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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After months of torture and imprisonment, Hamas told a Palestinian activist that he would only be released if he divorced his wife

rami aman palestine gaza
Rami Aman, a Palestinian Gazan peace activist, holds note’s in which he recalled his ordeal, during an interview on the roof of his family house in Gaza City, Feb. 10, 2021.

  • Rami Aman was arrested for setting up a Zoom call between Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.
  • He received pressure from Hamas officials to divorce his wife – the daughter of a high-ranking official.
  • Aman eventually signed the divorce papers but remained in jail for two more months, AP reported.
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Palestinian activist Rami Aman has said that he was forced by the militant group Hamas to divorce his then-wife in order to secure his release from a Gaza prison, according to the Associated Press.

Aman told the news agency that after months of pressure from Hamas officials, he eventually gave in to pressure and went ahead with the separation.

The demand that he divorce her is thought to be a move by the militant group to distant itself from Aman’s decision to engage in discourse with Israeli peace activists last year, AP reported.

His ex-wife is the daughter of a senior-ranking Hamas official, AP said.

She has since been deported from Gaza, against her will, and Aman told the news agency that he may never see her again.

Read more: People are being unjustly kept in prison because of bad software. It’s yet another reason mass incarceration should be a national outrage.

Aman was imprisoned following a backlash against him for helping set up a two-hour-long Zoom chat between Israelis and Palestinian peacemakers, Insider’s Anthony L. Fisher reported in April 2020.

He was one of over 200 people on both sides of the Israel-Gaza divide who participated in the English-language Zoom chat initiated by Aman’s organization – the Gaza Youth Committee.

Following a campaign on Facebook by a Palestinian journalist to shame those who attended and the subsequent social media outrage online, Aman was charged with the crime of “normalization” with Israel.

His former wife was also arrested, the Associated Press reported.

After Aman’s arrest on April 9, 2020, he said that he was interrogated and tortured. He claims he was blindfolded, taken to a prison cell, and was forced to sit in a tiny child’s chair for days or weeks on end, according to AP.

He was referred to by his prison number, only allowed to remove his blindfold for bathroom breaks, and could only leave his seat to be interrogated or pray, AP reported.

During his imprisonment, a police officer reportedly told him that it would be “better” if he proceeded with a divorce. He resisted the request for months, AP said.

In August, an Islamic judge asked him whether he felt coerced into separation. Aman said yes but the judge, the activist told AP, refuted this. “How are you being forced? Do you see me carrying a gun?” he says the legal official told him.

Aman, 39, eventually signed divorce documents, expecting to be released, but remained imprisoned for two more months.

“The deplorable treatment of Rami Aman by Hamas authorities reflects their systematic practice of punishing those whose speech threatens their orthodoxy,” Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, told AP.

His ex-wife, who has been deported to Egypt, confirmed to the Associated Press that she was forced into the divorce and wants to reunite with Aman.

Aman is now banned from leaving Gaza and security officials are still holding onto his laptop, computer, and phone, the news agency said.

He is in frequent communication with human rights organizations, lawyers, and Hamas officials, AP reported.

But his priority is to be reunited with his lover.

“Now I have my personal battle: return to my wife,” the activist told the news agency.

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There are no victories left to win for US troops in Iraq and Syria. It’s time for Biden to bring them home.

Army soldiers Syria Bradley fighting vehicle
US soldiers walk to an oil production facility to meet with its management team, in Syria, October 27,2020.

  • The US still has 3,500 troops in Iraq and several hundred more in Syria.
  • Any benefit the US may get from those deployments is dwarfed by the risks of keeping them there.
  • Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and former US Army lieutenant colonel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The United States will engage in a “strategic dialogue” with Iraq this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week. The key agenda item, she explained, was the US combat deployment there.

How or whether to extend the operation should not be part of the discussion. Nailing down details of the withdrawal should.

The 3,500 US troops currently in Iraq serve no purpose related to American national security. They don’t have a militarily attainable mission which could be recognized and signal the end of the deployment. The only benefactor is the government in Baghdad and even they are ready to show America the exit.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told reporters in Iraq he is approaching April’s dialogue with Washington as a chance to push for the withdrawal of American troops. He cited what he considered a positive outcome from the June 2020 strategic dialogue with the US in which Iraq “succeeded in reducing the size of the US combat forces in Iraq by 60%.”

In this upcoming meeting, al-Kadhimi added, he will seek the complete “redeployment of [US] forces outside of Iraq.” The administration, however, appeared interested in cooling such talk.

Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Iraq
A US Army crew chief looks over the Tigris River from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq, March 3, 2021.

At the recent press briefing, Psaki sought to “further clarify that coalition forces are in Iraq solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS cannot reconstitute.” If the troops are not officially engaged in direct combat, some believe, the deployment will be more palatable to the American people.

There is little evidence the US population cares about the nuance, however. Upward of 75% want the troops to return home. Such views are well-founded, as the troops no longer provide even nominal support for US security interests.

The reason troops are in Iraq at all today is because President Barack Obama sent them to help Baghdad fend off the rise of ISIS in the summer of 2014.

When President Donald Trump assumed office, he beefed up the military presence and gave them the mission of helping the Iraqi military (and later Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria) retake the territory ISIS had captured. That mission was completed in Iraq in November 2017 and in Syria in March 2019.

Today ISIS has been driven underground, as is the case with numerous other violent insurgent groups in the Middle East. Though ISIS poses a potential terror threat – as literally scores of other radical groups do – the threat they pose is limited and in any case is not diminished by having a few thousand troops on the ground in either Iraq or Syria.

Lt. Gen. Paul Calvert, commander of the US-led counter-ISIS mission in Iraq and Syria, told Defense One that ISIS’s “ability to reemerge is extremely low right now.”

What does concern Calvert, however, are the volatile cultural and political conditions in both countries. “It’s clear to me and people that I’ve talked to [in Iraqi government],” Calvert said, “there’s a significant amount of concern in terms of the possibilities of an internal Shia civil war.” Things in Syria are even worse.

Army soldier M2 Bradley fighting vehicle Syria
A US soldier next to an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle in northeastern Syria, December 16, 2020.

Aside from the ongoing civil war, operating within Syria are Iranian troops fighting alongside Syrian troops, Russian Air Force bombers striking anti-Syrian targets, Russian mercenaries, Shia militias, Kurdish elements Turkey considers terrorists, and Kurdish groups the US considers allies.

American troops have sometimes narrowly avoided armed clashes with Russian combat troops, Syrian troops, and even its NATO-ally Turkey. In somewhat of an understatement, Calvert said the “level of complexity in Syria is immense and is probably one of the most complex environments I have seen in the 33 years that I’ve been serving.”

Whatever incremental security benefit may exist with US troops being deployed in Iraq and Syria, they are dwarfed by the strategic risk we incur every minute we remain on the ground there.

We are in a sea of civil conflict in Syria and in danger of semi-regular rocket attacks in Iraq. Our military presence cannot influence the political outcome in either country.

The best thing Biden can do for the security of the United States and to preserve the lives of our service members from unnecessary risk at the security dialogue with Baghdad is to withdraw our troops, in full, from both Iraq and Syria as soon as possible.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the US Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

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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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The Pentagon abruptly ordered an aircraft carrier on its way home from the Middle East to turn around as it warned Iran

USS Nimitz
USS Nimitz

  • The Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller on Sunday abruptly ordered an aircraft carrier on its way home to change course and return to the Middle East as a warning to Iran.
  • He said that the move was in response to Iranian threats against the president and other government officials.
  • The order, which reportedly came from President Donald Trump, follows a flurry of US military activity in the area in the final weeks of the Trump administration.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Pentagon on Monday unexpectedly ordered an aircraft carrier that was on its way home to turn around and head back to the Middle East to deter Iran.

Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller announced on Thursday, Dec. 31, that the US Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz was returning to its home port to wrap up a lengthy 10-month deployment.

On Sunday evening, he announced that he ordered the Nimitz to “halt its routine redeployment,” explaining that the carrier will “now remain on station” in the Middle East. The move, Miller said, is a response to “recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other US government officials.”

“No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America,” he said in his statement.

Miller’s decision to send the aircraft carrier home, a decision that went against the advice of senior military advisors, was intended to de-escalate tensions with Iran. 

The sudden changes made on Sunday to the Nimitz’s orders came from President Donald Trump, CNN reports.

The president recently threatened Iran on Twitter after a large rocket attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed militia forces. Writing that there has been “chatter” of more attacks, he said: “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible.”

Sunday marked the first anniversary of the US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a prominent Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a Iranian-backed militia leader, in Iraq.

Soleimani’s death led Iran to unleash a barrage of ballistic missiles on US and coalition forces in Iraq a few days later. In the weeks leading up to the first anniversary of the general’s death, there has been some concern that Iran might act aggressively.

Ahead of the anniversary, there was a flurry of US military activity in the region.

The US military sent B-52H Stratofortress bombers on a deterrence flights through the Persian Gulf three times from late November to late December.

CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie said at the time of the second flight on Dec. 10 that “potential adversaries should understand that no nation on earth is more ready and capable of rapidly deploying additional combat power in the face of any aggression.”

Commenting on the B-52 bomber flights, a senior military official told NBC News that tensions with Iran were running high. “We want to ensure that if they are contemplating some sort of an aggressive act, that they would they would think twice about it before they did it,” the official said.

On Dec. 21, the Navy announced the presence of the guided-missile submarine USS Georgia and the guided-missile cruisers USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea in the Persian Gulf.

The rare statement, the first in eight years to announce that a guided-missile submarine was in the Persian Gulf,  emphasized the submarine’s combat capabilities, specifically the 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles on board.

The Navy said in its statement that USS Georgia’s “presence demonstrates the United States’ commitment to regional partners and maritime security with a full spectrum of capabilities to remain ready to defend against any threat at any time.”

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