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Latest News in Israel – 13th June

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

IAF strikes underground Hamas targets after Palestinians fire rocket into Israel

Israeli aircraft hit Hamas underground facilities in the Gaza Strip early Thursday after a rocket fired at southern Israel was shot down in the first such attack since Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave fought a vicious two-day battle last month.

The IDF said fighter jets bombed “underground terror infrastructure on a base belonging to the Hamas terror group in the southern Gaza Strip.”

It said the strikes came in response to the rocket that was fired at Israel earlier in the night, noting that Israel holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip.

Earlier in the night the Israeli military said it shot down a rocket from Gaza heading toward southern Israel shortly after midnight Wednesday.

The incoming projectile triggered sirens in the community of Nirim in the Eshkol region, east of Gaza, at approximately 12:15 a.m. on Thursday. Residents of the area reported hearing sounds of explosions.

“One launch was detected from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory. It was intercepted by Iron Dome soldiers,” the army said in a statement, referring to the air defense system.

Residents said the rocket caused no injuries or damage.

“There were no impacts inside a community. Searches are being conducted in the area,” an Eshkol spokesperson said in a statement.

The attack came hours after Israel announced it was imposing a full naval closure of the Gaza Strip, not allowing local fisherman access to the sea, in response to the wave of arson and explosive attacks from the coastal enclave throughout the day.

At least six fires in southern Israel were blamed on incendiary balloons launched from the Strip, and another balloon with a bomb attached to it exploded over an Israeli town. There were no reports of injuries. The arson attacks caused significant damage to area farmland.

“Due to the continued fires and flying of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip, it was decided this evening to impose a naval closure on the Strip until further notice,” the Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians said in a statement.

The arson attacks appear to be a violation of an unofficial ceasefire reached in early May between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that ended two days of intense fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror groups.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the agreement includes a Hamas obligation to halt violent incidents along the border fence, maintaining a buffer zone 300 meters from the border; an end to the launching of incendiary balloons at Israeli communities and nighttime clashes between Gazans and security forces; and a stop to flotillas trying to break through the maritime border between Gaza and Israel.

In return, Israel expanded the fishing zone and agreed to enable United Nations cash-for-work programs, allow medicine and other civil aid to enter the Strip, and open negotiations on matters relating to electricity, crossings, healthcare, and funds.

The balloon-borne bomb Wednesday was the first armed attack from the Strip since that round of fighting ended on May 5.

Also Wednesday, an unexploded rocket exploded in a cemetery in a town outside Ashdod. There were no reports of injuries.  (the Times of Israel) Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu reveals Israel is carrying out pre-emptive strikes against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged on Wednesday that the Jewish state was carrying out pre-emptive attacks against enemy targets, such as Iran and Hezbollah, in Syria.

“The chain of tests that we are dealing with is unending. We respond vigorously and with force to all attacks against us; however, we do not take action only after the fact. We deny the enemy’s capabilities before the fact. We are acting methodically and consistently to prevent our enemies from establishing offensive bases against us in our vicinity,” Netanyahu said at a state memorial service for former Israeli President Ephraim Katz.

The revelation by Netanyahu came just hours after Syrian state media reported that Israel fired several missiles at targets in Syria near the Golan Heights.

Syria’s SANA news outlet reported that the strike targeted sites around Tel al-Harra, an area that Hezbollah has purportedly been active in. Hezbollah had previously called the site of “great strategic importance” due to its visibility of the surrounding area.

Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from establishing a permanent presence in civil war-torn Syria and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in the country over the last few years.  (JNS) Staff

IDF General: Lebanon to pay a heavy price in next Israel-Hezbollah war

A few hours before a drone infiltrated Israeli airspace from Lebanon, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram warned of overt action against Hezbollah if it continues to build up terrorist infrastructure along the border, and that Lebanon risks paying a heavy price for its cooperation with the terrorist group.

“We will continue to act to thwart its [Hezbollah’s] efforts to threaten our security, covertly and overtly as required, and if war is imposed on us, we will exact a heavy price from this organization and those who give it backing, wherever necessary,” he said Tuesday night at a memorial commemorating the 13th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War.

“Hezbollah’s loyalty was and remains to the supreme leader in Iran, not to the citizens of Lebanon,” he continued. “As a direct result, the Lebanese state is liable to pay a heavy price for its cooperation with Shi’ite terrorism in the next campaign.”

Baram accused Hezbollah of violating United Nations Resolution 1701, which set the terms to end the 34-day war fought between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

“The 13 years that have passed since the Second Lebanon War and the security stability that it brought to the region are the best evidence of the deterrence created by the war,” Baram said.

But, he warned, “Hezbollah continues to consolidate power in southern Lebanon, contrary to the UN resolution, and is building infrastructure of terrorism and rockets in the villages right here opposite us, and intends to try to threaten us with offensive forces as well. Hezbollah must understand: We will not allow it to realize its plans and destructive ambitions and those of its patrons in Iran.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a small drone infiltrated into northern Israel from Lebanon and flew over the town of Shlomi in the Western Galilee before it crossed back into Lebanon.

The IDF said that the drone, which was observing Israeli troop movements in the area, was under surveillance the entire time that it was in Israel. IAF jets were also scrambled to the area and followed the drone’s flight path.

Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that the group has missiles that could “change the face of the region.”

In a speech marking Quds Day, he denied that the group has facilities to build precision missiles in Lebanon, saying that if it had such facilities, he would declare it openly, “because we have a right to defend ourselves, and the forces of the resistance have a right to have rockets and missiles.”

Nasrallah also warned that a war between the United States and Iran “would mean the whole region will be set ablaze. All US forces and interests in the region will be exterminated, and those who conspired [with them] will pay the price: first Israel, then al-Saud.”

In April, Nasrallah said that while Israel boasts about its missile defense system, it cannot defend the country’s citizens against the threat posed by the group’s rocket arsenal.

Since the end of the last war, hostilities between the two foes have been limited to occasional firing across the border and airstrikes by Israel against Hezbollah and Iranian positions and military equipment in Syria, where the group continues to fight in support of President Bashar Assad.

But due to its fighting in Syria, the group has grown significantly in terms of technological advances along with battlefield experience. It is considered Israel’s most dangerous enemy and has morphed from a guerrilla group to an army with a set hierarchy and procedures.

With the help of Iran, it has rebuilt its arsenal since 2006 and has hundreds of thousands of short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach deeper into Israel’s home front.

In addition to its massive arsenal, Hezbollah also has the ability to mobilize close to 30,000 battle-hardened fighters, some of whom are expected to try to infiltrate into Israeli communities on the border to kill or kidnap civilians and soldiers.

In December, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to discover and destroy tunnels dug by the group into northern Israel. The IDF declared the end of the operation in mid-January after finding six cross-border tunnels, saying that it had “deprived Hezbollah of the unique offensive abilities it had built for years as part of its planned attack on Israeli territory,” and strengthened security along the northern border.

The Israeli military has repeatedly warned that the Lebanese government is responsible for the digging of the tunnels, which the IDF says were part of a Hezbollah plan to attack communities in northern Israel.   (Jerusalem Post) Anna Ahronheim

Non-Jewish Arab wearing kippah and carrying knives stopped in attempt to enter Antwerp synagogue

A non-Jewish Arab man wearing a kippah and carrying several concealed knives was intercepted by guards attempting to enter an Antwerp synagogue.

The 34-year-old Iraqi citizen was questioned by guards when he tried to enter the Romi Goldmuntz Synagogue in the Belgian city on Monday, during the holiday of Shavuot, the Joods Actueel newspaper reported Tuesday. The man said he spoke neither Hebrew nor Yiddish but insisted he was a member of the city’s Jewish community, the report said, citing police sources.

The guards — members of the community’s Shmira security service — had approached the man with some suspicion because they saw him arrive on a bicycle, a means of transportation that few observant Jews in Antwerp use on Jewish holidays

The man did speak good Flemish, the report said. The guards called police, who detained the man in for questioning.

“He came in wearing a hat and a kippah and pretended to be Jewish, but it was immediately clear to us he did not belong to the Jewish community,” one guard, who was not named, told Joods Actueel.

Attempts to gain access to synagogues, which are restricted to worshippers for security reasons, are common in Antwerp. But such attempts by men carrying knives are extremely rare.

Still, the incident may not have been an attempted attack, Joods Actueel wrote. The knives he carried were small, not much larger than the blade of a pocket knife, and the man seemed not entirely focused, the report said. (JTA) Staff

The difference between ‘retaining’ and ‘annexing’ territory

“You can retain territory without annexing it,” Baker said. “That is what we did in the [Oslo accord] interim agreement, we retained Area C…we haven’t annexed it.”

by Herb Keinon    The Jerusalem Post


Before becoming US ambassador to Israel in 2017, David Friedman was a bankruptcy lawyer with the Manhattan firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman – and a highly successful one at that. As such, he understands the significance of words, that words matter.

In his interview on Saturday with The New York Times, Friedman was quoted as saying, “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

The salient word here is “retain” – that Israel has the right to “retain” some of the territory. In the words quoted in the Times article, Friedman never uttered the word “annex,” which is significant, because annex has different, more far-reaching implications.

In the debate over what will be the final resolution of the territories occupied and annexed by Jordan in 1948 and held by Israel since 1967, many words and expressions are used, such as “retain territory,” “apply sovereignty,” “extend Israeli law,” and “annexation.”

Though the words have different legal meanings, they are often used interchangeably – and that is where the confusion sets in.

For instance, The New York Times online headline to the Friedman interview read: “US Ambassador Says Israel Has Right to Annex Parts of West Bank,” even though Friedman did not use the word “annex.” The Jerusalem Post story about the interview also used the word “annex” in the headline and the first paragraph, even though Friedman did not utter that word.

According to Alan Baker – former legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry who today serves as director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs – there is a difference: a distinction between retaining territories, applying Israel law, jurisdiction and administration over territories, and annexing territories.

He points out, however, that there is no difference between “applying sovereignty” over an area and annexing it. This is significant because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview just three days before the April 9 election – in an effort to woo right-wing voters – that he intended to “apply sovereignty” over settlements. Moreover, he said, “I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlement points, because from my perspective every such point of settlement is Israeli.”

Netanyahu is also someone careful with his words, and pointedly avoided saying that Israel would annex the settlements. Nonetheless, according to Baker, “annexing” and “applying sovereignty” are the same thing, and both run contrary to international law.

Baker also argued that it makes no difference in international law whether the territories were won in a defensive or offensive war. This is significant because after US President Donald Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March, Netanyahu said an important principle was set: that land acquired in a defensive war did not have to be given up.

The Six Day War, during which Israel gained control over east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, was a defensive war.

But while there is no difference between “applying sovereignty” and annexation, Baker said there are differences between retaining territory, extending law, jurisdiction and administration to territory, and annexation.

“You can retain territory without annexing it,” Baker said. “That is what we did in the [Oslo Accords] interim agreement. We retained Area C [the 62% of the West Bank where Israeli has full civilian and security control], but we haven’t annexed it, and we have not expanded Israeli law there.”

Retaining territory, he said, “can be done in agreement between the parties, or even in a unilateral way, until there is some positive outcome to negotiations over the permanent status of the territories. Israel has every right to retain whatever territories it feels it needs for its security.”

Annexation, on the other hand, goes much farther.

“To annex means that you extend your sovereignty,” said Baker. “It becomes part of your country. Your laws apply there. This is prohibited according to international law.”

It is possible, Baker said, that within the framework of an agreement, Israel will retain certain territories, which means it will maintain control and wield certain powers in those territories giving it specific rights, without necessarily incorporating them formally into Israel. These rights could be rights of passage, overfly rights for the air force, or many other myriad rights that it will retain inside territories whose final dispensation will be decided at a later time.

Between retaining territory and annexing it, there is another category, and that is extending the country’s law, jurisdiction and administration over territory.

And this path, Baker said, is the one Israel took in 1981 when it enacted the Golan Heights Law. That law did not formally annex the strategic plateau, but it did extend Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration there.

Baker said that prime minister Menachem Begin instructed Israel’s ambassador to the UN at the time, Yehuda Blum, to write a letter to the UN secretary-general saying that this move was being done “without prejudice to negotiations with Syria when Syria will decide they want to come negotiate on the location of a mutual bilateral border” between the two countries.

Extending Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration over the Golan Heights in 1981 did not mean applying sovereignty or annexing it, Baker clarified.

And what that means is that when Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March, he was actually recognizing a sovereignty that Israel itself had never formally declared.

When young Israelis move to Germany or Austria, it’s a hard pill for their families to swallow

by Curt Schleier           JTA

When young Israelis move to Germany or Austria, it’s a hard pill for their families to swallow

Dan Peled, center, with his father, Gidi, and grandmother Lea. Peled is a main subject of “Back to the Fatherland,” a documentary on Israelis moving to Germany and Austria.

On the surface, Gil Levanon and Kat Rohrer seem unlikely friends.

Levanon is an Israeli, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. Rohrer, an Austrian, is the granddaughter of an avowed Nazi officer. If their friendship seems a little odd, their collaboration on the documentary “Back to the Fatherland” makes perfect sense.

The film is about the exodus of many young Israelis spurred to emigrate mostly by economic issues or politics. But it focuses on two specific destinations that are of particular interest to the Israeli families whose offspring are leaving: Germany and Austria

For some Israeli Holocaust survivors, it’s hard to see their grandchildren return to the countries that, under the Nazis, sought to exterminate them.

Levanon and Rohrer’s collaboration goes back a decade, when they were students at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Rohrer’s thesis project was called “The Search,” for which she researched her family’s history and discovered a great-aunt who was banished when she married a Jewish man.

Levanon helped with the project, and they stayed in touch after graduation. Rohrer visited Levanon in Israel in 2013, and inspiration struck as they were walking on the Tel Aviv beach.

“We saw an Israeli Jew walking a German shepherd,” Levanon said in a phone interview. “She [Rohrer] couldn’t understand that. To her, the dog reminded her of the concentration camps.”

At the time, as Rohrer recalled, also on the phone, a social media protest had erupted about the cost of living in Israel. It was nicknamed the “Milky Protest” because Israelis were abuzz about the price of a pudding dessert known as Milky, which was made in Israel but cheaper to buy in Germany.

Even so, Rohrer still could not comprehend how Jews might move to Germany, as the Milky Protest’s Facebook campaign urged. And thus the idea for the film was born: to discover why the grandchildren of survivors were abandoning Israel for the homeland of the perpetrators.

When Levanon and Rohrer’s initial search for likely subjects proved unfruitful — most volunteers’ grandparents were deceased — they requested help from social workers at retirement homes and eventually landed a dozen or so subjects. The film concentrates mainly on two of them. One is Guy Shahar, who leaves Israel in search of economic opportunity.

His grandfather, Uri Ben Rehav, is resigned to the idea “you can’t pay the grocer with sentiment.” At the same time, he remembers when “Jews weren’t allowed to sit on benches. Jews weren’t allowed in parks. Nothing was allowed except to die.”

Shahar is not fully committed to Austria.

“If I feel uncomfortable with the political situation, I’ll get on the plane. Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me twice, shame on me. I learned that from my grandpa,” he said.

Dan Peled, an artist, says he’s unlikely to return to Israel. He went to Germany for a political reason: He feels “in parts of Israel there is apartheid.”

“When I’m there, I become a part of those perpetrators,” he said.

But there were family issues at home as well. His parents divorced when he was 4.

“I never felt at home in Israel,” he said, “but I also never felt I belonged to my family. I only go back to visit my grandma.”

In a telephone interview from Berlin, Peled told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that distance has softened him somewhat.

“With more time, my relationship with my family is easier and I get to see also the good side of Israel,” he said.

His grandmother, Lea, was not happy about his leaving — especially about his choice of destination.

“It was a small shadow on her heart,” he said. “But my choice was very practical. I knew people in Germany and studying here is free.”

Peled has not experienced any anti-Semitism in Germany, instead attributing any prejudice he’s felt to the fact that he’s a foreigner.

Rohrer, who along with her grandfather is one of the film’s main subjects, offers another reason Germany and Austria are favored destinations for Israelis: They are familiar.

Levanon told JTA she walked into a coffee shop in Austria during the research phase and saw dishes her grandmother cooked and served in exactly the same way.

“It’s a very strange feeling of familiarity,” she said. “Also, in a way I get an opportunity to live a life my grandfather never got to live. This was his language, and in a way it’s about refinding my roots.”

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have any quotes like this, about how going abroad is also for some Israeli Jews a homecoming.

It also leaves most of the burning questions unanswered: How big a problem for Israel is this kind of emigration? Is it growing? How many Israelis are moving specifically to Germany and Austria?

There are a couple of brief scenes filmed around a table in which a group of unidentified people talk about this subject. They are never identified, and most repeat the same lines about economic opportunity and leaving behind the politics. One seems to suggest that it’s time for Jews to get over the Holocaust, get over victimization, but it’s not discussed at any great length.

Rohrer thinks Israelis are going to continue to emigrate around the world.

“No one says that Israelis will stay here forever,” she said. “We’re a generation that lives in a globalized world, we move a lot.”