Tuesday, February 14, 2012

MIDDLE EAST WRAP: GLOBAL THREAT

A round-up of the Hebrew newspapers in Israel; covering the major events happening in Israel and the Middle East. Haaretz-Maariv-Yedioth Ahronoth-Israel Hayom-The Jerusalem Post-Ynet-Arutz 7 News-Army Radio-and Israel Radio  

The main story in Israeli newspapers on Tuesday is the double terror attack against Israeli targets in India and Georgia, in which one woman; the wife of a military attaché at the embassy in New Delhi was moderately wounded. The second device, attached to an Israeli embassy vehicle in Tbilisi, was spotted and safely neutralized.
Israel was quick to blame Iran and Hizbollah for Monday’s attacks. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Tehran “the biggest exporter of terror in the world,” while Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “Iran and Hizbollah are determined to sabotage the Israeli lifestyle and act against Israelis everywhere.”

Iran was just as quick to deny any involvement. The Foreign Ministry in Tehran called the accusations “psychological warfare” by Israel and even went as far as to accuse Israel of attacking its own embassy officials as part of a propaganda campaign against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The United States denounced what it called the “cowardly” attacks, though the White House reserved judgment on who was responsible. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that she condemned the attacks in the “strongest terms.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on authorities in India and Georgia to conduct a full investigation and bring those responsible to justice. Responding to reporters, the UN chief said that in the past he has condemned attacks on diplomats and diplomatic missions around the world. Earlier, Israel's envoy at the UN, Ron Prosor protested the UN silence on the terror attacks.

And before the lessons of Monday’s attacks had been learned, news came through on Tuesday of another attack in Bangkok. According to Israeli news websites, two explosions rocked the Thai capital and at least one Iranian apparently was involved and was wounded, eyewitnesses said.

No fatalities were reported in the blasts near a school in the capital, where the government has been worried over Muslim rebels who previously have targeted civilians in the southern part of the country. Thai media reported that an identification card of a wounded man who was seen carrying explosives revealed he apparently was of Iranian descent. The Associated Press said the report has not yet been verified. It said a photo sent through Twitter showed the man lying on a sidewalk and that the blast ripped off his legs.

Last month, Thai police caught a suspected Hizbollah operative who was allegedly trying to smuggle material for explosives out of the country to an unknown destination. The arrest came shortly after Israel and American intelligence officials warned Thailand of an imminent terrorist threat.

In other news reported on Haaretz website,  it said that the U.S. budget proposed by the Obama administration for 2013 would cut the funding for Israeli missile defense programs by $6 million. The cut would affect the development of Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense program and Arrow System Improvement Program. The $3 billion annual military assistance to Israel, within the framework of the 10 years memorandum of understanding, will remain unchanged. U.S. officials told Haaretz that the Israeli side knew of the cuts in advance.

Concurrently, Ynet reports that, according to the IDF website, a new Arrow missile defense battery will become operational in 2012. The battery is to be stationed in central Israel, where most of Israel's population is concentrated. The new battery is designed to intercept long-range surface-to-surface missiles with an upgraded version of the Arrow missile. The IDF website says that the system will use advanced interceptors, which include a number of sensors to identify and intercept the incoming missiles in a precise manner. The battery will be integrated with the newly installed “Super Green Pine” radar system, which is able to detect missiles at a longer range with greater accuracy.
The Arrow system, Israel's defense system against long-range missile threats, can intercept missiles when they are still above the atmosphere, thus preventing collateral damage from the interception. The Defense Ministry announced on Friday that it conducted a successful test on the system. The experiment tested the system’s enhanced capabilities of dealing with ballistic missiles such as the Scud and the Iranian Shihab. As part of the test, an F-15 Israel Air Force fighter jet launched a Blue Sparrow, a missile developed by Rafael, to impersonate long-range Iranian ballistic missiles. The Arrow system was able to identify the missile and home in on it.

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