News Digest — 2/11/20

Israel Sends Hamas Message: We’ll Deal ‘Major Blow’ To Gaza, And U.S Will Back Us

“An Egyptian security delegation visiting the Gaza Strip has relayed a message from Israel to Hamas, warning that if calm is not restored to the Israel-Gaza border, Israel will deal a major blow to Hamas with international and American support,” reports the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper.

It added, citing terror sources, that “the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, did not attend the high-level encounter with the Egyptian delegation for fear that Israel would know his whereabouts and assassinate him.”

There has been an increase over recent weeks of rocket and mortar attacks fired by terrorists from Gaza into Israel along with massive numbers of booby-trapped balloons launched across the border.

“The meeting with the Egyptian delegation took place inside Yahya Sinwar’s office, but without him in attendance,” cited the newspaper.  According to its sources, Israeli security officials issued the warning to the Egyptian delegation at a meeting in Tel Aviv that took place a day before the Egyptian-Hamas talks in Gaza.

Hamas is said to have responded to the Egyptians that it “does not seek to escalate,” but that “the economic pressure experienced by the Gazans and the failure to implement understandings for a state of calm will lead to more tensions in the border area.”

As a result, the terror organization – which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 – reportedly said that any deal for stopping terror attacks on Israel would have to include the transfer of humanitarian assistance across the border with Israel.

Israeli authorities have stressed that they have kept the border as accessible as possible under the circumstances and that a state of calm allows for greater leniencies.

“The Hamas delegation warned that assassination of terror leaders…would spark a major war which would have a significant impact on Israel and its leadership.” reported Al-Akhbar, seeming to imply that the terrorists would also target Israeli leaders.



Diplomats: PA Withdraws Request For UN Vote On US Mideast Plan

The Palestinian Authority has abandoned its request for a vote at the UN Security Council Tuesday (11th) rejecting the US Mideast peace plan, over a lack of international support, diplomats said.

A resolution that was to be introduced by Indonesia and Tunisia risked not having nine out of fifteen votes in its favor, the minimum required for its adoption provided there was no veto by a permanent member of the Security Council, diplomats told AFP.

PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas is set to take part Tuesday (11th) in a session on Donald Trump’s January 28 plan, which paves the way for Israeli annexation of much of Judea and Samaria but also allows for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

The sudden PA withdrawal of their request came after the United States – which enjoys veto power as a permanent member – proposed a series of amendments that could come for a vote at the session attended by Abbas.

In proposals seen by AFP, the United States would significantly alter the text to remove references to 1967 lines being the basis of peace from the PA resolution.

It would also cut out a line stating that Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria since 1967 are illegal.

The United States is also seeking to eliminate language that equated eastern Jerusalem with Judea and Samaria.  The Trump plan calls for recognition of the contested holy city, as Israel’s undivided capital, while establishing a Palestinian capital on its outskirts.

While recognizing the Trump plan “departs from the internationally endorsed terms of reference and parameters,” the U.S.wants the resolution to state that the Security Council “welcomes discussion on this proposal to advance the cause of peace.”

“Discussions are continuing on the text,” a diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Other diplomats cast doubt on whether a vote could take place at a later date, considering the wide divergence in positions.



Bennett: US Agreed To Counter Iran In Iraq While Israel Fights In Syria

Jerusalem and Washington have divided up the fight against Iran, with Israel taking the responsibility for countering the Islamic republic in Syria, and the United States in Iraq, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Saturday (8th).

Last week Bennett returned home from a working visit to Washington in which he met US Defense Secretary Mark Epser and other senior American officials.

Speaking at a campaign event on Saturday (8th), he said the two countries had agreed to work in tandem to block Iran’s efforts to create a corridor through which it could move men and material from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and out to Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea.

“I met with my colleague the American Defense Minister Mark Esper, and we sorted out the coordination exactly – they’re taking Iraq and we’re taking Syria,” Bennett said at a synagogue in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

In his speech, Bennett confirmed that Israel had conducted strikes against Iran in Syria in the past week, apparently referring to an attack on Iranian-linked sites in the pre-dawn hours of last Thursday morning (6th).

“We have significantly intensified, including this week, very strong attacks against Iran, against the Iranian presence, against Iranian bases, against Iranian surface-to-air-missiles, against Iranian fighters, against Iranian militias in Syria and more and more and more, and look how we’re turning their strength into weakness,” he said.

“In the territory of Syria – we have intelligence superiority and aerial superiority there.  It’s a bad place for Iran to be,” Bennett added. 



Will 30,000 French Jews Arrive In Israel This Year?  New Initiative Says It’s Possible

A new initiative that calls on French Jews to make aliyah has launched this week, with the goal of having at least 30,000 Jews visit Israel this year.

The campaign called “Reconnec-Sion” (Reconnect-Zion), which aims to draw French Jewry closer to Israel, wants to present an alternative to the daily anti-Semitism in France, which has been on the rise.

It is led by Miriam Peretz and Yehuda Ben-Yishai, who are bereaved parents who lost their loved ones to terrorism. 

The initiative is called in Hebrew, “I Seek My Brethren,” a reference to the famous phrase from Genesis in which Joseph goes on a search for his siblings.

France has about 500,000 Jews and the vast majority of them are believed to be non-practicing or uninvolved in the Jewish community.

A recent American Jewish Committee survey revealed that more than two-thirds of Jews in France (67%) say the degree of anti-Semitism in the country is high.

In the survey, 70% of French Jews said that they were victims of at least one anti-Semitic attack, whereas 64% said they experience anti-Semitic verbal abuse on occasion.

Moreover, according to the survey, 23% of French Jews have been targeted by violence at least once, while ten percent said they were attacked more than once.



Israeli Researchers Grow New Date Plants From 2,000-Year-Old Seeds

Israeli researchers revealed this week that they successfully grew extinct date plants from ancient seeds found at archaeological sites in the Judean Desert.

Dozens of seeds were gleaned from archaeology collections gathered in locations in the dry Dead Sea area, including the Masada hilltop fortress built by King Herod the Great in the first century BCE and the ancient site of Qumran, famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s.

Six date saplings grew from 32 seeds sown and the plants have been dubbed Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith and Hannah.

“Germination of 2,000-year-old seeds of Phoenix dactylifera from Judean Desert archeological sites provides a unique opportunity to study the Judean date palm, described in antiquity for the quality, size and medicinal properties of its fruit, but lost for centuries,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the peer-reviewed Science Advances Journal.

“The Kingdom of Judah (Judea) that arose in the southern part of the historic Land of Israel in the 11th century BCE was particularly renowned for the quality and quantity of its dates,” the researchers noted.  These so-called ‘Judean dates’ grown in plantations around Jericho and the Dead Sea were recognized by classical writers for their large size, sweet taste, extended storage, and medicinal properties.”

Radiocarbon dating revealed the seeds used for the project came from a period spanning the fourth century BCE to the second century CE.