News Digest — 11/3/21

Syria Says Israeli Missile Strikes Hit Targets Near Damascus

The Israeli military struck targets using surface-to-surface missiles near the Syrian capital of Damascus early Wednesday morning (3rd) Syrian media reported.

The SANA news agency said the missiles hit sites in the Zakia region outside Damascus and caused “material damage” shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday.  The outlet gave no details on the targets that were hit, and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Syrian media reported that the strike was fired from northern Israel, similar to an alleged strike attack earlier this week.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces, in line with its policy of ambiguity regarding its activities in Syria.

Israel’s alleged use of surface-to-surface missiles – in place of munitions fired from aircraft – has been linked to a recent meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s main allies who has supplied much of Damascus’ air defense system.  To avoid embarrassing Russia and its military technology, Israel reportedly agreed to rely less on airstrikes, which had repeatedly defeated  the Russian batteries.

The reported strike comes some three days after the Israeli military bombed a number of locations surrounding Damascus in a rare daytime strike, according to Syrian media, reportedly targeting advanced weapons heading to the Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria over the course of the country’s civil war, targeting what it says are arms shipments believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.



Bahraini Crown Prince To Visit Israel In Historic Boost To Abraham Accords

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain on Tuesday (2nd) at the United Nations climate change conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, marking the highest-level encounter between officials of the two countries.  Several hours later an Israeli official said the Bahraini leader accepted Bennett’s invitation to hold a visit in Israel, which will most likely take place in early 2022.

The meeting is the first of an Israeli prime minister with one of the leaders of the four Arab nations that are signatory to the Abraham Accords, a normalization pact sealed under the Trump administration.

The other three are Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.  “I believe that everything we see from Bahrain sends such a warm message of friendship,” Bennett said at the meeting.  He then added, “We ain’t seen nothing yet,” eliciting laughter.

Earlier in the day, Bennett met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Speaking before the meeting, the prime minister thanked Modi and described him as “the person who restarted the relationship between India and Israel, which is a deep relationship between two unique civilizations.”

Modi tweeted a picture of the meeting with the caption, “Enhancing friendship with Israel,”  The tweet also said that the two “had a fruitful meeting in Glasgow.  Both leaders discussed deepening various avenues of cooperation for the benefit of our citizens.”

Bennett also met Microsoft founder Bill Gates, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Jens Stoltenberg.

Speaking at the climate conference that began Monday (1st), Bennett said: “Israel is at the beginning of a revolution on implementing our ‘100-step plan, which means that we are currently doing more to promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases than at any other time in our country’s history.”

He said that “Israel is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.”



Israeli TROPHY Defense System Tests Successfully On German Tanks

The Israeli-developed TROPHY Active Protection System (APS) that was fitted on German Leopard 2 tanks earlier this year tested successfully, the Israel and German Defense Ministries announced Tuesday (2nd).

The trials on the defense system were carried out by the German Ministry of Defense, in close cooperation with Israel and with the support of Rafael and the German company KMW, and included challenging scenarios

In the series of experiments, the system displayed a 90% interception rate, as well as accurate detection of the source of fire, thus proving the success of integrating the system on the German tanks.

In February, the two Ministries of Defense signed a deal that included the integration and supply of the active TROPHY defense system for the Leopard 2 tank.  The deal includes tank packaging, interceptors, spare parts, and operational and technical training.  Under the agreement, the Ministry of Defense will supply the systems to the German Ministry of Defense in the coming years. 

The Rafael-developed TROPHY, known as the “windbreaker” in Hebrew, creates a neutralization bubble around the combat vehicle by rapidly detecting and actively engaging all known chemical energy threats, including recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles, anti-tank rockets, HEAT tank rounds, and RPGs.

It can locate the fire source, enabling the crew to return fire effectively with the Samson 30 Remote Weapon System (RWS), or by interfacing with other fighting platforms through the control network.

The TROPHY is used on the IDF’s Merkava Mark 4 tanks and Namer APCs and was selected by the US Army to defend the Abrams tanks in 2017.

With over 500,000 operational hours, it is the only APC that has already saved lives.  It proved very useful during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.



Syrian Bunker Full Of Weapons From Six Day War Uncovered

A huge Syrian bunker full of ammunition from the Six Day War has been uncovered in the Golan Heights by the Defense Ministry’s Mine Action Authority.

The bunker was laden with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, mortar bombs of various diameters, pyrotechnics, explosives and more.  All were found in bulk and in their original packaging.

The ammunition was collected by authorities and transported under strict safety rules prior to its destruction.

The Syrian outpost at Mizpe Gadot, known as “El Murtafa,” was one of the most fortified outposts belonging to the Syrian Arab Army on the Golan Heights before the war in 1967, and it was from there that Syrian soldiers fired towards Israeli communities in the Hula Valley.

Thousands of mines from the period remain scattered in the fields surrounding the outpost, which serves today as a memorial site for the IDF’s Alexandroni 3rd Brigade that was the first to break through the Syrian lines in the Golan Heights.

The bunker was discovered after the authority recently began work to clear mines in the area in order to make the tourist location safer for those who visit.

The Mine Action Authority has been operating since 2012 and is responsible for clearing minefields that are no longer necessary.  Since its inception, the authority has cleared some 3,700 acres of minefields and landfills.

Over the past year, the authority has operated at a number of sites throughout the country, including the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the northern Negev.

While there are some 8,150 acres of known minefields, there still may be others  in the Arava and along Israel’s borders.

Many acres in the Heights were once part of Syria, and as the mines laid by Syrian forces remain largely unknown, those areas have been fenced off by the IDF.  

There are also thousands of other mines planted by the Jewish state to thwart invading soldiers and tanks during the first decades of Israel’s existence.  While the IDF has continued to dismantle minefields, the Defense Ministry is intent on removing the remaining mines so that more territory will be safe for citizens to hike and travel. 



Fire Outside Austin, Texas Synagogue Follows Spate Of Anti-Semitic Acts

A fire outside a synagogue in Austin, Texas follows a series of anti-Semitic incidents in the city in recent weeks.

Police are investigating Sunday night’s (10/31) fire at Congregation Beth Israel as a possible case of arson.  The fire was discovered just one week after banners with the words “Vax the Jews” were hung by a neo-Nazi group from an overpass near a number of synagogues and the local Jewish Community Center.

The Austin Fire Department’s arson investigators responded to the fire at the synagogue, located five miles from the JCC.  There were no injuries.

On October 24, members of the Goyim Defense League, a neo-Nazi group whose name mocks the Anti-Defamation League, hung banners with the message “Vax the Jews” from an overpass near several synagogues and the Shalom Austin JCC.  Though officers from the Austin Police department responded to the incident, similar banners were hung from the same overpass a few days later on October 26.

The banner incidents came just a few days after racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at Anderson High School, a mile from the JCC.

“For us here in Austin, this is such an incredibly rare occurrence,” said Harold Wilensky, Congregation Beth Israel’s interim executive director.  He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the disturbing events occurred within days of each other.  “I don’t remember, in the 45 years I’ve lived here, where anything like this has ever happened.  It’s a pretty tolerant place.”

Wilensky said that the congregation’s security system had captured images of the arsonist on video, and that local investigators would likely be able to identify the suspect from the footage.