News Digest — 3/11/24

Police Scuffle With Worshipers Outside Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound On 1st Night Of Ramadan

While thousands of Muslim worshipers entered the Al-Aqsa compound in the Old City of Jerusalem to  pray on the first night of the holy month of Ramadan Sunday (10th), police officers scuffled with some attendees at the entrance to the Temple Mount site, according to a video circulating on social media.

Police said it was working to “enable freedom of worship on the Temple Mount while at the same time ensuring safety and security, in accordance with instructions given by the political leadership.”

Police said there was “increased inspection carried out in the area” to detect threats and “prevent potential criminals, instigators and violators of public order, all for the sake of public peace and security, and the proper observance of Ramadan prayers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged last week that the number of worshipers allowed to pray on the Temple Mount in the first week of Ramadan would be the same as in previous years and that no restrictions would be imposed on Israeli Arabs, overruling a previous decision by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who oversees the Police.

Most of the Arab population of Jerusalem, does not hold Israeli citizenship, and can therefore be subject to stricter limitations.

According to reports, thousands of Muslim worshipers prayed at the site Sunday (10th), with their numbers expected to swell over the coming days to reach 10s of thousands on Friday (15th).

Ramadan began Sunday (10th) as the war in Gaza cast a somber mood, and ratcheted up fears of violence amid already sky-high tensions in the region.

Thousands of police have been deployed around the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshipers are expected every day at the Al-Aqsa compound, the third holiest site in Islam.  The compound sits atop the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism,  where the two Biblical Temples stood.

Israeli security officials fear that Muslim anger over the Gaza war could rise to a crescendo during Ramadan, fueling unrest, especially if Israeli authorities attempt to limit access to the Haram al-Sharif site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Police said earlier Sunday (10th) that terror groups were attempting to stir up unrest in the capital around Ramadan by spreading “false information regarding the reality in Jerusalem, the Old City, and in particular the Temple Mount.”

A statement said that 20 East Jerusalem residents had been arrested on suspicion of incitement and support for terrorism over the past two weeks,

In the past, rumors of Israeli attempts to change the sensitive status quo at the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, have threatened to upend any semblance of calm in Jerusalem.



Amsterdam: Inauguration Of Holocaust Museum Met With Violent Protests

Violent protests erupted in Amsterdam on Sunday (10th) as Israeli President Isaac Herzog inaugurated the newly opened National Holocaust Memorial Museum in the city.

Thousands of protesters waving PLO flags were heard chanting “never again is now” and “ceasefire now” at Waterloo Square in central Amsterdam, near the museum.

The protesters turned violent when demonstrators ignited fireworks and threw eggs at police while others tried to climb into police vans.

A handful of pro-Israel counter-protesters waving Israeli flags and holding pictures of hostages were confronted by the pro-Palestinian protesters who shouted “shame on you,” as law enforcement attempted to de-escalate tensions.

Combat Anti-Semitism Movement CEO Sacha Roytman commented on the demonstrations: “The violent protest we saw today is another painful manifestation of the disturbing level of anti-Semitic hatred proliferating across the globe today.  The fact it occurred at the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam reminds us again of the urgent need to fight without compromise all who perpetrate, support, or justify acts of terrorism, murder, and violence against Jews.”

In his speech, Herzog called for the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas, saying: “I ask you all to join me in prayer for the victims of the Shoah, and for the victims of hatred, terror, and anti-Semitism in the present, wherever they may be, Finally, in this shrine of prayer, let us pray for the immediate, safe return of our hostages.  And let us pray for peace as in the words of the Jewish liturgy: May the Lord give strength to His people, may the Lord bless His people with Peace.”



Gallant: Maritime Aid To Gaza Will Help Overthrow Hamas

Minister Of Defense Yoav Gallant sailed on Sunday (10th) together with Navy Troops near the shores of Gaza to assess the work planned for the establishment of a maritime corridor for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gazan civilians by sea.  Israeli diplomats told the Jerusalem Post that the idea of a sea dispersal of humanitarian aid was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s idea, agreed to by US President Joe Biden in discussions between the two men.

Minister Gallant was joined by the Commander of the Israeli navy, Head of COGAT, Military Secretary, and Commander of the Navy’s Ashdod Arena, and was briefed on the work undertaken to establish a naval pier and routes that will enable the distribution of aid to civilians.  ”I am currently patrolling off the coast of Gaza together with the Commander of the Israeli Navy and head of COGAT, to take a closer look at how they are starting to prepare the infrastructure required for a maritime corridor,” Gallant stated.

Describing the process, he said it is “designed to facilitate aid directly to civilians and in this way, it advances our goal of overthrowing Hamas’ rule in Gaza.  We will facilitate aid via the maritime route that is coordinated with the United States (security and humanitarian aspects), with the assistance of the UAE on the civilian side.  It will include the appropriate inspections in Cyprus and the goods will be brought by international organizations with American assistance.”

“We will work so the aid reaches those in need and not those who do not,” he added and concluded: “I would like to thank the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Commander of the Navy, and Head of COGAT for their efforts and dedication.” 



Israel: Food Sent To Gaza Is Immediately Taken By Hamas – Zvika Klein

A senior Israeli defense official said Thursday (7th), “The food shortage in Gaza and use of the word ‘hunger’ have been exaggerated,” explaining that most of the food that Israel has been sending to Gaza has “immediately been taken by Hamas terrorists, who then sell some of the supplies for ten times more than what it’s worth.” 

“Every family has enough food to survive.  Are they eating five meals a day?  The answer is no.  We have been supplying them with aid as well as the U.S., but unfortunately, it wasn’t distributed to the citizens themselves.”

A former senior Israeli defense official said, “there are those who are hungry since Hamas has taken all of the food and they don’t have enough money to pay Hamas on the black market.”  Israel and foreign countries bring food and aid into Gaza.  Then gangs take the supplies at gunpoint, and a significant portion of the population is left unable to afford necessities.

Even if Gaza were to be inundated with food supplies, hunger would persist because the issue at its core is not about availability but access and affordability.   Hamas controls an enormous amount of food and aid.  If it had allowed the citizens of Gaza to have access to this aid, the situation would have been very different – but they want their citizens to starve because it helps them create their false narrative.  (jerusalem Post)



Canada, Sweden Resume UNRWA Funding After Pause Over Terror Allegations Against Staff

Canada and Sweden announced they will resume funding to the UN Palestinian refugee agency, after receiving assurances, they said, of extra checks on its spending and personnel, and while still taking terror allegations against staff members seriously.

Ottawa paused funding on January 26 after Israel said some of the staff at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees in the Near East were involved  in the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught. 

“Canada will be lifting its temporary pause on funding to UNRWA,” Canadian International Aid Minister Ahmed Hussen said in a Friday (8th) statement but did not say exactly when this would happen.  He said, “UNRWA plays a vital role in Gaza.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday (7th) that Ottawa was waiting for the results of an internal United Nations probe into the Israeli accusations that 12 UNRWA staff – including one who was seen on CCTV abducting the body of an Israeli – took part in the onslaught in which Palestinian terrorists killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 253, sparking Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

After the allegations, the UN fired the accused employees who were still alive and launched an internal investigation.  Israel has since further alleged that 450 UNRWA employees were members of terror groups in Gaza and last week released audio recordings incriminating two more agency employees of allegedly joining in the assault.

The Canadian government is due to contribute $19 million to UNRWA in April and did not miss a payment as a result of the pause.

Sweden said Saturday (9th) it too was resuming aid to the cash-strapped UN agency for Palestinians with an initial disbursement of $20 million after receiving assurances of extra checks on its spending and personnel.

Israel on Saturday (9th) condemned Canada and Sweden for resuming their funding to UNRWA, saying decisions to do so “after having received the intelligence-based information about UNRWA’s employees who participated in the October 7 massacre and prior to the completion of the work of the investigative bodies and the publication of their findings, is a serious mistake that constitutes tacit agreement and support by Ottawa and Stockholm to ignoring the involvement of UNRWA employees in terrorist activity.”

Two UN investigations into Israel’s allegations were already underway when the European Union said last Friday (8th) it will give $54 million to UNRWA after the agency agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists.  Israel panned the EU movement as well.



“Many Still Had Expressions Of Pain On Their Faces” – Hadar Gil-Ad  (Ynet News)

• Sheri Mendez is part of a volunteer unit within the Military Rabbinate.  “In 2010, the IDF decided, as more women joined combat units, to establish a small female unit for the eventuality, God forbid, that a female soldier be killed,” she said.  “They accompany the identification process and burial preparations.”

• She received an emergency call-up order on Oct. 7.  Arriving at the Camp Shura Base, she said, the initial shock was from the quantity.  Body bags lined both sides of the corridor, whole trucks arrived with more bodies.  We couldn’t believe the numbers.  The second shock was from the level of brutality and horrors we saw.”

•  “We were with those young women in the room preparing them for burial.  Our goal was to give them their last respects.  We opened the body bags….It was a special room for women by women…. Some of the bodies arrived in very poor condition, but we took our time to handle them in a way that honored them.  We knew we were likely the last people to be with these women.  It was deeply sad; they could have been our daughters, brutally murdered.”

• “Many still had expressions of pain on their faces.  Their fists were clenched, their mouths sometimes open, and some were missing body parts.  We saw women shot in the head, shot in the torso.  It was horrifying to witness.  You could tell these women did not die an easy death.”

• Five months later, the horrors did not fade for Mendez.  However, what pains her most is the world’s denial of the massacre and the atrocities of Oct.7.  “I am a daughter of Holocaust survivors, raised on the testimonies of what happened to most of our family….The world doubts something we all saw with our own eyes….These women can’t speak; only those of us who saw it can speak for them….That’s why I continue to talk about what happened there, in those days, for them.”