News Digest — 7/19/23

Two Syrian Soldiers Injured In Alleged Israeli Strikes Near Damascus

Two Syrian soldiers were injured after alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted sites in the Damascus area on Tuesday night (18th) according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

A military source told SANA that the strikes were carried out from over the Golan Heights.

Reports by opposition-affiliated news media indicated that the sites targeted were located west of Damascus near Qudsaya or As Saboura.  Photos from the area showed multiple fires blazing after the strikes.

The last alleged Israeli airstrikes to hit Syria were reported about two weeks ago when the IDF struck a Syrian air defense battery after a Syrian air defense missile exploded mid-air over southern Israel.  Additional targets in the area were hit as well.

That airstrike came shortly after reports of alleged Israeli airstrikes in the Homs Governorate in central Syria.  Syrian state media reported at the time that Syrian air defenses were activated in the Homs Governorate in response to alleged Israeli airstrikes in the area.  The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that no injuries were caused in the strikes.

Before that, on June 4, Israel allegedly targeted Damascus, injuring one Syrian soldier, according to news agency SANA.

The Capital Voice news site reported at the time that explosions were heard in the area of the headquarters of the Syrian Army’s 1st Division in al-Kiswah, south of Damascus, which is used by Iranian and Iranian-backed forces as well.  A fire broke out at the headquarters amid the strikes, according to the report at the time.



Hamas Threatens Israel After Jews Ascend The Temple Mount

The Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency reported on Tuesday (18th) that dozens  of “Jewish settlers” had “invaded” the Al-Aqsa Mosque under protection of the Israeli Police.

According to the report, the Jewish visitors entered the Temple Mount in groups, one after the other, conducted “provocative” tours of the site and held religious worship ceremonies.

Muhammad Hamada, spokesman for Hamas in Jerusalem, said that “ the insistence of hordes of settlers to continue desecrating the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and to perform religious ceremonies and prayers in its courtyards, is dangerous aggression and a blatant violation of its sanctity.”

Hamada accused the Israeli authorities of providing protection to the “hordes of settlers” and of securing their “invasions” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, noting they bear full responsibility for this “aggression.”

In this context, Hamada issued a threat to Israel and said, “The sword of Jerusalem (the armed resistance) will remain raised, and the young rebels in Jerusalem and the West Bank will remain bound by an oath and a quick response to any aggression.”

He called on the Palestinian Arab public in Jerusalem, in Israel and in Judea and Samaria to strengthen the Muslim presence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to prevent Israel from making unilateral decisions involving the mosque.



Elite IDF Unit Launches Petition: ‘Keep IDF Out Of Political Controversy’

An elite army unit is pushing back against reservists who are threatening to refuse to serve, in protest of the government’s judicial reform, Arutz-7 reported on Tuesday (18th).

In recent days, according to the report, graduates of the IDF’s elite Maglan reconnaissance unit have been collecting signatures of former soldiers in the unit for a petition confirming their willingness to continue their reserve service along with a demand to leave politics out of the army.

“We, Maglan soldiers of all generations, are proud of the privilege of serving the State of Israel at the forefront of any operation.  We declare that we will complete any operational activity or training if and when required.  Our love for the homeland and the people of Israel is ten times greater than any political consideration of one kind or another.  The nation’s security is above all else,” they wrote in a letter to be presented to Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, According to Arutz-7.

“We call our fellowmen to arms, the beloved soldiers and commanders with whom we have been fighting for years, shoulder to shoulder, from all the army units and the security system: although this is a difficult time, but together as always, we will win,” the letter reads.

“We want to reach many hundreds of people.  At the end of this petition, like other petitions that came out in the last few days, it talks about the importance of the integrity of the army.  What is most important to us is to keep it.  We are not fighting anyone, and the struggle is not political,” Col. Amos HaCohen, former deputy commander of Maglan and one of the organizers of the petition, told Arutz-7.

“Our statement is very clear – we leave the army out of the political controversy,” he said, noting that Israel’s enemies would interpret the dispute as weakness.

Another danger, he added, “is the precedent of bringing the dispute into the army.  Today it serves one side and tomorrow it will serve another side.”

Furthermore, “Regarding our petition, we know all the signatories, these are not ‘fake’ lists but real lists.  And regarding our friends who sign all kinds of letters of refusal, I am sure that on the day of reckoning, 90% of them will show up to fight without questions, I know them and it’s in their soul.”



Palestinian Authority Issues Warning To Gunmen Amid Rising Tension After Jenn Operation

The Palestinian Authority has issued a stiff warning to unruly gunmen in the West Bank, saying it will “cut off the hand of anyone who tries to tamper with the security and stability” of the Palestinians.

In a statement on Monday night (17th), the PA Ministry of Interior, which is in charge of the Palestinian security forces, said it was determined to enforce law and order in all areas of the West Bank.

“The Ministry affirms its full commitment to implement the directives of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to work continuously to enforce the rule of law and provide security and safety for our people in all places,” the statement read.  “We warn anyone who seeks to harm the security of ‘Palestine’ and its people.”

The warning came amid rising tension between the PA and some armed groups in the northern West Bank in the aftermath of the large-scale Israeli military operation in Jenin earlier this month.  The groups claim that the PA security forces have arrested several gunmen over the past few days as part of a larger campaign to end the phenomenon of “resistance” against Israel.

Jenin’s PA Governor Akram Rajoub described the suspects as “outlaws” and revealed that they belonged to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah.

“We affirm that when the Palestinian security forces arrest any Palestinian, they carry out their duty with all professionalism and responsibility,” Rajoub emphasized.

In response, the Jenin Battalion, whose members are affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accused the PA of “chasing and arresting resistance fighters” and denounced the move as “shameful.”

The group hinted that the PA crackdown was being carried out in coordination with Israel.

Khader Habib, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, said the arrest of the gunmen shows that the PA is continuing to conduct security coordination with Israel.  “We urge the Palestinian Authority security forces to return to the people and support our just cause,” Habib added.



Laser Air Defenses Coming To Israeli Border Communities Soon

Within approximately 18 months, Israel is expected to deploy the world’s first laser defense systems, on borders that have Iran-backed terrorist armies on the other side.

Gaza, Lebanon and Syria all make good candidates for the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Iron Beam, which have been in development for nearly 20 years.

The laser systems will be integrated directly into the Rafael-made Iron Dome air defense batteries, which have been in operation since 2011.

Algorithms will determine when to activate the lasers and when to fire the kinetic Iron Dome interceptors, known as Tamir missiles, as well as which type of Tamir missile to launch.  (Some interceptors are equipped with special cameras, while others have on-board radar).

Both Iron Beam and Iron Dome can down rockets, mortar shells, unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles.  However, the laser systems are designed to complement, not replace Iron Dome.

Iron Dome has intercepted around 95% of aerial threats fired from Gaza which were headed for built-up areas in Israel, a rate it maintained during May 2023’s “Operation Shield and Arrow” against Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Nevertheless, the laser systems have several relative advantages.

For one thing, the laser costs just a few dollars to fire (“the electric bill”) compared to the average cost of $50,000 per Tamir interceptor.  Gaza terror factions Hamas and PIJ spend between $500 to $1,000 of Iranian funds on each rocket they build, depending on its range and size, giving them a financial advantage – until now.

In addition to being considerably cheaper than traditional air defenses, unlike them, Iron Beam does not need replenishment.  Furthermore, the laser strikes its target within seconds, far faster than kinetic interceptors.

On the other hand, the 100-kilowatt laser has a range of about five to six miles, which is considerably shorter than that of Iron Dome, and each laser can engage a single threat at a time, unlike the Iron Dome, which can intercept multiple rocket threats simultaneously.

In January 2020, the Israel Defense Ministry announced three different laser programs: A ground-based laser to supplement Iron Dome, a mobile system to protect military units during maneuvers and an aerial system capable of downing threats from above.  The aerial version will give Israel the ability to use lasers against rockets above cloud cover.

The real breakthrough in Iron Beam’s development came when engineers succeeded in creating electric-source laser systems instead of using the older chemical laser technology.

The parallel program to develop airborne laser interceptors also saw a breakthrough in 2021, when the Defense Ministry and Elbit Systems announced that a 100 kilowatt laser placed on a Cessna aircraft flying at 3,000 feet had downed 100 percent of UAVs that took part in the test.

The airborne laser interception range is approximately 12 miles.

When combined, it is possible to envisage ground-and air-based lasers intercepting large numbers of projectiles at a fraction of the cost those projectiles cost to produce.

Iron Beam can also be used to provide site-specific protection for strategic locations such as power plants and ports.

Once the laser capability becomes established, Israel could also begin to focus on intercepting threats in enemy airspace.  In Gaza’s case, that could mean that lasers placed on the border would not allow threats to cross into Israel, theoretically reducing the need to activate rocket alerts.

Israel’s allies, meanwhile, are closely monitoring the development of this revolutionary technology.

United States aerospace giant Lockheed Martin announced a partnership agreement with Rafael in December 2022 to develop an export version of Iron Beam for the American defense market.