IDF, Lieberman: Iran provided rockets fired at Israel over the weekend.

3 rockets fired at Israel, 2 intercepted by Iron Dome; IAF carried out strikes in Gaza Strip on Friday & Saturday; Lieberman: Iran providing rockets to Salafi groups in Gaza. Dec. 31, 2017.

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The IDF retaliated to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip over the weekend, striking Hamas targets on Friday and Saturday.

The IDF confirmed the strikes, stating on Saturday “In response to the rockets launched yesterday… this evening [Saturday] IAF fighter jets targeted an observation post belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the southern Gaza Strip,” reiterating that Hamas would held accountable for any attacks on Israel.

Both Israel’s Ministry of Defense and the IDF confirmed that the rockets had been supplied by Iran, the IDF releasing this statement on Saturday “Iran is playing with the lives of Gaza residents and is likely to lead an escalation after years of security and calm. Hamas has full responsibility for the situation and its implications.”

Three rockets were fired at Israel on Friday, two of them intercepted by the Iron Dome and another hitting a building in Sha’ar HaNegev in southern Israel. No injuries were reported.

Friday’s rocket attacks were carried out during a ceremony at Kibbutz Kfar Aza for Oron Shaul, a soldier killed in the Gaza Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas continues to refuse to return his remains to his family.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed Iran’s arms supplies to the Gaza Strip, reporting on Saturday that Iran supplied the rockets recently fired at Israel to “radical Salafi groups” in the Strip. The minister reported that an investigation is underway as to which groups Iran has provided weapons.

He stated Saturday “After the Iranians succeeded in completely destroying Yemen, Lebanon and Syria, they have begun destroying Gaza. Leaders of the Iranian regime are not interested in the reality in Gaza or in the future of the children there. They are interested in extremist ideology and harming the State of Israel as much as possible.”

 

 

Photo: A. Lieberman, Wikimedia Commons, 2017.

Netanyahu: Israel Air Force at the peak of its abilities.

PM reports that IAF “at peak of its abilities” during ceremony for new IAF pilots; Netanyahu: We will use all means to defend our sovereignty and the security of Israeli citizens. Dec. 28, 2017.

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Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would defend itself from radical Islam, Iran and Hamas, reporting that the Israel Air Force is at the “peak of its capabilities”.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for Israel Air Force pilots Hatzerim Air Base, Netanyahu praised the IAF, boasting of Israel having the best planes and best pilots in the world. He began his address stating, “Today the [Israeli] air force is at the peak of its abilities, with the best technological tools, the best planes in the world, the best pilots in the world, with offensive and defensive capabilities and with awesome firepower that can reach both short-range and distant targets as necessary.”

The prime minister addressed the threats of radical Islam, Hamas and Iran, stating, “We continue to face major challenges in the north, south and east. On all of these fronts we find the arms of radical Islam, which has already caused terrible disasters in our region but not in our state,” referring to Israel as “an island in a very stormy sea”, stating “We are guarding our security based on a clear policy: We will not allow Iranian military forces to establish bases in Syria in order to attack us and we will act to prevent the manufacture of precise and deadly weapons aimed at us.”

On the Gaza Strip and Israel’s efforts to not harm the civilian population during attacks, Netanyahu stated “we want the local population to live its life quietly and calmly but the decision as to whether or not there is quiet in Gaza depends, first of all, on Gaza. We will neither allow nor tolerate any escalation on the part of Hamas or any other terrorist element against the State of Israel. We will use all means to defend our sovereignty and the security of Israeli citizens.”

On Israel’s defense systems, from the Iron Dome to systems detecting tunnels from the Gaza Strip, he said “We are taking care to develop our strength on land, at sea and in the air, and in intelligence and cyber. We frequently outpace the world in identifying and meeting new challenges. We did this with active defense systems, including Iron Dome and other systems. We are currently doing so with tunnels and we are justly proud of our technology.

On the “new threat” and “challenge” of drones, the prime minister reported, “Here as well we are at the forefront and the Israeli Air Force is adapting itself and developing the most advanced counter technology in the world.”

In early December, the IAF announced five of its F-35 “Adir” have completed tests and drills and are “fully operational”. The F-35 is capable of carrying over 16 tons of bombs and missiles and is most unique for having the most advanced stealth technology of any aircraft. The F-35 is also Israel’s solution to the S-300, as it is capable of evading the air defense system.

Israel is the first country aside from the United States to acquire the world’s most advanced fighter jets. Israel received nine F-35’s in total. Israel is set to receive a total of 50 F-35’s, Israel’s security cabinet having approved the $1.5 billion purchases as part of the United States and Israel’s Memorandum of Understanding. Israel’s security cabinet approved the purchase of 14 jets in 2014, the number rising to 50 with reports that Israel intends to purchase a total of 75 jets.

Israel has heavily contributed to the F-35’s development. While Lockheed Martin have created and produced the fighter jets, Israel’s Elbit System and Israel Aerospace Industries have created parts for the fighter jets. The helmets for the jets were also jointly created by Elbit and Rockwell Collins.

 

 

Photo: F-35’s, Adir, CC, 2017.

Turkey and Sudan boost ties, sign 21 bilateral agreements

Deals in economy, military, security and culture signed during Erdogan’s historic visit to Sudan; Sudan leases Suakin port to Turkey; Both countries establish “Joint-Strategic Cooperation Council”. Dec. 28, 2017.

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Turkey and Sudan on Wednesday signed 21 bilateral agreements, Sudan’s Defense Ministry announcing it is “ready for military cooperation with Turkey.”

The deals were signed this week during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Sudan as part of his Africa tour as Turkey increases its influence in the region. It was the first visit by a Turkish president to Sudan, and the first visit by a Turkish official in over 60 years.

Erdogan held meetings with numerous heads of state, including President Omar al-Bashir, as well as meetings with over 200 business people. Agreements in the area of military, economy, culture and security were signed, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announcing that many of the deals are centered on “preserving” the Red Sea, stating, “We have a military base in Somalia and we have presidential directives to provide support to Sudan in the fields of security, police and military.”

Sudan and Turkey announced the establishment of a Turkish-Sudanese “Joint-Strategic Cooperation Council”, to increase political ties and cooperation. Erdogan also announced ahead of his Africa tour that Turkey is actively working to establish embassies in “every African country”.

During a press conference following their meeting, Erdogan summarized Turkey’s efforts with Sudan, stating, “Our relationship with Sudan will be stronger than before. We have agreed on strategic cooperation between the two countries.”

Turkey also agreed to rebuild a ruined Ottoman port, Suakin, on Sudan’s coast on the Red Sea, Sudan agreeing to temporally give control of the port to Turkey. Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour confirmed that Suakin would be “temporarily leased” to Turkish investors. The project, reportedly worth $650 million, will be used for tourism and as a future transit point from the Red Sea to Mecca.

Sudan is desperate for economic cooperation following the end of US sanctions in October of this year. Sudan was under heavy sanctions since 1997 for its genocide in Darfur.

Erdogan’s Africa tour includes stops in Chad and Tunisia before returning to Ankara. Speaking to the press before leaving for Chad, Erdogan spoke not only of Turkey’s efforts in Africa, but also with Europe, reporting that he “asked for their support on Jerusalem- we are all on the same page,” referring to his global campaign to rally support for recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state and rejection of the United States recognition.

 

 

 

Photo: Presidents Erdogan and Al-Bashir, CC, 2017

Syrian army backed by Iranian forces draws closer to Israel’s border

Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iranian forces military campaign on last rebel stronghold draws closer to border with Israel near Mt. Hermon; Hezbollah claims rebel forces negotiated surrender, Dec. 27, 2017.

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The Syrian army backed by Hezbollah and Iranian forces continue to draw closer to Israel’s border as Shi’ite forces fight the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

Forces have accumulated on Israel and Lebanon’s borders as the Syrian regime, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, continue their two-month military campaign against rebel forces in the Beit Jin region.

Rebel forces on Tuesday reported that the Syrian army demanded surrender as its forces move closer to Mt. Hermon on the Sunni rebel stronghold, reporting heavy airstrikes over the past week. Latest reports from Hezbollah claim that rebel forces have agreed to negotiations to hand over control and evacuate civilians.

According to a recent report from Reuters, a rebel official, Suhaib al Ruhail, reported that Iran has been focused on creating strategic points on the border with Israel, stating “Iranian-backed militias are trying to consolidate their sphere of influence all the way from southwest of Damascus to the Israeli border.”

Israel has carried out numerous covert missions, attacking Hezbollah, Iranian and Syrian army targets in Syria. The last reported strikes were carried out in early December on a Syrian military base in Jamraya, near Damascus, the IDF’s second reported strike on the same target. Both the base, which is a scientific research center, and Syrian military warehouse storing Iranian weapons, were targeted.

The strikes came just two days after Israel attacked an Iranian military base outside of Damascus. Mixed Arab media reports claimed Israeli airstrikes, others a surface-to-surface missile attack.

Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated a recent remark by President Trump, clarifying amidst media deception that Iran and Islamic terrorism, not Jerusalem or Israel, are the root of conflict in the region. He stated “The US has said something else that is very important: The root of the general conflict in the Middle East does not lie in Israel, but in Iran and in radical Islam and the terrorism that it inspires. All of these are the true reasons that have been revealed to everyone. Whoever sees clearly and has integrity cannot deny them.”

 

Photo: Mt. Hermon, CC, 2017.

New Western Wall train station to be named after President Trump

Israel announces new train station at Kotel to be named after Trump; Katz made decision “following his historic and brave decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”, Dec. 27, 2017.

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 14.19.46Israel announced on Wednesday that a new train station at the Western Wall will be named after United States President Donald Trump.

Israel’s Transportation Minister Israel Katz made the announcement on Wednesday morning, noting President Trump’s “historic and brave decision”, stating “The Western Wall is the holiest place for the Jewish people, and I decided to name the train station that leads to it after President Trump following his historic and brave decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

The new train line is just over 3 kilometers and will enter the Old City underground, where archeologists are guaranteed to make discoveries.

On December 6, 2017, President Trump announced the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, announcing he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Trump stated on Israel’s right to Jerusalem as a soverign nation, stating during his announcement “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.”

This week, Guatemala announced it would return its embassy to Jerusalem, following the Czech Republic. Israel recently announced that it is in talks with at least ten other countries, many with a “strong Christian base”, on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving their embassies.

 

 

Photo: The Western Wall, Behold Israel, 2017

United States confirms it will cut $285 million in UN budget for next year

Haley confirms “step in the right direction” confirming $285 million cut for 2018-2019; Haley: While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests. Dec. 26, 2017.

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The United States confirmed it has negotiated a $285 million cut in its United Nations budget for next year.

The deduction will take place for the duration of 2018-2019, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, referring to the development as “a big step in the right direction.”

Haley confirmed the reduction, stating on Monday “The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked. This historic reduction in spending, in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable UN, is a big step in the right direction. While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests.”

President Trump promised to cut American foreign aid to countries that “vote against us” at the UN General Assembly special emergency session last Thursday, stating at the time that “They [UN] take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. People are tired of the United States- people that live here, our great citizens that love this country- they’re tired of this country being taken advantage of, and we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed that Israel would follow the United States and withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, at the end of this year, stating “I think that this is appropriate, given this organization’s biased, one-sided and absurd attitude toward us, and against the background of the US’s strong stand at the UN, which we welcome.”

The US State Department confirmed the United States’ withdraw from UNESCO in October 2017 after the organization adopted several resolutions denying Jewish and Israeli heritage to religious sites in Israel, mainly Jerusalem. It announced it would remain a “non-member state” as to in “contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”

 

 

Photo: UN Headquarters, CC, 2017.