Iran threatens U.S, Israel

Chief of staff warns Tehran’s enemies and regional states against military action, calling American threats ‘political bluff’

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Washington has many military bases in the region, including in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said late last month that if diplomacy with Iran fails, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.”

But Firouzabadi accused the US of bluffing.

“Over the past decade, they brought their forces but came to the conclusion that they can’t attack us, and left,” he said, dismissing the US military threat as nothing but a “political bluff.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the West should not have any delusions about using a military option.

“I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option against Iran on any table in the world,” he said.

On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi said the US knows that its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf would be sunk if it launched a military strike on Iran.

“The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk with 5,000 crews and forces in combat against Iran and how they should find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” said Fadavi, according to Fars news agency.

“They cannot hide themselves in the sea since the entire Middle East region, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for them to hide.”

Also Sunday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan touted the Iranian military’s ability to respond to an American attack, Fars reported.

“The Iranian Armed Forces are an intertwined and coherent complex that can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the commander-in-chief,” Dehqan said in a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution that brought the current Islamic regime to power.

“The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty Armed Forces of the Islamic Iran,” he added.

The bellicose rhetoric follows Saturday’s announcement by an Iranian admiral that Iran had dispatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Tehran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”

On Friday, Iranian state TV ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a simulated retaliation for a hypothetical Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.

Iran is due to resume talks on Monday in Vienna with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear accord following a landmark interim agreement struck in November.

Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if diplomacy fails.

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Abbas’s new red line: Israeli withdrawal within 4 years

‘Palestinians will not sign a deal without explicit recognition of East Jerusalem as their capital, full prisoner release’

Preempting the American framework agreement for a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal expected within weeks, the Palestinian presidency on Wednesday issued a list of “red lines” stating PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s nonnegotiable positions.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, told the official PA daily Al-Ayyam that the American paper must include an Israeli withdrawal “from all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967″ within a time frame of three to four years, followed by the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The agreement must also explicitly refer to East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Abbas’s list of “red lines,” sent to the Middle East Quartet ahead of its meeting in Germany in early February as well as to US President Barack Obama, also includes a call to solve the refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“These are the red lines of the Palestinian position, since without these principles there can be no just and comprehensive peace in the region,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The four-year time limit for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank contradicts comments made by Abbas in an interview with The New York Times on February 2, where he allowed five years for a full Israeli pullback. Abbas made no reference to the comprehensive prisoner release in that interview, though he voiced this demand in a public speech to East Jerusalem activists in January.

In a televised interview for the INSS conference in Tel Aviv a few days earlier, Abbas set the limit for Israel’s withdrawal at three years.

In any event, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath was doubtful on Monday that negotiations with Israel would continue beyond their original April deadline, due to American support for Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state and to maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.

“Negotiations will not be extended [beyond their original nine-month time frame] if these conditions persist,” Shaath was quoted by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying.

Strike inevitable as Iran mocks World Powers

With an interim agreement reached and signed in Geneva between the P-5+1 and Iran on Saturday, the US Government seems content while subsequent events clearly indicate Iran is not planning on keeping its end of the bargain leaving Netanyahu no option but to order a strike.

A couple of quick pen strokes signaled the sealing of the (interim) agreement in the early hours of Sunday after four long days of negotiations. Soon thereafter, near-euphoric headlines emerged around the world notifying the international community of this happening. Yet there is little to rejoice about.

Read the rest of the article at:

blogs.timesofisrael.com/strike-inevitable-as-iran-mocks-world-powers/

Five Palestinians arrested for Jordan Valley killing

Housing minister says he will bolster settlement after retired IDF colonel Seraiah Ofer bludgeoned to death outside home by ax-wielding attackers

Troops combing the area next to the Brosh Habika vacation village Friday. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Troops combing the area next to the Brosh Habika vacation village Friday. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Five Palestinians were arrested Friday in connection with a suspected terror attack in the northern Jordan Valley in which a retired IDF colonel was bludgeoned to death overnight.

The arrests came after several hours of searches and roadblocks by security forces in the area, following the early-morning killing.

IDF Chief Benny Gantz called the attack “serious” and President Shimon Peres said “no one will rest” until the perpetrators were caught.

Officials initially said they were not sure whether the attack was nationalistically motivated or criminal in nature. However, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, “We strongly believe this was a terror attack.”

Seraiah Ofer, 61, was beaten to death by men wielding metal bars and axes outside his home in the Brosh Habika vacation village, which he owned and operated, at about 1 a.m. Friday.

Seraiah Ofer (photo credit: screenshot Channel 10 news)

His wife, Monique Mor Ofer, 51, managed to escape. She was lightly injured on barbed wire before reaching a nearby highway, where she flagged down a car for help.

The attack, coming on the heels of a number of isolated incidents over the past month, drew harsh responses from politicians.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, from the nationalist Jewish Home party, said in a statement Friday morning he would work to “enlarge and strengthen” settlement in the area.

“This is the proper Zionist response to a revolting murder,” Ariel said.

The home of Seraiah Ofer, where he was killed on Friday. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

The vacation village, which was empty at the time of the attack, is located about five kilometers south of the settlement of Shadmot Mechola, in the northern Jordan Valley, a sparsely populated wilderness on the eastern edge of the West Bank.

Ofer and his wife reportedly heard noises outside the house, and when he went out to investigate, he was attacked by the men. Mor said the attackers, who used iron bars and an ax, spoke Arabic.

Monique Mor, whose husband was killed in a suspected terror attack, speaks to reporters from her hospital bed, October 11, 2013 (photo credit: Walla news screenshot)

Ofer had served as commander of the Gaza district and in elite combat units, Mor said. He moved to the area in the 90s to invest money in tourism in the area, and became a popular local figure.

He built the Brosh Habika vacation village six years ago over an old Jordanian base, the news website reported.

Ofer’s brother, Yitzhak Ofer, a pilot, was killed exactly 40 years ago — on October 11, 1973 — while flying a mission for Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel  (left) with the mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim Benny Kasriel during a ceremony in the tract of land known as E1, located between the large West Bank settlement and Jerusalem, in April. (photo credit: Flash90)

Ariel said Ofer was a personal friend of his, and one of the best officers in the IDF.

“Ya-Ya was always the pioneer,” he said, using Ofer’s nickname. “He was like that in the IDF and he was like that in the settlement enterprise, leading many behind him to settle in the Jordan Valley, which he saw as of prime Zionist importance.”

Israel has responded to terror attacks by upping settlement activity in the past, most recently in late September, when the defense minister allowed settlers in Hebron to move into a disputed home following the killing of an Israeli soldier, Gal Kobi, thought to be from Palestinian sniper fire.

Ariel and other politicians also called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop Palestinian prisoner releases and rethink peace talks with the Palestinians in the wake of the murder, which came on the heels of a shooting of a 9-year-old girl in the Psagot settlement outside Ramallah on Saturday. Noam Glick was lightly injured in that attack.

“Again Palestinians are translating our desire for peace as weakness and are answering with murder,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud party said Friday morning.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Israel Radio he blamed the attack on Palestinian incitement, and called on the government to reconsider peace talks and the freeing of prisoners.

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Palestinian television he saw any refusal to free prisoners as freeing him to go to the United Nations Security Council to lodge complaints against Israel.

Report: Palestinian suspects arrested in Psagot attack

Palestinian media report that IDF units in al-Bireh have arrested brothers Majd and Ala Adawi • Yisrael Glick, the victim’s father: I hope they are not exchanged in some deal • Glick: Noam is still in hospital, will require psychological healing.

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Palestinian media reported on Monday that Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Israeli security personnel had entered the city of al-Bireh, adjacent to the settlement of Psagot, where they arrested two brothers, Majd and Ala Adawi. The two are suspected of involvement in Saturday night’s attack on 9-year-old Noam Glick outside her family home.
According to reports, toward evening 12 IDF jeeps entered the Palestinian city of al-Bireh and carried out their arrests close to the municipal courthouse. IDF soldiers conducted searches of several houses in the area and ultimately arrested the two brothers. Neither of the brothers resisted arrest, nor did their neighbors interfere.

As previously reported, a hole was found in the fence surrounding Psagot, but for many hours security forces could not find the shooter due to many variables surrounding the incident. Among these, it is still unclear what weapon the man used to attack Noam.

“We hadn’t heard of this, but if it is true, we are not surprised,” said Yisrael Glick, the father of Noam, who is still hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. “From my familiarity with the army and with the Shin Bet security agency, this was to be expected. I just hope this doesn’t all end with their release as part of some deal. We know that the attack on Noam was not personal. The terrorist wanted to hurt an Israeli citizen. He didn’t care who. This is a national matter, and we are sure the IDF and Shin Bet are doing everything in their power to preserve our security.”

Noam’s parents hope that she will be released from the hospital in the coming days. “Noam still has to undergo psychological healing, and that is the more difficult part,” said Glick.

Child’s attacker still at large in West Bank

9-year old victim of suspected terror attack in stable condition, soldiers scour nearby Palestinian town in hunt for assailant

A 9-year-old girl, who was shot Saturday night in the settlement of Psagot, is brought to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Flash90)

A 9-year-old girl, who was shot Saturday night in the settlement of Psagot, is brought to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Flash90)

The perpetrator of a suspected terror attack Saturday on a 9-year-old Israeli girl in the West Bank settlement of Psagot has likely escaped the area, the IDF said early Sunday. The search continued throughout the day, and Psagot residents were told they could return to their normal routine, after overnight fears that the attacker was still hiding out in the settlement.

The girl, Noam Glick, was injured Saturday night while playing in the yard outside her home. She said she was shot by a Palestinian gunman at very close range.

“I went outside, and Noam told us there was an Arab there,” the victim’s father, Yisrael Glick, told Army Radio on Sunday morning. “I understood this was a security situation, dangerous to our lives, the most frightening thing that can happen to a family — that a terrorist came into the house.”

He said that he heard gunshots and was able to pull his daughter into the house. The assailant fired “three shots” at her from point-blank range, he said. By the time he emerged from the house again with his weapon, he said, the attacker had fled.

Glick said that the attacker was “startled” by the girl playing in the yard, “so instead of entering the house he shot her.”

Doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek medical center said the girl, who did not lose consciousness during the incident, had sustained light injuries and was in good condition. It was “not clear” whether she had been shot or stabbed, according to hospital physician Dr. Danny Fink.

“The girl’s survival is a miracle,” Fink told Maariv Sunday. The victim, who underwent surgery overnight, had a deep gash along the base of her neck and her upper chest area and was wounded in one ear, he said. She was slated for release Sunday afternoon.

According to Noam Glick’s account, the distance between her and the attacker was basically “zero,” Fink said. “The wound does not look like a gunshot,” he added, “but there were testimonies that said there were gunshots.”

Defense officials said they believed the incident was a terror attack, but were not ruling out other unspecified possibilities.

Authorities said a breach in the Psagot fence was discovered overnight, with signs of forced entry and footprints nearby.

Shortly after the incident, Israeli forces numbering in the hundreds entered the neighboring Palestinian town of al-Bireh, where the shooter was thought to have come from. Security forces, said to include troops from elite IDF units, began the search on the outskirts of the town, near a soccer stadium, and Palestinian security forces had been called in to clear the area.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported two Palestinians were lightly injured by rubber bullets in an altercation with troops that erupted during the incursion.

Shortly after the Psagot attack, shots were reportedly fired at a motorcyclist on the road between Psagot and the nearby settlement of Kochav Ya’akov. No injuries were reported. A police official also said rocks were thrown at vehicles on the road leading into Psagot after the child was shot.

Psagot residents were told to stay in their homes past midnight Saturday; those with firearms were instructed to keep them by their side. Soldiers conducted a house-to-house search of the settlement. Residents were informed via text message to anticipate a knock on the door, to answer in Hebrew, and to await identification.

Early Sunday morning, after an overnight search, the authorities gave residents permission to resume their normal routine.

Saturday night’s incident came two weeks after an IDF soldier was killed while on duty in the West Bank city of Hebron by an unidentified shooter. The culprit remains at large despite investigations by Israeli authorities. Another soldier, off duty, was killed near the West Bank town of Qalqilya that same weekend.

 

Rouhani, on Iranian TV in May, detailed how he broke nuclear pledge

Candidate’s interview from just before his election gets fresh attention as West seeks to judge Iran’s credibility ahead of new negotiations

n a video clip now gaining fresh attention as the international community seeks to assess his credibility, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani bragged on Iranian state television just four months ago that he and the regime utterly flouted a 2003 agreement with the IAEA in which it promised to suspend all uranium enrichment and certain other nuclear activities.

Rouhani, who was being interviewed by Iran’s state IRIB TV (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) on May 27, less than three weeks before he won the June 14 presidential elections, was provoked by the interviewer’s assertion that, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-5, “everything was suspended” on the nuclear program under his watch.

Smiling but evidently highly irritated by the suggestion, Rouhani called it “a lie” that only “the illiterate” would believe, and said that “whoever is talking to you in your earpiece” was feeding false information. He proceeded to detail how Iran, in fact, had flagrantly breached the October 2003 “Tehran Declaration,” which he said “was supposed to outline how everything should be suspended.”

Although Iran issued a joint statement with visiting EU ministers in October 2003 setting out its pledged obligations under the Tehran Declaration, in practice, Rouhani said in the interview, “We did not let that happen!”

The interview, conducted by Hassan Abedini, was one in a series of shows in which the presidential candidates were questioned by the widely watched channel. The TV station is closely controlled by loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Rouhani clearly felt the imperative to underline that he was no Western pushover.

Far from honoring the commitment, in which Iran said “it has decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities,” Rouhani told the interviewer that all Iran did was merely suspend “ten centrifuges” in the Natanz enrichment facility. “And not a total suspension. Just reduced the yield.”

Unimpressed, interviewer Abedini asserted that work had been suspended at the UCF — the Uranium Enrichment Facility at Isfahan. Quite the contrary, Rouhani countered, detailing the completion of various phases of work at Isfahan under his watch in 2004 and 2005. He went on to state proudly that the Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak was also developed under his watch, in 2004.

“Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004,” Rouhani went on. “Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004.”

Incredulous at the notion that Iran had bowed to international pressure and halted nuclear activities in that period, Rouhani asked the interviewer, “We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it! We completed the technology.”

He clarified that this was not his solo success, but was rather thanks to the work of “our valuable nuclear scientists. Our beloved ones. We kiss their hands.” But he stressed, “We were the first to initiate this. By ‘we,’ I mean the whole government, not Hassan Rouhani. By we, I mean the supreme leader. We were all hand in hand. That is why the supreme leader in his speech of November 11, 2003, said that in those negotiations, the conspiracy of Washington and Israel was shattered.”

Iran had taken “the correct stance [in the nuclear talks], without submission and coercion,” he said.

Rouhani then again attacked the interviewer, and “the guy who talks into your earpiece” for allegedly misleading viewers, to which Abedini replied: “I have read your book from cover to cover, twice.”

“Good job,” retorted Rouhani. “Then read it for a third time, Mr. Abedini. This is how we completed the nuclear enrichment program.”

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, and in a succession of other statements and inteviews, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has alleged that Rouhani, in his current outreach to the West, is misleading it by professing a willingness to negotiate over the nuclear program. Netanyahu warned the international community not to be “fooled” by Rouhani as it enters new diplomatic negotiations set to start next week.

As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, Netanyahu said at the UN, Rouhani “masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.”

Netanyahu then quoted from Rouhani’s 2011 book, in which he wrote, “‘While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.’ Now, for those of you who don’t know,” Netanyahu explained, “the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, ‘By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.’ He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.”

In Rouhani’s address to the UN, on September 24, the president said “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” and offered “to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks” over the nuclear program, “to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.” At the same time, he warned, “Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”