Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Behind the News - September 2016

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TERROR AND ROCKET REPORT

The number of serious terror attacks in Israel continues to decline, with the IDF reporting six in July. Nonetheless, there have still been numerous assaults, and other worrying developments.

On August 2, Israeli police announced that they had arrested a Palestinian who had been found at a Jerusalem light-rail station with three pipe bombs containing nails and screws dipped in rat poison.

On August 16, Israeli security forces announced they had uncovered four separate terror squads in the West Bank recruited by the Lebanese Hezbollah organisation using Facebook.

On August 21, a rocket fired from Gaza landed just outside a house in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. There were no casualties reported. An ISIS-aligned group called Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility.

In response, Israel carried out a series of more than 50 air and artillery attacks on military targets in Gaza associated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

On Aug. 23, Israeli forces carried out major raids on weapons manufacturing workshops across the West Bank, shutting down seven such workshops, and seizing 22 gun manufacturing machines.


RUSSIA FLYING PLANES FROM IRAN

On August 16, long-range Russian warplanes took off from an airbase near the Iranian city of Hamedan and struck targets linked to ISIS and other groups in three provinces in northern and eastern Syria before flying back to Russia. This is the first time since the 1979 revolution that the armed forces of another country have been allowed to operate from Iran.

Numerous analysts said the development has implications for both the region and beyond. In addition to enabling Russia to bring more firepower to the Syrian conflict, Moscow's growing close cooperation with Teheran is a boost for the Assad-Iran-Hezbollah alliance vying for superiority in the region, they said.

On Aug. 22, an Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman stated that Russia's use of the Iranian air base "has ended for now" with Iranian Defence Minister General Hossein Dehghan saying this decision was due to Russian "grandstanding and incivility".


ADDITIONAL GAZA AID ALLEGATIONS

In the wake of the charges laid on August 4 by Israel against Muhammad el-Halabi, the head of the charity World Vision in Gaza, for allegedly diverting large amounts of aid to Hamas, Israel announced on August 9 that it had also arrested and charged a UN Development Program (UNDP) contractor, Waheed Borsh. It alleged Borsh was also diverting aid, including construction material, to Hamas and helping the terror group build a naval commando port.

In addition, US media reported on August 11 that an internal United Nations audit report has revealed that a UNDP office that funds and monitors spending in Gaza had wrongly allowed at least five non-staff members to handle core procurement processes that were meant to be undertaken only by staff and that the office was not monitoring their work.


HAMAS STILL HELPING ISIS, DIGGING TUNNELS

The Egyptian Government, which has warned Hamas leaders that it is aware of the group's ongoing close cooperation with the Islamic State in Sinai, is reportedly fuming that Hamas is showing no sign of ending the relationship. That relationship includes bringing injured ISIS fighters into Gaza for treatment, smuggling weapons in tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, hosting ISIS commanders in Gaza and helping ISIS to establish its Sinai infrastructure.

Meanwhile Israeli security sources says Hamas continues to rapidly expand its tunnel network into Israel, with a senior Israeli security official telling Channel 2 on July 27 that 10 new kilometres of tunnels are being built each month. To combat the threat, the Defence Ministry has now submitted a tender to Israeli contractors to build an underground barrier encompassing the entirety of the Gaza border which would extend several stories underground and include technology to detect tunnel-digging.


QATAR HELPS HAMAS OUT OF WAGES TROUBLES

With Hamas reportedly struggling to pay its employees' salaries, Qatar has stepped in, announcing in late July that it would give approximately $US 30 million to Hamas to cover the pay cheques of civilian public servants for the month. This transfer has been approved by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel. It is not the first time that Qatar has helped out Hamas: in October 2014, it paid the salaries of half of Hamas' civil workers. Hamas has been struggling financially in the face of the current Egyptian Government's crackdown on smuggling consumer goods between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula. For the past two years, Hamas workers have been receiving only 45% of their salaries, and Hamas has even begun compensating some public servants with land, rather than money, according to some reports.


ISIS INTERNATIONAL TERROR WING REVEALED

A New York Times investigation has made public new alleged information about the role of the Emni, the secret service unit of ISIS, in exporting terror to Europe and Asia. The Times report is based largely on information supplied by Harry Sarfo, a German ISIS recruit who was trained by the Emni in Syria, but became disillusioned and returned to his home country, and is now jailed. Sarfo agreed with US intelligence reports that the Emni had hundreds of operatives across Europe and Asia, and suggested this network had been responsible for the Paris, Brussels and Tunisia attacks. He explained that ISIS uses new converts as "clean men" who can travel without raising suspicion to coordinate attacks.


PALESTINIAN WHO AIDED ISRAELI TERROR VICTIMS FIRED

A Palestinian who went to the aid of terror victim Rabbi Michael Mark and his family, following a July 1 attack near Hebron, has reportedly been fired from his job in the Palestinian public service.

The shooting attack on his car killed the rabbi and injured his wife and daughter. The individual, whose full name has not been made public, arrived on the scene moments after the attack, reportedly freed the family from the vehicle and "watched over the children in his own car and saw to it that nobody hurt them or kidnapped them," despite threats from passers-by demanding he not help them. He was reportedly fired ostensibly due to budget cuts, but was the only employee terminated.

Settler leader Yochai Damari met with the Palestinian and then approached Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman to help arrange a permit for him to work inside Israel.


ARGENTINIAN JUDGE RE-OPENS AMIA BOMBING CASE

On Aug. 5, Argentinian Judge Claudio Bonadio announced he was seeking to revive the investigation centered on former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over purported attempts to shield Iranian suspects in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994. Former President de Kirchner, who was voted out of power last year, is alleged to have covered up Iranian involvement amidst efforts to secure trade deals with Iran. Federal Prosecutor Alberto Nisman had compiled a case against the leader but was found shot dead last year in his home under mysterious circumstances.


CLUE TO RAOUL WALLENBERG'S FATE

The recently published diaries of former KGB head Ivan Serov, found in suitcases hidden in the walls of his dacha north of Moscow, apparently contain new information about the fate of the heroic Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, but was arrested by the Russians when they occupied Budapest, and disappeared. Serov, who led the KGB from 1954 to 1958, wrote in his diary, "I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947."

 

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