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Israel’s many drone startups

Latest News in Israel – 23rd August

Rockets from Gaza endanger fragile peace

Around noon on Sunday, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in a street in Sderot in the Negev. It caused no significant damage and no injuries.

Though no organization had claimed responsibility for the rocket launching as of press time, it most probably was the work of one the small renegade groups from the Salafist community that defies Hamas authority and has tried repeatedly to provoke Israel and drag both sides into another round of violence.

It was the second time in seven weeks that a rocket fired from Gaza landed in Sderot – the early July launch was the work of a pro-ISIS group.

Israel reacted to Sunday’s incident with an almost ritual response, firing rockets from an aircraft and tank shells against minor Hamas positions in northern Gaza.

As always, the IDF statement said, Israel holds Hamas responsible for violations of Israeli sovereignty, but, unofficially, security sources admit that Hamas is trying hard to enforce its authority over the renegade groups. Hamas units are patrolling the border to catch and arrest those who conspire to launch rockets against Israel and to prevent the rocket attacks before they take place. Hamas police and security services arrest the culprits and punish them after the incidents. It is clear in Israeli defense circles that Hamas is doing its best not to provoke Israel and to preserve the cease-fire that ended the last war in the summer of 2014. But Israel also knows that efforts by Hamas are not an insurance policy.

Although Israel does not wish to escalate the situation, much depends on probabilities. Should a rocket fired from Gaza kill Israelis, the IDF will have to respond forcefully, and both sides once again could find themselves being dragged into a vicious cycle of punching and counter-punching that could end in a fourth war between the sides.

This latest rocket is just another reminder of how fragile the Gaza-Israeli border is.                   (Jerusalem Post)

Liberman signals: The rules of the game have changed

Avigdor Liberman demonstrated on Sunday for the first time that it paid off to seat him in the chair of the Defense Minister on the 14th floor of the Kirya building in Tel Aviv.

The Yisrael Beytenu chairman made it clear that the retaliation policy of the IDF has changed, and that from now on all rocket fire from Gaza into Israel will be met with a strong response from the Israeli Air Force.

Until 10:00 p.m. on Sunday evening, the response to the rocket attack on Sderot was the same as during the time of Moshe Ya’alon – the Air Force attacks some Hamas targets in Gaza hours after the shooting, and calm returns to the south until the next rocket attack.

Starting at 10:00 p.m., however, Israel made what appears to be the first attempt to change the rules of the game in Gaza: Israeli Air Force planes took off for a series of further attacks, at a large scale that had not been seen since Operation Protective Edge.

Arab media reported of unusually large damage that was caused in Gaza and a number of casualties. The explosions could be heard in all the communities around Gaza. It is still too early to assess how Hamas will respond, but it is not inconceivable that the terrorist organization would prefer to maintain the quiet.

The person who dictated the new response of the defense establishment is its leader, Avigdor Liberman, who in the past said that a tough response is required against the Hamas regime in Gaza. He may have toned down his statements since his appointment, but he reiterated the clear message to Hamas – a military confrontation will end in a change in the reality in Gaza.   (Arutz Sheva)

Report: Israeli delegation meets with Egyptian officials in Cairo

A high-ranking Israeli delegation met with Egyptian officials on Sunday in Cairo, according Egyptian media reports.

The two sides reportedly discussed restarting the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and other matters of mutual interest.

The London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that the Israeli  delegation arrived in a special plane that left Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport and was expected stay in Cairo for only a few hours.

In June, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi called for Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table saying “in Egypt we took this step 40 years ago (the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty) and the results were astounding. We can take another step in this direction with enough diplomacy and persuasion.”

In an Egyptian TV interview marking two year of his presidency, Sisi added that Egypt seeks to take a leading role in the peace process.

“International efforts are invested in the issue and the French initiative is on the agenda,” he said in reference to a Paris-proposed plan to relaunch the stalled peace talks. “The Palestinian cause has been neglected in  the years because of other important events in the region, but it is important to get back to the issue. If we resolve it, we will all live in better conditions.”   (Jerusalem Post)

‘Explosives found at Lebanon border were part of Hezbollah terror plot’

A bag full of explosives located in a wooded area of Metulla near the Lebanese border last month was smuggled into Israel by Hezbollah, the defense establishment now believes.

Defense sources estimate that the explosives were smuggled into Israel from Lebanon with the intention of being used in a terror attack.

A Hezbollah “courier” was likely supposed to collect the explosives, however a local farmer found the bag first, spoiling the plot.

Authorities originally believed that the explosives belonged to local criminals, however an investigation led to the assessment that Hezbollah was the actual culprit.

The Shi’ite terror organization regularly attempts to smuggle explosives and drugs over the border into Israel. The majority of these attempts are thwarted by intelligence information and the alertness of IDF patrols in the area.

As Israel and Hezbollah marked ten years since 2006’s Second Lebanon War earlier this month, the terrorist group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned against a possible rekindling of hostilities.

“Israel knows that there is no location in the country that is not in Hezbollah’s cross-hairs,” Nasrallah said in a video broadcast.             (Jerusalem Post)

Egyptian president: Putin willing to host Netanyahu and Abbas

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin informed him that he is ready to host direct talks between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking in an interview with Egyptian journalists and quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth, the Egyptian president said Israeli convictions of peace are strengthening.

Sisi also invited everybody to take part in moving the peace process forward which, he said, was the key to stability in the region.

He added that there is no avoiding a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah since only this, he contended, could lead to genuine concerted efforts to bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Several months ago, Sisi in a televised speech urged Israelis and Palestinian Arabs to seize what he said was a “real opportunity” for peace and hailed his own country’s peace deal with Israel.

The comments were welcomed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who stressed that “Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region.”

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman welcomed Sisi’s call as well, saying he welcomed the Egyptian president’s efforts to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian state.

But despite his comments welcoming the peace efforts, Abbas recently rejected an American proposal for a meeting with Netanyahu in the presence of Arab and western leaders.

Abbas’s stated reason for refusing was the claim that the proposal was just a plan to circumvent the Arab and French peace proposals.

The PA chairman has also insisted that any reboot of peace talks with Israel should happen within a clear timeframe and under international supervision.   (Arutz Sheva)

Egyptian FM sparks uproar by saying Israel not guilty of ‘terrorism’

Months after visiting Israel in what many perceived as a sign of warming ties between Cairo and Jerusalem, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry made headlines in the Arab world on Sunday when he told a group of students that Israel’s actions in regard to the Palestinians do not constitute terrorism.

Despite the 1979 peace treaty signed between the two countries, Israel is not often spoken of as an ally by political figures in Egypt publicly or in the media.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that decades of incitement against Israel in Egypt had been behind Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shehaby’s refusal to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Ori Sasson, at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. In March, Egyptian MP Tawfik Okasha was kicked out of parliament in a vote by his peers after he met with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt and called for normalization with the Jewish state.

Shoukry’s comments on Sunday came during a Q&A session with students held at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. In response to a question whether the Israeli killing of Palestinian children is a form of terrorism, Shoukry said that “it cannot be described as terrorism without an international agreement characterizing it as such.”

Shoukry said that Israel’s history made it highly value its security, and therefore it tightens control over its territory in order to secure itself.

Shoukry became the first Egyptian foreign minister to visit Israel since 2007 last month, in a visit that was kept secret from the public until the last minute.

Diplomatic officials said that his visit indicated a growing willingness on Egypt’s part to make public its strong relationship with Israel.

However, in a sign that true normalization between the two countries has yet to be attained at a public level, days after his visit, the Egyptian government issued a denial that Shoukry had watched the Euro 2016 soccer final together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had posted to Facebook and Twitter a photo of the two watching the match between Portugal and France, sparking public outrage in Egypt.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Poll: Israeli Jews fear Palestinians, reject plan for PA state

Few Israeli Jews and Palestinian Authority Arabs support the basic outline of a final status agreement along the lines of the offer made by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Yasser Arafat in the summer of 2000, a new joint poll reveals.

According to the survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, narrow majorities of both Israelis and Palestinian Authority Arabs support the two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Fifty-one percent of Palestinian Authority residents said they favored the two-state solution, compared to 54% in 2014. Among Israeli Jews, the level was only slightly higher, with 53% supporting a two-state solution. Among all Israelis, 58% said they favored the two-state solution, compared to 62% two years ago.

But few favored the implementation of the two-state solution along the parameters most often presented, including a final status agreement, the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state encompassing all of Gaza and nearly all of Judea and Samaria, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

According to the basic peace plan outline, Israel would also absorb 100,000 Arabs under a right of return. The Old City of Jerusalem would be divided, with the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter under Israeli control, while the Muslim and Christian Quarters and Temple Mount would be integrated into the new Palestinian state.

Only 39% of Israeli Jews and an equal number of Palestinian Authority Arabs said they would support such a framework for a peace deal, while 55% of Israeli Jews and 59% of PA Arabs said they opposed it.

The poll also revealed that despite narrow majorities on both sides in favor of a two-state solution, there is little trust between Israelis and Palestinian Authority Arabs.

The overwhelming majority of Palestinian Authority Arabs (89%) believe that Israeli Jews are not trustworthy.

Among Israeli Jews, roughly two thirds said that they fear PA Arabs (65%), and that Arabs were untrustworthy (68%). Few Palestinian Authority Arabs, however, said they feared Israeli Jews, with 54% responding they did not fear Israeli Jews.

Majorities on both sides also believe that no peace deal can be of mutual benefit for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, agreeing with the statement that: “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side”. Among PA Arabs 70% agree with that statement, compared to 61% of Israeli Arabs, and 50% of Israeli Jews.

Israelis and Palestinian Authority Arabs also agreed that the likelihood of a Palestinian state being established in the near future was low. Among Israelis 77% said a Palestinian state would probably not be formed in the next five years, compared to 73% among Palestinian Authority residents.              (Arutz Sheva)

IDF attacks target in Syria following mortar shelling

The Israeli air force Monday evening attacked a Syrian missile launch site connected with the Assad regime after a mortar fell on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.

The IDF said it views the Syrian regime as responsible for any attacks emanating from its territory and said it would not tolerate any violations of Israeli sovereignty or danger to Israeli citizens, even as it appeared that the shelling was a misfire from internal battles within Syria in its ongoing civil war.

No injuries or damage were reported in the incident and there were no warning sirens as the shelling clearly fell in an open area.

Similar incidents have occurred in the past since the civil war started in 2011 without significant flareups with Israel beyond the initial misfires.

The incident comes just one day after rocket fire hit Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, landing near the border town of Sderot.

The IDF launched a series of air strikes overnight at the coastal enclave, hitting dozens of terror targets in response.

While unconfirmed reports claimed that a Salafi group in Gaza claimed responsibility for Monday’s rocket attack, Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks originating in the coastal enclave. Meanwhile, Hamas, the terrorist organization that runs Gaza, blamed Israel for the escalation in the South.                  (Jerusalem Post)

What Israel gained from the Turkey deal and what it means for the region

by Yossi Melman                   The Jerusalem Post


Israel stands to gain the most from the reconciliation agreement with Turkey that was finally approved – after a long delay – over the weekend.

Ultimately, Israel did not back down and agree to Turkey’s initial demand that it be allowed to transfer goods directly to Gaza without Israeli supervision. However, while Turkey committed to remove Hamas’s military headquarters and activists from its territory, the Israeli defense establishment is doubtful this will happen.

The Turkish parliament is passing legislation that will cancel the lawsuits it had filed against IDF officers and soldiers who were involved in the Mavi Marmara incident conducted by the Israeli Navy, an episode in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed attacking Israeli commandos.

According to the new law, it will not be possible for Turkish citizens to file similar lawsuits in the future.

Turkey’s achievements, though, are mostly ones of honor.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologized for the six-year-old incident. In about three weeks, Israel will also transfer $21 million to a humanitarian fund that will be managed by the Turkish government. The funds will be distributed by the Turkish government to families impacted by the incident and those who were wounded in the flotilla.

Both countries will reinstate ambassadors to each other’s embassies, re-establishing the highest diplomatic relations, but this is also only a symbolic step.

As far as economic relations are concerned, relations between the two nations were actually ongoing during the last six years and trade even increased.

Turkey has changed much over the years and not for the better. By maintaining a failing foreign policy, she found herself isolated and conflicted with her neighbors: Syria, Iraq, the Kurds and, until recently, Russia.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime secretly supported ISIS, purchasing oil from the terrorist organization while smuggling weapons and allowing terrorist supporters from Europe, Russia, China and Southeast Asia to pass through its borders on their way to the killing fields of the Islamic state. On the other hand, Turkey allowed and assisted refugees, mainly from Syria, to infiltrate Europe – which undermined Turkey’s relations with the European Union.

The United States for years urged Israel to sign the reconciliation agreement. Following the coup attempt in Turkey late last month, relations between Ankara and Washington have considerably soured, in part due to the United States’ refusal to extradite Erdogan’s sworn enemy, Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish president blames for the military uprising.

Erdogan is also looking to reconcile with Russia and rebuild ties with Iran, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Now Turkey is singing a different tune, and is no longer demanding Assad’s removal from power, instead publicly stating the need for Syria to maintain its integrity and stop the Kurdish population from establishing its own state.

Israel must continue to be cautious in its relations with Turkey and take a respectful, yet wary, approach. Erdogan will continue to support Hamas, and it is doubtful that his intelligence services would agree to renewed links with the Mossad.

The prospect that Turkey will return to the Israeli arms market is also dim, though there is little doubt that Ankara will not hesitate to purchase Israeli-made drones or intelligence equipment for its war against the Kurds.

Perhaps most important of all, Israel does not want to be a part of a Russian effort to establish a new alliance in the Middle East that looks to push out the United States.

Even so, Washington is not pleased with Netanyahu’s frequent dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has visited four times in the last year, and is not convinced that their relationship is based solely on creating a coordinated mechanism designed to prevent accidents between their air forces as they fly above Syria.

Perhaps this explains former prime minister Ehud Barak’s cryptic remarks, statements he declined to explain publicly, on “another affair” that demonstrates the lack of responsibility on the part of Netanyahu.

Delivering The Goods: Israel Leads The Way In Drone Innovation

By Yonatan Sredni,                      No Camels


For many of us, drones are objects from science fiction or far-flung wars. But drones are increasingly becoming commonplace in everyday life, and soon anything from your mail to pizza could be delivered by drone.

Postal services in various countries are starting to adopt drones as a delivery method, and companies like Amazon are on the hunt for the best drone tech.

One of the countries leading the surge in drone innovation is Israel. According to Yariv Bash, founder of drone delivery startup Flytrex, as well as SpaceIL (the Israeli team trying to land a craft on the moon for Google’s space competition Lunar XPRIZE), the number of drone startups in Israel exceeds 30.

“It’s really not surprising that Israel has become a hub when it comes to drones,” Bash tells NoCamels. “Much of the technological know-how that today’s Israeli drone developers have acquired comes from the military. In fact, many of them served in Unit 8200, an Israeli Intelligence Corps unit responsible for collecting signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption.”

According to Bash, Israel exports some 60 percent of the world’s military drones. However, as the proliferation of drones for commercial use increases, demand in the non-military sector will increase as well.

Delivery by drone

The advantages of delivery by drone are many. Drones can deliver packages much quicker than regular messenger services, as they don’t have traffic to contend with. In fact, the Ukrainian postal service has teamed up with Yariv Bash’s Flytrex to begin testing delivery drones in Ukrainian cities for the first time.

“A drone costs much less than a delivery truck and operates on batteries instead of costly fuel. Plus, maintenance for drones is also much cheaper,” Bash says. “There is also the added benefit of safety. Imagine if we could replace many of the delivery trucks and bike messengers on our roads – which are involved in far too many accidents – with drones. Not only would delivery be cheaper, faster, and more efficient, it would be safer too.”

Delivery by drone is even spreading to Africa, where it is being considered as a more efficient solution for transferring medical supplies between remote villages, as medicine is so lightweight.

Israel’s many drone startups

Israel: Drone home

Israel’s many drone startups are not all doing the same thing.

One such company, Airobotics, is building a drone platform that will allow companies to operate drones themselves, without the need for expensive and skilled drone operators. The Airobotics system is a patrol drone comprised of three components. There’s the drone itself, the base station known as the “Airbase,” and the command software that takes the place of human brains (or at least, their functions). Capable of flying with a 1 kilogram load for half an hour at a time, the drone can patrol an area, then land itself on its base station autonomously. From there, a robotic arm comes in to change its battery and relieve the drone of its payload — sort of like a robotic pit crew. Airobotics currently has 70 employees and has so far raised a total of $28.5 million in funding.

Arbe Robotics, which won first place at the TechCrunch’s first-ever Tel Aviv Startup Pitch Off in June, has developed a solution that uses radar technology — radio frequencies — to help drones detect objects and avoid collisions. A mix of hardware and software, their product can be connected to all kinds of existing drones. It will enable the craft to read the 360-degree space around it and will allow a visual range of up to 200 meters. “Today drones are not allowed to fly in areas in which a collision could be dangerous,” Kobi Marenko, the Co-Founder and CEO of Arbe Robotics said in an interview. “Our system tells the drone to automatically avoid the obstacle, and it can also include an alarm mode to alert the operator about an imminent danger.”

Another innovative Israeli drone startup is Rosh Haayin-based Percepto, which is putting military-grade tech at the service of the renewable energy sector.  It uses machine vision that allows drones to check and inspect windmills in remote areas. The project has won the financial backing of billionaires such as Mark Cuban, Richard Parsons, and Xu Xiapong. Percepto has raised $1 million in funding so far.

Monitoring by drone can be life-saving

Drones are also being used for monitoring agriculture, livestock, farming, and irrigation. Bash points out that drones are much safer to use when checking things like power lines or monitoring crops. “A pilot can only get so close without risking his own safety,” Bash explained. “Drones can get much closer without endangering human life.”

However, replacing human delivery with drones has some drawbacks. One issue the industry is grappling with is how to drop off a package. Some companies have tested landing on a customer’s doorstep while others have tried lowering packages down on a line. But global-positioning-system data can be inaccurate—enough to put a drone at the wrong house or over a swimming pool.

A drone in every home?

Asked whether he believes that soon each family will have their own personal drone, Bash was not prepared to go that far. “Drone adoption will indeed happen gradually, within the next 5-10 years , but I don’t believe it will lead to a world where everyone will have their own drone,” Bash said. “Rather, drones will be commercial. If you order a pizza, it will be delivered to you by drone. If you are expecting a package, instead of a delivery truck pulling up to your home, a drone will land in your yard. The companies will be owning and using the drones, but the general public will be benefiting from it.”

Nothing to fear

Asked if mass drone adoption is something we should dread, Bash dismissed the notion. “A hundred years ago people feared cars in the streets, until it became the norm. The same initial fear applied to air travel, but now flying in a plane is even safer than driving a car. As far as drones go, in the not too distant future, delivery by drone will seem like the most natural thing to all of us.”

Indian-Jewish music is now essentially Israeli

The story of India’s Jews and their migration to Israel despite the absence of antisemitism is fascinating. The music and art of the second generation in Israel is a whole other level.