What the international media are saying. News briefs from the Middle East, the UK and Russia.

NEWS BRIEFS

Mohammad al-Daif: The “Phantom” Hamas Leader

As reported in the November 23 edition of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Akhbar. (Edited translation from the Arabic Edition):

Mohammad al-Daif, general commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, has been conducting special operations against Israel since the 1980s, despite numerous attempts to capture or assassinate him. This week, he made a rare appearance on Hamas’ al-Aqsa satellite channel to announce the beginning of the “purge” of al-Aqsa Mosque. He warned Israel that he will “make the occupation pay dearly if it decides on a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.” Operation Stones of Shale – Hamas’ name for its counteroffensive against Israel – was the result of sustained preparations, effort, training, and rocket production following the Israeli-dubbed Operation Cast Lead in 2008, according to Daif.  Daif, whose real name is Mohammad Diab Ibrahim al-Masri but also goes by Abu Khaled, is well-known to the Israelis. They call him the “phantom,” because he leaves his mark in resistance operations without being seen.He was the principal leader of numerous resistance operations against the Israeli occupation, including the ones in retaliation for the martyrdom of Hamas weapons expert Yehya Ayash, which killed more than 50 Israelis in the beginning of 1996. Daif works in the shadows and has always been careful in his movements. His inner circle is very small. They call him the “phantom,” because he leaves his mark in resistance operations without being seen. He chooses which comrade to contact and refuses to use modern communications equipment.

More Trouble in Jordan

Mudar Zahran a Jordanian-born Palestinian writer on November 23 writes in Gatestone Institute’s website:

Last week, protests broke out in Jordan after a government decision to raise fuel prices. While protests have been taking place in Jordan for almost two years now, for the first time there is major involvement from Jordan’s Palestinians, with open calls for toppling the regime. With the future of Jordan’s King Abdullah in jeopardy, so is regional stability, as well as Jordan’s peace with Israel. Pro-Western forces have critical options to consider. The protesters, last week, started openly to call for the king to step down. The Independent noted that previously the protests had been “peaceful and rarely targeted King Abdullah II himself,” and reported that this time crowds “chanted slogans against the king and threw stones at riot police as they protested in several cities.” What came as a surprise in the recent protests, according to Al Jazeera, is that Palestinian refugee camps have been also participating to the fullest. These protests apparently broke out in the Al-Hussein refugee camp, close to Jordan’s capital, Amman. Protesters were seen calling for toppling the regime.

The children given life in the midst of war

Nicky Blackburn writes in Israel 21C:

Mohamed is in Israel thanks to the Israeli charity Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), a non-profit organization based at Wolfson that provides children from developing countries, often those ravaged by war, with heart surgery and follow-up care. He’s not the only child at the clinic from Gaza right now. There are also two baby girls – Remas, and Leen, who has Down syndrome — and a six-year-old boy, Salah, who arrived with his mother on Sunday during the siren. In the midst of some of the fiercest fighting, they managed to come by car from Khan Yunis to Gaza City, and then by ambulance to the Erez crossing, where they were met by Israelis and brought to Wolfson. There are Palestinians from the West Bank too, including six-month-old Losen, who was in surgery when the sirens went off. Her father, Ahmad Faygan, 30, a municipality worker from Tul Karem, said the only thing he could think about as the sirens blared was whether the surgeons would abandon his daughter to take to the shelters. They didn’t.  There are five Iraqi children, and 18 others from Kosovo, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zanzibar – all mixed in together.

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Congratulates Hamas Leader on ‘Victory’

As reported today in The Russian News & Information Agency RIA Novosti:

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad phoned Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday to congratulate him on a “great victory” over Israel. “Zionists have reached the dead point and have no other alternative but officially recognizing and bowing to the absolute right of the Palestinian nation,” the Fars agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. Ahmadinejad expressed sympathy with the families of the victims and wished “health and recovery” for all those injured in the conflict. “We hope that in light of endeavors and efforts of all the faithful and the reformers the noble Qods [Jerusalem] will be liberated and justice would govern over whole the universe,” the Iranian leader said. Haniyeh thanked Iran for support “against brutal attacks of the Israeli regime.” Earlier this week, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal said Iran had supplied arms to the Palestinians.

Hamas leader expects Iran support to grow

Ma’an News Agency’s Gaza office reports:

A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said on Saturday the group will continue to procure weapons after its ceasefire with Israel, and he expects support from Iran to the movement to grow further. “We have no choice but to continue to bring in weapons by all possible means,” Mahmoud al-Zahhar said, adding that he expected Tehran would “increase its military and financial support to Hamas.” “We have a right to take money and weapons from Iran. They (Iran) give to us for the sake of God, no conditions attached, and I am a witness to that,” al-Zahhar told reporters… Al-Zahhar reiterated Hamas’ claim that its al-Qassam Brigades had downed Israeli planes during the eight-day conflict, which ended in a truce deal on Wednesday. The Hamas official said the brigades found remnants of the an Israeli plane in central Gaza on Saturday, and had taken down seven during the conflict.

Lebanon arrests Syrian nationals preparing to use explosives, some with Hebrew writing on them

Lebanon’s The Daily Star reports:

The five Syrian nationals arrested Friday in the southern town of Nabatieh had 450 grams of explosives and three fillings of a 160mm mortar with Hebrew on them, a statement from the Army said Saturday. The suspects were identified as Khodr Mohammad al-Fanoush, Sheikh Mohammad Saleh al-Fattah, Ahmad Mohammad al-Fanoush, Hussein Farhan al-Fattah and Wael Hussein al-Hasan, the Army statement said. Security sources told The Daily Star earlier that the suspects were preparing explosives to be used against mourners commemorating the occasion of Ashoura Sunday. Lebanese Shiites commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, by holding mass rallies in Beirut’s southern suburbs, the Bekaa, and several towns in the south. The town of Nabatieh usually hosts the biggest such rally in the southern part of the country.

Gaza conflict: the war games of the Israel Defence Force

Jennifer O’Mahony in The Telegraph (UK) writes:

The idea of war as a game is not new, but Israel’s approach during the eight-day conflict was among the most sophisticated of any modern military, attempting to calm fears about attacks on Gaza at the same time as ramping up emotion over Israeli deaths, all while bypassing traditional Western media.  Thomas Rid, Reader in War Studies at King’s College London, has studied this dualism in Israel’s approach, which is best summarised as a combination of aggressive territorial defence and slick professional reassurance. He said: “The IDF generally tries to make two points in the videos it publishes: ‘We can and will hit our enemies’ – meaning they want to frighten and deter other Hamas fighters; and ‘we are precise when we hit our enemies’ – meaning they avoid civilian causalities whenever possible. The videos are chosen to reinforce both points.” The IDF is less hierarchical than typical military organisations, and the young people performing compulsory national service are offered a lot of responsibility. The IDF’s YouTube account, for example, was set up by Aliza Landes, then a lieutenant in her early 20s, during Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in 2009. The organisation’s Twitter account is the brainchild of Sacha Dratwa, a 26-year-old Belgian immigrant. It counts more than 200,000 followers, compared to the 40,000 following Hamas’s military on the social network.

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