News Digest — 11/2/20

Israel-Lebanon Maritime Border Talks May Be In Trouble

A source involved in the talks between Israel and Lebanon to set their offshore maritime border said new Lebanese demands are endangering the success of the negotiations, Kan News reported over the weekend.

The source estimated that the chances of success of the talks being mediated by the US are less than 50% after the second round of unprecedented negotiations ended Thursday (10/28) between the two countries that have no diplomatic relations.

Israel is already developing its extensive offshore gas and oil fields, but politically divided and nearly bankrupt Lebanon has been hard-pressed to make the national decisions and muster the resources to start developing their own fields.

However, the offshore fields appear to cross maritime boundaries that have never been formally declared, and with their country facing an economic crisis the Lebanese relented to sitting in the same room with Israeli negotiators in order to reach an agreement.  The Lebanese refuse to talk directly to the Israelis, so the Americans act as the intermediaries.

The source said talks will continue later this month, but the Lebanese side presented a map that goes far beyond the sea border line Lebanon itself submitted to the UN in 2010.  The source said that Israel respects the line previously agreed to with the UN and called on the Lebanese to return to the original line and not create further disputes.

The London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper quoted a source from Israel’s Energy Ministry saying that the new Lebanese request to expand the disputed area was an attempt to gain control of the Israeli gas fields and is vastly different from the demands that Lebanon put forward 10 years ago.

In the talks at Naqoura, just north of the Israel-Lebanon border, the Lebanese are reportedly demanding an additional 1,430 square kilometers of the Israeli zone in offshore waters, as opposed to the original 850 square kilometer area.

Israel’s Channel 12 news reported the request came from Lebanese army commander General Joseph Aoun, who told the committee the border should reflect the original borders drawn between Britain and France, which controlled the region during the British Mandate period in 1923.

Aoun is no relation to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.  

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that members of the Lebanese Hezbollah, last week attacked reporters covering the talks, demanding the journalists leave the area.

“As we were covering the negotiation session in Naqoura and after obtaining permission from the Lebanese army, three young men expelled us from the area,” Lebanon TV correspondent Nayla Shahwan said on Facebook, adding that when she tried to contact her TV station the men seized her phone and equipment and “gave us 3 minutes to leave.”

The Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group controls the southern part of Lebanon where the talks were held, in violation of UN Resolution 1701 that was passed in 2006 in a bid to disarm Hezbollah and give the Lebanese central government control over the area.  Hezbollah refuses to comply and continuously threatens to attack Israel. 



IDF Reveals More Cross-Over Raids Into Syria

The commander of an IDF division base on the Syrian border said over the weekend that his forces had carried out several raids in recent weeks against Syrian military fortifications close to the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights.

In an interview with Russia’s Tass news agency, 210th Division, Brigadier General Roman Goffman appeared to be detailing additional raids to the one carried out in mid-October, when the IDF announced it had crossed into Syrian territory to destroy Syrian army positions that had been set up illegally in the neutral demilitarized buffer zone in violation of the ceasefire agreement the two countries had signed previously.
“Over the past few weeks we have carried out several operations against Syrian fortifications, which were set up directly on the borderline and some on our lands,” Goffman said.

“For this reason, we attacked, and carried out operations –  the soldiers blew up the fortifications, and immediately returned to their positions after the raids,”  Goffman noted, adding that the operations were carried out in two stages.

Goffman emphasized that the raids “took place without direct confrontations with Syrian forces located there.”

“Israel does not currently see any threat from Syria as a state,” but fears an increase in the concentration of fighters from Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, who are 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 frontline 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 needs to work and rebuild itself,” Goffman said of the country that has been ravaged by 10-years of civil war.



IDF OKs First Female Frontline Troops To Cross Into Enemy Territory To Confront Hezbollah

The IDF has decided for the first time to allow female combat troops to go over the northern border to confront Hezbollah along with their male counterparts according to The Jerusalem Post.

A drone unit of 10 women for the Combat Collection Corps will join a battalion that stands ready to cross into Lebanon to fight Hezbollah if necessary.  It will become operational in the near future.

Formerly known as Field Intelligence operators, these troops will use their unmanned aerial vehicles to be the “eyes in the sky” that help spot enemy forces in real time.

The women serve for the same amount of time as their male comrades, learn the same fighting skills and receive equal pay and benefits as befits all frontline soldiers.  They also do reserve duty, as all Israeli combat soldiers do.

Israeli women drone operators have already crossed the border, according to Lt. Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss in a 2018 Times of Israel article.  However, she didn’t specify if that also included the northern border.

Rettig-Weiss, who took over the Artillery Corps’ elite Sky Riders Unit in 2017, said, “The female soldiers participate in every aspect of the fighting, cross the borders and take an equal part in operational activities.”

She said the best Skylark operators travel with deep penetration special forces during their top-secret missions.  She noted the only difference was that male soldiers would carry their drones.  The female soldiers use vehicles to transport their equipment.

Israel’s visual intelligence branch has boasted a high number of female operators.  Unit 9900, which runs Israel’s satellites, established an advanced drone unit that was revealed to the public in July.

Its commander, Col. A., said in a Globes interview that, “There are quite a few women administering 9900, and in the unit there are also quite a few lieutenant-generals, including my deputy.  The whole digital world in the unit is led by a female lieutenant-general.  Sixty percent of the unit is female and 45% of the officers.  That’s a huge force.”

Among 9900’s most publicized successes was helping to gather intelligence necessary to assassinate senior Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata last November.



PA Denies Report It Will Accept Revenues From Israel Again This Month

The Palestinian Authority denied reports claiming that it would begin accepting tax revenue funds from Israel again, with Palestinian General of the Palestinian Council of Ministers, Amjad Ghanem, saying that the reasons for the refusal still remained, meaning the PA would not accept the funds.

However, Watan News reported on Sunday (1st) that Ghanem had told them that the PA is expecting to start receiving tax revenues from Israel later this month, after refusing the revenues since earlier this year.  The report was circulated by additional Palestinian media outlets.

All public employees in the Palestinian Authority will be paid full salaries once the funds are received , said Ghanen.

“We hope that we will win the political battle with the occupation and have the ability to recover the funds for compensation and end political blackmail,” added Ghanem to Watan news, saying that efforts are being made in this regard and that the PA hopes to receive the funds this month.

Ghanem stressed that while there are many details concerning the “efforts” being made to receive the funds without any concessions by the PA, the result of the efforts is all that concerns the civilian population.

All imports to the PA go though Israeli checkpoints, and Israel collects VAT and tariffs for the PA.  Those funds are the largest source of income for the Palestinian Authority.  Israel also collects income tax and health insurance funds for Palestinians who work for Israelis.

As of October 8, Israel had amassed over NIS 2.5 billion that the PA refused to take in protest against the deduction of payments to families of Palestinian security prisoners and “martyrs” and in protest against plans to annex parts of the West Bank.



Pretty Sweet: Israeli Low-Sugar Sweetener To Debut In North America

Israeli food tech company DouxMatok has partnered with sugar manufacturer Lantic Inc. to make a natural sweetener based on sugar cane, but with lower actual sugar content, available to North American food manufacturers in 2021.

DouxMatok’s solution is based on real sugar cane and therefore, has the same sensorial profile, taste and other functionalities as sugar.  The company’s technology maximizes the efficiency of sugar delivery to sweet taste receptors, enhancing consumers’ perception of sweetness.

This provides the same sweet taste as a considerably reduced sugar content.

“This exciting collaboration with Lantic represents an important step towards commercialization of our solution,” said DouxMatok CEO Eran Baniel.

“”In working with Lantic and its passionate entrepreneurial team, we are confident we have the right partner to take on  the largest sugar market in the world.  We are particularly excited about our part in helping make the food we love healthier, especially amid growing concerns around rising obesity,” Baniel added.

“We are extremely pleased to have secured an exclusive cane sugar manufacturing agreement with DouxMatok for this innovative technology that adds an important and much-desired customer solution to our natural sweetener portfolio,” said Lantic President CEO John Holiday.