News Digest — 2/6/23

At Least 5 Palestinians Killed In Raid Near Jericho Against Hamas Terror Cell

At least five Palestinians were killed on Monday morning (6th) in an IDF raid near the West Bank city of Jericho.  The IDF said the dead were Hamas terrorists and members of a terror cell that attempted to carry out a shooting attack at a restaurant  near Jericho late last month.

The attempted attack targeted a restaurant in Vered Jericho on January 28, when terrorists attempted to fire at a restaurant in which 30 people were present.  The terrorists’ weapons jammed and they fled back to Jericho.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and IDF Intelligence Directorate discovered that the terrorists had barricaded themselves in an apartment in Aqabat Jaber near Jericho and intended to continue conducting attacks.

Last week, a new terrorist cell affiliated with Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades announced its establishment in Aqabat Jaber.  Members of the cell which called itself the “Aqabat Jaber Battalion,” were said to have conducted armed clashes with Israeli forces operating in the Jericho area.

Israeli forces had attempted to arrest the members of the cell behind an attack on Saturday (4th), but failed to do so.  A number of other suspects who are part of the Hamas cell were arrested in that raid and at least 13 Palestinians were injured in the clashes.

On Monday morning (6th), armed clashes broke out between Palestinian and Israeli forces as they entered Jericho and Aqabat Jaber, with a number of Palestinians reportedly killed and at least three wounded, according to Palestinian reports.  No Israeli personnel were injured in the operation.

The bodies of the terrorists killed in the clashes have reportedly been seized by Israeli forces.

Senior Hamas official Shaker Amara was also arrested in Jericho on Monday morning (6th), according to reports.  Amara has been detained and imprisoned by Israel on multiple occasions.  Relatives of the terrorists who conducted the attempted attack were arrested in Jericho as well on Monday (6th).

The raid was conducted  by the IDF’s “Lions of the Jordan Valley Battalion.”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned after the raid that Palestinian movements would continue to operate, stating “The succession of the enemy’s killing in the West Bank will be a disaster for him, and all international or regional interventions will not succeed in stopping the revolutionary tide of our people, and the enemy will not enjoy calm, and the number of days are debated as long as our people have a beating heart.”

Palestinians across the West Bank closed shops and schools in a strike Monday (6th)  and called to clash with Israeli forces near the Green Line.

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir welcomed the IDF operation near Jericho on Monday (6th), saying, “a terrorist is a mortal and anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel knows that he will pay a heavy price for his activities and our security forces will reach him wherever he hides.  The Israeli government will wage a stubborn and uncompromising war against terrorism and with God’s help we will bring security to the citizens of Israel.”

On Sunday evening, the Aqabat Jaber Battalion launched “Days of rage,” claiming that Israeli forces had closed roads around Jericho and set up restrictive checkpoints at the entrances to the city in the days since the attempted restaurant attack.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated on Sunday (5th) that it had launched increased operations in the Jericho area, including more intensive checks of vehicles leaving the city, after the attempted terror shooting attack.  The IDF stressed that there was no lockdown on Jericho and that traffic was flowing freely both in and out of the city.



IDF Offers Humanitarian Aid To Turkey Following Deadly Earthquake – Hundreds Killed, Thousands Trapped   

Israel offered to provide humanitarian aid to Turkey Monday morning (6th), following a devastating earthquake that killed hundreds in southern Turkey overnight.

Hours after the earthquake, Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant instructed the IDF and Ministry of Defense to prepare for the provision of humanitarian aid.

“Our security forces are prepared to provide any aid that will be required.  The defense establishment is experienced in responding to emergency scenarios and saving lives,” said Gallant.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims of the quake.

“On behalf of the Israeli people, I am deeply saddened by the enormous disaster that has befallen Turkey following last night’s earthquake.  My condolences to President Erdogan and the Turkish people for the loss of life and the destruction of livelihoods.  The State of Israel always stands ready to assist in every way possible.  Our hearts are with the grieving families and the Turkish people at this painful moment.”

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also released a statement Monday (6th) offering his condolences.  

“In the name of the State of Israel, I want to offer my deepest condolences to the Turkish people following the terrible earthquake which struck southern Turkey overnight.”

“Our hearts are with the injured and we wish them a speedy recovery.  I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to put together a rapid aid package to help Turkey deal with this terrible tragedy.”

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria killed at least 600 people, and injured some 2,300, many buried alive in the rubble. 

Aftershocks of the quake were also felt in Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus.



Ukraine Makes Major Demands From Israel In Preparation For FM Visit

Ukraine forwarded a series of requests to Israel in preparation for Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s upcoming visit to Kyiv, the first of which is a request for a clear public statement against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, senior Ukrainian and Israeli officials told Walla! On Sunday evening (5th).

The officials also reported that Ukraine requested approval for a loan of $550m.

The Ukrainians requested that Israel show support for Zelensky’s peace plan, which is based on a complete Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.  This request, along with the others was submitted during the tenure of Israel’s previous government and was not approved by then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Ukraine also requested that Israel take in hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who were injured in the war and provide medical treatment.  In addition, there was a request for the current government to provide Ukraine with a rocket alert system similar to Israel’s Home Front Command.

Cohen’s visit to Kyiv will mark the first time an Israeli member of government has come to Ukraine’s capital since the beginning of the war.  A senior Ukrainian official said that Cohen’s degree of responsiveness to his nation’s requests would testify to the sincerity of Israel’s intentions.

During his visit, Cohen is expected to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, and to reopen the Israeli embassy in Kyiv which has been closed since the outbreak of the war.



Netanyahu Announces Establishment Of New Gaza Border Town – Hanun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (5th) announced the establishment of a new border town near the Gaza frontier.

Speaking at the opening of the government’s weekly cabinet meeting Sunday (5th), Netanyahu said his government would finalize the decision establishing the new town of Hanun, which will be built near the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Today the Cabinet will complete the establishment of a new community – Hanun – in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.” Netanyahu said, adding that the decision to establish a new town next to the Hamas-ruled enclave demonstrated Israel’s “resilience” and determination to “build up the Land of Israel.” 

“We decided on its establishment during our previous government and today we are completing its establishment by budgeting for the planning of the community.”

“We will thereby put the establishment of the community into action.  Setting up the community is additional testimony to the resilience of the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and to the strength of the State of Israel against all threats, including any trickle against us, to which we’ll respond with full force.  We hear people talking about their decisions to come and move to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and establish new communities in the area.”

“We are proud to build up the Land of Israel and we are proud to strengthen settlement in all of its areas.”

The initial plans for Hanun were first greenlighted under the previous Netanyahu government in 2020.

Hanun will be built near Kibbutz Sa’ad, which is located 2.2 miles from the Gaza Strip.  The new town will be administered by the Sdot Negev Regional Council.

The government said Sunday (5th) that the name Hanun is tentative, and could be changed before the community is completed.

Under a resolution proposed by Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf last week, the new town will be marketed as a mixed religious-secular community, with a projected population of roughly 500 families.

“This is a joyous day for me and for all citizens of Israel,” Goldknopf said Sunday (5th).  “Establishing a new community is of great national importance, especially at this time, and especially in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.  Upon taking office, I set as my top goal to continue building, developing and strengthening settlement.  This community will give strength, especially to the Prime Minister.  The light of setting up the community will dispel all of the darkness that some are now trying to bring to the people of Israel,” Goldknopf added.

“The new community is expected to provide an answer to demand for settlement in the area and will strengthen our southern border with the Gaza Strip.  This construction is part of the building up of the Land of Israel and thus joins the action of the Almighty in building Jerusalem.”



Israel Bracing For Winter Storm Barbara

Winter storm Barbara is expected to arrive on Israel’s shore on Monday (6th), bringing heavy strong winds, rains, hail, and some snow to the northern peaks.

Increased winds had already begun across the country on Sunday (5th), by some estimates reaching 62 miles per hour.

Barbara will begin in the north and make its way down the coast as temperatures drop and heavy snow falls on Mt. Hermon.  The ski resort already announced it would not open to the public until the storm passes.

Jerusalem will likely not see snow this time – a  disappointment to many. 

Forecasters warn that the coldest day of the storm will be Tuesday (7th) with temperatures dropping to the lowest this season.  By Wednesday (8th) the winds will subside and on Thursday (9th) Barbara will be gone.

The storm has left Greece covered in white.  The northern suburbs of Athens were especially impacted and major roads were closed.

Barbara is the result of a high-pressure front over Europe extending from northwestern Africa to Scandinavia, combined with low pressures in East and Southeastern Europe.