A project of the
January 14, 2021
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Iran has started work on an assembly line to manufacture a key material used at the core of nuclear warheads, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a confidential report Wednesday. Iran has told the IAEA that it has started manufacturing equipment it will use to produce uranium metal at a site in Isfahan in coming months.
The development brings Iran closer to crossing the line between nuclear operations with a potential civilian use and nuclear-weapons work. Making uranium metal is prohibited by the Iran deal. Reviving the deal could face stiffer opposition if Iran conducts nuclear weapons-related work. (Wall Street Journal)
Aircraft bombed a number of Iran-linked targets in eastern Syria early Wednesday. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 57 people were killed, most of them Iran-backed militia fighters as well as 14 Syrian government forces. A senior U.S. intelligence official told AP that the strikes targeted warehouses used to store Iranian weapons in Syria. The official said the strikes were carried out using intelligence provided by the U.S. (Al-Monitor)
See also Iranian Forces on Syria-Iraq Border Have Missiles that Can Hit Anywhere in Israel - Yaniv Kubovich
According to Israeli intelligence assessments, after removing its presence in Syria west of Damascus due to Israeli airstrikes, Iran moved its forces to the Syria-Iraq border, to areas under total Iranian control, where it set up infrastructure for moving forces and weapons between Iraq and Lebanon. An Israeli intelligence official said Iran "transferred there missiles that can hit anywhere in Israeli territory, and can move them through a smuggling route to even closer positions. [Iran] is establishing a system of drones and cruise missiles and military industries it could not sustain in the Damascus area."
According to intelligence assessments, the possibility that the U.S. will reenter the nuclear accord with Iran and ease the sanctions on it could embolden Iran's Revolutionary Guards to take risks in operations against Israel and other states. A senior defense official said that if the U.S. returns to the nuclear deal, "The Iranians might understand it to be a green light to keep doing anything non-nuclear." (Ha'aretz)
Imagery seen by Newsweek indicates the presence of Iranian Shahed-136 loitering munitions, also called "suicide drones," deployed to the northern Yemeni province of Al-Jawf, an area controlled by the Houthi Shiite Muslim rebel movement. An expert said, "They are forward deploying or prepositioning these drones in order to stage an attack against a variety of targets they have within range." The UAVs have an effective range of 2,000-2,200 km. (Newsweek)
Yossi Cohen, head of Israel's Mossad, was in Washington this week armed with a "mountain" of the latest Israeli intelligence about Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missiles to brief key figures in the Biden administration. Cohen has met with Biden several times and knows many of the new president's senior officials.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, former Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense, said going back to the existing JCPOA agreement with Iran would result in "dozens" of nuclear devices in Iran hands within 10 years. (Breaking Defense)
Ohad Zemet, spokesman for the Israel Embassy in London, rejected the "false claims" in a new B'Tselem report that Israeli policies "advanced and perpetuated Jewish supremacy over Palestinians," saying the claims were based "on a distorted ideological view."
BICOM senior research fellow Alan Johnson noted, "Successive offers to share the land...have been rejected without a single Palestinian counter-offer being tabled. Israel refuses to commit national suicide." (Jewish News-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinian terrorist Muhammad Kabha, who brutally murdered Israeli Esther Horgan, told Israeli interrogators that he decided to carry out a terrorist attack after he was influenced...by the death of a security prisoner he knew, Kamal Abu Wa'er, who died in prison from cancer. Wa'er was serving 6 life sentences for involvement in the murder of at least 4 Israelis.
The PA and Fatah had launched an incitement campaign that falsely claimed Israel was denying him proper treatment, and once he died, they intensified the libel that his death was caused by "deliberate medical neglect." Believing this to be true, Kabha decided to kill an Israeli in revenge. The International Red Cross regularly visits Palestinian terrorist prisoners and has never accused Israel of treating sick prisoners improperly. (Palestinian Media Watch)
There were 9,388 new coronavirus cases in Israel on Wednesday, the Israel Health Ministry announced Thursday. 1,934,685 Israelis have received the first coronavirus vaccination and 104,346 have received both doses. 1,063 patients are in serious condition, with 273 intubated. The death toll is 3,826. (Jerusalem Post)
See also New Data Shows Covid Vaccine Is Working - Nathan Jeffay
Data released Tuesday by the Israel Health Ministry tracked Covid infection levels among 600,000 people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a group almost 30 times bigger than the one involved in the Phase 3 trial that preceded FDA approval of the shot. The Maccabi HMO reported that the rate of infection decreased from 40 out of 100,000 in the first 12 days after the first vaccination to 15 per 100,000 on days 13 to 21 - a 60% reduction. (Times of Israel)
On Jan. 1, 2021, an order went into effect banning the banks in Judea and Samaria from providing banking services to Palestinian prisoners, released prisoners, and the families of "martyrs" receiving payments from the Palestinian Authority. Before the order went into effect, Qudri Abu Bakr, chairman of the authority for prisoners affairs, announced that payments for December 2020, and January and February 2021, had been made in advance. That is expected to give the PA breathing space to formulate an alternative method for making the payments. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
A video recently uploaded to YouTube documented a cyberattack that exposed information on 100,000 account holders at Lebanon's Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Qard Al-Hassan benevolent loan association. It also revealed the names of 200,000 borrowers, details on loans taken in 2019-20, and information about accounts Al-Qard Al-Hassan has opened at banks in Lebanon and Europe despite U.S. sanctions. The hacker in the video asserts, "Al-Qard Al-Hassan isn't a charitable organization, it's Hizbullah's bank."
"It significantly undermines the security of the people who opened accounts there," said Uzi Shaya, a former Mossad official. "They will now be labeled as Hizbullah supporters and this could harm their ability to conduct financial affairs....Al-Qard Al-Hassan is the institution that today manages Hizbullah's budget....It pays the salaries of operatives and even issues them credit cards," said Shaya, who had been head of Harpoon, a Mossad team formed to locate Hizbullah's money sources. (Ha'aretz)
A Palestinian man, 22, tried to stab an Israeli policeman outside Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs and was shot and wounded by the officers early Wednesday, police said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
Philanthropist Sheldon Adelson died Tuesday of complications from treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 87. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Adelson "an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the alliance between Israel and America....With his wife Miri he contributed endlessly to strengthening the Jewish people and the Jewish state, funding breakthroughs in medicine and science and advancing higher education. He gave anonymously to help victims of terror and countless other people in need."
President Reuven Rivlin said: "Saddened by the passing of Sheldon Adelson who loved the Jewish people and Israel and was a great American patriot, and who strengthened the bonds between Israel and America with boundless generosity." Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog dubbed Adelson "the modern Montefiore" and said he was "one of this generation's great Jewish leaders" who "always stood out for his kind attitude, openness, modesty and accessibility - even when we disagreed." (Jerusalem Post)
Sheldon Adelson understood what nations like ours needed to survive. And he always wanted to know what he could personally do. He knew that we were engaged in a war of ideas and that if hostile ideas prevailed, we would all be in danger. He was a hero of the Jewish people at a time when there are too few heroes. He will be sorely missed. (Israel Hayom)
The Coronavirus Pandemic
Israel has been accused of war crimes and preventing and denying the transfer of vaccines to the Palestinian population of the territories. This upsurge of criticism is based on false, flawed, malign, and misguided assumptions - or deliberately misleading claims - that Israel is the "occupying power" in the West Bank and Gaza.
What are Israel's legal requirements? Israel is under no obligation under international humanitarian law to provide vaccinations to the population of the territories. Israel's status is not that of an "occupying power," since it did not acquire the territories from an "ousted sovereign power" as required by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, but rather from a Jordanian administration that had never received international acknowledgment of its claims to sovereignty.
The sole source of legal authority in the territories is the 1993-5 Oslo Accords, agreed to by Israel and the Palestinian leadership. They established an independent legal regime whereby the Palestinian Authority has the full responsibility to govern those parts of the territories placed by the accords under its control.
In Article 17 of the Third (Civilian) annex to the Oslo 2 accord, the Palestinian side assumed full powers and responsibilities in the field of health care and importation of medicines. On Jan. 6, 2021, the Jerusalem Post reported that "PA Ministry of Health officials said the Palestinians have not asked Israel to supply them with, nor to purchase on their behalf, vaccines against the novel coronavirus."
Clearly, epidemiological and moral considerations require both Israel and the Palestinians to cooperate to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading between their respective territories. But allegations that Israel has an international legal duty to provide vaccines to the Palestinians have no basis.
The writer, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and former deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also PA: Four Companies to Provide Palestinians with Covid Vaccines - Khaled Abu Toameh
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said last week that the PA has signed contracts with four companies that produce coronavirus vaccines and that the vaccines would arrive within the next two months. Russia has announced that Sputnik V is among the vaccines to be provided to the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
See also The Vaccine Blood Libel - Vivian Bercovici (Commentary)
Israel has undertaken a robust and coordinated Covid-19 vaccination initiative, reaching over 1.8 million people, close to 20% of the population, in barely over three weeks. Israel has not only survived but thrived throughout decades of war, terrorism and existential threats. Israel's institutions, though sometimes chaotic, are built on principles of adaptability and rapid response.
Although initial polls had seemed to indicate that over half of Israel's population was opposed to taking the vaccine, in reality, Israelis have demonstrated quite the opposite. The population has moved with stunning speed and unusual orderliness to get vaccinated in large numbers, and in order of risk category. In the case of an emergency, Israelis rise to the occasion, unified and ready to cooperate.
The writer is CEO of HonestReporting.com and an adjunct professor at Bar-Ilan and IDC Universities in Israel. (Newsweek)
See also Israel Defense Forces Medics Drafted in Covid Vaccination Drive - James Rothwell
The Israel Defense Forces is sending up to 700 reservist medics to vaccinate civilians as part of the country's inoculation drive. IDF medical commander Col. Tomer Koler said the medics were no strangers to working extremely long hours and that all had frontline experience treating soldiers. "They completed mandatory service in the IDF and are now civilians. We called them back for three months as reserve soldiers....They can work from dusk until dawn. It is a major operation to enlist such a large amount of medics but we are able to do it." (Telegraph-UK)
Iran has posted a senior al-Quds Force officer as an "ambassador" to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Gen. Hassan Irlu specializes in manufacturing guided missiles and drones. Twelve other Iranian officers specializing in precision missile and drone production arrived with him.
All indications are that Iran plans to turn northern Yemen into a base for attacks on Israeli targets. The Houthi rebels have announced that they have a "bank of targets" in Israel that they can hit. According to Israeli intelligence, the Houthis also may attempt to strike Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandab Strait using naval mines or explosive boats. In 2020, the international naval coalition destroyed 176 Iranian naval mines in the Red Sea. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Iran appears intent on generating a nuclear crisis early in Joe Biden's presidency, but Biden should not play into Iran's pattern of nuclear threats combined with artificial deadlines. Biden and his team will have time - and economic leverage - on their side. The incoming administration should take advantage of its strong position to diligently pursue its goal of strengthening and lengthening nuclear restrictions and should resist the pressure to act hastily.
Combined with Iran's endemic corruption and the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. sanctions have cratered the Iranian economy, driven up inflation and eroded the purchasing power of average Iranians. The U.S. measures have effectively cut off Iran from the international financial system. Oil exports, Iran's most important source of hard currency, remain largely crippled by U.S. sanctions. Tehran will try to prevent Biden from taking advantage of this leverage by creating an atmosphere of imminence and crisis. The writer is senior analyst for Iran and Israel at Eurasia Group. (NPR)
On Jan. 8, 2020, Iran launched 16 missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq. Eleven struck Ain al-Asad Air Base, another landed outside the city of Irbil, and four malfunctioned. Iranian-backed forces had laid siege to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about a week earlier. The U.S. responded with a drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani
No U.S. troops were killed despite Iran's use of weapons that each carried 1,600 pounds of explosives, more powerful than any weapon launched at Americans in a generation. But 110 survivors were ultimately diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, some requiring long hospitalizations and intensive therapies. 29 service members were injured seriously enough to receive Purple Hearts. (Washington Post)
On Jan. 8, 2020, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq in response to the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 110 people were treated for traumatic brain injuries but no one was killed. The U.S. forces were able to take cover in bunkers, thanks to America's Space Based Infrared System, a constellation of six satellites that surveils Earth's surface 24/7 to detect missiles. The Space Force's 2nd Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, provided the critical early warning to seek cover.
The satellites detect infrared light created during the launch of ballistic missiles, allowing operators to see every missile launch taking place around the world. The Government Accountability Office said in 2019 the system cost $20 billion. "That night it came out of nowhere. It was a lot of missiles quick, and we could see where they were trying to impact," said Mission Commander 1st Lt. Mariano Long. The squadron picks up hundreds of missiles per year, with combatants using missiles in conflicts in Armenia, Yemen and Syria, to name a few. (C4ISRNET)
A Jan. 7 letter in the Guardian, signed by eight experienced lawyers, misrepresents what the IHRA definition says about Israel and anti-Semitism. They claim that "the majority" of the IHRA definition's "illustrative examples" of potentially anti-Semitic speech "do not refer to Jews as such, but to Israel." This is simply not true. Of the 11 "illustrative examples" of potentially anti-Semitic speech listed in the IHRA definition, 9 explicitly mention Jews or the Jewish people (7 mention Israel, of which 5 mention both Jews and Israel).
The examples that mention both Jews and Israel include "Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust"; "Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel"; or "Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis." Do the signatories of this letter really intend to claim that these examples suppress legitimate, non-anti-Semitic criticism of the State of Israel?
They further claim that the examples in the definition "have been widely used to suppress or avoid criticism of the state of Israel." Widely used? Treating the suggestion that criticism of Israel is widely suppressed, either in our universities or elsewhere, is a laughable fantasy. Anti-Israel events still take place at British universities on a regular basis. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents at British universities are at record levels.
The writer is Director of Policy at the UK Community Security Trust. (Fathom-BICOM-UK)
Isaac Shoshan, a Syrian-born Israeli undercover operative who made major contributions to the country's espionage methods, died on Dec. 28 in Tel Aviv at 96. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Shoshan had "risked his life again and again" on behalf of Israel. "Generations of warriors learned their trade at his feet, me too."
Shoshan was born in Aleppo to an Arabic-speaking Jewish family. At 18, motivated by Zionism, he traveled to British-ruled Palestine and was recruited by the Palmach Jewish underground for the Arab Platoon, made up of Jews who could pass as Arabs. In 1948, after Israel declared independence, Arab Platoon agents were dispatched to neighboring Arab countries to gather information and thwart perceived threats.
Shoshan retired in 1982 but was mobilized from time to time by the Mossad to train agents and sometimes participate in operations himself. Going undercover, he would take the part of an Arab old man. (New York Times)
CorNeat Vision's KPro, the first artificial cornea that does not rely on donor tissue, was successfully implanted in Jamal Furani, 78, at Rabin Medical Center in Israel. Upon removal of bandages, the patient was able to read text and recognize family members. (PR Newswire)
Israel's Pi-Cardia Ltd., developer of non-implant, catheter-based solutions for treating heart valves, announced Thursday its first successful treatment of human patients with its ShortCut device at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. "Using ShortCut, we were able to treat two extremely complex patients with degenerated valves," enabling safe transcatheter aortic valve replacement, said Dr. Danny Dvir, who performed the procedure. (AP-Business Wire)
Israel's Mekorot national water company will soon sign an initial deal to provide Bahrain with desalination technology. Mekorot said that Bahrain and the UAE are also interested in quality control of water, reduction of waste and leakages, water management systems, and integration of technical management services.
The most urgent need is for the desalination of brackish water for agriculture and drinking. Almost all drinking water is imported bottles of mineral water, at great expense. (Globes)
Israel's Elbit Systems UK subsidiary has been awarded a 12-year, $166 million contract from the UK Ministry of Defense for the Royal Navy Training Program. Elbit will aid in the modernization of the shore-based training of the Royal Navy including the establishment of the Future Submarine School. Elbit also will develop and deliver a new Combat Systems Operator Trainer for the school.
Elbit has previously provided the Royal Air Force with training aircraft and has sold drones to the British Army. Elbit has also recently been selected to provide the MORPHEUS Battlefield Management Application for the British Army. "We are proud to be a part of the team to deliver next-generation training capabilities to the Royal Navy, following on the success of the company's provision of advanced training capabilities to the British Army and the Royal Air Force," said Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK. (Calcalist)
Israel's Elbit Systems on Wednesday announced the first-ever sale of its unmanned maritime vessel, the Seagull, to an undisclosed Asian country. The mine-neutralizing model was purchased. The vessel comes equipped with forward and sideways-aiming sonar sensors, mine destruction capabilities, a combat management system, and satellite communication equipment. (Calcalist)
Hermann Goring, the creator of the Gestapo and the supreme commander of the Luftwaffe, was one of 24 high-level political and military Nazi leaders at the International Military Tribunal Trial of Major War Criminals held in Nuremberg, Germany, from November 1945 to October 1946. Following the verdicts of judges from the four Allied powers (the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union), 10 were hanged, three were acquitted and others were given long sentences. Goring killed himself the night before his scheduled trip to the gallows.
While the English transcripts have long been available as part of Yale University's Avalon Project, the complete recordings have been put online for the first time by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, along with the 37 reels of film introduced into evidence at the trial. (Wall Street Journal)
Pompeo: Al-Qaeda Has New Home Base in Iran (U.S. State Department)
See also Pompeo: Appeasing Iran Would Be Bad for U.S. Security - Lahav Harkov
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in an interview for the Jerusalem Post-Khaleej Times conference this week: "If we appease Iran, if we underwrite Iran, if we allow Europeans to re-enter and create wealth for the kleptocrats at the head of this theocracy, that would be a bad thing for the region's security, for Europe's security and for American security."
"This is not 2015....The whole world can recognize that Iran is the destabilizing influence in the whole Middle East." The Iran deal "enabled, armed and provided resources and money to the largest state sponsor of terror in the world." (Jerusalem Post)