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Iran Threatens to Strike US Troops in the Middle East if Revolutionary Guards are Designated a Terrorist Organization

By the Jerusalem Post

Iranian Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari warned that US troops could be targets in response to reports that the US would list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a designated terrorist organization. Jafari is the head of the IRGC. Jafari made the threat on Sunday, stating that the US forces in "West Asia" by which he meant parts of the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran's near abroad. "If the Americans take such a stubborn measure and endanger our national security we will put in place counter-measures in line with the police of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said. Under those circumstances, US forces would no longer be safe in the region, he said, using the word "no longer enjoy calm," as a veiled threat. The comments were widely reported in Iranian media, one of the few foreign policy articles amid the flooding crises that has caused a massive national emergency in Iran. The IRGC and military of Iran have been deployed amid the flooding. Iran also hosted Iraq's Prime Minister over the weekend and sought to cement an alliance with Iraq while Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the US should leave Iraq. The potential designation of the IRGC, reported by the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, is a major step for the Trump administration as it seeks to ramp up pressure on Tehran. But it is unclear how the IRGC will be targeted because it is such a large organization, with hundreds of thousands of members and business and other roles in Iran and across the region. The US already views Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria as a threat. The IRGC designation could increase that threat. There are no distinctions whatsoever between Hizbullah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards. They fight interchangeably in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Sinai Peninsula and across Africa – and now at the door Steps of Tripoli in Libya. Both are terrorist organizations and should be recognized as murderous and threatening humanity. Europe has more to worry about these terrorists. But as expected Europe will remain spineless and would be the last to realize what Israel has been warning them all along.

The Final Polls are in and Israel's Election is a Nail-Biter

By JTA & Israel Faxx News Services

The final polls before Israel's national election on Tuesday show Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud Party running either neck-and-neck or up to five seats behind upstart challenger Benny Gantz's Blue and White party. The last polls were published on Friday, the last day to do so by law. Exit polling will begin at 10 p.m. Israel time on Tuesday night. The last poll of the day, aired Friday evening by Israel's commercial Channel 13, showed Likud and Blue and White running neck and neck with 28 seats each. The Hebrew-language Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot poll released earlier on Friday had Likud at 26 seats and Blue and White at 30, while the Israel Hayom/i24 News poll had Likud at 27 seats and Blue and White at 27 seats. The same polls all put the struggling Labor Party at 10 to 11 seats, followed by the combined Arab parties Hadash-Ta'al at six or seven seats. The Zehut party of former Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin polled at 5 or 6 seats depending on the survey. Feiglin, whose quasi-libertarian and nationalist party has captured the attention of young people who support the complete legalization of marijuana, polled at a consistent five or six seats in Friday's tallies. Regardless, Israelis are notorious for changing their minds about who to vote for. A party must garner at least 3.25% of the total vote to pass the threshold to enter the Knesset. Of the over 40 parties running in this national election, only about 14 parties will manage to pass that threshold. A ruling government coalition must have at least 61 seats, and preferably more if it wants to pass legislation regularly. And the party that gets the most votes in Tuesday's election may not be the party that gets to form the next government. Following the election results, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will meet with the heads of each party to find out who they would choose to form a government with. Because in most polls the right-wing bloc appears to have enough seats to form a government, even if Netanyahu's Likud party comes in several seats behind Blue and White, it likely will be Netanyahu and not Gantz who is tasked with forming the next government. Things were thrown into a tailspin on Sunday, however, when Zehut's Feiglin — who had been saying in recent days that he would be willing to join a government led by either Netanyahu or Gantz, as long as he could advance his party's policies — said that he is considering recommending himself as prime minister. The Channel 13 poll gave Netanyahu and a right-wing bloc 60 seats without Zehut and 66 seats with it. The Yediot poll gave the right-wing bloc 63 seats, or 57 without Zehut. The Israel Hayom-i24 News poll gave Netanyahu 64 seats with Feiglin and 58 without. Projected totals for some of the smaller parties include between five and seven seats for the Union of Right-wing parties, five to six seats for the New Right, between five and eight for the left-wing Meretz Party, five to six seats for the Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party, and up to four or five seats for Yisrael Beiteinu, if it passes the threshold, according to some polls. Netanyahu pulled out all the stops to strip votes from some of the smaller parties on Sunday, telling right-wing supporters that if they chose to vote for a smaller right-wing party that Likud might not have enough votes for Rivlin to realistically allow Netanyahu to form the next government. Whether that is true remains to be seen. The prime minister also vowed to consider annexing the West Bank if elected, to rally right-wing voters. Paper ballots cast throughout the country will be counted on Tuesday night, with a preliminary total on Wednesday morning. Votes cast by soldiers on their bases, patients in hospitals, and diplomats working overseas are added in later. Netanyahu is on track to score a fourth straight term - and fifth overall - and break the record for Israel's longest-serving leader. As a fixture of the Israeli political scene for over three decades, "Bibi" Netanyahu has become the face of Israel on the world stage. He has run on his reputation as a seasoned statesman, welcoming a line-up of powerful leaders to Jerusalem just weeks before the election and playing up high-profile photo-ops with everyone from Russian President Putin to his close ally and friend President Donald Trump, who has lavished him with a string of political gifts. Netanyahu sells himself as the only one who can protect Israel from the rising tide of Iranian aggression and accelerate Israel's global acceptance, nursing diplomatic relations with former adversaries across the Arab world. But his rule looks more uncertain than ever after the attorney general's recommendation to indict him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Allegations that he manipulated the press through shady deals and accepted lavish gifts from his billionaire friends have thrown his rule into jeopardy. He has denied all charges, accusing police, prosecutors and the media of orchestrating a political witch hunt to topple him.

Birthright Rejects Demands by Anti-Israel Group to Share Palestinian Views

By The Algemeiner

Birthright Israel said it would not submit to demands put forth by the activist group IfNotNow (INN), which staged a protest on Friday outside its New York City headquarters that ended with 15 arrests. Activists linked hands and blocked the entrance to the building housing Birthright's offices, as well as two intersections of Third Avenue during morning rush hour, provoking angry honking from immobilized commuters. The protest was held in support of INN's "Not Just a Free Trip" campaign, which calls on Birthright to share Palestinian perspectives while taking tens of thousands of young American Jews on subsidized trips to Israel each year. Friday marked the deadline given to Birthright to comply with INN's demands, which the group promoted through social media and walk-offs that have drawn press attention. Dozens of demonstrators — many of them college students, according to INN — wore matching shirts, chanted, and used loudspeakers while accusing Birthright of promoting the interests of "right-wing" donors like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson over those of young American Jews, which the group frequently claims to represent. They repeatedly invoked their belief in Jewish teachings like Tikkun Olam or repairing the world, while calling for an end to American Jewish support of Israel's control over the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), the Gaza Strip borders, and eastern portions of Jerusalem. "[Today] the movement gave Birthright one last chance, blocking the doors until staff would come downstairs," INN said in a press release. "According to the protesters, Birthright's choice to arrest the students rather than engage is a reflection of how they regularly prioritize their donors' pro-Occupation agenda and alienate an entire generation of American Jews." After issuing repeated warnings, New York Police arrested 15 protesters who obstructed the entrance to Birthright's offices and charged them with disorderly conduct. A spokesperson for Birthright rejected the claim that the organization was responsible for the protesters' arrest, calling it "completely false.

"We had nothing to do with any of the arrests made by the NYPD," spokesperson Pamela Fertel Weinstein told The Algemeiner. "It is our understanding that after blocking Third Avenue and the entrance of the building to tenants, the NYPD arrested them for disorderly conduct as they would do in any similar situation." In a statement responding to the protest, Birthright described itself as "an apolitical organization" that "provides a multifaceted view of Israel, Jewish heritage and Jewish values," as well as "discussions of the geopolitical realities in Israel, including the conflict, and meetings with Israeli Arabs and other minorities in Israel. "IfNotNow maintains a radical approach to an agenda they know does not align with the facts," the group added. "We do not respond to threats and demands from political activists leveraging our long-standing good reputation to advance their agendas." Three members of Reservists on Duty (RoD), an advocacy group led by Israeli military veterans, staged a counter-protest to convey their support for Birthright's effort to "unite Jews around the world," raising signs including, "IfNotNow does not represent the Jewish community. INN shamefully ruined peoples' day by not allowing them to commute to work, only to protest about a free trip to Israel that no one forced them to participate in," said David Abadie, RoD's New York representative. "It came to a point were a nine-month pregnant woman couldn't get to her office."

Hamas Mocks Netanyahu's Threat to Conquer Gaza

By United with Israel
Hamas is unfazed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's threat regarding the possibility of conquering Gaza in a scenario of escalation of terror against Israel. Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior member of the terrorist organization in Gaza, wrote on Twitter on Sunday, "Netanyahu's remarks about conquering Gaza as an existing option are ridiculous, and he must know that the liberation of Tel Aviv will certainly come." Netanyahu said in an interview last Thursday that "all options, including entering and conquering Gaza, are on the table, by what is good for the state of Israel." He stressed, however, that he won't embark on "unnecessary wars," and that he would only order war in Gaza after all other options have been exhausted. Hamas is trying to deter Israel from military action in the Gaza Strip through accelerated military development of long-range missiles, some of which have recently been launched at targets in central Israel. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar warned Israel on Saturday that "if Gaza is dragged into war, Israel will suffer. It won't evacuate just the towns bordering Gaza, but also Ashdod, Ashkelon, and even Tel Aviv. Our fingers are still on the trigger, and they'll stay there to protect the Palestinian nation. Hamas will be a sword and shield for the Palestinian people," he added. Egypt is currently working to broker an agreement between Israel and Hamas which will end both rocket attacks and the launching of explosive and incendiary balloons, as well as the violent riots held weekly along the Gaza-Israel border. Israel, in return, has eased restrictions on the fishing area and will gradually open the Gaza crossings to allow additional goods to pass through. Later, Israel will agree to allow the Qatari money into Gaza. The funds are intended to improve Gaza's water, sewage, and electricity infrastructure.

More than 40 Zoo Animals Evacuated from Gaza Strip

By AFP and

More than 40 animals, including five lions, were evacuated from squalid conditions in a Gaza Strip The animals - including five lions, five monkeys, four ostriches, three peacocks, two wolves, a hyena, foxes, porcupines and 10 squirrels - will be resettled in sanctuaries in Jordan and South Africa. The Rafah zoo in the southern Gaza Strip is the oldest in the enclave, which has been under an Israeli blockade for more than 10 years. The animals were not in great shape, but were stable enough to be transported to a reserve in Jordan, some 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the coastal enclave, said Martin Bauer, spokesman for the Vienna-based welfare group. The animals were sedated to be put in cages for the transfer through Israel. Two of the lions would eventually be sent to South Africa. Four Paws was supposed to move ahead with the transfer in late March, but the organization could not enter the enclave since the crossing was closed that week due to a flare-up of violence between Gaza-based terrorists and Israel. Bauer said the mission had the support of the authorities in Gaza, run by Islamist terror group Hamas, and of the zoo's owner, who has said he could no longer afford the upkeep for the animals. Israel's permission was also received for the mission. He said it was the biggest such mission carried out by Four Paws and intensive negotiations were required. The zoo received attention recently when the owner revealed he had declawed one of its lions so customers could pay to play with her. In January, four lion cubs died of cold in the zoo. The Gaza Strip suffers from poverty and a lack of infrastructure, including a severe electricity shortage. Four Paws says a number of animals at the zoo have died in bombings since its 1999 opening. In 2016, Four Paws helped facilitate the transfer of the sole tiger in the Gaza Strip, eventually relocating it to South Africa. The organization in 2017 rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul in northern Iraq, a former stronghold of the Islamic State group. Many of the animals had been smuggled into Gaza via tunnels beneath the southern border with Egypt, which along with Israel has blockaded the territory since the Hamas terrorist group seized power there in 2007, and has continued launching rocket attacks on Israeli territory ever since.

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