View of a Hezbollah tunnel that crosses from Lebanon to Israel, Feb. 14, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.
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Headline
Hezbollah’s vast subterranean network in Lebanon is in a different league
Intro
With the help of Iran and North Korea, the terrorist organization has been working for 18 years on attack, strategic and booby-trapped tunnels.
text

In the summer of 2008, a group of Christian Lebanese from the Jezzine area were making their way by car towards the well-known Maronite summer resort town when it was suddenly forced to stop after being fired on at a Hezbollah roadblock.

They failed to understand why they had been detained and were even more astonished when they were sent for comprehensive questioning as to what they were doing in the area where they lived.

It was only in hindsight, after they saw the bulldozers, the heavy drilling equipment, and several Asian-looking individuals, that they suddenly realized that the members of the Shi'ite terrorist organization suspected them of being spies, collecting information on the excavation work being carried out on a whole network of fortifications and tunnels in the vicinity of their own homes. The individuals, it later turned out, were professional tunneling consultants from North Korea.

Similar to what the residents of the Christian village of Rumaysh did two weeks ago, the Christians from the Jezzine area asked Hezbollah not to be involved and to stop the activity there. They were mainly concerned that during a war, the village would become a target for Israeli strikes due to Hezbollah's use of it.

The map of Hezbollah bases in Southern Lebanon that was uploaded to the web 15 years ago. Source: Alma Research and Education Center.

When their pleas went unanswered, they or their friends decided to take action, uploading a map to the web with 36 geographical areas or communities circled to show Hezbollah's deployment there as part of its setup against a possible IDF ground incursion in Lebanon.

More than they sought to cause damage to Hezbollah, or to help Israel, these Christians were trying to protect themselves and to keep the members of the terrorist organization at a safe distance away from them.

Only a few people noticed this mysterious map that was uploaded onto the internet some 15 years ago. It encompassed the entire region between Sidon in the west, Lake Qaraoun in the east, and Marj Ayyun and Nabatiyeh in the south.

But a decade later it was noticed by a bunch of ex-IDF Military Intelligence Directorate soldiers, analysts from the Alma Research and Eduication Center.

This is how that map became the basis for a comprehensive study of the Lebanese terrorist tunnel land, an extremely long and winding underground route that Hezbollah built in the Land of the Cedars, mainly in Southern Lebanon.

Since its establishment in 2018, the Alma Center has focused on the security challenges to the State of Israel along its northern border, and one of its main areas of interest is Hezbollah's tunnel project.

Into the hard rock

Maj. (res.) Tal Be'eri, the head of the center's research department and somebody who had himself researched and coordinated the center's extensive work on Hezbollah's tunnels in Lebanon, says that this project covers "hundreds of kilometers of underground facilities excavated into the hard rock—much more dangerous, deeper, wider and more difficult to unravel and destroy than anything we have come across in the Gaza Strip in recent months."

Brig. Gen. (res.) Ronen Manelis says the tunnel system is "10 levels above anything we have come across in Gaza."

Manelis was the IDF spokesperson, but before that, he was head of the Lebanon Branch in the IDF Northern Command and the intelligence officer of the IDF Gaza Division.

He also served as assistant to the then chief of IDF Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, in the two years preceding 2018's "Operation Northern Shield" in which six attack tunnels, excavated by Hezbollah in Lebanon and crossing under the border fence into Israeli territory, were exposed and destroyed.

Manelis returned this week to a video clip that Hezbollah put out in 2008.

"In that clip," he recalls, "in which Hezbollah, using maps and other visual illustrative aids, described how it intended to take over the border communities and the IDF military posts along the northern border, and even beyond that, it depicted a combination of ground, air and naval forces that would take part in the effort to occupy part of the Galilee.

"It did not include a single word about tunnels and underground facilities. That clip was released as part of a military deception exercise, and it took some time for Israel to understand what was really happening along its border. It was only in 2014, following the IDF's 'Operation Protective Edge' [war against Hamas in Gaza] that we came to realize that Hezbollah had built a whole network of offensive tunnels crossing into Israel.

"Over the course of time," Manelis recounts, "the offensive tunnels were deciphered by us more precisely, and in late 2018 we arrived at the point where Israel faced a dilemma that it was not accustomed to dealing with: Should it neutralize the enemy's capability prior to the enemy having any actual intention to use that specific capacity, or should we wait. Israel, after some complex deliberations at both the military and political policymaking levels, decided to target this infrastructure as part of 'Operation Northern Shield.'

"The six tunnels that were uncovered, were either destroyed or neutralized, mainly by pumping enormous volumes of concrete into them, and also by blasting them. That was an extremely brave decision," states Manelis, "Israel neutralized a clear and present danger and a genuine threat. [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah was taken aback. I really don't want to think what might have happened along the northern border had those tunnels been operational today."

Q: A tunnel heading towards the town of Shlomi?

"The offensive tunnels that were destroyed in 2018 were supposed to enable companies from Hezbollah's elite Radwan Force to infiltrate Israeli territory without them being spotted when crossing over, to take over military posts and civilian communities along the border, and at the same time to hit the IDF reinforcements rushing to respond.

"One tunnel, which was excavated from inside a private house, crossed the border southwards from Kafr Kila to Metula, a stone's throw away on the other side of the border fence. Another tunnel departed from the village of Ramyah and reached a point adjacent to Moshav Zarit. An additional tunnel was excavated from the area of the village of Ayta ash-Sha'b towards the neighboring Moshav Shtula, and another one, reaching a depth of 55 meters, which also housed a railway for transporting equipment, also came out of Ramyah," Manelis says.

Five years and one war that might turn out to still be in its infancy have elapsed since and northern Israel is far from being quiet. The heads of the local municipalities such as Metula Mayor David Azoulai and Shlomi Mayor Gabi Na'aman say that they have not yet received any clear or satisfactory answers to the question of whether or not there are any more Hezbollah attack tunnels crossing the border from Lebanon into Israel.

Na'aman tells of information passed on to him by two members of Knesset, according to which there is a tunnel heading towards Shlomi.

Azoulai tells of complaints made by residents who claim to have heard underground digging noises at night. "I am extremely anxious," he admits.

Moshe Davidovich, the head of the Asher Regional Council in the Western Galilee, is also concerned. In a meeting held recently at the Knesset's State Control Committee, he claimed, "IDF officers have told me that there are numerous tunnels in the north."

In contrast, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, the head of the IDF Northern Command, recently made it clear in a conversation he held with local authority heads in the north, at the clubroom of Kibbutz Hanita, that the IDF is engaged in a constant effort to trace terrorist infrastructure both above and below the ground. "If we do find a threat, we won't keep it a secret from anyone," he promised.

Following "Operation Northern Shield" in January 2019, Nasrallah, claimed that there were tunnels that the IDF had failed to uncover, even though it had publicly announced the completion of the operation. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon admitted after the operation that for years he had denied the existence of cross-border tunnels in order to confuse Hezbollah and to create the impression that Israel was not aware of what was going on.

Only two months ago, the French daily newspaper Libération reported that during the current war, the IDF had dropped phosphorus bombs in Southern Lebanon to burn the vegetation and thus expose tunnel exits.

According to Libération, 12 tunnel exits were uncovered and destroyed.

An Israeli military source was quoted as saying to the newspaper that the IDF uses movement sensors, fiber-optic cables, robots, drones and information sources to map out the tunnel network.

It is not wholly clear from the report whether this relates to cross-border attack tunnels or tunnels that form part of the extensive underground defensive and combat setup that Hezbollah has built deep under Southern Lebanon.

Whatever the case might be, although Hezbollah's cross-border attack tunnels are an important part of the underground story of Southern Lebanon, according to all the indications and the information available, this is only a small part of a much more expansive picture, which has developed there over the last 18 years, a period in which Israel has done next to nothing against the "Tunnel Land" that Hezbollah built across Lebanon.

According to the information collected by Be'eri and the Alma staff from open sources, in addition to the offensive tunnels, Hezbollah has also built in Lebanon a broad network of strategic interregional tunnels covering tens and hundreds of kilometers, which are deployed and connect the chief command centers of the organization in Beirut with the Beqa'a Valley, and from there link with Southern Lebanon.

Moreover, according to Alma, the Hezbollah tunnel network also connects the various staging areas of the terrorist organization within Southern Lebanon itself.

A map of an approximate tunnel route in Lebanon. Credit: Alma Research and Education Center.

 'Approach tunnels'

Be'eri calls this network "The Hezbollah Tunnel Land." He recounts how North Korean experts provided direct help with this project, and even brings a report from Asharq Al-Awsat, which was given to the popular Saudi newspaper by a senior officer from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

According to that report, a North Korean consultant helped in the construction of a highly sophisticated 25-km.-long (15.5-mile) tunnel in Lebanon, "a tunnel with numerous connection and collection points that Hezbollah used to transport and concentrate its forces."

Be'eri assumes that there is more than one such tunnel.

"According to the testimonies," he says, "Hezbollah has carried out fortification works in those geographical areas, using enormous amounts of building materials. The works were carried out by a Korean company called the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation under the supervision of an Iranian officer from the IRGC.

"The actual construction work was carried out by Hezbollah's Jihad Construction Association, which is in fact a branch of the Iranian Jihad Construction Association, established in 1988. The Jihad Construction used companies under a civilian guise to build the 'Tunnel Land.'"

"One of them," so the Alma analysts think, "is the 'Beqa'a for Construction and Contracting Work,' or under its previous name, 'The Iranian Authority for the Construction of Lebanon.' The company was established in 2005 under the guise of the IRGC, and until 2013 it was headed by the Iranian military engineer Hassan Shateri, a senior IRGC officer with the rank of major general, who was killed in Syria about a decade ago."

According to Be'eri, "Hezbollah's strategic tunnels are fitted with underground C2 (command & control) rooms, arms and quartermasters' stores, field clinics and dedicated tunnel shafts intended for firing various types of missiles (rockets, surface-to-surface missiles, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles)."

Those shafts, the Alma experts believe, "are concealed and camouflaged, and they cannot be observed from above the ground. They are opened for only a very short period of time for the purpose of missile fire and then immediately closed again, in order to reload the hydraulic launcher with new arms.

"In addition, the tunnels enable forces [on foot or in vehicles] to be transported from one location to another for reinforcement, defense or conducting an offensive, all in the safest, most protected, and concealed manner possible. We believe that Hezbollah's strategic tunnels also enable the movement of motorcycles, ATVs [all-terrain vehicles], and both small and medium-sized vehicles.

"The map with which we set off," he confirms, "is the map that was uploaded to the internet by anonymous figures, perhaps from the Christian surroundings that had been disturbed by the Hezbollah presence in the area. Our most up-to-date information today indicates that the entire area—from Sidon in the west to Lake Qaraoun in the east and Nabatiyeh in the south—is linked by a network of strategic tunnels, which also serve as a platform for the storage and launching of arms, as well as for transporting forces.

"This is topography that combines tunnels and wadis where the tunnel networks are interrupted. Beyond the offensive and strategic tunnels," Be'eri explains, "there are a further three types of tunnels: 'Approach tunnels' that allow Hezbollah to stealthily approach the border area without being exposed, and then, at least potentially, to try and breach the IDF border obstacle; [local] tactical tunnels, which are located in Hezbollah's first and second defensive strips, to the Litani River, and from there inwards into the heart of Lebanon—they serve the organization for defense and for combat; as well as booby-trapped tunnels that are filled with explosives after being excavated in order to explode them, at a time to be chosen by Hezbollah, alongside Israeli targets such as an Israeli community or IDF post.

"As far as the issue of underground facilities is concerned," Be'eri sums up, "Hezbollah is at the head of the food chain, and it is of course led by Iran. Hamas is Hezbollah's industrious student, and the tunnels that it has established in Lebanon were excavated over a period of many years, in stone, so that their natural defense against a powerful strike is much stronger than those dug by Hamas in the sand of Gaza, in the south."

'A good intelligence picture'

"Apart from that, Manelis points out, "the underground network that Hezbollah built in Southern Lebanon, which includes bunkers and arms depots, enables it to move in a more protected and concealed manner between the villages, whose residents are Hezbollah men, and the open terrain, from which attacks are carried out. For example, the attack in which IDF soldiers Goldwasser and Regev were abducted in 2006 [the incident that triggered the Second Lebanon War—N.S.].

"That underground network also houses positions, which when the command is relayed, following a whistle, are meant to be occupied by members of the Radwan force."

Manelis believes that Israel's overall intelligence picture today regarding Hezbollah's underground network is "not bad, and even a good one. It is slightly different to the Gaza area," he points out, "in the Gaza Strip, everything is buried under a densely-populated built-up area. In Lebanon, there are both built-up areas and open terrain. But compared with the situation in Israel's south, Hezbollah's underground facilities are in a league of their own. They have genuinely built here an underground monster.

"It certainly won't be easy," Manelis assesses, "but, the fact that we have a good intelligence picture enables our forces to train in an orderly manner. They ought to know where the underground facilities are located, and I guess that even now, while the IDF is operating north of the border, its airstrikes are also hitting underground facilities and infrastructure."

Q: Do you think that Israel should be taking the initiative to operate in an orderly fashion in order to destroy the Hezbollah Tunnel Land, as it does in the Gaza Strip?

"Israel should be operating wherever it might be forced to pay a heavy price in the future if it fails to take action now. On the other hand, it cannot simply engage in warfare for years against the enemy's capabilities just because they exist, and as far as I am aware, it is very difficult to prevent the enemy from arming its forces with conventional arms. Therefore, the method involves a system of checks and balances and deterrents, and of course, also operations wherever that is necessary.

"Above all, we must not allow Hezbollah to obtain any game-changing weapon systems. Are precision weapons, in large quantities, that are aimed at the State of Israel, considered a game-changer? Yes, I believe so. Are cross-border tunnels that penetrate into Israeli territory also a game-changer? In my opinion, yes they are."

Manelis levels harsh criticism at the "defeatist and alarmist policy" that Israel has adopted over the years in relation to Hezbollah, according to him, "including in response to the terrorist attack in Megiddo, and the tent that Hezbollah erected in Israeli territory and that we were afraid to take down, as well as the incident at the IDF 'Gladiola' post in 2020, when the soldiers were issued with an explicit order not to fire at the attackers, but only to fire into the air.

"In 2019 too, at Avivim, when Hezbollah AT [anti-tank] squads attacked, there was no return fire against them."

Now, Manelis believes things are changing.

Like Okinawa

Engineer Yehuda Kfir, a former intelligence officer who served in both the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon, points out the high degree of natural protection afforded by the tunnels in Lebanon compared with in Gaza.

"This involves cutting into limestone, dolomite and on occasion into basalt rock. It is very difficult for air-dropped bombs or artillery shells to penetrate such material," says Kfir.

"The topography in Lebanon also has an impact on the warfare there. It enables the enemy to create long-range fire positions, that are well-protected, concealed, and camouflaged deep in the heart of the territory, with arrays from which they can launch missiles either via direct or indirect fire, laser target designation, and even launching Iranian-made drones."

Kfir believes, stressing that this is purely an assessment, that "the model of the war, in the event of a ground maneuver in Lebanon, will be similar to the Battle of Okinawa in the Second World War, in which the Japanese used the topography and the ridge lines that were fortified with tunnels across the island. This was a defensive array that made it extremely difficult for the U.S. Army to conquer the island, and even after it was conquered, the U.S. military continued to suffer considerable losses."

In addition, he thinks that one of the undeclared reasons for the extensive evacuation of the civilian population from Israel's northern border is concern over the existence of additional attack tunnels that have yet to be revealed. Kfir raises doubts as to the IDF's level of readiness to engage in underground warfare in Lebanon.

"Despite the experience that we have accumulated now in the Gaza Strip, this is a whole new ball game," he reiterates. "At the Engineers' Association, we set up a professional group that is intended to help the IDF with this. Some of the people are already part of the military setup in their reserve service capacity, people who deal with ground and terrain on a routine basis. The army does not ordinarily have access to so many people from this specific discipline."

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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The U.S. Department of Education announced on Tuesday that it is investigating Rutgers University, the Los Angeles Unified School District and University of California, Santa Cruz under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The department and its Office for Civil Rights publicize new investigations weekly on Tuesdays. They don’t typically specify the reasons for the probes beyond saying they are for alleged discrimination for “shared ancestry,” which includes religion.

According to a separate listing on the Education Department website, the investigations of Rutgers and Los Angeles district relate particularly to religion. It wasn’t immediately clear if the one at the California state university also was in connection to alleged religious discrimination.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey has several campuses. The U.S. Department of Education identified the New Brunswick, N.J. campus as the one that is being probed.

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Lorincz noted that Jonathan Holloway, the university’s president, has said that “Rutgers stands against antisemitism and against hate in all its pernicious forms.”

“The university strives to be a safe and supportive environment for all our students, faculty and staff,” Lorincz told JNS. “We reject absolutely intolerance based on religion, national origin, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability or political views.”

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While “pro-Palestinian” demonstrators take full advantage of the privilege and freedoms that America offers—speech, assembly, plush campuses, deluxe tents—they exuberantly chant “Death to America” and support Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group that oppresses its people and denies them virtually all freedoms.

Even stranger is that the students espousing “woke” and leftist ideology support Islamist dictators who punish virtually all “progressive” social and political behavior.

Ironically, though students chant “Free, free Palestine,” that is not what Hamas stands for. Rather, the terrorists state that their goal is a Muslim caliphate governed by iron authoritarian rule—first in the Land of Israel, then in other infidel lands. They don’t aim to kill Jews because Jews “oppress” Palestinians, but rather because Islamists cannot permit a Jewish nation in the Muslim Middle East.

As many American college students have shown us on YouTube, they have no idea what “from the river to the sea” means or why “Israel commits genocide” is an absurd lie. Likewise, they seem oblivious to the political and social values of the Islamists they celebrate.

For example, none of Hamas’s fellow jihadists—like Iran, Hezbollah and the Houthis—embrace “progressive” concepts like DEI or gender equality. Rather, they support Muslim patriarchy and supremacy. Hence their relentless persecution of women, LGBTQ+ people and non-Muslims, such as Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities.

Hamas, Iran and other Muslim states also brutally enforce Sharia law, under which women are treated as chattel, forbidden from traveling without a male escort, prevented from working and not even allowed to go to school.

Neither do Hamas and their fellow Islamists believe in civil liberties. Few Arab nations would ever allow the kind of demonstrations that students have organized on American campuses. Indeed, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority forbids pro-Hamas demonstrations. Too dangerous.

It’s unlikely that today’s student protesters have thought much about the kind of lives they are wishing on their Palestinian “brothers and sisters.” Indeed, it’s doubtful most student protesters have heard about the woman in Gaza whom Hamas beat and jailed simply for hosting a dinner at which both men and women were in attendance. Nor have they likely considered that under Palestinian dictators, most Palestinians (and Muslims generally) struggle to find joy in the indulgences that make privileged American students so happy—like uncensored music, social media, art and literature.

Hamas (and virtually all other Middle Eastern nations) are politically repressive dictatorships. There is no free speech, no free press, no freedom of expression. Arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings are commonplace. Any attempt to criticize leadership is ruthlessly put down, such as in 2018 and 2019, when Gazans began protesting under the slogan “We want to live.” In response, Hamas arrested, detained and beat up hundreds of the protesters, even killing some.

Similarly, when the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests began in Iran in 2022, the mullahs moved to crush the uprising and, according to Amnesty International, used rape and other sexual violence to do so. When American students chant “free, free, Palestine” is this the kind of freedom they envision?

Hamas does not support progressive values. In fact, there is no commitment to diversity, equity or inclusion anywhere in the Muslim world. To the contrary: Women, LGBTQ+ people and non-Muslims are brutally oppressed. In many, if not most cases, it is perfectly legal in Islamic states for men to beat their wives. Often, law in Muslim states mandates that women cannot travel without male escorts. Gay and trans people in Islamic countries must hide their sexual orientation or risk violence, jail time and even murder. As of 2022, Israel has given 66 Palestinian members of the LGBTQ+ community and other victims of domestic violence temporary refuge. How do progressive students—or their faculty mentors—square this circle?

Strict Sharia law governs life under Hamas, Iran and other Muslim rulers. Sharia aims to govern every aspect of a Muslim’s life, including social and legal systems. This means, among other things, modesty codes by which women are required to wear a hijab while out in public, if not cover themselves completely. Attempts to breach these codes are quickly quashed by so-called morality police. In one famous case, an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, was murdered by morality police for wearing her hijab improperly.

Sharia law in Muslim countries often means the prohibition of the simplest pleasures. In Afghanistan, for example, music is completely banned, as are other forms of entertainment. And forget freedom of religion. If you’re anything but Muslim, you will likely be treated as a second-class citizen. At worst, you will suffer ethnic cleansing, as Christians and Yazidis of Iraq did at the hands of ISIS. Their crime? They are infidels. Being Jewish in the Muslim world can also mean a death sentence, which is why Jewish communities in the Arab world, which once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, are now all but extinct. When American students scream, “Globalize the intifada,” is this the “revolution” they’re chanting for?

Neither Hamas’s Gaza nor any other Arab or Islamist state permits democracy. If you don’t like your political leaders—such as 80% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria who oppose Mahmoud Abbas, now in his 20th year of a four-year presidency—you can do nothing. If you don’t like Sharia law in Iran, Gaza or Afghanistan, you can’t change it. Nor can you change laws against free speech, press or assembly.

Yet, students on college campuses across the U.S. chant “Death to America!” They advocate the destruction of Israel, one of the world’s strongest democracies and the Middle East’s only democracy, where Arab-Israelis enjoy more freedom than their brethren anywhere in the region—equality, prosperity and full civil liberty. Where is the disconnect?

By supporting Hamas and other Islamist forces, American students are condemning Palestinians and their fellow Arabs to hell. A hell that these students—we must assume—would never wish on their friends, families, fellow students or themselves.

Originally published by Facts & Logic About the Middle East (FLAME).

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "vampire who feeds on blood" and urged Muslims to act against the "threat" posed by the Jewish state.

"The world is watching the barbarity of ... a psychopath, a vampire who feeds on blood called Netanyahu, and they are watching it on live broadcast," Erdoğan said in a speech to members of his AK Party.

"Oh, the American state, this blood is on your hands also. You are responsible for this genocide at least as much as Israel. Oh, the heads of state and government of Europe, you are also a party to Israel's genocide, this barbarism, this vampire-like act of Israel, because you remained silent," the Turkish leader charged, according to a readout.

"No state is safe unless Israel accepts international law and considers itself to be bound by it. This includes Turkey," added Erdoğan, who stands accused of oppressing and killing the Kurds in his country.

Erdoğan urged Muslims and "young people" around the world to help eradicate Zionism, which he denounced as "lawless perversion," and stop Netanyahu's "murder network" from "spiraling out of control."

"I have a few words to say to the Islamic world from here: What are you waiting for to reach a joint decision? Allah will hold you, all of us, accountable for this," he said.

https://twitter.com/trtworld/status/1795750822023991377/

Erdoğan has publicly sided with Hamas since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, which saw the Islamist group invade the northwestern Negev, murder some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnap more than 250.

Last month, Ankara invited Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas's "political" bureau, to stay in the country, praising him as a "leader of the Palestinian struggle."

Erdoğan also blocked his country's exports to the Jewish state, prompting Israel to end its free trade agreement with Ankara.

In November, he told his country's parliament that Israel would soon be destroyed.

Erdoğan has made a habit of comparing Netanyahu and Israel to the Nazis. Late last year, he said the Jewish leader is "no different" than Hitler. Then, on May 12, the Turkish president claimed Netanyahu "has reached a level that would make Hitler jealous."

In March, Erdoğan claimed that the Israel Defense Forces "continues to commit massacres against the Palestinian people," adding, "Netanyahu and his administration, with their crimes against humanity in Gaza, are writing their names next to Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, like today's Nazis."

The Turkish president also expressed his support for Hamas, saying his government was in "constant contact" with the terrorist group's leadership.

"Hamas is not a terrorist organization, but rather a resistance, and we stand firmly behind them and [are] in constant contact with its leaders," he said. "We cannot be coerced into designating Hamas as a terrorist organization. We communicate with them openly and stand behind them."

Netanyahu blasted the Turkish leader over the remarks, saying, "Israel observes the laws of war and will not be subject to moral preaching from Erdoğan, who supports [the] murderers and rapists of the Hamas terrorist organization, denies the Armenian Genocide, massacres Kurds in his own country and cracks down on regime opponents and journalists."

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  • Words count:
    988 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    May 29, 2024

The flag of the United Nations was flown at half-staff last week to honor the late Ebrahim Raisi, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who perished in a helicopter crash.

Known at home as the “Butcher of Tehran,” Raisi was responsible for torturing and brutally executing thousands of Iranian political prisoners, minorities and women. The regime he served supports Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his “sincere condolences” for Mr. Raisi. The U.N. Security Council, at the request of Russia, China and Algeria, held a moment of silence for the neo-imperialist theocrat. America’s representative dutifully stood for the ceremony.

Also last week, Norway, Spain and Ireland announced they would recognize a Palestinian state.

Hamas expressed its gratitude for this “historic turning point” brought about by the “brave resistance.”

Coincidently, videos released last week showed Hamas’s “brave resistors” on Oct. 7 harassing bloodied female soldiers abducted moments earlier. They called them sabaya, meaning sex slaves.

In another video, a young Gazan man recounted how he, a cousin and his father raped a hostage. He nonchalantly recalled: “After we finished raping her, my father killed her.”

But wait, there’s more: On CNN last week, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan announced that he will seek arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister.

Mr. Khan said he’d also like warrants for several Hamas leaders. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) observed: “Equating Israel’s democratically elected leaders with the perpetrators of the worst attack on Jews since World War II shows what a farce the International Criminal Court is.”

He added, “Mr. Khan’s kangaroo court has no jurisdiction in Israel to pursue these antisemitic and politically motivated ‘charges.’ My colleagues and I look forward to making sure neither Khan, his associates nor their families will ever set foot again in the United States.”

Sen. Cotton understands—as Mr. Khan apparently does not—that under international law the ICC has jurisdiction only over signatories to a 1998 treaty known as the Rome Statute. Israel didn’t sign. Neither did the U.S.

Mr. Khan’s workaround is to declare that he is pursuing these warrants on behalf of “the State of Palestine.”

Who governs that state? In Gaza, it’s been Hamas since 2007, two years after the Israelis withdrew every last Jew and Jewish grave from the territory.

In Judea and Samaria, it’s the Palestinian Authority, which is so weak that it would almost certainly be overthrown by Hamas were it not for Israel’s quiet support. The only way for the P.A. to return to Gaza—from which it was expelled by Hamas in a brief civil war after the Israeli departure—would be behind Israeli tanks.

There’s a second reason Mr. Khan lacks authority: Under the Rome Statute, the ICC was set up as a court of last resort, empowered only to investigate nations “unwilling or unable genuinely” to prosecute wrongdoing on their own. But Israel does that perfectly well. (The same cannot be said of any other nation in the Middle East.)

With all this in mind, Sen. Cotton and 11 other U.S. Senators wrote to Mr. Khan warning that they “will not tolerate politicized attacks by the ICC on our allies. If you move forward with the measures indicated in the report, we will move to end all American support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the United States.”

Mr. Khan fired back: “When individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or Court personnel … such threats, even when not acted upon, may also constitute an offense against the administration of justice under Art. 70 of the Rome Statute.”

Were you under the impression that Americans are guaranteed freedom of speech? Mr. Khan begs to differ.

Among those paying Mr. Khan’s salary and funding the lavish budget of the ICC bureaucracy in The Hague are Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Italy and South Korea.

Do you suppose that President Joe Biden and his ambassadors could influence those countries if they tried?

Another important international organization came out in support of Hamas and its patrons in Tehran last week. Nawaf Salam, the presiding judge of the International Court of Justice, also headquartered in The Hague, declared, “Israel must immediately halt its military offensive” in Rafah, “which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Mr. Salam is from Lebanon, a state dominated by Hezbollah, Tehran’s most formidable proxy, which since Oct. 7 has been firing hundreds of missiles into northern Israel, killing and wounding Israelis and causing tens of thousands to abandon their homes.

Hamas leaders welcomed Mr. Salam’s ruling. Israeli officials responded by saying, in effect, “Thanks for the guidance. We’ll continue fighting Hamas terrorists in such a way as to not bring about the physical destruction of the Palestinian group in Gaza, in whole or in part—even as Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields guaranteeing that civilians will be killed.”

These developments should serve as a reminder—not that you needed one—of what the U.N. and many other international organizations have become: clubs for tyrants, terrorists and antisemites, along with their fellow travelers and assorted useful idiots, all of them emboldened by billions of dollars provided by America and its allies.

As for the current leaders of Norway, Spain and Ireland, they are demonstrating the truth of the adage that ideas can’t be destroyed militarily. During World War II, all three of these nations were neutral toward or actively supportive of the Nazis, whose big ideas included mass murdering Jews.

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  • Words count:
    236 words
  • Type of content:
    Update Desk
  • Publication Date:
    May 29, 2024

Brazil reportedly recalled its ambassador to Israel, Federico Meyer, on Wednesday. He will purportedly be transferred to another position in Geneva. No plans for a replacement were announced.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it had received no official message on the matter. It summoned Brazil's deputy ambassador for a meeting on Thursday to discuss the situation.

Meyer has been out of Israel since February, when he was called home for consultations.

Relations between the two countries started to deteriorate that month, when Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told reporters during a trip to Ethiopia that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza and likened the Jewish state to Hitler and the Nazis.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz declared Lula persona non grata the next day, Feb. 19, during a hastily pulled together tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem with Meyer.

Katz said that until Lula apologizes Israel “will not forget and we will not forgive.” Brasília recalled its ambassador for consultations following the meeting with Katz.

Lula doubled down, claiming in April that more than 12 million children had died in Gaza and Israel due to the then-nearly-six-month-old war.

At the time, Hamas claimed that about 25,000 people had been killed in Gaza, including terrorists. The total population of the Gaza Strip is 2.3 million.

Other South American countries that have severed ties with Israel over the Gaza war are Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Honduras.

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  • Words count:
    153 words
  • Type of content:
    Update Desk
  • Publication Date:
    May 29, 2024

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) stated on Tuesday that she is "horrified" by "the ongoing Israeli invasion of Rafah."

"At least 60 civilian lives were lost when the Israeli military targeted a Palestinian displacement camp on Sunday and today," the congresswoman stated.

"Not enough is being done to protect innocent Palestinians caught in the crosshairs. That must end," she said. "Already, Israel's military forces have killed tens of thousands of innocent people and created a humanitarian crisis that has put millions at risk of starvation."

She further claimed that Israel does not have a plan to protect civilians.

"We need a dramatic increase in the humanitarian aid that is going to address the starvation of the Palestinian people," DeLauro said. "We need an immediate ceasefire to free the remaining hostages held by Hamas and preserve the lives and dignity of the Palestinian people."

On April 2, DeLauro accused the Jewish state of an "indiscriminate bombing campaign."

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  • Words count:
    455 words
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    Update Desk
  • Publication Date:
    May 29, 2024
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The Jewish state has no truer friend than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the visiting U.S. lawmaker during a tête-à-tête at his office in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

"We have no better friend, and I mean it, than Senator Lindsey Graham," Netanyahu said, according to a Prime Minister's Office readout.

According to the PMO, Netanyahu thanked Graham for his unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, as well as his "strong stand against the scandalous accusations against Israel by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoheItAmv0A

The South Carolina Republican touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday for his fifth visit since Hamas's Oct. 7 massacre.

Graham told Netanyahu that the past seven-plus months have been "one of the most challenging times for the State of Israel since its founding. There are so many problems and challenges to overcome, but one of the problems you never have to worry about is America.

"I promise you that we will do all we can, Mr. Prime Minister, to hold the ICC account for this outrage against the people of Israel," he vowed.

Meanwhile, Graham described the International Court of Justice, which last week ordered the Israel Defense Forces to limit the scope of its operation in the Gaza Hamas stronghold of Rafah, as a "joke."

"The head judge of the ICJ is a raving antisemite," he said of Nawaf Salam, the Lebanese diplomat who presides over the world court.

Following his arrival on Tuesday, Graham joined Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana to see some of the ballistic missiles that the Iranian regime fired into Israel last month and visit the site of Hamas attacks.

"This rocket behind us is just the latest example of how the Ayatollah's terror regime threatens world peace & destabilizes the Middle East," tweeted Ohana, adding that with Tehran racing towards anuclear bombs, "the free world is fortunate to have champions" like Graham.

https://twitter.com/AmirOhana/status/1795463243370025288

The senator on Tuesday also met in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who thanked the American for his "unwavering support for Israel as we fight to bring home 125 hostages, destroy the Hamas terrorist organization and defend Israel's northern border."

During a previous visit in March, Graham expressed support for destroying the remaining Hamas battalions in Gaza, including in Rafah.

"If these battalions are still standing when this is over, it would be the biggest mistake, maybe in history," the he said. "I'll say it again. If these battalions are still standing after the murder of the Jewish people, it would be the biggest mistake in history. Iran would celebrate."

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  • Words count:
    285 words
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    Update Desk
  • Publication Date:
    May 29, 2024
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El Al Airlines on Wednesday announced a record profit of over $80 million in the first quarter of the year.

The unprecedented number for Israel’s national carrier comes at a time when many international airlines have suspended service to Tel Aviv in the wake of the nearly eight-month-old war against Hamas in Gaza, and amid complaints of price gouging that has sent airfares soaring.

By comparison, the company posted net loss of nearly $35 million in the corresponding quarter last year.

El Al accounted for 62% of the passenger traffic at Ben Gurion Airport in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Israel Airports Authority, compared with 22% in the first quarter of 2023.

Over the Passover holiday, traditionally a high tourism season, El AL was only the carrier to offer trans-Atlantic flights to the United States, after United suspended service anew in the wake of Iran's April 13 attack on Israel.

Both the Chicago-based United and the Atlanta-based Delta are slated to resume nonstop service to Tel Aviv next month. American Airlines is only expected to renew flights to Israel in the fall.

The Israeli airline forecasts that the second quarter of 2024 will be even stronger.

"In light of the instability in aviation in Israel and the increasing pressures on our flights, we continue to work intensively to increase the supply of seats and strengthen flight schedules, while providing individual responses to specific cases," said El Al CEO Dina Ben-Tal Ganancia. "We are doing everything in our power to provide an adequate response to the high demands and unusual loads on the company's service system, at a time when some of our staff are still serving in reserve duty and the company is operating on a war routine."

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  • Words count:
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    May 29, 2024
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Israel's Knesset on Wednesday passed in preliminary reading a bill designating the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a terrorist organization.

The draft legislation, initiated by Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker Yulia Malinovsky, would require Jerusalem to sever all ties with the U.N. agency.

If passed into law, the bill “will allow for a complete dissociation from the agency—no cooperation, no trade, nothing,” Malinovsky told JNS.

“For years this organization has been cooperating with Hamas, and on October 7 even actively participated in the murder, kidnapping and rape of Israeli citizens,” she said. “Today was the first step on the way to completing the legislation so that UNRWA is finally outlawed and defined as a terrorist organization,” she added.

Also passed in preliminary reading on Wednesday was a bill initiated by Likud MK Dan Illouz that seeks to strip UNRWA of various immunities, involving among other things taxation, imports and exports and lawsuits.

"This is an essential law for our national security. After October 7, we cannot continue as if nothing happened," Illouz told JNS. "We cannot allow the terror supporting organization UNRWA to operate against us. We are fighting for our security and our future and UNRWA cannot pretend to be a humanitarian entity while harming us. That ends today."

After the bills were passed, Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman tweeted: “UNRWA is a terrorist organization.” He praised Malinovsky for “leading the important initiative to legislate a law to define UNRWA as a terrorist organization. ”

He called on “all the Zionist factions in the Knesset to act together with us" to pass it into law "as soon as possible.”

UNRWA has come under fire since the start of the war on Oct. 7 for its terror ties.

In February, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told journalists that 30 UNRWA employees had participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, and that 1,468 of the agency’s 13,000 staff members in Gaza were members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He also shared the names and photos of 12 UNRWA employees Israel had accused in January of taking part in the massacre.

In January, a comprehensive report published by U.N. Watch revealed the existence of a Telegram group for UNRWA teachers in Gaza in which many glorified the massacre and advocated the execution of Israeli hostages.

“This is the motherlode of UNRWA teachers’ incitement to jihadi terrorism,” said U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer at the time.

Per the Knesset's legislative processes, the two bills will now be assigned to committees, where their details will be ironed out prior to first, second and third readings.

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