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Latest News – 26 August

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

Teenage terror victim laid to rest: ‘She had her whole life ahead of her’

Seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb was laid to rest in her hometown of Lod on Friday afternoon, hours after she was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank that also wounded her father and brother.

Rina was killed, her 19-year-old brother Dvir was seriously wounded and her father Eitan was lightly hurt when they were hit by an improvised explosive device Friday morning as they were visiting the Danny Spring – named for another Israeli terror victim – near the West Bank settlement of Dolev.

Rina’s sister, Tamar Levanoni, paid tribute to her sister, whom she said had left a void in the heart of the nation.

“My dearest Rina. We were granted you for almost 17 years. We were granted the best of you, your sensitivity, to see how you constantly strove to advance, to learn and understand,” Levanoni said.

“We were allowed to learn from you how to always seek the big answers and not to make do with the small ones,” she said.

“This hole is not just felt by the family; it is a void in the heart of the nation. This space now needs to be filled; the work begins now. Dearest, beloved Rina, thank you for the years we had with you, I hope that together we can fulfill the mission you left for us.”

Speaking earlier outside Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem, where Dvir and 46-year-old Rabbi Eitan Shnerb were being treated, family member Shmulik Shenhav paid tribute to his slain niece.

Rina was “an innocent, God-fearing girl,” he said. “She was so sweet, with her whole life ahead of her.”

The family was hit by the bomb as they walked on foot from their vehicle towards the spring.

It was initially unclear to the security forces whether a terrorist had thrown the bomb at the family or their route was booby-trapped, but later decide that that second option was most likely.

This type of attack is extremely unusual and has raised concerns among local residents that more devices have been placed at other hiking spots in Judea and Samaria.

After the bomb was detonated at around 10am Friday, the rabbi managed to call the police and report the attack. A report was sent simultaneously to the Magen David Adom rescue service.

Military, police and MDA personnel rushed to the site of the attack, where paramedics battled to save Rina’s life, but were ultimately had no choice but to pronounce her dead at the scene.

Shenhav said that the rabbi tried to help his children in the aftermath of the attack.

“Eitan, who is also a paramedic, tried to help Rina but it was too late,” Shenhav said from outside the hospital where the two survivors were being treated.

“He took off his tzitzit (Jewish garment worn under the clothes by Orthodox men) and made a tourniquet for Dvir to stop the shrapnel that punctured his hand.”

He said that the family had called the local hotline to say that they were heading for the spring and were told that the site was secure.

Shenhav said that he did not know how the attack had happened and speculated that someone had tipped off the terrorists that the family was there.

The uncle also said that Dvir tried to support his father despite his own serious wounds.

“Dad, we are strong, do you need anything?” Dvir told his rabbi father. Shenhav said that throughout the ordeal, Dvir repeatedly told his father: “We are strong and we will come out of this and strengthen the people of Israel.”

Shenhav added: “These are people that the nation of Israel can take pride in, each and every one of them. People who love Israel according to the teachings of the Torah of Israel in the Land of Israel.

“Eitan asked me to come out and say – we are not zealots, we only strengthen and give; give love to the people, love of Torah, love of honor and the values of the Land of Israel so as to deepen our hold on it.” (Ynet News)

WATCH: Father of girl killed in terror attack: ‘Rina died a hero’s death’

Rabbi Eitan Shnerb said his daughter died “a hero’s death” in the terror attack that killed her on Friday near the town of Dolev in southern Samaria .(WIN)

IDF arrests 3 Palestinians in manhunt for Bomb attack perpetrators

The IDF on Saturday arrested three Palestinians as part of a manhunt for the terrorists responsible for a terror attack that killed a teenage girl and wounded her father and brother near a natural spring close to the West Bank settlement of Dolev.

According to Palestinian news agency WAFA, two men were arrested during a raid in the village of Ein Arik close to Ramallah and another, a student at Birzeit University who has spent time in Israeli jails, was arrested in the nearby village of Ein Qiniya.

Other raids took place in the village of Beitunia. During the raids, IDF troops are also said to have confiscated surveillance cameras from businesses in the area.

On Friday, 17-year-old Rina Shnerb was killed by an improvised explosive device in attack at the Ein Buvin spring.

It was previously thought that the device had been thrown at the family from a car that fled the scene but it was determined that the IED had been planted earlier at the spring and remotely detonated when the family approached.

An attack of this kind is an unusual occurrence in the West Bank, where terrorists tend to carry out shooting, ramming or knife attacks. It is the third terrorist attack in the West Bank this month.

The army, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police are in “the midst of a coordinated, broad intelligence operation to locate the perpetrators of the murderous and serious attack. I am certain we will locate the perpetrators soon and continue to provide security for residents living in Judea and Samaria,” IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said during a visit to the scene.

Wishing a “speedy recovery” to Eitan and Dvir Shnerb, Kochavi said: “I am in pain for the Shenrav family over the murder of the late Rina and I sending my condolences to the family on this difficult day.”

Rina Shnerb was critically wounded in the explosion and was treated at the scene before succumbing to her wounds. She was buried in her home city of Lod at 3.30 p.m., just one week after celebrating her 17th birthday.

Her father Rabbi Eitan Shnerb was moderately injured and his 19-year-old son Dvir was sedated and is still on life support with injuries to his entire body. Following surgery on Friday, Dvir’s condition improved; he was reported by Hadassah University

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Eitan on the telephone to wish him and his son a speedy recovery.

According to reports, Eitan Shnerb received a commendation during his reserve service when he thwarted a terrorist infiltration by two armed Palestinians in the West Bank.

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis called it “a serious terror attack” and said that the military had still not determined if the terrorists acted as part of an established terror group or were working alone.

Netanyahu held a security consultation following the attack, adding that he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security force.

Kochavi, Head of the Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nadav Padan, Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Eran Niv and other senior commanders have been to the scene conducting a situational assessment, the IDF said.

According to Manelis, a reinforcement of troops was also deployed in a defensive maneuver to prevent any additional attacks. Blockades have also been placed in the area as troops searched for the terrorists.

“The army is dealing with attempted terror attacks, with lone-wolf assailants and with terror cells,” Manelis said, adding that there has been an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Last month, the Shin Bet announced that it had foiled a series of attempts by the military wing of Hamas to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank and that it had arrested an explosives expert who entered Israel with a humanitarian permit for medical treatment.

“The military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip continues to invest considerable efforts in establishing terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank, with the aim of promoting terrorist attacks in Israel aimed at undermining regional stability,” a senior Shin Bet officer said.

While no group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, Hamas praised the attackers, saying that “today’s operation is proof of the vitality of our people, and their bravery and their failure to surrender to the crimes and terrorism of the occupation.”

Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said that the attack was a warning to Israel to stay away from the “powder keg” that is Jerusalem.

“I welcome today’s operation, and although I don’t know who carried it out, I support them and wish them safety. The operation is a warning to the occupation concerning Jerusalem and Al Aqsa,” he said in a statement.

Describing the West Bank as a “volcano that will erupt,” Haniyeh said the group “warned Israel not to hold this election campaign at the expense of our historic right as the Palestinian people.”

In June 2015, another resident of Lod, 25-year-old Danny Gonen, was killed in a shooting attack along a dirt road after he visited the Ein Buvin spring, which has been renamed “Dani’s Spring” in his memory. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel said to strike Palestinian terror group base deep inside Lebanon

Israeli aircraft carried out an airstrike on a base belonging to a Palestinian terrorist group deep inside Lebanon early Monday morning, Arabic media reported, amid a dramatic spike in tensions.

The strikes came just hours after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to shoot down any Israeli aircraft violating Lebanese airspace.

The reports said the strikes hit a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), a Syria-based terrorist group that fights alongside Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The base in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

Videos posted on social media showed explosions, accompanied by heavy anti-aircraft fire.

A spokesman for the group told the Saudi-owned Al-Hadath news channel that the “Israeli bombing in the Bekaa did not achieve its objectives,” but gave no further details.

There was no comment from the IDF. While Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, attacks inside Lebanon are rare. In the few cases when Israel has hit targets in the Bekaa Valley, it has been to stop the transfer of advanced arms from Iran to Hezbollah, via Syria.

The PFLP-GC — not to be confused with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which it split off from in 1968 — was responsible for a number of vicious terror attacks in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, including one against a school bus in northern Israel, which killed nine children and three adults.

The PFLP-GC largely went underground in the late 1980s, working behind the scenes with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, but it reemerged in 2011 with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

The reported strike follows the bombing of an Iran-linked base in Syria on Saturday that Israel said foiled a plot to launch killer drones into Israel, a drone attack on a Hezbollah office in Beirut and an attack on an Iran-linked militia in Iraq, both on Sunday.

It also came just hours after Israel bombed a Hamas base in Gaza, in response to three rockets being fired into Israel from the Strip.

Israel did not comment on the drone incident or the Iraq explosions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned neighboring countries that they would be held accountable for any attacks against the Jewish state emanating from their territory.

“We won’t tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the area. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences. I stress: The state will bear the consequences,” Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said during a tour of the Golan Heights with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

The attacks sparked vows of revenge from Nasrallah and from Iran’s Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

“These insane operations will surely be the last steps of the Zionist regime,” tweeted Soleimani.

Nasrallah threatened Israel with a reprisal attack after two of its members were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria, and two UAVs crashed in and around the terror group’s Beirut offices in an incident also blamed on the Jewish state.

“From tonight, I tell the Israeli army on the border, be prepared and wait for us,” said the Hezbollah leader in a televised address, taunting that a retaliation could come in “one day, two days, three days…”

He also said Israel would no longer be allowed to violate Lebanese airspace with impunity.

“The time — in which Israeli planes come and bombard a place in Lebanon and the usurping entity of Palestine remains secure — has ended,” he declared. “From now on, we will confront the Israeli drones in Lebanon’s skies… and we will take action to bring them down.”

Israeli forces in the north have been put on high alert, amid fears of a reprisal attack, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting with defense officials overnight Saturday-Sunday amid the heightened tensions.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned Israel for allegedly sending drones, calling it a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

“This new aggression… forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension,” Hariri said in a statement.

Hariri also charged that it was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and terror group Hezbollah.

A Hezbollah spokesman said earlier that an armed Israeli drone exploded outside the organization’s propaganda offices in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, causing damage to the structure. Another Hezbollah spokesman said later that a second drone crashed, causing no damage, and was being studied by the terror group. He denied reports that Hezbollah had shot down the drones.

The Israel Defense Forces said it does not comment on “foreign reports.”

Several well-connected Israeli commentators, including a former IDF general, said the drones appeared to in fact be of Iranian origin.

The Lebanese military confirmed Hezbollah’s claim, saying in a statement, “Two of the Israeli enemy’s drones penetrated Lebanese airspace above the Madi neighborhood in the southern suburb of Beirut. The first fell to the ground and the second exploded in the air, only causing material damages.”

Photographs from the scene shared by the terror group showed broken windows and overturned furniture in the offices.

Official Lebanese state media later released a photograph of the quadcopter-style UAV that crashed. The models used appeared to be civilian drones with extremely limited range that the Israeli military would likely be unable or uninterested in using for a sensitive operation like conducting reconnaissance in a Hezbollah stronghold.

The incident came hours after the Israel Defense Forces carried out airstrikes in Syria against what it said was an imminent Iranian plot to attack the Jewish state with explosives-laden drones.

Israeli warplanes fly over Lebanon regularly and have struck inside neighboring Syria from Lebanese airspace on numerous occasions. Israel also uses drones to monitor Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon, according to Beirut. (the Times of Israel)

IDF strike foils Iranian drone attack on northern Israel

Israel attacked a target in Syria around 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night. The Israel Defense Forces says it was a pre-emptive strike to prevent a planned drone attack by Iran.

Israel fired missiles at the Damascus International Airport located to the south of the capital destroying the drones before they could be launched.

Reports say the drone attack was going to be carried out in the next few days with the intention of hitting Israeli targets in the north of the country.

An IDF spokesperson said Israel had been following the activities of the Revolutionary Guards force, which was made up of Guards members and Shiite militias. The spokesman said that the terror cell planned to carry out the attack earlier on Thursday but Israel prevented it.

According to the IDF, “Iran and the Syrian regime are directly responsible for the attempted attack.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said of the attack, “In a major operational effort, we have thwarted an attack against Israel by the Iranian Quds force and Shiite militias.”

“I reiterate: Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression. ‘If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first,’” Netanyahu said, quoting a Bible verse.

“I have directed that our forces be prepared for any scenario. We will continue to take determined and responsible action against Iran and its proxies for the security of Israel.”

The Syrian Army claims it shot down the Israeli missiles. Syria’s state run news agency Sana said “air defenses detected hostile targets approaching from above the Golan towards the surroundings of Damascus, and the attack was dealt with immediately and efficiently, destroying most of the Israeli rockets before they could reach their targets.”

A Revolutionary Guards officer also denied on Sunday that Israeli air strikes hit Iranian targets in Syria.

However, other reports say that three Hezbollah members were killed in the incident. (WIN)

U.S. State Department erases Palestinian Authority from website

The U.S. State Department has removed the Palestinian Authority from its list of countries and areas on its website, Arutz7 reports on Sunday.

The Israeli news site didn’t say when the change was made but notes that “until recently” the word “Palestinians” appeared under the heading “Palestinian Authority.”

Under the Trump administration and the leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department has changed other terminology concerning Israel and the territories under Palestinian control.

In April 2018, the month that Pompeo took office, the State Department announced it would cease using the term “occupied” in references to various regions of Israel, including Judea and Samaria.

The credit there may go to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who advised the department in December 2017 to stop using the “misleading” term “occupied.”

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and the Trump administration have deteriorated since December 2017, when the PA announced it would boycott the White House after the president said he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

The U.S. administration took further steps against the PA, including cutting roughly $200 million in financial aid to it and the Gaza Strip in August 2018. One of the reasons cited was the PA’s “martyrs fund,” which provides money to terrorists and their families.

The PA was set up as part of the Oslo Accords. The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressed the hope that it would fight terrorism. The opposite has occurred as the PA openly admits it’s funding terrorism. (WIN)

Deadly Friday attack shows W. Bank heating up, as Hamas senses Israeli weakness

Netanyahu government is perceived to be trying to pay off Hamas in return for calm in Gaza, and that’s emboldening the terrorists in the West Bank too

by Avi Issacharoff The Times of Israel

The terrorist attack at a spring near Dolev on Friday, in which Rina Shnerb was killed and her father and brother were injured, was far from a bolt from the blue given the current atmosphere among Palestinians in the West Bank. And there are growing concerns that things could get far worse.

As so often in the past, the initial reaction from some in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government focused on the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, blamed as the inciter of terrorism. Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, for instance, called for the dismantling of the PA and Israeli annexation of the West Bank, neglecting to mention that the PA has been working in coordination with the IDF to try to thwart terror attacks.

The ferment among West Bank Palestinians, the growing calls for violence and the escalation in terrorism are being stirred from Gaza by its ruling terror group, Hamas, in its ongoing face-off with Netanyahu. What Netanyahu’s bitter critic and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman described Friday as the prime minister’s “surrender” to the terrorists — his agreement to allow Qatar to distribute funds in Gaza to needy families (and in the past to Hamas employees), the easing of certain restrictions at border crossings, the improved electricity supply — amid intermittent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, is seen on the Palestinian side as proof of weakness. Weakness to be exploited.

Israel is understood to be capitulating to Hamas demands, more than in the past, precisely when the level of violence is rising — with the rocket attacks, attempts by armed infiltrators to breach the Gaza border fence, violent demonstrations at the border and more. The Israeli government, including Minister Smotrich of course, is seen to be following a policy of seeking to pay off Hamas in return for relative calm. This is being internalized in the West Bank too, which means not only that more terrorism seems likely, but that the West Bank is generally in greater ferment, with Fatah activists also perceiving an Israeli capitulation.

The rising tension also comes after six months during which the PA — fuming that Israel was holding back part of the tax funds it collects on behalf of Ramallah, to compensate for the PA’s payments to the families of dead terrorists and to jailed terrorists and security prisoners — refused to accept any of the tax payments at all. That meant some 160,000 employees were receiving only half their salaries. This week, the PA announced that it had accepted a partial payment, of just over half a billion dollars, after reaching an agreement with Israel on the issue, in order to avert the collapse of the PA.

The reduced salaries are only one factor behind the rising tensions in the West Bank. There is also the diplomatic crisis between the US and Israel on one side, and the Palestinians on the other. Even as Israel celebrates the pro-Israel declarations of the Trump administration and the growth of settlements, such moves prompt rising antipathy, and calls for violence, on the Palestinian side, including within Abbas’s Fatah faction. There are indications that we could be near to an eruption of terrorism and/or widespread protests akin to the start of the second intifada in 2000 or the so-called “stabbing intifada” in the fall of 2015.

Needless to say, Hamas is doing its utmost to exploit the bitterness in the West Bank. The Gaza leadership (even as it negotiates indirectly with Israel), and the leadership overseas headed by Saleh al-Arouri, are working relentlessly to orchestrate terror attacks in the West Bank. Most are being thwarted. But, as we saw on Friday, not all.

Would an Arab party alliance with Blue and White topple or boost Netanyahu?

With both Israel’s right- and left-wing blocs having been unable to secure a coalition following the April election, the Arab parties could represent a significant boost to the left in September should they break their longstanding tradition of remaining outside the government.

by Dov Lipman JNS

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, signaled a potential major political shift when he announced last week that his party would consider joining a center-left government led by Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party.

Since the creation of the state, no Arab party has ever recommended a Jewish candidate for prime minister or sat in a ruling coalition. Yet, with neither Israel’s right- or left-wing blocs able to secure a coalition following the previous election, Arab party mandates would represent a significant boost to the left should they break their longstanding tradition of remaining outside the government.

Yet such an alliance remains unlikely. Blue and White No. 3 and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon told JNS, “As long as the Arab parties do not accept Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, Blue and White cannot sit with them in a government.”

Odeh, for his part, told JNS that he has four conditions for entering a Blue and White-led government.

“The first,” said Odeh, “is the construction of a new Arab city and redoing the rules to allow for more Arab construction and stopping demolitions in Arab areas.”

The second condition, he said, was “governmental focus on fighting crime in Arab areas, including an operation to gather all the illegal weapons in the Arab population. Third is in the welfare realm, including building a public hospital in an Arab city and raising stipends for the elderly.”

The last condition, he concluded, was “direct negotiations with the Palestinian leaders to bring an end to the occupation and to establish a Palestinian state, alongside canceling the nation state law.”

“I want to lead Arab politics from a politics of protest to a politics of influence,” said Odeh. “We are 20% of Israel’s population and we are needed to bring equality, democracy and social justice to Israel.”

The most problematic of these conditions for Blue and White would likely be the last. The nation state legislation, which passed in the Knesset in 2018, sets in law that Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people.” Blue and White has talked about “correcting” the law to make sure it emphasizes equality for all of Israel’s citizens, but they do not favor cancelling it completely.

Gantz, who is also a former IDF chief of staff, emphasized that his party’s sights are not on negotiations with the Arab parties, saying, “We are calling for a unity government” and clarifying that such a coalition would include “anyone who is sane and Zionist.”

Even if Blue and White found a way to accept the Joint List’s conditions, polls currently indicate the left would still need the help of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party to secure a 61-mandate majority needed to form a government.

Yet MK Oded Forer of Yisrael Beiteinu told JNS that “there is zero chance we would join a government which includes the Arab parties.”

Forer’s statement makes it extremely unlikely that the Joint Arab List would ever be invited into a Blue and White-led coalition.

Ironically, the greatest impact of Odeh’s dramatic announcement could actually be a boost to the Likud Party.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told JNS that a potential alliance between Blue and White and the Arab parties may ultimately bring more votes to the Likud Party, boosting Netanyahu’s chances of winning the election.

“Now it’s official and the truth has come to light,” said Levin. “Ayman Odeh’s declaration proves what we have been saying all along: Gantz and [Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid] are planning to form a government with the Arab parties.”

Levin issued a warning to all voters: “A vote for Blue and White or a vote for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party is a vote for Ayman Odeh as education minister and Ahmed Tibi for public security minister.”