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Amid Tensions with Iran, Israel Pulls Fighter Jets from Drill in Alaska

By the Jerusalem Post

The Israeli Air Force has decided to scale back its participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska amid increasing tensions on Israel's northern border. "In light of the situational assessment by the Air Force it was decided to adjust the planes' participation in the exercise," read a statement by the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, stressing that nonetheless, "Israel's first participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska will take place as planned." According to a statement by Air Force public affairs officer Kitsana Dounglomchan, Israel's Air Force decided not to send F-15 fighter jets to the two-week-long drill, which will run between April 26 - May 11, out of Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. "Despite this change, we are looking forward to hosting the Israeli contingent that will be partaking in Red Flag-Alaska 18-1," Dounglomchan was quoted by local media as saying. The Red Flag exercises take place several times a year bringing together US and international forces for drills on realistic simulated combat situations. A statement released by Pacific Air Forces, the Alaskan Command's higher headquarters which directs the exercise, said that over 60 aircraft "from more than a dozen units" will be taking part in the drill. Israel regularly participates in US Air Force's main Red Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and the drill in Alaska is meant to offer pilots the opportunity to fly in combat scenarios which involve winter conditions such as snow and ice that Israeli pilots rarely get to drill on in the Middle East. The "exercise is designed to provide realistic training in a simulated combat environment," read a statement by the US Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs, adding that "Red Flag-Alaska exercises provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in a realistic threat environment." Tensions on Israel's northern border have been rising in recent months as Israel fears that Iran is entrenching itself deeper into war-torn Syria with its presence on Israel's borders growing in strength. With long-range strike and reconnaissance capabilities, Israel's F-15s are the backbone of the Israel Air Force, carrying out operations over Syria and the Gaza Strip. In mid-April, the Russian military announced that Israel carried out an airstrike against Syria's T4 airbase with two F-15s with guided missiles fired from Lebanese airspace. The airstrike killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan who led the drone unit operating out of the base. Following the strikes, Israel placed its troops on alert, preparing for a direct attack from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - and not by proxies as done before - under the command of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in the form of precision-guided missiles or armed drones from a base in Syria. Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Friday that Israel should "not trust" its air bases, as they are "within range of our fire. The finger is on the trigger and the missiles are ready at any given moment that the enemy conducts something against us, and we will launch them." On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that while Israel was not planning for war, "those who threaten (Israel) need to understand there is a price to be paid. Iran is setting up weapons systems in Syria that are positioned only against us. We will not allow for Syria to become a military base [for the Iranians]," he said. "We have established here a state and the IDF specifically to prevent these threats, and those who threaten need to understand there is a price to be paid, and they will pay a full price."

Hamas Vows to Avenge Assassination of Drone Scientist in Malaysia

By Israel Hayom

A Palestinian scientist who was shot dead in Malaysia was a rocket expert and "no saint," but Hamas allegations that Israel's Mossad spy agency assassinated him are false, Israel's defense minister said on Sunday. Two men on a motorcycle fired 10 shots at engineering lecturer Fadi al-Batsh in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, killing him on the spot, city police chief Mazlan Lazim said. The two shooters are believed to be European and likely operated on behalf of a foreign intelligence agency, Malaysia's deputy prime minister said Sunday. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who claimed the victim as one of the group's members, said the Mossad had been behind past attempts to kill Palestinian scientists, and the attack on Batsh "follows this sequence." Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was likely Batsh was killed as part of an internal Palestinian dispute. "We heard about it in the news. The terrorist organizations blame every assassination on Israel – we're used to that," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "The man was no saint and he didn't deal with improving infrastructure in Gaza – he was involved in improving rocket accuracy. ... We constantly see a settling of accounts between various factions in the terrorist organizations and I suppose that is what happened in this case," he said. An autopsy was being conducted on Batsh on Sunday, Malaysian media outlets reported. Malaysian police said Batsh, 35, was shot early Saturday as he was heading to a mosque for dawn prayers in the capital. The police said closed-circuit television footage showed him being targeted by assassins who had waited for him for almost 20 minutes. "We are investigating all angles. I have to investigate very carefully and deeply. This is an international issue," Lazim said in a statement. "Preliminary investigations found four gunshot wounds on the victim's body. Two bullet slugs were found at the scene of the incident." Hamas described Batsh as an important and "loyal" member of the organization, and a "scientist of Palestine's youth scholars." It gave no further details on his scientific accomplishments but said he had made "important contributions" and participated in international forums in the field of energy. Hamas initially stopped short of blaming Israel, saying only that he had been "assassinated by the hand of treachery." But later Haniyeh, its top leader, accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of killing him, and threatened retaliation. "There will be an unsettled account between us and it [the Mossad]," Haniyeh said at the mourning tent in Gaza on Saturday. "We cannot give up on the blood of our sons, youths and scholars. The fight between us and Israel has moved abroad and Hamas' response will be at the time and place of its choosing." Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told the Ynet news website Sunday that if Hamas carries out a terrorist attack abroad, Israel will target the group's leaders. "I advise Haniyeh, who in fact threatened terrorist attacks against Israelis abroad, to talk less and be more careful," Katz said. "You need to understand, Gaza is much closer than Malaysia. This crosses a red line. Activity of this sort will lead Israel to revisit its policy of targeted assassinations and senior Hamas members in Gaza, Haniyeh among them, can expect to be hit hard." On the killing of Batsh, Katz said, "Israel doesn't comment on these types of incidents, but based on what has been reported up to now about the man's work, and the anguished outcry from Hamas' leaders in Gaza, it seems he wasn't a saint and Israel has no reason to shed a tear over his departure. Hamas is part of Iran's axis of evil in the region, and many elements in this region, not just Israel, have an interest in undermining its capabilities." Though Hamas stressed Batsh's scientific background, the funeral service of the terrorist group's military wing and the mourning tent suggested he was actually a military commander. A banner at the mourning tent in Jabaliya described Batsh as a member of the military wing, and, in a formation typical for senior Hamas commanders, 10 masked terrorists in camouflage uniforms stood in a line outside the tent to greet mourners. Batsh's father called on the Malaysian authorities to investigate the shooting urgently. Besides his Hamas affiliation, Batsh was also the cousin of Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which also blamed the Mossad for the assassination, without providing evidence. Mohammad Shedad, 17, a student and a relative of the victim, also blamed the Mossad for the killing. "It is definitely the work of Mossad. Fadi is a very clever person, anyone who is clever is a threat to Israel," he told reporters outside Batsh's Malaysian home. "Fadi is a Hamas member and knows how to make rockets, so [Israel] thinks he is dangerous," Shedad said. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia's deputy prime minister, said the government was looking into the possibility of the involvement of "foreign agents" in the killing. He told local media that initial investigations showed the assailants were two "white men" driving a powerful BMW 1100cc motorbike. Batsh may have been regarded as "a liability for a country that is an enemy of Palestine," Hamidi was quoted as saying by the state-run Bernama news agency. Hamidi added that Batsh was "an electrical engineer and an expert at making rockets." Batsh specialized in electrical and electronic engineering and worked at a Malaysian university. He had lived there with his family for the past eight years and was an imam at a local mosque. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Malaya in 2015 and was a senior lecturer at the British Malaysian Institute. His official biography said his research interests included power converters, power quality and renewable energy.

However, Israeli media outlets reported that he was also deeply involved in Hamas' drone development project. Reports said Batsh had published material recently on drone development and on transmitters for controlling drones. According to an Israeli news report, Malaysia has proved a "paradise" for Hamas in recent years. Hadashot TV news said Hamas has sent numerous young Gazans to the country for technical training and fund-raising. The family of slain Israeli soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose remains have been held by Hamas since he was killed in Gaza in the summer of 2014, asked the Israeli government to prevent Batsh from being buried in Gaza. "Israel must also ask Egypt not to allow the terrorist's body to go through the Rafah border crossing," the family said. Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett echoed the family's call, saying Batsh should not be buried in Gaza until the bodies of Israeli soldiers are returned. He pledged to raise the matter at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.

Report: Dozens of Neo-Nazis Serving in German Police, Army

By Reuters

German security services have identified dozens of public servants, including in the police and army, as belonging to a far-right movement that denies the existence of the very republic they serve, weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported. According to data compiled by the German security services, a "high double-digit number" of public servants belong to the group "Reichsbuerger," or Citizens of the Reich, a mystical nationalist movement that maintains that the Third Reich continued even after Germany's defeat in World War II, the magazine reported. Investigations are underway against 11 members of Bavaria's state police, five of whom have been suspended from duty. There have also been 11 cases in Germany's Federal Police and four of them have had their service weapons confiscated, the report said. Up to five cases have been identified in the armed forces. The German domestic intelligence agency declined to comment on the Der Spiegel report. It has been previously estimated that the Reichsbuerger has a total national membership of about 16,500. Of those, 900 are considered "far-right extremists." German authorities are particularly sensitive to signs of far-right radicalism in their ranks. The post-war German Federal Republic was founded as an explicitly liberal project to repudiate the crimes of the Nazis' Third Reich, which committed some of history's worst crimes, including the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews. Despite a ban on groups that threaten political violence or seek to overturn Germany's constitutional order, some individuals do fall through the cracks. Investigations are still underway against a former high-flying army officer who last year was found to have been plotting violent attacks.

A member of the Reichsbuerger shot dead a police officer in Bavaria in October 2016 as a police team was about to enter his home to seize his hunting and sports guns. Authorities had deemed him fit to possess weapons as a member of the group.

European Rabbis: Jews Not Welcome in Iceland

By YnetNews
The Conference of European Rabbis (CER) has been staging rallies and engaging in public relations activities in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik recently, as well as at the European Parliament in Brussels, coming out against a bill proposed by Iceland to impose a prison sentence on any person circumcising their son. With the firm backing of the media in Iceland, the rabbis expressed for the first time cautious optimism regarding the thwarting the initiative they claimed violated religious freedom. President of the conference Rabbi Pinhas Goldschmidt warned that, "The Nazis enacted such a law in 1933 and we know how it ended," adding he thought the bill, which passed its first legislative reading two months ago, was "ill advised. This move is not only a violation of the basic human right to freedom of religion or belief, but a sign that people of Jewish or Muslim background are not welcome in Iceland," he added. Goldschmidt explained that a proposal by rabbis and Jewish organizations to adopt a model approved by the Council of Europe, in Germany and the UK—according to which ethical and medical standards will be anchored in regulation in order to enable the circumcision to be performed—has garnered much support from the public and the media. At the end of the conference, a communiqué was issued by the people and organizations that took part, calling on the Icelandic government and members of the country's parliament to immediately halt the proposal, which they claim violated the right of the child to belong to his family's religious tradition.

Native American Chief Visits Samaria: 'A Great Honor'

The Native American Chief Joseph RiverWind and his wife, Laralyn arrived Sunday for a tour of Samaria. Chief RiverWind is the Peace Chief of the Arawak Taino Nation. The two, who came from the United States, visited factories in the Barkan industrial zone, took in the view from Har Bracha (Mount of Blessing) of Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus), and tasted local Samaria wines at the award-winning Har Bracha winery. In a meeting with the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, RiverWind revealed the warm feelings of the Native American community towards the State of Israel in general and Judea and Samaria in particular. He said that the story of the Jewish people and their return to their land is an inspiration for them and gives them hope for their own future. RiverWind said: "It is an honor for us to be here and to meet such wonderful people, the people of this land. Your story, the people of Israel, gives us a lot of hope. Your return to your language, your land, your return to your spirituality. For Native Americans this is an exciting success story. "We share a similar story. They took from us our language, our identity, our land, and here there is the story of returning to Israel. It is an honor for us to be in Samaria and to encourage people in America and overseas to support Israel, including Samaria, to speak against the BDS movement and to support any way to help Israel, we are doing what we can to stop the propaganda and the Israel. "The Arab occupation must be stopped and Samaria should be returned to the Jewish people as they have restored Jerusalem and the rest of the country to its owners." The two played and sang a traditional Native American song, which they wrote and composed especially for the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence. Last week, the Seneca Nation, a Native American nation in New York State, celebrated "the 70th Anniversary of Israel's Independence." The proclamation stated that "the Seneca Nation and the State of Israel share in common a passion for freedom and a willingness to fight for and defend our sovereignty and our shared right to be a free and independent people."

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