News Digest — 6/5/20

Syria: Israeli Aircraft Bomb Sites In Masyaf

Israeli airstrikes targeted sites in the area of Masyaf in northern Syria on Thursday night (4th), Syrian state media said.  There were reports of nine dead.

According to the official SANA news site, the country’s air defenses were activated by the attack.

Syrian war analysts identified the target of the strike – based on photographs and videos of the scene – as Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, also known as CERS, a laboratory associated with the manufacture of chemical arms and advanced missiles, which was also reportedly bombed by Israel in July 2018.

The general area around Masyaf, which has a major Iranian presence, has reportedly been targeted by Israel many times in the past.

Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran and its proxies, notably the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, are developing precision-guided missiles, which Israel sees as one of the major strategic threats facing it.

The Masyaf facility is located just a few kilometers from Syria’s advanced S-300 anti-aircraft battery and a yet more advanced Russian-operated S-400 battery, neither of which appeared to be used to repel the attack.

The reported Israeli attack on Thursday night (4th) came days after an airstrike in eastern Syria that was also attributed to Israel and was said to have killed five non-Syrian fighters backed by Iran.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011, targeting government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah.

Israel as a rule does not comment on specific airstrikes, but does generally acknowledge carrying out attacks inside Syria against Iranian forces and Iranian proxy militias.



Tel Aviv School Latest To Switch To Distance Education As Virus Spreads, 87 Israeli Schools Closed

Bialik-Rogozin School in southern Tel Aviv was the latest education establishment to be shut down on Thursday (4th) after a student tested positive for coronavirus.  The school has more than 1,200 students from the first grade to senior year.

As of Thursday, 87 schools and kindergartens have closed across the country after students or staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since the reopening of educational institutions by the government, 301 students and school staff have been diagnosed positive for the virus.  These numbers are in addition to the 13,696 who are currently in isolation due to the virus throughout the country.

An education official in Tel Aviv told Ynet that health authorities must take further precautions besides halting studies at the school.

The Tel Aviv Municipality said that Bialik-Rogozin is the latest of the city schools to switch to distance learning after Hayarden, Galilee Keshet, and Gvanim schools did the same after students contracted the pathogen.

Education Minister Yoav Galant said that high school students who are currently in quarantine will be given an alternative date for their matriculation exams.

“The ministry is preparing to address the issue of students in isolation – we will let them take their tests at a later date,” he said in a statement.  

Earlier Thursday (4th), three schools were closed down in Jaffa after students and teachers were found to be carrying the virus.

Due to the fear of another outbreak in the city, Magen David Adom emergency services will operate testing booths for residents at the Jaffa port.

The northern city of Safed also announced on Thursday (4th) that a resident of the city who works as a shuttle driver for students has been found to carry the virus.



Norway To Withhold Funding To Palestinians Over Hateful, Violent Textbooks

Norway said Thursday (4th) that it will withhold half of the year’s funding to the Palestinian Authority’s education system until it stops using textbooks that promote hate and violence.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide made the announcement in response to a parliamentary question on the issue.  She said Norwegian aid to the Palestinian education sector does not go for textbooks or other educational material and is part of a larger program that includes donors from several countries.  In 2019, the program included the construction of 220 new classrooms and 63 new public schools.

Soreide also said that she raised the issue in a meeting with the PA Education Minister, Marwan Awartan, on May 21 and in February with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. 

The European Union commissioned a report by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research following a report by the NGO IMPACT-se that found incitement to hatred, violence and martyrdom in PA textbooks.

In May, the European Parliament passed resolutions that condemn the Palestinian Authority for continuing to teach hate and oppose EU aid to the Palestinian Authority being used for this purpose.

“This is an unprecedented decision by Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said in a statement.  “In carrying out the declaration of the Norwegian parliament in December 2019 to cut Norwegian aid to Palestinian education until the hate is removed from textbooks, the minister has taken a principled stand, championing the teaching of respect for others, and tolerance and peacemaking as the way to resolve conflict.”



Three Airlines Resume Flights To Israel

Three airlines have restarted scheduled services to Israel that were halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.  

Air Canada, Delta, and German carrier Lufthansa all made good on their promises from last months to begin flights.

The Ben Gurion Airport online flight timetable on Thursday (4th) showed a Delta flight from New York landed at 5:14 p.m.

A Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt was scheduled to arrive later in the evening, followed by an Air Canada flight from Toronto arriving on Friday morning (5th).

They were joining United Airlines, which never paused its flights to Israel, and Hungary-based budget airliner Wizz that has also resumed flights.

However, a ban on non-Israelis entering the country remains in place, and Israelis who return must still enter self-quarantine for two weeks.

On May 20, the Israel Airports Authority notified airlines that non-citizens would be barred until at least June 15th.  The order had been set to expire on May 30th.

Almost all air travel to Israel was shut down due to the coronavirus restrictions, with only a handful of flights weekly, including a daily route to Newark, New Jersey, flown by United Airlines.

Israel has rolled back many internal restrictions as infection rates dropped off but limitations on arrivals in the country remain.

In May, Delta said it would restart its service with four weekly flights operating to and from the US on Saturday nights, Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.

Luthansa said last month it would provide a total of six flights a week to Tel Aviv from Frankfurt and Munich, with three flights between each city and Israel.   



Polish Journalist Calls Jews “Ruthless” And The Holocaust “A Myth” In New Book

A Polish anti-Semitism watchdog is calling out right-wing journalist Rafal Ziemkiewicz over his latest book, which calls Jews “ruthless” and the Holocaust “a myth.”

The Open Republic Association argued to the Warsaw prosecutor’s office that the book, which hit stores last week, is a criminal example of hate-speech based on nationality.  Ziemkiewicz also writes in it that young Israelis are “killing machines.”

The association’s statement says that excerpts from the book that were published online “do not leave any doubt that the book proclaims anti-Semitic views intended to cause hatred towards Jews, as well as cast doubt on historical facts about the Holocaust of Jews during World War II.”

The Association pulled a quote from the book: “Zionism because of the Holocaust, or rather the myth of the Holocaust, which it built itself, gained particular cruelty.  Shoah has proved, its prominent representatives say today, that Jews must be ruthless.”

In 2018, Ziemkiewicz, who is also a popular science fiction author, canceled a speaking tour to the United Kingdom after British parliament members and other campaigners spoke out against his views, which had been described as anti-Semitic.