News Digest — 6/9/21

IDF Strike On Damascus According To Syrian Media

Syrian sources claimed Israeli aircraft struck targets in the Damascus area Tuesday night (8th), leaving at least 10 dead, including seven “non-Syrians.”

The official Syrian news agency SANA reported the “Syrian Arab Army confronted an Israeli aggression” and shot down some incoming missiles that it claimed were fired by Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the strikes targeted Syrian military sites and were the first in a month.  SOHR activists reported hearing explosions in the perimeter of Damascus International Airport and at least two other locations including “arsenals in the al-Dumayr district.”

Arabic media quoting the SOHR reported that at least 10 people were killed, “including 7 non-Syrians,” which is generally an euphemism for Iranian military personnel or members of foreign militias backed by Iran that are in the country supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

There was no official confirmation from any Israel sources, which usually decline to comment on reports of attacks on Syria.

The SOHR noted that Syrian regime forces and Iranian-backed militias were seen on high alert in the perimeter of Damascus International Airport for unknown reasons since early June.

The organization said the latest air attack appears to be the first since a May 5 helicopter strike by the Israel Air Force on a Syrian military post near Quneitra that was manned by members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, injuring three of them.

In April, an old model Russian-made anti-aircraft missile fired by Syria missed its target and flew hundreds of kilometers south before exploding in an open area of the Negev Desert near the Israeli nuclear site in Dimona.  The incoming missile triggered air defense alerts and caused some panic, but no damage or injuries.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly declared that they will not tolerate an Iranian threat on its northern border with Syria and will take all necessary measures to ensure that such a presence does not emerge.

Iran, which routinely threatens to destroy Israel, arms and funds Hezbollah.  Israel has repeatedly intercepted shipments of advanced weapons that Iran has tried to supply to the terrorist group in Lebanon.



AP Building Destroyed By IDF Housed Hamas Electronic Warfare Site

Israel’s ambassador to the US and UN, Gilad Erdan, said Tuesday (8th) that Israel destroyed a building in Gaza housing foreign media because the Hamas terror group was working in the same building on technology to jam Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

On May 15, in the midst of fighting sparked by the Hamas terror group in Gaza, the Israeli military warned Associated Press staffers and other tenants to evacuate a building housing AP offices, informing them that a strike was imminent within an hour.  Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.

Erdan tweeted that he met AP CEO Gary Pruitt and senior executives at the news service’s New York headquarters on Monday (7th) to explain the reasons Israel took out the building.  There were no deaths or injuries reported in the attack as Israel had given all residents advance notice to evacuate.

“The building housing their Gaza operation was being used by Hamas terrorists trying to jam the Iron Dome – that is why it was prioritized by the IDF during last month’s operation,” Erdan tweeted.

AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world, and Israel does not suspect its employees were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way,” Erdan said.  “Israel did everything to ensure no employees or civilians were hurt during this operation.”

“In contrast,” Erdan said, “Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in buildings being used by international media outlets.”

“I reaffirm that Israel upholds the importance of press freedom and strives to ensure the safety of journalists wherever they are reporting.  Israel is willing to assist AP in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza,” Erdan said.

After the attack last month, Pruitt released a statement saying AP was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”

Pruitt demanded that Israel “put forward the evidence” showing the Hamas activities because he said the “AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years.  We had no indication Hamas was in, or active in the building.”



Gantz: Israel To Use Overwhelming Force In Future Lebanon War

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday (7th) issued another warning to the Hezbollah terrorist group, saying that Israel will use overwhelming force in any future war in Lebanon.

“The IDF’s recent strikes in Gaza against the Hamas terror group were just scratching the surface in terms of Israel’s military capabilities,” Gantz said at an IDF base in central Israel at an event marking Israel’s recognition of its 18-year presence in southern Lebanon as an official military campaign.

“No manipulation or weakness will lead our enemies to success.  Lebanon needs to know that what Gaza experienced a few weeks ago is only the tip of the iceberg.  The targets are ready.  Those with rocket launchers hidden in their yards are putting their neighbors in jeopardy.  Those who are armed by Iran and trying to operate in the aerial sphere – will be marked and shot down in the place of our choosing.  The war that erupts from Lebanon, heaven forbid, will mostly take place on the enemy’s territory, and the damage to it will be immense, painful and comprehensive,” Gantz said.

In an apparent message to the Lebanese government, Gantz said: “War is not predestination.  We can put an end to the decades-long fighting if only Lebanon’s leadership would want it.”

In May, Gantz warned if Hezbollah attacked Israel, “Lebanon will tremble.”

“The houses in which weapons and terrorist operatives are being hidden will become rubble,” he said at the time, adding that the “list of targets for Lebanon is bigger and more significant than the one for Gaza, and the score is ready to be settled if necessary.”

Also, in a message to Hamas, which is holding captive the remains of two soldiers and two live Israeli civilians in Gaza, Gantz added that Israel will not pay the prices it once did to secure the release of its captive soldiers from terrorist groups.



The Home Front In The 2021 Gaza War – Col. Gil Shenhar

During the 2021 Gaza War there were an average of 400 rocket attacks each day, nearly four times the average during the 2014 War or the 2006 Second Lebanon War.  120 rockets were fired toward central Israel, including Tel Aviv.  Ashkelon was the target of 111 barrages of 960 rockets.  Ashdod was targeted by 253 rockets and suffered much physical damage.

The civilian front displayed a high level of functional resilience.  Recovery was orderly and rapid.  The public in general felt that the military campaign was justified, partly because it was Hamas that began the fighting.  The protection provided by the Iron Dome defense system, the improved warning system (with 1,700 localized alarm zones), and detailed and clear Home Front Command instructions enabled a sense of security.  This time the Israeli civilians living near Gaza were protected from terrorist infiltration through attack tunnels thanks to underground and aboveground barriers constructed at a cost of more than $1 billion.

As in the past, particularly in the Gaza envelope communities, many residents decided to leave their homes until the fighting was over.  This is now accepted as normative conduct, particularly for families with children.



Palestinian PM: No Proof Jewish Temple Ever Existed On The Temple Mount

“The years of archaeological  excavations Israel has conducted at the Temple Mount have yielded no proof that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday evening (7th) in an interview with Al Jazeera.

When asked about current tensions in Jerusalem, Shtayyeh said that Jerusalem was at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Since 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank, Israel has carried out a series of excavations underneath Al-Aqsa Mosque which hasn’t proved any connection whatsoever to the hall [Temple] or anything similar,” Shtayyeh claimed.

Shtayyeh spoke to Al Jazeera while on a visit to Qatar and, after a meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said that the two had discussed Qatari aid to the Palestinians and ways of solidifying the restored calm in the Gaza Strip.

Shtayyeh said that the PA was pouring $140 million into the Gaza Strip each month and had renewed the payment of salaries of 25,000 government workers in Gaza.

When asked about reconciliation attempts in Cairo, Shtayyeh said he hoped the rift between Fatah and Hamas would come to an end. 

“The Palestinians need to work together and not decide on a war or on peace separately,” he declared.