Archive for December 25, 2019

Iranian government shuts down Internet again to weaken planned protests 

December 25, 2019

Source: Iranian government shuts down Internet again to weaken planned protests – The Jerusalem Post

“It is possible that more provinces will be affected by the shutdown of mobile international connectivity,” ILNA said.

People stop their cars in a highway to show their protest for increased gas price in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS)
People stop their cars in a highway to show their protest for increased gas price in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran has begun shutting off Internet access in some areas in preparation for expected protests on Wednesday, according to Iranian media.

The semi-official news agency ILNA quoted an informed source at the Communications and Information Technology Ministry as saying the shutdown was ordered by “security authorities” and covered the Alborz, Kurdestan and Zanjan provinces in central and western Iran and Fars in the south.

“According to this source, it is possible that more provinces will be affected by the shutdown of mobile international connectivity,” ILNA said. The Iranian news agency later removed the quote from their website, according to Radio Farda.

Social media users also reported a heavy presence of armed forces in Tehran and other cities on Wednesday.

Iran News Wire@IranNW

Tabriz NW – a convoy of security forces parades on the streets while the regime gets ready for and commemoration ceremonies for slain protesters called on by their families for Dec. 26.

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The internet watchdog NetBlocks confirmed that disruptions are affecting some mobile networks in Iran with reports of service failures in multiple cities. The data observed by NetBlocks are consistent with a targeted disruption and don’t appear to be related to any international issue, unlike an internet outage last week when internet access was lost due to an issue in European services.

NetBlocks.org

@netblocks

Confirmed: Evidence of mobile internet disruption in parts of beginning ~6:30 a.m. (03:00 UTC); real-time network data show two distinct drops in connectivity this morning amid reports of regional outages; incident ongoing 📉

📰https://netblocks.org/reports/partial-internet-disruption-registered-in-iran-oAvqX18Y 

View image on Twitter

Social media posts and some relatives of people killed in unrest last month over hikes in gasoline prices have called for renewed protests and commemoration ceremonies for the dead on Thursday. Social media users are using the hashtags “see-you-Thursday” and “December 5th” in calls for protests and have begun using handwritten leaflets with hashtags in preparation for the internet outage, according to Radio Farda. A video on Twitter shows hundreds of leaflets that are being handed out by activists.

Ali@Ali43694277

پخش صدها بیانه دست نویسی توسط مبارزان ازادی خواه میهن برای دعوت از مردم
برای حضور در خیابانها

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Video on social media claimed to show a motorcycle convoy in support of the protests planned for Thursday.

mostafa.m@MostafaMe4


Another uprising in Iran is nearing its birth
With an initiative in Najaf Abad streets, demonstrators riding a motorcycle took photos of the martyrs of the November uprising.

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During widespread anti-government protests in November, Iran shut down Internet access throughout the country.

Iran is currently in the process of developing a national intranet system, known as the National Information Network (NIN), in order to cut the country’s dependency on international cyberspace, according to Radio Farda. The network will also prevent Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from helping Iranians bypass the Islamic Republic’s censorship of the Internet, as data requests won’t be routed outside the country.

The plan was first announced in 2010 with an expected completion date in 2015. In May, the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution announced that the NIN is 80% complete.

“All domestic activities, services, applications [and] various types of contents… are included in the national Internet,” said Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi at the inauguration event in 2016, according to the BBC.

Iran has already blocked access to tens of thousands of sites and services including Twitter and Facebook, although many users use VPNs and proxy sites to bypass the filter.

Earlier in December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised that the NIN would be strengthened so that “people will not need foreign [networks] to meet their needs.” The announcement came soon after the government temporarily shut down Internet access throughout the country during anti-government protests, sparking fears among Iranians that they could soon be cut off from accessing the outside world through the Internet.

The intranet would allow the government to decide what content can be accessed by users, removing the need for absolute shutdowns like the one imposed during the protests.

Some Iranian newspapers warned the government against imposing such a decision on citizens, as things could easily spark out of control as they did after gasoline prices were raised in a sudden decision by the nation’s leadership, according to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, an Iranian militant opposition group. A state-run daily called the announcement a “threatening message to the people,” while another daily asked, “will the people and the private sector tolerate the Internet shutdown?”

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

IDF chief: Israel will block Iran’s military efforts, ‘even at the risk of war’

December 25, 2019

Source: IDF chief: Israel will block Iran’s military efforts, ‘even at the risk of war’ | The Times of Israel

Kohavi laments that Israel alone in the fight against Tehran; says chance for a long-term ceasefire in Gaza, but threatens army won’t hesitate to use its full force if necessary

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks at a graduation ceremony for new IDF officers on October 31, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks at a graduation ceremony for new IDF officers on October 31, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Wednesday lamented that Israel is alone in the fight against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East, as the Islamic Republic grows increasingly aggressive in the region.

“It would be better if we weren’t the only ones responding to them” using military force, Kohavi said, in an apparent criticism of the United States and Persian Gulf countries, who also see Iran as a major foe.

The army chief delivered a wide-ranging speech on Israel’s national security and the state of the Israel Defense Forces at a conference in honor of former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. It was Kohavi’s first major speech on Israel’s national security since taking his position last January, speaking for a full hour.

“In recent years, Iran has changed its policies and is much more active,” Kohavi said, noting attacks in recent months on petroleum facilities in Gulf states.

“And there’s no response, there’s no retaliation, there are no reprisals,” he said.

An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. where two ships were reportedly attacked. (AP Photo/ISNA)

Kohavi also addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been working, with assistance from Egypt, to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the enclave’s de facto rulers, the Hamas terror group.

“We will allow civil relief in exchange for significant security improvements in Gaza. That’s not my policy, that’s the government’s,” Kohavi said.

According to Kohavi, last month’s two-day battle between the IDF and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful terror group in Gaza, made such a ceasefire more possible. Unlike in previous bouts in the Strip, Israel did not target Hamas facilities, instead focusing its attacks almost solely on the PIJ.

Palestinians check the destruction following an Israeli air strike on November 14, 2019 in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

“We wanted to put the PIJ back in its place, something Hamas wouldn’t do, so we did it,” he said.

“As I speak, there’s an opportunity. Hamas is back dictating the order of the day — even if there’s a rocket or mortar here or there, which we won’t accept,” he said, referring to recent attacks from Gaza, which military officials have indicated were the work of smaller, more radical terror groups, not Hamas.

The army chief added that Israel was prepared to go to war if needed in order to restore quiet to the Gaza region.

“War is always the last choice, but in cases where all other paths have been exhausted, war is a solution, a military operation is a solution,” he said.

Iran is everywhere

Kohavi said Iran was working to set up forward operating bases throughout the region, from which it could itself carry out attacks against Israel, with its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force, or order its proxies in the region, notably the Hezbollah terror group, to do so.

“We won’t allow Iran to establish a military presence in [Syria], or even in Iraq,” he said.

The military chief said the IDF was operating throughout the region — openly, covertly and clandestinely — in order to thwart the plans of Iran and its proxies, “even at the risk of war.”

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Kohavi specifically referred to efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to develop precision guided missiles — a threat that Israeli officials generally consider to be second only to a nuclear-armed Iran — as the type of issue that the IDF would risk war in order to prevent.

“We won’t allow our enemies to acquire precision weapons,” he said.

According to Kohavi, one of the defining characteristics of Israel’s current national security situation is that both the number of arenas from which the Jewish state faces threats and the number of threats within each arena are growing.

“In Syria, there are Hezbollah forces and Quds forces [in addition to the Syrian military]. In Gaza, there are also proxies of the Iranians [in addition to Hamas and the PIJ],” he said.

The army chief noted that Iraq, where Iran controls a large number of Shiite militias, has also become an area of increasing concern for Israel.

An Iranian clergyman looks at domestically built surface to surface missiles displayed by the Revolutionary Guard in a military show marking the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2019. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Kohavi added that Iran itself had also become a direct and immediate military threat to Israel, whereas, in the past, it was “back behind the mountains, working on a nuke program.”

“Iran is continuing to develop missiles that can reach Israeli territory. This is somewhat flying under the radar,” he said.

He also addressed Iran’s recent violations of the 2015 nuclear deal by Iran, doubling its amount and level of enriched uranium beyond the approved levels of the agreement. Kohavi said these actions are currently part of an effort to exert pressure on the US and Europeans as part of negotiations, not an actual effort to develop a nuclear weapon, but that this would eventually change.

“Iran is doing this as part of a strategic dialogue with the US. But at some point, it will leave the realm of a strategic dialogue and enter into a real threat,” he said.

Preparing for war

In his address, Kohavi said he did not see war in the offing, due to effective Israeli deterrence, but made clear that the next war that the Jewish state faced — whether against Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south — would be more difficult and disastrous than the ones before it, owing to technical improvements of the terror groups’ capabilities.

“In terms of rockets, the number and the range and the size of the warheads and the accuracy have all grown.”

Kohavi said the IDF was, of course, aware of these threats, was prepared for them and was working to further improve its defenses, but warned that despite this, the threats of Israel’s home front remained. “We have to prepare for this,” the general said.

A man looks at the damage to a house in Sderot, Israel, after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza Strip, November 12, 2019. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

“You can’t have a war without casualties. I can’t promise you a short war. I’ll do what I can to shorten it, but during that time, the home front will be hit,” he said.

“We will need resilience on the home front.”

He noted that since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah had worked to improve its capabilities as well, putting it on par with some national armies.

“Hezbollah isn’t just running around with Kalashnikov assault rifles and anti-tank missiles. It has anti-aircraft weapons and spectrum suppression equipment,” he said, referring to electronic warfare capabilities.

Kohavi said he did not believe that Iran or its proxies would imminently launch a war against Israel.

“None of our enemies want a war at this time,” he said.

Feelings of security

In recent years, some of the most regular and vehement criticism against the IDF and Israel’s security strategies have been in regards to the military’s responses to violence from the Gaza Strip.

Kohavi rejected some of this criticism, saying the IDF had effectively blocked the majority of attacks from the Strip and that the issue was not with security but with the “feeling of security” among residents of the Gaza periphery. However, he said that a feeling of security was not unimportant, just less important than actual security.

A woman hugs her dog moments after a rocket fired by Palestinians terrorists in the Gaza Strip hit a main highway between near Ashdod, Israel, November 12, 2019. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

“Every time there’s a rocket siren interrupting the night or the party, or the shabbat dinner, people say there’s no security,” he said.

“I differentiate between security and feeling of security. Security comes before a feeling of security. But we need to give people a feeling of security,” Kohavi said.

Kohavi said he hoped a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas would be signed soon, but said Israel would not hold back from a military operation if necessary.

The army chief said he knew this would mean fighting in highly complicated urban areas, where Hamas has established many military facilities, believing that Israel would be more cautious and hesitant in such a densely populated location, full of civilians.

“The enemy decided to base itself in an urban environment, but we will respond forcefully,” he said. “We will warn the civilians who live there and give them time to evacuate.”

Kohavi said that the IDF would not refrain from attacking the civil infrastructure used to by terror groups to attack Israel.

“We will strike the infrastructure of the country that allows this, the gas, fuel, and roads. Countries that allow or encourage terror groups to operate in their borders must know that they will be held responsible,” he said, specifically listing Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

A barefoot Palestinian boy and others look into a crater made in overnight Israeli missile strikes that destroyed a house and killed eight members of the Abu Malhous family, in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The army chief referred to a case in last month’s battle in Gaza, in which he said “a lot of civilians were killed” when the IDF bombed a Palestinian family’s home that had apparently been incorrectly identified as a PIJ military facility, and acknowledged that errors had been made in the process of choosing the target.

“We investigated this for dozens of hours, dozens of hours. The lessons were learned,” he said.

Preparing for the future

Kohavi also discussed the military’s preparations for the future under his proposed multi-year plan known as “Momentum” in English, or “Tenufa” in Hebrew.

According to the army chief, his efforts to roll out this plan are being stymied by Israel’s current political impasse, which is preventing the passage of the necessary budget.

Illustrative: Israeli construction teams work on a concrete border wall to run above and below ground along the Gaza border, September 2016. (Screen capture: Ynet)

Kohavi said that the new security fence and underground protective barrier being constructed around the Gaza Strip in order to thwart both subterranean tunnels and above ground infiltration attacks was nearing completion.

“By the summer of 2020, the barrier will be completed,” he said.

Kohavi added that improvements were also being made along the northern border and within the West Bank in order to prevent terror attacks there.

The army chief said one of the most important lessons learned by the IDF in recent years was an understanding that the military had to win wars “quickly and decisively.”

“We need to cause our enemies to grow weary,” he said.

Kohavi offered an example of old-style military thinking that would not work today, Israel’s conquering of the Golan Height in the 1967 Six Day War.

The Syrian military until then had long been using the Golan Heights to attack nearby Israeli settlements, which prompted the IDF to capture the area. But this did not prevent Syria from attacking Israel just a few years later, in the devastating 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“It’s not enough to conquer the Golan and reach a certain line. We must destroy the assets of the enemy,” he said.

“If you reached a line, but you didn’t destroy the enemies rockets along the way, you didn’t succeed,” Kohavi said.