News Digest — 10/27/22

Alleged Israeli Airstrikes Target Damascus For 3rd Time In A Week

Alleged Israel airstrikes targeted sites in the Damascus area on Wednesday night (26th) for the third time in the past week according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

Air defense systems were activated in the Damascus area, at the same time intense explosions were heard in the sky of the capital city and its suburbs, according to Syrian reports.

Syria attributed the attack to Israel; no casualties were reported.

Israeli airstrikes were allegedly the cause of explosions in Damascus on Monday afternoon (24th), Syrian state media reported.  The strikes reportedly targeted sites near Damascus and al-Dimas in a rare daytime strike.

One Syrian soldier was injured and there was material damage, according to a Syrian report.

Israeli airstrikes are rarely conducted in the daytime, with most being done in the evening or overnight.

The last daytime strike blamed on Israel was reported in late August near Masyaf, including an attack on the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center.

This only two days after warehouses containing weapons that were supposed to go from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon were also hit by airstrikes.

The warehouses were used to store and transfer “sensitive materials” from Iran to Lebanon, according to media reports.

The warehouses were used by Unit 4400, which is responsible for transferring weapons to Hezbollah.  In the attack, military logistics equipment used to assemble iranian-made drones was destroyed in the area of the Al-Dimas military airport in western Damascus, according to Ma’ariv.

According to the Saudi Al-Arabiya media outlet, Unit 4400 works to transfer “dangerous weapons” under the guise of humanitarian aid to terror groups.  The sources who spoke to the channel identified one Haj Fadi as the head of the unit.



Report: Record Number Of Jews Visited Temple Mount Over High-Holidays

A record breaking number of Jewish people visited the Temple Mount during the Jewish High Holy days, a right wing advocacy group said on Wednesday (26th).

The “Yarah” organization, which works to encourage Jewish visits to the holy site, provided the data, claiming nearly 8,000 people chose to make the stop at the location during the month-long holiday season.

This is the most visits by Jews in one month, and beats the yearly number of visitors to the site recorded in the past 10 years.

According to the Jewish Administration at the Temple Mount, a total of 7,724 Jews visited the site during 2012.  That number was exceeded during the first month of this Jewish New Year, with 7,795 Jewish visitors counted. 

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation reported that over two million people visited the Western Wall during the Jewish High Holy Days.

Tensions were high during October due to a  terror attack near Shuafat and riots in Sheik Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

Due to the tensions, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said last week that “we’re not changing the status quo of the Al-Aqsa Mosque – we care for the Muslim freedom of religion.”

He added that “during Ramadan one million people visit to pray at al-Aqsa, and allowing them to do so is our duty as a government.”

Lapid also said that Jewish prayers will not be allowed to take place, and that visits will only be allowed under supervision.  “We don’t allow it.  We allow Jews to visit the Temple Mount, but only under supervision so as not to disturb the status quo.”

The Jewish Administration at the Temple Mount said they were pleased with “the surprising rise in the number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.”  According to them, “the public votes with its feet, and strengthens the Jewish connection to the holiest place of the Jewish people on Earth.”

It added: “We thank the visitors, rabbis and the police on the positive change it has made in recent years, which allows for every Jewish person to visit the Temple Mount in comfort, and according to government limitations, which are slowly being removed as more and more Jews arrive to witness this holy place with respect.”



Gantz In Turkey To Meet Counterpart In First Official Trip In Decade

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz took off for Turkey on Wednesday (26th) for an official visit, the first by an Israeli defense chief in over a decade, his office said.

According to a schedule published by his office, Gantz is slated to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, on Thursday morning (27th).

The meeting marks another step in a year-long process that has seen the countries inch back toward full diplomatic relations after over a decade of frayed ties.

The trip comes two months after Dror Shalom, who heads the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, met Turkish defense officials to “renew the lines of security relations between the countries” after a decade, the ministry said.

During Shalom’s meetings in Turkey, the issues that would be discussed between Gantz and Akar were agreed upon, the ministry added.

On Wednesday (26th) ahead of Gantz’s flight, a defense official told the Walla news site that the trip would likely not see any weapons deals being signed between the sides.

“A race of procurement should not be expected here… we are very, very careful to continue this [process] with measured and careful steps.  We made it clear, and it will be made clear as part of the minister’s visit,” the official said, noting the sensitive ties Israel has with Turkish rivals, Cyprus and Greece.

Defense ties were once a mainstay of Israel’s relations with Turkey, but unraveled as diplomatic ties soured.

Renewed defense ties between Jerusalem and Ankara were said to have been made possible after Turkish authorities managed to foil a series of attacks by Iranian cells that were planning to assassinate or kidnap Israeli tourists in Istanbul in late July. 

Last month, for the first time in a decade, a Turkish warship anchored at an Israeli port.

Also last month, Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting.  It was the first such meeting between an Israeli premier and the Turkish leader since 2008.

That discussion came just over a month after the two leaders held a phone call and agreed to move forward with the full restoration of ties and to return ambassadors to each other’s capitals, ending years of antagonism that largely surrounded Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.

Jerusalem had long pressed Ankara to crack down on Hamas’ activity in Turkey, arguing that the Gaza-based terror group used the foreign office to orchestrate terror attacks against Israelis. 

Last Thursday (20th), three Israeli Arabs were charged for allegedly sending a large volume of sensitive information to Hamas in Turkey, and for plans to sabotage Israel’s cellular network in a future war.



Israel, Lebanon To Sign Maritime Boundary Deal Thursday Afternoon At UN Base

Israel and Lebanon are slated to sign their maritime boundary agreement at 3 p.m. local time on Thursday (27th) at the United Nations base in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Wednesday afternoon (26th).

Israel’s cabinet still has to approve the deal at its 10:30 a.m. meeting in Jerusalem Thursday (27th), and is expected to do so overwhelmingly.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid will sign the agreement in his office at noon, after which the Israeli negotiating team will take part in the afternoon ceremony along with a Lebanese delegation, US special envoy Amos Hochstein, and UN officials.

France’s envoy to Lebanon Anne Grillo will also attend, the Quai d’Orsay announced late Wednesday afternoon (26th).  French President Emmanuel Macron helped play an active role in mediating talks, for which Lapid publicly thanked him. 

The Israeli delegation will be led by Energy Ministry Director-General Lior Schillat, and will include Foreign Ministry political director Aliza Bin-Noun, National Security Council deputy head Avivit Bar-Ilan, and an IDF representative.

As of now, Israeli and Lebanese officials are set to sit in the same room during the signing ceremony, said Israeli officials, but that may change.  Israel and Lebanon are technically at war and have no diplomatic ties.

The Israeli team will make a statement to the press at 5 p.m. at the Lebanon-Israel border.

Hochstein will then travel south to Jerusalem for a 7 p.m. meeting with Lapid.

Once the agreement is signed, Jerusalem and Beirut will send letters to the United Nations laying out the terms of the deal.

The signing is coming a day after gas production started at Karish, the offshore field at the center of the deal.

“Gas is being produced from the Karish Main-02 well and the flow of gas is being steadily ramped up,” a statement from London-listed Energean said Wednesday (26th).  

Under the agreement, Israel will receive recognition for its buoy-marked boundary 3.1 miles off the coast of the northern town of Rosh Hanikra, which it established in 2000.  After that, the boundary will follow the southern edge of the disputed area known as Line 23.

Lebanon will enjoy the economic benefits of the area north of Line 23, including the Qana gas field, while Israel moves ahead with gas rig production at Karish.



Israel To Participate In Bahrain International Airshow

In a historic first, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a world-class aerospace and defense company, will exhibit at the prestigious Bahrain International Airshow, taking place November 9-11.  IAI will showcase a variety of its state-of-the-art aviation products, including civil aviation, radars and avionics, air defense systems, and coastal guard/drone guard systems.  This is the first time an Israeli company is participating in the event.

Amir Peretz, Chairman of IAI’s Board of Directors said: “The Abraham Accords Have opened the door for us to participate for the first time in this exhibition and to work collaboratively with our neighbors to deal with the common threats we face in the region.  IAI’s capabilities alongside the impressive relationships that we developed over the last two years with our colleagues in the Gulf states, will allow us to continue to expand the company’s contribution to both technology and defense in the region, whereby our proven capabilities can help ensure a higher degree of regional stability.”

Boaz Levy, IAI President and CEO said: “As we celebrate two years since the signing of the Abraham Accords, IAI is thrilled to participate in the Bahrain International Airshow and to broaden cooperation with business partners in the Gulf region.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet with our partners and prospective partners and showcase the cutting-edge solutions IAI has developed.  We believe there are several opportunities to work together, share our knowledge, and develop new defense and civilian solutions with our partners in the Gulf region, and together, to create a brighter and safer future for our region.”

The Bahrain International Airshow is one of the premier aerospace events in the Gulf fostering more opportunities for business, growth and knowledge-sharing among participants.  While attending the Bahrain International Airshow, IAI plans to expand its strategic collaboration in the region by signing new cooperation agreements with local companies and broadening existing partnerships that have been signed. 

As a leading global airshow bringing together the industry’s best companies and brightest minds, the Bahrain International Airshow provides IAI with the opportunity to come together with Bahrain, the Gulf countries more broadly, and other global companies to share its innovative world-class solutions and develop new collaborations  IAI’s advanced systems will be on display at IAI’s impressive chalet, showcasing over 70 years of expertise and innovation.