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White House Scrambles to Correct Gaffe on Paris Attack


Administration spokespeople were caught flat-footed after defending President Barack Obama's characterization of the shootings at a Paris kosher market as "random," only to back down after criticism later in the day.

In a interview Tuesday with, Obama referred to the terrorist who killed four Jews at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris as "a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who … randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris."

On Bret Baier's Special Report last night, NPR's Mara Liasson defended Obama's use of the term "randomly" as a means to steer the conversation away from the idea there is "a war on Islam or … anything that might be interpreted to suggest that." But Liasson argued that however well-meaning the president had been, "all the Jews in France who are making plans to leave do not think that the deli was randomly targeted. It was targeted because it was a Jewish deli.

"And the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo might have been targeted because of something they did. But the people in that grocery store were targeted because of who they were."

Earlier Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the president's characterization of the attack on Hyper Cacher as "random" in an exchange with ABC's Jonathan Karl. The Weekly Standard recorded the exchange between Karl and Earnest.

"These individuals were not targeted by name," Earnest added. "Not by name, but by religion, were they not?" Karl asked. "There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli," Earnest said.

After Karl asked again if there was any doubt by the president that the shop was attacked because of the likelihood the terrorists would be able to kill Jews, Earnest finally said, "No."

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee had a similar exchange with State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki: See

"Does the administration really believe that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?" asked AP reporter Matt Lee. "Well, as you know, I believe if I remember the victims specifically, they were not all victims of one background or one nationality," Psaki said.

"Does the administration believe this was an anti-Jewish or an attack on a Jewish community in Paris?" Lee pressed. "I don't think we're going to speak on behalf of French authorities," Psaki responded.

After being criticized by writers such as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, who characterized the episode as "bizarre," both Psaki and Earnest issued clarifications on Twitter.

Syrian Army Tears Through the South to Sweep Iran and Hizbullah up to Israel's Golan Doorstep

By DEBKAfile

The large-scale offensive the Syrian army launched in southern Syria Sunday, the broadest in that region in the nearly-four year conflict – heralded Act III of the Iranian-Hizbullah drive for a position on Israel's Golan border, DEBKAfile's military sources report.

Israel curtailed Act I on January 18 with an air strike which killed a dozen Iranian and Hizbullah officers scooping out the Golan town of Quneitra for their new base. Among them were the commander of Iranian forces in Syria, Revolutionary Guards General Mohamad Ali Allah Dadi and a senior Hizbullah officer Ali al-Tabtabani. This cut short a move to seize a forward position in the northern Golan and adjacent Hermon.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon then reiterated that Israel would not permit Iran and Hizbullah to create a military enclave there for their forces to jump-start terrorist strikes and rocket attacks against Israel.

Act II came 10 days later with the Hizbullah attack, aided by Iranian tactical intelligence, on an Israeli command patrol, in which Major Yochai Klingel and St. Sgt. Dror Nini were killed.

Although nothing happened for 12 days – some Hizbullah sources even suggested the account was closed – all the parties were braced for the next round in the struggle playing out for the Golan.

On January 30, Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah stood up in Beirut for a furious speech to dictate terms: If Israel persisted in its refusal to live with an Iranian-Hizbullah presence on the Golan, there would be war, he shouted.

On February 2, the influential Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the majlis foreign affairs and security committee, declared that the account with Israel over the Quneitra attack was still open and more "operations" were coming.

And they did on February 8 from an unexpected direction – the south. Elements of the Syrian army's Ninth Division and 121st Brigade armed with 50 T-72 tanks led a sweeping Iranian-Hizbullah offensive dubbed "Operation Ali Allah Dadi for Quneitra Martyrs." With them were 4,000 Shiite fighters imported by Iran for the battle and several hundred Hizbullah gunmen – all under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.

The operation started out with an Iranian-led force advancing on the southern Syrian town of Deraa – part of which is held by Syrian rebels - and heading for the junction of the Syrian-Jordanian and Israeli borders.

Strong dust and sand storms over the region this week restricted visibility and kept Syrian fighter jets grounded. Nonetheless, the Syrian-Hizbullah-Iranian force, by dint of its superior numbers and fire power, were able to drive Syrian rebels out of many of the sectors they held and push them back toward the Israeli border.

By Tuesday night, ground reconnaissance had sighted the advancing force reaching a line 5-6 km south and east of Quneitra and in position to capture the Syrian Golan town.

On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem emphasized that Israel's efforts to create a buffer zone on the Golan, like the security enclave it maintained in South Lebanon, would not succeed.

The object of the Quneitra offensive is clearly to root out Syrian rebel forces, claimed to be backed by Israel, from the positions they hold facing the Israeli Golan. To replace them, a token Syrian contingent made up mostly of Shiite fighters trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and an armed Hizbullah force will move in.

Tehran, Damascus and Hizbullah are intent on forcing Israel to swallow the presence of their forces on the threshold of central and southern Golan - after their bid to park opposite the northern sector and the adjacent Hermon mountains was pre-empted by the Israeli air strike on their advance guard.

This last challenge has so far gone without an Israeli response. Heavy weather conditions over the region offer Netanyahu and Ya'alon a few days' space for determining their next move. But doing nothing will let Tehran come out of Act III as the winner and clinch the finale of the struggle for a forward position on Israel's Golan doorstep.

Syrian Commentator: 'Zionists Burned the Jordanian Pilot'


Islamic State (ISIS) burning Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh alive was not the work of Islamist extremists, a Syrian commentator said last week - but, instead, the work of the Jews. Syrian commentator Hussam Shoei'b blamed the horrific death on the Talmud, or works of Jewish law, which he claimed was a bloodthirsty religion in an interview on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV.

"What is being done by all these criminal gangs - ISIS, Jahbat Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and all these groups with their Islamic names - cannot even be labeled 'Israeli,'" he said. The video was translated by the Middle Eastern Research Media Institute, or MEMRI. "It's downright Talmudic."

"The immolation of the Jordanian pilot is a clear demonstration of the barbarity of the Zionist entity, and of the Talmud throughout history," he continued. "One of their principles is that God can only be satiated by blood," Shoei'b. "In the past, they used to knead [Passover] matzos with human blood and eat them. That is exactly what is happening in Syria today, for the whole world to see."

The Arab media has frequently blamed the old anti-Semitic topos of 'blood libel' on the Jews for their catastrophes and tragedies, and the trend has only resurfaced in the Middle East since tensions escalated between Israel and Hamas last summer.

In July, a Hamas newspaper blamed Arab teen Muhammad Abu-Khder's murder on 'matzah blood libel'; outrage simmered in Israel in November after a leftist poet received an award for a poem that attempted to corroborate the 'blood libel' myth.

Arabs Attack Jerusalem Kindergarten with Fireworks


Terrorist attacks in Jerusalem have faded into the background in recent weeks after an intense spate of high-profile attacks late last year, but in Ma'ale Hazeitim on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives in the east of the city, the daily terror continues unabated.

On Wednesday morning a gang of Arab terrorists descended upon the Jewish neighborhood's kindergarten, firing potentially lethal fireworks and hurling rocks at the institution. See

The description of the video, which shows three security personnel eventually chasing off the rioters after a long period of unchecked assault, notes that the fireworks set off a fire adjacent to the kindergarten.

Regarding the fire, it was confirmed that the fireworks fired by the Arab rioters from the adjacent Ras el-Amud neighborhood set off a fire in the small field of greenery surrounding the kindergarten. Firefighting crews were called to the area and no wounds were reported.

In fact, on Monday, an identical incident occurred, with 12 masked Arab terrorists attacking the kindergarten with fireworks and rocks. Jewish residents called the police, but when they failed to arrive the residents took matters into their own hands, trying to fend off the attackers. No wounds were reported, but a building was lightly damaged.

Jerusalem Councilman Arieh King, who lives in the neighborhood, noted on his Facebook page that terrorists hurled Molotov cocktails in addition to the fireworks and rocks. "Ask: where were the police? That's a good joke," he said. "Ask: were the terrorists arrested? Another joke. Ask: was there a warning? In the last 13 days five attacks were conducted against the neighborhood and its residents, isn't that enough for the police to prepare against the terrorists? A joke."

Continuing his imagined dialogue examining the absurdity of the situation in the capital city's neighborhood, King continued: "Okay, the police are atrophying, the police don't function, so what do you do?"

"Starting from Friday at 9 a.m., residents of the neighborhood are establishing patrols in the area encircling the neighborhood; we will go out to get to know the alleys and the spaces around us so that we will be able to respond quickly and well to the future attacks against us," revealed King.

Regarding the firebombing that set the kindergarten grounds on fire, it should be noted the attacks aren't limited to Jerusalem - two weeks ago Arab arsonists set a Jewish kindergarten in Lod on fire.

Remains of 'Dinosaur's Cousin' Found in Negev


Researchers from the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center found tooth and jaw fragments, broken limbs, fins and vertebrae of the Elasmosaurus (Elasmosaurid) reptile that lived 85 million years ago. The Elasmosaurus was not "a dinosaur but a 'cousin' that lives in shallow waters of up to 200 meters," explained one of the researchers, Dr. Hanan Ginat.

The original length of the marine reptile was about eight feet. The Elasmosaurus had a very long neck and most likely fed on fish. Parts of skeletons of the same species were found in the past in Iran, Jordan, Syria and Morocco, and this time the fossil remains were found about five kilometers south of the Paran Moshav in the Arava desert.

"The skeletal bones were found in a limestone bedrock rich with microscopic fossils that indicate a previous open marine environment with high fertility – that is to say there was a lot of marine life there," said Ginat.

"The location, adjacent to the bone fragments, as well as the nature of the rock that was fossilized, indicate that the marine reptile was found (at the location) where he died. This is the first ever marine reptile of this kind found in Israel. In the past, similar evidence was found in Arab countries.

The fossilized finding in the limestone slab enables the research crew to understand the conditions and living environment of the Arava millions of years ago, which used to be the site of the ocean line of the ancient ocean of "Tethys."

The remains of the marine reptile and the surrounding microscopic evidence indicate that the Arava used to be a marine environment at a depth of up to 200 meters, rich in nutrients and increased biological activity of animals, both large and small.

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