Israel Lists Six Palestinian ‘Civil Society Groups’ as Terrorist Organizations; Bennett Meets Putin in Russia: ‘Efforts to Halt Iranian Nuclear Program’

Reprinted from Honest Reporting.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday for their first meeting, hailing friendly ties between the two countries.

Welcoming Bennett at the start of their talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin hailed Russian-Israeli ties as “unique,” saying that “our dialogue, our relations rely on a very deep connection between our peoples.”

Bennett extolled the contribution made by his country’s one million Russian speakers and emphasized “the deep connection between the two countries,” praising Putin for bringing them closer.”I can tell you on behalf of the citizens of Israel that we consider you a true friend of the Jewish people,” Israel’s premier said.

“We will also talk about the situation in Syria, and the efforts to halt the Iranian military nuclear program,” Bennett asserted at the start of his talks with the Russian leader.

Jerusalem views Tehran’s entrenchment on the Jewish state’s northern frontier as a red line, and has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for a proxy of the Islamic Republic, Lebanese-based terrorist organization Hezbollah, which has fought alongside Syrian government forces in the country’s civil war.

Meanwhile, Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since 2015, helping President Basher al-Assad reclaim control over most of the country.

Moscow and Jerusalem have established a military hotline to coordinate air force operations over Syria to avoid clashes.

   

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Israel on Friday designated six Palestinian “civil society” groups as front groups for terrorism, and accused them of funneling donor aid to terrorists.

Israel’s Defense Ministry said the groups had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), which has carried out countless deadly attacks against Israelis. The groups include self-proclaimed Palestinian human rights organizations Addameer and Al-Haq, which document alleged rights violations by both Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“[The] declared organizations received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations, using a variety of forgery and deceit,” the Defense Ministry said, alleging that the money had supported PFLP activities. The PFLP has been blacklisted as a terror group by the United States and the European Union.

A PFLP official did not outright reject ties to the six organizations but said they maintain relations with “civil society groups” across the West Bank and Gaza: “It is part of the rough battle Israel is launching against the Palestinian people and against civil society groups, in order to exhaust them,” Kayed Al-Ghoul said.

The United Nations Human Rights Office in the Palestinian territories said it was “alarmed” by the announcement. Meanwhile, the United States is claiming that it was not given advance warning of the move, and will engage Israel for more information about the basis for the designations, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

   

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Negotiations over a prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Hamas have taken a dramatic turn, Egyptian sources revealed on Friday. According to Egyptian media, “…many points related to the prisoner swap deal, which may be announced within a few weeks,” have been accomplished.

Egyptian negotiators have reportedly received “official and clear guarantees from Hamas and Israel that comply with the broad outlines of the deal. There are understandings on many points, and Cairo has completed more than 70 percent of the deal, and the rest may be related to the details of time, place, guarantees and other logistical matters.”

Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, was quoted as saying that there are “significant surprises” that will be part of the prisoner exchange deal between the Gaza-based terrorist group and Israel.

Hamas is holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin who were killed during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. Gaza’s rulers are also keeping captive two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered the coastal enclave in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

   

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in an interview that monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program by the UN watchdog is no longer “intact.” Grossi said that the world may never be able to “reconstruct the picture” of the regime’s nuclear activity after Tehran refused to replace cameras at the TESA Karaj complex that was hit in a June attack that Iran has blamed on Israel.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog also said that he hasn’t spoken to Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who assumed the post in August under Iran’s newly elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

Grossi said that there was “no indication” that Iran was racing toward obtaining a nuclear bomb, but that the situation in North Korea demonstrates what’s at stake. Nuclear inspectors were kicked out of North Korea in 2009, and the country is now suspected to be storing dozens of nuclear warheads.

“The case of the DPRK should remind us of what may happen if diplomatic efforts go wrong,” Grossi said, adding: “It’s a clear example, it’s an indication, it’s a beacon. If diplomacy fails, you may be confronted with a situation that would have enormous political impact in the Middle East and beyond.”

   

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The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah warned Israel on Friday against searching for natural gas in a disputed maritime region before agreements between Beirut and Jerusalem are reached.

Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, said in a speech that he would leave it to the Lebanese government to negotiate an end to the dispute, Israeli media reported.

However, Nasrallah added: “The resistance is capable of acting and will do so against any Israeli actions in the disputed zone.”

During his address, Nasrallah condemned the recent normalization between Israel and Arab nations, urging the Arab world to protest such agreements. Israel and Lebanon are technically in a state of war, and have no diplomatic relations. They each claim about 330 square miles of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their exclusive economic zones.

Meditation talks hosted by US envoy Amos Hochstein have been attempting to address the maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon, with the last round of talks having taken place in May. Hochstein arrived last week in Beirut to rekindle discussions.

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