News Digest — 11/16/21

Israel To Sign First-Ever Security Agreement With Arab State

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will visit Rabat later this month for the signing of security cooperation agreements with his Moroccan counterpart, his office said Tuesday (16th).

It will be the first trip to the North African country by an Israeli defense minister and the first time such bilateral agreements are signed with an Arab state.

In Israel, the assessment is that Rabat is interested in signing the security deals due to its tensions with Algeria, as the agreements will allow Morocco to procure various military items from Israel and hold joint training exercises out in the open.

Algeria formally broke off diplomatic relations with neighboring Morocco in August, citing a series of alleged hostile acts including Rabat’s recent rapprochement with Jerusalem.

Morocco was one of four Arab countries that agreed to normalize ties with Israel last year under the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by former US President Donald Trump’s administration, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Gantz is expected in Morocco November 24-25.  Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Morocco in August to inaugurate a diplomatic liaison office in the capital, Rabat.

Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the Second Intifada erupted in 2000.

The two countries maintained informal ties, with thousands of Israelis traveling to Morocco each year.  Hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews are of Moroccan descent, and the African country is still home to a small Jewish community.

The Abraham Accords have been widely hailed as a breakthrough in Middle East diplomacy, with Israel saying it hopes to reach similar agreements with other Arab nations.



Report: Egypt Passed Israel A Diplomatic Document For Ceasefire With Hamas

Egypt is working to achieve a five-year ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Hamas terror group, as well as a prisoner swap and reconstruction in Gaza, Lebanon’s Al Akhbar reported.

The report also noted that Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel is expected to visit Israel soon.

On Monday (15th) it was reported that an Israeli security delegation had landed in Cairo and held a meeting with senior Egyptian officials to discuss security issues in the region.  At the same time, Al Akhbar reported Tuesday morning (16th), that the Egyptians had passed their Israeli counterparts a diplomatic document connected to the conflict with Hamas, with the goal of achieving a fire-year ceasefire between the sides and bringing about a prisoner swap.

“The Egyptians passed the Israeli delegation a diplomatic document connected to the security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, which has the goal of achieving a ceasefire for more than five years, including a deal for a prisoner swap and rehabilitating and improving the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinians,” Palestinian sources told the Lebanese paper.

Al Akhbar also said that the diplomatic developments will continue to be directly between Jerusalem and Cairo, and that the purpose of the upcoming visit by Egypt’s Kamel is to bring about a long-term ceasefire with Gaza and complete the deal for the prisoner swap.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire in May, but a stable long-term agreement has yet to be reached.



Israel To Hold Drill In Jerusalem Simulating ‘Dirty Bomb’ Attack

The Israeli Defense Ministry said it will hold a large-scale exercise in Jerusalem on Tuesday (16th) which will simulate a terror attack with a radiological device.

The drill will take place in the city’s Teddy Kollek Stadium and in the adjacent Pais Arena complex.

The Defense Ministry and Israel Police will lead the exercise, with participants from the military, Fire and Rescue Services, Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Health Ministry, Environmental Protection Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. 

The drill aims to simulate how the country’s government and emergency services would respond to a non-conventional  terror attack with a so-called ‘dirty-bomb,’ which includes radioactive elements.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the exercise, “planned in advance, is not linked to a specific scenario.”

Numerous security forces and emergency vehicles will be mobilized in the streets of Jerusalem.

Last October, Israel’s security forces launched a five-day exercise, simulating a full-scale war with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Some Israeli military officials consider the Lebanese faction to be the second most serious threat to Israel’s security, after Iran’s nuclear power.

The purpose of the exercise was to determine how prepared emergency response organizations – the military, police, firefighters, and medical services – are for potential future conflict.



Iran Buying Property At Strategic Locations In Syria To Create Bases

Representatives of the radical Shiite axis headed by Iran are purchasing real estate and are investing in the Damascus region, as part of their drive to cement their presence in the country, the Alma Research and Education Center reported.

Alma Center said that there has been a concentration of land acquisition efforts near Damascus International Airport and along the highway leading to it from the city.  The areas where land was purchased are al-Malihah, Shebaa, Deir al-Asafir, and Hutaytet al-Turkman.

“Iran aims to create a foothold in strategic places such as border crossings and major airports, enabling it to create a continuous and secure land and air corridor from Iran to Syria and from there to Lebanon and Hezbollah,” the report said.

For Iran, control of the Al-Bukamal border crossing with Iraq and control of the Damascus airport and its environs are necessary to create a land bridge between Iran and Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea.

“Control of this land corridor effectively allows Iran territorial continuity, allowing it to securely transfer goods, supplies, and weapons,” Alma Center noted.

The route allows Iran to send forces, supplies, and weapons through Iraq to Syria and from there to Lebanon.

“For Iran, this is a first-rate economic and security issue and the fulfillment of the vision of exporting the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East while establishing a direct front against the ‘Little Devil’ – Israel,” the Center explained.

Iran routinely attempts to arm the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization with advanced weapons, including by air shipments through Damascus Airport.  Israel is exposing and thwarting multiple attempts by Iran to transfer game-changing weapons to Hezbollah, and this land-bridge strategy could pose a new challenge to the Israeli efforts.

The Israeli Air Force has carried out thousands of attacks to thwart the Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country and to prevent Hezbollah from accumulating advanced weapons.

Besides supporting its direct proxy, Tehran has also worked to allow other terror entities to advance their operations beyond their borders.

In a report released in October, the Alma Center exposed extensive Hamas activity in Lebanon made possible due to Iran’s support.

The report identified Hamas’ principal senior political and military leaders in Lebanon, as well as large-scope military projects and the locations of key sites operated by Hamas within Lebanon.

In September, an Iranian general boasted of Iran’s military might through its proxies, claiming that Iran has “six armies outside its borders that work for it.”



Government Figures: No Let-Up In Anti-Semitic Incidents In Germany During 2021

New statistics released by Germany’s federal government on Monday (15th) showed no let-up in the number of anti-Semitic incidents this year, with an average of six targeting Jews every 24 hours.

As of November 5, a total of 1,850 anti-Semitic crimes had been reported during 2021, the federal government said in response to a request from Petra Pau, a leader of the Left Party and the vice-president of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.  The data was gathered from case statistics of the Federal Criminal Police Office on politically-motivated crime, the news outlet Welt reported.

Anti-Semitism policy experts expressed fear that the final total of incidents in 2021 could exceed that of previous years.  In 2019, 2,032 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Germany, while in 2020 – a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown – the total increased to 2,351.

Of this year’s incidents, 35 have involved physical violence, with 17 people injured as a result of the anti-Semitic attacks.

According to Welt, only 930 suspects were identified, and just five have been arrested, resulting in criticism of police inaction from some politicians.   

“The culture of impunity motivates offenders to commit crimes and demotivates victims to report them,” Petra Pau commented.  “Anti-Semitic crimes must finally be consistently prosecuted.”

Additional concern was voiced regarding those incidents that are not reported, which experts believe account for most of anti-Semitic offenses in Germany.

“If the reporting rate for particularly severe anti-Semitic incidents, such as those involving physical violence, is only 20 percent, the actual extent of anti-Semitic acts is much higher than shown by the figures,” said Benjamin Steinitz, director of the Federal Association of Research and Information Centers for Anti-Semitism (RIAS).

“If the trend continues, the total number of anti-Semitic crimes this year could again exceed the high of the previous year,” Steinitz added.