April 27/15

Bible Quotation For Today/And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them
Luke 06/12-19: "Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them."

Bible Quotation For Today/speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together
Letter to the Ephesians 04/10-16.: "He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and from and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 26-27/15
IDF kills four terrorists trying to infiltrate Israel from north/Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews/April 26/15
A ticking bomb awaits Israel on its northern border/Yossi Yehoshua/Ynetnews/April 26/15
Hezbollah chief Nasrallah opens his Iranian playbook/Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/Al Arabiya/April 26/15
How Iran desires to dominate the Middle East/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/April 26/15
Does the U.N.’s latest resolution on Yemen have ‘teeth’/Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/April 26/15
Tony Blair believes the West is completely unaware of Mideast events/Abdel Latif el-Menawy/Al Arabiya/April 26/15
The Cat-and-Mouse Game of Terrorism and Freedom/Amal Mousa/Asharq Al Awsat/April 26/15

Lebanese Related News published on April 26-27/15
Report: Efforts Underway to Hold Hariri-Obama Meeting in Washington
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai decries ‘fatal’ presidential void
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahifrom Paris: No Justification for Failure to Elect President
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon seeks calmer stage with Hezbollah

Retiring Cabinet official appointed Salam’s advisor
Al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Samir al-Jisr Slams Nasrallah's 'Ungratefulness' towards Saudi, Says Dialogue to Go On
Retiring Cabinet official Dr. Suhail Bouji appointed as Salam’s personal advisor
Lebanese men sport heels to stomp on abuse
Lebanese in Quake-Struck Nepal Call on Foreign Ministry to Evacuate them
Danish Man Found Dead in Jiyeh
Derbas Rejects Attempts to 'Violate his Jurisdiction' Regarding Syrian Refugee File

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 26-27/15
Israeli Defense Minister,Ya'alon: Iran is currently seeking to smuggle advanced arms to Hezbollah

Israel to observe first UN nuclear meeting in 20 years in bid to foster Arab ties

Aftershocks Cause More Terror as Nepal Quake Toll Tops 2,500
Magnitude 6.7 aftershock hits Nepal, causes panic
Israel president marks Armenian massacre for first time

Eyeing Arab ties, Israel to observe UN nuke meet
Does the U.N.’s latest resolution on Yemen have ‘teeth’?
Yemen’s ex-president attempts to leave country, fails: sources
Israelis worried for surrogate newborns in Nepal
Israel arrests Palestinian over Jerusalem car attack
How Iran desires to dominate the Middle East
U.S., allies conduct 23 air strikes in Syria, Iraq
Saudi Arabia: Military training aircraft crashes, killing two
Yemen militia make gains against Houthis in central city: residents
Saudi King Salman meets with Lithuanian FM in Riyadh
Yemen minister rejects peace talks call from ex-president
New UN Yemen envoy looks to revive talks as fighting rages
Car bombs kill at least 18 civilians in Iraq
Turkey scrambles two F-16 jets on Syrian border
Italian navy rescues 274 from migrant ship off Libyan coast
Can the Non-Aligned Movement cope with the changes of a new world?
Tony Blair believes the West is completely unaware of Mideast events
Egypt hangs five for murder and theft: ministre
Egypt's trial of Mursi "badly flawed": Human Rights Watch
Malaysia police say violent plot foiled ahead of summit

Jihad Watch Latest News
Islamic State: 80 lashes for wearing a soccer team jersey; Madonna’s music “anti-Islamic”
Imam of the Kaaba: The Islamic State and the Taliban have no link with Islam
Islamic State declares caliphate in Yemen, vows to “cut throats of Houthis”
UK: Labour leader says his government will criminalize “Islamophobia”
Al-Shabaab mulling switching allegiance from al-Qaeda to Islamic State
Doonesbury’s Trudeau: “I certainly wouldn’t draw pictures of the prophet”
New York Daily News: AFDI ad criticizing Hamas is “outrageous drivel” that “would offend many Muslims”
Islamic State child preachers: “You are the people of the Quran….we shall smash the heads of the infidels”

Shame on Former Lebanese PM, Najib Mikati
Elias Bejjani/April 26/15
While the Lebanese city of Tripoli is living the worst poverty, agony, unemployment, extremely difficult social and security hardships and circumstances, Its son, MP, and resident, the billionaire, former Lebanese PM, Mr. Najib Mikati is spending millions and millions of dollars on a lavish marriage ceremony for his son in Morocco. A ceremony in its extravagant showiness, luxury and mighty makes the "One Thousand and One Nights" Arabic historic tale a mere laughable joke. We strongly believe that the money spent on this Royal and Hollywood style marriage ceremony could have fed hundred of Tripoli poor- hungry residents, and at the same time paid tuition fees for thousands of the city's impoverished students. Mikati's conduct shows how much he is detached and alienated from the sufferings of his own people. In conclusion, yes, Mr. Mikati is fully free to spend his millions the way he likes and wishes, but as a politician who portrays himself as man who cares about his city and its residents it would have been more productive, humane and passionate if he had spent this money on his city's residents who sadly elected him as their MP representative?
Click Here to see the marriage pictures/
**Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai decries ‘fatal’ presidential void
The Daily Star/Apr. 26, 2015/BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai expressed his dismay at Lebanese political parties for their obstruction of the presidential elections as the 'fatal' vacuum officially entered its 11th month Saturday. During a ceremony honoring Former Lebanese Deputy Premier Issam Fares at his Paris residence Saturday, Rai said that he is experiencing “a suffocating heartache because of the presidential vacuum which enters today into its 11th month.” The void in the presidential post has led the country down a path of corruption, paralysis and chaos, he added. The patriarch said that it was “very shameful” that Lebanese political parties did not launch any “real and responsible” initiative that would ease Lebanon out of the presidential stalemate that he described as “fatal to the government, constitution, national pact and national dignity.”He called on Lebanese politicians to work towards a courageous and impartial initiative that would allow for the election of a president. He said that efforts should not take into account any personal or factional considerations but should focus instead on supreme national interests.Rai is expected to seek France’s help during his visit to Paris in accelerating the election of a Lebanese president. He is scheduled to meet French President Francois Hollande for talks centering on Parliament’s repeated failure to choose a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year tenure ended on May 25. During his visit to France, Rai is scheduled to deliver a speech on the role of the Christians in the Levant at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. On Sunday he will inaugurate the recently built headquarters of the Maronite Archdiocese in Paris in the presence of the bishop for France and Europe Nasser Gemayel and a large number of Lebanese expatriates in France. He will also open a Lebanese Christian diaspora office in a suburb of Paris and announce the establishment of the Maronite House in the French town of Modon. Before returning to Beirut Tuesday, Rai is expected hold a news conference in Paris to talk about the results of his visits to Armenia and France and outline his position on Lebanese and regional developments.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahifrom Paris: No Justification for Failure to Elect President
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi condemned on Sunday lawmakers' ongoing failure to elect a new president, warning of the collapse of the Lebanese state. He said during his Sunday sermon from Our Lady of Lebanon church in the French capital Paris: “There are no justifications for the failure to elect a president.”The sermon was attended by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, and other officials. Al-Rahi continued: “We demand all political blocs to assume their responsibilities and elect a president.” “The elections should be staged before the collapse that will harm us all,” he warned. The patriarch kicked off his visit to France on Saturday. He is expected to hold talks on Monday with President Francois Hollande. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform blocs have been boycotting the polls over the dispute.

Al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Samir al-Jisr Slams Nasrallah's 'Ungratefulness' towards Saudi, Says Dialogue to Go On
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Samir al-Jisr has lashed out at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah over the latter's latest tirades against Saudi Arabia, while stressing that the Mustaqbal-Hizbullah dialogue will continue.“Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah should not have attacked the Wahhabist religious creed or insulted the Saudi leadership,” Jisr said in an interview with al-Liwaa newspaper to be published Monday. “Nasrallah was ungrateful, because Saudi Arabia contributed to Lebanon's reconstruction after the civil war and it is the biggest supporter for the Lebanese economy,” Jisr added. He also reminded Hizbullah's leader that Riyadh “built and renovated 55,000 houses after the 2006 (Israeli) aggression.”“It has also equipped the Lebanese army,” the MP added.
“Hizbullah and its allies launched campaigns to question the efforts to equip the Lebanese army because the donation was Saudi and because they do not want a strong army that would negate the raison d'etre of their illegitimate weapons,” Jisr went on to say.
Hizbullah, Saudi Arabia and the kingdom's Lebanese allies have been locked in a war of words that started after Riyadh launched an air campaign against Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels. On Monday, Lebanon received the first batch of $3 billion worth of French arms under a Saudi-financed deal to boost the army's capabilities. Separately, Jisr underlined that the Mustaqbal-Hizbullah dialogue that started in December 2014 “will continue.” The bilateral talks had faced the threat of collapse due to the war of words between the two parties. However, the two parties have both emphasized their commitment to dialogue, citing its perceived ability to defuse sectarian tensions in the country. Turning to the stalled presidential vote, the MP noted that “there are no indications that the obstacles hindering the election of a president will be eliminated anytime soon.” He also underlined that Hizbullah's ally and declared candidate, Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun, is not a “consensual candidate.”“How is he consensual if he is trying to impose his conditions? He is saying 'elect me or I will impede the election of a president',” Jisr lamented. As for the controversy over security appointments, the lawmaker pointed out that “according to the norms, the president usually names the army chief.”“This norm must be respected, and if a candidate for a security post does not receive the support of two thirds of ministers, the term of the incumbent should be extended to avoid vacuum,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon seeks calmer stage with Hezbollah
The Daily Star/Apr. 26, 2015/BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon expressed hope Sunday that the kingdom’s relationship with Lebanese parties will reach a calmer stage following a row that erupted with Hezbollah over the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. "I am not a fan of platforms and statements and I hope that the next phase will be a calm one," Ali Awad Asiri told Voix du Liban Radio Station Sunday. “But it is my duty to defend my interests and to respond to insults targeting Saudi Arabia.”The Yemen offensive triggered a bitter war of words between Asiri and Hezbollah. The airstrikes against Houthi targets have opened a new front in a long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Gulf region. Asiri Sunday said it was necessary for the Kingdom to have flexible relations with Lebanese parties and said that Speaker Nabih Berri is “one of the figures that we count on in calming the situation. “ He also said that Saudi Arabia “has not and will not interfere in Lebanese internal affairs” and will not suggest candidate names for the presidency. "This is an internal Lebanese issue and must remain so and we wish is to see a president [elected] at the earliest time possible,” he added. Meanwhile, Hezbollah's deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem accused Saudi Arabia Sunday of obstructing presidential elections. He also accused the kingdom of negatively impacting Lebanese internal affairs by preventing the election of a president. Asiri’s comments come almost a week after The Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes in Yemen announced the end to a military operation that pounded the Iran-allied Houthi rebels for more than three weeks. The Saudi-led coalition began Operation Decisive Storm on March 25, with the aim of toppling the Houthi government in Yemen, which it views as loyal to Iran. The coalition has kept up airstrikes days after announcing its campaign was entering a new phase aimed at resuming the political process, delivering aid and fighting "terrorism."

Retiring Cabinet official Dr. Suhail Bouji appointed as Salam’s personal advisor
The Daily Star/ Apr. 26, 2015 /BEIRUT: The Cabinet's retiring secretary-general was appointed an aide to his successor Fouad Fleifel and an advisor to Prime Minister Tammam Salam Sunday, the premier announced during an honorary luncheon.“It is true that Dr. Suhail Bouji will retire on the 26th of this month but I can’t picture the Grand Serail without Bouji continuing with us,” Salam said during an honorary luncheon hosted in honor of the Cabinet’s outgoing secretary-general in the Grand Serail Sunday. “This is why he will be an advisor to me and an aide to the new secretary-general Fouad Fliefel.”The prime minister lauded Bouji’s 15 years of service that started under the office of the late Former Premier Rafik Hariri. He added that Bouji had been a continuous reference for ministers who seek his advice on the government’s policies. He also described the former secretary-general as “one the most significant factors” that assisted him throughout his tenure as prime minister. Bouji responded by expressing his gratitude towards Salam and waxed nostalgic over his years of service under six prime ministers. Earlier this month, Cabinet appointed Mount Lebanon Governor Fouad Fleifel as the Cabinet’s new secretary-general, replacing Bouji.

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah opens his Iranian playbook
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 26 April 2015
During his recent visit to Lebanon to hold talks with government officials, the U.S. Deputy Secretary-of-State Antony Blinken found Hezbollah’s policies perplexing. “If I am Lebanese and I want my country to be peaceful and stable, it’s hard to understand their actions,” he said. His criticism was levelled at Hezbollah’s military support for the Assad regime, which Blinken asserts is contributing to the refugee crisis in Lebanon and serves as a recruiting tool for the Islamic State in neighbouring Syria.
In reality, there is nothing perplexing about Hezbollah’s behaviour when, although its members hold Lebanese nationality, their loyalty is firmly with the ayatollahs in Iran – and always has been since its founding in 1980s. Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah receives his directives from Iran’s Supreme Leader, so it stands to reason that he would agree to join the fight, irrespective of whether that decision harmed his own country’s security or economy. Similarly Nasrallah’s remarks pertaining to the Saudi-led Arab intervention in Yemen could have just as well emerged from the mouth of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ventriloquists dummy. Just like his master in Qom, he launched a vicious attack on Saudi Arabia. “Yemenis do not need to prove their Arab or Islamic identity,” he said. “It’s those invading Yemen who must prove they are real Arabs...”He should be challenged to prove he is a real Lebanese when a true son of the soil would feel gratitude for last Monday’s delivery of French-made weapons and anti-tank missiles, paid for by Saudi Arabia as part of a US$3 billion Saudi initiative to upgrade the Lebanese Army.
Insult to injury
Adding insult to injury, he threatened the kingdom, saying, “The revolutionary leadership of Ansar Allah, this great leader Badr al-Din al-Houthi, now has the chance to attack and infiltrate into Saudi Arabia; however, he doesn’t because he is performing what is called ‘strategic patience’.” At last, a glimmer of truth from his lips! In reality, there is nothing perplexing about Hezbollah’s behaviour when, although its members hold Lebanese nationality, their loyalty is firmly with the ayatollahs in Iran
Saudi Arabia, that is Iran’s end game, not the Arab world’s poorest country Yemen that’s fast running out of natural resources, including clean water.
Nasrallah is acting true to form. But I was shocked to see a ‘Breaking News’ strap line on Future TV that read: “Nasrallah’s speech against Saudi Arabia is just one of big mistakes added to [his] many mistakes.” I was further surprised to read the Future Movement’s uncharacteristically vehement response to the Hezbollah chief’s anti-Saudi rhetoric, which cut to the core of the problem. Its leader, Saad Hariri didn’t mince words. He accused Hezbollah’s chief of importing his rhetoric from Iran and of using “falsification and deception” detrimental to Lebanon’s interests on Twitter.
In a statement, Hariri slammed Hezbollah for luring Tele Liban into airing Nasrallah’s rant against the Saudi leadership, originally broadcasted on Syrian state TV. Government-controlled media should not be used as a platform “to offend an Arab country and insult Saudi Arabia, its officials and its role... for the sake of Iran and its regional policies,” he said. Hariri didn’t say anything that anyone who knows anything at all about Lebanon already knows. But now that he’s admitted in unmistakable terms that Hezbollah works for Iran, the real question is: What does the March 14 bloc, more particularly the Future Movement, plan to do about it? Lebanon is an Arab country. Lebanon is a member of the Arab League. In this case, how can any Lebanese patriot tolerate the continued presence of an armed militia in the knowledge it pays obeisance to a foreign leadership that’s hostile to the Arab world?
Cheap talk
However, I don’t derive any sense of hope from Hariri’s straight talking or his party’s clear statement, because talk is cheap unless backed up with action. March 14 is ostensibly in control of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior, which should have issued an arrest warrant for Nasrallah and his associates by now. Unfortunately, the Minister of Interior Nouhad Machnouk - formerly the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s political and media adviser and one of Hezbollah’s most hawkish critics – is now a proponent of dialogue with Hezbollah. When asked by the Lebanese paper The Daily Star why he softened, he replied “What other choice do I have?” Should we understand from that response that, in reality, he isn’t in control of his own ministry? Nevertheless, I am prepared to give him and the other March 14 ministers the benefit of the doubt. I must assume that even if they had the will, until recently they lacked the means. But now that they control the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior, they have no excuse for shirking their duty to their country and its people. Convictions without courage are worthless. It is their responsibility to ensure "Iranian" traitors face justice in a court of law. How long will they continue appeasing betrayers who undermine Lebanon in the back time and time again?
When they have no problem getting together with Hezbollah officials socially I cannot help but wonder is their harsh rhetoric against Nasrallah little more than an attempt to appease their own constituents. If that is the case, they will lose their following. The Lebanese aren’t stupid; they will eventually see through this facade, this sham, if they haven’t already.
As long as March 14 politicians manoeuvre this way and that like skilled chess players without ever actually shouting "checkmate," Hezbollah will strengthen its grip - especially when it stands to benefit from increased Iranian funding when sanctions are lifted on Iran if and when the P5+1 – Iran nuclear deal is sealed. I can only urge the GCC States to be wary of these masters of manipulation whose prime goal is to safeguard their own political futures without taking necessary risks. One of the few open and transparent major political players is Free Patriotic Movement head Michel Aoun, who says whatever he feels - for which he has my respect - even though he is in Hezbollah’s camp, which he entered not out of a shared ideology but rather political expediency. If this presidential candidate decided to position himself at the heart of Lebanon’s camp and distance himself from the Iranian proxy, he could prove to be a game-changer. I would challenge Aoun to do the right thing: to reject those who would crush his homeland underfoot if so ordered by the leaders of Iran and stand with those who want nothing more than their country strong and independent.

How Iran desires to dominate the Middle East
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 26 April 2015
Recently, there has been a tactical shift in Iran’s foreign policy and a change in the stance of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Iranian leaders now do not appear to publicly shy away from achieving their ideological and political objectives in the Gulf region and wider Middle East. Tehran officials now boast about the notion that they have influence and power from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bab el-Mandeb in Yemen. The Iranian Supreme National Security Council’s Secretary Ali Shamkhani pointed out: “Iran has linked to Bab el-Mandeb and to the Mediterranean.” In addition, Habibollah Sayyari, an Iranian naval commander stated “There are nine important sea passages in the world, and Iran oversees five of them... The security of the Gulf of Aden and the international waters are important to Iran.”Iranian leaders have also acclaimed the Houthi militias for their efforts in the fighting and boasted about Tehran’s control of several Arab capitals. The underlying foundations of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy have become officially more public by revealing the IRGC’s attempts to exert political, ideological, and economic influence in the countries in the region, be the hegemon, and dominate the Middle East. Nevertheless, the question is how the Islamic Republic managed to expand its military and political influence in the Middle East, even though it has been under international economic sanctions and an arms embargo? What kind of methods does Tehran rely on?
Postmodern imperialism
Iran’s military institutions utilize a unique form of postmodern expansionism and imperialism when it comes to achieving its foreign policy objectives of dominance. The ideological aspect of Iran’s foreign policy drives the IRGC to spread the Islamic Republic’s values through financing, arming, and supporting Shiite extremist groups in several nations in the Middle East There are three crucial platforms utilized by the Iranian political system to ensure their ideological, military, political expansionism and dominance in the Middle East.
The first approach is through infiltrating the security, political and military ranks of a given country in the Middle East in order to more efficiently control the political developments in that nation and serve Tehran’s national, geopolitical, strategic, military, economic and ideological interests. This approach provides Tehran with almost a complete control over the other nation’s political process and decision-making. It is conducted by building an ideological, military, political and economic alliance with the leadership of the country. It is also a method of post-colonialism.
Irregular warfare
If this approach is doomed to fail and if the given nation-state did not submit to Iran’s political and ideological demands, Tehran’s second approach is somehow unique: irregular warfare. In the second platform, Tehran will either make an alliance with one or several Shiite extremist groups in the given nation or will create a new proxy by financing, arming, training and supporting a militia through the Quds Force and IRGC. The third tactic is to avoid officially setting up a military base in other countries, but to deploy Quds forces in various sections of the country. Iran avoids publicly raising concern of the regional countries by declaring that Tehran has officially established a military base in an Arab state. The senior cadre of IRGC are cognizant of the fact that they have been proficient at expanding their military power across the region through covert operations rather than overt ones. In other words, similar to Tehran’s nuclear program, Iran’s foreign policy and its military agenda have predominantly been based on covert and underground landscapes.
Predominantly three institutions- senior official of IRGC, Quds Force (the foreign and paramilitary arm of the Revolutionary Guard), and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security- exert their influence in other nations through these postmodern militaristic expansionism and imperialism. In addition, the ideological aspect of Iran’s foreign policy drives the IRGC to spread the Islamic Republic’s values through financing, arming, and supporting Shiite extremist groups in several nations in the Middle East.
Ideological expansion
Over the last three decades, through these approaches, Iran’s military institutions have expanded its military from Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, to Yemen. The first method of infiltrating the security, military and political establishments of a nation has functioned for the Islamic Republic in Iraq and Syria. For example, when it comes to Syria, the Islamic Republic never declared that it has military bases in the country or that it is conducting military operations. Nevertheless, the IRGC has managed to dominate Syrian political and economic systems through a new form of control. Iran has infiltrated the security and military ranks of the Syrian forces, dominating politics more efficiently from top. Although there is no concrete Iranian military base in Syria, the Quds forces and senior cadre of Iranian government have been repeatedly deployed to advise and conduct military operations on the ground. In addition, the military, economic, and intelligence assistance to the Assad’s government further bolster Tehran’s influence in Syria. In Iraq, Iran has implemented the same agenda securing the dominance of the Shiite government. Iranian forces are almost directing every aspect of the battles and political process in Iraq through the Quds forces and its advisory mechanism. When dominating a country from the top fails, the IRGC has utilized the second bottom-up approach, such as in Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon. Over the past three decades, the IRGC, the Quds Force and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security have incrementally spread their influence and ideologies across the Middle East. Although Iran’s foreign policy of dominance and intervention have created resistance among ordinary people in other nations, the IRGC and the establishment of ruling clerics still remain to be determined in ratcheting up their military projection and power in other nations.

Does the U.N.’s latest resolution on Yemen have ‘teeth’?
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 26 April 2015
Seasoned experts on the Yemeni issue are proposing the idea of “securing” Aden and Sanaa using international peacekeeping forces or international observers as a necessary measure for Yemen to begin its recovery following the Houthi coup against the legitimate government and Operation Decisive Storm conducted by the Saudi-led Arab coalition. U.N. Security Resolution 2016 was adopted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which means that it has the ability to impose measures with “teeth” such as deploying international forces or observers. The resolution imposes sanctions and a travel ban on Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son Ahmed.
This certainly contributed - along with the air strikes that destroyed much of the pro-Saleh forces - to convincing the stubborn father that it is time to pack and leave Yemen once and for all. The deposed president has finally realized that continuing to ally himself to the Houthis militarily will lead to his demise, and that his delusional belief that he could return as president or bequeath the presidency to his son has become costly for both men, who are now together under international sanctions.
If Ali Abdullah Saleh flees to Oman for political asylum but not to use Oman as a base for pursuing his obsession with power, and if the international community takes action to secure Aden and Sanaa alone, the required political process will be feasible and viable. Certainly, the issue requires a long-term Saudi strategy in Yemen, with security, political, economic, and structural elements not based on exclusion but on encouraging dialogue, reconciliation, and regional accords.
‘Exit strategy’
It can be said that moving from the military operations under Decisive Storm to ending the air strikes and beginning Operation Restoring Hope constitutes an “exit strategy” that was necessary to avoid slipping into the quagmire of a ground war in Yemen. For one thing, it became clear that neither Egypt nor Pakistan was willing to become involved with ground troops in Yemen.
Political efforts are necessary and so are structural investments in Yemen. Pushing the political process forward requires serious stances by the United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia and other countries participating in the coalition, as well as the U.N.
There was some hastiness at the start of Decisive Storm, because the operation did not include preparations for a ground war in Yemen and did not include a plan B should ground forces not be available to participate. The air strikes alone would not have accomplished the military goals no matter how intense they were. The U.S. experience in fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen using drones provides clear lessons for the impossibility of achieving victory through air campaigns alone. The hastiness was evident when Pakistan declared it would join the Arab coalition only to decline to do so soon thereafter. And perhaps the assumption that the serious and new strategic relationship between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, would guarantee Egypt deploying forces in Yemen, was rushed too.
Conventional victory
Whatever the case, the decision to end the intensive air campaign is a wise “exit strategy”, particularly since Decisive Storm has achieved one of its most important objectives, namely, to eliminate weapons that threaten Saudi national security, and to confront Iranian threats to Saudi national security through neighboring Yemen.
One of the most knowledgeable figures when it comes to Yemen’s history and secrets said that victory in the conventional military sense would have been possible if the Arab coalition had decided to land forces in Aden to secure the legitimate government similar to the landing at Normandy. He said, “There are no mountains and valleys in Aden, and no army brigades. There is a [pro-legitimacy] popular base there, and hence securing Aden through a beach landing is easy.” He also said that after Aden, securing Hodeidah would be easy because there are no major forces there, and because it also supports the legitimate government, followed by securing Taiz and then Ibb. “This would place three-quarters of the people of Yemen under the legitimate authority.”
This option was not been adopted because of the obstacles and concerns related to a ground operation, as well as the history of involvement in Yemen starting in Saada where Egypt, and before it the Ottomans, suffered a defeat. Nevertheless, a beach landing through Aden remains an option if required, especially since Saudi Arabia is officially maintaining that the war is not over and that it will continue to target the movements of Houthi and pro-Saleh forces through aerial bombardment and naval blockade.
The U.S. participation in the naval blockade was meant to send a message to the Islamic Republic of Iran, stating that the United States would not sanction any actions that threaten Saudi national security. The message was firm: Greater Iranian involvement in Yemen would negatively affect efforts to convince the US Congress of facilitating a nuclear deal. Since Iran desperately wants the sanctions to be lifted, and since President Barack Obama reassured Iran huge amounts of cash would flow in Tehran’s direction after a deal, Tehran felt it would be in its interest to avoid any naval military confrontation with the United States and to leave the Houthis without military assistance.
In fact, the Houthis now have access to the entire weapons stockpiles of the Yemeni army, and Tehran does not need to deliver arms shipments to them. There is no military value at present for Iranian support for the Houthis enough to justify risking the nuclear deal and the quest to get the sanctions lifted. So the test for Iran is how much it is willing to convince the Houthis to turn into a civilian political movement, something that it has failed to do so far.
The overt U.S. movement through the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was a message of support for Saudi Arabia and its efforts in defending its national security and legitimacy in Yemen. At the same time, Washington was letting Riyadh know that it is concerned Decisive Storm could allow Al Qaeda to expand on the ground, and that it supported ending coalition air strikes over Yemen in order to resume pressure on Al Qaeda by air. The U.S. message also had a dimension related to the humanitarian cost of Decisive Storm and the devastation it could cause if the air strikes continue for several months. The American messages included semi-assurances that Iran could be ready to facilitate negotiations, especially on the foundations sponsored by Muscat in a comprehensive initiative, and that Iran is definitely not planning to engage in a military confrontation with Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
Not yet clear
Iran’s role in the Muscat dialogue is not clear yet in all its aspects. What is clear is that the relationship between Iran and Oman is very good, and that Oman is neutral vis-a-vis the Gulf policy on Iran and Yemen. Regarding how willing Iran is to open a new chapter with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially Saudi Arabia, following Decisive Storm, this remains an as of yet unanswered question. Perhaps Iran does not see itself as the losing party in Yemen because Decisive Storm ended before a complete military outcome emerged. Yet it may not consider itself the victor in Yemen because Saudi Arabia and other countries participating in the Arab coalition were not drawn into the quagmire of a bitter ground war by deciding to end the operation.
The Houthis and Saleh and his followers are hinting that they could accept the new fait accompli and Resolution 2016 calling on them to return weapons to state institutions and withdraw from the locations they had seized as a condition for letting them take part in negotiations. But at other times, they speak with a triumphalist tone because Decisive Storm ended with them still in control of their positions.
In reality, the end of Saleh is certain. If he implements what Muscat’s secret track discussed and he flees to Oman, then this will be his end politically speaking. If he backtracks on leaving and insists on destroying Yemen, then this means that the war of attrition will last for a long time and will drain both Saleh and his son.
The political equation in Yemen will change with the end of Decisive Storm and the start of Operation Restoring Hope to bring the parties to the previous status quo, provide humanitarian assistance, and begin reconstruction. The Yemen branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, seemed reassured by the Arab coalition war on the Houthis and Saleh, as this war benefits them and helps them regain their lost status. This has increased the odds for the Muslim Brotherhood to be factored in future Gulf and Gulf-Egyptian calculations.
Now, there will be a flurry of initiatives and efforts to mediate in Yemen. Oman does not want to host the dialogue - if one is agreed - and prefers for it to take place in Europe, in Geneva or Vienna. Saudi Arabia, officially, still considers Riyadh the best venue for any dialogue in fulfilment of the request made by the legitimate Yemeni president. However, Saudi Arabia also realizes that there can be no U.N.-brokered dialogue in Riyadh because of the Houthis’ opposition. The Obama administration seems to be eager for the dialogue to take place under the sponsorship of the U.N. and not to fulfill the request by the Yemeni president and hold it in Riyadh. The military operations will not stop completely. Rather, Arab coalition forces will continue their operations by targeting Houthis wherever they may be - if they continue to reject dialogue and negotiations, and to become a civilian political movement. These forces continue to dominate the Yemeni airspace and territorial water. Political efforts are necessary and so are structural investments in Yemen. Pushing the political process forward requires serious stances by the United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia and other countries participating in the coalition, as well as the U.N. These countries have a practical idea to implement Resolution 2016, which included a roadmap for the political process: the idea of securing Aden and Sanaa through international presence. This would lead to a serious move towards Yemen’s recovery.

Tony Blair believes the West is completely unaware of Mideast events
Abdel Latif el-Menawy/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 26 April 2015
On July 7 2013, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote an article in UK paper The Observer, where he expressed his stance favoring the intervention of the Egyptian army to stand beside the people and overthrow the Brotherhood. Not everyone in Britain agreed with what he wrote. He was criticized by the media as well as British and Western politicians. However, the campaign that was waged against him did not deter the man from holding to his stance. He even went beyond that and visited Cairo for several times, and wanted to turn his stance from words into action. Due to his positions, Blair was subject to many campaigns attacking and discrediting him. It is needless to mention that he already is a controversial figure whose politics are not much loved by the British people. In contrast, it is quite clear that the man maintained his strong presence on the international level. No contemporary British politician managed to stay under the spotlight radiating controversy and influence as much as Blair did.
Blair’s stand
I got to know Tony – as he is called by the people around him – closely during the period following the overthrowing of the Brotherhood. The last time we talked, he tackled the reason why he was taking a stand against the group: “I think that some of us who supported the June Revolution feel that we took the right decision. Egypt was in a state of crisis, and I think that it was tumbling into the abyss. Millions of people had to go on the streets, because they knew what are the actions to be taken regarding this situation. Despite the various challenges, I believe that the state is now on the right track.”I got to know Tony – as he is called by the people around him – closely during the period following the overthrowing of the Brotherhood He added: “I am used to such criticism from the media, especially if you enjoy a wide experience; you should use this experience to tell the people what you are doing. What you say might seem to be futile. However, in my opinion, I saw and understood what was happening in Egypt. I saw the systematic acquisition of all the institutions by the Muslim Brotherhood, as a means to a certain goal and not to democracy. My job is to tell people to be aware and to keep their eyes wide open; it would not be easy for them if the situation stays the same”. Tony believes that the problem is that the West is completely unaware of what is happening in the Middle East. He does not exempt himself from this ignorance, but after he left his post in the government and got involved in the peace process in the Middle East, he was able to understand the nature and complexity of the region.
Mursi is no Merkel
Perhaps one of the most important concepts that he understood is the belief of the West that the Muslim Brotherhood is similar to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party; this is ironic as it is completely the opposite. The West failed to understand that there is a huge gap between the reality of what is happening in the Middle East and the image that the west wants to see. Tony, who considers himself a supporter for Egypt and President Sisi, believes that he has no choice in front of everyone, but to succeed. He says in this regard: “What I can do to Egypt and tell to the West is as follows: it is essential for our security that Egypt succeeds. If you look at the situation in the region, whether it is the Palestinian-Israeli case, ISIS activities or even the Libyan and Yemeni crises, you will find that none of these problems and crises can be resolved if the Brotherhood were in power instead of Sisi. The pillar of our security is the victory of Egypt. This victory is necessary to achieve the security of Western countries, given the importance of the role of Cairo in the crises witnessed in some countries of the Middle East”. We will always endeavor to make, defend and support new friends. Friendly influential voices are rare at this stage, amid the events and bloodshed taking place in the region.

The Cat-and-Mouse Game of Terrorism and Freedom
Amal Mousa/Asharq Al Awsat
Sunday, 26 Apr, 2015
Not only is terrorism a complex and reviled phenomenon, due to the darkness and bloodiness of its crimes, it also poses a host of other serious and sometimes embarrassing problems for those societies affected by it. One of the first victims of terrorism, aside from the peace and security of the afflicted society, are those of personal freedoms, civil liberties, and human rights.
Invariably, the fight against terror forces any country, even if it has a long and proud history of democracy, to curb such freedoms in order to tighten its grip on the terrorists. Perhaps the first example of this was in the United States following the 9/11 attacks. At the time, the George W. Bush administration heavily tarnished the relationship of the citizen with the US state as it cracked down on such freedoms as part of its “War on Terror.” Many in the country considered the measures, which included, among others, hacking individuals’ phone lines and monitoring their bank accounts, an attack not only on personal freedoms, but on the concept of democracy itself. All the while, the state maintained it was doing this to track down those who belonged to terrorist groups as well as those who supported and financed them. Whenever you find terror, or the specter of it, taking up major headline space, you will also find the repercussions of this cat-and-mouse game between the state and the terrorists, represented mainly in a crackdown on personal freedoms in the name of “national security”—with the main excuse here being that such freedoms must play second fiddle to the safety of the nation state, since the former cannot in any case exist in the absence of the latter.
This situation which sees personal freedoms curbed as a result of the specter of terrorist activity is actually more acutely felt in countries new to the democratic experience, whose citizens are still basking in the glory of the newly found freedoms they have recently acquired. Their sadness at the loss of these hard-won fruits of their struggle is both palpable and highly moving.
We have an ongoing example of this with Tunisia, the country whose revolution lit the spark which kick-started the Arab Spring at the beginning of 2011, and is rightly proud of its new constitution, which was drafted in the spirit of the “Jasmine Revolution” and contains several articles protecting and promoting personal freedoms. It is for this reason that the recent announcement of a new draft bill aiming to protect the country’s armed forces in the face of a recent string of terror attacks targeting them, and which includes provisions which threaten the freedom of the press in Tunisia, met with such heated debate and consternation. Many in the country have called for the law to be repealed, dismayed that it could be proposed by a Tunisian cabinet that includes so many ministers who were involved in decades-long battles to bring to the country the very freedoms which this new bill now seeks to throttle.
Members of the press in Tunisia, still jealous of their newly found legroom, are adamant these freedoms should not be curbed, and have been joined by many from other professions, including lawyers, law experts, and others working in the media. All agree the law represents a worrying precedent and an omen perhaps foretelling the return of a dictatorial police state that for decades allowed its security arm a wide berth to repress and subjugate, all in the name of “national security.”
The reason I have mentioned this example from Tunisia is to bolster the aforementioned contention that it is terrorism that is the number one, and most ferocious, enemy of personal freedoms and civil liberties—in any society. The state is, naturally, by virtue of the power it wields, able to swallow up these freedoms in the face of the terrorist threat. In the Tunisia example, fear of terror has forced the state to renege on the gains of the revolution and even throttle freedoms as well as projects aiming to improve the human rights situation in the country.
We must also note, however, how terrorism and extremism utilize such freedoms and human rights provisions to pursue their activities and spread their corrosive ideology, with the use of technology and social media networks to recruit young people a prominent example here. Moreover, given the respective natures of the participants in this cat-and-mouse game, terror and extremism always win against any legislated freedoms—even against those that have been curbed following the numerous “Wars on Terror” we see declared in many of the countries afflicted by this phenomenon.
In truth, what is sorely needed given the current threat of terrorism around the world is for us to remain vigilant against this disastrous threat which it, and the subsequent wars declared on it, pose toward our basic freedoms. This is especially true for Arab and Islamic countries, which unlike the democracies of the West, who possess historical and cultural buffers against any regression in freedoms, have experienced countless bloody and destructive battles waged against the very concept of freedom, both in their recent and not-so-recent histories
In this context, and given the aforementioned historical considerations, it becomes necessary to put a stop to this cat-and-mouse game which terrorism and freedom are currently involved in. Perhaps making room for enacting temporary measures in light of a terrorist threat, which could then be repealed as soon as that threat is contained, could bolster a general, and informed, anti-terror policy which can at the same time protect constitutions drafted in a spirit completely at odds with the sentiments behind such recent legislation as the one proposed in Tunisia.
**Amal Mousa is a Tunisian writer and poet

A ticking bomb awaits Israel on its northern border
Yossi Yehoshua/Ynetnews/Published 04.26.15/ Israel Opinion
Analysis: Even if the alleged Israeli strike in Syria destroyed a missile shipment to Hezbollah, it's still a drop in the ocean; the Shiite organization's monstrous weapons arsenal will not be eliminated by occasional surgical strikes.
Even if the alleged Israeli strike in Syria over the weekend achieved its goal and the missile shipment to Hezbollah was destroyed, and even if we believe reports from the past that the IDF attacked several other times, we should remember that it's still a drop in the ocean. Hezbollah's monstrous weapons arsenal will not be eliminated by surgical strikes once every six months.
For example, according to foreign reports, Friday's attack on the Syrian missile depot in the al-Qalamoun area near the Syria-Lebanon border targeted Scud-C missiles. But Hezbollah already obtained the more advanced Scud-D missiles a long time ago.
In recent years, Hezbollah has been emptying out all its Syrian ally's weapons, and with all due respect to Israel's impressive intelligence abilities, there is no way to uncover every single truck crossing the long border between the countries.
The working premise is that Hezbollah is armed from head to toe: From Scud-D missiles which cover every point in the country, through the accurate Fateh-110 missiles with the heavy warheads, the Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles which reach a range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) and can paralyze the Navy's activity and hit strategic points (according to foreign reports, the IDF attacked such a shipment, but other reports indicated that not all missiles were destroyed), aerial defense systems, and of course a stock of some 130,000 rockets reaching different ranges, with an ability to fire 1,500 rockets a day.
If that were not enough, Hezbollah has gotten hold of short-range Burkan rockets from Syria, which can reach up to 7 kilometers but carry warheads of 100 kilograms to half a ton of explosives, and can cause destructive damage.
It's true that Hezbollah is up to its neck in the fighting in Syria with 5,000 of its men, in Iraq and in Yemen. Its fighters are being buried secretly, with the death toll nearing 1,000, in addition to thousands of injured. For an organization of 15,000 regular fighters, that's quite a lot. Hezbollah's offensive initiatives in the Golan Heights, with Iranian help, have been unsuccessful too.
Nonetheless, the challenge posed by Hezbollah is becoming extremely significant, and any attempt to repress it as if it were a Defense Ministry spin is foolish and could even be dangerous. Hezbollah has gained huge fighting experience in major frameworks as an army for all intents and purposes, in firing rockets and missiles and in operating advanced weapons. Only last weekend we were exposed to a drone base it set up, and it has made a significant leap in this field and received unmanned aircraft from Iran.
If we add that to the many weapons it has received, the defense establishment must raise its preparedness level immediately, in light of the gaps exposed in the reserve system and in the regular units' training, speed up the development of the David's Sling defense system and create a considerable and dramatic threat against Hezbollah which will deter it from entering the next conflict.
If the past weekend's operation was painful for Hezbollah, we should not rule out the possibility of retaliation, on Syria's part either. About three months ago, in the attack on Mount Dov, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah demonstrated that he has red lines too, and there is basically a deterrence battle taking place here.
This requires high-quality intelligence, technological superiority not only in the air but also on the land, and a lot of training. The ability demonstrated against Hamas last summer will not suffice against Hezbollah. It's true that the IDF has also made a considerable quantum leap from the summer of 2006.
If we only compare the number of targets the Air Force had at the time – a little more than 200 – today it has collected more than thousands, and the intelligence ability has been improved in a way that will even surprise Nasrallah.
But it is still our duty to say that there is a ticking bomb waiting for us on the northern border which requires us to think outside the box. If the defense establishment fails to defuse it, quickly, we are in for a battle which we have never experienced before.

IDF kills four terrorists trying to infiltrate Israel from north

Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews
Published: 04.26.15 / Israel News
'Any attempt to harm our soldiers will be met with firm response,' Prime Minister Netanyahu says after IDF kill terrorists trying to place blast along Israel's border with Syria in Golan Heights.
Four terrorists trying to place a bomb along Israel's border with Syria were killed Sunday evening. The incident came after reports in Arab media said Israel launched an attack in Syria, hitting a convoy of long-range missile intended for Shiite terror group Hezbollah.
An IDF patrol identified four figures approaching the border near Mt. Dov in the Golan Heights at around 9:30 pm and altered IAF planes to the scene. The air force then took out the terrorist with at least three confirmed killed in the attack.
The incident took place in Israeli territory, in an abandoned IDF base located outside the fence acting's as the buffer zone between Israel and Lebanon. .
"A short while ago, the IDF eliminated a terror cell attempting to place an explosive device against IDF forces on Israel's border with Syria. The IDF will not accept any attempt to attack or infringe Israel's sovereignty," the IDF said in statement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the event, saying "any attempt to harm our soldiers will be met with a firm response, like the one led by the IDF tonight who stopped an attempted terror attack. I praise the IDF alertness which responded quickly and accurately."The area in which the attack took place was scene to a previous incident in March 2014 in which the IDF shot two Hezbollah fighters who tried to plant a bomb on the border fence between the Israeli side of the Golan Heights and the Syrian-held territory. The incident took place after another alleged Israeli attack in along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday evening that Israel will not allow Hezbollah to attain arms, his comments came a day after Arab media reported Israel hit a shipment of long-range ground-to-ground missiles, likely of the Scud variety, in Syria which was intended for the terror group.
The strike was reported in Al-Arabiya, which claimed the target was a cache of Syrian Scuds. The Saudi-owned network further claimed that Israel had also struck the area on Wednesday.
Al Jazeera reported on Saturday morning that Israeli warplanes bombed positions belonging to the Syrian army and Hezbollah in the al-Qalamoun region near the border between Syria and Lebanon, with reports claiming the attack occurred in two waves and left a number of casualties.In a special event held for Independence Day, Ya'alon did not confirm the reports, but said that "Iran continues to try and arm Hezbollah, even now, and strives to equip the Lebanese terror group (Hezbollah) with advanced and accurate weapons."
According to Ya'alon, Iran's "Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah know Israel's red lines in this regard and that it has no intention of compromising: We will not allow advanced arms to reach terror groups, first and foremost Hezbollah, and we will go anywhere, anytime (to stop them), he said.The IDF and the security services refused to comment on the strikes.
According to the Al Jazeera report, the strike occurred on Friday and was intended to hit the 155th and 65th Brigades of the Syrian army, which specialize in strategic weaponry and long-range missiles. Sources which reported to the Qatari network said several explosions were heard in the Syrian towns of Al-Qutayfah, Yabroud and Qarah on the outskirts of Damascus.
Meanwhile, a Syrian opposition official currently outside of the country claimed overnight, based on sources within Syria, that the target was weapon stores.
At the same time, an Al-Arabiya reporter in Israel claimed that on Wednesday the Israeli military attacked a weapons convoy intended for Hezbollah. The reporter claimed one person was killed in the strike.
In January, a strike attributed to Israel killed a number of militants in the Syrian village of Quneitra, near the Israeli Golan Heights and not far from the Lebanese border. Jihad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah's commander of the Syrian Golan sector and the son of Lebanese terrorist Imad Mughniyah, was killed along with other Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general.
Ten days later, an anti-tank missile hit an IDF convoy near Mount Dov, along Israel's border with Lebanon. Two soldiers were killed and seven wounded. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it retribution for the Israeli strike.
No one immediately claimed responsibility of the attack launched from inside Syria, which has been in the grips of a civil war since 2011. Syrian state media did not immediately report on the strike.
Israel has tried to stay out of the war in Syria, but it has spilled into the country before. In September, the Israeli military shot down a Syrian fighter jet in airspace over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move that has never been internationally recognized. In August, Israel shot down a drone that came into the same airspace from Syria.
Israeli troops also have responded to occasional mortar fire from Syria. Israel says some of the attacks may have been accidental spillover, while others have been intentionally aimed at Israeli civilians and soldiers. It has always held Syria responsible for any cross-border fire. Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. While relations are hostile, the ruling Assad family in Syria has kept the border area with Israel quiet for most of the past 40 years. Israel is concerned that the possible ouster of embattled President Bashir Assad's ouster could push the country into the hands of Islamic State extremists or al-Qaeda linked militants, or plunge the region further into sectarian warfare.
**Roi Kais and AP contributed to this report.

Israeli Defense Minister,Ya'alon: Iran is currently seeking to smuggle advanced arms to Hezbollah
By YAAKOV LAPPIN/J.Post/04/26/2015
A day after Al Jazeera reported that the IAF struck missile bases in Syria, defense minister warns: We will not allow the transfer of quality weapons to Hezbollah.
Iran is in the midst of an effort to arm Hezbollah and Hamas, and Israel will not tolerate the transfer of advanced weaponry to its enemies, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Sunday, a day after a report by Al Jazeera said the Israel Air Force struck Assad regime military bases housing long-range missiles in Syria.
Addressing an audience that had gathered to mark Israel's 67th Independence Day at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Ya'alon said that "Iran is continuing to try and arm Hezbollah, including during these current days, and it is aspiring to equip the Lebanese terrorist organization with advanced and precise weapons."
Ya'alon said that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel and Hezbollah are seeking to smuggle weapons "in every way and through every route, while being aware of the red lines set by the state of Israel, and that Israel has no intention of compromising over them. We will not allow the transfer of quality weapons to terror organizations, chief among them Hezbollah, and we will know how to reach those who send them [the weapons] at any time and place. We will not allow Iran and Hezbollah to set up terrorist infrastructure on our border with Syria, and we will know how to place our hands on anyone who threatens Israeli civilians, along the borders, or far from them."
Ya'alon also addressed Iran's arms smuggling efforts in Gaza, saying, "The terrorist octopus from Tehran is trying to arm Hamas and the other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip with weapons, and seeking to rebuild its military force. We have nothing against the residents of the Strip who wish to live and make a living, but we will not allow attempts to smuggle [weapons] via the sea or land, and we will not tolerate [rocket] fire at Israel," he said.
Operation Protective Edge last summer has proven how fragile and complex Israel's reasonable security is, Ya'alon said, adding that Israel's relatively stable situation should not be taken for granted.
"It is the product of the correct maneuvering of the ship, responsibility, and sound judgement. It is also the outcome of the IDF being the strongest, most deterring, advanced and highest quality military in the Middle East," he said.
Ya'alon described Iran as the most dangerous instigator of instability in the Middle East. "Its recent actions in Yemen, against a pro-western regime, proves that the terror rule in Tehran continues to deceive the world."
The defense minister issued a warning against an approaching nuclear deal between the international community and Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, an agreement he described as "bad and dangerous."
"It will provide the Iranian regime with breathing space and international legitimacy. Instead of making things harder for Iran until it stops its nuclear program, the West is allowing it to come back, through the main door, to the family of nations, to be a nuclear threshold state, and to continue to spread terrorism throughout the whole world, including in the countries of the free world, while publicly calling for Israel to be erased from the map," Ya'alon said.
Israel Air Force fighter jets struck Syrian military bases housing long-range missiles on Friday, the Qatari Al Jazeera satellite television network said on Saturday.
According to the report, the bases, near the Syrian-Lebanese border, belong to Assad regime brigades that possess weapons such as Scud missiles. The attacks allegedly targeted multiple targets in the area.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said on Saturday, “We do not comment on foreign reports.”

Israel to observe first UN nuclear meeting in 20 years in bid to foster Arab ties
By REUTERS/04/26/2015/J.Post
Israel will take part as an observer in a major nuclear non-proliferation conference that opens at the United Nations on Monday, ending a 20-year absence in hope of fostering dialogue with Arab states, a senior Israeli official said.
Assumed to have the Middle East's sole nuclear arsenal, and having never joined the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has stayed away from gatherings of NPT signatories since 1995 in protest at resolutions it regarded as biased against it.
Citing the example of disarmament talks in other regions, Israel says it would consider submitting to international nuclear inspections and controls only once at peace with the Arabs and Iran. Those countries want Israel curbed first.
With Middle East upheaval and the disputed Iranian nuclear program often pitting Tehran-aligned Shi'ite Muslims against Sunni Arabs, a senior Israeli official saw in the April 27-May 22 NPT review conference a chance to stake out common causes.
Israel deems Iran its top threat. The Islamic Republic has said it seeks only nuclear energy, not bombs, from uranium enrichment. Six global powers are negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran -- a process Israel has denounced, fearing it will not restrain Tehran's atomic activities sufficiently.
"We think that this is the time for all moderate countries to sit and discuss the problems that everyone is facing in the region," the Israeli official, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject, told Reuters on Sunday.
"I see this, coming as an observer to the conference now, as trying to demonstrate our good faith in terms of having such a conversation. We need direct negotiations between the regional parties, a regional security conversation, a conversation based on consensus. This (attendance at the NPT conference) is meant not to change our policy. It's meant to emphasize our policy."
The question of sequencing -- if peace should precede disarmament -- has helped mire negotiations on the creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. An Egyptian plan for an international meeting laying the groundwork for such a deal was agreed at the last NPT review conference, in 2010.
The Israeli official doubted the deadlock would be resolved at the pending NPT conference - anticipating, instead, an "Arab proposal that would not adopt the position of direct engagement" with Israel.
Still, the official described the NPT conference as a chance to build on opposition Israel shared with some Arabs to the April 2 outline nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.
The conference "doesn't contradict a broader possible outreach," the official said. Without naming specific countries, the official said some Arabs appeared less attentive to Israel's non-NPT status as they were "too busy with bigger problems."
Among these might be Egypt, which had long been vocally opposed to Israel's nuclear opacity but has recently closed ranks with its neighbor against common Islamist adversaries.
"Our initiative for a Middle East free of non-conventional weapons is a principle. It will not change. But nothing is against Israel itself. It's for everyone -- Iran, Israel, everyone," an Egyptian official said on condition on anonymity.