News Digest — 1/2/23

Syria: Damascus Airport Temporarily Shut Down By Alleged Israeli Airstrike

Two Syrian soldiers were killed and two others wounded early Monday morning (2nd) in alleged Israeli airstrikes targeting Damascus International Airport, the SANA state news agency reported.

SANA added that material damage had been sustained in the strikes as well and that the main international airport in the capital was temporarily out of service as a result of the damage sustained.

The transport ministry said in an online statement that workers had removed debris from the strikes and that flights would resume by 9 a.m.

Reuters cited regional intelligence sources as saying that the strikes hit an outpost controlled by Iran’s Quds Force and associated militias.

The Syrian army said on Monday (2nd) that Israel had carried out a missile strike on Damascus International Airport and put it out of service, the latest in a string of alleged Israeli strikes targeting Iran-linked assets.

A volley of air-launched missiles had hit the airport at 2 a.m., the army said in a statement, adding that missiles also hit targets in the south of Damascus, killing two members of the Syrian armed forces and causing some damage.

Earlier, two regional intelligence sources said the strikes had hit an outpost near the airport of Iran’s Quds Force and the militias it backs.  Their presence has spread in Syria in recent years.

In June of this year, flights in and out of Damascus International Airport were halted for two weeks after alleged Israeli strikes caused extensive damage to infrastructure, including a runway and terminal.

Then on October 21, Syria again accused Israel of carrying out a strike against Damascus and the country’s southern region after just over a month with no missile strikes.

At the time, reports said the target of the attack was the Damascus International Airport, which has been struck by Israel repeatedly as part of MABAM, its war-between-wars campaign against Iran’s attempt to entrench itself in the country and smuggle weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In addition to the Damascus Airport, Israel has also allegedly struck Aleppo International airport in recent months.

Western and regional intelligence sources say Tehran has adopted civilian air transportation as a more reliable means of ferrying military equipment to its forces and to allied fighters in Syria, following alleged Israeli disruption of ground supplies.



Iranian Proxy Terror Will Fail Against Israel, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant Says

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Iran, its proxies and all anti-Israel terror groups would fail in their mission to destroy Israel in a ceremony at IDF headquarters on Sunday (1st) in which he replaced Benny Gantz.

The nuclear efforts which Iran is leading, the rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip and all of the firing on IDF forces in Jenin have one common goal: to weaken us, to infect us with fear, and to witness our destruction.  They will not succeed in this purpose!” said Gallant.

He noted that Iran is “pushing hard toward a nuclear weapon alongside repeated declarations of its aspirations to destroy the State of Israel.

The defense minister called the rocket threats surrounding Israel on multiple borders as well as Palestinian terror, the country’s other most significant security challenges.

He said he would go on the attack against Palestinian terror, something Gallant was known for as a major general while in the IDF.

Gallant technically entered office over the weekend, but the ceremony marked the shift officially and showed the strong working ties between the two career military men, a contrast from some other offices where the incoming and outgoing ministers kept each other at arm’s distance in public.

In recent days, Gantz and Gallant have each issued statements emphasizing the importance of keeping the IDF above politics. 

On Sunday (1st), Gallant again said that he would keep the IDF out of politics.



Netanyahu Slams ‘Disgraceful’ UN Vote Sending Israel To The Hague

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday (12/31) slammed the United Nations General Assembly’s “disgraceful” resolution calling on the International Court of Justice in The Hague to weigh in on the legal consequences of the “Israeli occupation” of Judea and Samaria.

The resolution, titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories,” was passed by a majority of 87 to 26 with 53 abstentions.  All the Arab countries that share diplomatic ties with Israel voted in support of the resolution.

The resolution calls for the Court to recommend steps to take against Israel, which it said “is taking measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and adopting “discriminatory legislation and measures” including “annexation” of Judea and Samaria, which Israel liberated from Jordan during the defensive Six Day War in 1967.

Netanyahu said the UNGA resolution would not “obligate the government of Israel” as is the case with “the hundreds of distorted” anti-Israel resolutions before it.

“The Jewish people are not occupying their land and are not occupying their eternal capital Jerusalem.  No UN resolution can distort this historical truth,” the prime minister said in a statement.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan called the UNGA vote “outrageous” and said it was “a moral stain on the UN and every country that supports it.”

“No international body can decide that the Jewish people are ‘occupiers’ in their own homeland.  Any decision from a judicial body which receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN is completely illegitimate,” he said.

Erdan went on to note that the Palestinians have rejected every peace initiative, while supporting and inciting terror.”

“Instead of pushing the Palestinians to change, the UN is doing the opposite: helping them to harm the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East which recently signed 4 peace agreements with Arab countries.  We will not take part in this disgraceful show of lies,” he added.

He also chastised the global body for taking a vote against Israel on Saturday (12/31), which is the  Sabbath and therefore he was prevented from presenting Israel’s defense.

“The decision to hold a vote that deals with Israel on Shabbat is another example of the moral decay of the UN, which prevents Israel’s position from being heard in a vote whose results are predetermined,” he said.

The office of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said following the vote: “This vote is a testament to the support of the entire world for our people and their indisputable historical rights.  PA Leader Abbas thanks all the countries that stood by the Palestinians, and all the parties that worked to bring about this decision.” 



Report: Hezbollah’s Nasrallah Suffers Second Stroke, Hospitalized In Beirut

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was rushed to intensive care after suffering a stroke, according to reports from both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The reports came after Nasrallah canceled a planned Friday (12/30) speech, with the Lebanese terrorist organization announcing through its affiliated media he had fallen ill with influenza and was unable to speak well.

Saudi journalist Hussein al-Gawi contradicted Hezbollah’s statement, claiming that Nasrallah indeed suffered a second stroke instead of falling ill as was reported.  The Hezbollah leader was reportedly hospitalized at the Great Prophet Hospital in Beirut.

Nasrallah is also set to speak on Tuesday (3rd) to mark the anniversary of the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.



Hundreds Of Thousands Gather In Gaza City To Celebrate Fatah’s Anniversary

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs celebrated in a Gaza City park on Saturday (12/31) to mark the 58th anniversary of the founding of the Fatah organization, The Associated Press reported.

The crowds turned Katiba Park into a sea of yellow flags and pictures of Fatah founders and leaders, including Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat.

It was a rare show of popularity for Fatah in the heartland of Gaza, which is controlled by Fatah’s main rival, Hamas. 

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza in a bloody coup.  Hamas permitted Fatah to hold Saturday’s rally (12/31), though in several past occasions following the 2007 takeover, Hamas had blocked or restricted activities for Fatah.

While polls indicate Fatah is not that popular, the huge turnout could be seen as a rare opportunity to protest Hamas’ heavy-handed rule in Gaza, noted AP.

The rally comes at a time of division between Palestinian Arabs.  Fatah and Hamas remain bitter enemies and repeated Arab attempts to reconcile them failed.

A unity government between Hamas and Fatah collapsed in 2015 when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in October of 2017, as part of which Hamas was to transfer power in Gaza by December 1 that year.  That deadline was initially pushed back by 10 days and later reportedly hit “obstacles,”  It has never been implemented.

PA elections were scheduled for last year, but Abbas officially announced that they would be postponed.  Many feel that Abbas was fearful he would lose the elections to Hamas.

In early December, a senior Hamas official announced that a new round of dialogue for interfactional reconciliation would be held in Algeria at the end of that month.  So far that has not happened.



‘Our Local Tuscany:’ New Israeli Government To Develop West Bank Tourism

The tourism minister of Israel’s new government on Sunday (1st) promised to invest in developing the West Bank, calling the area “our local Tuscany.”

Haim Katz made the comments days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government took office, promising in its coalition guidelines to make West Bank settlement construction a top priority.  His coalition includes far-right settler leaders in top posts.

Israel captured the West Bank in the defensive 1967 Six-Day War and has built dozens of settlements that are now home to roughly 500,000 Israelis.

The Palestinians claim the entire area is to be part of a future Palestinian state and consider the settlements illegal – some in the international community agree, as do some of Israel’s closest allies.

At a ceremony Sunday (1st), Katz said he would channel resources to promote tourism in the West Bank.  “We will invest in areas that may not have received sufficient support to date,” he said.  “For example, our local Tuscany in Judea and Samaria,” he added, using the biblical term for the West Bank favored by religious and right-wing Israelis.

The West Bank settler community has developed a small tourism sector that includes hotels, bed and breakfasts and wineries.  Israel considers these industries to be part of the country’s broader tourism sector, while some international groups have said they deepen control of occupied territory.

Airbnb in 2018 said it would bar listings in the Israeli settlements, but it quickly backed down under Israeli pressure.

On Friday (12/30), the UN General Assembly asked the UN’s highest judicial body to give its opinion on the legality of Israeli policies in the West Bank.

Netanyahu called the resolution “disgraceful” and said Israel is not obligated to cooperate with the International Court of Justice.