Russia's significant and ongoing support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was exposed by rebels who recently overtook a signals intelligence base jointly run by Syria and Russia, a report this week claims.
Free Syrian Army fighters discovered that the base was used to spy not only on anti-Assad rebels, but also on Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. A recent upgrade in the base's equipment was driven by Iran, which was worried spying on Israel was being forsaken to focus on Syria's civil war, the report on a website called the Oryx Blog said.
A map showing Israeli military positions in the northern part of the country was found on a wall inside the spy center.
The base is in a town called Tel Al-Hara, which is close to a border crossing with Israel. It was run by the Russians, a follow-up report in Haaretz said.
Israeli and U.S. officials have been mum about the findings inside the Syrian base, or about Russia's significant contribution to the spy operation on behalf of Assad, Hizballah and Iran.
Britain's Charity Commission announced Thursday that it froze bank accounts for Viva Palestina, an aid group which has delivered cash and supplies to Hamas officials in Gaza. In addition, the Commission, responsible for regulating charities in England and Wales, also replaced the group's trustees with an interim manager.
Viva Palestina was founded by British Member of Parliament George Galloway in January 2009 and has led several humanitarian convoys into Gaza in support of the Hamas-led government. But it has never filed required financial disclosures, the Charity Commission statement said.
It is the second time the commission investigated Viva Palestina, with a 2010 inquiry finding the group was poorly managed and publicly exaggerated it's the amount of money it raised.
The government intervention also is rooted in compliance with standard accounting regulations. But Viva Palestina's overt embrace of Hamas remains a concern. During the convoys, Hamas officials greeted Viva Palestina at stops in Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Gaza.
In March 2009, Galloway made a point of defiantly holding up a bag of cash before handing it to a Hamas minister despite the UK's designation of Hamas as a terrorist group. Prominent Viva Palestina leaders have openly advocated for the destruction of Israel.
Viva Palestina has several international affiliates, including in the U.S., Canada, Indonesia, Turkey, Italy, Arabia, and the Gulf. The U.S. affiliate has been inactive since late 2010. When it was active, American activists for the group repeatedly acknowledged their work was "not about charity ... but in every way that we cut it, it is political."
The U.S. branch of Viva Palestina never incorporated or registered as a charity. When it was active, it used a non-profit charity called "Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations (IFCO)/Pastors for Peace" as a pass-through, an IPT investigation found. An Internal Revenue Service audit last year recommended stripping the group of its tax exempt status, but it remains listed as a public charity.
Supporters of Rasmieh Odeh, a Palestinian woman convicted in a deadly 1969 Jerusalem grocery store bombing, are angry that federal prosecutors want to curb their orchestrated campaign to influence jurors in her upcoming naturalization fraud trial.
Last week, prosecutors filed a motion asking the court to keep juror identities anonymous during Odeh's trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 4 in Detroit. Hatem Abudayyeh, director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network (AAAN), has led a campaign to pressure the U.S. Attorney to drop the case against Odeh, and to persuade the judge to grant defense motions.
Part of that campaign involves mass telephone call and letter-writing campaigns. And part involves packing the courtroom with supporters of Odeh, who is the AAAN's associate director.
"Influencing the opinions of jurors and potential jurors through extra-judicial means is obviously improper," prosecutors argue in their motion, "and ... almost certainly criminal." Abudayyeh, the motion claims, told U.S. Marshals "that he intends to be contentious with their efforts to maintain order and proper decorum" during the trial.
Odeh supporters reacted angrily, calling the motion "a bizarre and desperate move" and "a clumsy attempt at intimidation" which threatens civil liberties.
"In any event, at no time have we ever tried to improperly influence a jury. Not once," a statement from the "Rasmea Defense Committee" said.
But prosecutors point to an interview Abudayyeh gave last month in which he said packing the court with Odeh supporters and organizing daily rallies outside the courthouse "could potentially ... sway the opinions of the jurors."
That echoes what Abudayyeh said during a July 31 rally, after a more than a dozen people boarded a bus from Chicago to Detroit to pack the gallery during a pre-trial hearing.
"That jury needs to also see that courtroom filled every single day of that trial."
Defense attorney Michael Deutsch told supporters that the tactic works. "You are bearing witness, and this is the critical factor in all trials of this kind. So your coming here and getting on a bus and driving all these hours makes a difference," he said. "And we appreciate that so much because that's so important to our case."
A jury, the prosecution argues, is supposed "to make its decision based only on evidence presented at trial and nothing else." They also want jurors to meet each day at a remote location and be driven to court together to avoid undue influence from the protests.
Odeh came to the United States 20 years ago. In filling out visa and naturalization forms, she failed to disclose her conviction for helping plant bombs in the Jerusalem grocery store, an attack which killed two Hebrew University students. That is the basis for the charges against her.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar stated that the terrorist organization intends on establishing an Islamic state in all of Palestine, insinuating the destruction of Israel, according to a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) translation of Al-Ayyam last week.
"[Some] have said Hamas wants to create an Islamic emirate in Gaza. We won't do that, but we will build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine," stated Al-Zahar, a senior Hamas political bureau member.
Moreover, Al-Zahar believes that if Hamas established a military position in the West Bank it would be capable of destroying the Jewish state.
According to the PMW report, "Al-Zahar said that if his movement [Hamas] were to 'transfer what it has or just a small part of it to the West Bank, we would be able to settle the battle of the final promise with a speed that no one can imagine.'"
Al-Zahar referenced a segment of the Quran concerning "the final promise" to justify a future war to eliminate Israel:
"Then when the final promise came, [We sent your enemies]... to enter the temple in Jerusalem, as they entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with [total] destruction.'" [Surah 17:7]
In August, a Hamas spokesman admitted that Hamas' main objective is the "liberation of our Palestinian land" and not simply the lifting of Israel's internationally legal blockade of Gaza.
"The time has come for us to say that our true war is not aimed at opening the border crossings. Out true war is aimed at the liberation of Jerusalem, Allah willing," said Sami Abu Zuhri to a cheering Palestinian crowd.
During the latest war, Israel foiled an extensive Hamas plot to initiate a Third Intifada against Israel and facilitate the overthrow of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, akin to the terrorist organization's 2007 coup against Fatah in Gaza.
A recent Palestinian poll confirms that Hamas' popularity remains higher than the Palestinian Authority (PA) in both Gaza and the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Center for Policy Research, if elections took place in the West Bank between Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Haniyeh would emerge victorious with 55 percent support over Abbas' 38 percent.
Despite the signing of a Hamas-Israel ceasefire following the 50-day war this past summer, the terrorist organization continues to produce rocketsand remains committed to waging a future war against Israel.
The Israeli Navy has foiled multiple attempts to smuggle weapons manufacturing items to Hamas off the coast of Gaza since the end of the war, according to a senior navy commander speaking with the Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
A new Islamic State video released titled "Message of the Mujahid" Friday calls on Western jihadists unable to travel to territory controlled by the terrorist group to conduct attacks at home. The message also offers a pointed rebuke of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the U.S.-led bombing campaign.
"A message to all of the brothers who cannot do Hijrah, I advise you to respond to the call of the sheik, the mujahid (Holy Warrior) Mohammed al-Adnani, to cause terror in the hearts of the kuffar (unbelievers)," the unidentified Islamic State spokesman said. "You are living in the West, you can cause terror in the hearts of the kuffar, right in the center of the kuffar in the center of all that shirk (polytheism), you can cause terror right from within.
"So unlike us, you can cause real damage right within the heart of Dar al-Kuffar (Land of Unbelief), so rise up my brothers. Rise up!"
He starts out the video mocking Cameron and the Western leaders for thinking they can defeat the Islamic State with bombs dropped from the air, chiding them that if they were "real men" they would send ground troops to fight them.
"You know that in the hearts of your men, they're cowards," the spokesman says. "So America, you think you are a superpower, when in fact if you were a superpower, you wouldn't need these 40 nations to come and fight us.
"Know that all power belongs to Allah, and Allah is with [the pious Muslims], so you could send your planes above us, but know that Allah is above your planes," he continued. "You are fighting people who love death more than you love life."
The message warns that the West and their Muslim allies can send all of their men, reserves an backups, and the Islamic State will send them back one-by-one in coffins.
In a special message to British Muslims, saying that the caliphate has been re-established and calls on them to leave the land of the unbelievers and come to the Islamic State.
"If now is not the time to do Hijrah then when is the time," the spokesman asks. "Why are you still in Dar al-Kuffar? What does Dar al-Kuffar have to offer you? We have the Islamic State here, and we are fighting jihad."
He tells them that the "despicable" West has nothing to offer them.
This reaffirms the Islamic State's desperate desire to inspire attacks against Western targets and hopes to turn Muslims against their home countries.
A Somali-American man will serve 30 years in prison for plotting to detonate a massive car bomb at a crowded 2010 Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore.
Mohamed Mohamud, 23, was arrested in November 2010 after repeatedly trying to detonate the bomb, which was parked amid thousands of people, including children.
Prosecutors asked that Mohamud be sentenced to 40 years, describing in detail his plot and his motivations. FBI agent in undercover operatives to monitor him after his father contacted law enforcement to express concern about Mohamud's radicalization, a prosecution sentencing memo said.
In writings and recordings, "Mohamud had made it clear he thought terrorism targeting Americans was 'a justified response to what he perceived as the killing of innocent Muslims in Afghanistan by the United States and its allies.'"
Defense attorneys suggested a 10-year sentence, arguing that Mohamud has taken responsibility for his actions, expressed remorse and tried to change his life.
Prosecutors challenged the sincerity of those actions, saying he continues to argue entrapment – a defense rejected by jurors who convicted him in January 2013. Mohamud, the sentencing memo says, "attempted to kill thousands of people in the name of his distorted and radical view of Islam."
Defense attorneys agreed, to some extent.
"There was no question that Mohamed was involved in Islamic extremism before any government contact," they wrote. But he didn't start planning the attack before undercover agents reached out to him and he would not have been able to build a bomb without their assistance.
But blowing up the lighting ceremony of a 70-foot Christmas tree was Mohamud's idea, and the undercover handlers repeatedly pressed him about the carnage that would result, including the deaths of so many children.
"I want whoever is attending that event to be, to leave either dead or injured," Mohamud said in a recorded conversation.
Despite such statements, and the defense acknowledgment of Mohamud's intent, some American Islamist groups, led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), minimize the case, arguing the FBI concocted the case to create "a sensational story."
FBI agents were drawn to Mohamud after he wrote four articles for Jihad Recollections, an online magazine later tied to al-Qaida, and posted on other jihadi web sites. In addition, before he tried repeatedly to go to Yemen for jihad training.
At the tree lighting, Mohamud tried repeatedly to detonate an 1,800-pound bomb packed into a van. FBI agents rendered it inert, and arrested Mohamud after the failed attempts.
Prosecutors downplayed any statements of remorse and argued that should not lead to a shorter prison sentence: "There is simply no 'reliable' evidence in this case that defendant will pose less of a danger following a lengthy term of incarceration than other aspiring jihadists who have been intercepted, convicted, and sentenced..."
The Obama administration has acknowledged that its strict policy of preventing civilian deaths does not apply to American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
The statement confirming the loosening of high standards pertaining to minimizing collateral damage comes amid reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed by a U.S. strike of a Syrian village.
U.S. officials believed that members of the Khorasan group, an al-Qaida splinter organization, were based in the village that was struck by the U.S. Air Force, resulting in civilian deaths.
Last year, President Obama issued a policy prohibiting U.S. drone strikes unless there was a "near certainty" that collateral damage will not result. The "near certainty" standard only applies "when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities'…," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Jerusalem Post.
This standard, she said, "simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."
This relaxation is fuelling allegations of double standards against the Obama administration. Throughout the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas, the White House criticized Israel's counterterrorism operations as disproportionate and harshly condemning Israel's rules of engagement.
"The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians," the Statement Department said after Israel shelled a United Nations school that was used as a Hamas terrorist base. Secretary of State John Kerry was also highly critical of the civilian death toll in Gaza.
"It's a hell of a pinpoint operation," Kerry sarcastically said to an aide, caught by an open microphone while preparing to do an interview in July.
Syrian rebel commanders briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week presented evidence of innocent Syrian civilians killed by U.S. airstrikes. Pictures of injured children were also posted on YouTube, resulting in anti-American protests in some Syrian villages.
Islamist terrorists operating in Syria and Iraq are increasingly blending into the civilian population, a tactic explicitly adopted by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
The United States openly criticized Israel for its counterterrorism operations; however the U.S.-led campaign in the region is also producing collateral damage against al-Qaeda groups and the Islamic State.
Two Hamas terrorists responsible for kidnapping and murdering three Israeli boys in June are being honored by the Palestinian Authority as "martyrs," according to a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) report.
"Shahid," or martyr, is a designation for people who "achieve [the] highest status in Islam" and will be rewarded in the afterlife, the report said.
That's how numerous PA officials are describing Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abuysha, both tied to Hamas terrorist activity, who were killed in a firefight last week as Israeli troops raided their hideout.
PA religious affairs minister Yusuf Ida'is referred to the terrorists as "martyrs" who were "assassinated" by Israeli forces. According to the Palestinian Ma'an news, Ida'is "denounced the heinous 'Israeli' crime committed by the occupation forces in Hebron…"
The official PA News agency WAFA also described the two as Shahids, without mentioning the context behind the Israeli raid.
Hailing the dead terrorists follows a long tradition within the PA, which has named schools, parks, buildings and other public facilities after dead terrorists. And it comes as PA President Mahmoud Abbas claims to be ready to make dramatic compromises in order to reach a historic peace deal with Israel.
But Abbas' Fatah movement condemned Israel's targeted killing as a "cowardly execution" and official PA TV referred to the killing of the terrorists as a "cold-blooded execution."
Denial of Hamas' involvement in the abduction and murder of the youth is still prevalent in the PA, despite a senior Hamas official confirming that the terrorist organization was behind the attack.
Click here to see Palestinian Media Watch's compilation Palestinians' reactions and support for the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli students.
After the initial kidnapping, many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the terrorist attack. Following the Israeli raid, thousands of Palestinians mourned the deaths of the terrorists by staging a mass funeral procession.
A Turkish man who was part of a flotilla that violently tried to break Israel's blockade on Gaza in 2010 has been killed in bombing raids targeting ISIS terrorists in Syria, media reports say.
Yakup Bülent Alnıak was in Syria researching a book, a statement from a charity group called Iyilikder, said Jordan's JN News reported. But other reports in Turkish media indicate Alniak was fighting with a rival jihadist group, the al-Qaida tied Al Nusra Front.
The 2010 voyage of the Mavi Marmara ended with nine people dead after passengers attacked Israeli commandos with knives, metal bars and other weapons as they tried to take control of ship. A United Nations investigation found that Israel's blockade on Gaza – meant to slow weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled territory – was legitimate and legal.
Turkey, the report found, could have done more to stop organizers from pursuing plans to force a confrontation with Israel. Other ships were part of a flotilla with the Mavi Marmara, but those passengers did not attack the Israeli commandos and no one on those ships was injured.
One of the group's organizing the flotilla, Turkish-based IHH, has been linked to both Hamas and al-Qaida. To IHH, Hamas is not a terrorist group, but a legitimate political party. In 2010, 87 U.S. senators asked President Obama to investigate the group for possible designation as a terrorist group but that designation has not developed.
U.S. court documents show that IHH also had ties to al-Qaida. IHH played an "important role" in the al-Qaida planned millennium bomb plot by Ahmed Ressam, French intelligence expert Jean Louis-Bruguiere said during Ressam's trial. Bruguiere also told the Associated Press in June 2010 that IHH was "basically helping Al Qaeda when (Osama) bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."
President Obama praised a radical Muslim cleric during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. The president referenced Abdullah Sheikh bin Bayyah in an attempt to promote moderate Muslim responses to radical Islamist ideology.
"The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day," Obama said. "Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies – Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: 'We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.'"
By itself, this quote may appear to be moderate. But it overlooks bin Bayyah's deeper record of radical associations and views.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism documented bin Bayyah's problematic connections last year after he met senior officials at the White House. Bin Bayyah was vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), a group founded by and headed by radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi, regarded as the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, is banned from the United States for his extremist views, including calling for the killing of Americans and Jews.
Bin Bayyah reportedly left the IUMS in September 2013. The IUMS is extremely hostile toward Israel and supports terrorist attacks against the United States and the Jewish state. A 2004 fatwa, issued while Bin Bayyah was an IUMS board member, sanctioned "resistance," meaning attacks on American troops in Iraq as "a duty on every able Muslim in and outside Iraq."
Moreover, bin Bayyah criticized the West in 2011 for designating Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations and treating them in the same category as al-Qaida.
"[P]lacing the Palestinian resistance, which defends internationally recognized rights, on an equal footing with intercontinental terrorist organizations (al-Qaida) is not based on any moral principle and would be detrimental to the cause of the fight against terrorism and mix the cards and raises questions to the world conscience and serves terrorists," he said.
Click here to read the IPT report on the White House meeting.