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Hamas Says It Is Getting Aid Again from Iran

By VOA News & Reuters
August 28, 2017 3:11 PM

FILE - Yehiyeh Sinwar, a top Hamas official in Gaza, attends a news conference in Gaza City, May 1, 2017.
FILE - Yehiyeh Sinwar, a top Hamas official in Gaza, attends a news conference in Gaza City, May 1, 2017.
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GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP —
Hamas' new leader in the Gaza Strip said Monday his group has repaired relations with Iran after a five-year rift and is using its newfound financial and military aid to gear up for new hostilities with Israel. The announcement by Yehiyeh Sinwar came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting Israel. At a meeting with the U.N. chief, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained about what he called rising anti-Israel activity by Iran and its allies in the region. Iran was once the top backer of Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel's destruction. But Hamas broke with Iran in 2012 after the group refused to support Iran's close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the Syrian civil war. During a four-hour meeting with journalists, Sinwar said those ties have been restored and are stronger than ever. "Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent," Sinwar said. He added that the Islamic Republic is "the largest backer financially and militarily" to Hamas' military wing. It was the first time that Sinwar has met reporters since he was elected in February. The 55-year-old Sinwar, who spent two decades in Israeli prison after being convicted of masterminding the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, has close ties with Hamas' militant wing and takes a hard line toward Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Aug. 28, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Aug. 28, 2017.
Israeli concerns

Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, and Israel has recently expressed concern that Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are seeking a permanent military presence in Syria near the Israeli border. Both Hezbollah fighters and Iran have backed Assad's forces in the Syrian war.

In his meeting with Guterres, Netanyahu alleged Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce "precision-guided missiles" to be used against Israel.

"Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment, and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel," Netanyahu said. "This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept."

Israel has also accused the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, of failing to prevent Hezbollah from smuggling huge quantities of weapons into southern Lebanon in violation of a 2006 cease-fire. UNIFIL's mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month and Israel is pressing for the force to have an increased presence to better monitor and prevent the alleged Hezbollah arms buildup.

U.N. response

UNIFIL's commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, told The Associated Press last week that he has no evidence that weapons are being illegally transferred and stockpiled in the Hezbollah-dominated south. But Guterres promised Netanyahu that he will do everything "in my capacity" to ensure UNIFIL fulfills its obligations.

"I understand the security concerns of Israel and I repeat that the idea or the intention or the will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective," he said.

Responding to Israeli claims that the U.N. is biased, Guterres stressed his commitment to "treating all states equally." He said those who call for Israel's destruction peddle in a "form of modern anti-Semitism" — though he also said he doesn't always agree with the country's policies.

Guterres heads to the West Bank on Tuesday and is scheduled to visit Gaza on Wednesday. The U.N. maintains major operations in Gaza, running schools and health clinics and delivering humanitarian aid. Guterres is not scheduled to speak to Hamas.

FILE - Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, right, sits next to Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, as they attend a ceremony in Jalamah, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, July 10, 2017. FILE - Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, right, sits next to Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, as they attend a ceremony in Jalamah, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, July 10, 2017. Late Monday, Guterres met with Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, commander of COGAT, the defense body that is responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs.

Mordechai blamed Hamas for the poor conditions in Gaza, saying the group tries to exploit civilians and aid programs. He also said Hamas' refusal to return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, along with two Israeli civilians it is holding, hinders Israeli efforts to assist Gaza.

"The terror organization Hamas does not hesitate at all and repeatedly exploits the Gaza residents by attempting to take advantage of Israel's assistance, despite the severe civil hardships in the strip," Mordechai said.

Guterres later met with the families of the dead soldiers and captive Israeli civilians.

Hamas' military powers

In his briefing with reporters, Sinwar would not say how much aid Iran provides his group. Before the 2012 breakup, Iran provided an estimated $50 million a month to Hamas.

Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas' forces in 2007. Since then, it has fought three wars with Israel. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks. It is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Sinwar stressed that the Iranian aid is for "rebuilding and accumulating" Hamas' military powers for a larger fight against Israel that is meant to "liberate Palestine."

"Thousands of people work every day to make rockets, [dig] tunnels and train frogmen," he said. "The relationship with Iran is in this context."

But the shadowy leader said his movement does not intend to start a fourth war with Israel, instead preferring to remedy dire living conditions in the impoverished coastal enclave.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover a decade ago. Trying to pressure Hamas and regain control, Abbas has asked Israel to reduce electricity supplies to Gaza, and he has slashed the salaries of thousands of his former government employees there.

The result is that Gaza suffers acute power outages of up to 16 hours a day, unemployment of nearly 50 percent and widespread poverty.

Egyptian border

Sinwar has turned to Egypt, which has begun to ease the blockade as it seeks Hamas' help in controlling their border. The Egyptian military has been fighting an Islamic insurgency in the Sinai desert, near Gaza.

Relations with Cairo "have improved dramatically," Sinwar said. Egypt has recently sent fuel to ease the power crisis in response to Hamas' building of a buffer zone along the border.

"We will knock on all the doors, except that of the [Israeli] occupation, to resolve the problems," he said.

Sinwar was among more than 1,000 Palestinians released by Israel in 2011 in exchange for an Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, whom Hamas kidnapped in 2006.

Sinwar said there would be no new talks over a prisoner swap until Israel frees 54 prisoners released in the Schalit swap that have been re-arrested.

"We are ready to start negotiations through a mediator, but only when the table is cleaned. Freed prisoners must feel they are immune."


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Wednesday August 30, 2017

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30.08.2017


Newsletter Tuesday August 29, 2017

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After Syria fallout, Hamas works to restore ties with Iran
"Relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms," Hamas leader says - Hamas is "always preparing" for war with Israel but conflict is not now in its strategic interest, he says.

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech at a rally in Tehran [Archive] | Photo credit: AP

Hamas and Iran have patched up relations and Tehran is again its biggest backer after years of tension over the civil war in Syria, the Palestinian terrorist group's new leader in Gaza said on Monday

"Relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms," Yehya Sinwar, referring to Hamas' military wing, told reporters.

Neither Hamas nor Iran have disclosed the full scale of Tehran's backing. But regional diplomats have said Iran's financial aid for the Islamist terrorist group was dramatically reduced in recent years and directed to the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades rather than to Hamas' political institutions.

Hamas angered Iran by refusing to support its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the civil war that has been raging in his country for the past six years.

"The relationship today is developing and returning to what it was in the old days," Sinwar, who was elected in February, told reporters. "This will be reflected in the resistance [against Israel] and in [Hamas'] agenda to achieve the [Palestinian people's] liberation," he said.

Hamas seeks Israel's destruction and has fought three wars with the Jewish state since seizing the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Sinwar, a former Hamas security chief who had spent 20 years in Israeli prison over his involvement in numerous acts of terror, said the group is always preparing for a possible war with Israel. But he stressed such a conflict was not in Hamas' strategic interests at the moment.

"We are not interested in a war, we do not want war and we want to push it backward as much as we could so that our people will relax and take their breath, and in the same time we are building our power," he said. "We do not fear war and we are fully ready for it."

Hamas and Abbas' Fatah faction are locked in political dispute over the issue of Palestinian unity.

Sinwar, in his remarks, invited Fatah for talks on forming a new national unity government to administer both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

There was no immediate response from PA officials. Abbas has called on Hamas to first relinquish control of Gaza before he removes economic sanctions and to prepare for the formation of a new unity government that will be tasked with holding presidential and parliamentary elections.






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News Briefs1:44 AM 25-year-old seriously wounded in shooting in Tayibe1:16 AM Trump's envoy to visit Gaza crossings 12:42 AM Atlanta Jewish woman missing since August 19 12:13 AM Bennett in Beit El: 'The vision - one million residents in Judea and Samaria' 11:45 PM Woman seriously injured in accident in Tel Aviv11:33 PM 'UN Secretary-General understands, so things will change' 11:26 PM Houston Jewish community ravaged by Harvey's torrential rains 11:03 PM Police prevent wedding of 14-year-old bride10:53 PM Road 4 reopens for traffic10:51 PM Trump promises rapid funding for Texas disaster relief10:40 PM Cancelling pension age will have ramifications' MainAll NewsJewish WorldHouston Jewish community ravaged by Harvey's torrential rains

Houston Jewish community ravaged by Harvey's torrential rains Majority of Jewish institutions in Houston area flooded, IsraAid involved in relief efforts to affected areas. Contact Editor JTA, 29/08/17 23:26
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Houston floodedHouston floodedscreenshot

Most Houston-area Jewish institutions have been flooded due to Tropical Storm Harvey and a large portion of the city's Jewish population is living in areas that have experienced flooding, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston said.

"While we do not yet know the full extent of the damage, we know that most of our Jewish institutions have flooded," the federation said Monday evening in a Facebook post. "We know that 71 percent of our Jewish population lives in areas that have seen massive flooding and Jews have been displaced from their homes with flooding ranging from six inches to ten feet. We know that close to 12,000 elderly members in our community live in areas impacted by flooding."

As some two inches of rain fell per hour in the Houston area on Tuesday morning, according to reports, Jewish institutions were pitching in to provide shelter and relief for those affected by the storm.

Several displaced families were taking shelter at the Robert M. Beren Academy Orthodox Jewish day school, the Texas Jewish Herald Voice reported.

The Union for Reform Judaism's Green Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas, announced Monday in a Facebook post that it would be opening up to accept former campers, congregants and friends affected by the storm. The post said the camp could provide housing, food, air conditioning, internet and electricity "for a limited time."

Meanwhile, Chabad-Lubavitch of Texas is coordinating truckloads of kosher food to be sent to the area and will set up a kosher food pantry available to the Jewish community as supplies reach the area. Chabad emissaries in Houston have been preparing and delivering kosher meals to people evacuated to emergency shelters or who took shelter in hotels, according to Chabad.org.

IsraAID, an Israeli-based humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises and engages in international development around the world, said in a tweet Monday that it was coordinating with governmental and nongovernmental first responders and that its emergency teams continue to prepare for deployment. It sent seven members to Houston on Tuesday, who were set to join three others who already were in the United States when the hurricane hit.

Homes have been without power for two days, and floodwaters have reached the roofs of some single-family homes, according to reports. At least three deaths have been confirmed, and the Houston television station KHOU reported Monday that six family members were said to have drowned when their van was swept away by floodwaters, though no bodies have been recovered.





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News Brief
Israeli ministry drops opposition to adoption by same-sex couples

August 29, 2017 3:09pm
3SHARES
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs has reversed its opposition to allowing same-sex couples to adopt in the country.

The ministry said there is no problem in principle with adoption by a same-sex couple in a brief filed with Israel's Supreme Court, Israel's Channel 2 first reported Tuesday evening. The brief was filed in response to a petition regarding adoption by same-sex and common-law couples filed by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, with the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement, against the Social Affairs Ministry and the attorney general.

The reversal came at the request of Welfare Minister Haim Katz, according to the report. In July, Katz had asked the court for an extension on issuing an opinion to re-examine the issue, saying he wanted to seek more professional opinions.

The ministry stressed that the rules regarding such adoptions can only be made by amending existing legislation.

"In these circumstances and in a matter that has such significant social implications in today's Israeli society, it appears that the proper place for further discussion of this issue is the legislature," the opinion said, according to Channel 2.

Although adoption by same-sex couples has been legal in Israel since 2008, in practice it has been nearly impossible. Because opposite-sex couples have been given priority, only three same-sex couples have adopted in Israel out of 550 applicants. More than 1,000 opposite-sex couples have adopted in the past nine years.


Kurds Waving Israeli Flags: `Jews Know What it Takes to Survive'


By The Tower

"Jews know what it takes to survive as a minority in the Middle East. We have to stick together," said a Kurd who flew the Israeli flag.

Kurds participating in a rally at the German city of Cologne on Saturday, expressing support for an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq, raised the Israeli flag in solidarity with the Jewish state.

Over 20,000 Kurdish people from Greater Kurdistan, which includes all four parts of the Kurdish homeland divided among four Middle Eastern countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey—gathered at the rally, many waving the flag of Iraqi Kurdistan alongside the flags of Israel, the United States, and Germany.

One of the flags read "Thank you for your support," referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comment earlier this month when he expressed a "positive attitude" toward a Kurdish state. The Prime Minister told a delegation of US Congressmen that the Kurds are "brave, pro-Western people who share our values."

Jahwar Slemani from Iraqi Kurdistan told The Israel Project that he brought an Israeli flag to the rally to express his solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. "Kurds and Jews, we have the same enemies," he said. "Jews know what it takes to survive as a minority in the Middle East. We have to stick together." Bond with Jews `Cannot be Destroyed'

He recalled how his parents lived side by side with Jews in northern Iraq before they were expelled by the central government in Baghdad after Israel declared independence. "Jews were our friends, our neighbors," Slemani explained, adding "it is a bond that cannot be destroyed."

"This is our 1948 moment," he said, "and I want an independent Kurdistan to have good relations with Israel. Together we can fight the terrorists."

Another Kurd from Mariwan in Iranian Kurdistan told The Israel Project that waving the Israeli flag for him was "an act of liberation and rebellion." In Iran, "every year, on Al Quds Day, they burn the Israeli flag and say they want to destroy Israel," Beshwar Habeeb said. "But Israel is not my enemy. Israel is not the enemy of the Iranian people," he stated. "It is the regime in Tehran that oppresses us."

Habeeb hopes that when the time comes for Kurds in Iran to rise up against the regime, Israel will be at their side. Over recent months, Kurdish rebels have clashed with Iran's Revolutionary Guards numerous times in the border area between Iraq and Iran.

The autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq has said that they are determined to hold the independence referendum as scheduled on September 25.

By: The Tower

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