News Digest — 2/8/21

Muslims Urged To Flock To Temple Mount As Lockdown Winds Down

As Israel begins lifting the restrictions put in place during the most recent lockdown, which included a ban on mass public prayers on the Temple Mount, a new campaign is urging Muslims to visit the holy site en masse.

The Al-Aqsa Association which is devoted to helping bring Muslims to the Temple Mount for prayers, published a message that read, “After 40 days of lockdown, the convoys to Al-Aqsa will begin again.”

In a message published overnight between Saturday (6th) and Sunday(7th), Sheikh Ikrama Sabri put out a message “calling on the Palestinian people to go to the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque tomorrow (Sunday), rebuild its squares, and tour the city’s markets to support the people after the destructive siege.”

Sabri is known for his anti-Israel stance and his open support for terrorism.  On October 8, 2020, he said, “The Zionists’ acts of slaughter at the Temple Mount continue, and we have no option other than to resist and protect the mosque with all our might.”



Israel Greenlights $9B Deal With US To Boost Air Force

Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday (7th) approved the budget to boost the country’s Air Force by procuring warplanes, refueling planes and helicopters from the United States.

The budget, worth $9 billion of US aid money, was approved after a deliberation that lasted seven hours, according to Channel 12 News.

The report noted that Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief -of-Staff Aviv Kochavi were in favor of the move versus the Finance Ministry which opposed it.

However, due to Washington’s condition to authorize the deal within the span of two weeks, or else Israel would lose its priority to procure the aircraft, the Cabinet followed through despite the objections.

The arms deal would include SH53K helicopters, F-35 and F-16 fighter jets and thousands of bombs and advanced armaments.

Still it is estimated that at least three years will pass before the aircraft are delivered to Israel.



Hamas Welcomes ICC Ruling

The Hamas organization, which rules Gaza, welcomed the decision of the judges of the International Criminal Court to authorize the court to investigate alleged human rights violations in the territories of the “State of Palestine.”

In a statement on Saturday (6th), Hamas said the ruling was an important step towards achieving justice for the “victims of the Zionist occupation,” emphasizing that the most important step would be to bring “Zionist war criminals” to international tribunals in order to bring them to justice.

Hamas also called on the international community to allow the Palestinian people to exercise their basic rights to freedom, independence  and self determination.

A three-panel judge at the ICC ruled on Friday (5th) that Judea, Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem are within the jurisdiction of the court.

In a press release, the ICC said that the judges ruled that the court’s territorial jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine, a state party to the ICC Rome Statute, extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority (PA) officials welcomed the ICC ruling, and called for a probe to be launched against Israel.

“The ICC’s decision to consider Palestine as a member state according to the Treaty of Rome and the court’s jurisdiction to consider Palestinian territories’ issues and complaints raised by the PA, is a victory for right, justice, freedom and moral values in the world,” tweeted Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA’s General Authority of Civil Affairs.

The PA’s minister of foreign affairs, Riyad al-Maliki, also welcomed the ICC decision.

“We call on the prosecutor of the tribunal in The Hague Fatou Bensouda, to open an investigation against Israel as soon as possible,” he said.



Israel Vows To Shield IDF Soldiers From “Fake War Crimes”

Israel’s political and military leadership on Saturday (6th) slammed the International Criminal Court decision for saying it had jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories and could move to prosecute IDF soldiers and officers for war crimes.

“When the ICC investigates Israel for ‘fake war crimes,’ this is pure anti-Semitism,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.  “The court established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people, is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people.”

“As Prime Minister of Israel, I can assure you this: We will fight this perversion of justice with all our might.”

The IDF released a statement saying it regrets the ICC decision, in part because “this is a biased and prejudiced decision which steps beyond the ICC’s jurisdiction.”

“The IDF has determinedly defended, and will continue to defend, the security of Israel and its citizens, in the face of every threat, while adhering fully to the IDF Code of Ethics, the values of the IDF, and national and international law,” the statement read.  “The IDF fully supports and will continue to support its soldiers in active and reserve service, who courageously and devotedly act to safeguard and protect the State of Israel and its citizens.” 

The ICC was established by the UN in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, but because of its perceived use as a lawfare weapon by anti-American and anti-Israel groups, neither the US nor Israel are signatories to the Rome Statute that established the court.  Only recognized states that are signatories to the statute are members of the court and subject to its jurisdiction, but on Friday (5th) the judges ruled that despite Israel not being a member and the Palestinians not being a state, it nonetheless ruled that the ICC considers the Palestinians a “State party.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, himself a former IDF commander, slammed what he called the politically motivated court decision.

“The poor ruling by the ICC lacks any basis in international law and exposes the actual motivation for the proceedings: the political exploitation of international institutions to serve Israel’s detractors and critics.” Gantz tweeted.

“Israel has its own independent justice system and highly effective mechanisms for inquiry and investigation, when necessary.  The IDF and Israel’s defense establishment will continue to protect our country and our people, while upholding our moral standards and international law,” Gantz added.

Last year, then-US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo slammed the ICC for its bias based on politics and not law.

“Given Israel’s robust civilian and military legal system and strong track record of investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing by military personnel, it’s clear the ICC is only putting Israel in its crosshairs for nakedly political purposes.  It’s a mockery of justice,” Pompeo said.

“They are a trusted and wonderful partner and a buttress of American society.  If a rogue court can intimidate our friend or any other ally into abrogating its right to self-defense, that puts Americans at risk as well,” Pompeo noted.



Former Secretary Of Nazi Commandant Charged As Accessory In 10,000 Murders

German prosecutors have charged the elderly female secretary of a former SS commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp with 10,000 counts of accessory to murder, arguing that she was part of the apparatus that helped the camp function.

The 95-year-old also faces an unspecified number of counts of accessory to attempted murder for her service at the camp between June 1943 and April 1945, Peter Mueller-Rakow, spokesman for prosecutors in the northern town of Itzehoe, said Friday (5th).

Despite her advanced age, the suspect will be tried in juvenile court as she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes, Mueller-Rakow said.

The suspect, whom Mueller-Rakow would not identify in line with German privacy laws, is believed to be in good enough health to stand trial.

The suspect had confirmed to Germany’s NDR public broadcaster that she had worked as the secretary to SS officer Paul Werner Hoppe in Stutthof, but said she never set foot in the camp itself.

Hoppe was himself tried and convicted of being an accessory to murder and was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1967.  He died in 1974.

The 95-year-old suspect said she did not know of prisoners being gassed, but told authorities at the time, she was aware of Hoppe ordering executions which she assumed was punishment for infractions, NPR reported.

The case against her will rely on new German legal precedent established in cases over the last decade, that anyone who helped Nazi death camps and concentration camps function can be prosecuted even without evidence of participation in a specific crime.

From mid-1944, tens of thousands of Jews from ghettos in the Baltics and from Auschwitz filled Stutthof along with thousands of Polish civilians swept up in the brutal Nazi suppression of the Warsaw uprising.

More than 60,000 people were killed there by being given lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly to their hearts, or being shot and starved.  Others were forced outside in winter without clothing until they died of exposure, or were put to death in gas chambers.

Last year, a former SS private, Bruno Dey, was convicted at 93 of more than 5,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving at Stutthof as a guard and given a two-year suspended sentence.