News Digest — 7/18/22

IDF Honor Guard Welcomes Head Of CENTCOM To Israel

The head of the United States Central Command began an official visit to Israel on Sunday (17th), the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit announced.

Gen. Michael Kurilla is in Israel at the invitation of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

“This is Gen. Kurilla’s second visit to the State of Israel since taking his position as CENTCOM commander on April 1.  This visit is a complimentary meeting following the strategic-operational forum between the two nation’s militaries last month and will focus on Israel’s aerial defense array,” said the IDF in a statement.

Kurilla made his first official visit to Israel in May.

The first visit focused on “US-Israel cooperation, maintaining regional stability and dealing with joint operational threats and challenges,” the Israeli military said in a statement at the time.

Israel officially moved from the European Command (EUCOM) to CENTCOM on Sept. 1, 2021.

Meanwhile, on Monday, (18th) Kochavi is scheduled to depart for Morocco on his first official trip to the North African country, where he will meet with senior officials from the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces.

Deputy IDF Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi will assume the duties of Chief of General Staff while Kochavi is in Morocco, the IDF said.



Israel Suspends 1,500 Palestinian Work Permits After Rocket Attacks

Israel on Saturday (16th) backtracked on expanding the quota of work permits for Gazan Palestinians to 15,500 after terrorists in the Hamas-controlled territory launched a volley of rockets on southern Israel overnight.

Last week, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced it was adding 1,500 permits to the present quota of 14,000.

But following the rocket attacks, Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided to freeze the move, COGAT said in a statement.

“Following evaluation of the security situation this evening (Saturday), Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided to suspend his decision from last week to raise the quota of entry permits granted to Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip for purposes of work and commerce.  The quota was raised last week by 1,500 permits.  The decision was made in the wake of rockets fired at the State of Israel.”

While there was no immediate claim by any of the Gaza-based terrorist groups, Israel holds Hamas responsible for any attacks emanating from the Palestinian enclave as a matter of policy.

“The Hamas terror organization carries responsibility for all activities directed against Israel in and from the Gaza Strip, and it will bear the consequences,” an IDF statement read.

On Friday (15th) the Iron Dome defense system intercepted one rocket while the other three fell in open terrain.  Red alert rocket warning sirens sounded off in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and in the Lachish region, northeast of Gaza.

The IDF on Saturday (16th) carried out a strike on Gaza in response.  A spokesperson said the aim of the strike on a Hamas underground facility was to prevent the terror organization from increasing its military strength through its weapon’s production.



The Two Candidates For Position Of New IDF Chief Of Staff Announced

After receiving a green light from the Attorney General, Gali Baharav-Miara, regarding the appointment of a new IDF Chief-of-Staff during an election campaign, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has announced his short-list of candidates for the position.

The two candidates are Major-General Eyal Zamir and Major General Hertzi Halevy.

In the coming week, the Defense Minister will begin consultations with former Defense Ministers and Chiefs-of-Staff in order to advance the process of appointing the successor to current IDF Chief-of-Staff Aviv Kochavi.

According to estimates, Hertzi Halevy is the leading candidate.  He currently serves as Deputy Chief-of-Staff and in the past has been Commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance, Commander of the Southern Command, Chief of the Armed Forces, Commander of the Inter-Armial College for Command and Staff, Commander of the Galilee Region and Chief of the Operations Division.

Shortly before the announcement of early elections, Gantz had asked the Attorney General for her position on whether it is possible, from a legal standpoint, to continue the process of appointing a new Chief-of-Staff that had commenced several months prior.

One of the reasons given by the Attorney General for permitting a senior appointment to be made during an election period was the fact that the position of the IDF Chief-of-Staff is a professional and not a political appointment, and the Chief-of-Staff is involved in implementing government decisions and not crafting them.

Responding to the Attorney-General’s decision, Gantz said, “I welcome the responsible decision of the Attorney-General to allow progress to be made in the process of appointing a new Chief-of-Staff.  The appointment of a new Chief-of-Staff in a timely and orderly process is of great importance in terms of the IDF’s command continuity and the security of the State of Israel which faces a wide range of security needs and challenges.”



In Dramatic Statement, Iran Confirms It Has Capacity To ‘Produce Nuclear Bomb’

Tehran is technically capable of making a nuclear bomb but has yet to decide whether to build it, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told Al Jazeera’s Arabic service on Sunday (17th).

“In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium… Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build it,” Kamal Kharrazi said, adding that Tehran would never negotiate over its missile program and regional policy.  The US and the International Atomic Energy Agency have in recent months warned that Iran’s accelerated pace of enrichment and sophisticated array of operational centrifuges mean that it has enough enriched uranium for a bomb, even though it is unclear whether it has the know-how to make it fully operational or put it on a missile.

The official added that Tehran will directly respond against Israel should its security be targeted, presumably referring to the string of assassinations and mysterious deaths of Iranian officials who were connected to Iran’s missile and nuclear programs, as well as to the recent  death of a senior official in the Revolutionary Guards.

Some of those attacks have been attributed by foreign media to Israel, as have various explosions and cyber attacks, although Israel has not confirmed this.



Israeli Researchers Discover Breakthrough For Early Detection, Treatment For Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a progressive and debilitating brain disease that eventually compromises the ability to walk and even talk.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s in the early stages could allow for helpful intervention.  But MRI images are not sensitive enough to reveal the first biological changes in the brain of Parkinson’s patients.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers, led by Prof. Aviv Mezer proposed quantitative MRI (qMRI) as a new way to detect these cellular changes in the microstructures of the striatum brain area known to deteriorate in Parkinson’s disease.

A novel analytic method developed by Mezer’s doctoral student, Elior Drori, clearly revealed biological changes in the cell tissue of the striatum.  These changes – previously impossible to see except in a postmortem exam  – were associated with early Parkinson’s  and movement dysfunction.

“When you don’t have measurements, you don’t know what is normal and what is abnormal brain structure, and what is changing during the progress of the disease,” explained Mezer.  

Their findings, published Sunday (17th) in the journal Science Advances, form the basis for developing qMRI into a tool that can be used in a clinical setting three to five years down the line.

Drori said the method could also be used for identifying subgroups within the Parkinson’s population and tailoring drug therapy accordingly, and then monitoring the effectiveness of a particular drug.



Macron Decries Antisemitism On 80th Anniversary Of Jewish Deportation

French President Emmanuel Macron warned against anti-Semitism and historical revisionism on Sunday (17th) as he commemorated victims of the Holocaust on the 80th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup of Jewish families.

On July 16-17, 1942, around 13,000 people were taken to the Winter Velodrome, the Vel d’Hiv, in Paris before being sent on to concentration camps across Europe.  It was the largest mass detention of Jewish people by French police in collaboration with the Nazi German occupiers.

Macron spoke at the inauguration of a memorial in the central town of Pithiviers, about 60 miles south of Paris.  Pithiviers was the second largest transit camp and deportation point in France for Jews after Drancy.

In his speech Macron warned against a “new type of revisionism” and reiterated the active role of France in targeting Jewish people during the occupation.

The Shoah Memorial in Paris, which collects archives on France’s Holocaust victims, has launched an appeal to reach the last witnesses and survivors of the Vel d’Hiv roundup.

“We need to recognize everything, in order not to reproduce it,” Macron said.

“We have not finished with antisemitism, it is still here – stronger and more rampant,” said Macron, citing examples of antisemitism in acts of terrorism, in graffiti on walls, on social media and as something that crops up in debates on some TV channels.

Earlier, Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne said that “France lost part of its soul” in the Vel d’Hiv roundup, which “went even further than the Nazi occupiers demanded” and of which “no state official was unaware.”