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Amid Hezbollah threats, Israel said to warn Iran against arming group

June 25, 2017

Source: Amid Hezbollah threats, Israel said to warn Iran against arming group | The Times of Israel

Jerusalem reportedly using friendly nations to tell Tehran it would ‘not tolerate’ construction of weapons factories in southern Lebanon

June 25, 2017, 8:41 am

Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP/Stringer)

Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP/Stringer)

Israel has reportedly sent messages to Iran via Europe warning it against continuing to expand Hezbollah’s warfighting capabilities against Israel in southern Lebanon.

According to Hebrew-language reports, Israel has been speaking to friendly nations who also have diplomatic relations with Tehran, asking them to convey to the Islamic Republic that Jerusalem “will not tolerate” the continued arming of the southern Lebanese terror group and Iranian proxy.

Israel specifically addressed Iranian efforts to construct underground weapons-production factories in south Lebanon that will enable Hezbollah to produce advanced rockets and other systems without the need to smuggle them from Iran through Syria.

The Israeli Air Force has repeatedly targeted such shipments, leading Iran and Hezbollah to examine other options for its continued upgrading of Hezbollah’s arsenal.

The new effort to arm Hezbollah was first reported by a Kuwaiti newspaper in March.

The saber-rattling from Hezbollah has spiked in recent weeks. On Friday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters from as far afield as Afghanistan would be ready to strike back if Israel were to attack Lebanon or Syria.

Screen capture of Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah during an interview with Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, February 20, 2017. (screen capture: IRANIANTVCHANNEL/YouTube)

Screen capture of Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah during an interview with Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, February 20, 2017. (screen capture: IRANIANTVCHANNEL/YouTube)

“The Israeli enemy should know that if it launches an attack on Syria or Lebanon, it’s unknown whether the fighting will stay just between Lebanon and Israel, or Syria and Israel,” Hassan Nasrallah said.

“I’m not saying countries would intervene directly — but it would open the door for hundreds of thousands of fighters from all around the Arab and Islamic world to participate in this fight — from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan,” he said.

Nasrallah made the remarks in a speech broadcast on television to mark Jerusalem (Quds) Day, an annual show of solidarity with the Palestinians marked by marches and speeches that rail against Israel and the West.

The commemoration was first launched by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late revolutionary leader of Iran — a main sponsor of Hezbollah and staunch rival of Israel.

Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, and others from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are battling alongside regime forces in Syria to defend the government of President Bashar Assad.

Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)

Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)

Any future confrontation, Nasrallah said, would be “very costly for Israel.”

The comments came a day after Israel accused Hezbollah in the United Nations of expanding observation posts to conduct reconnaissance missions under cover of a purported environmental NGO.

Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Hertzl Halevi on Thursday released film and photographs of the Hezbollah positions at the border fence.

“Hezbollah is using an environmental organization as a cover for activities along the border with Israel,” Halevi said at the Herzliya Conference.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, pointed to an incident in April, in which a patrol of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was denied access to an observation post flying the flag of the NGO “Green Without Borders,” by a group of locals.

Hezbollah’s purported use of such facilities under cover of the NGO is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War in August 2006.

An installation of the Lebanese agricultural NGO 'Green without Borders' that the IDF says serves as an observation outpost for Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border, publicized on June 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

An installation of the Lebanese agricultural NGO ‘Green without Borders’ that the IDF says serves as an observation outpost for Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border, publicized on June 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Danon denounced the “dangerous provocation” and called on the council to demand the Lebanese government dismantle the Hezbollah outposts, as required by the resolution.

The UN rejected the claim on Friday with UNIFIL reporting that Green Without Borders members have planted trees in the area, but it “has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of resolution 1701,” said UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko.

Last week, the head of Israel’s air force said it would have “unimaginable” military power at hand in any future conflict with Hezbollah.

“What the air force was able to do quantitatively in the [2006] Lebanon war over the course of 34 days we can do today in 48-60 hours,” Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said on Wednesday.

“This is potential power unimaginable in its scope, much different to what we have seen in the past and far greater than people estimate.”

Iran held major anti-Israel rallies across the country Friday, with protesters chanting “Death to Israel” and declaring that destroying the Jewish state is “the Muslim world’s top priority.”

Iranians participating in Quds Day rallies also called for unity among pro-Palestinian groups against the “child-murdering” Israeli government, according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

An Iranian man rides his bicycle on top of a reproduction of an Israeli flag painted on the street during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

An Iranian man rides his bicycle on top of a reproduction of an Israeli flag painted on the street during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Marchers in Tehran headed from various points of the city to the Friday prayer ceremony at Tehran University. Similar demonstrations were held in other cities and towns in Iran.

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard used the demonstration in the capital’s Valiasr Square to showcase three surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, including the Zolfaghar — the type that Iran used this week to target the Islamic State group in Syria.

The Guard said it fired six such missiles on Sunday at IS targets in the city of Deir el-Zour, more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) away. The Guard said the airstrike was in retaliation for an IS attack earlier in June on Iran’s parliament and a shrine in Tehran that killed 18 people and wounded more than 50.

Another missile on display at the Tehran rally was the Ghadr, with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) that can reach both Israel and US bases in the region.

Iran’s ballistic missile program has been the subject of persistent concern in Washington and the target of repeated US sanctions.

Iran claimed its missile strike on Sunday killed 360 Islamic State fighters. Israeli sources, by contrast, said the strike was a “flop,” that most of the six or seven missiles missed their targets, and that three of them fell to earth in Iraq and didn’t even reach Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency, said Israel supports “terrorists in the region.”

A Shahab-3 long range missile, left, and Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

A Shahab-3 long range missile, left, and Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017.
(AFP Photo/Stringer)

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, in a speech to Tehran demonstrators, called Israel the “mother of terrorism” and said that in the “20th century, there was no event more ominous than establishing the Zionist regime.”

The rally also inaugurated a huge digital countdown display at Tehran’s Palestine Square, showing that Israel will allegedly cease to exist in 8,411 days from the day of the rally.

In 2015, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei predicted that after 25 years — by 2040 — there will no longer be a State of Israel

 

 

 

 

 

After missile launch, Netanyahu warns Iran against threatening Israel

June 19, 2017

Source: After missile launch, Netanyahu warns Iran against threatening Israel | The Times of Israel

Tehran boasts strike meant to send message to enemies as Netanyahu says IDF is watching closely; Liberman dismisses concerns

June 19, 2017, 5:31 pm
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a weekly Likud party faciton meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a weekly Likud party faciton meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran not to threaten Israel and to watch its own back Monday, hours after Tehran launched missiles into Syria in what was seen as a challenge to Israel.

“I have one message for Iran: Don’t threaten Israel,” Netanyahu said.

On Monday, Iran said it fired missiles against the Islamic State in eastern Syria in response to a terror attack carried by the group in Tehran, in which 12 people were killed.

Netanyahu said Israeli forces were “constantly tracking … the activities of Iran in the region.”

Israeli concerns about Iran in Syria have mostly centered around Tehran exploiting unrest in the country to set up a base to attack Israel, as well as transferring missile systems and other advanced arms to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.

“We are watching their actions and watching their words,” Netanyahu added.

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force in charge of the country’s missile program, said it launched six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from the western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan. State television footage showed the missiles on truck missile launchers in the daylight before being launched at night.

Iran launches a ballistic missile at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria on June 18, 2017. (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)

Iran launches a ballistic missile at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria on June 18, 2017. (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)

While the Iranian missile attack struck a blow to the Islamic State in particular, the strike was seen as a threatening message to other enemies.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” Gen. Ramazan Sharif of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard told state television in a telephone interview. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”

However, speaking at his Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting on Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel was not concerned by Iran’s missile strike.

Yisrael Beytenu leader and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, May 8, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Yisrael Beytenu leader and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, May 8, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“Israel is not worried — Israel is prepared for every development. And we are prepared, we have no concerns or worries,” Liberman said.

The missile attack was the first by Iran outside its own territory in nearly 30 years, since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace wing, told state television: “The missiles were fired from Iran and they passed over Iraq and landed in Syria.”

Hajizadeh boasted that “firing these missiles from 600 or 700 kilometers away onto a small building… demonstrates Iran’s capacity and intelligence capabilities” against jihadist groups

 

 

A post-nuclear deal strategy on Iran takes shape – Middle East

June 19, 2017

Source: A post-nuclear deal strategy on Iran takes shape – Middle East –

Jerusalem Post

ByMichael Wilner
June 18, 2017 05:31
The US Senate has decided almost unanimously to sanction Iran for its nuclear activities and human rights record in a move that suggests a new, unified and stronger stand against Tehran.
 Iran missile

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. . (photo credit:REUTERS)

The Senate’s near-unanimous decision on Thursday to sanction Iran for its human rights record, its ballistic missile work and its funding of militant organizations worldwide marks a new phase in congressional policy toward the nation just two years after a nuclear deal with its government bitterly divided Capitol Hill.

Those who opposed the 2015 accord feared it would secure Iran as a nuclear threshold state, providing Tehran with all the strategic benefits of a nuclear power without encumbering it with the costs that come with building the weapon itself. “Threshold” status would embolden the Iranians, Republicans argued, and would aggravate the problems they have wrought across the Middle East.

Yet Democrats said that Iran’s “destabilizing activities” could still be punished under the nuclear accord– that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action dealt exclusively with the nuclear issue, and that Congress was free to offset some of its adverse effects with measures that would combat Tehran’s regional ambitions. To the extent that Iran’s actions require “non-nuclear” sanctions, Senate Democrats said they would be prepared to act.

Those positions aligned Democrats and Republicans on a path forward, and the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 is the beginning of that path: 98 out of 100 senators voted in favor of the legislation, which now moves to the House for consideration.

Democrats who supported the bill were no longer held back by an administration protective of the nuclear deal and interested in rapprochement with Iran: Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, John Kerry– who negotiated the JCPOA– lobbied against the legislation on Twitter to no avail. US President Donald Trump has not yet commented on the bill and has ordered a State Department review of policy toward Iran and the nuclear accord.

Whatever those studies conclude, the congressional landscape on Iran appears to be reverting back to a pre-JCPOA era, when Democrats and Republicans often unified against Iran and resorted to sanctions tools to express it. The consensus strategy is to uphold the agreement in the short-term, countering Iran in “non-nuclear” spheres.

“There will be economic, diplomatic and material consequences for their aggression toward US interests, values and allies,” said Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee and a top Democratic senator who opposed the nuclear deal.

The new bill would impose mandatory ballistic missile sanctions, target Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and implement a new arms embargo.

“Iran is still the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. They are supporting groups that have toppled pro-Western governments throughout the Middle East, they have humiliated and unlawfully imprisoned American sailors on the high seas, and they continuously and flagrantly violate UN restrictions on their missile program,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “These new sanctions will be a strong statement by the Congress and the Trump administration– that business as usual with Iran is over.”

 

Israel: Tillerson wrong, Palestinian Authority still paying jailed terrorists

June 14, 2017

Source: Israel: Tillerson wrong, Palestinian Authority still paying jailed terrorists – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

ByHerb Keinon
June 14, 2017 10:13
“Israel knows of no change in the Palestinian policy, which is to continue to pay the families of terrorists,” a senior diplomatic source said.
Rex Tillerson

“Israel knows of no change in the Palestinian policy, which is to continue to pay the families of terrorists,” a senior diplomatic source said. “The Palestinian Authority continues to praise, incite and encourage terrorism with these payments.”

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Donald Trump raised this issue with PA President Mahmoud Abbas when the latter was in Washington in May. Tillerson said that he himself pressed the issue even more so when he met Abbas that same day.

“I told him, you absolutely must stop making payments to family members of, quote, ‘martyrs’,”  Tillerson said. “I said, it’s one thing to help orphans and children. But when you designate the payment for that act, that has to stop.”

Tillerson continued: “They have changed their policy – at least I have been informed they’ve changed that policy – and they are, their intent is to cease the payments to the family members of those who have committed murder or violence against others.”

Tillerson said these payments are not acceptable to the administration, and “certainly not acceptable to the American people.” Tillerson was asked about the matter by Idaho’s republican Senator Jim Risch.

 

Iran says mastermind behind dual Tehran terrorist attacks killed

June 11, 2017

Source: Israel Hayom | Iran says mastermind behind dual Tehran terrorist attacks killed

“The mastermind and main commander of terrorist attacks on the parliament and Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini was killed by security forces,” Iranian minister says • Intelligence Ministry claims it has been “crushing” terrorist teams on a daily basis.

Reuters and Israel hayom Staff
Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops secure the area outside the Iranian Parliament building during Wednesday’s attack

Terror stalking UK kills 33 people in 3 months

June 4, 2017

Source: Terror stalking UK kills 33 people in 3 months

 DEBKA

The multiple London Bridge terrorist attacks Saturday night, June 3, which killed at least seven people and injured another 48, was the third terror outrage in Britain in three months. They were all the work of homegrown followers of the Islamic State. This means that an ISIS network is at large in the UK and has so far evaded the reach of British security and intelligence services.

In the first two attacks in March, a car and knife attack in Westminster left 5 people dead; the Manchester bombing nine days ago ended in 22 people killed.The “severe” terror threat level in place across Britain, four days before the general election, accounted for the rapid response of armed police and medical services to the first reports of the horrific car-ramming and stabbing attacks on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market.

Almost every day since the assault on the Manchester pop concert, the British police have announced fresh arrests of suspects linked to the Islamist terrorist network known to be operating in Britain. Saturday night’s attack exposed the fact that British security services led by MI5, which is in charge of anti-terrorist operations inside the country, had failed to uncover the malign cell at work, or found a lead to the masterminds running it.

Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who blew up the Manchester concert, left not a single trace to the network although he had been on-and-off an intelligence watch list and the authorities had received three warnings that he was a potential threat.

Unlike Israeli police, the British authorities can no longer claim that Britain is faced with lone wolf assaults. The latest London atrocity was perpetrated by a gang of three-to-five jihadis, acting with a support system; Abedi likewise was shown to have had help.

The British are well aware that the scale of potential jihadism at home has reached crisis proportions. According to official figures, anti-terror agencies know of some 23,000 Islamist extremists, of whom 500 are rated capable to breaking into violent attacks without prior notice. It is now clear that the perpetrators of the most recent terrorist incidents in the UK were not included in either of those lists and are operating outside the net laid down by British intelligence.
MI5 is therefore without any real leads to the most dangerous Islamist terror network Britain has seen. The service may be in need of a thorough overall of its personnel and methods for a fresh start on the war on terror, a process that would take time.

Three points stand out in the combined London Bridge attack:

1. The terrorists wore fake bomb vests as a gimmick for capturing and taking hostages at one or more of the pubs or restaurants at Borough Market, which were crowded with Saturday night patrons. It was only the expeditious response of the London police which unhesitatingly shot dead three male suspects within minutes that cut the incident short.

2.  Security authorities in the West often explain attacks at home as prompted by setbacks suffered by ISIS on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. This argument is fallacious. ISIS does not distinguish between the two fronts because it regards both as a single continuous arena of conflict for a single cause, war on the West. So long as the jihadists are able to hit Western cities, they will claim, like Al Qaeda, that they are undefeated and  continue to mount terrorist outrages.

3.  It is not much use for people in authority to call on everyone in London or Manchester – or any other city struck by terror – to carry on with their lives as usual. The attacks inevitably cast a pall of fear and individual concern about the future, even outside the immediate circle of victims.
The sights and scenes witnessed and graphically disseminated on social media are haunting and traumatic.
One witness reported on the attacks Saturday: “They were running up shouting, ‘This is for Allah.’ They stabbed this girl maybe 10 times, 15 times.”

The first police officer to reach the bridge after a white van swerved into pedestrians was stabbed. A photo showed the attackers then “used 12-inch hunting knives to attack revelers at busy bars and restaurants in the nearby Borough Market.”

One witness said he chased the attackers, who were running into pubs and bars. Some people threw bottles, chairs and other items to try and stop them.

The sight of people escaping the scenes of attacks their hands on their heads will not be easily forgotten.

London Bridge station and Borough Tube Station will remain closed for the rest of the day. Several streets around the London Bridge area remain closed. Prime Minister Theresa discontinued her campaign for the June 8 election and is chairing a Cobra emergency meeting later Sunday. She is expected to make a statement shortly.

Iran agrees to renew funding to Hamas — report

May 30, 2017

Source: Iran agrees to renew funding to Hamas — report | The Times of Israel

Gaza-based terror group’s leader will reportedly travel to Tehran in near future to mend ties with Islamic Republic

May 30, 2017, 9:57 am
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hosts Hamas Prime Minister of Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran, February 12, 2012 (photo credit: AP)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pictured here in Tehran with Prime Minister of Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, leads the world’s largest Shia country. (photo credit: AP)

Iran has agreed in principle to renew its funding for the Hamas terror group, according to a report published in a London-based Arabic daily Tuesday.

Palestinian officials told Asharq al-Awsat that Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of the Gaza-based terror group, will visit Tehran in the near future to bridge gaps between the parties and resolve old disagreements.

The deal to restore Hamas’s financial support came after marathon meetings in Lebanon between officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, the report said.

Relations between Iran and Hamas have been rocky since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, when the Palestinian terror organization came out against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is backed by Tehran.

The report also said Iran wanted Haniyeh to be the new head of Hamas, and would have refused to work with the terror organization had former deputy head Moussa Abu Marzouk won the elections earlier this month.

In a leaked phone conversation from January 2016, Abu Marzouk accused Iran of halting its financial support in 2009. “We haven’t gotten anything from them since 2009, and everything [the Iranians] are saying is a lie,” he was quoted as saying, although the recording was not dated.

But a Sunday Telegraph report in April 2015, which cited intelligence sources, claimed Iran has sent tens of millions of dollars to the Hamas military wing to help reconstruct tunnels used by the terror group in its operations against Israel, and to replenish its rocket arsenal. The Islamic Republic has also pledged to pay the families of Palestinian attackers killed in the wave of Palestinian stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks that erupted in October 2015.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group in Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, December 12, 2014 . (AP/Adel Hana)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group in Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, December 12, 2014 . (AP/Adel Hana)

Tuesday’s report said that as part of the agreement to restore payments, Iran waived an earlier demand for Hamas to declare its support for Tehran in its struggle against Saudi Arabia.

Majority Shiite Iran and predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia support opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Palestinian sources added that Iran views the new agreement with Hamas as an opportunity to build a strong Sunni alliance as it continues its fight against the Gulf states, the Palestinian Authority, and other regional foes.

During his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, US President Donald Trump accused Tehran of spearheading global terror. Along with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, he called for the Islamic Republic to be shunned.

“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” Trump said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed the accusations during a press briefing on Monday.

“These improper, incorrect and irrelevant positions of certain countries are nothing new and they try to project the blame on others and such remarks are unbelievable and unacceptable,” he said.