News Digest — 7/26/19

6 Iranians Among 9 Dead In Israeli Strike On Syria, Monitor Says

Six Iranians fighting for the Syrian regime were among those killed in reported Israeli missile strikes in southern Syria this week, a war monitor said Thursday (25th).

Israeli missiles targeted “military positions and intelligence facilities belonging to Iran and [pro-Iran] militias” in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra early on Wednesday (24th), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian state media had already reported on Wednesday that the “Israeli enemy launched an aggression” against military positions held by the government and its allies in Daraa province, but did not mention casualties.

The Observatory said Thursday (25th) the strikes had killed six Iranians and three pro-regime Syrian fighters.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces in the country, as well as those loyal to the Assad regime, as part of a stated policy to prevent arms-transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of Iranian military forces across from Israel’s northern border.

The area targeted on Wednesday lies close to the Israeli-annexed part of the Golan Heights.

The Syrian conflict has killed at least 370,000 people and drawn in regional and world powers since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.



Elite Israeli Naval Commando Unit To Receive Citation Of Excellence

The Shayetet 13 marine commando unit is to receive the Citation of Excellence from IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, according to media reports.

The elite and secretive Shayetet 13 operates “in the sea, on land, and in the air in a variety of daring and special activities,” said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

“The fleet engages in various operational activities, including strategic damage to enemy maritime infrastructures, as well as gathering high-quality intelligence on enemy operations,” according to the IDF.

The commandos are cited for their “long and comprehensive infantry training with specialization in marine warfare, diving, and operating special vessels,” said the military.

The IDF points out that the unit “has won the Chief of Staff award several times for its contribution in fighting terror, for developing innovative operational capabilities, and for instilling high norms of behavior of excellence and striving for victory.”

The Shayetet 13 “combat teams are required to possess a variety of abilities and training to carry out their missions, and therefore the training is long and comprehensive.  Among other things, the fighters specialize in infantry fighting, counter-terrorism, and guerrilla warfare, operational parachuting, and naval assault methods,” according to the Army.

“I salute you for receiving the Chief of Staff’s citation,” wrote MK Benny Gantz, who served as IDF Chief of Staff from 2011 to 2015.

“As one who participated and commanded soldiers on missions beyond enemy lines, I know how hard you work and how much effort you invest for Israel’s security,” wrote the former military chief.



Palestinian Journalist Tells How Hamas brings Kids To Front Line To Die

A Palestinian journalist described in detail how Hamas operatives take children in buses to protest against Israel on the Gaza border.

In a new documentary released by TPS, the journalist, whose face is blurred and voice distorted for security reasons, says he has witnessed Hamas operatives taking chairs and sitting near the fence eating seeds and watching people die.

“They bring children to playgrounds and let them play and then encourage them to do whatever they can to get close to the fence,” the journalist told TPS.

The documentary focuses on the March of Return riots, which started in March of last year.  Some 2,200 terror-related incidents have been reported since the start of the riots – a combination of gunfire, explosive devices, and Molotov cocktail attacks.

One Israeli soldier has been killed and several more wounded.  By Palestinian estimates, more than 200 people have been killed, including children.

“The goal is to bias general public opinion because the common opinion is that kids are safe,” the journalist told TPS.  They [Hamas] exploit this to claim that ‘Israel is killing our children.’”



Israel’s Embassy In Finland Attacked For 15th Time In 18 Months

The Israeli Embassy in Finland has been vandalized by neo-Nazi and far-right extremists for at least the 15th time in the last year and a half.

The glass front door of the embassy in Helsinki was shattered over the weekend, and images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler were hung in the entrance to the building, Ynet News site reported.

In a statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the attack “another link in the chain of anti-Semitic attacks targeting the embassy…. The Israeli Embassy in Helsinki expressed its disgust over the events to the Finnish authorities and demanded they act in full force to locate the culprits, bring them to justice and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.”

Senior officials in Finland have expressed concern over the attacks, Ynet reported, but have not yet taken real action against the perpetrators.

In February, the Nordic Resistance Movement, a far-right and neo-Nazi group, demonstrated illegally in front of the building.



Goliath’s Birthplace More Giant Than Believed, New Excavations Show

Archeologists have discovered remains more ancient and impressive than those previously discovered at the Philistine city of Gath, where the giant Philistine warrior Goliath was born and once lived.

Previous excavations at the site, known as Tell es-Safi, uncovered ruins dating to the 9th and 10th centuries BCE, but the new discovery suggests that the city of Gath was at its height in the 11th century BCE, during Goliath’s time.

Goliath was the Philistine whom David of Bethlehem, the eventual second king of Israel and Judah, famously defeated in single combat (I Samuel 17).  Together with Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron, Gath was one of the five Philistine cities until its fall in c.830 BCE at the hands of the Aramean King Hazael.

While archaeologists have known for decades that Tell es-Safi contained the ruins of Goliath’s birthplace, the recent discovery beneath a pre-existing site reveals that his native city was a place of even greater architectural grandeur than the Gath of a century later.

Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University said, “One of the nice things about excavations at this site – and archaeology in general – is that every time you excavate, there are surprises.  Up until now, we thought that Gath was the largest of the Philistine cities in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. Now we find that it was also the largest in the 11th century BCE. There are things that we thought we knew, but new discoveries are telling us, ‘There is something new here.’”



Last Surviving Pole Of First Transport To Auschwitz Passes At Age 96

Kazimierz Albin, the last surviving Pole from the very first prisoner transport to Auschwitz, died Monday (22nd) at age 96.

In announcing the news “with great sorrow” on Tuesday (23rd), the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum’s press office made note of the number tattooed on his arm upon entering the infamous concentration camp -118.

Albin, born in Krakow, had managed to cross from occupied Poland to Slovakia while trying to reach the free Polish army then forming in France.  However, the Nazis caught up with the 17-year-old in January 1940 and he was incarcerated in several places before being put on the first transport to Auschwitz, which contained Polish political prisoners.  

After almost three years of slave labor, he managed to escape with a friend on February 27, 1943, successfully fording an icy river to do so.  They were two of only 144 successful escapees from the camp complex in which 1.1 million people, the vast majority of them Jews, were murdered.

Albin reached his hometown, received a false identity, and took part in attacks against the Germans, eventually heading the Polish Underground’s local sabotage division.  He received many decorations after the war for his combat operations, including the Partisan Cross, the Cross of Valor, and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Poland Reborn.

Albin became an engineer, and upon retirement, helped found the Auschwitz Preservation Society, serving as the chairman of its board of trustees from 1995 until his death.