News Digest — 1/24/22

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Fire Ballistic Missile Drones At Abu Dhabi Airbase

The military spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi movement, Yehia Sarei, said on Monday (24th) that the Iran-aligned group fired ballistic missiles towards al-Dhafra air base in Abu Dhabi, the second attack in a week that targeted the United Arab Emirates’ capital.

Sarei said the group had also targeted other vital areas in Dubai using drones, without specifying those targets.

Authorities in the UAE said two ballistic missiles were intercepted over the skies of Abu Dhabi early Monday (24th).

The missile fire further escalates tensions across the Persian Gulf, which previously had seen a series of assaults near, but never on Emirati soil amid Yemen’s years-long war.

The attacks threaten the business-friendly tourism-focused efforts of the Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula also home to Dubai.  For years, the country has marketed itself as a safe corner of an otherwise-dangerous neighborhood.

Videos on social media showed the sky over Abu Dhabi light up before dawn Monday (24th) with what appeared to be interceptor missiles racing into the clouds to target incoming fire.

Meanwhile the WAM News Agency reported that The Emirates “is ready to deal with any threats and is taking all necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks.”



Terror Group Stages Massive Pro-Iran Anti-Saudi Rally In Gaza

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers on Sunday (23rd) tried to distance themselves from a protest staged by a pro-Iranian terror group that harshly attacked Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen’s civil war.

During Saturday’s (22nd) demonstration by Islamic Jihad, dozens of protesters chanted “Death to the House of Saud.” and waved posters of the leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia.

Although Hamas did not participate in the protest, it tightly controls Gaza and authorizes all public gatherings.  The protest threatened to embarrass Hamas, which is already largely isolated in the Arab world because of its ties to Iran.

On Sunday (23rd), Hamas tried to contain the damage.  “The shouts against Arab and Gulf states from our Palestinian arena doesn’t represent our position and policy,” it said. 

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the US, entered the war months later to try restoring the government to power.  The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing the country to the brink of famine.  Most of the Arab world has sided with Saudi Arabia and largely sees Iran as an enemy.

Hamas has long tried to play both sides of the divide, accepting millions of dollars from Iran while also seeking broad Arab support for its armed struggle against Israel.

This approach has grown increasingly difficult as Gulf countries have established ties with Israel in recent years.  Mixed messages from Hamas have also complicated the task.  Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official, said Saturday (22nd) that he supports Houthi drone attacks against the United Arab Emirates.

The hashtag, “#Palestinians Support the Houthis,” was trending on social media on Sunday (23rd) and Dubai’s deputy police chief, Dhahi Khalfan Tamin, announced that Zahar was now on the UAE’s most wanted list.

The Saudi-led coalition dramatically escalated airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held provinces over the past week in response to a drone attack claimed by the Houthis that targeted an oil facility and major airport in the UAE, killing three people and wounding six, last week.

The Emirati government has vowed to respond to the attacks, saying the strikes “will not go unpunished.”



A Strong Earthquake In Israel?  ‘We Need To Wake Up Before It’s Too Late’

Two minor earthquakes were felt in northern Israel on Sunday (23rd) within the span of 12 hours, the first being a 3.7 magnitude followed several hours later by a 3.5 magnitude quake.

According to media reports, the seismological events were felt in Haifa, the Jordan Valley, Tiberias, Beit Shean and Afula.

Experts who spoke with local media on Sunday (23rd) explained that these tremors could be seen as a sign of a much larger earthquake to come.

Haifa University seismologist Dr. Avi Shapira, who is also former chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Earthquake Preparedness, said the tremors as they occurred on Sunday (23rd) were a rare yet not completely unfamiliar phenomenon.

“Two consecutive tremors in the same place are certainly a surprise and are relatively rare, although this doesn’t mean it is something that isn’t known in the world and Israel.  But this is a rare event and needs to be thoroughly examined.  Let me just say, thus far no studies have been done on the subject.

According to Shapira,”Israel as a country needs to prepare better for earthquakes.  I hope that when a stronger earthquake does happen that we are ready.  In any case, such a quake will happen and we know that it will cause damage because there is not enough readiness and protection, especially in the Beit Shean area and its surroundings.”

Dr. Efraim Laor, the Head of the National Research Institute for Disaster Reduction (AFRAN) at the Holon Institute of Technology said, “There are places in the world where an accumulation of consecutive tremors….leads to a larger quake later on.  To determine this, you need to do research and install formulas for complex systems, because there are places where small tremors are precursors to a large quake.  In Israel no such study has ever been done and essentially we have no information at all on the characteristics or the behavior of consecutive tremors in Israel.”

“There will be an earthquake in Israel, so we need to wake up.” warned Laor.



Report: UAE Textbooks Encourage Coexistence Yet Israel Still Not On School Maps

Text books in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) promote peace and normalization with Jews and Israel, however, the Jewish state still is not on school maps, according to new research released by an Israeli watchdog group.

The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) released a report on Thursday (20th) examining 220 Arab-language textbooks in grades 1 through 12 from the UAE’s national curriculum, printed between 2016 and 2021.

IMPACT-se discovered that peace-making was “by far” the top priority discussed in the textbooks that were analyzed.  The books also “offer a realistic approach to peace and security, teach patriotism, anti-radicalism, commitment to defending the homeland and cooperating with allies,” said the report.  Even the Islamic-education program in UAE schools “emphasizes tolerance, coexistence and friendly relations with all non-Muslims and ethnicities.”

IMPACT-se said it did not find anti-Semitism, hate or incitement in the textbooks, and that UNESCO guidelines for peace and tolerence are generally met.”

But while the 2020 Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between the UAE and Israel are praised in textbooks, and anti-Israel material has largely been removed or moderated, Israel is not displayed in maps, and Holocaust education is not taught.

In terms of how the Middle East is portrayed, the textbooks describe Iranian expansionism as a threat, and support for the Palestinian cause is no longer seen as a solution to solving the broader range of issues in the region.  The textbooks also encourage students to exhibit tolerance and respect among non-Muslims especially Jews and Christians.

“School education is the key to fostering the development of peaceful, tolerant societies, and the UAE curriculum’s authors seem determined to follow that path, relentlessly educating young Emiratis to understand the centrality of peace…..,” said Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se.

“The determination to foster a peaceful and tolerant education extends to Israel: The Abraham Accords are featured in three separate textbooks, and children are taught that the treaty carried Islamic scholarly approval.  This can only bolster people-to-people normalization,” said Sheff.



Winter Storm Elpis Set To Bring Snow To Jerusalem Again

Winter storm Elpis is set to bring snow to northern Israel and Jerusalem on Wednesday evening (26th), with a couple of centimeters of accumulation expected according to the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS).

Elpis will start by bringing snow to Mount Hermon and the northern Golan Heights on Wednesday morning (26th), with the snow gradually falling further south in the afternoon in the mountains in northern and central Israel, including Safed and Jerusalem.

More than a few centimeters of snow may accumulate in some locations, depending on elevation.  Heavy winds, with gusts 40-50 mph, and heavy rainfall are expected as well, with local flooding.

The snow will eventually turn to rain and continue through Thursday (27th) and Friday (28th), with temperatures remaining cold in much of the country.

According to the local Jerusalem Weather site, the potential for snowfall on Wednesday (26th) is higher than in the storm last week.

Elpis is the fifth named storm in the Eastern Mediterranean Group of EUMETNET, which includes the meteorological services of Israel, Greece and Cyprus.  A number of Hebrew names are featured in the list of names for the 2021/2022 season including Carmel, Irit, Joel, Lavi, Ora and Raphael.

Elpis has already hit Greece, covering towns and beaches with snowfall.  Photos shared by the Greek City Times, shows the Island of Tinos coated in snow.