News Digest — 5/9/22

Bennett Announces Formation Of National Guard To Protect Israelis

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday (8th) the creation of a national guard, with the aim of “strengthening the personal security” of Israeli citizens.

“We are advancing two very significant things,” said Bennett in his opening remarks to Sunday’s (8th) Cabinet meeting.  “First the establishment of a national guard.  I have instructed the National Security Council in coordination with the Public Security Ministry, to present the government with an orderly and budgeted plan to establish a civilian national guard by the end of the month.”

The unrest in mixed Jewish-Arab cities during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May last year demonstrated the “urgent need” to strengthen citizens’ security, Bennett said, stressing that the need had only become more urgent in light of the current wave of terrorism.

“Time and time again, we see the difference between incidents in which there was a responsible armed civilian in the area and those in which there was not.  The need is great, especially in the ultra-Orthodox cities, in which fewer people carry weapons.  We are taking action,” he said.

The new force will be composed of Border Police units together with mobilized trained units of volunteers and reservists, who together will form a single national guard.  The new forces will be activated as needed, “in emergencies and disturbances, and in routine times as well,” Bennett said.

Secondly, the prime minister said that the Israel Police have launched an operation focusing on Palestinians who enter Israel illegally, something he said had “become a national blight.”

“An entire industry has developed around the smuggling transportation and employment of people present in Israel illegally, as we have seen, unfortunately, in the latest terrorist attack, in which the person who drove the terrorists [from the border into Israel] was brutally murdered,” he said.

Oren Ben Yiftah, 35, of Lod, was one of three Israelis killed on Thursday (5th) by Palestinian terrorists who had entered the country illegally.  Yiftah, a taxi driver, unwittingly brought the terrorists to the scene of the attack.

The two suspected terrorists, As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, from the Palestinian village of Rumana near Jenin were captured on Sunday (8th) near Elad following a 60-hour manhunt.

“Over the weekend, I instructed that an effort be coordinated – operational, legal and regarding infrastructure – against those who transport, provide lodging for, and employ people present in Israel illegally.  We will use all the tools at our disposal – including the seizure of vehicles, fines – whatever is needed.  All government ministries, but especially the Public Security Ministry and the Justice Ministry, are already working on it,” Bennett said.

He also declared that there is “no political consideration regarding the war on terrorism nor will there be.  And of course, all decisions regarding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem will be made by the government of Israel, which is sovereign in the city, without any extraneous considerations whatsoever.  We certainly reject any foreign involvement in the decisions of the government of Israel.”



Independence Day Terrorists Caught In Complex Operation

Four days after the deadly attack in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad in central Israel, the two axe-wielding terrorists were caught and arrested in a joint operation by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the IDF and the Israel Police.

The escaped terrorists, 19 and 20 – both of Rumana, a small village near Jenin – were found in a wooded area between Rosh HaAyin and Nahshonim, less than half a mile from where the attacks took place.

Three fathers – Yonatan Habakuk, Boaz Gol and Oren Ben Yiftah – were murdered on Thursday evening (5th), at the conclusion of Israel’s Independence day, leaving their wives and a total of 16 children.

It was assumed the terrorists had not managed to escape to the Palestinian Authority-run areas of Judea and Samaria, as no trace of them had been found at the security barrier.

Information gathered by intelligence, including IDF expert reservists who specialized in field analysis, pointed to the location where the murderers were found.  It was a wooded area with many tangled branches, making it difficult to locate them.

The exhausted terrorists surrendered to the forces with no resistance.

“I congratulate the security forces on capturing the terrorists who committed the murders in Elad,” stated Minister of Public Security, Omer Bar-Lev.

“In the last two days, the best forces in the police, Shin Bet, and the IDF have worked together to get their hands on them, and so it has happened.  The intensive activity along a complex terrain route deserves all praise.  We will continue to pursue with determination those who seek our harm at any time, and everywhere, and we will reach them,” he said.

“We said that we would apprehend the terrorists and we have done so,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the Sunday morning (8th) Cabinet meeting.

“This morning, our forces – the Israel Police and the ISA, together with soldiers from the Maglan, Egoz and Mirol IDF units – captured the murderers.  The miserable terrorists, brainwashed with incitement who used axes to commit unimaginably brutal murders, were apprehended near a local quarry.  Again, I commend the ISA and its director, the Israeli Police and its inspector general, and all of the soldiers.”



Border Police Officer Wounded In Jerusalem Stabbing; Attack Foiled In Gush Etzion

Two terrorist incidents took place on Sunday evening (8th) within the span of several hours.

The first incident took place near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, when a 19-year-old Palestinian who had entered Israel illegally stabbed a Border Police officer.  The attacker pulled a knife after Border Police troops stationed in the area asked to search his belongings due to suspicious behavior.  The Border Police officer sustained moderate wounds to the neck, while the attacker was shot and subsequently evacuated in serious condition to a Jerusalem hospital.

It later was discovered that the perpetrator had two knives on him and that a major attack was potentially thwarted due to the troops’ vigilance.

The second incident took place in the Gush Etzion settlement of Tekoa when a Palestinian managed to enter the community.  A resident who spotted the intruder at the doorway of his house with a knife, shot him.  The IDF went on to conduct a sweep of the area to make sure there were no additional assailants.

Sunday evening’s (8th) events came just hours after two terrorists who murdered three Israelis in Elad on Thursday (5th) were apprehended.



Syria’s Assad Meets Khamenei, Raisi In Iran

Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Iranian leaders in Tehran on Sunday (8th), Iranian state-linked media reported, marking his second trip to major wartime ally Iran since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.

Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that Assad met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi earlier in the day.  It said the leaders praised the strong ties between their nations and vowed to boost relations further.  Assad was reported to have left Tehran for Damascus later on Sunday (8th).

“Everybody now looks at Syria as a power,” Khamenei told Assad in the meeting, according to Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.  “The respect and credibility of Syria is now much more than before,” he added.

Assad did not miss an opportunity to criticize Israel and said that strong ties between Iran and Syria serve as a bulwark against the Jewish state’s influence in the Middle East.

“The strategic relations between Iran and Syria cause the lack of domination of the Zionist regime in the region,” Assad was quoted as saying,” by Nour News.

Assad has rarely traveled abroad since his crackdown on Syria’s civil unrest in 2011 led to a devastating civil war and made him a global pariah.

He has visited key patrons Russia and Iran, and made his first trip to the United Arab Emirates since the conflict, earlier this year – the clearest signal yet that the Arab world is willing to re-engage with Syria’s once widely shunned president.

The Tehran visit on Sunday (8th) marked Assad’s first trip to the Iranian capital in over two years.  The visit was not announced beforehand.



Church Of England Apologizes For 800-Year-Old Antisemitic Laws

The Church of England has apologized  for the anti-Jewish laws that the Catholic Church in England passed some 800 years ago.

The event marks the anniversary of the 1222 Synod of Oxford, which culminated in the expulsion of England’s Jews 68 years later, followed by similar repercussions across Europe.

The event was attended by civic dignitaries and faith leaders, including Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and representatives of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

In promulgating the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) the Synod added a range of further anti-Jewish measures for the medieval church in England.  The resulting canons forbade social interaction between Jews and Christians, established specific church tithes on Jews and imposed the need for English Jews to wear an identifying badge.  These prejudicial laws were followed by further anti-Jewish statues and the mass expulsion of the Jewish community.

This anniversary, arranged in association with the Oxford Jewish Congregation, offers a symbolic opportunity to apologize for these actions.  It also recognizes the positive re-framing of Jewish-Christian relations since the publication of Nostra Aetate (‘In Our Time’), a report of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 which states: ‘This Synod…deplores and condemns hatred and persecution of Jews, whether they arose in former or in our own days.’

This understanding was reinforced by Welby’s call, in the 2019 Church of England report: ‘God’s Unfailing Word,’ that states,  “only by looking back and recognizing our failures as Christians can we begin to move forward with authenticity.”

Mirvis in his response to this report, emphasized that “profound friendship must be accompanied by honesty so that together we may be a blessing to the world.”

A press release by the Diocese of Oxford said that “Our intention is for this commemoration to be a strong signal of such rich potential, reflected in the depth of interfaith encounter and service that increasingly exists in Oxford and across the country.”

In a tweet Sunday (8th), Archbishop Welby stated that “Today’s service at Oxford Cathedral is an opportunity to remember, repent and rebuild.  Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism and to appreciate and receive the gifts of our Jewish neighbors.”

In an interview with the Telegraph, the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, said on Saturday (7th) that he was “disturbed” by the antisemitism that “grew” under Jeremy Corbyn as former chairman of the Labor Party.