News Digest — 2/18/21

Residents In Jerusalem And Golan Enjoy Winter Wonderland

Residents of the northern Golan Heights woke up to a snowy Wednesday morning (17th) as a major cold front entered Israel.

More snow fell in Israel throughout the day, including in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, some even hitting the higher elevations in the Negev.

The Mount Hermon Ski Resort reported that the snow level rose by 11 inches and the temperature in the morning stood at 37 degrees Fahrenheit.  Heavy snow is expected in the region for the next two days.

Meanwhile, firefighters in Haifa helped rescue a man who got trapped in his vehicle after it hit ice and flipped over.  He was taken to the hospital in mild condition.

Another man in his eighties, was moderately injured after being hit by a tree branch that fell due to strong winds.  He was taken to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center with a broken leg and head injuries.

The Israeli police blocked the entrance to several highways due to the snowy weather.

The Sea of Galilee rose by an inch in the last two days.  As of Wednesday morning (17th) it stood at 670 feet below sea level, the Water Authority reported.

The stormy weather is expected to calm on Thursday (18th), but will continue to rain intermittently.  There is still a chance for snow on Thursday morning (18th) in the northern and central mountains.



Hezbollah’s Nasrallah Warns Israel ‘It Will See Things It Has Not Seen’ Since Its Founding

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday (16th) that Israel’s “home front will see things it has not seen since the establishment of Israel” should war break out between the two sides.

“No one can guarantee that ‘combat days’ won’t descend into widespread war.  The Israeli home front will see things it has not seen since the establishment of Israel.  We follow and are very deliberate in our decisions.  We will not accept anything that puts our country in danger,” Nasrallah said in the full quote.

Nasrallah was referring to Israel’s three-day military drill ‘Galilee Rose’ which wrapped up on Tuesday (16th) and was meant to ready it for a possible war with Hezbollah.  During the drill the IDF said it was preparing for various scenarios, including “combat days.”  Nasrallah’s comments were intended as a response to the drill.

In reply to IDF Chief-of-Staff Aviv Kochavi’s threat to hit civilian targets if necessary, Nasrallah said, “Do what you want, and so will we.”

“If war is imposed on us, we will fight.  If you attack cities, we will attack cities.  If you attack villages, we will attack settlements,” Nasrallah said.  

Kochavi referred to the fact that Israel may have no choice but to attack civilian areas given Hezbollah’s tactic of using human shields, and hiding its men and munitions within residential neighborhoods and villages.

While terror group Hezbollah is a major player in Lebanon and acts as a state-within-a-state, it is doubtful whether Lebanon shares Nasrallah’s “do what you want” attitude.

The Lebanese government in 2019, fearful it would bear the brunt of an Israeli reprisal, swiftly asked France and the U.S. to intervene to calm tensions after Hezbollah fired anti-tank rockets at Israel that September.  In July 2020, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF to target ‘Lebanese infrastructure’ should the terrorist group attack.

Israel has fought two wars in Lebanon, first in 1982 and again in 2006.



Mayors Across The World Join Forces To Combat Anti-Semitism, Hate

Mayors across the world are set to come together next month for the first global mayors summit against anti-Semitism.

Scheduled for March 16, the digital summit will be hosted by the Frankfurt Municipality and the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM), and will include lectures and activists directed at encouraging municipal and local leaders “to eradicate anti-Semitism, prejudice and hatred from their cities,” according to a CAM press release.

Combating anti-Semitism is challenging and requires a broad approach as it manifests itself in various layers of society.  “Policy solutions to anti-Semitism are usually enacted at the national or international level,” and often fail to address everyday situations, the press release noted.

Therefore, local initiatives in the fields of education, law-enforcement and community can go far in reaching people and tackling the issue.

The summit will provide its participants an opportunity to share their unique perspectives and experiences with others and to obtain a diverse tool kit for combating hatred as a whole and anti-Semitism in particular.

Panel sessions are expected to cover various issues, including education and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism; Legislation, security and law enforcement; overcoming trauma and interfaith and cross-communal relations.

According to CAM, key speakers at the event will include Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker; Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis; Brussels Mayor Philippe Close; Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj; Bologna Mayor Virginio Merola; Newark, New Jersey Mayor Jerry Clifton; Poway, California Mayor Steve Vaus; and Bal Harbour, Florida Mayor Gabriel Groisman.

Becker stressed that anti-Semitism exists everywhere and is a tangible threat to every city in the world.

“Anti-Semitism is not an abstract threat.  It takes place in cities, counties and towns all around the world.  We must confront  anti-Semitism where it takes place,” Becker said.

“As mayors and municipal representatives, we have a duty to protect our communities and ensure the community of Jewish life in our cities.  I call on municipal leaders in Europe, the US and all around the world to join us and work to translate our values into practical policies.”

Alongside his position as mayor of Frankfurt, Becker serves as commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism in the German state of Hesse in Frankfurt.  He is considered one of Israel’s strongest political supporters in Germany.



Palestinians Report 93% Voter Registration For Polls

Fifteen years after Palestinians last went to the polls, some 93% of eligible voters in the West Bank and Gaza have registered for long-awaited elections, official figures showed on Wednesday (17th).

Palestinians over 18 were eligible to register online, by phone or in person for parliamentary elections planned for May 22 and a leadership vote set for July 31.

The Central Election Commission said 2.6 million out of 2.8 million eligible voters registered for the elections before a Tuesday (16th) deadline.

In the previous Palestinian election in 2006, around 80% of 1.6 million eligible voters registered but only one million cast ballots, the commission said.

There has been widespread skepticism that the ballots will actually go ahead, after years of enmity between the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, and Hamas Islamists who run Gaza.

The 2006 ballot ended in a surprise win by Hamas, which was running for the first time in parliamentary elections.  A power struggle ensued and in 2007 the militant group seized control of Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas, 85, is expected to run in the new elections.

Palestinians also plan for this year’s ballots to take place in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War.



Son Of Slain ‘Collaborator’ Sentenced To Death By Hamas

A Hamas court on Wednesday (17th) sentenced a Palestinian man to death by hanging after convicting him of killing an activist who murdered his father for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

Shadi al-Sufi, 38, was found guilty of killing Jaber al-Qeeq, a former activist with the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

He belonged to a cell that brutally murdered Sibhi al-Sufi, a resident of the town of Rafah in the Southern Gaza Strip during the First Intifada, which erupted in 1987.

The victim was reportedly hacked to death in front of his wife and children.

Qeeq’s terrorist cell was responsible for the abduction and murder of a number of Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel.

More than 1,000 suspected collaborators with Israel were murdered by Palestinians during the First Intifada.

Qeeq was arrested by Israeli authorities and sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his role in the murder of Sufi and other suspected collaborators.

He was released shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993.  Although he belonged to the PFLP, which rejected the Oslo Accords, Qeeq was recruited to the Palestinian Authority security forces with rank of colonel.

Qeeq was killed last year by three assailants.  One of them was immediately identified as Shadi al-Sufi, whose father was murdered by the PFLP activist more than 30 years ago.

After the assassination of Qeeq, the main suspect (Shadi al-Sufi) posted a message on Facebook in which he wrote: “My father, I have cried for 32 years over your absence.  Today I laughed with all my heart.  Rest in peace.  I have slaughtered your adversary like a goat.”

The PFLP and other Palestinian groups, including Fatah, demanded that Hamas impose the death penalty on all those involved in the killing of Qeeq.

Hamas courts have issued at least 10 death sentences during 2020, according to Palestinian human rights organizations.

Sufi was arrested two months after the assassination of Qeeq.  His trial lasted three months, and the death sentence was handed down on Wednesday morning (17th).

Four members of his family who were charged with complicity in the assassination of Qeeq were sentenced to 10-15 years in prison with hard labor.  A fifth man was sentenced to three years in prison.