Archive for November 1, 2019

Palestinians in Gaza fire 7 rockets into Israel, Iron Dome intercepts 

November 1, 2019

Source: Palestinians in Gaza fire 7 rockets into Israel, Iron Dome intercepts | The Times of Israel

Iron Dome interceptors hit an incoming rocket from the Gaza Strip over the town of Sderot on November 1, 2019 (screencapture/Twitter)

No injuries reported in incident that comes a day after a rocket was fired into Israel, triggering IDF response

Iron Dome interceptors hit an incoming rocket from the Gaza Strip over the town of Sderot on November 1, 2019 (screencapture/Twitter)

Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of seven rockets into Israel on Friday evening, all of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said.

The attack was one of the largest in recent months and local residents reported hearing several loud explosions, apparently from the interceptions. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Warning sirens had gone off in the town of Sderot and in other Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

The rocket fire comes a day after one rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists.

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 large rocket barrage was fired from the Gaza Strip towards Southern Israel. Multiple Iron dome interceptors were fired

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Reports said the rocket landed in an open field. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The Iron Dome air defense system was activated and an interceptor projectile was launched, the army said in a statement.

The IDF said a tank and fighter jets subsequently launched retaliatory strikes on two posts in the northern Strip belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza.

The Gaza-based Shehab news agency reported that Israeli security forces had fired at

 

US envoy: Iran has spent $16 billion on militias in Iraq, Syria 

November 1, 2019

Source: US envoy: Iran has spent $16 billion on militias in Iraq, Syria | The Times of Israel

Remarks by Brian Hook come amid growing concern in Israel over potential attack by Tehran in retaliation for efforts to thwart arming of Iranian proxies

Brian Hook, the US State Department special representative for Iran, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US policy toward Iran, October 16, 2019, in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

Brian Hook, the US State Department special representative for Iran, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US policy toward Iran, October 16, 2019, in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

The US envoy for Iran said Thursday that Tehran has funded militia groups in Syria and Iraq to the tune of $16 billion.

US State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, who made the comments in an interview with Saudi broadcaster Al Arabiya, did not specify over what time period the money was sent.

Iran has longstanding ties to a number of armed Shiite groups in Iraq and was a key backer of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary group that fought against the Islamic State jihadist organization.

In Syria, Iran supports militias fighting on behalf of its ally Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war.

Tehran also backs other armed factions such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group and the Houthis in Yemen.

In this photo from June 23, 2017, supporters of Iraqi Hezbollah brigades march on a representation of an Israeli flag with a portrait of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to place advanced weaponry in Iraq and Syria that could be used to target the Jewish state. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was trying to launch precision-guided missiles at Israel from Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

On Wednesday, Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin said the military’s multi-tiered network of air defense systems was “on alert” amid a general threat of attack by Iran.

In recent weeks, the military has begun to believe that Tehran intends to eventually retaliate against Israel’s regular airstrikes against its forces and proxies in the region.

Iran appears to have been building up its drone activities and attacks in recent months. In August, Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrikes in Syria to thwart a planned attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters using armed drones, the Israel Defense Forces said. The Israeli military said its strike targeted operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives.

Israel has vowed to prevent Iran’s regional proxy militias from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria that it says were to prevent delivery of weapons and to stop Iranian military entrenchment in that country.

 

Netanyahu: Iran emboldened by lack of response to its attacks

November 1, 2019

Source: Netanyahu: Iran emboldened by lack of response to its attacks | The Times of Israel

After series of strikes attributed to Tehran go unanswered, PM warns ‘threats are popping up’ all over Middle East, says Israel ‘won’t turn the other cheek’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (not pictured) in Jerusalem October 28, 2019. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (not pictured) in Jerusalem October 28, 2019. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said Iran was emboldened by the lack of a response to a series of attacks in the Middle East attributed to the Islamic Republic.

Speaking at a ceremony for graduates of the Israel Defense Forces’ officers course, Netanyahu warned of growing threats from Iran and its regional proxies, who he said are working to build up their arsenals.

“The area around us is turbulent and stormy. The threats are popping up in every corner — in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and also in Iraq, in Yemen and directly in Iran. Iranian and pro-Iranian forces are working nonstop to arm themselves,” he said.

Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said Israel would respond harshly to any attempt to harm it, suggesting that other countries’ failure to do likewise was encouraging Iran.

“We’re prepared for the threats and we won’t hesitate to land a tough blow on whoever tries to harm us. Iran’s brazenness in the region is increasing and even getting stronger in light of the absence of a response,” he said.

“But Israel won’t turn the other cheek,” Netanyau added. “Whoever is bent on aggression… will pay a heavy price.”

Netanyahu did not specify whose lack of response was emboldening Iran, but his comments came after a series of attacks in the Persian Gulf on US assets and American allies.

During a trip organized by the Saudi information ministry, workers fix the damage in Aramco’s oil separator at processing facility after the September 14 attack in Abqaiq, near Dammam in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, September 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

In June, US President Donald Trump called off a retaliatory strike after Iran downed an American drone that Tehran said entered its airspace. The US, which denied the drone entered Iranian skies, was later reported to have launched a cyberattack on Iran.

Last month, around half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production capacity was knocked offline due to an attack claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. There was no response to that attack, which the US, Israel and others also blamed on Iran.

Netanyahu, who has developed close ties with Trump, has not publicly commented on the lack of a US or Saudi response but has emphasized of late that Israel can defend itself.

Visitors look at a Hoveizeh 8 cruise missile at a military show marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2019. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Israel is now bracing for a similar assault to the one on Saudi Arabia, which involved armed drones and cruise missiles, with Hebrew media reporting earlier this month that the defense establishment was analyzing the strike on the Saudi oil facilities.

The chief of the Israeli Air Force said Wednesday the military’s multi-tiered network of air defense systems was  “on alert” amid a general threat of attack by Iran.

In recent weeks, the military has begun to believe that Tehran intends to eventually retaliate against Israel’s regular airstrikes against its forces and proxies in the region.

Israel has vowed to prevent Iran’s regional proxy militias from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria that it says were to prevent delivery of weapons and to stop Iranian military entrenchment in the country.

 

Netanyahu told ministers US can’t be counted on against Iran — report

November 1, 2019

Source: Netanyahu told ministers US can’t be counted on against Iran — report | The Times of Israel

Statement from prime minister Thursday that Iran is growing bolder given lack of US response was public hint at growing unease expressed privately, according to Channel 13 news

Iranian protesters burn Israeli and US flags in their annual anti-Israeli Al-Quds, Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 8, 2018. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of ministers recently that they should not expect the US to take serious action against Iran for at least the next year, according to a report Thursday.

Netanyahu on Thursday hinted publicly for the first time at unease with Washington’s hesitancy to take action, echoing statements in recent weeks from officials speaking off the record about Iran’s growing boldness.

“Iran’s brazenness in the region is increasing and even getting stronger in light of the absence of a response,” he said at an IDF officer’s graduation ceremony.

Privately, according to a report from Channel 13 news Thursday, he has been more vocal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP)

Several weeks ago, Netanyahu told cabinet members in a closed-door meeting that US President Donald Trump would not act against Iran until US general elections in November 2020 at the earliest, according to the report.

The report, which did not cite a source for the information, said Netanyahu told the ministers that in the interim Israel would have to deal with Iran on its own.

Israeli military officials have expressed fears in recent days that Iran is beginning to respond to Israeli attacks on its positions in Syria, emboldened by a perceived lack of resolve from the US, which has signaled its disengagement from the region.

On Wednesday, Air Force Chief Amikam Norkin said Israel’s complete air defense array had been placed on alert to guard against missile or drone attacks from Iran or proxies across the region.

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2019, Iranian military personnel ride in a patrol boat as they take part in the ‘National Persian Gulf Day’ in the Strait of Hormuz (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Tensions surrounding Iran have ramped up in recent months, with the US sending extra troops and a warship to the Persian Gulf, but Washington has mostly shied from responding following a series of attacks on oil assets blamed on Iran.

The Iranian downing of a US drone also elicited no military response, with Trump calling back an air strike after planes were already in the air.

US President Donald Trump speaks at the 9th annual Shale Insight Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, in Pittsburgh, October 23, 2019. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The White House’s decision to pull troops out of northern Syria and abandon Kurdish allies there has also been seen as a sign of Trump’s lack of willingness to engage militarily in the region.

Trump ran on a campaign of “America First” isolationism and has sought to end US military operations abroad to a large degree, announcing troop pullouts from Afghanistan and Syria.

 

All air defense systems on alert amid Iran attack fears — general 

November 1, 2019

Source: All air defense systems on alert amid Iran attack fears — general | The Times of Israel

Air Force chief says challenge of intercepting missiles becoming more complicated, days after Netanyahu accused Iran of seeking to target Israel with cruise missiles from Yemen

A test of the David's Sling missile defense system. (Defense Ministry)

A test of the David’s Sling missile defense system. (Defense Ministry)

Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin on Wednesday said the military’s multi-tiered network of air defense systems were “on alert” amid a general threat of attack by Iran.

In recent weeks, the military has begun to believe that Tehran intends to eventually retaliate against Israel’s regular airstrikes against its forces and proxies in the region.

The Israel Defense Forces believes this could take the form of a large-scale attack involving cruise missiles and attack drones, similar to the strike on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum facility that was attributed to Iran.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran intends to attack Israel from Yemen, which may make intercepting such a strike more difficult as the IDF’s intermediate and long-range air defenses are better positioned to shoot down incoming attacks from Israel’s north, rather than from the south.

Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin shakes hands with new air defense officers at a graduation ceremony on October 30, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Even as we speak, Arrow, Patriot, David’s Sling and Iron Dome batteries are on alert,” Norkin said Wednesday night at a graduation ceremony for air defense officers.

The air defense chief was referring to each of the military’s air defense systems, from the Arrow and Patriot systems, which are designed to destroy incoming long-range missiles and aircraft, to the mid-range David’s Sling, and the Iron Dome system, which can shoot down short-range rockets and small drones.

“The challenge of air defense has become more complicated. Joining the threat of missiles and rockets are now attack drones and cruise missiles,” he said.

Unlike ballistic missiles, which usually fly through a high arc on the way to the target, cruise missiles and drones fly at low altitude, making them harder to detect and intercept.

Iran appears to have been building up its drone activities and attacks in recent months. In August, Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrikes in Syria to thwart a planned attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters using armed drones, the IDF said at the time.

The Israeli military said its strike targeted operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as well as Shiite militias, including the Hezbollah terror group, who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives.

Israel has vowed to prevent Iran’s regional proxy militias from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria that it says were to prevent delivery of weapons and to stop Iranian military entrenchment in that country.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

 

Soleimani takes helm of Iraqi security from prime minister Abdul-Mahdi – DEBKAfile

November 1, 2019

Source: Soleimani takes helm of Iraqi security from prime minister Abdul-Mahdi – DEBKAfile

Desperate to quell the bloody protests spreading through Iraq, Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani flew into Baghdad and seized control of its army and security services.

On Wednesday, Oct. 30, a special helicopter carried the Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief from Baghdad international airport to the capital’s fortified Green Zone. In the prime minister’s office, he found a meeting in progress of military and security chiefs on ways to hold back the resurgent protest that from Oct. 25 had already claimed hundreds of dead and thousands of injured as it raged through Baghdad and the Shiite towns of the south.

Soleimani who swept into the meeting with a party of aides took the chair from Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. He then told the commanders gathered there, “We in Iran know how to deal with protests. This happened in Iran and we got it under control.”

It was obvious to the Iraqi officials present that the Iranian general was taking charge, DEBKAfile’s sources report. This was effectively an Iranian coup for the takeover of Iraq’s political and security leadership. This extreme step was intended to hold back the free fall of Tehran’s influence in Baghdad as well as Beirut – under the mounting weight of popular disaffection in Iraq and Lebanon.

In Lebanon, Iran failed to stop Saad Hariri from stepping down as prime minister and bringing down the government. Hariri was useful to Tehran because he was amenable to handing its proxy, Hizballah, a leading role in government and cooperating with Iranian interests in the country. His exit heightened the prospects of the national unity protest movement, demonstrating for more than two weeks, attaining their goal of a non-secular government led by technocrats and free of Iranian/Hizballah mastery. For the Islamic revolutionary regime in Tehran, this would be a crushing loss.

In Iraq, too, Abdul-Mahdi is ready to step down – against Tehran’s wishes. He is only waiting to find a suitable candidate to take over the premiership in an orderly transition.
Iran’s position is therefore reeling in its two key spheres of influence. The emergency brought Soleimani over for hands-on remedies. He appears to have left it too late.