Israeli military officials say they uncovered a Hamas tunnel that might be the largest yet discovered. It runs hundreds of meters into Israel from Gaza and posed "a direct link and threat to Israeli territory, and enable Hamas terrorists to reach and harm Israeli civilians."
Similar tunnels have been built with the intent of launching terrorist attacks and trying to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
Hamas claimed this tunnel was old, but Israeli Defense Force officials say they found a generator and other building materials inside which indicated it was still under construction. They estimated that more than 500 tons of cement was used in building support arches for the tunnel, which ran 20 to 60 feet underground.
"We have no doubt we disturbed them in the middle of work," an Army source told the Jerusalem Post. "We've recently increased efforts against tunnels, and have uncovered three over the past months."
"Tunnels are an ethos for Hamas and the source of many of its operational successes," the source said. "As soon as it loses three tunnels in a number of months, that represents a major blow to it."
The IDF discovered a similar tunnel last fall that had electricity and telephone lines. Hamas diverted 24,000 concrete slabs meant for civilian construction to build that tunnel.
Tunnels played a critical part of Hamas operations until the past year. Israel has uncovered several meant for terror operations, while Egypt has destroyed hundreds of tunnels that had been used to smuggle goods and material into Gaza. The tunnels were considered a significant cog in Gaza's economy, which now is in crisis.
The IDF discovery shows Hamas makes that crisis worse by continuing to emphasize terror more than the needs of the Palestinians it is supposed to represent.
The lure of Syria's jihad has landed another American under arrest.
Avin Marsalis Brown, who goes by the name Musa Brown, was arrested Wednesday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He was trying to make his way to Syria – at least the third time this week an American has been detained in transit with the hope of reaching Syrian battlefields.
Brown, 21, is charged in a criminal complaint with conspiring to provide material support to kill people abroad. Also charged is Akba Jihad Jordan, who was arrested in his hospital bed after an unrelated surgery.
For the past year, an FBI affidavit said, the men discussed going either to Syria or Yemen for jihad. Brown sent an email expressing this desire last May. The recipient turned out to be an FBI informant.
Jordan focused on Syria because "he thinks the caliphate may start there and he wants to be a part of that," the affidavit said.
The men spent months talking about training and trying to arrange passports and travel. In late December, Brown said he was in direct contact with men in Syria and Australia. The Australian contact warned him to be careful "because a lot of 'brothers' have been getting caught," the affidavit said. Jordan studied patterns involving those who had been caught. Brown and Jordan later talked about creating a cover story for their travels to ward off any possible prosecution, making it seem they were on a charitable mission.
Brown and Jordan continued planning, saying they wanted to get away from America, the land of the kuffar (unbelievers). "BROWN said it is highly recommended that all Muslims go and fight jihad wherever it is needed," the affidavit said. In a separate conversation March 11, Jordan "said they should die in battle against the kuffar ... because it is the kuffar against Islam."
At times, they two also talked about waging jihad in the United States, but the complaint does not indicate that any specific plans were discussed.
Brown was arrested Wednesday at the Raleigh airport. After hearing his rights, he told agents he bought a ticket to Ticket and planned to go to Syria.
A British research study of Muslim radicalization is challenging some key conventional wisdom. It identifies "youth, wealth, and being in full-time education" as potential risk factors
Less than 3 percent of the 600 British Muslims surveyed by London's Queen Mary University were sympathetic with terrorism, while another 6 percent "remained neutral."
But those with the highest sympathy were respondents born in the United Kingdom, under age 20 and full time students. In addition, people from high income homes – more than £75,000 a year ($123,000) were more prone to sympathize with political violence. People with mental health problems also were more likely to support terror.
This contradicts an accepted narrative that economic frustration and a lack of education fueled Islamic extremism.
"We were surprised that [the] inequality paradigm seems not to be supported," lead researcher Kamaldeep Bhui told Al-Jazeera. "The study essentially seemed to show that those born in the U.K. consistent with the radicalization paradigm are actually more affluent or well off."
The study does not identify "what factors make potential recruits open to persuasion to join a terrorist movement," said Bhui, a professor of cultural psychiatry and epidemiology. He hopes the survey can be used to identify vulnerable populations and "work to shift them and hopefully reduce" radicalization.
The findings are significant, if only for the strict academic approach taken by Bhui and her team. And it might be refreshing and enlightening to see similar academic pursuit in the United States to help identify risk factors and gateways to radicalization. A 2007 Pew survey found a quarter of Muslim American men under age 30 considered suicide bombings justifiable.
But the notion that affluent, well-educated Muslims are potentially more likely to become radicals is a surprise ignores years of anecdotal evidence. Terrorist groups from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida all are led by men with advanced degrees. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were college educated and middle class – with eight engineers among them – and the worst terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 was carried out by an Army psychiatrist.
A group of Egyptian students who raised the black flag of jihad associated with al-Qaida during a protest Tuesday at Cairo's Al-Azhar University could face criminal charges, al-Ahram reports. A similar episode reportedly took place during a similar pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest at Cairo University.
Video posted to YouTube shows a handful of students holding the black flag, along with a mock American flag, with Israel's Star of David over the stars.
The black flag is hundreds of years old, al-Ahram explains, but was co-opted by al-Qaida and like-minded terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Some of the pro-Brotherhood protesters at Cairo University took control of a law faculty office. Officials say they later defused a "rudimentary bomb" left behind. About 300 people participated in the Al-Azhar protest, chanting "down with military rule."
Egypt's army has controlled the country since forcing President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, from office in early July. The move followed massive street demonstrations against the Brotherhood's rule.
A teenage boy was killed at yet another pro-Brotherhood rally south of Cairo. Officials say the boy was the son of Brotherhood official Ali Kafafi. In other clashes, two police officers were killed in a shootout with militants.
British police are investigating a letter allegedly written by radical Salafi Muslims that detailed a plot to takeover schools in Birmingham, England and run them according to "strict Islamic principles."
The letter details a plan called "Operation Trojan Horse" – a five-step plan to takeover schools with large Muslim populations with the help of "hardline" parents. It urges them to turn against the head teachers and leadership team. They would then replace those leaders with people who would run the schools according to strict Muslim principles.
Police were investigating whether the letter was a hoax, in part because it contained fact errors. It appeared to be correspondence between a Birmingham-based Muslim extremist and an acquaintance in Bradford, England.
It suggested that only four parents are needed to disrupt an entire school and that they should complain to their parliamentary representatives about their children's education. Parents were urged to claim that "the school is corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and mixed swimming and sports."
Four schools were identified as "success" stories. The author suggested that the "tried and tested" plan could be used in Bradford to force out the heads of those schools.
"We caused a great amount of organized disruption in Birmingham, the letter said, "and as a result now have our own academies and are on the way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools. Whilst sometimes the practices we may use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember that this is say 'jihad' and as such all measures possible to win the war is acceptable."
The headteacher at Birmingham's Adderley Primary School was accused of "not being a good Muslim" for not being open to suggestions that the school follow strict Muslim guidelines. An investigation into the letter's contents started in December, Sue Southern, the head of the West Midlands' prevent and protect counterterrorism unit, told the Guardian.
Tahir Alam, one of the alleged plotters, called the letter "a fabrication and completely untrue."
The letter was condemned by Inayat Bunglawala, who chairs Muslims4UK, a group that aims to promote Muslim engagement in British society, who called it "disturbing."
A Dearborn resident was arrested Sunday night and charged with providing material support to the Shi'ite terrorist group Hizballah.
Mohammad Hassan Hamdan, who was born in Lebanon and has been living in the United States since 2007, tried to travel to Syria to fight alongside Hizballah fighters in the civil war that has been raging there for the last three years.
According the complaint, Hamdan told an FBI informant around Christmas that he wanted to go to Syria to fight with Hizballah. He couldn't leave yet because his sister took away his Lebanese passport to prevent him from going overseas to wage jihad. Hamdan, a permanent U.S. resident, applied for naturalization as an American citizen. He also applied for a new Lebanese passport.
Hizballah, an Iranian proxy based in Lebanon, has a history of violent attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets. The U.S. designated Hizballah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and the European Union recently added the military wing of the Lebanese group to its list of terrorist organizations.
Syria's civil war has been a magnet for radical Islamists throughout the world seeking to join the jihad. But most of those foreign fighters have sided with rebel groups fighting Assad, including several with al-Qaida ties. In July, Amir Farouk Ibrahim, a Pittsburgh resident, reportedly died fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. A Michigan woman, Nicole Lynn Mansfield, was killed in Syria in May.
Also Sunday, a 20-year-old California man was arrested at the Canadian border and charged with attempting to travel to Syria to join forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Hamdan claimed to have been active with Hizballah before coming to America, the complaint said. That included the terrorist group's 2006 war with Israel. He told the informant he received military training and worked with Hizballah's public assistance programs. He did not disclose this in his U.S. immigration papers.
He said he would be paid between $500 and $1,000 by "the party" (Hizballah) to fight in Syria, the complaint said. "I am leaving behind a family…My uncles tried to convince me [not to go to Syria]…but this is my decision and no one else's," Hamdan said.
On Saturday, he booked a roundtrip Air France flight to Lebanon through Paris. Authorities arrested Hamdan at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport after he had cleared security and was waiting to board his flight.
He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He denied any plans to join Hizballah and fight in Syria, instead claiming that he was undertaking the trip to Lebanon to undergo some dental work.
FBI agents arrested a 20-year-old convert to Islam at the Canadian border early Monday morning as he tried to cross into Canada. Nicholas Teausant, who now goes by the name Assad, hoped to get to Syria to fight alongside the most radical, violent jihadist group fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Teausant is a private in the National Guard facing discharge. According to a criminal complaint charging him with attempting to provide material support to terrorists, he never attended basic training.
But he boasted that he could bring skills "most brothers wouldn't particularly have" to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Al-Qaida disavowed the group in February and demanded it leave Syria.
Teausant seemed especially determined to join the group and its jihad, telling an FBI informant to stop trying to talk him out of it, an affidavit attached to the complaint said. Neither his parents nor his girlfriend knew his plans, he told the informant. His girlfriend would turn him in if she found out. He also expressed a willingness to kill his mother if she tried to stop him.
"I love her," he said, "but she's still a kufar [infidel or non-believer]."
Teausant told the informant that he made a point of keeping his radical views a secret. His Twitter and Facebook accounts do portray someone starkly at odds with the man described in the affidavit. His Twitter profile describes himself as "Muslim, Army, Father, and Lonely. to rethink my life and try to be better person". Most recent posts deal with video gaming. A Facebook posting from last Thursday expressed shock at learning "my closest friend has never seen/heard of Starwars ever...Blasphemy!!!"
He converted to Islam about two years ago. "I promote Jihad, Not terrorism," he wrote on a personal blog Jan. 8, "and yes there is a difference." But he also read al-Qaida's Inspire magazine and investigated ways to carry out some of the ideas it suggested.
"I despise america and want its down fall but yeah haha. Lol," he wrote last May. "I been part of the army for two years now and I would love to join Allah's army but I don't even know how to start."
During a Feb. 10 meeting, he told the informant he did not plan to come back to the United States. "I'm going to be a commander and I'm going to be on the front of every single newspaper in the country," he said. In a later meeting, he said he wanted to get to Syrian before ISIS launched an anticipated offensive against another anti-Assad group, the Free Syrian Army.
FBI agents watched him board an Amtrak train Saturday night in Lodi, Cal. Sunday night, he boarded a bus in Seattle that would take him into Canada. FBI agents arrested him at a border crossing in Blaine, Wash.
The charge carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence if Teausant is convicted.
The United States touts itself as an impartial mediator between Israelis and Palestinians. Most of the international community continues to believe that the United States tends to favor the Israeli government position. However, a recent statement by Secretary of State John Kerry reinforces the Obama administration's critical approach toward Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is "a mistake," Kerry said, and should not be a vital factor in the ongoing negotiations. Israel's identity as the "Jewish state" is covered by United Nations Resolution 181 in 1947, Kerry said, and thus is enshrined in international law.
But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' says there is "no way" he will accept Israel as a Jewish because he believes that such recognition would defeat any chances for a Palestinian "right of return." The position stands in contrast with previous recognition by former PA President Yasser Arafat and the Palestine National Council.
An Israeli official told the Times of Israel that the U.S. administration finds it easier to criticize Israeli positions rather than confronting Palestinian obstinacy. Even though the U.S. may perceive that symbolic recognition is futile, it is a major root of the broader conflict – insinuating that the Palestinian Authority and the majority of Palestinian society reject the fact that Israel exists as a Jewish state in any form. Continuously advocating for a 'Right of Return' of Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel would upset the demographic balance in favor of the Arab population in Israel and would lead to the de facto destruction of the Jewish state.
Moreover, State Department officials told the Jerusalem Post that Israel's decision on whether to allow its final release of prisoners next week, as per the initial agreement that initiated direct negotiations, would be critical for discussions to continue.
In contrast, British Prime Minister David Cameron supported calls to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state" on Thursday. "That's what Israel is and that's what it will be," Cameron stated at a joint press conference with Abbas in Ramallah. "Jews were persecuted around the world, including those murdered in the Holocaust, and so the decision was taken that Israel should be the homeland of the Jewish people and this is what it is," he said.
Ongoing talks between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran over Iran's nuclear weapons program continue to be marred by varying interpretations and controversies. Following the release of an interim agreement made in Geneva Nov. 24, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that the deal did not provide Iran with the right to enrich uranium.
However, numerous Iranian officials contradicted Kerry's statement, attributing his interpretation to domestic considerations. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is highlighting various reports that outline Iranian interpretations of the Geneva agreement. For instance, President Hassan Rouhani believes that the interim agreement amounts to a superpower surrender to Iran and stresses Iran's right to continue enriching uranium. Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif also said that the number of centrifuges will be maintained and the heavy water project at Arak will continue along the same course as before. Even Ayatollah Khamenei revealed that he is not optimistic about ongoing negotiations and that the United States will continue to be an enemy.
Moreover, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman confirmed Iranian interpretations of the final Geneva document, stating that "zero percent enrichment" is "an unrealistic demand." This is a direct contradiction to Kerry's initial claims. Meanwhile, Iran continues to develop its ballistic missiles capabilities and threaten to attack the United States.
No matter how some may interpret the details of the final Geneva agreement, it is clear that U.S. government is contradicting itself and that Iran perceives the agreement constitutes a victory for its ongoing nuclear program and that its negotiating position has been enhanced for future discussions.
A Northern Virginia congressman will headline a fundraiser sponsored by a Muslim Brotherhood supporter whose organization, Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (EADHR), held an anti-Semitic rally in New York last month, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Participants at the EADHR rally outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in New York chanted, "Oh King of Saudi Arabia, why did you sell Egypt to the Jews?" and that the Saudis were "dirtier than the Jews."
Now, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., plans to attend a March 22 fundraiser to benefit his re-election campaign that is co-sponsored by EADHR co-founder Akram Elzend. The Free Beacon published a copy of the invitation, which also lists Mohamed Mohamed and Sameh Elhennawy as fundraiser hosts.
Elzend told the Free Beacon that the fundraiser has "nothing to do with the organization" he co-founded. He indicated that he considers Connolly "a great man, a great congressman, who really abides our values, our American values, and principles, and he stands up for them."
Suggested contributions range from $150 for guest contributors to $400 for a supporter and spouse.
Elzend is an official with the Muslim American Society's Washington, D.C. area chapter. MAS was identified by prosecutors in a 2008 case as the "overt arm" of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.
In 2010, Connolly attended a fundraiser to benefit the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va. Elzend serves as a mosque board member. The mosque's ties to radicals has attracted repeated law enforcement attention over the years. Federal agents have described Dar al-Hijrah as the subject of "numerous investigations for financing and proving (sic) aid and comfort to bad orgs and members."
These bad members include: American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who served as an imam at Dar al-Hijrah before leaving the United States; two 9/11 hijackers who attended services there, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and terrorist financier Abdurrahman Alamoudi.
Elzend was present at a Capitol Hill briefing in December hosted by the EAHDR that was attended by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) supporter Sami Al-Arian. An EADHR news conference last August protesting the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi featured Abdul Magwoud Dardery, the foreign affairs spokesman for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's now banned Freedom and Justice Party.
Connolly expressed outrage over Morsi's ouster last year and criticized the U.S. government for not supporting him, the Free Beacon reported.
"In my view it is not okay for the United States of America to say that it's okay to overthrow a democratically elected government, however fledgling and however much we disagree with them," Connolly said during a congressional hearing.