News Digest — 7/25/22

Israel Eyes Political Repercussions Should Russia Shut Down Jewish Agency

Prime Minister Yair Lapid instructed the Foreign Ministry Saturday (23rd) to prepare a series of political measures against Russia to be implemented in the event it liquidates the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organization that promotes immigration to Israel.

Although Moscow gave no reason for shuttering the agency’s offices, officials said it is possibly due to Israel’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lawmakers met on Saturday (23rd) to discuss the matter, during which some even suggested that Jerusalem should change its policy on the war altogether.  Nevertheless, others stressed the approach should not only be “sticks,” but also “carrots.”

A political source told Israel media that the Israeli delegation that was supposed to travel to Moscow on Saturday (23rd) to try to convince Russian authorities to cease their moves, did not depart as planned as Russia had not yet confirmed their visas.

Lapid, who also serves as foreign minister, is expected to examine the series of possible measures and make a decision in the coming days.  The assumption in Jerusalem is that the approach of attacking and exacting a price is the only one that may be effective against Moscow.

Nevertheless, Israel is expected to adopt an approach of action and caution, as Russia has the ability to limit the IDF’s freedom of action in Syria, and some even fear Russia could provide advanced missiles to Iran.  Several years ago, Moscow and Tehran held advanced talks on the matter, from which Russia only withdrew, due to pressure from Israel.

Former ambassador to Russia and Ukraine Zvi Magen told local media that Jerusalem has several options for exerting pressure on Moscow.

“Israel can change its de facto neutral position regarding the war in Ukraine.  Of course, this could have adverse consequences from the Russian side, but it is an option nevertheless,” he said.  “In addition, Israel can join the Western sanctions on Russia, which it is not part of at the moment.  The sanctions imposed on Russia are not the result of a decision by the Security Council, but independent initiatives of the United States, the European Union, and other countries, and as such, are not binding for Israel.”

According to Magen, Israel should not be limited due to fears over its military freedom of action in Syria, as Russia, so far, is not looking to change the status quo on the matter.

“The complicated political and military complexities that Russians find themselves in, enables Israel to exert pressure on Moscow more freely,” he said, estimating that Moscow is unlikely to deliver on the promise to shut down the Jewish Agency offices in the country.



At Least 2 Palestinians Killed In Gun Battle With Troops In West Bank

At least two Palestinians were killed and several others injured when a gun battle broke out early Sunday (24th) between militants and Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus, the military said.

Security forces entered the city to arrest terror suspects and encountered fire from armed militants when they surrounded a building, calling for suspects to surrender.

Palestinian health officials confirmed at least two militants, identified as Abu Sobh, and Muhammad Al-Azizi, were killed and six others were wounded during a three-hour siege on the building.

The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant group claimed the two dead as its members.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the suspects had been wanted for a series of shootings.  “We won’t sit and wait for Israeli citizens to be harmed,” he told a meeting of his cabinet Sunday (24th).  “We will go out and get the terrorists in their homes.”

According to the security forces, they entered the city of Nablus to apprehend suspects involved in terror activity and confiscate weapons.

Troops surrounded three buildings where suspects were barricaded and in the battle that ensued, fired missiles at one of the structures, destroying it.

Palestinian militants from the area opened fire at the forces from surrounding rooftops in the old city of Nablus.

During searches conducted in the building after the battle ended, troops uncovered weapons and explosive devices.

There were no injuries reported among the security forces, the military said.

At the same time, another force conducted a raid on the village of Qabatiya near Jenin, where at least two suspects were arrested.

The raids were part of continued efforts by the IDF to apprehend terror suspects after the wave of attacks last spring that saw the killings of 19 Israelis.



Report: IRGC Missile Engineer Assassinated

A missile engineer serving in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed last week in an apparent assassination, Channel 12 news cited Iranian state media as confirming on Sunday (24th).

The report noted that according to Iranian social media reports, Said Thamardar Mutlak was murdered in the southcentral Iranian city of Shiraz last week.  Mainstream and social media referred to him as a “shahid” (martyr) – an elevation usually reserved in Iran for those who are killed in the line of duty.

He was buried in the “martyr’s plot” in a Shiraz cemetery, Iranian media said.

According to Channel 12 News, several social media posts alleged that state-run-media had been instructed to downplay Mutlak’s death and that his family had been warned by authorities not to share the news of his assassination.

Iranian opposition officials alleged that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was behind the assassination given that Mutlak was “a senior engineer in the IRGC’s missile program.”

The past few months has seen Iran plagued by a series of mysterious mishaps in key nuclear sites, compounded further by the assassination of key IRGC personnel, high-ranking officials, and nuclear scientists.

Tehran has blamed Israel – long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade – for all of these incidents.  While the shadow war between the Islamic republic and the Jewish state has become far more public in recent years, Israel has remained mum on the issue.

The recent elimination of top IRGC officials has put Tehran on edge.  An Iranian official told the Financial Times last week that “it feels as if Israel has established a large-scale organization in Tehran and freely runs its operations.  Israel is clearly targeting Iran’s highly secure image to tarnish its greatness in people’s eyes.”



IDF Sinks Boat Suspected Of Smuggling Weapons From Egypt To Gaza

The Israeli Navy on Saturday night (23rd) sank a Palestinian vessel sailing towards Gaza from Egypt, the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.

The vessel had entered a restricted sea area off the southern Gaza Strip, in violation of security restrictions, according to the IDF.

Navy sailors ordered the vessel to stop and fired on it after receiving no response in line with standard operational procedures.  Those who had been aboard swam to the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF.

“The supplies on board the vessel were intended for the Hamas terrorist organization,” the military said in a statement.

Kan News also reported that the supplies in question were arms destined for Hamas in Gaza, and that the vessel sank.

On July 15, the Israeli Air Force conducted two strikes on Hamas weapons production facilities in the Gaza Strip, following two separate rocket attacks in which four rockets were launched at Israeli territory.

One of the targets hit in Gaza was a Hamas military site consisting of an underground complex containing raw materials used for the manufacturing of rockets, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement at the time.



Palestinian Convicted Of Murder For 2018 Car-Ramming That Killed Two IDF Soldiers

A terrorist who ran over and killed two IDF soldiers and seriously injured two other soldiers in 2018 was convicted on charges of murder by the Israeli military on Sunday (24th).

The terrorist had claimed that the incident was a car accident and not an intentional attack, but later changed his story and said it was deliberate and that it was his intent to murder soldiers, the Shin Bet security agency said.

On March 16, 2018, IDF soldiers Capt. Ziv Daos, 21, and Sgt. Natanel Kahalani, 20, were killed when the terrorist rammed into them near a pillbox post near the entrance to the Jewish settlement of Mevo Dotan.

According to the IDF, the terrorist drove past the soldiers before returning and driving towards them at 45 miles per hour until he hit them.  He had served time in prison in the past for security violations.

The terrorist, Ala Qabha, will be sentenced on September 11.  Both Kahalani’s and Daos’ families were updated on the developments in the case.

Daos, from the central town of Azor, was a platoon commander in a Home Front Command search and rescue unit.  He was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.  Kahalani, was from Elyakim in northern Israel and served as a driver in the Menashe Regional Brigade,  He was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

The suspect’s apartment in the northern West Bank town of Barta’a was demolished by the military several months after the attack.



Study: Earthquakes Could Be Predicted With 80% Accuracy Using New Israeli Method

Israeli researchers have discovered a method to predict earthquakes 48-hours ahead with 80% accuracy, as detailed in a peer-reviewed study published in the scientific journal Remote Sensing in May.

By studying changes in the earth’s ionosphere, the sliver of atmosphere which meets the vacuum of space, the Ariel University and Center for Research & Development Eastern Branch research team was able to evaluate potential precursors to several major earthquakes that occurred in the past 20 years..

The researchers defined major earthquakes as those surpassing Mw6 on the Moment magnitude scale, which measures an earthquake’s magnitude based on its seismic movement.

The method developed by the team saw them implement a learning support vector machine (SVM) technique, applied with GPS map data of ionospheric total-electron-content to calculate its electron charge density.   

Through this technique, they managed to find that an earthquake can be accurately predicted with 80% accuracy.

Moreover, the researchers were able to accurately predict when an earthquake will not occur in a specified area with 85.7% accuracy.

The study was led by Dr. Yuval Reuvani, Dr. Li-Ad Gotlieb and Dr. Nimrod Inbar of Ariel University.  The research was funded by Israel’s Energy Ministry and the Israel Science Foundation.