Daily TIP

The Daily TIP: Hezbollah Operatives Arrested for Planning Attacks Against U.S., Israeli Targets

Posted by Tip Staff - June 09, 2017

Hezbollah Operatives Arrested for Planning Attacks Against U.S., Israeli Targets
TIP CEO: US Must Hold Qatar Accountable for Its Terror Support
India’s Prime Minister Modi to Skip Palestinian Authority during Upcoming Israel Trip
Israeli Scientists Discover Key to Repairing Damaged Heart Tissue

Hezbollah Operatives Arrested for Planning Attacks Against U.S., Israeli Targets

Two men were arrested earlier this month for planning attacks against Israeli and American targets, including New York City's JFK International Airport, on behalf of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The Justice Department announced the arrests of Ali Kourani, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Lebanon, and Samer El Debek of Dearborn, Michigan, for terrorist activities on behalf of Islamic Jihad Organization, which is affiliated with Hezbollah.

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, both men are accused of "providing, attempting, and conspiring to provide material support to Hezbollah," as well as "receiving and conspiring to receive military-type training from Hezbollah."

Both stand accused of being recruited by Hezbollah and receiving "military-style training, including in the use of weapons like rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns for use in support of the group’s terrorist mission."

El Debek is accused of traveling to Panama on behalf of Hezbollah and scouting out the U.S. and Israeli embassies there, as well as assessing the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and of ships traveling through the waterway. Kourani is accused of seeking potential targets "including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City."

The statement explained that the "Islamic Jihad Organization ('IJO') which is also known as the External Security Organization and '910,' is a component of Hezbollah responsible for the planning and coordination of intelligence, counterintelligence, and terrorist activities on behalf of Hezbollah outside of Lebanon."

A 2012 Hezbollah terror attack that targeted a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, killing six and injuring 32, was carried out by IJO. Authorities around the world have broken up other IJO terror attempts, the statement noted, including via "the arrest of an IJO operative surveilling Israeli targets in Cyprus in 2012, the seizure of bomb-making precursor chemicals in Thailand in 2012, including chemicals manufactured by a medical devices company based in Guangzhou, China ('Guangzhou Company-1'), and a similar seizure of chemicals manufactured by Guangzhou Company-1 in Cyprus in May 2015 in connection with the arrest of another IJO operative."

According to the Times, Kourani gave a number of interviews to the FBI this year and last. Over the course of these interviews, he said that because of family connections to the terror group, he had been allowed to attend a Hezbollah training camp when he was 16.

Kourani told the FBI that he was recruited in 2008 by Hezbollah and had a handler named Fadi. Fadi told Kourani to obtain U.S. citizenship, which he did in 2009. Kourani said that he had scouted a government site that had both FBI offices and an Army National Guard center in Manhattan. He also surveilled a Secret Service office in Brooklyn.

Kourani told the FBI that he had sent Fadi extensive information about the security procedures at JFK airport. He was instructed to develop sources from whom he could acquire weapons necessary for future operations against the U.S.

In 2007, an attempted Iran-led terror attack targeting the fuel tanks at JFK airport was thwarted and four men, including a baggage handler, were arrested.

In October of last year, three men were arrested for laundering a half-million dollars of Colombian drug money for Hezbollah in Miami banks.

TIP CEO: US Must Hold Qatar Accountable for Its Terror Support

Now that Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies have broken off ties with Qatar due to its terror support, it's time for the United States to do the same, Josh Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project, wrote Friday in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times.

Qatar by virtue of its natural gas reserves has become "one of the region's most consequential players and one of the richest countries in the world." But though the emirate posed as a supporter of the Arab Spring and democratic values, Qatar, ruled by the al-Thani family "has become a financier of terrorism," Block wrote.

He noted that just one week after hosting United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis, earlier this year, Qatar hosted a conference for the Gaza-based terror group Hamas. Qatar's support for Hamas extends beyond playing host, as the al-Thanis are major financial backers of Hamas "Last year alone," Block wrote, "Qatar transferred $31 million to Hamas, and the country is expected to pledge an additional $100 million to Gaza."

The Muslim Brotherhood is another beneficiary of the al-Thani's largess and it was a major backer of the short-lived Mohammad Morsi regime in Egypt. Leaders of the Brotherhood have lived in Qatar for years and are often given a platform to spread their anti-American and anti-Western ideology to some 60 million people on Qatar's Al Jazeera television network.

In Syria, the Qatari's have given somewhere between $1 billion and $3 billion in aid to Sunni Islamists groups, including some affiliated with al Qaeda. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar's current emir, has been lobbying to have Jabhat al-NusraMail removed from the U.S. list of terror organizations by promoting a cosmetic separation between the group and its parent organization al Qaeda.

In order to spread its influence in the West, Qatar funds think tanks and other research institutions to promote its view that Islamist groups in Syria are only interested in fighting Assad. Germany, uniquely among Western nations, has actually implicated Qatar as a sponsor of ISIS.

Qatar also has reportedly expressed warm feelings towards Iran and called the terror group Hamas "the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."

Despite "Qatar’s abysmal human rights record at home and malevolent behavior abroad," Qatar has largely escaped scrutiny from the West. This is in part because the United States benefits from Qatar's al-Udeid air base, the source for its strikes against ISIS. However, "Now that our allies are publicly breaking with the Gulf state," Block concluded, "Washington should put pressure on the government in Doha to pick a side. Qatar has gotten away with its opportunistic, two-faced foreign policy for too long."

India’s Prime Minister Modi to Skip Palestinian Authority during Upcoming Israel Trip

In a highly unusual move, Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi will not meet with the Palestinian Authority during his scheduled visit to Israel next month, The Times of Israel reported Thursday.

“This is going to be a purely bilateral visit. He is coming to visit us, and only us,” a senior official in Jerusalem told the paper. “It’s a great achievement for us,” he added.

The decision is out of step with the typical behavior of foreign dignitaries visiting Israel, who most, if not all, also meet with representatives of the Palestinian Authority, either in Ramallah or in Bethlehem.

Stronger relations between Israel and India, in recognition of increasingly overlapping interests, have raised questions over India’s traditional support for the Palestinian cause and its relationship with Arab countries. India has also adjusted its traditional pro-Palestinian voting patterns at international forums like the United Nations in Israel’s favor.

Trade and economic relations between the two countries have developed and diversified rapidly since the 1990s. In 1992, bilateral trade between Israel and India was worth $200 million. Today, it stands in excess of $5 billion, excluding defense contracts.

Indo-Israeli collaboration in the defense sector is particularly strong and established. Israel now ranks number three among India’s top arms suppliers after Russia and the United States with annual contracts worth $1 billion. Besides cooperation in the defense and agricultural sectors, Israel has become India’s leading partner in clean technologies and water management.

Modi is due to arrive in Israel for his first-ever visit on July 4. During his three-day stay, He is scheduled to meet with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, hold a rally for Israelis of Indian descent, and tour agricultural and technological sites.

It was reported in February that Air India is planning to announce the inauguration of a Tel Aviv-Mumbai route at the time of Modi's visit.

Israeli Scientists Discover Key to Repairing Damaged Heart Tissue

Researchers in Israel report they have discovered a molecule in newborn hearts that appears to control the process of renewing heart muscle.

When injected into adult mouse hearts injured by heart attacks, this molecule, called Agrin, seems to “unlock” that renewal process and enable heart muscle repair – something never seen in human heart tissue outside of the womb.

These findings, published June 5 in Nature, point to new directions for research on restoring the function of damaged hearts. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

The healing process following a human heart attack is long and inefficient, explained Prof. Eldad Tzahor of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who led the study together with doctoral student Elad Bassat, research student Alex Genzelinakh and other Weizmann molecular cell biologists.

Once damaged, muscle cells called cardiomyocytes are replaced by scar tissue, which cannot pump blood and therefore place a burden on the remaining cardiomyocytes.

Heart regeneration can happen in utero for humans, but some vertebrates retain this ability after they’re born. Mice hearts can regenerate only for the first week of life. Those seven days gave the Israelis an opportunity to explore the cues that promote heart regeneration.

Tzahor and Bassat zeroed in on the surrounding supportive tissue known as the extracellular matrix (ECM) through which cell-to-cell messages are passed or stored. When bits of ECM from newborn and week-old mice were added to cardiac cells in culture, the younger ECM caused cardiomyocytes to proliferate.

Agrin, a protein present in ECM, already was known to help regulate the signals passed from nerves to muscles. In mouse hearts, levels of this molecule drop over the first seven days of life, suggesting a possible role in heart regeneration. When the researchers added Agrin to cell cultures, they noted that it caused the cells to divide.

Next, they found that mouse hearts were almost completely healed and fully functional following a single injection of Agrin. Although this recovery process took more than a month, the scar tissue was dramatically reduced, replaced by living heart tissue that restored the heart’s pumping function.

The team then proved that Agrin has a similar effect on human heart cells grown in culture.

Members of Tzahor’s team have started pre-clinical studies in larger animals in Germany in collaboration with Dr. Christian Kupatt of the Technical University of Munich to determine the effect of Agrin on cardiac repair.

Several research groups took part in various stages of the research: Prof. Shenhav Cohen of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and her PhD student Yara Eid; Prof. Nenad Bursac of Duke University, North Carolina; James F. Martin of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas; members of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Israel National Center for Personalized Medicine at the Weizmann Institute; and Prof. Irit Sagi of the Weizmann Institute’s Biological Regulation Department.

Tzahor’s research is supported by the Yad Abraham Research Center for Cancer Diagnostics and Therapy, which he heads; the Henry Krenter Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Genomics; the Daniel S. Shapiro Cardiovascular Research Fund; and the European Research Council.

(via Israel21c)

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