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Stabbing attack in Hebron

Latest News in Israel – 20th September

2 Palestinians attempt knife attack near Hebron; both are shot

Israeli security forces thwarted an attempted stabbing attack on Monday afternoon at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Security forces shot two Palestinian assailants near the holy site, killing one and critically wounding the other. Police reported that one officer was lightly wounded in the incident.

According to Border Police, the two would-be assailants were Hebron residents who had sought to attack Israeli forces at the site.

The two suspects apparently approached the Border Police officers and brandished knives in an attempt to stab them.

Border Police officers opened fire toward the two. According to Border Police, one of the attackers was killed and the other was in critical condition.

The incident was the second act of Palestinian violence on Monday and the eighth terror incident in the past four days.

Earlier in the day, a Palestinian assailant stabbed and seriously wounded two Israeli Border Police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The terrorist, who was reportedly in his early 20s and from east Jerusalem’s volatile Ras al-Amud neighborhood, was shot and seriously wounded at the scene by an officer.

Monday’s incidents followed a thwarted stabbing attack Friday near Damascus Gate in which a Jordanian terrorist was shot and killed after charging police with a knife.

Following an uptick in attacks over the past four days in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for heightened security. (Jerusalem Post)

Terrorist stabs, wounds 2 Israeli Border Police officers in Jerusalem attack

A male and female Border Police officer were stabbed from behind and seriously wounded Monday morning by an unidentified terrorist, who was shot, between Damascus and Herod’s Gates, outside Jerusalem’s Old City.

According to police, the attack took place shortly after 7 a.m.

“What we know right now is that a terrorist stabbed two police officers while they were on patrol in the area,” said Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld shortly after the attack.

“The female officer, who is in her 20s, was injured seriously and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and the male officer, who is in his 40s, was injured moderately-to-seriously, and taken Hadassah University Medical Center, in Ein Kerem.”

The terrorist, who is reportedly in his early 20s and from east Jerusalem’s volatile Ras al-Amud neighborhood, was shot at the scene by an officer, and is in critical condition, he said.

A Shaare Zedek spokeswoman said the female officer sustained a neck wound, remains unconscious, and has been placed on a respirator. The male officer sustained several stabs wounds to his upper body and is conscious, a Hadassah spokeswoman said.

“Police units have cordoned off the area,” said Rosenfeld. “There is heightened security there now, and we are searching for the terrorist’s identity. Police bomb disposal experts are checking the area.”

Stabbing

Scene of stabbing attack near Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem, September 19, 2016.

First-responder, Magen David Adom paramedic Dudu Hazanovitch said he helped treat the male officer.

“When I arrived at the scene, I saw an approximately 45-year-old man who was fully conscious with a penetrating wound to the upper body being treated by Magen David Adom paramedics,” said Hazanovitch.

“I aided him and dressed his wound to stop the bleeding, and shortly thereafter I evacuated him in moderated condition to the hospital where he is being treated by doctors.”

Monday’s attack follows a thwarted Friday stabbing attack near Damascus Gate when a Jordanian terrorist was shot and killed after charging police with a knife.

Following a spate of seven attacks over the past four days in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for heightened security.  (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Israel boosting security for Jewish holidays

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel was boosting security ahead of the upcoming Jewish High Holidays, after a surge in violence in the past few days.

Netanyahu’s comments came after what Israeli authorities said was the fifth attack on security forces or civilians since Friday following a three-week lull.

The violence over the past few days came as Palestinians wrapped up the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting Sunday that the army and police “are boosting their forces” ahead of the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur in October.

“The security forces are on heightened alert and I will meet with them today in order to ensure that we will be ready to defend our people during this sensitive period,” he said.

Earlier Sunday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli officer in a West Bank settlement before being shot by forces at the scene, the army said. It said a “terrorist carried out a stabbing attack in Efrat and wounded an officer.”

Both were evacuated to the Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, which said the soldier was in moderate condition after he was stabbed in the armpit. The attacker was also in moderate condition after suffering a gunshot to his head during the attack.

Efrat is a short distance from the flashpoint city of Hebron in the West Bank, where a Palestinian stabbed a soldier on Saturday before being shot dead, Israeli authorities say.

On Friday, two Palestinians rammed a car into a bus stop used by Israelis near the adjacent Kiryat Arba settlement, causing injuries before troops killed one of the assailants, Israeli authorities said.

The same day, a Jordanian tried to stab a police officer in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem before being shot dead, according to Israeli authorities.

Jordan called the shooting a “barbaric act” and alleged that the man killed was part of a group of tourists.

The Israeli army announced on Saturday it was deploying an additional battalion to reinforce the Hebron area following the uptick in violence around the city.

Palestinian terrorism and violence since last October has killed 34 Israelis, two Americans, one Eritrean and a Sudanese; 227 Palestinians and a Jordanian were also killed during that time. Israeli forces say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were killed during protests and clashes or in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.    (the Times of Israel)

After weekend of terror, Abbas says Palestinians attack Israelis ‘because they’ve lost hope’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday apparently attempted to distance the PA establishment from the recent spate of terror attacks against Israelis, saying the perpetrators conducted such violence on their own initiative.

He described the lone-wolf attackers as “martyrs” and youth who “have lost hope.”

Without referring directly to this weekend’s spate of attacks, Abbas nonetheless asserted that the PA condemns terrorism in all of its forms.

“Everyday we have martyrs, and youth who are carrying knives,” he said at a meeting with Palestinian students and graduates on Venezuela’s Margarita Island, where he is attending a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

“Do not believe those who say there is someone pushing them [the attackers] or inciting them,” he added. “They do this on their own initiative, because they have lost hope and therefore go out with knives to carry out terrorist stabbings.”

While Abbas called for acts of “peaceful popular resistance” against Israel, he said that “the hands of the Palestinians are extended for peace.”

Abbas’s comments came after a relatively quiet period was shattered by a violent weekend that saw six attacks within a 48-hour period against Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Three soldiers and four civilians were lightly wounded in the attacks, which occurred in Efrat, Hebron, Kiryat Arba, at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and outside Ma’aleh Adumim. One Jordanian and three Palestinian assailants were killed and two Palestinian attackers were wounded.

Turning to the pending Palestinian elections in the West Bank, Abbas on Sunday asserted that his Fatah party disagrees “about everything” with rival Hamas.

However, he stated that “Hamas is a part of the Palestinian people, and we do not deny that.”                      (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian youth found with Molotov Cocktails and knife

A young Palestinian boy was found in possession of two Molotov Cocktails and a knife on Sunday afternoon during a search conducted by Israel Border Policemen.

The boy aroused the security personnel’s suspicion after they spotted him watching them at a base located in the Jordan Valley. The police believe that the boy intended to carry out an attack against Israel Border Policemen situated in the area.

The suspect, a resident of Aqabat Jaber—a Palestinian refugee camp in the Jericho Governorate—was taken in for questioning.

The discovery comes just hours after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a reservist officer at a guard post in the settlement of Efrat early Sunday morning, following a weekend surge in Palestinian attacks that shattered weeks of relative calm.

Following an incident which took place over the weekend, Israel presented further video evidence to Jordanian officials showing terrorist Sayid Amro brandishing two knives and threatening civilians passing by at the Damascus Gate on Friday.

The new footage was presented to the Jordanians following their accusation that “the killing was an act of barbarism.”

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the body of Sayid Amro was transferred to Jordan and will be turned over to the terrorist’s family for burial.

According to Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sabah al-Rifai, “We are continuing to follow every detail of the occupation army shooting incident.”

In light of the latest upsurge in terror attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security briefing for the Jewish High Holidays on Sunday during which he decided to increase the police presence in Jerusalem’s Old City and on the Temple Mount. He said that the aim was to act decisively against any attempt to disturb order.

He also requested that the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, continue to act to prevent MKs and Ministers from visiting the Temple Mount.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister also directed personnel to continue to act against Palestinian incitement on social media, including Facebook and other platforms. Furthermore, Netanyahu requested a response team be set up to counter disinformation regarding Israeli policy on the Temple Mount.                (Ynet News)

Netanyahu slams criticism of record US aid deal to Israel as ‘ingratitude’

Criticism of the $38 billion military aid package signed with the US last week shows ingratitude to Israel’s strongest and best friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

The comment came in the wake of criticism that had he handled the relationship with US President Barack Obama with more finesse, Israel could have received substantially more aid under much better terms. Former prime minister Ehud Barak has been the most vocal in this criticism, slamming Netanyahu for the deal in an op-ed last week in The Washington Post.

Netanyahu said the criticism sends a message of “ingratitude” – which he said was the “saddest thing” – for a “record agreement that will greatly enhance Israel’s security. We should all welcome it and express our appreciation to the United States.”

He characterized the criticism as “background noise and disinformation.”

Netanyahu and Obama will meet in New York on Wednesday for the 17th time, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. The prime minister said he will personally thank Obama for the agreement that “expresses the depth of the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also took notice of the agreement in announcing the meeting, which has been in the planning stages for a number of weeks.

Earnest said the meeting will afford the leaders the opportunity to discuss the “strong ties between the United States and Israel, as recently underscored by the finalization of a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding with Israel, the single largest pledge of military assistance in US history.”

Netanyahu said he also intends to discuss with Obama “the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East, as well as the way to advance peace and security,” while Earnest said “the meeting also will be an opportunity to discuss the need for genuine advancement of a two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict in the face of deeply troubling trends on the ground.”

He added that the two leaders will likely discuss “continued implementation” of the Iran deal and “other regional security issues.”

This will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since last November, and is expected to be their last before Obama leaves office in January.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that at no point during the negotiations – which started in 2013 – was Israel ever offered any more money than the $38 billion, nor any special technologies. Barak had claimed Israel could have received $45 billion.

“These are fabrications and falsifications from parties with political interests,” he said.

“Either they do not know the facts, or are falsifying the facts.”

Noting that this accord is the largest aid package the US has ever given any country, Netanyahu said it expressed the deep and strong relationship between the two countries.

“Support for Israel in the US is stronger than ever, crosses the parties, and encompasses the length and breadth of the US,” he said. “And it is manifest in this agreement.”

Barak’s fierce condemnation of Netanyahu and the deal last week spilled over to Sunday, with National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close associate of Netanyahu, saying the former prime minister had the most “complexes” of any politician or minister he had ever worked with.

“He was a failed prime minister,” Steinitz said in an interview to the Kol B’rama haredi radio station. “That does not mean that he does not have the right to speak – that is not realistic – but the Israeli public will judge.”

Steinitz said the agreement panned by Barak and others – including former National Security Council head Uzi Arad, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin, and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon – is actually an “excellent agreement, especially in light of the cuts in the US army.”

Barak, Yadlin, and Ya’alon are all political rivals of Netanyahu, and Arad has been a harsh critic of his former boss ever since leaving his post as National Security Council head in 2011.

Steinitz said that those who are sharply criticizing the agreement in order to hurt Netanyahu politically, are in fact hurting Obama, who gave Israel a very generous package.

“Crazy people are saying that it is a humiliating agreement,” he said. “What kind of ingratitude is that?” The meeting between Obama and Netanyahu will be an opportunity for the prime minister to glean from the US president whether or not he plans to bring a resolution on the Mideast to the UN Security Council before he leaves office, something Israel opposes. He may also get the chance to discover whether Obama will use the period between the elections on November 8 to the January 20 inauguration of the next president for a speech to set down the parameters he thinks are needed for an Israeli-Palestinian accord.

Netanyahu is also expected to meet a number of other foreign leaders during his four-day stay in New York. Unlike in years past, the Prime Minister’s Office has not yet put out any list of whom he will be meeting.

Officials in the PMO would not comment on whether there have been efforts to set up a meeting with both Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.

It is, nonetheless, clear that Netanyahu will not meet one without meeting the other.

Unlike the presidential campaign in 2008, when both Obama and the Republican contender John McCain came to Israel before the elections, and unlike 2012 when Mitt Romney paid a visit some three months before the election, neither Trump nor Clinton have scheduled a visit to Israel during this campaign season.

This will be the final UN General Assembly for Obama, as well as for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will also be leaving his post at the end of the year.   (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu, Obama to meet in New York on Wednesday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama are scheduled to meet on Wednesday in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, diplomatic officials confirmed Sunday.

According to the officials, the meeting will take place at the hotel where Obama will be staying. Both men will be in the city to address the UN General Assembly. Obama is scheduled to address the gathering on Tuesday, the day Netanyahu leaves for New York, and Netanyahu is set to address the assembly on Thursday.

This will be the first meeting between the two leaders since last November, and is expected to be the last face-to-face meeting between the two before Obama leaves office in January.

The meeting, which will be their 17th, comes just days after the US and Israel signed a 10-year $38 billion military aid package.

Channel 2 said a formal announcement of the meeting was expected from the White House later in the day. The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for a confirmation.

Netanyahu is expected to meet a number of foreign leaders during his four-day stay in New York, though unlike in years past, the PMO has not yet put out any list of who he will be meeting.

This will be the final UN General Assembly for Obama, as well as for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will be leaving his post at the end of the year.  (Jerusalem Post)

Peres able to move hands as condition slightly improves after stroke

Doctors noted a slight improvement Monday in the condition of former president Shimon Peres, as the 93-year-old remained in serious but stable condition nearly a week after suffering a stroke.

Sources close to the senior Israeli statesman said that Peres had been able to respond to simple instructions from doctors on Sunday night, including moving both hands.

His motor response may indicate to doctors that Peres hasn’t suffered left-side cerebral damage.

On Sunday, Sheba Medical Center doctors decided to gradually reduce Peres’s sedation while simultaneously trying to gradually wean him from his respirator.

Peres has remained in a medically induced coma as doctors evaluated the extent of damage from the hemorrhagic stroke which he suffered on Tuesday.

The week before the stroke, the nonagenarian underwent the placement of a cardiac pacemaker at the hospital and was discharged in good condition. He returned to the hospital for a checkup, but suddenly suffered a stroke.

It was unknown whether there was any connection between the insertion of the pacemaker – to ensure a regular heartbeat – and the stroke.                    (Jerusalem Post)

Australian MP: It’s beyond the pale if Hamas used our money to build tunnels

“If Australian money was spent on building [Hamas attack] tunnels, that is beyond the pale,” Australian MP Michael Danby said Sunday with reference to the recent World Vision scandal at a Jerusalem Press Club and NGO Monitor-sponsored event.

When Danby, a senior member of the opposition Labor party on foreign affairs and with 18 years in parliament under his belt, weighs in on an issue, he often draws attention, including from top governmental ministers.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced in August that Hamas had infiltrated World Vision and redirected tens of millions of dollars – 60 percent – of the organization’s budget to its “military” wing.

The World Vision organization, which operates in 100 countries and employs 46,000 people, fell victim to a complex Hamas takeover scheme, a senior Shin Bet source said, adding that Hamas’s armed wing stole $7.2 million a year from the budget, which was supposed to pay for food, humanitarian assistance, and aid programs for disabled children, and channeled the funds to buy weapons, build attack tunnels and direct toward other preparations for war with Israel.

The Shin Bet source named Gazan civil engineer Muhammad Halabi, who has been heading World Vision’s Gaza branch, as the terrorist group’s operative who infiltrated the charity in 2005, and is now under indictment at the Beersheba District Court.

Danby stressed that “we support foreign aid,” and that there are many well-meaning people at World Vision, “but we need transparency and openness.”

“If the allegations are true, it would be terrible not just against the Palestinian recipients of aid, but also against donor countries – we want the aid to get to the people that matter,” he stated.

He also noted that: “Hamas is a terror group and should not get tax funds” with Australia’s parliament having, on a bipartisan basis, officially designated Hamas’s military wing as a terrorist organization.

He said he “found the indictment as publicly reported troubling,” citing one-third of payments going to the armed wing of Hamas, including naval and attack tunnel capabilities.

Danby did say that he had “good discussions in Israel and with World Vision,” who he said showed “good signs” by expressing concern and openly repudiating such actions if they turn out to be true.

Noting World Vision would be starting a forensic audit on Monday, he said he expected the organization would ask hard questions, especially concerning the fishermen aid project: “are there boats or are there Hamas outfits and frogmen outfits? Is there fishing gear?” NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg also discussed the implications of the World Vision scandal, saying “the indictment raises major questions about World Vision, but the problems are not unique; it’s generic, it happens” in many other aid organizations.

He implied that UNDP (which also has an employee under indictment for aiding Hamas), UNRWA, and private humanitarian aid organizations like Oxfam and Save the Children also do not do sufficient homework on how much of their aid is taken by Hamas.

Steinberg said the aid groups do not ask the hard questions about their aid, or how to assess what happens to it once projects are implemented. They “close their eyes to the other half of the equation here [rockets and attack tunnels]” and instead focus solely on “the suffering of the people of Gaza.”

He also slammed a World Vision critique of accusations against it in which the group said that its total budget was lower than the amount of money it was accused of having allowed to slip to Hamas.

Pressed about whether the organization would prevent Hamas from taking its aid if it spent more time and resources on trying to police how the aid is directed, both Danby and Steinberg admitted this was not necessarily realistic.

However, Steinberg said that he wanted to see World Vision’s level of concern over these issues move from “zero” to “fifty/fifty.” And Danby said that after a potential indictment “the bar has to be lifted.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Tel Aviv commuters face eight days without trains

Commuters traveling to Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, are expected to face vast traffic logjams over the next eight days as Israel Railways carries out major repair and upgrade work on the tracks leading into the city.

Three of the city’s four major stations – Savidor, University and Hashalom – will also see work to upgrade their infrastructure, shuttering them, too, until Thursday, September 29.

Work began Monday morning, with the tracks already removed in some locations by 6 a.m. Monday.

A situation room has been opened that will coordinate traffic, public complaints and other issues. Officials from Israel Railways, the Transportation Ministry, Israel Police, and the Tel Aviv Municipality will all be present at the site.

Trains will run into Tel Aviv from the south to the city’s southernmost station, Hagana, and from the north until the Herzliya train station.

In order to limit the follow-on effects on Tel Aviv’s public transportation, the Transportation Ministry will run a special bus service from the Haganah and Herzliya stations to the shuttered stations in the city, where the regular city buses and shuttles will continue to stop.

The train stoppage follows a coalition crisis earlier this month over Haredi demands that Israel Railways not carry out repair work on tracks on Shabbat.

Facing Haredi pressure, Netanyahu ordered a sudden work stoppage on the Tel Aviv-Haifa railway line on the September 2 weekend, causing massive traffic delays on the following Sunday as the repair work was bumped to the workday, forcing some 150,000 Israelis to find alternate transportation for their morning commutes.

A High Court of Justice petition later ruled that the decision to forbid Shabbat work lies under the purview of Labor Minister Haim Katz. Katz promised to allow only repairs deemed critical to safety to take place on Shabbat, but would push non-essential repairs to weekdays.

The current upgrade schedule shows no work on the coming weekend, a fact that extends the traffic jams by two extra days.

On Sunday, in purported revenge for infrastructure work carried out on Shabbat on the rail network, Knesset Finance Committee chair MK Moshe Gafni delayed an anticipated vote on a Transportation Ministry request for another NIS 600 million for the country’s railways.

The committee, headed by Gafni of United Torah Judaism, was to have debated the budget, but in a surprise move it was taken off the agenda and not discussed at all, Channel 2 News reported.

The money was earmarked for the construction of the high-speed train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, further development of the Jezreel Valley railway line in the north and payments for contractors. Stalling the budget approval could lead to the projects being delayed and could cause unpaid contractors to sue the government.

Sources within the Transportation Ministry claimed that the decision was “revenge” for construction work carried out on Shabbat. They claimed Gafni intentionally stalled the discussions so that the budget for the trains would be delayed.

UTJ, along with fellow ultra-Orthodox party Shas, are vehemently opposed to work on the Sabbath.

Gafni rejected the allegations of revenge. “I am not obligated to discuss everything on the day’s agenda,” he told Channel 2. “I will consider it and if appropriate, the money will be transferred.”

The Knesset will meet Monday for a special recess session to debate the issue. Netanyahu has said he will attend the debate, but Shas and UTJ have indicated they will not.

A January report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the Israeli economy concluded the country’s railway infrastructure is underdeveloped in relation to high population density, leading to significant congestion.

Trains comprise just 6 percent of public transport, compared to 30 to 60 percent in many other OECD countries, the report said.        (the  Times of Israel )

Mortar shells over the Golan Heights, accident or border threat?

by Yossi Melman                    The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-Mortar-shells-over-the-Golan-Heights-accident-or-border-threat-468002

For the first time since 2011, when the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system became operational, it succeeded in intercepting two long-distance mortar shells over the Golan Heights on Saturday afternoon. Until now, all its interceptions were on the southern front – rockets fired from the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

According to the IDF, the two rockets launched from Syria are considered “spillover” from the fierce battles between Assad’s army and the rebel groups not far from the Israeli border. The IDF estimates that it wasn’t intentional fire, but according to its policy intends to retaliate.

Yesterday’s interceptions proved what has been already tested in the South and known to all experts – the Iron Dome is a good anti-rocket defense system, is innovative and has a high rate of success, but it also has its limits.

It can’t “kill” rockets which fly for less than 25 seconds and are launched within a range of 5-6 kilometers.

These scientific and technological handicaps are the Iron Dome’s metaphorical soft belly.

IDF sources estimate that the two shells were fired from a distance of at least 7-8 km. from the border and belong to the heavy type of 120mm. mortars.

Israel has 10 Iron Dome batteries, mostly financed by US congressional grants. But for full coverage of Israel’s skies, the IDF needs at least 14 batteries. Still, it would be a huge mistake to draw conclusions from the southern, and now northern, interceptions about future wars, especially with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As Israel runs its largest Home Front Command drill this week to prepare the population for any war eventuality, it is estimated by Israeli intelligence that Israel will have to deal with a barrage of some 1,500 missiles daily.

Neither Iron Dome, which can kill up to a range of 70 km., nor the David Sling’s defense system, capable of intercepting missiles of up to 200 km., will be able to provide Israel with an airtight defense, although it’s important to add that Israeli intelligence doesn’t estimate that a war with Hezbollah or Syria is on the horizon. On the contrary, it is estimated that not Hezbollah nor Assad nor Hamas want to go to war with Israel.

Regardless of who was behind the shells intercepted yesterday, official Israeli policy is to hold the Assad regime responsible for its territory and enforce its sovereignty.

What really worries Israel, more than the random shelling from Syria, is the intensity of these events, as it was the sixth incident of this kind in the past two weeks. In every instance, Israel was forced to retaliate by artillery or fighter planes against Assad’s forces, which are stationed near the border.

In one rare and unexpected case, the Syrian army fired two missiles at Israeli planes and missed. This chain of incidents lends to the concern that maybe the “unintentional” fire is actually intentional, with the ultimate goal of changing the rules of the game between Israel and the regime. So far, except for the aforementioned incident, the Syrian army has never responded to Israeli retaliatory attacks.

Israel had previously sent strong warnings, via the coordination channels with Russia, that it won’t tolerate any change in the border equation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and asked him to make Israel’s feelings clear to Assad.

A milestone in US-Israel ties

by Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi        Israel Hayom

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=17215

A thorough examination of the new defense aid deal Washington signed with Jerusalem points to it being a meaningful upgrading of the American-Israeli pact and an important landmark in the partnership between the two countries.

The deal can be broken down into specific components and its many aspects can be discussed in detail. But such a discussion must not overshadow the overriding importance reflected in the solidity and scope of the infrastructure it provides for the support of Israel, which exists on many levels among the American people and their representatives in Congress.

This infrastructure is anchored in a rich, multi-faceted bond in which Americans identify with Israel’s values and ideology, offering kinship and understanding steeped in good will, as well as in a system that sees Israel as a strategic asset of the highest order in an environment rife with instability, challenges and threats to the national security of the American nation.

Given this empathy for and identification with the Israeli partner, it is no surprise that, despite his cool relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama decided not to call into question such a central layer in the American ethos, and thereby avoid a confrontation with sentiments deeply rooted in the American public (which might further encumber the person he designated as his successor in her run for the White House, Hillary Clinton).

The inevitable outcome was an expanded 10-year defense aid package, the scope of which ($38 billion) sticks out dramatically, considering the U.S. administration’s cuts to the American military budget in recent years. From this perspective, the defense aid deal can be described as a watershed moment in the history of the U.S.-Israeli partnership, which has not lessened in strategic importance over the years since its establishment, as seen in examples such as President John F. Kennedy’s decision in August 1962 to provide Israel with the Hawk surface-to-air missile system (the first advanced system sold to Israel) and President Richard Nixon’s airlift of weapons and supplies to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. These were just some of the events that helped shape the American ally’s path to strengthening security relations with Jerusalem.

Last week, this was taken to the next level, ratifying and intensifying the significance of the special relationship between Israel and the U.S., while at the same time protecting the relationship with an iron security net.

From this point of view, all of the above dwarfs the supposed weak spots in the deal. Moreover, contrary to the agreed-upon and safeguarded scope of the package, at least some aspects are susceptible to future interpretation, and may remain in the realm of the theoretical. For example, Israel has already earned $650 million in special compensation for damages it sustained as a result of the 1991 Gulf War. In the volatile Middle East, there may very well be additional emergencies that would justify an Israeli request for additional aid from Congress.

In conclusion, while some of the points of contention in the deal may remain in the realm of the abstract, its bright spots radiate warmth and long-term security in the U.S. relationship with Israel.