- Lebanese and Iranian media: Rouhani celebrates Hezbollah "jihad"
- Hamas renews attacks on journalists, shutters three news outlets
- Controversy engulfs Palestinian Fatah after Facebook posts celebrating mass terrorist as "brave prisoner"
- Hezbollah chief: only surprise about being blacklisted by Europe is that it took this long
What we’re watching today:
- Lebanese and Iranian media outlets are reporting on a cable from Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani to Hezbollah supporting the Iran-backed terror group and praising it for waging "jihad" against Israel. Rouhani declared that the group and its chief Hassan Nasrallah were "the hope of the Lebanese and Palestinian people for victory against Israel,” according to a source who spoke to Naharnet. The statements are in line with previous expressions of support for the Iran-backed terror group by the Iranian president-elect. Iranian lawmakers have stressed that Rouhani would deepen Tehran's policy of supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, which with Hezbollah support has succeeded in recent weeks in eroding two years of opposition gains, and that Rouhani's administration would seek to reinforce the regime's ideology domestically and internationally. Iranian conservatives this week rallied in support of Rouhani and in anticipation of his August 4 inauguration.
- Hamas on Thursday deepened its campaign against journalists operating in the Gaza Strip, which the Palestinian terror group controls and over which it has tried to exert increasingly authoritarian rule. Three media companies, including the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television station and the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, were shuttered. Employees of the organizations reported that armed Hamas officers had conducted the raids on the basis of an attorney general order. Hamas has long been criticized for attempting to stifle journalistic freedom and for directly endangering journalists. A 2011 incident saw several journalists beaten and harassed for coverage critical of the Palestinian faction. Hamas has also attempted to disguise terrorists as reporters and has used media facilities to launch rockets at Israeli civilians.
- A report by a watchdog group on renewed Palestinian incitement has sparked a debate over the capacity and willingness of Palestinian officials in general, and of the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas specifically, to make peace with Israel. Fox News reports on the controversy, which erupted after Palestinian Media Watch called attention to social media posts glorifying terrorists who murdered scores of Israelis, and were posted on the official Facebook page of the Enlistment and Organization Commission of Fatah. A picture posted to the page glorifies Abdallah Barghouti, who prepared bombs that killed 67 Israeli civilians across almost half a dozen terror attacks, as a "brave prisoner." The incident comes days after revelations that Abbas had described another Palestinian terrorist as a "pure soul." U.S. officials including President Obama have repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement to violence as a critical barrier to successfully negotiating peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Concerns over incitement stretch back to the early days of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and observers have linked Palestinian intransigence and violence to lack of progress in the arena. A 2000 speech by Congressman Eliot Engel linked burgeoning violence to incitement by then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, noting that "The violent Palestinian riots we are witnessing today and for the past several days... result directly from the fact that Yasir Arafat did not prepare his people for peace."
- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday brushed aside a recent European Union decision to blacklist the military wing of his Iran-backed group as a terrorist organization, telling a Hezbollah-controlled television station that he was only surprised that it "had taken so long" for Western leaders to issue the designation. Other Hezbollah figures were less circumspect, with Hezbollah's head of international relations Ammar Moussawi lashing out against the Europeans and describing the E.U.'s decision as an "insult because it equates resistance with terrorism." The E.U. decision came after intelligence was presented in European capitals describing in detail Hezbollah's campaign to target and murder civilians across the Continent and demonstrating the group's responsibility for a July 2012 bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed six. Today Bulgarian investigators released more details about the bombing, to which they had previously linked Hezbollah, including the identities of the suspects. The Western-backed, anti-Syrian March 14 coalition issued a statement blasting Hezbollah for activities beyond Lebanon's borders, linking those activities to the European designation, and calling the group to "return to Lebanon under Lebanon's conditions... and to hand its weapons to the Lebanese Armed Forces and immediately withdraw from Syria." Hezbollah militarily controls southern Lebanon and has thus far refused to cede sovereignty to Beirut.
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