August 3, 2018

Israel Says 53 Mile Pullout From Syrian Border Not Enough

Israel on Wednesday (1st) deemed the Iranian pullout of heavy weapons to a distance of 53 miles from the Golan Heights border with Syria to be insufficient.

Backed by Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hizbullah Shiite militia, Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken territory in south-western Syria from rebels, closing in on the Golan.

Moscow has sought to reassure Israel by saying it wants only Syrian forces to deploy on or near the Syrian-held Golan.  Israel, however, insists that forces controlled by Iran, its arch-enemy, exit Syria entirely now that the civil war there is ending.

“The Iranians withdrew and the Shiite formations are not there,”TASS news agency quoted Alexander Lavrentyev, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria, as saying.

Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio that the Iranian withdrawal was not enough, citing the longer-range threat posed by Iranian missiles and drones positioned in Syria.

“There’ll be no compromises nor concessions on this matter,” he said.  “What we have laid down as a red line is military intervention and entrenchment by Iran in Syria, and not necessarily on our border,” Hanegbi stressed.

Last week an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had offered to keep Iranian forces at least 61 miles from the Golan Heights ceasefire line.  Israel rejected the offer, which was made during a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Hanegbi said Israel wanted to prevent Iran and Hizbullah from effectively extending their Lebanese front against it.

“We are not ready to see a new Hizbullah front on our northern border between Israel and Syria.  This is something that is dangerous. This is something that, if we don’t prevent it today, when still at the outset, will exact a heavy price on us down the line, “ he said.

Meanwhile, in Sputnik Russian news, over the weekend, Alexander Lavrentyev said that Israeli concerns over the presence of pro-Iranian forces near its border with Syria is decreasing.

“Yes of course, we are certain of this,” Lavrentyev said answering a question as to whether Israel was becoming less concerned over the pro-Iranian units’ presence near its borders.



Russia Using Syria As Testing Ground For New Electronic Weapons – Lara Seligman

American troops deployed in Syria are increasingly having to defend themselves against Russian jamming devices with potentially lethal consequences, according to U.S military officials.  Officers who have experienced the jamming – known as electronic warfare – say it’s no less dangerous than conventional attacks with bombs and artillery. They also say it’s allowing U.S. troops a rare opportunity to experience Russian technology in the battlefield and figure out how to defend against it.

“All of a sudden your communications won’t work, or you can’t call for fire, or you can’t warn of incoming fire because your radars have been jammed and they can’t detect anything,” said Col. (ret.) Laurie Moe Buckhout, who specializes in electronic warfare.  “It can negate one’s ability to defend oneself.”

Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said that Syria has become “the most aggressive electronic warfare environment on the planet….They are testing us every day, knocking communications down and even disabling aircraft built for electronic warfare.



158 Overseas Volunteers To Join IDF

IDF volunteers from 18 different countries arrived in Israel over the summer, the Defense Ministry’s Social Defense Branch announced on Wednesday (1st).

The 158 new recruits comprised of 120 male volunteers and 38 females, the majority from North America with 69 volunteers (45%) followed by France with 43 volunteers (30%).

According to the Defense Ministry the number of volunteers from Australia has “quadrupled” with eight volunteers and the number from Britain has doubled compared to last year with 16 volunteers.  There are another four from Canada, three from Belgium, two from Brazil, two from South Africa and two from India.

Udi Dror, who heads the ministry’s division responsible for volunteers said that the majority of graduates from the program, which is in its 18th cycle, join combat units.

Congratulating the new recruits on their decision to join Israel’s military, he said “the unique program is gaining resonance and its influence is evident in the IDF absorbing the graduates.  We are making great efforts to strengthen the ties of Diaspora Jewry with the State of Israel and encourage their enlistment in the IDF.

The volunteers will have a preparatory program ahead of their recruitment where they will undergo physical and mental preparation for their induction into the IDF which includes field trips, meetings with IDF officers and Hebrew classes.

Israeli Minister of Aliyah and Integration MK Sofa Landver congratulated the new recruits wishing them “a pleasant and meaningful service.”

“The decision to leave a comfortable life, family and friends and to come to Israel to enlist in the IDF is not obvious.  Your contribution to the State of Israel by increasing national strength is tremendous and admirable,” she said.

“We at the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption will do everything to make you feel at home here,” she added.



Palestinian Muftis Issue Fatwa Banning Participation In Jerusalem Elections

The Palestinian Islamic religious authorities on Monday (7/30) issued a fatwa (religious decree) banning Arab residents of Jerusalem from participating in the upcoming Jerusalem municipal election in November 2018.

The eastern Jerusalem Supreme Council issued the religious decree, which said that the Arab residents were “religiously forbidden” from voting or running in the election.

The move is perceived as an attempt by the Palestinian leadership to prevent “normalization” with Israel.

The council alleged that Israel has never ceased its efforts to drive the Arab residents of Jerusalem to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.  It further claimed that Israel has always tried to entice the Arabs to take part in the municipal election, while also “blackmailing them by decreasing municipal services and demolishing [illegally constructed] houses” owned by Arabs.

The council warned that participation in the election would assist Israel in its effort to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem and “change its historical and religious features.  The occupied city of Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city.”

The fatwa was issued after Ramadan Dabash, an Arab community leader from Sur Baher near Jerusalem, became the second Arab candidate to announce his participation in the upcoming election.

Dabash told the Jerusalem Post on Monday (7/30) that he rejects the fatwa and is determined to run in the election.



Secret Concert In Jewish Ghetto Re-enacted In Jerusalem

Seventy-five years after the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto orchestra in Lithuania held a clandestine concert, it was re-enacted on Monday (7/30) in Jerusalem.

During the Holocaust, the Jewish police force in the Ghetto would hold concerts as a means of maintaining normalcy, with tacit Nazi approval, holding the events in a building used by the Slabodka Yeshiva.

But one concert was held without the German authorities approval: a Zionist-themed concert held on July 24,1943.

The concert brought together rival Zionist groups in the ghetto, which sang together about the return to the Land of Israel, in eastern European melodies as well as yemenite tunes.

The concert was carried out to mark the anniversaries of the deaths of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl and famed Jewish poet Chaim Nachman Bialik who died on the same day 30 years apart.  The orchestra contained some of the most prominent Lithuanian musicians prior to the war.

“The ghettos in Europe were awash with rumors in late 1942 that a Jewish state had been founded in the Land of Israel,” said Dr. Lea Prais, a leading scholar of Yad Vashem.

“They were just rumors, but the fact that we had a Zionist concert at this point attests to the strong yearning at that point for a Jewish state.”

As in some other ghettos, the Jews in Kovno secretly preserved documents on their community and buried the archives pertaining to the orchestra.  The documents, along with pictures were discovered in the 1960s when foundations for a new building were being built.

At that time music sheets from the secret concert were found, all in Hebrew.

The re-enacted concert on Monday (7/30) was attended by the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of the conductor and secret concert organizer, Michael Hofmekler.

His granddaughter told Israel Hayom: “I was extremely moved by the concert because all I saw in the pictures, came to life.  I could imagine my grandfather conducting the singing of ‘Hatikvah’ – it gives me chills to think about how daring they were to engage in such activity,” she said.

At the time of the original concert, “Hatikvah” was the song of the Zionist movement.  It became Israel’s anthem when the state was established in 1948. The re-enacted concert on Monday (7/30) ended with ‘Hatikvah’.