News Digest — 10/3/22

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport To Shut Down For Yom Kippur

Ben Gurion Airport will shut down on Tuesday (4th), on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

All operations will be suspended as of 2 p.m. on October 4 and resume at 10:30 p.m. on October 5, with the first scheduled flight to depart Israel scheduled for 11:30 p.m.

In the hours before the airport is to close down, some 45,000 people are expected to leave or arrive.

During October and the Jewish High Holidays, authorities expect over 2 million passengers to pass through the airport, where the record for the month stands at 2.2 million in 2019, before the COVID pandemic.

During the weeklong Sukkot holiday, which will begin on October 9, authorities expect some 81,000 passengers.

Airport administrators said they were increasing staff to accommodate the increase in traffic, after post pandemic months have been marred by long lines and lost luggage.

Departing passengers are urged to arrive no less than three hours before their flight is scheduled to leave, and prepare their boarding passes online.

Israel Airports Authority director, Chagai Topolansky said the goal is for Ben Gurion International Airport to become fully digitized.

“Terminal three in Ben Gurion Airport will go through a digitization process starting next year which will allow managing the boarding process automatically.”



IDF Soldier Lightly Injured As Palestinian Shooting Attacks Mount

An IDF soldier manning a checkpoint in Samaria was lightly injured by Palestinian gunfire on Sunday evening (2nd).  It followed a shooting attack earlier in the day on an Israeli bus and taxi taking special needs children to school near Elon Moreh.

According to the IDF, the gunfire at the checkpoint targeted both soldiers and civilians.  Soldiers returned fire and launched a manhunt for the terrorist.

Rescuers Without Borders, an emergency service, said the soldier was hit in the legs by gunfire on a road between the community of Itamar and a nearby IDF base.  The gunfire began towards the end of a rally protesting the morning shooting and calling for greater government action against Palestinian terror.

In the morning shooting, the driver of the taxi managed to continue driving to a nearby army base where he was treated by IDF medics.  He is currently listed in light condition.

Sunday’s (2nd) terror attacks are the latest shootings in Samaria, with nearly 10 such attacks reported in Samaria in one week in late September.

A pair of shootings were reported in a single evening that week.

Since the beginning of the year, the IDF has reported a sharp rise in shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria.  About 70 such attacks have occurred since the beginning of 2022, compared to about 50 shooting attacks in all of 2021.



Over 40,000 Ukrainians And 24,000 Russian Immigrants Arrived In Israel Since Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

The Immigration Ministry said on Sunday (2nd) that some 40,000 Ukrainians and 24,000 Russians arrived in Israel since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There are currently 17,000 requests to immigrate from Russian citizens being processed and a further 60,000 are eligible to immigrate according to the Law of Return.

The government approved a sum of over 25 million dollars for the ministry, in order to meet the demand for housing, health care and education for the new arrivals.

Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata instructed ministry officials at the Ben Gurion International Airport to prepare for the surge in arrivals of new immigrants.

“We will continue to ensure that all the immigrants from Russia arriving in Israel in this difficult time, will receive a comprehensive package of assistance to help them begin their process of absorption,” Tamano-Shata said.

“I thank the finance minister and the members of the government for their quick response and their cooperation.  This is an important step that highlights the government’s commitment to immigration,” she said.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said the ministry will not hold back funding to support immigration.

“This is a strategic asset for Israel and the greatest growth engine for the country, since its establishment,” he said.

But immigrants will face obstacles upon their arrival including a shortage of Hebrew language schools and their ability to assimilate into the job market.

There are currently 95 Hebrew language schools operated by the Education Ministry which have already catered to some 10,000 immigrants.

In the private sector, an additional 29 schools offer courses and immigrants can receive vouchers to cover the costs.

However, waiting time for those courses are long, as teachers are in short supply, and without language, immigrants will face a tougher time finding work and assimilating into Israeli society.



Hezbollah’s Nasrallah: US Border Demarcation Offer ‘Very Important Step’

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on Saturday (1st) in which he responded to the Lebanese government negotiating a maritime demarcation line with Israel.

He refrained from making threats toward Israel in his speech, a departure from previous addresses the Hezbollah leader has made.  This means that Hezbollah appears to be toning down the rhetoric.  Hezbollah’s allies in Iran are currently facing an unprecedented wave of protest.

Nasrallah said that the “maritime border demarcation file has reached a decisive stage in light of the mediator’s letter.”  He said that “Hezbollah supports the Lebanese state regarding the talks with the US mediator….Maritime victory is the fruit of national solidarity and will help Lebanon cope with its economic crisis.” 

The US mediator to Lebanon on Saturday (1st) sent a maritime border demarcation proposal to President Michel Aoun and the caretaker government.  The US has been trying to help with a maritime demarcation deal for more than a year.

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the UN State Department has been working on this issue and has made trips to Lebanon and met with Lebanese officials.

However, Hezbollah has accused Hochstein of being biased and Hezbollah has threatened gas rigs and energy fields off the coast of Israel.

During his speech, Nasrallah took a more judicious view of the maritime border talks than he had in the past, saying that they appear to be reaching a “positive outcome thanks to dialogue” between the US and Lebanon, although he did not make any mention of Israel’s role in the negotiations.

Nasrallah indicated that the full picture would become clear in the coming days.  He also mentioned Lebanon’s continued failure to form a government.

Lebanon, like Iraq, has a strong pro-Iranian element and neither country now has a functioning government.  Iran is also facing protests; meaning that several states where Iran has a role are all on the verge of chaos.

Nasrallah said that “the last parliament session proved that whoever wants to elect a president of the republic must move away from the logic of defiance in favor of consultation,” adding that “time is running out with regard to forming a government.”

Nasrallah also condemned people migrating from Lebanon to Cyprus, referring to a recent case where migrants died.  “Migrating in death boats is like a crime,” he said, calling for “a serious judicial investigation into death boats.”

He then went on to accuse the US of creating ISIS.  “ISIS was made by America, and it is the one who is still protecting it, and facilitating and financing it, and the transfer of additional numbers to ISIS is the American intelligence services.”

He wove together a conspiracy in which he mentioned ISIS and other elements that have sought to undermine Iran’s regime.

He also referenced recent “rumors” about Iran’s Supreme Leader Al Khamenei.  It was not clear if he was referring to rumors that the leader is in ill health or that some clergy in Iran are displeased with the leadership.  Hezbollah needs support from Iran and he is concerned about the protests.

He claims that people in the region are “inciting” against Iran – blaming the US and Gulf states for stirring up protests in the Islamic Republic.

Nasrallah explained that “Iran does not want anything from the countries of the region and does not have any ambitions in Iraq’s oil,” wondering “how could the Iraqis forget Iran’s stance in opening its weapons and money stores to defend Iraq against ISIS?”

This was an apparent reference to current tensions in Baghdad where people are angry at pro-Iran parties stealing Iraq’s wealth.  “If there was no Islamic Republic, where would Iraq and Lebanon be today, and what dark and bleak era would we have in our region?” he asked.

He also mentioned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and increased tensions between Russia and the US.  He predicted that the US did not want to fight Russia.



Israel Thwarts Islamic State Plot Against ‘Infidel Students’

The Shin Bet security agency and the Israel Police dismantled an alleged Islamic State cell, arresting six of its members in Nazareth, it was announced on Sunday (2nd).

The subjects’ names were revealed to be as follows: Muhammad Ihab Suleiman, 25, known to the security forces for past ISIS-related activities, Aa Afar Suleiman, 21; Moaman Nijam, 20;  Ahmed Belal Suleiman, 18; Jahad Bakr, 20; and another minor were arrested.

The Shin Bet investigation revealed that the suspects were exposed to ISIS ideologies via the Internet and had regularly accessed terrorist content.  The suspects met secretly and planned attacks of various types, with the main target being a Muslim high school in Nazareth, which the suspects said “operates in the way of ‘the infidels.’”

They also planned attacks on a busy bus stop in Nazareth, a police station near their home and a park frequented by Jewish people.  They also obtained weapons and attempted to recruit others to promote their activities.  Indictments were filed on Sunday (2nd) against the six activists by the Northern District Attorney’s office, which charged them with the crimes of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, preparation of a terrorist act and membership in a terrorist organization.  

“The Shin Bet and Israeli Police will continue to do everything in their power and use all measures at their disposal to deal with trends related to radical Islamic ideologies, and preemptively eliminate intentions to harm the security of the State of Israel,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.