Hezbollah, Al-Qaida Girding For Major Offensive

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Today’s Top Stories

1. Israel last night released 26 Palestinian terrorists from prison. They were welcomed with big celebrations in Ramallah and Gaza. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would expedite building projects in eastern Jerusalem as “compensation.” This includes tenders for 1,500 new homes,  a tourist center in near the City of David National Park, and reviving on-and-off plans for a national park on the slopes of Mount Scopus.

For best coverage of the release, see the NY Times, the BBC‘s profiles of several prisoners, and Amira Hass‘s take.

2. Al Qalamoun MtsHezbollah and Al-Qaida are getting ready for another brawl that could be bloodier for both sides than their last big fight in Qusair. The Daily Beast explains the significance of Assad’s upcoming offensive in the Al-Qalamoun Mountains northwest of Damascus:

The offensive will again pit Hezbollah fighters directly against jihadists and militant Islamists. The al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamist militias Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Islamhave been reinforcing towns and villages in the region to prepare for the expected Hezbollah assault. Some reports claim that as many as 20,000 rebel fighters have poured into the region, some being redeployed from Damascus suburbs.

A grueling confrontation in Al-Qalamoun-an area 50 miles long and 25 miles broad that runs from the rural outskirts of the Syrian capital to the Lebanese border-could see Saudi Arabia accelerate its arming of certain rebel groups that the Obama administration considers dangerous to the West, adding to strained relations between Washington and Riyadh.

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3. Breaking up Syria might not be so bad. A Jerusalem Post op-ed points out that a Druze state would be in Israel’s interests:

According to some analysts, weak Arab states with internal strife and divisions, as well as the break-up of the existing Arab state order, plays to Israel’s strategic advantage.

In this way, Israel can form alliances with various ethnic groups that are able to form their own state or autonomous region, such as with the Kurds or possibly the Druse in Syria.

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4.  The Independent Constructs a New Settlement: The paper falsely claimed that Israel would build a new settlement, corrected itself, and then repeated the error.

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Israel and the Palestinians

AFP picked up on Israel’s return to the UN Human Rights Council.

A consulting contract between the city of St. Louis and Veolia became a hot potato for a tangled variety of reasons — one of which was opposition from the anti-Israel Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement. Veolia withdrew itself from consideration, but not before a St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff-ed dissed the BDS angle:

With due respect to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, keeping Veolia out of a water system 6,500 miles from the River Jordan is not the key to the dispute. Let’s see what Veolia can produce for $250,000 and go from there.

 What is the U.S. position regarding the legality of Israeli settlements?

• For more commentary/analysis, see YNet.

Rest O’ the Roundup

These NSA-Israel headlines were just a matter of time. Did you expect otherwise?

  1. ‘US has spying unit on roof of its Tel Aviv embassy’
  2. Jay Carney won’t say if NSA listens to Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls
  3. NSA Rates Intelligence Cooperation With Israel Behind 23 Other Countries

NY Times This NY Times staff-ed takes a condescending attitude towards Israel and other Mideast countries it has an issue with. Terming Israeli, Saudi and Turkish ties with the US as “open rebellion” implies the US is the Mideast’s master.

The Times also claims Bibi’s out to torpedo US-Iran talks by pushing for more sanctions. Actually, the prime minister said he has no problem with a diplomatic deal as long as it’s a good and proper one. Israel’s push for more sanctions is recognition that Iran’s on the ropes and forced to change tack precisely because the international sanctions regime has been effective.

Compared to the Gray Lady, Doyle McManus and Leon Hadar take more realistic views of America’s understandably nervous allies.

Worth reading: Diana Moukalled‘s optimistic take on Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef’s return to TV.

Calvinball in Cairo continues. Judges presiding over the trial of several Muslim Brotherhood officials quit after Egyptian security agencies decided to prevent the defendants from attending the court sessions. See AP and AFP coverage.

For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.

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