Archive for May 20, 2020

Iran’s leader accuses UAE of ‘treachery’ after first direct flight to Israel 

May 20, 2020

Source: Iran’s leader accuses UAE of ‘treachery’ after first direct flight to Israel | The Times of Israel

Etihad Airways flies 16 tons of aid for Palestinians via Tel Aviv, but Khamenei says Gulf states ‘betray Palestine by supporting Israel,’ calls for armed uprising in West Bank

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 9, 2020.Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 9, 2020.Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the United Arab Emirates of committing “treachery” and “betrayal” after its Etihad Airways made history, flying the first known direct commercial flight between Israel and the UAE.

The UAE-based airline sent the plane loaded with 16 tons of coronavirus aid for Palestinians on a direct flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

But Iran’s top leader called the act a betrayal of the Palestinians.

“Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world,” Khamenei tweeted. “They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel. Will the nations of these states tolerate their leaders’ betrayal?”

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world. They have betrayed by supporting Israel. Will the nations of these states tolerate their leaders’ betrayal?

The Etihad cargo jet, painted in all white and missing any marking, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport just after 9 p.m. after seemingly flying a roundabout route through Iraq and either Jordan or Turkey.

The flight struck a rare moment of public cooperation between the UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, and Israel. The countries have no formal diplomatic ties to Israel, but have begun to increasingly cooperate openly after years of rumored back-channel discussions between them over the mutual enmity of Iran.

An Israeli official said the flight was delivering humanitarian aid provided by the UAE to the Palestinians through the World Food Program, and that the cargo flight was coordinated with the Israeli government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

In this photo released by the state-run WAM news agency on May 19, 2020, an Etihad Airways flights loaded with aid for the Palestinians to fight the coronavirus pandemic is loaded in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Etihad Airways flew aid for the Palestinians amid the coronavirus pandemic from the capital of the United Arab Emirates into Israel, marking the first known direct commercial flight between the two nations. (WAM via AP)

Etihad, a state-owned, long-haul carrier, earlier confirmed the flight to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

“Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on 19 May to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians,” the airline told The Associated Press. “The flight had no passengers on board.”

Emirati government officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency issued a statement saying it delivered 16 tons of protective gear, medical items and ventilators “to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the occupied Palestinian territory.” It did not acknowledge the flight or its significance.

Much of the coordination between Israel and the Gulf states is based on a shared concern over Iran, which has repeatedly threatened to destroy the Jewish state and seeks to exert its hegemony over the region.

The flight came during a period of heightened tension between Iran and Israel, with reports emerging Tuesday that Israel had carried out a cyberattack on an Iranian port in retaliation for an earlier Iranian attempt to hack Israel’s water infrastructure.

On Monday, Khamenei called for arming Palestinians in the West Bank.

“The West Bank must be armed, just as Gaza. The only thing that can reduce the Palestinians’ hardships is the hand of power. Otherwise, compromise won’t reduce a bit of the cruelty of this usurping, evil, wolf-like entity,” Khameinei tweeted.

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

Iran is the primary supplier of arms and rockets to terror groups in Lebanon and Gaza.

Meanwhile, a top Iranian legal official said Israel’s “annihilation” was closer than ever.

“On Quds Day, we come closer to annihilation of Israel,” Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday, according to the FARS news agency.

Al-Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem. Quds Day, marked by demonstrations against Israel and expressing support for Palestinians, is held on the last Friday of Ramadan, which this year is May 22.

Quds Day was declared in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution. It is marked throughout the Middle East and in countries around the world, including the United States. The Iranian regime organizes nationwide anti-Israel rallies, at which Israeli flags are trampled and burned.

 

Israel braces for Iranian cyberattack after reportedly targeting strategic port 

May 20, 2020

Source: Israel braces for Iranian cyberattack after reportedly targeting strategic port | The Times of Israel

Workers at sensitive facilities told to be on alert for malicious activity after hacking of Bandar Abbas port, which Israel has said is used to supply weapons to Hamas, Hezbollah

The Shahid Rajaee port facility in the Iranian coastal city of Bandar Abbas (Iran Ports and Maritime Organization)

The Shahid Rajaee port facility in the Iranian coastal city of Bandar Abbas (Iran Ports and Maritime Organization)

Israel’s security firms and agencies are reportedly preparing for a potential Iranian or Iran-linked cyberattack in response to an attack blamed on the Jewish state that was said to have crippled computer systems at a strategic port in the south of the Islamic Republic.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Israel brought down the Shahid Rajaee port’s computer systems, causing a total shutdown of the facility, on May 9.

Israel has refused to officially comment on the report, which cited US and other foreign officials saying Israel was likely behind the computer attack.

The attack was apparently in response to an alleged Iranian attempt to hack into Israel’s water infrastructure system. Israel’s high-level security cabinet held a secret meeting to discuss a response to the hack attack on May 7, according to Channel 13 news, and regarded the attempt to damage its water system, a non-military target, as crossing a red line.

Security officials on Tuesday instructed agencies and sensitive facilities to raise their awareness and preparedness for the option of a retaliatory cyberattack as part of an apparent new tit-for-tat war, Hebrew-language media reported.

Cyber-defense officials in the Israel Defense Forces and the National Cyber Directorate have raised their alertness, expecting an attack on websites, servers or services, the unsourced reports said.

Employees have been ordered not to open or download files from unknown sources or people whose credibility is questionable. Officials have stressed that malicious messages could be ostensibly about the coronavirus crisis.

Workers have also been told not to hand personal information or account details to unknown entities, and to only download mobile applications from known app stores.

In this photo provided May 11, 2020, the Konarak support vessel which was struck during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman, is docked in an unidentified naval base in Iran (Iranian Army via AP)

Shahid Rajaee Port, in the southern Hormozgan Province, is located some 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the city of Bandar Abbas, and is by far Iran’s largest and most strategically important port. It is also known as the port of Bandar Abbas.

It accounts for some 60 percent of all the country’s port activity, Mohammad Saeednejad, the managing director of Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran, said in 2017.

“The significance of the port lies in the fact that it is located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz where nearly 50,000 vessels of different countries sail annually,” he told Iran’s ILNA news agency at the time.

Saeednejad added that between March 2016 and March 2017, exports from the port totaled some 44 million tons of goods worth more than $11.14 billion, and imports totaled nearly 10 million tons worth $18.65 billion.

Israel has long accused Iran of using the port for military purposes to aid terrorists elsewhere in the Middle East, including the Jewish state’s foes Hamas and Hezbollah, with the IDF intercepting some of the shipments.

Satellite images of the port on May 11 and May 12 taken by Planet Labs and seen by The Times of Israel showed a large number of ships idling off the port and a buildup of containers on dry land, days after the alleged Israeli cyberattack.

Army chief Aviv Kohavi on Tuesday hinted at Israel’s role in the cyberattack, saying the IDF would continue to use “various military tools” against the country’s enemies.

While it is not unusual for politicians to insinuate Israeli involvement in attacks on Iran and terror groups, it is less common for senior IDF officers —  who tend to maintain a policy of ambiguity regarding the military’s activities abroad — to do so.

The Shahid Rajaee port facility in the Iranian coastal city of Bandar Abbas (Iran Ports and Maritime Organization)

On Tuesday, the former head of IDF Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, said the Iranian cyberattack on water facilities, which failed to cause significant damage, appeared to be in response to recent Israeli airstrikes against Iran’s forces and proxies in Syria.

A security official, who spoke on the condition that his identity and nationality not be revealed, told The Washington Post that the attack caused “total disarray” at the port.

“Computers that regulate the flow of vessels, trucks and goods all crashed at once, ­creating massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility,” the Post reported, adding that it had seen satellite photos showing miles-long traffic jams leading to the port and ships still waiting to offload several days later.

Iran later acknowledged that an unknown foreign hacker had briefly knocked the port’s computers offline.

“A recent cyber attack failed to penetrate the PMO’s systems and was only able to infiltrate and damage a number of private operating systems at the ports,” Mohammad Rastad, managing director of the Ports and Maritime Organization, said in a statement carried by ILNA.

The response appeared to indicate that Israel has adopted a “tit-for-tat” strategy in responding to Iranian cyber warfare, like that already used by the Israeli military with physical, or kinetic, attacks, an Israeli official said.

View of the Eshkol Water Filtration Plant in northern Israel, on April 17, 2007. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

“The cyberattack on the [Shahid Rajaee port] in Iran was an Israeli response to the cyber attack that [the Iranians] carried out against Israel two weeks before against Mekorot [national water company] components — an attack that failed,” the official told Channel 12 news, on condition of anonymity.

“Israel hopes that [the Iranians] stop there. They attacked water infrastructure components. They didn’t really cause damage — but they crossed a line and [Israel] needed to retaliate,” the official said.

Iran — whose regime avowedly seeks the Jewish state’s destruction — and Israel have engaged in covert cyber-warfare for over a decade, including reported efforts by the Jewish state and US to remotely sabotage the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in 2010 using an advanced cyber weapon known as Stuxnet.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.