Middle East Roundup: April 4, 2017

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Suspected chemical attack in Syria kills at least 68, including 11 children

(JNS.org) A suspected gas attack, carried out by either Syria’s government or Russian jets, killed at least 68 people—including 11 children—in the Syrian province of Idlib Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the gas attack caused dozens of people to choke and collapse, while others had foam coming out of their mouths and pinpoint pupils—all symptoms of exposure to poisonous gas.

Syrian activists released images showing victims foaming at the mouth and almost-naked children writhing on the ground as rescue workers hosed them down.

“There’s no, none, no excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attacks on civilians and on children, especially with cruel and outlawed chemical weapons. I call on the international community to fulfill its obligation from 2013 to fully and finally remove these horrible weapons from Syria,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

The death toll following the suspected gas attack is expected to rise as more victims arrive for treatment. Unverified reports from Syrian opposition sources reported that at least 100 people were killed and close to 400 were wounded.



Arab center lists 3 Israeli universities among worlds top 10 in different subjects

(JNS.org) The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), an initiative launched by Saudi Arabia and based in the United Arab Emirates, has listed three Israeli universities in its inaugural subject rankings.

The rankings showcase the top global universities in 227 different subjects, covering academic fields in science and social science. CWUR lists Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology as the world’s top school for aerospace engineering, and among the top 10 in the “computer science – theory and methods” (No. 4) and “computer science – information systems” (No. 8) categories.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem was ranked fourth in the subject of logic, and Tel Aviv University was listed among the top 10 schools for “physics – fluids and plasmas” (No. 6) and computer science – theory and methods (No. 7).



UN agency report compares Israeli occupation to US slavery

(JNS.org) After the United Nations-affiliated Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) last month released a controversial report describing Israel as an “apartheid regime,” the same U.N. agency is set to release a new report equating the Israeli “occupation” with slavery in the U.S.

ESCWA’s Beirut-based council is comprised of 18 Arab members. The agency’s recent “apartheid” report—authored by Richard Falk, a discredited former U.N. special rapporteur for human rights with a record of vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric—was rejected by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who forced its withdrawal.

According to an ESCWA resolution passed in December 2016, the new slavery-themed anti-Israel report seeks to establish “premises and approach for calculating the cumulative cost of the occupation.”

Although it has yet to be clarified when the latest anti-Israel report will be published, Israeli media have reported it may symbolically be released in June on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War.


US Supreme Court considers Arab Banks liability for terror attacks in Israel

(JNS.org) The U.S. Supreme Court this week agreed to contemplate a revival of litigation against Arab Bank, holding the Jordan-based institution financially liable for terror attacks in Israel and for acting as terrorists’ “paymaster.”

The judges agreed to hear an appeal of litigation that was rejected by a lower court and brought by nearly 6,000 plaintiffs, including relatives of non-U.S. citizens murdered in terror attacks and attack survivors.

Using the U.S. Alien Tort Statute to sue for damages, the plaintiffs allege that Arab Bank knowingly and deliberately financed terror attacks in Israel as well as payments to the families of suicide bombers between January 1995 and July 2005.

The plaintiffs argue that Arab Bank arranged payments to the relatives of terrorists from four Palestinian terrorist organizations.



Israeli intelligence chief warns of Iranian crescent, missile factories in Lebanon

(JNS.org) The director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, Chagai Tzuriel, warned Monday of a “whole new kind of threat” against Israel taking hold inside Lebanon, involving increasing Iranian influence along the Jewish state’s borders.

Tzuriel expressed concern regarding the “huge development” of advanced Iranian weapons workshops building missiles inside Lebanon. The creation of a corridor between Iran and Lebanon, through Iraq and Syria—dubbed the “Iranian crescent”—is a more immediate threat than the Iranian nuclear issue, Tzuriel emphasized.

He also voiced concern regarding Iran’s role in Syria, telling reporters, “Israel believes that if Iran bases itself for the long run in Syria, it will be a constant source of friction and tension…And I think that may be only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking here about the creation of an Iranian crescent.”

The intelligence chief made the comments at an event organized by The Israel Project, a non-partisan American educational organization. His remarks came within a week of the U.S., Russia and Israel reportedly agreeing on the need to restrain, and eventually expel, Iran and its terror proxies from Syria.



$55 million project revives Dead Sea beaches

(JNS.org) Israeli Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin dedicated a new 3-mile-long promenade along the Dead Sea beachfront at Ein Bokek Monday, as part of a $55 million project seeking to revive the Dead Sea hotel district.

The Dead Sea infrastructure project, which began in 2012 and concluded in 2016, was developed to combat flooding occurring at the body of water’s southern basin. The initiative—which is jointly funded by the Israeli government and Dead Sea Works, a supplier of potash mineral salts—saw engineers raise the level of the hotel district’s beaches by 6.5 feet. Additionally, saltwater-proof clay berms have been installed along the entire length of Ein Bokek’s beaches.

The tourism minister also announced proposals for a major expansion including the construction of at least 12 new hotels. The facilities would add 3,700 hotel rooms—on top of the current 4,000—to the Ein Bokek district, and would bring 20,000 more jobs to the Dead Sea region. According to Levin, the new hotels would be more environmentally friendly, while blend into the natural landscape.


Egypts El-Sisi makes first-ever visit to White House as Trump seeks to reboot ties

(JNS.org) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with President Donald Trump at the White House Monday for the Egyptian leader’s first official U.S. visit since his rise to power in 2013.

“I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President El-Sisi,” Trump said. “He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt.”

El-Sisi told Trump, “I’ve had a deep appreciation and admiration of your unique personality, especially as you’re standing very strong in the counter-terrorism field.”

The two leaders were expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and fighting Islamic terrorism.

In 2013, El-Sisi overthrew former President Mohammed Morsi—a leader of Hamas’s parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration had declined to invite El-Sisi to the White House, was critical of his human rights record and withheld the transfer of weapons to his military.



New York education chief reverses stance on controversial Holocaust assignment

(JNS.org) New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia reversed her stance endorsing a controversial assignment from earlier this year that had asked students to argue both sides on the Holocaust’s directive to exterminate Jews en masse.

A teacher in New York’s Oswego County had asked students to put themselves in a Nazi leader’s shoes and argue for or against the “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jewish people, Syracuse.com reported.

“I think it’s certainly a question where you want students to think on both sides and analyze…which position a person is taking,” Elia had said.

Elia’s statement drew widespread criticism from both Jewish and state government officials. She backtracked Monday.

“Since first learning of the assignment, I’ve done my homework to determine the facts in this situation,” Elia said. “I spoke with district officials about this serious matter. We agree the assignment should not have been given. The teacher apologized and the assignment will not be used in the future.”



Netanyahu sends condolences to Russia over deadly subway bombing

(JNS.org) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to Russia following Monday’s deadly subway explosion in St. Petersburg that killed at least 10 people and injured about 50 others.

“On behalf of the government of Israel, I send condolences to President Putin and to the families of those who were murdered, following today’s bombing on the St. Petersburg subway,” Netanyahu said. “The citizens of Israel stand alongside the Russian people at this difficult time.”

Monday’s bombing occurred on a train between St. Petersburg’s Technology Institute and Sennaya Square stations. A second bomb was later found at a nearby station and was disabled by police before it exploded. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that two people are believed to be behind the bombing, and authorities are searching for the suspects.


Articles from JNS.org appear on San Diego Jewish World through the generosity of Dr. Bob and Mao Shillman.

One Response to “Middle East Roundup: April 4, 2017”

  1. admin says:

    Leaders of the Conference of Presidents today condemned the latest use of chemical weapons, made and stockpiled by the Assad regime, against unarmed and defenseless Syrian civilians and urged the international community to take decisive action to end the reprehensible massacre of civilians at the hands of the Assad regime or any other group in Syria.

    Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO said, “Once again, the world is sickened by images from Syria showing the gruesome effects of chemical weapons indiscriminately targeting, killing and maiming Syrian civilian children, women and men. The strongest measures possible must be taken to guarantee all chemical weapons are finally removed from Syria to prevent the possibility of their use in another murderous attack.

    As Jews, we must not look away, we cannot be silent in the face of such inhumanity. It is a moral imperative for all who value human life and decency to demand immediate action to end the atrocities being perpetrated in Syria.”


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