Archive for August 8, 2018

Two hurt as at least two rockets fired from Gaza strike Sderot 

August 8, 2018

Source: Two hurt as at least two rockets fired from Gaza strike Sderot | The Times of Israel

Iron Dome shoots down two of eight projectiles after sirens blare throughout southern Israel; barrage comes amid heightened tensions, frequent flare-ups on border

Emergency medical personnel respond to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip that hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot on August 8, 2018. (United Hatzalah)

Emergency medical personnel respond to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip that hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot on August 8, 2018. (United Hatzalah)

At least two rockets fired from Gaza struck the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday evening, injuring two people, hours after an exchange of fire between the military and the Hamas terrorist group along the Gaza border.

Sirens rang out in several southern Israel communities at 7:40 p.m. as Gazan terrorists apparently launched a fusillade of rockets.

According to the Israeli military, eight rockets were fired at southern Israel from the Palestinian enclave. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

At least two rockets from Gaza struck Sderot, according to police.

Following the rocket attack, an Israeli drone struck farmlands near Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reported. No injuries were reported.

In Sderot, a 34-year-old man was lightly-to-moderately- wounded by shards of broken glass while inside an apartment building in the town, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

Another man in his 20s was also lightly wounded by shrapnel in a different area of Sderot. They were both taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment.

In addition, eight people were treated on the scene after they suffered panic attacks, including two pregnant women, MDA said.

Videos and photographs from Sderot showed heavy damage to several cars and shrapnel riddling an apartment building.

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Police bomb disposal units were called to the scene and have closed off the area, a police spokesperson said.

It was not immediately clear if the two men were injured by the impact of a Hamas rocket or by the remains of an Iron Dome interceptor missile.

Earlier in the day, the military warned that it was anticipating a revenge attack by the Hamas terrorist group after two of its members were killed in an IDF strike on Tuesday.

The rocket fire represented a major uptick in tensions along the border, amid intensive talks between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire. Such an agreement is meant to end not only rocket launches and shootings from Gaza but also the regular incendiary kite and balloon attacks from the Palestinian enclave that have burned large swaths of land in southern Israel and caused millions of shekels of damage.

On Wednesday afternoon, shots were fired from the Gaza Strip at a number of civilian construction vehicles just outside the Palestinian enclave, causing damage but no injuries.

In response, an Israeli tank shelled a Hamas observation post in the northern Gaza Strip, the army said.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

The engineering vehicles that were fired upon were being used to build an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip, which is meant to counter Hamas’s network of border-crossing attack tunnels.

“Terrorists shot at civilian vehicles that were being used in the effort to construct the barrier around the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. One vehicle was hit,” the IDF said.

Damage to a construction vehicle outside the Gaza Strip, which the military says was caused by gunfire from the Palestinian enclave, on August 8, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian media reported that shortly after the attack, IDF soldiers fired smoke grenades into the northern Gaza Strip, near the abandoned Karni Border Crossing.

It was not immediately clear if this was in response to the shooting attack or if it was an unrelated incident.

In addition, throughout Wednesday, at least 11 fires were sparked in southern Israel by airborne arson devices launched from the Gaza Strip. Israeli firefighters extinguished all of them, according to a spokesperson for Fire and Rescue Services.

Earlier in the day, the military closed off a highway in southern Israel on Wednesday out of concerns that Hamas might open fire at Israeli vehicles.

The military said the decision to close Route 25 and several smaller service roads near the border was made in light of recent threats by Hamas and after IDF soldiers saw that the terror group had begun abandoning several of its positions in the Strip — a move Hamas generally takes as a precaution against airstrikes before carrying out attacks against Israel.

On Tuesday, an IDF tank shelled a Hamas observation post along the Gaza border, killing two of the terror group’s fighters, after soldiers nearby mistakenly believed shots had been fired at them.

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows an Israeli Merkava battle tank patrolling along along the border with the Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The army later confirmed that the gunshots were not fired at the soldiers, but were part of a Hamas training exercise inside the Strip.

The IDF defended its decision to attack the observation post, telling the Haaretz newspaper that the shelling was justified given the information it had available at the time.

Hamas vowed to avenge its fallen members, saying it will not allow Israel to “impose a policy of bombing sites and targeting fighters without paying the price.”

On Wednesday, the military said it would work to prevent any attacks against Israeli citizens by Hamas.

“The IDF will act to ensure the security of residents of the [Gaza] area and will not allow civilians and IDF soldiers to be harmed. The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios,” the army said Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, rocket sirens sounded in Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, sending thousands of residents running to bomb shelters in what the military later said was a false alarm. The alarm systems were triggered shortly before 10 a.m. in the city of Sderot and communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces did not specify what caused the false alarm. In the past, such events have been triggered by large-caliber gunfire near the border, which the military’s sensitive detection systems misidentify as rocket fire.

Adam Rasgon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

EU Unable to Neutralize US Sanctions against Iran

August 8, 2018

Iran CIVIL WAR brewing: Fury at ‘corrupt’ regime – ‘they make us poorer every day’ 

August 8, 2018

Source: Iran CIVIL WAR brewing: Fury at ‘corrupt’ regime – ‘they make us poorer every day’ | World | News |

AN ongoing currency crisis and high levels of unemployment are pushing Iran to the brink of the civil war, with ordinary citizens speaking of their fury at the endemic corruption and financial mismanagement which is blighting their lives.

With prices spiralling and President Hassan Rouhani at loggerheads with US opposite number Donald Trump, things got even worse this week with the reimposition of tough economic sanctions aimed at further undermining the Islamic fundamentalist republic.

Measures which target cars, gold and other metals trading, as well as the government’s ability to buy US dollars, came into force today.

The US has acted after Mr Trump pulled out of the JPCA nuclear agreement earlier this year, the deal which eased sanctions against Iran in exchange for no longer embarking on nuclear weapons development.

The Iranian rial has lost half of its value against the US dollar on the unofficial market this year, while the price of fruit and vegetables has increased by 50 percent since the start of the year.

Protests in Iran

Protests in Tehran against the devaluation of the rial (Image: GETTY)

Shops closed in Iran

Shops were closed during a recent strike in Iran (Image: GETTY)

God damn this regime and its corrupt rulers

Iranian woman

In the current economic climate, low-income families are struggling to put food on the table. One woman, speaking to the Financial Times as she paid over the odds for a lettuce and a cabbage, said: “God damn this regime and its corrupt rulers.

“They have sent their children to the US and Canada while making us poorer every day.”

Recent months have been marked with protests across Iran on issues ranging from water shortages to joblessness, and the Trump administration is partly motivated by a desire to trigger a popular uprising and consequent regime change – something implied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech delivered last month in which he characterised the country’s rulers as a “mafia”.

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has acknowledged the gravity of the situation, declaring that “domestic weaknesses and threats are more serious” than the foreign military threat posed by the US or other countries.

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has made no secret of his contempt for Iran’s leaders (Image: GETTY)

The rank-and-file are infuriated by allegations of corruption, while reformist and hardline politicians routinely accuse each other of fraud and mismanagement.

Ali, 61, a former member of the Revolutionary Guards in the city of Amol, said: “Corruption is so high that it has penetrated everywhere.

“Why should we struggle with daily issues and risk our lives to fill the pockets of corrupt people?”

In anticipation of the sanctions, wealthier Iranians have been stockpiling basic commodities and buying up gold and cars in an bid to protect the value of their savings.

However, less affluent people do not have this option and their complaints are increasingly taking on an anti-establishment tone.

Ali, a 19-year-old shop worker, said: “If I see protesters in the streets, I will join them.”

He explained that he worked 16-hour days, receiving one million tomans (£175) a month. A toman is equivalent to 10 rials.

He added: “But the owner of this shop receives 90m tomans in rent every month without working. Why? Is this a fair system?”

Another shopkeeper said: “Before, people who could not afford to eat meat were at least having bread and yoghurt.

“But now even yoghurt is becoming unaffordable for some families.”

Experts have warned Mr Trump’s sanction mean a price of a barrel of oil could rocket to $90.

Morgan Stanley estimates Iranian production will drop to 2.7 million barrels a day by the fourth quarter, with more than a million barrels taken offline.

Nations line up to oppose US sanctions against Iran 

August 8, 2018

Source: Nations line up to oppose US sanctions against Iran – Israel Hayom

Will US sanctions really stop Iran from backing terror?

August 8, 2018

Source: Will US sanctions really stop Iran from backing terror? – Israel Hayom

US will not prevent Iran oil exports, Iranian FM warns 

August 8, 2018

Source: US will not prevent Iran oil exports, Iranian FM warns – Israel Hayom

Report: US postpones rollout of Mideast ‘deal of the century’

August 8, 2018

White House, Arab officials cite congressional elections in November, possible Israeli elections in early 2019 as reasons for delay • Trump administration seeks staff for Middle East policy team under point men Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.

A White House source and senior Arab officials on Thursday said the Trump administration was postponing by several months the rollout of its so-called “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The U.S. official said the administration has already decided not to present the peace plan before the congressional mid-term elections on Nov. 6 because certain components of the plan call for Israeli concessions and could harm Republican candidates’ election bids.

The official also said that if Israel goes to elections after the Jewish holidays this September, then the administration would postpone the peace plan even further, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to adopt certain aspects during an election campaign.

Israel’s next election is scheduled for November 2019. But a single party could force early elections by withdrawing from the government coalition. Due to the wide range of views among the coalition parties, Israeli governments rarely complete a full term.

Announcing the peace plan during an Israeli election campaign “would play into the hands of [Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali] Bennett and the administration understands this,” the official said, referring to the politician deemed Netanyahu’s chief rival for the premiership.

“During an election campaign, Netanyahu wouldn’t be able to say ‘yes’ to such ideas. On the other hand, he also can’t say ‘no’ to [President Donald] Trump. It appears, therefore, that the sides would rather play it smart and simply wait until the elections are over, in the U.S. and in Israel,” the official said.

If Israel does not hold elections this year, a window of opportunity for unveiling Trump’s Middle East peace plan would be opened.

Senior Arab officials confirmed to Israel Hayom that the peace plan will likely be delayed by several months, because of assessments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that Israel will hold elections in early 2019.

The officials said that regardless of the possibility of elections in Israel, the leaders of moderate Arab states, chief among them Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, sent a joint message to the White House, saying they preferred to wait for the Congressional elections in the U.S. to conclude before the peace plan is presented.

A White House National Security Council official told Israel Hayom, “The release date for the peace plan won’t be determined by political matters in the U.S. or the political situation in Israel, but rather by the date it is completed and when the timing is appropriate.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said Thursday that the Trump administration was staffing up the Middle East policy team at the White House in anticipation of unveiling the still largely mysterious peace plan.

Last week, the National Security Council began approaching other agencies seeking volunteers to join the team, which will work under Trump’s Middle East peace point men, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the officials said.

The team, which will organize the peace plan’s public presentation and any negotiations that may follow, is to be made up of three units: one concentrating on its political and security details, one on its significant economic focus and one on strategic communications, the officials said.

The establishment of a White House team is the first evidence in months that the plan is advancing. Although Trump officials have long promised the most comprehensive package ever put forward to resolve the conflict, not even a small detail of the emerging plan has been offered by Kushner, Greenblatt or any other official.

The State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Congress have been asked to detail personnel to the team for six months to a year, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The agencies declined to comment, but an NSC official said that Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations, “are expanding their team and the resources available as they finalize the details and rollout strategy of the peace initiative.”

White House officials say the plan will focus on pragmatic details, rather than top-line concepts, in a way that will help win public support.

The Palestinian leadership has been openly hostile to any proposal from the Trump administration, saying it has a pro-Israel bias, notably after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and moved the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv in May.

Since the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas broke off contact after the Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. negotiating team has been talking to independent Palestinian experts.

The White House expects that the Palestinian Authority will engage on the plan and has been resisting Congressional demands to fully close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington because Greenblatt and Kushner want to keep that channel open. But officials have offered little evidence to back that up.

Palestinian alienation has continued to grow as millions of dollars in U.S. assistance remains on hold and appears likely to be cut entirely. With just two months left in the current budget year, less than half of the planned $251 million in U.S. aid planned for the Palestinians in 2018 – $92.8 million – has been released, according to the government’s online tracker,

The remaining amount is still on hold as is an additional $65 million in frozen U.S. assistance to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon.

In addition, Israel’s response to the plan is far from certain. Although Netanyahu is one of Trump’s top foreign allies, it remains unclear if he will back massive investment in Gaza, which is run by the terrorist Hamas movement.

For the plan to succeed or even survive the starting gate, it will need at least initial buy-in from both Israel and the Palestinians as well as from the Gulf Arab states, which officials say will be asked to substantially bankroll its economic portion. Arab officials have thus far adopted a wait-and-see approach.