History Warns New York Is The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New York Earthquake 1884Friday, 18 March 2011 – 9:23pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: ANIIf the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.There’s another fault line on Dyckman St and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale.

Russia’s Nuclear Front in Crimea: Daniel 7

Crimea’s infrastructure is being prepared for potentially storing Russian nuclear weapons (Source: The Times)

Crimea’s Nuclear Potential: A Return to Soviet Practices

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 89

On April 12, amid escalating tensions along the Ukrainian border, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran expressed concern that “Crimea’s infrastructure is being prepared for potentially storing nuclear weapons” (Radio Svoboda, April 14). Even though Taran did not supply evidence for this claim, it is plausible to assert that such nuclear potential in occupied Crimea certainly exists.

According to experts, Russia possesses up to 2,000 nuclear warheads at present (The Bulletin, March 15), some of which may already be located in Crimea. Illustratively, in late 2016, “Object-100,” an underground stationary complex for the storage and combat use of two cruise missile divisions, was restored on the peninsula (Interfax, November 18, 2016). Created in the Soviet era, it has been utilized by Utes missile systems equipped with P-35B or 3M44 Progress cruise missiles capable of carrying a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead. The combat readiness of Object-100, which can hit targets at a range of up to 300 kilometers, was confirmed during military exercises in November 2016 (RIA Novosti, November 18, 2016). Crimea is also home to at least three Bastion-P mobile coastal-defense complexes armed with the P-800 Oniks missile (range of up to 800 km). The P-800 missile is capable of carrying a ten-kiloton nuclear warhead (Lenta.ru, September 25, 2019).

During the Cold War, Soviet sea-zone naval vessels—small missile ships, guard ships and anti-submarine corvettes—could all be equipped with nuclear weapons. Taking into account the preservation of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) and the absence of changes in Russian policy regarding these weapons (see EDM, September 29, 2020 and January 28, 2021), the practice may well have continued.

Looking at the current Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, the 11th brigade of anti-submarine ships in Sevastopol consists of five Project 1135/6 guard ships,which are armed with the dual-capable Kalibr cruise missile system. The brigade also includes the Moskva, the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers, carrying the P-1000 Vulkan anti-submarine missile system. The Vulkan can be equipped with a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead. Moreover, the Moskvais equipped with the nuclear-capable S-300F anti-aircraft missile system (OPK, December 28, 2017; Rusonline.org, April 5, 2019; TASSKchf.ru, accessed June 4, 2021).

Two small Project 1239 missile ships and four Project 1241 missile boats are stationed in Sevastopol. Each of these vessels is armed with Moskit or Termit anti-ship missiles that can deliver 15-kiloton and 120-kiloton nuclear warheads, respectively. Moreover, the 68th coastal defense ship brigade in Sevastopol has two small Project 1124M anti-submarine corvettes with a 533-millimeter mine-torpedo armament, capable of carrying the RPK-6M Vodopad anti-submarine missile system or the VA-111 Shkval complex. These can be equipped with a nuclear warhead of 200 and 150 kilotons, respectively (OPK, December 28, 2017; Rusonline.org, April 5, 2019; TASSKchf.ru, accessed June 4, 2021).

Sevastopol is also home to the 31st Air-Defense Division with its two S-300PM detachments and four S-400 detachments. The 48N6 missile fired by both systems can theoretically carry a nuclear warhead. It is expected that the S-500 complexes, capable of launching a 77N6-N1 missile with a small nuclear warhead, will also eventually be deployed to Crimea (Avia.pro, March 18, 2021).

In March 2014, the authorities announced the imminent deployment of the Tu-22M3 Missile Carrier Regiment to the airbase in the Crimean village of Gvardeyskoe (Regnum, March 31, 2014). Reports of those plans were repeated in July 2015 (Interfax, July 22, 2015) and January 2016 (Modernarmy.ru, January 17, 2016). In March 2019, the first Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber landed in Crimea, seen as a potential sign of the looming permanent deployment of these strategic aircraft there (RIA Novosti, 2019, March 18). However, given that the airfield in Gvardeyskoe has been undergoing reconstruction since 2015 (Gvardeyskoe.ru, March 19, 2015), it is probably not yet ready to permanently accept these long-range strategic aircraft. The Tu-22M3, can carry from one to three X-22 cruise missiles or up to ten X-15 cruise missiles, both of which are nuclear capable. Tu-22M3s are also capable of using nuclear free-falling bombs. Relatedly, as part of the 37th Mixed Aviation Regiment, six Su-24M tactical bombers are located at the Gvardeyskoe airfield. These jets are capable of carrying two unguided, free-falling RN-28 nuclear bombs (Topwar.ru, June 26, 2018).

The long-term appearance of Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile systems in Crimea is possible as well (Riafan, August 15, 2020). Iskanders from various Russian regions were already present on the peninsula during the Kavkaz (Caucasus) 2016 exercise, and they regularly participate in other drills, deploying close to the Ukrainian border (Topwar.ru, December 15, 2018; Janes.com, April 8, 2021). In response to the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 2019, Russia promised to, by the end of the following year, create a ground-based version of the Kalibr cruise missile and a Zircon ground-based hypersonic missile system, which would have ranges of up to 2,600 and 2,000 kilometers, respectively (TVZvezda, February 5, 2019). In October 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised, purportedly as a sign of good faith willingness to lower tensions, that Moscow would unilaterally pause any deployments of ground-based intermediate-range missiles in Europe; and he encouraged Western counterparts to follow suit (Izvestia, October 26, 2020). Yet such mobile, ground-based nuclear-tipped missiles can easily be sent to Crimea, and no one would know about it, simply because no verification mechanisms exist. For example, Moscow already plans to deploy the first Bastion-S stationary mine-based anti-ship missile systems, which can be armed with these dual-capable missiles (Interfax, July 2, 2015).

After the forcible annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in early 2014, this region de facto became Russia’s southwesternmost territory. Given that all of the Soviet Union’s western republics hosted tactical nuclear weapons on their territory during the Cold War, Russia today likely also plans to deploy TNW to Crimea, and presumably has already done so. According to this author’s most conservative estimates, there may be up to 30 nuclear warheads deployed on the peninsula now. That said, non-strategic nuclear weapons are a gray area of European security. And in the absence of any monitoring or limitations on TNW, Russian activities in this sphere by definition destabilize the security situation in Europe and more generally.

The Chinese Nuclear Horn Keeps Rattling its Nuclear Saber. How Long Until it is Unleashed?

China Keeps Rattling its Nuclear Saber. How Long Until it is Unleashed?

Some China experts consider the Global Times to be a toothless tiger. Others see it as a loose cannon. On June 1, its editor called for more Chinese nuclear missiles and warheads. Global Times is state-run media, and the country is already in the midst of doubling the number of its nuclear warheads. And, widely-quoted estimates of Chinese nuclear weapons in the low hundreds are an underestimate, if hints from my sources are any indication. 

President Joe Biden’s new defense budget reflects these concerning facts as America continues President Trump’s shift from hardware meant for international policing missions, for example in Iraq and Afghanistan, to defense and deterrence of near-peer adversaries like China and Russia.

The proposed 2022 U.S. defense budget seeks to counter Beijing in not only conventional military force, where China will increasingly have an advantage due to its larger population and economy (by purchasing power parity), but in the nuclear arena, where the United States can more easily maintain its own.

However, the development of next-generation weapons by both powers, including hypersonic missile technology, may cause hair-trigger alerts and time frames in the minutes rather than hours, for presidential decision-making in a nuclear crisis. This makes the nuclear balance increasingly unstable, due to the advantage given by hypersonic missile technology to the side that strikes first, with only minutes for the other side to respond, if unprepared and without survivable assets like stealthy submarines. The alternative is to lose one’s weapons systems to the enemy’s first strike. China and Russia’s growing belligerence in such an unstable strategic environment are therefore incredibly and unprecedentedly irresponsible.

The proposed U.S. defense budget of $715 billion shifts billions to the nuclear arsenal, hypersonic missile research, radars, satellites, and stealth technology. The proposed 2022 budget, which will be negotiated with Congress, would increase the number of stealth F-35 fighter jets to eighty-five from this year’s request of seventy-nine. The Space Force budget would increase to $17.4 billion from this year’s $15.4 billion. 

The U.S. nuclear triad, including land-launched missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and nuclear bombs and missiles launched from aircraft, would be modernized in 2022 with $27.7 billion in expenditures. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that modernizing the nuclear triad, including command and control, and delivery of Columbia-class submarines and nuclear bomb certification of the F-35, will cost on average more than $60 billion annually over ten years, plus additional expenditures to bring the total to more than $1 trillion.

China is building naval ships faster than the United States. But the new budget includes funding for the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) and the Tomahawk. According to Richard Fisher, Senior Fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, “it is very important that the U.S. purchase a very large number of the SM-6 and modify them for ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] missions.” 

An additional $38 billion for defense-related programs at the Department of Energy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies brings the total budget to $753 billion, an increase of 1.7% over 2021’s budget.

These increased defense expenditures for nuclear and other programs will in part be paid by gradually retiring or slowing the production of relatively obsolete surface systems such as tanks, Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), and ground-support tactical aircraft.

Forty-two A-10 aircraft, 18 KC-135, and 14 KC-10 mid-air refuelers, and four Littoral Combat Ships, will be retired. The A-10 aircraft provides close support to ground troops. The number of M1 Abrams tanks purchased will drop from 102 in 2020 to just 70 in 2021, and the number of new surface combatant ships will decrease to eight from this year’s 12.

The budget is a proposal and will be the starting point for White House negotiations with Congress, which has budget authority per the Constitution. But the President’s recommendations carry weight. 

And their focus is on countering China with nuclear weapons. China should take note, and work harder to deescalate and resolve its many territorial disputes. But the totalitarian country, and its ally Russia, are instead ramping up their war production. Both Republicans and Democrats are unprepared. 

“In the [Biden] Administration’s political realm it is an act of bravery to sustain a Trump era level of defense spending, but in the real world it is simply not sufficient,” wrote Fisher in an email. “Trump pushed hard to reorient the Department of Defense from ‘policing’ campaigns to getting ready to face China and Russia.” 

Fisher said that it’s “bad enough that Russia is building for war against the U.S. and NATO, but China is just getting started in building its force for global hegemony. The Biden defense budget is simply not sufficient to win the arms race with China and Russia so it condemns multiple generations of America’s youth to a series of wars, some we will win, others we will lose.”

America, therefore, needs its friends. Our allies in Asia should take note, and obtain their own independent nuclear deterrent systems. Given China’s nuclear modernization, massive industrial base, growing conventional military production, and ubiquitous territorial disputes, China can only be reliably deterred if the U.S. and allies such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia, have robust, independent, and redundant conventional and nuclear deterrent systems. 

Otherwise, China could try to pick off America’s allies one-by-one using its conventional military with a nuclear backstop, and leaving the United States with the impossible choice of risking nuclear war or coming to the aid of an ally. The recent experiences of the Philippines and Ukraine, both of which lost territory to superpowers without significant U.S. troop deployments in reaction, and Taiwan, whose defense is not guaranteed by the U.S., are not encouraging. Apparently, democracies are not standing together in each others’ defense.

The dominant form of defense technology long ago became nuclear. Without such systems, our allies risk their own sovereignty, which is an existential threat for them and puts the world’s democratic superpowers, including the European Union and the United States, in jeopardy.

Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea.”

Image: Reuters

The Antichrist’s Men Threaten U.S. With More Sophisticated Weapons

The Ayn al-Asad air base in Iraq was attacked by Iranian missiles in January last year. Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq used armed drones to attack the base again last month.
The Ayn al-Asad air base in Iraq was attacked by Iranian missiles in January last year. Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq used armed drones to attack the base again last month.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Iran’s Proxies in Iraq Threaten U.S. With More Sophisticated Weapons

Iran-backed militias in Iraq are suspected of carrying out recent drone strikes on sensitive American targets in Iraq, evading U.S. defenses.

June 4, 2021

BAGHDAD — The United States is grappling with a rapidly evolving threat from Iranian proxies in Iraq after militia forces specialized in operating more sophisticated weaponry, including armed drones, have hit some of the most sensitive American targets in attacks that evaded U.S. defenses.

At least three times in the past two months, those militias have used small, explosive-laden drones that divebomb and crash into their targets in late-night attacks on Iraqi bases — including those used by the C.I.A. and U.S. Special Operations units, according to American officials.

Iran — weakened by years of harsh economic sanctions — is using its proxy militias in Iraq to step up pressure on the United States and other world powers to negotiate an easing of those sanctions as part of a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Iraqi and American officials say Iran has designed the drone attacks to minimize casualties that could prompt U.S. retaliation.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top American commander in the Middle East, told The Associated Press last month that the drones pose a serious threat and that the military was rushing to devise ways to combat them.

Michael P. Mulroy, a former C.I.A. officer and top Middle East policy official at the Pentagon, said that with technology provided by Iran’s Quds Force — the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s security apparatus — the drones are rapidly becoming more sophisticated at a relatively low cost.

“The drones are a big deal, one of the most significant threats our troops there face,” he said.

A senior Iraqi national security official said the drones posed a challenge, but were tools, not the heart of the problem.

“This is a means of pressure,” said the official, who asked not to be identified so he could speak freely about Iran. “Iran is suffocating economically. The more it suffers the more these attacks increase,” he added. “The problem is the conflict between the U.S. and Iran.”

Iran has used proxy militias in Iraq since 2003 to influence Iraqi politics and threaten the United States outside its borders.

Since late 2019, Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militias have conducted more than 300 attacks against U.S. interests, killing four Americans and about 25 others, mostly Iraqis, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment published in April. In the last year, a proliferation of previously unknown armed groups have emerged, some claiming responsibility for rocket attacks on U.S. targets.

The increased precision of the drone strikes this year marks an escalation from the more common Katyusha rocket attacks that U.S. officials have viewed more as harassment. Those attacks, launched from mobile launchers, have been aimed at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone and military bases where some 2,500 U.S. forces and thousands of American military contractors operate.

A so-called suicide drone approached a target in Iran during a drill in January by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
A so-called suicide drone approached a target in Iran during a drill in January by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.Imamedia, via Associated Press

In contrast, some American analysts say that the militants are now targeting sites, even specific aircraft hangars, where sophisticated armed MQ-9 Reaper drones and contractor-operated turboprop surveillance aircraft are stationed in an attempt to disrupt or cripple the U.S. reconnaissance capability critical to monitoring threats in Iraq.

The United States has used Reapers for its most sensitive strikes, including the killing of Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior Iraqi government official and a leader of Iraq’s militia groups, in Baghdad in January 2020.

While the United States has installed defenses to counter rocket, artillery and mortar systems at installations in Iraq, the armed drones fly too low to be detected by those defenses, officials said.

Shortly before midnight on April 14, a drone strike targeted a C.I.A. hangar inside the airport complex in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, according to three American officials familiar with the matter. 

No one was reported hurt in the attack, but it alarmed Pentagon and White House officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike, details of which were previously reported by The Washington Post.

A similar drone attack in the early morning hours of May 8 on the sprawling Ayn al-Asad air base in western Anbar Province — where the United States also operates Reaper drones — also raised concerns among American commanders about militias’ shifting tactics. The attack caused no injuries but damaged an aircraft hangar, according to Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Three days later, another drone struck just after midnight at an airfield in Harir, north of Erbil, that is used by the military’s highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command. The explosive-laden drone crashed, causing no injuries or damage, coalition officials said, but fueled the growing worries.

While many attacks against U.S. targets almost immediately generate claims of responsibility from militias, the more complex and longer-range drone strikes have not, a further indication that Iran is behind them, according to the American officials and independent analysts.

“There is increasing evidence that Iran is trying to have or has created some special groups, new ones that are able to conduct very sophisticated attacks against the U.S. interests,” said Hamdi Malik, an associate fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who focuses on Shiite militias.

U.S. forces in Iraq operate under strict Iraqi guidelines focused on fighting the Islamic State or ISIS. Iraq requires the U.S.-led coalition obtain approval to run surveillance drones, which are focused on parts of Iraq where there are still ISIS pockets and generally puts the entire south of the country, a militia stronghold, off limits.Iraqi special forces soldiers firing at an Islamic State drone armed with explosives in Mosul in 2017. While ISIS has used drones against American and Iraqi forces, the Iranian drone strikes are a new tactic on the part of Iranian proxies.Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

There have been no U.S. forces or diplomats based south of Baghdad since the U.S. closed its consulate in the city of Basra three years ago, citing Iranian threats.

“It’s a very successful way to attack,” said Michael Pregent, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and a former U.S. intelligence officer deployed in Iraq. “It allows these attacks to be launched from areas outside of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.”

Mr. Pregent said satellite surveillance, by its nature, could be used to cover other parts of Iraq only for limited times and could not track moving targets.

In addition to the attacks on American targets in Iraq, an armed drone believed to have been launched from the south of Iraq hit the Saudi royal palace in Riyadh in January. Saudi Arabia and Iran are longtime archrivals for regional power and influence and at groundbreaking talks between them in Baghdad in April, the Saudis demanded that Iran stop those attacks, according to Iraqi officials.

While visiting northeastern Syria last month, General McKenzie, the top American commander for the region, said military officials were developing ways to disrupt or disable communications between the drones and their operators, bolster radar sensors to identify approaching threats more rapidly, and find effective ways to down the aircraft.

In each of the known attacks in Iraq, at least some of the drones’ remnants have been partially recovered, and preliminary analyses indicated they were made in Iran or used technology provided by Iran, according to the three American officials familiar with the incidents.

These drones are larger than the commercially available quadcopters — small helicopters with four rotors — that the Islamic State used in the battle of Mosul, but smaller than the MQ-9 Reapers, which have a 66-foot wingspan. Military analysts say they carry between 10 and 60 pounds of explosives.

Analysts say the technology is very similar to what U.S. intelligence analysts have accused Iran of transferring to Houthi rebels in Yemen for attacks against Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in the long-running war there.Members of Kataib Hezbollah during a parade celebrating Jerusalem Day in Baghdad last month.Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

Iraqi officials and U.S. analysts say that while cash-strapped Iran has reduced funding for major Iraqi militias, it has invested in splitting off smaller, more specialized proxies still operating within the larger militias but not under their direct command.

American officials say that these specialized units are likely to have been entrusted with the politically delicate mission of carrying out the new drone strikes.

Iraqi security commanders say groups with new names are fronts for the traditional, powerful Iran-backed militias in Iraq such as Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. Iraqi officials say Iran has used the new groups to try to camouflage, in discussions with the Iraqi government, its responsibility for strikes targeting U.S. interests, which often end up killing Iraqis.

The Iraqi security official said members of the smaller, specialized groups were being trained at Iraqi bases and in Lebanon as well as in Iran by the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — which oversees proxy militias in the Middle East.

American and Iraqi officials and analysts trace the increased unpredictability of militia operations in Iraq to the U.S. killing of General Suleimani and the Iraqi militia leader.

“Because the Iranian control over its militias has fragmented after the killing of Qassim Suleimani and Abu Mahdi Muhandis, the competition has increased among these groups,” said Mr. Malik, the Washington Institute analyst.

Jane Arraf reported from Baghdad and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Falih Hassan contributed reporting.

Israel’s Plan Backfires: Palestinian support for Hamas surges

Palestinian support for Hamas surges after its confrontation with Israel

June 4, 2021 at 12:00 a.m. MDT

For decades, al-Amari has been a stronghold of Fatah, the secular and nationalist party that emphasizes diplomacy as its answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in recent days, the tableau in the camp has shifted: Green flags mark the entrance and graffiti to match emblazons the walls with a single word: Hamas.

“They’ve given strength to the whole Palestinian cause,” said Mohammed Khadier, 16, as friends nodded in enthusiastic agreement. “We consider Hamas our leader now.”

For 11 days last month, Israel unleashed a punishing barrage on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, collapsing tunnels, exploding arsenals and killing fighters. But through it all, Hamas continued to arc more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, terrorizing residents of Tel Aviv and other cities.

That performance has earned Hamas newfound admiration among Palestinians not only in Gaza, which it governs, but also crucially in the West Bank, where Israel, the United States and archrival Fatah have long sought to ban the militant Islamist group from operating. Despite the ­prohibition, Palestinians waved Hamas flags and chanted the group’s slogans during demonstrations across the occupied territory last month — scenes that had no precedent in recent years.

The surge in Hamas’s popularity has been matched by the plummeting fortunes of the Palestinian Authority, whose president, Mahmoud Abbas, was widely panned — even among fellow Fatah members — for his limp response to Israeli attacks. The fighting, which erupted when Hamas began firing rockets into Israel and then escalated as the Israeli military took the opportunity to strike a vast inventory of targets across the Gaza Strip, left 232 Palestinians dead, including at least 65 children, officials said. A dozen people died in Israel, two of them children.

Politically, “the main loser is the Palestinian Authority. No question,” said Nader Said-
Foqahaa, director of the West Bank-based Arab World for Research and Development, which monitors Palestinian public opinion. Israel’s military might may have been concentrated on Gaza, but “all these attacks are really on Abbas.” 

That dynamic threatens to further complicate the Biden administration’s attempts to re-engage the Palestinian Authority after four years in which it was all but ignored by the Trump administration. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah last month and committed to strengthening Abbas’s administration by providing aid money and reopening a consulate in Jerusalem in large part to handle Palestinian affairs. The United States has also said it intends to circumvent Hamas while supporting the reconstruction of Gaza.

Blinken’s visit was taken as a hopeful sign by beleaguered Palestinian negotiators that the Biden administration intends to make a serious push for diplomatic progress in the Middle East. Yet it comes amid grave doubts over whether the Palestinian Authority can truly represent the Palestinian cause and over whether a resurgent Hamas can continue to be sidelined.

The struggle between the ­Fatah-led Palestinian Authority — which governs parts of the West Bank — and Hamas has long been a barrier to any breakthroughs in resolving the broader Israeli-
Palestinian conflict.

Although Israel denies it, analysts say the country’s right-wing government has liked it that way and recognizes that conflict with Hamas can hobble the Palestinian Authority’s attempts at negotiation. That suits Israeli leaders who have long been hostile toward diplomatic efforts that would confront their country with hard choices and could yield a Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes “that if Hamas represented the Palestinians, it would be much easier for Israel to say, ‘We are not dealing with terror,’ ” said Amos Yadlin, director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Even before the most recent round of fighting, Abbas was flailing. The 85-year-old heir to Arafat had pledged presidential and parliamentary elections this year for the first time since 2006, only to indefinitely postpone them in April. While the president blamed uncertainty over whether Israel would allow balloting in occupied East Jerusalem, few believed that explanation.

“Very simply, elections meant losing,” said Nasser al-Kidwa, a longtime senior Fatah official who broke with Abbas this year and had been challenging him in the vote.

Kidwa, who is a nephew of Arafat’s, said he had devoted his professional life to Fatah and the cause of a democratic Palestinian state. But he described the Palestinian Authority-governed West Bank as an autocracy in which there are few checks on Abbas’s power internally, even as the president remains beholden to Israel for his ultimate authority.

“Corrupt, ineffective, inept,” Kidwa said of the organization he long represented at the United Nations.

Kidwa said in an interview at his office in Ramallah that, especially after last month’s conflict, he could understand why Palestinians were looking elsewhere — particularly to Hamas — for solutions.

“It was a confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian people in which the P.A. and Fatah were absent,” Kidwa said. “So, we deserve it.”

Osama Qawasma, a spokesman for Fatah and an adviser to Abbas, acknowledged that Palestinians had wanted a tougher response to Israel during the conflict than the president felt he could provide. “The people are very angry toward Israel. They want more resistance,” he said.

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But Abbas is bound by international agreements that Hamas is not, with a commitment to refrain from violence and to administer the parts of the West Bank under his control even amid an Israeli occupation that has spanned more than half a century. The balancing act has rarely been more delicate.

“An intifada can come any time,” Qawasma said. “The West Bank is in a very dangerous situation.”

Israeli security forces are focused on the role Hamas could play in stirring unrest in the West Bank. The Israeli military said this week that security forces had apprehended a senior Hamas official, Sheikh Jamal Al Tawil, who “recently took an active part in organizing violent riots, incitement to violence and reestablishment of the Hamas headquarters in Ramallah.”

The growing ranks of Abbas detractors say he himself is responsible for instability in the West Bank by fueling the frustration of the roughly 2.5 million Palestinians living there.

“There is accumulated anger,” said Ayman Daraghmeh, a member of the now-dormant Palestinian Legislative Council. “The canceled elections. The iron fist. The corruption. It’s like the pressure cooker exploded.”

Daraghmeh was elected to the council in 2006 as part of Hamas’s slate of candidates. But a violent rift erupted a year later and has still not healed, despite numerous efforts at reconciliation. Fatah was effectively exiled from Gaza as Hamas imposed near-absolute rule, while Hamas was prevented from operating openly in the West Bank.

Daraghmeh said he has been imprisoned multiple times since then, and could be arrested merely for associating with Hamas. (He is, he noted pointedly, an independent.) But he said the group’s rise in the West Bank has been unmistakable.

Hamas,” he said, “would win a free and fair election.”

Whether the group’s improved standing will be lasting remains unclear. There is little indication that Palestinians in the West Bank have suddenly embraced the group’s ideology, which remains religiously hard-line even as Hamas has softened some of its rhetoric, including by offering a tacit, if not overt, recognition of Israel’s existence, by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state along pre-1967 lines.

“We want a liberal state, a democratic state, an open-minded state,” said Qadura Fares, a senior Fatah member who leads an advocacy group for Palestinian political prisoners. “There’s no love for Hamas. But anyone who makes the Israelis afraid, he’s a hero for us.”

That was evident in al-Amari camp, on the outskirts of Ramallah. Khadier, the teen, proudly showed off the marks on his shoulder and ankle where he said he had been grazed by Israeli fire during last month’s demonstrations. His arm in a sling, he boasted of a muscle torn while hurling rocks at soldiers.

He verbally cast stones at his own government: Abbas, he said, was “a collaborator. A dog.”

At a nearby barbershop, the views among four men in their 20s were no less scathing. “We are Fatah,” said Waleed, 28. “But Fatah has disappeared.”

Like the others, Waleed spoke on the condition that his last name be withheld because, he said, he had served time in an Israeli prison — and feared going back. All said they were committed to confronting Israel’s occupation, and cheered Hamas’s willingness to do the same.

“Whatever Hamas says, they deliver,” said 23-year-old Khalil as the barber worked a straightedge razor down his skull. “It’s not only words. It’s also deeds.”

Loveday Morris in Gaza City and Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

UN agency withdraws director after threats from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Matthias Schmale, UNRWA's director in Gaza, speaks during a news conference in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

UN agency withdraws directory fyt Edgar Hitj care rom Gaza after threats

Updated: June 4, 2021 2:57 p.m.

1of8Matthias Schmale, UNRWA’s director in Gaza, speaks during a news conference in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 19, 2021.Adel Hana/AP

JERUSALEM (AP) — The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says it has recalled its Gaza director after he faced threats over remarks in which he appeared to praise Israel’s “huge sophistication” in carrying out precision strikes during last month’s Gaza war.

UNRWA, which provides essential health, education and other services in the territory, said late on Thursday that it was “seriously concerned” about the threats, including a “very large protest” outside its Gaza headquarters on Monday.

It said Gaza director Matthias Schmale and his deputy have been recalled to UNRWA’s headquarters in east Jerusalem for “consultations.” The agency cited media reports that “Palestinian factions” had declared Schmale and his deputy persona non grata in Gaza but said it received no formal notification to that effect.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 TV last month, Schmale was asked about Israeli officials’ assertions that airstrikes carried out during the 11-day war with the territory’s militant Hamas rulers were “very precise.”

“I’m not a military expert but I would not dispute that,” Schmale replied, adding that there was “huge sophistication” in how Israel struck targets. But he also said colleagues told him the strikes were “much more vicious in their impact” than in the 2014 Gaza war.

Schmale later expressed regret over the remarks and said any civilian deaths were unacceptable.

“Many people were killed or have been severely injured by direct strikes or collateral damage from strikes,” he tweeted. “In a place as densely populated as Gaza, any strike will have huge damaging effects on people and buildings.”

His original remarks were widely circulated in Israeli media and online, where they were seized upon by Israel’s supporters as an endorsement of its conduct and provoked outrage among Palestinians.

Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza during the 11-day war, in which Hamas and other militant groups fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel. At least 254 people were killed in Gaza, including 67 children and 39 women. according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.

UNRWA provides essential services to some 5.7 million refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. They include Palestinians who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation and their descendants.

It provides food aid and other vital services in Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Most of Gaza’s population of 2 million are registered refugees. At the height of the war, some 70,000 Gazans sheltered in UNRWA schools.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian convoy crossed into Gaza with heavy equipment to take part in rubble removal ahead of preparations for rebuilding of thousands of houses and businesses destroyed or damaged during the latest Gaza war.

Excavators, bulldozers and trucks entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Friday afternoon. Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency said it was part of “an Egyptian commitment to improve the living conditions” in Gaza.

Egypt brokered the cease-fire that ended the Israel-Hamas fighting.

Late Friday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said 23 runners were injured when Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades at an activist-organized marathon in solidarity with Palestinians in east Jerusalem threatened with evictions.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

The race had started from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where dozens of Palestinians face evictions from their homes under a law allowing Jewish settlers to reclaim properties, and was to end in the nearby Silwan neighborhood.

One of the runners, Jalal Abu Khater, posted images of his bruised leg and tweeted: “I was beaten six times, attacked by Israeli forces, for running in my ancestral town & city.”

Pakistan Worries About India’s Nukes: Daniel 8

Pakistan deeply concerned by Indian media reports of attempted Uranium sale

  • FO concerned over lax controls, poor regulatory and enforcement mechanisms in India.
  • It also expresses concern over possible existence of a black market for nuclear materials inside India.
  • Pakistan reiterates call for thorough investigation of incident and measures for strengthening the security of nuclear materials in India.

Pakistan on Friday expressed “deep concern” over the reports in Indian media regarding the attempted illicit Uranium sales in India.

FO Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said that the foreign ministry had seen reports of “another incident of attempted illegal sale of 6 kg of Uranium in India”.

“Similar incident involving 7 kg of Uranium in the Indian state of Maharashtra last month and other such reports in the past are a matter of deep concern as they point to lax controls, poor regulatory, and enforcement mechanisms, as well as the possible existence of a black market for nuclear materials inside India,” said Chaudhri. 

The FO reminded New Delhi that under the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and IAEA Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) it is binding on “states to ensure stringent measures to prevent nuclear material from falling into wrong hands”.

“Pakistan reiterates its call for a thorough investigation of such incidents and measures for strengthening the security of nuclear materials to prevent their diversion,” said the FO spokesperson. 

Pakistan also emphasised that it is “equally important” to determine the “intent and ultimate user of the attempted Uranium sale” as it is important for “international peace and security as well as the sanctity of global non-proliferation regime”.

Indian police arrest seven suspects for attempt to sell uranium in Jharkhand

Earlier today it was reported that the Indian police in the state of Jharkhand arrested seven people for having “mineral uranium” in their possession and for their plans to sell it in the black market.

The Indian Express reported that the law enforcement authorities of the Indian state seized 6.4kg of what they believe is uranium from two suspects and are on the hunt for the suspect from whom they had procured the material.

“All the accused were arrested from the Bokaro district of Jharkhand and were booked under IPC Sections 414 (Whoever voluntarily assists in concealing or disposing of or making away with property which he knows or has reason to believe to be stolen property), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intention) and under various sections of Atomic Energy Act,” reported the publication.

“Seven people were arrested for possessing and planning to sell a mineral, which is suspected to be uranium after we received a tip. We are further investigating the case and the mineral is sent to the lab to check its veracity,” Superintendent of Police Chandan Jha was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.

But the publication reported that a press release issued by the arresting police force mentioned that the mineral that was seized was uranium.

Separately, the FIR submitted to the court showed that the police had taken action after receiving a “tip” on June 2 that five people — Deepak Mahato, Pankaj Kumar, Mahabir Mahato, M Sharma, Krishna Kant — were gathering to sell uranium in the black market.

It also said that the police took action as they were informed that if they arrest the five suspects, they will be able to uncover the operation.

The “Seeing police, Deepak Mahato and others, who were discussing something, started dispersing. They were caught by force after the area was cordoned. They said that they all were in touch with one Baapi Chandra, who had uranium with him, and that they had gathered in order to find prospective buyers. All smartphones from these five have been seized,” stated the FIR.