Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Israel Shoots Down Suspected Drone — Israel says it will not allow “concentration of Iranian or Hezbollah forces on the Golan border.”

April 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | According to the official Israeli army Twitter account “The Patriot Aerial Defence System intercepted a target above the Golan Heights”

JERUSALEM (AFP) – 

Israel shot down what it identified only as “a target” over the occupied Golan Heights on Thursday, hours after Syria accused it of hitting a military position near Damascus airport.

“The Patriot Aerial Defence System intercepted a target above the Golan Heights,” the official Israeli army Twitter account said, without elaborating.

A military spokeswoman refused to comment on Israeli media reports that the object was a drone.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said earlier that several Israeli missiles hit near Damascus airport at dawn.

Israel has not confirmed or denied the reported Damascus attack.

But Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said it was consistent with Israel’s policy to prevent arms transfers through to Hezbollah, while stopping short of confirming his country was behind the incident.

“We are acting to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran,” Katz told army radio.

“When we receive serious information about the intention to transfer weapons to Hezbollah, we will act. This incident is totally consistent with this policy.”

In Moscow, the Kremlin called for restraint and the foreign ministry condemned the attack.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say if Israel had warned Moscow of the strike, saying only that their defence ministries “are in constant dialogue”.

In Moscow, visiting Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that the Jewish state would not allow “concentration of Iranian or Hezbollah forces on the Golan border,” Lieberman?s office said.

Israel has conducted multiple air strikes in Syria since that country’s civil war erupted in 2011, most of which it has said targeted arms convoys or warehouses of its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah, which is a key supporter of the Syrian regime.

Last month, it said it had carried out several strikes near the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, targeting what it said were “advanced weapons” belonging to Hezbollah.

The strikes prompted Syria to launch ground-to-air missiles, one of which was intercepted over Israeli territory in the most serious flare-up between the two neighbours since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Around 510 square kilometres of the Golan are under Syrian control.

The two countries are still technically at war, although the border remained largely quiet for decades until 2011, when the Syrian conflict broke out.

UNESCO May Be Set To Deny Israeli Sovereignty Over East Jerusalem — Israel May Have “Lost” European Support

April 27, 2017
BY TOVAH LAZAROFF
The Jerusalem Post
APRIL 27, 2017 14:09
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The new text, which Israel has yet to see, would replace an initial draft from last month, which contests Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem
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Israel fers the eleven srael fears that eleven European nations together with Arab states have co-authored a number of anti-Israel resolutions that UNESCO’s Executive Board in Paris will vote on at its May 2 meeting, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.

The new text, which Israel has yet to see, would replace an initial draft from last month, which contests Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

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 That initial March draft put forward solely by Arab states said: “any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.”

Past resolutions approved by UNESCO have refused to accept Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem, including the Old City.

This text would mark the first time that the UNESCO Executive Board has been asked to reject Israeli sovereignty over western Jerusalem.

Israel is concerned that the new draft, co-authored by the ten European countries, will include the clause rejecting Israeli sovereignty over western Jerusalem, a move which threatens to delegitimize the government of the Jewish state, according to diplomats.

Israel’s main governing bodies — its parliament, prime minister’s office, foreign ministry and supreme court — are all located in Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem.

Israeli officials could not help noting that the cynicism of passing such a resolution on Israel’s Independence Day.

“UNESCO has returned to the ritual of political anti-Israeli decisions that undermines anything Israel does in Jerusalem,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement it released on Thursday in advance of the vote.

Ten of the 54 UNESCO Executive Board members are EU states. This includes: Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The United Kingdom, which is in the process of withdrawing from the EU is also on the executive board as is the United States.

The resolution comes as US President Donald Trump is weighing the question of relocating the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the western part of Jerusalem.

The international community is split over recognition of Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem, with many countries acknowledging Israel’s governing bodies there, without formally accepting its status as part of Israel.

Such a text would highlight Jerusalem’s tenuous political status in the eyes of the international community, which already places its embassies in Tel Aviv rather than in Israel’s capital.

The May 2 text is also expected to reaffirm that the Jewish holy sites of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are “an integral part of Palestine.” Muslims consider both places to be holy to Islam and refer to them as the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque.

Absent from the text is the controversial issue of the Temple Mount.

For the last two years, Arab states at UNESCO, backed by the Palestinians have attempted to reclassify the Jewish holy sites of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount solely by their Muslim names of the Buraq Wall and the al-Haram al-Sharif.

Israel was not able to prevent the passage of the resolutions, but its Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said that Western governments and Russia pressed the Palestinians to drop the matter.

In the new text on Jerusalem, there is no mention in any language of the two holy sites. Instead the resolution reaffirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls for the three monotheistic religions.”

It does however, have a line asking for reaffirmation of past texts referencing the sites only by their Muslims names.

Last year five European countries voted against the resolution ignoring Jerusalem ties to the Temple Mount; Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia and Lithuania. While six European countries abstained.

Berlin and Israel have been at odds over the last few months, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refusing to meet this week German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel during his visit to Israel. Netanyahu was upset that Gabriel and met with the Left-wing group Breaking the Silence.

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http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Israel-fears-European-Arab-anti-Israel-resolution-at-UNESCO-489135
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Palestinians protest in West Bank in solidarity with hunger strikers

April 27, 2017

AFP

© Musa AL SHAER, AFP | Palestinians demonstrate on April 26 in solidarity with Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails after hundreds of detainees launched a hunger strike.

Latest update : 2017-04-27

Palestinians held a general strike on Thursday in solidarity with hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike for 11 days, with some officials calling it the largest in years.

Stores were closed and roads empty across the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 50 years.

In the city of Ramallah, several dozen people gathered at a tent set up in a central square where a protest march was to begin.

“This general strike is unprecedented in years,” said Khalil Rizeq of the Union of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce.

“All Palestinian industries, such as transport, bakeries, stores, all of the private sector and commercial institutions are participating.”

The strike was called in all cities in the West Bank, with only doctors and students nearing graduation excluded.

Palestinian bus services were also on strike in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Oday Homaid, a 27-year-old engineer, arrived at Ramallah’s Yasser Arafat Square with other workers from his lift maintenance company to participate in the protest.

It was the “minimum that we can do for our prisoners,” he said.

Munther Karaja, a 42-year-old who had closed his pastry shop, said: “We can sacrifice one day for prisoners who have given years of their lives.”

Palestinian officials say some 1,500 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike that began on April 17, with detainees ingesting only water and salt.

Israeli authorities have put the number at around 1,200.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes.

Around 500 are being held under Israel’s system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.

The hunger strike is being led by Palestinian leader and prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of 2000 to 2005.

The prisoners have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access.

A series of demonstrations have been held in the West Bank in support of the prisoners, occasionally resulting in clashes with Israeli forces.

Barghouti is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.

A Palestinian NGO said this week that Barghouti’s health has seriously declined and that he was refusing medical treatment.

Palestinian leaders have denounced Israel’s refusal to negotiate with the hunger strikers, warning of a “new intifada” if any of them die.

Related:

Peace and Freedom note: Netanyahu will  likely say, if the Palestinians have enough money for electricity they will spend it for weapons and to undermine Israel. He has previously said they must recognize the right of the Jewish state to exist and stop killing us if they want to talk. That’s the hard truth.Related:

‘Huge’ blasts near Damascus airport blamed on Israeli strike — Israeli Intelligence Minister appears to confirm Israeli strike on Syria

April 27, 2017

Illustrative photo of flames and smoke at the Mezzeh military airport on the southwestern outskirts of the capital Damascus following an explosion early on January 13, 2017. (AFP)

April 27, 2017, 6:56 am
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Unnamed regional intelligence source says raid targeted Hezbollah weapons depot

Explosions were heard near Damascus’s airport on Thursday morning, in what some local Arabic-language media reports blamed on an Israeli airstrike.

An unnamed regional intelligence source, quoted by Reuters, said the strike was carried out by Israel and targeted an Iran-supplied Hezbollah arms depot.

The Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar news site also attributed the raid to Israel.

“Al-Manar’s correspondent reported that an explosion struck at dawn on Thursday in fuel tanks and a warehouse near Damascus International Airport and that it was probably the result of an Israeli strike,” the channel said.

It said it caused only material damage.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman said the explosion early Thursday has been heard across the capital, jolting residents awake.

“The blast was huge and could be heard in Damascus,” he said.

Activist-operated Diary of a Mortar, which reports from Damascus, said the explosion near the airport road was followed by flames rising above the area. A pro-government site Damascus Now said the explosion was near the city’s Seventh Bridge, which leads to the airport road.

Some opposition-linked media reports blamed the attack on Israel, saying an initial missile strike against a weapons warehouse belonging to government forces caused fuel silos to explode, leading to a cascade of explosions that damaged a few nearby homes.

Explosions were also reported in the Al-Mazzeh area of the Syrian capital, apparently at the Mazzeh Air Base, a military airstrip used by regime forces.

There was no immediate confirmation of the cause for the explosions from either Syrian or Israeli sources.

Video shows moments explosions start near Damascus airport tonight. Local media attributing to Israel. More details likely to emerge later.

Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic incidents of spillover fire that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Israel has responded to the errant fire with limited reprisals on Syrian positions.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.

In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.

Late last month, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the IDF only carries out raids in Syria for three reasons: when Israel comes under fire, to prevent arms transfers, and to avert a “ticking timebomb,” namely to thwart imminent terror attacks on Israel by groups on its borders.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/report-explosions-near-damascus-airport-may-be-israeli-airstrike/

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Intelligence minister appears to confirm Israeli strike on Syria

Yisrael Katz says preventing weapons from reaching Hezbollah is ‘completely compatible’ with Jerusalem’s policy; terror group says raid ‘probably’ by Jewish state

April 27, 2017, 9:53 am

A photo taken from the rebel-held town of Douma shows flames rising in the distance which are believed to be coming from Damascus International Airport following an explosion early in the morning of April 27, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / Sameer Al-Doumy)

A photo taken from the rebel-held town of Douma shows flames rising in the distance which are believed to be coming from Damascus International Airport following an explosion early in the morning of April 27, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / Sameer Al-Doumy)

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz on Thursday appeared to confirm reports that Israel was behind an overnight airstrike near the Damascus airport.

Katz, who is also transportation minister, told Army Radio in an interview Thursday morning that “the incident is completely compatible with our policy of preventing weapons transfer to Hezbollah,” the Lebanon-based terror group supported by the Syrian regime and Iran.

“Every time we receive intelligence information on plans to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, we will act,” the minister added. “We must prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria.”

Explosions rocked the area around Damascus’s airport earlier on Thursday morning, setting off fires.

An unnamed regional intelligence source, quoted by Reuters, said the strike was carried out by Israel and targeted an Iran-supplied Hezbollah arms depot.

The Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar news site also attributed the raid to the Jewish state.

In this Tuesday, March 7, 2017 photo, Israel's transportation and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP/Dan Balilty)

In this Tuesday, March 7, 2017 photo, Israel’s transportation and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP/Dan Balilty)

saying an initial missile strike against a weapons warehouse belonging to government forces caused fuel silos to explode, leading to a cascade of explosions that damaged a few nearby homes.

Explosions were also reported in the Al-Mazzeh area of the Syrian capital, apparently at the Mazzeh Air Base, a military airstrip used by regime forces.

Video shows moments explosions start near Damascus airport tonight. Local media attributing to Israel. More details likely to emerge later.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.

In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.

Late last month, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the IDF only carries out raids in Syria for three reasons: when Israel comes under fire, to prevent arms transfers, and to avert a “ticking timebomb,” namely to thwart imminent terror attacks on Israel by groups on its borders.

The alleged Israeli airstrike on Thursday came a day after Liberman met with Russian ministers in Moscow. Despite Russia’s alliance with both Iran and Hezbollah, Israel and Russia have maintained a level of security coordination in order to prevent conflicts between their two militaries in Syria, where Moscow is fighting against opponents of the Assad regime.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/intelligence-minister-appears-to-confirm-israeli-strike-on-syria/

 

‘Israeli strikes’ hit arms depot in Damascus

April 27, 2017

Arms depot near Damascus International airport goes up in flames after series of overnight strikes blamed on Israel.

Al Jazeera

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A target near Damascus airport highway was struck early on Thursday [File: Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters]
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Israeli air strikes have hit an arms depot operated by the Lebanese Hezbollah group near Damascus airport, Syrian opposition sources told Al Jazeera.

Explosion in Syria

Explosion in Syria . (photo credit:ARAB MEDIA)

Witnesses said a total of five strikes occurred near the Damascus airport road, about 25km from the capital, early on Thursday.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep near Syria’s border, said opposition activists posted pictures online showing a huge fire near the area.

Allegedly video of the International Airport tonight on fire after what are claimed to be Israeli airstrikes.

“There is no official comment from the Syrian government,” Ahelbarra said.

“We do understand that the Israelis have been carrying out air strikes in the past. The last one was in January targeting the Mezze military base.

“In 2015 they also launched attacks near the capital Damascus and in the Golan Heights, killing two prominent Hezbollah commanders, including Jihad Mughniya who is the son of the top military commander of Hezbollah Imad Mughniya who was also killed in Damascus in 2008,” Ahelbarra said.

‘We will act’

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, speaking from the United States where he has been meeting US officials, told Israeli Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah … Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this.

“The prime minister has said that whenever we receive intelligence that indicated an intention to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, we will act.” Katz added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment.

.Aftermath of explosion near Damascus International Airport 

Aftermath of explosion near Damascus International Airport  CREDIT: REUTERS

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Reuters news agency, citing an intelligence source, said the depot that was targeted handles a significant amount of weapons that Tehran, a major regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sends regularly by air.

The source said the arms depot gets a major part of the weapons supplied to an array of Iranian backed armed groups, led by Hezbollah, which have thousands of fighters engaged in battle against Syrian rebels.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the blasts were heard across the capital, jolting residents awake.

Activist-operated Diary of a Mortar, which reports from Damascus, said the explosions near the airport road were followed by flames rising above the area.

Previous Israeli strikes

In May 2013 Israel struck three areas in Damascus suburbs, allegedly to destroy Iranian rockets being delivered to Hezbollah. Damascus airport was also hit by Israel in May 2013.

The Syrian army said on January 13, 2016 that Israel had targeted the Mezze military airbase. Mezze airbase is just a few kilometers from the presidential palace.

Israel has in the past targeted Hezbollah positions inside Syria where Iranian backed groups are heavily involved in the fighting.

The Syrian government warned in January that it would retaliate against any attack targeting its own areas.

Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar TV channel said the dawn raid struck fuel tanks and a warehouse near Damascus International Airport and that it was probably the result of an Israeli strike.

It added that initial indications were that the blast had caused only material damage and not deaths.

Source: Al Jazeera News

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04/explosion-damascus-international-airport-170427040751494.html

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/27/damascus-airport-rocked-israel-air-strike-arms-depot/

Reports that Israel air raid strikes hit Damascus International Airport

April 27, 2017

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:35 A.M.) – Preliminary reports have emerged that an Israeli air raid has targeted Damascus International Airport or its perimeters.

This cannot be independently verified by Al-Masdar News at this moment however.

Photos have emerged of burning fuel or gas at the international airport.

Breaking , an Explosion Around Damascus International Airport.

report about an Israeli raid .. Not confirmed

Photo shows Burning of fuel or gas near Damascus International Airport … pic.twitter.com/zriL2t4tS0

View image on Twitter

The reports say that there were five airstrikes against the airport or its vicinity.

It has not been revealed yet the nature of the damage to the airport, but the strikes occurred at around 03:25 A.M. local time.

The Damascus International Airport is still used for civilian flights, including routes to Qamishli in Syria’s northeast, Tehran in Iran and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-reports-israel-air-raid-strikes-damascus-international-airport/

See also:

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Arab-media-claims-Israeli-airstrike-hit-Damascus-airport-489100

World Bank Says Lack of Electricity in Gaza is Causing a Humanitarian Crisis

April 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A Palestinian woman helps her son study, by candlelight, at their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on April 19, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Constant fuel shortages and insufficent infrastructure have brought about a “humanitarian crisis” for Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the World Bank said on Thursday.In a report ahead of an international donor conference next week, it said Thursday that foreign aid alone cannot rescue the stagnant Palestinian economy without practical changes and Israeli cooperation.

Gaza’s sole electricity plant frequently runs out of fuel for its generators and rations power supplies to as little as four hours per day.

The Islamist Hamas movement seized power in Gaza in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Fatah organisation of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

It imports diesel for the generators through Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA), but the rivals are in constant dispute over payment, leading to constant shortages.

“During summer and winter peaks the scarce electricity supply is increasingly rationed to four hours during daytime,” the report quotes the bank’s West Bank and Gaza director Marina Wes as saying.

“Recently, this situation has become the norm leaving Gazans without electricity during most of the day. This has created a humanitarian crisis for Gaza’s two million people.”

The shortages hit hospitals, clinics, water supply and other vital services, as well as household needs, she said.

Protests broke out in January over the power cuts, which the Gaza health ministry warned could have “dangerous consequences” for patients.

“The PA needs to address reforms to ensure that payment obligations to electricity suppliers are met as this will encourage the needed private generation investment,” the bank said.

“This is particularly important in Gaza to allow the construction of a high-voltage line from Israel to contribute to the relief of the energy crisis.”

The strip was heavily battered in a July-August 2014 war between Israel and Hamas that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people on the Israeli side.

Its problems are exacerbated by a decade-old Israeli blockade.

“Easing of Israeli restrictions on external trade… and opening up access to Gaza is essential to expand private sector growth and employment,” the report said.

“If both the PA and the Government of Israel implement changes, the impact of donor aid would increase significantly,” it added.

The report is to be presented at a May 4 meeting in Brussels of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates international donor support for the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump is to host Abbas at the White House the day before, for talks on efforts to revive the Middle East peace process.

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Peace and Freedom note: Netanyahu will  likely say, if the Palestinians have enough money for electricity they will spend it for weapons and to undermine Israel. He has previously said they must recognize the right of the Jewish state to exist and stop killing us if they want to talk. That’s the hard truth.

Israel says it uncovered planned mass cyber attacks

April 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Israel is a global player in the cyber-security industry with about 400 specialist companies

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli authorities said on Wednesday that they had detected planned cyber attacks against 120 public and private targets in the Jewish state but did not specify the intended victims.

A statement from Israel’s National Authority for Cyber Defence said that “in recent days” it had uncovered plans for a mass e-mail attack by what it described as an assailant masquerading as a “legitimate organisation” using a bogus security certificate.

It did not say what countermeasures it had taken but said the attacks threatened “government ministries, public institutions and private individuals”.

Haaretz newspaper said that the attackers “tried to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Word.”

In November two main Israeli TV newscasts were taken over by hackers who beamed an Islamist message threatening divine fire against the Jewish state.

Hackers ostensibly supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad posted messages on an Israeli army Twitter account during the 2014 Gaza war and in 2012 hackers disrupted the websites of the Tel Aviv stock exchange and national airline El Al.

Israel is a global player in the cyber-security industry, with about 400 specialist companies.

Its success is partly due to graduates of elite army units who take their electronic warfare skills with them into civilian life at the end of their military service.

jlr/hj/scw/jod/dr

Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway — Politico Investigates

April 25, 2017

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By dropping charges against major arms targets, the administration infuriated Justice Department officials — and undermined its own counterproliferation task forces.

04/24/17 05:00 AM EDT

When President Barack Obama announced the “one-time gesture” of releasing Iranian-born prisoners who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses” last year, his administration presented the move as a modest trade-off for the greater good of the Iran nuclear agreement and Tehran’s pledge to free five Americans.

“Iran had a significantly higher number of individuals, of course, at the beginning of this negotiation that they would have liked to have seen released,” one senior Obama administration official told reporters in a background briefing arranged by the White House, adding that “we were able to winnow that down to these seven individuals, six of whom are Iranian-Americans.”

But Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal, according to a POLITICO investigation.

In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”

In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.

And in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the U.S. “also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”

Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.

A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.

The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.

When federal prosecutors and agents learned the true extent of the releases, many were shocked and angry. Some had spent years, if not decades, working to penetrate the global proliferation networks that allowed Iranian arms traders both to obtain crucial materials for Tehran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in some cases, to provide dangerous materials to other countries.

“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” said one former federal law enforcement supervisor centrally involved in the hunt for Iranian arms traffickers and nuclear smugglers. “And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”

In its determination to win support for the nuclear deal and prisoner swap from Tehran — and from Congress and the American people — the Obama administration did a lot more than just downplay the threats posed by the men it let off the hook, according to POLITICO’s findings.

Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort.

And as far back as the fall of 2014, Obama administration officials began slow-walking some significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating in the U.S. These previously undisclosed findings are based on interviews with key participants at all levels of government and an extensive review of court records and other documents.

“Clearly, there was an embargo on any Iranian cases,” according to the former federal supervisor.

“Of course it pissed people off, but it’s more significant that these guys were freed, and that people were killed because of the actions of one of them,” the supervisor added, in reference to Ravan and the IED network.

The supervisor noted that in agreeing to lift crippling sanctions against Tehran, the Obama administration had insisted on retaining the right to go after Iran for its efforts to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads and cruise missiles that could penetrate U.S. defenses, and to illegally procure components for its nuclear, military and weapons systems.

“Then why would you be dismissing the people that you know about who are involved in that?” the former official asked.

A SHREWD CALCULATION

The saga of how the Obama administration threw a monkey wrench into its own Justice Department-led counterproliferation effort continues to play out almost entirely out of public view, largely because of the highly secretive nature of the cases and the negotiations that affected them.

That may be about to change, as the Trump administration and both chambers of Congress have pledged to crack down on Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Last Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a government-wide review of U.S. policy toward Iran in the face of “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilizing more than one country at a time.”

On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared that even if Iran is meeting the terms of its deal with the Obama administration and other world powers, “they are not living up to the spirit of it, I can tell you that. And we’re analyzing it very, very carefully, and we’ll have something to say about that in the not-too-distant future.”

Such reviews are likely to train a spotlight on an aspect of the nuclear deal and prisoner swap that has infuriated the federal law enforcement community most — the hidden damage it has caused to investigations and prosecutions into a wide array of Iranian smuggling networks with U.S. connections.

Valerie Lincy, executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said Obama administration officials made a shrewd political calculation in focusing public attention on just those seven men it was freeing in the United States, and portraying them as mere sanctions violators.

That way, she said, “They just didn’t think it was going to make too many waves. And I think they were right.”

But Lincy, who closely tracks the U.S. counterproliferation effort against Iran, said that by letting so many men off the hook, and for such a wide range of offenses, Washington has effectively given its blessing to Iran’s continuing defiance of international laws.

Former Obama administration officials deny that, saying the men could still be prosecuted if they continue their illegal activity. But with their cases dropped, international arrest warrants dismissed and investigative assets redirected, the men — especially the 14 fugitives — can now continue activities the U.S. considers to be serious threats to its national security, Lincy said.

“This is a scandal,” she said. “The cases bear all the hallmarks of exactly the kinds of national security threats we’re still going after. It’s stunning and hard to understand why we would do this.”

Even some initial supporters of negotiating with Iran said the disclosures are troubling.

“There was always a broader conceptual problem with the administration not wanting to upset the balance of the deal or the perceived rapprochement with the Iranian regime,” said former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate, who later turned against the accord. “The deal was sacrosanct, and the Iranians knew it from the start and took full advantage when we had — and continue to maintain — enormous leverage.”

Most, if not all, of the Justice Department lawyers and prosecutors involved in the Counterproliferation Initiative were kept in the dark about how their cases were being used as bargaining chips, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials.

So were the federal agents from the FBI and departments of Homeland Security and Commerce who for years had been operating internationally, often undercover, on the front lines of the hunt for Iranian arms and weapons smugglers.

Read the rest:

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/24/obama-iran-nuclear-deal-prisoner-release-236966

Art at Top: Sean McCabe for POLITICO

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Levin: This BOMBSHELL report on the Iran deal is infuriating

Posted April 24, 2017 07:23 PM by Chris Pandolfo

Anton Watman | Shutterstock

Anton Watman | Shutterstock

There was a “blockbuster” story in Politico Monday that Conservative Review Editor-in-Chief Mark Levin wants you to know about.

In “Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway,” Josh Meyer reports that when President Obama released Iranian-born prisoners to secure Iranian support for his administration’s infamous nuclear deal, he portrayed the released prisoners as simple “civilians.” “In reality,” Meyer writes, “some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security.”

Listen:

The bottom line is that President Obama lied to get support for the Iran Nuclear deal. “And his surrogates lied, and therefore the media lied,” Levin said.

“And [Obama] surrendered America’s national security to do it!”

There is Democrat and mainstream media hysteria over possible, unproven, connections between President Trump and Russia, and meanwhile, President Obama released dangerous Iranian fugitives to pass a deal that enabled the nuclear proliferation of the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism.

And President Trump is somehow undermining American national security? Levin set the record straight:

“Barrack Obama did more damage to our national security, to the United States military, to our border security, to our internal security with our police, than any foreign enemy or opponent could possibly achieve!”

“This is a stunning story! And it gags me to say to Politico, I tip my hat. For once.”

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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are Conservative Political Philosophy, the American Founding, and Progressive Rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.

https://www.conservativereview.com/articles/levin-this-bombshell-report-on-the-iran-deal-is-infuriating

Iran nuclear deal reviewed as uncertainty grows

April 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Critics of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani charge that the 2015 nuclear deal has failed to bring anticipated economic benefits

VIENNA (AFP) – Iran and major powers were set to review adherence to their 2015 nuclear agreement on Tuesday, as uncertainty grows about the landmark accord’s future under US President Donald Trump.

The regular quarterly meeting was expected to hear, as Washington confirmed last week, that Iran is sticking to its deal with the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

The accord saw Tehran drastically curb its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of Western and UN sanctions.

However, Trump has ordered a 90-day review, saying last Thursday that Iran was “not living up to the spirit” of the “terrible” deal because of its actions in other areas.

This refers to Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rebels in Yemen and militias in Iraq and in Lebanon as well as Tehran’s ballistic missile programme.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday the review would examine the nuclear accord “in the larger context of Iran’s role in the region and in the world, and then adjust accordingly.”

Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Wednesday expressed misgivings about the nuclear deal itself, in particular time limits in key areas.

Iran cut the number of centrifuges that “enrich” uranium — making it suitable for power generation and at high purities for a bomb — from about 19,000 to 5,000.

Together with other restrictions and ultra-tight UN inspections, Iran pledged to stay at this level for 10 years and not to enrich uranium above low purities for 15 years.

Its uranium stockpile will also stay below 300 kilograms — well short of what would be needed for an atomic bomb — for 15 years.

Tillerson said that the accord “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran” and had been a way of “buying off” Tehran “for a short period of time”.

– Tehran not satisfied –

Iran is not happy either, with critics of President Hassan Rouhani — facing a tough battle for re-election next month — charging that the nuclear deal has failed to provide all the promised economic benefits.

While nuclear-related sanctions were lifted, those related to human rights or missiles remained or have been expanded, frustrating Iran’s efforts to boost trade.

Last week Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump’s comments by saying that Washington was failing to live up not just to the spirit of the nuclear deal, but its wording too.

“So far, it has defied both,” Zarif said on Twitter.

Tuesday’s “Joint Commission” meeting from 0930 GMT among senior diplomats was to be held behind closed doors — in the same plush Vienna hotel where the deal was hammered out — with no press events planned.

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