to include countries under the banner of "unifying the arenas."It highlighted the most dangerous situations occurring in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, resembling a widespread regional war dragging the entire world into calamities. Lebanon, in this context, appears as the weakest link, being kidnapped in will, stripped of decision-making, and its institutions held hostage by Hezbollah, which has become the commander and regulator, setting conditions for local and international initiatives.
The Bureau noted that Lebanon is gradually becoming a country living outside the constitution and laws, based on a disruptive plan that pushes the country into chaos under the slogan of necessities that allow prohibitions. This has established a lawless system committing all violations, primarily and fundamentally resulting from the obstruction of the election of a president and the reconstitution of authority without which the state cannot stand. It emphasized that the response to laws is a prerogative closely linked to the President, while the government has been granted another legal authority to withdraw laws from discussion in the parliament if it objects to them. The Prime Minister is also allowed to appeal laws to the Constitutional Council. The refusal to use these two authorities and the derivation of others violate the President's position and powers, only deepening the breach of all laws.
In addition, the Kataeb Political Bureau held those who held the key to the President's election responsible for the sins committed against the country and its people. It considered that the statement of the Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, about having one sole candidate, which is his candidate, "indicates the continuation of the imposition logic and a decision taken to confront the Lebanese people and the blocs that reached out for cooperation by presenting two names that gained significant support." It called for abandoning unilateralism and monopoly and going to meet the Lebanese people to reclaim the nation, its decision, and sovereignty. The Bureau stated, "The Lebanese are experiencing humiliating situations of displacement on the roads due to unprecedented neglect and recklessness from the remnants of authority engaged in throwing accusations to escape from their responsibilities in the simplest matters, such as opening sewage channels and rehabilitating roads in anticipation of disasters before they occur, instead of lamenting over damage inspection." The Bureau considered that blaming climate change amid winter, settling for warnings through social media, and demanding compensation have become characteristic of a group that enjoys media displays instead of silently working to save the Lebanese from what their hands have committed.

Former Minister Youssef Fenianos 'cleared' as arrest warrant revoked in Beirut blast case

LBCI/January 16, 2024
The Attorney General of Cassation, Judge Sabbouh Suleiman, revoked the arrest warrant for former minister Youssef Fenianos in the Beirut Port explosion case without implementation. Therefore, according to the decision, Fenianos is no longer wanted by the judiciary. Judge Suleiman's decision came based on the same principle applied to those detained in the case: the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, is considered "incapacitated." It is worth noting that Judge Imad Kabalan had previously suspended the execution of the arrest warrant for MP Ali Hassan Khalil.

Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon grow in intensity amid reports of army infiltration
NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arab News/January 16, 2024
BEIRUT: In an unprecedented development in the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah on the southern Lebanese front, the Israeli army said on Tuesday that “its special forces infiltrated southern Lebanon and cleared mines in the village of Aita Al-Shaab.”Hezbollah quickly denied the incident, which would represent a significant escalation of a conflict that now has been going on for 101 days alongside the Israeli military action in Gaza. The militant group said its “forces are present along the border strip and are capable of confronting any attempt.” A source from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon said: “We have not received any report of Israeli infiltration across the border with Lebanon and we are currently investigating the matter.”Local media reports from the border region described “an attempt by a force of three Israeli soldiers to breach the barbed wire fence separating Lebanon and the Israeli side, and infiltrate toward Lebanese territory, but Hezbollah members detected them and prevented them from doing so, so they withdrew.”Meanwhile Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over the town of Kfarkela for the second time. Addressed to “residents of the south,” they said that “missiles are being launched from this area by the terrorist Hezbollah. Such terrorist operations will lead to a harsh response. For your safety, do not be a party to terrorist acts in your backyards.”
Some residents who have not yet fled the area scoffed at the leaflets on social media, while others decided to leave and seek refuge elsewhere. More than 75,000 people so far have been displaced, moving away from villages and towns in the deep south for fear of becoming caught up in fighting along the border.
Israeli air attacks grew in intensity in border regions on Tuesday, with more than 20 strikes targeting areas around Hula, Wadi Saluki, Wadi Hujeir, the Rab Thalathine-Taybeh road, and Aita Al-Shaab, causing terror among residents as buildings shook. In addition, Israeli artillery shelling targeted Moutran Hill in Hamames, Wadi Al-Bayad and Mays Al-Jabal, and a Merkava tank reportedly bombarded the town of Kfarkela with phosphorus shells. A house in the border town of Abbasiya was hit by a tank attack and caught fire. There were fears for Mahmoud Yaqoub, a shepherd, and his sister who went missing during the Israeli raids on the village of Hula and its surrounding areas. After a few hours, however, he resurfaced and posted a message on social media saying that they had “sought refuge in a cave beneath a mountain.”On Tuesday morning, sirens sounded in eight Israeli settlements in Upper Galilee as the Israeli army suspected a drone attack had been launched from Lebanon. In the afternoon, sirens sounded in Ramot Naftali, a settlement near the border. Israeli forces said they have “targeted 150 Hezbollah cells in southern Lebanon responsible for launching missiles and drones since the beginning of the confrontations.”The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation reported “a major army assault in Wadi Saluki, south of Lebanon” in which “dozens of targets were simultaneously attacked.”Hezbollah said it attacked “a group of Israeli soldiers to the east of the Evin Menachem settlement using missiles.”
During a meeting with the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon, Stefanie McCollum, Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, said that authorities in Beirut recently sent a letter to the UN in an attempt to take the initiative and develop a serious vision to ensure the stability of the country’s southern borders. “We expect active countries to support this initiative to safeguard regional peace and security, and prevent any further escalation of conflict in the Middle East,” he added. The letter, sent about a week ago, reads: “We should not seek half-solutions in our region. Give peace a chance through the full and comprehensive implementation of international resolutions that support the creation of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”It called on the UN Security Council to ensure the full implementation of Resolution 1701, and secure international guarantees. Resolution 1701 was adopted by the council in 2006 with the aim of resolving the war that year between Israel and Hezbollah. The letter also urged the UN to support efforts by “the Lebanese state to extend its authority over the entire Lebanese territory by strengthening the armed forces and enhancing their deployment south of the Litani River in cooperation with UNIFIL, to ensure that no weapons remain without the approval of the Lebanese government.”

Rights group urges Lebanon to free Qaddafi’s son
AFP/January 16, 2024
BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Lebanon Tuesday to release a son of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, saying he had been held on “spurious charges” for eight years. Lebanon in 2015 arrested and accused Hannibal Qaddafi, known for living the high life, of withholding information about the disappearance of Lebanese Shiite cleric imam Mussa Sadr in 1978. But HRW said he was only two years old at the time the cleric disappeared, and accused Lebanon of subjecting him to an “apparent arbitrary detention on spurious charges.”“Spending eight years in pre-trial detention makes a mockery of Lebanon’s already strained judicial system,” the group’s Hanan Salah said in a statement. Sadr — the founder of the Amal movement, now a main ally of militant group Hezbollah — went missing during an official visit to Libya, along with an aide and a journalist. Beirut blamed the disappearances on long-time Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi — overthrown and killed in a 2011 uprising — and ties between the two countries have been strained ever since. “It’s understandable that people want to know what happened to imam Sadr,” Salah said. “But it is unlawful to hold someone in pre-trial detention for many years merely for their possible association with the person responsible for wrongdoing.”A Lebanese judicial official slammed the HRW report as “biased and one-sided,” telling AFP it was based solely on “information obtained from Hannibal Qaddafi’s defense team.”Hannibal Qaddafi is “detained in a purely judicial matter,” the source continued, charging that he was responsible for prisons during his father’s rule, “including the one in which the imam was held.”In June, a judicial official had told AFP that the case of Hannibal Qaddafi had been halted as they awaited information from Libyan authorities. In August, Beirut received a letter from Libyan authorities demanding Qaddafi’s release, but a judicial source told AFP that he would not be freed before Tripoli revealed information about Sadr’s disappearance. Later that month, Amal movement chief Nabih Berri accused Libya of “failing to cooperate” with the Lebanese judiciary and “concealing” information about the case.

Lebanon’s top court suspends arrest warrant for former cabinet minister in Beirut port blast case
AP/January 16, 2024
BEIRUT: A judge at Lebanon’s highest court suspended an arrest warrant against a former cabinet minister in the case of the massive 2020 Beirut port blast, officials said Tuesday. Judge Sabbouh Suleiman of the Court of Cassation lifted the warrant against former public works minister, Youssef Fenianos, judicial officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. In 2021, Judge Tarek Bitar, who has led the investigation into the explosion, issued a warrant against Fenianos, who in turn asked for Bitar’s removal over “legitimate suspicion” of how he handled his case. The judge accused Fenianos and three other former senior government officials of intentional killing and negligence that led to the deaths of more than 200 people in the explosion. Some politicians and security officials have also been asking for Bitar’s removal as anger and criticism by families of the victims and rights groups have grown as the investigation has been stalled for over a year. Despite arrest warrants issued for cabinet ministers and heads of security agencies, no one has so far been detained amid political interference in the work of the judiciary. The United States Treasury in September 2020 slapped sanctions on Fenianos and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, accusing them of corruption and providing “material support” to the militant Hezbollah group. Bitar had also charged and pursued Khalil in the port blast probe with homicide and criminal negligence. The Aug. 2020 blast — one of the world’s largest non-nuclear blasts ever recorded — killed at least 218 people and more than 6,000 wounded, according to an Associated Press tally. It also devastated large swaths of Beirut and caused billions of dollars in damages. More than three years later, there are still no answers to what triggered the explosion, and no one has been held accountable. Rights groups and local media revealed that most state officials knew of the presence of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored there for years, in the port.

Without stigmatizing diaspora communities or profiling their members, Western intelligence services must work against radicalization and incitement by targeting Hezbollah agents.
Emanuele Ottolenghi/The National Interest/January 16/ 2024 |
On December 27, Hezbollah announced that Ali Ahmad Bazzi had risen “as a martyr on the road to Jerusalem” and released his martial portrait. Hit by an Israeli strike, Bazzi died with his brother Ibrahim and Ibrahim’s wife. In death, Bazzi joined a growing list of Hezbollah military personnel killed by Israeli strikes as Israel and Hezbollah fought along the Israel-Lebanon border. What sets him apart is that Ali and his brother were both Australian nationals—Ibrahim was in Lebanon to bring his wife back to Australia after she had been granted a visa.
Since 9/11, Western countries have closely monitored Al Qaeda’s and Islamic State’s foreign fighters. The Bazzi brothers’ case should alert Western governments that Hezbollah, too, poses a risk among Shia Lebanese expatriates across the vast Lebanese diaspora—estimated to include more than 15 million people worldwide, with its most significant presence in South America.
That Hezbollah has been recruiting Lebanese Shia expatriates to support its struggle is not new. But until recently, dual nationals working for Hezbollah mostly emerged from the shadows only when implicated in either terror plots or financial schemes to fund Hezbollah.
For example, in July 2012, Hezbollah operatives targeted a bus carrying Israeli tourists outside the Bulgarian resort of Burgas, murdering five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver. The three terrorists—Meliad Farah, Hassan el-Haji Hassan, and Mohamad Hassan El Husseini—were dual nationals of Lebanon and, respectively, Australia, Canada, and France. Elsewhere, a few days before the Burgas attack, Cypriot authorities arrested Hossam Yaakoub, a dual national of Lebanon and Sweden who was plotting to strike Israeli tourists in Cyprus. A few months later, in early 2013, an Iranian-Canadian dual national was arrested in Bulgaria while scouting another possible terror attack. Another dual national of Lebanon and Canada, Hussein Bassam Abdallah, was arrested in Cyprus and sentenced to six years in prison in 2015 for plotting terror attacks against Israeli targets. Additional Hezbollah members of its External Security Organization were arrested in the United States in 2017 and 2019. They, too, were all dual nationals—of Lebanon and the United States.
Hezbollah’s money laundering and drug trafficking both heavily rely on Lebanese expatriates. Of the dozens of Western law enforcement agency investigations over the years, it is worth mentioning the cases of: U.S.-sanctioned Kassem Tajideen, a Lebanese expatriate active in West Africa and the DRC, born in Sierra Leone and with dual nationality; Mohammed Ibrahim Bazzi, sanctioned in 2018 and subsequently arrested and extradited to the United States, who held multiple passports, including from Belgium, the Gambia and Sierra Leone; and Kassem Mohamad Hijazi extradited to the United States for money laundering, who held Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship.
Yet the case of Ali Bazzi is different. Unlike the External Security Agents who were recruited to carry out terror attacks abroad and relied on their foreign passports to slip more easily through airport security and border controls, or foreign-born, Lebanese expatriates engaged in illicit financial activities for the sake of supporting Hezbollah’s causes, the Ali Bazzi story attests to the presence of foreign nationals of Lebanese extraction who, while living in the West, are recruited to join Hezbollah’s military ranks and fight in Lebanon, Syria, or elsewhere in the region. While recruitment to join the military ranks of Hezbollah points to the possibility of more foreign nationals dying in Hezbollah’s uniform while performing their Jihad duties in Lebanon, it also highlights a homegrown problem it would be foolish to ignore: the radicalization that precedes a journey to join the fight.
Though concrete evidence of specific, prior cases is scant, in 2009 and 2013, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated individuals linked to Hezbollah who engaged in the recruitment of Lebanese expatriates to become Hezbollah fighters. In 2009, the Treasury sanctioned Sheikh Abdel Menhem Qubaisy, the imam of a Shia mosque in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In addition to being a Hezbollah fundraiser and personal representative of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, Treasury noted, Qubaisy “helped establish an official Hizballah foundation in Cote d’Ivoire which has been used to recruit new members for Hizballah’s military ranks in Lebanon.” Four years later, Treasury sanctioned more West Africa-based Hezbollah recruiters, particularly Ali Ahmad Chehade, whom Treasury identified as working with Qubaisy.
These Treasury actions demonstrate that Hezbollah’s effort to recruit fighters from its foreign cohorts has been ongoing. It is a large pool. Though accurate, up-to-date statistics are hard to come by, just in Sub-Saharan Africa, Lebanese Shia expatriates number in the hundreds of thousands. Monitoring the recruitment networks—including the institutions that act as their conduit—should be a priority, as it has been with Jihadi foreign fighters since 9/11.
In Abidjan, Sheikh Qubaisy relied on a religious foundation to recruit. Abbas Loutfe Fawaz and Hicham Nmer Khanafer, two more Lebanese sanctioned alongside Qubaisy’s assistant, Shahade, in 2013, were also active in recruitment in Senegal and the Gambia. Moreover, Hezbollah has built a miniature version of the recruitment tools it uses in Lebanon to mobilize local Shia—scouts’ movements, schools, mosques, and cultural associations—across the diaspora. Relying on clerics, scouts’ leaders, teachers, and community organizers dispatched to serve in those communities under the guidance of its Foreign Relations Department, Hezbollah uses communal institutions to indoctrinate the local youth.
There are numerous documented cases in the Lebanese diaspora where local communities commemorated fallen Hezbollah fighters who died thousands of miles away while fighting Israel or alongside the Assad regime—a possible indication of a family connection, if not direct origin, within those expatriate communities.
The threat, therefore, is real—and it calls for corrective measures. First, Western governments must recognize Hezbollah’s penetration of diaspora communities through charitable work and institutions. But rather than stigmatizing entire communities or profiling their members, Western intelligence services must work against radicalization by targeting Hezbollah agents. As with Sunni radicalism, clerics, teachers, and instructors delivering Hezbollah’s worldview to their pupils and congregants should be monitored and, where the line crosses into incitement, removed. Educational materials must be similarly vetted to identify and expunge radicalizing themes and indoctrination messages.
Hezbollah recruits its foreign fighters through local networks of institutions and activists permanently rooted at the heart of communities in their countries of origin. Further, for those who do not meet Bazzi’s fate, there is the prospect of returning home to offer an example to local youth or to put their skills to Hezbollah’s service abroad. For every Ali Bazzi who dies in Hezbollah’s uniform in Lebanon, there may be another who returns home to the West, bringing the threat of Hezbollah’s violence to our own communities. That is a risk we can no longer afford to ignore.
*Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan foundation based in Washington, DC. Follow him on X @eottolenghi.

Middle East faces stark choice between diplomacy and escalation, Lebanon’s caretaker PM Najib Mikati tells Arab News
TAREK ALI AHMAD/Arab News/January 16, 2024
DAVOS: Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, said on Tuesday that Israel’s recent attacks on Lebanese soil, as well as the ongoing hostilities in Gaza, presented the region with two possible outcomes — win-win or lose-lose.
In an interview with Arab News at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mikati said the region faced a stark choice between a diplomatic resolution to the region’s many overlapping crises or a major escalation.
“We are faced with two solutions today: Either a win-win solution or a lose-lose one,” he said. “In the lose-lose scenario, a region-wide war would be declared, whereas the win-win scenario would involve the required diplomatic solution.”
Let us use the Davos meeting to rebuild trust in each of us for the future of humanity says Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman. Mikati, who is heading Lebanon’s first delegation to the annual meeting since 2019, when the country’s financial crisis began, said his country favored a diplomatic solution that would avoid dragging the region into a costly war.
“Since the war erupted in Gaza, we have been calling for a ceasefire, as it would serve as the foundation for any potential solution,” he said.
“As soon as a ceasefire is reached in Gaza, we will explore a solution aimed at achieving sustainable and permanent stability in south Lebanon, in accordance with the UN Resolution 1701, which must be fully applied.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 ended the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. However, since the war in Gaza began on Oct. 7, Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters have traded fire along the shared border.
Our greatest fear is that those violations will lead to a war — a prolonged and devastating one for all involved.
In November, Mikati proposed a three-step plan for peace in Gaza, starting with a five-day pause in hostilities. During this pause, Hamas would release some of the hostages it seized during its Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, while Israel would allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, where Palestinian civilians have endured months under siege. Meanwhile, world leaders would begin working towards an international summit to implement a permanent two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Israel has been reluctant to halt its military operation in Gaza. Instead, it appears to have broadened the scope of its mission to include precision airstrikes against Hamas and Hezbollah commanders in Lebanon.
Saleh Al-Arouri, the deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau and founder of the group’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, was killed in a suspected Israeli strike alongside several of his henchmen at an apartment in a Hezbollah-controlled neighborhood in Beirut on Jan. 2.
Then, on Jan. 8, Wissam Al-Tawil, deputy head of Hezbollah’s Radwan Force, was also killed in a suspected Israeli drone strike on a vehicle in the southern Lebanese town of Khirbet Selm.
This was followed on Jan. 9 with the death of Ali Hussein Burji, commander of Hezbollah’s aerial forces in southern Lebanon, also in Khirbet Selm in another suspected Israeli airstrike.
The killings on Lebanese soil have only compounded the threat of escalation, with the exchange of missiles and drone attacks along the shared border continuing to intensify. Israeli shelling has burned 462 hectares of agricultural and forested land, according to the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, and sparked an exodus from southern villages close to the border with Israel. Likewise, Israeli civilians living close to the border have been relocated, fearing an attack akin to the Hamas assault of Oct. 7. An Amnesty International report confirmed that “the Israeli army fired artillery shells containing white phosphorus, an incendiary weapon, in military operations along Lebanon’s southern border” between Oct. 10 and 16.
Furthermore, videos verified by Human Rights Watch in October indicated that Israel had used white phosphorus in military operations in south Lebanon and Gaza on Oct. 10 and 11, respectively.
The monitor said on Oct. 12 that these attacks placed civilians “at risk of serious and long-term injuries.”On Jan. 9, Lebanon filed a formal complaint to the UN Security Council accusing Israel of violating Resolution 1701, citing the use of prohibited weapons containing white phosphorus.
International humanitarian law prohibits the use of white phosphorus in, or in close proximity to, populated civilian areas or infrastructure. This incendiary substance burns at extremely high temperatures and often starts fires that spread and continue until the phosphorus is depleted.
People exposed to white phosphorus can suffer respiratory damage, organ failure and other life-changing injuries. Burns caused by the substance are extremely difficult to treat and can be fatal when affecting just 10 percent of the body.
“We have filed a complaint with the UN on the type of weapons used and other violations committed by Israel,” Mikati told Arab News. “Our greatest fear is that those violations will lead to a war — a prolonged and devastating one for all involved.” Lebanon has filed additional complaints against Israel at the UN Security Council, including over the suspected targeted killing of Hamas commander Al-Arouri. If an all-out war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah, many in Lebanon fear it would be far more devastating than the 2006 conflict, which left at least 1,100 Lebanese dead and severely damaged civilian infrastructure, including Rafik Hariri International Airport.
Since 2019, Lebanon has been grappling with a range of overlapping political and economic crises, which have pushed some 80 percent of the population into poverty. The country’s financial crisis has been deemed one of the world’s worst since the 1850s. However, the Lebanese government has failed to implement critical reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund to address the root causes of the country’s economic problems. Parliament has also repeatedly failed since Oct. 2022 to elect a new president, with its 12th unsuccessful attempt in June last year.
“More than 14 months have passed without the election of a president,” Mikati told Arab News, adding that he hoped “all political entities in Lebanon (would) demonstrate the necessary (level of) awareness to expedite the process.”In the context of regional tensions, however, Mikati seemed doubtful about progress in the short term. “At the present time, electing the president of the Lebanese republic is a top priority, but there have been new developments,” he said. “This is especially important during these challenging times in the region.”

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 16-17/2024
Iran strikes targets in northern Iraq and Syria as regional tensions escalate
Associated Press/January 16/2024
Iran fired missiles late Monday at what it claimed were Israeli "spy headquarters" near the U.S. Consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, and at targets linked to the extremist group Islamic State in northern Syria. Four civilians were killed and six injured after missiles hit an upscale area near the consulate in Irbil, the seat of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, according to the security council of the Kurdish regional government. Iran's Revolutionary Guards said in a statement that it had hit a headquarters of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Another statement said it had fired a number of ballistic missiles at "terrorist operations," including Islamic State targets, in Syria and destroyed them. Israel did not immediately acknowledge the attack in Irbil and its embassy in Washington did not return a request for comment on the Iranian allegation regarding the Mossad. The strikes come at a time of heightened tensions in the region and fears of a wider spillover of the ongoing war in Gaza. Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have launched near-daily drone attacks on bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, which the groups have said was in retaliation for Washington's support of Israel, and in an attempt to force U.S. troops to leave the region. The United States strongly condemns "Iran's reckless missile strikes" in Irbil, said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. He said the attacks "undermine Iraq's stability."
A U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that had not been made public said the U.S. tracked the missiles, which hit in northern Iraq and northern Syria, and no U.S. facilities were struck or damaged in the attacks. The official said initial indications were that the strikes were "reckless and imprecise."However, the full extent of the damage from the strikes could not be independently assessed. An Iraqi security official said Irbil was targeted with "several" ballistic missiles but did not give further details. An official with an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia said 10 missiles fell in the area near the U.S. Consulate. He said the missiles were launched by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity. Peshraw Dizayi, a prominent local businessman with a portfolio that included real estate and security services companies, was killed in one of the Irbil strikes along with members of his family, according to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, by Mashan al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi member of parliament. Al-Jabouri said that one of the missiles had fallen on Dizayi's "palace, next to my house, which is under construction on the road to the Salah al-Din resort."Other regional political figures also confirmed Dizayi's death. In 2022, Iran claimed responsibility for a missile barrage that struck in the same area near the sprawling U.S. Consulate complex in Irbil, saying it was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard. Iran's strike in northern Syria late Monday came after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility earlier this month for two suicide bombings targeting a commemoration for an Iranian general slain in a 2020 U.S. drone strike. The attack in Kerman killed at least 84 people and wounded an additional 284 at a ceremony honoring Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Last month, Iran accused Israel of killing a high-ranking Iranian general, Seyed Razi Mousavi, in an airstrike on a Damascus neighborhood.

Iraq recalls ambassador from Tehran after missile strikes
Agence France Presse/January 16/2024
Iraq said Tuesday it has recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations after its ally's Revolutionary Guards carried out deadly missile attacks on its autonomous Kurdish region. Ambassador Nassir Abdel Mohsen was "recalled for consultations in the context of the latest Iranian attacks on (regional capital) Arbil in which there were dead and wounded," a foreign ministry statement said. Senior Iraq official says Iran claim it hit Mossad base 'false' Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassem al-Araji dismissed as "false" Iran's claim that it hit an Israeli intelligence base in an overnight missile strike in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil. "Concerning the alleged presence of a headquarters of Israel's Mossad, we visited the house, we inspected every corner of it and everything indicated that it was the family home of an Iraqi businessman," Araji told Kurdish television station K24 after touring the building that was hit. "These allegations are false and incorrect," added Araji, who has been tasked by the Baghdad government with investigating the Iranian strikes.

Iran launches missiles at militant group in Pakistan: State media
Reuters/January 16/2024
Iran destroyed two bases of Baluchi militant group Jaish al Adl in Pakistan by launching missiles on Tuesday, Iranian state media reported. The group has previously mounted attacks on Iranian security forces in the border area with Pakistan.

US National Security Advisor: Washington seeks 'de-escalation' despite strikes on Houthis
AFP/January 16/2024 
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed on Tuesday that the United States is seeking "de-escalation" in the Middle East despite its strikes on the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Sullivan explained during the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, "We aim to halt the expansion of the conflict and create conditions for de-escalation."

Cargo ship hit by missile off Yemen: maritime risk company
AFP/January 16, 2024
DUBAI: A Greek-owned cargo ship was hit by a missile off Yemen, a maritime risk management company said on Tuesday, following a string of attacks in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi militia. “A Malta-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier was reportedly targeted and impacted with a missile while transiting the southern Red Sea northbound,” Ambrey said in an alert.The ship, which has visited Israel since the outbreak of war in Gaza and was headed to Suez, changed course and headed to port after the incident, Ambrey said. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis, who launched attacks on American vessels on Sunday and Monday following US and UK strikes on their territory last week. On Sunday, US forces shot down a Houthi cruise missile targeting an American destroyer, and on Monday a US-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman was hit by another Houthi missile. The incidents followed Friday’s US and UK strikes on scores of sites in miltia-held Yemen in retaliation for the Red Sea attacks which have disrupted shipping in the vital waterway. The Houthis have been targeting what they deemed Israeli-linked vessels but after Friday’s strikes, they declared US and British interests “legitimate targets.” United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a maritime security agency run by the British navy, also reported an “incident” in an area northwest of Saleef in Yemen, without giving further details. Earlier, Qatar’s prime minister said liquefied natural gas shipments would be affected by tensions in the Red Sea, and warned that strikes on Yemen risk aggravating the crisis. “LNG is... as any other merchant shipments. They will be affected by that,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the World Economic Forum in Davos, referring to the exchanges with the Houthis. “There are alternative routes, those alternative routes are not more efficient, they’re less efficient than the current route,” he added. Rather than use the key route between Asia and European markets, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade, some shipping companies are now taking a major detour around southern Africa. Bloomberg reported on Monday that at least five LNG vessels operated by Qatar had stopped en route to the Red Sea. “(Military intervention) will not bring an end for this, will not contain it. So the contrary, I think will create... a further escalation,” Sheikh Mohammed said, referring to the tensions in the Red Sea.

US Navy intercepts sophisticated Iranian missile components headed for Houthis

SAEED AL-BATATI/Arab News/January 16, 2024
AL-MUKALLA: The US Navy said on Tuesday that it intercepted a shipment of sophisticated weaponry from Iran headed for the Houthis in Yemen, the first big seizure of its kind since the start of the militia’s Red Sea attacks. This comes after the Houthis threatened to strike all US and UK commercial and naval ships in retribution for the two nations’ strikes on Yemen. US Central Command said on Jan. 11 that US Navy forces stormed a dhow in international waters of the Arabian Sea near the Somalian coast that was transporting sophisticated lethal weapons from Iran to the Houthis.
The weapons found on the dhow consisted of propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, in addition to air defense-associated components. “Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea,” CENTCOM said in a statement, adding that this is the first weapons capture since November, when the Houthis initiated assaults on ships in the Red Sea, and the first substantial interception of advanced Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missile components since late 2019.  Two US Seals who participated in the mission got lost at sea, and US Navy Marines destroyed the dhow after designating it unsafe, arresting 14 crew members. Shortly after CENTCOM announced the interception, Yemen’s government accused Iran of continuing to provide the Houthis with modern weaponry and demanded that Iran be punished for breaking international law. “Yet again another example of the Iranian flagrant violation of international law by continuing to supply the #Houthis with lethal weapons. #Iran must be held accountable!” the Yemeni Embassy in Washington D.C. said on X. The announcement came a day after the Houthis threatened that all American and British commercial and naval ships would be targeted in response to the two nations’ attacks in regions controlled by them. “All American and British ships and warships involved in the attack against our nation are considered hostile targets by the Yemeni armed forces,” Yahya Sarea, the Yemeni militia’s military spokesman, said on Monday while claiming credit for a missile assault on a US commercial ship southeast of Aden. Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship and launched over two dozen missile and drone attacks on commercial and naval ships, preventing any Israel-bound ships from passing through the Red Sea. The Houthis claim that their strikes and the prohibition are intended to push Israel to halt its deadly bombing and siege of Gaza. Elisabeth Kendall, Middle East expert and head of Girton College, University of Cambridge, told Arab News that by targeting US Navy and commercial vessels, the Houthis have strategically positioned themselves to give the impression that their actions are a retaliatory response to US strikes. She suggested that the belief among many that the US assisted the Houthis in maintaining high morale could potentially encourage them to continue their attacks and that they would unlikely step back as they are confident the US would not enter another land war in the Middle East, especially during an election year. “The damage that the US can do by airstrikes is limited and the Houthis have significant experience of hiding their weaponry among civilian populations. If the US were to kill civilians, the region risks becoming inflamed. The Houthi position therefore remains strong, indeed perhaps even stronger after the US airstrikes,” she said.

US ‘not seeking regional conflict’ in Middle East, security adviser Jake Sullivan tells WEF
ARAB NEWS/January 16, 2024
DAVOS: Washington is “not looking for a regional conflict” in the Middle East, Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, against a backdrop of mounting turmoil in the Red Sea. “Through a combination of steady deterrence and steadfast diplomacy we seek to stop the spread of conflict and create the conditions for de-escalation,” Sullivan said in a special address. The administration of US President Joe Biden was focused on “moving towards greater integration and stability in the region,” Sullivan said, but cautioned that the situation in the Middle East was likely to get worse before it gets any better. “We are eagerly working with partners throughout the region to try and pursue a pathway. But in the meantime, we have to guard against and be vigilant against the possibility that, in fact, rather than heading towards de-escalation, we are on a path of escalation that we have to manage.”Sullivan’s comments come just days after a US-led coalition carried out strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen in retaliation for the Iran-backed militia’s recent spate of attacks on commercial shipping routes in the Red Sea. On Sunday, the US said it had shot down a missile fired towards one of its warships from a Houthi area of Yemen. A day later, the group said they had carried out a ballistic missile strike on a US-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. The US has since retaliated.
Several vessels have been targeted by the militia’s fighters since November in protest at Israel’s war with Hamas. The Houthis say they are targeting vessels which are Israeli-owned, flagged or operated, or are heading to Israeli ports. Indicating that further attacks on shipping were likely, necessitating further strikes against the Houthi targets, Sullivan said: “We did not say when we launched our attacks that (Houthi strikes) were going to end once and for all.” Sullivan said that a halt to Houthi attacks on shipping would depend on the cooperation of “those with influence in Tehran” as well as the support of US allies in the Middle East. Turning to the conflict in Gaza, Sullivan said the US envisaged a post-war scenario where Israel continued toward normalization with its Arab neighbors, which he said was the only path to lasting, guaranteed security for Israel, as well as a state for the Palestinians.
“I know that in this moment when there’s so much anger and pain and so much uncertainty it’s hard to imagine, but it really is the only path that provides peace and security for all.”Sullivan said the world “needed a Palestinian state” and that this was achievable “not years from now, but in the short term, if everyone takes courageous decisions and chooses that path.”
Israel launched its military operation in Gaza in retaliation for the unprecedented Hamas attack of Oct. 7, in which the group’s fighters breached the Israeli border in several places, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking another 240 hostage. More than a hundred days of fighting, incessant bombardment, and restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid into the territory has resulted in more than 24,000 deaths, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The conflict has since spread to other parts of the Middle East, with groups allied with Iran and Hamas carrying out their own attacks, including exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, attacks on US interests in Iraq, and Israeli strikes against Syria. While reiterating Washington’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attacks carried out by Hamas militants, Sullivan called on the Israeli government to abide by its obligations under international law. “This (right) does not lessen at all Israel’s responsibility to conduct its campaign in a way that upholds international humanitarian law and abides by the moral and strategic necessity to distinguish between terrorists and innocent civilians.”
Sullivan was among a senior US delegation, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which met with Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky in Davos earlier on Tuesday. During his address, Sullivan reiterated that Washington was fully supportive of the Ukrainian war effort and said he was confident the US Congress would approve more aid for Kyiv “after a lot of twists and turns,” adding that the Biden administration was “seeking to get that done in the coming weeks.” Sullivan also made reference to growing tensions between the US and China and said Washington’s restrictions on Beijing’s import of advanced chips was about ensuring American national security and not a barrier to commerce between the two countries. “I want to be clear that these tailored measures are not a technology blockade. They do not seek to, nor in fact do they, restrict broader trade and investment,” he said. He added that the restrictions were a “broad carve-out for commercial chips, the kind of chips that can help power economic progress,” and that strategic competitors with the US “should not be able to exploit American technologies to undermine our national security or that of our allies and partners.”

Hamas tunnels are 100s of miles longer than thought with 5,000-plus entry points
Israel believes the Islamist group built between 350 and 450 miles of subterranean terror infrastructure.
Hamas’s network of terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip is even more extensive than previously thought, The New York Times cited senior Israeli defense officials as saying on Tuesday, with new assessments indicating it has upwards of 5,700 entry shafts. In the wake of intensive counterterror combat operations in the southern Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis during recent weeks, Israel now believes the Islamist group built between 350 and 450 miles of subterranean terror infrastructure, up from a previous estimate of 250 miles. While the figure could not be verified, the Times called Israel’s updated intelligence assessment “extraordinary,” especially given the fact that the Gaza Strip is only some 25 miles long by (at its broadest point) seven miles wide.In one case cited by the newspaper, Israel Defense Forces soldiers who raided the residence of a Hamas terrorist discovered a spiral staircase leading to a tunnel approximately seven stories deep. Israeli intelligence found there were about 100 miles of tunnels under the city of Khan Yunis alone, the Times noted. Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, who masterminded the Oct. 7 massacre of some 1,200 persons in Israel, is believed to be hiding in Khan Yunis, where he has reportedly surrounded himself with a large number of hostages, preventing the IDF from carrying out an airstrike on his location. Phase in northern Gaza ‘has concluded‘
On Monday, 80 days after the Jewish state launched its ground offensive, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signaled the impending end to heavy combat operations in the southern part of Gaza. “The intensive maneuvering phase in the north of the Gaza Strip has ended, and in the south, it will also end soon,” Gallant said on Monday evening. “Some three months ago … we specified the stages of implementation and made it clear that the intensive maneuvering phase will last for approximately three months—in the north of the Gaza Strip, this phase has concluded,” the defense minister said. According to Gallant, “In the south of the Gaza Strip, we will reach this achievement soon, and in both places, the moment will come when we move to the next phase.” The IDF announced on Tuesday that the undercover counterterror Duvdevan Unit would leave the Strip and redeploy to its regular location in Judea and Samaria. The announcement came a day after the 36th Division, the IDF’s largest regular-service armored division, which includes the Golani Infantry Brigade, left Gaza for rest and training. Ahead of their departure, Duvdevan troops raided “dozens” of terror infrastructures in the southernmost part of Khan Yunis, killing a squad of armed terrorists during a firefight, the IDF said on Tuesday. In addition, soldiers of the Maglan and Egoz special forces units raided the offices of senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders in Khan Yunis, according to the statement. In one office, soldiers discovered a large quantity of guns, ammunition and grenades. The army also disabled surveillance cameras Hamas used to track the movement of troops in order to target them. Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli Air Force helicopter struck an “observational device” threatening troops, the IDF said.

Gaza war: Latest developments
Associated Press/January 16/2024
Gaza urgently needs more aid or its desperate population will suffer widespread famine and disease, the heads of three major U.N. agencies warned Monday, as authorities in the enclave reported that the death toll in the Israel-Hamas war had surpassed 24,000.While the U.N. agency chiefs did not directly point a finger at Israel, they said aid delivery is hobbled by the opening of too few border crossings, a slow vetting process for trucks and goods going into Gaza, and continuing fighting throughout the territory — all of which Israel plays a deciding factor in. Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the militant group's Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has prompted unprecedented destruction in the tiny coastal enclave and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe that has displaced most of Gaza's 2.3 million population and pushed more than a quarter into starvation, according to the U.N. It has also stoked regional tensions, with Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen carrying out strikes in support of the Palestinians. A missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels hit an American-owned cargo ship on Monday, days after U.S.-led strikes against the group over its attacks on international shipping. In Gaza, civilians have grown desperate. Footage shared online by Al Jazeera showed hundreds of people rushing toward what appeared to be an aid truck in what the news outlet said was Gaza City. The Associated Press couldn't independently verify the video and it wasn't clear when it was filmed. The World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said Monday that new entry routes need to be opened to Gaza, more trucks need to be allowed in each day, and aid workers and those seeking aid need to be allowed to move around safely. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said U.N. agencies and their partners "cannot effectively deliver humanitarian aid while Gaza is under such heavy, widespread and unrelenting bombardment." He said the deaths of 152 U.N. staffers in Gaza since the start of the war is "the largest single loss of life in the history of our organization."
The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said Monday that the bodies of 132 people killed in Israeli strikes were brought to Gaza hospitals over the past day, raising the death toll from the start of the war to 24,100. The ministry, which doesn't distinguish between fighters and noncombatants in its tally, says two-thirds of those killed in the war were women and children. Israel says its forces have killed roughly 8,000 militants, without providing evidence. Israel blames Hamas for the high Palestinian death toll, saying its fighters make use of civilian buildings, and launch attacks from densely populated urban areas.
On Monday, the military said its forces and aircraft targeted militants in the second-largest city Khan Younis in southern Gaza, a current focus of the ground offensive, as well as in northern Gaza, where the Israeli military says it continues to expand its control. A day after the White House said it was time Israel to curtail its military offensive, Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the intense offensive in southern Gaza will soon be scaled back once Israel takes military control of the area. In Israel, a woman was killed and 12 other people were wounded in a car-ramming and stabbing attack in a suburb of Tel Aviv that police said was carried out by at least two Palestinians. They were later arrested. The suspects stole three different cars and attempted to run down pedestrians, police said. Hamas praised the attack, but neither it nor other Palestinian armed groups claimed responsibility for it. Palestinians have carried out a number of attacks against Israelis since the start of the war, mainly in Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank. Around 350 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, mostly in confrontations during Israeli arrest raids or violent protests.
The war began on Oct. 7, when a Hamas-led surprise attack into Israel killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The militants captured around 250 people and are still holding nearly half of them after releasing more than 100 in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel during a November cease-fire. Hamas released a video late Monday showing three hostages – Noa Argamani, 26, Yossi Sharabi, 53, and Itay Svirsky, 38. It includes brief individual statements from all three, likely speaking under duress, in which they call on Israel to halt the war and say they have little food and water and are in danger from Israeli airstrikes. Later in the video, Argamani says separate airstrikes killed Sharabi and Svirsky and that she herself was wounded. Footage then shows what appear to be the bodies of Sharabi and Svirsky. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, said the army had told the families of Svirsky and another hostage that it was "very concerned" over whether they were still alive. He said Israel had struck a building near where the hostages were being held but did not know their location at the time. Gallant, Israel's defense minister, said Monday that military pressure is the only way to win the release of the remaining hostages, and he ruled out a cease-fire.
The fighting, now in its 101st day, has set off an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which was already struggling from a lengthy blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took power in 2007. The crisis has been especially severe in northern Gaza: The U.N. said Sunday that less than a quarter of aid convoys have reached their destinations in the north in January, because Israeli authorities denied most access. Israeli officials had no immediate comment. The U.N. agencies said they want access to the Israeli port of Ashdod, located about 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Gaza, which they say would allow larger amounts of aid to be shipped in and then sent directly to northern Gaza, much of which Israel leveled in the opening weeks of the war. Israel has blamed the U.N. and other groups for the problems with aid delivery. Moshe Tetro, an official with COGAT, an Israeli military body in charge of civilian Palestinian affairs, said last week that aid delivery would be more streamlined if the U.N. provided more workers to receive and pack the supplies. He said more trucks were needed to transfer the aid to Israel for security checks and that the working hours at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt needed to be extended. Israel sealed off Gaza after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. It relented after its top ally, the U.S., pressed it to loosen its restrictions. The U.S., as well as the U.N., have continued to push Israel to ease the flow of aid.

Palestinian ambassador to U.N. calls on Non-Aligned Movement to pressure Israel into cease-fire

Associated Press/January 16/2024
The Palestinian ambassador to the U.N. called on the members of the Non-Aligned Movement in Kampala, Uganda, to put pressure on Israel to implement a cease-fire in Gaza after 100 days of war with militant Palestinian group Hamas. Riyad Mansour addressed in his opening speech the 120 members, convening throughout this week, that despite the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council's resolutions, a cease-fire remained elusive. The Non-Aligned Movement, formed during the collapse of the colonial systems and at the height of the Cold War, has played a key part in decolonization processes, according to its website. Mansour claimed that Israel was leading an apartheid of the Palestinians in the ongoing war that broke out on Oct.7 when Hamas suddenly attacked the south of Israel, killing some 1,200 people, and taking 250 others hostage. Israel retaliated by pounding the Gaza Strip, killing nearly 24,000 people and displacing about 80% of the population. "We are still under this colonial occupation by Israel and we see genocide committed on our people, particularly in the Gaza Strip," he said. He said the Palestinians were grateful to South Africa for launching a case against Israel at the International Court for Justice. "We are the last kids around the block. All of you accomplished your national independence and you put an end to colonialism." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously said Israel will pursue its war against Hamas until victory and will not be stopped by anyone, including the ICJ. Israel adamantly denies allegations of genocide in Gaza, saying it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians, and rejects allegations of apartheid as an attack on its very legitimacy. At least 30 of the movement's members are expected to attend the heads of states' meeting at the end of the weeklong deliberations. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni will take over as president the Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev for the next three years.

Gaza combat surges anew as Israeli tanks storm back into areas they left
REUTERS/January 16, 2024
GAZA: Israeli tanks stormed back into parts of the northern Gaza Strip they had left last week, residents said on Tuesday, reigniting some of the most intense fighting since the New Year when Israel announced it was scaling back its operations there. Massive explosions could be seen over northern areas of Gaza from across the border with Israel — a rarity over the past two weeks after Israel announced a draw-down of forces in the north as part of a transition to smaller, targeted operations. The rattle of intense gunfire carried across the border through the night. In the morning, contrails snaked through the sky as Israel’s Iron Dome defenses shot down rockets fired by militants across the fence, proof they retain the capability to launch them despite more than 100 days of war. Israel said its forces had killed dozens of Hamas fighters overnight in clashes in Beit Lahiya on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip. Gaza health authorities said the last 24 hours of Israeli bombing had killed 158 people in the enclave, raising their toll for the war, now in its fourth month, to 24,285, with thousands more bodies feared lost in the rubble. Israel launched the war to eradicate Hamas after militants stormed across the border fence on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 240 hostages. The war has driven nearly all Gazans from their homes, some several times, and caused a humanitarian crisis, with food, fuel and medical supplies running low. Under pressure from Washington to reduce civilian casualties, Israel had said it was shifting tactics, transitioning from a full-scale ground assault to targeted operations against the Hamas militants that control the enclave.
It began that shift with a pullback in the north, where its forces had begun their ground offensive in October. On Monday evening, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also said the more recent ground assault in the south was drawing to a close. But any path toward de-escalating the war still seems remote, with Israel saying it will not halt until Hamas is destroyed, and the fighters showing no sign of losing the ability to resist. Some of the hundreds of thousands of residents who fled the north earlier in the war had begun returning last week to bombed-out areas where the Israelis had withdrawn. But residents who spoke to Reuters on Tuesday said the abrupt resurgence of fighting in the north would now halt plans to try to go home. “We almost planned to return to our house in Nazla, east of Jabalia, but thank God we didn’t. This morning people living nearby arrived here and told us the tanks pushed back there,” said Abu Khaled, 43, a father of three now living with relatives in severely damaged Gaza City. “The sounds of bombing from the tanks, from the planes didn’t stop all night. It reminded us of the first day of the ground incursion,” he said. Israeli forces have fought their way to the center of Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Younis, and into towns north and east of the central city of Deir Al-Balah. Defense Minister Gallant’s announcement on Monday that the major ground offensive in the south would soon come to an end raises the question of whether the Israelis will still try to advance into the remaining southern areas. Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now crowded into the few southern areas that Israeli troops have yet to enter, including Deir Al-Balah and Rafah, which is located on the southern edge of the strip. In Khan Younis, Zaher Abu Zarifa wept and cradled a black plastic body bag holding his seven-year-old son Saif, one of at least 11 bodies brought out at a hospital morgue. The boy was killed by a missile while playing on a bicycle by a school gate, his father said. Later, by a small freshly dug grave, a gravedigger unzipped the bag so the father could kiss the boy’s face, then zipped it back up, took the boy and gently laid him in the ground. “Forgive me, my son. I could not protect you,” the father repeated. “Forgive me, my son. I could not protect you.”
Iran strikes Iraqi Kurdish region
In the latest example of the conflict spreading to other parts of the Middle East, Iran fired missiles at what it called an Israeli spy base in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, killing four people in the regional capital Irbil. Masrour Barzani, head of the regional government, called it a “crime against the Kurdish people.” The Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls most of Yemen has been attacking commercial ships at the mouth of the Red Sea, a route used by 15 percent of world shipping, claiming to target vessels linked to Israel in solidarity with Gaza. The United States and Britain responded by bombing Yemen to prevent what they called a threat to global commerce. The latest ship to be attacked, a Malta-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier, sustained minor damage when it was hit with a missile in the Red Sea on Tuesday. Greek sources identified the vessel as MT Zografia. Everyone on board was safe and it was still sailing but would probably reroute for checks.

Hamas fights with patchwork of weapons built by Iran, China, Russia and North Korea
Associated Press/January 16, 2024
Iranian sniper rifles. AK-47 assault rifles from China and Russia. North Korean- and Bulgarian-built rocket-propelled grenades. Anti-tank rockets secretly cobbled together in Gaza. An Associated Press analysis of more than 150 videos and photos taken in the three months of combat since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel shows the militant group has amassed a diverse patchwork arsenal of weapons from around the world – much of it smuggled past a 17-year blockade that was aimed at stopping just such a military buildup. Those weapons have proved deadly during weeks of intense urban warfare in Gaza, where Hamas fighters are typically armed only with what they can carry and employ hit-and-run tactics against lopsided Israeli advantages in arms and technology. Hamas propaganda videos posted over the past few weeks appear to show the shootings of Israeli soldiers recorded through the scopes of sniper rifles. "We are searching everywhere for weapons, for political support, for money," Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad recently said in an interview with the AP, declining to discuss specifically who has been providing its weapons or how they were snuck into Gaza. Experts who reviewed the images for AP were able to identify distinguishing features and markings that show where many of the weapons wielded by Hamas fighters were manufactured. But such an analysis does not provide evidence of whether they were provided by the governments of those countries or purchased in a thriving Middle East black market, with weapons and components listed for sale on social media in such war-torn countries as Iraq, Libya and Syria.
What is clear, however, is that many of the images show Hamas militants toting weapons that appear to be relatively new, evidence the group has found ways of getting arms past the air-and-sea blockade of the Gaza Strip — possibly by boat, through tunnels or concealed in shipments of food and other goods. "The majority of their arms are of Russian, Chinese or Iranian origin, but North Korean weapons and those produced in former Warsaw Pact countries are also present in the arsenal," said N.R. Jenzen-Jones, an expert in military arms who is director of the Australian-based Armament Research Services. Despite the buildup, Israel maintains a massive advantage, with a powerful array of modern tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and an air force of U.S.-made fighter jets. Israel's military says it has killed more than 7,000 Hamas militants, compared to the deaths of at least 510 of its own soldiers, more than 330 of whom were killed in Hamas' initial attack. The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says more than 23,000 Palestinians have died in the fighting, though it does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Imagery reviewed by the AP showed a Hamas arsenal featuring weapons ranging from small arms and machine guns to shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and craft-produced anti-tank projectiles.
Among the most distinctive is the oversized AM-50 Sayyad (Arabic for "hunter"), an Iranian-made a sniper rifle that fires a .50- caliber round powerful enough to punch through up to an inch of steel. It has previously been spotted on battlefields in Yemen, Syria, and in the hands of Shia militias in Iraq. Hamas fighters have also been seen carrying an array of Soviet-era weapons that have been copied and manufactured in Iran and China. They include variants of the Russian-designed 9M32 Strela, a portable heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile system.
Jenzen-Jones said a grip stock on one of the missile launchers a fighter was seen holding is distinctive to a variant manufactured in China and used by the Iranian military and its allies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, a group closely aligned with Hamas. Weapons recovered from Hamas fighters by the Israel Defense Forces include what appear to be Italian-designed TC/6 anti-tank mines. However, Seán Moorhouse, a former British Army officer and explosive ordinance disposal expert, said it too had been copied by Iran's arms industry. The Israel Defense Forces and U.S. officials have long accused Iran of supplying money, training and weapons to Hamas and allied militants in Gaza, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iranian representatives at the United Nations did not respond to emails from the AP about whether their government supplied weapons to Hamas, including AM-50 Sayyad sniper rifles. However, a week after AP sought comment, Hamas posted a video purporting to show militants in Gaza using machining equipment to make their own copies of the rifle.
Master gunsmith Don Fraley reviewed that Dec. 20 video and said it would be nearly impossible for Hamas to manufacture a safe and accurate .50-caliber sniper rifle with the rudimentary equipment shown. "You're going to have to be a rock star at machine shop work. And I didn't see any of that," said Fraley, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and sniper for the Kentucky State Police. "These folks are just trying to cover their tracks."An Israeli military official familiar with Hamas' arsenal said the group uses a combination of smuggled "off-the-shelf" weaponry, including AK-47s, RPGs and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as a large collection of home-grown weapons often made with easily accessible civilian materials. For instance, the official said, the group uses lathes to shape metal into rockets and mortars, and fits them with explosives manufactured from fertilizers. Other home-made weapons include a launcher capable of firing 14 rockets simultaneously and the "Zuwari" drone, an explosives-laden aircraft that was used to strike Israeli observation towers and knock out cameras on Oct. 7.
"There is a huge military/defense industry inside the Gaza Strip," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under military briefing rules. The official said most of the smuggled weapons are believed to have been brought in through Egypt and are generally easy to purchase and did not need to be supplied by the country of origin. One such weapon seen in the hands of Hamas fighters is a version of Chinese machine guns known as the Type 80, a model that has also been copied by the Iranians and renamed as the PKM-T80. Jonathan Ferguson, the curator of firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum in England, said from what he could see from the photos and videos, versions of the gun made in China and Iran were so similar as to be indistinguishable. Ferguson was also able to identify a rocket-propelled grenade with marks showing it was made in Bulgaria. AP previously reported Hamas used RPGs with a distinctive red stripe indicating they were made in North Korea. Among the more sophisticated Hamas home-grown weapons is a copy of a Russian anti-tank rocket called the PG-7VR, which is specifically designed to defeat reactive-armor systems like those used on Israel's Merkava Mark VI main battle tanks. Such tanks are covered with explosive-filed plates that explode outwards to disrupt incoming projectiles. In propaganda videos posted in October, masked militants are seen assembling a version of the Russian rocket that Hamas has renamed the Al-Yasin 105, in honor of the group's founder killed in an Israeli air strike in 2004. While the original Russian version can melt through up to two feet of steel armor, experts say it's not clear whether the home-brewed explosives in the Hamas knock-off are as potent.
Hamas has posted multiple videos of fighters firing the rockets at Israeli tanks and armored personal carriers. Those videos are typically cut off after the warhead explodes, making it impossible to independently verify whether the target was destroyed. Also, in a tactic borrowed from the battlefields of Ukraine, Hamas appears to have obtained or copied Iranian-designed drones that pack warheads that explode when crashed into their targets. Off- the-shelf, Chinese-made quadcopter drones have also been adapted to drop explosives on tanks and troops. "The availability of commercial off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles, these light consumer drones, has radically changed warfare in recent years," Jenzen-Jones said. "We've seen them, obviously, in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Ukraine, and now in Gaza."

Isolation measures and backlash: Israeli Knesset member Ofer Cassif faces ouster for South Africa support
LBCI/January 16, 2024
The Israeli police assaulted Israeli Knesset member Ofer Cassif for participating in a peaceful demonstration against the government.
The Israeli Knesset is the parliament, the highest legislative body, and its members are supposed to enjoy immunity, but that did not prevent this member from being attacked. According to Israeli newspapers, Cassif recently stirred a new "political storm" in Israel. He signed a petition supporting South Africa's case in the International Court of Justice against Israel, accusing it of genocide. In response, member of the Israeli Knesset Oded Forer launched a campaign to collect signatures from more than 70 members to expel Cassif from the Knesset due to his support for South Africa, stating, "He should soon find himself outside the Knesset, and preferably outside the borders of the State of Israel." More than 85 members of the Knesset have signed isolation measures against Cassif, who described the move as oppressive, affirming that he will continue to resist war because he opposes the shedding of innocent blood. After more than a hundred days of the Gaza war and the atrocities witnessed, this incident is one of the phenomena recorded in Israel that protests against the extremism of the Netanyahu government. Another phenomenon was recorded when a presenter on Channel 13 in Israel fired Knesset member Nissim Vaturi because he called for burning Gaza entirely. These are voices rising here and there, but the question remains: Are they sufficient to impact Israeli society?

Saudi Arabia ‘incredibly concerned’ about Red Sea, Gaza security, FM tells WEF
ARAB NEWS/January 16, 2024
LONDON: Saudi Arabia is “incredibly concerned” about regional security following Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and the situation in Gaza, the Kingdom’s foreign minister said on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a panel titled “Securing an Insecure World” that de-escalation in the Red Sea is essential, and that Riyadh will continue to “engage with all stakeholders” after US and UK airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen last week. While “clearly connected with the war in Gaza,” it is important that the conflict in the Palestinian enclave is addressed separately, he said. “We need to focus on the war in Gaza not because of the Red Sea,” he told the panel. “We need to focus on the war in Gaza because of its impact on the Palestinians, first, but on regional security in general and on the risks it poses for further escalation.”
Prince Faisal said since Israel began military operations in Gaza, nearly 30,000 Palestinians have died and humanitarian aid is still being heavily restricted, but he has “not seen any real sign” that Tel Aviv is achieving its strategic objectives. He praised parts of the international community for “moving more in the direction” of calling for a cease-fire, adding that peace between the two sides “will resolve many of the challenges that we have in the region.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the war “a total disaster” and reiterated that the “only way out” of the ongoing situation is a two-state solution.
However, she said “a cease-fire, unfortunately, doesn’t fall from the sky” and can only be achieved if both sides “are ready.” Baerbock said a “vicious circle” of blame is preventing a cease-fire from happening, but insisted that first and foremost, Hamas needs to lay down its weapons and release all remaining hostages in Gaza. “The answer is there on the table,” she said. “But we can’t ignore that the majority of hostages are still (with) Hamas.” US Sen. Christopher Coons said he is “optimistic” that peace can be achieved based on talks between American senators and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh in 2023, as well as meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi in Cairo. However, Coons added that conditions in Gaza are worsening daily, and that Netanyahu has built a political career out of opposing a two-state solution.
Prince Faisal said he is heartened by the “concrete agreement” among major nations that the current situation is untenable, adding: “We need to translate that into action.”He said Riyadh will continue to work with Washington “toward a much better future for the region,” and raised the possibility of future Saudi recognition of Israel if peace with the Palestinians could be reached.
Coons hinted that a series of elections in Western countries in 2024 could potentially affect the shape of the current set of Middle East crises. He said Iran’s role in conflicts ranging from Yemen to Ukraine needs to be recognized, but talked down any possibility that a return to the White House for former President Donald Trump would lead to a US withdrawal from NATO. “The US rarely ratifies defense treaties, but when we do, we keep them,” Coons said. Citing growing concerns about inter-regional conflicts, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “What happens in Asia matters for Europe.”He also noted that Iran is aiding Russia in Ukraine, selling Moscow military drones and helping it construct drone and munitions facilities in Tatarstan. But he said there is cause for optimism for Ukrainians, noting Russia’s failure to make major progress following the early days of the invasion, and highlighting Kyiv’s success in opening up channels for the export of grain through the Black Sea. Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said nobody wants to live in a world “where only the strongest survive,” adding that her country had felt compelled to join NATO because of Russia’s aggression, highlighting Moscow’s use of “hybrid strategies” to push “third-party citizens” from other countries into Europe via Finland’s border. Pointing to Finland’s right to security, Nigerian Foreign Minister Yussuf Tuggar said: “What the minister says could apply just as much to Palestine — they have the right.”He said the world needs to see concrete changes in the makeup of global security institutions, bemoaning a decline in international diplomacy, and adding that a country such as Nigeria should have a place on the UN Security Council. The UNSC “needs to democratize,” Tuggar said. “Clearly it isn’t fit for purpose.”He added: “Nigeria is a large country. It’s the most populous country on the continent of Africa. It has a population of 220 million people — it’s going to be 400 million by the year 2050. It belongs in the UN Security Council.”

Qatari PM says US/British attacks on Houthis risk regional escalation, urges diplomatic efforts
SHEROUK ZAKARIA/January 16, 2024
DAVOS: US and British military strikes will not contain attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea but will risk further regional escalation, said Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdelrahman Al-Thani. Speaking during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Al-Thani urged diplomatic efforts over military resolutions when solving the expanding regional conflicts, noting that the escalation in the Red Sea was the “most dangerous” because it was affecting international trade. Last week on Thursday, the US and UK launched strikes against the Iran-backed militia in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen in retaliation to the recent attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthis responded by striking a US-owned container ship with a ballistic missile off the coast of Yemen on Monday, less than a day after they launched an anti-ship cruise missile toward an American destroyer in the Red Sea. Al-Thani, who also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister, stressed the need to address the central issue in Gaza, which is causing the rest of the small conflicts. “If we are focusing only on symptoms and not treating the real issue, (solutions) will be temporary.”He said Qatar believed that defusing the conflict in Gaza would stop the escalation on other fronts, adding that the current regional situation is a “recipe for escalation everywhere.”Al-Thani reiterated that diplomacy and the two-state solution are the only way forward in Palestine, noting that no amount of Israeli force throughout the years brought the path closer to peace.Requiring Israel to agree to a time-bound, irreversible and mandatory path to a two-state solution is key to future stability in Israel and the Palestinian territories, he noted. “There are some politicians who thought that the Palestinian issue can be put under the rug, but what happened after Oct. 7 shows that Palestine is a central issue, not for the region but for the entire world. “We need something that makes resolution mandatory for any party who will come to power in Israel,” added Al-Thani. He said that Palestinians must be the ones to decide if the Hamas movement that runs Gaza will continue to play a political role in the future.Without a viable, sustainable two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, the international community will be unwilling to finance the reconstruction of Gaza, Al-Thani said. Conflict has spread to other parts of the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas began on Oct. 7, with groups allied to Iran carrying out attacks in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The US and British retaliatory strikes drew criticism in the Middle East and at home, with several UK MPs questioning why Parliament was not recalled to debate the action first. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Parliament on Tuesday that the strikes were “successful” as Houthis vowed to continue targeting ships.

Iraq recalls Iran envoy in rebuke to ally over deadly strikes

AFP/January 16, 2024
BAGHDAD: Iraq summoned Iran's envoy in Baghdad and recalled its ambassador from Tehran on Tuesday in a sharp rebuke to its ally over deadly missile strikes on its autonomous Kurdish region. Iraq challenged Iran's claim that the strikes targeted Israel's intelligence services in response to recent Israeli assassinations of Iranian and pro-Iranian commanders. It said it would lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council over the Iranian "attack on its sovereignty". Iran's strikes, which also hit alleged Daesh group targets in Iraq's western neighbour Syria, came with tensions high across the Middle East as Israel battles Iran ally Hamas and drew condemnation from the United States. Four people were killed and six wounded in the strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan, the region's security council said. The casualties included prominent real estate magnate Peshraw Dizayee, his wife and other family members who were hit by a strike on their home, the region's leading party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said. Iran defended its missile strikes in Iraq and Syria, saying they were a "targeted operation" and "just punishment" against those who breach the Islamic republic's security. "The Islamic republic, with its high intelligence capability, in a precise and targeted operation identified the criminals' headquarters and hit it with precision weapons," foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said. Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had destroyed the "Zionist regime's spy headquarters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq."The strike came "in response to the recent vicious actions of the Zionist regime which martyred the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards and the resistance front," a Guards statement carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency said. Senior Guards commander Razi Moussavi was killed in a strike in Syria last month that was widely blamed on Israel. This month, Hamas number two Saleh al-Aruri was killed in a Beirut strike that Lebanese officials blamed on Israel.
The Guards said their reprisals "will continue until the last drops of blood of the martyrs are avenged." But after a visit Tuesday to the scene of the strike, Iraq's National Security Adviser Qassem al-Araji dismissed Iran's claim it had hit an Israeli intelligence base, saying it struck a businessman's family home.
"Concerning the alleged presence of a headquarters of Israel's Mossad, we visited the house, we inspected every corner of it and everything indicated that it was the family home of an Iraqi businessman," Araji told Kurdish television station K24. The US State Department condemned the "reckless" Iranian strikes, saying they undermined Iraq's stability. Iraq has seen an surge of unrest since Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, prompting devastating Israeli retaliation carried out with US support. Iran-backed militant groups in Iraq and Syria have carried out a spate of attacks on military bases in the two countries used by soldiers of a US-led coalition against Daesh. Washington has responded with missile strikes targeting the Iran-backed groups that have also drawn condemnation from Baghdad as a breach of its sovereignty. In November 2022, Iran launched missile strikes against the northern Iraqi bases of Iranian-Kurdish rebel groups it accused of fomenting a wave of protests that swept the country after the death in custody of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini. In March 2022, the Guards carried out missile attacks in Arbil that it said targeted a "strategic centre" operated by arch foe Israel. Contacts with Israel are outlawed in Iraq but some politicians and businessmen in Arbil have in the past been accused of maintaining informal ties. The Iraqi Kurdish authorities deny any contacts. In Syria, the Guards said the strikes against alleged Daesh targets were in response to recent attacks in Iran. On January 3, Daesh suicide bombers struck crowds gathered near the tomb of Guards general Qasem Soleimani in Kerman, killing around 90 people. In December, an attack claimed by extremist group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) killed at least 11 police officers in Iran's southeast.

Egypt, UN stress need to step up flow of aid to Gaza
GOBRAN MOHAMED/Arab News/January 16, 2024
CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry recently held talks with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for the Gaza Strip. During their meeting, they discussed the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the need to increase the flow of aid to Palestinians while ensuring support for public service, hospital, and relief agency work. Shoukry pledged Egypt’s backing for Kaag in implementing the provisions of UN Security Council resolutions, including the rapid establishment of a UN mechanism for speeding up the delivery of aid. The minister also called for Israel to commit to helping, not obstructing, Kaag in carrying out her tasks. He said the “current tragic situation” necessitated the immediate entry of aid and that achieving a ceasefire remained the best way to end the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Strip. Kaag, who was on Wednesday due to visit North Sinai’s El-Arish International Airport and the Rafah border crossing, thanked Egypt for its coordinating role on Gaza.

Sudan says it suspends contact with IGAD mediation group
REUTERS/January 16, 2024
IGAD had offered to mediate between the heads of the Sudanese army and the Rapid Forces
Hemedti recently emerged from months under cover to visit several African countries
CAIRO: Sudan has suspended its involvement in mediation efforts with IGAD, a group of East African nations that has sought to broker talks between the army and the paramilitary force it has been fighting for months, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
IGAD had offered to mediate between the heads of the Sudanese army and the Rapid Forces (RSF), including hosting a meeting — to which both men had agreed. The foreign ministry said in a statement that dealings with IGAD were suspended after the regional group added Sudan to the agenda of a meeting scheduled for Jan. 18 in Kampala, Uganda, and invited RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, to attend. Hemedti recently emerged from months under cover to visit several African countries and meet Sudanese pro-democracy political figures. The war in Sudan erupted in mid-April over a plan for a political transition away from military rule. It has caused a major humanitarian crisis, devastated the capital Khartoum, and sparked waves of ethnically driven killings in Darfur.

Sudan suspends ties with east African bloc for inviting paramilitary leader to summit
CAIRO (AP)/January 16, 2024
The Sudanese government suspended ties Tuesday with the east African regional bloc trying to mediate between the country’s army and a rival powerful paramilitary force, accusing the body of violating Sudan’s sovereignty by inviting the paramilitary leader to an upcoming summit. The army, headed by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and The Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have been fighting for control of Sudan since April. Long standing tensions erupted into street battles concentrated in the capital but also in other areas including the western Darfur region. In a statement, The Sudanese foreign ministry — which is aligned with the army — said the move is a response to IGAD for inviting Dagalo without previous consultation, which it said was a “violation of Sudan’s sovereignty.” The 42nd IGAD summit is set to take place in Kampala, Uganda, on Thursday. IGAD did not immediately respond to the foreign ministry announcement. Dagalo confirmed last week on social media that he received an invitation from IGAD. The eight-member bloc is part of mediation efforts to end the conflict, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States which facilitated rounds of unsuccessful, indirect talks between the warring parties as recently as early November. The two military leaders are yet to meet in person since the war broke out. Tuesday’s announcement comes one week after Dagalo finished a tour of Africa, where he met with government officials in Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda. Over the past two months, the RSF has appeared to take the upper hand in the conflict, with its fighters making advances eastwards and northwards across Sudan’s central belt. The United Nations says at least 12,000 have been killed in the conflict. Right groups have accused both sides of war crimes. The countries that make up IGAD include Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

After days of confusion, Trudeau government says it will abide by ICJ on genocide case against Israel
Canadian Press/January 16, 2024
Prime minister, foreign affairs minister issued a statement that left many observers baffled
Canada will abide by all rulings arising from South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), officials at Global Affairs Canada have told CBC News.The clarification, issued Monday, comes after days of confusion following verbal and written statements issued Friday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly in response to South Africa's claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza in its war against Hamas. Trudeau's and Joly's statements were widely misreported in mainstream media and on social media as dismissing the South African case and taking the side of Israel. In fact, their statements carefully avoided either rejecting or endorsing South Africa's case against Israel. The confusion affected one of the government's own ministers and some of its MPs, as well as the Consulate-General of Israel in Toronto. Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organizations were united in describing the rollout of the government's position as mismanaged. "It's beyond confusion. I think it's a total failure of communication," said Michael Bueckert of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), which has called on Canada to declare its support for South Africa's case against Israel.
"When we all listened to Trudeau's words, not just us but everyone on all sides of the debate, it was quite clear, or it seemed beyond obvious to everyone, that this was a rejection of South Africa's claims. "It didn't sound neutral. It sounded like Canada had taken a clear position. And again, that wasn't just us. That was the pro-Israel groups."Richard Marceau, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said he wanted to see Canada support Israel in the case. "I certainly had a problem understanding [the federal government's] position, and I know I'm not the only one," he said.CIJA put out a statement Friday thanking the government for its position.
The meaning of 'does not mean'
The ultimate source of the confusion seems to be the use of the phrase "does not mean" by both Trudeau and Joly. Variations of the phrase appeared once in Joly's written statement and twice in Trudeau's spoken remarks at a news conference in Guelph, Ont. on Friday. "Canada's unwavering support for international law and the ICJ does not mean we accept the premise of the case brought by South Africa," wrote Joly. "We will follow the proceedings of South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice very closely."Trudeau used the same construction when asked about the case in Guelph. "Support for the process and the institution does not mean, per se, that we support the premise of the issue brought forward by South Africa," he told reporters. Federal government sources have told CBC News that the wording was crafted to indicate that no one should assume the government supports the allegation merely because it supports the ICJ hearing the claim. The sources said the government also didn't want to signal that it was rejecting the genocide claim outright. But the government's message was quickly abbreviated on social media — and in some news reporting — without the "does not mean" qualifier. That led many to conclude that the Trudeau government had said it didn't support the premise of the South African case — even that it had rejected it completely.
'Quite disrespectful'
Marceau said he doesn't understand why the federal government took so long to state its position, and why it issued it on a Friday afternoon, when it knew the ICJ hearing was coming well in advance. "As a guy who turns off for the Jewish Sabbath, to have that thing come out literally 20 minutes before I had to turn off for the Sabbath, I thought it was quite disrespectful," he said. "Because we tried to give an answer because we had some of your colleagues that were calling us. So we need more than 20 minutes. "So to do it so close to the Jewish Sabbath, it was — to me — very disrespectful to the Jewish community."
Advocacy groups weren't the only ones confused. Canada's assumed support for Israel in the ICJ case was widely reported in Canadian mainstream media. The misinterpretation also was repeated in the Washington Post, where columnist Max Boot reported that "the charge of genocide has been rejected not only by the United States but also by Canada, Britain and Germany."A widely-followed tracker board maintained by a war studies professor at Kings College London moved Canada from the "neutral" column to the "critical" column with the U.S., the U.K. and Germany — all governments that have rejected the genocide claim. Even senior figures in the Trudeau government appeared to have missed the message. Health Minister Ya'ara Saks tweeted that "as the Prime Minister said, we do not support the premise of the question." Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, one of the most vocal supporters of Israel on the government side, tweeted that he was "very pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau has made clear that Canada does not support the premise of South Africa's claim at the ICJ. As Marco Mendicino and I have stated, the claim that Israel is committing genocide is baseless and unconscionable."
The confusion also appeared to extend to the Israeli government.
Israeli Ambassador to Canada Iddo Moed simply sent out a short tweet that accurately repeated the phrasing used by Trudeau and Joly. Israel's Consul-General in Toronto Idit Shamir, meanwhile, issued a statement online claiming that the Trudeau government had taken Israel's side in the case.
"Canada is siding with Israel in its defence against allegations of genocide, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau breaking the silence over the case heard this week at the United Nations' court ICJ," she tweeted. "Canada now joins U.S., Germany, U.K. and Austria in opposing South Africa's claim."
Sources in Global Affairs Canada say the department will now reach out to some of the diaspora and advocacy groups that misinterpreted the government's statement. Bueckert said the language the federal government chose is "so vague that anyone can project onto it what they want to think."
"Certainly, the public effect of Canada's announcements is that the world believes that Canada has joined Germany and the U.S. in opposing South Africa's case," he added. "And if that's not true, I think Canada needs to issue a statement of clarification, put it on the record and put in plain language what Canada's position actually is."It's obviously a really important matter. It's has to do with international law and claims of genocide. I think Canadians shouldn't have to try to read between the lines to try to decode and guess what Canada's position actually is."While Bueckert's group was relieved to learn that Canada is not taking Israel's side in the case, Marceau's CIJA was disappointed. "I would have hoped that that the government, as a self-declared friend and ally of Israel, would have clearly come out like Germany and the U.K. did, against the politicization of the ICJ by South Africa," he said.
Marceau said he doesn't know whether the government was trying to be clear or to straddle the fence."I can't speak as to the intent," he said. "I can speak to the result when people who are experts in this file don't understand what the position clearly is. And that's not only us. Many other people have commented, saying 'What does the government mean?'"
The court's final ruling on the question of genocide is not expected for at least a year. South Africa has also asked the court to consider a provisional measure that would act as an injunction to prevent a genocide from occurring. Such an injunction could order Israel to cease military operations or alter its approach in some way. Since the ICJ has no mechanism to enforce its rulings, Israel might choose not to comply. Such a ruling would, however, put pressure on Israel's allies, including the U.S., which could in turn be expected to pressure the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wind up combat operations or take more precautions to avoid civilian deaths. If the court were to make a determination that genocide has been committed, it could have a severe impact on relations between Canada and Israel. At a minimum, it would greatly complicate the sale of Canadian arms or dual-use technologies to Israeli buyers. Countries like Canada that have signed the international Genocide Convention treaty are expected to take proactive measures to prevent and suppress acts of genocide. The court could also conclude that the Israeli government is not guilty of genocide but has not done enough to prevent one, or that individual Israeli officials are guilty of inciting genocide. Global Affairs Canada told CBC News it would provide a written statement on its position, but did not produce a statement in time for publication.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 16-17/2024
How to End the Suffering of the Palestinians
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/January 16, 2024
Palestinians in Lebanon are "prevented from employment in 39 professions such as medicine, law and engineering... are socially marginalized, have very limited civil, social, political and economic rights, including restricted access to the Government of Lebanon's public health, educational and social services and face significant restrictions on their right to work..." — United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, updated September 2020.
Arab citizens of Israel.... can own, buy and sell property, can vote and run in national and local elections, have equal access to free public healthcare, education and other services.... Many Arab Israelis serve in senior positions in hospitals, universities and colleges, courts, the civil service, and even in the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces.
Neither Syria nor Lebanon grants citizenship to the Palestinians living there...
[W]hat is happening inside the Syrian detention centers against the Palestinians is "a war crime by all standards." – Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, alquds.co.uk, November 29, 2023.
By ignoring the profound suffering of the Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, these self-proclaimed "pro-Palestinian" activists and groups are once again proving that their goal is not to help Palestinians, but only to make Israel into a pariah state.
If these activists and groups want to end the suffering of the Palestinians, they should be demanding that the Arab countries end their discriminatory and repressive measures against their Palestinian brethren. The activists and groups should also be raising the plight of the Palestinians at every available international platform instead of blaming Israel.
The real anti-Palestinians are not the Israelis at all, but the same old racist Jew-haters and antisemites who cannot be bothered to learn the truth when it comes to the actual human rights abuse of Palestinians: it is delivered from the hands of Arabs.
By ignoring the profound suffering of the Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, the self-proclaimed "pro-Palestinian" activists and groups are once again proving that their goal is not to help Palestinians, but only to make Israel into a pariah state. Pictured: Rashidieh Refugee Camp for Palestinians in Lebanon.
As the world's attention is focused on the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, including South Africa's false "genocide" charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice, in Syria Palestinians are worried about a new government law that considers them "foreigners."
By labeling the Palestinians as "foreigners," the Syrian government is seeking to deprive them of the ability to purchase real estate. Like the majority of the Syrians, most of the Palestinians are Arab Muslims.
The latest move came after Syria, on December 20, 2023, presented a Law on Foreign Ownership of Real Estate, which imposes severe restrictions on non-Syrian nationals that make it essentially impossible for them to purchase real estate in Syria. The restrictions include the need to obtain prior permission from the Ministry of Interior. An owner would not be able to sell a property without the approval of the ministry. If a "foreigner" wants to purchase an apartment, its size must be no larger than 140 square meters, or roughly 1,500 square feet.
Syria is not the only Arab country that discriminates against Palestinians in almost all walks of life and relates to them as "foreigners."
In Lebanon, Palestinians are also considered to be foreigners who do not carry documentation from their countries of origin.
According to the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights:
"This foreigner classification has allowed successive Lebanese governments to circumvent their obligations and responsibilities enshrined in a number of international and regional treaties and protocols – and their own legislation...
[T]here is no consideration of the consequences of the protracted status of Palestinian refugees [in Lebanon]. For many years, this unjustifiable policy has been compounding the deterioration in the livelihood conditions of the growing population of refugees...[who] have spent more than seven decades in Lebanon without access to their civil, social, and economic rights."
Palestinians in Lebanon are "prevented from employment in 39 professions such as medicine, law and engineering," according to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
"PRS [Palestinian refugees from Syria], like Syrian Refugees, do not benefit from any labour law facilitation... As a result, 93 per cent of employed PRS work in the informal private sector, leaving them vulnerable to abuse... Palestine refugees consistently report experiencing discrimination in hiring practices and opportunities for employment... PRS are socially marginalized, have very limited civil, social, political and economic rights, including restricted access to the Government of Lebanon's public health, educational and social services and face significant restrictions on their right to work and right to own property.... Since the adoption of Law 296/2001, Palestine refugees are prevented from legally acquiring and transferring immovable property in Lebanon."
Arab citizens of Israel, by contrast, enjoy more rights than Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon. The Arab Israelis have Israeli citizenship, can own, buy and sell property, can vote and run in national and local elections, have equal access to free public healthcare, education and other services. Neither Syria nor Lebanon grants citizenship to the Palestinians living there – and the Palestinians there are deprived of many basic rights, including access to jobs, education and healthcare.
In Israel, thousands of Arab Israelis have purchased houses in predominately Jewish neighborhoods across the country. Many Arab Israelis serve in senior positions in hospitals, universities and colleges, courts, the civil service, and even in the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces.
In Syria, Lebanon and many Arab countries, there are zero Palestinians serving in senior government positions.
In December 2022, furthermore, Israel announced that it will fund a $6.1 million program to train and integrate more than 2,000 Arab Israeli women and men into the local high-tech industry over the next two years. During the same year, more than 10,000 workers from the Arab population were employed in the tech industry.
In December 2023, Israel unveiled a new initiative aimed at bolstering the integration of young Arab Israelis into the job market. The $28 million program is designed to address unemployment and reduce disparities within Arab society.
The plan aims to provide youths from Israel's Arab society with a comprehensive package covering personal; development, professional and occupational guidance, as well as preparation for academic pursuits. The plan, operated in 11 cities and towns, will encompass four months of general activities, after which, each participant will choose a specific professional track for focused advancement.
In Syria, the Union of Palestinian Jurists in Syria immediately called on the Syrian prime minister to retract the new law, saying it would have negative repercussions on the economic, legal and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians.
Karim, a lawyer and human rights activist in Damascus who preferred to use only his first name, said the decision does indeed treat the Palestinians in Syria like foreigners regarding the right to property ownership, and sets the same restrictions on them, such as the requirement to obtain, in advance, the approval of the Ministry of the Interior, and to have a family in Syria.
Orwa, a 26-year-old Palestinian accountant from Damascus, told Al-Jazeera TV:
"With this decision, my dream of buying an apartment has evaporated. I was born and lived all my life in Syria. There should be no distinction between us the Palestinians and the Syrians."
The General Commission for Palestinian Arab Refugees also denounced the Syrian decision, for defining non-Syrians, including Palestinians, as "foreigners" and depriving them of property rights.
The commission said that the decision has raised great concern among Palestinians residing in Syria. It called on the Syrian government to revise the law to exempt Palestinians from it.
It is not as if the conditions of the 450,000 Palestinians living in Syria have been decent until now.
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, 4,214 Palestinians living there have been killed and more than 15,000 wounded, according to the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS).
More than 90% of Palestinian refugees in Syria live below the poverty line amid Syria's crushing economic and living crises, a deteriorating security situation, and a decline in all aspects of financial, social, educational, medical, and other aspects of life, according to AGPS.
AGPS revealed in a recent report that 3,076 Palestinians are currently being detained in the prisons of the Syrian security services, while another 333 have gone missing. Among those who disappeared are children, women, the elderly, journalists, political activists, human rights advocates, relief and humanitarian workers, doctors, and nurses.
The report indicated that the Syrian authorities are responsible for about 90% of "enforced disappearances," while the rest are in the hands of armed opposition factions.
AGPS renewed its call on the Syrian authorities to release and disclose the whereabouts of the Palestinian detainees, stressing that what is happening inside the Syrian detention centers against the Palestinians is "a war crime by all standards."
Fayez Abu Eid, a spokesperson for AGPS, told the Al-Quds Al-Arabi news website that members of Syrian security services have killed 643 Palestinian refugees under torture in its detention centers, including women, children and the elderly.
Abu Eid said he believes the number of detainees and victims of torture is even higher due to the absence of official statistics issued by the Syrian security forces, as well as the fear of some families to speak out for fear of retribution.
According to the spokesperson, 129 Palestinian women in Syrian prisons are still in a state of "enforced disappearance." The fate of the female detainees is still unknown. The Syrian security services conceal their names, which makes documenting information about them effectively impossible.
According to testimonies documented by AGPS, Palestinian detainees in Syrian prisons have been subjected to many forms of torture, physical and psychological abuse, as well as sexual assault.
Those who are condemning Israel for defending itself against the savagery and terrorism of Hamas care nothing about the plight of the Palestinians in Syria or any Arab country. So-called pro-Palestinian groups in the US do not speak out against Arab crimes against the Palestinians: they are too busy unjustly demonizing Israel.
By ignoring the profound suffering of the Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, these self-proclaimed "pro-Palestinian" activists and groups are once again proving that their goal is not to help Palestinians, but only to make Israel into a pariah state.
If these activists and groups want to end the suffering of the Palestinians, they should be demanding that the Arab countries end their discriminatory and repressive measures against their Palestinian brethren. The activists and groups should also be raising the plight of the Palestinians at every available international platform instead of blaming Israel.
The real anti-Palestinians are not the Israelis at all, but the same old racist Jew-haters and antisemites (see here, here, here, here, here and here) who cannot be bothered to learn the truth when it comes to the actual human rights abuse of Palestinians: it is delivered from the hands of Arabs.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2024 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Hitler and the Jihadists’ ‘Struggle’ against ‘the Jews’
Raymond Ibrahim/January 16, 2024
An Arabic copy of Mein Kampf was reportedly found on the body of a slain Hamas terrorist. While holding this copy up during an interview, Israeli president Isaac Herzog said,
This is Adolf Hitler’s book, ‘Mein Kampf,’ translated into Arabic. This is the book that led to the Holocaust and the book that led to World War II…. The terrorist wrote notes, marked the sections, and studied again and again the ideology of Adolf Hitler to hate the Jews, to kill the Jews, to burn and slaughter Jews wherever they are.
As it happens, many years ago, I conducted a deep dive into ascertaining how similar the writings of Islamic terrorists—in the guise of al-Qaeda—were to the writings of Hitler in Mein Kampf. Out of it came a 4,500 word article, first published in 2007.
To appreciate the parallels, consider the following sentence from the introduction of the 1999 edition of Mein Kampf, published by Mariner Books:
He [Hitler] had made his ultimate goals clear in Mein Kampf as early as 1926: rearmament, the abolition of democracy, territorial expansion, eugenics, the ‘elimination’ of the ‘Jewish threat.’
The writings of al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (as translated and categorized in The Al Qaeda Reader) dwell on, if not obsess over, four of these same five “ultimate goals” of Hitler. Other than eugenics, al-Qaeda’s writings revolve around the “Jewish threat,” overthrowing the “pagan religion” of democracy, both territorial re-conquests (from Palestine to “Andalusia”) and territorial expansion (to the whole world). Indeed, that there are many similarities is best represented by the fact that the German words mein kampf, “my struggle,” translate to jihadi — “my jihad” — in Arabic.
What follows are a few excerpts dealing specifically with Mein Kampf’s (MK) and The Al Qaeda Reader’s (AQR) similar understanding of “the Jew.” (The many other parallels—anti-democracy, etc.—are accessible here.) Especially similar passages are italicized for emphasis.
MK: “Hence today I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord,” p. 65.
AQR: “You should know that seeking to kill Americans and Jews everywhere in the world is one of the greatest duties [for Muslims], and the good deed most preferred by Allah, the Exalted,” p.270.
MK: “People who can sneak their way into the rest of mankind like drones, to make other men work for them under all sorts of pretexts, can form states even without any definitely delimited living space of their own. This applies first and foremost to a people under who parasitism the whole of honest humanity is suffering, today more than ever: the Jews,” p. 150…. “He [“the Jew”] begins to lend money and as always at usurious interest…. He regards commerce as well as all financial transactions as his own special privilege which he ruthlessly exploits,” p.309 “From the publisher down [i.e., the media world], they were all Jews,” p.61.
AQR: “You [America] are a nation that permits usury, though it has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on usury. As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, thereby taking control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life, making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense — precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned you against,” p.203.
MK: “When over long periods of human history I scrutinized the activity of the Jewish people, suddenly there rose up in me the fearful question whether inscrutable Destiny, perhaps for reasons unknown to us poor mortals, did not with eternal and immutable resolve, desire the final victory of this little nation [“Jewry”]. Was it possible that the earth had been promised as a reward to this people which lives only for this earth?” p.64.
AQR: “Come let me [bin Laden] tell you who the Jews are. The Jews have lied about the Creator, and even more so about His creations. The Jews are the murderers of the prophets, the violators of agreements…. These are the Jews: usurers and whoremongers. They will leave you nothing, neither this world nor religion…. Such are the Jews who, in accordance with their religion, believe that human beings are their slaves and that those who refuse [to recognize this] should be put to death,” p.277.
MK: “The relation of the Jews to prostitution and, even more, to the white-slave traffic, could be studied in Vienna…. When thus for the first time I recognized the Jew as the cold-hearted, shameless, and calculating director of this revolting vice traffic in the scum of the big city, a cold shudder ran down my back,” p.59…. “Only now did I become thoroughly acquainted with the seducer of our people,” p.61.
AQR: “[T]he Jews have taken control of your [Americans’] economy, thereby taking control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life… You are a nation that permits acts of immorality…. You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools… You are a nation that practices the trade of sex in all its forms, directly and indirectly. Giant corporations and establishments are built on this [commodity], under the name of ‘art, entertainment, tourism, and freedom,’” p.203-204.
MK: “It seemed as though a continuous stream of poison was being driven into the outermost blood-vessels of this once heroic body [the German nation] by a mysterious power [Jews], and was inducing progressively greater paralysis of sound reason and the simple instinct of self-preservation,” p.154.
AQR: “And the most dangerous of these groups are those that cloak themselves in the garb of Islam and its summons [i.e., “moderates” and “hypocrites”], worming their way into the umma’s beliefs, mind, and heart. They are like a lethal bacteria trying to overcome the human immune system, trying to destroy it to sow corruption in the cells of the human body,” p.104.

The US Should Not Tie Israel-Saudi Normalization to a Palestinian State
Enia Krivine/The Algemeiner/January 16/2024
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters this week that Saudi Arabia still has a “clear interest” in normalizing relations with Israel, but that moving forward would require a “practical pathway” to Palestinian statehood. By tying Saudi-Israel normalization to Palestinian statehood, Blinken is once again handing Palestinians the ability to veto regional peace and security.
The prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord have been remote for almost two decades. With Hamas entrenching itself in Gaza and legitimacy slipping away from the corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA), led by an aged and ailing Mahmoud Abbas, there is no leader both willing and capable of hammering out peace with the Israelis.
Even before October 7, Israeli-Palestinians relations were getting worse, not better. Israelis were already experiencing a year of deadly terror attacks emanating from the West Bank, where the PA has increasingly lost its ability to maintain a modicum of law and order.
While the prospect of Palestinian statehood remains more elusive than ever, normalization between Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Sunni Arab world, and the Jewish state appears to be within reach. And the benefits of a Saudi-Israel normalization deal are myriad.
On the security front, normalization would facilitate increased military cooperation between Israel and the Arab Gulf states, who are seeking a credible deterrent to Iran, especially at a time when Washington is so hesitant to stand up to the regime in Tehran.
Saudi-Israel normalization would also help to realize the vision, shared by the United States and many others, of an economic corridor that would connect India to Europe through the Middle East, traversing both Israel and Saudi Arabia. The corridor would provide a potential alternative to China’s Belt & Road Initiative, which many of Beijing’s partners have begun to see as a recipe for debt and corruption. Building this corridor requires a stable, secure, and peaceful Gulf region, a goal advanced by improving Israeli relations with the Arab world.
While Riyadh and Jerusalem have been quietly drawing closer for years, this convergence represents a major reversal of long-held Saudi foreign policy. Saudi Arabia had previously been a patron of the Palestinian cause and financed Palestinian terror during the Second Intifada, which lasted from 2000-2005.
A major turning point came with the ascent of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), who has been running Saudi Arabia since 2015, even though his ailing father remains king.
One might describe MBS as an iron-fisted reformer, a combination that is uncomfortable for Western friends. He wants to move the Saudi economy beyond a reliance on fossil fuels, favors regional integration, and seeks to stamp out Islamic extremism. He considers the Arab conflict with Israel to be an inheritance holding his kingdom back.
In October 2020, former US president Donald Trump announced that Saudi Arabia would soon forge ties with Israel. Trump lost his election the following month, which some speculate delayed movement with the normalization agenda. However, progress did not totally stall. In September of 2023, MBS discussed the prospects of normalization with Israel during a Fox News television interview saying, “every day we get closer” to an agreement with Israel. Importantly MBS did not condition peace with Israel on a Palestinian state, instead, he said that any agreement should “ease the life of the Palestinians.”
Even after the events of October 7 and the pervasive criticism of Israel’s response, Riyadh continues to signal it favors normalization, as Blinken reported. On a phone call with President Biden on October 24, MBS reportedly affirmed that Riyadh and Washington would continue to “build on the work that was already underway” between the US and Saudi Arabia in recent months, implying Saudi normalization with Israel. After Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman visited Washington in late October, White House spokesman John Kirby said he was “confident” that the Saudis were interested in pursuing normalization with Israel. The Saudis’ weight as the custodians of Mecca and Medina means that normalization could embolden numerous other Arab and Muslim-majority countries to follow the Saudi example. There is even some hope that Riyadh, perhaps in concert with other Gulf and Arab states, will help to stabilize and rebuild Gaza after the war. Normalization with Israel would pave the way to a Saudi playing a central role when it is time to restore Gaza. Saudi normalization with Israel would be a boon for peace and stability, even if the threat posed by Hamas’ Iranian patrons and their other proxies would remain acute. Amid a devastating war, the dream of peace between Israelis and Palestinians may seem especially alluring. Yet if Biden and Blinken pause to consider what is realistic, then they should consolidate the emerging peace between Jerusalem and Riyadh, rather than undermine it in the name of an unachievable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
*Enia Krivine is the senior director of the Israel Program and the FDD National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on X at @EKrivine

Genocide allegations against Israel endanger Jews everywhere
The South African government’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on grotesquely false allegations of genocide against Israel needs to be seen for what it is: A defamatory lie that not only threatens the Jewish state, but stigmatizes and endangers Jews throughout the Diaspora.
The genocide label paves the way for the discrimination, persecution, and ultimately, the murder of Jews. The stigmatization and eventual dehumanization of Jews is something we have seen before. The chillingly titled Warrant for Genocide, a book published in 2005 by British historian Norman Cohn, exploring the myth of the Jewish world conspiracy and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, describes a situation that feels all too familiar:
“Throughout the world in the fateful years 1943-1945 … people were unwilling to bestir themselves on behalf of the Jews. The very widespread indifference, the ease with which people disassociated themselves from the Jews and their fate was certainly in part a result of a vague feeling that, even if there were no Elders of Zion, Jews were somehow uncanny and dangerous. And ironically enough this feeling grew stronger as the persecution of the Jews grew worse.”
If Iran gets a nuclear bomb and destroys Israel, God forbid, people will say Israel had it coming. They were occupiers. They perpetrated apartheid. They inflicted war crimes and genocide. And that’s what happened in Nazi Germany. Hitler convinced people that the Jews were responsible for the worst ills of society, and so when the Holocaust came, nobody opposed it. that Israel is responsible for genocide don’t just threaten the Jewish state. They also stigmatize the Jews of the Diaspora. We who support Israel—if these allegations are true—are, by extension, supporters of genocide and evil. The result of this stigmatization has been only too plain to see: surging antisemitism across the world.
Cries of gas the Jews in Sydney. An elderly pro-Israel demonstrator killed at a pro-Palestinian rally in California. Students hounded into the library at an Ivy League university. A rabbi attacked with a screwdriver in Genoa. A mob stormed an airport in Russia chanting antisemitic slogans and demanding to know where the Jews are. The smashing of the shopfront window of a kosher restaurant in London.
In South Africa, while these kinds of antisemitic incidents on the ground are unheard of, we’re seeing this stigmatization emanate right from the top—from the president himself. The South African Jewish community is one of the most proudly and openly Zionist in the world. And so when the country’s head of state says that Israel is guilty of apartheid, occupation, genocide and war crimes, he is, in effect, labeling all of us who support Israel as apologists for crimes against humanity.
By implying that South African Jews support genocide, in particular, the president sends a powerful message to all South Africans that any Jew who is a supporter of Israel is fair game. He has declared open season on us.
Recently, we experienced a disturbing example of this. In the same week that South Africa brought its case against Israel to the ICJ, the captain of the South African under-19 national cricket team, David Teeger, was stripped of his captaincy for expressing words of support for Israel and the IDF at a private Jewish function. Following the event, the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), an organization with ties to Hamas and Iran whose supporters celebrated the killing of 1,200 Jews on Oct. 7, began lobbying the CSA to strip Teeger of the captaincy.
Subsequently, an independent tribunal initiated by CSA (in itself an outrage) cleared Teeger of any wrongdoing. And yet, days before the u19 cricket world cup, Teeger was nevertheless removed as captain on the flimsiest of pretexts—that his captaincy position posed a security threat and could lead to “conflict or violence between rival groups of protesters.”It’s no coincidence that the day after South Africa made its case at the ICJ, a young proud Jewish boy, hounded and stigmatized by anti-Israel groups and government ministers, was finally removed as national captain. The groundwork was laid by the genocide allegation, which puts a target on the back of Jews not just in South Africa but everywhere.
This tactic of stigmatization goes back to the origins of our people. We are currently reading the Torah portions from the early chapters of the book of Exodus that tell of the first exile and persecution of the Jewish people. Eerily, it forms a prototype for future eras of discrimination and threats against Jews. Note how Pharaoh paves the way for the enslavement, and later, the killing of Jewish babies, by saying to the Egyptian people: “Come, let us act wisely with [the Jewish people] lest … if a war will occur, it, too many join our enemies and wage war against us.”
Before Pharoah could begin to enslave and persecute the Jews, he had to stigmatize them as a threat to Egypt. He accuses them of something antisemites have always accused Jews of—disloyalty to the country they live in. He tells the Egyptian people that the Jews would join invading enemies.
Today, with the fabricated charge of genocide, apartheid and war crimes against the Jewish state, we’re seeing the same thing play out. And that is why the Jewish world needs to fight this vicious campaign against us with all the resources at our disposal.
These allegations are not just offensive and insulting; they are dangerous. And as such, they should be treated as a matter of the highest national security for the State of Israel, and a clear and present danger to Jews everywhere.
*This opinion piece is part of an ongoing series addressing the Israel-Hamas war and its global implications. You can find more on the rabbi’s YouTube channel. .

October 7 was a feature, not a bug
SHLOMO FISCHER/ JNS/January 16, 2024
Start-Up Nation authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer have done it again. In their new book The Genius of Israel, they showcase some of the remarkable advantages of Israeli society. Equipped with abundant charts and statistics, they demonstrate that Israel enjoys an extraordinary quality of life, ranking close to the top of global lists of “happiness” and life expectancy. Israel does not contend with “deaths of despair” from alcoholism, drug abuse or suicide at anywhere near the levels of other developed Western nations. Israelis enjoy rich social networks and connections, especially with family and friends, which give them an enviable feeling of belonging, fulfillment, purpose and meaning.  When confronted with such findings, however, Israelis are often surprised. Life in Israel is supposed to be hard. Israeli public discourse is one of constant criticism. Israelis don’t think of themselves as living in an Edenic country. On the contrary, they lament the lack of the calm, peaceful and abundant life that countries like Holland, Scandinavia or Canada enjoy. I suggest that we take this Israeli discontent seriously, not despite but because of Senor and Singer’s findings. I believe this discontent is related to the elephant in the room: the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians. It affects everyone and everything. As a result of it, both the right and the left are beset with a nagging sense of incompleteness. The right is vexed because full annexation of the Land of Israel has not been realized. The left is displeased because there is no peace agreement with the Palestinians or a Palestinian state.
To Israelis, a resolution of this issue is an important part of state-building. To the right, it would establish the state in the full territory of the national homeland. To the left, it would mean stable and internationally recognized borders and legitimacy. This dilemma is apparent even during the current war. Discussions about “the day after” gravitate towards the two poles: Jewish settlement in Gaza and ultimate annexation vs. the seeding of a Palestinian state under a “revitalized Palestinian Authority” or some other form of Palestinian self-governance. Senor and Singer seem to view the Palestinian issue as unrelated to their narrative of Israeli happiness. When asked about it in a recent interview, Singer replied, “You can’t write about everything.”I believe they are related, however. For example, the Palestinian challenge helps create a sense of meaning and belonging. As in the national mobilization that immediately followed the Oct. 7 massacre, Palestinian terror focuses the collective Israel mind: If we don’t hang together, we will “surely hang separately.” Thus, the conflict encourages the cooperative behavior at which Israelis excel. More importantly, with the failure of the peace process, Israelis shifted their efforts to the high-tech sector and the startup project ecosystem. They began to invest their energies inwardly. It is not a coincidence that the Israeli high-tech industry began to take off in the early 2000s after the Palestinians destroyed the Oslo process by launching a protracted terror campaign.
The apostle of the high-tech revolution was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, he came to see it as essentially a replacement for efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue. What Shimon Peres wanted to achieve with the Oslo process—the integration of Israel into the global economy and peace with neighboring Arab states—Netanyahu sought to achieve through Israeli high-tech and innovation. He was not far wrong. Netanyahu eventually realized the Abraham Accords and, just before the Israel-Hamas war, was preparing to sign a similar agreement with Saudi Arabia.
The problem with Netanyahu’s approach, however, was that it required constant minimalization of the Palestinians and their demands. The message from Israeli leaders and specifically from the prime minister was that—contrary to the assumptions of the Europeans, the Americans and the Israeli left—the Palestinians were not the key to regional stability and prosperity in the Middle East. The Palestinians were too deterred, too cowed and too weak to really cause trouble. They were considered a local nuisance that could be dealt with by sending a few combat units into Jenin or engaging in short and limited clashes with Hamas in Gaza. In other words, the fact that Israeli forces were caught flat-footed on Oct. 7 was not a “bug.” It was a feature of Israel’s strategic paradigm. The intelligence that Israel received before the attack was ignored because to admit that the Palestinians posed a serious threat would have meant upending the strategy of the entire defense and foreign policy establishment, which had been cultivated by the prime minister for over a decade. The senior and mid-level commanders who let the troops sleep, ignored the warnings of the “look-out girls,” did not investigate breakdowns in the electronic warning system and did not eavesdrop on Hamas cell phones were not “negligent,” “forgetful” or “remiss.” They were implementing national strategy.
We must understand and internalize this fact if we hope to learn the lessons of Oct. 7.

The intentions behind the West’s ‘very late reaction’
EYAD ABU SHAKRA/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 16, 2024
There is a realistic Western saying: “Making a mistake once is an opportunity to learn from it, repeating it another time makes it an error, but doing it a third time ... that’s idiotic.” This saying applies to all of our daily lives, but the world’s mightiest power repeatedly making the same mistake cannot be explained by stupidity. It must be intentional ... even if it makes claims to the contrary. Therefore, given the military situation we have reached in the Red Sea region, it is no longer sound to see things as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken or National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications Rear Adm. John Kirby would like us to. Repeating a mistake — or let us say repeatedly being late to react — at such a high political level cannot possibly be a matter of stupidity. Rather, it is a strategic policy for which tasks are assigned, budgets are allocated and schedules are set.
Washington may have been “surprised” that bringing down Saddam Hussein’s regime, following the 2003 invasion, handed Iraq over to the clerics in Tehran and their Iranian Revolutionary Guards on a silver platter. I say “may have been surprised” because there are research centers, higher learning institutes and high-level, specialized experts in the US that provided the officials making decisions of war and peace with a clear picture of Iraq, its demographic composition, strategic location, regional and international hostilities and alliances, and the general balance of power in the Middle East and the Gulf, not to mention the sectarian and expansionist war launched by Tehran against the Arabs after 1979 under the banner of “exporting the Islamic Revolution.”
Moreover, this “may” becomes more serious when we recall that Iran regularly topped the US State Department’s annual lists of “rogue states” and “state sponsors of terror.”
Moving on.
Iraq was invaded, its rulers were overthrown and executed, and the new “people in charge” returned from their Iranian exile to take power and begin implementing Ayatollah Khomeini’s “export” plan. However, the picture should have become clear in Washington over the subsequent years in which Tehran’s subordinates dominated the Iraqi political scene, especially since their dominance was paralleled by the acceleration of Iran’s nuclear project and the expansion of the Revolutionary Guards’ field of intervention and sponsorship in countries neighboring Iraq, which “occupied,” in effect, from Bahrain and Kuwait to Syria and Lebanon, and even as far as Yemen.
Nevertheless, for some reason — possibly an American decision egged on by Israel — Washington, as well as Tel Aviv, chose to “coexist” with Iran’s regional ambitions. That decision contrasted with their keen determination to eliminate Iraq’s very early ambitions in this regard. This “coexistence,” which continues to this day, emerged despite the concerns of Arab countries in the region, including those that had explicitly warned, before the 2003 invasion, of Iran’s plan to “fill the vacuum” in Baghdad.
Later on, specifically after 2006, Hezbollah was left to impose its hegemony over Lebanon through the “innovative” formula developed by Western capitals, including Washington, of distinguishing between the political and military wings of the party that is ideologically, strategically and logistically linked to Tehran.
Then, under the pretext of the dubious emergence of Daesh, this coexistence continued and extended to Syria following the 2011 uprising. Again, Washington and Tel Aviv “acquiesced” to the status quo despite the regime in Damascus being on the same US State Department’s list of “rogue states” and “state sponsors of terrorism” as Tehran, as well as Iranian militias from different countries taking part in the fighting and then settling in Syria and the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs in sectarian ethnic cleansing campaigns that claimed the lives of millions of civilians.
In the same vein, within two or three days of the operation on Oct. 7, Washington rushed to announce that it had “no evidence that Iran was involved” in what happened around the Gaza Strip, before changing its mind weeks later following the systematic destruction and horrific massacres that have claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past three months. Meanwhile, using its vast experience in political bargaining and security extortion, Tehran mobilized its militias in Iraq and Syria, along the Lebanese-Israeli border and, finally, in the Red Sea region.
Tehran mobilized its militias in Iraq and Syria, along the Lebanese-Israeli border and, finally, in the Red Sea.
The fact that various Hamas wings and a number of Palestinian factions are tied to Tehran was never a secret to the US administration. However, this state of affairs was acceptable so long as Palestinian divisions served Israel’s strategic interests and the “rules of engagement” were respected — as they are now in the “calibrated” skirmishes with Hezbollah across the border with Lebanon and in some locations in Syria.
Western capitals, especially Washington and London, were well aware of the reality on the ground but did nothing to protect international maritime trade routes.
The truth is that what we are seeing, including the recent Anglo-American bombing of Yemen, is nothing more than “maneuver warfare,” through which the trajectory of the region is being negotiated. The main player is the US and the two regional parties benefiting most from the Arabs’ weakness are Israel and Iran.This “trajectory” was behind the decisions to invade Iraq in 2003, hand Lebanon over to Iran in 2006, protect the Damascus regime after 2011 and alter the nature of what remains of Palestine in the autumn of 2023.

Return of piracy adds to Red Sea’s troubled waters
Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/January 16, 2024
The passage of ships in the Red Sea and the surrounding waters has faced unprecedented destabilization in the past two months. Maritime attacks by the Yemen-based Houthi rebel group on commercial ships traversing the Red Sea has caused significant disruption to global trade. The group has targeted ships perceived to be linked to Israel, but several unrelated commercial vessels have also been attacked. This has led to a US-led multilateral military response against the Houthis. Within this context of increased maritime insecurity around the Horn of Africa, an old threat has reemerged in the shape of maritime piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Somali piracy was the most significant threat to ships traversing vital maritime trade routes around East Africa. At their peak, between 2010 and 2015, more than 350 incidents of piracy were reported. In light of this, the Djibouti Code of Conduct was established in 2009 following an International Maritime Organization subregional meeting on piracy, armed robbery and maritime security in the waters of the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean. This code has played a crucial role in significantly reducing piracy and other illicit maritime activities in these waters.
The Jeddah Amendment, added in 2017, further enhanced multilateral cooperation in the field of maritime security. Additionally, several naval military and patrolling forces have provided cover to these waters over the past decade, significantly deterring piracy. However, late in 2023, this threat reemerged.
At least four instances of the hijacking of vessels by suspected Somali pirates have been reported since the beginning of last month.
Against the backdrop of the Houthi attacks, Somali pirate attacks are also taking place again
Firstly, more than a dozen unidentified persons reportedly boarded MV Ruen, a Maltese-flagged commercial vessel, east of Bossaso, Somalia, on Dec. 14. Reports suggested that this was the first instance of the hijacking of a large commercial vessel since 2017, when pirates briefly reemerged and captured the Aris 13 oil tanker. Further, on Dec. 18 and Dec. 22, the UK Maritime Trade Operations received information of two separate hijackings, in northwest Djibouti and near the Somali coastal town of Eyl. In the first instance, a vessel was approached by five small boats carrying armed personnel, while in the second a dhow was hijacked by heavily armed attackers.
Finally, a Yemeni fishing vessel was hijacked by five to six armed personnel 13 km north of Eyl on Dec. 23. The motivation for these acts remains unclear, but they represent a worrying trend in that, against the backdrop of the Houthi attacks, Somali pirate attacks are also taking place again.
Piracy, particularly around Somalia, has typically been motivated by economic reasons. A combination of factors, such as volatile domestic politics, climate change, a weak economy and fragile public services and infrastructure, continues to push a section of the population into illicit activity. This includes piracy, illegal fishing and the narcotics trade. Somali piracy has posed a significant threat to global trade since the outbreak of the country’s civil war in the early 1990s. It was particularly prevalent due to the large number of merchant ships in these geostrategically important waters. Despite the increased frequency in recent months, however, maritime piracy is not expected to expand significantly and reach previous levels. The ongoing naval attacks by the Houthis, which have notably been difficult to deter despite counterattacks by the UK and US, are motivated by political reasons. As per the statements made by Houthi leaders, the attacks will persist until the culmination of the Israeli hostilities in Gaza. Therefore, a reduction in such attacks will depend on broader diplomatic decisions and negotiations between the warring parties.
Despite recent events, anti-piracy infrastructure is already in place in the Western Indian Ocean
Economically motivated crime, on the other hand, may be constrained through other means, such as heightened international patrolling, law enforcement and government-sponsored schemes to train and reskill Somali youth. The last of these may take the form of providing alternative employment opportunities and developing the coastal economy, but this depends entirely on the stability of the Somali state. Despite recent events, anti-piracy infrastructure is already in place in the Western Indian Ocean. The Puntland Maritime Police Force was formed in 2011 and is dedicated to the deterrence of illicit maritime activities in Somali waters. It has heightened its patrolling measures since November 2023. Operation Atalanta, also known as the EUNAVFOR, is the EU’s counterpiracy military operation that is present in the waters of the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean. Similarly, the multinational naval force Combined Task Force 151 was established in 2009 with a view to combating Somali maritime piracy. It collaborates with Operation Atalanta and NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield.
National naval forces also respond on a case-by-case basis. For instance, following last week’s hijacking attempt on the MV Lila Norfolk in the northern Arabian Sea, with 15 Indian crew members in the firing line, the Indian navy deployed its stealth-guided missile destroyer INS Chennai to secure the vessel. The Indian navy had similarly deployed its naval maritime patrol to assist MV Ruen, the Maltese-flagged vessel that was attacked around the Gulf of Aden last month.
Finally, while several pirates tend to be armed, they are not known to use advanced weaponry such as that used by the Houthis. This makes the act easier to deter with armed forces. Therefore, heightened patrolling around Somalia and Djibouti will likely deter any further instances of piracy. Maritime piracy has been deemed to be a high risk, low reward endeavor, so heightened patrolling is liable to increase the costs for hijackers while simultaneously reducing the frequency of such attacks.
*Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator and an adviser to private clients between London and the GCC. X: @Moulay_Zaid