Guest post: Healthcare OT Facilities Remain Exposed as IndustryExperienced 68 Attempted Ransomware Attacks in Q3

November 30, 2021

Radiflow noticed a massive uptick in cybersecurity attacks during Q3 of this year (let’s see what Q4 brings us). Many of these attacks specifically target the healthcare sector as their data is so sensitive, and continuous access to their systems is a matter of life and death.

As guest post here is a press release by Radiflow that covers:

  • Data on 68 Q3 attacks as reported by the US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Impact of OT cyberattacks on healthcare facilities such as the publication of records for 290,000 patients from a single attack
  • Foreign state-sponsored cyber-terror in the Middle East

Ilan Barda, Founder and CEO of RadiflowHealthcare facilities are prime targets for hackers, given their legacy devices and wealth of patient data. “With the high cost of each attack, healthcare providers must protect facilities so they can safely deliver excellent care without interruption,” said Ilan Barda, CEO of Radiflow.

Tel Aviv, Israel, November 29, 2021- Last month saw an alarming rise in cyber attacks against healthcare facilities. Ransomware attacks across the globe out of their respective networks during Q3 of this year alone, threatening patient safety and privacy. Experts fear that patients will suddenly be unable to receive critical care at a targeted facility without a holistic whole-facility cybersecurity approach.

Johnson Memorial Health Hospital in Franklin, Indiana, US, and the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera, Israel, are just two examples of the attacked medical facilities. At Johnson Memorial, the early-October attack locked databases and exposed patient data. Days after the attack, a ransom amount was strangely not yet requested. In early November, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center was attacked by an allegedly Iran-backed group, Black Shadow. The personal data of 290,000 individuals were released, and investigators estimated that it would take many weeks to recover and understand the full scope of what had been accessed.

As healthcare facilities modernize, their legacy OT equipment becomes vulnerable to hackers. Water, HVAC, oxygen, electrical, and other critical systems are connected, yet may fall short of proper cybersecurity monitoring and protection. Compromising any of these utilities will negatively impact patient care, potentially threatening the lives of those being treated.

“Accessing patient data is worrisome, but the idea of hackers gaining access to components in a specific ward or even a single operating room is alarming,” said Ilan Barda, CEO of Radiflow. “CISOs at facilities should focus on both IT systems and OT environments, starting from risk assessment to threat monitoring. There should be continuous holistic risk management for more mature organizations that combine both IT and OT systems. With Radiflow, teams can monitor the full range of a healthcare OT security from one central location.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had warned about the alarming trends in 2021, with 68 global attacks on healthcare facilities in Q3 of this year alone. Companies such as Radiflow, partnering with MSSPs around the globe, have spent over a decade protecting OT facilities by creating purpose-driven technologies to monitor complex always-on systems, such as those found throughout hospitals. “CISOs today need to allocate resources carefully. To optimize their resource allocation, they can use CIARA OT-BAS tool to monitor for weak points and assess their risk exposure,” said Barda.

Healthcare facilities are prime targets for hackers, given their legacy devices and wealth of patient data. “With the high cost of each attack, healthcare providers must protect facilities so they can safely deliver excellent care without interruption,” said Ilan Barda, CEO of Radiflow.

Tel Aviv, Israel, November 29, 2021- Last month saw an alarming rise in cyber attacks against healthcare facilities. Ransomware attacks across the globe locked 68 care providers out of their respective networks during Q3 of this year alone, threatening patient safety and privacy. Experts fear that patients will suddenly be unable to receive critical care at a targeted facility without a holistic whole-facility cybersecurity approach.

Johnson Memorial Health Hospital in Franklin, Indiana, US, and the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera, Israel, are just two examples of the attacked medical facilities. At Johnson Memorial, the early-October attack locked databases and exposed patient data. Days after the attack, a ransom amount was strangely not yet requested. In early November, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center was attacked by an allegedly Iran-backed group, Black Shadow. The personal data of 290,000 individuals were released, and investigators estimated that it would take many weeks to recover and understand the full scope of what had been accessed.

As healthcare facilities modernize, their legacy OT equipment becomes vulnerable to hackers. Water, HVAC, oxygen, electrical, and other critical systems are connected, yet may fall short of proper cybersecurity monitoring and protection. Compromising any of these utilities will negatively impact patient care, potentially threatening the lives of those being treated.

“Accessing patient data is worrisome, but the idea of hackers gaining access to components in a specific ward or even a single operating room is alarming,” said Ilan Barda, CEO of Radiflow. “CISOs at facilities should focus on both IT systems and OT environments, starting from risk assessment to threat monitoring. There should be continuous holistic risk management for more mature organizations that combine both IT and OT systems. With Radiflow, teams can monitor the full range of a healthcare OT security from one central location.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had warned about the alarming trends in 2021, with 68 global attacks on healthcare facilities in Q3 of this year alone. Companies such as Radiflow, partnering with MSSPs around the globe, have spent over a decade protecting OT facilities by creating purpose-driven technologies to monitor complex always-on systems, such as those found throughout hospitals. “CISOs today need to allocate resources carefully. To optimize their resource allocation, they can use CIARA OT-BAS tool to monitor for weak points and assess their risk exposure,” said Barda.


Sudanese Coup and Some Regional Aspects

November 7, 2021

The Sudanese coup in October 2021 is condemned by most Western countries and international organizations such as  UN, EU and African Union.  The coup was met with resistance from pro-democracy Sudanese civilians some of whom took to the streets of Khartoum as well around Sudan in protest;  many banks, schools and businesses were closed. 

It was predicted strong civilian resistance to the coup but the military however tooked the risk.Factors motivating the military to halt the transition to democracy might include their personal interests but one can not exclude some regions and economic aspects.

Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the Sudanese military, announced the army will run the country until elections can be held

Sudan is Africa’s third-largest country by area, and the third-largest by area in the Arab League and it has population of some 45 million people. Sudan’s history goes back to the Pharaonic period, but only on 1st January 1956, Sudan was duly declared an independent state.  Since independence, Sudan has been ruled by a series of unstable parliamentary governments and military regimes.

Between 1989 and 2019, Sudan experienced a 30-year-long military dictatorship led by Omar al-Bashir accused of human rights abuses including torture, persecution of minorities, allegations of sponsoring global terrorism, and ethnic genocide due to its role in the War in the Darfur region that broke out in 2003.

On 19th December 2018, massive protests began against the rule of President al-Bashir, who finally was ousted on 11th April 2019 and his government was replaced by Transitional Military Council (later joint military-civilian Sovereignty Council of Sudan). Islam was Sudan’s state religion and Islamic laws applied from 1983 until 2020. An accord between the transitional government and rebel group leadership was signed in September 2020, in which the government agreed to officially separate the state and religion, ending three decades of rule under Islamic law. It also agreed that no official state religion will be established.

The Sudanese Coup

As of August 2021, the country was jointly led by Chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. In October 2021 a military coup resulted in the capture of the civilian government including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The coup was led by general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan with help of general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemetti), who was the Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Military Council (TMC).

General al-Burhan subsequently declared a state of emergency.  The African Union suspended Sudan’s membership, pending a return to power of the Hamdok government. Also the European Union, the United States and other western powers stated that they continued to recognise the Hamdok cabinet as “the constitutional leaders of the transitional government”.

Before the October coup the Chair of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan was planned to be transferred to a civilian selected by the FFC civilian members of the Sovereignty Council in November 2021.  The factors motivating the military to halt the transition to democracy might have included their personal risk of national or international war crimes charges and their risk of loss of military control of the national budget that could disrupt military-owned commercial interests and of losing control of the gold trade and other personal business.

Israel

Israel and Sudan began normalising their relations since sc Abraham Accords 2020.  It tries to stabilize and develop cooperation with Sudan in long term basis.  According to intelnews Israeli government officials, which likely included members of the Mossad spy agency, paid a secret visit  to Sudan in the days prior to the October 25 coup d’état, but were given no indication of what was about to happen, according to reports from Israel.

According to the report, the Israeli delegation held several meetings with leading Sudanese government officials, among them Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo (Hemetti), a general in Sudan’s notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group. The RSF was a leading actor in the October 25th coup, which resulted in the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and most of his cabinet.

Unlike most Western countries have condemned the Sudanese coup, Israel has not issued any statements against the military takeover of power.  The reason for this might be because the Sudanese military  is the main supporter of normalizing Sudan’s relations with Israel. On the other hand, the civilian-led revolutionary movement, has been critical of Israel and has expressed strong support for the Palestinians.

Burhan with Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, Eli Cohen, in January 2021

Israeli officials visited Khartoum also a week after the military coup in Sudan,, meeting with Sudanese generals, including Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemetti),  to assess the local situation.  And weeks before the coup, Dagalo had travelled to Israel to meet members of the Israeli National Security Council and officials in the prime minister’s office.

The silence can be seen as a sign of support for the military. Sudanese security leaders have been seen as more active in normalisation efforts towards Israel than civilian members of the former government.

Israel has one special relationship to Ethiopia and Sudan as sc Aliyah from Ethiopia is the immigration of the Beta Israel people to Israel. In the absence of full diplomatic relations with Ethiopia, the Israeli Mossad contacted officials in Sudan, which is adjacent to Ethiopia. Thousands of Beta Israel from Ethiopia traveled by foot to the border with Sudan, and waited there in temporary camps until they were flown to Israel. Today there is ~160,000 people in Israel from Ethiopian origin.

Tigray

Sudan and Ethiopia had peaceful relations for decades despite a long-standing border dispute over the agricultural area known as al-Fashaqa, which is adjacent to Ethiopia’s northwest Amhara region.  But last November 2020, while the Ethiopian army was busy battling against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels, the Sudanese army took control of the contested area.

In Ethiopia last November (2021), conflict broke out between the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the governing party of the northern Tigray region that dominated Ethiopian politics until being sidelined by Abiy. Nearly 10 months later, the conflict has grown into a de facto civil war. According al-Jazeera, the fight spreads across the country, it is bringing with it famine, massive refugee flows, widespread civilian deaths and sexual assaults, and fears of ethnic cleansing.

Tigrays’ landscape

According the report  of The Guardian (1st November 2021),  Tigrayan forces said they had seized control of the strategic cities of Dessie and Kombolcha, positioning them to move down a major road towards Addis Ababa. Ethiopian government forces and their allies – e.g. from Eritrea –  have been fighting against TPLF, for just over a year.

But the conflict has developed rapidly after the Ethiopians suffered a series of reverses since June, and the TPLF has recruited more allies to its cause.Eight other rebel groups, including the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), announced they and the TPLF were joining forces amid growing speculation they will attempt to march on the capital following a series of military gains. The success of TPLF is remarkable as Tigray has population some seven million compared to Ethiopia with nearly 120 million population total.   

GERD – Waterwar

Sudanese Coup and Tigray war are connected to so-far less intensive but potentially larger clash which has been brewing over control of the Nile River. After 10 years of construction, Ethiopia has begun filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia asserts that the GERD project, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric facilities, is necessary to meet the country’s growing energy needs. Downriver countries Sudan and Egypt, on the other hand, have warned that disruptions of the flow of the Nile River would be devastating. Khartoum and Cairo have demanded that Ethiopia share information and coordinate control of the dam’s operations with them, a request that Ethiopia has dismissed as a violation of its own sovereignty.

The primary purpose of the dam is electricity production to relieve Ethiopia’s acute energy shortage and for electricity export to neighboring countries. With a planned installed capacity of 6.45 gigawatts, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the seventh largest in the world.

Filling the reservoir began in July 2020. It will take between 4 and 7 years to fill with water, depending on hydrologic conditions during the filling period.  The second filling was completed on 19th July 2021, without the agreement of Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed has remained intractable, and the Tigray crisis seems to have only hardened his resolve to reject negotiations or compromise over the GERD. Formally, Sudan and Egypt have pursued political and legal avenues to resolve the dispute, appealing to the UN Security Council and the African Union, among others, to intervene. More ominously, however, both countries have hinted that military action could be on the table if a peaceful solution is not achieved. Earlier this year, Sudan and Egypt held joint military drills, giving the exercises the unsubtle name, “Guardians of the Nile”. Although Egypt potentially has more to lose from interrupted access to the Nile, which supplies nearly all of the country’s water, Sudan’s proximity to Ethiopia makes it likely that any fight over the GERD would largely play out between Sudanese and Ethiopian forces, especially given the other sources of tension that exist along the border.

One should also note that earlier on 19 December 2020, Sudanese army and Rapid Support Forces retook areas previously taken by Ethiopia and Amhara Region militias in Al Qadarif, Sudan.

Concluding remarks

The leaders of Sudanese coup are well connected with powerful friends.  In May 2019, Burhan’s first international trip was to Egypt to meet Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.  Earlier he had military training in Egypt and Jordania.  Today he is mostly supported by Egypt.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemetti) traded camels prior to the War in Darfur, now he is the biggest gold trader in Sudan.  This gave him considerable financial power in Sudan since gold trade constituted forty percent of Sudanese exports in 2017.  In May 2019, Hemetti’s first international trip was to Saudi Arabia to meet Mohammad bin Salman, during which he stated: “Sudan is standing with the kingdom against all threats and attacks from Iran and Houthi militias.” He has been providing mercenaries for the Saudi war in Yemen, and is  mostly supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian establishment has been providing financial, military, and diplomatic assistance to armed and unarmed Ethiopian forces in its bid to destabilize and weaken Ethiopia and thwart its ambition to utilize the resources of the Nile River.  Egypt has been assisting the Gumuz militia in Ethiopia’s western Benishangul-Gumuz state, where the dam is located.  According to the Ethiopian government, the sole aim of the Gumuz militia, which has been trying to block the main road leading to the dam, is to trigger a civil war in the region and beyond and eventually delay or thwart the dam’s construction.

Also, according to Ethiopian officials, Egypt tried to befriend the federal government of Somalia by promising military aid, but the Somali authorities refused it. After this Egypt turned to Somaliland, a self-ruling region that has been at loggerheads with the federal government. Egyptian policy is explained not only by the Blue Nile Water War (GERD), but also by the country’s quest to gain a foothold in the Horn of Africa and wider influence in the region.

Israel has kept a low profile regarding its relationship with Khartoum and the new junta and unlike most Western countries has not issued any statements against the military takeover of power. The silence can be seen as a sign of support for the military.

The position of Israel can be understood from a regional perspective. For decades, Egypt has been the main mediator in Israeli clashes with Hamas. Sudan is a major Arab country with which Israel seeks to normalize relations. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are a significant part of the alliance against Israel’s main enemy – Iran.

Sources e.g: intelnews , The New Arab , al-Jazeera , Africanews  


Guest post: European EV market could gain from a Russian gas supply

October 6, 2021

Russian project L-Charge starts to roll out its gas powered charging infrastructure for EVs in Europe. Russian share in European gas imports is expected to grow by 10% in upcoming years.  L-Charge offers to develop a virtual grid of mobile and stationary mini power plants using natural gas to generate power for EVs. That could ease the pressure on the energy grid while securing the development of the EV market.  Here one can find a guest post European EV market could gain from a Russian gas supply by Ludmila Gorodnicheva, PR manager L-Charge:

European EV market could gain from a Russian gas supply


While gas prices are skyrocketing, analysts say this should soon normalize. At the same time a gas supply could boost the charging infrastructure development as another Russian company promises to roll out a gas powered charging infrastructure for EVs in Europe.

Russian share in European gas imports is expected to grow by 10% in upcoming years. LNG supplies are also expected to pick up by 2025 to around 90 Bcm, and peaking in 2030 at some 130 Bcm – SPGlobal says .

As of 2020 Russia occupies over 43% in natural gas imports into the European Union. But apart from the Nord Stream 2 project it could also start exporting value added gas-powered electricity for ever-growing European electric vehicles market as another Russian project L-Charge starts to roll out its network in Europe.

Natural gas demand in the EU is forecasted to grow by 14% to 23% until 2030, with most of the growth expected to come from power plants and the transport industry – Oxford Institute for Energy says. .

Wind and solar can provide up to 60% of power in countries like Germany and Britain, but long periods of quiet and cloudy weather puts pressure on the back-up capacity. So the natural gas is just gaining weight as the main source for power generation. And the abnormal price growth for natural gas illustrates the trend.

European gas market prices have skyrocketed more than 116% since the start of the year, with the ICIS TTF benchmark closing at an all-time high of 47.86 euros ($56.17) per megawatt-hour on Aug. 16. It is reflective of a tight market, with Europe facing incredibly low natural gas storage levels. The continent has to boost its own buffer stockpiles ahead of the heating season, with countries from the U.K. to Spain and Germany already contending with energy inflation due to soaring gas and electricity prices. This creates a pressure on European energy grid and the consumer’s prices for electricity. Carbon free strategy and the electric car revolution in Europe could be jeopardized if electric power generation fails to keep up with demand, while the charging network itself needs to sharpen up its act. However, analyst says that the prices will normalize as storage facilities for gas will be extended. Current situation speaks more of an importance of this source for power generation in following decades. Another problem emerging is that dramatically underdeveloped energy grid infrastructure.

Chris Burghardt, managing director of ChargePoint Europe says building and linked-to-grids charging infrastructure for EVs might require something between 60 and €100 billion investments a year in the coming 10 years in Europe alone. Which seems to be quite a heavy duty considering the postpandemic uncertainty in global economy. However, there could be a solution in developing off-the-grid infrastructure powered by natural gas.

Another Russian company L-Charge offers to develop a virtual grid of mobile and stationary mini power plants using natural gas to generate power for EVs. That could ease the pressure on the energy grid while securing the development of the EV market.”An essential problem still separates us from the massive transition to EV – the underdeveloped charging infrastructure. It is possible to solve this problem quickly by deploying an off-grid network of charging stations”, – says Dmitry Lashin, CEO of L-Charge.

Power generation requires massive spending by governments in Europe while improving public access to charging means companies must end the current bewildering fragmentation, and make taking on board electricity as user-friendly as provided by the traditional fossil fuel network.

“Though there might be enough electricity available, what really matters is the power requirement. If all the EVs decide to charge at the same time, there will be a huge demand on power rather than total energy needed. It will require big investments in additional power generation which has to be CO2 free”, – Gautam Kalghatgi, engineering expert and visiting professor at Oxford University explains.

L-Charge promises to solve both problems as it has presented its mobile EV charger at Smarter Europe in Munich on 6th of October. Designed for highways, gas stations, and parking lots, L-Charge’s stationary charger does not require any staff or connection to an external power grid. Chargers run on an internal supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) or LNG/H2 mixture. 600 kW power generators are the core of the L-Charge stationary mini-power station for fast charging of EV. 

The L-Charge team notes their devices emit 7.05kg of CO2 per 100km of charge power, 68% less than diesel vehicles. 

L-Charge plans to roll out its EV charging stations in Europe by 2022. But the first charger will be available in Munich, Barcelona and Amsterdam starting this autumn.  The service has already been in operation in Moscow and will come into full operation in Abu Dhabi by the end of 2021.

According to the German OEKO the electric vehicle demand share of total electricity demand will varying between 3% and 25% among the EU-28 countries by 2050. It will increase to more than 10% in many countries. On EU average, it will make up 9.5% by 2050 with an electric car stock penetration of 80%. With the rolling out of the gas powered charging infrastructure for EVs that will mean a greater presence of Russia in European energy market. But this is also how it could benefit from it.


Guest post: European EV market could gain from a Russian gas supply

October 6, 2021

Kosovo Leaders in International Court – Finally

September 17, 2021

The first trial opened on Sep.15th 2021 at a special court (The Kosovo Specialist Chambers- KSC) dealing with crimes during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict.  The first case is against Salih Mustafa, 50, a former pro-independence commander who faces charges of murder, accused of running a prison unit. Prosecutors said victims were fellow Kosovo Albanians who disagreed politically with Kosovo Liberation Army fighters. The KSC has indicted eight suspects, all of whom are in custody at a detention unit in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen. 

The Kosovo tribunal’s highest-profile suspect is former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who resigned in 2020 and turned himself last year to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  One could note that less than a year ago, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned after he was summoned by the same court on suspicion of war crimes.

Thaçi is from the region of Drenica in Kosovo, which is where the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) originated. He studied philosophy in Prishtina before moving to Switzerland, where he joined the KLA  in 1993. He rose through the ranks of the KLA to become leader of the most powerful faction by 1999, during the Rambouillet negotiations. He then joined the interim Kosovo administration after the war.

Thaçi became leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which won the largest share of the vote in the 2007 Kosovo elections. In 2008, Thaçi declared the independence of Kosovo and became its first prime minister. In 2016 he was elected President of Kosovo. Thaçi has pursued a pro-American policy while in office. There have been controversies regarding Thaçi’s role in the KLA and allegations about him being involved in organized crime. In 2020, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office filed a ten-count Indictment, charging Hashim Thaçi and others for crimes against humanity and war crimes.Thaci, a U.S.-backed national hero, embarked on his political career after leading the KLA’s battle against forces under Milosevic. He has been the dominant political figure in the country since its independence 13 years ago. Thaçi subsequently resigned from his position as president, in his words, in order to “protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo”.

kos3

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA aka UÇK) were established mid-90s during war in Bosnia. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties.  In my earlier article Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo  (in 2008) I described how (Kosovo) Albanian organized crime organizations gained remarkable role in Europe. 

 

Thaçi and other members of his inner circle were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports” . For example the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), describes Thaçi’s Drenica group “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.

kos5

In April 2008 Madam Carla Del Ponte, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), published a book “La caccia – Io e i criminali di guerra”. In the book, almost ten years after the end of the war in Kosovo, there appeared revelations of trafficking in human organs taken from Serb prisoners, reportedly carried out by leading commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo” , for Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty, expands on allegations made by Mrs. Del Ponte.

The PACE report claims that civilians – Serbian and non-KLA-supporting Kosovan Albanians detained by the KLA in the 1999 hostilities – were shot in northern Albania and their kidneys extracted and sold on the black market. It names Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the KLA and Kosovo’s prime minister, as the boss of a “mafia-like” group engaged in criminal activity – including heroin trading – since before the 1999 war.

I agree with those who claim that it is clear that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, as well as its hasty recognition as an independent state, was a mistake. While I was working in Kosovo after bombings as EU expert for local administration it was clear how Kosovo Albanian ”freedom fighters” started to transform themselves to political leaders of this then international protectorate. International community – via UN/UNMIK, NATO/KFOR, EU/TAFKO/EAR and affiliates – which were administrating Kosovo, was well aware of the direct links between organized crime clans and political leaders.

kos1

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More reading:

My articles:

About possible solutions e.g. my articles

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from “leaked” German Intelligence report BND report 2005 .

The report, Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”, prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty. Investigations conducted by the Swiss diplomat, Dick Marty on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have revealed the true picture of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci. In his report to the PACE’s Commission, Thaci is presented as the leader of a criminal gang engaged in the smuggling of weapons, the distribution of illegal drugs throughout Europe and the selling of human organs for unlawful transplantation. The Swiss senator conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.

A good article by F. William Engdahl: Washington’s Bizarre Kosovo Strategy could Destroy NATO  .

Sources e.g Reuters , live update from the KSC , Wikipedia.


Anti-Taliban War is Not Over, It’s Already Starting

August 21, 2021

On Aug. 2021 the Taliban was taking over provinces one by one till they finally reached the power centre, Kabul.  However while the militants appear firmly in control, some prominent figures vowed to continue resistance as protests erupted in two cities and millions of Afghans parsed clues about the Taliban’s intentions.  So the anti-Taliban war is not over, it’s starting and not hopefully only in Afghanistan.

Since the collapse of Kabul, there has been a comparison with similar events in Vietnam. Images of the evacuation of Americans from the embassy are similar, as are the inability of government forces to resist the occupiers. However, the main difference is in the opponent: Vietcong was superior in both manpower and skill compared to the Taliban. The only similarity was in the spirit of struggle, based on the former to Communism and the latter to radical Islamism.

Taliban fighters are mostly inexperienced poorly trained madrasa students just to know how to follow the orders of their Mullahs.  Now they have very sophisticated weapons seized from government forces but it takes time to learn how to use this arsenal.  The strength of Taliban forces is estimated to be between 70 000 – 100 000 fighters so it is not any wide people’s army.

However Taliban has been a powerful grass roots movement in the last decades in Afghanistan. The Taliban insurgents have been doing much more than the Afghan government to establish good governance and accountability. In the remote provinces, the Taliban’s efforts have reinforced two images: on the one hand an absent and/or corrupt Afghan central government and effective and accountable Taliban administration on the other. The Taliban has been answering better to the needs of ordinary citizens than the U.S. and their puppet government in Kabul.  This is the base to their success and I can agree that Talibans have real support in conservative countryside and provinces.

Base of a mass uprising

There is a wide anti-Taliban spirit based on experience or hope of better life and freedom without Taliban rule. Also there is fear that the Taliban will act like before.  In urban areas, girls have been able to go to school, women have been able to work in demanding positions, for example in the media. The younger generation has gotten a glimpse of Western freedom, entrepreneurs have seen more earning opportunities than just drug trafficking. This operating environment, especially in urban areas, lays the foundation for an anti-Taliban uprising.

One should note that many warlords did not surrendered, they moved with their militia and arms e.g. to Uzbekistan.  Also part of Afghanistan airforce –  tenths of aircrafts and pilots – moved to Uzbekistan.Already now the anti-Taliban demonstrations have begun. For example Taliban fighters used gunfire to disperse demonstrations in the northeastern city of Jalalabad and the southeastern city of Khost, with some of the protesters raising the Afghan government flags that the Taliban had taken down just days earlier. News reports said two or three people were killed in Jalalabad.  Similar events have occurred across the country.

Taliban does not rule the whole Afghanistan

Though the Taliban hold control of nearly all of the country, some prominent figures continued to hold out with a corps of loyal fighters, saying they do not recognize the Taliban as legitimate rulers. One of them, Amrullah Saleh, the vice president in the toppled government, claimed that Mr. Ghani’s flight from the country had made him the acting president.  Mr Saleh is getting support from Defense Minister Gen. Dismillan Mohammad as well Norhern Alliance leader Ahmad Massoud.

Panjshir valley has newer been occupied or captured by any external force – not USSR in 80s, not Taliban 90s and not now.  The Panjshir valley north of Kabul is still littered with the wrecked carcasses of Soviet armoured vehicles destroyed in unsuccessful battles to conquer it, and the region also held out against the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan in 1996-2001.

Mr. Saleh is allied with a regional leader, Ahmad Massoud, whose father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was the leading anti-Taliban commander a generation ago, until he was assassinated two days before the Sept. 11 attacks.  Ahmad Shah Massoud always struggled and hoped for an independent, self-sufficient, and strong Afghanistan with a just and democratic political system. He was respected, and would always insist on democracy, and inclusive elections where both men and women could participate.

Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of Ahmad Shah Massoud,has pledged on Aug 19th 2021 to hold out against the Taliban from his stronghold in the Panjshir valley.

“We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come,” he said according Reuters, adding that some of the forces who had joined him had brought their weapons. “If Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face staunch resistance from us,” he said. 

He said his forces would not be able to hold out without help from the West and he appealed for support and logistical help from the United States, Britain and France.

“The Taliban are not a problem for the Afghan people alone. Under Taliban control, Afghanistan will without doubt become ground zero of radical Islamist terrorism; plots against democracies will be hatched here once again,” he said.

Three scenarios

In my opinion there is now three scenarios how the situation is developing during next weeks and they are as follows:

  1. Zero-option
  2. Humanitarian intervention
  3. Coin implemented by anti-Taliban forces

The zero-option is already ongoing, the actions are focused to ad hoc evacuation of foreigners from Afghanistan and to secure Kabul airport so long that they are out with so many Afghans than possible.

In my view the probable outcome will be that in one month the most part of Afghanistan, including Kabul, is under the Taliban rule meaning sharia law, some ethnic cleansing, some massacres, throwing basic human rights to trash, big amount of Afghan refugees inside and outside the country and naturally a human catastrophe e.g. due lack of food.  The international community will react to this with some high flow statements and humanitarian aid to refugee camps.

Humanitarian intervention better sooner than later is unlikely and/or expensive.   Fast decisions could be made only in U.S. and Russia and the best scenario would be a joint operation, first airstrikes and then ground operation.

Sure effective counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) operation – implemented be U.S. and Russia, financed partly EU i.a. –  could be solution.  Effective means that some 600 000 counter -insurgents/soldiers should be send to Afghanistan as soon as possible to work in cities, villages and country-side with local tribes.  The idea is to disarm local Taliban troops and with local tribes start to build some basic public services, local government  and economy with vision of even some human rights.  After few years time might be right to start build national wide cooperation based on these local units, “cantons” or provinces.  The outcome might be loose federation or  confederation with minimal central governance.  

As said I don’t see any interest in international community to implement this scenario.  (More in Will Coin work in Afghanistan? )

coin

Coin implemented by anti-Taliban forces

Counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) strategy was planned for Afghanistan by U.S. but it was not implemented. Coin theory emphasises a “population-centric” over an “enemy-centric” approach. Coin is predicated on the idea that it is possible to win supporters for an insurgency by providing security and basic services, and ensuring the presence of a strong, legitimate government. Idea was to split the country into smaller units that could be controlled by local warlords and tribes.

In my opinion the best option is to start anti-Taliban fight from Panjshir valley which is already ruled by anti-Taliban forces – over 10 000 well trained soldiers with superior fighting spirit. I have no doubt that Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud could lead the anti-Taliban struggle to the victory in much of Afghanistan, including Kabul.

Northern alliance has support also outside Panjshir valley as members of the Afghan military including some from the elite Special Forces units had rallied to Massaud’s cause.  In addition some troops dodged, with their weapons, recent Taliban invasion to neighbour countries and also part of Afghanistan airforce –  tenths of aircrafts and pilots – moved to Uzbekistan.  It might be possible that outside Panjshir valley there is over 50 000 armed and well trained soldier to join anti-Taliban battle. 

One yet unused potential with anti-Taliban fight are Afghan women.  Educated and skilled Afghan women can work in diverse support functions and even as armed forces after a short training. Women’s forces demonstrated their effectiveness in the Kurdish Peshmerga army in Iraq as fundamentalist ISIS forces fled their path for fear of being killed by women and thus out of Paradise.

In my view, it is clear that the so-called international community is not making any humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan, it is at most working to limit the feared influx of refugees and to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan and its borders.

Fortunately, in my view, Afghans can win the anti-Taliban struggle themselves without a foreign ground operation. Willing outsiders, states, communities, and individuals can accelerate this process by supporting the anti-Taliban struggle with donations, weapons, ammunition, intelligence, and perhaps at some point limited air strikes.

Outcome

If or when anti-Taliban forces gain power in most of Afghanistan, the civil war could end and there might be some possibilities to think Afghanistan as a state.   Maybe the best democratic idea could be use an emergency loya jirga (a temporary council traditionally made up of representatives from Afghan tribes and opposing factions used decide matters of national significance). Loya jirga with 1,500 to 2,000 delegates representing all of the major players and parts of the countries could resolve today’s problems like they have traditionally resolved them in the past.


Afghanistan: In or Out

August 15, 2021

Leave the Rag Heads to their rocks . Close the  borders. (one alternative strategy in discussion forums)

On the beginning of August 2021 it was estimation that Kabul will collapse between 90-150 days.  As of writing this article on August 14th it seems that Kabul – as the whole Afghanistan – will be in the hands of Taliban next week. There will be anyone to defend the capital, the government army and police are useless, other units in provincies have escaped without fighting and the Taliban has got their modern U.S. donated weapons.  The situation is chaotic as time slot e.g. to evacuate U.S. collaborators, translators and their families is almost non existing. 

This means that the West does not have old ally in Kabul and the rest of country.  If they want to negotiate anything the only partner is the Taliban.

To me it’s clear that the central government in Kabul can not be effective partner while seeking any strategy for Afghanistan. On country side the Taliban are the residents of that place and historically they have proved how resistant they are towards the foreign invaders and their ideas.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War following: “Strategy without tactics is the slow road to victory, but tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” I agree and would add that if there is no vision about endgame one does not even know is the road leading to victory or defeat.

Some historical background:  Soviet invasion

In Afghanistan, prior to the Soviet (Russian) invasion, the Marxist–Leninist political party in Afghanistan -PDPA  ( the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan) – invited the USSR to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure, mainly exploration and mining of minerals and natural gas. The USSR also sent contractors to build hospitals, roads and schools and to drill water wells. They also trained and equipped the Afghan army. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), and the PDPA regime lasted, in some form or another, until April 1992.

Once in power (April 1978-), the PDPA moved to permit freedom of religion and carried out an ambitious land reform waiving farmers’ debts countrywide. Once in power, the PDP embarked upon a program of rapid modernization centered on separation of Mosque and State, eradication of illiteracy (which at the time stood at 90%), land reform, emancipation of women, and abolition of feudal practices. A Soviet-style national flag replaced the traditional black, red, and green.  Traditional practices that were deemed feudal – such as usury, bride price and forced marriage – were banned, and the minimum age of marriage was raised. The government stressed education for both women and men, and launched an ambitious literacy campaign.Sharia Law was abolished, and men were encouraged to cut off their beards.

These new reforms were not well received by the majority of the Afghan population, particularly in rural areas; many Afghans saw them as un-Islamic and as a forced approach to Western culture in Afghan society.[They also made a number of statements on women’s rights and introduced women to political life.

As part of a Cold War, in 1979 the United States government began to covertly fund forces ranged against the pro-Soviet government, although warned that this might prompt a Soviet intervention. The secular nature of the government made it unpopular with conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside who favoured traditionalist ” Islamic” restrictions on women’s rights and in daily life. Many groups, led by members of the traditional establishment were formed, some of them resorting to violence and sabotage to the country’s infrastructure and industry. under the umbrella of Mujahideen, or ” Holy Muslim Warriors”. The Mujahideen belonged to various different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative ‘Islamic’ ideology.

The Soviet Union intervened on December 24, 1979. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion backed by another one hundred thousand and by members of the Parcham faction. For over nine years the Soviet Army conducted military operations against the Afghan Mujahideen rebels. The American CIA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia assisted in the financing of the resistance also because of the anti-communist stance. Among the foreign participants in the war was Osama bin Laden, whose MAK ( maktab al-Khidamat/Office of Order) organization trained a small number of Mujahideen and provided some arms and funds to fight the Soviets. Around 1988 MAK broke away from the Mujahideen to expand the anti-Soviet resistance effort into a world-wide Islamic fundamentalist movement.

The Soviets withdrew its troops in February of 1989, but continued aid to the government led by Mohammed Najibullah. Massive amounts of aid from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to the Mujahideen also continued. In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. All support for the Republic of Afghanistan stopped. In April 1992, the PDPA regime in Afghanistan collapsed.  Fighting continued among the victorious Mujahideen factions, which gave rise to a state of warlordism. It was at this time that the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, eventually seizing Kabul in 1996 and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By the end of 2000 the Taliban had captured 95% of the country.

While the total Afghan population is 28,150,000, some 3.3 million Afghans are now involved in producing opium.  Opium etc production and politics have interactive connection especially in Afghanistan. Earlier I have studied how US foreign policy tactics helped to create logistics between markets via Balkan route and producers of heroin. I have described the outcome as Fourfold or Quadruple Helix Model where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis. 

During the Taliban’s rule, much of the population experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from jobs, girls forbidden to attend schools or universities. Communists were systematically eradicated and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. Opium production was nearly wiped out by the Taliban by 2001.

COIN

An old CBS documentary – “Bombing Afghanistan– made comparison of the Russian past and then current practice of a Yank in Afghanistan. A couple of extracts:

“During the Russian invasion we have not heard of 10 members of one family being killed by Russians in one incident. But the Americans did that, “remarked a Villager.

“We used to hate the Russians much more than Americans,” replied the Villager. “But now when we see all this happening, I am telling you Russians behave much better than the Americans.”

After U.S. military win over Taliban  US President Obama finally announced his new counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) strategy in Afghanistan – which continues mostly the strategy of his predecessor Mr. Bush. Generals and influential – if not decisive – military-industrial complex got what they want and once again USA is seeking military solution to mainly political problem. US mission is seize the initiative against a resurgent Taliban while building the capacity of Afghan forces so that American and NATO forces can gradually hand off security responsibilities to the Afghans. Also, support the further development of the Afghan economy and key Afghan civilian institutions. 

Coin theory emphasises a “population-centric” over an “enemy-centric” approach. Coin is predicated on the idea that it is possible to win supporters for an insurgency by providing security and basic services, and ensuring the presence of a strong, legitimate government. Idea was to split the country in smaller units that can be controlled by warlords working with Washington. occupation forces are moving increasingly to hand over power directly to regional warlords and their militias. The foreign policy team that President Obama had assembled includes some of the same figures who advocated the ethnic-sectarian partition of Yugoslavia and Iraq. Obama’s Special Envoy to Af-Pak, Richard Holbrooke, authored the agreement that partioned Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat republics in 1995, in effect rubber-stamping the ethnic cleansing that had forcibly removed populations during a three-year civil war. He also turned a blind eye when Serb civilians were expelled from Croatia the same year, and from Kosovo in 1999.

The US Army Field manual (2006) emphasises the importance of “troop density”, or the ratio of security forces to inhabitants: “20 counter-insurgents per 1,000 residents (or 1:50) is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective Coin operations”. The size of the US-led coalition force would need to be approximately 568,000 troops. Even adding in the 97,000 Afghan police officers and the 100,000-odd Afghan soldiers leaves the NATO-led force more than 200,000 counter-insurgents short of the “minimum”.

There is a yawning gap between Coin theory and practice. “It’s all fine on paper, but that doesn’t translate into success on the ground,“The Afghan army is useless and the police are corrupt,” (More in Will Coin work in Afghanistan?

The Talibans

The history of Afghanistan shows that they’ve practised pure Greek democracy at the village level for two millennia – to export today’s western democracy idea to Afghanistan without understanding this background may work in cabinets but not on the field.  Maybe the best democratic idea could be use an emergency loya jirga (a temporary council traditionally made up of representatives from Afghan tribes and opposing factions used decide matters of national significance). Loya jirga with 1,500 to 2,000 delegates representing all of the major players and parts of the countries could resolve today’s problems like they have traditionally resolved them in the past.

A powerful grass roots movement has blossomed last decades in Afghanistan – it’s called Taliban. The Taliban insurgents are doing much more than the Afghan government to establish good governance and accountability. In the remote provinces, the Taliban’s efforts have reinforced two images: on the other hand an absent and/or corrupt Afghan central government and effective and accountable Taliban administration on the other. It seems that the Taliban is answering better the to the needs of ordinary citizens than US and their puppet government in Kabul.

According to some observers who closely monitor the Taliban’s activities, these are new efforts to set out their priorities by focusing on Afghani interests rather than holding to a wide global network.T the Taliban have become more watchful of the foreign Jihadists in Afghanistan. Foreign militant are now not allowed, like before, to carry out their activities independently.

The Taliban are mainly local Afghans who do not want to be occupied by any invading army, local Afghan nationalists resisting occupation. They may be ultra-concervative tyrans implementing sharia-law, drug smugglers and opium growers protecting their drug territories, foreign jihadists and the angry relatives of Afghans killed by coalition forces getting revenge.  One does not need to like about Taliban nor accept their ideology, but one should agree that they more or less represent their country.

Map of Afghanistan locating the cities that have fallen to the Taliban in the past week, as of August 14 – AFP / AFP

My view

In my view the probable outcome will be that in one month the whole Afghanistan is under the Taliban rule meaning sharia law, some ethnic cleansing, some massacres, throwing basic human rights to trash, big amount of Afghan refugees inside and outside the country and naturally a human catastrophe e.g. due lack of food.  The international community will react to this with some high flow statements and humanitarian aid to refugee camps.

There is of course other possible scenarios but they are unlikely and/or expensive.  One is humanitarian intervention better sooner than later.  Fast decisions could be made only in U.S. and Russia and the best scenario would be a joint operation, first airstrikes and then ground operation.

After invasion the real works starts.   From my point of view the future strategy towards Afghanistan – if the aim is to get some sustainability – should be based on two principles:

  • Bottom-up principle, where the actions, development plans and administration are made starting from local, village level; not from high flown programmes made in Brussels or Washington.
  • Integrated approach where security, economy, local participation/commitment and administration are not separate sectors.

In my opinion this time effective Coin operation – implemented be U.S. and Russia, financed partly EU i.a. –  could be solution.  Effective means that some 600 000 counter-insurgents/soldiers should be send to Afghanistan so soon as possible to work in cities, villages and country-side with local tribes.  The idea is to disarm local Taliban troops and with local tribes start to build some basic public services, local government  and economy with vision of even some human rights.  After few years time might be right to start build national wide cooperation based on these local units, “cantons” or provinces.  The outcome might be loose federation or  confederation with minimal central governance.

So powerful international actors should quickly decide what to do with Afghanistan.  My guess is that the actions will be minimal, meaning a few statements and some humanitarian aid.  If they on the other hand go to humanitarian intervention they should do this this time right on grassroot level and not from top to bottom.  


Iran Leak Hints at Second Tier Targets as Next Terror Gateway

July 29, 2021


Leaked Iranian documents indicate a shift to hacking Tier-2 buildings and facilities, mainly in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. Ilan Barda, CEO at Radiflow (Tel Aviv), a cyber-security solutions provider for critical infrastructures, said, “Access to building controls can shut down critical government services and even be used to conduct remote terror attacks.” Please see below the Guest Post by Radiflow:

London, July 28, 2021 – A recent report by Sky News exposed a trove of documents that appear to be from a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Intelligence Group 13. These findings show a coordinated attempt to collect information on the vulnerabilities of second-tier targets, including those that can capsize merchant vessels, the remote control of electrical controllers used in building management systems, and the ability to tamper with fuel pumps triggering spills or explosions.

Since 2019, hundreds of US companies and local government agencies have fallen victim to cyber-attacks. Now, leaked documents outline Iran’s intentions to gather information meant to attack Building Management Systems (BMSs) that are notoriously overlooked when setting up cybersecurity programs. BMSs are easy targets for two reasons. One, reliance on connecting building devices via the internet, even connecting to a remote facility that may operate vulnerable devices. Second, they are attractive to attackers since buildings rely on contractors to maintain facilities who may not follow proper cybersecurity practices, such as authentication and secure access. “Many of these second-tier targets seem irrelevant at first,” said Ilan Barda, Founder and CEO of Radiflow, a cybersecurity company that focuses on securing OT facilities. “What makes them so valuable is their potential to be used as a gateway to building systems. Once inside, a hacker can manipulate air circulation units, elevators, and any other critical infrastructure to carry out physical attacks.”

Another concern in the Iranian cyber report is their intention to find vulnerabilities in specific satellite communication (SATCOM) gateways. In some countries, poorly protected wireless networks can be exploited by attackers, allowing them to access vulnerable Satcom terminals on the network. While some of the report focused on hypothetical attacks, this piece showcased their potential for data collection and potential coordinated attacks.

Some questions remain regarding the intention of the Iranian military hacking group. Upon reviewing the report, Michael Langer, a renowned cyberwarfare expert and CPO of Radiflow, believes that this report may only specify their intent to pursue cyber terror further. “Iran is looking to expand the outreach and objects of their cyber-attacks,” said Langer. “Their history of disruptive cyber offensives on Saudi Arabian oil refineries and Israeli water management facilities are to be taken seriously. The Iranians mapping of BMS vulnerabilities may indicate a shift to target more easily exploitable sites. It’s time to think differently.”

While these attacks are causing CISO and cybersecurity teams to take notice, the tools most companies need to secure their systems already exist. “Familiar basic-hygiene practices are common tools that a growing number of the population recognize,” said Barda. “Segmentation, password validation, 2-factor authentication, and cyber threat detection mechanisms can act as a deterrence for attackers.”

Many companies have seen recent headlines surrounding cyberattacks without realizing they may be next. However, simple precautions may be the difference between another day at the office or a cyber-attack that deploys ransomware or exfiltration of sensitive data.


About Radiflow
Radiflow is an OT Cyber Security company that has unique tools to protect and manage digital assets for the long term. They work directly with Managed Security Service Providers to oversee the discovery and management of all relevant data security points. Their unique pinpoint approach brings the business’s team into the fold, trading the industry’s one-size-fits-all approach for a calculated, focused, and secured system without inhibiting communication or productivity.


Elik Etzion to Be Appointed To lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments at Elron

July 1, 2021

Below is a press release by Elron, which I thought will be interesting for my readers. The company appointed Elik Etzion to lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments. Etzion to begin at Elron following 20 years of service in IDF top Unit 8200 and several years as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Bank Hapoalim Group. And here the press release as a Guest Post:

Elik Etzion to Be Appointed To lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments at Elron

Tel Aviv, Israel – July 1, 2021 – Elron, a leading Israeli early-stage tech investment company, announced a new managerial appointment. Mr. Elik Etzion has been appointed to lead the Enterprise Software and Cyber Investments at Elron. Etzion will be responsible for identifying and accompanying companies specializing in Cybersecurity and Enterprise Software spaces. He will take over the role as of July 2021.

Elron specializes in early-stage investments in cyber and software companies. The company is reinforcing its management and investment teams. Following its capital offering this past April, the company has approximately $90 million in its fund that is primarily earmarked for continued investments in cyber and software sectors, the company’s leading area of focus, alongside the maturation of its medical device portfolio companies.

Simultaneous with Etzion’s appointment, Mr. Zohar Rozenberg, who successfully spearheaded cyber investments over the past six years, will continue with the company as an active independent partner (Venture Partner). He will continue to support the activities of Elron and its portfolio companies, in which he serves as a board member and a member of the investments team.

46-year-old Elik Etzion is joining Elron’s management team to head cyber and software investments in the company after a comprehensive career of 25 years in key Elron investment sectors. He brings extensive experience in all facets of cyber and data analytics and is familiar with the digital age and the complex challenges that it entails.

Etzion, a retired lieutenant colonel, began his career at the top of the tech and cyber world in the IDF, where he gained diverse technological-operational experience and knowledge over the course of 20 years in Unit 8200. In his last positions in the IDF, Etzion served as deputy commander of the cyber division, head of the R&D Department, and Head of the Cyber operations Department.

Upon his discharge from the IDF, Etzion served as CISO and member of the Technology Division Management at Bank Hapoalim Group. He enhanced the bank’s cybersecurity posture and contributed to the cyber resilience of Israel’s banking sector, alongside being party to spearheading the bank’s digital transformation.

Etzion also served as a director in SHVA and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Masav, specializing in payments and clearance. He brings in-depth expertise and understanding, a strategic vision of the market along, and practical experience.

Yaron Elad, CEO of Elron: “We are delighted to add Elik to the Elron family. Elik’s exceptional background following 20 years of military experience, his record in the financial sector, and his in-depth and practical familiarity with growing cyber threats and advanced information technologies will prove immensely valuable in identifying new investments and supporting and overseeing our portfolio companies. Elik will join Zohar, my partner in establishing Elron’s cyber portfolio, who will serve as an independent partner. Zohar will continue to support Elron’s specialization in the cyber sector.”

Elik Etzion: “I see a tremendous opportunity to lead the Cybersecurity and Enterprise Software investments at Elron and in helping Israeli startups grow and become global market leaders. Many vertical organizations undergo a deep transformation in their business model by leveraging disruptive technologies from different fields. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this trend. These transformations dramatically increase the total cyber risk profile and create golden opportunities for threat actors. These Market dynamics create fascinating opportunities for seeding and investing in startups that would facilitate secured business transformation and growth.”

Elik, married and the father of 5, holds a B.Sc. in Math and Computer Science (summa cum laude) and an MBA in Business Administration, both from Tel-Aviv University.


elronElron is an Israeli investment company that specializes in early-stage investments, focusing on building Israeli technological cyber and enterprise software companies. Elron provides direct capital and assistance to startups from their early stage in accelerating team building and accelerating product-market fit. 


Guardian of the Wall vs Sword of  Jerusalem: The IDF won a Military Operation, Hamas the Political One

June 2, 2021

Operation Guardian of the Wall ended on May 21, 2021. Although the operation in Israel itself focused on Gaza, the conflict – as the Palestinian term Jerusalem Sword  describes it – has its wider political spill-over effect in Israel and in palestinian areas in West Bank. These tensions remain unresolved after the end of the armed conflict itself. The positive side is that Lebanon’s Hezbollah stayed on the sidelines and Iran didn’t attack with missiles via Yemen or Iraq as well the fact that Israel was not forced entry to land operation.

From my point of view the winners of this time’s conflict are Hamas, having achieved its political goals, and the Israeli army, which achieved its military goals. The losers are civilians from all over the region, Israeli society via escalation of ethnic tensions as this conflict sparked inter-communal clashes between Jewish and Arab Israelis in mixed cities, and the Palestinian Authority after becoming a bystander as usuall. The winner can also be Egypt, which once again mediated a ceasefire and is likely to take the lead in the reconstruction of Gaza.

gazaidfsum

In 11 days, more than 4,360 rockets were fired from Gaza, of which 3,573 fell into Israeli territory, the rest fell either into Gaza or into the sea. The Iron Dome defense system was about 90% effective against the missiles. 12 Israeli civilians were killed in rockets and one IDF soldier due an anti-tank missile, a few hundred wounded. In Gaza, at least 243 people died, including 100 women and children, according to Hamas, and about 1,600 were wounded. The Israeli side claims to have killed 225 Gaza terrorists for all and the majority of women and children died when more than six hundred own rockets exploded or landed in Gaza.

Israeli army counterattacks with unprecedented accuracy

The IDF attacked about 1,500 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. I consider the attack on the Hamas tunnel system (“Hamas metro”) to be the most significant. In Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis, the IDF destroyed more than 100 kilometers of tunnels used by Hamas leadership and terrorist organizations as hiding places and command and control centers. Several attack tunnels in the North Gaza Strip were also destroyed.

The IDF estimates that at least 50 senior Hamas and PIJ commanders and senior experts were killed. Leaders killed by the IDF included commander of the Gaza Brigade, commanders of the Northern Sector and Gaza Division, commander of the Hamas cyber division, commander of the Development and Project Division, director of arms production and other experts and military leaders. In addition to expert personnel, the Gaza arms industry, mainly missile product development and manufacturing, suffered significant losses as did arms stockpiles. As regards Hamas’ administrative structures, dozens of administrative offices, 11 internal security force buildings and five banks that provided funds for terrorist activities were destroyed. In addition, the IDF destroyed dozens of anti-tank missile groups, seven air threats (armed UAVs), and two naval threats (including unmanned submarine attacks).

Thirteen rockets were fired from Lebanon and three from Syria, as well as one drone. All were repulsed or landed in uninhabited areas or at sea.

For the Israeli military, the operation was a success in many ways. The IDF broke its previous record for precision strikes and the operation is perhaps the first in military history where one of the parties uses only (100%) precision missiles with an accuracy of one or two meters. This, as well as the attack on only the military and the military target carried out at the “Hamas Metro”, allowed a record low number of civilian casualties compared to previous similar conflicts. Of course, there were also civilian casualties in Gaza, but perhaps mainly about the 680 rockets launched into Gaza by Hamas and others and not from Israeli missile strikes.

gazaroc

A good example of avoiding civilian casualties was when, on May 15, the IDF bombed al-Jala high tower with three missiles in an in Gaza. In addition to the 60 apartments and the media offices of Al Jazeera and AP, among others, the 12-story house had electronic warfare equipment and control centers for the Hamas intelligence service. Residents were warned about an hour before the bombings, the apartment building was destroyed to the ground but no casualties were reported.

It should be added that while the fighting was still raging, Israel opened on 18.5. Erez and 19.5. Kerem Shalom border crossings to deliver humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza.

gaza 2021

Sword of Jerusalem: Hamas’ political victory

Hamas achieved its political goals by extending its power to the West Bank at the expense of the Palestinian Authority. Demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem from across the West Bank to announce that Jerusalem is now the territory of Hamas, as illustrated by the name “Jerusalem Sword” given to this Palestinian conflict. There have also been signs that Hamas has gained a greater foothold among Israeli Arabs than before as ethnic tensions erupted in several Israeli cities.

ViolenceMapIsrael

The armed wing of Hamas suffered significant structural and human losses as a result of the Israeli counterattacks, but was nevertheless able to demonstrate its advanced strength. The attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were more severe than before, temporarily closing down, for example, international air traffic and part of the business community.

I now see the ceasefire as the most significant victory for Hamas over the years, precisely because the organization was able to significantly expand its power outside Gaza and specifically at the expense of Fatah in a situation where elections are planned for the Palestinian territories. The status and popularity of President Abbas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority, which ruled without legitimacy (President Abbas’s term ended on January 9, 2009, when his three-year term ended) are now at record lows and it is very possible that elections will not be held again for this reason. Already in the previous 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas won the majority, winning 76 seats out of 132 – even now the winner might be Hamas, which could thus elevate the Palestinian Authority from its own ranks to succeed Abbas.

gazamis

Egypt’s growing role

According to unofficial information, Egypt’s aim is, firstly, to ensure a ceasefire between all parties, secondly, to maintain it for a longer period and, thirdly, to coordinate the reconstruction of Gaza. Egypt is also working to promote negotiations between the Palestinians (Hamas, the Palestinian Authority / Fatah) and Israel with a view to reaching a more lasting solution.

Egypt, the mediator, has invited both Israeli and Gaza delegations to Cairo to discuss the details of the ceasefire, and at least Israel has accepted the invitation. Egypt has taken the lead in rebuilding Gaza, allocating $ 500 million, while  the UN pledging $ 18.5 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza. Egypt will also set up a mechanism to coordinate donations and aid deliveries so that aid does not flow into corrupt regimes and Hamas armaments in the past. To ensure this, the reconstruction work is mainly carried out by companies belonging to the Egyptian army, instead of Turkish companies.

Epilogue

The ceasefire at the moment is only a mutual (Hamas / Israel) announcement to end hostilities for the time being. It will make it possible to send immediate humanitarian aid through Israel and Egypt to Gaza. Other details, such as the length and extent of the ceasefire, not to mention more permanent solutions, will be left to further negotiations.

This time the conflict over Gaza is settling on its military scale, with 1,571 rockets fired from Gaza in 2018, a total of 2,045 rockets in 2019, and now at least 4,360 rockets in 11 days. However, civilian losses on both sides were now only about 20% compared to the previous 2014 war in Gaza (Operation Protective Edge). From my point of view, the political implications of this conflict are very much greater than those of other similar Israeli-Arab conflicts in the last decade.

Sources i.a:  BICOM , Israel Defense , Jerusalem Post , The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center ,

Hudna


This article is an English version of my article Guardian of the Wall vs Sword of Jerusalem: IDF voitti sotilasoperaation, Hamas poliittisen which first appeared in my web-publication (in Finnish) Ariel-Israelista suomeksi .


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