News Digest — 5/24/21

Thousands Rally For Israel At Ground Zero

Thousands of people gathered on Sunday (23rd) at 7 World Trade Center – Ground Zero – and at another 13 locations across the United States, in response to a wave of anti-Semitic attacks nationwide and to stand with Israel in its ongoing battle against terrorism and demonization.

The rally, “United Against Anti-Semitism.  United Against Terror. United For Us,” was led by the Israeli-American Council (IAC) New York Region with 100 Tri-State Jewish community organizations.  IAC communities and many Jewish organizations joined in 14 rallies from coast to coast bringing thousands of people to the streets, as anti-Semitic hate crimes rise nationwide in the wake of the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza.

“Despite the ceasefire in Israel, we’ve seen a wave of unprecedented attacks on Jews and a rise in anti-Semitic hatred here in the US.  That’s why thousands of us mobilized Sunday (23rd) across this great nation to speak out strongly and stand with our families here and in Israel,” said IAC Co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet.

In addition to the rally in New York City, other rallies took place nationwide including in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Denver; Great Neck, Long Island; Houston; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Orange County, California; Orlando; Philadelphia; Rochester, NY; and Tenafly, NJ.

“To our brothers and sisters in Israel, we want you to hear loud and clear: We stand with you as you show the world what it means to live bravely under the threat of hatred and annihilation that you have faced since before the State of Israel was even created,” said Elisha Wiesel, son of the late author and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

Sarri Singer, who survived a 2003 suicide bombing of an Israeli bus, said that, “Whether it is in Paris, London, Brussels, Israel, New York City, or anywhere else in the world, terrorism does not discriminate.  It can happen anywhere and at any time.  All of us have an obligation to show that we are not going to stand by while we let those who have little value for human life continue to hurt and murder innocent people.  An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us.”

The IAC chose the World Trade Center as a gathering spot as the site reflects America’s own history of being targeted by hatred and terror.

“The World Trade Center is a powerful symbol of America’s resilience and resolve against hatred and terrorism, just as the people of Israel stand strong in the face of terrorism and hate,” said Nicolet.  “Sunday we showed that New Yorkers and all Americans are resoundingly united against anti-Semitic hatred and terror, here and in Israel.”



Knesset Speaker Lauds ‘Outpour Of Support’ For Israel During Gaza Conflict

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin over the weekend lauded what he called the “outpour of support” from Israel’s allies worldwide during the 11-day conflict with Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip.

Operation Guardian of the Walls saw Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fire over 4,300 rockets and mortar shells at southern and central Israel, claiming the lives of 13 Israelis – one soldier and 12 civilians – and leaving some 700 wounded.

The IDF destroyed more than 6,500 terrorist targets, including Hamas and PIJ operational headquarters, weapons production sites and arsenals, and over 62 miles of Hamas’ infamous grid of terror tunnels.  At least 225 terrorists were killed in the strikes, including top Hamas and PIJ commanders.

Levin said that during the operation he received calls and messages of support from inter-Parliamentary Union President Duarte Pacheco who expressed unwavering support for Israel’s right to self-defense, as did Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble, and President of the National Council of Austria, Wolfgang Sobotka.

Letters were also sent from pro-Israel groups in the parliaments of France, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Statements of solidarity and support were also issued by the parliamentary national security committees in Lithuania and Latvia, by pro-Israeli groups in the UK, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  Brazil’s Eduardo Bolsonaro, member of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil and son of President Jair Bolsonaro, even spoke in favor of the Jewish State before parliament.

“The support we received during the operation from heads of parliament and MPs from countries around the world is unprecedented and it comes after an ongoing diplomatic effort,” Levin told Israel Hayom.  “I thank everyone who supports us. We will continue to work to expand the circle of support for Israel.”



Despite Claims Of A ‘Divine Victory’ Hamas Has Been Dealt A Stinging Defeat – Daniel Siryoti

Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank were none too happy at the total destruction Hamas brought on the coastal enclave when it decided to launch rockets at Israel’s capital on Jerusalem Day.  This in addition to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its repercussions on the regional and global economy and health.

Toppling the Hamas regime wasn’t one of Israel’s objectives.  Yet despite the ceasefire continuing to hold, the head of Hamas’ military wing Mohammed Deif has remained underground.  It seems he got the message Israel sent to Egyptian mediators that it would continue to work to assassinate senior Hamas leaders following the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls.

For now, then, the heads of the terrorists organization’s military wing will have to suffice with descriptions of the destruction they brought on Gaza following Israeli airstrikes on multi-story towers in Gaza City.

“I don’t think there’s been this kind of destruction here since 1948,” a resident of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip who imports and exports computer hardware components for a living told Israel Hayom.

“For 10 days straight, Israeli planes and tanks rained down fire, bombing not just buildings but open areas in an attempt to destroy the tunnels.  As a result of the ground moving, entire rooms inside homes collapsed in on themselves.  The damages we sustained are terrible, and it will take years to recover.  Who is guilty?  My role is not to find culprits,” he concluded.

To date, Egypt has promised to transfer $500 million toward Gaza’s rehabilitation, and Qatar announced it would provide double that to rehabilitate the enclave as well as toward the development of employment initiatives for younger Gazans

Arab states, the US administration, various UN aid funds, and a Gaza donor conference will likely ensure hundreds of millions more flow into Gaza.  To date, Hamas has had control over every dollar and shekel that entered the territory.  Now, however, there are demands for funds designated for Gaza’s rehabilitation to go through a designated apparatus of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah that ensures those funds reach their stated destination and not Hamas.

Will it work?  Time will tell.  What remains clear is that beyond a shadow of a doubt, the days when Hamas could use those funds as it sees fit are over.



Israeli Official: ‘We Will Preemptively Strike Hamas Rockets’

A senior Likud cabinet member close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday (22nd) that Israel has changed its policy and in the future will strike first to prevent terrorist rocket attacks on Israeli population centers from Gaza.

In an interview with Channel 13 news, Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said that unlike in the past, when Israel only responded after rockets were fired from Gaza, Israel will now strike preemptively when it detects that terror groups in Gaza are preparing to attack Israel.

“Now it will be forbidden to wait for the rocket fire,” said Hanegbi, a long-time Netanyahu loyalist who has been known to be the first to float new policies in public.  “Now the policy will be, which we are speaking of, that whatever preparations terrorists make for rocket fire and the day that the terrorists decide to fire them, will be the signal for an Israeli attack.”

“This is a total change of the equation.  We’ve never done this before but the time has come for us to do it,” he said.

Hanegbi admitted that successive Israeli governments  had made a mistake by allowing Hamas to strengthen itself militarily between conflicts.

“The State of Israel has tolerated over the years the empowering of Hamas, and this was without a doubt a mistake,” Hanegbi said.

“I believe that this mistake was fixed consciously in the 11 days of fighting, if not, it will be fixed, I hope, in an operational way that is determined and forceful, in the future” he added.

Since the first terrorist rockets were fired at Israel in 2001, Israeli policy has been to respond defensively to the attacks, but not to initiate action to prevent rocket fire.  Since 2001, terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 25,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets.

Hanegbi said that Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the IDF senior echelons are in agreement on the policy change to preempt future attacks from Gaza.

The policy change appears to imply that Israeli intelligence is now able to obtain sufficient evidence indicating when terror groups intend to open fire.  During the recent fighting, Israel claimed it had detailed knowledge of the extensive military tunnel system the Iran-backed Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups had built in a bid to thwart an Israel ground invasion.

However, instead of sending in troops on the ground, the IDF said it used air force planes to drop precision bombs that destroyed over 62 miles of tunnels.



Iran Reports Explosion At Plant That Reportedly Produces UAVs  

At least nine people were injured in a blast on Sunday (23rd) at a plant producing explosive materials in Iran’s central province of Isfahan, ISNA news agency reported.

The blast occurred at Sepahan Nargostar Chemical Industries at 4 a.m. local time due to “unclear reasons still being investigated,” said Mansour Shisheh Foroush, head of the province’s crisis management organization.

Nine factory workers were injured and transferred to the hospital, he added.

He said several investigative teams were at the scene to determine the cause of the blast.

The company manufactures “industrial commercial explosive materials” and was established in 1941.

According to The Guardian, the plant produces drones.

The blast comes days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (20th) said a drone downed by the Israel Defense Forces earlier in the week was launched by Iran and was armed with explosives.  According to the premier, the drone was made by Iran and launched by Iranian forces toward Israel from either Syria or Iraq.

Netanyahu accused Iran of providing support and technical assistance to terror groups throughout the Middle East, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which receives most of its funding from Tehran as well as Hamas, which also get weapons and other help from the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Friday (21st) unveiled a new combat drone dubbed “Gaza” in a tribute to Palestinians, the force’s official website reported, hours after a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups took effect. 

“The drone was named as “an eternal honor for those who today in Gaza stand against the Zionists’ invasion and aggression,” Guards commander major General Hossein Salami said at the unveiling event, quoted by Sepah News.