Archive for May 7, 2019

Europe could reimpose sanctions if Iran violates nuclear deal — French official 

May 7, 2019

Source: Europe could reimpose sanctions if Iran violates nuclear deal — French official | The Times of Israel

A French presidential official is warning the European Union could reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violates parts of the 2015 nuclear deal limiting its nuclear program.

“We do not want Tehran to announce tomorrow actions that would violate the nuclear agreement, because in this case we Europeans would be obliged to reimpose sanctions as per the terms of the agreement,” the unnamed official tells Reuters. “We don’t want that and we hope that the Iranians will not make this decision.”

The comments come as Iranian state-media reports that the country would unveil new measures Wednesday meant to counter American sanctions that were reimposed on Iran as part of US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal last year.

 

FULL: Netanyahu Speaks Ahead of Israeli Memorial Day – YouTube

May 7, 2019

 

 

Iranian plot on U.S. possibly thwarted due to Israeli intelligence

May 7, 2019

Source: Iranian plot on U.S. possibly thwarted due to Israeli intelligence– repor – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

The information was handed to the US before National Security advisor John Bolton publicly said Iran will face “unrelenting force” if it attempts to harm the US.

BY HAGAY HACOHEN
 MAY 7, 2019 08:45
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with people of Qom, in Teheran, Iran.

The United States received information from Israel concerning an alleged Iranian plot to attack American interests in the Gulf, Axios reported on Monday.

National Security advisor John Bolton publicly warned on Sunday that Iran will face “unrelenting force” if it attempts to harm the US, in an unusual statement.

In the same statement the US announced that it would deploy the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln to the region.

According to the report, intelligence provided by Israel’s Mossad agency was at least part of  the reason for the warning and the move to deploy the aircraft carrier. The information was allegedly passed to a U.S. team headed by Bolton two weeks ago by an Israeli delegation led by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat.

It wasn’t clear what Iran’s plans would have been, but it might have attempted to hit a US target in the Gulf, or one of its allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia or UAE.

Saying that “Iranian temperature is rising” due to US sanctions, an unnamed Israeli official said Iran is looking into attacking US interests in the Gulf.

 

Iran: U.S. sending carrier, bombers to mideast is ‘psychological warfare’ 

May 7, 2019

Source: Iran: U.S. sending carrier, bombers to mideast is ‘psychological warfare’ – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday the United States was deploying the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East.

BY HAGAY HACOHEN, OMRI NAHMIAS, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
 MAY 7, 2019 16:26
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the Strait of Gibraltar

On Tuesday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council, had said that “Bolton’s statement is a clumsy use of a burnt-out happening for psychological warfare.” Khosravi also said the carrier had arrived in the Mediterranean weeks ago, according to Tasnim.

US National Security advisor John Bolton announced on Sunday that the US is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to send a message to Iran.

The goal behind the move is “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” according to Bolton.

Axios reported on Monday that the move was made due to information that the US received from Israel concerning an alleged Iranian plot to attack American interests in the Gulf.

“The #B_Team is at it again: From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called ‘Iranian threats’,” Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Tuesday in response to the Bolton’s announcement that the US was sending a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

The is at it again: From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called “Iranian threats”.
If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region— blaming Iran won’t reverse that.

“If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region— blaming Iran won’t reverse that,” Zarif added.

Iran’s state-run Press TV reported earlier that “the deployment seems to be a ‘regularly scheduled’ one by the US Navy, and Bolton has just tried to talk it up.”

A military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the United States was “neither willing nor capable” with respect to an attack on Iran, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehgan said Washington would have a hard time convincing world opinion and regional countries to accept an all-out war against Iran, and to mobilise resources for such a conflict.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s administration said it would end waivers for countries buying Iranian oil in an attempt to reduce Iran’s crude exports to zero following Washington’s withdrawal from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

The administration also blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

US-Iranian tensions escalated further after Washington acted on Friday to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant. Washington’s step intensified a campaign aimed at halting Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and curbing its regional power.

Iran will revive part of its halted nuclear programme in response to the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord but does not plan to pull out of the agreement itself, state media reported on Monday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

Gaza official: Israel agreed to implement ceasefire concessions within a week 

May 7, 2019

Source: Gaza official: Israel agreed to implement ceasefire concessions within a week | The Times of Israel

Senior politician says Israel will allow some restricted goods into Strip and undertake other measures in return for end to all ‘resistance’ except for ‘peaceful’ border protests. 

A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on May 4, 2019, shows smoke billowing following an airstrike by Israel in response to rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Israel has agreed to implement a series of measures within a week, including lifting restrictions on the import of many goods into the Gaza Strip, as part of a ceasefire agreement with terror groups in the coastal enclave, a senior Palestinian official in the territory said Tuesday.

After two days of intense fighting over the weekend in which terror groups launched over 650 rockets at southern Israel and the Israel Defense Forces carried out more than 300 retaliatory strikes throughout Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that Egypt and other international parties had successfully brokered a truce deal.

A number of Arabic news sites have published varying reports detailing the terms of the deal.

The senior Gaza-based official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that the agreement “basically focuses on Israel implementing what it previously agreed to carry out, but now Israel has pledged for the first time to do so within one week.”

In return, he said Gaza’s rulers are to put an end to all “resistance” against Israel, except for “peaceful” border protests.

He added that “all options would be on the table” if the Jewish state does not abide by the deal.

The Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians — declined to comment on the official’s description of the ceasefire deal.

As a rule, Israeli officials do not acknowledge the existence of talks with the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, which it considers terror groups.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested on Monday that Israel has only temporarily halted its fire at Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Over the past two days, we have hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force, attacking over 350 targets and terrorist leaders and activists, and destroying terrorist infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “The campaign is not over and requires patience and judgment. We are preparing to continue. The goal was and remains to ensure the peace and security of the residents of the south.”

Trucks loaded with goods and merchandise make deliveries to the Gaza Strip after the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

The Gaza-based official, who is a senior politician, said Israel agreed to “lift restrictions on importing 30% of so-called dual-use goods into Gaza and allow for increased exports from [the Strip].”

For the past several years, Israel has heavily restricted the entry into Gaza of products that it labels “dual-use,” meaning that they can be utilized for both civilian and military purposes. Palestinians in Gaza have been required to receive special permits to import goods that Israel categorizes as dual-use.

Jerusalem has long held that its restrictions on the movement of goods aim to prevent Hamas and other terror groups sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state from obtaining weapons and the materials to produce them.

The Gaza official also said Israel consented to allow the transfer of Qatari funds into the coastal enclave geared toward small grants for impoverished families, salaries of Hamas-appointed civil servants, and United Nations-supervised cash-for-work projects.

“These are all matters that Israel agreed to two months ago, but evaded implementing,” he said, adding that the Jewish state also approved the continued entry of Qatari-bought fuel into the Strip.

Over the past several months, Israel has at times permitted Qatar to distribute funds to poor families as well as Hamas-appointed government employees. It has also allowed for Qatari-purchased fuel to enter Gaza since October 2018 to power the Strip’s sole power plant.

Alluding to the cash-for-work program, the Gaza official said that it aims to help “new university graduates find employment.”

The UN agreed with Qatar in January to take $20 million from Doha to create temporary employment opportunities in Gaza.

Jamie McGoldrick, the deputy UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process, said on Monday in a call that he estimates the $20 million will establish some 10,000 temporary jobs. He noted that additional funding announced by Qatar on Tuesday for Gaza will likely provide 20,000 extra temporary positions.

He said some of the jobs would last for six months, while others would be for nine months.

Qatar announced earlier Tuesday that it would send $480 million to the West Bank and Gaza to “aid the brotherly Palestinian people in obtaining its basic needs.”

The unemployment rate in Gaza stands at 52 percent, according to the Palestinian Authority Central Bureau of Statistics.

Postal workers aid Palestinians who arrived at the central post office in Gaza City on January 26, 2019, to receive financial aid from the Qatari government given to impoverished families. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Gaza official added that Israel also agreed to expand the fishing zone off of Gaza’s coast.

“Israel consented to widening the fishing zone to six nautical miles in the north, nine near Gaza City, 12 in the center and 15 in the south,” he said. “This is the same arrangement that was implemented at the start of April.”

Israel expanded the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles in some areas off Gaza’s coast in early April, but subsequently reduced and then canceled the move in response to rocket fire.

There are 3,700 fishermen in Gaza, the vast majority of whom live below the poverty line, a 2018 report by the B’Tselem human rights group said.

The official also said that Israel committed to “halting all aggression against Palestinians in Gaza including fishermen and farmers near the border.”

Israel has called on Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border with Israel, warning that approaching it puts their lives at risk.

For over the past year, the IDF has opened fire on many Palestinians in the coastal enclave participating in weekly border protests, including a large number who lobbed firebombs and rocks at soldiers in addition to carrying out other acts of violence.

Palestinians wave Palestinian flags as they try to climb the security fence on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on March 22, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The official added that in return for Israel implementing all the aforementioned measures within a week, Palestinians in Gaza will halt “all resistance against Israel except for the weekly protests along the border in their peaceful form.” This formulation would appear to include a halt to the launching of incendiary balloons and kites across the border into Israel.

Asked what would happen if Israel did not implement the measures within a week and whether terror groups would start firing rockets at Israel during the Eurovision Song Contest, he said “all options would be on the table.”

“We would need to meet and decide our response, but I can assure you that we will not allow Israel to evade abiding by its commitments,” he said.

The Eurovision Song Contest is slated to take place in Tel Aviv on May 14-18.

 

The next round will probably be worse 

May 7, 2019

Source: The next round will probably be worse – www.israelhayom.com

The defense and security establishment believes that deterrence has been restored, but not fully, and that if no political understandings are reached, it is only a matter of time until the next escalation.

The prevailing assessment in the defense and security establishment is that while Israel has restored deterrence against terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip for the short-term, in the absence of any advancement toward a long-term peace deal, the calm that was restored on Monday will not hold for more than a few weeks.

Although no Israeli officials are saying so, Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism and Independence Day – as well as next week’s Eurovision pop song extravaganza – were main considerations in Israel’s decision to hold back, and the defense establishment was working under instructions not to cross any retaliatory lines that might worsen the escalation.

In the past few weeks, the Gaza Brigade has been operating under warnings that the Islamic Jihad might execute a potential large-scale terrorist attack near the border fence. Defense officials think that this rogue group wanted to take advantage of the days leading up to Eurovision and ruin the international event.

The incident that set off the recent few days of intense conflict took place on Friday, when Islamic Jihad sniper fire wounded an IDF officer and a female soldier. In response, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi decided to dial up the Israeli response and attack a manned Hamas outpost that was not on the border itself. This prompted the organization to respond in an “eye for an eye” manner.

It appears that Hamas wanted a response that was more limited in scope, such as a sniper attack or firing an anti-tank missile, but the Islamic Jihad – which does not always obey Hamas – starting firing on Israel without coordinating with Hamas. Following the Israeli response to the rocket fire, in which the IDF attacked Hamas as well as the Islamic Jihad, Hamas decided to fire its own rockets – heavy barrages for every major Israeli retaliatory strike.

That is how some 690 rockets and mortars wound up being launched at Israel in under 48 hours. Actually, the number is higher, because not all the rockets that were fired made it over the border fence. Most of them landed in unpopulated areas, and some 240 were intercepted by Israel’s air defenses. The soldiers who operate those systems displayed impressive capabilities, but a few dozen still landed in populated areas, killing four Israelis, wounding many others, and causing considerable damage.

This time, the terrorist organizations were using more firepower and rockets that had a range of up to 40 kilometers, as well as the new Badr model, which carries a heavy load of explosives. These rockets are not high quality, and the ones that made it over the border were intercepted by Israel’s air defense troops. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were warned not to fire at the greater Tel Aviv area to avoid an especially harsh Israeli response that could drag both sides into a full-scale conflict.

Israeli officials think that Hamas wanted an immediate cease-fire so it can get back to working on an agreement that will improve the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, but the defense establishment wanted to go far enough so Islamic Jihad wouldn’t want to escalate things with Israel, either.

Of the 350 or so retaliatory strikes the IDF carried out in Gaza, more aggressively than in the past, a few dozens were aimed at Islamic Jihad targets. In effect, the 29 casualties in Gaza included 10 Islamic Jihad operatives. The defense establishment says that the purpose was to “bend” the terrorist group, but not break it.

This time, Israel used tools it has not taken out of its belt for a while, including the first targeted killing in years. Actually, there were two – one was a money changer who played a major role in bringing Iranian funds to Gaza terrorist organizations, and the second was a Hamas drone operator.

No one in Israel is promising that the latest round brought calm that will last more than a few weeks, but the reigning belief is that the risk of Islamic Jihad firing on Tel Aviv during the Eurovision has dropped, if not disappeared. The IDF thinks that it must maintain and increase deterrence when it comes to the rogue group.

Israel is also refusing to disclose the details of the cease-fire agreement with Hamas, but apparently, it did not include any new benefits. As of 4:30 a.m. Monday, both sides stopped firing.

Either way, if no political understandings are reached, it’s only a question of time when we’ll see the next round of escalation, and it won’t be very long before it happens. Battles like this start again from where they left off, so it’s likely that the next escalation will be even more violent.

 

Iran set to restart some nuclear activity in response to US withdrawal from deal

May 7, 2019

Source: Iran set to restart some nuclear activity in response to US withdrawal from deal – www.israelhayom.com

State-run IRIB news reports that European Union leaders have unofficially been informed of Islamic republic’s decision to reduce some of its “minor and general” commitments made as part of 2015 nuclear agreement.

Citing a source close to an official commission which oversees the nuclear deal, IRIB reported that President Hassan Rouhani would announce that Iran would reduce some of its “minor and general” commitments under the deal on May 8 – exactly one year after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. pullout.

Trump subsequently reimposed tough sanctions on Iran, including on its lifeblood oil exports with the stated intent of reducing them to zero and starving Iran’s economy.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran in reaction to the exit of America from the nuclear deal and the bad promises of European countries in carrying out their obligations will restart a part of the nuclear activities which were stopped under the framework of the nuclear deal,” the source said, according to IRIB.

Similarly, the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency reported that Iran on Wednesday will announce “reciprocal actions” to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, quoting “knowledgeable sources.”

Some European Union leaders had been unofficially told of Iran’s decision, the report said.

The United States acted on Friday to force Iran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant.

Trump, who was not in office when the nuclear deal was negotiated, said it was flawed in Iran’s favor for doing nothing to curb its ballistic missile program or its support of proxy forces in several Middle East wars.

Iran has said its development of ballistic missiles has nothing to do with its nuclear activity and is wholly defensive in nature, and that its support for allies around the Middle East is not Washington’s business.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran restricted the capacity of its uranium enrichment program – widely seen as a route to developing a nuclear weapon – in exchange for a lifting of most international sanctions. U.N. nuclear inspectors have repeatedly verified Iranian compliance with the accord.

Iran has denied ever pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The other signatories to the deal – European powers Germany, France and Britain, as well as Russia and China – remain committed to it. The EU has been looking into ways of preserving its economic benefits that Iran says must stay or it could abandon the deal.

The Trump administration is now deploying a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East in response to troubling “indications and warnings” from Iran and to show the United States will retaliate with “unrelenting force” to any attack, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday.

Bolton – who has spearheaded an increasingly hawkish U.S. policy on Iran – said the decision, which could exacerbate tensions between the two countries, was meant to send a “clear and unmistakable message” of U.S. resolve to Tehran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also issued a warning to the Islamic republic on Sunday.

“It is absolutely the case that we have seen escalatory actions from the Iranians and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests,” Pompeo told reporters aboard a flight en route to an Arctic Council meeting in Finland.

If these actions take place, if they do by some third-party proxy, a militia group, Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranian leadership directly accountable for that.”