News Digest — 5/22/23

Three Palestinians Killed As Israel Seizes Arms, Explosives In Samaria Raid

Israeli security forces killed three Palestinians during a raid near Nablus, early on Monday (22nd), the Palestinian Health Ministry said, in what Army Radio described as a large-scale operation against Militants.

No Israeli troops were hurt in the operation, which took place in Jenin and Nablus.  A bomb manufacturing lab was discovered with assembled explosive devices.  Arms were also seized in the raids, which included several arrests.

The Israeli military did not immediately release details.  Army Radio said that hundreds of soldiers took part in the pre-dawn raid, and that the three Palestinians killed were terrorists who had exchanged fire with the forces.

No armed group immediately claimed the men killed in the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, an area where Israeli forces have mounted frequent raids over the past year.

However, The Hamas movement warned that the raid would “not affect the morale of our people, who rise up to respond to the crimes of the occupation and victory for al-Aqsa and the sanctities that are subject to desecration and Judaization.”



Netanyahu Hits Back At Abbas’ Lies That Jews Have No History In Jerusalem

The Jewish people have been in Jerusalem for thousands of years and will remain for thousands more, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday (21st), responding to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ recent claim that Israel is lying about its historical ties to the city.

“Abbas said days ago at the UN that the Jewish people have no connection to the Temple Mount and that east Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian Authority,” Netanyahu said.  “Well it should be brought to his attention that we are holding a special cabinet meeting in honor of Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount, on which King Solomon built the First Temple of the Jewish people, and again, it should be brought to Abbas’ attention, the heart of the historical State of Israel, the City of David, was here 3,000 years ago.

Netanyahu made the remarks in a cabinet meeting Sunday (21st) at the Western Wall Tunnels honoring Jerusalem Day, celebrated last Thursday (18th) to mark Israel’s reunification of the city and liberation of the Old City in 1967.  The cabinet approved close to an NIS 60 million budget increase for the Western Wall over the next five years, to upgrade infrastructure and encourage visits to the holy site, as well as archeological and educational activities.

Abbas claimed at the UN event in honor of “Nakba Day” marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment, that Israel “dug under al-Aqsa…they dug everywhere, and they could not find anything.  The ownership of al-Buraq Wall [the Western Wall] and al-Haram al-Sharif [the Temple Mount belongs exclusively and only to the Islamic Waqf alone,” he added.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest site to Muslims.  The Western Wall is a retaining wall of the Mount, dating to the Second Temple.

Netanyahu said that Jerusalem was the Jewish capital 1,100 years before London was the capital of England, 1,800 years before Paris was the capital of France and 2,800 years before Washington DC was the capital of the US.

“For 100 generations, Jews expressed the special yearning of our people for Jerusalem in three prayers a day and under every wedding canopy,” the prime minister said.



Israeli Soldier Wounded In Ramming Terrorist Attack In Huwara

A terror ramming attack took place in the flashpoint Palestinian town of Huwara on Sunday evening (21st) against IDF troops, wounding one soldier.

The terrorist accelerated his vehicle toward the soldier, injuring him.  Another soldier in the vicinity opened fire at the driver, who managed to speed off.

Paramedics were dispatched to the scene to treat the injured soldier, in his 20s, and he was evacuated  to Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva where he was reported to be in moderate condition.

A manhunt to catch the terrorist is underway, the IDF said.

MK Danny Danon (Likud)  called on the military to shutter all stores on Huwara’s main thoroughfare.

“Another attack in Huwara’s death corridor.  Thankfully there were no casualties, but the writing is on the wall.  All businesses along the traffic route should be closed, and the entire length and width of the route should be secured.  A zero-tolerance policy for terrorism is needed in Huwara,” Danon added..

Huwara, near Nablus in Samaria, has been a hotbed of Palestinian terror for decades.

Over a month-long period earlier this year, three terror attacks took place.

At the end of February, two Israeli brothers, Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, were murdered in a drive-by shooting, prompting a riot by Jewish Israelis later that evening.  A poll later found that almost three-quarters of Palestinians supported their murders.

Two weeks later, former US Marine David Stern was shot while driving through Huwara with his young family.  After being shot at point blank range, Stern, a martial arts instructor, managed to shoot and neutralize the terrorist.

A week and a half later, two IDF soldiers were wounded in a shooting attack in the Palestinian town.

Earlier this month, an Israeli soldier was wounded in a Palestinian stabbing attack in Huwara.

A day later, in the same place, a pregnant woman miraculously escaped her car with a few scratches, after it flipped over during a terror attack.  



Hezbollah Stages Wargames For Media, Asserts Readiness To Confront Israel

The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah put on a show of force Sunday (21st), extending a rare media invitation to one of its training sites in southern Lebanon, where its forces staged a simulated military exercise.

Masked fighters jumped through flaming hoops, fired from the backs of motorcycles and blew up Israeli flags in the hills above and at a wall simulating the one at the border between Lebanon and Israel.

The exercise came ahead of “Liberation Day,” the annual celebration of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon on May 25, 2000, and in the wake of a recent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.  The Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, has long had ties with Hezbollah.

The recent heightened tensions also come months after Lebanon and Israel signed a landmark US-brokered maritime border agreement, which many analysts predicted would lower the risk of a future military confrontation between the two countries.

Most recently, Israel launched rare strikes on southern Lebanon last month after terrorists fired nearly three dozen rockets from there, wounding two people in Israel and causing some property damage.  The Israel military said it targeted installations of Hamas in southern Lebanon, blaming the group for the rocket fire.  Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah derided the claim,  saying the Israeli strikes had only hit “banana groves and a water irrigation channel.”

Senior Hezbollah official and maternal cousin of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, Hashem Safieddine in his speech Sunday (21st) alluded to the group’s possession of precision guided missiles, which were not on display but which he said Israel would see “later.”

Elias Farhat, a retired Lebanese army general who is currently a researcher in military affairs, said Hezbollah’s “symbolic show of strength” on Sunday (21st) appeared to be in response to the recent escalation in Gaza.  He said it also could be a response to a demonstration Thursday (18th) in Jerusalem by thousands of Jewish nationalists in celebration of “Jerusalem Day.” marking Israel’s liberation of the Old City 56 years ago.

Mohamad Hage Ali, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center who researches Hezbollah, said that in the past when there was an escalation in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Lebanese armed groups would sometimes fire off rockets or allow a Palestinian faction in Lebanon to do so.  But he said Sunday’s (21st) military exercise was a lower-risk way to show force.

Given that Friday (19th) marked the return of Syria – an ally of Hezbollah and Iran – to the Arab League, Hage Ali said, Hezbollah may not have wanted a clash on the border with Israel to distract from the Arab reconciliation.

While the military exercise “is showing how strong they are and sending a message to the Israelis, it also demonstrates that this time around, they don’t want to escalate,” he said.



Iraq Team Withdraws From Fencing Tournament To Avoid Israelis

Iraq’s national fencing team withdrew from the World Fencing Championship in Istanbul after being pitted against the Israeli national team, Iraq’s national Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported on Friday (19th).

“The Iraqi national team withdrew from the individual races in the World Cup fencing championship, which is taking place in Istanbul and qualifies for the Paris Olympics after the lottery pitted it against the team of the ‘occupying Israeli entity,’ “ said the Iraqi Fencing Federation, according to the report.

“The decision to withdraw came in compliance with the law criminalizing normalization approved by the Iraqi parliament, in rejection of the occupying Israeli entity, and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”

Israeli fencers did compete in the team competition in the Fencing World Cup in Istanbul on Sunday (21st).  In the individual competition on Saturday (20th), Yonatan Cohen was knocked out in round 32, while Yuval Shalom Freilich was knocked out in round 16.

Last year the Iraqi parliament passed legislation criminalizing any form of “normalization” with Israel, banning all Iraqi citizens from having any political, economic, cultural, or any other form of communication with Israeli citizens, even through social media.  The punishment set for such interactions with Israelis is the death sentence or imprisonment.

Most of Iraq’s Jews fled the country after violent riots, known as the Farhud, targeted Jewish citizens in 1941, killing as many as 180 and injuring hundreds.  BY 1951, about 124,000 out of the 135,000 Jews in the country had immigrated to Israel: those who remained suffered persecution for decades.

The decision by the Iraqi athletes to throw the match is the latest in a long series of boycotts against Israel in the sporting world.

In March, Indonesia was stripped of the right to host the under-20 soccer FIFA World Cup after its football federation (PSSI) said it had canceled the draw after the governor of the largely Hindu Island of Bali refused to host Israel’s team.

In February, South Africa Rugby announced that Israel was no longer invited to a competition in March after pressure from the South African BDS Coalition, an affiliate of the Palestinian BDS National Committee that promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.  In April, rugby’s global governing body determined that the move was not discriminatory.



Senators Reintroduce Bill To Combat Anti-Israel Boycotts

Senators Marco Rubio (R.-FL) and Rick Scott (R.-FL) reintroduced legislation designed to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Titled the “Combating BDS Act of 2023,” the bill would give federal permission for states to enact laws to divest from or restrict contracting with entities or individuals that are engaged in a boycott of Israel.  While many states already have such laws, they have faced legal challenges led by the ACLU and others.  Several such cases are currently pending appeal in federal circuit court, though the Supreme Court in February declined to hear a case challenging Arkansas’ anti-BDS law in a move hailed as a major win for opponents of BDS.

In a statement Senator Rubio said the bill, a previous version of which passed the Senate 77-23 in 2020, would be a step toward ending the BDS movement.

“The BDS movement is the single most destructive campaign of economic warfare against the Jewish state of Israel,” Rubio said.  “Amid a rising tide of antisemitism, we must stand in firm solidarity with our closest democratic ally in the Middle East.”

Then Governor of Florida, Senator Scott in 2016 signed Florida’s anti-BDS legislation prohibiting the State Board of Administration from investing in companies boycotting Israel.

“I was proud to lead an effort as Governor to show the world that Florida will not do business with those that boycott Israel,” Scott said Thursday (18th).  “This good bill will continue that work by ensuring state and local governments have full authority to cancel or deny funding to organizations that support the BDS movement.  I will always stand with our Jewish community and fight the BDS movement and antisemitism wherever it is found.”

The bill was further co-sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R.-LA), Mike Braun (R.-IN), Bill Hagerty (R.-TN) and Steve Daines (R.-MT).