Official: Changes to Benghazi talking points made by intel community
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice on State of the Union on September 16
November 19th, 2012
07:32 PM ET

Official: Changes to Benghazi talking points made by intel community

By Pam Benson

The intelligence community - not the White House, State Department or Justice Department - was responsible for the substantive changes made to the talking points distributed for government officials who spoke publicly about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the spokesman for the director of national intelligence said Monday.

The unclassified talking points on Libya, developed several days after the the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, were not substantively changed by any agency outside of the intelligence community, according to the spokesman, Shawn Turner.

Republican criticism of the talking points intensified last Friday following a closed door hearing with former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told reporters after the hearing that the original talking parts drafted by the CIA had been changed and it was unclear who was responsible.

"The original talking points were much more specific about al Qaeda involvement and yet final ones just said indications of extremists," King said.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Intelligence • Libya • Libya • ODNI • Peter King • Petraeus • Rep. Mike Rogers • Terrorism
Obama's telephone diplomacy on Gaza
File photo
November 19th, 2012
06:44 PM ET

Obama's telephone diplomacy on Gaza

By Jill Dougherty

For the Obama administration, the watchword is "de-escalate." Stop the fighting, especially rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, then deal with longer-term issues.

But President Barack Obama, who continues to support Israel's right to defend itself while urging that the fighting cease, cannot do it on his own.

From Southeast Asia, where he is his first international trip since his re-election, Obama has talked several times by telephone with two of the central players: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveling with him, has been even busier. She's been talking by phone with Israeli, Egyptian, Turkish, Qatari, and French officials, as well as with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and then briefing the president on those conversations.
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Smuggling weapons to Gaza – the long way
DigitalGlobe image of Yarmouk Military Depot shows before and after images of an industrial complex in Khartoum, Sudan that was rocked by explosions last month.
November 19th, 2012
06:36 PM ET

Smuggling weapons to Gaza – the long way

By Tim Lister and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy

Just after midnight on October 24, a series of loud explosions shook a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Within minutes, flames shooting skyward illuminated the area, and the Yarmouk Industrial Complex was consumed by fire.

Witnesses said they heard planes in the area, and a subsequent analysis of satellite images revealed six large craters "each approximately 16 meters [52 feet] wide ... and consistent with craters created by air-delivered munitions," according to the Satellite Sentinel Project, a non-governmental organization that analyzed DigitalGlobe imagery.

As the smoke cleared the next day, Sudanese officials blamed Israel for the airstrike, which destroyed a large part of the complex, including an ammunition plant and some 40 shipping containers.

The Satellite Sentinel Project said: "Nothing remains of the 60-meter [197-foot] building, which appears to have been pulverized in the blast."
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Filed under: Egypt • Gaza • Israel • Sinai • Sudan
November 19th, 2012
05:49 PM ET

Why Israel might hesitate to start a ground invasion

By Mike Mount

Thousands of Israeli troops with tanks and armored vehicles are poised on Gaza's borders ready to move in if Israel believes there is no chance for a cease-fire in its conflict with Hamas.

The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, told reporters Monday at a briefing at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC that Israel would like to avoid a ground invasion, but war planning is complete and they are ready to move in if necessary.

But Israel, which continued to press its air offensive against Gaza militants for a sixth day on Monday, is said to be well aware that a ground invasion would carry broad risks.

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U.S. asks court to deny Fort Hood shooter's appeal
November 19th, 2012
03:47 PM ET

U.S. asks court to deny Fort Hood shooter's appeal

By Jennifer Rizzo

The U.S. government has asked a military appeals court to deny accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan's request to keep a beard he has grown and to reject his bid to have the judge overseeing his court martial removed from the case.

Army regulations prevent most soldiers from wearing facial hair while in uniform. Hasan, a practicing Muslim, maintains he has the right to wear the beard under federal law protecting religious rights.

Involuntarily shaving a person is "not a novel concept" and is within the court's rights, the Appellate Government Counsel of the Judge Advocate General's office wrote in a brief for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Hasan did not prove that wearing his beard was "based on a sincerely held religious belief," the filing said.

The brief also raised the concern that Hasan's decision to grow a beard was to make it difficult for witnesses to identify him, calling the timing "questionable."
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Filed under: Legal • Military • Nidal Hasan • Terrorism
U.S. sends warships near Israel in case evacuation needed
File photo of USS Iwo Jima
November 19th, 2012
02:34 PM ET

U.S. sends warships near Israel in case evacuation needed

By Barbara Starr

Three U.S. Navy amphibious warships are returning to the eastern Mediterranean to remain on standby in the event they are needed to assist Americans leaving Israel in the coming days, according to two U.S. officials.

The officials stressed an evacuation remains an extremely remote possibility and the Obama administration is not currently planning for one. Americans who wish to leave the region now are able to do so using commercial airlines.

But the decision to send the ships even if the event is such a remote contingency underscores the growing concern about where the Israel-Gaza conflict could be headed.

"This is due diligence. It is better to be prepared should there be a need," one official said Monday. Both officials said the ships would be used only for assisting Americans and not for any combat role.

Why Israel might hesitate to start a ground invasion

The most immediate impact will be on the ships' crews and the estimated 2,500 Marines on board. They had been scheduled to return to Norfolk, Virginia, just after Thanksgiving; their homecoming will now be delayed several days depending on events, the officials said.

The ships involved are the USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS Gunston Hall. At the end of last week the ships were west of Gibraltar, before the decision was made to turn them around and send them back to the eastern Mediterranean, where they will remain for now.

The U.S. military also maintains three to four ships off the coast of Israel that are capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. That deployment has stretch for some months in the face of a potential ballistic threat from Iran.

Clinton heads to Middle East

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Navy • Palestine • Security Brief
November 19th, 2012
12:03 PM ET

CNN Poll: 57% of Americans say Israeli attacks in Gaza are justified

A majority of Americans say that Israel's current military strikes against Gaza are justified, according to a new national survey.

CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicates that 57% of the public says Israel is justified in taking military action in Gaza against Hamas, with one in four saying the attacks are unjustified.

The fighting began last week with rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza, to which Israel responded with an aerial offensive. Palestinian emergency services said Monday that nearly 100 people have been killed in Gaza, with around 750 injured. The Israel Defense Forces said three people in Israel have been killed, with nearly 70 injured.

The fighting has raised fears of a widening conflict, and the possibility of a repeat of Israel's 2008 invasion of Gaza following similar rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel.

"Although most Americans think the Israeli actions are justified, there are key segments of the public who don't necessarily feel that way," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. Support for Israel's military action is 13 points higher among men than among women, and 15 points higher among older Americans than among younger Americans."

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine
November 19th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Israel puts trust in Iron Dome

By Michael Martinez

Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system is figuring prominently in the unfolding aerial conflict with Hamas' military wing in Gaza.

Iron Dome is being credited with protecting Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities by blocking some of the rockets fired from Gaza.
Over the past three days, 737 rockets from Gaza were fired upon Israel: 492 landed, but 245 were intercepted by the system, Israel Defense Forces said Saturday.

The name Iron Dome evokes an image of a protective bubble over a city. In practice, Iron Dome is a defense against short-range rockets and mortar shells: the system targets incoming rockets and fires an interceptor missile to destroy them midair.

Each battery has a firing-control radar to identify targets and a portable missile launcher. The system is easily transportable, with just a few hours needed to relocate and set up.

The missile is highly maneuverable. It is three meters, or almost 10 feet, long; has a diameter of about six inches; and weighs 90 kilograms, or 198 pounds, according to the security analysis group IHS Jane's.

The warhead is believed to carry 11 kilograms, or 24 pounds, of high explosives, IHS Jane's said. Its range is from 4 kilometers to 70 kilometers - or 2.5 miles to 43 miles.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine