- Iranian government's role in attacks on Saudi missions comes to light as tensions increase between the two states
As hostilities between Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to escalate, Iran’s complicity in the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions on Saturday is coming into view. Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday following an attack on its embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. The attacks were in response to the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Research Analyst Amir Toumaj at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explained that on the day of the execution, groups linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and “its Basij paramilitary called for protests at the Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad the following day.” Toumaj commented that many of those present at the protests included “instructors at state-run religious seminaries and Basij members.” Toumaj described security at both of the Saudi facilities as “suspiciously lax” prior to the riots. He continued that “when the mobs stormed the embassy that night, authorities were nowhere to be found,” despite the security that had been present earlier in the day. The authorities arrived only after the destruction took place, including setting the building ablaze and looting. “In Mashhad,” he writes, “security forces were photographed standing idle as protesters climbed the fence, set fire to the consulate, and shattered windows.” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a press conference that Iran has a “long record of violations of foreign diplomatic missions,” dating back to the 1979 takeover of the American embassy, after which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. Every year Iran celebrates the attack on the U.S. embassy in 1979 and calls it the “Second Revolution,” according to Reuters. On Monday, the U.S. State Department stated that it was “too soon” to know who was responsible for the attacks.
In recent days, as The New York Times wrote, “diplomatic dominoes…have fallen across the Middle East.” In a move of solidarity with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Comoros recalled their ambassadors from Iran, the United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations, while Bahrain, Sudan, Djibouti, and Somalia cut ties with Iran. Then, on Thursday, Iran “severed all commercial ties” with the Kingdom.
Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, announced the foiling of a plot by a Hamas cell to kidnap and murder Israeli citizens in December, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.
The cell, which included three Israeli citizens from Jerusalem and three residents of Hebron, was led in part by 36-year-old Hebron resident Maher Qawasmeh, who had previously been jailed for planning terror attacks for Hamas. A second leader was identified as 20-year-old Ziad Abu Hadwan, who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The group met in Hebron multiple times over the past year and acquired two vehicles to carry out their plot. 22-year-old Ammar Rajabe, also of Jerusalem’s Old City, was the intended driver of the car that would be carrying the kidnapped Israelis. The suspects told the Shin Bet that Rajabe was chosen for the job because his Hebrew language skills are “superior.”
The cell planned to abduct one or more Israelis, kill them, and then negotiate to trade the bodies for jailed terrorists. The Shin Bet discovered a hiding place where the group intended to store their victims’ remains.
After security forces detected and arrested those in the cell who have Israeli citizenship, Qawasmeh ordered the remaining members to make explosives to carry out a bombing. That effort was unsuccessful.
In the summer of 2014, three Israeli teens– Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel, 16; and Gil-ad Shaar, 16– were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in a similar plot.
Last month, the Shin Bet announced that it had uncovered and dismantled a Hamas cell that planned to carry out mass-casualty bombing attacks. According to the Times, in both plots, “many of the members of the group were Israeli citizens, residents of Jerusalem, who were given tasks that made use of their greater freedom of movement, as compared to Palestinians who live in the West Bank.” (via TheTower.org)
Inspired by the common locust, a tiny high-jumping robot developed in Israel could be used for sending lifesaving reconnaissance data to human rescue teams in disaster situations, or for cleaning up oil spills or for gathering intelligence – and many other difficult missions unsuited to large robots and humans. The five-inch-long featherweight robot is dubbed “TAUB” (for Tel Aviv University and ORT Braude College), the two Israeli academic institutions involved in the inventive collaboration. The zoologists and mechanical engineers involved in the project say TAUB can jump 11 feet high — more than twice the height of similar-sized robots — and cover a horizontal distance of 4.5 feet in one leap. “How our prototype could be used is a matter of imagination,” says Prof. Amir Ayali, a TAU zoologist on the multidisciplinary team whose aim was “to build the best jumping robotic system that we could.” Ayali tells ISRAEL21c that small, inexpensive robots are widely viewed as the wave of the future. They could be grouped to accomplish tasks more efficiently and cheaply than can today’s larger robots. Or they can be used singly in environments where small size is an advantage, such as searching under rubble. TAUB boasts an extra dimension of capability. “Jumping is better for rough terrain,” explains Ayali. “Today you have drones and quadrupeds, but they are extremely demanding energy-wise. Ours is extremely efficient and is a beautiful example of bio-inspired technological innovation. It could be used in any case where you don’t want to, or cannot, send humans or huge expensive robots.” The scientists used a 3D printer to make two prototypes of the 23-gram robot from ABS plastic (the same material LEGOs are made of). The robot’s legs are composed of stiff carbon rods and steel wire springs. It is powered by a small on-board battery and remotely controlled through an on-board micro controller. TAUB is not an exact replica of a locust, Ayali stresses, but it has the specific biomechanical features of the locust’s unparalleled three-stage jump mechanism. (via Israel21c)