Tuesday, October 16, 2018

From Ian:

Hamas Turns Israeli Border Into ‘24/7’ War Zone in New Bid to Kidnap Israeli Soldiers
Hamas has intensified its violent demonstrations against Israel, turning the border between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip into a "24/7" war zone as the terrorist group amps up its efforts to kidnap Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli security sources and regional reports.

Hamas ramped up this past week its months-long violent demonstrations along the Gaza border as part of new plans to "kidnap soldiers so that it will have a bargaining chip to use against Israel for speeding up the removal of the blockade," according to an investigation into new ways Hamas is probing Israel's defenses provided by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, or JCPA, a security research institute.

Violence raged throughout the weekend and into late Monday, with some 20,000 Palestinians participating in the demonstration, which have grown increasingly violent as Hamas operatives begin to deploy explosive devices, grenades, incendiary balloons, and other makeshift weapons.

Hamas's goal is create as much confusion and violence on the border as possible to elicit a response from the Israeli Defense Forces that could provide the terror group with an opportunity to kidnap soldiers. The renewed border violence is part of an effort by Hamas to test Israel's will and provoke a violent response.

"Over the past few weeks, Hamas has intensified the violence on the border after the failure of talks with Egyptian intelligence services in Cairo about reconciliation and calm and after the refusal of [Palestinian Authority] chairman Mahmoud Abbas to remove the sanctions that he imposed on the Gaza Strip," according to the JCPA's report.

"The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000 people," the group disclosed. "Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been a rise in terror attacks caused by sending incendiary balloons and kites into Israel."

Hamas's chief priority: The kidnap of Israeli soldiers so that they can be used as pawns in the terror group's campaign against Israel.
Defense minister: Israel needs to deal Hamas a heavy blow
"We have reached a red line. Israel needs to deal a heavy blow to Gaza and Hamas," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the culmination of a security assessment near the Gaza border Tuesday.

As clashes between Israel and Palestinian rioters in Gaza steadily escalate, Lieberman indicated that the remark was prompted specifically by events last weekend, when "in the morning we permitted the U.N. to bring four truckloads of fuel into Gaza, and in the evening we sustained an outburst of violence – unlike any violence I can remember in a long time."

Lieberman called on the "entire cabinet" to reach a decision on the matter, saying the escalating violence has dictated "the direction we must take in terms of security."

The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet was expected to convene on Wednesday to discuss Israel's steps in Gaza.

Referring to increasingly violent border protests and a months-long Palestinian campaign involving firebombs launched across the border into Israel on kites and balloons, Lieberman said that "we tried to resolve the problem nicely by cooperating with the international community, with U.N. bodies and with anyone who wanted. We have exhausted the options and now the time has come to make a decision."

"My position has been very clear, and I have only grown more resolute," Lieberman continued. "We need to deal a heavy blow. It's the only way to restore the reality to what it was before and lower the violence level down to zero."

Khashoggi to Post in 2007: Nakba no different than Holocaust
Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who disappeared in suspicious circumstances in early October, described the relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia as only a "political," not a religious problem in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post years before his disappearance.

"Yes, we have a problem with Israel, but it's a political problem," Khashoggi told the Post at a 2007 Capitol Hill reception condemning antisemitism, when he was part of the diplomatic corp of Prince Turki Al Faisal, then Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

"It should be a known fact that the Arabs never had a problem with antisemitism, but we need to state that over and over again," Khashoggi added, justifying the surprising Saudi presence at the event.

Speaking of the Holocaust, Khashoggi called the chapter a horrible episode in history, but also said that there were other terrible events throughout history, such as the burning of Baghdad by the Mongols in the Middle Ages or the Palestinian Nakba.

"I know Jewish people don't like this comparison, but everyone has his own Holocaust," he said.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Hamas: Israel’s ‘empty threats’ don’t scare Palestinians
A senior Egyptian delegation is scheduled to visit Ramallah on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to avert a military confrontation in the Gaza Strip and end the Hamas-Fatah rift.

The delegation may also visit the Gaza Strip for talks with Hamas leaders, Palestinian sources said on Monday.

On the eve of the visit, Hamas said that Israeli threats to launch a military operation in the Gaza Strip in response to the continued violence along the border do not scare Palestinians. “The threats serve as an incentive for increased participation in the March of Return, its continuity and its development,” Hamas said in a statement.

The “March of Return” is the name Hamas and other Palestinian factions have chosen for the weekly protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which began last March.

Hamas said that instead of issuing “empty threats,” Israel should end its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas was responding to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s remarks on Sunday in which Israel would launch a “different” kind of response if the attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israel would not end.
Meet ‘Joe,’ bringing objectivity to Mideast reporting in 280 characters or less
Since March, the Gazan border has played host to a series of violent demonstrations. Thousands of rioters, some of whom are armed with hand grenades, Molotov cocktails and slingshots, regularly amass along the border. As a whole, major media outlets have failed to accurately and objectively cover the events of the so-called “March of Return,” and as a result, the truth surrounding the events of the last several months has been largely obfuscated.
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Enter Joseph Truzman, known on Twitter simply as “Joe.” What began as a hobby of tracking and documenting various Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip has become the “go to” source for objective coverage of the ongoing clashes in the enclave.

“What I do is all about showing what is [happening] on the ground without advocating,” said Truzman, who works from Oregon. “I want a good representation of the facts on the ground.”

Truzman, who daily tweets dozens photos, videos and statements from the various factions in the Gaza Strip, has garnered attention from high-profile journalists and, more notably, high-ranking Israeli officials who regularly share his content on their own social media pages.

Joe was tight-lipped on how he gathers his information. “I can’t reveal the secrets to my recipe,” he joked. He went on to say that protecting the identity of his sources, especially of those in Gaza, is of the utmost importance. In the Hamas-controlled strip, these informants risk death when they share information that may expose the militants’ tactics to the outside world.

Truzman has followed Israeli security affairs since childhood, specifically those related to Gaza.
PMW: Touch the dead "Martyr" and brag to your friends
"Touching a Martyr" is worth street credit if you're a kid in the PA. Kids want to touch the dead body so they can "brag to their friends" about it, according to the official PA daily. (Oct. 15, 2018)

"Touching a Martyr" is worth street credit if you're a kid in the Palestinian Authority. Kids want to touch the dead body so they can "brag to their friends" about it, according to the official PA daily.

Referring to the "images that remain" when "parting from the Martyrs," the paper described:
"A boy is hanging out the window of a room and watching the parting from the Martyr... He comes out quickly and tries to touch the head of the Martyr. He wants to reach the glory in order to brag to his friends that he touched a Martyr..."
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 2, 2018]

Palestinian Media Watch has reported in the past on this cult-like behavior towards "Martyrs", which the Palestinian Authority promotes and glorifies.

Not only does the "Martyr's" "glory" rub off on you if you touch him, but the Martyr is also believed to be "a groom" on his way to his wedding to the 72 Virgins in Paradise:

"When the body of the Martyr reached his home, his closest friend Ata looked for the Martyr's mother and shouted: 'We have brought you the groom; we have brought you the groom.'"
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 2, 2018]

According to Islamic belief, a "Martyr" marries 72 Dark-Eyed Virgins in Paradise. Therefore a "Martyr's" funeral is considered a "wedding." Palestinian religious leaders have repeatedly explained that becoming a "Martyr" represents the highest achievement that can be attained by a Muslim.
IDF aircraft fires at cell launching incendiary balloons from Gaza
An IDF aircraft opened fire at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, the army said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from the airstrike. The incident came amid a marked uptick in suspected incendiary balloon attacks from Gaza.

The use of fire balloons had been halted for several weeks, after months of multiple daily attacks left over seven thousand acres in southern Israel scorched and sparked fears of children being injured by bombs placed on balloons or kites and launched over the border.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that a “hard blow” to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group would return calm to southern Israel, as an internal Palestinian conflict and failed negotiations between Israel and Hamas threatened to bring about another war in the coastal enclave.

At the opening of the Knesset on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an apparent reference to the tensions on the Gaza border that he is “doing everything to prevent unnecessary wars,” before adding that Israel would not hesitate to fight when required.

Also on Monday, an Israeli military aircraft bombed a Hamas position in the southern Gaza Strip after two Palestinian men set off an explosive device near the security fence earlier in the day, the army said.
Incendiary balloon found in central city of Lod
Israel Police sappers were called Tuesday to respond to an incendiary balloon found in the central city of Lod.

The sappers neutralized the device.

Police reiterated instructions to the public not to touch or approach suspicious objects, including kites and balloons that may contain flammable or explosive material. Anyone who finds such an object should report it to the police call center and leave handling of the device to sappers, police said in a statement.

The tactic of sending airborne incendiary devices into Israeli territory has been used almost daily by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the start of weekly border protests there in March.

It wasn’t immediately clear where the balloon found in Lod was sent from.

Incendiary devices burned half of forests near Gaza, data shows
Half of the forested land near the Gaza Strip has been burned in the last six months as a result of incendiary kites and balloons sent from the Palestinian coastal enclave, new data released Tuesday showed, even as multiple fires were burning in the region.

The information, from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), showed that more than 1,100 fires that have been set ablaze since April 10, the day KKL-JNF workers first reported fires from incendiary devices. The fires have burned nearly 12,000 dunams (120 hectares) of land near the Gaza Strip, more than half of the 21,000 dunams (2,100 hectares) of forested land in the region.

Early Tuesday, an IAF aircraft struck a launching post for incendiary balloons that had been sent into Israel, one of multiple reported by local authorities for the day.

Since April, Palestinians have routinely sent incendiary devices — kites and balloons affixed with Molotov cocktails or burning cloths — across the border fence with the aims of setting Israeli territory ablaze. In recent weeks, a number have been found in Jerusalem as well, which have been dealt with by Israeli police. Despite a late-summer lull in the number of incendiary devices, the amount sent into Israeli territory has steadily increased again in October.
Honest Reporting: Euronews Multiplies Seven Dead Palestinians to ‘Dozens Killed’
The weekend witnessed yet more Palestinian violence at the Gaza border. While the international media continue to refer to events there as ‘protests,’ the reality is far more serious.

Protest hardly begins to describe 14,000 Palestinians thronging the border fence areas, burning tires and throwing rocks, firebombs and grenades at IDF soldiers stationed atop earth mounds on the other side of the barrier, as was the case on Friday October 12.

As a result, seven Palestinians were killed in the rioting, including three who breached the border fence and ran toward IDF soldiers. The figure of seven dead was put out by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

It’s one thing to question Palestinian casualty figures when they come from Hamas, which has an interest in inflating the numbers. It’s quite another for a media outlet to multiply those very numbers.
Trump plan includes unification of Judea, Samaria with Gaza
The Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ to promote a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority includes plans to reunite the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with the Palestinian Authority, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

While details of President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East have yet to be released, White House special envoy Jason Greenblatt revealed in an interview with Yediot Ahronot Tuesday that the plan includes a provision for Palestinian Arab unity.

"Let’s be clear about something: Gaza and the West Bank have been separated for 10 years, not only physically, but politically—between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It’s absurd to deny that reality," Greenblatt said Tuesday.

"In contrast, our peace plan intends to bring them together. Make no mistake; we are in this to help all Palestinians, in both the West Bank and Gaza. The type of disinformation being spread by some parties who have not even seen the plan yet wish to be spoilers does nothing to benefit ordinary Palestinian lives.”

Greenblatt did not reveal further details of the White House peace plan, which has yet to be finalized, but implored all parties involved to withhold judgment until the specifics of the plan are released.

"Once our plan is released, all parties should read it and judge it by its merits. The PLO should be a positive force to change people’s lives for the better, and not try to sway people before they have even seen our plan," Greenblatt added.
Netanyahu Blasts B’Tselem as ‘Disgrace’ Ahead of Its UN Security Council Address
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a conference of Christian media gathered in Israel on Sunday night that the anti-Israeli army group B’Tselem is a “disgrace,” ahead of the group’s leader addressing the UN Security Council this week.

In response to a question by Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth, the prime minister said, “How do I define B’Tselem? It’s a disgrace. That is how I define B’Tselem.”

B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad is expected to address the UN Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Middle East on Thursday, led by Bolivia as it holds the rotating UNSC presidency this month. Although he addressed an informal gathering of the chamber in 2016 along with the radical group Americans for Peace Now, the upcoming address will be his first formal speech in front of the council.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov will give a synopsis of the latest in the region. Also invited to speak are Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon; Palestinian observer in the United Nations Riyad Mansour; and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
Envoy rebukes Security Council for meddling in Israel's affairs
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon on Monday ‎rebuked the U.N. Security Council for meddling in Israel's ‎internal affairs and accused it of hypocrisy for opposing the eviction of an illegally ‎built Bedouin village in the West Bank while supporting the eviction ‎of Jewish settlements. ‎

The rebuke was included in a letter addressed to Security Council members ‎ahead of their weekly session on the Middle East.‎

In a first, Thursday's session will feature Hagai El-Ad, the ‎director of controversial left-wing human rights ‎organization B'Tselem, who has been ‎invited to address the U.N.'s top body. ‎

An official with the Israeli mission to the U.N. ‎said the meeting was likely to focus on the pending ‎eviction of Khan al-Ahmar, an illegal encampment 6 miles east ‎of Jerusalem with about 180 ‎Bedouin residents. ‎

Israel has offered to resettle the residents in a ‎village 7 miles away, but the United Nations, ‎European Union and others have denounced the plan, ‎saying that razing the village may even amount to a ‎war crime.‎

In his letter, Danon ‎stressed that the issue of Khan al-Ahmar's eviction ‎had been thoroughly examined by the Israeli ‎judiciary and the High Court of Justice had ruled that it ‎could go ahead.‎
Yisrael Medad: What's With the Waqf?
Being reported there's a crisis between the Jordanian Endowments [Waqf] and the Jerusalem Endowments [Waqf] Department ... and threats of separation?

the Jordanian Awqaf sent a delegation to occupied Jerusalem to cancel the contracts of all employees and the work of new contracts...the staff rejected the wording of the new contracts being unfair to them, while the Waqf as represented by its director in Jerusalem, Azzam al-Khatib, said anyone who refuses to sign will be dismissed

Seems the employees view their role as on of "protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque and confronting the settlers".

In addition to duration of their work contracts and other items, there is a demand regarding a deduction for Jordanian health insurance, which they do not benefit by forcing Jerusalemites to the Israeli health insurance, and turn it into an optional item for those who wanted them.
Australia may also recognize East Jerusalem as future Palestinian capital
Israel has applauded the news that Australia is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Monday evening to the country’s new Prime Minister Scott Morrison and thanked him for his surprising announcement.

“Jerusalem is, always has been and always will be the capital of Israel, and recognition of this is recognition of an indisputable fact,” Israel’s embassy in Canberra said in an official statement.

But a closer look at the joint statement Morrison and his foreign minister, Marise Payne, issued on Tuesday shows that Australia’s potential recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, if it actually happens, would extend only to the western part of the city, and would include the recognition of its eastern part as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Canberra “will carefully examine the arguments put forward by Australia’s former Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, that we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state,” the joint statement reads.

“Specifically, the Government will examine the merits of moving Australia’s embassy to West Jerusalem, in the context of our support for a two-state solution. Any decision will be subject to a rigorous assessment of the potential impact of such a move on our broader national interests.”

Netanyahu lauds, Palestinians deplore Australia for mulling embassy move
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended his Australian counterpart for weighing the possibility of moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, following the lead of US President Donald Trump, but Palestinians slammed what they called a “very disturbing” move.

Scott Morrison “informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this,” Netanyahu tweeted late Monday night.

“We will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia,” he added.

The Palestinian Authority delegation to Australia blasted the announcement, The Guardian reported, calling it “deeply disturbing” and adding that it would boost Trump’s attempts to resume peace negotiations in a way that leaves the issues of Jerusalem and refugees “off the table.”

“The short-term political gain that could be secured by moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would surely be outweighed by the detriment both to Australia’s international standing and in its relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries and the international community more broadly,” the delegation warned.

In a statement, it urged Canberra to “exercise caution and prudence towards this sensitive final-status issue and to seriously consider the consequences of any such move.”

The top Palestinian diplomat in Australia, Izzat Salah Abudulhadi, reportedly held a meeting with representatives of 12 Middle Eastern countries to discuss the latest development.

On Tuesday, hours after Australian media began reporting on the possibility, Morrison called a press conference to say he was “open-minded” to proposals to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move his nation’s embassy to the holy city, a sharp break with the policy of successive Australian governments for decades.

“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly it hasn’t been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison said.

He described proposals to recognize Jerusalem and move Australia’s embassy there as “sensible” and “persuasive” and said they would be considered by the government.
Muslim states decry Australia's possible Jerusalem embassy move
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election in four days, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, prompting concern from Indonesian and Palestinian officials.

Morrison’s comments about recognizing Jerusalem and possibly moving Australia’s embassy there, just like US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in December, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia’s Asian neighbors.

Australia is due to a sign a trade deal this year with Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, where the Palestinian question is a sensitive issue and tens of thousands protested against Trump’s decision.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, speaking at a joint news conference with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Jakarta, reaffirmed Indonesia’s support for a two-state solution to the Middle East dispute and warned Australia against the risk of insecurity.

“Indonesia asks Australia and other countries to support peace talks... and not take steps that would threaten that peace process and stability of world security,” Marsudi said.

Morrison told parliament on Tuesday he had been in touch with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to explain his position.
Maliki said he was saddened that Australia might violate international law and disrespect a UN Security Council resolution.

“They are risking Australia’s trade and business relationship with the rest of the world, in particular (the) Arab and Muslim world,” he said.
Turkish police shoot tractor driver who rams cars near Israeli envoy’s residence
Police in Ankara on Tuesday shot the driver of a tractor that struck a series of cars in the Turkish capital. The driver, who ignored calls to stop and was shot in the leg, later told police he planned a protest outside the Israeli embassy, the state-run news agency reported.

The man, a 45-year-old farmer, was eventually stopped in an area close to the Israeli ambassador’s residence. It was unclear whether the driver mistook the residence for the embassy.

An Israeli official, who did not wish to be named, said, “To the best of our understanding, the incident was not related to Israel or its embassy.”

The Ankara governor’s office said the man had been under treatment for psychological problems since 2007.
Bucking boycott, Palestinian to vie for seat on Jerusalem City Council
A Palestinian civil engineer from east Jerusalem is bucking his people's boycott of Israeli politics by running for a seat on the Jerusalem City Council in the Oct. 30 municipal elections.

Ramadan Dabash, 51, is running with a campaign that demands equitable municipal services while sidestepping the long struggle over sovereignty.

A third of Jerusalem's residents are Palestinians, who pay taxes but complain of neglect by Israeli authorities more attentive to the western, Jewish districts.

The division has been reinforced by a policy of nonparticipation in Jerusalem municipal politics ordered by the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the adjacent West Bank and wants east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Dabash is running at the head of a politically independent list. His campaign has been condemned by the PA.

Speaking in his district of Sur Baher, where dirty streets and open piles of refuse are common sights, Dabash says he is impatient for change and there is a need for pragmatic adaptation.
Two brothers caught red-handed bulldozing antiquities site
Authorities caught two antiquities thieves red-handed as they were allegedly smashing parts of a ancient biblical site in search of treasures.

Antiquities Authority (IAA) inspectors and the volunteers of the Border Guard’s Lower Galilee unit announced Tuesday that they had arrested two thieves over the weekend. The thieves used a bulldozer to destroy part of the Horvat Devorah antiquities sites, which researchers have identified with the biblical city Dovrat.

According to the Antiquities Authority, during the thieves’ search, they uncovered and shattered underground cavities and uprooted masonry stones that were part of the remains of a 2,000-year-old settlement.

A few days before the incident, the IAA inspectors noticed damage that had been done to the site and since then it had been under constant surveillance. It is suspected that the same two people had caused the initial damage and returned on the weekend to continue their hunt for antiquities.

A fragment of basalt millstones that were used to grind flour and potsherds from the Hellenistic period were found in the debris of land the suspects had destroyed.

The IAA inspectors and Border Police volunteers caught the suspects in the act and took them to the Tiberias police station. The suspects are two brothers in their thirties from the nearby Arab village of Daburiya.
US designates Hezbollah a 'transnational crime organization'
The United States on Monday designated Lebanon's ‎Hezbollah and four other groups as international ‎crime organizations.‎

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions named the ‎Iranian-backed terrorist group, alongside Central ‎American street gang MS-‎‎13, Mexico's Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, the Sinaloa Cartel, an ‎international ‎organized crime ‎syndicate based in ‎Mexico, and Colombian drug cartel Clan ‎del Golfo as ‎‎"top transnational organized crime threats" that ‎Washington plans to target with tougher ‎investigations and prosecutions. ‎

A special team of "experienced international ‎narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, ‎and money laundering prosecutors" will investigate ‎individuals and networks providing support to ‎Hezbollah, Sessions said in a press conference.‎

‎"With this new task force in place, our efforts will ‎be more targeted and more effective than ever," ‎Sessions added, explaining that in 90 days task-‎force members will give him specific recommendations ‎‎"to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them ‎off of our streets."‎

The United States has in the past imposed several ‎rounds of sanctions on Hezbollah and officials ‎affiliated with the Shiite group, which the State ‎Department designated as a terrorist organization in ‎‎1997.‎
Washington Post: Failed Paris Attack Raises Fear in Europe that Iran Is Planning More Terror
The failed terror attack earlier this year in Paris has “sparked growing anxiety” in numerous European countries, the United States, and Israel, that Iran is increasing its intelligence activities abroad in preparation for more “audacious” terror attacks, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Citing American, European, and Middle Eastern experts familiar with the intelligence, Iran is “making contingency plans to strike at the country’s adversaries in the event of open conflict,” the Post said.

The Iranian preparations for possible attacks include deploying units to surveil opponents of the regime, as well as Jewish and Israeli organizations, in both Europe and the U.S. A Middle Eastern intelligence official told the Post that there has been a “definite uptick” in activities by Iranian agents recently. The official added that Iran is preparing “for the possibility of conflict.”

The Post noted that in August the U.S. Justice Department charged two Iranian men on espionage charges. They were accused of gathering information on Jewish and Israeli sites, as well as individuals associated with the rebel group MEK, and passing the information on to Iran.

The case of the attempted attack on an MEK rally in Paris this past summer, however, which included the participation of an Iranian diplomat, was assessed to be the “most alarming,” recent case. The official involved, Assadolah Assadi, was a high-ranking diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna. Assadi has also been identified as the station chief of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, or MOIS, according to American and European officials.
Iran Says Its Land-to-Sea Missiles Can Now Travel 700 Kilometers
Iran has extended the range of its land-to-sea ballistic missiles to 700 kilometers (435 miles), a senior Iranian military official said on Tuesday amid rising tensions with the United States over Tehran’s missile program.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran‘s nuclear program in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, saying the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran‘s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

Iran, which says its missile program is purely defensive, has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Iranian oil exports.

“We have managed to make land-to-sea ballistic, not cruise, missiles that can hit any vessel or ship from 700 km,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ air space division, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

Hajizadeh said the Guards focused on extending the land-to-sea missile’s range after Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked the military a decade ago about the possibility of “hitting ships” with ballistic projectiles.
Israel, US send secret delegation to Ukraine to train against S-300 – report
Israel and the United States sent a secret military delegation to Ukraine to test the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system, which Moscow recently provided to Syria, Hadashot TV news reported Monday, citing Syrian and Russian news outlets.

There was no comment on the reports from either Israel or the US.

According to the reports, members of the Ukrainian military instructed their US and Israeli counterparts on the capabilities of the system, as well as running through various possible scenarios.

One Russian report said that F-15 planes are training in Ukraine against the S-300 as part of an international exercise that includes Israeli pilots. It wasn’t immediately clear if the Israeli pilots were flying or merely observing from the ground.

Tensions remain high between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has been known to direct misinformation as a tool in the conflict.
Syrian refugee baby returns to Israel for second life-saving operation
The "Syrian baby," an infant who was flown to Israel a few months ago for life-saving surgery when it was only a few days old, will be back in Israel today for an additional operation, according to Israeli media.

The case of the Syrian baby made headlines late last year, when it was flown to Israel on a special medically-equipped plane from Cyprus, where the child's parents, Syrian refugees, are staying, and its life was saved thanks to an emergency operation at Israel's Sheba Medical Centre.

At the time, the Cypriot Health Ministry approached the Israeli Ambassador in Cyprus, Sammy Revel, with an urgent request to fly the baby, who was born with a severe heart defect, to Israel for medical treatment. After receiving special authorization from Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the baby arrived with his father, a Syrian national, and underwent the complex heart surgery. The baby and its father remained in Israel for some time for monitoring before flying back to Cyprus.

With the assistance of the consular wing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Embassy in Cyprus, the "Syrian baby" will arrive back in Israel today for another scheduled procedure.

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