News Digest — 2/21/19

Incendiary Airborne Device Sparks Fires In Gaza Border Communities

Two fires broke out Tuesday (19th) in the Kissufim Forest in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Israeli border with Gaza, due to an incendiary device tied to a balloon launched from Gaza – the first such arson case at the border in weeks.  The fires burned grasslands and wooded areas. Firefighting forces that were called to the scene gained control of the flames.

In addition, a firecracker attached to a balloon in Sha’ar HaNegev Council in the Gaza border communities was neutralized by a police sapper.

In January, a cluster of balloons attached to an explosive device was located in the Gezer Field, near the Ramat Negev Regional Council.  The police neutralized the device and no casualties were reported.

In December, a cluster of 10 balloons attached to a miniature explosive device landed near a kindergarten yard in Moshav Kfar Maimon in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, with no injuries reported.

The balloon attacks came Tuesday (19th) as dozens of Palestinians took part in riots along the northern border of the Gaza Strip, across from the community of Kibbutz Zikim, the army said.

Demonstrators burned tires, threw rocks at soldiers and attacked the security fence.  In one case, rioters attempted to throw an explosive device across the border, but it failed to clear the fence and landed inside Gaza.

Israeli troops responded with tear gas and in some cases live fire.



Jordan Brings PA Into Council Running Affairs On Temple Mount

The Jordanian government has expanded the number of members in the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, which handles day-to-day operations of the Islamic sites on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem’s holiest site, Haaretz reported Monday (18th).

Jordan made the announcement last week that it was expanding the number of members from 11 to 18 and for the first time will include members of the Palestinian Authority and local religious leaders.

The initial actions of the expanded Waqf suggests it will lead to rising tensions.  The council met for the first time last Thursday (14th) in an area closed by Israeli police, after which it entered the area to pray.  On Monday (18th), the Waqf summoned worshipers to the same spot, leading to a clash with police in which five Palestinians were arrested.

Although Israel had conquered the Temple Mount in 1967, it handed control of the area to Jordan, a decision made by then-Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan.

Palestinian leaders have repeatedly used the fictitious threat of a Jewish takeover of the site as a rallying cry to whip up violence against Jews, a tactic started even before the Jewish state was established.  Terrorists today frequently attribute their attacks, whether by car-ramming, knifing or shooting, to their desire to defend the Temple Mount against Jews.

In recent years, Jews have been going up to the Temple Mount in rapidly rising numbers, signifying a dramatic shift in thinking, as rabbis once considered the site too holy to enter.  Now, the entire spectrum of religious Zionists view visiting the Temple Mount as permissible. However, Israeli authorities prohibit Jews from praying there to avoid offending Arab sensibilities.



Report: Qatar Won’t Finance Gaza’s Electricity After April

Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi recently said in closed-door meetings that Qatar does not intend to continue financing Gaza’s electricity after April, Kan 11 News reported on Monday (18th), citing Palestinian Arab sources.

The reason for the move, according to the sources, is Qatar’s disappointment with the foot-dragging on several major projects in Gaza.

Qatar had pledged to finance diesel fuel for the Gaza power plant for six months, and since last November has been transferring $10 million a month for this purpose, according to Kan.  The supply of funds is due to end in April, and the Qatari envoy has indicated that it will not be extended beyond that.

At the same time, the Palestinian Arab sources estimated that Emadi’s  message was intended to pressure the relevant elements in Gaza to accelerate the large-scale projects in the field of electricity.  At the top of the list of projects is a high-voltage power line from Israel, which could double the amount of electricity to Gaza.

Under Emadi’s supervision, Qatar recently transferred cash to Gaza through Israel which was meant for the salaries of Hamas employees in the enclave.

Israel allowed two installments of the Qatari money, which was to have been distributed in six installments, to enter Gaza, but postponed the third last month following the shooting of an IDF soldier by a terrorist from Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Security Cabinet subsequently approved the transfer of the third installment, but Hamas refused to accept the money “in response to the occupation policy.”

Emadi subsequently announced his country will no longer fund salaries of Hamas employees in Gaza and would instead donate the remaining $60 million in aid mostly through United Nations programs.



80 Tombstones Vandalized In Jewish Cemetery In France

Eighty tombstones were vandalized on Monday night (18th) in a Jewish cemetery in the southern French province of Alsace, local authorities reported.  Swastikas were spray-painted on the graves. The culprits have not yet been found.

“I am deeply saddened by the desecration of the cemetery,” said a senior member of the Jewish community, who served as mayor for the past two years.  The Jewish cemetery has existed since 1795,” he said.

It was just the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents across the country.

On Friday night (15th), two teens shot an air rifle at a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where a large Jewish community lives.  A Jewish man was injured in the leg, French media reported the incident on Tuesday (19th).

The cemetery vandalism took place only hours before marches against anti-Semitism were planned, with ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum coming together in rallies to condemn the explosion of anti-Jewish hatred.

Ahead of Tuesday’s gatherings, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the vandalized Jewish cemetery.

“Every time a French person, because he or she is Jewish, is insulted, threatened – or worse, injured or killed – the whole Republic is attacked,” Macron said.

Former French Presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy also joined the thousands of protesters and government officials on the Paris streets.

The upsurge in anti-Semitism in France, home to the world’s largest Jewish community outside Israel and the United States, was also on display when a torrent of verbal abuse was directed at prominent Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on Saturday (16th) during a march of yellow vest anti-government protesters.

The assaults came days after the French government reported a spike in anti-Semitism last year: 541 registered incidents, up 74% from 311 in 2017.



Israel Calls French Jews To ‘Come Home’

Tuesday afternoon (19th), in response to the latest, cemetery vandalism, Israeli Likud member Yoav Galant, who was appointed immigration minister last month, called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel.

“The desecration of the graves in the Jewish cemetery in France reminds me of dark days in the history of the Jewish people,” Galant said.

“The State of Israel is the protected national home for the Jews of the world.  Last week I visited the French Jewish community, which faces anti-Semitic attacks and a process of assimilation.  I strongly condemn the anti-Semitism in France and call to Jews – come home, immigrate to Israel,” he said

Earlier on Tuesday (19th), swastikas were found sprayed on some 80 graves in a Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region.

The vandalism was discovered ahead of protest rallies in Paris and other French cities to denounce a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the country, culminating with the harassment of Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut at a protest rally on Saturday (16th).