News Digest — 2/11/19

Gaza Rocket Hits Israel, IDF Tank Fires At Hamas Position In Response

Alert sirens sounded Wednesday evening (6th) in a number of Gaza border communities as a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open field in southern Israel.

The projectile reportedly fell in the area of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council  There were no reports of damage or injuries in the attack.

In response, an Israeli tank opened fire on a Hamas position in the southern Strip, the IDF said in a statement.

Earlier in the evening, a rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip toward Israel failed to clear the border and landed inside the coastal strip.

January saw two rocket attacks launched from Gaza into Israel, neither of which caused damage or injuries.  In both cases on January 7 and 12 the IDF responded with strikes in Gaza.

The IDF says it holds Hamas, the de facto ruler in Gaza – a terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction – responsible for any attacks from the Strip.



Israel Finds New Iranian Precision Missile Factory In Northwest Syria

Israel has discovered a new ambitious precision missile factory being constructed by Iran in Syria together with the Syrian government and Lebanese terror group Hizbullah, after Israel bombed and destroyed a previous one, according to Israeli TV Thursday evening (7th).

The report on Channel 12 said the new factory was recently built near the northwestern city of Safita in hopes that Israel wouldn’t discover it in that location, far from previous Iranian sites struck by Israel elsewhere in Syria.  The factory is intended to focus on producing precision missiles, dramatically upgrading the threat to Israel from the vast arsenal of rockets and missiles deployed against it in southern Lebanon by Iran’s proxy Hizbullah.

To build it, according to reports, Iran had to bypass international sanctions on its missile program via a series of straw companies established by Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), a government agency that manufactures weaponry and whose facilities have repeatedly been targeted by Israel in the past.

Those companies – established specifically for that purpose – ordered missile parts from Italy, China and other countries in eastern Asia, reports said.

Israel has nevertheless discovered, tracked and uncovered the facility, as part of its effort to thwart Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria, according to Channel 12.



Israel Is Forging Limited Ties With Arab States Without Progress With Palestinians – Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai and Col. Michael Milshtein

Over the years, a strategic equation emerged between Israel and the Arab world that posits there will be no progress in normalization between the two sides without a political settlement with the Palestinians.  In the late ‘70s, Egypt prioritized its own national interests by pursuing a peace agreement with Israel, despite the absence of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This pattern has accelerated in recent years, becoming the formal and informal policy of a large group of Arab leaders.

The roots of this dramatic change can be found in the increasing threat of Iran in the region; the Islamic challenge from within; the rise of new young Arab leaders who feel less commitment to the Palestinian issue; and growing Arab disappointment in the positions of the Palestinians.  The change finds its expression in formal and informal visits of senior Israeli officials in Arab states, and expanding economic activity between Israeli and Arab business leaders and companies.

However, these changes are limited to the political elite in the Arab world, while ordinary citizens and public opinion still demonstrate deep hostility toward Israel and oppose any expression of normalization.

Maj.-Gen Yoav Mordechai is a former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories;Michael Milshtein served as a senior advisor for Palestinian Affairs in COGAT.



Desert Floods Strike Israel’s South

Heavy rains and thunderstorms struck Israel, mostly in the south early Thursday (7th), flooding desert wadis and blocking roads in the Negev and Judean deserts, and in the resort city of Eilat.

The Nature and Parks Authority closed tourism sites in the south and east, among them, Masada and Ein gedi.  Both sites are located in the Judean desert, which easily floods due to its terrain, a fine-grained sediment that quickly stops absorbing water, thus causing flooding.  The power was out in En Gedi from the storm.

Significant flooding was also reported in hiking sites in the Judean desert and the Negev – in wadis Zin, Havarim, Rahaf, Ramon and others.

Just under an inch of rain was measured from the storm in Israel’s most secluded desert town, Mitzpe Ramon, making up a quarter of its average rainfall.

Rains weakened throughout Thursday (7th), but are expected to resume across the country on Friday (8th) and Saturday (9th) , with a possibility of snowfall in Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights.



Up State New York Yeshiva Set On Fire, Swastikas on Atlanta High School

A yeshiva in upstate New York was set on fire and swastikas were spray-painted on the building.

The incident at Yeshiva Deah Yoreh, located on a former farm in White Sulphur Springs occurred on January 28, but was first reported by the Rockland Westchester Journal News on Wednesday afternoon (6th).

Two barns on the property of the yeshiva, which combines education and farming, were damaged and numerous swastikas were painted on the walls.

The incident is being treated as a hate crime, state police spokesman Steven Nevel told the Journal News

Meanwhile, swastikas were spray-painted on the inside and outside of a suburban Atlanta, Georgia public high school.

The blue swastikas were painted on the outside of the Centennial public high school, the Atlanta Jewish Times and other publications reported.

The vandalism was discovered by school employees when they arrived at the building on Monday morning (4th).  Swastikas were found on a bus, the main building and entrance, a trailer for band, signs, the weight room, and the stadium areas.

In a letter sent to parents of students, the local community and posted on social media on Tuesday (5th), Centennial Principal Anthony Newbold wrote that “I am especially disgusted that this perpetrator or group of perpetrators painted a swastika – a historic and extreme emblem of hatred on our school.”

He wrote, “Let me be extremely clear, graffiti and school vandalism will not be tolerated and our community rejects the hatred these symbols represent.  Be assured that as ‘Centennial Knights,’ we find these actions offensive and completely against our beliefs as an open and accepting school community.”

He said he had already met with several rabbis in the community to formulate a “unified response” to the incident.  He called on parents to talk to their children about the consequences of such behavior.