News Digest — 1/9/20

Netanyahu: We Never Lost Our Right To Live In Judea And Samaria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it very clear that settlements in Judea and Samaria will not be evacuated in any peace plan on his watch.

“We never lost our right to live in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said during Wednesday’s (8th) Kohelet Forum conference in Jerusalem.

“The only thing we lost, temporarily, was the ability to assume our rights after 1948, between the War of Independence and the Six-Day War.  And when we returned there, we didn’t return to a strange land that we stole from its previous owners,” he said. “This is a total distortion of the historical truth.”

The prime minister made a point to thank U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for boldly reversing decades of U.S. policy by declaring that the Trump administration does not view settlements in Judea and Samaria as illegal.

“The Pompeo declaration about the status of the towns [in Judea and Samaria] establishes the truth that we are not strangers in our own land,” he said.  “In a clearly defensive war, we returned to the land where our forefathers put down roots thousands of years ago.”

With U.S. support on this issue, Netanyahu expressed hope that the International Criminal Court’s investigation of Israeli “war crimes” in Judea and Samaria would fail.

“Pompeo’s declaration is the appropriate response to the scandalous decision of the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate the [establishment of Jewish communities] in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said.

“As opposed to the views of some in the European Community who view Pompeo’s declaration as a step that distances peace, I say the exact opposite.  This declaration advances the prospects of peace, because peace must be based on truth and not lies,” he added.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman echoed the same message during his speech at the event by saying that the U.S. policy on Judea and Samaria doesn’t take away the Palestinians right to live in dignity and peace, but rather provides Jews the same rights.

“You don’t need a Ph.D. or a law degree to know who has a good claim to the land,” Friedman said.  “The answer, with all due respect to the scholars, is just obvious. Because it’s so obvious – because the right of Israel to settle in Judea and Samaria is so obvious – the goal posts started to move,” the ambassador said.



Fifth Man Drowns Attempting To Rescue Others From Floods

A 32-year-old man drowned after he was swept away while attempting to rescue others from floods in Nahariya Wednesday (8th).

Security forces searched for the man, whose body was found near the Arena Mall.  Rescue teams from Magen David Adom attempted to save him, but were forced to declare his death.

EMT Radi Hadad who was among the first responders at the scene said, “When I arrived at the scene I found a man who had gone missing shortly before.  I together with other EMT personnel performed CPR on the man in an attempt to resuscitate him. Unfortunately, at the end of our efforts, he was pronounced dead at the scene.  Our teams are at full readiness and will continue to respond to any and all medical emergencies throughout the area.”

Meanwhile, the Nahariya municipality on Wednesday (8th) urged residents not to leave their homes due to flooding and inclement weather.

The heavy rains, predicted earlier this week had already flooded Nahariya streets, and many were blocked off.

After 15 children were rescued from a flooded kindergarten, the Education Ministry decided to evacuate all of the city’s educational institutions.

At least one vehicle was swept away and others were overturned.

Last week’s heavy rains brought flooding to other parts of Israel as well, including Tel Aviv, where 25-year-old Stacy Harari and Dean Shoshani tragically drowned, after their elevator got stuck in the basement as a result of an electrical short- circuit.  Shortly thereafter came a wave of flooding water, which left the two people trapped inside the elevator as it filled with rainwater.

On Sunday (5th), the body of Eran Herrnstadt, 72, was found inside his vehicle, which was set adrift by the floods and was discovered in Binyamina in the North, the Jerusalem Post reported.  Rescue workers pronounced him dead at the scene.

Ali Agbaria’s body was found in the Dalia Stream in the North following a search of the area, Israeli police said Monday morning (6th), after he was reported missing, making him the fourth weather related casualty in the past two weeks of storms.

With torrential rains covering the country over the past two weeks and with colder weather, the Mount Hermon ski resort was blanketed with snow.  The Hermon boasts 28 miles of ski routes on 11 paths, served by eight chairlifts.

Mount Hermon straddles the borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon, towering over the Golan Heights with a peak of 9,232 feet.  The Israeli side of the mountain tops out at 6,500 feet, making it the largest in the country.

Colder weather is forecast for the coming days with more snow for skiing.  

There are no signs of the rains ending, with more forecasted for Thursday (9th).  Storms are expected to focus on the coast and the Negev Desert, including the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.  The wet weather is also expected to again hit Tel Aviv.

In the North, the Sea of Galilee rose nine inches in the past 24 hours.



Honduras Declares: ‘Hezbollah IS A Terror Organization’

Honduras on Tuesday (7th) joined a growing number of countries in declaring Hezbollah a terror group.

“Honduras joined Guatemala and other countries in announcing that Hezbollah will be declared an international terrorist organization nationwide,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said in a statement.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said in response on Tuesday (7th), “I applaud the Honduran government for its important decision to declare Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and to take the necessary sanctions against it.”

“This is an important step in the worldwide war against terrorism,” he said.

Honduras joins the U.S., Canada and Israel, and in Latin America, Argentina, Paraguay and Guatemala, who have already declared Hezbollah, who is financed and backed by Iran, a terrorist organization.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also praised the Arab states of Bahrain and the UAE, who in September publicly condemning Hezbollah, in a very unusual move.

“This sounds like the Messianic times,” Netanyahu said.  “But it shows the fundamental change taking place in the Middle East.  The Arab world also understands that Iranian aggression endangers not only Israel, but the entire region as well.  I call on additional countries to come out against the aggression of Iran and its proxies,” Netanyahu added.



Israel Unveils Breakthrough In Laser Technology

The Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), at the Israel Ministry of Defense revealed that a technological breakthrough has been achieved in the development of lasers for the interception of RAM (rocket, artillery and mortar) threats, UAVs, and ATGMs.

Head of the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem stated: “We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land and sea.  The R&D investments made by the DDR&D in the past years have placed the State of Israel among the leading countries in the field of high-energy laser systems.  Throughout the year 2020 we will conduct demos of our capabilities.

Today the DDR&D in the Israel Ministry of Defense revealed that its investment in laser technology has led to a technological breakthrough that will enable the development of platforms to intercept a variety of threats.  Based on high-energy lasers – this technology will prompt a strategic change in the defense capabilities of the State of Israel.

As a result of the aforementioned technological breakthrough, the DDR&D has launched three programs for the development of high-energy laser demo systems in cooperation with defense industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems: 

→ Development of a demo ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of the Iron Dome (an additional layer to the air defense array)

→ Development of a maneuver platform-mounted laser system to defend troops in the field

→ Development of a laser demo system mounted on an air platform to intercept threats above cloud covers and for the defense of wide areas.



Auschwitz Visited By Record Number Of 2.32 Million People In 2019

A record 2.32 million people from around the world visited the sites of the former Nazi camps Auschwitz and Birkenau in 2019.  The total is about 170,000 more than in 2018, which also had broken previous records, the Auschwitz Memorial reported on Tuesday (7th).

Eighty-one percent of the visitors availed themselves of one of 340 guides who conduct educational tours in 21 languages.

According to the Memorial’s online reservation system, some 396,000 visitors were from Poland, 200,000 were from Great Britain, 120,000 from the United States, 104,000 from Italy, 73,000 from Germany, 70,000 from Spain, 67,000 from France, 59,000 from Israel, 42,000 from Ireland and 40,000 were from Sweden.

In addition, over 900,000 follow the Auschwitz Museum’s Twitter account, more than 300,000 use its Facebook page, and 80,000 follow it on Instagram.