Friday, May 22, 2015

4.8 Earthquake In Rural Nevada, Felt In Las Vegas

Magnitude-4.8 Earthquake in Rural Nevada Felt in Las Vegas; Freeway Ramps Temporarily Closed | KTLA

A magnitude-4.8 earthquake that struck late Friday morning in Nevada near the Utah border was felt in Las Vegas, some 80 miles away, and several freeway ramps in the city were closed amid reports of damage.
The quake struck at 11:47 a.m. about 60 miles west-northwest of St. George, Utah, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The USGS gave the nearest town as Caliente, about 24 miles north-northeast of the epicenter, which was in a remote mountainous region about 100 miles driving distance from Las Vegas.
The quake hit at a depth of 2.6 miles. It was initially reported as a 5.4-magnitude temblor, but that was later changed to a 5.3, and then to a 4.8.
The temblor caused the rubber encasing to separate on the bridge of a freeway interchange ramp from U.S. 95 southbound to the southbound Interstate 15. The ramp was shut down for inspection, along with two others.
“The joint damage was pre-existing. The tremblor (sic) simply dislodged the protective rubber encasing the bridge seam making it look much worse than it was in reality,” a Nevada Department of Transportation district engineer said in a news release.“However, we’re issuing an emergency contract to repair the seam. Meanwhile, the ramps remain structurally sound and safe for travel.”
The ramps reopened before 5 p.m. Friday and were slated to remain open throughout Memorial Day weekend.

Sections of the Spaghetti Bowl that were closed for inspection after Friday’s earthquake were reopened just before 5 p.m., according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.
A 4.8-magnitude quake shook Las Vegas and surrounding areas Friday morning, and the state closed parts of the U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 15 interchange for several hours to inspect ramps for possible structural damage, backing up traffic for miles.
The quake, which hit at 11:47 a.m., was centered about 23 miles south-southwest of Caliente, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The magnitude was originally reported as 5.4, but the official number was lowered twice Friday afternoon.
The ramp from southbound U.S. Route 95 to southbound Interstate 15 was closed about 12:20 p.m. Friday, NDOT said. But after inspection, the state determined the roadway was safe for travel.
“The joint damage was pre-existing. The tremblor simply dislodged the protective rubber encasing the bridge seam making it look much worse than it was in reality” and prompting an immediate shutdown of the ramps, NDOT engineer Mary Martini said in a release about 3:45 p.m.
An emergency contract was issued to repair the seam, but the ramps are structurally sound, Martini said.
The southbound U.S. 95 and Martin Luther King Boulevard on-ramps to southbound I-15 were also closed as a precaution, the release said. NDOT tweeted at 4:53 p.m. that all ramps were open.
The I-15-U.S. 95 interchange is the busiest stretch of road in the state, with 250,000 vehicles a day traveling through it — a number that could be even higher this weekend, NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said, as an extra 198,000 drivers come to Las Vegas for the holiday weekend.
Meanwhile, the Highway Patrol was checking for possible damage at other major freeway interchanges, Trooper Loy Hixson said.
Illia said Nevada has some of the best-rated bridges in the country, according to a recent report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Only 1.8 percent of Nevada bridges are classified as structurally deficient, which is the lowest in the country. The national average is 6 percent.

The USGS reported four significant aftershocks, with magnitudes 3.8, 3.0, 3.4 and 2.5, between 12:05 and 12:58 p.m.

Soros Back In The News, China vs U.S. Escalating, Strange Trumpet Sounds, Fernando Gentilini: New EU Special Representative For Middle East Peace Process

With tensions heating up between the United States and Russia over a number of issues – Ukraine, BRICS, sanctions, and NATO encirclement to name a few – the West continues its move in toward Russia’s borders. The latest target in the Anglo-American destabilization campaign has now come forward – Macedonia.

In the attempt to destroy the elected government of Macedonia, George Soros, NATO, and the Western Color Revolution apparatus have all come together to ensure that the will of the Macedonian people is denied as is the will of populations in all Western-style democracies.

As informed observers might well suspect, any color revolution taking place in Eastern Europe will involve the heavy hand of George Soros.

George Soros is most well-known for playing a major role in the funding and facilitating of the “Bulldozer Revolution” in Serbia that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” of 2003, the 2006 push to move Turkey toward a more Islamist governing structure, and even the Occupy movement in the United States among a great many others – none of which brought anything other than greater misery, impoverishment, and police state mechanisms to bear on the general public. The Occupy movement, being the only exception, still brought nothing to its participants except the opportunity to burn off excess anger and energy along with a few cracked protester skulls. It was otherwise an incredible waste of time.

In addition, George Soros has been heavily involved in the social unrest and movement-wrecking activity that has taken place all across the United States in recent months. From Florida to Ferguson and then on to Baltimore, George Soros’ Foundations have been involved in making sure that not only are American citizens unable to overcome racial divisions with mutual cooperation but that even the racially isolated participants are unable to accomplish anything of substance.

In Macedonia, like in the United States, Soros organizations work under the pretense of left cover. In other words, Soros NGOs fund and operate organizations and movements that are seen as Left in nature but are, in reality, revolutionary organizations designed to push a political agenda, change Macedonian culture, install puppet regimes, and ultimately serve the purpose of the Anglo-American oligarchy.

George Soros’ most well-known NGO is the Open Society Institute, is highly active in Macedonia and itself works with a plethora of “civil society organizations” throughout the country that function as the OSI (and hence the West’s) tentacles in Macedonian society. This is what has prompted some in Macedonia to say in regards to Soros that “Soros came into Macedonia like a Trojan horse, and now he is an octopus.”
The OSI has been active in Macedonia for some time, with Vladimir Milcin heading the organization for nearly twenty years. Milcin was a former police informant in the days of Communism. Milcin was instrumental in ratting out a dissident actor Risto Siskov.

That being said, it should be pointed out that Macedonian news outlets like Telma and 24 Vesti are both major players in promoting the anti-government protests (in addition to other operations). Both of these outlets are funded by George Soros.

Indeed, even “opposition leader” Zoran Zaev is a notorious Soros-funded agent with close connections to the CIA. Not only Zaev, but his entire Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party (the former Communist party) has been entirely taken over by the Soros machine. As Wayne Madsen writes,

The unrest taking place across Macedonia over the last few months and currently bringing tens of thousands of Macedonians out into to the streets is the result of the deployment of the Western-engineered color revolution apparatus designed to destabilize and overthrown the Macedonian government, who has agreed to work with Russia to build the Balkan Stream pipeline through the country. This color revolution, created and deployed by Western governments, NATO, and the Soros networks of NGOs, Foundations, and “civil society groups” is an attempt to remove any leverage Russia may have over the EU and to expand the hegemony of the world oligarchy.
We must support the Macedonian people in their resistance to this color revolution and oppose such illegal and unjust intervention here at home.

While admitting that reaching agreement between the two countries will be difficult to achieve, George Soros - speaking at The World Bank's Bretton Woods conference this week - warned that unless the U.S. makes 'major concessions' and allows China's currency to join the IMF's basket of currencies, "there is a real danger China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of world war becomes real."
Much in global geopolitics depends on the health and trajectory of the Chinese economy, was the undertone of George Soros' comments as he spoke this week, but as MarketWatch reports,

Billionaire investor George Soros said flatly that he’s concerned about the possibility of another world war.


If China’s efforts to transition to a domestic-demand led economy from an export engine falter, there is a “likelihood” that China’s rulers would foster an external conflict to keep the country together and hold on to power.


To avoid this scenario, Soros called on the U.S. to make a “major concession” and allow China’s currency to join the International Monetary Fund’s basket of currencies. This would make the yuan a potential rival to the dollar as a global reserve currency.

In return, China would have to make similar major concessions to reform its economy, such as accepting the rule of law, Soros said.

Allowing China’s yuan to be a market currency would create “a binding connection” between the two systems.

An agreement along these lines will be difficult to achieve, Soros said, but the alternative is so unpleasant.

“Without it, there is a real danger that China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of third world war becomes real, so it is worth trying

The billionaire investor concluded by pointing out that military spending is currently on the rise in both Russia and China, warning ominously...

"If there is conflict between China and a military ally of the United States, like Japan, then it is not an exaggeration to say that we are on the threshold of a third world war."

The United States vowed on Thursday to keep up air and sea patrols in international waters after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a U.S. surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea.
The Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a U.S. P8-A Poseidon, the U.S. military's most advanced surveillance aircraft, when it conducted the overflights on Wednesday, according to CNN, which was aboard the U.S. aircraft.
When the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"
The Poseidon flew as low as 15,000 feet (4,500 meters), CNN said, and video provided by the Pentagon appeared to have been taken from directly above one artificial island.
The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggested Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands there.
Some security experts worry about the risk of confrontation, especially after a U.S. official said last week that the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.
The senior U.S. diplomat for the East Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, told a media briefing in Washington the U.S. reconnaissance flight was "entirely appropriate" and that U.S. naval forces and military aircraft would "continue to fully exercise" the right to operate in international waters and airspace.
He said the United States would go further to preserve the ability of all countries to move in international waters and airspace.
"Nobody in their right mind is going to try to stop the U.S. Navy from operating - that would not be a good bet," he said.
"But it’s not enough that a U.S. military plane can overfly international waters, even if there is challenge or hailing query ... We believe that every country and all civilian actors should have unfettered access to international waters and international airspace."

On Wednesday we showed what happens when US spy planes carrying CNN reporters get too close to China’s land reclamation project in the South China Sea. In short, the Chinese Navy not-so-politely advises them to “Go now!” 

China is working diligently to construct man-made islands atop reefs in the Spratly archipelago where Beijing shares disputed waters with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. For its part, Washington is none too pleased with the effort and in a fantastic example of ironic rhetoric and American hypocrisy, The White House is shouting about violations of territorial sovereignty and Chinese “bullying”.
The Pentagon meanwhile has said the US may consider confronting China in the region with surveillance aircraft (and CNN crews apparently) and war ships, a move China has gently advised against, telling Washington that it might be in everyone’s best interest if the US “refrains from risky and provocative actions," and now, China looks to have conducted a practice bombing raid on Wednesday. 
Now that the Chinese Navy has explicitly told at least one US surveillance aircraft to “leave immediately” (and implicitly threatened to shoot it down, CNN camera crew and all), it’s the US’s turn to ratchet up the war rhetoric. This time it’s John Kerry’s deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s turn to denounce China’s series of sea sandcastles. Reuters has more:

China's land reclamation around reefs in the disputed South China Sea is undermining freedom and stability, and risks provoking tension that could even lead to conflict, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a conference in Jakarta.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, its claims overlapping with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.

"As China seeks to make sovereign land out of sandcastles and redraw maritime boundaries, it is eroding regional trust and undermining investor confidence," Blinken said on Wednesday.

"Its behavior threatens to set a new precedent whereby larger countries are free to intimidate smaller ones, and that provokes tensions, instability and can even lead to conflict."

As for China … well, let’s just say that the resolve to implement territorial expansion via fake island construction is pretty strong:

“Groundless” though these assumptions may be, one thing that is now certainly not “groundless” is Fiery Cross Reef.

China is building an airstrip on the island. The airstrip is likely large enough to land nearly any Chinese aircraft.

Fernando Gentilini is the new EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process. His tasks are to contribute to actions and initiatives leading to a  final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two state solution. He will facilitate contact between the parties and contribute to setting up a possible new framework for negotiations.
As anticipated last month by, Gentilini is is been appointed today by the Council of Europe. Former director for Western Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey for the European External Action Service, Fernando Gentilini has an extensive career in foreign affairs: from May 2011 to January 2012, he was EU Special Representative in Kosovo. He will take up his duties immediately and is initially appointed until 30 April 2016 in an effort to re-launch the Process as quickly as possible.
The European Middle East position was created in 1996 after the Oslo Accords offered the prospect of real progress towards a Israel-Palestinian peace deal. Mogherini’s predecessor, Briton Catherine Ashton, abolished the office in a controversial move aimed at bringing the European Union’s peace efforts under one roof in its external affairs arm. (AB, April 15 2015)

Ambassador Fernando Gentilini

May 2008

  • Born in Subiaco (Rome), Italy, 2nd March 1962; 
  • Graduated in Law from the University of Rome, 1986;
  • Joined the Italian Diplomatic Service in February 1990; first assigned to Department of Human Resources and Administration, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome;
  • Second Secretary (Economics and Trade) at the Italian Embassy in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), July 1992;
  • Promoted to First Secretary of Legation, January 1995;
  • First Secretary at the Italian Permanent Representation to the E.U. in Brussels, December 1996;
  • Seconded as Italian Representative within the Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit at the E.U. Council Secretariat, under the authority of the High Representative for the E.U. Common Foreign and Security Policy, December 1999;
  • Promoted to Counsellor of Legation, Rome, July 2000;
  • Posted to MFA’s Department of European Countries as Head of Unit for Western Balkans, Rome, December 2002;
  • Seconded as E.U. High Representative’s Personal Representative to Kosovo, April 2004;
  • Promoted to Counsellor of Embassy, July 2004;
  • Seconded to the Policy Unit at the Office of the Secretary General/High Representative for the CFSP in Brussels, December 2004;
  • Seconded to the Presidency of the Council as Deputy Diplomatic Advisor to the Italian Prime Minister, Rome, August 2006;

All over the globe, people are recording extremely loud sounds coming from the sky.  In many instances, these ominous noises sound like someone is blowing a trumpet.  So what are we supposed to make of these “apocalyptic” sounds?  Should we be concerned?  Well, what we do know is that this is truly a global phenomenon.  In addition to being heard at locations all over the United States and Canada, these sounds have also been recorded in Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, England, Costa Rica, Ukraine and France.  If you go to YouTube and type in “strange sounds”, you will literally get hundreds of results from all over the planet.  Of course there are many scientists that insist that there must be a “rational explanation” for these strange sounds.  Some theories have suggested fracking, “rock bursts”, venting of high-pressure gas, atmospheric pressure or the natural “background noise” of our planet as the causes of these sounds, but so far none of those theories have been proven.  But two things seem certain – these noises sure are creepy, and they just keep on happening.
And this phenomenon is now really starting to get a whole lot of attention.  Just within the last month, there have been headlines about it in major new sources all over the planet.  For instance, the following is a brief excerpt about this phenomenon from an article in the New York Post

Video clips from around the world have captured an evil-sounding ‘trumpet’ noise coming from the sky — but no one can explain exactly what it is.
A number of people have filmed the bizarre sound over the past 10 years with the latest coming from Germany.

Personally, I have no idea what is causing these sounds.  But so many people around the world are experiencing them that it seems to rule out a hoax.
So how can we explain them?

The incident above in Germany is just one more strange noise occurrence to be caught on tape. There are many more videos like this all over the globe, from Texas to Canada to Australia and beyond, as seen in the small smattering of examples below.
Some people call it sinister, evil. One man from Montana complained he has had vivid, awful nightmares since he witnessed it with his daughter.
The questions remain. What are these sounds? Where do they come from? What do they mean?
At one point, scientists tried to say these strange sounds which people have been reporting from all across the globe were actually coming from the ocean.
Not trying to point out the obvious here scientists, but the ocean has been here for a long time now… If the sound really was just a byproduct of ocean waves, why would people only start hearing and widely reporting on this phenomenon in just the last couple years?
In fact, a lot of the other theories can be shot down on the same principle. Whatever is causing the sound, it would have to be something recently introduced into our environment.
A bevy of other theories have been posited, everything from construction to underground tunnels to hollow Earth to top secret military projects to religious phenomenon to aliens to geophysical background noise, the last theory posited by NASA.
“If humans had radio antennas instead of ears, we would hear a remarkable symphony of strange noises coming from our own planet,” a NASA spokesperson told Tech Times.
Maybe the inundation of electromagnetic frequency everywhere via cell phone towers and new tech is making people more sensitive to sounds they wouldn’t normally have been able to pick up on? Is that possible?
In the meantime, it’s still a mystery, one that continues to be documented the world over.

This October may see the beginning of the end for the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Twice every decade the International Monetary Fund meets to discuss their Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency basket. Currently comprised of the dollar, Japanese Yen, British Pound and Euro, if China has their way a few months from now, we may well see the Chinese Yuan take its place among the world’s most trusted currencies.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says, “China isn’t ready for currency reserve status,” and would certainly like to see the Chinese blocked from entry, preserving the dollar’s status as the world’s go-to currency and primary mechanism of exchange for global international trade.
But while Lew and his predecessors have presided over the largest growth in national debt in world history, the Chinese have been strategically positioning, much like the United States did in the early 1900’s, to not just become the world’s largest economy, but to be the super power of the 21st century.
Forget for a moment what’s being touted by analysts, forecasters, politicians, and financial officials who say China is not ready. Focus instead on the actions being undertaken by China and you’ll understand why Chinese President Hu Jintao says that the dollar is a product of the past.

Excerpted From Future Money Trends:

Already we are seeing China and Russia hoard gold with Chinese demand skyrocketing in the past give year… China is both, the world’s largest gold producer and biggest importer… so not only are they accumulating gold by the truck load, but not one ounce produced is leaving their shore.

China… across the board… is preparing for something big in currency markets.

The world has an unease about the dollar system… President Hu of China said ‘the dollar is a product of the past.’

There was a time when the U.S. dollar was backed by gold. This backing helped to solidify it as a currency that could be trusted on the open market. Today, however, for all intents and purposes, the dollar is backed by absolutely nothing.
It is this weakness that the Chinese aim to exploit and that’s why they have been actively stockpiling thousands of tons of gold in recent years. But this is only part of the story.
In addition to their physical gold holdings, the Chinese have been using a secret gold accumulation strategythat no one is talking about :

The headlines for gold these past few years have only focused on physical gold accumulation by China, Russia and Eastern central banks. But what they have missed is a 7,000 year-old strategy that China is doubling down on.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, in 2013 asset purchases by Hong Kong and [Chinese] mainland miners increased to a record $2.2 billion.

China is buying gold mines at a record… something completely missed by both, the mainstream investor and even the gold analysts who tend to only focus on the bullion sales, which haven’t been disclosed officially since 2009.

Although, according to Bloomberg, based on trade data the physical bullion stockpile has likely tripled since then.

China, who is aggressively buying gold, would spark an event if it disclosed how much gold it has stockpiled.

But imagine the true disclosure when you add up all their deposits… not just in China, but offshore. $2.2 billion is equivalent to 46 metric tons of physical gold… but when buying gold deposits in the ground this could be upwards of 5,000 metric tons.

And that is just one year of record mine buying from China.

It’s been rumored that China may disclose those gold holdings ahead of the IMF’s decision this October in an effort to prove to the world that their currency is not only worthy of admission into the SDR basket, but that it is more trustworthy than the U.S. dollar itself.
The winds of change are blowing and the Chinese will soon be taking the helm of the global economy. They know a major event is coming and they have been preparing for it by acquiring the one asset that has survived the test of time as a mechanism of exchange.
For those desperately trying to figure out where they should be putting their money before the next major market event takes shape, consider following their strategy.

Nothing will please me more than when Whirlybird Janet is forced to admit the Fed has been wrong all along.  That said, when said “Yellen Reversal” inevitably occurs, it will likely usher in an unprecedented era of financial market instability and accelerated economic decline; and consequently, heightened social unrest, geopolitical instability, and a host of other nasty events (like a “Grexit” or Catalonia, Spain secession) that will make life far more difficult for not just the parties involved, but all of the planet’s seven-plus billion denizens.  This is why wise investors prepare for such worst-case scenarios beforehand; which in terms of financial assets, only physical Precious Metals have consistently proven their worth throughout history.

The Fed – as well as its Washington, Wall Street, and MSM minions – will continue to cheerlead until the bitter end, sitting atop the Titanic’s bobbing stern shouting “recovery.”  As will the ECB, BOJ, and all the world’s Central bankers, in their eternal quest to maintain a murderous status quo, in which the “1%” that own them gather all the world’s wealth, at the expense of the “99%” that actually built it.  However, like the Titanic, it is a mathematical certainty that history’s largest fiat Ponzi scheme will go down; and like the Titanic after it hit that fateful iceberg, the countdown to its demise has not only started, but is in its final economic “hours.”

All one has to do is search the daily headlines to realize how not three, four, or even five of the economic Titanic’s air tight compartments are now full, but all of them.  Just look at China, which last night revealed several extremely scary data points – starting with not only its fourth consecutive quarter of foreign capital outflow, but it largest ever quarterly deficit.  Throw in the official launch of the municipal debt “swap” program which is essentially a new form of QE, and you can see just how panicked the Chinese government is regarding the collapse of its historically unrivaled real estate, construction, and infrastructure bubble; which is probably why, taking a page from the Fed, it is attempting to bail out every zombified entity imaginable.

With Central bank balance sheets loaded to the gills with toxic “assets” already, and most having already taken interest rates to zero (or lower), not only will their credibility be destroyed, but their ability to respond to the next crisis – which, most likely, will be “the big one.” that changes the world forever.  Not that previous “responses” have achieved anything other than kicking the can a few years further, by dramatically worsening already unprecedented financial messes.  Consequently, time is running out to protect yourself – as when “the worst” truly arrives, if you haven’t protected yourself already, it will be too late.

Are you being watched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation because of your concerns about an overbearing government?

The answer should be obvious given the nature of America’s budding surveillance state and a new video shows just how far law enforcement officials are willing to go to protect the Homeland from anyone who engages in the dissemination of ideas that are counter to the official narrative.
As you’ll see in the footage below, if you show concern or are outspoken about the upcoming Jade Helm 15 military exercises, then you may be getting a personal home visit from the FBI.

Also see:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Updates From The Epicenter, EU's Special Representative To Middle East Peace Process Named

A senior Iranian military official warned on Thursday that any Israeli attack would unleash a firestorm of missiles on its cities fired by the Islamic Republic’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.

The Shiite militia has more than 80,000 rockets ready to fire at Tel Aviv and Haifa, said General Yahya Rahim Safavi, military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Iran, with the help of Hezbollah and its friends, is capable of destroying Tel Aviv and Haifa in case of military aggression on the part of the Zionists,” he said, quoted on state television.

“I don’t think the Zionists would be so unintelligent as to create a military problem with Iran,” the general said. “They know the strength of Iran and Hezbollah.”

Israeli military officials meanwhile have tacitly conveyed a threat to the Lebanese terror group through international media. Last week, the New York Times reported, based on maps and aerial photography from IDF officials, that Hezbollah has moved most of its military infrastructure into and around the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. According to the paper, Israeli officials say Hezbollah’s move is tantamount to using the civilians as human shields.

The paper quotes Israeli officials saying the IDF will not be deterred from striking at Hezbollah posts, indicating that the villages would be hit even harder than during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, is also mired in fights with rebels of nearly every Sunni group opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad, from Islamic State to the relatively moderate militias seeking to remove Assad from power.
Last week, a senior IDF intelligence official warned of a heightened threat of conflict over the next two years as a result of “escalation” in the region.

In a briefing to foreign journalists at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, the official referred specifically to Hezbollah, and to Iran’s arming of the group. Israel has repeatedly complained to the UN about Hezbollah’s violations of UN Resolution 1701 from 2006, which forbids the group from rearming.

“The Iranian threat is a tangible threat to Israel,” said the official, whose country has not ruled out the use of military force to block any attempt by Tehran to produce a nuclear bomb.

[Below is an interesting development - the "EU's Special Representative to the Middle East Process" has now been formalized]

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Thursday Europe would increase its efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and announced the appointment of a Jerusalem-based peace envoy.

Mogherini was in Israel this week for a two-day visit that included meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other high-ranking officials in Israel and the West Bank.

Mogherini reiterated the European desire to jump-start peace talks during a press conference Thursday in which she introduced the EU’s Special Representative to the Middle East Peace Process, Fernando Gentilini.

Gentilini, 53, arrived with Mogherini on Wednesday, after having been named to the position last month. 

The Italian diplomat previously served as director for Western Europe, the Western Balkans and Turkey in the European External Action Service

“This appointment emphasizes the resolve of the Union to ramp up its involvement in the peace process,” Mogherini said. “Gentilini will work to renew negotiations with the goal of arriving at a comprehensive peace agreement, based on a two-state solution.”

On Thursday, Mogherini also spoke with Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who was appointed by Netanyahu the government’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians.

“Israel wants to restart the negotiations immediately,” Shalom said.
“Europe can always have a central role in the Quartet,” he said, referring to the four-member diplomatic group, comprising the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, that has served as a central body coordinating international efforts on the peace talks.
Mogherini met with MK Herzog (Zionist Union) Thursday morning. “I am convinced that a more balanced position on your part would receive a more sympathetic ear in Israel,” Herzog told the European official.
Shalom’s nomination as peace negotiator was denounced by Palestinian officials who noted the former foreign minister does not support the two-state solution. Shalom has returned the criticism, telling Mogherini that Palestinian leaders are not acting to build trust.

“It cannot be that at the same time [as they say they are seeking peace progress, the Palestinians] want to turn to The Hague, to the Security Council and now to FIFA to kick us out,” he said.
Shalom was referring to the ongoing Palestinian effort to remove Israel from the international soccer federation for restricting the movement of Palestinian soccer players.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, the country’s de facto top diplomat, told Israeli diplomats Thursday not to hesitate in asserting to their foreign counterparts that the entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

In an unapologetic speech to incoming Foreign Ministry employees, Likud lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely said that “the time has come to tell the world that we’re right – not only smart.”

Hotovely, who favors the annexation of the West Bank and opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, told envoys, “We must return to the basic truth about our right to the land.”

Of course the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments of ethics and justice will trump security arguments,” she said, urging Israeli diplomats serving abroad to reiterate the Jewish people’s right to the entire land — apparently referring to sovereign Israel and the biblical Judea and Samaria.

Hotovely also quoted an article by late right-wing newspaper editor Uri Elitzur who maintained that Israel needed to shift its approach from arguing for its security interests to insisting in international forums it has a right to sovereignty over the West Bank.
“It’s important to say — this country is all ours. We didn’t come here to apologize for that,” Hotovely said.
During her speech, Hotovely cited the 11th-century Bible commentator Rashi, who explained the Bible’s focus on the story of the Jewish people’s origins in the Land of Israel and its exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land was meant to shore up the Jewish claim to the land in subsequent generations.

Diplomats were shocked at the speech, the Haaretz daily reported, and many “raised an eyebrow” over the reference to a Jewish Biblical right to the land.

After the speech, Hotovely told journalists that despite her personal political views, she was committed to pursuing a two-state solution in keeping with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared policy.
On Wednesday, Hotovely told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that the Palestinian Authority had “abandoned” peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians last year, and called on Europe to support Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

In a new move consolidating its grip in Syria, IS seized on Thursday Al-Tanaf, the last regime-held crossing on the border with Iraq, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. With their gains in Palmyra earlier Thursday, the monitor said the jihadists now control half of Syria’s territory.

The monitor said IS control of Al-Tanaf, known as Al-Walid by Iraqis, means Syrian government forces have lost control over the porous border.

The Observatory said jihadists spread out Thursday through Palmyra, including at the archaeological site in the city’s southwest, and executed 17 people accused of “working with the regime.”

The Islamic State group seized Syria’s Palmyra on Thursday, as UNESCO warned that the destruction of the ancient city would be “an enormous loss to humanity.”

US President Barack Obama played down the developments, saying he didn’t think the US was “losing” to IS.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova called Palmyra “the birthplace of human civilization. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening.”
French President Francois Hollande said the world must “act” both to save Palmyra and against IS.
Syrian state media said loyalist troops withdrew after “a large number of IS terrorists entered the city” at the crossroads of key highways leading west to Damascus and Homs, and east to Iraq.

IS proclaimed Palmyra’s capture online and posted video and several pictures, including of a hospital and a prison and a military airbase but none of the ancient site.

“IS now dominates central Syria, a crossroads of primary importance,” said Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria.
“Taking Palmyra opens the way to Damascus and Homs. Eventually, this axis can be threatened.”
IS has recently threatened a number of regime strongholds, including Deir Ezzor city in the east and military airports in the north and south.

“The capture of Palmyra leaves IS strongly placed to make more territorial gains from (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad, at a time when the government is heavily occupied in the north and south,” said Matthew Henman, head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.
The jihadist victory also “reinforces IS’s position as the single opposition group that controls the most territory in Syria.”

IS now controls “more than 95,000 square kilometers (38,000 square miles) in Syria, which is 50 percent of the country’s territory, “the Observatory said.
It dominates the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqa and has a strong presence in Hasakeh, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.
It has also seized most of Syria’s oil and gas fields, using the income to fund expansion of its self-styled “caliphate.”
“IS controls large and contiguous territory with a lot of freedom of movement,” said Charlie Winter, researcher on jihadism at the Quilliam Foundation.
Palmyra’s takeover came days after IS seized the Iraqi city of Ramadi, their most significant victory since mid-2014 when they conquered swaths of land, sparking a US-led air campaign to support Baghdad.
On Thursday IS pushed further and seized Iraqi positions east of Ramadi, officials said.