Wednesday, April 22, 2020

04/22 Links Pt1: Antisemitism in the age of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic; Shin Bet nabs 3 Palestinian men in Hamas plot to bomb Jerusalem soccer arena

From Ian:

Israeli UN Ambassador Danon: Palestinians getting coronavirus aid from Israel respond with outrageous claims
Israel has gone to great lengths and donated generously to protect Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from the coronavirus pandemic, but our lifesaving assistance has been greeted by Palestinians spreading lies and inciting hatred against Israel and the Jewish people.

The Palestinian Authority that governs much of the West Bank and the terrorist group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip have been happy to accept massive amounts of Israeli assistance, which includes:

Professional medical training for Palestinians to share best practices and ensure they have tools and knowledge required to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

Thousands of coronavirus testing kits and protective gear for Palestinians.

Over 200 tons of medical supplies, 50 tons of building materials, and a dozen tons of food to help Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, despite the territory being ruled Hamas, which does not even recognize Israel’s right to exist and regularly launches rocket attacks on civilians in the Jewish state.

Under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority is fabricating a false narrative about Israel that has taken on anti-Semitic undertones. The authority falsely accuses Israel of deliberately obstructing Palestinian efforts to combat the virus – but the exact opposite is true.

In official letters to the United Nations, Palestinian Authority slanders include the wild claim that Israel is smuggling Palestinian workers back into Palestinian-controlled territory via wastewater tunnels to avoid testing checkpoints, with the hope of infecting other Palestinians.

In perhaps the most obscene defamation – akin to the infamously anti-Semitic blood libels – the Palestinian Authority accuses Israeli soldiers of deliberately spreading the virus among the Palestinian population.

The Palestinian Authority is far more interested in escalating its diplomatic warfare against Israel than in saving Palestinian lives in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Abbas and his colleagues are trying to change the conversation away from cooperation with Israel and into slandering.

As the Palestinian Authority injects these poisonous lies into the global discussion, it is willing to accept not just aid from Israel but from the U.S., despite its repeated denunciations of President Trump and its refusal to even consider the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that President Trump proposed and that Israel accepted as the basis for negotiations.
David Collier: Antisemitism in the age of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
The Coronavirus antisemitism reports – failure of the Brits

There have been several reports produced by Jewish organisations focusing on the coronavirus antisemitism. Having read them it is clear that in the US, they understand the issue far better than we do in the UK. You CANNOT discuss antisemitism and focus almost exclusively on the neo-Nazi aspect. This type of reporting is lazy. Even people like Jackie Walker get neo-Nazi antisemitism. Like with Corbyn, anti-fascist Marxist activists have no trouble holding aloft the Jews as victims when it suits them:

No offence but it is almost formulaic. An event occurs and you quickly look for a couple of outrageous memes on neo-Nazi websites. You link to them and you have your blog. It is this single-minded blindness that helped create the environment for the rise of antisemitism in the first place. The neo-Nazi ‘holocough’ is a clear and easy image to spread. Yes, if you attack the neo-Nazis, there is no pushback. Everyone applauds you. But telling the truth without fear remains the only way of fighting antisemitism. You have to anger some of those who ally with you and open the eyes of people who do not see it. If you are not annoying anyone then you are treading water. You are not truly fighting anti-Jewish racism.

The CST report into antisemitism during the virus is disappointing and indicative of the prevailing mindset that we really need to break free from. ‘Israel’ is only mentioned once, ‘Zionist’ twice – with the central focus being the obscure shared content of neo-Nazi’s in places like the imageboard 4Chan. The word ‘Islam’ does not appear at all in the CST report- as if Islamist antisemitism using the virus to attack Jews is not even a thing. This single-minded anti-Nazi focus is self-defeating.
Anti-Zionism as the new antisemitism

Why is Israel only mentioned once in the CST report? The comparable Simon Wiesenthal Centre report on coronavirus antisemitism references Israel 16 times. This isn’t a difference to easily dismiss. We must address the tunnel vision attitude that allowed for the rise of left-wing anti-Jewish hate in our own neighbourhood. Some of the UK Jewish organisations monitoring antisemitism produced detailed statistics – which are then quoted by both press and politicians – that do not include tests for anti-Zionist antisemitism. How can you produce a statistic for antisemites which does not include someone who believes ‘Zionists’ run the banks and are involved in a plot to take over the world? This insanity allows for left wing antisemites to continually argue that antisemitism is chiefly a problem on the far-right:

To its credit, the UK publication Fathom display more clarity of thought – looking at antisemitism coming from across the spectrum. In not one, but two excellent articles, Lev Topor and Cary Nelson discuss widespread antisemitism related to the virus as well as the horrific exploitation of anti-Israel groups piggy-backing on the Coronavirus outbreak to attack Israel.
B’tselem and the Coronavirus blood libel

For the anti-Israel NGOs, the Coronavirus pandemic has provided a perfect opportunity to accuse Israel of all sorts of dastardly deeds. On Thursday, 26 March B’tselem reported that Israel had confiscated equipment intended for a Coronavirus field clinic. This is one of the lazy accusations that NGOs frequently make and that western media outlets swallow wholesale. Every piece of wood that Israel removes was going to be part of a classroom, every brick was to be the foundation stone of a new hospital. Israel never just removes a normal brick. In today’s climate – the path to the lie about Coronavirus was an obvious one.

Once the lie about the clinic is published as a B’tselem press release, the eager anti-Israel industry turns it into viral news. The fake news piece was reproduced in places such as Independent Catholic News, IMEMC, Mondoweiss, The New Arab, Palestine Chronicle, Palestine Return Centre, The Muslim News UK, and Albawaba News. COGAT can slam B’tselem for making up stories and ‘exploiting a global crisis to spread fake news’- but the damage is done.
Richard Kemp: Coronavirus: Another 9/11 Moment for the West
Commentators and politicians today worry that the current situation might trigger a new cold war with China. They fail to understand that, in a similar but much more far-reaching pattern to the jihadist conflict, China has been fighting a cold war against the West for decades, while we have refused to recognise what is going on.... Like 9/11, Covid-19 must now force the West to wake up and fight back.

For decades, China has been working on its three-pronged strategy: building its economy and fighting capability, including intelligence, technology, cyber and space as well as hard military power; developing global influence to exploit resources and secure control; thrusting back and dividing the US and its capitalist allies.

China's arms exports are not motivated primarily by revenue generation, but as a means to impose influence and control, create proxies and challenge the US.

Chinese investment penetrates every corner of the UK, giving unparalleled influence here as in so many countries. Plans to allow Chinese investment and technology into our nuclear power programme and 5G network will build vulnerability into our critical national infrastructure of an order not seen in any other Western nation. Even the BBC, which receives funding from China, has produced and promoted a propaganda video supporting Huawei, to the alarm of some of its own journalists. All this despite MI5's repeated warnings that Chinese intelligence continues to work against British interests at home and abroad.

United Hatzalah founder lands in Israel after recovering from COVID-19
The founder and president of the first-responder organization United Hatzalah of Israel, Eli Beer, returned to Israel on Tuesday following a lengthy struggle with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Beer was infected with the virus during a fundraising mission for his organization in Florida last month.

Beer was brought back to Israel on the Adelson family's plane after several weeks of treatment in a Miami hospital, including several days under an induced coma and on a ventilator. He managed to get out of the plane by himself, despite struggling to walk.

"We haven't seen in him for 6 weeks, he was on the verge o death, and now it's just amazing that we can see him and kiss him, we are dying to see him again," one of his daughters said just moments before his return.

Once he had descended the stairs to the tarmac, he and his wife embraced each other. "I want to thank the medical team that helped me make it back to Israel, and to Dr. Miriam Adelson and her husband [businessman and philanthropist] Sheldon Adelson, I love them so much," he said. He also gave a special gift to the physician who treated him in Miami and flew with him.

He later told Israel Hayom: "It's amazing to be back home, I did not think I would see my wife and children again."

On his Facebook page he wrote:
"What a journey ... What a great ending.
Thank you for bringing our father back home.
Thank you Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson.
With all the happiness and joy we feel, we don't forget all the people who are fighting for their lives right now, and all those who have lost their lives or lost someone they love.
We have so much to write and say and so many people to thank ... and we will be sharing more soon..
But for now, home sweet home. Thank you all for being here for us!♡ The Beer Family and Eli"
Religious leaders pray in Jerusalem for end of coronavirus pandemic
Chief Rabbis, patriarchs, archbishops, imams, and sheikhs assembled together in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon to recite a joint prayer to God to alleviate the suffering experienced around the world by the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders who gathered on the terrace of the King David Hotel in the capital overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem read the same prayer jointly in their respective liturgical languages requesting divine mercy.

“God, You who have nourished us in famine and provided us with plenty, You have removed us from pestilence, and freed us from severe and long-lasting disease - Help us,” prayer the religious leaders.

“Until now, Your mercy has aided us and Your kindness has not abandoned us, therefore we plead and request before You to heal us, Lord and we will be healed, Save us and we will be saved, for You are our glory.”

Those present included Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef; Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau; Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa; head of the Organization of Imams from Southern Israel Imam Sheikh Jamal el Ubra, Imam Sheikh Agel Al-Atrash and Druze Spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif.

The religious leaders also spoke out against xenophobia and racism which they said the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated.

Israeli startup’s breath test device to sniff out COVID-19 set to start trials
An Israeli startup is hoping to help healthcare providers detect the deadly coronavirus through a simple and quick breath test, similar to breathalyzers used on suspected drunk drivers.

The firm, Scentech Medical, will be starting a trial of its “breath technology” — a mix of software and hardware — in the coming weeks together with the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.

The Tel Aviv-based company was already developing the technology to try to identify cancer and infectious diseases via analysis of breath — searching for their biomarkers in the thousands of different gases present in each exhalation, explained Dr. Udi Cantor, a general and urological surgeon who is the medical director of the startup team.

The firm was undertaking proof of concept studies in Israel and the US when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, he said. That was when the company decided to try and see if the same method could be also used to sniff out the virus, whose “breath signature” or “biomarker” is yet unknown, he said.

Although Cantor preferred to keep vague details of how the technology works, he explained that it is based on a mix of hardware and software that enables the real-time identification of volatile chemical compounds in breath.

The process uses gas chromatography, a lab technique to separate and analyze compounds in gases; mass spectrometry, a technique used to determine the elemental signatures of particles and molecules; and a ReCIVA breath collecting device.
Maccabi, Medial EarlySign develop algorithm to identify high-risk COVID-19 cases
One of Israel’s leading health care providers on Wednesday announced an artificial intelligence algorithm that it says identifies individuals most at risk for severe COVID-19 complications.

Maccabi Healthcare Services, Israel’s largest HMO with 2.4 million members, said the AI-powered system assesses people based on preexisting conditions and other health variables.

The program analyzes Maccabi members’ anonymized electronic health records, the company said. It was developed by Israeli tech firm Medial EarlySign, which specializes in machine learning analysis of medical data, and the Kahn-Sagol-Maccabi Research and Innovation Institute, which makes the HMO’s medical data accessible to researchers.

The algorithm identified some two percent of Maccabi’s members as potentially high-risk patients.

The algorithm will help Maccabi battle the virus more effectively and allow for fast-tracked testing procedures to cut down on the number of severe COVID-19 cases, Ran Sa’ar, Maccabi’s CEO, said in a statement.

When an individual marked by the algorithm as high-risk for complications contacts medical staff to report possible COVID-19 symptoms, the system will notify the nurse or doctor who receives the notice. They will then forward the individual for immediate testing for the virus.

At-risk individuals will thus receive medical treatment more quickly if they test positive.
Israeli innovators want to help Africans breathe through COVID-19
With fears of ventilator shortages still growing, 300 businesses and nonprofit groups around the world are gearing up to produce breathing support machines using an Israeli DIY design they downloaded from the internet.

Its inventors, who are drawn from the tech, military and medical sectors, say they think their blueprint for a ventilator that can be produced for as little as $500 could avert a collapse of health care systems in Africa, where the coronavirus is expected to strike hard soon. Some of the parts can be 3D-printed straight from the online design.

“This can ventilate millions in Africa when no other machine is around,” said innovation consultant Eitan Eliram, commenting: “In Africa, they haven’t fully woken up to the coronavirus and there are hardly any ventilators, so this can make a huge difference.”

In fact, there are fewer ventilators in the whole of Africa than in Israel. Just 2,000 working machines serve 41 African countries, and ten African countries have none, according to the World Health Organization. Experts are warning that Africa is three weeks behind Europe in spread of the pandemic, and, according to a new report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, even in a best-case scenario, the continent will face 122 million infections.

Teams around the world are talking to innovators at the new nonprofit AmboVent about their eponymous ventilator, as they build prototypes. Eliram, co-founder of AmboVent, said that some of the teams will be in mass production within a month.

It is one of several open-source ventilator designs generating excitement. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has just released a plan for motorizing a manual emergency resuscitator bag.
CAMERA Op-Ed: The Washington Post’s Coronavirus Slander Against Israel
Indeed, as The Jerusalem Post reported on March 21, 2020: “In the last month, COGAT [Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories] has been seen delivering hundreds of testing kits into Gaza, as well as 20 tons of disinfectants used to maintain hygiene and sanitation into the West Bank.”

Nor does Loubani mention that Egypt also maintains a security blockade to prevent armaments from reaching the Gaza Strip. Instead, in keeping with Hamas disinformation campaigns, he targets the Jewish state alone for the “blockade,” which is in reality in place to prevent the free flow of weapons into the Strip.

One can’t blame Loubani, however. His record and agenda are clear.

But one should blame The Washington Post.

The Post’s decision to publish Loubani’s error-laden piece violates its standards and guidelines, which claim that “reporters and editors of The Post are committed to fairness.” “No story is fair,” the Post standards assert, “if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.”

The Post standards also include “The Seven Principles for the Conduct of a Newspaper.” The “first mission of a newspaper,” the Post intones, “is to tell the truth as nearly as it may be ascertained.” The second is to “tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.”

The Post’s failure to vet Loubani’s op-ed is part of a pattern—a pattern that suggests that the ideology and agenda of an opinion writer is more important than the newspaper’s own standards.

In recent years, The Washington Post has published opinion columns by the head of the Houthis, an Iranian-backed militia whose motto is “Death to Israel, Curse the Jews.” On Aug. 30, 2015, it even published a column by a former Iranian diplomat who, German courts allege, ran a veritable hit squad out Iran’s Berlin Embassy, a crime for which he was expelled from the country.

This small sampling is suggestive of a pattern. Failing to address it will come at the cost of the Post opinion section’s credibility.

At a time of international crisis, The Washington Post is not “bringing people all the facts.” Indeed, it’s not even abiding by its own standards and guidelines.
Trump admin. already working with nascent gov’t to implement peace plan
Trump administration representatives began speaking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz about moving forward with its peace plan immediately after they signed an agreement to form a unity government, an administration source said on Tuesday, though the agreement sets July 1 as the earliest date to move forward with settlement annexation.

“We’re optimistic that they’ll want to pursue” the deal, the source said. “It’s more likely to happen with a broad government than in a narrow, right-wing government.”

Under the terms of the coalition agreement signed on Monday, the annexation of 30% of the West Bank – including all the settlements therein – could begin to move forward as early as July 1.

“With regard to President Trump's declaration [on the peace plan], the Prime Minister and the Alternate Prime Minister will act in full agreement with the United States, including with the Americans in regard to the maps and with international dialogue on the subject,” the agreement states, adding that they will do “all of this while pursuing the security and strategic interests of the State of Israel, including the need for maintaining regional stability, the preservation of peace agreements and the pursuit of future peace agreements.”

Both men pledged to support the peace plan that US President Donald Trump unveiled in Washington in January. It allowed for Israeli sovereignty at the start of a four-year process, which also provided for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state in 70% of the West Bank.

Gantz has opposed annexation and would prefer to come to an agreement with the Palestinians and the international community for Israel to apply sovereignty to much of that 30% of the West Bank. The coalition agreement, however, allows for Netanyahu to move forward on annexation irrespective of Gantz’s position on the matter.

Cemeteries to be shut on Memorial Day, lockdown planned for Independence Day
The cabinet on Tuesday announced it planned to close the nation’s military cemeteries during next week’s Memorial Day in light of the coronavirus pandemic — in an apparent first for the State of Israel.

In its announcement, the Prime Minister’s Office said the government also planned to impose a nationwide lockdown the following day, on Israel’s Independence Day, in order to prevent large celebrations and gatherings.

The announcements came as the government has faced pressure to begin to reopen the country, with confirmed coronavirus cases falling to around 200 per day for the past week. However, officials have expressed fears that the virus could easily rebound and warned restrictions may be put back in place.

The country on Monday night marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with small ceremonies or via videoconference, in a preview of what Memorial Day will likely look like.

Ahead of the cabinet’s official decision to close the country’s cemeteries, the bereaved families of fallen soldiers and people killed in terror attacks pleaded with the government to allow them to visit their loved ones’ graves as is tradition on Memorial Day.

The cabinet was scheduled to vote on the measures on Tuesday evening.
Shin Bet nabs 3 Palestinian men in Hamas plot to bomb Jerusalem soccer arena
Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinian men last month who are suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including a bombing in the capital’s Teddy Stadium, the Shin Bet security service said Wednesday.

According to the Shin Bet, the three members of the terror cell — Ahmad Sajdaya, 27, Muhammad Hammad, 26, and Umar Eid, 24 — initially planned to construct a bomb and set it off in Teddy Stadium, performing reconnaissance operations and other preparations before realizing that such an attack would be too difficult to carry out due to the arena’s tight security.

Instead, the trio planned to carry out bombing attacks on IDF troops in the central West Bank and attempted a number of attacks last month around the city of Ramallah, the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, the three men also assisted in a number of attempted bombings against Israeli troops in recent years.
From left, Mohammad Hammad, Umar Eid, and Ahmad Sajdaya, suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, who were arrested in March 2020. (Shin Bet)

The suspects met as students in Birzeit University in the West Bank, where they all belonged to the Hamas-affiliated Kutla Islamiya student group.

According to the Shin Bet, Sajdaya, of the Qalandiya refugee camp, had a history of preparing explosive devices, having lost part of his hand in an accident with one a few years ago.

The security service said Eid, a resident of the West Bank village of Deir Jarir, had an Israeli identity card. Hammad, who lived in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab, did not have permanent Israeli residency, the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, Eid went to a soccer game at Teddy Stadium on April 12, 2019, in order to collect intelligence on the location so that the trio could set off a bomb there, using his Israeli ID card to freely enter the capital from the West Bank.
Palestinian Attacker Wounds Israeli Border Policeman near Jerusalem
West Bank attack was combined car-ramming and stabbing — police

A Border Police officer is moderately injured in a combined car-ramming and stabbing attack at a checkpoint east of Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, police say.

According to police, the assailant rammed his car into the border guard, then got out of the vehicle and attacked the officer with a knife before other troops at the scene shot him.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect has been killed.

Police say a pipe bomb was also found at the scene, requiring the area to be closed off until sappers could remove the device.

The identity of the assailant is not immediately released.

The straw that broke Hamas' back?
What over a decade of a blockade and ongoing military pressure couldn't achieve has been brought about in under a month by coronavirus. More threatened than ever, this time from an invisible enemy, Hamas is showing signs of distress and taking pains to keep the Gaza-Israel border completely quiet, as well as expressing unprecedented willingness to make a far-reaching truce with Israel.

For now, only 12 confirmed corona cases have been reported in the Gaza Strip, and the rate of infection is supposedly under control. But as with a number of neighboring Arab countries, it's hard to trust the numbers coming out of Gaza and even harder to have faith in the healthcare system there. While Israel is carrying out corona testing there, Hamas is still responsible for the health of the population and it has taken a number of steps to that end, such as setting up isolation facilities for limiting movement in the streets.

Israel is very worried about the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak among Gazans, since Israel sees itself and is seen by the world as responsible for what happens there – a harsh reminder to anyone who thought or wanted to believe that we actually "disengaged" back in 2005. But the specter of an outbreak is of even more concern to Hamas, whose leaders are very worried about how the pandemic could affect their status.

In the shadow of the pandemic, the world – including the Arabs and even traditional Hamas allies like Qatar and Turkey – has lost all interest in the Gaza Strip, and even if those allies wanted to, their ability to provide assistance has been curtailed.

The economic crisis that emerged as a result of the pandemic is only making things in Gaza worse, a sort of straw that is breaking the Gaza camel's back. The protests over rising unemployment, the cost of living, food shortages, and more are all directed against the ruling entity – Hamas. What the Arabs of Israel, as well as the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, have discovered, the residents of Gaza are now finding out -- without Israel, they have no one.

As a result, tones have been moderated, and a white flag is being tentatively waved. Only a few weeks ago, before the crisis developed, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar threatened – with characteristic and infuriating arrogance – that he would "cut off the air" to 6 million Israelis, thereby forcing Israel to supply Hamas with ventilators and medical aid. Now, Hamas is singing a different tune, with head of its politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, talking about coronavirus as a mutual strategic threat facing everyone, and a historic watershed moment that will allow for a deal with Israel.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Fatah accuses Israeli journalists of ‘incitement’
In an unprecedented move, the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction has published the names and photos of three Israeli journalists, accusing them of “incitement” against the Palestinian Authority leadership.

In a post on its official page on Facebook, Fatah called on Palestinians to be wary of the three journalists: Yoni Ben Menachem, former director general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Gal Berger, Palestinian affairs correspondent for KAN, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, and Ehud Ya’ari, Arab affairs analyst for Channel 12.

The post included a video clip by Fatah that describes the three journalists as “Israeli war generals masquerading as media people.” The photos of the journalists appeared next to a tank – implying that they are part of the Israeli military establishment.

The post apparently came in response to Israeli accusations that some senior Palestinian officials have been using the coronavirus pandemic to incite against Israel. PA officials have denied the charges.

“They spearheaded the systematic campaign of incitement against President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh,” read a caption attached to the post. “Observers believe that the [Palestinian] efficacy in combating the coronavirus has bothered the Israelis.”
PMW: PA to Palestinians: Al-Aqsa is more precious than your children - in PA TV filler
A filler between broadcasts on official PA TV reinforces the PA’s message to Palestinians that the Islamic holy places and the struggle for “Palestine” are worth the sacrifice of their children. For decades, the PA has promoted to parents and children alike the ideal of dying as “Martyrs” for the cause. In the new filler, the PA teaches Palestinians that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is “more precious than my children and more precious than my family”:

Palestinian Media Watch has shown that the brainwashing works. Constantly telling Palestinians that the Islamic holy places are in danger, are being defiled by Jews, and destroyed by Israel is what make Palestinian teenagers endanger themselves and carry out terror attacks.

Trump to US Navy: Destroy Iranian ships if they harass us at sea
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the U.S. Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, a week after 11 vessels from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came dangerously close to American ships in the Gulf.

Close interactions with Iranian military vessels were not uncommon in 2016 and 2017. On several occasions, U.S. Navy ships fired warning shots at Iranian vessels when they got too close.

While the Navy has the authority to act in self-defense, Trump's comments appeared to go further and are likely to stoke tensions between Iran and the United States.

"I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," Trump wrote in a tweet, hours after Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps said it had launched the country's first military satellite into orbit.
Battle for space: Iran’s IRGC puts first 'military satellite' in orbit
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps say they successfully launched the country’s first “military satellite” into an orbit around earth. This comes after Iran announced new anti-ship missiles with a range of 700km and drones that have a range of 1,500km and may be armed with anti-tank missiles. Iran is on steroids in its attempt to show off its military capabilities at sea, in the air and in space.
Israel strongly condemned Iran’s attempt to launch the military satellite, noting that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is a Foreign Terror Organization, designated by the US. “Today’s attempt at launching a satellite is just a façade for Iran’s continued development of advanced missile technology. Both Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM's) and missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead,” a statement by the Foreign Ministry said.

“Today’s launch is a breach both of Security Council’s resolution 2231, and Iran’s previous commitments to the international community. The Iranian regime continues to focus its efforts on military aggression, instead of mending its failure in dealing with the Coronavirus’s outbreak, that has affected tens of thousands of Iran’s citizens. Israel calls upon the international community to condemn this latest launch, and impose further sanctions on the Iranian regime. All in order to deter it from continuing such dangerous and opposing activity,” Israel’s statement said.

Iranian media were plastered with images Wednesday morning of the large white rocket with an Iranian flag preparing to launch. Iran has a mixed record shooting things into space. It has an advanced program that has launched satellites in the past, including joint research projects with Russia, China and Thailand. Its first breakthrough was Omid, a domestically made satellite that was a major achievement for Tehran’s satellites. It was sent into orbit in 2009 on a homemade missile. Iran launched imaging satellites in 2011 and 2012. However, more recent launches have generally failed to put satellites in orbit.

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