Archive for November 1, 2018

As US sanctions loom, Iranian leader anticipates difficult months ahead 

November 1, 2018

Source: As US sanctions loom, Iranian leader anticipates difficult months ahead – Israel Hayom

 

Member of Hamas military wing killed in ‘accidental explosion’

November 1, 2018

Source: Member of Hamas military wing killed in ‘accidental explosion’ | The Times of Israel

Blast occurs at site belonging to an unnamed armed group in the Gaza Strip, Hamas-linked news site reports

Members of the Hamas terror group's military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the  Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, was killed on Thursday in an “accidental explosion” in the northern Gaza Strip, the terror group said.

Daoud Jneid of Jabalia in northern Gaza “was martyred in an accidental explosion,” the Qassam Brigades said in a statement on its official website.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry said Jneid was 37. The Qassam Brigades said he was 39.

The explosion took place at a site that belongs to an armed group in Gaza, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reported, citing local sources.

المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

@PalinfoAr

الشهيد المجاهد داوود جنيد 39 عاما من جباليا والذي استشهد نتيجة انفجار عرضي أثناء رباطه صباح اليوم

The report did not say to which armed group the site belongs.

“He passed away on the path of struggle and resistance and in the field of honor and might,” the Qassam Brigades statement added.

Hamas’s military wing frequently fires rockets at southern Israel and encourages and praises violent attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

In early September, 42-year-old Abdel Rahim Abbas, another member of Hamas’s military wing, was killed in an “accidental explosion,” the Qassam Brigades said in a statement at the time.

 

Giant leap for Israel-Gulf ties can’t shatter the Palestinian glass ceiling

November 1, 2018

Source: Giant leap for Israel-Gulf ties can’t shatter the Palestinian glass ceiling | The Times of Israel

Do Netanyahu’s visit in Oman and ‘Hatikva’ playing in Abu Dhabi show that normalization with the Arab world is not tied to progress in the peace process? Not so fast, analysts warn

Miri Regev, center, visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with UAE officials on October 29, 2018. (Courtesy Chen Kedem Maktoubi)

Israel’s ties with the Arab world took a giant leap forward in recent days, with a series of dramatic — even historic — events that seemed to indicate that some of the Jewish state’s neighbors are at long last accepting it as a legitimate member of the family of nations.

Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates made important gestures toward Israel over the last few days, despite the fact that Israel’s relations with its closest neighbors, the Palestinians, remain dismal.

A peace agreement is as elusive as ever, yet today it can no longer be denied that some Sunni Arab states are slowly but surely opening up to Israel. This seemingly disproves the hypothesis, advanced by some, that no normalization with the Muslim world can take place in the absence of significant progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yet, despite the abundance of good news in Israel-Gulf relations, the peace process is still a glass ceiling that must be shattered before full normalization can take place, several analysts warned this week.

On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warmly welcomed in Muscat by Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said, becoming the first Israeli official to publicly visit the country in more than two decades.

“These were important talks — both for the State of Israel and very important talks for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said Sunday, vowing that there “there will be more” visits to Arab countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

The significance of the Qaboos-Netanyahu meeting was not lost on anyone dealing with Middle East affairs.

“We welcome the warming ties & growing cooperation between our regional friends,” US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted on Friday. “This is a helpful step for our peace efforts and essential to create an atmosphere of stability, security and prosperity between Israelis, Palestinians their neighbors.”

Even some of Netanyahu’s toughest critics acknowledged that the Oman trip was a major achievement.

“Relations with the Arab world are of strategic importance for the State of Israel. We are a natural part of the Middle East and the countries of the region need to understand that we are here to stay,” opposition MK Yair Lapid told The Times of Israel. “I welcome the prime minister’s visit to Oman and the willingness of the sultan to publicize this visit.”

Netanyahu’s eight-hour meeting with Qaboos, during which the Israeli leader and his wife, Sara, were treated to a lavish dinner and a performance of traditional Omani music, would have been enough to cast doubts on the theory that the Arab states will not publicly warm to Israel as long as their Palestinian brethren remain stateless.

But it was just the beginning.

On Saturday, after Netanyahu’s trip to Muscat had been celebrated on the front pages of several Omani newspapers, the country’s foreign minister, Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, suggested at a conference in Bahrain that the time had come for Israel to be treated like any other state in the region. Remarkably, his colleagues from Manama and Riyadh did not disagree, even expressing tacit support for Oman’s efforts to help advance the peace process.

Alawi’s comments garnered praise from Greenblatt, who called it an “encouraging sign and step forward in creating an atmosphere favorable for peace.”

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

On Sunday, about 500 kilometers east of Muscat, Israeli judoka Sagi Muki defeated Belgian competitor Matthias Casse to take first place in the under-81 kilogram category at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev had tears streaming down her face as she listened to Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem, being played for the first time on the Arabian Peninsula.

Just last year, Tal Flicker, who won a gold medal at the same venue, was not allowed to display the Israeli flag. And after his victory in the under-66 kilograms category, the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) anthem was played instead of Hatikva.

Israel’s national symbols being honored on UAE soil transcended the world of sports, said IJF president Marius Vizer, calling it “a crucial moment in the world.”

Netanyahu, too, attributed great importance to Muki’s achievement, telling the fresh gold medalist that he was “also contributing to Israel’s diplomatic effort in the Arab world.”

On Monday, Regev was accompanied by Emirati officials to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the third-largest Muslim house of worship in the world, and a site regularly shown to world leaders visiting the country.

The first-ever official state visit to the mosque by an Israeli minister was something veteran analysts said they never imagined could happen in their lifetime.

Miri Regev, center, visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with UAE officials on October 29, 2018. (Courtesy Chen Kedem Maktoubi)

Two other Israeli ministers visited or are going to visit the Gulf in an official capacity: Communications Minister Ayoub Kara on Tuesday addressed the International Telecommunication Union’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai, and Transportation Minister Israel Katz was invitedto the World Congress of the International Road Transport Union in Muscat, where he will promote his “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative aiming to establish a trade route connecting Europe with Israel and the Persian Gulf.

Greenblatt, the US envoy, on Wednesday hailed Oman, Bahrain and the UAE for their “statements and/or gestures signaling warmer ties with Israel.”

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

Some of those events — though not all — are truly extraordinary, many analysts agreed, pointing to the common enmity toward Iran that brings Israel and the Arab world together.

“Oman can be a means for communicating with the Iranians, a role Oman can play like few others,” said Dennis Ross, a former US diplomat and top Middle East adviser to several US presidents. “As for the other Sunni leaders, Israel is seen as reliable in terms of its opposition to Iran and is seen as not just talking but doing.”

But those Arab states are still unlikely to translate their admiration for Israel into a radically different public relationship with the Jewish state in the near future, Ross cautioned.

“They don’t see the need, and there is some risk because of the Palestinian issue,” he explained. “But the more even private relationships become the norm, the more they will prepare the ground for limited public moves taking place.”

Rabbi Marc Schneier, an interfaith activist who regularly travels to the region and has good relations with the ruling families of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and other Gulf states, said he was recently told by a top official in the Gulf that the one issue that unites the entire Arabian Peninsula “is their feeling that they need to establish relations with Israel.”

“It is the only issue that transcends all our disagreements,” Schneier quoted the official as saying.

“You get the sense that everyone is trying to out-Israel the other,” the rabbi-activist said. “We’re living in remarkable times.”

Rabbi Marc Schneier (right) and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (courtesy)

And yet, there needs to be “some kind of tangible movement, some demonstrable efforts” to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the Gulf states will agree to establish formal relations with Israel, he added.

UAE caved to pressure from the International Judo Federation

Netanyahu’s warm reception in Muscat, and the absence of an outcry throughout the Arab world, was by far the biggest breakthrough of the last few days. As moving as it was for many Israelis was to see Hatikva played in Abu Dhabi, the Emiratis did not do it out of a sudden desire to honor Israel’s national anthem.

Rather, it followed a threat by the International Judo Federation, which had suspended the 2018 Grand Slam until the Emirati authorities committed in writing to providing equal rights to all countries.

The International Judo Federation flag flies for Israeli gold medalist Tal Flicker because Israel’s national symbols were banned at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The fact that ministers Kara and Katz are going to Gulf states is also not entirely surprising.

They are attending international conferences, the organizers of which are obligated to host representatives of every member state. The participation of Israeli officials in summits across the Arab world has been fairly standard for the last few years.

But why did Oman take the extraordinary step of hosting the leader of the Jewish state?

Qaboos, the Arab world’s longest serving monarch, has consistently supported Arab-Israeli peace efforts, said Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst based in Washington.

“When Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, Oman was the only Gulf country not to boycott Egypt,” he said. Similarly, in the early 1990s Qaboos invited then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to Oman to demonstrate support for the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty he was negotiating with King Hussein.

Oman has also quietly but actively supported Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking since the Oslo Accords by backing the Middle East Desalination Research Center, a Muscat-based organization that brings together scientists from Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Qatar and elsewhere to discuss water cooperation, according to Neubauer.

Then-prime minister Shimon Peres presents a sculpture of the dove of peace to Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said El Said in the palace in Salala, April 1, 1996. (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

The contacts between Netanyahu’s office and the authorities in Muscat began about a year and a half ago, a senior official told reporters this week. That the meeting took place now is likely linked to the US administration’s forthcoming peace plan, several analysts said.

“Because Oman is trusted by both Israel and Palestine, it is uniquely positioned at this moment in time to support President Trump’s peace efforts, as the [rest of the] Arab world is facing increasing turmoil,” Neubauer said.

“Oman is perhaps the only Arab country where Netanyahu would be warmly welcomed and where his visit would not trigger any domestic backlash, nor would it contribute to the deepening the existing regional divisions among the Gulf states amid the crisis over Qatar,” he added.

This visit should be the beginning of normalization, not the end. But for the gulf states, it’s likely the end.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, agreed that the invitation to Netanyahu was mostly a gesture toward Washington.

“He didn’t do it for us. He did it for the American president, who says he will soon present us with the deal of the century,” said Guzansky, who wrote his doctorate on Omani foreign policy.

At the same time, the friendly welcome Qaboos extended to Netanyahu by no means disproves the theory that full normalization is impossible so long as the Palestinian problem remains unsolved, he stressed.

“The Palestinians are still the glass ceiling for Arab-Israel normalization. And this glass ceiling is being eroded, but it is still there,” he said. The increasingly positive attitude by Oman, UAE, Bahrain and others can best be explained with the desire to remain on Trump’s good side, he posited.

“I think the administration asked the Gulf states, especially the smaller ones, to make gestures toward Israel, including confidence-building toward Israel,” Guzansky surmised.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Netanyahu deserves credit for a great achievement, but ultimately his short trip to Muscat amounts to little more than “a show,” he went on.

“We didn’t break the barrier, and with all due respect to the prime minister’s visit to Oman, we have to see what comes next. Can this gesture be filled with substance? This visit should be the beginning of normalization, not the end,” Guzansky said.

“But for the Gulf states, it’s likely the end. This is the most they can do for now.”

 

Secret no more: Israels outreach to Gulf Arab states

November 1, 2018

Source: Secret no more: Israels outreach to Gulf Arab states

Oman is the only Arab country in the Gulf that could host Netanyahu without fear of destabilizing backlash, thanks to its longstanding policy of non-interference. The prime minister’s visit to the sultanate opened the door to additional cooperation between the Jewish state and moderate Arab nations, with the main unifying issue being Iran.
It was a scene unthinkable just weeks ago: an Israeli Cabinet minister, tears of joy filling her eyes, proudly singing her country’s national anthem at a sports event in the heart of the Arab world.
The spectacle of Miri Regev singing “HaTikva,” which describes the Jewish yearning for a homeland in Zion, was just one in a series of taboo-busting public appearances by Israeli officials in Gulf Arab states that have thrust the once-secret back channels of outreach into public view.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for years boasted about warming ties with key Arab states that have no diplomatic relations with Israel. But those ties—still largely unpopular among the Arab public—were rarely visible.

That changed on Friday, when Netanyahu made an unannounced visit to Oman, where he met longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said. It marked the first visit by an Israeli leader in more than 20 years to the tiny Gulf state, a US ally that has in the past facilitated negotiations between the United States and Iran.

Netanyahu meets with Sultan Qaboos in Oman (Photo: AP)

Netanyahu meets with Sultan Qaboos in Oman (Photo: AP)

“These were important talks, both for the state of Israel and very important talks for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday. “There will be more.”

As he spoke, Regev was in the United Arab Emirates with an Israeli delegation at a judo tournament—the scene of her happy tears after Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won the gold medal—and Netanyahu’s communications minister was headed to the UAE for a security conference.

Regev visits the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (Photo: Chen Kedem Maktubi)

Regev visits the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (Photo: Chen Kedem Maktubi)

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, is scheduled to head to Oman next week for a transportation conference, where he plans on presenting his plan for a rail link between Gulf Arab countries and Israel.The driving force in these visits seems to be a shared concern over Iran. Israel and many of the Gulf Arab states consider Iran a destabilizing force, meddling in conflicts and supporting rivals across the region. Oman, which borders Saudi Arabia and lies at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, has often played the role of regional mediator.

Netanyahu meets with Sultan Qaboos in Oman (Photo: AP)

Netanyahu meets with Sultan Qaboos in Oman (Photo: AP)

It also provides an opportunity for these Arab countries to curry favor in Washington. President Donald Trump has promised to present a plan for the “Deal of the Century” for Mideast peace, and Saudi Arabia’s dependability as an influential conduit has been thrown into question amid the fallout from the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.Regev’s emotional appearance Sunday at the gold medal ceremony in Abu Dhabi was unprecedented and especially remarkable, given her political leanings. At home, she is an outspoken nationalist popular with hard-liners.

In Abu Dhabi, Regev also toured the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Wearing a loosely wrapped headscarf and the traditional floor-length gown known as an abaya, she was warmly welcomed by local officials.

While the visits by Netanyahu and his Likud Party ministers are a huge public relations boost for him domestically, they do not immediately signal an Arab embrace of Israel.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains an emotional issue with the Arab public, and relations will likely remain limited without a peace agreement.

Israeli forces have killed over 160 Palestinians during months of Hamas-led protests in the Gaza Strip against an Israeli blockade and a deepening humanitarian crisis. The peace process has been frozen for years, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut ties with Washington after the White House recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year and moved its embassy to the city.

The Palestinians fear that Trump is trying to rally support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in order to pressure the Palestinians into accepting a peace plan that falls far short of their demands.In Muscat, Netanyahu’s meeting appeared aimed at dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and his close ties with the Trump administration. With Netanyahu’s urging, the US this year pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, which Oman had supported.

After the visit, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi suggested the meeting was merely a strategic attempt at dealing with some of the Middle East’s most pressing issues. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, he said Netanyahu had initiated the meeting to present his views on Mideast issues to Sultan Qaboos.

“What Sultan Qaboos is doing now is nothing short of an intervention,” said Sigurd Neubauer, a Washington-based expert on Oman. “Oman is interjecting itself into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for one obvious reason, and that is (because) the Arab states are so divided.”

Regev with the president of the UAE's UAE Wrestling Judo & Kickboxing Federation (Photo: AP)

Regev with the president of the UAE’s UAE Wrestling Judo & Kickboxing Federation(Photo: AP)

Oman is also the only Arab country in the Gulf that could have hosted Netanyahu without fear of destabilizing backlash, Neubauer said.

That’s because Sultan Qaboos, in power since 1970, has direct lines of communication with a range of players in the region, thanks to his longstanding policy of non-interference. Oman has brokered the release of Western hostages in Yemen and provided a back door for communications between Washington and Tehran under the Obama administration. It is a member of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council, but it did not join the kingdom in its boycott of Qatar or the war in Yemen.

Even statements by the Palestinian Fatah Party and Iran fell short of directly condemning Oman after Netanyahu’s visit, instead criticizing Israel’s attempts to normalize relations with Arab states before a peace deal is reached.

For Oman, hosting Netanyahu sent a message to the Trump administration that Muscat is a valuable regional player.

“The currency is American currency,” Yoel Guzansky, a senior researcher at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said. “Oman can show that it’s a go-between, a conduit not just between Israel and the Palestinians, but more ambitiously between Iran and Israel.”

 

Report: Egyptian negotiators present Hamas, Palestinian Authority reconciliation agreement

November 1, 2018

Source: Report: Egyptian negotiators present Hamas, Palestinian Authority reconciliation agreement – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

The reconciliation proposal follows months of Egyptian efforts to end the rift between the two Palestinian groups.

BY JERUSALEM POST STAFF
 NOVEMBER 1, 2018 11:37
TODAY HAMAS is well-prepared in Gaza and it is hard to believe that there is a sector, certainly in

The proposed agreement would be enacted in stages. The PA would first take responsibility for civil services and the government ministries in the Gaza Strip, that are now under Hamas control.

In its second phase the PA would be in control of the police and the border crossings. If all went well for three years, Hamas’ military wing Al-Din al-Qassam would be placed under PA control as well.

Separately, elections would be held for a new Palestinian parliament and a new constitution would be drawn up, according to Army Radio.

The plan was designed by Egyptian General Ahmad Abd al-Khaliq, who has made four trips to Gaza and the West Bank in the past two weeks to secure agreements for the plan. He has also met with senior Israelis in the Defense Ministry.

The Egyptian plan includes detailed timetables and formulas for each stage. Hamas is prepared to consider the plan but is waiting for a response  from PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas in the past has rejected any plan that did not immediately place the security services under his control. He fears that any plan that maintains a separate security force for Hamas makes it more likely that the West Bank and Gaza could become two separate entities rather than one unified state, according to Army Radio.

The Palestinian News and Information Agency, WAFA, said that Abbas is expected to meet Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday. It’s Abbas’ first meeting with Sisi in Egypt in ten months.

Egypt has been instrumental in mediating intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

The reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas is considered to be a necessary step for any final peace plan between Israeli and the Palestinians. The two Palestinian factions have been bitter rivals ever since Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007.

Past reconciliations plans have never been fully implemented. Egypt and the United Nations have worked intently on a new reconciliation effort.

Simultaneously they have worked to restore calm and end the violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

 

Russia warns of ‘provocation’ in Syria, hints at Israeli ‘hot heads’ 

November 1, 2018

Source: Russia warns of ‘provocation’ in Syria, hints at Israeli ‘hot heads’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Defense Ministry briefing warns against provocations in south and north Syria and condemns US role in eastern Syria

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 NOVEMBER 1, 2018 12:36
A Syrian rebel fires at forces loyal to Bashar Assad in Idlib, Syria

The Russian Defense Ministry held a long briefing about the situation in Syria on Wednesday, warning against “provocations.” Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, warned against “hot heads” provoking Syria and intimated that the S-300 had been deployed to defend against such action. Although Israel wasn’t mentioned, the reference to the S-300 clearly is pointed at Jerusalem.

The statement, also tweeted by the Russian embassy in Israel, appears to reference the downing of a Russian IL-20 aircraft in Syria in September during an Israeli airstrike, an incident that led to a brief crises with Moscow.

The wide-ranging Defense Ministry presentation focused on the situation in northern and eastern Syria. Russia claimed that Syrian rebel groups in Idlib may be preparing a “false flag” chemical weapons attack. In mid-September Russia and Turkey signed a deal that prevented a battle in Idlib and called for extremists to withdraw from a demilitarized zone in the northern province that has been held by Syrian rebels for five years.

Turkey is a key backer of some of the rebel groups and has sought to prevent a massive flight of refugees from Idlib. Moscow now says that the “Turkistan Islamic Party,” a rebel group, is preparing a “false flag” attack. Russia says that the Idlib agreement has gone well so far.

Then the ministry turned its attention to southwest Syria on the Golan border. It said that “Russian soldiers are monitoring the situation at six observation posts along the line of separation.” It was in this context that Moscow noted that the S-300 had been deployed to Syria. “In order to increase the level of security of the Russian military personnel, aviation flights and the protection of objects in Syria.”

The spokesman then warned that “Russian advisors are preparing Syrian military personnel for combat work on these modern air defense systems. We believe it is advisable for ‘hot heads’ to adequately assess the current situation in the region and refrain from provocative actions on the territory of Syria.”

The statement appears directed at Israel but Moscow did not mention Israel in the briefing. Instead the Defense Ministry said that the US was being irresponsible and “illegally occupying a vast Syrian region” and causing a “disastrous humanitarian situation.” Russia was concerned the US was training armed units in Syria and claimed that these included “militants” and these “gangs” were threatening Syrian civilians.

In Raqqa, liberated from Islamic State a year ago by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Russia warned that the city was at a disaster. “n this city, as in other areas controlled by the coalition, anarchy, famine and devastation flourish which, of course, is a breeding ground for the restoration of the activities of terrorists.”

The statements by Russia show that it is focusing now on three files in Syria, one of which is the situation in southwest Syria and particularly involving the S-300 systems that were sent to Syrian in the wake of the downing of the IL-20. The statement also reveals that the Syrian crews are still training to use the advanced version of the S-300 that Russia sent.

The downing of the IL-20, which Russia blamed on Israel’s actions, was due to Syrian air defense crews targeting the wrong aircraft with their S-200. The training of these crews is supposed to prevent that, but it is also supposed to be a message to Israel about further air strikes. According to a statement in September 2018 Israel carried out 200 air strikes in Syria in the last year and a half, mostly against Iranian targets.

A statement last year indicated Jerusalem had carried out 100 airstrikes between 2012 and 2017. Israel says Iran is building bases in Syria and transferring weapons to Hezbollah, including precision guidance for Hezbollah’s massive arsenal of missiles. Jerusalem has continually warned Iran to leave Syria, demanded its forces be kept away from the Golan border and warned about Iranian support for Hezbollah.

Amid the tensions and as the S-300 crews are trained, Russia hopes cool heads will prevail in Jerusalem and not create a new incident in Syria.

 

TV report: Israel silent as Iran hit by computer virus more violent than Stuxnet

November 1, 2018

Source: TV report: Israel silent as Iran hit by computer virus more violent than Stuxnet | The Times of Israel

Tehran strategic networks attacked, Hadashot TV says, hours after Israel revealed it tipped off Denmark about Iran murder plot, and days after Rouhani’s phone was found bugged

In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but “more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated,” and Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation, an Israeli TV report said Wednesday.

The report came hours after Israel said its Mossad intelligence agency had thwarted an Iranian murder plot in Denmark, and two days after Iran acknowledged that President Hassan Rouhani’s mobile phone had been bugged. It also follows a string of Israeli intelligence coups against Iran, including the extraction from Tehran in January by the Mossad of the contents of a vast archive documenting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the detailing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN in September of other alleged Iranian nuclear and missile assets inside Iran, in Syria and in Lebanon.

“Remember Stuxnet, the virus that penetrated the computers of the Iranian nuclear industry?” the report on Israel’s Hadashot news asked. Iran “has admitted in the past few days that it is again facing a similar attack, from a more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated virus than before, that has hit infrastructure and strategic networks.”

The Iranians, the TV report went on, are “not admitting, of course, how much damage has been caused.”

On Sunday, Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s civil defense agency, said Tehran had neutralized a new version of Stuxnet, Reuters reported.“Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems,” Jalali said.

The Stuxnet virus was uncovered some eight years ago, and was widely reported to have been developed together by US and Israeli intelligence. It penetrated Iran’s rogue nuclear program, taking control and sabotaging parts of its enrichment processes by speeding up its centrifuges.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech on an archive brought out of Iran by the Mossad that documents Iran’s nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2018. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Netanyahu is adamant that the Iranian regime remains determined to attain a nuclear weapons arsenal, and has bitterly opposed the P5+1 powers’ 2015 deal with Iran. US President Donald Trump, with whom Netanyahu is closely allied, withdrew from the accord in May.

Yossi Cohen, the head of the Mossad, is seen in a committee meeting at the Israeli parliament on December 8, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Referring to Stuxnet, Wednesday’s TV report noted that “in the past, the US and Israel have been alleged to have worked together on operations.” Trying to establish whether Israel had any role in the latest cyberattack, the TV report said: “We’ve tried to clarify here. They’re refusing to comment.”

The TV report noted that “behind the scenes lately, the Mossad,” under its director Yossi Cohen, has been “fighting a real shadow war.”

Without attributing responsibility to the Mossad, the report mentioned the tapping of Rouhani’s phone, noting that the Iranians “had to switch it for an encrypted model because they understand that someone has been listening to him for days and weeks.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Screen capture: Khamenei.ir)

On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged intensified efforts to counter enemy “infiltration,” Reuters said.

In a speech to officials in charge of cyber defense, Khamenei said: “In the face of the enemy’s complex practices, our civil defense should… confront infiltration through scientific, accurate, and up-to-date… action,” the report said, quoting Iranian state TV.

Earlier Wednesday, Israeli officials said the Mossad provided its Danish counterpart with information concerning an alleged plot by Tehran to assassinate three Iranian opposition figures living in the Scandinavian country. According to the officials, the Mossad gave Denmark information about a plot to kill three Iranians suspected of belonging to the anti-regime Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.

The intelligence reportedly provided by the Mossad prompted the arrest of a Norwegian national of Iranian origin earlier this month. Denmark on Tuesday recalled its ambassador to Iran over the incident.

“What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu declared in his September UN speech.

Agencies contributed to this report.