News Digest — 10/11/22

Lapid Condemns Russia For First Time As Prime Minister

Prime Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russia’s attacks on civilian targets in Kyiv on Monday night (10th), in the first such statement from an Israeli prime minister.

“I strongly condemn the Russian attacks on the civilian population in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine,” Lapid wrote.  “I send our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the Ukrainian people.”

In recent weeks, Israel said it would not recognize Russia’s annexation of swaths of Ukraine, and Lapid had condemned Russia’s invasion in the early days of the war in February and March, when he was Foreign Minister.

However, then-prime minister Naftali Bennett did not explicitly condemn Russia, in part because of his attempts to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv, but primarily because of its deconfliction mechanism with Russia and Syria, allowing the Israeli Air Force to attack Iranian targets over its northern border where the Russian Army has a large presence, as well as concern for the wellbeing of Russian Jews.

Israel has sent hundreds of tons of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, but not military aid other than helmets and protective vests. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last month that he was “shocked” that Israel did not provide the country with any anti-aircraft weaponry.

“I am not accusing the leaders,” he said, “but I note the facts: there were discussions with the leaders of Israel, but it did not help Ukraine.”

Israel has sent hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including a field hospital, but when the Ukrainians asked for the Iron Dome missile defense system, Israel refused to supply it.

Moscow cracked down on the Jewish Agency in recent months, making it more difficult for Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel, which thousands are currently seeking to do.



Jewish Man In Russia Sentenced To Four Years In Prison For Criticizing War

A 66-year-old Jewish Russian national was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday (10th) for the crime of writing a Facebook post protesting his government’s war in Ukraine.

Lev Lerman, a resident of the western Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, was first arrested shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, after sharing a post calling on his fellow citizens to go out and protest the war.

Lerman will serve four years in a penal colony as demanded by the prosecution, which said in the indictment that the Jewish man was charged with “organizing an unauthorized public event.”

The indictment also said that Lerman was in possession of ammunition and weapons after several shotgun cartridges were found in his home during a police raid.



Bethlehem Gunmen Attack Hotel For Displaying Star Of David, Menorah

Unidentified gunmen on Monday (10th) fired shots at a hotel in Bethlehem that was accused of displaying the Star of David and a menorah in one of its meeting halls.

No one was injured in the shooting attack.

Palestinian social media users claimed that the Bethlehem Hotel was preparing to host a group of Jews for Sukkot.  They accused the hotel and the Palestinian Authority of promoting normalization with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced in a statement on Facebook that it had closed the meeting hall and launched an investigation into claims that the hotel was preparing to celebrate the Jewish holidays.

The ministry did not provide further details.

Elias al-Arja, the owner of Bethlehem Hotel, denied the claims.  He said that a group of tourists from the Philippines was preparing to hold a Christian religious conference in the meeting hall.

“I was surprised to see that they installed the Star of David,” al-Arja told the Palestinian radio station Mawwal.  I removed it and told them that they are not permitted to hold the conference in my hotel.  I don’t want any problems.”

The hotel owner said that those who leaked the photos from the meeting hall want to “destroy” the city.

“We don’t allow Jews to come here,” al-Arja said.  “We never held parties for Jewish holidays.  The event was organized by a church from the Philippines.”

After the shooting attack, PA security officers rushed to the scene and cordoned off the area of the hotel.

Several masked gunmen from the ruling Fatah faction in Bethlehem also arrived at the scene and announced that they oppose any attempt to host Jews in the city’s hotels.

One of the gunmen told reporters that his group strongly condemns any form of normalization with Israel.  “We won’t allow anyone to hold any suspicious party,” he said.  “We will strike with an iron fist against anyone who holds a normalization meeting, whether in Bethlehem or any other part of the homeland.  The revolution will continue until the liberation of all the Palestinian lands.”

A statement issued by the Fatah leadership in Bethlehem condemned the attempt to hold a “Zionist party” in the hotel, dubbing it a “stab to Bethlehem and a betrayal of the traditions and values of the Holy Land.”



Palestinian Gunmen In Nablus Reject PA Request To Surrender Weapons

The Lion’s Den is opposed to the Palestinian Authority’s offer to lay down its weapons and join the Palestinian security forces, one of the armed group‘s leaders said on Monday (10th).

Addressing the PA government, Wadee Alhouh, a leader of the Nablus-based group, wrote on Facebook that the timing of the offer was “unsuccessful.”  He said that his group was determined to pursue the “path of glory” until “victory or martyrdom.”

The Lion’s Den which consists of dozens of gunmen belonging to the ruling Fatah faction, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have claimed responsibility for several shooting attacks against IDF soldiers and Jewish settlers in the Nablus area over the past few weeks.

Last week, the PA governor of Nablus, Ibrahim Ramadan, revealed that he had offered the members of the group to hand themselves over to the Palestinian security forces.  Ramadan promised to protect the gunmen and negotiate a solution to their case with the Israeli authorities.

The mother of Mohammed al-Azizi, one of the founders of the group who was killed during clashes with IDF troops in July, also rejected the attempts by the PA to convince the gunmen to lay down their weapons in return for being incorporated into the Palestinian security forces.

The mother, Um Udai, said that the PA was wrong to think that the Lion’s Den would cease to exist if some of its members accepted the offer.  She denounced those behind the offer as “traitors” and “conspirators.”

Palestinian sources said that the PA jhas ben exerting pressure on the gunmen to hand themselves over to the Palestinian security forces.  The sources claimed that a small number of gunmen accepted the offer and joined the Palestinian security forces.

In a related development, Musab Shtayyeh, a Lion’s Den member and senior Hamas operative who was arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces last month, has been transferred to a Palestinian hospital in Jericho.

The Palestinian lawyers for Justice Group said that Shtayyeh has been on a hunger strike and was refusing to take his medicine since his incarceration.  The arrest of Shtayyeh triggered violent protests in Nablus during which one Palestinian was killed and several others injured.



Condition Of Seriously Injured Terror Victim Still Not Stable, Shooter Still On The Run

The family of David Morale, a security guard who suffered severe injuries when shot in the head in a terror attack at the Shuafat Checkpoint near Jerusalem on Sunday (9th), has requested that the public pray for his recovery.

Morale is still in serious and unstable condition.

Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center has reported that Morale’s condition is not stable and he continues to be in serious condition.  He is currently sedated and on artificial respiration in the hospital’s ICU for neurosurgery.   

Morale immigrated to Israel from Brazil in 2017 and began working as a security guard after serving in the IDF as a lone soldier.

Meanwhile, security forces continue the manhunt for an east Jerusalem resident who shot both David Morale and killed Border Police officer, Noa Lazar, 18, from Bat Hefer in a Sunday (9th) terror attack.  

Sgt. Noa Lazar was laid to rest on Monday afternoon, near her hometown in central Israel, at 4 p.m.

The wanted shooter is identified as 22-year-old Udai Tamimi from Shuafat.

The IDF said that they will bring in Tamimi either “dead or alive” as they pursue him around the clock.



Israel To Allow Natural Gas Extraction Off Gaza

Israel has responded to Egyptian efforts to allow the Palestinian Authority to produce natural gas off the coast of Gaza, the Al-Monitor website reported over the weekend, a report confirmed by a PL executive committee member.

Egypt has been holding secret bilateral talks for several months after years of Israeli objections to producing natural gas off the coast of Gaza for security reasons.

The field in question, located about 19 miles west of the Gaza coast, was discovered in 2000 by British Gas (now BG Group) and contains more than 1,000 billion cubic feet of natural gas.  The cost of its development is estimated at $1.2 billion.

The senior Egyptian intelligence official told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity that “an Egyptian security delegation discussed for several months with the Israeli side the issue of allowing natural gas production off the coast of Gaza.  The delegation was finally able to reach a compromise that would benefit all parties involved.

On February 21, 2021, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding on offshore gas field development in Gaza.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Egyptian Natural Gas Holdings Company and the Palestinian Authority will have to work together to develop the gas field, transfer gas to the Palestinian areas and eventually sell it to Egypt.  The Egyptian official explained that Israel had requested that operations extract the gas from Gaza beginning in 2024.