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Cease-Fire? Three Rockets Fired At Ashkelon

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Terrorists from Hamas-controlled Gaza fired three rockets towards the city of Ashkelon on Thursday evening, shortly before 11 p.m. local time. One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Two other rockets exploded in open area near the city. There were no reports of physical injuries or damage.

The latest rocket attacks come despite a so-called "cease-fire" announced by Hamas. The terror group said in a statement on Wednesday night that it was committed to stop this round of confrontation "in response to the Egyptian efforts to try and stop the aggression on our people."

The group claimed that no rockets would be fired "as long as (Israel) commits to stopping its crimes," but that truce did not last long and two Grad missiles were fired at Ashkelon in the wee hours of the morning. Five short-range Qassam rockets were launched in an attack on the Eshkol Regional Council district at about 7:30 a.m.

Terrorists launched another rocket attack on southern Israel Thursday afternoon, aiming at the Sha'ar HaNegev district. At around 1:30 p.m. a short-range Qassam rocket was fired by Gaza terrorists at the southern Israeli region. The rocket landed in an open area. No one was physically injured and no property damage was reported.

At least 120 rockets have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel within a 72-hour period. Four Border Guard police officers were wounded, one seriously, in one of the attacks on Ashkelon earlier in the week.


Syria Said to Possess Vast Quantities of Chemical Weapons

By VOA News

The Syrian Army is by regional standards a highly-capable military force and its air force is one of the largest in the Middle East. In addition to that, Western experts believe Syria has a large chemical weapons arsenal including mustard gas, the more modern sarin and even VX - the most toxic of all chemical agents.

"Unlike Moammar Gadhafi, who had basically dismantled his chemical weapons," said John Pike, head of Globalsecurity.com, "the Syrians have a very active poison gas program." Pike says they have "the medium-range ballistic missiles that would enable them to deliver it to the neighborhood - certainly to Israel and Turkey, but not farther afield, certainly not to western European countries."

Experts say there is little hard data on Syria's chemical weapons program because the country has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention that outlaws the production, possession and use of such weapons. Most of the estimates come from intelligence agencies and analysts.

Charles Blair, with the Federation of American scientists, said it makes sense for the Syrians to have a chemical weapons arsenal because they need some sort of deterrent against the Israelis. "In 2007 the Israelis destroyed what at that point were nuclear reactors going up in what was believed were the nascent Syrian nuclear program." Blair said "It's entirely possible that after that, the Syrians redoubled their efforts with their chemical deterrent because they no longer had a nuclear route."

Experts believe the chemical weapons - known as "the poor man's nuclear weapon" - are produced in four or five facilities in Syria and stored in dozens of places throughout the country.

Aram Nerguizian, a Syria expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said these sites are well protected. "A lot of talk about securing these facilities so far is moot," he said, "because a lot of the elite units in the Syrian military are critical to maintaining the safeguards on those facilities. There is a strong sense of confidence within the U.S. defense community, that the Syrian armed forces currently have strong safeguards in place."

There has been some debate about what to do to secure the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal if the crisis escalates. Some reports have indicated that the U.S. Defense Department is drawing up contingency plans to secure that arsenal.

But Blair is skeptical about such an endeavor, saying "the only way that you could envision really securing the Syrian stockpile is with a large force." He says the Department of Defense estimates that "it would take 75,000 U.S. forces to properly secure it. And there is no large standing Western army anywhere near Syria. "I don't think there is any way that the West can secure the stockpiles," he said.

Analysts also believe it is essential to make sure that those chemical weapons don't fall into the hands of groups like Hizbullah or al-Qaida. Experts also fear that the rebels fighting the Syrian government might obtain those arms - but they point out that right now, the rebels don't have the necessary military systems to deliver them.

And in a related story, it was revealed that the Syrian air force is one of the largest in the Middle East, with 30,000 members and composed of aircraft provided first by the Soviet Union and, later, by Russia. They include MiG-21 interceptors, MiG-23 ground assault aircraft and the more modern MiG-29 combat aircraft. They also have a fleet of Sukhoi fighter jets.

The Russian government has consistently denied providing weaponry to Syria that could be used to fight the rebels. What the Russians have provided the Syrian air force for many years - in addition to aircraft - is maintenance for its planes and training for its pilots.

Syrian air and naval forces comprise 70,000 air force personnel, 5,000 navy personnel, 300 fighter-ground attack planes, 48 intelligence/surveillance planes, 22 heavy transport planes, 36 attack helicopters and 100 reconnaissance/transport helicopters. Analysts say if Western nations decide to intervene militarily in the conflict in Syria, its air defenses will be far more challenging than those of Libya.


Co-Chairman of Bipartisan Policy Center to Congress: Israel Needs Bombs, Refueling Tankers for a Strike on Iran

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Former Senator Charles Robb co-chairman of the Bipartisan Policy Center said that in order to perform a successful attack on Iran Israel's aerial refueling capabilities and bunker-buster bomb stores need to be enhanced.

Robb, who was giving testimony at a Congress subcommittee, presented the material gaps in the IDF's preparedness to an attack on Iran, and called on the United States to provide Israel with KC-135 aerial refueling military aircrafts and 200 bunker-busting munitions to supplement the 100 Israel already holds.

During his testimony Robb warned that an Israeli attack on Iran carries with it the danger that the aerial attack will fail to achieve its objective – deterring Iran from rehabilitating its nuclear program or completely negating it ability to do so.

According to Robb, whether or not the attack is successful or not, Iran and its proxies and especially Hizbullah are expected to respond. This would include terror attacks around the world and a rise in the price of oil. Despite this, the possibility that Iran would obtain nuclear weapons was more dangerous.

Robb added that expanding Israeli and American capabilities to attack Iran would help pressure Iran in its negotiations and help convince the countries purchasing oil from Iran to adhere to the limits imposed on them. According to Robb, supplying Israel with aerial refueling aircrafts and bunker-busting munitions would help alleviate Israeli fears and thus will contribute to postponing an attack. And if an attack is in the end to take place it is better it be successful than if it failed.

Robb said that the 100 GBU-28 bunker-busters the U.S. provided Israel with, in 2006, were no longer enough and that Israel required 200 bombs of the improved GBU-31 model. This model, he explained, can be dropped from the same planes (F-15s and F-16s) and have the same penetration capabilities, but their tail kits are more advanced allowing for more accuracy. The result of this, according to Robb, would be more devastating damage to Iran's underground facilities, a larger attack fleet, and the opening of possibility for a second round of attacks, in case these are needed.

Robb said that he believes the U.S. should deal with the Iranian nuclear threat with the parallel routes; negotiations, sanctions and preparation for an attack by preparing U.S attack capabilities, providing the Gulf States with a missile defense systems and munitions, as well as, providing Israel weapons. He said that he prefers that the matter be resolved through negotiations but called congress to fund the purchase of super bunker-busters dropped from B-52 bombers that are able to penetrate bunkers 65 yards deep, which is enough to neutralize Iran's underground facilities. Currently the U.S. has only 20 bombs of this model.

Robb served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and as Lyndon Johnson's military aide and married one of his daughters. He later went on to serve as a governor and senator.


Hebrew Lessons are the Latest Hit in Poland

By YnetNews.com

Hebrew may be a difficult language, but that hasn't kept Poles from trying to learn it. These days, stories by Etgar Keret and songs by popular singer Aviv Gefen serve as instructional texts

In recent years, no fewer than 13 Hebrew language faculties have launched throughout Poland. In addition to the academic area, a number of private schools that teach students the wonders of the written language, as well as an ulpan that teaches spoken Hebrew, which operates in Warsaw's Jewish community.

Reading from right to left, the strange letters, and the guttural sounds of Hebrew don't seem to put off Poles. According to Israeli Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner, several hundred Polish citizens are currently studying Hebrew, and the demand is growing. "This makes me very happy," Rav-Ner said. "I ask the students why they are studying Hebrew, and their answers are interesting. They say that the Jewish and Yiddish cultures are part of Poland's history and culture and they want to learn about it. Some say that they want to help make Polish society, which is mainly Catholic, more diverse."

The embassy provides assistance for Hebrew courses in the form of textbooks and in inviting Hebrew instructors to work in Poland. Anna Zaluska, 25, who teaches Hebrew at a private language school in Warsaw, explained that one reason for the increased interest in Hebrew study is increased economic cooperation between Israel and Poland. "There are also Poles who want to study Hebrew because they have an Israeli partner," Zaluska noted.

However, despite renewed interest, Hebrew language study is not an entirely new phenomenon. The University of Warsaw has been teaching Hebrew since 1950. The Hebrew study curriculum includes, among other sources, books by contemporary popular writers Etgar Keret and Eshkol Nevo and songs by Aviv Geffen, Hadag Nahash, and Teapacks.


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