News Digest — 10/1/19

Tens Of Thousands Flock To Israel’s National Parks, Beaches On Rosh Hashanah

Tens of thousands of Israelis thronged to the country’s national parks and beaches on Monday (9/30) to take advantage of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority said some 100,000 people were visiting national parks and nature reserves, while tens of thousands more enjoyed the warm weather at beaches across the country and at the Sea of Galilee.

Among the top sites were Caesarea with 3,000 visitors, the Yarkon Park, Tel Afek and Gan HaShlosah (Sakhne) with 2,700 day-trippers apiece and Masada with 2,000 visitors.

The Banias nature reserve in the north and Harod Springs were also popular destinations.

The holiday to mark the Jewish New Year ends Tuesday evening (10/1), with the fine weather expected to continue.

Police bolstered security measures for the High Holy Day season on Sunday (9/29), and thousands of police officers are carrying out security checks and patrolling synagogues, malls and public parks.

According to police, on Wednesday (2nd), the focus of the tightened security measures will be Jerusalem and the Old City, where thousands are expected to visit the Fast of Gedaliah.

On Yom Kippur, October 8 and 9, police forces will be protecting synagogues all over the country.

Parks and tourist attraction sites will be closely monitored during Sukkot (October 13-21).



Exiled Syrian Director Sends New Years Greetings To Israelis

Exiled Syrian director and author Kamal Alhasson filmed a Happy New Year video for Israelis, wishing “a blessed year, a year of peace, security, and victory over Iran.”

“A blessing for the New Year.  Unfortunately, this blessing should have been in Hebrew, but unfortunately I do not understand Hebrew.” Alhasson said.

“I am the writer and director Kamal Alhasson congratulating our Israeli brothers and friends in the State of Israel on New Year’s Eve,  may the following year be a blessed year, a year of peace, security and victory over Iran,” he added.

 The Syrian director also said: “We always say that Israel is in our heart and our heart is in Israel.  From the Swedish capital of Stockholm, – Shabbat Shalom.”



Iraqi Prime Minister Blames Israel For Spate Of Airstrikes Targeting Iran-Linked Fighters

Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi said on Monday (9/30) that investigations have determined the recent spate of airstrikes targeting powerful Iranian-backed militias in Iraq were carried out by Israel.

“Investigations into the targeting of some Popular Mobilization Forces positions indicate that Israel carried them out,”  Abdul Mahdi told Al Jazeera, marking the first time Baghdad has directly blamed the Jewish State for the strikes.   

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the statements from the Iraqi premier, saying “these are reports from foreign media and we do not comment on them.”

Since July, there have been at least nine strikes both inside Iraq and across the border in Syria, targeting the Iran-backed militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF.

Leaders of the powerful Shiite paramilitary group have repeatedly blamed Israel and by extension its US ally, which maintains more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.

Israel has not confirmed its involvement in the attacks, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility that it has struck in Iraq.

Israel views Iran as its greatest threat and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years aimed primarily at preventing the transfers of sophisticated weapons, including guided missiles, to the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

The latest strike on Iranian militias came Friday night, (9/27), when an unmanned aerial vehicle reportedly struck PMF bases along the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Despite the weekend strike, a nearby border crossing between Syria and Iraq that was shuttered in 2012 during the Syrian civil war reopened on Monday (9/30), giving Iranian forces easier access to eastern Syria and causing soaring tensions with the West.



Report: Tehran And Moscow At Odds Over Plans To Build Up Military Near Damascus

Tehran and Moscow are said to be at loggerheads over the building of Iranian military installations being erected near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

According to Arab media, affiliated with the rebels in Syria, the Islamic Republic is looking to establish a “command district” for Iranian forces and Shiite militias, in the southern Damascus suburb of Set Zaynab, less than seven miles from the capital.

Tehran reportedly wants to set up a large number of accommodations, headquarters, and logistic warehouses in the area, but has run into resistance from Russia, which is looking to put a halt to the plan.

According to the report, the Russians have closed down major roads to militia forces in the southern parts of the capital, fearing that the Iranian plans may provoke an Israeli military response and put their own personnel at risk.

It has also been reported that control of Damascus and its surrounding environs are currently in the hands of Syrian army units receiving direct instructions from the Russians and that their presence in the region reduces Iran’s ability to operate in most neighborhoods and villages.

Moscow is said to be concerned that if Israel begins targeting the sites, it could undermine Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s control of the neighborhoods, causing a power vacuum that could provide rebel forces with the opportunity to retake the territory.



Iran Guards Chief: Destroying Israel Now Not A Dream But An ‘Achievable Goal’

The commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Monday (9/30) that destroying Israel was now an “achievable goal.”

Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic Revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.

“This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer…a dream but it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.

The remarks were made at a biannual meeting in Tehran for commanders of the IRGC amid rising tensions between Iran and the US and its allies.

Salami’s comments were given prominent coverage by the Tasnim and Fars news agencies, close to ultra-conservative political factions.

Salami’s comments Monday (9/30) came two days after Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces” of Tel Aviv from the Mediterranean Sea.

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides.  Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim on Saturday (9/28).  “Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty. 



Jewish Cemetery Near Buenos Aires Vandalized

A Jewish cemetery in Argentina was vandalized over the weekend, shortly before the start of Rosh Hashanah.

The Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) announced that the vandalism took place Saturday (9/28) at the cemetery in La Tablada, a city in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

Part of the cemetery’s exterior wall was knocked down, tombstones were damaged and bronze plaques on some of the graves were stolen, according to AMIA.

The head of AMIA condemned the vandalism and called on authorities to investigate, as did a delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA).

“From the AMIA institution, we send our complaint to the highest authorities of the municipality and the Ministry of Security of Buenos Aires, so that what happened is investigated in depth, and we demand that measures be taken so it doesn’t happen again,” said Ariel Eichbalm, President of AMIA.

Argentina, home to some 180,000 Jews, has seen a number of instances of anti-Semitic violence in recent months, and there is growing concern about the wave among Jewish leaders.

In February, nine gravestones were vandalized in the Jewish cemetery of San Luis province.