Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

New York Times

By SAM ROBERTS

JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

Russia’s Hypersonic Nuclear Weapons

Vladimir Putin has bragged that Russia has a monopoly on hypersonic weapons (Image: GETTY)

Putin’s nuclear threat: Russia ‘only country in world’ with deadly hypersonic weapons

VLADIMIR Putin has goaded NATO by bragging that Russia is the only country in the world with deadly hypersonic weapons, which he said could be equipped with nuclear payloads.

By CIARAN MCGRATH

PUBLISHED: 14:31, Tue, Dec 24, 2019

UPDATED: 21:43, Tue, Dec 24, 2019

Speaking at a meeting with top military officials, Mr Putin said that for the first time in history, Russia has an edge in designing a new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the US. He said the first unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was set to go on duty this month.

Meanwhile the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have already entered service.

Mr Putin first mentioned the Avangard and the Kinzhal among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018.

At the time, Mr Putin said the Avangard has an intercontinental range and could fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound.

The warhead of the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon being tested (Image: GETTY)

He noted that the weapon’s ability to change both its course and its altitude en route to a target makes it immune to interception by the enemy.

Speaking on Tuesday, he described the Avangard as a “weapon of the future, capable of penetrating both existing and prospective missile defence systems”.

The Kinzhal, which is carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, entered service with the Russian air force last year.

President Vladimir Putin watches the launch of the Avangard last year (Image: GETTY)

Mr Putin said that the missile flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, has a range of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and can carry a nuclear or a conventional warhead.

The US and other countries have also worked on designing hypersonic weapons, but they have not yet entered service.

Mr Putin returned to the subject in December 2018, claiming hypersonic weapon test had been a “complete success”, describing it as “big moment in the life of the armed forces and in the life of the country”.

A display of a flight of the warhead of the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon (Image: GETTY)

Hypersonic weapons travel several times the speed of sound (Image: GETTY)

Rafaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, commented: “The test of a new hypersonic missile, which Mr Putin boasts in “invulnerable” to western defences, heralds a world that we thought we had consigned to history.”

Writing in the Sunday Times, he added: “Moscow feels compelled to demonstrate a sense of global confrontation to enhance national power and to explain at home the imposition of economic sanctions and the vilification of Russia in the international media.

He added: “Moscow sees the current confused order as a prime environment in which to asset its meddlesome influence abroad and build a narrative at home of international power and importance.

“We are able to respond in only a piecemeal fashion and struggle to maintain a unified line for long.

“Previously the clarity of a structured order between the Soviet and western blocs defined who the enemy was and what we would need to do in response to the weapons they were developing.”

He concluded: “Travel to Beijing, Moscow or Tehran and you hear views we would dismiss as conspiracy theories being shared among some of the most sophisticated thinkers as mainstream perspectives.

A CGI image showing the Avangard in space (Image: GETTY)

“Doubtless they observe the same phenomenon when they visit us.

“The biggest danger we face is not large-scale military conflict fuelled by hypersonic weapons.

“It is a miscalculation of one another’s aims and intentions that precipitates confrontations and spirals out of control into conflict.”

Trump is Correct: Don’t Worry About North Korea

Trump downplays concerns of North Korea’s ‘Christmas gift’ with officials on alert

After months of stalled nuclear negotiations and ratcheting up rhetoric, North Korea has promised to deliver a “Christmas gift” to the U.S. — a warning that has American and South Korean officials on high alert this week for a potential long-range missile test.

But President Donald Trump dismissed those concerns Tuesday, joking that the gift could be a “beautiful vase.”

“Maybe it’s a nice present. Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase, as opposed to a missile test, right? I may get him a vase — I may get a nice present from him,” he told reporters at his resort Mar-a-Lago. He added that whatever it is, the U.S. will deal with it “successfully.”

Speculation has stirred about what the gift could be, including rumors of a satellite test, a solid-fuel rocket, an announced change in policy or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

If it’s an ICBM, it would be the first long-range missile test in over two years, which is not only another flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang, but also a breach of Kim Jong Un’s personal pledge to Trump not to test such weapons.

That could mean a swift unraveling of Trump’s diplomatic efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, perhaps even a return to his days of threatening “fire and fury” on “Little Rocket Man.”

The threat of a test even has commercial airliners on edge. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert earlier this month warning of “longer-range missile test launches prior to the end of 2019, or in the early part of 2020,” according to a threat analysis obtained by ABC News.

In a Dec. 3 statement, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs said, “What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”

The “option” that North Korea wants is the U.S. abandoning its “hostile policies” of demanding North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and refusing to provide sanctions relief until it starts to do so — something the Trump administration says it will not do.

The ultimatum echoed one from Kim himself in April, telling Trump that he would wait until the end of the year for the U.S. to be more flexible and take a new approach to their talks. The two leaders’ second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last February ended when Kim offered to dismantle the nuclear facility at Yongbyon in exchange for an end to U.N. economic sanctions. That would have left North Korea’s secret nuclear sites and its nuclear arsenal, so Trump walked away.

The two leaders have stayed on friendly terms, meeting again in June in a historic face-to-face at the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas. Trump tweeted on Dec. 8 that Kim “is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way.”

But with talks deadlocked, the regime’s rhetoric has increasingly soured.

Earlier this month, they crossed a symbolic threshold and attacked Trump personally, calling him a “heedless and erratic old man” in a statement from Kim Yong Chol — the former nuclear negotiator and spy chief, whose return could also represent a turn back towards belligerency.

Beyond words, North Korea has launched more than two dozen missiles, nearly all short-range except for one ballistic missile capable of being launched from a submarine in October. All of the missiles have used solid propellants, making them more flexible, harder to detect in advance, and technologically a step ahead from the liquid-fueled rockets North Korea has traditionally used.

Trump has consistently downplayed those tests as insignificant, even as they violate U.N. resolutions and threaten key allies South Korea and Japan and the tens of thousands of U.S. troops they host.

Speculation on the “Christmas gift” has focused on a long-range missile. Gen. Charles Brown, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, said last week that he expects “some kind of long-range ballistic missile” test.

The Pentagon will have to move assets to be prepared for the launch, taking away needed resources for higher priorities.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander “Admiral (Phil) Davidson now has to take strategic Naval assets off his top priority, China, in order to protect an American territory, Guam, and a state, Hawaii, from a potential missile attack,” said Eric “Olly” Oehlerich, a retired Navy SEAL and ABC News national security consultant.

But launching a long-range missile would be especially provocative, risking drawing the ire of allies China and Russia and stirring U.N. condemnation. It would also leave Pyongyang with few options for escalation and could force Trump’s hand to a hardline approach, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification, a South Korean think tank.

Instead, North Korea may also test a solid-fuel rocket or sea-based ballistic missile — both of which are more difficult for U.S. intelligence to detect in advance.

Either way, U.S. officials have warned Kim against a possible launch. Chief U.S. negotiator Stephen Biegun warned last week, “To say the least, such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Biegun was in South Korea, Japan and China for meetings, but did not meet any North Korean counterparts. He last met a delegation in Stockholm on Oct. 4-5, but after some productive discussions, the North Koreans walked and accused the U.S. of failing to change its hardline approach.

“It is time for us to do our jobs. Let’s get this done. We are here, and you know how to reach us,” Biegun said in Seoul last Monday.

ABC News’s Ben Gittleson, Luis Martinez, and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

Report a correction or typo

The Race towards Armageddon (Revelation 8 )

Indo-Pak Nuclear Confrontation: First Use Policy  & the Race towards Armageddon

Click here to read Part Two.

Head in the Sand Approach

Information on the colossal destructive effects of use of nuclear weapons, based on the horrendous experiences of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has been in the public domain for well over six decades. Yet, unmindful of the existing knowledge about the devastation that a nuclear war would unleash, preparations are still on to fight and win such a war. The head in the sand approach has left administrators to continue to draw up plans to face a post nuclear war world. According to news reports that appeared on Wednesday, 23 Jan, 2013:

“The local administration in Jammu and Kashmir state issued a newspaper advertisement on Tuesday warning residents to build bomb-proof basements, collect two weeks’ worth of food and water and be prepared for a possible nuclear war, stoking fears that tensions between India and Pakistan may escalate…. The advertisements were placed in local newspapers by the state disaster response force (SDRF).”

(Aijaz Hussain, Sahil Makkar, “Govt advertisement stokes fear of a nuclear war”, Live Mint, New Delhi, 23 Jan, 2013)

The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) of J&K obviously must have placed the said advertisement in newspapers under instructions from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Government of India. Did the local population really carry out SDRF’s instructions? Did the SDRF make any efforts to ensure the implementation of their instructions?

[There was also this reported move to use the underground portions of the Delhi Metro as nuclear shelters. According to a one account, “The only structure in Delhi that may afford some protection from a nuclear strike is the underground section of the Delhi Metro, whose … stations have been considered by the Delhi government to serve as nuclear shelters.”(See: Brigadier Anil Chauhan, Aftermath of a Nuclear Attack: A Case Study on Post-strike Operations, Pentagon Press, Delhi, 2010, p.81) Obviously, those who proposed this outlandish plan have not bothered to take into consideration the impact of the huge firestorm / conflagration that would be triggered by a nuclear strike, which would suck out all oxygen even from deep underground shelters in the affected area.]

The NDMA’s own public position on the matter, which it has published in the “National Disaster Management Guidelines: Management of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies”(2009), [which is endorsed by the NDMA’s National Disaster Management Plan 2016 (see p.151)] is as follows:

“Though the probability of a nuclear attack is low, there should be a plan in place to handle such an event, as it would have devastating consequences. The Standard Operating Procedures for responding to such a scenario are addressed separately in a classified document and are not a part of this document.” (p.xxx)

Was the SDRF of J&K actually directed to follow the instructions in NDMA’s Standard Operating Procedure, which has been concealed from the public by labeling it as a classified document? If it did, it does expose the hollowness of the said Standard Operating Procedure. In all probability, the so-called Standard Operating Procedure to face a nuclear war is being kept as a classified document precisely to prevent it from being subjected to public ridicule because it contains nothing but ludicrous plans.

What is amply evident from NDMA’s said “Guidelines” of 2009 is that:

“Unlike a nuclear emergency, the impact of a nuclear disaster is beyond the coping capability of local authorities and such a scenario calls for handling at the national level, with assistance from international agencies, if required.” (p.xxiv)

The same report further went on to admit as follows: “The existing medical facilities and medical professionals in the country are highly inadequate to handle large-scale radiation injury cases.” (Para 6.8.3.1, p.55)  There was no need for the NDMA to reinvent the wheel. As early as 1980, the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which was initially formed by a group of concerned medical doctors from the United States and the then Soviet Union, had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to provide meaningful medical care to the surviving victims of a nuclear war. The following is the IPPNW’s considered stand in this regard:

“In the 1960s, a group of concerned physicians studied and documented the blast, heat, and radiation effects of nuclear weapons, and came to the inescapable conclusion that a meaningful medical response to nuclear war is impossible. The atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the lifelong suffering of the survivors – the result of only two, small, relatively primitive nuclear weapons – had put the medical profession on notice that it must prevent what it would be unable to cure.” (See: IPPNW, Frequently Asked Questions, Q2)

Prevention is the ONLY cure! Preparation for post nuclear war relief & rehabilitation work is nothing but an exercise in futility! As a specific study in this regard titled “Nuclear Civil Defence in South Asia: Is It Feasible?” had concluded:

“There is no doubt that these measures will not come to the rescue of many people. But there may be some fortunate ones for whom such measures may make the difference between life and death. Even for such survivors, however, there may be little solace. They may well recall Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s famous observation that after a nuclear war “the living will envy the dead.” But this is the best that civil defence can do.”

[R Rajaraman, Z Mian, A H Nayyar, “Nuclear Civil Defence in South Asia: Is It Feasible?” Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), Mumbai, 20 Nov, 2004, p.5026]

Glimpses of Sanity

Despite all the hawkish rhetoric being exchanged from time to time, the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan, for the last twenty-one years since the nuclear tests in 1998, have been consistently displaying glimpses of sanity and maturity is handling the nuclear threat. Most people in India, Pakistan and the rest of the world are blissfully unaware that India – just few months after Pokran-2 – had taken the initiative in sponsoring a resolution before the UN General Assembly (UNGA) titled “Reducing Nuclear Danger” (A/RES/53/77F), which was adopted by the UNGA on 12 Jan, 1999 with 108 countries in favour (including Pakistan), 45 against and with 17 abstentions. Subsequently, this resolution on “Reducing Nuclear Danger” has been sponsored by India and several more countries for the last twenty years and on every occasion it was adopted by the UNGA with the full support of Pakistan. In 2018, there were 21 sponsors, including India, and the resolution (A/RES/73/56) was adopted by the UNGA on 05 Dec, 2018 with 127 countries in favour (including Pakistan), 49 against and with 10 abstentions. [In 2019, the Draft Resolution on “Reducing Nuclear Danger” has been sponsored by 22 countries on 21 Oct, 2019. It is yet to be formally adopted by the UN General Assembly.]

Merely passing resolutions without follow-up actions serve no purpose at all other than serving as means to hoodwink those who repose faith in such resolutions. From the lackadaisical attitude of India and Pakistan towards the content of the resolution it becomes apparent that both of them have either been acting contrary to its letter and spirit or at least have not made any serious effort to pursue its salient objectives with any sense of commitment. The resolution has categorically stated that:

+ “…the use of nuclear weapons poses the most serious threat to humankind and to the survival of civilization,

+  any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would constitute a violation of the Charter of the United Nations,

+ the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war,

+  nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons are essential to remove the danger of nuclear war…

+ [efforts would be made] to encourage Member States to consider the convening of an international conference … to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers…” (A/RES/73/56)

Another highly appreciable step is the bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan on the “Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations”, which the two countries had signed on 31 Dec, 1988 and which entered into force on 27 Jan, 1991. As per the terms of that agreement, the two countries undertook to inform each other of nuclear installations and facilities to be covered under the Agreement on the first of January of every calendar year. The twenty eighth consecutive exchange of such list between the two countries took place on 01 Jan, 2019, the first one having taken place on 01 Jan, 1992.  When the governments of the two countries are fully aware of the consequences of targeting nuclear installations of each other, can they afford to remain unconcerned about the consequences of targeting each other’s human populations with nuclear weapons?

Exit the Quagmire

One way for India and Pakistan for getting out of the present quagmire is to first bilaterally put into practice the expressed desire of the two countries to persuade all nuclear weapon states to initiate steps for reducing the nuclear danger. Nothing prevents either of them or both together to take the initiative in convening an international conference in this regard. If India and Pakistan act in a concerted manner, the resolution on “Reducing Nuclear Danger” has the potential to rouse worldwide public opinion and force the other nuclear weapon states to fall in line. Unfortunately, other than passing resolutions, not a single such initiative has been taken by either side in the last twenty one years to raise public consciousness against the dangers of nuclear war or to take any concrete step at a multi-lateral level to prevent outbreak of nuclear war. Is it not a bitter irony that it is in the shadow of this enlightened resolution on “Reducing Nuclear Danger”, to which both India and Pakistan are parties, that both countries continue to enact the whole game of nuclear brinkmanship?

It is also equally unfortunate that for the last 58 years the world’s leading peace movements are content with beating about the bush than making any attempt to initiate concrete steps to confront the nuclear threat head-on. The McCloy-Zorin Accords on General and Complete Disarmament, i.e., the Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations, which was signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in Belgrade on 20 Sept, 1961, had held high hopes for ending the nuclear threat and creating a peaceful world. Unfortunately, such hopes were dashed after the brutal assassination of John F. Kennedy, the then President of the United States, on 22 Nov, 1963 and the removal of Nikita Khrushchev, the then Premier of the Soviet Union, from office on 14 Oct, 1964. After sidelining the McCloy-Zorin Accords, the leading peace movements began rooting for a series of so-called “arms control” or “non-proliferation” proposals that never had any adverse impact on the interests of the nuclear weapon powers.

The latest proposal in this series is the one titled “Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” that was released under the aegis of the UN in New York on 22 May, 2017. [For a detailed critique of the same, see: N.D.Jayaprakash, “Conning Humanity in the Name of Disarmament”

(Economic & Political Weekly, Mumbai, Vol. 52, Issue No. 28, 15 Jul, 2017)] Since there were too many untenable clauses in the said “Draft Convention”, the sponsors of the proposal came up with a revised version titled “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, which was submitted on 06 Jul, 2017 and adopted by the UNGA the very next day. [For a detailed critique of the same, see: N.D.Jayaprakash, “The Game of Disarming the Unarmed: The Other Side of ‘Solution Aversion’  (Economic & Political Weekly, Mumbai, Vol. 52, Issue No. 42-43, 28 Oct, 2017)]  In utter contrast with the spineless positions of the leading peace movements, as early as 1988, the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, had attempted to revive the essence of the McCloy–Zorin Accords by submitting an “Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order” before the Third UN Special Session Devoted to Disarmament on 09 Jun, 1988. The intrinsic value of Rajiv Gandhi’s “Action Plan” is detailed out in an article titled “Tackling the U.S. / North Korea Standoff: Relevance of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan”  (Counterpunch, 28 Aug, 2018)

Grab the Offer

In the midst of the ongoing verbal duel between India and Pakistan, the Prime Minster of Pakistan, Imran Khan, on 22 Jul, 2019 had come up with an interesting proposal. According to Fox News, “Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan would be willing to give up its nuclear weapons if India was able to keep the same promise…”  (Nick Givas, Fox News, 22 Jul, 2019)  Imran Khan further added: “… nuclear war is not an option. And between Pakistan and India, the idea of nuclear war is actually self-destruction…”  Neither India nor Pakistan needs to give up nuclear weapons at this stage: all they have to do is to give a categorical undertaking that they would not use nuclear weapons against each other or at least would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Since India has already made such a commitment (and still sticks by that commitment despite certain leaders from the ruling party making utterances to the contrary from time to time), and since Pakistan has offered to give up nuclear weapons on a reciprocal basis, India should have no problem in proposing that Pakistan also gives a No-First-Use undertaking as a confidence building measure before contemplating further steps towards nuclear disarmament. In fact, Imran Khan has actually made such an offer. According to a Reuters report from Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing members of the Sikh community in Lahore on 02 Sept, 2019 had reportedly said with specific reference to use of nuclear weapons that: “There will be no first from our side ever…”. India must immediately grab the offer and take steps to formalize the reported commitment of No-First-Use (NFU) by Pakistan. The real test of the seriousness of either side regarding the reported commitment to NFU can be gauged by the manner in which the two sides decide to pursue the matter further.

While India and Pakistan are ideally placed to take concrete steps to further the cause of global nuclear disarmament, the politics of rabble-rousing that serve the ideological interests of the ruling parties on the two sides are compelling them to do nothing in this regard. Until and unless the mass of the people on both sides are made to realize the enormity and the unacceptable level of death and destruction that a nuclear war would unleash on both sides, nuclear brinkmanship and saber-rattling will continue to rule the roost. It may also be emphasized that the untenable claim that there was a “responsible” way to use nuclear weapons, as the late Manohar Parikkar seemed to suggest (TOI, Delhi, 17 Aug, 2019), is just utter nonsense. Undoubtedly, the clamor for jettisoning India’s nuclear weapon policy from No-First-Use to First-Use is wholly misconceived and misplaced. How could such a demand be made with little concern for the fate of humanity when it is well known that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) would serve no purpose or provide any benefit to anyone? Under the circumstances, the role of concerned people in India, Pakistan and elsewhere in arousing public consciousness in the Indian sub-continent and around the world against nuclear war in vital. Actually, nothing prevents India and Pakistan from signing a no-war pact.

It is hoped that the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan would take due note of the detailed scientific analysis of the possible repercussions of a nuclear between India and Pakistan, which ten members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have published in AAAS’s journal Science Advances on 02 Oct, 2019.The article titled “Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe” emphasizes the fact that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan will not only result in the death of about 125 million people in the Indian sub-continent but also “the environmental stresses related to climate changes caused by smoke produced from burning cities could lead to widespread starvation and ecosystem disruption far outside of the war zone itself.”

Prevent nuclear war at all costs! Let sanity prevail over nuclear madness!

Israel Kills Civilians Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

IDF defends intel for Gaza strike that killed 9 Palestinian civilians

Army says investigation into raid during Operation Black Belt showed that home in Dir al-Balah had been used by Islamic Jihad for terror activity

By TOI staffToday, 6:45 pm

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday defended an airstrike that killed nine civilian members of the same family in Gaza last month, saying the compound targeted was used by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

Announcing that it had concluded its review of “Operation Black Belt,” which was sparked by Israel’s targeted killing of PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata last month, the army said “military activity had been conducted in the compound in the past as well as during the combat days of [the operation].”

“The review also concluded that when planning and carrying out the attack [in Deir el-Balah], it was estimated in the IDF that civilians would not be harmed as a result of an attack,” the IDF said in a statement. “The [review] clarified that even though military activity was conducted in the compound, it was not a closed compound, and in reality civilians were present there.”

The army said its investigation included recommendations on how to avoid such “irregular events” in the future, but didn’t give further details.

The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman initially claimed on social media that the strike targeted the head of Islamic Jihad’s rocket unit, whom he identified as Rasmi Abu Malhous.

Palestinians attend the funeral procession of members of the same family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike, on November 14, 2019 in Deir al-Balah (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

However, no such figure exists in the Islamic Jihad organization, IDF officials told the Haaretz daily last month, and the claim appeared to have been based on false rumors that were spread on civilian channels on the Telegram application.

Neighbors who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Rasmi’s brother, who they claimed was an Islamic Jihad commander, lived in the home, but they said that he was not there at the time of the strike

Abu Malhous was killed, along with his wife, brother, sister-in-law and five children under the age of 13, including his 7-year-old son and two nephews, aged 2 and 3.

Haaretz reported that the IDF’s “target bank” which included the Sawarka family’s home targeted in the strike had not been updated to show that the site was no longer the home of a PIJ commander. Moreover, the daily interviewed a pair of Air Force pilots who said there is substantial pressure on their unit to produce as many targets as possible and that limited review is carried out on existing ones once they are in the target bank.

During the escalation of violence last month, Palestinian terror groups fired 450 or so rockets and mortars at Israel, which responded with many retaliatory strikes in Gaza. While the Israeli military said as many as 25 terrorists were killed in the days of fighting, Palestinian human rights monitors said the dead included 18 terror operatives and 16 civilians. They included three women and eight minors.

Iran shows off its new nuclear capabilities (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Shows Off New Stage At Arak Nuclear Plant

Iranian nuclear officials say they have switched on a modified part of the Arak heavy-water reactor in a step that could reportedly take the country closer toward weapons-grade levels of plutonium but does not breach its four-year-old nuclear deal with world powers.

It marks a further reactivation of Iran’s nuclear program since the United States abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year.

Tehran agreed to shut down Arak under the 2015 agreement — which swapped nuclear curbs for sanctions relief.

But it was allowed to renovate Arak and make a limited amount of heavy water, which slows down reactions in the core of nuclear reactors and produces plutonium as a byproduct.

Iran has taken limited steps toward leaving the JCPOA while pressing its non-U.S. signatories to find ways to help it avoid Washington’s renewed sanctions, which have slammed Iran’s oil sales, its economy, and its currency.

“Today we are…starting a noteworthy section of the reactor,” the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Iranian television after the December 23 unveiling, according to Reuters.

Officials say the fully renovated reactor at Arak will be ready for initial tests in early 2021.

It will produce medical and agricultural isotopes, they say.

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed tough punitive measures on Iran, with a number of naval confrontations and military incidents exacerbating fears of a serious conflict.

The Trump administration has signaled a desire to get Iranian officials back to the negotiating table, but Tehran has vowed not to do so until all sanctions are lifted.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Iran’s Crackdown on the People

‘No more mercy’: 1,500 Iranians killed in crackdown on protesters

by Spencer Neale  | December 23, 2019 06:01 PM

by Spencer Neale

| December 23, 2019 06:01 PM

New numbers reported by three Iranian interior ministry officials paint a picture of the magnitude of last month’s fuel hike protests in the country.

Close to 1,500 protesters are said to have been murdered in what marks the bloodiest political shakedown since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Mounting economic despair and a surprise November fuel price hike, which increased gas prices by as much as 200%, led Iranians to demonstrate, with early death estimates far lower than what was reported on Monday.

In response to the economy and the new fuel tax, protesters filed onto the streets in more than 100 cities and towns. They burned images of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei and called for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the former shah of Iran.

The Department of State told Reuters that they estimated hundreds had died during the protests but included that the number could be over 1,000.

On the second day of protests, Khamenei reportedly met with President Hassan Rouhani and other leaders to discuss the protests. According to one source, Khamenei told them: “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order.”

Another source who was present at the meeting said Khamenei issued a declaration of force against the protesters. “He was very firm and said those rioters should be crushed,” said the source.

In the Kermanshah province, a senior member of the Revolutionary Guard tasked with putting down the protests said he was given strict orders to use whatever means necessary to quash the protesters. “No more mercy. They are aiming to topple the Islamic Republic. But we will eradicate them,” the guard was told.

A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council blasted the new figures, saying the report was “fake news.”