The Sixth Seal: More Than Just Manhattan (Revelation 6:12)

New York, NY – In a Quake, Brooklyn Would Shake More Than Manhattan

By Brooklyn Eagle

New York, NY – The last big earthquake in the New York City area, centered in New York Harbor just south of Rockaway, took place in 1884 and registered 5.2 on the Richter Scale.Another earthquake of this size can be expected and could be quite damaging, says Dr. Won-Young Kim, senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

And Brooklyn, resting on sediment, would shake more than Manhattan, built on solid rock. “There would be more shaking and more damage,” Dr. Kim told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.

If an earthquake of a similar magnitude were to happen today near Brooklyn, “Many chimneys would topple. Poorly maintained buildings would fall down – some buildings are falling down now even without any shaking. People would not be hit by collapsing buildings, but they would be hit by falling debris. We need to get some of these buildings fixed,” he said.

But a 5.2 is “not comparable to Haiti,” he said. “That was huge.” Haiti’s devastating earthquake measured 7.0.

Brooklyn has a different environment than Haiti, and that makes all the difference, he said. Haiti is situated near tectonic plate.

“The Caribbean plate is moving to the east, while the North American plate is moving towards the west. They move about 20 mm – slightly less than an inch – every year.” The plates are sliding past each other, and the movement is not smooth, leading to jolts, he said.

While we don’t have the opportunity for a large jolt in Brooklyn, we do have small, frequent quakes of a magnitude of 2 or 3 on the Richter Scale. In 2001 alone the city experienced two quakes: one in January, measuring 2.4, and one in October, measuring 2.6. The October quake, occurring soon after Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “caused a lot of panic,” Dr. Kim said.

“People ask me, ‘Should I get earthquake insurance?’ I tell them no, earthquake insurance is expensive. Instead, use that money to fix chimneys and other things. Rather than panicky preparations, use common sense to make things better.”

Secure bookcases to the wall and make sure hanging furniture does not fall down, Dr. Kim said. “If you have antique porcelains or dishes, make sure they’re safely stored. In California, everything is anchored to the ground.”

While a small earthquake in Brooklyn may cause panic, “In California, a quake of magnitude 2 is called a micro-quake,” he added.

Iran Supports the Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Delhi Violence: Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei criticises Riots as Death toll rises to 53 and 654 case filed by Police – Delhi Violence: number of dead increased to 53, up to now 654 case enter; Iran’s top leader says radical Hindus confront the government | The Goa Spotlight

March 5, 2020

March 5, 2020Delhi Violence the number of dead increased to 53 be made. This figure is the capital of many hospitals in the own breakers violence victims is. Of these, 44 death of GTB Hospital, five of RML Hospital, three of LNJP Hospital and Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital resulted in the.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police immune in violence ranging enter the case and lay people attached to fresh information. News agency said police quoted told that at the moment the 654 cases have been, while in 1820 the people arrested or detained has been taken.

Separately, Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Delhi a few day ago, condemned the violence. He said that the government of India radical Hindus should face.

While, the Delhi government by the Cabinet of violence-damaged houses, the compensation for increasing the amount of declared. The official statement, according to the compensation for the sake of any multi-storey building, each floor is a residential unit will be considered. Residential units in the household for the whole of the booty to be on a million rupees and partial being robbed at fifty thousand rupees compensation will be given.

Earlier, the government houses fully damaged on having five million bucks to pay compensation was announced, in which four million to the landlord and tenant to one million rupees of compensation.

Meanwhile, CPM leader Vrinda Karat said the Delhi High Court in a public interest litigation filed violence case arrested in people’s list to the public for the Delhi Police to give directions sought. PIL sought in that arrested people list of police control room and district police stations of the out put to and it a case by case basis on the updates to be done.

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Iran’s Shiite Crescent & Pestilence (Daniel 8:8)

Iran’s Shiite Crescent and the Coronavirus

Prof. Hillel FrischMarch 6, 2020

Seminary in Qom, Iran, photo via Wikipedia

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,471, March 6, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Shiite communities are regarded by the Islamic Republic as key tools with which to penetrate and ultimately conquer the Arab world, and pilgrimages back and forth to Shiite holy centers in Iran and Iraq are central to the regime’s ideological identity. But the holiest city in Iran, Qom, is now an epicenter for the spread of the coronavirus. The Shiite crescent is thus functioning as a boomerang to spread the epidemic both out of and back into Iran.

Iran’s Shiite crescent, which until recently reflected its imperial reach into the Arab world, has now become pathological with the spread of Covid-19 (the official name of the coronavirus pathogen).

A study released on February 24 by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota inadvertently revealed how salient Iran’s religious ties to Shiite communities in Arab states have been and continue to be in the spread of the epidemic.

The five Middle Eastern countries that first reported Covid-19 cases—Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, and Oman—all have substantial Shiite populations, and all the cases cited are clearly linked to Iran. The first confirmed case in Afghanistan was flagged in Herat province, which is in the country’s west on the Iranian border. Another sufferer had recently returned from the city of Qom, Iran’s Shiite religious center and, tellingly, the epicenter of the disease in Iran. The first Bahraini to be confirmed as having succumbed to Covid-19 had also just been in Iran, as had all three cases first reported in Kuwait, Iraq, and Oman.

The link between Shiite pilgrimage and the spread of the virus is to be found at its source in the region: Iran, specifically the religious city of Qom.

As the University of Minnesota report notes, eight of 18 new cases in Iran were in Qom compared to three in the metropolis of Tehran, which has a population seven times greater. Qom has been the site of 40% of the cases identified so far in Iran though it comprises less than 3% of the population.

Iraq and other Arab states with substantial Shiite populations have grown understandably apprehensive about pilgrimage to Qom. Flights between Qom and Najaf, the holy city in Iraq, which neighbors a third holy city, Karbalah, usually outnumber flights between the capital cities of Tehran and Baghdad, indicating that most movement between the countries has to do with religious observance and pilgrimage rather than business and commerce. But the Iraqi authorities have banned entry into the country by Iranian nationals and prohibited travel by Iraqi nationals to Iran, and have ceased flights between Tehran’s Khomeini airport (which services Qom, a three-hour drive away) and Najaf.

Such moves might be too late. The day after the halt on Iraqi-Iranian travel, Iraq announced its first case of Covid-19.

Data for China indicate that one of around 30 cases of the virus results in death (2,873 deaths out of 79,968 cases as of March 1). The percentage outside China is slightly lower because most of the states in which there have been confirmed cases are more advanced and have benefited from the opportunity to learn from the steps China has taken to control the spread of the virus.

Iran recently announced 43 deaths out of 593 confirmed cases compared with 29 fatalities out of just over 1,128 cases in Italy—the most afflicted European state so far. The ratio in Italy—one death per 39 cases—roughly conforms to the ratio of fatalities to confirmed cases in China and elsewhere. In the case of Iran, however, the ratio is strikingly worse: it appears to be one death per 14 people infected.

This is a deeply worrying statistic, particularly as there are concerns that Iran is failing to identify many Covid-19 cases. If true, this means some infected sufferers are not being put into quarantine, which increases the likelihood that the virus will spread.

There is a strong suspicion based on the quality of the data provided by Iran’s ministry of health that the Covid-19 epidemic inside the country might be far more widespread than the regime says it is, and doubts about Iran’s reporting and ability to act efficiently to contain the virus are swirling both within and without the country. A recent report filed by the London Times correspondent from Tehran quotes Iranians as saying they believe the real number of fatalities is four times the figure being given by regime authorities.

The ramifications of Iran’s becoming a source of disease are more than medical. The Islamic Republic has seen wide-scale protests in Iraq and Lebanon against regimes it warmly supports. In Iraq in particular, Iranian consulates have become targets of protester anger.

Iran’s failure to control its Covid-19 problem will hardly endear it to protesters in Iraq and Lebanon, many of whom feel their states are being damaged by Iran’s involvement in their domestic affairs.

The recent failure of the newly designated Iraqi PM Tawfiq Allawi to set up a government is the most recent indication of Iran’s declining stature in the region. Allawi’s appointment, which was presumably intended to mollify the mostly Shiite protestors in the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, and Basra, was strongly backed by the two most powerful pro-Iranian political forces in Iraq: the Fath coalition, which is basically the pro-Iranian militias’ political wing; and the Sairoon coalition headed by Muqtada Sadr. It was Sadr’s al-Mahdi army that fought US forces in the early years of the post-Saddam era.

Despite that support, Allawi failed, because Sunni and Kurdish political opposition figures within the Iraqi parliament and protestors outside it vehemently opposed him.

No doubt, most of Iran’s declining fortunes in Iraq can be attributed to the targeting of Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s Covid-19 problem is having a reinforcing effect.

For years, the (Arab) Shiite majority in Iraq and Bahrain and the significant Shiite minorities in the neighboring Arab states were regarded as the pillars of Iran’s imperial designs over those states.

The Shiite protests in Iraq and Lebanon against Iranian involvement suggest that this may no longer be true.

That imperialism comes at a price could have been predicted. Not so Covid-19 and its ramifications, and least of all its effect on the Iranian Shiite crescent—a crescent that, true to form, is fast turning into a boomerang headed back into the heart of the Islamic Republic.

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Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

The Equalizer: The Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 8 )

Does Pakistan Or India Have The Better Army? Thanks To Nuclear Weapons, It Doesn’t Matter

Any serious confrontation could go nuclear.

Key Point: The adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan makes the Indian subcontinent one of the most dangerous places on Earth.

The Indian subcontinent is home to two of the largest armies on Earth. Not only are the armies of India and Pakistan both larger in personnel than the U.S. Army, but they have stood at alert facing one another since the dissolution of the British Indian Army in 1947. The two armies have clashed four times in the past seventy years, and may yet do so again in the future.

The Indian army is the primary land force of the Indian armed forces. The army numbers 1.2 million active duty personnel and 990,000 reservists, for a total force strength of 2.1 million. The army’s primary tasks are guarding the borders with Pakistan and China and domestic security—particularly in Kashmir and the Northeast. The army is also a frequent contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions abroad.

The army is structured into fourteen army corps, which are further made up of forty infantry, armored, mountain and RAPID (mechanized infantry) divisions. There is approximately one separate artillery brigade per corps, five separate armored brigades, seven infantry brigades and five brigade-sized air defense formations.

Infantry and mountain divisions are mostly assigned to the mountainous North and Northeast regions, where manpower intensive counterinsurgency and mountain warfare forces are important, while infantry, RAPID, and armored formations sit on the border opposite Pakistan. Perhaps unusually the Indian army has only one airborne unit, the Parachute Regiment, which is actually an umbrella headquarters for army airborne and special forces. The Parachute Regiment controls seven special-forces battalions and three airborne brigades.

The army is equipped from a number of sources, primarily Russia and a growing domestic arms industry, with increasing amounts of Israeli and American weaponry. More than 4,000 tanks equip the country’s ninety-seven armored regiments (the equivalent of American battalions), including 2,400 older T-72 tanks, 1,600 T-90 tanks, and approximately 360 Arjun Mk.1 and Mk.2 tanks. Complementing the T-72/90 tanks in armored and mechanized infantry formations are BMP-2 mechanized infantry combat vehicles.

Most of the Indian Army’s 4,000 artillery pieces are from Russia, including newer 300-millimeter Smerch multiple launch rocket systems, but the country appears to be turning away from Russian field artillery towards American towed M777 and South Korean K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers. A new howitzer, the Dhanush, appears close to widespread adoption. Air defense artillery, on the other hand, is dominated by Russian equipment, from battlefield Tunguska self-propelled anti-aircraft guns to S-400 “Triumf” high-altitude air-defense missiles.

The Pakistani army numbers 650,000 active duty personnel and five hundred thousand reserves, for a total strength of 1.15 million. Although Pakistan resides in what most would consider a rough neighborhood, it is on relatively good terms with neighbors China and Iran. As a result, the army’s primary missions are domestic security operations against the Pakistani Taliban and facing off against the Indian army. Like India, Pakistan is a major contributor of forces to United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The Pakistani army consists of twenty-six combat divisions falling under the control of nine army corps. Most divisions are infantry divisions, with only two armored and two mechanized infantry divisions. Each corps also controls an average of one armored, one infantry and one artillery brigade each. Not only is the Pakistani army smaller than the Indian army, but it features fewer offensive forces capable of attacking India head-on. Special operations forces are concentrated under the control of the Special Services Group, which controls eight commando battalions.

The army’s equipment is mostly Pakistani and Chinese, with Turkish and American armaments in key areas. The country has fewer than seven hundred frontline tanks, including the Khalid and the T-80UD, with another one thousand modernized versions of the 1970s-era Chinese Type 59. Pakistan lacks a modern infantry fighting vehicle, relying on more than two thousand upgraded M113 tracked armored personnel carriers.

Pakistan has nearly two thousand artillery pieces, primarily Chinese and American, but they are older models with little in terms of acquisitions in sight. Standouts among these are roughly 250 M109A5 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers and two hundred A-100E 300-millimeter multiple launch rocket systems—similar to India’s Smerch. One standout category where Pakistani weapons outmatch Indian ones is the area of attack helicopters, where the country fields fifty-one older AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters with another fifteen AH-1Z Vipers on order.

If the two countries went to war, a major clash between the two armies would be inevitable. Outnumbered and under-equipped, the Pakistani army believes it is in a position to launch small local offensives from the outset, before the Indian army can reach its jumping-off points, to occupy favorable terrain. Still, the disparity in forces means the Pakistanis cannot hope to launch a major, war-winning offensive and terminate a ground war on their own terms. As a result, the Pakistani army is increasingly relying on tactical nuclear weapons to aid their conventional forces.

For its part, the Indian army plans to immediately take the offensive under a doctrine called “Cold Start.” Cold Start envisions rapid mobilization followed by a major offensive into Pakistan before the country can respond with tactical nuclear weapons. Such an offensive—and Pakistan’s likely conventional defeat—could make the use of tactical nuclear weapons all the more likely.

The adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan makes the Indian subcontinent one of the most dangerous places on Earth. The disparity in forces, war plans on both sides, and the presence of tactical nuclear weapons makes a regional nuclear war—even a limited one—a real possibility.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in 2017 and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

Iran Is Ready to Nuke Up (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Crosses a Key Threshold: It Again Has Sufficient Fuel for a Bomb

By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad

March 3, 2020

So far, the evidence suggests that Iran’s recent actions are calculated to pressure the Trump administration and Europe rather than rushing for a bomb.

Technicians at the Arak heavy-water reactor in Iran last year. The International Atomic Energy Agency called on the country to cooperate with inspectors.Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Iran’s growing stockpile of nuclear fuel recently crossed a critical threshold, according to a report issued Tuesday by international inspectors: For the first time since President Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal, Tehran appears to have enough enriched uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon, though it would take months or years to manufacture a warhead and deliver it over long distances.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors nuclear capabilities and reports to the United Nations, also documented for the first time how Iran’s leadership blocked its inspectors from visiting three critical sites where there was evidence of past nuclear activity.

The agency’s newly appointed director, Rafael Mariano Grossi, an Argentine diplomat who has spent most of his life working on nuclear issues, said it was urgent for “Iran immediately to cooperate fully with the agency” by allowing it access to the sites, and to answer additional questions “related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.”

In response, Iran said it rejected the agency’s new rounds of questions because it had been cleared of responsibility to answer for its nuclear past. Iran, the report quoted Tehran as saying, “will not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations.”

Taken together, the findings and the demand for more intrusive inspections take the standoff between Washington and Tehran into new territory.

Mr. Trump’s decision to abandon what he called a “terrible” deal has backfired for now. Iran has moved from complying with the accord’s strict limits on uranium production to beginning to rebuild its stockpile.

Iran’s leaders appear to have allowed the IAEA to document these violations, which are likely to drive home the fact that it is responding to Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign with one of its own.

“The situation is a paradox,” Mr. Grossi said in a recent interview in Washington, his first since taking over at the IAEA. “What we’re verifying is the gradual diminishing compliance with the agreement we’re supposed to be verifying.”

So far, experts note, the evidence suggests that Iran’s actions are incremental and calculated to pressure European governments and the Trump administration, rather than rushing for a bomb.

Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have insisted that, over time, the decision to abandon the deal and reimpose harsh sanctions — drastically cutting Iran’s oil revenues — would force the country to abandon all of its nuclear capabilities.

But the numbers suggest a different reality.

In 2016, Iran shipped out of the country 97 percent of its stockpile of uranium fuel, enough to make more than 14 weapons. It stayed well below the one-bomb threshold through most of 2019, confining itself to a stockpile of 300 kilograms, or 660 pounds.

But now, in its effort to pressure Europe to undermine the American economic sanctions, Iran is back in the fuel-making business.

The latest figures, contained in a confidential report to the agency’s 171 member states, show that for the first time since the nuclear accord went into effect, the country has surpassed 1,000 kilograms, or 2,200 pounds, of uranium fuel enriched up to 4.5 percent. If further enriched, to 90 percent, that is enough fuel to produce a single nuclear weapon, a step the Iranians insist they would never take.

The White House was silent on Tuesday about the findings.

Mr. Trump does not appear eager for further confrontation with Iran after the targeted killing in January of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who died in an American drone strike in Iraq. The Guards Corps also oversaw the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, according to American, British and Israeli intelligence officials.

The IAEA measures fuel stockpiles and makes no projections about how close those take a nation to producing nuclear weapons.

Intelligence agencies and outside experts do so, and their reading of the report on Tuesday appeared clear: In the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Obama-era agreement, Iran now has a pathway to a bomb, and it is slowly reconstituting its fuel inventory.

Whether Iran decides to follow that path is unclear.

“Everything we are doing is reversible,” Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said at the Munich Security Conference last month. “We have always said we are not interested in building nuclear weapons.”

Some of the facilities the agency has demanded access to in Iran, mostly to conduct environmental tests that could reveal the presence of nuclear materials, came to the world’s attention in 2018 after Israeli agents stole a trove of historical materials about the Iranian nuclear program. Since then, Israel has doled out some of the findings to reporters, experts and the IAEA.

David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview that if Iran did race for a bomb, it might need another three to four months to turn the newly revealed amount of uranium into the highly enriched material at the heart of a nuclear warhead.

“It’s worrisome,” he said. “We didn’t expect Iran to be at the 1,000-kilogram mark. I think people are a little surprised at the magnitude of the number. I’m sure it sent a shiver through the international community.”

Both the Obama and Trump administrations saw the Iran deal as keeping Tehran a year or more away from getting enough highly enriched uranium to fashion a single warhead — what international inspectors call “a significant quantity.”

That amount is defined as 25 kilograms, or 55 pounds, of uranium highly enriched in the element’s rare 235 isotope — the atoms of which can split apart in powerful bursts of nuclear energy. A sphere of 55 pounds is said to be about the size of a small melon.

The main way to cut down the needed manufacturing time for a weapon is to raise the number and efficiency of the rows of whirling machines that concentrate the 235 isotope, which is one of two main bomb fuels.

The new report gave an example of restraint. Iran, it said, currently has 5,060 centrifuges installed underground at its Natanz plant — the number the 2015 nuclear deal allowed. In storage, it also has many other centrifuges that its technicians could in theory fit into the deep bunkers of the Natanz plant, in the Iranian desert.

But the report also noted an increase in the number of the whirling machines at a smaller plant known as Fordow, which is buried under a mountain and extremely difficult to destroy. It said that Iran had installed 1,057 centrifuges there, and that 1,044 are now enriching uranium.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran could enrich no uranium whatsoever at Fordow and instead was to turn the plant into an international center for esoteric science experiments. The Iranians first put that plan on hold and returned Fordow to its former role as an enrichment plant for uranium.

A second report from the atomic inspectors used unusually sharp language to fault Iran’s lack of cooperation in addressing a number of nuclear riddles. Starting in July, the report said, the atomic inspectors had repeatedly raised three issues on whether Iran was complying with its obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreement — a standard accord that makes it part of the world’s peaceful nuclear club.

Having received no answers, the report said, the agency had now told Tehran of its “serious concern” with the lack of clarifications and access to the sites.

The agency’s director general, the new report said, “calls on Iran immediately to cooperate fully.”

David E. Sanger reported from Washington and William J. Broad from New York.

David E. Sanger is a national security correspondent. In a 36-year reporting career for The Times, he has been on three teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2017 for international reporting. His newest book is “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age.” @SangerNYT • Facebook

William J. Broad is a science journalist and senior writer. He joined The Times in 1983, and has shared two Pulitzer Prizes with his colleagues, as well as an Emmy Award and a DuPont Award. @WilliamJBroad

42 Knees Shot in One Day Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israeli snipers on the Gaza border. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

’42 Knees in One Day’: Israeli Snipers Open Up About Shooting Gaza Protesters

Over 200 Palestinians were killed and nearly 8,000 were injured during almost two years of weekly protests at the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli army snipers tell their stories

I know exactly how many knees I’ve hit, says Eden, who completed his service in the Israel Defense Forces as a sniper in its Golani infantry brigade six months ago. For much of the time, he was stationed along the border with the Gaza Strip. His assignment: to repel Palestinian demonstrators who approached the fence.

“I kept the casing of every round I fired,” he says. “I have them in my room. So I don’t have to make an estimate – I know: 52 definite hits.”

But there are also “non-definite” hits, right?

“There were incidents when the bullet didn’t stop and also hit the knee of someone behind [the one I aimed at]. Those are mistakes that happen.”

Is 52 a lot?

“I haven’t really thought about it. It’s not hundreds of liquidations like in the movie ‘American Sniper’: We’re talking about knees. I’m not making light of it, I shot a human being, but still …”

Where do you stand in comparison to others who served in your battalion?

“From the point of view of hits, I have the most. In my battalion they would say: ‘Look, here comes the killer.’ When I came back from the field, they would ask, ‘Well, how many today?’ You have to understand that before we showed up, knees were the hardest thing to rack up. There was a story about one sniper who had 11 knees all told, and people thought no one could outdo him. And then I brought in seven-eight knees in one day. Within a few hours, I almost broke his record.”

Seeing is believing

The mass demonstrations on Israel’s border with the Strip began on Land Day, in March 2018, and continued on a weekly basis until this past January. These ongoing confrontations, in protest of Israel’s siege of Gaza, exacted the lives of 215 demonstrators, while 7,996 were wounded by live ammunition, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Despite the large number of casualties, the grim protests and responses along the fence continued unabated for nearly two years, until it was decided to reduce the frequency to once a month. Yet even in real time, the violent Friday afternoon ritual provoked little public interest in Israel. Similarly, the international condemnations – from allegations of the use of disproportionate force to accusations that Israel was perpetrating massacres – faded like so much froth on the waves.

Shedding light on this very recent slice of history entails talking to snipers: After all, they were the dominant and most significant force in suppressing the demonstrations at the fence. Their targets ranged from young Palestinians who were trying to infiltrate into Israel or who threw Molotov cocktails at soldiers, to prominent, unarmed protesters who were considered to be major inciters. Both categories drew the same response: Live ammunition fired at the legs.

Of the dozens of snipers that we approached, six (all of them discharged from the IDF) agreed to be interviewed and to describe what reality looks like through their gun sights. Five are from infantry brigades – two each from Golani and Givati, one from Kfir – plus one from the Duvdevan counter-terrorism unit. The names of all of them have been changed. They are not out to “break the silence” or to atone for their deeds, only to relate what happened from their point of view. In Eden’s case, even the fact that he also killed a protester by mistake doesn’t rattle him. “I believe I was on the right side and that I did the right thing,” he insists, “because if not for us, the terrorists would try to cross the fence. It’s obvious to you that there is a reason that you’re there.”

Eden says he broke the “knee record” in the demonstration that took place on the day the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated, on May 14, 2018. He did it jointly: Snipers usually work in pairs – together with a locator, who is also a sniper by training, and whose task is to give his partner precise data (distance from the target, wind direction, etc.).

Eden: “On that day, our pair had the largest number of hits, 42 in all. My locator wasn’t supposed to shoot, but I gave him a break, because we were getting close to the end of our stint, and he didn’t have knees. In the end you want to leave with the feeling that you did something, that you weren’t a sniper during exercises only. So, after I had a few hits, I suggested to him that we switch. He got around 28 knees there, I’d say.”

Eden clearly recalls his first knee. His target was a demonstrator standing on coils of concertina wire about 20 meters away. “In that period [early during the protests], you were allowed to shoot a major inciter only if he was standing still,” he says. “That means, even if he was walking around calmly, shooting was prohibited, so we wouldn’t miss and waste ammunition. In any event, that inciter is on the barbed wire, I’m with the weapon right at the fence, and there’s still no authorization to open fire. At one stage he stands opposite me, looks at me, provokes me, gives me a look of ‘Let’s see you try.’ Then the authorization comes. Standing above me is the battalion commander, to my left is his deputy, to the right the company commander – soldiers all around me, the whole world and their wife are watching me in my first go. Very stressful. I remember the view of the knee in the crosshairs, bursting open.”

“Roy,” who served as a sniper in the Givati Brigade until his discharge a year and a half ago, says the hit he remembers most vividly is the one that drew the largest audience. “There was pressure, because the battalion commander had showed up, and everyone was on our case. There was a Palestinian who looked like he was about 20, who didn’t stop moving around. Pink shirt, gray pants. What they do is run-run-run, and then end up in the concertina wire. He was really good at it. In that situation you can finish him off or hit someone behind him. I clearly remember being worried about missing his leg – and then feeling relief that I made a precise hit.”

Relief is also how Itay, a former Haredi who was a sniper in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion (the ultra-Orthodox equivalent of the Nahal brigade). “I saw a guy who was about to light a Molotov cocktail. In a case like that you don’t do calculations. I got on the radio, described the target and got an ‘authorized.’ The pressure is insane. Everything you learned and trained for is distilled into that moment. You get yourself together, remind yourself to breathe and then, boom. I shot at the knee and he fell. I made sure everything was all right – that I hit the right place.”

Is that sort of confirmation part of the protocol?

Itay: “The directive is to keep watching after shooting to see whether the goal was achieved. You only report a hit after an additional look. To look afterward is the easy part, or more correctly, it’s the part that brings relief. Because in this specific case, the terrorist was less than 100 meters from my buddies, and it could have ended badly.”

And after you look a second time and you see the actual wound, is it still easy?

“You are not meant to see massive bleeding, because in the region of the knee and bones there aren’t a lot of capillaries. If you see blood, that’s not a good sign, because you probably hit too high. The regular scenario is supposed to be that you hit, break a bone – in the best case, break the kneecap – within a minute an ambulance comes to evacuate him, and after a week he gets a disability pension.”

But Shlomi, a sniper from Duvdevan, says hitting the kneecap is also not desirable: “The objective is to cause the inciter minimal damage, so he will stop doing what he’s doing. So I, at least, would try to aim at a fattier place, in the muscle region.”

Can you be that precise?

Shomi: “Yes, because the Ruger [a type of rifle used mainly at demonstrations] is intended for use at 100, 150 meters. From that distance, you see the leg even with the eye, and with a telescopic lens that enlarges to the power of 10, you can actually see the tendons.”

Palestinain medic Razan al-Najjar before she was shot dead at the Gaza Strip border, April 1, 2018. IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

Guys with megaphones

Who is considered a major inciter at these demonstrations? The criteria are quite vague. “A major inciter is a major inciter,” Amir asserts simply. The commander of a Golani sniper squad who saw action during the first wave of disturbances along the fence, he explains that “it’s not so complicated to figure out who’s organizing and firing up [the other protesters]. You identify him, for example, by the fact that he has his back to you and is facing the crowd. In many cases, he’s also holding a megaphone.”

Itay’s impression is that “major inciters are, for example, people who stand around in the back, arranging things. They are not necessarily a target, but to let them know that we see what they’re doing, I would shoot in the air around them. You know, the one who arms others is not a concrete threat to me, at least not directly, but he makes things happen. So to hit him is a problem, but also not to hit him is a problem. That’s why the moment he gets tired of activating others and starts to take an active part in the chaos, he’ll be the first one we hit, because he’s the most important in terms of the group around him. He’s the key to stopping the flare-up.”

He adds, “You don’t hit those who whip up the crowd because of what they’re doing. It doesn’t come from an emotional place of ‘He’s the one who’s causing the uprising, so let’s take him down.’ This isn’t a war, it’s a Friday afternoon D.O. [disruption of order]. The goal is not to take down as many as possible, but to make this thing stop as quickly as possible.”

According to IDF protocol, a minor is not to be classified as a major inciter. According to Eden, “There are borderline ages, and so you don’t go there.”

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Is it really possible to tell the difference between a lean man and a well-built teenager, in the heat of a demonstration? “You try to understand according to their body language,” Amir says. “The way he holds the stone, whether it looks like he’s been dragged into the situation or is leading it. These demonstrations are a little like a youth movement, from their point of view. Even if you don’t know their precise ‘ranks,’ you can tell by the charisma who the group leader is.”

Roy maintains that, “in 99.9 percent of the cases, the identification is precisel. There are a lot of images of the target, and a lot of crosshairs focused on it. A drone above, lookouts, the sniper, his commanders. It’s not just one, two or even three people who are watching him, so there will be no doubt.”

Shlomi is a little less certain: “Sometimes it really is hard to tell the difference [between minors and adults]. You look at facial features, height, body mass. Clothing is also a certain index. The younger ones are usually wearing T-shirts. But listen, a 16-year-old can cause you harm, too. If he presents a threat, the age parameter is not necessarily relevant.”

Itay agrees: “The goal is not to hit minors, but a Molotov cocktail is a Molotov cocktail, and the bottle doesn’t know whether the person holding it is a man of 20, a teenager of 14 or a kid of 8.”

Amir recalls experiencing a similar dilemma. “For example, there was a boy whose behavior justified a hit, but we estimated that he was 12 and we deliberately didn’t hit him – not only because of how it would look in the media, but because of our own substantive considerations. We decided we would really scare him and we hit the person next to him. It was not urgent for us. He’ll be here the next week, too.”

Palestinian demonstrators run away from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest at the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip, February 15, 2019. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

No ‘shooting and crying’

It’s been 53 years since publication of “The Seventh Day,” a collection of testimonies from soldiers who came from kibbutzim that gave expression to their emotional distress after seeing combat in the Six-Day War. It is a seminal text in the way it depicts Israel as a society of people who “shoot and cry.” More than half a century later, the lament of soldiers returning from the battlefield is still being heard, but at least according to the voices quoted here, their ideological and moral foundations have turned inside out. The soul-searching over the cost in blood has been replaced by criticism of the army’s weakness and the feeling that it is shackling its fighters.

“I’ve seen inciters who got across the fence and I couldn’t do a thing,” Roy says. “They would jump over it and provoke us, and then go back. Of course, you don’t get authorization to shoot them. Why? Because, once they are within Israel proper, they’re not considered hostile if they’re not holding a knife or a rifle. The restraints on us are shameful. You have to understand: Even if there’s a 20-year-old across from me who’s inciting others and setting tires on fire, I only have a second to hit him, otherwise he’ll disappear. But the moment he’s in my sights, I must first inform the company commander, who informs the battalion commander, who speaks to the brigade commander, who speaks with the division commander. There were some ridiculous cases. During that time, the target has already moved or gone into hiding.”

Amir depicts the chain of command in this way: “For every sniper there was a commander at a junior level [a non-com], like me, and also a senior commander – a company commander or a deputy company commander. The superior officer would request authorization to fire from the sector’s brigade commander. He would get on the radio to him and ask: ‘Can I add another knee for this afternoon?’”

The impression gleaned by Daniel, a lone soldier who immigrated from the United States and served in the Givati Brigade, is that the procedures were more flexible than that. “Like everything in the IDF, it wasn’t completely clear, at least not in my time. But in general, you had to request authorization for shooting from your superior officer and he requested authorization from the company commander or the battalion commander. If it worked like it’s supposed to, it could take less than 10 seconds. The commanders were not particularly stingy with shooting authorizations. They would trust you when you said you had identified a justifiable target.”

According to Eden, the threads of the command chain have loosened over time. “If you look back at the first demonstrations, four or five years ago, before the wave of the past two years, you’ll find that it was very hard to get authorization. Back then they said that every knee was a really big deal. In the period when the protests really heated up, it became easier to get a green light. In my time it came from the level of battalion commander or company commander, depending on the situation.”

Did the requirement to get authorization for every sniper shot from the brigade commander have an impact on the number of Palestinian casualties? The data indicate that the number of those killed fell sharply only after the transition to the Ruger, about a year after the weekly disturbances erupted. The Ruger is considered less lethal than other rifles. Eden, a veteran of the Gaza sector, says he used M24 and Barak (HTR-2000) rifles: “With the Barak, if you shoot someone in the knee, you don’t incapacitate him – you detach his leg. He could die from loss of blood.”

Last July, after 16 months of confrontations at the Gaza fence, the IDF revised its guidelines for snipers in an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities. One senior officer explained the changes in a report by the Kan Broadcasting Corporation’s military correspondent, Carmela Menashe: “At first we told them to shoot at the leg. We saw that you could be killed like that, so we told them to shoot below the knee. Afterward, we made the order more precise and instructed them to shoot at the ankle.”

Eden confirms this. “There was a stage when the order really was to aim at the ankle,” he notes. “I didn’t like that change. Believe in your snipers. To me it felt like they were trying to make our life harder for no reason.”

Israeli snipers on the Gaza border, April 13, 2018. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

How so?

Eden: “Because it’s clear that the surface of the body between the knee and the sole of the foot is much larger than that of the ankle and the sole. It’s the difference between grabbing 40 centimeters [16 inches] and grabbing 10 centimeters.”

Roy, who completed his service before the instructions were updated, says he usually aimed lower in any case. “During my time you were allowed to shoot anywhere from the knee down, but I aimed at the ankle, so as not to hit higher, God forbid, or all hell would break loose. I preferred it that way. I didn’t have pity on the inciters, but that I knew I wouldn’t be backed up by the army. I didn’t want to be a second Elor Azaria [the so-called Hebron shooter, who served a jail term after being convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant]. I gave less thought to the target and more to myself and my family, so they wouldn’t have to go through the same thing Elor’s family did.”

Amir adds: “If you mistakenly hit the main artery of the thigh instead of the ankle, then either you intended to make a mistake or you shouldn’t be a sniper. There are snipers, not many, who ‘choose’ to make mistakes [and aim higher]. Still, the numbers aren’t high. [In comparison,] there are days when you collect 40 knees in the whole sector. Those are the proportions.”

In Amir’s view, the discussion over where to shoot – thigh, knee or ankle – misses the point. “Let me tell you a story. One day there was a big to-do, real chaos. A soldier of mine wanted to take down a major inciter who met all the criteria. He requested authorization, but the company commander refused, because the guy was too close to an ambulance. The slightest deviation, even if he had just hit the headlight, and there would have been a media report that the IDF shot at an ambulance. My soldier heard the refusal, but fired anyway. He hit the ankle, like you’re supposed to, a precision shot, surgical. So on the one hand he violated an order, but on the other hand he fulfilled his mission.” (The soldier was later disciplined and assigned to menial labor.)

And you understand his thinking?

Amir: “Obviously. For a soldier like that, that shot is his purpose, his self-definition. These are kids of 18, mostly from a pretty poor socioeconomic background. The fact that you put them through a sniper’s course doesn’t mean you turned them into mature, sensible people. On the contrary, you turned them into a machine, you made them think small, you reduced their possibilities of choice, diminished their humanity and their personality. The moment you turn someone into a sniper – that is his essence. So now you want to take that away from him, too? This might sound radical, because I’m a commander, but there’s a place inside me that says, ‘Hey, you disappointed me, true, but you came out a man, you proved that the function [of sniper] works.’”

Amir, who majored in theater in high school and calls himself a “boy scout from the north,” describes another case of deviating from the rules that occurred in his company.

“Even when there is no demonstration and everything seems calm, they rush you to the fence with the patrol when shepherds approach it. You have to understand, these are not innocent shepherds, they work for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to drive you crazy. They cross the line to get a response from you. Will you take a vehicle and go threaten him? By the time you get there he’s gone. Will you shoot into the air? He couldn’t care less. And because of that nonsense you don’t sleep and a whole company becomes the shepherd’s puppets,” Amir says.

“One day, one of the noncoms said to me, ‘Enough, we can’t go on like this, let’s take down one of his sheep, it’s worth a few thousand.’ Think about what leads a soldier, a musician from a good high school, the last kind of guy you’d say is out for blood, to get on the radio with the lookout and say, ‘Do you see a sheep, to the north? You’re going to see it fall.’ After that, the shepherd didn’t return. What’s the conclusion? The deterrence worked.”

Amir says that those two incidents must be understood in light of the nature of his battalion’s activity on the Gaza border. “Even before the demonstrations started, we were in an ambush that lasted two months straight,” he relates. “We observed a squad that managed to improvise a bomb and stick it on the fence. There was some sort of defect with it, the device didn’t explode, and we had intelligence that they were coming to pick it up. But it went on and on. Every day they approach it, and even when the squad leader was standing right above the bomb, we didn’t have authorization to shoot. Why? Only because of the media sensitivity. As long as he wasn’t actually holding the device, it was impossible to prove beyond a doubt that he had anything to do with it – so then go figure what kind of narrative Hamas will build around that. Think how frustrating that is for the soldiers. We lay there in the rain for two months and did nothing.”

And the frustration justifies rebelling under other circumstances?

Amir: “No, but that case illustrates the paradox of the rules of engagement. A terrorist who deserves to die is standing opposite me, but because we have to justify ourselves to Haaretz or to the BBC, he gets out of it without a scratch. Cowardice is created that trickles down. So instead you go and take out knees in demonstrations. Not only does that not have an effect, these people also don’t deserve to lose their knees. I really identify with what [former IDF Chief of Staff] Ehud Barak once said – that if he were a Palestinian he would have become a terrorist. It only resonated for me when I was in the territories. You look at small kids crying when you pummel their father, and you say to yourself: Hey, I wouldn’t expect anything else from them.”

Palestinian protesters, climb over the border fence during a protest on the beach at the border with Israel, October 15, 2018. Khalil Hamra,AP

Sports connection

Are there snipers who have found it difficult to get on with their life after their discharge? Tuly Flint, a mental health officer in the reserves and a clinical social worker who specializes in trauma, has treated snipers who took part in curbing demonstrations in Gaza during the past two years. Snipers, he says, manifest singular characteristics when it comes to post-traumatic stress.

“If I am one of 30 soldiers who is in the area and fires a volley, I don’t necessarily know that I did the killing,” he says, whereas the sniper knows when he’s hit his target. “The second trait derives from the fact that the sniper is required not to turn his gaze. Through the telescopic lens, he sees the person he’s shooting and the impact of the hit, and that can fixate the picture in his memory.”

Flint describes a sniper from an elite unit who aimed at a demonstrator’s knee but hit too high, and the demonstrator died from loss of blood. “That soldier, a sniper who was very dedicated to his mission, describes watching the demonstrator bleed to death. He can’t forget the man’s screaming not to be left alone. He also remembers vividly the evacuation [of the body], and the women who wept over him. From then on, that’s all he thinks about and all he dreams about. He says, ‘I wasn’t sent to defend the state, I was sent to murder.’ Thoughts of the girlfriend of the person he killed also continue haunting him. The result is that he breaks up with his own girlfriend of two years. ‘I don’t deserve to have one,’ he says.”

Daniel has sharp memories of his buddies after they made an exact hit. “People look sick or shocked. The meaning of it doesn’t hit home at that instant. A second ago I shot someone, and a minute later, I’m eating matza with chocolate? What the hell is going on here?”

He adds: “There are awful, dreadful stories about soldiers who aimed at a demonstrator and hit someone else. I know someone who took aim at one of the leaders of a demonstration, who was standing on a box and urging the people to keep marching ahead. The soldier aimed at his leg, but at the last moment the man moved and the bullet missed him. Instead, he hit a little girl, who was killed on the spot. That soldier is a wreck today. He is being watched 24/7, so he won’t commit suicide.”

Snipers burdened with experiences like that are the minority. For his part, Amir says the kind of feelings most snipers have are completely different, reminiscent of the world of sports. “The arena of the disturbances is like a sports arena, a situation you can sell tickets for,” he says. “Group versus group, with a line down the middle and an audience of fans on both sides. You can totally tell a story of a sports encounter here.”

On the front line, he continues, “are the inciters: They mark the starting line from which people burst out in sprints, alone or in groups. Everything is coordinated and planned in advance. There are these pits in the terrain [for hiding], and this lets them play with us. They can run 100 meters without my being able to take off their foot. They are also skilled at zigzagging. Two of them pop up, they hide, one throws a stone so the other one can move forward. They use diversionary tactics on you. It’s a kind of game, you know.”

Ilan Assayag

What is the purpose of the game?

Amir: “To get points. If they succeeded in putting the flag on the fence, that’s worth a point. A booby-trapped flag is a point. Throwing back a smoke grenade is a point. Even just touching the wall, I mean the fence, is a point. There’s a battle going on here, but it’s not certain when it will be decided, no one has a clue how you win the cup, but in the meantime both sides continue to play the game.”

A game for the record. The forces aren’t exactly equally matched.

“True. And we’re not even using a quarter of the force we could wield.”

In other words, we could beat them by a knockout, but we prefer to win on points?

“We’re not even winning on points. After some time there, in a debriefing, I said: ‘Let me just once take down a kid of 16, even 14, but not with a bullet in the leg – let me blow his head open in front of his whole family and his whole village. Let him spurt blood. And then maybe for a month I won’t have to take off another 20 knees.’ That is shocking mathematics on the brink of the unimaginable – but when you don’t use your capabilities it’s not clear what you’re trying to do there. You ask me what my mission was? Walla, it’s hard for me answer you. What was considered a success from my point of view? Even the number of knees I took out wasn’t dependent on me, it derived from the number of ‘ducks’ that chose to cross the line.”

But to kill a kid at random? Do you really think that’s the solution?

“Obviously, we shouldn’t liquidate kids. I was saying that to make a point: that if you kill one you might be sparing 20 others. If you were to take me back to that two-month stakeout and let me act, I would have taken down that son of a bitch who was standing above the bomb, even if it meant that he would come to me in my dreams afterward. The reality today, that there are five to 10 people who will be invalids their entire lives, to whom my name is connected somehow, is also shit. And not only in the sense that it is or is not weighing on my heart. Think about it: There’s a whole generation of children there who won’t be able to play soccer.”

Palestinian amputees compete in a local run racing in the Gaza Strip, December 5, 2019. IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

Just teenagers

It seems that the presence of children at demonstrations stirs the most powerful emotional response among the snipers.

“One day there was a girl, I think she was probably 7, who was holding a Hamas flag and she just ran toward us,” Shlomi from Duvdevan says. “I made sure through the lens that there was nothing suspicious on her, that her blouse wasn’t sticking out, that there was no sign of wires or bombs, and we shouted to deter her. Fortunately, she got scared and ran away. It was clear to me that I wouldn’t shoot even if she had crossed the line, but I remember thinking: I really hope she doesn’t keep going.”

Daniel: “From the guard post, you observe a Hamasnik, his face is opposite you, and you think to yourself: I really hope he does something, so I can shoot him. But with demonstrators, the picture gets complicated, because lots of them are only teenagers. They’re thin, they’re small, you don’t feel threatened by them. You need to remind yourself that what they’re doing is dangerous.”

Like some of the other interviewees, Daniel emphasizes the soldiers’ anger at the parents. “A mother who brings her child to a demonstration like that is a terrible mother,” he says.

Amir says he can understand the children: “They make a living from it, and I don’t have to tell you how bad the economic situation is in Gaza. But their parents I don’t understand. What are you dragging him there for? Send them to sneak [into Israel] secretly and work in construction, topple the Hamas government, whatever, just not this.”

Roy, who identifies himself as right-wing, agrees that “it’s not them we need to be fighting, but Hamas, the terrorists, the ones who organize the buses to bring people and toss them a few dollars so they’ll burn tires. I pity them [the children], they really are unfortunate. They remind me of the kids in the neighborhood who play with firecrackers. I was like those kids, too, so in that sense I identify with them.”

But while expressing objections to wholesale shooting, Itay, from Netzah Yehudah, still thinks that the number of Palestinians wounded by live fire at the border over almost two years actually demonstrates that the soldiers were not trigger-happy. “Every Friday there are thousands of demonstrators,” he notes, “and if you multiply that number by 52 and then double it, you’ll get to hundreds of thousands of people. Out of them, 8,000 is a tiny fraction.”

He adds, however, that “the power you have when someone comes into your sights, the knowledge that it depends on you whether he will be able to walk or not, is frightening. From my perspective, it is not intoxicating power. I don’t like it, but it’s impossible to ignore it. It’s there all the time. After my discharge, I realized that it’s something I didn’t want to feel anymore. So I went right into university straight off and not into some security job that I could have landed because of my combat background.”

View of a March of Return protest in Gaza and Israeli snipers in the foreground, March 30, 2018. Ilan Assayag

‘It’s your destiny’

Not everyone succeeds in restraining his feeling of intoxication. A video clip that circulated in 2018 showed a Palestinian approaching the fence and being shot by a sniper, as the soldiers celebrated the direct hit with shouts of “Right on!” and “What a fab clip!” Roy says the soldiers’ response there attests to a lack of professionalism and too much enthusiasm, although he saw nothing similar in his squad.

“On the other hand, I think it’s human,” he says. “When you have a certain goal, even if you are shooting arrows at a target, obviously there’s joy at the hit. The soldiers’ mistake was in their behavior. Let them laugh somewhere in the back, but don’t make a clip of it. There’s such a thing as appearances, too.”

Amir, too, distinguishes between personal satisfaction and public manifestations that don’t look good on film. “The snipers in the squad we replaced were legends. They were IDF champions and they had two or three super-cool Xs [on their rifles] from manning the line in Gaza. We heard the story about the Xs, and we wanted them, too. It’s your profession, your destiny, the essence of your being from the moment you get up until you go to sleep. Obviously you want to display your capabilities.”

Do you have to celebrate? Isn’t there some other way?

Amir: “No. Take the most baboonish guy you know – and that’s what the IDF does, transforms kids into baboons – and try to stop him from telling about his first time. It’s chaos there, everyone is shooting, making hits – you expect that he won’t open a bottle of champagne? He has fulfilled himself just now, it’s a rare moment. Actually, the more he does it, the more indifferent he’ll become. He will no longer be especially happy, or sad. He’ll just be.”

The army comments

The IDF Spokesman’s Office provided this statement to Haaretz: “The operational response to the violent disturbances and the hostile terrorist activity with which the IDF has been coping since March 2018, is adapted appropriately to the threat posed by these incidents, amid an effort to reduce as far as possible the injury to those causing the disorder, as well as the use of live ammunition. For the past two years, the operational response has been influenced by the intensity of the events, by changes in the violence of those disrupting the order, by the smoke they have spread and so on.

“In light of the change that has occurred in the nature of the disturbances, it was decided to equip the forces also with the Ruger bullet, which causes less damage. As to the use of M24 rifles, we note that this is a standard sniper’s rifle. In general, within the framework of the events in question, use was not made of the Barak sniper’s rifle. We have been made aware of exceptional, specific use of the latter, which was reported and investigated. The findings were conveyed to the military advocate general’s unit for further examination.

“The statements attributed to a senior officer concerning the rules of engagement do not reflect IDF operational policy. The officer intended to explain that when there were reports of unintentional shooting injuries that were not below the knee, the sector commanders decided to toughen the rules of engagement in certain circumstances, and to instruct the snipers to aim for the ankle.

“As to the case in which a fighter fired at a major disrupter, even though he did not receive authorization from his superior officer, the shooting was done in accordance with the rules of engagement with the exception of this deviation. The case was dealt with at the command level and was not passed on to the military advocate general’s unit for handling.

“Similarly, in the case where improper shooting at a sheep took place, that incident was dealt with at the command level and was not sent to the military advocate general’s unit for handling. The company’s deputy commander was tried for breaching military discipline and sentenced to seven days’ detention.”

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Rises From The Ashes

Domestically built centrifuges on display at an Iranian uranium enrichment plant in Natanz in June 2018. (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting/AP)

Archive of secret Iranian nuclear documents draws fresh scrutiny as Tehran stockpiles enriched uranium

Joby Warrick

In early 2003, a group of Iranian scientists began scouring the country on a secret quest for a place to dig an unusual tunnel. They searched Iran’s vast Lut Desert until they finally found what seemed to be the right spot, a Mars-like dead zone regarded as one of the hottest and driest places on Earth.

Conditions in this stretch of salty desert are so extreme that almost no animal or plant can survive there. But it was ideally suited for what Iran wanted — an underground chamber for the country’s first nuclear detonation. Photos and measurements were taken and then stashed away, to await the time when the bomb was nearly ready for testing.

The tunnel was never constructed, but 17 years later the images and surveys still exist, part of a recently unearthed trove of secret Iranian nuclear documents. The records, now being studied in major Western capitals, are drawing fresh attention as weapons experts seek to answer a suddenly timely question: How quickly could Iran build a nuclear bomb if it decided to do so?

This week, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported that Iran is accelerating its production of enriched uranium amid rising tensions over the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The growing stockpile potentially gives Tehran a crucial ingredient for a future bomb — fissile uranium. And the long-hidden papers, stolen from Iran two years ago by Israeli spies, are offering new insight into how far Iran had already come in acquiring other critical components needed to build a nuclear weapon.

U.N. nuclear watchdog sees sharp rise in Iran’s uranium stockpile

Newly released records from the document trove are testaments to the depth and scale of Iran’s past nuclear research, showing the country’s scientists racing to master key technical challenges. Summary reports provided to The Washington Post show that Iranian officials were conducting scores of complex experiments across a network of secret laboratories, while also seeking to answer practical questions such as where in the country they could sink an underground shaft for a future nuclear test.

The results of that work are still available to Iran, giving it a head start in the event its leaders decide to make a dash toward becoming a nuclear-weapons state, say U.S. and Middle Eastern weapons experts.

“In 2003, Iran had a nuclear weapon design and it was building things — doing the whole gamut of activities,” said David Albright, a nuclear-weapons analyst who has reviewed hundreds of pages of the documents while researching a book. “But are they truly ready to start producing a weapon? We still don’t know, but we may soon have to figure it out.”

Albright prepared several draft analyses of the documents and provided copies to The Post.

Amassing uranium

Since the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic republic has renounced many of the nuclear restrictions and limits it had accepted under the landmark international accord, including a 300-kilogram cap on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Tuesday’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that Iran has blown past those restrictions, amassing more than 1,020 kilograms of low-enriched uranium and activating new centrifuge machines so it can produce even more nuclear fuel faster. Low-enriched uranium is used in nuclear power plants, but with additional processing it can be converted into highly enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.

With the bigger stockpile, Iran has dramatically shrunk its theoretical “breakout” time — the span of months it would need to acquire a bomb’s worth of ­weapons-grade uranium — to less than four months, according to some independent calculations. Under the 2015 agreement, Iran had disconnected most of its centrifuges, exported the bulk of its uranium and dismantled a nuclear reactor. U.S. officials at the time estimated Iran’s breakout threshold at about a year. Iran also agreed to extensive international oversight to guard against cheating, and many analysts believed that a nuclear crisis had been averted until at least until 2030, when many of the provisions were due to expire.

That changed when President Trump, who repeatedly blasted the deal as shortsighted and a “disaster,” walked away from the accord and reimposed sanctions against Iran. Since then, Iran has quickly gone from having a modest stockpile of about 200 kilograms of enriched uranium — far less than needed for a single nuclear device — to a large and growing mass of fuel that could soon allow it to make several bombs, if it decided to.

The Iran nuclear deal, explained

Supporters of the deal have criticized Trump for trying to scuttle an accord that, whatever its flaws, appeared to be working, as the president’s own advisers acknowledged in congressional testimony. But several of them also noted in interviews that Iran’s actions so far are reversible, and Iranian leaders appear to be more interested in sending signals than building weapons.

“To date, Iran’s steps have not been irretrievable — the Iranians have been relatively calibrated in their response,” said Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group and an adviser on Middle East policy in the Obama and Clinton administrations. “If you’re Iran right now, the tools you have in your arsenal are an ability to expand your nuclear arsenal, roil markets or threaten regional countries and the U.S. presence within them. And if those are the tools they have, those will be the ones they will consider using in response to U.S. pressure they view as tantamount to economic warfare.”

One of the architects of the 2015 deal, then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, said the Iranians have so far refrained from actions that would clearly signal an intention to make weapons, such as throwing out IAEA inspectors or withdrawing from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“What’s very important is that the verification regime continues to confirm that they are not in ‘breakout mode,’ ” Moniz said, “which would mean going all out.”

Project 110

The new disclosures from Iran’s nuclear archives are a portrait of what “all out” looks like. Since at least 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies have known that Iran launched a covert program called Project 110 — part of a bigger initiative known as the AMAD plan — in the late 1990s with the goal of quickly building up to five nuclear bombs.

U.S. officials believe that Iranian leaders suspended the program shortly after the U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq in 2003. But the trove of nuclear documents, stolen from a Tehran warehouse by Israeli operatives in 2018, have provided an enormous amount of new details about the abandoned nuclear project, showing how Iranian agencies and laboratories worked feverishly to master critical technologies and skills on a highly compressed schedule.

The documents, consisting of tens of thousands of printed pages and computer disks, were shared with the Vienna-based IAEA, the United States and several other governments. IAEA officials confirmed in interviews that they are continuing to dig through the records and that they have confronted Iranian officials about several alleged research programs and facilities that were previously unknown.

Vast trove of Iranian documents stolen from Tehran in daring raid

“We take information very seriously, but we don’t take it at face value,” Rafael Grossi, the newly appointed IAEA chief, said in an interview in Washington last month. Grossi cited a “very painstaking, meticulous effort” to verify the credibility of the information.

The documents show how Iranian nuclear researchers worked in tandem to try to solve several complex technical challenges in building a weapon. One of Albright’s summaries shows how Iran conducted nearly 200 tests over a span of seven months, mostly aimed at mastering physics problems related to constructing an array of explosive charges around a core of uranium metal. With precision timing, the explosions cause the uranium core to implode, triggering a nuclear chain reaction.

According to a spreadsheet prepared by Project 110 supervisors, an average of 32 tests were conducted each month, a surprising figure indicating “more tests than previously known publicly,” Albright and co-author Sarah Burkhard wrote in one of the analyses.

Other documents show Iranians researching uranium metallurgy and warhead designs and also conducting computer simulations of nuclear explosions — systematically tackling each of the “key bottlenecks” on the difficult path toward a weapon, Albright said.

A separate batch of records details Iran’s efforts to find a prospective site for the underground test chamber. It was known that Iran had looked at five potential sites, but new documents suggest that Iran’s scientists had settled on a likely location — the Dasht-e Lut in southeastern Iran, near the Afghan border.

The documents show that Iranian officials were gathering geological and water-table data and taking photos of sites in the desert where they could potentially sink a shaft deep into the ground for weapons testing.

How killing the Iran deal could make a secret weapons program more likely

The hellish Lut Desert is one of the hottest places on the planet. Satellites passing overhead have recorded temperatures on the sandy surface of up 159 degrees Fahrenheit, or hotter than a well-done steak. The forbidding climate means the desert is reliably empty — and thus ideal as a nuclear test site.

Unclear from the documents is how much of the testing equipment and components Iran managed to preserve after the program was shelved. At least some of the nearly two-decade-old materials and facilities would have to be re-created or re-engineered, but Albright said other aspects of Project 110 almost certainly survived intact and are probably warehoused somewhere in the country.

“Any valuable equipment — explosives chambers, [ultra-high-speed] cameras — they would have been preserved and probably moved someplace else,” Albright said. “Whether they’re ready to move [into new tests] is something that now has to be factored in. It enriches the discussion of how quickly they could take weapons-grade uranium and turn it into a nuclear weapon.”

Obtaining answers from Tehran appears unlikely. Iran has never acknowledged its previous efforts to build a bomb, and in recent months it has blocked IAEA inspectors from visiting three sites identified in the document trove, according to an agency report this week. Olli Heinonen, a former top IAEA official who led inspections of Iran’s facilities in the early 2000s, said Tehran must open up its facilities and fully explain its past work if it wants to avoid suspicions that it is doing more than adding to its uranium stockpile.

“After 17 years, the IAEA has not been able to conclude that Iran is in compliance with its safeguards agreement,” Heinonen said. “This is not good news.”