A Grad rocket fired at the southern Israeli city of Ashdod from the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. Four more were fired earlier, but none caused any casualties or damage. In response, Israeli assault helicopters opened fire on the northern Gaza Strip late Thursday. The action puts pressure on the new truce between the two sides.
After a week of non-stop missile fire on a dozen towns and villages, Israel Thursday night gave Egypt and Hamas two days to halt the shooting or else the IDF will go into action against Gaza. debkafile’s military sources report that neither Egypt nor Hamas can be expected to go up against the missile shooters because the attacks have now been taken over from Jihad Islami by a small group of Salafi Palestinians that belongs to Jalalat, an al Qaeda organization. Most of the missiles coming from the Salafi concentrations target the southern cities. Egypt and Hamas don’t know exactly who is giving Haraka the missiles, except that they are smuggled from Sinai through tunnels managed by Iranian intelligence agents in conjunction with local al Qaeda networks. It is highly unlikely that Hamas will venture to lay hands on these Salafi terrorists at a time when one of its top officials in Gaza, Mahmoud A-Zahar, is visiting Tehran for talks with Iranian leaders who are keen to keep the missile assaults going. His visit marks the Hamas fundamentalists’ return to the Iranian fold – that is if they ever really left it. Israeli strategists have chosen to ignore and are treating Hamas as a non-participant in the missile offensive and available to help Cairo bring the terrorists to accept a ceasefire, but the sequence of events leading up to this week’s violence points to the opposite conclusion and probably the reason for the escalation of the violence rather than a solid truce. Five days before the missile fire began, on March 5, a Hamas Deputy Politburo Chief Mousa Abu Marzouk and Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah met in Beirut and finalized tactics for building up tensions on Israel’s borders. Monday, March 12, Mahmoud A-Zahar was in Cairo to wind up Gaza ceasefire terms with Egyptian officials when, to their astonishment, instead of returning to Gaza, he boarded a plane to Tehran. He is still there. And so, while the Egyptians try and reach some sort of accommodation with Hamas for a truce, Hamas itself is in close communion with the Iranians, who want to see the Israeli military stuck in a messy a showdown with the Palestinian Salafis.
Iran is paying off Hamas members to form independent militias to do Tehran’s bidding against Israel, according to WND. Iran has been paying off Hamas militia members to answer directly to Tehran instead of the Hamas leadership amid a stated decision by the Islamic group to stay out of any war between Iran and Israel. Now, Hamas sources say they have found at least seven high Hamas military officers bribed by Iran to work with Islamic Jihad and other Gazan groups to keep firing rockets at Israel during any confrontation between the Jewish state and Iran. Hamas has been probing whether Iran is planning a coup d’état against it but has only found information about the bribes. Egyptian intelligence officials have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to restore calm on the Israel-Gaza border. Egyptian officials involved in the talks say that Hamas has been trying to halt the rocket-fire coming from Iranian-sponsored Gazan groups, including Islamic Jihad.The Egyptian officials say Hamas asked them to press Islamic Jihad to agree to a cease-fire. The sources complain that Iran has been pressuring Islamic Jihad to escalate the rocket attacks. Citing Hamas sources, WND reported last December that the jihadist group had been asked by the Egyptian military to stay out of any future confrontation between Israel and Iran. For the first time in recent years, Hamas, buoyed by major Muslim Brotherhood gains in the region, was considering distancing itself somewhat from Iran, the sources said. Just last week, senior Hamas member Salah Bardawil said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper of London that Hamas “will not do Iran’s bidding in any war with Israel and will not launch rockets at Israel at Tehran’s request. If there is a war between two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war.” Zahar concurred with Bardawil. Later, however, Zahar denied telling the BBC that Hamas would respond to an Israel attack on Iran saying, “Retaliation with utmost power is the position of Hamas with regard to a Zionist war on Iran.”
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was in Iran Thursday, meeting with leaders to gather support following a weekend of military exchanges with Israel, Iranian state-run news agency IRNA reported. Zahar met with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, according to the report, who expressed his full support for the Palestinian cause and condemned the “dastard atrocities of the Zionist regime.” He also said, “If Israel decides to conduct a military strike on nuclear sites in Iran, it will be the end of the Jewish state. “If Israel ever, ever makes this mistake, that will set the time for the end of Israel. The Israelis are well aware of this.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing public opinion in Israel for a war against Iran, a leading political commentator has said. Netanyahu is attempting to convince the Israeli public that the Iranian threat is a “tangible and existential one”, and that there is only one effective way to stop it and prevent a “second Holocaust which is an Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. The Israeli leader in his speech to the Knesset yesterday urged his colleagues to reject claims that Israel is too weak to go it alone in a war against a regional power such as Iran and therefore needs to rely on the US, which has much greater military capabilities, to do the job and remove the threat. The Israeli military has been practicing for what many here fear is an inevitable confrontation with Iran. They are holding drills to rehearse decontaminating victims in the case of a chemical weapons attack. They are also preparing for a possible missile attack from Iran or its allies on Israel’s borders — Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Israeli Homeland Command Lt. Col. Yonathan Raz says these exercises have a new sense of urgency. When asked if things are more tense, he replied, “In the Middle East it’s always tense.” Now things are getting tenser.
In a statement going out broadly on the internet and in Washington, D.C. today, the Lyndon LaRouche Political Action Committee (LPAC) declares: “Obama’s Lying: Far from holding Netanyahu back, he told him “Go Ahead and Strike Iran,— We’ll Support You!” Go to BWN.com to read the full story.
Advanced anti-aircraft missiles which belonged to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi have fallen into the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah, according to a new report. According to the report, the weaponry was smuggled out of Libya and into Iran, and from there Hezbollah received their supply through Syria while Hamas received theirs through Egypt.
Dozens of Iranian banks were blocked from doing business with much of the world on Thursday.The Belgium-based company that facilitates most international bank transfers took the unprecedented step of blocking 30 Iranian banks from using its service. The move is likely to hurt Iran’s all-important oil industry and make it difficult for citizens to receive money from relatives living abroad. Israeli threats of attack on Iran are what sparked the latest round of sanctions.
The U.S. military is doubling the number of minesweeping ships it keeps in the Persian Gulf, part of a buildup in the region amid tensions with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The Navy’s top officer said the U.S. would send four minesweeping ships along 8 with additional mine-hunting helicopters to bolster U.S. defenses in the region.
PLO Executive Committee member Saeb Erekat Thursday said that the Middle East Quartet must hold the Israeli government fully accountable for bringing the peace process to a halt. He said during a meeting in Jericho with the special UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, that the national reconciliation does not contradict with the peace process, rather it promotes and supports it. He said it is imperative for the Quartet to declare that Israel did not comply with its September statement since it insisted on continuing with settlement activities and refused to accept the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
WAR & PEACE
Syrian troops clashed with army defectors in several areas near the capital Damascus in the first significant battles there since Al-Assad’s forces regained control of the suburbs weeks ago, activists said on Friday. The fighting came just hours before tens of thousands of people held protests in many Syrian towns and cities after Friday prayers.
Turkey threatened to launch a military incursion into northern Syria Thursday after refugees fleeing alleged massacres by pro-Assad forces poured across its frontiers. The warning came as the Arab Red Crescent predicted that as many as 500,000 Syrian civilians could seek refuge in Turkey.
Egypt’s prominent Muslim cleric Safwat Hejazi has said that the killing of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is a duty for every Muslim. “He who has the chance to kill Al Assad and does not do this is a sinner,” Hejazi told a rally held in Cairo in support of a popular revolt against Al Assad’s rule.
Syria’s president shows few signs of going anywhere. As his military routs rebel forces in Homs and Idlib, intercepted emails appear to reveal his wife furniture shopping for their Damascus home. Assad may derive some of his confidence from a system built by his father, Hafez al-Assad, that has let the family stay in power for the past 40 years. “This regime came about as a result of a coup in 1970 and was designed from the beginning to resist rebellion, to resist coups,” explains Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. The elder Assad established an intricate web of often overlapping intelligence services, separate entities that means even the watchers are being watched. Like his son, he staffed key positions with members of his Alawite minority, warning them, as well as minority Christians and Druze, of the perils of an unleashed Sunni majority. The result, so far, has been a coherent center, with the highest civilian defection being a deputy oil minister this month, nearly a year into the uprising.
The Iraqi government has refused U.S. requests to stop Iranian cargo flights to Syria, despite being aware of credible intelligence that the planes are transporting up to 30 tons of weapons, according to a U.S. official. The U.S. has made several requests in recent months to the Iraqi government, including directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to either stop allowing Iran to use its airspace or allow the planes to be inspected in compliance with international law. Iraq has refused, saying the planes are carrying only humanitarian aid.
US & WORLD ECONOMY
Inflation heated up a bit in February rising 0.4% in February. And according to economists the 18% boost is gasoline prices since December, is still not showing much impact on consumer prices.
NWO, ISLAM & GLOBAL GOVERNMENT
The NSA is building the biggest ever spy center in the US. Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built. It’s a project of immense secrecy, and it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.
Earlier this month, General Petraeus talked about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you will be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.
The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish.
NATURAL & MANMADE DISASTERS
Dexter, MI hit by a tornado that damaged 100 homes yesterday. Initial estimates were that the storm had winds of around 135 mph and lingered on the ground for about a half-hour, plowing a path about 10 miles long. The tornado was part of a slow-moving system that also brought large hail, heavy rain and high winds. Gusts downed power lines, sparking fires. Amazingly, no serious injuries were reported.