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inFOCUS Quarterly

Winter 2015

Ideas for a New Congress


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U.S. National Killed During Attack in Libya

Nine people were killed, including a U.S. security contractor, during an attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli, Libya earlier this week. As one of the worst acts of violence against foreigners in the Mediterranean country since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi the assault highlights the growing reaches of Islamic State's ideology outside of Iraq and Syria.

Several gunman stormed the Corinthia Hotel Tuesday morning firing on foreigners and detonating a car bomb, according to media reports. After hours under siege, the terrorists threw grenades at security forces raiding the hotel, killing themselves in the process. An online jihadist forum named two suicide bombers involved with the assault, suggesting one is Tunisian and the other Sudanese.

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 29, 2015 at 5:13 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Two IDF Soldiers Killed Near Lebanon Border

Two Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday afternoon near the Lebanon border after their vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile. At least seven other IDF troops were injured during the attack at Mt. Dov, making it the most violent confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel since the summer 2006 war.

Israel's military launched retaliatory artillery and airstrikes against Hezbollah operation centers near the border. A Spanish peacekeeper from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed in the crossfire, according to local media.

An IDF soldier rides an armored military ambulance near Israel's border with Lebanon on January 28, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 28, 2015 at 2:45 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Yemeni President Resigns Following Rebel Demands

Yemen's embattled president agreed to a series of concessions to Iranian-supported Houthi rebels on Wednesday, before resigning late Thursday evening local time. The country's leader, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, had remained under de facto house arrest in the presidential residence since fighters surrounded government buildings in the capital, Sanaa, on Monday.

The rebels' final advance this week consolidated their power in the capital. Houthi fighters had previously overrun a military base housing ballistic missiles and then gained control of the presidential palace and residence. Militiamen also seized President Hadi's chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, and two of his guards. However, Houthi leaders had decided not to overthrow Hadi, choosing instead "to keep the enfeebled leader at their mercy rather than claim the burden of seizing power."

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Five Guantanamo Detainees Transferred

Five men held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were transferred to foreign governments, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday. Oman took four of the Yemeni nationals, with a fifth inmate traveling to Estonia. All of the prisoners had suspected links to al-Qaeda and had been incarcerated since 2001 or 2002, according to military documents previously published by WikiLeaks.

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has sought to close the prison, transferring some prisoners to third countries while prosecuting others in court. Last year the administration transferred 33 prisoners to other, mainly Arab, countries. U.S. officials say they hope to release over two dozen more who have already been cleared, but others remain too dangerous. Camp Delta now holds 122 inmates, down from a peak of 680 in 2003.

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 15, 2015 at 4:25 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Trial Against PLO Opens in Manhattan

Opening arguments in a lawsuit against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) began in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Tuesday. Over the next eight weeks, a jury will consider whether the two Palestinian leadership organizations should be held financially responsible for supporting terrorist attacks in Israel against U.S. citizens and interests between 2002 and 2004.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by Kent Yalowitz, plan to show that the Palestinian leadership "embraced" the murder of 33 people during seven different attacks, including a suicide bus bombing. Yalowitz contends "killing civilians was standard operating procedure" for the PA, which continued to pay wages of officials who organized the attacks. Lawyers for Mark Sokolow, the lead plaintiff in the suit, said they would show evidence of how the PA provided "martyr payments" to the families of anyone imprisoned while resisting the "occupation". Meanwhile, graphic testimony from a shopkeeper who witnessed "...bodies [and] corpses ... flying onto the ground and rooftops" during a suicide bombing helped set the emotional tone of the trial.

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 14, 2015 at 4:06 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Hamas Operative Sentenced to Life

An Israeli military court sentenced Hamas operative Hossam Qawasmeh to three terms of life in prison for his role in the kidnapping and murder three Israeli teenagers last summer. The tribunal, which convicted Qawasmeh last week, also ordered the 40-year-old to pay each of the three victims families $63,000 in compensation.

Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach were originally abducted while hitchhiking in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem on June 12. The Israeli government conducted a massive search operation, arresting hundreds of Hamas operatives in the West Bank during the weeks after the kidnapping. The bodies of the three teens, one of whom held U.S. citizenship, were found near Hebron on June 30.

Hossam Qawasmeh in military court when he was indicted in September. (Photo: Emil Salman)

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 6, 2015 at 11:58 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Abbas Pushes for Statehood at the UN

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began a new initiative for Palestinian statehood at the UN on Wednesday, persuading Jordan to introduce a Security Council resolution backing the cause. European diplomats seemed poised to take up the issue as well, drafting a separate, more conservative proposal.

The Jordanian backed draft lays out a one year timeline for creating a "just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation," based on the 1967 boundaries. The text also includes a request for full international recognition of the new state at the UN with Jerusalem as a shared Israeli-Palestinian capital. Other measures, including a call for all Israeli security forces to be removed from the West Bank by 2018, are included in the draft.

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By Michael Johnson  |  December 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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