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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 10, 2013 In Syria, reports of Israeli strike on chLemical weapons site and increasing Islamic c )ntrol ol re00e Is lily JNS.org After the United States revealed that it now believes Syrian President Bashar aI-Assad has used chemi- cal weapons against rebel forces, the Israel Air Force reportedly struck a Syrian chemical weapons site near Damascus last weekend. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group posted a video of smoke rising from a chemical weapons site that it claims Israeli jets struck last Saturday, the Israeli newspa- per Maariv reported. FSAsaid the jets flew over the palace of Assad before the strike, and that a Syrian air defense battery went on to fire at the jets. Neither Israeli nor Syr- ian officials has confirmed the reported strike. Corroborating an earlier Israeli intelligence assess- ment, White House aide Miguel Rodriguez wrote in letters to Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R- AZ), the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the U.S. intelligence community "does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemi- cal agent sarin," the Wall Street Journal reported. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also confirmed that policy shift while touring the Middle East. Earlier in the week, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. Itay Baron, had said that the Syrian government used lethal chemical weapons, mainly sarin gas, against armed rebels several times over the few weeks and is continuing to do so. Meanwhile, reports indi- cate a mounting presence of Islamic terror groups within Syria's rebel forces, compli- cating options for Western policymakers to address the Syrian civil war. According to a report in the New York Times, Is- lamic groups have provided basic government and local services such as running bakeries, controlling power plants and providing medical services in rebel-controlled areas. Local residents have grown to respect the Is- lamic groups who receive funding and weapons from sympathetic donors in the Arab Gulf states. As a result, Islamic commanders have risen up the Syrian rebel ranks, now controlling many positions in the rebel um- brella group, the Supreme Military Council. The biggest concern for the West is a U.S.-designated foreign terror group, the AI-Nusra Front, which has direct ties to al-Quida in Iraq and has pledged loyalty to al-Quida chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another promi- nent terror group is Ahrar al-Sham, which is made up primarily of native Syrians. "My sense is that there are no seculars," Elizabeth O'Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War, who has recently interviewed several rebel commanders, told the New York Times. U.S. President Barack Obama has previously said that Assad's use of chemi- cal weapons would be a "red line" for his administration, possibly triggering U.S. military action. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan- yahu also recently refused to rule out possible Israeli military action in Syria in a BBC interview. Wikimedia Commons The U.S.now believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, pictured, has used chemical weapons against rebel forces, corroborating an earlier Israeli intelligence assessment. lRma Kampeas campaign. "They really need Levy's hopes rest on the WASHINGTON (JTA)--A same-sex Israeli couple strug- glingagainst U.S. immigration laws are set to become the faces of the fight to extend one of the foundations of immigration policy to gays and lesbians. Adi LavyandTzih Levy have beencaughtin the bureaucratic redtapeoftheAmericanimmi- gration system since Lavy, who suffers from a kidney ailment, arrived in the United States in 2011 to seek treatment. The couple, whose New York marriage is not recognized by the federal government, have been able to stay together during Lavy's illness and her subsequent return to Israel to care for an ailing parent thanks only to a series of interventions by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.). But an estimated 36,000 binational LGBT couples are potentially at risk of separation should one partner be forced to leave the country. Now the Brooklyn couple's struggle is being highlighted as part of an effort to extend residency rights commonly granted to straight couples to gays and lesbians. "Adi fears that she and her wife could be torn apart," said testimony submitted last month by the Immigration Equality Action Fund to the Senate Judiciary Commit- tee, which is considering a bill ta,ed by Sen. Patrick Leahy(D-W) matwou extend rmidencY rights t the freign- permanent partners of U.S. citizens. Jbe fears being left alone to face her chronic health issues wittmut her primary caregiver and emotional support," the testimony saicL "Without a lasting immigmion solution, this familywill conlinue to face a life filled with umrtainty and f.ar2 lhe fund, Idch is spear- heading advocacy for the Uniting American Families Act, sdec+! the couple in part because of their compelling story, said Tom Hummer, the funCs.1he fund receives more than a thousand calls a .ar, Phanmer said, and he takes on only the dozen or so cases likeliest to belp move the issae"  same sex-family reunification. "The're a loving couple and tl' married and it's also Mi's healths said Plummet, eaqplaining why the couple were chosen as faces of the to stay here for her health care needs to be met." Lavy and Levy met in Tel Aviv in 2010 and have been a couple since early 2011. Lavy, 34, a Chicago-born photographer and dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, has suffered from kidney dis- ease since her teen years. In December 2011, her condition worsened and she traveled to New York for treatment by a specialist. Levy soon joined her on a tourist visa, and last October they married on New York's Williamsburg Bridge. In their wedding photos, the women-- Levy in a white bridal gown, Lavy in a black suit over a white top--can't stop smiling. In one photo, a cyclist rolls by, oblivious. Once married, Levy, 33, an aspiring screenwriter, ap- plied to become a permanent resident. Spousal petitions are often granted for straight couples, but Levy was denied. The State of New York, which legalized gay marriage in 2011, recognized her as Lavy's wife. But the federal government, relying on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, did not. Hummer appealed for a de- ferredaction, a mechanism that lifts the threat of prosecution of undocumented immigrants for two-yearperiods. Gillibrand interceded on the couple's behalf and in February, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted Levy a stay-- rare for someone who arrived as an adult. But just as they got the good news, more bad news was in the offing. Lavy's mother, who had been in remission from cancer, relapsed and Lavy returned to Israel to be with her. Levy wanted to join her but could not; immigrants enjoying de- ferred action lose the privilege if they leave the country. Again, Hummer appealed to Gillibrand; again, the senator came through. On April 23, USCIS granted Levy permission to return to the United States. She flew to Israel on May 1. Just prior to her flight, Levy told JTA that she was grateful for Gillibrand's "wonderful" assistance and hoped to return in three months--her permit- ted time abroad--to a more welcoming United States. "The future after these months is not cloudless," she said. "I hope that the U.S. by the summer will be a country with a different atmosphere." Leahy bill and parallel efforts that could end the bureaucratic tangles resulting from the federal government's refusal to recognize gay marriages per- formed in the growing number of states that allow them. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court held a hearing on a peti- tion that could result in the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which since 2011 the Obama admin- istration has refused to defend in court. During the hearing, a majority of the justices ap- peared ready to strike down the law. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have legislation pend- ing that would repeal DOMA should the court not strike it down. Its passage is unlikely, however, in the Republican- controlled U.S. House of Rep- resentatives, where a version of the Leahy bill introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) also is under consideration. "We must lift the hardship for LGBT families until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of DOMA," Gillibrand said. "Regardless of the court's ultimate decision, it is well past time for Congress to recognize the marriages of all loving and committed couples and finally put the discrimi- natory DOMA policy into the dustbin of history." The Immigration Equality Action Fund leads a coalition of about a dozen advocacy groups seeking relief for what Plummer estimates is 36,000 binational LGBT couples in the United States. Among the groups is Bend the Arc, the Jewish liberal activist group that has been leading efforts in the Jewish community for family reunification rights for gays and lesbians. Other Jewish groups, includ- ing the leading immigration rights group, the Hebrew Im- migrant Aid Society, for years have advocated extending such rights to same-sex couples. Hadar Susskind, Bend the Arc's Washington director, said its congressional lobbying is required because of resistance to Leahy's proposed law by conservative groups--among them, Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians--that otherwise support immigra- tion reform. "We felt it was critical to demonstrate that those folks may have that view, but it's not unanimous within the faith Courtesy Immigration Equality Tzila Levy, left, and Adi Lavi, married on New York City's Williamsburg Bridge, seen in the background, Oct. 27, 2012. community," he said. to face the perils of a complex uncertainty for me and Adiy In the meantime, couples immigrations bureaucracy. Lavy said. "The uncertainty iS likeLevyandLavywillcontinue "The last year was one of still going on." Israeli couple is face of gay i" rmTg l"t00t :nificati,:00i00 effotzs