News Digest — 1/18/21

IDF Strikes Terror Targets In Gaza Strip After Rockets Fired

Gaza terrorists fired two rockets from the Strip towards the Israeli coast near the city of Ashdod Sunday night (17th).  In response, on Monday (18th), IDF fighter jets struck military targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization, including tunnel digging sites.

“The IDF views any terror activity against Israel with great severity and is ready to continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians or sovereignty,” the military said in a statement.

“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it, and will bear the consequences for terror activity against Israeli citizens,” it added.

Later reports say that the Gaza rocket firing may have been a technical malfunction caused by lightning.  The possibility arises from video obtained from a security camera facing the northern Gaza Strip which captured a lightning storm seconds before the rockets launched.  Such an event had occurred in the past.

Israel nevertheless is under constant threat from Gaza terrorists, who always have rockets ready and pointed at Israel.  

On Wednesday (13th), shots were fired at two Israeli engineering vehicles in separate incidents adjacent to the security fence in the Gaza Strip.

In 2016, Israel began constructing a massive underground wall to prevent Hamas from building terror tunnels into Israel, which the group planned to use for carrying out attacks and kidnapping Israeli civilians and soldiers.



PA To Hold Elections – First Time In 14 Years

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Friday (15th) announced that the first chairmanship and parliamentary elections since 2006 will be held later this year.  But the road to the vote—key to advancing Palestinian statehood and mending a rift between Abbas’ Fatah party and the Islamic militant group Hamas—is littered with obstacles.

Parliamentary elections are to be held on May 22, followed by a vote for PA Chairman on July 31.  The rival factions will meet in Egypt later this month, hoping to work out logistics and settle their differences before election campaigns kick-off, Abbas’ office said.

The announcement is widely seen as a gesture aimed at pleasing the incoming US administration, with whom the Palestinians want to meet.

But a December poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 52% of Palestinians think elections held under present conditions would not be fair and free.

If Hamas won, 76% thought Fatah—the party led by Abbas—would not accept the result, and 58% believed Hamas would reject a Fatah victory.

“We have taken an important step but we still have a long way to go,” said veteran West Bank political analyst Hani al-Masri.  “Great obstacles remain and without overcoming these, the whole operation will be doomed to fail.”

Palestinian observers said those hurdles include disagreements within Hamas and Fatah – long the dominant factions in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

It is unclear what mechanism would be put in place to ensure a free election, whether international observers would take part and whether Abbas, aged 85 and in poor health, would run.

The United States, Israel, and the European Union would likely refuse dealings with any Palestinian government that included Hamas, which is designated by the West as a terrorist group.

Israeli officials did not immediately comment and it was unclear whether Israel would permit election activity to take place in east Jerusalem, as it did previously.  Palestinians want to hold the elections there, as well as the West Bank and Gaza.

The last parliamentary ballot, in 2006, ended in a surprise win by the Hamas terrorist group, in their first-ever national elections, creating a rift with Fatah that degenerated into civil war when Hamas seized control of Gaza the following year.

Gaza is now a Hamas stronghold, while Abbas’ power base is in the West Bank.

The two groups have failed to achieve lasting reconciliation, and previous pledges to hold elections went unfulfilled.  Rights groups have accused both of suppressing political opposition.



‘Mekorot Brings Technological Developments To World’s Water Economies’

“Mekorot is conducting discussions regarding collaborating on various projects with our colleagues in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates,” said Eli Cohen, CEO of Mekorot, Israel’s water company, in an interview with Yaakov Katz editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post and the Khaleej Times, that took place earlier this week.

“Mekorot promotes innovative water technologies,” Cohen said, “which lead to an increase in the water supply and an optimal response of the water economy to the climate crisis.”  He explained that “Mekorot manages all types of water in an integrated method in a single system and treats a variety of areas of the water economy simultaneously, which very few companies in the world can handle under one roof.  There is demand worldwide for this unique combination, including among the Gulf States, which must meet the growing water needs of the population on the one hand, and the depletion of water resources on the other.  In conversations with water professionals in the Gulf, we are learning a great deal, and conducting in-depth discussions on core issues, and creating a cross-pollination of ideas.”

Cohen also referred to the advanced solutions that Mekorot is producing to increase the water supply in Israel.  “We are talking about implementing a logical, intelligent, and sustainable circular economy, creating a synergy between water uses in homes and returning them for the water needs of farmers.  At the same time, for the first time in Israel’s history, we have changed the traditional direction of the flow of the historic national carrier, and today we are bringing desalinated water from the center of the country to the north in order to increase the water supply to the Galilee settlements, and soon to fill the Sea of Galilee.  Another example is digging the world’s first water tunnel of its kind, a 7.4 mile underground channel bringing desalinated water to Jerusalem that will meet the city’s need for the next 50 years.  Additionally, in the Arava, we are expanding the desalination plant via a new marine intake system, which will increase desalination output for the water needs of Eilat and the region.  Mekorot is everywhere and knows how to provide solutions with maximum efficiency and flexibility.”

Mekorot’s CEO noted, “The company is currently consolidating its operations and management into an entire ecosystem, alongside a business concept that is striving to realize the enormous potential that exists in investments in water resources, which is essential for the existence of life and the future of humanity.  The demand for Mekorot’s know-how and experience is increasing,” he stated with satisfaction.  “We are the leaders in restoring water to agriculture, our water depreciation is among the lowest in the world and stands at less than 3%, our energy efficiency in the production and transportation of water is among the best in the world, we are considered leaders in cyber solutions, and we are at the forefront of the technological revolution in the water industry,” Cohen added.  “In this context, in recent years Mekorot has been expanding its technological capabilities, and is now developing a smart lab on a chip that can be installed on water taps in private homes.  This system will be able to monitor, control and test the water quality that passes through the faucets.”

“Water should never be a problem in our region,” Cohen concluded.



Belgian Jews Outraged As Parliament Honors Nazi Collaborators

Jewish community leaders in Belgium have expressed outrage at the publication of an official brochure that “glorifies” two collaborators with the Nazi occupation during World War II.

A statement on Thursday (14th) from the Belgian Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB) protested that “in the monthly magazine financed by the Flemish Parliament, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this important institution in our country, two of the most important figures of Nazi collaboration are being honored.”

The two collaborators – Auguste Borms and Staf De Clerca – were described by the Belgian newspaper De Standaard as “notorious Nazi sympathizers,” who were now being honored by Flemish parliamentarians for their role in shaping the emancipation of language and people” in the Flemish region of the country.  25,000 Belgian Jews were deported by the Nazis to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

“The honoring of these collaborators of the Nazi regime is scandalous,” Yohan Benizri, President of the CCOJB, declared in a statement.

He continued: “Belgian Jews, and all democrats, have had enough.  We already suffered from worrying about our safety and seeing our children exposed to increasingly unbridled anti-Semitism.”

Benizri observed that the “distortion and denial of the Shoah is increasing, especially on the Internet.  Many young Belgians do not know the history of their country.  Hate speech cannot be effectively combated when celebrating a shameful heritage.”



‘Zoom-Bombers’ Shout ‘Jews To The Ovens’ At Holocaust Book Launch In Italy

“Zoom-Bombers” in Italy crashed the online launch of a book about the Holocaust and shouted anti-Semitic abuse, including “Jews, we’ll burn you in ovens.”

The January 10 incident on the video-conferencing platform came during the presentation of a book titled “The Generation of the Desert” by Lia Tagliacozzo, a Jewish author who was born to Holocaust survivors, La Republica reported.

“A group of organized people entered en masse the Zoom meeting of the presentation, while my mother was talking,” one of the Tagliacozzo children, Sara, wrote.  “They started shouting ‘Jews in the ovens, the Nazis are back, we will burn you all, you all must die, ‘ and they had Hitler portraits and swastikas as their personal photos.”

The Zoom-bombing phenomenon became increasingly common in 2020, as many in-person encounters were replaced with online events due to emergency measures connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Among the bombers are anti-Semitic groups that target Jewish events.

In July, a virtual prayer session that included several Dallas-area synagogues was Zoom-bombed by intruders shouting “Kill the Jews, bomb Israel.”  In March, a synagogue in Connecticut reported being Zoom-bombed with anti-Semitic messages during their Shabbat services.

The Anti-Defamation League recorded at least 11 anti-Semitic Zoom-bombings in the United States and Canada in March and April alone.

Lia Tagliacozzo said she was shocked by the incident, telling La Republica that “The Nazis again entered my family’s home, like in 1943.”