Thousands of Jews attended prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to observe the start of the Tisha B’Av fasting day on Monday night, days after violence shook
Prayer leaders read aloud from the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah’s biblical account of the destruction of the First Jewish Temple by invading Babylonians in 586 BC.
The Western Wall is a remnant of the Second Jewish Temple, built on the site of the first and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
The wall is at the foot of the Temple Mount compound, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden-topped Dome of the Rock in the heart of the Old City, the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
It is the most sacred site for Jews, who revere it as the location of the two destroyed temples.
Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both temples, as well several other disasters in Jewish history.
The event comes after relative calm returned to Jerusalem following nearly two weeks of Palestinian protests over security measures at the Temple Mount, installed after a July 14 terror attack in which three Israeli Arabs shot dead two Israeli Druze policemen with weapons they had smuggled onto the compound.
While many of the thousands of worshipers at the Western Wall on Monday evening were religious, recognizable by the men’s skullcaps and women’s long dresses, secular Jews also attended the ceremonies.
“I’m not really religious but it’s important for me to come here for this commemoration, this day of mourning,” said 25-year-old Leora Kaufman.
“Tisha B’Av is also a reminder of the need to stay united,” she said.
"The United Nations has become a threat to the liberal international order. It weakens the constitution of liberal democratic states by attacking the political and cultural conditions required for their survival. It attacks the security of free-world countries and the common values that underpin free societies. In recent years, UN leadership has become more hostile to free citizens and politicians who dissent from illiberal supranational rule.
The UN often acts against the free world by targeting politicians who defend the liberty, security and safety of free citizens. In particular, UN chiefs target pro-Western politicians who defend the free world by upholding democratic rule over supranational rule and adopt secure border policy to keep free societies free. During the US presidential campaign, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said he didn't intend to interfere with political campaigns but declared Donald Trump 'dangerous from an international point of view'.
UN members attack the free world by smearing pro-Western politicians with propaganda terms such as xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism and populism. Its leadership has framed democratic citizens' defence of free-world countries as 'xenophobia'. They call democratically elected politicians who represent their people and protect them from harm 'populist'. They claim secure border policy is a form of nationalism and by extension (in UN thought), an abuse of human rights. And they depict the UN as a bastion of benevolent internationalism, despite its track record...
The UN rails against conservative party politicians who defend secure border policy so that Western democracy and open society and can flourish. Human rights chief Hussein described right-wing Western politicians as 'demagogues' and compared their 'tactics' with those of genocidal Islamic State.
However, the UN adopts a comparatively accommodationist approach to closed and illiberal -societies under Islamist and communist rule. Last year, the UN General Assembly honoured communist dictator Fidel Castro with a minute of silence. On that day, as on so many others, it entertained attacks on Israel's sovereignty by Islamists. And the UN is yet to explain how its benevolent internationalism includes the Organisation of Islamic Co¬operation's redefinition of human rights to disallow freedoms 'contrary to the principles of the sharia'... Liberal internationalists need to ¬acknowledge there's something rotten in the state of the UN."
A United States Navy helicopter fired flares on Friday at Iranian vessels that approached a group of American ships “at a high rate of speed,” in the latest Persian Gulf encounter between U.S. and Iranian forces.
The helicopter, which was attached to the USS Nimitz and an accompanying warship, was patrolling in international airspace when it noticed a number of rocket-bearing Iranian vessels, according to the Navy.
After the helicopter’s attempts to establish communications with the Iranian ships were not answered, it fired flares and the Iranians stopped their approach.
Iran presented the incident in a different light. Mimicking a frequent U.S. Navy chargeabout Iranian conduct in the Persian Gulf, the IRGC claimed that the U.S. Navy behaved in a “provocative and unprofessional” manner.
“At 4:00 PM Friday, July 28, US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier accompanied by its warship, while under surveillance by IRGC missile boats, began flying a helicopter over the ‘Resalat’ gas-oil field and approaching IRGC vessels,” the IRGC said in a statement.
It added that “the US warships in a provocative and unprofessional move began firing warning shots at the Iranian vessels, to which the IRGC Navy’s ships paid no attention and continued with their mission.”
Earlier last week, an Iranian ship came within 150 yards of the USS Thunderbolt, prompting the U.S. patrol boat to fire warning shots.
When we reported yesterday about Putin's surprisingly harsh response to last week's House legislation to launch new sanctions against Russia, which also binds Trump from unilaterally removing sanctions without getting Congressional approval, we concluded that "now we await the US re-retaliation in what is once again the same tit-for-tat escalation that marked the latter years of the Obama regime, as the US Military Industrial Complex breathes out a sigh of relief that for all the posturing by Trump, things between Russia and the US are back on autopilot."
We didn't have long to wait.
The WSJ reports that, in what appears to be the next gambit by the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex (or "deep state" for those so inclined) to force Trump to "prove" that he did not, in fact, collude or have any ties with Russia or Vladimir Putin, Pentagon and State Department officials have devised plans to hit Russia where it hurts the most, and supply Ukraine with antitank missiles and other weaponry, and are now seeking White House approval at a time when ties between Moscow and Washington are as bad as during any point under the Obama administration.
American military officials and diplomats say the arms, which they characterized as defensive, are meant to deter aggressive actions by Moscow, which the U.S. and others say has provided tanks and other sophisticated armaments as well as military advisers to rebels fighting the Kiev government.
The question of course is, "why now?" Since the start of the Crimean conflict, which in turn was the byproduct of a State Department-facilitiated presidential coup in Ukraine, the US has been supporting Russian-speaking insurgents in the country’s east however Washington, wary of escalating the conflict, has largely limited its support for Kiev’s military to so-called non-lethal aid and training.
So one attempt at "why now", is because with Trump reeling, and having already caved on the latest Congressional anti-Russia bill, why not push the president to escalate the Russia conflict to a point where not even his predecessor dared to take it. For now, Trump is unaware of the plan:
A senior administration official said there has been no decision on the armaments proposal and it wasn’t discussed at a high-level White House meeting on Russia last week. The official said President Donald Trump hasn’t been briefed on the plan and his position isn’t known.
Meanwhile, setting the stage for the escalation, a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, said the U.S. has not “ruled out the option” of providing “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has endorsed the plan, according to U.S. officials quoted by the WSJ.
Going back three years, when the Obama administration considered supplying arms to Ukraine - and ultimately refused to do so - it faced considerable opposition from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other allied leaders and instead provided Kiev with short-range radar, night-vision goggles and other equipment.
So, ironically, just as Trump's imminent signing into law of the Congressional sanctions against Russia, which as we explained before, have already infuriated Europe, so any further escalation in Ukraine will likely add to Europe's animosity toward the US.
Meanwhile, NATO continues to deploy even more troops to countries in the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe, something which Russia has warned it takes as an act of aggression. Over weapons deliveries to Ukraine rebels may be just the spark that finally launches an armed conflict between Russia and NATO.
And another amusing detour: the WSJ writes that "U.S. and European officials are divided on how Moscow would respond to new arms shipments. Some believe it would push Moscow back to the bargaining table and others think it would prompt the Russian military to escalate the situation further."
Spoiler alert: it would be the latter, and most likely with devastating consequences. John McCain, for one, is delighted.
Much has been said about NATO reinforcements in the Baltic States and Poland perceived in Moscow as provocative actions undermining security in Europe, while very little has been said about gradual but steady militarization of Scandinavia. The theme does not hit headlines and it is not in focus of public discourse but one step is taken after another to turn the region into a springboard for staging offensive actions against Russia.
Norway is being expanded to become Norway’s main air force base hosting US-made F-35 Lightnings – the stealth aircraft to become the backbone of Norwegian air power. Norway has purchased 56 of such aircraft. F-35 is an offensive, not defensive, weapon. The nuclear capable platforms can strike deep into Russia’s territory.
Providing training to Norwegian pilots operating the planes carrying nuclear weapons, such as B61-12 glider warheads, constitutes a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968.
The choice of the base was carefully calculated to keep the planes away from the reach of Russian Iskander missiles (500 kilometres) but no location in Norway is beyond the operational range of Kalibr ship-based sea-to-shore missiles and aircraft armed with long-range air-to-surface missiles.
In June, Norway’s government announced that the decision was taken to extend the rotational US Marine Corps force stationed at Værnes through 2018. The move contradicts the tried-and-true Norwegian policy of not deploying foreign military bases in the country in times of peace.
Also in June, the United States, United Kingdom and Norway agreed in principle to create a trilateral coalition built around the P-8 maritime aircraft to include joint operations in the North Atlantic near the Russian Northern Fleet bases.
The facts listed above show the situation is grave enough to top the agenda of the NATO-Russia Council. But it’s not the case as yet. Last year, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current President of Germany who was Foreign Minister at the time, slammed NATO for «saber-rattling and war cries» and provocative military activities in the proximity of Russia’s borders. He called for an arms control deal between the West and Russia. Fifteen other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) joined Steinmeier's initiative: France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Portugal.
Russia’s proposal to discuss a new European security treaty was rejected by the West. The draft document was published in 2009. In March 2015, Russia expressed its readiness for negotiations concerning a new agreement regarding the control of conventional weapons in Europe.