News Digest — 3/11/21

Jordanian Prince Cancels Temple Mount Visit Over Security Dispute

Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah unexpectedly canceled a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Wednesday (10th) after Israeli authorities refused to let him enter the Jewish state with his entourage of heavily armed bodyguards, Kan News reported.

The prince’s visit to the Waqf-controlled site was coordinated in advance with the Israeli government, who was permitting bin Abdullah to cross from Jordan into Israel via the Allenby Bridge with his security detail in tow.

However, when bin Abdullah arrived at the crossing point, his security team was larger and more heavily armed than the Israeli government had expected.

After informing bin Abdullah that his beefed-up security team would not be granted permission to enter the country, the prince turned back and canceled the visit.

The Temple Mount is a flashpoint site, where tensions run high and previous diplomatic visitors from Saudi Arabia have been physically attacked.

Jordan’s first king, bin Abdullah’s great-grandfather, Abdullah of Jordan, was assassinated in 1951 by a Palestinian at the Temple Mount.

It is thought that the incident may strain tensions between Israel and Jordan.

Although the countries signed a peace treaty in 1994, a condition of which solidified Jordan’s role as the guardian of the Temple Mount, the nations have maintained an icy peace that has been punctuated by periods of tension and violence.

In 1997, Jordanian Army Corporal Ahmed Daqamseh opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls from Beit Shemesh, who were on a field trip visiting the joint Israeli-Jordanian tourist site called the Island of Peace.  

Seven girls, all in their early teens, were killed.  Daqamseh was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In 2017, the head of security at Israel’s embassy in Jordan shot and killed a Jordanian man who had attacked him with a screwdriver.  Another Jordanian, a bystander, was also killed in the incident. 

The event sparked a series of diplomatic rows, with the Israeli embassy in Amman closed for several months and the Jordanian government demanding to criminally prosecute the Israeli security guard.

Meanwhile, Jordan is blocking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned flight to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from entering its airspace, a senior diplomatic source said on Thursday (11th).

“Netanyahu’s departure to visit the Emirates is delayed because there is no authorization of the flight path by the Jordanians at this time,” the diplomatic source said.  “The assessment is that this delay, revealed shortly before the flight, is because of the cancellation of the Jordanian crown prince’s visit to the Temple Mount Wednesday (10th), because of a dispute over security arrangements.”



Greece To Allow Israeli Tourists In As Early As April

Greece is going to allow Israeli tourists to enter the country as early as April, Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said on Tuesday (9th).

Speaking at the ITB Berlin trade show from the Athens Acropolis Museum, Theocharis announced that Greece intends to open its borders to tourists who are vaccinated against the coronavirus, have antibodies or test negative starting May 14.

However, he added that Greek authorities are planning a pilot in April for visitors from certain countries, including European Union members and nations where the vaccination campaign is already advanced such as Israel.

“Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021,” Theocharis said.  “Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or test negative.  All tourists will be subject to random testing.”

Israelis and Greek officials started to discuss the eventuality of mutually recognizing vaccination certificates at the beginning of February, when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Jerusalem.

Tourism is a major income earner for Greece, which has led calls for an EU-wide vaccination certificate to help unlock travel.



After Election Standoff, Hamas Reelects Yahya Sinwar As Gaza Leader

The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, has been elected for another term following a second round of voting on Wednesday (10th).

“Sinwar has again been elected for a new term until 2025,” said Hamas spokesman Hazen Qassem

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, currently based in Qatar, congratulated Sinwar on his reelection.

Sinwar won 167 of 280 votes, sources told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds.

Nizar Awadallah, his chief rival, won 147 votes, the sources added.

Sinwar’s victory came less than 24 hours after Gaza sources announced that Awadallah had defeated Sinwar in the terror group’s secret internal election.

Shortly afterward, Awadallah, 63, was proclaimed the winner, but Hamas announced that a second round of voting would be held on Wednesday (10th) because he and Sinwar had failed to secure more than 50% of the overall vote.  Awadallah and Sinwar were among five candidates who contested the secret Hamas internal election.

Sources close to Hamas said that the neck-and-neck race constituted an unprecedented challenge to Sinwar’s leadership.  He was first elected as the group’s leader in the coastal enclave in 2017.

“The tight battle between Sinwar and Awadallah could trigger a crisis among the Hamas leadership,” a Palestinian political analyst in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post.

According to the analyst, the tight race is also a sign of Sinwar’s declining popularity among Hamas cadres in the Gaza Strip.

Sinwar, 58, was said to be the mastermind behind the Hamas-sponsored 2018-2019 mass protests staged near the border with Israel.  The protests ended without achieving their main objective: lifting Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

His 63-year-old rival, Awadallah, was one of the engineers of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange agreement, according to Palestinian sources.

The deal also known as Wafa al-Ahrar (Faithful to the Free), resulted in the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, an IDF soldier who was kidnapped in 2006 by Palestinian terrorists who tunneled under the border into Israel near the Kerem Shalom border crossing.


‘PA Doesn’t Care About Us:’ Israel Steps In To Vaccinate Palestinian Workers

Israel’s campaign to vaccinate Palestinians who come to work daily from Judea and Samaria is gaining steam after a pilot program ran successfully last week, with the first 21,000 workers streaming into inoculation centers set up Tuesday (9th) at various points in the country.

Thousands of factory workers from the Nablus area came to a converted hanger in the Barkan Industrial Zone in Samaria Tuesday in timed groups coordinated by their employers to receive the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus.  They showed two IDF officers their work permits and were ushered into makeshift immunization rooms where Magen David Adom (MDA) personnel administered the injection.

In the Gush Etzion city of Efrat, another improvised clinic was set up under the joint charge of the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Health Ministry and the MDA.

Efrat Regional Council head Oded Revivi said it was another lesson about “how important good neighborliness is, how good relations between settlers and Palestinians can be when we cooperate.”

Others concentrated on the practical necessity of inoculating people who come in daily contact with each other so that the illness doesn’t spread.

“The virus knows no geographic borders and therefore the vaccination of the Palestinian workers is of common interest for both parties,” said Col, Eyal Zevi, COGAT head of operations.

Two more centers will be opening up, and the plan is to inoculate over the next two weeks 120,000 Palestinians who work for the most part in Israeli agriculture, construction and industry.

Moderna second dose will be administered a month later.

Several Palestinians spoke to the press and expressed their gratitude for Israel’s move, speaking disfavorably of the Palestinian Authority’s efforts on their behalf.  One said, “These vaccines will save us.  We live together and Israel does the right thing.  We cannot be ignored.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) does not care about the residents and has not obtained vaccines, but we work in Israel, and that helps.”

Israel sent 2,000 doses to the PA last month to inoculate medical workers, with another 3,000 promised.  Altogether, the PA has received some 10,000 vaccines, but criticism has been aired over its prioritization, as its national soccer team has been vaccinated while none of the elderly received the vaccine.



Singapore Arrests Would-Be Terrorist Planning To Kill Jews For Hamas

A 20-year-old Singaporean man was detained on Wednesday (10th) under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for his plan to stab local Jewish community members after their prayer service at Maghain Aboth Synagogue in the city-state, The Strait Times reported.

The man, Amirull Ali, was serving as a national serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) at the time of his arrest and is believed to have been self-radicalized since at least the age of 14, when he became interested in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He seemed to have operated under the assumption that any Jewish worshipers he would be able to kill would have been involved in Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that many Jewish people in Singapore are local citizens and would have served in that country’s defense forces and not the IDF.

“It’s perfectly okay to support the Palestinian cause,” the minister said, “but it’s not okay to go around killing people.”

He added that no matter how many people would have been killed or hurt, the planned attack would have had serious implications for social relations in Singapore itself.

Ali seemed to have acted on his own, without links to a radical Islamic group, although he admired Hamas.  Ali, it was alleged, was under the impression that, should he die while striking a blow for Hamas, he would reach heaven.

Because of that thinking, he planned several attacks, going as far as to practice stabbing movements with a practice knife, learning about the human body to carry out an effective attack, and visited the synagogue to familiarize himself with it.

He put off the attack many times for fear of being arrested and not killed.  He wanted to reach heaven and knew he could not join Hamas in Gaza.

The Internal Security Department (ISD) was notified about the case by the Ministry of Defense.

The ISD said it would act against anyone in Singapore who would resort to violent means regardless of how they rationalize such an attack.

It also informed the public that it is vital to remain vigilant “to signs that someone around us may have become radicalized.”