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Tehran Names New Hizbullah Golan Terror Ring Chief

By DEBKAfile

Tehran has further ramped up the tension between its Lebanese proxy Hizbullah, whose leader Sunday threatened to avenge the death of Samir Quntar, and Israel, which is conducting a military exercise along its northern borders. Four days after Quntar was assassinated in Damascus, Tehran appointed a successor to carry on building a new terrorist network for striking Israel from the Golan.

This successor is revealed by DEBKAfile's exclusive sources as a Lebanese called Raafat Al-Bakkar, about who very little is known. According to our sources, the Iranians spotted Al-Bakkar as promising talent earlier this year, shortly after the Israeli air strike which on January 18 killed Iranian Gen. Ali Dadi and the high-profile Hizbullah leader Jihad Moughniyeh. They were caught touring the Golan around Quneitra in search of a site for a terrorist base. Al-Bakkar was sent to Tehran at that time for a course in building and running terrorist networks, and this week he was given charge of the new "National Resistance on the Golan" organization for deep strikes inside Israel.

When Nasrallah boasted Sunday that his jihadists were already on their way to punish Israel, he was looking forward to the arrival of Quntar's successor.

And in Israel, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott explained why it was necessary to bring forward the launching of the new Commando Brigade by two months, when he addressed the formation ceremony on Sunday at the Ein Harod National Park: "The Commando Brigade is more necessary than ever in light of the threats from Hizbullah and the Islamic State," he said, in reference to the boasts heard in the last 48 hours from Hassan Nasrallah and Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. The Chief of Staff introduced Col. David Zini as the first commander of the new Brigade.

The ceremony took place shortly after the Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said, "Revenge for the death of Samir Quntar is on the way… The orders have been given and execution is in the hands of resistance fighters on the ground… The Israelis are worried and rightly so - those on the borders [soldiers] and those inside the country…. We shall not let the blood of our Jihadi fighters and brothers to be spilled anywhere in the world," he said.

DEBKAfile's military sources report: Analysis of the kinds of threats posed by Hizbullah (and ISIS) at this time, which are likely to focus more on terrorism than on tank or infantry border incursions, persuaded IDF leaders of the need for a new framework for bringing under one roof some of the top-notch, highly-trained, experienced, well-armed and determined fighting men who are willing to take on new challenges.

The self-styled Islamic State's "caliph" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, also devoted special attention to Israel, or rather "the Jews," in his first audio speech in seven months on Saturday, Dec. 26, the day before Nasrallah sounded off. His message was similar to that of his Shiite enemy, albeit in his own inimitable style:

The Islamic State would soon be in Palestine to establish an Islamic state there, he said, "Jews, soon you shall hear from us in Palestine which will become your grave… The Jews thought we had forgotten Palestinian… Not at all, Jews…The pioneers of the jihadist fighters are getting closer every day."

If and when the Shiite Hizbullah and Sunni ISIS make good on their similar but separate threats - or sooner - they will encounter Israel's new Commando Brigade. Its fighting men are trained for combat in miscellaneous conditions of terrain, day or night, under deep cover. They are equipped with high-tech equipment, most of it classified, for gathering visual and electronic intelligence, communications, photography and targeting. They may either kill terrorists or take them captive.

In a word, these elite troops will hit the enemy in his back yard or at home, and blow the threats heard from Hizbullah and ISIS leaders' back on their own forces. The 89th Commando Brigade is composed of four battalions:

Duvdevan specializes in operating amidst an Arab population under deep cover for locating and arresting terror suspects. Egoz is a special kind of infantry battalion, whose commandos operate solo or in very small teams behind enemy lines, especially across the Syrian and Lebanese borders.

Maglan is skilled in the use of weaponry designed for precision operations against high quality enemy targets. These elite fighters go deep inside enemy territory to gather intelligence and use their specialized technology, exclusive for the use of this unit, for devastating assaults.

Rimon members are desert fighters who gained their experience in the terrain of the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Their experience as back-up for operations against drug smugglers is invaluable for urban combat in civilian environments. Excluded from the new brigade are the separate IDF commando units: Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 (Navy), the Oketz unit which trains dogs for anti-terror work, and Yahalom, of the Engineering Corps.

Saudi Grand Mufti: ISIS Comprised of 'Israeli Soldiers'


Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a whopper of a conspiracy theory on Monday, claiming that Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists are actually "Israeli soldiers." Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Asheikh said ISIS members are "harming" Islam and Muslims.

"They cannot be considered as followers of Islam. Rather, they are an extension of Kharijites, who rose in revolt against the Islamic caliphate for the first time by labeling Muslims as infidels and permitting their bloodletting," said Asheikh.

Ironically Jürgen Todenhöfer, the only Western journalist allowed into ISIS territory, reported this week that the jihadists revealed to him during his 10-day stay among them that the IDF is the only army they fear.

Asheikh's claims echo those made by the Iranian semi-official Fars News Agency back in October, when it claimed an IDF colonel had been captured fighting for ISIS in Iraq. The conspiracy theory was patently false, not least of all from the absurd dog tag number the paper listed for the supposed soldier.

Iranian officials have long claimed Israel and the US created ISIS, with Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's Basij paramilitary force, just last month claiming Israel was behind the lethal Paris attacks, as opposed to ISIS. Asheikh's comments would seem to show that while Iran and Saudi Arabia are fierce Shi'ite-Sunni rivals, they unite in blaming Israel for ISIS.

While ISIS is an enemy, rather than a tool, of Israel, the brutal jihadist group does have support from a large swath of Israel's Arab population. ISIS supporting terrorists have on a number of occasions tried to attack Israel from within, including several homegrown ISIS cells.

A poll last month found that 18.2% of Arab Muslim citizens of Israel do not consider ISIS to be a radical terrorist organization, and that they are not ashamed of the brutal jihadist group. That figure jumped to 28.1% among Arab citizens who are supporters of the radical Islamic Movement in Israel.

Algerian Army's Marching Drill Song: Kill, Slaughter, and Skin the Jews


During the early twentieth century some 120,000 Jews lived in Algeria, part of a thriving Jewish community which once existed across North Africa. Today, like in most other North African countries, none remain, having been driven out by an Arab campaign of discrimination, pogroms and mass-expulsion. Perhaps they should probably consider themselves lucky, though, given footage showing how Algerian army recruits are drilled in the fine arts of shooting, slaughtering and, yes, skinning Jews.

In footage translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), soldiers of the Algerian National Gendarmerie can be seen marching to a chant which includes the following words: "Oh, Arabs, sons of Arabs, march on and turn your guns towards the Jews in order to kill them [no kidding...!], to slaughter them and skin them!" Video at

Israeli Court: Lifting Hands on Temple Mount is Permitted


The Jerusalem District Court issued unprecedented criticism of Israel Police conduct on the Temple Mount Monday, in an appeal hearing against the expulsion of activist Yehuda Etzion from the site for 15 days for the crime of raising his hands in the air.

Justice Ram Winograd called the arrest a "slippery slope," condemning police conduct on the Mount in general. He accepted the arguments of the Attorney Sinia Mozes-Harizi for the Honenu legal rights organization, who wrote in the appeal that Etzion lifting his hands was merely an expression of the God-fearing while walking around the Mount - which is Judaism's holiest site - and to cancel the ban on his visiting the Mount.

Winograd also ruled that, contrary to police testimony, the Israel Police did not prevent Etzion from ascending the Mount with his hands raised on previous visits, based on video and photo evidence. As such, the "restriction" is a new and undeclared one on the Israel Police's part - and he ruled that "if the Israel Police wish to modify the instructions for ascending the Temple Mount, it should do so explicitly."

Winograd then blasted the Israel Police for even more draconian rules, such as banning religious Jews from wearing the kippah (yarmulke) and for even lifting their eyes to the heavens. "Under the circumstances there is no need to discuss whether tilting palms up is an act of worship, it is sufficient that the police did not forbid this until now," wrote the judge. "Indeed, this is a slippery slope, and there is a need to think through every step before banning it.

"From the outset it was clear to me that even within the framework of the shameful status quo that bans prayer at the Temple Mount that there is nothing wrong with raising [my] hands up," Etzion stated after the hearing. "By this act I wanted to express unity with the Temple Mount [...] and there recall also the prayer of King Solomon, who lifted his hands upwards during prayer.

"I see this ruling as an important act, but implore the Israel Police to implement it, allow Jews entry onto the Temple Mount and enable us to walk with our hands raised, and not make the judge's ruling a mockery as it has treated other rulings of the courts."

Jordan Tightens Laws That Bar Jews from Buying Land


Jordan is examining the tightening of laws that forbid Jews from buying land there, according to items in the Jordanian press monitored by the Elder of Ziyon blog.

While the current Jordanian law already states that "it is impermissible for foreign persons or corporate entities that do not hold an Arab nationality to purchase, lease, or own directly or indirectly any immovable property in the kingdom," it appears Jordan is "still nervous that Jews might want to buy land in their country, especially in Petra which they are frightened will be taken over by Jews," writes the veteran blogger.

He cites a report in the Watan News website that says local officials in Petra have been strengthening their laws against selling land specifically to Jews – "not just Israeli Jews but any Jews." The local legislation and fear of a Jewish land grab follow the legislation of national laws intended to loosen restrictions on foreign investment.

Other Jordanians believe that the tighter anti-Jewish laws are still not enough to counter the danger that Jews will buy land through middlemen. A columnist in Ammon News wrote on Sunday that he would prefer that there be no foreign investment in Jordanian real estate rather than allow the slightest chance that Jews could purchase land.

Petra, the Nabatean site often referred to in Israel as the Red Rock, has attracted Israelis at least since the 1950s, when Israel and Jordan were still at war. Adventurous youths were known to cross the border and make their way to Petra as a feat of bravado, and some were discovered and killed.

Yes Virginia, There's a JCC in Turkey

By Jewish News Service

"We have to keep Judaism alive and sparkling. The younger generation is moving away from religion and becoming more secular. So we need some sparks, energy and enthusiasm," says Sami Aztar, a volunteer with the Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation - the Jewish Community of Turkey, otherwise known as the Turkish Jewish Community Center or T.J.C.

Aztar, who lives in Izmir, runs a smaller JCC program about a 45-minute plane ride from Istanbul, where two larger JCCs are established. In his town of nearly 4 million people, only about 1,700 are Jewish.

"In the last 10 years, we have had 387 deaths and only 38 births," notes Aztar during a recent interview in Jerusalem. He and his colleague, Tuna Alkan, who volunteers with youths between ages 18 and 35 through the Istanbul T.J.C. network, attended the JCC Global 2015 World Conference from Nov. 3-6. Somewhat isolated as a Jewish community in a Muslim-majority country where they are forced to keep a low profile, Azar says the conference helps her to "feel more motivated... It is very good for us."

The institution of the JCC in Turkey is different than the traditional model in the United States, whose pillars are early childhood, camping, health, and recreation. In Turkey, the JCC is "really the center for the Jews to feel safe and they feel that is their community," explains Smadar Bar-Akiva, executive director of the JCC Global organization in Jerusalem.

Alkan, a dentist by profession, says life is not as bad for the Jews in Turkey as it might appear in the news. "We haven't had anything in the streets in a long time. I feel safe." She also feels that there is a future for Jews in the Muslim-majority country.

"In Turkey, we survive our Jewish life," Alkan says with a smile, taking a trip back in history. Jews have lived in Turkey since Hellenic times. There are several historic synagogues there, including a synagogue in Sardis that dates back to the 3rd century CE.

The majority of Jews arrived in Turkey in 1492 from the Iberian Peninsula, after the Spanish expulsion. Today, there are estimated to be as many as 18,500 Jews throughout the country. The majority of them (17,000) reside in Istanbul. Some 96% are Sephardic and the other 4% are of Ashkenazi descent.

Alkan describes the Jewish community as "traditional," with roughly 5% of the Istanbul community and 10% of the Izmir community identifying as Orthodox. A new program for young adults that Alkan runs is meant to halt a rapidly growing rate of intermarriage. She says there is an intermarriage rate of around 34% in Istanbul.

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