News Digest — 10/19/23

British Prime Minister Arrives To Show Solidarity; IDF Strikes Hezbollah And Hamas; El Sisi To Open Rafah Crossing

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived in Israel on Thursday morning (19th) for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

“Above all, I’m here to express my solidarity with the Israeli people.  You have suffered an unspeakable, horrific act of terrorism and I want you to know that the United Kingdom and I stand with you,” Sunak said.

“Sunak will share his condolences for the loss of life in Israel and Gaza as a result of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas gunmen,” his office had said prior to his visit.  

“Every civilian death is a tragedy.  And too many lives have been lost following Hamas’ horrific act of terror,” he said anticipating his Israeli trip.

On Thursday morning (19th), the IDF said “the head of the Rafah military branch of the Popular Resistance Committees, Harb Hussein Abu Hilal was killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza.” 

“Overnight the IDF struck hundreds of Hamas terror structures, including anti-tanks missile launching posts, terror tunnel shafts, intelligence infrastructure, and additional command centers,” the military spokesperson said.

In the north, the IDF Spokesperson said Hezbollah targets were struck in attacks on southern Lebanon overnight.  

An IDF drone Wednesday evening (18th) eliminated a terrorist squad that launched mortar shells toward the Upper Galilee region near the Lebanon border, according to the military.  Earlier, the army said it had identified an anti-tank missile squad in Lebanon aiming at Israel and targeted two Hezbollah military positions with tank fire.

Additionally on Wednesday (18th)two rockets fired from Lebanon crashed into the city of Kiryat Shmona near the northern border.  There were no injuries.

Meanwhile, before Air Force One left Israel, US President Joe Biden said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi has agreed to open the Rafah crossing to allow the passage of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.  The two leaders have committed to working together to promote a “robust” international response to the UN’s call for assistance to the residents of the Palestinian enclave.

Biden departed Israel Wednesday (18th) after a seven -and-a-half hour visit to Israel. 



Netanyahu Summarizes Biden Visit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summarized the results of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, which concluded Wednesday evening (18th), as well as Biden’s meetings with Israeli officials.

“Citizens of Israel, I would like to update you on a few things from my meeting with President Biden.  Last night, even before the President’s visit to Israel, I presented him with conclusive evidence that Islamic Jihad, and not the IDF, was the one that fired the missile, and it was the one that struck the hospital in Gaza.  I directed our national information system and the IDF to spread these proofs, and today the world knows the truth.  It will also be heard in the UN Security Council,” Netanyahu said.

“This is the first time that the President of the United States has come to Israel during a war.  I spoke with him about the horrors we have gone through, about the terrible pain of bereavement and sorrow that has fallen upon us all.”

“With today’s visit we achieved something of the utmost importance and which constitutes a huge contribution to our security: enormous security assistance to the State of Israel, assistance on an unprecedented scale, including assistance that further strengthens our ability to fight.”

“Regarding our abductees, I clarified three things to President Biden: First, I demanded the return of the abductees, and we are working together in every possible way to return them.  Second, until they are returned, we demand visits by the Red Cross to our abductees.  Third, we will not allow humanitarian aid of food and medicine from our territory to the Gaza Strip until they are returned.”

“President Biden came here not only with moving and comforting words, which touched the heart of the entire nation, he also came with actions: in our meeting today, we agreed on actions that ensure the continuation of our just war.  We agreed on a cooperation that would change the equation in all sectors, and help us achieve the goals of the war.”

“Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters, the nation of Israel lives – and the nation of Israel will be victorious,” Netanyahu concluded.



US Vetoes Gaza War UN Resolution That Doesn’t Stress Israeli Right To Self-Defense

The United States on Wednesday (18th) vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the raging Israel-Hamas war because the text did not include respect for Israel’s right to defend itself.

“The United States is disappointed this resolution made no mention of Israel’s right of self-defense,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.  “Like every nation in the world, Israel has the inherent right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter.”

The envoy added that “following previous terrorist attacks by groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, this council reaffirmed that right.  This text should have done the same.”

Twelve out of fifteen council members voted in favor of the resolution put forward by Brazil and negotiated over for several days, while Russia and the United Kingdom abstained.

The United States was the only vote against, but as one of the body’s five permanent members, its vote counts as a veto.

The resolution said the council “firmly condemns all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism.”

Russian representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia, following the US veto of the resolution,  accused the United States of “hypocrisy” and “double standards,” saying Americans did not want a solution in the Security Council.

The divided security council has been even more polarized since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and the votes on the Brazil resolution reflected the divisions.

Immediately after the votes and speeches, the council started an emergency meeting to discuss the “explosion at the Gaza hospital on Tuesday (17th).”   Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and China called for the emergency session.



Berlin Synagogue Targeted In Firebomb Attack

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz strongly condemned a firebomb assault on a synagogue in Berlin on Wednesday (18th), saying, “We will never accept when attacks are carried out against Jewish institutions.”

Assailants threw two Molotov cocktails early Wednesday (18th) at the synagogue in the center of the German capital, police said, as anti-Semitic incidents in the country have been rising following the violent escalation in the Middle East.

“Unknown persons threw two Molotov cocktails from the street,” the Kahal Adass Jisroel community  wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Dozens of police officers were investigating in front of the synagogue in the city’s Mitte neighborhood, and the entire street next to the building was cordoned off and blocked to traffic.

Police said they were investigating “an attempted serious arson” in which two people approached the synagogue on foot at 3:45 a.m and threw the firebombs, which burst on the sidewalk next to the building.  The two people, their faces covered, ran away.

A couple of hours later, when police were still investigating the incident, a 30-year-old man approached the synagogue on a scooter, which he threw aside, and began running toward the building.  When police officers detained him, he resisted and shouted anti-Israeli slogans.

“We are all shocked by this terrorist attack,” Germany’s leading Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, said in a statement.  “Above all, the families from the neighborhood around the synagogue are shocked and unsettled.  Words become deeds.  Hamas’ ideology of extermination against everything Jewish is also having an effect in Germany.”

Scholz, who was speaking to reporters during a trip to Egypt on Wednesday (18th), said that Germany would not accept violent and anti-Semitic protests and that the protection of Jewish institutions would be further increased.

“It outrages me personally what some of them are shouting and doing, and I am convinced that Germany’s citizens are of the same opinion as me,” Scholz said.

“We stand united for the protection of Jews in Germany,”  the chancellor added.

Shlomo Afanasev, a rabbi and long-time member of the Kahal Adass Jisroel community, said he was shocked by the attack.

The rabbi said he has gone to the synagogue since 2006, and always goes with his kippah on.  He said he would now wear a baseball cap over his skullcap because he doesn’t feel safe anymore.

Germans are particularly sensitive regarding attacks on Jews or Jewish houses of worship because of the country’s Holocaust past.

Almost 85 years ago, on November 9, 1938, the Nazis, among them many ordinary Germans, terrorized Jews throughout Germany and Austria.  They killed at least 91 people and vandalized 7,500 Jewish businesses.  They also burned more than 1,400 synagogues, according to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

The pogroms, which became known as Kristallnacht – the “Night of Broken Glass – preceded the Holocaust in which the Nazis and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews.

Following Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on October 7th and the subsequent war in Gaza, police have increased security for Jewish institutions in Berlin and all over Germany.  Still, Israeli flags that were flown as a sign of solidarity in front of city halls all over the country have been torn down and burned.  And several buildings in Berlin where Jews live have been found with the Star of David painted on the doors and walls by vandals.



Hamas Is Responsible For The Deaths Of Palestinians In Gaza- Jonathan S. Tobin

Hamas is responsible for all deaths on both sides because of its decision to start the war not just by attacking Israel, but by deliberately sending people to commit unspeakable atrocities against civilians, many of them families.  President Biden’s argument about most Palestinians having “nothing to do” with Hamas is flat-out wrong.

Hamas has governed Gaza for 16 years and though there has been some grumbling, the tyrannical Islamist rule the terrorist organization imposed has for the most part gone unchallenged by those living there.  The unfortunate truth about the political culture of the Palestinians is that it valorizes terrorism and treats those who shed Jewish blood as gaining legitimacy for doing so.  Hamas won an election in Gaza in 2006 and most observers believe that it would again.

Biden wants to separate the Palestinian people from Hamas.  That argument would be stronger if Palestinians didn’t routinely take to the streets to celebrate terror attacks against Israel, passing out candy to children and hoisting them on their shoulders, weapons in hand.  There were cheers for the Hamas murderers when they returned in triumph to Gaza on Oct. 7, where they displayed their captives and the corpses of some of the Jews they had slain.

The narrative about Palestinian Victimization is a way to deflect attention away from the refusal of either Fatah or Hamas to make peace, as well as to create a false moral equivalence between those who commit atrocities and those who seek to stop them.  The only way to solve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is to get rid of Hamas and convince the Palestinians to give up their sick fantasies about Israel’s extinction.