Source of Rocket Explosions in Israel Unkown

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Israeli defense officials are investigating reports of rockets landing near the southern city of Eilat early on Thursday after explosions were heard in the area. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) issued a brief update about the explosions on Thursday afternoon.

According to the IDF, there were explosions and flashes of light reported near the city of  Eilat. After officials searched the city, no evidence of a security related incident was found. A few hours after the explosions, remains of a Katyusha rocket near the city of Aqaba, Jordan were reported.

The Katyusha rocket scare comes on the heels of a harsh warning earlier this month from the Israeli National Security Council, warning citizens to leave the Egyptian peninsula without delay. The warning included details about plans to abduct Israeli nationals.

Israeli media reports that it’s being investigated as to whether the rocket fired was aimed at Eilat, and who is responsible. Media reports are speculating that terrorist cells in the Sinai area could be responsible, and say it is being examined as a possible lead.

Iran might be able to Strike the U.S. with an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile by 2015

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A new U.S. Defense Department report to congress says that Iran might have the ability to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons by 2015.

The report, which was submitted to congress on April 19, has an unclassified analysis that outlines near term and long term threats from Iran. The threats include the country’s nuclear ambitions and its desire to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.

“With sufficient foreign assistance,” the report states, “Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” The report also says that “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

According to information from the Department of Defense:

The written report to Congress cited Iran’s influence in the Middle East — including its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively — and its reach into Iraq and Afghanistan. Military and defense officials have characterized such behavior as “destabilizing.”

Defense officials have been saying that Iran is one of the top security challenges for the United States. In an April 14 briefing, Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that President Obama’s administration sees the challenges posed by Iran as a top national security concern.

According to an April 20 Global Security Newswire report, Iran’s missile capabilities are of serious concern.

Tehran’s missile capabilities are a concern given suspicions in Washington and other capitals that the Middle Eastern nation hopes to develop nuclear weapons — an assertion long denied in Tehran. The Obama administration has been pursuing new economic restrictions aimed at curbing Iran’s atomic activities (see related GSN story, today).

Spy Scandal Rocking Israeli Media

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The Israeli media has been on edge in recent weeks over the unprecedented case of journalists privy to sensitive military documents. Uri Blau, a reporter for the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, got about 2,000 pages of documents from a former Israeli soldier who leaked the information to him illegally.

Blau is currently in London, where he fled with some of the documents (some have been returned). He is awaiting a legal decision over whether he could be prosecuted for his role in leaking the information in the documents to the public.

The case is notable as it involves Shin Bet, Israel’s international security agency, and the question of whether future journalists holding sensitive documents will be subject to arrest and/or prosecution.

An increasing amount of support has come from the Israeli journalism community over the case, as reporters in various media voice their objections to subjecting reporters to legal battles over leaked documents.

According to a report in Haaretz on April 15:

“We feel the Blau case is unique and we are concerned this unique case will bring about a dangerous precedent,” the journalists wrote. “As of today, prosecution authorities don’t seek to try reporters for the offense of retaining classified information, an offense most of us are guilty of in one way or another. We believe this policy represents the appropriate balance between freedom of the press and of expression and security needs. It would be wrong to change this balance without any real public debate.”

A scathing commentary in the Jerusalem Post on the issue gives a very different perspective, however. The Post asserts that Haaretz manipulated the story to its advantage during the period when there was a gag order against international media reporting on it. They also raise the issue of the other key player and reporter in the scandal and the source of the leaked documents, Anat Kamm.

The Post commentary says, in part:

Anat Kamm, a reporter hired by the Walla Web portal when it was partly owned by Haaretz, had been under house arrest for four months. She is on trial for acts of espionage with the intent of harming national security that she committed not as a reporter, but during her service in the IDF [Israeli Defense Force]. Not only did she not disappear, she continued reporting for Walla, while under house arrest until the end of March.

Haaretz staff reporter Uri Blau fled the country not to protect a source, but to evade punishment for possessing classified military documents in breach not only of the law but of a plea bargain agreement with the Shin Bet.

Kamm served in the IDF from 2005 to 2007 as a secretary in the office of the commander of Central Command. In the weeks before her release from service, she copied about 2,000 highly classified IDF documents onto two CDs and uploaded them to her home computer. After her release, she shopped the documents around to various military reporters and eventually gave them to Blau. The documents she stole included top-secret information about IDF orders of battle, units, armaments and operational orders.

Blau remains in London, while Kamm is under house arrest and charged with aggravated espionage. She faces a life sentence if found guilty.

SOURCES:

April 15 Haaretz article:
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1163005.html

Jerusalem Post Opinion Article:
www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=173305

Police Raid Anat Kamm’s Apartment:
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1164002.html

College Campus Violence Report Raises Questions, Not Answers

Read it first at Before It’s News

by Genevieve Long for Before It’s News

Three years after the shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech, the U.S. government has issued a 40-page report on violence on college campuses in America. The report, years in the making, was a joint effort of the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was released on Friday, April 16, and can be found in its entirety online.

The report looks at violent attacks on college campuses from 1900 to 2008, putting into a few pages chilling facts about cases of premeditated murder. Most of the attacks happened in only a few states. According to a statement from the FBI in a press release about the report:

In total, 272 incidents were identified through a comprehensive search of more than 115,000 results in open-source reporting from 1900 to 2008. The incidents studied include various forms of targeted violence, ranging from domestic violence to mass murder. The findings should be useful for campus safety professionals charged with identifying, assessing, and managing violent risk at institutions of higher education.

Special note is made in the report about the role that media has increasingly played in incidents of violence. The report states:

The majority of incidents occurred during the 1990s and 2000s. It is unknown what may have caused the increase in incidents identified during the past 20 years. However, consideration should be given to the increased enrollment levels at IHEs as well as the increase in media coverage and digital reporting throughout the United States over the past few decades.

Of particular note on the role of media coverage’s role in broadcasting incidents of violence on college campuses in the report is the case of the Virginia Tech shooting. Media reports provided the federal government with numerous sources of information for the report, both subjective and objective. In the case of Virginia Tech shooting, however, no mention is made of the role that the media played in promoting the murderer after he committed the massacre of 32 innocent people. Of Cho, the report says:

On April 16, 2007, Seung Hui Cho, 23, a student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”) in Blacksburg, Virginia, carried out what would become one of the deadliest school shootings in the world. Around 7:15 a.m., Cho fatally shot a female student in her dormitory room in West Ambler Johnston Residential Hall and then shot the building’s residential advisor. Approximately two-and-a-half hours later, Cho entered Norris Hall, a lecture building, and shot numerous students and faculty before killing himself. In total, Cho killed 32 (27 students and five faculty members) and wounded 17. Some of the wounded individuals were struck by gunfire while others were injured trying to jump from the building.

Prior to murdering, Cho recorded and mailed a video to NBC news in which he rambles on for several minutes about why he is going to kill. The video was received after Cho had killed others and himself, and NBC decided to release the video to the public. Cho’s photo and portions of the video were on every newspaper front page and television broadcast. His face and voice were everywhere, and can still be easily found online.

In addition to attention from the federal government and media from the report, advocacy for stricter gun laws is also making a strong showing on the Virginia Tech anniversary. In the state of Virginia, there are three pieces of gun legislation that advocacy groups are urging Virginia Governor McDonnell not to pass into law. Part of the reasoning is that the laws could make it easier for future attacks to occur. As reported in the Personal Liberty Digest:

The Virginia Center for Public Safety (VACPS), the Virginia Chapters of the Million Mom March, Protest Easy Guns (PEG) and the Angel Fund have issued a statement saying that signing SB 334, SB 408 and HB 1217 would violate the governor’s earlier declaration that “the foremost obligation of government is public safety.”

SB 334 would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring loaded handguns into establishments that have a liquor license in Virginia, SB 408 would allow those without concealed carry permits to keep loaded handguns in their vehicles or boats if stored in a locked container, while HB 1217 requires the Virginia Board of Education to establish a standardized program of gun safety education for students in elementary school.

For Virginia Tech’s part, they marked the three-year mark of the tragedy with a solemn cadlelight ceremony on campus and a 3.2 mile run that 6,000 students participated in, calling it a “Day of Remembrance.” As reported in the Collegiate Times:

“It’s a way that the entire community can celebrate the lives of the 32 killed,” Poole said. “It’s sustainable for the student body.”

SOURCES:

FBI Press Release
www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel10/campus041610.htm

Full Report:

www.secretservice.gov/ntac/CampusAttacks041610.pdf

Personal Liberty Digest Report:
www.personalliberty.com/news/gun-rights-foes-hope-to-stir-opposition-against-three-gun-bills-in-virginia-19677805/

Collegiate Times:
www.collegiatetimes.com/stories/15403/day-of-remembrance-off-to-a-running-start

World Jewish Congress Urges Obama to Change Policy on Middle East

Read it first at Before It’s News

An open letter to President Obama from Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, says the Jewish-American community is concerned about “the dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.”

The letter points to the marginalization of Israel over a housing gaffe that occured during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel last month. While Biden was in Israel, the Israeli housing administration announced the approval for housing in East Jerusalem, a contested area according by U.S. standards.

According to its website, the World Jewish Congress is an international organization that addresses the interests and needs of Jews and Jewish communities throughout the world. It was founded in 1936.

The Full Text of Letter from Ronald S. Lauder to President Obama
worldjewishcongress.org/en/main/showNews/id/9264

15 April 2010
Dear President Obama:

I write today as a proud American and a proud Jew.

Jews around the world are concerned today. We are concerned about the
nuclear ambitions of an Iranian regime that brags about its genocidal
intentions against Israel. We are concerned that the Jewish state is being
isolated and delegitimized.

Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of
diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.

The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your
Administration branded it an “insult.” This diplomatic faux pas was over
the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process – a plan to
build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any
peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel.

Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions. Why
does the thrust of this Administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame
Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the
Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.

Israel has made unprecedented concessions. It has enacted the most far
reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history.

Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution. Conversely,
many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel’s right
to exist.

The conflict’s root cause has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept
Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Every American President
who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian
intransigence, sooner or later. Recall President Clinton’s anguish when his
peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000.
Settlements were not the key issue then.

They are not the key issue now.

Another important question is this: what is the Administration’s position
on Israel’s borders in any final status agreement? Ambiguity on this matter
has provoked a wave of rumors and anxiety. Can it be true that America is
no longer committed to a final status agreement that provides defensible
borders for Israel? Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel
with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?

There are significant moves from the Palestinian side to use those
indefensible borders as the basis for a future unilateral declaration of
independence. How would the United States respond to such a reckless course
of action?

And what are America’s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East? The
Administration’s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well
known. But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy? Is it
assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims?
History is clear on the matter: appeasement does not work. It can achieve
the opposite of what is intended.

And what about the most dangerous player in the region? Shouldn’t the
United States remain focused on the single biggest threat that confronts the
world today? That threat is a nuclear armed Iran. Israel is not only
America’s closest ally in the Middle East, it is the one most committed to
this Administration’s declared aim of ensuring Iran does not get nuclear
weapons.

Mr. President, we embrace your sincerity in your quest to seek a lasting
peace. But we urge you to take into consideration the concerns expressed
above. Our great country and the tiny State of Israel have long shared the
core values of freedom and democracy. It is a bond much treasured by the
Jewish people. In that spirit I submit, most respectfully, that it is time
to end our public feud with Israel and to confront the real challenges that
we face together.

Yours sincerely,
Ronald S. Lauder
President
World Jewish Congress