News Digest — 5/25/23

Israel Nabs Suspect In Shooting Attack On Bus Carrying IDF Soldiers

Israeli security forces arrested early Thursday morning (25th) a Palestinian terrorist fugitive involved in a September 2022 shooting and firebombing attack on a bus carrying IDF soldiers in the Jordan Valley region.

Maher al-Said Turkman, a 50-year-old farmer from the Palestinian village of al-Jiftlik in the heart of the Jordan Valley, carried out the attack together with his son Muhammad Turkman and nephew Walid Turkman, using a vehicle with an Israeli license plate which was registered in the name of his wife, who is an Israeli citizen.

Walid and Muhammad were arrested shortly after the attack but Maher managed to escape and stayed in hiding for months.

Turkman who was arrested in the Palestinian town of Al-Yamun by IDF and Border Police forces based on Shin Bet intelligence, is suspected of planning and carrying out the shooting attack – in which six soldiers and the bus driver were wounded.

“Security forces will continue to act to locate, arrest, and bring to justice those who carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces, even though a long time has passed since the attack,” a joint statement from the IDF, Border Police and Shin Bet read.

Turkman was known to authorities in the Jordan Valley even before that attack for his involvement in occasional provocations in the area, mainly related to water theft with his family members.

“We know him well.  He builds illegally here and does whatever he wants,” said security officials

The terrorist, who had been at large for almost nine months, was arrested just three weeks before the bus attack when he tried to divert water to his crops.  He was also involved in the construction of illegal buildings in the Jordan Valley, some of which were built on state land.

Another son, Ahmed Turkman, was arrested last month in Jenin as part of a series of arrests by the Shin Bet on suspicion of his part in an imminent terror attack.

The terrorist cell was arrested for questioning by the Shin Bet, while exchanges of fire took place between the forces and the gunmen, with some injured.

No soldiers were injured, and they seized large amounts of weapons and ammunition from the suspects.  Ahmed Turkman is also suspected of aiding the attack in the Jordan Valley his relatives took part in, among other things.



IDF: Gunfire From Syria Aimed At Military Drone Operating Along Border

Gunfire from southern Syria was directed at an Israeli military drone operating above the border in the Golan Heights on Wednesday (24th), the Israel Defense Forces said.

According to the IDF, the drone was conducting “routine surveillance activity” and landed safely, without any damage being caused by the light arms fire.

The IDF said tanks returned machine gun fire at the area in southern Syria where the gunfire was detected.

Syrian media did not immediately comment on the incident.

Last week, the Israeli military dropped flyers in southern Syria warning Syrian soldiers against cooperating with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in the area.

The IDF has repeatedly accused Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s military of actively assisting Hezbollah and warned it against this, both through flyers dropped along the border and through overt, public appeals.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria in recent years, saying it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for Iran-backed groups, chief among them Hezbollah.  Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Israel has also carried out several strikes along the border targeting Hezbollah and Iranian efforts to entrench themselves in the country.

Israel says it is trying to prevent Iran, one of the Syrian government’s key allies in the 12-year-old civil war, from gaining a permanent military foothold on its doorstep.

During a conference on Monday (22nd), the head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate warned that Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was “close to making a mistake” that could spark a regional war, while warning that the conflict between Israel and Iran was becoming increasingly direct.



On The Brink: Israel’s Metula Ups Security In The Face Of Hezbollah Threat

Since the 2006 war between Israel and the armed Shiite group Hezbollah, the Israel-Lebanon border has seen periods of uneasy calm, intermittently disrupted by sporadic cross-border skirmishes and fire exchanges.  Now, it appears that Hezbollah may be preparing for another prolonged military operation against its southern neighbor.

In response, the Israeli border town of Metula is bolstering its security to safeguard its citizens from a potential surge of violence from the north.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based militia acting largely as a proxy for Iran in the region, recently hosted members of the country’s foreign press corps to showcase its military readiness.  The group is engaging in maneuvers and training exercises that it claims are in preparation for renewed attacks on Israel.

In an area that Israelis refer to as the “finger of the Galilee,” where Israeli territory is bordered on two sides by Lebanon and one side by the Golan Heights and Syria, an air of apprehension, strikingly at odds with the pastoral landscape, prevails.

Nestled within this finger is Metula, Israel’s northernmost town, whose city limits extend right up to the border.

In Metula, the high concentration of military vehicles and advanced equipment vigilantly monitoring the border 24/7 is impossible to overlook.

Since 1995, Israeli law has mandated that all newly-constructed housing include specially designed safe rooms to shelter families from shelling.  Contractors cannot receive approval for building plans, and new houses cannot be connected to utilities such as water, electricity, and sewage without these shelters.

Prior to 1995, apartment buildings were built with communal shelters.  These are no longer deemed adequate, and public funds have been allocated to retrofit these structures, ensuring that every unit is equipped with its own safe room.

Accessible from within the house, these safe rooms serve as an additional space for the family, but one furnished with all the characteristics of an air-raid-shelter.

These safe rooms are fortified with reinforced concrete walls at least 16 inches thick, providing effective protection during bombings.  One-way valves permit air to flow from the inside out, whereas air from outside must pass through a filtration device.  If a sensor detects lethal gas, the airflow from outside is entirely blocked.

Many who witnessed Hezbollah’s military exercise near the Israel-Lebanon border say they are convinced that the next round of violence between the militia and Israel is inevitable and only a matter of time.

The pivotal uncertainty remains: Will Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah and his associates confront Israel alone, as they have in the past, or will Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or other forces allied with Tehran stand by their side?  



Hamas Sentences Three Men To Death For Collaboration With Israel

Three Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been sentenced to death by a Hamas court on charges of collaboration with Israel.  A fourth man received life in prison for the same charges.

The sentences were confirmed on Tuesday (23rd) when the court turned down appeals by the defendants.  It was not clear when the men would be executed.  Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has in the past executed several Palestinians on similar charges.

Palestinian human rights groups have previously criticized Hamas for issuing death sentences against Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority has also criticized Hamas for issuing and carrying out death sentences, saying such verdicts require the approval of the PA Leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

The names of the three men who were sentenced to death were not revealed.

They were found guilty of “communicating with hostile foreign entities” in violation of Article 131 of the Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979.

Two of the defendants will be executed by hanging, while the third will face a firing squad.

The four men ranged in age from 36 to 70 years old.



IRNA: Iran Unveils Ballistic Missile That Can Travel 1,243 Miles

Iran unveiled the fourth generation of its Khorramshahr ballistic missile under the name Khaibar, with a range of 1,243 miles and a 3,300 pound warhead, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday (25th).

Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles, despite opposition from the US and expressions of concern from European countries.  Tehran says the program is purely defensive and is for deterrence.

“Iran’s new ballistic missile and the latest product of the defense ministry’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) was unveiled today in a ceremony attended by the defense minister,” IRNA added.

The United States charged a Chinese national last week with violating US sanctions by providing to Iran materials used to produce ballistic missiles, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

Xianfjiang Qiao works at Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation, a China-based company that the US Treasury Department placed on a sanctions list in 2014 for helping Iran buy parts to produce ballistic missiles.  Sanctions bar companies from using the US financial system.

Reports suggest that Iran has named its missile “Khaybarshekan,” a name that appears to reference a historic battle involving Jews during the early Islamic period.

The phrase “Khaybar ya yahud’ is frequently used in the region as part of anti-Semitic chants, promoting the mass murder or genocide of Jewish people.

During the recent May conflict between Israel and Hamas, anti-Semitic protests erupted across Europe and the United States, featuring chants of a similar nature, as highlighted by the American Jewish Committee.



Jacob’s Farm: A German Family Making French Cheese In Israel

Shavuot is here, and with the price of cheese rising recently, buying yellow or cottage cheese in Israel has become a complex financial task.  So, it is time to remember that there is another option. 

It all started when Isaac and Ruth Jacobs moved from Germany to Kfar HaRoeh in 1936.  They started with a small farm with cows and goats, which they raised and milked manually into tin buckets covered with gauze cloths from which they extracted whey.

Isaac’s path was continued by his five children, all of whom are religiously observant and all served in elite units in the IDF before returning to the farm.

And, this year, in the run-up to Shavuot, Isaac’s family sees the blessing in their hard work.

The family tradition of cheese production was renewed in 1997, and a dairy was established next to the barn.  Grandma’s recipe notebook formed the base, and later they acquired knowledge from traditional dairies in Europe.

The family processes goat, sheep and cow’s milk in the dairy where today, they produce 25 types of cheese, but the price, despite the high cost of living, is still affordable.

The five brothers stated that despite the opening of the market for imports, they produce the cheese here, although eventually, there may be no choice but to start importing.  They don’t want to increase the price of their cheeses but they may not have a choice since the family farm is not subsidized.  For them, agriculture is a value.

However, they are considering opening factory stores in additional locations.

Before Shavuot (which begins Thursday evening, (25th) and ends Friday evening (26th) in Israel), a culinary fair is being held in Kfar Haroeh, in collaboration with the Agdat Lechem bakery.  The fair is offering basic necessities for the holiday table including boutique cheese, challah, sourdough breads, pastries, quiches, cakes, ice creams, wines, olive oil and spreads.

Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, Pentecost) was an agricultural festival in the Bible, where God’s people brought the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple.  It is also an agricultural holiday in Israel today, where kibbutzim members eagerly decorate wagons full of harvested produce, and children – some dressed in white – carry flowers, in a happy time of celebration.  

Shavuot was also one of the three annual pilgrimage festivals to Jerusalem commanded in Scripture including Sukkot and Pesach.  

Also, Religious Jews today remember the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot.

In essence, the Shavuot holiday is filled with traditional foods –  mostly dairy – family and friends, and just enjoying the day.