News Digest — 4/28/20

Israel Remembers Its Fallen With Sirens And Song – But No Cemeteries

As it does every year, a one-minute siren wailed across Israel at 8 p.m. Monday night (27th) to mark the start of Memorial Day for the country’s fallen soldiers and terror victims, known as Yom Hazikaron.

While bereaved Israelis traditionally mark the day with visits to the graves of loved ones, the decision this year to limit the number of visitors to the cemeteries due to the coronavirus has sparked some anger and compounded the grief.

As per Health Ministry’s instructions, cemeteries and memorial sites all across the country have closed their doors to visitors until Wednesday evening (29th), with a bolstered police presence at key sites in order to prevent mass gatherings.

Earlier Monday (27th), Defense Minister Naftali Bennett visited the Mount Herzl military cemetery accompanied by Aryeh Mualem, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Department for the Commemoration of Fallen Soldiers.

The two met with Tami Shelach, the chair of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization.

The one-minute siren was followed by a national memorial ceremony held at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem with no crowd, and a few attendees observing social distancing and wearing face masks.

President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the start of the ceremony, while audiences at home were called upon to sing the national anthem from their balconies and windows.

At 9 p.m. Monday (27th) a memorial service was held at the Knesset Plaza in Jerusalem, with a special memorial called “Songs in Their Memory” held inside the Knesset building, but recorded and shown to the public on TV.

On Tuesday morning (28th), a two-minute siren sounded across the country at 11 a.m., followed by the main memorial service honoring the fallen IDF soldiers on Mount Herzl in the capital.  President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett attended the event.

The main memorial service for the victims of terror attacks was held afterward at 1 p.m.  Both events were held without an audience.

Forty-two soldiers have been killed since last Memorial Day and the number of Israeli casualties of war stands at 23,816, counted since 1873, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry.

The total number of terror victims stands at 4,166, with the last victim being Rina Shnerb, who was killed in August 2019, when she was hit by an explosive device when she visited Danny Spring near the West Bank settlement of Dolev.



Memorial Day Terror Attack,  Woman Stabbed, Suspect Shot

Before 1 p.m. on Tuesday (28th), a woman, 62, was stabbed in the city of Kfar Saba.  The suspect was shot.

The event took place near a shopping mall.  The woman is listed in serious condition and was transferred to Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center’s trauma unit for treatment.

The suspect was wearing a mask.  He was identified as a 19-year-old Arab-Israeli.  He was seriously injured and taken into custody.

A security guard near the scene saw the attack as it was taking place and opened fire on the suspect, wounding him.

A member of Magen David Adom said, “When we arrived at the scene, we saw a 62-year-old woman conscious, lying on the road, with a number of bleeding wounds.”

The attack followed one last Wednesday (22nd) near Abu Dis in the area of Maale Adumim, south of Jerusalem.  The horrifying moments were caught on camera as an Arab terrorist rammed his white van into an Israeli border policeman standing guard at a checkpoint.  The terrorist leapt from the van and stabbed the policeman.  

The terrorist was killed in the attack.



Netanyahu: I, Too, Would Like To Be At The Grave Of My Family’s Fallen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his sympathies to bereaved families who were forbidden from visiting the gravesides of their loved ones on Memorial Day Tuesday (28th).  He said he too would have liked to visit the grave of his brother.

“My brothers and sisters, to the bereaved families, during our 72 years of independence, we knew different Memorial Days.  This year we remember our sons and daughters, the wonderful heroes, in the midst of the fight against the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said in a post to social media.

“We will do so with determination, fierceness and national unity.  These values are the legacy of the fallen, the legacy of our loved ones.”

“We’ve known Memorial Days in times of war and battle, in times of operations and raids, in times of terrorist attacks, and even in peaceful times – even as preparedness and alertness continued – because it never leaves us,” he said.

Netanyahu then posted separately a video about his brother Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed in the 1976 mission to rescue hostages in Entebbe, Uganda where they had been taken by pro-Palestinian terrorists.  The only IDF soldier killed in the operation was Netanyahu’s brother, who led it.

“I know how hard it is, because like you, I want to be at the graveside of my brother, may his memory be a blessing,” Netanyahu said.

“They would want us all to continue living in health and security.  This year we will remember them in many other ways.”

Israeli military cemeteries were closed for Memorial Day to prevent public gatherings and a resurgence of the coronavirus.  Israel’s strict guidelines have led to a decrease in the number of cases.

Even more forceful restrictions will be put in place on Independence Day which begins Tuesday night (28th) immediately after Memorial Day.



Number of New Israeli Coronavirus Infections Lowest In Weeks As Economy Opens Up

The coronavirus infection continued to drop on Monday (27th) with Ministry of Health statistics showing only 68 new cases were confirmed in the past day – the lowest number of new infections in over a month.

A total of 15,466 cases of the virus has been confirmed in Israel, with 6,796 of them having made a full recovery, the Health Ministry said.  The number of Israelis hospitalized dropped to 383 people, with 129 of them in serious condition and 96 connected to ventilators.  Israel’s death toll is at 202.

Of the roughly 7,000 Israelis who are infected with only mild or no symptoms, 5,331 of them are quarantined in their homes and 1,775 are isolated in hotels being used by the government as quarantine centers.

This week, Israel eased some restrictions on commercial activity, and for the first time in over a month some street-front stores opened but under regulations of social distancing and mask-wearing.

While some special education classes resumed last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with senior health and education officials to work out a schedule on how to open up schools without causing an increase in the virus infection rate.

It is expected that kindergarten and grades through third  will resume a limited schedule in a gradual reopening of the educational system possibly beginning after Independence Day.

Meanwhile, Israel is in lockdown from Memorial Day (28th) through Independence Day (29th) at sundown to prevent enormous crowds from gathering in public places such as cemeteries, beaches, parks, and more, thus preventing the further spread of the COVID-19 disease.   



Incendiary Terror Kites Near Ben Gurion Airport, Residents In Uproar

Three kites with incendiary devices landed in Lod, a city just three and a half miles away from Ben Gurion Airport, reported Israel Hayom on Monday (27th).

“Specifically now, during the coronavirus outbreak, we are seeing a significant escalation of security issues affecting residents in the city,” Netanel Isaac, Lod’s Deputy Mayor told Israel Hayom. 

“There are explosions, property is being destroyed, the muezzin (the cleric appointed at a mosque to lead and recite the call to prayer) can be heard at high decibels, and now there are incendiary kites,” he said.

According to the report, the city’s residents are growing tired of police failure to take these types of occurrences seriously, with one such policeman throwing one of the incendiary kites in the garbage.

“We support our police and the municipality, but we want an improvement in our personal security and the enforcement of law.  We will not allow a small number of people to ruin things for an entire city,” said Isaac.

Incendiary aerial devices have long been used by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists.

To afford resources to defend against Palestinian aerial incendiary devices, the Ministry of Agriculture allocated last month 1.5 million from its 8 million shekel budget for Israeli farmers bordering Gaza,

The funds are meant to compensate farmers close to Gaza who were forced to harvest early, resulting in loss, after incendiary devices burned thousands of acres of agricultural land in 2018 and 2019.



Syria Reports Israeli Missile Attack Near Damascus, 7 Killed

Israel attacked an ammunition dump south of Damascus early on Monday (27th), SANA, Syria’s official news, agency reported. 

The attack took place at 5 a.m., a Syrian military source said.  The source said that most of the Israeli missiles were intercepted and shot down.  Nevertheless, reports from Damascus said that large explosions were heard from the ammunition dump.

The missiles were launched from Lebanese air space, according to the report.  Israel has attacked from Lebanese air space before.

The report, quoting the military source, initially said that there were no human casualties.  However, SANA later said, three civilians were martyred and four others were wounded.  The Syrian news outlet later said there were 7 killed. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based opposition war-monitoring group, said the Israeli missile strike targeted an Iranian stronghold near the capital that housed its forces.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied the report.

However, Arutz 7 reported that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett “alluded” to a coming operation against Iranian forces based in Syria.

“Keep your ears open to what you see and hear,” Bennett said, speaking at a press conference on Sunday (26th).

“We aren’t just continuing our work preventing Iran from entrenching itself in Syria, we’ve moved decisively from preventive action to forcing Iran out.”

Hours later SANA reported the attack.

The attack comes after another last week on Monday, April 20th.  The Associated Press said the Israeli airstrike in central Syria killed nine fighters, including six who were not Syrian and some who were loyal to the Hezbollah terror group. 

Iranian forces operate in Israel’s civil war-torn neighbor with virtual carte blanche from Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.  Both Iran and its terror proxy in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah,  are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Israel has routinely communicated that Iranian troops operating near its borders is a red line that it will not tolerate.  To that end, Israel has launched a series of airstrikes mainly targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria.  It rarely confirms the attacks and did not comment on Monday’s (27th) airstrike.