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Latest News in Israel – 24th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Syrian media says Israel carried out airstrikes in country’s south

Syrian state media on Tuesday night reported Israel carried out airstrikes in the nation’s south, close to the Israeli border.

Local media reported that air defenses short down several missiles around half past midnight.

State news agency SANA and state TV added that the “Israeli aggression” struck al-Harra hill that is home to Syrian army posts adding that it only caused material damage and did not inflict any casualties.

According to Reuters Western intelligence sources have said the area is home to several Iranian-backed militias.

The Israeli military has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, on targets linked to Iran, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war.

The last reported strikes took place earlier this month, when multiple Iranian-linked targets were hit near Homs and Damascus, reportedly killing 15 people including six civilians.

Syria then accused Israel of committing “state terrorism.”

Israel did not comment on the attack — one of the most extensive series of strikes in several months.

Syria’s foreign ministry filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council over the attack, demanding accountability, according to the official SANA news agency.

A private Israeli intelligence firm identified one of the sites targeted in the alleged Israeli airstrike as a hangar likely storing advanced weaponry or other military equipment.

ImageSat International, a satellite imagery analysis firm, released a photograph of one of the targets, a hangar located at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) in Jamraya, outside Damascus.

The Hezbollah terror group and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp have been said to maintain a presence at the Jamraya facility.

The US has repeatedly imposed sanctions on the SSRC for its alleged role in chemical weapons production. France has also imposed sanctions on the agency.

Israeli airstrikes reportedly hit the facility in May 2013 and again in February 2018. (the Times of Israel) Staff and Agencies

Boris Johnson, Britain’s newest leader, once described himself as a ‘passionate Zionist’

In August 2014, Boris Johnson, who was then mayor of London, described himself as a “passionate Zionist” and declared Israel as a “great country.”

Speaking on LBC radio, Johnson, who on Tuesday won the race to lead Britain’s governing Conservative Party and to become the country’s next prime minister, said: “I am a passionate Zionist. I am a supporter of Israel. I believe in its existence. I’ve been on a kibbutz for heaven’s sake.”

In 2015, on a visit to Israel, he praised the country for “the audacity, the bravery, the willingness to take risks with feats of outrageous derring-do.”

Speaking in the House of Commons on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, Johnson said in 2015: “A century after those words were written, I believe that the Balfour Declaration paved the way for the birth of a great nation. The State of Israel has prevailed over every obstacle, from the harshness of nature to the visceral hostility of its enemies, to become a free society with a thriving and innovative economy and the same essential values that we in Britain hold dear.”

His strong pro-Israel comments led to part of his visit to Ramallah to be cut short. In 2015, Johnson had been expected to meet with a Palestinian youth group, which cancelled its invitation after his comments on the BDS movement. He repeatedly criticized calls for a boycott of Israeli goods, describing the campaign as “completely crazy” and promoted by a “few lefty academics” in corduroy jackets pursuing a cause.

The victory is a triumph for the 55-year-old Johnson, an ambitious but erratic politician whose political career has veered between periods in high office and spells on the sidelines.

However, as foreign minister, Johnson has been critical of Israel’s military action in Gaza. In 2014, he described “Operation Protective Edge” against Hamas as being “disproportionate.”

He said then: “Israel has a right to respond. Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel has a right to meet force with force. I absolutely agree with that, but all I was saying is I believe in Israel. I support Israel. I will always support Israel. I just joined with those who say ‘I want the Israeli response to be proportionate.’ ”

Johnson supports the British government and the European Union’s long-standing policy of a ‘’two states for two peoples’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Regarding Iran, Johnson has emphasized that the United Kingdom believes that the 2015 nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by world powers with Tehran is the best vehicle to deal with Iran’s regional activities, regretting the U.S. withdrawal from the deal in May 2018.

But he recently told the London Jewish News that he was prepared to restart sanctions on Iran and, as prime minister, he would do everything in his power to “constrain Iran’s conflicdisruptive behaviour in the region.” Johnson also said the Western allies should focus on diplomacy to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

He will be installed as prime minister in a formal handover from Theresa May on Wednesday.

The victory is a triumph for the 55-year-old Johnson, an ambitious but erratic politician whose political career has veered between periods in high office and spells on the sidelines.

He has vowed that Britain will quit the European Union on the scheduled date of Oct. 31, even if it means leaving without a divorce deal. (JNS) Yossi Lempkowicz

Israel: Iran smuggling dual-use items for Hezbollah arms by sea into Beirut port

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday accused Iran of exploiting civilian companies and maritime channels to smuggle weapons manufacturing equipment to its Lebanese proxy group, Hezbollah.

In the quarterly meeting on the Middle East, Ambassador Danny Danon told the Security Council that Israeli intelligence has uncovered evidence showing Iran’s Quds Force has been using the port of Beirut to ship items to the terror group since last year.

“In the years 2018-2019, Israel found that dual-use items are smuggled into Lebanon to advance Hezbollah’s rocket and missile capabilities,” he said.

“Iran and the Quds Force have begun to advance the exploitation of the civilian maritime channels, and specifically the Port of Beirut,” Danon said. “The Port of Beirut has become the Port of Hezbollah.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks to the Security Council in New York, July 23, 2019. (Courtesy: Israel Mission to the UN)

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks to the Security Council in New York

In a statement, the Israeli mission said “Syrian agents” purchased the dual use items from foreign companies under false pretenses, and handed it over to the terrorist group after picking up the shipments from the port.

Danon presented the Security Council with a map of the Hezbollah transfer routes that included major hubs at the Damascus airport, Beirut’s port and airport and the official border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, such as the Masnaa crossings.

He said the weapons transfers violated UN resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Hezbollah and Israel.

Danon did not detail what items were obtained by the terror group through these means or name the companies behind the shipments.

On Friday, several Hezbollah commanders told the Daily Beast that the Iran-backed group was deploying forces for a possible war with Israel, warning that the growing pressure from US sanctions on Tehran could trigger such a conflict sooner rather than later.

The officers said Hezbollah forces were setting up for war on both Lebanon’s and Syria’s border with Israel, and their fighters were better prepared to confront Israel than in 2006, after sending thousands to fight alongside the troops of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

In the years since the 2006 summer war, Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of violating resolution 1701, which calls for all armed groups besides the Lebanese military to remain above the country’s Litani River. Israel maintains that Hezbollah is in constant violation of this, keeping a significant percentage of its 100,000-strong arsenal of rockets and mortar shells in southern Lebanon, as well as conducting patrols and other military activities along the border.

In late 2018 and early 2019, Israel uncovered at least six cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon into Israel. According to the army, Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities. The peacekeeping force UNIFIL confirmed these to be a violation of resolution 1701, but did not identify Hezbollah as the group responsible for their excavation.

In June, the head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, threatened overt and covert action against Hezbollah and Lebanon, in response to its efforts to build up terrorist infrastructure along the border.

Hezbollah, Baram said, was “building infrastructure in the villages right here across [the border] and trying to threaten us with attack forces.”

The IDF Northern Command chief said that in a future war against the terror group the country of Lebanon was likely to “pay a heavy price” for allowing Hezbollah to take root there.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria on targets linked to Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, which Jerusalem has vowed to prevent.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that Hezbollah was hiding precision missile production facilities underneath Beirut. He revealed satellite photos purporting to show the secret facilities, located within close proximity of Beirut’s international airport.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu warned that Israeli fighter jets “can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran.” (the Times of Israel) Staff

Hamas says ‘real chance’ to negotiate return of Israeli MIAs, POWs

The Hamas terror group on Tuesday said there’s a “real chance” to negotiate a return of Israeli MIAs and POWs but the window of opportunity “could soon be closed.” The statement comes just hours after a state ceremony was held in Jerusalem commemorating Israeli troops fallen in the 2014 Gaza war known as Operation Protective Edge.

The bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who died alongside four other IDF soldiers during Protective Edge on July 20, 2014, are believed to be held by the terror group in the enclave to this day. Israel recently marked five years since the seven-week-long war broke out.

“Israeli government continues to lie about its MIAs,” said a spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing, Abu Obeida, “The enemy’s leadership avoids having to deal with the truth and it’s paying the price.”

Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul and Avera Mengistu

“There is a real chance to resolve the issue … if Israeli leadership is serious,” he said, adding that “this case may soon be closed, take the Ron Arad affair as a lesson to learn from.”

Goldin and Shaul were traveling through the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in Gaza City in an armored personnel carrier that was hit by an anti-tank missile, killing the six soldiers in it. Hamas quickly declared it had seized Oron and Hadar, not mentioning if the soldiers are alive or dead. The IDF declared the two as deceased soldiers whose burial place is unknown shortly after the incident.

In addition, Hamas claims to have captured, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two mentally ill Israelis who voluntarily crossed into Gaza several years ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Tuesday’s memorial ceremony in Jerusalem vowing to bring back the bodies of the two soldiers as well as the two citizens held by the terror group.

“We are committed to bringing Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, as well as Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, back home,” said Netanyahu. “I cannot go into detail here about everything that we are doing but we are doing very much.”

Netanyahu then went to warn the Palestinian factions in the Strip that despite the recent efforts to achieve a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement, the military continues to make plans for a military campaign in the enclave.

“We are working to achieve calm, but we are prepared to embark on a campaign, an extensive military operation to strike Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” he said. “I cannot go into details but those who are involved in these preparations, who are sitting here today, know very well that these are not mere words.” (Ynet News) Staff

Suspected Hezbollah agent arrested in Uganda with Mossad’s help

A Lebanese citizen suspected of being an undercover Hezbollah agent was recently arrested at Entebbe International Airport by Ugandan intelligence agencies with the cooperation of the Mossad.

A report published by The Kampala Post on Tuesday said that Lebanese national Hussein Mahmoud Yassine was arrested on July 7 while boarding a flight to Lebanon via Addis Ababa. He had arrived at Entebbe International Airport from Tanzania earlier that day.

According to the report, the Mossad informed its Ugandan counterparts about Yassine due to the close intelligence relationship between the two countries. An anonymous intelligence source told The Kampala Post that Yassine was recruited to the terrorist group by a senior Hezbollah official called Ali Wahib Hussein, known as Abu Jihad.

Yassine, who is suspected of working for the Hezbollah foreign liaison unit and has lived and worked in Uganda since 2010, was reportedly tracked for months before his arrest.

According to the intelligence source, Hezbollah instructed Yassine to identify potential US and Israeli targets for terrorist attacks in Uganda; to recruit other Lebanese nationals for Hezbollah; and to attempt to recruit Muslim Ugandans to act as Hezbollah intelligence agents.

The source also revealed that Yassine had already identified at least 100 Lebanese citizens living in the country for potential recruitment, including some working with telecommunications provider Africell.

The US and Israeli governments, which alerted the Uganda government to potential terrorist suspects, were notified of Yassine’s arrest and demanded his immediate prosecution, the source said.

The Lebanese consulate in Uganda sent a protest letter on July 10 to the Ugandan Foreign Ministry, claiming that the arrest will deter Lebanese citizens from doing future business in the country. (Jerusalem Post) Alex Winston

Defying BDS Activists, Bon Jovi Arrives in Israel for Tel Aviv Show

American rock band Bon Jovi arrived in Israel on Monday, following touring in Europe for the past two months. The band is performing at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

The band received strong pressure from BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activists, urging them not to do a concert in Israel.

“He’s received more than 5,000 letters from BDS activists who are against the show but he said ‘I chose Israel and I’m coming, no one will cancel my show.’ This is an example of an old school artist that isn’t afraid about his career,” Guy Beser, promoter of Bluestone Entertainment, said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Image result for bon jovi arrives in israel 2019

The band previously performed in Israel in 2015, at the same venue, for more than 50,000 adoring fans. A similar number is expected to attend Thursday’s concert.

At the 2015 show, lead singer Jon Bon Jovi told the roaring crowd that the band would come back any time the fans want.

Jon Bon Jovi will remain in Israel, with his family, band and friends, to tour the country after the concert, Beser said, the Post reported.

The tour is named after Bon Jovi’s 2016 album, ‘This House is Not For Sale.’   (United with Israel) Staff

Trump’s Economic Plan Is Necessary Because Peace Is Not Possible

by Hillel  Frisch                          BESA Center        (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.)

https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/trump-economic-plan-peace/

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: None of the three actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Hamas, the PA, and Israel – envisions peace in the foreseeable future. It is this very absence of the prospect of peace that makes the Trump economic plan so timely. Engendering economic well-being does not solve deep-seated political conflict, but it does contain the prospect that differences can be expressed in less violent ways.

None of the three actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict envisions peace in the foreseeable future.

Hamas can’t entertain the idea of real peace for ideological reasons. It would mean openly acknowledging that the dream of Palestine “from the river to the sea” is no longer attainable, and in so doing, it would lose its legitimacy in favor of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is recognized by the international community. Peacemaking would also mean the end of Iranian military aid and Turkish and Qatari support.

Hamas would be threatened by the same marginalization that doomed once-strong Palestinian factions like the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine. To court oblivion for the sake of the Jews is, to say the least, unpalatable.

Even less eager to make real peace is the PA under Mahmoud Abbas. Real peace would mean the cancellation of the daily penetration of Israeli security forces, which, in close coordination with PA security forces, currently protects the PA from their common foes – Hamas and Islamic Jihad – by arresting the lion’s share (70%) of their supporters. If the IDF is forced to withdraw for the sake of peace, the PA and its political elite will be threatened with nightmarish scenarios.

At best, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would emerge strong enough to engage in a long civil war in areas controlled at present by the PA. The outcome could be a division into a sort of Palestinian Judea and Samaria, with the former controlled by the Khalaileh (the Hebronites), who form the majority of east Jerusalem and south of it, and Hamas enjoying considerable support among Palestinian Judeans from Ramallah northward. That area would be controlled by Fatah factions and overlords who would either be divided or act in unison.

At worst (from the perspective of the PA), Hamas and Islamic Jihad would be able to achieve a complete takeover along the lines of Hamas’s success in Gaza in 2007.

Unlike the PLO elite of the past, which always found a refuge – first in Amman, then in Beirut, then in Tunis, and finally in Ramallah – the political elite of today’s PA has literally nowhere to flee.

Not one Arab country, including Jordan, will offer them refuge, meaning a bleak future under Hamas rule. For a glimpse into that future, Abbas and his coterie have only to look at how Fatah supporters fare in the one-party Hamas state of Gaza.

Nor can most Israeli voters envision peace in the near future, much as they would like to achieve it. Not only have they internalized the bitter lessons of Oslo – dubbed a peace process, but in fact a war process – which increased Israeli casualties five-fold and doubled Palestinian casualties, but they have only to contemplate the ramifications of enabling Hamas to replicate its actions along the Gaza border over the past year on the Green Line between Israel and the PA. Consider what fires, incendiary bombs, and daily to weekly attacks along the security fence between Afula and Jerusalem would mean.

The likely impact on two key strategic points along the way – the Rabin Highway, better known as Route Six  (Israel’s largest highway, which runs along the country’s critical epicenter in the Dan region), and Ben-Gurion Airport – is sufficient to give most Israelis pause about making “peace” anytime soon.

The occasional mortar volley would be enough to close down the Rabin Highway for long periods, paralyzing traffic across the entire Dan metropolitan area (which is already beset with traffic jams) and causing panic.

Incendiary bombs and mortars launched from places like Budrus, a village six miles from the Ben-Gurion tarmac, would close down the airport or otherwise prevent the landing of planes.

Those two ramifications alone of Hamas’s “peaceful” activities would render Israel, like Lebanon since the 1970s, a good place to abandon. It is likely that the “high techers” and other members of Israel’s economic elite, who live in an area stretching from north Tel Aviv to Ramat Hasharon and who overwhelmingly vote for parties that clamor for peace, would be among the first to exit.

The beauty from Hamas’s point of view is that it would be able to achieve strategic objectives without inflicting Israeli death tolls on a scale large enough that it would justify Israeli retaliation in the eyes of the international community.

It is this very absence of any real prospects for peace that makes the Trump economic plan so timely.

A seminal article written by Columbia University political scientist Alfred Stepan and Cindy Skach thirty years ago explains why. They showed that societies that enjoy a per capita GDP of $8,000 ($16,000 dollars today) do not engage in violent political behavior, either because they have too much to lose, or because they have become too used to the air-conditioned mall, or both.

Israeli Arab behavior during Arafat’s terror war (euphemized as the “al-Aqsa Intifada”) demonstrates the validity of this finding. The bloodcurdling chants of “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud, Jeish Muhammad sa Ya’ud” (warning the Jews that they will meet the same fate they once encountered against Muhammad’s army) and the many near lynches perpetrated against fellow Israeli citizens who happened to be Jews lasted only ten days, while the terror war lasted three years beyond that.

Either the Israeli Arabs felt they had too much to lose, or, as Arab party activists often complain, they spend considerably more time at the mall than at demonstrations. Israel’s Arab citizens have not been involved in widespread violence since then.

Engendering economic well-being does not solve deep-seated political conflicts, but it holds out the prospect that differences can be expressed in less violent ways. Trump’s plan might save both Israeli Jewish and Arab lives alike – provided, of course, that it is not followed by a delusional peace process.