News Digest — 3/26/19

Netanyahu: IDF Delivered A ‘Powerful Blow’ Against Hamas

The IDF delivered a “very, very powerful” blow against Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. before flying back to Israel Monday night (25th).

Israel struck numerous targets across the Gaza Strip, including the offices of Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh.  Israel stopped its attacks around 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday (26th), according to reports.

“Hamas should know that we will not hesitate to enter and take the necessary steps,” Netanyahu said.  The prime minister would not answer reporters questions about the possibility of a full-scale ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported.

Upon landing in Israel, Netanyahu said he would head directly to the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu cut his U.S. trip short in order to deal with the escalation brought on by Hamas’ rocket attack, which uncharacteristically struck deep into Israel.



Senior Official Says No Ceasefire With Hamas, As Troops Remain On Gaza Border

Israel did not agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, and is ready to continue its airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip, a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s entourage to Washington said Tuesday (26th), minutes before the delegation’s plane landed in Tel Aviv.

“There was no ceasefire,” the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.  Netanyahu was in constant contact with the IDF chief of staff and other security officials throughout the 12-hour flight back to Israel, the official said.

Israeli troops and tanks along the Gaza border remained at the ready on Tuesday afternoon (26th), following the latest bout of warfare between the Israel Defense Forces and the Hamas terror group in the coastal enclave.

“We hit many targets in Gaza.  These were the hardest blows Hamas has suffered since Operation Protective Edge,” the senior official said, referring to the 2014 war with the terrorist group in Gaza.  “The images were reminiscent of the end of Protective Edge,” he added. “And we’re prepared to do even more, we will see what happens,” the official concluded.



Hamas Official: Iran Ordered Rocket Attack On Central Israel – Report

A senior Hamas official, speaking anonymously to Israel Hayom on Tuesday (26th) claimed the rocket which struck a Moshav in central Israel on Monday (25th) was ordered by Iran.

Hamas reportedly gave its blessing for the rocket attack in hopes of disrupting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign.

The rocket attack on Mishmeret, which hit a home, left seven people injured including two infants.

He claimed that Iran “went over the heads” of Hamas leadership and ordered an Islamic Jihad cell operating out of the Gaza Strip to carry out the attack.

While senior officials in both Egypt and Gaza confirmed that Iran had ordered the attack, they claimed that Hamas’ leadership was aware of the plans to fire a rocket deep into Israeli territory.

This led to a major escalation of the conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The official claimed that Hamas leaders gave their blessing to the attack.

The senior Hamas official told Israel Hayom that Hamas also hoped the sudden escalation would harm Netanyahu’s chance of remaining in office in next month’s Knesset election on April 9.

Meanwhile, Shlomo Moskowitz, a resident of the Israeli border town of Sderot, saw his house take a direct hit from a Gaza rocket late Monday evening (25th). – the second time in just a few years.  He was alone in the house and made it to his safe room. The rocket tore through his son’s bedroom roof and landed on the floor but did not explode. The room was filled with smoke but no one was injured.



Trump Formally Recognizes Israeli Sovereignty Over The Golan Heights

Standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, President Donald Trump signed a Proclamation on Monday (25th) recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, making formal a move he announced in a tweet last week.

The president said it was time for the U.S. to take the step after 52 years of Israeli control of the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.

Netanyahu had pressed for such recognition for months.  Trump’s action gives him a political boost weeks before Israeli elections.

When Israel was attacked by Syria and three other Arab nations in the 1967 Six-Day War, it captured the Golan Heights, but the international community has refused to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territory.

“Today, aggressive action by Iran and terrorist groups in southern Syria, including Hezbollah, continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks against Israel – very violent attacks,” Trump said.

“This should have been done numerous presidents ago,” he added.

The two leaders met as the Israeli military was striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket launched from the coastal enclave that hit a house in Israel wounding seven people.



Jewish Groups Praise Golan Sovereignty Recognition

→Top American Jewish groups welcomed American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.  The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations tweeted, “We appreciate the recognition…of the importance of Israel maintaining control over the Golan Heights, given the increasingly dangerous and volatile situation with Syrian, Hezbollah, Iranian forces, and militias across the border.”

→The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted, “Given current political and security circumstances in Syria, we have said it was inconceivable to imagine Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”

→The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted, “We welcome President Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which acknowledges the history of the region and the facts on the ground.  The events in Syria have proven that the entire region is safer with Israel in control of this territory.”

→B’nai B’rith International President Charles Kaufman and CEO Daniel Mariaschin stated, “Israeli control over the Golan Heights…reflects the longtime strategic reality in the region.  It is from the Golan that Syria launched two wars against Israel, and it is from the Golan today that Iran’s proxy in Syria – Hezbollah – seeks to open a second front against the Jewish state…. Syria has had numerous opportunities over 71 years to seek peace with Israel.  It has repeatedly rejected that option, choosing instead to seek to destroy it, now joined by Iran and its agents in the region.”



Jordan’s Abdullah Cancels Romania Trip Over Jerusalem Embassy Promise

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has canceled a visit to Romania to protest its prime minister’s support for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Royal Hashemite Court said Monday (25th) that the decision came “in solidarity with Jerusalem.”  Abdullah was scheduled to visit Romania later in the day.

On Sunday (24th) Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila told the annual policy conference of the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby group in Washington that her country was moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Also at the AIPAC conference, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado said that his country would immediately set up a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, serving as a branch of the embassy currently located in Rishon Lezion, a city south of Tel Aviv.

The diplomatic mission is meant as an interim step after Honduras reached an agreement with the U.S. and Israel to work on the opening of an embassy in the city.

For Israel, Jerusalem is its eternal capital which includes the Temple Mount. Judaism’s holiest shrine.

Jordan is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.