News Digest — 1/7/21

Israel Strikes Iranian Targets In Syria, State Media Reports

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday night (6th) conducted a series of strikes against several targets in southern Syria, the country’s state media reported.

SANA news quoted a Syrian military source who said that many of the missiles launched during the attack were intercepted.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) quoted its sources in the country who reported hearing several explosions over Damascus, caused by the IAF attack on military positions in the Al-Kiswah area in southern Damascus.

No further details were available on the number of casualties and material damage caused by the airstrikes.

The SOHR noted that the attacks come less than 48 hours after a visit by top leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the area.

The Al-Kiswah area, where Iranian militias and their proxies are based, has previously been targeted in Israeli attacks.

Another attack on the radar system battalion in the west of Al-Dour village in Al-Suwaida, where Iranian militias and groups of the Lebanese Hezbollah are located, left casualties, the SOHR reported.

Israel has remained silent on the reports.

This is Israel’s second reported attack in Syria in a week.

Israel has significantly stepped up its strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent weeks.

In a summary of 2020, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi noted that “the Iranian establishment in Syria is in a clear slowdown, but we still have a long way to go to complete the goals in the arena.”

“We have struck over 500 targets this year, on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions,” he said.

In general, Iran’s and Hezbollah’s military buildup in Syria remains a red line for Israel.  The IAF has carried out thousands of attacks to thwart the Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly declared that they will not tolerate an Iranian threat on its northern border with Syria and will take all the necessary measures to ensure that such a menace does not emerge.



‘Historic Leap:’ Sudan Officially Joins Abraham Accords With US Signing

Sudan on Wednesday (6th) said it signed the “Abraham Accords” with the US, paving the way for the African country to normalize ties with Israel. 

A statement from the office of Sudan’s prime minister said Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the accords Wednesday (6th) with visiting US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The recent US-negotiated deals between Arab countries and Israel have been a major foreign policy achievement by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The US and Sudan on Wednesday (6th) agreed to settle the African country’s debt to the World Bank, widely seen as a key step toward the nation’s economic recovery after the 2019 overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The two countries, Sudan and Israel, have agreed to have full diplomatic ties, making Sudan the third Arab state – after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – to move to normalize relations with Israel late last year.  Morocco also established diplomatic ties with Israel.

“Secretary Mnuchin’s visit came at a time when Sudan’s and Israel’s bilateral relations are taking historical leaps toward a better future.  We’re planning to make tangible strides as our relations enter a new era,” tweeted Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.



Algerian MP Seeks To Criminalize Promoting Peace With Israel

An Algerian lawmaker announced in a social media post that she intends to submit a bill to parliament seeking to criminalize “the promotion of normalization with the Zionist entity,” referring to Israel, Algerian media reported.

In a message posted to her Facebook page, Amira Selim said that the bill aims to “prevent the promotion of normalization with the Zionist entity through mass media and social media, and will be presented to the National People’s Assembly [Parliament].”

“This law is based on the positions of the Algerian state that rejects normalization with the Zionist entity, especially since normalization seriously affects the issue of Western Sahara through political bargaining, and suspicious deals,” she added.

If the law is passed, offenders could be “punished by imprisonment from three to ten years,” and may have their professional accreditations rescinded as a punitive measure.

Offenders may also be subject to a fine ranging from $2,273 to $7,619.

“The penalty could be extended to 15 years and the fine doubled in the event of a repeat offense,” Selim notes.

The development comes as neighboring nation Morocco announced at the end of December the resumption of its diplomatic relations with the Jewish state via a US-brokered normalization deal.



Israel Hits Record 1.5 Million Vaccinated

Israel has successfully vaccinated about 16% of its population with the first of two required inoculations against the coronavirus, but with supplies running low new vaccinations are not being given, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday (6th).

The vaccine given so far is from the American company Pfizer.  65% of those vaccinated are aged 60 and over, and 35% are younger, comprising medical and essential workers.

The Ministry of Health warned about an expected shortage of doses, having to reserve the remaining Pfizer vaccine for the second follow-up vaccination required three weeks after the first injection.  

Israel also ordered 6 million doses of the vaccine produced by the American company Moderna, which announced on Monday (4th) that it had received approval for use in Israel.  The first shipment of Moderna vaccines is expected to land in Israel this week.

Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna treatment also requires two doses.

In a statement Monday (4th), Moderna said it expects about 100 million doses to be available in the United States by the end of the first quarter of 2021, with 200 million doses available by the end of the second quarter.  Moderna reported that approximately 18 million doses have been supplied to the US government to date.



Iranian General: ‘Strong Evidence’ Israel Is Behind Hit On Nuclear Mastermind

Iran on Wednesday (6th) again blamed Israel for the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and claimed that it had “strong evidence” of Israel’s involvement in the November 27 killing of the man believed to have been the head of Iran’s military nuclear program. 

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami sent a letter to 60 defense ministers worldwide requesting they condemn “the Zionist regime” for the “inhuman, illegitimate and felonious move.”

“Iran possesses strong evidence that the Zionist regime was involved in the assassination.  The Zionist intelligence services have a dark history of assassinating Iranian scientists,” the letter said.

Israel has not commented on the assassination.

Hatami praised Fakhrizadeh in the letter, claiming that his scientific achievements have helped Iran fight the coronavirus pandemic.  He called on the international community to “put aside the double standard” in its approach toward state terrorism.

He further hinted that the lack of response from the international community could lead to an Iranian response to the assassination, which might undermine the stability in the region and the world.

Meanwhile, Gen. Esmail Ghaani, Commander of the Quds Force – Iran’s elite extraterritorial black-ops arm – threatened Thursday (7th) to attack the United States “at home” in retaliation for the assassination of his predecessor, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.  Soleimani, considered the architect of the Iranian policy that positioned it as the world’s top state-sponsor of terrorism, was killed in a US drone strike on January 3, 2020 in Iraq.