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Amid Hezbollah counter-tunnel operations, IDF must be ‘ready for deterioration,’ says ex-defense official

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Amid Hezbollah counter-tunnel operations IDF must be ready for deterioration says ex-defense officia

Hezbollah’s special forces, combined with Iraqi Shi’ite militias, were supposed to infiltrate Israel, traveling through the tunnels along various routes on the Israeli-Lebanese border, from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Dov.

 As the Israel Defense Forces ploughs ahead with an operation to expose and destroy a network of Hezbollah tunnels snaking their way into northern Israel from Lebanon, the military must also be prepared for the risk of a sudden escalation with the powerful Shi’ite terrorist organization, a former senior defense official told JNS.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, who has served in the past as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser, said that the operation underway to expose the tunnels—built to infiltrate Israel’s northern border—is aimed at neutralizing a component of Hezbollah’s ability to launch a surprise ground attack into Israel.

This type of attack has not yet been seen in Hezbollah’s combat against Israel, he said, and if Israel succeeds in getting rid of the tunnels, Hezbollah will be left without “an important component that gave it more confidence in a future war.”

The counter-tunnel operation is part of a wider Israeli policy of building up deterrence, which includes taking away capabilities from the enemy, said Amidror. “While it is difficult to know if this will work, it certainly has a better chance when the other side knows it lost some of its capabilities,” he stated.

Still, the situation is explosive, and the element of unpredictability remains, he warned. “Since this is a maneuver in which two sides are making decisions, it is impossible to know what the response of both will be—in other words, what Hezbollah will do further along the operation, and how will Israel respond afterwards. Therefore, the IDF must be prepared for a deterioration, to be prepared with lots of force.”

According to IDF Spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus, the IDF is ready for just that kind of scenario. He said the military’s “Northern Command is on elevated readiness, prepared for various contingencies,” and cited an “enhanced troop presence.”

Israeli civilians, however, are under no special instructions, and have been told to remain in a routine state of affairs.

Conricus noted that the tunnels have been under Israeli monitoring for about three years, and that Israel “chose to nip them in the bud now,” after sufficient intelligence was gathered. Israel’s counter-tunnel technology has proven itself on the Gaza border to the south, where it enabled the IDF to detect and destroy 17 tunnels in recent years, and has now come of age in the north as well.

Hamas shared its tunnel-building expertise with Hezbollah, and although both terror organizations dug structures deep underground with communication cables, oxygen ventilation systems and electricity, the threat is not identical. Hezbollah had to dig into hard rock, unlike Gaza’s soft sand stone, and employed a different support system for the tunnels.

The tunnels were earmarked for Hezbollah’s elite Rawan assault force, which the organization would have injected into Israel in a future war, for killing and kidnapping missions.

Conricus described the tunnel as the latest sign of the “adverse effect of Iranian entrenchment in the region. Hezbollah is strengthening its military capabilities while violating U.N. resolutions … this is funded by Iranian money and assisted with Iranian knowledge.”

Professor Boaz Ganor, executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the IDC in Herzliya, said the tunnels are part of a wider Hezbollah war doctrine developed over the past decade.

The doctrine “is based on two parallel efforts: projectile fire at Israel from Lebanon and possibly from Syria on a scale not seen in the past [including the launching of accurate missiles and large warheads], and a ground attack against the IDF in Lebanese territory and inside Israeli territory.”

Within this doctrine, Hezbollah’s special forces, combined with Iraqi Shi’ite militias, were supposed to infiltrate Israel, traveling through the tunnels along various routes on the Israeli-Lebanese border, from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Dov, Ganor explained.

“These infiltrations are designed to seize civilian communities, forcing the IDF to dedicate military resources to solving large hostage crises, to disrupt the IDF’s call-up of forces’ system, and its movement of forces into Lebanon, by taking control of territory that enables control in the Galilee, and blocking central traffic arteries,” said Ganor.

Israel’s “Operation Northern Shield” is designed to deal a mortal blow to a central Hezbollah effort that the organization has invested major time and resources in, he added.

‘The axis of evil of Iran-Syria-Turkey-Hezbollah’

Asked whether Israel’s decision to neutralize the tunnels without escalating the situation into war was the correct one, Ganor said it was the right course of action in the short term. However, he cautioned, due to Hezbollah’s massive arsenal of rockets and missiles—estimated at between 150,000 to 200,000—and the damage they will cause to Israel if and when Hezbollah opens fire at Israel, “it seems that Israel cannot allow itself for Hezbollah to initiate and begin a war, and it is incumbent on Israel to preempt and destroy at least a discernable part of the organization’s long-range projectiles.”

From this perspective, Ganor cautioned, Israel may have missed a justified opportunity to strike Hezbollah’s military systems. This opportunity presented itself with the discovery of Hezbollah’s violation of Israeli sovereignty, and in light of the threats to wage war on Israel and conquer parts of the Galilee by an organization that serves as an Iranian outpost.

The Iranians and Hezbollah, for their part, seem to be trying to understand the significance of the Israeli counter-tunnel operation, and to “assess the damage that has been caused to them,” said Ganor.

“They will examine how many of the tunnels from those they prepared have been identified by Israel, in the hope that some will remain operational. The possibility that they will try to disrupt the Israeli operation by boobytrapping the tunnel must be taken into account, although it seems that at this stage, neither Hezbollah nor the Iranians have an interest in deteriorating the situation to an all-out war with Israel,” assessed Ganor.

Ultimately, Iran has been able to take advantage of a mutual deterrence in place between Israel and Hezbollah. It has used this situation to continue to arm its Lebanese proxy, building military assets on Israel’s borders from within Lebanon and Syria. “The military victory of the axis of evil of Iran-Syria-Turkey-Hezbollah, under Russian protection, provides a tailwind for these Iranian trends,” said Ganor

It is reasonable to assume, he explained, that “a gun that appears in the first act will be fired at the end of the play. The unprecedented threat that is being built against Israel does not perhaps endanger its existence, but it could cause large-scale strategic damage to the state, the civilian homefront, infrastructure and critical facilities. As a result, Israel cannot accept the existence and growth of this threat.”

A psychological boost to Israeli civilians in the north

Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the ICT, agreed, noting that the greatest strategic threat is “the huge ground-to-ground missile arsenal in Hezbollah’s possession, and the present attempt by Iran to increase the number of long-range precise missiles, which could destroy Israeli military targets and infrastructure in the first attack.”

The massive Hamas rocket fire in last months’ round of fighting was a reminder of such a threat, he added.

Karmon described the exposure of the tunnels as a “very important intelligence and operational success, as it neutralizes the publicized Hezbollah plan to attack Galilee towns and villages.” It also provides a psychological boost to Israeli civilians living near the northern border, who have been concerned by Hezbollah tunnel-digging for years.  Northern residents near the border with Lebanon have for years reported hearing sounds that they suspected came from Hezbollah digging operations. However, the IDF investigated those reports, and did not find that they led to tunnel activities. But Karmon noted that the larger threat remains Hezbollah’s firepower.

“In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel destroyed the much smaller arsenal of long-range missiles in the first 34 hours of the war, due to exceptional intelligence,” said Karmon. “It seems me this cannot be done in the present situation in Lebanon, where the government is dominated by Hezbollah and its army is almost subservient, without a massive ground war—possibly a preventive war.”

Guns and Crime

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

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France shooting 2 dead several wounded in Strasbourg

PARIS (AP) — A shooting in the French city of Strasbourg killed two people and wounded up to eight others, officials said, sparking a major security operation around a world-famous Christmas market on Tuesday. Authorities said the shooter remains at large.

The motive for the shooting is unclear. It wasn’t immediately clear if the market was the target of the attack or if there was any link to terrorism.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters that the gunman has been identified, and had a police record for common crimes. He several of the wounded were in critical condition and that he was heading to Strasbourg.

The French Interior Ministry called on the public to remain indoors.

“Our security and rescue services are mobilized,” Castaner said.

Local authorities tweeted for the public to “avoid the area of the police station,” which is close to the city’s Christmas market. Strasbourg’s well-known market is set up around the city’s cathedral during the Christmas period and becomes a major gathering place.

Images from the scene show police officers, police vehicles and barricades surrounding the sparkling lights of the market.

The European Parliament, which is based in Strasbourg, was on lockdown. Spokesman Jaume Duch said that “the European Parliament has been closed and no one can leave until further notice.” It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were inside.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “my thoughts are with the victims of the shooting …. Strasbourg is like no other a city which is a symbol of peace and European democracy.”

France has been hit by several extremist attacks, including the 2015 Paris shootings, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds, and a truck attack in Nice that killed dozens in 2016.

Some Strasbourg residents have reported on social media that they heard gunfire in some parts of the city center.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tweeted that “the situation is still underway, priority is given to security forces and rescuers.”

President Emmanuel Macron has adjourned a meeting at the presidential palace on Tuesday night to be able to monitor the events, his office said.

Strasbourg, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Paris, is on the border with Germany.

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Democrats

Trump to meet with Democrats about border wall, shutdown

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Trump to meet with Democrats about border wall shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders are seeking to avert a partial government shutdown amid a sharp dispute over Trump’s border wall and a lengthy to-do list that includes a major farm bill and a formal rebuke of Saudi Arabia for the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump is set to confer Tuesday at the White House with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ahead of a Dec. 21 deadline to shut down a range of government agencies.

“Republicans still control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Monday.

“Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown,” the Democrats said, adding that Trump “knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”

Republican congressional leaders have repeatedly said it’s up to Trump to cut a deal with Democrats, an acknowledgement of their own inability to produce spending bills with Republican votes alone.

That gives Democrats some momentum heading into the closed-door talks, which also could veer into Trump’s request for emergency funding for deadly wildfires in California and a Republican-sponsored bill to extend expiring tax breaks and delay some health care taxes.

Before lawmakers adjourn for the year they also may consider a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and a plan to overhaul the system for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill.

By far the biggest unresolved issue is the border wall. Trump wants the next funding package to include at least $5 billion for it, an idea Democrats have flatly rejected.

Pelosi and Schumer have urged Trump to support a bill that includes a half-dozen government funding bills largely agreed upon by lawmakers, along with a separate measure that funds the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Sept. 30. The homeland bill includes about $1.3 billion for fencing and other security measures at the border.

If Trump does not agree to that, Democrats will likely urge a continuing resolution that funds all the remaining appropriations bills at current levels through Sept. 30, an aide said. The aide was not authorized to discuss strategy by name and requested anonymity.

Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for the wall and called illegal immigration a “threat to the well-being of every American community.”

At an appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game and said it was one he ultimately would win.

“I actually think the politics of what they’re doing is very bad for them,” Trump said of Democrats. “We’re going to very soon find out. Maybe I’m not right. But usually I’m right.”

Pelosi, who is seeking to become House speaker in January, said she and many other Democrats consider the wall “immoral, ineffective and expensive” and noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, an idea Mexico has repeatedly rejected.

Protecting borders “is a responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well,” Pelosi said last week.

Schumer said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned. Instead, the money should be used for fencing and technology that experts say is appropriate, Schumer said.

“We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea,” Schumer said. If Trump “wants to shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” he said.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Trump was all that stands between fully funding the government and a shutdown.

“Time and again, President Trump has used the government of the American people as a bargaining chip for his fabricated solution to his manufactured crisis,” Leahy said Monday in a Senate speech.

Trump “wants to score a made-for-reality-TV moment and he doesn’t care how many hardworking Americans will suffer for it,” Leahy said. “This is not about border security. This is about politics, pure and simple.”

But House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Democrats were the ones playing politics.

Trump “wants to secure the border. He got elected president on that platform,” Scalise told Fox News Channel.

If there’s a better way to secure the border than the $5 billion plan Trump has laid out, Democrats “need to come with an alternative,” Scalise said Monday. “They can’t come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don’t want border security. They’ll lose that argument with the American people.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Monday he does not believe Trump or Democrats want to shut the government down.

“When I was with him the indication was he didn’t want to shut the government down, but he did want his wall,” Shelby said.

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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Conspiracy Theory

NIAC report shows America is insanely ill-prepared for a catastrophic power outage

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NIAC report shows America is insanely ill-prepared for a catastrophic power outage

In the United States, many citizens take the power grid for granted. There has never been a nationwide catastrophic power outage in our history. While localized events like Hurricane Katrina exposed our inability to handle smaller scale long-term outages, an alarming report by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) says we’re still not ready for a wide-scale outage.

While our preparedness remains insufficient, the ways in which a catastrophic power outage could occur have increased dramatically. Between higher potency of natural disasters, the rise of cyberterrorism, electromagnetic events from space, and a high risk of electromagnetic attacks, the potential for such an event are higher than ever before. At this point, such events would cripple the nation, perhaps irreversibly.

The 94-page report is loaded with things one might think came from The Onion. It warns that since the council was formed in 2001, the threat risks have outpaced improvements in countermeasures. Perhaps the most alarming takeaway is that there is currently no established protocol to follow from top to bottom in case of such an event.

At this point, we’re still at the recommendation stage of determining who would be in charge of efforts to stabilize the power grid in case of catastrophic failure. While the report recommends the Secretary of Homeland Security would be in charge over both the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, that designation has not been officially made. It’s hard to imagine DHS taking command of the military in any circumstance, but that’s essentially what the report recommends.

As the Washington Examiner says, it may be time for preppers to ramp up their efforts while non-preppers should reconsider their stance.

Start prepping! Electric grid ‘prime target’ of terrorists, ‘profound threat,’ says DHS

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/start-prepping-electric-grid-prime-target-of-terrorists-profound-threat-says-dhsThe report is an urgent call to action to organize a uniform reaction to a grid attack, harden it from attack, warn of the threats and push regular Americans into preparing for the worst.

It also calls for federal spending instead of a reliance on rate hikes by individual utilities to fix their systems and said that $1 spent to protect the grid will save $6 in the case of recovery.

“The power grid is a prime target for attack by nation states, and it is not fair for ratepayers to bear the full burden for this national security function,” said the report, which looked at the potential of a “catastrophic” half-year blackout that could impact 75 million.

My Take

Yes, it’s time to prepare. The threats are so numerous and some of them are so easily achievable through terrorism, it’s hard to believe we haven’t been hit yet.

As noted earlier, it’s very discouraging that in the event of a nationwide catastrophic power outage, nobody in DC knows exactly what to do. Keep in mind, this isn’t the type of report where they would hold back information for the sake of lulling our enemies into a state of complacency. We would want them to think we had a clear handle on any situation they could dream up. If anything, this report increases the chances that someone would make an attempt.

What’s worse is that the report recommends essentially handing over control of recovery efforts to the Secretary of Homeland Security. Currently, that person is Kirstjen Nielsen. While she seems competent enough to handle her duties, there have been questions about her job security. Her biggest defender has been Chief of Staff John Kelly and he’s on his way out this month. Will Nielson be next? If so, would an attack on our power grid be timed by our enemies during a transition period? Scary thought.

It isn’t just the government who seems completely unprepared based on the report. Most Americans are scarcely able to survive a week without a trip to the grocery store. Alarmists have been screaming for years. Today, it may be time to start listening.

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