News Digest — 6/29/21

New Semi-Autonomous Robot To Be Deployed To Gaza Border

The IDF’s Gaza division will soon deploy a new semi-autonomous robotic ground vehicle called the Jaguar along the border with the Gaza Strip, replacing soldiers where they could be targets by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Developed over the past year and a half by Israel Aerospace Industries in close cooperation with the technological department of the IDF’s Ground Forces Command, it is currently being integrated into the Gaza division.

The Jaguar is equipped with dozens of sensors, an automated driving system, and advanced fire capabilities.

Based on a six-wheeled chassis, it is equipped with a 7.62mm MAG machine gun that can be operated remotely against suspicious objects or people, both while stationary or on the move.

The Jaguar uses high-resolution cameras, dozens of sensors, transmitters and a remote-controlled PA system, and is powered by an electric motor that allows it to patrol the border fence with a low heat signature.

It also has the ability to transmit its precise location to a UAV so that it can be destroyed from the air should it fall into enemy hands.

With IDF observers and commanders in full operational control, the robot can compute a route for itself and then drive itself to the destination.  Using its advanced driving system the Jaguar can also spot and bypass obstacles in its way.

The IDF is always looking for new ways of keeping its military safe, while continuing to do its job protecting the State of Israel and its citizens. 



Biden To Rivlin: ‘Iran Will never Get A Nuclear Weapon On My Watch’

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met on Monday (28th) with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

Rivlin arrived at his farewell visit to the White House at the invitation of the President of the United States, who wished to thank him for his years of activity as President and for promoting partnership, hope and understanding in the State of Israel and its neighbors.  At the start of the meeting, the Presidents made statements to the media.  Biden said that “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,” and “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

Rivlin told President Biden: “Mr. President, I am very happy to be here again.  The State of Israel has no braver and closer friend than the United States.  The unique ties between our two nations have always been based on our common values of democracy and liberalism.  We are partners and friends.  And our well-being depends on your well-being.”

“Friends like us can have disagreements from time to time but these will never jeopardize our close relationship.  Our common mission crosses party and political boundaries.  Even when the leadership changes, our commitment, nation to nation, remains strong.”

“I know that the security of Israel, the well-being of the citizens of Israel, as well as the well-being of American Jews, are very close to your heart, Mr. President.  On behalf of the people of Israel, I thank you and the American people for your unconditional support for Israel and for your work for Israel’s security.”

President Rivlin’s daughter, Anat, who is accompanying him on his trip, gave President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden a pair of mugs prepared for them by Israeli ceramicist Irit Biran, a local artist from Moshav Sde Warburg.



Children’s Book Authors Apologize To Palestinians For Anti-Semitism Condemnation

The only worldwide professional organization for children’s books authors and illustrators issued a fervent apology on Sunday (27th) to Muslim and Palestinian members over a recent condemnation of anti-Semitism that did not discuss Islamophobia, and announced the resignation of the diversity officer who had posted the message.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has over 22,000 members in the US and around the world.  Its members include such prominent writers as Judy Blume, who serves on its board of advisors.

The original SCBWI statement on anti-Semitism published on June 10 acknowledged that Jews “have the right to life, safety, and freedom from scapegoating and fear.” 

Noting the recent precipitous rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence, the statement said, “Silence is often mistaken for acceptance and results in the perpetration of more hatred and violence against different types of people.”

“As proof, it saddens us that for the fourth time this year we are compelled to invite you to join us in not looking away and speaking out against all forms of hate, including anti-Semitism,” it stated.

“As writers, illustrators, and translators of children’s literature, we are responsible for promoting equity and humanizing people in our work – all children and all families,” the group said.

On Sunday (27th), SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver issued an apology, saying, “I would like to apologize to everyone in the Palestinian community who felt unrepresented, silenced, or marginalized.  SCBWI acknowledges the pain our actions have caused to our Muslim and Palestinian members and hope that we can heal from this moment.”

Oliver said that Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer April Powers, who issued the statement had resigned, and that board seats and Equity and Inclusion Committee slots would be created for Muslim members so “no one would be silenced or unsafe.” 

The message included an apology from Powers, saying in part, “I neglected to address the rise in Islamophobia, and deeply regret that omission.”  “As one who is vehemently against hate of any kind, I am so sorry.”     

“While this doesn’t fix the pain that you feel by my mishandling of this moment, I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and resignation from the SCBWI,” Powers said.



Israel Allows Qatar To Resume Sending Fuel To Gaza

Shipments of Qatari-funded fuel into the Gaza Strip will resume for the first time since last month’s 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, the UN envoy to the Mideast said Sunday (27th).

The move indicates a return to the informal understandings between Israel and Hamas in recent years, in which the Islamic terrorist group has traded calm for much-needed aid and development projects in Gaza.

The fuel began deliveries to Gaza’s sole power plant on Monday (28th), UN envoy Tor Wennesland said in a statement.  

The Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in Gaza confirmed the deliveries without saying who was paying for the fuel.  The military said permission for the deliveries was “conditional on the continued maintenance of security stability.”

Last month’s war was halted by an informal truce brokered by Egypt.  Hamas has demanded a significant easing of the blockade while Israel has vowed to respond militarily to any attacks from the Hamas territory.

The delivery of Qatari aid is controversial in Israel, where critics say it rewards terrorism.  When he was Education Minister, current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a 2018 interview with Israel media, compared it to “protection money.”

Qatar has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to pay for electricity, help Hamas cover the salaries of its civil servants and provide monthly stipends to poor families.  Qatar has also funded the construction of new roads and hospitals in Gaza.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas violently seized power from rival Palestinian forces.  Israel says the restrictions are needed to keep Hamas from importing military resources instead of using its aid to benefit civilians.



No Accident: Israeli Dash Cam Startup Helps Make America’s Roads Safe

Israeli dash cam manufacturer Nexar, whose products enable crowd-sourced vision, and Blyncsy, a Salt Lake City-based movement and data intelligence company, are partnering to collect data on America’s 4.1 million miles of  public  highway and provide actionable insights to the state and local governments that maintain them.

National studies show that effective marking of roadways saves lives.  Over 50% of fatalities on America’s roadways result when motorists veer out of their travel lanes, according to federal data.  Most road markings are repainted only once a year, but with harsh weather conditions and degrading asphalt, markings often need to be repainted or maintained more often.  The challenge for transportation heads is knowing how their roads are performing on a daily basis and responding proactively before problems develop.

Blyncsy’s Paver technology uses the billions of real-time images and detections collected from Nexar dash cams currently in use on America’s roads and applies Blyncsy’s proprietary machine learning models to understand the changing road conditions and visibility of pavement markings.  The technology can also be used to map locations of stop signs, traffic lights, lane lines, and curbs, all valuable data that can also be used to train autonomous vehicles.

Nexar co-founder and CEO Eran Shir said his company was “proud to partner with Blyncsy using our combined AI smart technology to improve our roads.”

“With many cities investing in expensive lidar technologies to monitor their streets and roads, or human surveyors, the crowd-sourced vision data from Nexar ‘sees’ the world at eye-level just like we do and provides superior insights at a fraction of the cost.  Pavement monitoring is just one example of Nexar;s value while other cities and businesses are using the data to monitor and understand curb use, real estate trends, pedestrian traffic, construction, and more.  Nexar creates a platform that other companies can run their AI on and in some cases applies its own AI, such as work-zone detections in the Las Vegas Valley,” Shir explained.  

Mark Pittman, founder and CEO of Blyncsy said, “We know that machine learning is only as strong as the data it depends on.  With this partnership, we’re giving government agencies a magnifying glass for their infrastructure, plus the power of continuous pattern analysis and predictive analytics.  We’re excited to see how this combination can impact public servants, communities, and people everywhere.”