The lasting impact of the latest round of Israeli escalation builds on already existing trauma from previous conflicts and a grueling ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip, warned the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
UNRWA said in a feature published on the World Mental Health Day, that sixty-six children were killed in the latest conflict in Gaza and some 113,000 Palestinians were displaced during the 11 devastating days.
The more than two million Palestinians who call Gaza home have lived through four wars in the last thirteen years and this latest round of hostilities added another layer of psychological distress on an already traumatized population.
An alarming number of the population of Gaza, almost 600,000 of whom are children and youth, display symptoms of severe distress and are at risk of developing mental health conditions and display symptoms of severe distress.
UNRWA has implemented mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programming to mitigate the mental health costs arising from the increased need for mental health support and being born by residents of Gaza. This includes individual and group counselling sessions, hotlines for mental health support, afterschool sessions and the Keeping Kids Cool (KKC) summer camp activities that ran in Gaza throughout July 2021, targeting 150,000 children.
On this World Mental Health Day, UNRWA underscored the importance of a life lived in dignity and free of the violence of war, remembering that the right to health, education and a dignified life are clearly enshrined in international human rights law.
UNRWA also lauded the valiant efforts of mental health care professionals like those who are on the frontlines of service provision in Gaza. Many of them were involved in this year’s Gaza Keeping Kids Cook summer activities, providing vital psychosocial support to tens of thousands of traumatized children.
People in Gaza have already been living on the edge and many families struggle to put food on the table. Their situation has deteriorated even further over the past year due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
According to data by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Gaza is one of the world’s most densely populated areas, with more than 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the city of Oslo but is home to three times as many people.
Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison, where nearly 2 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.
NRC said 7 out of 10 Palestinians in Gaza are registered as refugees, and many of these come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war, violence, and economic hardship.
All of the Palestinian group Hamas should be listed as a terrorist organisation by the federal government, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
The report by the joint intelligence and security committee found the entirety of Hamas, along with four other groups, should be formally listed as a terrorist organisation.
Previously, only Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was formally listed.
The committee’s chair Liberal senator James Paterson said the listing of all of Hamas would be in line with measures taken by the US and EU.
“The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation,” Senator Paterson said.
“Leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people.”
The committee agreed that Hamas operated as one entity and had overlapping members with the military wing.
However, the report warned the listing of all of Hamas may come with problems for government departments.
“Should the Australian government accept this recommendation, the committee acknowledges there will be some practical challenges for various agencies in implementing and adjusting to this decision,” the report said.
The entirety of Hamas has been previously listed as a terrorist organisation in 2014, but was removed shortly after.
Committee Chair Senator James Paterson, said that it was clear from evidence received during this review that the whole organisation of Hamas met the definition of a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.
‘Currently, the US, Canada and the EU list the whole organisation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation under their respective proscription regimes.
‘The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation. There was agreement that Hamas operates as a singular entity with overlapping personnel, finances and structure. In addition, leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people,’ Senator Paterson said.
Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the Committee’s website.
For more information about this Committee, you can visit its website. On the site, you can make a submission to an inquiry, read other submissions, and get details for upcoming public hearings. You can also track the Committee and receive email updates by clicking on the blue ‘Track Committee’ button in the bottom right hand corner of the page.
New report states that Gaza-based terrorist group behind series of rocket attacks since May from Lebanon
Hamas is gaining a foothold in southern Lebanon, establishing a military infrastructure in the past year-and-a-half, according to a new report from the ALMA Research Center, an Israeli think tank that specializes in security threats on the northern border.
The report states that Hamas was likely behind a series of five rocket attacks aimed at northern Israel in May, July and August.
The Gaza-based terrorist group has an active “Construction Bureau,” headed by Majed Qader Mahmoud Qader, who recently moved to Lebanon from Istanbul. Two units of the Construction Bureau contain hundreds of operatives — Al-Shimali and Khaled Ali.
The Al-Shimali unit is headed by William Abu Shanab and the Khaled Ali unit is commanded by Muhammed Hamed Jabara.
The two units are responsible for recruitment and training and also operating drones and rockets.
According to the report, many if not all of the rockets fired since May were launched without the knowledge of Hezbollah, which could indicate a rift between the two terrorist organizations.
The Construction Bureau is covertly based out of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. The activities are kept hidden from the Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah, which the report states “has the potential of creating a severely difficult challenge for Hezbollah.”
However, the Iranian Quds force ultimately manages the activities of the two groups as the Islamic Republic’s proxies on Israel’s borders, security analysts suggest.
The recent rocket attacks on northern Israel launched by Palestinian militants in Lebanon include three rockets fired toward the town of Nahariya on May 13; two rockets fired toward Central Galilee on May 17; four rockets fired toward Acre and Haifa on May 19; two rockets fired toward Western Galilee on July 19; and most recently three rockets fired toward Kiryat Shmona on August 4.
Russia has been working for several years on a long-range anti-ballistic missile system named Aerostat. The fact that it is being developed by the country’s sole manufacturer of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles suggests that it may very well have a range allowing it to double as a counterspace system. The oddly named ABM system (“aerostat” is a general term for unpowered balloons and airships) has never been mentioned in the Russian press or openly discussed by Russian military analysts, but its existence and basic design features can be determined through open-source intelligence.
There has been much debate over whether Nudol is primarily an anti-missile system with a complementary counterspace role or vice versa.
Aerostat has shown up in a number of openly accessible official documents, the first being the 2013 annual report of the Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation, established in 2002 to unify dozens of companies producing missiles, anti-aircraft systems, radars, naval artillery, and other systems. As can be learned from other publicly available documents, Almaz-Antey was assigned prime contractor for the project by the Ministry of Defense on July 12, 2013. A court document published last July literally describes the purpose of the July 2013 contract as “the development of a long-range intercept complex for the anti-missile defense of the Russian Federation in the period 2013-2018” and identifies the missile as 106T6. Aerostat is not the first such long-range ABM system developed under the supervision of Almaz-Antey. Another one, named Nudol, has been undergoing test flights for several years and is likely seen primarily as a direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon.
Nudol (also known as 14Ts033) is named after a small place some 100 kilometers northwest of Moscow that was one of the deployment sites for the long-range missiles of Moscow’s former A-35M missile defense system. Its main element is a road-mobile solid-fuel rocket called 14A042, developed by OKB Novator in Yekaterinburg. This company belongs to Almaz-Antey and has produced a wide range of surface-to-air and cruise missiles. US intelligence data indicate that the 14A042 missile has flown at least ten test flights from the Plesetsk launch site in northwestern Russia since 2014, but no targets seem to have been involved in any of those.
There has been much debate over whether Nudol is primarily an anti-missile system with a complementary counterspace role or vice versa. US intelligence considers it a direct-ascent anti-satellite system, as is clear from statements placed on the website of US Space Command following the latest two Nudol tests in April and December 2020. It has also been characterized as an anti-satellite system by at least two Russian officials, namely the deputy head of a Ministry of Defense research institute and Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov. Another factor pointing in the direction of an ASAT role for the 14A042 missile is that the 14A designators are typically used for space launch vehicles (for instance, 14A14 is the Soyuz-2 rocket.) 14A042 is indeed termed a “rocket for space-related purposes” in two official documents that outline safety precautions that need to be taken when the rockets fly over the Nenets Autonomous District east of Plesetsk. Moreover, one court document mentions communications systems needed to connect Nudol with the headquarters of Russia’s space surveillance network in Noginsk-9 (code-named 3006M.)
An analysis of online procurement documents shows that Almaz-Antey was named prime contractor for the project by the Ministry of Defense on August 10, 2009, and awarded a contract to OKB Novator for the development of the 14A042 rocket on the same day. For some reason, Almaz-Antey received a new contract for the project on April 10, 2015.
While OKB Novator is responsible for integrating the rocket, the individual stages are manufactured by NPO Iskra in Perm. The designators 14D807 and 14D809 seen in some documents are likely the ones used for the first and second stage. Nudol appears to have a kinetic kill vehicle that contains a “multispectral electro-optical homing head” (MOEGSN or 14Sh129) developed by KB Tochmash. The State Institute of Applied Optics (GIPO) supplies what is called a “combined frameless television/infrared channel” for 14Sh129. This part of the payload, apparently named TTPS, is presumably described in several technical articles published by GIPO, where the spectral ranges are given as 0.4–0.7 microns (visible) and 3.0–5.0 microns (mid-infrared.) Both KB Tochmash and GIPO also have a role in the air-launched Burevestnik ASAT system.
Aerostat’s organizational background
Almaz-Antey’s main subcontractor for Aerostat is the MIT Corporation (MIT standing for “Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology”), which specializes in solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles. Unlike OKB Novator, it is part of the Roscosmos State Corporation and is a newcomer to the field of anti-ballistic missile defense.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the MIT Corporation fielded the Topol-M, YARS, and Bulava ICBMs (the latter a submarine-launched missile.) In the 1990s, it also converted Soviet-era Topol ICBMs into space launch vehicles called Start and Start-1, which were used to launch a number of small satellites into low Earth orbit between 1993 and 2006. The company is also working on the solid-fuel emergency escape system for Russia’s new piloted spacecraft Oryol.
Other subcontractors that can be identified from online sources are:
– KB Tochmash and GIPO: the two companies play the same role as in Nudol, providing the electro-optical system of the missile’s homing head. Actually, some procurement documents indicate that the system is identical or at least very similar to the MOEGSN/14Sh129 system carried by Nudol’s 14A042 rocket. It also includes a diode-pumped laser rangefinder. KB Tochmash has also built laser rangefinders for some of its surface-to-air missiles and several years ago was planning to deliver a laser rangefinder “for spacecraft dockings” to an unidentified foreign partner, most likely China.
– NPTsAP imeni N.A. Pilyugina (further referred to here as the Pilyugin Center): this company produces guidance and control systems for launch vehicles and most likely performs the same task for Aerostat. It has built a test stand called Aerostat that is almost certainly intended for the project.
– GOKB Prozhektor: a company belonging to the MIT Corporation that builds autonomous power supply systems for the corporation’s ICBMs. Aerostat is listed among other MIT Corporation missiles in two of the company’s annual reports.
– PAO Radiofizika: a company under Almaz-Antey, involved among other things in building ground-based radar systems that provide targeting data for anti-missile systems. Aerostat is mentioned in PAO Radiofizika’s annual reports for 2018 and 2019 and in a book dedicated to the company’s 55th anniversary. The 2020 annual report mentions work related to “Product 103T6”, an index similar to 106T6. It is not clear if this is yet another missile or whether there is a typo in one of the two indexes.
– GosNIIAS (State Research Institute of Aviation Systems): this appears to build one or more test stands for Aerostat, including one used to simulate the infrared background against which the missile’s homing head will have to track its targets.
– ÐÐž VIKor: a company that provides technical support and consulting for various military projects. Its website mentions work done in 2019 on research projects called Aerostat-Ts-MIT and Aerostat-S-MIT-Nadyozhnost (the latter word meaning “reliability”).
Aerostat may have been discussed in an article written by Almaz-Antey’s deputy general director Pavel Sozinov in a 2017 issue of the corporation’s quarterly journal. It deals with mathematical modeling techniques to simulate the performance of various “air and space defense systems.” One of those is literally called “an advanced long-range intercept complex,” with Sozinov hinting that it has a range considerably exceeding that of existing systems. The simulations were needed to “justify technical decisions made to develop the system” and “determine its combat efficiency.” It can be learned from the article that its targets will be both “complex ballistic targets” (a term usually used for multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) and satellites (included in the models were “calculations of satellite orbits” as well as data provided by the ground-based space surveillance network.) It cannot be ruled out that Sozinov was writing about Nudol, but he portrayed the research as being linked to a future system, whereas Nudol was already making test flights at the time of writing.
The computer models simulated the operation of a “central radar complex” to acquire and track the targets and benefited from experience gathered with a mobile radar system named Demonstrator. This was a truck-mounted phased array radar first demonstrated at various air shows in 2013–2014 and described at the time by PAO Radiofizika’s general director Boris Levitan as a prototype of bigger radar stations needed for space surveillance (although it could also be used for detecting airborne targets.)
What can be concluded from the available information is that Aerostat’s 106T6 rocket is probably a multistage solid-fuel launch vehicle that inherits elements from one or more of the MIT Corporation’s ICBMs.
The “central radar complex” could be the Don-2 battle management radar currently used by Moscow’s A-135 anti-ballistic missile system or another one known as 14Ts031 or Object 0746-M that is situated near Chekhov, some 60 kilometers southwest of Moscow. This is a modified version of the Dunai-3U radar complex originally built for the earlier A-35M missile defense system and consists of a transmitting and a receiving antenna separated by about three kilometers. In documentation it is called “a specialized space surveillance radar for the detection and monitoring of small-size space objects”. PAO Radiofizika has been closely involved in modernizing the radar complex since early last decade under a project called Razvyazka. Although the radar system has usually been linked to Nudol, it could obviously support Aerostat as well. According to a brochure distributed by PAO Radiofizika at the recent MAKS-2021 aerospace show near Moscow, the modernization of the radar complex has been completed and the main purpose of the P-band phased array radar is to catalog space objects and detect satellites in high orbits.
The receiving antenna of the 14Ts031 radar complex is seen on the right side of this image taken from orbit in June 2020. Source: Google Earth.
Grainy ground-based picture of the receiving antenna. (Source)
In the same article, Sozinov also discussed techniques to simulate the flight of a multistage solid-fuel rocket carrying a “multispectral electro-optical homing head” (possibly the MOEGSN/14Sh129 system jointly developed by KB Tochmash and GIPO.) He didn’t specifically link the rocket to the “long-range intercept complex,” but the computer models took into account Earth limb background effects, suggesting the rocket is designed to operate outside the Earth’s atmosphere. It has a third stage whose flight path can be corrected using tracking information on the target and its homing head is described as a “two-dimensional tracking system with independent control for each channel” needed to determine the angular velocity of the line of sight. Sozinov’s description of this system is virtually copied and pasted in a paper presented in 2018 by a researcher of the Pilyugin Center (a subcontractor for Aerostat) who has also co-authored several articles as well as a patent on a method to control the thrust of a solid-fuel upper stage. Presumably, targeting data obtained by the sensors will be used by the rocket’s guidance and control system to regulate the upper stage’s thrust.
The link with Aerostat is further supported by the fact that the specific Russian term used for “upper stage” in one of these Pilyugin Center articles (dovodochnaya stupen’, sounding somewhat similar to “kick stage” in English) is seen virtually only in publications of the MIT Corporation. Also, one of the co-researchers, Gennadiy Rumyantsev, is a veteran of the Pilyugin Center who was involved in developing the guidance and control system for the MIT Corporation’s Start launch vehicles back in the 1990s.
These rockets, derived from the Topol ICBM and launched from transporter erector launchers, came in four-stage and five-stage configurations (called Start-1 and Start respectively), with both carrying an additional low-thrust kick stage to deliver the payloads to their final orbits (so strictly speaking they were five-stage and six-stage rockets.) The kick stage had Ð° thrust control system as well as a gas reaction control system to ensure accurate orbital injection of the satellites. In earlier publications, Rumyantsev has pointed out that such kick stages can be used either as an ICBM post-boost stage to deploy nuclear warheads or as the upper stage of a space launch vehicle. Most likely, exactly the same type of stage could be modified to guide an exoatmospheric kill vehicle to its target.
Schematic representation of the Start launch vehicle’s “kick stage”. A similar stage may serve as the basis for Aerostat’s kinetic kill vehicle. (Source)
The MIT Corporation has recently proposed to revive the Start project using decommissioned Topol ICBMs, at least several dozens of which are left. The renewed interest in Start is also reflected by a handful of patents of the MIT Corporation that have appeared online in recent years. MIT has also studied modified versions of solid-fuel upper stages . Although impossible to prove, it is tempting to believe that these proposals at least partly draw on work done as part of Aerostat since 2013.
The Start-1 rocket. Source: MIT Corporation.
Aside from Sozinov’s 2017 article, Almaz-Antey has published two other articles that may be related to Aerostat. One discusses computer simulations of the launch of a “multistage rocket” which “exits the Earth’s atmosphere” and uses both on-board sensors and ground-based radar systems to detect and track its targets. One of its authors has also written an article on modeling the Earth limb’s infrared background radiation as seen by “space-based electro-optical systems.” Considering Almaz-Antey’s background, the research hardly had anything to do with a civilian space project.
There can be little doubt that Russia considers counterspace weapons an integral part of this system, which is often depicted as being targeted against “air-based and space-based attack systems”. From the Russian perspective, one such potential space-based attack system is the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane.
What can be concluded from the available information is that Aerostat’s 106T6 rocket is probably a multistage solid-fuel launch vehicle that inherits elements from one or more of the MIT Corporation’s ICBMs (Topol-M, YARS, Bulava, or possibly a lightweight version of YARS known as Rubezh.) Judging by Sozinov’s article, it may use the first two stages of an existing ICBM topped by an exoatmospheric kill vehicle consisting of a solid-fuel “kick stage” (the “third stage” mentioned by Sozinov) and a homing system that relies on data fed by ground-based radars and an on-board visible/infrared sensor.
Situating Aerostat in the Russian ABM program
So where does Aerostat fit in Russia’s anti-ballistic missile program? In May 2016, MIT Corporation general director Yuri Solomonov acknowledged his company’s leading role in a missile defense project, but did not provide additional details other than calling it analogous to the American Aegis system. Aegis is the Navy component of the US missile defense system and is geared toward defending against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their midcourse phase. It also has a limited counterspace capability, which was demonstrated in 2008 when an Aegis Standard Missile-3 was used to destroy a derelict US reconnaissance satellite to prevent it from re-entering the atmosphere in one piece and possibly causing harm to people on the ground (or that, at least, was the official explanation.) While Aegis is primarily a sea-based system, it also has a land-based component (Aegis Ashore) which began deployment in Eastern Europe in 2016. This has drawn strong criticism from Russia, which considers it a breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, arguing Aegis Ashore can also be used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets on Russian territory.
Ð¢he evidence presented above is not consistent with Aerostat being a theater missile defense system like Aegis. Presumably, Solomonov was referring to Aegis as a well-known example of a US missile defense system rather than meaning to say MIT’s missile defense system is in the same category.
MIT Corporation general director Yuri Solomonov. (Source)
Protection against theater missiles is currently provided by the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems. The only ABM system capable of intercepting ICBMs is A-135, deployed around Moscow to intercept incoming warheads targeting the city and its surrounding areas. This was declared operational in 1995 and is the successor to the original A-35 system deployed in the 1970s in compliance with the 1972 ABM Treaty (which limited both the US and the Soviet Union to having only one ABM site, but was abandoned by the US in 2002.) Currently, A-135’s main elements are the Don-2N battle management phased array radar and several dozen short-range 53T6 (NATO reporting name “Gazelle”) endoatmospheric nuclear-tipped missiles developed by OKB Novator. Also part of A-135 was 51T6 (NATO reporting name “Gorgon”), a long-range nuclear-tipped exoatmospheric missile, which has now been retired.
In 2014, Almaz-Antey’s Pavel Sozinov said that Russia’s missile defense system was being considerably upgraded and would comprise equivalents of America’s THAAD and GMD systems. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is intended to intercept short- and medium-range missiles at the end of the midcourse stage and in the terminal stage of flight. GMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) is designed to counter ICBMs in the midcourse stage. According to Sozinov, the THAAD-type system would target medium-range ballistic missiles and have a limited capability against ICBMs as well. The other system would be “somewhat similar to GMD”, but would be mobile and have a “higher intercept efficiency.”  In 2017, the chief designer of Russia’s missile early warning system, Sergey Boyev, declared that a “multi-layered national missile defense system” would be deployed by 2025, calling it a response to the “direct threat” posed by the US Aegis Ashore missiles deployed in Eastern Europe.
There can be little doubt that Russia considers counterspace weapons an integral part of this system, which is often depicted as being targeted against “air-based and space-based attack systems”. From the Russian perspective, one such potential space-based attack system is the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane, which, according to Sozinov, could carry up to three warheads into space and then deliver them to their targets after evading early warning systems. Even President Vladimir Putin himself has alluded to the offensive potential of the X-37B, saying that “re-usable shuttle type spacecraft” can give the US an edge in the militarization of space and that the deployment of what he called “combat complexes” in orbit poses a greater threat to world security than that of medium-range missiles in Europe. In 2017, Sozinov acknowledged Almaz-Antey’s involvement in the development of counterspace weapons, more particularly electronic warfare systems to be used against radar reconnaissance, optical reconnaissance, and communications satellites, as well as systems for “the direct functional destruction of elements deployed in orbit,” an apparent reference to kinetic ASAT weapons.
The US Air Force X-37B is seen by Russia as a potential “space-based attack system”. Source: USAF.
What Sozinov called “the Russian THAAD” appears to be the S-500 system (also known as Prometey and Triumfator-M). As explained by Sergey Surovikin, the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the S-500 system is aimed against both “aerodynamic targets” (including drones and hypersonic vehicles) and “ballistic targets.” Its main goal, he said, is to destroy medium-range ballistic missiles, but if needed it can also intercept ICBM-launched warheads in the terminal stage. He added that, in the future, it will also be able to destroy low orbiting satellites and “space-based attack systems.” Little has been revealed about S-500, but available information suggests that it includes the 40N6M missile (with a reported range of 400 kilometers) for use against aircraft and cruise missiles and the more powerful 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 (with an estimated range of 500–600 kilometers) to counter ballistic missiles and satellites. All these missiles are products of MKB Fakel.
If used in an ASAT capacity, Aerostat should have a range considerably higher than that of Nudol and, hence, be capable of taking out satellites in higher orbits.
The “Russian GMD” is most likely the upgraded Moscow ABM system known as A-235. Work on this began back in 1991 under the strange code-name “Samolyot-M” (“samolyot” means “aircraft”), but progress has been very slow. The short-range component of A-235 appears to be an improved variant of OKB Novator’s 53T6 missile called 53T6M, which has been making test flights from the Sary-Shagan test range in Kazakhstan since early last decade. The long-range component, the replacement for the decommissioned 51T6, has long been rumored to be Nudol, with numerous sources (including Wikipedia) going as far as claiming that Nudol actually is another name for the entire A-235 system (which is clearly not the case.) In reality, there is no convincing documentary evidence that Nudol will become part of A-235.
The index used for Aerostat’s missile (106T6 or possibly 103T6, the same nomenclature as 53T6 and 51T6) does point to it being a future element of A-235. It would have several advantages over 51T6. Likely having a longer range, it would be able to intercept ICBMs earlier in the midcourse phase than has been possible so far. Rather than being installed in silos, it should be mobile (the MIT Corporation’s ICBMs can be launched from transporter erector launchers) and its advanced homing system should allow it to kinetically destroy its targets instead of disabling them by detonating a nuclear warhead in their vicinity.
Nudol’s place in all this remains uncertain (its exact range is unknown). Possibly, A-235 will be a three-tier system with short-range missiles (53T6M), medium-range missiles (Nudol/14A042) and long-range missiles (Aerostat/106T6). Original plans formulated for A-235 in the 1990s did in fact call for such a three-tier system. It is also possible that Nudol is a specialized ASAT system with no anti-missile role at all (the 14A042 index of the Nudol missile is not indicative of it being part of A-235).
Possible counterspace role
So is Aerostat designed to attack satellites as well? If Sozinov was writing about Aerostat in his 2017 article, then it would appear it is. The fact that Aerostat and Nudol seem to share the same tracking sensors may also point in that direction. If used in an ASAT capacity, Aerostat should have a range considerably higher than that of Nudol and, hence, be capable of taking out satellites in higher orbits. In the absence of more specific information on the design, it is difficult to estimate exactly how much higher.
As a rule of thumb, the apogee that a ballistic missile can reach when launched vertically is approximately one half of its maximum horizontal range. Therefore, a missile like Topol, which has a horizontal range of around 11,000 kilometers, would be able to reach a maximum altitude of roughly 5,500 kilometers. By replacing the nuclear warheads with a much lighter kinetic kill vehicle and adding one or more stages (as done on the Start rockets), that ceiling can be significantly increased. Recall that China conducted a high-altitude missile test in May 2013 that was officially billed as a scientific sounding rocket mission, but was later assessed by the Pentagon to have been a possible “test of technologies with a counterpace mission in geosynchronous orbit.”
However, it is highly questionable that Aerostat would be able to reach such altitudes or even those used by America’s GPS/Navstar navigation satellites (around 20,000 kilometers.) Moreover, it would take hours for a direct-ascent ASAT weapon to reach such targets, giving them ample time to perform evasive maneuvers. A more efficient way of disabling satellites in such orbits is by using electronic warfare systems, several of which are known to have been deployed by Russia. Any other US military satellites that could be worthwhile targets for anti-satellite systems orbit the Earth no higher than about 1,000 kilometers, more specifically the KH-11 optical reconnaissance satellites, the X-37B spaceplanes, the Onyx (Lacrosse) and Topaz radar reconnaissance satellites, and the NOSS-3/Intruder ocean reconnaissance satellites. Also added to the list could be a series of European military observation satellites. All of these would likely fall within the range of Aerostat.
Future tests of Aerostat may be complicated by the fact that Russia’s main test range for anti-missile systems (Sary-Shagan) is located in neighboring Kazakhstan.
In short, within several years Russia may possess as many as three anti-missile systems that could double as direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons (S-500, Nudol and Aerostat), whatever the rationale behind that may be. That goal has, in fact, been officially acknowledged for S-500 and Nudol, with the latter possibly even being a dedicated ASAT system. In addition to those, Russia probably already has operational ground-based electronic warfare and laser systems for counterspace purposes and is also working on co-orbital ASAT systems, which already seem to have made test flights under the Burevestnik and Nivelir projects.
Some insight into the original test schedule for Aerostat is provided by the earlier mentioned court document published this July. The July 2013 contract between the Ministry of Defense and Almaz-Antey and later supplements to the contract called for finishing the preliminary design by November 2014 and conducting a “live experiment” in October 2017. So-called “preliminary tests” were to be completed by November 2020 and followed by “state tests,” after which the system was to be declared ready for serial production in November 2021.
“Preliminary tests” and “state tests” are terms inherited from the Soviet days denoting the test phases that a military product has to go through before it is declared operational. “Preliminary tests” are defined as tests needed to determine if experimental versions of a military product meet technical specifications. “State tests” are needed to establish whether the product meets technical requirements “in conditions as close as possible to those experienced in the field” and to decide whether it can be approved for operational use and serial production.
According to the document, the “live experiment” was eventually carried out on December 26, 2017. No further details are given, but on that day Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces launched a Soviet-era Topol ICBM on a test flight from the Kapustin Yar test range near Volgograd (most likely toward the Sary-Shagan range in Kazakhstan.) In a statement released the same day, the Ministry of Defense announced the flight was designed to test new ballistic missile defense countermeasures. The same goal has also been reported for other Topol test flights from Kapustin Yar and was not unique to this mission. In this particular case, the test may have been aimed at testing ways of evading countermeasures taken by the enemy to prevent its missiles from being intercepted by ABM missiles. The fact that the Aerostat-related test was carried out with a Topol missile does not at all imply that Aerostat itself will also be based on Topol. The aging Topol missiles are used to demonstrate technology for newer ICBMs.
The court document does not shed any light on further technical progress made in the Aerostat project after the December 2017 test. The subject of the court case was a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Defense against Almaz-Antey for delays in the “live experiment” and the delivery of design documentation and software for the project (with the MIT Corporation mentioned only as a third party.) The court also granted a request from the Ministry of Defense to terminate the July 2013 contract, but that does not necessarily mean that the project has been canceled. The contract covered work on Aerostat in the 2013–2018 period and its official termination may have been no more than a bureaucratic move. In fact, procurement documents show that the Ministry of Defense signed a new contract with Almaz-Antey for Aerostat on April 26, 2018 and further work seems to have taken place only under that contract. A similar pattern was seen in the Nudol project, where the government contract with Almaz-Antey was renewed after six years.
The work known to have been performed under the new contract does carry the label “NIR”, which is Russian short for the research phase of a project that precedes actual systems development (referred to as “OKR”.) This may indicate that at least some systems have encountered technical problems that have forced designers back to the drawing boards.
Future tests of Aerostat may be complicated by the fact that Russia’s main test range for anti-missile systems (Sary-Shagan) is located in neighboring Kazakhstan. One anonymous “highly-placed source” in the Russian defense industry told a Russian news outlet in June last year that this is causing problems for tests of long-range air and missile defense systems, particularly S-500. To some extent, the source said, this also applied to Nudol, although the main stumbling block for Nudol were “some unresolved technical issues” that were expected to keep it from entering combat duty until 2021 “at the earliest.” Still, if Nudol and Aerostat have a hit-to-kill capability, that likely would have to be demonstrated before they are declared operational. Russia may prefer to do that using ballistic targets rather than orbiting satellites, considering the vast amounts of space debris that would be generated by such tests. Since it uses the same type of tracking sensors, Nudol could also serve as a pathfinder for Aerostat.
What seems to be a new test range for anti-missile systems (Object 2142) is being constructed near the town of Severo-Yeniseiskiy in the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. It is part of a project called Ukazchik-KV, which in one document was associated with “a test range and internal flight path for tests of anti-missile systems and anti-missile countermeasures” (“internal flight path” probably meaning a flight path that doesn’t cross Russia’s borders.) Planned for installation at the new test range are radars and optical tracking systems similar to those used at Sary-Shagan. One map of the test range shows (simulated) warheads coming in from the northwest, indicating the new “internal flight path” will be from Plesetsk to Severo-Yeniseiskiy and complement or replace the currently used flight path from Kapustin Yar to Sary-Shagan. Late last year, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the site near Severo-Yeniseiskiy was needed for tests of the new Sarmat liquid-fuel ICBM, but it clearly will be used for other purposes as well.
Map of the “Object 2142” test range, scattered over a large area near Severo-Yeniseiskiy. The arrow in the upper left corner indicates the direction of travel of incoming warheads. (Source)
Ukazchik-KV was assigned to Almaz-Antey on the very same day as Aerostat (July 12, 2013), as was yet another missile defense project called Selektsiya, which seems to be aimed at creating an integrated command structure for Russia’s air and missile defense systems. It is not entirely clear though if there is any connection between these three projects, which were initiated under three different government contracts. But even if Aerostat does not need the new test range, it seems to have fallen far behind the schedule originally set out for it and may still be a long way from reaching operational status.
The book spared no details. It described mass torture and massacre of Israelis, execution of captive soldiers, abuse of Israeli women, cruel assassinations of Israeli leaders, and even the creation of institutions that would replace those of the Jewish state.
Inspired by such literature, Palestinian and Muslim extremists have written their fair share of similar “end of days” documents, the latest of which was inspired and sponsored by the Hamas terrorist organization.
Written on Sept. 30, Promise of the Hereafter – Post-Liberation Palestine includes almost all of the elements the Newsweek journalists used in their book over half a century ago, like the genocide of the Jews and the creation of a “right of return” for Palestinians, who would build their homes on the ruins of Israel.
It is crucial for the world to know about the existence of such “literature,” for many in Europe, the United States and other countries around the world have recently ceased to treat Hamas as a terror group. The first to do so was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has often stated that Hamas is “a resistance movement working to liberate the occupied territories of the Palestinians” rather than a terrorist organization. And Erdogan is just the tip of the iceberg.
Two years ago, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry conducted an investigation into Hamas’ conduct in Western countries and revealed that it operated through hundreds of civil society organizations to advance its radical agenda. The ministry expressed concern that some of these organizations’ budgets, state grants and donations – especially to Palestinian, British and American ones – were funding well-known terror groups, including Hamas.
Not a lot has changed since the time the report was published and Israel struggles or does not try hard enough to take action against such conduct by Hamas. What the Jewish state must do is make the Hamas document known to embassies around the world, in the exact countries Hamas is aided by civil society organizations. According to the latest data, there are over 300 such groups.
This, of course, is just one way to persuade Western countries and international organizations to sever ties with Hamas whose ultimate goal – as it often states – is to destroy the State of Israel, exile and murder most of its residents, and bring about the return of Palestinians “from the Diaspora.”
In a statement issued on Friday on the 31st anniversary of the Aqsa massacre, which was committed by Israeli forces, the resistance movement strongly warned the Tel Aviv regime of committing any attempt to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa compound, the third holiest site in Islam.
“We restate our commitment to protect and defend the al-Aqsa Mosque on the 31st anniversary of the Al-Aqsa massacre perpetrated by the Israeli occupation, motivated by Israeli settler groups who thought the Al-Aqsa compound was an easy prey and that the chance had come up to lay the foundation stone for their alleged temple,” Hamas stated.
On October 8, 1990, thousands of Israeli settlers marched on the al-Aqsa Mosque to place the foundation stone of their alleged third temple inside the mosque.
The provocative move infuriated Palestinians who were present at the mosque and those who were outside, prompting them to bar settlers from achieving their goal.
During the ensued clashes, Israeli forces opened fire indiscriminately at Muslim worshipers in the mosque, killing 21 people, injuring hundreds of others, while obstructing the movement of ambulances.
Other reports said the fanatic settlers, while receiving full protection from Israeli soldiers, also participated in the massacre with their machine guns and gas bombs, as helicopters provided air cover. The appalling event is known as the Al-Aqsa Massacre or the Black Monday.
“We call on all Palestinians everywhere to head to the al-Aqsa Mosque and prevent hordes of Israeli settlers from conducting their so-called silent prayer, which intends to prove the religious delusions of the Israeli settlers and the right-wing government that they might have a foothold at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said.
Hardline Israeli legislators and extremist settlers regularly storm the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied city, a provocative move that infuriates Palestinians. Such mass settler break-ins almost always take place at the behest of Tel Aviv-backed temple groups and under the auspices of the Israeli police in al-Quds.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Jewish visitation of al-Aqsa is permitted, but according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government in the wake of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967, non-Muslim worship at the compound is prohibited.
“As Israeli settler organizations are trying to make history repeat itself by desecrating the sanctity of the al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli occupation regime, we reiterate that the Palestinian citizens of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 are ready to defend the al-Aqsa complex and that Israeli measures provoked by a hateful ideology against holy sites will backfire,” Hamas said on Friday.
In conclusion, the resistance movement urged all “the Arab and Muslim nations to raise their voices in support of the al-Aqsa Mosque and use Friday sermons as a platform for calling for liberating the al-Aqsa and renounce normalization” of relations between Tel Aviv and some Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
“The al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to all Muslims by right; every Muslim has a duty to defend it and protect its sanctity,” Hamas stressed.
Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state with East al-Quds as its capital.
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The Palestinians and human rights groups view the practice of holding bodies as a form of collective punishment that inflicts further suffering on bereaved families.
“They have no right to keep my son, and it is my right for my son to have a good funeral,” Erekat said.
The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, a Palestinian rights group, says Israel is holding the bodies of at least 82 Palestinians since the policy was established in 2015. It says many are buried in secret cemeteries where the plots are only marked by plaques of numbers. Hamas holds the remains of the two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war in an undisclosed location.
Last year, Israel’s Security Cabinet expanded the policy to include the holding of the remains of all Palestinians killed during alleged attacks, and not just those connected to Hamas. Israel considers Hamas, which rules Gaza, a terrorist group.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at the time that holding the remains deterred attacks and would help ensure the return of Israeli captives and remains. The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the policy.
One of the bodies is that of Erekat’s son, Ahmed, who Israeli officials say was shot and killed after deliberately plowing into a military checkpoint in June 2020. Security camera footage shows the car veering into a group of Israeli soldiers and sending one of them flying back. Ahmed steps out of the car and raises one of his hands before he is shot multiple times and falls to the ground.
His family says it was an accident. Mustafa said his son was passing through the checkpoint on his way to the nearby city of Bethlehem to buy clothes for his sister’s wedding later that night. The shooting attracted widespread attention, in part because Ahmed was the nephew of Saeb Erekat, a veteran Palestinian spokesman and negotiator who died last year.
Ahmed was to get married soon, his father said: “He had a house that was ready for him.”
To this day, he has no idea where his son’s remains are.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Israel has turned “corpses into bargaining chips.” The policy is “deliberately and unlawfully punishing the families of the deceased, who are not accused of any wrongdoing,” he said.
Israel has a long history of exchanging prisoners and remains with its enemies. In 2011, it traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier who had been captured by Palestinian militants five years earlier and was being held in Gaza.
In 2008, it traded five Lebanese prisoners, including a notorious militant, and the remains of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinians killed in fighting, for the remains of two Israeli soldiers captured by the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group two years earlier.
Egypt has been mediating negotiations over a similar agreement that would return the remains of the two soldiers, as well as two Israeli civilians believed to be alive, held by Hamas in Gaza.
In the meantime, the Erekats and other Palestinian families must turn to Israel’s Supreme Court in a process involving multiple hearings that can drag on for years.
The court denied a recent appeal by the Erekats, citing confidential information submitted by the military. Mustafa Erekat says the system is rigged. He accused the court of dragging its feet until the policy on holding the remains was expanded and then relying on secret evidence.
Mohammed Aliyan, spokesman for six Palestinian families who filed a Supreme Court petition for the return of their relatives’ bodies in 2016, said the judges initially sided with the families before an appeal from the military.
“They always go along with the military’s demands,” Aliyan told The Associated Press, “They are afraid to take any decision against them.”
Liron Libman, an expert on military law at the Israel Democracy Institute, said there are situations where certain pieces of information can’t be made public for fear of exposing protected sources or special operations.
“Each side has the right to request a postponement of the hearing, and the court will accept the request if it believes it is for a justifiable reason,” Libman told the AP.
Even if a family’s petition is successful, locating relatives’ bodies for exhumation can pose further challenges, especially in cases when bodies were buried decades ago.
Rami Saleh, the director of Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, said his organization has dealt with cases where Israeli authorities were unable to locate bodies and also those where Palestinian family members needed to take DNA tests to confirm the remains of a relative.
Mustafa said he has not given up hope and intends to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision. In the meantime, he and Aliyan, the spokesman for the other families, attend weekly sit-ins calling for the release of all bodies held by Israeli authorities.
“The feeling of not being able to bury your relative’s body is more painful than their death,” Aliyan said.
VLADIMIR Putin’s top weapons designers are developing a 4,000mph hypersonic nuclear missile that is capable of reducing a city anywhere on Earth to ashes within minutes.
The nukes will be fired from fifth-generation fighter Su-57 and travel five times faster than sound — making it almost impossible to shoot down.
Russian news agency Interfax reports the missile will be used against sea targets and ports and undergo tests by the end of this year.
Citing sources in the Russian Defence Ministry, Izvestia newspaper reports the hypersonic weapon is being designed for the Su-57 stealth fighter by the Tactical Missile Corporation under a codename “Larchinka-MD”.
It writes: “It will fly at speeds five or more times faster than sound and will become virtually invulnerable to modern air and missile defence systems.”
Earlier this it emerged that Russia said today it has successfully test-fired its new lethal Zircon hypersonic missile from a submarine for the first time.
Video footage shows the 6,670mph rocket being fired from the nuclear-powered sub-Severodvinsk before streaking into the night sky.
The weapon was launched from the surface in the White Sea and successfully hit a target in the Barents Sea, said the defence ministry in Moscow.
Russia claims the “unstoppable” Mach 9 missile is able to evade all Western defences.
“The Russian navy carried out the first tests of the Zircon hypersonic missile from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine,” an official statement read.
“The missile was test-fired at a conditional sea target in the Barents Sea.
“The test-firing of the Zircon missile from the nuclear submarine was recognised as successful.”
Russia said last week said it had completed flight tests of the new-age missile from a frigate, the Admiral Gorshkov, and a coastal mount.