News Digest — 10/11/19

Netanyahu Condemns Turkish Invasion Of Syrian Kurdistan, Offers Aid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (10th) denounced Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria and said Israel was prepared to offer humanitarian aid to the Kurds in Syria facing an onslaught from Ankara.

The comments were the first from Netanyahu on the situation in Syria after remaining silent for several days following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from the country and allow the Turkish offensive to move ahead.  Several other Israeli officials have denounced the Turkish operation and urged support for the Kurds.

“Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.  “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”

Netanyahu did not mention the US decision to withdraw troops that essentially gave Ankara the green light for the offensive.

In 2014, Netanyahu expressed support for an independent Kurdistan.  He praised the Kurds’ “political commitment and political moderation,” and said they were “worthy of their own political independence.”  But he has avoided criticizing Washington’s decision to pull its troops from northern Syria, which some analysts warn will create a vacuum to be filled by powers that don’t share Israel’s interests.

In what appeared to be a reference to that concern, Netanyahu declared earlier on Thursday (10th) that Israel will continue to defend itself on its own against regional threats.



‘The Days Of The Ottoman Empire Are Over’

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has ordered his office to draw up plans to stop the Turkish government’s efforts to undermine Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and protect Jordan’s special status as guardian of Muslim holy sites in the city.

Katz intends to present the plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon, so he can authorize its implementation.  Due to the sensitivity of the plan, whose implementation will almost certainly lead to a direct confrontation with Ankara, it is also expected to be raised for discussion by the Diplomatic-Security cabinet.  According to ministry officials, as the plan pertains to security matters, there is nothing preventing it from being implemented by a transition government.

The issue of Turkey’s influence on members of Jerusalem’s Arab population has weighed on security and diplomatic officials’ minds for years.  As Israel Hayom has previously reported, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been buying influence over sites and prominent figures in east Jerusalem for years.  Nonetheless, Jerusalem has made no attempt to challenge these efforts up till now.

The Foreign Ministry’s plan would see the Muslim Brotherhood, which has close ties to Erdogan’s Justice and Development party, deemed an illegal organization in Israel.  Further ministry recommendations for thwarting Ankara’s efforts include restricting the activities of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, or TIKA, in Israel.  The organization, whose stated objective is “preventing the Judaization of Jerusalem,” spends some $12 million annually on activities aimed at undermining Israel’s sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem.  It should be noted that these activities are personally managed by Erdogan.

In preliminary discussions, Katz said, “We will not accept a situation in which the Turkish government headed by Erdogan acts to create centers of unrest and incitement in Jerusalem through funding and holding radical Islamic activities inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and under the auspices and disguise of religious, social, cultural, and educational activities.”

Katz emphasized, “We will take all the necessary steps to pull the rug out from under the diplomatic basis for Turkey’s activities in eastern Jerusalem in order to bolster Israel’s sovereignty in all parts of the city.  The days of the Ottoman Empire are over.”

According to Katz, “Erdogan’s declarations that Jerusalem belongs to all of the Muslims are unfounded and baseless.  Israel is the sovereign in Jerusalem, through protecting full freedom of worship to members of all religions. We will not allow any element to harm the sovereignty.”

“Beyond that,” Katz noted, “in accordance with the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, the Jordanians have special status as far as concerns the holy places to Islam in Jerusalem, and we will not allow Erdogan to harm Jordan’s status, as is happening today.”



Israel Arrests Five Palestinians At Temple Mount’s Mercy Gate Over Illegal Mosque Construction

On Thursday (10th), Israeli police arrested five Palestinians and removed wooden separators from the Temple Mount’s Gate of Mercy building, reported the Palestinian Safe news service.

The area recently became a point of contention between the Israeli government and the Waqf, a Jordanian-backed religious trust that controls and manages the current Islamic edifice on the Temple Mount.

Israel has kept the gate closed to stop what it says is illegal construction work by the Waqf.

Israeli officials believe the work has led to the destruction of Jewish antiquities and is, in part, an attempt to erase the Jewish  historical connection to the site. Regavim, an Israeli NGO which deals with illegal Arab building and land issues, discovered – based on documentation of the Waqf’s activities at the site – that the purpose behind the construction was to build a mosque.

“It’s the most ancient structure on the Temple Mount, 1,400 years old,” Regavim spokeswoman Naomi Kahn told World Israel News in June.  “In 1967, when Israel recaptured the Temple Mount, there was only one mosque – Al-Aqsa.  Now, there’s five.”

The enforcement-sweep was a direct result of Regavim’s update to the Supreme Court that disproved the state’s testimony, delivered in a closed-door hearing only two weeks ago.  Despite the government’s claim that the site had been shut down, Regavim brought proof that the Waqf has continued to operate a mosque at the site, with regular prayers, Islamic study-classes, and other religious activities,” the NGO said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave orders for the construction to stop in February but that did not deter Muslim worshipers.

On February 23, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Mohammad Hussein, and other religious leaders forced their way into the Mercy Gate area, removed a metal gate that Israeli police had placed at the entrance to the gate, and held prayers in the area.



UN Rebukes Hamas For Planning To Risk Children’s Lives In Gaza Border Protest

The United Nations issued a rare rebuke of Hamas for planning to risk Palestinian children’s lives at Friday’s (11th) weekly Gaza border protest.

“I am concerned that the demonstrations’ organizers have branded tomorrow’s protest as ‘Our Child Martyrs,’ which may push boys and girls to put themselves at risk,” UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie NcGoldrick said on Thursday (10th).

The last time Hamas used this slogan, two Gaza boys were killed, on July 27, 2018.

“I call upon Hamas to uphold its responsibility to ensure the safety of children in Gaza, including by preventing them from being exposed to the risk of violence, or from being used as instruments of political action,” he said.  “I reiterate in the strongest terms that children must never be the target of violence, nor should they be put at risk of violence or encouraged to participate in violence.”

Hamas has held weekly Gaza border protests, which are part of the March of Return, since March 30, 2018.

McGoldrick said that since the weekly protest began, some 40 Palestinian children have been killed in the protests, and 1,521 injured with live ammunition.



Death Threats Sent To Jewish Boy Forced To Kiss Muslim’s Shoes

The Jewish boy who was forced to kneel and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate has been sent threatening text messages.

The messages were sent Friday (4th) after photos of the incident were splashed across the front pages of newspapers in Australia and around the world, the Daily Mail reported.  The photo was first published by the Australian Jewish News.

The messages told the 12-year-old boy that he would be slaughtered and asked if he wanted to “talk about suicide,” according to the report.

Victoria Police confirmed to the Daily Mail Australia that they were investigating a report of such text messages but would not comment further.

Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, called the threats “vile and deplorable.”  He said the boy’s parents now want a broader inquiry into anti-Semitism in schools.

Abramovich has helped the family to relocate the boy from Cheltenham Secondary College in suburban Melbourne to a Jewish school.

The incident did not take place on the school’s campus.  Reports said a group of older students threatened the boy with violence if he did not comply.