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Israel Warns Syrians Away From Frontier as Assad Closes In

By Reuters
Dozens of Syrians approached the Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to seek help or sanctuary from a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive, before turning back after a warning from Israeli forces. Tens of thousands of Syrians have arrived near the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past month, fleeing a rapidly advancing offensive which has defeated rebels across a swathe of territory near Jordan and Israel. "Go back before something bad happens. If you want us to be able to help you, go back," an Israeli army officer on the Israeli side of a frontier fence told the crowd in Arabic through a megaphone. "Get a move on." The offensive has triggered the single biggest displacement of the war, with several hundred thousand people uprooted. Both Israel and Jordan have said they will not allow Syrians to cross into their territory. Israel, which seized the Golan in the 1967 Middle East War, has given humanitarian aid to refugees in encampments close to a 1974 Israeli-Syrian disengagement line. Many of the displaced are sheltering within the disengagement zone that is monitored by a U.N. force. The Syrians who approached the frontier fence stopped some 200 meters (215 yards) away before an Israeli soldier told them to leave. "You are on the border of the State of Israel. Go back, we don't want to hurt you," the soldier shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker at the crowd, live Reuters TV footage showed. The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly towards the refugee encampment. Some stopped mid-way and waved white cloths in the direction of the Israeli frontier. The Russian-backed offensive has advanced swiftly, unopposed by President Bashar al-Assad's foreign adversaries. The United States, which once armed the southern rebels, told them not to expect it to intervene as the attack got underway last month. A witness on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier said the sound of bombardment was drawing ever nearer. The United Nations said last week up to 160,000 Syrians had fled to Quneitra province, near the Golan area. Israel has threatened a harsh response to any attempt by Syrian forces to deploy in the disengagement zone, complicating the government offensive as it draws closer to the frontier. Israel does not want its enemies Iran and Hizbullah, both allies of Assad, to move forces near its border. Iran-backed Shi'ite forces including Hizbullah have been critical to Assad's advances. Hizbullah-controlled al-Manar TV said the Syrian army had captured one of the last rebel-held areas in Deraa province, al-Aliyeh. At least 14 people, including five children and some women, were killed when government forces bombarded the nearby village of Ain al-Tineh 10 km (6 miles) from the Golan frontier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

With IDF Poised to Strike Hamas, Is Israel's Northern Front Forgotten?

By DEBKAfile
The Syrian army and Hizbullah advanced to a point on Tuesday, July 17, that was close enough to Israel's Golan border to bomb its northern cities. Israel's leaders had shifted their attention to Gaza and a possible counter-terror operation against Hamas. An approaching operation was signaled by the IDF's troop build-up around the Gaza border, the deployment of extra Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in Greater Tel Aviv and video presentations of soldiers geared for battle run on TV screens. Commanders interviewed by military reporters outlined their targets and the sectors of the Gaza Strip to which their units were assigned. Adding to the drama, both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman paid visits to the IDF formations with pep talks. With them was the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot. The day before, Netanyahu paid his first visit to Sderot, the town long battered by Palestinian rockets from next-door Gaza. Suddenly, no one remembered that a Gaza operation had been ruled out for months because the danger to the northern front was deemed more pressing, even though the worst-case scenario was now at hand. On Tuesday, while Israel's top officials toured the south, the Syrian army, 80% of whose troops are members of Hizbullah and Shiite militias loyal to Iran, had pressed forward to the Quneitra region and reached a point 4 km (2.5 miles) from the Israeli border. IDF officers posted on the Golan reported anonymously that Syrian and Hizbullah forces had captured the hilltop town of Tel Al-Harra, from which they could not only blast all parts of the Golan but even reach Israel's northern Galilee and Mediterranean coastal towns, like Nahariya. No official bothered to tell the Israeli public why the Netanyahu government had suddenly abandoned the northern front. The first clue came from the abrupt halt in Israeli air force flights over the embattled districts of southern Syria on Tuesday, July 16, as President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down in Helsinki for their first full meeting. It was Putin who shed light on the change when he disclosed that he and the US president had agreed that Israel's border with Syrian should be secured according to the terms of the 1974 separations of forces agreement for the Golan, thereby endorsing a demand made in the last two weeks by the Israeli prime minister. The full connotations for Israel of this format have yet to be revealed to the public. Meanwhile, popular attention has swung round to the Gaza front to see whether the government and IDF go through with their plans for an operation to finally cut Hamas down,

Historians Accuse Croatia of Covering up WWII War Crimes

By Israel Hayom
Croatia's parliament passed legislation last month barring public access to archive materials on individuals aged 100 and over, living and deceased. Critics say the legislation, which was presented to lawmakers in Zagreb as aimed at protecting the privacy of the deceased, in effect serves to silence research into Croatia's wartime government's collaboration with the Nazis. Former Croatian Culture Minster and historian Zlatko Hasanbegovic called the legislation "cowardly and underhanded" and said it aimed to "prevent access to archives and silence research." While the government in Zagreb denies the law will harm freedom of research, over 80,000 files, including those about the fascist Ustashe movement will be closed to the public. Croatia would have good reason to try to sweep its past under the rug. Wartime leader Ante Pavelic's dictatorial regime not only collaborated with the Nazis, they willingly aided the Nazis in their efforts to wipe out the Jews, operating a number of concentration camps on Croatian soil. The regime's vision of a Croatia free of Serbs and Jews quickly turned into a genocidal fever that saw 30,000 of Croatia's 40,000 Jews murdered in the camps and at the hands of Ustashe goons. While opposition members railed at the legislation, the government has argued the law was meant to defend the "victims of communism" and said opportunism purely motivated critics of the law. According to Orel Beilinson, a historian who specializes in the Balkans, "The Ustashe was a very dark nationalist regime during the World War II era, which legend has it, Hitler himself was shocked by the cruelty of their actions." He noted that while the law does not specifically prohibit access to the Ustashe files, discussions as to what wording in the law allows for the "protection" of the files in effect denies public access to them were ongoing. "In the transition from socialist Yugoslavia to independent Croatia, a lot of people became criminals and a lot of people who were considered [political] criminals in the past became leaders. This is the great importance [in the decision] in opening or shutting the archive – and the focus on the personal files is particularly worrying, because 'victims of communism' is a particularly wide definition that could include all kinds of things," he said. Danny Orbach, a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lamented that "although every Holocaust and World War II scholar is well aware of Croatia's dark record, it has never taken a serious place in the discourse." He said that a "distorted perception" had been created regarding Poland, which fought the Nazis, and is widely perceived as a sort of Nazi collaborator while countries that collaborated with the Nazis are not negatively perceived in popular public opinion, and are almost never criticized. He said it was his opinion that this was "the result of an imbalance in Holocaust education in Israel. The goal is always to put the Jews at the center – and the focus on Poland makes this more convenient. In Croatia, for example, Jews were killed alongside Serbs."

Ehud Barak Worried Israel Becoming 'Messianic State'

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak slammed the current right-wing government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a speech delivered Tuesday evening at the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv. "There are forces that distort space and time and the course of the entire Zionist project. The pursuit of a single Jewish-messianic state and a Muslim majority of citizens and subjects requires the destruction of the foundations and institutions of the Zionist-democratic state," Barak said. Barak attacked the leaders of the national camp, saying that they were preventing the "divorce" between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, which would lead to one reality: "Israel's descent into a country with a Muslim majority, a violent internal conflict that is not Jewish, is not Zionist and is not democratic. This is a dramatic and dangerous change of direction in the entire Zionist project. The achievement of this goal must be stopped by any means possible, because its realization is an existential threat to the Zionist project and to the existence of a Zionist-democratic Israel," Barak stressed. According to Barak, "a tiny handful is maneuvering a weak, pressured leader, behind whom is a populist party, on an extremely dangerous route that runs counter to the national interest and the positions of the majority of the public. An absolute majority of the Israeli public wants to ensure a Jewish majority and a Zionist-democratic character for Israel, and therefore, in the absence of an immediate possibility of an agreement, to divorce from the Palestinians. 'We are here, and they are there,' while ensuring continued security control over the entire area for any period of time required." "I call upon the citizens of the state: It is time to wake up, the state for its power and achievements is yours, not ours, not the delusional group on the margins. If, for the sake of clarity, we ignore the Likud radicals who are mainly addicted to their chances in the primaries, Netanyahu and the extremists who lead him are a group that represents a tiny part of the public, but manipulates the government as a tail wagging the dog. "These are Bennett and Shaked. Behind them are Yogev and Smotrich. Among them are Rabbis Sadan and Lowenstein, and behind them are the figures of Rabbi Lior, patron of the murderer Baruch Goldstein, whose rulings and teachings were suspected of being the inspiration for Rabin's murderer. Yes, my friends, this is the same rabbi who a few years ago won the title of "the commando that leads the nation of Israel" from Netanyahu. And who does not see Rabbi Ginzburg there, one of the fathers of the book 'Torat HaMelech,' which deals with the laws of killing non-Jews? "This is the man whose theory of revenge was suspected of being the source of the inspiration for the price tag thugs and the family of the Dawabsheh family in Duma. And, of course, Netanyahu also bothered to congratulate and praise, at about the same time, a videotape from Moscow, "Barak charged.

Palestinians Donate to Establish Synagogue in Memory of Terror Victim

Several Palestinians decided to donate money to the establishment of a synagogue in memory of the late Reuven Schmerling, who was stabbed to death in October 2017 by two terrorists. Schmerling, was murdered on the day he was supposed to celebrate his 70th birthday with his family, by two Palestinians at a coal storehouse belonging to his family in the Kafr Qasim industrial zone. He was ambushed and attacked with a knife, a pickax, and a fan. His family decided to commemorate his name and establish a synagogue in Schmerling's hometown of Elkana, and had launched a campaign to raise funds for the project. A few days ago they received an unusual donation: a Palestinian businessman from the Gaza Strip, who met Reuven through work, donated several thousand shekels to the campaign. The Palestinian, who due to personal safety concerns decided to remain anonymous, described the victim as a noble, good man. "Reuven had a pure heart. He loved everyone, I met him in the 1990s, when I used to import goods from China. He was a good man. What they did to him is horrific. If more people were like Reuven, peace would have been achieved a long ago," said the businessman. Following this donation, several other Palestinians who personally knew Reuven also contacted the family to donate funds to the project—some from the Gaza Strip and some from Kafr Qasim. Reuven's son Shai Schmerling says the family was not surprised by the donations. "My father always had Arab friends, they loved and respected him. It wasn't surprising to us. Even during the shiva, Palestinians from Gaza and Arabs from Kafr Qasim came over to express their condolences," he added. The Lod District Court is expected to sentence the two terrorists, Yousef Kamil and Muhammad Abu al-Rob, on Thursday. The two were convicted as part of a plea bargain and confessed to the murder.

`Facebook Law' Would Allow Israeli Government to Block Social Media Content

The Israeli government would have far-reaching power to remove or block content from social media sites under legislation coming up for a vote in the Knesset. The so-called Facebook Law could delete the content for reasons that include incitement to terrorism without criminal proceeding and any admissible evidence. The legislation, which was approved Sunday by the Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, is expected to be voted on before the Knesset ends its summer session on July 22. Along with Facebook, among the social media outlets that would be covered by the legislation are Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, YouTube and Reddit. Under the bill, a post that violates any section of Israel's penal code can be removed after an administrative hearing that does not include a defendant or presentation of evidence. The legislation "can effectively create censorship," according to Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute. She called it the "widest application of such a law in the whole of the democratic world," adding the legislation could also "harm political speech in this country tremendously." Facebook has removed pages, and Twitter has blocked accounts in the past following requests from the Israeli government.

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