News Digest — 5/26/22

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah Struggling to Stay Relevant, Analysis

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, 61, is struggling to stay relevant.  In a speech he gave this week, he once again reminded the few people who tuned in that in May 2000 Israel left southern Lebanon.  For Hezbollah, this is considered a “victory” and set the stage for Hezbollah’s launching a war on Israel in 2006 and for its attempt to control Lebanon after it assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

The Nasrallah speech was full of the usual bluster about how great Hezbollah’s “martyrs and fighters” are and how Israel’s withdrawal is Lebanon’s greatest success.  If this is a great success, then there isn’t much to show for it, because Lebanon is struggling financially and the country’s voters are no longer backing Hezbollah.

Nasrallah, however, needs to stay relevant.  He knows that the young people no longer identify with him or his aging movement.

In his relatively short speech, Nasrallah claimed that Israel’s withdrawal in 2000 had ended the dream of “greater Israel” and that Palestinians now have “hope again for the liberation of their land.”

He then warned Israel not to tamper with Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Shouting about the “danger’ to Al-Aqsa is one of the key grifts of Nasrallah, as he tries to use religious threats to encourage extremism and populism.

Iranian media didn’t seem to take the speech seriously, but a bit of it was published.

“Any action against Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the region will lead to a big explosion and will have unpleasant results,” the Hezbollah leader said.

Overall, the speech was to be expected and is the usual cycle of Nasrallah’s speeches that he gives several times a year.

However, the shortness of this speech and the fact Hezbollah and its allies performed badly in the recent elections illustrate how the terror group will have to struggle to stay relevant in the coming year.



Accident At Iranian Military Facility Leaves Two Dead, Several Wounded

An explosion at an Iranian military facility has left two people dead and several others wounded, the country’s media reported Thursday (26th).

The Tasnim news agency cited Iranian officials as saying that an “industrial accident” had taken place in one of the facilities on the Parchin military base, resulting in several casualties.

Other Iranian media outlets reported that an explosion took place at the heart of the military compound, killing two “military experts.”

The Intellitimes intelligence blog cited media reports alleging that the explosion was a result of a drone strike.

Parchin is a large military complex located about 19 miles southeast of Tehran.  It is closely linked to the republic’s missile program and is also believed to house sites associated with Iranian nuclear weapons.

While Iran denies any nefarious activity is taking place at the complex, it consistently denies International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to the site.

A massive blast rocked the Parchin base on June 26, 2020.  The Iranian Defense Ministry said at the time that there had been an explosion at a gas storage facility in the “public area” of Parchin – not the military site, yet some foreign media reports insisted it was an act of Israeli sabotage.



Israel Offers Condolences Over Massacre Of 19 Children, 2 Adults At Texas School

Israeli officials offered condolences after a gunman killed 19 students and two adults in a Texas elementary school on Tuesday (24th).

The 18-year-old murderer, Salvador Ramos, had gone room to room in the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, near San Antonio before being killed by a Border Patrol Agent.

Authorities said Ramos also shot his grandmother before making his way to the school.  Officials said she survived.

Officials added that Ramos – a former student at the school – acted alone but have not revealed a motive.

Israeli officials expressed their condolences.  “Israel mourns together with the American people the horrific murder of innocent children and teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted.

“Our prayers are with the victims, their families and the American people,” he added.

President Isaac Herzog tweeted his sorrow saying, “Our hearts are broken.  The death of a child is a tragedy beyond measure, let alone the killing of 19 innocent children and two adults.”

Israel’s Consul-General in Houston, Livia Link, tweeted, “We are heartbroken to learn of the unfolding tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.  We stand side by side with those mourning the loss of their loved ones.”

Other Israeli officials expressing their condolences were Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev.

The massacre came 10 days after a gunman killed 10 people in a Buffalo, NY supermarket.

The Uvalde rampage was the deadliest US school attack since 2012, when Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. after murdering his mother at home.



Israel Fortifying Kindergartens In Vicinity Of Gaza Strip

The Ministry of Defense’s Engineering and Construction Division, in cooperation with the IDF’s Home Front Command, has begun work to fortify kindergartens in the Gaza Strip area against rocket and mortar attacks.

The work that began this week in a kindergarten in Kibbutz Gvaram is part of a broad plan to strengthen protection in 33 kindergartens in 17 localities in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip.  The construction includes concrete repairs to damage caused to the buildings by attacks launched from Gaza during Operation Guardian of the Walls a year ago.

Gaza terror groups fired about 4,350 rockets and mortars at Israel during the operation, reaching about 150 miles inside the country.  The Iron Dome defense system intercepted about 90% of the incoming projectiles, but some 150 buildings, including homes, apartment blocks, schools and kindergartens, were damaged in the attacks.

In recent months, the Home Front Command and the Engineering and Construction Division have carried out mapping work on kindergartens in the city of Sderot and in the Gaza area communities that require strengthening of the existing protection.

Upon completion of the work in the kindergarten in Gvaram, work will begin in kindergartens in the localities of Erez and Nir Am.  The entire project is expected to last about a year.

Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster, former head of the  Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council in the Gaza area, stated Wednesday (25th) that the operation is “a milestone in strengthening the sense of security and readiness of the home front.  The home front’s readiness is an integral part of the IDF’s national resilience and capabilities to carry out its operational missions.”



Miami Robbers Dressed As Hasidic Jews Rob Home While Family Is At Synagogue

An Orthodox Jewish Family in Miami, Florida had their house broken into and robbed on Saturday afternoon (21st)  while they were in synagogue for Shabbat, WLPG Miami reported.

“I walked upstairs to my mom’s room, and it looked like a tornado hit it,” said the family’s 12-year-old son, who immediately called 911 upon arriving home and seeing the damage.  “Everything was thrown on the floor and on the bed. 

Ironically, the thieves were clad in traditional Orthodox Jewish clothing, which would help them blend in as they burglarized the house.  Footage of the crooks was captured by home security cameras.

Approximately 15,000 Jews live in Miami Beach, while nearly 500,000 live in South Florida – 120,000 in Miami-Dade, 144,000 in Broward, and 218,000 in Palm Beach County.

“A lot was taken: watches, jewelry and more,” said the victims, who asked not to be identified.  Police estimate the thieves made off with about $300,000 worth of stolen goods, packing them into suitcases belonging to the victims before brazenly walking out of the house.

The burglars are still at large and the Miami police urge anyone with information on the crime, or who thinks they recognize the criminals in the video to contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers.



NY State Agency To Buy Israeli-Made Robots As Companions For Elderly

Israel start-up company Intuition Robotics has signed an agreement with the New York State Office for the Aging for the procurement of 800 robot companions for the elderly, known as ElliQ.

According to the company, ElliQ was designed to empower older adults to live active, engaged, and connected lives at home, while alleviating the effects of loneliness and social isolation, while supporting their social determinants of health.

Advanced technology has allowed ElliQ to be able to project empathy and build trust with the users.  Older adults interact with ElliQ, which provides health and wellness support for an average of 20 times a day for an average of 20 minutes.

“We are excited to work with the State of New York, our first partner, in what will hopefully become cooperation with more states,” co-founder and CEO of Intuition Robotics Dor Skuler said.

“We believe ElliQ can encourage older adults to be happier, healthier, and more independent,” he said.