News Digest — 6/22/23

Palestinian Terrorist Cell Targeted By IDF Drone Strike Near Jenin

The IDF on Wednesday night (21st) killed a terror cell in the West Bank using a drone, an unusual move generally reserved for targeting major terrorists or rocket firing cells in Gaza.

A joint statement by the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that intelligence from the domestic security agency had located the terror cell in real time as it was perpetrating a shooting attack near Jalma in the Menashe region.

According to the statement, this same terror cell had recently carried out a number of shooting attacks throughout Judea and Samaria.

Once the cell was identified, the IDF gave a rapid order to have the drone fire on and kill the cell before they could escape again, as they had after past shootings.

The drone attack came only days after the IDF used a helicopter strike to help rescue ambushed soldiers in Jenin, signaling the defense establishment is taking off the gloves in the West Bank in an unprecedented way – at least in comparison to recent years dating back to Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.

In September 2022, IDF commanders in the West Bank were given the green light to use armed drones to carry out targeted killings of Palestinian terrorists, with the approval of then IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi.

According to sources, commanders were then allowed to use the platforms not only as cover and intelligence for forces during operations but also to carry out strikes should armed gunmen be identified as posing imminent threats to IDF troops.

The order came as Israeli security forces have encountered a significant rise in shooting attacks and massive gunfire during arrest raids, specifically in the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus.

However, it is only recently that drones, helicopters and other heavier fire power platforms are actually being used in a continuous way.



Young Terrorists Creating ‘Bright Future’ Says Hamas Head Visiting Iran

Hamas politburo head Ismail Haniyeh praised young Palestinians who are embracing jihad against Israel, saying that their enthusiasm for anti-Israel causes signals a “bright future” ahead for terrorist groups, during a diplomatic visit to Iran.

Haniyeh has been in Tehran for several days, meeting with senior officials from the Islamic Republic.

During a meeting on Wednesday (21st) with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest religious authority, Haniyeh discussed escalating terror in Judea and Samaria.

“The recent clashes are clear evidence of the younger generation entering the arena of conflict,” Haniyeh said, Hebrew-language media reported. 

“The entry of the young people into the struggle is a positive sign for a bright future,” he continued, adding that “ the resistance is making unprecedented progress against the occupation [Israel].”

Khamenei said that the global Muslim community supports Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas.

“The Land of Palestine belongs to all Muslims, so all Muslims throughout the world must enter the struggle in order to liberate it,” Khamenei said.

During a meeting earlier this week, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Akbar Ahmadian told Haniyeh that “Palestinian resistance is the best way to overthrow Israel,” according to Iranian state-run media outlet Fars.

Iran and Hamas have long shared close ties, with Haniyeh thanking the Islamic Republic in 2017 for its financial and military support.

On a similar diplomatic visit in April 2022, a delegation composed of high-ranking Hamas officials received a warm welcome in Iran.,

At the time, Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said the late Iranian leader Imam Khomeini “considered Palestine as the main issue of the Islamic world.”  He emphasized that “the Islamic Republic will continue its support for the Palestinians and A-Quds [Jerusalem].”



Following Samaria Massacre, Israel To Build 1,000 New Homes In Eli

The Israeli Government will fast-track approval for 1,000 new homes in the town of Eli in Samaria, in response to the deadly terrorist shooting attack which took place just outside the town Tuesday (20th).

On Wednesday (21st), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich agreed to immediately advance plans for 1,000 new housing units in Eli.

“Our answer to terrorism is to strike at it forcefully and build up our country,” the three leaders said in a joint statement Wednesday afternoon (21st).

Four Israeli Jews were murdered in Tuesday’s (20th) attack, which was carried out by two Palestinian Arab terrorists affiliated with Hamas – Mohannad Shahada and Khaled Saba.  Both terrorists had previously sat in Israel’s Megiddo prison on terror-related charges, and both were shot and killed on Tuesday (20th).

Orit Strock, Minister of National Missions, lauded Wednesday’s (21st) joint announcement to build and expand the town of Eli.

“A thousand more Jewish families in the place where Jewish lives were cut short.  Every terrorist must know that this is the Zionist price tag for murdering Jews.  In the place where they try to uproot us – there we will deepen our roots…. This is a necessary and clear Zionist step, said Strock.

Two of the murder victims, Ofer Fairman, 64, and Nachman Shmuel Mordoff, 15, were laid to rest on Wednesday (21st).  

The two other victims, 21-year-old Harel Masoud, and 17-year old Elisha Antman were laid to rest Tuesday evening (20th).



Hezbollah Terrorists Infiltrate Israel, Set Up Military Post Near Lebanon Border

Up to 10 Hezbollah fighters infiltrated Israel at its northern border and set up a small armed military position a few meters into Israeli territory over a month ago, it was revealed on Wednesday (21st).

The IDF said “the matter is known and is being dealt with by relevant authorities.”

Since the incident, the IDF has been working with the Foreign Ministry and has been in dialogue with UNIFIL to convince the small Hezbollah contingent to withdraw – without the use of force.

The area where the outpost is set up is along the 300 Blue Line in the disputed Har Dov area, with the sub-area sometimes referred to as the Ramtha Lookout Point.

The area is not considered a security threat because it is not close to any Israeli residential areas and is surrounded by IDF forces.

The IDF did not immediately detect the incursion before the outpost was set up, but did so shortly after and attempted some light dispersal means to remove the group.

At press time, the IDF had not provided the distance between the Hezbollah outpost and the nearest IDF unit, which has been said to be relatively small.

The government and the military appear to have decided that making the incursion into a big deal will make it harder to convince Hezbollah to leave on a cooperative basis.

Part of the problem is that there is no clear geographic boundary for marks.  The Blue Line was established by the UN following Israel’s withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000

Over time, the IDF established a series of fences and other obstacles to create a defensible border that runs as close as possible to the coordinates set by the UN.

The IDF and the government appear to want to resolve the issue without leading to a major escalation, considering the fact that Hezbollah possesses 150,000 rockets and an estimated few hundred or more precision rockets.

Still, the IDF said it is committed to removing the outpost.  This incident is viewed as a much lower level provocation than the deadly incident in March when a Hezbollah terrorist not only crossed the border, but traveled more than 80 kms. deep into Megiddo, in Israel, where he detonated a bomb, seriously wounding an Israeli civilian.  



Free Education And Accommodation: Israel’s Plan To Boost Aliyah from France

Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer announced this week a new academic program designed to boost aliyah from France that has already drawn the interest of hundreds of potential  immigrants, Israel Hayom has learned.

The announcement comes against the backdrop of the Aliyah and Integration Ministry switching its focus from encouraging aliyah from Eastern Europe to France and other Western nations.

The program includes, among other things, medicine, and engineering studies, at the Ariel University in Samaria, as part of which students will be able to learn in their native language for the first academic year without prior admission to tests.  Students will also be assigned mentors to aid them through the process.  Masters degree students, in turn, will receive a free education along with accommodation for the first year of their studies as well as Hebrew lessons and mentorship.

“Ever since I took office, I have stressed the importance of aliyah from France,” Sofer said.  The current plans are major news “for young immigrants from France.  I view the immigration of youngsters to Israel as vital for the economy, academics, and the strengthening of the Zionist vision.  The young academics who come to Israel strengthen the economy, enter the job market, and integrate into Israeli society.”

Data shows that 25,264 immigrant students have moved to Israel in the past decade, with most studying at one of the four leading Israeli institutions – the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Reichman University in Herzliya, Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, and Tel Aviv University. 



65 Senators Call To Add Israel To US Visa Waiver Program

Allowing Israel to join the US Visa Waiver Program would “significantly increase the potential for both tourism and business travel,” according to a letter penned by 65 senators to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The move would allow Israelis, like citizens of the countries already in the program, to be exempt from needing a travel visa for visits up to 90 days.

“Approximately 450,000 Israelis travel annually to the US, and that number has been increasing each year.  With 93 weekly direct flights from Israel to  US airports, there is already significant demand for travel,” the senators wrote.  “As such, Israel’s participation in VWP would significantly increase the potential for both tourism and business travel.”

“In pursuit of these benefits for both countries, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security – particularly Ambassador Nides and the entire staff at the US Embassy in Israel – and the Government of Israel have all worked diligently to enable Israel’s eligibility for VWP.”

“In January, Israel’s non-immigrant visa refusal rate fell below 3%, satisfying one key requirement for eligibility for the program, and since that time the Government of Israel has been working to implement the necessary technical requirements for inclusion.”

“Finally, Israel’s parliament has passed all of the legislation to facilitate requisite data sharing, which underscores Israel’s commitment to meeting the necessary benchmarks and gaining admission into VWP.”

Senator Rick Scott (R.-Fla) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) led the bipartisan group of legislators.

“Israel is a key US ally and trading partner.  Waiving the visa requirement for Israelis visiting America reflects these strong ties and will only deepen the relationship to the mutual benefit of both countries,” said AIPAC, which applauded the letter.