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.

President launches new Q&A app on FB

Shimon Peres invites Facebook followers to submit questions which he will personally answer

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President Shimon Peres launched a new social media application on his Facebook page Monday, urging readers and followers to submit their questions to him, without specifying the limits to the genre of queries people are invited to send. It’s safe to assume they will be moderated.

The project, which sets a deadline of October 31, is called “You ask, President Peres answers.”

Peres’s office indicated that the questions with the most “likes” will personally be answered by the president in writing and/or video messages.

The application “creates a direct link between President Peres and people all over the world who are interested in the State of Israel,” his office said in a statement announcing the new initiative.

As of Monday, the president had just over 182,000 followers on Facebook. Throughout his presidency, he and his team have remained avid social media users, publishing pictures, statements, videos — and even a music jam titled “Be my friend for peace” featuring the nonagenarian — on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

His online presence is dubbed “Peres 360,” which creates “transparency and accessibility to the president through social media,” his office said.

In show of military might, Israel drills long-range air force attack

Week after warning from the PM about acting alone against Iran, IAF runs — and publicizes — midair refueling exercises and simulated strike on distant target

n a display of muscle-flexing to Tehran ahead of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Israel made a rare announcement Thursday that its air force had conducted a series of drills in which fighter aircraft practiced midair refueling and a simulated strike on a distant target.

A video, unprecedentedly uploaded to YouTube by the IDF Thursday, shows F-15 and F-16 fighter jets refueling midair over the water. It was published shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a series of European TV interviewers, warning the EU not to ease sanctions against Iran. “When a murderous regime engages in soft diplomacy and uses calming words of peace, but nevertheless continues to acquire immense power — it must be stopped, immediately,” Netanyahu said.

According to the military, most of the Israeli Air Force squadrons, including all the combat ones, participated in this week’s drill. An IDF statement, highlighting the drill’s relevance for Israel’s capacity to thwart Iran by force if necessary, noted that the IAF “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary” and had therefore been “exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights.”

The less-than-discreet message directed at Iran came as a series of Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, warned that Israel was ready to act alone to defend itself and prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Last week, speaking at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu said Israel would “stand alone” against Iran if needed.

The exercises, which included midair refueling, exceptionally long-distance coordinated strikes, and dogfights, were carried out over Greek waters, according to a Channel 10 report. The station noted that the video of the exercises released Thursday by the IAF marked the first time the military had made such a clip publicly available.

“The Israeli message was clear,” the channel said, noting the announcement’s proximity to next week’s round of talks between world powers and Iran in Geneva. “Here is an attempt to show the world that, a moment before the talks, Israel is not giving up its military option.”

A commander who took part in the exercises “explained that challenges stemming from these long-range flights continue as the plane moves further from its point of origin. These challenges include difficult weather conditions, unfamiliar terrain and threats that could emerge during the flight,” according to the official IDF blog, which noted that “long-range flying demands several hours of concentration and exceptional physical preparation.”

The IAF, which “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary… is exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights as well as other exercises,” the IDF said, though it also noted that the exercises were “no different from training exercises conducted in the past few years.”

The drill over Greek waters was the latest in a series of joint military exercises between Jerusalem and Athens. The navies of Israel, Greece and the US in March held a two-week joint military exercise for the third year in a row. There was no immediate indication, however, that the exercises — announced Thursday — involved Greek military forces.

Israel has threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear production facilities if the Islamic Republic develops the ability to create a nuclear weapon. An aerial attack over such a long range — close to 1,000 miles as the crow flies — would necessitate midair refueling. In 1981, the IAF carried out a long-range airstrike to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.

IDF destroys Syrian mortar after two soldiers wounded

The incident marks the first time Israeli troops are wounded by spillover from Syrian fighting • IDF says shells were stray rounds, files complaint with U.N. forces in the area • Army has noted multiple instances of spillover along the border in past month.

IDF troops at the Golan Heights, Wednesday

IDF troops at the Golan Heights, Wednesday

The Israel Defense Forces destroyed a Syrian mortar used to launch shells that wounded two Israeli soldiers in the northern Golan Heights on Wednesday.

Army Radio reported that the IDF fired a Tammuz missile at the Syrian mortar and confirmed its destruction.

The two soldiers were wounded by shrapnel when two mortar shells exploded Wednesday, marking the first time Israeli troops on the Syrian border have been wounded from spillover from the fighting in Syria. The army stated that the mortar rounds were strays fired during fighting on the Syrian side of the border between rebels and the Syrian military, and that a complaint was filed with the U.N. forces in the area.

The IDF has noted increased fighting near the Syrian border recently, citing multiple instances of spillover in the past month. Last Tuesday, workers constructing a security barrier near an IDF fortification on the Golan Heights were fired upon. No one was wounded in the incident, though the gunfire caused a fire. In September, an IDF vehicle sustained fire from the Syrian side of the border. Soldiers fired back at the source of the shooting, and there were no injuries in the incident.

In August, an errant Syrian artillery shell exploded on the Golan Heights. The IDF returned fire with a Tammuz missile and destroyed the Syrian position. In July, seven mortar rounds exploded in Israel during skirmishes between the Syrian regime and rebel forces.

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.

 

Female Palestinians take to the sky in futile Palestinian PR stunt

Four Palestinian recruits said to be first Arab women to undergo parachuting training

The Palestinian Authority may not have any combat jets or control over its airspace, but it does have female paratroopers ready to leap into the void upon command.

Four young recruits belonging to the PA’s National Security apparatus recently took part in a parachutists course in Russia. In an interview with official Palestinian TV, two of the women spoke of their training as part of the women’s special unit in the National Security, including 30 Palestinian female recruits.

Lieutenant Colonel Hefez Al-Rifai told the channel that the training in Russia was the first time in history that female Arab soldiers underwent parachute training, according to a MEMRI transcrpit.

Lara Abu-Kuweik told Palestinian TV that she joined the special unit seven months ago in order “to make a change.”

“Women are not just administrators, they can also operate in the field in combat positions. Combat is not the monopoly of men; we can also do what men do,” Abu-Kuweik, who broke her leg on the third jump out of the plane, told the channel.

“It was a bit like dying,” she added. “We were prepared to die in order to bring pride to our nation.”

The National Security apparatus was created as part of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1994 to constitute the PA’s paramilitary security force. It is trained and funded by the United States.