At Funeral, Syrian Protesters Chant for Freedom


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Anti-government demonstrators chanted "God, Syria, freedom" at the funeral of a fellow protester in the southern Syrian city of Deraa.

The protesters at Monday's funeral added to the chant, "The people want the overthrow of corruption," Reuters reported. Black-uniformed security forces sporting assault rifles oversaw the proceedings.

It was the fourth day of anti-government demonstrations in Deraa; five protesters have been killed. Syrians also demonstrated Monday in the town of Jassem, according to reports citing activists.

Israel Files U.N. Complaint Over Gaza Mortar Barrage


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Israel's foreign minister ordered the country's delegation to the United Nations to file a formal complaint after over 50 mortars struck southern Israel in one morning.

More than 50 mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel on Saturday morning. Two Israelis were injured by shrapnel and homes and buildings sustained damage, according to reports. Hamas' armed wing Izzadin Kassam Brigades claimed responsibility for 10 of the explosives.

Nuclear Site Identified in Syria, Report Claims


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A suspected nuclear site has been identified in Syria using commercial satellite photos.

The installation is said to be a nuclear conversion plant, according to the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which published photos of the site in a report released late Wednesday.

The Institute's report indicates that Syria's nuclear program was much more advanced than previously thought when Israel bombed what was believed to be a nearly operational nuclear reactor in eastern Syria in 2007.

Syria-Bound Iranian Warships Stop in Red Sea


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Two Iranian warships bound for Syria withdrew a request to sail through the Suez Canal. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Wednesday night that the ships were en route to Syria via the Suez Canal.

But Thursday the ships stopped in an area near the Saudi Arabian Red Sea port city of Jiddah after reportedly withdrawing a request to traverse the canal. Other reports suggest that the ships never requested permission to cross through the canal.

Obama Administration: Egypt Events of "Deep Concern"


WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Events in Egypt are of "deep concern," the Obama administration said, and its government should show restraint.

"Events unfolding in Egypt are of deep concern," P.J. Crowley, the state department spokesman, said Friday through the Twitter social network. "Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed."

Video posted on the Internet has depicted indiscriminate Egyptian police violence against protesters, and authorities have shut down much Internet access.

Skepticism Over Syria


With Israeli-Palestinian negotiations back in the deep freeze, the past few days have seen a flurry of speculation about possible movement on the Israel-Syrian diplomatic front. Last month President Barack Obama appointed the first ambassador to Damascus since 2005. This week Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Presidents Conference, met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, prompting speculation he was there at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Presidents Conference’s Hoenlein, Assad Meet in Damascus


WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.

Hoenlein said the meeting Monday was at the invitation of Syria and not, as had been reported originally by the Israeli media, at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama Appoints Ambassador to Syria


(JTA) -- President Obama used a recess appointment to name Robert Ford as the new U.S. ambassador to Syria.

Ford will become the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005. The Bush administration recalled its ambassador from Syria in February 2005 in the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Harari; evidence pointed to Syrian involvement in the murder.

Rice Cable Confirms Israel Destroyed Syrian Reactor


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A confidential memo from Condoleezza Rice to State Department representatives around the world confirmed that Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor, a cable leaked to WikiLeaks says.

The cable, which has not yet been published, was reported by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot before its official publication on the website.

WikiLeaks: U.S. Accuses Syria of Arming Hezbollah


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The United States accused Syria of arming Hezbollah with advanced ballistic missiles, a new document released by WikiLeaks showed.

The document was released by the site Tuesday, the same day that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself in to London police and was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden. Assange was denied bail by a British court .

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