News Digest — 3/4/19

IDF Hits Targets In Gaza After Explosive Balloon Damages Home

”Over the past three weeks the Palestinians in Gaza have launched a lot of balloons and because they do it at night, it’s hard to stop it,” said Rachel Danzig, whose home in the Eshkol region was damaged by an incendiary balloon on Wednesday (27th).  The bomb exploded near her house and damaged her front windows.

“I’m shaking right now,” said Danzig.  “I thought the bomb was literally in my house.  It’s scary because there is no deterrence. My neighbor has a hole in her garden, glass is shattered all over my home and everything shook from the blast.  My neighbor is absolutely frightened – she’s 70-years-old and in shock.”

Israeli warplanes struck numerous Hamas posts in southern Gaza late Wednesday (27th) in retaliation for the balloon launched from the Hamas-controlled enclave.

“The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for anything that occurs in the Gaza Strip and for all the consequences of its terrorist activity there,” the IDF said in a statement.



1,200 Students Rescued From Jerusalem School Cut Off By Flooding

Some 1,200 trapped students were evacuated Thursday (28th) from a school in southern Jerusalem that was cut off by flooding across an access road, amid unseasonal rains in the capital.

The students were taken out of the school, in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem, via jeeps in groups of three and four after officials concluded it was unsafe to let school buses approach the campus.

The students were all in good health, police said, and prior to their extraction were cared for by teachers and police sent to the campus.  The school was heated and students were given meals.

Several of the jeeps were themselves caught in the floodwaters, requiring special rescues.

Police asked parents and others wanting to help not to come to the area.

Some 5.3 inches of rainfall hit Jerusalem on Thursday (28th), equal to one-quarter of the city’s average rainfall.

The unusual precipitation caused flooding in several areas.  Dozens of people were trapped by floodwaters inside buildings in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, where separate rescues took place.

Earlier Thursday (28th), two drivers were trapped in a vehicle caught in a flood in the Arazim valley, the valley separating Jerusalem and its western suburb Mevasseret Zion, and had to be pulled from the floods by rescue services.



Netanyahu Blasts UN Report: ‘Obsessive Hatred Of Israel’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the report of the UN Human Rights Council about the Israeli response to Gaza riots.

“Israel rejects outright the report of the UN Human Rights Council.  The council sets new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

“Hamas is the one that fires rockets at Israeli civilians, throws bombs and carries out terrorist activities during the violent demonstrations along the fence.”

“Israel will not allow Hamas to harm Israeli sovereignty and its citizens and will protect its right to self-defense.  IDF soldiers will continue with determination to defend Israeli citizens against attacks by Hamas and terrorist organizations funded by Iran, which declares its intention to destroy Israel.”

Netanyahu was responding to a UN probe which on Thursday (28th) said that Israeli response to 2018 Gaza riots “may constitute war crimes.”

The investigators in the UN Independent Commission said they found reasonable grounds to believe that Israel shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, not posing an imminent threat.

The UN team also dismissed claims by Israel that the protests were aimed to conceal acts of terrorism.

“Despite some acts of significant violence by demonstrators, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”



Netanyahu To Putin: Israel Will Drive Iran Out Of Syria

On Wednesday (27th) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Israel’s position on Iran’s presence in Syria during a visit to Moscow where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.     

“The greatest threat to stability and security in the region comes from Iran and its satellites,” Netanyahu said.  “We are determined to continue with our aggressive action against the efforts of Iran, which calls for our destruction, and against its attempts to become entrenched militarily in Syria.”

For Netanyahu, it was the first trip to Moscow since September’s downing of a Russian warplane by Syrian forces that were responding to an Israeli air strike.

Putin said at the start of Wednesday’s talks that “it’s very important to discuss the situation in the region and security issues.”

Netanyahu began the talks by reaffirming Israel’s strong determination to block attempts by Iran to establish a foothold in Syria.

Netanyahu noted that he and Putin have had 11 meetings since September 2015 and hailed “the direct, open and true way in which we maintain the relationship between Russia and Israel.”

“The direct connection between us has been an essential element that has prevented risks and conflicts between our militaries, and that has contributed to regional security and stability,” the Israeli leader said.

Netanyahu offered congratulations to Putin on the military holiday Russia marked last weekend and invited him to Israel to attend the opening of a monument to the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II.

“We will never forget the role Russia and the Red Army played in the victory over the Nazis,” he said.

Putin, a native of Leningrad, accepted the offer to visit Israel



Israeli Control of Golan In US House, Senate Gains Steam

US Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis) introduced companion resolutions on Tuesday (26th) urging the United States to officially recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The bill emphasizes the strategic importance of Israeli control over the area, which the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Six Day War, in protecting civilians from threats from Iran in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Israel annexed the region in 1981, a move that has not been recognized by the international community.

It also states that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria  will be an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”

The bill adds that “it is in the United States national security interest to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights and that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad faces diplomatic and geopolitical consequences for its killing of civilians, the ethnic cleansing of Arab Sunnis, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had raised the issue of the Golan Heights during a meeting with US National Security Advisor John Bolton in January

Although no Democrats are currently behind the bill, members such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) have voiced support for such US recognition in the past.