News Digest — 6/4/20

Knesset Closes After Arab MK Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Israel’s parliament was forced to close down Thursday (4th) after an Arab member of the Knesset tested positive for the coronavirus.  He had sat on several committees before his diagnosis.

A Knesset statement said, “it was decided as a precaution to cancel all committee meetings planned for the Knesset today” and the parliament’s 700 workers were ordered to stay at home after Arab joint List member Samy Abu Shahadeh announced overnight that he had the virus.

“I received a few minutes ago the corona test result I did today – the result is positive,” Abu Shahadeh tweeted shortly after midnight.  “I appeal to anyone who was in my immediate area to isolate and do a test.” 

The 44-year-old resident of Tel Aviv who started his political career with a stint on the Tel Aviv Jaffa City Council said he felt fine and didn’t have any symptoms, but had been in contact with “thousands” of people since the government started easing restrictions two weeks ago and warned Israelis of the consequences.

“I ask everyone to follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health,” Abu Shahadeh said. “We must all internalize that the campaign is not over yet.  The virus still exists among us and the supposed return to routine helps the virus spread in a big and fast way.  Wishing lots of health to all of us.”

Abu Shahadeh went into quarantine this week after his driver tested positive for coronavirus and had himself tested.  The legislator told Kan Radio that in recent days he had been in contact with thousands of people in and out of the Knesset, where he had been in committee rooms, the plenum hall and even the cafeteria. 

The Knesset closing came as a number of schools closed due to new outbreaks.  As a result, the Health Ministry has reopened six drive-through test centers around the country urging people to get themselves tested.



Turkey Creeps Toward Temple Mount, Inaugurates New Center In Jerusalem

Turkey has inaugurated a building it has renovated as an activity center on a street near the Temple Mount, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday (3rd).

The center is a kind of guest house, featuring a restaurant and cafe.

The new center features the Turkish and Palestinian flags, pictures of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the latter likely due to his resistance to Zionist efforts to rebuild the Land of Israel, then under Ottoman control.  Also at the center are books available to guests on the “true inheritance” of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, according to Israel Hayom.

A film is projected at the center featuring Erdogan speaking about “occupied Jerusalem.”

The renovations were carried out by the Turkish government-funded Cooperation and Coordination Agency, also known as  TIKA.  TIKA has invested millions of dollars into 63 different projects “defending and strengthening the Muslim heritage and character of Jerusalem” since 2004.

The paper says that Amir Abu Hadjie, who runs the center, posted on social media several years ago items that identified with the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement which was outlawed by Israel in 2015 for criminal activities and its support for Hamas.  He also posted an illustration of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, who reported on the new center, says it’s a foothold of revolutionary Islam in the heart of Jerusalem, Israel Hayom reports.

“This is how they buy the public with a big Turkish embrace, through business, tourists and money,” Kedar said.

The center “embodies the spirit of the Muslim Brotherhood coalition, which Erdogan leads, against the Muslim regimes like Saudi Arabia or Jordan, which now find themselves in retreat and weakened in Jerusalem.”

Israel Hayom reported on Monday (1st) that since December, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been conducting secret talks concerning giving the Saudis presence on the Temple Mount.

Jordan, which is in charge of Muslim buildings on the Temple Mount, wants Saudi support to help fend off the challenge from Turkey to its authority in Jerusalem.



Conciliation Of The Century Between Jordan And Saudi Arabia – Nadav Shragai

Turkey, which is increasing its real estate holdings and its influence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, is threatening to depose the Jordanians from their role as the custodians over the Muslim holy sites on the Mount.  At the same time, old rivals Jordan and Saudi Arabia could be headed toward rapprochement due to their shared animosity toward Turkey.

The Jordanians and Saudis have been dueling for control of the Muslim holy sites for 100 years.  The Hashemite dynasty, which now controls Jordan, ruled Saudi Arabia until 1924 and was kicked out by the House of Saud.  The Hashemites lost their custodianship of Mecca and Medina and have never forgiven the Sauds for it.  Jordan’s current about-face may stem from its late realization of Erdogan’s growing power in eastern Jerusalem.



IDF Allows A Peek At Its New Top Secret Unit For Advanced Warfare

The IDF’s new Shiloah Brigade is using advanced technology to develop solutions to the threats to Israel’s security posed by Iran and its proxy terror groups – Hamas and Hezbollah, Walla News reported Wednesday (3rd).

In a rare glimpse into the workings of the top secret unit, some of the new experimental fighting methods and technological ideas were revealed.  Formed last year, Shiloah has recruited some of the best minds in the Army and Air Force to develop new ways to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge in combat.

The specific details were not revealed, but it is known that Shiloah is implementing new combat and technology – including cyber and laser – to counter the threats from the rockets and tunnels used by the Hamas terror group in Gaza and Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, both of which are armed, trained and funded by Iran.

Shiloah is also dealing with the threat of ballistic missiles from Iran, widely suspected of being the delivery method for a future Iranian nuclear weapon from a regime that has repeatedly stated its goal of wiping Israel off the map.

“The IDF needs to have a body that is constantly attentive to innovation, as the latter yields many fruits that can and must be utilized to improve combat effectiveness,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said at the dedication of the unit’s new headquarters last month.

Kochavi had hinted that Iranian ballistic missiles were on the agenda, saying the Shiloah Brigade is helping “the IDF’s campaign against steep orbit firing – the IDF needs to manage from morning till night…to respond to the steep orbit threat.”

The commander of the high-tech brigade, Brig, Gen. Eran Niv elaborated that at the heart of the unit’s activity is the central need to formulate ideas and develop advanced fighting methods.

The brigade receives regular intelligence updates not just on the capabilities of Israel’s enemies, but also what those enemies are developing for the future.  This helps define operational problems posed by the enemy, which the IDF now has to solve, like the example of the enemy disappearing in tunnels or under the cover of buildings.  Shiloah then develops sophisticated operational solutions for use in the field.   

Planning takes place on both the tactical and strategic level.  Tactically, Israel must determine which weapons and combat systems to use and refine them after receiving feedback in the field.  Strategically, Israel must look ahead over the next 10-15 years with the goal of anticipating the enemy in advance and putting those advances onto the battlefield.

Current priorities of the Shiloah Brigade include improving solutions to the Hamas and Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels and the effort by both terror groups to obtain more accurate rockets.  Operation Northern Shield in 2018 targeted Hezbollah tunnels.

The unit is also refining new methods and technology to speed up the transmission of high-accuracy information directly to Air Force pilots, cutting down the number of steps needed to go from determining a target on the ground to the moment the fighter plane hits the target with smart weapons.



Tel Aviv’s Soccer Stadium Tests Misting Tunnel To Disinfect Players

Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium has installed a special tunnel to spray soccer players arriving for matches with a fine disinfectant mist to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The pilot of the tunnel, which will run until the end of the season, comes as sports leagues around the globe are preparing to resume play but grapple with how to ensure the health of players and fans.

Israel’s soccer league has resumed behind closed doors but without fans.

The tunnel uses electrolyzed water – produced by the electrolysis of water and salt – which has long been approved as a disinfectant.

Researchers at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University say they have developed technology to prolong the shelf life of electrolyzed water.

RD Pack, an Israeli company specializing in automation, installed the disinfectant dispersal system into the tunnel.  A water-pump machine senses when someone enters and spray-nozzles automatically open for 15 seconds, bathing players and their belongings in a sanitizing mist.

“We are not a cure for the coronavirus, we are fighting against its spread,” said Eran Druker, RD Pack vice president for business development.

Since the pilot began on Saturday (5/30) three matches have been played at Bloomfield.  Players, staff and media are not obliged to walk through the glass tunnel, but Druker estimated about 200 people have done so before each match.

“Most people want to go through it.  They feel much more secure,” he added.

Bar-Ilan researcher Izaak Cohen said their patented disinfectant has been tested in the lab on coronavirus as well as on other viruses and bacteria.

The disinfectant can also be used on surfaces in hospitals, offices, airports, hotels, buses and schools, substituting toxic chemical disinfectants such as bleach, researchers said.