Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel in eye of storm over deadly Gaza ship raid

Israel's allies froze military ties and summoned its ambassadors Monday over the storming of an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, as Muslim leaders slammed the deadly raid as "criminal" and "inhuman".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked" by the Israeli navy's assault on a convoy carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, lawmakers and journalists through international waters towards besieged Gaza.

Ban called on Israel to "urgently" explain itself over the raid, which Israel's Channel 10 TV left 19 passengers killed and 36 wounded, many of them Turks.

Source

Israeli commandos storm aid flotilla; 10 killed

JERUSALEM – Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at least 10 passengers in a predawn raid that set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.

Israel said its commandos were attacked by knives, clubs and live fire from two pistols wrested from soldiers after they rappelled from a helicopter to board one of the vessels.
Dozens of activists and at least 10 Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody confrontation in international waters.

Reaction was swift and harsh, with a massive protest breaking out in Turkey, Israel's longtime Muslim ally, which unofficially supported the mission. Ankara announced it would recall its ambassador and call off military exercises with the Jewish state.

Source

Honduras declares emergency after 14 die in rain storms

Honduras has declared a state of emergency after the remnants of Tropical Storm Agatha left 14 dead, emergency officials said Monday.

The storm drenched large parts of Central America over the weekend, causing the deaths of 83 people in Guatemala and nine in El Salvador, officials in those countries reported.

Agatha was the first named storm for the Pacific hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season starts Tuesday.

Source

Russia continues to deepen military ties with Iran and Syria

Moscow is reported by debkafile's military sources as surreptitiously training Iranian Revolutionary Guards crews at Russian bases to operate the advanced S-300 interceptor-missile systems, which are capable of fending off a potential US or Israel attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

UN sources disclose that the new sanctions motion - in its present diluted form - does not expressly forbid the consignment of this weapon to Iran.

Moscow is withholding them from Tehran for now, keeping the promise prime minister Vladimir Putin gave President Barack Obama. But if and when the weapons are delivered, Iran will have trained crews ready to operate them.

In their push to develop military ties with Iran and its allies, the Russians earlier this month also agreed to sell Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsyr short-range air defense systems and armored vehicles in a major arms transaction.

Washington and Jerusalem have known about the presence of IRGC S-300 missile crews at Russian training bases since early May. But when Israeli president Shimon Peres raised the issue during his talks with President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on May 9, he was told sharply that neither Israel nor any other government is entitled to tell Russia to whom it may give military assistance.

DEBKAfile

Middle East conflict and War

There is always Middle East conflict and war is frequently breaking out in that region. Why could a forthcoming war change the world? A little too sensational, you say? When the "epicenter" is involved, always pay attention. While the situation in the Middle East is generally unstable, it could move to the disaster zone this summer or fall.

Here is the startling news: Just weeks ago a Soviet sub docked in Beirut, Lebanon. It was flying the Iranian flag. Workers on the sub were seen to be wearing masks suggesting that they were unloading something chemical. And it was likely a weapon or weapons of mass destruction.

But Hezbollah has extensive plans that go beyond this. The potential Hezbollah offensive includes chemically armed SCUD missiles with a 280 miles range, preemptive strikes on Israeli air fields, and a wave of tunnel attacks that cross from Lebanon into Israel. There are some 60,000 rockets and missiles in south Lebanon hiding in houses, orchards, and miscellaneous buildings. Some of these are advanced scuds which have the capability to hit every city in Israel. The intention is to rein terror on Israel with maximum damage.

The kind of an attack outlined in this article will force Israel to strike back with ferocity. If chemical weapons are dumped on her, she will have to use her own weapons of mass destruction. We have the makings of a disaster in the Middle East and the fall-out will be felt around the world. A Jew will not be safe anywhere. A friend of Israel may not be either. Don't expect any help or comfort from the White House or State Department. Israel is their sacrificial lamb.

Source

Sunday, May 30, 2010

North Korea threatens to launch 'immediate physical strikes' as South Korea stages anti-submarine drills off coast

Feuding between South and North Korea heightened in recent days as the South carried out a major naval exercise.

A fleet of ten warships fired guns and dropped anti-submarine bombs - despite the North's warnings that drills will drive the peninsula to the brink of war.

Tension between the two has risen dramatically since investigators said last week that a torpedo fired by a North submarine sank a South warship on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

The country's military said in a statement released by the official Korean Central News Agency: 'Immediate physical strikes will be launched against any South Korean ships that intrude into North Korean waters.'

It said it will also start a review to possibly ban South Korean personnel and vehicles from entering a joint industrial park in Kaesong - the last remaining major inter-Korean reconciliation project.

The military said the measures are its first-phase reaction to 'the reckless moves of the group of traitors and confrontation maniacs'.

A South Korean defence ministry official said the country would 'resolutely' deal with its neighbour's measures.

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Hundreds die in Indian heatwave

Record temperatures in northern India have claimed hundreds of lives in what is believed to be the hottest summer in the country since records began in the late 1800s.

The death toll is expected to rise with experts forecasting temperatures approaching 122 degrees in coming weeks. More than 100 people are reported to have died in the state of Gujarat where the mercury topped at 119 degrees last week. At least 90 died in Maharashtra, 35 in Rajasthan and 34 in Bihar.

Hospitals in Gujarat have been receiving around 300 people a day suffering from food poisoning and heat stroke, ministers said. Officials admit the figures are only a fraction of the total as most of the casualties are found in remote rural villages.

Wildlife and livestock has also suffered with voluntary organisations in Gujarat reporting the deaths of bats and crows and dozens of peacocks reported dead at a forest reserve in Uttar Pradesh.

"Because of the heat, lakes and other water bodies have been reduced to parched land, making dehydration common in such birds," said Neeraj Srivastava, a wildlife campaigner.

Even India's northern hill stations – historically a refuge from the heat – have not escaped. Temperatures in Shimla, recorded a peak temperature of 120 degrees, eight degrees hotter than the seasonal average.

After a drought last year, India's farmers are now impatient for the arrival of the monsoon, which irrigates 60% of India's fields. National meteorologists have forecast "normal" rains for this year, a relief in a country where prices of basic foodstuffs have rocketed in recent months due to growing shortages and structural problems with agriculture.

Israel to deploy nuclear submarines in Persian Gulf

Three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the Gulf near the Iranian coastline.

The first has been sent in response to Israeli fears that ballistic missiles developed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, a political and military organization in Lebanon, could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers.

The submarines of Flotilla 7 — Dolphin, Tekuma and Leviathan — have visited the Gulf before. But the decision has now been taken to ensure a permanent presence of at least one of the vessels.
The flotilla’s commander, identified only as “Colonel O”, told an Israeli newspaper: “We are an underwater assault force. We’re operating deep and far, very far, from our borders.”

Each of the submarines has a crew of 35 to 50, commanded by a colonel capable of launching a nuclear cruise missile.

The vessels can remain at sea for about 50 days and stay submerged up to 1,150ft below the surface for at least a week. Some of the cruise missiles are equipped with the most advanced nuclear warheads in the Israeli arsenal.

Source

US singles out Israel, calling for its membership in nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Washington's unprecedented backing for a UN resolution for a nuclear-free Middle East that singles out Israel has both angered and deeply worried the Jewish state although officials are cagey about openly criticising their biggest ally.

The resolution adopted by the United Nations on Friday calls on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and urges it to open its facilities to inspection.

The document, which singles out Israel but makes no mention of Iran's controversial nuclear programme, drew a furious reaction from the Jewish state who decried it as "deeply flawed and hypocritical."

But it was US backing for the resolution which has caused the most consternation among Israeli officials and commentators, who interpreted the move as "a resounding slap around the face" which has dealt a very public blow to Israel's long-accepted policy of nuclear ambiguity.

The left-leaning Haaretz daily said Israel had been "sacrificed by the US on the altar of a successful conference" in what constituted "a diplomatic victory for Egypt" which has campaigned against Israel's nuclear arsenal.

The move draws a line under a long-held "agreement" between Israel and Washington dating back to 1969 under which the Jewish state was permitted to keep silent on its country's nuclear potential while holding back from any nuclear test.