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Moscow and Tehran Link Up to Strike Israeli Targets in Response for US-Led Operation in Syria

By DEBKAfile, VOA News, Israel National News, Reuters

Tehran's resolve to make Israel pay for its airborne missile attack on the T-4 air base was conveyed on April 11 by outing the 7 Revolutionary Guardsmen killed in the attack. Iran has never, in all seven years of its intervention in the Syria war, released its military casualties. But on Wednesday, for the first time, the Iranian Guards mouthpiece, the Tasnim News Agency, ran the names and photos of the seven members of its aerospace unit, who died in the airborne missile strike on the Iranian compound of the big T-4 bases it shares with the Russian and Syrian air forces. The agency also ran pictures of heavily damaged equipment.

By coming clean about its painful setback, the Tehran regime implicitly assured the public that it was not in vain and it was committed to a reckoning with the enemy for the deaths and damage on display. The supreme leader's senior adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, said so bluntly when he arrived in Damascus on Tuesday: "Israel's air strike on the Syrian air base will not go unanswered," he said. As he spoke, Tehran gained support from its ally in Moscow with the visit of Alexander Lavrentiev, the special Russian emissary on Syria. In a long meeting with Iran's national security adviser Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Russian said Iran's decision for a military response to the T-4 attack was understandable. He then proposed combining Iran's action against Israel with Russia's plans for countering the forthcoming US-British-France operation in Syria. The Iranian and Russian officials were of one mind that Israel's T-4 strike was the opening shot for that operation, and the next round of attacks would target Iranian and possibly also Russian targets in Syria. On this point, they cited President Donald Trump who said on Monday, April 9, in response to the chemical attack in Douma: "We can't allow atrocities like that… If it's the Russians, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out." The Russian veto Tuesday night on the US motion at the UN Security Council for an investigation into Douma attack sent this message to Washington: Moscow has completed its preparations for countering a US-led strike in Syria. It also nixed a scenario advanced by some sources in Washington: They maintained that delaying the US operation for final consultations with London and Paris, would be beneficial, since it would give the Russians time to evacuate the bases they shared with Iran and whisk their troops out of harm's way. Those sources misread Moscow's intent. The Russian ambassador to Beirut put them straight on this when he said on Wednesday. "If there is a strike by the Americans then … the missiles will be downed and even their launch sites would be targeted." Equally out of sync was the theory put about in the last 24 hours by some sources in Jerusalem, that Israel has no part to play in the US-British-French punitive operation against the Assad regime in Syria, since its only interest lies in preventing Iran from establishing a military presence in that country. That theory is no longer relevant, because whatever Israel does now, it is not off the hook. For Moscow, Tehran and Damascus, Israel is an integral part of the US-led alliance and is seen to have fired the first shot for the main operation against Syria. Therefore, while Israel geared up initially for a limited Iranian strike from its northern border, it is now feared that a military location deep inside the country may be targeted. During Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conducted back-to-back consultations with his top security advisers: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenklot, Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin, Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Tamir Heiman and head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat. President Vladimir Putin and Netanyahu held a phone conversation on Wednesday, at a high-tension moment before a US military operation in Syria. According to a Kremlin statement, the Russian president asked Israel to refrain from steps that might aggravate the critical military situation in Syria or affect Syrian security. Other sources quote Putin as asking Israel to leave Syria alone and respect its sovereignty. Netanyahu said later, in an address to the opening ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day in Jerusalem, that he would advise Iran "not to test Israel's resolve." The Kremlin released word of the two leaders' conversation during Netanyahu's speech at the state ceremony commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum. "The Syrian matter was discussed, including the recent missile attack on the T-4 Airbase in Homs, which was carried out by the Israeli Air Force," the Russian statement said. The Russian president's statements to Netanyahu came mere hours after an especially combative tweet by President Donald Trump. "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" the tweet read. "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump said, referring Moscow's alliance with Assad. "Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War," the president asserted in a subsequent tweet. After issuing his warning to Tehran, which is seeking to establish a military presence in war-torn Syria in a bid to threaten Israel, Netanyahu turned to the people of Iran. "Israel is not your enemy, but rather the tyrannical regime which represses you is," Netanyahu said. "When it disappears, our two ancient nations will be able to live again in cooperation and in brotherhood." Israel is not turning a blind eye to the dangers, he continued, and is "not surprised by them most of the time. In the Holocaust we were defenseless, with no shield or voice. In truth, our voices were not heard at all. Today, we have a strong country, a strong army, and are voice is heard throughout the nations," the prime minister said. He reminded his listeners of the fact that a flag with a swastika was waved on the Gaza border, adding that "our hearts are torn at the sight of horror" over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons. One big lesson that has escorted us since the Holocaust is that murderous evil that is not confronted rapidly spreads. Gradually, it threatens all of humanity."

'Israel is Capable of Bringing Down Assad'

By Res. Major-General Amos Yadlin (Commentary)

Two significant events are developing in the north: The US is discussing operations against Syria, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons; and Iran is discussing a response to Israel's alleged attack on the T-4 airbase in Homs. These two events seem to be separate, but they could consolidate into a very significant development. The Iranians will respond to the alleged Israeli attack, even if not immediately, and even if not from Iran. Possible options include Syria, Lebanon, or around the world, and in addition to their usual emissaries, they will want to include an official Iranian response to the murder of their soldiers, in an effort to deter Israel from further harming Iranian bases in Syria. Israel, meanwhile, has declared publicly that its strategic goals are to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria, and to cancel the 2015 "Iran deal." Both of these goals are important to Israel, and they aim to prevent enormous dangers in the future, even if they include dangers in the present. We need to prepare for the next possible steps in this operation, including for our enemies' response, and Iran's possible establishment [in the area] in the future. Israel is capable of dealing with many threats on its own - and if necessary, could deal with Assad's regime, and even topple it. However, if the escalation to open conflict with Iran continues, or brings in Russian interference - Israel will need US aid. Here, too, the Israeli and American interests are similar. It's very important to strategically coordinate with the US, in preparation for such a scenario. Regarding an expected US attack in Syria: US President Donald Trump has a few options. He can decide on a punitive act, such as the one last year. But true deterrence will be achieved only with a wide scale and continuing operation. That is possible, but only if the strategic goals in Syria are widened to include, other than the conflict with ISIS, the goal of stopping Iran.

Senior Security Officials: If Iran Acts Against Israel, We'll Topple Assad

By Maariv

"If the Iranians act against Israel from Syrian territory, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime will be those that pay the price." That is the clear message from senior officials in the Israeli defense establishment and IDF after the top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called a strike on the Syrian T-4 air base "Israel's crime" and said the alleged act would "not remain without response. "Assad's regime and Assad himself will disappear from the map and the world if the Iranians do try to harm Israel or its interests from Syrian territory," said senior officials in the defense establishment. "Our recommendation to Iran is that it does not try to act, because Israel is determined to continue on this issue to the very end," the officials said. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday that Israel will take all necessary steps to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military base in Syria. "No matter what the price, we will not allow Iran to have a permanent [military] foothold in Syria. We have no other choice," said Liberman.

Expanding on Liberman's comments, security officials believe that Iran may try to retaliate to the alleged Israeli attack, either with Iranian weapons transported into Syria from Iran or by "borrowing" Syrian army systems. Officials do not believe that direct conflict between Israel, Iran and Syria will necessarily draw Lebanese militant group Hizbullah into the conflict. "We hope that Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will not join and be drawn into the campaign if it breaks out," senior security officials told The Jerusalem Post's sister newspaper Maariv on Tuesday. "We have no interest in widening the front but, should it happen, Nasrallah needs to understand that his fate will be no different from the fate of Assad and he will pay a very heavy price." Israeli officials were said to be confident Tuesday that President Donald Trump intended to stand by his comments referring to a possible American strike in Syria, in response to another use of chemical weaponry by Assad's forces against his own citizens.

World Jewish Population Numbers 14.5 Million as Israel Commemorates Holocaust

By Israel Hayom

The world's Jewish population today numbers some 2 million fewer than before World War II, according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. The numbers, accurate as of 2016, indicate a global Jewish population of 14.511 million, compared to the 16.6 million Jews in the world in 1939 – including 449,000 living in pre-state Israel – prior to the Holocaust. By the time Israel was founded in 1948, the Nazi genocide had reduced the number of Jews in the world to 11.5 million, including 650,000 living in the nascent Jewish state, which means that 6% of world Jewry at the time lived in Israel, compared to 44% today. As Israel prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary, it is home to more Jews than any other country in the world – over 6.4 million, the CBS notes. The second-largest Jewish population (5.7 million) lives in the U.S., while the Jewish populations of France and Canada number 456,000 and 390,000, respectively. Britain is home to 290,000 Jews; Argentina's Jewish population stands at 181,000, and 176,000 Jews call Russia home. Another 117,000 Jews live in Germany and 113,000 live in Australia. At sundown Wednesday, Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. Six Holocaust survivors will light memorial torches, and short films will tell each of their life stories. According to the National Insurance Institute, 168,540 Holocaust survivors are living in Israel today. In the past two years, since March 2016, over 26,000 survivors have passed away.

Jewish Ethiopian Teenager Came to Israel for a Bible Contest. His Promise to Leave Cost Thousands of Dollars.

By JTA

A Jewish teenager from Ethiopia reportedly has deposited thousands of dollars in order to participate in the final stages of the International Bible Quiz in Israel. The deposit is to insure that Sintayehu Shafrao, 18, returns to Gondar after the competition ends next week on Israel's Independence Day.

Shafrao will represent Ethiopians known as Falash Mura, who claim Jewish descent. The Israeli government has pledged to bring the up to 9,000 Falash Mura remaining in Ethiopia who are waiting to make aliyah, but has not followed through with the funding for the operation. Shafrao's father and brother immigrated to Israel 17 years ago, according to Israel National News. Since arriving in Israel, the teen has met with Israeli lawmakers and government ministers, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. During the meetings he pleaded for the lawmakers to bring the remaining Ethiopians to Israel as soon as possible. The Interior Ministry demands large deposits from Ethiopians visiting Jewish relatives in Israel, according to reports. About 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today.

How an Israeli Start-up Could Have Halted Mass Abuse of Facebook Data

By the Jerusalem Post

On Monday, Facebook began notifying users if they were among the 87 million victims of a data-harvesting scheme carried out by the Trump-affiliated political firm Cambridge Analytica. In 2014, a quarter-of-a-million people downloaded a personality quiz via Facebook, and from those downloads, researcher Aleksandr Kogan accessed personal information on all their "friends." He then gave the data to the political firm – to be used in targeting voters. If you were Facebook friends with someone who took the quiz, titled "This is Your Digital Life," Facebook this week likely sent you a notification at the top of your news feed about the data that Cambridge Analytica may have on you – from messages in your inbox to pages you liked. One Israeli cyber-privacy start-up, MyPermissions, says the Cambridge Analytica scandal could've been avoided – had Facebook users relied on a privacy application such as its own. "If people would have used MyPermissions, they could have been prevented from being included in the Cambridge Analytica data set," said Omer Yarkowich, MyPermissions' VP of product and marketing, adding that many more data scandals exist but have yet to be uncovered. "Why? Because it's so, so lucrative," the Israeli entrepreneur said, adding that it was a multi-billion-dollar market. "Data is possibly the most valuable commodity in today's world – more than oil, for example... You can [use the data to] focus the attention of so many people on a certain message. More than that, you can tailor the message you want to convey based on each and every kind of person. With that power, with that kind of tool, you can make a lot of money." MyPermissions' app works by running a scan on a user's smartphone, looking at his social media accounts – such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Yahoo and Dropbox. It shows which third-party apps have access to the data, and the user then has the option of ceasing access for those apps. With one click, the user can get rid of any and all privacy-infringing apps.

Founded six years ago and based in Tel Aviv, MyPermissions says it's about helping users reclaim their privacy. (The company will soon be rebranded as MyPrivacy.) The cyber-privacy start-up comes on the coattails of Israel's giant cybersecurity industry, which last year raked in 16% of all private investment worldwide. "For years, whenever someone, for example, used our app to scan Facebook – there was a significant Aha! moment – people see dozens and dozens of apps and games and quizzes; either they used them a long, long time ago or they forgot that they used them in the past, or they did not know that those apps had significant access to their data." To protect their data without using an app similar to MyPermissions, people must manually log into each and every social media and online account, search for the privacy option, understand how the settings work, and unclick each app permission. The Israeli privacy app also allows a user to see all the information in a single location, along with color-coding the risk level. The company makes money by selling premium subscriptions. It pushed back against concerns that its services could be hacked – with all your social media account information located in one place. MyPermissions says that its scan only occurs on the person's standalone smartphone device. "We do not collect information on our users, we don't store it or sell user information whatsoever," Yarkowich said. "We don't have any centralized location that is susceptible to hacking. We don't collect any information whatsoever. And once you delete the application from the smartphone, everything is deleted with it."

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