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Netanyahu Vows Again to Storm Rafah as Israel Awaits Hamas Reply to Truce Proposal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday to go ahead with a long-promised assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, whatever the response by Hamas to the latest proposals for a halt to the fighting and a return of Israeli hostages.

Expectations that a ceasefire agreement could be in sight have grown in recent days following a renewed push led by Egypt to revive stalled negotiations between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group.

However Netanyahu said that with or without a deal, Israel intended to pursue the operation to destroy the remaining Hamas combat formations in Rafah, where more than 1 million Gaza Palestinians displaced from their homes amid Israeli military operations elsewhere since October have been seeking shelter.

“The idea that we will halt the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” he said in a statement. “We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there – with or without a deal, in order to achieve total victory.”

Earlier, a person close to Netanyahu said Israel has been waiting for Hamas to respond to the latest ceasefire proposals tabled by Egypt, one of several foreign mediators, before sending a team to Cairo to continue talks.

With U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken due to arrive in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening following a visit to Riyadh to help nurture a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, pressure has been building for an agreement to stop the war that has devastated Gaza as it nears the end of its seventh month.

But so far there has been little sign of agreement on the most fundamental difference between the two sides – the Hamas demand that any deal must ensure a withdrawal of troops and a permanent end to the Israeli operation in Gaza.

“We can’t tell our people the occupation will stay or the fight will resume after Israel regains its prisoners,” said a Palestinian official from a group allied with Hamas. “Our people want this aggression to end.”

For Netanyahu, any move is likely to be affected by divisions in his coalition cabinet between ministers pressing to bring home at least some of the 133 Israeli hostages left in Gaza, and hardliners insisting on the long-promised assault on remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah.

‘LAST CHANCE’

But Israeli officials have said the operation could be deferred if Hamas accepts the deal on offer – which includes no definitive ceasefire but the return of 33 vulnerable hostages – women, children and those in frail health – in exchange for a much larger number of Palestinian prisoners and a limited pause in the fighting.

“As far as Israel is concerned, this is the last chance to hold off a Rafah sweep. The IDF has already started mobilizing troops for that operation,” said a second Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

The Israeli military said two divisions which left Gaza last week were refitting and repairing equipment and holding training and operational assessment exercises in preparation for continued operations in the enclave.

“The commanders of the divisions have completed the approval of plans for upcoming missions and are now continuing to enhance readiness in all areas and in training,” the military said.

Netanyahu’s position has been complicated by talk that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may be preparing arrest warrants for himself and other senior Israeli leaders on charges related to the conduct of the war.

The ICC has so far said nothing to confirm the speculation, which prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to warn Israeli embassies abroad to bolster their security.

But it underlined fears in Israel of growing isolation over the fighting in Gaza, which has caused mounting international alarm at the scale of destruction, the risk of famine and the prospect of a slide into a wider regional conflict. Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced by the war.

The post Netanyahu Vows Again to Storm Rafah as Israel Awaits Hamas Reply to Truce Proposal first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Why No One Mourns Iran’s Dead President

Former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a meeting with the cabinet in Tehran, Iran, January 19, 2023. Photo: Presidential Website/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

The strange tale of our times is that Ebrahim Raisi — coincidentally — could not escape justice. He was responsible for a signature machine that executed at least 5,000 prisoners and opponents — reported to be 10,000 or more — in the 1980s, along with a host of other crimes during his four decades within the Iranian Shiite establishment.

Amidst the chaos of the news that Raisi’s helicopter had crashed, the Iranian media gradually mentioned that it was an accident. Of course, no signs of emotion or prejudice were seen on Supreme Leader Khamenei’s face. It is now believed that the helicopter may have exploded, and that its GPS malfunctioned. Regardless, Raisi’s death was announced and, according to religious propaganda, the government’s propaganda machine declared him a martyr — which is absurd.

The news of his death brought joy to the survivors of the 1980s murders, and to the families who have been killed and executed in these last three years under his presidency, or reign of terror.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess — though there’s likely to be no visible change at the moment. The clerical regime in Iran fears nation-wide protests by the dissatisfied and oppressed population, who might openly express their joy or distribute candy. There is a huge rift between the Iranian people and the crisis-stricken government, and the balance could be disrupted at any moment.

Interestingly, the pro-regime reformists outdid the conservatives in mourning Raisi’s death. Former president Khatami, who had previously written a eulogy for Asadollah Lajevardi — a notorious criminal of the infamous Evin prison — wrote a heartfelt condolence for Raisi.

Although the mullahs’ regime in Tehran still commits murders, their regime of death and terror is losing its base of power more and more each day. Gradually, both internally and internationally, society has invalidated the Islamic Republic.

Since the rise of the mullahs to power in 1979, Iran has been emptied of identity and authenticity, and has become closer to the Arabian Age of Ignorance in Islam’s emergence. The hostility and vendetta of the clerics against the history and culture of Iran is undeniable. But the culture of hatred, prejudice, mourning, ignorance, and stupidity of the clerics does not — and has not — stood against the high value of Iranian culture.

The Shiite Islamic caliphate is an unpleasant phenomenon in Iranian history that, in 45 years, has reintroduced the sword of barbarism — opening a new chapter of death, bloodshed, and destruction in the historical records.

After 1979, which was a collective suicide of a nation and a deceptive revolution, a destructive and bloodthirsty mullah came to power. And without any conservatism or discretion, it must be said that the 1979 uproar was actually a terrorist riot by Khomeini, a masterpiece of stupidity that has rarely occurred in the history of revolts and revolutions. The Iranian nation became a lab for fanatic leaders that have led a nation to the brink of destruction. The deceptive title of the republic was initially a trick, but it has actually become the Islamic caliphate of the rule of the jurist.

Still, the rebellious and defiant Iranian people — who don’t accept this theocratic and tyrannical rule — are seeking a regime change that would send the mullahs into the mire of history. They have suffered 45 years of frustration, hopelessness, confusion, clean loss, broken helm — and after 45 years of disastrous existence, they prefer an honorable government to lead them forward.

After the death and removal of Raisi, the mafia regime may turn to moderate conservatives who might quickly hold a sham election — or perhaps the government will give up on participation. Still, Khamenei needs an obedient and compliant person.

Eventually Khamenei — one of the bloodthirsty villains of this century — will go. But Raisi’s name was recorded as a criminal executioner in contemporary Iranian history. No human being who believes in humanity is praying for his forgiveness.

In the pages of history, the mullahs in Tehran will leave memories of blood, death, executions, injustice, theft, violence, and warmongering. But the terrible fall of the disaster-stricken country of Iran is also not far from the imagination. Iran might lose much more in the mullahs’ gamble.

Erfan Fard is a counterterrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, DC. Twitter@EQFARD.

The post Why No One Mourns Iran’s Dead President first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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University of Michigan Clears Pro-Hamas Encampment

In the early morning hours on May 21, 2024, police cleared a tent encampment set up by an anti-Zionist group at the University of Michigan. Photo: Dave Boucher via Reuters Connect

The University of Michigan on Tuesday morning cleared a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” with the help of law enforcement, the school’s president, Santa Ono, has confirmed.

The action followed a nearly month-long occupation of The Diag section of campus by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) — an anti-Zionist group — during which both students and non-students destroyed school property, disrupted university business, and amassed outside the homes of school officials.

An inspection of the encampment by the local fire marshal prompted the university to quell the demonstration as soon as possible, Ono said on Tuesday. The marshal determined that SAFE’s “overloading power sources” and “using open flames” after repeatedly being told not to do so could have started a fire that resulted in “catastrophic loss of life.”

Police struggled to gain compliance with their order to vacate the area, according to footage of their engagement with the protesters which emerged on social media. After police approached the encampment clad in riot gear, the protesters began chanting and, locking arms with one another, tensing up for a fight. In response, the officers deployed pepper spray and began dismantling their tents. At least one non-student was arrested for assaulting an officer.

“Moving forward, individuals will be welcome to protest as they always have at the University of Michigan, so long as those protests don’t violate the rights of others and are consistent with university policies meant to ensure the safety of our community,” Ono said in Tuesday’s statement. “To be clear, there is no place for violence or intimidation at the University of Michigan. Such behavior will not be tolerated, and individuals will be held accountable.”

He added, “We must find productive ways to engage with one another. We must leverage facts and reason in a spirit of open debate and find ways to work toward solutions. If we can manage to do that here — a place that is home to some of the most brilliant minds in the country — then our state, nation, and world will continue to benefit from the diverse perspectives that our university brings together on the most important issues of our day.”

Following the clearing of the encampment, SAFE alleged that law enforcement had “brutalized” the protesters and announced a new demonstration outside the Washtenaw County Jail, where the arrested protesters are being processed.

“Please meet us there,” the group said.

The University of Michigan is one of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists took over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agreed to condemn and boycott Israel. Footage of the demonstrations has shown the protesters chanting in support of Hamas, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

In the past three weeks, law enforcement has cleared encampments at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and George Washington University, among other schools.

In some instances, faculty — dozens of whom attached themselves to the demonstrations — attempted to prevent police from restoring order, resulting in their arrest. That happened, for example, at Emory University in Atlanta, where economics professor Caroline Fohlin intervened to stop the arrest of a student. In response, officers tackled her to the ground while she said repeatedly, “I’m a professor!” Meanwhile, at Northeastern University in Boston, professors formed a human barrier around a student encampment to stop it from being dismantled by officers, and at the University of Texas at Austin, members of the group Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine called for the resignation of their president, Jay Hartzell, because he requested police assistance.

Mass participation of faculty in pro-Hamas demonstrations marks an inflection point in American history, according to Asaf Romirowsky, an expert on the Middle East and executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Since the 1960s, he told The Algemeiner earlier this month, far-left “scholar activists” have gradually seized control of the higher education system, tailoring admissions processes and the curricula to foster ideological radicalism and conformity, which students then carry with them into careers in government, law, corporate America, and education. This system, he concluded, must be challenged.

“The cost of trading scholarship for political propagandizing has been a zeal and pride among faculty who esteem and cheer terrorism, a historical development which is quite telling and indicative of the evolution of the Marxist ideology which has been seeping into the academy since the 1960s,” Romirowsky said. “The message is very clear to all of us who are looking on from the outside at this, and institutions have to begin drawing a red line. The protests are not about free speech. They are about supporting terrorism, about calling for a genocide of Jews.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post University of Michigan Clears Pro-Hamas Encampment first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Top Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas: ‘Oct. 7 Can Repeat Itself 100 Times … Perhaps Even More Seriously’

PA President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank August 18, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Pool

In an interview three days ago, a top Palestinian Authority (PA) official and advisor to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas — Mahmoud Al-Habbash — threatened Israel that “Oct. 7 can repeat itself 100 times, and perhaps even more seriously.”

Al-Habbash envisions the murder of 1,000 innocent Israeli civilians — babies, children, youth, women, men, and the elderly — more than 100 times. He vows that hundreds/thousands more Israeli women will be brutally raped, and Israeli men will be sadistically killed. He said that 100 more times, 240 innocent Israeli civilians will be taken captive and held hostage for months.

This will happen “if the Palestinian cause will not be justly, comprehensively, and permanently resolved … on the basis of the UN resolutions”:

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash: “If the Palestinian cause will not be justly, comprehensively, and permanently resolved, at least on the basis of international legitimacy, at least on the basis of the UN resolutions, then Oct. 7 can repeat itself 100 times, and perhaps even more seriously.”

[Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Facebook page, May 18, 2024]

PA leaders have repeated that they “only” want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital — but Palestinian Media Watch has documented numerous times that they tell their own people that they really want all of the State of Israel — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, the “UN resolutions” that the PA demands fulfilled include UN Resolution 194.

UN Resolution 194 includes the words “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so.”

While this was not totally impossible in December 1948 — when the resolution passed — today, it would mean the destruction of Israel. With 5.9 million people that UNRWA recognizes as “refugees,” UN 194 is the PA’s recipe for the end of Israel.

In fact, the PA’s insistence that all 5.9 million UNRWA “refugees” immigrate to Israel is their way of seeking Israel’s destruction under the umbrella of a UN resolution.

 The author is a senior analyst at Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article was originally published.

The post Top Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas: ‘Oct. 7 Can Repeat Itself 100 Times … Perhaps Even More Seriously’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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