Pompeo Correctly Blames Iran for Oil Damage (Revelation 6:6)

Pompeo blames Iran for drone attacks on Saudi oil field

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

Updated 6:11 PM EDT, Sat September 14, 2019

Washington(CNN) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame on Iran for an attack at a Saudi oil field in a pair of tweets Saturday.

Drone strikes on crucial Saudi Arabian oil facilities have disrupted about half of the kingdom’s oil capacity, or 5% of the daily global oil supply, CNN Business reported earlier Saturday. Yemen’s Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attacks but they are often backed by Iran.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo tweeted, referencing Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” Pompeo continued, providing no evidence that Iran was behind the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to quash the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, which has been backing the Houthis.

Pompeo also called for other countries to denounce Iran and promised American efforts to help support the energy market.

“We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks,” he tweeted. “The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”

CNN has reached out to the State Department for further information regarding the attack and who was involved.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle weighed in on Pompeo’s characterizations of the attack.

“This is such irresponsible simplification and it’s how we get into dumb wars of choice,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted in response to Pompeo.

“The Saudis and Houthis are at war,” he added. “The Saudis attack the Houthis and the Houthis attack back. Iran is backing the Houthis and has been a bad actor, but it’s just not as simple as Houthis=Iran.”

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas vowed that “the United States stands with our Saudi partners in confronting Iran’s campaign of terror across the Middle East.”

“The ayatollahs’ desperate efforts to cripple global energy markets will only renew our commitment to maximum pressure, he added in a statement. “The Iranian regime and its proxies ought to face consequences for these attacks.”

President Donald Trump called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Saturday to offer his support for the country’s self-defense, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

“The United States strongly condemns today’s attack on critical energy infrastructure,” Deere said. “Violent actions against civilian areas and infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and mistrust.”

The US government “remains committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied,” the spokesman said.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry “stands ready to deploy resources from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves if necessary to offset any disruptions to oil markets” as a result of the attack on Saudi oil facilities, Department of Energy spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement.

Perry was briefed on the attacks and directed agency leadership “to work with the International Energy Agency on potential available options for collective global action if needed,” Hynes added.

A Department of Energy official also noted that the US Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves “holds 630 million barrels…for exactly this purpose.”

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Gregory Clary, John Defterios, Victoria Cavaliere, Nada Altaher, Jennifer Hauser and Ivana Kottasová contributed to this report.

Pakistan Understands the Implications of Nuclear War Better than We Do

Nuclear war’s consequences are inconceivable: PM

by News Desk , (Last Updated 9 hours ago)

Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned the global powers and the international community of grave consequences if a nuclear war breaks out between arch-rivals Pakistan and India.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, he said, “It is a nation that will fight till the last breath,” he said while referring to a possibility of using nuclear arms in the war.

“The aftermath of a nuclear conflict is unimaginable and anything is possible if two nuclear-armed states enter into war against each other,” he said.

“No sane person can talk of a nuclear war. Pakistan will go to every extent for [rights] of Kashmiris.”

He affirmed that this was the reason Pakistan has been approaching every international forum for resolution of the longstanding dispute as the possible devastation would affect the entire subcontinent.

“Pakistan doesn’t want to initiate a war as wars create more problems. I am against war as I believe that wars don’t solve problems,” he added.

As an example, the premier referred to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and mentioned those wars later unfolded more intense issues.

PM Khan outlined that Pakistan has ensured religious freedom for followers of all religions and termed ill-treatment towards minorities “violation of the Constitution.”

He further compared religious freedom in Pakistan with under Modi regime in India, and stated: “India has been following the ideology of RSS.”

On Thursday, the premier, in a tweet, welcomed the European Union‘s call for a peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute, in line with the UNSC resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.

He had also thanked the rest of the world for its support for Kashmir.

“I commend 58 countries that joined Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council on September 10, reinforcing demands of international community for India to stop the use of force, lift the siege, remove other restrictions, respect and protect Kashmir’s rights, and resolve Kashmir dispute through the UNSC resolutions.”

A ’Tactical’ Simulation of the Tribulation and Fire

A terrifying new animation shows how 1 ‘tactical’ nuclear weapon could trigger a US-Russia war that kills 34 million people in 5 hours

Ellen Ioanes Dave Mosher Sep 14, 2019, 9:00 AM

“Plan A” is an audio-visual simulation that shows how so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons could lead to a highly fatal global conflict between the Russia, the US, and allies.Princeton University/Nuclear Futures Lab

• A new simulation called “Plan A,” by researchers at Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security, shows how the use of one so-called tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon could lead to a terrifying worldwide conflict.

• In the roughly four-minute video, a Russian “nuclear warning shot” at a US-NATO coalition leads to a global nuclear war that leads to 91.5 million deaths and injuries.

• Under President Trump, the US is ramping up production of tactical nuclear weapons, ostensibly to target troops and munitions supplies. While advocates say these weapons would keep wars from escalating, the simulation finds the opposite outcome.

• The dissolution of the INF treaty in August raised the stakes for nuclear war, as both the US and Russia were free to develop weapons previously banned under the treaty.

• “The risk of nuclear war has increased dramatically in the past two years,” the project states. Nuclear strikes are an extremely remote possibility, but their chances are rising experts warn.

More than 91 million people in Russia, the US, and NATO-allied countries might be killed or injured within three hours following a single “nuclear warning shot,” according to a terrifying new simulation.

The simulation is called “Plan A,” and it’s an audio-visual piece that was first posted to to YouTube on September 6. (You can watch the full video at the end of this story.) Researchers at the Science and Global Security lab at Princeton University created the animation, which shows how a battle between Russia and NATO allies that uses so-called low-yield or “tactical” nuclear weapons – which can pack a blast equivalent to those the US used to destroy Hiroshima or Nagasaki in World War II – might feasibly and quickly snowball into a global nuclear war.

“This project is motivated by the need to highlight the potentially catastrophic consequences of current US and Russian nuclear war plans. The risk of nuclear war has increased dramatically in the past two years,” the project states on its website.

The video has an ominous, droning soundtrack and a digital map design straight out of the 1983 movie “WarGames.” The Cold War-era movie, in which a young Matthew Broderick accidentally triggers a nuclear war, “was exactly the reference point,” simulation designer Alex Wellerstein told Insider.

But while simulations can be frightening, they can also be incredibly helpful: governments can use them to develop contingency plans to respond to nuclear disasters and attacks in the least escalatory way, and they can also help ordinary citizens learn how to survive a nuclear attack.

“Plan A” comes as tensions between Russia and NATO allies ratchet up. Both Russia and the US are testing weapons previously banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, often called INF. Russian bombers have also cruised into US airspace repeatedly, and the US recently sent its B-2 Spirit stealth bomber on a mission in the Arctic – right in Russia’s backyard.

This is how a NATO-Russian confrontation could quickly escalate into nuclear war.

The simulation starts with a conventional war between NATO and Russian troops.

Science and Global Security, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy

Conventional warfare – namely all conflict short of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons – escalates into nuclear warfare when Russia launches a nuclear “warning shot” from a base near Kaliningrad to stop NATO advancement. Russia doesn’t have a “no first use” policy – it dropped it in 1993. NATO forces respond by launching a tactical nuclear strike.

The US already has tactical nuclear weapons, such as B61-12 gravity bombs, and more planned under US President Donald Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Included in the plan is a low-yield warhead intended for use in a submarine-launched ballistic missile, as well as a sea-launched cruise missile.

These kinds of weapons are designed for targets on the battlefield, like troops or munitions supplies, as opposed to long- or intermediate-range nuclear missiles that are fired from one country to another, for example, targeting an enemy’s bombers and ICBM silos – or even cities.

Tactical nuclear strikes up the ante.

Princeton Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

If the nuclear threshold is crossed, the simulation finds, then both the US and Russia would respond with tactical nuclear weapons. Russia would send 300 warheads to NATO targets, including advancing troops, in both aircraft and short-range missiles – overwhelming force that would obliterate tanks, fortified positions and soldiers unlike anything ever seen in battle before. Supporting forces and civilians not immediately killed would be susceptible to painful and even fatal radiation exposure.

NATO would respond by sending about 180 tactical nuclear weapons to Russia via aircraft in equally devastating retaliation.

The simulation was constructed using independent analysis of nuclear force postures in NATO countries and Russia, including the availability of nuclear weapons, their yields, and possible targets, according to the Science and Global Security lab.

The tactical phase of the simulation shows about 2.6 million casualties over three hours.

Instead of the tactical weapons de-escalating the conflict, as proponents claim they would, the simulation shows conflict spiraling out of control after the use of tactical weapons.

Princeton Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs

Russia’s tactical weapons would destroy much of Europe, the simulation posits. In response, NATO would launch submarine- and US-based strategic nuclear weapons toward Russia’s nuclear arsenals – 600 warheads in total.

Strategic nuclear weapons have a longer range, so Russia, knowing that NATO nukes are headed for its weapons cache, would throw all its weight behind missiles launched from silos, mobile launchers, and submarines.

The casualties during this phase would be 3.4 million in 45 minutes.

This leads to 85.3 million additional casualties in the final phase of the nuclear war simulation.

Princeton University Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

In the wake of previous attacks, both Russia and NATO would launch warheads toward each other’s 30 most populous cities in the final stage of of the scenario, using five to 10 warheads for each city depending on its size.

This phase would cause 85.3 million casualties – both deaths and injuries. But the total casualty count from the entire battle (of less than 5 hours) would be 34.1 million deaths and 57.4 million injuries, or a combined 91.3 million casualties overall.

But that’s just the immediate conflict: The entire world would be affected by nuclear disaster in the months, years, and decades to come.

The radioactive fallout from the nuclear disaster would cause additional deaths and injuries. Studies also suggest that, even with a limited nuclear engagement, Earth’s atmosphere would cool dramatically, driving famine, refugee crises, additional conflicts, and more deaths.

 

What is Iran’s Message in Antichrist’s Meeting with Khamenei? (Daniel 8)

What is Iran’s message in Sadr meeting with Khamenei?

Shortly after Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appeared Sept. 10 in the presence of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, Khamenei’s official website published several photos of the scene, showing Sadr submitting to Khamenei by putting his hand on his chest and looking up at him.

Sadr was seated with Soleimani to his left, both on a cushion on the floor, and Khamenei to his right, on a chair; Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, sat next to Soleimani. This setting was intended to send a message to Iran’s opponents in the region that Sadr is an essential element of the resistance axis, of which Khamenei is leader and Soleimani military commander.

Kayhan, a hard-line Iranian newspaper close to Khamenei, reported on the bigger picture of what had transpired at the Tehran assembly commemorating the third Shiite Imam Hussein Ibn Ali. In a piece titled, “Resistance axis is on the rise while the enemy is falling,” it introduced Sadr as Iran’s third pillar in the region side by side with Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Yemen’s Ansar Allah leader Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi.

The article also quoted several tweets from Iranian social media activists: “Trump, Netanyahu and King Salman know the meaning of this picture better than anyone else”; “Sadr entered Imam Khomenei Hussainia [congegration hall], Bolton left the White House”; and “Sadr’s meeting with Khamenei is another strike at the Western-Hebrew-Arab ominous triangle [United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia].”

Khamenei’s Sept. 10 assembly, part of a 10-day commemoration event on the occasion of the martyrdom in battle of the Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, is not only a religious gathering, but also a political show conveying messages to local and international audiences. The day before the assembly, a religious singer (Maddah) sang a poem, in the presence of Khamenei, against the Saudis, slamming them for attacking Yemen and calling the Houthis the soldiers of God who could “destroy Satan’s devil horns,” in reference to the Saudi royal family.

In addition to sending a message to its regional opponents with the Sept. 10 meeting, Iran has been reorganizing its forces in Iraq. Iran’s traditional forces in Iraq, which include a group of Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) factions, gathered under the umbrella of the Fatah parliamentary bloc and Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party, do not seem powerful enough in Iraq’s political scene.

Following the series of attacks against PMU bases, its factions have been divided into two: One group is getting closer to Iran and the other is distancing itself from Iran. Moreover, many of the PMU factions have been involved in corruption, alcohol and drug smuggling, gambling and other illegal activities.

The Dawa party also has been divided into a pro-Iranian group led by Maliki and a US-friendly group led by Haider al-Abadi.

Under these circumstances, no one is more trustworthy than Sadr who leads the largest parliamentary bloc, the Sairoon Alliance, and Saraya al-Salam, a constant and powerful military faction.

An Iranian source close to Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s senior adviser on international affairs, told Al-Monitor that although Sadr would never fully submit to Iran, Khamenei’s administration looks at him as a strong trustworthy ally with genuine anti-US sentiments that can assure Iraq will remain a strategic ally of Iran.

“A strong ally with some differences is a better and long-lasting ally than a weak and divided one,” said the source, referring to Iran’s traditional allies among the Dawa party and PMU factions.

It seems that Sadr also has the same view about working with Iran. In a Sept. 13 tweet, he addressed Iraq’s politicians, writing, “Your corruption will not last long,” implying that a big change is coming to the political scene in Iraq.

By attending the Sept. 10 assembly in Tehran, Sadr has shown his support for the Iranians in this difficult time, emphasizing that Iran is a great player in the region with powerful flexibility and pragmatism. At the same time, Sadr is getting support from the Iranians for his future moves in Iraqi politics. Following Sadr’s meeting with Khameini and Soleimani, none of the Iranian actors in Iraq, including the PMU factions, can accuse Sadr of an anti-Iranian agenda, as happened in the past few years.

Sadr will continue his independent and nationalistic discourse, expanding his influence in the Iraqi government, but without objections from Iran-backed groups in Iraq. In the end, Iran is unconcerned about Iraq becoming a US or Saudi ally under Sadr’s influence.

Despite all these indicators showing bilateral rapprochement between Iran and Sadr, their honeymoon is not expected to last long due to the changeability of Sadr and complexity of Iraqi politics with so many actors with different tendencies.

How Netanyahu Cemented the Shi’a Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei (2nd R) meets Saleh al-Arouri (3rd R), deputy leader of Hamas. (Photo: via MEMO)

Israeli Folly: How Netanyahu Cemented the Hezbollah-Hamas-Iran Alliance

September 13, 2019

By Ramzy Baroud

To serve his limited political agenda, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have unwittingly unified various resistance groups in the Middle East after years of separation and discord.

On August 24-25, Netanyahu ordered the Israeli army to strike several targets of parties he perceives to be allies of Iran in the region. The unprecedented military campaign included Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza.

Within hours from the strikes, triumphant Netanyahu swooped in to collect the political rewards, bragging about the military operation, and warning Lebanon “to calm down”, because in his opinion, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, “knows very well that the state of Israel knows how to defend itself well, and to repay its enemies”.

Tel Aviv’s friends in Washington were ready with statements of support about “Israel’s right to defend itself,” as bizarrely reiterated by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Israel’s friends in the mainstream media also clamored to make connections between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

The truth, however, is that the Syria war had severed the once-strong alliance between the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas and Iran, and by extension, Hezbollah as well.

The Syrian bloodbath has done much damage beyond these alliances as well, dividing the Middle East region in a proxy war that roped in, not only politicians and fighters but intellectuals as well.

That aside, the Syria war is now winding down and Israel is terrified by the possibility of having a permanent Iranian military presence near its northern borders, and is especially concerned that Hezbollah has already neutralized Israel’s military advantage in Lebanon.

While there has always been a faction within Hamas (mostly centered in Gaza) that viewed an alliance with Iran as a strategic advantage – a view that was cemented by years of Iranian support for the Gaza resistance – others moved very carefully so as not to upset delicate regional balances.

However, following the isolation of Qatar by several Gulf and other Arab and Muslim countries, Hamas’ political margins began expanding again. Hamas has been particularly close to Qatar and Turkey but since these two countries were forced to rethink their foreign policy in the region, Hamas enjoyed more breathing space.

On June 6, 2017, Qatar left the so-called Arab coalition that has devastated Yemen in a lethal war that began more than four years ago. Meanwhile, the changing realities in Syria forced a Turkish rethink about its own alliances in Syria and within the Middle East.

Iran is also finding itself in a political transition. The US decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal – The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – and the levying of yet more debilitating sanctions on Tehran, are placing tremendous pressure on the Iranian economy. However, Washington’s efforts to isolate Iran are encouraging Tehran to seek political alternatives, especially as Iran’s new feeble European allies are incapable of circumventing the hawkish US agenda.

Since the Qatar siege, Iran has sent many friendly signals to Doha while reaching out to Istanbul, mending fences and exploring new alliances.

This changing reality has emboldened the Hamas branch that was never convinced of breaking up with Iran in the first place. In February 2017, Yahya Sinwar was elected as the new leader of Hamas, shifting the center of the group’s decision making back to the besieged Strip. A resumption of strong ties between Hamas and Iran seemed inevitable.

The Israeli bombing of several targets at multiple fronts was meant to send a message of strength to Netanyahu’s constituency just before the September 17 elections. The strategic Hezbollah response on September 1, following days of dread and anticipation in Israel, hardly helped Netanyahu’s struggling image.

On September 2, Hezbollah revealed more details about its military response. The group released a video showing the targeting of an Israeli military vehicle by two separate missiles shot with total accuracy only seconds apart. The video also showed aerial images taken by a Hezbollah drone hovering above Israeli settlements and military bases.

Once more, Hezbollah has demonstrated its ability to balance out Israeli aggressions. But equally important, Hezbollah’s calculated response, laden with political and military messages, was the opportunity that Hamas needed to make its move.

On September 1, Iranian media reported on a letter attributed to former Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, expressing “his appreciation to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, for his support for the Palestinian Resistance”. Various Iranian news agencies reported on the letter, along with archival photos of the Hamas leader in a meeting with Khamenei.

Israeli and pro-Israeli media also reported on the letter to retrospectively justify the Israeli bombings of the multiple targets, by demonstrating that indeed, such an alliance exists.

However, the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran alliance has been forged and strengthened by Netanyahu’s military miscalculations.

Soon after Hezbollah declared that it had responded to the Israeli attacks, Hamas issued a press release, congratulating the Lebanese group, saying that “the Lebanese resistance has the right to defend itself and its people in the face of (Israeli) aggression”.

This by no means suggests that Hamas will now lease its foreign policy to Tehran. The same is true for Hezbollah which, despite its strong alliance with Iran, has its own national agenda, political balances, and priorities as well.

What remains clear, however, is that Netanyahu has foolishly, though unwittingly, helped Hamas cross the final obstacle in its efforts to return to the Iran-Hezbollah camp in the region.

Now that the war in Syria is coming to an unceremonious end, this fact could prove very costly to Israel and its drive to dominate the region and its peoples.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’, and his forthcoming book is ‘These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons’. Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a non-resident research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Zaim University in Istanbul. His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net.

 

Dozens Injured Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

A Palestinian paramedic carries away an injured protester during clashes with Israeli forces across the barbed-wire fence following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on Friday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

Dozens injured in Gaza border clashes

September 14, 2019

Sept. 14 (UPI) — Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces left dozens of people injured at the Gaza border, Gaza health officials said.

The Jerusalem Post reported about 5,000 Palestinians demonstrated at the border fence, some throwing rocks and improvised explosive devices at Israel Defense Forces. Israeli troops responded with live and rubber-coated bullets, and tear gas, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Gaza medical officials said 31 Palestinians sustained injuries from live bullets, three seriously. Another 27 were injured by rubber-coated rounds.

The demonstrators were taking part in weekly Friday protests at locations along the border. The demonstrations, named the Great March of Return, call for the return of refugees to their homes and lands from which they were displaced in 1948.

The Gaza Health Ministry said more than 310 Palestinians have been killed and tens of thousands injured since the protests began March 30, 2018.

Babylon the Great Prepares the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

U.S. energy secretary to discuss nuclear power with Saudi on Monday

WASHINGTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday he will meet the new Saudi energy minister on Monday and likely discuss plans the kingdom has to build nuclear reactors.

Rick Perry said he would meet energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, who took over from Khalid al-Falih on Sunday. Perry did not say where he would meet the minister, but Perry is due to attend the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna next week. He also said the Trump administration wants the kingdom to agree to so-called 123 nonproliferation standards before coming to any agreement. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

War Outside the Temple Walls is Inevitable (Revelation 11)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to begin annexing West Bank settlements if he wins national elections next week. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli PM: Rocket attacks make new war in Gaza inevitable

September 12, 2019, 7:47 AM MDT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that continued rocket fire from Gaza is making another war against Palestinian militants in the coastal strip inevitable, his latest headline-grabbing announcement just days before he seeks re-election.

Netanyahu said advanced plans were in place to strike Gaza and that he would decide the optimal timing of the offensive, given the unwillingness of Gaza’s Hamas rulers to stop the daily barrages.

The recent attacks have caused no casualties. The Israeli military has responded with limited strikes against Hamas installations that have caused no casualties and little damage, and has refrained from risking a larger conflagration as Israelis prepare to head to the polls.

The Israeli leader has been criticized for failing to respond harshly to the rockets, which have sent residents of southern Israel racing for cover. Netanyahu, who counts on the working-class, Gaza border towns as part of his electoral base, was himself whisked away by bodyguards from a campaign event on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets toward the area.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Hamas militants seized power two years later. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and engaged in several other rounds of violence over the past decade.

“I do not wage war unless it is a last resort and I don’t risk the lives of our soldiers and citizens just to get applause,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Kan Reshet Bet Radio. “We will probably have no choice but to set out on a big campaign, a war against the terror forces in Gaza.”

“I won’t start it one minute before we are ready, and we are preparing for a ‘different war’,” he added, shortly before flying to Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

It was Netanyahu’s first major interview with a mainstream media outlet in a frenetic campaign in which he has been dictating the agenda with a dizzying array of maneuvers.

Just this week, he alleged fraud in Arab voting areas, without providing any evidence, and pushed for legislation to place cameras in polling stations on election day. He also claimed to have located a previously unknown Iranian nuclear weapons facility and vowed to annex the heart of the West Bank if he wins re-election.

His pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley sparked international condemnation. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said it would be a “serious violation of international law.”

Jordan, one of only two Arab states to have reached a peace agreement with Israel, condemned Netanyahu’s “catastrophic” announcement.

“It will not only undermine the two-state solution, which the whole world sees as the only path toward resolving this conflict, but it will kill the whole peace process,” Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said.

Saudi Arabia, a regional power that has grown closer to Israel in recent years, also condemned the move.

Netanyahu said it was important to act now as President Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Mideast peace plan after the elections next Tuesday in Israel. The move was widely viewed in Israel as Netanyahu’s latest stunt to draw in right-wing voters in a hard-fought campaign.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it took note of Netanyahu’s announcement and the “highly negative reaction in the Arab world.” It said it would share its concerns with Israel since “implementation could trigger a sharp escalation in the region and undermine hopes for establishing a lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”

Prior to his departure to Sochi, Netanyahu said the focus of his talks with Putin would be to promote the “joint goal” of removing Iranian forces from neighboring Syria. Netanyahu and Putin have met regularly in recent years to coordinate military activities in Syria.

Netanyahu has for years argued for aggressively countering Iran’s nuclear program and its regional activities, and often takes pride in having a strong working relationship with both Putin and Trump.

However, Netanyahu’s clout in Washington appeared to take a hit this week with the firing of one of his like-minded allies in the administration, National Security Adviser John Bolton, amid reports that Trump was considering meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and easing sanctions against Iran.

In his radio interview, Netanyahu defended his record.

“Where did this strong sanctions policy against Iran come from if not from the struggle that I led? Indeed, I have had influence on Trump,” he said. “You can’t tell the president of the United States with whom he should meet, but there is not one person who has influenced more, and continues to influence, the aggressive stance against Iran than me, and everyone knows that.”

___

Follow Heller at http://www.twitter.com/aronhellerap

Palestinians vow to keep Jordan Valley land

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HASSAN AL ABEDI, 55 YEAR-OLD PALESTINIAN, SAYING: “We tell Netanyahu, and whoever follows him, you will not break the Palestinians’ will, you will never break our will, never, never.” Palestinians tilling the land of the fertile Jordan valley as their fathers and grandfathers did, say they will hold on to it at all costs. Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledges to annex the land if he wins reelection next week. The right-winger says he’ll, quote, “apply Israeli sovereignty” to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea. Formally annexing the Jordan Valley would mean that any future Palestinian state would be encircled by Israel. Ismael Hassan says the land is not Netanyahu’s in the first place. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ISMAEL HASSAN, 75-YEAR OLD PALESTINIAN, SAYING: “We don’t accept this whether he (Netanyahu) will succeed or not, we don’t accept, this is our land, not Netanyahu’s land. This land is for Palestine, for the Palestinians, not for Israel.” About 50-60,000 Palestinians live in the area, including its main town Jericho, as well as about 13,000 Israeli settlers. The Palestinians call the fertile valley their “breadbasket.” Netanyahu says the annexation will boost Israel’s security, and he’s counting on help from a friendly U.S. administration under Donald Trump. Which has already broken with decades of policy to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. But Palestinians, Arab leaders and the United Nations say Netanyahu’s plan would represent a serious violation of international law.