News Digest — 11/11/20

Hezbollah Drone Downed By IDF On Lebanon Border

The IDF brought down a Hezbollah drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon on Tuesday (10th), the IDF reported.

The drone was identified and tracked during the entire incident and at no point posed a danger to troops or nearby civilian areas, the report said.  It was intercepted in the Galilee Panhandle, the northernmost section of the Upper Galilee.

The drone was intercepted by electronic warfare means, Ynet reported.  It was collected by the IDF, which is attempting to determine whether the drone was armed or was used for intelligence gathering purposes.

The Northern Command continues to maintain high alert and will not tolerate any violation of Israeli sovereignty, the IDF stated.

Former defense minister Naftali Bennett said it was a severe violation of Israel’s sovereignty and should be dealt with immediately.

“Israel cannot be satisfied with strategic defensive tools that allow the terrorist organization to keep growing.  Israel can’t accept this kind of threat,” he said.

Tension between Hezbollah and IDF troops stationed along the Lebanon border have been high in recent months after an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria on July 20 killed a Hezbollah operative.

At the time, Hezbollah said a retaliatory strike was “inevitable.”  It came roughly a month later, when the Iranian-backed militia fired at troops positioned at Kibbutz Menara in the Upper Galilee.  The IDF then responded by striking Hezbollah posts along the Lebanese border.

In August, an IDF drone was reportedly downed in Lebanese territory during operational activity near the border.  Hezbollah later issued a statement saying it had the drone.  The IDF said sensitive information had not been compromised.

In October, the IDF held a large-scale exercise simulating war with Hezbollah.  Called “Lethal Arrow,” the drill included thousands of troops from various branches and was aimed at improving the IDF’s offensive capabilities at all levels.



Lebanese Prime Minister’s Brother: ‘Time For Peace With Israel’

Bahaa Hariri, the son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, called on Lebanon and Israel to make peace.

“We have issues between us, and the Israelis and we have to resolve them, but at the end of the day we need to have peace.  I want my children to live in peace not war,” Hariri said in an interview with Axios.

Hariri praised the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over their maritime border, calling the talks “a positive step” for Lebanon.

However, he warned that the Hezbollah terrorist organization must not be allowed to obtain breathing room from the negotiations.

Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in a bombing attack in 2005 which was blamed on Hezbollah.  His brother, Saad, is the current Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Bahaa warned that his brother must not form a government which includes Hezbollah following the resignation of the entire Lebanese Cabinet in response to the massive explosion in the Port of Beirut in August.



Israeli Diplomatic Mission Leaving For Sudan Next Week

An official Israeli delegation will leave for Sudan next week, the first diplomatic mission to the African country since President Donald Trump announced the two sides had agreed to normalize ties under American mediation, Kan News reported Tuesday (10th).

“The first official Israeli mission will head to Khartoum, in Sudan next Sunday (15th),” tweeted Kan News  Arab diplomatic affairs reporter Shimon Aran, who did not reveal his inside source of information, acknowledging that no official Israeli or Sudanese authority had yet publicly verified the diplomatic mission.

An Israeli delegation was in Sudan about three weeks ago ahead of the declaration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.  The Israeli plane that flew the delegation traveled directly from Ben Gurion Airport to Khartoum, having been given special permission by Sudan.

Two days later, on October 24, Trump announced a normalization agreement between Israel and Sudan.  At the time, the president noted that the heads of Sudan, Israel and other countries would soon arrive in Washington and said that at least five other countries “want to sign a peace agreement with Israel.”  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “dramatic breakthrough for peace” and a “tremendous revolution.”

That move followed the White House announcement that Trump had informed Congress of his intent to remove Sudan from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, following Khartoum’s agreement to pay $335 million in compensation to victims of the Al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and on the destroyer USS Cole in 2000 – attacks that American courts ruled Sudan aided and abetted.

A news report Tuesday (10th) said Sudan will allow Israel’s national El Al airline to fly through its airspace for the first time.  An El Al charter flight will fly empty to Uganda on Sunday (15th) and return with 153 Ugandans coming on an agricultural mission to Israel under the auspices of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

However, a senior Sudanese official told the Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that Sudan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed they had received a request from its Israeli counterpart for Israeli aircraft to pass through Sudanese airspace.  The official said authorities “are studying the request” and that they have not yet issued final approval.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday (10th) that it is receiving many positive messages from all over the Arab world, including Sudan.

“Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs receives thousands of messages every week from people in Arab countries expressing their support for peace,” tweeted Yonatan Gonen, head of Arabic-language News Media Section at the ministry.

Gonen posted a drawing of a dove of peace that was sent to the ministry, calling it a “beautiful message we received from Sudan.”



US Approves Advanced Defense Capabilities For UAE

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Congress Tuesday (10th) of the government’s intention to send advanced weapons and defense systems to the United Arab Emirates.

The full statement of Secretary Pompeo follows:

The United Arab Emirates is a longtime vital US security partner.  Today, I directed the Department to formally notify Congress of our intent to authorize the UAE’s proposed purchase of several advanced capabilities that are worth $23.37 billion, for up to 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, valued at $10.4 billion; up to 18 MQ-98 Unmanned Aerial Systems, valued at $2.97 billion; and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, valued at $10 billion.  This is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran.

The UAE’s historic agreement to normalize relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape.  Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success.  The proposed sale will make the UAE even more capable and interoperable with US partners in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Edge.

Security cooperation and defense trade are powerful tools of American diplomacy.  Today’s announcement echoes the enhanced defense cooperation we embarked upon with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Camp David Accords, as well as our closer security relationship with Jordan following its normalization of ties with Israel in 1994.  Together, we are committed to securing the success of the Abraham Accords.



Fortress From Time Of King David Discovered In The Golan

A fortified complex from the time of King David (Iron Age eleventh to tenth centuries BCE) was exposed for the first time in archaeological excavations carried out by IAA in Hispin in the Golan.

The archaeologists consider that the fort was built by the Kingdom of Geshur, the ally of King David, in order to control the region.

The excavation was undertaken prior to the construction of a new neighborhood in Hispin, and funded by the Ministry of Housing and Construction and the Golan Regional Council, with the participation of many residents of Hispin and Nov, and youth from the pre-military academies at Natur, Kfar Hanassi, Elrom, Metzar and Qaztrin.

According to Barak Tzin and Enno Bron, Excavation Directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The complex we exposed was built at a strategic location on a hilltop above the El-Al canyon, overlooking the region, at a spot where it was possible to cross the river.  The almost 5 foot walls, built of large basalt boulders, encompassed the hill.  In the excavation, we were astonished to discover a rare and exciting find: a large basalt stone with a schematic engraving of two horned figures with outspread arms.  There may also be another object next to them.”

It is noteworthy that in 2019, a figure carved on a cultic stone was found in the Bethsaida Expedition Project, directed by Dr. Rami Arav of Nebraska University, at Bethsaida just north of the Sea of Galilee.

The stele, depicting a horned figure with outspread arms, was erected next to a raised platform adjacent to the city gate.  This scene was identified by Arav as representing the Moon-God Cult.  The Hispin stone was located on a shelf next to the entrance, and not one, but two figures were depicted on it.

According to the archaeologists, “It is possible that a person who saw the impressive Bethsaida stele, decided to create a local copy of it.”

The fortified city of Bethsaida is considered by scholars to be the capital of the Aramean Kingdom of Geshur, that ruled the central and southern Golan 3,000 years ago.  According to the Bible, the kingdom upheld diplomatic and family relations with the House of David: One of David’s wives was Maacah, the daughter of Talmi, King of Geshur.

Cities of the Kingdom of Geshur are known along the Sea of Galilee shore, including Tel En Gev, Tel Hadar and Tel Sorag, but sites are little known in the Golan.  This unique fortified complex raises new research issues on the settlement of the Golan in the Iron Age.

Following this discovery, changes in the development plans will be carried out together with the Ministry of Housing and Construction, in order that the unique fortified complex will not be damaged.

The complex will be developed as an open area along the El-Al river bank, where educational-archaeological activities will be carried out, as part of cultural heritage and a link with the past.  This aligns with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s policy, that learning the past through experiencing work in the field, strengthens the younger generation’s bonds with their roots.