News Digest — 4/23/19

In A Reverse Of Exodus, Israelis Flock To Sinai For Passover Week

Tens of thousands of Israelis crossed the border to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula ahead of the Passover holiday this week, seeking a non-traditional break and defying government warnings that signaled a high-level of terror attacks.

Ahead of the week-long annual Jewish festival that ironically commemorates the Jewish Exodus from ancient Egypt and the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery, figures from the Israel Airports Authority estimated that over 85,000 people will pass through the Taba border in both directions over the holiday period this year.

This would amount to 40,000 vacationing in Sinai this year, an increase of 20% from 2018, Globes reported.

Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the National Security Council warned that those planning to head to the volatile region would face a “serious threat of the perpetuation of terrorist attacks against Sinai tourists, including Israelis.”

Repeating its call, the bureau urged Israelis, who were currently there to “leave the area immediately and return to Israel” and strongly recommended “that all those wishing to go to Sinai refrain from doing so.”

However these comments were cautionary and not legally binding.

Despite the strongly-worded comments, Israeli media reported Monday (22nd) that more than 23,000 Israelis had already crossed the Taba border this week, with more likely to head to the popular sunny beach destination as the Passover holiday draws to a close at the end of the week.

The Sinai is massively popular among Israelis for its geographically-convenient location, with miles-long stretches of untouched beaches, crystal clear waters, and reasonable accommodations.

One Israeli lady said, “It is really packed here.  I’m sure there are more people here than at the Exodus from Egypt,” referring to the Passover story.



‘Arab Leaders Pressuring Palestinians To Accept Trump Plan’

Arab leaders are pressuring the Palestinian Authority to accept the peace plan drawn up by the Trump administration, which is expected to be released this June, a source within the Palestinian Authority claims.

According to a report over the weekend by Qatari Alkhaleej Online outlet, a member of the Central Committee of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah party said that Arab leaders are applying “political and financial pressure” on the Palestinian Authority to accept the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ – a framework for a final status agreement between Israel and the PA drawn up by the White House.

The effort to force the PA into accepting the deal is reportedly being led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Fatah official.

“There are Arab countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt which take great interest in the American deal, and are using everything available at their disposal, including political and financial pressure, to make sure that the Palestinians accept the deal, despite the risks it involves for Palestinian interests.”

On Sunday (21st), PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas pushed back on calls for the PA to accept the Trump deal, telling a gathering of foreign ministers from Arab League member-states that recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was uninterested in peace, and that the Trump administration had disqualified itself as a peace broker.

“After the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US Embassy to it, the cessation of aid to UNRWA, and the closure of the Office of the PLO in Washington, what remains of the Deal of the century?”



PA Uncovers Hamas Spy Operation Against Its Security Systems

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says that the Hamas terror group has infiltrated the PA security establishment in a spy operation, according to a report in Ynet.

The Hamas operation is described as wide-ranging, having taken place over the past year.  Senior PA defense officials reportedly were recruited to spy for the terror group.

Hamas forcibly took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, but has been viewed both by Israel and the Palestinian Authority as a threat to the PA in Judea and Samaria.

Palestinian reports say that all of the Hamas agents have been arrested by the PA.

The Hamas spy operation is said to have been carried out by senior members of the terror group both in Gaza and abroad.  It was uncovered two months ago, said Israeli media.

High-ranking Palestinian officials reportedly told Ynet and its sister newspaper Yedioth Aharonot that after PA military intelligence uncovered the Hamas infiltration, it alerted the Palestinian Authority leadership and launched a secret investigation to learn of the extent of the plot.  PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas was said to have been notified.

Despite a lack of political ties between Israel and the PA, security cooperation is maintained, according to Israeli military sources.  The Palestinian Authority relies on Israel for a higher level of intelligence, say the Israeli sources, noting that the cooperation serves both sides in efforts to fend off Hamas and other terror groups.



British MP Who Slandered IDF Apologizes

British Labour MP Grahame Morris on Tuesday (23rd) apologized for a post in which he claimed the IDF harmed children.

In the post, Morris shared a video from 2015 which showed Guatemalan soldiers abusing a young unarmed boy and commented: “Marvelous, absolutely marvelous the Israeli Army, the best financed, best trained, best equipped army in the world caught on camera beating up Palestinian children for the fun of it.  May God forgive them.”

In response, the IDF tweeted: “The marvelous thing here are your lies.  These are not IDF soldiers. Apologies would be in order.”

“I am sorry for sharing a post which purports to show the IDF hurting children but it was in fact the Guatemalan Army,” Morris tweeted later.  “My error demonstrates the dangers of fake news online and I will be more diligent in the future in checking my sources.”

However, he justified himself to one Twitter user by claiming: “There are lots of verifiable documented examples of the IDF abusing Palestinian child prisoners.  I have seen for myself….am harvesting and documenting a few more of my trolls…thanks.”



Israel Tech Will Keep Runways Safer At Beijing Airport

Beijing Capital International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world with more than 100 million passengers passing through in 2018, has selected an Israel technology to improve runway safety, efficiency and capacity.

Tel Aviv-based Xsight Systems’ foreign object debris (FOD) detection solution, RunWize, uses sophisticated image and radar-processing algorithms based on artificial intelligence to monitor runways continuously in order to detect debris or hazards including birds.

Such threats on airport runways cost the global aviation industry nearly $12 billion each year.

Among the airports already utilizing RunWize are Boston Logan International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion International Airport and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, as well as the Israeli Air Force.

“We are proud to bring our industry-leading technology to Beijing Capital International Airport,” said Alex Koren, CEO of Xsight Systems.  “This important achievement serves as a seal of approval of Xsight’s reputation worldwide.”



Israel Ranked As 8th Most Influential Country In The World – Annual Report

US News & World Report has ranked Israel as the world’s eighth-most influential country in the magazine’s 2019 version of its annual list.

The report released this past weekend describes Israel as “the only Jewish nation in the world… a small country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea” that has had a large influence on global affairs.

“For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs,” the article said.  “The country has a strong economy, landmarks of significance to several religions and strained relationships with many of its Arab neighbors.”

The rankings for “Most Influential Country” are based on “a global perceptions-based survey,” the magazine said, “and countries are ranked based on the highest scores among more than 11,000 informed elites in a compilation of five country attributes: leader, connected to the rest of the world, influential culture, politically influential and strong international alliances.”

Israel came in ahead of several influential countries including Canada, Australia and India.

The United States, Russia,  and China, dominated the top three spots.  The United Kingdom was ranked #4. Germany remained in fifth place.