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Israeli Official to Moscow Over Russian Syria Air Strikes Near Border

By DEBKAfile

In view of the crisis building up on the southern Syrian-Israeli border, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided immediately on his return home from Berlin early Wednesday to send a special emissary to Moscow to ask for clarifications. On Tuesday, Intensified Russian air strikes came to within 6 km of the Israeli border, sparking a growing exodus of Syrian refugees heading towards the Quneitra border crossing to Israel.

DEBKAfile's sources reveal that the envoy is Dr. Dore Gold, director-general of the Foreign Ministry and one of the prime minister's few trusted confidantes. It was still not clear whom Gold will meet in the Russian capital, but it is assumed that it will be one of Moscow's senior decision-makers in the loop on its military operation in Syria.

The fact that Netanyahu decided to dispatch a top diplomat rather than a senior military or intelligence officer is a sign that the prime minister is not of one mind with the IDF's intelligence assessments of the situation on the ground.

Netanyahu's concerns grew after the Russian air force on Tuesday widened its massive bombing of southern Syria from the city of Daraa to the Golan town of Quneitra, in order to help the Syria army's 7th armored division push the rebels east, so they will not attempt to cross the border and seek shelter in Israel.

DEBKAfile's military sources report that that 12 of the 15 targets bombed by the Russian air force across from the Israeli border were new rebel positions that had not been attacked before, even by the Syrian army. Military sources monitoring the war said Tuesday night that there is no doubt that the Russians are in the process of wiping out the rebel positions along the Israeli border by means of an offensive comparable to their operations in the northern Aleppo sector.

Our sources report that Israel's concerns grew when, as the Russians bombing raids neared the Israeli border, Syrian officials threatened Jordan with serious consequences if Amman gave the Saudi air force a base for attacking eastern or southern Syria.

The threats began Tuesday, after Jordanian forces took over the Syrian-Jordanian border crossings formerly held by Syrian rebels, as a measure to stem the volume of Syrian refugees in search of sanctuary in the Hashemite Kingdom. But this step was interpreted by the Syrians and their Russian ally as clearing the way for Saudi intervention in the Syrian conflict using Jordan as a jumping-off base.

Report: Israel Attacks Military Outposts in Syria

By & Reuters

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is claiming that Israel on Wednesday evening struck military outposts in Syria, near the capital Damascus, Reuters reported. According to the organization, Syrian army outposts south of Damascus were hit by three Israeli rockets. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is a British-based organization which mostly documents human rights abuses in Syria and which is regularly quoted by major news media outlets.

Israel has not responded to the report and Israeli government officials have for the most part never commented openly about any air strikes in Syria, as part of the government's policy of ambiguity regarding operations in the civil war-torn country. While Israel remained silent, a pro-Assad military source denied the report, according to Reuters, claiming that there have been no Israeli armed strikes inside Syria on Wednesday.

Last month Syrian opposition sources claimed that the Israeli air force conducted airstrikes against Hizbullah positions in the mountainous Qalamoun region, along the border with Lebanon. Before that alleged Israeli airs strike, the last reported Israeli strike in Syria eliminated arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar, a one-time Hizbullah commander who was reportedly drafted by Iranian special forces to set up anti-Israel terror cells in southern Syria.

In a break from the usual policy of ambiguity, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently said that Israel "is active from time to time in Syria", and adding the activities are intended "to prevent a military front against us, and also in order to prevent the transfer of lethal weapons from Syria to Lebanon."

Ruins Unearthed in Jerusalem Show it was a Thriving Settlement 7,000 Years Ago

By MailOnline (UK)

It was arguably one of the most important cities in the world - a sacred center for three global religions, an impenetrable fortress and one of the bloodiest locations in history. But the ancient city of Jerusalem could be far older than previously thought, according to a remarkable new archaeological discovery.

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of two houses that date to 5,000 BCE, making them the oldest evidence of a settlement in what is now called Jerusalem to be discovered. Stone tools, animal bones and gemstone beads found on the site suggest they formed part of a thriving farming community. It is the first evidence to be discovered to show there was a settlement on the site in 5,000BC, before it grew into one of the most religious cities in the world.

While traces of settlements from the same period have been found in the area around Jerusalem, few have been discovered inside the city itself. The stone walls and flooring are described as being 'well preserved' and show there has a permanent settlement on the site of Jerusalem for more than 7,000 years. At the time the inhabitants were still using stone tools as copper technology was beginning to emerge.

The remains of the dwellings, which include several well-preserved walls and stone flooring, were uncovered in the Shu'fat neighborhood of northeast Jerusalem. Among the ruins, archaeologists also found flint sickle blades used for harvesting crops, chisels and polished stone axes. There was additionally a basalt bowl that may have been used for grinding grain together with borers and awls used for fieldwork. This suggests the area was surrounded by rich agricultural land - something that may have helped the settlement flourish into a city.

Ronit Lupo, director of excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the tools and artifacts found in the houses provide a glimpse of what life was like at the time. She said: 'On completion of the excavations at Shu'fat, it is quite evident that there was a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times.

'Thousands of years later, the buildings uncovered are of a standard that would not fall short of Jerusalem's architecture.' This discovery represents a highly significant addition to our research of the city and the vicinity.' They were discovered as excavations were carried out before a new road was laid down in the area.

Shu'fat, which is now a Palestinian Arab neighborhood, was thought to have been inhabited since at least 2,000 BCE, but the new discovery shows its history goes back far further.

Set on top of rolling hills, Jerusalem is thought to have been a key defensive site since the Middle Bronze Age when it was surrounded by well fortified walls. During its long history, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times and destroyed at least twice.

With the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions all claiming the city as a sacred site, it has become one of the most fought over places in the world. But the new discovery hints at the city's more humble beginnings.

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