The Sixth Seal Will Be On The East (Revelation 6:12)

New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes

Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great Distances

Released: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM

Earthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than previously thought.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists found that last year’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia triggered landslides at distances four times farther—and over an area 20 times larger—than previous research has shown.

“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”

“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”

This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.

This study also supports existing research showing that although earthquakes are less frequent in the East, their damaging effects can extend over a much larger area as compared to the western United States.

The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude. Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.

“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”

It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.

In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2 from an earthquake of similar magnitude.

“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”

The difference between seismic shaking in the East versus the West is due in part to the geologic structure and rock properties that allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening.

Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.

The Disaster at the Sixth Seal Could Have Been Avoided

The Indian Point Power Plant in Buchanan, set to close in 2021.

Indian Point Energy Already Replaced- We Have a Surplus of Electricity

May 4, 2019

Westchester Power Plant Sold for Cleanup Starting When it Closes in 2021

By Dan Murphy

The news last week that Entergy, owner of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, has sold the plant to Holtec International for decommissioning after the plant closes the last of its three nuclear units in 2021, renews the thought about where will the electrical energy needs of Westchester come from once the plant is closed in less than three years.

The sale includes the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, decommissioning liabilities, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts for the three units. “The sale of Indian Point to Holtec is expected to result in the completion of decommissioning decades sooner than if the site were to remain under Entergy’s ownership,” said Entergy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Leo Denault. “With its deep experience and technological innovations, Holtec’s ability to decommission Indian Point will benefit stakeholders in the surrounding community.”

Holtec will initiate decommissioning at Indian Point decades sooner than Entergy would have it if continued to own the units. The transaction is subject to several approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the New York State Public Service Commission and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

Entergy remains committed to the safe and reliable operation of Indian Point Unit 2 and Unit 3 until they are permanently shut down in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Unit 1 was shut down in 1974.

Holtec and its affiliates specialize in demolition and decommissioning. They will deploy operating processes and methods that enable them to expedite site clean-up and minimize occupational dose to workers. They will also minimize any incidental disruption to the land, water, and air at and around the site.

“Holtec will execute the decommissioning of Indian Point with the same culture of excellence that has undergirded our company’s ascent to a first-tier nuclear technology firm,” said Kris Singh, president and CEO of Holtec International. “Our industry-leading expertise and deep experience permit us to complete decommissioning at Indian Point decades sooner than if Entergy remained the owner and performed decommissioning itself. The potential for the site to be released decades sooner for redevelopment could deliver significant benefits to local community stakeholders and the local economy.”

Holtec will hire Entergy’s employees at Indian Point who are employed at the site for decommissioning. “Holtec looks forward to engaging with site employees, the local community, and other stakeholders over the coming months and years as we discuss our vision for the decommissioning of Indian Point,” said Singh.

For many of us in Westchester who do not follow the energy supply flows in the Hudson Valley and across the Northeast, Indian Point has always been an important party in keeping our electricity flowing. Commercials by Indian Point again and again have pointed to their statement that it provides 25 percent of the energy needs of Westchester and the New York City-metropolitan area.

Two years ago, we asked Westchester resident and member of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition Marilyn Elie what would happen to the Westchester energy supply if Indian Point closed.

“Local officials in Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Westchester and NYC have come out with the same claim in response to the proposed closing of Indian Point with each official claiming that Indian Point produces 25 percent of the electricity for their area,” she said. “They are all very concerned about replacement power. They have been duped and need not worry. The electricity from Indian Point has already been replaced.

“But first, some simple math: Entergy makes 2,060 MW of electricity at Indian Point. According to Con Ed, our peak winter load for NYC and Westchester is 9,000 MW and jumps to 13,000 MW in the summer. Entergy can’t produce a quarter of either of those figures, even if it all of their electricity went into our grid – which it doesn’t. Entergy sells 560 MW to Con Ed and bids 1,500 MW into the summer Mid-Hudson capacity market that serves five counties. In the winter the NY Times and Bloomberg News report that it sends 1,500 MW to the Boston area where a lot of gas is diverted for heating and the price of electricity is high. New York Power Authority, which supplies the subways, Metro-North, municipalities and government buildings, among other things, has not purchased electricity from Indian Point for years because they can get it cheaper elsewhere.

Replacement power does not have to be new generation. It can come from improvements in the transmission lines, increased efficiency where you get more work out of the same amount of electricity, or from something as simple as ‘demand response,’ where large users are paid to curtail usage at peak times and make extra MW’s available to the grid. There is a mixture of all of that plus new generation in the list below.

“In 2012 Gov. Cuomo directed the Public Service Commission to develop a plan for the closing of Indian Point. All concluded that sufficient planning for renewables coupled with privately financed supply projects would allow a smooth transition away from Indian Point.

“Between 2012 and 2015, market circumstances rapidly changed. The first surprise in 2013 was that both Danskammer and Bowline, which were both out of service and expected to be demolished, were being refurbished and brought back on line as gas generators. This happened largely because a special capacity zone was established by the Independent System Operator to encourage additional generation in this part of the grid. As a consequence, 1,650 MW of unanticipated electricity became available in addition to the transmission accommodations, which were already in place. As a result, the PSC determined that the construction of new power plants was not necessary in order to replace Indian Point. It should be noted that demand for electricity has not increased at the anticipated rate due to efficiency, conservation, and demand response, which allows large users of electricity to be paid to reduce use during peak times. With the emphasis New York State has placed on roof top solar, solar generation will undoubted play a role in smoothing out peak demand, as well.

We have a surplus of electricity to replace Indian Point, with more megawatts to come. So, a word to the wise – check your facts when they come from a source that stands to profit by them. Do the math and breathe easy. We have a surplus of electricity. Indian Point has already been replaced,” wrote Elie, of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition.

Two years later, Elie’s estimates and predictions have all come to pass. Roger Witherspoon, board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists updated us and our readers on the energy needs of Westchester via Indian Point.

“The situation has changed since 2017 in that Entergy’s contract with ConEd, for just 560 MW, expired May 31, 2018 and was not renewed,” he said. “ConEd no longer gets ANY electricity from Entergy, according to the company. Neither does NYPA. Indian Point supplies none of the electricity used in NYC/WC, and hasn’t for nearly a year.

“During peak periods in the summer, ConEd may acquire electricity from the daily or day-ahead markets run by the NY ISO. That does not necessarily mean that electricity purchased through the auctions is from IP. Entergy has had a difficult time competing in the marketplace because their electricity is high compared to juice from natural gas, solar and wind. On occasion during the past year, Entergy has had to file ‘negative bids,’ according to the ISO – which means they were priced out of the auction, but then paid the winner not to produce so they could substitute electricity from IP.

“I interviewed officials at both ConEd and NYPA. In both cases, they said their electricity from Indian Point is not needed. IP was replaced a year ago by the free market. It just takes time for people to realize it,” said Witherspoon, who has resolved the matter once and for all for those of us in Westchester who still wondered what will happen to our electric bills when Indian Point closes, and will there be blackouts.

Our utility bills, whether they come from Con Ed or NYSEG in Westchester, no longer purchase energy from Indian Point. There are cheaper sources of energy, and the two pieces to the energy puzzle here in Westchester and across the country – increasing renewable energy supply and reducing usage through efficiency and by getting large users to reduced their demand during peak hours.

All of these efforts have made Indian Point an energy dinosaur, now obsolete in today’s changing energy environment. The only question that we had for Witherspoon and Elie was why is Con Ed unable to service new natural gas customers in mid-lower Westchester? We hope to answer that question in the weeks to come.

The other takeaway from the sale of Indian Point is how long it will take to clean up and remediate the power plant for the residents of Buchanan and Verplank. Holtec said its acquisition means that the cleanup and removal of nuclear waste at IP will be completed “decades sooner.” How many decades will it now take, once the plant closes for good in 2021?

27 More Dead Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

May 5 at 7:30 PM

  Israel and Hamas hurtled into their deadliest bout of fighting in nearly five years on Sunday as Palestinian militants launched a barrage of more than 600 rockets and Israel responded with airstrikes on more than 300 targets.

Four Israeli civilians were killed, the first from rocket fire from Gaza since 2014, and 23 Palestinians died. The exchange threatened to push the sides toward a new war and derail efforts to broker a longer-term truce. Mediation over a new cease-fire was underway on Sunday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for more than four hours with his security cabinet. He said he had instructed the military to continue strikes and prepare “for the next stages.”

Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu said he had ordered “massive attacks against terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip.”

Eli Cohen, minister for the economy and a security cabinet member, said the meeting ended with a “clear decision.”

“We are preparing for a campaign against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and we will extract a price from them they have not experienced yet,” he said.

Israel generally holds Hamas, which controls Gaza, responsible for any rocket fire from the area. But the Israeli military said Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant faction in the Palestinian enclave, had instigated the violence.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system appeared to be overwhelmed by the barrage, intercepting only 150 of the 510 rockets that crossed into Israeli territory. The Israeli military said about 90 rockets fell short.

Israel said it responded with airstrikes against more than 320 military targets in Gaza. Palestinian militant factions said they were retaliating in an “unprecedented manner” after residential buildings were hit, and they threatened to expand the range of their rockets if the “aggression” continued.

Palestinian health officials said the dead in Gaza included two pregnant women, a 12-year-old boy and two infants. The Israeli military denied it was responsible for the strike that killed one of the pregnant women and a baby, saying a Palestinian rocket misfired.
A woman hugs an Israeli soldier while they take cover as sirens warn of incoming rockets from Gaza on Sunday. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

It was the deadliest round of fighting since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, and the Israeli civilian casualties were the first from rocket fire since then. The exchange came amid negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a deal in which Israel would ease restrictions on Gaza in return for calm.

Hamas accuses Israel of reneging on its commitments so far, including a deal it said they agreed to after the last violent flare-up in March. which caused Netanyahu to cut short a visit to Washington. Hamas said Israel had agreed to continue to permit $30 million in Qatari cash for employment projects and humanitarian aid, expand fishing rights and ease trade restrictions.

In recent months, the cash has not arrived, and Hamas has fallen under increasing pressure ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of traditional fasting and feasting.

“Hamas believes that Netanyahu has abandoned his commitments, and they believe this is a very important time to put on pressure and get Israel to make good on promises,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of politics at Gaza’s al-Azhar University.

He pointed to Israel’s independence day celebrations this week and the Eurovision song contest the week after. The popular international singing competition is to be broadcast from Tel Aviv, with Madonna expected to perform.

“Whether the calculation was right or wrong, we’ll see,” Abusada said.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said a “return to calm” was possible if Israel committed to implementing the “understandings” that had been reached.

Reports in Palestinian media that a midnight cease-fire had been agreed to could not be confirmed.

“The cease-fire is possible, but the occupation has to pay for its obligations,” Islamic Jihad leader Daoud Shihab said.

While Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they hoped to strong-arm Israel into easing restrictions on Gaza, Israel announced it would cease all fuel imports into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, impacting Gaza’s already patchy power supply.

Schools across southern Israel were closed on Sunday as rockets rained down, and streets on both sides of the border were virtually deserted. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said Israel’s Iron Dome system was dealing with a “diverse” and “fast-paced” threat.

Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, said Hamas had probably developed a new tactic to bypass the Iron Dome.

“They are using the same kind of rockets they used in the past,” said Yadlin, now head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. “But this time, they are firing them in a salvo of eight, 10 or 12 at the same time.”

Conricus said 35 rockets had struck urban areas. The first Israeli civilian fatality from rocket fire since 2014 came in the early hours Sunday, when a 58-year-old man was killed after a rocket hit his home in Ashkelon.

A 50-year-old Israeli man was killed in a factory in Ashkelon, and a 67-year-old Israeli man succumbed to his injures after an antitank missile hit his car. As night fell, a fourth Israeli, in his early 20s, according to Israeli media, was confirmed killed in the southern city of Ashdod.

In Gaza, Israeli strikes toppled buildings as high as seven stories. Palestinian officials there said one strike Sunday evening hit an apartment, killing a 31-year-old man, a 30-year-old woman and a 4-month-old girl.

Conricus said Israeli intelligence had confirmed that a Palestinian woman and a 14-month-old baby killed the day before did not die as a result of an Israeli strike, but of Palestinian rocket fire.

Islamic Jihad said eight of those killed were its militants. Hamas did not confirm fatalities among its fighters.

Conricus said Israeli targets included weapons storage facilities in the homes of militants, attack tunnels and military headquarters. The Turkish news agency Anadolu said its Gaza office was struck.

The Israeli military said an armored brigade and two infantry brigades had mobilized to the border area and were prepared for “offensive” action. Officials also said they had carried out the first targeted assassination of a Hamas militant in “several years.”

Conricus said the military worked with the Israeli Security Agency to assassinate Hamed Khudary, 34, who it said was responsible for channeling Iranian money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Right-wing Israeli politicians have repeatedly called on Netanyahu to restart the tactic of targeted assassinations.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped the sides would return to the cease-fire that had been in place for weeks and had been “holding significantly.”

“It’s pretty serious,” he told Fox News on Sunday. “The Israelis have every right to defend themselves.”

Israel previously denied that it had reached a cease-fire deal with Hamas. Representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were locked in negotiations in Cairo on Sunday as Egypt attempted to broker a truce.

Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst, linked the escalation to Hamas’s discontent over the delivery of Qatari assistance.

“It’s nearly Ramadan; people are starving,” she said. “We as Israelis think about the Eurovision, but they are preoccupied with demands from the public. They are waiting for the Qatari cash.”

Basem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said there were several reasons for the escalation, one of which was the lack of progress in negotiations on a long-term deal with Israel.

“We’ve talked about long- and short-term solutions, money, the fishing zone, but nothing is happening on the ground,” he said.

He said Hamas had tried to rein in violence at border protests on Friday but was frustrated by Israel’s continued use of live fire against the demonstrators. U.S. and Israeli moves, such as President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, have further spurred the group to take action, he said.

Hamas has used weekly protests to ramp up pressure on Israel and divert the frustrations of Gaza residents after more than a decade of siege. Two demonstrators were killed by Israeli snipers Friday, before militants carried out a shooting attack at the border.

Israel responded with a strike that killed two Hamas militants.

“It has escalated gradually,” Naim said.

The United Nations said Secretary General António Guterres was following the developments with “deep concern.” Guterres deplored the “risk of yet another dangerous escalation and further loss of life on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan,” condemned the rocket fire in the “strongest terms,” and urged all parties to exercise “maximum restraint,” the United Nations said.

Balousha reported from Gaza. Paul Sonne in Washington contributed to this report.

Babylon the Great Prepares for War with Iran

Citing Iranian Threat, U.S. Sends Carrier Group and Bombers to Persian Gulf

May 5, 2019

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last month in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain. It has been rerouted to the Persian Gulf.Cati Cladera/EPA, via Shutterstock

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last month in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain. It has been rerouted to the Persian Gulf.Cati Cladera/EPA, via Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The White House announced on Sunday that the United States was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East because of “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” related to Iran.

The deployment was intended “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” said John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, in a statement released Sunday night.

The announcement did not give any further information on the reasons for the commitment of military forces. An American military official said on Sunday night that whatever threat Mr. Bolton cited had most likely emerged in the previous 24 to 48 hours because as of late Friday, military analysts were not tracking any new, imminent or clearly defined Iranian or Iranian-backed threats against Americans in Iraq or the region.

Antichrist Takes Census of His Nation

Iraq’s plans to take census raise controversy

Omar Sattar May 5, 2019

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s central government announced April 9 its intention to launch a comprehensive census in the country in late 2020. This constitutes the first step toward ending several chronic economic and political problems caused by a lack of accurate official statistics since 1997.

While there have been several previous attempts to take a comprehensive census, such attempts have failed to come to fruition either due to the lack of sufficient funding or because of the absence of a political consensus.

Article 140 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution stipulates that a census was to be taken before 2007 so that a referendum could be held in disputed areas, including oil-rich Kirkuk province, in order to determine the will of the people and whether they want their area to turn into its own region or want to join the Kurdistan region.

This year, it seems significant that a body called the Supreme Commission for the Comprehensive Population and Housing Census of 2020 has been formed.

A Ministry of Planning statement says this body includes “the head of the National Population Policy Committee, the head of the Central Bureau of Statistics, two representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government, a representative of the House of Representatives, and the undersecretaries of ministries related to security and services and representatives of the Sunni and Shiite endowments, among other religions.”

The mission of this body is to “approve the census’ comprehensive plan and sub-plans based on their stages, time frames and material and human requirements. The body also determines the methods of funding disbursement as well as the work progress supervision and follow-up methods throughout the preparatory stages. It adopts the census form’s final version and defines the counting process, among other issues it may deem important and necessary.”

This reflects the seriousness of the government in the implementation of the comprehensive census.

Abdul-Zahra al-Hindawi, a spokesman for the census, told Al-Monitor, “The comprehensive population and housing census will be taken at the end of next year, and the United Nations along with some friendly countries will provide assistance and advice to organize this important event.”

Regarding the relationship between the census and Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, Hindawi, who also heads the Central Bureau of Statistics, said, “The census has nothing to do with Article 140 of the constitution and the disputed areas.“

He added, „While the constitution stipulates the organization of a census for those areas specifically in order to determine the number of each component therein before a referendum is held, the census in question is only developmental, and citizens have the option not to specify their national and religious affiliations when filling out the form.”

He said, “Political differences over whether or not the census has anything to do with the disputed areas were behind the postponement of the census, which was scheduled to take place in 2010. The census that is being prepared now will have nothing to do with [the fate of] Kirkuk or any other disputed area.”

According to the Ministry of Planning, the debate over the future of the disputed areas will linger, especially considering that the parliamentary blocs that form the government had approved a government program that includes a population census.

Riad al-Masoudi, a member of parliament from the Sairoon coalition led by Muqtada al-Sadr, stressed that “the census will make no mention of religious, doctrinal and national affiliations, although some parliamentary blocs are trying to have these details mentioned in the questionnaire.”

He said, “There is a prevailing view to have doctrinal and national affiliations specified at a later stage so that no developmental plans are disrupted due to political differences.”

Dylan Ghafour, a member of parliament for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, told Al-Monitor that from now until the fourth quarter of next year, which is when the census is to be taken, the Kurdish side will be working on having national affiliations specified in the census so that the latter is used in the application of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.

“The government program stipulates ending the dispute over the disputed areas, and the census should under no circumstances refrain from including national and religious affiliations. Otherwise, it would be useless,” she added.

Ghafour hoped that “political blocs would end the dispute over Kirkuk by constitutional means through the census and popular referendum. It is such disputes that allowed the Islamic State organization, among other terrorist groups, to infiltrate and control large areas of the country.”

The last official population census taken in Iraq was in 1997, and it did not include the Kurdistan region. According to that census, the population of the country amounted to 19,184,543 people, and since 2003 until now, the Iraqi government has been relying on data from the Ministry of Trading, which administers the ration cards held by most Iraqis, to determine the size of the population and organize elections.

On Oct. 1, the Ministry of Planning estimated the population of Iraq at 38,124,182 — 19,261,253 of whom were male, accounting for 51% of the population, while 18,862,929 were female, accounting for 49%..

The debate over the population census is not confined to the disputed areas, but also includes sectarian diversity and the quotas for each ethnic and national minority. Each group believes that its share in the federal parliament and local councils is unfair and has been manipulated to serve other groups. However, striking the religion and sect category from the census form would necessarily lead a prolonged debate over the real size of Iraq’s various communities, especially considering that the political system has relied since 2003 on sectarian and ethnic quotas for the distribution of positions and privileges.

The census will contribute to more targeted economic and human development plans as it will more accurately determine, as opposed to relying on estimates, the real electoral size of each province and the share each administrative unit should get from the public budget.

As Kurds and Turkmens object to the census‘ timing and meaning for the future of Kirkuk on the one hand, and some groups insist on the need for citizens to specify their religious affiliation on the other, this census might end up getting postponed once again.

War Wages Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

600 rockets fired from Gaza, Israel responds with airstrikes

By Andrew Carey, CNN

Updated 10:40 AM EDT, Sun May 05, 2019

Jerusalem(CNN) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said „massive attacks against terrorist elements“ in Gaza will continue after militants in the coastal enclave fired approximately 600 rockets towards Israel.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Netanyahu said: „Hamas bears the responsibility not only for its own attacks and actions but also for the actions of Islamic Jihad, and it is paying a very heavy price for this.“

Israel has so far responded with airstrikes on 260 targets across Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).Three Israelis were killed, according to the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization and the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon. Four Palestinian militants were killed in the airstrikes, according to Gaza health officials, as well as two other Palestinian men.

The IDF denied killing a one-year old baby and the baby’s pregnant mother in Gaza, and said the deaths were caused by a Hamas rocket that misfired.

A 58-year-old man was killed when a rocket hit his house in Ashkelon, according to a statement from Barzilai hospital. He is the first Israeli to be killed by rocket fire since the end of the 2014 war.

Israel targeted and killed 34-year-old Hamid Ahmed Abdul Khudri, who was responsible for transferring money from Iran to militant groups inside of Gaza, according to a statement from the IDF.

The UN said it is working with Egypt to try to restore a ceasefire and says both sides are putting at risk efforts to relieve the suffering of people in Gaza.

The escalation began Saturday morning with about 50 rockets fired towards Israel within the course of an hour and continued late into the evening.

The IDF said its Iron Dome aerial defense system had intercepted dozens of the incoming rockets.

In response to the rockets, the IDF said it carried out airstrikes on about 200 militant targets in Gaza, including a tunnel, rocket launcher sites and other military compounds used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ.) The military also struck a mosque in al-Shati in northern Gaza, which the IDF said was used a command and control center by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Palestinians walk by a clothing shop damaged by Israeli airstrikes on Saturday.

Turkey has condemned a strike on a building housing the office of its state-run Anadolu news agency, a building which Israel says is also used by Hamas’s military intelligence.

A spokesman for Turkey’s President said: „We urge all governments that claim to defend press freedom, including @USEmbassyTurkey to join us in condemning the Israeli government.“

Israel announced that it is closing the two border crossings between Israel and Gaza, as well as closing the Gaza fishing zone.

The fishing zone was restricted to 6 nautical miles earlier this week following a rocket fired from Gaza that landed off the coast of Israel.There was no specific date for when the crossings and the fishing zone would reopen.

Saturday’s rocket barrage came less than a day after two militants from Hamas‘ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, were killed in an Israeli strike on Hamas posts in Gaza.

A serious escalation

Israel launched airstrikes Friday after two Israeli soldiers were wounded by sniper fire along the Gaza border.

Two other Palestinians died in Gaza Friday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, with both men succumbing to their wounds after being shot by Israeli troops during protests along the Gaza fence, according to health officials.

This is the first serious escalation between Israel and Gaza militants since the Israeli election almost a month ago.

In the run-up to that election, Egypt succeeded in mediating an agreement between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, following an exchange of rockets and airstrikes in March.

The agreement, though never publicly acknowledged by Israel, included measures aimed at loosening the restrictions imposed on Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants.

Recent pronouncements by Hamas officials have suggested growing frustration that Israel has not moved fast enough to fulfill its pledges, including allowing the transfer of millions of dollars of extra funding from Qatar.

The upturn in violence comes as Israel is preparing to mark Independence Day next week and host the Eurovision Song Contest the following week.

Analysts say Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would much prefer those events to occur in a state of calm rather than one of open conflict.

On Saturday evening, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, announcing renewed efforts with Egypt to restore calm, called on all parties to immediately de-escalate or risk a conflict with „grave consequences for all.“

Iran Continues to Expand Her Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some…

Tehran to Continue Enriching Uranium, Rouhani Warns Against Internal Divisions

Sunday, 5 May, 2019 – 08:00 –

London- Asharq Al-Awsat

As the US intensifies its pressure campaign aimed at curbing Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional influence, the Iranian clerical-led regime reaffirmed its plans to resume enriching uranium, heavy (deuterium0-based) water and exporting oil.

Speaker Ali Larijani said Tehran would continue to enrich uranium and produce heavy water, regardless of restrictions on shipping abroad.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, warned that the recent host of US economic sanctions, a part of Washington strategy to counter Iranian malicious behavior, risks stoking internal tensions. Reformists in Rouhani’s administration and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei loyalists have been at odds on Iran’s response policy to pressure.

Under the [nuclear accord] Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore, we will carry on with enrichment activity,” the semiofficial Iranian news agency, ISNA, quoted Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani as saying on May 4.

“We will enrich Uranium whether you move to buy it or not,” Larijani said.

On May 3, the US President Donald Trump’s administration slapped new restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities as it looks to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant, intensifying a campaign aimed at halting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.

Despite increasing pressure on Iran, the United States on May 3 extended five sanction waivers that will allow Russian, China, and European countries to continue to work with Iran’s civilian nuclear program at Bushehr. But it said it may punish any activity that expands the site.

At the same time, the State Department said it was ending two waivers related to Iranian exports of enriched uranium in what it called “the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime.” All of the waivers were due to expire on May 4.

The 45- to 90-day extensions were shorter than the 180 days granted previously but can be renewed.

It was the third punitive action taken against Iran in as many weeks. Last week, it said it would grant no more sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, accelerating its plan to push Iran’s oil exports to zero. The Trump administration also took the unprecedented step of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

“The Trump administration continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region’s stability and harm the Iranian people. This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon,“ State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear accord a year ago and vowed „maximum pressure“ aimed at curbing the regional role of Iran.”

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Saturday, 4 May, 2019 – 12:15 –

National Iranian Oil Company to Open Office in Iraq

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will open an office in Iraq. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will open an office in Iraq, the semi-official Fars News Agency said on Saturday.

The new office “will facilitate cooperation in the oil industry and the transfer of engineering and technical services” to Iraq, it said.

The announcement comes as Iran faces US sanctions on its oil exports.

Earlier, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran must counter the sanctions by continuing to export its oil as well as boosting non-oil exports.

His comments, carried live on Iranian TV, came a day after Washington acted to force Iran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant, intensifying a campaign aimed at halting its ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.

“America is trying to decrease our foreign reserves … So we have to increase our hard currency income and cut our currency expenditures,” Rouhani said.

“Last year, we had we non-oil exports of $43 billion. We should increase production and raise our (non-oil) exports and resist America’s plots against the sale of our oil.”

Friday’s move, which Rouhani made no direct reference to, was the third punitive US action taken against Iran in as many weeks.

Last week, it said it would stop waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, in an attempt to push Iran’s oil exports to zero. The United States also blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Efforts by the Trump administration to impose political and economic isolation on Tehran began with last year’s US withdrawal from the nuclear deal it and other world powers negotiated with Iran in 2015.