Archive for December 3, 2018

Hezbollah: Israel didn’t hit our or Iranian targets in Syrian air strike

December 3, 2018

Source: Hezbollah: Israel didn’t hit our or Iranian targets in Syrian air strike – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Syrian state media said the country’s air defenses had thwarted an attack last Thursday by “hostile targets” in the Kiswah area, without identifying them.

BY REUTERS
 DECEMBER 3, 2018 13:47
Hezbollah: Israel didn't hit ours or Iranian targets in Syria strike

BEIRUT – A senior Hezbollah source said on Monday neither the group nor Iranian positions in Syria had been struck last week during what Syrian state media had reported as an attack south of Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said Israel carried out a missile attack in the area last Thursday evening. Israel has not said whether it conducted the attack and Syrian state media did not identify who carried it out.

Iran and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah are major players in the war in Syria and their influence has alarmed Israel, which has repeatedly launched attacks on what it describes as Iranian and Iran-backed targets in the country.

Syrian state media said the country’s air defenses had thwarted an attack last Thursday by “hostile targets” in the Kiswah area, without identifying them.

“Iranian and Hezbollah positions in Kiswah, southern Syria, were not exposed to any bombardment,” the senior Hezbollah source told Reuters.

A Syrian army defector said at the time of the reported attack that the targets struck included two Syrian army brigades where Hezbollah is embedded.
According to two senior regional intelligence sources, the area where the incident is said to have occurred is where Hezbollah has its communications and logistics hub for southern Syria near the Israeli border.

In September, a senior Israeli official said his country had carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years.

According to regional sources, Israel began carrying out military strikes in Syria in 2013 against suspected arms transfers and deployments by Iranian forces and Hezbollah.

A Syrian opposition figure familiar with the area said at the time of last week’s reported attack that Israel had targeted the area because Syrian army barracks there had become a recruitment hub for Iran-backed forces.

 

US envoy: UN cannot vote away Jerusalem’s status as capital 

December 3, 2018

Source: US envoy: UN cannot vote away Jerusalem’s status as capital – Israel Hayom

In Hanukkah greeting, Ambassador David Friedman rejects U.N. stance denying Israel’s claim to the city • “The U.N. can’t vote away the facts: Jerusalem is the ancient and modern capital of Israel,” he tweets • Trump pledges support for Jewish community.

 

Syria accuses coalition of missile strikes on its army positions 

December 3, 2018

Source: Syria accuses coalition of missile strikes on its army positions | The Times of Israel

US-led forces reported to fire ‘more than 14 missiles’ at a Syrian army convoy; state media says only equipment damaged

Illustrative: Two US Air Force F-22 Raptors fly over Syria, February 2, 2018. (Air National Guard/ Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott via Department of Defense)

Illustrative: Two US Air Force F-22 Raptors fly over Syria, February 2, 2018. (Air National Guard/ Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott via Department of Defense)

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria on Sunday accused the anti-jihadist international coalition, led by the United States, of launching missiles against Syrian army positions in the centre of the country, the official Sana news agency said.

“The American coalition forces launched around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) this evening several missiles against some positions of our forces in the Ghorab mountains south of Sukhna,” causing only “damage to equipment,” Sana said, citing a military source.

According to the monitoring Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, coalition forces positioned in the Al-Tanf region fired “more than 14 missiles” at a Syrian army convoy as it was passing through the desert in the far east of Homs province.

“The group was lost in the middle of the desert around 35 kilometres from the Al-Tanf base” of US and British troops, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahmane told AFP.

The United States generally uses this base to launch its strikes against the Islamic State (IS) jihadists. It has also been used in the past to train Syrian opposition fighters.

Last year there were clashes in the region between Syrian regime forces and those supported by the coalition.

Damascus has called for the US forces to leave this area of Syria near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

 

Netanyahu to meet US Secretary of State Pompeo in Brussels later Monday 

December 3, 2018

Source: Netanyahu to meet US Secretary of State Pompeo in Brussels later Monday | The Times of Israel

Reportedly ‘urgent’ sit-down comes amid heightened tensions with Iran, and with Washington reportedly gearing up to release its peace plan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the UN in New York on September 26, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the UN in New York on September 26, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Brussels for a brief trip Monday in order to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office told the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily that the evening sit-down was “urgent.” A brief statement from the PMO only said the two men would discuss “regional developments.”

The prime minister will be joined by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and military secretary Col. Avi Blot.

The meeting had been scheduled last week and set for Wednesday, but was moved up to Monday because Pompeo will be flying back from Europe early in order to attend the funeral for former US president George H.W. Bush.

Pompeo was in Europe for meetings with top diplomats of every NATO country.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly, September 26, 2018, at UN Headquarters. At right are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The PMO said that Netanyahu’s flight had yet to receive final approval and that there could be delays to the meeting schedule.

The meeting comes a week after UN Ambassador Danny Danon told reporters that Trump administration officials had alerted Israel that it has finished structuring its peace plan and that it intends to present it early next year. Danon said that Washington had discussed with Jerusalem the timing for unveiling the proposal.

The Palestinians severed ties with the Trump administration after its decision last December to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel’s capital.

The US administration has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid since the start of the Palestinian boycott.

The meeting also comes at a time of heightened tensions with Iran amid reimposed US sanctions, and after Pompeo accused Tehran of testing nuclear-capable missiles in violation of a United Nations resolution.

Pompeo and Netanyahu last met during the secretary of state’s visit to Israel last April.

Then, the top US diplomat vowed that Trump would exit the Iranian nuclear deal if the US administration “can’t fix it.” A month later, Washington pulled out of the pact.

 

Iran vows to continue with missile tests despite US accusations

December 3, 2018

Source: Iran vows to continue with missile tests despite US accusations | The Times of Israel

US secretary of state had said Tehran fired projectiles that can deliver multiple nuclear warheads throughout Middle East, parts of Europe

In this photo provided Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, by the Iranian Army, a Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

In this photo provided Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, by the Iranian Army, a Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Iran said Sunday that it would continue to develop its missile program after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Islamic state of testing a medium-range ballistic missile capable of “carrying multiple warheads,” which he said could strike “anywhere” in the Middle East and even parts of Europe.

“Missile tests … are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” Brigadier- General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, according to Reuters.

“We will continue to both develop and test missiles. This is outside the framework of (nuclear) negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission,” Shekarchi said.

He did not confirm or deny Iran had tested a new missile.

Earlier, another Iranian insisted the tests were defensive and not in violation of UN resolutions.

“Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature… There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran,” the official state news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying in response to Pompeo’s statement, the Reuters news agency reported.

Qasemi also neither confirmed nor denied that Iran had carried out the alleged test.

“It is… ironic that you cite a resolution that you have not only breached through your unilateral and unlawful withdrawal from the [nuclear] accord but that you also encourage others to breach or even threaten to punish and sanction them if they carry it [the accord] out,” Qasemi said, addressing Pompeo directly.

In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the missile test violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program and bans Iranian tests of nuclear-capable ballistic weapons.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi briefs journalists at a press conference in Tehran on August 22, 2016.
(YouTube screenshot)

He did not specify when the test took place, but said it had “just” occurred.

“As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence,” Pompeo said.

He also called on Iran to “cease immediately all activities” related to the development of ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

The statement from Pompeo came just days after a top Iranian general claimed that US military personnel and assets in the Middle East are within range of his country’s missiles.

Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the air division for the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said improvements to Iran’s missile arsenal had put US bases in Qatar, the UAE, and Afghanistan within reach, as well as US aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press on Capital Hill after briefing members of the Senate on the current relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, on November 28, 2018. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP)

“They are within our reach and we can hit them if the [Americans] make a move,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks carried by Reuters.

Hajizadeh said the missiles had been outfitted with improved precision capabilities, making it possible to hit targets over 500 kilometers away to within 30 meters accuracy.

In September, Iran’s defense ministry said it planned to improve the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles.

In 2017, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered limits on the reach of the country’s ballistic missile program to 2,000 kilometers. That range would encompass much of the Middle East, including Israel and American bases in the region. However, such limits come as Iran routinely says its ballistic missile program is only for defensive purposes against regional adversaries.

Although there are no restrictions in place on the range of Iranian missiles, US President Donald Trump had insisted that limitations be placed on Tehran’s missile program as a prerequisite for Washington remaining in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He ultimately pulled out of it on May 12.

Iran launches a ballistic missile at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria on June 18, 2017. (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)

The US and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its production of ballistic missiles, which can reach parts of Europe and could soon reach the US as well. Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing such missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.

Tehran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable. It has also maintained that it never intended to develop nuclear weapons and therefore its missile development does not violate the agreement.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented evidence which he says details Iranian efforts and research programs specifically aimed at producing atomic weapons. In a Mossad operation, Israel earlier this year spirited out a trove of Iranian documentation from Tehran’s nuclear weapons archive, which Netanyahu said proved conclusively that Iran is lying when it says it has not been working toward a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Agencies contributed to this report.

 

Iran’s multiple-warhead Khorramshahr test and Israel’s reported Syria assault – new stage in Mid East missile war – DEBKAfile

December 3, 2018

Source: Iran’s multiple-warhead Khorramshahr test and Israel’s reported Syria assault – new stage in Mid East missile war – DEBKAfile

It was a Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Saturday condemned Iran for testing,  DEBKAfile reveals. Our military sources have discovered that this multi-headed missile, which he said could strike “anywhere in the Middle East and even parts of Europe,” had been test-launched  the day before on Friday, Nov. 30, from a site in southeasterm Iran and struck all its preset targets.

Our sources identify this weapon as an advanced version of the Khorramshahr ballistic missile with a range of 11,800-2,000 km. It can carry multiple conventional or nuclear warheads. Iran was known to be working on a ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

In his condemnation on Saturday, Pompeo called on Iran to halt these tests since the development of this ballistic missile was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. His answer came the next day from Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasem: “Iran’s missile program is defense in nature. There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran.”

Early Monday, Dec. 3, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flew to Brussels for an urgent meeting with the US Secretary of State on this development. He was accompanied by the Mossad director and national security adviser.

The Khorramshahr was first developed by Iran from the North Korean Hwasong-10 medium range ballistic missile. It was first tested nearly two years ago and shown in a military parade in Tehran on Sept. 22, 2017.

The test on Friday of its most advanced version was intended as a warning of consequences to the US and Israel in the Middle East, should the Islamic Republic or its proxies suffer attack or Tehran succumb to sanctions with economic or political breakdown.

The testing of a ballistic missile carrying multiple warheads introduces a new, ramped up strategic dimension to the contest in which the US, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are engaged. It occurred by chance the day after Israel was reported to have conducted a massive surface missile attack on Iranian and pro-Iranian military facilities in Syria.

DEBKAfile revealed (from foreign sources) that Israel fired the LORA medium-range artillery missile which has a range of 500km. They now report that Iran, Hizballah and the pro-Iranian militias fighting in Syria suffered dozens of casualties including 30 dead.

Although the Israeli attack and Iran’s Khorramshahr test occurred by chance in the space of 48 hours, this very concatenation bespeaks a change of weapons in Israeli-Iranian contest – the emphasis shifting from aerial combat to new and highly sophisticated ballistic missiles.