WEEK OF MAY 26 THROUGH JUNE 1
Israel Threatens to Bomb Russian Arms Shipment to Syria
May 31….(Israel Today) Israeli officials this week said they would "know what to do" if Russia goes through with the planned sale of an advanced anti-aircraft system to Syria. Given Israel's recent pinpoint air strikes in Syria, the remarks were taken as a thinly veiled threat to destroy the Russian arms the moment they touch Syrian soil. "Delivery [of the S-300] has not taken place, I can attest to this and I hope it does not. But if, by some misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told reporters.
Israel had tried to convince Russia to cancel the arms sale, arguing that the S-300 would enable embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to more easily transfer chemical weapons to his Hezbollah allies. Two earlier Israeli air strikes purportedly prevented similar transfers. There is also the risk that should Assad fall, the S-300 itself will fall into the hands of Hezbollah or one of the radical Islamic groups making up the Syrian rebel army. Israeli officials noted that, in the hands of terrorists, the S-300 could be used to quite easily bring down civilian airliners. But at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's concerns, insisting that Assad is a stabilizing factor in the region and that his regime must be given every chance to remain in power.
Meanwhile, Assad on Thursday claimed on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that he had already received the first shipment of S-300 missiles and radar systems. The Syrian dictator went on to warn Israel that any further air strikes would result in an immediate Syrian retaliation. Following Israel's last air strike against a suspect chemical weapons storehouse at Damascus airport, Arab media reported that Syria had aimed the bulk of its considerable long-range missile arsenal at the Jewish state.
Will Obama Finally act Against Violators of Religious Freedoms?
May 31….(Worthy News) The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has called upon President Obama for a clear and direct response concerning countries that have egregiously violated religious freedoms, according to BarnabasAid. The USCIRF monitors abuses of religious freedom worldwide; it annually provides a report of the worst offenders and makes recommendations regarding "countries of particular concern," a designation that requires the US to impose sanctions against them.
The report revealed that US policy provided few incentives for CPC-designated governments to "end their egregious violations of religious freedom because no new Presidential actions pursuant to CPC designations have been levied, the designation of CPC must be followed by the implementation of a clear, direct and specific Presidential action." For example, the only specific executive action Obama took was to supply Egypt with fighter planes and tanks after it's Muslim Brotherhood controlled government consistently failed to protect religious minorities, particularly Christians, while at the same time prosecuting them for allegedly defaming Islam.
'Reign of Terror' Against Christians, Everywhere
May 31….(Worthy News) Islamic militants launched a "reign of terror" against Christians in the Central African Republic after Seleka rebels took control of the country in a March 24 coup. Armed with a "hit list" of pastors and places of worship, Seleka rebels systematically looted church property, even seizing monies from collection plates.
This month, Human Rights Watch released a report citing severe violations committed by the Seleka rebels against civilians that involved rape, pillage and execution, including the death of a church leader after the rebels fired upon a funeral procession on the Ngaragba Bridge in Bangui on April 13. As a result, many Christians have fled into the countryside: more than 200,000 people were displaced while nearly 50,000 others crossed CAR's borders into neighboring nations, according to BarnabasAid.
Muslims Murder Christian Pastor in Nigeria
May 29….(Religion Today) Nigeria continues to own the shameful title of being the deadliest place to be a Christian. In 2012, 70 percent of Christians murdered due to persecution were killed in Nigeria. This deadly fact is characterized by the brutal murder of Rev. Faye Pama Musa who was followed home by suspected Boko Haram militants and shot. News of the murder spread hours after Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three of Nigeria's northern states most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
After finishing his evening Bible study at his church on May 15 in Borno state's capital, Maiduguri, Rev. Faye Pama, the secretary of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), began traveling home for the night. According to Rev. Titus Dama Pona, the chairman of CAN's Borno chapter, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram militants followed the pastor home. After the pastor entered his house, the gunmen climbed over the pastor's fence and broke in. The gunmen then dragged the pastor out of his home and shot him outside. According to a report by Morning Star News, Rev. Faye Pama was executed in front of his daughter, who followed the assailants outside, begging for her father's life.
Rev. Faye Pama was likely targeted by the militants attached to the Islamic extremist group because of his outspoken criticism of Boko Haram's targeting of Christians and the discrimination against Christians in northern Nigeria. In a 2007 interview, the pastor said that he would not leave Borno state even though the state was a safe haven for extremists who posed a danger to both his life and his ministry. "Being [an officer in CAN] and being so vocal, he must have been a marked man," Mark Lipdo, director of the Stefanos Foundation, observed in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. At the age of 47, Rev. Faye Pama is survived by his wife and three children. Fearing further attacks, the pastor's family is unsure what to do or where to go next.
Will Supreme Court Change America?
May 29….(CNN) What the Supreme Court decides by the end of June could fundamentally change lives and legacies on a range of politically explosive issues. The justices will meet in at least five public sessions to release opinions in its remaining 30 cases, among them some the most strongly-contested legal and social issues they have confronted in decades:
-- Same-sex marriage: A pair of appeals testing whether gays and lesbian couples have a fundamental constitutional right to wed.
-- Affirmative action: May race continue to be used as a factor in college admissions, to achieve classroom diversity?
-- Voting rights: The future of the Voting Rights Act, and continued federal oversight of elections in states with a past history of discrimination.
There has been particularly intense focus on the same-sex marriage cases. Thousands of activists rallied at the court when the case was argued in March. At issue:
-- Federal benefits. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is a 1996 law that says for federal purposes, marriage is defined as only between one man and one woman. That means federal tax, Social Security, pension, and bankruptcy benefits, family medical leave protections, and a thousand more such provisions, do not apply to gay and lesbian couples, such as Edie Windsor. The 84-year-old New York woman is the key plaintiff in the DOMA fight. She was forced to pay more than $363,000 in extra estate taxes when her longtime spouse, Thea Spyer, died.
-- State referendums. The California high court had earlier concluded same-sex marriage was legal, but the 2008 voter-approved Proposition 8 abolished it. The high court is being asked to establish same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, but could also decide a more narrow question: whether a state can revoke that right through referendum once it has already been recognized.
The political, social, and legal stakes of this long-simmering debate will once again put the high court at the center of national attention, as it was in last summer's ruling upholding the massive health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama.
Ten states now allow gays and lesbians to legally wed: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. Delaware and Minnesota's recently passed laws take effect this summer.
It is estimated about 120,000 legally married homosexual couples live in the United States. There is division within the ranks of both sides about whether the court will, and should, issue a sweeping ruling on the constitutional "equal protection" question. Some activists and politicians, even some justices themselves, think the elected branches may be in a better position to drive the same-sex marriage issue, not the courts. Voters in three states last November approved same-sex marriage, marking the first time the ballot was used to approve such unions. California is the only state to allow, then revoke same-sex marriage.
DOMA has its own sticky procedural questions. President Obama now supports gay marriage, and has refused to defend the 1996 federal law.
Israeli Concerns Over Widening Russian-Hizballah-Iraqi Intervention in Syria
May 29….(DEBKA) Forebodings were voiced Wednesday, May 29, by senior Israeli military officers in the face of the widening military intervention in the Syria civil war by Russia, Iran, Hizballah and latterly Iraq too. They have made Syria’s civil war the platform for a Russian contest against the West and a ladder up which Iran and its proxy Hizballah are climbing to top Middle East regional power spot. Russia, Iran and Hizballah are winning the contest by default against an unresisting US-led West and a hesitant Israel. A senior IDF officer acknowledged on Wednesday, May 29, that Israel’s government and military leaders are at a loss on how to proceed. They have yet to recover from the calamitous miscalculation that Bashar Assad’s days were numbered to which they clung stubbornly for almost eighteen months.
Even today, some spokesmen refer to a “disintegrating Syria,” thereby losing sight of the major strategic and military changes overtaking the country that are entirely to Israel’s detriment as well as eroding its options against a nuclear Iran. At a time that the US and Israel should be using their heaviest military guns to slow Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, Tehran with Moscow's backing has brought its military assets up close to Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon and openly threatens to use them.
Unlike Syria and Iran, Israel can’t count on military intervention against an aggressor by supportive big powers. According to Debkafile's Washington sources, no part of the Obama administration, including its military and intelligence arms, favors military action in Syria. Even the direct evidence of chemical warfare already afoot in Syria is unavailing.
Monday, US Senator John McCain was reported to have paid a secret visit to Syria. What did this "visit" consist of? The senator entered Syria from Turkey through the Kilis corridor which is the main supply route for the rebels in Aleppo, one of the few still under their control. McCain penetrated some 300 meters into Syria, had his picture taken, and left.
A US publication reported Wednesday that President Barack Obama had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to establish no-fly zones over Syria against Syrian warplanes. The Pentagon thereupon issued a denial: “There are no new American operational plans,” said the spokesman. Moscow’s response was ready in place even before the report was published. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the S-300 anti-air missiles that Russia was supplying the Assad regime were a "stabilizing factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict. In the grades Moscow handed out for foreign interventionists: The US and Israel and their leaders were "hotheads" while Moscow, the calm, rational stabilizer.
In sum, the US is not doing anything to help the rebels, Europe is not sending arms, the rebels’ Persian Gulf patrons have bowed to pressure from Washington and slashed their weapons aid, while Israel declares it wants no part of the Syrian civil war, even after it assumed the calamitous proportions of a world power contest with Israel’s arch foes gaining the upper hand. So who is feeding the flames of the Syrian conflict with a generous supply of military hardware? Who but Russia, the self-styled "stabilizing factor”. The Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Commander Gen. Salem Idris made a desperate show of bravado Wednesday, by threatening to strike Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon if Hassan Nasrallah does not pull his brigades out of Syria within 24 hours.
Hizballah knows perfectly well that Gen. Salem is starved of weapons, just he knows that the US, Europe or Israel will not interfere with the stream of fighting strength he is pumping into Syria. At worst, a few rockets will hit Hizballah centers in Beirut and the Beqaa Valley. Early Tuesday morning, the rebels tried to ambush Hizballah forces near the eastern town of Arsal. Their operation went badly wrong and mistakenly killed three Lebanese soldiers manning an army checkpoint. The senior Israeli officer interviewed by debkafile put all these forebodings into words when he said: "A military and strategic catastrophe for the West and Israel is in full flight in Syria, and no one in Washington or Jerusalem is lifting a finger. Israel’s government and military heads never imagined that the Syrian war would take this turn. But we had better wake up at this eleventh hour, before it is too late.
Did Pope Francis Say Atheists are Saved?
May 29….(Dr. Dave Reagen / Lamb & Lion) On May 22, 2013, Pope Francis shocked the world when he delivered an off-the-cuff homily in which he declared that Atheists could be saved by doing good works because Jesus died for everyone (see article). The amazing assertion was, of course, thoroughly unbiblical. It violated two very fundamental biblical principles.
The first is the Bible's clear statement that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The second is that salvation is dependent on faith in Jesus as one's Lord and Savior. Jesus Himself said, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3).
So, it is impossible to be saved by good works, and it is equally impossible to be saved apart from faith in Jesus. In fact, Jesus declared, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). It is true that Jesus died for all people (1 John 2:2), but it is also true that his atoning sacrifice must be appropriated individually by placing one's faith in Him as Lord and Savior (John 3:16).
Forty-eight hours after Pope Francis made his shocking observation, the Vatican attempted to clarify his remarks. They did so through an official spokesman, a priest by the name of Thomas Rosica. He said that people who are aware of the Catholic Church "cannot be save" if they "refuse to enter her or remain in her." So, the Pope's unbiblical assertion was "corrected" by another one that is equally unbiblical, for no one is saved by church membership. Salvation is not vested in an organization like the Roman Catholic Church. It is to be found, instead, in a person, the Messiah whom God sent to die for our sins, namely, Jesus of Nazareth.
An Irish Catholic commentator, Cahir O'Doherty, wrote, "It makes for an interesting spectacle to see the infallible pope being corrected by his handlers, doesn't it?" He then added, "If I was Pope Francis, I'd be employing a food taster right about now!" If Atheists can be saved by doing good works, what is the purpose of the Church? And why did Jesus bother to come to this earth and experience the horror of the Cross? It is rather painfully obvious that Pope Francis needs to start reading his Bible on a regular basis.
Syria Crisis: Al-Nusra (Syrian Rebels) Pledges Allegiance to Al-Qaeda
May 28….(BBC) The leader of the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group fighting in Syria, has pledged allegiance to the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said the group's behavior in Syria would not change as a result. Al-Nusra claims to be have carried out many suicide bombings and guerrilla attacks against state targets.
On Tuesday, al-Qaeda in Iraq announced a merger with al-Nusra, but Mr. Jawlani said he had not been consulted on this. Al-Nusra is designated as a terrorist organization by the US. Debates among Western leaders over whether to arm Syria's rebels have often raised the concern of weapons ending up in the hands of groups such as al-Nusra. "The sons of al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri," Mr Jawlani said in a recording released on Wednesday. But Jawlani said al-Nusra had not been consulted on the merger with al-Qaeda in Iraq and insisted his group would not change its stance in Syria.
The al-Nusra Front clearly finds itself in an awkward position, caught between pragmatic realities on the ground in Syria and its ideological identity and affiliation as an al-Qaeda-related Salafi group ostensibly bent on installing an Islamic state in the region. The al-Nusra leader's unequivocal public pledge of allegiance to Osama Bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri came just three days after the latter called on jihadis to do everything possible to bring about an Islamic state in Syria, as a building-block for a wider caliphate.
That is a goal al-Nusra is generally keeping quiet about, as it seeks to win hearts and minds in the "liberated areas" and to keep the cooperation of other fighting groups dedicated to overthrowing the regime in the name of democracy. Al-Nusra is aware that al-Qaeda is not a name to conjure with in Syria, which is presumably why it distanced itself from Tuesday's merger announcement from the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State in Iraq, which is the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda, had said on Tuesday that his group would be joining with al-Nusra under the name The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. But Mr Jawlani said he only heard about the announcement from media and had no prior knowledge of it. Even though Mr Jawlani said in the statement that al-Nusra had received help from the Islamic State in Iraq group, correspondents say al-Nusra clearly does not want to highlight those ties. Al-Nusra is seen as trying to win the support of the population in rebel-held areas, and also to keep the goodwill of the other opposition groups who do not want to be associated with al-Qaeda.
Spokesmen for the Free Syrian Army, considered the main armed opposition group in Syria, reacted to Wednesday's statement by distancing themselves from al-Nusra. "We don't support the ideology of al-Nusra," FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad told the AFP news agency. "There has never been and there will never be a decision at the command level to coordinate with al-Nusra," Meqdad went on, while admitting that there had been co-operation between FSA brigades and al-Nusra on "certain operations".
Hezbollah Pledges Volunteers for Assad
May 27….(DEBKA) Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed Saturday night, May 25, to expand his movement’s military role in the Syrian civil war. “With just two words, I can muster tens of thousands of volunteers to fight for Bashar Assad,” he said, claiming that he receives daily letters from parents begging him to send their only sons to fight in Syria. Al Qaeda fighters were streaming into Syria and Israel planned more attacks, he warned, in a speech marking the 13th anniversary of Israel’s military withdrawal from South Lebanon.
The Hizballah leader said if Sunni Islamists took over in Syria, they would pose a threat to the entire Lebanese population. If Assad falls, so too will the “resistance front” against Israel, as well as the Palestinian people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “Hizballah will not let that happen!” Nasrallah declared. Debkafile’s military sources: Nasrallah’s speech denotes his movement’s plunging ever deeper into the Syrian conflict. From limited involvement, he has undertaken to fight for Assad to the end, for better or for worse. The issue is no longer, as Israeli officials insist, whether he can get hold of the advanced Iranian weapons supplied him through Syria, only whether Hizballah can fulfill its two twofold goal. One is to tip the scales of the war in favor of the Syrian army and the other is to contribute enough troops to the various war sectors to free Syrian forces for battling Israel in the war of attrition, which Assad and Nasrallah have both declared.
Hizballah’s Deputy Secretary Sheikh Naim Qassem said Friday that President Assad is absolutely serious about opening a front against Israel from the Golan. It only remains to be done, he said. “Syria is fully capable of implementing this decision on its own. If necessary, we’ll help, but it’s up to Syria.” As a bonus, Nasrallah’s expanded intervention in the Syria war assures him that the advanced weapons, whose transfer into the Lebanese terrorist group's hands Israel has vowed to prevent, will in fact be handed over on Syrian soil.
Debkafile disclosed that two competing terrorist movements, Shiite Hizballah and Sunni al Qaeda, were pouring troops into Syria, while US Secretary of State John Kerry remained focused an the elusive Israel-Palestinian peace process. After spending 48 hours in Jerusalem and Ramallah, trying to talk Israeli and Palestinian leaders into reviving the long-stalled Middle East peace process, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s exit line Friday, May 24, was: “We’re getting toward a time now when hard decisions need to be made.” That was all he had to say about Israel's comments on US proposals on the subject as unworkable and the Palestinian view that American ideas were still unformed and conditions for reviving talks non-existent.
In any case, the Syrian crisis hurtling forward heedless of its disastrous potential for its neighbors is fully exercising their leaders’ attention at this time and confronting them with much more urgent “hard decisions.” The Secretary himself had just come from a Friends of Syria meeting Thursday in Amman, which was attended by a sparse 11 members compared with the original 80. The meeting ended with a demand that the international conference on Syria, which Kerry is trying to convene in Geneva in the first week of June in partnership with Russia, will not accept Assad regime representatives with blood on their hands. Moscow took exception to this demand Friday by means of a Russian Foreign Ministry statement that Syria has agreed in principle to participate in the conference, but obstacles to a date were still raised by the Syrian opposition. It can’t therefore be said that Washington and Moscow see eye to eye on the key issues of Syrian representation at the conference they are jointly sponsoring.
The US still insists that Bashar Assad must go before a political solution can be broached, while Russia continues to champion and arm him. The most conspicuous feature of Kerry’s current Middle East tour is the strong dichotomy between his public statements and mission and the events taking place in the real world around him. Debkafile analysts assign this gap between the Secretary’s perceptions and reality to US President Barack Obama’s own evasiveness on the “hard decisions” he needs to take for determining the level of US involvement in the acute crises shaking this highly volatile region. This was evident in the speech he delivered Thursday, March 23, in which he stressed the effort to pull the United States away from its inclusive “post 9/11 war on terror” and “return to normalcy.” He said “lethal force [such as drones] will only be used against targets who pose a continuing imminent threat to Americans.” Obama’s message was totally unrelated to the rising militancy of the two most virulent Islamic terrorist movements of the present day.
As he spoke, Al Qaeda, on the one hand, and the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, on the other side, continued to pour fighting strength into Syria and feed the flames of a calamitous civil war which has claimed more than 80,000 lives in a little more than two years. Our military sources report that Hizballah brigades are forming up with the Syrian army for their next decisive battle, after their al-Qusayr victory, for the capture of the northern city of Homs; Al Qaeda jihadis are streaming across the border from Iraq to cement rebel control of the Deir a-Zor region of eastern Syria. The aggressive actions of both Hizballah and al Qaeda in Syria are outside the bounds of the US president’s revised objectives for the US war on terror, hence, the rationale for US non-involvement in any part of the Syrian conflict.
At the same time, both these movements are at war, declared or undeclared, on Israel, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Their destabilizing impact extends to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah too. In terms of timing and immediacy, therefore, the ”hard decisions” John Kerry called for are right outside the current Middle East context. Israel’s leaders must decide urgently how to address Syria’s headlong descent into more bloodshed at a time that Iran, Russia, Al Qaeda and Hizballah are in charge of events. The initiative led by the US Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for an international conference to hammer out a political solution for the Syrian crisis in no way slowed its momentum. Israel’s leaders might perhaps best be advised to prioritize attention to determining how best to handle the perils looming from Syria ahead of Kerry’s bid for a return to talks with the Palestinians.
Saudi Arabia Warns Against Iran's Nuclear Program
May 27….(AP) Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has warned against the danger of Iran's nuclear program to the region's security and said Iran should not threaten its neighbors since countries in the region harbor no ill-intentions to the Islamic Republic. "We stress the danger of the Iranian nuclear program to the security of the whole region," Prince Saud said Saturday in a joint news conference with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in the city of Jiddah. Turning to Syria, he also that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime should have no role in the country's future. Saudi Arabia announced last week the arrest of 10 more members of an alleged Iranian spy ring.
Christianity Being Banished From The Middle East
May 27….(The Week) As Islamists come to power across much of the Middle East, Christians are facing growing persecution. How many Christians live in the Middle East? Between 10 million and 12 million. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of its oldest communities, but the Christian population has dropped dramatically over time, especially over the last decade. When Christianity was founded 2,000 years ago, it spread rapidly across the Roman Empire, into Egypt and westward. Mohammed began the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century, spreading Islam across the region, but he allowed Christians to continue practicing their religion. Christians remained a majority in parts of Iraq until the 14th century, when raids by Central Asian warlord Tamerlane decimated the community. The 20th century saw another precipitous drop, because of low birthrates and emigration among Christians. In 1900 Christians made up 25 percent of the population of the Middle East; by 2000 they were less than 5 percent. And then came the Iraq War.
What effect did that war have?
After the US-led invasion of Iraq, sectarian tensions long kept in check by Saddam Hussein erupted into civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Christians, Aramaic-speaking Assyrians with an ancient lineage, were caught in the cross fire. In the decade since the invasion, more than half of Iraq's Christians have fled to refugee camps in Syria or Jordan, reducing a prewar population of more than a million to some 400,000, mostly in the relatively tolerant enclave of Iraqi Kurdistan. In October 2010, just a few months after US combat troops left, militants of al Qaida in Iraq laid bloody siege to Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad during Sunday evening mass, killing 58 people and wounding 78 more. "This tragic event sent a powerful message to Christians in Iraq, they are in grave danger and should leave the country," said Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice. Christians in Arab Spring countries would soon feel the same way.
Why did the Arab Spring alarm Christians?
Many Arab countries were ruled by secular dictatorships that ruthlessly repressed Islamic extremists and democrats alike. The revolts that began in Tunisia in late 2010 spread to Egypt, Libya, and then Syria. Many Christians declined to support the democratic uprisings, at least at first, because they feared that the fall of a dictator would mean the rise of an Islamist state. Once the dictators fell, Christians were branded anti-revolutionary and suffered a backlash. Islamists won large majorities in most of the post-revolutionary elections, and in some places, notably Egypt, they rewrote the constitution to give Islam a more central role in government and law.
How are Egypt's Christians treated?
Egypt is home to the Copts, the Middle East's largest Christian community, with some 8 million adherents. They consider themselves direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians, and still use the Coptic language, a derivative of ancient Egyptian, for religious services. Dictator Hosni Mubarak allied himself with the Coptic pope and protected the community in exchange for its support. Now Copts say the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Mursi is refusing to let them build churches and failing to crack down on a wave of violence against them. Islamic extremists bombed the Two Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria during the 2011 New Year's mass, killing 23 people and strewing body parts around the church. Later that year, a huge mob of some 3,000 Muslims burned the St. George Church in Edfu and torched nearby Christian homes. When Christians protested outside the Maspero state TV center in Cairo in October 2011, soldiers brutally attacked protesters, killing 27. "Maspero completely traumatized the Coptic community," said Heba Morayef, the director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt. "Feeling they were not protected by the law has created a climate of fear." Fear has also taken hold in the war zones of Mali and Syria.
What is happening in Syria?
Some of the world's oldest churches are in Syria, and until recently so were about 2.5 million Christians. For all its political repression, the country's Baathist dictatorship did at least guarantee freedom of worship, so when the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began two years ago, most Christians sided with the regime or remained neutral. Now that Islamist extremists are joining the rebels in what has become a civil war, some 300,000 Syrian Christians have fled the country, and more will likely follow. "Everyone is afraid of these extremists," said George Nashawati, head of an Orthodox charity in Damascus. "Look what happened in Iraq. It could happen here."
How has the US responded?
It has strongly condemned attacks on Christians, but it has not gone beyond rhetoric. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal government body, has recommended that the State Department list Egypt and Iraq as severe religious freedom violators, like Iran, which aggressively persecutes Christians, or Saudi Arabia, which bans all non-Islamic religions. But the White House has so far refused. US Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who recently traveled to Egypt, said Copts believe that the US has made a bargain with the Muslim Brotherhood. "The feeling is that as long as the Brotherhood protects the United States' interests in the region, it can act with impunity within its borders," Wolf said.
WEEK OF MAY 19 THROUGH MAY 25
Israeli Air force Chief Warns of ‘Surprise War’ With Syria
(Assad’s ‘immense arsenal’ could be turned on Israel at any moment)
May 25….(Times of Israel) The commander of the Israeli Air Force, which has reportedly bombarded targets in Syria several times in recent months, warned Wednesday that war could break out on Israel’s northern border at any moment, demanding the full engagement of the IAF’s resources. “If tomorrow Syria collapses, and I am not saying that will happen, we could find ourselves in the thick of it very fast and in great number,” IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said, illustrating how the nature of surprise wars had changed for Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. “Because the immense arsenal parked there, just waiting to be looted, could spread with each gust of wind and you find yourself having to act very fast and in great quantity,” he said, alluding to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s sizable stockpile of both conventional and chemical weapons. “These days a number of scenarios can lead to a surprise war.”
Speaking at a conference in Herzliya, Eshel said that aerial superiority was the key to victory in such a war, and that swift triumph on the field would be of supreme strategic importance. That was why, he said, the Assad regime had spent billions of dollars on anti-aircraft missiles, including advanced S-300 batteries due to arrive from Russia. Eshel said the Russian-made surface-to-air system would boost Syria’s confidence and could lead to more aggressive behavior toward Israel. He cautioned that the regime could fall at any moment, and that many groups were resolved to lay their hands on Assad’s weapons. “It doesn’t mean we’ll act, but it does mean we have to be ready with aircraft and defensive batteries,” Eshel said. “After all, we won’t be told ‘You have two weeks to prepare for a war.’ We’ll have to brace for rockets from Gaza and Lebanon and from further afield. And if we’re not prepared, it’ll show we’ve failed to internalize the lessons of the Yom Kippur War.” Eshel assured his audience that Israel would likely win a potential war with Syria, but that it would have to do so in a matter of days.
Echoing Eshel’s comparison of a future conflict to the traumatic Yom Kippur War, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Wednesday that the IDF was preparing for the “tangible scenario of a confrontation on multiple fronts.” “We’re resolved to act with jointness, cooperation and maximal efficiency to ensure our ability to swiftly overcome any confrontation and win any future battle,” he said. Gantz issued a severe warning to Assad, saying the Syrian leader would “bear the consequences” of future attacks on Israeli forces near the Syrian border.
Obama: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Part of Counter-Terror Strategy
(Obama says resolution of decades-long conflict could help end grievances that lead to extremism) (* Presidents remarks reminds one of Daniel chapter nine peace-with-many deal)
May 25….(Times of Israel) President Obama said the United States was trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in part because it could help “reshape attitudes” that foster extremism. In a speech about terrorism delivered Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, Obama described what he said were a number of “underlying grievances” that “feed extremism.” (that would be Islamic extremism, wouldn’t it Mr. President?) “We are working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, because it is right, and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region,” Obama said. Among other terrorist threats, Obama mentioned Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, which he called a “state sponsored network” that engages “in acts off terror to achieve political goals.” “We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists (again Islamic threats Mr. President) that threaten America,” he said.
Christian, Jewish Persecution Soaring in Muslim Nations
(FOJ Note: As if I needed a poll to state the obvious. The beheading this week in London of a British soldier by Islamic terrorists is only another in a long list of atrocities being perpetrated world-wide by Islamists)
May 25….(Religion Today) The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 shows persecution against Christians and Jews is on the rise, especially in Muslim countries, CBN News reports. Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are among the many countries where non-Muslims are suffering persecution. Saudi Arabia prohibits any religion except Islam and enforces state restrictions on religious freedom. In Sudan, Muslim rioters burned down an evangelical church compound; in Libya, terrorists bombed an Orthodox church; and in Nigeria, Muslim radicals murdered hundreds of Christians. The report also devotes a section to the ongoing global increase in anti-Semitism, citing Venezuela, Egypt and Iran as countries with political and religious leaders who openly espouse Holocaust denial and anti-Israel rhetoric.
Syria Aims Half-ton Warhead Missiles at Tel Aviv
(Syria's advanced Tishreen missile batteries, which carry 500-kilogram (1100-pound) warheads and have standing orders to fire at Tel Aviv if Israel carries out any military strike on Syrian territory)
May 20….(Israel Hayom) Responding to a report in The Sunday Times suggesting that Syria has prepared its most advanced missiles to hit Tel Aviv if Israel launches a strike on its territory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel was prepared for any scenario. "The Middle East is currently facing one of the most sensitive eras it has seen in decades, and at the center: the escalating shock waves in Syria," the prime minister said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "We are closely monitoring the developments and changes there, and we are prepared for any scenario." The Israeli government is acting responsibly, is determined and calculated, and will ensure that Israel's top priority is preserved, the security of the citizens of Israel in accordance with the policy that we have outlined, and prevent, as much as possible, the transfer of advanced weapons into the hands of Hezbollah and terror organizations. We will take action to protect the security interests of the citizens of Israel in the future as well," Netanyahu said.
According to The Sunday Times, Syria has deployed advanced missiles carrying 500-kilogram (1100-pound) warheads with attack coordinates set for Tel Aviv. The report further suggests that spy satellites have been monitoring Syrian army movements and preparations to deploy the domestically produced Tishreen missiles. The missiles are reportedly being aimed at Tel Aviv and there are standing orders to fire them if Israel strikes Syria. The reported Tishreen deployment marks a new level of escalation between Syria, which has been embroiled in a bloody two-year civil war, and Israel, which has made every effort to avoid becoming involved in the neighboring conflict, save preventing Hezbollah from obtaining the regime's most advanced weapon systems.
Syria Training Advanced Missiles on Tel Aviv
May 20….(Time of Israel) Damascus has put a number of advanced weapons on standby to strike Israel, should Jerusalem hit targets inside Syria again, the UK’s Sunday Times reported. According to the report, satellite images show Syria has readied its stock of Tishreen missiles for use against Tel Aviv. Israel, which never officially took responsibility for the strikes, has said it will continue to act to stop weapons transfers and an unnamed official even reportedly threatened to topple the regime in Damascus should President Bashar Assad hit back at Israel for any further strikes. Syria, for its part, has threatened to retaliate if it is hit again.
Earlier this month, the al-Watan newspaper reported that the Syrian regime had established a bank of Israeli sites to be attacked in retaliation for another airstrike. The Tishreen, also known as the M-600, is the Syrian version of Iran’s Fateh-110 missile. Damascus is thought to possess a large stockpile of the missiles, which can travel over 200 kilometers and carry up to a half-ton payload.
Hezbollah Steps up Syria Battle, Israel Threatens more Strikes
May 20….(AP) Lebanese Hezbollah militants attacked a Syrian rebel-held town alongside Syrian troops on Sunday and Israel threatened more attacks on Syria to rein the militia in, highlighting the risks of a wider regional conflict if planned peace talks fail. Activists said it was the fiercest fighting in Syria's two year-old civil war involving Hezbollah, a Shi'ite group backed by Iran which they said appeared to be helping President Bashar al-Assad secure a vital corridor in case Syria fragments.
Speaking from Qusair near the border with Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, activist Hadi Abdallah said Syrian warplanes bombed the town in the morning and shells were hitting the town at a rate of up to 50 a minute. At least 52 people were killed. "The army is hitting Qusair with tanks and artillery from the north and east while Hezbollah is firing mortar rounds and multiple rocket launchers from the south and west," he said.
Assad poured scorn on the idea that a US and Russian-sponsored peace conference planned for Geneva next month would end fighting that is deepening the sectarian fault lines between Sunnis against Shi'ites across the Middle East. "They think a political conference will halt terrorists in the country. That is unrealistic," he told the Argentine newspaper Clarin, in reference to the mainly Sunni groups seeking to unseat him. Assad declared "No dialogue with terrorists", but it was not clear from his remarks whether he would agree to send delegates to a conference that may falter before it starts due to disagreements between its two main sponsors and their allies. The opposition will agree its stance on the proposed peace conference in a meeting due to start in Istanbul on Thursday, during which it will also appoint a new leadership.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was "preparing for every scenario" in Syria and held out the prospect of more Israeli strikes inside Syria to stop Hezbollah and other opponents of Israel getting advanced weapons.
WEEK OF MAY 12 THROUGH MAY 18
Russia Sends at Least 12 Warships to Syria
Deployment presumably a warning to Israeli and Western officials regarding military intervention against Assad
May 18….(Times of Israel) In a move considered aggressive by US and European officials, Russia has sent at least 12 warships to patrol waters near its naval base in Tartous, Syria. The deployment appears to be a warning to Israeli and Western officials against military intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war. Russia’s increased presence in the region, which began raising eyebrows in the US three months ago, represents one of its largest sustained naval deployments since the Cold War, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. “It’s a show of force. It’s muscle flexing,” a top US official told the Journal. Russian news sources reported earlier Thursday that five warships had entered the Mediterranean Sea to bolster the country’s new regional task force. The vessels were scheduled to dock in Limassol, Cyprus.
In March, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the naval task force was needed in order to protect Russian interests in the region. Russia has longstanding interests in Syria, including a naval base at the Mediterranean port of Tartus. As the Syria crisis has escalated, Russia has gradually augmented its naval presence in the region. In January, more than two dozen Russian warships sailed to the Black and Mediterranean Seas to take part in what the defense ministry said was to be the country's largest naval exercise in decades, testing the ships' ability to deploy outside Russian waters.
A month later, after the Black Sea exercises ended, the Russian defense ministry news agency said that four large landing vessels were on their way to operations off the coast of Syria. "Based on the results of the navy exercises in the Black and Mediterranean seas," the ministry said at the time, "the ministry leadership has taken a decision to continue combat duty by Russian warships in the Mediterranean."
Obama’s IRS Targeted Conservatives, Christians
May 18….(The Examiner) The IRS under the Obama administration painted targets on the backs of conservatives beginning in 2010, and ousted acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller apologized to the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday. But members on both sides of the aisle were furious, and castigated him for the mismanagement and political gamesmanship the IRS engaged in on his watch. Texas Republican congressman Kevin Brady had the harshest criticism for Miller. ‘Is this still America?' he asked him. 'Is this government (Obama Administration) so drunk on power that it would turn its full force, its full might, to harass, and intimidate, and threaten an average American who only wants her voice, their voices heard?’ 'The American public deserves better,' Miller agreed. But both he and J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration, insisted that no IRS employees engaged in political witch-hunting.
Sander Levin, the panel's ranking Democrat, said the IRS and its employees 'have completely failed the American people' by 'singling out organizations for review based on their name or political views, rather than their activity.' Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., grilled outgoing IRS commissioner Steven Miller about the IRS targeting a pro-life group in Iowa. “Their question, specifically asked from the IRS to the Coalition for Life of Iowa: ‘Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers,’" Schock declared. “Would that be an inappropriate question to a 501 c3 applicant?” asked Schock. “The content of one’s prayers?” “It pains me to say I can’t speak to that one either,” Miller replied. After Schock pressed him further, Miller explained that although he couldn't comment on the specific case, it would "surprise him" if that question was asked.
The IRS under President Obama has also harassed the Billy Graham foundation, Focus on the Family, and other Christian groups.
Russia Will Support Syria-Hezbollah-Iran Axis in War Against Israel
FOJ Note: This strategy by Russia is setting the military geo-political logistics in place for the fulfillment of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding Damascus. I urge FOJ readers to stay constantly alert to these developments!
May 18….(DEBKA) Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu ended their three-hour meeting in Sochi Tuesday, May 14, at loggerheads on Syria. In fact, Putin warned his guest that Israel and its army, the IDF, were heading for war with Syria in which Russia might well be involved, and not just through the advanced S-300 anti-air missiles supplied to the Assad government. The case Netanyahu and Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi put before Putin and Russian foreign intelligence chief, SVR Director Mikhail Fradkov, fell on deaf ears. They found the Russian leader further infuriated by the docking that day at Israel’s Red Sea port of Eilat of the USS Kearsarge, carrying 1,800 marines and a consignment of 20 V-22 Osprey helicopters which US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had promised to supply to Israel during his April visit.
Putin viewed the stationing of US forces in the Gulf of Aqaba just two hours away from the Israeli-Syrian border for repelling Syrian-Iranian--Hizballah aggression against Israel or Jordan, signaled by the Kearsage’s arrival, as an act of bad faith by Washington. On the one hand, they want us to cooperate for an international conference to end the bloodshed in Syria, while on the other, they deploy military forces, he complained to Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister countered with a warning that Israel would continue to strike advanced weapons in Syria that were destined for Hizballah. And if President Bashar Assad hit back for Israel’s May 5 bombardment of weapons stores on Mount Qassioun near Damascus, Israel would intensify its bombardments of Syrian military targets and weapons until Assad was left to fight off rebel assaults empty-handed. Putin rejected this threat as implausible. Neither Putin nor Netanyahu put all their cards on the table, but the conversation ended with the Russian leader fully confident that his capabilities for safeguarding Assad were greater than Israel’s ability to destroy him.
In the end, Netanyahu and his party arrived home Tuesday evening with a bad feeling. They were certain that Moscow had given Assad the green light to go through with his threat to make the Syrian Golan and the Horan of southern Syria “a front for resistance,” i.e. the platforms for embarking on a war of attrition against northern Israel with the help of a flow of advanced weapons to Hizballah. The Syrian ruler is strongly encouraged to adopt this path by Tehran. Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has embraced it. And the radical Palestinian leader, Ahmed Jibril, head of the Assad-satellite Popular Front-General Command, has eagerly offered his services.
And indeed, Wednesday, the day after Netanyahu’s trip to Sochi, Jibril’s group let loose with mortar fire on the Israeli Mt. Hermon ski site, firing from a Syrian army position. Israeli military sources confirmed later that these were no stray shells from a Syrian-army-rebel battle as in former cases, but a deliberate attack. In Jerusalem, it was taken as a direct consequence of Moscow’s account to Assad of the conversation between the Russian and Israeli leaders. They concluded that Assad took it for granted that he was now at liberty to go on the offensive against Israel.
Wednesday night, Netanyahu’s office reacted to this deterioration with a swift and strong warning. Israeli media were informed bluntly that if the Assad chose to retaliate for Israel’s air strikes, he would be removed from power. That same night, “a senior Israeli official” contacted The New York Times with a more detailed warning quoted by the paper: "If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate."
Within hours, early Thursday morning, May 16, Jerusalem had its answer from Damascus. A Palestinian group calling itself “Martyrs of the Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades” (named for the commander of a Palestinian force fighting Israel in its 1948 War of Independence) claimed responsibility for the "rockets" aimed at an Israeli military observation post in the Golan Heights. They were fired in honor of Nakba Day, said the statement released in Damascus "We are not celebrating but avenging the blood of our martyrs." Palestinian terrorist groups habitually use made-up names when claiming attacks, a practice often followed by al Qaeda, but this one was easily identified by Israel and taken to mean that Assad had begun using what the Israeli official referred to in The New York Times as "his terrorist proxies."
Depending on the next move decided on by Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, this incident could mark the tipping-point of a slide towards a war confrontation against Israel by Syria, Hizballah and other Assad proxies.
Unmoved by Israel, Russia will Send Air-defense System to Assad
(Moscow says it must honor its deal with Damascus, even though Netanyahu warned Putin that delivery of S-300 missiles could plunge the region into war)
May 17….(Times of Israel) Undeterred by pleas and warnings from Israel, Russia made clear on Thursday that it will go ahead with its planned delivery of a highly sophisticated air-defense system to Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in an emergency face-to-face meeting on Tuesday that Moscow’s sale of the S-300 missile defense system to Assad could push the Middle East into war. But Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, evidently unmoved by the dramatic Israeli warning, declared on Thursday that while Moscow was “not signing any new deals,” it would honor existing contracts with Syria, including for the air-defense systems. “We’ve already carried out some of the deal,” Lavrov said, “and we will carry the rest of it out in full.” A failure to honor signed contracts, Lavrov added in a television interview, would “harm the credibility” of Russia in other arms-sales contracts. Lavrov’s statements indicated that Netanyahu’s mission to Russia, he flew to meet Putin, immediately after his return from China, for emergency talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, had failed. In their talks, Netanyahu reportedly told the Russian president that the S-300 had no relevance to Assad’s civil-war battles against rebel groups, and implored Moscow not to deliver the systems, Channel 2 reported. He said that if acquired by Assad, the S-300, a state-of-the-art system that can intercept fighter jets and cruise missiles, “is likely to draw us into a response, and could send the region deteriorating into war,” the Channel 2 report said.
On Thursday night, in response to Lavrov’s statements, Israeli officials were quoted by Channel 2 as saying that Jerusalem preferred not to describe Netanyahu’s mission as a failure, but acknowledged that Israel’s “situation would have been far better” if Putin had agreed to cancel the delivery. An Israeli source was quoted as saying that Netanyahu had told Putin the S-300s represent a weapons system that “shatters [Israel's] qualitative edge,” presumably since it would greatly constrain the Israeli air force’s freedom of movement above Syria and neighboring Lebanon.
The Israeli source was also quoted as saying that Israel would “firmly oppose” the transfer of S-300s to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Twice this month, Israel carried out air attacks in the Damascus area to blow up Fateh-110 ground-to-ground missile consignments en route to Hezbollah via Syria from Iran. Lavrov said recently that the S-300s were to help Syria defend itself against air attacks. Israel suspects that Russia will deliver to Assad six S-300 missile batteries, as well as 144 missiles, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
At their brief joint press conference Tuesday, it was clear that Netanyahu and Putin had not reached agreement on how to grapple with the Syrian crisis. The Russian president said that the only way to resolve the crisis was via “the soonest end to armed conflict and the beginning of political settlement.” He added: “At this sensitive moment, it’s particularly important to avoid any action that could destabilize the situation.” Netanyahu, however, said that the volatile situation in the Middle East requires action to improve security. “The region around us is very unstable and explosive, and therefore I am glad for the opportunity to examine together new ways to stabilize the area and bring security and stability to the area,” he said. The prime minister’s bottom line was that “Israel will do whatever it takes to defend its citizens.”
Russia has continued to ship weapons to Syria, despite the civil war there, but while it has reportedly delivered less-sophisticated air-defense systems, it refrained from providing Damascus with the S-300s, which have a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles), and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously with lethal efficiency. The weapon would mean a quantum leap in Syria’s air defense capability, including against neighboring countries.
Israel reportedly attacked suspected shipments of advanced Iranian weaponry, the Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missile, in Syria with back-to-back airstrikes this month. Israeli officials signaled there would be more attacks unless Syria refrains from trying to deliver such “game-changing” missiles to Hezbollah. Hezbollah said weapons shipments won’t cease.
On Wednesday, Israel reportedly warned Assad that further attacks were being considered, and that it would “bring down” his regime if he retaliated. On Monday, Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau accused Russia of destabilizing the Middle East by selling weapons to Assad’s regime. “Anyone who provides weaponry to terror organizations is siding with terror,” Landau said.
Netanyahu to Putin: ‘Your Missiles to Assad Could Trigger War’
(PM says sophisticated S-300 system has no relevance for Syrian regime’s civil-war battles, but that its delivery by Moscow could prompt an Israeli response)
May 17….(Times of Israel) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that Moscow’s sale of a sophisticated missile defense system to President Bashar Assad could push the Middle East into war. Netanyahu, who flew to meet Putin for emergency talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, told the Russian president that the S-300 had no relevance to Assad’s civil-war battles against rebel groups, and urged Moscow not to deliver the systems. He said that if acquired by Assad, the S-300, a state-of-the-art system that can intercept fighter jets and cruise missiles, “is likely to draw us into a response, and could send the region deteriorating into war,” the Channel 2 report said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, asked last week about possible sales of the S-300 to Assad, said cagily: “Russia is not planning to sell. Russia has been selling for a long time, has signed contracts and is completing deliveries of technology that consists of anti-aircraft systems.” Lavrov said the weapons were to help Syria defend itself against air attacks. Israel suspects that Russia plans to sell Damascus six S-300 missile batteries, as well as 144 missiles, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Netanyahu also briefed Putin on Israel’s intel assessment of Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use. He also filled the president in on Israel’s information concerning Syria’s transfer of arms to Hezbollah. The prime minister’s bottom line to Putin was that “Israel will do whatever it takes to defend its citizens.”
Israel Hints at New Strikes, Warning Syria Not to Hit Back
May 17….(New York Times) In a clear warning to Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants in the region, a senior Israeli official signaled on Wednesday that Israel was considering additional military strikes to prevent that from happening and that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, would face crippling consequences if he retaliated. “Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah,” the Israeli official said. “The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region.” “If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies,” the official said, “he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.” The precise motives for Israel’s warning were uncertain: Israel could be seeking to restrain Syria’s behavior to avoid taking further military action, or alerting other countries to another military strike. That would increase the tension in an already fraught situation in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than two years. There could be a secondary audience for the warning, analysts said, in Hezbollah and its primary supporter, Iran. Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, has said in recent days it could use weapons supplied by Iran to retaliate for recent Israeli strikes on Syria. Mr. Assad and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, have each said in recent days that the Israeli-Syrian border, which has been relatively quiet despite the more than two years of civil war inside Syria, could become a “resistance front,” in response to Israeli attacks.
On Wednesday, mortar shells, fired from across the Syrian border, landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The shells landed on Mount Hermon, a popular tourist site, and were the latest in a series of what Israel has generally considered errant fire from internal Syrian fighting. Israel did not fire back, as it had on several previous occasions, but it closed Mount Hermon to the public for several hours during a Jewish holiday on which hiking in the Golan is popular.
In his comments, the Israeli official said that “Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria’s civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly.” “Israel,” he said, “will continue its policy of interdicting attempts to strengthen Hezbollah, but will not intercede in the Syrian civil war as long as Assad desists from direct or indirect attacks against Israel.” American and Israeli political analysts agree that Israel has little motive to intervene in Syria’s civil war, but that it is deeply concerned about the transfer of advanced weapons, as well as the danger that Mr. Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons could be used against it.
IRS Official in Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Obama Health Care Office
(Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS executive in charge of the tax exempt division in 2010 when it began targeting conservative Tea Party, evangelical and pro-Israel groups for harrassment, got more than $100,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2012. More recently, Ingram was promoted to serve as director of the tax agency's Obamacare program office, a position that put her in charge of the vast expansion of the IRS' regulatory power and staffing in connection with federal health care)
May 17….(Political Punch) The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation. Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today. Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit. Grant announced today that he would retire June 3, despite being appointed as commissioner of the tax-exempt office May 8, a week ago.
As the House voted to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act Thursday evening, House Speaker John Boehner expressed “serious concerns” that the IRS is empowered as the law’s chief enforcer.
“Fully repealing ObamaCare will help us build a stronger, healthier economy, and will clear the way for patient-centered reforms that lower health care costs and protect jobs,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
“Obamacare empowers the agency that just violated the public’s trust by secretly targeting conservative groups,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “Even by Washington’s standards, that’s unacceptable.”
Sen. John Cornyn even introduced a bill, the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” which would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate, including the IRS, from enforcing the Affordable Care Act.
“Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care,” Cornyn, R-Texas, stated. “I do not support Obamacare, and after the events of last week, I cannot support giving the IRS any more responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement a broken law.”
A Mass Exodus of Christians From the Muslim World
May 15….(Fox News) A mass exodus of Christians is currently underway. Millions of Christians are being displaced from one end of the Islamic world to the other. We are reliving the true history of how the Islamic world, much of which prior to the Islamic conquests was almost entirely Christian, came into being.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently said: “The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year.” In our lifetime alone “Christians might disappear altogether from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.”
Ongoing reports from the Islamic world certainly support this conclusion: Iraq was the earliest indicator of the fate awaiting Christians once Islamic forces are liberated from the grip of dictators.
In 2003, Iraq’s Christian population was at least one million. Today fewer than 400,000 remain, the result of an anti-Christian campaign that began with the US occupation of Iraq, when countless Christian churches were bombed and countless Christians killed, including by crucifixion and beheading. The 2010 Baghdad church attack, which saw nearly 60 Christian worshippers slaughtered, is the tip of a decade-long iceberg.
Now, as the US supports the jihad on Syria’s secular president Assad, the same pattern has come to Syria: entire regions and towns where Christians lived for centuries before Islam came into being have now been emptied, as the opposition targets Christians for kidnapping, plundering, and beheadings, all in compliance with mosque calls telling the populace that it’s a “sacred duty” to drive Christians away.
In October 2012 the last Christian in the city of Homs, which had a Christian population of some 80,000 before jihadis came, was murdered. One teenage Syrian girl said: “We left because they were trying to kill us, because we were Christians. Those who were our neighbors turned against us. At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house.”
In Egypt, some 100,000 Christian Copts have fled their homeland soon after the “Arab Spring.” In September 2012, the Sinai’s small Christian community was attacked and evicted by Al Qaeda linked Muslims, Reuters reported. But even before that, the Coptic Orthodox Church lamented the “repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether by force or threat. Displacements began in Ameriya [62 Christian families evicted], then they stretched to Dahshur [120 Christian families evicted], and today terror and threats have reached the hearts and souls of our Coptic children in Sinai.”
Iraq, Syria, and Egypt are part of the Arab world. But even in “black” African and “white” European nations with Muslim majorities, Christians are fleeing. In Mali, after a 2012 Islamic coup, as many as 200,000 Christians fled. According to reports, “the church in Mali faces being eradicated,” especially in the north “where rebels want to establish an independent Islamist state and drive Christians out, there have been house to house searches for Christians who might be in hiding, churches and other Christian property have been looted or destroyed, and people tortured into revealing any Christian relatives.” At least one pastor was beheaded.
Even in European Bosnia, Christians are leaving en mass “amid mounting discrimination and Islamization.” Only 440,000 Catholics remain in the Balkan nation, half the prewar figure. Problems cited are typical: “while dozens of mosques were built in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, no building permissions [permits] were given for Christian churches.” “Time is running out as there is a worrisome rise in radicalism,” said one authority, who further added that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina were “persecuted for centuries” after European powers “failed to support them in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire.”
UN Peacekeepers Fear Hezbollah Terrorists
May 15….(Israel Today) The peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are increasingly coming into hostile and even violent contact with the Hezbollah terrorist militia near the Lebanon-Israel border. The Lebanese troops who had taken control of the border after the last war in 2006 have largely been redeployed as a result of mounting tension on the country's eastern border due to the ongoing Syrian civil war. Taking advantage of this power vacuum, Hezbollah has entered the area in force, and is daily confronting the blue helmets of UNIFIL. Hezbollah blocks UNIFIL patrols along the border and has even threatened to abduct members of the international peacekeeping force, similar to what Syrian rebel groups did earlier this month.
UNIFIL officers have reportedly told their Israeli counterparts that they are fed up with the situation. The moment it becomes clear the the lives of the peacekeepers are in peril, UNIFIL will withdraw from the region, driving the final nail in the coffin of UN Resolution 1701 that ended the Second Lebanon War. As we have noted before, the UN is only "effective" when everything is quiet. With both UNIFIL and the UN peacekeepers on the Israel-Syria border threatening to flee the region, it is once more clear that Israel cannot commit its security into the hands of others.
Putin Again Warns Netanyahu: Hands off Syria
May 15….(DEBKA) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent three hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Tuesday, May, 14. He came for a last-ditch attempt to head off the supply of advanced Russian anti-air S-300 missile systems to Syria. Instead, the Russian leader turned the conversation around to focus implicitly on Israel’s air strikes against Damascus on May 3 and May 5. After their conversation he issued a warning: "In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid any moves that can shake the situation." This was clearly a hands-off caution to Israel not to repeat its attacks on Damascus. And, furthermore, after “shaking the situation” in Syria by its air attacks, Israel was in no position to demand that Russia avoid selling Syria advanced weapons. The prime minister, for his part, warned that the entire Middle East was in a dangerous state of volatility. He was accompanied by Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. Opposite him sat Mikhail Fradkov, SVR Director. Kochavi laid before the Russian leader the information Israel had gathered on the state of Syria’s chemical weapons with relevance to their transfer to the Lebanese Hizballah. Before Netanyahu’s arrival for the meeting, Moscow took two preparatory steps:
1. Russian diplomats leaked to the London-based Arab press a report that the S-300 missiles had already arrived in Syria. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Moscow had delivered 200 launchers (probably missiles) and the Syrian missile teams already knew how to use them. By this leak, the Israeli prime minister was being informed that his journey to Sochi was a waste of time and that the use of S-300 missiles for shooting down Israeli Air Force planes was no longer controlled by Moscow but by Damascus.
2. The prominent strategic analyst, Viktor Kremenyuk of The USA and Canada Institute in Moscow, reported Tuesday that Netanyahu arrived in Sochi to indirectly let Putin know that “Israel would destroy the S-300s when they are delivered and start being assembled.” The deputy director of an important Russian think tank which advises the Kremlin on North American policy does not tend to make idle comments. Debkafile’s Moscow sources interpreted Kremenyuk’s remark as a means of informing the Israeli leader that Moscow was not impressed by such threats. Instead of pushing Putin to stop the S-300 missiles, Israel would be more advantageously employed urging the Obama administration to adopt a more realistic stand on Syria and Bashar Assad.
In Moscow's view, Washington must be brought to give up its threat of Western military intervention in Syria, of which the Israeli air strikes appeared to Putin as the harbinger, and come to terms with Assad’s presence in any political solution of the Syrian conflict. These positions the Russian President had conveyed previously to US Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. He made it clear to Netanyahu that he stood by them as firmly as ever. Therefore, say Debkafile’s sources, so long as both powers remain entrenched in their positions, there is not much hope of their coming together on an international conference to resolve the Syrian conflict. Debkafile’s military sources add: It is also unlikely that the Russian and Israeli leaders had a chance to work out reciprocal ground rules for the Russian officers supervising the S-300 missile operations in Syria to avoiding hitting Israeli Air Force jets or for Israeli bombers to refrain from destroying them. The S-300 is designed to shoot down planes and missiles at 200-km ranges.
Israel is concerned that Moscow may decided to send the six S-300 batteries carrying 144 missiles due for Syria along with Russian missile and air defense specialists. They will also be available for operating the missiles effectively for downing Israeli Air Force planes striking targets in Syria and Lebanon. Israel will be forced to think twice before attacking the S-300 batteries for fear of hitting the Russian officers. Putin is therefore placing a severe constraint on Israel’s operational freedom by spreading an anti-air missile cover over the Syrian, Hizballah and the Iranian Basij forces fighting for Bashar Assad.
Hezbollah Preparing to Storm Across Israeli Border
May 15….(WND) The Iranian-backed Hezbollah is established training camps near the Syrian capital of Damascus to prepare for possible guerrilla warfare targeting Israel’s northern Golan Heights, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials. The officials said the camps are training Palestinian groups as well as special units connected to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath party for operations against Israel if such actions are green-lighted by Assad in the near future. The officials said that for the time being, Russia has urged Assad against taking any action targeting Israel. Assad is also being held back from widening the conflict with the Jewish state for the time being since his army has made great advances toward quelling the jihadist-led rebel insurgency targeting his regime. Large explosions rocked Damascus two weeks ago with Syria blaming Israel for the strikes, which reportedly targeted a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus. The reports followed confirmations by anonymous Israeli officials that the Israel Air Force carried out a strike against Syria earlier this month targeting a shipment of missiles bound for Hezbollah.
Russia Building Up Mediterranean Fleet
May 14….(DEBKA) Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov said Sunday, May 12, that the process is underway for creating a permanent staff to run Russian fleet operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Speaking at Sevastopol, the Black Sea fleet’s home port, Adm. Chirkov said a staff of 20 officers was already in place. And the Mediterranean deployment would comprise five to six warships and their service vessels as well possibly as nuclear submarines which, say our military sources, are armed with nuclear ballistic missiles.
Debkafile’s military sources: The new permanent deployment is the next Russian step for safeguarding Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus and deterring military attacks on his Hizballah allies and Iranian interests in their three-way bloc. Moscow is also announcing loud and clear that Russia is finally restoring its military presence to the Middle East in 2013 after the last Soviet squadron exited the Mediterranean in 1992. Mr. Putin clearly regards Obama’s decision to keep the US clear of military involvement in the Syrian conflict as an open gateway for a Russian military comeback to the Middle East after a 21-year absence, armed with a cornucopia of weapons for winning clients. For now, there is no stopping him, not even if Turkey or Israel were to embark themselves on military intervention.
Syria Says it Reserves Right to Invade Golan Heights
May 14….(Times of Israel) The Syrian government announced Sunday that it reserves the right to invade the Israeli-held Golan Heights at any time, and accused Israel of violating the terms of the 1974 ceasefire that ended the Yom Kippur War. During a speech in Damascus, Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi accused Israel of attacking sites near the Syrian capital, allowing rebel groups to operate in the demilitarized zone separating Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights, and letting those groups kidnap UN observers on multiple occasions. Israel conquered the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and staved off a Syrian assault on the Heights in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. UNDOF, the peacekeeping force established in 1974, monitors the increasingly conflict-ridden zone separating the two militaries.
Rand Paul: Obama is Working with ‘anti-American Globalists Against our Constitution
May 13….(Washington Post) Only hours after re-election, Barack Obama immediately made a move for gun control. On November 7th, his administration gleefully voted at the UN for a renewed effort to pass the “Small Arms Treaty.” But after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and anti-gun hysteria in the national media reaching a fever pitch, there’s no doubt President Obama and his anti-gun pals believe the timing has never been better to ram through the UN’s global gun control crown jewel. I don’t know about you, but watching anti-American globalists plot against our Constitution makes me sick.
This Spring, the United Nations went back into session to finalize their radical so-called “Small Arms Treaty.” With the treaty finalized, a full US Senate ratification showdown could come any time President Obama chooses and there will be very little time to fight back. If we’re to succeed, we must fight back now. That’s why I’m helping lead the fight to defeat the UN “Small Arms Treaty” in the United States Senate.
Will you join me by taking a public stand against the UN “Small Arms Treaty” and sign the Official Firearms Sovereignty Survey right away? Ultimately, UN bureaucrats will stop at nothing to register, ban and confiscate firearms owned by private citizens like you. So far, the gun-grabbers have successfully kept many of their schemes under wraps.
By looking at previous attempts by the UN to pass global gun control, you and I can get a good idea of what’s likely in the works. You can bet the UN is working to force the US to implement every single one of these anti-gun policies: Enact tougher licensing requirements, making law-abiding Americans cut through even more bureaucratic red tape just to own a firearm legally. Ever since its founding 65 years ago, the United Nations has been hell-bent on bringing the United States to its knees. To the petty dictators and one-world socialists who control the UN, the United States of America isn’t a “shining city on a hill,” it’s an affront to their grand designs for the globe. These anti-gun globalists know that as long as Americans remain free to make our own decisions without being bossed around by big government bureaucrats, they’ll never be able to seize the worldwide power they crave. And the UN’s apologists also know the most effective way to finally strip you and me of all our freedoms would be to destroy our gun rights. The UN met recently to pass a final version of their “Small Arms Treaty” to be sent to our government for ratification by the US Senate. This is an infringement upon our national sovereignty.
Netanyahu to Visit Putin This Week in Urgent Meeting
May 13….(DEBKA) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sets off for the Black Sea town of Sochi early next week for a personal call on President Vladimir Putin. This was confirmed Saturday, May 11 by the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who declined to explain the urgency of the unplanned meeting. debkafile’s Moscow sources report that Netanyahu asked to meet Putin without delay for a last-ditch attempt to persuade him to call off the sale to Syria of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles.
Moscow’s decision to sell those weapons to Syria was first revealed by Debkafile on May 7. Our sources now add that the prime minister’s chances of averting the sale are extremely slim. A series of prominent figures have already tried talking the Russian president out of the sale and failed, starting with US Secretary of State John Kerry. They all warned the Russian leader that the delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria would touch off an arms race in Syria and the Middle East with disastrous consequences. Rejecting all their arguments, Putin said his government would stand by all its commitments to the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad and defend his regime. After Israel’s air strike against Damascus on May 5, nothing would now stop the S-300 deliveries. The Russian president, in a phone call he put in to the Israeli premier on May 7 wHe later spurned the approaches by Western leaders by stating that Moscow would never permit another US-led NATO air campaign against Assad like the one that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi in Libya in 2011. He added that Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran were Moscow’s response to the large arms packages US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel brought to Israel and US Gulf allies in the last week of April.hen the latter was visiting Shanghai, warned Israel against any further attacks on Syria.
Since the chances of dissuading Putin to abandon this strategy are just about nil, the best Netanyahu can hope for by his face-to-face with the Russian president is a limited accord on ground rules for averting an Israeli-Russian military clash in Syria.
IRS Waged Political War on Tea Party
May 13….(ABC) Conservative groups have rejected an Internal Revenue Service apology for unjustifiably scrutinizing tax-exempt conservative groups during the 2012 election cycle. The IRS apology has seemingly validated conservatives' fears of politically motivated regulation. House Republican leaders, meanwhile, have vowed to investigate. Lois Lerner, the director the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations, said that organizations had been given additional scrutiny if their applications included the words "Tea Party" or "patriot." Despite the apology, conservative groups are now seizing on the news, which they say proves their long-standing complaints of mistreatment by the IRS. "President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again," said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots.
Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo told ABC News that his group, formed as a PAC, never heard from the IRS but did hear from smaller Tea Party groups that complained of government scrutiny. "On our bus tours the local Tea Party groups were all screaming about it. It was so pronounced around the country that it was obvious that the tea party groups were being targeted. The fact that Americans were targeted by the IRS because of their political beliefs is unconscionable. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., publicly asked President Obama to review his entire administration for politicization.
FOJ Note: This action by the IRS, obviously at the behest of the President, smacks of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. Note the IRS crusade was only against conservative Americans.
WEEK OF MAY 5 THROUGH MAY 11
Palestinian Official Longs to Nuke Israel
May 10….(Israel Today) There is a very good reason for Israel taking the Iran nuclear threat so seriously. There are a lot of people in this region, many of them holding positions of authority, who would like nothing more than to use a nuclear weapon against Israel, the consequences be damned. One such figure admitted as much in an interview with Lebanese TV last week. "I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning," said Jibril Rajoub, Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Olympic Committee.
Rajoub explained that the Palestinian Authority only continues to play this "negotiating game" with Israel because it currently lacks the military strength to defeat the Jewish state. This revelation validates one of Israel's chief concerns in the peace process - that in the absence of actually being educated for peace and coexistence, the inhabitants of an independent Palestinian state will, as a first order of business, work toward acquiring the military means to engage in renewed warfare against Israel.
In his previous role as head of Palestinian police and security adviser to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Rajoub was widely praised as a "moderate" by Western leaders.
Parents of US Navy Seals: Our Sons Were Set Up
May 10….(WND) The National Press Club in Washington fell silent as Charles Strange recalled how he leaned over to whisper into President Obama’s ear to ask if there would be a congressional investigation into the death of his son. President Obama whispered back, “We will look very, very, very deep into this.” But Strange says he hasn’t heard a word since that encounter with the president at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Aug. 9, 2011, when the remains of 30 US troops were brought home from Afghanistan.
Navy SEAL Team VI special forces serviceman Michael Strange was killed in what is considered the worst loss of American lives in the war in Afghanistan, the downing of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011, that killed all 38 people on board. That included 25 American special operations personnel, five US Army National Guard and Army Reserve crewmen, a US military dog, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter. The circumstances of the incident has raised troubling questions for family members of those killed, but they couldn’t convince Congress to launch an inquiry. Families of three Navy SEAL Team VI special forces servicemen killed in the attack took their case to the public Thursday and held a news conference to demand an investigation. They feel their sons were targeted for retaliation by the Taliban after Vice President Joe Biden revealed, and the administration then confirmed, that it was a Seal Team VI unit that had killed Osama bin Laden just three months earlier.
When WND asked Billy Vaughn, father of killed Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, if he thought the attack was an inside job, he said, “Yes.” The families suspect the Taliban set a trap by starting a firefight and then luring the SEALS. A series of factors combined to make the family believe this attack was carefully planned and not just the result of a random “lucky shot,” as the US military brass had told them. Billy Vaughn said the SEALS were ferried by a Vietnam-era Chinook helicopter rather than their customary state-of-the art special forces choppers because of a shortage of those models, due to an increase in special operations ordered by the president. The Taliban were apparently aware of that situation and could have been waiting for the opportunity to target the older and much more vulnerable aircraft.
Before landing the Chinook, the US fighters were not allowed to clear the area of potential enemies with suppressing fire because there could possibly have been civilians in the area. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Allen West, a former congressman, said to put a Chinook into an operation that had been going on for hours with no suppressing fire was “incomprehensible.” The Chinook was attacked at its most vulnerable moment, just as it was landing.
Vaughn said he called House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to inquire about the death of his son and received no answer. He said the office of the Democratic Chairman of the Armed Services Committee told him to “quit harassing Sen. (Carl) Levin.” The families say the circumstances are so suspicious, and there are so many unanswered questions, that the situation demands a congressional inquiry. But aside from such attendees at the news conference as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, their pleas have fallen largely on deaf ears.
Assad: We'll Give Every Power to Hezbollah
(Meeting Lebanese delegates, Syrian president thankful for group's support, vows to 'follow Hezbollah's example,' make Syria 'nation of resistance' against Israel)
May 10….(YNET) The Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Thursday that President Bashar Assad said that his country "will give everything to Hezbollah" in gratitude for the Shiite group's support of the Syrian regime. Assad vowed to imitate Hezbollah's example and turn Syria into "a nation of resistance (to Israel), for Syria and for future generations," referring to the alleged Israeli airstrikes in Damascus over the weekend. According to the newspaper, Assad's statements were given during a meeting with Lebanese delegates in Damascus and were meant to allay concerns that the airstrikes in Damascus will deter Syrian support of Hezbollah.
In the meeting, Assad also noted that Hezbollah was a "model of resistance" against Israel. According to the report, the Lebanese delegates described the president as exhibiting "self-confidence, contentment and great gratitude to Hezbollah." Assad reportedly added that "for the first time we feel that both they and we (Hezbollah) live in the same situation and they are not only allies that we aid with the resistance. "We decided that we must approach them and turn into a nation of resistance like Hezbollah, for Syria and for future generations."
Assad referred again to the attacks attributed to the Israeli Air Force, which according to several reports targeted weapons meant for Hezbollah, and said that his country can "easily" retaliate to the airstrikes by "launching rockets at Israel." Nevertheless, Assad said: "We want a strategic revenge by opening the door of resistance and turning all of Syria into a resistance nation." Assad also mentioned the prolonged Syrian civil war and said: "After the attack we are convinced that we are fighting the enemy. We are after its soldiers that have spread throughout our country."
On Tuesday, Assad also referred to the bombings and said that "the latest Israeli assault reveals the level of involvement the Israeli occupier, Western countries and their supporters have in the events in Syria." In a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Assad also said that "the Syrian people and its brave army, which have registered important victories in its battle against the terrorist and infidel gangs, are fully capable of dealing with Israel's adventurism."
Iran Threatens to Turn Golan into ‘Fatahland’
(After alleged Israel attack on Syria, Iran orders Assad army to protect homeland, according to Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper. ‘Front open to Syrians, Palestinians, to all who wish to fight Israel)
May 9….(YNET) Iranian officials have warned that their reaction to perceived aggressions would likely would be expressed in one of two ways. The first, one of the sources said, would be "a blow below the belt in more than one location," both within and outside of Syria, as they approached "the Day of Judgment." The same source indicated that “a final decision has been taken to turn the Golan Heights into the new ‘Fatahland’ and the front will be open to "Syrians, Palestinians and to all who want to fight Israel."
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah recently participated in more than one session of the Hezbollah’s "Jihad Council." The newspaper claimed that during these meetings, the secretary-general stated, "Israel believes that if it attacks facilities and strategic stockpiles, it changes the resistance capabilities. This is an erroneous assessment." He said,"The reason being that the stocks of the resistance have been filled with all that it needs." Nasrallah also warned, "If Israel attacks any (arms) cache of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the response will be immediate and total war."
Russia Delivers Supersonic Cruise Missiles to Syria
(Military source confirms delivery of missiles, second official says missiles will protect Syria from 'possible attack from the sea.)
May 9….(Ha Aretz) Russia has delivered supersonic cruise missiles to Syria, AFP reported on Thursday. A military source told the Interfax news agency, “The Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles have been delivered to Syria," although it was not made clear exactly when the shipment was made. A second Russian official speaking to Interfax said the missiles "will be able to protect Syria's entire coast against a possible attack from the sea."
Russia signed a contract reportedly worth at least $300 million in 2007 to supply Syria with cruise missiles, and Russia intended to deliver a total of 72 of the missiles to Syria, AFP reported. It was not clear how many of the missiles have so far been delivered by Russia to Syria. The delivery was made amid the continuing violent crackdown of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime against the opposition, which according to a UN statement made on Thursday, has claimed 4,000 lives since March this year. While international pressure against the Assad regime has increased over the past month, Moscow has stood by its ally, criticizing further sanctions slapped on Syria by Western and Arab League states.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected calls at the United Nations for an arms embargo against Syria on Tuesday, saying that a similar move against Libya had proved one-sided, helping rebels to topple Gadhafi in August. "We know how that worked in Libya when the arms embargo only applied to the Libyan army. The opposition received weapons, and countries like France and Qatar publicly spoke about it without shame," he told a news conference.
Russia has close political and strategic relations with Assad's government and has been one if its main arms suppliers. Syria accounted for 7 percent of Russia's total of $10 billion in arms deliveries abroad in 2010, according to the Russian defense think-tank CAST.
US Disability Beneficiary Numbers Exploding
May 9….(CNSNews.com) The total number of people in the United States now receiving federal disability benefits hit a record 10,962,532 million in April. According to newly released data from the Social Security Administration, the record 10,962,532 total disability beneficiaries in April, included a record 8,865,586 disabled workers (up from 8,853,614 in March), 1,936,236 children of disabled workers, and 160,710 spouses of disabled workers. April was the 195th straight month that the number of American workers collecting federal disability payments increased. The last time the number of Americans collecting disability decreased was in January 1997. That month the number of workers taking disability dropped by 249 people, from 4,385,623 in December 1996 to 4,385,374 in January 1997.
As the overall number of American workers collecting disability has increased, the ratio of full-time workers to disability-collecting workers has decreased. In December 1968, 1,295,428 American workers collected disability and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 65,630,000 worked full-time. Thus, there were about 51 full-time workers for each worker collecting disability. In April 2013, with a record 8,865,586 American workers collecting disability and 116,053,000 working full-time, there were only 13 Americans working full-time for each worker on disability.
PA Official: We Would Nuke Israel
May 9….(Arutz) A senior Palestinian Authority has praised the use of violence against Israel, asserting that if the PA had the military wherewithal to rise up against the Jewish state, it would not hesitate to do so. "I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning against Israel," vowed Jibril Rajoub during an interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel, as reported by the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). Jibril Rajoub is the Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and Chairman of the PA Olympic Committee.
Benghazi Makes Watergate 'Look Like Kindergarten'
(General: 'A dereliction of duty this nation has never seen before')
May 9….(WND) Revelations in Wednesday’s congressional hearings on the Benghazi terrorist attacks prove it is a massive scandal that will carry significant consequences for those involved in the cover-up, according to retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney. McInerney served at the highest levels in the Air Force, including time as assistant vice chief of staff and vice commander in chief of the US Air Forces in Europe. He believes the Obama administration deliberately misled the American people on the motivation for the attack and is now covering its tracks on decisions to prevent a military rescue in Benghazi. He told WND that is more clear than ever following Wednesday’s testimony of former Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks and two others before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “This is going to be the biggest scandal. It is going to make Watergate look like kindergarten because Watergate was primarily limited to the Oval Office. This cuts across the whole national security apparatus, where people were lying and covering up,” McInerney said. “It is a dereliction of duty that this nation has never seen before.”
So what consequences could that mean for the highest levels of the administration? “Well, just see what the consequences were in Watergate. If it’s far worse than Watergate, the consequences will go right into the Oval Office,” he said. McInerney said the tell-tale sign of Obama’s dereliction of duty can be determined in the admitted White House narrative of the president’s actions as the terrorist attack played out the night of Sept. 11, 2012. “When is the exact minute he knew? We don’t have the timeline, and it was well before the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went over there. He only talked to the secretary of defense one time, so it’s obvious he knew that he had given the stand-down order and did not need to talk to the secretary of defense or anybody else after that,” McInerney said. “Then he goes the next day out on a fundraising campaign to Las Vegas. That is a low for the commander in chief of this great nation.” He also insists the stand-down order could only come from one source: the president himself. “The only person who could have given it was the president, and he had to give it through the secretary of defense, secretary of state. The word came out so it came from the combatant commands and other unites below, but nobody could have given that except the president of the United States, and that is very clear,” said McInerney, who noted that the State Department’s own Accountability Review Board likely reached a similar conclusion in its report, which is why so few have seen it and the leaders of that study refuse to appear before Congress. McInerney believes they should be subpoenaed.
While he believes Obama has a lot to answer for, McInerney made it clear that many top-level subordinates deserve a lot of the blame too, and that’s what makes the scandal so troubling. “It’s going to have significant consequences because it impacts two CIA directors, two secretaries of state, two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two secretaries of defense that are all involved now with the cover-up,” he said.
The general also singled out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her comment at congressional hearings in January in which she bristled severely at accusations the administration concocted a plan to blame the attack on a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Islam YouTube video that got out of hand. Clinton slammed Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, saying, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
McInerney sees that as a low point in American history. “That is one of the most despicable statements that any American has said about such a tragic incident when you lose people like that. It makes a huge difference that our troops know that they will always be protected as much as they can and we’ll do anything to protect them,” he said. “She says, what difference does it make? That will live with her til the day she dies. I can tell you, all the people I know, both active and retired, think that is one of the most despicable statements we have ever heard a civilian leader say in our country’s history.”
McInerney said the administration’s story is full of holes on a number of fronts, including the narrative about the supposed video protests. But the general said his own experience serving in that theater convinces him there was plenty of time and opportunity to deploy US forces to protect Americans in Benghazi. “We have never done that, that I know, in our military history, where we just abandoned and did not try to send in rescue forces. They could have gotten there from Aviano (Air Base in Italy) the F-16s. I used to fly F-16s out of Aviano when I was vice commander in chief of US Air Forces in Europe. I know that scene very well. They could have made it. They said they didn’t have tankers. They could have dropped their tanks. They could have recovered at a nearby Italian air base on an island,” he said. “So it is unacceptable to me that we didn’t send those forces from Tripoli that we had there. We didn’t send F-16s and the FEST team to go in and to try to rescue those people. That was unacceptable, but from the get-go they had a narrative that they wanted to stick with that was a political narrative that the war was over, they had defeated al-Qaida,” he said.
China Unveils Peace Plan Based on 1967 Lines
(Beijing moves for larger role in international efforts to broker an agreement)
May 8….(Times of Israel) China launched a peace proposal Monday amid visits from the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in a sign of its desire for a larger role in the Middle East. PA President Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a visit to the eastern financial hub of Shanghai. Netanyahu is due in Beijing on Wednesday following Abbas’s departure a day earlier. During his meeting with Abbas, Xi introduced a 4-point peace proposal. The plan calls for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, based on the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The proposal also states Israel’s right to exist in security and asserts that negotiations are the key to lasting peace between the two peoples.
The proposal calls for an end to settlement activities, violence against civilians, and Israel’s blockade on Gaza, and presses for a resolution to the issue of Palestinian prisoners, saying all are “necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks,” according to Chinese news reports. The proposition also urges the international community to become more involved and to encourage the parties to restart negotiations while providing increased assistance to the Palestinians.
China has traditionally maintained a low profile in Middle East diplomacy, but in recent years has tried to play a more active role in the region as part of its quest for markets, resources and diplomatic influence. Beijing has sought stable relations with both sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but Israel’s weekend airstrikes on Syrian military targets created a turbulent start to China’s diplomatic foray. China recognized the Palestinian State in 1988, four years before establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
Obama to Arm Syrian Rebels: Putin Issues Stern Warning to Israel
May 8….(DEBKA) Negative diplomatic ricochets are pursuing Israel in the aftermath of its air force attacks on Syria. In the first place, they are seen to have had no effect on Hizballah’s successful military intervention on the side of the Assad regime or the Syrian war at large. In the second, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, while in Shanghai, was given a sharp dressing-down by President Vladimir Putin Monday, May 6, a warning that Russia would not tolerate further Israeli attacks on Damascus and would respond. Putin did not say how, but he did announce he had ordered the acceleration of highly advanced Russian weapons supplies to Syria. Debkafile’s military sources disclose that the Russian leader was referring to S-300 anti-air systems and the nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander (NATO named SS-26 Stone) surface missiles, which are precise enough to hit a target within a 5-7 meter radius at a distance of 280 kilometers.
In his phone call to Netanyahu, the Russian leader made no bones about his determination not to permit the US, Israel or any other regional force to (e.g. Turkey and Qatar) overthrow President Bashar Assad. He advised the prime minister to make sure to keep this in mind. Our sources add: Since Syrian air defense teams have already trained in Russia on the handling of the S-300 interceptor batteries, they can go into service as soon as they are landed by one of Russia’s daily airlifts to Syria. Russian air defense officials will supervise their deployment and prepare them for operation. Moscow is retaliating not just for Israel’s air operations against Syria but in anticipation of the Obama administration’s impending decision to send the first US arms shipments to the Syrian rebels.
Intelligence agencies in Moscow and the Middle East take it for granted that by the time Washington goes public on this decision, some of the Syrian rebel factions will already be armed with American weapons. That the measure was in the works was signified by the introduction Monday by Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of legislation allowing the US to provide arms and military training to the Syrian rebels. US military instructors have been working with Syrian rebels at training camps in Jordan and Turkey for some months. So putting the arms in their hands only awaited a decision in Washington.
Putin’s message to Netanyahu was intended to reach a wider audience than Jerusalem, such as Barack Obama in Washington and President Xi Jinping in Beijing ahead of Netanyahu’s talks there Tuesday. Therefore, when US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Moscow that day, in an attempt “bridge the divide” between their governments on the Syria conflict, he was preceded by a barrage of Russian condemnation of the Israeli air strikes in Damascus “as a threat to regional stability,” a stiff warning from the Russian foreign ministry to the “West” to stop “politicizing the issue of chemical weapons in Syria,” and Moscow’s “concern that world public opinion was being prepared for possible foreign military intervention.”
In other words, the Russian leader rejected in advance and with both hands any attempt by the US to use the Israeli air strikes as leverage for a deal with Moscow for ending the Syrian war. US weapons supplies to the rebels would furthermore be matched by stepped-up arms supplies to the Assad regime, which Putin is totally committed to preserving. Kerry planned back-to-back meetings Tuesday with Russian officials focusing mainly on Syria but also covering the Russian angle on the Boston bombings, and hoped-for cooperation on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues.
The Chinese government’s cold shoulder to Israel was exhibited less directly that Moscow’s but no less firmly. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was invited to visit Beijing and meet President Xi two days before the prime arrived in the Chinese capital Tuesday to begin the official part of his visit. The Chinese president unveiled his peace plan before meeting the Israeli prime minister. This plan emphasizes, as the key to a settlement, the Palestinian right to a state on the basis of 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital. It also adopts Abbas’s preconditions for talks, including a stop to settlement activities, an end of the Gaza blockade and “proper handling” of the Palestinian prisoner issue.
Obama's Impeachment Predicted as Congress Focuses on Cover-up
(More serious than Watergate 'because 4 Americans did in fact die')
May 8….(WND) To this day, it is not known what role President Richard Nixon played in the break-in at the Watergate Hotel, but the tape recordings from the White House confirm he and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman discussed using the CIA to slow down the FBI investigation. It was the cover up, as history records, that eventually brought about Nixon’s resignation in disgrace. Now, Congress is investigating an alleged cover-up of the terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2012, on the US foreign service facility in Benghazi, Libya, amid predictions from prominent voices that the scandal will bring down the Obama administration.
Former Arkansas governor and one time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made the bold prediction this week, ahead of a House hearing Wednesday that will feature witnesses of the attack. “I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term,” he said. “I know that puts me on a limb. But this is not minor. It wasn’t minor when Richard Nixon lied to the American people and worked with those in his administration to cover up what really happened in Watergate. “But, I remind you, as bad as Watergate was, because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die.”
Meanwhile, John Bolton, former UN ambassador and now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has also declared the Benghazi scandal could lead to Obama’s removal from office. “This could be the hinge point,” he told Newsmax. “It’s that serious for them.”
Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy, wrote in a Washington Times column that “the dam seems to be breaking on the nearly eight-month-long cover-up concerning the deadly jihadist attack on Americans and their facilities in Benghazi, Libya.” After the foreign service facility in Benghazi was attacked, the Obama administration initially claimed Muslims spontaneously rioted over a little-known online video that defamed Islam’s founder. But now there is evidence that the administration knew from the beginning that it was a terrorist attack and altered its talking points.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is digging into the truth, holding a hearing that calls on those who were in Benghazi to explain what happened. The questions will probe who created the story that was delivered to America and why.
Hamas: No Peace with Israel Under any Terms
May 7….(Israel Today) While the American administration gets all excited over the Arab League making passing mention of its previous regional peace proposal, Western power-brokers are completely ignoring the fact that Palestinian powerhouse Hamas rejects the idea of peace with Israel under any circumstances. After Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani commented last week that the Arab League would be willing to accept minor territorial compromise as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry got to work pressing Israel to accept the proposal. As Israel feared, all it took was a gentle nudge and the slightest hint of successfully overseeing a peace deal to get Washington drooling, even if the hopes couldn't possibly match reality.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to warn his American friends that while his government remains ready to make territorial compromise, the root of the conflict isn't about borders, but about Israel's very existence. Hamas was so kind as to make Netanyahu's point for him. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal stated that his group's goal remains the "liberation of the Palestinian territories," which Hamas views as encompassing the entirety of the State of Israel. Mashaal said the Arab League proposal would harm the true Palestinian end goal by helping to integrate Israel into the region.
Unfortunately, Western leaders didn't seem to be listening. Many in Israel continue to argue that it doesn't matter if a reasonable agreement can be reached with the Arab League and Palestinian Authority if groups like Hamas continue to run the show on the ground. Until all of the Palestinian Arabs actually want peace with Israel, it simply isn't going to happen.
Benghazi: White House ‘Knowingly Misled’ Americans
May 7….(Examiner) As reported Saturday, Fox News has “learned the names of the self-described Benghazi ‘whistle-blowers’ who are set to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday.” Gregory N. Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Libya at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attacks, became the highest-ranking American diplomat in Libya after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.
According to the State Department website, Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine and now the deputy coordinator for Operations in the agency’s Counter Terrorism Bureau,“ advises senior leadership on operational counter terrorism matters, and ensures that the United States can rapidly respond to global terrorism crises.” Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the regional security officer in Libya and the top security officer in the country in the months leading up to the attacks, previously testified before the oversight committee, which is chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in October 2012. Joe DiGenova, a former US attorney, and his wife Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee are representing Hicks and Thompson, “pro bono.”
According to DiGenova and Toensing, Hicks and Thompson believe their accounts of Benghazi were rejected by the Accountability Review board, convened by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to investigate the attack, and claim they are being threatened by unnamed administration officials that their careers will be in jeopardy if they testify. As Examiner noted May 1, the answer provided by President Barack Obama during Tuesday’s press conference about the threats, only “raised more questions.” Ed Henry asked about the “new allegations” that the Benghazi survivors are being “blocked from coming forward.” "Ed, I'm not familiar with this notion that anybody's been blocked from testifying,” Obama said. Unsatisfied with Obama’s answer, Henry pressed the matter. They hired an attorney because they're saying that they've been blocked from coming forward. “I'm not familiar with it,” Obama dismissed, and quickly pointed to the next reporter for a new question.
However, “even as the White House strove last week to move beyond questions about the Benghazi attacks,” Steve Hays reported for The Weekly Standard that “fresh evidence emerged that” Obama and “senior Obama administration officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults.” On Sept. 12, 2012, the day after the attack, Obama delivered a speech in the Rose Garden, with Clinton at his side, blaming the video. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.
During a Sept. 14 press briefing, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney followed suit. We also need to understand that this is a fairly volatile situation and it is in response not to United States policy, but is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at US policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.
As reported Sept. 21, 2012 by The Daily Mail, the State Department spent $70,000 to run an announcement in Pakistan, “which featured clips of Obama and Clinton underscoring US respect for religion and declaring the US government had nothing to do with the movie.” During Obama’s Sept. 25, 2012 speech before the United Nations delegation, he blamed the video six times. American Power Blog noted Sept. 29, 2012 that during her appearances on five separate Sunday talk show programs, US United Nations Ambassador and Obama’s then-nominee to replace Clinton as secretary of state, Susan Rice blamed the attack on the video. What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States.
But in Reality, there were no protests outside the Benghazi compound there. It was a deliberate and strategic attack on the consulate there. Still, from the beginning, Clinton, Carney, and Rice, insisted there was “no actionable intelligence” that an attack was pending and that no help was available to save the lives of Stevens and three other Americans once the attack began.
However, The Washington Post reported Oct. 20, 2012 that Ambassador Stevens warned the State Department of his fear of an impending attack, and begged for additional security. While the Benghazi survivors fear that testifying will result in career-ending reprisals from the Obama administration, the secretive source who spoke to Fox News said that many others, who are “connected to” and are still in Benghazi, are afraid they will be killed if they speak out. The problem is you’ve got guys, in the special operations community, who are still active and still involved. And they would be decapitated if they came forward with information that could affect high-level commanders. “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton responded angrily, as her response to the Benghazi attack was questioned by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jan. 23. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make, she said?
10 of 15 Worst Countries for Religious Intolerance are Muslim
May 7….(Washington Times) The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has revealed that 10 of the 15 “worst violators of religious freedom” in the world are Muslim nations. The federal advisory body, created by the International Religious Freedom Act, monitors religious freedom abuses worldwide. The 15 most intolerant countries listed are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. All of these nations severely restrict independent religious activity and harass people for minority religious activity, classifying these countries as Tier 1 “countries of particular concern” in the report.
IDF on War Alert. Iran-Syrian-Hizballah Axis Threatened
May 7….(DEBKA) Israel’s two air force strikes on Syria in three days, the second targeting the emblems of Assad rule overlooking Damascus from Mt. Qassioun, appear to be part of a tactical plan put together by the US Israel, and two Sunni powers, Turkey and Qatar, to break up the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut radical bloc and eventually force Iran to give up its nuclear bomb aspirations. This is how it will be interpreted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Bashar Assad and Hassan Nasrallah as they prepare their responses for the Israeli attacks. Without officially confirming those strikes ever took place, Israel insisted that its air force and rockets singled out the advanced Iranian weapons waiting in Syria for transfer to Hizballah. This message was designed for a purpose: It was meant to support Washington’s argument to Moscow that Israel had not aimed its bombs and rockets against Assad and his army, only the Iranian and Hizballah military presence in Syria. But it didn’t quite work that way, because no one in Damascus slept a wink early Sunday, May 5, as Israel rocket blasts shook the city in what was described as a 4 magnitude earthquake and inflicted heavy casualties, not on the Hizballah brigades fighting in Syria, but Syrian elite units stationed around Mt. Qassioun.
The columns of fire over Damascus flashing across world screens caused the Assad regime and army serious loss of face. Syrian officials could do no less then broadcast dire threats of war, but may be poised to do more.
Monday, May 6, the Syrian ruler spelled out his next plan of action in a message posted to Moscow: A third Israeli strike would incur an instantaneous Syrian response, he warned. Damascus would let Palestinian organizations off the leash to mount attacks against Israel from the Syrian Golan. What this presages, according to our military sources, is the launching of a cross-border war of attrition mounted from Syria and Lebanon by Syrian and Hizballah soldiers posing as Palestinian fighters. That is if Israel continues its assaults on Syria.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Monday that Israel’s “acts of aggression against Syria will not go unanswered and Tel Aviv will receive a crushing response.” Washington is meanwhile expected to follow up on the Israeli operation in Syria by the end of May, early June, with operations ranging from US arms supplies to the Syrian rebels to demolishing Syria’s air force facilities and missile sites by US air strikes from Turkey, Europe and Israel. Barak Obama used this tactic to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi in Libya two years ago.
The Obama administration made a point of getting these options into print in Monday’s media after saying in answer to a question about the Israeli air strikes: “Israel justifiably has to guard against advance weapons reaching Hizballah.” Debkafile’s military sources: Since the Syrian rebels are being systematically ground down and falling apart under the crushing weight of the Syrian army backed by Iranian and Hizballah troops and Moscow, feeding the rebels more weapons may no longer avail. So this would be the less probable of the two options.
And meanwhile, Israel’s military operation has altered the military equation for Syria. And so President Barack Obama will again try to proposition Vladimir Putin for a joint effort to end the Syrian war. He would not be averse even to Russian forces landing in Syria to enforce the termination of hostilities. The US president got nowhere with his past bids to break up the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah front, mainly because he was outmaneuvered by Russia. On April 27, before Israel embarked on action against Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov forged a new Russian alliance with Hizballah in Beirut. This was Putin’s answer to Obama’s direct appeal for a partnership in the effort to terminate the Syrian conflict. Obama’s rejoinder was the green light he gave Israel to go for Iranian and Hizballah targets in Syria.
The claim by a “senior US intelligence official” that Israel did not apprise Washington before embarking on its Syrian operation does not hold water. The Netanyahu government might have embarked on a “justifiable” operation against advanced Iranian arms for Hizballah on its own, but would not have stuck its neck out to strike Syria’s elite troops on Mt. Qassioun without first clearing it with the Obama administration. But the new direction now indicated may derail Washington’s plan for a superpower deal to bring the horrendous Syrian crisis to a close. The local players, Khamenei, Assad and Nasrallah, are getting ready to grab the wheel and push the US and Israel off the driving seat.
Assad warned Moscow Monday of his plan for a war of attrition against Israel, using Palestinian fighters as cutouts, while Iran, Syria and Hizballah turned their missile batteries around to face Israel. Having taken the calculated risk that Syria would be too busy with its own war to embark on a major reprisal, Israel Sunday night placed the country’s northern borders and region, including the big port town of Haifa, and its early warning systems, on the highest level of war alert, closed its northern airspace to civilian traffic for a couple of days, stationed Iron Dome anti-missile batteries at vulnerable points, and advised local authorities to go on standby. All the parties concerned, from Washington and Moscow, to Jerusalem, Tehran, Damascus and Beirut, were waiting Monday on tenterhooks to see who made the next move.
Israel Launches Second Airstrike in Syria
May 6….(AP) Israeli warplanes have attacked a shipment of missiles at Damascus International Airport that was bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, officials from the United States, Israel and Lebanon told reporters Saturday. The attack Friday coincided with mounting pressure on the Obama administration to formulate a response to the growing risk of weapons proliferation in the Syrian war, notably the possibility that chemical weapons are being used in the conflict and could fall into the hands of extremists. It also came amid renewed reports of sectarian violence in the northern coastal region of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad where his supporters allegedly killed at least 50 and perhaps as many as 100 Sunni Muslim villagers in recent days, drawing a sharp condemnation Saturday from the State Department.
Israeli officials told the Associated Press and Reuters that the target of the airstrike was a consignment of advanced, long-range, ground-to-ground missiles destined for Hezbollah, the political and military organization that dominates Lebanon’s government and has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.The shipment did not contain chemical weapons, but the missiles were potentially “game-changing,” one official told the Associated Press. Details of the attack were sketchy, but it appeared the target was a storage site at an air defense base on the periphery of the Damascus airport, known to be the chief transshipment point for weapons flown into Syria from Iran, both to aid the Syrian government in its battle against rebels and to supply Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.
A senior Lebanese security official who was in Damascus at the time said the strike took place about 4 a.m. and targeted a large quantity of missiles stored at the site. The attack appeared to be similar to one in January in which Israeli jets hit a convoy carrying weapons intended for Hezbollah, the official said, with the warplanes firing from a location over Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Scotland: 'Jews Shouldn't Take God's Promise About Land Literally'
May 6….(Israel Hayom) In a new report titled "The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the 'Promised Land,''' the Church of Scotland, once a staunch supporter of the Jews' right to their ancient homeland, casts serious doubt on the biblical Jewish claim to the land. The report is a culmination of more than a decade of increasingly strident anti-Zionism and pro-Palestinian activism by the church, especially by its local Palestinian Christian chapters. "Promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory," it concludes. "The 'promised land' in the Bible is not a place, so much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This 'Promised Land' can be found, or built, anywhere."
Local Jewish leaders fear that if the church adopts the document at its annual general assembly, it may be become official church policy, the London Jewish Chronicle reported. The Church of Scotland's annual general assembly is to vote on the report later this month. In the report, the church states that there has been a "widespread assumption" by many Christians and Jews that the Bible supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel."This assumption of biblical support is based on views of promises about land in the Hebrew Bible, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, as well as the fulfillment of biblical prophets such as Ezekiel, who spoke about 'the barren mountains of Israel' becoming fruitful and 'the ruined towns' being rebuilt as the people returned from exile. These views are disputed," the report says. It adds that the New Testament provides help in answering some of the "difficult questions" that arise from these disputed assumptions.
On God's promise to Abraham to make the Land of Israel a home for the Jewish people ("To your offspring I will give this land," Genesis 12:7), the Church of Scotland says that a purely literal reading does show that God promised the land to Abraham and his descendents, but that the exact geography of the land is unclear, and in any case the land was given "conditionally to the Jewish people, on the understanding the land is God's, given in trust to be cared for and lived in according to God's instruction."
The report then quotes from a slew of anti-Zionist writers who argue that Israel and Zionism are acting "unjustly" toward the Palestinian population on the land, in an effort to make the point that the current State of Israel is not acting according to God's instructions. The New Testament, the report states, contains a "radical re-interpretation" of the concepts of "Israel," "temple," "Jerusalem," and "land." "The boundaries of the land are described in different ways in different situations," the report says. "Abraham's descendants, 'numerous as the stars in the sky', will receive 'all these lands,' and through them 'all nations on earth will be blessed'" (Genesis 26:4). This suggests a more inclusive picture than "the land of Canaan" (Genesis 12:5) or even "from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18). "The lack of detailed archaeological evidence supports the view that the range of scriptural material makes it inappropriate to try to use the Hebrew scriptures to determine an area of land meant exclusively for the Jewish people," the report says.
Making a theological leap from this geographical "lack of detailed archaeological evidence," the report then concludes that "the new 'place' where God is found is wherever people gather in the name of Jesus. If Jesus is indeed the 'yes' to all God's promises, the promise to Abraham about land is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people." The church admits that from the early 19th century, some influential Christians encouraged the concept of the land of Israel being promised to the Jews. It may well have been a church minister, the Rev. Alexander Keith, who coined the phrase "a land without people for a people without land," the report states.
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities Director Ephraim Borowski said the church should withdraw the report. "On behalf of the Jewish community of Scotland, we call upon the church to withdraw it [the report] from the forthcoming general assembly. If the Church cannot build bridges, can it at least refrain from burning them?" Borowski told the London Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
Board of Deputies Vice President Jonathan Arkush said, "The document. appears to have been produced with no consultation with the Scottish or national Jewish community. It is littered with misrepresentations of Jewish history, values and beliefs, as well as basic factual errors. "It is an ignorant and tendentious document masquerading as a theological statement. The church has done a deep disservice to itself by producing a document without any regard to the trust, respect and dialogue on which interfaith relations should be based."
Egypt's Secretary-General of Islamic Jihad Party: Legal to Kill Christians
(Egyptian Party Official Claims That Coptic Christians Can Be Killed Under Islamic Law)
May 6….(Christian Post) Mohamed Abu Samra, secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad Party, made the claim that "it is permissible to kill some Christians today," then gave his argument defending such a position. He justified this announcement by saying: "Those who came out with weapons, their blood is allowed for us to spill, as a fighter is not considered dhimmi." Dhimma is the Islamic law that specifies non-Muslims are to be protected residents within the Islamic state in exchange for taxes. "In the recent funeral, the Christians brought the Qur'an and urinated on it. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar did not deny it. They also came out in demonstrations to destroy Muslim places, chanting 'We'll bring Islam down by any means possible,'" Samra said during an interview with Egyptian newspaper Al-Watan on Wednesday. "Jihad gagged the new pope, as we told him in a statement 'your seclusion will not terrorize us.' If you want civil war, we will welcome it as you were the ones who started it," Samra said.
Israel Strikes Against Iranian Arms in Syria
May 6….(DEBKA) Israeli military activity is reported in Lebanon Saturday, May 4 and not just over Syria. US sources said earlier Israeli warplanes had struck targets in Syria including a chemical weapons depot outside Damascus, firing missiles remotely from Lebanese air space and the Golan starting Friday and continuing up until early Saturday, May 3. An Israeli spokesman confirmed only an air strike in Syria against a shipment of long-range surface missiles. The latest reports from Lebanon point to expanding Israeli military activity inside Lebanon as well. They describe Israeli warplanes as flying “at a medium altitude over the Eastern and Western Mountain ranges of the Beqaa Valley.” debkafile: Hizballah strongholds are located in this region which is close to the Syrian border. Other warplanes were described as heading north over Beirut. One Lebanese source claimed Israeli ground troops had descended from the Mt. Dov-Hermon range, crossed the Lebanese border and entered the Shebaa Farms region. None of these reports are confirmed by Israel, Lebanon or Syria. But debkafile notes that if Israeli troops have indeed penetrated Lebanon to a depth of 5-7 kilometers and reached the Shebaa Farms, they have taken up positions opposite the 30 Syrian Shiite villages guarded by incoming Iranian elite Basij militiamen.
Debkafile reported exclusively Friday that thousands of Basij militiamen had just been airlifted from Iran to Syria, establishing an Iranian military presence opposite Israel from Syria as well as Lebanon. They joined a comparable number of Hizballah militiamen fighting for the Bashar regime. Given the rush of adverse military developments across Israel’s northern borders, its operations in Syria and Lebanon are expected to continue and even expand. This is also indicated by last week’s mobilization of thousands of reservists for an event termed by the IDF spokesman “a military exercise” beginning Sunday, May 5 along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. The spokesman was clearly trying to misdirect attention from Israel’s preparations for an important military operation by announcing a routine drill.
Debkafile adds: The initial claim by Syria, Iran and Hizballah of ignorance of any Israeli action is unlikely to hold up for long. They might keep up the act if the Israeli strike turned out to be a one-off against a single target, the picture the “Israeli official” tried to present after the event. But if there is more to come, Bashar Assad, Ali Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah will not let Israel go unchallenged. This threesome is undoubtedly on the phone at this moment working on their response. Some of the earlier reports by US media claimed Israeli jets were seen Saturday before dawn circling over Assad's presidential compound in Damascus before moving on to target a weapons site. The Israeli jets reportedly received fire but returned to base unscathed.
Debkafile’s military sources added that the start of the Israeli air force operation could have been fixed precisely by the sirens which went off suddenly over the Golan Friday afternoon and again before dawn Saturday. The IDF spokesman said they were set off by a “technical glitch.” They now prove to have been triggered automatically by Israeli aerial movements. For five days, Lebanon has been reporting Israeli warplane intrusions of its air space.
Syria Accuses Israel of Launching War Against It
(Assad’s deputy FM calls Israeli airstrikes ‘declaration of war’; Damascus tells UN of fatalities in Israeli attacks, says Israel is fighting regime together with Islamic terrorists)
May 6….(Times of Israel) Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned Sunday that recent Israeli air-strikes on facilities near Damascus constituted an Israeli “declaration of war.” Mekdad’s comments prompted concern in Israel about a possible escalation of hostilities between Israel and Syria, and Israel was said to be braced for all possibilities. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still intending to head to China for four days on Sunday night, in what was partly a demonstrative desire to play down the likelihood of escalation. Mekdad made the statement during an interview with CNN on Sunday, hours after Israel reportedly struck military targets on the outskirts of Damascus for the second time in 48 hours. The Foreign Ministry in Damascus stated in a letter to the United Nations that the strikes “killed and wounded several people.”
Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said soon afterward that “all options are open” for Syria to respond to the attacks, which he claimed conclusively demonstrated the alliance between “the terrorists, infidels and Zionists” fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad. Still, in more moderate tones, al-Zoubi also said the regime’s priority was to battle the forces inside Syria that were challenging the regime, and he denied claims in some Arab media that an Israeli plane had been shot down by Syrian forces and two pilots captured.
Mekdad had also asserted that the attacks reflected an alliance between Islamic terrorists fighting against Assad’s regime and Israel, and warned that Syria would retaliate as and when it saw fit. Egypt and the Arab League condemned the strike, with Cairo’s Foreign Ministry saying it was against any infraction of the sovereignty of Arab countries.
Apparently bracing for possible retaliation, Israel deployed two Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the north of the country on Sunday morning, hours after it reportedly struck a shipment of Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah near Damascus. One Iron Dome battery was deployed in Safed and the other in Haifa. The Iron Dome system has proved highly effective in stopping short-range rocket fire, intercepting 84 percent of the incoming rockets from Gaza it aimed at during Operation Pillar of Defense last November. A Syrian state TV report claimed Israeli rockets hit a military research site on the outskirts of the capital at about 2 a.m., while an unnamed Israeli official told AFP the target was a shipment of Iranian made Fatah-110 missiles that were on their way from Syria to Hezbollah terrorists.
Netanyahu has convened his security cabinet on Sunday afternoon to discuss the escalating hostilities with Syria. Israeli forces were placed on high alert in the Golan Heights Saturday, as clashes between Assad forces and rebel fighters reached areas near the Golan village of Majdal Shams.
Israel Could Form Defense Pact with Saudi Arabia, UAE
(Jordan and Turkey to also play role in US-brokered plan to contain, rather than thwart, Iran.)( Report claims Washington is busy forging defensive alliance between Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, despite fact Israel doesn't have relations with them, and isn’t even recognized by them)
May 6….(Times of Israel) Israel is working on joining an anti-Iran defense alliance with a number of moderate Arab states that would involve sharing Jerusalem’s newly developed anti-missile technologies, a British newspaper reported Sunday. The plan would see Israel join with Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to create a Middle Eastern “moderate crescent,” according to the Sunday Times, which cited an unnamed Israeli official. Israel does not currently maintain formal ties with Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, and relations with Ankara have been strained since 2009. According to the report, Israel would gain access to radar stations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in exchange share its own early warning radar information and anti-ballistic missile defense systems, though it’s not clear in what form. The report details that Jordan would be protected by Israel’s Arrow long-range anti-missile batteries.
The so-called 4+1 plan is being brokered by Washington, and would mark a sharp shift in stated policy for the White House, which has insisted the US is not interested in containing Iran but rather stopping it before it reaches nuclear weapon capability. The Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan are all opposed to Tehran shifting the regional power balance. Though Turkey maintains strong trade ties with Iran, it has found itself opposed to Tehran over the issue of Syria. The Sunni Muslim states are openly opposed to Shiite Iran attaining nuclear weapons and shifting the balance of power in the region. While the scheme might have positive diplomatic repercussions for Israel vis-a-vis the Arab states, it could also signal that Washington is resigning itself to Iran going nuclear, and is instead looking to a policy of containment.
Israel has repeatedly stated that an atomic weapon in the hands of Iran's mullahs is an unacceptable scenario that the Jewish state and its allies must do everything possible to prevent. The potential deal is being brokered by the Obama Administration.
Iran Condemns Israeli Airstrike in Syria
May 6….(YNET) Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman is condemning an Israeli airstrike in Syria on a shipment of Iranian-made missiles, but gives no other hints of a possible stronger response from Tehran or its allies. Ramin Mehmanparast is quoted Sunday by the semiofficial Fars news agency as denouncing the attack on the missiles, which were believed en route to Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. It's the first Iranian comments since Israel launched a first round of airstrikes on Friday, then another round on Sunday.
Mehmanparast urges countries in the region to remain united against Israel, but gives no other suggestions of possible further action in response. Also in the wake of the strike, a senior military chief told official news agency Irna that Iran is ready to "train" the Syrian army should the need arise. Head of the country's infantry General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan said, however, the Iranian military would not take active participation in its Syrian counterpart's operation, emphasizing the Syrian military has "experience in confronting the Zionist regime" without foreign help. The attack signals a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's more than 2-year-old civil war between rebels and the forces of President Bashar Assad.
Israeli Air Force Strikes Against Damascus
May 6….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Israeli rockets early Sunday, May 5, reportedly struck the Jamraya military research center just north of Damascus, the same facility which Israeli planes attacked in January, causing powerful explosions and shooting columns of fire. debkafile: The Israeli operation in Syria appears to be ongoing after the first round failed to prevent the transfer of Iran-supplied Scud D and Fateh-110 missiles to Hizballah units fighting in Syria the next day, Saturday. Syrian state TV reported the attack on Jamraya. There was no comment from Israeli spokesmen. Arab sources reported Israeli rockets also hit two 4th Division Republican Guard battalions. The 4th Division is the main Syrian military unit buttressing the regime. It is commanded by President Bashar Assad’s brother, Gen. Maher Assad. There were also claims that rockets were fired on or close to Mount Qassioun, one of Bashar Assad’s presidential palaces and the site of command posts and arsenals overlooking the capital. The BBC’s Arab sources add that Hizballah forces stationed in Damascus were also targeted. Our military sources have said in the past that the tactic of bombing in Syria advanced weapons shipments in transition from Iran to keep them from reaching Hizballah in Lebanon had been overtaken by the presence of half of Hizballah’s military strength in Syria and able to collect them directly. And in fact, the Syrian army immediately transferred The Scud D and Fateh-110 consignments directly to the Hizballah elite Al Qods and Al Mahdi brigades which are spearheading the Syrian battle for the key town of Al Qusayr near the Lebanese border, which Syrian rebels have held for more than a year. The Al Mahdi Brigade joined Al Qods in Syria last Tuesday, April 30.
Israel is determined not to get involved in the Syrian civil war. Therefore, Israel has not struck the advanced weapons passing in this way to Hizballah, which is learning to use them in battle with the rebels. Neither are the 7,000-strong brigades themselves been attacked, thus far. Israel’s calculus could change when they head back to Lebanon with their new advanced missiles, or before that.
In another response to Israel’s earlier air strike, Syrian army units facing the Jordanian border blasted rebel convoys driving in from Jordan as they passed the Yarmuk River, causing dozens of casualties among the rebels and the Jordanian instructors who had trained them. Some were hit while still on Jordanian soil; others while on the move from the border past the little Syrian town of Saham al-Jawlan opposite the Golan. While the Syrian army has made cross-border attacks on Lebanon, this was its first inside Jordan. The blasts were heard Saturday on the Israeli Golan and caused the cancellation of sporting and other events. Residents were warned that the next time they heard sirens, they were to take heed and seek cover.
Iran has instructed the Al Quds unit of the Revolutionary Guard to prepare a response to Israel’s reported airstrikes Sunday and Friday against Syrian targets, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials. The officials said Syria and Iran are determined to respond to the Israeli strikes. The officials said the retaliation may not be launched from Syrian territory but instead could come in the form of a terrorist attack against Israelis in Africa or South America.