A 3.6-magnitude earthquake shook Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, on Sunday morning, officials said — startling residents across the Northeast who expressed shock about the rare tremors.
The quake struck the area about five miles southwest of the community in Buzzards Bay just after 9 a.m. — marking the strongest one in the area since a magnitude 3.5 temblor in March 1976, the US Geological Survey said.
With a depth of 9.3 miles, the impact was felt across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and into Connecticut and Long Island, New York.
“This is the strongest earthquake that we’ve recorded in that area — Southern New England,” USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told The Providence Journal.
But the quake was still considered “light” on the magnitude scale, meaning that it was felt but didn’t cause significant damage.
The quake, however, was unusual for the region — which has only experienced 26 larger than a magnitude 2.5 since 1973, Caruso said.
Around 14,000 people went onto the USGS site to report the shaking — with some logging tremors as far as Easthampton, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, both about 100 miles away.
“It’s common for them to be felt very far away because the rock here is old and continuous and transmits the energy a long way,” Caruso said.
Journalist Katie Couric was among those on Long Island to be roused by the Sunday-morning rumblings.
“Did anyone on the east coast experience an earthquake of sorts?” Couric wrote on Twitter.
“We are on Long Island and the attic and walls rattled.”
Closer to the epicenter, residents estimated they felt the impact for 10 to 15 seconds.
“In that moment, it feels like it’s going on forever,” said Ali Kenner Brodsky, who lives in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu casually dropped a bombshell when he mentioned during a press conference on November 9 that “the head of state [Putin] placed special emphasis on the importance of advancing the development of domestic air and missile defense systems, and the supply of S-350, S-500 and S-550 to the Armed Forces.”
While the medium-range S-350 and S-500 missiles were familiar, this was the first mention of a notional S-550 system.
The Russian military is preparing to induct the S-500 Prometey (Promethes) air defense systems in the 2020s after years of delay. Some experts initially speculated that the S-550 was a shorter range spinoff of the S-500, just as the S-350 was a medium-range missile complementing longer-range S-300 and S-400 systems. Russia’s TASS state news agency also recalled an S-550 mobile short-range anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system developed between 1981–1988, which never entered service.
However, Sergey Chemezov subsequently told reporters at the Dubai airshow the S-550 would be designed to detect and intercept ballistic missiles at a greater distance than the S-500 and that the physical components have already been created.
Now the consensus is that S-550 would be a mobile system specialized in strategic defense: defending against intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that arc high into space before raining nuclear destruction at up to twenty times the speed of sound.
Russian sources also emphasize a “space attack” or “space defense” role which besides referring to kinetic anti-satellite missions might also include interception of spacecraft in low-earth orbit like the U.S. military’s X-37B. Unlike the S-500, there reportedly aren’t plans for a naval variant.
Curiously, the S-500 was already generally understood to offer significantly improved ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability using its 77N6-N series missile, estimated by U.S. intelligence to be effective against intermediate-range missiles and of partial effectiveness versus ICBMs.
But when later interviewed by TASS, military expert Dmitriy Litovkin said he presumed it would “become an extra element of the Prometey system. It was earlier announced that this system would be able to shoot down both ballistic nuclear warheads and low-orbit satellites. Judging by everything, the military has made a decision to divide these functions between the two systems (the multitask option is not always good for a combat system).”
In a similar vein, an anonymous source told RIA Novosti the S-550 was “version of the S-500 air defense system and will specialize in missile and space defense tasks.”
These statements, which are by no means definitive, could mean the S-550 is simply the S-500’s missile defense capability spun off and perhaps improved to be more reliable against ICBMs. It’s unclear if that means the basic S-500 will therefore end up less capable at missile defense than initially promised, or if the S-550 will end up being substantially more effective against ICBMs than was expected of the S-500.
RIA Novosti’s sources also boast that the S-550 is the first road-mobile system capable of reliably killing ICBMs, also claiming it could go “an order of magnitude higher than . . . [U.S.] THAAD and Aegis with SM-3 Block llB missiles.”
The official, quoted by RIA, does not mention the United States’ silo-based ground-based missile midcourse (GMD) system, designed for mid-course intercepts of ICBMs. Likely the S-550 is expected to occupy a middle ground between the SM-3 Block II and GMD, perhaps with decent anti-ICBM capability but out to a more limited range.
Past, Present and Future of Russian BMD
Russia already has an anti-ICBM missile defense system, the silo-based A-135 Amur which launches 53T6 ABM interceptors that can attain up to seventeen times the speed of sound to swat down ICBMs using a ten-kiloton nuclear warhead. But the A135 only defends Moscow and the surrounding industrial areas. That’s because the 1972 ABM Treaty only permitted Russia and the United States to deploy two ABM sites: one at the capital and one to protect ICBM silos.
However, in 2002 the United States exited the ABM treaty and began the development of the GMD missile defense system now situated in silos in Alaska which provides country-wide protection of the continental United States, albeit with a limited inventory of just over forty (going on sixty) interceptors.
The limited ABM count was in part meant to reassure Russia and China that GMD wasn’t intended to undermine their nuclear deterrence capability, only to suppress threats from smaller potential nuclear actors (ie. North Korea, and Iran). However, Beijing and Moscow saw things in a different light, and to date have spent tens of billions of dollar-equivalents developing more sophisticated nuclear weapons to defeat GMD.
It’s worth noting that even a limited ICBM defense might potentially defeat a small-scale nuclear attack by a great power intended to achieve limited military objectives or to serve as a political demonstration.
With the S-550, Russia finally seems to be taking advantage of the rupture of the ABM Treaty to expand the coverage of its counter-ICBM defense beyond the Moscow region. Currently, the A-135 is being replaced by a modernized A-235 Nudol ABM which may greatly extend range of missile defense coverage over western Russia, and incorporate hit-to-kill missiles to either complement or replace entirely the nuclear interceptor missiles.
But why is Russia pursuing a mobile S-550 BMD system as well? First, road mobility will facilitate the geographic dispersal of interceptor missiles, potentially extending or enhancing defense in areas distant from Moscow. That the S-550 will either remain similar or might even simply be an attachment to future mainstay S-500 air defense battalions is also logistically convenient.
But perhaps most importantly, mobile platforms are more difficult to locate and destroy using stealth aircraft and cruise missiles that would surely attempt to suppress Russian air defenses in a high-intensity conflict with the United States.
Ballistic missile defense against conventional (ie. non-nuclear) missiles may also become much more important to the Russian military in the near future than it has heretofore been.
Of course, this would also invoke dilemmas as to determining whether a dual-capable missile attack is conventional or nuclear, as well as deciding how many high-end missile defense interceptors, if any, to expend repelling conventional attacks when there still looms the possibility of a nuclear strike down the line.
Russia’s expanding BMD capability could also end up impacting U.S. missile defenses in a sort of self-perpetuating feedback loop. That is if Russia fields a large number of long-range anti-ICBM anti-ballistic missile interceptors, then Washington might decide it has the grounds to expand its inventory of GMD interceptors beyond the current plans for sixty. Another factor is China, which has not deployed an operational BMD system but which reported conducting a midcourse ballistic missile interception test using an HQ-19 missile in April 2021.
TASS has reported that the S-550 could enter service as soon as 2025. However, that date should not be treated as firm given that initial S-500 deliveries were originally claimed to be due in 2016 or 2017.
Sébastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including theNational Interest, NBC News, Forbes.comandWar is Boring. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China. You can follow his articles on Twitter.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi has ordered the military to accelerate plans for a possible broad attack on the rocket stockpiles of Gaza-based terror groups, according to a report Friday.
Citing unnamed sources in the General Staff’s Planning Directorate, the Walla news site said that the plan is aimed at significantly reducing the ability of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to target Israel with rockets in the early stages of a future conflict in the Gaza Strip.
The report said the Shin Bet security agency will also be involved in the planning.
The news site also reported that the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad is working to replenish its rocket supply following the 11-day fight in Gaza this May between Israel and Palestinian terror organizations.
Additionally, Hamas has been working to conceal its rockets in order to be able to attack the Israel Defense Forces from the land, sea and air, the report added, without citing a source.
Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top storiesBy signing up, you agree to the terms
During the conflict in May, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls, Hamas and other armed factions fired over 4,360 rockets and mortar shell, far higher than previous rounds of violence. Many of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
In the days after the conflict, military officials acknowledged that due mostly to a lack of precise intelligence, the IDF was unable to destroy the lion’s share of the terror groups’ existing arsenals of rockets.
While the IDF developed techniques to somewhat address this rocket fire during the conflict, according to a senior IDF Southern Command officer, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were overwhelmingly free to launch massive barrages at major Israeli population centers and key infrastructure.Advertisement
The IDF destroyed some 850 of the more than 15,000 rockets that the terror groups had between them going into the conflict, according to Israeli military tallies.
After recognizing that the rockets were an area of weakness, the IDF has since set out to improve its ability to locate the launchers that have been buried and hidden throughout the Gaza Strip, including deep within civilian areas, in order to strike them in advance or, at least, destroy them more rapidly after they have been used.
Iran has significantly increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in a breach of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Citing a confidential quarterly report by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) watchdog, the report stated “that Iran has an estimated stock of 17.7 kilograms [39 pounds] of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity, an increase of almost 8 kilograms since August.”Advertisement
The report noted that “such highly enriched uranium can be easily refined to make atomic weapons, which is why world powers have sought to contain Tehran’s nuclear program.”
The Vienna-based IAEA told members that it could not verify the exact stockpile of enriched uranium “due to the limitations that Tehran imposed on U.N. inspectors earlier this year.”
Those restrictions include denial of access by Iran to surveillance footage at its nuclear sites, as well as online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, all of which have been cut off by Tehran since February.
IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi was quoted by the report as saying that the lack of oversight was similar to “flying in a heavily clouded sky.”
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran had resumed its production of equipment for making advanced centrifuges at an assembly plant in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, adding that the IAEA has been unable to monitor the site for months.
“Iran had stopped work at Karaj in June after a sabotage attack that Tehran blamed on Israel, which hasn’t acknowledged responsibility,” it said.
A group of Iraqi militias has issued a warning that they were prepared to take up arms against the U.S. military presence in Iraq if U.S. troops stayed in the country past the upcoming year’s end deadline for combat operations revealed over the summer by President Joe Biden.
In a statement issued Friday and shared with Newsweek, the Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission, an umbrella of paramilitary groups aligned with the pro-Iran Axis of Resistance opposed to the U.S. footprint in the region, said its members were “closely monitoring the extent of commitment to the outcomes of the so-called strategic dialogue round” that took place between Washington and Baghdad in July.
The message went on to say that the council “did not believe in the seriousness of the occupation and its commitment” to withdrawing combat troops from Iraq according to the established timeline, but was itself “committed to giving the Iraqi negotiator an opportunity to expel the American occupation from our pure land through diplomatic means.”
But since then, the commission said it had “not yet seen any manifestations of withdrawal despite that only 42 days separate us from 12/31/2021.”
“On the contrary, we have observed that the brazen American occupation increased its numbers and equipment in its bases in Iraq,” the commission said, “and we even heard official and semi-official statements from officials of the American states of evil about their intention not to withdraw from the country under the pretext that there was a request from Baghdad [not] to do so, at a time when we did not see any response or denial from the Iraqi government about these clumsy statements!”
“We affirm that the weapons of the honorable resistance, which have been talked about a lot in the past days, and some insisted on embroiling them in recent political rivalries, will be ready to dismember the occupation as soon as the moment comes and the deadline ends after twelve o’clock in the evening of 12/31/2021,” the statement said.
The ongoing presence of U.S. troops going on four years after Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has remained a dividing factor in the country, especially as clashes between U.S. troops and Iraqi militias have escalated in recent years. Frictions peaked at the turn of 2019 to 2020 as deadly exchanges culminated in the U.S. slaying of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport.
Shortly after this event, Iraqi lawmakers voted for the expulsion of foreign forces from the country, and Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Qaani, has further vowed to push U.S. forces from the region.
Rocket strikes have continued to target U.S. positions and President Joe Biden has twice retaliated, striking sites in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, where Iran-backed groups deployed against ISIS and other jihadis have also targeted U.S. troops tasked with a similar mission.
Domestic politics have also proven an incendiary factor as of late. Last month, the country held its sixth election since the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled longtime leader Saddam Hussein.
The results saw strong gains for influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and a disappointing turnout for paramilitary blocs whose supporters took to the streets to challenge the vote, leading to clashes with security forces in which at least two demonstrators were killed.
Upon the backdrop of these events, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s residence was targeted by small, explosives-rigged drones earlier this month in an apparent assassination attempt that prompted near-universal condemnation, including from the U.S., Iran and the Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Those seeking a timely withdrawal of U.S. forces have accused Kadhimi of being soft on Washington, while those critical of Tehran have accused Iran of exerting pressure on the Iraqi leader through the use of its local partners.
The U.S., for its part, has offered no sign it planned to pull out of Iraq completely as it did in Afghanistan in August, and the definition of “combat” forces has remained somewhat unclear as the Pentagon has maintained for years that its presence in the country was solely for training and advising Iraq personnel to fight ISIS.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for the Middle East Dana Stroud reaffirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to the December 31 deadline during an interview aired Tuesday by Al Jazeera, but she also said that U.S. troops would continue to support Iraqi forces as long as Baghdad welcomed them in the country.
“We are still committed to advising and assisting the Iraqi forces in their fight, and we’ll be there so long as they would like our help,” she said.
She also said that “the United States remains absolutely committed to Iraq, the security of Iraq, the sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of Iraqi citizens to live in peace and safety.”
On Sunday however, Iraqi member of parliament and the Al-Sadiqoon bloc that represents the powerful, influential Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia Hassan Salem referred to Iraq’s resistance elements as the true defender of the nation, even if this bothered rivals such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Israel and the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula.
“The Islamic resistance factions are the only guarantee of Iraq’s sovereignty,” Salem tweeted Sunday, “and they are a thorn in the path of the U.S.-British-Zionist Gulf project that targets the country.”
And the following day, as the Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission published its position, the head of an Iraqi militia targeted twice this year in strikes order by Biden in response to attacks on U.S. military positions doubled down on the warning.
Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada Secretary-General Abu Alaa al-Walai tweeted Friday: “With the approaching hour of decisiveness and a major confrontation, the Islamic Resistance, the Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades, announces the opening of the door to belonging and volunteering to its ranks and calls on our resistant Iraqi people and the resistance factions to raise the level of readiness in preparation for the decisive and historic confrontation with the American occupation on 12/31/2021 after 12:00 a.m.”
ReutersNovember 19, 20218:05 AM MSTLast Updated a day ago
CAIRO, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Friday he was dissolving the Promised Day Brigade, an armed faction loyal to him, and closing its headquarters, according to a statement published on his Twitter page.
On Thursday, Sadr urged paramilitary groups to purge what he called undisciplined members, and said non-state armed groups should hand in their weapons.
Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias have been accused of an attempt to kill outgoing Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi with a armed drone on Nov. 7.
Reporting by Lilian Wagdy; Editing by Kevin Liffey
However, the change will also cover the Islamist movement’s political wing.
It is a criminal offence to belong to or invite support for a proscribed organisation or wear clothing which could be seen to support the group.
The penalty is a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or a fine.
A proscription order laid before Parliament on Friday will now be debated and, subject to approval, will come into force on 26 November.
Hamas has carried out hundreds of deadly attacks against Israel and fired thousands of rockets at it during years of hostilities between the two sides. Israel, along with Egypt, has hemmed in the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over in 2006 and waged a series of wars against it. Human rights groups have accused both sides of committing war crimes.
Outlawing Hamas can be seen as the completion of a bit of unfinished diplomatic business. It brings the UK into line with the US and the EU. The UK has long had a policy of “no contact” with Hamas’s political wing. Banning the group in its entirety just makes this official. And most engagement with Gaza – and the provision of humanitarian aid – has been done through international agencies such as the United Nations. So, in reality, this decision may not change much in terms of Britain’s engagement – or lack of it – with Hamas. But this decision should also be seen through a domestic UK prism. Israel has been pushing for this for some time and the fact it is now happening reflects the deep contacts that Israel has within the Conservative Party. The change also provides Conservative MPs with a new dividing line with those on the Labour left that have in the past shown sympathy for Hamas. Ms Patel confirmed the news in a speech on security and counter terrorism in Washington DC. “Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry as well as terrorist training facilities, and it has long been involved in significant terrorist violence,” she said.”Hamas commits, participates, prepares for and promotes and encourages terrorism. If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security.” In response, Hamas accused the UK of supporting “the aggressors at the expense of the victims”. Israel welcomed the move as a “significant decision”. Foreign affairs minister Yair Lapid said: “There is no legitimate part of a terrorist organisation, and any attempt to differentiate between parts of a terrorist organisation is artificial.” AFPThe military wing of Hamas was proscribed by the UK in March 2001Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the home secretary may proscribe an organisation if she believes it is concerned in terrorism. Hamas is one of 78 terrorist groups proscribed in the UK and the third proscription order laid by the home secretary within the last year. The group is already designated a terrorist organisation by the US, the EU and other powers.Hamas’ military wing was proscribed by the UK in March 2001. At the time, the Home Office said the government’s assessment was that there was a distinction between the political and military wings of the group but now assessed this distinction to be artificial.Hamas originally had a dual purpose of carrying out an armed struggle against Israel – led by its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades – and delivering social welfare programmes.But after 2005, when Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza, Hamas has also engaged in the Palestinian political process. It won the legislative elections in 2006, before reinforcing its power in Gaza the following year by ousting the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas.