Archive for October 2, 2018

Netanyahu slams ‘ridiculous’ Iran effort to tie Israel to attack at parade 

October 2, 2018

Source: Netanyahu slams ‘ridiculous’ Iran effort to tie Israel to attack at parade | The Times of Israel

Prime minister speaks out after Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards fire missiles bearing ‘Death to America, Death to Israel’ slogans at Islamic State targets in Syria

In this photo released on Oct. 1, 2018, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a missile is fired from city of Kermanshah in western Iran targeting the Islamic State group in Syria (Sepahnews via AP)

In this photo released on Oct. 1, 2018, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a missile is fired from city of Kermanshah in western Iran targeting the Islamic State group in Syria (Sepahnews via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night castigated Iran for falsely seeking to tie Israel to an attack at a military parade in southern Iran last month in which at least 24 people were killed.

Netanyahu spoke after Iran fired missiles featuring slogans urging “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” at Islamic State targets in Syria earlier Monday that it said were connected to the attack. Tehran has blamed a range of adversaries, including Israel, the US, the Islamic State, and others, for the attack.

“Iran’s attempt to tie Israel to the terrorist attack in southern Iran is ridiculous,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The fact that ‘Death to Israel’ was written on the missiles launched at Syria proves everything,” he added.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched six ballistic missiles as well as drone bombers early Monday toward eastern Syria, targeting what it said were terrorists that it blamed for the attack on the military parade.

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showing a diagram of what he said was a previously unknown Iranian nuclear site, during his address to the 73rd UN General Assembly, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

The missiles had anti-Israel, anti-American, and anti-Saudi slogans written on them. One missile shown on state television bore the slogans “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to Al Saud,” referring to Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. The missile also bore in Arabic the phrase “kill the friends of Satan,” referring to a verse in the Quran on fighting infidels.

The missiles had enough range to strike regional US military bases and targets inside both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Iran’s supreme leader has called out the two Arab nations by name, accusing them of being behind the Sept. 22 attack on the parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, something denied by both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported Monday night that one of the Iranian missiles crashed soon after launch.

Netanyahu is a relentless critic of the Iranian regime, which he insists is trying to fool the world as it seeks a nuclear arsenal. At the UN last week, he revealed details of what he said was a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran, which he said stored radioactive material — an allegation Tehran has denied and derided.

In this photo released on October 1, 2018, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a missile is fired from city of Kermanshah in western Iran targeting the Islamic State group in Syria. (Sepahnews via AP)

“This is the roaring of missiles belonging to the Revolutionary Guard of the Islamic Revolution,” an Iranian state TV reporter said as the missiles launched behind him. “In a few minutes, the world of arrogance — especially America, the [Israeli] Zionist regime and the Al Saud — will hear the sound of Iran’s repeated blows.” Al Saud is a reference to Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

Iranian state TV and the state-run IRNA news agency said the missiles “killed and wounded” militants in Syria, without elaborating. The missiles, launched from western Iran, flew over Iraq and landed near the city of Boukamal in the far southeast of Syria, they reported.

“Terrorists used bullets in Ahvaz,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard’s aerospace division, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency. “We answered them with missiles.”

The Guard, a paramilitary group that answers directly to the supreme leader, said it followed the missiles with bombing runs by seven remotely piloted drones, a first for Iran. State TV aired footage of a drone dropping what appeared to be an unguided munition.

Boukamal is held by Syrian government forces, but Islamic State still maintains a presence in the area, despite being driven from virtually all the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press that the Iranian missiles hit the IS-held town of Hajin, just north of Boukamal.

Strong explosions shook the area early Monday, reverberating east of the Euphrates River, he said. US-allied Kurdish fighters have been battling IS in and around Hajin for weeks.

The US military’s Central Command acknowledged that Iranian forces conducted “no-notice strikes” in the area.

“The coalition is still assessing if any damage occurred, and no coalition forces were in danger,” US Army Col. Sean Ryan said.

The missile launch further adds to confusion over who carried out the assault on a military parade, which killed at least 24 people and wounded over 60.

 

Netanyahu: Hezbollah ‘brazenly lying’ to world about weapons sites

October 2, 2018

Source: Netanyahu: Hezbollah ‘brazenly lying’ to world about weapons sites | The Times of Israel

Israeli PM says foreign ambassadors in Beirut went on ‘fraudulent propaganda tour’ hosted by Lebanese FM as terror group had 3 days to clear the area

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showing a diagram of what he said was Hezbollah terror group sites near Beirut during his address to the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showing a diagram of what he said was Hezbollah terror group sites near Beirut during his address to the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, of “brazenly lying” to the international community over the secret weapons facilities in and around Beirut, which the Israeli premier disclosed on the world stage at the United Nations General Assembly last week.

Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil took 73 foreign envoys on a “fraudulent propaganda tour” of the alleged missile sites, where he failed to show them the underground facilities where Hezbollah is reportedly storing precision-guided missiles.

“Hezbollah is brazenly lying to the international community by means of the fraudulent propaganda tour of the Lebanese foreign minister who took ambassadors to the soccer field [one of the alleged missile sites] but refrained from taking them to the nearby underground precision missile production facility,” Netanyahu said.

On Monday, Bassil led a group of the ambassadors around a pool complex and the sports stadium in a bid to disprove the Israeli accusations.

“Today Lebanon is raising [its] voice by addressing all countries of the world… to refute Israel’s allegations,” Bassil was quoted as saying. Israel’s Channel 10 news said Monday night that Lebanon feared Israel may attack the sites.

Netanyahu said the envoys “should ask themselves why [Lebanese authorities] waited three days to give them a tour.” The PM said in the September 27 address to the UN General Assembly that Hezbollah had secret missile conversion sites in and around Beirut.

One of the alleged sites is located under a soccer field used by a Hezbollah-sponsored team; another is just north of the Rafik Hariri International Airport; and the third is underneath the Beirut port and less than 500 meters from the airport’s tarmac.

Lebanese security forces guard the entrance of Al-Ahed stadium in Beirut’s southern suburbs during a tour organized by the Lebanese foreign minister for ambassadors on October 1, 2018 of alleged missile sites around the Lebanese capital in a bid to disprove Israeli accusations that the Hezbollah movement has secret missile facilities there. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

These three are not the only facilities that the IDF believes are being used by Hezbollah for the manufacturing and storage of precision missiles.

Hezbollah, Netanyahu said, took pains to clear out the exposed facilities so that foreign diplomats could tour the area.

“It’s saddening that the Lebanese government is sacrificing the safety of its citizens while covering for Hezbollah, which has taken Lebanon hostage in its aggression toward Israel,” said Netanyahu.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil gathers 73 foreign envoys and journalists at Al-Ahed stadium in Beirut’s southern suburbs on October 1, 2018 during a tour he organized of alleged missile sites around the Lebanese capital’s international airport, in a bid to disprove Israeli accusations that the Hezbollah movement has secret missile facilities there. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

Earlier Monday, the Israeli military released a video noting that three days had passed since Netanyahu detailed the presence of the alleged facilities.

“In three days you can clear out a precision missile factory, invite foreign ambassadors, and hope that the world will fall for it.”

It urged the international community not to be duped by what it said were “Hezbollah’s lies.”

The Russian ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, described the tour as “very good.”

“On the diplomatic and political spheres, there are many statements,” he told The Associated Press. “What we saw today are facts. There is a club and stadium. I can’t imagine a secret thing happening in these places. We saw that with our own eyes.”

In his UN address on Thursday, Netanyahu produced satellite imagery pinpointing the three sites being used by Hezbollah, accusing the Shiite terror group of using Beirut residents as human shields.

“So I also have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel knows, Israel also knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you’re doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it,” Netanyahu said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Hezbollah, whose forces control south Lebanon bordering Israel and Beirut’s southern suburbs where the airport is located, has not officially reacted to the accusation.

Bassil on Monday lashed out at Israel, which he said had “violated our land, air, and marine space 1,417 times in the last eight months.”

Israel was attempting “to justify another violation of UN resolutions and to justify another aggression on a sovereign country,” he said.

The Jewish state has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

Bassil said his government would not allow rocket facilities near the airport and that Hezbollah is “wiser” than to place them there. He said Netanyahu’s claims were based on “inaccurate” estimates without any “compelling evidence.”

“Lebanon demands that Israel ceases its madness,” he said.

Bassil said Monday’s tour, which included the ambassadors and several reporters, was not “a fact-finding mission,” but part of a “counter-diplomatic campaign” to rebut the allegations.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah recently boasted that his group now possesses “highly accurate” missiles despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons.

Bassil acknowledged Hezbollah’s claims, but said “this doesn’t mean that those missiles are present in the vicinity of Beirut airport.”

Soon after Netanyahu’s speech Thursday, the IDF released satellite images of the sites that it says are being used by Hezbollah to hide underground precision missile production facilities.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil talks to the media as he gathered ambassadors near Beirut international airport on October 1, 2018 during a tour of alleged missile sites around the Lebanese capital, in a bid to disprove Israeli accusations that the Hezbollah movement has secret missile facilities there. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

The sites are located within close proximity to the Beirut airport.

The factories, which are meant to convert regular missiles into more accurate precision ones, are not believed to be up and running. The Israeli military said the missiles are currently being constructed with Iranian assistance.

The target of last month’s Israeli airstrike, in which a Russian spy plane was inadvertently shot down by Syrian air defenses, was machinery used in the production of precision missiles en route to Hezbollah, The Times of Israel learned.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing Hezbollah precision missile sites hidden in Beirut. (GPO)

According to Netanyahu, these precision missiles are capable of striking with 10 meters (32 feet) of their given target. Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of between 100,000 and 150,000 rockets and missiles, though the vast majority are thought to lack precision technology.

A satellite image released by the Israel Defense Forces showing a site near Beirut’s international airport that the army says is being used by Hezbollah to convert regular missiles into precision-guided munitions, on September 27, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army said the facilities are “another example of Iranian entrenchment in the region and the negative influence of Iran.”

Holding up aerial photos of the alleged Hezbollah facilities, Netanyahu warned: “Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it.”

Netanyahu accused the Lebanese terror group of “deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields.”

According to the Israel Defense Forces, Hezbollah began working on these surface-to-surface missile facilities last year.

Reports that Iran was constructing underground missile conversion factories in Lebanon first emerged in March 2017.

Since then, Israeli officials have repeatedly said that Israel would not tolerate such facilities.

In January, Netanyahu said Lebanon “is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we cannot accept this threat.”

 

Israelis remain largely isolated in praise for Trump and US policy — poll

October 2, 2018

Source: Israelis remain largely isolated in praise for Trump and US policy — poll | The Times of Israel

Pew survey shows 82% of Jewish Israelis trust US handling of global affairs and 94% have favorable opinion of America — views which are out of sync with most other nations polled

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2018, at UN Headquarters (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2018, at UN Headquarters (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Israelis have an extremely positive view of US President Donald Trump and his administration, and are largely isolated in this outlook in the international community, a new survey by the Pew Research Center has shown.

The poll of America’s standing in 25 countries shows 82 percent of Jewish Israelis have confidence in Trump’s handling of global affairs (69% among Israelis overall) while 94 of Jewish Israelis have a favorable view of the US in general (83% overall).

But Israeli approval was not shared by many others, and ratings were generally at historic lows, with views of Washington dim — and falling — in many nations which are key allies of the US, including Germany (30% favorability), Canada (39%) and France (38%). The UK was evenly split at 50%.

Though some nations showed a ratings improvement between 2017 to 2018 — such as Spain, Japan, South Korea, Brazil and South Africa — all but three continued to view the US less favorably than under the Obama administration, those three being, Israel, Russia and Kenya.

Confidence in US President Donald Trump internationally (Courtesy Pew Research Center)

And Israel was tied with the Philippines for the highest overall rating for the current administration at 83%. Among Israeli Jews that figure was still higher at 94%, while only 43% of Arabs agreed.

Israeli appreciation for the US actually went up over the past year, from 81% in 2016 and 2017.

Pollsters also noted that respondents on the political right were generally far more enthusiastic than those on the left, with the divide in Israel (94% to 57%) being the largest between countries polled.

Israelis were also more convinced than any other respondents that the US was doing more to address global problems in the past two years, with 52% expressing that sentiment. The only other countries to come close were Nigeria (48%) and Kenya (42%), while in most European countries that number was in single digits or low teens.

Israel is also far ahead of most countries in the belief that Washington takes its interests into account, with 86% saying the administration considers Israeli interests when making decisions. Once again the Philippines (74%) and Kenya (63%) were closest to the Israeli position, while the median for all countries was only 28%.

While most respondents did not register a major change in their nations’ relationship with the US between this year and last, Israelis once again stood out, with 79% saying ties had improved — likely a result of the US decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital and move its embassy there.

And while, as noted above, 69% of Israelis trust Trump’s handling of international relations, the number is far above the median of all 25 nations which stands at 27%.

Israelis are in agreement with most polled nations, however, that China plays a far larger role on the world stage today than in the past, with 74% expressing that view — a percentage similar to those in France, Spain, Russia, Germany, the UK, Canada and others.