Rutgers Israel Public Affairs Committee Israel Update Dec 12
Gaza’s Tunnels Rebound from Israeli Offensive
Gazans are rebuilding the network of underground smuggling tunnels crisscrossing the Egyptian border that were pummeled in a recent Israeli offensive, restoring the illicit conduit for consumer goods and weapons so crucial to Hamas rule, the Associated Press reported Wednesday, December 12. The eight-mile slice of land at the Gaza Strip’s southern tip is humming around the clock with workers carting in cement, bricks, gravel and scaffolding. The tunnels ferry in a wide range of items besides essentials, including Chinese motorcycles, farm and zoo animals, appliances — and large Iranian rockets that can hit Tel Aviv. Evidence of the vast amounts of weaponry in Gaza came after Israel’s eight-day air offensive last month. For the first-ever visit to the territory over the weekend of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, thousands of masked Hamas terrorists were deployed to protect his convoy, brandishing rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and anti-aircraft weaponry.
Iran Admits Exporting Drone Tech to Syria, Venezuela
Iran’s Deputy Minister of Science, Research and Technology said on Monday, December 10 that the Islamic Republic is exporting its domestically made drones and UAV technologies to a number of countries including Syriaand Venezuela, The Jerusalem Post reported. Mohammad Mehdinejad-Nouri told students atIran’s Babol Noshirvani University of Technology that the exports were a result of the significant advances Iran has made in drone technology, which have made the country a leader in designing and operating unmanned aircraft,Iran’s ISNA news agency reported. The growing military ties between Iran and Venezuela –Tehran’s strongest Latin American ally and a gateway for both itself and its proxy Hizballah – have raised concerns in both the U.S. and Israel. A recent report by the House Homeland Security Committee found that Iran’s economic partnerships in the region, particularly with Venezuela, have helped Tehran circumvent sanctions.
Syrian Rebels Gaining Ground Against Assad’s Air Power
Syrian rebels say they seized dozens of shoulder-fired SA-16 antiaircraft missile systems in late November when fighters overran a sprawling government garrison outside the city of Aleppo after a two-month siege, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, December 11. Analysts who have seen video evidence say the assertion appears credible. Syrian government air resources nonetheless remain formidable. In recent weeks, the air campaign has continued, pounding targets in the Aleppo and Damascus areas and elsewhere. But the capture of more advanced weaponry suggests that the opposition may be developing a robust response to the Syrian fighter jets and helicopters that have attacked at will. And, as more such weaponry becomes available to the rebels, some officials worry that it could eventually fall into the hands of militants who could use the arms on Western targets, including commercial airliners.
Senators Express Disappointment to UN on PA Vote
Following the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) vote to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority, a bipartisan group of 23 senators wrote U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to express “profound disappointment with the vote.” The initiative was led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“We are deeply disappointed that the Palestinians rebuffed President Obama’s personal entreaty to President Abbas and insisted on pursuing this distinctly unhelpful initiative,” the senators wrote. “This is a truly unfortunate outcome. We had hoped that Israel and the Palestinians would be able to return to the negotiating table and work to resolve their differences through direct talks.”
U.S. Issues Exemptions on Iran Sanctions
The Obama administration on Dec. 7 reissued waivers that exempt nine countries, including China,India and Turkey, from their obligations to comply with U.S. sanctions targeting the Central Bank ofIran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington granted the exemptions to these countries for reducing their purchases of Iranian oil over the past six months, thereby helping force Tehranto cut its total oil production by one million barrels a day in September and October from a year earlier. The other countries granted waivers were Malaysia,South Korea,Singapore,South Africa, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. U.S.and European officials said they believe Tehranis losing around $15 billion every quarter in lost oil sales.