News Digest — 10/6/23

General Closure in Judea and Samaria, Gaza Crossings During Simchat Torah

In accordance with the assessment of the security situation and the guidance of the political echelon, a general closure will be placed on Judea and Samaria and the crossings to the Gaza Strip will be closed during the Holiday of Simchat Torah, which begins Friday (6th) at sundown and end Saturday evening (7th).

The closure will end, subject to a situational assessment on Saturday night at 11:59 p.m., at which time  the crossings to the Gaza Strip will be opened as well.

During the closure, passage will be allowed for humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases only, and is subject to the approval of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law) follows on the heels of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), which ends Friday night (6th).



Netanyahu Ordered Faster Work On Huwara Bypass Road After Shooting

Following the latest terrorist attacks in Huwara, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a discussion Thursday evening (5th) with the participation of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar, Central Command Commander Yehuda Fuchs, and Military Secretary to the Prime MInister Avi Gil.

The Prime Minister said that Israel must not tolerate the terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, and instructed the IDF and the Shin Bet to increase their defense and countermeasures against the terrorist elements, with the focus on the main thoroughfare in Huwara.

Netanyahu also addressed the pace of the construction of the Huwara bypass road and issued instructions that the bypass road be completed and opened in half the time as currently scheduled.

He instructed the IDF and security officials to bring to him additional methods of action to combat terrorism and increase the security of residents in the Judea and Samaria region.  The discussions will continue on Sunday morning (8th). 

The latest shooting in Huwara took place Thursday (5th) when a terrorist approached an Israeli vehicle and opened fire repeatedly at close range.  The backseat window of a car driven by a pregnant woman who had a small child with her, was shattered.

IDF forces, acting on Shin Bet intelligence, tracked down the shooter and eliminated him in a shootout.



Israel Sends Medical Team To Armenia To Treat Blast Victims As Country’s Only Synagogue Vandalized By PLO-led group

An Israel medical delegation flew to Armenia this week after an explosion at a fuel depot killed at least 20 people and injured hundreds more on September 25.  The blast took place in the town of Stepanakert, also known as Khankendi, which is located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was recently captured by Azerbaijan in a lightning offensive.

Because of the lack of medical facilities, the injured are being treated in Yerevan.  An estimated 30,000 Armenians have fled the region.

The 14-person Israeli medical delegation arrived in Yerevan this week at the request of the World Health Organization and the Armenian Ministry of Health, making them the first foreign relief to arrive. 

On Tuesday (3rd), the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), a militant Armenian group that was armed and trained by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1980s, claimed responsibility for an arson attack at the country’s only synagogue, according to Azerbaijan media reports.

Pictures and videos on social media showed masked men smearing red paint on the facade of the Mordechay Navi Jewish Religious Center in Yerevan.

“The Jews are the enemies of the Armenian nation, complicit in Turkish crimes and the regime of Aliyev, stained with the blood of the Republic of Armenia,” Azerbaijani outlets cited a statement from the group as saying.  “This is a warning: our successful operation on October 3 in Yerevan is only the beginning.  Every rabbi will be on our radar.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Zamir Isayev, a prominent figure in the Jewish community of Azerbaijan, issued an immediate and dire warning on Thursday (5th) amidst the escalating war between Azerbaijan and Armenia: “I repeat my call to the Jews in Armenia: leave, and if you need help, I’ll take care of it.  Leave before it’s too late… .




Hamas Reeling After Senior Official  Revealed To Be Israeli Spy

An Israeli intelligence agent successfully infiltrated the upper echelons of Hamas in Lebanon, sending shockwaves through the terror organization and causing significant embarrassment.

The agent in question, identified as Khalil Abu Maza, a Hamas operative from the Gaza Strip, had been operating undercover for years, working closely with Israeli intelligence.

The reports also say he was arrested by Lebanese authorities towards the end of September.  He apparently came to the attention of Lebanese officials working to calm an outbreak of fighting in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in August.

The successful infiltration of a Hamas operative into the upper ranks of the organization has caused significant concern among its leadership.

Saleh Arouri, who is believed to be a top target for Israeli assassination, is said to be particularly worried about the security breach.

According to Lebanese intelligence reports, Abu Maza was originally tasked with infiltrating the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a mission carried out with remarkable success.

Under the guidance of his Israeli handlers, he climbed the ranks of Hamas, especially within its Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Four years ago, Abu Maza was instructed to relocate to Turkey, where he was aided by his father, who held close ties to the Hamas leadership.

In Istanbul, he claimed to be working for a Turkish charity, using this cover to connect with senior Hamas officials in Gaza.

Abu Maza’s rise within the organization allowed him to gain access to sensitive information, including details about weapons depots.

One such depot was subsequently targeted and bombed by Israel, leaving Hamas stunned and unable to comment on the attack due to the shock it had caused.

Abu Maza’s proximity to the top leadership of Hamas also provided him with valuable insights into the organization’s activities in Judea and Samaria.

Lebanese reports suggest that Abu Maza was not limited to his activities within Gaza but also maintained contacts with the “Hegada Headquarters,” which was based in Gaza and Turkey and oversaw terror attacks in Judea and Samaria.

As part of his mission, Abu Maza was instructed by his Israeli handlers to request a transfer to Lebanon.  However, when Hamas in Lebanon declined to accept him from Turkey, Israeli Intelligence intervened.  They informed Turkish authorities that Abu Maza was a terrorist operative, potentially jeopardizing Turkish-Israeli relations.  Turkey deported Abu Maza to Lebanon, aligning with Israel’s original plan.

Hamas contends that Abu Maza never underwent a security investigation during his time in Turkey and was questioned upon arrival in Lebanon.  When asked to name terrorist operatives with whom he had been in contact, Abu Maza was unable to provide any names, suggesting he lacked such connections.

Nevertheless, Abu Maza resided in close proximity to senior Hamas officials, including Saleh Arouri, the overall commander of Hamas activities in Judea and Samaria, and Samir Pandi, the terror group’s top figure in Lebanon.

Abu Maza allegedly passed on valuable information to Israeli intelligence regarding IDF operations being conducted from Lebanese soil and the influx of new recruits from Gaza into Lebanon.

He also operated within Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon on behalf of Hamas, supplying weapons and funds.  He even attempted to thwart the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Fatah, all at the behest of Israeli intelligence, according to Lebanese sources.

Notably, Abu Maza had connections with Hamza Shahin, a prominent Hamas figure who died in a mysterious explosion at a weapons warehouse underneath a mosque in the Burj el-Shemali refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Dec. 10, 2021.

While Hamas attributed the incident to a gas cylinder explosion, Lebanese sources suggest it was a significant weapons depot held by Hamas.

Hamas officials have downplayed Abu Maza’s activities, with one senior official claiming to have encountered him by chance in Turkey and noted that he had primarily worked in non-military sectors.

Another Hamas member, Akran Ajouri, commented on the situation, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the reputation of Abu Maza’s father, a respected member of the organization.

Now, authorities in Lebanon are investigating whether Abu Maza managed to establish additional cells and whether he poses a threat to the top leadership of Hamas in future conflicts.



Where Are The Palestinian Concessions For Peace? – Bassam Tawil

During the past three decades,Israel has made countless concessions to the Palestinians to advance peace and coexistence.  In 1993-95, Israel signed the Oslo Accords, giving the Palestinians full security and civilian control over large parts of the West Bank and Gaza.  After that, thousands of PLO members stationed in Arab countries were allowed to move to the West Bank and Gaza.  Israel released thousands of Palestinian security prisoners, including many involved in terrorist attacks against Israelis.

The Palestinians, however, were never asked by the U.S. and other international parties to make concessions to Israel.  The Israeli concessions did not advance the peace process.  Instead, they were seen by the Palestinians as a sign of weakness. 

In recent weeks, talk about a need for Israel to offer new concessions to the Palestinians has resurfaced, as the U.S. pursues its efforts to achieve a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.  Yet the experiences of the past have proved that concessions to the Palestinians do not bring peace.  The assumption that the more land you give to the Palestinians, the more peace you get, has proven to be false.

The Idea of transferring more land to the Palestinians sends a message to the Palestinian Authority that, after it failed to combat terrorism in land under its control, it will be rewarded with even more land.  Palestinians would correctly conclude that “terrorism works,” providing a further disincentive for the Palestinian Authority to rein in the terror groups.  The U.S should demand that the Palestinians, not Israel, make concessions for peace.



My First Encounter With Jews Changed My Life – Rawan Osman

In 2011, I moved from Damascus to Strasbourg, France.  I found accommodation in the Jewish Quarter.  I had never seen a Jew in real life, although the Jews were always in the center of my existence, they were in the school history books, in Egyptian films, as spies, in reports about the Palestinians, in the news as the aggressor.  They were the antagonists with whom we were never to speak.  As I grew older and Hezbollah became stronger, the term “Jew”became, in my world, synonymous with “enemy,” or even “monster.”

Yet those Jews I watched from my window in Strasbourg seemed nice.  Meeting Israelis left me under the impression: they are just like us, normal people.  And just like us, they too would love to live in peace with us.  Our reality in the Middle East does indeed include war-mongering monsters, and they are those who vow to rid the region of Jews.

Israel did not kill half a million Syrians.  The Syrian regime did, with the help of the Iranian regime and Hezbollah.  Even Palestinian life doesn’t matter to the Syrian regime who imposed a siege on the Yarmouk Camp for many years after 2011, causing more than 200 Palestinians to die of starvation.  Many of those who survived the siege were eating grass.

The people of the Middle East realized in the past years that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a pretext for the Axis of Resistance to gain power.  It is time for them to learn that what they know about Israel and the Jews is wrong, and that peace can reign and replace the senseless suffering.

The writer is a Syrian-Lebanese peace activist, studying Jewish and Islamic Studies at Heidelberg University, Germany