Newsletter : 19fx0208.txt
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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
Two Iranian Flops: Putting a Satellite into Orbit and Fitting Guided Warhead on
Long-Range Ballistic Missile
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Souq.com for $580 million.
Until now Amazon relied on the acquisitionan English-Arabic language e-commerce
platform geared to local consumersto 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 Souq.com. The new
online site would reportedly resemble the Amazon UK or Amazon Germany ones.
"Amazon has done very little with Souq.com 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 Souq.com brand and bring Amazon more to
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 Noon.com 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
Noon.com 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 Souq.com, 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 Souq.com," 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
Be'er Sheva Soccer Team Owner: I have Decided to Enter Politics
By IsraelNationalNews.com & 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
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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