Israeli questioned, FBI traveled to Tel Aviv, in Trump election probe — report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli questioned, FBI traveled to Tel Aviv, in Trump election probe — report

New York Times says ‘Israeli specialist in social media manipulation,’ emissary for Saudi, and Emirati princes met with Trump Jr. and others 3 months before election

Then-Republican nominee Donald Trump (R) standing with his son  Donald Trump Jr. after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

Then-Republican nominee Donald Trump (R) standing with his son Donald Trump Jr. after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

Three months before the November 2016 elections, senior members of the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump, including his son Donald Trump Jr., met with a small group of people from the Mideast who offered to help the controversial businessman win the race against Hillary Clinton. The group included “an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation,” an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes, and Erik Prince, a Republican donor and the former head of the private security firm Blackwater whose sister Betsy Devos is now secretary of education, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The August 3, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to the report, “was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.”

According to the report, the Israeli specialist, Joel Zamel, “extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign,” and his firm “had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.”

The company, PSY-Group, according to the NY Times report, “employed several Israeli former intelligence officers” and “specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.” Zamel is also founding director and CEO of geopolitical analysis and business consultancy group Wikistrataccording to Bloomberg.

This 1998 frame from video provided by C-SPAN shows George Nader, president and editor of Middle East Insight. (C-SPAN via AP)

The plan, according to the report which cited three people involved and a fourth briefed on the effort,” involved using thousands of fake social media accounts to promote Mr. Trump’s candidacy on platforms like Facebook.”

Meanwhile, the Gulf emissary was George Nader, a longtime close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi, who conveyed to Trump Jr. “that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.”

Nader allegedly said that the two crown princes “saw the elder Mr. Trump as a strong leader who would fill the power vacuum that they believed Mr. Obama had left in the Middle East, and Mr. Nader went on to say that he and his friends would be glad to support Mr. Trump as much as they could, according to the person with knowledge of the conversation.”

Trump Jr. “responded approvingly,” the New York Times said, citing “a person with knowledge of the meeting,” and following the initial offers for help, Nader “was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser.”

Nader was also reportedly “promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.”

After Trump won the election, Nader paid Zamel “a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million.” and while the NY Times said there were conflicting accounts for the payment, “a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.”

In this June 21, 2017, photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The August 3 meeting is a focus of the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who was tasked last year with examining possible cooperation and coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the lead-up to the election.

The revelation of the meeting is the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign.

Nader also reportedly visited Moscow twice during the campaign and Zamel’s businesses have ties to Russia, which are “of interest” to the special counsel’s investigation, according to the report.

Zamel was already questioned by investigators for the special counsel, the report said, “and at least two FBI agents working on the inquiry have traveled to Israel to interview employees of the company who worked on the proposal.”

The Israeli police worked with US investigators to seize the computers of one of Mr. Zamel’s companies, which is currently in liquidation, according to the report.

Nader too has been cooperating with the inquiry, the report said, “and investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted, and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia, according to witnesses and others with knowledge of the interviews.”

Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A lawyer for Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, told the NY Times in a statement that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader, and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

A lawyer for Zamel, Marc L. Mukasey, told the NY Times, that “neither Joel Zamel, nor any of his related entities, had any involvement whatsoever in the US election campaign.”

“The DOJ [Department of Justice] clarified from Day 1 that Joel and his companies have never been a target of the investigation. My client provided full cooperation to the government to assist with their investigation,” he said.

“There was a brief meeting, nothing concrete was offered or pitched to anyone and nothing came of it,” he added.

The New York Times reported that though it is still unclear if any direct assistance was forthcoming from Saudi Arabia, or the UAE, “two people familiar with the meetings said that Trump campaign officials did not appear bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners.”

The August 3, 2016 meeting came two months after Trump Jr., Kushner, and others met with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Clinton.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released about 2,500 pages of interview transcripts and other documents tied to the New York meeting on June 9, 2016.

In a closed-door interview last year with the committee, Trump Jr., said he did not give much thought to the idea that the meeting was part of a Russian government effort to help his father in the presidential race.

AP contributed to this report

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Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members

Salah Bardawil’s confirmation means number of acknowledged members of terror groups who died on Monday and Tuesday is now 53

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas,” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad had said on Tuesday that three members of its Saraya al-Quds military wing were killed by Israeli forces in Khan Younis.

The Israeli military shared a portion of Bardawil’s interview with an Arabic news outlet, accompanied by English captions.

IDF

@IDFSpokesperson

Hamas official, Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil is clear about terrorist involvement in the riots

“This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 62 people in total were killed during border clashes on Monday and Tuesday.

Israel has not put out its own official death toll, but officials have questioned the accuracy of the Hamas-provided figure. In one case, a Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that an 8-month-old baby, who the Gaza ministry said died after inhaling Israeli tear gas on Monday, had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday had said that at least 24 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were killed in day-long clashes Monday. At that stage, Hamas acknowledged 10 of the dead were its members.

Hamas press release on May 15, 2918, announcing the deaths of 10 of its Interior Ministry members in clashes with the IDF the day prior. (Courtesy)

The IDF said its number was based on a joint investigation with the Shin Bet security service.

“Most of the people [from terror groups] killed belonged to the Hamas terror group, and some to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” an IDF spokesperson said.

Among the dead, the IDF said on Tuesday, were all eight members of a cell of armed Hamas operatives who were killed in a gun battle as they sought to breach the fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 60 people were killed in Monday’s demonstrations, most by gunfire, and more than 2,700 were injured. Another two Palestinian men were killed Tuesday as smaller protests broke out in Gaza, the ministry said.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior officers monitor the Gaza security fence during violent protests along the border on May 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF said Sunday that Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “massacre” Israelis.

After the first “March of Return” protests in March, Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities, but it subsequently refrained from acknowledging whether its men were among the dead.

On Thursday, Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar said he hoped to see a mass breach of the Israeli border during Monday’s protests timed to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

For Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, Monday’s border protest was the culmination of a weeks-long campaign to try to break the blockade on the territory. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weaponry and attacking the Jewish state.

Monday’s demonstrations also protested the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, viewed as a major provocation by the Palestinians and the Arab world. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian protesters look up at falling tear gas cannisters dropped by an Israeli quadcopter drone during clashes near the border with Israel east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas has said protests would continue in a weekly format, but it was not clear if it would be able to maintain momentum during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

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Iran funding Hamas efforts to foment border violence, Shin Bet says

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Iran funding Hamas efforts to foment border violence, Shin Bet says

Iran is funding Hamas’s efforts to promote violence and attacks against Israel under the cover of mass demonstrations at the border, the Shin Bet security service says in a statement.

Hamas has warned its members to stay away from the security fence during Gaza’s mass protests, lest they get shot, while actively encouraging Palestinian civilians — particularly children and teens — to approach the border, the Shin Bet adds, citing findings from a number of interrogations.

Palestinian protesters amid tear gas and smoke billowing from burning tires, east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/ Mohammed Abed)

“There is a prohibition for Hamas operatives to approach the border, from a fear that they will be killed or captured by IDF troops, unless the security fence falls and then they must enter, armed, into Israel under the cover of the masses and carry out terror attacks,” the statement says.

Israel to close key Gaza crossing while it repairs immense damage by rioters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel to close key Gaza crossing while it repairs immense damage by rioters

IDF to shutter Kerem Shalom to repair gas lines and conveyor after Palestinian protesters sabotage infrastructure serving their own energy-starved enclave

Gas pipes on fire at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018 (IDF)

Gas pipes on fire at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018 (IDF)

The Israeli military on Saturday announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip, a day after Palestinian rioters trashed key infrastructure serving the only entry point of outside goods into the Hamas-run Strip, causing immense damage.

The crossing will be closed while the damage is repaired, and will reopen in accordance with the security situation, officials said.

The army said its recommendation to shutter the crossing, which ordinarily sees hundreds of cargo-bearing trucks pass into Gaza each day, was approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Apart from humanitarian cases, the IDF said the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain closed until the “extensive damage” caused by the torched gas lines as well as a conveyor belt used to transfer goods into the Strip is repaired.

The army estimated the damage to Kerem Shalom would cost $9 million to repair.

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli officials toured the Kerem Shalom area and said they were “astonished by the devastation and destruction Palestinians left in their wake.”

“They’re bringing a disaster upon themselves,” one unnamed official told the Ynet news site.

Friday’s vandalism at the crossing was a repeat of a similar incident on May 4, when demonstrators broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and damaged pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza, which already suffers from a significant energy shortage.

A truck loaded with supplies enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom Crossing on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“This is a cynical act that harms the welfare of Gaza residents and the humanitarian efforts carried out by Israel and many other countries,” the army said at the time.

Around 15,000 Palestinians took part in protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on Friday, in the final weekly “March of Return” before next week’s Nakba Day events on May 14 and 15, when the violent demonstrations are expected to reach their peak.

The IDF said violent protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers at five major points along the border. Troops were attacked with pipe bombs, grenades, rocks, and burning tires. Rioters also attempted to sabotage “security infrastructure,” the army said.

Several flaming kites were flown over the fence by demonstrators, sparking blazes in Israeli territory. Israeli officials said Friday night the fires were under control.

The Hamas-encouraged demonstrations are ostensibly aimed to protest the decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the terror group violently seized power in Gaza in 2007, and to assert Palestinian demands for millions to “return” to lost properties in what is now Israel.

But Israel maintains that Hamas uses the protests as a cover for violent attacks at the border and attempts to breach into Israeli territory.

On Friday, the IDF accused Hamas of orchestrating the damage to Kerem Shalom, saying the ruling terror group was “harming the wellbeing of Gaza residents and paralyzing their daily life.”

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli troops along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Gaza City, on May 11, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

“Israel along with many other countries are working to bring food, equipment, and fuel to the residents of the Gaza Strip, and Hamas is preventing them from entering, and are carrying out activities that endanger the operations of the border crossings,” the IDF said.

According to the Hamas health ministry, around 50 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded by gunfire. Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence, and attacks.

Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained from acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

On Thursday, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said he hopes to see a mass breach of the Israeli border during next week’s protests timed to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Hamas has said if the protests “don’t achieve their goals,” they will continue.

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Iran threatens ‘industrial scale’ uranium enrichment

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Iran threatens ‘industrial scale’ uranium enrichment while trying to save deal

FM sets out on diplomatic tour in bid to salvage 2015 nuke accord, but nation’s atomic agency ordered to prepare for operations ‘without restrictions’

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari talks with Belgian Foreign minister before their meeting at the Palais Egmont in Brussels on January 11, 2018. (AFP/John Thys)

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari talks with Belgian Foreign minister before their meeting at the Palais Egmont in Brussels on January 11, 2018. (AFP/John Thys)

Iran threatened Friday to start uranium enrichment on an “industrial scale” in response to the US exit from the nuclear deal, while simultaneously seeking to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord through negotiations with European nations.

A statement issued by the government Friday said it had tasked the president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with “taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions, using the results of the latest research and development of Iran’s brave nuclear scientists.”

At the same time, the statement said the other parties to the agreement — especially Britain, France and Germany — must safeguard the accord, implement their commitments, and “proceed from giving pledges to taking practical action without any preconditions.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will embark on a diplomatic tour to try to salvage the accord, and is seeking “required guarantees” from the five other parties to the agreement as well as Iran’s other economic parties. His spokesman said Zarif will leave late Saturday for visits to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels for meetings with all five of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Zarif will hold high-pressure talks with the other parties to the deal, first in Beijing and Moscow, and then with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday.

All five have condemned Trump’s move to walk out of the deal and reimpose crippling sanctions, but European companies in particular will be highly vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.

Iran’s official line is that the Islamic Republic is not interested and has never pursued nuclear offensive capabilities. The enrichment of uranium is a requirement for producing nuclear weapons, though lower level enrichment is used for civilian nuclear power and also has medicinal applications.

Israel in late April said it had obtained tens of thousands of secret Iranian documents which proved the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program before the nuclear accord was signed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Iran lied” to the world.

Thousands of Iranians on Friday protested against Trump’s decision to leave the accord that offered Tehran relief from most US and international sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Iranians set fire to a makeshift US flag during a demonstration after Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on May 11, 2018. (AFP)

Iranian state TV aired footage of protests against the US and Israel at rallies in Tehran and elsewhere after Friday prayers. Thousands marched in the protests, carrying anti-American and anti-Israeli banners and posters. The demonstrators mocked the US president by chanting, “Mr. Trump you cannot do a damn thing,” and, “We fight. We die. We don’t surrender,” Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, France on Friday urged Europeans to stand up to Trump over the nuclear deal and not act as “vassals,” as the EU scrambled to find ways to save the accord and the billions of dollars in trade it unleashed.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Europe-1 radio that Europe should not accept that the US is the “world’s economic policeman.”

“Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?” Le Maire asked. “Or do we want to say we have our economic interests, we consider we will continue to do trade with Iran?”

European governments tried for months to persuade Trump to stick with the deal but failed, and now fear it will raise the risk of conflict in the region. Aside from the mounting military tensions between Iran and Israel, oil prices are rising on the uncertainty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Friday and underlined their aim of preserving the deal and peace in the Mideast. And European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini insisted that it’s not up to the US to determine the deal’s future anyway.

“This deal is not a bilateral treaty. It’s a UN Security Council Resolution and it belongs to the entire world,” said Mogherini, who will chair talks Tuesday with the British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels.

Merkel said the US decision to withdraw from the deal was a serious blow, and that it would be difficult to keep the deal alive, given that a “huge economic power has left.

“We hope we can, but there are a lot of things playing a role in this,” she said. “We will have to discuss that with Iran.”

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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hamas terror chief hopes to see hundreds of thousands storm Israel-Gaza fence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

((OPED BY OLDPOET56) IT IS MY OPINION THAT ISRAEL MUST PUT A BULLET BETWEEN THE EYES OF HAMAS LEADER YAHYA SINWAR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. IT IS ALSO MY OPINION THAT AFTER THEY DO THIS THAT EVERY TIME HAMAS ASSIGNS A NEW ‘TERROR CHIEF’ THAT THEY TOO MUST BE ASSASSINATED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. IT NEEDS TO BECOME KNOWN THAT THIS WILL HAPPEN EVERY SINGLE TIME A NEW ‘TERROR CHIEF’ IS ASSIGNED, THAT EXCEPTING THIS POSITION IS A QUICK DEATH SENTENCE TO ANYONE WHO TAKES UP THIS MANTLE.)  

Hamas terror chief hopes to see hundreds of thousands storm Israel-Gaza fence

‘What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?’ asks Yahya Sinwar ahead of mass rallies next week

The Gaza leader of Hamas said Thursday he hopes to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at protests to coincide with next week’s US embassy move to Jerusalem.

In his first major briefing to international media since becoming head of the Gaza terror group in 2017, Yahya Sinwar implied he would like to see thousands of Palestinians crossing into Israel as part of the culmination of more than a month of protests.

Asked what he wanted to see from protests on Monday and Tuesday, Sinwar pointed out Israel has never specifically defined its borders.

“What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?”

Sinwar said he hoped Israel would not shoot at what he called “peaceful” protests.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.

The Hamas-led demonstrations are ostensibly aimed to protest the decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007, and to assert Palestinian demands for millions to “return” to lost properties in what is now Israel.

Israel says, however, that the terror group uses the protests as a cover for attacks at the border and attempts to breach it.

Monday’s demonstration will cap six weeks of protests and coincides with the US move of its Israel embassy to Jerusalem and the date when Palestinians mark 70 years of “displacement.” Two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.

According to the Hamas health ministry, 48 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire. Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence, and attacks.

Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained from acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

No Israelis have been hurt, and Sinwar said that was evidence the protests were “peaceful.”

But he warned the protests risked spiraling out of control. “The Gaza Strip is like a hungry tiger that has been starved and left in a cage for 11 years,” Sinwar said.

“Now the tiger is loose, and nobody knows what it will do.”

Israeli firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz of Nahal Oz, along the border with the Gaza strip, on May 8, 2018, after it was caused by incendiaries tied to kites flown by Palestinian protesters from across the border. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

On Wednesday, Sinwar said the mass protest will be “decisive,” vowing that he and other top officials were “ready to die” in a campaign to end Israel’s decade-old blockade of the territory. Israel maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, from importing weaponry.

In a speech to hundreds of Gazan youths, he said Hamas has rejected international proposals to stop the weekly, often violent gatherings.

“We can’t stop these protests. We are supporting, even leading, them,” he said. The protests will be “like a tiger running in all directions,” he said.

Going further, he said Hamas leaders “are ready to die along with tens of thousands” as the marches climax next week.

Israel says Hamas uses the marches as cover for terrorist attacks.

Activists have been burning tires along the fence, throwing stones at Israeli troops, and flying incendiary kites over dry fields on the Israeli side of the border in recent Fridays. Some of the youths brandished wire cutters, a popular tool in weekly attempts to cut through the border fence.

An Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Strip. Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of Gaza. Israel says this is vital to prevent Hamas — which has fought three rounds of conflict against Israel since seizing Gaza, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and digging dozens of attack tunnels under the border — from importing weaponry.

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Though they were initially planned as non-violent demonstrations, the protests were co-opted by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and whose leaders have said their goal is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”

The Israeli military has faced international and domestic criticism over its use of live fire, with the United Nations and European Union calling for an independent investigation rejected by Israel.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Sinwar was freed in a prisoner swap with Israel in 2011 and was elected as the movement’s Gaza chief in 2017.

Hamas has said if the protests “don’t achieve their goals,” they will continue.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position has generally been that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

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Russia says terror attack foiled at WWII memorial march attended by Netanyahu

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Russia says terror attack foiled at WWII memorial march attended by Netanyahu

Moscow official says Siberian terror groups stockpiled weapons to use at massive Victory Day event; police arrest 20 in connection to plot

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

MOSCOW — Russian intelligence foiled a terror attack on this week’s massive Victory Day memorial march in Moscow, a top Russian diplomat said on Friday.

About 1 million people marched through central Moscow on Wednesday in the annual Immortal Regiment rally, carrying pictures of family members killed in World War II. President Vladimir Putin and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the march on May 9, the day when Russia marks the end of the war.

Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in an interview with the Tass news agency on Friday that several terror groups in western Siberia had stockpiled weapons for the attack. Twenty people have been detained and 17 homes were searched as part of the investigation, he said.

The announcement came as Russia is gearing up to host the World Cup next month.

Russia’s top intelligence agency last month reported the arrests of men suspected to have links to the Islamic State group in Siberia and the Moscow region. The FSB agency said four members of the suspected IS “sleeper cell” were detained in the Moscow region after they traveled from Novy Urengoi, an oil town in western Siberia. The FSB said they plotted attacks in Moscow and were receiving orders from IS members in Syria via a messaging app.

Oil and gas-rich western Siberia has for decades attracted workers from all over Russia, including the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus.

Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar Assad since 2015, while thousands of its own citizens went off to Syria to join IS in fighting against Assad’s government.

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Officials warn of impending Iranian missile strike on northern Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Defense officials warn of impending Iranian missile strike on northern Israel

TV reports say Tehran looking to retaliate for Israeli raids in Syria without causing all-out war, likely with rockets at IDF bases rather than civilian targets

Iranian military trucks carry surface-to-air missiles during a parade on the occasion of the country's Army Day, on April 18, 2017, in Tehran. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Iranian military trucks carry surface-to-air missiles during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day, on April 18, 2017, in Tehran. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Iran is planning to retaliate for recent deadly airstrikes in Syria attributed to the Jewish state by having its proxies fire missiles at military targets in northern Israel sometime in the near future, defense officials warned on Sunday.

Tehran vowed revenge after the T-4 army base in Syria was struck in an air raid on April 9, killing at least seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The strike was widely attributed to Israel, though Jerusalem refused to comment on it. (T-4 was the base from which Israel said Iran launched an attack drone into Israel in February.) Late last month, a second strike, allegedly conducted by Israel, against an Iranian-controlled base in northern Syria was said to have killed more than two dozen Iranian soldiers.

On Sunday, all of Israel’s nightly news broadcasts reported that the Israeli military and intelligence services had identified preliminary efforts by Iran in Syria to carry out its reprisal, using its IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the Hezbollah terrorist group and local Shiite militias to launch a barrage of precision-guided missiles, likely at Israeli military targets in the north.

“Israel has recently identified with certainty Iranian preparations to fire at the north,” Channel 10 said. “We are not on the eve of war with Iran… but Iran is very determined to carry out an attack” to avenge the T-4 strike and the deaths of its military personnel, it said.

Israel Radio said the Iranian planning for an attack was at “an advanced stage.”

The understanding in the defense services is that Iran is looking to conduct its retaliation in such a way as to avoid full-fledged war with Israel, and will therefore likely not target civilian locations, according to the reports, which did not attribute the information to any specific source.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JIM HOLLANDER)

No special instructions were given to residents of northern Israel. Indeed, the heads of local councils in the north have reportedly been told to tell citizens not to take any specific precautions and to go about their daily lives as usual.

Israel was working to prevent or counter such an attack, but was also preparing for the possibility that the Iranians “succeed in hitting a base in the north with missiles,” Channel 10 reported. The Israel Defense Forces was threatening to hit all Iranian targets in Syria if Tehran launched an attack on Israeli territory, the TV report said.

Seeking Russian pressure on Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to present the information in Tehran’s preparations to strike Israel to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting Wednesday in Moscow, the reports said.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu said that while Israel is not interested in a military escalation with Iran, if there has to be a fight, he would prefer it be now, rather than later.

“We are determined to block the Iranian entrenchment, even at the cost of confrontation,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We don’t want an escalation, but we are prepared for every scenario. We don’t want confrontation, but if there needs to be one, it is better now than later.”

The prime minister also suggested Iran could directly launch a strike on Israeli territory.

A satellite image showing the results of an alleged Israeli airstrike on a reported Iranian base outside the northern Syrian city of Hama the day before, on April 30, 2018. (ImageSat International ISI)

“In recent months, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards transferred to Syria advanced weaponry in order to attack us both on the battlefield and the home front, including weaponized UAVs, ground-to-ground missiles and Iranian anti-aircraft batteries that would threaten air force jets,” he said.

Sunday night’s warning about Iran’s plans to attack, as disseminated on the TV news broadcasts, appeared to constitute an attempt by Israel to show the Iranians that it was aware of their plans and was prepared to respond if they went through with the reprisal.

A Hadashot TV report said the warning was aimed both to deter Iran and to make it plain to the Iranians that Israel knows what they are planning, and that it will not be fooled if the missiles themselves are fired by Syrian militiamen.

A mainstay of Iran’s defense strategy is the use of proxies to conduct its bidding across the Middle East — the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. This is seen as an effort to limit Iranian casualties and keep any fighting limited to outside the Islamic Republic.

Last month, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel was prepared to strike the Iranian homeland. “If they attack Tel Aviv, we will strike Tehran,” he said.

The unnamed defense officials on Sunday did not specify when the Iranian attack was expected to take place. The Channel 10 report said Iran’s preparations had been going on for weeks, but had been disrupted in recent days because of several strikes on targets in Syria, including on missile stocks in the Hama area, attributed to Israel. “But the Iranians have not given up,” the report said.

It added that missiles had been brought from Lebanon to Syria for use in the intended attack against Israel. “The idea is to use heavy Iranian missiles, including the Fateh-110” — under the command and with the advisory work of Hezbollah but “without an IRGC presence,” Channel 10 said.

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

Iran has been taking a number of heavy blows of late, including Israel’s seizure of its nuclear weapons archives from under its nose in Tehran, Channel 10 noted, and is determined to strike back but not for confrontation to escalate into war.

Last month, a member of the coalition supporting Iran’s ally, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, told The New York Times that the reprisal would likely not come before the Lebanese parliamentary elections, which began on Sunday.

Further stoking tensions, this week US President Donald Trump is expected to determine the fate of the Iran nuclear accord, which he has repeatedly threatened to leave. On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that if America abandoned the Iran deal, it could lead to a war.

Earlier on Sunday evening, Israel’s security cabinet held a three-and-a-half-hour session to discuss recent developments in the region, including the tensions with Iran in Syria and the upcoming decision by Trump regarding the nuclear deal. Channel 10 said this meeting was not a routine meeting, but it was prevented by Israel’s military censorship from explaining why.

Sunday’s warning was not the first intimation by Israeli defense officials of a potentially imminent retaliatory attack by Iran. Shortly before Israel’s Independence Day, the military prepared for the possibility of a direct attack from the IRGC’s air force.

The Times of Israel learned at the time that Israel’s defense establishment believed the Iranian revenge attack would likely be carried out with surface-to-surface missiles or armed drones. Others have speculated that an Iranian retaliation could come in the form of a cyber attack.

A map of Syria, provided to Israeli media, shows the approximate locations of five bases that Israel believes to be controlled by Iran.

In an apparent effort at deterrence, the IDF last month provided Israeli media with a map showing five Iranian-controlled bases in Syria that would likely constitute potential targets for an Israeli response, should Iran carry out any kind of attack. Satellite photographs of bases were also provided.

Those were Damascus International Airport, through which Iranian transport planes bring in weapons and military gear; the Sayqal air base; the T-4 air base; an airfield near Aleppo; and a base in Deir Ezzor, which was recaptured from the Islamic State terror group by the regime last year.

Israeli intelligence believes the sites are used by Iran for its missions in Syria, as well as to transport weapons to its proxies in the region, including Hezbollah.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani (YouTube screenshot)

Israel believes Iran’s retaliatory effort is being led by Major General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, which operates around the world, with assistance from the head of the IRGC air corps, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh; the head of its surface-to-surface missile program; Col. Mahmoud Bakri Katrem Abadi; and the head of its air defense operations, Ali Akhbar Tzeidoun.

The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Air Force Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh. (Fars news)

Soleimani has repeatedly warned Israel, and threatened to “wipe out the Zionist entity” in February over the assassination of a Hezbollah leader, which has been attributed to the Mossad and America’s CIA.

Iran has access to a variety of surface-to-surface missiles, from short-range Fajr-5 rockets to medium-range Fateh 110 missiles, which have a range of approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles), to long-range Shehab ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets over 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away.

To counter those threats, Israel has a multi-tiered missile defense system consisting of the Iron Dome for short-range rockets and mortar shells, the David’s Sling for medium-range missiles, and the Arrow for long-range ballistic missiles.

Israel sees Iran, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, as its main enemy in the region. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria, marking it as a “red line” that it will fight militarily if necessary.

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Egypt authorities arrest atheist blogger

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Egypt authorities arrest atheist blogger

Sherif Gaber nabbed; promoting atheism can be punished under a law that bans ‘insults to religions’

In this file photo from Dec. 12, 2012, policemen are silhouetted against the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

In this file photo from Dec. 12, 2012, policemen are silhouetted against the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

CAIRO — Egyptian police have arrested an atheist blogger who was previously detained for promoting his views, a rights lawyer said on Saturday.

Sherif Gaber was in police custody on Saturday and set to be questioned by the prosecution on Sunday, Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told AFP.

“He has been arrested and should be questioned tomorrow,” Eid said.

It was not immediately clear when Gaber was arrested.

In late March, Gaber tweeted that “some Muslim lawyers” filed a complaint against him with the attorney general.

“I’ll probably get arrested in the next few days, but I don’t want you to get mad,” he wrote.

Gaber was detained in 2013 for allegedly promoting atheism.

Promoting atheism can be punished in Egypt under a law that bans “insults to religions.”

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