News Digest — 7/10/20

Explosion Heard In Western Tehran, Latest In Series Of Blasts To Shake Iran

An explosion shook western Tehran in the early hours of Friday morning (10th), causing widespread power failures in two residential areas, the Islamic Republic’s media reported.

The precise location of the explosion, the third in so many weeks, was unclear, but there are several known military and training facilities in the area, which Western analysts said could be the target of sabotage.

The explosion is another in a series of mysterious “incidents” plaguing sensitive Iranian sites in recent weeks.  Foreign pundits have already hinted that the incidents could be the result of an Israeli campaign to undermine Tehran’s nuclear program.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not commented on the incidents in Iran, but Defense Minister Benny Gantz dismissed these speculations, saying that not everything that happens in Iran can be blamed on the Jewish State.

“Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us,” he told Army Radio on Sunday (5th).  “All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure they always know how to maintain them.”

On Tuesday (7th), an explosion reportedly damaged a factory south of Tehran.  According to Iranian media reports, two people were killed and three were injured in the blast at the Sepahan Bresh factory in the Kahrizak district.

On Saturday (4th), a blast reportedly damaged a power plant in the Iranian city of Ahvaz.  A few hours later, Iranian media said a chlorine leak at a petrochemical center in southeast Iran was to blame.

On July 2, an explosion damaged Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, and a week prior, a blast was reported at the Parchin military complex, which defense analysts believe holds an underground tunnel system and missile production facilities.

On Tuesday (7th), Iran accused Israel of these incidents and called for action against it, following the damage to the Natanz facility.

“This method Israel is using is dangerous, and it could spread to anywhere in the world,” government spokesman Ali Rabiel said during a press conference.  “The international community must respond and set limits to these dangerous actions by the Zionist regime.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened retaliation against anyone who attacks his country in any way, stating that Iran’s nuclear program “is unstoppable.”

Israeli media reported last week that the country was bracing for possible retaliation by Tehran if it determines that Jerusalem was behind the explosions.



IDF Chief Of Staff In Isolation For 2nd Time

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is in isolation for the second time after coming in contact with someone last week who is now confirmed to have corona, the IDF reported on Thursday (9th)

“The chief of staff will stay in isolation and maintain a regular schedule, as much as possible,” the IDF reported, saying Kochavi “feels well, is without symptoms, and will be examined in the near future.”

Isolation is no stranger to the IDF’s top general.  Three months ago, Kochavi went into quarantine after being exposed to a corona patient during a conference.

Also in isolation is Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who came into contact with an infected individual on Sunday evening (5th).  He is also feeling well.  Another minister, Rafi Peretz, entered isolation on Thursday (9th).

Kochavi nearly lost his life last week.  It was reported on Wednesday (8th) that his helicopter suffered engine failure and fell to no more than 100 feet off the ground before the pilot regained control.

The reason for the malfunction is under investigation at this time.  Initially the pilots were blamed but that has not been confirmed.



War Crimes Committed In Iraq/Syria Paid For By Iran

An anonymous 41-year-old Iraqi who allegedly served in Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria witnessed massacres, rapes, and many war crimes by these groups, according to an interview published earlier this week by the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. 

A former member of the Iraqi army during Saddam Hussein’s reign, in 2014 he joined Asaib Ahl al-Haq (“The League of the Righteous”), one of the Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq, spurred by the rise of ISIS.  While with the group, he said in the interview with MECRA, he made $400-$500 a month and served in an administrative role.

He claims he was a member of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr’s political organization in 2008 when he met an Iraqi working for Iran’s intelligence and joined the Shi’ite-allied Iranian bloc.  He met and befriended Qais and Laith al-Khazali, who the United States named terrorists early in 2020.

It was under Laith, he said, that the group attacked innocent civilians in Sunni towns al-Dour and Abd Ajeel as retribution for a commander killed, or martyred, as his group thought.

“I witnessed the massacre on May 4, 2015,” he said.  “They brought shovels, and then brought people, and buried them, some still alive, women, children, old men, and other men, between al-Dour and al-Alam near the telecommunication tower.”

Iranians conceived and led the operations in the area he maintained, yet the Iraqis carried them out.

Later, he joined another Iran-backed militia present in Syria and Iraq known as al-Nujaba, where the pay was at least $900 a month.  After going to Iran for training, he was separated for having previous military experience and placed in an administrative role.

“The goal was to bring back Iranian domination to Syria,” he said, “not Bashar’s regime.  The ultimate goal was to complete the Shia crescent.”

The Shia crescent refers to Iranian hegemony in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the Arab Gulf States, and Yemen, which have a significant Shi’ite population and form a crescent on the map.

“The Iranians are the leaders of Nujaba forces in Syria,” he said.  They give the orders and all the Iraqi soldiers obey.”

They would operate in Sunni areas opposing Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, where he said he witnessed many war crimes.  He would accompany gunmen to operations but stay in the car while they were underway.

“Mostly, Iraqis were doing such crimes,” he said, which included rape, destroying buildings, mosques and looting businesses.

He asked MECRA to withhold his name for his safety but authorized its publication if he is killed by pro-Iranian forces.



Chief Rabbi Of South Africa: Israel Does Not Practice Apartheid – Warren Goldstein

→ The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is wholly different from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.  The fact is, Israel has none of the apartheid legislative machinery designed to discriminate against and separate people.

→ Within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel, there currently exists 1.8 million Muslim and Christian citizens who are the equal of their Jewish compatriots in every conceivable way.  They participate side-by-side in elections as part of one voter role, and hold high-ranking positions throughout the levels of Israeli government, including Parliament and the Supreme Court.  They serve in law enforcement and even in the army.

→ There are none and have never been separate facilities for Jews and Israeli Palestinians; all across Israel, schools and universities, benches and beaches, buses and hospitals, are unsegregated in every way, and every Israeli citizen no matter his/her ethnic or religious origin, has complete and full legal rights.

→ Israel has tried desperately, over many decades, to make peace and to come to some kind of resolution with the Palestinians.  Unfortunately, all of these overtures were rejected and, indeed, met with terror attacks, mortars and rockets.

→ Israel wants nothing more than peace – and is willing to pay a huge price for it – but, tragically, there has never been a true peace partner on the other side.

Dr. Warren Goldstein is the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, and has a PHD in Human Rights and Constitutional Law.



Thousands Of Jellyfish Clog Israeli Power Plant

Workers at the Israel Electric Company power plant in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon worked overtime Thursday (9th) to remove thousands of jellyfish that had been sucked into the cooling system and threatened to disrupt power.

The power plant, which is located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea just north of the Gaza Strip uses seawater for cooling.  A massive swarm of jellyfish – a seasonal phenomenon that plagues Israel’s beaches every summer – came near the intake pipes and got sucked into the power plant, threatening to clog the pumps.

“Since last night, Ashkelon power plant workers struggled against a wave of thousands of jellyfish that came into the station via the seawater,” the Israel Electric Company said on its Facebook page.  “For the electric company, this is a real danger that can disrupt the production processes at the station.”

Workers had to clean the pipes of thousands of the blue-colored blobs that are an annoyance to swimmers because of the burning venom they excrete.  A video posted on the company’s Facebook  page showed hundreds of bright blue jellyfish with a few giant white jellyfish mixed in, being washed down a chute into a giant bin.

The electric company said they also discovered among the jellyfish a sea turtle, that was uninjured, and was released back into the sea.