News Digest — 3/21/22

Bennett Wishes Iranian People Prosperity And Peace For Persian New Year

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent a video message to the Iranian people on Sunday (20th) wishing them a Happy Nowruz (Persian New Year).

“I have a special message for the Iranian people on the occasion of Nowruz: Nowruz Mubarak to you, your families, and all those celebrating this beautiful holiday around the world,” Bennett said in the message.

Bennett wished the Iranians a year of “health, prosperity and peace.”

Pointing out that “Nowruz” translates to “new day,” Bennett said his greatest wish for the Iranians was that they would indeed see a new day, “a day of freedom from the cruel Iranian regime.”

“The Israeli people and the Iranian people share so much …  We are both vibrant peoples with ancient histories and rich cultures who seek a brighter future,” the prime minister said.

“Together, we also face a common threat – the brutal and oppressive Iranian regime, whether the IRGC [Revolutionary Guards Corps], the world’s single largest terrorist organization, its proxies, or the Basij [paramilitary forces].”

“We know that the Iranian regime does not represent you and they continue to deny you the freedom that you deserve.  We hope you rid yourselves of this cruel and ruthless regime and reach true freedom.  Nowruz Piruz – Happy Nowruz, Bennett said.”



Israeli Cop Hurt In Suspected Stabbing Attack In Jerusalem, Police Say

An Israeli police officer stationed in East Jerusalem’s predominately Palestinian Ras al-Amad neighborhood has been hurt in a suspected stabbing attack, Israel Police said on Sunday (20h).

Magen David Adom ambulance service medics arrived at the scene and provided first aid treatment to the wounded officer, in his early 20s, who was conscious and transported him to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in moderate condition.  Another man who sustained injuries to his hands in the incident was also taken to the Jerusalem hospital.

The alleged attacker fled the scene according to police.  Police forces are searching the area.

The suspected terrorist attack came just a day after a knife-wielding Palestinian in Jerusalem lunged at an Israeli man in his 30s, stabbing him and wounding him moderately.

The attacker, a 28-year-old Palestinian man, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, was badly injured when police officers stationed nearby opened fire and neutralized him.

Footage of the incident from the scene shows officers first shouting “do not move, stay away” and then opening fire at him after he failed to comply.

Another video shows the victim crossing the street as the attacker suddenly pounced on him.  The two are seen tussling before he manages to wrestle his assailant to the ground.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev called the attacks attempts  by “deplorable terrorists and extremist forces” to undermine the celebrations of the upcoming holy month of Ramadan and the Passover festival.

Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet and the IDF have been issuing warnings in recent weeks about widespread violence potentially watching the streets of the capital similarly to last year when nightly clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, with tensions rapidly spreading and triggering an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

Last week, Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar met with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and senior Pentagon officials to share his agency’s concerns over tensions in the capital escalating to a full-fledged round of fighting between Israel and Palestinians during Ramadan.



Amid Russian Tensions, Israeli Navy Joins NATO Exercise

Despite Israel’s reluctance to take a clear stance on the war between Ukraine and Russia, the Israeli Navy is currently taking part in NATO’s multinational “Noble Dina” exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea Basin.

After being canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Israel took part in the exercise in March of last year in the waters southwest of Cyprus, joining vessels from the United States, Greece, Cyprus, and France for a five-day exercise.

The Noble Dina exercise has previously included counterterrorism scenarios and drills to protect ports.  Ships have also practiced anti-submarine procedures and conducted search-and-rescue scenarios as well as a simulated battle between ships.  Another purpose of the exercise is to enhance cooperation between the various navies and enrich their repository of operational knowledge.

Amid heightened tensions in Ukraine between Russia and the West, and with NATO in particular, Israel considered withdrawing from the exercise to avoid being perceived as taking a non-neutral stance in the conflict.  After a discussion on the matter, however, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi decided to participate as planned.

This year, as in previous years, Israeli missile ships, a submarine, and other naval forces will take part in the drill, which is slated to conclude this weekend.

“These exercises are of paramount importance in strengthening the navy’s connection with foreign fleets who share common interests,” Rear Admiral Eyal Harel, the head of Israeli naval operations, said during last year’s exercise.



Herzog, Macron Mark 10 Years Since Terrorist Attack On Toulouse Jewish School

Israeli President Isaac Herzog joined French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Toulouse on Sunday (20th) to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of four people at a Jewish school in the city.

The Islamic terrorist attacks in the French cities of Toulouse and Montauban took place on March 19, 2012, and claimed seven victims in total – Including 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his sons 6-year-old Arie and 3-year-old Gabriel, as well as 8-year-old Myriam Monsonego.

Herzog and Macron, accompanied by their wives, paid a visit to the scene of the attack at the city’s Ohr Torah Jewish school – where they laid a wreath at the monument commemorating the victims of the attack, observed a minute of silence, and met teachers and students who were at the school on the day of the attack.

Former French presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy joined Herzog and Macron in meeting school principal Yaacov Monsonego and his wife Yaffa, whose daughter Myriam was among the victims.

Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter, “Deeply moved to visit Ohr Torah school in Toulouse, the scene of a terrible massacre 10 years ago.  Together with President @EmmanuelMacron, @FHollande & @NicholasSarkozy, we comforted principal Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego and his wife Yaffa, who lost their daughter Myriam, aged only 8.”  

“The Presidents heard from the families about their heavy loss and the challenges that have accompanied them over the past decade, and the strengthening of the Jewish community of Toulouse after the disaster, and they comforted them,” the Government Press Office said in a statement.

A rally in Toulouse was also held against anti-Semitism and to support the victims of the attack.

Upon his arrival earlier in the day, Herzog participated in a diplomatic working meeting with Macron in Paris.



Bipartisan Bill Introduced To Authorize Supplying Israel With Bunker-Buster Bombs

Two pro-Israel members of Congress introduced a bipartisan bill on Friday (18th) to provide Israel with bunker-buster munitions as Iran and the United States appear to be nearing an agreement in negotiations to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Bunker Buster Bill, drafted by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Mast (R-Fla) will authorize US President Joe Biden to provide Israel with Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP) bombs, which are capable of taking out Iran’s underground nuclear infrastructure.

The bill also requires the US Department of Defense to consult with Israel on its capability to deter a full range of threats from Iran and provide a report to Congress.

“We must prepare for the serious threat of a nuclear-armed Iran when key provisions of the deal expire.  That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to defend Israel from Iran and Hezbollah and reinforce our ally’s Qualitative Military Edge [QME] in the region with ‘bunker buster’ munitions.  Iran and its terrorist proxies across the region must never be able to threaten the US or Israel with a nuclear weapon,” Gottheimer said in a news release.

The sale of bunker buster munitions has long been suggested by pro-Israel organizations and scholars as a way to maintain Israel’s QME in the face of a nuclear Iran, including by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and in 2015 Washington Post op-ed by retired Gen. David Petraeus and former Ambassador Dennis Ross.

Gottheimer and Mast have previously worked together to introduce the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act in June 2021, which aimed to strengthen America’s ability to stop the revenue sources of terrorists funded by Iran.

“Since the radical Islamists took over in 1979, the Iran regime’s goal has been destroying the Jewish homeland, Israel,” Mast said in a release.  “We cannot sit silent while they continue trying to wipe Israel off the map.  That’s why Congressman Gottheimer and I are working together to pass the Bunker Buster Act.  Israel must have the tools it needs to protect its people against Iranian aggression.”



Magen David Adom Donates Four Bulletproof Ambulances To Help Save Lives In Ukraine

Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service announced Thursday (17th) it was donating four bulletproof ambulances to assist medical teams and wounded civilians in Ukraine.

MK Alex Kushnir, who helped facilitate the donation, said, “After receiving the request from the Ukrainian government, I approached MDA Director-General El Bin who immediately approved the delivery of four bulletproof ambulances loaded with life-saving equipment.”

Kushner thanked the Jewish Agency, MDA, and additional parties involved for their support.  “We will continue this cooperation to bring critical humanitarian supplies to the civilians in the war zone,” he said.

The ambulances saw a long period of service with MDA throughout various combat situations.  The vehicles transported patients throughout the 2006 Lebanon War and a number of other violent events.

Now the emergency service hopes the vehicles will provide assistance to those who are wounded in Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues.

“Now, after the ambulances have ended their service with MDA and the Israeli people, they are making their way to Ukraine as part of the large humanitarian response being sent by MDA to benefit the civilian population there,” Bin said.

“Using these ambulances, medical teams in Ukraine will be able to save civilian lives – even under fire.”