News Digest — 5/23/24

House Speaker: ‘We Are Working On Date For Netanyahu To Address Congress

House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Wednesday (22nd) he spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and they are working to coordinate a date for Netanyahu to give a joint address to Congress, CNN reported.

“Our formal letter will go out this week.  And I’m happy to tell you that I think Chuck Schumer will be co-signing the letter that’s been a long time awaited – since mid-March.  And then we’ll find a time that’s convenient for the prime minister and we’re happy to host him,” Johnson told reporters.

The speaker noted that he would invite senators to also attend the speech.

Schumer reiterated following Johnson’s comments that he is open to hosting the Israeli leader at the Capitol.

“Yes,” Schumer replied when asked if he supports the idea of having Netanyahu address a joint meeting of Congress.

“I’m discussing that now with the Speaker of the House, and as I’ve always said, our relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends any one prime minister or president,” he added.

Netanyahu previously spoke before Congress in March of 2015. 



IAF Waits For Child To Relocate Before Killing Oct. 7 Terrorist In Gaza

Hamas terrorist Ahmed Yasser Elkara was eliminated in an Israel Air Force (IAF) aerial strike in Khan Yunis, the military announced on Wednesday morning (22nd).

Elkara, who operated anti-tank missiles, took part in the October 7 attack and, during Israel’s war in Gaza led attacks against Israeli forces, the IDF added. 

The military noted that in preparation for the strike, a child was identified near the terrorist, and the strike was immediately stopped.  Only when the child moved away from the building did the strike occur.

In the strike, two additional terrorists were killed: Sahib Raad Abu Riba, a Hamas Nukhba terrorist, and Anas Muhammed Abu Regila, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist, the IDF said.

In a separate strike, an IAF jet killed five Hamas terrorists who were hiding in a school in northern Gaza; among them was Fadi Salim, propaganda chief of Hamas’ Gaza Brigade, three Hamas terrorists in charge of intelligence, and an additional Nukhba terrorist.



Israel Recalls Envoys Over Palestinian Statehood: ‘We Won’t Stand Silent’

Israel recalled its ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to protest the declarations by those countries that they recognize Palestine as a state.  

The ambassadors of those two counties have also been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

“I’m sending a clear and unequivocal message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote in a post on X.

“Today’s (Wed., 22nd) decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world that terrorism pays,” Katz said as he explained that it was problematic to take such a step in the aftermath of the Hamas-led invasion of Israel on October 7, when 1,200 people were killed and 253 were seized as hostages in that attack.

Katz wrote that “after the Hamas terror organization carried out the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, after committing heinous sexual crimes witnessed by the world, these countries chose to reward Hamas and Iran by recognizing a Palestinian state.”

“This distorted step by these countries is an injustice to the memory of the victims of Oct. 7, a blow to efforts to return the 128 hostages, and a boost to Hamas and Iran’s jihadists. Which undermines the chance for peace and questions Israel’s right to self defense,” Katz wrote.

“Israel will not remain silent – there will be further severe consequences.  If Spain follows through on its intention to recognize a Palestinian state, a similar step will be taken against it.

“The Irish-Norwegian folly does not deter us, we are determined to achieve our goals: restoring security to our citizens, dismantling Hamas, and bringing the hostages home.  There are no more just causes than these,” he wrote.



Chants Of ‘Death To Israel’: As Masses Throng Raisi Funeral Procession In Tehran

TEHRAN, Iran – Crowds of Iranians thronged the streets of the capital Iran on Wednesday (22nd) for the funeral procession of president Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage, who died in a helicopter crash.

In the city center mourners gathered in and around the University of Tehran where Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led the prayers.

Flanked by top officials, Khamenei said prayers over the coffins of the dead, who also included Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The leader of Palestinian terror group Hamas outside of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, joined the procession, as did the deputy leader of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, Naim Qassem.  

“I say once again… we are sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue its support for the Palestinian people,” Haniyeh told the crowd as chants of “Death to Israel” were shouted.

Tehran residents had received phone messages urging them to “attend the funeral of the martyr of service.”

From Tehran, the bodies will be taken to Iran’s second city of Mashhad, Raisi’s hometown in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday (23rd).

Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, has declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a June 28 election for Raisi’s successor.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who was Amir-Abdollahian’s deputy, has been named acting foreign minister.

The country’s armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri has ordered an investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash.

After Raisi’s death, global allies Russia and China and regional powers voiced their condolences, as did NATO, while the UN Security Council observed a minute of silence .  Israel has expressed exasperation over the expressions of mourning for the ‘Butcher of Tehran,’ noting Raisi’s past, overseeing executions of thousands of Iranians in the 1980s and his championing of repressive hardline policies.

Messages of condolences came in from Iran’s allies around the region, including Syria, Palestinian terror group Hamas and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, both of which are backed by Tehran.



IDF Inaugurates New Iron Dome Battalion Amid War

The IDF announced this week the inauguration of the Aerial Defense Array’s 139th Battalion, now operating Iron Dome batteries as part of the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

The inauguration ceremony, on Monday (20th) was attended by IAF Commanding officer Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Aerial Defense Array Commander Brig. Gen. Gilad Biran, 139th Battalion Commander  Lt. Col. Tom Ironi and other senior IAF military officials and staff.

“The battalion was reopened after previously operating the Hawk and Patriot aerial defense systems before closing down in 2021 after approximately 53 years of action.  During the war, and due to operational necessity, it was decided to reopen the battalion, and it will now operate the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System,” the military said in a statement.

“As part of conclusions made during the war, the operational necessity arose to divide the command areas in a way that would allow for tailored combat management for the different operational areas.  The establishment of the battalion will enable the expansion of the Iron Dome batteries’ deployment and improve the defense array.”

“For over seven months, the soldiers of the Aerial Defense Array have been engaged in a multi-front defensive war that is unprecedented in scope.  Israel is one of just a few countries in the world that possesses such sophisticated and expansive air defense systems, operated by such high-quality people.  Alongside the strong defense, we are operating offensively, denying Hezbollah its capabilities, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Northern Command,” Maj. Gen. Bar said during the ceremony.

“Together, we will know how to expand and intensify the offensive if required.  It will be an offensive with massive firepower, which will remove threats and allow for a change in the security reality in the north.  We have trained for this.  The force is prepared for this.”

“The establishment of the battalion is part of a significant process of transformation and build-up, led by the Israeli Air Force, during the war, aimed at strengthening the air defense of our home – the individual home of each and everyone of those standing here before me, and the national home of the Jewish people in Israel,” Brig. Gen. Biran said.

“Even at this hour, the command’s personnel, across the length and breadth of the country, are standing firm and alert to defend the nation’s skies from any enemy threatening its sovereignty and to protect those who look up to us, in whose name and on whose behalf we act.  We will continue to stand guard as long as required, until all missions are completed.”

“Although the battalion’s new path officially begins now, even during the period of its inception, in the midst of the war, we took a significant and historic part in the operation,” Lt. Col. Tom Ironi added.

“The battalion’s personnel received new weapons systems, deployed them on the front lines, intercepted enemy aerial threats, and demonstrated fighting spirit, initiative, and professionalism, as expected and customary from the soldiers of the 139th Battalion.  It is our destiny to build our spirit, to equip ourselves, while fulfilling the mission, protecting the people, defending our home, and achieving victory, which will surely come.”



Rising Anti-Semitism Drives Massive Surge Of Aliyah Interest From U.S., France

In the wake of rising anti-Semitism, the desire to immigrate to Israel has skyrocketed by hundreds of percent.  The Nefesh B’Nefesh organization for immigration from North America and Qualita, the umbrella organization for French immigrants to Israel, report a significant percentage increase in Aliyah following the event of October 7.

The Nefesh B’Nefesh organization told Israel Hayom that since October 7, approximately 1,500 new immigrants from the United States and Canada have made Aliyah.  Another trend observed by the organization is a massive increase in requests for opening immigration files since the outbreak of the war.  “So far we have received around 9,700 requests for opening immigration files,” shares Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and CEO of the organization.  “This represents an increase of 76% compared to the corresponding period last year.  In light of this surge we entered 2024 with cautious optimism, and together with our partners at the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and the Jewish Agency, we are prepared to absorb every new immigrant arriving here, with a sense of belonging and solidarity with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The trend of Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel is also strongly felt in France, following the widespread anti-Semitism in the country which was common even before the war.  The Qualita organization reports hundreds of percent increase in the desire to immigrate to Israel.

According to data from the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, since the surprise attack by Hamas and the outbreak of the Iron Swords War, there has been a surge of about 430% in the number of individuals for whom immigration files were opened, effectively expressing practical interest in immigrating to Israel.  In total, from October 7 until today, immigration files have been opened for approximately 1,200 individuals, compared to around 220 during the corresponding period last year.  Additionally, around 1,300 households participated in information evenings organized by the Jewish Agency across France to provide updated information about Israel.



Geert Wilders: ‘I Support The State Of Israel Until The Very End’

Dutch right-wing leader Geert Wilders on Wednesday (22nd) gave an impassioned speech in support of Israel at the Dutch Parliament.

“I lived in Israel for a while, a long time ago.  I’ve seen it too,” Wilders said.  “Then it was still from Jordan where the terrorists entered.  I also experienced what it was like when those terrorists crossed the border and how you had to take cover in air raid shelters.  And how then the army, with helicopters and bomb lightings, looked where people were, to protect their population”

“I know one thing, it’s hatred from these kinds of Islamic groups like Hamas, the Islamic Jihad group, and also Hezbollah,” he added.  There are many of those groups.  And they deny the Jewish State’s right to exist.”

“Israel is being attacked by people who want a country and a people not to exist,” he said.  That’s not what Israel does.  Israel puts the Arabs in the Knesset, in parliament, in Israel, they are full-fledged citizens, who are better off living in Israel than living in the Palestinian territories.  Israel does not attack another country and has never attacked another country without first being attacked itself.  Not in the Yom Kippur War and not in any war.

He said the radical Muslims “are out to destroy the Jewish State and kill its inhabitants,” and then added, “And for me and my political party, it is not difficult to see with whom we stand in solidarity.  Are we with the Jewish people who are fighting for their existence, or are we with Islamic extremists, terrorists, who want to exterminate them?  And I tell you, until the very end, I support the State of Israel.” 

Wilders PVV party won the election in November but he had been unable to form a government for several months.  

Last week, however, he announced that a deal had been reached to form a government in which he would not serve as Prime Minister.

The deal brings together outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right VVD, the new NSC party and farmers’ protest party BBB in a coalition with a strong majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat Lower House.