Hamas’ new Gaza chief vowed on Wednesday that the Palestinian terrorist group would continue its war against Israel until the Jewish state ceases to exist. Yahya Sinwar declared, “Hamas will continue in the path of [Ahmed] Yassin for the liberation of all of Palestine – we will not surrender even a morsel.” Ahmed Yassin, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 2004, was a founder of Hamas; Sinwar was speaking at an event commemorating the anniversary of his death.
Sinwar, who is considered an extremist even by Hamas standards, was elected as Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip last month. He 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, “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.
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 history as “brutal and violent.”
In case of a future war with the Islamist terrorist groups Hamas or Hezbollah, Israel would completely evacuate its border communities–up to 250,000 people in either case–to lower the threat level, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
These evacuations would be the biggest in Israeli history.
“In 2017, all of Israel is under threat,” Col. Itzik Bar, part of the Israeli military’s Homefront Command, told the AP. Israel is preparing to deal with “very high amounts” of incoming fire, he added.
Bar noted that Hezbollah gained valuable battle experience while fighting in the Syrian conflict, and that the leader of the Iranian proxy group, Hassan Nasrallah, had recently increased his hostile rhetoric against Israel.
Israel seeks to “remove the threat by not having civilians there,” Bar said. “We want a meeting of army and Hezbollah forces and not civilians with Hezbollah forces.”
“In places where we understand there is a great danger to civilians, for example, where we won’t be able to supply defenses or supply deterrence … we will evacuate,” he explained.
In such a case, Israel would house the evacuees in existing buildings, including schools, kibbutz guest houses, and hotels.
Bar’s comments come in wake of reports indicating that both Hamas and Hezbollah are beefing up their capabilities to attack Israel.
During his confirmation hearing Friedman explained that his skepticism towards the two-state solution was "due to the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."
Friedman received an endorsement from former Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who said last week, "I want to assure you that David Friedman will perform as Ambassador way above expectations."
In his introductory remarks at the start of his confirmation hearing, Friedman said that his two main goals as ambassador to Israel would be "1) advancing the national interest of the United States in strengthening its relationship with Israel, and 2) working tirelessly to bring peace and stability to the region."
Friedman's confirmation comes at a time that the Trump administration and the Israeli government are coordinating their positions in advance of potential peace talks with the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters Wednesday that the two governments had made "significant progress" in their talks.
Music to our ears--
Cross-cultural joint Jewish-Muslim project from Israel, Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, have been chosen to open Radiohead’s concerts during the British band’s upcoming US tour. Radiohead had chosen the Israeli band to open its Tel Aviv concert in July but now confirms the Middle Eastern crew will open all its concerts in the US tour (set to kick off March 30, in Miami). Tassa, of Iraqi-Jewish-Yemenite descent, is credited with reviving popular Iraqi songs. His grandfather and his great-uncle, known as the Al- Kuwaiti brothers, were among the greatest composers and musicians in Baghdad during the first half of the 20th century. Tassa hosts Jewish and Muslim singers and performers, on two albums dedicated to the Al-Kuwaiti composers. Radiohead also announced that Shye Ben Tzur, an Israeli world musician known for his unique combination of Sufi-style singing mixed with Hebrew poetry, will feature with the band during a July concert in Florence, Italy. (via Israel21c)