Arson attack in West Bank kills 18-month Palestinian baby

Israeli officials vow to find culprit of terror attack; PA, Hamas and Jordan hold Israel responsible for attack, PA threatening to go to ICC; Netanyahu: Israel will use all the resources at their disposal to capture the killers and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

18- month killed, Ali Saad Dawabsheh and the home of the family

18- month killed, Ali Saad Dawabsheh and the home of the family

Friday morning two Palestinian homes was set on fire in the West Bank in the town of Duma, one of two arson attacks, in what Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to as a “terrorist attack in every respect” vowing to find the perpetrators.

A Palestinian 18- month baby, Ali Saad Dawabsheh was killed in the attack. The parents of Dawadsheh and their four-year-old son were also injured in the attacked and evacuated to a nearby hospital. Initial reports claim they are in critical condition due to severe burns.

The homes were sprayed with graffiti that read “revenge” and “long live the Messiah, the King, in what IDF and Israeli police are investigating as an attack by Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The attack in believed to have been a “price-tag” attack- a group of Jewish extremists known mainly for graffiti and arson attacks.

Grafitti "Revenge" on home (Rabbis for Human Rights)

Grafitti “Revenge” on home (Rabbis for Human Rights)

Israeli officials responded to the terror attack, vowing to find the culprits and bring justice.

Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted to the arson attack, stating that “I am shocked by this horrific, heinous act. This is a terror attack in every respect. The State of Israel deals forcefully with terror, regardless of who the perpetrators are.” He stated that Israel will “use all the resources at their disposal to capture the killers and bring them to justice as soon as possible.”

Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon stated that “The arson and the murder of the Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh is a serious terror attack that cannot be tolerated, and we condemn it outright. We will chase down the murderers until they are caught.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the attacks Friday afternoon, stating, “In the face of a wave of terror against the innocent, the loss of life, and the loss of law and order, the State of Israel and Israeli society must carry some soul searching. To my great sorrow, until now it seems we have been lax in our treatment of the phenomena of Jewish terrorism. Perhaps we did not internalize that we are faced with a determined and dangerous, ideological group, which aims to destroy the fragile bridges which we work so tirelessly to build. I believe that the more we understand this significant danger to the State of Israel, the more we will be aware to confront it, and uproot it.”

The Palestinian Authority has threatened to bring the incident to the International Criminal Court, connecting the attacks to settlement growth in the West Bank. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, the head negotiator for the PA, stated that the Palestinian Authority “hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the brutal assassination of the toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha. This is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to settler terrorism… By continuing to approve settlements and incite against Palestinian presence, including calls to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Israeli government has paved the road for this brutal act.”

Hamas connected the attacks to recent classes at the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount (al-Aqsa Mosque) over the week, the terrorist organization previously vowing that Friday would be a day of revenge. Husam Badran, a spokesperson for Hamas responded to the arson attacks stating, “There is no other way but resistance, in all its components, in order to halt the crimes of the occupation” calling on Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strop to protest and demonstrate in order to “protect al-Aqsa.”

Additionally, Jordan also holds Israel responsible for the attack, a government spokesperson reacting to the attack, stating “This ugly crime could have been avoided if the Israeli government had not ignored the rights of the Palestinian people and turned its back on peace.”

The IDF reinforced security in the region as well as in Old City Jerusalem, with checkpoints in the West Bank and an ongoing investigation underway. IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz stated following the attack that, “I cannot recall such a serious incident in the past few years. It’s a crime, and we are calling it a terror attack for all intents and purposes.” Almoz informed the public of measures taken in light of security concerns. He stated, “We sent four battalions as a first response. Two divisions are on alert to be sent to the area as this is an incident that may affect the security situation. The amount of forces sent out is designed to be ready for any possible local events, including at the Temple Mount.”

Two Israeli strikes in Syria and Lebanon reported

Two separate strikes reported in Syria and Lebanon; Reports claim 5 killed; Israeli media reports strike as targeting of terrorist Samir Kuntar

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Syria has accused Israel of two separate attacks in Syria and Lebanon on Wednesday evening.

According to the reports from Syria, Israeli airstrikes in the Golan Heights region in Syria killed five militants of the Syrian National Defense Committee. Israeli media reported that the airstrike was targeting terrorist Samir Kuntar.

Kuntar was incarcerated for 29 years in Israel after killing four Israelis in 1979 in a terrorist attack. One of the victims was a 4-year old, Einat Haran. He was released in 2008 in a prison exchange with Hezbollah and was involved in several plans to attack IDF soldiers since.

According to the reports, three of the men killed were members of a Druze militia and two members of Hezbollah.

Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated following the attack that, “An Israeli plane hit a car inside the town of Hader, killing two men from Hezbollah, and three men from the pro-regime popular committees in the town.”

The second attack was reportedly conducted by a drone attack on a weapons storage warehouse in Lebanon close to Quneitra.

A Syrian army official reported to Syrian media that, “As part of its support of terror organizations, an Israeli aircraft attacked a civilian vehicle near the village of Hader at the outskirts of Quneitra at 10:45am. As a result, three civilians from the village were killed. In addition, enemy planes attacked one of the bases of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on the border between Syria and Lebanon at 3:15pm. As a result, six militants were wounded in different levels of severity.”

Convicted spy for Israel, Jonathan Pollard, to be released Nov. 20

Both Israel and US claim “zero linkage” to development in region; Pollard to remain in US for 5 years on parole

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Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, and the United States Justice Department announced Tuesday evening that Jonathan Pollard, a convicted spy for Israel, will be released on parole following a 30 years in prison on November 20th of this year. Pollard was denied parole in August of 2014.

Pollard was as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, Israel admitting in 1998 that Pollard was paid to spy for Israel.

According to initial reports, Pollard’s release was arranged through the United States Justice Department. Pollard will be required to remain in the United States for five years following his release.

Both Israeli and American officials claim that there is no link between the announcement of Pollard’s release and Israel’s stance against the nuclear deal with Iran. According to a spokesperson for the National Security Council of the White House, “Mr. Pollard’s status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures. There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.”

An additional spokesperson stated, “The Department of Justice has always and continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed, which in this case is a 30-year sentence as mandated by statute.”

Israeli officials responded to the news of his release also denying “zero linkage” to developments in the region, an official stating, “There is no involvement by the American or Israeli government; it’s a usual legal procedure.” Pollard’s hearing for his release occurred a few weeks ago.

Pollard’s lawyer stated on his release “The decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the United States Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other US government agency. The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East.”

His lawyer additionally released the statement: Mr. Pollard is looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther. Mr. Pollard would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grass roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for his welfare. He is deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small…We look forward to seeing our client on the outside in less than four months.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated on the announcement of Pollard’s release, “After decades of effort, Jonathan Pollard will finally be released. Throughout his time in prison, I consistently raised the issue of his release in my meetings and conversations with the leadership of successive US administrations. We are looking forward to his release.” 

Kerry to visit Egypt and Qatar next week, not Israel.

Kerry not to visit Israel following several phone calls in past weeks with Netanyahu; Netanyahu to address UN General Assembly on nuclear deal; US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: I will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.

Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP)

Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the Middle East next week. According to initial reports, he will arrive in Egypt on Sunday and then travel to Qatar Monday.

According to US State Department spokesman, Kerry will not be visiting Israel as he has been in contact several times by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Kerry addressed US-Israel relations when he stated over the weekend, “I’ve been around this thing for a long time – 29 years in the Senate, and I’m very proud of the 100 percent voting record for Israel in the course of that time, and nobody I think has worked harder to try to bring peace to the Middle East or to Israel than I did over the last few years. I think I’ve had more meetings with an Israeli prime minister and more visits than any secretary of state in history. And I consider Bibi a friend, and we talk still and we disagree on this, obviously, and I’ve told him my feelings. But I feel them very strongly. I really believe that what we are doing we’re gaining a safety and security, I believe, for Israel and the region that no alternative presents.”

Relations between Israel and the United States have been highly present in the media since the months before Netanyahu’s address to Congress and Israel’s stance against a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. The final deal, which was made on July 14, is still under review by Congress.

On Saturday, United States presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stated in an interview on the final nuclear deal that, “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history… He’s so naive he would trust the Iranians and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.” President Obama responded to Huckabee’s remarks, stating that they are “considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad” and that “It doesn’t help inform the American people.” Huckabee was reported to have responded that he “will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.”

Israel continues its efforts against any deal or sanctions relief on Iran, Prime Minister Netanyahu confirming the he will address the UN General Assembly on its 70th annual summit of world leaders in September.

EU officially denies reports of plans to place sanctions on Israeli banks

Following reports of sanctions on Israeli banks made in independent research report and proposed to EU, EU officially denies any plans to plans sanctions on Israeli banks

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Following reports on Wednesday that the European Union received and was considering a proposal to impose sanctions on Israeli banks, the European Union denied the reports officially.

A senior official from the EU stated on Wednesday evening that the EU”have no intention of imposing restrictions on Israeli banks that do business in the settlements. This entire issue is complete nonsense. This issue has never been considered.”

The European Union will however continue in its labeling of goods from the West Bank.

A diplomat from the EU stated that the proposal was conducted by independent research and that “This is an independent research institute that has no connections to the European Union and has no more influence than any other research institute. Anyone can publish reports. It has no basis in reality. There are no plans for further legislation on this issue except for the plans to label settlement products which are moving forward, but have yet to be finalized” echoing Israel’s Foreign Ministry response amidst media reports yesterday in which the ministry responded, “Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the development on Wednesday stating, “This report was made by a European research institute and not the EU. We do not comment on research institute papers.”

Israel provides combat helicopters to Jordan amidst threats from neighboring states and ISIS

Both United States and Israel decline comments; Cobra helicopters to be used to combat threats from Iraq, Syria and ISIS

Cobra Helicopter (Tal Shahar)

Cobra Helicopter (Tal Shahar)

Israel supplied Jordan with 16 decommissioned Cobra combat helicopters to aid Jordan in defense against Syria, Iraq and ISIS threats. Jordan’s air force reportedly has 25 Cobra helicopters according to European media sources.

The helicopters were supplied to Israel by the United States, the transfer reportedly approved by the United States. The helicopter has aerial surveillance as well as surface-to-air missile defense capabilities.

Both Israel and the United States have declined any comment on the reports, however, Reuters reported an official stating that, “These choppers are for border security” and that “Around 16” were provided “though some may have been used by the Jordanians for spare parts.”

The reports come during US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to the region. Carter met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and also with security officials in Jordan and a visit to Saudi Arabia.

New EU proposal expands to Israeli banks, loans and tax-exemption statutes

New proposal goes beyond EU labeling of Israeli products from banks in what is being referred to as possible sanctions to be placed on Israel- specifically economic and bank related

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The European Union is continuing in labeling Israeli goods from the West Bank in the European market. According to the European Council on Foreign Affairs, not doing so would be a violation of EU laws.

The Council published its proposal, referred to as the “EU Differentiation and Israeli Settlements” on Wednesday, the proposal claiming that labeling of Israeli goods from “the occupied territories” would relieve Europe of any legal violations.

The proposal however has been updated and poses a much larger threat to Israel as more than just Israeli goods but could also include in the near future banks, including loans, mortgages and tax-exemption statuses, the report stating, “Under its own regulations and principles, Europe cannot legally escape from its duty to differentiate between Israel and its activities in the Palestinian territories.”

Reuters has reported the proposal as the beginnings of possible “sanctions” on Israel. The proposal would affect European Union dealings with Israeli banks and businesses.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the development on Wednesday stating, “This report was made by a European research institute and not the EU. We do not comment on research institute papers.”

The reports come just a few hours before Israel’s subcommittee of Israeli Civil Administration is likely to end a settlement freeze with an expected 296 homes to be built close to Beit El. The committee will address several cases of settlement growth approval, including 112 in Ma’aleh Adumim, 381 in Givat Ze’ev and 27 in southwest Samaria according to Israeli media.