Archive for May 12, 2018

IDF destroys terror tunnel in latest air strike 

May 12, 2018

Source: IDF destroys terror tunnel in latest air strike – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

The tunnel was the ninth to be destroyed by the IDF in a year.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 MAY 12, 2018 20:33
Destruction of a Hamas terror tunnel near the Erez Crossing by the IDF, May 5, 2018

Destruction of a Hamas terror tunnel near the Erez Crossing by the IDF, May 5, 2018. (photo credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE)

The tunnel had originated in Beit Hanoun and stretched over a kilometer, just meters away from Israeli territory.

“The tunnel was aimed at Israeli communities adjacent to the security fence and near the Erez humanitarian crossing,” the IDF said in a statement.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman posted on Twitter that Israel would not buy Hamas’ “bluff” and has said that the militant group has continued to build terror tunnels for years.

According to the army, the tunnel under the Erez crossing – which is designed for humanitarian use – was connected to the terror tunnel that was dug under the Kerem Shalom crossing that was neutralized by the IDF this past January.

“The terror tunnels prove the Hamas terrorist organization’s cynicism towards the residents of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.

“The Hamas terror organization continues to invest its resources in constructing terror tunnels and sabotaging humanitarian efforts offered by Israel and other countries for the people of Gaza instead of investing in the Gaza Strip and its peoples’ welfare,” it added.

Israel’s military has been investing extensive effort in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza and has been building a ground-breaking underground barrier across the entire border with the Hamas-run enclave. Construction of the barrier is expected to cost over 3 billion shekels and be completed within two years.

The underground barrier is made from bentonite and is combined with large iron cages with water-resistant pipes and a system of advanced sensor and monitoring devices to detect tunnels.  On top of the underground barrier a 6 m. high above-ground fence will be built to prevent anyone from crossing above ground.

While this tunnel was destroyed by airstrikes, the other tunnels were destroyed by flooding them with material which prevents Hamas from ever using it again.

Over the last six weeks, protests on the Gaza border have seen dozens of Palestinians attempting to destroy or cross the fence into Israel. The IDF has claimed that many of those participating in such activities are involved with or operatives of Hamas.

The IDF has warned Palestinian civilians against approaching the security fence during events planned for May 14th and 15th – Nakba Day – saying that the army will “continue operating with determination in the face of terror both above and below the ground,” in order to prevent harm to come to Israeli civilians or for Israeli sovereignty to be jeopardized.

Shoshana Kranish contributed to this report. 

IAF Planes Bomb Northern Gaza Strip after Arabs Blow Up Gas Pipe

May 12, 2018

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/eye-on-palestine/hamas/iaf-planes-bomb-northern-gaza-strip/2018/05/12/

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

Israeli reconnaissance planes fired at least two missiles at Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip late Saturday, according to Ma’an. The agency cited witnesses who claimed the bombing targeted an electric generator in the area, which led to its destruction and caused fire in the surrounding area.

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The F-16 fighter jets resumed firing at the site with seven rockets, but no casualties were reported.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office confirmed that “the explosions that are being heard in the northern Gaza Strip are the result of Israeli army activity.”

Apparently there was a launch of a ground-to-air missile against Israeli aircraft during the raid, according to Ma’an.

An Arab was shot dead by IDF forces east of Gaza City during riots at the al-Awda refugee camp.

A number of Arab youths managed to destroy part of the security fence in the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, and damage cameras.

Arab rioters on Friday set fire to the pipeline through which Israel supplies gas and fuel to the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as the conveyor belt for importing goods. Replacing the pipe will cost about $3 million, a new conveyor belt will cost about $6.5 million. Damage from the fire is estimated in millions. This was the second consecutive week when Arab rioters have set fire to the Gaza Strip side of the crossing – the only point through which goods like food, equipment and fuel pass through.

Earlier on Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing. According to the IDF’s announcement, the crossing will remain closed, except for humanitarian cases that will be approved on an individual basis, until repair of the damage caused by the arson is complete.

Ivanka Trump returns to Jerusalem ‘with great joy’. 

May 12, 2018

Source: Ivanka Trump returns to Jerusalem ‘with great joy’. – American Politics – Jerusalem Post

Daughter of US President Donald Trump to visit Israel to attend the Monday opening of the US embassy in the Israeli capital.

BY HAGAY HACOHEN
 MAY 12, 2018 14:18

Ivanka Trump leads a listening session with military spouses at the White House in Washington

 Ivanka Trump leads a listening session with military spouses at the White House in Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)

Daughter of US President Donald Trump Ivanka Trump announced on Friday she will attend the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, she expressed her feeling of being “honored” in representing the American people at this time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bip-WpZl2_4/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=987&rd=www.jpost.com#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A2255.4999999993015%7D
The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday will complete the shift in US policy to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital taken by the Trump administration.
A four-story digital billboard in Jerusalem at the Friends of Zion Heritage Center says it all. "Thank you, President Trump. You're making Israel Greater" / Courtesy A four-story digital billboard in Jerusalem at the Friends of Zion Heritage Center says it all. “Thank you, President Trump. You’re making Israel Greater” / Courtesy 

Lauded by many in Israel and seen as a unique achievement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the US decision was received with hostility and rage in the Arab world, especially among the Palestinians who began ‘Days of Rage’ to express their displeasure with the move.

PROTESTERS IN Gaza City begin stomping on posters depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump and Israeli and American flags before burning them during a protest following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel /MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS  PROTESTERS IN Gaza City begin stomping on posters depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump and Israeli and American flags before burning them during a protest following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel /MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS 

On Friday, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman released a video in which the new building is presented and he himself express the sentiment that, to borrow from the Jewish text the Hagada read on Passover, THIS year in Jerusalem.

Israeli security forces are taking extra caution as wide-scale Palestinian protests and clashes are expected to occur during Monday.

Top minister: Israel should eradicate any trace of Iranian entrenchment in Syria 

May 12, 2018

Source: Top minister: Israel should eradicate any trace of Iranian entrenchment in Syria | The Times of Israel

Security cabinet member Yoav Galant says ‘An opportunity has arisen to uproot Iran, and we’ll take advantage of it’

Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant speaks at a signing ceremony for an agreement to build new apartments in Haifa, March 19, 2018. (Flash90)

Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant speaks at a signing ceremony for an agreement to build new apartments in Haifa, March 19, 2018. (Flash90)

Housing Minister Yoav Galant said Saturday Israel would seek to totally remove Iran’s military presence from Syria. “An opportunity has arisen for Israel to uproot Iran from Syria, and we’ll take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.

Speaking at a cultural event in Tel Aviv suburb Givat Shmuel, the minister, a former army general and a member of the high-level security cabinet, said, “We need to strike while the iron is hot and eradicate any trace of Iranian entrenchment in Syria. We’ll put the Iranian genie back in its bottle.”

Galant said Iran was “an imperialist terrorist nation…they’re spread out in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in an attempt to create an axis from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea…to surround us and create a war of attrition between ourselves and the Arabs.”

But he said Iran was overreaching, creating difficulties for itself. “The Iranian economy is in a bad state, and there’s an internal debate in Iran. Many understand that the focus on exporting terrorism and developing nuclear weapons is using up the resources of tens of millions of residents who need to live.”

Israeli officials told Hadashot TV news Friday night that the security cabinet believes Iran “has gotten the Israeli message, and won’t mess with us in the near future” — a day after Israel launched dozens of strikes on Iranian military sites in Syria in response to an Iranian missile barrage directed at northern Israel.

Israeli leaders assess that the Israeli action has made it clear to Tehran that it does not possess the operational infrastructure it needs in Syria to successfully contend with IDF capabilities, the report said.

The army has told ministers in the top forum that it thus believes the current round of hostilities to be over, though tensions in the north will persevere, and border incidents are still possible.

At least 11 Iranians were among those killed in unprecedented Israeli strikes in Syria, a monitor said Saturday.

“At least 27 pro-regime fighters were killed: six Syrian soldiers and 21 foreign fighters, including 11 Iranians,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

That updates the monitor’s initial death toll of 23, which did not specify the number of Iranians.

“The new report is due to the death of wounded or missing persons whose deaths have been confirmed,” Abdel Rahman said.

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

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, on April 12, 2018. (Flash90)

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 said 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 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.

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.”

An Israeli military ambulance drives past tanks in the Golan Heights, near the border with Syria, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel would be victorious in its “ongoing campaign” against Iran.

“I have established a basic principle: Whoever strikes us, we are going to strike them,” Netanyahu said.

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.

The Jewish state has said said it also conducts operations in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Iran-backed Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group which is said to have 140,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel from Lebanon.

A leading Iranian cleric said Friday that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be destroyed if Israel behaves “foolishly,” while also vowing Iran will ramp up missile development despite Western criticism. He spoke as thousands of Iranians marched in anti-Israel and anti-US protests nationwide.

“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure [to curb it]… to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed,” Reuters translated Ahmad Khatami as saying during Friday prayers at Tehran University, broadcast on Iranian state television.

Iran will quit nuclear deal, restart enrichment, ramp up military tension 

May 12, 2018

Source: Iran will quit nuclear deal, restart enrichment, ramp up military tension – DEBKAfile

DEBKAfile’s sources outline the motives behind Iran’s next steps:

  1. Tehran does not believe that Israel’s massive assault on Iranian bases, missiles stores, logistic centers and other military sites in Damascus and points south on Thursday night – described as its largest air operation since the Yom Kippur War – was triggered by the Qods rocket barrage on the Golan a few hours earlier. Iranian strategists are convinced that it was planned in advance by the Trump administration and Netanyahu government as Act One of a major joint campaign.
  2. Tehran discounts European ability to preserve the nuclear pact without the United States. In a phone conversation Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani that it was imperative to halt his country’s ballistic missile development and production and rein in its military involvement in Syria and Yemen. Rouhani countered by demanding guarantees that no European Union member would join President Trump’s new sanctions, either directly or indirectly. And indeed, as they spoke, new US sanctions were clamped down on six people and three companies with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the penalties targeted those who had funneled millions of dollars to the group, funding its “malign activity”. Iran’s central bank helped the IRGC to access US dollars via “a large-scale currency exchange network,” he said. The Treasury Department said all six individuals were Iranian. This order went out from Washington a few hours after Israel accused Al Qods of launching the 20-missile barrage on the Golan from Syria.
    Iran’s leaders have no illusions about the EU being able to deliver any such guarantees and are playing along with European leaders in a show of diplomacy to buy time for getting organized to confront the US and Israeli campaigns.
  3. Tehran expects the coming rounds of US sanctions to be exceptionally harsh and comprehensive. If the pressure forces Iran to agree to negotiate on a new nuclear deal as demanded by Washington, its leaders would rather not start out with the weak hand they hold at present. They believe they can only improve the odds in their favor by military escalation. When Rouhani said Thursday that Iran does not want “new tensions” in the region, he was playing for time for Iran to get its next moves – resumption of enrichment and armed confrontation – in place.

Leaked Doc Reveals White House Planning “Regime Change” In Iran

May 12, 2018

by Tyler Durden Thu, 05/10/2018 – 19:27 Zero Hedge

Source: Leaked Doc Reveals White House Planning “Regime Change” In Iran

{The question is…How would regime change impact the behavior of Iran’s military? – LS}

It appears Rudy Giuliani wasn’t lying.

Just a few days after the former NYC mayor and latest member of President Trump’sunexpectedly let it slip that “we got a president who is tough, who does not listen to the people who are naysayers, and a president who is committed to regime change [in Iran]”, the Washington Free Beacon has obtained a three-page white paper being circulated among National Security Council officials with drafted plans to spark regime change in Iran, following the US exit from the Obama-era nuclear deal and the re-imposition of tough sanctions aimed at toppling the Iranian regime. 

The plan, authored by the Security Studies Group, or SSG, a national security think-tank that has close ties to senior White House national security officials, including – who else – National Security Adviser John Bolton, seeks to reshape longstanding American foreign policy toward Iran by emphasizing an explicit policy of regime change, something the Obama administration opposed when popular protests gripped Iran in 2009, writes the Free Beacon, which obtained a leaked copy of the circulating plans.

The regime change plan seeks to fundamentally shift U.S. policy towards Iran and has found a receptive audience in the Trump administration, which has been moving in this direction since Bolton—a longtime and vocal supporter of regime change—entered the White House.

It deemphasizes U.S military intervention, instead focusing on a series of moves to embolden an Iranian population that has increasingly grown angry at the ruling regime for its heavy investments in military adventurism across the region. –Free Beacon

The ordinary people of Iran are suffering under economic stagnation, while the regime ships its wealth abroad to fight its expansionist wars and to pad the bank accounts of the Mullahs and the IRGC command,” SSG writes in the paper. “This has provoked noteworthy protests across the country in recent months” it further claims as an argument to push a “regime change” policy.

For now – at least – overthrowing the Iran government, with its extensive and close ties to the Kremlin, is not official US policy; SSG president Jim Hanson told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration does not want to engage in direct military intervention in Iran – and is instead focusing on other methods of ridding Iran of its “hardline ruling regime.” 

The Trump administration has no desire to roll tanks in an effort to directly topple the Iranian regime,” Hanson said. “But they would be much happier dealing with a post-Mullah government. That is the most likely path to a nuclear weapons-free and less dangerous Iran.”

That will likely change, however.

One source close to the White House who has previewed the plan told the Free Beacon that the nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, solidified the Iranian regime’s grip on power and intentionally prevented the United States from fomenting regime change

The JCPOA purposefully destroyed the carefully created global consensus against the Islamic Republic,” said the source, who would only speak to the Free Beacon on background about the sensitive issue. “Prior to that, everyone understood the dangers of playing footsie with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. It’s now Trump, Bolton, and [Mike] Pompeo’s job to put this consensus back in place.”

The source tells the Beacon that Bolton is “acutely aware of the danger the Iranian regime poses to the region.”

John is someone who understands the danger of Iran viscerally, and knows that you’re never going to fundamentally change its behavior—and the threats against Israel and the Saudis especially—until that revolutionary regime is gone,” the source said, adding that “nothing’s off the table right now if Israel is attacked.

That said, Bolton is confident that an Iranian regime change will occur in the next six months.

A second source tells The Beacon that the Trump administration recognizes that the “chief impediment to the region is Iran’s tyrannical regime.”

The problem is not the Iran nuclear deal it’s the Iranian regime,” said the source. “Team Bolton has spent years creating Plans B, C, and D for dealing with that problem. President Trump hired him knowing all of that. The administration will now start aggressively moving to deal with the root cause of chaos and violence in the region in a clear-eyed way.”

Regional sources who have spoken to SSG “tell us that Iranian social media is more outraged about internal oppression, such as the recent restrictions on Telegram, than about supporting or opposing the nuclear program. Iranian regime oppression of its ethnic and religious minorities has created the conditions for an effective campaign designed to splinter the Iranian state into component parts,” the group states. –Free Beacon

“More than one third of Iran’s population is minority groups, many of whom already seek independence,” the paper explains. “U.S. support for these independence movements, both overt and covert, could force the regime to focus attention on them and limit its ability to conduct other malign activities.”

Without a regime change, the United States will continue face threats from Iranian forces stationed throughout the region, including in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

“The probability the current Iranian theocracy will stop its nuclear program willingly or even under significant pressure is low,” the plan states. “Absent a change in government within Iran, America will face a choice between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or acting to destroy as much of this capability as possible.”

That said, President Trump made clear earlier in the week that US officials must make efforts to differentiate between the people of Iran and its ruling regime.

Any public discussion of these options, and any messaging about the Iranian regime in general, should make a bright line distinction between the theocratic regime along with its organs of oppression and the general populace,” according to the plan. “We must constantly reinforce our support for removing the iron sandal from the necks of the people to allow them the freedom they deserve.”

U.S. Monitoring Potential for Violence at Israeli Embassy Opening ‘Minute by Minute’

May 12, 2018

Officials recognize potential for violence, but emphasize preparedness

BY:

American and Israeli flags fly at the entrance to the new American embassy in Jerusalem / Getty Images

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/u-s-monitoring-potential-violence-israel-embassy-opening-minute-minute/

U.S. officials are closely monitoring the security situation in Israel ahead of a historic ceremony celebrating the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, according to senior Trump administration officials.

Senior administration officials acknowledged the potential for violence as armed protests by Palestinians continue along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, but emphasized their preparedness and close coordination with Israeli security organizations.

The opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem became a reality when Trump made good on a campaign promise to relocate the embassy from its longstanding perch in Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem. Monday’s celebration is expected to attract more than 800 dignitaries, officials, and others.

The move has splintered U.S. allies, some of whom have praised the move and some who have objected, warning that such a recognition of Jerusalem of Israel’s capital by the United States would further foment violence and make it more difficult to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Trump administration has objected to these arguments, telling reporters that Hamas terrorists and their supporters are the ones chiefly responsible for engaging in violence in the region.

The security situation for the embassy opening is expected to be incredibly tight, U.S. officials said.

“In terms of potential conflicts, we look at this issue hourly,” according to one senior administration official who was only authorized to speak on background. “We work closely with our law enforcement and security establishments here, and our own people here from the United States.”

The United States also is working closely with Israel’s security apparatus, the official said.

“We work closely with Israeli police, with the Shin Bet, and we measure the risk of demonstrations and violence minute by minute,” the official explained. “And so we’re confident that we’re considering all potential issues and risks, and doing everything we can to mitigate those risks and to keep people safe.”

A second senior administration official emphasized that the violence along Israel’s border by Gaza is chiefly being perpetuated by Hamas terrorists seeking to further inflame regional tensions.

“We support the right for peace—to peaceful protest,” said the second official. “But the operative word there is peaceful, and particularly as you look at what’s going on down in Gaza, there are a lot of people who are legitimately protesting the very, very difficult humanitarian situation that they are enduring. But at the same time, you have some people flying kites as symbols of freedom, you have some people flying kites with Swastikas, and gas bombs attached to them, and that’s intolerable.”

“I think we need to blame that violence not on anything the United States has done or Israel has done, but firmly on Hamas,” the official said.

U.S. personnel stationed in Israel are said to be excited about the impending move and efforts are already underway to relocate a number of officials to the new Jerusalem embassy, the officials said, adding that officials held a toast early Friday saying goodbye to the Tel Aviv offices.

“We just had a little toast where we all got together and toasted our last day as Embassy Tel Aviv on Monday,” said the official. “People will be coming back to work as the embassy branch of the Jerusalem embassy, and we’re—I think we’re all very happy and excited to be participating in such a historic event.”

“People have been working literally around the clock in getting ready for our opening dedication ceremony on Monday,” the official noted. “We’ll be ready. We are expecting about 800 people. We are expecting a healthy number of dignitaries from the Congress. You’re aware of the presidential delegation; there’ll be others.”