News Digest — 2/26/21

Report: U.S. Strike In Syria Kills 17 Revolutionary Guards Members

At least 17 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps were killed in a U.S. strike on Shiite militia targets in Syria overnight Thursday (25th), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday (26th).

The United States struck pro-Iranian targets inside Syria, Thursday night (25th) in response to a Shiite militia missile strike targeting the U.S. Embassy inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Among the targets of the U.S. strike was a special border crossing built by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards near the Al Qaim Border Crossing adjacent to the village of Al Bukamal in eastern Syria.  Pro-Iranian militias have used the border crossing to transfer equipment, forces, and weapons from its territory in Iraq to Syria.  According to numerous reports, the crossing also served the Revolutionary Guards’ adjacent Imam Ali military base.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported three trucks carrying munitions were taken out in the attack.

“There were heavy losses in the strike, at least 17 fighters were killed,” Rami Abdul Rahman told Agence France-Presse (AFP), Friday (26th).

Earlier this week, media outlets aligned with opposition forces in Syria reported the Revolutionary Guards had transferred rocket launchers through the Syrian border crossing and stationed them at the Imam Ali base.  A large shipment of weapons was also reported to have been transferred to pro-Iranian militias active in the area, chief among them Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq.

Two weeks ago, a contractor was killed and several U.S. soldiers were wounded when missiles were fired at a U.S. air base at Erbil National Airport, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, believed to have been carried out by Shiite militias in the country.



Report: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain And The UAE In Talks On Defense Alliance

Israel is in talks with the kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on establishing a four-nation defense alliance, i24NEWS reported on Thursday (25th).

The reported defense alliance talks likely come in response to the “growing Iranian threat” in the region, specifically regarding its budding nuclear program along with its expanding influence in the Middle East with countries like Syria and Iraq.

The report comes as US President Joe Biden attempts to launch talks with Iran on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.  The Islamic Republic, in turn, has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal.

The White House said last week that the U.S. has accepted Europe’s offer to mediate conversations with Iran regarding the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has said it is studying the EU proposal but has yet to respond to it.

Jerusalem does not have diplomatic relations with Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) but the UAE and Bahrain signed a historic normalization deal with Israel in September 2020 known as the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

Earlier this week, it was reported that officials from Saudi Arabia and Israel recently held telephone conversations which centered around Saudi Arabia’s concern over Biden’s policy on Iran.



Abbas Vetoes Israeli Offer Of Vaccination Unit On Temple Mount: ‘They’re Trying To Get A Foothold’

The Palestinian Authority (PA) vetoed an Israeli offer last week to set up a vaccination clinic on the Temple Mount even though weekly prayers attract thousands of Arabs in potential super-spreader events and against health regulations.

Channel 11 reported Wednesday (24th) that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas opposed the initiative, saying it would give Israel a “foothold” in the Al Aqsa Compound.

Israel also tried to soften the Palestinian rejection by proposing that only Arabs would administer the immunizations and that they would be dressed in regular clothes, with nothing identifying them as coming from Israeli health organizations.  The PA remained adamantly against the idea.

When lockdown restrictions began to ease almost two weeks ago some 15,000 Moslems came for Friday prayers on the Mount.  Israeli police did nothing to stop them entering Al Aqsa even though it was a gross violation of Health Ministry guidelines, which stated that outdoor gatherings were limited to 20 people.

Television reports showed men crowded in long lines as they bowed and prayed, which violated social distancing rules as well.  In at least one clip, practically no one was masked.

The infection rate in eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods is staggering.  In Issawiya, 17.5% of Covid tests came back positive, in Kafr Aqab, 23%, and in Shuafat, a whopping 50%.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly urged immunizations in the Arab sector and has visited health clinics in Arab towns to encourage vaccinations.

The Health Ministry has staff dedicated to publicizing the need for inoculation among the Arab public, along with explanatory videos on its website about Covid-19 and vaccines, in Arabic.

However, the morbidity rate from the coronavirus in the Israeli Arab sector still remains high in comparison to the rest of the population.

According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, on Thursday (25th) the Palestinian Ministry of Health called for a two-week full lockdown in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

According to the Coronavirus-tracker Worldometer site, the three-day moving average of the virus at the beginning of the week “in Palestine” was 596, by Wednesday (24th) it had jumped to 1,377.



BDS Is Anti-Semitic – Julia Leb

I rarely ever feel comfortable talking about Israel in a university setting, despite the fact that the Land of Israel is such a dearly held part of my Jewish identity.  I have always found it interesting that sweeping dismissals of this part of my Jewish identity, the part that is tied to Israel, are so very welcomed in certain academic and progressive circles.  In these groups, it feels like everyone else has the right to defend their cultural, ethnic and religious identities except for the Jew.  

On February 9, 2021, the student government at the University of California, Irvine voted 19-3 to pass a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution.  BDS stands for the boycott of, divestment from and sanctions on the current Jewish State of Israel.  The BDS movement will not be satisfied until there is no Jewish state existing within the Land of Israel.

From a principled prospective, the notion of divesting from one nation in the name of helping an entirely separate nation strikes me as odd.  Why divest from Israel to help under-resourced Palestinians?  Why not invest directly in Palestinian aid or grassroots movements?

It is a lack of satisfactory answers to these questions that leaves me and many other Jewish people feeling like these movements are more about opposing Jewish self-determination than they are about supporting Palestinian liberation.

Calling for the mass boycott of Israel is a way to publicly stand against the existence of a Jewish nation in a land that Jews are indigenous to.  In doing so, the movement is denying a huge part of the Jewish identity from having an acceptable place in social life.  If that is not anti-Semitism, what is?



PA And Hamas Silent On Plight Of Palestinians In Syria – Khaled Abu Toameh

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, 4,048 Palestinians have died.  Another 333 have gone missing, while 1,797 are being held in Assad’s prisons.  40% of Palestinians in Syria have been displaced since the beginning of the civil war, and 91% live in poverty.  Like most Arab countries, Syria denies citizenship to Palestinians.  According to a January 2020 report published by the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS), at least 620 Palestinians have been tortured to death at Syrian detention centers.  But Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza hardly seem to notice.

Palestinian leaders see no evil or wrong-doing when their people are killed, injured, displaced, arrested and tortured in an Arab country.  Their attention is solely focused on Israel, which they denounce day and night.  “Pro-Palestinian” groups around the world also remain silent about the catastrophic human rights violations of Palestinians in Syria.