News Digest — 6/21/23

Prime Minister Warns Terrorists, ‘All Options Are Open’ After Deadly Shooting Attack

Hours after two Hamas terrorists massacred Israelis at a gas station in the Binyamin region north of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stern warning to Palestinian terror groups over the ongoing spate of attacks.

“Our forces are now working on the ground in order to settle accounts with the murderers.  In recent months we have already proven that we do settle accounts with all of the murderers without exception.  Those who have attacked us are either in the grave or in prison – so it will be here.” said Netanyahu.

“I would like to remind those who seek to harm us: all options are open.  We will continue to fight terrorism with full force and we will defeat it,” the prime minister concluded.

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the two Hamas-affiliated perpetrators had driven to the shooting scene from the Palestinian village of Urif in the northern West Bank.  The men went on a rampage at a gas station next to the Israeli settlement of Eli, the Israeli military said, north of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. They first burst into a hummus restaurant, shooting and killing three people, the army said, before heading out to the gas station and killing another person who was pumping gas into his car.

A civilian bystander shot one of the assailants repeatedly until he collapsed to the ground, unmoving.  Hamas identified him as Mohammad Shehada.  The second assailant fled the gas station in a stolen Toyota.

After an hours long manhunt, Israeli security forces caught him in the West Bank town of Tubas, shooting and killing him when he tried to run out of his car.  Palestinian health officials identified the man as 24-year-old Khaled Sabah.  The Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the attack as a response to Monday’s (19th) military raid in Jenin.

“Revolutionaries in the West Bank are striking everywhere, and especially where Israel does not expect it,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, describing the shooting  as a “reaction to the crimes of the occupation in Jenin.”

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was set to meet with Israel’s army chief and other top security officials to discuss a response to the shooting as pressure grows from Netanyahu’s coalition partners for a harsh crackdown on the wave of Palestinian violence.

“Now is the time for a military operation in Judea and Samaria,” said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, using the biblical term for the West Bank.  From the scene of the attack, he demanded that the government launch “targeted assassinations” from the air, “take down buildings, deport Palestinian assailants and impose the death penalty on terrorists.”

The head of the Yesha Council, the Israeli settlers’ umbrella organization, echoed the call for a “broad military operation.”  “We cannot continue to absorb these blows and hope the wave of terrorism will just pass,” said Shlomo Ne’eman.

The Israeli rescue service said that one person remains in serious condition, two are in moderate condition, and another in light condition.  Medics said they found 7 people suffering from gunshot wounds in the hummus restaurant and at the gas station.

The four deceased victims have been identified.  One was identified as Harel Masoud, a 21-year-old resident of Yad Binyamin.  Another one was identified as Elisha Antman, a 17-year-old resident of Eli.  A third was identified as Ofir Fairman, a 60-year-old resident of Eli. The fourth victim was 15-year-old Nachman Shmuel Mordoff, a resident of Ahiya.



Two Victims Of Terrorist Attack Near Eli Laid To Rest

Two of the victims of the terrorist attack at the gas station near Eli, Elisha Antman and Harel Masoud, were laid to rest on Tuesday night (20th).

Antman’s funeral was held in Eli, while Masoud was laid to rest in the cemetery in Moshav Yesodot, a haredi moshav located in the Nahal Sorek Regional Council in central Israel.

Harel Masoud’s mother eulogized her son as did his brother Dvir.

Shai Reichner, head of the Nahal Sorok Regional Council, gave a eulogy as well and said, “There are no words to express the shock and pain we feel right now.  I, and the entire Nahal Sorok community, grieve with the Masoud family after this terrible disaster, share in their unimaginable grief and embrace them.”

Thousands of people took part in the funeral of Elisha Antman at the cemetery in Eli.  

The head of the Binyamin Regional Council, Israel Gantz, paid tribute to Elisha and said, “Elisha I saw you today for the first time.  On your face was a smile and a special glow… at a meeting with your parents, we saw your deep roots of faith and power and they were the source of our strength.”

“The IDF and the heads of state need to summon the strength and do their part in dealing a crushing blow against an enemy that raised a hand against you and against us.  We will do our part in the way of settlement in your name Elisha, Gantz added.

Two other victims in Tuesday’s attack have been identified as Ofer Fairman, a 60-year-old resident of Eli and Nachman Shmuel Mordoff, a 15-year-old resident of Ahiya.



Israeli Ambassador Spars With UN Envoy Over ‘Immoral, False Comparison’ To Deadly Terror Attack

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan condemned UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland over his response to the deadly terrorist shooting attack in Binyamin in which four Israeli civilians were murdered Tuesday (20th).

“Deeply alarmed by the continuing cycle of violence & appalled by the continued loss of civilian lives.  I strongly condemn today’s shooting attack by a Palestinian perpetrator(s) in the occupied West Bank which resulted in the killing of four Israelis,” Wennesland wrote on Twitter, adding: “I urge all sides to refrain from steps that could further inflame an already volatile situation.”

Erdan wrote in response: “The UN’s empty condemnations mean nothing.  The UN’s representatives make immoral and false comparisons between a democracy neutralizing terrorists posing imminent threats and vicious terrorists targeting innocent civilians.  Calling it a ‘cycle of violence’ only gives a green light for the terrorists to continue.”

The UN does not demand accountability from Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), who refuses to even condemn the murders, while he continues to pay salaries to terrorists and allows sick celebrations on his streets.  This Palestinian behavior cannot be tolerated,” the Israeli ambassador added.

“My heart aches hearing the news of 4 innocent Israelis murdered by despicable Palestinian terrorists.  I send my condolences to the families of the victims,” Erdan said.



Netanyahu Says IDF Preparing If Arab-Israelis Join Enemy In Wartime

The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for a scenario in which Israel’s Arabs join its enemies in wartime, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There are 10 military battalions training for this thing.  Although it is still not enough, they are preparing exactly for this day,” said Netanyahu.

The prime minister made the remarks in response to questions from lawmakers during a recent closed-door session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Kan Bet, Israel’s Public Broadcaster, reported on Monday (19th).

Lawmakers asked Netanyahu if Israel was ready for a multifront war and whether that included preparations for a possible internal threat from certain segments of the Arab Israeli population.

Israel became aware of the possible danger during “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021.  While Israel was engaged in a military operation against terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Arabs within Israel rioted, blocking roads, including those leading to army bases.  Twenty-three police stations were also damaged and about 300 policemen injured.

In response, the IDF incorporated scenarios in which rioting hampered the movement of Israeli forces during wartime in its “Chariots of Fire” exercise in May-June 2022.

Also, in August 2022, the IDF assigned four battalions from one brigade the task of keeping major roads clear and protecting strategic facilities during wartime.

IDF Col. Gur Rosenblatt, the brigade commander, said, “For us, blocking the axis is a serious thing.  In a war, you have to move forces quickly – and everything is based on our freedom of movement.”  

Also, one of the responsibilities of Israel’s new national guard force under the auspices of the National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir will be dealing with intercommunal violence during times of national emergency.



2 Eswatini Children Get Life-Saving Heart Surgery In Israel – NGO Has Helped Children In 69 Countries

Israeli NGO Save a Child’s Heart has once again extended its lifesaving treatment to children in need.  This time, two children along with their mothers have arrived from Eswatini, a small landlocked kingdom located in Southern Africa.

The recent arrival of the two children and their mothers exemplifies the group’s commitment to reaching children in need around the world.  Eswatini, formally Swaziland, has become the 69th country to benefit from the expertise and care provided by Save a Child’s Heart.

These children and their mothers have traveled a long way, seeking a second chance at life. Meanwhile, Save a Child’s Heart provided them with the necessary medical evaluations, treatments and post-operative care to improve their cardiac health and enhance their overall well-being.

One of the children, Liyabonga – or Liya as his family calls him, is a six-year-old boy from Mbabane, the capital of Eswatini.  He is an only child.  His father is currently studying in Rwanda and his mother is a teacher.  When Liya was three days old his mother noticed he wasn’t breathing properly.  Liya was diagnosed with VSD, or ventricular septal defect, a birth defect.

Eswatini doesn’t have a solution for children with heart conditions – Liya’s mother was devastated because she believed there was nothing she could do to save her only child.  She told Ynet: “Finally my child will be able to play with the other children without getting tired so easily.  I’m so grateful to Save a Child’s Heart and all they have done for my family.”

Snothando, the second child from Eswatini, has successfully undergone life-saving open heart surgery.  The skilled medical team at Wolfson Medical Center in Israel ensured that Snothando received the critical treatment he needed for TOF, or Tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of four congenital heart defects that affect infants and children.  Currently, Snothando is on the road to recovery, showing promising signs of progress and winning the hearts of all the hospital staff.  While Snothando is recovering, Liyabonga is waiting for his surgery.

The medical service provided to children who arrive through the association from Africa is complex, according to Dr. Alona Raucher Sternfeld, director of Pediatric Cardiology at Wolfson Hospital.

“First of all, I don’t have the possibility to see them consistently and continuously.  Every cardiologist travels at least twice a year as part of a special expedition to Africa, and this is how we carry out the follow-up.  We set out with two echo machines and examined 400 children in four days.  Some were operated on by us and some were not.”

“We have so far examined 800 children through the association from countries like Tanzania and Zanzibar.  There are countries where we have never been, and suddenly we receive a request by email, by phone or even through Facebook, from a doctor, parent, diplomat or any other official who sends us a description of the case and according to this we need to decide whether to bring the child for surgery in Israel.  Over the years we have learned to assess based on the documents, whether we can help and how..  Of course there is a bureaucratic procedure here, and it takes several months,” she added.

As Save a Child’s Heart expands its reach to Eswatini, it has reinforced its commitment to making a difference in the lives of children worldwide.  The tireless efforts in the field of pediatric cardiac care, along with the support of a dedicated team and generous donors, continue to bring hope and healing to children in need, one country at a time.