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July 3, 2015
IDF Closes Road Near Sinai Border
By DEBKAfile, IsraelNationalNews.com & YnetNews.com
Israel's military Thursday closed Highway 12 from Nitzana south of the Gaza Strip to Israel’s southernmost town of Eilat as ISIS and Egyptian forces fought across the border in Sinai for the second day. This is the first time Israel has closed a main highway against a possible Islamic State operation..
The highway circumvents the mountains of Eilat from the north and west, and connects Eilat to Highway 10 and Highway 40, which lead toward central Israel. The closure is being carried out in accordance with instructions issued by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and approved by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
The IDF said that the closure is temporary. "The IDF is prepared to defend the residents of the state of Israel and will do all it can to preserve the life routine and prevent damage to the fabric of life of the local residents,” the military added.
The IDF began taking extra precautions along Israel's southern borders on Wednesday, after a group associated with the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula launched a coordinated attack against Egypt that killed 50 Egyptian soldiers. One hour after the attack security officials closed the Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings, after they deemed both as potential attack sites. Trucks and employees at the crossings have also been evacuated from the area.
An Egyptian security force disclosed Thursday that around 300 armed Islamic State terrorists carried out the massive offensive on Egyptian troops and police in north Sinai Wednesday. He reported that around 100 were killed in the battle. He did not release Egyptian casualty figures, which are estimated at more than 60.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu paid a visit Thursday to the CyberSpark Industry Initiative in Be'er Sheva and spoke about the deadly ISIS attack in Sinai. "Until a few months ago, when we said ISIS was operating on our borders, people were skeptical, and here we see before our eyes how ISIS acts with extraordinary cruelty on both our northern and our southern border," said Netanyahu.
The prime minister added: "our hearts are with the Egyptian people and we send our condolences to the Egyptian government and the families whose loved ones have fallen in the struggle against terrorist savagery."
Netanyahu linked the incidents to the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 powers on the Iranian nuclear weapons program. "The actions we are seeing from ISIS are nothing compared to the capabilities that the Iranian regime is building,” he said, reiterating a message featured in a recent Israeli foreign ministry video.
“Obviously, no one who is of sound mind would give ISIS nuclear weapons, but currently, in the talks the world powers are holding with Iran, they are giving this extremist state that spreads terror throughout the world the ability to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons; a great number of nuclear bombs with their means of delivery – long-range missiles. And so we stand here facing two threats: the threat of ISIS, and the threat of Iran.”
"We do not need to strengthen one at the expense of the other,” Netanyahu explained. “We have to weaken both, and prevent both from aggressing and arming. I'm telling you, that in the face of these dark forces, which suppress human rights and murder people and hang them in town squares – in the face of these forces, what we are promoting here in the CyberSpark at Be'er Sheva is progress.”
Israel said Thursday that Hamas was actively assisting the ISIS terrorist militia. "We have clear information that Hamas supports the Walayat Sinai organization, which belongs to ISIS,” Major General Yoav Mordechai said, in an Arabic-language interview for Al Jazeera.
"In the latest attacks, Hamas gave assistance in the form of weapons and organization to the group that supports ISIS,” he accused. “We have examples of commanders in Hamas who took an active part in this aid. Wael Faraj, a battalion commander in Hamas's armed wing, smuggled wounded casualties from Sinai to Gaza.
A newspaper close to the Egyptian government reported Thursday that the Islamic State-linked militants who attacked troops in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday used sophisticated weaponry, including Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles.
In a graphic on its front page, el-Watan daily said the attackers also used mortars, anti-aircraft guns and other guided missiles. The attack, which included a wave of suicide bombings and assaults on security installations by dozens of militants, was Sinai's deadliest fighting in decades.
Newspapers led their front pages with the attack, with many describing it as a "war." Graphic photographs released by the military showed the bodies of extremists killed in the fighting who were wearing combat fatigues.
An Associated Press reporter across the border in the Gaza Strip heard explosions and saw smoke rising in the area as airstrikes continued in the afternoon and warplanes roared overhead. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
And in the US, the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security have asked Americans to remain vigilant to the threat of a terror attack over the Fourth of July weekend. Command centers have been set up at 56 FBI command centers across America. Although officials say there is no credible threat, the FBI is reacting to a call to arms by the Islamic State for mass murder during Ramadan, especially after its simultaneous attacks on three continents last Friday.
DEBKAfile’s sources reported that extra vigilance for Islamist attacks should also be observed on July 13, the 27th day of Ramadan when Muslims observer the “Night of Al Qadar” in the belief that then the “gates of the firmament” open wide to Muslim prayers.
ISIS in Sinai is a Serious Threat to Israel
By Ron Ben-Yishai (Commentary)
The impressive fighting abilities demonstrated by the Islamic State in northern Sinai pose a new challenge to the IDF. The use of simultaneous suicide bombings, imported from Syria and Iraq, could one day be directed at Israel.
The terror offensive launched Wednesday by the Islamic State organization in the Sinai Peninsula was aimed at undermining President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military-secular rule in Egypt. But from the reports arriving from Sinai, although they are initial and unclear, it seems that al-Sisi is not the only one who should be concerned – so should Israel.
In the short run, we have to prepare for the possibility that the attack on 15 posts and centers of the Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, which claimed the lives of dozens of Egyptian soldiers, will develop into an offensive towards the Israeli border.
In recent years, global jihad activists in Sinai have already attacked posts of the Egyptian army and of the multinational force in northern Sinai, gained control of armored vehicles, "flattened" the border fence with them and infiltrated Israeli territory. They were stopped by an armored force with the Air Force's help.
The report that ISIS fighters gained control of armored vehicles on Wednesday morning requires special preparations and alert. The jihadists could drive them towards the border terminals with Israel and the border fence in order to break through them with the heavy weight of the tanks and armored personnel carriers.
That is why the IDF quickly shut off the crossings and alerted all the communities along the border with Egypt, especially in its northwestern part. The instruction to the residents is to stay alert, and the IDF has also reinforced the presence of armored vehicles on the ground and unmanned aircraft monitoring what is happening near the border. The IDF is likely on the alert with helicopters and fighter jets, which Israel will not hesitate to use in case of an attempt to infiltrate its territory.
The battles taking place between the Egyptian army and the ISIS fighters could also develop into rocket and mortar fire towards Israel, and the Central Command is preparing for that too. In the meantime, it seems that the ISIS men are busy battling the Egyptian army, which is attacking them from the air and from the ground, but the heightened state of alert on the Israeli side will likely continue for a few more days, as experience shows that ISIS will try to create provocations on the border with Israel in a bid to cause a friction between the IDF and the Egyptian army and affect the relationship between Egypt and Israel.
There are good relations between the two countries today and excellent coordination between the IDF and Egyptian army, but there have already been incidents on the border in which the Egyptians expresses their discontent with the fact that the IDF opened fire at global jihad activists in Sinai who attacked, or tried to attack, communities and IDF patrols on the border fence with Egypt.
The greater concern, however, is over the impressive fighting abilities gained by the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis organization, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014, and its official name today is "The Caliphate in the Sinai District." The strategic and complicated attacks, from a military perspective, executed by the organization in January and this Wednesday in northern Sinai show that it is no longer a gang which only knows how to carry out sporadic fire of short-range and inaccurate rockets, or to ambush a civilian bus or an IDF patrol on the Egypt-Israel border.
What we are now seeing is a semi-military organization using a hybrid method of action, which combines terror and planned, coordinated military fighting. Like the other ISIS branches across the Middle East, the members of the "The Caliphate in the Sinai District" are also well equipped with weapons and modern ammunition.
What we should really be concerned about is the fact that they know how to locate a large number of strategic targets, collect intelligence ahead of an operation and attack them simultaneously in accurate timing.
ISIS in Sinai is implementing the classic principle of war with considerable success: It attacked all the 15 targets it had chosen simultaneously, in order to create a surprise. If the attack had not been launched in coordination and at the same time, the Egyptian forces would have raised their level of alertness in the areas which had not been attacked yet.
The ISIS fighters succeeded in isolating the operation area through ambushes on the roads leading to the attacked targets, thereby preventing the arrival of reinforcement. The jihadists were able to enter a police station uninterrupted, take the police officers hostage, plant mines on the streets and run wild in public, in a bid to emphasize the Egyptian army's helplessness and achieve a conscious victory.
These abilities and methods of action characterize ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and it seems that someone who came from there went to the trouble of training the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis activists to carry out similar attacks. The evidence is the methods of actions imported from Iraq and Syria and the use of simultaneous suicide attacks through car bombs to carry out Wednesday's attack in Sinai. That is exactly how ISIS operates in Syria and Iraq: A suicide bombing creates the shock and the breaches in the fence and in the wall through which the attacking force enters.
In light of these points, we should consider the possibility that one day these abilities will be directed at us, whether because the Egyptian army eases its pressure i on the terrorists in Sinai or because the terrorists gain self-confidence and decide that it's time to launch a front against Israel too. It could happen sooner than we think, and we should also acknowledge the fact that the border fence cannot efficiently block a trained "army" which has experience with complicated fighting operations. ISIS is already on the fences.
It's surprising to discover that the training, operational planning and the movement of the ISIS forces from their hiding areas towards their targets on Wednesday escaped the Egyptian intelligence's eyes. It's very possible that the preparations also escaped the eyes of other intelligence services in the area, those operated by countries which have good relations and security cooperation with Egypt.
If any of these elements or the Egyptian army has any intelligence, al-Sisi's security forces in northern Sinai would have likely been warned of the impending offensive. The Egyptian army and its intelligence should have been able to detect such an offensive, in which many communication devices were used, and there were likely warning signs in the movement on Sinai routes, in the social networks and on the Internet as well.
The fact that such a major offensive flew under the radar of the Egyptian intelligence service and its allies should concern the Egyptian government. Attacks like the one which took place in Sinai on Wednesday and on Egyptian territory on Tuesday gradually reduce the conscious basis that the current regime is leaning on among Egypt's resident. The lack of physical security in Egypt could lay the foundations for another revolution.
This is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood people, who have gone underground and are acting against the government from there, want to achieve. This is also what ISIS, which sees a secular-Muslim regime as an abomination, wants to achieve.
It's quite possible that Wednesday's attack was carried out in coordination between these two organizations, inspired by the Ramadan holiday, in honor of the second anniversary of the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi regime in Egypt and in honor of the anniversary of the first appearance of ISIS as an influential military elements in the Middle Eastern arena.
It isn't hard to estimate that if the current regime in Egypt is undermined, the State of Israel's national security will be seriously affected as well.
Entebbe Notes Show Skeptical Peres Questioning Operation
July 4th isn't just the anniversary of American independence – it's also the anniversary of the 1976 Entebbe operation (known as Operation Jonathan and Operation Thunderbolt), the Israeli military raid that rescued over 100 Israelis and Jews, who were being held hostage by Arab terrorists in Uganda with the cooperation of then-Ugandan President Idi Amin,
Thirty nine years after the rescue, documents have surfaced that show the fierce debate that went on in the government then about the possibility – and prospects – of a rescue effort. In notes that were released by the IDF Archives, Defense Minister Shimon Peres is seen questioning the wisdom of the operation. In a note to Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, Peres writes “how do we begin such an operation? They say is it impossible, the timing is wrong, and the government will never approve it. My only question is – how will this operation end.”
The incident began on June 26, 1976, when an Air France plane was hijacked by Arab terrorists as it flew from Paris to Tel Aviv. The terrorists landed the plane in Uganda, in an operation that it later became clear was fully coordinated with Amin. After several days, the terrorists released the non-Jewish passengers – keeping the Jewish and Israeli passengers hostage, and demanding the release of several top terrorists in exchange for their release.
Rabin refused to negotiate with the terrorists, and insisted that his military men come up with a plan to free the hostages. The result was one of the most celebrated military operations in the world's history, as IDF troops led by Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of the future prime minister, led several dozen troops to Uganda, flying under cover of night and avoiding radar in half a dozen African countries. The troops flew 3,800 kilometers (over 2,000 miles) to reach the airport where the hostages were held. Fortunately, the troops were able to learn the layout of the site in advance of their arrival – the airport had been built by an Israeli contractor, who still had the plans for it in his safe.
In another note, an apparently won-over Peres writes that he has a suggestion for the “final touch” of the operation. Writing to Rabin, Peres says that “instead of field vehicles, let them use a big Mercedes sedan with flags attached.” That detail was able to divert the attention of Ugandan troops, who thought that Amin was paying a nighttime surprise visit on them.
The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. 102 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded, while Netanyahu was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, according to Ugandan figures.
Knesset Extends Biometric ID Trial Program
The Knesset has voted to extend the nine-month test period for Israel's biometric identification program, by a 69-43 majority. The vote ratifies a decision by Interior Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) last week intended to allow more time for Knesset committees to study the program's progress before making a final decision on whether the program will become mandatory.
The move is the latest in the implication of the Biometric Database Law, which mandates the collection of fingerprints and facial contours from all Israeli residents for integration in domestic ID cards and national passports.
The same law mandated creation of a government database of that biometric information, to be used for immigration control and identification of individuals, and to assist in locating individuals suspected of criminal activity by the law enforcement officials.
The law was passed in part to prevent identity theft and the loss, theft and destruction of the blue ID cards issued by the Interior Ministry, which had spiraled out of control in the decade prior to 2007. It was later revealed that more than half of those requesting new documents had a criminal background.
The first phase offering a switch to biometric identification on a volunteer basis was implemented in June 2013. As of early 2015, some 640,000 Israelis had switched to the new system; 430,000 Israelis reportedly received biometric identification cards between January and July 2015 alone, according to Walla! News.
However, there have been some serious flaws in the full pilot program launched in 2014, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira noted last week. According to his report on the issue, at least 15 million shekels ($3.9 million) have been wasted on cards issued that were faulty or had mismatched fingerprinting information, as well as various delays reported in the changeover.
Despite this, Shapira's report still had praise for the program in general - and the Knesset vote is meant to fix these failures, not halt the entire program. "[Ministries in charge of the project are] stepping up efforts to meet all objectives of the test period, they are dealing with the complex challenges arising," he said, noting that "this is a revolutionary, unique, and wide-ranging project."
The pilot study has included placing more biometric passport stands in Ben-Gurion Airport, a move which Shalom himself helped launch in May.
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YOU SAY YOU WANT CHANGE?
By Frances Bernay-Cohen
I can't speak for you, but my grandparents came to the United States to find a refuge from "change." They came to The United States where their basic freedoms were guaranteed by the Constitution; where they could build a future on this solid ground.
Whether our forefathers and forI'm sure you will find some truth in this song.
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Air France flew from the U.S. to Israel during the early 1950s. They flew Lockheed Constellations and the flying time was 20 hours.
This promotional film - in English for an American audience - shows Israel as it was three years after the War of Independence .
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Paradise Regained, Paradise Lost
By Don Canaan (Commentary)
This year marked the 34th anniversary of the return of the Sinai by Israel to Egypt--a day of mourning by many of the 2,000 settlers who settled and later were forcibly evacuated by Israeli authorities under the command of Ariel Sharon, from the seaside city of Yamit on the Mediterranean.
Yamit was former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's dream--a projected seaport and city of 250,000 founded on the Sinai sand dunes overlooking date palm trees and the blue Mediterranean--a populated buffer between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on the other side of the Suez Canal.
Some alternate historians say Moses and the children of Israel passed near the site of Yamit 3,500 years ago as they wandered for 40 years through the Sinai Desert on their way to the proverbial land of milk and honey.
Since April 25, 1982 only the whine of the desert wind weaves its currents through the crevices of destroyed homes, businesses and monument--a memorial to the young men who died during the 1967 Six Day war.
Christians, Jews and Muslims died during three Arab-Israeli wars and battles that took place in the Sinai in 1956, 1967 and 1973--Egyptian and Israeli--young people who fought and died in that desolate, forsaken desert wasteland.
The modern-day chariot carrying Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat hugged the intermittently green coastline of Sinai on its historic mission to Jerusalem. Israelis glancing upward into the clear night sky saw merely a jet banking gently to the northwest.
Official Israeli government policy was that the settlers had to be removed and the army came and forcibly removed the remaining diehard residents. The Jerusalem Post described the scene: Apocalypse had arrived in Yamit and in the dust and noise and destruction one could wander freely. Dozens of bulldozers and giant mobile air hammers were loose in the city like a pack of predatory beasts."
April 25, 20011 marked the 29th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Yamit and Sinai and a cold peace between long-term enemies.
That gift of peace silently glided overhead as the Sabbath disappeared and the stars appeared. At 8:01 p.m. Sadat's jetliner landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and the first minutes of a then potential peace came to the Middle East.
Old enemies became new friends. The crowds roared its approval when Sadat shook hands with Moshe Dayan. A person standing nearby, according to the Jerusalem Post, said Sadat told Dayan, "Don't worry Moshe, it will be all right."
The peace treaty between the two nations was signed on March 26, 1979 and on April 25, 1982; the events that had started on a November day at Camp David came to fruition. Sinai was returned to Egypt. Yamit was bulldozed to the ground. But Anwar Sadat did not live to see that day. He had been assassinated seven months before.
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