UN extends Lebanon border peacekeeping mission

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

UN extends Lebanon border peacekeeping mission, urges full access to Blue Line

Security Council warns rising tensions can lead to war neither side can afford, orders review of UNIFIL amid Israeli concerns that Hezbollah rendering Blue Helmets ineffective

Soldiers of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol a road in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel on August 29, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

Soldiers of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol a road in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel on August 29, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

The UN Security Council on Thursday voted to renew its long-running peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for a year, warning of a “new conflict” with neighboring Israel as tensions with the Hezbollah terror group spike.

The draft resolution, written by France and approved unanimously, would allow for the approximately 10,000 members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, to stay in place. It also calls for a review of the peacekeeping mission, amid Israeli concerns that Hezbollah and Lebanon “continue to significantly hinder the full and effective implementation” of the Blue Helmets’ mandate.

“Should these restrictions remain, UNIFIL’s relevance is questioned,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said

According to the draft text, the Security Council warned that “violations of the cessation of hostilities could lead to a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford.”

Military vehicles belonging to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) drive past posters of the Lebanese Shiiite Hezbollah movement leader Hasan Nasrallah (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on a road near the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun, on August 26, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

It “condemns all violations of the Blue Line” between Lebanon and Israel, “both by air and ground, and strongly calls upon all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities.”

IDF soldiers in northern Israel have been on high alert this week over fears of a reprisal attack from Hezbollah or another Iranian proxy following Israeli airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, and an armed drone attack on Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold, which has been blamed on Israel.

Lebanese president Michel Aoun said the Beirut incident amounted to a “declaration of war,” and on Wednesday the Lebanese army fired on an Israeli drone in the southern part of the country.

“Urging all parties to make every effort to ensure that the cessation of hostilities is sustained,” the Security Council called on all sides to “exercise maximum calm and restraint.”

Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, whose term at the world body was recently extended, praised the Security Council decision, which he said “sends a clear message to the Lebanese government: restrain Hezbollah.”

“The terrorist organization’s grip on southern Lebanon is intended to only harm the State of Israel and endanger the entire region. Israel will not accept such a reality,” he said.

A picture taken on August 26, 2019, near the northern Israeli moshav of Avivim shows a Hezbollah flag in the Lebanon village of Aitaroun. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The resolution includes a requirement — on the insistence of the United States, diplomats said — for the UN secretary-general to perform an evaluation on the UNIFIL mission and its staff before June 1, 2020.

Also at the US’s request, the Security Council resolution calls for UNIFIL to have full access to the Blue Line, where Israel recently said it discovered a network of cross-border tunnels dug by Hezbollah.

A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Meiss al-Jabal on December 16, 2018, shows Israeli soldiers watching as United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers speak with Lebanese soldiers in front of a Hezbollah flag. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

The resolution expresses “concern that UNIFIL still has not been able to access all relevant locations north of the Blue Line related to the discovery of tunnels crossing the Blue Line.”

Washington was unable, however, to reduce the maximum allowed number of peacekeepers deployed to 9,000.

Israel had been seeking to expand the mandate of the mission, giving it more access to areas in Lebanon and allowing it to report infractions in real time, according to a Hebrew-language report Wednesday.

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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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Israel:10-year-old Palestinian said seriously wounded in West Bank clash with IDF

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

10-year-old Palestinian said seriously wounded in West Bank clash with IDF

Boy reportedly hit in head by rubber bullet during demonstration in Kafr Qaddum; IDF says riot control methods used against protesters who threw stones, burned tires

Illustrative -- Palestinian protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus, June 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Illustrative — Palestinian protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus, June 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A 10-year-old Palestinian boy was said to be seriously wounded during a clash with the Israel Defense Forces at a violent demonstration against the security barrier in a West Bank village on Friday afternoon.

According to Haaretz, citing Palestinian reports, the boy was hit in the head by a rubber bullet during the clash in the village of Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus.

The IDF confirmed to Haaretz that control methods were used to disperse violent demonstrators, but that live ammunition was not deployed.

“In response to a violent demonstration by some 60 Palestinians, during which they burned tires and threw stones, soldiers used various means to disperse the protests, but not with live ammunition. The army received a report of a wounded person around ten years old,” the statement read.

The incident came as the IDF prepared for possible violence on the Gaza border Friday afternoon, a day after a member of Hamas was shot dead by troops in what the army characterized as “a misunderstanding.”

On Thursday, in an unusual move, the military acknowledged that the man had been erroneously identified by soldiers as an armed terrorist, but was apparently an operative trying to stop Palestinian youths from breaching the security fence.

A Palestinian protester throws a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli military vehicle during protests along the Gaza border with Israel on July 5, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The army’s statement appeared to be an effort to calm tensions with Hamas and prevent another round of violence on the border.

Hamas’s military wing said in a statement that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act.”

The Hamas field commander killed in the incident was Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, 28.

Al-Adham’s death threatened to spark another round of large-scale violence between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

Throughout the past year and a half, the two sides have fought several bouts — with terror groups firing mortar shells, rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and the IDF retaliating with airstrikes — often sparked by smaller incidents along the border.

Thursday’s border incident came amid a relatively calm period along the normally restive frontier, following a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

In recent days, leaders of the terror group have threatened to bring back the high level of violence along the border — riots, arson attacks and clashes — if Israel does not continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On Tuesday, Hamas launched a highly unusual training exercise that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Judah Ari Gross and AFP contributed to this report

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Israel: Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

Highly rare exercise appears linked to botched IDF special forces raid in November, comes a day after Israel located 18th attack tunnel under Gaza border

Illustrative: Members of Hamas's military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Illustrative: Members of Hamas’s military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group launched a highly unusual training exercise Tuesday night that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Gazans reported a spike in the movement of armed personnel in the streets, including along the border with Israel, before the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in the territory announced it was a military drill.

The drill saw the sudden raising of the alert level among all security agencies throughout the Strip, a general mobilizing of reserve personnel to the security services, the deployment of roadblocks, and the closure by Hamas of all land crossings and sea ports. Fishermen were told they could not set out to sea.

It included police, intelligence units and the terror group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Iyad al-Bozm, spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza, said on Twitter: “The Interior and National Security Ministry is currently carrying out an emergency drill to simulate dealing with a sudden security threat. It is taking place in the framework of examining the preparedness of the security forces and services.”

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terrorist movement, mourn during the funeral of fellow militant Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. Zahar was killed in a tunnel collapse. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Hamas officials told Arabic-language media that the exercise simulated an incursion by Israeli security forces. An Interior Ministry statement said the drill came “due to attempts by enemies to undermine security and public order.”

The exercise appears linked to an IDF special forces operation in the Gaza Strip in November that went awry after the undercover Israeli force was discovered, resulting in the death of a soldier in the ensuing gunbattle.

An IDF probe, some of whose findings were released on Sunday, identified a number of tactical errors and improper planning that led to the operation’s failure, alongside courageous actions by members of the unit who took part in the raid that prevented a greater disaster. It said the Israeli officer was killed by friendly fire by another member of the team.

The highly public, embarrassing debacle led to a series of shake ups within IDF Military Intelligence. Notably, the head of Military Intelligence Special Operations Division — who can only be identified by his rank and initial, Brig. Gen. “Gimel” — resigned his position last week, having decided to do so in August.

According to Hamas officials, the soldiers were from Sayeret Matkal and had been conducting a complex operation to bug the terror group’s communications equipment in Gaza. They were said to have been driving through Gaza in civilian vans, approximately three kilometers (two miles) from the border.

Israel has not confirmed any of those claims.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

On Monday, the five-year anniversary of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’s military wing released a statement lauding the “ceaseless preparations and battle of the minds with Israel” underway since that round of fighting.

Israel, Hamas said, “has seen the power of the resistance in the battle in Khan Younis” — a reference to the November 11 fighting during the botched raid that also left six Hamas gunmen dead — “whose results continue to shake the foundations of the Israeli defense establishment and military.”

The statement added that “the resistance has additional powerful capabilities it has not yet revealed.”

The massive drill on the Palestinian side of the border comes as IDF forces continue to investigate the Hamas attack tunnel located deep underground Monday that crosses into Israeli territory.

IDF spokespeople said Tuesday that the tunnel appeared to be an offshoot of an old tunnel.

It was discovered by Defense Ministry officials and IDF troops working on constructing an underground tunnel barrier along the Israel-Gaza border.

Also Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel “came close in recent weeks to the possibility of a military operation in Gaza, but it very much depends on what Hamas does in the coming weeks,” according to Channel 13.

Last month, Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group reached a new ceasefire agreement. An Israeli official confirmed that the country had agreed to a number of economic concessions for Gaza in exchange for an end to arson attacks and other violence along the border. Israel also agreed to extend the fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 15 nautical miles and to restore the supply of fuel to the Palestinian territory, the official said.

The agreement came after a fresh surge in serious violence between the two sides, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air force strikes.

Since the deal went into effect there has been a marked drop in the number of airborne arson attacks, though they have not stopped completely.

Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire — report

Monitor says Iranian, Hezbollah targets hit in airstrikes; IDF says Syrian military positions targeted, including anti-aircraft battery, after 2 rockets fired at Golan on Saturday

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson's unit)

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

Seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in Israel Defense Forces airstrikes on several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights on Saturday night, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not specify the nationalities of the foreigners, but in an earlier statement said that Iranian and Hezbollah targets were hit in the strikes.

Beginning at 4:10 a.m., Israel Defense Forces helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the IDF said in a statement.

Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and is proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. These strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying who it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

The observation and intelligence targets bombed by Israel were located near the border with the Golan Heights, while the artillery and anti-aircraft batteries were south and south-west of Damascus, the IDF said.

During the exchange, Israeli air defense systems fired in response to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but no projectiles were believed to have landed inside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that Israel will continue to respond to any attacks on its territory.

“We are not prepared to tolerate firing into our territory and we react with great force against any aggression against us,” the prime minister, who also serves as defense minister, said in a statement. “This is a consistent policy that I lead and so we will continue to do for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed and seven injured in the attack, and claimed that Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles coming from the Golan Heights. The attack also caused material damage, the report said.

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

Last night, 2 rockets were launched from Syria to Israel, 1 landing within Israeli territory. In response, we struck a number of Syrian Armed Forces military targets.

Video insertado

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

The Syrian Armed Forces targets we struck included:
🎯 2 artillery batteries
🎯 Observation & intel posts
🎯 An SA-2 aerial defense battery

We hold the Syrian regime accountable and will firmly operate against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians. pic.twitter.com/XtDTqz7Btc

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The two projectiles fired at Israel on Saturday caused no injuries or damage.

The incoming rockets did not trigger alert sirens. These alarms are typically only activated in cases where a projectile is heading toward a populated area, rather than an open field.

The launches came less than a week after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

On Monday, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired at an Israeli fighter jet that was flying within Israeli airspace. Shortly afterward, in response, the IDF attacked the battery and destroyed it, reportedly killing a Syrian officer and soldier. A military vehicle was also said damaged in the attack.

Saturday night’s rockets appeared to be a relatively long-range variety, reportedly fired from the Damascus area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, similar to an attack earlier this year aimed at Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is located in the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. In addition to a popular ski resort, the area is also home to a number of military installations.

In January, Iranian troops in Syria fired a medium-range, Iranian-made missile at Mount Hermon in what the IDF said at the time was a “premeditated” attack aimed at deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes against the Islamic republic’s troops and proxies in Syria.

The incoming projectile was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Last Saturday, Syria said its air defenses shot down a number of missiles fired from Israel, a day after making a similar claim.

Toward the start of the Syrian civil war, the Israeli military established a number of “red lines” that if violated would result in a retaliatory strike, including any attacks — intentional or otherwise — against Israel.

They also included Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and attempts to transfer advanced munitions to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in response to these “red line” violations.

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Yom Ha’Zikaron

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FIDF)

 

Dear Friend,

Today we stand together, bowing our heads with flags flown at half-mast. We pay tribute to the memory of 23,741 soldiers and 3,150 civilians who have paid the ultimate price for the Jewish homeland to exist. We also stand with their families whose suffering and heartbreak we share.

Yom Ha’Zikaron, the Israeli Memorial Day, reminds us of the cost of having a Jewish State. It is always a particularly poignant and emotional day for me. As a soldier, commander, and an Israeli, I lost fellow soldiers and friends. Commanders who led by example, who always went ahead shouting, “follow me,” are no longer with us and their voices are no longer heard.

Our fallen soldiers sacrificed their lives with full commitment to their mission; their lives were tragically cut short in defense of the State of Israel. They fought for our freedom and our democracy. I’ll forever remember their smiles, their voices and their faces, which will remain young forever. Their loss is felt by everyone they left behind.

Soldiers of the IDF

Tomorrow evening, our emotions will be shifting from the pain and sadness of Yom Ha’zikaron to the pride and elation of our 71st Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut. It is this range of emotions that reflects the essence of the Jewish history; we commemorate our tragedies, but we also honor our heroes and celebrate in our victories.

I know I am not alone in rejoicing in the miracle that is Medinat Yisrael, the beautiful and accomplished Jewish homeland, and yet, I understand that this joy comes with a heavy price. As we face many challenges, I want to reassure you that Israel will do whatever she must do to protect her people and her country.

Today we are fortunate to have the strength and will to defend ourselves against those who continue to seek our destruction.

The memory of the fallen will forever be a part of our hearts and our lives. May our prayers for peace be answered as we remain a strong and independent nation forever.

With respect and admiration for our brave heroes,

Maj. Gen. (Res). Meir Klifi-Amir
National Director and CEO
Friends of the IDF (FIDF)

Seeking safety from terror and extremism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Seeking safety from terror and extremism: 7 things to know for March 18

A West Bank attack has people on edge and asking questions, while judges’ ban on a Kahanist from the Knesset is praised as saving democracy or panned as a death knell for the court

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian carried out a deadly attack near Gitai-Avishar junction, March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian carried out a deadly attack near Gitai-Avishar junction, March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

1. Killer on the loose: A manhunt is ongoing Monday morning for a Palestinian suspected of killing a soldier, stealing his gun and opening fire on others in the area before fleeing to a nearby village.

  • Soldier Gal Keidan is killed at the scene and Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12, also succumbs to his wounds Monday.
  • According to Ettinger’s siblings, even after he was shot he managed to fire at the terrorist, though he did not hit him.
  • “He turned his car around to face him and managed to aim his weapon and get off four shots,” the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reports.
  • On Monday morning, Israeli media reports that the suspect is Omar Abu Laila, 18, from the town of az-Zawiya, and Israeli forces who raided the town overnight arrested his father and brother.
  • The reports are attributed to Palestinian media, though most Palestinian media reports attribute the information to the Israeli army.
  • The Shin Bet later confirms his identity.

2. Powderkegger: Much of the coverage of the attack revolves around the time-honored tradition of asking “Are we in an intifada yet (or at least uptick of violence)?”

  • The resounding answer from the pundit class? It certainly looks like we are heading that way.
  • The attack demonstrates that the Palestinian front is as heated up as ever,” Amos Harel writes in Haaretz. “The escalation is already here; only its final dimensions and political impact have yet to be determined.”
  • “The motivation of the terror groups, lone terrorists, or independent cells to perpetrate attacks in the West Bank is increasing,” ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes, blaming at least part of the increased tensions on “Hamas’s desire to set the territory ablaze.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai writes that terrorists don’t need an excuse to carry out attacks, but various factors have made it so inciters are “‘enjoying’ a period where it is especially ‘comfortable’ for them” from tensions over the Temple Mount, to financial crises in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The New York Times cites unnamed analysts who say domestic pressures against the terror group ruling Gaza “might well make Hamas all the more eager to redirect the public’s anger toward Israel.”

3. Operational failures: In Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua says the ability of the attacker to kill a soldier, steal his gun and get away, while other troops were nearby, points to serious failures.

  • “This seems to be an operational failure that is unthinkable after the events of the last months,” he writes, referring to other recent cases in which IDF terrorists managed to get away and avoid detection for weeks or more.
  • Yoav Limor writes in Israel Hayom that the soldiers’ readiness was “lacking.” “Had they reacted like they should have, he would have been neutralized on the spot and could not have continued his shooting spree,” he writes. “The IDF needs to check how fit the soldiers situated along the main roads and junctions are and if their abilities match the threats they are exposed to, and if their armor is enough.”

4. Defending democracy: Not surprisingly, where papers stand on the disqualification of Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Yehudit depends mostly on their politics, though everyone tries to dress up their positions as a defense of democracy.

  • “The Supreme Court decided Sunday that to prevent a slide from insane talk to insane acts, it first had to deny the legitimacy of the hateful words in a clear and unequivocal way,” Odeh Bisharat writes in Haaretz, predicting that letting Ben Ari run could lead to a New Zealand-style massacre.
  • Ben-Dror Yemini criticizes the decision in Yedioth, but only because the judges didn’t also disqualify the Ballad party and Hadash candidate Ofer Kassif, which he calls a “loss for democracy” that will only “increase extremism” in the Knesset.
  • In Haaretz, respected jurist Mordechai Kremnitzer writes a stirring defense of the court’s decision to allow every other candidate to run, but says Ben Ari is different.
  • “Studying the things he has said, as the attorney general did, revealed incitement to racism of the most disgusting, dangerous kind,” he writes. “This is indeed the type of extreme case that makes the disqualification inevitable.”

5. Backing Ben Ari: On the other side, Amnon Lord writes in Israel Hayom that even though he doesn’t agree with Ben Ari’s views, “there was no real reason to disqualify him, beyond aesthetics.”

  • Shlomo Pyoterofsky writes in Yedioth’s op-ed page that the court has “lost the public’s trust” by deciding to apply the law selectively.
  • “Trust in the professionalism and objectivity of the judges has been cracked, if not totally disappeared,” he writes.

6. Good for the right? Otzma Yehudit has fumed over the decision and demanded Jewish Home renegotiate their deal and move Itamar Ben Gvir, who is still allowed to run, into Ben Ari’s No. 5 slot, something that’s not allowed.

  • The Srugim national-religious news site reports that it’s so bad that Baruch Marzel, another Kahanist from Otzma Yehudit, is threatening to vote against the joint right-wing list that he is on.
  • But in Walla, Yakir Adamkar notes that getting Ben Ari disqualified will actually help the far-right ticket by giving it another enemy — the court — to rail against.
  • “From here out, they will campaign on the slogan ‘the judges won’t decide for the people who they will vote for, the people will decide,” he predicts.
  • Makor Rishon’s Shirit Avitan Cohen writes that problems with the party go even deeper, with some doubting Rafi Peretz’s leadership ability and “vociferous fights” over whether the party should campaign directly against New Right.

7. More than a tweet: Ilhan Omar doesn’t have to worry about getting kicked out of Congress for her words, but she still appears to be making an effort to get back into the Democratic party’s good graces.

  • An op-ed by Omar in the Washington Post, which she says is needed to explain her foreign policy outlook, doesn’t address the accusations against her of using anti-Semitic tropes. Rather it slickly expounds on her support for a two-state solution, and various other mainline talking points.
  • “My goal in speaking out at all times has been to encourage both sides to move toward a peaceful two-state solution. We need to reinsert this call back into the public debate with urgency. Both parties must come to the table for a final peace deal; violence will not bring us any closer to that day,” she writes innocently.
  • Mark Dubowitz of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracy is one person not buying it, writing on Twitter that it seems like it came from a crisis communications firm.

Mark Dubowitz

@mdubowitz

When I was throwing out those anti-Semitic bombs, all I really wanted was a more “inclusive foreign policy.” This reads like an oped written by a crisis communications firm for one of their so misunderstood clients.

Washington Post Opinions

@PostOpinions

An op-ed from @IlhanMN:

I’ve seen firsthand the devastating toll of war. We need an inclusive foreign policy. https://wapo.st/2TWdW20 

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US official says top Hezbollah brass hit in alleged Israeli strikes in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US official says top Hezbollah brass hit in alleged Israeli strikes in Syria

Defense Department source tells Newsweek commanders were targeted after boarding a plane bound for Iran; advanced weaponry also destroyed

A screenshot from video on social media purporting to show airstrikes near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A screenshot from video on social media purporting to show airstrikes near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

An alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria Tuesday night hit several senior Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane bound for Iran, Newsweek reported Wednesday morning, citing a Defense Department source.

The unnamed source told the magazine he had received the information from top Israeli military brass.

He said strategic Iranian munitions were also targeted, including advanced GPS components for weaponry.

Syrian state media said the strikes, beginning at about 10 p.m., were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted. It said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Syrian media said Wednesday morning that Israel hit a base used by Hezbollah in Al-Dimas, a weapons depot at a base belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th division in Sabura and the military’s 10th Division command in Qatana.

Additionally, Syrian air defenses in Attal and the 68th Brigade and 137th Battalion in Khan-al-Sheikh were also reportedly attacked, Hadashot reported.

Israel said it had deployed air defenses against a missile fired from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel the alleged airstrikes.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

23 people are talking about this

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

20 people are talking about this

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

Embedded video

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News reports made a connection between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah, and media speculated that its cargo had been the target of the strikes.

It was not clear whether the jet was the one which Hezbollah officials had allegedly boarded.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

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Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

23 people are talking about this

Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

20 people are talking about this

SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

Embedded video

57 people are talking about this

News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

READ MORE: