Newsletter : 13fx0516.txt
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Israel `Will Bring Down Assad' If He Retaliates for Future Airstrikes
By The Times of Israel
Israel has warned Damascus that if President Assad chooses to hit back at Israel for
any further Israeli military strikes, Israel will bring down his regime. An Israeli
official confirmed Wednesday night that a dramatic and unprecedented message to this
effect had been conveyed to Damascus,
The report said that Israel's position to this effect also came up during Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's emergency meeting in Russia on Tuesday with President
Vladimir Putin, during which Netanyahu also told Putin of Israel's profound opposition to
Russia's sale of sophisticated S-300 missile defense batteries to Assad.
The warning came hours after mortar shells hit the Mount Hermon area for the first time
in the two-year Syrian civil war, and as Arabic newspapers reported talk of Hizbullah
opening "a new front" against Israel on the Golan Heights.
Syria vowed last week to respond "immediately and harshly" to any further Israeli
airstrikes, after Israel carried out two early morning attacks earlier this month on
weapons consignments being stored in and around Damascus en route from Iran to Hizbullah
in Lebanon. The shipments contained highly sophisticated Fateh-110 missiles.
Confirmation of Israel's warning to Assad came soon after the New York Times quoted an
Israeli official issuing the same threat. The New York Times said Israel was "considering
further military strikes on Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic
militants," and that an unidentified Israeli official had contacted the paper to warn:
"Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to
Hizbullah. The transfer of such weapons to Hizbullah will destabilize and endanger the
entire region. If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike
Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will
The New York Times report speculated that Israel "could be trying to restrain Syria's
behavior without undertaking further military action, or alerting the international
community to another strike. That would ratchet up the tension in an already fraught
situation in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than two years."
Channel 2 on Wednesday night showed satellite images of what it said was a surgical
strike, reportedly carried out by Israel at Damascus airport to target the Iranian missile
consignments. It showed before and after pictures of specific buildings that had been
blown up, while neighboring buildings remained intact. Israel has not formally confirmed
either of this month's attacks.
Channel 2 also said that some in the Israeli security establishment were assessing that
the unprecedented firing of mortar shells into the Mount Hermon area from across the
Syrian border earlier Wednesday may have been deliberate, rather than a case of fallout
from fighting between Assad's forces and Syrian rebels.
Also Tuesday, several Arabic media sources reported that Syria was prepared to give
Hizbullah leeway to open a "new front" against Israel in the Golan Heights. Iran, a report
in the Palestinian Al-Quds daily said, had persuaded Assad "to open the door to jihad" in
the Golan Heights in an effort enable Arab and Muslim fighters to unite and confront
Israel, so that they're "ready" if Israel strikes Syria again.
In the comments quoted by the New York Times, the Israeli official said "Israel has so
far refrained from intervening in Syria's civil war and will maintain this policy as long
as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly. Israel will continue its
policy of interdicting attempts to strengthen Hizbullah, but will not intercede in the
Syrian civil war as long as Assad desists from direct or indirect attacks against Israel."
Netanyahu, who sought the meeting in part to persuade Putin not to sell advanced S-300
missile defense systems to Assad, told the Russian president that the S-300 was not a
weapon of relevance to civil war, but was rather a system that, if acquired by Syria, "is
likely to draw us into a response, and could send the region deteriorating into war,"
Channel 2 reported.
Right-Wing Group Takes IDF Soldiers on Tour of East Jerusalem
Israel Defense Forces cadets in officer training school spent the weekend at a
"leadership Sabbath" in East Jerusalem, hosted by the right-wing organization Elad - which
works to increase the Jewish presence in the city's Arab neighborhoods.
The event was the culmination of a week of leadership training, initiated and planned
by the IDF's Education Corps. As part of the experience, the cadets, who are in the first
phase of their training as combat officers, were brought to the Seven Arches Hotel on the
Mount of Olives, where they attended lectures by rabbis, Elad officials and others invited
Cadets who took part said the speakers tended to avoid outright political statements,
but that the lectures contained a clear ideological message for strengthening the Jewish
presence in the eastern part of the city.
According to the IDF Spokesman's Office, "Educational activities in the IDF include a
broad variety of opinions and viewpoints in Israeli society, as part of enrichment for
commanders and strengthening Israeli-Jewish identity. Cooperation with Elad is part of
achieving this concept and does not involve political content."
In recent years the number of young religious field officers has risen, and there has
been a more moderate rise in the number of skullcap-wearing brigade commanders. Although
claims of a religious takeover of the army are exaggerated, it seems hard to blame
religious-nationalists for teaching their children to contribute their best during their
Changes have been great; for example, in officers training for the Infantry Corps, more
than 30 % of cadets are Orthodox. But do commanders rein in the preaching of extremist
ideological positions? The state comptroller's report two years ago depicted chaos in the
army's educational work, and that rabbis are taking advantage of the situation.
Turkish Airlines Reverses Ban on Lipstick
Turkish Airlines has reversed a ban on air hostesses wearing brightly-colored lipstick
following accusations it was trying to Islamize the company under government
The airline's chief executive officer Temel Kotil announced the move in the Turkish
media, accusing overzealous lower-level airline executives of having imposed the ban.
"Staff can use the color they want. This measure was not approved by the hierarchy,"
Kotilo said, according to Hurriyet and Milliyet newspapers.
Earlier this month, the airline defended the ban, saying in a statement that "simple
make-up, immaculate and in pastel colors, is preferred for staff working in the service
sector." Numerous women had posted pictures of themselves wearing bright red lipstick on
social media websites to protest at the measure.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, in
power for over a decade, is often accused of creeping efforts to coerce the country to be
more conservative and pious. Turkey is a fiercely secular state, despite being a majority
Muslim country. Under Erdogan's rule, headscarves banned in public institutions
have become more visible in public places and alcohol bans are more widespread.
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