+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News – 12 August

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Father of slain teen hopes his son died before seeing ‘face of evil’

The father of Dvir Sorek, the yeshiva student found stabbed to death in a terror attack in the West Bank on Thursday, said he hopes that his son died quickly and without a prolonged struggle with his killers.

“I very much hope that it happened the way that I’m imagining it: That he was attacked from behind and wasn’t face to face with evil when he left this world,” Yoav Sorek told reporters outside his home on Friday.

“I [hope] he left the world purely,” he said. “I hope that he didn’t leave this world after an unsuccessful struggle with those that ambushed him.”

Yoav Sorek said the family was waiting to hear the conclusions of the initial investigation into his son’s killing.

“There’s nothing new about Jews being the targets of Arab terrorism,” said Sorek, who is the editor of the influential Tikvah Fund’s Shiloach Journal. “This is something that has accompanied us a long time.”

The body of Dvir Sorek was found early Thursday riddled with stab wounds outside the Migdal Oz settlement, where he studied at a seminary as part of a program combining religious study and military service.

On Wednesday night, Sorek’s family and people from the yeshiva told authorities that they lost contact with him after he traveled to Jerusalem, where he had purchased a number of books as end-of-term presents for his rabbis.

Investigators found that he returned to the area from Jerusalem shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday and began walking from his bus stop near the Efrat settlement toward the back entrance of Migdal Oz.

As he was walking along the path, an assailant got out of a car and attacked him. His body was found a short distance from the site of the stabbing, on the side of the road — and some 200 meters from his yeshiva — at approximately 3 a.m. on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear if the attack was carried out by members of a terror group or by unaffiliated terrorists.

Though only one person is believed to have carried out the stabbing, an as-yet unknown number of people were in the car and assisted in the attack.

Security forces launched a massive manhunt in the surrounding area morning and the military deployed additional troops throughout the West Bank.

The manhunt for the terrorists who killed Sorek entered its second day on Friday, with security forces expanding their search area to the southern West Bank. According to Palestinians media reports, Israeli security forces entered the Palestinian town of Halhul, north of Hebron early Friday morning.

Security forces are reportedly concerned the terror cell behind the deadly stabbing attack may have split up, making the search effort more difficult. The group is believed to be getting assistance in evading capture.

Sorek’s funeral was held in the Ofra settlement’s cemetery late Thursday night, drawing thousands of people, where he was eulogized by his father Yoav as “a gift that spread light and goodness both inside the family and outside it.”

“Evil lovers of death took your life, my Dvir, but they did not harm your innocence, light and love. You left us pure, and we will try to bring about light and goodness, to strengthen our family despite the pain and to choose life,” Yoav Sorek added. (the Times of Israel)

How security forces nabbed Dvir Sorek’s suspected killers in less than 48 hours

Less than 48 hours after the body of 18-year-old Dvir Sorek was found on the side of the road near the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz early Thursday, Israeli security forces apprehended the two suspects in the murder.

In a report Sunday, Channel 12 news detailed how a joint Shin Bet, Border Police and Israel Defense Forces operation nabbed Nasir and Qasseem Asafra off-guard and in their beds Saturday morning.

Immediately upon the discovery of Sorek’s body, which was riddled with stab wounds, Israeli forces established a makeshift war room through which all information gathered by the various units involved was funneled.

IDF trackers arrived at the scene outside Migdal Oz to determine the type of vehicle the terrorists used, the number of assailants involved and signs of a possible struggle between the victim and his killers.

Intelligence analysts from the Shin Bet and the IDF’s 8200 Unit studied the CCTV footage collected from roadside cameras at and around the scene, leading them to a theory regarding the type of vehicle used as well as the escape route taken by the assailants after the attack.

Subsequently, ground forces from the Givati brigade as well as the Egoz and Duvdevan reconnaissance units were dispatched to the Hebron area with the initial conclusion that the suspects had fled south.

Within 24 hours, security forces zeroed in on the village of Beit Kahil, where they believed the suspects were hiding.

The identities of the attackers were known by Friday evening.

Shortly thereafter, security forces succeeded in locating the two homes in Beit Kahil where the suspects were hiding, as well as the relatives who allegedly provided them assistance — Nasir’s brother Akrama and Qassem’s wife, Ines.

On Saturday morning at 3 a.m., the soldiers made their move, raiding the homes and nabbing the two suspects along with the relatives who allegedly helped them hide, without any resistance.

A vehicle belonging to one of the suspects was also confiscated in the raid. The army said that the car was “presumably” used in the attack.

The IDF said that some 100 residents of Beit Kahil hurled stones at troops while they were carrying out the arrest raid. Soldiers responded with riot dispersal meant to scatter them. No injuries were reported.

Sorek was studying at a yeshiva as part of a program combining Torah study and military service. He was last seen leaving Migdal Oz for Jerusalem on Wednesday to buy books for his teachers.

Also on Sunday, Border Police released the helmet cam footage of one of the officers involved in the manhunt. (the Times of Israel)

After foiled Gaza attack, minister says Israel will choose when to hit back

A senior minister indicated Saturday that Israel was not planning on launching a major military operation against Gaza in direct reaction to a foiled large-scale terror attack from the Strip earlier in the day, but would hit the enclave hard at some point.

Yoav Gallant, a former general and member of the high-level security cabinet, predicted the military would eventually launch a major offensive against the Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip, but its timing would be determined by Israel and not as a reprisal for an attack.

“Hamas will not determine the schedule. We will defend ourselves,” Gallant told Channel 12. “There will be another wide-scale operation in Gaza, but we will set the timing and conditions.”

The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday morning it had thwarted a “large-scale terror attack” after troops killed four Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip, armed with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, hunting knives and bolt cutters.

Recent Israeli attacks in Gaza have come in response to Hamas rocket fire or attempts to carry out attacks against civilians bordering the coastal enclave, drawing criticism that Israel was allowing terrorists in the Strip to determine the timing of military actions.

The UN Agency for Palestinians Is Even Worse Than You Think It Is

By Dr. Alex Joffe and Dr. Asaf Romirowsky BESA Center (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A corruption scandal involving sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation against whistleblowers, and lots of business-class travel has gripped the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). It represents a new low for UNRWA and is an indictment of the idea of an international agency dedicated to a single interest. But it’s also a unique opportunity to see behind the curtain of a billion-dollar UN bureaucracy and phase it out.

Serious corruption allegations against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), derived from a leaked UNRWA ethics report completed in December 2018, were exposed last week by Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse. The published account accuses Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl of appointing Maria Mohammedi, with whom he had a relationship “beyond the professional,” to a newly created and fast-tracked role as senior adviser and flying her around the world business class. The UN says it’s still investigating.

According to the report, Mohammedi’s new job allowed her to join Krähenbühl on his busy and expensive travel schedule. Current and former UNRWA officials describe him as perpetually absent from Jerusalem, a submarine who “surfaces for a couple of days” of public meetings and then “disappears into the unknown for protracted periods.” UNRWA, which complains it’s strapped for cash, would have footed the bill for all of it.

The commissioner-general’s travel, the report explains, left Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan in control of UNRWA’s operations in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Shahwan himself stands accused of bullying staff, acting like a “thug,” bypassing procedures for procurement and other financial decisions, and excessive partiality to the Palestinian Authority. UNRWA says he was “separated” from the agency after writing anonymous emails to journalists trying to discredit the report. Shahwan says he’s on paid leave and hasn’t commented on specific allegations.

The 10-page report also accuses Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell of using her power to get her husband, Robert Langridge, promoted to a more senior position. She has stepped down but remains on staff. Mitchell and Langridge deny the allegations, as do Krähenbühl and Mohammedi.

In the past, UNRWA has been accused by Israel and independent researchers of employing Hamas members and using antisemitic textbooks. Rockets have also been found hidden at UNRWA schools on several occasions. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that an organization so corrupt at the bottom is even more corrupt at the top.

The report’s timing is especially damaging. Thanks to the Trump administration’s cuts in American funding to UNRWA earlier this year, which reduced the US contribution to zero, the agency’s fortunes have plummeted. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who sat on the ethics findings for months, finally indicated in July that he is “committed to acting swiftly on the full report.” Now Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands have suspended their funding pending an investigation. Excessive business-class travel probably didn’t sit well with donors who have been showered with stories about the dire state of UNRWA’s finances.

As it is completely reliant on donors, UNRWA is always living on the edge. Its funding is uncertain and it maintains a culture of secrecy. The agency regularly assesses its management, but publishes uniformly positive reports. The imperative is always to support calls for future funding and avoid lending ammunition to critics, namely the US and Israel.

One lesson to be learned from this scandal is that funders must demand internal controls, external audits, and public access to information. Assurances regarding Palestinian needs aren’t enough. Scrutiny is also needed for the Palestinian Authority, which uses foreign aid to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in pensions to terrorists and their families.

A second lesson concerns the danger of devoting an international organization to a single population. UNRWA was effectively taken over by Palestinians decades ago. Politicization began at the bottom with school curricula, but crept upward, with senior managers calling for the Palestinian so-called right of return.

The US funding cuts were the first serious challenges to a long overripe status quo. This latest scandal is an opportunity for the US, together with other angry donors, to demand a phase-out plan for the entire organization.

UNRWA’s 30,000 employees could join the Palestinian Authority, which would take over its health, education, and welfare responsibilities like the state it claims to be. UNRWA’s expensive international cadre, including lobbyists in Washington and Geneva, should be disbanded. And Palestinian residents of Arab states – all of whom are considered refugees by UNRWA – should become citizens of those states, as they are in Jordan, or of the Palestinian Authority. If Palestinians truly desire a state, they should join the call for UNRWA’s abolition.