News Digest — 2/4/21

Israel Hits Iranian, Hezbollah Targets In Syria, State Media Reports

The Israeli Air Force conducted several airstrikes against targets in Damascus and in the south of Syria on Wednesday night (3rd), the country’s state media reported.

The Syrian army claimed that its air defenses shot down “most” of the missiles.

The report quotes a military source who said that one of the attacks was launched from the direction of the Golan Heights with air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missiles against targets in the southern region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on strikes that occurred in the Quneitra area, adjacent to Israel’s border with Syria, in which an Israeli bombardment targeted Syrian military posts shared by Iranian-backed militias.

The airstrikes targeted several military positions, including locations where militias affiliated with the Lebanese Hezbollah terror organization and the “Syrian Resistance for the Liberation of the Golan” are located.

SOHR sources also reported hearing several explosions in military posts of the Syrian regime’s 90th Brigade, where Iranian-backed militias are located.

No casualties have been reported as of Thursday morning (4th).

The IDF has remained silent on the reports, consistent with Israeli policy.   

The reported strikes on Damascus came after various sources reported two Iranian cargo planes, linked to the Iranian Air Force and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), arrived in Damascus and returned to Tehran a few hours later.  In addition, a Syrian Air Force transport plane flew from Tehran to Latakia.

Iran routinely attempts to arm the Lebanon-based Hezbollah with advanced weapons.  Israel has exposed and thwarted multiple attempts by Iran to transfer game-changing weapons to Hezbollah, including by air shipments from Iran.

Israel has significantly stepped up its strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent weeks.

In general, Iran and Hezbollah’s military build-up in Syria remains a red line for Israel.  The IAF has carried out thousands of attacks to thwart Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly declared that they will not tolerate an Iranian threat on its northern border with Syria and will take all necessary measures to ensure that such a menace does not emerge.



Hezbollah Fires At Israeli Drone Over Lebanon

Hezbollah fired anti-aircraft missiles toward an unmanned Israeli drone Wednesday (3rd).  The aircraft was not hit and continued its mission as planned, the IDF reports.

The incident took place in the center of Lebanon, part of a round-the-clock monitoring of its northern neighbor by Israel.  Lebanon is home to Hezbollah, a terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction, which has grown to become a major power in the country.

Hebrew website N12, describing the incident as highly unusual, said, “Hezbollah repeatedly threatens to try to hit those aircraft.  The fact that Hezbollah dares to fire is very significant, and it seems that the defense establishment will have to pay attention to it.”

Hezbollah has a variety of shoulder-fired missiles that can be used against aircraft as well as more advanced mobile systems such as the Russian “Wasp,” or as NATO calls it, the SA-8 Gecko, mounted on an armored vehicle and equipped with a radar system.

Hezbollah remains a potent threat to Israel.  It is estimated the terror group is pointing up to 150,000 missiles at the Jewish State, an arsenal it is continually striving to upgrade to make it more deadly and its targeting ability more precise, something Israel is determined to prevent.

On January 26, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi warned, “In the face of these threats, we will respond with an extremely significant counter-attack that will include targeting rockets, missiles and weapons whether in open areas, or adjacent to and inside buildings.”



US To Resume Financial Aid To PA

The United States plans to resume financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, having determined that the decision by the Trump administration to slash it has failed to produce the desired results and was therefore ineffective, a State Department official said Tuesday (2nd).

Prior to former President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to cut aid to the Palestinians over their refusal to engage with its peace efforts, the US was the PA’s single largest donor country and also gave hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which handles Palestinian ‘refugees’ and their descendants across the Middle East.

International aid to the PA dropped over 60% during 2020, according to Ramallah’s records.

“The suspension of aid to the Palestinian Authority has neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing on Tuesday (2nd).

Last week, Acting US Ambassador to the UN Richard Mills said that the Biden administration was renewing relations with the PA leadership, with the aim of reigniting regional peace talks based on the two-state solution.

Mills said that Washington will reopen the diplomatic offices serving the Palestinians and restore major aid allocations to the PA reversing the former administration’s policies.

Former President Donald Trump also closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO’s) diplomatic mission in Washington in 2018, which the Biden administration is determined to re-open.



Camels And Sharks May Help Kill Cancer Cells, Israeli Scientist Says In Startling Discovery

An Israeli researcher has discovered that special antibodies produced by camels and sharks may prove to be a powerful cancer fighting weapon, Channel 12 reported Wednesday (3rd).

Very few sharks frequent Israel’s shores, but its deserts are indeed known for its camels and Prof. Niv Papo from the National Biotechnology Institute at Ben Gurion University of the Negev got the idea last year because he sees camels every day on his way to work at his laboratory in Beersheba.

Chemotherapy is effective in fighting cancers like prostate cancer, but at the same time it also destroys healthy cells and damages tissue in the body.  Injected into the bloodstream, the chemotherapy treatment kills cancer cells, but it also causes high toxicity and over time creates resistance to treatment.

The only antibodies that can handle the task of penetrating cancer cells are tiny antibodies called nanobodies.  Their size is only about 10% the size of regular antibodies, and they are able to penetrate hard cancerous tissue, release the chemotherapeutic drug and finally clear it from the body quickly.

It turns out that the only animals that are known to produce tiny nanobodies of this type are camels and sharks, and given the large local inventory of camels in the Negev desert near Prof. Papo’s place of work, the choice of camels was obvious.

Prof. Papo’s research focuses on the injection of chemotherapy into the body, while ensuring that it works effectively only against cancer cells and not against healthy cells and healthy tissue.

A recent study he conducted with doctoral student Lior Rosenfeld showed that, using camels, they could create tiny antibodies against prostate cancer cells, directly inject them with chemotherapy drugs and eliminate those cells selectively and in a controlled manner.

Prof. Papo purchased a camel and housed it at a farm near the university, which allowed the camel to produce the tiny antibodies, much like a vaccinated virus injected into human bodies to make antibodies, but without injecting with the virus itself. 

The antibodies were collected from the camel that were suitable for the elimination of cells infected with prostate cancer.  Further tests of the antibodies identified the most effective among them in the treatment of the cancer cells.

The study showed that the antibodies produced by the camel penetrated the cancer cells and released the chemotherapy drugs in a controlled manner, leading to the selective elimination of the cancer cells. – without any damage to healthy cells.  The findings were published recently in the prestigious Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

The discovery may lead to a new type of targeted chemotherapy for cancer cells that will have a minimum of damage to the healthy tissues, which will hopefully also mean a reduction in the harsh side effects chemotherapy is known for.

The study focused on prostate cancer, but Prof. Papo is also heading another study that focuses on breast cancer and the Biotechnology Institute is in the advanced stages of signing a commercial agreement with a U.S. pharmaceutical company to develop drugs using the technique.



Arkansas Lawmakers Consider Bill To Mandate Holocaust Education In Public Schools

Lawmakers in Arkansas have introduced a bill that would mandate Holocaust education to be taught in all public schools starting with the 2021-22 school year.  The move comes a few months after a report by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that the state ranked last in Holocaust knowledge.

According to US Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, only 17% of millennials and Gen Z residents in Arkansas meet “Holocaust knowledge criteria,” defined as “definitely” having heard of the Holocaust, being able to name a concentration camp, death camp or ghetto and knowing that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The report, released back in September, was the first-ever survey that focused on all 50 states and aimed specifically at millennials and Gen Z – those between the ages of 18 and 39.

Nationally, the study found that 63% of all national survey respondents do not know that 6 million Jews were murdered and 36% thought that “2 million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust.

The Arkansas law aims to generate an “understanding of the causes, course and effects of the Holocaust.  It would also educate students on the  “ramifications of bullying, bigotry, stereotyping and discrimination” while encouraging diversity and tolerance for all.

More than 30 state representatives and about 20 state senators are co-signers to the legislation, which has bipartisan support.