Archive for September 7, 2019

IDF strikes Gaza terror squad after drone drops IED on troops

September 7, 2019

Source: IDF strikes Gaza terror squad after drone drops IE

IDF attacked 5 Hamas posts after rocket fire on Friday; 2 Palestinian teens killed in border protests

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 SEPTEMBER 7, 2019 14:52
IDF strikes Gaza terror squad after drone drops IED on troops

The IDF struck a terror cell in the southern Gaza Strip after a drone dropped an IED on a military position along the border fence, the Israeli military said in a statement.

While no IDF troops were injured, there was slight damage to military vehicles by the drone attack.

According to Palestinian reports the cell was hit near Rafiah in the southern Strip.

Anna Ahronheim

@AAhronheim

Picture of the vehicle which was targeted by a drone which dropped an IED on it. The drone infiltrated into southern from near the southern city of Rafiah

View image on Twitter

Anna Ahronheim

@AAhronheim

Video from the scene of the damaged vehicle

Embedded video

The incident came hours after the IDF struck several Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Stripon Friday night in retaliation for five rockets which were fired towards southern Israel communities bordering the Hamas-run enclave.

The military said that an IDF tank shelled a Hamas outpost north of Beit Hanoun and an IAF drone stuck a Hamas observation point near Beit Lahia.

The strikes came shortly after incoming rocket sirens were activated in the college-town of Sderot and the communities of Ibim and Kibbutz Or Haner. While there were no injuries two women were treated for shock.

A small fire also broke out after at least one rocket hit an open area outside Sderot.

The exchange of fire came hours after two Palestinian teenagers were killed by IDF fire during the weekly Great Return March protests along the Gaza border fence which saw some 6,200 Palestinians riot along the fence, throwing explosive devices at troops.

“The demonstrations were of an especially violent nature, which included a large amount of IEDs, grenades and Molotov cocktails being thrown towards IDF forces along the fence,” read a statement provided by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. “There is noticeable damage to the border fence in several locations, and there has been a rising number of attempts to approach the border fence.”

The Hamas-run health ministry identified one of those killed as 17-year-old Ali al-Ashqar who was shot in the neck in northern Gaza Strip. A second teenager, 14 year-old Khaled al-Raba’i was shot in the stomach east of Gaza City.

Another 48 protesters were injured by live bullets and 33 others by rubber-coated rounds, including two medics and a photojournalist.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem tweeted in response to the deaths that “violating the blood of peaceful demonstrators in the marches of return and deliberately targeting them is a crime that the occupation bears all its repercussions.”

D on troops – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

IDF strikes Gaza terror squad after drone drops IED on troops 

September 7, 2019

Source: IDF strikes Gaza terror squad after drone drops IED on troops – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

IDF attacked 5 Hamas posts after rocket fire on Friday; 2 Palestinian teens killed in border protests

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 SEPTEMBER 7, 2019 14:52
IDF strikes Gaza terror squad after drone drops IED on troops

The IDF struck a terror cell in the southern Gaza Strip after a drone dropped an IED on a military position along the border fence, the Israeli military said in a statement.

While no IDF troops were injured, there was slight damage to military vehicles by the drone attack.

According to Palestinian reports the cell was hit near Rafiah in the southern Strip.

Anna Ahronheim

@AAhronheim

Picture of the vehicle which was targeted by a drone which dropped an IED on it. The drone infiltrated into southern from near the southern city of Rafiah

View image on Twitter

Anna Ahronheim

@AAhronheim

Video from the scene of the damaged vehicle

Embedded video

The incident came hours after the IDF struck several Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Stripon Friday night in retaliation for five rockets which were fired towards southern Israel communities bordering the Hamas-run enclave.

The military said that an IDF tank shelled a Hamas outpost north of Beit Hanoun and an IAF drone stuck a Hamas observation point near Beit Lahia.

The strikes came shortly after incoming rocket sirens were activated in the college-town of Sderot and the communities of Ibim and Kibbutz Or Haner. While there were no injuries two women were treated for shock.

A small fire also broke out after at least one rocket hit an open area outside Sderot.

The exchange of fire came hours after two Palestinian teenagers were killed by IDF fire during the weekly Great Return March protests along the Gaza border fence which saw some 6,200 Palestinians riot along the fence, throwing explosive devices at troops.

“The demonstrations were of an especially violent nature, which included a large amount of IEDs, grenades and Molotov cocktails being thrown towards IDF forces along the fence,” read a statement provided by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. “There is noticeable damage to the border fence in several locations, and there has been a rising number of attempts to approach the border fence.”

The Hamas-run health ministry identified one of those killed as 17-year-old Ali al-Ashqar who was shot in the neck in northern Gaza Strip. A second teenager, 14 year-old Khaled al-Raba’i was shot in the stomach east of Gaza City.

Another 48 protesters were injured by live bullets and 33 others by rubber-coated rounds, including two medics and a photojournalist.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem tweeted in response to the deaths that “violating the blood of peaceful demonstrators in the marches of return and deliberately targeting them is a crime that the occupation bears all its repercussions.”

 

Iran injects uranium gas into advanced centrifuges, violating nuclear deal

September 7, 2019

Source: Iran injects uranium gas into advanced centrifuges, violating nuclear deal | The Times of Israel

Spokesman says Tehran has ability to go beyond 20% enrichment of uranium, which analysts say is short technical step away from weapons-grade; UN inspectors to monitor program

In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, spokesman of the organization Behrouz Kamalvandi speaks in a news briefing as advanced centrifuges are displayed in front of him, in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 7, 2019 (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, spokesman of the organization Behrouz Kamalvandi speaks in a news briefing as advanced centrifuges are displayed in front of him, in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 7, 2019 (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran has begun injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges in violation of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman said Saturday.

Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran made the remarks in a news conference carried on live television. He spoke from a podium with advanced centrifuges standing next to him.

Iran already has breached the stockpile and enrichment level limits set by the deal, while stressing it could quickly revert back to the terms of the accord, if Europe delivers the sanctions relief promised in return for curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

Kamalvandi warned that Europe had little time left to save the deal. US President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord over a year ago before imposing crippling trade sanctions on Iran.

Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi answers the press in the capital Tehran on July 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

“As far as the other side does not implement their commitments, they should not expect Iran to fulfill its commitments,” Kamalvandi said.

Kamalvandi said Iran had the ability to go beyond 20 percent enrichment of uranium. Analysts say 20% is just a short technical step away from 90% enrichment, which is weapons-grade level.

Kamalvandi warned several times in his comments that Iran was rapidly approaching a point that would mean a full withdrawal from the deal.

“Our stockpile is quickly increasing; we hope they will come to their senses,” he said.

A technician at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, February 3, 2007. (AP/Vahid Salemi/File)

However, he stressed that Iran would allow UN inspectors to continue to monitor sites in the country. A top official from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency was expected to meet with Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Iran denies that it seeks nuclear weapons. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposed the 2015 deal, insists that Tehran is seeking a nuclear arsenal, and is hiding parts of its program. A New York Times report this week quoted Netanyahu saying he came very close to striking Iran in 2012 to try to halt its rogue nuclear program. The same report said Israel was now again considering a strike on Iran.

Tensions between Iran and the US have risen in recent months that have seen mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a US military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East.

Also on Saturday, satellite images showed that a once-detained Iranian oil tanker pursued by the US appears to be off the coast of Syria, where Tehran reportedly promised the vessel would not go when authorities in Gibraltar agreed to release it several weeks ago.

This Friday, September 6, 2019 satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies appears to show the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya-1 off the coast of Tartus, Syria. (Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies via AP)

The tanker Adrian Darya-1, formerly known as the Grace-1, turned off its Automatic Identification System late Monday, leading to speculation it would be heading to Syria. Other Iranian oil tankers have similarly turned off their tracking beacons in the area, with analysts saying they believe crude oil ends up in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad’s government.

Images obtained by The Associated Press early Saturday from Maxar Technologies appeared to show the vessel off Syria’s coast, some 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) off shore under intermittent cloud cover.

Iranian and Syrian officials have not acknowledged the vessel’s presence there. There was no immediate report in Iranian state media about the ship, though authorities earlier said the 2.1 million barrels of crude oil onboard had been sold to an unnamed buyer.

The oil on board would be worth about $130 million on the global market, but it remains unclear who would buy the oil as they’d face the threat of US sanctions.

The new images matched a black-and-white image earlier tweeted by John Bolton, the US national security adviser.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks to media at the White House in Washington, July 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn’t headed to #Syria is in denial,” Bolton tweeted. “We can talk, but #Iran’s not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!”

US prosecutors in federal court allege the Adrian Darya’s owner is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Wednesday, the US imposed new sanctions on an oil shipping network it alleged had ties to the Guard and offered up to $15 million for anyone with information that disrupts its paramilitary operations.

Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, also has reportedly emailed or texted captains of Iranian oil tankers, trying to scare them into not delivering their cargo.

Meanwhile, the US Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration issued on Saturday a new warning to shippers about a potential threat off the coast of Yemen in the southern Red Sea.

“A maritime threat has been reported in the Red Sea in the vicinity of Yemen,” the warning read. “The nature of the event is potential increased hostilities that threaten maritime security.”

Large areas of war-torn Yemen are held by the country’s Houthi rebels, which are allied to Iran. Shipping in the Red Sea has been targeted previously by rebel attacks. On Wednesday, a warning went out after two small boats followed one ship in the region, but there’s been no other information about a new threat there.

Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said the Navy remained ready to maintain the safety of shippers in the region. He declined to specifically discuss the warning. The US military’s Central Command did not respond to a request for comment.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

 

Iran puts pressure on Europeans to save nuclear deal within 60-day deadline | The Guardian

September 7, 2019

Source: Iran puts pressure on Europeans to save nuclear deal within 60-day deadline | World news | The Guardian

Tehran leverages use of advanced centrifuges to call for urgent European counter-measures to US sanctions

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Iranian atomic energy organisation, called on European counterparts to act ‘quickly’.
 Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Iranian atomic energy organisation, called on European counterparts to act ‘quickly’. Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Iran has announced it has started using more advanced centrifuges that could accelerate the development of an atomic weapon in its latest attempt to pressure European powers to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the Iranian nuclear agency spokesman, told a press conference on Saturday the country did not intend to use the faster centrifuges to enrich uranium to 20% levels – an important threshold on the path to weapons-grade material – but that it had the capacity to do so.

“We have started lifting limitations on our research and development imposed by the deal,” Kamalvandi said. “It will include development of more rapid and advanced centrifuges.

Iran was in compliance of the 2015 international agreement intended to curb its development of nuclear weapons until the US pulled out of the deal in May last year and reimposed crippling economic sanctions.

European signatories to the deal led by France have unsuccessfully sought to find ways to help Tehran evade the US restrictions. Iran is increasing the pressure on Europe to do so, by gradually walking away from its nuclear commitments, including the pledge to refine uranium only using first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.

Kamalvandi said the country had started using IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges since Friday and would soon test even more advanced models. Officials in the country say an IR-6 can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as an IR-1.

Analysts said the announcement was carefully calibrated to highlight the urgency on France and others to help relieve Iran’s ailing economy, while avoiding triggering an armed response from the US or forcing Europe to formally abandon the deal.

“These are all very calculated because they do not want to upset the Europeans and make it less likely for them to save the nuclear agreement,” said Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council who specialises in Iran’s nuclear program and its relations with the US.

“These are symbolic gestures to say: Time is running out, this deal is hanging by a string, you need to do something.”

Elements in Iran have been accused of trying to sell oil to Syria in breach of UN sanctions, leading earlier this year to the seizure of a tanker carrying approximately $100m (£81m) worth of oil thought to be headed for a Syrian port.

The seizure of the vessel is thought to have led Iran to capture a British-flagged ship, the Stena Impero, by the country’s Revolutionary Guards in July. The ship remains impounded though seven crew members were released this week, leaving 16 aboard.

The Iranian tanker, now called the Adrian Darya, was released on the orders of a Gibraltar court in August and was photographed on Friday close to the Syrian port of Tartus, according to satellite photographs released by a US space technology company.

Maxar Technologies Inc said the image showed the tanker Adrian Darya 1 very close to Tartus on 6 September. The ship appeared to have turned off its transponder in the Mediterranean west of Syria, ship-tracking data showed. The tanker sent its last signal giving its position between Cyprus and Syria sailing north on Monday afternoon.

Iran’s coast guard seized another vessel on Saturday for allegedly smuggling fuel in the Gulf and detained its 12 crew members from the Philippines, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

Kamalvandi said on Saturday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, would continue to be allowed to monitor Iranian nuclear sites and that it had been informed about Iran’s “new nuclear steps”.

But he set a 60-day deadline for France, Germany and Britain to find a solution to the US sanctions, after which further nuclear escalation could follow.

“When the other sides do not carry out their commitments, they should not expect Iran to fulfil its commitments,” Kamalvandi said.

Reuters contributed to this report

 

Latest Gaza rocket fire shows Hamas trying to follow the Hezbollah precedent

September 7, 2019

Source: Latest Gaza rocket fire shows Hamas trying to follow the Hezbollah precedent | The Times of Israel

After Nasrallah vowed to retaliate for deaths of his operatives in Syria, Hamas also hopes to establish a new formula vis-a-vis Israel in response to casualties in border clashes

Hamas supporters in Gaza hold Hezbollah and Islamic flags as they demonstrate against Israel  during the Second Lebanon War on July 30, 2006. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Hamas supporters in Gaza hold Hezbollah and Islamic flags as they demonstrate against Israel during the Second Lebanon War on July 30, 2006. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

The firing of five rockets into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip late Friday came as little surprise, despite the period of relative calm between Israel and the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers.

For at least two weeks, Hamas has been accusing Israel of violating understandings with the terror group brokered by Egyptian and international mediators, but the Hamas declarations have not been overly aggressive.

However, immediately after it became known that two Palestinians (among them a 17-year-old) were killed in clashes with Israeli troops Friday along the Gaza border, various terror organizations in the Strip threatened that a response would soon come — and indeed it did.

Most of the rockets were fired at open areas, and one towards the outskirts of the southern city of Sderot, suggesting someone in Gaza was mainly seeking to send a message, not exact a price that could make the situation even worse.

The new-old formulation that the Palestinian factions, led by Hamas, are trying to impose is clear: If there are fatalities at the weekly protests on the border, there will also be rockets.

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces along the security fence, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, on September 6, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The desire to establish such a dynamic is reminiscent of the situation with Hezbollah and Lebanon. Just as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that an attack on the terror group’s operatives in Syria would be met with a response, Hamas too is seeking to produce a formula of its own — aimed first and foremost at public opinion among Palestinians both in and outside Gaza.

The terror group is trying to create a perception among Palestinians that only it can protect the Palestinians, just as Hezbollah and Nasrallah are trying to convince the Lebanese public that only Hezbollah can contend with Israel and create deterrence.

In actuality of course, the two situations are different. Militarily, Hamas is not Hezbollah, to put it mildly.

It must be noted, though, that things are still far from simple for the Lebanese Shiite terror organization. Hezbollah is going through a financial crisis entailing reductions and cutbacks, and faces an even bigger problem in the political context in which it now operates: All of Lebanon is currently focused on the country’s collapsing economy.

Over the past week, Lebanese official leaders (if there truly are any other than Nasrallah) convened several times to discuss ways to save the Lebanese economy. If at this point Lebanon again finds itself dragged into a war on Nasrallah’s account, that would damage Hezbollah’s image as the country’s protector and inflict a hit on Nasrallah’s own image.

A man fixes a Hezbollah flag at the ‘Garden of Iran’ Park in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras on September 1, 2019, as fires blaze on the Lebanese side along the border following an exchange of fire with Israel. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Furthermore, such a military adventure could lead to a mass exodus. If just a few years ago hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of Syrians made their way to Lebanon because of the Syrian civil war, this migration could be be reversed in the next war with Israel, with Lebanese citizens fleeing to Syria.

Ultimately, the lack of casualties on the Israeli side from the Hezbollah anti-tank missile attack at the beginning of the week, and the feeling in Lebanon of accomplishment or at least temporary achievement in that Israel had been “successfully” targeted, allowed everyone to take their finger off the trigger.

Israel’s decision not to retaliate for the anti-tank fire or strike heavily at the Hezbollah cells scattered throughout the area derived from a clear desire to end the incident as quickly as possible.

It is obvious to both sides that there will be additional stages in this campaign — but until then, Lebanon can return to economic matters and Israel can go back to the upcoming elections.

But with the Middle East being the Middle East, a decision not to respond up north, along with the enthusiasm with which Israel quickly ended the situation in the north, broadcasts a certain message of weakness in other areas. This causes actors such as Hamas to feel that the firing of a few rockets won’t be met with a response from Israel — or, if so, a minor one.

 

Army: Gaza drone drops explosives in Israel near border, IDF vehicle damaged

September 7, 2019

Source: Army: Gaza drone drops explosiv in Israel near border, IDF vehicle damaged | The Times of Israel

IDF says it opened fire at terror cell after UAV appeared to leave explosive before returning to Strip; military vehicle lightly damaged but no injuries

Military vehicle the IDF says was damaged when terrorists flew an armed drone across the border from Gaza into Israel (Screen grab via Channel 13 news)

Military vehicle the IDF says was damaged when terrorists flew an armed drone across the border from Gaza into Israel (Screen grab via Channel 13 news)

A group of Palestinian terrorists piloted an armed drone into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the army said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Forces said the drone appeared to leave an explosive device near the security fence along the border before returning to Gaza.

It did not specify if the explosive detonated, but said a military vehicle was lightly damaged in the incident.

The IDF said it opened fire at the cell responsible for the drone.

No Israeli soldiers were hurt and there were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

Last month, the IDF said it thwarted an Iranian plot to fly “kamikaze” explosives-laden drones at Israeli territory from Syria.

Saturday’s incident came after Israeli forces attacked several military targets belonging to the Gaza terror group earlier in the day in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

The IDF said it had identified five projectiles that had crossed the border into Israeli territory.

The launches set off rocket sirens in the town of Sderot and the communities of Ibim and Kibbutz Or Haner.

There were no reported injuries. The Ynet news site said two women were being treated for shock.

At least one rocket hit an open area outside Sderot and started a small fire, Hebrew media reported.

Security camera footage reportedly from Sderot showed an explosion in the distance and city residents stopping their cars to run for cover.

The exchange of fire came hours after two Palestinian teens were reportedly killed in clashes with Israeli troops along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, in what the IDF called “especially violent” riots.

The Hamas-run health ministry identified one of those killed as 17-year-old Ali al-Ashqar. It said he was shot in the neck in the northern Gaza Strip. A second teenager was shot in the stomach east of Gaza City, the ministry said, later identifying him as Khaled al-Rabaee, 14.

The IDF had no immediate comment on the deaths but said some 6,200 Palestinians took part in the weekly “March of Return,” including hundreds that rioted.

The riots were especially violent and included the throwing of a large number of explosive devices, hand grenades and fire bombs at the fence and IDF soldiers, the army said, adding that there were extensive attempts to damage the border barrier.

During the clashes Israeli soldiers arrested two Palestinians who tried to enter Israel from northern Gaza, the IDF said.

The suspects were not armed and following their arrest were taken in for further questioning, the army said.

A spokesman for Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, blamed Israel for the Palestinians’ deaths and warned of a possible response.

“Israel will bear the consequences for this crime,” the Kan public broadcaster quoted Hazem Qassem saying.

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, weighed in on the protests on Friday, criticizing Israel for the killing of the two protesters in a Twitter post.

“Two #Palestinian teenagers killed today at the #Gaza protests. Appalling! #Israel must calibrate its use of force, use lethal force only as a last resort, and only in response to imminent threat of death or serious injury. Protests must be peaceful. The cycle of violence must end,” Mladenov wrote.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops along the Gaza border near Gaza City, September 6, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

The deadly clashes came just days after Israel lifted restrictions on fuel deliveries to Gaza, a week after curbing them by half due to rocket and mortar fire from the coastal enclave.

Israel has responded to the violence with airstrikes in Gaza on Hamas targets, in keeping with its policy of holding the terror group responsible for any attacks emanating from territory under its control.

Since the outbreak of protests on the Gaza border last year, Israel has intermittently taken a number of steps to curb outbreaks of violence from the coastal territory, such as closing border crossings, cutting fuel shipments and reducing the permitted fishing area off the coast of the Strip. It has rolled back such moves following decreases in violence.

A deal was brokered several months ago by UN and Egyptian officials to end several violent flareups in recent months between Israel and Hamas, which have fought three devastating wars since 2008, and to help stabilize the territory and prevent a humanitarian collapse.