1. Missile strikes against Syrian regime forces in the central province of Hama overnight killed 26 pro-regime fighters, mostly Iranians, a war monitor said Monday.
- The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said the fighters had been killed in a raid, “probably” carried out by Israel, on the 47th Brigade base in Hama. The Observatory said four Syrians were also among casualties.
- Syria, Iran and Russia have blamed Israel for that attack. Jerusalem has not confirmed or denied carrying out the raid.
- The attack comes amid rising tensions between Iran and Israel following an alleged Israeli airstrike earlier this month on Syria’s T4 air base in central province of Homs that killed seven Iranian military personnel. Tehran threatened to retaliate for that attack.
انطلقت من مملكة #الأردن..مصادر ميدانية: العدوان على ريفي #حلب و #حماة تم بنحو 9 صواريخ بالستية انطلقت من القواعدة الأمريكية والبريطانية شمال #المملكة_الأردنية_الهاشمية
2. The IDF said soldiers opened fire on four Palestinians who tried to enter Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip last night, killing three of them, in two separate incidents.
- In the first incident, two of the Palestinians were spotted trying to damage the security fence and infiltrate into Israel. IDF soldiers opened fire, killing one of them, and took the second into custody.
- Minutes later, the army reported that a second pair of Palestinian suspects had broken through the security fence and hurled improvised explosive devices at IDF soldiers. The troops fired at them, killing the two attackers, the army said.
3. Newly-appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a strong boost of support for Israel against Iran during his visit to Israel yesterday.
- Pompeo met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv to discuss both countries’ concerns about Iran. Both men described the talks as successful.
- “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains,” Pompeo said. “The United States is with Israel in this fight.”
- Pompeo also said the US will withdraw from the international nuclear agreement with Iran if it is not renegotiated. Netanyahu has long urged the international community to revise the deal or scrap it.
- On Monday, Iran dismissed Pompeo’s “absurd and unfounded” accusations of expansionism as an attempt to distract attention away from the “atrocities” committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
- Longtime Yedioth columnist Ben Dror Yemini weighs in on the Trump administration’s approach to Iran in light of the pledge for peace and denuclearization by North and South Korea earlier this week. Yemini says that Trump’s White House — widely discredited as chaotic and disorganized — may have helped bring about the successful summit. “It’s possible that the American leader acting ‘crazy’ was necessary for change.” He says an end of hostilities between Seoul and Pyongyang would strengthen Trump’s hand in renegotiating the 2015 agreement.
- “Who knows, maybe Trump’s stubbornness and his going against the advice of his experts, consultants and commentators actually works,” he said.
4. A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute finds that the majority of Israelis believe a coalition-backed bill that would allow the Knesset to override a Supreme Court ruling could endanger the country’s democracy.
- 65% of respondents said the bill would grant the government “unlimited power,” and 59% of said they think the law would raise the risk of political corruption.
- Sunday’s Haaretz runs an op-ed by ex-minister and opposition MK Tzipi Livni, who slammed the legislation that “would allow legislators to strip citizens of their rights before the High Court has a chance to intervene.” The Zionist Union lawmaker blasted Netanyahu as a “weak” leader who employs “discriminatory, ultranationalist legislation to signal to his political base out of personal interest: the destruction of Israel’s judiciary and its law enforcement agencies.”
5. Hebrew-language papers on Monday report that Trump is considering a full pardon for spy Jonathan Pollard, and allowing him to immigrate to Israel as a gesture on country’s 70th Independence Day.
- According to reports, Israeli officials say Trump will announce his final decision closer to when the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14.
- 61-year-old Pollard served nearly 30 years for spying for Israel, and since being paroled in 2015 has been prohibited from leaving US soil, preventing him from moving to the Jewish state.
6. The Japanese foreign minister has presided over a rare meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to push ahead with an agro-industrial park intended to enhance cross-border trade and cooperation.
- Taro Kono, the Japanese minister, acknowledged late Sunday that it “has not been easy for the four parties to get together under current circumstances.”
- Israel and Jordan only recently patched up relations after a months-long diplomatic crisis. Officials from Israel and the Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank meet only intermittently because of ongoing deadlock in peace efforts.
- Sunday’s meeting focused on the Japan-backed Jericho Agro-Industrial Park in the West Bank, near an Israeli-controlled border with Jordan. Twelve companies operate at the park, launched more than a decade ago. Kono says he hopes more will join, including Japanese firms.