Hamas rejects aid for peace deal

 

No aid for peace. A senior Hamas official on Friday rejected Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s offer of “massive” assistance to the people of Gaza predicated on the condition that Hamas give up its rockets and attack tunnels, and release three Israeli men the organization is believed to be holding hostage.

Hamas spokesperson Mahmoud al-Zahar flatly refused the offer and said if Gaza wanted to be like Singapore (read: a thriving, economically stable nation), it would have done so already.

“The moment Hamas gives up on tunnels and rockets, we will be the first ones to invest and build [Gaza’s residents] a seaport, an airport, and industrial zones by the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings,” Liberman said. “We are able to immediately create about 40,000 jobs for the residents of Gaza.”

 

The northern front. In an op-ed appearing in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C. think tank, urged the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which were acquired in a defensive war against Syria in 1967. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Donald Trump and his administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in a meeting on Wednesday and at a breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

Israel expressed willingness to cede the Golan in negotiations with Syria over decades; however, as the authors of the piece noted, “Had Israel ceded the Golan to Syria, Islamic State, al Qaeda or Iran would be sitting on the shores of the Galilee across from the Israeli city of Tiberias” due to the effects of the civil war in Syria. For the Trump administration, which has expressed a desire to split Iran off from its ally Russia, such a move “would show that the U.S. will take a tougher line in the provision of arms and intelligence to Iran and Hezbollah.”

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization, have attempted in recent years to establish a terrorist infrastructure on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Israel is deeply concerned about such a development, particularly in the aftermath of military victories by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Prof. Asher Susser, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, told BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, “The changes in Syria [due to  the civil war] have brought Iran closer to Israel’s borders than ever before.”

 

Presents from Tehran. Iran has sent “game-changing” weapons to its proxy group Hezbollah, which has been actively building tunnels and fortifications along Lebanon’s border with Israel, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported Wednesday, citing Lebanese media.

Ibrahim al-Amin, chairman of the pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar, wrote in an editorial on January 24 that “a vast supply of advanced, state-of-the art weapons of various kinds, including weapons provided by Iran” have flown into Hezbollah’s depots since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. He also asserted that while Israel targeted convoys transporting sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, “dozens if not hundreds of convoys managed to [get through and] bring the necessary [weapons] to the resistance bases in Lebanon.”

“Israel reads the map and realizes that Hizbullah’s weapons arsenal has steadily grown, and is now several times larger than it was in 2006, and that the kind of weapons that the enemy tried and is still trying to prevent the resistance from acquiring – namely, what Israel calls ‘game-changing’ weapons – is available to it in great amounts,” al-Amin claimed.

Al-Amin observed that Hezbollah fired 4,300 rockets into Israel during the 2006 war between the two. Now, Israel estimates that Hezbollah would be able to fire 1,500 rockets at it each day, but “these are the enemy’s estimates, and they are surely wrong,” he wrote.

A separate report on Hezbollah’s preparations for another confrontation with Israel appeared several days earlier in Al-Mustaqbal, which is owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’d Al-Hariri, aa rival of Hezbollah. The paper confirmed that Hezbollah was operating in southern Lebanon, in violation United Nations Security Council resolution 1701. “Hizbullah has concealed forward positions on the international border [between Lebanon and Israel], including tunnels it dug over 10 years ago, especially in the Al-Labouna area, south of Al-Naqoura. [This area] overlooks the Palestinian coast and the [Israeli] towns of Shlomi and Nahariya,” Al-Mustaqbal noted. The report also claimed that Hezbollah has shared its tunnel digging expertise with Hamas.

 

Noah’s Ark is said to have saved many animals from extinction. Now, veterinarians at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan Safari, together with experts from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Germany, are using innovative techniques to create a DNA tissue bank for animals – especially those expected to become extinct in the next few years. The Israel-German Ark of Life is a frozen zoo comprising animal DNA samples kept in special tubes at a constant -196 degrees Celsius. The forward-thinking conservation project uses modern means to prepare for future advances in saving animals. “Today we can take the genes to conserve. The tissues can be used in the future for several reasons, whether to reproduce species of animals that become extinct or maybe reproduce organs for transplants,” Dr. Yigal Horowitz, chief veterinarian at the Safari and head of the project, tells ISRAEL21c. (via ISRAEL21c)

Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. highlights Arab cooperation, Iran threat

 

Roger that, Michael Oren. In a conference call held by The Israel Project on Thursday, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren weighed in on President Donald Trump’s meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking about the possibilities of Israeli cooperation with Arab states and the threat from Iran. Ambassador Oren told journalists, “Saudi Arabia implicitly backed Israel during our recent military engagements both with Hamas and with Hezbollah. And there’s been a visit of a former high ranking Saudi general to Israel.” While the Saudi government has to be discreet about such cooperation because of popular opinion, “as long as we can keep it under the radar and do not demand that they be public about it, we can get a tremendous amount of cooperation from the Saudis and the Gulf states.”

Ambassador Oren highlighted the dangers presented by Iran, which “is complicit in the murder of a half million Syrians” and spreading its influence in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. “This is an Iran which is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror…which is systematically violating UN restrictions on missile development.” Many of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that are in the nuclear deal reached between the global powers and Iran in 2015, such as the quantity and quality of centrifuges and enriched uranium, come off after 10 to 15 years, at which point Iran “can make not one nuclear weapon but two hundred nuclear weapons in a very short period.” He emphasized the importance of U.S-Israeli cooperation in the face of this threat.

 

Out and about. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the threat of a rising Iran during a series of meetings with congressional leadership on Wednesday.

Netanyahu met one-on-one with Congress’ top legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.), and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Though specific reports of these closed-door meetings were mostly not made public, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying that “the prime minister discussed the issues of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu’s meeting with Ryan had more details publicized. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and I redoubled our commitment to strengthening the historic alliance between the United States and Israel,” Ryan said in a statement. “We discussed the need to hold Iran accountable for its actions, bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge, and push back against international efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. The special relationship between our nations has been an anchor of stability during uncertain and dangerous times. It must remain a cornerstone of American leadership today. I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his unwavering friendship and support.”

Netanyahu also met with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday morning. The two pledged to “work together in a systematic manner” to combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, a member of Netanyahu’s delegation told the Times of Israel.

 

Going nuclear. The chief of Hezbollah threatened to attack Israel’s nuclear reactor, located at Dimona in the country’s Negev Desert, in a speech on Thursday. “I call upon the Israelis not only to evacuate the ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle [the] Dimona nuclear facility,” said Hassan Nasrallah. “The Israeli nuclear weapon that represents a threat to the entire region, we will turn it into a threat to Israel.” On Sunday, an Israeli court ordered Haifa Chemicals to empty an ammonia tank at Haifa’s port – this came a couple of weeks after a report was released by Prof. Ehud Keinan, a chemistry expert at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which explained that an attack on the ammonia tank would “cause a disaster whose effects could exceed that of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.” (The court’s injunction to empty the tank was later delayed after a petition by Haifa Chemicals). 

Nasrallah continued, “We will hit the tank wherever it is…Of course, Haifa would be easier but we will hit it anywhere.” The Hezbollah leader threatened last February to launch strikes at the tank. “This would be exactly as a nuclear bomb, and we can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” Nasrallah said.

The speech Nasrallah gave was on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the death of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the chief military commander of Hezbollah before being killed. Mughniyeh was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and others on behalf of Iran; he was the mastermind of the 1983 attack on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

 

The results are in. A staggering 71% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Israel, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. This represents the fourth straight year that Israel’s favorable rating has been 70% or higher. Only about one in four Americans view Israel unfavorably.

Gallup also concluded this month that Americans are “tepid” on Palestinian statehood, with 45% of Americans in support and 42% opposed. Americans’ support for an independent Palestinian state is essentially unchanged from last year, but the percentage opposed is up five percentage points – the highest level seen in Gallup’s trend.

Sixty-two percent of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis compared with 19% who sympathize with the Palestinians, similar to the past several years. Another 19% express no preference, including 5% who say they sympathize with both equally, 6% who sympathize with neither and 8% who have no opinion.

Trump: Palestinians must stop the hate if they want peace

 

Stop the hate. Speaking in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Wednesday, President Donald Trump was crystal clear: Palestinians must end their indoctrination of anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in order for peace to be possible.

“They’re taught tremendous hate. I’ve seen what they’re taught,” said the President, adding that such acculturation “starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room.” Many Palestinian educational materials glamorize Hitler and the killing of Jews (not to mention the destruction of Israel). 

Trump also indicated a shift in American policy towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Rather than insisting on a two-state solution, as his two immediate predecessors did as official policy, Trump was more ambivalent, stating, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.” The key takeaway from Trump’s remarks was that ultimately it will be up to the two parties to negotiate and come up with the solution they find best. 

His meeting in Washington with Netanyahu was the earliest of its kind—no administration has met with the Israeli premier so soon into its term.

 

United we stand. The Trump administration has been in talks with Sunni Arab states to form a NATO-like mutual defense organization to counter Iran and ISIS, which would share intelligence with Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The coalition would consist of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan; other Arab countries would be able to join as well.

An Arab diplomat told the Journal, “They’ve been asking diplomatic missions in Washington if we’d be willing to join this force that has an Israeli component. Israel’s role would be intelligence sharing, not training or boots on the ground. They’d provide intelligence and targets. That’s what the Israelis are good at.” The Journal continued, “In talks with administration officials over the past two weeks, Emirati and Saudi officials have expressed admiration for Israeli security and intelligence capabilities, tacitly agreeing to pool intelligence with the Israelis if the alliance is formed.” Saudi Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said, “With Israel, we don’t have official relations…[But] the Israelis are facing the same Iranian threat, exactly like us.”

The Arab countries have reportedly said they would welcome “overt cooperation with Israel” if the latter halts settlement construction, and such cooperation would also be contingent upon the U.S. not moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often mentioned warmer relations between Israel and Arab countries. On Wednesday, during a joint press conference with President Donald Trump at the White House, Netanyahu said, “For the first time in Israel’s lifetime and my lifetime, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy but as an ally.”

 

To infinity, and beyond! India launched 104 nanosatellites via a single rocket into orbit Wednesday—two of them Israeli. The launching of the 104 satellites set a new record, trumping Russia’s previous feat of sending 37 satellites in a single launch in 2014.

One of the Israeli satellites—slightly larger than a milk carton—will study climate change and scientific phenomena from space. It was developed by Ben Gurion University in collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, and will be the first time that any Israeli university will have access to data from an Israeli nanosatellite for research purposes.

Indian-Israeli ties are steadily growing closer. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning a trip to Israel in 2017—the first ever of its kind. The announcement came last month after the two countries celebrated 25 years of diplomatic relations.

 

New evidence found in ancient Judean clay jars shows Earth’s geomagnetic field has been fluctuating for thousands of years and that there is no reason to be worried about its current welfare, even though it is diminishing and some scientists suspect it is about to flip. In a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and University of California-San Diego cite data obtained from the analysis of 67 well-dated Judean jar handles. These heat-impacted ceramic pots, which bear royal stamp impressions from the eighth to second centuries BCE, show evidence of changes in the strength of the geomagnetic field over the years. “The period spanned by the jars allowed us to procure data on the Earth’s magnetic field during that time — the Iron Age through the Hellenistic Period in Judea,” said Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU’s Institute of Archaeology, the study’s lead investigator. Scientists don’t entirely understand the function of the geomagnetic field, but some suspect there’s a correlation between magnetic pole flips, which leave the planet vulnerable to cosmic radiation, and mass extinctions. “This new finding puts the recent decline in the field’s strength into context. Apparently, this is not a unique phenomenon – the field has often weakened and recovered over the last millennia,” said Ben-Yosef. (via Israel21c)

WSJ column: Advice to Jared Kushner

 

Palestinians, the ball is in your court. A Wall Street Journal column written by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Bret Stephens (former Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post) on Monday advised the Trump administration how to tackle Israeli-Palestinian peace. Key takeaway? “The U.S. cannot solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; only Palestinians can.”

The column was directed towards President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—the president’s pick as point man on Arab-Israeli issues. In it, Stephens counsels Kushner to look at various lessons from history, ranging from a cautionary “do nothing” approach to the wisdom garnered by former president George W. Bush. “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers,” Bush wrote in 2004, “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

Yet Stephens also demurred from the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace process should be the ultimate focus. “The real prize,” he wrote, “lies in further cultivating Jerusalem’s ties to Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Abu Dhabi, as part of an Alliance of Moderates and Modernizers that can defeat Sunni and Shiite radicals from Raqqa to Tehran.”

 

Don’t do it. The United Nations warned the president of Lebanon against arming Hezbollah a day after he said that the Iranian-backed terrorist organization was essential for Lebanese security. Sigrid Kaag, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, tweeted Monday, “Recalling SCR 1701 vital 4 Lebanon’s stability-security. Resolution calls 4 disarmament all armed groups. No arms outside control of state.” Her reference is to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted unanimously to end the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, called for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon and the re-establishment of the Lebanese government’s authority over the southern part of the country, and prohibited the transfer of arms to any entity other than the government in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s continued armed presence in southern Lebanon violates these three elements of the resolution. 

On Sunday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, said that Hezbollah’s weapons “do not contradict the state… and are an essential part of defending Lebanon. As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for (Hezbollah’s) arsenal because it complements the army’s role.” Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, a Sunni, countered Aoun’s statements on Tuesday by calling Hezbollah’s arsenal illegitimate.

In The Times of Israel on Monday, journalist Avi Issacharoff explained that the Israeli military is increasingly concerned about deepening cooperation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army. The IDF will have to take this into consideration in the next war against Hezbollah; it is especially delicate because the Lebanese army receives much of its weaponry from the United States.

“In southern Lebanon, it’s Hezbollah that calls the shots,” Issacharoff wrote. “There is no village in the south (with the possible exception of several Sunni villages) that has not been transformed into a fortified bastion of Hezbollah, which possesses an entire array of command and control, communications systems, and a variety of arms including rockets (of course) and anti-tank weapons.” An Israeli defense official explained that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk.

Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all 27 non-U.S. NATO member states.

 

For the umpteenth time. A member of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades was killed on Monday when a tunnel he was digging caved in, The Times of Israel reported. Hamas, an Islamist terror group openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction, said last month that it lost 22 of its members in tunnel collapses in 2016. Earlier this month, a Hamas engineer was killed when a rocket he was testing exploded.

A senior IDF official recently told Israel’s Channel 2 that Hamas had rebuilt its tunnel infrastructure and rocket arsenal to the levels it maintained before its 2014 war against Israel. Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out last year that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” 

Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on tunnel construction, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. An Israeli official estimated in July that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month.

This week, Hamas elected Yahya Sinwar — an influential hardliner convicted by Israel of multiple murders — to be its new Gaza-based chief.

 

Educators and counselors from Jewish Israeli youth movement Hashomer Hatzair and the Arab Israeli youth movement Ajyal soon will embark on a joint voluntary mission to set up a community center and school for Syrian refugee children on the Greek island of Lesbos. The first delegation of two from each movement, plus coordinator Yair Leibel from Hashomer Hatzair, expects to leave Israel February 19 and stay for three weeks. The second delegation will be accompanied by Rnin Kahil, the Ajyal coordinator. Members and leaders of the two youth movements have been meeting periodically for almost a decade, usually for informal dialogues. “The problem is that after we sit and talk, we go our separate ways,” Leibel tells ISRAEL21c. “In one of our last meetings the Syrian situation arose … and there was the thought to do something together to help people who are suffering in a nation in our area, even though Syria is considered an enemy country to Israel.” Kahil tells ISRAEL21c that the goal is to establish a community center that will function as a school in the mornings where the volunteers from Israel will teach math, Arabic, English and general subjects, and as a center for informal activities in the afternoons. Though the numbers change as refugees move off Lesbos in search of more permanent accommodations, the island shelters about 5,000 mostly Syrian refugees at any given time, and as many as half of them are 18 or younger. “The kids have nothing to do,” says Kahil, 21. “They really need someone to lift them up.” (via ISRAEL21c)

TIP conference call: Former Obama advisor emphasizes Iran threat and bipartisanship ahead of Trump-Netanyahu meeting

 

Straight from the expert. Ambassador Dennis Ross, a former advisor to President Barack Obama on the Middle East and a veteran diplomat, emphasized the importance of countering Iranian aggression and of maintaining the bipartisan American pro-Israel consensus in a conference call Monday hosted by The Israel Project. Speaking in the context of the upcoming meeting Wednesday between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ross said that Netanyahu will likely emphasize “not just…enforcement of the [Iran nuclear] deal, but that more needs to be done to deter the Iranians and that in fact some efforts should be made to see if it’s possible to renegotiate” the deal’s sunset clause. This provision of the deal “at year 15…allows the Iranians to build as large a nuclear infrastructure as they want, both in terms of quality and in terms of quantity.” This would leave Iran as a “nuclear threshold state in a position where it could move very quickly to turn that threshold status into a weapon status.”

Ross also highlighted Iran’s regional aggression, noting that Iranian-backed “Shia militias…make up for the shortage of Syrian military manpower,” which has allowed the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. It is of the highest importance to Israel that Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah not be allowed to set up a new front against Israel in the Syrian Golan Heights. Netanyahu might make a point of stressing the unprecedentedly high level of cooperation that Israel now has with Sunni Arab states and how this cooperation “’vis-à-vis Iran and vis-à-vis ISIS is an asset for the United States and we ought to be thinking about how to take advantage of it.”

Ross was also clear about the importance of bipartisan support for Israel. Netanyahu “is going to want to show that the relationship is not just a relationship with the administration, it’s a relationship with the country.” Ross said that he expects Democrats and Republicans alike to demonstrate their closeness to and support for Israel while Netanyahu is in town.

 

Crazy even by Hamas standards. The Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas elected an extreme hardliner as its leader in the Gaza Strip. Yahya Sinwar, 55, was arrested in 1988 and sentenced to four life terms in 1989 on charges of terrorism and murder. He was released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011. Dr. Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies and the former head of the Palestinian desk at the Israeli Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said of Sinwar, “First of all, you have to remember Sinwar is a terrorist…He represents the most radical and extreme line” that exists within Hamas. Michael told The New York Times that Sinwar is affiliated with, and wants closer relations with, Iran; he also is in favor of cooperating with ISIS’ branch in the Sinai Peninsula.

Haaretz reported, “Palestinians who have met Sanwar [an alternative spelling] characterize him as an extremist, even in the context of his organization, and as someone who speaks in apocalyptic terms about perpetual war with Israel.” Sinwar is notorious for having personally murdered Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, and set up Hamas’ internal security and intelligence unit during the 1980s. Avi Issacharoff of the Times of Israel characterized Sinwar’s actions as “brutal and violent.”

 

Women’s choice. The self-described “feminist” Swedish government sent a delegation to Iran over the weekend—where women lack the freedom of choice to expose their hair in public—and the female diplomats were criticized for succumbing to Iran’s antifeminist dress code.

“By actually complying with the directives of the Islamic Republic, Western women legitimize the compulsory hijab law,” said Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist who started a Facebook page that invites Iranian women to share photographs of themselves without a hijab. “This is a discriminatory law and it’s not an internal matter when the Islamic Republic forces all non-Iranian women to wear hijab as well.”

All women in Iran are required to wear headscarves, a law that is enforced with an iron grip. About 40,000 cars were confiscated in the first half of 2015 because drivers or passengers were not wearing their headscarves properly. Many women were pulled over and beaten on the ground, only to be arrested afterwards.

Last year U.S. chess champion Nazi Paikidize-Barnes, 22, made headlines when she said should she would rather boycott the world chess championship in Tehran than subscribe to Islamic dress, “even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”

“Some consider a hijab part of culture,” Paikidze-Barnes said in announcing her decision. “But, I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression.”

 

Putting a scientist to death. Iran arrested scientist Ahmadreza Djalali last year and may now be sentencing him to death, The New York Times reported Monday. The Iranian-born scientist is now a resident of Sweden where his wife resides with their two children.

Djalali, a physician who specializes in disaster medicine and has taught at universities in Belgium, Italy and Sweden, was arrested in April while driving to his family’s house after arriving in Iran for a conference, an Italian newspaper has quoted his wife as saying. His wife said her husband had been charged with the “death penalty for collaboration with enemy states.” Speculation about his charges include his work as a scientist as a professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where he may have contacted colleagues from countries Iran considers hostile—such as Israel.

Human rights organization Amnesty International said in a statement last week that Dr. Djalali had been detained at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since his arrest on April 25 and that he had been threatened with the death penalty.

Last month twenty people were hanged in Iran on one day—putting the country’s death toll at the time at 57 since the start of 2017. Most of those executed have been youths.

Former United States Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon blasted Iran for its “alarming rate” or executions and lack of improvement made under the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a report released last October.

Ban was “deeply troubled” by accounts “of executions, floggings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, unfair trials, denial of access to medical care and possible torture and ill-treatment,” according to the 19-page assessment, the last one issued before his term expired.