Archive for April 3, 2019

Report: Hamas, Islamic Jihad order end to Gaza border attacks

April 3, 2019

Source: Report: Hamas, Islamic Jihad order end to Gaza border attacks

Haniyeh says ‘no reason’ why Hamas cannot discuss prisoner swap, likely involving fallen IDF soldiers, captive civilians; Hamas boss hints that Egypt-mediated talks with Israel progressing well
Militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which are dominated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,  have ordered their members to stop all launches of firebombs towards Israeli communities on the opposite side of the border, Palestinian newspaper al-Quds reported Wednesday.

All Hamas and Islamic Jihad men were also ordered to end their nightly disturbances along the Gaza border fence, the report said, as well as the use of explosives during riots along the border. The new directives are in line with the understandings being reached with Israel under Egyptian mediation.

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh attend last weekend's March of Return protests on the Gaza border

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh attend last weekend’s March of Return protests on the Gaza border
Also Wednesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that efforts to reach an arrangement with Israel, following last week’s flare-up in the Gaza border region, are progressing well, and that a prisoner swap is not out of the question.“Understandings regarding the ceasefire and the removal of the blockade on the Strip are progressing,” Haniyeh said in an interview with Palestinian newspaper al Istiqlal. “Yesterday we got the schedule for the implementation of many issues that are part of the arrangement.”

Hamas is currently holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers who fell in the 2014 Gaza war, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip of their own accord, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. The families of the four have urged the government to take steps to secure their return.

Haniyeh said that Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations are supporting the negotiation process. Egypt is mediating the negotiations, as there are no direct ties between Israel and Hamas.

“There is no reason why we can’t discuss a prisoner swap through outside mediators,” Haniyeh said, but added that the current understandings do not include such a deal.

An airborne firebomb launched at the Israeli border during Saturday's March of Return protests on the Gaza border (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)

An airborne firebomb launched at the Israeli border during Saturday’s March of Return protests on the Gaza border (Photo: AFP)

On Tuesday, Haniyeh said that his organization has given Israel a series of demands regarding its security prisoners, jailed in Israel, who are set to begin a hunger strike next week.

The demands were passed to Israel by the Egyptian delegation, and included the removing the cell phone jamming device for prisoners, lifting recent sanctions on the prisoners, restoring visits and improving prison conditions.

Illustrative: Prison Service guards searching cells of Hamas prisoners (Photo: IPS) (Photo: Israel Prison Service)

Illustrative: Prison Service guards searching cells of Hamas prisoners (Photo: IPS)

According to Hamas, some of the understandings with Israel regarding the Gaza Strip will be implemented before the elections on April 9, and some afterwards.

The understandings that will be implemented before the elections are the simpler ones, such as expanding the fishing area off the Gaza coast (already done); easing restrictions on exported goods from Gaza; improving the electricity supply by operating the turbines at the power plant; and beginning projects that will provide temporary employment.

The understandings that will be implemented after the elections include the construction of another power line from Israel to Gaza within six months and the construction of a gas pipeline to the Gaza power plant within a year. In addition, the Palestinians are demanding the establishment of infrastructure and alternative energy projects.

The timetables will be presented to representatives of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, who will announce whether they accept or reject them.

 

With Turkish loss of the F-35, Israel keeps its aerial superiority

April 3, 2019

Source: With Turkish loss of the F-35, Israel keeps its aerial superiority – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Washington halts F-35 equipment over Turkey’s instance to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 APRIL 3, 2019 17:15
A U.S.Marine Corps F-35B joint strike fighter jet conducts aerial maneuvers

The Pentagon’s decision to stop the delivery of equipment related to the F-35 stealth fighter jet to Turkey due to Ankara’s decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 air defense system will allow Israel to keep it’s aerial superiority in the Middle East.

Washington’s move follows repeated warnings both from the United States and NATO allies to Ankara that buying the Russian system alongside the Lockheed Martin-produced jets would threaten the security of the F-35s by learning how to spot and track it.

Israel, which also has fragile relations with Turkey, currently has 14 F-35 Adir jets and is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024.

According to foreign reports, Israel has already quietly tested ways to defeat the advanced Russian air defense system, participating in several joint drills with the Greek Air Force over the island of Crete where one system is stationed. The drills have reportedly allowed Israeli warplanes to gather data on how the advanced system may be blinded or fooled.

But there are fears that the radar on the S-400 systems bought by Turkey, which has entered into a sort of alliance with Russia and has been in close cooperation with Iran, could learn the weak spots in the jet and make it less able to evade Russian weapons in the future.

The top uniformed officer in NATO and the head of American forces in Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti warned in March during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 presents a problem for not only the F-35 but to all American aircraft.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35: flying it or working with an ally that is working with Russian systems, particularly air defense systems, with one of our most advanced technological capabilities,” Scaparrotti was quoted by Defense News as saying.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the jets have an extremely low radar signature allowing them to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory as well as to evade advanced missile defense systems like the S-300 and S-400.

The already fragile relations between Israel and Turkey have been increasingly strained in recent months as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, has intensified his rhetoric.

Israeli officials have voiced concern over Turkey’s purchasing of the jets, with one senior defense official quoted by Haaretz in August as saying that Israel would like to be the only country in the Middle East with the F-35 in order to keep its qualitative military edge and out of fears that the jet’s capabilities would be leaked to enemy countries.

Ceng Sagnic from the Moshe Dayan Center in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post that while Moscow might be “hesitant” to share the knowledge of the jet which might be gained by its S-400, it couldn’t be ruled out.

“Moscow would definitely be hesitant to share the military “secrets” it has obtained with a third party. But in the event of a major dispute in the region or a potentially expanded Moscow-Tehran alliance, transfer of knowledge on US weapon systems to Tehran can well be a topic of discussion,” he said.

According to Sagnic, it is impossible to estimate the extent of Ankara’s “cloudy relations” with Moscow.

“The presence of both F-35s and S-400s can also come with a similar outcome itself. If Turkey had purchased F-35s from the US and S-400s from Russia, the situation would partially resemble Greece – where the coincidental presence of S-300 systems allowed, according to foreign reports, NATO and Israel to carefully study these weapons,” he said, adding that “in the case of Turkey, although it would stay a member of NATO, the future extent of its relations with Russia cannot be estimated and Ankara could well remain pressured by Moscow to allow such studies. Given that Turkey is and will be a country of crises – and therefore is mostly prone to Russian pressure – the possibility increases even further.”

Israel became the first air force outside the United States to declare Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the jet in 2017. Last year, IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin announced that Israel has struck targets in the Middle East with the F-35 Adir jet twice, making the Jewish state the first country to use the stealth fighter in a combat role in the region.

According to Sagnic, “Turkey must be seriously thinking that Israel may be behind the cancellation of the F-35 deal in order to preserve its air superiority. However, for the domestic politics, Ankara needs a “usual suspect” to blame, as blaming the US cannot be enough to explain the disruption in one the biggest weapons agreement Turkey has signed.”

As a Level-3 partner in the multinational F-35 program, Turkey invested over $1 billion on the jet, with several local companies producing components for the aircraft including fuselages and cockpit screens such as Alp Aviation, AYESAS, Kale Aviation, Kale Pratt & Whitney and Turkish Aerospace Industries.

Turkish defense companies also produce high-end SOM-J missiles for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and Turkey is Europe’s maintenance and repair center for F-35 fighter aircraft manufactured under the JSF plan.

Ankara took delivery of its first F-35 in June at a ceremony in Texas and the country plans to purchase 100 stealth jets in the coming years. Turkish pilots have already been learning to fly the jet training alongside U.S. pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Ankara is holding onto hope that the two more jets expected to be handed over this month will actually be delivered.

 

The Yom Kippur War Documentary 

April 3, 2019

 

From the TV series “Modern Warfare.”

 

 

US envoy: Three waiver countries cut Iran oil imports to zero

April 3, 2019

Source: US envoy: Three waiver countries cut Iran oil imports to zero

Official says Trump administration not issuing any more exceptions to initial eight nations who could buy Iranian oil, but current ones could be extended
WASHINGTON – Three of eight countries granted waivers by Washington to import oil from Iran have now cut the imports to zero, a US official said Tuesday, adding that improved global oil market conditions would help reduce Iranian crude exports further.
The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump last May withdrew the country from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, accusing it of supporting terrorism and conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani

US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani

While the United States has set a goal of completely halting Iran’s oil exports, it granted temporary import waivers to China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea to ensure low oil prices and no disruption to the global oil market.

The Trump administration is currently in consultations with the countries ahead of a May 2 deadline when the waivers expire.

“In November, we granted eight oil waivers to avoid a spike in the price of oil. I can confirm today three of those importers are now at zero,” Brian Hook, the special US envoy for Iran, told reporters.

Hook did not identify the three countries.

“There are better market conditions for us to accelerate our path to zero,” Hook said. “We are not looking to grant any waivers or exceptions to our sanctions regime.”

Hook said US oil sanctions against Iran removed about 1.5 million barrels of Iranian oil exports off the market since May 2018.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian FM Javad Zarif (Photo: AFP)

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian FM Javad Zarif (Photo: AFP)

“This has denied the regime access to well over $10 billion in (oil) revenue – a loss of at least $30 million a day,” he said.

Oil prices on Tuesday hit their highest level so far in 2019, with Brent crude approaching $70 a barrel on the prospect that more sanctions against Iran and Venezuelan disruptions could deepen an OPEC-led supply cut.

Analysts believe the administration is likely to extend the waivers to the remaining five countries to placate top buyers China and India and to decrease the chance of higher oil prices.

China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey are likely to be given waivers that could cap Iran’s crude oil exports at about 1.1 million barrels per day, US-based analysts at Eurasia Group said in January. That would remove Italy, Greece and Taiwan from the waivers list.

Hook said a decision on whether to extend the waivers would be made “in due course.” A total of 23 countries that once imported Iran oil had cut imports to zero, he added.

“With oil prices actually lower than they were when we announced our sanctions and global production stable, we are on the fast track to zeroing out all purchases of Iranian crude,” Hook said.

A senior Trump administration official told reporters on Monday that the US government was considering additional sanctions against Iran that would target areas of its economy that have not been hit before.

Hook said more than 26 rounds of US sanctions against Iran had restricted the country’s cash flow and constrained its ability to operate in the region.

Earlier on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran’s government of mismanagement that has led to devastating flooding across the country. At least 47 people have been killed in the past two weeks from flash floods.

Israeli officials: Growing Iranian efforts to destabilize Gaza – TV7 Israel News 2.04.19 

April 3, 2019