Abbas calls on international community to “preserve the two-state solution”

During UNHRC address, Palestinian Authority President calls on international community to adhere to UNSC Res. 2334, recognize “State of Palestine” and protect option of two-state solution; PA announces municipal elections to be held in May

Mahmoud Abbas

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to recognize the “State of Palestine” in order to “preserve the two-state solution”, rejecting the idea of a single state solution or any solution that would not result in a Palestinian state.

Abbas addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Monday, the first of 107 participating dignitaries given the platform to speak. He called for the Council to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted in December of 2016, warning that abandoning the resolution could lead to delay or loss of a two-state solution.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 labels all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as illegal, and calls for Israel’s complete withdraw from 1967 borders. 13 of the 14 permanent members of the Council voted in favor, the United States under the Obama Administration abstaining, essentially voting in favor.

During Abbas’s address on Monday, he stated that a two-state solution “must be protected from any attempt to withdraw from it or simply disregard it,” calling on United Nations’ bodies to “not to take steps that contribute to strengthening the Israeli occupation of the State of Palestine,” including “the support to the Israeli settlement enterprise, attacks against holy places or moving embassies to Jerusalem,” referring to the Trump Administration’s commitment to moving the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.

Abbas stated “We should no longer be speaking of integrating Palestine within a larger regional framework, and that is precisely what the government of Israel is attempting to do by withdrawing from progress previously achieved.”

Abbas’s remarks comes following support from both the United States and Britain for a peace deal that is made between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a massive shift from Western policies to date, particularly the Obama Administration, to use international bodies to interfere or force a solution for the peace process.

During Prime Minister’s diplomatic visit to the United States to meet with President Trump, Trump made clear that any solution, whether two-state or not, must be made by “the parties themselves who must directly negotiate such an agreement. We [the United States] will be beside them, working with them.” This shift in policy is the first time a United States president did not adhere to a two-state solution as the only solution on the table.

And on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority announced it would hold municipal elections in May of this year, the elections, however, only to be held in the West Bank. The announcement comes following cancelled elections that were to include Gaza residents in October of 2016. The elections were cancelled as polls guaranteed that Hamas could win the elections in a landslide.

 

Egyptian military destroys tunnel from Gaza Strip into Sinai Peninsula

Egypt destroys tunnel, total of 13 tunnels destroyed in 2017 alone; Hamas blames Egypt for the deaths of 3 who were exposed to toxic gas while repairing the destroyed tunnel

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Egypt destroyed a smuggling tunnel from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, Hamas accusing the Egyptian military for three deaths after Hamas militants inhaled toxic gas while trying to repair the tunnel.

The Egyptian military located and destroyed the tunnel that went 20 meters underground. The tunnel, likely used fro smuggling weapons, had oxygen tanks and was wired for outside communication.

Hamas responded to the deaths stating that there is “no justification for the use of such dangerous methods against civilians under siege.”

In January of 2017, Egypt destroyed 12 smuggling tunnels from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian military confirming that all the tunnels had been destroyed. Just a few weeks after, a Hamas militant was killed during a tunnel collapse over the weekend, the third death from a tunnel collapse in January alone.

Egypt, like Israel, is consistently confronted with terror threats from Gaza’s tunnels, which are used for smuggling of goods, weapons and people. Egypt reportedly demolished dozens of tunnels in 2016, Hamas reporting that 21 of their militants were killed in the demolitions.

Israel last detected and destroyed a terror tunnel from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory in August of 2016 after a tunnel was found and destroyed previously in April. The tunnels, both around 30 meters underground, were neutralized by the IDF. During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the IDF destroyed Hamas’s terror tunnel networks, destroying 34 tunnels. The tunnels were used for smuggling weapons and materials for creating rockets as well as for infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory.

Last summer the IDF and Israel’s Defense Ministry announced plans by Israeli defense establishments to construct an underground concrete wall along the Gaza Strip border with Israel as a solution to Hamas’s ongoing terror tunnel network. A concrete wall will be constructed along the 61-kilometer border with the Gaza Strip, the wall to go several meters underground.

The wall would be Israel’s third defense barrier to be constructed on the border with the Gaza Strip. The first barrier was constructed post-Oslo Accords in 1994, the second following the disengagement from the Strip in 2005. During the disengagement, over 8,500 Israeli, Jewish citizens were pulled from their homes as an effort for resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip was then taken over by Hamas. Since then, Israel has been subject to rocket attacks and terror tunnels into Israeli territory for over a decade.

Iran launches two-day navy drill to “send Iran’s message of peace and friendship to the regional countries”

Naval drill comes two weeks after British-led “United Trident” drills of coast of Iran; Iran claims its drills are for defensive purposes and to send message of “peace and friendship”

 

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Iran’s navy launched its annual naval drill on Sunday, holding exercises and war games in what it claims are drills to “upgrade defense capabilities” while sending a message of “peace and friendship” to the region.

The drill will take place in the Straight of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Bab el-Mandab and northern Indian Ocean.

According to the chief of Iran’s navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the naval drill will cover over 772,000 square miles and will take place over two days with war simulations referred to as “Velayat 95”. According to reports from Iranian media, Sayyari stated that the “The aim of the “Velayat 95 drill” is to upgrade the country’s defensive capabilities and send Iran’s message of peace and friendship to the regional countries,” claiming the drills are also for training in the “fight against terrorism and piracy”.

Sayyari also reported on Saturday that Iran’s frigate Sahand destroyer would soon join Iran’s naval fleet, stating “Sahand is currently our most advanced destroyer given the systems which are mounted on its deck and has a better capability than the Jamaran destroyer for carrying helicopters.”

The drill reportedly includes Iranian navy ships, submarines and helicopters. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is not participating in the drills. Patrol aircraft, drones, sonar systems and drones have been deployed over the two-day drill to “monitor” foreign troops in the region.

The Straight of Hormuz is located between the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf and is used for oil shipments to Europe, with close to one-third of all oil trades to the West passing through the 39 kilometer-wide straight.

The drill comes just two weeks following the British-led drill that included Western navies off the coast of Iran. The “United Trident” drill included 15 ships from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Australia.

 

Israel and Australia sign memorandums of understandings, boosting economic ties

Netanyahu meets with PM Turnbull and Australian MP’s, signs agreements in trade, cyber security, agriculture and R&D; Netanyahu calls for “double and even triple” current bilateral trade agreements

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Prime Minister Netanyahu continues his tour in Australia, meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Turnbull and New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, signing memorandums of understanding and agreements in increasing bilateral relations and cooperation, particularly in the areas of security, cyber security, energy, agriculture and education.

The Prime Minister, who is on tour in Australia until Sunday, met with several Australian officials, from Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Prime Minister Netanyahu calling for Israel and Australia to “double and even triple” current bilateral trade agreements, which until now are estimated at $1.1 billion with Israeli exports to Australia at over $700 million.

In a meeting held with Prime Minister Turnbull and Members of Cabinet, agreements in increasing and financing joint industrial research and development (R&D) cooperation were signed, as well as memorandums of understandings. The meeting also centered on security, both military and cyber, as well as transport and innovation.

An agreement entitled “The Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation in Technological Innovation and Research and Development” was signed, guaranteeing strategic and strengthened economic ties between both states.

Addressing the boost in ties and their meeting, Prime Minister Turnbull stated “We’re here with our ministers to discuss the wide range of opportunities to cooperate on security, on innovation, cyber-security, defense, transport. We know that there are very great opportunities to do more, and we’ve talked about this already- in the area of cyberspace. We have a cyber-security strategy which we published last year. It is world-leading. We are very focused on it. We have some of the best technologies and the best brains in the world here, and we know you do in Israel and there are great opportunities to collaborate.”

On security and combatting radical Islam in the Middle East, he stated “we also have a very substantial commitment to the counter-ISIL [ISIS] coalition operating in Iraq and in Syria. We are in fact the largest international contributor to that coalition after the United States. So it’s a very substantial commitment and we recognize the importance of defeating Islamist terrorism in the Middle East and indeed around the world, for the safety of all of us.”

Addressing radical Islamic groups as a global threat, Turnbull stated “We should not allow the tyranny of distance in the 21st century. There is so much scope for cooperation,” adding that both Australia and Israel “have the same values: democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” as both states are actively “combatting the same enemies – terrorism, terrorists that seek to subvert those values and deny us our ability to live in a free society and we are both committed to the innovation which we know will drive the productivity…”

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke after Turnbull, focusing on the common fight against terror and business and economic growth opportunities between both states.

Netanyahu stated that Australia and Israel hold “commonality of values and interests” which “has never been greater. The commonality of the values stretches for centuries and well into the next century. We are marking here the beginning of another 100 years of friendship.”

He described the commonality “of interest focuses on repelling the dangers but also seizing the opportunities” as well as technology. He stated “We are working with you, as with other like-minded states to prevent terrorist attacks that threaten our country and equally assure that this half century will be dominated by the forces of progress on freedom and not the forces of a renegade barbarism that seeks to use the weapons and the techniques of modern technology, to take us back to the dark ages. This is one of the great paradoxes. We have to fight the barbarians on the technological turf. It’s amazing.”

On R&D, trade and cooperation in the fields of technology and cyber security he stated “Equally I think the opportunities are vast and I want to start with something very simple and narrow. Not only technology, not only cyber cooperation, not only R&D but actually, trade. Our trade is a billion dollars. It should be at least double or triple that. I’d like to encourage the Australian and Israeli companies to increase in trade. If I did the schlep, they should do it too.”

He emphasized that first both states should “increase our trade, our bilateral trade, adding “Second thing is to see how Australia can be a gateway for Israeli companies and Israeli investments into Asia. And I think that is a very promising possibility.”

Iran warns Arab states against becoming Israel’s ally

In two-day conference in Tehran attended by over 80 state delegations, Iran calls on Arab states to not become Israel’s ally, whilst encouraging a Palestinian intifada; Iran: Israel is trying to change their enemies within the pro-Palestine Arab and Islamic countries into their allies

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Amidst growing relations between Israel with Arab states in the common fight against radical Islam and terror, Iran held a conference in support of Palestinians, calling on Arab states to not only cut off its ties with Israel, but also called on the Palestinians to resist the “Zionist regime” and for Arab states to support their resistance.

The conference, entitled “The 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada” was held on Tuesday and Wednesday in Tehran and was attended by delegates from over 80 states including delegations from Hamas, Hezbollah, varied Islamic Jihad groups and by states including North Korea, Syria and numerous African states.

The focus of the conference was to criticize Arab states for cooperation with the State of Israel, which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani referred to as a “Zionist plot for establishment of normal relations with Arab countries,” while calling on a Palestinian intifada.

Rouhani addressed the delegations, criticizing Arab states growing ties with Israel, claiming that Iran has “paid a heavy price for supporting the Palestinian nation and opposition to the Zionist regime’s actions,” vowing that the Islamic State of Iran “will continue its support with resolve and determination” of the Palestinian cause.

He heavily criticized such states, stating that the “the Muslim world should resist to restore the rights of the Palestinian nation and it should pay the needed price,” accusing Israel, which he referred to as an “occupying regime” of attempting to “normalize its situation,” stating that Israel “has for the first time referred to certain Arab countries as its allies against the resistance front, instead of describing them as its enemies,” referring specifically to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Emirates.

He stated that Israel is “trying to change their enemies within the pro-Palestine Arab and Islamic countries into their allies,” by “turning them against the resistance and its main supporter, Iran.”

The rhetoric of the conference comes following numerous outcries of support of Arab states in fighting radical Islam, what Netanyahu referred to last week during his diplomatic tour in the United States as “Radical Islam has two fountainheads: The radical Sunnis led by ISIS and before that, by Al Qaida, and the radical Shiites led by Iran. The Arab countries are threatened by both, and when they look around they say ‘who is going to help us from these twin threats?’ Well, there is one country in the region that’s powerful, that’s determined, that’s resolved to fight this common enemy- and that is Israel. So they don’t view us anymore as their enemy, but increasingly they see us as their ally against a common threat.”

Also addressing the delegation, Iran’s Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei referred to Israel as a “cancerous tumor, since its start,” that has “grown incrementally and its treatment must be incremental too.”

Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes near Damascus overnight; Hezbollah claims IDF planted spy gear in southern Lebanon

Airstrikes reportedly targeted weapons convoy en route to Hezbollah & Syrian Army post; Mixed reports claim strikes carried out in Syria and in Lebanon; Hezbollah claims IDF planted spy gear in southern Lebanon Wednesday

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet (Reuters)

 

The Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes northeast of Damascus overnight reportedly targeting a Hezbollah weapons convoy, Hezbollah additionally claiming that the IDF planted spyware devices in southern Lebanon.

According to mixed reports from Lebanese media, the airstrikes were carried out from Lebanese airspace between 3:00-4:00 am on targets in the Qalamoun Mountains, reports claiming Syrian Army positions and Syrian weapons convoys en route to Hezbollah in Al-Qutayfah were targeted.

The Syrian Army post targeted was that of the 155th Battalion reportedly, the battalion known for weapons transfers to Hezbollah in the past.

There were also reports that the airstrikes also hit a target in Lebanon with no details given. Hezbollah denied any attacks were carried out in Lebanon or even in Syria on Wednesday morning, claiming, however, that the IDF planted spy devices in southern Lebanon in the Qurum a-Shiqui region.

The terrorist organization claimed that they found cameras powered by solar transmitters on Wednesday morning and that the IDF infiltrated into Lebanon and planted the devices.

Residents in Syria and in the town of Al Katif reported explosions, with no reports of injuries. Residents of the Lebanese town of Nahla also reported hearing explosions.

As with all almost all covert Israeli operations in Syria, the IDF refused to comment on the airstrikes.

Israel reportedly last carried out airstrikes in Syria on January 13th of this year, the IAF thwarting a weapons transfer to Hezbollah from a military airport west of Damascus. Syrian media reported that that airstrikes killed a Syrian military officer and left several others dead.

The Syrian Army responded to the attacks, warning Israel that “The Syrian army command and armed forces warn the Israeli enemy of the repercussions of this blatant attack and stresses it will continue its war on terrorism,” warning that it would “amputate the arms of the perpetrators”.

In December, Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria, thwarting an attempted transfer of chemical weapons to Hezbollah. In a rare confirmation of the attacks, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed the attacks. He stated at the time, “We will not allow any harm to come to the Israeli public; we will not allow anyone to undermine Israel’s sovereignty; and we will not allow the smuggling of sophisticated weapons or chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon and to Hezbollah. One very important thing that everyone has to understand, is that Israel makes its own decisions, freely, within the scope of the policy, and there are no other limitations or circumstances to consider.”