NYC earthquake risk: the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

NYC earthquake risk: Could Staten Island be heavily impacted?

Updated May 16, 4:31 AM; Posted May 16, 4:00 AM

Rubble litters Main Street after an earthquake struck Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey outlines the differences between the effect of an earthquake in the West vs. one in the East. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – While scientists say it’s impossible to predict when or if an earthquake will occur in New York City, they say that smaller structures — like Staten Island’s bounty of single-family homes — will suffer more than skyscrapers if it does happen.

„Earthquakes in the East tend to cause higher-frequency shaking — faster back-and-forth motion — compared to similar events in the West,“ according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), published on its website recently „Shorter structures are more susceptible to damage during fast shaking, whereas taller structures are more susceptible during slow shaking.“

DIFFERENCES IN INTENSITY

The report, „East vs West Coast Earthquakes,“ explains how USGS scientists are researching factors that influence regional differences in the intensity and effects of earthquakes, and notes that earthquakes in the East are often felt at more than twice the distance of earthquakes in the West.

Predicting when they will occur is more difficult, said Thomas Pratt, a research geophysicist and the central and Eastern U.S. coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Reston, Va.

„One of the problems in the East Coast is that we don’t have a history to study,“ he said. „In order to get an idea, we have to have had several cycles of these things. The way we know about them in California is we dig around in the mud and we see evidence of past earthquakes.“

Yet Pratt wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a high-magnitude event taking place in New York, which sits in the middle the North American Tectonic Plate, considered by experts to be quite stable.

„We never know,“ he said. „One could come tomorrow. On the other hand, it could be another 300 years. We don’t understand why earthquakes happen (here) at all.“

Though the city’s last observable earthquake occurred on Oct. 27, 2001, and caused no real damage, New York has been hit by two Magnitude 5 earthquakes in its history – in 1738 and in 1884 — prompting many to say it is „due“ for another.

While earthquakes generally have to be Magnitude 6 or higher to be considered „large,“ by experts, „a Magnitude 5, directly under New York City, would shake it quite strongly,“ Pratt said.

The reason has to do with the rock beneath our feet, the USGS report says.

OLDER ROCKS

In the East, we have older rocks, some of which formed „hundreds of millions of years before those in the West,“ the report says. Since the faults in the rocks have had so much time to heal, the seismic waves travel more efficiently through them when an earthquake occurs.

„Rocks in the East are like a granite countertop and rocks in the West are much softer,“ Pratt said. „Take a granite countertop and hit it and it’ll transmit energy well. In the West, it’s like a sponge. The energy gets absorbed.“

If a large, Magnitude 7 earthquake does occur, smaller structures, and older structures in Manhattan would be most vulnerable, Pratt said. „In the 1920s, ’30s and late 1800s, they were not built with earthquake resistance,“ he said, noting that newer skyscrapers were built to survive hurricanes, so would be more resistant.

When discussing earthquake prediction and probability, Pratt uses the analogy of a baseball player who averages a home run every 10 times at bat and hasn’t hit one in the past nine games: „When he’s up at bat, will he hit a home run? You just don’t know.“

And though it would probably take a magnitude of 7 to topple buildings in the city, smaller earthquakes are still quite dangerous, he said.

„Bookshelves could fall down and hit you,“ he said. „People could be killed.“ A lot of stone work and heavy objects fell from buildings when a quake of 5.8 magnitude struck central Virginia in 2011, he noted, but, fortunately, no one was injured.

To be safe, Pratt encourages New Yorkers to keep a few days‘ worth of drinking water and other supplies on hand. He, himself, avoids putting heavy things up high.

„It always gets me nervous when I go into a restaurant that has heavy objects high on shelves,“ he said. „It’s unlikely you’ll get an earthquake. But, we just don’t know.“

Israel Responds to Rocket Attacks From Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel responds to Gaza rockets with strikes on Hamas targets

By Sebastian Engel dpa (TNS) Jun 26, 2020

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli jets targeted Hamas positions early Saturday after rockets were fired at southern Israel earlier from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli armed forces said.

“In response to the 2 rockets fired at #Israel, our fighter jets struck a Hamas rocket manufacturing workshop and a weapons manufacturing facility in #Gaza,” the Israeli Defense Forces tweeted.

“We hold Hamas responsible for all acts of terror emanating from Gaza.”

The defense forces said sirens sounded in the area bordering the strip Friday evening, according to the military.

According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, no one was injured in the shelling in southern Israel, and there was no damage in the area near the northern end of the Gaza Strip.

One missile landed on open ground, the other probably in the Gaza Strip itself, the report said.

The rockets were fired a few days before the possible announcement of Israel’s first annexation steps in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli government could begin annexing areas in the West Bank and the strategically important Jordan Valley on Wednesday in line with President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East.

The Palestinians firmly reject the plan. In their view, it favors Israel. The plan is also highly controversial internationally. The armed wing of the Palestinian organization Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has described any annexation as a declaration of war.

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Two rockets fired from outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Two rockets fired from Gaza Strip towards Israel: Army

Incident comes a day after warning that annexation of parts of occupied West Bank would amount to ‘declaration of war’.

Israel’s military said sirens were sounded in the area surrounding the besieged Gaza Strip [File: Amir Cohen/Reuters]

The Israeli military says two rockets have been fired from the besieged Gaza Strip towards Israel amid rising tensions as the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to announce its first steps in a controversial plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

Sirens sounded in the Israeli district of Sderot late on Friday, medics said. It was the first reported rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, which is administered by Hamas, since early May

There were no reports of injuries or damage in the area.

It came a day after the armed wing of Hamas warned Israel’s annexation plans amounted to a “declaration of war”.

Beginning as soon as July 1, Netanyahu’s government could begin annexing areas in the occupied West Bank and the strategically important Jordan Valley in line with United States President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East.

The plan proposes to establish a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories, not including occupied East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a state they have long sought.

The proposal has been rejected in its entirety by the Palestinians and widely condemned by the international community.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), has called the annexation plans an “existential threat” and said the Palestinians will respond with their own measures. The PA has already cancelled all agreements with Israel and the US.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and the European Union say the plans threaten the possibility of reaching a peace agreement in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arab countries have also warned the planned annexation could affect security in the region.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in recent years, with the latest in 2014 killing 2,251 Palestinians and 74 people on the Israeli side.

Unanswered Questions About the Russian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Russia’s New Nuclear Strategy: Unanswered Questions

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence. 

There is no doubt that the publication of this document is aimed at the US, which has recently called into question a number of agreements in the field of arms control, often based on arguments of Russian non-compliance. The publication of the Basic Principles is another attempt to show that the US is responsible for crisis in the arms control regime. Still, the six-page document leaves plenty of unanswered questions.

The Essence of Russia’s Nuclear Deterrence

For the first time, the Basic Principles state that ‘guaranteed deterrence’ is one of the highest national priorities. This was implied by the president’s previous speeches and other policy documents, but was enshrined in neither the National Security Strategy nor in the Military Doctrine. 

The newly released document also states that the use of nuclear weapons should be regarded as a measure ‘compelled’ on Russia, and claims that Russia expands maximum efforts into mitigating the nuclear threat. But there is no explanation for this statement, despite its significance. Nor is there any explanation as to what exactly Russia’s policies on mitigating nuclear threats are, what priorities it has (if any), what is meant by nuclear threats in general, and what or who represents a nuclear threat. All have been left unexplained. 

Paragraph 9 of the new document stipulates that nuclear deterrence is designed to persuade an adversary that retaliation will always be unavoidable. Yet the next paragraph explains that nuclear deterrence is assured by the presence of fit-for-action nuclear forces and Russia’s readiness to use them. In other words, Moscow considers it important not only to possess fit-for-service nuclear forces, but also to demonstrate their readiness through exercises of the nuclear triad or their units, or through statements of politicians and defence officials. Western observers should not, therefore, be surprised when future Russian politicians utter nuclear threats in response to any action deemed potentially dangerous to Russia, for this is part of the state policy.

This is followed by a list of military threats which Russia deems adequate to deter with nuclear weapons. These include the build-up of operational forces with nuclear weapon delivery vehicles in territories adjacent to Russia – a passage which evidently refers particularly to NATO aircraft, the potential carriers of B61 nuclear bombs, the deployment of which has recently been discussed in Germany and Poland. 

It is interesting to speculate whether China, with its nuclear capabilities, is a potential adversary in this context. In general, the Basic Principles name no specific countries or military alliances that Russia considers a potential threat.

Special attention should be given to what the new Basic Principles document defines as dangers in various strategic conventional forces deployed by potential adversary states. These include missile defence, medium- and short-range cruise and ballistic missiles, high-precision non-nuclear and hypersonic weapons, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and directed energy weapons. 

But how does one define which countries consider Russia as an adversary? Is a statement made by a country’s leadership which explicitly considers Russia a hostile state required? For example, former Prime Minister Theresa May called Russia a ‘strategic enemy’ back in 2018. Is that sufficient? Is such a declaration enduring and valid on her successors? 

And what about others? For example, in December 2019, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a media interview that he did not consider Russia an enemy. Would this be enough as far as Russia is concerned?

And what about the possibility that a country’s declaratory position on Russia is divided or uncertain? In the US, former Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats obviously believes that Russia is a threat. However, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale refrained from calling Russia a threat and said it was only a competitor. So, whose opinion is decisive in this case? 

Ultimately, it appears that France – with its hypersonic medium-range cruise missile, ASN4G, under development – is a target for Russia’s nuclear deterrence, notwithstanding the fact that France does not call Russia an enemy. And what definition will be given to Germany if it wants to equip its Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicles with missiles? Will it automatically become a threat subjected to nuclear deterrence? Perhaps this paragraph was introduced in order to separate the US from China, which does not call Russia an enemy. But it is certainly not very persuasive.

The Russian list of threats which could be met with nuclear deterrence extends to space arms, deployment of nuclear weapons in the territories of non-nuclear weapon states, and the very existence of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. But there is nothing about the existence of fissile materials used for nuclear weapons production. The same can be said about the threat of nuclear terrorism. Threats posed by unrecognised or undeclared nuclear states are not mentioned either. Is Russian nuclear policy dismissive of these challenges? We know that it is not, but for some reason none are mentioned in the Basic Principles.

Conditions for the Use of Nuclear Weapons

Paragraph 18 specifies that the decision on the use of nuclear weapons is the responsibility of the President of the Russian Federation. But what if he is incapacitated or seriously ill? Yes, the Russian Constitution specified that if the president is unable to perform his duties, these shall be transferred to the prime minister. But perhaps a more specific outline of decision-making procedures in a force majeure situation could have been usefully included in the Basic Principles. 

For the first time, Russia has made it publicly known that the reception of any data on a missile launch targeting the country is enough to trigger a nuclear retaliatory strike. The implication here is that it does not even matter if the missile actually carries a nuclear warhead. And this danger has a history: we know that Russia’s missile warning system was triggered falsely in 1983, and that the world was saved from a disaster only because a Russian officer – Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov – refused to take responsibility for the outbreak of a nuclear war on the basis of suspicious alert information. Who can guarantee that today’s officers will act in a similar vein? 

Interestingly, the new document also specifies that Russian nuclear deterrence policies are based – among other things – on the assessment of its defence capabilities in the context of the protection of such countries as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Although not novel, such a definition remains highly debatable, for the inclusion of any non-nuclear countries in Russia’s nuclear planning threatens escalation. It also contradicts Russia’s declaratory policies. For instance, Russia argues against the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear NATO countries. But, while it does not deploy its own nuclear weapons on the territory of the Collective Security Treaty Organization countries, it effectively declares that these countries are free to include Russia’s nuclear weapons in their defence policy planning. 

Another declared reason for the potential use of nuclear weapons is in response to aggression with the use of conventional weapons, leading to a situation that threatens Russia’s very existence. This thesis has been repeated in a variety of documents, but still remains unclear. What is meant by the ‘threat to the state’s existence’? This is a pertinent question that requires further clarification. 

Press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov explained the Basic Principles by claiming that Russia will not use nuclear weapons first. However, three out of four reasons for the potential use of nuclear weapons as described in the latest document are not de facto nuclear threats, so the implication must be that Russia could, nevertheless, be ready to initiate a nuclear strike. 

The latest Basic Principles document includes concepts which are too nebulous, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. Sadly, therefore, its publication has not made Russia’s nuclear policy any clearer, safer or more predictable. All it has done is leave us with many questions. 

Maxim Starchak is an expert on nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry, and a Research Fellow at the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University in Canada.

The views expressed in this Commentary are the author’s, and do not represent those of RUSI or any other institution.

BANNER IMAGE: Courtesy of Goodvint / Wikimedia Commons.

Iran Spreads Her Hegemony to the South (Daniel 8:4)

Iranian press review: Revolutionary Guard to set up naval base in Indian Ocean

Meanwhile, Iranians hold funerals and weddings despite coronavirus regulations, and Iran delivers supplies to sanctions-hit Venezuela

Iran to set up new base in Indian Ocean

Iran’s navy force will build its first permanent base in the Indian Ocean by the end of the current Iranian year, which is 20 March 2021, domestic news agencies reported.

Monday’s announcement by Alireza Tangsiri, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), prompted speculations that Iran is expanding its strategy of asymmetric warfare beyond the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

According to Tangsiri, the IRGCN’s presence in Iranian territorial waters, which are directly connected to the Indian Ocean, aims to protect Iranian fishing ships against piracy and “some foreign warships”.

This will be the first time that IRGC’s navy force builds a base outside the Persian Gulf, and Tangsiri said the move was made in response to an order by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In 2008, Khamenei, who is also commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces, tasked IRGC with protecting Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf, and the regular army’s navy with protecting the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

In an analysis, the Javan daily wrote that the country’s armed forces are attempting to expand IRGC strategies in the Sea of Oman, following the United States’ navy reinforcement in Iran’s southern territorial waters.

The naval force of IRGC, which mainly consists of speed boats and anti-ship missiles, has been trained to apply asymmetrical warfare against US aircraft carriers and warships in the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, the pro-conservative Vatan Emrooz daily wrote that setting up a permanent IRGC base in the Sea of Oman is a sign of opening a new front against American forces at the sea.

The paper suggested that an Iranian military base close to the Indian Ocean provides a wider area of coverage for the anti-ship missiles used by Iranian armed forces.

“If an armed confrontation takes place [between Iran and the US], this military base could serve as a centre to expand the conflict to the Indian Ocean, where the US forces are stationed,” the daily concluded.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington remain high despite a recent successful prisoners exchange. Following the United States’ withdrawal in 2018 from the Obama-era multinational nuclear deal, Iran said it had abandoned all limitations set by the accord. Since then, Washington has initiated a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran, regularly announcing new additions to already crippling sanctions against the country.

Ceremonies despite official ban

Iranians have found a way to bypass a government ban on ceremonial events during the coronavirus pandemic – by going underground.

In the Kurdish city of Kermanshah, residents have been illegally holding funerals and weddings in basement venues, reported the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Meanwhile, affluent Iranians have been throwing wedding parties on roof gardens and private parking lots despite government guidelines that prohibit such activities, according to Khabar Online.

Iran, with limited access to essential medicines and economic power to impose a long-term lockdown due to the US total embargo on its economy, is the worst-hit country in the Middle East by Covid-19.

This week, Iran’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 10,000, according to official numbers. And illegally held gatherings are partly to blame for the continuous rise in infections.

Last week, the Tasnim news agency reported that 120 persons were infected by the coronavirus at a wedding party in one Iranian city. The news agency did not reveal in which city the incident took place.

Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi has also warned that a second wave of the coronavirus has been spreading in the country through funerals and wedding parties.

“Now the funerals and wedding parties are the Achilles’ heel in combating the coronavirus pandemic in Iran,” Harirchi was quoted by Iran’s YJC news network as saying.

Iran reported its first coronavirus cases on 19 February, and it has since struggled to contain the pandemic. The Islamic republic’s official figures have shown an upward trajectory in new cases of the virus since early May.

Iran and Venezuela expand ties

An Iranian cargo ship docked in Venezuela with supplies on Monday in the latest collaboration between the two countries, both of which are under harsh sanctions imposed by the United States.

In an interview with the Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen news network, the Iranian ambassador to Venezuela Hojatollah Soltani said that the Golsan cargo ship had carried food to the Latin American country.

According to Soltani, Iran had also delivered medical supplies to Venezuela to help Caracas fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today, from Iran, a sanctioned country, the first shipment of supplies and equipment, which are sanctioned [by the US but] necessary for the fight against the Covid-19, arrived in Venezuela – another sanctioned country,” Soltani wrote on Twitter.

Soltani’s statement seemed to contradict last week’s report by the Fars news agency, affiliated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which claimed the Goslan was transferring petrol to Venezuela.

Since May, Tehran had sent five tankers with over 1.5 million litres of petrol to Venezuela, which despite its large oil resources suffers from a petrol shortage.

On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department said it had imposed sanctions on five Iranian ship captains it accuses of delivering fuel to Venezuela.

In a statement, the department said five captains have worked for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and the National Iranian Tanker Company, both of which have already been slapped with US sanctions.

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is almost out of petrol following years of mismanagement and US sanctions on its oil. Over the past few months, authorities have imposed rationing at petrol stations nationwide, handing control over to military personnel, World Oil reported.

The shortage has forced it to rely on imports, but US sanctions have limited the sources and types of fuel it can receive.

Iran’s foreign ministry has vowed to continue sending oil shipments to the South American country despite US sanctions against both countries.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he planned to visit Iran to sign cooperation agreements in energy and other sectors.

* Iranian press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye

War Being Declared Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel’s planned West Bank annexation is a ‘declaration of war,’ says Hamas

Trey Yingst

Israel’s planned annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley is considered a declaration of war, according to Hamas, the group in control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obeida made the statements Thursday over a video feed saying Israel would bitterly regret the decision to apply their laws over the disputed territory.

The anticipated Palestinian resistance was reiterated by Senior Hamas Official Dr. Basem Naim, who told Fox News that annexation would destroy any possibility of finding a political solution to the ongoing conflict.

Palestinians would not accept these plans at all. They are going to resist these plans by all means available. Gaza is not excluded from this,” he said.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL DEMANDS ISRAEL RENOUNCE WEST BANK ANNEXATION PLANS

Palestinian demonstrators clash with the Israeli troops during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank and Trump’s Middle East initiative, at the village of Fasayil, in Jordan Valley, Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Naim added that Palestinian leadership is calling on the European Union to support their position and pressure Israel to reverse course before the July 1st date, put forth by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The prime minister is hoping to push forward Israeli annexation with the support of the Trump administration. President Trump already moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Both moves that led Palestinians to describe President Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century peace plan as “dead on arrival.”

WHAT IS THE GAZA STRIP?

Over the past year, clashes have erupted multiple times between Israel and Gaza. One such example occurred after Israel conducted a targeted killing of Senior Islamic Jihad commander Bahaa Abu el-Atta at his home in Gaza City.

The act led to days of rocket fire from Gaza exchanged with airstrikes from Israel. There is a serious concern from military officials in Jerusalem that annexation could lead to similar conflict.

“The upcoming events can develop into fighting in Gaza,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said.

Kohavi told his soldiers at a training exercise this week that clashes could also erupt in the West Bank in the coming weeks.

On Monday, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the town of Jericho to rally against Israel. The event was attended by UN envoy Nikolay Mladenov, as well as numerous other European representatives.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh spoke with Fox News at the event, stressing there would be a unified response to Israel from the West Bank and Gaza.

“The Palestinians are hoping for a Palestinian state that is sovereign, viable, contiguous and independent. Our hearts and minds are open for any serious peace negotiations,” Shtayyeh said.

Currently, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza are not willing to discuss a peace process through the lens of an American deal they describe as unfair.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz made remarks this week saying that if Palestinians refuse to participate in talks, Israel will move forward without them. He added the Israeli military is prepared for a variety of possibilities in the wake of annexation.

“We will work to reduce as much as possible the danger of turning the State of Israel into a binational state while making sure that Israel remains in control of its security,” Gantz said.

Trey Yingst currently serves as a Jerusalem-based general assignment reporter for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in August 2018.

The Nations Continue to Trample Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

As well Israel threatens West Bank annexation, Gazans recall settler withdrawal

(Updates with U.N. official urging peace)

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, June 25 (Reuters) – Vineyard owner Haidar al-Zahar recalls with joy the day in 2005 when Israel removed its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip, part of a withdrawal that few Palestinians thought they would ever see.

“I felt like a prisoner who suddenly found himself a free man,” he said.

A decade and a half later he is on the warpath as Israel considers whether to annex its Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank – 40 km (25 miles) away from Gaza – which Palestinians seek as the heartland of a future state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set July 1 for the start of cabinet discussions on annexing parts of the West Bank, where more than 420,000 settlers live, citing Israel’s security needs, and religious and historic ties to the land.

“Israel today has all the power. No one can deny that – they can do whatever they want,” Zahar, 68, said in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamist group Hamas.

He urged Palestinians to wage “armed resistance” to prevent annexation, claiming that Israel evacuated its troops and 8,500 settlers from Gaza a decade and a half ago in part because of Palestinian attacks.

“Without willing martyrs, nothing will change,” he said.

Hamas’s armed wing echoed that call for confrontation on Thursday, calling annexation “a declaration of war against our Palestinian people”.

“We will make the enemy bite its fingers in regret for such a sinful decision,” said Abu Ubaida, spokesman of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem, in a 1967 war. It unilaterally withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, saying it wanted to improve its security and international status in the absence of peace talks.

However it enforces a blockade on Gaza, and restricts the movement of people and goods, citing security concerns about Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups there.

On Thursday the United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov reiterated the U.N.’s position that annexing parts of the West Bank would be “against international law” – which Israel disputes.

But he urged Palestinian leaders not to “stray away from the path of peace” and highlighted the dangers if Palestinians were left feeling there was no prospect of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“That only creates opportunities for radicals or people with more destructive agendas to come in and fill that vacuum,” Mladenov said in Jerusalem.

“Another explosion, another war that would happen here would be a terrible, terrible tragedy. Not just a human tragedy but a failure of leadership on all sides,” he told journalists.

However, in the southern Gaza district of Rafah, Mohammad Seidam, 84, said West Bank Palestinians should not give up hope. “In Gaza they had built gardens, farms and greenhouses and God removed them,” he said. (Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, additional reporting by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem Writing by Rami Ayyub and Jeffrey Heller; editing by John Stonestreet and Alexandra Hudson)

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