News Digest — 10/14/20

IDF Special Forces Carry Out Covert Operation, Destroy Two Syrian Outposts

In a secret operation that took place last week and was made known to the public on Tuesday (13th), IDF Special Forces crossed the border into the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria and destroyed two outposts belonging to the Syrian army, News 12 reported.

The operation was carried out following Syria’s continued violation of the disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria from 1974, which determined that a designated buffer zone between the borders would only be occupied by a special UN force called the Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Recently, however, the Syrian army returned to the buffer zone in the Golan Heights and spread its forces across the border, leading the IDF to take action and launch the unusual operation.

The operation included combat soldiers from the Nachal Brigades and commando soldiers from Yahalom – a special unit that majors in combat engineering – crossing the border and destroying two Syrian outposts without being detected.

“You’re facing the enemy, you’re about 1600 feet away,” Capt. Michael Zilberg from the Nachal Brigades told News 12.  “A mission like this requires you to be very focused,” he added.

A team commander from Yahalom described the operation and said it included “making our way in a silent and covert manner to the targets, placing a system of explosives on both outposts and blowing them up simultaneously.”

Lt.-Col. Tal Goritzki from the brigades explained the broader purpose of the mission, other than “punishing” the Syrians for violating the agreement.

“We know about the collaboration between the Syrian military and Hezbollah.  Every Syrian military establishment has the potential to become a dual military establishment. We won’t allow southern Syria to become southern Lebanon.” Goritzki told News 12.

The IDF has been focused in recent years on preventing Hezbollah and Iran from establishing terrorist positions on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, including landing attacks from the air against their positions.



72 Georgian Immigrants Fulfill Their Dream Of Making Aliyah

Seventy two new immigrants from Georgia fulfilled their dream of making aliyah after landing in Israel this week.  They arrived on the first flight from Georgia arranged by the Jewish Agency and the International Fellowship of Jews and Christians since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

From the beginning of the High Holy Day lockdown, more than 800 olim landed in Israel from more than 25 different countries in accordance with coronavirus regulations.

“Immigration to Israel has never stopped and it continues now, even in the shadow of the coronavirus.  The Jewish Agency works to bring olim under the global constraints of the coronavirus, and helps them fulfill their Zionist dream,” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said in a statement.

Among the olim were singles, young families and 17 children. Some are doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers and students.  About a third of the immigrants requested to live in the city of Bat Yam and the rest will locate in the country from Eilat to Nahariya.

The olim entered quarantine immediately upon arrival in Israel.  Following the end of their quarantine period they will take their first steps into beginning their new lives in the Jewish State.

Together with the 72 olim from the Georgia flight, a total of 390 olim will have arrived in Israel by the end of the week.  This includes 50 olim from Russia, 50 from France, 50 from Ukraine and 30 from South Africa and other countries around the world. 

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said that under her leadership, her ministry will “continue to work for the best absorption and guidance of new olim in their new country.”

“We are expecting significant waves of immigration in 2021, and for this purpose I have formulated a broad national plan for immigration and absorption that will be submitted to the government soon,” she said.



Guatemala Enforces Ban On Hezbollah With Anti-Terrorism Financing Law

The Guatemalan government on Tuesday (13th) reaffirmed its commitment to a ban on Hezbollah – Iran’s proxy in Lebanon – by announcing new legislation to prevent the financing of terrorism.

Speaking at a press conference, Alejandro Giammattei – Guatemala’s president – argued that a “regulatory framework” to crack down on Hezbollah’s ability to transfer laundered funds was imperative for the ban on the organization to have teeth.

“We have declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, but we need more than this designation to be applied to this organization, which already has a presence in Latin America,” Giammattei said.  “We need the regulatory framework to ensure that there are no funds from this country which are financing the harming of other countries.  Consequently, prevention and repression are justified.”

The government’s proposed bill for the “Prevention and Repression of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism” has been designed to impose tighter controls on banks and other financial institutions that are used by Hezbollah to process and move its funds.

Passage of the legislation would enable Guatemala to present itself to the international community “as a state that seeks to combat corruption, money laundering and other illicit activities, and the financing of terrorism, head-on,” Giammattei said.

Guatemalan Jews warmly welcomed Giammattei’s announcement.

“As Guatemalans, as Jews, and as citizens of the world, we are grateful to the government of Guatemala for having taken this brave step, which places our country on the right side of history by joining in a global fight against terrorism and building a safer world,” Rebeca Permuth de Sabbagh – the president of the Guatemalan Jewish community – told Giammattei in a letter.

Along with Colombia and Honduras, Guatemala confirmed in January of this year that it would be designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group, in a move applauded by the US and Israel. 



Gulf Arabs Continue To Criticize Palestinians – Khaled Abu Toameh

Several Gulf Arabs have launched unprecedented attacks on the Palestinian leadership, accusing them of “trafficking” in the Palestinian cause; depriving their people of international aid; financial corruption; and acting against the interests of their own people.  The Palestinian people are accused of being “ungrateful” toward Arab countries that made many sacrifices on their behalf, and gave them hundreds of millions of dollars and jobs.  Popular hashtags trending on social media declare that “the Palestinian cause is not my cause.”

Gulf Arabs have also been voicing support for Israel by posting pictures of Israeli flags and video clips of Arabs praising the peace agreements with Israel and greeting Israelis on Jewish holidays.

A Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post: “Once it was a taboo for Arabs to criticize the Palestinians or the Palestinian cause.  Now the Arab media is filled with articles denouncing Palestinian leaders as traitors and liars and calling on Arabs to stop supporting the Palestinians.”

Hussam Arafat, a senior PLO official, said that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz’s criticism of Palestinian leaders last week on Al-Arabiya was a “firm message to the Palestinian leadership, a strong indication of the Saudi leadership’s willingness and preparation for immediate and rapid steps towards normalization with Israel.  This interview constitutes a dramatic and dangerous development in the traditional Saudi position toward the Palestinian issue, and it is a strong indication of significant upcoming Saudi political steps towards normalization with Israel.”



Thousands Sign Petition Against Rehiring Florida Principal Who Refused To Say Holocaust Is Fact

Nearly 23,000 people have so far signed an online petition urging the school district of Palm Beach County, Florida, not to rehire William Latson, a high school principal who was fired last year after telling a parent, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.”

“This is a slap in the face of all Holocaust victims,” the petition said.  “We cannot allow anti-Semitism and discrimination to take hold in the school system.”

The petition was started by Ben Szlamkowicz, a resident of Boca Raton and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor.

The school board approved the reinstatement of Latson on October 7 in a 4-3 vote.

The school board is scheduled to vote on a new position for Latson on October 21.

According to the board’s decision, the former high school principal is to be transferred to a position within the district commensurate with his qualifications.

The positions of “custodian” and “bus driver” have been suggested by residents on social media.

Even if he is reinstated to a position, he will not be reinstated to “principal” again, where he will have access to children, according to the board.

The school board voted 5-2 to fire Latson on October 30th, 2019, but he appealed the decision.

Latson was principal at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton when he told a parent, that students could opt out of Holocaust lessons because “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” 

In an April, 2018 email, Latson said, “I can’t say that the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”