East Coast Still Unprepared For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

East Coast Earthquake Preparedness
By By BEN NUCKOLS
Posted: 08/25/2011 8:43 am EDT
WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.
A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.
The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.
In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.
At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.
A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.
Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.
The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.
Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.
“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.
“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.
“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.
Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.
At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.
“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”
Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.
The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.
The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.
The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.
In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.
At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”
Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.
Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.
“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”
The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.
Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.
A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.
“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”
An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.
The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.
Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.
It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.
The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.
People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.
In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.
Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.
“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.
“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”
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Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

Pakistan has a new Nuclear Missile: Daniel 8

Shaheen-III: balancing the unbalanced

While recognizing the challenges to South Asia’s strategic stability, it is evident that the development and deployment of India’s missiles has the potential to impact the complex geometry of deterrence, arms control, and crisis stability in the region

Rabia Javed6:28 PM | February 16, 2021

Pakistan recently test-fired surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Shaheen III. Capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the missile is estimated to have a maximum range of 2750 km. The missile is solid-fuelled and equipped with Post-Separation Altitude Correction (PSAC) system.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Nadeem Raza, who witnessed the test, said, “Pakistan desires peaceful co-existence in the region and its strategic capability is to deter any aggression against the sovereignty of Pakistan.”  The successful test launch was also warmly appreciated by the President and Prime Minister Imran Khan who congratulated the scientists and engineers on achieving another outstanding milestone.

Pakistan is determined to scrutinize the strategic situation of the region where India is massively increasing its military forces. For Pakistan, such missile tests are an essential element for survival because of massive conventional disparities that lie between India and Pakistan. Also, it is a major step towards strengthening Pakistan’s deterrence capability vis-à-vis India.

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Retention of such missile systems is vital for the regions as it will deny India any advantage. The variant of Shaheen III could serve best to give Pakistan the ability to target Andaman and Nicobar islands in Bay of Bengal. General Khalid Kidwai, former head of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and Advisor to Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) in a conversation at the 2015 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, reiterated that the sole purpose of developing such missile system is to keep in range the bases which India is developing in Andaman and Nicobar. He further added that, “If those bases are not covered then inadvertently Pakistan will be allowing, so to say, a second strike capability to India within its land borders.”

Interestingly, many stories emerged against this recent test. Anti-Pakistan propaganda machines criticized the test, whereas, Pakistan being a responsible state developed such capability solely to deter enemy’s hostile intentions. Adam Smith, in his book wealth of nations said it very aptly, “The first duty of a state is to protect its society from injustices and violence of the other society/societies as it moves towards civilization. What good could be achieved from economy if the state fails to protect its sovereignty?

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In South Asia, massive militarization and nuclearization of India was the compelling factor for Pakistan to opt for such missile systems. Pakistan is the prime target of India’s missile programme. India is constantly arraying a variety of missiles in the region for fulfilling its hegemonic designs.

There exists no debate on the Indian fast tracked missile testing. A look at what goes into conducting missile tests shows that India conducted 19 tests in 2020. It was reported that, from a period between 7 September to 9 October 2020, India’s missile testing fever counted to 12 missile tests.  So, where does this missile fever stand and what it means in terms of strategic posturing?

Keen to become a global power at the cost of regional peace and stability, military modernization has been a top agenda for PM Modi. India has test-fired a number of missiles including ballistic, cruise and interceptor missiles. It has initiated its Ballistic Missile Defence System along with tests of Advanced Area Defence Interceptor and High-Altitude Interceptor missile.

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India has also broken the UN’s limits on its development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. Hence, it is not difficult for India to produce Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles which can cover the whole world. Keeping all this in mind, the Western countries continue to support India which is fuelling the missiles race in South Asia. As no one can ignore its security threats, hence, it may leave Pakistan with no option but to increase the range of its nuclear missiles.

While recognizing the challenges to South Asia’s strategic stability, it is evident that the development and deployment of India’s missiles has the potential to impact the complex geometry of deterrence, arms control, and crisis stability in the region. Hence, India’s pursuit of missile technology would bring new security challenges for Pakistan. The continued modernization of both ballistic and cruise missiles is imperative for the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence that ensures continued strategic stability in South Asia.

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Nuclearizing the Indian Ocean Before the First Nuclear War : Revelation 8

India is nuclearizing the Indian Ocean: FM Qureshi

February 16, 2021

Foreign Minister Qureshi says Islamabad to continue taking necessary steps to ensure security, maintain minimum deterrence

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday accused India of nuclearizing the Indian Ocean and said the New Delhi government, in the pursuit of hegemonic designs, inducted advanced weapons systems and delivery platforms into its naval arsenals.

Speaking at the International Maritime Conference in the southern port city of Karachi, Qureshi said his country will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure its security and to maintain credible minimum deterrence, a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.

“The Indian Ocean offers promising potential for mutual cooperation and collaboration. But geostrategic competition and the pursuit of military dominance by some states have gravely jeopardized that potential,” Qureshi said

The foreign minister blamed that India’s belligerent and aggressive policies in particular, posed an immediate and pervasive threat to international and regional peace and security.

“The international community needs be cognizant of the fact that any military conflict in South Asia could endanger stability in a region that is critical for global trade flows and security,” the minister said.

The conference was part of a week-long multinational naval exercise hosted by Pakistan, which began on Friday in the Arabian Sea.

With the participation of some 45 countries, including the US, Russia, China, and Turkey, significantly, this is the first time in a decade that Moscow has joined a military drill with NATO members. The last such time was the Brazen Monarch exercise off the coast of Spain in 2011.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

The foreign minister termed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the development of Gwadar Port as game-changing projects that further enhanced the geo-economic significance of Pakistan.

“The Gwadar Port, which occupies a strategic location overlooking the Strait of Hormuz and the North Arabian Sea has the potential to develop into a full-fledged regional hub and a trans-shipment port,” Qureshi said.

The $64 billion CPEC – a network of roads, railroads, and pipelines – aims to link China’s strategically important northwestern province of Xinxiang to the distant Gwadar port of Balochistan.

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While the corridor will give China easy access to Africa and the Mideast, it will make Pakistan earn billions of dollars and spur business activities along the road network replacing the fabled Silk Road.

“Gwadar Port also provides new vistas for businesses. Extraction of life-saving medicines, coastal tourism, and the development of coastal real estate are industries that are attracting investment, both local and foreign,” he said.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk

Situation Becomes Hot in Iraq for the Biden Administration

U.S. forces in Iraq hit by rockets, contractor killed

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – A rocket attack on U.S.-led forces in northern Iraq killed a civilian contractor on Monday and injured a U.S. service member, the U.S. coalition in Iraq said, in the deadliest such attack in almost a year.

The rockets landed in and around a military air base operated by the coalition at Erbil International Airport.

The attack, claimed by a little-known group that some Iraqi officials say has links with Iran, raises tensions as Washington explores some degree of detente with Tehran.

The coalition spokesman tweeted on Tuesday that the dead contractor was not American, but did not elaborate. He said three 107 mm rockets had landed inside the base.

Of the nine other people hurt, eight were civilian contractors and one a U.S. service member, a coalition spokesman said. A U.S. official who declined to be named said the U.S. serviceman had concussion.

In Washington, the White House said the United States was still working to determine who was responsible for the attack.

When pressed on possible retaliation against those found responsible, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president “reserves the right to respond in the time and the manner of our choosing.”

“But we’ll wait for the attribution to be concluded first before we take any additional steps… I will convey to you that diplomacy is a priority with this administration,” Psaki added.

The attack comes just three weeks before a March 5-8 visit to Iraq by Pope Francis, which is due to include Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “outraged” by the attack.

In a statement, Blinken said he had contacted Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to “pledge our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible”. Blinken spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Tuesday.

In a call with his Iraqi counterpart, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the attack, the Pentagon said.

“The Iraqi people deserve a secure and stable Iraq, and the United States remains committed to supporting our Iraqi partners in their efforts to defend Iraq’s sovereignty,” a Pentagon readout of the call said.

Powerful paramilitary groups aligned with Iran in Iraq and Yemen have launched attacks against the United States and its Arab allies in recent weeks, including a drone attack on a Saudi airport and a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Iraq’s government under al-Kadhimi has sided with the United States but has found it hard to bring the groups under control.

Most of the incidents have caused no casualties, but they have kept up pressure on U.S. troops and U.S. allies in the early days of Joe Biden’s presidency.

Biden’s administration is weighing a return to the 2015 big power nuclear deal that aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, which his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Iran says it will only resume compliance with the deal if Washington lifts crippling sanctions.

U.S.-Iran tension has often played out on Iraqi soil.

A U.S. drone strike that killed Iran’s military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020 sent the region to the brink of a full-scale confrontation.

A rocket attack on a base in northern Iraq last March killed three military personnel – one Briton and two Americans.

A group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed responsibility for the Erbil attack, saying it was aimed at the “American occupation” in Iraq, but provided no evidence.

Reporting by John Davison in Erbil, Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Alex Alper in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alistair Bell

The Russian Nuclear Horn is Wary of Iranian Games

Russia refuses to play Iran’s political games

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf after being elected Speaker of Parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 28, 2020. (AP)

The first foreign trip made by Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf last week turned out to be both a PR disaster and an embarrassment, sparking massive controversy across Iran and a barrage of public criticism and mockery targeting Ghalibaf and the Tehran regime.

This was because Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to meet with Ghalibaf at the Kremlin, where the speaker had planned to hand over a letter to Putin from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The primary objective of the letter was reportedly to emphasize the strategic nature of relations between Iran and Russia and the need to ensure that these relations continue on solid, long-term foundations for the coming 20 or 50 years, covering the political, economic and military spheres and all other vital areas of cooperation.

In addition to the declared objective of Ghalibaf’s visit, it also apparently had other, more covert goals, such as reassuring the Russian leadership that Iran will take the Kremlin’s interests into account during any negotiations regarding the 2015 nuclear agreement with the new US administration, as well as seeking to allay Russian concerns about any potential Iranian-Western rapprochement in the future.

Ghalibaf first expressed his desire to visit Moscow and meet with President Putin more than two months ago. However, the Kremlin did not include this visit in its schedule, citing health reasons following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases among several Iranian lawmakers. Ghalibaf’s visit to Russia was conditioned on him undergoing two COVID-19 tests before he would be allowed to meet with Putin. The first would be conducted in Tehran and the second on his arrival in Moscow.

The Iranian side did not make any official comment on Putin’s refusal to meet with Ghalibaf. However, Tehran attempted to mitigate the intense embarrassment it suffered by shifting the focus away from this humiliation. It raised another issue instead, namely lodging an official message of complaint to Moscow in protest at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s use of the term “Arabian Gulf” rather than “Persian Gulf” on its website.

This Iranian reaction proves that the regime lacks the capability to diplomatically express any concern it has or diplomatically embrace Moscow’s shifting positions, to say the least. Maybe this is because Tehran is well aware that the objective and timing of Ghalibaf’s visit were thoroughly ill-conceived and completely wrong.

The Iranian leadership’s choice of Ghalibaf for this visit was so puzzling that local media outlets raised multiple questions about why he, rather than Foreign Minister Javad Zarif or one of the country’s senior diplomats, was selected for such a sensitive diplomatic task. A seasoned diplomat could have handled the situation much better and allowed the Iranian regime to save face.

Some have suggested that the principal reason for the Iranian leadership’s insistence on entrusting Ghalibaf with the visit was his standing as one of Khamenei’s closest confidants and one of the primary candidates for the coming presidential election, which is scheduled to be held in June. If so, this indicates that Khamenei has once again proven to the world that he has little interest in diplomatic protocols or upholding his country’s international repute. His primary interest is to ensure the implementation of his policies.

The supreme leader apparently deliberately shunned the customary diplomatic channels for delivering official letters in order to polish Ghalibaf’s image and begin his preparations for the presidential election through sending him on a prestigious foreign visit. The plan was to bolster his reputation and encourage greater public support among Iranian voters.

After it became clear that Ghalibaf had been given the cold shoulder by Putin, his advisers attempted to salvage the situation by claiming that the speaker had not agreed to the health procedures stipulated by the Kremlin and was simply traveling to Moscow to deliver Khamenei’s letter to Putin’s representative. However, it seems that this claim is dishonest, since the health procedures did not prevent Putin from meeting with several other foreign officials during the same period. Indeed, it was clear from the beginning that Putin would decline to meet Ghalibaf despite the diplomatic crisis it would cause.

It is possible that Putin believed Ghalibaf wished to use his visit to promote his potential presidential campaign, with Russia wishing to avoid accusations of interfering in Iranian affairs by polishing his image and elevating his credentials.

Iran has experienced such behavior from Russia in the past. Putin has not met with Zarif during any of his 30 visits to Moscow, even though he met with a number of European foreign ministers, as well as his counterparts from the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey during their visits to the Russian capital.

Putin refused to meet with Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf at the Kremlin.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

This cold Russian attitude toward Iran — a country that is among Russia’s closest allies — seems to spring from Putin’s awareness of the Iranian regime’s weakened state, which has left it mired in political and economic crises and compelled it to uphold relations with Moscow and coordinate with it on several issues. This situation has been brought about by Tehran’s radical policies, which have contributed to making it one of the most isolated regimes in the world. Given these circumstances, Putin is aware that he has the upper hand and sees no reason to play along with Khamenei’s political games and fulfill Ghalibaf’s political and diplomatic wishes and aspirations.

• Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is President of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

More Iranian Lies: Daniel 8

Iran Restates Pledge That It Does Not Seek Nuclear Weapons

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh restated on Monday that Tehran’s official policy prohibits the development of nuclear weapons. His comments came after Iran’s intelligence minister suggested pressure from the US could cause Iran to consider a different policy.

“Iran’s position remains unchanged. Iran’s nuclear activities have always been peaceful and will remain peaceful,” Khatibzadeh said. “The supreme leader’s fatwa banning weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons is still valid,” he said, referring to a religious edict from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Last week, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi made comments that were taken by Western and Israeli media as a “threat” that Iran is considering making a nuclear weapon. But even in his remarks, Alavi repeated that nuclear weapons were prohibited by Khamenei.

Our nuclear program is peaceful and the fatwa by the supreme leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it,” Alavi said.

“But if a cat is caught in a corner, it may behave differently … If they are pushing Iran in that direction, then it is not Iran’s fault, but those who pushed it,” Alavi added. He also said that Tehran has no current plans to pursue a bomb.

While Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, it has increased the activity of its civilian nuclear program as a direct result of Washington’s pressure and failure to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Iran is currently enriching some uranium at 20 percent and researching uranium metal. Iran hawks frame this as the Islamic Republic racing towards a bomb, but it has a civilian purpose.

Uranium enriched at 20 percent is needed to power the Tehran Research Reactor, a facility that was built by the US in the 1960s that can produce medical isotopes. To make fuel rods for the TRR, uranium metal is needed.

Since Iran is still under crippling economic sanctions, increasing enrichment to power the TRR and produce medical isotopes can help its medical sector and also gain leverage over the US. Iranian officials have made it clear that they are willing to scale back this nuclear activity to come within the limits of the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions.

Israel Blocking Shipment of Vaccines Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Palestinians say Israel blocks shipment of vaccines to Gaza

The PA has said it will share its vaccine supply with Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from its forces in 2007. The territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has yet to receive any vaccines. Authorities there have reported more than 53,000 cases and at least 537 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza since the Hamas takeover. Some Israeli lawmakers have said Israel should only allow in vaccines in return for progress on the release of two captive Israelis and the remains of two Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas.

An Israeli official said Israel has received a request to allow 1,000 Sputnik V doses to be delivered to Gaza that was still being debated late Monday.

“It wasn’t blocked. They are still contemplating it,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss high-level deliberations.

In a discussion on Monday in Israel’s foreign affairs and defense committee, Chairman Zvi Hauser asked a representative from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Council for details on the vaccine transfer policy.

Hauser asked if the government “intends to demand the return of bodies and captives or demand that the Red Cross be allowed to visit the captives there, or at least ask for information about them.” He also expressed concern that the vaccines would go to Hamas and not medical workers.

The National Security Council official, Roi Binyamini, told the panel that the government had no intention of sharing Israel’s own supply of vaccines with Gaza. But he said the government was weighing requests from other parties to allow the PA to deliver its own vaccines to Gaza. He said he expected a decision to be made quickly.

Israel has launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination programs, inoculating more than a third of its population of 9.3 million since December.

Rights groups say it has an obligation as an occupying power to share its vaccines with the Palestinians. Israel denies having such an obligation and says its priority is its own citizens. The Palestinian Authority has not publicly requested vaccines from Israel and says it has secured its own supply through the World Health Organization and agreements with drug makers.

Still, Israel provided 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the PA earlier this month, allowing it to begin vaccinating medical workers, and the PA says it independently acquired another 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. It would need Israel’s permission to transfer them to Gaza.

Hamas is believed to be holding two captives, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent who entered Gaza shortly after the 2014 war and an Arab Bedouin citizen of Israel. It is also holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the war. In exchange, Hamas is likely to demand the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including individuals implicated in deadly attacks.

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Associated Press writer Josef Federman contributed.