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Latest Israel News – 21st August

#WorldHumanitarianDay – Israel’s helping hand

Israel is a global humanitarian leader, providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief wherever it is needed around the globe.

On August 19th, the world marks World Humanitarian Day, paying tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service.

Here are three examples of the Israeli effort to help people around the world who are in need of humanitarian aid and disaster relief. (MFA)

One wounded, assailant shot dead in West Bank stabbing attack

A Border policeman was lightly wounded Saturday night after being stabbed near the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank.

The attacker, identified by the police as a 17-year-old resident of Tulkarm, was shot and killed by security forces.

According to police, a Palestinian approached the officers standing at the junction, pulled out a knife when they called on him to stop and then tried to attack them.

The 21-year-old victim, who was stabbed in the leg, was treated by Magen David Adom paramedics and IDF medical forces at the scene.

He was evacuated to the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva and was reported to be fully conscious.

Since October 2015, Palestinians have stabbed, run over and shot Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as some tourists, in a wave of violence. While the violence has decreased since its peak in the winter of 2016 when there were almost daily attacks, there have been several deadly attacks in recent months.

Defense officials have set the profile of the lone wolf attacker as a Palestinian male between the ages of 15-24 who comes from six or seven villages in the West Bank and target specific locations in the West Bank – the Gush Etzion junction, Hebron, Tapuah junction, Kikar Aryeh near Ariel and the southern entrance to Nablus – all locations that have become “symbols” of Israel in the West Bank.

A senior officer in the West Bank told The Jerusalem Post the best solution for protecting against a lone wolf attack is to prepare and train soldiers how to properly react.

“We are always worried that someone will wake up and want to carry out an attack, we are not able to track these lone wolves with 100% certainty” the senior officer said at his base outside Tulkarm.

Soldiers, he said, must recognize that situations can go “from 0-100” in a matter of seconds.   (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli teens attack IDF soldiers for looking Arab, one arrested

Police caught and arrested an Israeli teenager suspected of taking part in an assault against two off-duty soldiers and a teenage civilian Friday night in a public park in Pardes Hanna — reportedly because they mistook them for being Arab.

According to police, a 16-year-old resident of Pardes Hanna took part in an assault by a group of youths against the two soldiers, who are from the Golani and Kfir Brigades and live in the nearby town of Rosh Ha’ayin. The soldiers were sitting in a park with a young woman and a 17-year-old male.

The assailants reportedly beat the soldiers with a hookah pipe and other blunt objects. The victims were treated at Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Medical Center for injuries, including to their face, before being released.

According to Israel Radio, the soldiers were too scared to call the police following the incident, and it was only after the father of one of the soldiers learned his son was in the hospital that the police got involved and opened an investigation.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that, based on the victims’ statements, they believe the attackers are Jewish. But the motive for the assault is still under investigation as well.

The soldiers were in civilian clothes during the assault, she added.

“Soldiers go on vacation and are attacked by criminals just because they look like Arabs. It’s a disgrace,” Ynet news quoted the father as saying. “They [almost] lynched them, it could have ended in death. How did we stoop so low? And even if they were Arabs, [does this mean] we should harm them? We are shocked and demand that the lawbreakers be brought to justice.”

Police are expected to ask to extend the suspect’s detention at the Hadera police station.  (Jerusalem Post)

PM Netanyahu to meet Putin over Iranian presence in Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Saturday, amid increasing concerns that Iran is establishing a permanent military presence in Syria.

This will be Netanyahu’s fourth visit to Russia in some 16 months, a testament to Moscow’s influence in the region as a result of its intense engagement in Syria. In addition to the visits, Netanyahu and Putin speak regularly on the phone.

The PMO statement said that the purpose of the regular meetings with Putin is to discuss regional and bilateral issues as well as to prevent any accidental confrontation in Syria’s skies between the Israeli and Russian air forces.

Soon after Russia sent its forces to Syria in September 2015 to bolster President Bashar Assad, Netanyahu went to Moscow and set up a deconfliction mechanism to ensure that there are not accidents between the two air forces.

One senior Russian diplomatic official said recently that while Israel and Russia do not share the same interests in Syria, they do both have an interest in avoiding any accidental military confrontation, and that the cooperation between the two sides on this matter is “excellent.”

Israel has expressed its opposition to a cease-fire in Syria brokered between Russia and the US, because it leaves Iranian positions in place.

Netanyahu last met with Putin in March in Moscow, and already at that meeting warned that a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria would be unacceptable to Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s former counter terrorism chief warns: IS will carry out chemical attack

Islamic State is in its death throes but the worst is yet to come, the former head of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Brigadier General Nitzan Nuriel, said Friday, warning that the terror group could carry out a chemical attack.

“Western society must get used to the fact that terrorism is part of our life,” Nuriel said, speaking to Israel’s Army Radio. “We must get used to this, not in the sense of sitting around waiting for the next attack, and not in the sense of stopping to go abroad or to stop living, but in the sense of seeing who can improve the actions or processes that may help push back the next attack and make it an attack that will not claim large numbers of casualties.”

Nuriel, a 30-year IDF veteran, was speaking in the wake of the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks. At least 14 people were killed and some 130 were wounded in the two attacks. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Nuriel said that even though the group was in steep decline, it still had the ability to inflict great harm

“I, sadly, was among those who said, ‘I told you so,’ those who said that 2017 will be a bloody year in Europe,” he said.

“I think the worst is yet to come. What we are witnessing is the death throes of death of the physical infrastructure of Islamic State in the region, and these will regrettably be accompanied by many incidents of this kind and worse. I, for one, believe that a chemical terror attack is ahead of us,” he said, adding that “Islamic State has the knowledge, the capabilities and the means. I think they have already made the decision. All that remains is the operation in which this will happen.”

Nuriel said every aspect of such an attack, including obtaining the weapons and raw materials, could easily be organized by terror cells already located in European countries and trained for such missions.

He said that greater awareness was needed everywhere in order to intercept and prevent further attacks. And prevention was the responsibility of everyone, he said. “Prevention is something local and municipal authorities can do, to minimize the possibility that this will happen again.”

“What we need is to get at a situation where such incidents, when they happen, end after 10-15 seconds; so that a driver cannot plough on for 530 meters, either because we have prepared – in advance – roadblocks that can be raised immediately, or because there is intervention with assault rifles by security forces posted at the site.” (the Times of Israel)

Hamas summer camp teaches youths to ‘liberate Palestine’

Hamas held a closing ceremony in the Gaza Strip on Friday for a batch of the 120,000 boys and girls attending the Islamic terror group’s controversial summer schools.

The ceremony, for some 1,000 students who took part in camps in the southern city of Khan Yunis, was framed as part of Hamas’s plan to continue its armed conflict with Israel.

Boys between 15 and 18 years of age were put through military drills at the week-long camp, including shooting with live ammunition and training in scouting skills.

They also jumped through fiery hoops and went over obstacle courses.

Hamas official Ashraf Abu Zayed said the training came within the framework of “preparing for the liberation of Palestine.”

“We are trying to invest the younger generation and guide them towards the liberation project,” he told AFP, referring to armed struggle against Israel.

Such camps in the enclave of two million people have been heavily criticised by rights groups concerned with young people’s welfare.

Israel says they indoctrinate young people into Islamist Hamas’s terrorist ideology.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008, and Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the enclave aimed at preventing Hamas from bringing in arms and ammunition. (the Times of Israel)

In First for IDF, Chief Medical Officer Hails From Druze Community

Brig. Gen. Dr. Tarif Bader was sworn in Thursday as the IDF’s chief medical officer, marking the first time in Israel’s history that the position is manned by a Druze officer.

Brig. Gen. Dr. Tarif Bader

Bader replaced Brig. Gen. Dr. David Dagan, who served in the post for three years.

“It is our duty to preserve the lives of our soldiers and grant the necessary medical treatment to them and to anyone who needs it, across all parameters: routine missions, operational activity, and in times of emergency,” Bader said. “This is the challenge that we face and that obligates us to be at our best at all times.”

Previously, Bader headed the IDF’s medical mission to treat wounded Syrians on Israel’s northern border, and commanded three of the military’s humanitarian delegations: to Haiti in 2010, Nepal in 2015 and Turkey in 2016.  (JNS)

Poll: One third of British Jews have considered emigrating

In interviews with thousands of British Jews, almost a third of them said they have considered leaving the United Kingdom over the past two years due to anti-Semitism.

The findings are part of a report published Sunday by the Campaign Against Antisemitism watchdog group, which conducted since 2015 interviews with more than 10,000 British Jews together with the YouGov market research company.

In interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017 with a combined sample population of 7,156 respondents, 37 percent of them said they have been concealing in public signs that would indicate that they are Jewish.

Only 59 percent of the respondents since 2015 said they feel welcome in the United Kingdom and 17 percent said they feel unwelcome.

Only 39 percent of respondents from 2015 onward said they trust justice authorities to prosecute perpetrators of anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Three-quarters of the people interviewed said they feel that recent political events have resulted in increased hostility towards Jews. Since 2015, 80 percent of respondents said they believe that the Labour Party is harboring anti-Semites in its ranks.

In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left politician who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” was elected to lead Labour. Corbyn said last year that he regrets calling the terrorists his friends but Jewish groups in the United Kingdom and beyond have accused him of whitewashing anti-Semitism and allowing it to grow among the many thousands of supporters who joined Labour in support of his policies.

Corbyn has denied this claim, vowing to punish anyone who is found initiating or participating in hate speech. Dozens of members were expelled from Labour under Corbyn as part of this policy. However, several Labour members who were accused of anti-Semitic hate speech were readmitted or let off with suspensions or reprimands, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone who repeatedly said last year that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist.

On August 15, Campaign Against Antisemitism protested the selection of Luke Cresswell, a local politician who wrote online that “Moses must be proud” of supposed “genocide” by Israel, as a Labour candidate.

The survey’s respondents said they considered Islamist anti-Semitism “to be the threat that concerned them the most, and that rapidly rising hate crime targeting Jews was not being tackled by the authorities,” Campaign Against Antisemitism wrote.

The Jewish community of the United Kingdom recorded 767 anti-Semitic attacks in the first half of 2017 — the highest figure recorded within six months since monitoring began in 1984. In February, the Community Security Trust watchdog reported a record 1,309 incidents in 2016, constituting a 36 percent increase over the 2015 tally.

Among the people who told Campaign Against Antisemitism that they were considering leaving Britain was a daughter of the late mayor of Birmingham, Harold Blumenthal. The daughter, Mandy, “is now making preparations to leave Britain due to mounting antisemitism in politics and antisemitic crime, and the failure to tackle it,” the Campaign Against Antisemitism report said in a statement about their report.

Campaign Against Antisemitism called on the government to urgently implement the group’s own past recommendations, including specific training and guidance on anti-Semitic hate crime for officers and prosecutors.

The 2016 National Antisemitic Crime Audit registered a total of 1,078 anti-Semitic crimes, including 105 that were violent. Only one of the violent crimes was prosecuted, according to the audit. In total, only 15 cases were prosecuted, leading to the conviction of 17 suspects.

Political parties were encouraged by Campaign Against Antisemitism in its report to adopt the government’s definition of anti-Semitism, which cites vitriolic hate speech against Israel as an expression of anti-Semitism. (JTA)

‘More Israelis moving abroad than are returning’

Following a six-year period of decline in the number of Sabras leaving the country on a long-term basis, the study revealed a sizable increase starting in 2009.

Of the 16,700 Israeli citizens who moved overseas for an extended period of time in 2015, only about 8,500 returned, representing a noticeable increase in the exit rate and a decrease in the return rate compared to previous years, according to a report the Central Bureau of Statistics published on Monday.

The report tracked Israel-born citizens and does not account for immigrants.

Following a six-year period of decline in the number of Sabras leaving the country on a long-term basis, the study revealed a sizable increase starting in 2009.

The report also showed that in 2015, there was the lowest return rate since 2003: out of every 1,000 residents who left the country, only one returned. Furthermore, exit rates for 2015 showed that two residents out of every 1,000 left the country for an extended period of time.

Of the 16,700 departures, 57% were married, 53% were males, 95% were Jews and 5% were Arab. The median age was 27.6 years old.

Of the 8,500 who returned, 67% spent up to three years abroad, 55% were males, 94% were Jews and 5% were Arab. The median age was 29.8 years.

The study also revealed that between 1948 and 2015, approximately 720,000 Israeli citizens have left the country and never returned. This figure includes citizens who died overseas, which puts the emigration figure at between 557,000 and 593,000 (according to the estimated mortality rate in Israel). This estimate does not include children born outside of Israel to Israeli parents. (Jerusalem Post)

Border Police successfully field test innovative Israeli bandage

Israel’s Border Police are making preparations to equip their medics, commanders and team leaders operating in the Jerusalem area with Israeli-made Woundclot hemostatic bandages, which help save lives by making the blood flowing from wounds clot faster. The bandages dissolve within seven days.

The Border Police say the new bandages tip the scales in every aspect of treating gunshot or stab wounds. They can stop bleeding in 40 seconds or less, even in a wound to an artery or to the stomach. Another advantage is that they do not need to be removed as they begin to dissolve once the blood flow is controlled.

Border Police medics tested the bandages during the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, and they proved efficient in stopping bleeding quickly and keeping victims alive while they were being transferred to hospitals for further treatment.

“The bandage is very effective for massive bleeding and at points where it’s very difficult to stop bleeding, like the neck or internally,” said Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Shalom Bitton, the officer responsible for medical guidelines and instruction in the Border Police.

“The bandage has a biological component that increases the blood clotting process by a factor of 3,000, thereby stopping bleeding within 40 seconds,” Bitton said.

Woundclot bandages

Police forces worldwide have expressed interest in Woundclot bandages. Representatives from the New York and the Chicago police departments are due to visit Israel to learn about the innovative product.

Meanwhile, because Border Police officers are on the front lines against terrorists and are often the first officials to arrive at the scene of a terrorist attack, the Border Police command has decided to issue every member of the force with a personal first aid kit to provide lifesaving treatment to victims until trained medics can arrive.

The kits include bandages, a tourniquet, lightweight elastic gauze pads, and latex gloves. Border Police recruits learn basic first aid during their training. (Israel Hayom)

Israel has a gas conundrum

Long a resource-poor country, Israel now has more natural gas than it knows how to use. Even by conservative estimates, the fields discovered off its Mediterranean coast since 2009 hold enough energy to meet domestic needs for 40 years. The government hopes to earn a windfall by selling the excess abroad; the owners of Leviathan, the largest field, have earmarked 9bn cubic meters (bcm) for export each year. Jordan has already signed a deal to buy some. Israel wants to send the rest farther afield—offering it to Europe as an alternative to Russian supplies. But geography and politics make that difficult.

An overland pipeline would have to cross either Lebanon or war-torn Syria, neither of which recognises Israel. The shortest underwater path, to Turkey, is also problematic, because it would pass through Cypriot waters. Turkey occupied the northern third of the island in 1974; the Republic of Cyprus, which governs the south and also has gas to sell, rejects the project.

So in April Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s energy minister, signed a preliminary agreement to build an undersea pipeline directly to Europe. It would be the world’s longest, following a 2,200km path to Cyprus and onwards to Greece and Italy, at a depth of up to 3km. Mr Steinitz says it would take eight years to finish and cost up to $7bn. Sceptical energy executives think both estimates are low.

There may be a better solution next door. On August 8th Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, signed a law that allows private companies to import natural gas. It takes effect later this year. One firm, Dolphinus Holdings, is already in talks to buy up to 3bcm from Leviathan.

Egypt is itself poised to become a major gas producer: the Zohr field, discovered off its northern coast in 2015, holds the largest reserves in the Mediterranean and is almost twice the size of Leviathan. But even that gigantic find may not be enough to meet booming demand in a country of around 95m people. Imports from Israel could help fill any gaps—and turn Egypt into a regional energy hub. Unlike Israel, it has two liquefaction terminals, which allow natural gas to be loaded onto tankers and shipped round the world. Both have sat idle for the past five years, since Egypt diverted its exports to the local market. They could soon ramp up again, giving Israel access to European ports.

All this would be a reversal of recent history. Egypt used to supply Israel with 40% of its natural gas, under a 20-year deal signed in 2005. It quickly became a source of public anger, because the gas was sold at below-market rates. After the revolution in 2011 a Cairo court convicted the architects of the deal, including Hussein Salem, a business tycoon who fled to Marbella, in Spain, to avoid trial. Prosecutors said the state lost more than $700m in revenues. Independent experts put the figure much higher. Egypt pulled out of the contract in 2012, and a Swiss court eventually ordered Egas, the state-owned monopoly, to pay $1.7bn to compensate its Israeli partners.

A new deal could be politically fraught, but it would come at an opportune time. Egyptians are worried chiefly about their struggling economy. By working through private companies, instead of Egas, Egypt could also sidestep any complications from the judgment, which is still unpaid. It would probably import the gas via Jordan, to avoid using a pipeline from Israel that is owned by a plaintiff in the case. Though the Israeli embassy in Cairo is empty, security ties between the two countries are better than ever. Their economic relationship may be in for a big boost, too. (The Economist)