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First Palestinians in Syria War - Under Hizbullah

By DEBKAfile

On Sunday, helicopters of the Syrian Air Force started transporting Palestinian militia fighters from the Damascus area to the Deir-ez-Zor region of eastern Syria, DEBKAfile's military sources said in an exclusive report. They are joining Hizbullah troops in an all-out assault on Islamic State's grip on the area, notably the Euphrates River valley.

It is the first time since the Syrian war began in 2011 that Palestinians are fighting for the regime of President Bashar Assad under the direct command of Hizbullah. It is also the first time Palestinian forces are engaged in direct combat with ISIS.

The Palestinian troops are from a militia set up by Syrian and Iranian military intelligence officers called the al-Jaleel Forces, or the "Young Men Return to Palestine Movement". It was armed and trained for terrorist attacks deep inside Israeli territory.

However, after Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, during their June 9 meeting in Moscow, that no terror forces of any kind, whether Iranian, Syrian or Hizbullah, would be allowed to set foot in southern Syria, or gain access to Israel's northern border, the Palestinian militia was reassigned to the eastern Syrian front to boost the Hizbullah operation against ISIS.

In the last hours, the Palestinian fighters were transferred from Damascus to al-Qusour near Deir ez-Zor and some, according to DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources, were sent directly into battle against ISIS as soon as they arrived in the area, and immediately suffered losses. Syrian sources name three fatalities as Mohamed Abbas, Eid al-Mohamed and Essam al-Abbas, with no further details.

For the first time in the Syria conflict and its own history, Hizbullah will receive air cover from both the US and Russia, the two superpowers now coordinating their military moves in Syria and Iraq. This strategy, which essentially connects the Syrian and Iraqi campaigns against ISIS, was charted on June 9, at a secret meeting in Tehran of the Russian, Iranian and Syrian defense chiefs. DEBKAfile military sources in Washington say that the operation's plan was put before President Barack Obama and he sanctioned it as part of the war on ISIS.

ISIS in Egypt: The Struggle for the Sinai Peninsula

By CBC News

A well-organized chapter of the jihadist group operating in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula continues its murderous mission far from the gaze of the international spotlight. Originally known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem), the group changed its name to Wilayat Sinai — Sinai Province — and pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014. It is the most active insurgent group in Egypt, and has carried out dozens of attacks that have killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers.

Sinai Province is believed to be waging a war to take control of the Sinai Peninsula and turn it into an Islamist region loyal to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, according to experts who follow the group. They estimate as many as 1,500 fighters support the organization.

The group's terrorists have launched suicide attacks and gun battles mainly in the northern part of the Sinai — an underdeveloped region, largely forgotten by the country's politicians in Cairo. The marginalization that many residents feel has fuelled support for Sinai Province. The group also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed Egypt's prosecutor general in Cairo a year ago.

Security officials in Israel are keeping a close eye on their border with Egypt, concerned about possible attacks from Sinai Province. "The enemy is Daesh," said Maj. Shachar Nachmani of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. "We believe that these terror cells will try to hit our forces in order to prove themselves."

Sinai Province has launched several rocket attacks against Israeli territory in recent years. Six months ago, according to Nachmani, a "terrorist cell" attacked an army patrol along the security fence that marks the Israeli-Egyptian border. Three of the attackers were killed by Israeli soldiers. "The force was able to respond and to hit back at those who tried to infiltrate the border into Israel."

The latest ISIS propaganda videos show Sinai Province actively training fighters in the area. It also continues to make threats against the Egyptian government, and more recently Israel. In a video from last month, the narrator in Arabic calls the Sinai the "gateway to Palestine" and promises to "liberate" Jerusalem. One fighter warns that Israeli Jews are "victims in waiting," adding they will meet the same fate as those Egyptians who collaborate with Israel: "The knives used to slice open the necks of your spies will slaughter your soldiers tomorrow."

In Israel, the country's army continues to prepare against the threat of the Sinai Province. At a training base not far from the border, young soldiers from the Caracal Battalion are learning counterterrorism techniques.

"We teach soldiers that this is not a fight against an army," said Lt.-Col. Yaron Buskila, who leads the IDF's training base in southern Israel. "It's a group that comes to attack, to try as fast as they can just to take a soldier back into Egypt or hit civilians. So we are teaching our soldiers to work very fast."

Iranian Navy Plans to Deploy in Atlantic Ocean

By & Reuters

Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said that his country plans to deploy a naval presence in the Atlantic Ocean sometime this year.

The Atlantic Ocean borders both North America and western Europe. Sayyari did not specify how close to the United States his ships would sail, though he said his navy would act "in accordance with international laws and regulations," reported MNA, an Iranian news agency.

Speaking with reporters on Saturday, Sayyari emphasized the self-sufficiency of the Iranian navy: "All equipment and facilities of the Navy are now home-produced, and in addition, Iran's navy is also self-sufficient in education and human resources." He stated that before the Islamic Revolution, navy personnel studied abroad, while today, naval students from other countries come to Iran for training.

He pointed to the Caspian Sea, which borders northern Iran, as a sea of "peace and friendship" among five neighboring countries. "Caspian security should be provided by the five countries so that no foreign country would even desire a naval presence in the sea." The Caspian Sea is also bordered by Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

Just five months ago, Iran and the United States experienced a maritime skirmish which led to a loss of face for the American side. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy Corps seized two U.S. Navy command boats after mistakenly entering Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. It took 15 hours before the ten captured American sailors were released, unharmed.

Mother of Palestinian Terrorist Threatens Future Attacks

By Israel Hayom

The mother of a Palestinian terrorist killed while trying to carry out a stabbing attack on a Jerusalem bus in October told Lebanese media on Friday that she was proud of her son, and threatened to carry out a stabbing attack of her own.

Muhammad Shamasne boarded an Egged No. 185 bus in October and stabbed two people. They sustained mild injuries, and Shamasne was killed by security forces.

On Friday, his mother arrived at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, and proudly paraded a photo of her son. She then entered the Al-Aqsa mosque for a prayer service, after which she gave an interview to Lebanon's Al-Quds television channel.

The woman, identified in the interview only as Umm [the mother of] Muhammad Shamasne, stated she was "angry" with her son "for not taking me with him to carry out the attack. ... We regret nothing, we are proud of him." She then stunned her interviewer by pulling out a knife and threatening, "This is the weapon I have for the Israelis. Watch out, Israel!"

Ignoring the interviewer's request to stop what she called "an inappropriate spectacle," the mother continued making stabbing motions, saying, "Watch out, Israel. You have brought the fires of hell on yourself! You don't know who you're dealing with!"


Ex-Auschwitz Guard, 'Willing Henchman,' Convicted in Germany

By Reuters and Israel Hayom

A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard was sentenced to jail in Germany on Friday by a judge who branded him a "willing and efficient henchman" during the Holocaust. In what is likely to be one of Germany's last trials for World War II atrocities, Reinhold Hanning, a former SS officer, was convicted of being an accessory to the murders of at least 170,000 people at the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Rejecting the defense argument that Hanning had never killed, beaten or abused anyone himself, Judge Anke Grudda said Hanning had chosen to serve in the notorious death camp and had helped it run. "It is not true that you had no choice; you could have asked to be transferred to the war front," Grudda told Hanning as she read out the verdict.

She said it was impossible that Hanning had been unaware of the murders, since he spent two and a half years at the camp and was promoted twice during that time. "That shows that you had proved your value as a willing and efficient henchman in the killings," Grudda said. The white-haired Hanning, dressed in a gray suit and tie and seated in a wheelchair, listed to the verdict impassively. His lawyer, Johannes Salmen, said they would appeal.

During the 20-day trial that dragged on over four months, the court heard testimony from around a dozen Holocaust survivors, many extremely elderly, who detailed horrific experiences, recalling piles of bodies and the smell of burnt flesh in Auschwitz.

One of them, Hedy Bohm, 88, whose parents perished in Auschwitz, said: "I am grateful and pleased to be here at this moment, when justice was finally done after 70 years." With tears in her eyes, she told reporters after the hearing: "My murdered mother and father can perhaps rest in peace. It's a dream I never dreamed to come true."

Jewish groups welcomed the news. "Today's verdict is very clear: [Hanning] was complicit in mass murder. He was part of a merciless killing machine," said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. "Without the active participation of people like him, Auschwitz would not have been possible."

Hanning was silent and emotionless for much of the trial but spoke at the end of April, apologizing to the victims and saying that he regretted being part of a "criminal organization" that had killed so many and caused so much suffering. "I'm ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it," he read from a prepared speech.

Hanning was not charged with direct involvement in any killings. But prosecutors and dozens of joint plaintiffs from Germany, Hungary, Israel, Canada, Britain and the United States said he had helped Auschwitz function.

A precedent was set in a similar case in 2011, when camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk was convicted. Last year, Oskar Groening, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," was sentenced to four years for being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people.

None of the convictions are definitive. Demjanjuk had appealed but died before the German Federal Court of Justice could rule on the case, and the court is still considering an appeal filed by Groening.

Germany is holding what are likely to be its last trials linked to the Holocaust, when the Nazis killed millions of people, including 6 million Jews, in a deliberate plan of extermination. Besides Hanning, one other man and one woman in their 90s are accused of being accessories to the mass murders at Auschwitz. A third man who was a member of the Nazi SS guard team at Auschwitz died at the age of 93 in April, days before his trial was due to start.

Own a Smartphone? No Aliyah to the Torah for You!


A rabbi from the Ramot Daled neighborhood of Jerusalem issued a new religious edict in his synagogue stating that any person who possesses a smartphone with unfiltered internet access may not receive a Torah Aliyah (calling a congregation member to the podium for a segment of reading) nor may he serve as cantor.

In recent days, a sign was erected at the Jerusalem synagogue implementing the rabbi's provisions. "Whoever, God forbid, has a prohibited iPhone or any other device of the sort, may not lead prayer nor have an Aliyah to the Torah," read the sign, clarifying that even if the individual is the only Kohen (member of the priestly class) present, his rights should be skipped and given to someone else instead.

A few months ago, thousands of Gur Hasidim assembled in Jerusalem in an "emergency conference against the ravages of technology" which introduced regulations pertaining to the use of the Internet.

During the meeting, it was made clear that all Hasidim must not use any device that exposes them to the internet, unless it is needed for work purposes. It was further clarified that even those with permission to use smartphones, were forbidden to have them in the synagogue and during Haredi deliberations.

The WhatsApp application received special attention by the rabbis, who harshly condemned use of the program and called for yeshiva students to disconnect from it. According to them, the popular cross-platform mobile messaging app may only be used to correspond with someone who is not Orthodox, and for work purposes only.

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