News Digest — 2/12/21

Let It Snow: Israel Looking Forward To ‘Storm Of The Season’ Next Week

Jerusalem may be at least sprinkled in white next week, as forecast models indicate that a cold wave and stormy weather is headed for the Holy Land starting on Tuesday night (16th).

“We’re seeing something that hasn’t been seen since 2005,” Alon Abarbanel, an economics student at Tel Hai and an amateur meteorologist, told Kan News on Thursday (11th).  “There will be a very cold air system that slides in our direction.  We are seeing snow that could accumulate in places like Jerusalem and Metula, not just in the Golan Heights.  We’re all just waiting for it, especially with the slightly disappointing winter that has been till now.  To get the icing on the cake would be amazing.”

Meteorologist forums expressed excitement at the possibility of winter weather, with many expressing hope that next week would bring snow to Jerusalem and the mountainous regions of the country.

Meteorologists stressed, however, that it’s still too early for any certainty, as the different models are still unclear and very fragile.

The stormy weather may also provide a boost to the already high water levels of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).

The past two years have featured above-average rainfall in Israel, with the Israel Hydrological Service announcing last May that the country had, for the first time in 30 years, experienced its second-straight year of such rainfall with 24% more recorded.



Hamas Has Amassed Vast Arsenal, IDF Commander Reports

Hamas has replenished its arsenal since Operation Protective Edge of 2014 and now has a vast collection of rockets, guided missiles and drones, a senior IDF commander said Thursday (11th).

According to Israeli military estimates, Hamas has some 7,000 rockets, as well as 300 anti-tank and 100 anti-aircraft missiles.

It also has acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of some 30,000 militants, including 400 naval commandos who have received sophisticated training and equipment to carry out seaborne operations, the commander added.

The smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad group which often acts independently of Hamas, boasts a smaller arsenal that includes 6,000 rockets, dozens of drones and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and some 400 naval forces.

During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas also made use of attack tunnels beneath the Gaza border.  Israel has discovered and destroyed around 20 tunnels since hostilities ended, including a large one last October that was still under construction.

The commander said an underground barrier equipped with sensors to detect tunnels is 99% complete and will cover the entire 37-mile frontier.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.  Since then, it has fought three wars with Israel.



Drone Strike Reported On Pro-Iranian Militia Arms Shipment On Iraq-Syria Border

Unidentified drones targeted a weapons shipment making its way from Iraq to Syria near an illegal military crossing used by pro-Iranian militias, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Wednesday afternoon (10th), citing unnamed sources.

Several Iraqi news outlets attributed the strike to Israel.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rare daylight incident happened near Albu Kamal in the eastern Deir Ezzor province.

The report said the targeted vehicle was loaded with weapons and ammunition, adding that there is no information on casualties and the extent of the damage.

Israel has reportedly bombed sites connected to Iran’s alleged missile production and transport efforts in the area before.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the strike, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria, save for those in retaliation for an attack from the country.

The IDF has launched hundreds of Strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

Last month, massive Israeli strikes targeted a number of sites in Syria near the Iraq border, an area with a major Iranian military presence that is believed to be used by Tehran to move weapons throughout the region, Syrian media reported.

Unverified reports said 57 fighters were killed.

A senior US intelligence official with knowledge of the attacks told the Associated Press at the time that the airstrikes were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States and targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used as part of the pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.



Report: Mossad Smuggled One-Ton Gun Into Iran For Hit On Nuclear Mastermind

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of Iran’s military nuclear program who was assassinated in November, was gunned down by Israeli Mossad agents using a one-ton automated gun that was smuggled into Iran piece by piece over an eight-month period, the Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday (10th).

The team that assassinated Fakhrizadeh consisted of at least 20 Israeli and Iranian nationals, who deployed to Iran last March, the UK-based weekly reported.

The regime in Tehran has assessed it will take at least six years for Fakhrizadeh’s replacement to be able to fully perform the job, intelligence sources told the Jewish Chronicle.

Analysts in Israel, meanwhile, believe Fakhrizadeh’s death has extended the period of time it would take Iran to achieve a bomb from about three-and-a-half months to two years, with senior intelligence figures privately putting the time frame as high as five years, the report said.

Fakhrizadeh was hit by 13 bullets while traveling with his wife and 12-man security detail in Absard, near Tehran, on November 27 last year.

Neither his wife nor any of his bodyguards were harmed in the attack, which was carried out using a “hyper-accurate automated weapon in order to protect civilians from collateral damage,” the report said.  The sophisticated weapon was assembled on the back of a Nissan pickup truck and was operated via remote-control by spotters tracking the nuclear scientist.

“It was the most accurate way to make sure that the target would be hit, and only him,” a source told the Jewish Chronicle.

The gun was reportedly detonated after the attack to erase the evidence.  Additionally, the explosion added to the confusion during the attack and possibly helped the team members escape Iran safely.

Iran, however, said Tuesday (9th) it suspects that a member of its military was involved in the attack.

Israel acted alone, according to the source quoted in the report, but did notify the US.  He said it was “not to the level of asking for the greenlight, more like checking the water temperature.  Just like the US notified us before killing [Iranian General Qassem] Soleimani.”

The operation succeeded partly because Iranian security services were “too busy watching suspected political dissenters,” sources told the paper.     

Jacob Nagel, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jewish Chronicle: “The Mossad had documents proving that Fakhrizadeh had worked on several nuclear warheads, each one able to cause five Hiroshimas.”

“He was serious.  He still meant to do what he planned.  So someone decided that he had had enough time on earth.”

Iran has alleged that “advanced satellite-controlled technological tools” were used in the assassination.

The Islamic Republic has warned Israel that it should “expect retaliation.”



Twitter Can’t Bring Itself To Ban Those Calling For Israel’s Genocide On Platform

Twitter “cannot predict” what, if any, action will be taken against world leaders who call for the genocide of the Jewish people on its platform, a Twitter representative told a special Knesset committee hearing on Wednesday (10th).

“Let me ask you please, squarely: Is and are calls for the genocide of Israel in the public interest as a statement of foreign policy?” asked Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human rights lawyer.

In response, Twitter’s public policy representative Ronan Costello said that the area was “developing.”

“I think that one thing that we can take from the developments of the last few months – and I hope you’ll appreciate this – is that no world leaders are exempt from our policies and that we will enforce our policies where we feel there have been violations of them,” said Costello in an apparent reference to the platform’s banning of President Donald Trump last month.

Costello said Twitter’s developing policies are applicable to world leaders, “regardless of who they are or who they represent.”

“There is no exception as to who they are applicable to,” he said, adding, “I cannot predict what enforcement action will be taken in the future based on policy development being applied in the moment or perhaps even retrospectively.”

Member of the Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh said, “That answer happens to be unsatisfactory as a Jew whose Genocide is being called for.”

At a Knesset hearing in July 2020, Ostrovsky noted that Twitter had started flagging Trump’s tweets and asked, “Why have you not flagged the tweets of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, who has literally called for the genocide of Israel and the Jewish people?”

Twitter representative Ylwa Pettersson responded that “foreign policy saber-rattling” is generally not in violation of our Twitter rules.

Cotler-Wunsh said, “So calling for genocide is okay, but commenting on politics is not?”

“I think what’s come up again and again through different examples is a sense of double standards, and I would implore Twitter and other online platforms to ensure – and I think that’s your responsibility and you need to be held to account for that – that there are no more double standards,” she said. 



German Flyers: ‘Corona Problem Or Jewish Problem?’

Anti-Semitic flyers were found Wednesday (10th) on a train in Cologne, Germany, blaming Jews for the ongoing pandemic.

The black-and-white flyers read: “Do we really have a corona problem?  Or do we have a Jewish problem?” with a Star of David in the background next to the names of four prominent German politicians – Chancellor Angela Merkel, Health Minister Jens Spahn, Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and virologist Christian Drosten.

None of them are Jewish, but the flyers claim they are.

“The more Jews in politics and media, the worse things are!” it reads.

Several German protests against coronavirus restrictions have featured anti-Semitic rhetoric and comparisons of the restrictions that Jews went through in the Holocaust. 

The flyers were found by Omas Gegen Rechts (Grandmothers Against The Right), a citizen-led democratic initiative that’s been recognized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany for its activism.

“They make a loud and clear statement against growing anti-Semitism and racism,” the council’s president, Dr. Josef Schuster, said of the group in November.

The organization was founded in 2018 following the example of an Austrian organization by the same name.

Approximately 100 regional groups across the country participate in demonstrations against anti-Semitism and racism while promoting human rights.  The German incarnation was founded in response to growing right-wing populism and extremism.

The Omas group said in an Instagram post this week that they had filed a police complaint concerning the Anti-Semitic flyers.