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Latest Israel News – 19th June

Border Police officer killed in Jerusalem terror attack

A female Border Police officer died after succumbing to her wounds following a suspected coordinated terror attack carried out by three assailants in multiple areas of the Old City in Jerusalem.

Staff Sergeant Major Hadas Malka, 23, was taken to the emergency care unit at nearby Hadassah University Medical Center in critical condition after sustaining multiple stab wounds during the attack. Hospital officials later pronounced her dead after failing to save her life.

Hadas Malka

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Border Police officer Hadas Malka in a statement posted by Amaq, the group’s news agency. The attack “will not be the last,” said the statement.

According to sources, this is the first time that Islamic State have claimed responsibility for carrying out an attack in Israel.

Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas praised the bloodshed but disputed the Islamic State’s claim, stating that the perpetrators were affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“The sacrificial operation in Jerusalem that was carried out by three martyrs in Jerusalem confirms that the PA’s attempt to make the relationship with the occupier ‘a normal relationship’ is a failure. The Palestinian youth will continue to characterize the occupation as its single enemy,” said Hamas spokesperson Hazim Qassim in a Facebook post.

Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party called the death of the three perpetrators a “war crime by the Israeli occupation forces” in a statement published by Fatah spokesperson Osama Al-Qawasmi.

Police said that the suspects used an “automatic weapon and knives” during the assault.

Two individuals were also evacuated to Hadassah University Medical Center in moderate and light condition after sustaining wounds from the event. The hospital said it was treating another patient for shock.

“We saw two wounded civilians near the Damascus Gate, a man of about 40 and a young man of about 22,” an MDA spokesperson said in a statement.

“They were fully conscious and suffered from ‘penetrating injuries’…  We provided them with emergency medical treatment and evacuated them to the hospital with their condition being moderate and stable.”

A police spokesperson said that the three terrorists were “shot and killed” following the attacks. Police added that at least one of the suspects used an automatic weapon and “opened fire” during the incident.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the event was a coordinated attack carried out by suspected Palestinian terrorists.

They were later named as 19-year-old Bara Ibrahim Muhammad Saleh; Adel Hassan Ahmad Anakush, 18; and Osama Ahmad Mustafa Atta, 19, according to a statement released by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

All three had “a background in terrorist activities,” or were arrested by Israeli authorities before Friday’s assault, the Shin Bet added.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported that IDF units surrounded the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mash’al, near Ramallah, on Friday evening.

The location is believed to be the origin of the individuals who carried out Friday evening’s deadly attack.

According to The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv, the first attack occurred near Damascus Gate at the entrance of the Old City when an assailant armed with a knife attempted to stab members of a Border Police Unit, critically wounding the female officer. The attacker was subsequently shot and killed following the assault.

The second attack reportedly occurred near Zedekiah’s Cave, located in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.

Maariv reported that the two attackers, one in possession of a knife and the other carrying a homemade automatic weapon, attempted to execute an assault against Border Police officers stationed in the area.

The weapon the assailant was holding jammed, however, averting a bloodier attack. They too were shot and killed by authorities.

Police have blocked off the immediate area and are investigating the situation. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel: Jerusalem attack encouraged by PA payments to terrorists

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on Saturday urged the Security Council to denounce the previous night’s coordinated stabbing and shooting attack in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“The payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families encourage heinous attacks like we saw today,” Dannon said of the attack, in which Border Police officer Hadas Malka was killed and four others injured.

“The Palestinian leadership continues to pledge their support for peace, while making monthly payments to terrorists and educating their children to hate. The international community must demand that the Palestinians put an end to these intolerable acts of violence,” he added.

“I call on the Security Council to condemn this terror attack immediately.”

Israel has been ramping up pressure on the PA to halt payments to the families of terrorists jailed for attacking or killing Israelis.

Israeli officials say Palestinians have paid out some NIS 4 billion ($1.12 billion) over the past four years to Palestinian prisoners and “martyrs” — those killed during attacks against Israel. Jerusalem insists the policy is a major incentive to would-be assailants to carry out attacks.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week claimed the PA intended to end the practice. However following PA denials, Tillerson appeared to walk back his statement, saying there was an “active discussion” between Washington and Ramallah on the matter.

On Friday, three Palestinians armed with an automatic weapon and knives carried out near simultaneous attacks at two adjacent locations before they were shot and killed.

First, two assailants charged Border Police troops with a homemade sub-machine gun and knives at Zedakiah’s Cave in the Muslim Quarter. They were shot and killed by officers.

Staff Sergeant Malka, 23, was part of a group of officers responding to the sounds of gunfire near their area of patrol close to Damascus Gate. While on their way, Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Malka was assaulted by a third attacker armed with a knife. Samri said Malka wrestled with the man for several seconds and tried to draw her weapon as he stabbed her multiple times before other officers saw what was happening and opened fire, killing him. Malka was critically injured and later died of her wounds in hospital.

At least four more people were injured in the attacks, including another policeman. They all sustained light to moderate wounds and were being treated in hospital.

The Shin Bet security service named the three assailants as Adel Ankush, 18, Bra’a Salah, 19, and Asama Ahmed Atta, 19.

All three were from Deir Abu-Mashal, a village near Ramallah, and had been arrested for or involved in “popular terror activity,” a Shin Bet statement said. Security forces late Friday night surrounded Deir Abu-Mashal and raided the assailants’ homes to question their family members regarding the attack.

In a first, the Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Thank God we have managed to carry out an attack in the heart of Jerusalem,” the group said in a statement. It said its “lions” had managed to “exact revenge” on the Israelis. “With God’s help this will not be the last attack,” it said.

Hamas dismissed the statement, and said all three assailants were members of Palestinian terrorist organizations. The attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas,” Hamas said early Saturday.

Israeli officials cast doubt on both claims, saying there was no indication of IS involvement, and that the attack did not appear to have been directed by any group.

Hamas praised the attack, saying it was “new proof that the Palestinian people continue their revolution against the occupiers and that the intifada (popular uprising) will continue until complete freedom is achieved.”

Following the attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revoked the entry permits given to Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to visit their relatives in Israel.

Israel had eased restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians from the West Bank for Ramadan, including permitting daily family visits during Sundays through Thursdays.

Over the past 18 months the Old City, and the Damascus Gate in particular, have seen numerous “lone wolf” attacks by Palestinians, and in one case a Jordanian national. (the Times of Israel)

Netanyahu wins headline spat with BBC over Jerusalem stabbing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reproach the BBC after the British news channel released what the premier deemed to be a biased report describing Friday’s terror attack, which resulted in the death of a 23-year-old border policewoman.

The original report was titled: “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem,” a headline that omitted the fact that the three perpetrators, who operated in two different scenes, were neutralized after they attempted to assault Israeli policemen and killed Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka.

Another notable figure who criticized the BBC for its misleading headline was US President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who took to Twitter himself to lambast the station for the article they published. “You mean after they stabbed a female Israeli police officer to death… right? This is as close to being misleading as possible,” he charged.

Netanyahu had reportedly requested that Yuval Rotem, the Director General of the MFA, as well as the Israeli Embassy in London, both act to have the BBC acknowledge that the headline misrepresented the details of the attack and change it.

According to the MFA, prompted by the ministry’s request, the BBC has since changed the headline of the article.

The current headline now reads: “Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem.”

The tweet that the media outlet published on its official handle and which linked to the article with its previous headline has since been removed.

This is not the first time Israel lashes out at the BBC for what it says is a biased coverage of the conflict.

Last year, the head of Israel’s Government Press Office issued a warning to the BBC in reaction to the station’s coverage of a different Jerusalem terror attack that claimed the lives of two Israelis. The headline the BBC used to describe the attack was “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.” The channel later changed its headline to: “Jerusalem: Palestinian kills two Israelis in Old City.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians to claim Tomb of Patriarchs on UN Heritage List

The World Heritage Committee is set to debate inscribing the Old City of Hebron – including its Tomb of the Patriarchs – to the “State of Palestine” when it meets from July 2 to 12 in Krakow, Poland.

“This is a new front in the war over the holy places that the Palestinians are trying to ignite as part of their propaganda campaign against Israel and the history of the Jewish people,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The World Heritage Committee operates under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization.

For the last three years Israel has waged a stiff battle at UNESCO to prevent the Palestinians from linguistically reclassifying Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, solely as the Muslim religious site known as al-Haram al-Sharif.

“This is a clear continuation of the attacks and hallucinatory outrageous votes in UNESCO regarding Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall,” Shama HaCohen said, drawing a clear link between the two battles for Israel’s Jewish heritage.

UNESCO recognized Palestine as a state in 2011, a move that allowed the Palestinian Authority to inscribe two sites on the World Heritage List: Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route in 2012; and the ancient terraces of Battir in 2014.

It fast-tracked both inscriptions by claiming the sites were endangered. It is now making the same argument with regard to Hebron’s Old City. This includes the Tomb’s Herodian structure that houses both Jewish places of worship and the Ibrahimi Mosque.

If the 21-member committee approves the PA’s request, it would mark the first time that a Jewish holy site under Israeli control was registered to the “State of Palestine.”

The World Heritage Committee on Thursday publicized the list of 35 sites that it plans to consider inscribing, including Hebron. But PA documents to explain the rationale for the inscription as well as a technical evaluation by a professional subgroup of the World Heritage Committee has yet to be posted on UNESCO’s website.

Israel has already been working for the last month to sway the committee members to reject the request based on five arguments, Shama HaCohen said.

The Tomb and the city of Hebron is the second holiest site in Judaism, after the Temple Mount and its Western Wall, he noted. The Bible clearly records its purchase by Abraham.

Inscribing the site to the Palestinians would also be problematic diplomatically, because the area is under Israeli control based on the 1997 Hebron protocol signed by the PA and Israel, Shama HaCohen added.

The Palestinians are fast-tracking inscriptions at the expense of other countries who sometimes work for close to a decade to fulfill all the necessary inscription requirements, the ambassador said.

“This is a process that normally takes years.” In this case, he said, there was no danger to the site.

Israel has worked together with the religious authorities in Hebron with regard to upkeep and repairs to the site and to ensure access for Muslim worshipers to the Ibrahimi Mosque, he said.

Lastly, he asserted, registration of sites jointly used by Israelis and Palestinians should wait until such time as there is a final status agreement that ends the conflict.

This would allow both Israel and the Palestinians to jointly ask for the site’s inscription, Shama-HaCohen said, adding that to register the site to one party prior to such an agreement will only end up deepening the conflict.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote a letter to UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova explaining that it was important for UNESCO to “stand up for the truth.

Conference chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and chairman and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, who penned the letter, told Bokova that “Palestinian officials, including the leader of the Wakf of Hebron and the Wakf of the Cave, have praised the cooperation of Israeli authorities responsible for the security of these holy sites in Hebron and public safety arrangements for worshipers at the Cave.

“The Palestinian religious leaders have publicly acknowledged Israeli respect for freedom of worship for all and expressed appreciation for the sensitivity shown by the Israeli authorities in responding to Palestinian special requests,” they added.

The 21 committee members are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. (Jerusalem Post)

New bill aims to make it harder to divide Jerusalem

A special majority of 80 Knesset members would be required to pass any change in the status of Jerusalem, especially any potential future division of the capital as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, under a proposed bill introduced by Habayit Hayehudi on Thursday.

Party leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett described the bill as a strategic move to protect Jerusalem in the event of any future diplomatic agreements asking Israel to relinquish control of parts of the city to a foreign entity.

The initiative is being proposed as an amendment to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. The special majority stipulation is also aimed at protecting the city in the event of any future referendum on its status.

Article 6 of the Basic Law on Jerusalem, titled “Prohibition of the Transfer of Authority,” states that “no authority stipulated in the laws of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem Municipality may be transferred, temporarily or permanently, to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body.”

Article 7 states that the preceding article “shall not be modified except by a Basic Law passed by a majority of the members of the Knesset,” meaning a regular majority of 61 lawmakers. The amendment aims to alter this to 80 MKs.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation, headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) is scheduled to debate the proposal in two weeks.

A party official said coalition members are unlikely to oppose the bill, guaranteeing a favorable committee vote, especially since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced support for similar initiatives in the past.

Habayit Hayehudi hopes that when the bill is presented to the Knesset, the Zionist Union and other centrist parties will back it as well, the official said.

A senior member of Habayit Hayehudi said the initiative aims to bolster Netanyahu given the changes in the new American administration’s policies.

The bill also wants to challenge what Habayit Hayehudi described as “a series of concessions” to the Palestinians, such as granting them extensive building permits, including thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria, alongside understandings with the U.S. on moderate construction in Jewish communities in the area, and the continued policy on construction in Jerusalem, which requires the prime minister’s authorization.

Habayit Hayehudi demands unrestricted building in Jerusalem and the creation of an indisputable situation on the ground that would prevent the division of the city, a move the Palestinians could argue would doom any peace talks.

Habayit Hayehudi officials said the party wants to gauge the coalition’s position on the understanding that Jerusalem cannot be divided in any future peace deal, and that the capital’s status is not on the negotiating table.  (Israel Hayom)

Australian UN official in hot water

There is a report that Israel has been requested the replacement of Robert Piper, UN Deputy Special Co-Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Piper, an Australian, was appointed to this position by Ban Ki Moon in May 2015 after having spent over 25 years working for the UN in humanitarian roles in various countries.

He has consistently issued statements highly critical of Israel’s policies towards Gaza and Arabs living in Judea & Samaria which have been viewed by the Government as one sided and lacking balance. They include assertions that Israeli government “policies have violated international humanitarian law as well as the human rights mechanisms to which Israel is a party” and that “Israel’s occupation is backed by force. Deliberate policies have isolated Palestinian communities from each other, ruptured social cohesion, profoundly limited economic activity, and deprived many of their basic rights – of movement, of expression, of access to health, and much more.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back was his press statement issued on the 50th. Anniversary of the 6 Day War in which he condemned Israel’s “occupation.”

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs is demanding that Piper be replaced and if he is not, his residency permit may be revoked. His continued presence would make working with him impossible and this in turn would harm coordination of humanitarian aid to those in greatest need.

No comment has so far been forthcoming from the UN. (J Wire)

Israel’s economy – persistent defiance of conventional wisdom

In defiance of the jagged cutting edge of the Middle East, the inherent regional unpredictability, uncertainty, instability, violence, brutal Islamic intolerance of the “infidel” and the lack of formal diplomatic relations with most of its neighbors, Israel has displayed a unique level of resilience, steadfastness, stability and creativity.

For example:

  1. All-time record in tourism to Israel: a 38% increase in the number of tourists in April, 2017 over April 2016; a 28% increase in the number of tourists during January-April, 2017 over January-April, 2016.
  2. According to Bank of Israel: Israel’s GDP per capita is $38,400 ($36,300 in Q1/2016); unemployment rate is 4.2% (4.4% in Q1/2016); inflation is 0.7% (0.9% in Q1/2016 and 450% in 1985); public debt-to-GDP ratio declines for seventh straight year to 62.1% (64.1% in Q1/2016 and 80.3% in 2006); external debt-to-GDP ratio reduced to 28.6% (30% in Q1/2016).
  3. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (May 18, 2017), Israel’s household consumption per head rose by 5.2% in 2016, overtaking that of the United Arab Emirates, comparable to France and Singapore, but well below the US and UK. “It reflects Israel’s declining unemployment, combined with a higher labor participation rate (in the ultra-orthodox and Arab sectors), an accommodative monetary policy, a strong local currency and falling global prices… helped by relatively high population growth. The number of immigrants entering the country rose in 2014-15 to its highest level since 2003…. Israel has largely overcome relatively low rainfall owing to desalination and sewage-recycling, and is now a major exporter of water technologies…. Israel spends a higher proportion of its GDP on civilian R&D than any other country. Its high spending on military R&D has had positive effects for the civilian technology sector… encouraging high rates of productivity growth. The local workforce is highly educated with more than 50% of the population enrolling in tertiary education….”
  4. MizMaa, a Chinese venture capital fund, established in 2016, owned by three affluent Chinese families, and headed by a former Deputy President of J.P. Morgan in Asia, is investing $100mn in 15-18 Israeli startups in the areas of cyber security, autonomous vehicles, FinTech, artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud computing. $20nm were already invested in 6 Israeli startups (Globes Business Daily, June 14, 2017).
  5. India is emerging as one of Israel’s leading trade partners, militarily and commercially. Two months following a sale of $2bn missile defense systems to India, a sale of $630mn additional missile defense systems was announced (Globes, May 22).
  6. Bill McDermott, the CEO of Germany’s SAP, the world’s third largest software company: “Israel’s technology market – per size of population – is the most exciting in the globe. The number of Israeli engineers and scientists and the size of R&D investment – per capita – are the highest in the world. SAP will double its focus on Israel.” SAP employs 700 persons in Israel (Globes, June 1).
  7. Germany’s Porsche announced its intention to invest a few scores of millions of dollars in Israeli autonomous-car startups (Globes, June 2).
  8. Microsoft acquired the three-year-old Israeli cyber security company, Hexadite, for $100mn (Globes, May 25). UroGen, the Israeli developer of urological cancer treatment, raised $58mn on Nasdaq, 20% above expectations (Globes, May 8). (Yoram Ettinger: the Ettinger Report)

‘Unilateral disengagement from Gaza Strip was a mistake’

Twelve years after Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, Maj. Gen (ret.) Yair Naveh, then GOC Central Command and later deputy chief of staff, believes reality has proven the move has failed to give Israel any security or diplomatic advantage.

The 2005 unilateral disengagement from the coastal enclave saw Israel evict Gush Katif, a bloc of 17 communities in southern Gaza, and return to its 1967 border with the Strip. As part of the plan, Israel also evicted four secluded settlements in northern Samaria. The move, during which 8,600 Israelis lost their homes, remains highly controversial to this day, as many believe it is directly linked to the increased terrorist activity and rocket fire emanating from Gaza.

“There’s no doubt that we weren’t able to create any sort of security advantage, neither in Gaza nor in Samaria, Naveh said in a special interview with Israel Hayom. “If the disengagement from Gaza contributed anything to history, it did so by proving that terrorism has nothing to do with the settlement enterprise, and by proving that an eviction of this nature cannot be carried out in such a way again.

“There was no advantage to this eviction. None. Zero. Nothing has changed for the better there. It had no added value to security or to anything else. It was a frustrating event that left a feeling that it was all for nothing,” he said.

Next week, Naveh will participate in a conference of coalition lawmakers who plan to introduce legislation that would allow the residents of Kadim, Ganim, Homesh and Sa-Nur — the four northern Samaria settlements evicted in 2005 — to re-establish their communities.

Unlike the Gush Katif communities, which were razed immediately after the disengagement, the four Samaria communities were left standing, turning into ghost towns in an area that remains under the IDF’s control.

A bill to resurrect the four communities was introduced during the previous government’s term, but as it included unrealistic articles seeking to resurrect Gush Katif settlements as well, it failed to pass a parliament vote.

As the new legislation proposal focuses solely on Kadim, Ganim, Homesh and Sa-Nur, its proponents believe it has a good chance of passing its Knesset readings.

The bill is the brainchild of Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Habayit Hayehudi MK Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli. It is co-sponsored by Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan, Likud MKs Yoav Kisch, Nurit Koren, Amir Ohana and Avraham Neguise, Habayit Hayehudi MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Moti Yogev, and Shas MKs Yakov Margi and Michael Malchieli.

While Naveh agrees that Homesh and Sa-Nur should be resettled for security reasons, he believes the resettlement of Kadim and Ganim should be re-examined.

He further said that as a religious man, he had deliberated whether to carry out the eviction orders and revealed that even today, 12 years after the fact, he is still criticized by the national religious sector for his role in the disengagement. (Israel Hayom)

The billion pixel ‘eye in the sky’ drone camera can watch 80km sq in real time

Israeli defense-tech firm Elbit Systems has revealed an airborne camera system that can achieve one billion pixel coverage of the ground below.

Drone

The SkEye WAPS system, which will be unveiled at the 2017 Paris Airshow, can be mounted on unmanned aircraft to capture high-resolution images of areas up to 80 square kilometers.

The ‘eye in the sky’ drone camera can even zoom into multiple regions of interest while still recording the surrounding area, and the firm claims it could be a ‘game changer’ for homeland security.

Previous visual intelligence (VISINT) gathering systems relied on a designated video format in which the operator could only see and record the particular area in view, neglecting the surrounding area.

But, the firm says the new camera allows for much wider coverage, with the ability to hone in on key events

The SkEye WAPS system can achieve one billion pixel coverage of the ground below.

It captures high-resolution images of areas up to 80 square kilometers.

And, users can view particular footage in real time, or even look ‘back in time.’

Up to 10 regions can be analyzed at once, without neglecting the surrounding area.

The wide-area persistent surveillance solution, SkEye WAPS, allows users to select particular footage in real time as the camera observes a given area.

It also shows ‘back in time’ footage within the coverage area – and, up to 10 individual regions can be analyzed at once.

This could be useful in all different types of surveillance scenarios, the firm explains, from defense and law enforcement, or natural disaster recovery, to terrorism and homeland security threats

SkEye WAPS is equipped with an Electro Optic sensor unit, an advanced image processing unit, a large mass storage unit, and analysis applications.

As it gathers observations of a given area, it transmits the data via an embedded link from the aircraft to the SkEye, Control and Management Center (SCMC).

This could be either a fixed or mobile facility, the firm notes.

If the camera spots something unusual, its will alert the commanders based on a customizable notification system.

According to Elbit Systems, their ‘eye in the sky’ has already been in use in defense and homeland security missions around the world.

It works with unmanned aircraft vehicles and light aircraft, giving it a diverse array of potential surveillance applications.

The wide-area persistent surveillance solution, SkEye WAPS, allows users to select particular footage in real time as the camera observes a given area. It also shows ‘back in time’ footage within the coverage area – and, up to 10 individual regions can be analyzed at once

The wide-area persistent surveillance solution, SkEye WAPS, allows users to select particular footage in real time as the camera observes a given area. It also shows ‘back in time’ footage within the coverage area – and, up to 10 individual regions can be analyzed at once

Previous visual intelligence (VISINT) gathering systems relied on a designated video format in which the operator could only see and record the particular area in view, neglecting the surrounding area.

But, the firm says the new camera allows for much wider coverage, with the ability to hone in on key events.

‘Elbit Systems’ SkEye WAPS system is a game changer in homeland security missions, enabling forces to analyze and retrace the steps of terrorists and criminals in an extremely large area, providing them with timely and valuable data in life threatening situations,’ said Bezhalel Machils, Elbit Systems’ President & CEO.

‘In light of recent threats worldwide and particularly in Europe, SkEye WAPS provides meaningful leverage to security organizations in intelligence gathering mission and countering terrorist threats.’ (the Daily Mail)

Revolutionary technology reveals dazzling ‘hidden’ text on biblical-era shard

Using a modified household digital camera and a revolutionary new technique for performing multispectral imaging, an interdisciplinary team from Tel Aviv University has discovered never-before-seen Hebrew inscriptions on a First Temple-era shard. The discovery raises the possibility that other “blank” shards from the period may also contain undiscovered texts, and there are now plans for a wider reexamination of all shards from that time period.

A corpus of 91 ink-on-clay shards (or ostraca) written on the eve of the Kingdom of Judah’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar was unearthed at Tel Arad, west of the Dead Sea, in the 1960s. A remarkable find, the shards were found together on the floor of a single room, and what legible writing was discerned was thoroughly deciphered by top scholars. For the past 50 years, they have been prominently displayed in the Israel Museum.

Containing lists of supplies and orders from military quartermasters, the shards’ value to the study of the Hebrew language, the sociology and the economy of the time period is immeasurable.

Now, though, with the discovery of previously “invisible” words, and even sentences on the “blank” verso side of one of the first shards to be examined with the new technology, the pieces have become still more important.

It is speculated that the majority of correspondence and literature of this historical period was written on biodegradable papyrus. Therefore, most surviving biblical-period Hebrew inscriptions are on ostraca. Once unearthed, however, ink on clay fades rapidly; many shards previously thought of as “blank” have been summarily disposed of at digs or during artifact recording.

The new, user-friendly multispectral imaging technique, developed by a team of applied mathematicians, archaeologists and physicists — co-directed by archaeology Prof. Israel Finkelstein and physics Prof. Eli Piasetzky — will give these “blank” pottery pieces the chance to reveal any hidden treasures.

In an article published Wednesday in the PLOS One peer-reviewed scientific journal, the team describes the experiment in multispectral (MS) imaging it conducted on an ostracon (Ostracon No. 16, Israel Antiquities Authority number: 1967-990, dated to ca. 600 BCE) from the Tel Arad hoard.

The results of the experimental MS imaging were increased clarity of text on the already studied facing side — and the entirely unintentional discovery of new lines of text, undetectable by the human eye, on the verso.

Shard

The new text on the verso side of Ostracon No. 16 was discovered by chance. While photographing the known facing text, Michael Cordonsky, the imaging lab and system manager at the School of Physics and Astronomy, had the idea of flipping the shard — just in case — and found three lines of writing from two and a half millennia ago that would otherwise have been lost to the annals of history.

“We thought we had a great technique, but it turns out that we looked for she-asses and found a kingdom,” said mathematician Barak Sober, alluding to the biblical story in which the future king Saul searches for his father’s donkeys and meets up with the prophet Samuel who anoints him.

Through the new MS imaging, some 45 new characters were added to the facing side of Ostracon No. 16, meaning almost 20 words with a changed reading — half the total. On the unknown verso side, the text bears more than 50 characters, creating 17 new words.

The clay shard was photographed in a dark room with the team’s modified Canon SLR 450D digital camera. Different lenses and filters were used, including a Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di 1:1 Macro lens. And the internal Canon IR cut filter was removed by Lifepixel and replaced with transparent glass having the same refractive index, according to the article.

Most cameras institutions purchase to perform the MS imaging cost around $100,000. The Tel Aviv team’s bootlegged version cost well under $5,000.

“This research suggested a simple procedure for acquiring the most legible MS image out of a group of images taken at different wavelengths… Based on these conclusions, a low-cost MS acquisition system was constructed and compared to a more sophisticated and costly MS imaging device. The potential for legibility improvement was found to be comparable in these two systems,” according to the article.

The Times of Israel spoke with team member and applied mathematician Arie Shaus, whose doctorate deals with the mathematical and statistical techniques used for picture processing. According to Shaus, the modified MS imaging camera used by the interdisciplinary team is a game changer for archaeological studies.

“It means that every university or archaeological dig can build the camera,” Shaus said, and potentially discover previously overlooked inscriptions.

Shaus said the team will continue to photograph other ostraca from this First Temple period; he estimates that the project will be finished by the end of the year.

However, noted Shaus, scholars will still be presented with two challenges: ostraca that are outside the borders of Israel; and a new need to re-decipher and reexamine any inscriptions found on previously studied artifacts.

“That is very labor intensive and time consuming,” he said.

For many linguists, however, finding new insights and rare glimpses into First Temple Hebrew will be a labor of love.

Scholarly importance of the new inscriptions

According to the scientific secretary of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, the existent inscriptions found in the Arad pottery hoard are already very important to the study of ancient Hebrew.

The 91-piece trove largely consists of a correspondence between military supply masters, mostly addressed to a person named Elyashiv, who is thought to be the quartermaster in the fortress. Unsurprisingly, most of the language deals with words centering around foodstuffs and shipment orders.

According to the PLOS article, “The inscriptions contain commands regarding supply of commodities (wine, oil and flour) to military units and movement of troops, set against the background of the stormy events in the final years before the fall of Judah. They include orders that came to the fortress of Arad from higher echelons in the Judahite military command system, as well as correspondence with neighboring forts.”

Ostacon No. 16 is a letter sent to Elyashiv from Hananyahu — the team speculates he was a quartermaster in Beersheba — and discusses the transfer of silver. After the MS imaging experiment, newly discovered inscriptions show that Hananyahu also asked for wine.

“While it’s true that many of the ostraca deal with wine or other supplies, there are findings that go well beyond that in terms of their importance. The trove teaches about grammar, vocabulary, on the form and development of the writing, spelling, and also about the Hebrew used at that time,” said Ronit Gadish, the scientific secretary of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

But they also shed light on the sociology and economy of the era. Through ordered supplies, we know what foodstuffs could be found at that time in Israel and the quantities requested, noted Gadish.

“Every letter, every chance to decipher anything improves our understanding of the text and the history, the economy, and the language of this period,” Gadish added. “It’s amazing because it can suddenly be so easily seen. This is a very important development.”

Shaus told The Times of Israel that, due to the reasonable cost of the imaging, he hopes that all institutions and archaeological digs will implement this technology in the near future as an inseparable tool in their research.

“We want to be sure that the human eye doesn’t overlook any more inscriptions,” said Shaus.

“My heart aches when thinking of all the inscriptions [on finds believed to be blank] that were perhaps thrown into the trash, because it was impossible to discern them in the field,” he added. (the Times of Israel)

Palestinians’ Real Tragedy: Failed Leadership

by Khaled Abu Toameh            The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10526/palestinians-failed-leadership

Under the regimes of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, Palestinians are free to criticize Israel and incite against it. But when it comes to criticizing the leaders of the PA and Hamas, the rules of the game are different. Such criticism is considered a “crime” and those responsible often find themselves behind bars or subjected to other forms of punishment.

This, of course, is not what the majority of Palestinians were expecting from their leaders. After the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago, Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent.

Given the current state of the Palestinians, it is hard to see how they could ever make any progress towards establishing a successful state with law and order and respect for public freedoms and democracy.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip may be at war with each other, but the two rival parties seem to be in agreement over one issue: silencing and intimidating their critics. Of course, this does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the undemocratic nature of the PA and Hamas.

Under the regimes of the PA and Hamas, Palestinians are free to criticize Israel and incite against it. But when it comes to criticizing the leaders of the PA and Hamas, the rules of the game are different. Such criticism is considered a “crime” and those responsible often find themselves behind bars or subjected to other forms of punishment.

This, of course, is not what the majority of Palestinians were expecting from their leaders. After the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago, Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA, first under Yasser Arafat and later under Mahmoud Abbas, has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent.

The Palestinian Authority, first under Yasser Arafat and later under Mahmoud Abbas, has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

If Palestinians had in the past to deal with only one regime (the PA) that does not honor freedom of expression, in the last 10 years they have fallen victim to another repressive government (Hamas) that rules the Gaza Strip with an iron fist and suppresses any form of freedom of expression and targets anyone who dares to speak out.

The Palestinians in PA’s West Bank-controlled territories and Hamas’s Gaza Strip can only look at their neighbors in Israel and envy them for the democracy, free media and rule of law. Hardly a day passes without the Palestinians being reminded by both the PA and Hamas that they are still far from achieving their dream of enjoying democracy and freedom of expression. A free media is something that Palestinians can only continue to dream about.

The Palestinian media in the West Bank serves as a mouthpiece for the PA and its leaders. Even privately-owned television and radio stations in the West Bank have long learned that they must toe the line or face punitive measures and feel the heavy hand of the PA security forces. This is why Palestinian media outlets and journalists in the West Bank refrain from reporting about any story that may reflect negatively on Abbas or any of his cronies. In the world of the media, it is called self-censorship.

In the Gaza Strip, the situation is not any better. In fact, it is hard to talk about the existence of a media under Hamas. Hamas and its security forces maintain a tight grip on local media outlets and journalists are subjected to tight restrictions. Criticism of Hamas is almost unheard of and could land those responsible in prison.

In the absence of a free and independent media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, some writers, journalists and political activists have resorted to social media to air their views and share their grievances with their fellow Palestinians and the outside world. But the PA and Hamas have discovered the power of Facebook and Twitter, and have taken the battle against their critics to these two platforms.

Posting critical or controversial postings on social media is considered a serious offense under the PA and Hamas. The leaders of the PA and Hamas accuse those who dare to criticize them on Facebook of “extending their tongues” and “insulting” representatives of the Palestinians.

In the past few years, dozens of Palestinian journalists, bloggers, academics and political activists have been imprisoned or summoned for interrogation by the PA and Hamas over their Facebook postings. International human rights organizations and advocates of free speech and media around the world prefer to look the other way in the face of these human rights violations by the PA and Hamas. Moreover, “pro-Palestinian” groups and individuals in the West do not seem to care about the sad state of affairs of the Palestinians under the PA and Hamas. The only “wrongdoing” and “evil” they see is on the Israeli side. By ignoring the plight of the suppressed Palestinians, these “pro-Palestinian” activists and groups are actually aiding the PA and Hamas in their efforts to silence the voices of dissent and criticism.

The absence of international criticism allows the PA and Hamas to continue their policy of silencing and intimidating Palestinians who dare to speak out against the lack of freedom of expression and democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Recently, for example, Hamas arrested two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who posted critical remarks on Facebook: Abdallah Abu Sharekh and Shukri Abu Oun.

Abu Sharekh, a prominent writer, was arrested shortly after he posted a comment on Facebook criticizing senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel. “You are ruling the Gaza Strip with an iron fist and fire,” Abu Sharekh wrote. “The state of oppression (in the Gaza Strip) is intolerable. You (Hamas) have taken the Gaza Strip back to the Middle Ages.”

Abu Sharekh’s criticism came in response to the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of families in the Gaza Strip spend most of the day without electricity as a result of the power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Last month, the PA announced that it would stop paying Israel for the fuel supplied to the power plants in the Gaza Strip. The PA’s move is designed to punish Hamas. But Abu Sharekh and other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hold Hamas responsible for the crisis. They argue that Hamas’ corruption, specifically the embezzlement of Qatari funds intended to purchase fuel for the power plants, is the main reason behind the crisis. Abu Sharekh, in his Facebook comment, pointed out that Hamas leaders have installed private generators that supply their homes with electricity even during the power outages.

In an unprecedented and bold move, Abu Sharekh’s clan issued a statement condemning Hamas for arresting their son for expressing his opinion:

“We hold Hamas fully responsible for the safety and health of our son and call for an end to the persecution of him and his likes… We reject and condemn any action that constitutes an assault on the right of our sons to express their political views, notwithstanding the excuses.”

Abu Oun was arrested for posting similar criticism of Hamas on Facebook. Earlier, Hamas also arrested journalists Nasr Abu Foul, Ahmed Qdeih and Hazem Madi on charges of publishing “fake news” and “spreading rumors.” Their real crime: posting critical comments about Hamas on social media. Later, Hamas also arrested political activists Mohammed al-Tuli and Amer Balousheh for the same reason.

Another Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip who has fallen victim to Hamas’s crackdown on freedom of expression is Fuad Jaradeh, a correspondent with Palestine TV. Hamas security officers arrested Jaradeh after raiding his home in the Tel al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City and confiscating his laptop and mobile phone. His family says he was arrested only because of his critical postings on Facebook against Hamas.

What is funny and sad is that the Palestinian Authority, which has been criticizing Hamas’s crackdown on freedom of expression in the Gaza Strip, has long been resorting to similar measures against its critics in the West Bank.

The latest victim of the PA’s suppression of public freedoms is Nassar Jaradat, a 23-year-old political activist who was arrested earlier this week for criticizing senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub. PA security forces arrested Jaradat after he posted a comment on Facebook in which he criticized Rajoub for acknowledging Jews’ right to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A PA court has since ordered Jaradat, an engineering student, remanded into custody for 15 days on charges of “insulting” a top Palestinian official.

Last year, the PA demonstrated that it does not hesitate to arrest even one of its own if he dares to criticize Palestinian leaders. Osama Mansour, a senior PA security official, was arrested and later fired because he criticized Mahmoud Abbas for attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Such arrests have become commonplace under the PA in the West Bank. Almost every week, Palestinians hear of another journalist or blogger or activist who has been arrested or summoned for interrogation by the PA security forces for nothing more than posting remarks critical of the government on social media.

Palestinians were hoping to achieve an independent state of their own. In the end, however, they got two separate states — one in the West Bank and the second in the Gaza Strip — as a result of the power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. But the real tragedy for the Palestinians is that neither the PA nor Hamas values human rights or public freedoms. The real tragedy of the Palestinians over the past few decades has been failed leadership — whether it is the secular PLO or the Islamist Hamas.

Given the current state of the Palestinians, it is hard to see how they could ever make any progress towards establishing a successful state with law and order and respect for public freedoms and democracy.

Hold the double standards, please.

It’s a sad state of affairs out there — poverty, destruction, hunger. So why is the world focusing on a “problem” that doesn’t really exist?

College students are learning, right?

We get it, they’ve got their grades to worry about. But you’d be surprised at how many ridiculous fake “facts” these budding scholars believe about Israel. Hummus, anyone?