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>Israel News Faxx
>JN June 23, 2016, Vol. 24, No. 119\

Amid a Growing ISIS Threat; Jordan Closes Borders with Syria, Iraq

By DEBKAfile

Jordan has closed its borders with Iraq and Syria and declared them as military areas that civilians are not allowed to enter. DEBKAfile reported that the announcement means that refugees from Syria and Iraq will no longer be granted entry.

The Jordanian security forces took the step after an emergency meeting of the country's senior security and intelligence officials, headed by King Abdullah, on the car bombing on Tuesday. At least six Jordanian border guards were killed and 14 wounded in the attack by a follower of ISIS at a refugee camp on the Syrian border.

DEBKAfile's intelligence and counterterrorism sources said that it was reported during the meeting that the bomb was built in Jordanian territory, and that the terrorist who drove the car was a citizen. In other words, the attack was not from abroad. Our sources add that the car bombing was the second terrorist attack by ISIS during Ramadan against a Jordanian target, following the assault on the headquarters of the country's intelligence agency in Ain el-Basha two weeks ago in which five intelligence officers were killed.

The terrorist attack has seriously alarmed Amman, Washington and Jerusalem: The terrorist, who killed six Jordanian soldiers, came from inside Jordan, not across the border from Syria, meaning that ISIS had succeeded in setting up a terror network or networks inside the kingdom. Suspicion was first raised after the June 6 attack on Jordanian intelligence headquarters in Ain el-Basha near Amman, in which five intelligence officers were killed, by the absence of any claim of responsibility. It now transpires that the ISIS commanders in Jordan had decided to leave no traces for the national security and intelligence services to follow in their investigation.

The jihadists' success in pulling off two attacks in two weeks in Jordan - one in the center and the other in the north near the Syrian border, attests to several networks in play across a widely spaced-out region. The attack on Tuesday took place tellingly at Ruqban, where a large exercise by a new brigade of the Jordanian military established to fight ISIS has been taking place for the last few days. The brigade, the first of its kind among Middle Eastern armies, is armed and trained by US counterterrorism advisors, and its structure modeled on that of the ISIS military. The entire brigade travels in new Toyota minivans atop which heavy guns are fixed.

The exercise is therefore preparing for both Jordanian and ISIS forces to fight by means of fast-moving armed convoys when they engage in their next battle in the desert areas between Jordan, Iraq and Syria. But the Jordanians will have the advantage of air cover by attack helicopters. That ISIS penetrated the site of a joint Jordanian-US military drill with a truck bomb attests to the upgrading of ISIS operational capabilities in the kingdom.

DEBKAfile's intelligence and counterterrorism sources estimate that about 3,000 Jordanians have now joined ISIS and are fighting in its ranks. These homegrown terrorists have the family connections and local knowledge that enable them to move easily around the country. Most ISIS religious leaders and mentors are likewise locals, another advantage for drawing new recruits.

The Jordanian military, in cooperation with the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is currently completing a $500-million project to build a 442-kilometer defensive fence on the country's borders with Syria and Iraq as well as around its bases including those hosting American forces (see map). Its purpose is not only to protect the Hashemite throne, but also to transform the 89,000-square-kilometer kingdom into one of the most important US military outposts in the Middle East in the war against ISIS. The fence will also serve as a barrier between Israel and the forces of ISIS, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Tuesday's attack, however, raises questions about the entire fence project. Washington and Amman are investing huge sums to keep ISIS out of Jordan when the terrorist peril is creeping up dangerously from within.

Knesset Votes to Make 'Aliyah Day' a National Holiday


Israel has a new national holiday: The Knesset plenum voted to make "Aliyah Day," a day recognizing the contribution of aliyah (immigration to Israel) and olim (new immigrants) to the state, an official holiday.

The bill to recognize "Aliyah Day" was the initiative of Likud MK Miki Zohar. The bill sets the Hebrew date for "Aliyah Day" as the 10th of Nisan, which falls in the spring shortly before Passover and is believed to be the date when Joshua crossed the Jordan River with the Israelites, an event considered the first aliyah to the Land of Israel.

However, because the date conflicts with the Knesset's Passover recess, "Aliyah Day" will be marked on the seventh of Heshvan, in the fall, a few weeks after Sukkot. "Aliyah to Israel is the basis of our existence here. There is no other country in the world whose residents returned to it after 2,000 years of exile and proved to the world that a people cannot be an occupier in their own land," Zohar said. "Marking Aliyah Day in honor of the 10th of Nisan codifies in legislation who was here first. The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel."

IDF Troops Ordered to Stand in the Sun for Two Hours in Honor of Google CEO

By DEBKAfile & Israel Hayom

Google CEO Eric Schmidt received an unusual gift from the IDF during his visit to the Hatzerim air force base about a week ago as about 150 troops were ordered to stand in the blazing sun for about two hours on one of the runways and position themselves to form the company's logo, with a fighter jet on each side. The question of why the IDF and the air force engaged in publicity for the giant American company, in an outrageous waste of manpower and resources, remains unanswered.

The CEO visited the Hazerim Airbase in southern Israel on Tuesday. Ahead of the visit, some 100 soldiers created a "human" Google logo between two fighter jets positioned on one of the base's runways. Aerial photos were taken of the display.

Following an Israel Radio report on the stunt, the military announced it would investigate the incident. Footage of soldiers standing in the scorching summer heat in the logo formation sparked outrage in Israel. One soldier's father told Israel Hayom, "My son didn't join the IAF to shoot a commercial."

Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich took to Facebook, writing, "This is a disgrace. In blazing heat, an entire base, with its pilots, soldiers, commanders, budgets, jets, and drones, stages a performance for the executives of a private company. Who decides which private company we fawn over and why? What does this have to do with military ethos and defending Israel? How much did this humiliation cost? And where do we draw the line?"

Likud MK Amir Ohana, who heads the Subcommittee on IDF Manpower, which works under the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said, "The IDF's duty is to protect and defend Israel, not provide entertainment. This is not why we have conscription in place. Israeli society struggles with burden equality and we are supposed to enlist more sectors to do what exactly -- stand in a bigger formation to spell out a bigger Google logo?" Ohana said he would have the subcommittee look into the incident to ensure it does not recur.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said, "This was a local initiative by the airbase during the visit in question. The issue will be studied and the necessary conclusions will be drawn."

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