Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Behind The News - June 2015

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Rocket and terror report

On April 23, two rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. One fell in an open area in the western Negev. The other fell inside Gaza. It was the fourth time a rocket struck Israeli territory since the end of Operation Protective Edge last year and the first attack since December.

On May 3, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip in the direction of Israel but exploded in Gaza.
In Hebron on April 25, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a border police soldier, seriously wounding him in the neck and chest. Other policemen nearby shot and killed the assailant.

On May 2, a 16-year-old Palestinian attempted to stab a soldier at the Gush Etzion checkpoint in Jerusalem, but was arrested.

On May 11, a Palestinian stabbed and lightly wounded a 19-year-old Jewish man in the Mishor Adumim industrial area near Jerusalem.

On May 21, two Israeli border police officers were injured when a Palestinian driver allegedly deliberately drove his car off the road at a group of police in eastern Jerusalem. The driver was shot dead as he tried to reverse his car over the wounded officers.


Ongoing chemical weapons concerns in Syria

Diplomatic sources say the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January found traces of chemical precursors used to make sarin and VX nerve agent at a government military research site in Syria that had never been declared as a chemical weapons site under the 2013 deal to remove all chemical weapons from Syria.

While the Obama Administration was told about these finds early this year, it is reportedly still debating how to respond. Syria's Assad regime reacted by banning OPCW inspectors from the site.

Meanwhile, rescue workers report that the Assad forces have been increasing the dropping of crude chlorine barrel bombs on insurgent-held areas. Furthermore, a senior intelligence officer has told Bloomberg that the US, working with the UN and OPCW, has intelligence that the Assad regime failed to disclose at least ten suspected chemical weapons sites. All three actions would breach the 2013 agreement in which the regime agreed to destroy its chemical weapons and abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention.


Iran continues to violate sanctions

In early May, Iran's Mahan Air received nine used airliners, making 15 acquired by Iran since February, in violation of sanctions. It is suspected that the latest arrivals - apparently purchased from Virgin airlines - were arranged through an Iraqi airline operating as a front. Mahan Air is under sanctions because of its close financial relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Israeli intelligence sources said they had warned Washington about the proposed sale before it occurred but said, "Unfortunately, the deal still went through and there was no success in preventing it."

Meanwhile, the annual report of an expert panel for the UN Security Council's Iran Sanctions Committee has revealed that Czech Republic officials prevented the sale to Iran of equipment usable for nuclear enrichment, backed up by false end-user certificates. Britain has also informed the panel of an active nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms.


Palestinian human rights transgressions worsening

The annual report of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights says human rights for people living in the Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank and Gaza are the worst they have been for years. It said that several people died in Hamas detention, that Hamas killed 16 prisoners during the 2014 Gaza war and that other violations by authorities in both Hamas and Palestinian Authority-ruled areas - including bans on peaceful protests - had "increased in volume" over the past four years.

Meanwhile, following Fatah's defeat by Hamas at recent elections in Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, elections have been called off at two further Fatah controlled West Bank universities, with the universities citing unspecified technical reasons.


French Arafat probe winds up

On May 6, France officially closed its investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat. The announcement followed March reports that French experts re-examining the evidence had confirmed their earlier conclusion that Arafat's death was not the result of poisoning.

The case has now been forwarded to the prosecutor, who has three months to dismiss the case or forward it to a court. The former is the widely expected outcome given the findings in March.

Lawyers representing Arafat's widow Suha denounced the announcement and vowed to fight the decision to end the probe.


Israel reveals Hezbollah infiltration of Lebanese villages

Maps and aerial photography provided to the New York Times by Israeli military officials illustrate that Hezbollah has moved most of its military infrastructure into civilian Shi'ite villages of southern Lebanon and around their perimeters. Israel says this amounts to using the civilians as human shields.

The Israeli military says that in the village of Shaqra alone, with a population of about 4,000, it has identified about 400 military sites and facilities belonging to Hezbollah, including nine arms depots, five rocket-launching sites, four infantry positions, three underground tunnels, three antitank positions and a command post.

Israeli military officials and experts have warned that Hezbollah has significantly built up its firepower to about 100,000 rockets and missiles. Most are short-range Katyusha-type rockets, it says, but the arsenal also includes thousands of medium-range missiles that could reach Tel Aviv.

A badly-overstretched Hezbollah may also be resorting to using child soldiers to compensate for growing losses in Syria. Mashhur Fahd Shamseddine was reportedly only 15 years old when he was killed on "jihadist duty" in Syria on 26 April.


Israel restrained settlement construction during peace talks

David Makovsky, who was a member of US Secretary of State John Kerry's negotiating team during the nine months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that ended in 2014, has confirmed that Israel instituted an unofficial policy of restraining construction in settlements while the talks were in progress. Makovsky said that Israel was more "geographically cautious" with settlement announcements during the negotiating period than many realise. This caution was not stated publicly but was the policy, he indicated.

During the nine months of the negotiations, 62% of Israel's publicly announced tenders for housing beyond the Green Line were for the 1.9% of West Bank land that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had previously agreed could remain in Israel's hands in exchange for land swaps, Makovksy revealed, while many others were in the larger settlements blocs that most peace proposals would see Israel retaining.


Israel Aids Nepal

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal on April 25, which killed more than 7,000 people, Israel sent 260 aid workers to Nepal, including 40 doctors as well as nurses, search and rescue specialists and material to set up a 60-bed mobile field hospital. During its 10 days of operation, the hospital treated 1,427 victims of the earthquake, performed 90 life-saving surgeries, and oversaw the birth of eight babies. Mobile Israeli medical teams were also reportedly sent to remote villages.

Reports said the Israeli aid contingent was the second largest after India, and was also one of the quickest to arrive in the country following the disaster.

 

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