Immediately after the blackest day in Israeli history, a consensus formed that we must wait until after the war to investigate how Hamas was able to invade the country, slaughter 1,200 innocents and get away with 240 hostages. There’s a lot to recommend this position.
We’re at war. Now is not the time for action, not recrimination and trials for failed generals, security chiefs and politicians.
Good or bad, you go to war with the army and leaders you have. People have jobs to do, and our job is to let them do theirs.
While reasonable on its face, there is a problem with delaying a reckoning. At least in some cases, it seems clear that the people whose failures enabled the Hamas attack are not capable of bringing us victory.
Case in point: Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Directorate Chief Chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva. In the weeks since Oct. 7, more and more information has come out about why Hamas was able to pull it off. All of the information points to Haliva and his close subordinates.
The Field Observers unit at Nahal Oz base suffered the greatest losses there during Hamas’s assault. The unit, comprising female soldiers, is responsible for monitoring the footage from security cameras along the Gaza border around the clock and alerting forces on the ground and in the intelligence community to anything suspicious.
Seventeen observers were killed on Oct. 7. Seven were taken hostage.
One, Naama Levy, was videoed barefoot, being dragged from the trunk of a vehicle by her hair and pushed into the back seat. Her hands were zip-tied behind her back. The seat of her sweatpants was stained with blood, indicating she had been raped violently.
One observer, Ori Megidish, was rescued by the IDF in early November. Another, Noa Marciano, was filmed in a hostage video, first alive, and then dead. Her body was later recovered by IDF forces.
Days after their friends were slaughtered, raped and kidnapped, the two surviving members of the unit and a number of former members started coming forward to tell their story.
In interviews with Channel 11, two women related that in the months before the invasion, they were warning it was in the works. The women saw Hamas terrorists training to take over kibbutzim and IDF bases. They watched terrorists practicing taking hostages and blowing up tanks. They saw terror commanders watching the drills. They saw spies probing the fence for weaknesses. They saw it all and reported it all.
Rather than giving them medals, unnamed top-level officers in the intelligence corps ordered them to stop. When they continued reporting, the observers were warned that they would be disciplined and removed from the unit if they kept raising their concerns.
The observers weren’t the only ones silenced. Rafael Hayun, a civilian hacker who monitors open intelligence networks, worked for the IDF for years. The IDF provided Hayun with equipment to monitor Hamas’s internal communications.
In late 2019, Hayun began reporting on Hamas training exercises involving invading Israel, penetrating the security fence at multiple points, taking over communities, committing mass murder and kidnapping. Over time, the training became more intense and detailed. Hayun alerted the units he was working with about Hamas’s activities in real time.
Five months before the assault, his colleagues in the IDF were ordered to seize all of his equipment and stop working with him. Around the same time, the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate Unit 8200 signals intelligence unit also stopped monitoring Hamas’s communications.
Hayun said that his military colleagues told him the order to cut him off came from “senior leadership,” and they had no explanation for the decision. Hayun told reporters he is convinced that if he had been listening in the weeks before Oct. 7, the invasion would have been prevented.
Hayun and the observers weren’t the only ones who recognized what Hamas was doing. As Channels 11, 12 and Haaretz all reported, a tactical intelligence NCO and Hamas expert in Unit 8200 with 20 years of experience began providing detailed reports on Hamas’s preparations for the invasion in May 2022.
In a series of three, increasingly detailed and urgent reports over succeeding months, the NCO set out in granular detail how Hamas was preparing a broad invasion of Israel that included the invasion of IDF bases, border towns and kibbutzim.
Her reports included all aspects of the invasion that took place on Oct. 7, including Hamas’s use of paragliders, pick-up trucks and motorcycles.
-She detailed Hamas’s plans to massacre and kidnap civilians and soldiers.
-She warned that their intention was to use provocations along the security fence in the weeks leading up to the operation to get the IDF used to breaches and so lull its commanders into complacency.
-She even secured Hamas’s own training manual for the operation.
-She was able to get the information in front of Unit 8200’s commander and a top officer in the Southern Command.
They apparently did nothing.
Convinced by his subordinate’s reporting, her commander, an NCO with 30 years’ experience, canceled a family vacation because he heard Haliva would be visiting their base. He waylaid Haliva, and he and his subordinate presented her reports. Haliva dismissed their warnings and detailed information as hot air. Hamas, he insisted, was just pretending, to make an impression on its followers. He did not communicate her report to either the head of Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) or the IDF Chief of General Staff.
The NCOs weren’t the only ones who saw what was happening. As Channel 11 reported on Tuesday, in May 2023, the Gaza Division’s intelligence officer created a slide presentation titled, “The Walls of Jericho,” setting out in detail how Hamas intended to bring down the security fence and invade Israel at up to 60 separate points, invade the division’s bases and enter civilian communities to commit mass murder and seize hostages.
In a follow-up report from August, the intelligence officer even explained that Hamas intended to carry out its plan either on Shabbat or on a holiday when only a small cadre of soldiers would be on duty. His work was dismissed as unrealistic and out of line with Hamas’s true intentions by senior intelligence officers at Tel Aviv headquarters.
At 4 a.m. on Oct. 7, due to warnings of increased Hamas movement near the border fence, the senior security leadership, including IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevy, Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar, Southern Command Commander Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman and Haliva’s assistant (Haliva was apparently asleep), discussed the movements and decided to go back to bed.
Bar sent a small team of fighters to the border area, but that was all. The group didn’t inform the Gaza division commander, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Instead, they agreed to speak again at 8 a.m. Hamas invaded at 6:30.
Since at least 2022, Haliva and his colleagues in the Intelligence Directorate and the top echelons of the IDF and the Shin Bet were convinced that Hamas was deterred.
Hamas, they insisted both in public statements and in intelligence briefings to political leaders, was interested in providing economic prosperity to Gaza.
In one speech, Haliva spoke derisively of an unnamed political leader (between the lines it was apparent he was referring to Netanyahu) who had questioned his judgment.
“In one of the meetings, I don’t want to divulge where, a closed, classified meeting, someone—I won’t say who—said to me, ‘Intel Chief, your view is as good as mine.’ I responded, ‘Look, I respect very much your position and standing, and your leadership. But your narrative isn’t as good as my narrative, because behind my narrative stand professionals,’” he said.
What Haliva failed to mention was his habit of ignoring everything the professionals told him and not sharing their information with his superiors.
All of this would be bad enough. But it becomes even worse when seen in the framework of the 10-month insurgency the Israeli left waged against the Netanyahu government. That insurgency was led by Haliva’s family.
His ex-wife and the mother of his children, Shira Margalit, is married to Ilan Shiloah, a senior advertising executive. Margalit and Shiloah stood behind much of the political unrest that Israel has experienced since last year. Haliva’s daughter spoke at anti-government protests. His son’s twitter feed is filled with anti-Netanyahu invective.
Haliva reportedly did not share the mountain of information his professional intelligence corps gathered on Hamas’s plans. But he reportedly repeatedly warned Netanyahu that his government’s legal reforms were emboldening Israel’s enemies and increasing the likelihood of war.
In theory, all of this could be set aside until the end of the war, except Haliva’s actions since Oct. 7 indicate that he is still informed by his false narrative about Hamas. On the eve of the ground invasion, Netanyahu addressed the public. He explained that the war is Israel’s “second war of independence,” and that it presents Israel with an “existential challenge.” In other words, Israel has no choice but to win. Netanyahu defined victory as rescuing the hostages, destroying Hamas as a military and political entity and preventing it or any other terror group from rising in Gaza ever again.
Three days later, in his first public remarks since Oct. 7, Haliva rejected Netanyahu’s description of the war as an existential conflict.
Speaking to graduates of the Intelligence Corps officer training course, Haliva insisted, “It’s a war we have no choice but to fight. It isn’t an existential war.”
The difference between an existential conflict and a non-existential conflict is self-evident. You must win a war for your state’s existence. You can fight to a draw for a lesser conflict. An intelligence chief who publicly rejects the government’s characterization of a war, whose poor professional judgment led to catastrophe and who has a history of contemptuous insubordination simply cannot be trusted to act in accordance with the government’s directives.
Oct. 7 was not prevented because many people in positions of responsibility failed the people of Israel. In most cases,
it is probably reasonable to wait until after the war to part ways with them.
The military’s vaunted 8200 signals intelligence unit was not operational near the Gaza border on the morning of October 7 due to a two-year-old decision to reduce personnel and halt operations overnight and on weekends, a new report alleged Monday.
The move, detailed by the Kan public broadcaster, left the army without a key asset for wiretapping and code decryption, possibly adding to the confusion and chaos that delayed an effective military response to the terror onslaught last month.
On that Saturday morning, some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the Gaza border into southern Israel, massacring at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, across more than 20 different communities and seizing some 240 hostages.
An estimated 360 people were mowed down at an outdoor music festival close to the border, and families were slaughtered in their homes as they burned down around them.
According to Kan, following private consultations, a high-ranking officer within the Israel Defense Force’s Intelligence Corps reduced the unit’s manpower two years ago after concluding that intelligence-gathering methods utilized by 8200 would not help detect a threat from Gaza in real-time.
“An alert in the Gaza arena will not come from the classic sources,” the officer was quoted saying.
The decision significantly downgraded the unit’s operational activities in the Gaza border region and ceased operations entirely overnight and on weekends.
According to the report, while Unit 8200 alone couldn’t have prevented the October 7 attack had they been operational during the early hours of the morning, they would have been able to provide a clearer picture of what was unfolding during the first hours of the onslaught and could have potentially located Hamas’s elite Nukhba forces as they moved across southern Israel under the cover of thousands of rockets, slaughtering people indiscriminately as they went.
In the weeks following October 7, several reports have attested that senior IDF officials, including those from 8200, ignored warnings from subordinates regarding suspicious activity along the Gaza border.
A report published by Channel 12 last Thursday alleged that soldiers in the unit warned that Hamas was preparing a highly organized and meticulously planned mass invasion of Israel. In response, the soldiers were told that their concerns were a “fantasy.”
According to the report, a non-commissioned officer in Unit 8200 put together a report from an array of raw intelligence data detailing a scenario that essentially predicted the October 7 invasion.
She, together with a junior officer, also pointed to a Hamas drill a month before the Hamas attack, noting that it included preparations for a mass invasion with multiple entry points into Israel.
The two presented their concerns to a senior IDF officer — although not one from 8200 — who dismissed their warnings as “fantasies” and failed to act on the information, Channel 12 said.
Backing up the claims published by Channel 12, Kan added that the non-commissioned officer warned that the Hamas drill included the use of vehicles to carry out the attack and that they practiced taking over Israeli towns.
The NCO also warned that the assault Hamas was planning was on such a large scale that it could spark an all-out war in the region, an estimate that turned out to be partially correct.
Following the attack on October 7, Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas from the Gaza Strip and launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground offensive, the first since 2014, to carry out its goals.
In addition to the reports regarding 8200, surveillance soldiers from the Combat Intelligence Corps who survived the Hamas attack on their base in Nahal Oz recounted to Kan in October that intelligence officials had dismissed their reports of unusual activity on the Gaza border as routine and unimportant.
For at least three months prior to October 7, the soldiers recalled reporting information on Hamas operatives conducting training sessions multiple times a day, digging holes and placing explosives along the border.
However, when presenting the evidence to their senior officers, they were ignored, and the information was not passed further up the chain off command.
The reports of Israeli intelligence failures prior to October 7 appear to corroborate a claim published by Reuters news agency on October 9 that Hamas intentionally deceived Israel, conducting a years-long campaign to fool the country into thinking the group could be placated with economic incentives to maintain relative calm.
An entire battalion of reservists, that was trained to deal with a scenario of terrorist infiltration, arrived quickly in southern Israel during the Hamas attack on October 7, but was delayed for about 12 hours because the key to its armory was missing, Channel 12 News reporter Tamir Steinman reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, the battalion received an emergency call-up and the soldiers quickly showed up at 11:00 a.m., full of motivation, but they encountered a problem that prevented them from attacking – the keys to the armory at the base were nowhere to be found.
The frustrated soldiers waited for 12 hours and said that the battalion commander did not make a decision that would allow the armory to be breached due to the emergency situation that was created.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in response:
“After the war is over, a detailed investigation will be conducted in order to clarify the details.”
An IDF spokesman says the military “is not overrunning” Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital, asserting Israeli troops are conducting a “precise and targeted operation against a specific location… in order to defeat Hamas and perhaps rescue hostages.”
“Our goal is to bring [the hostages] home. Our goal is to seek out Hamas wherever they are hiding,” Lt. Col. (res.) Peter Lerner tells CNN, describing the hospital as “perhaps even the beating heart” of the terror group’s operations.
Youssef Abul Reesh, an official from the Hamas-run health ministry who is inside Gaza’s Shifa hospital, where the terror group is accused of maintaining a command center, says he saw Israeli tanks inside the complex and “dozens of soldiers and commandos inside the emergency and reception buildings.”
Estimates for the number of patients, staff and displaced people inside the hospital complex range from the hundreds, to tens of thousands, with the true number impossible to independently verify.
Israel believes that some of the some 240 hostages in Gaza could be held captive in Hamas’s labyrinth of tunnels and rooms beneath the hospital.
The IDF said it had provided evacuation routes for civilians and given Hamas 12 hours’ notice that any military operation inside the hospital must cease.
After the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, even those who did not know much about the problems of the Middle East have learned about Gaza. Supporters of both Israel and the Palestinian enclave are enraged and accuse the opposite side of inhumanity. However, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to this day precisely because there is no simple and unambiguous solution to the problem. The words of British historian Thomas Carlyle are in this case more appropriate than ever:
“History will mourn everyone because everyone has suffered a bitter fate.”
A bloody legacy
The history of the city of Gaza goes back several millennia. Situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza has been inhabited since the times of the Egyptian pharaohs. Of course, we are primarily interested in understanding the current crisis, but to do so, we will still need to go back in time – to the First World War, when Palestine was a remote corner of the Ottoman Empire.
By the beginning of World War I, there were a certain number of Jews living in Palestine. They made up a minority, but nonetheless had a prominent presence in the region. In general, the Jewish people were harmoniously integrated into the local community – they had inhabited the land since Biblical times, and for a long time there were no major conflicts with the Arab population comparable to the modern crisis.
Meanwhile, reflecting on the post-war structure of the world, the Entente Powers turned their attention to the Middle East.
Many projects concerning the Middle East existed at the time, but the most important one was proposed by British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour.
Balfour considered it important to build a national home for the Jews in the Middle East.
Despite such statements, after the First World War, Britain obtained vast territories (practically speaking, colonies) that had once belonged to the fallen Ottoman Empire. The territory of modern-day Israel was called Mandatory Palestine.
Having gained control of these regions, the British generally favored the Jews, whom they considered a ‘counterbalance’ to the Arabs. Jewish communities and immigrants (migration was also encouraged) had an advantage over the Arabs. However, neither the Jews nor the Arabs were satisfied with British rule. As it turned out, several decades of this reckless rule were enough to heat up tensions between the two communities.
Following the Second World War, a unique situation came about that made it possible to create Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. Wishing to throw off its imperial burden, Britain turned to some of the existing ideas for the Middle East. Moreover, after the genocide of the Jewish people in the Second World War, their claims to an independent state were fully justified.
The birth of Israel and the first conflicts
The borders of the future Arab and Jewish states were drawn up by the UN. However, the project turned out to be a total failure.
The UN initially had good intentions – it proposed to give the parts of Palestine with large Jewish communities to the Jewish state, while the Arab state would receive the lands where the Arab population was predominant. Since the city of Jerusalem was sacred to both communities, it was assigned special status.
Of course, neither side was content with the proposal.
Firstly, both nations became torn and made up entirely of a scattering of enclaves.
Secondly, the future state of Israel was allocated territories with room for growth.
In light of the expected mass arrival of Jews from Europe, the Israelis were given more land than the Arabs, who had to move over. Naturally, the Arabs were furious and neither side wanted to seek compromise.
In 1947, a war broke out with the aim of revising the borders. Jordan, Egypt, and other Arab States joined the side of the Arabs. The Israelis successfully fought back and even occupied some of the territories assigned by the UN to the Arabs. However, the remaining parts of Arab Palestine did not become a separate state, but were occupied by neighboring Arab nations. Jordan took control of the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt.
If the Gaza Strip had simply become a part of Egypt, things would not have been that bad. But the situation turned out to be much worse. In 1947, the population of Gaza numbered only 80,000 people. But Arab refugees subsequently flooded the region and the small area was forced to accommodate up to 300,000 Arabs.
At that time, the situation could have already been considered a humanitarian disaster, since people lacked even the most basic necessities.
Meanwhile, Egypt did not consider Gaza its own territory, and Gazans could not receive Egyptian citizenship. The Egyptians merely used Gaza as a ‘battering ram’ against Israel. With the help of Egypt, fedayeen detachments were formed in the enclave to wage guerrilla warfare against Israel.
At the same time, the UN created the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This organization helped to improve life in Gaza. Thanks to the efforts of the UN, refugee camps started to look more like normal cities and in general, life in Gaza – even though it remained difficult – became more tolerable. At that time, many people thought that the issue would soon be solved, and that the status of Gaza would soon change.
People without a state
The situation for Gaza did soon change. In 1967, disagreements between the Jewish and Arab states resulted in the Six-Day War, which ended with Israel’s occupation of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza. By that time, almost 400,000 people lived in Gaza, three fifths of whom were refugees.
Israel tried to integrate the territory, but with certain conditions. Just as Gazans had been refused Egyptian passports, likewise they could not receive Israeli citizenship.
Israel’s policy in Gaza was marked by inconsistency.
On the one hand, Israel provided jobs, and this was extremely important, since about half of the entire working population of Gaza worked in Israel. Arabs usually held unskilled jobs with low wages, but they still earned more than what they could expect in Gaza.
On the other hand, this arrangement hindered the economic development of Gaza.
The Arabs were migrant workers – and this seemed to work fine, since incomes in Gaza were growing.
But at the same time, the economy in Gaza stagnated. The rights of Arab workers were not protected in the same way as those of Israelis, and as citizens of a non-existent state, Gazans remained practically in limbo.
The population of Gaza rapidly grew (as usual, the UN paid for the party). The situation was complicated by the construction of Israeli settlements in Gaza. At one point, these settlements occupied up to a third of the already overpopulated strip. Moreover, many of the settlers adopted the ‘conqueror’ mentality and behaved accordingly. This did not contribute to peace between the Arab and Jewish communities.
Following the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty, the two countries established peaceful relations, and the Gaza-Egypt border was opened once again. However, Egypt did not consider the Arabs of Gaza as their brethren, and only one checkpoint was established on the border.
A time to dig
Gaza’s ‘tunnel economy’ dates back to the 1980s, when tunnels leading into Israel and Egypt were being actively built.
Today, we hear about these tunnels primarily as terrorist infrastructure, but at the time they were constructed for economic reasons.
The tunnels, which are major structures with electricity, ventilation, and even rails for trolleys, were used for smuggling goods.
Many of them were built cooperatively – construction was financed directly by the people and the funds were gathered through mosques. Each tunnel became an independent commercial enterprise, and the profit margins were sometimes unbelievable – for example, a new tunnel could pay off in just a month.
Meanwhile, the political situation was deteriorating. The fight against Israel was led by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party. In the second half of the 1980s, the Hamas movement appeared. It was formed on the basis of one of the most radical and irreconcilable Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas was determined to wage war against Israel and to completely destroy it.
In 1987, the First Intifada, also known as the Stone Intifada, began. The Arabs incited mass civil riots, attacked settlements in the Gaza Strip, and so on. The confrontation was severe and resulted in many casualties. After the riots were suppressed, Israel’s reputation suffered a severe blow.
In the early 1990s, Israel agreed to negotiations.
This led to the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which ensured the creation of a Palestinian National Authority and a return to the project of creating a future Palestinian State. This seemed like a good solution. The Israelis handed Gaza over to the Palestinians, and constructed barriers along the border with the enclave.
The conflict, however, could not be fully resolved. Tel Aviv refused to make some concessions. The Arabs and Jews could not agree on the status of Jerusalem, and Arafat demanded compensation for the Arab refugees.
As a result, the much bloodier Second Intifada followed. The Palestinians carried out suicide attacks, bloody assaults, and launched self-made rockets at cities. Israel retaliated in a very harsh manner, and as a result of the conflict about 1,000 Jews and 3,000 Arabs were killed. However, the Second Intifada did not just affect the people who suffered from it directly.
In the aftermath of the conflict, a fortified fence was built along the Gaza perimeter with only two checkpoints leading out of the enclave: one into Egypt, the other into Israel. No one could freely exit the territory, and the sea and air routes were blocked by Israel.
That was the start of a real blockade. It is important to note that Israel viewed Gaza as a hotbed of terrorism, but so did Egypt, which also blocked access to its territory for Gazans.
The worst, however, was yet to come.
In 2005, Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Israeli settlements were dismantled, Israel withdrew its troops, and the enclave became isolated. As a result of the wars and blockade, the standard of living in Gaza dropped. Most residents did not want to become suicide bombers for the sake of jihad. However, the lid of the cauldron was tightly shut, and its contents reached a boiling point.
In 2006, Hamas won the elections in Gaza, but it was not content with the victory brought about by democratic procedures. A civil war broke out in Gaza.
The more moderate Fatah party was defeated, some of its leaders fled from Gaza, and some were killed. The failed Palestinian state was split into the West Bank and Gaza – not only geographically, but also politically.
While in the West Bank the Israelis and Arabs found ways to co-exist together, Gaza was completely isolated. The unemployment rate surged to 50%, and Hamas activists – a bloodthirsty and fanatical extremist movement – received uncontested power.
All of this was accompanied by terrorist attacks launched from Gaza and the bombing of the enclave by the Israelis. At that point, the Gaza issue was already extremely difficult to solve.
A chronic disease
Most people in Gaza would just like to live in peace. But no one asks them what they want. The people cannot escape – both Egypt and Israel consider them potential terrorists (and it is true that there is a considerable number of real terrorists among the population).
Everyone in Gaza is forced to deal with Hamas simply because there is no other government, and everyone has friends, relatives, or acquaintances among the terrorists.
Finally, because of the long, painful war, people on both sides of the fence have ample reason to hate each other: Gazans suffer from bombing while Israelis suffer from terrorist attacks. And this has gone on for decades.
In 2006, militants from Gaza kidnapped an Israeli soldier, who spent several years in captivity and was eventually exchanged for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hardcore militants. Meanwhile, missiles fired from Gaza continued to fly across the border. At this point, Israel adopted the ‘grass mowing’ concept: after each escalation, Israel would bomb Gaza to reduce the combat potential of Hamas. Between 2008 and 2009, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conducted Operation Cast Lead and entered deep into Gaza – the army suffered minor losses, but was formally successful. However, things merely went back to the way they were before. The next major operation, called Cloud Pillar, followed in 2012. By that time, Israelis considered the constant attacks on their territory something like an inevitable disaster. But likewise, Israeli attacks on Gaza had also become routine.
Gradually, the Israelis deployed the Iron Dome – a major and reliable missile defense system that greatly reduced the damage from the shelling. A new escalation followed in 2014 (Operation Indestructible Rock), during which Israel lost 66 soldiers and some areas of Gaza were completely destroyed by heavy artillery fire.
The casualties suffered during Operation Indestructible Rock caused heated discussions in Israel. For a long time after that, the IDF did not attempt to enter deeper into the enclave.
However, after the battles of 2014, the Israelis found what seemed like a center of balance.
The Iron Dome successfully protected them from missiles fired from inside Gaza. The entire Gaza perimeter was guarded by the Gaza division, and defense heavily relied on advanced technology – cameras and remote-controlled machine gun turrets were placed along the perimeter.
In the coming years, tension on the border decreased, and the sense of danger among the Israelis subsided. Combat-ready units were removed from the Gaza border, and the IDF gradually turned into a peacetime army.
The fundamental problem, however, remained.
On the other side of the fence built by the Israelis, there was a huge enclave where two million people lived without work, future prospects, or money, and which was headed by a terrorist organization. But while the Israelis were becoming less vigilant, Hamas leaders were paying close attention to what was happening on the other side of the fence.
On October 7, it became clear that ‘just forgetting’ about Gaza is not an option. The border fence was blown up, and hundreds of militants invaded Israel.
The Arab-Israeli conflict and especially the problems in Gaza are often said to be the result of malice – either of one side or the other. But in fact, for over a hundred years the fate of the Gaza Strip has been determined by decisions that often seemed reasonable and humane at the time, but turned out to be ridiculous and irresponsible in reality. Ill will, well-meaning incompetence, cruelty, and chauvinism all played a part – but they were not exclusive to any particular side, including the leaders of Israel and Palestine.
The drama of the Middle East clearly demonstrates how easy it is to let the genie of violence and hatred out of the bottle, and how hard it is to push it back.
As of today, no one has succeeded in stuffing the genie back into the bottle – even after a century of effort.
Trupele Armatei israeliene au intrat în Gaza și au ajuns la Marea Mediterană. Instantaneu, au început să cadă legăturile telefonice și Internet. De atunci, informațiile vin cu țârâita. Ce se întâmplă? Ce se va mai întâmpla? Cât va mai dura? Continue reading “IDF in Gaza”→
Over the past week, much evidence has come to light which puts beyond reasonable doubt the conclusion that Russian forces occupying the Kakhovka Dam were responsible for its destruction on June 6th, between roughly 2.20–2.54am local time.
Firstly, the dam was designed to withstand a nuclear attack – probably meaning a strike on the Dnipro River, creating a tsunami. As such, it is constructed of large and very thick steel-reinforced concrete piers (see above photo).
Each of these are independent – capable of standing on their even if a nearby pier is damaged or destroyed – a point demonstrated by the fact that many of these piers are still standing, despite roughly fourteen having been partially destroyed, with more destruction between the Hydro Power Plant buildings (as well as damage to the buildings themselves). We are not simply talking about a number of sluice gates being destroyed.
The extent of the damage to these piers will only become apparent when the water drains, but the amount of explosive that would have been required to destroy them is well beyond anything that could reasonably have been delivered on target by Ukraine.
The Antonovsky Bridge (also constructed of steel-reinforced concrete) survived many GMLRS attacks, and each 200lb high explosive (HE) warhead – perhaps with a time-delayed fuse – only created a neat little hole. Russians were at one point claiming that Ukraine had employed its Vilkha MLRS (with a maximum 550lb HE warhead) to attack the dam, but the biggest explosive ordnance possessed by Ukraine is the 2,000lb Mark 84 JDAM, and even with these, each pier would have to be hit multiple times in order to have any serious effect – let alone to destroy everything above the waterline (with no bits of steel and concrete still poking up, note!).
In the best case scenario, with GPS not being jammed, a modern JDAM can achieve a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of five metres. This means that, on average, 50% of bombs will hit within a circle of radius 5m (area: 78.5m2). The piers are roughly 2m wide, so if the very centre of the pier were targeted (rather than nearer the ends), a pier with an area of 10m2 (2×5m) inside the limits of that circle would encompass only ~12.7% of the CEP. Therefore, only ~6.4% of bombs would hit even a portion of the target. Taking a rather optimistic estimate of only three JDAMs needed per pier, it would take, on average, ~660 JDAMs to achieve the desired effect. This number would be reduced because a few of the off-target JDAMs would hit a neighbouring pier instead, but the overall attack would be much more difficult because the piers on the eastern (reservoir) end were underwater – greatly limiting the effect of any bombs on target (meaning, in reality, only the western end of the piers could be attacked).
Accuracy could be greatly improved if the JDAMs were fitted with a laser seeker. However, it’s highly questionable whether it would be feasible to laser-designate these targets for any length of time in such a contested environment very close to the line of control from, say, a drone – even assuming compatible laser designators have been fitted to suitable Ukrainian drones. And even with perfect accuracy, multiple JDAMs would still be required per pier.
For Ukraine, this would have taken a big air operation involving (conservatively) dozens of sorties over a period of days or weeks.
On average, Ukraine carries out about 26 combat sorties per day (sometimes a few more), but these are spread across the entire line of contact, and involve all types of aircraft – only some of which can carry JDAMs. Such an operation would be very predictable, and therefore incredibly dangerous and risky. In fact, it would be a field day for Russian air defence, since even with the ~72km glide range of the JDAM-ER (which can only be achieved at altitude), this would put Ukrainian aviation within range of Russian Buk, S-300 and S-400 systems.
However, even if Ukraine could somehow have assembled enough air power to drop the massive amount of ordnance necessary within the known time-frame of about half-an-hour (an impossibility), and precisely co-ordinated everything so each target could be individually laser-designated without confusing the bombs (another impossibility), it would have been blatantly obvious to the RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft operated by the U.S. and the U.K. which are in constant rotation near Ukraine, and to other nations via satellite reconnaissance, seismographs and the like – besides many observers on the ground, on both sides.
So far we’ve been considering HE warheads, but what about other types of munitions? Even large armour-piercing artillery shells have been found to be ineffective against reinforced concrete – thus requiring a lot of ordnance. Consider the attack on Fort Douaumont in WWI, in which Germany bombarded the fort with huge 420mm armour-piercing shells without result. As a boy, I visited the site and was very surprised by the lack of damage.
This is where so-called ‘bunker buster’ bombs come along. These are gravity bombs that are dropped from altitude, reaching supersonic speeds on descent, with hard penetrator tips and smart fuses that can detonate the bomb when certain conditions are met (e.g., loss of rotational energy, time, etc.). This enables them to explode within a reinforced or buried structure – which gave Saddam Hussein such a nasty surprise during Operation Desert Storm.
But we don’t need to imagine Ukraine has been secretly developing bunker buster munitions, or been given some on the quiet by the U.S. or perfidious Albion. In fact, given bunker busters would have to be dropped from altitude and suicidally close to the target (~10 nautical miles), Ukraine has something much better: Storm Shadow. These are standoff weapons that can be air-launched from inside safe Ukrainian airspace. They’re equipped with BROACH warheads that can defeat hard targets, including those protected by reinforced concrete, with a shaped-charge penetrator followed by a variable-fuse 990lb warhead that detonates inside the target.
Given Storm Shadow’s reputedly first-rate guidance and targetting capabilities – and the apparent inability of Russia to shoot them down – I’m going to be generous and stipulate arguendo that pinpoint accuracy could be achieved with a horizontal head-on attack against the piers from the western (non-reservoir) side.
This couldn’t be done from the reservoir side because those piers were under water – meaning the optical/IIR target recognition system wouldn’t work, and GPS guidance wouldn’t be nearly good enough.
This kind of attack would be limited to one Storm Shadow per pier, because absent a detailed bomb damage assessment in daylight, followed by programming in new target recognition parameters, the damage to the piers would almost certainly prevent a second Storm Shadow positively identifying and choosing to attack the target (rather than heading to its ‘safe’ crash site).
It would also be very likely that the impact of a single Storm Shadow (and the resulting debris and floodwater pouring through) would so confuse the next Storm Shadow attacking a neighbouring pier that it would fail to recognise the target. So this is all highly implausible.
But even assuming all 14 missiles could achieve a perfect hit against each of the piers, given that the piers are at least 10m in length, it’s also highly questionable whether a single Storm Shadow – which could theoretically explode ~3.7m inside the target – would be able to completely destroy any given pier above the waterline.
Then try that 14 times. And if it didn’t work perfectly, there’d be a lot of evidence left to point to Ukraine.
But there are other reasons why this didn’t happen. Even assuming Ukraine has modified enough Su-24s to carry Storm Shadow (they’d need seven, with two missiles per plane), nevertheless launching that number of Su-24s all at once would have been noticed – not just by the U.K. and U.S., but also by Russian ground-based radar as well as AWACS, and by other nations.
The missiles themselves might also have been detected – even if Russian air defence isn’t sophisticated enough to shoot them down. Humans on the ground would have heard (and possibly seen) them coming in at perhaps as low as 30m above ground, and at roughly two-minute intervals. Of course, none of this was reported or claimed, either by civilians in the area or by Russia – who claimed it was rocket artillery.
This also doesn’t match the seismograph readings, which show a big explosion at 2.54am local time, with U.S. infra-red satellite imagery seeming to suggest the same.
However, the picture is rather unclear, and it seems likely there were actually two explosions, each one taking out roughly half of the 14 piers.
As for the claims made by some incautious commentators, who initially suggested that tubed artillery could have done this: an M107 155mm shell contains 15lbs of HE, and is not very accurate, so it would be like trying to cut down a tree with a blunt nail file.
No, the dam could only have been blown in the way we saw using explosives pre-positioned inside the structure.
It was therefore fortunate for the Russians that the USSR built their dams with this in mind, providing sites for the placement of explosive charges in the event of a need to flood the downstream area for defensive purposes – as in this instance.
Besides observations and the laws of physics being on Ukraine’s side, we have other evidence pointing to Russia. Zelenskyy claimed back on October 20th that Russia had mined the dam, but he also called for international observers to be sent to the dam (hardly suggesting evil intent). The next day, there was some chatter in the Telegram channel of some members of the 205th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade (believed to have been occupying the dam) discussing the fact that the dam had been mined, and also seeming to suggest they would be ordered to blow the dam in the event of an “uncontrolled advance of the enemy”.
In December, there were boasts that the dam was mined and would be blown up on New Year’s Day in order to wash Ukrainian forces away – the idea being uncontroversial, having been proposed at one point on Russian state TV and recommended by military expert Roman Svitan, as well as by the more extreme Vladlen Tatarsky (further details on Russian ‘chatter’ before and after June 6th can be found here).
When the dam was blown, it was at first denied by various Russians. RIA Novosti reported that “everywhere is quiet and peaceful” in the city, with Nova Kakhovka’s gauleiter, at 6am, calling reports of the breach “nonsense”. Not long after he claimed “a series of numerous strikes” had “destroyed the latches” – in line with Russia’s emerging narrative of rocket artillery strikes. But of course it wasn’t merely the sluice gates that were destroyed.
Ukraine’s SBU released a signals intercept a few days later, supposedly between Russian soldiers discussing how their side blew the dam, and in which they said the scale of the destruction and flooding was unintentional – a not implausible statement, in my opinion. (Nonetheless, members of the 205th SMRB seem to have been given medals for their actions.)
Indeed, the scale of the flooding does seem to have taken Russia by surprise, with some units having to relocate; although it seems there were orders issued on June 4th to move some military equipment away from the area they thought would be flooded. However, I think it very unlikely that clear warnings were given, since the resultant signals traffic could have made it all the more obvious.
(The situation is reminiscent of Stalin’s destruction of the Dnipro Dam in 1941, which killed tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers.)
However, Russia did show some high-level skirt before their war crime.
As reported by The Insider, a week before the dam was blown, a decree was issued by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin forbidding the investigation of any accidents at “hydraulic structures”, whether as a result of military action or terrorist attacks, until 2028. This is of course very convenient, since Russia has also been blowing up other dams in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, notably between Tokmak and Berdyansk – directly in the path of Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
Besides having the means and opportunity to destroy the Kakhovka Dam, Russia had fairly obvious motives – to cause chaos, create a humanitarian crisis for Ukraine, and most importantly to prevent Ukrainian forces attempting a river crossing, or holding positions on the islands downstream.
This has enabled Russia to move forces from Kherson Oblast to other parts of the theatre in order to try to counter Ukraine’s advances – at least for a few weeks, until the flooded areas dry out again.
As for Ukraine possibly having a motive, given their adherence to the Geneva Conventions and the likely consequences (given the inevitability of being discovered), that seems most unlikely.
At least, while they seem to have been willing to destroy one or more sluice gates in order to hamper the retreat of Russian forces from Kherson last year by increasing the flow rate of the water, that would have been legitimate under the laws of war – and of a different order of magnitude to what we’ve seen here. But in fact, it seems they only did minimal damage to the sluice gates.
Leaving aside military considerations, it would be completely mad for Ukraine to deliberately kill its own civilians by blowing the dam – citizens that they are in the process of liberating. Not only that, but (unless a cofferdam can be installed) this will destroy almost all agriculture in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts (not to mention parts of Dnipropetrovsk and as far east as Azov). Without irrigation from the Kakhovka Reservoir, those areas will revert to being an agricultural desert (having a global impact). And then there’s the effect on the flora and fauna of Ukraine.
The loss of agricultural irrigation both in these regions and in Crimea (which was, in any case, without irrigation between 2014–22) is of little significance to Russia – they have almost no regard for the lives of their troops, and none for Ukrainian civilians. This is simply part of their scorched earth policy, and any claim to the contrary is without foundation.
My thanks to David Brookfield, formerly of the Royal Engineers and currently a co-host of MriyaReport, for his comments and suggestions throughout.
So, now that it has been established that the main profiteer in the COVID-19 ‘vaccine’ gold rush of the last two years is not Pfizer, but rather the still astonishingly little-known and previously tiny German firm BioNTech, it would appear that something needs to be said about who owns BioNTech.
As shown in my earlier article, for 2021 and 2022 combined, BioNTech earned over $31 billion in COVID-19 “vaccine” profits on a whopping 77% profit margin as compared to Pfizer’s roughly $20 billion on an estimated 27.5% profit margin.
This revelation, however, has led many commentators on social media to suggest that none other than Bill Gates was somehow the main beneficiary of – and presumably éminence grise behind – BioNTech’s astronomic rise or even that BioNTech is a “Gates company.”
While it is true that the Gates Foundation – not Gates personally – invested in BioNTech in a deal that, as will be seen below, was likely brokered by the German government, and while that deal is indeed curious for its timing and some of its details, its purely economic significance has been wildly exaggerated.
As of December 30, 2020, the Gates Foundation’s initial holdings of 1,038,674 BioNTech shares represented a mere 0.43% of the company’s total stock, as the Yahoo Finance chart makes clear.
This placed the Gates Foundation among the top institutional investors in BioNTech at the time. But that such relatively paltry holdings could qualify an organisation as a top institutional holder is itself indicative of a far lesser-known fact about BioNTech: namely, that it is a very closely held company, the great majority of whose shares are owned by just three people.
Consequently, only a very limited portion of BioNTech shares have ever been available for purchase by the Gates Foundation or anyone else.
The three principal shareholders are CEO Ugur Sahin and Germany’s Strüngmann twins, Andreas and Thomas, who provided much of the initial seed capital for the company’s founding in 2008.
According to BioNTech’s latest annual report to the SEC (p.192), the Strüngmanns own 105,613,143 shares representing 43.4% of BioNTech’s total stock: i.e., literally 100 times more than the Gates Foundation held! Sahin owns 42,262,039 shares representing 17.4% of the company’s stock. Together, Sahin and the Strüngmanns thus control nearly 61% of BioNTech stock.
The Strüngmanns are AT Impf . AT Impf is a fully-owned subsidiary of the twins’ ATHOS KG family office. Sahin is the sole shareholder of Medine.
Furthermore, as footnote 1 to the table specifies, “ATHOS KG via AT Impf GmbH has de facto control over BioNTech based on its substantial shareholding, which practically enabled it to exercise the majority of voting rights to pass resolutions at our Annual General Meeting.”
So, in short, BioNTech is not a “Gates company”, but rather literally a Strüngmann company, the Gates Foundation’s stake having always been extremely minor.
As discussed in a much-cited Substack post by Jordan Schachtel, the Gates Foundation has since sold off 890,000 shares in BioNTech, representing 86% of its previous holdings. Based on timing and the evolution of the BioNTech share price, Schachtel estimates that the foundation made $260 million on the sale or a whopping 1500% return on its initial investment.
It is this windfall that makes Gates appear like the main beneficiary of BioNTech’s sudden success in the often fact-deprived atmosphere of social media. But, needless to say, the Strüngmanns are the main beneficiaries of BioNTech’s success.
Indeed, as was widely reported in the German media at the time, the precipitous rise in BioNTech’s share price briefly catapulted the twins into the position of the richest people in Germany, with an estimated net worth of €52 billion or $62 billion, when the share price was at its highest in late 2021.
Their BioNTech holdings alone were reported to be worth over €42 billion. (See, for example, the report in the German weekly Stern ).
Of course, the BioNTech share price has since fallen back down somewhat closer to earth. But the twins do not appear to have been averse to getting some cold hard cash out of their investment while the share price was high either.
Thus, circa December 2020, when the Gates Foundation still held all of its initial holdings and 0.43% of BioNTech stock, the twins in fact held 114,410,338 shares or nearly 47.4% of BioNTech stock. (See page 201 of BioNTech’s 2020 annual report) This means that the twins have in the meanwhile divested themselves not of nearly 900,000 shares, like the Gates Foundation, but of nearly 9 million.
We know, moreover, from other SEC filings that they sold the great bulk of the shares (over 8 million) precisely in 2021, the year in which the BioNTech share price reached its peak. Depending then on the exact timing, they presumably made roughly ten times more than Gates – i.e., a haul of over $2 billion as opposed to the Gates Foundation’s $260 million – and not for the benefit of any non-profit organisation, but strictly for their own.
Furthermore, the Gates Foundation was not the only BioNTech partner to have apparently thought better about having too substantial a tie-up with BioNTech in the longer term. So too did none other than the Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun Pharma.
This is also relevant to our topic, since Fosun – or allegedly even, via Fosun, the Chinese Communist Party! – is likewise often identified in social media posts and by certain commentators as somehow the “real” owner of BioNTech.
It is not and has never been anything of the sort. Rather, as part of its 2020 agreement with BioNTech to commercialise that latter’s COVID-19 vaccine on the Chinese market, it, like the Gates Foundation, acquired a minor equity stake in the German company.
That agreement, however, has largely remained a dead letter, since Chinese authorities have never even approved the vaccine for use on the mainland. This might have something to do with the fact that late last year the Chinese company sold off more than two-thirds of the 1,576,000 BioNTech shares it originally held. Per the calculation of the Chinese market specialists at Bamboo Works,
this left Fosun with a mere 0.2% stake in BioNTech. So much for Chinese “control” of the company…
What, then, of the famous September 2019, pre-IPO equity deal in which the Gates Foundation acquired its holdings in BioNTech? How did Gates know to invest in a company that had never even gotten close to bringing a product to market, had only ever run losses – and was focused on developing cancer treatments, not vaccines against infectious diseases, to boot! Hardly anyone had ever even heard of BioNTech.
Well, the below image provides a clue.
It comes from the closing plenary session of the October 2018 World Health Summit: a German-government-sponsored event, which is held every year in Berlin. .
The host institution is Germany’s premier university teaching hospital, the Charité, the chair of whose virology department is none other than Christian Drosten.
It is Drosten, of course, who devised the famous PCR protocol that the WHO would adopt as the “gold standard” for detecting COVID-19 infections.
In addition to then German Chancellor Angela Merkel at centre stage, you will, of course, notice Bill Gates (whose Grand Challenges network co-hosted the session) directly to her right and WHO Director-General Tedros, a bit further away to her left.
But it is the man without a tie directly to Tedros’s left who is of particular interest to us . For that is none other than BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin.
It was the 2018 World Health Summit under the patronage of Chancellor Merkel that brought together Gates and Sahin. It is unlikely that Gates had ever heard of Sahin or his company before then either.
The German Government, on the other hand, knew Sahin and BioNTech very well. For, as touched upon in my November 2021 , the German government was the company’s state sponsor, both sponsoring its very founding and helping to keep it afloat with subsidies during the many years when BioNTech produced nothing.
Former US President Donald Trump has claimed to have been proven right on his early speculation that COVID-19 emerged from a Chinese lab, saying Beijing must compensate the rest of the world for “unleashing” the virus and “allowing” it to spread globally.
Citing statements in recent days by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the FBI that the virus “most likely” leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, Trump said “the facts are now plain for all to see.”
He blasted the Chinese government, writing on Saturday in a Daily Mail newspaper op-ed that Beijing’s “lies and deception killed any opportunity to stop this deadly global catastrophe at the start.”
However, neither the DOE nor the FBI provided any proof for its findings. Chinese officials responded by accusing President Joe Biden’s administration of politicizing the origin-tracing of COVID-19 and trying to smear China with unsupported claims.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday that politicization had turned the issue into a “political football,” making it more difficult to determine how the virus originated.
Undeterred, Trump said China should be financially on the hook for a pandemic that, according to some estimates, caused $50 trillion in damages.
The virus has been blamed for nearly 6.9 million deaths globally, including 1.1 million in the US.
“Add to that the probability that the virus emerged from a Chinese government lab, and may even have been engineered by Chinese government scientists, and it is clear that the nations of the world are not just owed a massive apology; they are owed massive damages,” he wrote.
“To collect this compensation, nothing should be off the table – tariffs, taxes, and a global summit on reparations.”
Trump said Biden has been “unbelievably weak on China – perhaps because his family has received millions of dollars from entities linked to the Chinese Communist Party.”
He also faulted Biden for joining with legacy media outlets, social media platforms and public health authorities to squash any discussion of the lab-leak theory until recently.
“There must now be a reckoning,” Trump wrote.
“The sinister censorship regimes in the United States and throughout the West must be dismantled and destroyed.”
The U.S. Navy’s Diving and Salvage Center can be found in a location as obscure as its name—down what was once a country lane in rural Panama City, a now-booming resort city in the southwestern panhandle of Florida, 70 miles south of the Alabama border. The center’s complex is as nondescript as its location—a drab concrete post-World War II structure that has the look of a vocational high school on the west side of Chicago. A coin-operated laundromat and a dance school are across what is now a four-lane road.
The center has been training highly skilled deep-water divers for decades who, once assigned to American military units worldwide, are capable of technical diving to do the good—using C4 explosives to clear harbors and beaches of debris and unexploded ordinance—as well as the bad, like blowing up foreign oil rigs, fouling intake valves for undersea power plants, destroying locks on crucial shipping canals.
The Panama City center, which boasts the second largest indoor pool in America, was the perfect place to recruit the best, and most taciturn, graduates of the diving school who successfully did last summer what they had been authorized to do 260 feet under the surface of the Baltic Sea.
Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning.
Two of the pipelines, which were known collectively as Nord Stream 1, had been providing Germany and much of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas for more than a decade. A second pair of pipelines, called Nord Stream 2, had been built but were not yet operational. Now, with Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border and the bloodiest war in Europe since 1945 looming, President Joseph Biden saw the pipelines as a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions.
Asked for comment, Adrienne Watson, a White House spokesperson, said in an email, “This is false and complete fiction.” Tammy Thorp, a spokesperson for the Central Intelligence Agency, similarly wrote: “This claim is completely and utterly false.”
Biden’s decision to sabotage the pipelines came after more than nine months of highly secret back and forth debate inside Washington’s national security community about how to best achieve that goal. For much of that time, the issue was not whether to do the mission, but how to get it done with no overt clue as to who was responsible.
There was a vital bureaucratic reason for relying on the graduates of the center’s hardcore diving school in Panama City. The divers were Navy only, and not members of America’s Special Operations Command, whose covert operations must be reported to Congress and briefed in advance to the Senate and House leadership—the so-called Gang of Eight.
The Biden Administration was doing everything possible to avoid leaks as the planning took place late in 2021 and into the first months of 2022.
President Biden and his foreign policy team—National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and Victoria Nuland, the Undersecretary of State for Policy—had been vocal and consistent in their hostility to the two pipelines, which ran side by side for 750 miles under the Baltic Sea from two different ports in northeastern Russia near the Estonian border, passing close to the Danish island of Bornholm before ending in northern Germany.
The direct route, which bypassed any need to transit Ukraine, had been a boon for the German economy, which enjoyed an abundance of cheap Russian natural gas—enough to run its factories and heat its homes while enabling German distributors to sell excess gas, at a profit, throughout Western Europe. Action that could be traced to the administration would violate US promises to minimize direct conflict with Russia. Secrecy was essential.
From its earliest days, Nord Stream 1 was seen by Washington and its anti-Russian NATO partners as a threat to western dominance. The holding company behind it, Nord Stream AG, was incorporated in Switzerland in 2005 in partnership with Gazprom, a publicly traded Russian company producing enormous profits for shareholders which is dominated by oligarchs known to be in the thrall of Putin. Gazprom controlled 51 percent of the company, with four European energy firms—one in France, one in the Netherlands and two in Germany—sharing the remaining 49 percent of stock, and having the right to control downstream sales of the inexpensive natural gas to local distributors in Germany and Western Europe. Gazprom’s profits were shared with the Russian government, and state gas and oil revenues were estimated in some years to amount to as much as 45 percent of Russia’s annual budget.
America’s political fears were real: Putin would now have an additional and much-needed major source of income, and Germany and the rest of Western Europe would become addicted to low-cost natural gas supplied by Russia—while diminishing European reliance on America. In fact, that’s exactly what happened. Many Germans saw Nord Stream 1 as part of the deliverance of former Chancellor Willy Brandt’s famed Ostpolitik theory, which would enable postwar Germany to rehabilitate itself and other European nations destroyed in World War II by, among other initiatives, utilizing cheap Russian gas to fuel a prosperous Western European market and trading economy.
Nord Stream 1 was dangerous enough, in the view of NATO and Washington, but Nord Stream 2, whose construction was completed in September of 2021, would, if approved by German regulators, double the amount of cheap gas that would be available to Germany and Western Europe. The second pipeline also would provide enough gas for more than 50 percent of Germany’s annual consumption. Tensions were constantly escalating between Russia and NATO, backed by the aggressive foreign policy of the Biden Administration.
Opposition to Nord Stream 2 flared on the eve of the Biden inauguration in January 2021, when Senate Republicans, led by Ted Cruz of Texas, repeatedly raised the political threat of cheap Russian natural gas during the confirmation hearing of Blinken as Secretary of State. By then a unified Senate had successfully passed a law that, as Cruz told Blinken, “halted [the pipeline] in its tracks.” There would be enormous political and economic pressure from the German government, then headed by Angela Merkel, to get the second pipeline online.
Would Biden stand up to the Germans? Blinken said yes, but added that he had not discussed the specifics of the incoming President’s views. “I know his strong conviction that this is a bad idea, the Nord Stream 2,” he said. “I know that he would have us use every persuasive tool that we have to convince our friends and partners, including Germany, not to move forward with it.”
A few months later, as the construction of the second pipeline neared completion, Biden blinked. That May, in a stunning turnaround, the administration waived sanctions against Nord Stream AG, with a State Department official conceding that trying to stop the pipeline through sanctions and diplomacy had “always been a long shot.” Behind the scenes, administration officials reportedly urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, by then facing a threat of Russian invasion, not to criticize the move.
There were immediate consequences. Senate Republicans, led by Cruz, announced an immediate blockade of all of Biden’s foreign policy nominees and delayed passage of the annual defense bill for months, deep into the fall. Politico later depicted Biden’s turnabout on the second Russian pipeline as “the one decision, arguably more than the chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan, that has imperiled Biden’s agenda.”
The administration was floundering, despite getting a reprieve on the crisis in mid-November, when Germany’s energy regulators suspended approval of the second Nord Stream pipeline. Natural gas prices surged 8% within days, amid growing fears in Germany and Europe that the pipeline suspension and the growing possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine would lead to a very much unwanted cold winter. It was not clear to Washington just where Olaf Scholz, Germany’s newly appointed chancellor, stood. Months earlier, after the fall of Afghanistan, Scholtz had publicly endorsed French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a more autonomous European foreign policy in a speech in Prague—clearly suggesting less reliance on Washington and its mercurial actions.
Throughout all of this, Russian troops had been steadily and ominously building up on the borders of Ukraine, and by the end of December more than 100,000 soldiers were in position to strike from Belarus and Crimea. Alarm was growing in Washington, including an assessment from Blinken that those troop numbers could be “doubled in short order.”
The administration’s attention once again was focused on Nord Stream. As long as Europe remained dependent on the pipelines for cheap natural gas, Washington was afraid that countries like Germany would be reluctant to supply Ukraine with the money and weapons it needed to defeat Russia.
It was at this unsettled moment that Biden authorized Jake Sullivan to bring together an interagency group to come up with a plan.
All options were to be on the table. But only one would emerge.
In December of 2021, two months before the first Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, Jake Sullivan convened a meeting of a newly formed task force—men and women from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, and the State and Treasury Departments—and asked for recommendations about how to respond to Putin’s impending invasion.
It would be the first of a series of top-secret meetings, in a secure room on a top floor of the Old Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House, that was also the home of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). There was the usual back and forth chatter that eventually led to a crucial preliminary question: Would the recommendation forwarded by the group to the President be reversible—such as another layer of sanctions and currency restrictions—or irreversible—that is, kinetic actions, which could not be undone?
What became clear to participants, according to the source with direct knowledge of the process, is that Sullivan intended for the group to come up with a plan for the destruction of the two Nord Stream pipelines—and that he was delivering on the desires of the President.
Over the next several meetings, the participants debated options for an attack. The Navy proposed using a newly commissioned submarine to assault the pipeline directly. The Air Force discussed dropping bombs with delayed fuses that could be set off remotely. The CIA argued that whatever was done, it would have to be covert.
Everyone involved understood the stakes. “This is not kiddie stuff,” the source said. If the attack were traceable to the United States, “It’s an act of war.”
At the time, the CIA was directed by William Burns, a mild-mannered former ambassador to Russia who had served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama Administration. Burns quickly authorized an Agency working group whose ad hoc members included—by chance—someone who was familiar with the capabilities of the Navy’s deep-sea divers in Panama City. Over the next few weeks, members of the CIA’s working group began to craft a plan for a covert operation that would use deep-sea divers to trigger an explosion along the pipeline.
Something like this had been done before. In 1971, the American intelligence community learned from still undisclosed sources that two important units of the Russian Navy were communicating via an undersea cable buried in the Sea of Okhotsk, on Russia’s Far East Coast. The cable linked a regional Navy command to the mainland headquarters at Vladivostok.
A hand-picked team of Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency operatives was assembled somewhere in the Washington area, under deep cover, and worked out a plan, using Navy divers, modified submarines and a deep-submarine rescue vehicle, that succeeded, after much trial and error, in locating the Russian cable. The divers planted a sophisticated listening device on the cable that successfully intercepted the Russian traffic and recorded it on a taping system.
The NSA learned that senior Russian navy officers, convinced of the security of their communication link, chatted away with their peers without encryption. The recording device and its tape had to be replaced monthly and the project rolled on merrily for a decade until it was compromised by a forty-four-year-old civilian NSA technician named Ronald Pelton who was fluent in Russian. Pelton was betrayed by a Russian defector in 1985 and sentenced to prison. He was paid just $5,000 by the Russians for his revelations about the operation, along with $35,000 for other Russian operational data he provided that was never made public.
That underwater success, codenamed Ivy Bells, was innovative and risky, and produced invaluable intelligence about the Russian Navy’s intentions and planning.
Still, the interagency group was initially skeptical of the CIA’s enthusiasm for a covert deep-sea attack. There were too many unanswered questions. The waters of the Baltic Sea were heavily patrolled by the Russian navy, and there were no oil rigs that could be used as cover for a diving operation. Would the divers have to go to Estonia, right across the border from Russia’s natural gas loading docks, to train for the mission? “It would be a goat fuck,” the Agency was told.
Throughout “all of this scheming,” the source said, “some working guys in the CIA and the State Department were saying, ‘Don’t do this. It’s stupid and will be a political nightmare if it comes out.’”
Nevertheless, in early 2022, the CIA working group reported back to Sullivan’s interagency group: “We have a way to blow up the pipelines.”
What came next was stunning. On February 7, less than three weeks before the seemingly inevitable Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden met in his White House office with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who, after some wobbling, was now firmly on the American team. At the press briefing that followed, Biden defiantly said, “If Russia invades . . . there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”
Twenty days earlier, Undersecretary Nuland had delivered essentially the same message at a State Department briefing, with little press coverage. “I want to be very clear to you today,” she said in response to a question. “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”
Several of those involved in planning the pipeline mission were dismayed by what they viewed as indirect references to the attack.
“It was like putting an atomic bomb on the ground in Tokyo and telling the Japanese that we are going to detonate it,” the source said. “The plan was for the options to be executed post invasion and not advertised publicly. Biden simply didn’t get it or ignored it.”
Biden’s and Nuland’s indiscretion, if that is what it was, might have frustrated some of the planners. But it also created an opportunity. According to the source, some of the senior officials of the CIA determined that blowing up the pipeline “no longer could be considered a covert option because the President just announced that we knew how to do it.”
The plan to blow up Nord Stream 1 and 2 was suddenly downgraded from a covert operation requiring that Congress be informed to one that was deemed as a highly classified intelligence operation with U.S. military support. Under the law, the source explained, “There was no longer a legal requirement to report the operation to Congress. All they had to do now is just do it—but it still had to be secret. The Russians have superlative surveillance of the Baltic Sea.”
The Agency working group members had no direct contact with the White House, and were eager to find out if the President meant what he’d said—that is, if the mission was now a go. The source recalled, “Bill Burns comes back and says, ‘Do it.’”
Norway was the perfect place to base the mission.
In the past few years of East-West crisis, the U.S. military has vastly expanded its presence inside Norway, whose western border runs 1,400 miles along the north Atlantic Ocean and merges above the Arctic Circle with Russia. The Pentagon has created high paying jobs and contracts, amid some local controversy, by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade and expand American Navy and Air Force facilities in Norway. The new works included, most importantly, an advanced synthetic aperture radar far up north that was capable of penetrating deep into Russia and came online just as the American intelligence community lost access to a series of long-range listening sites inside China.
A newly refurbished American submarine base, which had been under construction for years, had become operational and more American submarines were now able to work closely with their Norwegian colleagues to monitor and spy on a major Russian nuclear redoubt 250 miles to the east, on the Kola Peninsula. America also has vastly expanded a Norwegian air base in the north and delivered to the Norwegian air force a fleet of Boeing-built P8 Poseidon patrol planes to bolster its long-range spying on all things Russia.
In return, the Norwegian government angered liberals and some moderates in its parliament last November by passing the Supplementary Defense Cooperation Agreement (SDCA). Under the new deal, the U.S. legal system would have jurisdiction in certain “agreed areas” in the North over American soldiers accused of crimes off base, as well as over those Norwegian citizens accused or suspected of interfering with the work at the base.
Norway was one of the original signatories of the NATO Treaty in 1949, in the early days of the Cold War.
Today, the supreme commander of NATO is Jens Stoltenberg, a committed anti-communist, who served as Norway’s prime minister for eight years before moving to his high NATO post, with American backing, in 2014. He was a hardliner on all things Putin and Russia who had cooperated with the American intelligence community since the Vietnam War. He has been trusted completely since. “He is the glove that fits the American hand,” the source said.
Back in Washington, planners knew they had to go to Norway. “They hated the Russians, and the Norwegian navy was full of superb sailors and divers who had generations of experience in highly profitable deep-sea oil and gas exploration,” the source said. They also could be trusted to keep the mission secret. (The Norwegians may have had other interests as well. The destruction of Nord Stream—if the Americans could pull it off—would allow Norway to sell vastly more of its own natural gas to Europe.)
Sometime in March, a few members of the team flew to Norway to meet with the Norwegian Secret Service and Navy. One of the key questions was where exactly in the Baltic Sea was the best place to plant the explosives. Nord Stream 1 and 2, each with two sets of pipelines, were separated much of the way by little more than a mile as they made their run to the port of Greifswald in the far northeast of Germany.
The Norwegian navy was quick to find the right spot, in the shallow waters of the Baltic sea a few miles off Denmark’s Bornholm Island.
The pipelines ran more than a mile apart along a seafloor that was only 260 feet deep. That would be well within the range of the divers, who, operating from a Norwegian Alta class mine hunter, would dive with a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and helium streaming from their tanks, and plant shaped C4 charges on the four pipelines with concrete protective covers. It would be tedious, time consuming and dangerous work, but the waters off Bornholm had another advantage: there were no major tidal currents, which would have made the task of diving much more difficult.
After a bit of research, the Americans were all in.
At this point, the Navy’s obscure deep-diving group in Panama City once again came into play. The deep-sea schools at Panama City, whose trainees participated in Ivy Bells, are seen as an unwanted backwater by the elite graduates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, who typically seek the glory of being assigned as a Seal, fighter pilot, or submariner. If one must become a “Black Shoe”—that is, a member of the less desirable surface ship command—there is always at least duty on a destroyer, cruiser or amphibious ship. The least glamorous of all is mine warfare. Its divers never appear in Hollywood movies, or on the cover of popular magazines.
“The best divers with deep diving qualifications are a tight community, and only the very best are recruited for the operation and told to be prepared to be summoned to the CIA in Washington,” the source said.
The Norwegians and Americans had a location and the operatives, but there was another concern: any unusual underwater activity in the waters off Bornholm might draw the attention of the Swedish or Danish navies, which could report it.
Denmark had also been one of the original NATO signatories and was known in the intelligence community for its special ties to the United Kingdom.
Sweden had applied for membership into NATO, and had demonstrated its great skill in managing its underwater sound and magnetic sensor systems that successfully tracked Russian submarines that would occasionally show up in remote waters of the Swedish archipelago and be forced to the surface.
The Norwegians joined the Americans in insisting that some senior officials in Denmark and Sweden had to be briefed in general terms about possible diving activity in the area. In that way, someone higher up could intervene and keep a report out of the chain of command, thus insulating the pipeline operation. “What they were told and what they knew were purposely different,” the source told me. (The Norwegian embassy, asked to comment on this story, did not respond.)
The Norwegians were key to solving other hurdles. The Russian navy was known to possess surveillance technology capable of spotting, and triggering, underwater mines. The American explosive devices needed to be camouflaged in a way that would make them appear to the Russian system as part of the natural background—something that required adapting to the specific salinity of the water. The Norwegians had a fix.
The Norwegians also had a solution to the crucial question of when the operation should take place. Every June, for the past 21 years, the American Sixth Fleet, whose flagship is based in Gaeta, Italy, south of Rome, has sponsored a major NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea involving scores of allied ships throughout the region. The current exercise, held in June, would be known as Baltic Operations 22, or BALTOPS 22. The Norwegians proposed this would be the ideal cover to plant the mines.
The Americans provided one vital element: they convinced the Sixth Fleet planners to add a research and development exercise to the program.
The exercise, as made public by the Navy, involved the Sixth Fleet in collaboration with the Navy’s “research and warfare centers.” The at-sea event would be held off the coast of Bornholm Island and involve NATO teams of divers planting mines, with competing teams using the latest underwater technology to find and destroy them.
It was both a useful exercise and ingenious cover. The Panama City boys would do their thing and the C4 explosives would be in place by the end of BALTOPS22, with a 48-hour timer attached. All of the Americans and Norwegians would be long gone by the first explosion.
The days were counting down. “The clock was ticking, and we were nearing mission accomplished,” the source said.
And then: Washington had second thoughts. The bombs would still be planted during BALTOPS, but the White House worried that a two-day window for their detonation would be too close to the end of the exercise, and it would be obvious that America had been involved.
Instead, the White House had a new request: “Can the guys in the field come up with some way to blow the pipelines later on command?”
Some members of the planning team were angered and frustrated by the President’s seeming indecision. The Panama City divers had repeatedly practiced planting the C4 on pipelines, as they would during BALTOPS, but now the team in Norway had to come up with a way to give Biden what he wanted—the ability to issue a successful execution order at a time of his choosing.
Being tasked with an arbitrary, last-minute change was something the CIA was accustomed to managing. But it also renewed the concerns some shared over the necessity, and legality, of the entire operation.
The President’s secret orders also evoked the CIA’s dilemma in the Vietnam War days, when President Johnson, confronted by growing anti-Vietnam War sentiment, ordered the Agency to violate its charter—which specifically barred it from operating inside America—by spying on antiwar leaders to determine whether they were being controlled by Communist Russia.
The agency ultimately acquiesced, and throughout the 1970s it became clear just how far it had been willing to go. There were subsequent newspaper revelations in the aftermath of the Watergate scandals about the Agency’s spying on American citizens, its involvement in the assassination of foreign leaders and its undermining of the socialist government of Salvador Allende.
Those revelations led to a dramatic series of hearings in the mid-1970s in the Senate, led by Frank Church of Idaho, that made it clear that Richard Helms, the Agency director at the time, accepted that he had an obligation to do what the President wanted, even if it meant violating the law.
In unpublished, closed-door testimony, Helms ruefully explained that “you almost have an Immaculate Conception when you do something” under secret orders from a President. “Whether it’s right that you should have it, or wrong that you shall have it, [the CIA] works under different rules and ground rules than any other part of the government.” He was essentially telling the Senators that he, as head of the CIA, understood that he had been working for the Crown, and not the Constitution.
The Americans at work in Norway operated under the same dynamic, and dutifully began working on the new problem—how to remotely detonate the C4 explosives on Biden’s order.
It was a much more demanding assignment than those in Washington understood. There was no way for the team in Norway to know when the President might push the button. Would it be in a few weeks, in many months or in half a year or longer?
The C4 attached to the pipelines would be triggered by a sonar buoy dropped by a plane on short notice, but the procedure involved the most advanced signal processing technology. Once in place, the delayed timing devices attached to any of the four pipelines could be accidentally triggered by the complex mix of ocean background noises throughout the heavily trafficked Baltic Sea—from near and distant ships, underwater drilling, seismic events, waves and even sea creatures. To avoid this, the sonar buoy, once in place, would emit a sequence of unique low frequency tonal sounds—much like those emitted by a flute or a piano—that would be recognized by the timing device and, after a pre-set hours of delay, trigger the explosives. (“You want a signal that is robust enough so that no other signal could accidentally send a pulse that detonated the explosives,” I was told by Dr. Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at MIT. Postol, who has served as the science adviser to the Pentagon’s Chief of Naval Operations, said the issue facing the group in Norway because of Biden’s delay was one of chance: “The longer the explosives are in the water the greater risk there would be of a random signal that would launch the bombs.”)
On September 26, 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane made a seemingly routine flight and dropped a sonar buoy.
The signal spread underwater, initially to Nord Stream 2 and then on to Nord Stream 1. A few hours later, the high-powered C4 explosives were triggered and three of the four pipelines were put out of commission. Within a few minutes, pools of methane gas that remained in the shuttered pipelines could be seen spreading on the water’s surface and the world learned that something irreversible had taken place.
In the immediate aftermath of the pipeline bombing, the American media treated it like an unsolved mystery. Russia was repeatedly cited as a likely culprit, spurred on by calculated leaks from the White House—but without ever establishing a clear motive for such an act of self-sabotage, beyond simple retribution. A few months later, when it emerged that Russian authorities had been quietly getting estimates for the cost to repair the pipelines, the New York Times described the news as “complicating theories about who was behind” the attack. No major American newspaper dug into the earlier threats to the pipelines made by Biden and Undersecretary of State Nuland.
While it was never clear why Russia would seek to destroy its own lucrative pipeline, a more telling rationale for the President’s action came from Secretary of State Blinken.
Asked at a press conference last September about the consequences of the worsening energy crisis in Western Europe, Blinken described the moment as a potentially good one:
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs. That’s very significant and that offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come, but meanwhile we’re determined to do everything we possibly can to make sure the consequences of all of this are not borne by citizens in our countries or, for that matter, around the world.”
More recently, Victoria Nuland expressed satisfaction at the demise of the newest of the pipelines. Testifying at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late January she told Senator Ted Cruz, “Like you, I am, and I think the Administration is, very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.”
The source had a much more streetwise view of Biden’s decision to sabotage more than 1500 miles of Gazprom pipeline as winter approached. “Well,” he said, speaking of the President, “I gotta admit the guy has a pair of balls. He said he was going to do it, and he did.”
Asked why he thought the Russians failed to respond, he said cynically, “Maybe they want the capability to do the same things the U.S. did.
“It was a beautiful cover story,” he went on. “Behind it was a covert operation that placed experts in the field and equipment that operated on a covert signal.
US drugmaker Pfizer admitted on Friday that it “engineered” treatment-resistant variants of COVID-19 in order to test its antiviral medicine.
The admission partially backs up earlier claims by an executive with the company who told an undercover reporter that Pfizer was deliberately “mutating” the virus to “preemptively develop new vaccines.”
In a statement posted on its website, Pfizer said that it “has not conducted gain of function or directed evolution research,” referring to the practice of amplifying a virus’ ability to infect humans and the process of selecting ‘desirable’ traits of a virus to reproduce, respectively.
However, the pharma giant said that it combined the spike proteins of new coronavirus variants with the original strain in order to test its vaccines, and that it created mutations of the virus to test Paxlovid, its antiviral drug.
“In a limited number of cases…such virus may be engineered to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells,” the company said, adding that this work was carried out in a secure laboratory.
The work also sought to create “resistant strains of the virus,” it added, describing a process commonly understood as being ‘gain of function’ research.
BREAKING: @Pfizer Exploring “Mutating” COVID-19 Virus For New Vaccines
“Don’t tell anyone this…There is a risk…have to be very controlled to make sure this virus you mutate doesn’t create something…the way that the virus started in Wuhan, to be honest.”#DirectedEvolutionpic.twitter.com/xaRvlD5qTo
Pfizer’s statement came two days after Jordon Trishton Walker, an executive involved in the firm’s mRNA division, told an undercover reporter that the company was “exploring” ways to “mutate [COVID] ourselves so we could create, preemptively develop, new vaccines.”
Walker said that scientists were considering infecting monkeys with the virus, who would then “keep infecting each other.”
“From what I’ve heard, they [Pfizer scientists] are optimizing it, but they’re going slow because everyone is very cautious,” he explained.
“Obviously they don’t want to accelerate it too much. I think they are also just trying to do it as an exploratory thing because you obviously don’t want to advertise that you are figuring out future mutations.”
Pfizer’s statement makes no mention of the supposed plan to infect monkeys, instead explaining that any work on live viruses is carried out in vitro, meaning inside test tubes or other lab equipment.
Walker was told on camera that he was speaking to a journalist with Project Veritas, a conservative outlet known for its hidden-camera sting operations.
After hearing this, Walker insisted that he was lying to impress his date, before attempting to steal an iPad from Project Veritas CEO James O’Keefe.
The European Union prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into the bloc’s procurement of billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses, amid allegations of corruption and secret backroom dealings from several members of parliament.
EU officials announced the probe in a brief statement on Friday, confirming an “ongoing investigation into the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines in the European Union.”
They added that the case follows “extremely high public interest” around the issue, though declined to share any other details.
While prosecutors were tight-lipped about the exact nature of the probe, the announcement follows allegations from MEPs that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen conducted vaccine negotiations with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in secret.
Despite requests from journalists, lawmakers and an EU watchdog, von der Leyen’s office has failed to produce personal text messages sent to Bourla during talks for nearly 2 billion vaccine doses, prompting accusations of corruption.
The #EPPO confirms that it has an ongoing investigation into the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines in the European Union. This exceptional confirmation comes after the extremely high public interest. No further details will be made public at this stage. pic.twitter.com/4001sNZREN
Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakusic noted the new investigation later on Friday, saying the decision was made thanks to pressure from lawmakers.
Though he was unable to shed additional light on the probe, Kolakusic has been highly critical of the EU’s vaccine procurement process, claiming deals for billions of doses were marred by “corruption” and secrecy.
The purchase of 4.5 billion doses of the covid-19 vaccine for 450 million EU 🇪🇺 residents is the biggest CORRUPTION SCANDAL in the history of mankind. pic.twitter.com/pCBWJMhwhr
“Today, 10 of us MEPs asked [von der Leyen] the following question: when will she present to us… the communication she had with Pfizer during the procurement of 4.5 billion doses of vaccines at a time when there was absolutely no proof of the effectiveness, and especially not of the harmfulness, of that product?” he said in a tweet earlier this week, calling the issue the “biggest corruption scandal in the history of mankind.”
Last month, the European Court of Auditors said that it has asked the commission to provide information on “preliminary negotiations” for the EU’s largest Pfizer purchase – including “scientific experts consulted and advice received, timing of the talks, records of the discussions, and details of the agreed terms and conditions” – but added that “none was forthcoming.”
The European Commission still has yet to make the information public, fueling corruption allegations from MEPs.
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipeline leaks were caused by two powerful explosions, each with a force equivalent to 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of TNT, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday citing sources.
Danish officials reportedly revealed the details at a NATO meeting on Wednesday.
In a statement published on Thursday, the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s decision-making body, did not assign blame for the leaks on any actor and only claimed that the pipelines were damaged in what appeared to be a “deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage.”
However, officials in some member countries “have already attributed the destruction to Russia, without providing evidence,” the report says.
The paper reported that during the Council meeting, member countries said Russia was ‘likely’ behind the Nord Stream ruptures. But apparently most of them did not want to publicly voice their speculations without “more evidence,” according to unnamed senior European diplomats cited by the outlet.
The diplomats noted that “there was little serious doubt” in capitals that Moscow orchestrated the Nord Stream leaks, but they wanted to be absolutely certain about it, given the implications such accusations may entail.
Moscow has repeatedly dismissed allegations that it had something to do with the sabotage. Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov described the incident as a probable “terrorist act” which is unlikely to have been possible “without the involvement of some state power.”
Earlier, Sky News reported, citing a UK defense source, that the Nord Stream pipelines may have been sabotaged by a remotely detonated underwater explosive device, which could have been planted months or even years prior to the incident.
On Monday, Denmark reported leaks from the pipelines, which connect Germany and Russia under the Baltic Sea, after the operator reported a loss of pressure on both Nord Stream 1 and 2.
The Swedish coast guard has said it’s discovered a fourth Nord Stream gas pipeline leak.
The key infrastucture was damaged earlier this week in an alleged act of sabotage.
Initially, it was believed that the pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea were damaged in three locations, with two strings of Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 being affected.
But Swedish coast guard spokesperson Jenny Larsson told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper on Thursday that there were in fact four leaks in the undersea infrastructure.
“Two of these four are in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone,” Larsson said, adding that the two others were in the Danish exclusive zone.
Danish authorities discovered leaks on the pipelines, built to deliver Russian natural gas to the EU, on Monday after the operator reported a loss of pressure on both Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2.
Danish and Swedish authorities later said there was a series of undersea explosions near the island of Bornholm. This led to Russia, the US, and Sweden suggesting the leaks may have been the result of a deliberate act.
The EU has labeled the incident “sabotage action” and warned that “any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable and will lead to the strongest possible response.”
The pipelines have been at the heart of the energy standoff between Moscow and Brussels since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 was completed in September 2021, but never entered commercial operations as Germany halted its certification indefinitely, while gas supplies via Nord Stream 1 were slashed by Russia in late August over what it said were technical difficulties resulting from Western sanctions.
The pipelines were still filled with pressurized gas at the time of the explosions, and will keep leaking into the Baltic Sea until the end of the week, according to Danish authorities.
While the US, Russia and most European governments reserved judgment as to who might be behind Monday’s explosion that damaged both Nord Stream pipelines and cut off Germany from Russian gas, former Polish minister and member of the European Parliament Radoslaw Sikorski had no such qualms.
“Thank you USA,” Sikorski tweeted on Tuesday, alongside a photo of the massive gas leak in the waters of the Baltic Sea.
Both pipelines were severely damaged off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, in what everyone is now calling a deliberate act.
Sikorski later tweeted, in Polish, that damage to Nord Stream means that Russia will have to “talk to the countries controlling the Brotherhood and Yamal gas pipelines, Ukraine and Poland” if it wishes to continue delivering gas to Europe. “Good work,” he concluded.
Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 lost all pressure on Monday, after what the Swedish and Danish authorities later said were a series of undersea explosions.
The first pipeline was operating at reduced capacity after what Russia said were technical difficulties, while the second was fully pressurized but not operational, due to German refusal to certify it.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wondered if Sikorsky’s tweet amounted to an “official statement that this was a terrorist attack.”
Meanwhile, Moscow’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, thanked Sikorski for “making it crystal clear who stands behind this terrorist-style targeting of civilian infrastructure!”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki didn’t go quite as far as Sikorski, but chose to describe the Nord Stream incident as “an act of sabotage, related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine.”
Not just any MEP, Sikorski is a former UK citizen and a fellow at numerous US and NATO think-tanks, as well as Poland’s former defense (2005-2007) and foreign minister (2007-2014). In October 2014, he was caught fabricating a claim about Russian President Vladimir Putin wanting to partition Ukraine with Warsaw, and was forced to recant.
Sikorski called Russia a “serial rapist” in January 2022 and in June told Ukraine’s Espreso TV that NATO had the right to give Kiev nuclear weapons. He is married to American pundit Anne Applebaum, who is also an outspoken foe of Russia.
While Sikorski thanked the US for the Nord Stream sabotage, Kiev blamed Russia.
President Vladimir Zelensky’s adviser Mikhail Podoliak called it a “a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards EU,” arguing the best response would be sending German tanks to the Ukrainian army.
Earlier in the day, Moscow said it has been looking into the reasons behind the leaks, suggesting the pipelines were targeted in an act of sabotage.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that currently “no option can be ruled out” on the causes of the incident.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline was completed in 2011.
Construction work on Nord Stream 2 began in 2018, and suffered numerous delays due to political pressure and sanctions from the US.
The pipeline was finished and pressurized in September 2021, but never actually got online.
Two days before the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the German government put its certification on indefinite hold, and has repeatedly rejected any suggestions, both domestic and from Moscow, to open the pipeline.
The simultaneous destruction of three gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea is unprecedented, their operator Nord Stream said on Tuesday.
It declined to provide an estimate of when they might be functional again.
Nord Stream 1 had been supplying gas to the EU until late August, when Russia slashed deliveries, citing technical difficulties resulting from Western sanctions.
“The destruction that occurred on the same day at once on three strings of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented. It is not yet possible to estimate the timing of the restoration of the gas transmission infrastructure,” the company said.
On Monday, Danish authorities spotted a gas leak near the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, and closed off an area of five nautical miles (9.26km) around the site.
The discovery came shortly after the unused Nord Stream 2 pipeline suffered a drastic loss of pressure overnight. German and Danish authorities are investigating the incidents.
Nord Stream spokesman Ulrich Lissek said a “large bubble field near Bornholm” was spotted, adding that “the pipeline was never in use, just prepared for technical operation, and therefore filled with gas.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Sweden’s Maritime Authority also reported leaks on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline northeast of the Bornholm island in Swedish and Danish waters, Reuters reported, citing the country’s officials.
“There are two leaks on Nord Stream 1 – one in the Swedish economic zone and one in the Danish economic zone. They are very near each other,” a Swedish Maritime Administration spokesperson said.
As the German Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Tuesday, Nord Stream pipelines may have been damaged as a result of attacks.
“A pressure loss in the two gas pipelines that occurred in rapid succession” could have happened due to a “targeted action,” it said.
Experts say repairs on both pipelines could take up to several years.
Lissek warned that it would be complicated to determine the reasons for the drop in pressure due “the sanctions regime and the lack of personnel on the ground.”
Russia will call on 300,000 reservists to serve in the conflict with Ukraine, under a partial nationwide mobilization, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on Wednesday, adding that Moscow has “an immense mobilization resource.”
According to Shoigu, the mobilization will apply neither to university students, nor conscripts.
The minister stressed that only those who have already served in the military will be called up.
“Those are not people who have never heard anything about the army. Those are those who, firstly, had completed their military service, secondly, those who have a military specialty… and have military experience,” he noted.
Shoigu also stressed that Russia possesses an immense mobilization capability and could summon almost 25 million people with some military experience.
“So one could say that this partial mobilization is just 1%, or a bit more” of the total number of people that could be mobilized, he added.
The defense minister noted that the line of contact between Moscow and Ukraine’s forces is more than 1,000 km long, and the mobilization would be used for defending it.
“It is natural that this line should be reinforced and those territories (held by Russia) should be controlled. Of course, this is the purpose of this work,” he said, referring to the mobilization effort.
China first informed the WHO (World Health Organization) of the existence of a new virus, soon to be named SARS-CoV-2, in late December, 2019.
According to the WHO, the first laboratory-confirmed case of the new virus beyond China’s borders was in January 13, 2020, confirmed by the Thailand Ministry of Public Health.
However, a new study published in late August of this year reveals that the novel coronavirus was already circulating beyond China as early as September 2019.
The researchers leading this study were investigating measles and rubella when they came across cases of illness and rash that were found not to be caused by these two diseases.
They decided to test the samples and twelve of them, from dates prior to when a pandemic was first declared, were found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The cases were all from Italy, but although later transmission from China to Italy was confirmed, none of the cases in this study had any relevant travel history that would have explained their contracting a virus that is commonly believed to have originated in Wuhan, China.
Furthermore, four of the twelve people whose samples tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 had antibodies to the virus, with the earliest sample being that of an eight-month-old infant who was tested on 12 September 2019.
The researchers noted that the genetic sequences of the samples indicated that they derived from the original, Wuhan strain, suggesting that the virus was in circulation around the globe many months earlier than is widely believed.
Zaporizhzhia is a city in Ukraine that is in Russian-controlled territory, and Ukraine’s strategy is to destroy the ability of the plant to function, so that areas controlled by Russia will no longer be able to benefit from that plant’s electrical-power output. The United States Government helped Ukraine’s Government to come up with this plan, according to the New York Times.
“Eventually, Ukrainian officials believe their long-term success requires progress on the original goals in the discarded strategy, including recapturing the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, cutting off Russian forces in Mariupol and pushing Russian forces in Kherson back across the Dnipro River, American officials said.”
When IAEA inspectors arrived at that plant on September 1st, after a lengthy period of trying to get there to inspect it but which was blocked by Ukraine’s Government, and the IAEA started delivering reports regarding what they were finding at the plant, no mention has, as-of yet, been made concerning which of the two warring sides has been firing those bombs into the plant.
Even when the IAEA headlined on September 9th “Director General’s Statement on Serious Situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant”, and reported that the plant’s ability to operate “has been destroyed by shelling of the switchyard at the city’s thermal power plant, leading to a complete power black-out in” the entire region, and that “This is completely unacceptable. It cannot stand.”, and closed by saying they “urgently call for the immediate cessation of all shelling in the entire area,” no mention was made as to which of the two sides was shooting into the plant in order to disable it, and which of the two sides was firing out from the plant in order to protect it against that incoming fire.
Previously known was only that the city of Zaporizhzhia has been and is under Russian control ever since March 4th. Consequently, all news-media and reporters have known that (since Russia was inside and Ukraine was outside) Russia has been defending the plant and Ukraine has been attacking it, but until “American officials” let slip, in this news-report, the fact that this has indeed been the case there, no Western news-medium has previously published this fact — not even buried it in a news-report.
So, although nothing in this regard may yet be considered to be official, or neutral, or free of fear or of actual intent to lie, there finally is, at the very least, buried in that news-report from the New York Times, a statement that is sourced to “American officials,” asserting that this is the case, and the Times also lets slip there that this “shelling” of that plant is an important part of the joint U.S.-Ukraine master-plan to defeat Russia in Ukraine.
It is part of the same master-plan, which the U.S. Government recommended to Ukraine’s Government, and which also included the recent successful retaking by Ukraine of Russian-controlled land near the major Ukrainian city of Kharkov, which city’s recapture by Ukraine is also included in the master-plan.
Both operations — the shelling of the nuclear power plant, and the recapture of that land near Kharkov — were parts of that master-plan, according to the New York Times.
The Times report asserts that
Long reluctant to share details of their plans, the Ukrainian commanders started opening up more to American and British intelligence officials and seeking advice. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, spoke multiple times about the planning for the counteroffensive, according to a senior administration official. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior Ukrainian military leaders regularly discussed intelligence and military support.
And in Kyiv, Ukrainian and British military officials continued working together while the new American defense attaché, Brig. Gen. Garrick Harmon, began having daily sessions with Ukraine’s top officers.
Song by the group “Ребята с нашего двора” (“Guys from our yard”)
Песня группы “Ребята с нашего двора”
“Don’t tell mom I’m in Afghan” refers to the common practice that soldiers sent to Afghanistan would tell their mothers they were being stationed somewhere else so that they would not worry. In this song, a soldier writes a letter to her little sister saying he is in Afghanistan and to not tell their mother.
Among the hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza are four children: Ariel and Kfir Bibas, aged four years and ten months respectively, and siblings Aisha and Bilal Ziyadne, from the Bedouin community of Ziyadne, near Rahat, named after their family.
Both of them are below the age of 19 — Aisha is 17 and Bilal is 18 — and according to the terms of the truce between Israel and Hamas, they are eligible to be freed during the current halt in fighting.
Around 35 children and teenagers held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza have been released as part of a ceasefire deal that began Friday with an initial four-day truce, extended by an additional two days.
Eight more hostages are expected to be released on Thursday in a further one-day extension.
The releases have brought the number of civilian hostages freed from Gaza in the last week to 95 — 73 Israelis and 22 foreign nationals, mostly Thai agricultural workers.
In exchange for the freeing of Israeli hostages, 210 Palestinians serving time in Israeli prison for security offenses have been released so far.
Youssef Ziyadne, 53, has been working for the past 17 years in farming at Kibbutz Holit, located a short distance away from the Gaza border. About five years ago, his son Hamza, now 22, joined him to work in the kibbutz. Another son, Bilal, now 18, followed suit about a year ago.
On October 7, Youssef and his two sons were working the night shift at the cowshed, and took along with them Aisha, 17, one of the daughters of the large family, which counts 19 children from two wives.
Their shift was supposed to end at 7 a.m. The Hamas onslaught began just half an hour before, at around 6:30 a.m.
Youssef and his three children were abducted and dragged into Gaza, together with about 240 other hostages — both Israelis and foreign agricultural workers from the kibbutzim of the area.
In addition to the four members of the Ziyadne family, two other members of the Bedouin communities in southern Israel were abducted on October 7 — Samer Fouad Talalka, 22, and Farhan al-Qadi, 52.
The terms of the truce agreement between Hamas and Israel stipulate that children under the age of 19 who are not in the military, such as Aisha and Bilal, should be released during the lull.
Since the onset of the truce, the army has been in daily contact with the Ziyadne family, updating them on the names slated for release.
Aisha, a quiet girl, is engaged to her cousin Rizeq, whom she plans to get married and start a family with after she graduates from high school.
Her brother Bilal loves animals, and owns a horse and a camel.
Since the day of the assault, the extended Ziyadne family has been holding a permanent vigil outside the house of Youssef Ziyadne, observing a ritual that is normally held during days of mourning.
The family has launched appeals to the international community, particularly Qatar and Egypt, to intercede for the release of its four members from Hamas captivity, emphasizing that they are Arabs and Muslims.
The idea that Ukraine could cede territories that it lost to Russia in exchange for NATO membership remains unacceptable, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba told journalists on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
The idea has been floated by former senior NATO officials, including ex-Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and ex-Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis. Kuleba blasted the proposal ahead of a NATO-Ukraine Council of foreign ministers.
Supporters of the plan should tell other nations to make similar concessions, “and if they do so, then I am ready to listen to their arguments,” he said.
The minister also dismissed the notion that there was “fatigue” with the conflict in Western nations, insisting that a shortage of arms deliveries was not related to it.
Last week, the German tabloid Bild claimed that American and German officials wanted Kiev to compromise and hold peace talks with Moscow.
As the biggest providers of aid to Ukraine, the two nations are restricting supplies of new weapons to a bare minimum necessary to avoid a full collapse of the Ukrainian army, the newspaper suggested.
Kuleba was asked about the “elephant in the room” during a joint briefing with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell in Brussels. He mused that “all the right elephants are on our side,” before stressing: “No, I don’t feel any pressure.”
Discussing arms supplies at NATO HQ, the minister said he had “no reason” to believe that Western failure to deliver as much as Kiev expected was due to a “lack of political will.”
“But I do have good reasons to believe that a lot of [technical work] needs to be done to deliver in this area,” he added.
Kuleba noted that out of the 1,000,000 artillery shells that the EU pledged to send to Ukraine in 2023, only some 300,000 have arrived.
Kiev remained firm in its war goals, the minister said, vowing that “nothing will stop us.” He called sponsoring Ukraine instead of sending their own troops to fight Russia a “fair deal” for the West.
“You give us all what we need, we do the fight. We are not asking you to sacrifice your lives,” he described the arrangement.
Moscow has called the Ukraine conflict a US-led proxy war against Russia, in which the Ukrainian people are used as “cannon fodder.”
The Russian Defense Ministry has estimated Ukrainian losses in its Western-backed counteroffensive this year at over 100,000 troops.
Hungary rejects any approach to the Ukraine conflict that suggests that Kiev is somehow fighting to protect peace and democracy in Europe, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has said, adding that the conflict is only about Ukraine’s own territorial integrity.
Speaking at a press conference following a meeting of foreign ministers of the NATO-Ukraine Council, Szijjarto called for an end to deliveries of lethal aid to Ukraine, warning that such assistance has the potential to spark an escalation of the conflict.
He noted that while Hungary supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev is “not Europe’s fight” and is not about peace and democracy in Europe.
“Ukraine is fighting for itself, for its own territorial integrity, its own sovereignty and its own independence, which we value very much, because it is a heroic fight, of course, but I say again, this is not our war, which is why we reject any approach that starts from this,” Szijjarto said.
He added that NATO membership for Ukraine should be out of the question given the current circumstances.
He noted that Kiev’s accession to the bloc is not even an option given that countries at war cannot be accepted.
Such a move would put the alliance itself in danger and could potentially spark a world war, the minister said.
The second reason, according to Szijjarto, is the fact that NATO is a “community of values,” which has no place for a state that “constantly suppresses the rights of national minorities.”
Budapest has repeatedly accused Kiev of suppressing the right of the nearly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine to speak their own language by introducing laws requiring that Ukrainian be spoken in public life, school, the media, as well as in offices.
Despite assurances from Kiev that a bill has already been drafted to address the issue, Szijjarto insisted that simple promises are meaningless and that Hungary only believes in fully adopted and implemented legislation.
“You can’t lead us or mislead us with statements,” he said.
Szijjarto’s statement comes after NATO promised on Wednesday that it will “develop a roadmap toward Ukraine’s full interoperability” with the bloc’s militaries but stopped short of offering any membership prospects for Kiev.
Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly made it clear that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would be unacceptable to Moscow. President Vladimir Putin has also cited Kiev’s potential accession to the US-led bloc as one of the key reasons for the military operation against Kiev.
Six months after the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive near Artemovsk [which Kiev calls Bakhmut], the operation completely collapsed and Russian troops were able to seize the initiative.
Launching a series of attacks, Moscow’s forces recovered some of the positions they had lost to the northwest of the city in the area of the Berkhovsky reservoir, and again took control over the line along the Artemovsk-Gorlovka railway on the southern flank.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian plan, which implied an offensive in at least three operational directions – towards Melitopol, Berdyansk and Artemovsk – failed.
Instead of focusing on one task at a time, as Western experts had recommended, Kiev dispersed its forces and did not succeed in any of its goals. Now, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) has been forced to switch from offensive to defensive tactics.
The background story
Ukraine’s initially ambitious plan to launch an offensive on Artemovsk implied taking action in at least four areas: from Chasov Yar towards Kleshcheyevka and further along the southern flank of Artemovsk; from Chasov Yar to the northern outskirts of Artemovsk, south of the Berkhovsky reservoir; from Slavyansk in the direction of Artemovsk and Soledar; and from Seversk towards Soledar.
However, this plan did not succeed because of the lack of numbers and the timely transfer of Russian units, which replaced PMC Wagner fighters involved in the final battles for Artemovsk.
Attacks from the directions of Slavyansk and Seversk failed, while the assault on the city’s northern flank was only partially successful – the Ukrainian army advanced several kilometers and exhausted its offensive potential.
The AFU managed to actively gain ground only in the south, in the direction of Russia’s defenses, constructed along the Kleshcheyevka-Andreevka-Kurdyumovka line.
The Ukrainians were able to take control over the first two villages only by mid-September, five months into their counteroffensive in this area. Kurdyumovka, however, is still controlled by the Russian army. In the following days, the AFU continued its eastward offensive, managing to advance past the rail line in some sections.
Apparently, the next goal of the Ukrainian army was to expand the staging area on the eastern bank of the Seversky Donets–Donbass canal in order to reach the southern outskirts of Artemovsk and the northern outskirts of Gorlovka. At just about that time, in October 2023, rumors about an impending assault on the latter began to circulate in the media.
Russians seize the initiative
In order to counteract this plan, the Russian army launched a series of counterattacks near the Berkhovsky reservoir.
In their analysis of the summer campaign (dated September 25),
Ukrainian military analysts from the military portal DeepState stated the following: “Things aren’t that good on the northern front, where there was initial success. But the strategic mistake of going to Berkhovka, exposed to enemy fire in the lowlands, cost us dearly. Now, the enemy has seized the initiative there.”
Based on information provided by its sources at the front, in October and November DeepState reported that the Ukrainian army had retreated from its positions.
By November 24, the Russians had practically returned to their starting points, once again threatening to take control over the villages of Bogdanovka and Khromove.
Ukrainian forces in this area – primarily consisting of the Third and Fifth Assault Brigades (which largely exhausted their strength during the course of previous assaults), the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade, the Lyut Assault Brigade and their colleagues from the 22nd, 28th, 92nd and the barely-recovered 93rd Mechanized Brigades – were not able to hold back the Russian troops, especially after active battles around Avdeevka, which required the concentration of Ukrainian artillery in that area.
As a result, Russian troops were able to reverse the situation in their favor, including in the area where the Ukrainians continued to slowly advance.
On October 30, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian ground forces, Alexander Syrsky, reported that Russian forces were strengthening their presence in the Artemovsk area and transitioning from defensive to offensive tactics.
On November 18, 19, and 24, the Ukrainians admitted that Russian troops had advanced near Kleshcheyevka, and on November 22, they reported that their enemies had moved closer to Andreevka, which was left in ruins during previous battles.
According to visual confirmation by open-source intelligence (OSINT) communities, Russian troops were able to almost completely restore their defensive line along the Artemovsk-Gorlovka railway and cross it in a number of places.
The fiercest fighting is now taking place in the heights which dominate the area to the northwest of Kleshcheyevka. If they are forced to retreat, Kiev’s troops will have to withdraw to their original positions so as not to remain in the lowlands exposed to enemy fire – a problem similar to the one they faced on the northern flank.
The assault on Gorlovka – foolish tactics or a PsyOp?
Why did the Ukrainians decide to disperse their forces and advance in three operational directions during the summer campaign?
Several Russian experts stated that Kiev’s strategy was to win the battle of reserves –and to this end, its army attempted to create several hotbeds of tension that were supposed to swallow up Russian manpower.
In case of success, the AFU would have been able to overcome the deadlock of positional warfare and deliver a crushing blow in one of the directions.
In reality, however, the Ukrainians were not able to beat the Russian army, which was strong enough to carry out both a localized offensive on the border between the Lugansk People’s Republic and Kharkov region this summer, and the offensive on Avdeevka in October.
On top of that, Russian troops continued to hold their defensive lines in Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, as well as near Artemovsk.
So why did the Ukrainians refuse to concentrate their forces in one area, as Western experts advised them to do?
One possible explanation for this was the reputational and media significance of the “Bakhmut Fortress,” which the Ukrainian political and military leadership fell victim to.
The ‘heroic’ defense of one position, which gradually lost its strategic and operational importance, endowed Artemovsk with ideological and reputational significance. In an attempt to recapture this city, Ukrainians pulled their reserves and most motivated units into battle.
Or perhaps, the situation was even worse. After the summer defeat, they needed to distract the public from negative news.
The best way to do so would have been to break through the front line separating Ukraine and the Donbass republics which had existed from 2015 to February 24, 2022. In case of success, Zelensky would have had the chance to proclaim the return of “Ukrainian” land lost by his predecessors.
One of the areas where this plan was theoretically possible to carry out was Gorlovka – a large industrial city located south of Artemovsk, where about 300,000 people lived before the war. Gorlovka has been under the control of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) since the latter declared independence in 2014. Some of the fiercest battles in Donbass were fought there.
After Time magazine published an article about the conflict between Kiev’s political and military leadership around plans to storm the city (the military command refused the idea),
Ukrainian expert Bogdan Miroshnikov commented on November 16:
“In order to liberate it, it is necessary to conduct a strategic offensive operation and involve at least 150,000-200,000 troops along with thousands of units of equipment. Some may say that we are [positioned] near Gorlovka. Yes, we are. But that direction is surrounded by numerous spoil tips. This means a frontal assault is necessary. But no one would do that.”
However, on November 17, footage appeared of Ukrainian stormtroopers atop one of the spoil tips – which used to be in the gray zone, but formally under Russian control. After that, battles in this area intensified. The Ukrainian media, however, refused to comment, claiming that “the situation is being clarified.”
Considering the landscape with the spoil tips, a potential offensive on Gorlovka could not be carried out using several brigades. In order to start an offensive in this direction, the AFU would have needed to recover its positions to the north of the city, in the area of the southern flank of Artemovsk. Whether this was the plan of the Ukrainian leadership all along or an improvised change in operational tactics remains unknown.
In any case, the initiative in this direction has currently been seized by Russian troops, who will attempt to recover their positions and set up defenses along the Seversky Donets–Donbass canal.
This would secure the area around Artemovsk and deprive the Ukrainian army of its staging area.
In order to do so, however, the Russians will need to occupy Ukrainian strongpoints near the village of Ivanovskoye, which PMC Wagner units could not seize during their attempt to encircle Artemovsk.
At the time, however, it was a critically important zone for both sides, and both the Russian and Ukrainian armies concentrated their firepower there. Now, the priorities have shifted and Artemovsk – despite continuing to be the site of daily battles – is considered a direction of secondary importance.
Say what you want about Napoleon Bonaparte, but there’s no denying that he was an absolute alpha who can still blow a beret right off the head of a Frenchman. The kind that sorely lacks nowadays in Western leadership roles.
Which would explain why a new poll, released just as a Ridley Scott-directed biopic about him hits theatres, has found that 74 percent of French view his actions positively.
Napoleon blazed a trail of death and destruction, with his army slaughtering millions around the world at a time when empire-expanding sword-measuring contests were all the rage — and he happened to be particularly good at it. But he claimed to do it for France, however misguided and extreme.
Which stands in stark contrast to today’s parade of self-interested French politicians in front of the courts for abuse of public office.
Napoleon emerged from the ashes of the French Revolution on the side of the people, then went on to conquer much of the world on their behalf.
According to the survey, 40% of respondents consider his top achievement to be his creation of the Napoleonic Civil Code to enshrine the values of the revolution.
His contributions to academia were also invaluable, as every country that interested him as a potential military conquest led to detailed scientific, sociological and archeological studies that still serve as references today.
He’s frequently judged by today’s standards, which is patently unfair. Sure, if you took Napoleon and transplanted him into modern day society — stuck him in a typical office cubicle — he probably wouldn’t fit in too well, what with his penchant for global conquest and his belief that women belong at home. He’d wind up in sensitivity training in pretty short order. But the French are willing to overlook his many flaws because his accomplishments are so spectacular; he singlehandedly hoisted France to the front of the global stage. Yeah, maybe he wouldn’t have done so if he had the mores of “social justice” Bob from accounting or your neighbor who never misses date night with the wife. But that whole debate is moot. And stupid.
Every time someone puts France on the map, they’re rewarded with popularity, as proven by various polls of the top French personalities of all time.
Napoleon is consistently in the top spot, followed by figures like Charles De Gaulle, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) and Marie Curie.
What do all these folks have in common?
Clarity of vision, and courage in the face of adversity — values with which the French personally want to be associated. Unfortunately, one has to go back quite far in order to find their incarnation.
While Napoleon put France in a prominent spot on the world stage, it was arguably former French President and World War II General Charles de Gaulle that gave it any hope of persisting there. Beyond leading the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation,
De Gaulle subsequently ensured France’s post-war independence by kicking the Americans out of the country, refusing their demand for permanent bases, and then keeping France out of NATO to avoid the ultimate fate of ending up under de facto US military command.
Always with French independence in mind, De Gaulle then went to Moscow in 1944 to sign mutual assistance agreements, and envisioned the Soviet Union as an important partner for French independence within a vision of Europe that stretched from the Atlantic to the Urals.
De Gaulle also spearheaded state-backed nuclear energy projects that were so successful that they’ve saved France amid the current EU energy crunch (and to think that current President Emmanuel Macron was on the verge of killing the whole industry in favor of trendy green energy fantasies — the same ones that flopped when Germany realized that it couldn’t power its economic engine with the wind and sunshine after its Nord Stream pipeline network of Russian gas was mysteriously blown up.)
Jeanne d’Arc was a teenage peasant girl who led the French to victory against the English, then was unrepentant about who she was and what she did when she was burned at the stake in Rouen — for literally having wild visions of French victory, then making them happen.
French-naturalized Pole Marie Curie was yet another French woman who fell outside the conventional role for females in society, winning the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911, for her groundbreaking research, alongside husband Pierre Curie, on radioactivity, including the discovery of radium and polonium. Her achievements put France on the intellectual global map. Over a century later though, in 2019, French officials yanked mandatory mathematics from the last two years of the high school curriculum.
It was such an unmitigated disaster for numeric literacy and such a looming disaster for French competitiveness on the global playing field that they had to reinstate the courses in September 2023.
Therein lies the difference between those still admired by the French — despite having long shuffled off the face of the Earth — and those who have since come and gone from power or prominence with little fanfare. A lack of unwavering leadership — foresight, clarity, and determination.
Macron doesn’t have it — although he’s an avowed admirer of De Gaulle.
It seems that every French politician fancies himself the second coming of De Gaulle, but very few have the strength to stick to a course of action that serves the French people and nation first and foremost. Instead, they double-deal and play both sides of the court from the middle, trying to serve their EU masters — currying favor with unelected European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen — or aligning their interests with Washington’s, placing Western solidarity above sovereign national interests. Imagine if Napoleon had done that — sold out France’s ambitions to the whims of his allies and their own agendas.
Unsurprisingly, the latest Ifop-Feducial poll found that the two current political figures considered to most closely resemble Napoleon are right-wing opposition leader Marine Le Pen and former center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy.
It’s hardly a coincidence that both have been criticized recently for speaking out against the French and Western establishment status quo of blindly following anti-Russian US foreign policy on Ukraine — with both favoring immediate peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and an end to hostilities over prolonged spending on “aid” to keep a conflict going that’s to the net detriment of France and the EU as whole.
Napoleon came to power with the backing of the people after they had literally beheaded the entire corrupt establishment.
Today’s establishment has given itself more than enough rope to ultimately hang itself.
One can’t help but notice the parallels. The question is, at what point will the French people have the courage to once again choose the kind of anti-establishment visionary leader on whom they could one day look back and realize they absolutely needed. Until then, they’ll be stuck longing for, and romanticizing, times and figures of greatness.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
The Russian economy has successfully overcome the “addiction” to Western technologies and is developing a competitive domestic market, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
During a meeting with participants in the 3rd Congress of Young Scientists in Sochi, Putin commented on the ‘Our Lab’ exhibition of scientific equipment produced in Russia.
“Our so-called partners believed that they had hooked us on a technological needle and we would never get off,” Putin told the scientists.
“Thanks to the efforts of people like you and your colleagues, it turned out that this could be done – and quite quickly, too.”
Russian researchers used to buy their equipment abroad, but have since turned to domestically produced alternatives, in part due to the embargo imposed by the US and its allies over the Ukraine conflict.
“This is important,” Putin said.
“Because that means there is a domestic market for these devices. And if there is a market, then there was an economic incentive to produce. Back then, when you could buy everything abroad, there was no domestic market.”
The ‘Our Lab’ exhibit in Sochi featured 110 pieces of scientific equipment from 17 leading suppliers in Russia and Belarus. The program’s online catalog features 19,000 products from over 5,000 companies.
Putin praised this kind of competition as a way to ensure quality of any item that is mass-produced, while custom builds can satisfy the need for certain specialized devices.
“It’s a very simple thing, but it works,” he said.
The three-day conference has been hosted by the Sirius Park for Science and Arts in Sochi, established in the facilities originally built for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Hamas, an Islamic movement that controls Gaza, is believed to have a network of tunnels that is 500 kilometers (310 miles) long. It features command rooms and training grounds, bunkers, and meeting rooms and is connected to a sophisticated ventilation system and a steady water and electricity supply.
It’s been more than 50 days since Israel launched its Swords of Iron operation aimed at eliminating Hamas, following the group’s deadly attack on the country’s southern communities, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people and injured thousands of others.
Key locations, including Gaza’s parliament and the court and police headquarters, have already been captured by the IDF. The main, and the largest hospital of Gaza city – Shifaa – has also been taken. Israel believes the medical complex boasts a sophisticated tunnel system, with gathering rooms and bunkers, where some of the hostages might have been kept.
Shifaa is only one element of the puzzle, however, according to Israeli intelligence.
Based on reports, the city has some 1,300 tunnels whose overall length stands at 500 kilometers – a hundred kilometers longer than the metro system of London.
The network – which is located 75 meters (246 feet) deep under the surface – allegedly boasts ammunition caches, command and control centers, as well as training grounds and meeting rooms. The ‘metro’ also possesses its own ventilation system and a steady supply of water and electricity.
“What we know so far is that the Gaza Strip has different types of tunnels,” says Avi Melamed, a Middle East expert and a former intelligence officer of the IDF.
“There are the so-called smuggling tunnels [used to smuggle goods, weapons and fighters from Sinai – ed.]. There are attack tunnels that penetrate the Israeli territory, and there are also those that have been constructed by Hamas for inner military purposes.”
The construction of the network has reportedly been carried out for years, starting in 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave, prompting Israel to impose a blockade of the area.
Israel has been well aware of the challenge and has tried to thwart it by limiting or banning the import of concrete, steel, and other essentials into Gaza, but Hamas has always found ways to divert the flow of construction materials from civilian projects into their military purposes. It has also allegedly used the generous money donations – coming from Qatar – to fund this grand project.
“Our intelligence knew about those tunnels but we didn’t have any will to destroy them,” said Amit Assa, a former member of Israel’s inner security agency, the Shin Bet, which has been tackling the issue of Hamas for years.
“[Instead], Israel invented underground barriers and technologies to prevent infiltrations. We exerted diplomatic efforts [to stop the flow of funds to Hamas], and we believed that if we gave Palestinians prosperity or created for them economic opportunities, they would drop their plans to destroy us.”
By “economic opportunities,” Assa was referring to a number of boons introduced by the Israeli governments in recent years. Those included the permission for thousands of Gazan employees to enter Israel for work, the expansion of fishing zones, and the permission to import goods.
Now, however, Assa claims Israel has come to realize that the concept of concessions was fundamentally wrong and this is why, he says, the state is determined to “fight back.”
It is not that Israel hasn’t attempted to fight back before. Over the course of many years, it has launched a number of operations aimed at weakening the military capabilities of Hamas, including their tunnels, but – although have been damaged or partially destroyed – they have always managed to withstand the pressure. Now, Assa promises, it will be a different ball game.
According to estimates of the IDF, Israel destroyed 400 tunnel shafts since the beginning of the war on October 7. Thousands of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants have been killed.
Experts are certain that once Israel tackles the issue of tunnels in the north of Gaza, it will move down south, where another network is allegedly located, and Melamed says the IDF will know to exploit the Achilles heels of those tunnels’ construction.
“Operating and staying in these tunnels requires a constant supply of oxygen, and that depends on the functioning of generators and fuel that operates them,” Melamed explained.
“So one option for us is to suffocate them by cutting off the flow of the oxygen to the tunnels. Another one is to collect enough intelligence about the exits and entrances so that we can block them, and catch Hamas terrorists inside.”
That, however, might be a mission impossible. Hamas and other Palestinian factions are believed to be holding more than 200 hostages and at least some of them are hidden in tunnels.
Blocking these constructions or cutting them off from oxygen would mean certain death for these people too, and it is widely believed that this is a step Israel would not risk taking.
And there is another catch, Assa believes – time. While eliminating the threat of terror, Israel has also been bombarding civilian infrastructure, including mosques, schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.
More than 14,000 Palestinians have already been killed, many of whom are civilians. Nearly 36,000 have been wounded.
Pressure on Israel has long started mounting, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying Israel should stop targeting women and children. Similar calls have also been made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders, and officials in Jerusalem believe it is only a matter of weeks until this criticism grows louder.
“Stop watch [on Israel’s actions] has always been an issue,” Assa believes.
“But this time Israel is not in a position to take advice from anyone. If we really want to get rid of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, we should show no tolerance in this war. We need to go till the end, no matter what our allies are saying,” he summed up.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, responded to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ comments about sex crimes committed by Hamas.
“The Secretary-General’s words only sharpen the fact that when it comes to Israeli women, sexual violence that has been proven by state authorities still needs to be ‘investigated.’ For him, when it comes to Israeli women, you can doubt the facts and wait 55 days to call an unknown party to conduct an ‘investigation.’ He does not acknowledge that Hamas committed these crimes!” said Erdan.
“The Secretary-General was merely trying to calm the justified anger of many around the world for his silence and the silence of the UN. The Secretary-General ignores the shocking sex crimes of Hamas, but when it comes to the claims of Hamas and the ‘Gaza Ministry of Health’ against Israel regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza, for him there is no doubt and no need for ‘investigations’” he added.
“Next week we will hold an important event at the UN where we will present findings proving that Hamas committed sexual crimes. I once again invite the Secretary-General to come, unequivocally condemn Hamas for committing these shocking crimes, and act to open an investigation against Hamas,” concluded Erdan.
Earlier on Wednesday, nearly two months after the Hamas massacre of October 7, Guterres finally acknowledged that Hamas committed acts of sexual violence during the attack.
“There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” Guterres wrote on X.
“Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere,” he added.
Israel has criticized UN Women for its failure to condemn the rape and murder of Israeli women by Hamas terrorists during the October 7 attack.
Survivor testimony and interrogation of captured terrorists gathered by the Israel Police found that the Hamas terrorists who perpetrated the October 7 attack committed mass rape against their victims during the massacre.
Israel’s First Lady, Michal Herzog, last week published an opinion piece in Newsweek, expressing the sense of outrage and betrayal over the international community’s failure to condemn the use of gender-based sexual violence by Hamas.
Guterres recently caused an uproar when he said that Hamas’ attack on Israel “did not happen in a vacuum” and appeared to blame Israel for the attack.
After his remarks were widely condemned, Guterres claimed his comments were misinterpreted and that he had indeed condemned Hamas.
He later criticized Israel once again, claiming that the high numbers of civilian casualties reported from Gaza show that there is something “clearly wrong” with Israel’s response to the Hamas attack on October 7.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger passed away on Wednesday at the age of 100.
Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut, Kissinger Associates, Inc. said in a statement.
Kissinger was the first Jewish person to serve in the position of Secretary of State. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam in 1973.
The year before, he was named TIME Magazine’s person of the year.
He was born as Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born to a Jewish family in Furth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, and moved to the United States with his family in 1938 before the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jews.
Anglicizing his name to Henry, Kissinger became a naturalized US citizen in 1943, and served in the US Army in Europe in World War Two.
He then went to Harvard University on scholarship, earning a master’s degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1954. He was on Harvard’s faculty for the next 17 years.
When Richard Nixon’s pledge to end the Vietnam War won him the 1968 presidential election, he brought Kissinger to the White House as national security adviser.
In 1973, in addition to his role as national security adviser, Kissinger was named Secretary of State.
His most recent interview was with the Israeli newspaper Maariv in September, in which he expressed his apprehension regarding the developing negotiations between his country’s government and Saudi Arabia.
President Isaac Herzog paid tribute to Kissinger.
“Henry Kissinger was one of the greatest diplomats. A Jewish teenager who fled the Nazis and went on to become a giant who shaped world politics with his own hands and mind. The entire family of nations is blessed to this day by the fruits of the historic processes he led, including the laying of the foundations for Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt. In our last conversation, in which I congratulated him on his birthday, he told me: ‘Remember, I have always loved and supported Israel, and always will,’” said Herzog.
Israel’s military censor Brig. Gen. Kobi Mandelblit has complained privately that the prime minister and other senior government officials are pressing him to muzzle some media publications without a valid security justification for doing so, according to a report Wednesday.
Haaretz said Mandelblit vented on the matter to other senior IDF officers in a recent private conversation, during which he made several harsh remarks about the prime minister and told them he fears Netanyahu wants to remove him from his post or deprive the censor of authority.
The Prime Minister’s Office responded in a statement that the censor had in its view harmed national security and endangered soldiers by permitting the publication of some news during the current conflict in the Gaza Strip.
It did not provide details. It also denied that Mandelblit’s job had been threatened.
Two senior officers who were present during the conversation told Haaretz that Mandelblit said he had been asked to tighten censorship policy by Netanyahu himself, National Security Adviser Tzahi Hanegbi and by Netanyahu’s military secretary Maj. Gen. Avi Gil.
Mandelbit ostensibly told the gathering that there was no security justification for the requests and that the pressure being applied on him was unusual. According to the report, the other officers present agreed with him.
The sources said that pressure on Mandelblit has increased over the past two weeks and has included remarks that were not made directly to him but were passed on through others.
Mandelblit, a cousin of former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit who indicted Netanyahu on corruption charges, specified that he was asked to clamp down on information from cabinet meetings in which Netanyahu came off as hesitant about the ongoing war with Hamas.
One item that he was requested to withhold, and which was indeed prevented from publication, concerned private matters relating to Netanyahu and his wife, the report said. The censor justified the ban by ruling it was due to security considerations relating to the Netanyahu couple, Haaretz reported.
Mandelblit refused to comment to Haaretz on its report and demanded that the story itself be first approved by the military censor, but later withdrew the request.
The Prime Minister’s Office told Haaretz in a statement: “Throughout the war, the censor has approved news whose publication harmed the national security of the State of Israel, endangering our soldiers and the safety of the prime minister himself.”
The statement said that any criticism relayed to the censor “is factual,” does not include “threatening messages of impeachment or curtailment of the censor’s powers” and that any report otherwise “is not true.”
There have been increasing complaints from media outlets about Mandelblit’s policies, including that he has unfairly exercised his powers, permitting some outlets to publish stories while banning others from releasing the same information.
The Union of Journalists in Israel sent a letter Tuesday to Mandelblit complaining of differential treatment among outlets.
Last week Channel 12 reported that during a recent security cabinet meeting ministers discussed at length the issue of leaks from the top security forum.
Netanyahu said he intended to bring forth a law making it illegal to publish any content from security cabinet meetings. Such a move would circumvent the authority of the military censor.
A draft memo of the planned bill, circulated last week, would also require ministers to undergo regular polygraph tests.
However, the move is reportedly opposed by the Shin Bet security agency which would be tasked with carrying out the tests. Ynet reported last week that there is also opposition to the bill in the judiciary and among ministers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with the municipal leaders from the Gaza envelope and was heavily criticized for the government’s conduct.
“We’re sick of stories. You didn’t conquer the northern Gaza Strip; how can we return home? How can our children again live under rocket fire? Again, we’ll go back and see Gazans on the fence? That won’t happen,”
some of the leaders attacked the Prime Minister and added,
“The October 7th massacre was enough. We want a security zone and the dissolution of Hamas’ rule.”
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi told Netanyahu:
“I don’t want to hear about the Palestinian Authority ruling Gaza or its demilitarization. Tell the truth, please; you haven’t even captured the northern Gaza Strip. You need to erase and collapse Hamas.
Prime Minister Netanyahu answered:
“You have nothing to worry about. The security control of the area will be in our hands. We need the United States mostly for arms. Until now, we dealt with the issue of the hostages, and I don’t know what you’re being told, but unequivocally, we are going back to battle with all our strength.”
Elderly adults experienced a disastrous decline in cognitive functioning during the UK’s COVID-19 quarantine policies, a study published in the Lancet on Tuesday revealed.
The accelerated worsening of working memory and other key intellectual metrics persisted even after lockdown ended.
Analyzing data collected by the government’s PROTECT study of adults aged 50 and above before, during, and after the pandemic lockdowns, researchers affiliated with the University of Exeter, King’s College London, and Imperial College London found “significant worsening of executive function and working memory” across all groups studied.
Reduced exercise and increased alcohol use were associated with worsening of memory and executive functioning during lockdown even among individuals who had no previous history of cognitive impairment, while depression and loneliness were strongly linked to worsening of existing cognitive issues.
Declines in working memory persisted even after lockdowns ended and overall cognitive decline declined at twice the rate it had prior to lockdowns, as measured by performance on the cognitive tasks participants completed as part of the PROTECT study.
This marked decline in overall cognition was observed even in elderly individuals who had shown no signs of impairment prior to the lockdowns. Nor was it limited to individuals who had contracted COVID-19, though several studies have established a link between infection and persistent cognitive deficits, with up to 78% of those infected reporting lasting mental difficulties.
The researchers hypothesized reduced exercise and increased alcohol consumption might be responsible for the cognitive decline reported, but cautioned against confusing correlation with causation and recommended further study.
“Ongoing concerns about the pandemic and a shift to more virtual communication forms, leading to less time spent out of the house and a less active lifestyle” were suggested as a hypothesis to explain the lingering debilitation post-lockdown.
The study did not distinguish between those who had received the COVID-19 vaccine and the unvaccinated.
A broad spectrum of neurological side effects including cognitive impairment have been associated with the shot, though to date no comprehensive studies have been performed on the subject.
Given the established role of loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for worsening cognitive impairment in elderly adults, the predictably detrimental effect of lockdowns on this population was the source of much controversy during the pandemic.
Elderly advocates as early as July 2020 warned that patients with mild cognitive decline were rapidly spiraling into full-blown dementia, losing the ability to care for themselves and even speak due to suspensions in healthcare services and social visits.
The UK locked its population down three times during the pandemic, exercising unprecedented societal controls.
That policy is currently under investigation in the government’s COVID-19 Inquiry.
Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) participated in the conference “Hostages – a Question of Price” organized by “Friends of Ron Arad” in collaboration with the Ono Academic College.
Diskin told journalist Liat Regev that, “The State of Israel has completely betrayed those who were kidnapped and murdered in the first days of the October 7th Hamas attack, and they continue to pay the price. This is a betrayal of every baby, every child, every mother and every father who was kidnapped from the Gaza region communities.”
Regarding the hostage deal, he said, “I used to be an extreme opponent of prisoner deals, of all for all, and favored proportional prisoner exchanges. Today I have changed my thinking by 180 degrees, and I am in favor.”
Diskin attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu and claimed that he was suffering from shell shock for the first two weeks after the attack, and the government did not function at all. Help was provided only by voluntary organizations and Israeli civilians.
Did the Shin Bet have a prospective scenario of what happened on October 7th?
“Already during my service, we saw that Hamas was moving in the direction of mass kidnappings and large operations. The scenario was well known in advance. But when you are a captive of a certain concept, they can put a pink elephant in the room and convince you that it’s a little yellow cat,” he said.
Diskin mentioned hostage Avera Mengistu and said, “Until October 7th, the State valued soldiers and their bodies to a greater extent. When it comes to a black-skinned Ethiopian Jew and a Bedouin from the Negev, Israeli society should have a good look in the mirror.”
The former head of the Shin Bet supports two states for two nations, but right now “we don’t have a partner,” he emphasized.
“The US should be involved in this process, but the question is whether Biden will win the elections. For us, too, the question is who will rule, and will it be Netanyahu, who continues to lead us to destruction.”
Was the elimination of Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, on the agenda?
“When you (Netanyahu) send IDF Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, and former Director of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, to convince Qatar to continue sending suitcases of money to Gaza, you probably don’t want to get rid of Sinwar. The Prime Minister did not want to deal with a confrontation, in which he would have had to get rid of Sinwar.”
“I was the head of the Shin Bet until 2011 and I pushed to initiate the Cast Lead military operation in 2008, and Olmert went along with me. We did not overthrow Hamas, because Barak and Olmert fought, Barak closed a deal with the Egyptians without notifying Olmert, and the opportunity was lost.”
A top U.S. intelligence official who also serves as a consultant with the World Health Organization played a key role in downplaying the theory that COVID-19 came from a laboratory in China, a former official says.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov sees no chance for a ceasefire in the Ukraine conflict next year, considering that Kiev and its Western backers have taken a position that is totally unacceptable to Moscow.
The senior diplomat offered his analysis of Russia’s relations with NATO and Ukraine in an interview with the newspaper Izvestia published on Wednesday. He expects no breakthroughs, despite suggestions in the Western press that the US may be nudging Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky towards a negotiated settlement.
“Unfortunately, the US leads the Western group, which recites the ‘Zelensky peace formula’ as mantra, claiming it to be the only possible basis for an agreement,” he said, adding that a dialogue is “impossible on this basis.”
Asked whether he expected a ceasefire next year, Ryabkov responded negatively. He said:
“I expect the goals of the special military operation to be unconditionally achieved.”
The ‘peace formula’ proposed by Zelensky last year entails Kiev reassuming control over its pre-2014 borders and receiving war reparations from Moscow and subjecting Russian officials to a war tribunal amid extensive international support for Ukraine.
Moscow has dismissed the proposal as being detached from reality.
The German tabloid Bild claimed last week that Washington and Berlin were rationing arms deliveries to Ukraine to pressure Zelensky into concessions. The White House has said that its policy remained the same and it was up to Kiev to decide how to conduct the war.
However, David Arakhamia, a key Zelensky ally who leads the ruling party’s faction in parliament and headed up the Ukrainian delegation at last year’s peace talks in Istanbul, recently provided further grounds for doubt about how independent Kiev’s policy has been.
He confirmed in an interview last Friday that then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had derailed a possible truce with Russia, telling the Ukrainian leadership to “just make war.” Moscow’s primary goal was Ukraine’s neutrality, Arakhamia said.
Ryabkov reiterated that NATO’s expansion in Europe was the key cause of the Ukraine conflict. Moscow’s relationship with the US-led military bloc is unlikely to recover anytime soon “for reasons of principle and practical nature,” he told Izvestia.
“If someone in the West thinks we need that relationship and will at some point come and ask for it to be restored, that is a great error in judgment,” he said.
NATO members are “gambling” by encroaching on fundamental Russian interests and apparently believe that there can be no limit to upping the ante, but “they may end up among the losers,” Ryabkov warned.