News Digest — 11/16/20

Netanyahu To Gaza Terror Groups After Rocket Attack: ‘Price Of Aggression Will Be Heavy’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stark warning to Gaza’s terrorist organizations on Sunday (15th) following an overnight rocket attack, saying the price for further attacks “will be heavy, very heavy.”

Rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward central and southern Israel overnight Saturday (14th), setting off air raid sirens but causing no injuries.

Shortly after, the IDF scrambled fighter jets and attack helicopters, as well as tanks on the ground, to launch a series of retaliatory strikes against terrorist infrastructure in the Strip.

Netanyahu responded to the incident at the opening of the weekly Cabinet meeting, saying, “I never give details of our operational plans, but I say to them – the price of continuing the aggression will be heavy, very heavy.”

“We will not accept any aggression against the State of Israel and Israeli citizens,” he continued.  “I warn the terror organizations in Gaza: even during the time of the coronavirus – don’t test us.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also warned Gaza’s terrorists, saying, “Our reaction this morning was swift and immediate, and it was definitely not the last.”

“We are taking action so that quiet will be maintained,” he added.



Assassinated Al-Qaeda Terrorist Planned Attacks On Jews And Israelis

A top Al-Qaeda leader assassinated by Israeli agents was planning attacks on Jews and Israelis around the world, Israel’s Channel 12 reported Saturday (14th).

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah was on the FBI’s most-wanted list with a $10 million price tag on his head.

Abdullah was killed in a Tehran shooting on August 7.

A report on Friday (13th), linked to US intelligence sources, said the killing of Abdullah, who the FBI said used the alias Abu Muhammad al-Masri, had been carried out by agents of Israel’s Mossad spy agency in collaboration with the United States.  The Americans had been hunting the wanted terrorist for decades.

“Abu Muhammad al-Masri began planning terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jewish targets around the world, and thus the interests were united by both the United States and Israel,” Israeli security sources told Channel 12.

The August assassination was on the anniversary of the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya that killed more than 200 people.

Abdullah is believed to have been the mastermind behind the attacks.

Immediately after the assassination the Iranians chose to remain silent and concocted a cover story that a “Lebanese professor” was killed due to his ties with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.  However, that story was denied in Lebanon.

The assassination was apparently designed to continue the message sent to the Iranian leadership that began with the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January.

“Those responsible for major terrorist attacks against the US and its friends in the region are not immune from harm – they may find their deaths not only in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the heart of Tehran,” Channel 12 reported, quoting Israeli security sources.



Bahrain Foreign Minister To Meet With Netanyahu, Pompeo In Jerusalem This Week

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani will visit Israel for the first time on Wednesday (18th), the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Sunday (15th).

Al-Zayani is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is set to be in Israel from Wednesday (18th) through Friday (20th)

It is still unclear if Israel and Bahrain will sign agreements during Al-Zayani’s visit, though Jerusalem seeks to start direct flights between the countries as soon as possible.

The Cabinet ratified the normalization deal with Bahrain on Sunday (15th).

“This is the product of a continuous effort that we have led over the years, an effort to expand the circle of peace.” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.

Last month, the government ratified a similar deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Both deals were brokered by US President Donald Trump’s administration under the Abraham Accords.   

“The establishment of peaceful relations and normalization with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan constitutes a vast achievement for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Pompeo is expected to discuss the accords, Iran and China with Netanyahu on his visit.

He is also expected to visit the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia during his regional trip, which ends on November 23.

During a briefing with reporters prior to his trip, which began on Saturday (14th) with a stop in France, State Department officials said that the Trump administration was still eyeing more deals.

Media reports have indicated that Pompeo may visit the Psagot Winery, which is located in the Sha’ar Binyamin Industrial Park in the West Bank, as well as Jesus’ baptismal site in the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights.  However, the State Department declined to comment on the details of Pompeo’s visit.



Hamas Leader Who Called For Slaughter Of Every Jew On Planet ‘Infected With Coronavirus’  

A senior Hamas leader who called for “the slaughter of every Jew on planet Earth” tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently quarantined, the terror group announced on Sunday (15th).

Fathi Hammad, who served as Interior Minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for five years, attracted international attention for a fiery 2019 speech urging Palestinians around the world to attack Jews.

Speaking at a March of Return rally in 2019, Hammad called on the “Zionist enemy” to lift the blockade or face serious consequences.

“We have many methods and means up our sleeves, and they are just waiting for the green light,” he said.  “The Israelis think that we are rational people.  Well, we are not.  The people of Gaza aren’t rational.”

Blaming the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation on Israel, he said Gazans would not starve to death quietly.  “If we die, it will be while we are killing you and cutting off your heads, Allah willing,” he said.

Hammad then called upon Palestinians around the world to murder Jews in their countries of residence.  

“There are Jews everywhere.  We must attack every Jew on planet Earth, we must slaughter and kill them with Allah’s help.”

He said Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria should begin attacking local Jews.  “You can buy knives for five shekels,” he said.  “How much is the neck of a Jew worth to us – isn’t it worth five shekels or even less?”

After international outcry over the incendiary remarks, Hamas distanced itself from Hamad’s comments.

Hammad is the latest in a number of Hamas officials who have contracted the coronavirus.  Deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri recently survived a bout.

Gaza has reported 45 deaths from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020.



Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi Named Next IDF Deputy Chief Of Staff

Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi has been named the next IDF deputy chief of staff, the military says.

Halevi, a former head of Military Intelligence who currently leads the IDF Southern Command, was nominated for the position by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has approved the recommendation.

“Herzi is an officer with immense experience, who has carried out command and staff positions excellently throughout the IDF system. As someone who has known him for decades, I am confident that he will be an excellent deputy chief of staff, who will help the chief of staff and all IDF commanders to lead the military in the face of dynamic challenges on all operational fronts and in the necessary force build-up processes,” Gantz says.

Halevi will replace Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who has served in the position for two years.



Kinneret (Sea Of Galilee) Rises After Rain

The Israel Hydrological Service announced in May that the country had, for the first time in 30 years, experienced its second straight year of above-average rainfall with 24% more rain recorded.

The Kinneret rose by 9.87 feet in the last rainy season, earlier this year, reaching its highest level since 2004, as high as 685.3 feet below sea level, just 3.5 inches below the upper red line.

Peridinium algae also bloomed in the Kinneret for the first time in eight years, with no poisonous algae seen.

The 2018-2019 rainy season was also marked by higher than average amounts of rainfall with 33% more rainfall recorded. The Kinneret rose by 11.38 feet last year.  The last time two consecutive years were recorded with rainfall at this high a level, above average, was 1986-1988.

The Water Authority decided to open a canal to divert five billion liters of water from the Kinneret to the southern Jordan River in April, with the goal of bypassing the Degania Dam in order to avoid negatively affecting pumping stations in the area and the financial costs required to open the dam.

The expectation had been that if the lake exceeded the upper red line threshold, the Degania Dam would be opened and the water would be diverted to the Jordan River.  The last time it was opened was in 2013.  The dam had been expected to be partially opened at the beginning of May in order to prevent flooding, according to the Kinneret Draining Authority.

Until only 15 years ago, the lake was one of Israel’s primary sources of drinking water, as the country’s first large-scale desalination facility in Ashkelon only became operational in 2005.