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Today’s Top Stories
1. BREAKING NEWS: After this roundup was published, Israel announced that it has intercepted an Iranian arms shipment in the Red Sea destined for Gaza. The boat, carrying M-302 rockets, is now being towed to Eilat. YNet reports:
Elite troops from the Israel Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit boarded the ship in open waters on the maritime border of Sudan and Eritrea, some 1,500 km south of Israel. The Klos C Iranian vessel was sailing under a Panamanian flag, making its way to Sudan from Iran carrying a cargo of advanced rockets capable of reaching distances of up to 200 km.
The ship was supposed to reach port in Sudan on Thursday, some 10 days after it left Iran. An initial inventory by Israel revealed a large supply of rockets, including the Iranian-made 302m, which hit Haifa during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
The rockets originated in Syria, the IDF said, where Iran is known to store large arsenals. The rockets were flown from Syria to Iran, where they were loaded on the ship that then departed for Iraq where the arms concealed in boxes of cement.
From the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr it sailed into the Red Sea around the Port of Oman, bound for Sudan. The ship’s progress was closely tracked by the IDF as it sailed.
“There is clear evidence from the ship that these are rockets for which Iran is responsible,” a senior IDF source said Wednesday. “The rockets were . . . intended for terror groups in Gaza.”
2. Employees of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs are going back on strike for better pay and working conditions. According to the JTA, this could impact upcoming visits by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Pope Francis.
The strike, announced Tuesday, will suspend all services to foreign dignitaries visiting Israel, as well as all services to Israeli dignitaries planning trips or already abroad. In addition, the strike suspends all consular services to Israelis abroad. The only exceptions will be for Israelis whose lives are in danger and for bodies that must be transported back to Israel for burial.
3. The last of four Israeli prisoner releases is around the corner and it promises to be the most controversial one. That’s because the Palestinian Authority is demanding the release of terrorists who are Israeli citizens. The Times of Israel takes a closer look at the issue, which the US is pressuring Israel on.
The cabinet may not support a prisoner release just before the Palestinians will likely quit peace talks in April anyway, but that’s a different dance.
4. Daily Telegraph Implies Tel Aviv Is Israel’s Capital: Editors revise article after describing Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital. How many times must British papers be reminded?
5. The Independent Headline That Sums Up the Bias: Palestinians are portrayed as powerless passengers on the journey with no responsibility for the bumps on the road.
Israel and the Palestinians
• You can cross Ayoub al-Qawasmi off Israel’s most wanted list. The Hamas commander trying to rebuild the group’s forces in the West Bank was nabbed by the IDF yesterday evening. YNet coverage.
• Canada recognizes Jewish refugees expelled from Mideast and North Africa.
• Tzipi Livni discussed the peace process with CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour.
• Where have you gone, Daniel Patrick Moynihan? (Israel’s supporters turn their lonely eyes to you.)
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Looks like Hezbollah tried to place a bomb along the Israeli-Syrian border. The Jerusalem Post writes:
The terrorist cell was operating in Syria very close to the new border fence, and according to security sources the attempted attack was orchestrated by Hezbollah.
In response, an IDF tank fired shells at the suspects, striking them.
• Jews are slipping out of Venezuela as anti-government protests step up. Call it a slow drip exodus.
Over the last 15 years, from the time Chavez came to power and in the year since Nicolas Maduro has ruled the country, the Venezuelan Jewish community has shrunk by more than half. It is now estimated at about 7,000, down from a high of 25,000 in the 1990s. Many of those who left were community leaders.
It’s not just Venezuelan Jews who are leaving. Hundreds of thousands of middle- and upper-class Venezuelans have relocated in recent years, swelling the size of expat communities in places like Miami, Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
Efforts to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons capability are running months behind schedule because the Syrian president is playing games with international inspectors. Moreover, it is far from clear that the 1,300 tons of chemical warfare agents and precursor chemicals declared by Assad when he signed the Chemical Weapons Convention represent the full amount he possesses. Furthermore, even if Assad abides by the commitment to completely jettison his chemical weapons, Syria’s equally dangerous biological weapon stocks will remain.
• Israeli drones to patrol the skies of Brazil during the World Cup.
• For commentary/analysis, see Khaled Abu Toameh (Egypt’s ban of Hamas isn’t as a big a deal as you think), The Tower (Hezbollah’s threat to Israel), Joseph Rasksas (Hezbollah will use the new Lebanese government to threaten Israel), and Marc Tracy (what Ukraine’s crisis means for its 70,000 Jews).
(Image of Venezuelan flag via OpenClipArt/deiby_ybied)
For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.