Sunday, February 18, 2018

Iran vs Israel: War Approaches

Waving piece of downed drone, PM threatens direct military action against Iran

Brandishing a fragment of an Iranian drone downed over northern Israel a week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned that Israel could strike the Islamic Republic directly and cautioned Tehran not to “test Israel’s resolve.”
“Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should, it’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran — do not test Israel’s resolve!” proclaimed Netanyahu at the Munich Security Conference, which was also attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The Iranian drone, which entered northern Israel from Syria near the Jordan border last Saturday, was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. In response to the drone incursion, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said last week.
During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was apparently hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
The flareup on the northern border marked the first direct confrontation between the Israeli air force and the Iranian regime on Israeli territory. Israel has warned of growing Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria and has said it will not abide an Iranian military presence on its borders.
“Through its proxies — Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza — Iran is devouring huge swaths of the Middle East,” said Netanyahu.
“Israel will not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” he added. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”
In his remarks on Sunday, the prime minister also railed against the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, lambasted the Iranian regime, and branded Zarif the “smooth-talking mouthpiece of Iran.”
“I’ll say this, he lies eloquently,” Netanyahu said. “Zarif said it was wrong to say Iran is radical. If that’s true, why do they hang gays from cranes in city squares?”
Displaying a map of the Middle East, Netanyahu noted that while the Islamic State terrorist group is in retreat, Iran has been steadily making gains. Israeli military intelligence has helped prevent dozens of terror attacks in dozens of countries by Islamic State, said Netanyahu.

Iran is trying to take over large swaths of the Middle East, including setting up naval bases in the Mediterranean, Netanyahu charged.
“Can you imagine Iranian submarines next to the US Sixth Fleet? Next to the port of Haifa?” he asked.

Iranian FM calls Netanyahu speech a ‘cartoonist’s circus’

Iran’s foreign minister mocks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a Munich security conference as a “cartoonish circus.”
“You were the audience for a cartoonish circus just this morning which does not even deserve the dignity of a response,” says Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Zarif was speaking after Netanyahu brandished a piece of an Iranian drone that Israel shot down recently and vowed to take military action against Iran.

Lebanese defense minister says country will protect itself from Israeli attacks

Lebanese Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf says his country is prepared to defend itself if Israel launches strikes on its territory.
The comments came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed off a piece of an Iranian drone shot down in its airspace, and said it would “act if necessary” against Iran and its proxies, such as the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Sarraf tells participants at the Munich Security Conference he’d had “an Israeli drone above my head for the past 15 years” but that his country has “no belligerent intent” against anyone.
But he says “we will defend ourselves” and that “we are for peace, yet we will not stand for any threat and we will not accept any aggression. ”

Israeli fighter jets continued to strike Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Sunday, as the army said the rocket sirens heard in border communities throughout the night were false alarms.
Ten “terror targets” linked to the Hamas terrorist group were destroyed in the early hours of the morning, the army said. Eight were hit by air force strikes while two by cross-border tank fire, according to the IDF.
Earlier in the night, eight sites, including one that the army said was managed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were destroyed in response to a bomb attack on an IDF patrol in which four soldiers were injured.
The targets included observation posts, an attack tunnel and Hamas weapons factories, the army said.
The army also said that a number of rocket sirens heard across the border region were false alarms.
“There was no rocket fire shot towards Israeli territory,” the IDF spokesperson said of the sirens heard hours after one rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in the community of Sha’ar Hanegev, causing significant damage but no injuries.
In the fourth warning signal of the night, residents of the southern cities of Ashkelon and Sderot were sent running to bomb shelters shortly after 3 a.m. Moments earlier, similar signals were heard in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions.
The warnings came on a day of escalating violence.
Earlier Saturday, four IDF soldiers were wounded, two seriously, when a bomb exploded next to their patrol on the Gaza border fence.
In a separate incident, an IDF tank opened fire on a group of Palestinians approaching the border in a “suspicious manner,” the army said. The Hamas-run health ministry said at least two people were wounded.
In response, Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad Din al Qassam, claimed that it had used anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli jets flying over the coastal territory.

After an intense Saturday, IDF forces struck 18 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Air sirens were heard in communities close to the operations, yet no rockets were fired on Israel.

IDF forces struck 18 Hamas targets Saturday night, the IDF spokesperson's office reported. Among these targets were two Hamas outposts and weapons manufacturing facilities.

The attack was carried out by the Israeli Air Force as well as other army units, and the figure includes the targets struck earlier in the day. 

The IDF holds Hamas responsible for all that happens in the Gaza Strip and is determined to ensure the security of the people of Israel by any means necessary, the IDF spokesperson's unit stated.

This follows an intense Saturday during which the IAF struck various Hamas targets in the Gaza strip in response to a bomb detonation that wounded four Israeli soldiers as they patrolled the border fence.

Two soldiers were in serious condition, one was moderately wounded and one was lightly wounded, the army said. They were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba.

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed during strikes on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Palestinian Authority news site Wafa reported Sunday morning. The report states that the two were killed in Rafah city.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman vowed Sunday to eliminate those responsible for an explosive devicewhich wounded four IDF soldiers on the Gaza border on Saturday afternoon.

"Until we eliminate them, the score remains unsettled. It will take two days, a week, or two weeks. We'll eliminate anyone behind the attack's execution," Liberman told Ynet on Sunday morning, adding that the Popular Resistance Committees organization (PRC), a group comprising several terror groups, was behind the attack.

The attack took place around 4 p.m., east of Khan Yunis and the southern Gaza Strip, when the patrol from the Golani Brigade and members of a combat engineering unit arrived to investigate a suspicious flag that was spotted on the Palestinian side of the fence, following protests that broke out along the border on Friday. 

While examining the flag, to which the improvised explosive device was attached, the device exploded, seriously wounding two soldiers and moderately wounding another two. 

On Sunday the condition of one of the seriously wounded soldiers improved to moderate after he regained consciousness and began breathing on his own. The second seriously wounded soldier was still under anesthesia and on ventilator at the ICU at Saroka hospital in Beersheba. The other two soldiers are still in moderate condition.

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