News Digest — 3/8/22

Chevron CEO Says Israel’s Gas Pipeline Could Supply Europe Amid Crisis

Europe’s natural gas shortage, which has pushed prices to multi-year highs, has revived talks of the EastMed pipeline – a Mediterranean Sea pipeline that could carry gas from Israel to European customers, Chevron Chief Executive Michael Wirth said on Monday (7th) at the CERAWeek energy conference.

Wirth downplayed concerns over global oil supplies amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War and the subsequent potential for an energy crisis.

The EastMed pipeline, meant to transfer natural gas from Israeli waters to Europe via Greece and Cyprus, was announced in 2016, and several agreements have been signed between the three countries on the subject.  The three states aim to complete the 6 billion euro project by 2025, but no financing has been secured for it.

Last January, the U.S. informed Israel, Greece and Cyprus that they no longer supported the proposed EastMed natural gas pipeline from Israel to Europe citing the need to “allow for future exports of electricity produced by renewable energy sources, benefiting nations in the region.

The pipeline’s viability, however, could be revisited amid concerns that a new energy crisis is looming as Russian energy imports are sanctioned and even subject to banning.

The EastMed pipeline is not the only new energy initiative being developed in Israel.  The EU committed 657 million euros ($732 million) to connect the electricity networks of Cyprus and Greece in January, which was announced as the first step in forming the EuroAsia interconnector – which will eventually link the power grids of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Europe.  Further, the Karish gas field will connect to the Israel National Gas Line, the CEO announced in March. 



Gantz Calls On World To Mobilize Against Iran As Vienna Talks Continue

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday (7th) called on the world “to act against Iranian aggression,” adding that Israel will use all of its abilities and means to prevent Tehran and its nuclear ambitions from becoming an existential threat.

The defense minister’s call comes amid ongoing negotiations in Vienna between Western powers and Iran, meant to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear agreement abandoned by the US in 2018.

“Today we must reiterate the warning that Iranian aggression, whether it emanates from Iranian territory or through Iranian proxies, is a threat to global peace and to regional stability, as well as a threat to the State of Israel,” Gantz wrote on his Facebook page.

He noted several instances of Iranian activity and those behind it, including the claim made Sunday (6th) by the Israeli military, that it intercepted an attempt by Iran to transfer arms to Gaza via drones.

“It is during this important time, when a nuclear agreement is being negotiated in Vienna, that we must remember: Today Iranian aggression is being conducted without it holding nuclear weapons.  If Iran reaches a nuclear threshold, it will become even more dangerous to world peace,” Gantz said.  He declared, “Now is the time for the world to mobilize to stop it.”

 Last week, Gantz said a nuclear deal may be signed “in the coming weeks, perhaps even in the coming days.”

“Whether or not an agreement will be signed, it will not be the end of the road for us – nor should it be for the countries of the region and the world, which must continue to act against Iranian aggression,” Gantz said Monday (7th) to the Times of Israel.



Israeli Forces Thwart Car-Ramming Terror Attack In Samaria

Border Police fighters arrested a suspect in an attempted hit and run attack on some of its officers during the course of an operation conducted with the IDF in the village of Silat al Harithiya in Samaria Monday night (7th).

Border Police fighters identified a vehicle coming towards them at a high rate of speed.  It then collided with an armored vehicle and caused damage.  As a result of the collision, two border fighters were moderately injured and evacuated for medical treatment at the base.

Border Police arrested the suspect in the attempted hit-and-run – he was transferred for questioning by security forces,

Earlier in the evening, two Border Police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem.



Two Police Officers Stabbed Near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Attacker Shot Dead

Two police officers were moderately hurt in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday evening (7th), police and medics said.

In a statement, police said an assailant attacked two officers near an entrance to the Temple Mount, and they responded with gunfire.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said the two men in their 20s were treated at the scene and then taken to the Shaare Zedek and Hadassah Mount Scopus hospitals in the city.

The Palestinian assailant died of his wounds after being shot, a police spokesman confirmed to The Times of Israel.

Footage from the scene showed the two injured officers standing over the assailant, who was lying on the ground following the attack.

The entrances to the area were closed by police as officers launched an investigation.

The assailant was identified as 22-year-old Abd al-Rahman Jamal Qassem, from Jalazone, near Ramallah in the central West Bank, according to Palestinian media reports.

Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai said “the fast response, the determination, the engagement, ended the incident thankfully without any deaths, and with the terrorist dead.  This is the end result we expect from an incident like this.” 

Monday’s (7th) stabbings in Jerusalem come after two policemen were wounded in a stabbing attack nearby on Sunday morning (6th), with a 17-year-old Palestinian assailant in that incident shot dead.

Public Security Minister Omar Barlev, who oversees the police, warned in response to Sunday’s (6th) attack that “terrorists and extremists will try to set the area on fire” in the coming weeks.

On Monday (7th) he repeated that assessment, adding that “a disaster was averted thanks to the officers quick and determined response.”

It also comes after two attacks last week in which two Jewish Israeli men in their 40s were separately stabbed in a store in a West Bank town near Jerusalem under near-identical circumstances.  The Palestinian assailant was found and later arrested.

Police said Monday afternoon (7th) it was holding a situational assessment after the string of attacks.



IsraAID CEO: Ukraine Crisis Is The Worst I’ve Ever Seen

IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer is not a novice when it comes to mass disasters.  The Israel-based humanitarian aid organization has responded to emergencies in 56 countries since 2001.

So you can believe Polizer when he says the Ukraine refugee crisis is the worst he has ever seen.

“I’ve been in this field for 14 years, including some of the biggest humanitarian crisis of the last 20 years – the tsunami in Japan, the Ebola outbreak, the Syrian refugee crisis – but what we’re dealing with right now is really a historical disaster of almost biblical proportions,” he told IsraAID supporters in a video meeting on March 3.

IsraAID has responded to recent refugee waves caused by unrest in Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela and East Africa, Polizer noted.

“But the scale of the current crisis in Ukraine is really overwhelming, even for us,” he said.

“There were more than one million refugees in less than a week.  In the next two weeks, the estimate is that we’ll have about nine million refugees entering the neighboring countries.  The situation in the Ukraine in terms of safety, security and humanitarian needs is just beyond words.”

Naama Gorodischer, IsraAID’s global head of programs, also has led many emergency missions around the world over the last decade.  She is now overseeing the IsraAID response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which centers on refugees entering Moldova.

“Only two days after the war started, on February 26, our team was deployed to Moldova to explore the situation and understand how we could best offer support,” she said.

“We came first and foremost to respond to the immediate needs, making sure the population was safe and had access to basic needs for their physical and social well-being.  We are focused on public health, especially for the women and children, ensuring that these vulnerable populations are helped,” Gorodischer said.

She explained that most of the refugees are women and children because most of the elderly are staying in Ukraine for now, while men 18-60 are required to stay and fight.

Therefore, one of the first things IsraAID did was to set up a Mother and Baby Space in a tent at the Palanca crossing, providing diapers and baby food, children’s activities, blankets and seating.  The tent was also staffed by volunteers from local organizations.

“We understand that this is not a situation that will end anytime soon.  Even if the war ends, the status of the refugee population will not go back to what it was.  It is not clear who will choose to go back and where they will settle.  So we are working with local partners building capacity to continue meeting their needs for the longer term.” 

Polizer said IsraAID is projecting a minimum five-year operation to help the Ukrainian refugees.

“Last December we concluded our Syrian refugee program in Greece that lasted six years.  We unfortunately believe this crisis will be at least as bad, if not worse, in terms of humanitarian needs.”

Polizer said that when the media’s attention moves on from any world disaster, people think the situation is okay, but that’s not how it works.

Even if we think about the best-case scenario in the Ukraine crisis, that the war will – with the help of God and everyone – be finished sooner than later, still the trauma and long-term recovery of these millions of refugees will take years,” he said.

“And that’s what we are here to do.  We’re here to provide long-term support to help these people build resilience, rebuild their lives, rebuild their families and rebuild their future.”