News Digest — 4/13/21

Remembrance Day: Israel Bows Its Head To Honor 23,928 Of Its Fallen

Israelis will bow their heads in mourning Tuesday evening (13th) to honor the 23,928 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of wars and terrorism.  A minute-long siren will sound out across the country at 8 p.m.

After the siren, a memorial torch-lighting ceremony will take place at the Western Wall, attended by President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday (14th), a two-minute siren will sound, before state memorial ceremonies will commence at 52 military cemeteries throughout the country.  The main ceremony will be held at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, at 1 p.m., with President Rivlin, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and Chief of Staff Kochavi in attendance.

Forty-three fallen soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the past year.

After bereaved families were prevented from visiting their loved ones’ graves last year, the Defense Ministry decided to allow family members into the cemeteries without COVID-19 limitations, this year.  Ceremonies, including at Mount Herzl and in Yad Lebanim Remembrance Center, can only be attended by individuals with a vaccination certificate or certified proof of recovery from the coronavirus.

“In the name of IDF soldiers and commanders, I salute those who died and the bereaved families,” Kochavi wrote in a letter sent to IDF personnel on Monday (12th).  “I pledge that we will do everything in our power to return those who are missing and taken captive.  We will keep remembering, learning and teaching – and will keep fulfilling our purpose – to defend, to prepare and to win.”

The last soldier to be killed during an operation was St.-Sgt. Amit Ben Yigal of the elite Golani Reconnaissance Battalion, who was killed last may in an operation to apprehend terrorist suspects in the PA village of Yabad.  He was struck by a large block hurled from a building after the roundup had been completed.

After being treated by combat medics at the scene, Ben Yigal was evacuated by helicopter to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where he succumbed to his wounds.



Remote-Controlled Bomb Caused Explosion At Natanz Nuclear Facility

A Sunday morning (11th) explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran was caused by a remote-controlled bomb which was clandestinely smuggled into the site, an Israeli intelligence official revealed to Hebrew language media on Monday (12th).

The explosion brought down both the primary and backup electrical systems at the site, just a day after Iranian officials bragged about inaugurating new centrifuges at the site for advanced uranium enrichment.

Originally, Iranian officials had presented the explosion as an “accident” which had caused “minor electrical issues.”

But in reality, the fire caused by the explosion was devastating for Iran’s nuclear program.  According to the New York Times, the incident will set back Iranian production of the fissile material for at least nine months.  The explosion was so powerful that it destroyed material some 20-feet below reinforced concrete.

The Times reported that the head of the Iranian Parliament’s energy praised the attack’s planning and execution during a TV interview on Monday (12th).

“The enemy’s plot was very beautiful,” said Feredyoun Abbasi.  “I’m looking at it from a scientific point of view.  They thought about this and used their experts and planned the explosion so both the central power and the emergency power cable would be damaged.”

The explosion comes as the US and Iran resume talks aimed at re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal.

UN nuclear watchdog group, the IAEA has reported repeated and flagrant violations of the 2015 deal from Iran’s end.

During a press conference on Monday (12th), US government officials kept mum about the attack.

“The US was not involved in any manner,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a press conference on Monday (12th).  “We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or impacts.”  

The White House refused to say if the US had received advanced notice of the attack.



Netanyahu Tells US Defense Secretary ‘Israel Will Never Allow Iran To Obtain Nuclear Weapons’

With tensions rising in the Middle East over alleged Israeli attacks on Iranian targets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that Israel would never allow Iran to achieve its goal of producing nuclear weapons.

“In the Middle East, there is no threat that is more serious, more dangerous, more pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” Netanyahu said at a press conference after holding talks with Austin, who arrived in Israel Sunday (11th).  “Iran continues to support terrorists around the world in five continents, threatening civilians everywhere.”

With the Biden administration pursuing a return to the Iran nuclear deal, abandoned three years ago by former President Donald Trump, Netanyahu made it clear to Washington that Israel would not stand idly by if Iran was allowed to continue its nuclear program. 

“Iran has never given up its quest for nuclear weapons, and the missiles to deliver them and Iran consistently, consistently and outrageously calls for Israel’s annihilation and works towards that goal,” Netanyahu said.

“Mr. Secretary, we both know the horrors of war.  We both understand the importance of preventing war,” said Netanyahu, himself a wounded combat officer who served in Israel’s top commando unit during his military service.  “And we both agree Iran must never possess nuclear weapons.”

“My policy as Prime Minister of Israel is clear.  I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Netanyahu said.

For his part, Austin did not mention Iran by name, only saying he came “to discuss a number of security issues that are important to our two countries,” while emphasizing the close strategic ties between the two countries.

“The close and strong ties that we enjoy with Israel are central to regional stability and security in the Middle East,” Austin noted.  

“I am confident that together we can chart a path toward enduring peace in the region and advance an open and stable order now and in the years ahead,” Austin added.



6.8 Million Jews Live In Israel On Eve Of Independence Day

On the eve of the 73rd Independence Day, the population of Israel is 9.327 million people, 6.894 million of whom are Jews (73.9%), 1.966 million Arabs (21.1%) and 467,000 defined as “other” (5%), according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

Since last Independence Day, the population of Israel has increased by 137,000 people (an increase of (1.5%).  During this period, about 167,000 babies were born, about 15.3 thousand immigrants arrived, and about 50,000 people died.

At the establishment of the State, the population of Israel numbered 806,000.  Following the establishment of the State, the percentage of Jews in Israel was 82.1% and the percentage of Arabs was 17.9%.

A total of 3.3 million immigrants have arrived in Israel since its founding, about 1.5 million (44.7%) of whom arrived beginning in 1990, following the end of the Cold War.

In 2030, the population of Israel is expected to number 11.1 million, in 2040-13.2 million, and on Israel’s 100th Independence Day in 2048, the population is expected to number 15.2 million people.

At the end of 2019, 46% of the total Jewish population in the world lived in Israel, and about 78% of the Jews in Israel were “Sabras” (Jews born in Israel).

The CBS data also shows that the population of Israel is a young population: about 28.1% of the population are children aged 0-14 and about 12% of the population is aged 65 and over.



‘Deep Disgust’ As Elite Paris College Is Defaced With Anti-Semitic, Anti-Zionist Slogans

The entrance to one of France’s most elite colleges was defaced with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist graffiti on Monday (12th), resulting in forthright condemnation from Jewish student leaders and university administrators.

The defacing-inscriptions were daubed in large black painted letters at the entrance to the Sciences Po – the Paris-based Institute of Political Studies that has educated French political leaders since the 19th century, among them current President Emmanuel Macron.

Two slogans invoked the word “kuffar” – an Arabic term for “infidel” used by Islamists, while another declared , “Death to Israel.”

The head of France’s national Jewish student union, the UEJF, told news outlet Le Figaro that she was formally protesting the graffiti as incitement to racial hatred.

“We expect a rapid reaction from the Sciences Po administration in the face of these violent and anti-Semitic attacks,” UEJF President Noemie Madar said.  “The perpetrators must be found so that impunity does not allow such acts to flourish.”

France’s Minister of Higher Education, Frederique Vidal, pledged that “everything will be done” to identify and capture those responsible for the graffiti.  “Hatred has no place in our Republic,” she declared on Twitter.

A statement from the Sciences Po administration roundly condemned the vandalism.

“Management strongly condemns this heinous and cowardly act,” the statement said.  “A complaint is in progress.  A cleaning-operation is continuing.  Faced with these attacks, Sciences Po will continue its fight more than ever against all forms of discrimination and attacks on human dignity.”

The head of the Sciences Po student union said that he was particularly concerned  for the College’s Jewish students.

“I feel particular pain for Jewish students,” Raphael Zaouati said, adding that the inscriptions had filled him with “deep disgust.”

“Racism and anti-Semitism have never had and never will have a place in our institution.  These acts must be punished,” Zaouati stated.