13,000 teens complete Hamas training camps to emulate ‘suicide martyrs’

weapons-trainingThe Hamas government in Gaza celebrated the graduation on Monday of paramilitary camps geared at training high-school children “to follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs.”  The camps, titled “the pioneers of liberation,” are run by Hamas’s ministries of education and interior. Some 13,000 students in grades 10-12 participated in the one-week training camps this year, compared to 5,000 last year when the program was launched, Israeli sources with knowledge of the program said.  The corps of instructors consists mainly of active members of Hamas’s security forces, and the curriculum includes weapons training, first aid, self defense, marching exercises and “security awareness” classes on identifying Israeli spies.  Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Interior Minister Fathi Hammad and Education Minister Usama Mzeini attended the graduation ceremony on Monday, each delivering fiery speeches stressing the importance of military training in developing a new generation of Palestinian combatants.

Continue reading.

‘Day of rage’: Police, protesters clash in Israel at plans to evict 40,000 Bedouins

day of rage

Hundreds gathered in Israel on Saturday to rally against the government’s plans to resettle some 40,000 Bedouins. The proposal has triggered accusations of “discrimination” and “ethnic cleansing” from activist groups, also sparking a protest in the UK.  The demonstrations were organized as part of an international “Day of Rage” against the proposed law which would arrange for Bedouin settlements to be created in southern Israel’s Negev Desert, also known as the Prawer-Begin plan.  The Prawer Plan would see up to 40,000 (according to local media) and up to 70,000 (according to the Guardian) Bedouin removed from their homes in Negev, southern Israel. The plan also provided for the demolition of about 40 villages and confiscation of 70,000 hectares of land.  The Israeli government has said the Bedouins will be re-homed and granted compensation for the move. However, the UK-based charity, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said that the plan heralds “the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”

Continue reading.

Officals: Israelis in secret trip to inspect Saudi bases. Could be used as staging ground for strikes against Iran

Iranstrike

TEL AVIV — Israeli personnel in recent days were in Saudi Arabia to inspect bases that could be used as a staging ground to launch attacks against Iran, according to informed Egyptian intelligence officials.  The officials said Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other Arab and Persian Gulf countries have been discussing the next steps toward possible strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites.  The officials said the U.S. passed strong messages to Israel and the Saudis that the Americans control radar capabilities over the skies near Iran and that no strike should be launched without permission from the Obama administration.  It was unclear whether the purported visit to Saudi Arabia by Israeli military and intelligence officials signals any real preparation for a strike or if the trip was meant to keep pressure on the West amid Israeli fears about the current deal with Tehran.

Continue reading.

Christian Israeli-Arab wants to build Rio-style Jesus statue near Nazareth

Bishara Shlayan, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, is hoping to build a huge statue of Jesus on Mount Precipice, near his home city.  Shlayan told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that he has already begun fund-raising for the project and that he is getting positive feedback from the Israeli Arab Christian community as well as some Jews.  He sees the statue as being similar to but larger than the huge Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Shlayan is also looking to found a Christian Arab political party, which he says is still being sorted out, but has settled on the name “Bnei Habrit [Allies of the Covenant], the Christian party of Israel.”  The party would support Israel as a Jewish state and national or army service for Arabs.  “I created the Bnei Habrit party and now I have created the Diglei Habrit [Flags of the Covenant] organization,” in order to carry out the statue project, he said.  Mount Precipice, also known as Mount Kedumim, is believed by some to be the place where the people of Nazareth attempted to push Jesus off the mountain after rejecting him as the messiah. In the end he was able to jump off and disappeared, according to Christian tradition.

Continue reading.

Was Jesus’ Brother’s Burial Box Vandalized?

A limestone box said to have once held the bones of the brother of Jesus was at the center of the most controversial forgery case in decades — and it was allegedly vandalized by the Israeli government before being returned to its owner.  Called the James ossuary, it is a small stone box with an inscription that reads, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”  That Jesus had a sibling at all is a controversial idea disputed by the Roman Catholic Church. If the box itself were authentic, it would be considered the first physical link to Jesus.  A three-judge panel of Israeli Supreme Court justices ordered the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to return the box and several other artifacts to antiquities collector Oded Golan last month, after the agency spent 10 years accusing Golan of forging the items.  The box will soon go on display for the public to view for the first time since 2002. There’s just one problem: Reddish stains now appear over the inscription, remnants of a silicon substance applied by the Israel Police Forensics Laboratory to help determine the authenticity of the James ossuary.

Continue reading.

America threatened with ‘heaviest damage in history’

In a pointed message to Washington, the second in just days, an Iranian general has warned of great destruction being delivered to the United States.  “The Americans’ catch-phrase ‘the military option is on the table’ (over the nuclear issue) is a bluff,” said Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces.  “They are aware of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s capabilities. The slightest military mistake against Iran will make the Americans witness the heaviest damage in their history in their own eyes,” the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Monday.

Continue reading.

Israel quietly feeding Syrian refugees

(ISRAEL TODAY) – Over half a million refugees fleeing Syria’s ongoing civil war have flooded into northern Jordan over the past year. Nearly half of them are living in a large U.N. refugee camp, but the rest are relying on care from various NGOs, including at least one from Israel.  Among the organizations funding and distributing physical and emotional aid to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians is IsraAid, an Israeli humanitarian group with years of experience in Africa and other regions. In Jordan, the group is buying and putting together large sacks of essential goods that are passed out to Syrian refugees daily. But, they must do so discreetly.

Forty Years Later: Soviet/Arab Secrets of Yom Kippur War Revealed

Forty years ago today, a Egyptian/Syrian invasion surprised and almost destroyed Israel. The attack was the culmination of a complex Soviet/Arab disinformation plot and secret military build-up. We know this because of Russian dissident-historian Pavel Stroilov, and from professional Arabists who over the years have paid attention to the Arab press and the antics of Middle Eastern regimes.  In the Russian archives, Stroilov uncovered the secret diaries of Anatoly Chernyaev, deputy chief of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union International Department (a successor to the Comintern). On July 15, 1972, Chernyaev’s diary reports:

Continue reading.

Lebanese encroachment on Israeli waters could lead to war

Oil rig

Israel is being advised to take legal, and possibly even military action in response to Lebanon’s issuing of an offshore energy exploration license that encroaches on Israel’s territorial waters.  Early last month, Lebanon issued licenses in five blocks of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). One of those licenses expanded the territory into Israel’s EEZ, with Lebanon announcing that the area had a high potential for natural gas discovery.  Globes reports that international law experts are telling Israel that it must respond – either in court or through military force – or risk losing some of its maritime territory.

Continue reading.

Netanyahu expected to press Obama to keep Iran sanctions in place

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Sanctions against Iran must remain unless it ends its nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to tell President Obama Monday.  The two leaders are to meet in the White House Oval Office at 11:15 a.m. EDT and then have a working lunch about an hour later, the administration said Sunday evening.  Their meeting and lunch are to take place three days after Obama held a 15-minute phone conversation with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — the first conversation between U.S. and Iranian leaders since 1979.

Continue reading.

Syria, Iran issue first explicit warning to Israel if US attacks

A senior Syrian official on Monday issued a first direct warning that if attacked, his country would retaliate against Israel. Khalaf Muftah, a senior Baath Party official who used to serve as Syria’s assistant information minister, said in a radio interview that Damascus would consider Israel “behind the [Western] aggression and [it] will therefore come under fire.”  “We have strategic weapons and we’re capable of responding,” he said. “Normally the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel.”  Muftah concluded with a warning that “If the US or Israel make the mistake of taking advantage of the chemical issue… the region will go up in flames… that will affect security not only in the region but across the world.”

Continue reading.

Arabs Ready Anti-Israeli Resolution Over Nukes

After a two-year hiatus, Arab nations are relaunching efforts to single out Israel for criticism at a major international conference by preparing a resolution over the country’s alleged nuclear arsenal, suggesting that the Jewish state’s refusal to acknowledge it has such arms is threatening Middle East peace.  The Arab push was a mainstay of recent annual meetings of the 159-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, where it was usually narrowly voted down by Israel’s allies. It was suspended in 2011 and 2012, in what Arab nations viewed as a concession to keep hopes alive of high-profile talks on banning weapons of mass destruction from the Mideast.

Continue reading.

Oil & gas reserves add to existing tensions between Israel & Lebanon

TEL AVIV: The recent discovery of oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean off the Israeli, Cypriot and Lebanese coasts is a great boost to the independence and self-sufficiency of these countries.  But the discoveries also add to existing tensions between Israel and Lebanon as both are claiming the oil and gas reserves as their own.  In April, natural gas from the Israeli Tamar reserve began to flow from an offshore rig in the Mediterranean Sea into Israel, giving the country the chance to hone its energy security and freedom.

Continue reading.

Israel prepares for the worst as tensions over Syria grow

Following its long-held policy on such matters, the Israeli government has neither confirmed nor denied bombing an arms convoy inside Syria last weekend – the third such attack this year.  But Israel is widely believed to be responsible and had previously said it would intervene to stop weapons reaching its arch-enemy in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah.  It is a risky strategy for Israel – desperate to stop Hezbollah getting advanced weaponry but increasing tensions in an already volatile region.  Nearly seven years ago, during Israel’s two month-long summer conflict with Hezbollah, I spent several weeks in northern Israel covering the war.

Continue reading.