News Digest — 3/8/23

IDF Captures, Eliminates Huwara Terrorist Who Murdered Two Brothers

Israel Defense Forces troops killed the terrorist on Tuesday (7th) who 11 days ago shot dead at point-blank-range, brothers Hillel Menachem and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv near the Arab village of Huwara.

The military reported that soldiers conducted a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin – a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism in northern Samaria – when gunmen opened fire on them from a house they had surrounded.

Palestinian officials said Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousha, 49, was killed in the exchange.  He is suspected of gunning down the Yanivs on February 26 while they were stuck in a traffic jam near Huwara.

Palestinian media reported six people in total were killed in the Israeli operation.

Israeli police said that two officers from the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit were wounded slightly during the mission and were evacuated to the hospital for treatment.

The IDF said that soldiers launched shoulder fired missiles at the building in which Kharousha had barricaded himself.

Palestinians threw concrete blocks and explosive devices at the troops and riots developed.  The Israeli forces responded with crowd control measures and gunfire, and injuries were identified.

Two Israeli drones were downed during the mission, according to the IDF.

The military said that troops arrested two of Kharousha’s sons in concurrent operations in Nablus.  They are suspected of involvement in the attack that killed the Yanivs and were taken for interrogation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the soldiers “who eliminated the abhorrent terrorist who murdered the two wonderful brothers, Hillel and Yegal Yaniv, in cold blood.”

He continued, saying “our brave soldiers acted with surgical precision in the heart of the murderers’ lair.  I commend them and send my best wishes for a swift recovery to our wounded.  As I have said repeatedly: Whoever harms us will pay the price.”

Hillel and Yagel Yaniv were laid to rest on Feb. 27 on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.



Police Ordered On High Alert In Jerusalem After Deadly Jenin Raid

Police were put on increased alert in Jerusalem and surrounding areas Tuesday (7th), amid fears that Palestinians may attempt to exact revenge for a raid by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin that left six dead hours earlier.

The heightened level of readiness was put in place as the holiday of Purim began in the capital Wednesday (8th), the largest of several cities that celebrate the Jewish festival a day after the rest of the country.

“Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has ordered increased vigilance and a visible police presence in Jerusalem,” a police statement said.

The statement singled out the seam line between East and West Jerusalem and neighborhoods with mixed Jewish-Arab populations as flashpoint areas where police were being deployed.

“It is important to note that the Israel police are currently busy with a long series of missions to allow the general public to celebrate the Purim holiday safely all over the country,” the statement added.

A string of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent months left 14 Israelis dead and several more seriously hurt.

At least 70 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out terror attacks or during clashes with security forces.



Direct Polls: 3/4  Of Israelis Support Judicial Reform

A large majority of Israelis support Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reforms, the Direct Polls Institute reported on Monday (6th), presenting a different picture from the polls suggesting that the controversy surrounding the reforms are causing the coalition to lose support.

According to the institute, the polls cited by the mainstream media in Israel do not include specific questions on the content of the judicial reform, and respondents are much more supportive of the reforms when asked about specific aspects.

About 60% of Israelis support the vast majority of the judicial reforms when asked questions about the content of the reforms, Direct Polls stated.

The survey found that 40% of Israelis support the judicial reforms in their current form, as proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Simcha Rothman.  The majority of these supporters are on the right-wing of the political spectrum.

An additional four percent support the reforms with the sole change of removing the Override Clause, which would allow the Knesset to re-pass laws struck down by the Supreme Court.

34% are in favor of reforming the judicial system, but only with substantial changes to the current proposals.

In total, Direct Polls found that 78% of Israelis are in favor of reforming Israel’s judicial system to at least some extent, while just 22% want to keep the judicial system as it currently is.



Iran Behind Hacking Attack On Israel’s Technion Institute 

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate officially confirmed on Tuesday (7th) that Iran was behind the cyberattack on Israel’s leading engineering university last month.

The Israel Institute Of Technology in Haifa also known as Technion was targeted by hackers in early February.  According to Tuesday’s (7th) announcement, those responsible for the attack are in a group affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

The institute’s website went down and students were asked to log off.  The hackers demanded a ransom of 80 bitcoins from Technion, which is equivalent to $1,747,971.  The hacker group also threatened to increase the requested sum by 30% if their demands were not met within 48 hours, and would put all the university’s data up for sale on the web after five days.

The wording of the email that followed the attack is littered with anti-Israel rhetoric, which suggests the attack was motivated by ideological reasons and not greed.

“We regret to inform you that we’ve had to hack Technion network completely and transfer ‘all’ data to our secure servers,” the attackers wrote in the email.  “Keep calm, take a breath and think about an apartheid regime that causes trouble here and there.  They should pay for their lies and crimes, their names and shames.”

“They should pay for occupation, war crimes against humanity, killing the people (not only Palestinians, but Israeli souls) and destroying the future and all dreams we had.  They should pay for firing high-skilled experts,” the email read.

Israeli media had earlier said the cyberattack was carried out by a group called Darkbit.

Technion is the flagship of scientific research in Israel, it trains thousands of high-level engineers every year.  Last September, a group of what is believed to be pro-Iranian hackers stole and published personal information of 30,000 Israeli teachers and students.



Colorful Purim Festivities Draw Out Masses To City Streets Across Israel

On Tuesday (7th), Holon’s traditional Adloyada Purim Parade, one of the most magnanimous spectacles of the year, took place with thousands of marchers and dancers garbed in glittery costumes promenading down the central Israeli city’s streets, and this year’s edition, which marked the event’s comeback after a three-year hiatus, certainly did not disappoint.

Tens of thousands of revelers dressed up in a variety of creative costumes, enjoyed the festive parade, which featured circus facilities, guest performers, and gigantic floats.

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and National Missions Minister Orit Strock put on a performance at the Adloyada celebration in the West Bank city of Hebron.  Ben-Gvir dressed up as a cop while Strock opted for a more mischievous option, dressing up as Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut with a sign reading “Queen Esther,” alluding to the heroine of the story of Purim.

With the celebration of Purim on Tuesday (7th), similar events attracted tens of thousands of spectators in Herzliya, Kfar Saba, Rishon Lezion, and Netanya. 

Purim is being celebrated in Jerusalem on Wednesday (8th)



Ukrainian Refugees Celebrate Purim In Berlin As War Drags On

Hundreds of refugees from Ukraine celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in Berlin Tuesday (7th) dressed in colorful costumes and dancing to Jewish music.

They celebrated and ate together with hundreds of members of the German capital’s Chabad community that organized the party in a hotel.  Many of the Ukrainian refugees at the party were students and young children, among them dozens of orphans who fled Odessa a year ago.

“Last year these kids were sitting in bunkers, with rockets falling around them,” said Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin rabbi and head of the local Chabad community who had helped orchestrate their escape from the war in Ukraine.

“Now they’ve found a new home, are studying German, learning new skills, including ways of helping themselves,” he added.

Teichtal, wearing huge orange sunglasses and a glittery cap, danced with some of the refugee children in circles as an Israeli singer performed popular Purim songs.

The holiday of Purim marks the victory of Jews over a tyrant in ancient Persia and is traditionally celebrated with reading the biblical Book of Esther, the wearing of costumes and parties.

Germany has given shelter to more than a million Ukrainian refugees since their country was attacked by Russia over a year ago.  Among them were thousands of Jews including several Holocaust survivors.

Around 80 Jewish Ukrainians, who were taken in by the Chabad community recently returned to their home of Odessa, but the others remain in Berlin.

Among them are Gabriel Hrykoriev and Elisheva Tkachenko, a young married couple who fled to Berlin a year ago.  They finished university in Odessa before the war started, and decided to stay in Berlin to finish their German language degrees and then look for jobs.

Still, even as they joined the Purim party, the war in Ukraine was always on their minds.

“We are talking on the phone to our parents everyday,” said Tkachenko, whose family is from Kherson and whose parents decided to stay in Ukraine despite the war.

“Actually, I’m a bit sad today because I have to think of all the happy Purim celebrations when I was a child,” she added with a sad smile.  “Back then our families had so much fun together  – and there was no war.”