News Digest — 7/24/19

Israel Air Force Bombs Syrian Position Near Golan

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday morning (24th) launched an attack of the Tel al-Hara area in the Dara’a district in southern Syria, Syrian sources reported.

Syria’s official SANA news reported that the Israel strike occurred at about 1:30 a.m. and that damage was caused by the attack but no casualties.

Tel al-Hara is a strategic hill situated adjacent to the Israeli Golan Heights and overlooks it.  The Tel al-Hara base controls the Daras-Damascus road and is the center for all intelligence operations in the southern Syrian province.

Israel has previously bombed Hezbollah and Iranian infrastructure under construction in the area.

The targets hit were Syrian army positions and those of forces and militiamen loyal to the Syrian army, including “non-Syrian nationalities,” Syrian media reported.

Israel has remained silent about the strike.

Strikes against targets in Syria reportedly carried out by Israel are meant to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, or to thwart Iran’s military buildup in the country, and especially on Syria’s border with Israel.



 Netanyahu: Israel Preparing For Battle In Gaza

Israel wants calm in Gaza, but is preparing for battle, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday (23rd) on Mount Herzl at a memorial for the fallen of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

“We are trying to reach calm, but are preparing to embark on a campaign – a large-scale military operation that will deliver a blow against Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” he said, adding that this would be a blow the likes of which the two organizations have not yet encountered.

Netanyahu said he was not able to give any details, but that those involved in the planning know that these are not just empty words.

Likewise, Netanyahu said he could not give details of everything Israel is doing – “and we are doing a great deal” – to bring home the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, as well as Israeli citizens Abra Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed being held in the Gaza Strip.

He acknowledged the “bereavement and pain” of the families, but said he has an obligation as Prime Minister to see the whole picture.

Netanyahu said Israel is committed to bringing home all missing soldiers, and that the return earlier this year of the remains of Zachary Baumel 37 years after he went missing in Lebanon is proof that Israel stands by this commitment.



Israel Exposes Iran-Hezbollah Weapons Smuggling Routes Into Lebanon At UN

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday (23rd) shared Israeli intelligence information with the UN Security Council showing Iran funneling weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist organization, highlighting the continuing threat posed by the Tehran regime and its Lebanese proxy along Israel’s northern border.

“In the years 2018-2019, Israel found that dual-use items are smuggled into Lebanon to advance Hezbollah’s rocket and missile capabilities,” Danny Danon – Israel’s envoy to the UN revealed to the Security Council.

Danon said that the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) which directs Iranian interventions abroad, had begun ”to advance the exploitation of the civilian maritime channels, and specifically the Port of Beirut.”

Said Danon: “The Port of Beirut has become the Port of Hezbollah.”

Danon disclosed that Iran and Hezbollah were aided by Syrian agents who purchased the dual-use equipment – meaning it can be used for both civilian and military purposes – from foreign civilian companies and transferred it to Lebanon.  These agents misled the companies when they officially unloaded the equipment at the Port of Beirut, Danon said, which was then transported to Hezbollah’s missile production facilities.

Danon said that Hezbollah regularly uses civilian centers in Lebanon to illegally transport arms in “flagrant violation” of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for the disarming of the terrorist organization.  Danon also presented the Security Council with a map of various weapons transfer routes.

The Israeli envoy urged UN member states to take extra precautions with regard to the sale of dual-use equipment.

“Are you absolutely sure your companies are not the ones selling dual-use equipment into the hands of Hezbollah?” Danon asked.  “Are you sure your citizens know the end-users of these dual-use items?”



Israel Congratulates New British PM Johnson, Thanks May For Friendship

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz congratulated Boris Johnson on being named Britain’s next prime minister on Tuesday (23rd).

Netanyahu, on Twitter, offered “heartfelt congratulations from Jerusalem.”

“Looking forward to working closely together, both in facing our common challenges and seizing the opportunities ahead,” added the prime minister.

“Mazel Tov to Boris Johnson on becoming UK Prime Minister,” Katz tweeted.  “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Johnson and his team to build on the existing strong relationship between the UK and Israel.”

The former London mayor easily beat his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a vote of members in the governing Conservative Party.  He is expected to be confirmed as prime minister on Wednesday (24th) when his predecessor Theresa May formally tenders her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.

The Israeli foreign minister also thanked May, “for the amazing and tireless work that she did to strengthen ties between our two countries.  Bilateral trade is up, tourism is up and security cooperation is saving lives. Thank you to a true friend.”

Israel political leaders from across the spectrum were quick to congratulate Johnson, describing him as a “friend,” both personally and to the country.

Johnson visited Israel in March 2017 when he was serving as Britain’s foreign secretary.



Assad’s Nuremberg Moment: NGO Builds Case For Syrian War Crimes

Over the past seven years, veteran Canadian war-crimes investigator William Wiley and his team at the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), a non-profit organization he established in 2012, have smuggled hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence out of Syria and Iraq – documents that are now being used to build war-crimes cases against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his henchmen, as well as senior figures in the Islamic State.  Western governments, including Canada, collectively provide $8 million in annual funding for the group’s 150 investigators.

Wiley, 55, is a veteran of the efforts to bring justice to Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.  He views the evidence against Assad as “much, much better” than what was presented in court against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.  CIJA files prove that Assad himself had knowledge of, and approved, the actions of his subordinates. “It’s pretty clear that Assad was not a figurehead.  He was in charge, and the senior guys deferred to him.” Wiley says his group also has more than enough evidence to help convict ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.



Trump, Macron To Visit Israel In January, To Mark 75 Years Since Auschwitz Liberation

Yad Vashem is in the process of organizing a major event in January that aspires to bring a number of world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, to Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that, according to the plan, the leaders would arrive in Israel on January 26, 2020, spend one night there, and take part in an event at Yad Vashem called the World Holocaust Forum the next day.

In addition to Trump and Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also be invited, as will Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may also participate.

It is not immediately clear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will be involved.  Earlier this month, Putin – during a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – invited him to take part in a ceremony in Moscow in May 2020, commemorating  75 years since the defeat of the Nazis.

If Macron does take part in the event, it would be his first visit to Israel as French President.  This would be Trump’s second visit as U.S. President, and would come just days before the kick-off of the primary election season, with the Iowa caucuses on February 3, and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.