Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is urging Palestinians to launch another violent "intifada" targeting Israelis, Reuters reported.
Speaking at a recent conference in Tehran, Khamenei called for Israel's destruction and referred to the Jewish state as a "cancerous tumor."
"... by Allah's permission, we will see that this intifada will begin a very important chapter in the history of fighting and that it will inflict another defeat on that usurping regime," Khamenei said, according to a transcript of the remarks featured on his website.
"The Palestinian intifada continues to gallop forward in a thunderous manner so that it can achieve its other goals until the complete liberation of Palestine," the Ayatollah added.
For years, senior Iranian figures have called for Israel's destruction. These statements, however, are not just rhetoric to invigorate domestic audiences. Iran has invested considerable resources to prop up terrorist proxies, including Hamas and Hizballah, to militarily confront Israel. Iran also finances and explicitly encourages Palestinians to engage in individual terrorist initiatives.
Sanctions relief in the 2015 Iran nuclear enabled Iran to enhance terrorist operations and increase funding for Palestinians who attack Israelis. Last year, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon confirmed that every Palestinian terrorist's family will receive $7,000 for attacking Israelis and $30,000 if a family's home is demolished by the Israel Defense Forces. Financial transfers would be distributed through the Palestinian branch of Iran's 25-year-old "Shahid Institutions."
"The martyrs' blood will release the entire Palestine, from the river to the sea," Ambassador Mohammad Fathali said.
In January 2016, Hizballah's Unit 133 tried to coordinate a Palestinian terrorist cell in the West Bank, sending the operatives $5,000 to buy weapons to kill Israeli soldiers. Similar to previous Hamas attempts, Hizballah was trying to escalate Palestinian violence into a full-fledged uprising, seeking to introduce an organized element to a phenomenon that was largely characterized by individual acts.
Acting on Iranian orders, Hizballah was able to direct and coordinate dozens of Palestinian terrorist cells during the second Intifada. From 2002 to 2007, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hizballah directed and coordinated dozens of Palestinian terrorist networks, mostly cells that were part of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Throughout the 1990s and beginning of 2000s, Hizballah sent Lebanese operatives with foreign passports to Israel via Europe in order to support Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups devoted to sabotaging the Oslo Peace Process and damage the Palestinian Authority.
Ayatollah Khamenei's latest call for the Jewish state's destruction is much more than political bluster. His remarks are a direct signal to ignite widespread terrorist violence.
On Sunday, an American mosque glorified a terrorist responsible for killing a Pakistani governor who was critical of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, the Rabwah Times reported.
Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab province, became an instant target for radical Islamists after he defended a Christian woman facing blasphemy charges. In 2011, Taseer's own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri shot and killed him.
When Qadri was executed for the killing last year, more than 100,000 Pakistanis paid their respects at his funeral.
The Gulzar E Madina Mosque in Pikesville, Md. apparently shared in the mourners' zeal, hosting a celebration Sunday in Qadri's memory. The mosque held a traditional "Urs" ceremony usually reserved for holy figures, the Rabwah Times story said.
Days earlier, the mosque advertised the event in the Urdu Times, America's most distributed Urdu language newspaper. The event featured several speakers spewing radical views, including Syed Saad Ali, an Islamist scholar based in New Jersey.
"Warrior Mumtaz Qadri kissed the noose in love for Prophet Muhammad," Ali said. "When Qadri was in jail for 5 years what did we do? What effort did we make (for his release)? Why did we not go where he was being held? Qadri did everything for us, and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him. People say Islam teaches peace...I say Islam teaches us Ghairat (Honor). Who will now stand up?"
According to the Rabwah Times, the event was "attended by dozens of people including young children and teenagers."
Pakistan has charged about 1,000 people with blasphemy since 1987, and convictions can carry the death penalty. These laws especially target members of Pakistan's minority communities, including the Ahmadi and Christians. But the law can be also applied to anyone that is seen as a threat to the government.
Sunday's event in Maryland is another example of a radical mosque in the United States glorifying terrorists and inciting violence among younger generations. Impressionable children in these contexts view terrorists as heroes and are encouraged to support and violence for Islamist objectives.
Federal prosecutors want to travel to the Middle East to question two women who previously have acknowledged helping Rasmieh Odeh bomb a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 along with the British Consulate. The supermarket bombing killed two college students, Leon Kanner and Edward Joffe.
Odeh failed to disclose her conviction in Israeli court and her resulting 10 years in an Israeli prison when she applied for naturalization as an American citizen in 2004.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism examined Odeh's terrorist history and the heroic treatment she enjoys among Palestinian activists in a five-part video series, "Spinning a Terrorist Into a Victim."
She was convicted of naturalization fraud in 2014, but won a new trial after arguing the court improperly kept out testimony supporting her claim that her incorrect answers on immigration papers resulted from post-traumatic stress caused by torture while in Israeli custody.
The claim is unsubstantiated, but defense and prosecution psychologists who examined Odeh say that she does exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress.
Prosecutors responded with a superseding indictment placing greater emphasis on Odeh's membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which carried out the 1969 bombings. Membership in a terrorist organization, let alone a conviction for a terrorist act, is sufficient to deny immigrants a visa or to reject a naturalization application.
Aisha Odeh and Rasheda Obideh, in separate videos available online, talked about helping Rasmieh Odeh in the 1969 bombings, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed Tuesday. Aisha Odeh (who is not related to Rasmieh Odeh) admitted placing the supermarket bomb after scouting the store with Rasmieh. Obideh made similar statements in another video," the prosecution brief said.
The women "have uniquely relevant testimony," prosecutors argued. But to get to them, they need the court's consent and cooperation from the Palestinian Authority.
If the motion is granted, prosecutors and defense attorneys would travel abroad and then determine whether the statements provided should be shown to the jury.
Their testimony has added significance, prosecutors said, because of new federal case law in the Sixth Circuit, which covers Detroit – the site of Odeh's trial. In a ruling since Odeh's 2014 trial, the Sixth Circuit ruled that a jury can consider factors such as "good moral character" and involvement in terrorism in naturalization fraud cases.
The Palestinian women "have highly material testimony because they have personal knowledge of the defendant's involvement in terrorist activity and the defendant's membership and association with a terrorist organization. These topics are directly relevant to the charges in the first superseding indictment," prosecutors wrote.
The trial is scheduled to take place in mid-May. Tuesday was the deadline for pre-trial motions.
In other filings, prosecutors requested an anonymous jury and other measures meant to keep the jury from being influenced by Odeh's supporters who protest outside of court each day. They also asked the court to bar the defense from claiming Odeh is being subjected to a selective or "political" prosecution.
Defense attorneys asked that all the Israeli evidence showing Odeh's connection to the 1969 be kept out of the trial, along with the U.S. government's designation of the PFLP as a terrorist group.
With the help of organized criminal elements, Islamic State terrorists reportedly are buying legitimate British passports that can evade security detection from security authorities, the Daily Beast reports.
An Italian intelligence investigation into the Camorra mafia discovered an advertisement on the deep web that linked to a Naples firm capable of producing sophisticated biometric passports.
"We are selling original UK Passports made with your info/picture. Also, your info will get entered into the official passport database," the advertisement reads. "So its (sic) possible to travel with our passports. How do we do it? Trade secret! Information on how to send us your info and picture will be given after purchase! You can even enter the UK/EU with our passports, we can just add a stamp for the country you are in."
Other investigations also shed light onto the broader ties between terrorists and European criminal organizations, including in the smuggling of weapons and forged documents.
Last year Italian authorities arrested an Iraqi man in Naples for facilitating weapons and document transfers to the Islamic State.
"Naples has been, for many years, a central logistics base for the Middle East," prosecutor Franco Roberti told the Daily Beast last year, adding that "the Camorra (mafia) is also active in the world of jihadist terrorism that passes through Naples."
Terrorists are diversifying their funding sources through various criminal means to underwrite their violent and nefarious activities. The criminal-terrorism nexus manifests itself in several ways: mainly in the form of cooperation between terrorist groups and organized criminal elements, and crimes by terrorists which are conducted to finance their own operations. Terrorists' reliance in counterfeiting in particular has attracted more attention recently with the rise of Islamic State networks in Europe and other parts of the world.
Lacking a formal state sponsor, and facing setbacks in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State may start to depend more on criminal relationships to fuel their operations and to infiltrate terrorists into Western for the purposes of carrying out attacks abroad.
Hamas continues to play a double game when it comes to the Islamic State. The Palestinian terrorist organization is trying to supress ISIS-inspired jihadists in Gaza, while simultaneously cooperating with the terrorist group's Sinai Peninsula affiliate – Wilayat Sinai.
Despite some tactical benefits, Hamas' seemingly counterintuitive, yet calculated, engagement with Islamic State elements has resulted in tangible setbacks for the Palestinian group. Palestinian sources speaking with the Times of Israel revealed that dozens of Hamas operatives have defected to Wilayat Sinai, including highly trained terrorists from elite units.
Roughly two months ago, Hamas forces arrested Abed al-Wahad Abu Aadara, a Hamas naval commando who defected to ISIS after he re-entered Gaza. His brother also joined ISIS and died in clashes with the Egyptian military. Facing pressure from ISIS, Hamas recently released Abu Aadara from prison.
Other defectors include highly trained Hamas operatives who enhance the Islamic State's ability to build bombs and use anti-tank missiles. Senior military wing members, including Abu Malek Abu Shwiesh, a key assistant to Hamas' Rafah commander, reportedly joined Wilayat Sinai.
The ISIS affiliate has created significant Egyptian casualties in recent years, particularly after acquiring and deploying sophisticated weaponry in the Sinai.
Israeli officials have outlined detailed aspects of Hamas-Islamic State cooperation in the past. Both organizations engage in smuggling terrorists and arms, including advanced weapons systems. For example, Hamas provided Wilayat Sinai with Kornet anti-tank missiles that have destroyed Egyptian military vehicles. Hamas also provides military training and medical services for injured Wilayat Sinai fighters in Gaza, in addition to reportedly transferring money directly to the terrorist organization.
In return, Hamas cultivates a safe haven for its leaders and fighters in case of a future confrontation with Israel, understanding that Israel's military engagement on Egyptian territory is limited.
Since the end of the 2014 summer war in Gaza, Hamas has invested significant resources into reconstructing its terrorist infrastructure. It also continues to rebuild its elite forces – including its naval commando unit – dedicated to infiltrating into Israel to carry out terrorist attacks. Reports of Hamas defections are a clear setback for the Palestinian organization, but are not likely lead to a wider rift with the Islamic State.
Despite broader ideological differences, both groups remain committed to challenging the Egyptian military in Sinai and destroying the Jewish state.
Israeli security forces indicted three Palestinians Monday, saying they were part of a Hamas terrorist cell planning to kidnap and kill Israelis in the West Bank and within Israel.
According to the indictment, Hamas officials in Gaza sent instructions to the terrorists via Facebook, explaining how to carry out shooting attacks, detonate explosives, and coordinate kidnappings around Hebron. The cell also scouted several locations within Israel for future attacks, including a bus station in Afula, a military base, the Binyamina Train Station, and a synagogue. The terrorists gained important information about the targets while working in Israel illegally.
To facilitate the attacks, the terrorists saved about $270 per month to buy weapons, build bombs and recruit other Palestinians.
"The uncovering of the infrastructure and activities it planned demonstrates the high threat level posed by Hamas militants, especially those who enter Israel and remain their illegally," according to the Shin Bet.
Israeli authorities have foiled several Hamas terrorist plots since the latest wave of Palestinian violence, which peaked in October 2015. While most attacks were largely individual terrorist initiatives, groups like Hamas and even Hizballah sought to hijack the popular uprising by planning and coordinating terrorist attacks. Both organizations failed to execute a sophisticated attack thus far due to vigilant Israeli intelligence practices.
In January 2016, Shin Bet foiled a Hamas terror cell seeking to kidnap and kill Israelis in hopes of using their victims' bodies to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. A similar motivation encouraged Hamas affiliated terrorists behind the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, which eventually led to a full-fledged war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Palestinian terrorists continue to provoke Israel, launching a rocket Monday from Gaza into southern Israel and firing at Israeli soldiers working on the Gaza border fence. In response, the Israeli military targeted several Hamas positions in Gaza with airstrikes and artillery shells.
Last week, a senior Israeli military official told Israel's Channel 2 that Hamas has regained its military capabilities since the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas continues to invest considerable resources to rebuild its terrorist infrastructure at the expense of civilian reconstruction efforts.
In the meantime, Hamas actively seeks to recruit and mobilize terrorists in the West Bank to form cells dedicated to killing Israelis in an effort to spark chaos and eventually take over the Palestinian Authority.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) recently condemned Fordham University for banning the radical group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from campus.
The NLG claims that Fordham's decision continued a "legacy of Anti-Palestinian discrimination, known as the 'Palestinian Exception' to Free Speech..."
In a Dec. 22 email, Fordham Dean of Students Keith Eldredge outlined the university's reasons to block SJP from forming a chapter.
"While students are encouraged to promote diverse political points of view, and we encourage conversation and debate on all topics, I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country (Israel)..."
Eldredge correctly pointed out that SJP's inherently divisive mandate is a cause for concern.
SJP's purpose "as stated in the proposed club constitution points toward that polarization. Specifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding."
Eldredge's email was published by the groups Palestine Legal and the Center of Constitutional Rights as part of a joint letter Jan. 17 protesting to Fordham's president. The letter suggests that the university's rejection "was based on the viewpoint of students' message and/or their national origin."
A Fordham spokesperson denied that charge in a written statement, saying the university "has no registered student clubs" with a singular focus to protest one country. "[T]he narrowness of Students for Justice in Palestine's political focus makes it more akin to a lobbying group than a student club."
Fordham's decision "exemplifies a long and ubiquitous history of Anti-Palestinian censorship rampant across campuses, government, and civil institutions that has largely gone under-reported, unchallenged and is coordinated with many Israeli groups," said Lamis Deek, an NLG member with extremist views.
Last October, Deek – who is also an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – glorified a Palestinian terrorist as "the Lion of Jerusalem" after he killed two Israelis and injured five others. The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has shown Deek's consistent glorification of violence targeting Jews and Israelis, who has referred to Israel as "the genocidal zionist regime."
Groups like SJP, often make claims of victimization while working to intimidate and silence their detractors. The documentary "Hate Spaces," by Americans for Peace and Tolerance provides overwhelming evidence of widespread anti-Israel intolerance on campuses across the country by organizations like SJP.
In one example, Northeastern University spokeswoman Renata Nyul acknowledges that SJP was suspended after engaging in "vandalism of university property, disrupting the events of other student organizations" and more.
SJP claimed the school's suspension stifled free speech and generated public pressure until SJP was reinstated in 2014.
Now Fordham faces similar pressure.
SJP chapters elsewhere have "a particularly serious impact on Jewish students," Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told the Algemeiner. "Nor do they [universities] end up doing anything about the harmful behavior when it is exhibited."
Her organization, the AMCHA Initiative, tracks campus anti-Semitism. At Fordham University's Middle East Studies Department, it notes, someone posted a sign depicting Uncle Sam calling himself "Israel's b**ch" and included the words "Palestinian apartheid."
A prominent figure in the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) security apparatus is endorsing President Trump's executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S., the Jordanian news service Al Bawaba reports.
"We completely support Trump in his ban on entry to those who may cause a breach in America's security," Dubai security chief Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim tweeted.
His country is not among the seven – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – covered by the executive order.
"Previous US administrations have embraced all the wanted men of the Arab world and those classified as terrorists. Trump, what you're doing is right," Khalfan wrote.
The UAE has cited security concerns for its own reluctance to admit Syrian refugees since the start of the civil war in 2011. After drawing criticism from human rights groups, UAE officials agreed in September to accept 15,000 Syrian refugees over a five-year period.
His support for Trump's temporary ban generated criticism from Arab journalists such as Iraqi-American Steven Nabil.
"Marwan al-Shehhi and Fayez Banihammad were among the 19 terrorists of al-Qaeda who attacked the World Trade Center and other targets on 9-11, which led to the deaths of thousands of American civilians. They both had Emirati citizenship like Dhahi Khalfan," Nabil wrote.
Khalfan is known for making irreverent comments.
He bucked the regional consensus last March when he expressed opposition to a Palestinian state, warning it would become another failed state. He also urged his Twitter followers not to treat Jews as their enemies.
In 2012, Khalfan launched a war of words with radical Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi. Khalfan threatened Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar, with an international arrest warrant after the cleric criticized the UAE for revoking the visas of Syrian residents who allegedly demonstrated against the Assad regime.
This spat with Qaradawi should be understood in the context of Khalfan's criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood, which he has accused to plotting to topple the UAE government and wanting to impose Islamist rule in all Gulf states.
Khalfan's anti-Muslim Brotherhood stance aligns well with that of his government, which pressured former British Prime Minister David Cameron's government to investigate the Brotherhood. UAE officials also classified the Muslim Brotherhood and offshoots, such as the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as terrorist groups in 2014.
The U.S. Special Operations Command hosted Mouaz Moustafa, an American Islamist who urged U.S. policymakers to embrace the Islamic Front in 2013, at their Tampa headquarters on Thursday, a post on his Facebook page shows. The Islamic Front's charter called for replacing the Assad regime with an Islamic theocracy ruled by shariah law.
Moustafa heads the Syrian Emergency Taskforce (SETF), an organization that lobbies on behalf of anti-Assad rebels. SETF organized U.S. Sen. John McCain's May 2013 Syria trip. SETF also enjoyed close ties with the Obama State Department.
"The focus now is to depose the regime and kick out people like Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and others that are killing us. And so that's the best way to describe their ideology," Moustafa said in 2013. "I think the international community and the West ... must engage with the Islamic Front and need to be more pragmatic and realistic about what is going on ground in Syria in order to bring them on board with whatever political solution will happen in the future."
The Islamic Front was a coalition of rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham (aka "the Syrian Taliban"), Suquor al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, Ansar al-Shariah, Tawhid Brigade, and Liwa Al-Haqq. Suquor al-Sham and Liwa al-Haqq have since merged with Ahrar al-Sham.
Ahrar al-Sham remains one of the most important factions in Syria's ongoing civil war. Its founder, Abu Khalid Al-Suri, acted as al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri's right-hand man there. Late Ahrar al-Sham leader Hasan Aboud condemned democracy, calling it a "sword hanging on everyone that Western powers want." He preferred establishing a caliphate under shariah law.
Jaish al-Islam also engaged in atrocities, including beheading captive ISIS fighters while forcing them to dress in uniforms similar to "Jihadi John." In one instance, Jaish al-Islam executed and subsequently crucified a man it accused of cursing God, practicing witchcraft, taking drugs, committing adultery and kidnapping. Images of the executed man's crucified, decapitated body were circulated online.
Groups comprising the Islamic Front also fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra prior to Moustafa's request for the Obama administration to work with the jihadist coalition.
Prominent public figures and officials often claim that Islam has nothing to do with the jihadist terrorist violence spreading throughout the world. A recent academic study challenges this misguided view – by actually speaking to terrorist foreign fighters.
The authors of "Talking to Foreign Fighters: Insights into the Motivations for Hijrah to Syria and Iraq," University of Waterloo sociologist Lorne L. Dawson, and George Washington University Program on Extremism Fellow Amarnath Amarasingam, published their findings after numerous conversations with 20 foreign fighters, mostly coming from the West. None of the jihadists cited socioeconomic grievances or other forms of disenfranchisement as a major role in their decisions to wage jihad abroad. Rather, the conversations largely revolved around their Islamist beliefs.
Religion dominated discussion so much, the report said, that "it seems implausible to suggest that religiosity (i.e. a sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill informed or unorthodox) is not a primary motivator for their actions. Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives..."
The authors cite a British Muslim who joined Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, which is now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
"The zeal for jihad always struck me when I would sit in my room and read Qur'an with English translation," he said. "I would wonder how jihad was fought today. At the outbreak of 2011 war in Syria, the thinking of going began and brothers from town who had gone were an inspiration."
Previous studies on foreign fighter motivations tend to exclusively focus on "push" factors, such as poor socioeconomic status or psychological factors, that encourage Western foreign fighters to fight abroad. Other radicalization studies tend to emphasize that a search for meaning and identity is an important factor explaining why some Westerners, including Americans, adopt the Islamic State's ideology. Another recent report emphasized the criminal pasts among many Western foreign fighters moving to Syria and Iraq.
While these factors may play a role in radicalization processes, they fail to fully explain why some people embrace violence or wage jihad abroad. In some contexts, terrorists come from relatively higher socio-economic and educated status, such as Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists. Ideology and indoctrination clearly plays a major role in their radicalization. Many individuals around the world face social, economic, and psychological issues and many others search for meaning in life, but do not necessarily become terrorists.
In trying to understand radicalization and foreign fighter motivations, researchers need to put more emphasis on the role of religion and radical Islamist ideology. While many American Islamists and their prominent sympathizers argue that Islam or Islamism has nothing to do with the terrorist violence plaguing the world, engaging in an actual conversation with some of these terrorists suggests otherwise.