News Digest — 10/5/23

5 Officers Hurt, Including 3 Seriously In Tulkarem Clashes With Gunmen

Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Tulkarem Thursday morning (5th) with security forces reporting five border guards hurt in the fighting including three with serious wounds.

According to a joint statement from the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police, soldiers exchanged fire with armed Palestinians in Tulkarem overnight while carrying out an arrest raid, adding the clashes continued as forces left the area in the morning hours.

Citing an initial probe, the statement said the five officers were hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade, seriously hurting three of them and moderately wounding the other two.

All five were evacuated to the hospital, with Border Police Commander Brik Yitzhak vowing the force would not be deterred by the injuries.

“Every terrorist who tries to harm our forces should know we’ll get him and settle the score,” Yitzhak said.

In an earlier statement, the IDF said Palestinians set off a number of explosive devices near troops in Tulkarem.

The IDF also said troops hit a number of armed Palestinians. There was no immediate information on the number of wounded Palestinians and their conditions in the town.

A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed responsibility for targeting the Israeli troops with gunfire and makeshift bombs, publishing photos of blood-soaked items belonging to the wounded soldiers.

Separately, on Thursday morning (5th), local security officials said Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an Israeli motorist on a nearby highway, close to the settlement of Avnei Hefetz.

Troops chased after the two suspects, leading to an exchange of fire in which the IDF said the pair was “neutralized”near the entrance to the Palestinian village of Shufa, southeast of Tulkarem.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said it was notified of the deaths of the two gunmen – indicating their bodies were being held by Israel.

Soldiers seized an extra M-16 rifle and magazines found in the suspects car, according to the military.  

 Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near nightly arrest raids by the military and an uptick in attacks against settlers and retaliatory attacks against Palestinians.

In a separate series of incidents late Wednesday (4th), clashes broke out between Palestinians and IDF troops in the city of Nablus as Jewish pilgrims visited Joseph’s Tomb, a shrine in the city; a Palestinian was reportedly shot after attacking a civilian Israeli vehicle near the settlement of Maale Levona; and two Palestinians were detained after a firebomb was hurled at a bus near the West Bank town of Azzun.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 Israeli civilians and three soldiers dead, and others seriously wounded.



Islamic Jihad Flaunts Rocket Arsenal At 36th Anniversary Parade In Gaza

Palestinian gunmen marched Wednesday (4th) through Gaza City, brandishing weapons and carrying rockets and drones, in a parade marking the 36th anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Jihad movement.

Islamic Jihad forces in the Gaza Strip have been involved in recent years in several confrontations with Israel, most recently in May when five days of cross-border fighting killed 34 Palestininas – including six commanders of the terror group – and one Israeli.

An Islamic Jihad official told AFP that around 500 members of Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian terror group, took part in Wednesday’s (4th) parade.

The event showcased domestically produced rockets atop trucks draped in green camouflage fabric, missiles and types of drones.

“The new Buraq missiles have a range of 50 miles, and the improved Badr 3 missiles have an explosive warhead weighing 880 pounds,” an Al-Quds Brigade spokesman said.

“One of the missiles displayed is locally made and has not yet been used against the enemy, Israel,” the spokesman added without elaborating.  He said it can be used to strike targets “deep” within Israel.

Gaza has been under an Egyptian/Israeli blockade since Islamist terror movement Hamas took over the coastal enclave in 2007.

Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary due to the terror group’s efforts to massively arm itself for attacks against the Jewish state.



68th Jerusalem March Draws 60,000 Participants

60,000 Participants from around the world took part Wednesday (4th), during the Sukkot holiday, in the 68th Jerusalem March.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said: “I was very excited to welcome tens of thousands of marchers from 90 countries and from all over Israel.  It warms the heart to see the love Jerusalem receives.  It’s an uplifting soulful experience.  Happy holiday and joyful celebrations.”

The march, making its 68th year since its establishment, is the oldest and largest march in Israel, and has become a tradition during the Sukkot holiday.  This year saw a record number of countries and participants.  Over 60,000 participants, including many delegations from across the country and dozens from 90 countries around the world, took part and marched through the unique landscapes of the city.  Among the participating countries were : the USA, Angola, Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Italy, Chile, Indonesia, Brazil, Fiji, Taiwan, Singapore, Norway, Australia, Canada, Japan and more.

The Jerusalem March included three main events this year: Morning Routes through Jerusalem’s stunning nature trails, a giant picnic for families in Sacher Park, and a festive parade through the streets of the center of Jerusalem led by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, accompanied by the police orchestra and security forces.  Additionally the event featured marching bands, IDF soldiers, flag bearers, street artists, dance groups and more.

The Jerusalem Municipality stated: “The Jerusalem March is the highlight of the Tishrei holiday events led by the Jerusalem Municipality, including the main Slichot events at the Sultan’s pool, Safra Square, and neighborhoods, a Sukkah at Safra Square, the Saharana (a Kurdish festival held on Sukkot), and other events.” 



New Police Unit Will Act Against Smuggling On Jordanian Border

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced Tuesday (3rd) that a new police unit will be established in the Judea and Samaria district.  The unit, expected to consist of tens of officers, and commence operations in 2024, will monitor and prevent arms smuggling attempts at the Israeli-Jordan border and will likely be named the Jordanian Border Unit.

“We must seal off our borders, especially the one with Jordan, from which illegal firearms are smuggled into Israel,” according to Ben-Gvir.  This challenge has become one of the major concerns for law enforcement in Israel in recent years as the number of smuggled firearms has been steadily increasing.

According to the Israel Police Intelligence division, most of the firearms are smuggled into Israel through the Jordanian border, which remains degraded and neglected.

Planning ahead of the new unit’s establishment has already begun, including the allocation of the required funding.  The unit’s designated mission will be to gather intelligence for the purpose of preventing smuggling attempts within the district.

The new unit will work in collaboration with other police units, including those operating on the Egyptian, Jordanian and Lebanese borders.  Additionally, it will likely cooperate with the IDF and the Shin Bet to maximize intelligence gathering and characterize the activity patterns of the smuggling networks.

“This will mark the addition of a specialized, integral unit that will combat arms smuggling and greatly contribute to strengthening Israel’s security and sovereignty on its eastern border.  After years of neglect, we’re promoting and taking steps in line with the uncompromising policy I lead against criminal organizations and terror,” Ben Gvir added.



British PM Sunak Visits Sukkah, Performs Jewish Holiday Ritual

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited a sukkah – an outdoor hut where observant Jews eat their meals during the ongoing Sukkot festival – and performed a traditional Jewish ritual on Tuesday (3rd).

The Board of Deputies of British Jews umbrella organization that has been advocating for UK Jewry for centuries, built the Sukkah outside of the Conservative party conference, which is currently being held in Manchester.

“”We were delighted to be visited at our #CPC2023 Sukkah this morning by Prime Minister @rishiSunak.  Wishing you all a Chag Sameach” wrote the Board of Deputies on X, the social networking platform formerly known as Twitter.

Sunak was photographed standing outside of the Sukkah and participating in the shaking of the lulav (date palm frond) and holding an etrog (citron), as part of the customary holiday rituals.

In September, Sunak released a statement wishing UK Jews and Jews in the Diaspora a happy new year, ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

“British Jews play an integral part in the success of this nation, and I am delighted the vibrant and diverse Jewish faith continues to thrive across the country,” Sunak said.

The premier reiterated his opposition to the BDS movement and said that he would work to combat Jew hatred and anti-Israel bias in the country.

“You can count on me to keep you safe, to champion the ban on boycotts, divestments and sanctions, and fight anti-semitism in any form.”

In December 2022, Sunak referred to the Abraham Accords normalization agreements as “one of the greatest achievements in the history of diplomacy in the Middle East.”

He emphasized that the UK “will continue to do all it can to leverage our strong ties with other Gulf States to expand the number of signatories to the agreement and enhance the already blossoming opportunities opened up by these ground-breaking agreements.”



Romania Marks Decision To Teach Jewish History, Holocaust In Schools

Romania, a former ally of Nazi Germany, on Tuesday (3rd) marked its decision to make the Holocaust and Jewish history part of the school curriculum, with Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu saying “facing up to a dark past is necessary for a strong democracy.” 

Romania was a German ally in World War II until August 1944… hundreds of thousands of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews and Roma were killed in areas under its control.

The EU state admitted for the first time in 2003 that it took part in the killings.

“I am among those who do not hesitate to talk about patriotism,” Ciolacu said at the ceremony to mark the new class in Jewish history and the Holocaust, which was approved in 2021.

“However, I believe that for a strong democratic nation, patriotism also means not hiding the dark parts of history and those who created them.”

Lawmaker Silviu Vexler, president of the federation of Jewish communities in Romania who initiated the curriculum change, said the class was “the first real move to fully take responsibility for what happened.”

Recently, far-right parties have gained ground across Europe.  In Romania, which holds presidential, general, local and European elections in 2024, the ultra-nationalist opposition party AUR, which swept into parliament in the previous election, has been rising in opinion surveys.

Ciolacu’s Social Democrats and the Liberal Party, parliament’s two largest parties which form the coalition government, have said they are exploring the possibility of pooling their candidates in elections to counter AUR’s rise.

Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews across German-occupied Europe.