US condemns Hamas rocket attacks, supports Israel’s right to defend itself

Eric Cortellessa – August 10, 2018

WASHINGTON — The United States condemned the Hamas terror group on Thursday for launching some 180 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli population centers and defended Israel’s military response in the worst exchange of fire since the 2014 war.

The State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs Heather Nauert told reporters that Israel was justified in responding with force to Hamas projectiles targeting Israeli towns and cities.

“It’s a very concerning situation,” she said. “We condemn the launching of missile attacks into Israel and call for an end to the destructive violence,” she said. “We fully support Israel’s right to defend itself and to take actions to prevent provocations of that nature.”

Hamas fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells into southern Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and into Thursday, including one barrage that slammed into the town of Sderot, and another at Beersheba, marking the first time the city had been targeted since 2014’s 51-day war.

https://www.timesofisrael.com

Iranian Guards naval buildup at Hormuz: US monitors, Israel warns

Debkafiles – August 2, 2018

Shortly before a new round of US sanctions, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) navy is building up maritime forces at the Strait of Hormuz, ready to launch an “exercise” at 48 hours’ notice. The warships, poised outside the northern opening of the waterway, demonstrate that Iran can, if it so decides, block the vital waterway for Gulf oil exports. Thursday morning, Aug. 2, the US Central Command issued the following statement: “We are aware of the increase in Iran naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and ‘Gulf of Oman. We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways… We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.” DEBKAfile notes that CENTCOM chose to refer to the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf” which Tehran sees as a national affront.

Wednesday night, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that any Iranian attempt to interfere with shipping sailing through another vital regional waterway, the Bab al Mandeb Straits, would encounter an international coalition, including Israel with a full array of its military capabilities. Our sources liken the current climate surrounding a possible US-Iranian summit to that which led up to President Donald Trump’s Singapore meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. That too was preceded closely by a dramatic rise in war tensions, while quiet preparations for the big event continued without interruption.

https://www.debka.com

U.S., Israel on Hair Trigger Over Syria

TruNews – July 6, 2018

According to a new report, U.S. and Israeli warplanes are flying “overlapping” 24/7 patrols over southwestern Syria, “ready to go into action if shared red lines are crossed.”

The independent security and intelligence journalists at DEBKA, citing its extensive sources within the Israel Defense Forces, reports that F-18 fighters are monitoring the fighting around the Syrian city of Daraa and the Israeli and Jordanian border regions. The report also notes the IDF has “prepared for three scenarios” in response to Russian-backed Syrian and Hezbollah activity in the area:

• A possible deal with the Daraa rebels being replicated for Quneitra on the Israeli border.

• Daraa’s possible conquest by Syrian-Hezballah forces, with the help of massive Russian air strikes—which increased on Thursday to 100 sorties—being repeated as the tactic for seizing Quneitra.

• A possible assault on Quneitra coming from the southeast of the Golan and starting in the town of Nawa.

The report notes the third scenario is the most likely, citing “U.S. CENTCOM and IDF strategists,” stating that after Daraa is taken, the Syrian-Hezbollah force would turn west toward Quneitra. The offensive to take the city on the Israeli border would eventually put the force directly on the Israeli border in the Golan

https://www.trunews.com

Major Chinese banks ditching US dollar to prop up domestic currency

RT – July 3, 2018

China’s state-owned banks have reportedly been buying US dollars in forwards on behalf of the central bank (PBOC) and immediately selling them on the spot market for yuan to support the domestic currency.

PBOC deputy governor and head of the foreign exchange regulator Pan Gongsheng said China was confident it could keep the yuan basically stable and at a “reasonable” level.

A government central bank buys domestic currency when it wants to strengthen it. By protecting the buying power of domestic currency the country protects its citizens from inflation risks and rising consumer prices.

The government can also weaken domestic currency by selling it on the foreign exchange market. While hurting the domestic consumer, this step helps major export economies, such as China. It makes export goods cheaper to produce at home and, therefore, more competitive on the global market.

“It feels like the state-owned banks are stocking up on bullets to prevent the yuan from falling too much,” an unnamed trader at a Chinese bank in Shanghai told Reuters.

In early trade on Tuesday, yuan weakened to a low of 6.7204 against the dollar, the lowest since August 7, 2017. The Chinese currency’s downturn comes ahead of July 6, when US tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods are to kick in. Beijing has promised to retaliate with tariffs on US products.

https://www.rt.com

Summer campers face deadly ticks and mosquitoes

Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield – June 25, 2018

(CNN)In many parts of the United States, this weekend marks the start of summer sleep-away camp season, which means swimming, arts and crafts, marshmallow roasts — and, very often, ticks.

Of the more than 1,600 overnight camps that are members of the American Camp Association, more than a third are in New England and the mid-Atlantic states, where Lyme disease is particularly prevalent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a May CDC report, cases of vector-borne diseases — those caused by viruses and bacteria carried by ticks, mosquitoes and other bugs — tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016.

For years, experts have voiced concern that many local public health agencies are unprepared to control such pests and limit the spread of these diseases which include Lyme disease, dengue fever and Zika.

https://www.cnn.com

Failed Israeli-Russian deal opens SW Syria to Syrian bombardment, Iranian/Hizballah presence

Debkafiles – June 22, 2018

Syria’s moves in the southwest this week followed Russia’s failure to persuade Israel to stand aside and allow Assad’s army to take charge of the Quneitra and Daraa regions on the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Moscow hoped that the Syrian rebel forces defending the two areas would lay down their arms and go over to Bashar Assad’s army. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Netanyahu government spurned Russia’s plan – not least for lack of trust, suspecting that the Syrians would cheat and let Hizballah reach its border. Last month, an attempt was made to trick Israel, after its consent to a previous Russian plan to hand the Beit Jinn enclave on Mt Hermon to Syria, by providing Hizballah troops with Syrian Army 4th Division uniforms.

The same deception is being practiced at present in the southwest regions of Daraa and Quneitra. Russian and Syrian propaganda machines claim that Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen are being withdrawn from the Israeli and Jordanian borderlands,  when in fact they are not moving after being disguised in Syrian army uniforms. The Russians don’t mention an Iranian withdrawal because Moscow pretends they don’t exist, when in fact an Iranian command center is fully operational in that part of Syria.

https://www.debka.com

NATO chief says alliance might not survive

WND – June 22, 2018

There’s no guarantee these days that NATO will survive, the international alliance’s chief says.

In an AP report, Jens Stoltenberg said there needs to be an immediate effort to “shore up” the group.

That’s because of the widening divisions between Europe and the United States over the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, and more.

The U.S., of course, withdrew from the Iran deal because President Trump said it was a bad deal for America, while European interests have remained dedicated to its provisions.

And Trump has literally no use for the climate change agenda of expensive green energy projects and massive restrictions that appear to land on the United States and few others.

European officials largely are fans of the global warming agenda.

Stoltenberg, secretary general of the group, cited the strain of the coalition right now.

“It is not written in stone that the trans-Atlantic bond will survive forever,” Stoltenberg while delivering an address in London.

http://www.wnd.com

Radical plan to split California into three states earns spot on November ballot

  – Jun 12, 2018

California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the continent’s edge for hundreds of miles and sprawling east across mountains and desert, could come to an end next year — as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history.

It would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863.

http://www.latimes.com

U.S.-Israeli ‘Intervention’ in Syria More Likely

TruNews – June 21, 2018

With Syrian government officials reportedly ignoring U.S. and Israeli calls to exclude Iranian proxies, like Hezbollah, from the battle for Daraa in the southwest of the country, the likelihood both countries could launch a “military intervention” is growing.

That battle is now under way after Syria’s elite “Tiger” forces launched an assault Tuesday night (local time) on an air base under the control of the U.S.-backed jihadist Southern Front and the allied Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, an arm of al-Qaeda. This particular area has been a hotbed for al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorist “insurgency” since the beginning of the seven-year civil war.

Israel has also been well aware of the presence of al-Qaeda and ISIS in the region that borders the Golan Heights and has even provided direct aid to members of both groups when they have come under Syrian government fire.

https://www.trunews.com

Syrian army steps up attacks in southwest, Jordan concerned

REUTERS – June 20, 2018

AMMAN – The Syrian army stepped up shelling of opposition-held parts of the southwest as it mobilizes for a campaign to regain the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli Golan Heights, opposition sources said.

Violence erupted at the frontline town of Kafr Shams, near the Syrian-held Golan Heights, and further east in the town of Busra al Harir, which was struck by dozens of mortars from nearby army positions, the sources said.

Syrian state media said militants had escalated attacks on civilians in the area which is part of a “de-escalation” zone agreed by the United States and Russia last year with the aim of containing the conflict in the southwest.

An offensive in the southwest would risk a major escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria. Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.

https://www.jpost.com