While it relies on money from Iran and Qatar to survive, a Hamas spokesperson recently claimed that Hamas' leadership is independent and will not be expected to return political favors to external patrons, reports the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Iran will not pressure Hamas to normalize ties with the Assad regime, for example, Sami Abu Zuhri said. His comments signal the terrorist group's growing confidence, despite its increasing reliance on state patrons.
A Hamas delegation led by senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar, met with top Iranian regime figures Dec. 23 to discuss strengthened coordination.
During Hamas' visit, Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani railed against the "Zionist regime" and the Ayatollah's senior adviser, Ali-Akbar Velyati, said the only way to confront Israel is through "resistance."
According to the Meir Amit report, Velyati "called on the Palestinians to continue resisting until their final victory" – the destruction of the Jewish state.
Ties between Hamas and Iran have grown rapidly over the past couple of years. Hamas initially opposed the Assad regime following the onset of Syria's civil war, leading Iran to virtually sever ties to the terrorist organization.
Iran reduced financial assistance for Hamas, cutting aid by $23 million a month in 2013. But since Assad started to gain the upper hand in the conflict, Iran and Hamas – and even Hizballah – have restored close cooperation.
"Our [Hamas'] relations with Iran and Hizballah have returned to their natural path and we intend to develop these relations," Al-Zahar said early this year in an interview on Al-Quds TV, Israel Hayom reported.
A year ago, Hamas deputy political chief Salah Al-Arouri, a co-founder of the Hamas terrorist arm called the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, boasted about Hamas' ties with Iran and Hizballah, and formally credited the Islamic Republic for arming Palestinian terrorist groups.
"Who supports the resistance in Gaza and Palestine? Iran. It is Iran and Hizballah that confront that entity [Israel] along with us," said Al-Arouri in a December 2017 interview on Al-Quds TV and reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Al-Arouri admitted that "the aid Iran provides to the resistance is not merely symbolic" and that "nobody but Iran gives us [Palestinian terrorist groups] any military support."
A lot has changed since the start of Syria's civil war – including a reinvigorated Iran-Hamas partnership that has emboldened the Palestinian terrorist organization.
Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza can't make up their minds about Christmas. Some fabricate the holiday's origins in an attempt to make it fit with their cause while others coerce their populations to outlaw it.
The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' (PRC) military wing, disseminated flyers just before the holiday depicting a burning Christmas tree and threatening those celebrating Christmas. The PRC is an umbrella organization encompassing various Palestinian terrorist groups and represents the third largest Palestinian faction in Gaza after Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A Quranic verse on the flyer warns Muslims "not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people." There are only about 1,000 Arab Christians living in Gaza who undoubtedly feel threatened by Islamist factions seeking to ban Christmas.
According to a government source speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Israel granted special permits to more than half of Gaza's Christian population to ease their travel a week before Christmas.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have continued their long tradition of spreading misinformation around the Christmas holiday and presenting Jesus as a Palestinian, according to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
"Christmas is one of the permanent Palestinian symbols, and the whole world follows Mass in Bethlehem...The children of Khan Al-Ahmar are happy about the lighting of this tree, as it is the symbol of the first Palestinian, Jesus, peace be upon him," PLO Executive Committee member and senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad said Monday.
PMW had documented numerous examples of Palestinians expropriating Jesus as a "Muslim Palestinian," despite being born Jewish 600 years before Islam. For example, the PA's Minister of Education shared a picture last year of Jesus wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh, with the English-language text: "Made in Palestine."
Palestinian factions were not the only organizations spreading misinformation about how some groups commemorate Christmas. The New York Times published an article on Tuesday framing Hizballah, a designated terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of Americans and Israelis, as a tolerant movement devoted to helping Lebanese celebrate Christmas.
The article failed to note that Hizballah battled Christians and other religious groups in Lebanon during its early years and is only accommodating Christian expression in Lebanon for pragmatic reasons to widen its support across the country.
Among critics chafing at the Times article, Hizballah expert Hanin Ghaddar, who "grew up in a Muslim community in Lebanon," tweeted about how Hizballah used to fight against Christmas and only promoted Shi'a religious holidays.
Whether trying to outlaw or expropriate Christmas, some Middle Eastern terrorist groups and factions continue to exploit Christmas for cynical political reasons.
First, two high-profile liberal actors broke from the national Women's March because of a pattern of anti-Semitism involving march leaders. Then a number of local Women's March organizers either broke with the group or made it clear that they operated independently after a Tablet investigation provided detailed accounts of the anti-Semitism repeatedly exhibited among March leaders Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez. The story also uncovered some questionable financial structures established after the leadership pushed other founders aside.
The National Organization for Women (NOW), perhaps the most prominent feminist organization in the country, announced Friday that it would no longer provide financial support to the Women's March "until the current questions regarding leadership are resolved."
A petition urging March leaders to step down has gathered more than 8,000 signatures.
NOW is not fully severing ties. It "will participate and organize members to attend the March" on Jan. 19, the statement said. But the announcement remains significant as the first major sponsor to cut financial support.
The controversy took off last spring when Mallory and Sarsour would not condemn an anti-Semitic sermon by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom both have praised in the past. Sarsour followed that up by giving a speech saying the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, was liable for police shootings of unarmed black people in America.
The Tablet investigation described an "organizational structure ... [involving] complicated financial arrangements, confusing even to experts."
In early meetings, Mallory and Perez denounced Jewish wealth, the Tablet reported. Its story said the two women argued that "Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people." It also indicated that, in addition to supporting anti-Semitic, anti-gay Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the Women's March has turned to the Nation to provide security. That means donor money from groups like NOW might have gone to the Nation of Islam.
The New York Times published an account similar to the Tablet investigation on Sunday. In trying to claim that she and her colleagues condemn anti-Semitism, however, Mallory told the paper "white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy" even if "ALL Jews are targeted by it."
There won't be a march next month in Chicago, which organizers canceled altogether. State marches in Washington and Rhode Island also broke from the national Women's March, the Chicago Tribune reported. In Houston, organizers changed their name to "Houston Women March On."
"We believe no universe exists in which it is acceptable to support anti-Semitism, racism, or discrimination against LGBT people," a statement explaining the name change said.
The national Women's March still enjoys support from dozens of sponsors and partners, including Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Moveon.org and some prominent unions. NOW's cutting of financial support may break the ice for others to follow, or they, like Planned Parenthood, might defiantly continue to align with the march's problematic leaders.
Pressure from Israeli authorities compelled Twitter to remove 20 accounts belonging to top Hamas and Hizballah leaders in the first half of 2018, the Middle East Monitor reports. These include accounts belonging to Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Fawzi Barhoom and Rawhi Barhoum.
The move came after the Israeli Ministry of Justice's Cybercrime Department issued a June 26 letter demanding that Twitter "permanently close" the accounts.
"Article 24 to the Israeli Counterterror Law (2016) states that any act of solidarity with a terror organization including any publication of its actions is an offense punishable by three or five years imprisonment," the letter said.
It identified Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizballah as organizations Israel considers covered by the anti-terrorism law. The United States also has designated the organizations as terrorist groups.
Twitter says it takes local laws into consideration: "If we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time."
It suspended 205,156 accounts for violating its rule against promoting terrorism, 91 percent of which were flagged by the company's internal tools, Twitter told the Times of Israel.
Twitter also recently enforced an Israeli gag order related to a botched operation in Gaza. The website Electronic Intifada received notice from Twitter to delete a link to a story revealing the identities of Israel's undercover operatives even though the site is based in the United States.
Measures will be taken against Twitter under Israeli law if it failed to respond to demands to close the terrorist accounts, Israel's Security Minister Gilad Erdan wrote in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and its Executive Chairman Omid Kordestani.
While the accounts are blocked in Israel, they remain active elsewhere, the Times of Israel reported. Haniyeh's account, Fawzi Barhoom's account, Hamas' English account and Hamas' Hebrew account – all of which Israel requested to be permanently suspended – were accessible from the U.S. on Twitter Friday. The same was true for the Hizballah-linked Electronic Resistance, which Israel demanded be suspended. Other Hizballah-related accounts on the Israeli list, however, appear to have been deleted.
Posts by State Department-designated Palestinian terrorist groups besides Hamas, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) and the pro-PIJ Palestine Post also remain active.
An immediate fallout from President Trump's decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria could be the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) releasing 3,200 ISIS prisoners in its custody.
Turkey views SDF units as terrorists due to their connection with the Marxist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a four-decade war for autonomy from Ankara in eastern Turkey. The People's Protection Units (YPG) that dominate the SDF forces have historical and ideological ties with the PKK. The SDF is not an exclusively Kurdish group and includes Arab and Christian units.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans last week to invade areas of Syria east of the Euphrates River controlled by the SDF.
SDF leaders deny having any interest in Turkish territory and say they only are interested in building a multi-ethnic, non-sectarian government in eastern Syria.
Maps of the alleged planned invasion zone have circulated on Twitter in the past two days showing that the Turks plan to seize a strip of land along the border. That would create a buffer zone between Turkey and the rest of eastern Syria. The presence of U.S. forces has acted as a deterrent for Erdogan's stated desire to invade the Kurdish held parts of Syria.
If that happens, the SDF plans to shift its forces away from fighting ISIS to confront the Turkish onslaught. The SDF believes it would need all of its fighters in the event of a Turkish invasion, which the American withdrawal makes more likely, the New York Times reported.
SDF leaders have discussed the possibility of releasing ISIS prisoners and their families who it had detained, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. SOHR data shows that of the 3,200 ISIS members being held, approximately 2,080 are women and children from 44 different nationalities. About 1,100 foreign fighters from 31 nationalities currently are detained by SDF forces. The so-called "Beatles" ISIS terrorists, who were responsible for murdering Western hostages, are among the most dangerous terrorists in SDF's custody.
An SDF spokesman denied his group has talked about releasing ISIS prisoners, but the Times reported that a coalition source confirmed that the idea has been considered.
"The best result of terrible options is probably for the Syrian regime to take custody of these people," the source told the Times. "If they are released, it's a real disaster and major threat to Europe."
SDF leaders have complained about their ability to act indefinitely as jailers and about the West's refusal to accept responsibility for the foreign fighters.
These developments come as SDF forces are finishing up mopping up the last ISIS enclave in Eastern Syria in the town of Hajin.
Such a move could revive the dying ISIS insurgency, the Kurdish news service Rudaw warned. Most of all it could be the Kurds' attempt at finding a bargaining chip to use to convince the president to keep the U.S. troops in Syria.
An organization aimed at fostering democracy in the Arab world will be dedicated to the slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's memory, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad announced last weekend in an Al-Jazeera interview.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was brutally murdered in early October inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. U.S. intelligence believes the murder was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
"Khashoggi as a Saudi citizen gave his full share to his country, the Arab world, and to the freedom of peoples and the press," Awad said. "He intended to launch an organization to foster democracy, raise the awareness of the people, interest in freedom of expression and the press, and monitor the performance of democracy by governments and the organizations of civil society."
If he is sincere, Awad should start by calling out authoritarian actions by the man who he and CAIR have hailed as a hero to democracy. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is "still the world's worst jailer of journalists," the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported last week.
While Erdogan "has been the fiercest critic of Saudi Arabia for the murder of Khashoggi, his government continued to jail more journalists than any other on the planet," CPJ reported. Turkey jailed at least 68 journalists in the past year and "(f)or the third consecutive year, every journalist imprisoned in Turkey is facing anti-state charges."
Nearly 200 opposition newspapers and media, such as Today's Zaman, have been taken over or shuttered – 189 in total. Only press outlets favorable to Erdogan and his ruling party have been allowed to continue operations.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom, run by former Today's Zaman editor Abdullah Bozkurt, notes that Turkey's intelligence agency has abducted at least 80 people from 18 countries due to suspected ties to exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan blames Gulen for a failed 2016 coup attempt, which prompted his crackdown on journalists, academics and others. Turkey still demands that the United States send Gulen, a permanent U.S. resident, back to Turkey where he would face an uncertain fate.
Erdogan vowed Saturday that anyone who emulated the "Yellow Vest" protests in Paris and demonstrated against his regime would "pay a heavy price."
Rather than condemn Erdogan's authoritarian excesses, Awad and his organization have embraced Erdogan's Islamist party and hailed Erdogan's rule as a victory for democracy. There was no condemnation when Erdogan's bodyguards beat up peaceful protesters during his 2017 visit to Washington, D.C.
There are a lot of anti-democratic abuses in the world, but if Awad's new venture can't acknowledge the reality of life under Erdogan in Turkey, then he does not truly care about "freedom of expression and the press, and ... the performance of democracy by governments and the organizations of civil society."
A violent Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group, the Hasm Movement, carried out several deadly attacks contributing to an overall increase in terrorism plaguing Egypt last year, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index report.
Deaths from terrorist attacks more than doubled in Egypt in 2017, as coded by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State's Sinai Peninsula affiliate, remains Egypt's deadliest group. Wilayat Sinai launched the deadliest attack in Egypt's history when 311 people were killed in November 2017 in a coordinated assault on the al-Rawda mosque.
The Islamic State in Egypt, which operates in the country's mainland and was responsible for 98 deaths in 2017, is the country's second-deadliest terror group. But beyond the Islamic State affiliates, the next most lethal Egyptian terrorist group is the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliate Hasm Movement. Hasm carried out seven attacks in 2017, resulting in 14 deaths.
While less lethal than Islamic State affiliates in the country, the Hasm Movement is relatively nascent, only emerging in 2016.
In June 2017, it detonated an "anti-vehicle explosive device" in Cairo "which led to the destruction to the military vehicle and the killing of two officers," according to a Hasm Movement statement released shortly after that attack.
Intelligence collected last year by Egypt's interior ministry suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood is establishing "terrorist entities," including the Hasm Movement and others, to carry out attacks in an attempt to conceal the Brotherhood's responsibility.
In May, Najah Ibrahim, a former leader of the terrorist organization Gamma'a Islamiya, revealed that these terrorist offshoots consist of Muslim Brotherhood youth seeking to escalate violence against the Egyptian regime. Ibrahim told al-Hayat news that some Brotherhood leaders encouraged the terrorist groups to commit violence, according to an IPT translation.
Muslim Brotherhood figures also engage in violent incitement and encourage others to conduct terrorist attacks.
In April 2017, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, 'Izz Al-Din Dwedar, called for an "intifada" targeting Egyptian embassies around the world in protest of death sentences handed to members of the Brotherhood in Egypt at the time.
NATO ally Turkey plans to oppose an American-sponsored draft resolution at the United Nations condemning Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. A vote on the resolution is scheduled for Thursday.
It specifically condemns "Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk." It also demands that Palestinian terror factions stop using "airborne incendiary devices" against Israel.
Turkey will vote against the resolution, Iran's Mehr News Agency reported Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu promised Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that Turkey would do everything it could to stop its passage. Haniyeh lobbied the Turks to help Hamas thwart the American effort. Hamas called the resolution "aggression against the rights of the Palestinian cause" in a communiqué posted on its website and claimed it was an assault on "the right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves."
Çavuşoğlu vowed that his country would "remain alongside the right of Palestine and Palestinians, and that its position is constant on the Palestinian Cause."
Turkey has become a key Hamas ally and protector. Çavuşoğlu condemned January's U.S. decision to classify Haniyeh as a specially designated global terrorist, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared last May that Hamas was not a terrorist organization.
Turkey gives military assistance to Hamas through a private military company called SADAT International Defense Consulting run by a top Erdogan military adviser, Israel's Shin Bet disclosed earlier this year.
Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar visited Turkey last week to meet with Hamas members living in Istanbul. Al-Zahar toured the region seeking support for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the Palestinian Authority parliament. Hamas won a majority of its seats in 2006, but PA President Mahmoud Abbas effectively shut down the PLC in 2007.
Despite an intense struggle for power, the PA and Abbas' Fatah faction also have condemned the U.N. resolution critical of Hamas, saying it would hurt all Palestinian factions.
"Hamas is part of the Palestinian people, and we won't accept any attempt to add it to the list of terror groups," said Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official.
The resolution is unlikely to pass due to the wide support the Palestinian cause enjoys among non-aligned nations in the Third World. The U.N. passed six anti-Israel resolutions last Friday alone, including two denying Jewish roots in Israel. Condemning people who intentionally fire rockets at civilians somehow is a more difficult act.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched operation "Northern Shield" Tuesday to destroy Hizballah's cross-border attack tunnels that infiltrate into Israel from the Lebanese border.
The IDF said that "a number of tunnels" were dug underneath Israeli territory and constituted a "flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty."
The military operation is primarily taking place on Israel's side of the northern border.
"This morning the IDF began Operation Northern Shield, the goal of which is to uncover and neutralize terrorist tunnels from Lebanon", said Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement Tuesday, adding, "Whoever tries to attack the State of Israel – will pay a heavy price."
The operation comes amid rising tensions in the region, following reported Israeli airstrikes last week targeting enemy infrastructure in Syria.
Hizballah released a video with Hebrew subtitles Friday that featured satellite images and specific locations of strategic areas in Israel, warning Israel: "Attack and you will regret it."
But, on Monday, a senior Hizballah source told Reuters that neither Iranian or Hizballah positions were targeted last week.
That day Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels to discuss urgent developments concerning Iranian and Hizballah threats on Israel's border. Netanyahu reportedly intended to ask Pompeo to warn Beirut that the Jewish state would take military action against Hizballah if its terrorist build-up continued.
Israel's military considers Hizballah tunnels an offensive threat that would be used for cross-border terrorist raids in a future war. It is believed that Hizballah would attempt to launch a mass-casualty attack and conquer an Israeli border town.
Hizballah remains Israel's primary and more immediate security threat. The terrorist organization has already converted an estimated 200 Lebanese villages and towns into military bases, using residential buildings and underground bunkers to store sophisticated weaponry aimed at Israel.
Hizballah is also committed to converting some of its 150,000-strong rocket arsenal into precision, GPS-guided missiles that could target sensitive infrastructure and civilian areas in Israel.
Recent attention has focused mainly on Hizballah's growing presence in Syria as the terrorist group attempts to consolidate a new terrorist front against Israel.
In addition to Hizballah's major investments in Syria, the terrorist group has devoted considerable resources to bolstering its terrorist capabilities in southern Lebanon.
"We are taking determined and responsible action in all sectors simultaneously. We will continue with additional actions – open and covert – in order to ensure the security of Israel," Netanyahu said in Tuesday's statement.
Today, the Israeli military launched a pre-emptive operation to hinder one method Hizballah would use to wreak havoc on Israeli communities. Some of Hizballah's other threatening terrorist infrastructure could be next.
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent out a fundraising email for #GivingTuesday earlier this week claiming that Facebook and PayPal would match up to $7 million in donations to the group.
"Today is giving Tuesday, a day where you can show your support for the important civil rights and advocacy work that CAIR does every day. Today also, Facebook and PayPal will match up to seven million dollars in donation. So I urge you to support CAIR as much as you can," CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a YouTube video linked to in the solicitation.
But Awad's plea for donations omitted critical fine print. Facebook and PayPal pledged to match $7 million in donations for all nonprofits that signed up to participate in the program, not just CAIR. Participating non-profits were allowed to raise a maximum of $250,000 total and $20,000 from a single donor. Donations would be paid out directly from Facebook and/or the PayPal Giving Fund, Facebook's web page about the fundraiser said.
CAIR set at $150,000 goal for Giving Tuesday, but raised just more than 10 percent of that – $15,981.
"CAIR's duplicity stretches from the grand (the nature of jihad) to the petty (claiming here to have access to 500 times more money than is the case)," said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum.
Awad is on record supporting Hamas, and more recently has emerged as a strong supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dictatorship. In addition to imprisoning thousands of dissidents and hundreds of journalists, Israel's Shin Bet found that Erdogan's regime funds and trains Hamas via a Blackwater-type private military company called SADAT International Defense Consulting. SADAT is run by one of Erdogan's top military advisers.
The PayPal Giving Fund hosts a donor page for CAIR SFBA where visitors can donate.
Billoo's support for Hamas and anti-Semitic hatred toward "Zionist" Jews is blatant. She repeatedly equates the Israeli Army with ISIS. She tweeted in November 2014 that "Blaming Hamas for firing rockets at [Apartheid] Israel is like blaming a woman for punching her rapist. #FreePalestine v @KathlynGadd"
This wasn't the only time Billoo defended terrorists for firing rockets into Israel. She praised Hizballah in 2009 for launching rockets. "The ish just hit the fan: http://tinyurl.com/7ctj3a ! AH for Hezbollah having the courage to do what the Arab governments won't!" she wrote.
By serving as fundraising platforms for CAIR, Facebook and PayPal are funding the sort of hatred that they claimed to oppose when they kicked out right-wing InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for "promoting hate" in August and September.