News Digest — 1/10/22
Israel Launches Site To Keep Tourists Updated On COVID-19 Restrictions
Israel’s Tourism Ministry launched a new website on Sunday (9th) dedicated to keeping tourists updated with the latest COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions set by the Israeli government.
On Friday (7th) Israel removed every country from its ‘red’ list, reopening the skies and allowing Israelis to travel anywhere in the world. Two days later, restrictions on foreign nationals from non-red countries were also removed, meaning tourists are now able to enter Israel without the need for special permission, provided that they are fully vaccinated.
Following the reopening of Israel’s skies, the Tourism Ministry took the initiative to launch a regularly-updated landing page, incorporating all necessary and useful information for tourists visiting Israel as the Omicron wave sweeps through the country.
The new COVID-19 in Israel guide, currently available in English, will soon be translated and available in other languages, the ministry said.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry has suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. After a record year for incoming tourism to Israel in 2019, the abrupt closure of all incoming tourism after the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020, caused the number of incoming tourists to plunge to 832,500, compared to four and a half million in 2019.
In 2021, the number of incoming tourists was even lower than the previous year at 401,500, with overall revenue amounting to some NIS two billion.
You can visit the website at this link: https://safe.israel.travel/
Saudi Zionist Aims To Change Jewish State’s Image In Arab World
The signing of the historic Abraham Accords in August 2020, which normalized relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, signaled a new era in Middle East politics.
Two of the most powerful and influential countries in the Gulf had openly stated they were willing to maintain trade and diplomatic relationships with the Jewish State – despite the Palestinian issue – a policy that had previously been unthinkable.
Now, emboldened by the establishment of normal relations, several influencers from the Arab world have emerged as strong voices advocating for Israel and attempting to change perceptions in the region about the Jewish State.
Saudi Arabia-born, Abu Dhabi-based social media influencer Loay Al-Shareef told The Jewish Chronicle that his ideas about the country had changed radically over the years, as he’d originally thought of Jews as occupiers and oppressors who had “stolen” land.
But after deep research into Biblical history, Al-Shareef believes that “it’s very righteous for the Jews to have their ancestral homeland in the Land of Israel.”
“Jews are not colonists or conquerors in the Land of Israel, because if we would believe that then we would believe that David, Solomon, Isaiah and Yirmiyahu and the prophets were actually colonizers, and that would kill the Islamic faith,” he told the Chronicle.
Al-Shareef added that the Arab world’s patience with the Palestinians was wearing thin, especially after so much money had been poured into their cause with minimal results.
“We’ve given them lots of money that could turn Gaza into a Silicon Valley,” he said. “Enough money that would turn the West Bank into a new Singapore. Where is this money going?”
According to one analyst, Arab curiosity and goodwill towards Israel is nothing new, though the agreements have empowered people who would have been reluctant to speak up before the official normalization.
“For years I have been attending clandestine and not so clandestine meetings with Israelis, Europeans and people from almost every Arab country,” Middle East commentator Tom Gross told the Chronicle.
“The goodwill has always been there. I’ve witnessed far more hostility towards Israel among leftists in London and Paris and by some European-born Muslims, than people I have gotten to know who actually live in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq.”
Bahraini citizen and influencer Fatima A-Harbi, who has visited Israel twice, said seeing the Jewish State for herself had made a huge impact on her perception of the country.
“As soon as I landed in Israel, we got to the hotel and I saw how friendly the people were. Arabs, Muslims and Jewish people all from different backgrounds. They were even happier than we were that we’d come,” she recounted.
“We wore our traditional clothes, so it was easy to spot us in the streets of Israel. People we didn’t know all kept approaching us, asking, ‘Are you from Bahrain or Dubai?’ They kept saying, Welcome to Israel!’”
PA Leader Abbas In Resort-Town To Meet Egyptian President
Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday (9th) to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
According to PA envoy to Cairo Diab al-Louh, Abbas will stay in the city for the next two days.
“Abbas and el-Sissi will discuss the latest developments in the Palestinian arena, efforts to advance the peace process, and the ending of the Israeli occupation,” al Louh said.
Abbas is accompanied by his two main advisers, Hussein al-Sheikh – who is responsible for relations with Israel – and Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj.
Last week, speaking on the 57th anniversary of the first Fatah attack against Israel, Abbas accused Israel of practicing “hideous policies of ethnic cleansing and organized terrorism” against the Palestinians.
In that speech, Abbas did not mention his recent meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, which was strongly condemned by several factions and Palestinian activists.
Sunday marks the start of Abbas’ 17th year in power since he was elected on January 9, 2005 to what was supposed to be a four-year term as PA Leader.
Abbas indefinitely postponed Palestinian national elections last April, which would have been the first parliamentary vote since 2006 and the first ballots cast for PA Leader since 2005 when Abbas was elected.
A Palestinian poll released shortly after Operation Guardian of the Walls in May showed a dramatic surge in support for Hamas in the PA along with a steep decline in backing for Abbas.
Lebanon Hit By Nationwide Blackout After Protestors Storm Substation
Lebanon was hit by a nationwide blackout on Saturday night (8th) after protesters stormed a substation near the town of Aramoun, the Electricite du Liban (EDL) company announced.
It stated that protesters stormed the station “not caring about endangering their personal safety and the safety of the station’s workers” and tampered with equipment at the site, affecting the stability of the electrical network and sparking a general blackout throughout the country.
EDL warned citizens against entering substations and power plants to protect their own personal safety.
The protesters were at the site to demonstrate against long power cuts conducted daily due to the worsening economic crisis in Lebanon.
Many Lebanese citizens are left without power most of the day, with those who can afford it using private generators during the hours when EDL cannot provide power.
In October, Lebanon was hit by a nationwide power outage after the country’s main power stations ran out of diesel fuel, although limited power was restored after a day.
Hezbollah Drone Terrorists Accidentally Launched Photos Of Themselves Into Israel
An intelligence-gathering drone launched by Hezbollah operatives in southern Lebanon, shot down by the IDF, contained a memory card replete with photos of the terror agents who manned it, the Israel military revealed on Friday (7th).
After shooting down the drone as it entered Israeli space, military investigators discovered that the drone had recorded images of the men who launched it – members of a Hezbollah unit focusing on UAVs, and whose identities are meant to be a closely guarded secret.
The images which appeared to have been captured by accident, include close-up depictions of the faces of the men who launched the drone, along with one of them leaning on his car with his license plate number clearly visible.
“The IDF will continue to operate against any attempt by terrorists to violate Israeli sovereignty,” the military wrote on Twitter, alongside a photo of the downed drone.
In 2021, Hezbollah sent some 74 drones into Israeli airspace, an IDF spokesman said in a statement.
Israel also regularly launches drones into Lebanon, some of which have crashed. Hezbollah has claimed it fired upon the drones and brought them down, but the IDF says the crashes were due to technical malfunctions.
The IDF maintains that the drones that are downed in Lebanon do not contain information or data that could potentially damage national security.
In August 2021, the IDF announced it had shot down a Hezbollah drone that entered Israeli airspace.
Also in August 2021, the Hezbollah terror group claimed responsibility for firing 19 rockets towards Israel. That was preceded by a rocket attack launched from Lebanese territory, though it remained unclear by whom. Israel responded with artillery and rare airstrikes.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he holds the Lebanese government responsible for all attacks launched from Lebanon toward Israel no matter by whom.