The Growing Risk of Nuclear War

An unsettled year in nuclear weapons

By John Mecklin, December 24, 2018

In 2018, the world’s arms control architecture teetered on the brink of collapse as the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and threatened withdrawal from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Negotiations between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear program stalled. And Hawaii went through 38 dreadful minutes of believing it was under nuclear missile attack.

The Bulletin’s coverage of these events and many other aspects of the modern nuclear dilemma was truly comprehensive last year. What follows, then, is not a “best of” list, per se, but eight prime examples from the remarkably consistent and excellent offerings our expert authors provided throughout the year. I thank and applaud them all.

Facing nuclear reality, 35 years after The Day After

A special report by Dawn Stover

A comprehensive look at the meaning, in today’s world, of a landmark TV movie, including an interview with Ted Koppel, who led an expert panel discussion after the airing of a film that changed world nuclear history.

Dawn of a new Armageddon

By Cynthia Lazaroff

 The truly gripping account of 38 minutes of chaos that ensued after Hawaii received an all-too-believable warning that it was under what appeared to be a nuclear missile attack.

 

George H.W. Bush worked toward a soft nuclear landing for the dissolving Soviet Union

By Siegfried S. Hecker

How the late president aided the effort to secure the Soviet Union’s nuclear material and scientists as the USSR dissolved.

Expert comment: The INF and the future of arms control

By John Mecklin

A collection of extraordinary experts assesses the import of the Trump administration’s declared interest in leaving the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a foundation of the world’s arms control regime.

Robert Oppenheimer: The myth and the mystery

By Richard Rhodes

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb explains, in brilliant detail, the reality of J. Robert Oppenheimer, in contrast with his portrayal in the opera Dr. Atomic.

 

Under siege: Safety in the nuclear weapons complex

By Robert Alvarez

One of the premier experts on the US nuclear weapons complex explores an Energy Department attack on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees and reports on safety practices in the complex.

Hiroshima & Nagasaki

A collection

Through the decades, the Bulletin has been home to distinguished analysis of the US atomic bombing of two Japanese cities at the end of World War II. This collection provides an authoritative starting point for anyone interested in understanding the lasting meaning of those attacks.

Russia Expands Her Nuclear Horn

Russia Begins Testing Nuclear Weapon That Can Travel Underwater And ‘Nothing’ Can Stop It, Report Says

By Tom O’Connor On 12/25/18 at 4:13 PM

Moscow has reportedly begun testing an underwater nuclear weapon that has been touted as invincible by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Poseidon, previously known as the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System and dubbed Kanyon by the U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance, is a state-of-the-art nuclear-capable drone being developed by the Russian armed forces. Citing a defense industry source, the state-run Tass Russian News Agency reported Tuesday that the Russian navy had begun trails for the weapon at sea.

“In the sea area protected from a potential enemy’s reconnaissance means, the underwater trials of the nuclear propulsion unit of the Poseidon drone are underway,” the source said, according to the official outlet.

Russia’s nuclear-capable “doomsday” drone, named Poseidon by Russia and Kanyon by the U.S., is seen in this simulation played by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his state of the nation address, on March 1. RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE

The Poseidon’s true power has never been revealed, but rumors of its existence have swirled among defense circles for years. In September 2015, The Washington Free Beacon cited Pentagon sources as saying Russia was developing submarines armed with “Kanyon” nuclear-capable drones dubbed “city busters,” with “tens” of megaton explosive power and capable of traveling long distances at high speeds. Two months later, Russian state media outlet NTV showed blueprints of a nuclear-capable underwater drone, titled “Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System,” while covering a meeting of officials.

Putin revealed the drone’s existence during his State of the Nation address in March, along with an arsenal of other advanced weapons said capable of thwarting even the most modern defense systems—and many of which were capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads. At the time, he said that Russia had completed its development of “an innovative nuclear power unit” 100 times smaller than existing submarine reactors, but still more powerful and capable of hitting its maximum capacity 200 times faster, while carrying “massive nuclear ordnance.”

“We have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths (I would say extreme depths) intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest,” Putin told his federal assembly in March. “It is really fantastic. They are quiet, highly maneuverable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit. There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”

The Poseidon received its name later that month after the Russian Defense Ministry held a poll in which users also dubbed the Peresvet laser weapon system and 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.

A number of reports have claimed that the weapon may be capable of producing massive, radioactive tsunamis that would pose a threat to major cities. Some experts have corroborated this theory, although they have questioned the tactical effectiveness of this strategy.

Russia has set out to modernize its strategic and conventional arsenal in response to a perceived threat posed by the U.S. military dominance and development of a global missile shield made possible by Washington’s withdrawal of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2001. President Donald Trump has since threatened to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty banning land-based missile systems ranging from 310 to 3,400 miles, while Moscow has claimed that the Trump administration has not responded to offers to start talks regarding the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Washington has accused the Kremlin of attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor, something Putin and his officials have denied. Though the Republican leader set out to rebuild deteriorating ties between Washington and Moscow upon coming to office, the U.S. has since expanded sanctions against Russia and relations have only worsened between the two leading powers.

More Rioting Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Arab rioters on the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza on Oct. 12. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Gazans Riot on Land and at Sea

By Dov Benovadiaי”ז טבת תשע”ט

YERUSHALAYIM

Thousands of Gaza Arabs rioted Monday night at several points along the border fence, as dozens of boats attempted to breach the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Riots occurred near Zikim, adjacent to the eastern border of Gaza just a few kilometers from Ashkelon, and at the Erez crossing.

Israeli forces responded to rock throwing and numerous attacks using firebombs with anti-riot measures. Gaza sources said that 14 rioters were injured.

Israel was redoubling its forces in the south, after Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that this coming Friday would be “a day of great testing for the enemy.” On the weekend, the terror groups threatened to increase attacks against Israel, after four rioters died Friday after attacking Israeli soldiers. The IDF is concerned that Hamas could stage riots even before Friday, hence the buildup of forces in the south.

Israeli sources told Channel 20 that if the terror groups once again began shooting missiles at Israel, the IDF’s response would be “harsh and powerful. We will not allow a repeat of the recent events” in which Gaza terrorists shot nearly 500 missiles at Israel withing several days. “The response will not be ‘measured’ this time, but will be a harsh strike at Hamas.”

On Tuesday, security officials arrested seven Arab residents of Yerushalayim for throwing firebombs at civilians and security personnel. The seven were all youths between 15 and 20 years of age. Besides firebombs, the gang threw firecrackers and other dangerous explosives at Israeli vehicles and at the light rail. Police plan to ask for an extension of their remand.

Overnight Monday, security officials said they arrested 5 wanted security suspects in other areas in Yehudah and Shomron. The suspects were wanted for participating in rioting and throwing stones and firebombs that endangered Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. Several of the suspects were also charged with belonging to Hamas. All were being questioned on their activities by security forces.

Protests to Continue Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Great March of Return protests to continue until end of Gaza siege: Hamas

Sun Dec 23, 2018 10:19PM [Updated: Mon Dec 24, 2018 02:34AM ]

Palestinian protesters use slingshots in a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with occupied territories, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 8, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A senior official of the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, says Palestinians will continue the Great March of Return rallies until the end of the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and a member of its leadership in the Gaza Strip, made the remarks in a Sunday interview with Iran’s Al-Alam News Network in Tehran.

He said the anti-occupation rallies, known as the “Great March of Return,” have produced important results, and will not be stopped before the Israeli regime’s siege on the enclave is lifted.

Tensions have been running high near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories since March 30, which marked the start of the protests.

Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes in Gaza reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, which coincided this year with Washington’s relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

More than 220 Palestinians have so far been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, causing a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty.

PressTV-‘54 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces since Jan.’

A report shows the Israeli regime’s forces have killed 54 Palestinian children and arrested over 900 during this year.

Friday to be decisive day for Israel

The military wings of Hamas warned in a joint statement on Sunday that the coming Friday will be “decisive” in determining their response to the killing of four people during recent border protests.

The groups declared they had prepared retaliation steps, and that their use will be dependent upon Israel’s policy.

It will be “a decisive day in examining the Zionist enemy’s behavior and intentions toward our people in the March of Return,” the Sunday statement said.

The deaths were “a total crime and clear recklessness by the Zionist enemy,” which has “crossed red lines,” they continued, as reported by Israeli media.

“Regarding these crimes, the resistance will not act lightly with the enemy and stand by idly,” the statement warned.

The statement came after several Palestinians, including a teenage, were shot dead by Israeli fire and nearly fifty others sustained injuries during the latest Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

PressTV-Israeli forces shoot dead three, wound dozens in Gaza

Over 220 Palestinians have been killed since they began weekly border protests on March 30.

Iran main backer of Palestinians

In his interview with Al-Alam, al-Zahar further described Iran as the main supporter of Palestinians, and said Hamas does not do anything without consulting with Iran over the issue.

Al-Zahar made the remarks during his visit to Tehran at the head of a delegation of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Parliament.

He earlier held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani as well as Ali Akbar Velayati a senior advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

In the meeting with al-Zahar, Zarif once again reiterated the Islamic Republic’s principled policy to support Palestine, urging all countries in the Muslim world to boost their unity to defend the Palestinian cause.

“We hope that some Muslim countries that have pinned their hopes on the support of the Zionists and the US will return to the Muslim world and realize that Zionists are not a trustworthy friend or partner for anybody,” Zarif said.

The Iranian foreign minister added that efforts to counter the Palestinian resistance are unfortunately being made from inside the Muslim world, saying that all countries and Islamic movements are also under such pressure.

PressTV-Support for Palestine, Iran’s principled policy: Zarif

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif says support for Palestine is among the Islamic Republic’s principled policies.

For his part, Zahar hailed Iran’s real support for Palestine and expressed hope that the Palestinian people’s resistance and the Muslim world’s support would put an end to the Zionist project as soon as possible.

Back in May, Ayatollah Khamenei said resistance is the sole way to save the oppressed Palestinian nation.

Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed Iran’s unwavering support for Palestine and Palestinian fighters, noting that strengthening the resistance front in the Muslim world and intensifying the fight against the occupying regime of Israel and its supporters were the solution to the Palestinian issue.

Trump’s Legitimate Nuclear Option

Trump can launch nuclear weapons whenever he wants, with or without Mattis

Dec. 23, 2018

Bruce Blair and Jon Wolfsthal, The Washington Post

The abrupt and pointed resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Thursday alarmed official Washington. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., called him an “an island of stability amid the chaos of the Trump administration.” Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told The Washington Post that “having Mattis there gave all of us a great deal more comfort than we have now.”

Mattis’ departure seems to be provoking unease, especially considering how dangerous our nuclear-command arrangements are. The notion that Mattis, a former four-star Marine Corps general, could have blocked or defied a move by Trump to impulsively launch nuclear weapons may have seemed comforting, but it shouldn’t have been. The secretary of defense has no legal position in the nuclear chain of command, and any attempts by a secretary of defense to prevent the president from exercising the authority to use nuclear weapons would be undemocratic and illegal. With or without Mattis, the president has unchecked and complete authority to launch nuclear weapons based on his sole discretion.

The reaction to Mattis’ resignation, however, could open the door for the new Congress to create long-overdue legal barriers preventing the president from initiating a nuclear strike. Such a step could be implemented without any negative impact on U.S. security or that of our allies.

Every day, the U.S. nuclear early warning system is triggered by some event or another, mostly civilian and military rocket launches by one or more of a dozen countries with ballistic missiles. When such launches appear to threaten North America, the head of U.S. Strategic Command is alerted, and sometimes these alerts warrant the urgent notification of the president. That alert comes by way of a direct call from the Strategic Command or via the White House Situation Room, the emergency-operations bunker beneath the East Wing, or the national security adviser. Partly a remnant of the Cold War, this system remains in place today to ensure the president can be notified quickly of any direct threat to the United States’ nuclear arsenal and the facilities that control it. That way, he can launch nuclear missiles before they are destroyed or the U.S. government is incapacitated by incoming weapons.

In normal times, this system is precarious, and it can pressure even experienced leaders to consider nuclear weapons in a crisis sooner than warranted. Alerts stemming from ambiguous ballistic nuclear missile threats occurred multiple times during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and some alerts went directly to those presidents.

Yet, this system seems especially ill-suited to a president who has demonstrated time and again that he can be provoked into taking rash action, and who, as a candidate, openly questioned why the United States could not use the nuclear weapons it possesses. This is a dangerous set of instincts for a commander in chief with sole and unchecked authority over almost 4,000 nuclear weapons, nearly 1,000 of which could be fired within a few minutes.

For over a year, Mattis has been trying to reassure congressional leaders that he could help check some of Trump’s impulses, in part by intervening in the nuclear chain of command. In a break with normal procedures, Mattis reportedly told the commander of the Strategic Command to keep him directly informed of any event that might lead to a nuclear alert being sent to the president. He even told the Strategic Command “not to put on a pot of coffee without letting him know.”

Congressional leaders interpreted this to mean that Mattis would either deal with a possible threat before it reached Trump or ensure he was present to advise Trump when such an alert arrived.

This assurance may have helped ease concerns about our nuclear weapons for some members of Congress, but only if they were unfamiliar with how the command and control structure truly works. Personal relationships and back channels are no way to manage a nuclear arsenal.

Even informed observers are surprised to learn the president can order the use of nuclear weapons without the input – or consent – of the secretaries of Defense or State, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the vice president. They only have a role in the presidential launch protocol if the president has given prior approval for them to be notified and solicits their advice. Otherwise, none of these people would need to be involved or informed that the president has decided to use a nuclear weapon.

Under standard procedure, an attempt would be made to contact key national security officials, but in some real-world and exercise scenarios, it has proven impossible to tie them into a quickly convened emergency teleconference. Should he wish, the president could exclude all of them, and even bypass the primary designated adviser – the four-star general in charge of U.S. strategic forces – by ordering a low-ranking on-duty emergency operations officer at the Pentagon or elsewhere to transmit a launch order directly to the executing commanders of strategic U.S. submarines, silo-based missiles and bombers.

Trump could have learned all this in a briefing about nuclear weapons shortly after he took office, and his military aide, ever at his side, could explain and assist in issuing a direct order to a lower-level officer at any time.

Even if Mattis had been with Trump at a time of nuclear crisis, his resignation letter drives home the fact that Trump might very well have simply ignored his counsel. Trump, as he is proving in stark terms, listens only to himself. And any attempt by another person to physically block the president from issuing a launch order would probably result in his or her removal by the Secret Service. It is delusional and fundamentally undemocratic to think that our strongest check on a president bent on initiating nuclear war without justifiable cause might be a defense secretary trying to keep the president from communicating his launch authority using the so-called Gold Codes.

When the United States faced the prospect of sudden nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, this system helped reinforce deterrence based on a balance of nuclear terror. But since the demise of the U.S.S.R., and even with a more aggressive Russia, the whole arrangement raises questions about its necessity, risks and consistency with democratic values. It is well past time for the system to be reformed to ensure that it hews to our Constitution and mitigates as much as possible the very real risks associated with a renewed arms competition with Russia.

One key issue is whether Trump – or any president – should have the legal ability to independently initiate the use of nuclear weapons. It seems reasonable that the president needs to be able to quickly order a nuclear response if an adversary employs nuclear weapons first against us, and that he would not have time to consult with Congress or the Cabinet if nuclear missiles were headed here. (The flight time of ballistic missiles over intercontinental distances is 30 minutes or less, and the president would have only about five to seven minutes to decide whether and how to respond.)

However, our chain of command is not just a presidential preference – it can be determined by legislative action. Congress can and should prohibit any president from using nuclear weapons first. The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., proposed such legislation last year. It states that it is the policy of the United States not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. Congress could make any first-use illegal, constraining the president from issuing such an order and obligating any member of the military to disobey a command to do so. A no-first-use policy would also ratchet down tensions with Russia and facilitate reductions in the number and types of nuclear weapons in both U.S. and Russian arsenals. The logic and political salience of this position is growing, with some 20 members of the incoming Congress – including House Speaker-to-be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. – now on record supporting no first use.

Legislation to bar first use probably wouldn’t get through the Republican Senate or be signed into law by Trump. But recognition that the system puts too much power in the hands of one person increases the likelihood that the next president will either adopt such a posture or accept legislative controls. Maintaining an outdated and unstable system is clearly too dangerous.

Bending norms and the military chain of command to prevent a disastrous presidential decision is not a reliable safeguard, and extralegal measures should not be how the United States prevents a nuclear war. Neither Mattis nor anyone else can reassure the American people that a president will not, on a whim, use the most fearsome weapons humans have ever invented. Only laws can constrain such a dangerous prospect. It is well past time for our country to take control of the nuclear chain of command.

Blair is a research scholar in Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security and a founder of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Wolfsthal is a former senior director at the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation. He is now a senior adviser to Global Zero in Washington.

Russia Warns of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Russia Warns of Global Conflict Following Nuclear Pact Collapse

UN rejects Russian resolution in support of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Reuters

23.12.2018 |

Russia said on Saturday that the scrapping of a Cold War era nuclear pact may lead to an arms race and direct confrontation between several global regions, after a proposal by Moscow was rejected in a United Nations vote.

Moscow had put forward a resolution in support of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty which bans Moscow and Washington from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the UN had failed to vote in favor of the proposal.

“A new blow has been dealt on the global architecture of security and stability. Now, with the collapse of the INF treaty, several global regions could be plunged into the arms race or even into a direct confrontation,” it said.

Washington has threatened to pull out of the accord, saying Moscow failed to comply with it.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of raising the risk of nuclear war by threatening to spurn the key arms control treaty and refusing to hold talks about another pact that expires soon.

Four Palestinians Killed Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest near the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip December 21, 2018.REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Four Palestinians Killed in Border Protests, Gaza Authorities Say

Jack Khoury22.12.2018 | 15:40

The latest fatality, an 18-year-old Palestinian who was hit by a bullet to his stomach during Friday’s demonstration, succumbed to his wounds on Saturday

An 18-year-old Palestinian identified as Iman Munir Shubir succumbed to his wounds on Saturday after he was wounded gravely by a bullet that hit him in the stomach during protests at the border between Israel and Gaza, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

Shubir, who hails from the city of Deir al-Balah, was hurt while participating in a demonstration east of the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Bureij in the center of the Strip.

His death brings the death toll from Friday’s Gaza demonstrations to four.

The three other fatalities from Friday’s clashes between Gazan protesters and Israeli security forces are the 16-year-old Mohammad al-Jahjuh, who was shot east of Gaza City; the 40-year-old Maher Yasin, who was shot east of al-Bureij and the 28-year-old Abed al-Aziz Sharia, who was shot east of Gaza.

According to Gaza authorities, Yasin suffered from mental and cognitive disablities.

At least 40 other people were wounded by live Israeli fire, and three were injured from tear gas inhalation.

The Israeli militarty said around 8,000 Palestinians gathered near the border fence on Friday: Most kept their distance, while some burned tires and tried to throw an explosive device into Israel, though unsuccessfully.

“Troops responded with riot dispersal means and fired in accordance with standard operating procedures,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

Since the Gaza border protests began in March, around 240 Palestinians died in confrontations with the Israeli military.

Ramallah’s Health Ministry reported last week that an 18-year-old resident of the refugee camp Jalazone was killed by live Israeli fire during altercations between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the West Bank.

According to the health ministry, two other Palestinians were wounded by live fire and were evacuated to a hospital in the West Bank to receive medical care.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

Hamas Threatens New Violence Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

IDF chief urges caution in Gaza as Hamas threatens new violence

Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Sunday urged caution over the violence in the Gaza Strip, saying that a decision on launching a wide-scale Israeli military operation in the coastal enclave should be made based on “informed decisions,” rather than emotions. Meanwhile, the terror groups in Gaza vowed Sunday to avenge the deaths of four Palestinian protesters killed in weekend clashes with the IDF, which some fear will spark another escalation on the southern border.

On Friday, four Palestinian protesters, including a teenager, were fatally shot by IDF troops during the March of Return demonstrations along the border fence, prompting the Gaza factions to issue a statement threatening to respond to “Israel’s stupidity and its crimes against our people.”

Eizenkot said that Israel had a range of options open to it for dealing with Gaza.

“The question is whether to launch a major military operation, or choose a different option … For now, we’ve decided to go with a different option that would bring us the best results. We are not afraid to use force but it has to be done intelligently,” said the chief of staff.

“The use of force in Gaza will subsequently lead to questions whether it can ever be rehabilitated,” Eisenkot continued. “Although the Strip is ruled by a terrorist organization with murderous ideology that seeks to destroy Israel, it’s responsible for two million people living there.”

For the past month there has been relative quiet on the Gaza border as Israel and Hamas observed an Egypt and UN-brokered ceasefire following the biggest round of fighting between the two sides since 2014 Operation Protective Edge.

“Hamas is relatively deterred and has been in distress due to a series of decisions made by the Palestinian Authority, which has backed them into a corner. This led them to organize the border protests with the goals of easing the blockade, gaining international legitimacy and inciting violence in the West Bank—all of which they failed to achieve,” Eisenkot said.

The IDF chief also hit back at the criticism aimed at him by both former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, for allowing $90 million of Qatari aid earmarked for Hamas civil servants and welfare to enter the Strip, despite the unstable security situation on the border.

IDF’s outgoing Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (Photo: Yariv Katz)

“I am aware that we have not been able to provide a good sense of security over the past three years to the residents of the Gaza border communities due to the primitive fighting methods developed by the enemy,” he said.

Eisenkot also added that although he doesn’t agree with the notion that Israel has lost its deterrence, he admits that the situation in Gaza is “complex.”

“States and organizations can not be deterred from conventional expansion … We are doing a great deal to prevent the smuggling of advanced weapons into the Gaza Strip.” he said.

Three More Palestinians Die Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

The Gaza Health Ministry said more than 208 Palestinians have been killed in protests at the Gaza-Israel border since weekly protests began March 30. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Three Palestinians dead in clashes at Gaza border with Israel

Danielle Haynes

Dec. 21 (UPI) — Three Palestinians died during violence Friday marking nine months of weekly protests at the Gaza-Israel border, the Gaza Ministry of Health said.

Palestinian news agency WAFA identified the dead Mohammad Mo’een Jahjouh, 16, Abdul-Aziz Abu Shari’a, 28, and Maher Yasin, 40. Health officials said another 27 people sustained injuries, including journalists and medical workers.

Humanitarian Crisis Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

A Palestinian woman gives water to her son in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip (December 19, 2018). (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

Gaza heading toward a ‘large size’ humanitarian catastrophe: UN aid envoy

James Reinl

With depreciation of donors to support the UN’s response plan, essential services, including food supplies, and medical procedures like eye and heart surgeries, could be delayed.

NEW YORK —  Gaza residents can expect more cuts to food handouts, healthcare and schools in 2019, with funding shortfalls likely to worsen their already-difficult lives, the United Nations aid envoy to the Palestinian territory told TRT World.

In an interview, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, said less money from the United States and other donors would lead to cutbacks in the New Year.

“Some people will get less services than they deserve,” McGoldrick told TRT World in a telephone interview from Gaza.

“We cannot ignore the growing large size of the humanitarian catastrophe that’s here in Gaza and also in the West Bank.”

On Wednesday, the UN’s World Food Program said it would, as of January 1, suspend food to 20 percent of recipients in the Gaza Strip. According to McGoldrick, that could grow to half of all 300,000 Gazans receiving handouts in the subsequent months.

Medical procedures, including eye and heart surgeries, could be delayed, he added. Schools that currently have two teaching shifts will “operate more round-the-clock” by filling classrooms with extra batches of students each day.

The UN unveiled its 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Palestinians this week, lowering its funding request to $350m — down from $550m in 2018 — and cutting the number of people targeted from 1.9m to 1.4m. Three quarters of recipients are in Gaza.

Donations were down in many areas globally, said McGoldrick. But local aid work was hit particularly hard this year when Washington ended funding for the UN agency that helps 5 million Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA.

The Trump administration announced in August that it would halt all future donations to UNRWA, leaving it with a $300m funding gap, in a move that was widely seen as a way to pressure Ramallah to enter peace talks with Israel.

“There’s also been a depreciation of other donors to the response plan,” McGoldrick told TRTWorld.

“That’s got to do with global reality and significant competing interests in the region — places like Yemen, Libya and Syria are all taking attention away from Palestine, which has been a long-standing and politically paralysed crisis.”

Funding cuts added to the coastal strip’s woes, which include joblessness, water and electricity shortages, the Israeli-led blockade, Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and hostilities, added McGoldrick.

Peter Mulrean, the New York-based representative for UNRWA, which assists Palestinian refugees, said cuts threatened the employment schemes and school counselling services on which many Gazans depend.

“If we see humanitarian funding diminish, we can predict that 2019 will be a very bleak year,” Mulrean told TRT World.

Mulrean noted that UNRWA employees occupied the agency’s headquarters in Gaza to protest lay offs resulting from this year’s US funding cuts. McGoldrick warned of heightened “tension” in Gaza when aid cuts bite.

Some 175 Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli forces in Gaza this year after a series of often-violent protests erupted in March over Israel’s long-running blockade of the overcrowded coastal territory of some 1.8 million people.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, told TRT World that Palestinians had been “collectively able to withstand this onslaught by the current US administration” and were coping with cuts to UNRWA and to hospitals in East Jerusalem.

He praised the “massive political support form the international community” in filling some US funding shortfalls and said “we sincerely hope that this political support and financial support would continue” in 2019.

This week, UN peace coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said that while Gaza’s humanitarian situation was dire, Qatari funding for the Gaza Power Plant had helped increase daily electricity supplies to more than 11 hours.

“Private homes, hospitals, schools, water facilities, businesses are all benefitting,” Mladenov told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

“Seventy-five per cent of the sewage can now be treated again, significantly reducing the contamination levels caused by discharge into the sea. Piped water supply has increased by 40 percent, almost fully meeting water demand for domestic household purposes.”

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East conflict.

Israel says that its West Bank barrier and checkpoints, and restrictions on movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, are security measures needed to protect its citizens.