News Digest — 7/19/21
Israel Offers Aid To Flood-Ravaged Germany As Death Toll Exceeds 180
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog on Saturday (17th) offered German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier Israel’s assistance in grappling with historic flooding from days of intense rainfall that has left at least 183 dead and dozens missing across Western Europe.
“I stated that we would be willing to help in any way,” Herzog said of the letter he sent his German counterpart, which he said also expressed his sympathies for the lives lost from the flooding – the worst of its kind in modern history.
In Rhineland-Palatinate state alone, the police reported 110 dead and 670 injured. At least 27 people have also lost their lives in neighboring Belgium.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the floods a “tragedy” and pledged support from the federal government for German’s stricken municipalities.
On Sunday afternoon (18th) she visited the village Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate state, one of the two hardest-hit regions in western Germany, where the swollen Ahr River swept away houses and left debris piled high in the streets.
Merkel expressed shock at what she described as “surreal” and “terrifying” destruction caused by last week’s flooding.
“It is terrifying,” she told residents of the small town of Adenau in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “The German language can barely describe the devastation that’s taken place.”
In a press briefing she said, “Germany is a strong country. We will stand up to this force of nature, in the short term, but also in the long term.”
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, pledged $354 million in emergency aid for people who lost homes and businesses, with the cabinet to discuss a much larger reconstruction package on Wednesday (21st).
1,679 Jews Pray On Temple Mount During Tisha B’Av
More than 1,600 Jewish visitors ascended the Temple Mount Sunday (18th) for prayers marking the Tisha B’Av fast day, drawing the ire of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and its political representatives in the Knesset.
According to the Batadenu organization, which organized mass visits to the holy site, a total of 1,679 Jews visited the Temple Mount as of Sunday afternoon (18th), a 42% increase over last year’s Tisha B’Av fast.
The United Arab List, a coalition partner which represents the Southern Islamic Movement in Israel condemned the Jewish prayers on the Mount, warning Jewish worshipers on the holy site that it could cause Arab riots and spark a “religious war.”
“We warn settlers and Knesset members against trying to break into the Al Aqsa Mosque, and warn of possible serious disruptions of order which could lead to a regional religious war,” UAL said in a statement Sunday (18th)
The UAL also claimed the Temple Mount, which it referred to as the “mosque courtyard,” is under “full Islamic ownership.”
“We will not accept prayers and the singing of the Hatikva [Israeli national anthem] in the mosque courtyard, all 35.6 acres of which is under full Islamic ownership.”
Senior UAL officials condemned Yamina MKs who visited the Temple Mount on Sunday (18th), including Yomtov Kalfon and Amichai Chikli.
“Anyone in the coalition who permits Knesset Members from their party to ascend the Al Aqsa Mosque courtyard in order to score points with their base should not expect any understanding or accommodation from us.”
Erdan: We’ll Defend Our Right To Jerusalem Against Hamas Lies
Israel will continue to defend its rights to Jerusalem against the falsehoods spread by the terror group Hamas, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States Gilad Erdan told a visiting delegation of foreign envoys that he brought to the Old City on Friday (16th).
“As a former minister of public security, I know firsthand, and contrary to the lies Hamas tries to spread to justify its terror, Israel goes to great efforts to ensure that people of all faiths are able to practice their religion in peace,” he said.
“We will continue to defend our right to the Holy City, and to defend the freedom of all who want to worship here,” Erdan said.
He spoke as he stood on the rooftop of the Aish Hatorah World Center with its commanding view of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, known as al-haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) in Arabic.
Just two months ago, Hamas terrorists launched rockets at Israel in response to unrest in Jerusalem, including reports that Muslims had been denied the right to worship at the Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount.
The rockets led to an 11-day war known as Operation Guardians of the Wall. Now in its aftermath, Erdan, who is typically stationed in New York, has returned to Israel with a group of ten foreign ambassadors stationed both in Washington and at the UN.
He plans to take them to Israel’s southern and northern borders so they can see the threats faced by the Jewish state, both from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Erdan started the trip in Jerusalem, so he could show the ambassadors that the Old City is open to worshipers of all three religions: Jews, Christians and Muslims.
A large part of his role at the UN has also been to defend Jewish ties to the city, against a persistent Palestinian and Arab drive to claim that the Temple Mount is exclusively Muslim.
Erdan told the Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem “is where it all starts” for the Jewish people. “The city is the pillar of the Jewish people’s historical, biblical and moral rights to this land.”
The best way to combat attempts to delegitimize Israel by branding it as a colonial power is to “highlight” the deep roots of the Jewish people to the land and “above all, Jerusalem,” Erdan explained. He was certain that after such a visit, it would be difficult for the envoys to support any initiative that weakened Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
“I hope it will help in the future,” he said.
Erdan said he has also had to work against initiatives that sought to deprive Israel of its right to self-defense.
“After Operation Guardian of the Walls I decided that this is the right time to start focusing on bringing UN ambassadors, and ambassadors that represent their countries in Washington, to experience the situation firsthand,” he said.
On Tisha B’Av the delegation participated in a special Holocaust Remembrance program at Yad Vashem, arranged by the International March of the Living, which is a co-sponsor of their visit.
Among the diplomats participating in the trip were envoys from Australia, Argentina, Bhutan, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Guatemala, Ukraine and Tonga.
The American Zionist Movement (AZM) also helped co-sponsor the trip.
“We hope that the participants will come away from the experience with a deeper and more realistic perspective of Israel and the threats it faces, as well as an appreciation for the rich and diverse culture of the State of Israel. The American Zionist Movement looks forward to forging lasting friendships with the members of the delegations and their host countries,” AZM President Deborah Isaac said in a statement.
Will Hezbollah Try To Capitalize On Lebanon’s Impending Collapse?
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah may try to use the chaos in Lebanon to tighten its grip on the country, thus increasing Iran’s influence over Beirut, a senior IDF official said over the weekend, as the political instability in Israel’s neighbor to the north grows daily.
Lebanon is in the throes of an economic meltdown that is threatening its stability and has been dubbed by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
In rare public remarks on the situation in Lebanon, Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, Commander of the IDF’s 91st Division, said, “The Northern Command is monitoring the situation on the other side of the border very closely. We will continue to protect and defend the Israeli public.”
He noted that the IDF is exploring a series of scenarios for what the future may hold for Lebanon, as any such development is likely to have a direct effect on Israel.
One of the scenarios the military in general and the Northern Command in particular, is gearing up for is the possibility of thousands of people trying to infiltrate the border, on land and by sea, in search of a better future.
Another troubling aspect is the potential collapse of the Lebanese Army. Beirut’s military is considered a stabilizing element in the country but it has been plagued by defections. A senior Lebanese officer told local media that the military “will not be able to hold out past September.”
Lebanese Army Chief Gen. Joseph Aoun warned Friday (16th) that the situation could quickly escalate into chaos and urged international intervention.
Were the Lebanese Army to break down, advanced weaponry will surely fall into Hezbollah’s hands, although the Shiite terrorist group is unlikely to make an obvious play for it, so as to avoid the appearance it is trying to usurp control in Lebanon.
IDF officials told Israel Hayom that, unlike in Syria, the chances that Iran would try to establish an actual presence in Lebanon on top of the one it has through Hezbollah were low, mostly over the Lebanese public’s opposition.
Still, it is not impossible that faced with the growing economic crisis, many Lebanese would eventually yield and allow Iran a greater foothold in the politically fragile state in exchange for economic relief.
A bigger concern for the IDF is the possibility that the political and economic instability in Lebanon could birth global jihad cells, especially in northern Lebanon, a development that could breed a surge of terrorist activity in the region.
Israeli Drones To Keep Dubai Safe During World Expo
Israeli drone technology company Airobotics has struck a deal to help Dubai police make the city a safer place for residents and visitors ahead of a regional business conference.
Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum unveiled last week the Drone Box, an unmanned aerial system made by Airobotics to help Dubai police improve operational effectiveness and reduce emergency response time.
“During my visit to the Dubai Police Headquarters, we launched Drone Box, a platform to dispatch drones across Dubai to reduce response time to criminal and traffic reports from 4.4 minutes to 1 minute,” he said in a Twitter post.
The new drone system will officially launch during World Expo Dubai, scheduled for October 2021, and planned to run for six months. The conference – the first World Expo ever hosted in the region – is expected to draw more than 200 participants including nations, multilateral organizations, businesses and educational institutions.
Dubai already deploys a system of 300,000 smart and round-the-clock surveillance cameras.
Jon Medved, CEO of Israel’s OurCrowd and an investor in Airobotics, said, “We are proud that millions of tourists, including scores of officials and heads of state who are expected to attend this year’s World Expo in Dubai, will benefit from the Airobotics system. This is truly the best stage on which to demonstrate the capabilities of the Drone Box, which can be applied in tens of thousands of cities around the world.”
The deal comes as the United Arab Emirates opened its embassy in Israel on Wednesday (14th), aimed at catalyzing bilateral trade and investment opportunities. Backed by the US, Israel normalized relations in 2020 with UAE and Bahrain under the Abraham Accords.
Airobotics clinched a deal last year for the Singapore police forces to use its automated drone technology to help implement social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus crisis.
Founded in 2014, Airobotics developed a pilotless drone solution to collect photos, video and other aerial data, for real-time visibility into threats like fires and other emergency situations.