News Digest — 3/7/22

Russia Targets Civilian Evacuation Corridors After Ceasefire Announced

Even as Russia announced a ceasefire starting Monday morning (7th) and the opening of humanitarian corridors in several areas, its armed forces continued to pummel Ukrainian cities, with multiple rocket launchers hitting residential buildings.

The limited ceasefire announcement came a day after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians attempting to flee to safety, were forced to shelter from Russian shelling of cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south.  Officials from both sides planned a third round of talks Monday (7th).

The Russians have been targeting humanitarian corridors, taking women and children hostage and placing weapons in residential areas of cities, according to the General Staff.

A Russian task force said a ceasefire would start Monday morning (7th), the 12th day of the war, for civilians from Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and Sumy.  It wasn’t immediately clear if fighting would stop beyond the areas mentioned in the task force’s statement, or when the ceasefire would end.

The announcement follows two failed attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, from which the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated 200,000 people were trying to flee.

The Russian task force said Monday’s (7th) ceasefire and the opening of the corridors was announced at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday (6th)

“Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make bloody ones,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday (6th).  “Today a family was killed in Irpin.  A man, woman and two children.  Right on the road.  As in a shooting gallery.”

On what is known as Forgiveness Sunday (6th) in Orthodox Christianity, Zelensky said Ukraine “will never forgive the shelling of its homes, the killing of unarmed people and the destruction of its infrastructure.” 



Syrian Media – Two Killed In Alleged Airstrike Targeting Damascus Area

Syria’s air defense systems were activated against an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Damascus area, where two people were reportedly killed, according to Syrian state media SANA.

According to reports, the air defense system was activated “to deal with ‘Israeli aggression.’’”

The Syrian army said that the attack took place around 5 a.m., south of Beirut and stated that their “air defense systems were activated against the missiles and intercepted some of them.”

Explosions were reportedly heard in the Syrian capital and property there was damaged.

This news comes just hours after an IDF spokesman confirmed on Sunday (6th) that Israel had intercepted two Iranian UAVs en route to Israel last year.

Nearly two weeks ago, there was an alleged Israeli airstrike that targeted sites also near Damascus.  Three Syrian soldiers were killed in the incident, according to SANA.



Released For Publication: IDF Shot Down Armed Aircraft En Route From Iran To Israel

In recent months, Israel has thwarted attempts to launch armed aircraft and drones from Iran, an IDF spokesman revealed Sunday evening (6th), according to Channel 12.  The incident that took place last year has only now been cleared for publication.

This was the first time, not only in Israel but also in the world, that F35 planes shot down two enemy aircraft in an air-to-air, the report said. 

The IDF activity was carried out far from the border and did not threaten civilians or facilities, the spokesman said.

The F35 has a radar that can detect both small and slow targets – like drones – as well as air-to-air missiles that can hit and intercept them, despite their size.

“UAV interceptions were carried out in the area’s skies in coordination with neighboring countries, thus preventing intrusion into Israel,” the spokesman said.  “The UAVs were monitoring the control and detection systems throughout their flight.”

Israel has begun establishing a regional air defense program in cooperation with a number of countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf to detect and intercept unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles, with one country able to assist the defense of another, the report continued.

Israel is using various intelligence devices in an attempt to detect these launch attempts in advance.  It has also upgraded the Iron Dome system so that it can cope better.

A series of experiments has also been completed to deal with the drones and cruise missiles deployed by Iran in the region.



MK Pulls Gun On Rock-Throwers, Says Soldiers Hands Are Tied

Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir brandished a gun at Arabs throwing rocks at Jewish motorists driving on a Samaria motorway, successfully forcing them to stop hurling the projectiles and leave the scene.

According to Hebrew-language media, Jewish drivers reported to the Israeli army on Sunday morning (6th) that locals from the Arab town of Al Aroub, north of Hebron, were throwing rocks at passing vehicles.

Ben-Gvir, a Hebron resident, was driving nearby and arrived at the scene to investigate.

According to his account, the soldiers did not confront the rock throwers, saying that they had not been given permission by their commanders to respond.

He then pulled out his personal handgun and drove away the assailants, waiting at the scene until backup security forces arrived.

Ben-Gvir said that the incident reflects a failure of IDF policies, which restricts use of live fire in situations where it could potentially end in tragedy.

“This is lawlessness.  Soldiers cannot respond by firing on terrorists until they have received permission, and travelers on the road are in real danger of death.” Ben-Gvir said.

“This time I managed to drive away the terrorists who threw rocks and stones after I pulled out my weapon, but it’s the job of the IDF soldiers, who need to be instructed that whoever throws rocks or stones at drivers should be shot.”

The Israeli government has reported that over the years, at least 14 Israelis have been killed by rock and stone-throwing attacks.

Some of the deaths occurred as a result of car accidents, when projectiles shattered the windshield of a vehicle and the driver lost control of it.  Other deaths were attributed to the blunt force impact and trauma caused by the stones and rocks.

Three of the 14 Israelis killed in these attacks were Arab-Israelis, whom assailants mistakenly believed were Jewish.



Interior Minister: ‘Israel Accepting Ukrainian Refugees At Impossible Rate’

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Sunday morning (6th) that Israel is accepting Ukrainian refugees, the vast majority of whom are not Jewish, at unsustainable rates and that the government must take steps to curb the influx.

During a government meeting focusing on Israel’s strategy for absorbing and integrating potential refugees, Shaked said that Israel has already admitted more than 2,000 Ukrainian nationals.

More than 90 percent of them do not qualify for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return – meaning that they do not have at least one Jewish grandparent.

If Israel continues to admit Ukrainians at that current rate, Shaked stressed, some 15,000, mostly non-Jewish refugees will be present in the country within a month.

“It’s impossible to continue with a rate of entry like this.  We need to create a policy,” Walla News  quoted Shaked  as saying.

“Relative to its size, Israel has brought in more Ukrainians than any state in Europe besides those bordering Ukraine.”

“Numerous Russian nationals have also requested temporary refuge in Israel as well,” said Shaked.

“Israel is anticipating a wave of mass immigration from Ukraine by Jews and people with Jewish heritage, with some 100,000 expected to settle in Israel in the coming months,” she added. 

According to Shaked, there are an estimated 26,000 Ukrainian nationals without Israeli citizenship currently in the country.

Some 2,500 were already in Israel on tourist visas when the fighting broke out.  Israel granted a blanket extension of their tourist visas for an additional three months.

Four thousand Ukrainians have applied for political asylum or refugee status.  Another 13,000 are believed to be residing and working in Israel illegally, typically after overstaying student or tourist visas.

A remaining 6,500 are living in Israel legally, under a foreign or guest-worker visa.

MK Yulia Malinowski of the Israel Beiteinu party said the Israeli government should provide emergency aid to Israeli citizens who were abruptly forced to leave Ukraine – mostly Ukrainian-born people with dual citizenship.

These Israelis are encountering major challenges upon returning to Israel, she said.

“We need to examine what to do to help them because some of them don’t even have a place to stay,” she added. 



Girl From Myanmar Undergoes Cardiac Surgery In Israel

Hannah, an eight-year-old girl from Myanmar, was successfully brought to Israel and underwent a life-saving heart operation this week through the Save a Child’s Heart organization.

Hannah was born eight years ago with a life-threatening heart syndrome.  Three years ago at the age of five, she underwent cardiac surgery in Wolfson Medical Center that required her to return for another operation.  This was made difficult, however, when a civil war broke out in Myanmar, and flights in and out of the country were stopped.

Save A Child’s Heart conducted an operation to extract Hannah from Myanmar and bring her to Israel.

“The only people allowed out of Myanmar are diplomats and exceptional cases,” explained Sarah Nevo, a representative from the organization.  “We turned to the Israeli embassy in Myanmar and got a special permit for an extraction flight to Dubai for Hannah and her father.  From there, they continued on to Israel.”

Another obstacle arose on the night of the flight.  Hannah’s father phoned Nevo to tell her that he was being barred from boarding the flight because he didn’t have COVID-19 insurance, which was essential for entry into Dubai.

“We managed to sort it all out in the middle of the night, and in the end the two boarded the plane and arrived in Israel,” said Nevo.

From the airport, Hannah and her father were taken directly to the hospital where Dr. Lior Sasson and Dr. Hagai Dekel were waiting for them to begin preparations for the surgery, which went well.

Hannah is currently recovering in a rehabilitation center in Holon.

“This is the second time we operated on Hannah, but this time, we didn’t know until the last moment if she would make it to the operation,” said Sasson.  “We were so excited and happy to see her and the joy on her face.  I’ve never seen a child so happy to arrive at a surgery.  This is the reality of these children who need to cross continents to receive life-saving medical care.”

Funding for the flight and the operation came from Morris Kahn who has taken a large part in the organization since it was founded.

“Hannah’s story is emotional and touching,” said Kahn.  “After being treated in Israel a few years ago, she needed another treatment, and we immediately rose to the challenge in order to bring her to Israel and take care of her.  Hannah’s joy after the surgery said it all.  It was my privilege and honor to take part in this operation and know that she’s going back home healthy.”