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Iraqi Shiite Militia Heavily Bombed on Syrian-Iraqi Highway, First Major Assault on Soleimani's Forces

By DEBKAfile

In an exclusive report by DEBKAfile military sources, the pro-Iranian Iraqi Khatib Hizbullah Shiite militia was heavily bombed on Thursday, August 23 on the Syrian-Iraqi highway near the eastern Syrian town of Abu Kamal. On Monday, we were first to reveal that US National Security adviser John Bolton had this week discussed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a possible joint military operation by the US and Israel against Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Al Qods Brigades in the Middle East, and the pro-Iranian Shiite proxy militias in Syria. The Iraqi militia hit on Thursday belonged to Soleimani's forces in that country. The attack took place as Bolton sat down with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushov in Geneva, and was presumably meant to warn to Moscow that the US was serious about military action for ousting Iranian forces from Syria. Bolton said later that they had discussed a "series of steps" for removing Iran's military presence from Syria. Patrushev said nothing had been decided in their talks. DEBKAfile reported on Wednesday that Soleimani was building up the strength to seize control of the Iraqi-Syrian highway and massing troops in the Western Iraqi province of Anbar. Three months ago, on June 18, the Israeli air force bombed another Iraqi militia concentration, this one at Deir ez-Zour not far from the Syrian-Iraqi border.

UN Urges Israel Not to Hold Gaza Aid `Hostage' to Politics

By VOA News

The United Nations' political chief Rosemary DiCarlo called on Israel Wednesday to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip are not "held hostage to political and security developments." Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs DiCarlo told the Security Council its meeting was taking place "in the wake of yet another series of violent escalations that threatened to plunge Gaza into war." She said the recurring violence "highlights the urgency" of U.N. and Egyptian-led efforts, along with regional and international partners, "to prevent another devastating outbreak of hostilities, respond to the most urgent humanitarian needs, and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation." DiCarlo said funding for U.N. emergency fuel to keep about 250 hospitals, water and sanitation facilities in Gaza operating at a minimum level "has now run out." She appealed for $4.5 million to keep these critical facilities operating through the end of the year. DiCarlo also expressed concern at "the dangerously short supply of essential medicines, with 40 percent of essential drugs completely depleted." ?Israel and Egypt have imposed an economically crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the coastal territory from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to contain Hamas, a terrorist group that seeks its destruction. While the closure has devastated Gaza's economy, it has failed to oust Hamas or loosen its grip on power. Since July, Israel and Hamas have engaged in three rounds of heavy fighting, with Hamas firing dozens of rockets into Israel and the Israeli military carrying out dozens of airstrikes in Gaza. DiCarlo said that in recent weeks the humanitarian situation in Gaza had "deteriorated further, due in part to additional restrictions that Israel imposed on the movement of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing" — the primary avenue for food, fuel, construction materials and aid to enter the beleaguered territory. Israel closed the crossing in response to the violence and Hamas' launching of incendiary kites and balloons that have burned thousands of acres of Israeli fields, forests and agricultural land. The crossing was reopened by Israel on August 15 when it also expanded the fishing zone off Gaza to nine nautical miles. "As we work towards a full lifting of the closures on Gaza …," DiCarlo said, "I call on all parties to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian supplies reach the Strip." She said violent incidents have also continued elsewhere in the Palestinian territories and in Israel. But at the same time, DiCarlo cited tangible steps by ordinary Israelis and Palestinians "to promote tolerance and forge a shared future." As the international community focuses on resolving the crisis in Gaza and returning the legitimate Palestinian government to the strip, she said, the perseverance of this individuals is a reminder of the broader goal of achieving a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace and security.

IDF: Gaza Terrorist Worked for Doctors Without Borders

By Reuters

The Palestinian terrorist who opened fire at IDF soldiers earlier this week and killed when they returned fire was a nurse working for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the IDF said on Thursday, adding it was seeking an explanation from the international aid group. The IDF named the Palestinian as Hani Majdalawi and said he was shot dead on Monday after shooting and throwing a grenade at soldiers. "We have reached out to Doctors without Borders for clarification regarding the matter," an IDF spokesman said. The organization did not immediately reply to phone and email queries by Reuters. Its website says that the group runs three burns and trauma centers in Gaza, whose Islamist Hamas rulers have fought three wars against Israel in the last decade. Gaza authorities did not confirm Majdalawi's death, saying that would require having his body, which they believed was being held by Israel. The IDF said they could not immediately confirm this. No Palestinian terror factions claimed Majdalawi as a member.

Responding to Israeli media reports on Majdalawi's killing, his brother, Osama, described the married 28-year-old on Facebook as a "martyr" who had "bought the weapon with his own money" and acted "completely independently." The Facebook post said Hani Majdalawi had worked for Doctors Without Borders and that he had been "the most socially, psychologically and economically stable among his brothers."

Trump Tweets a White Nationalist Talking Point and is Skewered by the ADL


President Donald Trump has come under fire, including from the Anti-Defamation League, for apparently tweeting support for a white nationalist conspiracy theory that whites in South Africa are in danger of genocide. In a tweet posted after Fox News host Tucker Carlson's segment on land reform in South Africa, Trump wrote that he had "asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers." While violence against white farmers has declined in recent years, many far-right figures, including the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, believe that white South Africans are in danger of being "wiped out." Jones compared the elected government of South Africa to Hitler during an episode of his show "InfoWars" broadcast several hours before Trump's tweet. The same narrative has shown up on white nationalist and neo-Nazi websites such as Richard Spencer's and Stormfront. South Africans have been debating the issue of land reform for years. Before the end of apartheid, nearly 90% of the country's land was in the hands of white people. Since the country's indigenous population achieved self-rule in the 1990s, the figure has dropped but still hovers above 70%. The current controversy comes after the ruling African National Congress backed a controversial proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the government to expropriate land without compensation. Two years ago, South Africa lawmakers passed a bill permitting "the expropriation of property for a public purpose or in the public interest, subject to just and equitable compensation," but little has changed, sparking outrage. As the proposed amendment has yet to be passed, no land has been confiscated without compensation. The South Africa government responded to Trump's tweet with a statement on Twitter saying it "totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past." In a statement, the ADL said it was "extremely disturbing that the President of the United States echoed a longstanding and false white supremacist claim that South Africa's white farmers are targets of large-scale, racially-motivated killings by South Africa's black majority." The ADL also said that white supremacists in the United States had made such claims for years.

Trump has struggled to shake off accusations of racism. After last year's clashes between white supremacists and counterdemonstrators that left one dead in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump issued a statement saying there were "very fine people, on both sides."

Fatah Leader: Israel is Offering Hamas an Airport Near Eilat

By the Jerusalem Post

Israel has offered Hamas a seaport in Cyprus, and an airport near Eilat under Israeli supervision, as well as an airline flying to Qatar, deputy chairman of the ruling Fatah faction Mahmoud al-Aloul claimed on Thursday. According to Aloul, the Israeli offers are part of President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East. "I doubt this plan will succeed," he said. Aloul said that the current efforts to achieve a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas in return for humanitarian and economic projects in the Gaza Strip were not being made only by Egypt. "There are many contradictions," he said. "You also have Qatar, Turkey and Iran." Israel, he said, is seeking a truce with Hamas so that it can impose a new reality to pave the way for the implementation of Trump's unseen plan. "There are American efforts to liquidate the Palestinian cause," Aloul charged. "They tried to pass their schemes through our Arab brothers without our consent. Our firm position forced the Arabs to backtrack and tell the Americans that they should deal with the legitimate party, and that's why there's a stalemate now. However, the Americans are continuing with their attempts." Aloul's "revelations" were made in an interview with Egyptian journalist Jihan Husseini. The senior Fatah official, who is touted as a potential successor to ailing PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the PA favors a truce in the Gaza Strip. "A truce is a Palestinian national act," he added. Aloul claimed that the Americans and other parties were using the humanitarian issue as a distraction and "to pass suspicious schemes," adding that last year, Abbas told donor countries to continue with their projects in the Gaza Strip. He said that Abbas had told the Egyptians that Hamas should either manage the affairs of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip or allow the Ramallah-based government to do so. The Egyptians, according to Aloul, requested that Hamas be permitted to collect some taxes and tariffs in the Strip as part of a reconciliation deal with Abbas' Fatah faction. Aloul said that a Fatah delegation would head to Cairo soon to hold discussions with Egyptian intelligence officials on ways of ending the power struggle with Hamas. "We are [for] reconciliation [with Hamas]," he stressed. "Reconciliation is a main goal for us. But there are many suspicions nowadays concerning the reconciliation – that's why the Palestinians are very cautious. We believe that the current efforts [to achieve a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas] are politically motivated and aimed at consolidating divisions among the Palestinians. The division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip] was created by Israel."

Hel said he found it "absurd" that Israel was prepared to forgo important issues in the current truce discussions, such as Hamas's heavy weapons and rockets. Qatar, he claimed, has received instructions from the US administration not to hinder the Egyptian and United Nations efforts to achieve a truce with Israel and reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Thursday that the truce agreement was almost ready and could be signed as early as next Sunday. The paper said that the deal might require some minor amendments. Senior Hamas leader Saleh Arouri will sign the truce agreement on behalf of his movement in Cairo next Sunday, it added. According to the report, after the signing of the truce deal, Egypt will invite representatives of various Palestinian factions to discuss ways of implementing the reconciliation agreement that was signed between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo in October 2017. The paper said that an Egyptian delegation will travel to Israel after obtaining Hamas's approval of the truce agreement to get Jerusalem to sign on to it. Quoting informed Egyptian sources, the paper said that the agreement calls for a one-year truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, which will be automatically extended for another four years. The agreement envisages the lifting of the economic blockade on the Gaza Strip; the permanent reopening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing; linking Gaza City's harbor with a seaport in Cyprus; launching steps to reopen the Palestinian airport in the southern Gaza Strip; and handing the remains of two IDF soldiers and two Israeli civilians held in the Gaza Strip to Israel. In return, the sources said, Israel would release Palestinian prisoners, including those who were rearrested after being freed in the 2011 Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange agreement. The agreement, the sources added, also calls for the establishment of a financial and economic fund comprising Arab countries, the US and the EU to rebuild the Gaza Strip according to a detailed plan.

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