News Digest — 6/8/22

Syrian And Russian Air Forces Conduct Joint Drill Over Syria

The air forces of Russia and Syria conducted a joint drill over the war-torn country Tuesday (7th), the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began more than three months ago, Syria’s Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said that two Russian SU-35 fighter jets and six Syrian MiG-23 and Mig-29 aircraft simulated facing “hostile” warplanes and drones, as Syrian pilots dealt with them with cover and support from the Russian warplanes, it said.

“All elusive targets were monitored and completely destroyed while aerial targets were hit at night for the first time,” the Syrian Defense Ministry said in a statement.  It also released a video of the warplanes that it said took part in the drill.

The announcement came hours after Syrian state television reported that Israeli missiles targeted Syrian Army positions south of the capital of Damascus, causing material damage to a weapons depot but no casualties.

State TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that Israeli warplanes fired several missiles while flying over the Golan Heights after midnight Monday (6th).  

There was no comment on the Israeli strike.

According to Syrian state media, Israeli missiles targeted central Syria on May 13, killing five soldiers.

Russia became involved militarily in Syria in 2015 helping to tip the balance of power in favor of President Bashar Assad’s forces in the 11-year conflict that has killed half a million people.

The Syrian Defense Ministry said that during Tuesday’s drill, the Russian and Syrian warplanes carried out joint patrols along the Golan Heights and parts of south Syria.

The last such drill was conducted a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.  In mid-February, the Russian military deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to Syria for massive naval drills in the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

It says it targets bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria fighting on the side of Assad’s government forces, as well as arms shipments believed to be bound for the militias, and meant for use against Israel.



Israel Says UN Report On Gaza Conflict Tainted With Hatred

Israel slammed the latest UN report on the May 2021 Gaza conflict on Tuesday (7th) and said it was heavily biased in favor of Palestinians after its authors blamed Israel’s “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian areas for the flare-up.

The findings were in the first report by a commission of inquiry headed by a three-person team of human rights experts.  It was set up last year by the UN-backed Human Rights Council following an 11-day flare up between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The commission, headed by former UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, is the first to have an “ongoing” mandate from the UN rights body.  Critics allege that “permanent scrutiny” testifies to an anti-Israel bias in the 47-member-state council and other UN bodies.

But the report, which comprises 18 pages, contains only a few paragraphs about the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli population centers, with only passing references to the role played by terrorist groups such as Hamas in perpetrating these attacks.  The rest of the report is almost entirely dedicated to bashing Israel with unsubstantiated allegations of discrimination and racism while going into lengthy detail on Israel’s military action in the operation without the proper context of self-defense.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry rejected the report as “part and parcel of the witch hunt carried out by the Human Rights Council against Israel.”

The ministry further said that the report was “a waste of money and effort,” adding that “it is a biased and one-sided report tainted with hatred for the State of Israel and based on a long series of previous one-sided and biased reports.”

The ministry accused commission members of ignoring Palestinian violence, incitement and antisemitism.  “The commission members, who claim to be objective, were only appointed to their roles because of their public and well-known anti-Israel stances, in direct opposition to the rules set out by the United Nations,” it said.

The report largely recaps efforts by UN investigators over the years to grapple with the causes of Mideast violence and the authors acknowledged it was in part a “review” of previous UN findings.

“What has become a situation of perpetual occupation was cited by Palestinians to the commission as the one common issue,” that amounts to the underlying “root cause” of recurrent tensions, instability and protracted conflict, the authors wrote.  They said “impunity” for perpetrators of violence was feeding resentment among Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.  

The report’s authors cited “credible evidence that convincingly indicates that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation” and has plans to ensure complete control of Palestinian areas.

The report also voiced criticism of Palestinian leaders, saying the Palestinian Authority frequently refers to the “occupation” as a justification for its own human rights violations.  It also points to the “occupation” as the core reason for the failure to hold legislative and leadership elections, the authors said.  The PA is widely criticized for corruption, intolerance and dissent.

As for Hamas authorities in Gaza, the commission said they show little commitment toward upholding human rights and little adherence to international law.  Since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has shown little tolerance for political dissent and has been accused of torturing opponents.

While prompted by the 11-day May 2021 conflict in which 250 Gaza Palestinians and 13 people in Israel died, the inquiry mandate includes alleged human rights abuses before and after that, and seeks to investigate the “root causes” of the tensions.



Iranian Official Threatens To Raze Tel Aviv And Haifa

A top Iranian official on Tuesday (7th) threatened to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa,” Ynet reported.

“Upon an order of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground for any mistake made by the enemy (Israel),” the commander of the Iranian Army’s ground forces, Kiumars Heydari, was quoted as having told the Fars news agency.

Haydari was also quoted as saying that “the Israeli-occupied territories will be liberated in less than 25 years.”

He also stated that the range of the Islamic Republic’s drones and missiles has increased, indicating that they could pose a threat to Israel.

The comments come a day after it was reported that security forces in Thailand recently foiled an Iranian plot to attack Israeli and Western targets in the country.

An Iranian agent who was arrested in Indonesia with a fake Bulgarian passport, is believed to have been the mastermind behind the planned attacks.  He worked with other elements to establish terrorist infrastructure and cells in Thailand.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier on Tuesday (7th) commented on Iran and said,” The days of immunity, in which Iran attacks Israel and spreads terrorism via its regional proxies and remains unscathed – are over.  We are taking action, everywhere, at any time, and will continue to do so.”

He added, “In recent years, Iran has crossed a series of red lines, especially in enriching uranium at levels of 60% — without a response, and the world goes on.  Israel cannot – and will not – accept such a situation.”

Iranian officials regularly threaten Israel.  The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace forces, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said a few months ago that Israel was “doomed to disappear” and that any action by Israel against the Islamic Republic would hasten that disappearance.

Previously, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, spoke at the United Nations Durban IV conference, where he said his nation’s “willpower is dedicated” to the elimination of Zionism.

In April, Esmail Ghaani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, threatened that Iran will harshly confront Israel “wherever and whenever it feels necessary.”



Over 100 Entrepreneurs Set To Establish New Hotels In Israel

The Tourism Ministry said on Thursday (2nd) that it had received 107 applications for grants to build new hotels, or to expand existing ones.

The ministry received 70 building permit applications, 22 building restoration applications and 15 applications by companies to implement existing building permits, the ministry said in a statement.  This year’s grant-budget was $50 million according to the ministry.

Investors are “optimistic” about the rehabilitation of the country’s tourism industry in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry said in a statement.

According to ministry figures, the coronavirus crisis disrupted growing tourism rates, which peaked in 2019 with more than 4.5 million visitors to the country.  The industry’s annual contribution to the national economy in 2019 stood at around $12 billion according to the ministry.

“The Israeli Ministry of Tourism continues to invest vast efforts in increasing incoming tourism traffic to Israel and shortening the amount of time it takes to build hotels.  This will inject billions of shekels into the state coffers,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov.



Jewish Man Beaten, Called Derogatory Antisemitic Names In France

A group of men violently assaulted a Jewish man in France, beating him and calling him derogatory, antisemitic names, the French media reported over the weekend.

Liron Rozenhaft, 41, said the attack took place on Thursday (2nd) while he was putting up campaign posters for his wife, who is running for a legislative seat in the city of Strasbourg.

According to Rozenhaft, two men initially called him a “dirty Jew” after reading the name of his wife, Audrey Rozenhaft, on the posters, Le Parisien reported on Friday (3rd).  She is running as a candidate for the center-right Republicans party in the 1st constituency of Bas-Rhin, which includes the city’s center and multiple outer districts, in elections scheduled for June 23.

Rozenhaft said that the two men pulled down the posters and followed him elsewhere on a scooter.  Several other men followed in pursuit.  He said he told the men that France “is still a democracy.”

In a Facebook post about the incident, Rozenhaft wrote that he was left unconscious, and said that authorities have allowed for “an explosion in crime and violence” in the area.

Rozenhaft had minor injuries, and a concussion, according to Le Parisien.

Strasbourg Mayor Jeanne Barseghian condemned the incident in a statement, writing that “We condone no violence, and when it targets democratic discourse it’s particularly shocking.”

Barseghian did not mention the antisemitic element of the incident.  Police are investigating the allegations, she said. 



First U.S. City To Broadcast Muslim Call To Prayer Over Loudspeakers Five Times A Day

This spring, ahead of Ramadan, Minneapolis became the first large city in the United States to allow the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, to be broadcast publicly by its two dozen mosques, five times a day, AP reported.

“We are Americans but we felt we didn’t get our full rights yet, because part of our rights is the adhan,” explained a mosque spokesperson, adding that they would like to purchase a new loud system in order to bring more knowledge to the neighborhood about Islam. 

Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali community in America and is where Rep. Ilhan Omar lives.