This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s military said on Saturday that its aircraft launched retaliatory air strikes in the Gaza Strip and that its troops in the occupied West Bank shot a suspected Palestinian assailant, whom Palestinian officials said had been killed.
An Israeli military spokesperson said that soldiers had been trying to disperse confrontations that erupted between Israeli settlers and Palestinians from a nearby village in the West Bank. The troops then saw a man throw an explosive device at them from a rooftop and “responded with fire against the suspect in order to eliminate the danger,” the spokesperson said.
The Palestinian liaison office confirmed that the 20-year-old man was killed.
In Gaza, Israeli jets struck a weapon manufacturing facility and a rocket launcher in response to incendiary balloons sent from the Palestinian enclave into Israel on Saturday, the military said. Sources in Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, confirmed that the two sites hit belonged to the group. One man was critically wounded, medics said.
Since a May 21 ceasefire ended 11 days of fierce Israel-Hamas fighting, Palestinians in Gaza have sporadically launched balloons laden with incendiary material across the border, causing fires that have burned fields in Israel.
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Egypt and the United Nations have stepped up mediation efforts over the Israeli strikes and Gaza balloon launches, though the incidents have not led to a broader escalation.
At least 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed in the May fighting, which saw Gaza militants fire rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carry out air strikes across the coastal enclave.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; editing by Diane Craft)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.
STEVEN LEE MYERSJuly 2, 2021 at 6:25 am Updated July 2, 2021 at 5:26 pm
U.S. researchers have identified the construction of 119 international ballistic missile silos in a desert in northwestern China, indicating that the country is carrying out plans to strengthen its strategic nuclear capability.
The researchers spotted the construction in commercial satellite images of remote areas west and southwest of the city of Yumen, on the edge of the Gobi Desert in Gansu province.
The images show circular excavations, long trenches for communications and surface structures consistent with control centers and silos at other launch sites in China, according to Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on China’s nuclear program with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.
“It was a recognizable design,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s hard to imagine it’s anything else.”
The silo construction is likely to fuel debate in Washington over the Pentagon’s plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It may also be driving efforts by the Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, to bring China into strategic arms control negotiations.
“This buildup — it is concerning,” the State Department’s spokesman, Ned Price, said when asked about the construction, which was reported earlier in The Washington Post. “We encourage Beijing to engage with us on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing tensions.”
China has refused to join arms control talks, arguing that its nuclear arsenal is far smaller than those of the world’s two major nuclear powers, the United States and Russia. At the same time, it has pursued a broad modernization program that has raised questions about its intentions.
China has approximately 350 nuclear warheads, compared to the United States with 5,550 and Russia with 6,255, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent research organization that tracks strategic stockpiles.
China’s most recent defense strategy, released in 2019, said it would keep “its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security.” It has also vowed not to use nuclear weapons first or against any non-nuclear state. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to questions about the site.
The silo construction is not unexpected, although the speed and the scope of it surprised the researchers who studied them. In April, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Charles A. Richard, appeared to hint at the development when he told a congressional committee that China was expanding its missile silos “on a potentially large scale.”
The Pentagon’s latest report on China’s military forces, released last fall, estimated that China maintains “an operational nuclear warhead stockpile in the low-200’s,” including about 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The report said that China intended to strengthen its “nuclear triad” of strategic weapons that would allow it to launch nuclear weapons from land, sea and air.
“These developments and China’s lack of transparency raise concerns that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrent, but that it could shift away from its long-standing minimalist force posture,” the Pentagon’s report said.
The researchers in Monterey said China began construction on the site last year, not long after its newest international ballistic missile, the DF-41, debuted at the 2019 military parade in Beijing celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Although the DF-41 is designed for mobile launchers, the Pentagon reported that China was aiming to base some of them in underground silos. The work at the site accelerated in February, Lewis said.
In February, the Federation of American Scientists reported the expansion of silos at a military training site near Jilantai, about 600 miles to the east in Inner Mongolia.
The Yumen site’s design does not necessarily mean China intends to deploy another 100 missiles there. Instead, it could reflect a strategy the U.S. considered in the 1970s in which a fewer number of missiles are moved among a larger network of silos like a “shell game,” making it harder for an adversary to destroy them in a first strike.
“It’s obviously potentially a very significant increase,” Lewis said, “and I think that’s going to have a pretty big bearing on debates about the U.S. ICBM replacement and missile defense and other programs.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
After 2 weeks of quiet, incendiary balloons launched from Gaza start 4 fires in southern Israel, but do not cause major damage
By TOI staffToday, 1:41 am
Israeli warplanes bombed a Hamas weapons factory in the Gaza Strip early Friday in response to a wave of arson balloon attacks launched at Israel from the coastal enclave the day before, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The army said the site was used by the terror organization to develop and build weapons.
“The strike was carried out in response to the arson balloon attacks on Israeli territory. The IDF will respond with determination against all terror attempts from the Gaza Strip,” the army said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The incendiary balloons launched from Gaza Thursday sparked four fires near Israeli towns along the southern border, breaking more than two weeks of quiet since the last wave of arson attacks.
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Most of the fires were small and not dangerous, according to the Fire and Rescue Services, which said that its respondents quickly managed to gain control of the blazes in the Eshkol Regional Council before significant damage was caused.
In June, arson balloons launched by Hamas operatives caused some 20 fires in Israeli communities in the Gaza periphery. IDF planes struck a wide range of Hamas military targets throughout the Strip, responding to the attacks in less than a day.
The response by the new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett indicated a shift in policy from the previous one, which did not always respond to arson balloon attacks with airstrikes, and wouldn’t do so as quickly or as forcibly, in order to avoid escalation along the southern border.Advertisement
Last month’s arson balloons and counterstrikes were the first since the 11-day war that Israel fought against Gaza terror groups in May. They took place amid Israel’s decision to allow far-right activists to proceed with flag march through the Old City of Jerusalem, which Palestinian groups branded as a provocation.
For the past three years, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, mostly linked to Hamas and other terror groups, have launched thousands of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices into southern Israel, causing widespread fires and significant damage to agricultural fields, nature reserves, and private property.
Hamas has used the launching of incendiary devices in order to keep pressure on Israel to move along with reconstruction efforts in the Strip.
Bennett, who replaced Benjamin Netanyahu on June 13, had long urged a tougher response to arson balloons, saying in previous years that they should be treated the same as rockets, and that attacks on southern Israel should receive the same response as attacks targeting central Israel.
In 2018, for instance, Bennett — then the education minister — called for the IDF to try to kill all those launching attack balloons from Gaza, a proposal that was opposed by then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.
PARIS/VIENNA, July 1 (Reuters) – Iran has been restricting U.N. nuclear inspectors’ access to its main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, citing security concerns after what it says was an attack on the site by Israel in April, diplomats say.
The standoff, which one official said has been going on for weeks, is in the course of being resolved, diplomats said, but it has also raised tensions with the West just as indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the Iran nuclear deal have adjourned without a date set for their resumption. read more
It follows various moves by Iran that breach the 2015 nuclear deal or have angered Washington and its allies, ranging from enriching uranium to close to weapons-grade to failing to explain the origin of uranium particles that the U.N. nuclear watchdog found at several undeclared sites.
“They are provoking us,” said one Western diplomat who follows the International Atomic Energy Agency closely, adding that inspectors should be able to have full access next week.
Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment. The IAEA declined to comment, citing its general policy of not commenting on inspection matters.
Any reasons for Iran’s move beyond the official security and safety concerns it cited as explanations are unclear, but it has quarreled with the IAEA over access before. Iran in 2020 denied the IAEA access to two locations for snap inspections. In 2019, Iran held an IAEA inspector and seized her travel documents.
The IAEA has so far stopped short of reporting the issue to its member states and calling an emergency meeting of its 35-nation Board of Governors as it did in November 2019 when Iran briefly held the IAEA inspector who diplomats say had sought access to Natanz.
An explosion and power cut in April at Natanz, the heart of Iran’s uranium-enrichment programme, appears to have damaged centrifuges at the underground, commercial-scale Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) there. The last quarterly IAEA report on Iran in May showed its enrichment output had slowed. read more
“Because of the accident/sabotage in April, certain accesses have been limited for safety and security reasons,” a Vienna-based diplomat said, adding that the move “had very little impact on the agency’s ability to carry out verification”.
The IAEA and Iran have discussed the issue “in order to avoid that these limitations become permanent and therefore start eroding the verification capability”, he added.
A U.S. official declined comment on the dispute but stressed the importance of Iran adhering to its safeguards agreement that enables the IAEA to verify its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty compliance. The NPT permits Iran to have a civil nuclear program in return for a commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons.
“We take nothing more seriously than the full implementation of Iran’s obligations under the NPT and its comprehensive safeguards agreement,” said the U.S. official, who requested anonymity.
Washington and its European partners have been pressuring Iran over its breaches of the 2015 deal, which was built around lengthening the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear weapon if it chose to. Iran insists its nuclear aims are entirely peaceful.
Inspections and monitoring have also been in the spotlight recently as Iran reduced its cooperation with the agency in February, removing the legal basis for snap IAEA inspections at undeclared facilities that had been introduced by the 2015 deal. read more
At the same time, Iran ended IAEA monitoring of some nuclear activities that the deal introduced. A temporary agreement with the IAEA kept that monitoring going in a black-box-type arrangement under which data continues to be collected but the IAEA will only have access to it at a later date. read more
That temporary agreement expired last week, however, and the IAEA has said Iran has not responded when asked about the status of that agreement, which the IAEA hopes to extend. read more
The Western diplomat said Iran had now agreed to grant inspectors full access to the FEP, which should happen next week. Another said the move was carefully calibrated by Iran to create a nuisance without causing a major diplomatic incident.
“The Iranians are being very tactical,” he said.
Reporting by John Irish in Paris and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and by Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Writing by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool
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No casualties reported in attack that Israel has said was in response to launching of ‘incendiary balloons’ from Gaza.
Israel said its fighter jets targeted a weapons manufacturing site in the Gaza Strip overnight on Friday in the latest unrest since a ceasefire ended May’s attacks.
Security sources with Hamas said the raids hit training sites and no casualties were reported.
The Israeli army spokesperson stated that the air raid came in response to the launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip towards the surrounding Israeli settlements.
“In response to the arson balloons fired towards Israeli territory today, [military] fighter jets struck … a weapons manufacturing site belonging to the Hamas terror organisation,” the statement said.
There was no immediate indication as to which Gaza-based group was responsible for the balloon launch, but Israel holds Hamas responsible for any action.
It was the third time Israel has carried out air attacks in Gaza since the end of the 11-day offensive it launched in the blockaded territory in May this year.
The conflict killed at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to Gaza authorities.
In Israel, 13 people, including two children, were killed by rockets fired from Gaza, the police and army said.
Egyptian and international mediators have been trying to shore up the informal ceasefire that ended the most recent war.
In recent days, Israel has eased restrictions to allow in Qatar-funded fuel, extended Gaza’s fishing zone and permitted increased cross-border commerce.
There have been multiple flare-ups since the ceasefire, including a series of balloon launches last month. Israel has responded with air strikes.
Following an exchange of fire on June 18, Israeli army chief ordered forces to be ready “for a variety of scenarios including a resumption of hostilities”.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, after Hamas – which was democratically elected the year before – took control of the coastal enclave.
At least two million people – half of them under the age of 18 – live in the territory, one of the world’s most densely populated area, in dire humanitarian conditions.
Jul 02, 2021 17:19 IST
Islamabad [Pakistan], July 2 (ANI): Pakistan is developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war but the problem is that it is also dealing with internal security issues that could threaten the integrity of its nuclear arsenal.
Moreover, it can lead to absurdly high nuclear stockpiles reminiscent of the Cold War, therefore an arms-control agreement for the subcontinent is desperately needed to stop the arms race.
Kyle Mizokami, a defense and national-security writer in an article in The National Interest said that the country is clearly developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war.
A nuclear power for decades, Pakistanis now attempting to construct a nuclear triad of its own, making its nuclear arsenal resilient and capable of devastating retaliatory strikes.
Experts believe Pakistan‘s nuclear stockpile is steadily growing. In 1998, the stockpile was estimated at five to twenty-five devices, depending on how much-enriched uranium each bomb required. Today Pakistan is estimated to have an arsenal of 110 to 130 nuclear bombs, wrote Kyle Mizokami.
In 2015 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center estimated Pakistan‘s bomb-making capability at twenty devices annually, which on top of the existing stockpile meant Pakistan could quickly become the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Other observers, however, believe Pakistan can only develop another forty to fifty warheads in the near future, reported The National Interest.
Pakistan currently has a nuclear “triad” of nuclear delivery systems based on land, in the air and at sea. Islamabad is believed to have modified American-built F-16A fighters and possibly French-made Mirage fighters to deliver nuclear bombs by 1995.
Land-based delivery systems are in the form of missiles, with many designs based on or influenced by Chinese and North Korean designs.
The Hatf series of mobile missiles includes the solid-fueled Hatf-III (180 miles), solid-fueled Hatf-IV (466 miles) and liquid-fueled Hatf V, (766 miles). The CSIS Missile Threat Initiative believes that as of 2014, Hatf VI (1242 miles) is likely in service.
Pakistan is also developing a Shaheen III intermediate-range missile capable of striking targets out to 1708 miles, in order to strike the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, reported The National Interest.
The sea component of Pakistan‘s nuclear force consists of the Baburclass of cruise missiles. The latest version, Babur-2, looks like most modern cruise missiles, with a bullet-like shape, a cluster of four tiny tail wings and two stubby main wings, all powered by a turbofan or turbojet engine. The cruise missile has a range of 434 miles. Instead of GPS guidance, which could be disabled regionally by the US government, Babur-2 uses older Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) navigation technology.
Babur-2 is deployed on both land and at sea on ships, where they would be more difficult to neutralize. A submarine-launched version, Babur-3, was tested in January and would be the most survivable of all Pakistani nuclear delivery systems, reported The National Interest.
Pakistan could quickly become the third-largest nuclear power in the world.
Pakistan is clearly developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war. It is also dealing with internal security issues that could threaten the integrity of its nuclear arsenal, wrote Mizokami. (ANI)