7 Up-and-Coming Wine Regions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

7 Up-and-Coming Wine Regions

When people think of high-end wine producers, regions such as Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Piedmont are the powerhouses that usually make the list. However, if you want to try something new, without significantly sacrificing on quality, consider sourcing wines from one of these seven up-and-coming wine regions.

Anderson Valley, California, U.S.A.

Credit: Balaraman Arun/Shutterstock

Given its remote location several hours north of San Francisco, the Anderson Valley doesn’t see as many vineyard hoppers as Napa and Sonoma. That doesn’t mean the wines aren’t worth it, though. The cool climate has shown tremendous success with both pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, perfect as well for producing French-style sparkling wines. Today, Anderson Valley produces some of the best sparkling wines in the country.

Rias Baixas, Spain

Credit: Pabkov/Shutterstock

Rias Baixas is located along the Galician coast in Spain. There are a number of small inlets, called rias, where you’ll find nutrient-rich waters. The water plays a big role in making Rias Baixas wine so delicious. One wine variety that has shown significant success is albariño, a white wine with a nice blend of minerality and acidity.

Finger Lakes, New York, U.S.A.

Credit: Albert Pego/Shutterstock

New York is one of the largest wine producers in the country, thanks in part to the Finger Lakes region that is producing some phenomenal cool-climate wines, especially rieslings. There are more than 200 brands of rieslings produced in the Finger Lakes region alone. Impressive for a wine region that only really established itself in the early 1980s.

Kakheti, Georgia

Credit: Ruslan Kalnitsky/Shutterstock

The country of Georgia has been producing wines since at least 6,000 B.C., based on archaeological excavations that uncovered qvevri, a traditional winemaking vessel that allowed ancient winemakers to ferment wine underground. Today, wines produced in this mountainous region of Georgia utilize both traditional and modern techniques. UNESCO has since recognized the importance of the qvevri winemaking tradition, adding it to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Beqaa Valley, Lebanon

Credit: Areej Khaddaj/Shutterstock

Lebanon is another place where winemaking traditions date back quite a ways. Even in modern times, Lebanese wineries have faced their share of challenges, including Château Musar, which still managed to produce wine throughout the horrific civil war that tore Lebanon apart between 1975 and 1990. When the war ended, there were only around five wineries left in Lebanon. By 2014, that number had jumped to almost 50. While French grapes primarily dominate here, there are some local Lebanese wine grapes like merwah and obaideh present.

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Credit: Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

When most people think about Mexico and drinks, they probably picture tequila, mezcal and beer, not wine. Mexico is bucking the stereotypes and demonstrating that it has areas that are capable of producing award-winning wines as well. The mountainous terrain helps cool the hot summer days, allowing the grapes to flourish.

Texas Hill Country, Texas, U.S.A.

Credit: MaxBaumann/iStock

The hot and dry climate of Texas is not the ideal condition you’d think of for an up-and-coming wine region, but Texas Hill Country is producing some pretty incredible wines, especially big reds. The climate is working well for varietals like tempranillo, syrah and tannat.

5 Countries With The Most Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5

Countries With the Most Debt

If you live in the United States, you have surely heard a lot about the billions of dollars that America owes to other countries. This is not an uncommon thing, though, as countries loan money to and accept money from each other all the time. Just like with individual loans, accepting a lot of financial help from other countries can add up to a lot of debt. In 2017, global debt rose to an incredible 225% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) according to Focus Economics, which means that many countries owe a lot more money than they earn each year. Here is a look at the five countries that have the most debt, according to Focus Economics.

Italy

Italy

Credit: Oleg Voronische/Shutterstock

As you walk the cobbled streets of Italy, taking in all the enormous, ornate cathedrals and looking at all the fashionable people, the last thing on your mind is that this country might have money problems. Like any country, though, Italy has its share of debts — and it has some pretty big ones. According to GraphicMaps, Italy has an external debt of $2,444,000,000,000 (USD), which, when put in terms of GDP, will be 131 percent of its earnings in 2019. Fortunately, though, this number is expected to fall to 128 percent by 2023, which is still high, but much more favorable.

Venezuela

Venezuela

Credit: Alejandro Solo/Shutterstock

This is where things get a bit tricky. If you just look at the amount of money owed to other countries, Venezuela doesn’t even crack the top ten. But if you compare this debt to the country’s GDP, things look a lot worse — and the country comes in at number four on the list of countries with the most debt. Venezuela’s public debt is 152 percent of its GDP in 2019, which is more than one and a half times as much money as it brings in each year. According to World Population Review, this country is currently going through a very rough patch in terms of finances, so it is not clear at this time whether the debt will increase or decrease over the next few years.

Lebanon

Lebanon

Credit: Gregory Zamell/Shutterstock

The winner of the bronze medal for highest external debt is Lebanon. This country has been struggling for some time, and its debt is expected to increase from 153 percent to 156 percent between 2019 and 2023. This is only barely more than Venezuela, so there could be a competition for this third place spot in the coming years.

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Greece

Greece

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Greece was one of the most successful empires in the ancient world, contributing everything from myths to democracy to our modern culture. Today, however, the country is mired in debt. Greece was required to take multiple bailouts. Its external debt currently stands at 175 percent. This debt has been steadily decreasing over the years, however, and is projected to be almost 10 points lower by 2023.

Japan

Japan

Credit: apiguide/Shutterstock

If you were expecting the United States to be number one on this list, you aren’t alone. And technically, America does owe the highest debt in the world: 29.27 trillion dollars. But when you take into account how much money the country brings in per year, Japan takes the top spot, with a debt of $3,240,000,000,000, which is a whopping 236 percent of its GDP (the United States “only” owes 108 percent of its GDP). This number might seem incredibly high, but one must remember that Japan has one of the world’s largest economies, and has a population of over 127 million people.

Ongoing Lebanon Street Protests Affect Many Sectors

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

 

Ongoing Lebanon Street Protests Affect Many Sectors

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019 – 10:45
Police confront retired Lebanese security personnel during a demonstration over feared pension cuts near the government’s headquarters in the capital Beirut on May 20, 2019 (AFP Photo/Marwan TAHTAH)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Sit-ins and popular movements reached an unprecedented level on Monday, against austerity measures to be adopted by the government in its 2019 budget to limit state expenditures.

Public sector employees and veterans took to the streets protesting an expected cut in wages and pensions.

News circulated on Monday about a veteran committing suicide over accumulating his debts. Another retired soldier attempted to set himself on fire during a demonstration.

A strike by customs employees had ramifications more than one sector. Motorists rushed to gas stations across the country over fears of a possible shortage of fuel. Public administration officials maintained a general strike in various areas since Friday and most schools were closed on Monday.

Despite a confirmation by the Chairman of Brax Petroleum, George Brax, that the fuel quantities in stations would last for days if customs employees continued their strike, he told the Central News Agency that it was crucial to address the banks’ supply of the oil sector in dollars, because oil importing companies refused to receive the price of goods purchased by station owners in Lebanese pounds.

Following weeks of sit-ins – held to protest against government measures – veterans on Monday stepped up their movements, and tried to storm the Grand Serail, before being faced by military personnel who were on duty during a cabinet session.

However, they succeeded in reaching the Serail’s entrance, and after negotiations, a number of protesters were allowed to to go in to meet with several cabinet ministers.

In a reassuring step, Defense Minister Elias Bou Saad met with the retired officers and promised an increase of LBP35 billion in social and medical assistance to the military.

The cabinet is currently discussing the 2019 draft budget, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri maintaining Monday that “the discussions regarding possible cuts to wages have yet to take place.”

Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released in UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

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

 

Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released in UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

Saturday, 11 May, 2019 – 10:45
Police walk outside the international terminal as they patrol Sydney Airport. AFP file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
The lawyer of an Australian-Lebanese dual citizen on trial for an alleged plot to bring down an Emirati passenger plane said Saturday that her client has been ordered released on bail by a Lebanese military court.

Joceline Adib al-Rai, lawyer of Amer Khayat, said the court’s decision was delivered a day earlier. Prosecutors can appeal.

Khayat has rejected the charges.

Lebanese authorities have held Khayat in detention since 2017. They have accused him of planning to blow up an Etihad airline flight that was supposed to travel from Sydney to the United Arab Emirates.

Khaled and Mahmoud, two of Khayyat’s brothers, are on trial in Australia for plotting to blow up the plane with bombs hidden inside a Barbie doll and meat grinder.

Australian authorities say Amer Khayyat had no knowledge of his brothers’ plot.

Khaled’s sentence hearing has been set for July 26. The charges carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. The jury is still deliberating a verdict for Mahmoud.

Another brother was unaware that he was carrying a bomb, disguised as a meat mincer, in his luggage, as he tried to check in at the airport, Australian police have said.

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

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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.

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“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

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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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‘Hezbollah’ Exploits Disputes in The Mountain to Reshuffle Druze Alignments

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

 

‘Hezbollah’ Exploits Disputes in The Mountain to Reshuffle Druze Alignments

Sunday, 9 December, 2018 – 10:15
A Druze woman (L) walks with a Christian woman in the village of Brih, Lebanon April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
Beirut – Wajdi Al-Aridi
The events of the Mountain and developments in the town of Jahilia last week have reshuffled political alignments and divisions among Druze leaders, reminiscent of the post-2005 period.

In this regard, a minister of the Democratic Gathering bloc, headed by MP Taymor Jumblatt, noted that “Hezbollah” wanted to reunite the March 8 Coalition’s Druze officials, after they were divided during the parliamentary elections, which would lead to the fortification of its internal situation through the realignment of its allies.

This means the return of communication between the head of the Tawheed Party, Wiam Wahhab, and the Democratic Party President, MP Talal Arslan, Hezbollah’s rival allies.

The minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Quite frankly, the party [Hezbollah] entered the Sunni house through some figures, and today it is seeking to enter the Mountain through its allies to send a message to the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt.”

The minister asserted that Hezbollah, through its current policies, was seeking to tighten the grip on Lebanon, with Iranian support, in the wake of the new sanctions imposed by the United States against Tehran and the party.

“Through Hezbollah, Iran is maneuvering a political and security exercise on the Lebanese territory, trying to make this country a platform for the exchange of messages through its allies,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gathering bloc MP Henry Helou told Asharq Al-Awsat that the bloc’s recent meeting, which was held in Jumblatt’s presence, was aimed at taking a series of steps and measures that would fortify the mountain security at the social and living levels, after the recent developments.

As for Jumblatt’s fears that some figures would seek to restrict his role and enter his region, Helou underlined that no one was capable of curbing Jumblatt’s influence.

“He is a Druze and patriotic leader. Al-Mukhtara has its Arab and national role,” he stated.

UN force confirms presence of tunnel on Lebanon-Israel border

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALJAZEERA NEWS)

 

UN force confirms presence of tunnel on Lebanon-Israel border

UNIFIL says it found tunnel, allegedly dug by Hezbollah, near Metula in northern Israel.

UN peacekeepers and Israeli soldiers look towards the border with Lebanon [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]
UN peacekeepers and Israeli soldiers look towards the border with Lebanon [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

The United Nations peacekeepers have confirmed the existence of a tunnel in northern Israel near the Lebanese border, days after Tel Aviv accused armed group Hezbollah of digging under the frontier.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said it “visited a location near Metula in northern Israel” and “can confirm the existence of a tunnel at the location”.

UNIFIL said it is “engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action” and “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”.

The confirmation by the UN came a day after Lebanon said Israel presented no evidence to prove its claims of a network of attack tunnels allegedly built by Hezbollah.

In a meeting with UN peacekeepers on Wednesday, Lebanon parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the Israeli accusation was not based on “any real facts at all”.

Operation Northern Shield

On Tuesday, Israel launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy the tunnels it claimed were found at the Lebanese border.

The Israeli military said it provided UNIFIL with a map of the area around Ramieh village on which houses were marked which are “connected to another attack tunnel that has been dug from Lebanon into Israel”, army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

The tunnel crosses into Israel but is not yet operational, he added.

Israel has not detailed how many tunnels have been detected, although Conricus on Thursday said the army was working in three different areas along the border.

The operation is part of Israel’s wider campaign against Hezbollah, including actions to tackle the group’s weapons facilities.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Hezbollah was planning to send attackers through the tunnels, which he claimed were big enough to be used by motorcycles, small vehicles and groups of people.

“Hezbollah wants to insert several battalions to our territory with the aim of isolating communities, towns and kibbutzim [collective farms] to continue its reign of terror and abductions which could take place simultaneously,” he told a meeting of foreign diplomats on Thursday.

Israel estimates Hezbollah has approximately 130,000 rockets in its arsenal, although rejects the group’s claim that it has successfully acquired precision missiles.

“Despite Hezbollah’s effort to insinuate otherwise, it is not in possession of any significant accurate capabilities,” Conricus said.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

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

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

Israel holds major drill to practice fighting Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel holds major drill to practice fighting Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously

Ongoing 10-day exercise by Commando Brigade tackles battling Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in north at the same time, a prospect military fears is liable to occur

  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group  in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military’s Commando Brigade launched a large-scale exercise this week to practice fighting the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip and the Hezbollah terrorist militia in Lebanon simultaneously, the army said Saturday. The drill is continuing into this week.

In the past, Israeli defense analysts have speculated that concerns over the prospect of a two-front war prevented the military from launching a major campaign in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

The exercise, and the Israel Defense Forces’ publicity of it, appeared to serve as a message to the two terrorist groups that Israel was prepared for such an eventuality.

According to the military, the commando exercise began earlier this week and was expected to last 10 days. Soldiers from the Maglan, Egoz, and Duvdevan units took part in the drill.

It included significant cooperation with the Israeli Air Force, which both transported the commandos and carried out airstrikes alongside them.

“During the exercise, the brigade practiced fighting between different landscapes and arenas, combat in open fields and urban combat,” the army said.

The military said the purpose of the exercise was to improve the commando brigade’s preparedness for war. It was the unit’s sixth brigade-wide exercise since it was created in December 2015.

Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot observed the exercise earlier this week.

During his visit, the head of the Commando Brigade Col. Kobi Heller told Eisenkot that his unit was “ready and prepared for any scenario in which it is needed and will stand up to any enemy in any arena.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, and other senior officers visit an IDF Commando Brigade exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, is believed to possess an arsenal of some 10,000 rockets and mortar shells. Israel has fought three wars with the terror group in the past decade, and has repeatedly been on the verge of a fourth over the past eight months as Hamas has led a campaign of border violence and occasional rocket and mortar fire at southern Israel.

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Earlier this month, the terror group, partnering with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, launched some 500 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, killing one person and injuring dozens more.

In response, the Israeli military launched strikes against some 160 targets in the Gaza Strip connected to the two terror groups, killing seven people, most of whom were later identified as members of terrorist organizations, including some who were in the process of launching projectiles at Israel at the time they were killed.

The battle ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which has largely held since November 13, but with considerable criticism within Israel, including by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who resigned in protest of it, calling it “capitulation to terror.”

However, the IDF does not see Hamas as a serious military threat. Rather, the terror group is effectively allowed to remain in power as the Israeli government fears an even more extremist organization could take its place were it to be defeated.

The Iran-backed, Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist army, however, is considered by the military to be a significant strategic threat. With over 100,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, Hezbollah is seen by some defense analysts as more powerful than some Western militaries.

Fighters from the Hezbollah terror group are seen at a rally marking the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon on August 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Israel fought a 34-day war with the terror group in Lebanon in 2006. Since then, the Lebanese border has been quieter than in the years preceding the conflict. However, Hezbollah has used the time to build up its arsenals considerably, with more precise and dangerous munitions, and has gained considerable experience and training by fighting alongside the Russian and Syrian militaries in the Syrian civil war in support of dictator Bashar Assad.

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Lebanese President: Government Crisis Grown Bigger

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

 

Lebanese President: Government Crisis Grown Bigger

Sunday, 25 November, 2018 – 09:30
President Aoun speaks to a delegation of participants in the annual “Independence Day Race”
Beirut- Caroline Akoum
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Saturday that the government formation crisis has grown bigger, while contradictions emerged in the positions of Hezbollah concerning Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

Sources close to the Shiite party said Saturday there was no substitute to Hariri, but at the same time, they asserted their attachment to the representation of the March 8 Sunni deputies in the next government.

Hariri’s sources described Hezbollah’s position as contradictory, offering an opinion and its opposite.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hezbollah was trying to change Hariri’s positions and at the same time, impose on him the party’s own conditions.

“Hariri would not bow to pressures,” they said.

Separately, speaking to a delegation of participants in the annual “Independence Day Race”, who ran from Rashaya Castle to the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Aoun recalled the story of Solomon when two women came to him with a child, each claiming to be the mother…and when King Solomon ordered the child to be cut in half, the real mother cried out to him to spare his life and give the child to the other woman, at which instant Solomon knew who the real mother was.

“Today, we wish to know who Lebanon’s mother really is in order to give it to her,” said Aoun, adding, “I shall suffice with that brief statement.”

For his part, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammed Raad renewed on Saturday the party’s support to the demand of the six Sunni March 8 deputies to be represented in the next cabinet.

In return, head of the Phalange Party Sami Gemayel reiterated his proposal to form a government of specialists at this stage, while the conflicting parties resolve their problems calmly and agree on their points of dispute through dialogue at the Parliament House.

“Lebanon needs a government that will play its role, address its problems, and save the people from the economic and social disaster we are facing today,” Gemayel said.