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Latest News in Israel – 10th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Israel intelligence foiled 50 Islamic State, Iranian attacks in 20 countries

Israeli intelligence agencies have prevented dozens of Islamic State terror group and Iran-sponsored attacks in various countries around the world by providing local authorities with key information, according to a television report on Tuesday.

The Mossad intelligence agency and the Military Intelligence Directorate supplied information that thwarted 50 attacks in 20 countries over the past three years, the Channel 12 report said.

One of the countries able to foil attacks based on Israeli intelligence was Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a fierce critic of Israel, in particular regarding Palestinian issues.

The network did not name any of the other countries where attacks were stopped, or cite sources for the information.

According to the report, intelligence was transferred to Turkey even during periods when Erdogan was publicly berating Israel and when diplomatic relations between the two countries were officially severed.

In June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had used cyber-intelligence to help foil “major” terror attacks planned by the Islamic State terror group and others in “dozens” of countries.

Netanyahu said at a cyber-security conference that Israel had, for example, helped foil an IS attack on an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and alerted Australian officials, helping thwart an explosion in the air. Etihad is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates.

“That plane from Sydney to Abu Dhabi was going to be exploded in midair,” he said. “We found out through our cyber activities, we found out that ISIS was going to do this and so we alerted the Australian police and they stopped this, before it happened.”

“This particular incident, I can talk about,” Netanyahu said. “If you multiply that 50 times, that will give you an idea of the contribution that Israel has made to prevent major terrorist operations, especially from ISIS [Islamic State], in dozens of countries and most of those cases were foiled because of our activities in cybersecurity.”

Earlier in June, a senior Israeli official told the Kan public broadcaster that the Mossad was responsible for providing British authorities with information that helped foil the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group’s efforts to stockpile explosives in London in 2015.

The Kan report said Lebanese Hezbollah later attempted to move its operations to other countries, which were also notified by Mossad, and that the two organizations were for some time engaged in a game of cat and mouse, as the Iran-backed group sought to actualize its plans.

According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, the Hezbollah plot was part of a wider plan to lay the groundwork for future attacks. It noted foiled Hezbollah operations in Thailand, Cyprus, and New York. All those plots were believed to have targeted Israeli interests around the world.

Last week, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said that in addition to Israel’s historic treaties with Jordan and Egypt, other Arab countries had discreetly joined “the states of peace, some of them in an unseen manner.”

There is, he said, a shared interest with countries throughout the region in fighting Iran and Islamic terror groups. Cohen accused the Iranian government of being behind a number of strikes on oil facilities and ships in the Persian Gulf in recent months, as well as an attack on the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad the week before.

The television report on Tuesday did not elaborate on the foiled Turkey attacks.

Israel and Turkey in 2016 formally ended a six-year diplomatic rift that had ensued when 10 Turkish activists were killed in a violent confrontation with Israeli commandos aboard a ship, the Mavi Marmara, that aimed to break the naval blockade on Gaza. Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent the import of weapons by the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip and is sworn to Israel’s destruction. Despite the official reconciliation, Erdogan has likened Netanyahu to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, while the Israeli leader has lashed back by accusing him of being a dictator.               (the Times of Israel) Staff

Israeli fighter jets ‘can reach anywhere in the Mideast,’ Netanyahu warns Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a strong rebuke to Iran on Tuesday, standing in front of an F-35 stealth fighter during a tour of an air base.

Netanyahu declared that Iran “ought to remember that these planes can reach every place in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria.”

The Israeli prime minister issued the comments just a day after Iran announced it began enriching uranium beyond the limit set by the 2015 nuclear agreement. In recent days, Iran also explicitly threatened to attack Israel.

Netanyahu has remained a vocal critic of the nuclear deal struck by world powers and Iran in 2015, and has called on Europe to impose fresh sanctions in response to Iran’s breach of it. Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed that Israel will never allow Iran to develop the capability to make a nuclear bomb.

On Tuesday, European parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, including Germany, Britain, and France, said they have “deep concern” regarding Iran’s decision to enrich uranium to a higher purity than allowed under the agreement, which stakeholders such as Israel have warned is a step toward developing a nuclear arsenal. The Europeans called for an urgent meeting of all involved in the accord.

Besides enriching uranium past the allowed 3.67% to 4.5%, the U.N. nuclear agency also confirmed Iran has surpassed the stockpile limit on low-enriched uranium.

The Europeans say Iran has said it wants to remain in the JCPOA and “must act accordingly by reversing these activities and returning to full JCPOA compliance without delay.”

They say a meeting of the JCPOA commission, which also includes Russia and China, “should be convened urgently,” but didn’t specify when.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed in a weekend conversation to set a July 15 deadline to solve the current impasse, and ultimately try to save the 2015 nuclear accord that the U.S. pulled out of last year.

Macron spoke with President Donald Trump on Monday — the day Iran enriched uranium beyond the accord’s limit and broke the limit on stockpiles.  (WIN) Staff

Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

Amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group launched a highly unusual training exercise Tuesday night that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Gazans reported a spike in the movement of armed personnel in the streets, including along the border with Israel, before the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in the territory announced it was a military drill.

The drill saw the sudden raising of the alert level among all security agencies throughout the Strip, a general mobilizing of reserve personnel to the security services, the deployment of roadblocks, and the closure by Hamas of all land crossings and sea ports. Fishermen were told they could not set out to sea.

It included police, intelligence units and the terror group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Iyad al-Bozm, spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza, said on Twitter: “The Interior and National Security Ministry is currently carrying out an emergency drill to simulate dealing with a sudden security threat. It is taking place in the framework of examining the preparedness of the security forces and services.”

Hamas officials told Arabic-language media that the exercise simulated an incursion by Israeli security forces. An Interior Ministry statement said the drill came “due to attempts by enemies to undermine security and public order.”

The exercise appears linked to an IDF special forces operation in the Gaza Strip in November that went awry after the undercover Israeli force was discovered, resulting in the death of a soldier in the ensuing gun battle.

An IDF probe, some of whose findings were released on Sunday, identified a number of tactical errors and improper planning that led to the operation’s failure, alongside courageous actions by members of the unit who took part in the raid that prevented a greater disaster. It said the Israeli officer was killed by friendly fire by another member of the team.

The highly public, embarrassing debacle led to a series of shakeups within IDF Military Intelligence. Notably, the head of Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division — who can only be identified by his rank and initial, Brig. Gen. “Gimel” — resigned his position last week, having decided to do so in August.

According to Hamas officials, the soldiers were from Sayeret Matkal and had been conducting a complex operation to bug the terror group’s communications equipment in Gaza. They were said to have been driving through Gaza in civilian vans, approximately three kilometers (two miles) from the border.

Israel has not confirmed any of those claims.

On Monday, the five-year anniversary of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’s military wing released a statement lauding the “ceaseless preparations and battle of the minds with Israel” underway since that round of fighting.

Israel, Hamas said, “has seen the power of the resistance in the battle in Khan Younis” — a reference to the November 11 fighting during the botched raid that also left six Hamas gunmen dead — “whose results continue to shake the foundations of the Israeli defense establishment and military.”

The statement added that “the resistance has additional powerful capabilities it has not yet revealed.”

The massive drill on the Palestinian side of the border comes as IDF forces continue to investigate the Hamas attack tunnel located deep underground Monday that crosses into Israeli territory.

IDF spokespeople said Tuesday that the tunnel appeared to be an offshoot of an old tunnel.

It was discovered by Defense Ministry officials and IDF troops working on constructing an underground tunnel barrier along the Israel-Gaza border.

Also Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel “came close in recent weeks to the possibility of a military operation in Gaza, but it very much depends on what Hamas does in the coming weeks,” according to Channel 13.

Last month, Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group reached a new ceasefire agreement. An Israeli official confirmed that the country had agreed to a number of economic concessions for Gaza in exchange for an end to arson attacks and other violence along the border. Israel also agreed to extend the fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 15 nautical miles and to restore the supply of fuel to the Palestinian territory, the official said.

The agreement came after a fresh surge in serious violence between the two sides, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air force strikes.

Since the deal went into effect there has been a marked drop in the number of airborne arson attacks, though they have not stopped completely.  (the Times of Israel) Staff

Australia: Jewish cafe owner won’t cave to anti-Semitism

A Jewish-owned café in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia was hit with anti-Semitic graffiti twice in one week.

On Saturday, the back fence of Aliza’s Place Café was painted with “The Holocaust didn’t happen but it should have,” and a large blue swastika. It came two days after the same fence was painted with the words “The Holocaust is a lie.”

The owner, Aliza Shuvaly, told the Australian Jewish News after the first attack that many members of her family were Holocaust survivors.

“I cannot ignore this symbol,” Shuvaly told the newspaper. “All my family were Holocaust survivors – my mother’s parents, my husband’s parents – and for me it’s hurting twice. I started to shake, I didn’t know what to do.”

She said she would not allow the attack to force her to close the café.

Victoria Police is investigating the incidents.  (Arutz Sheva) Marcy Oster

West Bank Grows Calmer as Pocketbook Issues Take Priority Over Protests

By Isabel Kershner                 The New York Times

On a recent weekday, Muhammad Abu Rahma returned to the place where Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers used to clash in weekly confrontations that made the West Bank village of Bilin a symbol of resistance against the Israeli occupation.

But this time, he came not to protest but to picnic with his wife and three children. He had served three terms in prison for his activities at the height of the protests. But now, at 33, he had a family and a job as a garbage collector.

“People want money to live, and permits,” he said, referring to the Israeli permits allowing laborers to work in Israel, where they can earn twice as much as they do in the Palestinian territories.

On the surface, his experience seems to confirm the correlation between economic growth and peace — the logic behind the Trump administration’s recent economic conference in Bahrain, which was meant to show the financial benefits awaiting Palestinians if they signed on to the yet-to-be-released Trump peace plan

But for many Palestinians in the West Bank, the lull in grass-roots protests has less to do with economic optimism than despair.

A Palestinian protest in the West Bank village of Bilin in 2015 turned into violent clashes.

They attribute the relative calm that now prevails to a combination of factors, including war weariness and the Israeli military’s harsh response, which resulted in too many killed, wounded or imprisoned and too few achievements.

A playground on the spot where an Israeli barrier was removed in Bilin.

There is also a pervasive lack of hope for change after five years of impasse in peace talks, a powerful but intransigent Israel and what many Palestinians view as their own feckless and divided leadership, which has failed to deliver on Palestinian statehood.

And they have largely given up on an American role in solving the conflict, seeing the Trump administration as hopelessly biased in favor of Israel.

An opinion poll by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in June found that only 23 percent of Palestinians saw nonviolent resistance as the most effective way of achieving statehood, while three-quarters said the Palestinian leadership should reject the American peace plan.

Ghassan Khatib, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said the old Palestinian political elite’s vision of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel seems unrealistic to the new generation.

“They have no alternative for now, so most of them are staying away from politics,” he said. “Because there are no collective, clear national aspirations, they pay attention to their individual, personal prospects, like jobs and improving their life conditions.”

The Palestinian Authority also does not generally encourage direct confrontation with Israel. Its security coordination with Israel, a pillar of the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s, not only helps prevent attacks against Israel but also helps the authority suppress its militant Islamic rivals.

“It’s very hard to have a culture of resistance if, from the very top, the entire system and leadership is premised on cooperation with the military,” said Nathan Thrall, who leads the International Crisis Group’s Israeli-Palestinian project.

West Bank Palestinians also look at Gaza, where the past year of protests along the boundary fence have taken an enormous toll, with scores killed by Israeli forces but have done little to improve conditions.

Increasingly, Mr. Thrall said, “West Bankers are aspiring to middle-class life with mortgages and car payments.”

Few see the point in risking their stability, however tenuous, for an abstract goal. Many have taken bank loans to marry, or to buy homes or cars, and in the West Bank a default or bad check can land one in prison.

“People have started talking more about their economic situation than resistance,” said Muhammad Abu Latifa, a resident of the Kalandia refugee camp who spent seven years in jail after he and two friends stabbed an Israeli civilian in a Jerusalem suburb when he was 17.

Now 26 and a student of political science and international relations at Birzeit, Mr. Abu Latifa said he was glad his Israeli victim survived the attack. He criticized the Palestinian Authority for its involvement in monopolies that he said kept prices rising in the West Bank and for nepotism, saying the good public service jobs went to people with connections.

Those problems, he said, along with the unpopular security cooperation, make many youths feel like “they have to confront the Palestinian Authority before the Israelis.”

The change in atmosphere is tangible, with tension and violence subsumed by relative calm and consumerism.

A protest in Ramallah against the Trump administration’s economic conference in Bahrain last month. Despite calls for clashes, the protests were largely peaceful and confined to Palestinian cities.

The protest spot in Bilin, where Mr. Abu Rahma’s family was having a picnic, has been turned into a park that includes orchards and a playground. The park itself represents a rare victory, sitting on land that had been lost to Israel’s West Bank security barrier and was reclaimed after a long legal battle.

In the nearby village of Nilin, where soldiers once chased masked Palestinian youths carrying slingshots, a shiny new branch of the Bank of Palestine has gone up opposite a stylish clothing store offering its customers, including Israelis, free espresso.

And in the crowded Kalandia refugee camp, a traditional flash point decorated with fading posters of those killed by the Israeli Army, Halima Abu Latifa struggled to remember when the last violent confrontation took place here — a year ago, or was it three? But it was easy for her to recommend a local restaurant: Ali’s, a popular hummus joint.

Abdallah Abu Rahma, 48, a former teacher and co-founder of the Bilin resistance movement, says that rather than giving up, he and other protest leaders have shifted their focus.

He now has a desk job in Ramallah directing a commission that defends Palestinians against threats of Israeli land confiscations and demolitions.

Palestinian workers crossing a checkpoint in Nilin after a day’s work in Israel. More than 100,000 Palestinians depend on jobs in Israel and in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“Now we protest by working the land, building farms, roads, electricity lines, a kindergarten and a playground,” Mr. Abu Rahma said. “It’s a different kind of resilience, to encourage people to remain on the land.”

While the Trump administration heralded its prosperity-first approach as an innovation, the Israeli security establishment has long promoted a direct connection between Palestinian income and stability.

The Israeli agency for Palestinian civilian affairs has issued 86,000 permits for West Bank laborers to work in Israel, the highest number ever. An additional 32,000 Palestinians work legally in West Bank Jewish settlements.

The agency, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known as Cogat, has recently softened its restrictions on work permits, sending its officers from village to village to encourage even Palestinians long banned from working in Israel to apply. Hundreds who had been barred, often because a relative had carried out an attack against Israelis, have been removed from the blacklist.

Yet the potential for new eruptions is never far away.

A senior Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with army rules, said that the West Bank remains volatile, that many potential attacks are thwarted by Israeli security forces, and that there is always a danger of violence spilling over from Gaza.

And the subdued calm, many Palestinians say, should not be mistaken for acceptance.

Salah Khawaja, a coordinator for the Popular Campaign against the Wall and the Settlements, told the official Voice of Palestine radio last week that there was a need for a new “mutual vision on how to mobilize popular efforts” to combat the Israeli occupation.

Palestinians need “a new model,” he said, but still, “popular resistance is the best way for fighting against Israel’s measures.”