News Digest — 11/18/20

10 Dead, Including 5 Iranians In Israeli Airstrikes On Syria

At least 10 people were killed and more injured in Israeli airstrikes in Syria overnight, a monitor group reported Wednesday morning (18th).

Israeli military aircraft struck air defense batteries and an army base used by Iran’s Quds force in Syria late Tuesday night (17th) and early Wednesday morning (18th).

According to a report by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Israeli aircraft bombed a Syrian army air defense center, as well as a regional headquarters for the Quds Force in Syria and supply depots and weapons caches used by pro-Iranian forces.

The targets were struck in Damascus and south of the capital, including in Sayyidah, Zaynab and Kiswah.

A total of 10 fatalities were reported, all of them combatants, the SOHR said.

The casualties included three Syrian air defense personnel, five Iranians, and two pro-Iranian fighters, whose identities have yet to be confirmed.  They are likely Lebanese or Iraqi nationals, the SOHR report said.

Syria’s state media outlet SANA, confirmed that three soldiers had been killed and that a fourth was injured.

The SOHR report added that the number of dead is expected to increase, given the large number of injured.

The airstrikes reportedly resulted in “significant material losses” for the Quds Force in Syria.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the attack was carried out in response to the placement of explosives near the border fence with Israel in Israeli territory, by a Syrian squad operating under Iranian guidance.



IDF Finds Several Bombs On Golan Border – Syrian Regime Responsible

The IDF on Tuesday (17th) said that troops discovered several bombs planted on the Israeli side of the Israel-Syria border and warned the Syrian government about the incident.

“We just exposed a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDS) near the Israeli side of the Alpha Line on the southern Golan Heights,” the IDF tweeted.  “We hold the Syrian regime responsible for all events in Syria and will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty.”

The Alpha Line is located in the 235-square-kilometer demilitarized buffer zone between Israel and Syria that is monitored by a special United Nations peacekeeping force.  It is the west boundary of the zone that is about 48 miles long and ranges in width from half a mile to 6 miles.  No Syrian forces are allowed past the Bravo Line, on the eastern side of the zone.

The explosives were neutralized by combat engineers who had just wrapped up a training exercise simulating combat on the northern front, i24News reported.

Earlier this month, the commander of an IDF division base on the Syrian border said that his forces had carried out several raids in October against military fortifications close to the Israel-Syria border.  The Syrian army positions had been set up illegally in the neutral demilitarized buffer zone in violation of the ceasefire agreement signed by the two countries.

“Israel does not currently see any threat from Syria as a State,” said Brigadier General Roman Goffman, but it fears an increase in the concentration of fighters from Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is known to be operating in the northern Golan Heights with the support of Iran.

“The biggest threat I see when I look at Syria’s borders is the establishment of a front line between Iran and Hezbollah in southern Syria against Israel.  This is the most important threat.  We do not see a threat in Syria because it represents a country that needs to work and rebuild itself,” Goffman said of the country that has been ravaged by a decade of civil war.

In August, the IDF thwarted another IED attack in the southern Golan Heights, killing four terrorists who were planting bombs along the border when they were spotted.



UN Secretary General: Hezbollah Violating Resolution 1701

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated in a report to the Security Council this week that Hezbollah’s armament was in violation of resolution 1701 and that the Lebanese government must act to correct the situation.

One of the central points of the report is that the Lebanese government is required to give UNIFIL forces access to the terrorist tunnels found by the IDF, and to act to disarm Hezbollah.

Following the submission of the report on Resolution 1701 by the Secretary General, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, wrote an official letter to the UN Security Council demanding immediate action against the continued  procurement of armaments by Hezbollah and the disarmament of the terrorist organization.

The Security Council is currently discussing the implementation of the decision made at the end of the Second Lebanon War (Resolution 1701), which criticizes Hezbollah’s armed activities in Lebanon. 

“Hezbollah uses human shields to protect its arsenal of more than 130,000 rockets and military infrastructure.  It systematically deprives UNIFIL of its ability to discharge its mandate by restricting the organization’s freedom of movement in an effort to hide its activity,” Erdan wrote in his letter.

Ambassador Erdan added: “The Security Council must declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization immediately and not allow it to receive any direct or indirect assistance.”

Erdan also provided Council members with a special map prepared by the IDF, marking the areas where terrorist tunnels were discovered, sites from which attacks against Israel were launched, and “Green without Borders” observation posts (a fictitious Hezbollah organization that collects intelligence on IDF soldiers). The map also indicates the places where the access of UNIFIL soldiers were blocked, as was explained in the Secretary General’s report.  The proximity between the areas where there is terrorist activity, and the places where the movement of UNIFIL forces is restricted, can be clearly seen.


Palestinians Restore Ties With Israel

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday (17th) said it has decided to renew its relations with Israel, including security coordination, after receiving assurances that Israel would abide by its signed agreements with the Palestinians.

The announcement was made by Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA General Authority for Civil Affairs, who is in charge of coordination between the Palestinians and Israel.

Senior Israeli officials confirmed that security coordination with the PA was being restored.

The decision is likely to hinder efforts to end the dispute between the ruling Palestinian Fatah faction and Hamas, which has long opposed security coordination between the PA and Israel, dubbing it an act of treason.

The decision to restore the ties came in light of contacts made by PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas “regarding Israel’s commitment to the bilateral and signed agreements,” Sheikh said.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinians have received a written document in which Israel pledges to abide by all agreements with the Palestinians, but gave no further details.

A senior PA official said the Palestinians also have agreed to receive the tax revenues that Israel collects on their behalf.  In the past six months, the Palestinians have refused to accept the tax revenues due to Israel’s decision to deduct the sum of stipends paid by the PA to the families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed during terrorist attacks on Israelis.

In May, Abbas announced that the PA was “absolved” of all security agreements and understandings with Israel.  His announcement came in response to the Israeli “annexation” plan and in protest of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”



Hamas, Islamic Jihad Condemn Coordination With Israel

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations on Tuesday evening (17th) blasted the announcement of the resumption of coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman said the announcement was a “violation of the decisions made at the gathering of the leaders of the Palestinian organizations,” adding that it poses a “fundamental difficulty in the face of Palestinian internal reconciliation.”

Hamas condemned the decision and said, “The PA provides an excuse to the normalization camp with Israel.  We call on the PA to take back the decision and not to bet on Biden and others.”

Earlier on Tuesday evening (17th), the Palestinian Authority announced that it was renewing ties with Israel, restoring them to the level they were until last May.

Tuesday’s (17th) announcement means the resumption of security coordination between Israel and the PA, as well as the resumption of the transfer of tax money collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.  

This does not bode well with Hamas and the PIJ since their ongoing objective is to unite all Palestinians against Israel. 



Emiratis Unperturbed By Fatwa Banning Them From Prayers On Temple Mount

DUBAI – Emirati worshipers remain defiant in the face of a “fatwa” banning them from praying in al-Aqsa Mosque, claiming it is their religious right to do so.

The “fatwa” was issued by the grand mufti of Jerusalem after the August announcement of normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel under the Abraham Accords.

The decree has been met with criticism from religious leaders in the region, including Dr. Abbas Shuman, a member of Al-Azhar’s Committee of Senior Scholars in Egypt, who rejected the “fatwa” as un-Islamic.

“To the best of my knowledge, our Islamic history has not witnessed any “fatwa” by the forefathers and their descendants banning any Muslim from praying in any mosque around the world,” he told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Palestinians burned Israeli and Emirati flags after the countries’ normalization announcement on August 13, including images of the UAE’s de facto ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the Temple Mount.  

Recently, an Emirati delegation was verbally abused and threatened while visiting Al-Aqsa.  But Emirati Lubna Khawaja, one of the founders of the UAE-Israel Youth Forum, remained defiant.

“I’m not afraid,” she said.  “It’s our right as Muslims to experience this.”

Emirati, Majid Al Sarrah, (among others), said although he would like to see Al-Aqsa, he won’t visit there if enough security measures aren’t in place.  However he said he is looking forward to visiting Israel, and seeing the historical city of Jerusalem and traveling to see Tel Aviv, Haifa and more.