News Digest — 5/16/22

Israeli President Isaac Herzog Flies To UAE To Express Condolences

President Isaac Herzog flew to the United Arab Emirates Sunday (15th) to express condolences to the new president of the UAE, HH Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed, and to his family and the Emirate people, on the passing of  the previous President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed. 

The President, representing the State of Israel,  was joined on his flight by Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel.

During his visit, which lasted a few hours, President Herzog met the new President of the United Arab Emirates, HH Sheik Mohammed bin Zated Al Nahyan, and expressed condolences on behalf of the State of Israel on the passing of his brother.

Prior to departing Israel, President Herzog said: “I am embarking to the UAE for a few hours in order to offer condolences, on behalf of the State of Israel, to my friend, the incoming President of the UAE, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed, his family, and the whole Emirati people on the death of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed, who was the nation’s president for many years.”

“During the visit, I shall congratulate the incoming President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed, on his appointment.”

“In a global reality of wars, interests, and conflicts – friendship has truly great value, and it is measured also, and perhaps in particular, in moments of sorrow and pain.”

“The partnership between our countries is an asset for us and for the whole region, and it has been built and is still being built by bold and groundbreaking leaders, of whom the late Sheik Khalifa was one.

“Sheik Khalifa’s passing is a great loss for his nation, and I believe and hope that his legacy – a legacy of peace, a legacy of friendship between the nations of this region, a legacy of progress and prosperity – will lead to the flourishing and continued development, progress, and peace of the Middle East,” he concluded.   



Israeli Police Commando Killed In Shootout, Laid To Rest

Sergeant Major Noam Raz of Israel’s Police elite counterterrorism unit Yamam, who was killed in a shootout with Palestinian militants in the West Bank over the weekend, was laid to rest on Sunday (15th) in the police section of Mount Herzl National Cemetery in Jerusalem.

“I’m grateful for getting the chance to know you, and thank you for choosing me to be your wife,” his grieving wife Efrat Raz eulogized.

Sons Barel and Eitam also bid farewell to their father.

“Dad, whoever wrote the phrase ‘say little, do much,’ must have known you.  You’ve always been happy with what you had and we never heard you complain.  You were a humble hero, and we are sure you will rest in peace in the heavens.”

Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai said: “Noam joins a long line of policemen who since the establishment of the State of Israel and to this day found themselves fulfilling defensive and offensive missions against the enemy and terrorist organizations.  Noam was a hero in his life and a hero in his death, full of good virtues and he never gave up on his national mission and the values he came with from home.  Today we accompany one of Israel’s heroes to eternal rest, whose majority of operations will remain confidential.  Rest in peace, and watch over your family from above as you for so many years did for everyone around you.”



UN Permits Knesset Display Stating Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital

Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.*

Yes, it will need to come with an asterisk of sorts, according to the United Nations, but even that can be seen as a hard-fought win for Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan.

According to a diplomatic source, the United Nations has relented and will allow Israel to display an exhibit on Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, at the organization’s headquarters in New York.

The world body had been conditioning its permission on Israel agreeing to the removal of some content, including references to Jerusalem as the country’s capital.  Erdan fought back, and instead, an agreement has been reached where all content within the display that was objected to will remain, and the Israeli mission will add a disclaimer noting the objections.

The exhibit, titled “The Knesset Celebrates 70 – Parliament Shaping Israeli Society,” was previously displayed at Ben-Gurion International Airport in 2019 to mark the Parliament’s 70the anniversary.

Among the content protested is an item regarding the Knesset’s passing of the 1980 law that named Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.  The United Nations instructed it to be removed, saying “the law is not valid based on the General Assembly and Security Council decisions and contradicts international law while holding it to be a sensitive decision,” according to its instructions to the Israeli mission.

Israel’s claim to the entirety of the city of Jerusalem is not recognized internationally. 

The United Nations also instructed Israel to remove a caption that accompanied a photo of the Knesset, describing Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of the Jewish people and their holy city.”

Erdan refused the changes and wrote a protest letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, saying “the impertinent demand of the UN to censor the exhibit and remove pictures that reflect our national history is, in fact, a request to rewrite Israel’s history and we will not agree to that in any way.”

The display will go up on May 19, the holiday of Lag B’Omer, with select Knesset Members invited to New York to take part in the opening.



Satellite Images Show Complete Destruction Of Syrian Site Hit By Israel

Images published by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) of a site allegedly struck by Israel on Friday (13th) show the complete destruction of the site.

According to ISI, the structures that were hit served as an entrance to underground tunnels and were completely destroyed by the airstrikes.  The same structures were hit in September 2018 in another strike blamed on Israel and were rebuilt.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian civil war, said that at least eight missiles were fired toward weapons depots and sites belonging to Iranian militias.

A five-man crew of a Pantsir missile defense system was killed after firing towards IAF jets – another seven were injured.

According to SOHR, it was the 12th Israeli attack on Syrian territory since the beginning of the year.  The report by ISI said that the strikes came after the Israel Air Force struck the SSRC east, north and west on April 9th.

“ISI assesses that this underground facility is related to the SSRC facility in Masyaf,” the report said.

There have been numerous airstrikes in the Masyaf area which is thought to be used by Iran as a base for their militia forces.  The area is also where Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) is located.

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red lines for the Jewish State.



Arab Countries Avoid Blaming Israel For Al-Jazeera Reporter’s Death

Although Israel is facing harsh criticism from the Palestinians and the West for the death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh, the Arab world’s response has been comparatively low-key.

Abu Aqleh was killed while covering a shootout in Jenin on Wednesday (11th).

The Palestinian Authority and the Qatari news network Abu Aqleh worked for accuse the IDF of killing the 51-year-old journalist.

The PA refuses to cooperate with an Israeli investigation.  The IDF’s preliminary findings say Abu Aqleh was not killed by Israeli fire.

However, the Times of Israel reported that the wider Arab world’s response to the incident has strikingly not matched the level of Palestinian criticism.

Neither the United Arab Emirates, nor Saudi Arabia have commented on the incident while statements issued by the Foreign Ministries of Bahrain and Jordan condemned Abu Aqleh’s death but did not mention Israel by name.

The UAE and Bahrain have moved closer to Israel since signing the Abraham Accords in 2020.  The Saudis do not have diplomatic relations with Israel but maintain a quiet security coordination.

A thread tweeted by a Turkish official close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also notably omitted any mention of Israel by name.

Fahrettin Altun, who serves as Erdogan’s communications director, tweeted, “I am deeply saddened by the news of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh’s killing and offer my condolences to her family and colleagues.”

“I call for a proper, transparent, and swift investigation into this incident and for those responsible  to be brought to justice.”

Ankara is courting Jerusalem’s cooperation to deliver natural gas to Europe as Israeli-Turkish ties thaw.

In contrast, Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera and Kuwait, stridently denounced Israel.  Neither of those Gulf states have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Meanwhile U.S., EU, and UN officials separately called on Israel to investigate the incident.



‘Death To The Dictator’ Iran Hunger Protests Get Violent, Deaths Reported

An Iranian lawmaker said one person was killed in his city during recent unrest over price increases in the southwestern Khuzestan province, semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

Ahmad Avaei, a member of parliament from Dezful, did not give the name or gender of the person killed or say how many people were arrested during the unrest.

According to Telegram blogger Abu Ali Express, however, at least four civilians were killed in clashes between protesters and Iranian regime forces.

State media reported Friday (13th) that Iranian authorities had arrested at least 22 demonstrators who were protesting sudden price hikes of subsidized staple foods, 15 of them in Dezful.  A firefighter was injured in clashes with demonstrators in the nearby city, Andimeshk.

The unrest follows Iran’s announcement earlier in the week that the cost of cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk would rise by as much as 300%, as food prices surge across the Middle East due to global supply chain snarls and Russia’s invasion of major food exporter Ukraine.

State TV on Friday (13th) showed footage of demonstrations in the province that had deteriorated into violence with protesters burning tires and leaving mosques and public property damaged.

Memories of Iran’s fuel price hike in November 2019 also remain fresh.  Then, widespread protests – the most violent since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979 – rocked the country.

Crowds have been taking to the streets in cities across the country, confronting Iranian police and paramilitary forces, protesting the high cost of living, Abu Ali Express reported.

During riots in the city of Burjar, the crowd chanted, “Death to the dictator!”

“The recent uptick in food prices in Iran is a major driving force,” he wrote, “as many Iranian citizens are finding it hard to purchase basic consumer products,” the blogger noted. 

“Access to the Internet has been blocked in many cities in Iran,” he said.