News Digest — 4/5/21

‘Full Support:’ Israeli, US, Saudi Leaders Back Jordanian King

International leaders, including Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz, released statements of support for Jordan’s King Abdullah II after the kingdom’s security services foiled what they called an attempted coup.

During a press conference on Sunday (4th), Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that the “malicious plot” had been thwarted at the “zero hour.”

He said that 14 to 16 individuals, some with close ties to King Abdullah’s half-brother, former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, had been conspiring to topple the kingdom’s longtime leader.

Prince Hamzah is currently under house arrest, and the Jordanian government is keeping mum about the extent of his alleged involvement.  “The plot is totally contained.  Our security and stability are not shaken,” Safadi said.

World leaders expressed their support for King Abdullah.  Jordan is a strategic partner for many countries, widely seen as an island of stability in the Middle East.  The Hashemite family has been ruling the kingdom for a century.

“We are closely following the reports out of Jordan, and we have been in touch with Jordanian officials, said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.  “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

“The Saudi kingdom affirms its full support, with all its capabilities, to all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah and His Highness Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II (the Crown Prince), to maintain security and stability,” read a statement from the Saudi royal court. 

Israeli DM, Benny Gantz, told reporters in a phone conference Sunday evening (4th) that the Jewish State would offer full support to its neighbor.

“Jordan is a peaceful neighbor, with extraordinary strategic importance.  We will do what is necessary to maintain that relationship, which has lasted some 30 years.” he said.

However, Gantz was careful to stress that Israel would tread carefully and allow the kingdom to handle the situation as they see fit.

“Regarding the internal developments there, that’s their issue,” he added.

In a video released to the BBC by his lawyer, Prince Hamzah proclaimed his innocence, saying he was being punished for speaking out against corruption in the kingdom.

“I’m not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organization or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out,” he said.

He bemoaned a ruling class “that puts its personal interests, puts its financial interests, and puts its corruption ahead of the lives, dignity and futures of the 10 million people that live here.” 

Hamza’s mother, Queen Noor, appeared to advocate on behalf of her son via her Twitter account.

“Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander.  God Bless and keep them safe,” she wrote. 



IDF Receives New Spy Plane It Says Will Help Gather Intel In Iran, Yemen, And Iraq

The Israel Defense Forces received the first of a series of new spy aircraft, dubbed the ‘Oron,’ on Sunday (4th) that it said would improve its ability to gather intelligence and identify targets for attack in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and other far-flung areas in the Middle East.

“The IDF and the Air Force already have a variety of intelligence collection capabilities, but the Oron aircraft strengthens our superiority and our ability to operate in the second and third tiers and to move between fronts rapidly and over a long period of time,” said Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin.

The second tier refers to countries that do not border Israel but represent a direct threat to the country – such as Iraq and Yemen, where Iran maintains proxies with missile and drone capabilities that could be used against Israel – while the third tier refers to enemy countries located further than that, principally Iran.

The Oron, literally meaning ‘stableman,’ was developed over the course of nine years in a collective effort by the IDF, Defense Ministry and weapons contractors, according to the military.

The precise number of Oron aircraft that the IDF is due to receive is classified.

A reception ceremony for the new aircraft, which will be operated by the Israeli Air Forces’ 122nd Squadron, was held on Sunday (4th) at the Nevatim air base in the northern Negev Desert.

“The purchase of the Oron plane is another expression of the growing effectiveness of the air force.  The capabilities of this plane add a level to the operational and strategic abilities that exist in the air force, which will ensure its continued superiority in the Middle East and the defense of the State of Israel’s skies and its safety,” Norkin said.

The head of the Defense Ministry’s Research and Development team, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, said the aircraft had unparalleled capabilities that would allow the military to identify targets for attack more easily.

“The plane gives the IDF a modern and unprecedented intelligence feature that uses breakthrough sensory systems, a variety of sensors and radars that are installed in the plane.  All of these will flow high-quality data to the IDF’s intelligence arrays,” Rotem said.

He added that this data will be processed automatically by the military’s artificial intelligence-supported systems. “We have made a machine that knows how to create and expose targets in all weather, in very short periods of time – mere seconds – over plots of land including thousands of kilometers and at ranges necessary for attacks,” Rotem said.

Yoav Turgeman, vice president of Israel Aerospace Industries, said “all the equipment on board the Oron spy plane is Blue and White, and created in Israel.  The technology will improve the ability of the IDF on a number of fighting fronts, Principally in the air forces’ abilities to conduct strikes.”



Abbas’ Critics Call For His Expulsion, Warn ‘People Will Come For Him’

There is a great deal of tension within Fatah’s ranks and senior officials told TPS that there is an atmosphere of rebellion against the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, who is now perceived as responsible for crushing the organization and splitting it into rival factions.

“Disaster, collapse, black day, the end of Fatah,” the organization’s activists say, raising the possibility that the situation will worsen if Abbas also ousts Marwan Barghouti from the Central Committee.

Many elements are now joining the criticism against Abbas, including those who worked alongside Yasser Arafat, including foreign officials, officers and former senior officials, and are attacking Abbas as responsible for the drama and historical division in Fatah.

Fatah officials are even talking about the death of the movement.

Activists of Mohamed Dahlen and Barghouti are calling for personal accountability with Abbas and his family members and even claim that they should be expelled from the area.

A senior Fatah official said that “this is Abu Mazen’s (Abbas’) last battle for survival with the younger generation of the movement and he is expected to end his tenure like the Shah in Iran even though he feels strong now, like the Shah, on the eve of the revolution…Abu Mazen is responsible for the destruction of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, and he does not hesitate to allow Hamas to enter the PLO…The Palestine People’s Court will come for him, not for nothing did Abu Mazen rush to renew security with Israel so it will protect him,” he said.

Fatah is now talking about growing unrest in the PA-controlled territories and the possibility of acts of violence flaring up between the camps in Fatah.  It is estimated in Ramallah that the Dahlan camp in the Gaza Strip has also become very strong in recent years and that the number of registered activists there is 92,000.

Meanwhile there is growing speculation in Ramallah that Abu Mazen is approaching the decisive moment, and the chances are high that he will announce the postponement of the elections while justifying the dramatic step in Israel’s refusal to allow ballot boxes in eastern Jerusalem.  A senior official says there is an understanding, almost a decision by Abu Mazen, to postpone the elections and save Fatah.

A security source in the Palestinian Authority explains that it is not for nothing that the PA recently demanded that 18 polling stations be set up in Jerusalem, and not just six, in order for Israel to refuse and pave the way for Abu Mazen to announce the postponement of the election.

Another source says that Israel is now pushing for Abu Mazen not to consider the election campaign, based on an intelligence assessment that has been formed in Israel, according to which he is expected to be defeated.

A senior Ramallah official confirmed that businessman Samar Khuri and Bashar al-Gaza, Abu Mazen’s friends, were sent to the US and are trying to check the pulse of the American response in case Abu Mazen decides to postpone the election.

The source says that the intelligence services in the US and Europe are increasing their interest in the Palestinian arena in light of the deteriorating situation in Fatah.



US: PA Tortured Participants In American-Led 2019 Bahrain Conference

The U.S. State Department’s 2020 Human Rights Report stated that in 2019, there were reports that Palestinian security forces arrested, intimidated, and tortured Palestinians following their participation in an American-led international conference in Bahrain.  Some of these individuals, labeled “collaborators” for working with or engaging with Israelis on political initiatives the PA did not support, reported threats of violence from Fatah, Hamas, and other groups tied to the PA.  They reported damage to personal property and businesses.  There were reports that the families of those targeted were pressured to disown them, and that they and their family members were denied medical treatment in PA Health facilities.

Significant on-going human rights issues with respect  to the Palestinian Authority include: reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities; holding political prisoners; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression in the press and the internet; including unjustified arrests and prosecutions of journalists who were censored and blocked; interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of non-governmental organizations; acts of corruption; lack of accountability for violence against women; violence, and threats of violence by anti-Semitism; anti-Semitism in school textbooks; and reports of forced child labor.  (U.S. State Department)



Afghanistan’s ‘Last Jewish Resident’ Is Leaving

The man who has been known as the ‘last Jew’ in Afghanistan for well over a decade is leaving for Israel, fearing that the U.S. military’s promise to leave the country will create a vacuum to be filled with radical groups such as the Taliban.

“I watch on TV in Israel to find out what will happen in Afghanistan,” Zabulon Simantov told Arab News on Sunday (4th).

Simantov, 61, said he will leave after this year’s High Holidays’ season in the fall.

His wife, a Jew from Tajikistan, and their two daughters have lived in Israel since 1998.  But Simantov has stayed in his native Afghanistan to tend to its lone synagogue, located in the capital Kabul, through decades of violence and capital turmoil, including a period of Taliban rule and the country’s war with the US.

“I managed to protect the synagogue of Kabul like a lion of Jews here,” he told Arab News.

Simantov, a carpet and jewelry seller, was born in the Afghan city of Herat, which decades ago was home to hundreds of Jews.  He eventually moved to Kabul but fled to Tajikistan in 1992 before returning to the capital city.

Without him around, the synagogue will close, ending an era of Jewish life in the country that scholars believe began at least 2,000 years ago.

“If the Taliban return, they are going to push us out with a slap in the face,” Simantov told Radio Free Europe last week for an article on the exodus of many of the country’s minority populations.