News Digest — 1/7/22

Saudis Say Hezbollah A Threat To Arabs After Nasrallah Calls The King A ‘Terrorist’

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Beirut said Thursday (6th) that Hezbollah was a threat to Arab security after the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese movement branded King Salman a “terrorist.”

The latest exchange of insults follows a crisis between Lebanon and Gulf Arab states over the war in Yemen, and Saudi accusations that Hezbollah was meddling in the conflict.

“Riyadh hopes that the political parties will give priority to the supreme interest of Lebanon… and end Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony over every aspect of the state,” ambassador Waleed Bukhari said in a statement to AFP.

“Hezbollah’s terrorist activities and regional military behavior threaten Arab national security,” he added.

Bukhari’s statement comes after Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite terror group, described King Salman as a “terrorist” and accused Saudi Arabia of exporting Islamic extremism in a televised speech earlier this week.

Accusations have flown between the two sides since a Saudi-led coalition intervened to prop up Yemen’s government against Iran-backed rebels in 2015, in a conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives according to the United Nations.

Last month, Hezbollah dismissed Riyadh’s claims it was aiding attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

In late October, Riyadh suspended diplomatic ties with Lebanon after the airing of statements by the then-Lebanese information minister criticizing the Saudi military intervention in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister later said that Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon, and not just the minister’s comments, had prompted the Sunni kingdom to cut ties. 

Since the coalition’s intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has regularly accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons and Hezbollah of training the insurgents.

Tehran denies the charges, and Hezbollah has previously denied sending fighters or weapons to Yemen.



NGO: ‘Jewish Heritage Is Being Destroyed Before Our Very Eyes’

The Prophet Joshua’s altar, located on Mount Ebal in Judea and Samaria, has been vandalized again, right-wing NGO Shomrim al Hanetzach said this week.

The altar is located in area B of the West Bank, which is under the civilian control of the Palestinian Authority.

In February, the organization reported a similar incident, when Palestinian roadwork destroyed portions of a 3,200-year-old wall of the biblical site.  The perpetrators of this week’s vandalism are unknown.

The Shomrim al Hanetzach report showed walls had been broken, and stones removed from the altar, as well as damage to the exterior wall of the site.

The Samaria Regional Council, under whose jurisdiction the site falls, expressed concern for the safety of Joshua’s altar, which is one of few structures that remains intact from the period the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel more than 3,000 thousand years ago, and as such, has unique historic value.

“This is one of the series of events that the Israeli government refuses to address,” Shomrim al Hanetzach said in a statement.

“The Biblical and Hasmonean sites are being destroyed before our very eyes.  It is a shame and a disgrace for the Jewish people and the Israeli government.  Our Tanakh is being destroyed,” it said.  “We call on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to intervene immediately and get the archeological site restored professionally before it’s too late.  The writing is on the wall.”



Gaza Workers Let Back In Israel After 15 Years

Recently, Israel increased the number of Gazans allowed to work in Israel under “merchant permits” to 10,000, although 90% of them are not engaged in trade. Issam Ghazaleh, a resident of Gaza City, said thousands of desperate men have applied for “merchant permits.”  “This is the only way to…have an opportunity to earn some money and provide for your family.”  Ghazaleh used to work in Israel until the Second Intifada broke out in 2000.

Fayyez, a Palestinian who currently works in Ashkelon, said, “We want to work; we don’t like to depend on food cards or charity packages.  Palestinians in Gaza always worked in Israel, and both sides benefited.”  He and his brothers and sons worked for many years in Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.  The unemployment rate in Gaza exceeded 50% in 2021, which is why many Gazans equate an Israeli work permit to a winning lottery ticket.

IDF Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, former Coordinator of Government Activities in the territories, said 10,000 work permits will inject $323 million into the Gaza economy.



Two Arab Israelis Speak Out On Why They Chose To Serve In The IDF

i24News’ Yoseph Hadad met with members of the IDF’s Bedouin desert reconnaissance unit to provide a rare glimpse into the lives of Arabs who choose to serve in Israel’s military,

A soldier identified as “A” spoke of his experience as an Arab Israeli serving in the unit.  

“I am from the Negev desert where crimes take place…so I thought to myself, what will I achieve in the end?” he told i24NEWS.

The soldier said he left home due to violence and entered a boarding school, which enabled him to receive an education from the state of Israel.

“It gave me so much and never asked for anything in exchange,” he said.

However, news of his military service was not well received in his home village.

“They did not accept me in any way… I got away from them, and told them to get away from me,” the serviceman continued.

Many Arabs serving in the state’s military, and making the decision to enlist, are driven by shared concerns regarding the threats facing their home country – Israel.

When a rocket comes from Gaza or from Lebanon, it doesn’t distinguish between an Arab, a Jew, or any other person,” an Arab Israeli officer, who served for nine years, said.

The commander explained that in 2006 two rockets fell on an area where he lives, killing two children.

He said he urged others in the Arab world “to come for a visit to see Israel for themselves.  I’m proud… because I was born in this land, I was born in Israel.”



Qassem Soleimani Statue Torched In Western Iran

A statue of former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was torched on Wednesday night (5th) by unidentified individuals in Shahrekord in western Iran, according to the Iranian ISNA news agency.

Soleimani was assassinated by a US drone strike next to the Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.  The second anniversary of the assassination was marked this week.

Video reportedly from the scene on Wednesday night (5th) showed the statue engulfed in flames in the middle of a roundabout.

Mohammad Ali Nekounam, the representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Friday prayer leader of Shahrekord, compared the burning of the statue to the assassination of Soleimani, saying “this crime in the dark of night is like the same crime in Baghdad airport, which was carried out in the privacy of the night and at the height of cowardice, and it will make Hajj Qassem’s position in the hearts more stable.”

The statue of Soleimani had just been unveiled on Wednesday morning (5th).  The six meter tall statue cost $35,000 according to ISNA.

This is not the first time a statue of the former Quds Force commander has been torched in Iran.

In August of last year, a statue of Soleimani was torched in the city of Yasuj in southwestern Iran.



UK Schools Equipped With Israeli COVID-Safe Air Filters

Hundreds of school and kindergarten classrooms across the UK have implemented advanced filtration systems designed to filter out COVID-19 particles that were developed in Israel.

Created by Israeli company Aura Air as part of the British government’s “Living With The Virus” policy, the air filters have been installed in schools across British counties such as Yorkshire, Brighton, Essex, and Kent.

Replacing the entire air content in a room across a several-hour period, the air purification system filters out roughly 99.97% of virus and bacterial particles through HEPA air particle filters, which also disinfect and sterilize the air.  The devices are effective against all variants of the COVID including Omicron and Delta – they also remove mold.

The systems are installed independent of air-conditioning units to increase their efficiency.  School staff and administrators can monitor the air data through a paired app, helping schools determine threats and better protect their students.