Germany to deploy 1,200 soldiers in Syria to support fight against ISIS

Germany responds to French call for support in fight against Islamic State; 1,200 German soldiers to deploy to Syria

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Germany announced Monday that it plans to deploy 1,200 soldiers to Syria to aid in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). While the deployment requires approval from Germany’s parliament, its government is seeking a mandate by the end of 2015.

The decision comes following French President Francois Hollande call on European states to assist in the fight against ISIS.

Chief of Staff of the German Army, Volker Wieker stated that, “From a military point of view, some 1,200 soldiers are expected to be needed to operate the planes and ships,” emphasizing that German troops would not be part of combat operations.

Germany has already committed to sending 650 soldiers to assist French forces in Mali. Additionally, six Tornado reconnaissance jets and a naval frigate are to be provided with talks to station the jets in Jordan and Turkey currently underway.

Netanyahu suspends contact with European Union pending reassessment

Following EU ongoing efforts to label West Bank products in Europe as well as stance on peace process, PM halts contact between Foreign Ministry and EU

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Prime Minister Netanyahu officially suspended contact between Israel’s Foreign Ministry with the European Union representatives pending a reassessment of diplomatic relations.

 

The decision, made Sunday evening, results from the European Union’s decision to label products from the Golan Heights and West Bank settlements, as well as its stance on the peace process with the Palestinians.

 

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s suspension until a “reassessment process is completed”. A senior official from the Ministry stated that, “it is inconceivable that Israel will hold dialogue with EU institutions on how to advance a peace process while the EU simultaneously initiates measures against Israel.”

 

The EU’s decision to label products from the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip has been met with strong lobbying and diplomatic pressure by Israel and global pro-Israel organizations.

 

The European Union does not recognize the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights as Israeli territory, but illegal occupation from the 1967 Six Day War.

 

Netanyahu has stated on the EU’s efforts, “The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism. The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this; those who will be hurt will be those Palestinians who work in Israeli factories. The EU should be ashamed.”

Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes on Hezbollah transit point Saturday

Second strike on Qalamoun in past week reported; Initial reports claim Syrian Army soldiers and Hezbollah militants killed in strikes

Israeli F-16 fighter jet

Israeli F-16 fighter jet

Israel’s Air Force reportedly carried out airstrikes on Syrian army and Hezbollah targets overnight Saturday. According to initial reports, Hezbollah militants and soldiers of Assad’s regime were killed in the strikes.

Reports from Lebanon claim that the attacks were near Qalamoun, a major transit point for Hezbollah militants and equipment. Qalamoun is the same region Israeli airstrikes were reported on Monday. The strikes on Monday were also on Hezbollah and Syrian Army positions, reports claiming eight Hezbollah militants and 5 Syrian Army soldiers were killed in the attacks.

Israel has refused to comment on the reports as it does with all airstrikes and covert missions in Syria. Israel has carried out several airstrikes to avoid weapons transfers from Syria to Hezbollah.

 

Russia deploys S-400 missile batteries in Syria

Air-defense missile system deployed following downing of Russian warplane over Turkey and to protect Russian aircraft

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Russia deployed its S-400 air-defense missile system in Syria Thursday. Russia confirmed the deployment, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov stating “In accordance with the decision of Russia’s supreme commander-in-chief, an air defense complex S-400 has been promptly delivered to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in Syria. It has been deployed and entered combat duty to provide air defense for the area.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated the “Air defense systems are in no way aimed against our partners, jointly with whom we are fighting terrorists in Syria” and that the move “does not in any way contradict what we do with the coalition led by the United States.” He additionally stressed that the S-400 systems were deployed to protect Russian aircraft in Syria.

The deployment is also reported as response to Turkey’s shooting down of a Russia Su-24M warplane that illegally entered its airspace.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also confirmed the system would be deployed to Latakia.

Greek Prime Minister and Netanyahu confirm future energy cooperation

Tsipras on two-day visit in Israel; Meets with Netanyahu to discuss energy cooperation and bilateral security cooperation

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Netanyahu & Tsipras in Jerusalem (GPO)

Greek’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is on a two-day visit to Israel and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday in Jerusalem, their meeting focused on alternative energy cooperation between Israel and Greece as well as increasing bilateral security cooperation.

Speaking to the press alongside Netanyahu, Tsipras stated “One of the main issues in our talks today were the opportunities arising in the fields of energy, the fields of energy in the East Mediterranean. We are considering ways on cooperation in research, drilling and transportation of gas from Israel to Europe.” He stated that Greece and Israel “are on the way toward strategic cooperation” and that Greece is a “friend of Israel”.

Natural gas discoveries have been made in the waters of Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, plans to construct a pipeline between Israel’s gas fields to Cyprus already underway.

Netanyahu also spoke of energy cooperation, stating that Greece and Israel are “two democracies in the eastern Mediterranean and we are obviously aware that we have a world of opportunities – of technology, of development, of progress – to seize and we can seize it better through cooperation.”

The Prime Minister additionally spoke on Israel contribution to tourism in Greece pointing out the large number of Israeli tourists to Greece, around 350,000. He stated, “It’s a lot but there can be more and we of course welcome every visitor from Greece, beginning with the prime minister, and everyone else. There is, as you said, a natural affinity between the Israelis and the Greeks. It’s very obvious when you go to either country.”

Israel, Greece and Cyprus are scheduled to hold a 3-way gas summit in January.

Kerry returns to United States after meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas

Kerry meets with Abbas and Netanyahu Tuesday, returns to USA on Wednesday, states “we may be reaching a pivotal point now where both sides have important decisions to make for the future…”

Kerry in Israel December (Reuters)

Kerry in Israel (Reuters)

United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Israel Tuesday, talks focused on renewal of peace talks and negotiations amidst ongoing Palestinian incitement and terror attacks.

During Kerry’s meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Netanyahu clarified that peace and resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians would only be possible when calm is restored. Netanyahu also clarified that there would be no settlement freeze.

Kerry condemned Palestinian violence, incitement and terror attacks, expressing “outrage at this kind of violence, to condemn this violence, and to make it clear that Israel not only has a right to defend itself, but has an obligation to do so,” adding that the “United States will continue to stand with Israel in support of your desire to live in peace and stability and without that violence.”

Following his meet with the Prime Minister, Kerry traveled to Ramallah to meet with Abbas, there meeting centered on what the United States “can do to try to help contribute to calm and to restore people’s confidence in the ability of a two-state solution to still be viable, to be achieved at some point.”

Upon his return to the United States, Kerry stated in a press conference in Boston, “Over these past months we have been encouraging the parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. I think we may be reaching a pivotal point now where both sides have important decisions to make for the future and we obviously hope that they make choices that will advance the prospects for lasting peace.”

Syria reports four Israeli airstrikes on Hezbollah and Syrian regime positions Monday

Israel refuses to comment on reports; Eight Hezbollah and five Syrian Army soldiers reportedly killed in the four airstrikes

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet (Reuters)

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet (Reuters)

Syrian media and rebel forces reported that Israel’s Air Force carried out four airstrikes on Hezbollah and Syrian regime sites on Monday night on the Qualamoun region outside of Damascus. Qualamoun is a major transit point for Hezbollah militants and equipment.

 

The reports claim that eight Hezbollah militants and five Syrian Army solders were killed in the strikes and several dozen injured, the reports unconfirmed by international media and Syrian officials.

 

Israel has refused to comment on the reports as it does with all airstrikes and covert missions in Syria. Israel has carried out several airstrikes to avoid weapons transfers from Syria to Hezbollah.