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Syria: Israeli Attack Equals Declaration of War. Iron Domes at Haifa and Safed

By DEBKAfile and The Times of Israel

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Sunday that the strike at Syria overnight represented a "declaration of war" by Israel. Russian and Iranian media earlier predicted full-scale Middle East hostilities involving Israel erupting in the coming hours, in the wake of Israel's renewed strikes against Iranian missiles bound for Hizbullah and other targets around Damascus.

Russian sources reported rumors that President Bashar Assad was on the point of declaring war on Israel. Russia Today claimed that an Israeli rocket strike Sunday caused heavy Syrian casualties – according to rumors, at least 300 members of the Syrian Army's 501st Unit dead and hundreds filling four Damascus hospitals.

The same Russian source reported that Syrian security forces cordoned off the sites of the explosions against entry. Residents reported after the blasts that the ground moved with the force of a 4 magnitude earthquake.

Shortly after the Israel attacks in the Damascus area Sunday, the IDF posted additional Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in Haifa and Safed to defend those northern towns against incoming Syrian and Hizbullah rockets.

Low-ranking Syrian and Iranian officials responded to the Israeli attacks on Syria: Deputy Information minister His Al-Yiftah commented by saying that "a new foreign element had entered the Syrian conflict overnight and this would cause war."

In Tehran, an Iranian foreign ministry official condemned "Israeli aggression on Syria and accused Israel of fomenting instability and ethnic discord in the region. The commander of the ground forces asked if the war was not about to burst out of Syria's borders, without answering the question.

An Israeli official confirmed to AFP that Israeli had Sunday conducted a second round of strikes in three days on advanced weapons including Iranian F-110 weapons bound for Hizbullah in transit at Damascus international airport. Syrian TV reported only an attack on the Jamraya military research center just north of Damascus. This was the same facility which Israeli planes attacked in January.

The Arkia airline Sunday afternoon suspended flights from Haifa to Eilat, informing travelers that the airspace of northern Israel has been closed until further notice due to the high tension on its northern borders.

Haifa's mayor ordered the northern city to increase its preparedness and gear up to defend itself against a possible retaliatory attack. Yahav held meetings in order to coordinate the city's positions with the Home Front Command, police, fire department and MDA. Procedures for opening shelters and absorption centers were discussed as well.

The move followed the placing of two Iron Dome batteries in northern Israel by the Israel Defense Forces. "City Hall is a body which residents approach in case of emergency and we must prepare accordingly," Yahav said. Two weeks ago, the Knesset held a special meeting on protecting the city's large chemical stores, an attack on which could lead to thousands of deaths.

Late last month, Israeli planes shot down a drone off the coast near the city, thought to have been sent by Hizbullah or Iran. Hizbullah denied sending the unmanned aircraft. Several days later, the army called up thousands of soldiers for a surprise drill in the north.

One Iron Dome battery was deployed in Safed and the other in Haifa. The Iron Dome system has proved highly effective in stopping short-range rocket fire, intercepting 84 percent of the incoming rockets from Gaza it aimed at during Operation Pillar of Defense last November.

Army Radio reported Israeli concerns that Hizbullah might seek further Iranian missile shipments, and said the security establishment was therefore remaining on alert.

Activists opposed to the Assad regime reported that a blast hit an ammunition depot in the Qassiyoun mountains late Saturday. It was not clear if that reported incident was related to any Israeli activity. According to a Syrian official who spoke to Al Arabiya, the Syrian regime uses its bases on the mountain to fire missiles at rebel targets in Damascus.

Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on Sunday afternoon to discuss the escalating hostilities with Syria. He slightly delayed his scheduled Sunday evening departure for China in order to participate in the meeting.

In a brief comment apparently related to the airstrike, Netanyahu said Sunday, "My father taught me that the greatest responsibility we bear is to ensure Israel's security and to fortify its future." The prime minister, speaking at a ceremony dedicating a Jerusalem road junction in memory of his father Benzion, did not elaborate.

The Sunday strikes, which took place shortly after 2 a.m., were described by Israel's Channel 10 as Israel's "biggest attack in Syria since 1973? — the Yom Kippur War. Four targets were struck, the TV report said, and there were two Syrian fatalities and about a dozen people injured.

Channel 10 described major explosions at the Jamraya research center near Damascus, as well as blasts at military bases on Mount Qassiyoun and near Assad's presidential palace. It said Israel was targeting missiles from the same Iranian shipment hit on Friday — a consignment of the latest generation of Iranian-made Fatah-100 surface-to-surface missiles (also known as M600s) that arrived in Syria last week. These missiles carry 600 kilogram warheads, have a 300 kilometer range, and are accurate to 200 meters, the TV report said.

Israel was hopeful that Syria would "get the message" and stop facilitating Iran's weapon transfers to Iran, Israeli analysts said, which would obviate the need for further Israeli strikes. But Giora Eiland, a retired general and former national security adviser, said the regime of President Bashar Assad was now "so weak," it might not be able to refuse Iranian and Hizbullah pressure for weapons transfers.

Mekdad made his "declaration of war" statement during an interview with CNN on Sunday morning, hours after Israel reportedly struck military targets on the outskirts of Damascus for the second time in 48 hours. He said Syria had "dealt with" similar conflicts with Israel "on several occasions." Syria's "retaliation was always painful," he said, "and they will suffer again."

Mekdad also asserted that the attacks reflected an alliance between Islamic terrorists fighting against Assad's regime and Israel, and warned that Syria would retaliate as and when it saw fit. Egypt and the Arab League condemned the strike, with Cairo's Foreign Ministry saying it was against any infraction of the sovereignty of Arab countries.

Israel's Channel 2 said Sunday evening that Hizbullah was engaging in "psychological warfare," trying to further escalate tensions between Israel and Syria. The Assad regime was deploying long-range missiles to face Israel, and would now seek even more energetically to supply Hizbullah with unprecedentedly advanced weaponry, Hizbullah claimed, according to the Channel 2 report, which noted that there was no confirmation of these assertions.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned Sunday's Israeli airstrike, but gave no hint of a possible stronger response from Tehran or its allies. Ramin Mehmanparast urged countries in the region to remain united against Israel. "As a Muslim nation, we back Syria, and if there is need for training we will provide them with the training, but won't have any active involvement in the operations," Iranian general Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said in remarks reported by the official IRNA news agency. "The Syrian army has accumulated experience during years of conflict with the Zionist regime and is able to defend itself and doesn't need foreign assistance," he added.

Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and former Defense Ministry official, told the Associated Press that if the target of the reported strikes was a consignment of Fatah-110 missiles, then such weaponry did constitute a "game-changer": Fired from Syria or south Lebanon, these missiles, he said, could reach almost anywhere in Israel with high accuracy. "All countries have to look after their own national security, of course, and are able to take actions to protect their own national security," Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News Sunday.

He said the attack showed that Syria's two-year-long civil war risked spreading outside its borders to engulf the entire region, and argued it was time to consider lifting the arms embargo on Syria's opposition. "The longer this goes on, the stronger the case becomes for lifting the arms embargoes on the National Coalition, on the Syrian opposition, if we're left with no other alternative to that," Hague said.


Israel May Join Defense Pact with Saudi Arabia, UAE

By The Times of Israe4l

Israel is working on joining an anti-Iran defense alliance with a number of moderate Arab states that would involve sharing Jerusalem's newly developed anti-missile technologies, a British newspaper reported Sunday.

The plan would see Israel join with Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to create a Middle Eastern "moderate crescent," according to the Sunday Times, which cited an unnamed Israeli official. Israel does not currently maintain formal ties with Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, and relations with Ankara have been strained since 2009.

According to the report, Israel would gain access to radar stations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in exchange share its own early warning radar information and anti-ballistic missile defense systems, though it's not clear in what form. The report details that Jordan would be protected by Israel's Arrow long-range anti-missile batteries.

The so-called 4+1 plan is being brokered by Washington, and would mark a sharp shift in stated policy for the White House, which has insisted the US is not interested in containing Iran but rather stopping it before it reaches nuclear weapon capability.

The Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan are all opposed to Tehran shifting the regional power balance. Though Turkey maintains strong trade ties with Iran, it has found itself opposed to Tehran over the issue of Syria.

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IDF Plans Drone Warning System for Civilians

By Israel Hayom

The Israel Defense Forces Homefront Command is planning to set up a warning system to alert civilians during future unmanned aerial vehicle incursions, Israel Hayom has learned. According to the plan, the warning siren would be activated manually by Israel Defense Forces soldiers. It would sound the same as that used to warn of incoming rockets.

The main challenge is that, unlike rockets, UAVs, commonly known as drones, follow unpredictable paths. Their launches are also more difficult to identify than rocket launches. The new system is meant to provide sufficient time to civilians near a drone's flight path to take cover in a protected space. Israeli defense officials are concerned that terrorists will place explosives on drones and detonate them over civilian targets. The responsibility for identifying and intercepting UAVs lies with the Israel Air Force. They can be intercepted by aircraft or Patriot missile batteries.

A week and a half ago, the IAF shot down a drone off the coast of Haifa that had been launched from Lebanon. IAF officials say that not all UAV incursions would end with such success. They said that Hizbullah and other terrorist groups had small model airplanes and kites that are harder to identify.

Last October, a Hizbullah-launched drone flew for a lengthy period above Israel. It flew from Lebanon over the Mediterranean Sea and crossed into Israel in the Gaza Strip area. IAF aircraft shot it down in the Mount Hebron region in southern Israel.


McCain: Israeli Strikes in Syria Could Put More Pressure on Obama

By Reuters

Israel's airstrikes on Syria could add pressure on the Obama administration to intervene in Syria, a key Republican said on Sunday, but the US government faces tough questions on how it can help without adding to the conflict.

Hours after Israeli jets bombed Syria on Sunday for the second time in 48 hours, several top US lawmakers voiced concern over the cascading uncertainty in the Middle East where a civil war has been raging in Syria for more than two years.

Republican Senator John McCain said the latest Israeli airstrikes, described by a Western source as attacks on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hizbullah, will just put more pressure on the administration to act although President Barack Obama has said he has no plans to send ground troops to Syria.

"We need to have a game-changing action, and that is no American boots on the ground, establish a safe zone and to protect it and to supply weapons to the right people in Syria who are fighting, obviously, for the things we believe," McCain said on Fox News Sunday. "Every day that goes by, Hizbullah increases their influence and the radical jihadists flow into Syria and the situation becomes more and more tenuous," he said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week that Washington was rethinking its opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. He cautioned that giving weapons to the forces fighting President Bashar Assad was only one option, which carried the risk of arms finding their way into the hands of anti-American extremists among the insurgents.

Obama said on Saturday that Israel has the right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah, but his administration has not commented further on the air strikes. The United States has said it has "varying degrees of confidence" that chemical weapons have been used by Syria's government on its people, which violates a "red line" that Obama had established against such action.

The United States is seeking more evidence to determine whether and how chemical weapons have been used. Obama, who has said he does not envision sending US troops to Syria regardless of whether chemical weapons use is determined, has said he has a number of other options under review.

Obama has repeatedly shied away from deep US involvement in the Syrian conflict, which erupted in 2011 and has killed an estimated 70,000 people and created more than 1.2 million refugees. White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One on Sunday that the White House was "horrified" by reports that more than 100 people were executed on May 2 in Baida, Syria. McCain criticized Obama for failing to intervene to stop that massacre and for not acting when the chemical weapons red line was crossed.

Republican Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described the situation in the Middle East as "deteriorating by the day" because of the massive influx of foreign fighters pouring into Syria that could reach more than 10,000 this year. "Hizbullah is now moving troops - Hizbullah troops, financed by Iran - across Syria. They're engaged in the fight to protect the Assad regime," Rogers said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "You have the al-Nusra Front, which is an al-Qaeda front organization in the thousands showing up."

He said all fighters were trying to get their hands on chemical weapons and more sophisticated conventional arms. In addition, refugees were fleeing the country and threatened to add more instability to the region. "This is as bad a situation I have seen in a long time that has an opportunity to cascade," Rogers said. He said the United States needed to provide leadership through intelligence and training to the opposition, and work with the Arab League to help stabilize the situation in Syria.


Sealed Glasses Against 'Forbidden Sights'

By YnetNews.com

An ultra-Orthodox organization affiliated with the Breslov Hasidic movement is offering Jews flying to the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Uman sealed stickers that can be attached to the lenses of their glasses in order to guarantee "full eye protection." A leaflet distributed in recent days among the Hasidim, on behalf of the Purity of the Camp organization, informs them of a step up in the struggle for "filmless flights."

Previously, the organization produced personal screens allowing each passenger to separate himself from his surroundings on the plane. Now it is recommending using a stricter method which involves sealing one's eyes.

The four-page leaflet, published on the Behadrei Haredim website, includes pictures of several Breslov rabbis wearing scarves restricting their eyesight or glasses with the "modesty stickers." The leaflet explains that the rabbis pictured in the ads agreed to engage in "modeling" in order to "help one more person protect his eyes."

"This is how they traveled to Uman last year with a smile," says the caption to a picture showing the rabbis with shawls covering their faces. "This year we recommend travelling with the scarves too, but if you find it difficult – you can use the glasses instead."

According to the leaflet, the variety of solutions offered "to protect the eyes" were concocted after haredim who flew to New York were forced to tie their children's eyes with a handkerchief for more than 10 hours so that they would not be "contaminated by the ugliness of the films."


US Mom: Anne Frank Diary 'Pornographic'

By YnetNews.com



"The Diary of Anne Frank" has been an important part of the curriculum in North American classrooms since its initial publication in 1947. The candid diaries share the young Jewish girl's thoughts and experiences while hiding from Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands.

Until now, the memoirs have served as a powerful educational tool, teaching children about World War II and the Holocaust from the perspective of a girl their age. But after 60 years, a Michigan mom has come forward, calling "The Diary of Anne Frank" pornographic.

Last week, Gail Horalek filed a formal complaint with the Northville school district in Michigan, claiming that "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (The Definitive Edition)" was inappropriate for seventh-graders. Horalek is specifically uncomfortable with a passage in the diary in which Anne Frank explores her own anatomy:

"Until I was 11 or 12, I didn't realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn't see them. What's even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris… When you're standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you're standing, so you can't see what's inside. They separate when you sit down and they're very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there's a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That's the clitoris."

Apparently, the passage made Horalek's daughter uncomfortable, telling Fox 2 that "it's pretty graphic, and it's pretty pornographic for seventh-grade boys and girls to be reading. "It's inappropriate for a teacher to be giving this material out to the kids when it's really the parents' job to give the students this information," she continued.

Robert Behnke, assistant superintendent for Instructional Services for Northville Public Schools, told Patch.com that the district was following procedure regarding the complaint.


Google Recognizes Palestine

By Israel Hayom

Google is de facto recognizing a state of Palestine -- at least on its local home page in the Palestinian territories. Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said Friday, "We're changing the name 'Palestinian territories' to 'Palestine' across our products."

Tyler said Google consults with a number of sources and authorities when naming countries, and in this instance is following the lead of several international organizations, among them the U.N., the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the International Organization for Standardization.

It is the not the first time the search engine giant has taken a stance against Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In 2010 the company's translation services decided to define Israel as the Palestinian state. In the past Google had announced that it recognizes Israel only up to its 1967 borders, a stance which has been expressed in the exclusion of the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria from the company's advertising platform AdWords.

Acting Palestinian Authority Information Minister Mahmoud Khalifa told Israel Hayom,"We praise every body's decision to recognize the state of Palestine."

The move comes after a U.N. decision last year upgrading the Palestinians' status from observer entity to "nonmember observer state." Israel says Palestinian statehood should be reached through negotiations, not unilateral moves. "Google is not a diplomatic entity, which begs the question why are they getting involved in international politics, and on the controversial side." Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. Google has a large research and development center in Israel.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization tended to refer to Palestinian areas on its maps as "the occupied Palestinian territories," but after the upgraded status, would now refer to them as "Palestine." Google's domain for Palestinian territories www.google.ps now lists the location as "Palestine."


Forbes Israel Ranks World's Richest Jews

By YnetNews.com

Forbes Israel has identified the wealthiest Jewish people in the world – with the site estimating that up to 165 of the globe's billionaires in 2013 have Jewish heritage. Their joint wealth reportedly totals over $800 billion, according to the business magazine.

Technology firm Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison tops the list with a net worth of $43 billion. He is the third richest man in the United States. Oracle is third only to Microsoft and IBM for computer software revenues.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes second place in the Forbes list. Bloomberg, who is said to be worth $27 billion, owns the highly regarded Bloomberg financial media empire, which makes up one-third of the entire global financial data market. Next on the list is casino magnate Sheldon Adelson with $26.5 billion.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are also feature in the top 10, both with a net worth of over $22 billion. Page and Brin are credited with creating one of the world's most innovative technology firms, which includes YouTube and Gmail.

Another successful Jewish technology guru is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who sits in 16th place on the richest Jews list. While his wealth has dropped to $13.3 billion due to an unsuccessful share launch, Facebook remains the leading player in the social media market.


`'Lost Tribe of Israel' Found in Papua New Guinea?

By Israel Hayom

The scholar known internationally as the "British Indiana Jones" has tracked a tribal people identifying themselves as a Lost Tribe of Israel in a remote corner of Papua New Guinea. Florida International University religious studies professor Tudor Parfitt recently conducted an expedition to Papua New Guinea, where he studies the Gogodala, a tribe of former cannibals who believe they are one the Lost Tribes, according to a Florida International University press release.

The Gogodala are now hunter-gatherers in western Papua New Guinea with very little connection to the outside world. However, from the very first encounters with western explorers in the 17th century, the idea took root that ancient Israelite communities were to be found in the islands of the Pacific. Australian missionaries later went on to further propagate the idea.

A decade ago, at the request of tribe leaders, Parfitt conducted DNA testing on the Gogodala to see if he could establish any link to the Middle East. The tests were inconclusive. Nonetheless, the Gogodala have continued to embrace Judaism. During his most recent visit, Parfitt was surprised to see how the Jewish practice had developed in the tribe.

"The bedrock of the religious identity of the Gogodala remains in some respects, their traditional belief system, upon which has been grafted Christianity, which was introduced to the tribe in the 1950s by missionaries," Parfitt said. "On top of that has been grafted a kind of Judaism. More and more of the Gogodala wear yarmulkes [kippot] and prayer shawls. They've started celebrating Jewish holidays and they are using more Hebrew."

The idea that the population can trace its roots back to ancient Israel is shared by other tribes. There are those who believe that the whole Papuan population has its roots in the Holy Land.

Parfitt has written 25 books and has been studying Judaizing movements around the world for 30 years. He is best known for his work with the Lemba tribe of Africa, which was shown to have a historic link to Israel. His recent book "Black Jews in Africa and the Americas" records the growth of Israelite movements throughout Africa and elsewhere. His research trip shows that the Gogodala are part of this growing, global Israelite movement.


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