News Digest — 7/19/22

U.S. Officials Slam Hezbollah On Anniversary Of AMIA, Burgas Bombings

U.S.  Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt and the U.S. State department spokesman Ned Price paid tributes on Monday (18th) to the victims of the AMIA bombing at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The attack on July 18, 1994, allegedly orchestrated by Iranian government officials and Hezbollah terrorists, killed 85 people and injured over 300.

“Today [Monday 18th] marks the 28th anniversary of the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah attack on the Association Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires,” Lipstadt, who is in Argentina for the anniversary of the event, said in a tweet.  Lipstadt also reaffirmed the U.S. support of Argentine Jews in “seeking accountability for the horrific actions of that day.”

Both Lipstadt and Price acknowledged the attack as the largest antisemitic attack on Jews in more than half of century.

Ned Price, in addition to the 1994 attack, also acknowledged the attack on a tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, July 18, 2012, that carried Israeli tourists.  Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were murdered, and dozens injured, in an antisemitic attack 10 years ago, which was also carried out by Hezbollah.

“Bulgarian courts convicted two Hezbollah operatives for the attack, while no one has been held accountable for the attack in Buenos Aires,” Price stated.

Price ended his statement by saying that the U.S. is “committed to countering Hezbollah and Iran’s malign influence.  The funding, training, weapons, and other support which Iran provides, allows Hezbollah the support for carrying out complex and heinous terrorist attacks like these.”



IDF Said It Downed Drone Crossing Into Israel From Lebanon

The Israeli military said on Monday (18th) it shot down a drone that crossed into the country from Lebanon using an electromagnetic pulse.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported no injuries in the incident and said that the UAV was collected by troops for examination and further investigation.

“The drone was monitored by air control units, and the IDF will continue to act to prevent any violation of Israel’s sovereignty,” the military said in a statement.

The IDF estimates the drone belonged to Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which sent three unarmed drones to Israel’s Karish gas field recently that were shot down by the Israeli Navy and Air Force.

The military later revealed that it shot down another drone that was on its way to the Israeli offshore gas field three days prior.

The gas field, which Israel claims is located in its exclusive economic zone, has been at the heart of a maritime border dispute between the countries that have long-stalled energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions soared after a vessel operated by London-based oil and gas exploration company Energean arrived at the field to start drilling on behalf of Israel.

Beirut said it viewed the move as an act of aggression while U.S. mediation efforts for a solution were ongoing.



Hezbollah Demands Israel ‘Return’ Rosh HaNikra Railway Tunnel To Lebanon

Hezbollah is now demanding that Israel “return” to Lebanon a Rosh HaNikra railway tunnel that has been closed since 1948.

“Our sovereign rights lie in our decision to restore every inch of the occupied tunnel without compromising our decision to restore our land and sea borders as well,” said Ali Hamieh, the Hezbollah-allied caretaker Minister Of Public Works on Monday (18th).

The 2,280 foot-long Rosh HaNikra Tunnel was dug by the British army between 1942-1944 as part of the Haifa-Beirut-Tripoli line to speed up military traffic during World War II.

Lebanon calls it the Naqoura Tunnel after a nearby Lebanese town.

In February 1948, the Palmach blew up a nearby rail bridge to prevent Arab weapons shipments from Lebanon.  Rebuilding the bridge was considered too expensive and irrelevant in the absence of peace with Lebanon, so Israel filled the tunnel with concrete.

Hamieh associated the tunnel with Shebaa Farms, the Kfar Shuba Hills and part of Israel’s offshore gas fields, according to Asharq al-Awsat, a London-based Arab daily.

Hezbollah’s demand for the tunnel is viewed as an attempt to scuttle efforts to resolve the maritime border.

The US has been mediating talks to resolve the maritime border issue between Israel and Lebanon.  



Kochavi In Morocco For First Official Trip By Israeli Military Chief

Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kochavi landed in Morocco on Monday (18th), becoming the first Israeli army head to visit the North African nation as part of an official trip.

Kochavi is slated to meet Tuesday (19th) with Morocco’s Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi, chief of the Royal Armed Forces, Belkhir El Farouk, and additional senior defense officials, the IDF said in a statement.

“The aim of the visit is to learn from each other and share knowledge, and is part of the IDF’s overall efforts to broaden military cooperation with other countries,” the statement read.

Kochavi is traveling with the military’s international cooperation commander, Brig. Gen. Effie Defrin, and the head of the Intelligence Research Division, Brig. Gen. Amit Saar.

“This visit is in addition to recent meetings and cooperation between the two countries, as part of the advancement of military-security cooperation between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco,” the military said.

Last November, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab state.

The agreement formalized the defense ties between the two countries, allowing for smoother cooperation between their defense establishments and making it easier for Israel to sell arms to the North African kingdom.  

With the signaling of the MOU, the two countries’ defense ministries and militaries could more easily speak with one another and share intelligence, whereas before, such communication was only possible through their respective intelligence services.  

In March, senior Israeli military officials wrapped up their first official trip to Morocco, where the sides signed an accord that aimed to have the two militaries collaborate, and last month, Israeli officers and Defense Ministry officials participated in a major military drill in Morocco as observers.

Earlier this year, Kochavi traveled to Bahrain – also a first – and reportedly met with his Qatari counterpart, despite limited relations between the two countries.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco normalized relations with Israel in 2020.

In Kochavi’s absence, deputy Chief of Staff Maj. General Herzi Halevi is carrying out the military chief’s responsibilities in Israel, the IDF said.



Former Top US Officials Travel Through Original Bible Belt For New Documentary

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently traversed Israel’s Route 60.  The highway connects the Torah’s most famous events and people, along with the founding events of Christianity.  Episodes that took place along the Biblical road date all the way back to the Jewish forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jewish Kings Saul, David and Solomon.

The tour by two of America’s top diplomats whose policies helped strengthen the State of Israel, is for a new TBN-produced documentary called “Route 60: The Biblical Highway” that Friedman hopes will help educate people on a commonly misunderstood region.

“Over the course of being in government for four years and thereafter, there is a stark… I don’t want to call it … ignorance because it suggests something worse than it is, but a real lack of familiarity, especially in America, with what people refer to as the West Bank, which, of course, itself is really an inadequate description of Judea and Samaria.  This road, Route 60, is really the Biblical spine of Israel,” Friedman said.

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, and Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, spent five days filming in a number of locations, presenting the Biblical and modern-day significance of each place.  Flying to each location by helicopter, their stops included Nazareth, Shechem, and Joshua’s Altar, located on Mt. Ebal, where Friedman had previously never set foot.

“I’m very glad we were able to film it because you have a hard time getting there if you were just going as a tourist.  You see the stones of this altar are intact on a mountain with nothing else, just the natural stones.  It was an incredible place to visit.  It was also a great lesson in Jewish leadership that it’s not just about winning military battles.  It’s also about having the moral footing that comes with being a believer in following a religious path,” said Friedman of Moses’ successor.

The trek continued on to Shilo, where the Tabernacle rested for almost 400 years, and on to Beit El, the site where Jacob had his famous dream.  The pair continued to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Rachel’s Tomb, then on to Hebron and Beersheba, the site of a covenant treaty between Abraham and King Abimelech, which Friedman referred to as the original Abraham Accord.

Friedman said the goal of visiting these places was to focus on their Biblical history; nevertheless, present day happenings were also important.

“We got to Shilo on Lag B’Omer [in May], which is a bit of a national holiday.  So here you have this ancient city – the Tabernacle rested there 369 years – but today is full of kids, full of people, full of life,” said Friedman.  “We went from place to place to show that on the one hand, the history of both Judaism and Christianity began at these places.  But we also show these real living, breathing places where life continues to flourish.”

Friedman and Pompeo are both outspoken proponents of a Greater Israel and oppose a Palestinian state.  Still Friedman said he set out to make the film as apolitical as possible

“We probably failed at our task.  Because once you refer to it as Judea and Samaria [instead of the West Bank], already people will think you’re making a political statement,” said Friedman.

He continued, saying “It’s not a secret to anyone that both Secretary Pompeo and I believe that this land was given by G-d to the Jewish people, and that it has enormous Biblical and historical significance as part of the Jewish and Christian DNA.  And I suppose one could infer from that that we believe that it should remain under Israeli sovereignty.  So one could surely draw that inference, but we don’t dwell on it, meaning we lay out the facts and the Biblical history.”

“All the stories that you learn – whether in a day school, Sunday school, church or synagogue – they all happened here,” he added.

The film is part of a larger initiative – to officially designate Route 60 as Israel’s Biblical Highway.

Friedman indicated the documentary is in the editing stages and is expected to be released in January 2023.