Iran launches underground ballistic missiles during exercise

Iran previously test-fired a “new generation” of cruise missiles on June 18, according to the country’s navy. (File/Iranian Army office/AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2020

Iran launches underground ballistic missiles during exercise

  • Drones separately targeted the bridge of a fake aircraft carrier, according to the state TV report
  • Two US bases were placed temporarily on alert during the exercise

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched underground ballistic missiles as part of an exercise involving a fake aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, state television reported Wednesday, the latest barrage in a drill that saw two American bases temporarily go on alert over the launches.
Drones separately targeted the bridge of the fake aircraft carrier, according to the state TV report. The TV did not immediately air footage of the launches or the drone attack, nor did it identify the missiles used in the drill.
However, the message of the drill was clearly targeted at the United States.
A semiofficial news agency close to the Guard published a graphic overnight that photoshopped the image of an American carrier into the shape of a casket, with a caption quoting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledging to seek revenge for the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in January.
The drill — and the American response to it — underlined the lingering threat of military conflict between Iran and the US after a series of escalating incidents last year led to the January drone strike. Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq.
While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the US for months, there has been a growing confrontation as America argues to extend a yearslong UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October. A recent incident over Syria involving an American jet fighter approaching an Iranian passenger plane also has renewed tensions.
Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage aired Tuesday from the exercise called “Great Prophet 14.” Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on a target drone near the port city of Bandar Abbas.
State television footage also showed a variety of missiles being fired from fast boats, trucks, mobile launchers and a helicopter, some targeting the fake carrier. A commander said the Guard, a force answerable only to Khamenei, planned to fire “long-range ballistic missiles” as well during the drill that continued Wednesday.
Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, the military said. Troops sought cover during that time.
“The incident lasted for a matter of minutes and an all clear was declared after the threat ... had passed,” said US Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a Central Command spokeswoman.
Both bases are hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from where Iran put the replica aircraft carrier.
Al-Dhafra also is temporarily home to five French-built Rafale fighter jets on their way to India for that country’s air force.
Other footage from the exercise aired by Iran’s state television showed fast boats encircling the mock-up carrier, kicking up white waves in their wake. While Iran’s naval forces are dwarfed by the US Navy, its commanders practice so-called “swarm” tactics aimed at overwhelming the US carriers that pass through the strait on their way in and out of the Arabian Gulf.
It wasn’t immediately clear if all the footage was from Tuesday, as one overhead surveillance image that appeared to be shot by a drone bore Monday’s date. The exercise had been expected as satellite photos released Monday showed the fake carrier being moved into place by a tugboat.
A black-and-white satellite photo taken Tuesday by Colorado-based firm Maxar Technologies showed damage to the replica’s bow and several of its fake jet fighters.


At Beirut’s ‘ground zero’, race to find survivors

Updated 25 min 19 sec ago

At Beirut’s ‘ground zero’, race to find survivors

  • Rescuers worked shifts to try to find an entrance to a control room buried under meters (yards) of rubble
  • The death toll for the disaster stood at 154 on Friday but dozens of people were still reported missing

BEIRUT: Ankle-deep in corn spilling from a huge gutted silo, rescuers guide an excavator to clear access to a room where they believe Beirut port employees could still be alive.
Three days after the monster explosion that disfigured the city in a matter of seconds, the clock was already ticking down Friday on any potential survivors’ chances.
Rescuers from Lebanon, France, Germany, Russia and other countries worked shifts to try to find an entrance to a control room buried under meters (yards) of rubble.
Beirut’s “ground zero,” a term describing the point closest to a detonation that was first used for the 1945 atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, filled up with teams working together in a desperate push to find survivors.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, the chances are quite low,” said Lt. Andrea, a member of a 55-stong French contingent at the forefront of the rescue effort.
“But it’s been done before, three days later, four days later,” survivors have been found, he said, the charred silos behind him cutting a ghostly figure against Beirut’s ravaged skyline.
The death toll for the disaster, one of the worst of its kind in modern history, stood at 154 on Friday but dozens of people were still reported missing.
Andrea explained that the effort at the port was focused on the control room because a significant number of people would have been working there at the time of the explosion.
He said some smaller primary explosions in the port, however, might have led the staff to flee the room.
“The four bodies we uncovered in the search area... were found next to a safety exit staircase at the foot of the silos,” Andrea explained.
Thousands of tons of corn, wheat and barley scattered from the silos by the explosion carpeted the port car parks and quays.
An eerie calm filled the unrecognizable docks, usually bustling with traffic, workers and traders.
Rescuers stood silently above a gap in the ground as a sniffer dog paced around a forest of mangled containers thrown around the port like sugar cubes.
The cargo pouring out of them gave a sample of the goods that had just entered the country: French-language school books, luxury handbags, crates of imported beer.
Three Red Cross volunteers looked dazed as they walked around the site of the blast and stopped by the waterfront to stare at their devastated city.
“It looks so quiet, but bad quiet. Something in this city died and will not rise again,” said one of them, standing with his arms akimbo and his gaze lost in the destruction before him.
The only sounds were those of massive excavators smashing a path through the rubble, rotary saws cutting iron rods and jackhammers breaking blocks of concrete into smaller pieces.
Col. Tissier, leader of the French rescue team who briefed France’s President Emmanuel Macron during his visit on Thursday, has worked on many disaster sites.
“The specificity here is that the epicenter is just here, a few meters away from us, whereas usually with earthquakes it is several hundred meters below ground level,” he said.
“With quakes, things usually collapse in layers... here everything was just pulverised,” he said.
That means the growing fleet of heavy machinery converging on Beirut port Friday had to dig into solid mounds of rubble before reaching whatever is buried under it.
“When it comes to the actual center of the impact, it is quite reminiscent of September 11 ‘ground zero’,” Andrea said of the 2001 US attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.
“The extent of the destruction will also remind some members of our team of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010,” he said.
“The difference here is that it’s not an earthquake. Humans did this.”