Archive for August 18, 2019

Iraq closes airspace to stop Israeli strikes on pro-Iranian militia sites – DEBKAfile

August 18, 2019

Source: Iraq closes airspace to stop Israeli strikes on pro-Iranian militia sites – DEBKAfile

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has issued an unprecedented order placing Iraqi air space off limits to all aircraft without his personal authorization. The decree issued on Friday, Aug. 16 was one of three steps Baghdad has taken to put a stop to Israeli air strikes on pro-Iranian Shiite militia targets, whether by jets, drones or missiles.

The three steps revealed here by DEBKAfile are:

  1. An investigation to get to the bottom of the explosions on Aug. 12 that destroyed the ammunition depot at Al Saqr (or Camp Falcon as it is called by the e Americans) I in South Baghdad. Flying Katyusha ammo and mortar shell fragments killed at least one in the city and injured scores of others.
    Al Saqr is the command center of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU), the largest Shiite militia in Iraq, which is led by Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, a lieutenant of the Iranian Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
    One source reported on Saturday that evidence had been found in the ruins of an attack by missiles fired from drones. Another source countered that the camp had not been attacked but was destroyed by a fire. The prime minister has given the investigators a week to submit their findings.
    Before this event, the Israeli Air Force is known to have struck two Shiite militia sites in Iraq by multiple incoming aircraft or UAVS. The first, on July 19, targeted the Hash Haabi militia’s 52nd Brigade, a subsidiary of the Bader Brigades – both loyal to Iran – in Salahuddin province near the town of Amerli northeast of Baghdad. The second, on July 28, raided Camp Ashraf, in the Diyala Governorate near the Iranian border and 40km north of Baghdad.
  2. The Iraqi prime minister has given the pro-Iranian militias one month to remove their camps and ammunition stocks from the country’s main cities. By complying with this order, Iran’s armed Shiite pawns would lose their main strongholds in Baghdad and other important Iraqi cities. However, they have consistently flouted such orders in the past.
  3. Abdul-Mahdi, who as prime minister officiates also as commander in chief of Iraq’s armed forces, stated explicitly that no aircraft of any kind may enter Iraqi air space without permission from him in person or an official appointed by him. “All special aviation permits to enter Iraqi air space granted to Iraqi or non-Iraqi entities are hereby cancelled, including “reconnaissance, armed reconnaissance, fighter aircraft, helicopters and drones of all kinds.” The decree went on to specify: “Any air traffic lacking this permission will be considered hostile and targeted by Iraqi air defenses immediately.”

The US forces command, which maintains several large air bases in Iraq with thousands of military personnel, responded: “We are guests within Iraq’s sovereign borders,” and therefore, “The US-led coalition has immediately complied with all the directives received from our Iraqi partners as they implement the prime minister’s order.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Abdul-Mahdi’s actions are far from being plain sailing. In the first place, Iraq is not armed with the advanced air defense systems capable of identifying or downing Israel’s F-35 stealth aircraft. In the second, how can he stop Turkish Air Force intrusions of Iraqi air space for ongoing raids of Kurdish PKK bases in northern Iraq, a region in which Baghdad maintains no air defense units?

This predicament has an unexpected twist: The Turks have recently began using Israel-made Heron UAVs in those raids. The Iraqi air force is not up to identifying whether an incoming drone belongs to the Turkish or the Israeli air force.


IDF kills armed Gazans on Israeli border as tensions spike 

August 18, 2019

Source: IDF kills armed Gazans on Israeli border as tensions spike | The Times of Israel

Suspected infiltration attempt comes hours after three rockets fired at southern Israel from the Strip, one of which struck a home in Sderot

Israeli Air Force helicopter fires a missile into Gaza, near the Gaza-Israel border, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli Air Force helicopter fires a missile into Gaza, near the Gaza-Israel border, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli forces shot dead a group of armed Palestinians along the Gaza Strip’s security fence late Saturday night, hours after three rockets were fired at southern Israel from the restive coastal enclave.

The exact number of Palestinians killed during the suspected infiltration was not immediately known. Gaza-based news outlets reported four or five people killed in the strike.

The Israeli military said an attack helicopter and a tank were used to kill the suspected terrorists as they approached the fence.

“A short while ago, IDF troops spotted armed suspects near the security fence around the northern Gaza Strip. An IDF attack helicopter and a tank fired at them,” the army said in a statement.

Israeli troops also fired flares throughout the area in order to assist in the efforts to locate the suspected terrorists.

An army spokesperson said there were no reports of Israeli casualties.

The Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center said the men had been on the Gaza side of the fence when they were killed, and that some of the bodies had been confiscated by Israel, citing “local sources.” The reports could not be confirmed.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said that Israel later conducted artillery strikes on its positions east of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, near where the men had approached the fence to enter Israel.

Palestinian media reported that the men were members of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, Saraya al-Quds. This could not be immediately confirmed.

The suspected infiltration attempt came as violence between Israel and Gaza has ramped up considerably in the last three weeks.

On Saturday night, the cities of Beersheba, Ashdod, Ofakim, Gan Yavne and Yavne opened their municipal bomb shelters ahead of expected reprisal rocket attacks. The Magen David Adom ambulance service also said it was going on high alert.

Earlier on Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets at southern Israel, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the military said.

Fragments from one of the Gaza rockets struck the yard of a home in the town of Sderot, causing damage.

There were no physical injuries caused by the shrapnel in Sderot. One woman received medical treatment after she suffered an acute anxiety attack because of the impact, medics said.

In addition, two people sustained minor injuries while running to bomb shelters, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service. Elsewhere, three other people were treated for acute anxiety attacks brought on by the rockets. One of them, a 76-year-old woman, required hospitalization, medics said.

Shrapnel also landed inside a community in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, northeast of Gaza, causing no injuries, local officials said.

It was the second night in a row that sirens sounded in Sderot.

On Friday night, terrorists in the Strip fired at least one rocket into Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the IDF said.

There were no reports of injury or damage.

In response, the Israeli military struck two underground sites belonging to Hamas.

The rocket fire came after several thousand Palestinians joined protests on the Gaza Strip border earlier Friday, with several hundred rioting and throwing stones and explosive devices at Israeli troops.

Soldiers responded with tear gas and occasional live fire. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 16 Palestinians had been injured.

For the past year, Palestinians have staged regular marches on the Gaza border known collectively as the Great March of Return. The spring of 2019 saw a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and airborne arson attacks, but the violence waned in recent weeks due to a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

However, recent weeks have also seen several serious infiltration attempts into Israel.

In a span of 10 days, six armed Palestinian terrorists — many of them current and former Hamas members — got through the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip before being killed by Israeli troops. In one case on August 1, the gunman opened fire at IDF soldiers, injuring three of them, before he was shot dead.

Last Saturday, a group of four heavily armed terrorists, carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rations, attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory before they were spotted and shot dead by troops on the border.

The Hamas terror group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has sought to distance itself from these attacks, saying they were carried out by angry young men.

Hamas deployed additional troops to the frontier in a bid to prevent breaches of the border fence, understanding that these cross-border attacks risked provoking a harsh response by the Israeli military, according to the Palestinian Amad news outlet.