Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman
Several anti-tank missiles were fired by Hezbollah toward an IDF base and at military vehicles along the northern border on Sunday, and Israel’s military responded by firing over 100 artillery shells into southern Lebanon as well launching an airstrike against the cell responsible for the attack.
There were no injuries or casualties reported in the attack.
“A number of anti-aircraft missiles were fired from Lebanon at an IDF base and military vehicles in the area,” the IDF said. “There are a number of confirmed hits.”
According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, Hezbollah fired at least three Kornet anti-tank missiles at a military position and military ambulance at around 4 p.m.
Manelis stated that while Hezbollah was able to carry out their retaliation, the military had been prepared for the scenario of an anti-tank missile attack, and had taken the necessary precautions to ensure that there would be no casualties.
Hezbollah took responsibility for the attack near Avivim, and was quoted by the Al Manar television channel as saying that “at 16:15 Hasan Zbeeb and Yasser Daher’s brigade destroyed an Israeli military vehicle near the border, killing and wounding those inside.”
The IDF refuted those claims.
Lebanese media reported that in retaliation, the IDF shelled sites near the Lebanese border town of Maroun al-Ras, but by 6:30 p.m. a tense quiet had returned to the border.
The military warned nevertheless that it was not sure if the attack on Avivim was the full extent of Hezbollah’s retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on August 24 against an Iranian-led cell in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members planning a drone attack on Israel.
Lebanon’s LBCI’s news channel said Hezbollah warned that “retaliation over drones will be in kind, and will be at its own time and according to its own circumstances.”
Following the attack, the military ordered residents living within four kilometers of the border to remain in their homes and open their bomb shelters. Any activity along the border fence area, including agricultural work, is prohibited, and the IDF urged residents of the area not to travel on open roads near the border.
While the military later removed all restrictions, the IDF said that it “will continue to keep a high-threat level – both defensive and offensive – for a wide variety of scenarios.”
United Nations peacekeepers were reported to be in contact with officials from both sides, in an effort to contain the violence along the border.
UNIFIL Force Commander and Head of Mission Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col called the attack a “serious incident in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and clearly directed at undermining stability in the area.”
“We need to maintain security along the Blue Line and exercise utmost restraint,” he said. “General calm has been restored in the area and the parties have reassured me of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities in accordance with Resolution 1701.”
According to Manelis, Del Col was in Israel on Sunday morning and met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who told him Israel’s position on Hezbollah and their precision-missile project.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri called for the intervention of the United States, France and the international community to stop the escalation along the border.
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was meeting with the president of Honduras at the time of the attack, received constant updates on the situation along the northern border.
“We are consulting about the future, are prepared for any scenario, and will decide on future actions depending on the developments,” he said.
According to reports, Netanyahu had earlier told reporters that “Lebanon will pay the price.” Amid mounting tensions with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, Netanyahu said that Israel’s enemies, especially Iran, should know that those who seek to destroy Israel risk destruction themselves.
Speaking to students on the first day of school in Elkana, Netanyahu said it is clear today that most of the terrorism Israel faces is organized, sponsored and funded from one place: Iran.
“A new empire has arisen with the goal of defeating us,” he said. “They build proxies in Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah, in Gaza in the form of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are trying to entrench themselves in Iraq to turn it not only into a country through which it can transfer arms to Syria and Hezbollah, but also to turn it into a launching pad for rockets and infiltrations against us.”
Netanyahu said that Israel is fighting Iran on all these fronts, and is determined to prevent it from entrenching itself militarily in the region and from getting nuclear weapons, “which would unequivocally alter the balance.”
President Reuven Rivlin opened his meeting with the Ethiopian president, warning that “we are ready and prepared to protect the citizens of Israel wherever they may be. We are ready, and we do not want to show you just how much. Take heed that the quiet can prevail only if it is on both sides of the border.”
Earlier on Sunday, the Hezbollah affiliated al-Manar news channel reported that the IDF fired several shells, causing fires on the Lebanese side, but there were no injuries.
The Lebanese army reported that an Israeli drone dropped incendiary material on a forest along the border, sparking a fire. The statement by the Lebanese Armed Forces said that it was following up on the Israeli violation with UN peacekeepers.
“A short while ago, fires broke out in the Lebanese border area,” the IDF said in a statement. “The fires originate with operations by our forces in the area.”
Israel’s Northern Command has been on high alert since last week, expecting a limited strike against military targets over the August 24 strike in Syria and an alleged Israeli drone attack in Beirut’s Dahiyeh.
The military set up roadblocks on arteries leading north, and has blocked traffic from entering several towns along the border.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported on Saturday that the IDF launched more than 30 flare bombs near the Lebanese border towns of Ghajar, Mount Dov and Kfarchouba, as well and engaged with heavy machine gun fire near the villages of al-Semmaqah, al-Alam and al-Marsad.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Saturday evening that the military had also begun preparing ground, air, naval and intelligence troops for the possibility of an outbreak of violence in northern Israel, specifically in the Galilee. A convoy of artillery was seen been moved north by local residents.
In addition to the reinforcement of artillery batteries, Iron Dome missile defense batteries have been deployed, and leave for combat soldiers in the area has been canceled. The IDF has also closed the airspace to civilian flights, closing the civilian airport in Kiryat Shmona, and has put the navy on high alert, expecting an attack by Hezbollah.
The moves are part of the military’s strengthening of power and readiness in anticipation of any retaliation by the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group, which it is expecting against IDF troops or a military installation along the border.
On Saturday night, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned that it was “inevitable” that the group will retaliate against Israel, which he said claimed responsibility for attacks on Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
“Normally, we respond from Shaba Farms, but this time I wanted to say it would be open-ended where we would retaliate from,” Nasrallah was quoted by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar. “This time it won’t be restricted to coming from Shaba. The first retaliation on the Israeli aggression would be initiating our right to down Israeli drones. Israel should know that the Lebanese airspace is not open to its drones, and the resistance will choose the right time and place to target the Israeli drones in our airspace.”
Kochavi toured the area on Friday and Head of the Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram warned that Hezbollah and Lebanon would suffer a “harsh response” to any attack.
“You should be preparing not for Hezbollah’s response against the IDF, but for their response to our response” to such an attack, Baram said, vowing that “if an IDF soldier is so much as scratched, our response will be harsh.”(Jerusalem Post)
From the beginning the IDF planned a decoy. Minutes after the Hezbollah anti-tank missiles hit, soldiers with bandages and fake blood were flown by helicopter to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
They were taken off the helicopters in stretchers in dramatic scenes reminiscent of past Israelis wars and operations.
After the round of violence came to an end, the so-called “wounded” soldiers were discharged from the hospital.
The IDF had prepared ahead of time for the Hezbollah assault, ever since last Saturday when Israel struck an Iranian cell in Syria planning to launch explosive-laden drones into Israel.
After Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at an Israeli base near Avivim, the military was initially ambiguous and vague, not revealing any information whether soldiers were wounded or not.
After about two hours, the IDF finally announced that no one had been injured. (Jerusalem Post)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the Trump administration is considering allowing U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on their U.S. passports.
“We’re constantly evaluating the way we handle what can be listed on passports,” he told JNS in a wide-ranging interview. “It’s something that’s actively being looked at.”
Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv months later, Americans born in Jerusalem are still unable to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on U.S. passports.
“The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS in October. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”
Pro-Israel organizations responded positively to JNS regarding the development.
B’nai B’rith International CEO and executive vice president Dan Mariaschin said “it’s encouraging news. This is a logical follow-on to moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and in the process, corrects a historical wrong which denied this designation for over seven decades.”
“The [U.S.] Supreme Court has determined that the passport issue is within the purview of the administration, which has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said American Zionist Movement president Richard Heideman. “It is most appropriate for passports for those born in Jerusalem, such as my three grandchildren born at Hadassah Hospital, to be listed as born in Jerusalem, Israel and not simply born in Jerusalem as if they were stateless, which they are not.”
Jerusalem, said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, is the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel. This should be reflected in all aspects of relevant U.S. policy, including on passports of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem, Israel.”
“This is a very important and significant decision which affirms the long-standing fact that Jerusalem is Israel and isn’t in “dispute,’” said Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks. “Once again, President Trump and his administration enacts a policy that the Jewish community has long sought and underscores why he’s the most pro-Israel President in history.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of Endowment for Middle East Truth, said “it’s about time that people who have been born in Jerusalem, Israel should have their state listed on a passport. We applaud Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for seriously considering it. It’s outrageous that only American citizens born in Jerusalem have remained stateless for so long even with the U.S. embassy moved to Jerusalem.”
“The National Council of Young Israel supported the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and have long advocated for U.S. Passports of Americans born in Jerusalem to say Jerusalem, Israel,” said the group’s president, Farley Weiss. “Listing Jerusalem, Israel on U.S. passports is a natural extension of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
“It is long overdue that this is corrected,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. “It is unfair to the Americans born in Jerusalem that their passports do not recognize the state. It does not prejudge or compromise the US position; it compliments U.S. law that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said, “We have long advocated that those who were born in Jerusalem can list Israel as their place of birth for their U.S. passports.”
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that it is solely the president who has the power to recognize foreign entities in accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s Reception Clause.
“Zivotofsky ruled in favor of the executive; he was not required to comply with the federal law,” constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro previously told JNS. “Trump, like Obama, can decline to stamp ‘Israel’ on the passport of a citizen born in Jerusalem.”
Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides told JNS on Thursday that the “passport designation decision is rather unsurprising—more of an inevitable matter of when than of will, given the Trump Administration’s December 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
“What will be most noteworthy going forward are several paramount questions. What will be the response of Arab countries such Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco that are tentatively supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to advance a breakthrough Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to include negotiations on Jerusalem’s final municipal boundaries?
“Did the White House first notify these countries of its impending decision to gauge and ensure their continued support for the peace plan effort?” he posed. “And will this decision help Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu prevail in upcoming Israeli elections?”
The next round of Israeli elections will be held on Sept. 17, after the April 9 first round failed to result in a coalition government. (JNS)
What started as a child’s toy has turned into a strategic weapon in the hands of militaries and non-state hostile actors across the skies of the messy Middle East.
From the crowded cities of Beirut and Gaza to the sandy deserts of Yemen and Iraq, weaponized drones have brought a whole new assortment of security threats to the forefront and have raised the stakes in the tensions between Israel and its enemies.
“The threat of drones is a multilayer threat,” Dr. Abraham Mazor, VP BD & Marketing of Smart Shooter, told The Jerusalem Post. “There is not only one kind of done that we have to defeat; there are many kinds, in terms of height, weight, velocity; and therefore there is no one solution for the threat posed by them.”
While drones and other incendiary aerial devices are cheap and usually toys that can be bought on the civilian market, they are fast and remain a challenge even for skilled sharpshooters. The appeal of such unmanned aircraft, which can also be small enough to evade air-defense systems, has pushed many companies to scramble to come up with breakthrough technology to take them out.
But a new system developed by Smart Shooter, the SMASH 2000, to take out drones might be the answer militaries are looking for.
“Since drones have become a very serious threat all over the world, we began to think of how we could use the system against drones,” Mazor said, explaining that SMASH 2000 can hit moving targets on the ground and in the sky.
“If you are capable of hitting moving targets, we don’t care if the target is on the ground, such as terrorists in the terminal, terrorists on the battlefield, or a drone in the sky,” he said.
We have to adapt the algorithm and a few other things, but basically we are facing the same challenge – how to hit moving targets,” he said.
Even with no experience with rifles or the system, the author, during a visit to a range in northern Israel with company representatives, was able to take down moving targets at over 200 meters away, including several balloons, with the help of SMASH 2000 attached to the M4 rifle used. The author became a smart shooter.
“The need for such a system comes from the place where soldiers in combat need to operate in very tense scenarios and do things very fast and accurately under a tremendous amount of physical and mental pressure,” another representative from the company told the Post while demonstrating the system at the range.
“Exactly the same way it locks on a target on the ground, it locks on a target in the air,” he said.
With the system, the user selects and locks onto the target, and as soon as the trigger is squeezed, the system calculates the target’s movement and predicts its next location by means of advanced image processing and algorithms. SMASH 2000 prevents the bullet being fired until the target is precisely in its crosshairs.
LONG BEFORE the IDF came face-to-face with the burning balloons and kites from Gaza, the IDF and the Defense Ministry were looking for such a system, and, according to Globes, installed it on rifles used by troops in the Golani, Paratrooper and Givati brigades. After a successful pilot program, thousands of Smart Shooter sites were ordered.
“What we are dealing with is the shooter – it could be a border guard, infantry, special forces – whoever carries the rifle and needs to use the rifle, he will be precise. We don’t mean just infantry, we mean everyone. The system allows anyone to be a smart shooter just after a bit of basic training,” Mazor said.
And in Israel it’s even more crucial, he continued, explaining that in times of war thousands of reservists can be called up without any recent training.
The combination of simple hardware and advanced image-processing software can effectively turn every soldier with basic weapons into sharpshooters, with the first round out of every rifle hitting its target.
“Smart Shooter’s fire control solutions are designed to give soldiers and law enforcement officers a decisive tactical edge in almost every operational scenario, maximizing force lethality and effectiveness throughout an engagement,” the company said, adding that “repurposed and occasionally armed civilian drones have become common, turning the concept of unmanned warfare back on national forces.”
The SMASH 2000 gives troops a precision anti-drone system on their weapon with built-in targeting algorithms that can track and hit drones flying at high speeds at ranges of up to 120 meters with the first shot.
The system effectively downs a hostile target in a cheap manner, saving militaries millions of dollars that might have been spent deploying a helicopter or launching a $3 million Patriot missile toward such platforms.
Hezbollah and Hamas have sent drones into Israel and are said to have been working on upgrading the group’s UAVs for use in both offensive operations and intelligence gathering. Larger, more advanced drones sent by Hezbollah and Iran have also infiltrated Israel from the northern border, most recently in February of last year, when Iran launched a drone on a sabotage mission. It was eliminated by an Apache attack helicopter near Beit She’an.
ON SATURDAY the Israel Air Force took out an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force cell led by two Hezbollah operatives planning an explosive drone attack against Israel. The cell, which was under the direct order of IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was said to be planning to use drones similar to the kind used by the Houthis in Yemen against Saudi Arabia.
Several hours later two explosive-laden DJI drones appeared in the skies of the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh. One exploded, hitting an industrial-sized planetary mixer, which is a central component to create propellants that can improve engine performance and accuracy of missiles. The explosion also destroyed the machine’s control panel. Hezbollah and Lebanon have accused Israel of being behind the attack.
And while the drone tit for tat over the weekend has raised the risk of unwanted escalation between Israel and Iran, Israel’s military has been contending with ongoing violence with the Gaza Strip.
In the last round of violence between Israel and terrorist groups in the blockaded coastal enclave, the IDF said that there were multiple attempts to attack troops stationed along the border using drones.
In one attempt, Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed that a drone belonging to its military wing dropped a bomb in the vicinity of an IDF tank. In a video a drone drops a bomb above a tank, after it spots IDF troops approaching it. The bomb explodes near the tank, deployed close to the border, but does not cause any injuries to the nearby troops.
But more simple devices, such as kites, balloons and condoms carrying Molotov cocktails or bombs, have posed a major problem for Israel since the beginning of the “Great March of Return” protests along the Gaza border fence.
The devices have caused over 2,000 separate fires, resulting in over 3,500 hectares (approximately 8,500 acres) being burned. According to the IDF, this has included over 1,300 hectares (approximately 3,200 acres) of nature reserves, and over 1,100 hectares (approximately 2,700 acres) of forestry.
For several months the IDF had been using high-speed drones to take out hostile drones from the Hamas-run coastal enclave. But they couldn’t get them all. According to Mazor, the SMASH 2000 system has now been in use by the IDF for several months along the border, taking out drones and incendiary balloons launched from Gaza.
“There is a lot of interest around this product because of the drone threat and the balloons from Gaza,” he said.
The system has also been deployed with other forces in various countries around the world, with the main customer being US special forces.
“We are there; we have been trying the system, they have been trying the system, and they are very happy with it, and the results are very successful so far,” Mazor said, adding that the company is preparing to work with Europeans and other countries.
“It is my vision that the entire world – especially in developed countries, where there is a lot of sensitivity to collateral damage – that all militaries should switch to this system,” he added.
Earlier this month the US Air Force showcased the system at Beale Air Force Base in California.
According to a statement by the USAF on its website, Chief Master Sgt. Dustin Hall, 9th Reconnaissance Wing command chief, and Col. Andrew Clark, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, tested the SMASH 2000 fire control system developed by Smart Shooter.
“The 9th Security Forces Squadron airmen have been using off the shelf commercial technology to help train and improve how their missions are conducted to protect the installation,” the USAF said.
And while SMASH allows troops to remove the threat of drones and other aerial targets, “what will happen in the next two years, nobody knows,” Mazor said.
“There is no one solution for the threat posed by drones,” Mazor said. But, “among all the means that exist, we can eliminate drones in one shot. Any and every soldier with the SMASH 2000 can defeat the threat…. It’s as simple as that.” (Jerusalem Post)
Under a mountain on the outskirts of Jerusalem, workers are completing three years of labor on a massive subterranean necropolis comprised of a mile (1.5 kilometers) of tunnels with sepulchers for interring the dead.
Up above, the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery dominates the hillside overlooking the main highway leading into Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. But in October, the cemetery’s management plans to open the first section of a sprawling catacomb complex which, when completed, will provide 23,000 gravesites for an increasingly crowded country.
“People will die probably forever,” said Arik Glazer, chief executive of Rolzur Tunneling, the company building the tunnel tombs, “so you have to get space for that.”
Land is in short supply in Israel, and Jewish and Muslim burial customs require interring the dead in the ground and prohibit cremation. The hilltop cemetery is almost at capacity, with nearly a quarter million graves. The first underground section opening in October will have capacity for 8,000. The remaining sections are slated to open in the coming years.
Workers at the construction site of a massive underground cemetery in Jerusalem
Like other increasingly crowded metropolises, Tel Aviv has embraced vertical cemetery structures to accommodate growing demand, but now Israel is looking for solutions below ground.
Even in the blazing summer heat, the labyrinthine vaults maintain their steady year-round temperature of 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit).
The limestone walls are lined four-high with tombs that resemble small Japanese capsule hotels. Giant flame-hued polyhedron light fixtures designed by German artist Yvelle Gabriel dangle at intersections between the avenues and streets deep in the mountain.
The entire project cost an estimated $50 million and took just over three years to complete. The tunnels take up just 5% of the total subterranean area of the mountain available for future tombs, Glazer said.
Part of the inspiration behind this project was the ancient Jewish custom of cave burials found at sites around the Holy Land, from the UNESCO heritage site of Beit Shearim near Haifa, to rocky hillsides around Jerusalem.
A”The basic blueprints for this project were the cemetery at Beit Shearim,” said Adi Alphandary, head of Rolzur’s business development. Those catacombs, active between the second and fourth centuries, were recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 2015.
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Amit Reem said that families would inter the deceased’s remains in the catacombs, then seal the door with a rock for eight months.
“When they opened the door of the cave, inside the cave was only the skeleton with no flesh,” Reem said. The bones were then collected and often placed in stone boxes, known as ossuaries, inside the cave chamber.
While the modern-day burial chambers will simply be sealed with a grave marker, Hananya Shahor, executive director of the Jewish burial association in Jerusalem, said that Orthodox rabbis they consulted said the sprawling site is “100% acceptable according to Jewish tradition.”
“We are almost sure that people will like this way much, much more than the old systems of burial,” he said. (Ynet News)
Did Hezbollah botch their long-awaited strike?
by Anna Ahronheim The Jerusalem Post
The initial reports and images from the scene in Avivim on Sunday afternoon were horrifying: smoke billowing in the rolling hills of the Galilee after three Kornet anti-tank missiles were fired by Hezbollah toward an IDF position and a military ambulance.
Reports out of Lebanon claimed that Hezbollah had succeeded in hitting a military vehicle “killing and injuring” those inside. The IDF said that a “number of hits were confirmed” after several anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon toward an Israeli military base and IDF vehicles.
There were reports of casualties and injuries that were evacuated to hospitals in Safed and Haifa by helicopter.
Residents living within four kilometers of the border were also ordered to remain in their homes and open their bomb shelters.
Even while the picture was unclear, the IDF hit back hard, sending more than 100 artillery shells toward targets in south Lebanon, including an airstrike on the Hezbollah cell which carried out the attack.
But when the smoke cleared, the IDF stated: “There are no injuries or fatalities to our troops.”
Hezbollah retaliated against Israel, but they failed to hit their mark.
The IDF had been preparing for an attack by the Shi’ite Lebanese terror group for more than one week. They closed roads along the border for military vehicles and, even according to Hezbollah, placed dolls in some military vehicles.
But was that it? Did Hezbollah just botch their long-awaited strike?
Reports from Lebanon say that the anti-tank attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike last week in Syria, which killed two members of the group. But that same night, a drone attack in Beirut’s Dahiyeh neighborhood was blamed on Israel.
Lebanon’s LBCI TV news channel reported that Hezbollah warned, “Retaliation over drones will be in kind, and will be at its own time and according to its own circumstances.”
While the military later removed all restrictions on residents in the North, the IDF said that it “will continue to keep a high threat level – both defense and offensive – for a wide variety of scenarios.”
The IDF knows that Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah cannot let the alleged Israeli drone attack in Beirut go unanswered. He will respond, when he wants, how he wants and against what he wants.
But the IDF does not want any soldiers hit – it knows that if one were to be injured or killed, a war would break out between the two enemies.
No one wants a war two weeks before elections – especially against Hezbollah.
The IDF was ambiguous about the casualties on Sunday afternoon, it acted as if the group hit its target. For more than two hours, the group thought it struck gold: they killed Israeli soldiers.
It was a brilliant move by the military. The next move is in Hezbollah’s court.