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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Iranian missiles confirmed within range of Israel

– American President Donald Trump has just backpedaled on his controversial statements about the violence in Virginia, saying that “both sides” are to blame for the bloody events in Charlottesville.
– Satellite images have just confirmed that Iran has been building a missile factory inside Syria, which places an arsenal of SCUD missiles dangerously within range of Israel.
– The Kurds are hoping Israeli leaders and help convince the United States to throw its support behind an independent Kurdistan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel could benefit from an alliance with a free Kurdistan nation.
 Senior Researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, Brig. Gen. Dr. Meir Elran (ret.), and Tel Aviv University expert on Middle East history Professor Eyal Zisser, spoke at the ILTV studio, explaining more about Israeli interests surrounding the Syrian civil war.
– Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has just sent a friendly telegram to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un wishing him “health and happiness”.
– American and former Israeli Defense Force soldier Omri Dahan was stabbed to death in Brooklyn, New York, over a parking space.
– A hotel in Switzerland has caused major outrage after visitors discovered anti-Semitic notices asking Jewish guests to shower before swimming in the hotel pool.
– Israel’s first round of aid for Sierra Leone has arrived following a landslide. Israel has sent enough food for at least 10,000 meals for the thousands of people that have been displaced.
– Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America. READ MORE

More arrests as terror stalks Jerusalem again

Three major Israeli counter-terror operations in a week (Aug.10-16) are a measure of the intensity of terrorist plots for the commission of mass-casualty strikes in Jerusalem.
On Aug. 10, a combined effort of the Shin Bet, the police and the IDF, led to five Palestinians from Hebron being intercepted in the Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of El Azaria on their way to an attack. No details of this plot were released. But it was obvious that the five terrorists, armed with guns and explosives, were only stopped at the last minute from reaching the center of Jerusalem, just 15 minutes drive from El Azaria, and conducting a major attack.
Then, on Saturday, Aug. 12, a Palestinian woman knifed a man on Suleiman Street in East Jerusalem, mistaking him for a Jew. He turned out to be a local Arab Christian and was not badly hurt, before a police patrol nabbed the woman.
On Sunday, Aug. 13, a suspect was shot in the foot while resisting arrest at Bet Tsafafa, in southern Jerusalem . The police later reported they acted on a Shin Bet tipoff that the suspect, a resident of the mixed Abu Tor neighborhood, was primed for a terror operation.
On Monday, Aug. 14, indictments were filed at the Jerusalem district court against three residents of East Jerusalem on charges of plotting a shooting attack, as well as targeting police forces and persistent rock attacks on traffic - all in Jerusalem. They were also accused of planning to loose gunfire and explosive devices on vehicles using the Nablus bypass. This group therefore harbored ambitions for a widespread terrorist offensive in and outside Jerusalem.
Although Israel’s security authorities are cagey with the information they release on the mostly covert war they wage on Palestinian and Israeli Arab terror, three geographical areas may be marked out as significant: They are metropolitan Jerusalem including Bethlehem; Hebron - the city and mountain district; and the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, northeast of Tel Aviv, which was the home town of the three gunmen who shot dead two policemen on Temple Mount on July 14.
Each location occupies a special place on the terror map. READ MORE

PA allegation: 'Kushner to offer Abbas commitment from Trump'

The Palestinian Authority alleges it received messages from sources in Washington that Jared Kushner, son-in-law of US President Donald Trump and his advisor, will arrive to meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with a pledge or guarantee from the president, Israel Hayom reported learning from a senior PA official close to the chairman.
PA sources confirmed that the American delegation is expected to arrive in the region towards the end of next week, or at the latest in the last week of August, according to the paper.The delegation, which will conduct shuttle diplomacy between Israel, the PA, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and "other countries", will include the son-in-law of the President Jared Kushner, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell. They are expected to meet PA Chairman Abbas and other senior officials to try to jumpstart a peace process.
Ramallah is signaling pessimism about the delegation's arrival. The last meeting between Abbas and Kushner took place, it was reported, in a tense atmosphere accompanied by mutual recriminations. The PA is now claiming that Trump has sent messages to Ramallah that Kushner will arrive to a meeting with some form of a commitment from the President.
The same PA source claims that Ramallah does not know what guarantees are on offer. However, there were those in PA leadership who purport to believe that these represent confidence-building measures on the part of the President. "We are not hiding our disappointment with American conduct so far," a senior official in the Abbas' bureau told Israel Hayom, "If the Americans want to be a fair broker, they will have to offer the Palestinians confidence-building measures. Our assessment is that Kushner will come with a package of economic benefits in an attempt to mollify the Palestinians."
The senior official was quick to stress that "economic benefits and money will not restore the lost trust, especially since these are economic projects in the field of infrastructure that the Americans committed to in the meeting between Trump and Abbas in Bethlehem."

Russia hopes Iran won't withdraw from nuclear deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday he hoped that Iran would not quit the nuclear agreement it reached in 2015 with world powers, Reuters reported.
His comments came a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Iran would abandon the deal "within hours" if the United States imposed any more new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Lavrov also said he hoped the United States would not violate its obligations under the nuclear deal with Iran.
"I think unilateral sanctions ... are irresponsible actions that can hurt and undermine the balance achieved," Lavrov said, according to Reuters, in an apparent reference to new restrictions recently imposed by Washington on Iran.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new package of sanctions into law, with sanctions targeting not only Iran, but North Korea and the Russian government as well.
Within hours, Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the new sanctions and vowed an “appropriate and proportional response”.
Trump has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as “the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated”.
While Trump's administration recently confirmed that Iran is adhering to the nuclear agreement it signed with world powers in 2015, Trump and other officials in the administration have stressed that the President still has reservations about the deal.

Former IAF commander: Israel hit over 100 Hezbollah targets

The IDF carried out nearly 100 strikes in the past five years on convoys carrying weapons to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in Syria and elsewhere, a general said Thursday.
Former Air Force Commander Amir Eshel told Israel's left-wing Haaretz newspaper that "since 2012, I'm talking about many dozens of strikes... the number is close to being three digits."
"An action could be an isolated thing, small and pinpointed, or it could be an intense week involving a great many elements," he said of the strikes.
Since Syria's civil war erupted in 2011, Israel has maintained a policy of attacking arms convoys intended for Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, which is a key supporter of the Syrian regime and fought a devastating war against the Israel in 2006.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last year Israel had "taken military action" against Iranian convoys leading weapons to Hezbollah "dozens and dozens of times."
Israel also carries out strikes in retaliation for spillover in fighting on the Golan Heights facing Syria when rockets or other projectiles have landed in Israeli territory.
According to Eshel, who was commander of the air force for five years, the strikes had been precise enough to avoid escalation, but at the same time had served as a deterrent to war with Israel.
"I think that in the view of our enemies, as I understand things, this language is clear here and also understood beyond the Middle East," Eshel told Haaretz.
He did not specify the location of the strikes, butHaaretz said they were carried out on a number of different fronts.

Defector: Christianity Thrives in North Korea as Citizens ‘No Longer Respect’ Kim Jong-Un

Christianity is spreading in North Korea as fewer citizens in the hermit state consider dictator Kim Jong-Un a god, the Telegraphhas learned from an anonymous defector.
Using figures found in the latest International Religious Freedom Report authored by the U.S. State Department, Breitbart News has determined that the Christian population in North Korea has increased dramatically—at least five-fold—from about 37,000 known practicing Christians in 2012 to between 200,000 and 400,000 now.
The State Department, which gleaned the Christian population figures from data maintained by the United Nations and the Cornerstone Ministries International (CMI), acknowledged the number of Christians in North Korea may be higher.
State learned from CMI that an estimated “10-45 percent” of people imprisoned in North Koreans detention camps are Christians.
“An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions,” points out State in its report. “CSW [Christian Solidarity Worldwide] said a policy of guilt by association was often applied in cases of detentions of Christians, meaning that the relatives of Christians were also detained regardless of their beliefs.”
An unnamed North Korean defector confirmed the significant increase in North Korea’s Christian population.
“In the past, the people were told to worship the Kim family as their god, but many North Koreans no longer respect Kim Jong-Un”, the defector, now a member of the Seoul-based Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea, told the Telegraph. “That means they are looking for something else to sustain their faith.” READ MORE

Iran supreme leader mocks US over Charlottesville

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei joined the international criticism of race-related violence in the United States on Wednesday with a mocking tweet.
"If US has any power, they better manage their country, tackle #WhiteSupremacy rather than meddle in nations' affairs. #Charlottesville," Khamenei's official Twitter feed posted.
Khamenei's office was responding to the furore in the US over an attack in Charlottesville by a suspected Nazi sympathiser, who ploughed his car into anti-racism protesters, leaving one dead and 19 injured.
US President Donald Trump has raised another huge controversy by saying there was "blame on both sides".
The deepening divisions in US society have provided ample fodder for the Islamic republic to deflect allegations of human rights abuses in its own country, and turn the criticism back on its traditional enemy.
Earlier, the foreign ministry accused Washington of hypocrisy for its annual report on religious freedom, which was published on Tuesday and sharply criticised Iran.
"It is clear that religious and racial discrimination, Islamophobia, and xenophobia are a widespread and frequent phenomenon among American politicians," spokesman Bahram Ghasemi hit back on the ministry's website.

What will Kim do next? Sixth nuclear test seen critical for North Korea

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea says it has developed intercontinental missiles capable of targeting any place in the United States.
Now comes the hard part of fulfilling the declared goal of its leader Kim Jong Un: perfecting a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on the missile without affecting its range as well as making it capable of surviving re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.
To do that, weapons experts say, the isolated state needs to carry out at least another nuclear test, its sixth, and more tests of long-range missiles.
North Korea's two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month likely carried a payload lighter than any nuclear warhead it is currently able to produce, the experts said.
One way to have a lighter warhead would be to concentrate on developing a thermonuclear device, or hydrogen bomb, which would offer much greater explosive yield relative to size and weight.
Pyongyang claims to have tested a hydrogen bomb, but this has not been proven, said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Program at the Federation of American Scientists.
"Doing so would take several more nuclear tests," he said. READ MORE

The U.S. is now routinely launching 'danger-close' drone strikes so risky they require Syrian militia approval

The Air Force pilot carefully throttled the controls of a missile-firing MQ-1 Predator drone flying half a world away in northern Syria. Suddenly his headset crackled to life.
Militants firing from bombed-out buildings had ambushed a U.S.-backed militia on a rubble-strewn street in Raqqah, Islamic State’s self-declared capital and one of its last urban strongholds. The militia was pinned down, and their commander wanted the drone to take out the gunmen.
The pilot studied the surveillance video streaming onto his screen. A captain, he instructed the staff sergeant at his side to set the drone’s target sights and powered up a Hellfire missile under its wing.
“Rifle,” the pilot said, and the missile soared away.
“Splash,” he said seconds later as a fireball swelled across the screen.
The July 18 airstrike was delivered within 160 feet of the pinned-down troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to Air Force officials. It thus marks an evolution in warfare.
American drone pilots now routinely launch missiles at what the Pentagon calls “danger-close” distances to U.S.-backed rebel ground forces fighting Islamic State in densely populated cities.
Hundreds of U.S special operations forces are deployed in Syria, and in some cases they direct airstrikes. But the danger-close missions also require approval from Syrian militia commanders because the missile blasts may put their ground troops at risk.
“Ideally you don’t want to accept that level of risk unless you have to,” said Col. Julian C. Cheater, commander at Creech Air Force Base, where most U.S. Predator and Reaper drone pilots are based. “But in an urban fight — like you’re now seeing in Raqqah — options might not be available to you.”
Over the last 20 years, unmanned aircraft were primarily used to collect intelligence or to launch Hellfire missiles at specific terrorist targets after extensive surveillance — enemy strongholds or targeted killings of suspects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere. READ MORE

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Abbas outlines conditions for peace talks

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday once again outlined his conditions for negotiations with Israel.
PA chairman ready to resume negotiations on the basis of two-state principle and determination that "settlements" are illegal.
Speaking with members of his Fatah movement, Abbas said the PA is prepared to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the two-state solution, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the determination that “settlements” on all Palestinian land are illegal.
He reiterated that the issue of prisoners is a top priority and that the PA will continue to support the prisoners until they are all released from Israeli prisons.
"We adhere to a peaceful popular struggle because we are aware of what the occupation wants, and we adhere to our policy while coordinating with our people in Al-Quds, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and wherever our people are," said Abbas.
The PA chairman has repeatedly rejected calls by Israel to sit down for direct negotiations, choosing instead to impose preconditions on such talks.
His comments come ahead of a visit to the region by U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, Jared Kushner, meant to advance the peace process.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Abbas also discussed the ongoing tensions with Hamas, and rejected claims that the PA had taken punitive measures against Gaza.
These steps, he explained, are meant to send a clear signal to the leadership of Hamas that it must abandon its policy, and in particular the Gaza Strip Executive Committee, which functions as an independent government.
Abbas stressed that the PA is serious about its policy and is ready to take additional steps if Hamas did not comply with its call for national unity.
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza in a bloody coup.
A unity government between Hamas and Fatah collapsed in 2015 when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.
In recent months, Fatah has finally acknowledged that it has no control over Gaza and is now trying to force it to return control of the enclave by creating economic pressure on the group, most notably by cutting electricity supplies to Gaza through Israel.

Iran building missile factory in Syria

Iran has been building a Scud missile factory in Syria, newly released photos from Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat show.
The factory is being built near the city of Baniyas, south of Latakia, and is built in the same way as an Iranian missile factory in Tehran, Channel 2 News reported Tuesday.
The photos show that the construction of the advanced plant began last year and will probably continue until the end of the current year.
Intelligence experts who analyzed the images told Channel 2 News that the construction of the plant, which is almost identical to the construction methods used in similar factories in Iran, indicates the high involvement of Iranian experts.
Iran is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad 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.
A senior Iranian commander said several months ago that Iran will provide military advisors to Syria for as long as necessary and stressed that “the advisory help isn't only in the field of planning but also on techniques and tactics.”
The report on the satellite images follows an assessment by Mossad Director Yossi Cohen earlier this week. Cohen told the Cabinet that the Iranian regime is expanding its control across the Middle East through proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

Haley: Iran can't hold the world hostage

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley responded on Tuesday to threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said his country would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal if the U.S. imposes new sanctions on it.
"Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage ... The nuclear deal must not become 'too big to fail'," Haley said in a statement quoted by Reuters, adding that new U.S. sanctions were unrelated to the Iran nuclear deal.
She called for Iran to be held responsible for "its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of UN Security Council resolutions."
Rouhani had earlier blasted plans by the United States to impose new sanctions on the Tehran regime, declaring the Islamic Republic would withdraw from the treaty “within hours” of any new sanctions.
"If America wants to go back to the experience [of sanctions], Iran would certainly return in a short time -- not a week or a month but within hours -- to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations," Rouhani said during a live broadcast on Iranian state television.
While lifting nuclear-linked sanctions, the United States maintains sanctions related to Iran's ballistic missile program, human rights record and its support for international terrorism.
Earlier this month, President Trump signed a new package of sanctions into law, with sanctions targeting not only Iran, but North Korea and the Russian government as well.
Within hours, Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the new sanctions and vowed an “appropriate and proportional response”.
Haley is set to travel to Vienna later this month to discuss Iran's nuclear activities with officials from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).