News Digest — 10/25/21

Israeli Helicopters Said To Strike Hezbollah-Linked Targets In Southern Syria

Israeli helicopters hit three targets in Syria near the border in the early hours of Monday (25th), Syrian media reported.

According to the reports, the missiles struck targets connected to the Hezbollah terror group on the outskirts of the town al al-Baath as well as other locations in southern Syria.

The three sites were all reportedly connected to Hezbollah’s so-called Golan File, its efforts to establish a front along the Golan border from which it can carry out attacks against Israel.

According to Syrian media, two of the sites were observation posts used by the Lebanese terror group, while the third target was a site just next to a Syrian military facility that Israel has long-claimed was working with Hezbollah.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-Syrian opposition organization of unclear funding, said the strikes caused “material damage,” but there was no immediate word of casualties.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces, in line with its policy of only publicly acknowledging strikes that are in response to attacks from Syria.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria over the course of the country’s civil war, targeting what it says are suspected arms shipments believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

Israel has also reportedly carried out several airstrikes along the border targeting Hezbollah and Iranian efforts to entrench themselves in the country, most recently an alleged sniper attack last week that targeted a Syrian intelligence agent.

Midhat al-Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot in Ain El Tineh, a village along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a Syrian government office.  Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire, but the Israeli military and other officials declined to comment on the charge.

Hebrew media reports claimed as-Saleh had been assisting the Iranian military presence near the border.  If the claims are confirmed, it would mark the first time that Israeli snipers are known to have killed someone identified as an Iranian-linked target across the border.

The alleged attack in al-Baath comes days after Israel said it received a green light from Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep up its airstrikes in Syria.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Putin agreed during a meeting in Sochi on Friday (22nd) that the two nations would continue to implement the so-called deconfliction mechanism that works to prevent Israeli and Russian forces from clashing in Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

Said meeting came amid friction in the deconfliction mechanism between Israel and Russia in Syria, where the Russian Army maintains a presence.  Israel attacks Iranian targets in Syria in order to stop Iran and its proxies from establishing bases on Israel’s northern border or the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.

“The prime minister presented to Putin his world view on ways to stop Iran’s nuclear drive and Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.  It was decided to keep policies vis-a-vis Russia in place (regarding airstrikes in Syrian territory),” said Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who accompanied Bennett to act as a translator and adviser.

Russia is a close ally of Syria’s Bashar Assad, having forces based and operating in Syria and providing Syria with its air defenses that try to shoot down Israeli jets and missiles.    



‘Gaza Nearing Boiling Point,’ Hamas Warns

Israel must either authorize the transfer of $8 million in funds for the payment of the terrorist organization’s employees or face an escalation, Hamas has warned according to reports. 

The Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Mohammed Al-Emadi is set to arrive in the region this week in an attempt to find a solution to Hamas’ demand for cash to pay its officials, Israel Hayom has learned.  Al-Emadi, who visited Israel and Gaza just last week, announced a framework had been reached to allow the transfer of employee salaries, however senior Hamas officials said the funds had not been transferred.

“Gaza has reached its boiling point,” they said, “and all of the pressure will be directed at Israel.”

Palestinian media outlets quoted close associates of Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar as saying, “Hamas is done being patient.  Now all options are on the table.”

Another Hamas official said, “We have informed our Egyptian brothers that our patience has run out.”  Senior Hamas politburo official Izzat al-Risheq told PA media, “Israel is creating difficulties, not allowing the transfer of funds to Gaza, and we are being asked to grit our teeth.  We won’t agree to that.”

Next week will be critical for the coastal enclave, a senior Hamas official told Israel Hayom.

“If Israel continues to procrastinate and doesn’t allow the transfer of salary payments, the escalation will come.  All the easing of restrictions on the Gaza Strip is a joke.  The Egyptians are on Israel’s side for the meantime, but they also understand who is guilty here.  This will blow up in Israel’s face, the Hamas official said.



Iran’s Supreme Leader Urges Arab Countries To Reverse Normalization With Israel

Arab nations that normalized ties with Israel last year have “sinned” and should reverse such moves, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Sunday (24th).

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco all said in 2020 they would normalize ties with Israel, as Washington under the administration of then US President Donald Trump made Arab-Israeli rapprochement a foreign policy priority.

“Some governments have unfortunately made errors – have made big errors and sinned in normalizing their relations with the usurping and oppressive Zionist regime,” Khamenei said, referring to Israel.

“It is an act against Islamic unity – they must return from this path and make up for this big mistake,” Khamenei added, in a speech marking a public holiday honoring the birth of the Prophet Mohmaaed.

Iran has in the four decades since the 1979 Islamic revolution, positioned itself as a strong defender of the Palestinian cause.  Egypt and Jordan were the only two Arab nations, until last year, that normalized relations with Israel.

“If the unity of Muslims is achieved, the Palestinian question will definitely be resolved in the best fashion,” Khamenei said.  In May, Khamenei characterized Israel as a “terrorist base” and “not a country.”



Fallen Paratrooper To Be Buried In Israel 73 Years After His Death

The remains of Martin Davidovich, named by the IDF as the first fallen paratrooper, will be brought to Israel next week for burial, 73 years after his death in a training accident in then-Czechoslovakia, the Defense Ministry announced over the weekend.

Born in 1927 in Czechoslovakia, Davidovich was a member of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement.  During World War II, he was sent to Auschwitz and then to the Mauthausen concentration camp.  He lost most of his family members in the Holocaust.  According to military archives, Davidovich returned to Czechoslovakia after the war ended, and joined the Czech Brigade, a unit training future soldiers for the State of Israel.

According to testimonies on the “Honor Israel’s Fallen” website, on August 18, 1948, Davidovich was accidentally shot in the head during a training exercise in which the cadets were practicing taking over a sentry post.

Davidovich was 21 years old at the time of his death.  He was secretly buried in the Jewish cemetery in Prague.

While Davidovich did not officially serve in the Israeli military, his death took place during training sessions for the IDF, and he was mentioned by name in a report of the incident submitted to Israeli authorities at the time by the parachuting instructor team, the Times of Israel  reported.

In 2001, the IDF officially recognized him as a fallen soldier.

A delegation comprising Defense Ministry and military officials left for Prague on Sunday (24th) to retrieve his remains.  On Wednesday, IDF paratroopers will join the delegation to escort Davidovich’s coffin back to Israel for burial.



‘Normal People Boycott Israel’ Signs Cover London Bus Stops

London Police have been investigating a recent case of anti-Israel vandalism, as bus stops around the city have been defaced with full-length signs that read “Normal People Boycott Israel.”

The signs parody the cover of Sally Rooney’s book Normal People, replacing the author’s name with a call to “Boycott Israel” and making the cover read “Normal People Boycott Israel.”  Rooney earlier this month refused to allow her most recent book to be translated into Hebrew, claiming Israel is an “apartheid state.”

The bus stop vandalism has angered London’s 150,000-strong Jewish community.  The city’s Transportation Authority called the signs “vandalism” and ordered that they be removed.

Dr. Ghimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Director for International Relations, urged the London bus stop’s advertisements operator JCDecaux to seek legal action against the perpetrators, asking CEO Jean-Francois Decaux to file a complaint with the Metropolitan Police.  JCDecaux is the largest outdoor  advertising corporation in the world.

“We also propose that JCDecaux adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, endorsed by states, municipalities, sports clubs, companies and more,” Samuels said.  “This would be a clear message to hatemongers to cease and desist from squatting your advertisement infrastructure and abusing the good name of your company.”

London saw a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in 2021 in the midst of the most recent Israel-Gaza clashes, keeping with a worrying trend of rising anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist rhetoric across Europe.