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Amid Northern Tension, Israel, US to Begin Massive Air Force Drill

By the Jerusalem Post

Amid growing tension along the northern border, the IDF and the United States military will hold their annual joint exercise next week to test the level of coordination between the two countries in the event of future conflicts. The exercise is part of a long-standing agreement between the US and Israel to hold bilateral training exercises regularly and the IDF Spokesman's Office stressed that it was not associated with a particular threat or world event. The goal of the drill - known as Juniper Falcon - is to strengthen cooperation, mutual learning, and coordination between the armies. In 2017, 12 American F-15E Strike Eagles and approximately 80 airmen attached to the 494th Fighter Squadron flew missions with the Israeli Air Force. The drill is expected to include over 300 US Army soldiers and 400 IDF soldiers from different units. The last Juniper drill, which occurred in March 2018, was labeled as the largest IDF and US European Command joint exercise in 2018, with more than 2,500 US troops deployed in Europe participating alongside 2,000 Israeli Aerial Defense troops, logistics units, medical forces, and additional IDF units. On Wednesday, the United States purchased the Iron Dome missile defense system from Israel for an immediate need of the United States Army. "This is yet another expression of the strengthening of our strong alliance with the US," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said.

Two Iranian Flops: Putting a Satellite into Orbit and Fitting Guided Warhead on Long-Range Ballistic Missile

By DEBKAfile

Two of the hi-tech military achievements Iran had prepared for the Islamic Revolution's 40th anniversary did not come up to scratch. Tehran failed in its second attempt on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to launch a satellite into orbit from the Imam Khomeini Space center in central Iran. US sources released images showing the rocket firing after some days of preparation, but since Tehran was silent on the outcome, it is assumed that the space shot was a flop. Since the first attempt on Jan. 15, using a long-range Simorgh, also failed, the Iranians decided to use the smaller a Safir rocket for their second attempt. DEBKAfile's military sources also met with a skeptical response to the Iranian claim on Feb. 4 to have armed its long-range Khorramshahr missiles (2,000km range) with 2-ton "home-made guided warheads." Tehran said the upgraded version had been renamed Khorramshahr 2. Tehran is undoubtedly working hard to develop guidance warheads, but intelligence surveillance has discovered no evidence of its efforts leading to success. Not all the weapons Iran has recently showcased are flops. The test launch on Feb. 2 of its new cruise missile, the Hoveizeh (1,250km range) of the Soumar family, was successful, although the images reaching the West since then indicate some trouble with its engine. The Hoveizeh, is in fact, a replica of the Russian-Ukrainian Kh-55, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, which was smuggled into Iran 18 years ago. The original was designed to be fired from warplanes. This would explain technical glitches arising when the Iranians try to use it as a ground-to-ground missile. Iran's air and missile forces chief Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said on Wednesday, in response to US and European demands that Iran curbs its ballistic missile program: "Rouhani's government doesn't have the keys to Iran's missile projects. It can do nothing more than ask us to temporarily halt missile launches so that its foreign policy won't be affected."

IDF Cyber Chief: Iran Tried to Hack Missile-Alert System

By Israel Hayom

Iran tried to hack Israel's missile-alert system over a year ago, IDF Cyber Defense Division Commander Noam Sha'ar told Israel Hayom. In an interview, Sha'ar said the cyberattack was successfully repelled by his unit, avoiding potentially catastrophic results. The Homefront Command's missile alert system is one of the most sensitive parts of Israel's civilian and military infrastructure. Anyone who gains control over the system can set off sirens at will and can even disable the highly-important features that provide early warning on incoming rockets and missiles. The attack was detected due to the constant monitoring of an Iranian cyber group, one of the dozens run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a budget of over $1 billion. It turned out that the group tried to hack several systems in Israel apart from the missile-alert system. According to Sha'ar, Iran is constantly trying to compromise Israel's sensitive infrastructure, both in and outside the military. He notes that his unit has managed to foil about 130 such attacks, most of which originated with Iranian entities. "There is a nonstop Iranian effort to engage in cyberwarfare against Israel," he said. "This activity is directed mostly at the IDF's soft spots, and we are using a variety of means to counter this." Sha'ar said his unit managed to thwart a similar attack from the terrorist group Hamas, which tried to hack Israel's intelligence apparatus in Judea and Samaria. According to Sha'ar, had Hamas been successful, its hackers would have been able to undermine crucial intelligence-gathering operations and compromise counter-terrorism efforts, as well as use the IDF's observation posts to monitor Israeli activity. He said that the number of such attacks will likely grow exponentially in the coming year, in part because of the increasing resources states and organizations allocate for such purposes, but also because the IDF is increasingly relying on sophisticated technology. Sha'ar, who began his military career in the IDF's elite signal intelligence unit, Unit 8200, concedes that there is no such thing a hacker-proof system. "In my old unit, the underlying assumption was that everything is hackable; that is why we have to monitor our most important assets as closely as possible."

Gaza's Abandoned Children: Palestinians Leaving their Babies at Border


A worrying phenomenon appears to have developed on the border with the Gaza Strip that sees parents of children taken to Israel for medical treatment abandon their offspring to remain in the country as illegal residents. According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israeli soldiers find abandoned Gazan children brought to Israel by their parents for medical treatment several times a month. This occurrence began a few months ago is not showing signs of slowing down. As recently as two days ago, a four-year-old boy was abandoned by his father at the Erez border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. The child, who was abandoned after receiving medical treatment in Israel, had been left with a stranger on the Gaza side of the border, while his father chose to remain illegally on Israeli territory. "The parent who was supposed to accompany his child and provide him with a sense of security chose to remain in Israel as an illegal resident and send his child back to Gaza alone, without any familiar faces leading him home," COGAT said. "This is an unacceptable phenomenon. As a father myself, I do not understand how a parent abandons his child and leaves him in the hands of a stranger without worrying about his welfare and safety," said the head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration in Gaza, Col. Iyad Sarhan. "Those who choose to stay in Israel are violating the conditions of their entry permits. As a human being and as a father, I hope that this phenomenon will stop and the residents of Gaza will start prioritizing their children above everything else," he added.

Amazon Looks to Corner Middle East E-Commerce Market

By YnetNews & The Media Line
E-commerce behemoth Amazon is preparing to launch a new Middle East website to expand its business in the region. Already the world's largest internet shopping platform, the company has its eye specifically on the United Arab Emirates' lucrative market. Two years ago, Amazon purchased Dubai-based online retailer for $580 million. Until now Amazon relied on the acquisition—an English-Arabic language e-commerce platform geared to local consumers—to sell products and services in the region. However, analysts believe the tech giant is slowly trying to shift traffic onto its own website, which will help US-based sellers expand, while phasing out The new online site would reportedly resemble the Amazon UK or Amazon Germany ones. "Amazon has done very little with so far because the latter is already a well-established brand with a very good seller and buyer base. So the business has not needed much tinkering with so far," said Andrew Kitson, Head of Telecoms, Media and Technology Industry Research at London-based Fitch Solutions. "But we have seen an increased use of Amazon in web search traffic and e-commerce. The company may well be feeling that the time is right to dial down the brand and bring Amazon more to the fore." With its new project, Amazon is using the UAE and Saudi Arabia as a springboard into the rest of the region, Kitson explained. It will also seek to expand its IT, web services and cloud computing sectors which involves setting up data centers and working with local internet and telecom service providers. "So if they are going in with the Amazon brand on that side, it makes sense to push the Amazon brand on the consumer side as well," he said. Products that have done well in Dubai's thriving e-commerce market include jewelry, clothing, footwear, apparel, makeup and electronics. Amazon will seek to replicate these successes throughout the region. "The food sector is less successful as shoppers tend to be traditionally minded, preferring to shop locally," Kitson concluded. Amazon's ambition for the region has also sparked competitors. Dubai real estate magnate Mohamed Alabbar recently launched with the help of government funds and private Gulf investors. The company is already building distribution centers in Saudi Arabia (in Riyadh and Jeddah) and a massive warehouse in Dubai. "We expect to become a world player but will concentrate firstly on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Alabbar recently said of his company. Matthew Reed, a Dubai-based analyst for Ovum, a technology consultancy firm, said that was set up about 18 months ago. "Despite its grand plans when it was unveiled, the launch was delayed by quite a long time and there were reportedly quite a lot of operational problems." The Middle East e-commerce market is still quite underdeveloped so there is good potential for growth and for a global player like Amazon to lead, he said. Turning to Amazon's acquisition of, Reed added that there is still speculation as to the plan of phasing it out. "It could be that Amazon has calculated that using its own brand might be more effective and perhaps also that using its own tech systems will allow it to expand and offer services that perhaps it cannot through," he said. "That would be significant for the Middle East e-commerce market, but Amazon might face challenges which could be political as much as commercial. A while ago Alabbar said global giants like Amazon were a threat to local businesses." There was also a campaign in Saudi Arabia to boycott Amazon because of CEO Jeff Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post for which murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi served as a contributing columnist. "But it is unclear if this campaign had any effect," Reed said.

Be'er Sheva Soccer Team Owner: I have Decided to Enter Politics

By & the Jerusalem Post

Alona Barkat, the owner of Hapoel Be'er Sheva soccer team, announced that she is joining the New Right party. "Dear fans, I stand here with great excitement over my decision to embark on a new path. It is important for me to clarify that I will continue to stand behind the team, its budgets and its contracts.

"I decided to accept the call to enter the political field. To prevent even the appearance of mixing politics and sports, I have decided to transfer management rights to Assi Rahamim. I will continue to transfer budgets and support Hapoel Be'er Sheva," she said. Barkat is the wife of Eli Barkat, a high-tech entrepreneur and controlling shareholder of the Meitav Dash investment house. He is the brother of former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who was chosen this week for the Likud list for the next Knesset. Alona Barkat acquired Hapoel Be'er Sheva in 2007 and over the past three years has made it the leading soccer team in Israel, with three consecutive wins in the State Championship. Among others joining the New Right list are journalist Caroline Glick, Col. (res.) Matan Kahana and social activist Shirley Pinto. After acquiring Hapoel Be'er Sheva, Barkat invested money and efforts into the youth department, emphasizing educational activities and community connection. Her efforts climaxed in the 2016 national triumph of the soccer team after Be'er Sheva had not won the title in 40 years. Barkat herself related the difficult decision she had to take in leaving the Hapoel club and fans, but said that she decided to join the New Right because they are a "team of dreamers and believers," but also a team that takes the initiative and goes after its beliefs. She also said that she wants to mirror her work in Be'er Sheva on the national level. "Israel needs social healing. Every child needs to know and believe that they can if they try," she continued, adding that she believed in the cooperation of the entire people, regardless of religious or political affiliation.

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