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Israeli- and Hizbullah-Controlled Enclaves Take Shape Inside Syria

By DEBKAfile &

The rocky Golan plateau split between Syria and Israel by a demilitarized zone is beginning to move onto center stage. Bashar Assad was quoted as saying the Golan will be the "front line of resistance" after giving radical Palestinians under his wing permission to install missiles there against Israel.

Unidentified Syria military sources vowed to attack the Israeli army vehicles crossing the line to evacuate wounded rebels in need of medical care. DEBKAfile's military sources say that if Israeli army vehicles, presumably unmarked, are indeed entering Syria to pick up injured rebels, they are most likely alerted by local liaison agents in the battle zones who guide them to the spots were the injured men are waiting.

The pro-Al Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra will have deduced that the contact points between these local Syrian agents and the IDF are located in the 8 sq. km separation zone on the Golan, which has been patrolled by UN Disengagement Observer (UNDOF) peacekeepers since Israel and Syria signed an armistice in 1974.

Hence the abduction of four peacekeepers Monday. The rebel Islamist Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade which claimed responsibility released a photograph of the kidnapped UN troops sitting barefoot on a carpet and wearing light-blue U.N. armored vests, three of which were marked "Philippines." This incident highlighted the high strategic importance of the Golan plateau.

Israel has set up a large field hospital near the Tel Hazakah observation and military post on the Golan that overlooks southern Syria and northern Jordan. There, incoming Syrian war wounded are vetted and examined by Israeli army medics who decide whether to patch them up and send them back, or judge them badly hurt enough for hospital care. The seriously hurt are moved to one of the nearest Israeli hospitals in Safed or Haifa.

This arrangement suggests a kind of security zone is evolving on the Israeli-Syrian border which may recall the alliance which evolved between Israel and the Maronite Christians of South Lebanon out of the 1976 Lebanese civil war.

Israel then set up medical facilities for treating Lebanese Christian war wounded at several points on what came to be called the Good Fence. The Maronites willingly pushed Palestinian terrorist forces back from the border and were given permits to work in Israel and other benefits. The South Lebanese Army established at the time with 2,500 militiamen functioned effectively under Israeli command for two decades.

The whole system collapsed when in 2000 Ehud Barak, then prime minister, pulled Israeli forces out of the buffer zone and back to the border. It was then that Hizbullah moved in. No one has actually referred to the potential of the Lebanese scheme in one form or another growing out of Israel's initial medical ties with certain non-Islamist Syrian rebel militias across the Golan border. But it may be happening on the quiet

Foreign-controlled enclaves are in a more advanced condition in other parts of Syria under the Hizbullah and/or Iranian forces assisting the Syrian army's fight against rebel forces. Hizbullah has completely encircled Al-Qusayr, the central Syrian town which commands the main routes between Damascus, Homs and Lebanon. Civic leaders have sent emissaries to Hizbullah commanders offering to capitulate against a pledge not to ravage the town and to save its inhabitants.

In Damascus, Hizbullah's troops along with Iranian Basij militiamen command the Shiite holy places. And in the southwest, they are securing a cluster of 30 Shiite villages opposite South Lebanon, not far from the intersection of the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese borders. By pouring fighting men into Syria, Hizbullah is gambling on Israel not taking advantage of its heavily diluted strength on home ground to strike Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon or its supply routes from Syria.

Both Hizbullah and Israeli appear to be in the process of relocating their lines of confrontation from Lebanon to Syria. Israel's air strike Sunday, May 5, which hit Hizbullah and Iranian targets, may have been the first skirmish between them on Syrian territory. It is unlikely to be the last.

On Wednesday, the Hizbullah-identified Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted Iranian officials who claimed that Iran received a message from the United States and Russia stating that the alleged Israeli airstrike was not an attempt to launch a war against Syria.

According to the sources, Tehran responded to both sides by stating that operational command officers of the Syrian army were ordered to automatically respond to any attack against their homeland. As with other reactions in recent days, it appears that the involved parties are intent upon warning against future attacks, and not eager to enter into a full scale war.

Iranian officials have warned that their reaction to perceived aggressions would likely would be expressed in one of two ways. The first, one of the sources said, would be "a blow below the belt in more than one location," both within and outside of Syria, as they approached "the Day of Judgment. The same source indicated that "a final decision has been taken to turn the Golan Heights into the new `Fatahland' and the front will be open to "Syrians, Palestinians and to all who want to fight Israel."

The Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, quoted statements by Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in closed meetings. He rejected the possibility that Israel would enter into southern Lebanon, because, according to him, Israel knows Lebanon would become its "cemetery." He was quoted as saying that "the Iron Dome (missile defense system) which Israel boasts about has proven that it is more feeble than a spider web."

The report also said that Nasrallah recently participated in more than one session of the Hizbullah's "Jihad Council." The newspaper claimed that during these meetings, the secretary-general stated, "Israel believes that if it attacks facilities and strategic stockpiles, it changes the resistance capabilities. This is an erroneous assessment." He said, "The reason being that the stocks of the resistance have been filled with all that it needs." Nasrallah also warned, "If Israel attacks any (arms) cache of Hizbullah in Lebanon, the response will be immediate and total war."

PA Official: 'If We Had Nuke, We'd Have Used It This Morning'


A senior Palestinian Authority has praised the use of violence against Israel, asserting that if the PA had the military wherewithal to rise up against the Jewish state, it would not hesitate to do so. "I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning," vowed Jibril Rajoub during an interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel, as reported by the Palestinian Media Watch. Jibril Rajoub is the Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and Chairman of the PA Olympic Committee.

The interview was also published on Rajoub's Facebook page on May 2, 2013. According to PMW, two other senior PA officials also expressed open support for the murderer who killed Evyatar Borovsky, an Israeli who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist last week as he was waiting for a bus at the Tapuach junction in Samaria. "We salute the heroic fighter, the self-sacrificing Salam Al-Zaghal," said Abu Al-Einein, who was until recently an advisor holding the rank of minister to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"He insisted on defending his honor, so he went against the settler and killed him. Blessings to the breast that nursed Salam Al-Zaghal," said another PA official, whose words were met with applause from the audience.

New Gaza Laws: Cutting Off Thieves' Hands, Lashes for Drinking

By Reuters

Hamas is lobbying for a stricter enforcement of Islamic law in Gaza – including provisions to cut off the hands of thieves, and execution of individuals who cheat on their spouses. A report in the Al-Hayat daily newspaper said that Hamas expects the new regulations to take effect in the coming months, after introduction of the legislation in the PA parliament.

Existing laws mete out the death penalty to individuals convicted of murder, spying, homosexuality, or selling land to Jews. The new legislation will expand the crimes for which individuals can be executed to include disloyalty to a spouse – having sexual relations outside the context of marriage. Other provisions of the law include chopping off the right hand of a thief (along with at least a seven year jail sentence), and lashes for a large number of "crimes," including drinking alcoholic beverages and gambling. All the punishments are derived from sharia, Islamic law.

In addition, girls age 15 will be able to decide to marry on their own, without requiring permission from their parents. Individuals age ten and over are considered adults under the new legislation, and are subject to the full force of the law for offenses.

Hamas has a large majority in the PA parliament, with 74 of the 134 parliamentarians belonging to the Islamist party. Many of them belong to the fundamentalist Salafist movement, and they are behind the push for the new laws. While there is opposition in Hamas to the passage of the legislation at this point, it is expected to easily pass. Once it does, the laws will be extant in both Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, but it is not clear if they will be enforced there.

Israel Marks 46th Jerusalem Day

By Israel Hayom

Israel marked its 46th Jerusalem Day on Wednesday, commemorating the reunification of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War. The holiday was marked by the traditional Jerusalem Day flag march around the Old City, as well as several ceremonies.

Some 2,500 disabled Israel Defense Forces veterans and their families participated in the march as well. Data released on Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of the festivities, confirmed that the Israeli capital was experiencing a revival, after some 15 years of consecutive decline.

The Data indicated that Jerusalem is home to 804,400 residents, making it the largest city in Israel. In 2011, of the city's population, 62 percent (499,400) were Jews, 35% (281,000) were Muslim and 2% (14,100) were Christian.

The report said that between 2009 and 2011, 30,000 new jobs were created in the capital, and some 3 million tourists visited the city. The sites most frequented by tourists were the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the Via Dolorosa and the Mount of Olives.

In an effort to further boost the city's upswing, the Prime Minister's Office, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Development Authority announced the appropriation of hundreds of millions of shekels for cultural projects in the city. "The goal is to create an attractive cultural scene in Jerusalem, which will appeal to both the residents and tourists," said Moti Hazan, CEO of the Jerusalem Development Authority.

Before Babel? Ancient Mother Tongue Reconstructed

By LiveScience

The idea of a universal human language goes back at least to the Bible, in which humanity spoke a common tongue, but were punished with mutual unintelligibility after trying to build the Tower of Babel all the way to heaven. Now scientists have reconstructed words from such a language.

The ancestors of people from across Europe and Asia may have spoken a common language about 15,000 years ago, new research suggests. Now, researchers have reconstructed words, such as "mother," "to pull" and "man," which would have been spoken by ancient hunter-gatherers, possibly in an area such as the Caucusus. The word list, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help researchers retrace the history of ancient migrations and contacts between prehistoric cultures.

"We can trace echoes of language back 15,000 years to a time that corresponds to about the end of the last ice age," said study co-author Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

The idea of a universal human language goes back at least to the Bible, in which humanity spoke a common tongue, but were punished with mutual unintelligibility after trying to build the Tower of Babel all the way to heaven.

But not all linguists believe in a single common origin of language, and trying to reconstruct that language seemed impossible. Most researchers thought they could only trace a language's roots back 3,000 to 4,000 years. (Even so, researchers recently said they had traced the roots of a common mother tongue to many Eurasian languages back 8,000 to 9,500 years to Anatolia, a southwestern Asian peninsula that is now part of Turkey.)

Pagel, however, wondered whether language evolution proceeds much like biological evolution. If so, the most critical words, such as the frequently used words that define our social relationships, would change much more slowly.

To find out if he could uncover those ancient words, Pagel and his colleagues in a previous study tracked how quickly words changed in modern languages. They identified the most stable words. They also mapped out how different modern languages were related. They then reconstructed ancient words based on the frequency at which certain sounds tend to change in different languages — for instance, p's and f's often change over time in many languages, as in the change from "pater" in Latin to the more recent term "father" in English.

The researchers could predict what 23 words, including "I," "ye," "mother," "male," "fire," "hand" and "to hear" might sound like in an ancestral language dating to 15,000 years ago. In other words, if modern-day humans could somehow encounter their Stone Age ancestors, they could say one or two very simple statements and make themselves understood, Pagel said.

Unfortunately, this language technique may have reached its limits in terms of how far back in history it can go. "It's going to be very difficult to go much beyond that, even these slowly evolving words are starting to run out of steam," Pagel told LiveScience.

The study raises the possibility that researchers could combine linguistic data with archaeology and anthropology "to tell the story of human prehistory," for instance by recreating ancient migrations and contacts between people, said William Croft, a comparative linguist at the University of New Mexico, who was not involved in the study. "That has been held back because most linguists say you can only go so far back in time," Croft said. "So this is an intriguing suggestion that you can go further back in time."


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