News Digest — 6/18/21

IDF Slams Hamas Targets As Army Chief Warns Of New Round Of Hostilities

The Israeli Air Force slammed more than 10 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday evening (17th), responding to the launching of fire balloons into southern Israel for the third day in a row.

A rocket alert sounded in the community of Kfar Aza, located close to the Gaza border, 17 minutes after midnight.  Initial reports indicate that the rocket alert was activated due to anti-aircraft fire aimed at IDF planes over the Gaza Strip and not due to rocket fire, a source in the security services told TSP news agency.

“The IDF will continue to destroy the capabilities and military infrastructure of the terrorist organization and considers Hamas responsible for what is happening in the Gaza Strip,” the army stated.

Before the airstrikes, the IDF alerted civilians to evacuate certain targeted buildings, according to Channel 12.

The security cabinet, to be led for the first time by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, will convene on Sunday (20th).  A situation assessment was held Thursday (17th), which decided on a military response to the terror and outlined targets for an attack in Gaza.

The defense establishment agreed that balloon terrorism “would be met with a “violent and harsh response.”  A senior military official added that “we are also counting the balloons that have already been launched in recent days, and the response will take them into account as well,” Channel 12 reported.



AG Vows To Defend IDF Soldiers From ICC War Crimes Probe

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday night (17th) promised a strong defense of IDF soldiers and other citizens should the International Criminal Court seek them out for alleged war crimes.

Speaking at a Bar-Ilan conference honoring retired district court judge Menachem Finklestein for his new book on law and war, Mandelblit threw down the gauntlet before Karim Khan, who was just sworn in as the new ICC chief prosecutor on Wednesday (16th).

Khan has not yet commented on the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, but outgoing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened up a full criminal probe against the IDF and the settlement enterprise in March.

The attorney-general, who formerly served as the IDF’s top lawyer, said Israel is closely following international legal developments and that it will, “ensure comprehensive representation and assistance…against any legal threat to the state’s citizens and soldiers.”

“The ICC lacks jurisdiction. This position was supported by key nation-states and top legal experts,” he stated.  In addition, he said that, “The State of Israel is a strong democracy with an independent and professional legal system which is loyal to the values of international law.  At its head is the Supreme Court which has received praise and admiration from many countries across the globe.”

“Israel has effective mechanisms to review allegations of violations of international law and knows how to independently probe such claimed violations.  Also, due to this, there is no basis for intervention by the ICC regarding issues which reside within the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the State of Israel,” added Mandelblit.

Also speaking at the conference was IDF Military Advocate Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek who reviewed a variety of tough issues confronting soldiers’ rights in the current era.  Afek noted that the coronavirus created new challenges in balancing running an army with individual rights, and remarked that at a certain point it was decided that no unvaccinated soldiers would be allowed to serve on submarines and certain other units.

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and Mandelblit both recounted how Finklestein, while serving in various IDF legal capacities, had helped shift the paradigm for how the IDF handled organized attacks by plainclothes terrorist groups.

Prior to Finklestein’s era, such persons would have gotten more lenient treatment from the military because they were not soldiers in an army.

However, Finklestein helped advance the idea that organized terrorist groups were fighting armed conflicts no less than full-fledged armies.  Ya’alon also slammed portions of the political class for trying to reduce the influence of IDF lawyers on the rules of engagement, saying that ethics and international law was a crucial pillar of the IDF.



IDF Destroys Syrian Outpost Used By Hezbollah

The IDF struck a Syrian outpost near the city of Quneitra on Thursday (17th), marking the first strike on the northern border by the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The post, some 492 feet away from the border, was affiliated with the Syrian Army’s 90th Brigade and First Corps, and had been frequented by Hezbollah officials and used as a reconnaissance post against IDF forces on the Golan Heights.  According to Syrian opposition reports, it was destroyed by tank fire.

Two weeks ago the IDF destroyed another observation post in the same area built in the demilitarized zone.

Writing on Twitter, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee said that the military “destroyed a forward observation post of the Syrian army that was set up in an Israeli area west of the Alfa line in the Golan Heights.”

Israel, he said, “would not tolerate any attempts to violate our sovereignty.”

At least two other strikes have been blamed on Israel since the beginning of May.

During his tenure as defense minister, Bennett worked to escalate Israeli actions against Iranian forces in Syria aiming to get Tehran to withdraw all of its troops from Israel’s northern borders.

While the IDF does not respond to most foreign reports, it has admitted to carrying out hundreds of airstrikes as part of its “war-between-wars” (known in Hebrew as MABAM) campaign to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of Iranian forces in Syria, both of which could easily act against the Jewish state.

Although Israel usually refrains from targeting terror operatives to avoid subsequent retaliation, some strikes ascribed to Israel have killed several Hezbollah operatives in southern Syria on the Golan Heights, where the group has been trying to establish a permanent military presence.

The Golan Project has its headquarters in Damascus and Beirut.  The operatives began working in the Syrian towns of Hadar, Quneitra and Erneh to collect intelligence on Israel and military movements on the Golan Heights.

But according to a December report by the ALMA Research and Education Center, Hezbollah’s presence in southern Syria is much larger than previously revealed, with some 58 sites in the southern Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Daraa where the terror group’s Southern Command and Golan Project have been deployed.



Mazel Tov! 96-Year-Old Woman Makes Aliyah

Congratulations are in order for Tammy Goldenhirsch, who made aliyah from St. Louis this week at the age of 96, proving that it is never too late to make one’s dreams of moving to Israel a reality.

Goldenhirsch was first greeted at Ben Gurion International Airport by employees of the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, who registered her as a citizen.  She was then welcomed by three generations of family, who came to the airport to surprise the new Israeli with matching shirts, welcome posters and songs.

The idea for the surprise came from Eli Zon, who is married to one of Goldenhirsch’s granddaughters.  He thanked the ministry, as well as the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh for easing the process of aliyah for the 96-year-old.

“A process that takes at least half a year took one month.  In a way, this is a closure for our family.  Now 4 generations live in Israel.  Tammy has come home to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he said.

Goldenhirsch is joining the 38,475 Jews from North America who immigrated to the Jewish state in the last decade.  During the coronavirus pandemic alone, some 4,790 North American Jews moved to Israel.



Swastikas Drawn In 20 Eighth-Grade Yearbooks

Local police are investigating after at least 20 eighth-grade yearbooks were found marked with swastikas at Hurley Middle School in Seekonk, Massachusetts, according to a local WJAR News report.

Confirming the news to parents in a letter on Tuesday (15rh), Seekonk Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rich Drolet said the students “drew anti-Semitic imagery and racial slurs on multiple yearbooks during the school’s annual yearbook signing event.”

He said that the yearbooks had been confiscated, and that a joint investigation with the Seekonk Police Department was nearing its completion.

Drolet also said that the Seekonk School District would not tolerate hate speech and that “any students found to be involved in this incident will face appropriate disciplinary actions,” while calling on families to share any relevant information with school officials.

The incident “marred what is typically a fun light-hearted event that students look forward to each year,” Drolet continued.

“We are extremely disappointed in whoever did this and would like to reiterate that any hateful, derogatory remarks about race, religion and gender identity, will not be tolerated within schools.”

“Symbols, images, and words matter,” he wrote.  “We strongly encourage families to discuss this issue with their children.”