Suspected ‘kamikaze drone’ attack on an Israeli-linked tanker that killed 2 was retaliation for Israel’s bombing of Syria, says Iranian TV

Warships in the Arabian Sea.
Tensions are rising in the Arabian Sea.

  • A British and Romanian were killed in an attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker in the Gulf.
  • Israel has accused Iran of carrying out the attack and said a strong response is needed.
  • An Iran TV station, linked to the government, said the attack was retaliation for Israeli raids in Syria.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A British and Romanian citizen was killed in an attack on the Israeli-owned Mercer Street crew oil tanker off Oman’s coast on Thursday.

Israel has accused Iran of carrying out the attack, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid calling it “Iranian terrorism” that warranted a strong response.

The petroleum product tanker is operated by London-based company Zodiac Maritime, owned by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer.

Zodiac Maritime described the attack as “suspected piracy.”

On Friday, Iranian government Arabic-language television network Al Alam TV said the attack was in “response to a recent Israeli attack on Al-Dabaa airport in the Al-Qusayr region in Syria,” which it attributed to “well-informed sources” in the region.

Iran has not officially responded to the accusations that it is responsible for the attack.

‘Israel will find it hard to turn a blind eye’

According to Israeli news website Ynet, there were two attacks on the ship within a few hours, and it was the second one that hit the bridge and killed the two victims.

A private maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global referred to a drone sighting involving the vessel before the attack, reported Al-Jazeera.

“The incident in the Gulf of Oman was apparently carried out by a kind of kamikaze drone,” wrote Seth J. Frantzman, Senior Middle East Correspondent and Middle East affairs analyst at the Jerusalem Post.

“Pro-Iran forces have used drones to attack US forces in Iraq, and Tehran has trafficked drones and drone technology to the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iraqi militias,” added Frantzman.

A US official, speaking anonymously, told the Associated Press said the attack appeared to have been carried out by a “one-way drone.”

The Mercer Street is a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned ship, and the incident occurred about 152 nautical miles (280 km) northeast of the Omani port of Duqm, outside Omani territorial waters, according to the Oman Maritime Security Center.

“Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction, and instability that harms us all. The world must not be silent in the face of Iranian terrorism that also harms freedom of shipping,” Lapid said in a statement.

He has reportedly told UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab that a tough response is needed.

Tensions in the Gulf have been rising in recent months, with Iran and Israel repeatedly accusing each other of attacking ships. The latest incident is seen as a significant escalation.

“Israel will find it hard to turn a blind eye,” an unnamed Israeli official reportedly said.

The Mercer Street has now been escorted to a safe location by the US Navy.

U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said that Washington was “deeply concerned by the reports and closely monitoring the situation.”

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Unilever dips 6% as rising commodity prices cut into margin outlook

FILE PHOTO: Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
  • Unilever slid as much as 6% on Thursday after the company downgraded its margin outlook for the year.
  • The stock was Thursday’s biggest loser among the FTSE 100.
  • The outlook adjustment comes as Unilever finds itself caught in a brewing political row over a decision by Ben & Jerry’s, its subsidiary, to cease operations in what it called the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Unilever slid as much as 6% on Thursday after the company downgraded its margin outlook for the year.

On a Thursday earnings call, Unilever announced that despite healthy sales growth, rising commodities prices had begun to eat away at its operating margins. The company has raised prices but not quickly enough to prevent margins from compressing. Unilever downgraded its margins outlook to “about flat.”

The stock fell on the news, dropping sharply as British markets opened and trending down slowly thereafter. The stock was Thursday’s biggest loser among the FTSE 100.

The outlook adjustment comes as Unilever finds itself caught in a brewing political row over a decision by Ben & Jerry’s to cease operations in what it called the occupied Palestinian territory. Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever but is run by an independent board, signaling a potential conflict over control of the company.

On Thursday, a Texas official said the state’s pension fund was exploring divesting from Unilever under a 2017 law banning investments in any company that boycotts Israel. Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his country would “act aggressively” against Ben & Jerry’s and warned of “severe consequences.”

“Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel,” Unilever CEO Alan Jope said during the Thursday earnings call.

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Israeli military-grade spy software was used to hack phones of journalists, activists, executives, and 2 women connected to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a report says

Woman holds phone outside NSO Group in Herzliya
An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on August 28, 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.

  • Military-grade spyware technology was used to hack the smartphones of journalists, activists, and executives, The Washington Post reported.
  • Some of the affected journalists worked at outlets including CNN and The New York Times.
  • The 37 numbers appeared on a list of 50,000 phone numbers in countries with a history of conducting surveillance on their own citizens, according to the report.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Military-grade spyware technology software created by an Israeli company that sells it to governments for the purpose of countering terrorism and criminal activity was used to target the smartphones of 37 journalists, activists, and business executives, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The investigation was conducted by the Post and 16 other media partners, according to the report.

Among those who were the subject of attempted smartphone hacking, which used software called Pegasus, include journalists working at CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times. the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Voice of America in the US. Targets also included journalists working for Le Monde in France, the Financial Times in London, and Al Jazeera in Qatar, according to the Post report.

Two women connected to the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in October 2018 in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, were also on the list, according to the report.

The 37 numbers appeared on a list of 50,000 phone numbers originating mostly from countries with a history of conducting surveillance on their own citizens and those who have a relationship with the Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO Group, which created and sells the Pegasus software, according to the Post.

The list was shared with media outlets by the Paris-based non-profit Forbidden Stories and by Amnesty International, according to the report.

The list does not identify who placed the numbers on it. More than 15,000 of the phone numbers on the list were from Mexico while another sizable chunk of numbers came from the Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen, according to the Post.

Read the full story at The Washington Post

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Israel is seizing cryptocurrency wallets from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has been using them to raise funds from donors worldwide

GettyImages 1233193877
Hamas stages an anti-Israel rally in the northern Gaza Strip after a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine.

  • Cryptocurrency wallets used by the military wing of Hamas are being seized by Israel.
  • Israel’s defence minister ordered security forces to seize 84 Hamas-controlled crypto wallets.
  • Most deposits were found to be in tether and bitcoin, according to a tracking firm’s analysis.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Israel has begun seizing cryptocurrency wallets used by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera reported.

Defence minister Benny Gantz said the group had been pursuing an online campaign to raise finances in the aftermath of the 11-day Gaza conflict, which killed more than 200 Palestinians, including dozens of children and more than 12 Israelis.

“The intelligence, technological and legal tools that enable us to get our hands on terrorists’ money around the world constitute an operational breakthrough,” Gantz said Thursday.

Israel’s national bureau of counterterrorism issued a seizure order on Wednesday against cryptocurrency addresses believed to be controlled by Hamas.

The 84 wallets hold a mix of digital assets including bitcoin, dogecoin, cardano, and ether, according to tracking firm Elliptic. Most of these addresses have been linked to Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, Elliptic’s analysis found.

Officials didn’t specify how much cryptocurrency has been seized. But Elliptic’s report showed Hamas collectively received over $7.7 million in crypto-assets.

A majority of deposits were found to be placed in tether and bitcoin, the report showed.

Value of cryptocurrencies received by addresses listed in the seizure order.
Value of cryptocurrencies received by addresses listed in the seizure order.

The militant group had seen a spike in crypto donations, especially bitcoin, since its renewed armed conflict with Israel, a senior Hamas official told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.

To keep its financial woes in check, it had issued an appeal for donations via bitcoin from supporters in late 2019.

Gantz authorized the seizure order late June, saying he was convinced the wallets were linked to Hamas or used to carry out a “severe terror crime.”

As many believe crypto transactions maintain anonymity, cryptocurrencies are regarded as being safe to carry out illegal transactions. But thinking they are untraceable is one of the stupidest things to do, according to crypto ATM operator CoinFlip’s CEO Ben Weiss.

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While poor countries struggle to find vaccines, places that bought too many are scrambling to get rid of doses about to expire

pfizer vaccine us
Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

  • Countries including Israel, Bulgaria, and parts of the US have more vaccines than they can use.
  • They are trying to sell on hundreds of thousands of doses before their expiry dates arrive.
  • It is a stark illustration of global vaccine inequality: other nations are desperate for shots.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Last week, Israel was on the cusp of throwing out close to one million doses of unused Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Domestic demand for the shots was too low, and the shots were due to expire at the end of July.

Talks with the Palestinian authority and other countries to take the shots fell through one after the other.

But in the nick of time, Israel found a taker. On Tuesday, it announced that South Korea would take 700,000 doses.

As part of this last-minute deal, South Korea agreed to send back an identical number of doses when it gets its next batch of vaccines from Pfizer in September and October, Reuters reported.

Excess vaccine supply is a new problem for the rich countries that monopolized global supplies.

It coexists uncomfortably with the desperation elsewhere from poorer nations where campaigns have barely begun.

According to Our World in Data fewer than 1% of people in low-income countries have been given even a single dose. Papua New Guinea and Chad have both administered doses to fewer than 0.1% of their populations, per figures compiled by The New York Times.

US at a vaccine ‘saturation point’

Some US states are facing much the same problem as Israel.

“If you look at the US, we’re clearly approaching saturation in terms of people’s willingness to be vaccinated,” Hani Mahmassani, Director of the Transportation Center at Northwestern University, told Insider.

Vaccines are sitting unused in states where uptake is low. Oklahoma, Alabama, Utah, Delaware, and New Hampshire have stopped asking the government for new doses of vaccine as they work through their stockpiles, the Associated Press reported.

In June, Tennessee and North Carolina gave millions of doses back to the federal government due to low demand, the AP said. Mississippi returned more than 870,000 doses, and donated 32,400 to both Maine and Rhode Island.

“In Mississippi, if people don’t understand how important it is to keep alive, we want to protect other Americans,” said Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs.

a sign read "vaccinate me" near a road in Alabama. On the sign are two masked people. In the background are trees
A sign encouraging vaccination in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 30, 2021

Even countries with low vaccination rates have stockpile problems

Romania, too, has stockpile issues. Even though its rate of vaccination is low, with 23% fully vaccinated, 43,000 of its AstraZeneca shots expired last month.

To get rid of its stockpile, the country announced it would sell about 1.2 million doses of vaccine to Denmark and another million doses to Ireland.

Bulgaria is also looking to donate its excess doses of vaccines. The country received 4.6 million doses but has used only 1.8 million. That is in spite of only about 12% of its population being vaccinated.

Uptake in both countries has been low, in part because of logistical issues but also because of high levels of vaccine hesitancy, according to local news reports.

The same has been seen in some African countries. About 1.25 million AstraZeneca doses, spread between 18 African nations, will expire unless they are used by the end of August, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Romanian violinist Alexandru Tomescu in a tuxedo is playing as people around him are getting vaccinated in vaccination center in Bucharest, Romania on May 7, 2021.
A violinist performs during Romania’s “vaccination marathon” at the National Library in Bucharest, Romania, May 9.

One solution: extend the expiry date

According to a blog post from GAVI, a public-private organization that helps distribute vaccines to poorer countries, vaccine manufacturers were “extremely cautious” when they set the expiry dates for the vaccines.

Most vaccines expire around 3 years after they are produced, but the shelf life for COVID-19 vaccines is a lot shorter: six months for the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca’s vaccines, three months for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson added an extra six weeks to the shelf life of millions of unused doses in the US that were set to expire on June 10.

Canada also approved extending the shelf life of two lots of AstraZeneca vaccine by 30 days in May.

Pfizer, however, told Israel that it could not ensure that its doses would be safe beyond the current expiry date, according to the Times of Israel.

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Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is less effective at preventing Delta infections than other variants, but still protects against severe illness, preliminary Israeli study says

israel vaccine
A COVID-19 vaccination with the Israeli flag in the background.

  • Early data suggests the Pfizer vaccine is less protective against infection from the Delta variant.
  • But it remains highly protective against hospitalization after infection.
  • However, one expert said it was too early to precisely estimate the vaccine’s effectiveness.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine appears to be less protective against infections from the Delta variant than against other variants, according to preliminary data from Israel’s health ministry.

Israel, which has one of the most advanced vaccination programs in the world, has seen a rise in cases over the past month driven by the Delta variant. On Monday, it reported 501 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of cases since March.

The country’s health ministry reported on Monday that the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 64% protective against infections since June 6, compared to 94.3% in the previous month, before the Delta infection surged.

The figures were first reported by the Israeli news site Ynet.

The data also found, however, that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were highly protective against hospitalization after infection: 93%, compared to 98.2% the month before.

Expert says it’s still too early to tell

Ran Balicer, chairman of Israel’s national expert panel on COVID-19, said it was “too early to precisely assess vaccine effectiveness” against the Delta variant based on data from Israel, Agence France-Presse reported.

That’s because the number of cases among fully-vaccinated Israelis is low and because testing is not evenly distributed throughout the population, making it difficult to grasp how protective the vaccine is, he said.

In May, Public Health England found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 88% effective in preventing symptomatic infections from the Delta variant.

Experts “remain hopeful” that the vaccine will be as effective against serious illness as it was for other variants, Balicer said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennet warned on Sunday that he may have to reintroduce restrictions as “there has been an increase in the rate of infection.”

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Israelis describe what it’s like when your country vaccinates its way out of the pandemic – only for a Delta variant outbreak to fuel rising cases

Iraeli woman May Bejach in a scarf and jacket on a street in Tel Aviv
May Bejach, a 28-year-old university student in Tel Aviv.

  • Israel lifted all COVID restrictions at the start of June after its world-leading vaccination drive.
  • A Delta variant outbreak saw authorities swiftly reinstate mask wearing and tighten travel rules.
  • Insider spoke to three Israelis about how the setback feels, so close to the pandemic’s end.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After the most successful COVID vaccination programme in the world, Israel lifted social distancing and mask requirements at the start of June.

Then a low – but rising – number of cases, fueled by the arrival of the Delta variant, prompted the government to bring back masks in indoor spaces, announce a drive to vaccinate kids, and impose mass testing for airport arrivals.

Authorities are determined to avoid another spike. There are currently just 33 serious cases in Israel and a seven-day average of 321 new daily cases, compared with around 8,600 in January in the early stages of its vaccine drive.

Teenager in Israel receiving vaccine injection
An Israeli girl receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from the Magen David Adom during a campaign by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality to encourage the vaccination of teenagers, on July 5, 2021.

But 13,000 students and teachers are currently in quarantine and the interior minister has threatened to shut down Ben Gurion Airport if cases continue to increase.

The rising case load is concerning for the country that was first to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

One study released this week showed this vaccine is only 64% effective against transmission of the Delta variant but is 93% effective at preventing hospitalization.

Miriam Britz-Kohn, a 49-year-old mother-of-three, lives in Binyamina in the north of the country, where the Delta variant was first observed in Israel around June 20.

Her son’s school informed her that children in one year group had tested positive, and mobile testing centers were quickly sent to monitor any spread. “Binyamina is a small place, so it had a big impact in the town,” she said.

“I felt we’d beaten Corona. We felt great about it, but then it affected our neighbourhood and that was a wakeup call. The reality is it’ll go up and down and be something that’s impossible to get rid of completely, at least in the near future.”

Some of her neighbors, who were previously staying home to avoid infection before they were vaccinated, have stopped sending their children to school, afraid of them bringing home a more transmissible variant of COVID.

Israel was already vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, and rising case numbers have encouraged more parents to vaccinate theirs.

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz stand wearing masks in a hospital outside Tel Aviv
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (2nd on the right) listens as Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (center) speaks during a visit to a Maccabi healthcare maintenance organisation (HMO) outlet offering COVID-19 coronavirus vaccinations in Holon near Tel Aviv on June 29, 29, 2021. Bennett announced a drive to vaccinate children that day.

Britz-Kohn said that many people were now vaccinating their teenagers to avoid the entire family having to isolate if they came into contact with someone who tested positive.

Her middle child, aged 13, has not yet been vaccinated but Britz-Kohn said he already had COVID and so should have antibodies.

She said she had “mixed feelings” about getting him vaccinated as his age makes him less likely to develop severe symptoms with coronavirus. Now she plans to get him vaccinated in light of the rising case numbers.

Shlomit Levy, a senior nurse working in Tel Hashomer Hospital, never stopped wearing her mask at work and in stores, even when the mandate was lifted for three weeks.

“Everybody should wear one,” she said. “Because if we all do, we can keep transmission low but let life carry on.”

Levy told Insider she felt masks kept her and many of her colleagues safe for the year before they were vaccinated. She works in a cancer unit, and said that, while some colleagues caught COVID, they most likely caught it outside the hospital.

Now she’s part of a study group which is tested regularly for antibodies, to see how long the vaccine’s protection lasts. She worries that as her antibody levels decrease, she could catch the new variant.

“I wear a N95 mask, so it gives me some protection as well as helping stop the spread. I’m not only afraid for myself, but also for my patients. Some of them couldn’t be vaccinated because of their cancer treatments.”

May Bejach, 28, a university student in Tel Aviv where she was born and raised, dreads another lockdown. She found it “very difficult” when most of her teaching went online as COVID first hit.

“The city that never sleeps was asleep for a year. Everything was closed and the streets were dead. It was awful,” she told Insider.

“I was so pleased when things went back to normal,” she said, adding she didn’t expect another full lockdown as cases were still low and, with 65.2% of people fully vaccinated, few are falling seriously ill.

She doesn’t know how she’d deal with another lockdown. “We got vaccinated early on, which means we are better prepared now for what’s happening. We need to be careful with masks and hope that the numbers stay low so we don’t need to disrupt our lives again.”

Bejach is still planning a trip to Italy that she had to cancel during the first lockdown. She said, with COVID looming again, increased testing at the airport and new rules could be “just something we’ll have to get used to.”

She is due to fly there on August 22. “The new restrictions have me thinking that it will continue getting worse and that they might cancel us again.”

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Israel may have to reimpose COVID-19 restrictions this week as the Delta variant drives a rise in new cases

masked teenager with curly hair gets covid vaccine shot
A teenager receives a dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a Clalit healthcare maintenance organisation in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 21, 2021.

Israel may have to reimpose coronavirus restrictions as the Delta variant fuels a surge in new cases.

The country’s rapid vaccine rollout was initially successful, bringing the country down to just a handful of new infections per day. But now the rate has climbed back up to roughly 300 new cases per day – largely due to the spread of the Delta variant. Emerging research suggests Delta is more transmissible and possibly deadlier than other coronavirus strains that have emerged so far.

The outgoing director of Israel’s Health Ministry, Chezy Levy, said at the end of June that the Delta variant accounted for about 70% of the country’s new infections.

In a coronavirus-cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Israeli officials are set to discuss how to curb the virus’s renewed spread, The Times of Israel reported. The government may reinstate the “Green Pass” system that it retired on June 1, when the country was reporting fewer than 20 new cases per day.

Green Pass was a vaccine-passport system that allowed vaccinated people – as well as those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection – to return to indoor dining, shows, and events. Reinstating that system would mean limiting some gatherings and barring unvaccinated people’s access to some venues.

“In the last week there has been an increase in the rate of infection,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told a cabinet meeting on Sunday, according to The Jerusalem Post. “As part of what we have learned from the past, we will not wait to protect the health of Israeli citizens.”

He added: “Without the cooperation of the citizens of Israel, and if the morbidity continues to rise, we will consider reimposing some of the restrictions connected to the Green Pass.”

Vaccines have proven effective, but Delta threatens Israel’s progress

israel covid vaccine
An Israeli military paramedic prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, to be administered to elderly people at a medical center in Ashdod, southern Israel, January 7, 2021.

Vaccines have significantly decreased severe illness and deaths in Israel. Even with Delta spreading, the Pfizer vaccine has been 93% effective at preventing hospitalizations, the Health Ministry has reported.

But in preventing infections overall – including mild ones – the vaccine’s efficacy has dropped from 94.3% between May 2 and June 5 to 64% from June 6 to July 3, according to the news site Ynet.

About 38% of Israel’s population remains unvaccinated, according to The New York Times’ tracker. Those people are vulnerable to severe illness and death as case counts rise. It’s not yet clear whether vaccinated people with mild infections of the Delta variant can spread it to the unvaccinated.

Already since June, the Israeli government has reinstated an indoor mask mandate and tightened restrictions on travelers from other countries. It’s also announced that vaccinated people may be ordered to quarantine if they’re exposed to the Delta variant.

masked woman wearing hat sits on israeli beach
A woman wears a face mask as she sits by the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 21, 2020.

Still, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem predicted that the nation could hit 1,000 cases per day in just two weeks if more isn’t done to curb the virus’s spread, according to local media.

Levy told Israeli TV station Channel 12 on Sunday that Israel may need to start limiting large gatherings again – particularly those involving children and unvaccinated people.

“We’re not close to what we’ve seen in the past,” he said, according to The Times of Israel. “It’s nothing like the caseload we had earlier.”

At the peak of its largest COVID-19 surge, earlier this year, the nation reported nearly 12,000 new cases in a single day.

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Israel’s new camouflage technology can make soldiers virtually ‘invisible’

Kit 300 equipment
The Kit 300 sheet is made of thermal visual concealment (TVC) material that combines microfibers, metals, and polymers.

  • A new camouflage technology can make soldiers virtually “invisible,” according to reports.
  • The Kit 300 is made of thermal visual concealment material that reduces the detectability of soldiers.
  • The technology has been procured by the Israel Defense Forces, and is now being tested in the US.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Polaris Solutions, an Israel-based survivability technology company, have unveiled a new camouflage technology that makes soldiers virtually “invisible,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Kit 300 is made of thermal visual concealment material that combines metals, microfibres, and polymers to reduce the detectability of soldiers.

The material, which can double up as a lightweight stretcher, makes it harder for those wearing it to be seen by both the human eye and thermal imaging equipment, according to the Polaris Solutions website.

Soldiers can either wrap it around themselves or can join sheets together to create a barrier that blends into rocky or desert landscapes, the website said.

“Someone staring at them with binoculars from afar will not see soldiers,” Gal Harari, the head of the detectors and imaging technology branch of the MoD’s research and development unit, told Janes.com.

Read more: These 4 companies are leading the charge in ‘space vacations’ – from giant balloon flights to orbital hotels

The sheet weighs around 500g and can fold up into a compact bundle, Janes.com reported.

It has been tested by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and has since been added to a procurement plan, Ynet said.

The idea for the technology comes from the personal experiences of Polaris Solutions co-founder Assaf Picciotto.

While serving in a special IDF unit during the 2006 Lebanon War, Picciotto noticed that soldiers were not adequately protected from their enemies’ thermal imaging equipment, The Media Line reported. “You have to be better than the enemy and we understood that there were big gaps in the survivability part,” Picciotto told the media outlet.

Polaris Solutions is working with special forces units in Canada and the United States to bring the technology to North America, The Media Line said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A human ancestor previously unknown to science lived alongside ancient humans and Neanderthals – and they all interbred

Nesher Ramla Homo
The partial skull and jaw bone of a newly discovered human ancestor named Nesher Ramla homo.

  • Scientists uncovered a new species of human ancestor named the Nesher Ramla homo in a sinkhole.
  • This ancestor lived between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago in Israel and Arabia alongside humans.
  • New research suggests Nesher Ramla homo interbred with humans, as well as our Neanderthal cousins.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The eastern Mediterranean coast was a crowded place 120,000 years ago.

By that time, Homo sapiens – anatomically modern humans – had migrated out of Africa and settled in modern-day Israel and Arabia. Meanwhile, Neanderthals – our genetic cousins – had started to thrive in Eurasia.

Now, new research reveals that a third human ancestor was hunting and gathering in the same landscape. Two studies published Thursday in the journal Science describe a previously unknown hominin called the Nesher Ramla homo. The group not only shared tools and technology with their neighbors, they also interbred.

“They lived together and interacted with another,” Rachel Sarig, an anthropologist from Tel Aviv University and co-author of the new studies, told Insider.

Nesher Ramla Homo
A virtual reconstruction of the Nesher Ramla lower jaw bone.

Sarig and her colleagues uncovered a partial jaw bone, which they pieced together from 17 fragments like a puzzle, deep in a sinkhole at an Israeli site called Nesher Ramla – hence the ancestor’s name. There were also chunks of skull and a tooth belonging to the same individual.

Notably, the human ancestor had no chin – a feature distinct to Homo sapiens – and a flatter, squatter head. Those features suggest Nesher Ramla was a more ancient species than the region’s other occupants.

“It was some kind of pre-Neanderthal,” Sarig said.

The team had expected the bones to belong to a modern human.

“Homo sapiens were the dominant population in the Levant” between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, Sarig said. “We were very surprised when we started looking at the fossils, and it was clear right away that Nesher Ramla was not the same.”

A sinkhole in the Judean Hills

Nesher Ramla Homo
The Nesher Ramla sinkhole in Israel, west of Jerusalem.

The discovery was a decade in the making. In 2011, workers were expanding a limestone quarry in the Judean Hills – between Israel’s Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem – when they found a huge sinkhole.

In sediment about 25 feet down, Sarig’s team uncovered animal teeth and bones, flint stone tools, and the Nesher Ramla bones. They suspect the sinkhole was an ancient watering hole, where animals came to drink and our human ancestors gathered to butcher game.

The researchers calculated that the animal teeth and flint were between 120,000 and 140,000 years old, suggesting Nesher Ramla homo lived then, too. But Hila May, a co-author of the new studies, told Insider that it’s possible this prehistoric human started occupying the area up to half a million years ago.

Nesher Ramla Homo
The patch of sediment inside the Nesher Ramla sinkhole where scientists excavated the fossils.

Typically, hominins that lived during the Middle Pleistocene era in Israel, as Nesher Ramla homo did, are classified as part of the species Homo heidelbergensis. These ancestors are characterized by their use of fire to make tools and cook. But the authors of the study chose not to put this new human in that species, since its anatomical features do not align closely.

Still, May said this ancestor had a very similar way of life to Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

“They were hunter-gatherers living in small groups, hunting animals like rhinos, horses, and deer,” she said, adding that Nesher Ramla were “not very different in their abilities from other groups.”

Interbreeding among human ancestors

Neanderthal
An artist’s conception of a Neanderthal.

The new study suggests that once Neanderthals migrated to Europe about 100,000 years ago, the Nesher Ramla group played a key role in shaping what they looked like and how they lived.

The new discovery might also solve a genetic mystery. Previous research found that some Neanderthals from the Middle Pleistocene era have genes that come from Homo sapiens. But these modern humans didn’t arrive in Europe until about 45,000 years ago – long after the Neanderthals.

nesher ramla
A stone tool found in the Nesher Ramla sinkhole.

So if Nesher Ramla interbred with both Neanderthals and modern humans in the Levant before Neanderthals expanded west, that could explain the migration of the genes.

“We needed some explanation how Homo genes got to Europe before Homo got there,” May said.

And the three hominins did more than just interbreed – evidence from the sinkhole also suggests they shared tool-making technologies, using the same types of flint tools made in the same way.

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