News Digest — 7/12/21

Bennett: “Israel On Alert” Over Lebanon Crisis

Israel is monitoring the crisis in Lebanon to ensure it does not spill over the border, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday (11th).

“Lebanon is on the verge of collapse, like every country that Iran takes over,” he said at the opening of the cabinet meeting.  “The citizens of Lebanon are paying a heavy price for the Iranians taking over their country.”

Israel is “watching the situation closely…and we will continue to be on alert,” he added.

The IDF and Israeli Police prevented an attempt to smuggle weapons from Lebanon into Israel on Friday, (9th) which Bennett cited as “one of many examples.”

Security forces detained suspects who had 43 pistols in their possession at Ghajar, the Alawite-Arab village astride the border between Lebanon and the Israeli Golan.  An investigation was underway to determine whether Hezbollah was involved, the IDF said.

The IDF and police have stopped at least five major drug-and weapons-smuggling attempts from Lebanon this year with Senior Hezbollah official Hajj Khalil Harb operating a drug-and weapons-smuggling ring across the Lebanese-Israeli border, the IDF said recently.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz last week sent the UN Interim Force in Lebanon a proposal for Israel to send humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people amid the country’s worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

Seventy-seven percent of Lebanese households are unable to buy food, essential drugs have run out, and electricity and gas shortages have become commonplace, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund reported.  The World Bank has said the situation in Lebanon is one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.

“As an Israeli, as a Jew and as a human being, my heart aches seeing the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon,” Gantz tweeted last week.  “Israel has offered assistance to Lebanon in the past, and even today we are ready to act and to encourage other countries to extend a helping hand to Lebanon so that it will once again flourish and emerge from its state of crisis.”

Lebanon is expected to refuse the help, as it did last year after an explosion in Beirut killed dozens of people and Israel offered humanitarian and medical aid.



IDF: We Stopped Three Gazan Infiltrators Armed With Knives

In a chaotic day for Israeli security forces, Saturday (10th) saw the IDF detain four infiltrators from the Gaza Strip in two separate incidents.

The IDF announced on Saturday that it arrested three men overnight who had tried to cross into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The thwarted infiltration attempt may have been a prelude to a terrorist attack, as the men were armed with knives.

“A number of knives were seized from the suspects and they are being questioned at the scene,” read a tweet from the IDF’s official Twitter account.

Just days after the end of May 2021’s Operation Guardian of the Walls following a ceasefire agreed upon by Israel and the Gaza-based terror groups, a Gazan man crossed into Israel and stabbed a security guard.

The 24-year-old man made his way to the border community of Sde Avraham, where he stabbed a local security guard.  Another security guard shot the Gaza man and both the guard and the infiltrator were hospitalized.

The assailant is now in an Israeli prison awaiting trial.



MK Miri Regev: ‘Writing Is On The Wall’ For Temple Mount Bridge Collapse

Likud MK Miri Regev appealed for urgent construction work to be carried out on Mughrabi Bridge, the crossing which connects the Western Wall to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, in an urgent proposal she submitted to the Knesset on Sunday (11th.)

The Mughrabi Bridge is a wooden structure originally built as a temporary crossing after the earthen ramp, which had previously allowed access to the Temple Mount for non-Muslim visitors, collapsed in 2004.

The bridge was constructed as a temporary measure in 2007 and was only intended to remain in place for several months until a more permanent structure was built.  Due to claims from the Islamic Waqf that Israel was trying to destabilize the Temple Mount, however, the more permanent solution was never found, and the wooden Mughrabi Bridge remained in place.

In 2011, the city engineer of Jerusalem issued an order to close the bridge due to safety concerns, but despite this, the bridge still remains open for public use a decade later.  As recently as this year, an additional warning was issued by experts from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, saying that the wood of the bridge is extremely dry and cracked, and attempts to treat it had failed, meaning that replacing it was the only option.

It was this issue that MK Regev addressed in her proposal on Sunday (11th), where she appealed for urgent action to be taken to replace the bridge before the structure collapses, as it has been at risk of doing for several years, despite a stronger support structure having been installed underneath it in 2013.

“It is forbidden to wait another moment with the demolition of the bridge and the construction of an appropriate replacement,” said Regev.  “The writing is on the wall, and the blood will be on the hands of all those who sat on the sidelines and remained silent.”

Regev added that the bridge not only poses a safety concern for those who use it, but also for the women who pray at the designated women’s section of the Western Wall as the bridge passes over their heads.

She stressed the urgency of the situation, reminding the Knesset that during Tisha B’Av next week, and the High Holy Days shortly afterwards, there will be a large increase of people visiting the Western Wall and using the bridge, increasing the potential danger exponentially.

“In light of the fragile disasters at Har Meron and Givat Ze’ev, we must not wait another moment to dismantle that bridge.  We must take responsibility for human life and discuss the danger that will arise if that bridge collapses.  In the next two months…Tisha B’Av, the mass selichot prayer events and other Israeli holidays all stand to endanger hundreds of thousands of people,” wrote Regev.

Reminding her fellow politicians about other similar disasters that are still fresh in the minds of many, Regev referenced the Mount Meron tragedy which left 45 people dead, and the bleachers which collapsed in a Givat Ze’ev synagogue in May, killing two and injuring 184.  Both incidents happened after safety warnings were ignored and disregarded.  Regev concluded her appeal by reminding the Knesset about the cost of ignoring safety warnings, asking: “How do we prevent the next disaster from happening?  Why does the removal of this dangerous bridge continue to be delayed?  Will this safety hazard be removed before we pay for it with human life?”



In Emotional Sendoff, IDF Praised For ‘Unrelenting Dedication’ In Surfside

The Israel Defense Forces search and rescue team that arrived in South Florida shortly after the Champlain Towers South collapsed last month headed home Sunday (11th) after an emotional sendoff in Surfside.

During a brief ceremony on Saturday evening (10th), Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava thanked the battalion for their “unrelenting dedication” and presented them with an honorary “key to the country.”

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky made the Israeli team honorary members of his department.

Members of the task forces that have been searching the site 24 hours a day since the June 24 collapse lined both sides of the street, shaking hands and bidding farewell to the Israeli team.

On Saturday (10th), officials raised the confirmed death toll to 90, with 31 people still missing in the rubble of the 12-story building.  While authorities have concluded that there was “no chance of life” in the remaining rubble, the pressure remains for search crews to find victims so families can lay their loved ones to rest.

The Israeli team joined other task forces from around the United States to assist the teams from Miami and Miami-Dade County, working in 12-hour shifts.  They have searched through South Florida’s intense summer heat, and in pouring rain, pausing only when lightning was spotted nearby.  They also paused operations as officials made plans to implode the still-standing portion of the condo tower on July 4.

The Israeli team used blueprints of the building to create detailed 3D images of the disaster site to aid in the search.  They also gathered information from families of the missing, many of whom were Jewish, to build a room-by-room model laying out where people would have been sleeping during the pre-dawn collapse.  



Palestinian Authority Introduces New Way For Terrorists, Families To Get Cash

The Palestinian Authority announced a new mechanism last week for dispersing payments to terrorists and their families by using ATMs at PA post offices across the West Bank, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported.

Those receiving funds will receive cards for withdrawing money from the PA postal bank using ATM machines.

The change came against the backdrop of a severe deficit in the PA budget, which stood at $417 million in the first half of 2021.

The Palestinian Authority routinely spends hundreds of millions of dollars on payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks against Israel.

Ramallah’s “pay for slay” policy is a widely condemned practice that takes a growing cut of Ramallah’s budget – funded by donor countries in the West and in the Arab world – every year Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas refuses to cease this practice vowing that the cash-strapped PA will continue to pay terrorists’ salaries “even if it has to spend its last penny to do so.”

Abbas maintains it is the PA’s “duty” to keep up the practice, which he branded “a national and social obligation.”

According to MEMRI, the PA attempted to set up a bank separate from the existing banking system to avoid Israeli penalties by disbursing payments via the PA postal bank.  However, long lines and overcrowding at the post office to withdraw the funds is reportedly embarrassing to the prisoners and their families.