March 14/14


Bible Quotation for today/The Sower Parable
Luke 8,4-15/"When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen! ’Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that "looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand." ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance."

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
Please pray for me.
Pape François ‏
Priez pour moi.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 14/14

Why barbarity wins, in Syria and Crimea/March 13, 2014/By Michael Young/The Daily Star/March 14/14

Who will fall in Syria’s fourth year/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/March 14/14

Preventing an Iranian Breakout after a Nuclear Deal/James F. Jeffrey and David Pollock/Washington Institute/March 14/14

Jordan's Energy Balancing Act/By: David Schenker and Simon Henderson/Washington Institute/ March 14/14
Saudi Arabia is protecting itself/By: Mshari Al-ZaydiAsharq Akawsat/March 14/14

AIPAC is not what it used to be/By: Eitan Haber/Ynetnews/March 14/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 14/14
Lebanese Related News

Finland's President Vows Support for Lebanon to Confront Burden of Refugees

Al-Rahi Holds Phone Conversations with Berri, Salam to 'Salvage the Country'
Mustaqbal: Policy Statement Should Not Disregard Baabda Declaration
People Trapped in Houses as Rain Water Floods Minieh
Army Says Endeavors Decreased Car Bombings, Uncovered Prominent Fugitives

Child Dies, 10 Hospitalized as Mysterious Illness Strikes Akkar Town

Lightning Strike Kills 3 Family Members in Metn

Roux Hopes New Cabinet Cooperates with STL Defense Teams

SCC to Stage Sit-In in Support of Salam's Cabinet

EDL Officials Warn of Darkness if Cabinet Doesn't Approve Fuel Oil Funds

U.N. Experts Probe Libyan Arms Transfer to Lebanon, 13 Other States

Lebanese Man 'Caught' Trying to Buy Immigrant's Liver in Spain

Kidnapper Forces Citizen to Relinquish Ownership of Apartment as Debt Payment

Woman Arrested for Attempting to Smuggle Narcotic Pills into Tripoli Jail

Terrorists 'feel the noose around their necks': Lebanese Army
Judge to interrogate Abbas next week
Arsal ‘paying cost of support for rebels’

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Syria Closes Embassies in Kuwait, Saudi

Islamic Jihad: Gaza truce now in effect

At least 50 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel - pro-Iranian Jihad Islami payback for missile ship seizure

Canada Concerned by Renewed Rocket Attacks from Gaza

Mubarak's last PM Backs Sisi for Egypt's President

Rouhani Extends Hand to Gulf Monarchies

Iran Seeks to Allay Gulf Arab Nuclear Fears

WHO Says Aid Groups Fill Health Care Gaps in Failed States

Gulf Chief Bankers Meet despite Qatar Political Row

Kerry Says Israeli-Palestinian 'Mistrust' at Highest Levels

Erdogan Accuses Opponents of 'Terrorizing' Streets  


Why barbarity wins, in Syria and Crimea
March 13, 2014/By Michael Young/The Daily Star
News that Syrian President Bashar Assad had been accepted into the Russian Academy of Sciences makes us wonder about the institution.
Perhaps not surprisingly, last year the academy was placed under tighter government control. Assad didn’t complain, declaring “Russia has re-established balance in international relations, after long years of hegemony” by the United States. For three years, Russia has indeed underwritten the most barbaric crimes of the Syrian regime. Yet it was only when President Vladimir Putin began preparing the annexation of Crimea that many people in the West realized the kind of individual they were up against. President Barack Obama has declared any secession vote in Crimea illegitimate, and warned: “We are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.” George Kennan once lamented the American tendency to make foreign policy pronouncements that had no practical consequences and that the United States was unwilling to bolster in a forceful way. We will have to see what Obama does in Crimea, but we can say that, when it comes to Syria, the U.S. has repeatedly confirmed Kennan’s doubts.
What does it tell us if Assad ultimately wins the Syrian conflict? This will surely take years, if it happens at all. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that it does happen. Will it not send a message even more damning to the notion of an international community based on the rule of law than Putin’s maneuvers in Crimea?
In the days of George W. Bush, it was easy for many governments to describe what they did not want in terms of international behavior. They would simply point to the American president. When candidate Obama traveled to Germany during his election campaign, he was greeted by the multitudes in Berlin, there to say that they did not want another Bush in Washington. That same impulse motivated the Nobel Committee when it awarded Obama the peace prize in 2009.
But saying what one doesn’t want is much easier than saying what one does want. And until now the international community has failed to work out effective standards for international behavior, based on a common understanding of international law. This is extraordinarily difficult given the structure of the United Nations, which grants the five permanent members of the Security Council the right to veto any decision with which they disagree.
At the heart of the international community, and the U.N. in particular, lies a glaring contradiction. It is commonly believed that the establishment of an international body after World War II was designed to serve as the cornerstone of a global order based on the rule of law. In reality, as historian Mark Mazower has written, the U.N., like its predecessor the League of Nations, “was a product of empire and indeed, at least at the outset, regarded by those with colonies to keep as a more than adequate mechanism for its defense. The U.N., in short, was the product of evolution not revolution...”
Yet over time, there have been numerous efforts to reinforce the universalist ideals of the U.N. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre a year later, there emerged a new notion in international relations that came to be called the responsibility to protect, or R2P. States had a responsibility to protect their citizens from crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. When they failed to do so, the international community had the responsibility to intervene and could, as a last resort, act militarily after a vote in the Security Council.
In other words, a norm resting on an idealistic interpretation of the U.N.’s role was to be implemented by a body that had institutionalized great power dominance and state sovereignty – therefore was largely antithetical to the universalist aspirations of the R2P supporters.
This disconnect serves as a useful reality check whenever someone describes the U.N. in fulsome terms. One could make a good case that the Bush administration violated international law by invading Iraq in 2003; but one could make an equally compelling case that the U.N. repeatedly failed to implement its own resolutions on Iraq, particularly Resolution 688 of April 1991, which condemned the repression of the civilian population by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Today, the Security Council seems utterly incapable of agreeing to such a resolution when it comes to Syria. Mass slaughter is continuing, while room is being made for Assad in the Russian Academy of Sciences by a man directing the takeover of the sovereign territory of a foreign state. Meanwhile, publics in the United States and Europe continue to adamantly oppose any kind of military intervention in Syria, regardless of what happens to civilians. This situation sets up a dilemma. A belief in implementing and expanding international humanitarian norms can only grow if there is a conviction that the international community will join together to take up such a burden. But the frequent inability of the U.N. to act decisively on humanitarian matters, as in Syria, has pushed states to act unilaterally in given crises, further eroding the idea of a common interest in defending human rights and international law. This reality takes us back to the Hobbesian notion of “all against all.” But if so, if power and force alone are what shape foreign policy, then so be it, in Syria as in Crimea. Let’s stop wasting our time by evoking international law and principles in a world that seems so little disposed to ensuring they prevail or, worse, that cites international law as an excuse to avoid taking any humanitarian action whatsoever.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.


Arsal ‘paying cost of support for rebels’
March 13, 2014/By Elise Knutsen, Samya Kullab/The Daily Star
ARSAL, Lebanon: With an outdated 50-year-old map of his town framing the backdrop of his office, Arsal’s Deputy Mayor Ahmad Fliti talks on the phone with the restlessness of someone who has too many fires to extinguish.
“The situation has been calm for two days,” he told the caller, who was an adviser to U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly. Low cloud cover over the past two days had provided a reprieve from almost daily attacks by Syrian warplanes. Syrian rockets have struck the mountainous regions in the vicinity of Arsal on a daily basis for several weeks. The sound of military aircraft overhead has become ominously familiar in this Lebanese border town, whose residents staunchly support the Syrian opposition. “The strikes usually occur in the morning,” Fliti said. “It’s never just one raid by a single aircraft; it’s more than one raid, and after every raid, there are three or more rockets,” he added. Most of the rockets have struck the rocky mountain regions surrounding Arsal, where hundreds of Syrian refugees have established tented settlements. Fliti said it was impossible to know the exact number of casualties that had occurred on the Lebanese side of the border. “We don’t know the names of all the refugees who have been killed or injured. Some of the dead were buried in their villages in Syria,” he said.
The air raids are presumably targeting smuggling routes used to traffic supplies – and fighters – across the nearby Syrian border. An injured Syrian rebel fighter, who gave only his first name, Marwan, was recovering with an amputated leg in a field hospital in Arsal and said his battalion had coordinated his crossing from Homs to Arsal after he suffered serious injury when a shell landed near him in the battle of Qusair.
He had been fighting with the Al-Farouq Battalion, which he said arranged his crossing into Lebanon, though he added that he was unconscious and could not detail how he crossed or who coordinated his entry on the Arsal side. Dr. Kasem al-Zein, a Syrian doctor who runs a field hospital, said that since January, Syrian warplanes had killed approximately 13 people and wounded 32 others on the Lebanese side of the border since the beginning of the year. Refugees who have settled in camps just a few kilometers from the town are increasingly uneasy. “The planes are very visible from here, but the shelling is in the next valley over,” said Ahmad, a young Syrian man residing in the camp.“We can see them every day, and [the strikes] are getting closer,” agreed Abu Mahmoud, also a Syrian refugee.
Umm Walid, a refugee who fled the embattled Syrian town of Sahel 25 days ago, said a narrow escape during a raid prompted her to pack up her tent and move her five children closer to the gathering where Ahmad’s camp was. “It happened suddenly,” she said, recalling the raid. “There was nothing, and then we were being bombarded, so we took our things and fled.”
Fighters are believed to be taking refuge in areas on the outskirts of Arsal, something Umm Walid did not confirm directly. “The raids hit civilians and noncivilians,” she said.
Walid, a fighter with a battalion in the Syrian town of Flita, said he occasionally ventured to the tented gatherings outside Arsal’s outskirts to take breaks from the battlefield. The Daily Star had happened upon him drinking mate atop an unfinished building overlooking the camp. Mounting anxiety about the air raids extends well beyond the refugee camps on the outskirts of town.
On Jan. 17, rockets struck a residential neighborhood in the heart of the town of Arsal, killing seven people. Zaher Hujeiri, who makes a living by selling sweets in the town and its neighboring villages, lost five of his six children in the attack; the youngest was 2 years old. A picture of their six smiling faces hang on a wall in his small house. His wife, who cannot muster even a weak smile, made coffee as he recalled the day of the attack.
“At first, one rocket hit nearby,” he said, his eyes welling with tears. “People aren’t used to rockets exploding in the middle of the town, and so they rushed to see what had happened. ... Another rocket fell among them,” he said. While no rockets have hit the town of Arsal since Jan. 17, residents are on edge. “At first, people thought the attacks were just political messages, but after this particular attack [in the town], they realized that the residential areas of Arsal could be hit as well,” Fliti told The Daily Star. Israa Hujeiri, 24, was among those injured in the Jan. 14 attack. She sat on the floor, her foot bandaged and stretched to one side as she described the moments after a rocket landed in the living room of her home. She was about to turn the door knob to enter the room when it happened, she explained. The force of the strike knocked Israa to the floor and destroyed three of her toes.
“I lose my composure when I see the warplanes now,” she said. “I have to run and hide in the other room.”She said she believed the town was paying a price for its support of the opposition, but added that her support for the Syrian refugees did not waver after the attack. “We will keep helping them and supporting them.”The attack left a lasting impression on her 2-year-old niece, Noor. “Now, whenever there are airplanes, she says, ‘Please go away, don’t bomb us,’” Israa said.


Three rockets hit Bekaa Valley town
March 13, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Three rockets from Syria hit a deserted area in the Bekaa Valley town of Nabi Sheet Thursday, the second such attack on the area in a week. The rocket attack did not cause any material damage and no casualties were reported, a security source told The Daily Star. Most of the rockets targeting predominantly-Shiite villages in the Bekaa Valley have been claimed by radical Islamist groups, citing Hezbollah's role in Syria. Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed Tuesday's rocket attack on Nabi Sheet.

Judge to interrogate Abbas next week
March 13, 2014/Daily Star/BEIRUT: Military Investigative Judge Imad Zein Thursday turned down a request by Naim Abbas' attorney to drop the charges against the terror suspect, and scheduled a date next week for questioning. Lawyer Tareq Shandab requested that charges related to his client’s connection to Jamal Daftardar, an alleged commander in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, be dropped, arguing that Abbas’ statements were made under duress. The judge rejected the request. Abbas, a Palestinian, is scheduled to be interrogated on March 19. Shandab has 24 hours to appeal the judge’s decision. Three arrest warrants have been issued against Abbas since his arrest on Feb. 12. He is accused of involvement in two car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs, of belonging to the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Lebanon, and of planning car bombings.
He was also linked to two other detained terror suspects, including Sunni Sheikh Omar Atrash, who was also accused of plotting the Beirut bombings.

Terrorists 'feel the noose around their necks': Lebanese Army
March 13, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Heightened security measures have succeeded in curbing the number of car bombings in Lebanon, the Army said in a statement Thursday. The statement went on to suggest that the issue of car bombs and their causes should not be exploited for political ends by warring factions. "Effective security efforts to monitor rigged cars and those connected to bombings ... are ongoing," the statement said.
"These efforts have resulted in the detention of one of the most wanted suspects; the discovery of a number of rigged cars; in terrorist groups feeling the noose around their necks; and have made the targeting of civilian areas more difficult, as evidenced by these groups resorting to firing rockets at some villages in the Bekaa Valley." The statement went on to praise the Army's crackdown on kidnapping for ransom, claiming that kidnappers now feel exposed. The Army enumerated a number of recent successes, including securing the releases of Antoine Daher Kaadi and the child Michel Sakr. The statement also said the Army was able to prevent several attempted kidnappings, including a plan to abduct the son of a notary in Mount Lebanon. In Tripoli, the Army's presence has decreased the number of clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, "despite the persistence of sectarian and political provocation," the statement also said. The Army arrested 870 people and impounded 226 cars and 35 motorcycles in the month of February alone, the military said.

People Trapped in Houses as Rain Water Floods Minieh
Naharnet /Rain water flooded homes and property in Minieh region north Lebanon on Thursday as the stormy weather in Lebanon kept on the rise. The heavy rains rendered the area of Minieh as water deluged houses, warehouses and besieged residents, causing damage to private property, and submerging vehicles. According to the state-run National News Agency, residents of the area called on Prime Minister Tammam Salam and officials to intervene to estimate the damages and help people who were trapped in their houses. The NNA said that several people blocked the International highway that links Tripoli with Akkar to protest the Higher Relief Council's failure to deal with the matter. Lebanon has witnessed a dry winter this year and hot weather, causing the snow season in Ski resorts to become abandoned.In December, one side of the airport road's tunnel was shortly blocked during the morning rush hour, adding to the woes of the people, who a day earlier spent hours on the roads after they were blocked due to severe rain.

Mustaqbal: Policy Statement Should Not Disregard Baabda Declaration
Naharnet/The Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc stressed on Thursday that the new government should protect Lebanon from the impact of the Syrian crisis and be able to stage the presidential elections in May.
It said after its weekly meeting: “The policy statement must not ignore the Baabda Declaration.” “It must also disregard outdated equations that have only negatively affected the state's sovereignty and civil peace,” it noted in reference to Hizbullah's insistence on including the “army-people-resistance” equation in the statement. “The statement must not ignore the importance of resisting Israel, but this should take place under the authority of the state that represents all of the Lebanese people,” added the bloc. “The bloc considers that the one-month deadline designated by the constitution for the government to complete its statement should be used to persuade the parties to fulfill this mission, not topple the cabinet,” it stressed. The main dispute on the resistance clause erupted after the March 14 camp stressed that the actions of the resistance should be put under the authority of the state.
Several alliance officials called for “the right of Lebanon as a state and not the right of the Lebanese to resist Israel.” But the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance, including Speaker Nabih Berri, want to legitimize Hizbullah's arsenal by holding onto "the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese” to liberate the remaining territories occupied by Israel “and to resist any Israeli aggression.”According to the constitution, the ministerial committee has until Monday to complete its work and transfer the policy statement to parliament for approval or else the cabinet would be considered resigned and President Michel Suleiman would have to call for new binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier.


Al-Rahi Holds Phone Conversations with Berri, Salam to 'Salvage the Country'
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi held on Thursday telephone conversations with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Tammam Salam on the dispute over the cabinet's policy statement, the National News Agency reported.NNA said al-Rahi urged both Berri and Salam to exert stronger efforts to find a solution to the policy statement row between the March 8 and March 14 alliances. He urged them “to salvage the country and seek the nation's higher interest,” the state-run agency said. The government is scheduled to hold a session on Thursday afternoon to discuss the deadlock on the resistance clause of the policy statement. If a seven-member ministerial committee fails to agree on the blueprint by Monday, the cabinet becomes resigned and President Michel Suleiman will have to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier.
But Salam has already threatened to resign to protest the conditions set by the March 8 and 14 alliances on the clause. Also Thursday, al-Rahi met with Ministers Sejaan Qazzi and Alain Hakim, who represent the Phalange party in Salam's cabinet. Qazzi said after the talks in Bkirki that the two ministers discussed with the patriarch the latest developments on the cabinet policy statement.


Finland's President Vows Support for Lebanon to Confront Burden of Refugees
Naharnet/Visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Thursday that his country was keen on supporting Lebanon to confront the crisis of the Syrian refugees. “No state has ever confronted what Lebanon is facing,” Niinisto said during a joint conference with his Lebanese counterpart at Baabda Palace. “We want to provide the biggest possible support to Lebanon” in that regard, he said. “Everyone should work on supporting Lebanon,” he added.
During the second International Support Group for Lebanon meeting held in Paris on March 5, Finland made a $3 million contribution to the Lebanese economy through a World Bank trust fund. France contributed some $10 million and Norway $4.8 million. Suleiman said during the joint press conference that he discussed with his Finnish counterpart the results of the Paris meeting, which appealed for nations to extend pledges of financial help for Lebanon. The country is coping with an influx of Syrian refugees, terror attacks and a struggling economy. “I thanked President Sauli Niinisto on Finland's support for Lebanon and its participation in UNIFIL,” said Suleiman, a day after they visited UNIFIL's Finnish contingent in the South. “We stressed the importance of trade ties … and the exchange of expertise in several fields,” he told reporters. Suleiman also said that he agreed with his Finnish counterpart on the importance of resolving the Syrian conflict through dialogue away from foreign interference. “We hope that peace would return to Syria as soon as possible,” said Niinisto. Suleiman later threw a lunch banquet in honor of the visiting president. Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who held a short meeting at the presidential palace, were among the top Lebanese officials, who attended the lunch.

At least 50 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel - pro-Iranian Jihad Islami payback for missile ship seizure

DEBKAfile Special Report March 12, 2014 ظThe pro-Iranian Palestinian Jihad Islami terror group rained Wednesday, March 12 a heavy, continuous missile barrage against Israel, just two days after the Israeli presentation in Eilat of the illicit cargo of Iranian arms destined for terrorists aboard the Klos C, which Israeli commandos captured on the Red Sea last week. The presentation included 60 M302 short-range missiles made in Syria and flown to Iran for shipment to Gaza and Sinai via Sudan. The Jihad Islami took advantage of the heavy cloud and rain over the region, conditions which impede Israeli air force action, to release a heavy barrage of Qassam and Grade rockets against Israeli towns and villages. By nightfall, at least 50 rockets had been fired at the towns of Sderot and Netivot and the regions of Shear Hanegev, Eshkol and Bnei Shimon. Iron Dome missile interceptors were activated against the barrage. No casualties or damage have been so far reported. Red alert signals sent hundreds of thousands of citizens running for shelter. DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the Palestinian Jihad Islami operates under the direct command of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was given charge by Tehran last month of Middle East areas of conflict in which Iran has an interest, including the Palestinian-Israeli sector. His modus operandi is known to be never to let an Israeli strike against Iran or any of its allies go unanswered. The massive rocket attack from the Gaza Strip is seen his payback for Israel’s interception of the Iranian missile ship, just as Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, may be expected to hit back for Israel’s aerial bombardment of its missiles on the Syrian-Lebanese border and more attacks to come from Gaza.

Canada Concerned by Renewed Rocket Attacks from Gaza
March 12, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement: “Canada condemns the rocket attacks on Israel launched from Gaza today. These attacks underscore the importance of Israel’s recent seizure of a cargo of Iranian rockets headed for Gaza. “I met today with the Israeli Ambassador to convey Canada’s concerns with respect to Iran’s continued complicity in sponsoring terrorism, even while claiming to pursue a diplomatic approach on nuclear proliferation. “Canada condemns these attacks and urges the parties to ensure that such terrorist actions do not set back ongoing peace efforts. The opponents of peace cannot be allowed to achieve their goals.”

AIPAC is not what it used to be
Op-ed: By: Eitan Haber/Published: 03.13.14/Ynetnews,7340,L-4498106,00.html

 Obama's absence from this year's AIPAC conference marks Jewish lobby's decline in eyes of US administration.
Published: 03.13.14/Ynetnews
People have been asking, mainly in the past few years, whether the prime minister doesn’t understand the American administration when he provokes the president and his envoys day and night and tries to publicly expose them. The standard answer to that is that Netanyahu is more American than the Americans and knows them thoroughly.
Moreover, he has built a workspace around him which is almost entirely American - Dore Gold, Ron Dermer, Ari Harow, Michael Oren – and some say they even speak American English amongst themselves at the Jerusalem bureau. (By the way, the Americans are very sensitive about language nuances. The secret of Bibi's success in America also stems from his perfect command of the language). A real Little America.
Weak Address
But it is the Americans of all people who are teaching Bibi these days that he is not up to date. What was true 25 years ago, when Netanyahu served at the UN, for example, is not true today. And if he fails to learn it himself, we – live from the White House – will teach him some wisdom.
For example, the latest AIPAC conference.
All of Israel's prime ministers always crawled to the annual AIPAC conferences. They knew very well that AIPAC is the State of Israel's real source of support in America. It is the shoulder; it is the back. The Jewish lobby in America was the second most important lobby in Washington (after the small-arms owners), and they all competed on fostering relations with AIPAC.
Thanks to a good Jew named Tom Dine, and many others in the US and Israel, AIPAC became the most influential body in America on anything it wanted to influence. With my own eyes I saw senior Americans weeping in front of AIPAC representatives, begging for their public life. The location of the Jewish lobby could be diagnosed in its annual conference: Everyone, but everyone, arrived. From the US president and vice president to the last Congress and Senate members and governors and mayors. All of America.
Too close to Republican Party
In the past generation, AIPAC's conduct has become pompous. Success went to its head. Since it always needs conflicts, problems, small and big wars for its existence, it also created them. Among other things, it tried to teach Israeli prime ministers a lesson too. For example, there was once a prime minister in Israel who was allowed to telephone the president in the White House directly. He did it and solved the problems on his own. AIPAC attacked him. How dare he? The Jewish lobby was so important and essential at the time, that that prime minister was forced to write an explanation and half-apology letter to the AIPAC activists.
But in recent years the situation has gotten out of hand. Because the last few governments in Israel have been rightist, and the Diaspora Jews – including AIPAC activists – hold views which are even more rightist, their ties with the heads of the administration in the US slowly unraveled. They, who had always worked for a joint Israeli-American statement, found themselves in a position in which they must "take sides." They, who had tried to maneuver between the Democrats and the Republicans, found themselves close, too close, to the Republican Party, which lost the last two election campaigns in the US.
The administration, which always treated Israel kindly, has been looking in other directions in the past few years, spoiling things for AIPAC. The administration is also noticing that the secular Jewry in the US has been moving away from its past intensive engagement in Israel's affairs. The democratic administration's offered a poignant response:
The US president had the courage not to show up at the AIPAC conference, lawmakers who always flooded the conference's halls did not find the time to participate, senior administration officials disappeared. It seems that AIPAC is not what it used to be.
Against this grey background, the Israeli prime minister arrived to participate and share, calm and encourage, instill content and hope. But even he knows that a thousand speeches (good ones, as always) will not put out the fire.


Opinion: Saudi Arabia is protecting itself
Mshari Al-ZaydiAsharq Akawsat
Thursday, 13 Mar, 2014
Last week, the Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement designating a number of groups as terrorist organizations among other things, in accordance with the royal order issued by King Abdullah last month that led to the formation of a joint committee to officially designate terrorist groups. The royal decree was part of a broad effort to confront any and all parties that might pose a threat to Saudi Arabia or its people, and the Interior Ministry’s statement was an effective means of implementing that decree. Perhaps some people were apprehensive about this decree, hoping it would not be implemented in any real way and keeping in mind the Arab proverb “keep your head down until the storm passes.” Any such hopes have now been dashed. The committee’s statement is not the result of internal investigations within the Interior Ministry alone, as some have suggested. No, the committee includes representatives of the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, Islamic affairs and justice, as well as the Court of Grievances and the Bureau of Investigations and Public Prosecution.
The historic statement has 11 articles, which criminalize a range of offences in a number of fields, from politics to religious sermons to media and finance. The first list of terrorist organizations announced by the committee included the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, all branches of Al-Qaeda, including Syria’s Al-Nusra Front, Hezbollah’s activities in the Kingdom and Yemen’s Houthi Movement.
The classification of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates is nothing new, and the Kingdom has been in a state of continuous war with the terrorist organization for several years now. What was notable was the classification of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, which represents both a serious challenge and a major shift in Saudi society, especially if we consider the ambiguous and indefinite nature of the Brotherhood’s membership, which includes everyone from youths to elderly gentlemen. As for Hezbollah, some might ask why only its activities “in the Kingdom” have been prohibited. What about Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement? Well, the Gulf Cooperation Council has already issued a statement designating Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Furthermore, Hezbollah “in the Kingdom” includes Hezbollah Al-Hijaz, the Saudi local chapter of the party, as well as anyone else in Saudi Arabia with ties, whether financial or political/ideological, with Lebanese Hezbollah. The royal decree and the joint committee formed under its auspices are different from anything in Saudi history. This is a decisive time in Saudi Arabia’s history and we are witnessing a huge shift in the structure of Saudi society, including in the fields of education and culture.
The committee’s decision is a massive change akin to the ones introduced by Saudi Arabia’s Founder, King Abdulaziz, when he dealt with the hardline separatists and “armed” Muslim Brotherhood of his time. After he exhausted all possibility of peaceful dialogue with these groups, King Abdulaziz held a large assembly in the capital, Riyadh, in 1928 to alert his subjects to the danger in their midst. Then, when such talk was no longer useful, King Abdulaziz delivered a fatal blow to the Ikhwan [Brotherhood] Revolt and the Battle of Sabilla in 1929, thereby safeguarding the future of the state. His son, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, is now protecting the Saudi state and its people just as his father did before him.


Preventing an Iranian Breakout after a Nuclear Deal
James F. Jeffrey and David Pollock/Washington Institute
March 12, 2014
Washington must urgently re-establish the credibility of its military threat, along with other steps, to guard against noncompliance from Tehran.
Assuming a final Iranian nuclear agreement is achieved, whatever the details, the task of the United States, the rest of the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany), and U.S. allies and friends in the region to manage the threat of an Iranian nuclear program will not slacken. Thus, the arrangements to encourage Iran to stick with an agreement will be every bit as important as the specifics of an agreement itself. It is thus important to begin thinking about these arrangements now.
Furthermore, even with an agreement, the United States and its partners will face a long-term Iranian push for hegemony in the Middle East. That fact, plus analogous recent Russian and Chinese behavior and questions about U.S. responses, offers the context within which any nuclear deal, and plans to maintain it, must be considered.
In any likely final agreement with Iran, a residual nuclear enrichment program, however undesirable, will likely be permitted. This will necessitate a regime to prevent Iran from breaking out of that agreement to develop nuclear weapons, or exploiting the threat of a breakout for regional intimidation. Such a regime would require three interlocking components:

specific limitations on Iran's program, in order to maximize Iran's prospective breakout time;

extensive verification, monitoring, and intelligence capabilities, inside and outside the agreement, to spot any breakout as soon as possible;

and, finally, credible response scenarios should a breakout occur. Steps for achieving these essential goals are inventoried as follows:
Immediate next steps. The path to enforcing a final deal begins with enforcement of the current interim deal. The administration has rejected the option of passing conditional congressional sanctions in case a final deal proves beyond reach. But neither that nor the language of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), as the interim agreement is known, should stop the White House from immediately underlining that any Iranian infringement of the interim deal will incur new sanctions, along with other enforcement actions. Iran will protest, but this should be the first signal of U.S. resolve in enforcing any deal with Tehran. Iran is unlikely to walk away from the talks in response. And if it does, that will be an invaluable warning of the inherent fragility of agreements with the regime. Moreover, if the United States cannot credibly enforce a limited interim deal, how will it ever enforce a final one?
One way for the White House to reinforce this crucial early message would be to clearly state that it prefers no extension of the interim deal beyond its first six-month timeframe. As it is unlikely that this call would gain wider acceptance, however, Washington could lay down a clear marker that only one six-month extension will be acceptable. Otherwise, the temptation to extend the interim deal indefinitely, offering no real rollback of Iran's nuclear program while sanctions erode, may well prove irresistible to Iran and to some other interested parties.
Verification of a final deal. Verification is critical to deterring Iranian breakout, spotting Iranian noncompliance, and triggering a rapid international-community reaction, including sanctions and ultimately use of force. It is thus essential that the most intrusive monitoring regime possible be secured in any agreement, building on the enhanced International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection regime in the JPOA and following up on Iranian commitments to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol as part of the final agreement. National means of verification must be strengthened and their findings accepted, once tested and confirmed, as a supplement to the IAEA.
Any UN Security Council resolution adopting a final agreement should empower the IAEA's on-site personnel to provide certain reporting to the Security Council through -- but not requiring votes by -- the IAEA board. A precedent is UN Security Council Resolution 1022 on the Dayton Accords, which directed NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR) commander to report through its channels to the Security Council.
Enforcement of a final deal. Any agreement, or the UN Security Council resolution adopting the agreement, necessarily would have provisions for alleged or proven noncompliance. At a minimum, these provisions would resemble those of UN Security Resolution 3118, on Syrian chemical weapons, which "Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution…to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter." Even better would be to include the specific enforcement measures directly in the UN Security Council resolution under Chapter VII.
Second, certain current UN sanctions on Iran, rather than being lifted, should be suspended. Third, sanctions relief, rather than occurring immediately, should be phased in as an incentive for compliance, especially concerning the inspections regime.
Setting a military redline. Most important of all, the U.S. administration must maintain, convincingly, its explicit threat to use force if Iran attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, as the president has affirmed repeatedly. To reinforce this aim, the United States should push for military force authority in the adopting UN resolution, as a complement to, but not a prerequisite for, a unilateral U.S. threat. The United States should, further, make clear its redline that would spark a military response. At least as important will be the strict avoidance of mixed public messages, such as previous statements by senior officials about how "destabilizing" or "unpredictable" a necessary military action might be. Any such statement should be immediately and publicly disavowed by the president, or else his own credibility will suffer.
The Obama administration understandably has previously refused to spell out what specific Iranian action would trigger a U.S. military response, along with the details of that response. But a verified violation of a nuclear agreement is different from an ambiguous development of a dual-use capability.
Recent experience and various other factors point to a limited military response focused on nuclear infrastructure and missile systems. But the United States also has a compelling interest in neutralizing Iran's retaliation to a U.S. or international strike. So it should prepare if Iran retaliates not to slog out an air-sea campaign in the Gulf but rather to strike back asymmetrically against Iran's strategic command, control and communications, fuel production, and electrical generation capabilities, with standoff, precision-guided weapons -- making sure Iran is aware of these intentions.
Establishing military credibility. For any planned military response to serve as a deterrent, the threat must be credible. Given the present administration's considerable deficit in this area, it must strengthen its regional military presence and encourage other states, such as France and Britain, to follow suit. Some such developments are under way, but public attention needs to be kept on this issue. Moreover, U.S. military actions, from Afghanistan to NATO missile defense and deployment cancellations, can color perceptions of its determination and thus of its deterrence. Worst of all is an administration that actually intends to respond militarily to a breakout, with an Iran that does not believe it.
Restoring the balance following a breakout attempt. The United States needs a game plan for "the day after" any breakout attempt is stopped, whether by negotiations, sanctions pressure, or military action. Possibilities include ending Iranian enrichment altogether, restricting oil exports, confidence-building measures including U.S. and other military presence, and diplomatic steps to sustain P5+1 and alliance solidarity.
Implementing the program just outlined requires multiple simultaneous negotiations. A breakout response regime, especially one automatically linking Iranian failure to comply with a UN Security Resolution to the use of force, would be controversial. Washington would have to persuade its fellow P5+1 states, some of which recoil at the idea of military action, that such a regime is a sine qua non of any agreement. Likewise, Iran would have to tolerate intrusive verification and breakout enforcement provisions. Aside from the "sticks" discussed in this piece, "carrots" to encourage Iran to remain with any agreement, while outside the scope of this discussion, will likewise be important. Finally, Gulf allies and Israel will need to be convinced of the wisdom of any nuclear agreement.
The U.S. Congress and the American people are skeptical about a deal with Iran, but, as the Syrian chemical weapons scenario showed, both can also be leery about using force. Here, only the president can make the case. He should make clear that he would use his presidential prerogatives, consulting with but not requiring consent from Congress, if military force were needed. Congress, in turn, could relieve some of the administration's burden at the time an agreement was reached by passing a general resolution of support, including for a U.S. military response if the deal were violated. Because this would significantly enhance the military option's credibility, it would be well worth the advance consultations with Congress, starting right now, required to secure its explicit endorsement.
For any agreement to secure regional stability and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, the elements discussed here for a breakout response must be strong and mutually supporting. And they must be reinforced with the following understandings:

(1) an agreement with Iran would not signal the creation of a new ally;

(2) a credible, internationally endorsed response to any violation is obligatory;

 (3) U.S. military action must be at the core of any such response; and

(4), relatedly, credibility must urgently be restored to the much-doubted U.S. threat of military force against Iran.
**James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute. David Pollock is the Institute's Kaufman Fellow and director of Fikra Forum.

Jordan's Energy Balancing Act
David Schenker and Simon Henderson/Washington Institute
March 12, 2014
A deal to buy Israeli natural gas can help mitigate the kingdom's energy shortage and steer Amman away from problematic nuclear plans, but it risks stirring domestic opposition.
In February, two private Jordanian firms signed a contract with a private U.S.-Israeli consortium to import natural gas from Israel's giant Tamar field, located under the bed of the Mediterranean Sea fifty miles offshore from Haifa. The Arab Potash Company and the Jordan Bromine Company -- both partially owned by the Jordanian government -- will pay Houston-based Noble Energy and its partners $500 million over the course of fifteen years to supply a power plant at Jordanian industrial facilities by the Dead Sea. At just $33 million per year, the deal is not financially significant, but it may set a huge precedent in terms of fostering regional economic cooperation and establishing a framework for Jordanian energy security. The political challenges are significant, however, particularly following the March 10 shooting of a Jordanian man at an Israeli-controlled West Bank crossing point.
Unlike its Arab neighbors, Jordan has no oil. Apart from one gas field near the border with Iraq, which is used to fuel a power station, the kingdom is wholly reliant on imported energy. For years, it received oil from Saudi Arabia and then from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which offered discount prices. After Saddam was toppled in 2003, the Gulf Arab states began to provide Jordan with cheap but sporadic oil deliveries at Washington's urging. While helpful, this discounted supply was unreliable.
In 2004, Amman signed a contract to import gas from Egypt, which provided reliable and cost-effective energy supplies for nearly seven years. But after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Egypt-Jordan gas pipeline -- which helped generate nearly 90 percent of the kingdom's electricity -- was sabotaged on nearly twenty occasions, interrupting the flow. Jordan had been paying Egypt about $6 per thousand cubic feet of gas, but the stoppage compelled it to purchase fuel oil as an alternative feedstock for its power plants at dramatically higher prices. In 2012, these extra expenditures contributed to a nearly 30 percent budget deficit.
With an estimated forty years of gas reserves in Tamar and the larger, as-yet-unexploited Leviathan field, Israel could provide Jordan with an inexpensive and reliable means of meeting all of its domestic gas requirements. Israel is heavily invested in the kingdom's stability and the survival of the moderate monarchy, and it would undoubtedly be glad to fill this need. Reflecting this interest, it has reportedly agreed to sell the gas to Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine at a price comparable to the Egyptian pipeline deal.
Yet King Abdullah has been hesitant to proceed with more Israeli gas deals for fear of domestic backlash. On February 24, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Islamic Action Front, described the agreement with the "Zionist entity" as "criminal," "contrary to the best interests of Jordan," and "an attack on the Palestinian cause."
Jordanian sensitivities about buying gas from Israel were apparent in recent comments by Energy Minister Mohammad Hamed, as reported by the Jordan Times on March 2. Headlined with the quote "2018 will be a turning point in Jordan's energy sector," the story failed to mention the new agreement with Noble Energy. Instead, Hamed focused on Jordan's oil shale reserves, some of the largest in the world, though the technology involved in exploiting them is challenging.
Specifically, the minister projected that the Saudi Arab Company for Oil Shale would be producing 3,000 barrels of oil per day from these reserves by 2019, rising to 30,000 b/d by 2025. He also asserted that Royal Dutch Shell would bring onstream additional oil shale projects in 2022, eventually producing 300,000 b/d. (Current Jordanian oil consumption is around 110,000 b/d, all imported.) Furthermore, he noted, an Estonian-Malaysian consortium has agreed to build a 460 megawatt shale-fueled power plant in the kingdom, while a group of Chinese, Emirati, and Jordanian companies is planning a 600 megawatt plant. (Jordan's current generating capacity is 3,140 megawatts.) He also mentioned that agreements to build twelve solar power plants, with a total capacity of 200 megawatts, would be signed this month.
In addition, Hamed announced a natural gas import facility and potential Iraqi oil refinery at Aqaba on Jordan's small Red Sea coast. Baghdad hopes to build an oil export pipeline to Aqaba, reducing Iraqi dependence on tankers having to transit the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The route could be used for Iraqi gas exports as well, and Jordan would be able to use some of the oil and gas domestically. Yet Hamed did not mention BP's January decision to abandon a gas project near the Iraqi border because of poor prospects, after drilling two exploration wells and spending close to $240 million.
Indeed, the minister's comments amounted to a very optimistic assessment of Jordan's indigenous energy future bolstered by a range of enticements from other Arab states. Although not stated as such, some of the proposed projects with these Arab neighbors are implicitly intended to reduce or remove Jordan's need to use Israeli gas.
Additionally, Jordan is still exploring nuclear energy options. In 2013, it reached a tentative agreement with the Russian state-owned firm Rosatom to build two 1,000 megawatt nuclear plants. Slated to be signed in 2015, the contract has Russia contributing 49 percent of the $10 billion cost, with the rest to be supplied by the kingdom and its investors.
According to the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission, nuclear power is "a strategic choice." The kingdom envisions that by 2030, nuclear energy will provide 30 percent of its electricity and help alleviate its water deficit (currently 600 million cubic meters per year) through increased desalinization efforts. These ambitious nuclear plans also envision Jordan exporting electricity as well as enriching indigenous uranium to fuel its own reactors and sell abroad. The kingdom has already spent millions in feasibility studies and funded a nuclear research facility.
Unsurprisingly, the United States and Israel are concerned about these plans, with Washington raising particularly vocal opposition to the uranium enrichment proposal. In 2012, King Abdullah famously accused Israel of internationally undermining Jordan's nuclear program.
Yet Amman's plans have domestic opponents as well. In May 2012, parliament voted to suspend the proposed reactor projects, citing safety concerns and claiming that not all costs had been disclosed. More recently, the "National Committee to Oppose the Nuclear Project" reportedly organized demonstrations in downtown Amman and across the kingdom on February 21 to protest the reactors. The rallies included activists from Jordan's largest tribe, the Bani Sakhr. Although the tribe has traditionally been a leading supporter of the monarchy, some members are apparently concerned about the plan to build reactors in the heartland of their territory.
Domestic opposition to the project is partly based on its exorbitant cost. At $10 billion, the projected cost of the two plants is equivalent to the kingdom's entire annual budget. Safety is also a significant worry given that the kingdom is located along a fault line and periodically experiences earthquakes. Poignantly, when Israeli officials mentioned this concern during a June 2009 meeting -- two years before the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe -- Jordanian officials responded by highlighting Japan as an earthquake-prone country that builds safe nuclear reactors. Other concerns include terrorist threats (despite Jordan's efficient security services) and environmental risks (both on the Red Sea coast and at the reactors' planned desert location). Also, contrary to official pronouncements from Amman, foreign experts have assessed that mining the kingdom's domestic uranium is not commercially viable.
Jordan's current energy crunch, which was initially caused by the interruption of Egyptian gas supplies, has been exacerbated by the arrival of nearly a million Syrian refugees. Some of the country's economic problems may eventually decline as International Monetary Fund reforms -- most notably cuts to energy subsidies -- take full effect. Amman has already lifted some subsidies on natural gas and petrol, and it is slated to begin rationalizing electricity costs this year. But these steps have been unpopular, so the strategy will continue to pose domestic political risk.
Against this backdrop, Jordan's unprecedented gas deal suggests that King Abdullah appreciates the potential benefits of closer energy cooperation with Israel, deeming it a reliable partner to offset dependence on uncertain promises from Arab neighbors. The deal is also in line with the growing strategic links between the two countries, including Israel's provision of significant water supplies to the kingdom.
The United States should encourage such efforts while helping Amman manage the domestic balancing act entailed by cooperation with Israel. And as a major provider of aid in its own right, Washington should quietly intensify its efforts to convince Jordan to jettison its nuclear ambitions.
*David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute. Simon Henderson is the Institute's Baker Fellow and director of its Gulf and Energy Policy Program.



Who will fall in Syria’s fourth year?
Thursday, 13 March 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
As the Syrian revolution enters its fourth year, the question remains as to whether Bashar al-Assad’s regime will exit power or whether it will finally be able to eliminate the opposition and subjugate the majority revolting against it? The enormous number of daily battles across Syria certainly shows that three years of suppressing the Syrian people has not yielded results, despite the support the regime used to enjoy. Two years ago, Assad was trying to buy a few weeks to control some areas rebelling against him. At the beginning of last year, he agreed in principle to negotiate over a new government in order to buy more time. Then, when the deadly gas attack happened in the Ghouta area of Damascus, he rushed - upon Russian and Iranian guarantees - to make a proposal to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal. The proposal was also a way for Assad to stave off American intervention and buy more time to finalize the battle in his favor. Despite all the time, weapons and experts he has bought, and despite depriving the armed opposition of advanced weapons, Assad has still failed to tighten his grip on Syria.
Hatred and rancor
All he has succeeded at doing was destroying the country in a manner conveying hatred and rancor. We enter the fourth year of the most ferocious war the region has known to topple a regime.
Assad and his regime are part of a history that has been decided no matter how hard he, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia try Half of the Syrian population is now displaced, while the number of those killed has reached in the hundreds of thousands.At the same time, the battles are ongoing around Damascus. Now that the revolution enters its fourth year, the regime has consumed the time it bought to rid of its chemical arsenal. The regime will wither be exposed with no chemical arsenal or it will continue to stall in order to gain more time and thus embarrass the United States, and will probably place itself under the threat of NATO fires.
What about the international supporters of the opposition. Do they have the enthusiasm, capability and tolerance to arm the Free Syrian Army, aid millions of refugees on a daily basis and engage in political battles against Assad and Iran in international arenas? Parties which believe in the opposition and support the Syrian people - particularly Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Qatar - are still committed to their stance. These countries realize the threats posed if the opposition is abandoned. They do understand that abandoning the opposition means the victory of the Iranian regime in the region as a whole. They are also aware that the tragedy will expand if they abandon their role at tilting the regional struggle which needs to be brought to end. As the opposition enters another year of suffering and indecisiveness, the burden increases on the FSA, the opposition Syrian National Council, and other parties raising the revolution’s flag.
Weakest link
Unfortunately, these are the weakest parties in the Syrian crisis. They are still weak, divided and incapable of controlling their own structure, and continue to engage in their own internal power struggles. The opposition’s struggles have also stirred clashes among the sponsoring countries. The opposition also bears some responsibility when it comes to having weak global political support, after stirring fears and worries regarding its abilities to manage the liberated lands, people and resources. Criminal parties, like al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), infiltrated it as a result of its rivalry. These criminal groups have served in the interests of the regime, threatening minorities and terrorizing most people who revolted against Assad’s authoritarian regime only to find a group that is no less evil. In all cases, Syria today is not as it was yesterday, and it will not be like a future Syria. The country’s situation has changed forever. Assad and his regime are part of a history that has been decided no matter how hard he, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia try. We hope for the pain to be less and for the transition to be quick. Unfortunately, the world insists on prolonging the bloodshed, pain and brutality.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 13, 2014.

Islamic Jihad: Gaza truce now in effect

Islamic Jihad: Gaza truce now in effect

By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 13 March 2014
An Egyptian-brokered truce had gone into effect to halt a spiraling confrontation with Israel, Agence France-Presse reported the radical Islamic Jihad movement as saying Thursday. “An Egyptian-brokered truce went into effect at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT),” Islamic Jihad spokesman Daud Shihab told AFP. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Thursday condemned the military escalation in and around the Gaza Strip, including rocket fire on Israel, at a news conference in Bethlehem. “We condemn all military escalation, including rockets,” he said, standing next to visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Meanwhile, a military spokeswoman on Thursday told AFP that militants had fired five rockets but only one struck Israeli territory, causing no harm or damage. Earlier, an AFP photographer on the Israeli side of the Gaza border said all was quiet at daybreak. The spokeswoman said the total number of rockets which had struck southern Israel since the escalation began on Wednesday was “over 60,” with five of them hitting populated areas.
Overnight, Israeli warplanes carried out raids on 29 targets in Gaza, hitting bases used by militants from Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement and from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Quds Brigade, which has so far claimed all of the rocket fire. The strikes, which began at around 2030 GMT Wednesday, prompted a sharp rebuke from Abbas who demanded Israel “put an end to its military escalation in the besieged Gaza Strip,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said Thursday. By Wednesday evening, Islamic Jihad claimed it had fired at least 90 rockets at Israel in response to an air strike on Tuesday that killed three of its militants in southern Gaza, which took place after they had fired a mortar at Israeli troops in the area. The rocket salvos, which sent tens of thousands of Israelis running for shelter, marked the biggest wave of attacks since a major eight-day November 2012 confrontation between Israel and Hamas. There have been no reports of casualties on either side. Despite the escalation, schools were operating as normal on Thursday, the military said.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned a series of rocket attacks against Israel that originated in Gaza and provoked swift Israeli retaliation.
(With AFP and Reuters)