Gaza tensions flare: IDF strikes 8 more Hamas targets as rockets barrage south

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Gaza tensions flare: IDF strikes 8 more Hamas targets as rockets barrage south

18 rockets fired from strip in a number of separate incidents; four intercepted by the Iron Dome while an unspecified number fall in Israeli territory

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Tensions flared on Israel’s border with Gaza early Wednesday morning as the IDF carried out a second round of overnight airstrikes on Hamas targets in response to a barrage of rockets fired from the Strip towards Israeli territory.

The IDF said fighter jets struck eight further “terror targets” on three separate Hamas military bases in the south of the Gaza Strip, in addition to several other sites that were targeted earlier in the night.

In total, 18 rockets were fired towards Israeli territory in a number of separate incidents, the army said. Of those, four rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system while an unspecified number fell in Israeli territory.

There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side of the border.

Earlier, Palestinians fired five rockets at southern Israel after Israeli aircraft hit  Hamas targets in the south of the coastal enclave in response to numerous arson attacks launched across the border by Palestinians, the military said.

The overnight incidents mirror several rounds of rocket fire and IDF strikes on Monday in which Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip after a group of Palestinians launched incendiary balloons at southern Israel.

Following those strikes, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Israel would not allow Palestinian terror groups to continue launching incendiary devices into Israeli territory, the likes of which have caused hundreds of brush fires and burned thousands of acres of land in recent months.

“If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,” Liberman said during a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s primary aerospace manufacturer.

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

The Monday rockets were the first to be fired at Israel in over two weeks, breaking a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a day-long flareup in late May.

Before the rocket attack, Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on three military compounds and one weapons manufacturing plant in northern Gaza belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said it hit a total of nine targets spread out between the three Hamas facilities, in response to flammable and explosive-laden kites and balloons launched from Gaza that have wreaked havoc in Israel over the past several weeks.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at Israeli territory. This is terrorist activity that endangers the lives of southern residents and has damaged large amounts of land,” the military said.

The army warned that it had the “intelligence knowledge and operational capability” necessary to conduct further strikes in Gaza if the balloon and kite attacks did not stop.

A masked Palestinian man launches a balloon loaded with flammable materials toward Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by the military to deter Palestinians from flying the airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempts to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.

The Palestinian rocket fire appeared to come in response to the airstrikes.

The projectiles shot at Israel triggered sirens in the Hof Ashkelon region and the city of Ashkelon’s industrial area, sending thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters. The alarms were triggered in two waves, first at 4:40 a.m. and then again shortly after 5 a.m.

The Iron Dome missile defense system did not appear to have been activated, indicating the two incoming rockets that cleared the border struck open fields, where there was no risk to life and thus no need to intercept them.

Israel’s airstrikes in the Strip and the subsequent Palestinian rocket fire followed a day of airborne arson attacks by Gazans, who launched dozens of balloons laden with incendiary devices and explosives at southern Israel, sparking at least 20 fires, some of them large.

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31 killed in Eid suicide bombing, grenade attacks in Nigeria town

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

31 killed in Eid suicide bombing, grenade attacks in Nigeria town

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Nigeria’s Borno state targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

WORLD Updated: Jun 17, 2018 17:44 IST

Press Trust of India, Kano (Nigeria)
The toll is expected to go up as many of the injured may not survive, officials said.
The toll is expected to go up as many of the injured may not survive, officials said.(Reuters)

Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed at least 31 people in a twin suicide bomb attack in a town in northeast Nigeria, a local official and militia leader said on Sunday.

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Borno state on Saturday evening targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

Following the suicide bombings, the jihadists fired rocket-propelled grenades into the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the attacks, driving the number of casualties higher.

“There were two suicide attacks and rocket-propelled grenade explosions in Damboa last night which killed 31 people and left several others injured,” militia leader Babakura Kolo told AFP.

Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Shuwari and nearby Abachari neighbourhoods in the town around 10:45 pm (2145GMT), killing six residents, said Kolo, speaking from the state capital Maiduguri, which is 88 kilometres from the town.

“No one needs to be told this is the work of Boko Haram,” Kolo said. A local government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll. “The latest death toll is now 31 but it may increase because many among the injured may not survive,” he said.

“Most casualties were from the rocket projectiles fired from outside the town minutes after two suicide bomber attacked,” he said.

The jihadist group has deployed suicide bombers, many of them young girls, in mosques, markets and camps housing people displaced by the nine-year insurgency which has devastated Nigeria’s northeast.

On May 1, at least 86 people were killed in twin suicide blasts targeting a mosque and a nearby market in the town of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 vowing to stamp out Boko Haram but the jihadists continue to stage frequent attacks, targeting both civilians and security forces.

The militants stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing over 100 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

 

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

Top clerics and religious scholars also declare country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law

Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders.
Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders. PHOTO: OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS

KABUL, Afghanistan—A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber struck a meeting of Afghanistan’s top clerics and religious scholars in the capital on Monday, killing 14 people shortly after the large gathering declared such suicide attacks a sin and the country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law.

The Afghan branch of Islamic State said through its Amaq news agency that it carried out the attack, which occurred as the meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council was adjourning and attendees were departing the assembly grounds. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest insurgency, denied any involvement in the bombing.

Islamic State’s affiliate here, which has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks in Kabul in recent months, is under intense military pressure from U.S. Special Forces and from stepped-up U.S. airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province, its Afghan stronghold.

One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin.
One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin. PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior Afghan security official said 17 people were also injured in the bombing at one of the exits from the meeting grounds, near Kabul Polytechnic University in western Kabul.

Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesman for the government’s High Peace Council, said the meeting was attended by some 3,000 religious figures from across the Central Asian nation. He said he escaped the blast by a matter of seconds. “God has given me another life,” he said.

Shortly before the attack, the convocation had issued an Islamic ruling, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden.

“Suicide attacks, explosions for killing people, division, insurgency, different types of corruption, robbery, kidnapping and any type of violence are counted as big sins in Islam and are against the order of the Almighty Allah,” they said.

Suicide bombings are a relatively recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, having been rejected as a form of combat during the uprising against the occupation of Soviet forces in the 1980s and the takeover by Taliban forces in the mid-1990s.

Rather, they became a feature of the Afghan war in the mid-2000s, as the tactics used by Islamist militants against U.S. forces in Iraq rebounded here.

The clerical gathering also denounced the 17-year war in Afghanistan as illegal under Islamic law, calling it nothing but “shedding the blood of Muslims,” and urged the Taliban to take up the Kabul government’s offer of unconditional peace talks.

In perhaps the most public peace overture since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in late February offered political recognition to the Taliban in exchange for a stop to the fighting.

The Taliban hasn’t replied formally to the bid. It has said it will only negotiate with the U.S. since, it says, America is the main engine of the war and the Kabul government is illegitimate.

Write to Craig Nelson at [email protected]

Appeared in the June 5, 2018, print edition as ‘Afghan Clerics Targeted in Deadly Bombing.’

Behind Islamic Jihad’s barrage of attacks on Israel, the hand of Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Behind Islamic Jihad’s barrage of attacks on Israel, the hand of Iran

It is hard to believe that the Gaza terror group would have opened fire on Israeli citizens, potentially pushing the Strip toward war, without the support of its Iranian sponsors

Avi Issacharoff
Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists march during a military drill near the border with Israel, east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists march during a military drill near the border with Israel, east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Tuesday morning’s barrages of mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel were quickly rumored in Gaza to be the work of the Islamic Jihad terror group. And hours after more than two dozen mortar shells hit Israel, the IDF carried out retaliatory strikes that were mainly directed at Islamic Jihad’s military wing.

Islamic Jihad’s role indicates we are witnessing an attempt by Iran to spark a war on the southern border. And if the deterioration of the situation is not halted in the very near future, the attempt may prove successful. Already we have seen an attack on Israeli targets unprecedented since 2014’s Protective Edge conflict, with a consequent Israeli response against targets in Gaza.

The Islamic Jihad barrages were ostensibly aimed at avenging Israel’s reported killing of three of its operatives, who were attempting an attack, earlier this week in the Rafah area. That was the immediate pretext. But the nature and scale of the Islamic Jihad response — heavy fire at civilian targets in Israel — indicates that revenge was not the only motivation. It is possible that this is at root an Iranian move, seeking to have Israel pay a price in the south for targeting Iran in the north — across the border in Syria.

After all, it is hard to believe that Islamic Jihad, a smaller ally-rival of Hamas which is financed and trained primarily by the Iranians, would have initiated this kind of action, with its dramatic consequences for Gaza, without Tehran’s approval.

Israeli soldiers stand guard next to an Israeli Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed along the border with the Gaza strip on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Israel has been making clear of late that it operates freely in Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps there; it may well be that there are those in Tehran who want to counter that via the Gaza Strip, or at least to stir up Israel’s southern border and therefore distract Israel’s attention from the north.

Where does Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, fit into this? Hamas was quick to welcome the barrages fired at Israel. And the IDF has also targeted several Hamas facilities. Yet the fact remains that Hamas’s activities in recent months indicate that it is not particularly interested in an escalation, and Israel recognizes this.

Hamas has put the brakes on a potential deterioration into all-out conflict more than once of late, even after its forces were hit. The most obvious recent example of this was on May 14, the day the US inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem, Nakba Day, when more than 60 Gazans were killed in violent clashes with Israel at the Gaza border. Hamas later acknowledged that almost all of the fatalities were its members. Yet it ordered the dispersal of the protests at the border that evening, to avoid a potential descent into war.

Illustrative. A photo provided by the pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media, shows anti-aircraft fire rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, after the Israeli military says Iranian forces launched a rocket barrage against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismael Haniyeh have been engaged in various secretive contacts of late — intermittently involving Egypt and, separately Qatar — intended to yield understandings for a long-term Hamas-Israel ceasefire. Evidently, however, there are other players — Islamic Jihad and Iran — who want to heat things up.

Islamic Jihad’s attacks on Israel are also embarrassing Hamas in the eyes of the Gaza public. Hamas knows that if its forces do not prevent a continuation of Islamic Jihad fire — whether through the use of force, or threats, or both — there is a considerable likelihood that Gaza will once again find itself at war with Israel. But if Hamas does intervene against Islamic Jihad, its image as the “resistance” against Israel will be undermined. It would risk becoming perceived as another kind of “Palestinian Authority,” collaborating with the Zionist enemy in return for quiet and/or economic benefit.

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COMMENTS

 

Concerning N. Korea: Are S. Korean People As Clueless As The Trump Administration?

Concerning N. Korea: Are S. Korean People As Clueless As The Trump Administration?

 

President Trump always try’s to play himself off as a macho man when it comes to talking about war issues even though he hid behind his daddy skirts 6 or 7 times in being a coward to stay out of Vietnam. It is no secret that Mr Trump adores ‘strong men’ like Mr Putin, Xi Jinping and Duarte and that he wishes that the U.S. Constitution didn’t exist and that we here in the U.S. should adopt a policy like China has where Xi Jinping is now ‘President For Life.’ You very well know that if Hillary was the President he would not be in favor of such a policy. The issue, just like every thing else in this world (in his eyes) is all about him. What he has proven himself to be over and over again is an habitual liar, ignorant of all reality, a total egomaniac, and a complete fool. I also believe that once the midterm election is over and the Democrats demolish the Republicans in the Congress and the Democrats retake the Senate, probable 51-49 or maybe 52-48, the Republicans will turn on Mr. Trump and he will be impeached. It is not like the Republican establishment likes this crooked fool, but he is the only horse they have in the race so they have chosen to forfeit all semblance of integrity and to stay with him, until after November.

 

 

North Korea’s Vice Minister of the Foreign Ministry, Ms. Cloe who specializes in North Korea-American relations said the following about Vice President Pence’s ‘Libya’ comments. She said “Mr. Pence is a ‘Political Dummy’ for comparing Libya to North Korea. As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out of the mouth of the U.S. Vice President.” Mr. Adam Mount, the Director of the ‘Defense Posture Project’ at the Federation of American Scientist said he believes that the comments made by Mr. Pence and Mr. Bolton were the “most explicit regime change threat yet” from the Trump Administration.

 

Why I asked the question in the title about if the people of South Korea are as clueless as people like Mr. Trump are is because of the following pieces of reality I would like to share with you now. First, I would like t compare the situation on the Korean Peninsula with the situation in Israel/Gaza/West Bank. The majority of the people of Israel know very well if there was no secured border with the Palestinians this latest “March of Return” that Hamas has instituted would have wiped out all the Jewish people and there would no longer be a Nation of Israel. Reality is that most of Israels neighbors, PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, they do not want peace with Israel, they want there to be no such thing as a Nation of Israel. Now, if there is indeed to be only one Korea, that Korea will be under the direct control of Kim Jong Un, the man will accept nothing less as this is his ultimate goal in life. Now concerning the Nuclear Site that North Korea supposedly blew up yesterday. The CIA as well as some of China’s news outlets said over a month ago that this site, the interior of this mountain had caved in, so they had no ‘active’ nuclear site. The only way they could have rebuilt this site with all of the sanctions going on was if China financed them and helped to physically rebuild it, reality is that Xi Jinping told Kim Jong Un no when Kim visited China last month. This event played well into China’s wishes. No nukes on their door step, blow up the nonexistent Nuke site, play nice with South Korea and the U.S. and see what kind of concessions can be obtained from the U.S. and their allies. Trump has spoken lately of removing the 45,000 Marines that we have stationed at the border between the two Korea’s and this past week he also called off some of the military exercise events we have each with the South Korean military in an attempt to please Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim cannot simply march his army into South Korea at this time he is trying to get a lot of loans or credit so that he can get the South Korean government to open trade with the South. This in a sense is like the China model of keep the government in place but get revenues and technologies from the West to make your Communist government stronger with the influx of revenues. China is and has been using this model to take over all of Asia as they do ‘play the long game.’

 

I’ll make this last paragraph about the ‘Libya stupidity’. Here are the reasons why the tragedy that is Libya of today will not ever happen in North Korea. 1) There is no Islamic insurgency of any kind in North Korea. Libya is and was inundated with believers of Islam, unless a strong Dictator can come into this country and wipe out all of these fundamentalist of Islam, Libya is going to stay a cesspool for many decades to come. 2) The people, the citizens of Libya had/has no strong Super Power backing them on one of their borders like North Korea does with China. President Xi Jinping of China has made it perfectly clear that China will not tolerate a Regime Change in North Korea. He has made it plain that they will not allow a democracy or a ‘friend’ of the United States to occupy the space that is the North Korea of today. Trump has at times made comments about maybe doing a first strike against North Korea to get rid of all of their nukes. These comments were made despite the comments of Xi Jinping that if North Korea is attacked first, China will join in that war to support North Korea, thus creating a nuclear war, world war 3 with China and probably with Russia joining in with their ally, China. China will not tolerate a ‘Libya situation’ on their border so only people who are ignorant of these realities  or someone who is simply a stupid fool (Bolton, Pence, Trump) would make such “ignorant and stupid remarks.” The American people must face up to the fact that all of the rest of the world already knows, we have a Lunatic sitting in Our Oval Office!

Netherlands And Australia Hold Russia Partly At Fault For Downing Of Malaysian Jet

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

(FLIGHT MH17 WAS SHOT DOWN WITH A RUSSIAN MISSILE FROM A RUSSIAN HELD MILITARY LOCATION)

Friday – 9 months of Ramadan 1439 H – 25 May 2018 m
Joint investigation team in Malaysia plane crash offers a shattered missile (Reuters)
Amsterdam: Middle East Online
The Netherlands and Australia have taken responsibility for the downing of the Malaysian plane over Ukraine during its flight MH17 in 2014, officials said on Friday, in a move that could trigger a judicial move.
In a statement, the Dutch government said the two countries “hold Russia partly responsible for the downing” of the Malaysian plane, a day after investigators found that a Bock missile hit the plane while it was flying, moving from a Russian military unit in Kursk. All 298 passengers, mostly Dutch, were killed.

Iranian Butcher Khamenei sets terms for Tehran to remain in nuclear deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Khamenei sets terms for Tehran to remain in nuclear deal

Iranian leader says Europe must vow not to seek limits on missile program and regional actions, and must protect Islamic Republic’s economy from American sanctions

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers’ meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website /HO)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday set conditions for Europe for Tehran to remain in the 2015 nuclear accord, following the US withdrawal from the deal earlier this month.

Khamenei, addressing government officials on the occasion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said European powers must vow not to seek new limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program or its activities in the Middle East, as demanded by the Trump administration.

They must also “fully guarantee Iran’s oil sales,” he said, adding that if the US “damages” oil sales through renewed economic sanctions, “Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil.”

European banks, he added, “must safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic” in the face of new sanctions.

He also said the EU “must submit a resolution against the US at the UN Security Council” to protest the American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

He warned that should conditions not be met, “Iran reserves the right to restart its suspended nuclear activities.”

He added: “We do not want to start a fight with [Europe] but…we don’t trust them either.”

The Iranian leader said Tehran has learned it cannot “interact” with the United States as it is a country whose word cannot be trusted.

“The first experience is that the government of the Islamic Republic cannot interact with America… Why? Because America is not committed to its promises,” Press TV quoted him as saying.

Khamenei said the US has been aiming to topple the Islamic republic for 40 years. “From the first day of the Islamic Revolution the US has applied all kinds of enmity to hit the Islamic republic,” he said.

The speech comes just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a steep list of demands to be included in a nuclear treaty to replace the deal scuttled by Trump. Among them, Pompeo demanded that Iran make wholesale changes in its military and regional policies or face “the strongest sanctions in history.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation, on May 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Pompeo has called for the negotiation of a new deal that would go far beyond the single focus of the nuclear agreement and would have the status of a formal treaty. The 2015 deal concluded under the Obama administration dealt only with the nuclear program.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani compared Pompeo’s comments to those made by the administration of George W. Bush ahead of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“The era of such statements has evolved and the Iranian people have heard these statements hundreds of times, and no longer pay attention,” Rouhani said.

Other senior Iranian officials rejected the demands, saying the US was afraid to face Iran in battle and vowing to push ahead with their country’s military programs.

On Monday a senior IRGC officer said Pompeo deserves a “strong punch to the mouth.”

Commenting on US threats to ramp up sanctions on Iran, Ismail Kowsari said, “The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them.”

Pompeo argued that Iran had advanced its march across the Middle East precisely because of the nuclear deal, which saw the West lifting sanctions on Tehran in return for Iran limiting its nuclear program.

US President Donald Trump is seen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on May 17, 2018. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

US President Donald Trump’s newly installed top diplomat also hinted at the possibility of military action should Iranian leaders reconstitute their nuclear program.

“If they restart their nuclear program, they will have big problems, bigger problems than they’ve ever had before,” he said, also threatening to “crush” Iran’s terrorist proxies around the world.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret facility in the Iranian desert that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could potentially be used to attack the United States.

Satellite images appear to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.

Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing long-range missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.

Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.

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Evidence points to Iranian work on long-range missiles at secret base — report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES ISRAEL)

 

Evidence points to Iranian work on long-range missiles at secret base — report

NY Times says researchers pieced together clues from satellite images that appear to show activity and powerful rocket engine tests at facility near Shahrud

Iran showed footage on Saturday, September 23, 2017, of a missile test (Screenshot/PressTV)

Iran showed footage on Saturday, September 23, 2017, of a missile test (Screenshot/PressTV)

Weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret facility in the Iranian desert that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could potentially be used to attack the United States, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Satellite images appear to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.

Although there are no restrictions in place on the range of Iranian missiles, US President Donald Trump had insisted that limitations be placed on Tehran’s missile program as a prerequisite for Washington remaining in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He ultimately pulled out of it on May 12.

According to the report, researchers from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey watched a recent Iranian documentary about rocket scientist Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, a leading figure in the country’s missile development program, who was killed in a devastating 2011 explosion at Iran’s main research facility near the town of Bidganeh. Based on details in the film, the researchers came to the conclusion that before his death Moghaddam had helped set up another facility, which is still operational.

Screen capture from video of Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam, a ballistic missile engineer for Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, who was killed in an explosion in 2011. (YouTube)

Another key clue came when one researcher, reviewing material from an Iranian journalist association, saw an undated photo of Moghaddam, who was a commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that included in the background a box marked “Shahrud.”

The Shahrud site, located about 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Tehran, was used for a missile test firing in 2013 and was thought to have remained largely unused since. However, satellite images of the site showed a steady increase in the number of buildings there over the past few years, the report said. Curiously, the buildings were painted an aquamarine color, the same shade that Moghaddam had ordered be used at the destroyed Bidganeh site, researchers noticed.

Large marks on the desert floor appeared to be the result of rocket engine test-firings, and the marks had appeared in 2016 and 2017, the report said. Rocket engines can leave a big scorching shaped like a candle flame on the ground.

Analysis of the concrete stands that would have held the engines during the firings suggested the motors had somewhere between 62 and 93 tons of thrust — consistent with the kind of power needed for a long-range missile. Other test structures, apparently also used for engine tests, were reportedly even larger.

Additional imaging from sophisticated sensors also showed traffic at the opening of an underground tunnel, indicating a large structure buried in the sand, the report said.

Researchers came to the conclusion that the site was working on advanced rocket motors and rocket fuel.

US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The report said that five experts who reviewed the research material agreed it strongly indicated work on long-range missiles. However, the report also noted that “it is possible that the facility is developing only medium-range missiles, which Iran already possesses, or perhaps an unusually sophisticated space program.”

The US and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its production of ballistic missiles, which can reach parts of Europe and could soon reach the US as well. Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing such missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.

Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.

Iranian leaders have also said they are not working on missiles with a range beyond the Middle East. It has so far produced a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), putting all of Israel in range as well as much of Eastern Europe.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw heavy sanctions lifted on Iran in return for Tehran freezing much of its nuclear program. Having pulled out of the deal in May, the US has vowed to apply the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which affirmed the Iran nuclear deal, called on Iran to refrain from developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained that it never intended to develop nuclear weapons and therefore its missile development doesn’t violate the agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech on files obtained by Israel he says proves Iran lied about its nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month presented a vast archive of Iranian documents, obtained by the Mossad spy agency, which he said detailed Iranian efforts and research programs specifically aimed at producing an atomic weapon.

Netanyahu said at the time the evidence proved Iran had “lied” about its nuclear ambitions. In announcing his withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, Trump cited the Israeli intelligence haul as among the reasons for his decision.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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At least 9 killed in 3 church explosions in Indonesia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

At least 9 killed in 3 church explosions in Indonesia

Indonesian bomb squade examine the site following a suicide bomb outside a church in Surabaya early Sunday.

(CNN)Suspected suicide bombers struck three different churches in Indonesia on Sunday morning, killing at least nine people and injuring scores more, police say.

Forty people — including two police officers — were taken to hospital with injuries following the attacks in Surabaya, a port city on the east coast of Java Island, East Java Police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said.
Police officers near the scene of hte blast at Santa Maria church in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia.

The explosions targeted the Santa Maria Catholic Church, the Indonesian Christian Church and the Pentecost Central Church. The St. Maria explosion killed four people and two people were killed at each of the other two churches, the spokesman said. Another person later died at a hospital.
St. Maria was the site of the first blast, which occurred at 7.30 a.m. local time Sunday (8.30 p.m. Saturday ET), before blasts at 7.35 a.m. and 8 a.m., state-run news agency Antara quoted him as saying.
“Right now there are only three locations. Do not believe in misleading information that (the bomb) exploded in five locations or any others,” the police spokesman added.
“We suspect it is a suicide bomb attempt. We have identified one victim,” he said.
The police spokesman declined to give more details on the victims.
Police have closed off all three locations as they work to identify the victims.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi tweeted her condolences to the bombing victims with the hashtags #UnitedAgainstTerrorism and #WeAreNotAfraid.
Police have not identified the attackers.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. In recent years it has been fighting against radical extremism as ISIS attempts to recruit members within the country.

Israel urges Assad to ‘throw out’ Iranian forces: ‘They only harm you’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

LIBERMAN: ‘WE DID NOT CROSS IRAN’S BORDERS. THEY CAME HERE’

Israel urges Assad to ‘throw out’ Iranian forces: ‘They only harm you’

Defense minister reassures residents of the north that things are ‘back to normal’ following massive airstrikes in Syria

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) meets with Golan Regional Council head Eli Malka (L) and Katrzin Regional Council head Dmitry Apartzev (R) during a tour of the Golan Heights town of Katzrin on may 11, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) meets with Golan Regional Council head Eli Malka (L) and Katrzin Regional Council head Dmitry Apartzev (R) during a tour of the Golan Heights town of Katzrin on may 11, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Speaking in the north of Israel on Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sent a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad, telling him to “throw” Iranian forces out of his country.

Liberman visited the northern city of Katzrin to debrief residents following Israel’s largest air campaign in Syria in more than 40 years, in which it says it bombed over 50 Iranian targets.

The sortie came after Iran fired 20 missiles toward Israel just after midnight on Thursday morning, the IDF said, forcing residents of the north into bomb shelters. Four of the missiles were knocked down by the Iron Dome air defense system and the rest fell short of Israeli territory, according to the military.

Liberman urged Syria to expel the Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, which Israel blamed for the missile attacks early Thursday morning.

“I want to use this opportunity to give Assad a message,” he said. “Throw out the Iranians, throw out Qassem Soleimani and the Quds force. They don’t help you, they only harm you, and their presence causes only problems and damage.”

Liberman also told Israelis they should not let the threat from Syria deter them from visiting the north. “You can come, you can return to the bed and breakfasts, to tour, to hike,” he said. “There are truly amazing views and among the most beautiful places, and there is no problem. We are back to normal.”

He said that it was a mistake to think that Thursday morning’s attacks on the Iranian bases had completely solved the problem, but that the army was ready for anything and would continue to do whatever necessary to ensure Israel is secure.

“I don’t think it’s all over,” he said,” but we certainly have our finger on the pulse.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 9, 2018. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AFP)

Liberman said Israel was in a unique position of being able to speak with the leaders of both the US and Russia, though he refused to say whether Israel was responsible for Russia refusing to send better air defense systems to Syria.

The defense minister welcomed Iran’s statement that it did not want an escalation between the two countries and stressed that Israel was also not looking for more confrontation with anyone.

“We did not cross Iran’s borders,” he said. “They came here.”

He reassured residents that if anyone was planning to launch missiles against Israel the IDF would try to carry out preemptive strikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday Iran had “crossed a red line” and that Israel’s bombardment against targets in Syria “was a consequence.”

Israel has long warned it will not accept Iran entrenching itself militarily in neighboring Syria, where the Islamic Republic backs Assad’s regime in the country’s seven-year civil war.

Israel was blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that have killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged those raids.

The Jewish state said it had conducted dozens of operations in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Iran-backed Hezbollah, another key foe of Israel.

Amid a series of retaliation threats from Tehran, Israel had been preparing itself for weeks for possible Iranian retaliation.

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