Archive for November 5th, 2009

Special NEWS: 19 Cheshvan 5770, Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Israeli President Shimon Peres meets with visiting US generals and troops ahead of a major joint ground exercise. (IDF)

UN General Assembly endorses Goldstone Report
  The UN General Assembly approved on Thursday an Arab-backed resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, paving the way for the matter to be sent to the Security Council. A total of 114 nations voted in favor of the resolution and 18 voted against it, with 44 members abstaining. The nonbinding resolution on the Goldstone document, which alleges war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the IDF's offensive in Gaza last winter, aims to open doors toward prosecution in the international courts. But as the debate dragged into its second day on Thursday, European nations were threatening to abstain from a vote just as others were feverishly trying to negotiate softer terms. Of particular concern is language fully endorsing the report and requiring Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take up the issue within three months or send the matter to the Security Council. Absent from the debate was US Ambassador Susan Rice, whose deputies were present but were not among some 50 scheduled speakers. "Our position on the Goldstone Report is well-known," a US official said. "The US is prepared to speak when and if there is an occasion to advance the debate." The official said representatives of the US mission attended Wednesday and Thursday's debate. "It's not unusual for ambassadors to attend portions of a debate that lasts several hours or in this case, two days." But officials privately said the blustery debate was a distraction from another goal: urging Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks. US officials were expected to release a statement following the vote, explaining their position. On Thursday, European countries were still trying to soften the text of the draft resolution. Most European nations expressed discontent with parts of the resolution, including language endorsing the report and referring the matter to the Security Council. "There's been progress, but there's also been backpedaling," a European diplomat said. European countries, concerned with "grave accusations," want accountability and have demanded that accusations be addressed by both sides. The European Union took a similarly moderate approach in the debate. "The EU takes note of the recommendations of the mission and emphasizes the obligations of all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law," said Swedish Ambassador to the UN Anders Liden, speaking on behalf of the 27 EU countries on Wednesday. "In this regard the EU believes that appropriate follow-up will be necessary." The EU comments were welcomed by Israeli officials, who delivered a blistering assault on the Goldstone mandate and report in their speech on Wednesday. "Rather than confronting terrorism, the General Assembly chose again to detach itself from reality," said Israel's top UN official, Gabriela Shalev. "Today's debate is anything but genuine and candid. "Rather than discuss how to better stop terrorist groups who deliberately target civilians, this body launches yet another campaign against the victims of terrorism, the people of Israel," she said.
Israeli commandoes storm Hizballah arms ship
Israeli naval commandoes acting on firm intelligence Tuesday night stormed a cargo ship off the coast of Cyprus and found a large cache of Iranian weapons destined for Hizballah and Syria. The Israelis faced no resistance after boarding the vessel, which they then sailed back to the Israeli port of Ashdod for unloading and inspection. Military officials said the weapons, which included advanced arms such as guided missiles, were hidden behind civilian cargo. The ship's crew also tried to disguise their true mission by flying an Antiguan flag. Though the action took place far outside Israel's territorial waters, Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the operation as yet another necessary and successful step in combating terrorist efforts to destabilize the region. The haul: 320 tons of Katyushas, other rockets, shells and bullets
  The IDF issued Thursday what it said were damning photos showing Katyusha rockets discovered last week by UNIFIL troops in Lebanon that are of the same make as the rockets seized by the Navy when it boarded the Francop cargo ship Wednesday.
Missiles found aboard the <i...
Missiles found aboard the Francop. Photo: IDF Spokesperson
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
On Thursday, the IDF finished removing the weaponry from the containers and transferred it from Ashdod to a base in the center in the country where it will be inspected and reviewed by munitions experts. The final weight of the cache was 320 tons and included 9,000 mortar shells, thousands of 107-mm. Katyusha rockets that have a range of 15 kilometers, some 600 Russian-made 122-mm. rockets with a 40-km. range and hundreds of thousands of Kalashnikov bullets. IDF sources said they were surprised by the significant quantity of mortar shells. "This is the most we have seen in a single shipment," one senior officer involved in reviewing the arms cache said Thursday. Other officials said it was possible that Hizbullah was lacking mortar shells or was planning on using them more prominently in the event of a future conflict with the IDF. Most of the weaponry, the senior officer said, appeared to have come from the Far East and Russia, while some of it was made in Iran. Most of it appeared to have been manufactured in the past few years, the officer said. In one of the photos released by the IDF, several 107-mm. Katyusha rockets are seen on launchers in the yard of a home in southern Lebanon, the identical location from where a rocket was fired into the Galilee last week. "This is the same type that was on the ship and is shipped from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon," the IDF said. Meanwhile Thursday, defense officials issued criticisms of Egypt, which they said had failed to properly inspect the Iranian containers as they sat waiting to be loaded onto the Francop at the Diametta Port on the Mediterranean side of the Suez Canal. The containers were clearly marked as belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which is a company that is known to assist the regime in illegal arms trafficking to Hizbullah. "United Nations Security Council Resolution 1803 explicitly asks countries to board and inspect IRISL ships and containers," one official said. "The Egyptians could have done more."
PHOTOS: Captured ship had huge number of arms for Hizballah
Israel commandos on Tuesday night stormed and commandeered a German-owned cargo ship off the coast of Cyprus after learning that it was carrying weapons to the Hizballah terrorist militia in Lebanon. It is unknown if the Israelis were prepared for the sheer number of weapons aboard the ship, which military officials said ended up being hundreds of tons worth of mortar shells, anti-tank missiles, Katyusha missiles and other heavy weaponry. Hizballah later denied any connection to the ship and accused Israel of piracy for taking over the vessel in international waters. The shipping company claimed it had no idea the huge arms cache was hidden among the civilian cargo it was carrying.  
Israel captures arms ship Israeli naval officials sail the captured Francop cargo ship into the Port of Ashdod Israel captures arms ship Crates of weapons hidden behind civilian cargo Israel captures arms ship Forklifts remove thousands of arms crates from the Francop Israel captures arms ship Israeli troops checking the crates found aboard the Francop find heavy weaponry Israel captures arms ship Heavy mortar shells found among the cargo of the Francop Israel captures arms ship 122mm short-range rockets found among the cargo of the Francop

Still no meeting set for PM with Obama
  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves on Sunday morning for Washington, where he is to address the 2009 General Assembly of the UJC/Jewish Federations of North America the next day.
Barak Obama and Binyamin...
Barak Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu Photo: AP
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
As of press time, the Prime Minister's Office said no formal meeting had been scheduled with US President Barack Obama during the visit, which could last through the week. No departure date has been set. Netanyahu and Obama last met in New York in September on the sidelines of the opening of the United Nation's General Assembly session. Obama plans to speak at the UJC event on Tuesday, in what will be his first speech to a Jewish audience at a public event since his election a year ago. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Jerusalem Post that nothing had been planned in terms of a Netanyahu-Obama sit-down while the prime minister is in town. "There is no scheduled meeting," he said. Several American Jewish leaders told the Post that they expected a meeting would take place, but that the White House wanted to be assured it would be receiving something from Netanyahu in return. They said the US administration had also felt somewhat blind-sided by how the expectation of a meeting had played out. Still, a number of Jewish leaders indicated that their optimism about a White House visit taking place was waning as the date of Netanyahu's arrival neared with no meeting being announced. The three-day annual conference, which opens on Sunday, is one of the largest communal gatherings of Jewish activists in the US, generally attended by thousands. The UJC is the umbrella organization for more than 150 federations across the United States and Canada. A government source said the GA was one of the most important yearly meetings of the North American Jewish community, and that Netanyahu's attendance at that meeting was the sole reason for his visit. The prime minister understands full well the importance of the relationship between Israel and the North American Jewish community, and his trip is recognition of the significance of those ties, the source said. The date of the visit was coordinated solely with the organizers of the GA, although it was possible that other meetings could be added onto the trip. According to the source, the prime minister plans to speak of the challenges and opportunities that Israel faces, along with discussion of Iran and possibly the peace process. Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to travel with the prime minister to Washington. The trip comes in the aftermath of a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region, in which Netanyahu as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in the past week with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the administration's special envoy George Mitchell. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, a spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told the Post that he is not aware of any "Austrian company doing business with IRISL." He said the Ministry is "aware of the UK decision" banning trade with the IRISL. Asked if Austria plans to replicate the UK decision, he said there are "ongoing EU discussions" concerning Iranian sanctions. Pressed about the media reports covering Peter Fichtenbauer, an Austrian member of Parliament and chairman of the defense committee, and his visit to Teheran this past week, urging an "expansion of economic and commercial ties between Iran and Austria," the Austrian spokesman said Fichtenbauer "did not speak on behalf of the government." The Austrian spokesman Launsky-Tieffenthal said "In "2008 trade receded considerably between" Iran and Austria. When asked about the spike in trade in 2009, he said "exports increased" but "after having dropped last year." That the Austrian oil and gas giant OMV does not have "any operational activity in Iran says more than I can in additional words and is a reflection of our position toward trade" with Iran. The OMV signed a 22 billion euro tentative agreement signed in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran's South Pars gas field. Reached in Rotterdam, Fer van de Laar, managing director, International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), told the Post that the transport of high explosive weapons on the Francop vessel "does not serve a good purpose" but "we live in a world where trade is being done every day... It is difficult to regulate this kind of trade." The shipment of weapons must "conform with the International Maritime and Danger Code," said Fer van de Laar. However, Van de Laar said the IAPH does "not have the means to investigate, "and "it is up to UN to see if sanctions are being maintained." He added that "we are just a port authority and are responsibility is to see that the ports are efficient for the safe traffic of imports." Asked about IRISL's shipments of rockets and weapons, Lee Adamson, a spokesman for the UN-organization International Maritime Organization (IMO), told the Post there "is a practical code about how dangerous goods should be carried... in terms of getting into to political matters it is not something our agency would be involved in." Responding to the Post's query about the IMO Secretary General-Efthimios Mitropoulos' praise of Iran's warships while in the Islamic Republic in September, Adamson, speaking from London, said the IMO has a "remit to suppress piracy" in Somalia and that Iran was active in combating pirates. The IMO "does not have a remit" to enforce violations of UN Security Council resolutions, said Adamson. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
US generals and soldiers flood Israel
A large number of American generals and at least 1,500 US soldiers arrived in Israel this week for one of the largest joint land exercises ever held between the two nations. Dubbed "Juniper Cobra," the exercise, which is held every year, but never before on such a large scale, is scheduled to last three weeks. One of the visiting US generals told Israel media that the exercise is in response to "specific threats," which every took to mean primarily the Iranian nuclear threat. There was much speculation that the exercise signaled the US had nearly given up on diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, and was gearing up for the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities
Hamas successfully tests new Iran-made Silkworm that can reach Tel Aviv

DEBKAfile Special report

November 3, 2009, 12:41 PM (GMT+02:00)

Silkworm C-802 shore-to-ship missile fired from Lebanon

Silkworm C-802 shore-to-ship missile fired from Lebanon

Israel's military intelligence chief Brig. Amos Yadlin revealed Tuesday, Nov. 3, that the Palestinian Hamas had successfully tested a new 60-km range Iranian shore-to-sea missile firing it west from the Gaza coast. When fired north overland the missile could reach Tel Aviv.

Brig. Yadlin's report to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee confirmed DEBKAfile's Oct. 25 disclosure of intensive Iranian efforts to arm Hizballan and Hamas with extended-range missiles and rockets capable of reaching Israel's strategic heartland. He revealed that Iranian arms were reaching Hizballah and Hamas through Syria and, for the first, time via Turkey.

The intelligence chief did not specify the source of the missiles delivered to Hamas or disclose who their instructors were. DEBKAfile's military sources report that the Hizballah on orders from Tehran apparently took charge of smuggling the new missiles to their Palestinian allies and its officers instructed them in their use.

Our military sources identify the new missile in Hamas' arsenal as a C-802 of the Silkworm series (of Chinese origin), of the type Hizballah fired to cripple the Israeli missile ship Hanit on July 15 2006 during the second Lebanon war.

Tehran has since showered thousands of these missiles on Hizballah. They are positioned along the Lebanese Mediterranean in closer formation than almost any coastal defense array in the world.

Hamas' successful test indicates that Iran is intent on building up its Palestinian proxy's capability for breaking the Israeli Mediterranean naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and restricting the freedom of Israeli warships cruising opposite its southern shores.

Silkworms deployed in the Gaza Strip are a menace to Israel's southern naval bases, especially in Ashdod port. They are also precise enough to target land-based strategic facilities like power stations and fuel depots. In 1987, Tehran used an earlier version of the Silkworm to strike Kuwait's oil installations.

On Oct. 25, DEBKAfile also reported that the al Qods external terror branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards was in the throes of a major effort to smuggle Fajr-5 surface rockets into the Gaza Strip. These rockets whose range is 75 km can also reach Tel Aviv and its southern satellite cities from Gaza. Our military sources report that the huge missiles are transported by sea to Hamas training camps in Sudan in 8-10 segments, smuggled from there north to the Egyptian shores of the Suez Canal, then offloaded in Sinai for covert transportation to the Gaza Strip.

On Oct. 31, our military sources revealed that North Korea had sold Iran and Syria EM52 midget submarines designed to drop small commando raider units on targeted shores and sow mines in enemy harbors.

Tehran is thus immersed in an operation for turning the Mediterranean into another hostile front against Israel in the event of a regional war.

While aware of the Iranian marine noose closing in on Israel, the government led by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak do not seem to be doing much in the way of preventive action.