News Digest — 11/19/20

IDF: The Terror Cell Behind Placing Of IEDs Is Unit 840 Of Iran’s Quds Force

The IDF has revealed that the terror cell behind the placing of anti-personnel mines and other improvised explosive devices on the Golan Heights is Unit 840, which is being operated by the Iranian Quds Forces.

Unit 840 in Syria is a relatively secretive operational unit, which is responsible among other things, for planning and establishing terror infrastructure outside Iran, against Western targets and opposition groups.

According to IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman, the anti-personnel mines discovered on Monday (16th) were planted several weeks ago by local Syrians under the command of the Iranian Quds Force.

The military, he said, has been following cells of the Quds Force for several months trying to plant explosives on the border, and have been carrying out patrols – both on foot as well as by drones and reconnaissance to prevent attacks.

In response to the explosive devices, Israel carried out a wave of strikes that hit eight targets from the Golan Heights to Damascus that killed several military personnel.

The targets, including an Iranian military complex near Damascus International Airport, a secret military barracks which acts as a housing complex for senior Iranian officials as well as visiting delegations, a command post for Division 7 of the Syrian army which cooperates with the Quds Force and mobile surface-to-air missile trucks which fired towards Israeli jets during the strikes.

These latest strikes by Israel, were carried out over night Tuesday (17th) into Wednesday (18th).

Israel has repeatedly warned of Iran’s aspirations of regional hegemony and has admitted to carrying out hundreds of airstrikes as part of its “war-between-wars” (known in Hebrew as MABAM) campaign to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria, where they could easily act against Israel.



Netanyahu: This Is The Beginning Of The End Of The Coronavirus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave an optimistic address to the nation Wednesday night (18th) on the fight against the coronavirus.

“There is good news on the coronavirus front: The day before yesterday I spoke with Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel, and yesterday I spoke with Moderna Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks, about signing to increase the number of doses that will be allocated to the citizens of Israel.  I believe that we are on the verge of signing.  This is excellent news,” Netanyahu said.

“This is in addition to the fact that Pfizer, with which we have already signed for eight million doses, is going to apply for approval with the US medical authorities in a few days, to supply these vaccines.  We will be among the first to receive them.  This is the beginning of the end of coronavirus,” he declared.

Pfizer had earlier released updated results showing that its vaccine efficacy had risen from 90% to 95% upon completion of the third phase of the trial.

The company says they will submit a request in the coming days for emergency approval of the vaccine from the FDA.

The Israeli Health Ministry reported that on Tuesday (17th) 819 new verified patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus and results of 56,619 tests were obtained.  308 patients are in serious condition with 125 on ventilators.  Since the beginning of the epidemic, 2,738 patients have died in Israel.



Pompeo: Abraham Accords Isolate ‘Malign’ Iran

The Abraham Accords send a message to Iran to change its policies, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the opening of a trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani in Jerusalem on Wednesday (18th).

The agreements “tell malign actors like the Islamic Republic of Iran… they are ever-more isolated and shall ever be until they change their direction,” Pompeo warned.

“These agreements are… important to the whole world,” the secretary of state said.  “Countries you wouldn’t expect will be grateful for the work Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Israel will do together.”

Pompeo commended Israel and Bahrain for turning the agreements into “real action, bold action.”

The secretary of state said peace between the countries will advance religious freedom, allowing more Muslims easier access to pray at the Temple Mount.

Netanyahu expressed enthusiasm for “three peace agreements in six weeks,” saying: “I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

The prime minister compared Bahrain to Israel, saying it “respects the past and looks forward to the future,” and has a “robust and modern economy.”

The Bahraini foreign minister said that direct flights between Israel and Bahrain will begin in early 2021, with passenger flights to Tel Aviv at first, and later to Eilat and Haifa, as well as cargo flights.

In addition an “e-visa” service will come into place on December 1 for Israelis wishing to visit Bahrain and vice-versa.

Al Zayani also tied the peace between his country and Israel to a hope that Israel and the Palestinians will make peace. 

Pompeo will be in Israel until Friday (20th).



PA Reportedly Restores Ambassadors To UAE, Bahrain

The Palestinian Authority has quietly restored its ambassadors to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates this week, according to Wednesday (18th) reports in several media outlets.

The PA did not officially confirm the reports in Reuters, Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya, and the Palestinian news agency Maan.

Ramallah had recalled envoys to the Emirates in September, in protest of Abu Dhabi and Manama’s decision to normalize ties with Jerusalem, a move it decried as a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

Once the UAE and Bahrain announced plans to normalize ties with Israel, Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas called both envoys back to Ramallah for consultations.  The move was likely meant to exercise diplomatic pressure on the Gulf states, but proved unsuccessful.

In mid-September, the Arab League struck down a draft resolution presented by the PA that would have condemned normalization with Israel.

According to the reports, restoring the Palestinian ambassadors, heralds a policy shift on the part of the PA in the wake of perhaps a new administration after the US elections.  

Another expression of the Palestinian shift came on Tuesday night (17th) when Ramallah announced it was resuming civil and security cooperation with Israel.  Ties were suspended in May over Israel’s now-shelved plan to extend sovereignty to part of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the decision to resume cooperation with Israel was based partly on confronting the health crisis.



BDS Calls To Boycott Those Involved In Normalization

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has updated its boycott criteria, now calling for boycotts against anyone involved in normalized ties with Israel.

As published on the official BDS website by the BDS National Committee (BNC), its members and supporters are now called on to refrain from “displaying or promoting the works or products of those whose involvement in normalization practices are proven – and until such involvement is ended in a convincing manner in public – including a declaration of commitment to anti-normalization and cultural boycott.”

The statement also includes “not dealing with any product or activity of a person or institution that has previously been involved in normalization and has not withdrawn from it.”

The announcement was made following longstanding criticisms directed at the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan for the official normalization of ties with Israel, something that was perceived by many as a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

In fact, om September 15, the day ties with the UAE and Bahrain were officially normalized, the BNC published an update on the English-language BDS site titled “The UAE and Bahrain’s dictators are selling out the Palestinian people.”

The call to boycott countries who normalize ties with Israel comes as the movement also called for a global boycott of Spanish railway manufacturer CAF due to their involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail development and maintenance.



Swastikas Carved Into Jewish Headstones, Spray-Painted On Memorials In Germany

Amid a recent spate of incidents against Jewish targets in Germany, swastikas were etched into headstones at a Jewish cemetery. 

The vandalism discovered this week in Haren, a northwestern town about 220 miles west of Berlin, is being treated as an anti-Semitic hate crime by police, the DPA News Agency reported Tuesday (17th).  There are no suspects in custody.

Separately on Monday (16th), unidentified individuals in Chemnitz, 120 miles south of Berlin, spray-painted a swastika in purple on memorial Stolperstein, or “stumbling stones” – brass street tiles that were placed at the former homes of Holocaust victims to commemorate then.

“We have had similar incidents when stumbling blocks were damaged or even cemented over,” a local politician, Katharina Weyandt told the Tag24 news site.

On Sunday (15th), red paint was poured over other memorial cobblestones in Eilenburg, a city located 40 miles north of Chemnitz, Tag24 reported.

In Ukraine, an incident involving Nazi symbols and Jewish sites was recorded in Uzhhorod, in the southwest.  Swastikas were etched into the walls of a former synagogue building and a celtic cross was spray-painted on it.  

Though the building no longer serves as a Jewish house of worship, its characteristic arched windows and door frames have attracted the unidentified perpetrators, the United Jewish Community of Ukraine wrote on its website.