Nearly all of Israel under rocket bombardment, as attacks from Lebanon and Gaza reach country's north


Rocket attacks launched from both Lebanon and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip reached into northern Israel early Friday morning - slamming into the town of Metula and setting off sirens in the major city of Haifa - putting nearly the entire country under bombardment and deepening an already emerging consensus that the Israelis would have to initiate a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip to get at advanced projectiles stored underground by Hamas. The terror group had boasted shortly after the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge that it was targeting Haifa, and it also on Friday launched a barrage it claimed was aimed at Israel's airport near Tel Aviv. Earlier - around 6 a.m. Israel time - at least three rockets were launched by an unknown group from Lebanon. The dynamics along Israel's northern border are notoriously complex, and attacks have in recent years been claimed by or linked to Sunni jihadists, the Shiite Hezbollah terror organization, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and individual Sunnis and Shiites operating in areas over which Hezbollah has functionally total control. In this case Lebanese media reported that one of the fighters was severely injured - either as part of the launch or when the Israelis responded with suppression fire - suggesting a lesser-trained Sunni group, and Palestinian elements were blamed by security forces. Regardless, the combination of attacks mean that functionally all Israelis, with the exception of those in the resort city of Eilat and the area around it, are now under rocket bombardment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech early in the day signaling that Jerusalem would press its campaign as necessary in order to secure a total cessation of the attacks.


A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Obama administration to work more closely with Congress as the P5+1 powers near the July 20 deadline to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran that would force the Islamic republic to put its atomic program beyond use for weaponization. In a letter signed by 344 House members, lawmakers called for any final nuclear agreement with Iran to force “Iran’s permanent and verifiable termination” of ballistic missile development, unconventional weapon development, terrorism financing, and nuclear proliferation activities. Meanwhile, Al Monitor’s Congress Pulse reported that Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and Mark Kirk (R.Ill.) have filed legislation that would impose harsh sanctions on top Iranian officials, up to and including President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for what Senator Kirk called “blatant violation[s] of basic human rights.” The outlet noted that there are likely to be multiple Iran bills introduced in the coming weeks as Congress pushes for a greater role in the implementation of any agreement between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s atomic program. The Hill last month cited a letter authored by Reps. Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, respectively the chairman and the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which emphasized that “most U.S. sanctions are intertwined with Iran’s other actions… includ[ing] its ballistic missile program, its nonconventional weapons program and its support for international terrorism.” The White House is believed to have explored options under which President Obama could unilaterally lift sanctions on Iran in the context of an agreement with Tehran without involving Congress.


 The Wall Street Journal on Friday conveyed and confirmed figures - first aired a few weeks ago - indicating that Iranian crude oil exports had exceeded for the eighth month in a row restrictions imposed by the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Reports emerged in early July that Tehran had for the month of June exceeded an energy export cap of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) set in place by the JPA. The Obama administration has categorically denied that Tehran was busting through the caps, with State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf last week denouncing “skeptics” who questioned at the JPA’s implementation whether or not Iran would adhere to the agreement. The Islamic republic has exceeded the allowed amounts every single month since the JPA was announced in November, but administration officials have categorically insisted that the Tehran’s output would soon crash so precipitously that by the end of the JPA’s six-month enforcement period the total exports would average out to 1 million bpds. The Journal assessed that "[u]nless Iran's sales collapse this month, its six-month average will surpass the cap of 1 million barrels a day."


Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi was in Israel this week to sign a first-of-its-kind industrial R&D collaboration agreement with Israel’s Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett. Israel is the first country with which Japan has such an R&D agreement. Minister Motegi and Israel’s Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett signed a collaboration agreement for reciprocal support in joint industrial R&D projects between Israeli and Japanese companies and organizations. The agreement will be implemented by the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) in the Israeli Ministry of Economy. “We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen our economic ties throughout the world, as exemplified by this R&D agreement,” Bennett said. “This is a breakthrough achievement. The agreement creates an excellent platform for joint initiatives, innovation and for Israeli companies to enter the Japanese market.” Motegi came to Israel following an invitation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Motegi met during Netanyahu’s recent visit to Japan. The Japanese minister led a delegation including top level representatives of Japanese industry as well as senior representatives of Japan’s Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry – which oversees Japanese industry, industrial R&D, and cyber technology. (via Israel21c)

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