Israeli military intel chief traveling to Washington

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IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is traveling to Washington for consultations with American officials, defense sources told Al-Monitor.

Israeli officials declined to confirm the focus of his visit, but it comes amid signs of heightened Israeli concern about Syria.

“Hezbollah has set up several bases in Syria, near known locations where Syrian President Bashar Assad is holding parts of his chemical warfare arsenal,” Ynet’s Ron Ben-Yishai reported Monday.

Netanyahu “recently held a number of security assessments focusing on the developments in the war-torn country,” the Ynet report said. “Israel’s defense establishment has been holding similar assessments, focused on the potential shift in the balance of power between the IDF and Hezbollah, in the event that the latter would get hold of Assad’s WMDs.”

Netanyahu spoke by phone with President Obama on Monday, following a meeting Sunday with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

Netanyahu also dispatched his National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror to Moscow, reportedly to seek Russian help in averting various Syrian contingencies.

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NYPD opens Kfar Saba, Israel branch

The New York Police Department has opened a branch in Kfar Saba, Israel, Ma’ariv reports, in a translation published on the front page:

The New York Police Department opened its Israeli branch in the Sharon District Police headquarters in Kfar Saba. Charlie Ben-Naim,  a former Israeli and veteran NYPD detective, was sent on this mission. …

Behind the opening of the branch in the Holy Land is the NYPD decision that the Israeli police is one of the major police forces with which it must maintain close work relations and daily contact. …

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Iran envoy blames Israel for Bulgaria bus bombing


Iran’s UN envoy denied on Wednesday that Iran had any role in the July 18th Bulgaria bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists, and charged Israel with plotting the attack. His comments came as Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor was in Israel to discuss the bombing probe, and as the chairman of the House intelligence panel said he believed Hezbollah carried out the attack under the direction of Iran.

“I believe there were certainly elements of Hezbollah [involved] and I believe it was under the direction of their masters in Iran,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) told The Hill newspaper Wednesday.

“I think the president needs to call Iran on the carpet very publicly and tell them what we know,” Rogers added. “This is his time to stand up and do something bold.”

Iran’s UN envoy Mohammed Khazaee said Iran condemned the Bulgaria bus bombing but then suggested it was part of an Israeli plot to blame Iran.

“The representative of the Zionist criminal regime leveled baseless allegations against my country on the issue of recent terrorist attack in Bulgaria and Iran’s peaceful nature of nuclear activities,” Amb. Mohammad Khazaee said at a UN meeting on the Middle East Wednesday, according to a statement sent to Al Monitor by the Iranian mission to the UN.

“Such terrorist operation could only be planned and carried out by the same regime whose short history is full of state terrorism operations and assassinations aimed at implicating others for narrow political gains.”

Israel’s deputy UN ambassador Haim Waxman said the comments are “appalling, but not surprising” coming “from the same government that says the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy theory,” UN correspondent Colum Lynch reported.

A spokeswoman for US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the office had no immediate comment. “Our position on the Bulgaria attack has been well documented so far I think,” Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for Rice, said by email.

Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor John Brennan met with Israeli officials in Jerusalem Wednesday to discuss the Bulgaria bus bombing probe. Earlier in the week he  traveled to Bulgaria for briefings on the investigation. While he deferred to Bulgarian authorities to announce any findings to date, he did add that “there are clear indications that Hezbollah and Iran have been involved in terrorist plotting against innocents in many parts of the world,” he said at a news conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov July 24, the New York Times reported.

Analysts said Iran’s use of terrorism had become more aggressive over the past year. Continue reading

White House counterterror advisor in Israel to discuss Bulgaria bus bombing probe

Obama’s top counterterrorism adviisor John Brennan visited Israel Wednesday, after traveling to Bulgaria earlier this week to confer on the investigation into the July 18 Burgas  bus bombing.

Brennan visited Israel July 25 “to consult with senior Israeli officials about a range of shared security concerns, including the recent wave of terrorist plots against Israeli and other interests,” NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement Wednesday.  Brennan also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said Tuesday after meeting with Brennan that Bulgarian authorities now believe the suspected suicide bomber in the Burgas bus bombing had been in the country for about a month, and had worked as part of a group with a high degree of discipline.

“These are extremely experienced people who observed absolute secrecy,” Borisov said at a press conference with Brennan July 24th, Agence France Press reported.

The July 18th attack, which targeted a bus of Israeli tourists who had arrived in the Black Sea resort town on a charter flight, killed seven people, including five Israeli tourists, their Bulgarian bus driver, and the suspected bomber.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel has rock-solid evidence the attack was perpetrated  by Hezbollah.

(Photo: US anti-terror adviser John Brennan (left) speaks during a joint press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Sofia on July 24. The suicide bomber who killed six people in an attack on Israelis had accomplices and may have entered Bulgaria from Europe’s Schengen passport-free area, Borisov said Tuesday. AFP Photo/Tsvetelina Belutova)

 

White House’s John Brennan in Bulgaria amid bus bombing probe


White House counter terrorism advisor John Brennan has arrived in Bulgaria for consultations with Bulgarian officials about the investigation into the July 18th Burgas bus bombing, the US envoy to Bulgaria said Monday.

Brennan will meet with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov among others on a two-day visit, US Ambassador James Warlick said on Twitter Monday.

Bulgarian authorities have released few details on their investigation into the July 18th attack, which killed seven people, including five Israeli tourists, their Bulgarian bus driver, and the suspected bomber. The attack targeted a bus of young Israeli tourists who had arrived in the Black Sea resort town’s airport on a charter flight.

An autopsy performed on the suspected  suicide bomber determined that he “had a white face, light eyes, and very thick brown hair,” Galina Mileva, a Bulgarian official involved in the post-mortem, told Bulgarian media Saturday, the AFP reported. Officials earlier released airport video surveillance of the suspected bomber who appears to fit that description, as seen in the above video. They believe his backpack contained  3KG of TNT that caused the explosion, although it wasn’t clear if the bomb was detonated remotely.

DNA from the suspected bomber has been sent to the US and Interpol to try to determine his identity, reports said. Bulgarian authorities have determined he was not a Bulgarian citizen, saying they believe he had been in the country from four to seven days.

Unconfirmed local media reports Monday said the authorities are investigating whether the suspected suicide bomber may have had one or more accomplices, including a female companion with whom, according to one report, he stayed at a Varna hotel, the AFP reported. Continue reading

Netanyahu: Bulgaria bus bombing “perpetrated by Hezbollah”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Hezbollah carried out the July 18 Bulgaria bus bombing that killed seven people, including five Israelis, and wounded over 30.

“Yesterday’s attack in Bulgaria was perpetrated by Hezbollah, Iran’s leading terrorist proxy,” Netanyahu said at a news conference Thursday, according to a statement provided to Al-Monitor by the Israeli embassy. “This attack was part of a global campaign of terror carried out by Iran and Hezbollah.”

Netanyahu spoke as the bodies of five Israeli tourists killed in the attack were returned to Israel.

U.S. intelligence also assesses that the bus bombing was carried out by a Bulgaria-based Hezbollah cell, the New York Times reported Thursday, citing an unnamed senior U.S. official. Continue reading

Former Mossad chief: “Better to wait” before accusing Iran in Bulgaria bus bombing

Former Israeli intelligence chief Danny Yatom said Thursday that while it’s logical to assume that Hezbollah or Iran were behind the July 18 Bulgaria bus bombing that killed seven people, assigning culpability should probably have waited until the evidence is solid.

“Usually it takes some time to locate those who were behind the bombing, and those who sent them,” the former Mossad chief told journalists on a call organized by The Israel Project Thursday.

“From the modus operandi used by some organizations, it’s logical to assume that Iran or Hezbollah or Hezbollah and/or Iran were behind this terror attack,” Yatom said. “As long as we don’t have solid information about it, it’s better to wait.”

“All signs point to Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday of the attack on the bus of Israeli tourists at Bourgas airport on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, in which seven people, including five Israeli tourists and two Bulgarians, were killed, and 30 injured. “In the past months we saw Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Kenya and Cyprus. This is an Iranian terror offensive that is spreading throughout the world.”

Bulgarian authorities on Thursday released a video of the man suspected of being the bus bomber, and said that he was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license. ABC News obtained a photo of the suspect’s fake Michigan driver’s license, which identifies the man as Jacque Felipe Martin, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, born in 1987.

US intelligence assesses that the suspect was a member of a Hezbollah cell operating in Bulgaria, the New York Times reported Thursday, citing an unnamed senior U.S. official. Continue reading

WikiLeaks dumps Syria files

Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Thursday began publishing the first of what it says is a cache of over 2.4 million emails from Syrian officials.

“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on the group's website.

The release comes as diplomats from the US, Europe, Turkey and Arab League meet in Paris on Friday for a conference of the so-called Friends of Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the meeting. Continue reading