News Digest — 12/7/21

Syria Says Israeli Warplanes Hit Its Main Port

Israeli warplanes fired missiles that struck the port of Latakia early on Tuesday (7th), hitting containers and igniting a huge fire, Syrian state media said.

It was a rare attack on the city’s port, a vital facility where much of Syria’s imports are brought into the war-torn country.

Syria’s state media quoted an unnamed military official as saying that several missiles struck the container area in the port, setting some of them on fire.  There were no casualties reported, according to the official, who gave no further details.

Syrian state TV reported that five explosions were heard in the port.  A huge fire erupted in the container area, and fire engines rushed to the scene.

There was no comment from the Israeli military, which has conducted hundreds of airstrikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria over the course of its 10-year civil war, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

Some of the strikes in the past had targeted the main airport in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Israel has acknowledged, however, that it targets the bases of Iranian-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s terrorist Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria.  It says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for the militias.

Hezbollah is fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the war, which started after a military crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests calling for his ouster.

Israel says Iranian presence on its northern border is a red line, justifying its strikes on facilities and weapons inside Syria.



Hamas Mobilizing Students Against Palestinian Authority

In recent weeks, internal violence in the Palestinian Authority has intensified, with officials in Ramallah saying that the PA is “losing control.”

PA and Fatah officials, and human rights organizations are reporting a sharp rise in murders and criminal-related property offenses, student brawls, and acts of revenge due to blood feuds between clans.

Fatah activists and PA officials say that the broad protest against the PA following the cancellation of the elections in May and the death of social activist Nizar Banat during a PA police interrogation paralyzed the PA.

Hamas, on the other hand, is taking advantage of the sharp rise in violence and the deterioration of public order to incite against PA head Mahmoud Abbas’ rule and blame him for the instability, also as revenge for the PA’s arrest of students from the Islamic Bloc affiliated with Hamas.

A Fatah operative said that the organization is also to blame for what is known as “el-Platan al-Amni,” (the security deterioration), since its senior officials are holding an “arms race” to secure themselves and prepare for the day after Abbas.  Fatah says that in the refugee camps in Shechem (Nablus) and Jenin, there are armed groups that are loyal to Muhammad Dahlan who oppose Abbas.

The most worrying phenomenon for the Palestinian Authority and also elements in Israel is the violence that is currently focused on campuses and universities, where the power of the “kitla Islamia,” Hamas’ student body, is very strong.  The universities, which were the main focal points of terrorism in the second intifada, have emerged in recent weeks as a significant focal point of opposition to the Palestinian Authority.

Fatah sources told TPS that the very serious incidents of violence recently uncovered at a number of Palestinian universities may indicate that Hamas is behind at least some of the incidents and is encouraging its “Islamic Bloc” student body to raise its head against Abbas’ rule.

The murder of a student at the Arab-American University in Jenin on Saturday (4th) during a confrontation between people from neighboring villages is the latest notable incident in a long series of shooting and violent incidents at universities.  The dead student’s family is now demanding blood revenge from the six students who were complicit in his murder, and following the incident, residents of the village of Jaba’a, where the murdered student lived, closed the main roads and confronted PA officials who have been working against riots in the Jenin area for several days.

Previously, it was Bir Zeit University where there was a severe brawl between groups of students, which led the board of trustees to close the university.  The brawl began following a claim by one of the student leaders that he had been attacked by three Fatah activists.

The Palestinian Authority recently allowed students to work at the university where they held an evening honoring the family of Muntasar Shalabi, the terrorist who murdered Yehuda Guetta in May, and organized parades in which Hamas flags were hoisted.

Now the students in Bir Zeit are coming out against the Palestinian Authority and are saying that they will not continue to absorb the repression from what they call the “two occupations,” Israel and the PA.

Violent skirmishes also took place at Al-Quds University at Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, accompanied by shootings between students, who protested the allocation of parking on behalf of the university administration, and arrived on scene armed to disperse those parking in the compound.  This university was also closed due to severe violence between students.



Report: Hamas Operative Killed In Tunnel Collapse

A Hamas terrorist died as a result of the collapse of a tunnel east of Gaza City on Monday (6th), several sources reported.   

The terrorist was identified as Hani Sami Salah, 26, a resident of the Al-Tufah neighborhood in Gaza City.

This incident occurred just days after Maj. Avichai Adraee, the IDF spokesman in Arabic, issued a warning to the residents of the Gaza Strip to stay away from Hamas’ tunnels following several landslides in the area caused by the tunnels themselves.

Adraee stated that in the last month, the Gaza Strip witnessed more than three such collapses.  “According to estimates, the cause of these collapses was linked to the underground system of Hamas,” he noted in Arabic.

“These events are a new example, but not the only ones, of Hamas’ use of civilian areas.  It is unpredictable when the earth will shake again under the feet of the Gazans because of this blatant exploitation by Hamas that the population pays for over and over again,” he stated.

“Residents of Gaza, I suggest that you be aware of the activities of Hamas in your areas,” he warned.

It appears that the recent rains have collapsed some Hamas tunnels built in the sand with cheap and weak materials.  Several Gazans working for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have died in these tunnel collapses in recent years.

Hamas has built over the years an elaborate underground city running under Gaza.  The system in the Strip is meant to conceal Hamas’ military activities and serve as a place from which to fight the IDF.

Hamas also built cross-border tunnels penetrating into Israeli territory meant to be used as attack tunnels.  This threat has been neutralized by an advanced underground barrier the IDF has built around the Strip. 



From Siberia To The Cayman Islands: Hanukkah Lights Up The World

After eight days and eating who knows how many sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) this Hanukkah, the brightest holiday on the Hebrew calendar came to an end on Sunday night (5th).  The candles have all burned out, the menorahs are stored away, and now the Jewish people look with hope to the next holiday in line – Tu B’Shevat – which is of course followed by Purim. 

This Hanukkah, it was hard not to notice the works of some 5,100 Chabad activists in 106 countries across the globe.  They placed large menorahs at iconic sites, and photographs of their festive candle lighting ceremonies appeared on all the news wires.  They were also busy passing out sufganiyot and delivering menorahs to anyone without.

In total, despite the coronavirus pandemic, Chabad emissaries took part in over 16,000 Hanukkah candle-lighting events, reaching some 8 million Jews across the world.

“More than 40 years ago, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson noted the usefulness of Hanukkah to… foster pride and Jewish identity no matter the place,” said Rabbi Yosef Aharonov, head of Chabad’s emissary enterprise in Israel.

“At first it wasn’t completely a given.  Some were even concerned about anti-Semitic reactions it might cause, and preferred more modest Hanukkah celebrations.  But the Rebbe was unperturbed, and encouraged his emissaries and students to do all they could to light up the world and maximize visibility.”

“It’s a little hard to imagine, but less than 50 years ago, menorahs only appeared inside people’s homes.  The emissaries invest a tremendous amount of effort to raise the immense financial resources required, and today, virtually every traffic junction in Israel lights up the night, sports venues across the globe hold candle-lighting ceremonies, and there is no popular tourist destination where a festive candle-lighting ceremony isn’t held, together with the local leadership, Jewish or otherwise.  The light has won,” said Aharonov.



Swastika Found At New Jersey Synagogue Condemned By Community

A Swastika found on the parking lot sign of a New Jersey synagogue has been swiftly rebuked by local community leaders who are calling for unity.

The swastika also featuring the phrase “We are everywhere” was discovered at Adath Emanu-El Synagogue in Mount Laurel on Sunday (5th), police said

The anti-Semitic act was denounced by Jewish community leaders and local officials, including Mount Laurel Mayor Stephen Steglik, who called it “disgusting” and said it did not represent the community, the Courier Post  reported.

“There are more people who denounce hate than there are who promote it,” Steglik said.  “It’s disgusting.  There’s no other word for it, especially as our neighbors and friends are wrapping up the holiday season for Hanukkah.”

Adath Emanu-El said in a post on its Facebook page that “we must choose light amid the darkness.”  So they went ahead with a scheduled outdoor Hanukkah service on Sunday night (5th) but with a police presence.  In a later Facebook post, the synagogue wrote that the menorah lighting event was “an inspiring show of support and community.”

Rep. Andy Kim, who lives in Moorestown, tweeted on Sunday (5th) that the swastika was initially discovered by a sixth-grader.

“As we reach the end of Hanukkah, I ask that you join me to show that love and unity are everywhere, not hate,” he wrote.

In a Facebook  post, Mount Laurel police denounced the incident.

“We are saddened by the message of hate placed at the synagogue to intimidate our Jewish community,” they wrote.  “Finding this symbol of hate is especially troubling during the holiday season when we are meant to reflect on what is good in the world and in our lives.”