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Netanyahu Confirms IDF Strike on Iranian Targets in Damascus

By Israel Hayom & World Israel News

Speaking to the IDF Galilee Division near the Lebanese border, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed Sunday that Israeli aircraft had struck a number of targets in Syria over the weekend. Israeli generally declines to confirm or deny reports of airstrikes attributed to its military. The Syrian state news agency reported Friday that Israeli warplanes fired a number of missiles toward the Damascus area, triggering Syrian air defenses that intercepted most of them. "The results of the aggression so far were limited to a strike on one of the warehouses at Damascus airport," the SANA news agency cited a Syrian military source as saying. The attack took place at 11:15 p.m. it said. In a formal farewell to outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Netanyahu said: "We've worked together with impressive success to stop Iran from gaining a military foothold in Syria. The IDF has attacked hundreds of times. "Just in the past 36 hours the IDF struck Iranian targets in Damascus, proving we are more determined than ever to take action against Iran in Syria," Netanyahu told Eizenkot, who was in attendance. He said the strikes targeted Iranian warehouses in Damascus. Syrian state media broadcast footage of what it said were the air defenses firing, with bright lights seen shooting across the night sky. Explosions were heard in one of the videos. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said airstrikes targeted an area near the airport while others hit the area of Kiswa, which is home to positions and storage sites for Iranian and Hizbullah forces allied with Syria's government. Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV said the attack was broader than usual, targeting areas ranging from the eastern Damascus suburb of Dmeir to the village of Dimas in the west near the Lebanon border. Israel has mounted attacks in Syria as part of its effort to counter the influence carved out there by Iran, which has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war that erupted in 2011. Israel has struck thousands of targets in Syria "without claiming responsibility or asking for credit," outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot told the New York Times in an interview published this weekend. Iranian and Iran-backed proxies including Lebanon's Hizbullah have deployed across Syria in support of Assad's government during the war. As Eisenkot himself indicated, Israel has generally been tight-lipped after Iran, Syria or Russia accused it of carrying out air attacks on Iranian-related targets, including arms destined for the Hizbullah terror group in war-torn Syria. As he prepares to step down on as Israel's military chief, Eisenkot is uncharacteristically open as he summarizes his term, which began on February 16, 2015. Eisenkot also revealed the government approved his shift in strategy in January 2017, stepping up airstrikes in Syria. In 2018 alone, he said Israel's air force dropped 2,000 bombs in Syria. A far more visible part of his legacy has been the recent Lebanese border operation, which thwarted Hizbullah's prime strategic investment for its next potential war. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Sunday the final tunnel was the largest discovered so far, running hundreds of meters from under a Lebanese home and deep into Israeli territory. Israel launched "Operation Northern Shield" early last month to detect and destroy a vast network of Hizbullah tunnels the group hoped terrorists could use to sneak across the border and attack Israeli civilians. Conricus said the latest tunnel originated from the Lebanese border town of Ramyeh, was 55 meters deep and ran 800 meters inside Lebanese territory and also "dozens" of meters into Israel. It included stairs, a rail system and a wide passageway that allowed for the movement of equipment and a large number of forces. The tunnel would be destroyed in the coming days, Conricus said, adding that while more tunnels still existed on the Lebanese side of the border, this effectively marked the end of the ambitious military operation. "We have achieved the goal that we set out to achieve," he said. "According to our intelligence, there are no longer any cross-border attack tunnels into Israel." Netanyahu also commented on the tunnels in his address to the IDF Galilee Division on Sunday, "I think that everyone understands that a very serious threat was averted here. Hizbullah's operational plan was to use the tunnels weapon to infiltrate many fighters, between 1,000-2,000 terrorists, into the Galilee, to seize communities here. Everyone understands how the war would look if Hizbullah battalions were in the Galilee, and with the Iranian army opposite the Golan Heights. We have prevented this – and will continue to prevent it." The tunnels violate a cease-fire resolution that ended a devastating war between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006. Conricus said the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as UNIFIL, was updated on the latest development. In the wake of the tunnel discoveries, Israel has asked the international community to impose tough sanctions on Hizbullah and launch action against its state-within-a-state operation in Lebanon. The military said its forces would stay deployed along the border to monitor for any other possible underground activity, and said it holds the Lebanese government responsible for everything happening within its territory. The Hizbullah terror group, which acts independently in Lebanon, has yet to comment on the tunnels. In different interviews with Israeli television channels that aired on Saturday night, as well as in conversation with the New York Times, Eisenkot was asked about Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Speaking to the American newspaper, the Israeli military chief estimated that by 2016, Suleimani deployed 3,000 of his men in Syria, along with 8,000 Hizbullah fighters and another 11,000 foreign Shiite troops. The Iranian funds flowing toward the effort amounted to $16 billion over seven years. However, Eisenkot suggested that Suleimani had underestimated Israel's determination to stop him. "His error was choosing a playground where he is relatively weak," Eisenkot said. "We have complete intelligence superiority in this area. We enjoy complete aerial superiority. We have strong deterrence and we have the justification to act. The force we faced over the last two years was a determined force, but not very impressive in its capabilities." In his interview with Israel's Hadashot TV, Eisenkot was asked if Israel has considered assassinating the Revolutionary Guard commander. "He who acts against us puts himself in danger," replied Eisenkot, adding that "I don't want to issue threats." Israel's Channel 10 asked Eisenkot: "Why is he still alive?" Said Eisenkot: "That's a question." The interviewer persisted: "If it was up to you?" Eisenkot shrugged and said nothing.

Report: White House Ordered Shocking Request for Potential Attack on Iran

By World Israel News

Following a September mortar attack near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that was blamed on Teheran, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton requested that the Pentagon provide options for a retaliatory strike on Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The Pentagon is said to have followed through on orders from the White House. However, according to the newspaper report, it is not clear what became of those plans and how great the chances were of such an attack taking place. It is also not clear, said the Journal, whether President Donald Trump was even aware of the request made by his national security adviser. Still, Pentagon and State Department officials were said to have been shocked by the nature of the request. "It definitely rattled people," a former senior administration official told the paper. "People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran." A spokesman for the National Security Council told the paper that the council "coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats." The attack that reportedly prompted Bolton to seek retaliation involved three mortars fired into Baghdad's sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy. The shells were said to have been launched by a group aligned with Iran. The mortars landed in an open lot, and no injuries were reported, but Trump's national security team conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response. There was also an air strike near a U.S. diplomatic facility in Basra, Iraq. In response, the U.S. announced it would effectively close its consulate in Basra and relocate diplomatic personnel assigned there. At the time, the White House blamed Shia militia groups and charged that "Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons." The New York Times reported back then that the Trump administration was signaling a new phase in its confrontation with Iran, threatening to retaliate for attacks by Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq. Beyond warning that "America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives," the White House offered no details about how the United States would retaliate against Iran for the attacks in Iraq. Officials at the Defense Department maintained at this point in September that there were no increased military preparations. Striking back, they warned, could provoke asymmetric attacks against American military and civilians by Iranian proxies elsewhere, according to the New York Times. In late September, days after Trump and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani exchanged taunts at the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly, Bolton was speaking at an event elsewhere in New York and warned that "there will indeed be hell to pay" if Iran angers the United States, its allies, or harms U.S. citizens.

Palestinians to Take Over Largest UN Bloc Tuesday

By the Jerusalem Post
The Palestinian Authority is set to formally take the helm of the largest bloc of United Nation member states on Tuesday, known as the Group of 77 (G77) and China. PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be in New York for Tuesday's ceremony and is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN Security Council president and other world leaders. In October, the UN General Assembly held a special vote to temporarily elevate the Palestinians' status at the UN, so that it could take over the rotating chairmanship of the G77 for 2019. The move provides the Palestinians with an emotional boost, as their efforts to attain UN membership remain stymied. The Palestinians have the status of a non-member state at the UN and would have been disqualified from the chairmanship without such a vote. The G77, however, has recognized Palestine as member state since 1976. The group of developing nations, the G77, was first created in 1964 to advance the economic interests of developing countries but has since expanded to include 134 of the UN's 193 member states. The US former ambassador to the United Nations in New York Nikki Haley attacked the Palestinian chairmanship of the G77 stating that "the Palestinians are not a UN Member State or any state at all." She added that the move encouraged "the illusion held by some Palestinian leaders that they can advance their goals without direct peace negotiations. Today's vote does nothing to help the Palestinian people." While at the UN, it is expected that Abbas will continue to advance the Palestinian agenda, including its push for membership status, a move that would need UN Security Council approval.

Technology Brings Images of Holocaust Survivors to Life

By YnetNews.com

The recollections of Max Glauben, a Dallas resident who as a Jew in Poland survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi concentration camps, are now being preserved in a way that will allow generations to come to ask his image questions. Glauben was 17 and had already lost his mother, father and brother at the hands of the Nazis when US troops rescued him while he was on a death march from one German concentration camp to another. The recollections of the Dallas resident who as a Jew in Poland survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi concentration camps are now being preserved in a way that will allow generations to come to ask his image questions. Glauben, who turns 91 on Monday, is the latest Holocaust survivor recorded in such a way by the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation. The Los Angeles-based foundation has recorded 18 interactive testimonies with Holocaust survivors over the last several years, and executive director Stephen Smith says they're in a "race against time" as they work to add more, seeking both a diversity in experiences and testimonies in a variety of languages. "I thought that my knowledge could cure the hatred and the bigotry and the killings in this world if somebody can listen to my story, my testimony, and be educated even after I'm gone," Glauben said. Smith says that while the foundation founded in 1994 by film director Steven Spielberg has about 55,000 audiovisual testimonies about genocides in dozens of languages—the majority from the Holocaust—the interactive technology stands out for allowing museumgoers to have a dialogue with survivors. "It's your questions that are being answered," Smith said, adding that the replies, especially on weighty issues like forgiveness can be especially poignant. He says, "You actually see sometimes them struggling to know what to answer." So far, the foundation has Holocaust survivors speaking in English, Hebrew, and Spanish, and the group hopes to get people speaking in even more languages. "It's so powerful when it's in your mother tongue and you're looking the person in the eye and you are hearing nuanced language coming back that's your own language," Smith said. For more than a year now, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center has featured the survivors' images in a special theater. Museum CEO Susan Abrams says that when visitors interact with the images, the impact is often obvious: "People get teary; people laugh. Our audience comes to feel that they know these survivors somewhat intimately because they're having small group conversation, and in that moment, pretty much everything else fades away." The Illinois museum is one of four currently featuring the images. Other museums are in Houston, Indiana and New York. The Holocaust museum in Dallas will start showing them starting in September, after it opens in a new location and with a new name — the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. Smith said the images can appear on a flat screen or be projected in a way that seems to be three-dimensional. Like Illinois, Dallas is building a special theater so the image will appear three-dimensional on a stage. "It's actually video that responds to human voice commands," he said. "And all that's happening is rather than you watching a linear testimony, all the bits of the testimony are broken up, and then when you ask it a question it finds that piece of video and plays it for you."


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