Gaza conflict: Is US pressuring Israel with airport ban?

Washington: The US denies that a ban on US airliners flying to Tel Aviv and a stark US travel warning are ploys to push Israel to agree a Gaza truce.

“I would wholly disagree with that argument,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, when asked if the two directives were a political move to put pressure on Israelis.

“We issued travel warnings because one of our top priorities is protecting US citizens overseas,” she told reporters on Tuesday. Continue reading

Kerry and Ban in truce bid to save Hamas from defeat. Israel holds reply. Cairo won’t amend truce proposal

Three rival groups are in a tug-o’-war over a ceasefire initiative for the Gaza conflict: The US and UN are pulling one way; Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the other; and Qatar, Turkey, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, are trying to manipulate the others.

Monday night, July 21, US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo to press their case with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi: Kerry’s directive was outlined by President Barack Obama a few hours earlier, “to focus on bringing about a ceasefire than ends the fighting and can stop the death of innocent civilians.”

Reported to be pushing for a long-term ceasefire, the UN Secretary went on to comment that it was impossible to go back to the situation that caused the conflict. He ruled out the “status quo ante” for the Gaza Strip as untenable. Continue reading

UAE ‘offered to fund Israel’s Gaza offensive’

DOHA: The UAE knew in advance of Israel’s plans for an offensive in Gaza and even offered to fund the operation provided the militant Palestinian outfit Hamas was eliminated in the process, Israel’s Channel 2 claimed in a recent report, according to local Arabic daily Al Sharq. The daily says in a report published today that Israel’s leading national TV station (Channel 2 in Hebrew) disclosed details of secret parleys between the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, in Paris at the end of last month. Continue reading

As the Israeli Cabinet delays its decision, Palestinians hammer Tel Aviv with heaviest barrage yet

As the Israeli Cabinet failed to reach a decision about Gaza operation, after a relatively quiet night the Palestinians Wednesday launched their heaviest barrage of rockets in the current conflict to date at Gush Dan. Hamas claimed responsibility for sending M-75s at the region.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s ceasefire ploy Tuesday, July 15, instead of calming the violence in Gaza, unleashed a furious spate of 140 rockets from the Gaza Strip, which drew dozens of Israel air strikes after a six-hour lull in operations. By the end of the eighth day of Operation Defensive Edge, the Israeli security cabinet saw it was saddled with a new dilemma: persuading the Egyptian ruler to punish Hamas to the full extent of his power. This is reported by debkafile’s Middle East and military sources. Continue reading

First Hamas rocket hits Nahariya. All parts of Israel within range from Gaza on Day Six of IDF operation

Nahariya, frequently blasted by Hizballah Katyushas in the past, can now “boast” it was targeted by Hamas as well.

Sunday, Day Six of Operation Defensive Edge, saw another first: an Israeli ground incursion of the Gaza Strip. An sea commando Shayetet 13 unit landed in the western Gaza Strip to raid a cluster of rocket launchers. It was forced to retreat under heavy fire after four commandos were lightly injured. The target was then hit by the unit’s air cover.

By sundown Sunday, 65 Palestinian rockets had been fired into Israel – 12 shot down by Iron Dome – and more were on the way. The last salvo covered a long swathe from Rishon Lezion, through Tel Aviv and its satellite towns, including the big port of Ashdod and Hadera, as well as Israeli locales bordering on Gaza. Continue reading

David Without a Sling — ‘Making David Into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel’

It may be hard for some to believe, given the endless attacks on the Jewish state today, that in the not-too-distant past, Israel was as beloved as it is now widely reviled. More remarkable, it was especially loved on the left, where now it is scorned. The process by which Israel turned from paragon into pariah is the subject of Joshua Muravchik’s well-argued new book Making David into Goliath.

All this changed in the aftermath of the Six Day War. Muravchik documents the wide sympathy in Europe as well as in the United States—including in the media—which Israel enjoyed immediately prior to the war. At that time, it looked as if Israel might be annihilated by its Arab neighbors, who made no secret of their intention to rid the world of the Jewish State.

But when, to general amazement, Israel defeated the Arab armies and captured lands previously held by Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, it overnight became the ruler of millions of Arabs. The Arabs would take advantage of this, setting in motion a redefinition of the conflict. No longer was it tiny Israel against a vast Arab world. “Now it was Israel versus the homeless Palestinians. David had become Goliath,” Muravchik states. Continue reading

Hamas missiles target nuclear facility as likelihood of Israel invasion of Gaza increases

Hamas militants launched a salvo of missiles at Israel’s main nuclear facility Wednesday night, raising the likelihood of an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Three rockets were aimed towards the southern Israeli town of Dimona and the nearby Negev nuclear reactor and research centre, where Israel’s atomic weapons program is thought to be based.

Two of the rockets fell in open areas and the other was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defensive shield, with none causing casualties, an Israeli army spokesman said.

However, the symbolic aggression of the act may raise expectations that Israel will press ahead with threats to launch a full-scale ground operation to dismantle Hamas’s military infrastructure.

The threat to the nuclear facility came as Gaza saw its bloodiest day of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, with at least 22 people, reportedly including nine children and six women, killed in air strikes. Continue reading

Hamas has several hundred Syrian-made M-302 rockets of type that reached Hadera

The long-range Hamas rockets that reached Hadera 110km north of Gaza Tuesday, July 8, have been identified as the Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar missile, that was used by Hizballah against Israel in the 2006 Lebanon war to pound Haifa. This weapon uses Iranian technology deriving from the Chinese WS-1 which has a 175 kilo warhead. Hizballah engineers posted in the Gaza Strip have since helped Hamas improve the M-302 and extend its range and accuracy. But still, even after improvements, the M-302’s main shortcoming is its lack of precision.

This was demonstrated Tuesday night when it missed substantial targets in Hadera and also, it now appears, Jerusalem, which took three rockets. Continue reading

Rockets hit north of Tel Aviv as Hamas dramatically ups range

While you were busy being distracted by the World Cup:

No initial reports of injuries or damage after massive barrage across country; Netanyahu vows to widen Gaza operation, as cabinet okays call-up of 40,000 troops; rockets shot down over Tel Aviv; terrorists killed in firefight at Zikim army base; Gazan death toll in double digits

Israel launched a major operation against Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday morning, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, following heavy Hamas rocket fire over the preceding days. The fast-escalating situation in the south comes in the shadow of spiking Jewish-Arab tensions in Israel over the brutal killings of four teenagers — three Jews and one Arab — by extremists. Stay with The Times of Israel’s liveblog for updates throughout the day. Continue reading

‘Dragonfly’ virus strikes U.S. power plants

WASHINGTON – U.S. and European energy companies have become the target of a “Dragonfly” virus out of Eastern Europe that goes after energy grids, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipelines operators and energy industrial equipment providers.

Unearthed by the cyber security firm Symantec, Dragonfly has been in operation since at least 2011. Its malware software allows its operators to not only monitor in real time, but also disrupt and even sabotage wind turbines, gas pipelines and power plants – all with the click of a computer mouse.

The attacks have disrupted industrial control system equipment providers by installing the malware during downloaded updates for computers running the ICS equipment. Continue reading

Israel sends troop reinforcements to Gaza border. National home front on heightened alert

Israeli defense officials passed the word to foreign news agencies Thursday, July 3, that troop reinforcements had been sent to the Gaza Strip border amid intensifying Palestinian rocket barrages. debkafile’s military sources report that the reinforcements almost certainly included tanks and self-propelled artillery.

A military official added that the Israeli Navy had reinforced its war fleet opposite Gaza’s Mediterranean coast, and the Home Front Command had raised the national level of alert [sic] Continue reading

Israel air force bombs terrorist bases in Gaza, blasts Palestinian kidnappers’ Hebron homes

Monday night, June 30, the Israeli Air Force bombed 34 Hamas and Jihad Islami facilities in the Gaza Strip while, in the West Bank town of Hebron, soldiers demolished sections of buildings inhabited by the kidnappers who murdered the three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel.

Their bodies were found during the day abandoned in the field of a Palestinian village after a nerve-wracking 18-day hunt. The Israeli cabinet went into emergency session Monday night after the discovery and will continue sitting Tuesday to decide on fitting punishment for this shocking crime. Meanwhile, air force planes and drones struck 34 empty Hamas and Jihad Islami facilities in the Gaza Strip, from which the terrorists had fled to safety in good time. Continue reading

Jordanian Bedouin hoist Al Qaeda flag in Ma’an – 104 km from Eilat. US, Israeli forces on the ready

“Ma’an is the Falluja of Jordan!” shouted thousands of Bedouin Saturday, June 28, in the southern Jordanian town of Ma’an. This legend was inscribed on the placards and flags they bore aloft with one hand in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). In the other, they waved automatic rifles.

Ma’an (pop: 50,000) is in a sensitive location:  218 km south of Amman, it also lies 104 km from the Israeli port town of Eilat and some 60 km from the main artery cutting south from northern Israel to the south.

But although pro-Al Qaeda riots have been going on for days in Ma’an, capital of the southern province of the Kingdom of Jordan, military and security personnel have not been seen in its vicinity. Continue reading

The U.S. Must Deny Russian Influence in Egypt

In the violent aftermath of the Egyptian military’s removal of Mohamed Morsi from power, the United States has tried to send a message with limited suspensions of aid. As the security situation on the Sinai Peninsula continues to deteriorate, re-engaging Egypt in counterterrorism efforts is warranted. The administration’s oscillating decisions to maintain, halt, and then reinstate this type of security assistance have been confusing at best and harmful at worst. Egypt’s need for satellite services (including launch capabilities) to address the growing problem of insurgents in the Sinai is a key national security concern to Egypt, Israel, and the U.S.

On the geopolitical stage, the fact that Russia has stepped in to solve Egypt’s technology services gap should further motivate the U.S. to action.The Egyptian sentiment that the U.S. has turned its back on them in their hour of need has left an opening for other players to provide financial and technical military assistance. Attempting to preserve the appearance of propriety and support a democratically elected leader, exert regional influence, and keep radical Islamists out of office, Washington has fallen short and created a vacuum whereby a pro-Syrian Russia has moved in to further its strategic regional interests. Continue reading

IAF strikes nine military targets in Syria

Israel says direct hits confirmed on Assad army positions; attack comes in response to cross border assault Sunday which killed 15-year-old boy in Golan Heights

The Israeli Air Force launched retaliatory air strikes on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights overnight Sunday, confirming direct hits on nine army positions belonging to the Assad regime — including a regional command center – after a 15-year-old boy was killed earlier Sunday in an attack on the Israeli side. Continue reading