News Digest — 10/24/22

Israel Approves Herzi Halevi As New IDF Chief Of Staff

The Israeli government on Sunday (23rd) approved Major General Herzi Halevi as the IDF’s new Chief of Staff.

Following the announcement, current IDF Chief of Staff Major General Aviv Kochavi congratulated Halevi, who will become the army’s 23rd leader.

“I welcome the government’s approval of the appointment,” Kochavi said, according to an official statement.

“Herzi and I have known each other for many years, during which time I got to know a brave, professional and talented officer.  Herzi is an excellent and experienced officer and I am sure that he will continue to head the IDF forward, given the expected challenges.  I wish him great success.”

Last week, a vetting committee approved Halevi’s candidacy, paving the way for him to take up the post on January 17, 2023.  Defense Minister Benny Gantz proposed his appointment in early September.

Born in 1967 into a religious family in Jerusalem, Halevi graduated in philosophy and business from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and holds a master’s degree in human resources management from the National Defense University in Washington.

Halevi joined the Israeli army in 1985 in a paratroopers unit before being promoted to “Sayeret Matkal,” the army’s elite unit, which he led for years.  In 2014 he was appointed as head of military intelligence, and four years later was named as head of the southern command.



Lion’s Den Terrorist Group Vows ‘Harsh’ Revenge As Senior Member Reportedly Killed

A senior member of the Palestinian terrorist group Lion’s Den was reportedly killed in an explosion in the West Bank’s city of Nablus on Sunday (23rd), with the organization blaming Israel for the attack.

Tamir Kilani’s motorcycle exploded at 1:30 a.m. in what the Lion’s Den labeled an “assassination,” accusing Israel of attaching a bomb to the vehicle.  The group threatened a “harsh, agonizing and painful revenge” for his death.

Surveillance camera footage released by the group shortly after the incident showed someone placing an explosive on the motorcycle, which exploded when Kilani walked by it in the Kasba at the city center, a hotbed of terrorism.  Palestinians say the perpetrator of the killing was a collaborator with Israel, which considers Kilani a wanted terrorist for the recent spate of attacks on Israelis in recent weeks, particularly in the northern Samaria area, including the deadly drive-by shooting of IDF soldier Ido Baruch and the dispatching of a terrorist to carry out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which was thwarted by security forces.

Kilani was known as a prominent member of the Nablus-based group, which took responsibility for several shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria over the past few weeks.

Kilani, 33, was buried on Sunday (23rd).  He was previously locked up in Israeli prisons for his involvement in terrorism.

In mid-October Israeli troops arrested another Lion’s Den member, Hamza Al-Azzi, although the organization reportedly denied that any of its operatives were apprehended.  Some of the group’s members had prior affiliations with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.



Bodycam Footage Shows Police Officer Chasing, Shooting, Suspected Stabber

Police on Sunday (23rd) published bodycam footage of an IDF officer chasing and eventually shooting a Palestinian on Saturday (22nd) after he stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli man in eastern Jerusalem.

The footage showed the officer chasing after the suspect in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood, as Arab children were playing soccer.

As the officer shouted at the suspect in Arabic to stop, the man was seen running off, leading the officer to set off in pursuit.

At one point the stabber turned around with an object in his hand and charged at the officer.  The officer fired one shot and the young man fell to the ground.

“I saw him running with an object in his hand and there were a lot of civilians in the area, there was a life-threatening danger to the civilians… the terrorist then turned around in my direction with the object in his hand to attack.  I felt my life was in danger and fired one shot,” the officer said in a video statement, published by police.

The chief of police’s Jerusalem District hailed the officer for his actions.  “The policeman who neutralized the terrorist demonstrated vigilance, determination, engagement, courage and great resourcefulness.  The accurate shooting and his professional performance led to the neutralization of the terrorist and prevented injury to the innocents who were around him.  This is what is expected of every police officer in the Jerusalem District and the Israel Police,” said Doron Turgeman.

The suspect in Saturday’s (22nd) attack, identified as Muhammad Abu Qutaish of the West Bank town of Anata, was taken to Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in serious condition.  

A short while earlier, the young man had stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli man in his 20s in a park in the Givat Hamivtar neighborhood between French Hill and Ramat Eshkol, close to Shuafat.  The victim underwent surgery Saturday night (22nd) at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where his condition was reported as stable.

Police said officers arrested two of the stabber’s relatives on Saturday evening (22nd), his father and his brother.

The stabbing came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank as Israeli troops continue to carryout an anti-terror campaign launched earlier this year after 19 people were killed in a string of terror attacks.



Israel Destroyed 90% Of Iran’s Military Infrastructure In Syria, Say Officials

Israeli security officials claimed over the weekend that the IDF has managed to destroy 90% of Iran’s military operations in Syria, Israel’s Walla News reported.

According to the report, Israeli airstrikes have decimated Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah and other proxies, weapons factories Tehran sought to establish on Syrian soil, and Iran’s efforts to build a military base.

Sources told Walla that despite tensions between Israel and Russia over Ukraine, the Jerusalem-Moscow deconfliction protocols that prevent direct conflict between Israel and Russian forces remain effective.

Periods of time without airstrikes are due to Iran’s suspending arms smuggling as Tehran searches for other ways to deliver weapons to its proxies, and not because of issues with Moscow.  The sources stressed that Israel has thwarted Iran’s smuggling attempts by land, sea and air.

The most recent attack on Syria attributed to Israel was a strike on targets in the Damascus area on Friday (21st) near the international airport.  

The Friday (21st) attacks were the first since September 17, when an Israeli attack on the Damascus International Airport and nearby military posts south of the Syrian capital killed five soldiers.  That attack came days after an Israeli strike hit the main airport in the northern city of Aleppo.

Jerusalem is now particularly concerned that Hezbollah will launch at Israel the same Iranian kamikaze drones that Russia is using in Ukraine.

On Thursday (20th), the New York Times reported that Russia has scaled back its forces in Syria and removed a sophisticated S-300 air-defense system which threatened Israeli freedom of action in Syria skies.



Wounded-In-Action IDF Veterans Tour The US To Fight Antisemitism

As the college scene breeds antisemitism and delegitimizes Israel across the US, IDF vets are battling for truth by sharing their personal stories of valor, tragedy and triumph – the collective story of Israelis in Israel.  In a Belev Echad-sponsored mission in cooperation with Chabad on Campus, a group of IDF veterans who were wounded in action travel across college campuses where they meet Jewish American peers and share their experiences both as Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers defending their people and homeland.

Tony, a Penn State University sophomore, shares: “Meeting IDF soldiers right around my age who’ve experienced so much, have inspired me and totally changed my attitude.  They know what it means to give, to defend their homeland and people.”

2020 and 2021 saw an uptick in antisemitic incidents in the US, causing many Jewish students to feel marginalized and conceal their Jewish identity.

One of the chief problems is that, often, these incidents don’t take the form of classic anti-Semitism,” says Rabbi Uriel Vigler, co-founder of Belev-Echad, the non-profit organization and advocacy group sponsoring the campus mission.  “Pro-Palestinian or BDS-affiliated parties proclaim, ‘We’re not against Jews, just the State of Israel.’  But practically, they object to anything Jewish- related, making every Jewish student feel threatened.”

Recently, Dana Ophir and Matan Rutger toured close to a dozen colleges on the East Coast, sharing their personal stories with hundreds of students who were deeply impacted by their commitment and sacrifice.

Matan Rutger of Kfir Brigade, was run over by a Palestinian terrorist with intent to kill.  Matan survived, but required multiple surgeries and spent months in intensive rehabilitation.

Lieutenant Dana Ophir was injured in a vicious car-ramming that left four friends dead and Dana confined to a wheelchair.  “I’m a walking miracle.  From running ten-miles without losing my breath, I became a total invalid.  But I refused to succumb to fate and with titanium instead of bones in my body, taught myself to take one baby step at a time,” she relates.

“When I visit the campuses, I see young people who are open to hearing us,” says Rutger.  “When they hear what I went through, they identify and connect.  They understand that military service is not about aggression or occupation, but about defending my own family and countrymen and that we’d much rather live in peace than carry weapons.  This opens their hearts.”

Matan and Dana spoke with us from Penn State where 80 students assembled in the hall to hear their stories of courage and heroism.

Rabbi Hershy Gourarie of Penn State Chabad Undergrads says, “Hosting Belev Echad was an absolute pleasure.  It’s amazing for students to see true dedication, heroism and what it means to overcome obstacles and really defend your homeland.”

“Using my personal miracle to open eyes to the truth of life in Israel has become my mission!” declares Dana.  “Some colleges we visited reacted with barrages of protests, but I’m not afraid.  We’re committed to fighting  this war for truth.”



First Fall Rain In Israel As Daylight Savings Time Nears End

Israel braced on Sunday (23rd) for its first serious fall bout of rain with thunderstorms overnight and flood warnings issued for southern and coastal areas.

Thus far, Jerusalem saw the most rainfall with 8 inches, while other areas saw rain in lesser amounts.

After the initial downburst, a break in the rain is expected on Tuesday (25th), but on Wednesday (26th) more rain is coming and a drop in temperatures is forecast.

The fall weather will coincide with the end of daylight savings time which the Interior Ministry said will be switched in the late hours of Saturday night into Sunday morning (29th-30th).

At 2 a.m. the clocks will change to 1 a.m. – giving Israelis an extra hour of sleep before they begin their new week on Sunday (30th). 

In 2013, the Knesset passed a law extending Daylight Savings Time, which according to the Energy Ministry has saved the country’s energy consumption market over $56.57 million since it went into effect.

“After 210 days of summertime this year, and a contribution of an extra hour of daylight to Israel’s economy and commerce, we begin our winter clock,” Director General of the ministry, Yair Hirsh said.  “This will be in place until next spring.”