News Digest — 6/2/22

Iron Beam Laser Defense System Will Bankrupt Israel’s Foes

The Iron Beam, a new laser defense system under development, will “bankrupt” Israel’s foes, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after a visit to the project’s Haifa facility on Wednesday (1st).

Bennett was updated on the project by Maj.-Gen. Yoav Har-Even, President and CEO of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, Iron Beam’s lead contractor.

The laser beam will intercept missiles, drones, mortars, and anti-tank rockets, according to successful tests in April.

“This is a game changer because not only can we strike the enemy militarily, but also financially bankrupt them.  Until today it would cost us a lot of money to intercept every rocket.  Today they can invest tens of thousands of dollars in a rocket and we can invest two dollars to cover the cost of the electricity in shooting down the rocket.

A laser defense system would be significantly less expensive to maintain than the current Iron Dome.  While the Kassam rockets used by Hamas are said to cost $300-$800 apiece, one Iron Dome interceptor missile costs around $50,000.

During the Gaza war of May 2021, Palestinians fired 4,369 rockets at Israel in a 12-day period.  According to the IDF, about two-thirds landed in open areas or malfunctioned but Israel was forced to fire approximately 1,500 interceptors.

Replenishing Israel’s stockpile of interceptors was delayed when $1 billion in American assistance was held up in Congress, first by far-left Democratic members of the House of Representatives known as “The Squad,” and then in the Senate by Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The funding was eventually approved as part of a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March.



IDF Shoots Down Egyptian Drone Over The Negev

An unarmed Egyptian military drone monitoring Islamic State activity in the Sinai, strayed over Israel and was shot down on Monday (5/30), IDF officials disclosed on Wednesday (1st).

According to IDF officials, a technical problem caused the drone’s Egyptian operators to lose contact before it crossed into Israel.  The IDF said the drone was monitored the entire time.

It was shot down by an Air Force F16 jet in the area of Mount Sagi, south of Mitzpe Ramon and a few kilometers from the border.  The Egyptians were notified ahead of the downing.

The IDF didn’t specify why the drone’s downing wasn’t disclosed right away.  But Army Radio suggested the delayed announcement was due to Egyptian sensitivities over the matter.

The Israel-Egypt peace agreement of 1979 places strict limits on the number of soldiers Egypt can station in the Sinai.  In recent years, the two countries amended those restrictions so that the Egyptian military could combat Islamic State insurgents.

The IDF has boosted its air defenses amid concerns that Iran may launch missiles or drones in revenge for the assassination of Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.  Khodaei was gunned down in his car in Tehran by riders on a motorcycle.  

Iran blames Israel for the assassination.



Is Abbas Facing Mutiny Within Fatah Ranks?

The animosity toward Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas is growing not only on the street but also within his own party, Fatah sources said this week.

The 86-year-old leader, elected in 2005, has overstayed his five-year term over a rift with Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in a military coup in 2007, effectively splitting the Palestinian Authority into two separate entities.  No elections for PA head have taken place over the past 17 years, as Abbas repeatedly finds excuses for canceling them, and to date, no one has been able to successfully challenge him for the role.

Mounting criticism reached new highs this week , after Abbas announced the appointment of Hussein al-Sheik, one of his closest aides, as secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, effectively placing him within reach as head leader of Fatah.

Many within Fatah challenge the move.  While al-Sheik is a senior Fatah official, there are others who are senior to him and who see themselves as potential successors to Abbas, most notably Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub.

The outrage within Fatah’s ranks has also been fueled by the defeat handed to it by Hamas in last week’s Birzeit University student council elections.  The latter brought about a series of protest resignations among Fatah district chiefs, including the leader of the Fatah movement in Ramallah, Al-Bireh Muwafaq Suhwail.

Fatah officials have expressed anger about “paying the price” for Abbas’ mistakes.

Many in the Palestinian leadership say the continued security coordination with Israel is an ineffective policy that undermines Fatah’s position on the Palestinian street.  There is also a growing push to replace Ramallah’s Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh over corruption allegations.

The growing disgruntlement prompted Abbas to summon an urgent meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Tuesday (5/31) to try to work out differences, but according to sources privy to the meeting, the Palestinian leader and al-Sheik faced harsh criticism.

“After Hamas failed to respond to the Jerusalem Flag March and Al-Aqsa became a ‘synagogue,’ a historic move must be made to prove that we are the Palestinian leadership,” one official said in the meeting where he and others urged Abbas to end security coordination with Israel.

It is believed the hardline approach Fatah officials expressed in the meeting has pushed Abbas to tell US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Tuesday (5/31) that he is weighing various means to pressure Israel, the US, and international figures, including implementing a decision reached by the Fatah Central Committee earlier this year to rescind Palestinian recognition of Israel.



Hamas Terrorist Gets Life Sentence For 2019 Murder Of Israeli Student

An Israeli military court on Tuesday (5/31) sentenced Hamas terrorist Ahmad Asafra to life in prison with an additional 25 years for the 2019 murder of Dvir Sorek.

Asafra was also ordered to pay $450,000 to the family of Dvir Sorek.

Sorek, a 19-year-old yeshiva student, was stabbed to death near the Samaria settlement of Migdal Oz.  He was in a program that combines Torah study with military service; however he was not in the military at the time of his murder.

Sorek’s body was found on a road leading to the yeshiva where he was studying.  The attackers fled the scene but were found after a 48-hour search.  They told investigators they killed Sorek due to “the suffering of the Palestinian people” and “the situation at Al-Aqsa.”

Asafra was convicted of the murder, as well as of a series of other security offenses, in February.

The court also determined that Asafra was the commander of a Hamas terrorist cell, accepting the prosecution’s position that he was guilty of the attack, although not present at the stabbing.

Yusef Zohar, another member of the cell, was also not present during the stabbing but was convicted of several security offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment with an additional 15 years.



China Reportedly Threatened To Downgrade Israeli Ties Over Taiwanese FM Interview

A senior Chinese diplomat has threatened to “downgrade relations” with Israel following an interview published in The Jerusalem Post with Taiwan’s foreign minister, the newspaper’s editor in chief, Yaakov Katz, tweeted on Tuesday (5/31).

“Got a call from the Chinese embassy.  Apparently, I’m supposed to take down the story or they will sever ties with The Jerusalem Post and downgrade relations with the State of Israel.  Needless to say, the story isn’t going anywhere,” Katz stated in his tweet.

In the interview, published on Monday (5/30), Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that Israel had become over reliant on China and that Beijing was preparing for an invasion of the breakaway island.

“China is an authoritarian country, and they do business in a very different philosophy,” said Wu.

He added that “sometimes, they use trade as a weapon, and we have seen them practicing their weaponized trade relations with many other countries.”

Wu further suggested that Israel not make concessions to Beijing nor “worry about China getting upset with you.  When they get upset with you that means you’re doing something right.”

On May 10, the Chinese Embassy sent a letter to The Jerusalem Post, accusing an opinion piece it published over events in the Xinjiang province of being an “anti-China article written by a “Xinjiang independence’ separatist,” according to a report by i24News.



‘Israel Will Bolster Ties With African Countries,’ FM Lapid Says

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday (5/31) described several goals regarding Israel’s relationship with African countries while speaking via video at a conference organized by the Israeli Embassy in Paris.

“Israel is back in Africa.  This is not a slogan; it is a diplomatic, economic and social reality,” Lapid said.  “We will cooperate to deliver food security for millions there.”

“We will coordinate in the fight against terrorism to ensure peace and stability.  We will collaborate in high-tech to create opportunities for millions of Israelis and Africans alike.  We will cultivate deeper diplomatic ties to cement our historic and deeply-rooted partnership.”

Relations between Israel and African countries crumbled after the 1967 and 1973 wars, with most African countries cutting off diplomatic ties.

Israel currently maintains ties with all but 9 of the 54 African countries and became an observer to the African Union in 2021.

Lapid stated that Israel seeks a partnership between equals, not an aid relationship.

“Israel understands the power of Africa,” Lapid said.  “And Africa understands that Israel is a force for good.”

“In the face of global challenges, countries that cooperate will thrive, while countries that isolate will fall behind,” he declared.