The headline in this pro-Erdogan Turkish paper today reads: “The Dutch army has only 48,000 troops, but 400,000 Turks are living in the Netherlands.” Bored with threatening Israel, and then Germany, the increasingly dictatorial leader of one of NATO’s key countries, Turkey, is now threatening the Netherlands, the government of which he likened to the Nazis this week. Both countries are members of NATO. Turkey is continuing to carry out virtual war crimes against Kurdish civilians, although western media and human rights groups don’t seem particularly interested in reporting on this.
* Leading Saudi paper: “Hamas moves closer to approving 1967 borders”. Also claims that Hamas will separate from the Muslim Brotherhood and remove “Nazi-like” anti-Semitic passages from the Hamas Charter.
* Iranian revolutionary guards using civilian airliners to hide transfer of weapons and fighters to Syria, Yemen.
* Iran plans to use Iraqi Shia militia to fight Israel (based on Lebanese Hizbullah model?)
* “Bashar Assad’s power over the areas of Syria under government control is slipping. Armed militias are growing stronger and the country’s president can do nothing to stop them.”
I attach several articles from recent days concerning the Arab world. This being the Arab and Iranian media (which contains even more “fake news” than the western media), some of these items should not be treated as fact without secondary sourcing.
The last item, from today’s Haaretz sports pages, concerns a lighter matter.
-- Tom Gross
1. “Hamas moves closer to approving 1967 borders” (Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia, March 8, 2017)
2. “The real cost of Russia’s Syrian campaign” (By John C.K. Daly, The Arab Weekly, March 6, 2017)
3. “Gangster’s Paradise: Assad’s control erodes as warlords gain upper hand” (By Fritz Schaap, Der Spiegel, March 8, 2017)
4. “Arab League chief: situation inappropriate to Syria’s return to League” (Kuwait News Agency, March 8, 2017)
5. “Iraqi Resistance Movement establishes brigade to liberate Golan Heights” (Tasnim News Agency, Tehran, March 8, 2017)
6. “Iran using ‘Mahan Air’ civilian airliners to hide transfer of weapons and fighters to Syria, Yemen” (Memri, March 6, 2017)
7. “Egyptian army colonel killed, 2 soldiers injured in Sinai bombing” (Palestinian Maan News agency, March 9, 2017)
8. “Palestinian President ‘Abbas meets with terrorists and terrorists’ families” (Memri, March 8, 2017)
9. “Palestinian Authority participates in celebrations in Israeli city for released terrorist (Memri, March 7, 2017)
10. “President Abbas meets US Jewish delegation, says settlements obstruct peace” [but US Jews fail to criticize Abbas’s daily incitement in Arabic to murder Jews] (PLO Wafa News Agency, March 9, 2017)
11. “Yemeni forces destroy another Saudi Warship” (Fars News Agency (Iran), March 11, 2017)
12. “World Baseball Classic: Israel continues to shock the world, beats Cuba 4-1” (By Natasha Dornberg, Haaretz, March 12, 2017)
HAMAS MOVES CLOSER TO APPROVING 1967 BORDERS
Hamas Moves Closer to Approving 1967 Borders
By Kifah Ziboun
Asharq Al-Awsat (Saudi Arabia)
March 8, 2017
Ramallah - Palestine’s Hamas organization is moving towards declaring a Palestinian state over the 1967 borders, without first recognizing an Israeli state.
Any official statement concerning altering the charter, issued by the bloc governing Gaza Strip will be verified and released after holding political wing elections in April.
The 1967 borders, advocated by former United States President Barack Obama, refer to the armistice lines from before the Six Day War, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, among other land, expanding its territory beyond the “Green Line” borders delineated by a 1949 armistice between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
It is expected that the announcement would also include the movement’s “separation from any foreign body or organization–in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt–” Hamas sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
“All of Hamas bodies whether affiliated with its political wing or military brigades had contributed to drafting the declaration,” sources added.
“Amendments were made during a meeting held in Qatar’s capital Doha,” they said.
Each of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal, Former Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Ismail Haniyeh and senior Hamas member Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook have attended the meeting and await the declaration to be reviewed and approved by the movement’s consultative councils post elections.
Moreover, the sources emphasized that the declaration strictly defines animosity against occupying forces, and not Jews in an attempt to shake off accusations of anti-Semitism.
Aforementioned amendments constitute a major shift in rhetoric used by the movement 29 years ago, which considered itself the ‘Palestine wing of the Muslim Brotherhood’, and had fiercely opposed peaceful solutions deeming that ‘the Palestine cause is a religious issue, and the battle against the Jews is both great and dangerous.’
The founding document, the Hamas Charter, dated 18 August 1988, contains both anti-Semitic passages, characterizations of Israeli society as Nazi-like in its cruelty.
It declares all of Palestine waqf property endowed by God to Muslims, with religious coexistence under Islam’s wing solely. The charter rejects a two-state solution, envisaging no peaceful settlement of the conflict.
“NOT A BAD RETURN ON A MILITARY INVESTMENT OF LESS THAN $1 BILLION”
The real cost of Russia’s Syrian campaign
By John C.K. Daly
The Arab Weekly
March 6, 2017
The Russian military intervention in the Syrian conflict began in September 2015. Six months later, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the military operations there cost the country’s Defense Ministry $483 million.
For Western observers, the most striking element of Russia’s Syrian intervention was the deployment of a significant portion of Russia’s naval assets there, its largest surface deployment since the Cold War. At a ceremony in the Northern Fleet’s Severomorsk base honoring the return of the Russian sailors, Putin stated it was his idea to send Russian naval units to Syria.
The centerpiece of Russian naval operations was the deployment from its Northern Fleet of the country’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, in its first combat mission.
The Kuznetsov was joined by other Russian warships, including nuclear-powered battle cruiser Petr Velikii, the Severomorsk and the Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyers, support vessels and anti-submarine ships.
During the Syria campaign, a new generation of Russian Kalibr cruise missiles debuted, launched from corvettes, frigates and diesel-electric submarines. During the two months of the Kuznetsov’s battle operations, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that its naval aircraft flew 420 combat missions, 117 of them at night, striking 1,252 targets, including infrastructure, concentrations of fighters and military equipment.
Russian analysts reported that the carrier’s deployment and combat operations cost about $170 million – less than the cost of two new F-35 fifth-generation U.S. fighter aircraft.
Despite the relatively modest cost of the Russian intervention, it has paid off handsomely for its military. Moscow and Damascus have signed a 49-year lease allowing the Russian Navy to use the Syrian port of Tartus, which will be upgraded to handle up to 11 warships at once, giving the Russian Navy a permanent base in the eastern Mediterranean.
In the future, warships primarily from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet will deploy there to support what the Russian Defense Ministry is calling the Russian Navy’s “permanent” group in the Mediterranean. This development should surprise no one, as rebuilding Russia’s military presence in the Mediterranean was one of the goals outlined in the 2015 edition of Russia’s maritime doctrine.
Above and beyond the value of the new naval base, however, is Russia’s long-standing concern that the chaos in Syria was providing a training ground for jihadists. The Russian General Staff and the Federal Security Service said there are as many as 4,000 militants from Russia and about 5,000 from former Soviet republics fighting in Syria.
The Russian government is concerned that these battle-hardened jihadists could return home having acquired lethal skills. Reinforcing this concern, at his meeting with the sailors, Putin said Russia does not intend to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs but wants to deal with the terrorists and that Russia’s goal in Syria is to stabilize the legitimate government and to “put an end to the terrorist blight.”
The net result of Russia’s military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a guarantee that Russia has a place at the table in peace discussions along a return as a major diplomatic player in the Middle East.
However, if Russian military valor is helping to turn the tide in Syria, its presence there after the end of major military operations is much less clear. Analyses estimate that the Syrian economy will need more than $1 trillion to recover from the civil war. The billions of dollars needed to reconstruct Syria are far beyond Moscow’s means, which will likely focus instead on narrowly defined projects with economic value, such as rebuilding the country’s oil and hydrocarbons infrastructure.
In neighboring Iraq, where Western military power predominated, Russian companies were excluded from such projects, a situation that the Russian government is certain to ensure will not recur in Syria.
Such concerns are far in the future. For the moment, Russia has secured the use of an invaluable naval base, ending NATO’s dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean. Moscow has deployed a pragmatic policy of supporting what it defines as “legitimate” governments, combined with a stout anti-terrorist policy unaffected by notions of regime change for human rights lectures, policies that ensure it a sympathetic hearing in a number of Middle Eastern countries.
Not a bad return on a military investment of less than $1 billion.
Gangster’s Paradise: Assad’s Control Erodes as Warlords Gain Upper Hand
Bashar Assad’s power over the areas of Syria under government control is slipping. Armed militias are growing stronger and the country’s president can do nothing to stop them.
By Fritz Schaap
Der Spiegel (Germany)
March 8, 2017
At times, the army or the military intelligence service has tried to come down on the warlords. But such attempts have always ended in fiasco. In March 2016, Assad units arrested the leader of a powerful Christian militia from the north of the province following an exchange of gunfire. But his followers violently protested and the man was soon freed.
“Yes, we have problems,” says Hussein Dayoub, head of the Assad’s Baath Party in Hama. Sitting in his wood-paneled office beneath a portrait of the president, he admits that militia members have set up checkpoints and extorted tolls. He also says that smuggling and kidnapping is a problem, but adds that he doesn’t know who is behind it.
In theory, Dayoub is a powerful man, head of the local chapter of the governing party. But even he is apparently afraid of falling into disfavor with the militias, the true rulers of Hama. In faraway Damascus, the country’s minister of reconciliation also tells DER SPIEGEL that the regime is aware of the problem but does not have the power to put a stop to it.
The largest rivals of the Hama-based Tiger Forces in the battle for smuggling profits and power can be found in Latakia, the coastal city in the Alawite heartland. Rain is beating down as low clouds move in from the sea. The steel factory belonging to Mohamed Jaber is located among the fields south of the city. Where T-beams were once manufactured for building construction, rockets are now soldered together and armor is mounted on pick-ups. This is where the Desert Hawks have one of their bases and their weapons factory.
The gray hangar on site, made of cement and corrugated sheet metal, is maybe 200 meters long. Eight Soviet-made T-72 tanks are sitting in the mud to one side while military trucks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery surround the building.
CERTIFICATES OF GRATITUDE
Young men are milling about in front of a former office building, some no older than 15. They are dressed in camouflage and their eyes are tired: It wasn’t that long ago that they returned from the battle for Aleppo. They huddle in the rain, smoking cigarettes among truck parts and anti-aircraft guns. Inside, where invoices and order slips were once filed away in wooden cabinets, boxes crammed full of munitions are now stacked.
Following the surprisingly candid tour of his weapons factory, Desert Hawks leader Jaber leads the way to his apartment. He lives on the fourth floor of an upscale apartment building with a view of Latakia’s harbor: The walls are paneled, the floor is marble and in the back is a gigantic flat-screen television playing propaganda videos for his militia. On a sideboard, framed certificates of gratitude from Russia are on display.
Jaber is a corpulent, conceited man. He spends an hour holding forth on the military successes achieved by his militia, periodically shouting at his staff to bring maps and tea.
Yes, he finally admits, his men have engaged in plundering, but only rarely. Black sheep, after all, can be found everywhere, he says. “We are a large group. Some are good, some are bad. But they are fighting for our country, that’s the most important thing.”
And he adds: “In Hama there are militias. They are kidnappers, robbers and murderers.” The reference, of course, is to the Tiger Forces, his rivals.
During the March 2016 battle for the city of Palmyra, famous for its ancient ruins, the two militias exchanged gunfire. A high-ranking military delegation was quickly sent from Damascus to mediate. Since then, Assad’s people have tried to assign the Tigers and the Hawks to different fighting fronts.
FROM KLEPTOCRAT TO WARLORD
Mohamed Jaber and his brother initially became rich from smuggling. In the 1990s, they began by spiriting oil into the country from Iraq before investing their millions in the steel industry. When the Syrian civil war began in 2011 and international sanctions isolated the Assad regime, they were asked to use their smuggling contacts to bring in badly needed oil and gasoline.
To protect their convoys as they drove through the desert, the Jabers recruited hundreds of former soldiers -- and criminals. In August 2013, Assad signed a decree allowing private businesspeople to maintain their own security forces, thus paving the way for kleptocrats in his favor to become warlords.
Jaber, though, says he isn’t interested in either power or money, claiming he already has enough of both. Rather, he only wants to help the great President Bashar Assad. When the war is over, he’ll lay down his weapons he says, before adding a bit later: “We could control over 60 percent of the country, if we were allowed to.”
The Russians have a pragmatic approach to the militias: Depending on the situation, the local warlords are given weapons, medals and selfies with Russian officers. But privately the Russian generals complain about the shocking state of the army and about the militias.
If the warlords become more powerful, Assad may soon become little more than a figurehead, surrounded by a coterie of robbers and smugglers. And the militias are also gaining political influence: In parliamentary elections last spring, candidates from the old ruling class didn’t do as well as they had in the past. Instead, candidates affiliated with the warlords emerged victorious.
Elections in Syria, of course, don’t reflect the will of the electorate. They only show who has the power to get his candidates elected. It is often said that, while Assad might be dreadful, he is the last remaining state authority in the country. But the strength of the militias shows that he lost even that authority long ago.
ARAB LEAGUE: NO RETURN TO MEMBERSHIP FOR SYRIA FOR THE TIME BEING
Arab League chief: situation inappropriate to Syria’s return to League
Kuwait News Agency
March 8, 2017
The situation in Arab countries is inconvenient for the return of Syria to its seat at the Arab League, said league’s secretary General Ahmad Abul Gheit on Tuesday.
Abul Gheit made the remark to reporters during a joint news conference with Algerian Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdulqader Messahel at the conclusion of the 147th session of the Council of the Arab League in Cairo.
The proposal made by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari on Syria is being discussed in camera, but the circumstances are inappropriate to take this step, Abul Gheit added.
“We should listen to a different view and then take a decision in this regard,” he said.
Regarding his dissatisfaction with the exclusion of Arabs from the negotiations on Syria, he noted that “international and regional powers are the bodies which deal with situation in Syria.
“I expressed a desire to involve Arabs in negotiations on Syria through an Arab consensus on this dossier and this will be done during the upcoming Arab summit,” he said.
On his call for drawing up a comprehensive system of Arab vision to combat terrorism, Abul Gheit said this point is included in two resolutions issued today during the meeting and will be submitted to the next summit in Jordan.
There was a complete Arab consensus during the meeting on overcoming challenges facing Arab countries, he added.
Concerning the abandonment by the new US administration of the two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, Abul Gheit stressed that the Arabs are committed to the two-state solution and the Arab initiative, calling for patience for a “while” until the new US administration formulates its stance.
He indicated that a written statement was sent to the representative of the United States to the United Nations that confirms the two-state solution.
Meanwhile, he said efforts are being exerted to involve the European Union, along with the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union, in contributions to resolving Libyan crisis.
Consultations are underway to hold a meeting including heads and representatives of the four organizations concerned with the Libyan crisis either before or after the upcoming Arab summit, he affirmed.
For his part, the Algerian minister, head of the 147th session, referred to cooperation amongst his country, Egypt and Tunisia so as to solve Libyan crisis.
He emphasized that the crisis can be resolved through a comprehensive dialogue amongst all Libyans, except for those who belong to organizations which have been designated by the UN as “terrorist groups.” He, at the same time, warned of terrorism, and absence of strong institutions and a unified army in Libya, indicating that such factors are an appropriate environment of the aggravated phenomenon of terrorism.
IRAN ORGANIZES IRAQI SHIA MILITIA TO FIGHT ISRAEL
Iraqi Resistance Movement Establishes Brigade to Liberate Golan Heights
Tasnim News Agency (Iran)
March 8, 2017
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The spokesman for Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement, a major Shiite resistance group, announced that the movement has formed a special brigade to liberate Golan Heights from the Zionist regime of Israel.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Tasnim News Agency central office on Wednesday, Seyed Hashem al-Moussavi highlighted the involvement of al-Nujaba forces in the Syrian government’s military campaign against foreign-backed terrorists and said they will not leave Syria until “the last terrorist” leaves the Arab country.
“After recent victories (in Syria), we have established the Golan Liberation Brigade,” he said, adding that the forces are well-trained.
“If the Syrian government requests, we are ready to take actions to liberate Golan,” the spokesman underlined.
He went on to say that the Golan Liberation Brigade is comprised of highly-equipped special forces, who have not left a region unless they ended a conflict there.
The al-Nujaba Movement is an offshoot of Iraqi voluntary forces, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units or Hashid al-Shaabi, which is active both in Iraq and Syria.
Syria has been gripped by civil war since March 2011 with various terrorist groups, including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL), currently controlling parts of it.
According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.
The Daesh terrorist group claims as an independent state the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant, including Lebanon, occupied Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, and Southern Turkey.
IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS USING CIVILIAN AIRLINERS TO HIDE TRANSFER OF WEAPONS AND FIGHTERS TO SYRIA, YEMEN
Iran using ‘Mahan Air’ civilian airliners to hide transfer of weapons and fighters to Syria, Yemen
March 6, 2017
On February 25, 2017, the Iranian reformist website Amad News reported, citing a source in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), that the IRGC is using civilian passenger jets operated by the Iranian airline Mahan Air to transfer weapons to Syria and Yemen and also to bring back the bodies of fallen fighters as well as injured fighters requiring treatment.
The following are excerpts from the report, which also included photos: 
“A knowledgeable source in the IRGC provided Amad News with photos showing that this Iranian airline [Mahan Air] operates flights to Syria and Yemen on which it transports dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, and Yemenis back to Iran. The photos clearly show that the seats and floor of the airliner are covered with plastic sheeting so that no evidence of the injured [fighters’ presence] is left behind.
“In October 2016, a knowledgeable source at the U.S. Treasury Department told AP that the U.S. was trying to convince the E.U. to cooperate with American steps to disrupt Mahan Air’s financial flows. Five years ago, America leveled sanctions on Mahan Air due to its close ties to the IRGC and allegations that it was transferring weapons to Syria and Yemen, but thus far, the E.U. has not complied with these sanctions.
“This knowledgeable source at the IRGC told the Amad News reporter that ‘Mahan [Air] flights to Damascus in Syria and Sana’a in Yemen are loaded with numerous pallets of weapons that are stowed in the [cargo] hold and sent to [combat] zones. He said that one of these airliners, whose cargo hold was packed with weapons, attempted to land at Sana’a but was threatened by two Saudi bombers, and that due to the bombing of the Sana’a airport, it was unable to unload the military cargo in question.’ It seems that this military source is referring to an event that took place on May 3, 2015, when two Saudi bombers escorted an Iranian airliner and prevented it from landing in Yemen by bombing the Sana’a airport. Iran claimed the airliner was loaded with aid including food and drugs, but this senior military source said it was actually transporting weapons for the Houthis.
“This IRGC military source [also] said that a claim made last year, that [IRGC Qods Force Commander] Qassem Soleimani had been on that plane, was untrue and that Soleimani had not been not on board... [According to the source:] ‘Last year, one of these airliners transported regular passengers [as well as] military forces and ammo from Iran to Syria, and on its way back to Iran, it brought dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, Afghanis, and Pakistanis for treatment or burial in Iran.’ He added: ‘On the return trip from Syria, these airliners carry people in Zone C, which is in the rear of the plane and the regular passengers cannot see it. They disembark via the rear door and occupy a separate part [of the plane] from the regular passengers. These are the same people Iran trains in armed combat and guerilla warfare at IRGC bases. In fact, the IRGC commanders use the regular passengers on Mahan Air flights as a cover to transfer weapons, ammo, and [fighters] trained [to wage] guerrilla warfare in the region.”
 Amad News was founded by journalists who were arrested or threatened during the 2009 Green Protest (a wave of demonstrations over the declared results of the 2009 presidential elections, which the protesters claimed to have been falsified). According to the website’s “About” section, they are continuing the Green Protest movement and act to publish transparent news and expose corruption in the Iranian regime to help the Iranian people attain their rights. Amadnews.com/about-us.
 Amad News (Iran), February 25, 2017.
EGYPTIAN ARMY COLONEL KILLED, 2 SOLDIERS INJURED BY ISIS AFFILIATE
Egyptian army colonel killed, 2 soldiers injured in Sinai bombing
Maan News agency (Palestine, EU funded)
March 9, 2017
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- An Egyptian army colonel was killed on Thursday while two Egyptian soldiers were injured in a bombing attack on an Egyptian police tank in the city of al-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egyptian officials told Ma’an that colonel Yasser Muhammad al-Hadidi, 50, who served as a general security inspector in the southern Sinai was killed while two soldiers were injured after their tank was “targeted and bombed.”
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT ‘ABBAS MEETS WITH TERRORISTS AND TERRORISTS’ FAMILIES
Palestinian President ‘Abbas meets with terrorists and terrorists’ families
March 8, 2017
Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas met recently with Palestinians who carried out terrorist attacks and with the family of a terrorist. On March 5, 2017 he received in his office in Ramallah the family of Muhammad Al-Jallad, who died of his wounds after being shot while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack at a checkpoint in November 2016. ‘Abbas also met with 14-year-old Osama Zaidat, who was shot while attempting to stab civilians in Kiryat Arba in September 2016 and who was recently released from detention, as well as with ‘Imad ‘Asaf, a member of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, who took part in the Second Intifada in 2000 and was recently released from prison.
In one of the meetings ‘Abbas said: “The aggression of Israel’s arrest and murder [of Palestinians] will not keep the Palestinian people from adhering to its well-deserved rights and from establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital... The Palestinian leadership will make every effort to end the suffering of our heroic brothers and release them from the occupation’s prisons so they can take part in building the homeland for which they sacrificed.”
It should be noted that ‘Abbas often stresses the importance he ascribes to freeing the prisoners and emphasizes that the Palestinian leadership is making every effort to secure their release. For example, at an August 8, 2016 reception in Ramallah for the released prisoner Shadi Al-Baba of the Al-Qassam Brigades, he said: “The issue of the prisoners will continue to be a top priority for the [Palestinian] leadership, [which will act] to free all the prisoners and detainees. He made similar remarks in a December 28, 2016 meeting with Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, who were released from administrative detention following a 28-day hunger strike. At the Seventh Fatah Conference on December 1, 2016, he praised the Palestinian prisoners, especially senior Fatah and Popular Front operatives who were behind terrorist attacks, including the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi, saying: “We remember the martyrs, the wounded and the prisoners and their record... We salute our brave prisoners and respect them. We will not forget our fighting comrades Marwan Al-Barghouti, Ahmad Sa’dat and Fouad Shubaki, or [our] glorious woman prisoners.”
 Arab48.com, February 10, 2017.
 Wafa.ps, March 6, 2017.
 Ramallah.news. August 8, 2016.
 Wafa.ps, December 8, 2016.
 Al-Ayyam (PA), December 1, 2016
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PARTICIPATES IN CELEBRATIONS IN ISRAELI CITY FOR RELEASED TERRORIST
Palestinian Authority, Fatah members participate in celebrations in Israeli city for Arab-Israeli Prisoner released after serving 15-year terrorism sentence
March 7, 2017
On February 27, 2017, the Israeli city of Lod hosted a reception and celebration for Hafez ‘Abd Al-Fattah Muqabal, a local resident, who was released from Israeli prison after serving a 15-year sentence for perpetrating a 2002 terrorist attack at the Maccabim Security Checkpoint and for possession of illegal weapons.
The event was organized by Israeli-Arab Lod residents and was attended by Muqabal’s family and members of the Arab scouts, who held a musical procession in his honor. The attendees also included released prisoners and a delegation from East Jerusalem, representing the Fatah movement’s Jerusalem region.
‘Awad Al-Salaymeh , a Fatah member in Jerusalem, said during the ceremony: “The issue of the prisoners is a top priority for the Palestinian national leadership, which will not rest until all the brave prisoners are released.” Jerusalem Palestinian Prisoners’ Club director Nasser Kos said that “the prisoners [represent] the true meaning of steadfastness and sacrifice for the sake of an honorable life in the homeland that the occupation is attempting to Judaize.”
Muqabal himself thanked Fatah in Jerusalem, stating: “My joy is incomplete, as I have left my prisoner brothers behind in the occupation prisons under harsh conditions.”
The reception hall was decorated with Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah flags, as well as Fatah posters expressing joy at Muqabal’s release.
Poster at the event featuring Fatah in Jerusalem’s message of congratulations for the released prisoner (Yaffa48.com, February 27, 2017)
Poster featuring the caption “The released prisoner, Hafez ‘Abd Al-Fattah Muqabal the hero” (Yaffa48.com, February 27, 2017)
Muqabal hoisted on another man’s shoulders at the celebration (Yaffa48.com, February 27, 2017)
PA and Fatah flags at the event (Ledawy.net, February.2,.2017)
Several days later, on March 1, 2017, Muqabal’s home in Lod was visited by Ramallah Governor Laila Ghannam, Fatah Secretary in Ramallah Muwaffaq Sahwil, and other Fatah members. A Fatah poster offering congratulations on his release was also hung in the home.
PA officials honored the released prisoner and held a reception for the released prisoner in Ramallah as well. At the reception, Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister ‘Issa Karaka and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club head Qadura Fares were photographed with Muqabal in front of a poster that reads: “The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club welcome the released prisoner, the fighter Hafez Muqabal.”
The released prisoner holding the citation is flanked to his right by ‘Issa Karaka and to his left by Qadura Fares (S-palestine.net, March 1, 2017)
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
 Yaffa48.com, February 27, 2017; Moqawmh.ps, February 28, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
 Facebook.com/R.b.Governorate, March 1, 2017.
 S-palestine.net, March 1, 2017.
DID THE AMERICAN REFORM JEWISH LEADERSHIP GIVE ABBAS A FREE PASS?
Middle East expert Aaron Lerner points out that from their press release and other statements, it seems that a 30 member delegation from the (American) Union for Reform Judaism (led by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs) that visited Palestinian President Abbas at the Mukataa in Ramallah on Thursday, happily criticized the democratically elected government of Israel but gave Abbas a “free pass” regarding his continuing incitement encouraging Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians.
President Abbas meets US Jewish delegation, says settlements obstruct peace
Wafa News Agency (PLO-funded)
March 9, 2017
RAMALLAH, (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday told a delegation from the Jewish reform movement in the United States that Israel’s persistence in settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem obstructs peace efforts.
“Israel’s persistence in settlement construction as well as its policy of killing, home demolitions, detentions and raids obstructs initiating a serious peace process leading to an end to the Israeli occupation,” he told the delegation from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) who met him at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
Abbas affirmed to his guests the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to achieving a comprehensive and just peace based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative in order to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The URJ delegation stressed their full support to the two-state solution to the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict and justice to the Palestinian people through Palestinian statehood.
They slammed Israeli settlement construction as an obstacle to the peace process.
(Tom Gross adds: Other reports say the first warship was disabled, rather than destroyed.)
YEMENI FORCES DESTROY ANOTHER SAUDI WARSHIP
Yemeni Forces Destroy Another Saudi Warship
Fars News Agency (Iran)
March 11, 2017
TEHRAN (FNA)- A warship of the Saudi-led forces was destroyed after hitting a sea mine laid by the Yemeni army and popular forces in the coastal waters of Ta’iz province.
“The Saudi-led warship was destroyed in the city of al-Mukha in Ta’iz province in Southwestern Yemen,” a Yemeni military source said.
The source noted that all crew members of the warship were killed in the explosion.
This is the 13th time that a Saudi warship is sent deep into the waters of Bab al-Mandab Strait by the Yemeni forces.
In a relevant development in late February, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in al-Hudayda coastal waters with a guided missile, the 12th Saudi vessel sinking offshore Yemen.
The Saudi warship was precisely targeted by the Yemeni missile in al-Hudayda province as the vessel was trying to get close to al-Khokheh coastal waters.
The sunken ship had repeatedly fired rockets at residential areas in Ta’iz province, inflicting casualties and destruction there.
Other Saudi battleships that were approaching Yemen’s coasts retreated fast following the attack.
On January 24, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.
On December 28, 2015, the Yemeni forces destroyed a Saudi-led coalition warship in al-Mukha coast.
On December 11, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.
On December 5, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.
On November 25, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.
On November 15, Yemeni forces destroyed a Saudi-led coalition warship al-Mukha coast.
On November 7, Yemeni forces fired rockets at a Saudi-led coalition warship and destroyed it near al-Mukha coast.
On October 25, the Yemeni forces hit and destroyed another Saudi warship in Bab al-Mandab Strait
On October 11, another ship which belonged to the Egyptian army and named al-Mahrousa was destroyed by Yemeni missiles in the coastal waters near al-Mukha coast.
On October 9, Yemeni army and popular forces also fired missiles at a Saudi warship, and destroyed it in Bab al-Mandab Strait.
The warship was wrecked off the Southwestern coast of Yemen, in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
TEAM ISRAEL’S CINDERELLA RUN CONTINUES IN THE FIRST GAME OF THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC QUARTERFINALS
World Baseball Classic: Israel continues to shock the world, beats Cuba 4-1
Team Israel’s Cinderella run continues in the first game of the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals.
By Natasha Dornberg
Haaretz (sports pages)
March 12, 2017
Team Israel continued to shock the world and defeated a well-regarded Cuba 4-1 Sunday in the first quarterfinal game of the World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome.
The win brings underdog Israel’s record in the tournament to 4-0. Israel next faces the Netherlands at 12:00 P.M. Monday (Israel time).
Cuba, with its rich baseball history and a national team that has medalled in all five Olympic baseball tournaments, was first on the board, after slugger Alfredo Despaigne drove a solo home run to left-center in the second inning. This was Despaigne’s third homer of the tournament, making him the all-time WBC home-run leader.
Israeli catcher Ryan Lavarnway, awarded MVP for Pool A last week, dug Israel out from behind the 1-0 deficit in the fourth after driving Ike Davis home with an RBI double. Israel added two more runs in the sixth and finally sealed the deal with a run in the bottom of the eighth.
Israel starter Jason Marquis pitched 5 2/3 innings. Manager Jerry Weinstein said about the decision to pull him that Marquis “had a lot left in the tank but we liked the match-up better to bring Zack Thornton in, and Thornton proved us right and did a great job.” Thornton will be credited with the win. White Sox reliever Brad Goldberg came in for Thornton.
Closer Josh Zeid pitched four outs for the second save of his WBC journey. All three Israel relievers remained under the pitch count and will be eligible to pitch against the Netherlands on Monday.
The win over Cuba gives Israel a strong mental boost ahead of games against the Netherlands and host Japan to advance in the quarterfinal round, which is played as a round robin. One win in those two games could be enough to bring Israel to Dodger Stadium for the semifinals.
Israel beat the Netherlands 6-5 in the final game of the previous round, although by then both teams were assured quarterfinal berths and were playing for bragging rights.
Underdog Israel’s success to date, a national team representing a country that has little national baseball culture, sweeping its bracket in the last round has surprised many, but apparently not team Israel itself.
Embracing tournament rules that allow any player who is eligible for citizenship to represent a country, Israel cobbled together its team from Jewish American baseball players. The Law of Return grants citizenship to any Jew who requests it.
However, ranked as far down the table as they are based on previous performances, team Israel has ten players with Major League experience. All its members are professional baseball players.
Weinstein rebuffed critics who have called Team Israel really a second Team USA. “The attitude in our clubhouse is we are representing Israel. We are not the Junior Varsity team for Team USA. We are Team Israel, and make no mistake about that.”
After Sunday’s win, starter Marquis noted “We have quality baseball players on this team; guys who have big league experience, a lot of young prospects who have bright futures, and a good mix of veterans who can help these guys through these tournament games.”
Marquis did revel a little in becoming a role model in the United States. “It’s a great story for people back home who follow the game and who are in our shoes – have Jewish heritage – to look up to players like us who may not have otherwise had that opportunity.”
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