News Digest — 1/13/22

‘Syrian Surface-To-Surface Missiles Threaten Most Of Israel’ Think-Tank Warns

A fortified compound north of Palmyra in eastern Syria is equipped with medium-range and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, a report by Alma Research and Education Center said on Wednesday (12th).  The site is in use by the radical Shiite axis led by Iran, said the report.

“In our estimation, the medium-range missiles are of Fateh 110 type or Shahab 1 or Shahab 2 ranging from 167 miles to 312 miles.  The long-range missiles are Scud D (a Russian-made missile owned by Iran, the Syrian army and Hezbollah) or Zolfaghar (a long-range version of Fateh 110) that reach a range of up to 468 miles,” the think tank said. 

“It should be noted that Fateh 110 missiles (also called M600) constitute the main array of Hezbollah’s medium-range missiles and Hezbollah’s missile accuracy project focuses on them,” noted the report.

“The missiles mentioned above can threaten most of the territory of the State of Israel,” said the report, with ranges reaching as far south as Beersheva.

These missiles can also threaten US military positions in northeast and southeast Syria.

The report identified the Palmyra area as a significant part of the land corridor within Syria used by the Iranian-Shiite axis, which has heavily deployed forces there.

It’s also highly likely “that air defense systems (probably made in Iran) were installed there to secure the land corridor in general and the surface-to-surface missiles were stationed there to secure the area in particular,” it said. 



Hamas Top Officials Leave Gaza En Masse

Over the past year, at least eight top terror men from Hamas and Islamic Jihad left the Palestinian enclave for an array of reasons, with none showing a hint of returning anytime soon.

They are the top leadership of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, those who lead the armed resistance against Israel, whose word can rile up the enclave’s populace into a war fervor, despite the difficult conditions in Gaza.

But at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words and right under everyone’s nose several of these top officials left Gaza and have not returned.

The group consists of eight figures with prominent media presence, all of which hold great sway within their respective organizations.

Over the past year, they all moved out of the decrepit and crowded streets of Gaza for safer locations around the globe, with some living in luxury and pampered by their hosts.

The first to take part in this exodus was Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader abroad, who left his home in the Al-Shati Refugee Camp for the extravagant hotels in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Haniyeh justified his departure due to his candidacy for the leadership of Hamas – but the election ended a few months ago.  In addition, Haniyeh pressured Egyptian authorities to allow his wife and children to leave the Strip through the Rafah crossing, and they are currently living with him in opulence in Qatar.

Another key figure is Khalil al-Hayya, who until very recently served as the deputy of Hamas’ leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar.  He left the enclave several months ago after receiving a promotion as the terror group’s “Head of Relations for Arabic and Muslim Countries.”

Just like Haniyeh, al-Hayyah managed to get his family out of Gaza and move them to Doha.

Others on the list include Salah al-Bardawil, a senior member of the group, who according to a Palestinian source, took a sabbatical abroad.  Also Hamas’ mythological spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, who has since moved up to the organization’s political bureau, left the Strip.  He is also the veteran diplomatic advisor and personal deputy of Haniyeh Taher Al-Nunu.  None of these officials are giving any signs regarding a possible return to the Strip.

But Doha is not the only destination, with Turkey becoming the new home of Hamas top man Fathi Hamad.  The senior official belongs to the group’s hawkish wing, with his home base in the northern Strip, where he was responsible for many violent clashes with Israel.

Hamad used to be the head of a private militia in charge of executing terror attacks against the Jewish state, with him constantly calling for Palestinians in the West Bank to murder Israelis.

He moved to Istanbul in almost complete secrecy, now frequently traveling between the Turkish capital and Beirut.

The departures from Gaza did not miss the Islamic Jihad either. Two of the organization’s leaders in the Gaza Strip – Nafaz Azzam and Muhammad al-Hindi, also secretly left Gaza some time ago.  Azzam is in Syria and probably also in Beirut, while al-Hindi has made Istanbul his new home.



Report: Mossad Chief Barnea Meets With Libyan PM In Jordan To Talk Normalization

Mossad Director David Barnea and Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Mohammed Al-Dabaiba recently met in Jordan to discuss normalization and security cooperation, Saudi and Libyan media outlets reported Wednesday night (12th).

The reports said that Al-Dabaiba’s office denied the meeting occurred.

In November, Haaretz reported that Saddam Haftar, son of Libyan warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, flew to Ben Gurion Airport for meetings with Israeli officials regarding potential normalization.

Besides the meeting never being officially confirmed, assuming the meeting happened, it was unclear who Hafter met with.

On one hand, the Tevel department of the Mossad reportedly has had contacts with various Libyan officials over the years.

On the other hand, former national security council chief Meir Ben Shabbat and his messenger, known only as “Maoz,” also reportedly had such contacts, and their handling of the file has been passed on to former Shin Bet official Nimrod Gez.

Gez had strong ties to Ben Shabbat and had supported him as a potential future Shin Bet chief before former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost power and that scenario disappeared.

It is unclear whether any of the above Libyan officials could substantively carry out normalization with Israel given the ongoing chaos the country has been in for years.

Last month, the country’s long-awaited elections were postponed and it is unclear if the various on-again and off-again warring groups will be capable of carrying out the elections, let alone altering decades of officially hostile relations with the Jewish state.



Hundreds Of Palestinians Illegally Enter Israel To Visit Tourist Sites

Palestinian tourist companies are taking advantage of gaps in the security fence to illegally bring hundreds of Palestinian tourists into Israel for day trips to popular destinations, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday (12th).

The paper reported that the tours are openly marketed on social media.  Popular destinations include Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Haifa, Lod, Tiberias, Rosh HaNikra and Mount Hermon.

According to Israel Hayom, the tourists are brought to the security barrier in Palestinian buses.  After crossing through the gap, they board waiting Israeli buses.  At the end of the day, the Israeli buses take them back to the security barrier, where Palestinian buses wait for them on the other side of the gap.

“Other times, an Israeli bus picks them up at a pre-agreed destination, drops them off at the gap, crosses a checkpoint legally, and picks the visitors up again on the other side.” the report added.

Israel Hayom also reported that Israeli authorities are aware of the crossings but haven’t moved to stop them.

The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, “IDF and Border Police officers are deployed in the area in accordance with the assessment of the situation and use various means and advanced capabilities against anyone who is identified as a danger, a terrorist, or causing damage to the security fence.”

The statement said that in the past year, the Border Police prevented hundreds of groups from entering and even confiscated around 120 buses.

“More than a hundred indictments have also been filed against bus drivers and tour organizers.  In addition, the drivers and the organizers of the transportation are fined heavily and some are detained until the end of the proceedings,” it said.

But critics said the IDF needs to do more.

“It is disturbing to see how the defense establishment turns a blind eye to security matters and allows thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel through breaches in the fence,” said Matan Peleg, CEO of the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu.

In addition to the security concerns raised by the illegal entries, Peleg noted that the visits raise a demographic concern as there is no way to know if any Palestinians remain in Israel.



Anti-Semitic Attacker Of Jewish Man Wearing IDF Hoodie Charged With Hate Crime

The attacker of Blake Zavadsky, a Jewish-American who was assaulted in Brooklyn recently for wearing an IDF sweatshirt, was charged with aggravated harassment and assault as a hate crime by the New York Police Department (NYPD) Tuesday (11th).

Suleiman Othman, a 27-year-old Staten Island resident, approached Zavadsky and Ilan Kaganovich on the streets of Brooklyn along with another man and attacked them in an anti-Semitic hate crime, after asking Zavadsky how “he could support those dirty Jews” by wearing the IDF sweatshirt.

Othman told Zavadsky he had to remove the sweatshirt or he would get hurt.  When Zavadsky refused to take it off, Othman punched him twice before pouring iced coffee on the hoodie.  Meanwhile the attacker’s friend told Kaganovich, who was trying to stop Othman, that if he got involved he would get hurt too.

After the attack, Zavadsky was treated at the scene for lacerations, bruising and swelling to his face.

Othman, the anti-Semitic attacker, has a history of assault and crime according to the New York Post.

He was reportedly arrested seven times since 2010 for crimes ranging from assault and robbery to endangering the welfare of a child.  He was last arrested in 2020 on a menacing charge.

“I am still going to wear this sweatshirt,” Zavadsky told The Jerusalem Post after the attack.  “We should be able to wear whatever we want and believe in whatever we believe in.  I am proud of who I am…I’m still in shock,” he added.