Palestinian terrorists launched a spate of attacks on Tuesday as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel for a two-day visit. The Vice President met with former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, where he strongly condemned the terrorist attacks, saying there is no justification for terrorism, and expressed his deepest condolences. Biden stated unequivocally, “We have absolutely, total unvarnished commitment to the security of Israel.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest seconded this strong condemnation, while asserting that the Vice President’s trip to Israel was a testament to the strong relationship between the United States and Israel, which he described as “unshakeable.” Biden will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday in Jerusalem, and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, a Palestinian shot two members of the Israeli Border Police in a drive-by shooting. Both men are in serious condition, with one at serious risk of losing his life. The Damascus Gate has been the site of several attacks during the terror wave, which began last October – during that time period, at least 28 Israelis have been killed. In Petah Tikva, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a Haredi man several times in the upper body. The victim, 39-year-old Yonatan Ezriyahav, was able to remove the knife from his own neck and then stabbed his assailant, killing him. At Jaffa port, a Palestinian went on a stabbing rampage, killing 29-year-old American Taylor Force, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, and wounding at least 10 others, including Force's wife. Five people were left in critical condition, including a pregnant woman and a Russian tourist. The terrorist ran down the popular boardwalk there, stabbing people as he did so, and also ran into the street, stabbing motorists in parked vehicles. The attack took place as Biden met with Peres less than one mile away at the Peres Center. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri lauded the attacks, calling them “heroic operations” whose perpetrators were “martyrs” who had “ascended.” In another incident, a 50-year-old Palestinian woman attempted to stab police officers in the Old City of Jerusalem and was fatally shot; Hamas claimed responsibility for this attack.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that it had test-launched several ballistic missile tests at sites across the country on Tuesday, the third time that it has violated UN Security Council bans on such tests in five months.
“Our main enemies are imposing new sanctions on Iran to weaken our missile capabilities…but they should know that the children of the Iranian nation in the Revolutionary Guards and other armed forces refuse to bow to their excessive demands,” IRGC aerospace commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the U.S. would seek an “appropriate response” to the incident at the UN. “We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran’s missile program,” he added, an apparent reference to the imposition of new sanctions against Iran.
The missiles that were tested, according to the IRGC-linked website Tasnim News, are called Qiam, and were fired as part of drills called “Might of Velayat.” Velayat-e Faqih, meaning “rule of the jurisprudent,” is the form of government instituted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of Iran.
UN Security Council 2231, which undergirds the nuclear deal Iran reached with global powers last year, calls on the country not to develop ballistic missiles, which are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Despite this, Iran repeatedly announced that it would defy the ballistic missile elements of the resolution, and conducted missile test last October and November.
The White House’s inaction after the October launch prompted 11 Democratic senators to write a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their “profound concern,” adding that they were “convinced that the launch is an attempt to test the world’s will to respond to Iranian violations of its international commitments.” Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama in December criticizing his administration’s lack of response to both launches and emphasizing the threat that Iran’s advanced missiles pose to the United States and its allies.
The terms of the nuclear deal prevent the U.S. from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, but Kerry told a Senate hearing in July that the Iranians agreed that “that we have all other kinds of authorities” to impose sanctions for non-nuclear violations, such as those related to ballistic missilse.
The administration announced sanctions on Iran at the end of last year after the UN determined that the launch had been in violation of its resolutions, only to delaythem until January after Iran complained. Even so, the sanctions, which targeted a dozen businesses and individuals, were described by experts as the “bare minimum.”
A video purporting to show the launch of a ballistic missile from an underground IRGC “missile city” has been uploaded to YouTube. Note that at the beginning of the video, the floor of the underground facility appears to be decorated with an Israeli flag. (via TheTower.org)