Israeli Bulldozers Level Farm Land in the Southern Gaza Strip
NOV 10, 2021
Israeli military bulldozers razed, on Tuesday, Palestinian lands east of Khan Younis in the southern besieged Gaza strip, local sources reported.
Sources said that five bulldozers, 2 graters infiltrated into Palestinian territory, across the so-called security fence, while military tanks were situated along the fence to provide cover for the invading machines.
The heavy machinery was seen razing large sections of Palestinian-owned farm land east of Abasan al-Jadida town in Khan Younis, 70 meters past the Israeli border fence.
The Israeli occupation has maintained a brutal air, land and sea blockade on the tiny coastal enclave for the past 15 years, in addition to launching 4 major military offensives against the more than two million inhabitants.
The military frequently invades Palestinian-owned farm land, opens fire on farmers, and the Navy harasses fishermen while they attempt to fish in the Mediterranean sea.
The annual exercise known as Zolfaqar got underway on Sunday in the south of the country near the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
As part of the exercise a number of missiles were fired on Monday, including Qader, Qadir and Nasr anti-ship rockets, as well as the 15-Khordad and Mersad.
The submarines IRIS Tariq and IRIS Qadir also fired Valfajr torpedoes.
Suicide drones were also used to destroy simulated enemies.
One drone model, known as the Arash, was seen in footage released by the Iranian military, which flew a long distance before it crashed into a predesignated target on the side of a mountain.
Major General Gholam-Ali Rashid, commander of the Khatam al-Anbiya Central Headquarters, said the manoeuvres were designed to “preserve the territorial integrity of dear Iran, as well as the position and power of the region, against the coalition of enemies, and specifically the coalition of the United States and the Zionist regime,” a reference to Israel.
“Our armed forces, including the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will crush any threat posed by any arrogant and aggressive power, at any level, and originating from any territory,” Rashid said.
The Iranian war games began just one day after the US Navy conducted a missile exercise of its own in the Persian Gulf.
US Central Command said in a press statement on Sunday: “US Navy patrol coastal ships conducted a live-fire exercise with the MK-60 Griffin guided-missile system in the Arabian Gulf, November 4-6, to test crew proficiency and system functionality.”
Vessels that took part in the exercise included coastal patrol ships USS Firebolt, USS Thunderbolt, USS Tempest, USS Chinook, USS Hurricane, USS Whirlwind, expeditionary mobile base platform ship USS Lewis B Puller and guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy.
“Some ships also conducted a live fire exercises with crew-served weapons to maintain operator proficiency and readiness for future missions,” the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet said.
The manoeuvres come as tensions in the region continue to rise.
In response to the Iran’s actions, Israel’s IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that the army “is accelerating operational planning and preparedness to deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat. Thankfully, the budget that was approved [last week] makes it possible to contend with a variety of threats,” The Times of Israel reports.
Explosive-rigged drones targeted the residence of Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in an assassination attempt.
The attack came after weeks of unrest following an election last month which a number of Iraqi parties close to Iran are disputing and have led to demonstrations which have seen protestors injured and killed.
No faction has yet claimed responsibility for the attack which has been condemned both by the US and Iran.
Tehran is closer than ever to reaching bomb-grade level uranium since the 2015 nuclear deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Analysts from Institute for Science and International Security – a private think tank – said that a race over the summer to enrich uranium at 60 per cent purity – just below bomb grade – has put Iran in a position to produce the fuel for a bomb in “as short as one month”.
A second weapon’s worth of fuel could be produced in less than three months and a third in less than five, it says.
Israeli officials are developing an unprecedented array of plans to “deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat,” according to political and defense leaders, as international nuclear talks remain stalled and threats from Iranian proxy forces simmer in key theaters.
“We will be prepared to carry out operations that we haven’t seen in the past, with means we didn’t have in the past, that will hit the heart of terror [entities] and their capabilities,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.
Those comments, combined with a recent assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, point to the potential for a major clash in the Middle East. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team hopes to cap that risk through the rehabilitation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, while Iran has continued expanding its nuclear program throughout a suspension of the nuclear talks — and signaled that its recent agreement to return to the table does not foreshadow a softening of its position.
“They must lift the oppressive sanctions completely and effectively,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday, per state media. “Iran will not stop its compensatory actions until it is confident that U.S. sanctions will be lifted in an effective and verifiable manner with the necessary and objective guarantees.”
That statement could bode poorly for the upcoming dialogue, but Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told lawmakers that the IDF “is accelerating operational planning and preparedness to deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat,” one day after the Iranian diplomat’s comments.
“I see the Israeli comments as trying to remind Tehran that the military option really remains on the table, at least from the Israeli perspective,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies research fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu said, arguing that this warning from the Israelis also applies in the event of a nuclear agreement that they deem insufficient. “Even in the context of a bad deal … the Israelis still have unfinished business with Iran because Iran has not altered its foreign and security policy.”
Kohavi touted the low-key conflict “against our enemies in missions and secret operations throughout the entire Middle East,” while Gantz threatened explicitly Iran and the terrorist groups backed by Tehran.
“On an operational level, we are acting extensively,” the defense minister said, per the Times of Israel. “We won’t allow Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in the area to be equipped with weaponry that will harm Israel’s [military] superiority in the region.”
China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than US officials predicted just a year ago, highlighting a broad and accelerating buildup of military muscle designed to enable Beijing to match or surpass US global power by mid-century, according to a Pentagon report released on Wednesday.
The number of Chinese nuclear warheads could increase to 700 within six years, the report said, and may top 1,000 by 2030. The report did not say how many weapons China has today, but a year ago the Pentagon said the number was in the low 200s and was likely to double by the end of this decade.
The United States, by comparison, has 3,750 nuclear weapons and has no plans to increase. As recently as 2003 the US total was about 10,000. The Biden administration is undertaking a comprehensive review of its nuclear policy and has not said how that might be influenced by its China concerns.
The report does not suggest open conflict with China but it fits an emerging US narrative of a People’s Liberation Army, as China calls its military, intent on challenging the United States in all domains of warfare air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. Against that backdrop, US defence officials have said they are increasingly wary of China’s intentions with regard to the status of Taiwan.
Wednesday’s report is the latest reminder to Congress, already leery of Beijing’s military ambitions, that the Pentagon’s frequent promises to focus more intently on countering China have moved only incrementally beyond the talking stage. The Biden administration is expected to take a new step by following through on its announcement in September of plans to increase the US military presence in Australia, in addition to a controversial decision to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
The Chinese may already have established what is known as a nuclear triad the combination of land-, sea-, and air-based missiles that the United States and Russia have had for decades, the report said. To its existing land- and sea-based nuclear forces China is adding an air-launched ballistic missile.
The Pentagon report was based on information collected through December 2020 and so does not reflect or even mention Gen. Mark Milley’s expression of concern last month about Chinese hypersonic weapon tests last summer that he said came as a troublesome surprise. Wednesday’s report only referred to the widely known fact that China had fielded the DF-17 medium-range ballistic missile, equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to evade American missile defenses.
In remarks shortly before the report’s release Wednesday, Milley told the Aspen Security Forum that the hypersonic missile test and other Chinese advances are evidence of what is at stake for the world.
“We are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global and geostrategic power that the world has witnessed, he said.
The Pentagon report said China is pursuing a network of overseas bases that could interfere with US military operations and could support Chinese military operations against the United States. President Xi Jinping has said China plans to become a global military power by 2049.
The Pentagon’s wide-ranging assessment of China’s military strategy and force development is the latest in an annual series of reports to Congress and in some respects was more detailed than previous versions. For example, it questioned China’s compliance with international biological and chemical weapons agreements, citing studies conducted at military medical institutions that discussed identifying, testing and characterizing groups of potent toxins that have civilian as well as military uses.
The basis of the Pentagon’s prediction that China will vastly increase its nuclear arsenal is not spelled out in Wednesday’s report. A senior defense official who briefed reporters in advance of the report’s public release, and thus spoke on condition of anonymity, said the forecast reflects several known developments, such as China’s addition of a nuclear bomber capability, as well as public statements in Chinese official media that have made reference to China needing 1,000 nuclear weapons.
The report also asserted that China has begun construction of at least three new missile fields that cumulatively contain hundreds of underground silos from which ICBMs could be launched.
The report provided no details on the new missile fields, but private nuclear analysts have reported that satellite imagery shows what appear to be vast new missile silo fields under construction in north-central China.
In an update published Tuesday, analysts Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said they have seen continued construction progress and have discovered unique facilities that appear intended to support missile operations once the silo fields become operational.
One of those facilities, they said, is a complex in the mountains surrounded by what appear to be four tunnels into underground facilities. The tunnels are under construction and there are large amounts of excavated soil dumped nearby. This facility’s function is unknown but could potentially involve missile and/or warhead storage and management, the analysts said.
Other structures under construction may be technical service facilities and launch control centers, they said.
The trails of an Iron Dome interceptor missile are seen in the skies over southern Israel on November 8, 2021. (Oshri Tzimmer/courtesy)
The Iron Dome missile defense system shot down a Hamas drone that was flown out to sea from the Gaza Strip on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The interception appeared to be the second time that the Iron Dome has shot down an enemy unmanned aerial vehicle following upgrades to the air defense system, which was initially designed only to counter short-range rockets.
According to the IDF, the device “was monitored throughout the entire incident” by the air force’s ground control.
The Iron Dome was first used operationally to intercept a Hamas drone in May, during an 11-day conflict with Palestinian terror groups in the Strip, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls. During the conflict, the system also mistakenly shot down an Israeli drone.
The launching of the drone from Gaza came as Hamas fired a number of rockets out to sea, apparently as part of efforts to test its capabilities. Israel typically does not interfere when Hamas conducts test launches; however, it does generally shoot down any drones that are flown out of the Strip.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms
Operation Guardian of the Walls left over a dozen people killed in Israel and some 250 killed in Gaza, roughly half of them terrorist operatives, and caused vast damage on both sides as terror groups fired thousands of rockets, mortar shells and missiles at Israel and the IDF retaliated with hundreds of airstrikes on targets throughout the Strip.
Since the fighting ended, the two sides have been involved in ongoing ceasefire talks to negotiate a long-term truce.
Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadrp delivers a statement in which he backed early elections overseen by the United Nations, in an extremely rare press conference outside his home in Iraq’s holy city Najaf, on Feb. 10, 2021. – ALI NAJAFI/AFP via Getty ImagesAdnan Abu Zeed
At a time when the Sadrist movement is seeking understandings with Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties to form a government, the forces rejecting the results of the elections are taking to the streets in protest against any Cabinet formation talks before the results issue is resolved.
Iraq’s Sadrist movement head Muqtada al-Sadr discussed on Nov. 5 his Cabinet formation with Victory Alliance head Haider al-Abadi during a rare visit by Sadr to the capital. This came after meeting with parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi and National Wisdom Movement head Ammar al-Hakim. Sadr had become accustomed to handling political issues and making decisions while at his residence in the Shiite town of al-Hanana, west of Najaf.
Riyad al-Massoudi, a leading official in the Sadrist movement, told Al-Monitor that this visit lays the foundations “of the understandings following the elections in which the Sadrist movement was victorious compared with the other Shiite forces.” He added, “The government formation is a milestone, and [Sadr’s] discussions with the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish forces stem from his confidence that he is able to build strong political alliances and announce the formation of a new Cabinet in the near future, after winning the voters’ confidence and obtaining a number of votes that cannot be compared to the other forces.”
He said that the movement “began preparing for the post-Cabinet formation phase and the strategies for future policies.”
The Sadrist movement placed first in the October elections with 73 out of 329 parliamentary seats. It was followed by a coalition that secured 37 seats, and the State of Law Coalition led by Nouri al-Maliki placed third with 34 seats. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region placed fourth with 32 seats.
However, things aren’t that simple in the eyes of the Coordination Framework, which rejects the election results. The Coordination Framework consists of the State of Law Coalition, Fatah Alliance, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, National Wisdom Movement, Victory Alliance and Ataa Alliance, which are trying to form a larger bloc to prevent the Sadrist movement from forming a Cabinet. Hisham al-Rikabi, spokesperson for the State of Law Coalition, told Al-Monitor, “Negotiations to form a government are out of the question for the parties within the Shiite Coordination Framework, as the objections to the election results and demonstrations continue.” He added, “The Coordination Framework’s parties are preoccupied with finding a way out of the crisis, not with the government formation.”
“The next government will not be a majority government but rather a coalition involving everyone and in the formation of which all parties will take part. There won’t be any talks on the government formation before the election results issue is resolved,” he said.
Despite numerous reports on negotiations to form a government, Iraq’s Ummah Party leader Mithal al-Alusi told Al-Monitor that he does not see the “elections’ results as a driver to form a government and choose presidencies and parliament.” He said, “The forces that lost in the elections are trying to find a foothold in the government,” adding that most likely the new Cabinet will consist of “a consensus government to share the spoils like every time but at different rates.”
State of Law Coalition leading figure Saad al-Mutalibi denied to Al-Monitor “any moves to reach alliances because the situation is vague and every party will continue to stick to its position until the problems over the election results are resolved.”
Mutalibi expected to see “the most dangerous repercussions on the democracy path because the elections resulted in a political division that added to the sectarian and national divisions.” He added, “The divisions among Shiites portend the greatest danger, especially when we see that the competing parties did not present practical solutions to ease the status quo. On the contrary, we hear opinions that widen the gap between them.”
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Ahmed al-Sharifi, a political analyst and former member of the United Iraqi Alliance, said, “There is difficulty in forming a majority government, but the support it has from the religious authority as well as the popular support and international will will enable it to maneuver to impose itself. As for the forces who refuse a majority government, they have only two options: either joining the government and approving its program or joining the opposition as the Wisdom Movement.”
Sharifi said, “Getting rid of quotas and consensus when it comes to appointments in posts and decision-making is only possible with a majority government that can be held accountable in cases of failure.” He anticipated that “traditional forces will not join the Sadrist movement and may go for other options, and there is a great opportunity for the Sadrist movement to form a majority through an alliance with independent parliament members and those representing the protesters, together with Sunni and Kurdish forces.”
Director of the Iraqi Center for Strategic Studies Ghazi Faisal Hussein is optimistic about the Sadrist movement’s victory in the elections. He told Al-Monitor, “The movement is able to form a national coalition government with Arab and Kurdish parties as well as the candidates who presented themselves independently from the political parties and entities and won 40 seats in these elections.”
Hussein hopes the fact that “265 new members joined parliament will represent a possible basis for democratic change.”
Ali al-Fatlawi, a leading official in the Fatah Alliance, which rejects the election results, told Al-Monitor, “The talk about understandings among the Shiite forces within the Coordination Framework with the Sadrist movement is incorrect. Rather, there is competition between the two sides, and they are managing the conflict with caution.”
Fatlawi said he expected that “positive understandings would take place soon between the Shiite forces with the Framework and the Sadrist movement so as to form a Shiite bloc that includes nearly 170 parliament members. And in case it does not happen, chaos could be possible.”