News Digest — 4/4/22

‘Harming Civilian Population Is War Crime:’ Israeli Leaders Condemn Bucha Massacre

Several Israeli leaders expressed shock following the photos and footage emerging from Bucha, Ukraine, indicating that the Russian army conducted a massacre in the town and murdered hundreds of citizens.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated Sunday night (3rd) that “it is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha near Kiev, after the Russian army left.”

“Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime, and I strongly condemn it,” he declared.

Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky stated that he is “deeply shocked by the photos from Bucha.  Killing of civilians is a war crime and cannot be justified.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Kan 11 Radio on Monday morning (4th)  that he “condemns this kind of murder.  It really is a war crime.”

He added that “values such as morality in combat should also be observed in war.  Unfortunately, civilians may be harmed in combat, but they cannot be murdered during combat.  There is something here that seems like something very serious.”

Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai said that “only international pressure by governments, organizations, and public opinion will stop Russia from committing war crimes in Ukraine.  Now is the time to act for the good of us all.”

Israel has attempted to remain on a seemingly neutral line and has kept a low profile by showing some support for Ukraine and aligning itself with the West while trying not to anger Moscow, with which it coordinates its military actions against terrorist Iranian targets inside Syria.    



At Least 10 Arrested In Second Night Of Clashes At Damascus Gate

At least 10 people were arrested during a second night of clashes between Arabs and Israel Police at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday night (3rd), according to police.

Video from the scene showed Arab rioters violently clashing with police forces, with rioters throwing objects at and getting into fistfights with security forces.

Bottles, iron rods and other objects were thrown at the scene, injuring at least one officer.

According to the Red Crescent, 19 Arabs were injured in the riots.

Earlier on Sunday (3rd), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited the Damascus Gate for a situation evaluation with police, alongside deputy public security minister, Yoav Segalovitz, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Ushpiz.

Hamas spokesman in Jerusalem Muhammad Hamada warned that Lapid’s visit and the clashes at the Damascus Gate were a “dangerous escalation” and a “provocation” during Ramadan.

Hamada added that Hamas holds Israeli leaders responsible for the “consequences” of the situation, saying: “We and our people have taken the pledge to protect Jerusalem and Al Aqsa with strength and by all available means.”

On Saturday night (2nd), at least four Arabs were arrested amid clashes between Arabs and Israeli police at the Damascus Gate, according to reports from security officials.

The violence at the Damascus Gate comes amid tensions throughout Israel and the West Bank after a series of terrorist attacks in Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak.

Last year clashes at the Damascus Gate were part of the tensions leading up to Operation Guardian of the Walls, which Hamas blamed on situations in Jerusalem, specifically in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.



‘We Have Entered A New Phase’ PM Says During Tour Of Samaria Security Barrier

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited the Shin Bet Security Agency’s Samaria Regional Brigade headquarters on Sunday (3rd) to discuss the latest response to the spate of terrorist attacks.

Bennett also toured the security barrier with the Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and the Israel Defense Forces GOC Central Command Yehuda Fuchs.  During the visit, he received a briefing on the recent raids in Palestinian cities, particularly in Jenin, which foiled potential attacks and culminated with the arrest of many.

He also toured the Shin Bet forward-operating base where officials gather intelligence to thwart terrorism.

“We have entered a new phase of a long routine aimed at breaking the wave of terrorism,” he said, referring to Operation Breakwater, launched after 11 people were killed by terrorists in three attacks in the span of 10 days.

“Over the weekend, security forces managed to foil an imminent attack before it could be carried out,” Bennett said during the visit.  “Terrorists have a lot of ideas, and that is why we are alert to the highest extent, and this includes the Shin Bet and the Israel Police, so that we can identify even the slightest plot and frustrate it in time.  Here on the security border, the IDF is now deployed in record numbers along the various breaches,” he said.



Palestinian Man Gets Life Sentence For Murdering  Esther Horgen

The Salem Military Court on Sunday (3rd) sentenced Palestinian Mohammad Kabaha to life in prison and a NIS 3.2 million fine for the murder of Esther Horgen on December 20, 2020.

Kabaha was convicted in October 2021, following his confession and indictment in February 2021.

According to the indictment, Kabaha planned the attack some six weeks in advance.  One reason he said for carrying out the attack was to avenge the death of his friend Camal Abu Wae’r, a Palestinian prisoner who became sick and died in jail.

Looking for a place to carry out an attack, Kabaha allegedly went through a hole in the security barrier and found that some Israelis took strolls in the Reihan Forest.

On December 20, 2020, while smuggling items in the forest near the fence, he spotted Horgen, who was walking alone.  When their eyes met, she tried to run and screamed.  He caught up with her after running about 20 feet, threw her to the ground and smashed her head repeatedly with a large rock until she was dead.

Following this, he went home , showered, changed his clothes and fled into the hills.  Israeli security forces located and arrested him within days.

The Horgen family and their lawyer, former IDF West Bank chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsch, praised the court ruling but slammed the Palestinian Authority, saying it created an atmosphere of incitement that encouraged Kabaha to commit the murder.

“I am satisfied that this is over, and I will no longer have to be in the same room with this heinous terrorist,” Horgen’s husband Benjamin said after the sentencing, Kan News reported.

Besides the life sentence and fine, Kabaha was also sentenced to three additional years in prison on a mix of other charges.



IDF Preparing For New Campaign In Gaza, Says IDF Top Brass

IDF spokesperson Lt. Gen. Ran Kochav said the army was prepared for any scenario, including attacks from Lebanon and Syria in the north as well as from the Gaza Strip.

In the wake of three recent deadly terror attacks across the country, the Israeli security establishment has taken steps to increase protection and preparedness.

Speaking to Ynet on Sunday (3rd), Kochav said that despite the relative quiet on the Gaza border over several months, the IDF is prepared for any challenge, including a repeat of the events of last May, during Ramadan, when Israel launched  Operation Guardian of the Walls in response to Hamas’ firing of rockets at Israel that reached north of Tel Aviv.

During the 11-day war, unprecedented Arab rioting and attacks on Jews took place in mixed Arab-Jewish cities across the country.

Kochav told Ynet that the challenges facing the IDF in Judea and Samaria are different from those emanating from Gaza.

“The partition fence along the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] is unlike the borders with Gaza or Egypt,”he said.

Approximately 100,000 Palestinians from the PA enter Israel daily for work, and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria also travel back and forth.

“Hundreds of farmers and workers cross over from the West Bank daily and in some areas, the fence is not complete and requires an investment in infrastructure.  The gunman who carried out the deadly attack in Bnei Brak last week used an opening for farmers and abused our desire to allow a good quality of life for innocent Palestinians,” Kochav told Ynet.

“This is not a border and is certainly not hermetically sealed – it allows a joint life and economy.  If the government decides that there must be a sealed border there, the IDF will rise to the challenge, but for now, our mission is to differentiate between infiltrating terrorists and working civilians,” he said.

Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has also told the army to prepare for another war with Gaza.

Speaking with IDF commanders and other Israeli leaders Sunday night (3rd), he discussed the possibility of “Operation Guardian of the Walls 2” – a significant escalation that could last over a month instead of 11 days.

“Unlike last week’s B’nei Brak massacre that was perpetrated by a Palestinian terrorist who was employed in the city, the deadly attacks in Beersheba and Hadera were carreid out by ISIS-affiliated Arab citizens of Israel – yet another challenge,” said Kochavi

“Sometimes it is Hamas which is trying to instigate attacks, other times it is the Islamic Jihad, and now we see the involvement of Islamic State.  Terror and violence have always united us and made us more resolute to hold on to our land and protect it,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated.

“We will overcome this difficult time.  We have the best security forces in the world,” he added.