Israel is entering an "Era of Fire" in which it is threatened by 170,000 rockets and missiles and in which the Syrian civil war has placed "30,000 global jihad terrorists" at its doorstep, Israel's defense intelligence chief said in a speech Wednesday.
"Israel is surrounded by 360 degrees of actual enemies," said Major General Aviv Kohavi at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
Most of those foes have enough internal strife to make any imminent attack unlikely, he said. But if circumstances change, they have the means to threaten Israel more dramatically than ever, and both terrorist groups and governments continue to diversify their arsenals. "The line between a terror organization and a military organization continues to blur."
The fight to topple dictator Bashar al-Assad has been a magnet for jihadis from throughout the world. At some point, they will leave that fight and pose new threats to Europe, North Africa and America. Many will seek to stay in the area, finding camps in Lebanon and Sinai.
"We are talking about extremists clinging to extremist ideologies - anti-Western and anti-Modern ideologies. We are talking about exceptional cruelty and brutality close to our borders," Kohavi said.
Israel is developing medium-range missile defense systems, but the volume and sophistication of rockets controlled by Hizballah in Lebanon means not every rocket can be intercepted. "For the first time the enemy now has the ability to hit Israeli cities hard," Kohavi said.
The Muslim Brotherhood's ouster from power in Egypt and corresponding pressure on Hamas "is a serious opportunity" for Israel, he said. But new threats, such as Iran's nuclear weapons program nearing completion and an increase in cyber-attacks, add to the challenges facing Israeli defense and intelligence officials.
"Cyberwarfare, in my humble opinion, will soon emerge as a more important discovery than gunpowder," Kohavi said.
Anti-Semitism has long characterized the Iranian government's positions. Holocaust denial in particular has repeatedly surfaced within senior official statements. In an 3 interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous last September, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asserted that Ayatollah Ali Khamanei is not a Holocaust denier and that statements found on his official English-language website were a "bad translation" and "out of context."
Now, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), reports that Khamenei's original statements on the official Persian-language website proves that the Khamenei did, in fact, refer to the Holocaust as a "myth." The investigation confirms that the English translation on the official website is accurate, as Khamanei refers to the "myth of the Jewish slaughter known as the Holocaust."
Similarly, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed he had not denied the Holocaust, despite calling it a "fairy tale" and ultimately including his Holocaust denial among his accomplishments in office.
Khamanei also supports the late Roger Garaudy, praising the convicted French Holocaust denier on Facebook and Twitter. During his 1998 meeting with Garaudy, Khamanei stated that "the Zionists are just like the Nazis, and act in the same racist fashion."
See the full MEMRI report here.
A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and life sentence for a Saudi Arabian student who plotted a series of attacks in 2011, including on targeting the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari that his sentence is excessive and that his trial was unfair due to the use of information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Aldawsari, who came to the United States on a student visa in 2008, was charged in 2011 in connection with plots to attack President Bush's home, hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants. The nine-page opinion rejected all of the issues Aldawsari raised.
Court records show Aldawsari bought chemicals online to make an improvised explosive device (IED). Federal agents found finding bomb-making materials, including concentrated sulphuric and nitric acids, glass beakers and flasks, wiring, clocks, and a Hazmat suit during a search of his home. Agents also discovered a journal that showed that Aldawsari had been plotting a terrorist attack in the United States for years. An entry in the journal revealed that Aldawsari obtained a scholarship from a Saudi corporation to enable him to come to the United States and plot jihad. The scholarship "will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad, God willing," he wrote. "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad."
A search of Aldawsari's computer showed potential targets for attack in the U.S., including details of three U.S. military personnel who had served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, names of dams in Colorado and California, and the President's Bush's Dallas address.
Israel continues to face terrorist threats from all sides, including the Hamas ruled-Gaza strip, Hizballah in southern Lebanon, and radical Sunni Jihadists in the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. Now, the Jewish state is witnessing a growing al-Qaida presence in its midst. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Wednesday that three al-Qaida recruits from east Jerusalem were arrested for planning 'massive bombings' on Wednesday.
The men were preparing to engage in multiple bombing and shooting attacks on various targets such as the Jerusalem Convention Center, a bus traveling between the capital and Ma'aleh Adumim, the U.S. embassy, and the emergency responders who would have rushed in to assist the victims.
An al-Qaida operative in Gaza, Ariv Al-Sham, allegedly recruited the three men and is believed to have received direct orders from al-Qaida chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Using Skype and Facebook, Al-Sham was able to recruit Iyad Khalil Abu-Sara from east Jerusalem, who has an Israeli ID Card. Abu-Sara admitted to planning a "sacrifice attack" on an Israeli bus, intending to gun down the passengers at close range and firing on emergency responders. He also volunteered to facilitate a double suicide bombing simultaneously targeting the Jerusalem Convention Center and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Abu-Sara purchased a flight to Turkey in order to travel into Syria for explosives training.
The elaborate plan included Abu-Sara receiving a group of foreign terrorists, using fake Russian passports, and preparing their suicide bomb vests and a truck bomb intended to harm the first responders.
Israeli security sources monitored communications between the handlers and the suspects, noting that the process of recruitment and preparations, including the transfer of bomb-making instructions, occurred online within a few months.
These developments come in context of a relatively new and rising al-Qaida threat targeting Israel. Al-Qaida linked groups in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip have planned and coordinated various attacks against Israel. However, recently al-Qaida's presence in the West Bank has troubled Israeli officials. In January, Israel killed three gunmen linked to al-Qaida who were plotting attacks. The men were shot after opening fire at Israeli troops sent to arrest them. Senior security sources said the radical Salafi Jihadist movement remains marginal, but can grow if it exploits a power vacuum in the West Bank. The terror cell had explosives and firearms and planned to kidnap IDF soldiers and attack the Palestinian Authority. Al-Qaida's exploitation of broader regional instability is enabling the spread of its radical ideology to attract Palestinian recruits in order to attack Israel.
Israeli and Palestinian activists gathered in Ramallah for a "peace conference" earlier this month organized by Minds of Peace, a non-for-profit dedicated to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh writes for the Gatestone Institute, Palestinian protesters attacked the hotel upon the Israelis' arrival, chanting slogans against their presence.
"Israelis out, out! Palestine is Arab, from the sea to the river," a female protester shouted. The Israeli activists were forced to leave with Palestinian Authority (PA) police escorts as the violence escalated.
The planned two-day conference was halted and the following day activists from both sides attempted to meet at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem. Once again, "anti-normalization" demonstrators forced the participants to evacuate to avoid a violent confrontation. These encounters are representative of similar occurrences in the past, forcing peace activists to meet in secret locations or in various countries around the world.
The Israelis, who oppose their government's policies and openly support the Palestinian cause, risk their lives by entering Ramallah in a genuine effort to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. More importantly, most of the protesters have an affiliation with the Palestinian Authority. In addition, Palestinian journalists warned the demonstrators of the meetings and insisted that they take action. Not one Palestinian official issued condemnation of these grave incidents, Abu Toameh notes. These developments further emphasize that the broader Palestinian society is not comfortable with the notion of normalizing relations with the Jewish state potentially rendering a future peace agreement futile.
Hizballah continues to entrench itself in the Syrian civil war, while facing a string of radical Sunni bombing attacks in their Lebanese strongholds. The terrorist organization is also facing renewed international backlash regarding its alleged role in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
These challenges contribute to the group's deterioration in popularity within Lebanon and across the Arab world. Despite these pressing and overlapping challenges, Hizballah continues to enhance its presence along the Israeli border, the Times of Israel reports. Its activity in bordering villages can be seen by Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 passed in conclusion of the 2006 war between Hizballah and Israel.
For instance, they have watched a "TV crew" arrive in the area but not act accordingly and witnessed three "shepherds" unsuccessfully move around with only 15-20 sheep. These facades are meant to cover Hizballah fighters attempting to re-establish bases in border villages.
While hundreds of Hizballah fighters are killed in Syria, the organization still has more than a third of its capacity prepared for another round of war with Israel. There are massive excavations underway in Shi'ite towns in southern Lebanon, hosting tens of thousands of rockets aimed at the Jewish state. Bulldozers and other engineering equipment are working overtime in these villages, building shelters inside villagers' homes in order to convince them to remain during the next conflict.
The IDF believes that Hizballah intends to confront Israel in built-up civilian areas as opposed to the more open fields in 2006. By building bases of operations amongst civilians, while targeting Israeli civilians, the terrorist organization is in effect committing a double war crime. These recent developments further emphasize that the group remains committed to Israel's destruction in spite of the other challenges it faces.
Hamas has historically engaged in concerted efforts to brainwash its youth to wage violent jihad. Roughly 13,000 high school students participated in a week-long training camp geared to enable the teenagers "to follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs."
This is more than twice the enrollment from last year's camp, the Times of Israel reports. The "Pioneers of Liberation" camp included weapons training, marching exercises, and "security awareness" classes concerning the identification of Israeli spies.
While addressing the graduation ceremony, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned Israel that "this is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel, and the suicide operations." Hamas' interior minister said that the training was in preparation for the next war with Israel.
Hamas is engaging in widespread campaign to raise the next generation of youth to embrace hatred and terrorism as legitimate modus operandi. Instead of devoting time and resources to developing their society, Hamas is teaching its youth to kill.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has its own camp with a similar emphasis on glorifying terrorist attacks.
Hamas has a long track record of similar propaganda endeavors. Previous training and education programs have previously been devoted to similar brainwashing. Through textbooks and the media, Hamas constantly indoctrinates Palestinian youth – sometimes as young as toddlers – and glorifies violent jihad.
Human rights groups and media outlets pay little attention to this indoctrination.
Egyptian citizens finished up five days of voting for a constitutional referendum in consulates across the U.S. on Sunday (New York City, Washington, D.C., Houston, Chicago and San Francisco). The full vote takes place in Egypt today and tomorrow.
On Sunday voters steadily streamed into the New York consulate on 59th Street and Second Avenue, some draped in flags, young, elderly (including a determined wheelchair bound voter coming in on a bus from St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in New Jersey).
Ahmed Mohamed Sharaf, spokesman for the Egypt's United Nations mission, estimated there had been about 2,500 voters at the New York consulate. That was high compared to the last constitutional vote, said Ahmed Farouq, Consul General of Egypt in New York. The Egyptian people "are very determined to move forward in the next phase," he said.
The vote drew protesters who support ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and consider the vote is illegitimate. A spokesman for the protesters acknowledged that some in the crowd of about 100 people were officially affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. He identified one, Mohamed Mahmoud, who is an executive member of the New York chapter of Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (EADHR). The EADHR has organized numerous pro-Morsi rallies throughout the country.
Many other protesters, the spokesman said, simply opposed Morsi's removal from office in July. "We are all here are looking for our democracy" he said. "We need to get our vote back."
Islamists and others who want Morsi returned to power plan to sit out this week's constitutional vote. But Muslims also voted for the constitution. A Muslim woman from Long Island said any perception that Muslims are against the new constitution is "definitely inaccurate." It offers rights that Egyptians have never had, she said, calling a 'yes' vote "another step up for Egypt," and a "vote for a new Egypt."
John Narov, a Coptic Christian, expressed hope the new constitution would lead to a more united Egypt, rather than one divided by religion. Copts and their churches have been scapegoated and attacked by Brotherhood members and other Islamists angered by Morsi's ouster.
"We try to think as not just the Coptic community," he said. "Our pope in Egypt always tries to have us as one, as Egyptian, not Coptic and Muslim. And we always try to stick to that unity, where the Brotherhood was trying to divide that."
Since returning to power last summer, Egypt's military leaders have continued to clash with the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. After cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, Reuters reports that the military is focused on undermining Hamas by supporting opposition activities and protests in the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian regime believes that Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, is perpetuating instability in the country by supporting al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups operating against security forces in the Sinai and throughout other major cities.
"According to the Egyptian officials, Hamas will face growing resistance by activists who will launch protests similar to those in Egypt that have led to the downfall of two presidents since the Arab Spring in 2011," Reuters reported Tuesday.
"We cannot get liberated from the terrorism of the Brotherhood in Egypt without ending it in Gaza, which lies on our borders," a security official told the news service.
Earlier this month, Cairo publicly hosted an anti-Hamas youth conference aimed at deposing the terrorist organization from power in Gaza. Now, Egyptian officials are consulting with Hamas's Palestinian rival, Fatah, on how to undermine Hamas. Some even entertain the notion of supporting other rival armed groups operating in Gaza to deteriorate Hamas' power.
Hamas denies interfering in Egypt's internal affairs. However, Egypt's public prosecutor accused Hamas of conspiring with ousted former President Mohamed Morsi and Iran to conduct terrorist attacks in Egypt. The military's animosity towards Hamas was highlighted throughout its crackdown on smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip and the fact that no Hamas official has been permitted to travel to Egypt since Morsi's ouster. Now senior Egyptian officials are discussing plans to destroy the terrorist organization. The fact that they acknowledge that this plan will take years demonstrates the military's commitment to this objective.
Read the full Reuters report here.
A criminal complaint charged Mozaffar Khazaee (aka Arash Khazaie) of shipping secret copyrighted documents relating to the U.S. Air Force's F35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and military jet engines to Iran.
Khazaee, who became naturalized in 1991 and holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship, allegedly obtained the information from defense contractors with whom he had been employed as an engineer.
The investigation against Khazaee opened in November after investigators from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) noticed a shipment that Khazaee sent by truck from Connecticut to a freight forwarder in Long Beach, Cal. Although the documentation on the shipment said that it contained household goods, inspectors found "numerous boxes of documents consisting of sensitive technical manuals, specification sheets, and other proprietary material relating to the U.S. Air Force's F35 Joint Strike Fighter program and military jet engines," an affidavit attached to the complaint said.
Khazaee, who recently moved from Connecticut to Indianapolis, was arrested in Newark before he could get on a connecting flight to Frankfurt on his way to Tehran.
He made an initial court appearance Monday. The charge against him carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if Khazaee is convicted.