Breaking News


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Iranian official: We won't accept changes to nuclear deal

A senior Iranian official stressed on Saturday that the Islamic Republic will not accept any changes to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, after the United States said it was seeking a "supplemental" accord with European powers.
"We will not accept any changes, any interpretation or new measure aimed at limiting" the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers, the official, Ali Shamkhani, was quoted by AFPhas having said.
Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, also warned European countries "against the temptation of playing at the same game as the Americans."
"The ballistic program of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has a defensive nature, will steadfastly continue," said Shamkhani, who is a close ally of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
On Friday, senior U.S. State Department official Brian Hook said that President Donald Trump wanted to reach a "supplemental" deal with the European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal.
This would cover Iran's ballistic missile program, its regional activities, the expiration of parts of the nuclear deal in the mid-2020s and tighter UN inspections, Hook said.
"We are taking things one week at a time, we are having very good discussions in London, Paris and Berlin," said Hook, according to AFP.
"There is a lot we agree on and where we disagree we are working to bridge our differences," he added.
Trump recently decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran but made clear it would be the last time he will do so and ordered European allies and Congress to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the 2015 deal or Washington would withdraw. READ MORE

IDF destroys terror tunnels in South

The IDF foiled Saturday night an attempt by the Hamas terrorist organization to renew a terror attack tunnel in the Kerem Shalom area.

The attempt was foiled tonight through engineering activity in Israeli territory, led by Southern Command. The infrastructure was identified at an early stage and did not pose a threat to the residents of the area.

The IDF says that Hamas is investing enormous resources in the underground systems, building terror tunnels instead of investing in the Gaza Strip for the welfare of its residents. The attempt to renew the tunnel shows that Hamas is finding it difficult to accept the failure of the tunnel project, and continues to recklessly waste funds needed for local residents.
At the same time, the IDF attacked another "underground infrastructure" belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the central Gaza Strip.
IDF Spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis revealed this morning that in recent months Hamas has attempted to build a bypass to the tunnel in the Rafah area, which was bombed during Operation Protective Edge. "This is the fourth tunnel that was bombed during Protective Edge," the army says.

"The method of thwarting [terror tunnels] that the IDF is using now is an innovative method that will not allow the tunnels to be rehabilitated, something that did not exist during Protective Edge,” Manelis said.
Regarding the attack on the second tunnel, Manelis said, "This is an underground infrastructure that had not yet penetrated into Israel, which Hamas has been digging in recent days to allow for this," the spokesman said.

Palestinian Officials Claim White House Delaying Peace Plan Until Abbas Leaves Office

The Times of Israel reports: The US administration is delaying the announcement of its Middle East peace plan because it believes the proposal would have a greater chance of success after a new leader replaces long-time Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying Saturday.
“They [the Americans] know that President Abbas will not accept this plan,” the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official as saying. “They are betting on the time factor.”
The US administration is preparing for the day when there will be Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who “would not be able to reject the peace plan and would have to deal with it gradually,” the official said. Two weeks ago, Abbas, who turns 83 later this month, reportedly told members of his ruling Fatah party that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor.”

Saturday, March 17, 2018

EU mulling new Iran sanctions

Britain, France and Germany are weighing fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war in a bid to persuade Washington not to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal, Reuters reported on Friday, citing a confidential document it saw.
The joint paper was sent to European Union capitals on Friday, said two people familiar with the matter, to sound out support for such sanctions as they would need the support of all 28 EU member governments.
The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord signed by world powers that curbs Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, namely by showing U.S. President Donald Trump that there are other ways to counter Iranian power abroad.
Trump recently decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran but made clear it would be the last time he will do so and ordered European allies and Congress to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the 2015 deal or Washington would withdraw.
The president is considered about the deal’s “sunset clauses” as well as about Iran’s ballistic missile program.
The Islamic Republic has several times test-fired ballistic missiles in recent months, raising the ire of the West.
Western countries say the tests are a violation of the UN resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran denies it is in violation of any UN resolutions and categorically rules outany negotiations on its missile program.
The ultimatum delivered by Trump to the European signatories expires on May 12.
“We will therefore be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles,” the European document said, referring to Iranian ballistic missile tests and Tehran’s role backing Syria’s government in the seven-year-old civil war. READ MORE

Hamas: The Jerusalem intifada continues

Both the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terrorist groups welcomed Friday’s car-ramming attack in Samaria, in which an IDF officer and soldier were murdered and two other soldiers injured.
Hamas spokesman in Gaza Hazem Qassem said, "The attack today is meant to emphasize that our people continue with the Jerusalem intifada."
“The revolution against Trump's decision [to recognize Jerusalem] is not a wave of fury. The borders of Jerusalem will be written in Palestinian blood,” he stressed.
The Islamic Jihad responded to the attack as well and said, "We welcome the escalation in attacks against soldiers and settlers. These attacks are a natural right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves on their land and holy places."
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded on Friday to the car ramming attack and vowed, “We will act to sentence the terrorist to death, to demolish his house and to punish anyone who cooperated.”
“There is no such thing as ‘lone wolf terrorism’. This is terror supported by Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority, which pays money to the families of the terrorists. We will stop them,” declared Liberman.

U.N. Envoy: Turkey ‘War Crimes’ Against Christians in Syria Foreshadow ‘Genocide’

Turkish troops fighting to conquer the Kurdish-held region of Afrin in Syria are committing “war crimes” against Yazidis and Christians that mirror the “ethnic cleansing and genocide” in the region at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), declared a top United Nations envoy in a letter published this week.
Echoing Kurdish Christian leaders in Afrin and some analysts, U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights advocate who survived the ISIS genocide in the Middle East, noted in a March 12 statement:
I received information that the area of Afrin inhabited by Kurds, Yazidis and Christians is under siege from all sides. There is only one road through which people can leave the city. 200 civilians have been killed, including 3 Yazidi children. Shrines and religious sites have been destroyed or forcibly converted into mosques. People’s homes are being looted, and minorities are being shamed by extremist militias.
She went on to say that Turkey’s actions against Christians and Yazidis amount to “war crimes.”
“This horror is reminiscent of the initial actions of ISIS in Iraq. Medical and healthcare services are urgently needed. This situation foreshadows ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide,” stressed Murad.
The Turkish military claims it has “neutralized” 3,530 so-called terrorists and “assumed control of at least three-fourths of the city from the U.S.-allied People’s Protection Units (YPG) since it began Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20, reports Daily Sabah.
Christians are among the people killed by Turkey in Afrin, according to local pastors and some analysts.
Consistent with a desperate plea for global assistance made by Pastor Hakim Ismael from the Kurdish Church Network International early this year, Murad urged U.N. member states like the United States and the European Union to “demand” that Turkey stop attacking Afrin. READ MORE

Friday, March 16, 2018

Trump postpones his Israel-Palestinian peace plan indefinitely

On Wednesday, March 14, President Donald Trump decided to take the plan off his immediate agenda. There was no formal announcement. Trump briefed his special Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt to pass the word round among officials from the Middle East who were attending a conference at the White House on the Gaza Strip’s problems. Asked when Trump would revive the plan, Greenblatt replied: Not for a year or two.

Lebanon to increase military presence along border with Israel

Lebanon plans to increase its military presence along its southern border with Israel, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Hariri spoke at a meeting in Rome, where he is seeking financial support for Lebanon’s armed forces.
Bolstering the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and internal security forces is seen as a way for the international community to keep the Hezbollah terrorist group, which has helped sway the Syrian civil war in President Bashar Al-Assad’s favor, from broadening its clout in the Lebanese heartland.
“We will be sending more LAF troops to the south, and we stress our intention to deploy another regiment,” said Hariri, adding that Israel “remains the primary threat to Lebanon”.
“While we are thinking of ways to move from a state of cessation of hostilities to a state of permanent ceasefire, Israel continues to make plans to build walls on reservation areas along the blue line,” Hariri added.
In a joint statement, the conference participants said Lebanon should “accelerate effective and durable deployments to the South”.
The UN Security Council has allowed for 15,000 Lebanese troops to be deployed along the border since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
On Thursday, Hariri said he presented the five-year plans for Lebanon’s military and security services to the participants, and each country would decide in the coming months how it could help.
The European Union pledged 50 million euros ($61.6 million) to Lebanon’s security forces, and Hariri said France had created a 400-million-euro credit facility to purchase “equipment” for Lebanon’s military and security forces. The UK has pledged an additional $13 million, it said on Twitter, according to Reuters. READ MORE

The IDF prepares for all out war

The IDF concluded a series of massive exercises on Thursday that mimicked all-out war on multiple fronts.
The exercise, which was named "Headstone 2018", began on Sunday and trained the IDF's General Staff to quickly communicate with their subordinates in the event of sudden war, with a special emphasis placed on the continuous functioning of different command centers and 'War Rooms', even while under a missile barrage.
In a parallel exercise, named "Steadfastness", the IDF's Home Front Command trained to quickly respond to large amounts of missiles hitting Israel, which included working in conjunction with civilian agencies such as MDA, the Israel Police, and the Israel Fire and Rescue Services.
A significant percentage of the drill was dedicated to practicing rescuing civilians trapped in residential buildings, evacuating Israelis to safer areas while under fire and dealing with a leak of hazardous materials. The drill included air raid sirens being heard across Israel on Tuesday morning and evening.
A third exercise the IDF participated in was "Juniper Cobra", a two-week joint defense training exercise bringing together more than 4,500 service members from the IDF and the US military’s European Command (USEUCOM).
During the drill, the US military deployed over 2,500 service members, including 1,400 Marines and 1,100 naval personnel and two US Navy vessels took positions off the coast of Israel.
The IDF said that Juniper Cobra's purpose is for the US and Israel to coordinate their responses to complex threats, especially missile attacks from regional foes like Iran and Hezbollah.
"It is great to be here in Israel and it is great to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Israeli parties as we participate in Juniper Cobra '18," US Army Colonel David Shank told reporters.

Report: Anti-Jewish Hate Crime in Berlin Doubles in Four Years

Berlin recorded a twofold increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes between 2013 and 2017, according to the latest German police figures.
A report in Tagesspiegel on Thursday revealed that police figures seen by the Berlin newspaper show that 288 crimes classified as anti-Semitic were recorded by the German capital’s police in 2017. This is slightly less than double the 149 crimes recorded in 2013.
Tagesspiegel reports that no analysis has been released with the figures to acurately explain the rise in anti-Semitic crime, but police and city officials have previously stated that they believe there is a correlation linking it to the increased number of migrants from the Middle East living in the city.
As Breitbart Jerusalem has reported, attacks on Jews in Germany have been on the rise nationally and are not limited purely to Berlin, although schoolteachers and other school officials in the capital have noticed a rising trend of anti-Semitism among pupils and say the expression “You Jew!” has become a common insult.
Last October the German Interior Ministry announced that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country had risen by four per cent since 2016 as some accused the government of presenting the crimes as coming from right-wing sources rather than radical Islamists and newly-arrived immigrants from the Middle East.
Such are the fears from Germany’s Jewish community that in January the German government appointed a special commissioner to address the problem. Although the commissioner’s powers are yet to be defined, the Central Council of Jews welcomed the move, calling it an important signal that their concerns were being addressed.
Current German methodologies for classifying anti-Semitic crime has in the past been criticized for its accuracy in identifying motives.  A special commission into anti-Semitism, which published a report last year, said that “there is likely a distorted picture of anti-Semitic crime which exaggerates right-wing motives and perpetrators.”
As for refugees from Muslim countries, they have been told to abandon their anti-Semitism and prepare to learn about the Holocaust, in twin warnings issued from the highest levels of government.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in 2017 that inbound immigrants must reject any lingering notions of anti-Semitism on arrival, saying acceptance of followers of the Jewish faith remains a “non-negotiable” part of the social contract with their new home.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Iranian official: U.S. determined to leave nuclear deal

The dismissal of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shows that Washington is set on quitting the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran's deputy foreign minister said Wednesday, according to AFP.
"The United States is determined to leave the nuclear deal, and changes at the State Department were made with that goal in mind -- or at least it was one of the reasons," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in comments carried by Iranian state media.
"If the U.S. quits the nuclear deal, we will also quit it," Araqchi stressed, adding, "We have told the Europeans that if they can't keep the U.S. in the deal, Iran will also leave it."
President Donald Trump announced Tillerson's departure in a tweet on Tuesday, saying he would be replaced by CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
Trump later stated that the reason behind the dismissal of Tillerson was his support for the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers.
Pompeo’s views on the nuclear deal are much closer to those of Trump’s, as he has spoken out against the agreement both as a senator as well as during his time as CIA chief.
Trump has repeatedly slammed the 2015 nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for the lifting of crippling international sanctions.
The president recently decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran but made clear it would be the last time he will do so and ordered European allies and Congress to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the 2015 deal or Washington would withdraw.
Tehran has repeatedly ruled out changing a single comma of the text.

Top U.S. Commander: Bashar al-Assad ‘Has Won’ Syrian Civil War

WASHINGTON, DC — The Russian and Iranian-assisted regime of Bashar al-Assad is winning the civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands in Syria since 2011, suggested the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, stressing that toppling the dictator is not part of the American mission in the conflict-ridden country.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), indicated that Russia and Iran have made victory possible for Assad, who stands accused of repeatedly using chemical weapons, affecting civilians in opposition-held areas.
“From a civil war standpoint, it would appear that the regime is ascendant here,” Votel told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) when the lawmaker asked who is winning the civil war in Syria.
The top U.S. general went on to note that it is unlikely that Syrian opposition forces will topple Assad in the foreseeable future.
Gen. Votel described Iran and Russia as Assad’s “enablers.”
Sen. Graham further asked, “Is it too strong a statement to say that, with Russia and Iran’s help, Assad has won the civil war in Syria?”
“I do not think that is too strong of a statement. I think they have provided him the wherewithal to be ascendant at this point,” replied the general who primarily oversees U.S. military activity in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Soon after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump targeted a military based operated by Syrian troops in response to the regime’s use of chemical arms, marking the first direct American attack on the ruthless Assad forces. READ MORE

Saudi crown prince: If Iran develops nuclear bomb, so will Saudi

The next leader of Saudi Arabia says his country would quickly obtain a nuclear bomb if arch rival Iran successfully develops its own nuclear weapon. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the statement about a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East to "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell, in an interview set to air on this Sunday's "60 Minutes."  
The interview is the first with a Saudi leader for a U.S. television network since 2005. O'Donnell, a contributing correspondent for "60 Minutes," asked the 32-year-old crown prince about the political, economic and social reforms unfolding in his kingdom. 
The heir to the throne has ushered in significant changes for women in the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom, including granting them the right to drive for the first time. The crown prince discussed foreign policy, including his views on Saudi Arabia's longtime foe, Shiite Muslim-ruled Iran. 
Below is a preview of O'Donnell's conversation with the crown prince, and above is a clip in which Mohammed explains why, in his view, Iran's supreme leader is behaving like Adolf Hitler during the rise of Nazi Germany.
NORAH O'DONNELL: You've been rivals for centuries. At its heart, what is this rift about? Is it a battle for Islam?
MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:  Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.
O'DONNELL:  But I've seen that you called the Ayatollah Khamenei, "the new Hitler" of the Middle East.
MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN: Because he wants to expand. He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time. Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realize how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.
O'DONNELL: Does Saudi Arabia need nuclear weapons to counter Iran?
MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:  Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.
For the full interview, tune in to "60 Minutes" on Sunday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.