In a first for Arab states, Egypt designates Hamas faction as terror group

On Sunday, Egypt became the first Arab country to designate Hamas faction Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades a terrorist group. The court that made the designation accused the Hamas faction of launching terrorist attacks to support the Muslim Brotherhood and executing a bombing that killed 33 security personnel in Sinai in October 2014. The court ruling further isolates Hamas politically. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government has labeled a terrorist group since 2013. Under Sisi’s leadership, security coordination and collaboration between Israel and Egypt has greatly increased as the two countries share the common interest of defeating radical Islamist terrorists like Hamas and various Sinai-based groups. In March 2014, an Egyptian court forbade Hamas activities in Egypt, accusing  the terrorist group of smuggling weapons and fighters to Ansar Beit al Maqdis, a group now loyal to ISIS that claimed responsibility for major attacks against over a dozen army and police targets in Sinai last Thursday. The Sisi regime has also launched a campaign  to shut down the vast majority of underground tunnels from Sinai to Gaza that are often used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and fighters into Sinai. Egypt has begun expanding the buffer zone on the border of Egypt and Gaza, in an effort to prevent the flow of fighters and weapons between Sinai and Gaza.Furthermore, according to a Reuters report last year, Egypt is attempting to politically undermine Hamas rule in Gaza by working with Fatah to support anti-Hamas protests and activities in the Gaza Stip. According to the report, an anonymous Egyptian security official reportedly said "We cannot get liberated from the terrorism of the Brotherhood in Egypt without ending it in Gaza, which lies on our borders." 

The Jordanian government announced on Monday that its ambassador to Israel will return to Tel Aviv. According to The New York Times the ambassador, Walid Obeidat, is scheduled to arrive back in Israel this week. The Jerusalem Post reported that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Jordanian decision, calling it ‘an important step that reflects Israeli-Jordanian joint interests, first and foremost stability, security and peace.’” In November of last year, the Jordanian government recalled its ambassador over tensions on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, over which Jordan holds custodial rights. Despite the absence of the ambassador, the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv remained open.

Jordan and Israel have a history of shared cooperation on a range of issues from security, economic, water scarcity and tourism. Israel and Jordan formally signed a peace treaty in 1994. In June 2014 as ISIS expanded in Iraq and parts of Syria, Journalist Yossi Melman wrote, “With the advancement of radical Sunni forces from Iraq toward Jordan's borders, the clandestine cooperation and consultations between Israel and Jordan are increasing.” Last June, a Jordanian diplomatic source told Ynet News that “there is a very good cooperation between us regarding ISIS' growing presence in Iraq and Syria, but also on issues relating to other radical forces in the Middle East which have their sights set on Israel and Jordan.” Visiting Scholar Neri Zilber of the Washington Institute said that “there is an unwritten, unspoken kind of Israeli commitment that if Jordan were ever in serious trouble … Israel at a certain point would take action and come to Jordan’s aid. Jordan is a massive strategic asset to Israel.”

In 2013, over 200,000 Israelis visited Jordan with 18,000 Jordanians visiting Israel. Twenty-four flights per week fly out of Ben-Gurion airport in Israel into Jordan to accommodate the tourism. In December 2013 Israel and Jordan finalized an arrangement over water allocation with Israel providing Jordan “8-13 billion gallons per year of fresh water from the Sea of Galilee, while Jordan would deliver the same amount of desalinated water pumped from Aqaba to Israel's Negev desert region.”

 

In the dangerous war against poaching animals and natural resources in Africa, Israeli expertise is tipping the scales in favor of the good guys. On one side are the bad guys: poachers who slaughter elephants for their ivory, capture African Grey parrots and other prized animals, and strip forests bare. On the other side are the good guys: park rangers who risk their lives to protect Africa’s endangered animals and natural resources. Hoping to tip the scales in this fierce war are people like Nir Kalron, a 36-year-old Israeli working to strengthen the continent’s environmental security. In vast expanses of misty jungle and arid savannah, Kalron’s Maisha Consulting conducts anti-poaching and anti-trafficking intelligence and investigations, installs security technology, and trains rangers to more effectively clamp down on criminal activity. In cooperation with African governments and NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund, Maisha’s seven-person team teaches the rangers intelligence analysis and data management; operational discipline; weapons and tactics; aviation; first aid; dog handling; sea rescue; Krav Maga hand-to-hand combat; arresting suspects and stopping vehicles. Working for illicit traffickers, African poachers slaughter at least 35,000 African elephants each year. They kill rhinos for their horns; tigers, leopards and pangolins for their skin; and trap exotic parrots and great apes to be smuggled to buyers. Poachers also engage in illegal logging, decimating natural habitats and literally clearing a path for poachers. Though Maisha is the only private Israeli company devoted to environmental security, over the years Israeli involvement in anti-poaching initiatives has included, for example, a wildlife forensics lab set up in Kenya by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) to analyze evidence for court cases against poachers; and a donation of high-frequency radios to rangers in Senegal National Parks by Motorola in Tel Aviv. (via Israel21c)

 


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