Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Behind the News - July 2015

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Terror and rocket report

An armed Palestinian opened fire upon two Israelis in the West Bank on June 19, killing 25-year-old Danny Gonen and wounding another man. A search failed to catch the assailant.

On June 21, a Palestinian man stabbed a Border Policeman in Jerusalem, critically injuring him. The policeman managed to shoot his attacker, who was taken to hospital in critical condition.

On June 23, a rocket was fired from Gaza and landed in southern Israel. A Salafist group sympathetic to the Islamic State, the "Omar Brigades", claimed responsibility. Another rocket fired from Gaza struck southern Israel on May 26, with Palestinian Islamic Jihad claiming responsibility.

Other rockets were also fired from Gaza but fell short of reaching Israel - two on June 3 and one each on June 6 and 11. The ISIS-affiliated group Bayt al-Maqdis took responsibility for those attacks. In response to the rocket attacks, the Israeli Air Force bombed military targets in the Gaza Strip.

Salafist groups in Gaza appear to be seeking to challenge Hamas rule by firing rockets despite the existing ceasefire with Israel, but Hamas has been reportedly making arrests to try to stop the rockets.


Former US Intelligence Chief slams Iran nuke deal

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was Director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency until August 2014, has slammed the proposed nuclear deal with Iran as "wishful thinking". Appearing before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in Washington DC, Gen. Flynn said the proposed deal "suffers from severe deficiencies," arguing that Iran "has every intention to build a nuclear weapon" and that the deal is "not a permanent fix but merely a placeholder."

Flynn also criticised the Obama Administration's lack of concern about Iran's ballistic missile program, described the Administration's hope that it could "snap back" suspended sanctions if Iran was to violate the deal as "fiction", and said there are no guarantees that Western intelligence has "identified all of Iran's nuclear facilities and processes."


UN says countries not reporting Iranian sanctions violations

United Nations monitors said governments had made no new reports of Iran violating Security Council sanctions against its nuclear program, even though some violations have been well documented. A panel of experts for the UN Security Council Committee on Iran sanctions wrote in its June 1 report: "The current situation with reporting could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid a possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations" between Iran and the P5+1.

Meanwhile, a new International Atomic Energy Agency report showed that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium increased about 20% over the last 18 months of negotiations, appearing to partially undercut the Obama Administration's contention that the Iranian program and levels had been "frozen" during that period under a 2013 agreement. The US Administration argued that the enlarged stockpile was not technically a violation of the agreement, as it was only on its expiration on June 30 that Iran was required to be down to pre-agreement stockpiles.


Iran Backing the Taliban?

Iran is backing the Afghan Taliban with money, arms and training camps, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A delegation of Taliban negotiators have also reportedly recently visited Teheran.

This report comes amid a resurgence of violence by the Taliban including an attack on the Afghan parliament on June 22.

It appears that Teheran is prepared to overlook its long-standing political and religious differences with the hard-line Sunni Taliban because it is more concerned with their common enemy, ISIS, and with countering US influence.


Israel eases restrictions for Ramadan

Israel has eased restrictions on Palestinians for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to enable easier access to holy sites. West Bank male worshippers over the age of 40 were allowed to enter the Temple Mount area without a permit, as were women of all ages. Palestinians travelling to Israel for family visits were also permitted entry without formal permits. Further, worshippers were also allowed to take shuttle buses directly to the Al-Aqsa mosque from West Bank cities for the first time in over a decade. Previously, Palestinians entering Israel were required to switch to Israeli buses or taxis after passing through Israeli checkpoints.

However, Palestinian media reports said that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas had issued a decree banning Palestinians from taking advantage of the Israeli offer. A spokesman for Abbas reportedly complained that limiting permit-free access to certain demographic groups violated the "right of freedom of worship," and declared, "We will not allow buses from the Palestinian Authority to go to areas of Jerusalem as Israel wants."


Poll: Gazans say conflict was a mistake, want to emigrate

A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found that 63% of Gazans now express dissatisfaction with "achievements compared to human and material losses" in the 2014 Gaza war - which is much higher than in the war's immediate aftermath. Yet the same proportion also said they support launching rockets at Israel while the blockade stays in place.

In addition, 50% of Gazans surveyed indicated that they wanted to emigrate from Gaza, while only 30% of Gaza residents said that they could criticise Hamas without fear of harm.


Hamas allegedly smuggled cement via Egypt

Hamas reportedly took advantage of a rare extended opening of the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza to smuggle in enormous quantities of cement that could be used to reconstruct its terror tunnels, according to Israeli media reports.

Palestinian sources reported that when Egypt opened the crossing for the week of June 13 to June 19, roughly 4,000 tons of cement per day passed into Gaza unchecked.

Reports say Hamas had began rebuilding the tunnels it constructed to facilitate terror attacks into Israel only three months after the end of Operation Protective Edge last year, largely by diverting cement coming in from Israel that was intended for the reconstruction of Gaza homes.

Meanwhile, Turkey has reportedly asked Saleh Aruri, a senior member of Hamas' military wing based in Turkey, to cut back on anti-Israel terrorist activity due to fears that the US would accuse Ankara of abetting terror.

Israel has accused Ankara of turning a blind eye to Hamas-run terrorist training camps in Turkey run by Aruri, who commands Hamas' West Bank division from there.


Qatar mediating Israel-Hamas truce?

Despite Qatar having no relations with Israel, Qatari official Mohammed al-Emadi has reportedly been permitted to repeatedly enter Israel, Gaza and the West Bank in recent months in order to oversee the dispersal of tens of millions of dollars in aid for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

It has also been reported that Hamas officials have travelled to Qatar to discuss plans for a potential long-term truce with Israel, possibly involving the creation of a detached, floating Gaza port that would be overseen by Israel or an international authority.


Israel again ranked among the happiest

As in years past, despite ongoing conflict, Israel has again ranked among the happiest nations in the world in two separate measurements. In the 2015 World Happiness Report, Israel ranked 11th in the world (Australia was 10th). In the Better Life Index, developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel ranked 5th in life satisfaction and 7th in health.

 

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