Australia/Israel Review

Behind the News – May 2017

May 12, 2017 | 

Behind the News - May 2017
Former Syrian army Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat



On April 14, 21-year-old British exchange student Hannah Bladon was fatally stabbed on the light rail in Jerusalem by a Palestinian terrorist. On April 6, Israeli soldier Elhi Taharlev, 20, was killed when a Palestinian rammed his car into a group of soldiers at a bus stop near Ofra, north of Ramallah. Meanwhile terror attacks using knives, cars and explosives continued.

In mid-April, the Israeli security service Shin Bet revealed that, in less than a year, it, together with Israeli Military Intelligence, had thwarted 2,200 Palestinian terrorist attacks at various stages of planning by monitoring the internet.

On April 19, two sisters who were entering Israel from Gaza to allow one of them to receive cancer treatment were caught using tubes meant for medicine to smuggle in explosives, suspected of being intended for terror activities by Hamas. On April 3, Israeli forces prevented the smuggling of 30 diving suits into Gaza, allegedly intended for Hamas’ naval unit.

On April 10, a rocket launched from Sinai hit a greenhouse in the Negev. ISIS took responsibility.


In early April, the Iranian Parliament passed a budget that allocated US $7.4 billion to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), a 24% increase. This is just over half of Iran’s entire defence budget. It also passed a five-year development plan which includes a requirement that at least five percent of Iran’s budget is allocated to defence, particularly on missile development, which the IRGC controls. Earlier this year, the US was considering designating the entire IRGC a terrorist organisation due to its extensive activities in supporting terrorist groups.


A new investigation by Politico, revealed on April 24 that the seven prisoners released by former US President Barack Obama as part of the Iranian nuclear deal negotiations were not guilty of “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo”, as senior officials had described it at the time, but far more serious charges.

According to the report, three were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with microelectronics that have applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like those Teheran test-fired recently. Another was charged with conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.

The report also reveals that the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men who were key players in illegal military procurement for Iran.


In the wake of the April 4 chemical weapons attack on the Syrian rebel held town of Khan Sheikhoun, the former head of chemical warfare in the 5th Division of the Syrian army, Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, who in 2013 defected from the regime, has stated that the regime has large amounts of chemical weapons which remain undeclared.

“They [the regime] admitted only to 1,300 tonnes, but we knew in reality they had nearly double that,” said Sakat. “They had at least 2,000 tonnes.” Sakat has indicated that the stockpile contains aerial bombs and hundreds of tons of sarin.


The Russian Foreign Ministry, in an April 6 English-language statement, announced that Russia conditionally recognised west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Ministry stated that in the context of “UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state… we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” In spite of this declaration, there appear to be no plans to move the Russian Embassy to Jerusalem.

The statement comes amidst ongoing speculation as to whether US President Trump will fulfil his campaign promise and relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.


School textbooks in the Palestinian Authority are becoming increasingly radical in their attitude to Israel, according to an April 3 report by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.

The latest report studied 45 Palestinian textbooks and teachers’ guides published last year and expressed particular concern over the use of curriculum to glorify terrorism and delegitimise Israel. For example, a fourth-grade math problem asked students to compute the number of Palestinian martyrs killed in the two intifadas with an illustration of flag-draped coffins.

Meanwhile, a reported decision by the UN Palestinian aid body UNRWA to consider reforming the curriculum for some 300,000 Palestinian students that attend its schools so that materials are less inflammatory met fierce resistance by PA officials.

On April 13, the PA temporarily suspended ties with UNRWA over the matter. Following a meeting on the matter on April 16, the PA and UNRWA officials agreed any future reforms would require “complete consultation” with the PA.


The Palestinian Authority announced on April 5 it was cutting by 30% the monthly payments it issues to its former civil servants in the Gaza Strip. Approximately 50,000 PA government workers including policemen and teachers left their jobs in the Gaza Strip after the 2007 Hamas coup, but continued receiving salaries from the PA.
The PA blamed the salary cuts on diminishing foreign aid receipts.

The PA’s announcement, taken together with Hamas’ announcement last month that it was forming an administrative committee to manage Gaza, likely signal that both the PA and Hamas are consolidating power in their respective territories and are widening the political gap between the West Bank and Gaza, experts said.


Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presided over the unveiling of the missing third piece of Israel’s aerial defence system, David’s Sling, on April 2.

Designed by Israeli and American defence contractors, the system complements the already-deployed Iron Dome and Arrow systems and is designed to intercept medium-range (between 40 and 300 kilometres) missiles.

However, Israel will still have to contend with a new, powerful short-range rocket recently developed by Hamas.

Israel Army Radio reported in March that the new weapons will be able to carry explosive payloads of up to 200 kilograms.

The proximity of Israel’s Gaza border communities to the strip may render Iron Dome unable to protect them from these new powerful rockets.



In May last year, Hezbollah commander and second-in-command Mustafa Badreddine was killed in a mysterious explosion in Damascus. New evidence emerged from the Saudi Arabian news channel Al Arabiya in March that Badreddine was killed on orders from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and leaders in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, because of his criticism of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and Iran’s use of Hezbollah fighters as “cannon fodder” there. This version of events was subsequently confirmed by Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

Hezbollah’s official investigation claims Badreddine was killed by the explosion of a rocket or mortar shell fired by the opposition, but investigations have yielded no evidence of any such artillery fire preceding the assassination.




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