News Digest — 12/26/19

Netanyahu Again Rushed Offstage At Event As Gaza Rocket Fired At Ashkelon

Palestinian terrorists fired a rocket toward the southern city of Ashkelon on Wednesday night (25th) as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was campaigning for the upcoming Likud leadership primary, prompting the premier to be rushed off the stage to take cover for the second time in under four months.

The Israeli Defense Forces said that soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system shot down the incoming rocket.  No injuries were reported.

Netanyahu was in the middle of a campaign event in Ashkelon at the time and was forced to evacuate to a bomb shelter along with dozens of supporters in the room.

This was the second time since September that Netanyahu had to be evacuated as a result of rocket fire from Gaza during a campaign event.

The prime minister returned to the stage Wednesday night (25th) after approximately 15 minutes and issued a threat to the terrorists behind the attack.

“The person who fired the rocket last time is no longer with us.  The person who did it this time should start packing his things,” he said.

The prime minister was referring to last month’s assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror leader who Israel believes ordered the rocket attack in September. 

In most cases, senior politicians refrain from announcing their visits to the area surrounding the Gaza Strip ahead of time out of concerns that it could attract rocket attacks.  That was not the case with September and Wednesday night events. In both cases, the prime minister had publicized that he would be attending in advance. The Likud leadership primary is scheduled to be held Thursday (26th).



Israel Attacks Hamas After Gaza Rocket Attack On Ashkelon Area

The Israeli Air Force attacked terror targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire at Israel from Gaza, the Israeli military  announced early Thursday (26th).

The IDF reported that a rocket had been fired from Gaza and that the Israeli Iron Dome defense system intercepted the projectile.

Concerning the Israeli response to the rocket attack, the IDF tweeted that fighter jets and attack helicopters struck “a number of terror targets of the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip, including military compounds of the organization.”

The IDF reiterated the Israeli position that Hamas is held accountable for all attacks from the territory which it rules, and will “bear the consequences,” even if the organization itself did not fire the rocket.  Hamas snatched the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in June 2007 in a coup.

“The guy who fired last time is no longer with us; whoever fired now should start packing his bags,” Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on social media Wednesday night (25th) after the Gazan air attack.

He was referring to Israel’s targeted killing of senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza City on November 12.

“He was responsible for many terrorist attacks and the firing of rockets at Israel in recent months and had intended to carry out imminent attacks,” Netanyahu’s office tweeted at the time.



5 Said Killed In Airstrikes On Pro-Iranian Militias In Eastern Syria

At least five pro-Iranian militants were killed in strikes by unidentified aircraft in eastern Syria on Wednesday night (25th), a Syrian war monitor reported.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the airstrikes were conducted over the course of several hours in the Boukamal region of Syria, near the Iraqi border, an area that has seen a number of attacks on Iran-backed groups attributed to Israel.

The Wednesday (25th) airstrikes reportedly targeted a Hezbollah command center, as well as several pro-Iranian militia sites in eastern Syria.

The Observatory said at least five militiamen were believed to have been killed in the strikes.

As a rule, Israel does not comment on specific airstrikes in Syria, except for those that are in retaliation to attacks on Israel from Syrian territory.

Earlier on Wednesday (25th), Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said Israel was working to thwart Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and Iraq, and was prepared to risk a war in order to do so.

Wednesday’s attack came days after a series of missile strikes targeted Iran-linked sites around the Syrian capital, killing at least three foreign pro-regime fighters, believed to be Iranians, Sunday night (22nd).



Israel’s “Light Blade” Laser May Finally Answer Gaza’s Burning Kites And Fire Balloons

Israel’s police have successfully tested a new weapon in its arsenal that it says is the world’s first to destroy fire kites and arson balloons that have threatened Israel from the Gaza Strip Israel Hayom reports.  It can also take down armed drones – a threat coming mainly from Iran-sponsored militias in the north.

Called “Light Blade,” it is a laser system that looks much like a miniature Iron Dome, the anti-missile defense system that protects Israel from short-range rocket attack.  It tracks the suspicious airborne object, locks onto it, and blasts it with a unique laser beam. If it is a balloon loaded with flammable material, it will explode. If it is a drone, its motor will be burned out, and it will crash.

The “Light Blade” can work at night as well as in daylight, and has about a mile-and -a-half range.  It is also cheap enough, say the police, that it will enable the security forces to equip themselves with a large quantity of them.

The system was developed over the last year by experts in three-electro-optics and lasers.  The project was led by Border Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai. The Technological Research Department of the Border Police, Ben Gurion University, and the Infrastructure Development and Technology departments of the IDF were all involved  in designing the model. Altogether, the working model of “Light Blade” cost about a million dollars to develop.



Defense Minister Okays Seizure Of Terrorists Salaries

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday (25th) authorized the seizure of hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of funds paid to jailed terrorists and their families, in a precedent-setting administrative order.

Bennett, who earlier this month declared he would tighten the use of economic sanctions against terrorists, ordered that salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority to eight terrorists responsible for attacks on Israel, as well as to their families, would be confiscated.

Of the eight terrorists cited in the order, five have received life sentences for the attacks they committed.

All eight of the terrorists cited in the order are Israeli-Arabs.

For years, the Palestinian Authority has paid out salaries to terrorists jailed in Israel, as well as to the families of jailed terrorists, and to the families of terrorists killed during attacks on Israelis.

This policy which Israeli leaders have denounced as “pay to slay,” led to the passage of an Israeli law under which Israel deducts the amount of money paid to terrorists and their families from the tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority every month.  Israel collects taxes from Palestinian Authority residents working in Israel on the PA’s behalf.

The Defense Minister’s order Wednesday (25th) is the first step by Israel to directly target the recipients of the salaries, and is aimed at removing the financial incentive provided by the Palestinian Authority for potential terrorists to attack Israelis.

According to the Defense Ministry, additional orders targeting terrorists salaries will be signed.



McDonald’s Menorah In Amazon Becomes Major Tourist Attraction 

McDonald’s is best known for its Happy Meals and Big Macs, but not in the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The Jewish owner of a McDonald’s in Manaus decided to erect in front of his restaurant a 7-foot-tall menorah that sports a facade of french fries, which has drawn “massive attention,” according to JTA

Manaus is the seventh largest city in Brazil, and the majority of its population is Christian.

Even though only a small Sephardic community resides in the city that boasts some 2.2 million people, its Jewish members feel it is important to make their presence known.

Despite Christmas decorations throughout the city, it was the unprecedented Jewish symbol that attracted the most attention.  Social media channels showed people lining up to have their pictures taken in front of the Menorah display.

A candle-lighting ceremony of a second menorah will be held  at a local mall next week to mark the eighth day of the Jewish festival.

The Jewish presence in Manaus is an 800-strong, mostly Sephardic Community that goes back more than 200 years with immigrants from Morocco.