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Israel Defends Gaza Conflict as 'Moral War'

By The Guardian (UK)

Israel has claimed the Israel Defense Forces' operation in Gaza last summer was a moral, defensive war conducted in accordance with international law. The publication on Sunday of a report written in conjunction with Israeli government ministries was timed to occur days before the release of the findings of an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council into possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas. The UNHRC report, with which Israel refused to cooperate, is expected to serve as the foundation for the Palestinian case against Israel in the international criminal court, which is due to be submitted on 25 June.

Israel's report highlights efforts by the IDF to avoid harm to civilians and presents the operation as an "imperative necessity" in response to incessant rocket fire from Gaza and the threat of Hamas infiltrating through its tunnels. It states that the goals were "restoring security to Israeli civilians living under Hamas rocket fire" and "dismantling the Hamas tunnel network used to infiltrate Israel".

The majority of the 250-page report is dedicated to showing Hamas's human rights violations and war crimes. It holds Hamas responsible for many of the Palestinian civilian casualties caused by the IDF, arguing that they were unavoidable due to Hamas's tactics of embedding militants among civilian populations, whether in homes, schools, mosques or UN buildings.

A section is dedicated to Palestinian fatalities, which deals largely with what it claims are Hamas's duplicitous numbers. According to the IDF, a total of 2,125 Palestinians were killed during the two-month war, 761 of them, or 36%, uninvolved civilians, including 369 children and 284 women. The UN figures are far higher, with at least 1,483 civilians killed (of a total of 2,205), of whom 521 are children and 283 are women.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said the report presented "the true picture" of what happened in Gaza and that the IDF was committed to international law because "Israel is a democracy and a moral country with values". He added: "Whoever wants to automatically – and without foundation – blame Israel, let them waste their time with the UN Human Rights Council report."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected the report, saying "Israeli war crimes are clear because they were committed in front of live cameras," Reuters reported. The Palestinian Authority also rejected the report. "Israel's decision to deny having targeted civilians in Gaza is the logical extension of what it did in the Gaza Strip," Ihab Bseiso, a government representative, told AFP.


George W. Bush's Israel Hayom Interview Generates Media Buzz

By Israel Hayom

Former President George W. Bush's exclusive interview in Israel Hayom's Friday edition garnered attention across the globe, including in Iran and Germany.

Bush, who has taken pains to stay above the fray during his post presidency, spoke with Israel Hayom's Amos Regev and Boaz Bismuth earlier this month. During his sit-down he made it clear that he would not criticize his successor, President Barack Obama, saying it was not the appropriate thing to do. Bush refused to say whether Obama's policies against the jihadi Islamic State organization would lead to its defeat, but said that during his presidency he realized that the only way you could beat al-Qaida in Iraq was with "boots on the ground."

Several news outlets interpreted this as a slight at Obama's decision not to send ground troops to fight IS, which has its roots in al-Qaida

"Bush: You need 'boots on the ground'" read the headline in The Hill, which covers Capitol Hill and Washington politics. Iran's English-language Press TV -- which caters to foreign audiences and is often used as a regime mouthpiece -- said the interview was a rebuke of Obama. The station's online site ran a lengthy piece on the interview, with the headline, "Bush urges Obama to send combat forces to Iraq to defeat ISIL [the Islamic State]," The German paper Die Welt ran a piece headlined "George W. Bush recommends Obama sends combat troops against Islamic State."

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News, one of the largest papers in New York, focused on Bush's reminiscing about his job as the nation's top military figure. "Former President George W. Bush misses being commander-in-chief," read the headline of an online piece on the interview, next to several pictures highlighting his wartime presidency. "Former President George W. Bush says there's little he misses about being the leader of the free world -- but being commander-in-chief is right up there," read the opening paragraph. The article goes on to quote other excerpts, saying that Bush would "unsurprisingly" support his brother Jeb Bush if the latter launches a presidential bid.

Israel's Clandestine Alliance with Gulf Arab States is Going Public

By Saudi Arabian Press Agency

In 2009, a U.S. State Department diplomatic cable gave one of the first glimpses of a burgeoning alliance between Israel and the Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council . The cable quoted Israeli Foreign Ministry official Yacov Hadas saying, "the Gulf Arabs believe in Israel's role because of their perception of Israel's close relationship with the United States," adding that GCC states "believe Israel can work magic."

Israel and the Gulf states also shared an interest in countering what they saw as rising Iranian influence in the Middle East. So while the two sides sparred in public — Israel's "Cast Lead" military operation had just claimed more than 1,400 lives in the Gaza Strip and was condemned by Saudi Arabia, in a letter to the United Nations, as "fierce aggression" — they enjoyed "good personal relations" behind closed doors, Hadas said, according to one cable. Hadas reportedly added that the Gulf Arabs were still "not ready to do publicly what they say in private."

Fast forward six years, and it seems as though the GCC states have finally readied themselves to go public about their warming relationships with Israel. In an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, reported on by Bloomberg's Eli Lake, high-ranking former Saudi and Israeli officials not only shared the stage but disclosed that the two countries had been holding a series of high-level meetings to discuss shared strategic goals, particularly around the perceived regional ascendance of Iran.

At the event, former Saudi General Anwar Eshki openly called for regime change in Iran, while former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Dore Gold, once a fierce critic of Saudi Arabia, spoke of his outreach to the country in recent years, and of the possibility of resolving the remaining differences between the two nations, stating, "Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years, but our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead."

Relations with Israel have long been a third rail for Arab states. Following the creation of Israel in 1948 and the resulting displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, other Middle Eastern countries have maintained a position of public hostility towards Israel, in line with longstanding domestic public opinion. Although countries such as Egypt, under military dictatorship, have concluded formal peace treaties with Israel in defiance of popular sentiment, for the most part Gulf states have remained aloof.

In recent years, however, the dual phenomena of the Arab uprisings and growing Iranian influence have pushed GCC leaders closer to Israel. Last year, Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal took the unprecedented step of publishing an op-ed in a major Israeli newspaper calling for peace between Israel and GCC nations, as well as for a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. As the United States under the Obama administration has pursued détente with Iran in recent years, reports have also surfaced suggesting covert security cooperation between Israel and GCC states. The investigative news site Middle East Eye recently documented the existence of regular, secret flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, despite the ostensible ban on Israeli citizens entering the UAE.

There are signs, however, that even popular anti-Israeli sentiment within these countries may be shifting. A recent poll of Saudi public opinion conducted by students at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, an Israeli university, found that a minority of the Saudi public viewed Israel as a major threat to their country, and cited instead either Iran or the nascent Islamic State as their primary objects of concern. "What we think here in Israel about the Saudis is not exactly what they are," said Alex Mintz of IDC Herziliya, who helped oversee the poll. "We assume that we know what people in Iran, Gaza and Saudi Arabia think, [but] nobody that I talked to thought that Saudis would say by a margin of 3-to-1 that Iran scared them more than Israel, nobody predicted that."

With the Obama administration seeking to conclude a controversial nuclear agreement with Iran, it seems likely that Gulf Arab states and Israel, traditional U.S. allies united in their opposition to the deal, will continue to grow their strategic coordination. The recent decision by high-ranking former officials representing both Gulf and Israeli interests to go public with their cooperation is only the latest signal of the strength of this burgeoning alliance. Given that this relationship is flourishing against the backdrop of the still-ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis, as well as the ascendance of far-right political parties within Israel itself, it seems clear that GCC leaders have decided in the wake of the Arab Spring to place their own narrow political interests above any publicly-stated principles about stability in the region.

Facebook Blocks ISIS Efforts to Sell Plundered Ancient Artifacts

By Israel Hayom

Facebook has taken down pages that may have been selling archaeological finds looted by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The militant group has reportedly been using the social media network to sell off the invaluable artifacts believed to have been plundered by Islamic State militants from Syrian archaeological sites.

After receiving reports about the illegal sales efforts, Facebook removed the pages featuring the stolen items, which included scrolls written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, clay tablets, and ancient coins and golden statues. According to estimates, the organization has earned about $100 million by selling stolen items from approximately 4,500 plundered archaeological sites, many of which had been declared UNESCO heritage sites.

Reports said UNESCO and Interpol have been attempting to hinder this kind of illegal trade both for the cultural value of the items and to prevent the funding of the organization's terror activity via the selling of these rare artifacts.

ISIS Magazine Preparing Young Muslims for an Apocalypse

By (Analysis)

The young people trying to cross over to Syria and Iraq from Turkey don't need Amazon in order to read Dabiq. Its latest issue offers them free health services at an international level, higher education programs, a great salary and an 'excellent' life at the prophet's expense.

Online sales giant Amazon experienced an embarrassing mishap: Users were invited to purchase the glossy copies of the Dabiq magazine. It's safe to assume that Amazon's managers had no idea what black hole they were getting themselves into when they put Dabiq on sale for $12 a copy in its English, German, French and Spanish versions. Over the weekend, following a series of complaints, Amazon removed the problematic item without any explanation.

Dabiq is a town in northern Syria. The tradition adopted by the Islamic terror organizations insists that this is where the apocalypse will take place and that this will be the last stop before the caliphate. This is where the name of the magazine published by the Islamic State comes from. Nine issues have been published so far, each dedicated to a an issue aimed at serving the murderers in the name of Islam.

Although it is translated into five languages, this magazine is not directed at the Western reader. Its editors did not sit down in front of their computers in order to improve their image. Dabiq is for propaganda "among the hesitant" and for recruiting purposes in the Persian Gulf, in North Africa and in the Muslim exile communities in the United States and Europe.

The production and writing team are located far from the ISIS fighting zones. They sit comfortably in front of the computer screens, know how to communicate without exposing themselves, order articles, receive reports from the ground, and publish pictures in expensive professional printing, because there are no budget restrictions.

In the two latest issues, thousands of words were dedicated to the case of women who have been taken captive by ISIS and turned into the sex slaves of the "holy war fighters." Are these miserable women prostitutes, or could they have saved themselves had they converted to the strict Islam?

ISIS has intentionally chosen women writers. With the help of Koran verses, they are attempting to prove that the hundreds of women kidnapped from their homes received the "appropriate punishment" after their spouses refused to move to "the right Islam."

A woman is merely an object, we learn from Dabiq, and her job is to produce the next generation of fighters and preserve the values of the "right" family. If it turns out that her conduct is "wrong," she will be abandoned, and it will be recommended to sell her to slavery, turn her into a "sex toy," and maybe even get rid of her when her price in the market drops below the value of the Iraqi dinar.

And speaking of the dinar, US First Lady Michelle Obama has received a burning insult from the Dabiq editors, who will agree to pay only one third of a dinar for her in the best-case scenario, and "even that is too much."

And there is the article of John Cantlie, the British photographer who was kidnapped by ISIS, released and kidnapped again, and is being held as Dabiq's "correspondent on the ground." This is his temporary insurance policy. Unfortunately for him, the last issue no longer includes his article, which always ends with the words "despite being a prisoner, I've been shown respect and kindness, which I haven't seen from my own government."

Dabiq doesn't provide training on fighting methods or on beheading hostages. The shocking photos reveal elementary school children, who were invited to participate in a "punishment." They received guns and orders to shoot to death the heads of prisoners dressed in the orange uniform. The Dabiq editors didn't bother to remove the photos showing the frightened, shocked children. They will still learn, they explain.

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