News Digest — 11/24/21

Four Killed In Alleged Israeli Airstrike On Syrian Hezbollah Weapons Convoy

At least four were killed and seven injured in an alleged Israeli airstrike that reportedly targeted a weapons transfer to Hezbollah in Homs in western Syria on Tuesday night (23rd), according to Syrian media and reports.

According to SANA, the airstrikes were carried out from the northeast of Beirut. The report claimed that most of the missiles were shot down by Syrian air defenses.

A Syrian anti-aircraft missile launched at what was alleged to be Israeli aircraft, crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, but preliminary estimates say it went over Lebanon and did not cross into Israeli airspace, according to reports.

The airstrikes come exactly a week after the IDF fired two missiles from the Golan Heights towards a targeted building south of Damascus.

A week before that strike, two Syrian soldiers were injured and material damage was caused in an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting sites in the Homs area.

Over the past year, while Israeli strikes have intensified in Syria, the response time by Syrian air defense batteries has become quicker, leading the IAF to change how it acts during such operations – including by having larger formations so that more targets can be struck at once during an operation instead of having jets return to the same target over again.

Iran has begun deploying advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries to the region in an attempt to challenge Israeli jets.



Australia Lists Hezbollah As ‘Terrorist Organization’

Australia on Wednesday (24th) listed all of Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization,” extending an existing ban on armed units to the entire organization, which wields considerable power over Lebanon.

Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that the Iran-backed Shiite group “continues to threaten terrorist attacks and provide support to terrorist organizations” and poses a “real” and “credible” threat to Australia.

Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist group by parts of the West, although some countries have been reluctant to sanction the group’s political wing, fearing it could destabilize Lebanon and hamper contacts with authorities there.

Hezbollah defies easy definition – acting as part political party, part militant organization and part provider of basic services to Lebanon’s Shiite community.

It is the only side that has to date refused to disarm since the country’s devastating civil war ended in 1990.

Membership in the organization or providing funding for it will now be banned by law in Australia, which has a large Lebanese community. 

No reason was given for the timing of the move, which comes as Lebanon reels from a spiraling political and economic crisis.

Nearly 80 percent of the population is estimated to be living below the poverty line.

Elections are expected in March 2022 and there is growing public anger about nepotism and corruption among Lebanon’s ruling class.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the move and thanked his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

“I welcome Australia’s intent to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization in its entirety,” he said in a tweet.  “Hezbollah is an Iran-backed terror organization in Lebanon responsible for countless attacks in Israel and around the world.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also thanked the Australian government for its decision, saying Canberra is a “close friend of Israel in the fight against global terrorism.”



Iran Still Seeks World Domination, Defense Minister Warns

“The Iranian threat does not focus solely on Israel,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Tuesday (23rd), saying that the Islamic republic has not relinquished its dreams of world domination.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at Reichman University (IDC) in Herzliya, Gantz explained that “Iran seeks regional and then a global hegemony, and to impose an extremist ideology in which human rights are trampled, women are marginalized, and resources are allocated for the benefit of the regime.”

Tehran’s efforts to that effect include “taking over failing states like Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.  The method is clear: First we take Damascus, then we take Beirut.  Iran is also operating outside the region, transferring oil and weapons to Venezuela, deploying its Quds Force in South America, and trying to gain influence in Afghanistan,” Gantz continued.

“Iranian terrorism is being promoted with the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Khamenei and under the regime’s directive.”

The defense minister noted that one of the main tools Iran uses is drones, which are precision weapons that can reach strategic targets thousands of kilometers away.

“This capability already endangers Sunni countries, international forces in the Middle East and also countries in Europe and Africa.”

Gantz’s speech included explanations about drone bases in southern Iran, from where UAV attacks were launched at targets in and near Gulf waters.

The Islamic republic is also using drones to transport weapons to terrorist groups in Judea and Samaria, he warned.

Gantz urged world leaders to resist Iranian pressure and underscored the shared interest they have alongside Israel with respect to curbing the ayatollahs’ military and nuclear aspirations.  

“World nations have many tools with which to face and counter the Iranian threat, and a ‘Plan B’ must be put in place’ in case the diplomatic options fail,” he said.

“We will continue to work in full cooperation with our American friends and with other countries.  The world has the tools and the interest to stop Iran,  which undermines economies, foreign policies, security and moral values.”

“There is no doubt that a diplomatic solution is best, but at the same time the option to use force must be on the table as well if diplomacy fails.”

“Sometimes using force and demonstrating it can prevent the need for stronger measures.  I thank our American friends for the sanctions and other measures recently taken to reach this common goal,” he said.



Ancient Silver Coin Found By 11-Year-Old Girl Might Have Been Minted By Temple Priest

Liel Krotokop, an 11-year-old girl recently took part in the “Archaeological Experience” activities the City of David operates in conjunction with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority at the Emek Tzurim National Park in Jerusalem, and was well rewarded for her efforts when she came across a 2,000-year-old coin while helping sift archaeological debris.

Experts think that the coin was produced using the Second Temple’s large reserves of silver and could possibly have been minted by one of the Temple priests, who threw his support behind the Jewish revolt against the Romans ahead of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

The coin turned up in debris from the excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently carrying out on the Pilgrim’s Road in the national park.  One side of the coin features an image of a chalice with the inscription “shekel Israel.”  Next to the cup the Hebrew letters Shin and Bet appear, an acronym for the words “Shana Bet,” or “Year Two” – a reference to the second year of the Jewish revolt against the Romans (67-68 CE).

The flip side of the coin features a depiction of what researchers say is the staff of the High Priest, flanked by the words “Holy Jerusalem” in early Hebrew script.

Dr. Robert Cole, head of numismatics at the IAA, explained that the discovery was a rare one.

“Of the thousands of coins found thus far in archeological excavations, only about 30 are made of silver and date from the time of the great rebellion,” Cole said.

Archaeologist Ari Levy, one of the directors of the dig, said, “This street, which connected the Pool of Siloam south of the City of David to the Temple Mount in the north and comprised the main street of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period was walked by thousands of pilgrims on their way to the Temple.  There is no doubt that there was extensive trade activity here.  The many weights and bronze coins we’ve found here is proof of that.  But to find a revolt-era coin made from pure silver is certainly unique and exciting.”

11-year-old Liel said, “When I spilled out my bucket I saw something round.  At first, I didn’t know what it was but it looked different from the stones that we were sifting.  I never thought I’d find a coin myself, and definitely not a rare coin like this made of pure silver.  I was really lucky to have discovered it.” 



Einstein Letter Warns Friend Of ‘Radical Anti-Semitism’ In America

A letter, penned by Albert Einstein in 1936, is addressed to Austrian pianist Bruno Eisner, a friend of Einstein’s who was considering a job offer.  The letter offers a glimpse at the levels of anti-Semitism that prevailed in the US at the time.

Einstein describes an “enormous amount” of anti-Semitism in the US, especially in academia and in the banking industry.  He tells Eisner that while the American anti-Semitism at the time did not take the form of violent words or actions, it was “strong” beneath the surface.

“It is an enemy that is everywhere, that cannot be seen, whose presence can only be felt,” Einstein wrote.

Einstein wrote the letter while living in Princeton, New Jersey, a few years after the Nazis rose to power and he decided he would never return to Germany.  At the time, Eisner was already in New York and staying with another of Einstein’s friends.

Einstein also offered as an example the story of an assistant of his who had grappled with extreme anti-Semitism in the US and had been forced to take a job in Russia.  The great physicist describes his intense loneliness and says he is “not in contact with anyone.”

Despite the anti-Semitism of the time, Eisner did find his niche in the American classical music scene.  He became a working concert pianist and a professor of music, and taught at universities and conservatories all over the US.  He passed away in New York at age 94.