Czech Republic to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem

Czech follows USA, Guatemala, Honduras and Romania, announcing embassy move; Czech to open “honorary consulate in May” as part of three phase process; President Zeman: A few years ago, I said that our embassy should be transferred to Jerusalem. The time has come.

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The Czech Republic announced it will begin the process of relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem.

Czech President Milos Zeman made the announcement on Wednesday in a meeting with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. He stated “A few years ago, I said that our embassy should be transferred to Jerusalem. The time has come.”

He announced that the process would include “three phases” for the final embassy move, the first the opening of a consulate in Jerusalem.

The Czech Foreign Ministry reported that while it “fully respects the joint policy of the European Union, which views Jerusalem as the future capital of the State of Israel and the future state of Palestine,” it would first open an “honorary consulate in May” followed by a “new Czech Centre by the end of this year, both in West Jerusalem.” It did not give an official timeline.

Hotovely praised the Czech Republic, calling for “historical justice”. She thanked President Zeman, stating “You were one of the first leaders in the world to speak about the importance of the embassy’s transfer four years ago. In light of the special relations between our two countries, we look forward to celebrating the opening of the Czech embassy in Jerusalem soon.”

Romania announced over the weekend that it would also relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. Both Romania and the Czech Republic follow the United States, Guatemala, Panama and Honduras. Guatemala and the United States are set to relocate it’s embassy to Jerusalem next month.

Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked President Zeman on Wednesday evening, writing “‏I thank my good friend, Czech President Milos Zeman, for the important declaration that the Czech embassy will move to Jerusalem. I hope that the decision will be implemented quickly. I look forward to welcoming President Zeman here in Israel with the great respect that he deserves.”

Netanyahu met with Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Their meeting was centered on “bilateral issues, strengthening cooperation and the holding of joint projects in security, health, technology and cyber defense.”

The Office of the Prime Minister reported “Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the Romanian government’s approval of a draft decision on initiating the transfer of the Romanian Embassy to Jerusalem and welcomed the statements of the president of the parliament in support of the move.”

 

 

Photo: Czech flag, Wikimedia Commons, 2018. 

Israel: If anyone’s shooting at our planes, we’ll destroy them.

Report claims Israel requested Russia not provide S-300 system to Syria; Russia claims it has not decided whether to deploy system; Lieberman: What’s important to us is that the defensive weapons the Russians are giving Syria won’t be used against us.

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A report Tuesday claimed that Israel requested that Russia not provide its S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Assad’s regime.

The report cited a “senior Russian official” who confirmed Israel made the request. Israel has not yet commented or confirmed such a request.

The development follows after reports from the Russian Kommersant newspaper last week that Russia intended to deliver the S-300 system to Syria, free of charge. It claimed that Russian defense officials threatened “If Israel decides to carry out rocket strikes on the deployment locations of the S-300, the consequences will be catastrophic for all sides.”

Russia claimed on Monday that it had not decided whether it will deploy the system, its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating on Monday “We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” adding “There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Russia that Israel would retaliate if the systems were “used against us,” stating on Tuesday “What’s important to us is that the defensive weapons the Russians are giving Syria won’t be used against us. If they’re used against us, we’ll act against them.” Responding directly to the media reports over the past few days that Russia will supply the system in the near future, the minister responded that the reports were “unfounded” and that “One thing should be clear- if anyone’s shooting at our planes, we’ll destroy them.”

Iran confirmed it successfully tested its Russian purchased, S-300 system in May of last year, its Air Defense General Farzad Esmaili warning “The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure.” Iran’s purchase was the result of an arms deal renegotiated before sanctions were removed from the Islamic Republic of Iran under the nuclear deal between world powers and the United States under the Obama Administration. Iran deployed the S-300 system to its nuclear sites for “defense purposes”.

The S-300 is a missile defense, surface-to-air system. It is capable of shooting 12 missiles simultaneously and can engage up to 6 targets. The system uses long-range surveillance radars to track its targets in a range of over 300 kilometers.

 

 

 

Photo: S-300 system, Wikimedia Commons, 2018.

Hamas, Hezbollah vow revenge following assassination of operative in Malaysia

Both terror organizations accuse Mossad, Israel of assassination of Hamas scientist, vow revenge; Nasrallah accuses death of “number of Lebanese minds” in past weeks on Israel; Hamas head: The fight between us and Israel has moved abroad and Hamas’ response will be at the time and place of its choosing.

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Both Hamas and Hezbollah accused Israel of assassinating a Hamas engineer in Malaysia, Hamas vowing revenge.

Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip and confirmed “loyal” member of Hamas, was shot by two unknown assailants on Saturday, Malaysian authorities actively investigating the incident.

Batsh was an electrical engineer and lecturer at the University of Kuala Lumpur and a renowned drown expert and even published research on power supply to UAV’s. According to reports from Malaysian media following his death, he was also rocket expert and had been involved in Hamas operations and Islamic groups in Malaysia for years.

Shortly following his death, Hamas vowed revenge, accusing the Mossad of the assassination. The terror organization erected a mourning tent in Jabalia in the Gaza Strip which was attempted by senior Hamas officials who used the opportunity to fuel flames and call on Palestinians in the strip to respond.

Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh threatened retaliation, confirming the terrorist was a loyal member of Hamas. He stated following the attack “There will be an unsettled account between us and the Mossad. We cannot give up on the blood of our sons, youth and scholars. The fight between us and Israel has moved abroad and Hamas’ response will be at the time and place of its choosing.” As with any and all action taken on Hamas, he accused Israel of a “failed attempt by Israel to draw international attention away from its crimes in the Gaza Strip,” in reference to Israel’s defense amidst weeks of violent riots on the border fence.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah also took to accusing the Mossad, claiming that Israel has an “ongoing plan… to not parade any Arab mind that contains knowledge, expertise and experience,” claiming that Israel is “pursuing Arab scientists and academics, from Iran to Tunisia to Malaysia.” He even claimed that a “number of Lebanese minds were killed in the last weeks and months under mysterious circumstances around the world,” likely by Israel.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, responded to the reports that Israel was responsible for the attack. He stated in an interview with Israel Radio that “We heard about it in the news. The terrorist organizations blame every assassination on Israel – we’re used to that. The man was no saint and he did not deal with improving infrastructure in Gaza. He was involved in improving rocket accuracy. We constantly see a settling of accounts between various factions in the terrorist organizations and I suppose that is what happened in this case.”

Malaysian police released sketches of the shooters, confirming that 14 bullets were shot. They have labeled the attack as a “targeted killing and not a terrorist attack,” Deputy Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claiming that a possible “liability for a country that is an enemy of Palestine.”

Hamas has been known to recruit and train operatives in Malaysia. During Operation Protective Edge, operatives in Malaysia underwent training on hang gliders for infiltration into Israel, both Hamas and Malaysia denying reports.

 

 

Photo: Mourner’s tent for terrorist in Gaza Strip, Malaysian Police media report, 2018

Netanyahu on Iran: IDF prepared for any possibility and scenario.

Zarif again threatens to resume uranium enrichment if US places sanctions or leave nuclear deal; Netanyahu to Zarif: I am not impressed by words. I rely on the IDF which are prepared for any possibility and any scenario.

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Iran continued with its threats to resume its nuclear program at a “much greater speed” if the United States were to resume sanctions or leave the nuclear deal.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif addressed the nuclear deal, Israel and Syria during an interview with CBS and when speaking to the press over the weekend, threatening to resume uranium enrichment if additional US sanctions were placed.

On the Trump Administration’s plans to place sanctions on the Islamic Republic, the minister warned that Iran has several options “including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities,” a threat Iran has reiterated in public forums for months. He warned previously that Iran “will make a decision based on our national security interests when the times comes. But whatever that decision will be, it won’t be very pleasant to the United States.”

When addressing Israel’s strikes in Syria, Zarif claimed “I do not believe that we are headed towards regional war,” but did claim Israel “escalated tension by violating Syrian airspace, by violating Syrian territory on a routine basis,” accusing Israel of “continued its violations with international law, hoping to be able to do it with impunity because of US support and trying to find smokescreens to hide behind.”

He quickly denied any involvement in Assad’s chemical weapons program, stating “Iran has been a victim of chemical weapons. We have rejected the use of chemical weapons regardless of the victims or culprits, regardless of the victims or perpetrators.”

On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani claimed Iran’s economy would not be impacted if the US pulled out of the nuclear deal, also threatening resumption of its nuclear program stating, “Our Atomic Energy Organization is fully prepared… for actions that they expect and actions they do not expect.” He stated “I promise the people [of Iran] that the plot of the enemy has been thwarted, and whether or not the nuclear deal remains in effect, we will have no problem.”

Speaking during an IDF General Staff Forum on Sunday commemorating Israel’s 70 years of independence, Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Iran. He stated “I heard today the remarks of the Iranian Foreign Minister who accused Israel of violating international law. This is the foreign minister of a country that sends armed UAVs against Israel and missiles at Saudi Arabia. I also heard his moderate remarks and there is a tremendous gap between his words and the actions of the Revolutionary Guards which are moving an army against Israel with the avowed goal of destroying the State of Israel. I am not impressed by words. I rely on this forum and on the Israel Defense Forces which are prepared for any possibility and any scenario. I raise a glass to the State of Israel and the IDF.”

President Trump will decide in May whether to place sanctions on Iran. As US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has made clear, the United States wants to ensure “that the influence of Iran doesn’t take over the area. They continue to cause problems throughout the region, and we want to make sure that there is a hold.”

 

 

 

Photo: Netanyahu with piece of Iranian drone that entered Israeli territory, 2018. 

Inspection teams collect samples in Syria

Inspectors reportedly collect samples following delays caused by Russia and Syria; US State Department addressed developments surrounding inspections; Nauert: Russia and Syria worked together to sanitize the locations of suspected attacks and remove incriminating evidence.

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Chemical weapons inspectors collected samples from Douma, the location of a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens in April, following delays and attempts to destroy evidence by the Assad regime and Russia.

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Syria last week, but were not able to access sites while Russia and Syria attempted to “sanitize” the area.

US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert spoke to the press on Thursday, confirming at the time that the inspectors were still not given access. She stated “we can confirm that the OPCW team has still not been able to enter Duma in Syria. It is now 12 days since the attack took place on men, women, and children, those innocent civilians, in Syria.”

She then reported that both Russia and Syria were attempting to clear the area of evidence, stating “We have credible information that indicates that Russian officials are working with the Syrian regime to deny and to delay these inspectors from gaining access to Duma. We believe it is an effort to conduct their own staged investigations. Russian officials have worked with the Syrian regime, we believe, to sanitize the locations of those suspected attacks and remove incriminating evidence of chemical weapons use.”

On the dozens of accounts from survivors and witnesses, she added “We have also watched as some people have seemingly been pressured by the government to change their stories about what actually occurred that night. We have reports from credible people on the ground who have indicated that they have been pressured by both Russia and Syria to change their stories, to try to change their stories so that it doesn’t appear that Russia and Syria are responsible for those attacks. We certainly know that Syria is responsible for those attacks.”

Meanwhile, three Belgian chemical companies sold illegal chemicals to Syria and Lebanon, violating European Union sanctions on Syria. Belgium customs filed a criminal case against the companies.

In February, it was discovered that the German company “Krempel” had legally sold military parts for making rockets to Iran. The company sold insulating material “Presspan PSP-3040”, which were later found with their “Made in Germany” label by a photographer in Syria. The parts were used to create chemical weapons by Iran that were provided to Assad and used on Syrian civilians in January 22 and February 1, 2018 chemical attacks.

Rebel forces continue to evacuate civilian populations from the Qalamoun region outside of Damascus over the weekend. The Syrian army is expected to retake a few towns over the coming days.

 

 

Photo: “Made in Germany”, Syrians for Truth and Justice, 2018

Romania to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem

Fourth country to announce it will move embassy to Jerusalem following the United States; Dragnea: decision will produce major benefits for Romania.

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As Israel celebrated 70 years of independence on Thursday, Romania announced that it too will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Following the United States, Guatemala and Honduras, Romania is the fourth country to announce it would relocate its embassy to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. There are are reported six states in talks with Israel to move their embassies.

The decision to move the embassy comes following Israel’s ongoing diplomatic efforts amidst the Palestinians and Arab worlds’ campaigns to delegitimize the State of Israel and its capital. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, traveled to Romania last week, meeting with her counterparts. She stated on the historic move, “This is a historic window of opportunity following the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem. It is time to choose to stand on the right side of history and be one of the pioneer countries to move their embassy to our capital, Jerusalem.”

Romanian politician Liviu Dragnea of the Social Democrat Party confirmed the move, confirming “procedures are beginning”. He stated on the move and relations with Israel, “I think the decision will produce major benefits for Romania. This is also a pragmatic approach. Like all of us, Israel has the right to establish its capital where it wants.” He referred to Israel as a “strong, international influencer”, stating that the move would have “enormous symbolic value”.

Guatemala and the United States are set to relocate it’s embassy to Jerusalem in May of this year. Following Trump’s announcement that the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Guatemala immediately followed, announcing in December that it would also move it’s embassy to Jerusalem. During United Nations General assembly vote on Jerusalem following Trump’s declaration, Guatemala was one of the nine states to vote against the resolution.

Amir will be teaching in Romania in June. You can find all of his speaking events here.

Israel to celebrate 70 years of independence

Celebrations to begin Wednesday evening following end of Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers; 1.9% population growth in past year.

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Ceremonies for Israel’s Yom Hazikaron, the State of Israel’s national Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, will continue Wednesday. A two-minute siren designating silence was observed throughout all of Israel in the morning in remembrance of Israel’s fallen.

Ceremonies will continue until Wednesday evening when Israel will then celebrate her 70 years of independence, “Yom Haatzmaut”. Celebrations will continue into Thursday evening.

Israelis typically attend municipal parades and concerts on Wednesday evening. It is tradition to have barbecues and is one of the most popular times for Israelis to travel in parks and nature sites.

The IDF, Air Force and Navy will put on its annual show over Israel’s coasts. The F-35, Israel’s recently acquired stealth jets, will be displayed this year.

Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations, the Central Bureau of Statistics released Israel’s current population, that of over 8,842,000. In 1948 when the State of Israel was established, the population stood at 806,000.

In the past year, Israel’s population increased by 1.9%, with over 28,000 immigrants making “aliyah” (Hebrew term for immigration by Jews to Israel) and the birth of over 177,000 babies. The Bureau predicts that Israel’s population will rise above 15.2 million by 2048.