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Israel deploys ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system near Jerusalem

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Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defence system near Jerusalem Sunday, an AFP correspondent said, as the United States lobbied for domestic and international support for military strikes against Syria.

The correspondent said the battery was set up west of the city.

A military spokeswoman would not comment on the deployment, saying only that “defence systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments.”

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Late last month a battery of the mobile system was set up in the greater Tel Aviv area, pointing northwards towards Syria. Israeli media have reported that six or seven such batteries are currently in use.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Israel “an island of tranquillity, quiet and security” amidst “the storm raging around us”, without explicitly mentioning Syria or its ally Iran.

In previous weeks Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel was not involved in the war in Syria, but would “respond with force” if anyone attacked it.

The Israeli line on Syria was reiterated in remarks by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon later Sunday.

“We are not involved in the civil war in Syria unless our interests are compromised,” he said at a counter-terrorism conference in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

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“We are preparing for the ramification of action — or inaction — in Syria,” he continued.

“To our understanding, our neighbours, especially the Syrian regime, understands that whoever challenges us will encounter the power of the IDF (Israeli military), and we are preparing for that.”

Yaalon noted that “we held a security assessment today”, and the bottom line was that Israel was not reverting to a heightened level of alert in the wake of the developments in and regarding Syria.

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There are fears that if the United States and its allies attack Syria, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies could retaliate against neighbouring Israel, Washington’s key ally in the region.

Late last month, Iran’s army chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi warned: “Any military action against Syria will drive the Zionists to the edge of fire.”

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US President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to shore up support both at home and abroad for limited military strikes against Syria in retaliation for what it says is the regime’s use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb.

In Washington, Congress is due to begin full debate this week on whether to approve Obama’s plans when it returns from its summer break on Monday.

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‘Smoking gun so hot it’s still on fire’: Ex-US Attorney astonished by text shown in Vindman testimony

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A former U.S. Attorney says Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has delivered "smoking gun" evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement between President Donald Trump and Ukraine.

The National Security Council staffer told a House impeachment inquiry that he was aware of -- and alarmed by -- efforts as early as March to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, which he believed were conducted to deliver a political benefit the president.

The counsel for House Democrats then showed a text sent 30 minutes before Trump's July 25 call to Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky, which shows the special envoy Kurt Volker dangling a White House visit to a Zelensky aide in exchange for an investigation.

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‘Perfectly impeachable’: George Conway says Vindman and Williams testimony is ‘absolutely devastating’ for Trump

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On Tuesday, as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams testified publicly about their knowledge of the Ukraine scandal, conservative lawyer George Conway called the testimony "devastating" for President Donald Trump — and proclaimed his conduct both impeachable and criminal.

This testimony, from two witnesses to the July 25 call, is absolutely devastating. That call was absolutely “perfect,” all right—perfectly impeachable.

And criminal.

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 19, 2019

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‘Improper’, ‘Unusual’: Aides describe Trump’s Ukraine call at impeachment hearing

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One top national security aide who listened to President Donald Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president called it “improper.” Another said it was “unusual.” The two testified Tuesday at House impeachment hearings as the inquiry reached deeper into the White House.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, his counterpart at Vice President Mike Pence’s office, said they had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president about political investigations into Democrat Joe Biden.

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