News Digest — 4/22/20

Border Policeman Rammed In Horrifying Terror Attack Near Jerusalem

The horrifying moments were caught on camera.  An Arab terrorist rammed his white van into an Israeli border policeman standing guard at a checkpoint near Abu Dis in the area of Maale Adumim, south of Jerusalem at 8: a.m. on Wednesday morning (22nd).

The border policeman, 20, scrambled to recover his footing as the terrorist leapt from the van and attacked him with scissors, wounding him in the head.  The border policeman fought him off and ran to buy time.  Other security forces gave chase, and opened fire, killing him.

The officer was reported in moderate condition.  He was treated by first responders at the scene and then transferred to Shaare Tzedek Hospital.  A pipe bomb was also found at the scene of the attack.

Palestinian media identified the terrorist as Ibrahim Muhammad Ali Hijazi Halasa, 25, from the Al-Sawahra area.  They referred to him as a “martyr.”

The attack occurred just before the start of Ramadan, which begins Thursday (24th).  The month-long holiday is usually accompanied by a spike in terror attacks.



Iran Claims It Launched Military Satellite With Unheard-Of System

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said on Wednesday (22nd) that it launched a military satellite into orbit amid wider tensions with the United States, describing it as a successful launch after months of failures.

There was no immediate confirmation of the launch of the satellite which the Guard called “Noor,” or light.  The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, which contend that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On its official website, the Guard said the satellite successfully reached an orbit of 264 miles above the Earth’s surface.  They called it the first military satellite ever launched by Iran.

The two-stage satellite launch took off from Iran’s Central Desert, the Guard said, without elaborating or saying when exactly the launch took place.  The paramilitary force said it used a Ghased, or “Messenger” satellite carrier to put the device into space, a previously unheard of system.

The launch comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January.

Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months, the latest in February when the country failed to put its Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit.

The United States alleges such satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  American officials, as well as European nations, worry that these launches could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.



Israelis May Be Forced Indoors On Independence Day

Israel’s National Security Council and the Ministry of Health will recommend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu impose a nationwide lockdown next week, starting at the end of Memorial Day on Tuesday evening (28th) and lasting until the end of Independence Day, according to a report in Israel Hayom.

Independence Day is usually marked in Israel by large social gatherings, municipal events featuring concerts, fireworks, military jet shows, and barbecues.

While all public events have been cancelled this year, authorities worry that Israelis may flout social distancing rules and hold gatherings in violation of the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.

The Independence Day lockdown is expected to be similar to the lockdown imposed on Passover.  Israelis will likely be banned from intercity travel, though it’s unclear if the closure will forbid people from leaving their homes altogether or confine them to a 100-meter radius of their residences.

Another concern for the authorities is Memorial Day, which immediately precedes Independence Day.  Families who lost loved ones serving in the military traditionally visit military cemeteries on Memorial Day.  Public memorial ceremonies, attended by hundreds take place in military cemeteries throughout the country.

The Ministry of Defense announced that families will not be permitted to visit military cemeteries this year, nor will public ceremonies be held; instead a representative from the military, the Ministry of Defense, and a military rabbi will visit every military cemetery in Israel, recite Kaddish, a mourner’s prayer, in memory of every soldier, and place flowers on each grave.

The Western Wall Memorial Ceremony, usually drawing a large crowd, will be held this year without an audience.  The ceremony will be broadcast on TV and limited to 20 participants including President Reuven Rivlin and the Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

Meanwhile on Wednesday morning (22nd) the corona death toll in Israel rose to 187, with the number of persons infected by the virus at 14,326.



Israel Stops Half Billion Aid To PA Due To Its Continued Incitement

The Israeli government has decided against a half-billion-shekel transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in light of its outrageous accusations that the Jewish state is facilitating the spread of the coronavirus among its people, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday (21st).

Jerusalem was furious that for the second time this month the PA sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council with a list of claims that Israel is not only preventing the Authority from helping contain the virus, it is actively trying to infect Palestinians.

The letter sent last week said that IDF soldiers threw medical waste into PA villages and forced Palestinian workers to return to the Authority via drainage pipes rather than through the regular crossings where they are tested for the virus.

On April 2, it charged IDF soldiers with spitting at door handles of Palestinian cars in order to infect the owners.

On Friday (17th), Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, warned of possible repercussions when he called upon the Palestinian leadership to “retract its baseless declarations.”  They had “crossed a red line and disparaged the enormous efforts that Israel is making in the face of the shared challenge and crisis besetting the entire region,” he said.

COGAT has sent thousands of test kits, protective suits and other medical equipment to the PA and even to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in an effort to help them contain the deadly pandemic.  Israeli doctors have spent hours training their Palestinian counterparts in hospital treatment of those who have fallen ill.

And tens of thousands of Palestinian workers have been allowed to continue their jobs in Israel while most of the country has been shut down.

The additional Israeli economic assistance, in the form of an advance on tax revenues Israel passes along to the PA,  was announced last week by the PA finance minister.

Its cancellation will further hurt the Authority which has been in a deep financial hole since Israel decided last year to withhold tax funds in the amount that the PA pays to jailed terrorists and their families.



As Tourists Disappear, Jerusalem Lays Out Plan For Future

COVID-19 has swiftly managed to change the global landscape, affecting almost all work fields and professionals.  Jerusalem has been no exception, yet its officials have refused to raise their hands in surrender.

The Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) has set out a plan for a framework of operations that will focus the city on the future rather than on the standstill of the present.

The municipality plans to make use of advanced technologies to bring back one of its main sources of income: tourism.  With flights halted and potential tourists stranded at home for their own safety, it is finding ways to bring the city abroad.

One of the city’s initiatives includes the interactive website Jerusalem is Traveling 2U, through which followers have been able to view religious ceremonies during the past holidays of the three major religions.  They now will be able to enjoy a large range of activities such as virtual tours with professional guides, cooking classes, shopping and more.

Via existing technologies, Jerusalem will be able to accurately monitor the number of visitors at each venue at any given point.  Using this tool the city will be able to reopen businesses in a safe manner, a move that will bring a much-needed economic boost.

The JDA also intends to bring life itself back to Jerusalem.  One idea brought forward is to have local chefs and restaurant owners take the wheel and set out for neighborhoods, where they will be able to sell their signature meals.

This will be facilitated by a prepaid signup system to avoid long waits in line.  This will not only be beneficial to those stranded at home, it will also become a permanent fixture in the city.

Another project being put together is the marketing of single-day traveling packages.  By monitoring the number of travelers per area, the JDA says it will be able to offer the general public the ability to safely visit the many sites and attractions the city has to offer. This method will be crucial until full control is gained over the coronavirus.

Jerusalem is no stranger to crisis and sees itself as a potential leader in the recovery of the global travel industry.  The JDA is in a unique position to blaze the trail back to normal routines.

The JDA said, “We fully intend on leading the way as our followers and visitors return to Jerusalem – we look forward to welcoming them, and all visitors, with open arms.”



In Israel’s Arab Towns, Support For Harsh Ramadan Coronavirus Restrictions – Jack Khoury

Muslim clergy, mayors of Arab communities and Arab social activists in Israel are afraid of accelerating the spread of COVID-19 during the holy month of Ramadan starting at the end of this week, with many supporting more binding restrictions on the public during this period.  Israeli Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan met with Arab mayors and proposed they do as was done for the Passover holiday, with actions to prevent gatherings.

The chairman of the council of Arab communities, Mudar Yunis, told the news media that most mayors expressed support for more severe restrictions on the Arab public.  The Muslim clergy have made it clear that the mosques will remain closed and all the prayer services, including the mass prayers that are held every evening after the meal to break the fast, will be held at home with only a limited number of family members.

The decision to close the mosques in Arab communities followed the decision to close the mosques in Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, as well as the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.