The narrative provided to date by various Jordanian officials has also indicated the possibility of a spontaneous outbreak of tension between certain Jordanian and US military personnel over recent, heightened friction between the sides, with several Jordanians also hurt in the incident.
But assuming the incident was a terror attack, Carmon, who has also advised the Defense Ministry and participated in NATO workshops on terrorism, said the shooting still needed to be put into the greater picture of complex events impacting terror in Jordan, Israel and their neighbors.
He said that “US-Jordan cooperation is huge” and is a “key bridge to other states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel.”
Carmon explained that “the US has an interest in a stable regime, Jordan needs assistance, including military and economic and the backing of a superpower.”
For the US and Israel, Jordan is a firewall of stability against ISIS and other terror groups trying to spread their influence from Syria and Iraq.
He said ISIS, Hezbollah, Iran and other groups “are trying to get into Jordan and know it is important, but until now have had very limited success.”
There has been some ISIS success in infiltrating the Beduin community in Jordan, noted Carmon, but mostly Jordan has stopped them and has recently arrested some Hezbollah-Iran cells.
The big concerns are that the last year or two have caused internal divisions within Jordan where the Muslim Brotherhood and even the broader population is not ready to fight a war with ISIS.
These seeping divisions, along with the 1.5 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan with no horizon for an improved situation, is a combustible situation for ISIS and others to inspire “lone wolf” attackers, said Carmon.
He explained that the same threats that these terror groups pose to Jordan can also apply to Israel either by undermining Jordan as a bulwark of stability and a quiet border for Israel or by building more of a foundation for terrorists to sneak into Israel from Jordan.
However, the biggest threat that he said the attack highlighted is the escalating terror threat to Israel, Jordan and US advisers in the region after ISIS’s expected fall in Mosul and other locations.
While these expected victories go a long way toward reducing ISIS’s regional power, large numbers of ISIS’s foreign fighters are expected to retreat, survive and pose a lower-grade but potent terror danger in the area in other ways, he said.
Israel could find itself tracking an influx of terrorists in Turkey and Jordan, but also closer to home in the Sinai, where ISIS can try to recruit Israeli-Arabs or Beduins from close range.
One interesting phenomenon he pointed out which may help Jordan push back against infiltration and terror by ISIS is the government’s cooperation with other Jihadist groups, who it then co-opts to stand against ISIS.
Carmon gave Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a central Salafist figure in Jordan and a former mentor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Abu Qatada, who was involved with terror groups including in England until being extradited to Jordan.
Both Jihadist leaders received some favorable treatment from Jordanian law enforcement in return for making “strong statements against ISIS,” said Carmon. Their standing with the Jordanian government in turn can insulate it from criticism for fighting ISIS.
Overall, Carmon called the incident very embarrassing for Jordanian and US intelligence and counter-terror cooperation. He added that both sides hope the attack was carried out by a lone-wolf or the result of a misunderstanding, and want to resolve the matter quickly so as to stabilize cooperation.
In November 2015, a Jordanian army officer said to be inspired by ISIS killed two US private security contractors and a South African at a US-funded police training facility.
Many Jordanians oppose the government’s close counter-terrorism cooperation with the US and Israel, including working with the US on airstrikes against ISIS, while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in return.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday a Western failure to rein in violent Islamists in Syria had indefinitely delayed the resumption of peace talks.
Shoigu said that rebels backed by Western governments had been attacking civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo, despite a pause in Russian and Syrian air attacks.
“As a result, the prospects for the start of a negotiation process and the return to peaceful life in Syria are postponed for an indefinite period,” Shoigu said.
Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, and its military operation in Syria, now in its second year, has shored up Assad’s position. That has put Moscow on a collision course with Washington and its allies who want Assad removed from office.
Since Oct. 18, Russia and its Syrian allies say they have halted air attacks in Aleppo. Western governments had alleged that the strikes had been killing civilians in large numbers, an allegation Moscow denied.
But the pause in the air attacks on Aleppo is fragile: Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month its continuation depended on the behavior of moderate rebel groups in Aleppo and their Western backers.
Shoigu, who was addressing a meeting of Russian military officials, railed against those rebels and their backers, saying they had squandered a chance for peace talks.
“It is time for our Western colleagues to determine who they are fighting against: terrorists or Russia,” Shoigu said, in remarks broadcast on Russian television.
“Maybe they have forgotten at whose hands innocent people died in Belgium, in France, in Egypt and elsewhere?”
Listing attacks he said had been carried out by Western-backed rebels inside Aleppo, he said: “Is this an opposition with which we can achieve agreements?”
“In order to destroy terrorists in Syria it is necessary to act together, and not put a spanner in the works of partners. Because the rebels exploit that in their own interests.”
Shoigu said he was also surprised that some European governments had refused to allow Russian navy vessels bound for Syria to dock in their Mediterranean ports to refuel or take on supplies.
But he said those refusals had not affected the naval mission, or interfered with supplies reaching the Russian military operation in Syria.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Damascus – The Islamic State (ISIS) on Sunday threatened to invade Damascus, Syria’s capital city. ISIS said that their invasion was imminent and vowed to strike at Syrian security forces and the armed opposition.
“Fighters of the Caliphate are preparing to enter the heart of al-Sham [Damascus],” the extremist group said in a statement. In the same statement, ISIS promised to apply the Islamic State’s puritanical interpretation of Sharia law throughout the capital.
ISIS has been in control of a residential block in southern Damascus, since it drove out al-Qaeda-splinter group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and allied rebel factions in April 2015. Jahbat Fateh al-Sham was previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
Al-Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood is believed to be the Islamic State’s primary staging area. Their militants also control the nearby Yarmouk and Tadamun districts.
ISIS has accused the rebel groups in Damascus of working on behalf of Assad’ government and being apostates. “The time has come for the Caliphate’s fighters to take al-Sham [Damascus] from the infidels and their mercenaries,” the extremist group said.
Syrian journalist Mustafa Abde told ARA News that ISIS would likely try to open new fronts in southern Syria to direct attention from northern Iraq, where the group is hemorrhaging.
Abde argued that: “This announcement comes after the group started to lose ground in Iraq amid deteriorating morale among its militants. ISIS is seeking new so-called victories to regain its reputation as a strong organisation.”
Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi | Source: ARA News
The US decision to remove its nuclear arsenal from Turkey is apparent confirmation that, almost overnight, Erdoğan has abandoned his alliance with the West and shifted to the East, vis-a-vis Moscow. His anticipated welcome to Tehran’s superpower teammates, Russia and China, has sobering implications for Israel.
In a move characterized as “an earthshaking Middle East development,” the Israeli intelligence news service, DEBKAfile, reports that the United States of America is hastily removing its entire nuclear arsenal out of Turkey. It is yet another indication that the USA is “folding its tents in the Middle East.”
And taking its place? On land, in the skies and from the sea: Russia.
Moscow is rapidly expanding its air force footprint in the region with a new base in Iran following its facility in Syria. Advanced bombers and fighters are stepping up operations in both countries, while Russian warships carrying Kalibr cruise missiles gather in the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas, DEBKA reports.
For years, the US has maintained an arsenal of 50 to 70 B61 nuclear bombs at the southern Turkish airbase of Incirlik. They have been kept in underground bunkers, close to airstrips where, of late, US bombers have been launching missions against ISIS in Syria only 70 miles (112 kilometers) away.
Those missions came to a virtual halt after an attempted coup to oust Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in mid-July. In the aftermath of that unsuccessful coup, Erdoğan implictly accused Washington for it.
My people know who is behind this scheme… they know who the superior intelligence behind it is… you are giving yourselves away, he said.
Erdoğan’s reference to “the superior intelligence” was an all-but transparent reference to US President Obama and the military-intelligence forces under his control as their Commander in Chief.
Based on the conviction that Washington was behind the coup, Erdogan immediately began rapprochement talks with Russia. On 17 July, only two days after suppressing the attempted overthrow, he ended his nation’s feud with Russia. After meeting with Russian President Putin on 8 August, the two countries agreed to share intelligence, military and energy resources. In the aftermath of that agreement, there have been calls in Turkey to replace US warplanes at Incirlik with Russian fighters.
It is for these reasons, and probably more, that analysts today believe Erdoğan is also on the verge of joining Moscow’s alliance with Tehran.
If so, in a matter of weeks, Erdoğan has abandoned his country’s alliance with the West, vis-a-vis NATO, and pledged his allegiance to the East, vis-a-vis Moscow.
The USA’s rapid removal of its nuclear arsenal from Turkey seems to verify this conclusion.
The implications of this ‘overnight’ realignment of powers has profound implications for the Jewish State. In the name of defeating ISIS, Turkey, Russia and China have all allied themselves with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation that is explicitly committed to Israel’s annhilation. Right now the focus of this massive international league is ISIS. But next on the list, according to Tehran, is Israel.
Brian Schrauger is the Editor-In-Chief of The Jerusalem Journal. He can be reached at Editor@JerusalemJournal.net
A flurry of false Hizballah claims amid rising military tension this week was designed to cover up a direct Israeli hit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards HQ in South Syria, DEBKAfile military and intelligence sources disclose.
Whereas Hizballah reported on July 5 that Israeli helicopters had attacked Syrian army positions near the Golan town of Quneitra, in fact, one of the two Israeli “Tamuz” IDF rockets fired on July 4, in response to stray cross-border Syrian army mortar shells, struck the Syrian Ministry of Finance building near Quneitra, which housed Iranian Guards and Hizballah regional headquarters. An unknown number of Iranian officers were killed as a result.
On July 6, Hizballah sources reported a high level of tension at its east Lebanese outposts in Hasbaya, al-Qarqoub and Mount Hermon, indicating possible preparations to retaliate for the Iranian casualties.
The mortar shells that occasionally stray into Israel are aimed by the Syrian forces in Quneitra at Syrian rebel engineering units, which are digging an anti-tank trench on the town’s southern edge to prevent Syrian tanks from mounting an all-out assault against them (See attached map).
These skirmishes are put in the shade by the dangerous gains by Islamist terrorists in southern Syria.
Both ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front have overrun the entire Syrian strip bordering on Israel and Jordan – a distance of 106km from Daraa up to the Druze villages of Mount Hermon.
The Islamists have seized control of this strategic borderland by taking advantage of the fighting between Syrian army and Syrian rebel forces in southern Syria.
Israel and Jordan were also remiss. The IDF and the Jordanian Army were so busy trying to prevent the Syrian army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah from encroaching on their northern defense lines in northern Jordan and the Golan that they failed to notice the Islamic terrorists creeping up on their borders.
The terrorist presence which Israel finds most alarming is that of the “Khaled Bin Al-Walid Army” – a militia linked to both ISIS and al-Qaeda, which now controls a 36km band bordering on central and southern Golan from south Quneitra to the Jordan-Israel-Syria tri-border area – opposite Hamat Gader and Shaar HaGolan (See map).
The Khaled Bin Al-Walid Army was spawned by a union between the Islamist Liwa Shouada Yarmouk and Mouthana Islamic Movement militias. Its commander is Abu Abdullah al-Madani, a Palestinian from Damascus, who is one of al-Qaeda’s veteran fighters. Close to Osama Bin-Laden, he fought with hhimagainst the Americans when they invaded Afghanistan 15 years ago. Ten years ago, he moved to Iraq, still fighting Americans, now alongside the al-Qaeda commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
When al-Qaeda was defeated in Iraq, al-Madani moved to Syria.
DEBKAfile counter terror sources report that this veteran of Islamist terrorism, who is believed to be in touch wit Bin Laden’s successor Ayman al Zawahri, is active in three areas:
1. He is purchasing and stockpiling chemical weapons – a high priced commodity frequently traded among various Syrian rebel organizations.
2. Abu Abdullah al-Madani is recruiting from his militia suicide units for which he is personally training for operations inside Israel. DEBKAfile sources say that his plan is being taken very seriously by Israel security chiefs.
3. He is maintaining operational ties with Al Nusra commanders in the border region, possibly seeking access to the Israeli border through their turf for his chemical weapons and suicide units.
With Islamic State now in control, fears grow for archaeological gems that point to the ancient city’s resonant Jewish history
Among the archaeological gems from Palmyra, the pearl of Syria’s desert, at risk after the Islamic State’s takeover last week are vestiges of its Jewish past, including the longest Biblical Hebrew inscription from antiquity: the opening verses of the Shema carved into a stone doorway.
Western archaeologists who visited the site in the 19th and 20th century discovered Hebrew verses etched into the doorframe of a house in the ancient city. But whether that inscription is still at the site is unclear.
The last time a European scholar documented it in situ was 1933, when Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University photographed it.
“What may have happened to it since is anyone’s guess,” Professor David Noy, co-author of Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis (Jewish Inscriptions of the Near East), said in an email on Friday.
Palmyra was one of the Roman Empire’s major cities, rising to prominence in the first centuries of the common era as a vassal state and entrepôt connecting West and East. Situated at an oasis in the desert frontier separating the empires of Rome and Parthia, Palmyra grew to an estimated population of 150,000-200,000 at its height in the third century CE. Textiles, perfumes, spices and gems came from India and the Far East, and metals, glass, wine and cash from Rome passed overland, bypassing the longer Red Sea trade route.
Because of its unique location, Palmyrene culture and art exhibited a fusion of Roman and Persian traditions. Traditional Mesopotamian mud bricks comprised the majority of the city’s architecture, Jørgen Christian Meyer, an archaeologist from the University of Bergen explained, but temples to Semitic gods such as Bel, Baalshamin and Al-lat were constructed in Classical style with stout columns hewn of stone.
When the city was abandoned following its destruction in 273 CE and left to the elements, the mud brick disintegrated, leaving behind a petrified forest of stone columns.
During its centuries of prosperity and decline it was home to a thriving Jewish community.
“What we see in Palmyra is a multicultural, and possibly also a multi-identity city,” Meyer, who headed a Norwegian-Syrianarchaeological excavation at the site in 2011, just as the civil war started heating up. “Here we’ve got this mixture of Greek, Aramaic, Middle Eastern, Roman culture. This is fantastic.”
“That’s why it’s a unique place from a historical point of view, a cultural point of view,” he said.
That fusion included Jews. Two locally produced terra cotta lamps found next to one of the great pagan temples bear menorahs on either side of a conch, suggesting close integration of Jews and gentiles.
Known in Hebrew and Aramaic as Tadmor, Jewish legend attributed the city’s construction to King Solomon. Josephus Flavius, writing in the first century CE, ascribed its construction to King Solomon, saying that the city of Tamar referred to in Kings I was the “very great city” Josephus’s contemporaries knew in the Syrian Desert.
“Now the reason why this city lay so remote from the parts of Syria that are inhabited is this, that below there is no water to be had, and that it is in that place only that there are springs and pits of water,” the Jewish Roman historian said. “When he had therefore built this city, and encompassed it with very strong walls, he gave it the name of Tadmor, and that is the name it is still called by at this day among the Syrians, but the Greeks name it Palmyra.”
Modern scholars, however, dispute the veracity of Josephus’s claim that it was built by Solomon. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Classical city of Palmyra didn’t predate the first century BCE, and the biblical city of Tamar was likely in today’s Negev Desert.
“The place had certainly existed and had been referred to centuries before. But there is nothing in the archaeological record to show that there was any settled occupation of the site through the Hellenistic period,” wrote Fergus Millar in The Roman Near East. “Suggestions of a phase of urban development in Palmyra before the disturbances of the late Hellenistic period can only be speculation.”
Nonetheless, during Palmyra’s height during the Roman era, the city became home to a substantial Jewish community, as testified in Jewish texts. Two 3rd century CE Jewish tombs in Beit Shearim, outside Haifa, identify individuals as the interred sons of Palmyrenes. A passage in the Mishnah, compiled in the first to third centuries CE, also refers to one Miriam of Palmyra as living in the city during the first century CE.
“It’s clear that there was a serious Jewish community. Jews from [Palmyra] brought them for burial [in Israel] and wrote on the sarcophagus that they were from there.” Daniel Vainstub of Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said. “We know from the Talmud that some of the locals converted to Judaism.”
But most significantly, etched into the doorway of a house in central Palmyra, northeast of its main colonnaded street, were the four opening lines of the Shema, one of the central Jewish prayers, verses from the book of Deuteronomy. Scholars have debated whether it was an entryway to a synagogue, but now they lean toward it having been a private home.
The Biblical passage differs from the traditional text only inasmuch as it substitutes God’s name Yahweh for adonai — my Lord.
On the sides of the doorway were two other apotropaic inscriptions in Hebrew script believed taken from Deuteronomy as well. It was last photographed in the 1930s, and scholars contacted by the Times of Israel couldn’t ascertain whether it was still at the site, or whether in the intervening decades it was destroyed or sold on the black market.
“They’re part of the limited but clear evidence for Jews at Palmyra,” Tawny Holm, a Jewish Studies professor at Pennsylvania State University, said of the missing finds. They likely dated from before the 6th century CE, possibly from before the city’s destruction in 272-3, but “the inscription could have been added later,” she noted.
The queen of Palmyra
In one of its more thrilling episodes, Palmyra was briefly ruled by Queen Zenobia, who launched a rebellion against Rome. After taking the throne from after her husband’s death in 267 CE, she succeeded in conquering much of the Levant, including Judea, and by 271 had taken Egypt.
Though Christian accounts claimed she was Jewish, there was no contemporary Jewish acknowledgement of such. In fact, Judeans sided with Rome, and Rabbi Johanan bar Nappaha, who lived in the Galilean town of Sepphoris during Zenobia’s rise and fall, is quoted in the Mishnah saying, “Happy will he be who sees the fall of Tadmor.” (He died happy in 279, a few years after the city fell to Rome in 273.)
Evidence of Jewish inhabitation of Palmyra tapers off after the 4th century, Vainstub said, when the re-inhabited city was a shadow of its former glory. Centuries later, after the Muslim conquest, Palmyra began its slow decline into obscurity. At some point a Jewish man, one Tsadik the Cohen son of Eliezer, carved his name into a column of the Temple of Bel, which had years before been converted into a church and then abandoned.
Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, a 12th century Spanish Jew who chronicled his travelsthrough Europe, Asia and Africa, visited Palmyra during his travels around Syria in the late 1160s or early 1170s. Describing Palmyra, he compares it to the ancient ruins he saw at Baalbek in Lebanon.
“At Tarmod (Tadmor) in the wilderness… there are similar structures of huge stones,” he wrote. Cataloguing Jewish communities he visited, Benjamin of Tudela said Palmyra was hope to about 2,000 Jews — Damascus at the time had 3,000 and Jerusalem he said only had 200.
“They are valiant in war and fight with the Christians and with the Arabs, which latter are under the dominion of Nur-ed-din the king, and they help their neighbors the Ishmaelites,” Benjamin of Tudela wrote.
In 1400, Turkic Muslim conqueror Tamerlane sacked the city and razed it, effectively ending centuries of Jewish inhabitance in Palmyra.
With the site’s conquest to 21st century Islamist warriors, however, archaeologists and historians are fearful for the ruins of the ancient city. The Islamic State may destroy them for the sake of propaganda as they did the antiquities of Hatra and Mosul in Iraq in recent months. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for the international community “to do everything in its power to protect the affected population and safeguard the unique cultural heritage of Palmyra.”
“No harm has really happened to the ruins of Palmyra, until now,” Meyer, the Norwegian archaeologist who excavated the site, said on the phone on Wednesday. “What will happen now is quite another thing.”
“What I fear now is that ISIS will also use the ruins in Palmyra in their psychological warfare, and that means the destruction of the place,” he said.
The Times of Israel