Iran calls blackout at underground atomic facility ‘nuclear terrorism.’ Israeli outlets blame an Israeli cyberattack.

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, centrifuge Natanz uranium enrichment facility
This file photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. The facility lost power Sunday, April 11, 2021, just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium faster, the latest incident to strike the site amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers. Iran on Sunday described the blackout an act of “nuclear terrorism,” raising regional tensions.

  • Iran blames a Sunday blackout at a nuclear facility on “nuclear terrorism.”
  • The country hasn’t assigned blame, but Israeli media has reported an Israeli cyberattack is responsible.
  • The attack comes as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, described a Sunday morning blackout at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility as an act of “nuclear terrorism.” The country fell short of assigning blame for the blackout, which occurred while negotiations continue between Iran and US-aligned nations over reinstating the nuclear deal.

Multiple Israeli media outlets, including Haaretz, claimed that the blackout was caused by an Israeli cyberattack on the eve of Israel’s independence day. On Sunday night, embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to security chiefs, such as Mossad head, Yossi Cohen, asking them to “continue in this direction, and to continue to keep the sword of David in your hands.”

If Israel is responsible, the act threatens to continue to heighten regional tensions between Iran and America’s ally. Netanyahu also met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday along with his Dfeense Minister, Benny Gantz.

The blackout came hours after the facility began to operate new centrifuges that can enrich uranium more quickly.

Salehi did not expand on how the blackouts had affected the atomic facility but said that the country plans to “seriously improve” its nuclear technology while trying to also lift international sanctions. Nuclear spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi told Iranian state television that “there was no casualty or damage and there is no particular contamination or problem”

Iran’s nuclear program has seen many previous acts of international sabotage. In July,the Natanz plant experienced a mysterious explosion, and in November, a leading Iranian nuclear scientist was killed by a remote-controlled machine gun. Iran blames Israel for both and is now building a new facility underground, which was targeted in Sunday’s attack.

In 2010, the facility was attacked by the Stuxnet computer virus, destroying centrifuges at the Natanz plant. The virus is widely considered to be created by the US and Israel.

Israeli media reports, such as public broadcaster Kan, said that “experts” assume that Sunday’s attack shut down much of the facility. The reports did not cite their sources for the information.

After the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Iran has stopped following formal limits on its uranium stockpile, now enriching up to 20% purity. This is still below the 90% purity needed to build weapons.

Iran has long maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Earlier this week, an Iranian cargo ship that was connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard off the coast of Yemen was hit by an explosion. Iran has blamed Israel for the blast, which occurred in a hot zone near the conflict between Saudi Arabian forces and the Iranian- aligned Houthis in Yemen. The Wall Street Journal reported that Israeli cover operations are responsible for over a dozen oil tanker attacks in recent years.

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Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against South African and UK coronavirus variants, according to Israeli study

pfizer vaccine
vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to front-line health care workers under an emergency use authorization at a drive up vaccination site from Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.

  • An Israeli study found that the Pfizer vaccine may not provide full protection against the South African strain.
  • Fully vaccinated patients saw protection against a surging UK strain, but partially vaccinated patients did not.
  • Israel has the world’s fastest vaccine roll-out, but has excluded Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Coronavirus variants first found in South Africa and the UK are able to partially “breakthrough” the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to an Israeli study that studied real-world infection data. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The study, released on Saturday, compared the incidences of both variants between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The study, conducted by Tel Aviv University and Israeli healthcare provider Clalit tracked almost 400 people, and counted both partially vaccinated (one dose) and fully vaccinated (two dose) patients.

The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to be eight times more prevalent among vaccinated patients while the UK strain, B.1.1.7, was more prevalent among partially vaccinated patients, though the fully-vaccinated showed increased protection against the UK strain.

The study suggests that the Pfizer vaccine provides less protection against the South African variant than the original coronavirus, but it is not able to actually conclude that because it is focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates.

Roughly 80% of Israel’s population is vaccinated, with almost 53% of the population having received both Pfizer doses. The study found that only 1% of total cases in the study were the South African variant, a promising sign for Israel, the most vaccinated country.

Israel’s vaccine totals do not include Palestinians. Israel occupies the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, and has rolled out the vaccine much more slowly in Palestinian territories, claiming that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the distribution of vaccines.

Earlier this month, a Palestinian student studying at Tel Aviv University in Israel won the right to be vaccinated after being turned away from a school vaccination site and then suing. Israel has just recently begun to vaccinate Palestinians.

In data released on April 1, Pfizer and Biotech found that their shot was 91% effective at preventing COVID-19 and showed early signs of preventing the spread of the B.1.351 strain as well. Earlier lab trials had suggested that the vaccine provides some protection against the strain, but not full protection.

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5 more countries that are impossible to conquer

US Army Vietnam War
A US infantry patrol moves up to assault a Viet Cong position during Operation Hawthorne, in Dak To in South Vietnam.

  • Conquering a country means not only defeating its military but its population as well.
  • Throughout history, some peoples have been particularly successful at resisting invaders.
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The true conquest of a country is more than just invading its land borders. To truly conquer a country, an invader has to subdue its people and end its will to fight.

There are many countries in the world with a lot of experience in this area, and there are many more countries who were on the receiving end of their subjugation.

At the end of World War II, the age of colonialism was officially ended for most of these conquerors and what grew from that end was a rebirth of those people and their culture, which just went to show that their people were never really subdued in the first place.

And then there were some countries that either never stopped fighting in the first place or have been constantly fighting for their right to exist since they won their independence. Some of them overcame great odds and earned the respect of their neighbors and former enemies rather than allow themselves to be subject to someone just because they didn’t have the latest and greatest in military technologies.

In the last installment, we looked at countries whose people, geography, sheer size, populations, and culture would never allow an invader to conquer them. This time, we look at smaller countries who took on great powers as the underdog and came out on top.

1. Vietnam

vietnam war

The Vietnam War wasn’t some historical undercard match. It was actually a heavyweight championship fight – the United States just didn’t realize it at the time.

The history of Vietnam’s formidable people and defenses date well before the Vietnam War and even before World War II. Vietnam has historically been thought of as one of the most militaristic countries in the region, and for good reason. Vietnam has been kicking invaders out since the 13th century when Mongol hordes tried to move in from China.

While it wasn’t Genghis Khan at the head of the invading army, it wasn’t too far removed the then-dead leader’s time. Kubali Khan’s Yuan Dynasty tried three times to subdue the Vietnamese. In the last invasion, Khan sent 400 ships and 300,000 men to Vietnam, only to see every ship sunk and the army harassed by the Vietnamese all the way back to China.

Vietnam maintained its independence from China for 900 years after that. In more modern times, Vietnam was first invaded by the French in force in 1858 and they couldn’t subdue the whole of the country until 1887, 29 years after it first started.

It cost thousands of French lives and the French even had to bring in Philippine troops to help. Even then, they won only because of a critical error on the part of Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc, who terribly misjudged how much his people actually cared for his regime.

The Japanese invasion during WWII awakened the Vietnamese resolve toward independence and they immediately started killing Japanese invaders – and not out of love for the French. They famously gave France the boot, invaded Laos to extend their territory, and then invaded South Vietnam. That’s where the Americans come in.

The American-Vietnam War didn’t go so well for either side, but now-Communist Vietnam’s dense jungle and support from China and the Soviet Union gave the North Vietnamese the military power to match their will to keep fighting, a will which seemed never-ending, no matter which side you’re on. North Vietnam was able to wait out the US and reunite Vietnam, an underdog story that no one believed possible.

Vietnam’s resistance to outsiders doesn’t end there. After Vietnam invaded China-backed Cambodia (and won, by the way), Communist China’s seemingly unstoppable People’s Liberation Army with its seemingly unlimited manpower invaded Vietnam in 1979.

For three weeks, the war ground Vietnamese border villages in a bloody stalemate until the Chinese retreated back across the border, taking an unexpectedly high death toll.

2. Finland

Soviet Union Russia Finland winter war snow grave frozen
Members of a Finnish ski patrol examining the tomb of two Russian officers on the Salla front in Finland on February 10, 1940.

Though not much about early Finnish history is known, there are a few Viking sagas that mention areas of Finland and the people who inhabit those areas. Those sagas usually involve Vikings getting murdered or falling in battle. The same goes for Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and virtually anyone else who had their eyes set on Finland.

In the intervening years, Finns allowed themselves to be dominated by Sweden and Russia, but after receiving their autonomy in 1917, Finland wasn’t about to give it up. They eventually became a republic and were happy with that situation until around World War II began.

That’s when the Soviet Union invaded.

The invasion of Finland didn’t go well for the USSR. It lasted all of 105 days and the “Winter War,” as it came to be called, was the site of some of the most brutal fighting the world has ever seen to this day.

Finns were ruthless and relentless in defending their territory. For example, the Raatteentie Incident involved a 300-Finn ambush of a 25,000-strong Soviet force – and the Finns destroyed the Russians almost to the last man. The Finnish sniper Simo Hayha killed 505 Russians and never lost a moment’s sleep.

When the retreating Finns destroyed anything that might be of use to an invader, it forced Soviet troops to march over frozen lakes. Lakes that were mined by the Finns and subsequently exploded, downing and freezing thousands of Red Army invaders.

The Winter War is also where Finnish civilians perfected and mass-produced the Molotov Cocktail.

From the British War Office:

“The Finns’ policy was to allow the Russian tanks to penetrate their defenses, even inducing them to do so by ‘canalising’ them through gaps and concentrating their small arms fire on the infantry following them. The tanks that penetrated were taken on by gun fire in the open and by small parties of men armed with explosive charges and petrol bombs in the forests and villages.”

This was the level of resistance from a country of just 3.5 million people. Finns showed up in whatever they were wearing, with whatever weapons they had, men and women alike.

In short, Finns are happy to kill any invader and will do it listening to heavy metal music while shouting the battle cry of, “fire at their balls!”

3. Israel

Israeli air force fighter plane independence
An Israeli air force Avia S-199 in June 1948.

If part of what makes the United States an unconquerable country is every citizen being able to take up arms against an invader, just imagine how effective that makeshift militia force would be if every single citizen was also a trained soldier. That’s Israel, with 1.5 million highly trained reserve troops.

Israel has had mandatory military service for all its citizens – men and women – since 1949 and for a good reason. Israel is in a tough neighborhood and most of their neighbors don’t want Israel to exist.

This means the Jewish state is constantly fighting for survival in some way, shape, or form, and they’re incredibly good at it. In almost 70 years of history, Israel earned a perfect war record. Not bad for any country, let alone one that takes heat for literally anything it does.

Not only will Israel wipe the floor with its enemies; it doesn’t pull punches. That’s why wars against Israel don’t last long, with most lasting less than a year and the shortest lasting just six days. As far as invading Israel goes, the last time an invading Army was in Israel proper, it was during the 1948-49 War of Independence. Since then, the farthest any invader got inside Israel was into areas seized by the Israelis during a previous war.

In fact, when an Arab coalition surprised Israel during Yom Kippur in 1973, the Israelis nearly took Cairo and Damascus in just a couple of weeks.

More than just securing their land borders, Israel keeps a watchful eye on Jewish people worldwide, and doesn’t mind violating another country’s sovereignty to do it. Just ask Uganda, Sudan, Argentina, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, UAE, Tunisia … get the point? If a group of Jewish people are taken hostage or under threat somewhere, the IDF or Mossad will come and get them out.

The Mossad is another story entirely. Chance are good that any country even thinking about invading Israel is probably full of, if not run by, Mossad agents. Israel will get the entire plan of attack in plenty of time to hand an invader their own ass.

Just before the 1967 Six Day War, Mossad agent Eli Cohen became a close advisor to Syria’s defense minister. He actually got the Syrians to plant trees in the Golan Heights to help IDF artillery find the range on their targets.

4. Japan

Japan military parade WWII
Japanese military students parade in front of Japanese officials and the German and Italian ambassadors in Tokyo in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Japan was able to keep its culture and history relatively intact over the centuries because mainland Japan has never been invaded by an outside force.

Contrary to popular belief, the “divine wind” typhoons didn’t destroy the Mongol fleets outright. Mongol invaders were able to land on some of the Japanese islands, but after a few victories and a couple of stunning defeats, the Japanese exhausted the Mongols and they were forced to retreat back to their ships. That’s when the first typhoon hit.

Mongols invaded again less than seven years later with a fleet of 4,400 ships and some 140,000 Mongol, Korean, and Chinese troops. Japanese samurai defending Hakata Bay were not going to wait for the enemy to land and actually boarded Chinese ships to slaughter its mariners.

Since then, the Bushido Code only grew in importance and Japan’s main enemies were – wait for it – the Japanese. But once Japan threw off its feudal system and unified, it became a force to be reckoned with. Japan shattered the notion that an Asian army wasn’t able to defeat a Western army in a real war, soundly defeating the Russians both on land and at sea in 1905, setting the stage for World War II.

Although the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a great idea, the Japanese made sure the Americans knew that any invasion of Japanese territory would cost them dearly – and they made good on the promise, mostly by fighting to the death.

The United States got the message, opting to drop nuclear weapons on Japan to force a surrender rather than attempt an invasion. Even though the US got the demanded surrender, Japan was not a conquered country. The United States left Japan after seven years of occupation and the understanding that communism was worse than petty fighting.

“Bushido” began to take on a different meaning to Japanese people. It wasn’t just one of extreme loyalty to traditions or concepts, or even the state. It morphed throughout Japanese culture until it began to represent a kind of extreme bravery and resistance in the face of adversity.

While many in Japan are hesitant to use Bushido in relation to the Japanese military, the rise of China is fueling efforts to alter Japan’s pacifist constitution to enable its self-defense forces to take a more aggressive stand in some areas.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has worked not to dominate the region militarily but economically. Japan’s booming economy has allowed the country to meet the threats raised by Chinese power in the region, boosting military spending by $40 billion and creating the world’s most technologically advanced (and fifth largest) air force, making any approach to the island that much more difficult.

5. The Philippines

Katipuneros
Armed Filipino revolutionaries known as Katipuneros.

The 7,000-plus islands of the Philippines are not a country that any invader should look forward to subduing. The Philippines have been resisting invaders since Filipinos killed Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

For 300-plus years, people of the Philippines were largely not thrilled to be under Spanish rule, which led to a number of insurrections, mutinies, and outright revolts against the Spanish.

As a matter of fact, for the entire duration of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, the Moro on Sulu and Mindinao fought their occupiers. That’s a people who won’t be conquered.

By the time the people of the Philippines rose up to throw off the chains of Spanish colonizers, there was already a massive plan in place as well as a secret shadow government ready to take power as soon as the Spanish were gone.

This revolution continued until the Spanish-American War when the Americans wrested the island nation away, much to the chagrin (and surprise) of the Philippines.

Freedom fighters in the Philippines were so incensed at the American occupation that US troops had to adopt a new sidearm with a larger caliber. Moro fighters shot by the standard-issue Colt .38-caliber M1892 Army-Navy pistol would not stop rushing American troops, and the US troops in the Philippines were getting killed by lack of firepower.

Meanwhile, the Philippines created a government anyway and immediately declared war on the United States, and even though it ended with the capture of rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo, American troops would be in the Philippines until 1913, attempting to subdue guerrillas in the jungles and outlying islands. Until, that is, Japan invaded.

If you want to know how well that went for the Japanese, here’s a photo of Filipino freedom fighter Capt. Nieves Fernandez showing a US soldier how she hacks off Japanese heads with her bolo knife.

So even though the actual Armed Forces of the Philippines might be a little aged and weak, anyone trying to invade and subdue the Philippines can pretty much expect the same level of resistance from the locals.

Consider hot climate and dense jungles covering 7,000-plus islands, full of Filipinos who are all going to try to kill you eventually – the Philippines will never stop resisting.

Like the Moros, who are still fighting to this day.

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The US had a plan in the 1960s to blast an alternative Suez Canal through Israel using 520 nuclear bombs

Israel canal plan
An annotated map of Egypt and Israel shows the placement of the existing Suez Canal and an approximation of plans for a canal through Israel discussed by the US in the 1960s.

  • A declassified memorandum reveals a 1963 US plan to create an alternative to the Suez Canal.
  • It would have excavated more than 160 miles through Israel’s Negev desert with nuclear bombs.
  • A cargo ship is currently stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking the vital shipping route.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US had plans to use 520 nuclear bombs to carve out an alternative to the Suez Canal though Israel in the 1960s, according to a declassified memorandum.

The plan never came into a fruition, but having an alternative waterway to the Suez Canal could have been useful today, with a cargo ship stuck in the narrow path and blocking one of the world’s most vital shipping routes.

According to the 1963 memorandum, which was declassified in 1996, the plan would have relied on 520 nuclear bombs to carve out the waterway. The memo called for the “use of nuclear explosives for excavation of Dead Sea canal across the Negev desert.”

The historian Alex Wellerstein tweeted that the plan would have been a “model proposal for the Suez Canal situation.”

The memorandum was from the US Department of Energy-backed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

It suggested that an “interesting application of nuclear excavation would be a sea-level canal 160 miles long across Israel.”

Conventional methods of excavation would be “prohibitively expensive,” the memo said. “It appears that nuclear explosives could be profitably applied to this situation.”

It said, however, that “such a canal would be strategically valuable alternative to the present Suez Canal and would probably contribute greatly to economic development.”

As part of the pricing model, the memorandum estimated that four 2-megaton devices would be needed for every mile, which Wellerstein calculated as meaning “520 nukes” or “1.04 [gigatons] of explosives,” he tweeted.

One possible route proposed by the memorandum stretched across the Negev Desert in Israel, connecting the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aqaba, opening an access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The laboratory noted that there were 130 miles of “virtually unpopulated desert wasteland, and are thus amenable to nuclear excavation methods.”

This “crude preliminary investigation suggests that using a bomb to create a canal through Israel “appears to be within the range of technological feasibility,” the memo said.

But the memo conceived that one problem, which the authors had not taken into consideration, might be “political feasibility, as it is likely that the Arab countries surrounding Israel would strongly object to the construction of such a canal.”

The memo came as the US Atomic Energy Commission was investigating using “peaceful nuclear explosions” (PNEs) to dig out useful infrastructure, Forbes reported in 2018. There were also plans to use this method to dig out a canal in Central America, Forbes reported.

But the PNE project remained experimental, after the US found that 27 experiments with PNEs heavily irradiated the landscape. The Atomic Energy Commission was also abolished in 1974.

Meanwhile, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory still exists. According to its website, it is dedicated to “ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”

The 1963 memorandum had also came less then a decade after the Suez crisis, a conflict for the control of the strategic waterway which was a defining event in the Cold War.

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6,000-year-old child skeleton found in Israel’s ‘Cave of Horrors’ along with ancient Dead Sea scrolls and world’s oldest basket

Cave of Horror Excavation
Archeologists Hagay Hamer and Oriah Amichai at the ‘Cave of Horror’ in the Judean Desert, Israel.

  • Archeologists found the child’s skeleton preserved naturally mummified in the dry cave.
  • The “Cave of Horrors” takes its name from the 40 skeletons found during excavations in the 1960s.
  • A CT scan revealed the child was aged between 6 and 12 and is thought to have been a girl.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Archeologists have discovered the 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child in the “Cave of Horrors” in Israel’s Judean Desert alongside ancient Dead Sea scrolls as well as the world’s oldest basket.

The “Cave of Horrors” takes its name from the 40 skeletons found there during excavations in the 1960s. Researchers found the child’s remains preserved naturally mummified in the dry atmosphere of the cave, which can only be accessed by climbing ropes.

A CT scan revealed that the child, who had skin, tendons, and even hair partially preserved, was aged was between 6 and 12 and is thought to have been a girl, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Prehistorian Ronit Lupu of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said in a statement: “It was obvious that whoever buried the child had wrapped [them] up and pushed the edges of the cloth beneath [them], just as a parent covers [their] child in a blanket. A small bundle of cloth was clutched in the child’s hands.”

The skeleton was found along with ancient Dead Sea scrolls, which are among the earliest texts ever written in Hebrew.

World's oldest basket
Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist Naama Sukenik at the Naama Sukenik shows the world’s oldest basket in Jerusalem, on March 16, 2021.

The newly discovered fragments of the 2000-year-old scrolls are Greek translations from the biblical books of Nahum and Zechariah, found in the Book of the 12 Minor Prophets in the Jewish Tanakh.

However, the only Hebrew included in the text is the name of God, The Independent noted, and the scrolls are thought to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome, NBC News added.

The world’s oldest basket dating back to 10,000 years ago was also found, as well as arrowheads and coins thought to be from the Bar Kochba revolt period in other caves, The Guardian reported.

The authority commissioned the excavation back in 2017 following reports of plundering by looters, The Guardian noted.

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The story behind the distressing video of Israeli soldiers detaining Palestinian kids sheds light on the reality of living under occupation

palestinian children west bank detained
A Palestinian child is carried by an Israeli soldier to a vehicle on the outskirts of Havat Maon in the West Bank on March 10, 2021.

  • Five Palestinian children were apprehended by Israeli soldiers in southern Hebron on Wednesday.
  • The young boys were then taken to a police station where they were detained for several hours.
  • Three of the children. aged between eight and 11, are below the age of criminal responsibility in Israel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video has emerged of five Palestinian children being detained by Israeli soldiers near a West Bank outpost on Wednesday afternoon.

The children, aged between eight and 13, were apprehended after settlers from the Havat Maon settlement in southern Hebron reported them to a military patrol.

The video of the incident, initially shared by the human rights nonprofit B’Tselem, shows the young boys being escorted into a vehicle by soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces. One of the children can be seen crying and struggling as an armed soldier lifts him into the van. Another holds hands with one of his masked captors.

They’re just children, what is this?” an adult can be heard yelling at the soldiers.

The young boys are accused of attempting to steal parrots from a private property in an Israeli settlement, a spokesperson for the Israeli police told Insider.

Havat Maon is one of many settler outposts in the West Bank, considered illegal by international law, that is not authorized by the Israeli government. There have been several incidents in the area of Palestinian children being harassed by Israeli settlers while on their way to school.

Armed military personnel reportedly took the children into the settlement and questioned them about their alleged attempted theft, according to the children’s lawyer.

“They were taken to the Havat Maon illegal outpost, where the soldiers tried to get a confession from them, which is illegal,” their lawyer, Gaby Lasky, told Insider.

Both the Israeli police and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dispute this claim and instead insist that the young boys were immediately taken to a police station.

palestinian children soldiers west bank
A Palestinian child is escorted by an Israeli soldier to a police vehicle on the outskirts of Havat Maon in the West Bank on March 10, 2021.

After being transferred to Kiryat Arba police station, the young boys were detained for several hours. Their parents, despite multiple attempts, were unable to contact or locate their children, according to Lasky.

Israeli officials claim that the detention’s purpose was to help reunite them with their families. A spokesperson from the IDF told Insider that the boys were transferred to a police facility for “further processing” and to “locate their parents.”

This is echoed by the Israeli police force. “The minors were brought to the police, who acted in order to locate their parents that live in Palestinian territory, for several hours,” the spokesperson told Insider.

Lasky, who is representing the five boys, has said that the boys’ detention was criminal.

“Three of the kids were under the criminal age of responsibility, so they can’t detain them and they can’t take them to the police station or anywhere else. This is completely illegal,” she told insider.

The age of criminal responsibility in Israel is 12. Three of the boys are aged between eight and 11. The two older boys are 12 and 13 and are old enough to be charged with a crime.

The lawyer also believes that the use of military force on the children was unwarranted. “The way that the children were taken and made to kneel when they were detained is not only unnecessary but is also completely illegal,” Lasky told Insider.

gaby lasky lawyer israel palestine
Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky at a Jerusalem court on September 16, 2018.

Lasky has filed a complaint with the attorney general of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Israeli police.

All five boys were initially summoned for further questioning, according to their lawyer. While the two older boys will be interrogated on Sunday, the three younger children had their summons canceled after an objection by their lawyer, Lasky told Insider.

The human rights organization B’Tselem, whose activists were at the scene, has said that the incident shines a light on the reality of life under occupation.

“It is part of the routine of the occupation for incidents like this, as absurd as they are, to take place,” Amit Gilutz, a B’Tselem spokesperson, told Insider. “It is a reflection of the absolute disregard Israeli authorities hold for the wellbeing of Palestinians.”

“No matter what these children were doing in the vicinity of the settlements,” he added, “they shouldn’t have been arrested by military force.”

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Pfizer’s CEO canceled Israel trip following accusations that his visit could illegally help ‘cynical’ Netanyahu win the upcoming election

netanyahu israel vaccine covid
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, center, meet the Israeli citizen who is the 5 millionth person to be vaccinated in Israel, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 8, 2021.

  • Pfizer’s CEO delayed a trip to Israel that was scheduled to take place during an election campaign.
  • Israel’s attorney general called the proposed visit “criminal election propaganda,” local media reported.
  • Albert Bourla told a local broadcaster that he had “zero intention” of interfering in an election.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla canceled a scheduled trip to Israel following accusations by a watchdog group and the country’s top lawyer that his visit could illegally sway the upcoming election to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bourla was expected to arrive in Tel Aviv on March 8, less than three weeks away from the March 23 election.

Parliamentary watchdog group Achrayut Leumit wrote to Bourla, Netanyahu, and the state comptroller arguing that a visit would violate election propaganda laws, The Jerusalem Post said.

“Mr. Bourla’s participation in photo-op events with the prime minister may constitute aiding and abetting a prohibited election campaign and is a criminal offense,” the group said in a letter seen by the newspaper.

Achrayut Leumit’s CEO, Oshi Elmaliach, threatened to open a case with the Central Elections Committee and the Israeli police if the trip were to go ahead, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Elmaliach also wrote to Israel’s attorney general, citing concerns that a visit could benefit Netanyahu, The Times of Israel reported.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt responded by echoing these concerns and urging Netanyahu and Israel’s health minister to reconsider the trip, according to Channel 12.

Mandelbilt argued that the planned visit was “prohibited and criminal election propaganda, due to the prohibited use of the intangible asset of a supervised body (Ministry of Health),” Channel 12 reported.

It was initially reported that the trip was delayed because Bourla and his delegation members weren’t fully vaccinated.

However, in an interview with Channel 12 news, Bourla confirmed that he had received letters telling him to cancel the trip. “My job is not to do politics,” he told the broadcaster.

The trip has now been rearranged for late spring, Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 reported.

Pfizer did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The trip’s timing struck some Israelis as a clear sign that Netanyahu is willing to do anything to win the election.

“I’ve been told that Bourla’s cancelation was directly because of the letters he received,” Amos Harel, a political analyst at Israeli newspaper Haaretz, told Insider. “Netanyahu was quite cynically putting Bourla in the Israeli political campaign to celebrate the success of his vaccination campaign.”

“There was a red line that shouldn’t be crossed in the midst of a political campaign,” Harel added. “It’s very clear to everyone that the Pfizer visit was about the election.”

Ronny Linder, a health correspondent at Haaretz, said: “Netanyahu treating the vaccine like his own personal achievement isn’t right,” she said.

“If Bourla had come here,” she added, “I suspect that many people would have seen this as a political circus, a one-man show, an act of election propaganda that Bourla would have unwittingly participated in.”

Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been world-leading.

The success can, in part, be attributed to Netanyahu’s efforts to procure vaccines so early on. Bourla said that Netanyahu was “obsessive” and called him “30 times” to secure a deal, The Times of Israel reported.

Experts, however, primarily attribute the success of the rollout to big data, Israel’s centralized and socialized healthcare system, and impactful public information campaigns touting the vaccine’s safety.

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Even more evidence shows vaccinated people are unlikely to transmit the coronavirus or get asymptomatic infections

Israel vaccine injection
Staff of the Maccabi Health vaccination center administer doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine inside a mall parking lot in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 26, 2021.

Once effective coronavirus vaccines were authorized and started getting distributed, the crucial question became: Do they stop transmission?

In clinical trials, Pfizer and Moderna showed that their shots prevent symptomatic COVID-19, but they didn’t test whether their vaccines prevent asymptomatic cases. Without curtailing symptom-less infections, it’s difficult to stop transmission from person to person. But a growing body of evidence suggests that people who get these vaccines don’t spread the virus after all.

Pfizer announced Thursday that its vaccine appears to be 94% effective at preventing asymptomatic infections two weeks after people receive their second dose. The study compared unvaccinated people in Israel to those who got the Pfizer shot between January 17 and March 6.

The findings are “particularly meaningful as we look to disrupt the spread of the virus around the globe,” Dr. Luis Jodar, Pfizer’s chief medical officer, said in a press release.

Vaccinated people may be less contagious if they get infected

London UK coronavirus
People on the London Underground on September 25, 2020.

Research shows the more viral particles a person has in their mouth and nose – what’s known as viral load – the more likely they are to pass the coronavirus to others. Reduced viral loads are linked to lower transmission rates.

So a vaccine should reduce transmission if it can ensure that even those who still get the coronavirus after their shots, whether a symptomatic or asymptomatic case, have a lower viral load than they would otherwise.

A February study from Israel, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that starting 12 days after vaccination, the people who got COVID-19 despite getting Pfizer’s shots had four times less virus in their bodies.

The researchers looked at more than 1,000 people who’d tested positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated in Tel Aviv. Those people’s viral loads in the period from 12 to 28 days after their second dose were four times lower than their viral loads in the first 11 days after vaccination.

Another study from Israel, also not yet peer-reviewed, suggested the Pfizer vaccine reduced viral loads by a factor of up to 20.

Some research suggests viral loads are linked to disease severity, so a patient with a lower viral load is also less likely to have severe COVID-19. That may in part explain why Pfizer’s vaccine significantly reduces the chance of symptomatic infection.

Vaccinated people are less likely to develop asymptomatic infections

Vaccine sticker, US, Kentucky
Dr. Jason Smith shows off his bandage after getting vaccinated at the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky.

To pinpoint whether vaccines truly reduce spread, it’s critical to determine whether the shots prevent asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in addition to symptomatic infections.

Pfizer and Moderna’s clinical trials only tested volunteers for COVID-19 if they felt ill. Otherwise, the companies would have had to require regular COVID-19 testing for all tens of thousands of volunteers. So at first, neither company could say whether their vaccines prevent asymptomatic cases.

But Moderna did test trial volunteers on the day they got their second shots. And the findings suggested that there were fewer asymptomatic infections among participants who’d received the real vaccine than among those who got a placebo. Just 14 people of the 14,000-plus in the trial’s vaccine group had asymptomatic cases that day, compared to 38 of the similarly sized placebo group.

That’s a 61.5% drop, according to Marm Kilpatrick, a disease ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He wrote on Twitter last month that the data suggests Moderna’s vaccine blocks about 91% of transmission.

Israel vaccine
A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a health services center in Rehovot, Israel, on January 14, 2021.

Animal studies offer similar findings: An October paper found that the Moderna vaccine prevented the coronavirus from replicating in the nose, throat, and lungs of rhesus macaques four weeks after they’d been vaccinated. If the viral particles can’t copy themselves, it’s unlikely an infected host will pass on particles to others.

Before the Pfizer findings announced Thursday, a preliminary study published in The Lancet found the shot to be at least 85% effective at preventing any type of infection – symptomatic or asymptomatic. That study looked at more than 23,000 healthcare workers across hospitals in the UK.

Additionally, a recent study found that people who’d received at least one dose of a mRNA vaccine – from either Pfizer or Moderna – were 72% less likely to test positive for an asymptomatic infection 10 days after their shot, relative to unvaccinated people. The research looked at more than 39,000 Americans.

Johnson & Johnson’s trial data on asymptomatic infections also seems promising. The company tested blood samples from almost 3,000 participants for coronavirus antibodies 71 days after they’d been vaccinated. (The presence of antibodies suggests participants had been infected even if they didn’t show symptoms.) Only two vaccinated people tested positive, whereas 16 people who’d received a placebo did, according to data released last month from the Food and Drug Administration.

That suggests J&J’s vaccine may be 74% effective against asymptomatic infections, though the FDA noted that more data is needed to be sure.

pfizer vaccine
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.

Even the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is still in clinical trials in the US, may reduce asymptomatic infections.

A February Oxford study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, found that among people who received just one dose, the number of positive COVID-19 tests – among both symptomatic and asymptomatic study participants – fell by 67%.

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Biden and Europe allies worry Israel is preparing a substantial attack on Iran

israel oil
An Israeli soldier holds a clump of tar cleaned from the sand after an offshore oil spill deposited tar along Israel’s Mediterranean shoreline, at a beach in Atlit, February 22, 2021.

  • Israel has not yet responded to a suspected Iranian oil spill on its shores in February.
  • The lack of response could be a sign it is preparing a substantial strike against Iran, sources tell Insider.
  • Biden and allies in Europe are worried a revenge attack might scuttle nuclear talks with Iran.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Israel suspects Iran intentionally dispatched a ship to dump hundreds of tons of crude oil onto its beaches, the area’s worst ecological disaster in decades, in revenge for the November assassination of the country’s top nuclear scientist, according to Israeli officials and media.

But Israeli officials tell Insider the statement from the environmental minister directly blaming Iran released Wednesday was premature as the military and intelligence services have yet to make a final determination on both Iranian culpability and the appropriate level of response to what would be the most brazen act of environmental terrorism in recent history. 

“That statement should have never been made,” a former Israeli intelligence official, who still consults for the government and therefore cannot be named, told Insider. “The IDF and Mossad are responsible for investigating attacks on the Israeli homeland, determining the responsibility and suggesting a course of action to respond. That process is underway and it is not the portfolio of the environmental minister to start wars with Iran.”

For the past two weeks, tons of crude oil have washed ashore on Israel and Lebanon’s beaches destroying wildlife and causing ecological damage that could take years to restore, according to environmental experts. But after the minister directly accused Iran of a complex operation to drop the oil offshore, the issue took on a new dimension as fears in Washington ands Europe rose over the possibility of an Israeli response.

When pressed on whether Israeli military and intelligence services suspect an Iranian operation as described by the minister – who said a Libya-flagged ship sailed from Iran to Israel and dumped the oil offshore before stopping in Syria and returning to Iran – the former official conceded that was the case.

“Well yes, it does look that way but there’s a process for gathering all the intelligence and evidence and synthesizing into useful information that can help decision-making,” said the official. “It’s being treated as a direct attack on Israel by a foreign enemy, the most potentially serious since 2006 [attack by Hezbollah to kidnap two Israeli soldiers]. The [prime minister’s office] was already undergoing determination about the attack by Iran on [the ship]. Strike options were already being considered on that alone.”

There is a concern that Israel is working on a substantial response, ‘which would be a problem for those of us who want a nuclear deal’

On February 26, two blasts struck an Israeli owned cargo ship operating in the Gulf of Oman. Officials immediately blamed Iranian forces, who have been long accused of ongoing, sporadic attacks on shipping in the area. That attack, the first time Iran has directly targeted Israeli-linked shipping in the region, had already sparked a heated debate in Israel about the need to respond against Iranian targets

With that attack firmly blamed on Iran, there is growing concern that Israeli intelligence will make the same determination as the environmental ministry – that the oil spill is an Iranian operation. Israel could use the double provocations as a reason to strike Iran just as Europe and the United States hope to re-start nuclear talks with Iran in exchange for a reopening of economic trade and more peaceful relations.

“Iran is very good at managing escalation, but if both incidents were their work this represents a gamble because both operations have made the Israelis substantially angrier than normal provocations,” said a European diplomat in the region, who refused to be named because of extreme sensitivity. 

“Iran must know that Israel is looking for a good reason to escalate things themselves because of fears that Biden will ignore them in cutting a new deal on the nuclear program,” said the diplomat. “And while I normally welcome nations not rushing to conclusions, I suspect I’d prefer if [Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] would go on television shouting and waving pictures of dead sea turtles. Until he gives that performance there’s a concern it means the planners are working on a substantial response, which would be a problem for those of use who want a nuclear deal.”

An official at the US National Security Council – who does not speak to the media for attribution – said the concern of an Israeli response was real but frustration with Iran’s provocations was mounting in both DC and Europe.

“Everyone knows Bibi wants to slow down any resumption of talks on the nukes and is looking for an excuse to force some action that can’t be undone,” said the official. “But obviously there are hardliners in Tehran who agree and keep offering him excuses. It’s hard to preach patience when Iran is acting in this aggressive manner.”

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The more data we get, the more it seems vaccinated people aren’t spreading the coronavirus

Israel vaccine
A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a health services center in Rehovot, Israel, on January 14, 2021.

Now that effective coronavirus vaccines are authorized and being distributed, the crucial question is: Do they stop transmission?

In clinical trials, Pfizer and Moderna showed that their shots prevent severe COVID-19, but they didn’t test whether their vaccines prevent asymptomatic cases. Without curtailing these symptom-less infections, it’s difficult to stop the coronavirus’ transmission from person to person. But evidence is coalescing around the idea that people who get these vaccines don’t spread the virus after all.

“There have been some studies that are pointing into a very favorable direction,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a briefing last week.

A preliminary study from Israel, for example, found that starting 12 days after vaccination, the people who got COVID-19 despite getting Pfizer’s shots had four times less virus in their bodies. Reduced viral loads are linked to lower transmission rates

“We are confident vaccination against COVID-19 reduces the chances of transmitting the virus,” M. Kate Grabowski and Justin Lessler, two epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins, wrote in the Daily Beast last week, adding, “it may be that protection against transmission is appreciably less than protection against severe disease, but at this point it would be beyond shocking if no impact was there.”

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 single-dose vaccine, though not authorized in the US yet, also seems effective in preventing asymptomatic infections, according to data released Wednesday from the Food and Drug Administration.

Vaccinated people may be less contagious if they get infected

London UK coronavirus
People on the London Underground on September 25, 2020.

Research shows the more viral particles a person has in their mouth and nose, the more likely they are to pass the coronavirus to others.

“In other words, higher viral load, good transmissibility; low viral load, very poor transmissibility,” Fauci said.

So a vaccine should reduce transmission if it can ensure that even those who still get the coronavirus after their shots – whether a symptomatic or asymptomatic case –  have a lower viral load than they would have otherwise.

The recent Israeli study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, suggests that is the case for the Pfizer’s vaccine. The researchers looked at more than 1,000 people who’d tested positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated in Tel Aviv. Those people’s viral loads in the period from 12 to 28 days after their second dose were four times lower than their viral loads in the first 11 days after their vaccinations.

“These reduced viral loads hint to lower infectiousness, further contributing to vaccine impact on virus spread,” the study authors wrote.

Another study from Israel, also not yet peer-reviewed, suggested the Pfizer vaccine reduced viral loads by a factor of up to 20.

Some research suggests viral loads are linked to disease severity, so a patient with a lower viral load is also less likely to have severe COVID-19. That may in part explain why Pfizer’s vaccine significantly reduces the chance of symptomatic infection.

Vaccinated people are less likely to develop asymptomatic infections

Vaccine sticker, US, Kentucky
Dr. Jason Smith shows off his bandage after getting vaccinated at the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky.

To pinpoint whether vaccines truly reduce spread, it’s critical to determine whether the shots prevent asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in addition to symptomatic infections.

Pfizer and Moderna’s clinical trials only tested volunteers for COVID-19 if they felt ill. Otherwise, the companies would have had to require regular COVID-19 testing for all tens of thousands of volunteers. So at first, neither company could say whether their vaccines prevent asymptomatic cases.

But Moderna did test trial volunteers on the day they got their second shots. And the findings suggested that there were fewer asymptomatic infections among participants who’d received the real vaccine than among those who got a placebo. Just 14 people of the 14,000-plus in the trial’s vaccine group had asymptomatic cases that day, compared to 38 of the similarly sized placebo group. 

That’s a 61.5% drop, according to Marm Kilpatrick, a disease ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He wrote on Twitter that the data suggests Moderna’s vaccine blocks about 91% of transmission.

moderna vaccine
A vial of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Animal studies offer similar findings: An October paper found that the Moderna vaccine prevented the coronavirus from replicating in the nose, throat, and lungs of rhesus macaques four weeks after they’d been vaccinated. If the viral particles can’t copy themselves, it’s unlikely an infected host will pass on particles to others.

When it comes to Pfizer’s vaccine, meanwhile, new research out of Israel (though not peer-reviewed), suggests the shot reduces asymptomatic cases by 89%, Reuters reported. Similarly, a preliminary study published in The Lancet found Pfizer’s vaccine to be at least 85% effective at preventing any type of infection – symptomatic or asymptomatic. The study looked at more than 23,000 healthcare workers across hospitals in the UK.

“We provide strong evidence that vaccinating working-age adults will substantially reduce asymptomatic and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and therefore reduce transmission of infection in the population,” the study authors wrote. (SARS-CoV-2 is the clinical name of the coronavirus.) 

Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trial data on asymptomatic infections also seems promising. The company tested blood samples from almost 3,000 participants for a type of coronavirus antibody 71 days after they’d been vaccinated. (The presence of this antibody suggests participants had been infected even if they didn’t show symptoms.) Only two vaccinated people tested positive, whereas 16 people who’d received a placebo did.

That suggests J&J’s vaccine may be 74% effective against asymptomatic infections, though the FDA noted that more data is needed to be sure.

“There is uncertainty about the interpretation of these data and definitive conclusions cannot be drawn at this time,” the agency said.

pfizer vaccine
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.

Even the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is still in clinical trials in the US, may reduce asymptomatic infections.

An Oxford study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, found that among people who received just one dose, the number of positive COVID-19 tests – among both symptomatic and asymptomatic study participants – fell by 67%.

Read the original article on Business Insider