News Digest — 4/1/19

First THAAD Missile Defense Exercise In Israel Ends In Resounding Success

The first-of-its-kind deployment of America’s most advanced missile defense system in Israel was completed to the satisfaction of both militaries on Sunday (3/31) after a month of practice-runs dealing with a variety of scenarios.

THAAD (Terminal HIgh Altitude Area Defense) is designed to intercept both short-and medium-range ballistic missiles in terminal (or descent) phase.

“It is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world,” said U.S. European Command (EUCOM), when it brought over 250 soldiers a month ago to deploy the system as “a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”

The IDF worked closely with the Americans to enhance the two militaries’ ability to coordinate their defense from long-range threats, such as an Iranian deployment of ballistic missiles.

The system is integrated into the Arrow [anti-ballistic missile] system and brings with it complementary capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, who commanded the joint operation. “Thanks to the professional ties and joint training, we will be more ready when needed.”

Besides improving interoperability with the Israeli systems via training drills, the purpose of the deployment exercise was to “demonstrate that U.S. forces are agile, and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time,” EUCOM said in a statement in March.

“The US Department of Defense ordered, at short notice, to quickly deploy the THAAD system thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world, and then integrate it into one of the most complex air defense systems, and they provided the goods,” Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, Deputy Commander of the US Army in Europe, said.  “The ability to deploy forces ready to fight so quickly to the sector, is critical in order to support our allies and partners.”

Israel and the United States have held several joint military drills over the past year that included a ballistic-missile aspect.



IDF Maintains Relative Calm On Anniversary of Hamas-led Gaza Riots – Rockets on Sunday

Tens of thousands of Palestinians on Saturday (3/30) rioted near the Israeli border to mark the first anniversary of weekly violent disturbances in the Gaza Strip, with Israeli troops weathering a steady rain of explosives and rocks hurled by rioters, and staving off a number of infiltration attempts.

Egyptian mediators’ efforts to rein in Hamas also appeared to have paid off, with the Palestinian violence failing to reach the ‘million man’ fever pitch the terror group had threatened last week.

Israeli forces used conventional crowd dispersal tactics, with rainy weather also playing a role in the lower than expected turnout.

Saturday’s (3/30) protest came at a sensitive time for both Israel and Hamas.

Israel has fought two wars and numerous conflagrations with Hamas and is facing elections on April 9, while Hamas is keeping Gaza’s population under its thumb by publicly beating Palestinians who deign to criticize the Islamic terror group’s regime.

In the final stretch of the Israeli election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to keep the Israel-Gaza frontier quiet, without making any concessions to Hamas.

Meanwhile, Hamas faces growing unrest in Gaza as a result of its severe mismanagement of resources, which it largely directs toward its terror campaign against Israel.

The Israeli military estimated 40,000 Palestinians were gathered at the marches, Saturday (3/30), a lot less than the ‘million’ anticipated by Hamas.

Several rockets were fired from Gaza early Sunday (3/31), officials said, marking a likely setback hours after the sides appeared to be headed for an unofficial truce following Saturday’s (3/30) low-level violence along the border.

There were no reports of injuries or damages from the rocket fire, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Forces said five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.  Explosions had been heard and rocket strikes were pinpointed to open areas. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Gaza.



Brazil Opens Israel Trade Mission In Jerusalem

Brazil opened a new trade mission to Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday (3/31), edging back from earlier signals it would follow the United States with a full embassy moved to the city.

The announcement came during a visit by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an outspoken admirer of President Donald Trump, who broke global consensus by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moving the US embassy there last May.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Welcome to Israel brother, Jair.  Welcome to the Brazilian president and delegation. I am very excited as Sara and I, along with our son Yair, were at your inauguration.  You represent a new hope for Brazil. Clearly this is the start of a wonderful new period in Brazil-Israel relations.”

The Brazilian President responded: “I feel as if I have arrived home.  It looks like you named your son after me.” Netanyahu responded that “chronologically, that is correct.”  

“Brazil is a giant and rich country, that is why our two countries are close, religiously, culturally and democratically,” Bolsonaro added.

The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “Brazil decided to create an office in Jerusalem to promote trade, investment, technology and innovation as a part of its embassy in Israel.”

Meanwhile, Brazil’s embassy is still in Tel Aviv.

“I hope, and I would like to believe, that this new office in Jerusalem is the first step toward the opening of the Brazilian embassy in Jerusalem, when the time comes,” Netanyahu told reporters.



Report: Syrian Map Proves ‘Disputed’ Banias Territory Belonged To Israel Before 1967

In what it calls an exclusive feature, the Israel Hayom daily reports that researchers at Tel-Hai College in northern Israel “discovered that prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, even Syria recognized that the Banias plateau – the site of a spring at the foot of Mount Hermon that feeds one of the main tributaries of the Jordan River – belonged to Israel.

The newspaper notes that the discovery comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The researchers reportedly discovered a map from 1965 that was drawn by the Syrian planning and construction agency two years before the Six-Day War, which puts Banias on the Israeli side of the border.

The paper quotes Shalom Tarmachi, head of the Tel-Hai College map collection, as giving content.

“In 1939, the Jewish National Fund purchased land in the area of Khan a-Duar at Banias, so the area belonged to Israel, both legally and politically,” said Tarmachi.



A Seal Of The Servant Of The King Uncovered in City Of David – David Lazarus

A Rare and Exciting Discovery: A 2,600-year-old seal was found with the impression bearing the words, “Belongs to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.”  The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) reports that the seal was excavated in the City of David along the south-eastern slopes of the Temple Mount and is dated to the First Temple period.  The name Nathan-Melech appears only once in the Bible, in ll Kings 23:11, where he is described as an official in the court of King Josiah, who participated in a cleansing of the Temple precincts that King Josiah initiated.  “And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the Lord, by the chambers of Nathan-Melech the officer, which was in the precincts, and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire.”

The seal was discovered inside an important public building that was destroyed at the same time as the destruction of the First Temple built by King Solomon.  According to Professor Yuval Gadot, of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the IAA who were responsible for the dig, the building where the seal and other artifacts were found was destroyed in the sixth century BCE – likely during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.

The kind of seal that was found was used to sign documents and was often set into signet rings worn by the owner.  In biblical times the seal would note the identity, lineage and status of the owner. In this case ‘the servant of the king.’