President Obama reaffirms support for Israeli ground operation against Hamas tunnel infrastructure


President Barack Obama spoke on Friday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid what one description of the call - posted to the Facebook page of American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro - characterized as "Israel’s military operation in Gaza, including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels," with the President emphasizing that "no nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders [or] terrorists tunneling into its territory" and taking the opportunity to reaffirm his "strong support for Israel's right to defend itself." Hamas's vast underground tunnel network has, since the ground phase of Israel's Operation Protective Edge was launched yesterday, become the focus of both Israeli military planners and outside observers. The incursion itself was triggered by an early morning Hamas raid, in which at least 13 of the terror group's commandos spilled out of an offensive tunnel dug about 250 meters inside Israel. Their goal was apparently infiltrate Kibbutz Sufa - a tiny community of 150 people, about a 10-minute walk from the tunnel's opening - and conduct a mass casualty attack. They were carrying heavy arms, including grenades, at least 15 anti-tank weapons, and personal Kalashnikovs with enormous amounts of ammunition. The attack was disrupted by the Israeli military. Hamas's offensive attack tunnels are part of a larger underground city underneath the Gaza Strip, which the group also uses for command and control, as well as for storing weapons. Degrading the tunnels can't be done from the air, because there's no way to damage them without inflicting massive damage on civilian infrastructure. Col. Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer who served as Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, tweeted yesterday that the international community should "commend Israel for the courage to put their soldiers' lives at risk," inasmuch as "the alternative would be carpet bombing [and] mass [civilian] casualties." Efforts to degrade Hamas's tunnel infrastructure have the potential to inflict long-lasting damage on the ground. Amos Yadlin, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman) and the current director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, has assessed that "the tunnels used by Hamas for its military buildup after Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense were destroyed and closed by the Egyptians," creating a situation in which "significant blow is struck at production facilities in Gaza, the post-operation buildup, if there is any, will be slow and limited."


The Wall Street Journal on Friday afternoon announced that Iran and the P5+1 global powers had reached an agreement to extend through late November talks over Tehran's nuclear program. The interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) was set to expire July 20, amid increasing speculation that talks would be extended as a comprehensive deal had not yet been reached. Among the core issues that require progress is Iran's continuing ballistic missile development. A range of analysts and officials this week unpacked a recent Pentagon report on Iranian military capabilities, with a general consensus emerging that the Islamic republic remains on track to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2015. American Foreign Policy Council Vice President Ilan Berman on Friday warned of “the Iranian regime's intent to become a global missile power” as it negotiates with the P5+1 over its nuclear program, noting that while Tehran is engaging in talks with the West, “it is simultaneously arming for regional dominance.” Berman pointed out that Tehran has poured money into both its ballistic missile and space programs, which he called “technologies that, if fused together, would allow the regime to rapidly field an ICBM.” Reuters last year conveyed analyst concerns to the effect that Iran’s space program is being used by the Iranian military to develop and hone delivery systems capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn had in February testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran was on track for testing its ICBM capabilities as early as 2015, and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) earlier this month called predictions that Tehran Iran might well be able to field a working ICBM by next year an “unchanging fact.” Peter Huessy, a senior fellow at AFPC, on Friday assessed that the Iranian “ballistic missile threat combined with its clandestine nuclear program gives the Free World a problem.”


OurCrowd, a leading equity crowdfunding platform for accredited investors, recently announced that it has successfully raised $60 million in the aggregate to date over its platform for its 46 portfolio companies. Twenty of these companies have already raised more than $1 million each in investments, and four companies have raised over $3 million through the OurCrowd platform. “We are proud to have raised these amounts in just 16 months since launching. These numbers demonstrate that our model works and can be effectively used for major funding rounds. The fact that OurCrowd has deployed more money for our companies than our Silicon Valley competitors proves that we are indeed at the forefront of equity crowdfunding innovation,” said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved. OurCrowd, and its team of experienced investment professionals, provides an innovative way to invest in Israeli and global early-stage companies. ReWalk, which recently filed for a $58 million IPO, is a portfolio company. “OurCrowd did their diligence thoroughly, effectively and quickly which was appreciated and valuable for an operating company. Their team has a combination of deep experience, meaningful skills and enthusiasm for their mission. They also have provided key contacts in the US and in new areas for us such as Australia,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO ReWalk Robotics. (via Israel21c)

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