News Digest — 5/24/22

Hamas Terrorist Cell Thwarted By Shin Bet, Planned To Attack Israeli MK

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency thwarted a Hamas terror cell of east Jerusalem residents who planned to carry out attacks on various Israeli targets including MK Itamar Ben Gvir.

The five men were arrested by Israeli security forces in April and were indicted in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday (24th).

According to the Shin Bet investigation, the cell was led by Rashid Rashek who was described by the agency as a “prominent” Hamas operative living in Jerusalem’s Old City, who along with Hamas operative Mansour Tzafadi from Abu Tov planned a shooting attack or suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

The investigation found that Rashek recruited a number of operatives in Jerusalem who would riot in the city’s eastern neighborhoods as well as on the Temple Mount during the month of Ramadan “in order to destabilize the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.”  The operatives brought fireworks and Hamas flags and other paraphernalia to use during the riots.

Among other attacks, the cell planned shooting attacks on Israeli targets and public figures including MK Ben Gvir.  They also planned to build improvised explosive devices for a number of bombing attacks and plotted to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

The suspects also purchased a drone that they planned to arm with weapons and use it to attack the light rail in Jerusalem.  The drone, along with a camera that was set to be used to photograph hostages as well as funds and organizational equipment was seized by security forces.

The investigation also found that the cell members planned to hide in Hebron or Jenin after carrying out their attacks.

“The Shin Bet and the Israel Police will continue to act resolutely in order to bring to justice those involved in all terrorist activities, particularly in the city of Jerusalem,” read a joint statement released by the Police and Shin Bet. 

In a statement, Ben Gvir thanked security forces for thwarting the plot against him and said, “I expect them to continue to investigate the hundreds of calls of incitement against me and to prosecute those who instigate and intimidate.  I will not shy away from threats and assassination attempts.”



EU Parliament President: ‘To Be Antisemitic Is To Be Anti-European’

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, addressed a special Knesset plenary session on Monday (23rd).

“It is, to many outside of Israel, inconceivable that Israel’s right to existence is still put into question.  Let me be clear: Europe will always back Israel’s right to exist,” Metsola said.  “It pains me to say that, today we are seeing antisemitism on the rise.  We know that it is a warning for humanity.  It matters to all of us.”

Metsola declared: “I will not be ambiguous: To be antisemitic is to be anti-European.”

She spoke about the danger Russia and nuclear weapons pose to the world.

“Putin now threatens the world with nuclear weapons.  We must act together and do everything within our power to prevent Russia from using them and other democratic actors from acquiring nuclear weapons that would bring more deaths and irreparable destruction.”

She also said the European Parliament supports the Middle East Peace Process, leading to Israelis and Palestinians living in safety and prosperity.  Metsola said that “Progress is possible.”

She said that “The Abraham Accords seemed inconceivable only a short while ago, but they proved that history does not always have to be repeated.  That the cycle can indeed be broken.”



Israel’s Navy To Receive Two U.S.-Made Landing Crafts

The Israeli government approved the procurement of two U.S.-made naval landing crafts, authorities revealed Monday (23rd), adding that the purchase itself is expected to take place in the coming months.

While Israel hasn’t purchased this type of vessel since 1993 due to the lack of considerable maritime threats in the region, Hezbollah’s continuous expansion in Lebanon – with which the Jewish State shares a disputed maritime border – has changed the country’s security considerations, i24NEWS correspondent Ariel Levin Waldman explained.

“Israel is looking north and saying Hezbollah is gaining power, they are an Iranian proxy and the time is quickly coming that a confrontation with Iran could very well be on the agenda,” Waldman said, adding that the quickest way to stop a potential Iranian attack is to hit Beirut, but doing so by land fortified by Hezbollah is much less effective than a direct strike from the sea, which requires wider naval capabilities.

Jerusalem currently has only seven corvettes and eight missile boats designed to intercept threats coming into Israel but doesn’t have the ability to project force, according to Waldman.

The American-built vessels are expected to join a new squadron at the Ashdod Naval Base in a few months.

The landing crafts are small to medium-sized vessels that were largely used during World War II.  They are designed to transport soldiers, equipment, vehicles and supplies from sea to shore during military offensive operations.  The crafts can carry around 200 men and up to 75 tons of cargo, and can also be used for raids inside enemy territory.



Ukrainian Mayor Thanks Israel For Humanitarian Aid With Touching Letter Of Gratitude

Amid some criticism by Ukrainian officials of Israel and what they perceive as limited assistance by Jerusalem at a time of war, the mayor of the northeastern city of Kharkiv, which has been heavily hit by the Russian military, sent a letter to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in which he described how vital humanitarian aid from Israel has been for his city.

“On behalf of all Kharkiv residents and myself, I would like to express our sincerest gratitude to the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine and you personally for the humanitarian assistance you have provided for Kharkiv,” Ihor Terekhov wrote in a letter addressed to the Israeli Ambassador in Ukraine Michael Brodsky.

Israel has provided the residents of the city with hundreds of food parcels and medicine, among other things.

“I believe that through a united effort we will be able to overcome the challenge, and establish cooperation in the rehabilitation of Kharkiv after our victory as well,” Terekhov wrote.

Israel was reluctant to send military aid to Ukraine – the Iron Dome rocket interception system in particular – for fear of Russia limiting its freedom of action in Syria against Iran and its proxies, including Hezbollah. 

Israel has provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid, welcomed over 10,000 refugees, was the first country to launch a field hospital on Ukrainian territory, and undertook many efforts to arrange peace talks.  Most recently Israel supplied defensive gear to Ukrainian forces and civilian organizations, marking a slight shift in its policy on the war.

Israeli Foreign Ministry official Einat Shlain said the Foreign Ministry has been working to provide Ukraine with humanitarian aid since the beginning of March.

We did so “creatively, based on the needs on the ground: from shipping coats and blankets, medicine, electric generators, and water purification systems, setting up a field hospital in partnership with the Health Ministry, delivering food to the citizens in the besieged cities and conducting workshops on how to cope with trauma to thousands of Ukrainians,” she said.



Israeli Ambassador: ‘Calls For U.S. Investigation Into Reporter’s Death Ignore The PA’s Refusal To Cooperate’

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog on Friday (20th) criticized a demand by 57 House Democrats for a U.S. investigation into the death of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh who was fatally shot while reporting on a gunfight between IDF troops and Palestinian terrorists in the city of Jenin earlier this month.  Herzog said the Congressional letter “does not offer a fair representation of the case, ignores important context of the events leading to Ms. Abu Aqleh’s tragic death and reaches the wrong conclusion.”

“Om May 11, 2022, Israeli security forces operated in Jenin to thwart yet another impending terror attack and were confronted by heavily armed Palestinian militants, most of them affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a U.S.-designated terror organization,” he said.  “Shireen Abu Aqleh died in the exchange of fire in this charged environment.”

“The letter ignores the fact that Israel has, from the outset, called for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation with the U.S. in an observer role.  Our call was flatly rejected by the PA, which is cynically using Ms. Abu Aqleh’s death to instigate an anti-Israel propaganda campaign.”

Herzog noted the PA’s refusal to give Israel access to the bullet that killed Abu Aqleh, making impossible an Israeli ballistic assessment that could determine if it was fired by an IDF weapon.

He also said that those claiming that there were no clashes or shooting in the area of the incident were ignoring evidence, including statements from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and video footage.



‘Celebrate Israel Parade’ Marches Down 5th Avenue For First Time In 2 Years

For the first time since the COVID pandemic began in early 2020, New York’s annual “Celebrate Israel Parade” took place on Sunday (22nd) under the slogan “Together Again.”

Despite the unseasonable heat, which neared 90 degrees, tens of thousands of participants showed up for the largest pro-Israel gathering outside of Israel.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams participated in the march, saying that it was an acknowledgement of the special relationship between the city and Israel.

“We have the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, right here in New York…and it’s good to be back,” Adams exclaimed.

The mayor then pointed to a sign he was holding with an Israeli flag, repeating its message: “We got this, New York.  We got this.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and other Israeli government officials also attended the parade.

Some 200 Jewish and non-Jewish groups set up parade floats along the route.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, told Israel Hayom how excited he was to be taking part in the parade after two years.

“Especially in these days, holding the parade is critical for Israel’s image and we were honored to take part,” Fass said.