Saturday, September 17, 2016

Israel Readies For Next War, Russia: 'U.S. Fails To Fulfill Obligations" In Syrian Truce, European Leaders Rushing To Create New Army

Israel readies for 1,500 rockets a day in next war

Israel's army estimates that thousands of rockets could slam into the Jewish state in any future conflagration, military sources said Friday ahead of a nationwide civil defence drill.
"Total war on several fronts, destruction of essential equipment and infrastructure and heavy rocket bombardment" all form part of the scenario for the exercise, which runs from Sunday until September 21, the army said.
The drill is based on projections of the army's Home Front Command, which estimates 1,500 rockets crashing into the country each day, military sources said in a briefing to Israeli reporters, local media reported.
The projectiles could be launched simultaneously by Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah across Israel's northern border and to a far lesser extent from Hamas-ruled Gaza in the south.
Hamas is said to have been left seriously weakened after a 2014 Gaza war against Israel, but it still holds thousands of rockets, according to a military official.
Hezbollah has at least 100,000 and probably more, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Only around one in 100 rockets is likely to hit a building, military sources say, with the rest falling on open ground or being intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system.
They say 95 percent of rockets fired will likely carry a light payload and have a range of less than 40 kilometres (25 miles), but Hezbollah can hit densely-populated central Israel with dozens of rockets each day.
The Home Front Command, tasked with leading and coordinating civil defence, regularly publishes maps showing the maximum time, by location, that Israelis have to take shelter after air raid sirens sound.
In Tel Aviv, Israel's seaside commercial and leisure capital, the time to scramble to safety has been reassessed from 90 seconds at present to 60 in the next conflict.
After a 2006 war with Hezbollah, an official inquiry criticised authorities for lack of preparedness and organisation in civil defence procedures.
During that conflict, the Shiite militia rained about 4,000 rockets on Israel and sent a million civilians into shelters, many of them dilapidated and cramped.
The 34 days of fighting took the lives of more than 1,200 on the Lebanese side, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, almost all soldiers.

The Russian General Staff said that the United States fails to fulfill obligations on Syria, adding that Washington will be responsible for the breakdown of the ceasefire if the situation does not change

The US did not respond to Russia's appeal containing data on the violations of the Syrian truce by US-controlled armed groups, the chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, said Saturday.

"The United States didn't reply to any of our appeals containing information on ceasefire violations by US-controlled armed groups. Moreover, the US side declines telephone conversations, including those planned in advance, as it happened yesterday," Savchenko said during a videoconference.

"This indicates that the United States does not control the situation in Syria and is not ready to take steps to force US-controlled militants to implement ceasefire."

During a video link-up, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir, the first deputy chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, said the number of ceasefire violations by Syrian rebel groups had been steadily on the rise since the truce came into force last Monday.

"Five days into the truce, we can say that only the Russian and Syrian sides have fulfilled their commitments. The United States and the so-called moderate groups under their control have not fulfilled a single obligation."

Intermittent shelling and clashes resumed overnight in Syria, a monitor said on Saturday, testing a strained truce brokered by Russia and the United States.

An initial 48-hour ceasefire came into force on Monday evening, and was extended for another two days on Wednesday.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, “limited shelling and clashes have resumed on several fronts in Syria.”

In particular, fighting erupted between rebels and pro-regime forces in the opposition-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, and air strikes hit several towns in the central province of Homs.

In the coastal province of Latakia, fresh regime air strikes hit rebel groups, including fighters from Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate, in the flashpoint region of Jabal Akrad.

“Still no progress, but the UN is ready to move once we get the go ahead,” said David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The UN has said it cannot deliver aid until “all guarantees are in place for safe delivery.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he remained "more positive than negative" over a shaky ceasefire in Syria, but a senior rebel in Aleppo warned the truce "will not hold out" as some fighting persisted and aid failed to come through. 

The ceasefire is the result of an agreement between Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with air power, and the United States, which supports some rebel groups, and has cooled fighting since coming into effect last Monday.

But in comments delivered in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday, Putin cast doubt over Washington's commitment to the deal, saying it was "deviating" from its own call for openness, and had been unable to split moderate from "semi-criminal" rebels. 

Insurgents say they only reluctantly accepted the initial deal, which they believe is skewed against them, because it could relieve the dire humanitarian situation in besieged areas they control, and blamed Russia for undermining the truce. 

Moscow has itself accused rebels of breaking the truce and said Washington needs to do more to make them abide by its terms, including separating from the jihadist Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which only broke formal allegiance to al Qaeda in July. 

The spotlight will be on Syria when world leaders gather at the United Nations next week as the United States and Russia try to shore up a fragile truce deal and President Barack Obama pushes for a boost in global refugee aid.

Some 135 heads of state and government and dozens of ministers will attend the 71st General Assembly, the last for both Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will step down at the end of 2016 after a decade in the job.

"While many conflicts are causing enormous pain, none is causing so much death, destruction and widespread instability as the worsening war in Syria," Ban told reporters on Wednesday. "Major countries with influence have a duty to use their influence and seize this latest opportunity to pursue a political solution."

Members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which includes Russia and the United States, are likely to meet on the sidelines at the United Nations on Tuesday, diplomats said, while the U.N. Security Council is due to hold a high-level meeting on Syria on Wednesday.

Russia had wanted the council to endorse its Syria truce deal with the United States during the meeting, but on Friday said a resolution was unlikely because Washington did not want to share the documents detailing the agreement with the 15-member body.

A new report on Friday revealed that Congress is beginning an investigation into President Obama’s secret bankrolling of an effort to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the last election, an effort that failed.

The probe follows an internal government report that found the State Department turned over the money, and then deleted emails from government accounts detailing the relationship with a group called OneVoice.

The investigation concerned about $350,000 in grants given by the United States to a group called OneVoice to “support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.”
The organization pursued that goal but later used its assets, built up with the grant money, to campaign against Netanyahu, with whom President Obama has been at odds.

The Beacon report said, “A group of nine leading lawmakers led by Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., are now formally petitioning the State Department to come clean about the effort and provide answers about how U.S. taxpayer dollars were permitted to be spent on an organization working against the elected leader of America’s closest Middle East ally.”
“State Department officials failed to properly vet the OneVoice grant proposal because they failed to properly conduct an analysis of risks in the pre-award phase,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the Beacon reported. “Unfortunately, it seems that inconsistency and apathy toward oversight of such grants at the State Department is not new. Our aid dollars should be going toward solving real problems, not contributing to the destabilization of allied governments.”

Britain repeatedly has blocked efforts to establish a European Union army over concerns it would undermine the NATO alliance, the main defense pact that now guards the region, as well as national sovereignty.

But with the U.K. on its way out of the coalition, other leaders now are leaping forward with plans, according to a new report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Soeron Kern at Gatestone Institute uncovered a German-language report that details the move.
“The document confirms rumors that European officials are rushing ahead with defense integration now that Britain – the leading military power in Europe – will be exiting the 28-member European Union,” he said.

“Proponents of European defense integration argue that it is needed to counter growing security threats and would save billions of euros in duplication between countries,” the report continued. “Critics say that the creation of a European army, a long-held goal … of European federalists, would entail an unprecedented transfer of sovereignty from European nation states to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, the de facto capital of the EU.”

The proposal is to be distributed to leaders this week who attend an informal summit in Slovakia, and they will be asked to pursue a “fast implementation.”
“Specifically, France and Germany will for the first time activate Article 44 of the Lisbon Treaty (also known as the European Constitution). This clause allows certain EU member states ‘which are willing and have the necessary capability’ to proceed with the ‘task’ of defense integration, even if other EU member states disapprove,” the Gatestone report said.
The publication said the move came up suddenly when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande decided to push forward in a project to “demonstrate” the EU’s strength without Britain.

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