Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Behind the News - November 2016

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ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT

A Palestinian terrorist shot and killed a 29-year-old recently married policeman and a 60-year-old grandmother at a light rail station in Jerusalem on October 9. Five other people were wounded. The terrorist then drove away but was later shot and killed by police.

On September 30, a terrorist was shot and killed after stabbing and seriously wounding an IDF soldier at the Qalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem.

There have also been several other attempted stabbing incidents, as well as cases of Palestinian youths throwing Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices in a number of West Bank locations over the past month.

A rocket from the Gaza Strip landed near a school in Sderot on October 5. The IDF struck rocket-launching positions in the northern Gaza Strip in response.


ARABS MOURN PERES

Arab leaders from around the world sent condolences and envoys to the funeral of former Israeli President and PM Shimon Peres, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also attending to pay his respects.

Abbas shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the event. It was the first time the two had come face to face since 2015.

The Foreign Minister of Egypt attended the funeral, as did a Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey, while King Abdullah of Jordan sent his condolences in the form of a telegram. The Foreign Minister of Bahrain expressed his condolences on Twitter.

The Chairman of Israel's Forum of Arab Local Councils also led an Arab Delegation to the Peres Centre for Peace, where he stated, "He (Peres) believed in peace and equality, and the Peres Centre for Peace says everything about this great person."


HOUTHI FORCES TARGET US SHIPS

Two separate attempted missile launches by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen at US navy ships patrolling international waters in the Red Sea prompted a response by the destroyer USS Nitze on October 13.

According to the Pentagon, USS Nitze hit three Houthi radar sites in Yemen.

The US strikes followed multiple missiles being launched on Oct. 9 and Oct. 11 at the destroyer USS Mason, all of which missed their target. This was preceded on Oct. 1 by a successful Houthi missile strike on a UAE Navy humanitarian ship.

The incidents are considered serious because the targeted area was the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea gateway through which oil tankers heading for Europe pass to access the Suez Canal.

Iran is funding and arming Houthi rebels in their fight against the Saudi-backed Yemeni Government, and is strongly suspected of supplying the missiles used in the Houthi attacks on the ships.


US LOOSENS IRAN SANCTIONS

The Obama Administration has again eased financial pressures on the Iranian economy by loosening US sanctions that placed restrictions on Iran's ability to trade in US dollars.

The US Treasury Department released new guidelines on October 7 which watered down restrictions on doing business with Iranian entities associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) under US sanctions, allowing these entities to partake in economic projects provided the IRGC is not the majority controller.

Congressional lawmakers have criticised the Administration for again agreeing to ease financial pressure on one of the world's greatest sponsors of global terrorism.

Similar criticism followed new revelations that the US Administration secretly agreed in January to back the lifting of UN sanctions on two Iranian state banks blacklisted for financing Iran's ballistic missile program.

Under the terms of the nuclear deal signed with Iran last year, the UN sanctions on the two banks, Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, weren't scheduled to be lifted until 2023.


ISIS READIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS, DRONE BOMBS

Amidst the backdrop of the ongoing battle to retake the ISIS-held Iraqi city of Mosul, a spokesman for the Pentagon said in late September that ISIS was "dead set" on broadening its use of deadly chemical weapons in defence of the city as its military position further weakens. Until now, ISIS has only used chemical weapons in Iraqi fighting at sub-lethal concentrations.

There are also concerns that at a chemical production facility near Mosul - one of the largest such plants in the Middle East - thousands of tons of chemical waste have reportedly been rigged with explosives.

Furthermore, ISIS has reportedly begun arming small surveillance drones with explosive devices. In early October, two Kurdish soldiers were killed by a downed ISIS drone that exploded upon inspection.


UK FREEZES PA AID OVER TERROR CONCERNS

In early October, UK International Development Secretary Priti Patelin reportedly ordered the freezing of significant amounts of aid and taxpayer's money intended for the Palestinian Authority, pending an investigation of reports that funds are being diverted to terrorists, or to support the families of imprisoned terrorists.

The funds frozen amount to £25 million, one third of the UK's prospective aid package, the majority of which is distributed via local charities.


ISRAELI-JORDANIAN GAS DEAL

In late September, Jordan announced through a US intermediary that it will purchase 300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Israel over a fifteen-year term.

The deal secures the Hashemite Kingdom's energy needs without it having to rely on liquefied gas being shipped by sea from Qatar, though some details remain to be finalised.

Jordan has, however, had to contend with significant domestic opposition. Hundreds demonstrated in Amman on Sept. 26 to protest the deal.

The announcement of the deal came - likely by design - after Jordan's National Assembly elections on Sept. 20, in which the Muslim Brotherhood, which did not take part in the 2010 or 2013 polls, won 15 seats, not enough to wield significant power.


TURKEY STILL BASE FOR HAMAS TERRORISM

One of the accommodations in the recent rapprochement deal between Israel and Turkey was Ankara's assurance that Hamas' office in Istanbul would be permitted to focus only on political issues.

However, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, the terror group's military wing is still operating there, with the protection of Turkish security forces.

The report says that the office, which is being manned by prisoners who were released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, "keeps trying to build Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank, continues to collect money and send it to the West Bank for terror purposes, and is still recruiting volunteers - mostly Palestinian students studying in Europe - to establish terror cells in the West Bank."


HEBOLLAHS' DIRTY LAUNDRY

A Miami Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) undercover operation has exposed a sophisticated international cocaine money-laundering scheme based in Colombia and used by Hezbollah to raise millions of dollars.

Following a tip off in 2014, the DEA used a series of informants to snare Colombian-based Hezbollah member Mohammad Ahmad Ammar - who revealed in wiretaps how Hezbollah launders money from drug smuggling - in the act of transferring US$500,000.

The money passed through multiple front companies posing as legitimate traders and into accounts in Miami, Dubai, Holland, Spain, Britain, Australia and Africa and elsewhere.

Hezbollah has been involved in illegal activities in Latin America, particularly the lawless border areas between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, for many years.

 

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