Hezbollah publishes video threatening attack on Israeli nuclear reactor

 

Nuclear terrorism. Hezbollah’s Al-Ahed newspaper published a video clip showing various strategic sites throughout Israel that the group plans to attack, including nuclear reactors, scientific research facilities, electricity plants, and desalination centers.

The list includes the nuclear reactor at Dimona, which Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah explicitly threatened to attack earlier this month. “I call upon the Israelis not only to evacuate the ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle [the] Dimona nuclear facility,” Nasrallah declared. “The Israeli nuclear weapon that represents a threat to the entire region, we will turn it into a threat to Israel.” Nasrallah was referring to an ammonia tank at Haifa’s port, an attack on which would “cause a disaster whose effects could exceed that of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.” Nasrallah has also threatened to launch rockets at this tank, knowing full well the catastrophic outcome of such a strike.

According to the United Nations’ 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, an attack against a nuclear reactor is considered to be an act of nuclear terrorism. An attack on such a facility could cause the release of radioactive material, which would lead to mass casualties among the surrounding population.

 

Update from 2014. Hamas is “fully capable of initiating an attack” inside Israel through one of its tunnels, veteran Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday. The call, which was arranged by The Israel Project, took place shortly after Israel’s State Comptroller released a report criticizing the government’s conduct during the summer 2014 war against Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces “should not be praised” for its performance during the war, Harel stated, but at the same time, “more than any other Israeli organization, it was willing to deal with the failure very quickly.” He noted that much of the report’s criticism of the army was derived from the army’s own investigations into the war, which were conducted later in 2014.

Since then, the IDF has bought new weapons systems to deal with the tunnel threat and has tripled the size of the engineering unit. Harel called these changes an “improvement,” and stressed that the IDF has “managed to do both A) admit the actual problem that they face quite quickly, and B) deal with not perhaps a full-scale solution to the tunnel problem, but they’re much more equipped to face that challenge than they were in July 2014.”

Harel stated that Hamas, which has rebuilt its tunnel network since the war, is now “fully capable of initiating an attack through such a tunnel and sending, for instance, a few dozens of armed fighters inside a tunnel underneath the Israeli border and initiating some kind of a surprise attack—either on a kibbutz on the border or military outpost, or something like that.” The terror group is also possibly capable of launching “a simultaneous attack in four or five places at the same time, something that they could not do at 2014.”

Israel believes that it can detect such an attack attempt in advance, as it did in 2014. Harel recalled that Israel’s initial strike into Gaza during the 2014 war was believed to have prevented a prospective tunnel attack.

The two most likely factors leading to an escalation, according to Harel, would be an effort by Hamas to deflect criticism for its failure to provide critical infrastructure for Gaza, or an increase in rocket fire into Israel by one or more of the non-Hamas Islamist groups in Gaza.

 

Blocked by Facebook. Facebook shut down the official page of the ruling Palestinian political party Fatah on Monday, a move that came amidst a campaign by the social media network against accounts that promote violence.

Munir Jaghoub, a spokesman for Fatah’s Mobilization and Organization Commission, told The Jerusalem Post that the trigger for Facebook’s action was the posting of a historic picture of former Fatah leader Yasser Arafat holding a weapon alongside newly-appointed deputy leader Mahmoud al-Aloul.

Jaghoub explained that the notification from Facebook saying that the account had been closed came with an attachment of the Arafat photo. He added that Facebook had previously sent Fatah three warning messages attached to other photos. Jaghoub also denied that the photographs constituted incitement.

Facebook has not publicly announced why it suspended the account.

However, Fatah’s Facebook page has often promoted or celebrated violence against Israel and glorified terrorists. Just in the past 12 months, the page celebrated the killer of graduate student and U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force as “a heroic martyr,” boasted that Fatah had killed over 11,000 Israelis, and posted an image featuring blood dripping from a knife as part of a thank-you message to the UN Security Council for condemning Israeli settlement activities. In January, Fatah celebrated the the 52nd anniversary of its first terror attack with an image including illustrations of terrorists, who were also described as “martyrs.”

Perhaps the most unsettling post on Fatah’s Facebook page appeared two years earlier as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. The image showed a pile of skulls, marked with Stars of David, with a Fatah flag – with the emblem of guns crossed in front of a background of all of Israel – hanging from a rifle planted in middle of the pile.

An audio-analysis technology developed in Israel for smart devices can assess sleep-wake disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) while the user is awake, at home and not hooked up to machines or sensors. “Now we will be able to get a fast, OSA severity estimation without an overnight sleep study,” said Dr. Yaniv Zigel, head of the Biomedical Signal Processing Research Lab at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Prof. Ariel Tarasiuk, head of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Unit at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheva. Currently, patients are diagnosed using overnight polysomnography (PSG) to record brain waves, blood oxygen level, heart rate, breathing, and eye and leg movements overnight. The new system, which does not require contact sensors, could be installed onto a smartphone or other device that utilizes ambient microphones. It analyzes speech during waking hours and records and evaluates overnight breathing sounds using new technology that is simpler and significantly less expensive than PSG. (via Israel21c)

Another Jewish cemetery desecrated; more bomb scares hit JCC’s

 

Grim. Police in Philadelphia found about 100 toppled headstones at a Jewish cemetery Sunday, news which comes after a similar incident less than one week ago in St. Louis. The report comes at the same time as a new round of bomb threats on Monday targeted 16 Jewish community centers (JCC’s) and schools.

“We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia.” There are an estimated 220,000 members of the Jewish community in the Philadelphia area.

The bomb threats are the latest in a series, although this is the first time this year Jewish schools have had to be evacuated. Jewish children were evacuated Monday from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, and the Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia.

As listed by The Times of Israel, “A total of 48 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January. On Jan 31, some 17 JCCs across the United States were targeted with bomb threats. On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.”

“America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC,” tweeted Ivanka Trump, a convert to Judaism and daughter of the president.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the following on Monday: “I wanted to note the president continues to be deeply disappointed and…concerned by the reports of further vandalism at Jewish…cemeteries…The cowardly destruction in Philadelphia this weekend comes on top of similar accounts from Missouri and threats made to Jewish community centers around the country. The president continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms.”

 

Fifteen reasons to cringe. At least 15 Hamas terror tunnels reach into Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to a report from Israel’s Channel 2 released Sunday.

A senior IDF official recently told Channel 2 that Hamas had rebuilt its tunnel infrastructure and rocket arsenal to the levels it maintained before its 2014 war against Israel. Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out last year that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on tunnel construction, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. An Israeli official estimated in July that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month.

The Israeli military explained during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge that Hamas intended to use the tunnels “to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.

Israeli tanks and planes carried out strikes against five Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday after a rocket was fired from the Hamas-controlled territory into southern Israel.

 

Iran puffs its chest. In its latest example of aggressive posturing, Iran test fired two missiles on Monday as part of a naval exercise it is carrying out in the Strait of Hormuz. The missiles included the anti-ship Dehlaviyeh missile and the Nasir, a cruise missile.

Earlier this month, German newspaper Die Welt reported that German intelligence believes that Iran tested a nuclear-capable cruise missile, with a possible range of 2,000-3,000 kilometers (1,250-1,875 miles). In its test, the missile successfully traveled 600 kilometers (375 miles), a little less than half the distance to Israel.

In addition to the reported cruise missile test, Iran carried out a ballistic missile test late last month, in violation of a United Nations resolution on Sunday.

Cruise missiles can travel at a lower altitude than ballistic missiles and also have radar evading capabilities, making them harder to counter. Iran may be pursuing this course because unlike with ballistic missiles, Iran is not explicitly banned by the United Nations Security Council from developing cruise missiles, a security expert explained to Die Welt.

 

Intel and FOX Sports unveiled a 360-degree “Be the Player” replay technology  giving viewers an unprecedented, immersive player’s-eye view on the football championship. The groundbreaking technology was first developed in Israel by eight-person Replay Technologies in collaboration with Intel, which then developed it further with a large team after buying the 3D video technology startup in March 2016 as the cornerstone of its new Intel Sports Group. The California-based multinational has been supporting and acquiring Israeli companies since 1974. (via Israel21c)

Women’s chess champion boycotts tournament in Iran

 

Absent, but not forgotten. The Women’s World Chess Championship is currently taking place in Iran from February 10th to March 5th—and the reigning American female chess champion is conspicuously absent. U.S. chess phenom Nazi Paikidize-Barnes, 22, made headlines last year when she said she would rather boycott the world chess championship in Tehran than subscribe to Islamic dress, “even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”

“Some consider a hijab part of culture,” Paikidze-Barnes said in a statement announcing her decision. “But, I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression.”

All women in Iran are required to wear headscarves, a law that is enforced with an iron grip. About 40,000 cars were confiscated in the first half of 2015 because drivers or passengers were not wearing their headscarves properly. Many women were pulled over and beaten on the ground, only to be arrested afterwards.

Some Muslim women’s rights activists have pushed back in support of Paikidze-Barnes, with former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Q. Nomani describing an op-ed attacking the chess star as “tragic because it uses women to tell other women to shut up.” Nomani wrote against “Iran’s hijab fetish” in The Washington Post last October.

Nomani also previously co-wrote an op-ed with Arab female journalist Hala Arafa in December 2015, which challenged the idea that Islamic scriptures require women to wear head coverings. “To us, the ‘hijab’ is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam we reject that believes that women are a sexual distraction to men, who are weak, and thus must not be tempted by the sight of our hair. We don’t buy it. This ideology promotes a social attitude that absolves men of sexually harassing women and puts the onus on the victim to protect herself by covering up,” they wrote.

 

Out of the mouths of babes. The winning performance at a recent Palestinian youth dancing competition in Nablus called for violence against Israel and featured the lyrics “jihad is needed, pull the trigger,” the watchdog organization Palestinian Media Watch reported Monday.

The event took place at the Yafa Cultural Center, which is funded by Germany, Norway, and the European Union itself. The winning dance was performed by 14-year-old Ru’a Ahmed Sa’id Hamdan to the song “Pull the Trigger,” which was previously broadcast on a Palestinian Authority television channel in 2010.

Hamdan and the competition’s top two runners-up received trophies bearing a map of “Palestine” that encompassed the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Incitement to violence against Israel is a recurring theme in music promoted by the Palestinian Authority. During the ruling Fatah party’s conference late last year, an official PA television channel repeatedly played a song calling “to free the state from the hands of the Zionists” and to “slice open the enemy’s chest, slice it.”

The New York Times reported in October 2015—at the start of the so-called “knife intifada”—that violent, “nationalistic” tracks were dominating Palestinian airwaves, with one young listener saying the tunes make him “boil inside” and prepare him to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. The songs feature lyrics such as “stab the Zionist and say God is great” and “say hello to being a martyr,” and their accompanying videos often contain graphic imagery.

 

Mayday. An Israeli fighter plane on Thursday shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as it flew from the Gaza Strip to the Mediterranean Sea.

The drone was intercepted before it entered Israeli airspace and landed harmlessly in the sea.

“The IDF will not allow any violation of [Israel’s] airspace and will operate with determination against any attempt to do so,” the military said in a statement.

No details were publicized about the size or design of the drone. Hamas is yet to release a statement regarding the incident, although it is widely reported the organisation was responsible for launching the drone.

Hamas has previously been suspected of launching UAVs towards Israel. Last September, the IDF intercepted a drone heading for Israeli territory. In June, a UAV crashed close to the Gaza border fence and drones were launched from Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. Last year, Israeli authorities thwarted an attempt to smuggle drone models and disassembled drone parts into Gaza via the postal system. (via BICOM)

 

 

Supermarket tomatoes often look a lot better than they taste. That’s because modern commercial tomatoes have gradually lost their flavor as breeders tinker with their shelf life, firmness and disease resistance. Now it seems that we can have our tomato and eat it, too. After a decade of research, a global team of scientists from Israel, the United States, China and Spain have identified the flavor components that contribute to the delicious taste of tomatoes, and the genes that code for the tomatoes’ flavor-enhancing chemicals. Their study, published January 27 in the journal Science, has made it possible to produce tomatoes with their good old flavor, without sacrificing the traits that make them attractive to consumers and longer-lasting for shipment around the world. Tomato fruit samples grown in Israel were sent to all participating research groups, each identifying different components. Through analysis of the chemistry of the tomatoes, researchers identified 13 compounds associated with good flavor. To study how to enhance the flavor in modern tomatoes, they studied gene variants called alleles and were able to identify the locations of the “good” alleles in the tomato genome that allow the production of compounds contributing to tastier tomatoes. After mapping genes that control synthesis of all the important chemicals, the researchers used genetic analysis to replace “bad” alleles in modern tomato varieties with the “good” alleles. (via Israel21c)

Hamas releases chilling new cartoon music video

 

Cartoon horror– Hamas released a chilling new animated Hebrew-language music video, the Israel Defense Forces posted on Facebook Wednesday. Example imagery includes a Jewish man with a chain leash around his neck accompanied by the lyrics, “If you’re not already killed, we can hold you captive.”

Other graphic content includes rockets raining down on Israel, gratuitous head-chopping, and positioning a Jewish man in sniper crosshairs before shooting.

Hamas has released similar videos in the past—also in Hebrew, also intended to directly terrorize Israelis. Their previous cartoon short was published earlier this month.

 

Diversity– Four new judges were selected by a parliamentary panel on Wednesday to serve on Israel’s 15-member Supreme Court.

The most notable selection was George Kara of the Tel Aviv District Court. Kara is a Christian Arab-Israeli who presided over the 2009-10 trial that convicted former Israeli President Moshe Katzav of rape.

The other newly appointed judges are David Mintz of the Jerusalem District Court, Yosef Elron from the Tel Aviv District Court, and Yale Willner from the Haifa District Court. The three are seen as conservative or non-activist judges and were supported by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party, who chaired the Knesset’s Judicial Selection Committee. The committee consisted of three sitting Supreme Court justices, two government ministers (including Shaked), two other members of the Knesset, and two members of the Israel Bar Association.

The new judges are slated to take the place of four members of the court who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in the coming year, including Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, Deputy President Elyakim Rubenstein, and Justices Salim Joubran and Zvi Zilbertal.

 

Art of the deal– The business partners who own stake in the Leviathan natural gas field off the Israeli coast have agreed to invest $3.75 billion in its development, they announced on Thursday. The gas field is owned by Texas-based Noble Energy (which has a stake of 39.7%), Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration (22.7% each), and Ratio Oil (15%). All of the latter three are Israeli firms. The $3.75 billion is in addition to $1 billion that has already been invested in the field’s development.

The Leviathan gas field lies approximately 60 miles west of Haifa and is believed to contain 18.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. When in operation, it will be able to serve not only domestic Israeli demand, but will also be exported to Israel’s neighbors and the broader Mediterranean region. Drilling is scheduled to begin this year and the first extraction is expected in 2019.

“This is a day of good tidings for the economy and people of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “This move will provide gas to Israel and promote cooperation with countries in the region.”

Eli Groner, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, said, “This is the biggest investment ever in Israel.” He added, “Commercial partnerships and alliances are what create diplomatic and political stability.”

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Energy Minister, hailed the news and said, “If we continue on a responsible and steadfast path, we will also succeed in discovering more gas fields, positioning Israel as an important player in the energy market alongside our neighbors in the Middle East and Europe.”

 

Amblyopia (“lazy eye”), a disorder affecting three to five percent of the general population, usually is treated by patching the stronger eye or blurring its vision with atropine drops, in order to force the brain to use images from the weaker eye. Yet only 60% achieve normal vision, and 35% of those who improve eventually regress. Moreover, compliance is only around 50% since nobody – and especially children – enjoys using eyepatches or eye drops. The Israeli company Medisim is working to commercialize a new approach, BinoVision video goggles, based on research showing that the brain can be stimulated to improve visual function. The sophisticated device presents separate and independent views of the same image to each eye. (via Israel21c)

Australian PM praises Israel upon Netanyahu visit, first by an Israeli PM

 

G’day, mate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Australia on Tuesday for an official state visit, marking the first such visit to Australia by an Israeli prime minister. He was warmly welcomed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who wrote an op-ed in The Australian praising Israel as a fellow democracy.

“Our friendship is as old as the state of Israel itself,” the op-ed began. “Our peoples are bound together first and foremost by the values we share – a mutual commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” Turnbull continued, “Israel is a miraculous nation. It has flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people. And yet in a region wracked by war, it succeeds as the sole liberal democracy, a world leader in every field of science and technology, its culture of innovation the envy of the world.”

Turnbull also made clear that his government “will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his delight at visiting Australia and said at a joint press conference that his visit “celebrates, really, 100 years of friendship of Australia to the Jewish people and their state.”

The two countries will sign agreements to enhance direct air travel between them and to cooperate in the fields of technology and innovation.

Netanyahu’s visit to Australia comes directly on the heels of a two-day trip to Singapore.

 

No justice, no freedom. Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi — leaders of the 2009 pro-democracy “Green Movement” protests in Iran — will not be released from house arrest as previously promised, according to a Los Angeles Times article published Tuesday. Their freedom was a campaign pledge made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani before winning office.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected calls for “national reconciliation,” effectively ensuring the opposition leaders’ perpetual detainment. He denounced efforts to mend ties with Green Revolution dissenters as “meaningless.”

“Previous Iranian leaders placed under house arrest never reemerged — including Mohammad Mossadegh, ousted as prime minister in a CIA-backed coup in 1953, and Hussein-Ali Montazeri, a leader of the Islamic Revolution who was marginalized after a falling out with Khamenei,” notes The Times. Both died while under house arrest.

 

Crushing teenage dreams. Dorsa Derakhshani, an 18-year-old chess grandmaster, was kicked off Iran’s national team after she failed to wear the Islamic hair covering known as the hijab at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2017, Radio Free Europe reported. Her 15-year-old brother, Borna, was also booted from the national team after playing against an Israeli opponent at the same competition.

Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, head of the Iranian Chess Federation, told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency on Sunday that the siblings “will be denied entry to all tournaments taking place in Iran, and, in the name of Iran, they will no longer be allowed the opportunity to be present on the national team.”

Iran not only enforces the hijab on its own nationals but also requires that non-Iranian women wear the hijab when competing in the country. Nazí Paikidze-Barnes, the reigning American female chess champion, withdrew from the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship after it was announced that it will be held in Iran and that participants would be forced to cover their hair.

“Some consider a hijab part of culture,” Paikidze-Barnes said in announcing her decision. “But, I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression.”

All women in Iran are required to wear headscarves, a law that is enforced with an iron grip. About 40,000 cars were confiscated in the first half of 2015 because drivers or passengers were not wearing their headscarves properly. Many women were pulled over and beaten on the ground, only to be arrested afterwards.

 

This time for Africa. Israel and the Word Bank will sign three agreements to cooperate in the fields of water, cybersecurity, and agriculture in African nations. In a statement, Israel’s Economy Minister, Eli Cohen, said, “Cooperation with the World Bank is an opportunity for us to showcase some of the capabilities and innovation that Israel can offer to developing countries.”

World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim visited Israel last week, meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and Cohen. In his meeting, Rivlin said to Dr. Kim, “We are cooperating on so many projects especially in agriculture and water conservation. Israel is committed to advancements in these fields for all peoples around the world and it is an honor to be your partner for the benefit of all humanity.”

Last year witnessed a series of diplomatic breakthroughs for Israel, especially with African nations. Netanyahu embarked on a historic tour of East Africa in July, restored diplomatic ties with the Muslim-majority nation of Guinea, and met with 15 African heads of state and ambassadors at the United Nations General Assembly in September.