News Digest — 6/29/22

‘If You Mess With Israel You Pay A Price,’ Says Bennett In Message To Iran

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday (28th) that when it comes to the Iranian threat, the government’s policy remains the same as with any other enemy, adding that “if you mess with Israel, you pay a price.”

Speaking at a conference marking the start of the annual cyber week at Tel Aviv University, the premier said, “my attitude in general when it comes to our enemies – especially Iran – is that we do not work to create destruction and terror, this has never been our policy.”

“My policy is that if you mess with Israel – you will pay a price.  You will not be able to harm Israel through proxies, Hezbollah or Hamas, thinking you can get away with it.”

He added that “in today’s world it’s no longer necessary to send 100-150 commandos behind enemy lines to inflict damage on adversaries.  Today it is possible to do things – harm the enemy through cyber warfare.”

“Now, all you need is a few people and a keyboard.  In the end cyber will become the most prominent area of combat in the future.”

He added, “I am quite surprised by the shortage, or relative shortage, of cyber tools used in the Ukraine war.  At the geopolitical level, we see a lot of investment around the world in cyber attacks.”

He also acknowledged recent cyber attacks on civilian infrastructure in Israel, saying, “At the end of the day, companies have a personal responsibility that they must take on.  If customers’ information is hacked, it’s the companies’ problem to deal with it.”

At the national level, Israel’s cyber defense system works with companies to help them defend themselves.  Just as there is nuclear deterrence, there will be cyber deterrence,” he concluded.



Hamas Releases Footage Of Israeli Captive Hisham al-Sayeed

Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades released footage of Israeli Arab Hisham al-Sayeed who has been held captive by the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip since 2015 on Tuesday (28th), showing al-Sayeed in bed with an oxygen mask.

The video also shows al-Sayeed’s ID card and an Al-Jazeera broadcast in the background.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, saying “Hamas holds two menatlly ill, sick and suffering civilians, in violation of all international laws and regulations.”

“Distributing a video of a sick person is a heinous and desperate act,” added the PMO, stressing that Israel holds Hamas responsible for the health of its captive citizens.

“Hisham al-Sayeed is not a soldier, but a mentally ill Israeli citizen who crossed the border into the Gaza Strip several times before,” said the PMO.  “Hamas is delaying any chance of a deal.  Hamas’ actions are proof that this is a cynical and criminal terrorist organization.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Israel considers Hamas directly responsible for the plight of its citizens held in violation of international law.”

Al-Sayeed and Mengistu suffer from mental illness and as such “holding them captive for years is an act of inconceivable cruelty.”

He also added that Hamas’ holding onto the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul was “trampling on all boundaries of morality and international law.”

“Hamas’ actions are proof that it is a despicable terrorist organization that holds hostage the citizens of Gaza who pay the price for its actions,” Lapid said.

“I call on the international community, including the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the organizations dealing with the mentally ill, to condemn Hamas for its inhuman behavior and demand that it act in accordance with international law,” Lapid added.

Ashkelon resident Avera Mengistu, originally from Ethiopia, has been held captive since September 2014.  Al-Sayeed, who is from the Bedouin town of al-Hura in the Negev, entered Gaza in April 2015.



‘Our Country Is Falling Apart’ Beirut Resident Tells Israel Media

As if any more proof of the humanitarian crisis afflicting Lebanon was needed, the long lines for bread in Beirut should suffice.  The “bread crisis” is getting worse, bakeries are collapsing and people have no money.  The situation is similar at the gas stations.

The ATM machines are often empty and the public’s anger is growing, sometimes to uncontrollable levels.  A clerk in the public sector was seen on video taking his rage out at a local bank, smashing a glass partition after trying in vain to withdraw his salary.  This is just a snippet of the harsh reality the people of Lebanon are facing.  Everything is expensive, inflation is skyrocketing and the local currency isn’t rebounding.  The people are buckling under the unbearably high cost of living as political chaos abounds.

“Our country is falling apart, it’s very difficult.  People don’t know how to get out of this situation and certainly can’t solve this alone.  Even our leaders can’t cope with what is happening.  Wherever you go, everything is collapsing, you can’t plan for anything.  The youngsters want a future and love Lebanon but if this continues, many will leave because it’s intolerable,” one Beirut resident told Israel Hayom.

“Business owners have fled.  There is nothing holding the economy together.  People don’t allow themselves to consume like they used to.  Families are leaning on charities for basic goods, and even the cost of Wi-Fi has gone up.  The economic issue is the most important.  We can’t wait for political stability in Lebanon because it will never happen.  People need normal lives now, not in another 50 years, that;s what the world needs to understand,” he added.



UN Report: War In Syria Kills 1.5% Of Country’s Population

The UN Human Rights office said on Tuesday (28th) that 306,887 had been killed in Syria during the conflict since March 2011, or about 1.5% of its pre-war population, in what it said was the highest estimate yet.

Syria’s conflict sprang out of peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in March 2011 and morphed into a multi-sided, protracted conflict that sucked in world powers.

The frontlines have been mostly frozen for years but violence is continuing and the humanitarian crisis grinds on with millions still displaced within Syria’s borders.

The latest death toll, based on eight information sources and covering the first 10 years of the conflict through March 2021, amounted to 83 deaths on average each day of whom 18 were children.

“The extent of civilian casualties in the last 10 years represents a staggering 1.5 percent of the total population of the Syrian Arab Republic at the beginning of the conflict, raising serious concerns as to the failure of the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law norms on the protection of civilians,” according to the report which was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Still, the estimate is thought to represent “only a portion of all deaths,” the report said, since it only includes those who died as a direct result of the war and not indirect deaths from lack of healthcare or access to food or water – nor did it include non-civilian deaths.

The top cause of civilian deaths was from so-called “multiple weapons” (35.1%) which includes clashes, ambushes and massacres, a UN report that accompanied the statement showed.  The second cause of death was by heavy weapons (23.3%).

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said this latest analysis would give a “clearer sense of the severity and scale of the conflict.”

The United Nations said last year that at least 350,209 people had been killed in Syria so far.  However, Francesca Marotta, in charge of methodology at the UN rights office, clarified on Tuesday (28th) that those figures also included non-civilians.



Israel Poised To Earn $50B In Gas Sales To Europe

Israel is poised to earn some $50 billion in tax revenues and become a key player in the world energy market, as Europe seeks to obtain natural gas from other sources after cutting off purchases from Russia, says a senior executive in an Israeli energy company.

Yossi Abu, CEO of the NewMed Energy corporation, told news media that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing global financial downturn have put Israel in an advantageous position.

“The world economic crisis dramatically increased the importance of Israeli natural gas, not only for Israel but also on the regional level – for Jordan and Egypt,” Abu told Israel Hayom.

“If we hadn’t made these discoveries, Israeli citizens would be paying at least 60% more for their electricity bills.”

According to Abu, “In Europe, the price of electricity increased by 300%, because the price of natural gas increased dramatically.  In Israel, on the other hand, the price of natural gas is roughly $4.5-$5 per heat unit, while in Europe and Asia it’s $30.  Today Israel has some of the lowest gas prices in the world, and this is reflected in the citizens’ electricity bills.”

Abu’s company partners with the Israeli government on the extraction and production of natural gas from offshore oil fields, under a model which sees Jerusalem collect some 50 percent of the revenue from energy exports.

He urges the Israeli government to ramp up natural gas production, as such a move could prove extremely lucrative for Israel’s financial future.

“If we’re talking about supplying 10-20 BCM per year of gas to Europe for 20 years – we’re talking about a deal of $100 billion,” Abu explained.

“The State of Israel gets 50% of that, without investing anything.  So we’re talking here about dramatic income for the State of Israel.  Natural gas is an extremely significant economic anchor.”

Israel, Egypt and Europe signed a memorandum of understanding in May on gas sales.  Israel will transfer the gas to Egypt by pipeline.  Once liquified and pressurized, the natural gas will be shipped to Europe from Egyptian port cities.

Turkey is also courting Israeli cooperation to supply Europe with gas.



Norwegian Jews To Petition Supreme Court For Recognition Of Jewish Holidays

The Jewish community of Norway is pressing for national recognition of Jewish holidays, citing the lack of guaranteed vacation days for observant Jews, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Monday (27th).

Under Norwegian law, all employees are guaranteed 12 days off per year, though most of those days are tied to Christian holidays.

Non-Christian religious holidays are not included in the national calendar system, even though other faiths, including Judaism and Islam, are recognized by Norwegian law.

To compensate, the law also offers non-Christian workers two extra days of paid leave per year.

But Jewish leaders say the current law leaves many observant Jewish employees without legal protection, allowing employers to compel them to work during their religious holidays.

Ervin Kohn, the former chief of the Jewish Community of Oslo and a trustee on the community’s board, told the JTA that the Jewish community will turn to the Norwegian Supreme Court to strike down the national calendar law, arguing that it violates constitutional rights to freedom of religion.

“The law means that observant Norwegian Jews are expected to choose whether to violate their religion on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah or Passover,” Kohn said.

Kohn called for the gathering of six to seven additional protected days off, while keeping the current 12 holidays enshrined by the national calendar.

“It is important that we as a society have common public holidays,” Kohn wrote in an opinion piece published on the Utrop website.

Kohn suggested the Jewish Community of Oslo may work with representatives of other religions impacted by the current law when it files the Supreme Court petition.

Calling the matter an issue of “international human rights” and religious freedom, Kohn cited Article 16 of the Norwegian Constitution, which reads, “All inhabitants of the realm shall have the right to free exercise of their religion,” and “all religious and belief communities should be supported on equal terms.”

“If a Jewish teacher at an Oslo school takes off two days to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, her employer can deny her time off on Yom Kippur ten days later,” Kohn wrote.  “Denying a Jewish employee time off for Yom Kippur is the same as forcing her to break Jewish holiday rules.  In my eyes, this is obviously a violation of religious freedom.”