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IDF: Hamas Planning 100-Man Tunnel Attack


The most serious scenario that the IDF is currently preparing for on the southern front is a multi-pronged "surprise attack by about 100 Hamas men coming out of several terror tunnels simultaneously," said a military source Sunday. "We are preparing for this all the time and putting our greatest efforts into it," he added.

The source said that Hamas has three regiments facing Israel in Gaza. One in the northern part of the coastal strip, another in the central refugee camps and the third in Rafiah (Rafah), on the Egyptian border. "These regiments are organized and operate as military organizations," he said. "They have a methodology of war, they have a well-organized control and command structure and they are preparing all the time for a surprise attack like the one in Operation Protective Edge, only bigger."

Hamas' central ambition is to take the fighting into Israeli territory, the source explained. Once it is able to do this, it will – but this will not happen soon, he predicted.

`Brexit' May Push Arab World into Assad's Arms

By DEBKAfile

An unforeseen trickle-down effect of Britain's decision to leave the EU last week is evident in the reaction of Arab governments, which have begun shying away from their reliance on the US or Europe to lead the war on ISIS, DEBKAfile's sources report. They are coming to see the US-led coalition as weakened and predict that Britain will draw down or remove its forces from the anti-jihadist arenas in the near future.

Officials in several Arab capitals are now discussing the possibility of ending their boycott of Syrian President Bashar Assad and cooperating militarily with his regime against the terrorists – an option which just a few days ago would have been unthinkable.

In general, there are signs of satisfaction in Muslim Middle Eastern countries over what is seen as the weakening of NATO. and even more of Washington's position in Brussels. Tehran, Riyadh, Amman, and Damascus are giving vent to these sentiments in the first political consensus the Arab and Muslim world has seen since the outbreak of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010.

Statements like "we have new and historic opportunities" and "the American star has been wiped off the EU flag" are just the tip of the iceberg – despite the return of a limited number of US forces to fight ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya over the past few months, to partly fill the void created by President Barack Obama's Mid East policies.

The pleasure they are taking in Europe's undoing is surprising considering the political and financial efforts as well as the military assistance that the EU invested over the past few years in the Arab world, such as the Persian Gulf states, in the Iranian nuclear issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, said, "The only way now for the European Union to survive is to state openly its independence from the White House."

Abbas Retracts Water Poisoning Allegation Against Israel

By Israel Hayom

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday retracted his allegation that Israeli rabbis had called for the government to poison Palestinian drinking water in Judea and Samaria, a remark that had drawn strong condemnation from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"After it became evident that the alleged statements by a rabbi on poisoning Palestinian wells, reported by various media outlets, are baseless, Abbas has affirmed that he didn't intend to harm Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world," part of a statement released by Abbas office on Saturday said.

In a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, Abbas repeated unsubstantiated claims of a plot to poison Palestinian wells, sparking accusations of anti-Semitism. The Abbas speech received a standing ovation from European lawmakers, but his allegation about the water poisoning drew condemnation from Netanyahu, who said Abbas showed his "true face" by spreading such a "blood libel" and called on him to cease inciting against Israel.

For Jews, allegations of water poisoning strike a bitter chord. In the 14th century, as plague swept across Europe, false accusations that Jews were responsible for the disease by deliberately poisoning wells led to massacres of Jewish communities.

The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs went so far as to warn that there will be thousands of Palestinian deaths, and condemned the international community for its silence on the matter. "What is the international community waiting for to interfere; the death of thousands of Palestinians from thirst? To meet such an incident with silence and ignore the war Israel is waging against Palestinians is a cause of shame for the international community."

In his speech in Brussels, Abbas also accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people. "Palestine and the Palestinian people are experiencing mass genocide on an unprecedented scale and attacks unlike anything seen or heard before by the international community," he said. "There is an ongoing tendency toward violence and extremism that is going stronger among the settlers and the Israeli military, regarding both legal and illegal actions. These are black days for Palestinians living under the tyranny and racism of the [Israeli] occupation."

Arab Convert to Judaism Flees Home After Threats


With a black velvet kippah, tzitzit, and Hebrew name, Avihai Shanti looks like any other Orthodox Israeli Jewish man. But Shanti's outward appearance belies his unique story and his journey as an Arab convert from Islam to Judaism.

Raised in the southern city of Be'er Sheva, he was forced to flee his parent's home, after members of his extended family responded with outrage to his decision to join the Jewish people. Speaking with BeHadrei Haredim on Sunday, Shanti discussed his decision to convert and his family's reaction.

"I was born to a Muslim family, and we lived in Be'er Sheva. Since I was little I always saw Jews as being compassionate and forgiving people, and I always sensed a connection to the Jewish people. We lived in a predominately Jewish area and I had a lot of Jewish friends in Be'er Sheva, and we would hang out a lot. On Yom Kippur I respected [their practices] and wouldn't smoke or eat [around them]. I always saw a connection with this people."

It was only after Shanti moved out of Be'er Sheva, however, and began working in the center of Israel that he decided to take the plunge. "A while ago I started to work in the center of the country, and I would also sleep there. During the time I was working there I connected more and more to the Jewish people, and that's when I decided: that's it, no matter what, I'm going to convert and join this wonderful people."

While Shanti's parents warmly accepted his decision to become Jewish, his extended family was less than understanding. "From that point on things were straightforward. I told my parents about my intention to convert and they accepted it and even were happy for me. But my extended family was extremely outraged."

Despite his parent's acceptance of his decision, Shanti was eventually forced to flee, fearing retribution from relatives upset with his plan to convert. "After I started the conversion process I was still living in my parents' house in Be'er Sheva. But [when] some of my relatives didn't take my decision [to convert] well – it came to the point where it was really dangerous [for me] and I decided to leave my parents' house in Be'er Sheva a few days ago".

Google, Facebook Quietly Start Combating Extremist Videos

By Reuters and Israel Hayom

Some of the web's biggest destinations for watching videos have quietly started using automation to remove extremist content from their sites, according to two people familiar with the process. The move is a major step forward for internet companies that are eager to eradicate violent propaganda from their sites and are under pressure to do so from governments around the world as attacks by extremists proliferate, from Syria to Belgium and the United States. YouTube and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, the sources said.

The technology was originally developed to identify and remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for "hashes," a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly. Such a system would catch attempts to repost content already identified as unacceptable, but would not automatically block videos that have not been seen before.

The companies would not confirm that they are using the method or talk about how it might be employed, but numerous people familiar with the technology said that posted videos could be checked against a database of banned content to identify new postings of, say, a beheading or a lecture inciting violence.

The two sources would not discuss how much human work goes into reviewing videos identified as matches or near-matches by the technology. They also would not say how videos in the databases were initially identified as extremist. Use of the new technology is likely to be refined over time as internet companies continue to discuss the issue internally and with competitors and other interested parties.

In late April, amid pressure from President Barack Obama and other U.S. and European leaders concerned about online radicalization, internet companies including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and CloudFlare held a call to discuss options, including a content-blocking system put forward by the private Counter Extremism Project, according to one person on the call and three who were briefed on what was discussed.

The discussions underscored the central but difficult role some of the world's most influential companies now play in addressing issues such as terrorism, free speech and the lines between government and corporate authority.

None of the companies at this point have embraced the anti-extremist group's system, and they have typically been wary of outside intervention in how their sites should be policed. "It's a little bit different than copyright or child pornography, where things are very clearly illegal," said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University's Program on Extremism.

Extremist content exists on a spectrum, Hughes said, and different web companies draw the line in different places. Most have relied until now mainly on users to flag content that violates their terms of service, and many still do. Flagged material is then individually reviewed by human editors who delete postings found to be in violation.

The companies now using automation are not publicly discussing it, two sources said, in part out of concern that terrorists might learn how to manipulate their systems or repressive regimes might insist the technology be used to censor opponents. "There's no upside in these companies talking about it," said Matthew Prince, chief executive of content distribution company CloudFlare. "Why would they brag about censorship?"

The two people familiar with the still-evolving industry practice confirmed it to Reuters after the Counter Extremism Project publicly described its content-blocking system for the first time last week and urged the big internet companies to adopt it.

The April call was led by Facebook's head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, sources with knowledge of the call said. On it, Facebook presented options for discussion, according to one participant, including the one proposed by the non-profit Counter Extremism Project.

The anti-extremism group was founded by, among others, Frances Townsend, who advised former president George W. Bush on homeland security, and Mark Wallace, who was deputy campaign manager for the Bush 2004 re-election campaign.

Three sources with knowledge of the April call said that companies expressed wariness of letting an outside group decide what defined unacceptable content. Other alternatives discussed during the call included establishing a new industry-controlled nonprofit or expanding an existing industry-controlled nonprofit. All the options discussed involved hashing technology.

The model for an industry-funded organization might be the nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which identifies known child pornography images using a system known as PhotoDNA. The system is licensed for free by Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft announced in May it was providing funding and technical support to Dartmouth College computer scientist Hany Farid, who works with the Counter Extremism Project and helped develop PhotoDNA, "to develop a technology to help stakeholders identify copies of patently terrorist content."

Facebook's Bickert agreed with some of the concerns voiced during the call about the Counter Extremism Project's proposal, two people familiar with the events said. She declined to comment publicly on the call or on Facebook's efforts, except to note in a statement that Facebook is "exploring with others in the industry ways we can collaboratively work to remove content that violates our policies against terrorism."

In recent weeks, one source said, Facebook has sent out a survey to other companies soliciting their opinions on different options for industry collaboration on the issue. William Fitzgerald, a spokesman for Alphabet's Google unit, which owns YouTube, also declined to comment on the call or about the company's automated efforts to police content. A Twitter spokesman said the company was still evaluating the Counter Extremism Project's proposal and had "not yet taken a position."

A former Google employee said people there had long debated what else besides thwarting copyright violations or sharing revenue with creators the company should do with its Content ID system. Google's system for content-matching is older and far more sophisticated than Facebook's, according to people familiar with both.

Lisa Monaco, Obama's senior adviser on counterterrorism, said in a statement that the White House welcomed initiatives that seek to help companies "better respond to the threat posed by terrorists' activities online.

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