Iran has flat out rejected any efforts to renegotiate the nuclear agreement, amid reports of European efforts to constrain Iran's regional expansion and ballistic missile program. Speaking in Tehran earlier this month, Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed that Europe and the United States have no right to discuss Iran's regional posture, according Dr. Raz Zimmt's latest report for the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
The region, Khamenei said in the same speech, belongs to Iran, not Europe.
The European Union reportedly is mulling new sanctions over non-nuclear related activities in an effort to keep the United States from terminating the nuclear agreement.
In response, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said that Iran "will not accept any changes, any interpretation or new measure aimed at limiting" the 2015 nuclear deal.
"The ballistic program of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has a defensive nature, will steadfastly continue," said Shamkhani. The senior Iranian official is also close to the supreme leader Khamenei.
Iran's foreign minister rejected his French counterpart's call to reign in Iran's missile program after a meeting in Tehran earlier this month intended to preserve the nuclear agreement.
Click here for to access the full Meir Amit Center report, which also covers other notable Iran-related developments this month.
For example, during a March 4 conference, a senior military adviser to the ayatollah called on the Syrian military to force U.S. troops out from the Euphrates Valley. That same day, a photo of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qasem Soleimani and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a recent meeting surfaced on social media. Nasrallah has been meeting with high profile terrorist leaders in recent months in a sign of growing cooperation with sworn enemies of Israel.
Hizballah's devotion to Iran's revolutionary ideology takes precedence over Lebanon's constitution, Nasrallah said in a March 10 speech delivered to Iranians in Lebanon. Nasrallah reiterated that Hizballah adheres to Khamenei's orders and avoids engaging in any behavior that irritates the supreme leader. While Hizballah claims to be Lebanon's protector and vanguard, the speech reaffirms Hizballah's primary commitment to carrying out Iran's directives, even at the expense of Lebanese domestic interests.
These recent developments show that Iran and its proxies remain defiant in the face of international pressure to cease its destabilizing regional activities, while refusing to consider any alternative to the current nuclear agreement.
A Palestinian terrorist drove his car into a group of Israeli soldiers on Friday, killing two and wounding two others in the northern West Bank after Palestinian representatives called for yet another "Day of Rage."
Israeli troops apprehended the terrorist, who fled the scene of the attack. Allah Kabha, 26, had minor injuries and was evacuated to a medical center in Hadera.
Friday's deadly attack "makes it clear that the intifada is continuing for the Palestinian people," said Hamas spokesperson Hazam Kasam.
Palestinian representatives called for mass demonstrations Friday to mark 100 days since President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to riot. Palestinian stone throwers injured two other IDF soldiers.
Several other Palestinian factions also praised Friday's attack as "heroic" and called for further "resistance [i.e. violence] in all its forms to bring down the Zio-American plot, whose intent is to liquidate the Palestinian Cause," according to an Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) translation of a Quds Press Service article.
In a statement glorifying the attack, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed it "sent a political message. It trampled Trump's decision on Jerusalem after the passage of 100 days. It proved that our people are vigilant, united and ready to thwart this decision or any plan which targets our cause and our existence."
In a series of posts on its official Facebook page, Fatah referred to the terrorist attack as an "operation", IPT translates. This label is Fatah's way of characterizing the car ramming attack as a legitimate military operation.
Fatah promoted "the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the serious wounding of two following the running over operation near the settlement of Dotan southwest of Jenin."
Before the attack, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces – a coalition of Palestinian factions – called on Palestinians to clash violently with Israeli forces and civilians after Friday prayers. The coalition includes representatives of factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The attacks and violent protests are part of another "Day of Rage," weekly protests that followed Trump's Dec. 6 Jerusalem announcement. The decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would be "opening of the gates of hell in the region, which will spread the terror in it even more than the current situation," the official PA daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote.
Palestinians will "never back down," a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said, and promised that "rage" would continue in response to the new U.S. policy. Fatah also announced that Trump had issued "a declaration of war against the Palestinian people."
These violent clashes come as the Palestinian Authority ignores the Trump administration's peace negotiations efforts. On Tuesday, the White House hosted a conference featuring representatives from Egypt, Israel, Jordan Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to focus on alleviating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Palestinian officials boycotted the event – prioritizing ideological stubbornness over the immediate needs of the Palestinian people.
Colombian police arrested a Cuban man earlier this week, saying he plotted to attack U.S diplomats in Bogota in the name of ISIS. Raúl Gutiérrez allegedly plotted to carry out his attack this past Tuesday at a restaurant frequented by the diplomats, reports out of Colombia suggest.
Authorities arrested Gutiérrez working in conjunction with Spanish authorities and the FBI.
He was held without bail after a court appearance Thursday.
Evidence gathered from Gutiérrez' electronic devices indicate that he planned an attack before he was arrested, Gen. Jorge Nieto, head of Colombia's police, told the Associated Press.
Gutiérrez came to the authorities' attention last month when they intercepted communications in which he said he planned to make a bomb and detonate it at the restaurant. He also allegedly expressed his willingness to blow himself up in the name of ISIS and Allah in a comment posted on the Telegram encrypted messaging service.
Spanish police say that his online profile showed signs of Islamic extremist indoctrination. He described himself as a "jihadist" on several social media accounts.
Gutiérrez used Telegram to converse with a Spanish extremist and with a contact in Morocco, the Colombian news website Las 2 Orillas reported.
"Allah will receive you in paradise with his arms open. Do it in the name of ISIS. Look at the brother of the United States in New York who ran over the infidels. He did it without the help of the organization. The brothers in England who slashed and ran over did not do it with the help of ISIS, but they did it in their name. I only ask you to do it in the name of ISIS," one of Gutiérrez' contacts reportedly told him on Telegram.
Gutiérrez pleaded not guilty, yelling at journalists near the court that he was not a terrorist.
Turkish forces lead captured Greek soldiers into custody.
A Turkish government spokesman said Monday the soldiers were being held because they wandered into the military zone. He denied they were being held as a bargaining chip to exchange for eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece following the 2016 coup attempt as some press reports speculated. Erdogan repeatedly demanded the soldiers be returned to Turkey.
The Greek soldiers told Turkish prosecutors they were "following footprints in the snow in an attempt to stop migrant smuggling." Turkish authorities remanded the soldiers into custody because they aren't resident in Turkey and could flee the country. They also noted they planned to examine the soldiers' digital data.
This latest action risks inflaming tensions between Greece and Turkey. The two NATO allies have become locked into a war of words in recent weeks, starting last month when a Turkish vessel rammed a Greek ship off a disputed island in the Aegean Sea. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias warned that the Turks had "touched on the red line and in some sense it overstepped it." Greece would meet any Turkish "aggression" with an equal response.
"Test our resolve. We are kindly asking Greece to set foot on the Imia islets. If that happens, we will defend them to the death, from the moment that Erdogan gives the order," said Erdogan adviser Yigit Bulut.
Erdogan recently claimed that Turkey is a continuation of the Ottoman Empire and vowed to recapture influence in areas once ruled by its caliphate. Much of northern Greece, where most ethnic Turks live today, remained part of the empire until 1913. Erdogan's Neo-Ottomanist allies proudly speak of jihad and used such terms to describe Turkey's recent invasion of the Afrin region of Syria.
Turkish armed forces also conducted war games in the vicinity of the Evros River, where the Greek soldiers were arrested. That exercise included crossing a river, which the Greek media insinuated meant learning how to invade a neighboring country.
Hamas was caught stealing electricity from a Gaza power line intended for civilian use amid reports of financial and humanitarian crises, according to a video released by Israel's military liaison to the Palestinians.
Maj-Gen. Yoav Mordechai posted the video on Sunday showing Hamas members attaching cables to electrical wires and illegally diverting electricity for their own terrorist purposes.
Israeli military surveillance cameras captured the footage a day earlier near Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
"The Hamas terror group continues stealing from the people of Gaza," Mordechai wrote in Arabic on his Facebook page adding: "this power was intended for hospitals and schools, but Hamas is uninterested in the populace and even exploits it. Watch the daylight robbery."
Mordechai also accused Hamas of stealing and re-selling fuel delivered to Gaza for economic gain.
Western media outlets have been recently focusing on a "humanitarian" and "financial" crisis in Gaza Strip – often blaming Israel or internal Palestinian rifts. But a major, and overlooked, factor behind the Palestinian territory's woes is Hamas itself. The terrorist organization and rulers of the Gaza Strip often re-route humanitarian goods and energy intended for civilians to fuel its militant ambitions.
Immediately after the 2014 summer war with Israel, Hamas began diverting cement and construction material meant for civilian rebuilding efforts.
The terrorist group, along with other Palestinian militant organizations, continue to invest heavily in offensive tunnels used for smuggling and to plot attacks inside Israel.
In 2016, Shin Bet revealed that Hamas diverted "tens of millions of dollars" from World Vision, a U.S.-based Christian charity. Hamas reportedly siphoned 60 percent of the charity's resources in Gaza to reconstruct Hamas' tunnel network and military installations, in addition to buying weapons intended to kill Israelis. This amount translated to roughly $7.2 million per year.
Hamas operatives even falsely listed their children as injured to collect money intended to help children in Gaza who were actually wounded.
In this backdrop, it should be no surprise that Hamas steals basic necessities from its own people.
Siphoning electricity from Gaza's residents is just one of so many episodes reaffirming the terrorist group's priority fighting Israel over the well-being of its own citizens and societal development.
Advanced anti-tank missiles that Raytheon and Lockheed Martin plan to sell to Turkey and Qatar could end up in the hands of jihadists, a member of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).
Defense Department officials announced last week that the two companies won a $95 million contract to sell sophisticated Javelin anti-tank missiles to Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, France, Taiwan, Jordan and Lithuania.
"This is very dangerous. Give these people weapons today. Never know if they end up using it in the West and Europe. These guys want back [the] Ottoman Empire," said Bassam Ishak, a member of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC)'s political bureau. That is the political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that form the backbone of the Trump administration's strategy against ISIS in Syria.
Recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to attack SDF forces – and possibly U.S. troops who are stationed in Manbij, Syria in support of the SDF. Turkey also has recently threatened to invade NATO ally Greece.
Erdogan's government has a track record of arming jihadists in Syria. Turkey and Qatar provided arms to Libyan rebels, much of which ended up in the hands of the "more antidemocratic, more hard-line" groups.
Turkey served as the main source of arms in Libya, a March 2016 United Nations Security Council panel of experts found. Exiled Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt reported that U.N. experts tracked the weapons to companies linked to the Turkish government.
Turkish intelligence, known by its Turkish acronym MIT, also armed hardline jihadists in Syria.
"At this point, any arms provided to Turkey under Erdogan['s] leadership is potentially dangerous," Bozkurt said. "It is the most anti-Western political leader that is on par with Iran's Mullahs."
U.S. officials seem oblivious to Turkey's role arming and supporting jihadists who attacking Sunni Syrian Arabs and Kurds who share America's secular, democratic values in the Afrin region, Ishak said.
He contrasts SDF supporters with the forces Turkey supports, saying the SDF wants a peaceful pluralistic Syria that is open to all regardless of religion or ethnicity, while Turkey wants a Syria ruled under shariah.
"They are acting like a bully in the neighborhood. They have regained the Ottoman bully spirit. If the world allows them to do this, you have a powerful Muslim Sunni state that is supporting religious extremists," Ishak said.
Iran has constructed another military base in Syria with the ability to host missiles that can strike any part of Israel, according to ImageSat International satellite images obtained exclusively by Fox News.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) al-Quds Force reportedly operates the base, which is located outside of the Syrian capital Damascus.
Iran already oversees a military compound near the Damascus airport and other high-profile airbases and permanent military sites across the country.
The United States and Israel are very concerned about Iran's ongoing efforts to consolidate permanent operating bases in Syria. Since intervening in that country's civil war in 2011, the Islamic Republic has been working to cement a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut through Syria.
Earlier this month, Israel shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel's airspace. Israeli jets subsequently bombed several military targets in Syria, including some under Iranian control. In the process, Syrian air defenses downed an Israeli jet – the first time an Israeli military aircraft had been taken out by enemy fire since the 1980s.
This escalation marks the first direct confrontation between Israeli and Iranian forces. Iran may have deployed the drone to conduct surveillance or to test Israel's air defenses and provoke an Israeli response. Regardless of the primary motivation, the incident shows that Iran is increasingly emboldened and willing to use Syria as a base to challenge Israel directly.
Israel has set red lines throughout the Syrian civil war, focused on preventing "game-changing" weapons from landing in Hizballah's hands and a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. Israel leaders understand that it cannot remove Iranian forces from its borders alone and have engaged in diplomatic initiatives with the United States and Russia to negotiate a potential buffer zone free of an Iranian presence.
In the meantime, Iran is ignoring these understandings and continues to expand its reach in an effort to open another front against Israel in a future war. The latest military base outside Damascus is yet another example of Iran encroaching on Israel's borders.
With the downfall of the Islamic State as a military force in Syria, Iran and its proxies – including Hizballah and other Shi'a militias – are now focusing their efforts on the destruction of the Jewish state.
A federal judge partially granted a motion Monday by San Diego's Unified School District (SDUSD) to strike references to the Council on American Islamic Relations' (CAIR) ties to Hamas from a lawsuit seeking to block the school system from working with CAIR.
The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund's (FCDF) claims the school district violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and California law by enacting a CAIR supported anti-Islamophobia/anti-bullying program last spring.
Mentioning CAIR's Hamas ties in the litigation was "impertinent, immaterial and scandalous," school district officials claimed in December. Including references to CAIR's Hamas connection and the fact some of its officials had been convicted on terrorism charges is intended to "inflame the public."
Court evidence from a terror-financing trial show that CAIR was formed by Muslim Brotherhood officials to serve a Hamas-support network operating in the United States during the 1990s. The FBI cut off non-investigative contact with CAIR in 2008, explaining that, "until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner."
The policy remains in effect.
This is relevant because CAIR has made "prioritized public schools as ground zero to advance its religious mission," the FCDF argued, saying it matters because the school district gave "a divisive religious group ... unprecedented decision-making authority" in a public school program.
The judge disagreed.
"Given the lack of pertinences or materiality to this case, their inclusion ... is likely intended to 'besmirch' Defendants and cast them in a derogatory light based on SDUSD's relationship with CAIR," wrote U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant.
CAIR's relationship with Hamas, "whether true or not," predates its work with the school district and is "superfluous historical allegations that should be stricken," she ruled.
The judge preserved provisions in FCDF's amended complaint relating to CAIR's hostility to Israel and allegations it "promotes discriminatory bias against non-Muslim students on the basis of their religion." While they may be "distasteful" and "unsavory," those provisions could call into question the "objectivity and accuracy" of CAIR-provided instructional materials.
There are lots of differences between Shi'ite, Sunni, and Palestinian nationalist terrorist organizations. But they have one thing in common: a passionate hatred for Israelis and Jews.
Shortly after an Arab-Israeli stabbed and killed an Israeli civilian at a bus stop Monday, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizballah, and Palestinian factions all praised the terrorist attack as a "heroic operation."
On Monday, an Israeli-Arab terrorist stabbed and killed a father of four, Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, outside the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. Ben-Gal was stabbed several times in the chest before dying of his injuries at a hospital in Petah Tikvah. Israel authorities identified the terrorist as 19-year-old Abed al-Karim Adel Asi. With help from an accomplice in a nearby car, the terrorist fled the area. A manhunt remains underway.
Shortly after the rabbi was killed, the Muslim Brotherhood openly incited violence by glorifying the terrorist attack in a tweet.
"The killing of a Zionist settler as the result of a heroic stabbing operation in the West Bank," wrote the Kafr Sheik Brotherhood – an official Twitter account of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – according to an Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) translation.
The Palestinian Information Center also tweeted a graphic from the scene of the murder with the caption: "Heroic Stabbing Operation. At the entrance of the Ariel Settlement. The operation resulted in the killing of a settler." It published photos this morning of grieving Israelis at Ben-Gal's funeral.
Various Palestinian factions also "blessed the stabbing operation ... which led to the killing of a settler," calling the murder a "natural reaction to the crimes of Israeli occupation," reports Arab Sola news, a joint Palestinian-Egyptian website.
The article states that Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, called "for the carrying out of more operations as the only means to deter the Occupation and its settlers."
But Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian factions weren't the only groups celebrating after the attack. "A Zionist soldier was killed on Monday evening in a heroic stabbing operation near the Ariel Settlement on the territory of Palestinian citizens," Hizballah-run Al-Manar news reported in an article translated by IPT.
It called the rabbi a "Zionist soldier" instead of a "settler." Referring to the victim, incorrectly, as a soldier is meant to legitimize the attack.
Palestinian groups and radical terrorist organizations often call any Israeli a "settler" regardless of whether they live in the West Bank or pre-1967 Israel. The term "occupation" also references the entirety of Israel since its founding in 1948. As a result, radical groups always justify attacks against Israeli civilians irrespective of their location.
These near instantaneous reactions to such a heinous murder prove that, despite their ideological and ethnic differences, Israel's Islamist enemies will glorify those that kill Jews and encourage future generations to pursue similar "heroic operations."
Since ISIS lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist organization has faced other considerable setbacks. For example, it is desperately scrambling for new revenue sources – even trying to sell its own minted currency as memorabilia.
ISIS's media network has taken a big hit as well. With the demise of its "caliphate," there has been a noticeable and significant reduction in the quantity and quality of ISIS media production, a new study from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center finds.
The latest ISIS media reports are shorter in length, featuring poor production quality and growing inaccuracies. More importantly, these reports adopt an increasingly defensive narrative – reflecting the group's setbacks.
At its height, ISIS used its media network to brag about its governance, encouraging others from around the world to join the "new Caliphate" and build a fundamentalist Islamic state. Now, ISIS primarily calls on its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks abroad and be patient while the group goes through a period of reconstruction.
But by the end of 2017, the ISIS media network showed some signs of revival. Most of its websites and media institutions are fully functioning again and the quality of its publications improved. These improvements are noticeable in Syria and Iraq, along with some of its key regional affiliates including in the Sinai Peninsula and the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.
The Meir Amit Center study finds that improved media production is generally associated with higher levels of ISIS activity and terrorist operations in those Islamic State provinces. Therefore, the quality and frequency of ISIS' media output can be seen as a proxy for the organization's durability.
Despite its territorial loses, ISIS remains a major threat to regional and international stability. Without a "state" to defend and manage, it can now focus on conducting terrorist attacks across the Middle East, its other regional affiliates, and in the West.
The study is based on primary research of various ISIS media outlets and other prominent research on the subject. It is divided into four parts exploring ISIS's media network at its organizational peak, features of its current media landscape, media activity within ISIS regional affiliates, and social network communications.
Click here to read the full Meir Amit Center report.