News Digest — 3/9/22

In First Since 2008, Israeli President To Visit Turkey

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal were set to embark on a visit to Turkey on Wednesday (9th), marking the first official visit by an Israeli president to Ankara since 2008.

The one-day visit is seen as an opportunity for rapprochement between the two countries in a time the Middle East is facing a variety of new challenges.

Relations between Israel and Turkey, once close regional allies, crumbled in 2010 following the raid on the Marmara flotilla, which attempted to breach the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip which is controlled by the Hamas terror group.  In June 2016, the two countries said they would normalize relations, a move driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over security risks in the Middle East, but diplomatic ties remain cold, at best.

Herzog took office on July 7 and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was among the first world leaders to offer congratulations.

Herzog’s visit, which according to his office has been coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, will see the two presidents discuss a host of “bilateral issues, including Israel-Turkey relations and the potential for expanding collaboration between their respective states in various fields,” the president’s office said in a statement on Tuesday (9th). 

According to Turkish media, the subject of the natural gas pipeline from Israel to Europe is expected to dominate the talks, alongside security issues.



Israel ‘Will Pay’ For Alleged IAF Strikes That Killed 2 IRGC Officers In Syria, Tehran Warns

For the first time in four years, Tehran has admitted members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have been killed in airstrikes attributed to Israel.

Col. Ehsan Karbalaipour and Col. Morteza Saeed Nejad were both killed in the alleged Israeli airstrike near Damascus early Monday morning (7th), Iranian state media outlets reported Tuesday (8th).

“Tehran will make sure the Zionists’ regime pays for this crime,” the outlets said.

Syrian state media outlet SANA reported an attack by Israeli jets in the area of Damascus.  The Syrian military said two civilians were killed in the attack that targeted a civilian factory.

Syrian opposition forces reported, however, that the attacks had targeted pro-Iranian militias’ military sites near the Damascus airport.

The attack took place two days after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Iran last admitted casualties incurred by alleged Israeli attacks in 2018.  According to reports at the time, the 14 people killed in an airstrike on Syria’s T4 airbase included members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.



IRGC Successfully Sends 2nd Military Satellite Into Space

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully put a second military satellite, the Noor 2, into orbit, the semi-official news agency Tasnim said on Tuesday (8th).

The announcement came as talks held in Vienna to revive an agreement restraining Iran’s nuclear program reached a critical stage.

Noor 2 is orbiting at an altitude of 311 miles.  The first military satellite, launched by the Islamic Republic in April 2020, placed the Noor (“light” in Persian) at an orbit of 265 miles above the earth’s surface.  Putting a second satellite in space would be a major advance for Iran’s military, raising concerns about the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

The U.S. military says the same long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also allow Tehran to launch longer-range weapons, possibly including nuclear warheads.

Tehran denies U.S. assertions that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development and says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.

“The IRGC successfully placed Iran’s second military satellite, Noor 2, into orbit 311 miles from Earth,” Tasnim said.

The three-stage Qased, or “Messenger,” launched the Noor 2, from the Shahroud spaceport, it added.  The same type of rockets, which use a combination of liquid and solid fuel, carried the first military satellite.

In December, Iran’s space launch failed to put its three payloads into orbit after the rocket was unable to reach the required speed, a defense ministry spokesman said.

The attempted launch drew criticism from the United States, Germany, and France.

Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programs in the Middle East, has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent years due to technical failures.

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s civilian space agency and two research organizations in 2019, saying they were being used to advance Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

Tehran denies that its space activity is a cover for ballistic missile development.



Mozambique Military Downs IS Drones With Israeli Anti-Drone System

The Mozambique Army downed drones belonging to the Islamic State (IS) using Israeli-designed jamming systems manufactured by MCTECH technologies.

Based in Kfar Saba, MCTECH RF Technologies specializes in developing and manufacturing electronic warfare solutions for security forces, armies and governments in Israel and around the world.

The company announced last September that it had sold and delivered its MC-Horizon 36OD V3 systems to an East African army in order to protect forces maneuvering in conflict zones.

Less than a year after acquiring the system, Mozambique announced that it had downed three IS drones that were allegedly gathering intelligence on troops as well as planning to bomb them.

According to Yossi Gofer, the CEO of ORAD, while MCTECH’s systems are in use by a number of militaries around the world, this marks the first time that a foreign army has reported interception with the Israeli system.

“In Mozambique, Islamic State is attacking troops with drones.  They use drones to identity troops, to bomb troops, and to navigate artillery to hit forces.  This is exactly the same thing that happened with IS in Iraq,” Gofer told The Jerusalem Post.

According to him, the drones used by IS militants in the area are “so small and they fly very fast and very low to the ground so that it’s hard to identify them.  You need a very good radar.”

The tactical MC-Horizon anti-drone modular system can be carried on a soldier’s back and can identify hostile drones a mile and a half away using its RF sensor by analyzing signal channels and radio transmissions.  The system accesses targets by an electro-optical EO/IR tracker as well as a 3D Pulse-Doppler all weather radar with mechanical scan and elevation electrical phased-array.

The Israeli system has been in operational use since 2014 by security forces throughout the world, including in Nigeria, Thailand, Hungary and other African and European countries.

The report comes as the United Nations (UN) announced that IS-linked militants in Mozambique’s gas-rich northeast have been increasing their attacks on government forces and civilians.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Cabo Delgado, an area the size of Rwanda, said that the number of attacks grew in the first two months of 2022 despite the presence of thousands of regional troops in the area.

The insurgency in the province has killed over 3,500 people since violence erupted in 2017, and between January and February alone over 12,000 people were forced to flee their homes.



Oldest Member Of Israel’s Kibbutz Movements Dies At 110

Hayanka Gilad, the oldest member of Israel’s historic Kibbutz Movement, passed away Monday (7th) at the age of 110.

Hayanka immigrated to Israel from Lithuania in 1937.  Two years later she and her family moved to the Upper Galilee where she helped establish Kibbutz Dafna – one of Israel’s most successful and well-known kibbutz communities.

According to Hayanka’s son Erik, his mother worked tirelessly around the Kibbutz in various fields until she reached the age of 97.

“She worked all her life.  She worked at the chicken coops, in the kitchen, and for almost 60 years was a caregiver and worked in education.”

“Until the age of 97, she would get up every morning at 6 a.m. and stay active until 11 p.m. or even midnight.  She continued to work at the kibbutz shoe factory, until one night she fell, and then decided to retire,” Erik added.

Hayanka eventually moved to the kibbutz’s sheltered housing, and though she stopped working, she never stopped being an active member of the kibbutz community.

In a statement, the National Kibbutz Movement said that “The entire movement is mourning Hayanka’s loss.”

“She was a symbol for all of us when she immigrated alone from Lithuania, devoted most of her life in the kibbutz to education, and retired at the age of 97, after joining the kibbutz shoe factory at the age of 63 and building a glorious family line of three children, nine grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren.”



11-Year Old Travels 700 Miles Alone From Ukraine Home

An 11-year-old Ukrainian boy traveled 700 miles alone from his hometown of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine to Slovakia to escape Russian military forces.

The boy’s mother put him on a train to the Slovakian border to meet with relatives in that country, after the bombing of the city’s nuclear power plant by the Russians.

The mother equipped her child with a backpack with essential items and wrote down the relative’s phone number on his hand.  “I cannot leave my mother, she cannot move independently, so I sent my son by train to the Slovakian border.  He met people there with a big heart.  A small country that has people with a big heart.  They save children and give them a safe place.”

As soon as he arrived in the Slovakian region, the boy won the hearts of the volunteers who received him.  “With one plastic bag, passport and phone number written on his hand, he came completely alone because his parents had to stay in Ukraine,” the Slovakian Interior Ministry wrote on Facebook, adding that “he won them all over with his smile, fearlessness and determination, worthy to be a true hero.”

The phone number his mother had written on the boy’s hand helped locate his relatives who finally came to pick him up.