News Digest — 6/25/19

13 Fires From Incendiary Balloons – Israel Halts Fuel To Gaza

Israel announced early Tuesday (25th) that it was halting transfer of fuel to the Gaza Strip’s only power plant until further notice.  The decision was a response to a surge in incendiary balloons launched from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave into Israel.

Thirteen fires broke out Monday (24th) in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip – all of them from incendiary balloons launched into Israel.

Firefighting teams, together with KKL-JNF personnel, operated all day to control the flames and extinguish them.

One of the balloons landed in a kindergarten in the Sdot Negev Council just minutes after the end of the school day.  There were no casualties or damages.  

“Every day there are fires in the vicinity, and there’s no proper response from Israel,” said Tamir Idan, Sdot Negev Regional Council head.  “If the fire-balloon had landed a few minutes earlier, there would have been kindergarten children present.” she added.

In the Nir Am reservoir fire broke out and burned the memorial site of Assaf Siboni, who was killed in a helicopter disaster.  

MK Alan Shuster said, “This time terror hit a particularly dear spot: the Assaf Siboni Observation Point.  The epicenter of a helicopter disaster that was set up by Shlomit Siboni, Assaf’s mother, was burned down today by fire terror.”

Shuster said he spoke with Shlomit and her daughter Dafna, on Monday (24th) and was encouraged by their determined spirit to work on refurbishing the memorial site to her son.

According to a statement, five of the fires were sparked in the Eshkol Regional Council, southeast of Gaza, three in the Sha’ar Hanegev area northeast of the Strip, and five in the Sdot Negev region, east of Gaza.

Tensions with Gaza have been steadily rising in recent weeks amid a spike of balloon attacks, including some carrying explosive devices that detonated either in the air or on the ground.  

Earlier this month there was a fresh surge in violence, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli Air Force strikes. 



Palestinians Launch Three-Day Protests Against Bahrain Workshop

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated on Monday (24th) in protest of the US-led economic conference scheduled to begin in Bahrain on Tuesday (25th).

The protests, organized  by the ruling Fatah faction, are expected to last for three days.  Palestinians gathered in the center of Ramallah chanting slogans against Israel and the U.S.  They carried placards reading: “No to the Occupation,” “No to the Deal of the Century,” “No to the Bahrain Workshop,” “The Bahrain Workshop is a Conspiracy to Steal the Rights of our People,” and “Jerusalem is not for Sale.”

The “Deal of the Century” refers to U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East.  Protesters claim participation in the conference is a form of “collusion” with Israel. Some carried black coffins marked with the words “Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation resolutions – implying that the Bahrain conference contradicts decisions by the two bodies in support of the Palestinians.  

Jamal Muheissen, a senior Fatah official, spoke at the rally saying that Palestinians must be united in their effort to thwart the “deal of shame.”

In Jenin, Palestinian protesters took to the streets carrying placards reading: “The Refugees and Jerusalem are not for Sale,” and “Palestine is Ours and Cannot be Bought or Sold.”

Similar protests took place in Hebron, and other Palestinian cities in the West Bank. 

In the Gaza Strip, protesters against the Bahrain conference burned photos of Trump and U.S. and Israeli flags.  Hamas and other Palestinian factions have called for a general strike in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday (25th), including protests in front of the UN Headquarters in Gaza City. 



Take The Palestinians’ “No” For An Answer – Eugene Kontorovich

The only agenda at this week’s U.S.-led Peace to Prosperity conference in Bahrain is improving the Palestinian economy.  The plan’s 40-page overview contains nothing at odds with the Palestinians’ purported diplomatic goals. Given that, the Palestinian Authority’s unwillingness to discuss economic opportunities for its own people, even with the Arab states, shows how far it is from discussing the concessions necessary for a diplomatic settlement.  Instead, it seeks to deepen Palestinian misfortune and use it as a cudgel against Israel in the theater of international opinion.

This isn’t the first time the Palestinians said no.  At a summit brokered by President Clinton in 2000, Israel offered them full statehood on 92% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza.  The Palestinian Authority rejected that offer and others in 2001 and 2008. When President Obama pressured Israel into a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009 to renew negotiations, the Palestinians refused to come to the table.  The Palestinians are perhaps the only national independence movement in the modern era that has ever rejected a genuine offer of internationally recognized statehood, even if it falls short of all the territory the movement had sought.

The Palestinians can comfortably turn down once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because almost all Palestinians already live under Palestinian government.  The Palestinian Authority cannot be forced to accept a peace settlement, but rejectionism must have its consequences.

The writer is director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East and a law professor at George Mason University.



Iran Currently Setting Up Terror Cells In Africa To Attack U.S., Others

The Islamic Republic of Iran is spreading its state-sponsored terrorism to West African countries to attack the U.S. and Western assets, the British Daily Telegraph reported this week. 

“Iran is setting up a network of terror cells in Africa to attack U.S. and other Western targets in retaliation for Washington’s decision to impose sanctions against Tehran, according to Western security officials,” said the newspaper.

The article by veteran defense and security journalist Con Coughlin said that the “new terror network has been established on the orders of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the elite section of Iran’s Republican Guard Corps that has responsibility for overseas operations.”

The United States government classifies Iran’s regime as the leading international state sponsor of terrorism.

According to the Telegraph, “The aim of the new terror cells is to target U.S. and other Western military bases on the continent, as well as embassies and officials.  The Iranian cells are said to be active in a number of African countries including Sudan, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Gambia and the Central African Republic.”

The report noted “Intelligence officers say Iran has been working on the new terror network for the past three years since signing the nuclear deal on freezing its uranium enrichment activities with the US and other major world powers in 2015.” 

Coughlin wrote that “The operation is being organized by Unit 400, a highly specialized section of the Quds Force which is run by Hamed Abdollahi, a veteran Republican Guard officer who was designated by the U.S. as supporting terrorist activity in 2012.”

The African cells are said to be run by Ali Parhoon, another senior Iranian officer in Unit 400.  Details of the terror cells’ existence were uncovered following a series of arrests in Chad in April.



Tourists Banned From Bringing ‘Jewish Items’ Into Jordan From Israel

Tourists crossing the Israeli border into Jordan are currently not allowed to bring Jewish ritual items, such as prayer shawls or phylacteries, or souvenirs bearing Jewish symbols with them, a tourism official claimed last week.

The Globes business website reports that on June 19, head of the Incoming Tour Operators Association, Yossi Fattal contacted the directors general at the foreign and tourism ministries and reported a “grave phenomenon” in which tourists who travel from Israel to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge crossing are reportedly being told by Jordanian border patrol personnel to relinquish items featuring Jewish symbols and Jewish religious objects.

Jordan was arguing that the decision not to allow “Jewish items” into the country stemmed from security concerns, but Fattal blasted the decision as “unreasonable” and “counter to common sense.”

Fattal explained that many of the tourists had purchased souvenirs during their sojourn in Israel and were angry and disappointed at being told they were not allowed to bring them into Jordan.  Fattal said the issue was creating a PR problem for Israeli tourism operators, who were being blamed for not warning the visitors that they would not be allowed to bring their items into Jordan, and for vendors, who could potentially see souvenir sales drop off as a result of the Jordanian ban.

In a letter, Fattal pressed Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi and Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem to reach out to their Jordan counterparts and clarify whether the Jordanian border personnel were acting on official instructions.

“If this is the case, similar measures should be considered for tourists crossing into Israel from Jordan,” Fattal argued.