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Secret Tunnels Under Israel Reveal Threat From Gaza

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

By Calev Ben-David /

Slipping into a tunnel under Israel’s southern border and heading toward the Gaza Strip, the scorching summer heat suddenly turns cooler and the boom of artillery fire above fades away.

The passage, built by Gaza militants to infiltrate Israel, is just high enough for a person carrying a weapon to walk through upright. Its sides and arched ceiling are made of prefabricated cement slabs. Two metal rails run along a poured concrete floor, to accommodate carts that removed dug-out earth and transported weapons, the Israeli military says.

Israel, which has acted for years against smuggling tunnels Gazans built under their border with Egypt, is now on a campaign against what it says is an unexpectedly intricate network of underground passages militants dug into Israeli territory to carry out attacks. Its three-week-old offensive in Hamas-controlled Gaza has presented an opportunity to demolish these tunnels that didn’t exist in quieter times, analysts say.

“What is surprising is the sheer scope of their entire tunnel-building operation, its sophistication, and how much of it we found in built-up populated areas,” said Israel’s Gaza Brigade’s chief combat engineer officer, who asked to be identified as Lieutenant-Colonel Max out of security concerns.

Israeli soldiers discover the entrance to a tunnel believed to belong to Hamas in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, on July 23, 2014. Photograph: Xinhua/JINI/IDF via Zuma Press

Israeli soldiers discover the entrance to a tunnel believed to belong to Hamas in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, on July 23, 2014. Photograph: Xinhua/JINI/IDF via Zuma Press

The success of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in intercepting rockets fired at Israel from Gaza caused Hamas “to shift much of its strategic effort from above the ground to below it,” Max said. Hamas says Israel’s claims of a “terror tunnel” operation are trumped up.

$30 Million

“We will not end this operation without the neutralization of the tunnels, whose only purpose is destruction,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday in a televised address. “That need was clarified today,” he added, referring to an infiltration attempt by Palestinian militants from Gaza into southern Israel through one of the tunnels.

Israeli forces engaged in a firefight with the militants, the army said in a statement, killing at least one.

Militants have poured an estimated 600,000 tons of cement and other materials into the ground at a cost of around $30 million to build the three dozen underground passages found so far, according to army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner. The human toll of wiping them out has been high: More than 1,050 Palestinians and 45 Israelis have died since the conflict began July 8, the overwhelming majority since ground troops invaded Gaza nine days later with the declared aim of destroying the corridors.

A Palestinian man is lowered into a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in the southern Gaza Strip, in this Sept. 11, 2013 file photo. Photographer: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

A Palestinian man is lowered into a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in the southern Gaza Strip, in this Sept. 11, 2013 file photo. Photographer: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Max, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, wears a flak jacket and helmet as he makes his way down a sandy pit 12 meters (40 feet) deep to reach a tunnel Israel says it uncovered before its planned endpoint was built near Kibbutz Nir Am, an Israeli agricultural community.

The passage’s main entrance shaft was hidden 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Gaza under a greenhouse in Khan Yunis, near the territory’s southern tip, Max said.

Black Cable

As the 35-year-old officer leads the way through the dark, narrow corridor, he shines a flashlight on niches he says were dug out to store weapons. A metal rack running along one side is laced with black cable, remnants of an electrical system.

More than 100 entrance shafts to about 30 tunnels have been discovered since the ground incursion was ordered a day after Palestinian gunmen emerged from an underground passage inside Israel and headed for Nir Am, the military says. There have been at least four infiltrations since, including one in which two soldiers died in a shootout with gunmen, according to the army.

Destroying the tunnels, often during a battle, presents no small challenge.

An Israeli soldier during an army organised tour in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, on July 25, 2014. Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

An Israeli soldier during an army organised tour in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, on July 25, 2014. Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

The corridors, often originating in the basements of Gaza homes and other buildings, can be booby-trapped. Max says he was injured in one such incident a few months earlier.

While the quickest and easiest way to demolish a tunnel is to have soldiers enter it and place explosives down its entire length, the army is drilling openings into the tunnels from above to insert the explosives, then detonating them from a distance to avoid putting troops in harm’s way, Max says.

‘Training Facilities’

“You want to reach a point where the entire tunnel from end to end can be destroyed, so the enemy can’t come back and easily rebuild it,” he says, explaining why this one is still intact.

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, accuses Israel of fabricating allegations about tunnels.

“The occupation’s claim that it found tunnels and seized it by showing pictures is a complete lie,” the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement last week. “All the occupation found were underground corridors dug into a training facility that belongs to our group near the border.”

Hamas knows firsthand the potential benefits the tunnels hold for militants. It won freedom for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in 2011 by releasing a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured five years earlier by Hamas militants who burrowed into Israel underground.

‘Policy Failure’

Israel has known about the tunnels for about two years and had uncovered several, including the one Max displayed, before the current military operation began. Retired Major-General Amos Yadlin, who headed Israeli Military Intelligence from 2006-2010, said Israel had been constrained by diplomatic considerations from acting earlier against the passages.

“We knew very well the tunnels were there,” Yadlin said. “It’s not an intelligence failure. If it’s a failure, it was a policy failure.”

After Israel discovered a concrete-lined tunnel last October, it began limiting the already restricted entry of cement and other building materials into Gaza. That decision drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups, which say the restrictions are crippling a Gaza economy reliant on the construction industry. It also leaves thousands of Palestinians without the means to build or repair homes, including those destroyed or damaged by Israeli military operations, they say.

Re-emerging into the harsh sunlight, Max acknowledges that pressure from the international community to cease fighting might curtail his mission.

“If we want to completely destroy all the tunnels, at least all the ones we know about, it would take at least another week,” he says. “We know also how to achieve a maximum impact within a shortened schedule.”

Arab Leaders Praying Israel Will Finally Get Rid of Hamas

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Atwan: The Arab Leaders Pray That Israel Will Get Rid of the Palestinians Once and for All

(published a week into the 2014 Israeli-Hamas conflict)
The Arab world is holding Hamas responsible for the current conflict with Israel, the Clarion Project reports:

“As Hamas continues putting Israeli and Palestinian lives in jeopardy by rejecting ceasefires and continuing to fire rockets, the Islamist terrorist group must be disappointed at the Muslim world’s reaction. Hamas did not get the usual reflexive support and fiery backlash against Israel. In fact, it appears that the terrorist group’s largest support is coming from protests in Europe. The latest round of fighting is remarkable in what did not happen.

“The Islamists were unable to whip up the masses with the ease of flicking a light switch. Instead, flickers of the truth are penetrating minds saturated with anti-Western propaganda.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas even publicly criticized Hamas on Palestinian television, accusing the group of provoking ‘unnecessary deaths’ and ‘trading in Palestinian blood’ by firing rockets at Israel.”

Israeli military foils attack from Gaza tunnel–video

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) releases footage showing how it thwarted an attempt by 13 Hamas militants to infiltrate Israel from a tunnel in Gaza

By Camilla Turner /

The Israeli military has released footage showing how it successfully foiled an attack by 13 Hamas militants attempting to infiltrate Israel through a tunnel from Gaza.

An Israeli aircraft struck the fighters at the mouth of the tunnel some 250 metres (820 feet) inside Israel, near a kibbutz.

The showdown took place just hours before the two sides halted fire for a five-hour humanitarian truce.

Peter Lerner, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, said that the truce would go ahead despite the incident.

“The IDF intercepted 13 Hamas terrorists intercepting [infiltrating] Israel near kibbutz Sufa on the southern Gaza Strip,” said. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.

“This was an attempted attack to kill, murder, and maim — perhaps abduct — Israelis on the southern border.

“This is the type of threat we have been talking about over the last 10 days that can emerge from this area. We were successful in intercepting them.

“Our surveillance capabilities picked up on them and then we engaged and prevented this attack against Israel.”

The military footage showed a number of individuals creeping around what appeared to be a hole in the ground. Another shot showed an explosion from an airstrike at the entrance to the tunnel.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the infiltration, saying in a statement that “during the withdrawal after the completion of its mission”, the militants were struck by “jet fighters”. It said the group returned safely, however, and that no one was killed.

Mr Lerner said the IDF believed that at least one militant was killed in the strike and that the remaining fighters appeared to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel.

This is the second time militants have attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory during the recent exchange of hostilities. Last week, four fighters were killed when they attempted to gain entry to Israel from the sea.

Is Hamas Trying to Get Gazans Killed?

Sunday, July 13th, 2014
There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Gazan lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Gazan lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

By Jeffrey Goldberg /

Mahmoud Abbas, the sometimes moderate, often ineffectual leader of the Palestinian Authority, just asked his rivals in Hamas a question that other bewildered people are also asking: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

The Gaza-based Hamas has recently fired more than 500 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. This has terrorized the citizenry, though caused few casualties, in large part because Israel is protected by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

In reaction to these indiscriminately fired missiles, Israel has bombarded targets across Gaza, killing roughly 100 people so far. Compared with violent death rates in other parts of the Middle East, the number is small. (More than 170,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war to date.) But it is large enough to suggest an answer to Abbas’s question: Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.

The men who run Hamas, engineers and doctors and lawyers by training, are smart enough to understand that though they wish to bring about the annihilation of the Jewish state and to replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood state (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood), they are in no position to do so. Hamas is a militarily weak group, mostly friendless, that is firing rockets at the civilians of a powerful neighboring state.

The Israeli military has the operational capability to level the entire Gaza Strip in a day, if it so chooses. It is constrained by international pressure, by its own morality and by the understanding that the deaths of innocent Palestinians are not in its best political interest. The men who run Hamas — the ones hiding in bunkers deep underground, the ones who send other people’s children to their deaths as suicide bombers — also understand that their current campaign will not bring the end of Israel’s legitimacy as a state.

I’ve been struck, over the last few days, by the world’s indifference to Gaza’s fate. Perhaps this conflict has been demoted to the status of a Middle East sideshow by the cataclysms in Iraq and Syria. Perhaps even the most accommodationist European governments know that Israel is within its right to hunt down the people trying to kill its citizens. Regardless of the cause, Israel seems under less pressure than usual to curb its campaign.

There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Palestinian lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. The decision is Hamas’s. As the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said yesterday, “We face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable — and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing.”

I understand that this latest round in the never-ending Israel-Gaza war was, in many ways, a mistake. Israel was uninterested in an all-out confrontation with Hamas at the moment, and Hamas, which is trying to manage a threat to its control of Gaza from — believe it or not — groups even more radical and nihilistic than it is, is particularly ill-prepared to confront Israel.

The politics of the moment are fascinating and dreadful, but what really interests me currently is a counterfactual: What if, nine years ago, when Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza, the Palestinians had made a different choice. What if they chose to build the nucleus of a state, rather than a series of subterranean rocket factories?

This thought is prompted by something a pair of Iraqi Kurdish leaders once told me. Iraqi Kurdistan is today on the cusp of independence. Like the Palestinians, the Kurds deserve a state. Unlike most of the Palestinian leadership, the Kurds have played a long and clever game to bring them to freedom.

This is what Barham Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, told me years ago: “Compare us to other liberation movements around the world. We are very mature. We don’t engage in terror. We don’t condone extremist nationalist notions that can only burden our people. Please compare what we have achieved in the Kurdistan national-authority areas to the Palestinian national authority. … We have spent the last 10 years building a secular, democratic society, a civil society.” What, he asked, have the Palestinians built?

So too, Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, once told me this: “We had the opportunity to use terrorism against Baghdad. We chose not to.”

In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza, free from their Israeli occupiers, could have taken a lesson from the Kurds — and from David Ben-Gurion, the principal Israeli state-builder — and created the necessary infrastructure for eventual freedom. Gaza is centrally located between two large economies, those of Israel and Egypt. Europe is just across the Mediterranean. Gaza could have easily attracted untold billions in economic aid.

The Israelis did not impose a blockade on Gaza right away. That came later, when it became clear that Palestinian groups were considering using their newly liberated territory as a launching pad for attacks. In the days after withdrawal, the Israelis encouraged Gaza’s development. A group of American Jewish donors paid $14 million for 3,000 greenhouses left behind by expelled Jewish settlers and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.

If Gaza had, despite all the difficulties, despite all the handicaps imposed on it by Israel and Egypt, taken practical steps toward creating the nucleus of a state, I believe Israel would have soon moved to evacuate large sections of the West Bank as well. But what Hamas wants most is not a state in a part of Palestine. What it wants is the elimination of Israel. It will not achieve the latter, and it is actively thwarting the former.

Hamas Plays the Death Card

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

New York Daily News editorial 7-12-2014

Playing the Death Card

This much we know: Israel lives under constant threat from terrorists who would like nothing better than to exterminate the Jewish state that they consider an outright abomination.

This much we have also come to understand: In polite society, it is increasingly fashionable to roll one’s eyes or outright indict Israel for daring to defend itself against those who aim to indiscriminately kill its people and undermine its right to exist.

The cycle continues as Hamas fires hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities, and Israel responds with far more precise and effective salvos at terrorists. All too predictably, international condemnation is starting to come Israel’s way.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned Friday that Israel’s air campaign in Gaza, one of the most focused in the history of war, may violate international law.

Citing “deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” Pillay said “such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

Nonsense. A nation has the right to defend itself from a fusillade of rockets. A nation has the right to attack those who war against it.

Some Israeli salvos have killed innocent Palestinians. This is a fact all should mourn — and that the vast majority of Israelis do mourn. A civilian casualty is a tragedy, no matter the victim’s religion, nationality or background.

Only the radical fringe that dominates Palestinian leadership does not mourn. Hamas purposely houses its operations in civilian neighborhoods and near mosques, launching rockets from there to batter Israeli cities.

These rockets are not an act of self-defense, nor are they a retaliatory answer to any violence. They are simply an attempt to force Israel to live in constant fear — one that even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has disavowed.

“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” asked Abbas in a televised address, signalling that, perhaps, the Palestinian terrorists have finally gone too far for their more moderate partner in government.

Israel’s good-faith efforts to make its necessary war more humane — and to stay within the rules of war — include warning Palestinians to vacate buildings that have been targeted as sites from which Hamas is warring.

Perversely, Hamas’s Interior Ministry reportedly ordered residents of the Gaza Strip to remain inside, preferring to boost the civilian body county in hope of turning world opinion against Israel and winning sympathy — sympathy for the devils.

Israel Launches Air Strikes, Mobilizes Troops Near Gaza as Tension Mounts

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

By Elliot Hannon /

Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian man inspects damage following an overnight Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Tension between Israelis and Palestinians continues to mount in the wake of the murder of three Israeli students and the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager who was burned to death on Wednesday. Israel launched airstrikes on 15 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, reportedly injuring ten people, the Washington Post reports. The targets included rocket-launching sites and weapons warehouses, according to the Israeli military.

Israel also began mobilizing troops around Gaza on Thursday after, The New York Times reports, “Palestinian militants there fired some 30 rockets at southern Israel over 24 hours, three of which hit homes in the border town of Sderot, causing property damage but no injuries.” Israeli defense officials told the Associated Press that the deployment included tanks, artillery, and ground forces.

“Israel has accused Hamas of being behind the deaths [of the Israeli students], and arrested about 600 suspected Hamas activists as part of a broad manhunt in the largest ground operation in the West Bank in nearly a decade,” Al Jeezera reports. As reports of the killing of the Palestinian teenager spread on Wednesday, “street battles broke out between security forces and residents from the youth’s neighborhood in East Jerusalem,” the Post reports. “Palestinian protesters hurled firebombs and stones at Israeli police officers and soldiers and smashed and set fire to transit stops in the neighborhood.”

Bodies of kidnapped Israeli teens found near Hebron

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The three kidnapped and murdered teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel (photo credit: Courtesy)

The three kidnapped and murdered teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel (photo credit: Courtesy)

Tel Aviv | A national ordeal here ended in tragedy as three Israeli teenagers kidnapped earlier this month were found dead near Hebron.

The discovery of their bodies Monday night by the Israeli army and volunteer searchers brings to an unhappy conclusion the intensive effort to find the missing teens.

Eyal Yifrah, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were kidnapped June 12 while hitchhiking near the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion. All three were studying in West Bank yeshivas.

Their bodies were found partially exposed in an area called Wadi Tellem north of the Palestinian village of Halhul. Israeli reports said the boys seem to have been killed soon after they were kidnapped.

“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at an emergency meeting of the Israeli security Cabinet Monday night. “On behalf of the entire Jewish people, I would like to tell the dear families – the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and brothers and sisters – we are deeply saddened, the entire nation weeps with you.”

He said, “Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay.”

Israel had previously named Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, two Hamas members, as prime suspects in the abduction. The two have been missing since the kidnapping and are still at large. Hamas has not taken responsibility for the kidnapping.

Israel has sealed off the area where the bodies were found, as well as the city of Hebron.

Leaders from across the Israeli political spectrum, as well as Diaspora Jewish leaders, expressed grief at the news that the bodies were found.

Some also called for strong measures against Hamas.

“In their memories, we must ensure that this tragic end be turned into an opportunity to create a better and safer Israel,” Israel’s deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, said in a statement. “Israelis have the willingness and the fortitude necessary to endure the hardships of a long-lasting operation aimed at eradicating Hamas. We will not stop until Hamas is completely defeated.”

After the discovery of the teens’ bodies, Hamas warned Israel against stepping up its military offensive against it.

“If the occupiers carry out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the French news agency AFP.

Following the kidnapping, the Israeli army spread out across the Hebron area conducting an intensive search for the teens. Six Palestinians were killed over the course of the operation. Hebron’s Palestinian population was placed under curfew, and Palestinians with Israeli work permits were not allowed into Israel for a week after the abduction.

Meanwhile, dozens of rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel amid the search.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas initially had publicly condemned the kidnapping, and P.A. security forces aided the Israeli army in the search for the teens.

The kidnapping has dominated Israeli news. Israelis gathered in prayer vigils across the country, and the boys’ mothers became symbols of resilience. On Sunday, a day before the teens were found, more than 10,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for a concert to call for the boys’ return.

As news of the murders emerged, hundreds slowly gathered in Tel Aviv again, in Rabin Square, to light candles in memory of the teens and sing songs.

But the kidnapping also brought up a range of national debates – about the nature of the military operation, Israel’s approach to the Palestinians and, most of all, the wisdom of exchanging Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped Israelis. Israel’s last kidnapping incident – when Hamas took soldier Gilad Shalit captive in 2006 – ended with Israel swapping 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

More than 50 of those prisoners were rearrested in the Israeli military operation to find the boys as well as weaken Hamas’ presence in the West Bank. Hundreds of Hamas operatives were arrested during the operation.

In the weeks since the kidnapping, Fraenkel’s mother, Rachel, a U.S. citizen, advocated fiercely for his release in international forums, pleading to the U.N. Human Rights Council last week for the organization to do more to secure his release.

“It is wrong to take children – innocent boys and girls – and use them as instruments in any struggle,” she said. “Every mother’s nightmare is waiting and waiting for her son to come home.”

Some 300 teenagers flocked to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv while dozens of youths met in Zion Square in Jerusalem. Hundreds also converged on junctions along Route 60, from Gush Etzion to Hebron, in order to pray, sing, and light candles for the deceased.

A crowd also gathered near Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, where the bodies of the three boys were transferred for identification. Candles were lit in the memories of the teens.

The yeshivas where the boys had studied also became gathering centers. “We cried a lot together, this is a very hard day,” said Misha-El Rubin, one of the rabbis of Shavei Hevron, of the moment they heard that Eyal’s body had been found.

“It is clear that those who had the time to get to know Eyal felt a deep personal loss, but this is bigger than that, this is a national matter,” he added.

Israeli security forces on Monday located the bodies of the three Israeli teens who went missing on June 12 while hitchhiking in the Hebron area of the West Bank.

The three bodies were found around 6 pm in a shallow grave dug by their abductors in the wadi between Beit Khalil and Halhul. According to initial estimates, the boys were shot shortly after their kidnapping, in a premeditated plan by their abductors.

“What kidnapping?” in a world preoccupied with the World Cup

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

After Rachel Frenkel’s speech, I asked Muslim representatives for a reaction • “What kidnapping?” one asked • “I haven’t heard about it,” said another • The trip of the mothers of the kidnapped teens to Geneva was important for raising global awareness.

Rachel Frenkel, Bat-Galim Shaer and Iris Yifrach in Geneva, Tuesday | Photo credit: Boaz Bismuth

Rachel Frenkel, Bat-Galim Shaer and Iris Yifrach in Geneva, Tuesday | Photo credit: Boaz Bismuth

By Boaz Bismuth /

As the mothers of the other two kidnapped Israeli teens sat behind her, Rachel Frenkel, the mother of Naftali Frenkel, made a moving plea before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday. After Frenkel’s speech, I saw two Muslim representatives outside, one from Western Sahara and the other from Morocco, and asked them for a reaction to the speech and the kidnapping in general.

“What kidnapping?” one asked. The other said, “I haven’t heard about it.” This is what happens when the world is preoccupied with the World Cup.

Given this state of affairs, the trip of Rachel Frenkel, Bat-Galim Shaer and Iris Yifrach to Geneva on Tuesday was very important.

Not only does the world not care, the world (largely) is simply unaware of the kidnapping. For this exact reason, the head of U.N. Watch, Hillel Neuer, arranged for Frenkel to address the council, which, as usual, was hostile to Israel during Tuesday’s meeting and dealt mainly with Palestinian suffering while ignoring the other side. The council focused on the “oppression” of the Palestinians. How kind of them to give two minutes to talk about the kidnapping. Long live fairness.

“It was important for us to appeal to the world,” Iris Yifrach said. “This is the first time I left Israel, I do not even have a passport. We want our children home. We will do everything we must and will go to the end of the world if necessary to bring our children home.

“The world needs to know that a brutal and despicable act took place. Our children left school and did not come home.”

Shaer said, “We will not rest until the boys are brought back home. The world is indifferent. Hamas needs to know that abducting children does not pay off. World opinion is important, but its clear that Israel is the one who will free the boys,”

Frenkel’s speech intentionally unpolitical. “This is a humanitarian issue, children are children,” Frenkel said, requesting not to appeal just to representatives in the hall, but also to the hearts of parents all over the world.

“We hope that Rachel’s speech convinced the world that what happened was criminal,” Iris Yifrach and Bat-Galim Shaer said together. “That it is not humane to act like that. We are mothers, and this is the essence of human rights.”

Eviatar Manor, Israel’s envoy to the U.N. in Geneva, said, “The goal was to put the issue on the table, and I think we succeeded.”

Prior to Frenkel’s speech, the council focused its criticism on Israel. “Israel uses force against women and children, there is settler violence against Palestinians,” the Cuban representative said. The Brazilian representative did not condemn the kidnapping and called on Israel to stop settlement construction.

After speaking at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Frenkel joined more than 400 others in praying for the safe return of the boys at the Chabad house in Geneva. Frenkel said the kidnapping has united the people of Israel and everyone is awaiting for the boys to come home.

During the service, a shofar was blown and Geneva Chabad Rabbi Menachem Mendel Pevsner said, “For a moment, everyone forgot about their own pursuits and prayed from their hearts. We felt like we were not in Geneva, but rather next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.”

Bratton looks for moderate Muslim voices in NYC

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The NYPD is trying to safeguard all New Yorkers
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS editorial Monday, June 23, 2014

Bill Bratton and John Miller are playing it straight with Muslims. / JULIA XANTHOS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Bill Bratton and John Miller are playing it straight with Muslims. / JULIA XANTHOS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Speaking with smart candor, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has begun to explain to New York Muslims why the NYPD is properly focusing on their community in the battle to protect the city from terrorism.

Bratton and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence John Miller gathered with Muslim leaders last week during the department’s annual pre-Ramadan conference. They recounted the conversation in a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, where they also provided welcome insights into the department’s intelligence gathering, said they were determined to open a dialogue with Muslim leaders and vigorously called on them to form anti-terror partnerships with the department. All good.

Bratton said he had spoken “very frankly about why we still have to have a focus on Islamic activities and we are not going to apologize for that. When we were investigating the Mafia, we didn’t have to apologize to Italian-Americans that we were investigating the Mafia. That was where the crime was.”

Miller elaborated: “I don’t have a lot of IRA terrorists. The FALN, the Puerto Rican independence group, stopped laying bombs down 20 years ago. I don’t have the Croatians bombing the Yugoslav mission. The Cuban Omega 7 group isn’t dropping pipe bombs at 37th and Lex. What we have is a group of people who have developed a pretty strong narrative that are asking young Muslim men to join this fight.”

Although Bratton and Miller expressed the obvious truths that Islamist radicals have targeted New York and America, and that the threat is growing with the upheavals in Syria and Iraq, civil rights advocates and many Muslim leaders charge that the NYPD has unfairly subjected the community to unwarranted scrutiny based only on religion.

The accusations largely followed a propagandistic series of Associated Press articles that depicted the NYPD Intelligence Division as improperly spying on Muslims. In an Op-Ed article [on the same page], two representatives of the Brennan Center for Justice offer a baseless variation on that theme in attacking a standard NYPD policy of seeking to develop informants among criminal suspects. [The Op-Ed concludes:"How long will it be before Muslims are treated like everyone else in this city?" accusing the NYPD of bias.]

Asked whether he had found evidence that the Intelligence Division had gone beyond bounds under former Commissioner Ray Kelly and then-intelligence chief David Cohen, Miller responded, “I wouldn’t say questionable legality or constitutionality.”

Much of the criticism aimed at the Intelligence Division stemmed from a Demographics Unit that mapped ethnic communities that had heavy concentrations of Muslims. A report that Bratton had disbanded the unit prompted Mayor de Blasio to declare in April that the reform “is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve.”

Helpfully setting the record straight, Miller said that the once-16-member unit had been reduced to two detectives by the time he took over. They’ve been shifted to other duties and the Intelligence Division will collect similar data by deploying detectives as needed.

“In sum and substance, there really was nothing to disband,” Bratton said, with Miller adding that the department will publish a handbook on intelligence gathering after letting Muslim leaders and civil rights advocates review the document.

Most vigorously, Bratton and Miller stressed the need for Muslims to publicly counter jihadist recruiting and radicalization. Miller said he drew an analogy to law-abiding citizens of housing projects who press their children to go to school and grow up to be successful adults while gang members lure them into crime.

“I said, ‘We are facing the same thing in your community. I have Anwar Awlaki videos, 80 of them, on YouTube. I’ve got Inspire magazine cranking out a new edition quarterly, lionizing Jose Pimentel for building a pipe bomb in Washington Heights.

“I have people saying, ‘You can live a life of adventure by going to Syria and fighting now. You can be a secret operator by building a bomb in your town and blowing it up here in the United States. Here is the recipe for a car bomb and how to do it in New York.’ And these are powerful voices.”

He added: “Where is the anti-Awlaki? Where are the voices in the community saying the narrative coming out of these publications and social media is wrong, and remember those voices are competing for the lives of your children.”

Where indeed are those voices?

US: Sudan has not re-arrested freed Christian woman Meriam Ibrahim

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

AFP Agence France-Presse

Washington (AFP) – The United States said Tuesday that it had received assurances a Sudanese Christian woman has not, as reported, been re-arrested, one day after a court annulled her death sentence for apostasy.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington has been informed by Sudan that “the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning about issues related to their travel and, I think, travel documents.

“They have not been arrested,” she added. “The government has assured us of their safety. The embassy has and will remain highly involved in working with the family and the government. We are engaging directly with Sudanese officials to secure their safe and swift departure from Sudan.”

Earlier, a Sudanese source had told AFP that Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 26, and her American husband Daniel Wani had been arrested at Khartoum airport while trying to leave Sudan.

Ishag’s case sparked an outcry from Western governments and rights groups after a lower-court judge sentenced her to death for apostasy — or abandoning her faith — on May 15.

Born to a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, Ishag was convicted under Islamic sharia law. This code has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

When Ishag was five, her Muslim father abandoned the family, and she was raised according to her mother’s Christian faith.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum has said she joined the Catholic church shortly before she married and denied she had ever been Muslim.

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