Ukraine investigators consider missile strike, terrorism as possible causes of Iran plane crash

(CNN)Ukrainian officials were on Thursday considering terrorism, a missile strike and catastrophic engine failure as potential causes for the fatal crash of one of its airliners in Iran, as aviation authorities in Tehran revealed the jetliner was on fire before it came down. Other theories under consideration are whether there were technical problems with one of the plane’s engines that caused it to explode, whether the plane could have collided with a drone or “other flying object,” or whether there was an explosion inside the plane.

Iran’s military threat: The US can’t protect everything all the time

(CNN)Iran’s vow to strike the US military in retaliation for the killing of its top general presents the Pentagon with a massive force protection problem that events of the past 48 hours — and past 40 years — illustrate in American blood. “There are many ways to hit US personnel, and you can’t protect them all,” said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center. Iranian-trained allies The threat could come from Iranian forces themselves or proxies deeply tied to Tehran. “Iran has a worldwide reach through their clandestine networks,” said Christopher Costa, the former senior director for counter-terrorism at the National Security Council under the Trump administration who now heads the International …

Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign has air of desperation as election polls tighten

Jerusalem (CNN)“The 15-second Video That Could Kill Netanyahu’s Rock-star Election Campaign” thundered a gleeful headline in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper — recycling online video of Benjamin Netanyahu being hustled away from election hustings amid sirens warning of incoming rockets from Gaza. But an air of desperation, perhaps something close to panic, has entered the Likud campaign as polls show them evenly matched by the centrist Blue and White party of rival Benny Gantz. To beat them, polling shows that Netanyahu needs every right and far-right wing vote he can garner. Dogged by allegations of corruption in three cases that may yet lead to his indictment, “Bibi” Netanyahu used to be known as the “Teflon PM” — the man against whom …

For a week, Israel and Lebanon seemed on the brink of war. But neither has the appetite for it

Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon (CNN)On the edge of a parking lot overlooking Lebanon’s southern border, a family poses for a photograph as smoke billows behind them. Farout was sitting at a park some 400 meters from the demarcation line separating Israel and Lebanon. A children’s playground doubles as a mock training camp, with a miniature model of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock poking out between trees. The place is called Iran Park, a gift from Hezbollah’s benefactors. The borderlands of the two regional arch-rivals stretch out below it, a wire fence cutting through the valley. On most days, the view is picturesque, belying the fact that it is one of the Middle East’s most politically charged fault-lines. Sunday, with the valley …