News Digest — 2/18/20

Mass Prayer Held In Jerusalem To Keep Coronavirus At Bay

Hundreds gathered at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Sunday (16th) for mass prayer to keep coronavirus at bay.  According to local media the time of prayer was an initiative of local rabbis and Jewish community leaders.

The Health Ministry announced Sunday (16th) that Israelis who travel to several Asian countries will be subject to mandatory quarantine for two weeks upon their return to prevent the spread of the novel virus.

The mandatory isolation was already in effect for people who arrived in Israel from mainland China, but the new directive expanded this to anyone who arrives from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central Chinese province of Hubei, has killed close to 2,000 people in China with the latest figures showing 70,000 cases of the illness.

Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu said, “They are really not far from our hearts, we feel their pain, we feel the distress of the people who are sick, who are in quarantine, who are in fear, and we are opening our hearts more and more so that God will pity them and fill them with healing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli citizens aboard a cruise ship, who spent two weeks under quarantine off the coast of Japan over the coronavirus, will be evacuated this week.



‘We Are Preparing For A Wide-Ranging Operation In Gaza’ Netanyahu Tells Community Leaders

On Sunday (16th), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with a group of leaders from communities near the Gaza border.

Netanyahu held the meeting amid an uptick in rocket attacks from the coastal enclave and the return of arson terror via airborne incendiary devices sent into Israel using balloons and kites.

According to a statement released by the premier’s office, “Prime Minister Netanyahu updated the council heads on the latest developments regarding Gaza and told them that Israel was prepared for any scenario, including a wide-ranging military operation.  The Prime Minister praised the steadfastness of the residents of the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.” 

While Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, has attempted to publicize its willingness to decrease arson terror, it appears to lack meaningful control over Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the faction suspected of launching the most recent barrage of rockets at Israel.

Both groups are bankrolled by Iran, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction.

Among the officials who attended the meeting on Sunday (16th) with Netanyahu were Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, Eshkol Regional Council Chairman Gadi Yarkoni, Ashkelon Coast Regional Chairman Itamar Revivo, Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council Chairman Ofir Levenstein and Sdot Negev Regional Council Chairman, Tamir Idon.

“For the last two years we have been in a war that can’t be ignored any longer,” said the group of Gaza belt leaders after the meeting, Israel Hayom reported.

“In the last month alone, we have been hit with dozens of rockets and at the same time terrorist balloons from the Gaza Strip are becoming more and more dangerous,” they continued.

“This reality… cannot continue to exist,” they concluded.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office also mentioned “expedited economic development and the establishment of industrial and employment zones for the communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”



Lebanon Poses An Acute Threat To Israel – Israel Kasnett

Lebanon formed a new government in January under Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a 60-year-old technocrat.  Diab received little support from his own Sunni community, who traditionally aligned with the West and Saudi Arabia, and instead, he was backed by the Hezbollah-allied March 8 parliamentary-bloc of Shiite Muslims and pro-Syrians.  This means that Iran – Hezbollah’s chief sponsor – now holds a tighter grip on Lebanon.

According to Matthew Levitt, director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the new government under Diab does not include any Western-backed political parties, leading to concerns that the government will be unable to secure international help to ease its financial crisis.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research  at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the fact that Hezbollah has grown stronger in Lebanon “is something that has been happening for years, and the international community has stood idly by and failed to intervene…. The basics of the equation…is that Lebanon is controlled, at least 40%, by an Iranian proxy terrorist organization.”  With Hezbollah controlling Lebanon’s government, and military, Israel must contend with a full-fledged terror state on its northern border serving as a proxy to Iran.



Israeli Plane Crosses Sudan Skies In Historic Flight

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday (16th) that an Israeli aircraft made a historic flight over Sudan just two weeks after he met with the Muslim-majority nation’s leader in Uganda.

The Israeli premier met with the head of Sudan’s transitional government, Gen Abdel- Fatah Burhan, in a major step toward improving ties with an Arab state that has long been hostile to Israel.

Netanyahu touted his meeting with the Sudanese leader as yet another foreign relations accomplishment ahead of Israel’s March 2nd elections, the third in a year.

Israel and Sudan are “discussing rapid normalization,” Netanyahu said Sunday (16th), adding that “the first Israeli airplane passed Thursday (14th) over the skies of Sudan.”  He was speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.

An Israeli government official said the plane was a “private Israeli executive jet,” not a flight with Israel’s national carrier El Al.

Flight data from the Flight Aware website showed a private business jet crossing Sudanese airspace on a flight from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to Tel Aviv on Thursday night, landing in Israel at 4:25, local time on Friday morning (14th).

Netanyahu’s meeting with Burhan was kept secret until after the fact due to sensitivities of the Sudanese leader meeting with the prime minister of Israel.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has forged covert ties with several Arab states.



Egypt Builds A Wall On Border With Gaza – Rasha Abou Jalal

Tribal sources in northern Sinai told Al-Monitor that on January 27, Egyptian armed forces began building a one and a half mile long barrier on the border with Gaza from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Rafah border crossing.  The 20 foot high barrier is made of reinforced concrete and extends over sixteen feet under the ground. It is designed to block the entry of gunmen from Gaza into Sinai and shut down remaining Palestinian cross-border tunnels.

Sources said the last phase involves building the barrier along segments of the border that Egyptian armed forces appraise as vulnerable or where underground tunnels are suspected.  On February 3, Egypt announced having found a nearly two mile long tunnel from Gaza to the heart of the Egyptian border city of Rafah, Maan News reported.



Iran To Convert Mordechai And Esther’s Tomb Into ‘Palestinian Consulate’

The Iranian branch of the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM) organization on Sunday (16th) reported that the Iranian government is threatening to demolish the Tomb of Mordechai and Esther located in the city of Hamadan, reported Breaking Israel News’ Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz.

The Iranian government plans to turn the burial site of the biblical Jewish heroes into a “Palestinian” complex.

According to reports, a group of Basij, a paramilitary militia branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, tried to raid the historic site Sunday (16th) as revenge for Trump’s Deal of the Century.  The Basij, part of the IRGC, is designated as a “terror organization” by the United States, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Berkowitz reported that in 2008, the Iranian government added the site to its National Heritage list, thereby putting it under government protection.  Three years later, anti-Israel protesters surrounded the tomb and threatened to tear it down. The Tomb was later removed from the Heritage List. The official state news agency explained the decision by pointing out that Purim was a “celebration by Jews for their massacre of Iranians.”