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Sunday, October 22, 2017

'We are facing a significant escalation in the Golan'

Sources in the defense establishment say that the rockets that landed in the northern Golan heights yesterday were likely not mere “spillover” from the Syrian civil war, but had been fired intentionally onto Israeli soil.
 
On Saturday, the IDF destroyed three Syrian artillery cannons after five rockets landed in the northern Golan Heights.
 
The rockets fell in an open area and did not cause damage or injuries.
Subsequently, the IDF spokesman said that the rockets were the result of spillover from Syria's civil war.
 
"This is a serious incident, even if it is the result of spillover," the spokesman said. "If events such as this continue, Israel will be forced to respond more harshly. The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israel's sovereignty or the security of its citizens. We see the Syrian government as responsible for what happens in its territory."
 
However, defense officials told Israeli media that the shots were likely not mere spillover.
Speaking with NRG, one senior officer in Northern Command (Res.) explained, "It was not mortar shells or artillery shells, but rockets that hit our territory,” and went on to establish that “The chance that it was unintentional is very low: There were no battles taking place in the area from which the rockets were launched.”
 
“It is very possible that this is a message from Syria,” he continued. “Our main fear at the moment is that this will become routine, because we have noticed the region heating up since March.”
 
According to General (Res.) MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union), the shooting may manifest the first signs of Iranian pressure on the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights.
“Iran has an unequivocal interest in an escalation on our border,” he said, according to NRG, explaining that Iran “collects terrorists from the whole Shiite-Islamic world and establishes militias. So they still aren’t a military threat in the Golan, but later Iran apparently intends to approach the Israeli border via Hezbollah.”
 
“The true owners of Syria, Russia, are not successful in stopping this, and the Americans aren’t there and are not pressing for Iran to stay away from the Israel-Syria border,” he continued.
 
“Therefore, we are certainly approaching the possibility of a significant escalation in the northern region.”
 

State Department ‘Not Aware’ of Iranian Role in Iraqi Invasion of Kirkuk

State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert continued efforts to tamp down the flames threatening to ignite northern Iraq in war Friday.
Since the Kurdistan Regional Government held a successful independence referendum last month against the wishes of the Iraqi national government, the administration has tried hard to avoid taking sides in what could become yet another inter-ethnic conflict in the war-torn country. Both sides in the potential conflict, the Kurds and the Shiite Arab-majority government in Baghdad, are putative American allies in the region. The task became even more difficult Friday as reports came in of violent clashes between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters north of the oil-rich, multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, in a town called Altun Kupri.
“We are monitoring the situation closely, and call on all parties to cease all violence and provocative movements, and to coordinate their activities to restore calm,” Nauert said in a statement on the fighting Friday, continuing:
In order to avoid any misunderstandings or further clashes, we urge the central government to calm the situation by limiting federal forces’ movements in disputed areas to only those coordinated with the Kurdistan Regional Government. We are encouraged by Prime Minister Abadi’s instructions to federal forces to protect Iraqi Kurdish citizens and to not provoke conflict. READ MORE 

North Korea Threatens ‘Unimaginable Strike at an Unimaginable Time’ on U.S.

North Korea threatened to deliver an “unimaginable strike” on the United States amid strained relations between Pyongyang and Washington over the rogue regime’s nuclear and missile programs.
“The U.S. is running amok by introducing under our nose the targets we have set as primary ones. The U.S. should expect that it would face unimaginable strike [sic] at an unimaginable time,” warned an unnamed North Koran agency in a statement reportedlypublished by the Pyongyang-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday.
Reuters, citing the Russian-controlled RIA Novosti news agency the following day, reported that a North Korean diplomat indicated that dictator Kim Jong-un does not intend to conduct any discussions with the United States over its nuclear program, claiming that having nukes is a “matter of life and death for us.”
Choe Son-hui, the director-general of the North American department of North Korea’s foreign ministry, reportedly told a non-proliferation conference in Moscow that the United States would have to deal with North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
“This is a matter of life and death for us. The current situation deepens our understanding that we need nuclear weapons to repel a potential attack,” he said. “We will respond to fire with fire.”
Pyongyang issued the threat as the South Korean and American navies are preparing massive joint exercises off the Korean Peninsula involving the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
While urging the United States to embrace dialogue rather than pushing Pyongyang into “a corner,” President Vladimir Putin reportedly warned America that if it withdraws from its nuclear arms control treaty with the Kremlin, Russia would be forced to respond instantly and symmetrically. READ MORE

Putin Warns of an ‘Instant’ and ‘Symmetrical’ Response If U.S. Withdraws from Nuclear Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently warned the United States not to withdraw from their nuclear arms control treaty, noting that doing so would prompt the Kremlin to “hit back fast,” reports Reuters.
“From our side, the response will be instant, and I want to warn, symmetrical,” cautionedPutin during the high-profile televised Valdai discussion with foreign academics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, on Thursday.
His comments come amid allegations that the Clintons facilitated the sale of 20 percent of U.S. domestic uranium production to Russia under the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama.
According to Reuters, Putin accused America of betraying the Kremlin by not reciprocating what he described as the “unprecedented access” Moscow granted Washington to its secret nuclear sites in the 1990s. READ MORE

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Germany approves submarine sale to Israel

The German government has approved a Memorandum of Understanding for the sale of three submarines to Israel, Israeli sources revealed on Friday.
 
The sources said the MoU is likely to be signed by both sides in the coming weeks, despite an ongoing investigation in Israel into the deal.
 
In July, Germany put off the signing of the MoU following the arrest of several Israelis on suspicion of offenses, including bribery and money laundering, around the deal to buy the Dolphin submarines from German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp.
 
The corruption investigation, which is still ongoing, involves officials from the Israeli security establishment, as well as people working locally for ThyssenKrupp.
 
The investigation was launched following a Channel 10 News report from last year which claimed that that there was a conflict of interests for attorney David Shimron, who is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's private lawyer, and also represents ship builder ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel, Miki Ganor.
 
Shimron has been questioned in the investigation. Netanyahu himself is not a suspect in the case.
While Germany stressed on Friday that an agreement had not been finalized and signed, Israeli officials implied it was a done deal.
 
"The Germans have given their approval to the deal," an Israeli official familiar with the issue said on condition of anonymity, according to AFP.
 
According to the Israeli official, Germany had conditioned the deal on there being no corruption on the behalf of the Israeli decision-makers and senior officials involved.
Germany, however, stressed that the deal on the three submarines "is not yet signed."
"We had other talks about it, but a deal was not made until now," a spokesman for the German government told AFP.
 
Recent, unconfirmed reports, said the submarines ordered by Israel are likely to be equipped with nuclear missiles.

Hamas ignores Israel, sends delegation to Iran

A high-ranking Hamas delegation on Friday began a visit to Iran to inform its backers in Tehran about reconciliation efforts with rival faction Fatah, a Hamas official said, according to AFP.
 
The group was led by recently appointeddeputy Hamas chief Salah al-Aruri, who is accused of organizing multiple deadly attacks against Israelis. The group will meet senior Iranian officials over the next several days, the representative said on condition of anonymity.
 
Hamas and Fatah agreed a landmark deal to end a decade-long split and seek to form a unity government along with other parties.
 
By meeting Iranian officials in Tehran, Hamas blatantly ignores Israel's demand that it cut off ties with Tehran or Israel will not recognize any unity Palestinian government.
Hamas has already rejected Israel's demand and accused the “Zionist regime” of intervening in internal Palestinian affairs.
 
Hamas and Iran had been at odds over the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. As a result of Hamas’s refusal to support Assad in the uprising, an angry Iran reportedly stopped supplying the terror group with weapons.
 
This past summer, however, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh thanked Iran for its "unlimited" support for the Al-Qassam Brigades and its contribution to the development of Hamas's military capabilities, an indication that the rift was over.

Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology

When Coco Layne, a Brooklyn-based producer, meets someone new these days, the first question that comes up in conversation isn’t “Where do you live?” or “What do you do?” but “What’s your sign?”
“So many millennials read their horoscopes every day and believe them,” Layne, who is involved in a number of nonreligious spiritual practices, said. “It is a good reference point to identify and place people in the world.”
Interest in spirituality has been booming in recent years while interest in religion plummets, especially among millennials. The majority of Americans now believe it is not necessary to believe in God to have good morals, a study from Pew Research Center released Wednesday found. The percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who “never doubt existence of God” fell from 81% in 2007 to 67% in 2012.
Meanwhile, more than half of young adults in the U.S. believe astrology is a science. compared to less than 8% of the Chinese public. The psychic services industry — which includes astrology, aura reading, mediumship, tarot-card reading and palmistry, among other metaphysical services — grew 2% between 2011 and 2016. It is now worth $2 billion annually, according to industry analysis firm IBIS World. READ MORE

Friday, October 20, 2017

Assad meets visiting Iranian Chief of Staff

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Thursday met with the visiting Chief of Staff of the Iranian army to discuss military cooperation, The Associated Press reported, citing the official Syrian news agency SANA.
 
The Iranian general, Mohammad Baqeri, also conveyed a message from Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
 
SANA said Assad’s meeting with Baqeri focused on bilateral relations in all fields, mainly military co-operation, “which has witnessed a qualitative development during the war that Syria and its allies, mainly Iran, are waging against terrorism” in Syria.
 
Baqeri said during the meeting that the aim of his visit is to “put a joint strategy on continuing co-ordination and co-operation at the military level.” He also stressed Iran’s commitment to help in the reconstruction process in Syria.
 
On Wednesday, Baqeri met with several Syrian officials and declared that he will cooperate with other countries in order to destroy the "Zionist enemy."
 
"We arrived in Damascus in order to coordinate and cooperate to confront our common enemies: the Zionists and the terrorists," he said, adding that in his opinion, it is "not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate Syria anytime it wants."
 
Iran has been a major backer of Assad during the civil war in his country and has been providing him with both financial aid and military advisors against a range of opposing forces.
 
Near the start of the Syrian civil war, it was reported that then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops. READ MORE

Hamas to Trump: We want to wipe out Israel, not recognize it

A senior Hamas leader denounced demands by the Trump administration that the terror group be disarmed, and that its leadership must recognize the State of Israel following the reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
 
Last week, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization-led Palestinian Authority inked a “final” reconciliation agreement, forming a united government for the first time in a decade.
 
Following the signing of the agreement, Israel announced it would not negotiate with the Hamas-PLO unity government.
 
On Wednesday, President Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt demanded that in light of Hamas’ new position in the PA, the terror group must disarm, recognize Israel, and adhere to all other agreements and commitments the PA has made over the past quarter century.
 
"All parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there," Greenblatt said.
"The United States reiterates the importance of adherence to the Quartet principles: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations.
"If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements."
 
Hamas on Thursday blasted Greenblatt's statement, accusing the United States of "blatantly interfering in matters that belong only to the Palestinian people. We have the right to choose a government that is suitable for the Palestinians." READ MORE
 

PA mission to Colombia calls for Israel's destruction

The official Palestinian Authority mission to Colombia posted a call for the complete destruction of the State of Israel on its Twitter account Thursday night.
 
The PA mission posted a Spanish translation of a quote from former PA leader Yasser Arafat. “Our goal is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations…. We don’t want peace. We want WAR and victory — Yasser Arafat."

המשלחת של הרשות הפלסטינית לקולומביה,בציטוט "גלוי לב" בחשבון הטוויטר מפי יאסר ערפאת : "סופה של ישראל הוא המטרה, איננו רוצים שלום" @kann_newspic.twitter.com/e992w5BEKM
— Eran Cicurel (@EranCicurel) October 19, 2017

The quote was removed following a report by Israel's Channel 1 News. The mission has offered no explanation or apology for the quote.
 
Israel's Foreign Ministry condemned the tweet and said that the quote illustrated Arafat's legacy of hatred and death.
 
"A quote from one of Arafat’s statements clearly illustrates to us the hatred that was always his lot and the legacy of hostility he left behind,” the ministry told Channel 1. “In his life and death, his entire legacy is death, hatred and disgust.”
 
Israeli Ambassador to Colombia Marco Sermoneta told Channel 1 that the embassy had raised the matter with the Colombian authorities. “We brought the matter of the Palestinian mission’s tweet to the attention of the government in Bogata. Anyone who believes everything the Palestinians say must also believe them when they say this.”

Abandoned by Trump and Cornered by Iran, Kurds Sign Oil Deal with Russia

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq announced it had signed a deal with the Russian state-owned oil corporation Rosneft that would allow the company to begin developing oil blocks worth a potential $400 million to the Kurds.
The announcement follows a turbulent week for the KRG, as the Iran-backed government in Baghdad launched an invasion into its territory and wrested Kirkuk, an oil-rich province, out of the Kurds’ hands. Iraqi officials claim the invasion was necessary following the KRG’s decision to hold a non-binding referendum asking its citizens whether they would support a path to independence from Iraq.
While many experts cite the Kurdish Peshmerga as the most effective ally of the United States against the Islamic State on the ground in Iraq, the Trump administration has refused to support the Kurds against the Iran-backed Shiite militias that have stormed Kirkuk, with President Donald Trump himself stating, “We’re not taking sides.”
Bloomberg reports that the Rosneft deal will allow the Russian oil company to develop five oil blocks in Kurdistan. The contract would give “Rosneft 80 percent of the projects, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Rosneft may pay a fee of as much as $400 million, half of which could be repaid in oil pumped from the deposits.” READ MORE