News Digest — 6/26/23

Israel Confirms: Iranian Attack On Jewish, Israeli Targets In Cyprus Foiled

Israel on Sunday evening (25th) confirmed Cypriot media reports that an Iranian terrorist attack against Israeli and Jewish targets in the Island nation of Cyprus was thwarted.

The Prime Minister’s Office wrote in a statement: “Israel commends the thwarting of the Iranian terrorist attack in Cyprus against Israeli targets.  The State of Israel is using a wide range of methods everywhere in order to defend Jews and Israelis and will continue to act in order to uproot Iranian terrorism wherever it rears its head, including in Iran, the main fomenter of terrorism in the world.

According to the report earlier Sunday (25th), the plot, which was planned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was thwarted in cooperation with the intelligence services of  Israel and the United States.

The security authorities in Cyprus followed the Revolutionary Guards suspects for a long time.  They are believed to have trained in the Turkish-occupied territories in northern Cyprus and were sent to carry out an attack.

This is the second such incident connected to the Revolutionary Guards in Cyprus in the last two years.  In 2021, an Azeri citizen with a Russian passport was arrested for planning terrorist acts against Israeli targets on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Iran has been implicated in numerous terrorist plots to attack Israeli and Jewish targets around the world.  About three months ago, the Ministry of Defense and the Anti-Terrorism Unit  in Greece arrested two suspects of Pakistani origin planning a terrorist attack against Israeli targets in the country, including in Athens.

Greek authorities said the suspects were planning to attack the Chabad of Athens Center and had staked out the center for several days in preparation for the attack.

In November 2022, the country of Georgia announced that it had foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate Israeli-Georgian businessman Itsik Moshe. 

The plot, which involved Pakistanis affiliated with Al-Qaeda, came to light after Georgian security forces noticed a member of the Pakistani agents acting suspiciously.



West Bank Shooting Attack:  IDF Forces Fired On From Passing Vehicle, No Casualties Reported

Israel Defense Forces soldiers were fired on Sunday morning (25th) from a passing vehicle in the West Bank near the Gilad Farms outpost.  A patrol force from the Givati unit returned fire and a hit was detected; no Israeli casualties have been reported.

The IDF spokesman said that “terrorists fired from a passing vehicle at a military force that was staying at a military post near Nablus.  The force responded by firing and hit the terrorists’ vehicle.  Although there were no casualties, the military post was damaged,  The IDF soldiers are searching the area for suspects. 

The IDF force was manning the checkpoint when it encountered the terrorists’ car.  At least two people were riding in the vehicle.  

IDF forces said the rear window of the terrorists’ car was shot out, and that the vehicle fled toward Nablus.  Security forces put up roadblocks at the entrances to Nablus in order to locate and capture the vehicle.

The area where the Gilad Farms outpost is located is near the entrances to Nablus, where there are several IDF positions located.

Overnight Saturday (24th), a terrorist shot at the security forces at the Qalandiya crossing at the entrance to Jerusalem, slightly wounding two men ages 22 and 24, including a civilian security guard.  The forces returned fire and neutralized the terrorist.  The terrorist who arrived on foot, fired with an M-16 rifle.  Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting.



Golan Wind Turbine Project That Set Off Rare Clashes ‘Put On Hold’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a brief freeze in construction on a wind project in the Golan Heights that set off a rare clash between Druze residents and police.

Netanyahu said late Saturday (24th)  that he agreed to a pause on the project during this week’s Muslim Eid al Adha holiday, which is meant to allow time for talks to defuse the crisis.  The project is expected to resume next week.  A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that he made the decision based on advice from security officials.

The Druze oppose the plan, which would install more than two dozen 660 foot tall turbines throughout their land.  The landowners said the turbines will harm their agricultural output and that the energy company behind the project didn’t consult with them in good faith, a claim the company denies.

Last week, thousands of residents demonstrated against the project, storming a police station, blocking roads, shooting live fire into the air, and throwing stones, according to police.

While Druze leaders in the Golan still profess allegiance to Syria, relations with Israel are usually good in other parts of the country.  The Golan is a popular vacation destination for Israelis and is filled with hotels and restaurants, and most residents speak Hebrew fluently.  Violent clashes with Israeli authorities in the area are rare.



Dangerous Hamas-Hezbollah Ties Flourish In Lebanon Camps

Ties between Hamas and Hezbollah are growing stronger and more dangerous in the refugee camps across Lebanon raising concerns about the security of the UN-administered camps.

The Iranian government has taken advantage of Hamas’ financial difficulties, allowing the terror group to establish itself in southern Lebanon.  This access comes at  a cost:  In return, Iran has demanded that the Palestinian terror group give more deference to Tehran and Hezbollah and essentially end Hamas’ relationship with Egypt.

This alliance gives Hamas strategic depth and influence in the refugee camps, allowing the Sunni Muslim terror group to become part of Southern Lebanon’s Shiite fabric.  The volatile Palestinian camps were previously dominated by Fatah.  Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sees Hamas as his “proxy” against Israel, seemingly enabling him to act without drawing Israeli missiles to Hezbollah targets.

The alliance of Iranian-backed terror groups known as the Jerusalem Axis is Iran’s counterweight  to the Abraham Accords.  This axis finds support in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.   

However, Hamas is caught in a web of internal and external interests, often conflicting with each other.  Tehran dictates the pace of Hamas’ establishment in Lebanon, interfering in its internal affairs and demanding its compliance with the authority of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ senior figures, and particularly Nasrallah.

Last week, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad held a meeting with senior Iranian officials.  Hamas requested increased financial aid from the Iranians, citing difficulties related to trading in bitcoin.

The meeting was the first encounter between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran since the five-day Israel-Gaza conflict in May.  Israel launched “Operation Shield and Arrow” with the targeted killing of three senior Islamic Jihad members in Gaza on May 9, in response to rocket fire from the Strip.  Islamic Jihad launched some 1,500 rockets at civilian centers, to which the Israel Defense Forces responded by striking some 400 terror targets in Gaza.

Notably, Hamas did not mobilize to support Islamic Jihad.

Currently, there are more than 479,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12  camps overseen by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).  Lebanese law severely restricts Palestinians from working in many professions, owning land, or claiming other rights held by other foreign nationals who live and work in Lebanon.

In Southern Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces are very weak in the face of Hezbollah.  UNRWA, which runs the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and Judea and Samaria turns a blind eye for fear of Hamas, Fatah and other armed groups.

Relations between Hamas and Hezbollah soured in 2011 when Khaled Mashaal, then the supreme leader of Hamas, made statements supporting Syrian rebels which led Syrian President Bashar Assad to close the terror group’s offices in Damascus.

A Hamas move to Qatar proved short-lived as the Qataris moved to reconcile with moderate Gulf neighbors who did not take kindly to the presence of a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in their region.  Turkey has hosted many senior Hamas leaders on its soil, but has since reconciled with Israel.

The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip has been working to distance itself from taking sides in the Syrian civil war.  Hamas leaders abroad – particularly Saleh Arouri – want to bring the terror group even further into the orbit of Iran and Hazbollah.  And both Iran and Hezbollah are capitalizing on Hamas’ vulnerability.

The strained relations between Hezbollah and Hamas’ current Gaza leader, Yahya Sinwar, was evident during Hamas’ 2021 elections when Sinwar faced media humiliation and challenges from Hezbollah-backed candidate Nazar Avdalah.

Sinwar has since been cautious in his public statements, praising Iran’s contribution to the Palestinians.



Netanyahu: Eliminate Aspiration For PA State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said in a closed meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel is preparing for the day after Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is gone, Kan Reshet Bet reported.

According to the report, Netanyahu said at the meeting, “We are preparing for the day after Abbas.  We need the Palestinian Authority.  We can not allow it to collapse.  We also do not want it to collapse.  We are prepared to help it financially.  We have an interest in the Palestinian Authority continuing to work.”

He added that, “In the areas in which it manages to act, it does the work for us.  And we have no interest in it collapsing.”

When asked by an MK about the Palestinian Authority Arabs’ goal for an independent state, Netanyahu repeated a single sentence, “We need to eliminate their aspirations for a state.”

Abbas, 88, is in his 19th year of a four-year-term as Chairman of the PA.  He has refused to have elections for nearly 20 years, and has not yet named a successor.  Earlier this month, it was reported that Abbas’ condition had deteriorated and he is no longer able to fulfill all of his duties.



“10 Minutes From Auschwitz”: Israel’s Artistic Swimmers Win Gold At European Games

Israel’s artistic swimmers won a gold medal Friday (23rd) at the European games held in Poland, in a victory hailed as being even more poignant, occurring “just 10 minutes from Auschwitz.”

Israel won gold in the Team Free Routine Combination with Germany grabbing the silver medal and Turkey getting bronze.

Israel Olympic Association Chairperson Yael Arad hailed the victory.

“There is nothing more symbolic than standing with your head held high and singing Hatikvah [the Israeli national anthem] just 10 minutes from Auschwitz,” she said, adding that “our whole team had tears in its eyes.”

“We promised to carry the memory of our Jewish brethren and that is what we are doing,” she said.

The games are being hosted in the Polish city of Krakow, just a short distance from the site of the Nazi death camp.

Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million European Jews, one million of whom died at the camp between 1940 and 1945 along with more than 100,000 non-Jews.