News Digest — 6/2/21
Israel Destroys Syrian Army Post In Golan Heights
The Israeli army destroyed a Syrian observation post established on the Israeli side of the buffer zone in the Golan Heights on Tuesday (1st), a spokesperson said.
The army “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,” spokesman Avishay Adraee wrote on Twitter, referring to the Israeli side of a UN-patrolled buffer zone between both countries.
He said troops attacked and blew up the post, adding that Israel would not “tolerate any attempt to violate the sovereignty” of the Jewish state.
Channel 13 showed footage of the troops going in and planting the explosives. Officers told the channel the posts were also used by Hezbollah fighters and pro-Iranian militias.
“We vaporized it,” one officer told the TV.
The report said the IDF had deliberately used ground forces instead of targeting the site from the air in order to send a message to Syria and Hezbollah that Israel would not tolerate any violations of its sovereignty.
There was no immediate report of casualties.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria in recent years, mostly targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as Syrian government troops, though rarely acknowledges them.
The military has said it hit some 50 targets in 2020 alone.
Israel says it is trying to prevent Iran, which has been one of the Syrian government’s key allies in the decade-old civil war, from gaining a permanent military foothold on its doorstep.
The Golan Heights, a strategic plateau, was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War.
US Senators In Israel To See Damage Caused By Hamas Rockets
US Senator Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) visited Israel and witnessed the destruction Gazan rockets caused to homes in southern Israel during the latest round of conflict with Hamas.
In a video shared over social media, Cruz visited a home in Ashkelon that was destroyed by a rocket. The home was the site of one of Israel’s first casualties during the conflict: Soumya Santosh, a caretaker originally from Kerala’s Idukki district in India. As Cruz walked through one room of the home, he filmed a completely destroyed wall with the interior a mess of debris. “All of this came from one rocket, one terrorist, who murdered a woman in Ashkelon,” Cruz said in the video.
The Texas Republican arrived in Israel Sunday (5/30) alongside fellow GOP senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Bill Hagerty (Tennessee) in order to see the damage that was caused by the fighting during the 11-day conflict, AP reported.
Cruz also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It’s very important to be here right now, to state unequivocally that the United States is on Israel’s side,” Cruz said in a statement.
“These are dangerous times, and Israel has both the right and the responsibility to defend itself.”
On Monday (5/31), Lindsey Graham met with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu praised Graham for being a devoted friend and an excellent ally” and thanked him “for everything you have done over the years on the issues of Israel’s defense and security, as well as on the Iranian issue.”
Gantz also thanked Graham for his support for Israel and reportedly updated the senator on security developments following Operation Guardian of the Walls.
“My main message has been ‘more for Israel’” Graham said in comments preceding his trip to Ashkelon. “The more people that try to destroy Israel, the more Hamas tries to destroy Israel, the more Iran tries to destroy Israel, the more aid the United States will provide to Israel.”
First Gaza Incendiary Balloon Since War Sparks Fire In Southern Israel
An incendiary balloon sent from the Gaza Strip sparked a fire in a field in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council in southern Israel on Monday (5/31), marking the first confirmed incendiary balloon fire since Operation Guardian of the Walls ended less than two weeks ago, according to Israeli media.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned after the operation that they would respond forcefully to any act of aggression against Israel.
While Gantz stressed that he “wasn’t promising” to attack for “every rocket or balloon at 3 a.m.” he added that he would attack when it was “convenient” for Israel.
Netanyahu warned in a tweet recently that “We will respond with a different level of intensity to any manifestation of aggression against the towns near the Gaza border or anywhere else in the State of Israel.”
Last year, officials made similar statements after waves of explosive balloons were launched toward Israel, but, after the balloon launches earlier this year, responses by the IDF were not as strong nor as frequent as those carried out against the rockets that followed.
The reported incendiary balloon on Monday (5/31) comes less than 24 hours after a Palestinian terrorist infiltrated from the Gaza Strip and stabbed a security official outside a town near the Gaza border. The official was lightly to moderately injured. The terrorist was killed.
PM Heaps Praise On Outgoing Mossad Head
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped praise upon outgoing Mossad head Yossi Cohen at a farewell ceremony Monday (5/31).
Cohen was “one of the best Mossad heads ever,” said Netanyahu of the man who is widely believed to have been his longtime confidant.
“When you took on the role, Yossi, I told you that I was convinced that you could march the Mossad forward,” he said. “You and the Mossad staff were up to the task – you proved that you can take a spear that has already been sharpened and sharpen it even more.”
The Mossad’s successful 2018 raid of Iran’s nuclear archives, which Netanyahu later presented to the UN, was one of the institution’s “most glorious achievements in all its days,” the premier said.
“I don’t want to and cannot detail all that we did to fight the Ayatollah regime that threatens to annihilate us,” Netanyahu added. “This evening, as well as most of these things in the realm of subterfuge, should remain in the shadows.”
Netanyahu said he told Cohen upon his assuming the role in 2016 that his highest priority should be thwarting Iran’s nuclear program.
It is believed that a number of sabotage attempts of the nuclear program, including the assassination of nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and a massive explosion at the Natanz enrichment site, were orchestrated by the Mossad.
“We penetrated into the heart of hearts of the enemy Iran,” Cohen said. “We acted to constantly gather intelligence and uncover its secrets, and undermined its self-confidence and arrogance.”
He cited the Iran nuclear archive mission as one of his proudest moments, saying that Israel had “exposed to the whole world Iran’s military nuclear program, its plans, its preservation of capabilities in the military nuclear field and Iran’s fraud and lies.”
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the farewell ceremony.
Adolf Eichmann Was Executed On June 1, 59 Years Ago
Tuesday, June 1 marked the 59th anniversary of the execution of Adolf Eichmann.
Eichmann’s role during the Holocaust was to manage the logistics of deportation of Jews to ghettos and concentration camps across Europe, according to Yad Vashem’s Auschwitz museum.
Before his capture and subsequent trial, and under the guise of several false identities, Eichmann fled to Argentina along with many other members of the Nazi Party. Following intelligence work with Fritz Bauer, the (Jewish) prosecutor-general of the West German state of Hessen and Lothar Hermann, another man from West Germany who moved to Argentina, Eichmann was found and his capture was executed by the Mossad and he was brought to Israel.
Following a trial in which documents were shown proving his involvement and resolve to participate in the atrocities of the Holocaust, he was sentenced to be executed on May 29, 1962 and was hung in Israel on June 1 of the same year.
The trial served as a turning point in the perception of the Holocaust among the Israeli public, who up until that point were hesitant to discuss it. The public perception of the Holocaust around the world was also changed by this event and helped bring other members of the Nazi Party to justice.
After Delay, Honduras Poised To Complete Embassy Move
Honduras is set to open an embassy in Jerusalem at the end of June. President Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado is scheduled to arrive in Israel on June 23rd for an official visit.
The Honduran president promised to inaugurate an embassy in the capital at an AIPAC conference in 2019, and two and a half years later, he will deliver.
The delay was caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the political crisis in Israel. Hernandez’s term is slated to end in the upcoming fall, which is why he decided to visit the Jewish state now, despite the political crisis.
In turn, Israel will open an embassy in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Eldad Golan, who is the designated ambassador to the Central American country, is expected to become the full-fledged envoy once Israel no longer has a transitional government.
Three other countries already have embassies in Jerusalem – the United States, Guatemala, and Kosovo.