Saturday, February 10, 2018

Russian troops were involved in Iranian-Syrian clash with Israel - debkaFile

by debkaFile

The ongoing clash has gone way beyond an Israeli confrontation with Syria and Iran and marks a serious deterioration in the security situation on Israel’s northern border.

The Syrian anti-air missiles which hit an Israeli F-16 early Saturday, Feb. 10, are part of a system operated with and commanded by the Russians from their Kheimim air base. The F-16 was shot down during an Israeli air strike against the Iranian facility at the T-4 air base near Palmyra, which launched a UAV into Israeli airspace that morning. The ongoing clash has therefore gone way beyond an Israeli confrontation with Syria and Iran and marks a serious deterioration in the security situation on Israel’s northern border.

It is unlikely that Israel’s attempt through its diplomatic channels to calm the situation and “restore the status quo ante” will succeed. This situation underwent a fundamental strategic change when Iran sent a UAV over Israel from a Syrian base it shares also with the Russians. It may be assumed that the Russian command, which keeps a close eye on all Syria’s air facilities, was in the know about the Iranian operation and was not surprised when Israeli warplanes retaliated. One of those jets was shot down and its two pilots landed safely in northern Israel. One of them was badly injured.

Whether or not the Russians and Iranians discussed likely Israeli retaliation and decided to ambush one of the planes has yet to be investigated. But it is significant that the second, much broader wave of Israeli air strikes against a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets later Saturday morning, was also attacked by air defense missiles that were fired from Lebanon as well. This has brought Hizballah into the Syrian-Iranian-Russian equation, and even the Lebanese army. Civilian air traffic was consequently halted in northern Israel.

The parties involved in the incident don’t yet appear ready to call it a day. Each is holding out to have the last word, say DEBKAfile’s strategic analysts.

As matters stood at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, Israel and the IDF had come off worst, although another wave of Israeli air strikes was then launched against a broad range of Iranian and Syrian targets.  The downing of an air force jet by a Syrian anti-air weapon, mostly likely an SA-5 (whose range extends into northern Israel) has not been lightly dismissed. All the same, Jerusalem reportedly appealed to Washington and Moscow to use their good services for cutting the clash short. This set a tone in direct contrast to the recent, over-the-top rhetoric of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, especially his unnecessary comment that a two-front conflict is in store in both Syria and Lebanon; and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s warnings to hostile forces, “Don’t test us.”

That is exactly what Iran and Syria tried to do on Saturday morning. It is too soon to tell how this confrontation will play out.  It is still ongoing. As for Russia, DEBKAfile has repeatedly stressed that the regular dialogue Netanyahu conducts with President Vladimir Putin is of limited value. The two leaders have achieved a certain measure of understanding but, in any situation, Putin is su[r]e to be guided solely by Moscow’s strategic interests – even at Israel’s expense.



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IAF Chief of Staff: Syrians have a lot of nerve to fire at us - Uzi Baruch

by Uzi Baruch

Israel 'seriously damaged' Syria's air defense system, IAF Chief of Staff says.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, PM Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, PM Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman
Ariel Hermoni
Residents of the Golan Heights awoke on Saturday to air raid sirens after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace from Palmyra, Syria.

The drone was shot down, and the IAF retaliated by striking Iranian targets in Syria. However, the Syrian army fired Russian-made surface-to-air missiles at the IAF's F-16I "Sufa" fighter jet, which the IAF confirmed as downed.

The plane's pilots ejected, but both sustained injuries.

An IDF investigation showed that just before 4:00a.m. Saturday, the IAF identified an unmanned Iranian aircraft infiltrating into Israeli airspace. The aircraft remained in Israeli airspace for a minute and a half before being shot down.

In response, four IAF F-16I attacked the drone's control center deep in Syria. While they were operating, Syria fired dozens of surface-to-air missiles, and one of them hit an F-16, causing the pilot and navigator to eject once they reached Israeli territory. One of them suffered severe injuries, and the other was injured lightly.

Meanwhile, the IAF responded to the attack on the F-16 by beginning a large-scale operation against Iranian targets in Syria, destroying at least four sites and additional facilities as Syria fired surface-to-air missiles towards the planes, activating Israel's air raid sirens on the northern border.

The situation calmed down later on Saturday, and Israel's top security officials are closely following the events.

IAF Chief of Staff Tomer Bar on Saturday afternoon said, "The Iranian drone was a very advanced model. It remained in Israeli air space for a minute and a half."

"This is the first time one of our planes has been hit by enemy fire since 1983.

"The Syrians have a lot of nerve to fire missiles at us, and we therefore operated in a very wide-scale and comprehensive fashion. The IDF response constitutes a severe blow to the Syrian air force's defenses. We hit their fire control center, communications systems, and Iran's listening centers."

Regarding the pilots' ejection from the planes, Bar said, "The pilots had just attacked the control center which had operated the Iranian drone sent into Israel. We are examining whether the pilots' injuries are from the missile or from the ejection. It's not clear that whether the missile hit the plane, but we estimate that it did. The missiles were fired by Syria, and no one else."

"The pilots did not report that they had been injured, but followed ejection procedures. They were rescued quickly and we are investigating what happened there. We will also check how the plane's defense systems operated."
Uzi Baruch


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The Fight of Our Lives - Mark Tapson

by Mark Tapson

A new documentary exposes the growing threats to the West.

FrontPageMag Editor’s note: The world premiere of The Fight of Our Lives will be held at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California on Monday evening, February 19, through the support of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. For details, click here.

“Civilizations, empires, great powers, can fall apart very fast. Collapse can come suddenly, like a thief in the night. And we should be very wary of assuming that our civilization, the civilization of the early 21st century West, will oblige us by declining gradually.”

That warning from noted historian Niall Ferguson is the opening and the theme of the vital new documentary The Fight of Our Lives: Defeating the Ideological War Against the West from filmmaker Gloria Z. Greenfield.

Greenfield’s previous work includes Body and Soul – The State of the Jewish Nation in 2014 (which I reviewed for FrontPage Mag here), Unmasked Judeophobia in 2011, and The Case for Israel – Democracy’s Outpost in 2009. She is the president of Doc Emet Productions, the simple and powerful motto of which is “Truth in film.” Unlike, say, propagandist Michael Moore’s front-and-center, demagogic presence in his films such as Fahrenheit 9/11, director Greenfield gets out of the way and crafts her narratives about anti-Semitism, history, Judeo-Christian values, freedom, and democracy from the authoritative, articulate arguments of the many intellectuals who lend their expertise to her projects.

Such is the case with her latest documentary, which features compelling observations and insights from well-known historians, journalists, and thinkers such as Niall Ferguson, Victor Davis Hanson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Alan Dershowitz, Melanie Phillips, Bruce Thornton, Raymond Ibrahim, Brooke Goldstein, Ibn Warraq, Alan West, and many more respected commentators from academia, human rights organizations, and think tanks. [Full disclosure: I am included among the featured speakers, as are David Horowitz Freedom Center Fellows Thornton and Ibrahim.]

The Fight of Our Lives addresses the various internal and external threats facing Western civilization today, and cautions that if we don’t recognize these grave dangers now and rouse ourselves to resist and overcome them, then it is no hyperbole to say that the West as we know it will come to – as Ferguson warned – a swift and inexorable end.

The film groups topics into seven “chapters”: “Utopian Masks” (about the subversive internal threats of cultural relativism and multiculturalism), “Crumbling Towers” (on the political radicalization of the university), “Weaponizing Identity” (on the gender and race conflicts that have sprung up with the rise of identity politics), “Breaching the Gates” (on the threat of global Islamic supremacism in the West, whether through terrorism or subversion), “People of the Book” (regarding the Islamic persecution and genocide of Christians and Jews), and “Durable Values” (on the assaults against the values that have made the West great, such as the freedom of speech). It concludes with a chapter on “Standing Up,” which exhorts us, the heirs of the Western tradition, to push back against our enemies and defend our heritage and our future.

Niall Ferguson speaks on the cultural consequences of the recent tsunami of migrants and purported refugees from Muslim countries into Europe, the heart of what used to be called Christendom. That civilization, he claims, may not be around by the end of the century – or it may have changed so much that it’s unrecognizable. The United States, with its rapidly growing Islamic population and influx of illegal aliens across our southern border, is facing a similar demographic transformation.

But we are facing a more significant threat by way of a subversive ideological assault. “The threat from within comes from the people who want to undermine the basis of Western civilization,” says journalist Melanie Phillips. She points out that the Baby Boomer generation was heavily influenced by the political philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who urged revolutionaries to infiltrate the organs of culture – the media, academia, entertainment – and “turn the mind of the West against itself.” That infiltration and indoctrination, as others in the documentary discuss, has been shockingly successful, particularly in our educational institutions.

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, for example, decries “the light fog of fascism which seems to be descending on the universities” and which poses a tremendous danger for the future of Western values. “In universities there is almost a kind of an intellectual masochism, the sense that we should not be proud of the values that we stand for, that we even need to engage in a kind of a ritual self-flagellation,” says Kenneth L. Marcus from the Louis D. Brandeis Center. “There is too little in our universities being taught about what the admirable aspects of the Western tradition are,” declares Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland.

The influence of multiculturalism, as historian Victor Davis Hanson and The Lawfare Project’s Brooke Goldstein point out, has resulted in a moral relativism and a chilling effect on free speech, as any criticism of non-Western cultures is now deemed to be hate speech. Raheel Raza of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow points out the inconvenient truth that not all cultures are created equal; a culture which subjects homosexuals to grisly executions and women to female genital mutilation and honor killings is not on the same moral plane as one which defends individual rights, freedom, and gender equality. But that’s an unacceptable judgment to make in our relativistic culture now.

Speakers such as the Tikvah Fund’s Ruth Wisse, McGill University’s Philip Carl Salzman, and myself address how identity politics has fragmented society into tribal conflicts among races and between the sexes.  Radical feminism, for example, is carrying out an assault on gender relations and masculinity that has contributed to the breakdown of the family unit, an alarming decline of the birth rate in the West, and an emasculated society that is too timid to defend itself from the threat of an aggressively male-dominated Islamic sub-culture within the West, a culture which is outbreeding us.

The Hoover Institution’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali and TBN host and terrorism expert Erick Stakelbeck, among others, discuss the danger of refusing to identify Islam as a supremacist ideology intent on destroying the West and establishing a worldwide caliphate in its place. Meanwhile, such authorities as the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Shimon Samuels and the Freedom Center’s Raymond Ibrahim state that a literal genocide is being waged in the Middle East against Christians and Jews, who are targeted even in Europe and the United States as well, while the West wrestles impotently with self-loathing and willful blindness.

There is much more to this documentary. With The Fight of Our Lives, Gloria Greenfield has created a riveting and disturbing, but ultimately enlightening and inspirational, clarion call for the Western world to wake up and reverse its decadent course before it’s too late. Its urgent message is one that deserves as wide an audience as possible.

In the film, Niall Ferguson recalls Edmund Burke’s observation that civilization is a pact between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. I cannot stress enough how important it is to view The Fight of Our Lives, take its message to heart, and honor that pact by standing up when and where you can in defense of the West.   

For more information on the film, the filmmakers, and the featured commentators, click here.

Mark Tapson is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the editor of


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Hezbollah Border Dispute Places Region On Edge - Ari Lieberman

by Ari Lieberman

Israel employs combination of deterrence and diplomacy to keep enemies off balance.

The winds of war are once again brewing on Israel’s tense northern border. A series of Iranian inspired provocations in Syria and Lebanon are creating the perfect storm for outbreak of hostilities and full-scale conflagration.

On Tuesday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun met with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda where the three discussed Israel’s construction of a border wall and alleged violations of Lebanon’s maritime rights. Following the meeting, Aoun’s office released a belligerent statement accusing Israel of undermining stability and threatening Lebanese action “at various regional and international levels to prevent Israel from building the cement wall...and from the possibility of infringing on Lebanon’s oil and gas wealth and its (territorial) waters.” 

Midweek, Lebanon’s so-called Higher Defense Council released a statement calling on Lebanon’s armed forces to confront Israel’s “aggression” on land and sea. Contemporaneous with the HDC statement, Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah issued pamphlets and a video threatening to attack Israel’s offshore gas rigs. 

Lebanon can best be described as a dysfunctional, failed state. It has long ceased to be an independent, sovereign nation having abdicated nearly all its power to Hezbollah, which means that Lebanon has essentially been transformed into a pawn of the Islamic Republic. In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Lebanese analyst Hanin Ghaddar insightfully pointed out that Hezbollah used to be considered a state within the Lebanese state. Today, it is Lebanon that is a small state within the Hezbollah state. 

That analysis is wholly accurate. Lebanon’s army, a once venerated Lebanese institution that was considered a unifying force and above politics is now nothing more than an auxiliary force for Hezbollah. President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri are thoroughly corrupt and have been bought and paid for by the mullahs. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has little power and is kept in line by implicit threats to his life. His father, Rafic, was murdered in 2005 by Hezbollah operatives acting on behalf of Syrian intelligence agents.

Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah, is using Lebanon’s corrupt and subservient government as a vehicle to initiate belligerent rhetoric and actions against Israel using contrived Israeli border transgressions as a pretext. Lebanon’s claims are of course entirely without merit. Israel has been beefing up its border with Lebanon by constructing a series of berms, cliffs, electrified fencing and concrete barriers as an effective means of preventing Hezbollah border infiltrations. Despite Lebanese claims to the contrary, these fortifications are entirely within Israel’s borders. 

Moreover, Israel has made efforts to settle the maritime dispute and establish firm maritime borders through diplomatic means. However, Hezbollah controlled Lebanon has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the “Zionist entity.”  Lebanon recently broke the status quo, advertising a tender to energy companies to search for natural gas in the so-called Block 9 area of the disputed zone. In response to this overt provocation, Israel moved forward with a bill to unilaterally delineate the maritime border.

So why has there been a sudden uptick in aggressive rhetoric from the Lebanese side? Israel has been constructing fortifications along the border for some time without provoking too much protest from the neighbors to the north. In addition, while the maritime dispute was always on simmer mode, it never reached the boiling point of where it is today. There are two likely answers.

As the civil war in Syria winds down, and Iran consolidates its position in that war-torn country, its emphasis is shifting westward toward Israel. Resources which had previously been expended in Syria can now be deployed against Israel. Hezbollah’s raison d'être is to wage war against the Jewish State but for the last six years, the group has been focused on killing fellow Muslims. Hezbollah wants to once again reposition itself as a leader of the so-called “Lebanese resistance.”  

In addition, it is no secret that Iran is currently experiencing a period of distress. Widespread demonstrations that wracked the country in late 2017 and early 2018 caught the mullahs entirely by surprise and have left them shaken. They were only able to suppress the popular protests through sheer ruthlessness and brutality but they have not managed to extinguish the flame entirely. The embers of resistance are still burning. With increasing regularity, brave Iranian women have taken to the streets and publicly removed their hijabs in overt defiance to the repressive theocratic authorities. This form of protest would have been unfathomable in the recent past. Clearly, Iran is nearing a precipice and its repressive leaders need to deflect attention away from domestic woes. Nothing accomplishes this better than by steering the population to the Muslim world’s proverbial boogey man, Israel.

Despite this new level of belligerence, the prospect of war breaking out this year in the north is still low. In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah undertook an adventure against Israel that cost them dearly. In 33 days of fighting, the terrorist group lost 1,000 fighters and much of its infrastructure. It took them years to recover, and only with the infusion of billions of dollars poured in from Tehran. To put things in proper perspective, in five years of fighting in Syria, Hezbollah is believed to have lost just over 2,000 men killed. The level of firepower that Israel can bring to bear against Hezbollah is unfathomable and Hezbollah and its paymasters in Tehran are cognizant of this. 

This potent level of deterrence should keep the terror group in check, at least in the short term. Moreover, Israel has conveyed messages to Tehran through Russia that an Iranian buildup of forces next to its borders is unacceptable and represents a red line that if crossed would trigger an immediate Israeli military response. The Russians are certainly no friends of Israel but they do understand that Iranian provocations against Israel run counter to Russian interests. Therefore, we can expect Putin, who holds considerable sway in Syria, to pull the reins on Iranian recklessness and adventurism. 

Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.


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Our Radicalized Media: A Clear And Present Danger - Peggy Ryan

by Peggy Ryan

Just as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls on his followers to resist infidels, so this Washington cabal calls on its warriors to resist our government, to obstruct the president.

Most associate the term "radicalized" with ISIS. But radical movements aren't limited to a religion. A jihad is a crusade for a principle or belief involving struggle" and "resistance." 

The Washington establishment, the Deep State, and special interests have launched their own jihad, built on a battle cry to "resist." Today, calls to "resist!" echo through Congress as half of the House and Senate stage a mutiny against a duly elected president.

"Resist!" is the call to arms from Democrat leaders (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) and radical activist groups (Black Lives Matter, Antifa). 

More than 50 organizations have formed to "resist!" the Trump administration. 

Just as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls on his followers to resist infidels, so this Washington cabal calls on its warriors to resist our government, to obstruct the president.

These machinations are not conducted in the shadows, not a secret plot carried out in the dead of night. It's all in our faces. Rush Limbaugh warns of a silent coup, Sean Hannity a "soft coup," Ambassador Bolton the "first coup d'état in [U.S.] history." 

Wow – a domestic plot to take down our government, and the best we can do is chronicle the uprising? How did we get to the place where we witness a coup and tacitly accept it?

In a word, the media, the left's super-soldiers, brought us to this point. 

This powerful propaganda tool is utilized to take the state message into every living room, bedroom, workplace, and gym, anywhere there's a TV or internet, omnipresent, Big Brother. 

Like Hitler's "Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda," the media control information, reporting only news that attacks our president and those working to exonerate him. They bury news of lawlessness that implicates Democrats – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, any member of the leftist cabal.

But why are the media protecting the bad actors? Is it their liberal bent, their far-left ideology? Well, yes and no. Yes, the media are radicalized, wholly devoted to the progressive dogma of the left, but it's more than that. These faux journalists couldn't spew their poison, advocate the overthrow of a president, without their boss's permission, without government approval.

Oh, I know: Time Warner, Comcast, and other private corporations, not government, own the media. Except corporate America and government are one and the same, partners in a corrupt merger. 

The roots of this merger are in the iron triangle, a mutually beneficial three-way relationship among Congress, government bureaucrats (the Deep State), and special interests (corporate).
Iron triangles get their name because they are incredibly hard to remove once they are set in[. A]ll three components need each other in order to survive. It is not in the interests of any component to break the triangle.
This interdependence results in a shared agenda, the big money agenda. So corporate interests buy off Congress, at least enough to have an effective majority, then move to acquire media.
Corporate giants control 90 percent of [U.S.] mass media. These corporations are the special interests[. T]he direct links connect all five of these media conglomerates to the political establishment and the economic and political power[ ]elites of the United States. ... These conglomerates are in large measure responsible for inculcating the social, political, economic, and moral values of both adults and children in the United States.
This media behemoth has turned its back on the Constitution. The media use their unparalleled influence to shield an emerging police state, bury the metastasis of political corruption in our government, and actively collude to remove our president and nullify an election. 

This is not OK. None of it is OK. It's a seditious conspiracy.
Evidence is now surfacing of a tainted FBI that engaged in political espionage and illegal unmasking – dictator tactics to weaponize our intelligence agencies against American citizens, against political opponents. 

Even a biased media should be shocked at these revelations. Yet the press defends the treason, blows off politicized intelligence, and attacks the messengers. There's a media blackout on the Deep State conspiracy, a deliberate attempt to keep this information from the American people. 

Why didn't the Founders warn us of a compromised media? Why only admonishments to protect the free press? 

Director Marshall Herskovitz called it:
Our founding fathers could not have foreseen that freedom of the press might eventually be threatened just as much by media consolidation as by government.
These consolidated media use the power of the press to serve their interests, to advance their agenda. Then, when called out for disinformation, for hiding the government's malfeasance, they use the 1st Amendment as their shield against criticism, exposure, even prosecution. 

But there are limits to free speech.

Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919):
The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic[.] ... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.
I'd say an attempt to usurp our president, to take control of our government in a bloodless coup, constitutes a "substantive evil that Congress has a right to prevent."

Yet we continue to treat this sedition as protected speech – a dangerous abdication. If we attribute benign motives to the subversive media while we allow them to serve as a firewall to America's domestic enemies, as a propaganda arm of the state, we may, in the end, surrender our republic. 

Liberty demands a free press; it's the foundation of our republic, our gatekeeper to democracy. But this is not a free press. It's an enemy combatant attacking the American people in plain sight. 

Ronald Reagan once said, "Don't be afraid to see what you see."

What do we see?

We see media drunk on power that tell us a man is a woman, that a baby is just a suspicious growth, a threat to the mother's health that must be removed. We see media that defend radicals who disrespect our flag, that justify trashing America. We see anti-American, globalist media that promote all other countries over our own. 

We see media as co-conspirators working with the very traitors they're tasked to expose, a press that publishes fake news and outright lies, that withholds the real news that would indict its comrades. 

We see an American Pravda, a state-run media posing as free press to avoid detection. Media that launch coordinated attacks on the president of the United States, that hammer the fake "Russia collusion" narrative 24/7, that "report" on the contrived obstruction of justice narrative, that push the 25th Amendment (insanity) charge, all in their traitorous drive to impeach this president. 

We see an attack dog for the left, media that foment hate for the president, publicly label him a pathological liar, unstable, dangerous, Hitler, a white supremacist. Their hatred is palpable, their attacks unrelenting.

We see a press that conducts an orchestrated defense of seditious Democrats, the Deep State, and Washington's ruling elite, that act as a Praetorian Guard for the insurgents in the palace coup.

This is not a free press. It's a bastardized cabal dressed up as media that is working to defeat the American people and effect a coup d'état. Our free press is gone, eradicated by big money and government charlatans.

This counterfeit media are an enemy of the state, a threat to liberty and democracy, a clear and present danger. 

"Don't be afraid to see what you see."

Peggy Ryan


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Palestinians: The Hamas-ISIS War, Corrupt Leaders - Bassam Tawil

by Bassam Tawil

What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other.

  • The Hamas-ISIS war comes at a time when the Gaza Strip is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis, including shortages of fuel and medicine, that has forced a number of hospitals and medical centers to suspend their services. The suffering of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, however, is apparently of no concern to Hamas.
  • Instead of attending to the needs of his people, Mahmoud Abbas is busy picking a fight with the U.S. administration and its "Zionist" representatives, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt.
  • Once again, the Palestinians have fallen victim to their leaders, who are seemingly preoccupied with one thing alone: pumping millions of dollars of public donations into their own private coffers.
What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other.

Take, for example, the Islamic terror groups Hamas and Islamic State (ISIS). Although the two groups share the same ideology and seek to kill anyone who obstructs their effort to spread their version of Islam to the rest of the world, it now seems that the throats they are looking to slit are each other's.

The quarrel between Hamas and ISIS is not a spat between good guys and bad guys. Rather, it is a dispute between two bloodthirsty, vicious and ruthless Islamic terror groups that have the blood of countless non-Muslims on their hands.

Until recently, Hamas and ISIS were said to be working together, especially in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Hamas has been providing fighters to ISIS in return for weapons smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The cooperation between the two groups enabled ISIS to carry out a series of terror attacks against the Egyptian army and civilians in Sinai.

The past few months, however, have seen a rapid deterioration in relations between Hamas and ISIS, particularly in light of Hamas's effort to mend fences with the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi. The new rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt has apparently enraged ISIS, prompting it to declare war on its Palestinian sister group, Hamas.

Hamas, for its part, has also been wary of ISIS's attempts to infiltrate the Gaza Strip and undermine the regime Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement there.

Hamas brooks no competition. Instead, the group zealously maintains its death grip on the two million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. Hamas already has Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction trying to rein it in, so the last thing it needs is for a rival Islamic group to challenge its rule in Gaza.

But now it is official: Hamas and ISIS are at war with each other. This dispute, of course, should be seen as good news. There is nothing more comforting than watching two radical Islamic groups rip each other to bits. All one can do now is wish both groups total success!

The war between the two terror groups reached its peak this week, with revelations that ISIS had plotted to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

According to an Egyptian intelligence report, Hamas recently arrested 18 ISIS suspects who planned to carry out the assassination in the Gaza Strip. The ISIS cell evidently was planning to place explosives in the "White Mosque" in the Gaza Strip, where Haniyeh prays, the reports said. The plot, they added, was uncovered thanks to cooperation between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.

The war between ISIS and Hamas reached its peak this week, with revelations that ISIS had plotted to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (pictured above). Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images.

Earlier, Hamas had announced that its security forces arrested two ISIS terrorists who infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Sinai. According to Hamas, the two terrorists confessed during interrogation that one of the goals of ISIS in Sinai was to prevent humanitarian aid from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip.

The arrests came shortly after ISIS released a video featuring the execution of two Hamas members in Sinai. One of the men was identified as Musa Abu Zmat, a senior commander of the military wing of Hamas, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Abu Zmat was found guilty of smuggling weapons from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. He was killed with a single shot to the head.

ISIS later released another video in which it accused Hamas of "betraying" the Palestinians by arresting Muslim extremists in the Gaza Strip. ISIS also charged Hamas of failing to thwart U.S. President Donald Trump's recent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and of receiving financial aid from Iran. In the video, ISIS also called for attacking Hamas figures and installations, as well as Christians in the Gaza Strip.

The two Hamas men who were executed had fled the Gaza Strip to join ISIS, Palestinian sources said. Mukhaimar Abu Sa'ed, a lecturer with the Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip, said that several Hamas members had defected because they felt that their group was "too lenient" and did not impose Islamic sharia law in the Gaza Strip.

In yet another sign of mounting tensions between the two terror groups, earlier this month, ISIS executed two more Palestinians on charges of "collaboration" with Hamas. The two, Ramez Abdullah and Bashar Said, had lived in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk near Damascus and were executed in Syria.

Hamas, according to some reports, has rounded up more than 500 ISIS followers in the Gaza Strip in the past few months as part of a massive crackdown on the group. Hamas also seems to be taking the recent ISIS threats against its leaders seriously. Sources close to Hamas revealed that dozens of ISIS terrorists have managed to infiltrate the Gaza Strip in the past few months to prepare for a wave of attacks against Hamas targets.

The Hamas-ISIS war comes at a time when the Gaza Strip is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis, including shortages of fuel and medicine, that has forced a number of hospitals and medical centers to suspend their services. The suffering of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, however, is apparently of no concern to Hamas.

Hamas is too busy holding on to power at any cost to expend any effort on helping the residents of Gaza. Hamas is prepared to fight to the last Palestinian to remain in power. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, also does not seem to care much about the plight of its constituents in the Gaza Strip.

Despite the recent "reconciliation" agreement between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah, the Palestinian president has doggedly refused to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip last year, thereby further aggravating the humanitarian crisis there.

Abbas's ultimate goal is to bring about the collapse of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. He, too, is prepared to sacrifice as many Palestinians as needed to achieve his goal.

Instead of attending to the needs of his people, Abbas is also busy picking a fight with the US administration and its "Zionist" representatives, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt.

Hamas has its hands full trying to prevent both ISIS and Fatah from taking over the Gaza Strip, while Palestinians are deprived of medical treatment, jobs and food. The fight with ISIS is giving Hamas a taste of its own medicine – blood and death.

Once again, the Palestinians have fallen victim to their leaders, who are seemingly preoccupied with one thing alone: pumping millions of dollars of public donations into their own private coffers.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.


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Germany: Merkel Pays High Price for Fourth Term - Soeren Kern

by Soeren Kern

"This will not be long."

  • "Merkel will govern...but her government will be under the heading 'this will not be long.' This refers to Merkel, and also to the fact that in many parts of the country there is the feeling that 'this' should not continue." — Kurt Kister, Editor-in-Chief, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
  • "The CDU retains control of the beautiful-sounding, but in fact powerless, Ministry of Economy, the unpopular Ministry of Health, the crisis-prone Ministry of Defense and the shadowy existence of ministerial posts in the Chancellery, for education and agriculture. That is little for the strongest faction in the Bundestag." — Editorial, Münchner Merkur.
  • "The CDU was transformed into Merkel's own personal political party. On the way, though, the competition of political ideas—the policy conflicts that are the lifeblood of democracy and which provide voters with direction—was lost." — René Pfister, head of the Berlin bureau, Der Spiegel.
Negotiators from Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), their Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) have agreed in principle on a deal for a new "grand coalition" government—one that, in fact, is the same as the one that governed prior to the last election in September 2017.

The deal, if formally ratified by the SPD's rank and file members at a special party congress on March 4, would ensure that Germany has a new government by Easter—and that Merkel, already in power for 12 years, will remain in office for a fourth tenure as chancellor, albeit in a much-weakened position.

Unusually, the 177-page agreement, reached on February 7, is subject to review in two years, when the parties will reassess the coalition. Analysts have speculated that it may be an opportunity for Merkel finally to step down.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (center), stands with Martin Schulz (right), the leader of the Social Democratic Party, and Horst Seehofer (left), Governor of Bavaria and leader of the Christian Social Union, after government coalition negotiations on February 7, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

To ensure the deal, the three parties made concessions to each other, all in an effort to prevent fresh elections, in which the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), riding high in the polls, would almost strengthen its position in the German parliament, where it already is the main opposition party.

Merkel's greatest concessions involved the allocation of cabinet positions. Her CDU relinquished control over the influential Interior and Finance ministries. The SPD will now control the three top ministries: finance, foreign affairs and labor. The CSU, which advocates a harder line on immigration than Merkel, will take over the Interior Ministry.

The key points of the deal included agreements on healthcare and housing reform; a commitment to international climate goals; a "billion-euro program" to ensure that all Germans, including those in rural areas, have access to a high-speed internet connection by 2025; and restrictions on German arms exports to all countries taking part in the war in Yemen. The restrictions would include Saudi Arabia, a key market for German defense companies.

With respect to the European Union, the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed to grant more powers to the European Parliament and to create a European Monetary Fund—presumably funded in large measure by Germany—to help protect the eurozone against future financial crises. More significantly, the agreement promises "more investment" for the European Union. The SPD said this amounted to "an end to austerity measures"—cuts to public spending—imposed on the European Union by Germany after the eurozone crisis.

On the most contentious issue, namely that of immigration, the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed to cap the number of asylum seekers coming to Germany at between 180,000 and 220,000 per year. Merkel has long resisted an upper limit on asylum seekers, as demanded by the CSU, but after a million CDU voters defected to the AfD in the last election, she agreed.

The coalition deal also caps the number of migrants brought to Germany through family reunification (Familiennachzug) visas at 1,000 per month for those with so-called subsidiary protection, a temporary protection that falls short of full asylum. The category usually involves migrants fleeing war-torn countries but who cannot prove that they personally face any immediate danger. "Subsidiary protection applies when neither refugee protection nor an entitlement to asylum can be granted and serious harm [torture or death penalty] is threatened in the country of origin," according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

On closer examination, however, the compromise appears to be cosmetic: most of those under subsidiary protection in Germany are not married and do not have children; according to German law, they would not be allowed to bring extended family members in any case. Moreover, those under subsidiary protection involve a relatively small percentage of the migrants in Germany.

Only 200,000 of the more than two million migrants who have arrived in Germany since 2015 are under subsidiary protection, according to the Federal Employment Agency. Of those, between 50,000 and 60,000 have applied for family reunification.

In any event, the cap makes exceptions for "humanitarian grounds," prompting SPD leader Martin Schulz to describe the agreement as a "1,000-plus regulation."

In other words, the "compromise" that supposedly limits the number of family reunifications appears to be a public relations gimmick aimed at persuading German voters that the mainstream parties are taking a harder stance on migration, apparently in an effort to blunt voter appeal for the AfD.

The coalition deal was met with considerable skepticism from across Germany's political spectrum.

A poll conducted for Die Welt on February 8 found that 63%—almost two-thirds of voters—believe that Merkel was "weakened" or "clearly weakened" by the outcome of the coalition negotiations. Only 16% said the chancellor "strengthened" or "clearly strengthened" while 18% said she was neither strengthened nor weakened.

Many commentators said the agreement foreshadowed the beginning of the end of the Merkel era.

The Editor-in-Chief of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Kurt Kister, described Merkel's new cabinet as "a government with an expiry date." He wrote:
"Yes, there were no winners in these coalition negotiations—just as there was no clear winner in the Bundestag election. Maybe the CSU has done the best. Party leader Horst Seehofer, who has nothing left to lose, will be the most important minister [Interior Minister] of the CDU/CSU. Seehofer's upper limit for immigrants now stands as a corridor in the coalition paper: His party (and the CDU) will politically benefit from the upper limit, which corresponds to the ideas of a majority of Germans and also represents the limit of what important parts of the SPD will accept. The SPD has also achieved a lot in the short coalition negotiations, especially by gaining control over the major ministries.
"If a majority of SPD members do not oppose the coalition deal, Angela Merkel will have achieved her most important goal: there will be a (relatively) stable government. If the fourth Merkel cabinet comes about, it will be similar in some respects to the last cabinets of Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl. Merkel will govern...but her government will be under the heading 'this will not be long.' This refers to Merkel, and also to the fact that in many parts of the country there is the feeling that 'this' should not continue."
The Berlin correspondent for Deutsche Welle, Volker Witting, wrote:
"Merkel knows that her fourth chancellorship will probably be the last. Even before the federal election, it had taken her long time to decide on running for a fourth term. And not only the opposition is pushing for renewal. Some in the CDU are counting on Merkel leaving—better sooner than later; even if the critics say that only behind closed doors.
"Above all, the right wing of her party cannot forgive Merkel for moving the once conservative CDU far in a liberal-social democratic direction. Conservatives have been grumbling for a long time, but few express their displeasure openly, even though they are thinking about an end to the Merkel era. For instance, Schleswig-Holstein Prime Minister Daniel Günther recently said: "A new government must include individuals who have a perspective for the post-Angela Merkel period."
The Münchner Merkur, in an article entitled, "CDU grumbles about Merkel: 'One could hardly have negotiated worse,'" wrote:
"The draft agreement could secure Merkel's political survival, but puts pressure on her internally. The price for the agreement with the SPD and CSU is relinquishing the most important ministries. Foreign affairs, finance, labor—all gone. The CDU retains control of the beautiful-sounding, but in fact powerless Ministry of Economy, the unpopular Ministry of Health, the crisis-prone Ministry of Defense and the shadowy existence of ministerial posts in the Chancellery, education and agriculture. That is little for the strongest faction in the Bundestag."
Germany's largest-circulation newspaper, Bild, in an article entitled, "Help, I have shrunk the CDU!," documented a growing rebellion against Merkel from within the CDU. Reaction to the coalition agreement included comments such as: "a political mistake," "completely unacceptable," "our own party is being wiped out," "it bears the handwriting of the SPD," "devastating," and "not good." Bild wrote: "The fact is: The CDU has lost more influence in the new government than it has gained. The Merkel critics in the CDU camp are getting louder."

In an essay entitled, "Why German Politics Can't Move Beyond Merkel," René Pfister, head of Der Spiegel's Berlin bureau, wrote:
"Ever since the German general election last September, there has been a whiff of farewell hovering over everything. In that vote, Merkel's conservatives suffered their worst result since 1949, and if indications aren't completely misleading, it looks as though Merkel is in the process of arranging for a successor to lead the Christian Democrats (CDU) once she's gone.
"Germans are strangely divided over the woman who has governed for so long; the younger generation can no longer remember a time when a male chancellor led the country. On the one hand, there is a desire for change, a Merkel fatigue that made itself apparent in the brief hype surrounding the launch of Martin Schulz's candidacy a year ago, but also in the rise of the anti-Merkel party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). On the other hand, Germans seem to be afraid of the very change they long for, with 51 percent of voters in favor of Merkel remaining chancellor. Behind Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, she is the most popular politician in Germany.
"But it is completely unclear what will come after Merkel. One of the characteristics of the later Merkel years has been that all political impetus is derived entirely from her. It begins with the AfD, whose name itself is a reference to Merkel's famous declaration that there was no alternative to saving the euro.
"Depending on your perspective, the AfD is either the ugly child of the Merkel era or an expression of a healthy democracy. But there can be no doubt that there would never have been an AfD without Merkel. For the right-wing populist party, she is both a mother figure and the focus of hatred. The party rejects nobody as vehemently as it does Merkel. Indeed, the emotion inherent in the party's repudiation of the chancellor is reminiscent of a family feud.
"A popular question these days is what, exactly, will remain from the Merkel era once she is gone. Adenauer is known for anchoring the country in the Western community of nations. Kohl's legacy is the introduction of the euro. But one can make the argument that with her political style, Merkel changed the country more fundamentally than any of her predecessors.
"The dominant trend these days is that of the political movement...the established big-tent parties seem strangely outmoded, trapped in a corset of rituals and ideological constraints. But it was likely Merkel herself who first realized how potent it could be if the party leader emancipated herself from her own party's doctrine.
"Merkel has never had the kind of charisma possessed by [France's President Emmanuel] Macron. And she certainly didn't transform the CDU into a vehicle of her own ambition with the vehemence and speed that Sebastian Kurz transformed the ÖVP [Austrian People's Party]. But the persistence with which she relieved the party of everything that once distinguished it from the political competition had a similar effect over time: What ultimately mattered was no longer the common convictions held by the party, but the party chair's determination to cling to power. The CDU was transformed into Merkel's own personal political party.
"On the way, though, the competition of political ideas—the policy conflicts that are the lifeblood of democracy and which provide voters with direction—was lost. As was the CDU's identity. The result is a battle over the party's direction that has been raging for quite some time, but has less to do with policy than with the question: 'Where do you stand on Merkel?'"
Writing for Der Spiegel, columnist Jan Fleischhauer warned that with the SPD controlling the Finance Ministry, the new coalition government would further increase runaway government spending:
"The next government knows how to spend money without stopping. If there ever was a willingness to be modest, then it was lost in the coalition negotiations. One should withhold numbers in columns, one does not want to bore readers. But it has to be here. 1,392 trillion euros: this is the number of expenditures the federal budget plan will provide for the current legislative period. Because this fabulous sum is not enough for the leaders of the grand coalition, they have agreed to spend another 46 billion euros, so that really every wish can be fulfilled.
"Even before the new cabinet is sworn in, Angela Merkel can claim to be the most expensive chancellor of all time.
"I respect the Chancellor, really. I admire the perseverance and the conscientiousness with which she accepts every problem that arises. I do not know anybody who works so hard for our country. She never sleeps for more than four or five hours, then she starts all over again. Yet she never complains.
"I only think that Angela Merkel has too light a relationship to other people's money. That's my problem with her.
"Deciding for oneself how one wants to spend what one has earned seems to her to be a strange thought. Every human being can notice the imprints of childhood. The older you get, the more it emerges. Merkel now combines the rectory [of her father who was a pastor] and the former Communist East Germany. They call it evangelical frugality when they find the reference to socialism too hard: it amounts to the same thing.
"You only have to look at the range of services offered by the modern welfare state. There is nothing that does not matter. It provides discounted opera tickets and language courses in Tuscany as well as free marriage counseling. You can think that's social. I think it is frivolous.
"Chancellery head Peter Altmaier had hopes to follow Wolfgang Schäuble as Finance Minister. Like his boss, Altmaier has a rather loose way of dealing with other people's money. Basically, he is convinced that every euro that the citizens spend themselves is a betrayal of the Chancellor, who knows a thousand times better what is good for the country. Now the Ministry of Finance goes to the SPD."
The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, in a commentary article entitled, "Merkel IV," wrote:
"The result of the coalition negotiations can be summed up in one sentence: Angela Merkel saves her chancellorship, Schulz rescues himself into the Foreign Ministry, Seehofer saves himself to Berlin. It is an alliance of three politicians whose time has already expired."
On Tichys Einblick, a leading German liberal-conservative blog, Rainer Zitelmann argued:
"Actually, all opposition parties in the German Bundestag can be happy. From a broader perspective, the SPD is being crushed between the Left Party and the Greens and the CDU between [classical liberal] FDP and AfD. Merkel does not care. She knows that this is her last term."
In an essay entitled, "The Eternal Merkel," the Editor-in-Chief of the Westdeutschen Allgemeine Zeitung, Lutz Heuken, wrote:
"Angela Merkel has been chancellor since 2005—and has long since secured a place in the history books. For many citizens, the chancellor was a guarantor of stability for many years. But like so many real or supposedly great things in history, Angela Merkel made a crucial mistake: she missed the timely farewell with dignity.
"Maybe because she considers herself irreplaceable. Perhaps because no one in her environment dares to point out to her the obvious signs that she has long passed her zenith. Or perhaps because there really is no one in the CDU who could replace her in the short term because she did not allow anyone to, because of her drive for pure power.
"The SPD is now—forcibly—planning a change of leadership and generation from Martin Schulz to Andrea Nahles. At the CDU, such a change is currently unimaginable. This is not good for the Union and almost tragic for Angela Merkel."
If the SPD's 460,000 members fail to approve the coalition agreement, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier probably will call fresh elections. Polls indicate that the outcome would be largely the same as the elections held on September 24, 2017, when Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance won around 33% of the vote, its worst electoral result in nearly 70 years. Merkel's main challenger, Martin Schulz's SPD won 20.5%, the party's worst-ever showing.

According to the latest ARD poll "Germany Trend" (Deutschlandtrend) published on February 1, support for the CDU is at 33%, while support for the SDP fell to 18%, a record low, and only four points ahead of the AfD, which increased to 14%. Together, the two grand coalition parties barely scored 51%.

In the January 18 edition of the same poll, only 45% of voters said that another grand coalition was a good idea; 52% of respondents said it was not. The same poll showed that 53% of respondents think it would be very good or good if Merkel remains in office (a three-point decline compared to the previous month). Forty-nine percent of the respondents said that Merkel should complete a full term; 45% said she should leave prematurely.

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.

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'Have you no decency?' US ambassador lashes out at Haaretz - Israel Hayom Staff

by Israel Hayom Staff

Outraged by Haaretz commentary following a deadly terrorist attack, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweets, "Four young children are sitting shiva for their murdered father and this publication calls their community a 'mountain of curses.'"

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman
Photo: Arik Sultan 
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman leveled some harsh criticism at Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Friday over a recent article by columnist Gideon Levy about Friedman's donation of an ambulance to the settlement of Har Bracha.

"What has become of @Haaretz?" Friedman tweeted on Friday in response to Levy's article, in which the controversial columnist argued that Har Bracha – literally a "mountain of blessings" – was actually a "mountain of curses" because its very existence as a settlement is a "provocation" that stands in the way of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Earlier this week, a Palestinian terrorist murdered Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, a 29-year-old resident of Har Bracha, as the latter was trying to catch a ride to his nephew's brit milah celebration. Following the attack Monday, Friedman tweeted that "20 years ago I gave an ambulance to Har Bracha hoping it would be used to deliver healthy babies. Instead, a man from Har Bracha was just murdered by a terrorist, leaving behind a wife and four children."

In response to the tweet, Levy wrote Thursday that "with Friedman's ambulance or without it, Har Bracha is a mountain of curses. It was a settlement established, like all the others, to poke a stick in the Palestinian eye and drive a stake into any chance of an agreement."

Friedman was outraged by Levy's column, which was published before the Ben-Gal's shiva – the traditional seven-day mourning period – had ended. Friedman hit back with another tweet, saying, "Four young children are sitting shiva for their murdered father and this publication calls their community a 'mountain of curses.' Have they no decency?"

Friedman's tweet did not go unanswered for long. Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken responded with his own retort, asserting that "Gideon Levy is right."

"As long as the policy of Israel, that your Government and yourself support, is obstructing peace process, practical annexation of the territories, perpetuating apartheid, fighting terror but willing to pay its price, there will be more Shivas," Schocken tweeted.

Israel Hayom Staff


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