US news reports say Israel was the source of intelligence that President Donald Trump disclosed to the Russians during a White House meeting last week, igniting further controversy for the beleaguered administration.
According to a New York Times report on Tuesday, Israel shared with US spy agencies sensitive intelligence about an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bomb plot targeting airliners using laptop computers.
National Security Advisor HR McMaster denied that Trump had disclosed any sources or methods to the Russians, saying the Washington Post report that first broke the story was “false”.
Trump confirmed later he shared information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Several US media organisations confirmed with their own sources the Times’ report that Israel was the source of the information.
In a statement, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said Israel has “full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States”.
But he did not comment specifically on the veracity of the Times’ report.
The purported Israeli intelligence in question reportedly concerns ISIL’s newly acquired capability to hide sophisticated bombs inside laptop computers.
This information is said to have led the US government declaring the ban last March on all large electronic devices on board airlines coming to the US from eight Muslim-majority nations.
The ban affects nine companies: Royal Jordanian Airlines, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.
All of these airlines have direct flights to the United States and pose strong competitionto American aviation companies, especially during the busy summer season.
Former CIA case officer John Kiriakou expressed scepticism about Israel’s ability to obtain highly sensitive intelligence of this nature about ISIL.
“If it was the Jordanians or the Turkish intelligences services who have done that, it might make more sense because these organisations have a long history of dealing with groups like ISIL,” Kiriakou told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
“I won’t be surprised if it turned out that Israel acted in its own interests to disrupt the Middle Eastern airlines business by throwing its own wrench into the whole thing,” he said.
CNN reported on Tuesday it withheld reporting on the intelligence that led to the laptop ban after US intelligence officials made urgent requests to hold off for a March 31 story, citing national security concerns.
“What US officials told CNN in late March was that publishing certain information – including a city where some of the intelligence was collected – could tip off adversaries about the sources and methods used to gather the intelligence,” the American network said.
Other pundits challenged the entire narrative of Trump’s discussions with the Russians.
Washington DC-based analyst Peter Ruff blamed the media for hyping Trump’s sharing of intelligence with Lavrov and Kislyak in stories based solely on “anonymous sources”.
“There is nothing wrong with the president sharing intelligence with the Russians as a goodwill gesture, given that both nations are fighting ISIL,” Ruff told Al Jazeera.
Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports
Source: Al Jazeera News
Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Fisherman on Nakhba Day
Muhammad Majid Bakr was fishing off the coast of the Gaza Strip when Israeli forces detained and shot him, Ma’an News Agency reported Monday.
The 23-year-old Bakr succumbed to his wounds while hospitalized in Israel hours later.
According to Ma’an, Israeli army sources claim that the fishing vessel “deviated from the designated fishing zone.” Restrictions on fishing have been a component of Israel’s coastal blockade since 2007.
Khamis Bakr, fisherman’s uncle: “My nephew and his brothers were on a small fishing boat to make their living,” the fisherman’s uncle, Khamis Bakr, told teleSUR’s correspondent in Gaza, Noor Harazeen. “Israeli gunboats opened fire on Muhammad and his fellows while they were sailing near the border from zero point.”
The killing occurred on the 69th Nakba Day, which commemorates the mass expulsion of Palestinians that took place in 1948. Amid Israel’s establishment, over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land. The day was marked by protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and by demonstrations around the world in solidarity with Palestinians opposing the ongoing occupation by Israeli forces.
Hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip participated Tuesday in Bakr’s funeral procession from the al-Shefaa Hospital towards Bakr’s home in the al-Shatea refugees camp. Meanwhile, the Palestinians Fishermen’s Union in the Gaza Strip suspended fishing in the sea of Gaza Tuesday to protest the killing.
Detainment and killing of Palestinians by Israeli occupiers are not isolated occurrences in the besieged Palestinian territories. Ma’an reports that Bakr is at least the 22nd Palestinian killed by Israeli occupation forces so far in 2017.
Detainment of Palestinians who approach the “buffer zone” of border areas is a regular occurrence. Early Tuesday morning, Ma’an reported that 20 Palestinians in the West Bank were detained during early morning raids by Israeli forces, according to Ma’an.
Tuesday is the 30th day of an ongoing hunger strike staged by hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Launched on Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, the hunger strike has received solidarity support from around the world.
In spite of international support and the continued deterioration of striker’s health, Israel has not agreed to any of the prisoner’s demands, instead further cracking down on prisoner’s rights by removing access to clothing and placing leaders in solitary confinement.
Israeli Historian Describes Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine in 1948 (Nakba)
Dr. Ilan Pappé is an Israeli historian who was a senior lecturer at Haifa University from 1984-2007. His position as an Israeli academic gave him access to official Israeli historical archives. Through research this Israeli-born academic learned the truth about the Israeli narrative. This clip of a lecture he gave in the US clarifies what happened on 1948, a day we commemorate tomorrow May 15th as Yawm An-Nakba or “Day of the Catastrophe.”
“It was suggested to them that so few years after the Holocaust it wasn’t a good idea to portray the Jews as murderers, expellers, looters, occupiers, and colonizers. This was a conscious decision by the political elites of the West to atone for what Europe did to the Jews in the Second World War. The price was very clear, the dispossession of Palestine.”
– Dr. Ilan Pappé