Britain, Germany Slam Attack on Saudi Oil Plants, US Again Blames Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Britain, Germany Slam Attack on Saudi Oil Plants, US Again Blames Iran

Monday, 16 September, 2019 – 11:45
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Britain and Germany condemned on Monday the attacks against Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands in support of his Saudi Arabian allies following an attack on its oil facilities which marked a “wanton violation of international law”, his spokesman said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas slammed the attack, saying “the situation is exceedingly worrisome.”

He added that Berlin is currently evaluating with its partners, “who is responsible for this attack, how it could happen.”

Washington has blamed Iran for the attack.

The Tehran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen claimed Saturday’s strikes on the plants.

US President Donald Trump said Sunday the United States is “locked and loaded” to respond to the attack.

His accusations were echoed Monday by US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who said: “The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same.”

In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference in Vienna, he said “this behavior is unacceptable” and that Iran “must be held responsible.”

“Make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market,” he stressed.

He said Trump has authorized the release of strategic oil reserves should the US need them, and that his “department stands ready” to proceed if necessary.

Perry also added that “despite Iran’s malign efforts we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond.”

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year, when Trump pulled the US out of a 2015 deal with world powers that promised Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

France, Lebanon Condemn Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI ARABIA’S ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS)

 

France, Lebanon Condemn Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

Sunday, 15 September, 2019 – 11:15
Smoke is seen following a fire at Aramco facility in the eastern city of Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 14, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
France condemns attacks on Saudi oil facilities that have disrupted global production, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

“France firmly condemns yesterday’s attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil installations,” the ministry said in a statement that also expressed “complete solidarity” with Saudi Arabia.

“These actions can only worsen regional tensions and risk of conflict,” the French statement added. “It is imperative that they stop.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed on Sunday the attacks, deeming them a “dangerous escalation that threatens to widen the arena of conflicts in the region.”

He said the attacks demand that the international community assume major responsibilities to put an end to “aggression and terrorism that are sweeping through the Arab world and jeopardizing regional stability.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused Iran of launching attacks on Saudi oil plants, ruling out the involvement of the Tehran-aligned Houthi militias in Yemen.

The Houthis claimed credit for the attacks, but Pompeo firmly placed blame on Iran.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo said, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” he added.

Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes

Media caption Abqaiq is the site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant

Drone attacks have set alight two major oil facilities run by the state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia, state media say.

Footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield.

The fires are now under control at both facilities, state media said.

A spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it had deployed 10 drones in the attacks.

The military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, told al-Masirah TV, which is owned by the Houthi movement and is based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future.

He said Saturday’s attack was one of the biggest operations the Houthi forces had undertaken inside Saudi Arabia and was carried out in “co-operation with the honorable people inside the kingdom”.

Saudi officials have not yet commented on who they think is behind the attacks.

“At 04:00 (01:00 GMT), the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The two fires have been controlled.”

Map

There have been no details on the damage but Agence France-Presse quoted interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki as saying there were no casualties.

Abqaiq is about 60km (37 miles) south-west of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while Khurais, some 200km further south-west, has the country’s second largest oilfield.

Saudi security forces foiled an attempt by al-Qaeda to attack the Abqaiq facility with suicide bombers in 2006.


An attack method open to all

Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

This latest attack underlines the strategic threat posed by the Houthis to Saudi Arabia’s oil installations.

The growing sophistication of the Houthis’ drone operations is bound to renew the debate as to where this capability comes from. Have the Houthis simply weaponised commercial civilian drones or have they had significant assistance from Iran?

The Trump administration is likely to point the finger squarely at Tehran, but experts vary in the extent to which they think Iran is facilitating the drone campaign.

The Saudi Air Force has been pummelling targets in Yemen for years. Now the Houthis have a capable, if much more limited, ability to strike back. It shows that the era of armed drone operations being restricted to a handful of major nations is now over.

Drone technology – albeit of varying degrees of sophistication – is available to all; from the US to China, Israel and Iran… and from the Houthis to Hezbolllah.


Markets await news from key facilities

Analysis by BBC business correspondent Katie Prescott

Aramco ranks as the world’s largest oil business and these facilities are significant.

The Khurais oilfield produces about 1% of the world’s oil and Abqaiq is the company’s largest facility – with the capacity to process 7% of the global supply. Even a brief or partial disruption could affect the company, and the oil supply, given their size.

But whether this will have an impact on the oil price come Monday will depend on just how extensive the damage is. Markets now have the weekend to digest information from Aramco and assess the long-term impact.

According to Richard Mallinson, geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, any reaction on Monday morning is likely to be muted, as markets are less worried about supply than demand at the moment, due to slower global economic growth and the ongoing trade war between the US and China.

However, there are concerns that escalating tensions in the region could pose a broader risk, potentially threatening the fifth of the world’s oil supply that goes through the critical Strait of Hormuz.


Who are the Houthis?

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebel movement has been fighting the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries against the rebels.

The coalition launches air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Mr Sarea, the Houthi group’s military spokesman, told al-Masirah that operations against Saudi targets would “only grow wider and will be more painful than before, so long as their aggression and blockade continues”.

Saudi-led coalition air strike on Dhamar in Yemen, 1 SeptImage copyrightEPA
Image captionSaudi-led coalition air strikes regularly target Houthis in Yemen

Houthi fighters were blamed for drone attacks on the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility last month and on other oil facilities in May.

There have been other sources of tension in the region, often stemming from the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the US both blamed Iran for attacks in the Gulf on two oil tankers in June and July, allegations Tehran denied.

In May, four tankers, two of them Saudi-flagged, were damaged by explosions within the UAE’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman.

Saudi Arabia and then US National Security Adviser John Bolton blamed Iran. Tehran said the accusations were “ridiculous”.

Tension in the vital shipping lanes worsened when Iran shot down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June, leading a month later to the Pentagon announcing the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia.

Related Topics

Be glad Iran’s satellite launch failed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Be glad Iran’s satellite launch failed

Satellite imagery provided to Fox News suggests that an Iranian satellite launch this week failed quite spectacularly.

The rocket blew up on its launchpad or shortly after launch.

This is good news for the United States and regional security. Iran claims that its satellite program is peaceful and designed only to monitor the weather, but the reality is very different. Iran’s satellite program is just a cover for the regime’s development of a competent ballistic missile program. Because satellites are launched from Earth into a controlled orbit trajectory, they help Iran better understand how to get ballistic missiles onto their targeting course.

That is something the U.S. doesn’t want to see happen. There is no good reason for Iran to build ballistic missiles, aside from striking distant targets with nuclear weapons.

If Iran can develop and deploy a nuclear-armed ballistic missile, it would achieve two malevolent opportunities. First, it would dangle the annihilation of a major Israeli city (or, if it can build many warheads, Israel itself). Such a development would require Israel to go to war with Iran in order to mitigate the risk of a second Holocaust. But Iran would also hope that Western powers would restrain Israel from that action and isolate the Jewish state into fear.

Second, Iran would extort the U.S., the Sunni-Arab kingdoms, and Europe for economic or political reasons. Considering Iran’s theological project to dominate the Middle East, this extortion threat would either cause a war or allow Iran to subjugate the rights of its neighbors. Certainly, it would spark regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt to build their own nuclear forces.

So, yeah, it’s a good thing that Iran’s satellite blew up on its launchpad.

President Trump Tweets Sensitive Surveillance Image of Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

President Trump Tweets Sensitive Surveillance Image of Iran

A commercial satellite image from the company Maxar (bottom); the image tweeted by President Trump (top) appears to be of better quality.

(Bottom) Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies; (top) @realDonaldTrump

President Trump has tweeted what experts say is almost certainly an image from a classified satellite or drone, showing the aftermath of an accident at an Iranian space facility.

“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [Space Launch Vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” the president said in a tweet that accompanied the image on Friday. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”

NPR broke the news of the launch failure on Thursday, using images from commercial satellites that flew over Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center. Those images showed smoke billowing from the pad. Iran has since acknowledged an accident occurred at the site.

Some of the highest-resolution imagery available commercially comes from the company Maxar, whose WorldView-2 satellite sports 46-centimeter resolution.

But the image shown in the president’s tweet appears to be of far better quality, says Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, who specializes in analyzing satellite imagery. “The resolution is amazingly high,” says Panda. “I would think it’s probably below well below 20 centimeters, which is much higher than anything I’ve ever seen.”

Panda says that the tweet discloses “some pretty amazing capabilities that the public simply wasn’t privy to before this.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about the image to the White House, which declined to comment.

The image shows the aftermath of the accident, which experts believe took place while the rocket was being fueled. Clearly visible is the truck used to transport and erect the rocket, and the words “The product of national empowerment,” which have been written along the edge of the pad. The picture also shows extensive debris and charring around the pad.

It was not entirely clear where the president’s photo came from. Panda believes it was most likely taken by a classified U.S. satellite. But Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network at the One Earth Foundation, believes that the resolution is so high, it may be beyond the physical limits at which satellites can operate. “The atmosphere is thick enough that after somewhere around 11 to 9 centimeters, things get wonky,” she says.

That could mean it was taken by a drone or spy plane, though such a vehicle would be violating Iranian airspace. Hanham also says that the European company Airbus has been experimenting with drones that fly so high, they are technically outside the atmosphere and thus operating outside national boundaries. But she says she doesn’t know whether the U.S. has such a system.

Glare in the center of the image suggests the image in the tweet was itself a photo of a briefing slide. Panda suggests it could have been displayed on a computer screen in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It’s also possible it was a photo of a piece of paper.

Either way, Panda notes that a small redaction in the upper left-hand corner suggests the intelligence community had cleared the image for release by the president.

But both he and Hanham question whether releasing it was a good idea. “You really risk giving away the way you know things,” Hanham says. “That allows people to adapt and hide how they carry out illicit activity.”

“These are closely held national secrets,” Panda adds. “We don’t even share a lot of this kind of imagery with our closest allies.” In tweeting it out to the world, Trump is letting Iran know exactly what the U.S. is capable of. He’s also letting others know as well, Panda says. “The Russians and the Chinese, you’re letting them know that these are the kind of things that the United States has the capability of seeing,” he says.

With additional reporting by Greg Myre and Ayda Pourasad

Israel: ‘Watch out’ IDF reveals details of Iran-Hezbollah missile plot

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘Watch out’: In tacit threat, IDF reveals details of Iran-Hezbollah missile plot

Military names Iranian, Lebanese officers working for years to give Shiite terror group advanced munitions; wants Lebanon, international community to act to halt the program

This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, and provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Illustrative. This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday revealed the identities of four senior Iranian and Hezbollah officials involved in a joint project to manufacture precision-guided missiles for the Lebanese terror group, in a dramatic move apparently intended as a tacit threat to the officers.

The program is being led on the Iranian side by Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hussein-Zada Hejazi, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps operating under the direct command of Qassem Soleimani, a general who heads the IRGC’s Quds Force, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

According to Conricus, Iran has intensified its efforts to establish facilities capable of producing precision-guided missiles in Lebanon in recent weeks.

The Israeli military said it was taking the highly irregular step of releasing information about active members of a terrorist plot in order to push the Lebanese government and international community to take action to halt the project.  Conricus said the IDF would likely reveal additional intelligence about the plot within the coming hours and days.

“Iran is endangering Lebanese by trying to produce precision-guided missiles on Lebanese soil, using the Lebanese people as human shields,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said exposing the details of the program was meant to send a signal to Israel’s enemies.

“We will not stand to the side and allow our enemies to acquire deadly weapons to use against us. This week, I already told our enemies to be careful with their actions. Now I am telling them: Dir balak,” Netanyahu said, using an Arabic phrase meaning, “Watch out.”

A graphic released by the Israeli military showing IRGC Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hussein-Zada Hejazi, who is allegedly responsible for the Iranian military’s activities in Lebanon, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have been particularly high this week following Israeli airstrikes on Saturday night on an Iranian position in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members. Israel named the two as Lebanese nationals and said they were involved in a IRGC Quds Force plot to use armed unmanned aerial vehicles against the Jewish state.

Further stoking tensions was as a drone attack in Beirut early Sunday morning attributed to Israel that reportedly targeted key components of the joint Hezbollah-Iranian precision missile project.

Conricus said he would not comment on the matter.

The precision missile project

According to the IDF, Iran began trying to transport advanced precision missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon through Syria in 2013 and 2014. But airstrikes attributed to Israel prevented the Islamic Republic from providing the terror group with large numbers of these projectiles.

Israeli Military Intelligence believes that in 2016 Iran and Hezbollah decided to change tack and convert the terror group’s existing simple rockets into precision-guided missiles in factories inside Lebanon, but had yet to acquire the ability to do so, despite significant investments of time, money and resources.

A graphic by the Israeli military providing a general explanation of the production methods used in a joint Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“According to our assessments, Hezbollah does not yet have an industrial capability to manufacture precision-guided munitions — not for lack of trying,” Conricus said.

He said the terror group does possess several precision-guided missiles, but does not have “significant amounts” of them.

The Israeli army said IRGC Col. Majid Nuab is responsible for the technical aspects of the program, which began in 2016.

The complicated logistics of transporting the machinery necessary to create such precision-guided missiles from Iran, through Syria and into Lebanon is managed by IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Asrar Nuruzi, according to the IDF.

A graphic by the Israeli military showing Hezbollah commander Fuad Shukr, who is allegedly responsible for Hezbollah’s role in a joint Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

This joint project is being led for Hezbollah by Fuad Shukr, a senior member of the Lebanese group who acts as a close adviser to its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and is wanted by the United States for his role in the 1983 bombing of a US Marines barracks in Beirut, Conricus said.

“He is responsible for everything related to this precision missile project, the development of the missiles as well as preparations to use them. If they’ll be used by Hezbollah, he’s the guy who’ll [actually] be using them,” the IDF spokesman said.

In addition to their names, the Israeli military also released photographs of the officials.

Asked if the revelation of their identities was meant to serve as a threat of assassination to the three IRGC officers and Hezbollah official, Conricus said, “If I were any of these terrorists, I probably wouldn’t be too happy to be named and shamed.”

A graphic by the Israeli military showing IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Asrar Nuruzi, who is allegedly responsible for the logistical aspects of an Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the Israeli military, Iran has used three main ways to transfer the technical equipment necessary both to convert simple rockets into precision missiles and to indigenously manufacture long-range precision missiles from Iran to Lebanon: through the ground, air and sea.

The army spokesman said Military Intelligence believes some of these components were transferred from Syria, where Iran has a large presence and significant influence, to Lebanon through official Lebanese ground crossings, including through the Masnaa Crossing. Other pieces of equipment are suspected of being flown into Lebanon using civilian transport flights into Beirut’s Hariri International Airport. And some machinery was sent to Lebanon by ship through Beirut’s international port, according to the Israeli military.

Conricus said Hezbollah has established multiple facilities involved in the precision missile project in various areas of Lebanon, including in Beirut.

During the strike in Beirut early Sunday morning, a drone carrying explosives reportedly detonated near two crates containing equipment central to the project, destroying them and setting back Hezbollah’s efforts by approximately a year.

A graphic by the Israeli military showing IRGC Col. Majid Nuab, who is allegedly responsible for the technical aspects of an Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Conricus said Israel has attempted to use diplomatic methods to block the joint Iranian-Hezbollah effort.

Last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed the locations of three alleged precision missile facilities inside Beirut during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Since then, Israel has provided information on the plot to Lebanon through the UN and through large countries that have diplomatic ties with both Israel and Beirut, but to no avail, Conricus said.

“It is happening inside Lebanon, despite the fact that Israel through official and covert channels has warned the state of Lebanon and tried to [alert] the state of Lebanon to the dangers of producing these weapons on Lebanese soil near Lebanese civilians,” Conricus said.

He said Israel believes that in light of the Lebanese government’s lack of action on the matter, it has made itself complicit in the Iranian-led endeavor.

“In our point of view, the Lebanese government is completely responsible for what is happening on Lebanese soil,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

However, the spokesman added that at this time Israel does not see the Lebanese Armed Forces as an “active enemy,” as it does consider Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is our main enemy, the LAF is a potential enemy,” he said.

Soldiers in northern Israel have been on high alert this week over fears of a reprisal attack from Hezbollah following the strikes on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The Lebanese frontier was especially tense Thursday morning, following an incident the night before in which Lebanese troops fired on Israeli drones that reportedly entered their airspace.

The IDF believes Hezbollah intends to attack its soldiers or a military installation on the border, and not civilians.

In light of these concerns, the army on Tuesday restricted the movement of military vehicles along roads close to the Lebanese border. The limitations were not imposed on civilians in border communities.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border on August 27, 2019 shows Lebanese army and United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicles patrolling in the Lebanese village of Aitaroun along the border with Lebanon. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israeli officials have threatened a harsh response to any reprisals by Hezbollah, both against the group and against the state of Lebanon, which Jerusalem sees as complicit in the terrorist militia’s activities.

“The Israeli response to an attack will be disproportionate,” an unnamed senior officer told Israel’s Channel 12 news on Monday night.

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Report: Beirut strike will delay Hezbollah missile program by at least a year

Report: Beirut strike will delay Hezbollah missile program by at least a year

Powerful planetary mixer used in creation of solid state fuel is said to have been destroyed in drone explosion; was reportedly flown in from Iran

Two crates reportedly belonging to Hezbollah containing critical technical machinery that were destroyed in a drone strike attributed to Israel in Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Twitter)

Two crates reportedly belonging to Hezbollah containing critical technical machinery that were destroyed in a drone strike attributed to Israel in Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Twitter)

The target of a drone attack on a Hezbollah facility in Beirut early Sunday that has been attributed to Israel was an expensive and rare industrial mixing machine used in the creation of solid fuel, and the raid set back the terror group’s plans to develop long-range precision missiles by at least a year, according to Hebrew media reports late Tuesday.

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, two copter-style drones flew into the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut. One crashed and was recovered by Hezbollah, while the other exploded while still in the air, causing damage and sparking a fire.

Hezbollah and the Lebanese government have blamed Israel for the drone strike. Israeli officials have refused to comment on the matter, and many analysts have suggested the drones were Iranian, not Israeli.

While Israel has been facing off against Hezbollah and its patron Iran, following the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the Israeli military has largely refrained from carrying out large strikes against the terror group inside Lebanon, instead, according to foreign reports, focusing the fighting in Syria and more recently Iraq.

Though Israel has been accused of conducting limited airstrikes against Hezbollah deep in Lebanon in the 13 years since the war, this week’s drone attack in the heart of Beirut would mark a shift to a more aggressive defense policy for the Jewish state.

A Lebanese soldier walks past military intelligence investigators inspecting the site where two drones crashed earlier in the day, in the south of the capital Beirut on August 25, 2019. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

According to Lebanese media Tuesday, the country’s military believes that the unmanned aerial vehicles were launched from within eight kilometers of the site of the explosion, indicating that they were either launched within Lebanon or came in from the sea.

Hezbollah has claimed that only its media offices were damaged by the blast.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, the British Times newspaper reported that the targets of the strike were two crates that held materials for a Hezbollah program to turn its stock of simple rockets into precision-guided missiles — a project that is of deep concern to Israel as it would significantly increase the threat posed by these projectiles.

Last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly in a speech that Israel knew of this Hezbollah plot and even provided the geographic coordinates for the facilities where the missiles were allegedly being produced.

Following Netanyahu’s remarks and the increased scrutiny in Lebanon, the terror group reportedly moved these factories to different locations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

This Hezbollah program is focused on two main goals: locally manufacturing long-range precise missiles and upgrading its current stock of simple rockets into precision-guided ones.

According to Israeli defense officials, the terror group has not yet succeeded in these goals and possesses only a small number of precision-guided missiles.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied the existence of the factories but said his organization does possess such weaponry.

On Tuesday night, several Hebrew media outlets reported additional information about the two targets of the Beirut drone strike — the specialized industrial mixer and a computerized control unit.

According to these reports, the mixer was the far more significant target, as it is necessary for the creation of the solid fuel used in long-range missiles and was the only machine of its kind inside Lebanon.

This type of device — known as a vertical planetary mixer — is used around the world in militaries and space programs to produce solid fuels. Due to the delicate nature of this work, these machines must be incredibly precise and are therefore difficult to manufacture.

A drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Lebanese state media)

According to Channel 13 news, the planetary mixer targeted in the Beirut strike had recently been flown into Lebanon from Iran. It was being held temporarily in Dahiyeh before being transferred to the factory where the actual work on the precision missile project was being performed.

This mixer and the fuel that it would help produce would have been used by Hezbollah to create a locally-produced, precise long-range rocket.

The damage to the mixer rendered it unusable and is believed to have set back this aspect of Hezbollah’s precision missile program by at least a year.

The computerized control unit was reportedly tied to the second aspect of the terror group’s missile project — upgrading existing stocks of rockets.

It was not immediately clear how valuable a target this was.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah said the drone that crashed in Beirut contained an explosive device weighing more than five kilograms (11 pounds).

The scene of where an alleged Israeli drone fell in southern Beirut on August 25, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)

“Experts dismantled the first drone that crashed in Beirut’s southern suburbs; it was found that it contained a sealed explosive device” of around 5.5 kilograms, Hezbollah said in a statement.

“We confirm that the purpose of this first drone was not reconnaissance but the carrying out of a bombing attack,” it added.

The latest discovery, Hezbollah said, confirms that Sunday’s drone attack involved not one but two explosive-rigged drones — one which exploded and the other that did not because of a technical failure.

On Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun denounced the alleged Israeli drone attack as a “declaration of war.”

Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, is a major political actor in Lebanon and also a key government backer in war-torn Syria.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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IDF said to arrest 3 Palestinians during hunt for terrorists behind bomb attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF said to arrest 3 Palestinians during hunt for terrorists behind bomb attack

Israeli troops reportedly confiscate cameras, raid homes in West Bank villages near site of bombing that killed Israeli teen Rina Shnerb

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, following a deadly terror bombing near the Dolev settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, following a deadly terror bombing near the Dolev settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces reportedly arrested three Palestinian men in the West Bank early Saturday as they searched for the terrorists behind a bombing attack that killed an Israeli teenager.

According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli soldiers arrested two of the men during raids in the village of Ein Arik. The third man was said to be a resident of the nearby village of Ein Qiniya.

It was not clear what their connection to the bombing near the Dolev settlement was.

Troops also reportedly seized a number of surveillance cameras in Ein Arik.

المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

@PalinfoAr

لحظة اعتقال قوات الاحتلال الأسير المحرر والطالب في جامعة بيرزيت إصرار معروف من منزله في قرية عين قينيا شمال غرب رام الله .

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The two villages are located near Ein Bubin, a natural spring where an explosive device detonated Friday as three members of the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod were visiting.

The teenage daughter, Rina, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and her brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in serious condition.

Rina Shnerb, 17, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on August 23, 2019 (courtesy)

The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

Following the bombing, security forces launched a large-scale manhunt in the area, with the IDF chief saying he believed they would apprehend the killers “quickly.”

“We are in the midst of a manhunt that is being led by troops from the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police. We are focusing our large operational intelligence effort to finding the perpetrators of this severe and deadly terror attack,” IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said at the site of the bombing on Friday afternoon.

Rabbi Eitan Shnerb speaks to reporters from his hospital bed after being wounded in a terror attack that also killed his daughter Rina and wounded his son Dvir on August 23, 2019 (Screencapture/Ynet)

IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the military did not yet know the identities of the culprits or if they belonged to an established terror group or were acting alone.

Channel 12 quoted unnamed officials as saying that the size and complexity of the the device indicated that one of the major terror groups was behind the attack.

Troops were working to find the terrorists behind the attack as quickly as possible, under the general understanding that the more time they have to flee, the more difficult the search effort becomes.

Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security forces.

“Security forces are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking with reporters Friday from his hospital bed, Eitan Shnerb said he was in good condition, but had a piece of shrapnel in his stomach and a broken hip.

Dvir’s condition on improved to moderate on Saturday morning and he was conscious after undergoing surgery the day before, according to Channel 13 news.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

Last Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off duty police officer who was driving behind him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli religious seminary student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinian cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Iran: IRGC Commander: Iran Test Fires New Missile

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

IRGC Commander: Iran Test Fires New Missile

Saturday, 24 August, 2019 – 10:15
Iran launches a ballistic missile in a Reuters file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran has test fired a new missile, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said on Saturday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

“Our country is always the arena for testing a variety of defense and strategic systems and these are non-stop movements towards the growth of our deterrent power,” Salami said. “And yesterday was one of the successful days for this nation.”

He did not provide any additional information about the missile.

Iran displayed what it described as a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defense system on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last year and stepped up sanctions on Tehran in order to curb its development of ballistic missiles and its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. The two countries have been exchanging threats and warnings since then.

Iran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June, nearly setting off a conflict with the United States.

Israel: Teen Israeli girl killed as family hit by bomb at West Bank spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Teen Israeli girl killed as family hit by bomb at West Bank spring

Rina Shnerb, 17, succumbs to injuries as father, brother badly injured by blast at popular hiking spot near Dolev; army hunts for culprits as it decries ‘serious terror attack’

  • 17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)
    17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)
  • Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli security forces stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli medical teams and security forces and gather at the site where a bomb exploded in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and seriously injuring her father and brother (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli medical teams and security forces and gather at the site where a bomb exploded in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and seriously injuring her father and brother (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli security forces gather at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces gather at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • An Israeli military helicopter picks up two victims of a terror attack in the central West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Dolev settlement)
    An Israeli military helicopter picks up two victims of a terror attack in the central West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Dolev settlement)

A teenage girl was killed and her father and brother were seriously injured in a terrorist bombing at a natural spring outside the central West Bank settlement of Dolev on Friday morning, Israeli officials said.

Rina Shnerb, 17, of Lod, was critically wounded in the attack and received treatment at the scene from civilian and military medics before being pronounced dead of her injuries. Her father Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in serious condition, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the army considered the blast to be a “serious terror attack.”

Shnerb was laid to rest on Friday afternoon, with hundreds attending her funeral in her hometown of Lod in central Israel. Her father and brother were unable to attend, due to the serious injuries they sustained.

The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)

Security services were reportedly tracking a car that fled the scene shortly after the explosion. “IDF soldiers are searching the area,” the military said in a statement.

Manelis said the IDF did not yet know the identities of the culprits or if they belonged to an established terror group or were acting alone.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security forces.

In a statement Netanyahu offered his “deep condolences” to the family and wished swift recuperation to the wounded. “We will continue to strengthen [Jewish] communities. We will spread our roots deeper and strike out at our enemies.”

Rina Shnerb’s funeral was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in her hometown of Lod.

Troops were working to find the terrorists behind the attack as quickly as possible, under the general understanding that the more time they have to flee, the more difficult the search effort becomes.

“Security force are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu said.

The explosion occurred at the Bubin spring — a popular hiking spot — approximately 10 kilometers east of the city of Modiin.

“Our surroundings are full of natural springs and hiking to them is an inseparable part of residents’ lives,” Yael, a resident of Dolev, told Channel 12 news. “There is a difficult feeling.”

She said a bomb attack was “a severe escalation” the likes of which the community had not encountered “in over 20 years.”

Palestinian media reported that the IDF had begun setting up roadblocks and conducting searches in the western Ramallah area, southeast of Dolev.

Israeli sodleirs stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, injuring three people (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

“This [search] mission is being led on several fronts — the first is the intelligence front with other intelligence services, the second front is the manhunt in the field with roadblocks… The third front is the regular security effort to prevent similar events,” IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said.

Another IDF spokesperson said the military was working with the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police to track the culprits.

She said additional troops were also being sent into the West Bank both to find the terrorists and to boost security to settlements in the area.

Large numbers of emergency response personnel were called to the area, including the IDF helicopter that evacuated the victims.

One of the Magen David Adom medics said: “When we arrived at the location, the scene was difficult… We saw three victims lying on the ground, a 46-year-old man who was fully conscious and suffering from wounds to his upper body. Lying next to him was a [19-year-old man] with injuries to his limbs and upper body and a 17-year-old girl with multi-system injuries.”

Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller said the father, despite his injuries, had called in the medics.

The father and son were taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem for treatment, MDA said.

A hospital spokesperson said the father was now considered to be in moderate, stable condition. The 19-year-old son sustained injuries throughout his body, including to his stomach, from the blast. He was unconscious and connected to a respirator.

Israeli ambulances leave the site where an explosive device killed an Israeli teenage girl and injured two others in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The Dolev settlement told residents that they could not leave the community and that those outside should remain there for the time being in light of the bombing.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

“The army is dealing with attempted terror attacks, with lone-wolf assailants and with terror cells,” Manelis said.

Last Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off duty police officer who was driving behind him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli religious seminary student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinina cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.

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