News Digest — 4/16/24

Four IDF Troops Hurt, One Seriously In Blast Claimed By Hezbollah On Lebanon Border

Four IDF soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously, in a blast that occurred as troops operated several hundred meters inside Lebanese territory overnight, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday morning (15th).  The Hezbollah terror group took responsibility for the explosion.

The military said the incident took place during ‘operational activity’ carried out by troops of the Golani brigade’s reconnaissance unit and the elite Yahalom combat engineering unit, on the Lebanese side of the border.

One soldier was seriously wounded, two were listed in moderate condition, and another was lightly hurt according to the IDF.  The troops were taken by helicopter from Lebanese territory to a hospital in Israel.

Claiming the blast, Hezbollah said it placed several explosive devices adjacent to the border, inside Lebanese territory, in an area across from the northern Israelii community of  Adamit.  The terror group said the bombs were detonated as the Israeli troops crossed the frontier.

Also overnight, the IDF said fighter jets struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon.  The targets included rocket launch posts, buildings used by the terror group and other infrastructure in Seddiqine, Matmoura, Labboun, and Ayta ash-Shab, according to the military.

Since October 8, Hezbollah has attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a daily basis with rockets, drones, anti-tank missiles and other means, saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.  The group is an Iranian proxy in Lebanon, as are Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel has threatened to go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border if it does not retreat and continues to threaten northern communities, from where 70,000 people were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in eight civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists.  There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 274 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria.  In Lebanon, another 53 operatives from other terror groups have also been killed.



Visiting Targeted Air Base, IDF Chief Promises Response To Iranian Attack

NEVATIM AIR BASE – Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. General Herzi Halevi warned Monday (15th) that Iran’s missile and drone attack on the country a day earlier, which caused slight damage to an airbase, “will be met with a response.” 

The comments were made as he met soldiers at the Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel where four Iranian ballistic missiles struck during the attack early Sunday (14th).

“Iran wanted to harm the strategic capabilities of the State of Israel – that is something that had not happened before.  We were prepared for the ‘Iron Shield’ operation – preparation that brought Iran to also encounter aerial superiority,” he said referring to the effort to counter the Iran blitz by its military code name.

“Last Monday (8th), we saw what was being organized, and we know that the State of Israel is very strong and knows how to deal with it alone, but with a threat so numerous and so far away, we are always happy to have the United States with us,” Halevi said.

“We are looking ahead, we are considering our steps, and this launch of so many missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs into the territory of the State of Israel will be met with a response,” he added.

Halevi said he thanks “all our international partners who stood up to Iran’s aggression.  Iran’s attack has created new opportunities for cooperation in the Middle east.”

“We are closely assessing the situation.  We remain at our highest level of readiness.  Iran will face the consequences for its actions.  We will choose our response accordingly.  The IDF remains ready to counter any threat from Iran and its terror proxies, as we continue our mission to defend the State of Israel,” he added.

Nevatim was hit in the Iranian missile attack, with the IDF reporting minor damage to the infrastructure of a building under construction.

IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari in a press statement from Nevatim said the air base  was running as usual, following the missile attack.  “The base is fully functional and continues to send out aircraft for operational missions,” he told reporters after Halevi’s visit.

Hagari said the military “continues to be prepared and alert in the defense of the country.  We are assessing the situation and following the developments.”

“We are in a war on multiple fronts.  The threats change in their scale and frequency,” he warned, amid reports that Israel has decided to hit back “clearly and forcefully” against Iran with a response designed to send the message that Israel “will not allow an attack of that magnitude against it to pass without a reaction.” 

“In accordance with that,” he said, “instructions to the public change too.  The instructions could change in the coming days as well, and we will continue to update you immediately,” Hagari added.  



Saudi Arabia Acknowledges Helping Defend Against Iran

Saudi Arabia acknowledged that it had helped the newly forged regional military coalition – Israel, the United States, Jordan, the United Kingdom and France – repel an Iranian attack against the Jewish state early Sunday morning (14th), in an unusual post on its royal family’s website.

It referenced a story on KAN News about the Saudi involvement in the military defensive operation in which 99% of the Iranian drones and missiles were destroyed before hitting their targets.

Many of the drones and missiles had to travel over Jordan and Saudi Arabia airspace to reach Israel.

Jordan has been public about its involvement, while the closest Saudi Arabia has come to acknowledging it was the story it posted on its website summarizing what a source from the Saudi royal family had told KAN.

“The individual subtly acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s supposed involvement in thwarting Iranian attack drones bound for Israel the previous evening, citing that Saudi Arabian airspace automatically intercepts any suspicious entity,” the report on the royal family’s website stated.

“The same figure took a swing at Iran, accusing it of instigating a conflict in Gaza.  This, they suggest, is a deliberate attempt to unravel the progress established towards normalizing relations with Israel as per KAN’s report,” it added.

In the words of the official, as put forth by KAN, “Iran is a nation that endorses terrorism, and the world should have curtailed it much earlier.”

In the weeks before Hamas’ October 7 invasion, the United States had been involved in intense diplomatic activity to promote a deal that would have included a strategic pact between Riyadh and Washington against Iran, and a possible normalization deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Hamas’ October 7 attack against Israel scuttled those efforts but did not hinder the ability of Western powers, with armies stationed in the region to work together with Arab partners, including Saudi Arabia, to build a military alliance against Iran.

The joint defensive military maneuvers marked the first time that five armies, with help from Saudi Arabia, had worked together as a nascent coalition to repel an Iranian attack.



Israeli Message of Reassurance: Any Reaction Against Iran Will Not Endanger Arab Countries

Kan Channel 2 reported that Israel sent private messages to the Arab countries in the region that its response to the Iranian attack would not endanger them or their regimes in any way.

According to the report, the countries in the region who helped in one way or another to thwart the Iranian threat, are very concerned about Israel’s expected response.

They are worried that Israel will retaliate in a way that will cause Iran to take military action against them as well, following threatening messages coming from Tehran that any country that opens its territory or its airspace to an Israeli attack against Iran is expected to enter the circle of fire.

A direct military brawl between Israel and Iran, that brings Iraq into the picture, would also affect Jordan.  The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia fear that in the event of a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, they would also be forced into a circle of fire, either through the Houthis in Yemen or directly.

The fact that Arab countries took some part in intercepting the Iranian attack led to an Iranian media campaign against them.  The Gulf countries, Jordan and Egypt, are not interested in portraying themselves as collaborating with Israel, even though they are actually doing so.



Palestinian Christians: ‘Thank God For The Iron Dome’

In the aftermath of Saturday night’s (13th) Iranian missile attack, Palestinian Christians living in the Bethlehem area expressed gratitude for Israel’s air defense system.

“I said, ‘Thank God for the presence of the Iron Dome system.’  It absolutely saved lives here.  We don’t have any safe rooms to guard us, so if a rocket were to fall here, there would be a great number of casualties,” an eyewitness from the Christian community of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, recounted to The Press Service of Israel.

The resident a middle-aged- man who is married with children, spoke to TPS-IL on condition of anonymity because he fears his family and business will be targeted by Palestinian Muslims.

“In the beginning we thought it would be like usual, Iran just talks, “ he recalled.  “Then in the middle of the night, I went to the balcony and saw the rockets of Iron Dome coming out.  I live in the area near some Jewish residences on one side and on the other are all Arab residences, and the rockets were coming right towards them.  That’s when I witnessed the interception.”

The missile defense he saw was not the well-known Iron Dome system, but the Arrow-3, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles at high altitudes, even outside the earth’s atmosphere.

“As a Christian, we are a minority group here, and one loss equals thousands because of the statistics and the ratio against the Muslims in the area, so the damage, I imagine, could have been even greater,” he insisted.

“My perspective is that the technology Israel uses is proven to save lives of people not only from the Israeli side but also Arabs from the other side of the fence, and it’s important to acknowledge and thank God for that,” he added.

Elias Zarina, a Jerusalem-based Christian activist, told TPS-IL he looked at the high-tech protection through the eyes of coexistence.

“David’s Sling guards the City of David,” Zarina remarked, referring to the name of Bethlehem from the Christian Bible.

Zarina is the co-founder and community manager of the Jerusalemite Initiative, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that encourages Arab Christian integration into Israeli society.

“In the face of adversity, Israel’s defense systems give hope for all who seek peace and security in this region,” Zarina stressed.  “Israel demonstrated the commitment to safeguarding all residents, regardless of their background and beliefs.  That’s the idea of coexistence among diverse communities in this land.”

On Saturday night (13th), Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted a video clip of an Iranian missile being intercepted above the Temple Mount.  

“Iran launched ballistic missiles tonight at Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem.  Watch Israel’s Iron Dome batteries intercept them and save the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Iran.” Gendelman tweeted.

Palestinian Christians in Judea and Samaria have been facing discrimination and harassment for years from the Palestinian Authority, forcing members of the community to leave the Middle East.

Zarina, who has been researching the Holy Land’s Christian communities, told TPS-IL in January that their population has been dwindling ever since the Oslo Accords brought the Palestinian Authority into power.

Citing Bethlehem as an example, he said that in 1993, when the accords were signed, Christians made up 88% of the city’s population.

Three decades later, Christians make up just 12% of Bethlehem’s population of roughly 29,000.

He told TPS that most Christians have emigrated in the face of Muslim extortion.



Yahya Sinwar And Marwan Barghouti Share The Same Beliefs In Spilling Blood – Assaf Gabor

“Our task was to kill.  Not capture, to kill everyone we saw, including women and children, and then return to Gaza.  We arrived at the first house in Kfar Aza, and my friend Ahmad set it on fire.  When someone came out to put out the fire, we killed him.  I set fire to the second house.”

“In the third house, my friend Himza shot a woman.  We sat in that house for an hour and a half; we brought with us a laptop and watched the news.  When three members of the kibbutz came, we shot them and killed them.  In the fourth house that we entered, we sat and ate.  And when we heard the voices of young children, children crying, Ahmad and I fired at the door until we didn’t hear any voices, until they died.”  This is just one testimony from a Nukhba terrorist who was captured and interrogated (concerning the October 7 massacre)..

Moshe Pozilov, a veteran interrogator for the Israel Security Agency who is assisting in the interrogation of Hamas prisoners, had interrogated Fatah Tanzim’s leader Marwan Barghouti, who was captured in 2004 and sentenced to five life terms plus 40 years for his role in the Second Intifada.  His name has come up in discussions on exchanging Palestinian prisoners for Israeli captives.  “People don’t understand how much Barghouti is a ‘religious’ man,” said Pozilov.  “Just like Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who wants to see Barghouti as head of the Palestinian Authority – he believes that spilling blood is the way to achieve Palestinian goals.” 

“Sinwar and Barghouti share the same beliefs… Barghouti is the one who used the lie of ‘Al Aqsa is in danger’ to incite the Second Intifada.    Barghouti called it the ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada’ and Sinwar called the October 7 Massacre the ‘Al-Aqsa Flood,’ ” said Pozilov.  (Makor Rishon-Hebrew)