Archive for March 29, 2018

Report: Israeli stealth fighters fly over Iran

March 29, 2018


Source Link: Report: Israeli stealth fighters fly over Iran

{You can run, but you can’t hide. – LS}

Two Israeli F-35 fighter jets entered Iranian airspace over the past month, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Thursday. The act is a signal of heightened regional tensions, especially in light of recent Israeli military attacks in Syria, including against Iranian bases in the country.

Sources quoted in Al-Jarida stated that two stealth fighters flew over Syrian and Iraqi airspace to reach Iran, and even targeted locations in the Iranian cities Bandar Abbas, Esfahan and Shiraz.

The report states that the two fighter jets, among the most advanced in the world, circled at high altitude above Persian Gulf sites suspected of being associated with the Iranian nuclear program.

It also states that the two jets went undetected by radar, including by the Russian radar system located in Syria. The source refused to confirm if the operation was undertaken in coordination with the US army, which has recently conducted joint exercises with the IDF.

The source added that the seven F-35 fighters in active service in the IAF have conducted a number of missions in Syria and on the Lebanese-Syrian border. He underlined that the fighter jets can travel from Israel to Iran twice without refueling.

Israel has admitted to launching about 100 air strikes on Syria over the past five years, targeting Hezbollah terrorists, weapons convoys and infrastructure, and it is believed to be behind dozens more.

On March 21, the IDF cleared for publication that Israel was behind the 2007 destruction of a nuclear reactor that was under construction in northern Syria.

In February, Israeli F-16 fighter jets entered Syrian airspace, striking 12 Iranian targets in Syria in response to an Iranian drone that was shot down over Israel. Two Israeli crew members were wounded when they ejected from their jet before it crashed, which was later determined to be caused by pilot error.

In response to the Iranian drone, a senior Israeli official warned that Israel will react with force to Iran’s efforts to entrench itself further in Syria.

“…the Iranians are determined to continue to establish themselves in Syria, and the next incident is only a matter of time,” he said, warning that Israel does not rule out that that the Islamic Republic will continue to try to attack Israel.


Israel opens fire at rioters on Gaza border as tensions mount

March 29, 2018

No immediate reports of injuries; preparations continue on both sides ahead of ‘March of Return’ on Friday

A Palestinian woman wearing niqab (full face veil) flashes the victory gesture while holding a Palestinian flag oas others fly kites during a demonstration ahead of the Land Day, at a tent city along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on March 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

Israeli troops opened fire at a number of Palestinian rioters who tried to damage the security fence around the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the army said.

According to the army, approximately 200 Palestinians took part in violent protests at four main locations along the security fence, lighting fires and throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers on the other side.

There were no immediate reports of injuries by the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

The riots came as Palestinians in Gaza pitched tents near the volatile border with Israel ahead of a six-week protest camp under the gaze of wary Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian women fly kites marked with the colors of the Palestinian flag during a demonstration ahead of the Land Day, at a tent city along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on March 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

The exceptional protest is dubbed the “March of Return” and has the backing of the Gaza Strip’s terrorist Hamas rulers.

The protest comes amid rising tensions as the United States prepares to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Organizers said it would be peaceful but Israeli officials are wary of a fresh flareup along the enclave’s border.

In a Wednesday interview with the Israel Hayom daily, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned that “if the Palestinians think they will organize a march and it will pass the [border] fence and they will march into our territory, they’re wrong.”

“A big portion of the army will be invested there,” Eisenkot told the rival Yedioth Ahronoth daily on the same day, adding that more than a hundred snipers, most from “special units,” had been stationed in the area.

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

“If there will be a danger to lives, we will authorize live fire,” he declared. “The orders are to use a lot of force.”

The first protest is set to kick off on Friday, when Palestinians worldwide mark Land Day, which commemorates the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee on March 30, 1976, and ensuing demonstrations in which six Arab Israelis were killed.

It is also, by coincidence, the eve of the week-long Passover festival.

Camping and protests in Gaza are expected to continue until mid-May, around the time the US is set to inaugurate its new embassy in Jerusalem.

Mid-May will also mark the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, which saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee their homes during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

According to the United Nations, some 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents are refugees or their descendants.

‘Return home’

Khaled al-Batsh, the leader of the Islamic Jihad terror group, which is among the planners of the protest, said tents would be located 500 meters from the border, just outside the buffer zone between Gaza and Israel.

Water facilities were being installed and medical teams deployed to allow people to stay for long periods.

Organizers said tens of thousands of people would attend Friday’s protest, although it was not clear how the estimate was reached.

Batsh said protesters were calling for Palestinians to be allowed to return to land that is now inside Israel. “Seventy years ago we left and today we have decided to return to our country,” he told AFP.

But senior Hamas figure Salah Bardawil said that while protesters might breach the border, they were not planning to do so.

Hamas officials say they will monitor the area beyond the camp sites to prevent protesters going too close to the frontier, at least during the initial days of the protest.

Five main campsites have been set up, spanning the length of the coastal territory from near the Erez border crossing in the north to Rafah in the far south, near Egypt.

On Thursday, around 20 family tents were pitched at a site near Erez, alongside two larger community tents for performances including the traditional Palestinian “dabke” dance.

At another site, young men were putting the finishing touches on dozens of wooden toilets, while large generators whirred into life.

Palestinian people walk and drive near the Gaza-Israel border on the outskirts of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 28, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Another organizer, Tahir Sawirki, told AFP Palestinians would gather Friday in groups representing the towns they left in 1948.

He said tens of thousands of meals would be prepared for more than 100,000 expected participants.

Israel says it is prepared

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Palestinians that anyone who cooperates with Hamas on its planned mass tent protest will be forever banned from entering Israel. He accused Hamas of escalating tensions by offering residents benefits to participate in the tent protest.

“No Palestinian from Gaza comes willingly to confront IDF forces on the border. They are all Hamas operatives or family forced to come — the bus rides, free internet, toilets, tents. Soon they’ll have a rock concert so people will come,” he joked.

“We are prepared, and I’m sure we will enable the Israeli public to celebrate Passover calmly and with security,” Liberman said, adding later in a tweet that “many soldiers” would not be furloughed for the Passover Seder.

Liberman called on Gazans to refuse to come and to revolt against the Hamas regime.

“You know who is responsible for your dire situation,” he addressed Gaza residents. “Try changing things from the inside. Anyone who we identify as having aided Hamas’s efforts will never be allowed to enter Israel, won’t be able to do business here, nothing.”

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

The Secret World of the Palestinian Authority

March 29, 2018

U.N. Watch Blasts Human Rights Council for Defining Practice of Judaism as ‘War Crime’

March 29, 2018


U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO that monitors the United Nations, blasted the U.N. Human Rights Council during the council’s March session for “defining the practice of Judaism as a war crime.”

In an address to the international body, U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer criticized the council for its numerous anti-Israel resolutions when it has taken up so few against other countries who are known human rights violators, such as China and Saudi Arabia.

Neuer’s remarks came while member countries were considering a blacklist of countries who do business in Israel. As part of the debate, some parties disputed the boundaries of Israel, and many countries and groups took swipes at the country.

South Africa’s delegate compared treatment of Palestinians to that of apartheid in her own home country. Representatives from North Korea and the Palestinian Liberation Organization also condemned Israel.

“Israel continues to murder, to pursue ethnic cleansing, to grab natural resources and land, erect barriers, walls. It’s been cutting down trees, demolishing houses, desecrating religious sites,” the PLO representative said.

Neuer responded to the body by mentioning how much time and effort they spend criticizing Israel as opposed to true human rights violators.

“Mr. President, if you add up this session’s country reports and resolutions, there are zero on China, zero on Saudi Arabia, and zero on most other countries, two on North Korea, three on Iran, and then 12 on Israel,” Neuer said. “At a time when much of the Middle East is sinking from Syrian genocide, ISIS sexual enslavement of Yazidi girls, and deadly civil wars in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Sinai, by what logic or morality does this council devote so much of its time to singling out the region’s only democracy? Why is the United Nations obsessed with scapegoating the world’s only Jewish state?”

“I ask: Why is the United Nations defining the practice of Judaism as a war crime?” Neuer said.

After show of force, Israel renews interest in advanced hybrid aircraft 

March 29, 2018

Source: After show of force, Israel renews interest in advanced hybrid aircraft – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Israel is choosing between several powerful possibilities to add to their fleets.

 MARCH 29, 2018 16:40

Israel is once again considering purchasing the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey following the cancellation of its acquisition nearly four years ago.

 A defense source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Israel will likely decide in the next year or two to purchase the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.


Israel first expressed interest in Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in 2012, and two years later the US Department of Defense notified Congress about its intention to sell six of them to Israel in a deal worth $1.13 billion, but the acquisition process was later frozen by the Jewish state following opposition within Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Primarily used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) since entering service in 2007, the Osprey has seen extensive action in Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting long-range rapid reaction and crisis response missions.

Officials from Israel’s defense establishment were given a fresh opportunity to assess the capabilities of the aircraft in early March during a joint exercise conducted with the US Marine Corps in southern Israel.

Some 650 Marines trained with Israeli troops as part of the Kaya Green drill at the Tzehelim army base in several operational scenarios, including live fire and artillery drills in order to enhance interoperability and cooperation between the two allies.

Several V-22 Osprey tiltrotors, operating from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, provided support for the marines in the exercise, along with several other US military and IAF aircraft.

The aircraft’s ability to fly far and fast has led to many to see the V-22 as a possible solution for supporting special forces, and due to its air-to-air refueling capabilities, which can allow the aircraft to reach Iran. Without aerial refueling, the V-22 is capable of flying some 1,442 miles.

According to a 2015 report in the Wall Street Journal, Israel sought US “military hardware useful for a strike” on Iran in summer 2012 and “at the top of the list were V-22 Ospreys.”

The report stated the Ospreys were to drop special forces “behind enemy lines” into Iran to attack the Fordow enrichment facility.

The multirole combat aircraft uses tiltrotor technology, combining the vertical performance of helicopters (such as take off and landings) with the speed, altitude and range of fixed-wing planes, making them the ideal aircraft for that sort of mission, as they don’t need runways.

The Israeli military is modernizing its squadrons of aging fighter jets and helicopters and, according to the defense source, the air force has understood that there needs to a be a mix of heavy-lift helicopters and the V-22.

The purchase of the tiltrotor aircraft would make Israel the second country outside the United States to deploy them, after Japan, which bought four V-22 Ospreys in July of 2016.

As part of the new procurements funded in large part by the MOU signed last year between Jerusalem and Washington that would see Israel receive $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade, Israel has purchased two squadrons of F-35 Adir stealth fighters and is currently deciding between Boeing’s Chinook or Lockheed Martin’s CH-53K heavy lift helicopters.

Israel’s Air Force is also set to decide within the coming months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 jets or Boeing’s latest F-15I, which, according to Haaretz is what IAF Chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin is leaning toward.

“The F-15I advanced jet is no longer like the F-15 Israel currently flies,” the source told the Post. “It only looks like it from the outside. Everything inside the jet is 10 years more advanced than even the F-35.”

Water Crisis Spurs Protests in Iran

March 29, 2018

Babak Dehghanpisheh March 29, 2018 via Reuters

Source Link: Water Crisis Spurs Protests in Iran

{Trouble in paradise. – LS}

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over water, a growing political concern due to a drought which residents of parched areas and analysts say has been exacerbated by mismanagement.

The demonstrations have been relatively small, sporadic and limited to towns around the central city of Isfahan and Khuzestan province in the west. But they have highlighted an issue that played a role in earlier unrest and the authorities have cracked down, while recognizing the need for change.

In early March, the turnout was light in a town near Isfahan, with dozens of farmers chanting the tongue-in-cheek slogan “Death to farmers, long live oppressors!”, according to online videos. A week later the protests became more tense.

Dozens of riot police on motorcycles faced off against farmers in the same town, Varzaneh, another video showed. Smoke swirled around the protesters and the person filming said tear gas was being fired. A second person reported clashes. Police in the city of Isfahan were not immediately available to comment.

“What’s called drought is more often the mismanagement of water,” said a journalist in Varzaneh, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

“And this lack of water has disrupted people’s income.”

Farmers accuse local politicians of allowing water to be diverted from their areas in return for bribes.

While the nationwide protests in December and January stemmed from anger over high prices and alleged corruption, in rural areas, lack of access to water was also a major cause, analysts say.

At least 25 people were killed and, according to one parliamentarian, up to 3,700 people were arrested, the biggest challenge yet for the government of president Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected last year.


In Syria, drought was one of the causes of anti-government protests which broke out in 2011 and led to civil war, making the Iranian drought particularly sensitive.

Approximately 97 percent of the country is experiencing drought to some degree, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Meteorological Organization. Rights groups say it has driven many people from their homes.

“Towns and villages around Isfahan have been hit so hard by drought and water diversion that they have emptied out and people who lived there have moved,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director for the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a New York-based advocacy group.

“Nobody pays any attention to them. And people close to Rouhani told me the government didn’t even know such a situation existed and there were so many grievances.”

Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei mentioned drought as a problem that needs to be addressed in the country during their speech last week commemorating Nowruz, the Iranian new year, while condemning “lawlessness and violence”.

An ad running on state TV which encourages Iranian citizens to conserve water shows a man sitting in a chair in the middle of a desert with the slogan, “Drought is closer than you think”.

A United Nations report last year noted, “Water shortages are acute; agricultural livelihoods no longer sufficient. With few other options, many people have left, choosing uncertain futures as migrants in search of work.”

In early January, protests in the town of Qahderijan, some 10 km (6 miles) west of Isfahan, quickly turned violent as security forces opened fire on crowds, killing at least five people, according to activists. One of the dead was a farmer, CHRI said, and locals said water rights were the main grievance.

Videos posted on social media show protesters chanting outside a police station and throwing Molotov cocktails at the building, one of the most violent incidents documented during the nationwide protests.

A journalist in Qahderijan who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue said the attack on the police station was not the right thing to do but that water mismanagement had deprived farmers of their livelihoods.


Hassan Kamran, a parliamentarian from Isfahan, publicly criticised energy minister Reza Ardakanian this month, accusing him of not properly implementing a water distribution law.

“The security and intelligence forces shouldn’t investigate our farmers. The water rights are theirs,” he told a parliamentary session.

In early March, Ardakanian set up a working group comprising four ministers and two presidential deputies to deal with the crisis.

Since the January protests, Rouhani has repeatedly said the government will do what it can to address grievances. But there is no quick fix for deeply rooted environmental issues like drought, observers say.

“These are local grievances but the solutions are with the national government,” said Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch, adding that the government had limited power and widespread corruption.

Rouhani’s office was not immediately available to comment.

Iranian security forces are aware of the potential for water issues to cause instability. A senior Revolutionary Guards commander, Yahya Rahim Safavi, noted in a public speech in late February that water will play a key role for both the Islamic Republic’s national and regional security.

Environmentalists have found themselves in the firing line.

In late January, Kavous Seyed-Emami, the director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, and six other environmentalists were arrested.

Two weeks later, authorities said Seyed-Emami had committed suicide in jail after confessing to being a spy for the United States and Israel. His family has denied the allegation.

State TV later aired a report saying Seyed-Emami and his colleagues were telling Iran’s enemies the country could no longer maintain domestic agriculture production because of a water shortage and needed to import food.

In late February, three more environmentalists were arrested and three weeks ago, Seyed-Emami’s wife was prevented from leaving Iran, according to family members.

“Public opinion has become sensitized to environmental issues,” said Saeed Leylaz, a Tehran-based economist and political analyst. “So the government may see the organizations and institutions who work on environmental issues as problematic.”