News Digest — 10/15/21

Israel On Alert As Pro Iranian Militias Vow Retaliation

The Israeli defense establishment is taking seriously Iran’s threats to respond to an attack in Syria on Wednesday (13th) that was attributed to Israel.

On Wednesday (13th) pro-Iranian militias inside Syria explicitly threatened a “harsh response” to the attack in a statement issued by the joint operations room of organizations operating inside Syria.

In the statement, the militias claimed four armed members of their organization were killed and several others were wounded in an Israel Defense Forces attack on the Homs region.

According to their statement, which appeared in the Hezbollah-aligned news site Al Mayadeen, the attack was launched from the Jordan-Iraq-Syria border triangle region controlled by the US.  It targeted a militia recruitment site as well as other facilities used by the organizations in the country’s east.

Meanwhile, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria Thursday evening (14th) reported that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets had carried out the attack adjacent to the city of Palmyra.

According to the Russian center, the Russian military chose not to use anti-aircraft missiles to thwart the attack due to the presence of two civilian planes, one flying to Beirut from Baghdad and another flying to Damascus, and concerns those aircraft might be hit in an attack.

The attack comes just one week before Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to discuss diplomatic and security-related issues, among other things.



Islamic Jihad Threatens Israel Over New Prison Rules

Islamic Jihad has threatened war with Israel if new prison policies introduced in response to the Gilboa Prison Break are not overturned.

“Palestinian Islamic Jihad will not leave its members in Zionist prisons to be victims at the hands of the enemy.  Accordingly, we will stand with them and support them with everything we have, even if this means we must go to war for their sake,” Ziad al-Nakhaleh, head of the terror group, announced Wednesday (13th).

The al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of the group, backed up his threat Thursday (14th).

“We announce a state of general alert among the ranks of our fighters.  We are completely prepared and at the ready,” they said in a brief statement.

Israel Prison Services has introduced a number of policies aimed at preventing another prison break like the one in September, in which six inmates broke out of the high security prison and fled.  Five of the six are members of the Islamic Jihad.  All were subsequently recaptured.

There are currently more than 4,600 Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli jails on terror charges.  Over the years, Palestinian prisoners have secured concessions through hunger strikes, including being housed according to political faction.

But with indications that housing them in the same cell may have contributed to the break, the Prison Service has started to break up groups of Islamic Jihad prisoners housed together, moving some to other jails, and others into solitary confinement.

Family visits to the prisoners have also been put on hold.

Islamic Jihad prisoners launched a hunger strike on Wednesday (13th) in protest at the breaking up of cell-mate groups, claiming that the measures constitute “abusive actions.”

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which represents current and former prisoners, confirmed that the strike was over the separation of Islamic Jihad members from others in their faction.  Club head Qadura Fares indicated that some 250 prisoners were taking part in the hunger strike, and that 100 would begin refusing water after one week, according to Ynet.

Fares called on Palestinians to protest in support of the strikers, indicating that other factions, including Fatah, may join the protest in solidarity.



Hezbollah Clashes With Lebanese Army In Beirut

Armed Clashes between Hezbollah terrorists and the Lebanese Army broke out in Beirut Thursday (14th) during a protest against the lead judge investigating last year’s massive blast in the city’s port, as tensions over the domestic probe boiled over.

Gunfire echoed in the capital, and ambulances rushed to the scene, sirens wailing, amid reports of casualties.

At least 6 deaths and over 20 injuries were reported by Lebanese Media,  The army deployed heavily in the area following the shootings.

The protest outside the Justice Palace was called for by the Hezbollah terror group and its allies who are demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, following a statement issued by the group on Wednesday (13th), accusing the United States of meddling in the country’s probe into the port blast.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the gunfire, but tensions were high along a former civil war front-line between Muslim Shiite and Christian areas.  A journalist with the Associated Press saw one man open fire with a pistol during the protest.  Another eyewitness said he saw people shooting in the direction of protesters from the balcony of a building.

Israeli media later reported that the Lebanese army was attempting to neutralize a number of snipers that began shooting toward them from nearby rooftops.  At least one assailant was captured by the army.

Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrates that had been improperly stored at a port warehouse detonated on August 4, 2020, killing at least 215 people, injuring thousands and destroying parts of nearby neighborhoods.  It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and has further devastated the country already roiled by political divisions and unprecedented economic and financial meltdown.

Bitar, the second judge to lead the complicated investigation, has come up against formidable opposition from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who accuse him of singling out politicians for questioning, most allied with Hezbollah.

None of the Hezbollah officials have so far been charged in the 14-month-old investigation, despite an extensive one conducted shortly after the explosion that found a Hezbollah cargo ship carrying ammonium nitrate may have caused the blast.

The armed clash could derail the country’s month-long government even before it begins tackling Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis.

A Cabinet meeting was canceled Wednesday (13th) after Hezbollah demanded urgent government action against the judge.  One Hezbollah-allied minister said he and other Cabinet members would stage a walkout if Judge Tarek Bitar isn’t removed.



Bnei Menashe Group Of 235 From India Lands On ‘Aliyah Day’

A total of 235 new immigrants from the Bnei Menashe community in India landed at Ben Gurion International Airport on Wednesday (13th) as part of the Yom HaAliyah national celebration on Oct. 12-13.

Hailing from Manipur in northeast India, they have preserved Jewish traditions across generations.  Their move to Israel is the result of a government decision promoted by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata and the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization.

“The olim who landed this morning join more than 4,000 Bnei Menashe who already live in Israel and have been integrated into Israeli society successfully, and I would like to congratulate each and every one of them for finally returning home, to the Land of Israel,” Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, said.

“We still must not forget that 6,500 members of the community are still waiting in India and longing for the moment when they, too, will be able to come to Israel and it is our duty to do everything we can to make this happen.”

The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel that were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago.  Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh.

Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals, and following the laws of family purity.

The 6,500 members still left in India continue to nourish the dream of one day returning to the Land of Israel to join  their brethren.



Why The World Would Be A Lesser Place Without Israel – Dan Perry

Israel has posted accomplishments few other countries can equal.  Israel’s scientific and technological achievements are astounding.  Israel is responsible for an extraordinary range of innovations, from the discovery of Quasicrystals to the understanding of the structure and formation of ribosomes, from the Feldenkrais method of exercise therapy to drip irrigation, and from the invention of tiny cameras that can travel through the body (endoscopy) to the development of flexible stents.

Israel played a massive role in the creation of mobile and internet telephony (Viber), instant messaging (ICQ) facial recognition and USB flash drives.  The Intel 8088 chip that first powered personal computers was developed in Israel.  Then there’s the marvel of the Iron Dome system that zaps incoming missiles out of the sky.

Israel attracts venture capital investments at about a third the rate of the entire European Union, with a population 50 times smaller.  This has driven Israel’s per capita GDP to $44,000/year, higher at present than that of Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and three times that of Greece.  It has one of the most stable currencies, lowest rates of inflation and highest foreign reserve levels per capita in the world.  Israel has the 12th highest number of Nobel prizes per capita, the 14th highest number of scientific publications per capita, and publishes more books per capita than the United States.  This is not bad for a country whose existence has been challenged by powerful neighbors since day one.

The writer, former Middle East editor for the Associated Press, served as the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem