Archive for November 19, 2020

INS Magen – Israel’s first Sa’ar 6 Corvette on Vimeo

November 19, 2020

JERUSALEM — Israel will receive the first of four Sa’ar 6 ships in December as part of a broad shift in naval doctrine that will see the country defend more areas at sea at a longer distance for a longer period of time, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The coming shift in maritime activity comes in the wake of Israel signing a pipeline deal with Cyprus and Greece in the summer, and joining an Eastern Mediterranean gas forum with Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It also comes amid new investments in Israeli’s Haifa Port that could involve the United Arab Emirates; the two countries recently agreed to improve relations.

A Nov. 11 ceremony will see the Israeli flag replace the German flag on the ship, which was made in Kiel, Germany, by Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. The IDF expects the Sa’ar 6 to defend offshore infrastructure — making up an area over twice the size of Israel’s land territory. The discovery of natural gas reserves and Israel’s desire to protect its exclusive economic zone were the main motivations behind the 2013 decision to order the ships.

The gas rigs and sea infrastructure, including Israel’s Karish-Tanin, Leviathan and Tamar fields, are essential and must be defended, the IDF has said.

“According to assessments, terror armies in our region possess the ability to fire high-trajectory rockets of a wide range that are able to reach the gas rigs,” the IDF explained. “We want to deter enemies from even aiming at the rigs. It [the Sa’ar 6] has an enormous radar so it can be a standalone unit. Abilities and probability of protection increases, as it is connected to Iron Dome, David’s Sling and other air defense. If it detects threats, it can transfer data to land networks to engage targets.”

Gas rigs are vulnerable strategic platforms; one missile strike could be catastrophic. In addition, the IDF said, the Navy reports Israel receives 98 percent of its imports by sea.

The commander of the Israeli Navy, Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit, also noted that “the mission of defending Israel’s exclusive economic zone and strategic assets at sea is the primary security mission of the Israeli Navy. These assets are essential to the operational continuity of the State of Israel, and having the ability to protect them holds critical importance.”

What can the ship do?

Several of the ships will be deployed to protect the gas fields, leaving one or two to conduct other missions with the rest of Israel’s fleet, which consists of submarines, Sa’ar 5 corvettes and missile boats. The first of the Sa’ar 6 corvettes will be commissioned as INS Magen.

In a briefing with the IDF naval commander, who could only be identified by the initial N for security reasons, the chief said the INS Magen was custom made for Israel’s operational needs, underlining that the main task of the ships will be the defense of Israel’s exclusive economic zone. This also means the ship has a kind of plug-and-play setup so Israel can incorporate domestic combat system add-ons, most of which have an open architecture for interoperability with other Israeli systems.

ThyssenKrupp fit the ship’s hull and installed the mechanical and electric systems, and the company will conduct training near the shipyard before sailing to Israel.

The IDF has said more than 90 percent of the Sa’ar 6-class corvette’s battle systems will be of Israeli design. Expect the installation of systems from Israel’s top three defense companies, including:

Multimission Adir radar by Israel Aerospace Industries.
The naval version of the Iron Dome defense system by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Barak missile interceptors from IAI.
An electronic warfare suite from Elbit Systems.
Rafael’s C-Gem offboard decoy to counter missile threats.
A 76mm cannon for the ship’s main gun.
The IDF naval commander said “many of the systems” on the ship are brand new, highlighting the vessel’s detection systems, such as a radar with a range exceeding 100 kilometers, and its weapons and defense systems that can react to high-trajectory rockets and missiles. In September, the Navy and the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development successfully conducted a trial of a sea-to-sea missile system from IAI meant for the Sa’ar 6.

Israel says the Sa’ar 6 is stealthy and has a low radar cross-section. The country intends for these ships to form the backbone of its naval fleet for three decades.

US hits Iran with new sanctions as Pompeo warns against easing pressure

November 19, 2020

In apparent message to Biden administration, US secretary of state says lifting sanctions would ‘weaken new partnerships for peace in the region’ and only benefit Tehran

By AP18 November 2020, 7:55 pm  3US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on during a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani after their trilateral meeting in Jerusalem on November 18, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON — The United States hit Iran with new sanctions on Wednesday, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the case that undoing the actions of the Trump administration would be foolish and dangerous.

The Treasury and State departments announced they had targeted a leading Iranian charity and numerous of its affiliates for human rights violations. At the same time, Pompeo released a statement titled “The Importance of Sanctions on Iran,” which argued that the Trump administration’s moves against Iran made the world safer and should not be reversed.

The sanctions announced Wednesday target Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation and roughly 160 of its subsidiaries, which are alleged to provide material support to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for malign activities, including the suppression of dissent.

“While (it) is ostensibly a charitable organization charged with providing benefits to the poor and oppressed, its holdings are expropriated from the Iranian people and are used by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to enrich his office, reward his political allies, and persecute the regime’s enemies,” Treasury said in a statement.Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi smiles at the end of his press briefing after registering his candidacy for the Experts Assembly elections at the interior ministry in Tehran, December 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Also targeted was Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, who it said “played a central role in the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses against Iranian citizens.”

Many of the sanctions supplement previously announced penalties by simply adding another layer to them. But they come as the administration seeks to ramp up pressure on Iran before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Biden has said he wants to return to the rapprochement with Iran that started in the Obama administration but was ended by outgoing President Donald Trump.

In an apparent nod to the incoming Biden administration’s stated plans to rejoin or renegotiated the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from, Pompeo said sanctions imposed against Iran had been “extraordinarily effective” in reducing the threat from the country. He said they had slashed Iran’s revenue by hundreds of billions of dollars since the pullout in 2018.

“Sanctions are part of the pressures creating a new Middle East, bringing together countries that suffer the consequences of Iran’s violence and seek a region more peaceful and stable than before,” he said in a statement. “Reducing that pressure is a dangerous choice, bound to weaken new partnerships for peace in the region and strengthen only the Islamic Republic.”Then-US vice president Joe Biden discusses the Iran nuclear deal with Jewish community leaders at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida, September 3, 2015. (AP/Joel Auerbach)

Pompeo said that in its remaining time, the Trump administration would continue to impose sanctions on Iran as well as on foreign governments and companies that violate them.

“Throughout the coming weeks and months, we will impose new sanctions on Iran, including using our nuclear, counterterrorism, and human rights authorities, each reflecting the wide range of malign behavior that continues to emanate from the Iranian regime,” he said. “These sanctions are a critical tool of national security to preserve the safety of the region and to protect American lives.”

The announcement came as Pompeo was visiting Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

IDF says Iran’s Quds Forces responsible for explosives placed on Syrian border

November 19, 2020

Military points finger at secretive Unit 840 for placing mines uncovered Tuesday, also blames it for similar incident in August

By ALEXANDER FULBRIGHT and JUDAH ARI GROSSToday, 12:47 pmUpdated at 1:13 pm  0Three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, which were uncovered on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday blamed a unit in Iran’s elite Quds Force for planting explosives in Israeli territory along the border with Syria, drawing retaliatory Israeli strikes.

The IDF said the Quds Force’s Unit 840 was responsible for planting three anti-personnel mines that were discovered and disarmed by military engineers on Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, said the secretive unit was in charge of planning and setting up “terror infrastructure” outside Iran against Western and Iranian opposition targets.

The military said Unit 840 was also behind a similar attempt in August by four armed men to plant explosives inside an unmanned military outpost along the border. The four were killed by IDF troops when they crossed into Israeli territory.

“Iran, we’re watching you,” the IDF wrote on its English-language Twitter account. “We will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria.”

The Quds Force is a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tasked with carrying out overseas operations.

Apparently responding to the Israeli strikes in Syria earlier in the week, the head of the IRGC appeared to warn Israel on Thursday.

“There won’t be any safe place for whoever wants to harm Iranian interests,” Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami said during a ceremony held by the IRGC’s navy. “The defense of Iran’s security and interests knows no geographical border.”

In response to this week’s incident, Israel struck targets linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Syrian military around Damascus early Wednesday. The military later said the strikes were meant to send a message to Iran to leave Syria, specifically the border area.

In a rare move, the IDF released images of some of the strikes and on Thursday morning also published aerial before-and-after photographs of two sites that it bombed: a military complex used by the Quds Force, and a command center of the Syrian military’s 7th Division, which Israel says cooperates widely with Iranian forces in Syria.

Syrian state media reported that three Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes. All three appeared to have served in air defense batteries that were destroyed by the IDF after they fired on Israeli jets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition organization based in the United Kingdom, said 10 people in total were killed in the Israeli strikes, some of them Iranian. This could not be immediately confirmed and was not reported by other groups in Syria. The Observatory has in the past been accused of inflating and even inventing casualty figures.Footage of Israeli strikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in southern Syria following an attempted explosive attack by Iranian-backed operatives against Israeli troops on the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)

In general, Israel does not intentionally target people in its strikes, instead focusing on infrastructure, as this has been found to reduce the likelihood of retaliation by Iran and its proxies.

The IDF generally maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding its activities against Iran and its proxies in Syria, refusing to publicly acknowledge its actions, with the exception of retaliations to attacks, as was the case this week.

The mines uncovered Tuesday were planted within Israeli territory, but on the Syrian side of the security fence, an area where Israeli troops routinely conduct patrols, indicating that the explosives were meant to be used against those soldiers. IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters on Wednesday that the mines were planted by Syrian nationals who live near the border, at the instruction of the IRGC Quds Force.

Zilberman told reporters on Wednesday that the retaliatory strikes were intended as both a message to Iran that “we won’t allow Iranian entrenchment at all and next to the border specifically,” and a message to Syria that it will be held responsible for allowing Tehran to maintain a presence in its country.

He also said the military was prepared for the possibility of retaliation from Iran or Syria, with Iron Dome and other air defense systems on high alert.An Iron Dome anti-missile battery is seen in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria on November 18, 2020. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Israel views a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria as an unacceptable threat, which it will take military action to prevent.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.