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Mar 22 17 7:47 PM
Isaiah 49Israel, A Light to the Nations
49 Listen to me, distant nations,
you people who live far away!
Before I was born, the Lord chose me
and appointed me to be his servant.
2 He made my words as sharp as a sword.
With his own hand he protected me.[a]
He made me like an arrow,
sharp and ready for use.
3 He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant;
because of you, people will praise me.”
4 I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is!
I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.”
Yet I can trust the Lord to defend my cause;
he will reward me for what I do.
5 Before I was born, the Lord appointed me;
he made me his servant to bring back his people,
to bring back the scattered people of Israel.
The Lord gives me honor;
he is the source of my strength.
6 The Lord said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved.”
7 Israel's holy God and savior says
to the one who is deeply despised,
who is hated by the nations
and is the servant of rulers:
“Kings will see you released
and will rise to show their respect;
princes also will see it,
and they will bow low to honor you.”
This will happen because the Lord has chosen his servant;
the holy God of Israel keeps his promises.The Restoration of Jerusalem
8 The Lord says to his people,
“When the time comes to save you, I will show you favor
and answer your cries for help.
I will guard and protect you
and through you make a covenant with all peoples.
I will let you settle once again
in your land that is now laid waste.
9 I will say to the prisoners, ‘Go free!’
and to those who are in darkness,
‘Come out to the light!’
They will be like sheep that graze on the hills;
10 they will never be hungry or thirsty.
Sun and desert heat will not hurt them,
for they will be led by one who loves them.
He will lead them to springs of water.
11 “I will make a highway across the mountains
and prepare a road for my people to travel.
12 My people will come from far away,
from the north and the west,
and from Aswan[b] in the south.”
13 Sing, heavens! Shout for joy, earth!
Let the mountains burst into song!
The Lord will comfort his people;
he will have pity on his suffering people.
14 But the people of Jerusalem said,
“The Lord has abandoned us!
He has forgotten us.”
15 So the Lord answers,
“Can a woman forget her own baby
and not love the child she bore?
Even if a mother should forget her child,
I will never forget you.
16 Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
17 “Those who will rebuild you are coming soon,
and those who destroyed you will leave.
18 Look around and see what is happening!
Your people are assembling—they are coming home!
As surely as I am the living God,
you will be proud of your people,
as proud as a bride is of her jewels.
19 “Your country was ruined and desolate—
but now it will be too small
for those who are coming to live there.
And those who left you in ruins
will be far removed from you.
20 Your people who were born in exile
will one day say to you,
‘This land is too small—
we need more room to live in!’
21 Then you will say to yourself,
‘Who bore all these children for me?
I lost my children and could have no more.
I was exiled and driven away—
who brought these children up?
I was left all alone—
where did these children come from?’”
22 The Sovereign Lord says to his people:
“I will signal to the nations,
and they will bring your children home.
23 Kings will be like fathers to you;
queens will be like mothers.
They will bow low before you and honor you;
they will humbly show their respect for you.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
no one who waits for my help will be disappointed.”
24 Can you take away a soldier's loot?
Can you rescue the prisoners of a tyrant?
25 The Lord replies,
“That is just what is going to happen.
The soldier's prisoners will be taken away,
and the tyrant's loot will be seized.
I will fight against whoever fights you,
and I will rescue your children.
26 I will make your oppressors kill each other;
they will be drunk with murder and rage.
Then all people will know that I am the Lord,
the one who saves you and sets you free.
They will know that I am Israel's powerful God.”
Isaiah 49:2 With his own hand … me; or He kept me hidden in his hand.
Isaiah 49:12 A city in southern Egypt, where a large Jewish community had settled.
Mar 23 17 8:52 AM
Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Russia
on a brief working visit.
* * *
President of Russia
Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues, let me wish you a warm welcome to Moscow.
to see that we have such close and trusting contact. We meet regularly
in person, are regularly in contact by telephone, and work together
at the ministry and agency level.
often come to Russia right on the eve of holidays, and so I want
to take the opportunity to congratulate you on the upcoming Purim
holiday and wish everyone in Israel
happy holidays and prosperity.
I am very pleased
to have this opportunity to discuss with you our bilateral relations and the situation in the region.
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (retranslated): Thank
you very much, Mr President.
I am pleased to see
you again as part of the regular visits that underscore the friendly relations
between our countries. We see how our ties continue to develop in the economy,
culture, and tourism. Of course, there is also the human bridge between our
countries – the million Russian-speaking Israelis (one of them is translating
my words right here and now).
In this context,
let me say that we have completed the official procedures regarding our pension
agreement and strategy. I want to thank you personally for this achievement.
One of the things
that unites us is our common fight against radical Islamic terrorism.
Substantial progress has been made over the last year in fighting radical Sunni
Islamic terrorism led by ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and Russia has made a great contribution
to this result and this progress. Of course, we do not want to see Shia Islamic
terrorism led by Iran step in to replace Sunni Islamic terrorism.
Thank you for your
congratulations on the upcoming Purim holiday. In ancient Persia, an attempt was
made to destroy the Jewish people 2,500 years ago, and it failed. This is what
this holiday celebrates. Today, ancient Persia’s successor, Iran, continues
attempts to destroy the Jewish state. They speak of this openly and write this
in black and white in their newspapers.
Today, we have our
own country and our army, and we can defend ourselves. But I want to say that
the threat of Shia Islamic terror is directed not only against us, but against
the region and the entire world. I am sure that we seek to prevent the threat
of all radical Islamic terror, no matter whether it is Shia or Sunni.
Once again, let me
thank you for the warm reception and for your congratulations.
Mar 23 17 10:19 AM
Mar 23 17 11:48 AM
Mar 23 17 11:50 AM
Mar 23 17 7:35 PM
Mar 24 17 6:36 AM
Mar 24 17 8:44 AM
Mar 24 17 10:30 AM
Who is trying to turn Russia and Israel against each other?
March 23, 2017 GEVORG MIRZAYAN, SPECIAL TO RBTH
Russia finds itself between a rock and a hard place trying to work with a multitude of implacable enemies in the Middle East. There is a danger that Russian-Israeli relations might become tense in the near future, and it seems Iran is the troublemaker.
A new front has opened in the Middle East, with Syria and Israel shooting at each other. On March 17, Syrian defense forces shot at (according to Tel Aviv) and downed (according to Damascus) an Israeli military plane intending to bomb Hezbollah positions on Syrian territory.
Several days later, the Syrians were able to down (according to both sides) an Israeli Skylark drone. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman then announced that if the attacks continue Israel will obliterate Syrian air defense systems from the ground. The Syrian president replied that no one has the right to tell his country not to defend itself and protect its borders.
"Defending our borders is our right, and it’s our duty," said Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Of course, Assad is right, and Lieberman's statements seem extremely provocative. Not everything is so simple, however, because for years the Israeli Air Force repeatedly violated Syrian air space as Moscow turned a blind eye.
A gentlemen's agreement
Experts say that before the Russian Air Force began their campaign in the Middle East in 2015, Moscow tried discussing the rules of engagement and reaching an understanding with all participants in Syria’s civil war. In part, Israel welcomed Russia's actions, because Moscow planned on eliminating enemies of the Jewish state in Syria.
At the same time, Netanyahu asked Putin not to hinder Israeli military operations against Hezbollah in the event the group strengthened and threatened the Golan Heights (Israeli-occupied Syrian territory that is crucial for Israel's defense), or received heavy-duty Russian weapons from the Syrian government. Thus, Russian air defense systems "did not notice" the Israeli planes that regularly bombed Hezbollah sites. The Israelis only had to avoid casualties among Russian servicemen.
Soldiers from Russia's ally, Iran, did not have such immunity, however.
"The gentlemen's agreement between Russia and Israel stated that Russia would disregard Israel's actions against Iranian convoys that brought weapons to Lebanon, as well as against Iranian forces located or possibly located in the Golan Heights. Tehran has lost up to 10 generals in Syria and some were killed by the Israeli Air Force because they got too close to Israeli borders," said Professor Vladimir Sazhin, senior researcher at the Middle East Institute in Moscow.
Naturally, Damascus wasn’t happy, not to mention Hezbollah or Iran, but for a long time the Kremlin did not allow its disgruntled partners to ruin the deal.
Who stands behind Assad?
The situation has now changed, however, and Assad has begun downing Israeli planes. There can be two reasons for this. One is the Syrian leader's outright disobedience, which occurs from time to time. But experts believe the real motive is another: Assad is encouraged to take these steps by his other ally, Iran.
Iran has at least three reasons to hope Russian-Israeli relations will worsen. First, the goal might be to weaken Moscow, whose influence in Syrian affairs in particular, and in Middle Eastern affairs in general, has significantly increased. The Kremlin also does not intend to be Iran's loyal ally in its fight against Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Secondly, Iran is interested in the disruption of relations between Russia and its archenemy, Israel, especially as American-Iranian relations sour and American-Israeli relations strengthen.
"Normal and even close relations between Russia and Israel, especially the rather warm relations between Putin and Netanyahu, who has been in Moscow four times in the last year and a half, are a headache for Iran," said Sazhin.
Thirdly, Iran hopes that a Russian-Israeli conflict will help bolster its positions in Syria. For example, at the end of 2016, Iran's Chief of the General Staff, Mohammad-Hossein Afshordi, announced Teheran's desire to set up Iranian bases in Syria.
At the moment these plans are questionable, and not only because of Israel, which will bomb Iranian bases as soon as they are built. The inadmissibility of Iran's military presence in Syria may become a part of the compromise between Russia and Assad's opponents.
"All of Assad's opponents, regardless of their political orientation and allegiances to foreign countries, are unanimously against Iran's presence in Syria. And after a period of relative stabilization, there will be the issue of getting rid of Hezbollah, as well as other pro-Iranian forces in Syria, not to mention the Iranian forces themselves," said Sazhin. However, in the event of a Syrian-Israeli conflict (or Russian-Israeli) Syria will ask Iran to deploy its forces on its territory.
Russia as mediator
As a result, Iran's actions have left Putin between a rock and a hard place. If Moscow tries to please Syria, it will ruin relations with Tel Aviv. If it tries to please Israel, it will lose its position in Damascus and will bring the issue of Iranian bases into the forefront.
The problem is that not only Russian-Israeli and Russian-Syrian relations are at stake, but also Russia's ambitions in the region. Moscow is trying to build a new security structure in the Middle East.
"The region is too conflictive and the interests of all sides at conflict with one another (Turkey, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others) now converge in Syria. And the Kremlin views this country as a firing range, where a compromise may be reached between all the Middle East adversaries, and thus a power balance system can be established in the region," said Vladimir Avatkov, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy in Moscow.
Russia must play the key role of mediator in this system because it is the only country that maintains working relations with all Middle East countries. But if another big Middle Eastern war erupts in Syria, the local Syrian-Israeli conflict can quickly turn into a regional one, involving other countries, and then the Kremlin's hopes for peace and influence in the Middle East will crumble.
Mar 24 17 12:01 PM
Analysis: Fighting Iran's Ambitions in Syria, Israel Risks Angering Russia
The question Israeli leaders must ask themselves: When will Israeli tactical successes in Syria turn into a strategic risk?
Last Friday’s intercept of a Syrian anti-aircraft missile in Israeli airspace by the anti-missile “Arrow” system altered Israel’s public handling of its airstrikes in Syria. Previously, Israeli leaders had issued general threats that convoys transporting advanced weaponry from Syria to Hezbollah would be bombed, but refrained from commenting on any of the specific reports of such strikes in the Arab media.
But since the anti-aircraft missile, which was aimed at Israeli jets attacking targets in Syria, entered Israeli space, it required operating the Arrow system, and therefore brought about the first official Israeli confirmation of such an airstrike. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot referred to it on Tuesday.
Netanyahu, speaking to journalists who had accompanied him to China, said he made it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel would continue to attack arms convoys, adding that Moscow hadn’t changed its policy about such Israeli strikes. This was a response to the claim by Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations that Russia had told Israel to halt its airstrikes.
Eisenkot, in a speech at Netanya Academic College, said Israel had managed to create a mechanism to prevent conflicts in Syria with the Russians “despite last weekend’s tensions,” and that it would continue “to prevent the arming of those who shouldn’t be allowed to arm themselves with advanced weaponry” – namely, Hezbollah.
Both Netanyahu and Eisenkot described Israel’s policy goals as unchanged from what they were more than five years ago, shortly after Syria’s civil war began: keeping Israel out of the actual fighting but trying to prevent arms transfers to Hezbollah.
The first goal has been achieved in full. As for the second, the numerous reports of Israeli strikes indicate that some of the smuggled arms have been intercepted. But Netanyahu himself admitted, in a speech to the UN General Assembly in October 2015, that some advanced weaponry has reached its destination.
Meanwhile, a significant turning point has occurred within Syria itself. The Assad regime’s recapture of Aleppo, combined with achievements on other fronts in recent months, have stabilized the country’s situation and reduced the chances of it collapsing anytime soon (unless dictator Bashar Assad is assassinated). These successes, achieved thanks to Russian air support and Shi’ite militias sent by Iran, have encouraged the regime to change its policy in recent months and start trying to bring down Israeli jets operating in Syria (last Friday’s incident wasn’t the first of its kind).
The question Israel’s leadership must ask itself now is whether this change in circumstances requires a change in Israeli policy – or in other words, when is a string of airstrikes that are tactical successes liable to create strategic risk by spurring Syria into a harsher response, or alternatively by persuading Moscow to send a strongly worded cease-and-desist message (which, according to Netanyahu, hasn’t yet happened).
But Israel, judging by both its public statements and another airstrike attributed to it on Sunday – an assassination of members of a militia affiliated with the Assad regime in the Syrian Golan Heights – shows no sign of intending to draw back from conflict. This determination might also be connected to the other goals it has recently set for itself in the Syrian theater.
Its main declared goal, which both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have mentioned repeatedly recently, is preventing Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from returning to the Golan. In recent years, rebel militias have pushed the Assad regime away from the Israeli border. But now, with the wind in its sails after its victory in Aleppo, the regime is beefing up its forces in the northern Golan, and has already forced some villages that had cooperated with the rebels to sign cease-fire and surrender agreements.
Israel suspects that several Hezbollah operatives have already resumed operations near the border fence under the aegis of the regime’s advance. But it is trying to prevent them from establishing themselves there, and also to prevent Iranian experts from joining them.
Last month, during his visit to Washington to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, Netanyahu also articulated another goal: He asked Trump for American recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan. To date, the international community has not recognized the 1981 annexation, but Netanyahu may perceive an opportunity with the ongoing Syrian civil war, global criticism of the Assad regime and Trump’s avowals of support for Israel since taking office.
The likelihood of Netanyahu’s request being granted currently looks slim. Nor is it clear that he actually intends to seriously try and persuade the Americans. But his remarks were undoubtedly noted in both Damascus and Moscow.
Eisenkot also said on Tuesday that Mustafa Badreddine – the man described as Hezbollah’s chief of staff, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in Syria last May – was actually killed by some of his colleagues in the organization. Similar reports by Arab media outlets in recent months have been met with skepticism, but now this account is being openly verbalized by the Israeli chief of staff. Given the depth of Israel’s intelligence coverage of Hezbollah, it’s reasonable to assume that Eisenkot isn’t just indulging in wishful thinking.
This is an interesting development for two reasons. First, it reveals the depth of the internal schisms within the Iranian-led axis. And second, it shows that Israel would be happy to bring these battles out into the open as part of the psychological warfare it is conducting against its regional rivals.
Mar 24 17 3:26 PM
Mar 24 17 7:27 PM
Israel prepared to evacuate hundreds of thousands from northern border in a war
ByAnna Ahronheim March 23, 2017 04:53
Close to a million Israelis live in the North; an estimated quarter of a million could be evacuated in case a war breaks out with Hezbollah.
AN ISRAELI soldier stands near a mobile artillery unit as it fires a shell into southern Lebanon on July 13, 2006, a day after IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted by Hezbollah. (photo credit:REUTERS)
The Home Front Command has a contingency plan to evacuate hundreds of thousands of residents who live on the border with Lebanon, a senior IDF officer in the command told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“In the past we didn’t think of needing to evacuate whole communities, but now we understand that we will have to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people,” the senior officer said.
Hezbollah’s technological abilities and battlefield experience have grown as it fights in Syria for the regime of Bashar Assad.
“There have been significant regional changes that no one expected to happen,” the senior officer said, adding that “the changes on Israel’s borders have made it so that the IDF needs to prepare for wars against groups and not armies.”
According to him, the Home Front Command today is not the Home Front Command of five years ago, due to those changes.
“We always need to ask if we are relevant and prepared,” he said, and that is why it is not only the threat posed by Hezbollah rocket barrages that concern the IDF and the Home Front Command but the very real possibility of ground attacks by the terrorist group against civilian communities.
“We listen to everything that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah says, and we understand that there is a real meaning behind his threats. In the past we used to tell the civilians to go to their bomb shelters, but now we know that it is not smart to have civilians on the front lines in times of war,” he said.
“It is impossible to evacuate all one million residents, but we are working with the communities as well as emergency services to prepare those living in communities directly on the border for the possibility of a mass evacuation.”
The communities that would be evacuated would be housed in hotels, schools or guest houses of other communities, such as those in the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem, Eilat, as well as in West Bank settlements, away from the front lines in the North, in their entirety, he said, adding that, depending on the situation, whole communities could be housed together.
According to the senior officer, the Home Front Command will work hand in hand with the Northern Command, now headed by Maj.- Gen. Yoel Strick (who was the head of the Home Front Command until last week), as well as with emergency services and volunteers, to make the evacuations as organized and as possible.
While the IDF thinks Hezbollah is unlikely to attack Israel in the near future, the Lebanon border remains the most explosive one, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating.
Hezbollah is known to have rebuilt its arsenal since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, with at least 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel, including Tel Aviv.
In February, Nasrallah, the terrorist organization’s leader, warned that “Israel should think a million times before waging any war with Lebanon,” as in the next war with Israel, his fighters would have “no redlines.”
According to some Israeli analysts, the next war with Hezbollah might see 1,500-2,000 rockets shot into Israel per day, compared to the 150-180 per day during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Israel has made it clear that it will continue to work to prevent the group from acquiring advanced weaponry, reportedly striking weapons convoys in Syria destined for the group, including last Friday when the army made a rare admission of a strike in Syria after a surfaceto- air missile was fired by the Syrian regime against IDF jets.
It was the most serious clash involving the IDF since the civil war broke out in Syria six years ago.
Mar 24 17 7:43 PM
Report: Iran accuses Russia of giving Israel codes for Syrian air defenses
ByYASSER OKBI/ MAARIV HASHAVUA March 21, 2017 15:53
Kuwaiti daily quotes Iran Defense Ministry source as saying Iran was able to change the codes without Russia's knowledge, enabling Friday's missile launch against Israeli aircraft.
Iran has accused Russia of giving the codes for Syria's anti-aircraft missiles to Israel, a senior official in the engineering department of Iran's Defense Department told the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida on Monday.
According to the report, much remains unknown about Israel's attack on a Hezbollah weapons convoy and the Syrian response to the Israeli fighter jets early Friday morning. Israel has reportedly attacked dozens of times in Syrian territory since Hezbollah joined the Syrian civil war in 2012, but Friday marked the first time that an anti-aircraft missile had been fired at an IAF jet.
Al-Jarida's Tehran correspondent, Farzad Qassemi, cited a source in the Iranian Defense Ministry as saying that Iranian experts had changed the operation codes for the Syrian air defense system, which is what enabled the anti-aircraft missiles to be used against the Israeli Air Force on Friday morning.
According to the source, Damascus and Tehran "were shocked" every time the Russian-made air defense system did not work to defend Syria's airspace, or even give notification that the air space had been penetrated in order to evacuate outposts prior to the airstrike. The systems are supposed to identify the takeoff of Israeli Air Force jets from their bases because of the small distance between the countries and is even supposed to attempt to target the planes and any missiles that are fired from them.
According to the source, the Iranians and the Syrians suspected that Russia gave the codes for the air defense system to Israel and even refused the requests of Tehran and Damascus to check the codes. "Iran has the ability today to change the Russian security codes since it received the advanced Russian S-300," the source added. "This came after it received reports that Israel got the operation codes for the missile system. In Iran, they even expanded their knowledge when they built the Bavar-373 air defense system - which is a domestic copy of the Russian S-300 - in order that the systems would work together during an attack."
According to the source, three weeks ago, during Iranian military maneuvers, Iranian engineers hacked into the codes of the S-300, but when the Bavar-373 was not working in conjunction with the Russian air defense system the experiment was suspended.
The source said further that the Iranian Defense Ministry sent several engineers to Syria to change the codes of the air defense system that was under the control of the Syrian army, without Moscow's knowledge. "They succeeded in changing some of the codes last month and therefore when the Israel fighter jets took off from their bases - the air defense system succeeded in identifying them and firing interceptor missiles at them and at the missiles they had launched."
The source added that "the Syrian radar treated Israeli fighter jets as friendly planes in the past and not as enemy planes, which proves that Israel knew the codes of the missile system."
According to the source, the identification of the Israeli fighter jets taking off enabled Hezbollah to evacuate the outpost and even to launch a missile toward the military base from which the fighter jets had taken off. "The missile launched by Hezbollah toward Israel was worth some $2,000, whereas the missiles used by Israel to intercept it were worth some $3 million," the source added.
The Iranian source said further that in a report sent to the Russian military command, the Russians were asked if someone penetrated the Syrian air defense system. Both the Iranians and Syrians were awaiting an answer.
Mar 25 17 9:46 AM
What's Behind Israel's Diplomatic Flare-Up With Russia
ADAM CHANDLER MAR 24, 2017
After years of reported airstrikes in Syria, the Israeli ambassador in Moscow was suddenly summoned to explain his country’s recent attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Moscow in 2017
In the fall of 2015, Russia and Israel held their first talks on “deconfliction,” a disconcerting, vague military arrangement, the aim of which was “preventing misunderstandings” in the Syrian civil war. Russia had just formally entered the conflict, and Israel had already been informally participating through occasional strikes on Hezbollah targets in Syria and some cross-border exchanges of fire. The purpose of deconfliction, it seemed, amounted to a diplomatic version of Ma$e rules: Stay out of my way.
But late last week, something changed. As Israeli jets returned from Syria after bombing a weapons convoy reportedly bound for their foe Hezbollah—allied with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Iran—Syrian forces fired missiles at them, sparking the most serious incident between the two countries in the six-year war. In a first, the Syrian anti-aircraft missiles triggered Israel’s missile defense system, which intercepted one of the rockets, causing debris to fall over neighboring Jordan. Last Friday, following the incident, an Israeli army official confirmed the Israeli strike on the convoy publicly for the first time.
Shortly after the episode, Russia took the unusual step of summoning the Israeli ambassador in Moscow to explain what happened. This may have had to do with the Israeli admission or the strike itself; according to one Israeli report, Russian troops were reportedly stationed not far from where the Israeli jets struck in Syria. However, Syria’s unprecedented military response could suggest that the dynamic is shifting, as pro-Assad forces continue to gain ground with Russian and Iranian help and as a new U.S. administration slowly settles in—leaving Israel uncertain of its place in the conflict.
Despite its conflicting priorities, Israel, which wants to keep Iran out of Syria and Hezbollah weak, has managed to keep solid working relations with Russia through the Syrian conflagration. But, as the war progresses, those days may be over. “No matter how good the coordination mechanism between the two sides,” writes Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum, “the fundamental conflict at the heart of Israeli-Russian views on Syria is that Israel’s redline is the establishment of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria and Russia’s redline is the elimination of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria.”
On Sunday, the Syrian ambassador to the UN warned that his government’s response to the Israeli strikes marked a new phase of the conflict, where Israeli attacks would merit further responses. He also claimed that Russia had informed Israel that it no longer had free rein to do what it wishes in Syrian airspace. In a series of tweets on Monday, Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Obama and an Atlantic contributor, suggested that the Israeli-Syrian border may be where Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to test how much leverage he has in the Middle East with President Trump in power.
The Israelis, for their part, vehemently deny that they have been constrained from conducting strikes in Syria. On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed to destroy Syria’s air defense system if Israeli jets ever encountered return fire again. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Beijing, “It’s simply incorrect to say the Russians are changing their policy toward us.”
Despite Netanyahu’s exhortations, there’s no guarantee that Russia will maintain its tacit agreement with Israel over its activities in Syria, especially as Assad’s prospects only continue to brighten. Should Russia change its mind and tell Israel to cease its activities in Syria, the cost of future Israeli strikes will go up, leaving Bibi with fewer options. He could turn to the U.S. for sympathy—something he may not find within the new administration.
In the meantime, tensions between Israel and Syria continue to escalate. On Sunday, an Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a high-ranking air defense official in the pro-Assad forces. On Monday, Israel confirmed that one of its drones had been shot down in Syria. And, on Wednesday, Syrian opposition outlets reported that Israeli jets had carried out new strikes near Damascus, the fourth such attack in less than a week. Israeli officials declined to comment.
Mar 26 17 1:33 PM
VISION DESCRIBED BY SAINT FAUSTINA SIMILAR TO PHENOMENA REPORTED THROUGH AGES
At this time of the year we tend to think of Saint Faustina Kowalska of Divine Mercy and that message she received from Jesus of a coming great sign: the Cross that putatively would be seen in the sky, and great light from the openings where the Hands and Feet of the Lord were nailed, illuminating the earth for a period of time.
That prophecy connects with an event recorded over Jerusalem in the fourth century by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a doctor of the Church. In a letter to the Emperor Constantius, he wrote, "On the nones of May, about the third hour, a great luminous cross appeared in the heavens, just over Golgotha, reaching as far as the holy mount of Olivet, seen, not by one or two persons, but clearly and evidently by the whole city. This was not, as might be thought, a fancy-bred and transient appearance: but it continued several hours together, visible to our eyes and brighter than the sun. The whole city, penetrated alike with awe and with joy at this portent, ran immediately to the church, all with one voice giving praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God."
The "nones" would be May 7 and when related to hours of the day in the ancient Church meant the fifth of seven canonical hours and came at the ninth hour of the day or at about 3 p.m. -- which Saint Faustina was to proclaim as the "hour of mercy" almost 1,600 years later!
But there is more -- in the way of signs.
On Sunday, October 27, 1940, for example, villagers near Lewes in England were startled to look up at the sky and note a white line expanding across the blue. From it formed a figure of Christ on the Cross -- slowly and clearly. Some also claimed to have seen an angel.
In 1138, and again in 1164, monks and townsmen in Dunstable asserted the same type of spectacle. Such phenomena were seen throughout the Middle Ages -- that most difficult time that saw great upheaval, including from catastrophes of plague.
And in Bath, Somerset -- fast-forwarding again to 1905 -- frightened people were recorded as having gazed upward at a Cross or crucifix in the heavens, which a woman who recorded it described as "a wonderful manifestation of the truth of mystical Christianity." It was seen after a violent thunderstorm.
Is there a message in that?
Perhaps how storms can clear the air -- in meteorology and also our souls?
In 1594, near Harmstedt -- in Transylvania -- people swore they observed the letters "INRI MDLVII ARE INENDEDISES REGIS" in the sky. This is of course before skywriting planes!
That same year, in Frieburg, people reported the sight of Jesus seated on a rainbow.
[resources: The God of Healing]
Mar 28 17 2:49 PM
Mar 28 17 2:54 PM
Iran vows to 'liberate' Golan HeightsNew Hezbollah-backed group aims to help Syria reconquer Golan Heights.
A new Iran-funded Iraqi Hezbollah "brigade" aims to "liberate" the Golan Heights from Israel, spokesman Seyed Hashem Moussavi last week said last week at a news conference in Iran.
According to Iranian news agency Tasnim, Moussavi, who heads the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba terror sub-group, said, "After the latest victories [in Syria and Iraq], we established the ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.
"This is a trained army with specific plans. If the government of Syria requests, we and our allies are ready to take action to liberate Golan. We will not permit Arab and Islamic countries in the region to remain in the grasps of the occupiers."
According to Moussavi, the new terror group is well-trained and equipped with Iranian rockets and Russian-made T-90 tanks.
Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Secretary-General Akram al-Kabi said, "The declaration regarding the formation of the Liberation of the Golan Brigade is not only a media campaign, but the real goal of the movement."
In their promotional video, terrorists wave a banner which reads, "Israel will be destroyed."
Israel's Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) warned, "If Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah dares to fire at the Israel homefront or at its national infrastructure, all of Lebanon will be hit."
Mar 28 17 4:13 PM
Warning, war clouds on the horizon!Will Assad start a war against Israel in order to try to unify all those fighting him against a common enemy?
Academic research has explored in depth the factors leading to the wars that broke out between nations in previous centuries, both in order to understand why wars take place and to develop ways of predicting nascent wars by "connecting the dots" between the signs signaling an approaching conflagration. Since the signals are clearly directly connected to the relations between the countries involved in a war, the literature points out the connection between internal problems affecting a state and the desire of its leaders to initiate a war with other countries. The literature also lists war-delaying factors, foremost of which is the high price of military and civilian fatalities and the damage to the country's infrastructure.
Syria is no exception to the rule in terms of academic theory, since the reasons the regime was pressured into past wars were always a mixture of internal and external factors. The external cause for the ongoing state of war with Israel was the very fact of Israel's existence, never recognized by the Syrian regime. The encouragement to attack Israel came from the USSR while Israel was supported by the West. Add to that the desire to be granted a position of power in pan-Arab leadership and the need to erase the humiliating Syrian defeats in 1948,1967, 1973 and 1982 at the hands of the Zionists.
Syrian media have always played a part in the country's war effort, adding the battle for the army's morale and that of the general population to the one waged with conventional weaponry, so that the people remain willing to suffer the sights of war and continue fighting despite injuries suffered by soldierrs and citizens. Syria's media are controlled by the regime, which gives them the messages they are expected to deliver to the public. This fact allows the researcher to know what the feelings of the groups leading the country are at any given time.
The factors that prevented war from breaking out in the past were mainly the damage to the army and the country's infrastructure, but also the possibility that another defeat by Israel would bring more humiliation to the regime. Today, when social networks allow everyone to express his opinion freely, Syria's leadership knows that the battle for the hearts of the population will not be won through the Syrian media, because every Arab - in Syria and outside of it - knows that its reliability is limited and that its journalists cannot express themselves freely.
In the past, one of the main internal reasons that pushed the Assads, father and son, to declare war on Israel was their desire to create an external threat that would cause the Syrians - especially the opposition - to put their differences aside and join Assad's fight against the "Zionist enemy threatening all of us." Today, with Syria torn between the rebel regime and the areas still under ISIS control, it is far from certain that a war with Israel would bring the rebels and ISIS to stop attacking Assad, and definitely not to the point where instead of attacking Assad, they join him in a war against Israel,
Despite the losses and damage sustained by the opposition to Assad since Russia entered the fray, and despite the fact that they too are light years away from recognizing Israel's right to exist, they will not desist from fighting Assad. In fact, over the last few days, the rebels have intensified their battle for Damascus because of their defeats in other arenas, mainly in Aleppo and Homs. A war between Assad and Israel might cause the rebels to take advantage of the regular army's preoccupation with fighting Israel to score some victories. After suffering close to half a million fatalities in six years of fighting, some of the rebels might even prefer that Israel finish off Assad, not for love of Israel but due to their hatred of the despotic dictator. In sum, a war with Israel will not weaken the desire of Assad's enemies to be rid of him.
Once, the external reason for war to break out was pressure exerted by the USSR in its desire to defeat the USA and Europe on a Middle Eastern battlefield. Today, it is far from certain that Russia wants a war between Syria and Israel, partly because of the minor role the West plays in today's Middle Eastern politics and partly because Putin does not want to force Trump to have to show active and obvious support for Israel, Putin is aware that the US sent fighters - "boots on the ground" - to the war being waged against ISIS. He realizes that Obama's non-interventionist policies are over and he has no wish to find himself opposite the USA in a war between Syria and Israel in which he will be forced to support Syria and oppose Israel.
How great Putin's fears of Israeli military technology are is not clear to me, but the downing of a Russian SA-5 missile last week by an Israeli "arrow" missile is enough to give the Russian army pause and raise doubts about the feasibility of war between Russian and Israeli weapons. It looks as though the Russian army, which found it very difficult to overcome the light weapons in the hands of the Syrian rebels, is not overjoyed at the thought of a direct confrontation with Israeli military technology.
There is also an economic situation behind the scenes, the possibility that Israel wil be marketing gas to Europe on a massive scale in the near future, causing Russia significant economic difficulty, as Europe may decide to do without Russian gas. To sum up the Russian issue, it does not seem to be in Russia's best interests to bring about a struggle between Syria and Israel, because that would only complicate Syria's internal problems even more and cause Russia's attempts to have the two sides reach some kind of agreement, to fail. Thursday, March 23, is when the two sides were to begin their fifth round of talks.
There are other powers functioning in Syria. The list includes Iran, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, as well as Afghans. They have their own interests, far removed from those of Russia and Assad. In my estimation, Iran and Hezbollah want to involve Israel in the war in Syria so as to show their people, that is, the Iranians and Lebanese, many of whom are against their country's involvement in Syria, that there is no choice, despite the high price in casualties and equipment, They could then claim that this is not only a war against the rebels and ISIS, it is a campaign against the "threatening Zionist entity,"
Iran wants to drag Syria into a war with Israel which would be in essence a war against Trump, whose mettle the Iranians would like to test, along with his loyalty to Israel and his hostility towards Iran. They expect Russia to join the war while the US remains outside it, so as to avoid getting embroiled in a regional war and in addition, to avoid a confrontation that would damage the relations between Trump and Putin.
Hezbollah is also interested in a war with Israel in order to prove to its detractors in Lebanon and the Arab-Islamic world that its weapons, especially its rocket arsenal, are meant to fight Israel and not "our Syrian brothers." In order to prove to itself, its fighters and its Iranian supporters that despite the loss of manpower Hezbollah suffered in Syria, the army is as strong as ever and that the northern Shiite alliance that has coalesced from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, is continuing to advance towards Israel in order to surround Saudi Arabia with a southern Shiite flank in Yemen.
The problem with Iran and Hezbollah's presence in Syria is that both could instigate a war against Israel from Syrian territory, with or without the involvement or agreement of Assad's forces and despite Russian opposition. An Iranian move of this nature would be aimed at pushing Russia into a war where the Kremlin must choose a side, and it is highly unlikely that Russia would support Israel against Iran, after years of cooperation between the two countries, mainly in keeping Assad on as head of the regime. The scenario of a war against Israel waged by Iran and Hezbollah coming from Syria seems far-fetched, but this is, after all, the Middle East.
To sum up the situation, one can say that deterioration leading to a war between Israel and the international mess called Syria could occur, especially if Israel continues to attack Hezbollah positions, the Iranians and the Assad regime there. Another factor may be that Assad feels he has nothing to lose since his country has been destroyed already along with much of its infrastructure, so that Israel will not find that many targets to attack and destroy.
Israel must guard its security interests very carefully, sending all its enemies - large and small, both nations and organizations (let us not forget Hamas in Gaza) - a razor sharp message that is as clear as a noonday sun in the summer, that it will not stand for any compromise of its security. It will act forcefully and with no restraints against anyone who tries to attack it. Only a believable threat of an all out attack can deter the sides fighting in Syria who have shown the world for six years that nothing stops them, not human suffering, not the destruction of infrastructure, and not agreements and understandings. Israel cannot rely on understandings reached with both sides two years ago, one year ago and even a month ago. In Hell, political positions are open to change every given minute.
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva English site consultant and op-ed editor.
Apr 2 17 3:52 PM
STEINITZ TO JPOST: IRAN’S TRACTION IN SYRIA A GREATER THREAT TO ISRAEL THAN ISIS
As world powers focus on toppling ISIS, Iran is quietly gaining traction in Syria – posing a direct threat to Israel, eastern Mediterranean countries and the entire Arabian Peninsula, according to National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz.
“It’s very easy and convenient to focus on ISIS,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “But we have two challenges in Syria.
One is ISIS and one is Iran.
The greater threat is coming from Iran, and not just from its nuclear program. The most immediate and urgent threat is the Iranian plan to transform Syria, after this horrible, brutal civil war is over, into some kind of extension of Iran.”
Steinitz stressed the urgency of the Iranian threat to the entire region, in an interview ahead of the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on May 7, where he is scheduled to speak. While Tehran has long been active near Israel through proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic may be building a more direct presence in the neighborhood as Syria continues to crumble, the minister warned.
“The label will still be called Syria, but it will become some kind of extension of Iran,” he said. “Syria will also become an Iranian military base.”
With the end of the Syrian civil war in sight, Israel and the other countries in the region are facing a serious question, according to Steinitz.
“What will we get on our northern border?” he asked.
“What will Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Peninsula get on their northern front? What will Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Israel get in the eastern Mediterranean? Shall we face a weakened Syria, or a stronger Iran instead?” Although it might take Iran several years to realize its ambitions and build a permanent military presence in Syria, the country could eventually establish an air force and naval presence there, as well as an arsenal of ballistic missiles, Steinitz explained. The minister described such a situation as a “very dangerous development.”
“We don’t want to have a direct military border with Iran itself. Of course it’s a big, big threat also to Jordan and all the Arab Peninsula,” he said.
“If this will happen, it is going to be a new Middle East and the entire Arab Peninsula will actually be encircled by Iranian forces.”
An Iranian presence in the eastern Mediterranean is a reality that the United States and NATO are also aiming to avoid, Steinitz continued.
“Therefore, it’s high time for the international community in general and for the two superpowers, the US and Russia, in particular, to sit together and prevent this scenario,” he said.
During his visit to Washington in early March, Steinitz met with his US counterpart, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, as well as a number of other officials in the Trump administration, during which he emphasized these same points.
“This is the next coming challenge for the international community and for the United States and the Middle East – to prevent the Iranian attempt to use or abuse the situation,” he said he told officials.
Thus far, Steinitz said he finds “the new rhetoric” in Washington on the issue to be encouraging.
“We have heard from [President Donald] Trump and his people that Iran should be contained, that Iran is destabilizing the entire Middle East and that Iran should stop and postpone its longer range inter-ballistic missiles,” he said, noting that such missiles could pose a threat to Europe or even the US.
“So far the rhetoric is good, but now let’s wait and see what will follow,” he added.
Apr 2 17 3:55 PM
Israel PM warns enemies at missile defense ceremony
Associated Press APRIL 2, 2017 — 10:10AM
JERUSALEM — A joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants became operational Sunday, completing Israel's multi-layer defense system amid tensions on its frontiers with Syria and Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the unveiling ceremony for the David's Sling system that defending the home front is of the "utmost importance." He went on to warn "whoever tries to strike us will be hit, those that threaten our existence put themselves in existential danger."
David Sling's marks the completion of Israel's multi-tier system that includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip.
David's Sling was developed by Israeli defense firm Rafael with American defense giant Raytheon.
The system became operational Sunday amid heightened tensions along Israel's northern borders with Lebanon and Syria.
In a rare clash along the Syrian border last month Israel shot down an anti-aircraft missile fired at its planes as they were carrying out an airstrike on a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy from Syria to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
Israel is also on alert in the south of the country after Gaza's Hamas rulers accused it of assassinating a member of the Islamic militant group.
An annual intelligence assessment found that both Hezbollah and Hamas are probably not interested in sparking a war in 2017, but it warned of the danger of a dynamic of escalation leading to conflict.
In February, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah was not seeking a resumption of hostilities. But he vowed that if war did begin, his forces would strike Israel's Dimona nuclear facilities.
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