American-Iranian dual national, wife detained by IRGC, held without charge in Evin Prison

 

An American-Iranian dual national and his wife were arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in July, and have been detained ever since without charge and without access to lawyers in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari, before their arrest and detention, ran an art gallery in Tehran. Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), said, “Yet another case of a dual national snatched and held without charge or access to a lawyer represents an alarming continuation of a judicial system run by intelligence agencies with no respect for the law and no accountability.”

According to the ICHRI, Vafadari belongs to the Baha’i faith. In October, representatives of the Baha’i religion accused Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government of “ongoing efforts to destroy the Baha’i community.” Since Rouhani took power in 2013, more than 151 Baha’i have been arrested and 388 acts of economic discrimination — including threats, intimidation and the closing of Baha’i-owned businesses — have been documented against members of the faith, according to the report. Thousands of Baha’i have also been denied entry into universities, while 28 have been expelled on the basis of their religion, which has been outlawed by the Islamic Republic.

Iran has a history of arresting dual nationals, which it does not recognize, meaning that the individuals cannot receive consular assistance; according to Reuters, as of July, the imprisoned dual nationals comprised “the highest number of Iranians with dual-nationality detained at one time in recent years to have been acknowledged.” Many analysts believe that Iran is “seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing” dual nationals, the Associated Press wrote in August.

 

George Mitchell, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader who served as President Obama’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, said in an interview Thursday that he disagreed with President Jimmy Carter’s New York Times op-ed published earlier this week, which suggested that Obama impose terms of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord through the United Nations Security Council.

Although Mitchell praised Carter’s efforts to broker a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, he told NewsMax TV’s Steve Malzberg that “on this issue I don’t agree with President Carter.” Mitchell explained that for the United States to take sides and “unilaterally decide” acceptable outcomes of key issues, or to recognize a Palestinian state, “would be a reversal of what had been American policy for several years.”

The argument is made that, well, 137 countries have done so, which is true—something which ought to and does concern Israel. But the United States is not one of 138 countries; the United States is the world’s dominant power, [and] will play a decisive role in whatever happens in that region. And so I think we should continue the policy that we had and try to encourage the parties to negotiate the two-state solution, at which time, if successful, there will be not just a nominal Palestinian state, but a real Palestinian state.

Aaron David Miller, who also served as an American peace negotiator, wrote in an analysis for CNN.com earlier this week that choosing to follow Carter’s advice would “leave Obama’s legacy in tatters.”

 

So far Israel has arrested 23 arsonists connected to igniting the hundreds of fires that raged across Israel last week, and they are positioned to receive financial rewards, Palestinian Media Watch President Itamar Marcus wrote in the Jerusalem Post Wednesday. The fires have burned more than 500 homes and 32,000 acres of forests and national parks.

Palestinian law stipulates anyone imprisoned for “resisting the occupation” receives a high monthly salary. A recent research paper produced by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs asserted these payments constitute a violation of the Oslo Accords.

The United Kingdom froze roughly $30 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in October over concerns that taxpayer money is being used to pay the salaries of Palestinian terrorists. The frozen funds amount to around one-third of the UK’s yearly aid to the PA.

Critics have long called for greater transparency in distribution of foreign aid payment to Palestinians, the largest per capita recipients of international development aid in the world. A Global Humanitarian Assistance report cited in The Wall Street Journal found that Palestinians received $793 million in international aid in 2013, amounting to $176 for each Palestinian. That same year, Syrians were given $106 in development assistance per capita, while eight of the remaining top ten recipients — Sudan, South Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo — received an average of $15.30 per capita. Foreign aid amounted to about a quarter of the PA’s entire budget in 2012.

 

Israel “Izzy” Papa decided to make helping others his vocation when he was in high school. The 22-year-old paramedic with Magen David Adom (MDA) started volunteering at Israel’s national emergency medical service and disaster-relief organization as a teen “because it was cool.” “I saw some people in really awful situations and I realized that someone needs to help. I felt like I need to do it. That’s what I want to do; help people,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s also so satisfying. When you save someone and he gets to live another day, that is a crazy feeling. The best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.” Papa hit the headlines in Israel recently after becoming the first paramedic, and the first Israeli, to join the Red Cross and the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. (via Israel21c)

U.S. Senate votes 99-0 to extend Iran Sanctions Act

 

The U.S. Senate voted 99-0 to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another 10 years on Thursday, two weeks after the House voted 419-1 for the measure and putting the bill before President Barack Obama. The ISA, which is set to expire at the end of the year, aims to prevent foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Given Iran’s continued pattern of aggression and the country’s persistent efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region, preserving these sanctions is critical.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who supported the Iran nuclear deal, explained his support for the extension of the sanctions legislation: “The practical effect is the Iran nuclear agreement depends on our resolve, on our commitment to…stop a nuclear armed Iran by using sanctions and other means if necessary.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned last week, “If these sanctions are extended, it will surely constitute a violation of the [nuclear deal] and [the U.S.] should know that the Islamic Republic will definitely react to it.” Democratic Senators responded forcefully to the Iranian threat. “Iran is making this up. These problems don’t exist,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Weekly Standard. “Congress, by extending ISA, is not taking any new steps against Iran at all.” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told the magazine, “The Iranians need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Hopefully, they will change their course of actions. In the absence of that, the United States should not ultimately let them be the veto over what we decide is the appropriate foreign policy.”

Cardin and Menendez both opposed the nuclear deal. But a supporter of the deal, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), also rejected Iran’s charges. “I am convinced that Congress is well within its rights to extend the Iran Sanctions Act,” he said. “Iran has always resisted non-nuclear sanctions and tried to tie them into the nuclear deal. That’s not correct…I think it’s completely appropriate that we continue the sanctions architecture.”

 

Two Arab Israeli timber suppliers have offered to donate wood paneling to a synagogue that suffered extensive damage in last week’s brush fires, The Times of Israel reported.

The wood will be supplied free of charge and without labor costs.“I had tears in my eyes when I heard what was happening,” said the congregation’s rabbi, Dov Hiyon. “It was so emotional to hear that Muslims were asking to donate to a Jewish synagogue. I’ve invited them to evening prayers to personally thank them.”

“Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa, and there is no discrimination,” said Walid Abu-Ahmed, one of the wood suppliers. “We must continue with this co-existence and promote peace.”

Trends show that Arab Israelis are increasingly assimilating into Israeli society—most recently in education. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of Arab Israeli teachers in Israel’s state schools rose by 40 percent. The result is largely the product of a government-sponsored initiative to integrate more Arab Israeli teachers into public schools. Likewise, the number of Arab Israelis attending universities is trending upwards, and 14.4 percent of Israel’s bachelor degree students were Arab in 2015—an extremely high success rate considering the country’s population is around 20 percent Arab.

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a three-hour long address Wednesday to the Fatah congress, which is meeting this week in Ramallah.

Although Abbas praised the Oslo Accords, a series of peace agreements with Israel in the 1990s, as an “important step” for the Palestinian people, he warned that he “will not recognize a Jewish state,” a key demand by Israeli leaders.

Abbas told members of his Fatah faction that recognition of Israel “will not last forever” if Israel does not recognize a Palestinian state.

He told the 1,400 delegates that 2017 will be the “year of the Palestinian state and end of the Israeli occupation” and predicted that the next Fatah congress will be held in “East Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Palestine.”

He encouraged Palestinians to use “popular peaceful resistance in all of its spheres” and hailed the influence of the PA at the United Nations, where it is recognized as a non-member observer state.

 

Two Iranians were charged by a Kenyan court Thursday with collecting information for a terrorist attack, whose target was the Israeli embassy in Nairobi. According to the charge sheet, the two men, Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahim and Abdolhosein Gholi Safaee, were traveling in an Iranian diplomatic vehicle and “were found taking video clips of the Israeli embassy…for the use in the commission of a terrorist act.” They were arrested on Tuesday shortly after visiting two members of Iran’s Qods Force in a Nairobi prison, where they are serving 15-year sentences after being convicted in 2013 for planning terrorist attacks against Western targets.Two other Iranians, Abubakar Sadiq Gouw and Yassin Sambai Juma, confessed that they were members of the Qods Force and were plotting, along with Iranian intelligence, to attack Western targets in Kenya.

Iranian agents have been accused of planning multiple attacks on Israeli and American targets worldwide in recent years, including in Azerbaijan and Thailand.

Ebrahim and Safaee’s use of an official car is not the first time Iran has leveraged diplomatic cover to hide its destabilizing behavior. The U.S. State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator testified to Congress in 1994, shortly after Iranians with diplomatic IDs were accused of planning the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Argentina, that Iranian embassies are often overstaffed with personnel, with many of them possibly intelligence agents or terrorist operatives.

Veteran Middle East peace negotiator strikes back at Jimmy Carter op-ed

 

Former President Jimmy Carter claimed that America “must” recognize Palestine in the pages of The New York Times Monday, a proposition to which veteran Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller is firmly opposed.

“Having spent the better part of my adult professional life working to promote, facilitate and consummate negotiations between Arabs and Israelis,” Miller wrote in a counter op-ed on Wednesday, “my advice is precisely the opposite of Mr. Carter’s.” True peace, he argues, can only come from negotiations between the two parties themselves, not from external measures.

Miller warns that unilateral action (such as recognition of statehood) might make matters worse. “It could unlock a host of unpredictable – and mostly negative – consequences,” he writes.

Such a move also undercuts the spirit of negotiation championed so firmly by former President Carter in brokering Egyptian-Israeli peace. It was Carter’s sensitivity to both sides that produced a successful treaty, Miller asserts. One-sided efforts are doomed to polarize the Israelis and Palestinians further, as it would be rewarding Palestinians by recognizing their stated aim – an independent state – before the holding of negotiations and without meeting Israeli security needs, and strip Palestinians of the need to be flexible and willing to make compromises.

 

Eleven high-ranking diplomats from seven African countries toured Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday, in what is the latest indication that diplomatic ties between Israel and African countries are improving. The diplomats’ tour was sponsored by Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce in an effort to promote Israeli-African business ties.Diplomats typically don’t visit the Old City because most countries don’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty there. But in a break with that protocol, the ambassadors of Ethiopia and Zambia, as well as other diplomats from Cameroon, Ghana, Angola, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, participated in the tour and met with Israeli officials there. “We had a very interesting visit this morning,” Ethiopian ambassador to Israel Helawi Yossef said. “It was very enlightening for us.”

Tomer Heyvi of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce said that the goal of the tour was to unite parties who could enhance business ties between Israel and African nations. He explained that trade between and Africa is poised to expand. “In 2015 trade with African countries made up only only three percent of Israel’s international trade, and we believe that the potential is far greater and still not materialized,” he told the Times of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority objected to the tour. “The Israeli-organized visit of senior diplomats from seven African countries aims at normalizing the illegal Israeli annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, in particular when it comes to legitimizing projects led by settlers that continue to harm the daily lives of thousands of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem,” Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general Saeb Erekat told the Times.

This has been a year of diplomatic breakthroughs for Israel, especially with African nations. Netanyahu embarked on a historic tour of East Africa in July, restored diplomatic ties with the Muslim-majority nation of Guinea, met with 15 African heads of state and ambassadors at the United Nations General Assembly in September, and announced plans to attend a summit of the Economic Community of West African States in the near future.

 

Families in rebel-held eastern Aleppo are nearly out of food, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. “We’re only eating two small meals a day now, and it’s just rice and cracked wheat,” said Moataz Khattab, 26, who lives with nine family members. “We eat together, what we can, but we are losing so much weight. We’re running out of supplies, and now we talk about starving to death.” Another feared the fate of a local neighborhood boy: “He has become a skeleton.”

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad captured about 40% of the territory in eastern Aleppo that had been held by rebels on Monday. Planes dropped ominous leaflets: “If you don’t leave these areas quickly you will be annihilated. Save yourselves. You know that everyone has left you alone to face your  doom and have offered you no help.”

For the past four months, Assad’s forces have blockaded more than 200,000 people in eastern Aleppo, nearly half of them children, according to U.N. officials. Thousands are fleeing for their lives.

 

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed two bipartisan bills on Tuesday that call for increased cybersecurity cooperation with Israel. The measures – the United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act of 2016 and the United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2016 – were sponsored by Reps. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and now await a vote by the Senate. “Israel is a vital strategic partner, and I’m pleased to be working closely with Rep. Langevin to preserve and strengthen this important bond through joint cybersecurity efforts,” Ratcliffe said. Langevin added, “My trip to Israel…reinforced my belief that our countries have much to learn from one another when it comes to cybersecurity…Our legislation will further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and drive innovative, collaborative thinking about homeland security priorities.”

The U.S. and Israel, as strategic allies, have a history of cooperating in matters of cybersecurity. This past June, the U.S. and Israel came to an agreement under which the two countries’ cyber defense intelligence will be shared automatically. In April, speaking at an energy conference in Tel Aviv, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz emphasized the importance of U.S.-Israeli cooperation in cyber defense, because “a very large fraction of cyber attacks involves the energy sector and that’s a recent experience.” Moniz also said that the U.S. would be able to learn from Israel’s “forward-leaning approach” in cybersecurity. The director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, reportedly visited Israel in March to discuss cooperation in cyber defense, particularly with regard to Iranian and Hezbollah infiltration attempts. Rogers, who is also the head of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command, was the guest of the commander of the IDF’s Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, an elite unit responsible for signals intelligence and cyber warfare. The report on Rogers’ secret visit came just days after the Department of Justice revealed that Iran had launched a cyberattack on the controls of a dam 25 miles north of New York City.

After purge of political enemies, Fatah unanimously picks Abbas to remain party leader

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was unanimously chosen to lead the Fatah party for another five years at a convention that excluded his political opponents, further strengthening his hold on the party while cementing the rifts in the Palestinian polity.

Excluded from the conference were supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival and former Gaza security chief now living in exile in the United Arab Emirates. Many of Dahlan’s supporters have been purged from Fatah or arrested.

Dimitri Diliani, who had been elected to Fatah’s Revolutionary Council in 2009, told The Times of Israel that he wasn’t invited to this year’s conference because he and other opponents of Abbas “bring a different voice.”

“To me, the story is who is not at the conference,” Grant Rumley, an analyst of Palestinian affairs told The New York Times “This conference will formalize the split within [Abbas’] own party.”

The conference, which was held for the first time in seven years, demonstrated Abbas’ continued grip on Fatah and the PA, which is suffering from infighting, financial troubles, and plummeting popularity. But it did not lay out a succession plan for Abbas, who is 81 years old and was recently hospitalized with heart problems. The PA cancelled planned municipal elections for this month that could have clarified the succession issue. Currently, if Abbas is incapacitated or leaves power, leadership of the PA would temporarily fall to Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik, a member of Hamas.

Polls show that many Palestinians want Abbas to resign. He was elected in 2005 to a four-year term and has ruled by decree since 2009. Abbas established a new court in April to further consolidate his power.

 

An IDF general gave an exclusive interview to a Saudi newspaper on Monday in which he highlighted the danger Iran poses to the region. Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, the spokesman of the IDF, told the Saudi-owned news outlet Elaph, based in London, “Iran has not changed, not before the agreement on the nuclear program or after it. Its objective remains the same, which is to maintain a foothold in the region and keep the fire of terrorism burning.”

An article in The Jerusalem Post in August highlighted the phenomenon of local and state-run media outlets in Saudi Arabia beginning to shift their long-held position of enmity toward Israel. Recent changes include quoting Israeli officials; asking Saudis to discard their “hatred of Jews”; and calling for direct talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, free from intermediaries. David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy branded the pivot as “the new normal,” saying that while pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dialogue between Israel and Arab countries is “nothing new,” the presence of two sides in public forums marks an undeniable turning point. “What is noteworthy today is that the issue is being actively and openly debated in major Arab media, with both proponents and opponents each having their say.”

In other signs of this slow but persistent change, Anwar Eshki, a former general who has served in senior positions in the Saudi military and foreign ministry, visited Israel in July as part of a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold gave an interview last year with a Saudi website, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was likewise recently interviewed by the Saudi media.

Salman al-Ansari, the founder and president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, wrote in The Hill last month that Saudi Arabia and Israel should form a “collaborative alliance.” He elaborated, “Any form of normalization between the two countries is also an Arabic and Muslim normalization towards Israel, which will undoubtedly promote security and weaken extremism in the region.” Israel and Saudi Arabia should “become the new twin pillars of regional stability.” The Saudi Gazette asserted in September that Abbas should not dismiss Israeli offers of peace out of hand because “Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.”

 

A vessel belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) trained its machine gun at a U.S. Navy helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, U.S. defense officials said Monday. The helicopter was flying in international waters. A U.S. Navy official said that Iran’s behavior was “unsafe and unprofessional” and constituted an “escalating measure.” A Defense Department official added, “The behavior by our standards is provocative and could be seen as an escalation.” One of the Iranian crewmen was seen loading the weapon before aiming it at the helicopter.

This is the latest example of Iranian aggression toward American vessels in the Persian Gulf. In September, Iran threatened to shoot down two American planes flying over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran hasincreased its aggressiveness in the Persian Gulf since the implementation of the nuclear deal in January: as of this past September, there had been 31 incidents between Iranian and U.S. ships in 2016 that deemed “unsafe”, “unprofessional,” or both, which is the same amount for all of 2015. “We’ve seen an uptick in confrontations by Iranian vessels in the Arabian Gulf,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said in August. “Ultimately if they continue to test us we’re going to respond and we’re going to protect ourselves and our partners.” Votel also said, “It’s about the Iranian regime and their desire to continue to do these types of things that stoke instability or attempt to stoke instability in the region.”

Seven armed boats of the IRGC Navy swarmed a U.S. Navy patrol ship in the Persian Gulf in September, forcing it to change course after the Iranians came within 100 yards and stopped their vehicles in the American ship’s path. Sailors aboard the USS Nitze recorded an encounter in August when Iranian boats came as close as 300 yards, forcing it and the USS Mason to change course to avoid a collision. Two weeks later, two U.S. patrol coastal ships, the USS Tempest and the USS Squall, were operating in international waters in the northern Gulf when IRGC boats approached them at high speed and passed within 600 yards of the Tempest three times. The Iranians ignored radio warnings that their actions were dangerous. These actions came just a few months after ten American sailors and their two boats were seized by IRGC naval forces in January of this year, in violation of international law.

 

Edwards Lifesciences, a leader in patient-focused innovations for structural heart disease and critical care monitoring based in the US, has announced that it has agreed to acquire Valtech Cardio, a privately held company based in Israel and developer of the Cardioband System for transcatheter repair of the mitral and tricuspid valves. The deal is said to be worth up to $690 million in its first stages — $340 million in stock and cash, with the potential for an additional $350 million in pre-specified milestone-driven payments over the next 10 years. Prior to the close of the transaction, which remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected in early 2017, Valtech – which specializes in the development of devices for mitral and tricuspid valve repair and replacement — will spin off its early-stage transseptal mitral valve replacement technology program. Edwards retains an option to acquire that program as well and its associated intellectual property, which could then push the total acquisition closer to $1 billion. (via Israel21c)

Several countries, Palestinians assist Israel in fighting raging fires

 

Several countries assisted Israel in fighting the fires that raged over the country for days, many of them started by terror arsonists. Countries including the United States, Canada, France, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan all sent crews and equipment to Israel, which was suffering from more than 1,700 fires burning in the center and north of the country. The U.S. sent its Supertanker, a converted Boeing 747 that is the largest firefighting aerial vehicle in the world. Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries with which Israel has signed peace treaties, also sent assistance: the former sent two firefighting helicopters and the latter firetrucks.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) sent eight firetrucks and 40 firemen to fight the blazes; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday night to offer his and his country’s gratitude. Muhammad Amayra, a Palestinian firefighter, said, “It’s our duty to help…This is a humanitarian situation.” Amayra continued, “The Israeli firefighters welcomed us very nicely. They helped us with everything, and always asked if we needed anything. Israeli firefighters are excellent firefighters.” He said he was touched by Israeli families offering their thanks and shaking the Palestinian firefighters’ hands: “That gave us a great feeling and it gave me hope that in the future we will be alright.” In addition to Palestinian assistance, Arab Israelis opened their homes to help people fleeing the fires.
Thirty people are being held in custody on suspicion of arson or incitement.

 

Comments, like last week’s threat by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran would “react” to the passage of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), are part of “a broader strategy” to seek further sanctions relief, Benham Ben Taleblu, an Iran analyst, wrote in a policy brief Saturday.
Taleblu explained that the ISA, which was originally passed in 1996 and was renewed in 2006, is the legal basis for imposing sanctions on Iran’s energy sector as well as for U.S. secondary sanctions. An overwhelming bipartisan Congressional majority passed the ISA earlier this month. In order to be renewed it must now pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Since the Congressional vote to renew the ISA, various Iranian media outlets and officials have disparaged the move claiming falsely that it violates the deal and that Iran would back out of the deal in response.
The accusations that Congress violated the deal serve two purposes, Taleblu argued. The first goal is to “[complain] of U.S. nuclear-deal violations to wring further concessions. The second objective of the complaints is to “draw clear red lines” challenging both President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump to “enforce” the existing terms of the deal.
In July of this year, 15 Democratic senators who supported the nuclear deal questioned whether the IAEA’s reporting requirements on Iran’s nuclear program were specific enough to be effective.
In a letter to Obama, the senators, led by Sen. Gary Peters (D – Mich.), wrote, “Providing additional situational awareness of Iran’s nuclear program is vital for the long-term health of this agreement.” Further, the senators wrote, “We urge [the Obama] administration to ensure that the IAEA releases all relevant technical information so that we may continue to make our own judgments about the status of Iran’s nuclear program.”

 

A report by UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, said Saturday that the number of children trapped in besieged areas of Syria had doubled in less than a year to half a million. The report estimated that 100,000 of the trapped children were among the civilians pinned down in eastern Aleppo. They do not have access to adequate food or medical care (there are only an estimated 29 doctors remaining) and are on the brink of starvation.“People are looking through garbage to find something to eat — that’s if they find garbage in Aleppo,” Muhannad Hadi, the Middle East coordinator of the World Food Program, said in an interview with The Canadian Press. A Washington Post opinion piece published 11 days ago predicted these children will run out of food and medical supplies in 20 days or less.

Fighting in Syria has intensified over the past few days, with government forces capturing around 10 civilian areas. Nearly 40% of Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held neighborhoods are now under regime control.

 

The Israeli film, Lev Shaket (A Quiet Heart), has won two top honors at the 20th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Director Eitan Anner took home the Grand Prix honor and actress Ania Bukstein was awarded for best actress. The film tells the story of Naomi (Bukstein), a young classically trained pianist who moves to Jerusalem to escape the pressure of her life in Tel Aviv. The story tells of two unexpected connections Naomi makes with an Ultra-Orthodox musical prodigy and an Italian monk who is also an organist. These two help her reconnect with her music but also make her a target of intolerance. Bukstein was a nominee for best actress at the Ophir Awards, Israel’s Oscars. (via Israel21c)