News Digest — 3/22/23

Syria Says Aleppo Airport Damaged In Fresh Israeli Strike

An Israeli airstrike hit the Aleppo Airport early Wednesday (22nd) and put it out of service, Syrian state media reported.

The Syrian Civil Aviation Authority, which announced the shutdown, did not specify an end date.

In the third attack on the airfield in six months, the Syrian defense ministry accused Israel of launching “a number of missiles from the Mediterranean Sea, west of the coastal city of Latakia, at 3:55 am, causing some material damage to it.”

According to the state television report, four missiles hit the airfield, activating air defense systems, and large blasts rocked the area.

This latest attack is the fourth one that Syria attributes to Israel since a powerful earthquake devastated large swaths of the country and neighboring Turkey.

Earlier this month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, reported  that “Israeli strikes targeted a weapons depot belonging to pro-Iranian forces located between the Tartus and Hama provinces.”

The watchdog further reported that “two pro-Iranian fighters were killed and three Syrian soldiers were wounded in the Israeli-linked strike.”

Shan FM Radio reported on explosions that were heard in the area of Masyaf in northwestern Syria, where a missile development and precision factory of the Syrian defense industries is located.

In early March, Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that Israel “carried out an air attack from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea, west of Latakia, targeting Aleppo International Airport.”  No casualties were reported but the airfield sustained “material damage.”

According to the announcement of the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority, the airport’s runway was closed due to maintenance work.  However, the agency often issues similar statements following strikes on the airport.



Security Forces Geared Up For Ramadan As Tensions Remain High In Jerusalem And West Bank

Israeli security forces have once again geared up for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover this year, with tension already high across the West Bank and in Jerusalem.

Police anticipate hundreds of thousands of visitors – mainly Palestinians – will come to Jerusalem during Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and reflection observed by Muslims worldwide, which began Wednesday (22nd) and ends April 21.

Ramadan has often been marked by clashes and high tension between the Palestinians and Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian Authority delegations reconvened Sunday (19th) for a relatively rare regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt where they recommitted to de-escalate tensions ahead of Ramadan.

Top defense officials, meanwhile, have warned the government about an increase in alerts of potential Palestinian terror attacks during the sensitive period.

A string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 15 people – almost all of them Israelis – dead and several more seriously hurt.  Many of the attacks have occurred in the capital and were carried out by Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem.

At least 85 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year. Most of them while carrying out terror attacks or during clashes with security forces.

Police warned Sunday (19th) of “those who try to take advantage of the holidays to spread incitement on social media, false rumors and disinformation, in particular in relation to the holy places.”

Police said terror groups and other terror elements have in the past used Ramadan to incite and cause rioting in Jerusalem.

Law enforcement officials said police would act “without compromise against rioters and those breaking the law, who harm or attempt to harm those who pray and celebrate, or who use the holidays to harm civilians or security forces.”

Officials in the police-Jerusalem-district, held meetings in recent days with various local officials and community leaders to coordinate the holiday activities in the capital.  IDF officials have held similar meetings with Palestinian officials in the West Bank in recent weeks.

Police said that on Fridays during Ramadan there would be an increased presence of police officers throughout Jerusalem, especially in the Old City and near the Temple Mount, as numerous worshipers are expected to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  A police official told reporters that the Jerusalem district has a shortfall of over 800 police officers to properly ensure security.

For Palestinian Muslims, worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site in Islam –  is a central part of the festival.  Jews revere the same hilltop as the Temple Mount, the “holiest site in their tradition.”

Police said they are also preparing for Passover and Easter, which will take place during Ramadan this year.

“The purpose of the preparation and police activity in Jerusalem during Ramadan is to enable freedom of worship…while maintaining security, law and public order,” a police statement said.

“Police will act to secure all the worshipers who arrive at the holy places on these days, Muslims, Jews and Christians, with the aim of allowing everyone freedom of worship,” the statement added.



Israeli Authorities Foil Jerusalem Terror Plots

Israeli security personnel uncovered a Palestinian Arab terrorist cell planning a number of shooting attacks in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed Tuesday morning (21st).

According to the Shin Bet, a terror cell operating in Judea and Samaria under the direction of terrorists in the Gaza Strip was working to recruit terrorists for a string of attacks in the Israeli capital.

The cell was uncovered during joint operations by the IDF, Israel Police, and Shin Bet over the past few weeks.

The effort to recruit gunmen for the terror plot was led by 40-year-old Tzabri Mahmoud Eram and 31-year-old Ayman Youssef Khalil Zakkut, both residents of Rafiah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The two terrorists are members of the Popular Resistance Committee, a pro-Iranian splinter group of the Fatah organization which is believed to be funded by both Hamas and Hezbollah.

In preparation for the planned attacks, Zakkut and Eram recruited and trained terrorists in Judea and Samaria, and worked to smuggle weapons on their behalf.

Israeli authorities broke up the cell shortly before the first of the planned attacks, arresting two terrorists from Judea and Samaria linked to the group.  

The terrorists had been involved in smuggling weapons, including the smuggling of a gun designated for use in a terror attack in Jerusalem in just a few days.

In addition, two terrorist brothers from Judea and Samaria were arrested last month, on suspicion they were recruited to carry out a bombing attack inside pre-1967 Israel.

During their interrogation, the two revealed that they had also helped to smuggle firearms for the cell to use in the planned shooting attacks.



Prime Minister To New Recruits: ‘We Have No Country Without An Army”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, on Tuesday (21st), visited the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer during the induction of recruits for the Golani Brigade and for combat soldiers to be posted at borders and crossings.

Prime Minister Netanyahu accompanied the recruits during their induction and  – together with Defense Minister Gallant – issued them military equipment and IDF uniforms.

The Prime Minister held an open conversation with dozens of recruits and answered their questions, along with the Defense Minister and the Head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, Maj.-Gen. Yaniv Asor.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said to the recruits: “Today, you are, in effect, becoming soldiers.  We have no country without an army.  We have no country without soldiers who are recruited for service.  You are being recruited to defend our heritage; exactly that, these are not merely high-sounding words.”

“In the history of the Jewish people, the worst thing that happened to us was we lost the ability to defend ourselves.  Therefore, generations of Jews, over thousands of years, were like driven leaves in the wind; they slaughtered us.  The Jewish people in exile were people who were slaughtered.  We could not do anything.”

“When we returned and established the State of Israel, we established the ability to defend ourselves.  The ability to defend ourselves is you, each one of you; this is the great change.”

“Those who seek to destroy us have not disappeared.  They take on a form and come back, Iran and its proxies.  What has changed is our ability to confront them.  Of course, I want you to safeguard the country but more than anything, watch out for each other.”

Defense Minister Gallant said: “You need to be proud of yourselves and go to basic training with your heads held high.  You must remember a central thing: Today you are becoming part of the defensive force of the people of Israel and the State of Israel.  With every passing day you will take an additional step toward the goal, and together with those who will become your platoon, company and lifelong friends, you will overcome the difficulties and meet the challenges.”

“The convincing answer to all controversies is here, in the recruitment for the Golani Brigade, as we see men from all parts of the country reporting for combat duty.  Here we witness the true resilience of the State of Israel, this chain of generations and the baton that we pass one to the other.”

Also participating in the visit were National Security Director Tzachi Hanegbi, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Tzachi Braverman, the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil, Head of the IDF Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Banjo, and the commander of the recruitment center, Col. Alon Matzliach.



Nashville Homes Targeted With Swastikas, Antisemitic Graffiti

Five houses in Nashville, Tennessee were targeted with antisemitic graffiti, including swastikas and white supremacist symbols, early Sunday (19th).

Nashville police are searching for two suspects accused of committing the vandalism, WSMV  reported.

Surveillance footage from a doorbell camera from one of the defaced homes showed one of the suspects spray the camera on the porch, tearing down a flag, and then painting graffiti on the wall of the house.  The second suspect was also captured in the recording.

The incident took place before 1:30 am on Sunday (19th), the Tennessean reported.  Besides the graffiti and the flag being ripped, there was no other damage to the property. 

The Metro Nashville Police Department described the two vandals identified in the video as “two white males who had their faces covered,” according to Nashville Scene.

The vandalism took place at five homes on different streets in the Sylvan Park neighborhood, police said.

Police Chief John Drake has ordered increased patrols in the area and also at Jewish institutions in the city.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a statement: “Nashville stands united against the hate and bigotry these disgusting acts represent.  I’m grateful to Chief Drake and his team for their ongoing work to track down those responsible and hold them accountable.  We will not tolerate antisemitism or discrimination of any kind in our city.”

According to local reports, on Sunday afternoon (19th), many residents of Sylvan Park gathered to remove the hateful graffiti, as well as to voice their opposition to what was described as the perpetrators’ “intimidation tactics.”