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Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Excerpts: Golan attack ‘colossal failure’ for Hezbollah. Palestinian knife attack on Tel Aviv bus.U.N.Independent Commission of Inquiry.Jordan opposes Israel airport plan January 21, 2015

Excerpts: Golan attack ‘colossal failure’ for Hezbollah. Palestinian knife
attack on Tel Aviv bus.U.N.Independent Commission of Inquiry.Jordan opposes
Israel airport plan January 21, 2015

+++SOURCE: Al Arabiya News 21 J an.’15:”Golan attack ‘colossal failure’ for
Hezbollah, analysts say” by Staff Writer

SUBJECT Israel helicopter attack impact

QUOTE:”It is also one of the biggest losses inflicted on Hezbollah by Israel
in recent years. (AFP)”

FUL L TEXT:An Israeli helicopter attack killed five members of Hezbollah
operating out of Syria over the weekend. Among the dead were senior
Hezbollah figures and an Iranian general, raising tensions in Lebanon of a
potential return to hostilities between the two neighboring countries.

The attack – which killed Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh's son,
Jihad, a high ranking member by the name of Mohammad Ahmad Issa – took place
near the Golan Heights and is the latest in a string of escalating attacks
by Israel on Hezbollah targets in Syria.

It is also one of the biggest losses inflicted on Hezbollah by Israel in
recent years.

To date, Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack. Nonetheless,
international as well as local Lebanese media, including the Hezbollah
affiliated Al-Manar, seem certain the attack bears the hallmark of the
Israeli military.

Analysts, speaking to Al-Arabiya News, said the attack represented a major
breach to Hezbollah’s security and a tactical misjudgment on the part of the
Iranian-backed militant group.

“This was a colossal failure … because they [Hezbollah] put this number of
senior figures in one spot and at the same observation point and at the same
time,” Wehbe Katicha, a former Lebanese army general, told Al Arabiya News.

“You rarely see armies committing such a mistake,” he said.

“This is represents a weak point of Hezbollah because of this behavior,” he

While not describing it as a failure, Dr. Hilal Khashan, a political science
professor at the American University of Beirut, said the incident was a
“major security breach” to Hezbollah’s security apparatus.

“Hezbollah moves secretly and a number of ranking officials are even
tighter. The fact is Israel had information from within,” he said.

Security breach

A member of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s inner circle was recently
reported to be spying for Israel. Local media identified the man as Mohammad
Shorba. This is one of the most pressing and prominent breaches in the group
since its formation.

Katicha noted Shorba’s case, saying the Shiite group was always vulnerable
to such infiltration.

“This is not only a failure from [strategic] point of view but also it is
obvious that Hezbollah’s apparatus has been infiltrated by Israeli
intelligence,” Katicha said, referring to Shorba’s case.

“Shorba was arrested by Hezbollah. He was a senior figure,” he said.

“This may not be the only infiltration and therefore as a group … it is
always vulnerable to such infiltration,” he added.

Can Hezbollah respond?

In an article on its English language website, Al-Manar rounded up the
reaction of the Israeli media with a headline that read: “Israeli Media:
Hezbollah Response Certain, But How and When?”

While analysts said Hezbollah might respond, there were mixed views on the
imminence of such an attack.

"Hezbollah will retaliate for the assassination of [these] cadres but it
will not happen immediately," said Dr. Haytham Mouzahem, a Lebanese
political analyst and the Director of the Beirut Center for Middle East
Studies. "The Israelis are on high alert now and the party will study the
best way to [take] revenge."

Mouzahem said the retaliation could be in the Golan, the Shebaa Farms, a
disputed area that Israeli currently controls and Lebanon claims are
occupied by their Southern neighbors, or even beyond.

"This is open confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel, not only in
Lebanon but [it has extended] to the Syrian side where the assassination
took place," said Kamel Wazne, Director of American Strategic Studies in
Beirut and a political analyst.

"Usually when Hezbollah declares the name of their martyrs then revenge will
be taken," Wazne added.

In the past, such attacks have struck fear into the Lebanese populace as
scarred memories linger from the 2006 July War. But regional events over the
last few years have changed the game a bit. With Hezbollah engaged in the
Syrian Civil War, many analysts believe they are hesitant to open up a
second front on the southern border with the Israelis.

"Hezbollah will respect the Lebanese government," said Wazne. "Their
[retaliatory] measures will take this into consideration."

Still, Wazne said, a full-on war will not be entirely taken off the table if
Hezbollah feels that is the proper action to take. More likely to happen
however is a series of small scale, tit-for-tat, targeted attacks in the
same vein as yesterday's.

Katicha was also convinced that Hezbollah, despite its announcements, would
unlikely launch any imminent attack from Lebanese soil.

“I think Hezbollah has no interest in launching a response from Lebanese
soil because it knows this will lead to a catastrophe in Lebanon,” he said.

“If it does carry out such an action, it will destroy Lebanon … and then all
the Lebanese, even the communities supporting it, will turn against them,”
the former general said.

Israel's 'red-line'

Mouzahem said that Israel decided to strike at Hezbollah yesterday to send a

"Don't cross the red line," he said. Attacking Israeli troops and settlers
from the Golan area or receiving sophisticated weapons - like the Iranian
Fateh-110 missiles that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah announced the party
had acquired since 2006 - are two of those red lines, according to Mouzahem.

"Israel wants to say that its security in the Golan Heights and Galilee is a
red-line. Meanwhile, the Israelis believe that Hezbollah has been behind
some attacks against [Israeli] troops in Golan - from the Syrian side."

Mouzahem said that Israel likely believes Hezbollah is training members for
an attack on Golan and this latest operation was a preemptive attempt at
thwarting future attacks.

Mouzahem and Khashan also brought up the correlation of Israeli elections.
In the past, election years in Israel have coincided with military
operations to drum up national unity.

“Hezbollah knows the timing of the Israeli attack is to serve [Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in the elections,” said Mouzahem. “Of course,
the retaliation will be limited since the Lebanese group does not want to
get involved in a comprehensive war with Israel now.”

Khashan said that Israel had called Nasrallah’s bluff. “Hezbollah was trying
to later the rules of engagement in the Golan Heights.”

Nasrallah’s fiery speech from last week warned Israel of repercussions
should they attack Hezbollah or the Assad regime in Syria. Khashan said the
latest attack has put Nasrallah in an awkward position. “The Shiite
community is restless,” he said. “[Nasrallah] has to do something but doesn’t
have anything to do. It’s a very serious problem.”

Meanwhile, in Beirut on Sunday[18 Jan.] night, rumors swirled over whether
or not Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah would take to the airwaves and comment
on the recent events. While it is still unclear where these rumors came
from, Lebanese media picked them up and eventually had to release comment
that Nasrallah would not speak that night.

“[Nasrallah] will appear and will decide what to say and how to say it,”
said Wazne.

“Revenge … could take place anywhere or anytime,” Wazne said

+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 21 Jan.’15:”12 Wounded in Palestinian Knife
Attack on Tel Aviv Bus”, Agence FrancePresse

SUBJECT:Palestinian knife attack on Tel Aviv bus

FULL TEXT:A knife-wielding Palestinian attacked passengers on a bus in Tel
Aviv on Wednesday[21 Jan.] wounding at least 12 people before being shot by
a passing prison officer, Israeli police said.

It was the first attack in Tel Aviv since mid-November when a young Israeli
soldier was stabbed to death by a Palestinian.

The attacker struck in the morning rush hour in the heart of Israel's
commercial capital, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, describing him as a

Twelve people were wounded in the attack, including three who were in
serious condition, four in moderate condition and five who sustained light
injuries, hospital sources said.

Another seven people were treated for shock.

"The terrorist stabbed the bus driver several times but the driver fought
back until he fled on foot and was neutralized by a guard from the prisons'
service," a police statement said.

He was shot in the leg then taken to hospital for further investigation.

Witnesses told army radio the driver apparently used pepper spray or tear
gas to try to stop the attack.

Police identified the attacker as a 23-year-old Palestinian from Tulkarem in
the northern West Bank, who was staying in Israeli illegally.

Pictures from the scene released by the police showed what looked like a
large kitchen knife lying on the ground.

Speaking to army radio, the prisons service officer, identified only as
Benny, described how the incident played out.

"We saw the bus swerve to the side... then stop at a green light," he said.

"Suddenly, we saw people running out of the bus and when we saw them
shouting for help, we jumped out (of our vehicle) and I and three others
started running after the terrorist. At first we fired in the air, then at
his legs.

"The terrorist fell, we handcuffed him and turned him over to police," he
told the radio.

The last attack in Tel Aviv was on November 10 when a Palestinian from the
northern West Bank stabbed a young Israeli soldier who later died of his

That attack took place as Israel was struggling to contain a growing wave of
violence in annexed east Jerusalem which spread to Arab towns and villages
in Israel.

It has since abated, although there have been a number of violent incidents
over the past month.

SourceAgence France Presse

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 21 Jan.’15:”UN investigators meet victims of Gaza
conflict in Amman”,by Jordan Times

SUBJECT: U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry re Israel- Gaza 2014

FULL TEXT:AMMAN – The United Nations’ Independent Commission of Inquiry
probing the 2014 Gaza conflict on Tuesday[20 Jan.] announced it has held
meetings in Amman with victims and witnesses from Gaza as part of its
investigation over the Israeli aggression on the besieged strip.

In a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times, the commission said the recent
visit to Amman was the second, adding that during their stay, commissioners
held private meetings with an array of witnesses from the region.

“In the course of their work the commissioners and their team of
investigators have already spoken to a wide range of witnesses and victims
in the Gaza Strip, as well as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and
Israel and they expect to hear from more in the coming weeks,” said the
statement, adding that the commissioners remain ready to travel to meet
witnesses face-to-face if Israel grants them access, or the security
situation is safe enough to cross from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.

During this visit, many victims and witnesses recounted “deeply traumatic”
events for the benefit of the commission, the UN body said.

The fact-finding team was established after the July 23, 2014 resolution
issued by the UN Human Rights Council calling for “ensuring respect for
international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

Following the move, the council called for dispatching an international
commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international
humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Palestinian
territories including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the context of
the Israeli military operations conducted since June 13, 2014, “whether
before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such
violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible,
to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with
a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible
are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any
further assaults, and to report to the council at its 28th session”,
according to the statement.

Among the commissioners is Mary McGowan Davis, from the US, who served as a
justice of the supreme court in the state of New York and as a federal
prosecutor during the course of a 25-year career in the criminal justice
sector in New York City.

Doudou Dične, from Senegal, is also a member of the commission. He was the
United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance from 2002 to 2008

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 21 Jan.’15:”Jordan has taken all measures to halt
Israel airport plan –gov’t”, Jordan Times

SUBJECT: Jordan re Israel airport plan

FULL TEXT:AMMAN — The government on Tuesday[20 Jan. said that it has taken
all measures to protest an Israeli plan to build an airport near the border
north of Aqaba that is considered a threat to Jordan’s airspace security.

During an “oversight” House session, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said
that the government is aware of all the details regarding the Israeli
scheme, adding that the Foreign Ministry, through Foreign Minister Nasser
Judeh, has made all the necessary contacts with international parties and
Israeli officials to assert that the airport’s location constitutes a
violation to Jordan’s sovereignty, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

The issue was ra ised after MP Rula Hroub said she was not convinced with
the government’s reply to a query she had filed, insisting that Judeh take
the responsibility for alleged failure to press for a halt to Israeli plans,
suggesting a vote of no confidence against the minister. For lack of quorum,
the Chamber failed to vote on the proposition — whether or not to hold a
no-confidence session — and Lower House First Deputy Speaker Ahmad Safadi,
who chaired the session, postponed the discussion till next Tuesday.[27 Jan]

For her part, Transport Minister Lina Shbeeb confirmed that the planned
Israeli airport is a violation to the Kingdom’s sovereignty, outlining the
steps authorities have taken to halt the plan, adding that the International
Civil Aviation Organisation will hold a session to vote over the Jordanian
complaint and establish whether the Israeli facility poses a violation to
Jordan’s right and a danger to its airspace security. She did not elaborate
on the timing of the vote.

The airport, which Israel plans to build some 18 kilometres north of its
port city of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba, would serve domestic and
international flights and is projected to open in 2016, according to Israel’s
Haaretz newspaper.

In previous statement, the Foreign Ministry said the airport is in violation
of international laws, especially Article 1 of the 1944 Convention on
International Civil Aviation.

Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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