News Digest — 11/25/20

Israel: Security Council Must Order Iran Out Of Syria

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations called on the UN Security Council Wednesday (25th) to “take immediate action against the presence of Iran in Syria” in wake of attacks on Israel’s northern border by armed groups affiliated with the Islamic Republic.

“Iranian terrorism spreading in Syria could ignite the entire region and exact a heavy price in blood,” Gilad Erdan tweeted, saying he appealed to the members of the Security Council “to take immediate action against the Iranian presence in Syria and to strongly condemn the placement of explosive devices near the border.  These terrorist attacks violate Security Council resolutions and jeopardize the stability of the entire region.”

Last week, IDF troops found several bombs planted on the Israeli side of the border, and a similar incident occurred in August.  The explosives were neutralized and no Israelis were injured.

In a letter addressed to the Security Council, Erdan said the incidents were conducted by “Iran’s proxies in Syria,” proving that “the Syrian regime continues to allow Iran and its proxies use of its territory … to entrench its presence in Syria and undermine efforts to maintain stability in the region.”

“Israel calls upon the Security Council to condemn these recurring dangerous acts and demands a total rollback of Iran and its proxies from Syria and the removal of Iranian military infrastructure from Syrian territory,” Erdan said in the letter.

Iran has used the cover of Syria’s decade-long civil war to gain a military presence in Syria, by sponsoring militias in Syria loyal to Tehran and backing the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group that sent thousands of fighters to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Earlier this year, Israeli military affairs analyst Amos Yadlin noted that Israeli military action in Syria was “a message to the powers and elements of the Shiite axis…the [Israeli] campaign against the Iranian regime began before the Trump administration, and will continue after it.”

“The Iranians and Hezbollah have been trying for a long time to establish terrorist infrastructure in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights,” said Yadlin, a retired IDF general who heads the prestigious Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.



Syria Blames Israel For Overnight Strikes

Syria is blaming Israel for a series of airstrikes on locations south of the capital Damascus and on the Golan Heights late Tuesday night (24th).

Syria’s SANA news agency said that the strikes, near the village of Rwihinah, south of Quneitra near the Israeli border, and near Jabal Mane near the town of Kiswah south of Damascus, caused “only material damage.”

According to AFP, however, eight pro-Iranian fighters were killed in the strikes.

While there was no confirmation by either side of what was struck, according to military defectors, who were quoted by Reuters, the target in Jabal Mane was a military base belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israel has struck targets in Kiswah several times over the years as part of its war-between-wars campaign against the continued entrenchment of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah in Syria, including in July.

Other reports said that the attacks on the Golan Heights targeted a weapons depot and observation post belonging to Hezbollah’s Southern headquarters.

According to a report by the ALMA Research and Education Center, Hezbollah’s presence in southern Syria is much larger than previously revealed, with some 58 sites in the southern Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Daraa, where the terror group’s Southern Command and Golan Project have been deployed.



Netanyahu Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lord David Trimble nominated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed for the Nobel Peace Prize, Netanyahu’s office announced on Tuesday (24th).

Lord Trimble, who served as the First Minister of Northern Ireland, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 due to his commitments to peacefully solving the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Because Lord Trimble is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Netanyahu and bin Zayed’s nominations must be discussed and debated by the official Nobel Committee.

In 2010, Netanyahu appointed Trimble to sit on the Turkel Commission, which investigated Israel’s actions against the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, which was part of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla.” 

The flotilla was intended to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Israeli naval commandos intercepted the ship.  Eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish American were killed onboard in clashes with Israeli forces.

The commission found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Israel.

The landmark US-brokered peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates marked the first time the Jewish state had entered into a peace agreement with an Arab nation in nearly three decades.

The decision sparked talk of normalization with Israel throughout the region, with Bahrain also establishing ties with Israel and signing peace accords in a trilateral ceremony that included the UAE and Israel, held at the White House this past September.

The nomination by Lord Trimble marks the third occasion that an Israeli prime minister has been nominated for the peace prize due to peace-making efforts with the Jewish state’s neighbors.

The 1979 peace deal between Egypt and Israel – two previously warring nations – led to Nobel Peace prizes for then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

In 1994, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, respectively prime minister and foreign minister at the time, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, for their work on the Oslo Accords.



Report: Egypt Getting Involved In Israel-Sudan Negotiations

Egypt has requested a three-way meeting with Israeli and Sudanese military officials, the Sudanese newspaper Hikayat reported Tuesday (24th).

A meeting expected to take place this week will include security and military officials from Egypt, Sudan and Israel, the report said.

A Sudanese source said officials in Egypt demanded the meeting, saying coordination was a necessity in setting relations between the three countries.  Egypt has growing concerns about its interests with Sudan, including security in the Red Sea region and the border dispute between Cairo and Khartoum over the Halayeb and Shalateen area on their shared border along the Red Sea.

According to Sudanese sources, the meeting will discuss anti-terrorism issues common to the three countries, including apparent Israeli demands for Sudan to stop its support of armed Palestinian groups operating there, especially the Iran-backed Hamas terror group that had strong relations with ousted Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir.

The sources said the Sudanese-Israeli normalization agreement that is expected to be formalized soon will completely change the nature of the region.  It will create new security and military challenges that must be arranged in advance, not only between Israel and Sudan, but also between the active African powers of which Egypt is the dominant country in the area. 

Egypt also has issues with Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement that is banned in Egypt as a terror organization.

The border dispute fueled Egyptian anger after a picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was circulated earlier this year showing him in front of a map of Sudan with the Halayeb area within its borders.  The area has been in dispute since 1958, and Sudan objects to the presence there of mining companies contracted by Egypt.

News of the three-way security meeting comes after an Israeli defense delegation gathered in Khartoum Monday (23rd) in advance of a larger Israeli trade delegation that is expected in the Sudanese capital next week.

Egyptian and Gulf diplomatic sources told the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper in August that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi wants to accelerate the entry of Sudan into the circle of Arab countries as part of the new American planning for the region with major financial aid for Sudan from the US, Europe and Gulf Arab states.

President Trump announced in October that he signed a decree removing Sudan from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism, apparently as part of a deal in which Khartoum agreed to establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel.

Other Egyptian sources said that Sudan-Israel relations, especially on the economic level, would be a cornerstone for establishing a large energy market in the Red Sea region in partnership with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Sudan could be part of proposed projects between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel to set up natural gas liquefaction centers, Hikayat reported.



IDF Refutes Claims It Halted Medical Supplies To Gaza Amid COVID-19 Rise

The IDF refuted Hamas and international claims Wednesday (25th) it had halted medical supplies to Gaza amid an upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

“Contrary to various reports, I, the organization I lead, or any other Israeli entity – did not deny a request or demand for medical assistance in the Gaza Strip,” the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen Kamil Abu Rukin said in a message he delivered via video in Arabic.

According to the UN, as of last week, 39% of all COVID-19 cases in the Palestinian territories were registered in Gaza.

Hamas on Tuesday (24th) reported the diagnosis of 685 new cases in a 24-hour period.  It explained that 16,142 COVID-19 cases had been dated in the past months and that 72 Palestinians in Gaza had died from the disease.

Rukin said on Wednesday (25th) that he “welcomed” international medical assistance to help COGAT combat the pandemic.

Testing has been increased from 200 to 2,500 per day, Rukin said.  Respirators, oxygen generators, and inhalers have been allowed into Gaza, he explained.

Hundreds of new hospital beds have been set up and 600 tons of essential medical supplies have entered the Gaza Strip, he said.