News Digest — 7/27/20

Israeli Drone Crashes In Lebanon Amid Tensions With Syria

Israel said a military drone crashed in southern Lebanon on Sunday (26th) as regional tensions ran high, days after a series of cross-border exchanges between Israel and Syria and the killing of a Hezbollah terrorist in an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital.

The Israeli military issued the statement shortly after Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with army brass near the country’s northern frontier.  The military said the drone went down over Lebanese territory “during operational activities” along the border.  Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that Israeli warplanes and drones flew over southern Lebanon throughout Sunday (26th).

Israel has beefed-up its troop presence along the borders with Lebanon and Syria since Friday’s (24th) strikes on Syrian army positions in response to unspecified munitions fired on the Golan Heights by Syrian forces.  The exchanges came after Monday’s (20th) air raid on Damascus – believed to have been carried out by Israel – that killed five foreign fighters, including a member of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.

Gantz said in a statement that Israel “has no interests in Syria or Lebanon, aside from security interests, and we will continue to protect them.”

“We are not seeking unnecessary escalation, but if we are tested – we have high operative capacity, which I hope we will not need to put to use,” Gantz said.

Earlier Sunday (26th), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was “acting according to our consistent policy of not allowing Iran to entrench itself militarily on our northern border.”

He said Lebanon and Syria “bear the responsibility for any attack against Israel emanating from their territories.

Israel has long-considered Iran a regional nemesis because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons, as well as Iran’s military presence in Syria supporting President Bashar Assad, and its backing of armed terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel has carried out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years targeting Iranian forces there, and has focused on weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon, among other targets.

The Israeli military rarely comments on these strikes.   



Fatah Members Quit Over Killing Of Top Commander By PA Police

Several members of the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction on Sunday afternoon (26th) announced their resignation to protest the killing of one of their commanders in Nablus by the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Emad al-Din Abu al-Ameed, 54, was shot by PA policemen on Saturday (25th) during clashes in Balata, near Nablus.

Palestinian sources said that Ameed, who served as secretary-general of Fatah in Balata, was shot in the thigh and died shortly after being rushed to a hospital in Nablus.

The sources said that the incident took place when PA security officers tried to close down several shops for violating measures announced by the Palestinian government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ameed who headed “a popular emergency committee” entrusted with helping PA security enforce the coronavirus restrictions, arrived at the scene in an attempt to prevent violent clashes between shopkeepers and Palestinian policemen, witnesses told the news media.

During the altercations, some Palestinians threw rocks and other objects at the policemen, who initially responded with tear gas and then live fire.  Ameed was hit in the gunfire and died of his wounds in the hospital.

The incident, the first of its kind involving a senior Fatah official, triggered a wave of protests in Nablus and surrounding villages.  Scores of angry Fatah activists took to the streets on Saturday night (25th), burning tires and shooting into the air in protest of Ameed’s killing.

On Sunday (25th), nine Fatah members from Nablus announced their resignation from the faction, “following the regretful events which resulted in the martyrdom of commander Emad al-Ameed, we submit our resignations from Fatah,” the members wrote in a letter to the faction leadership.



Israeli German Drone Test Flight Hailed As ‘Historic Phase’ In Defense Ties

The German Heron TP UAV aircraft finished its first test flight in Israel, the Ministry of Defense reported on Sunday (26th), calling the event “a significant and historic phase in the strategic cooperation” between Jerusalem and Berlin.

According to the report, the flight is the result of an agreement, signed in June 2018, between the defense ministries of the two countries.  The agreement outlines the leasing, maintenance and training services of the medium-altitude, long-endurance, multi-mission drone, based on the Israel Aerospace Industries-developed “Eitan” UAV that is in operational use in the Israeli Air Force.  The German Heron TP UAV was modified in record time and incorporates advanced Israeli technology.

German Air Force personnel are now training with their  Israeli counterparts in an IAF base in central Israel.  The training is part of a joint program of the UAV Executive Office in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development of the Israeli Defense Ministry, the Israel Aerospace Industries and Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, an Airbus Group company.

UAV Executive Office head Col. (res.) C. stated: “Despite the serious challenges we faced, including those brought by the coronavirus pandemic, we are on schedule.  This is thanks to the collaboration and great work done by elements of Germany’s and Israel’s defense establishments.”



Reopening The Skies To Launch International Flights

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Minister of Tourism Miri Regev to prepare an outline for airplane trips from Israel to Cyprus, Greece, and other “green” states with low coronavirus morbidity rates.

In turn, Regev instructed the Ministry of Transportation, Civil Aviation Authority and National Aviation Network to quickly arrange an outline for reopening the skies with the Ministry of Health and National Security Council for approval by the Coronavirus Cabinet.

According to the operating plan formulated by the Ministry of Transportation, incoming passengers will be divided into those arriving from “green” and “red” countries, with those from “green” countries defined as having a low morbidity rate, requiring quarantine for a period of just five days upon landing in Israel, and those from “red,” or high-risk countries, obliged to perform a virus check prior to boarding their flight.

The outlined plan will be presented for the Prime Minister’s approval following discussions with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and arrangement with the Directorate of Transportation and Health, National Security Council and Civil  Aviation Authority.  Fulfillment of the intended proposal will be dependent upon the existing morbidity rate in Israel.

The Ministry of Health is currently examining the plan and is expected to submit an expert conclusion.  This will allow a final outline for operating flights during the pandemic to be drafted.



Bodies of Jews Murdered In Holocaust Found In Ukraine Basements

The bodies of 268 Jews murdered in the Holocaust were found in Ukrainian basements, below the town square marketplace in Sataniv, in recent years.  The basements were opened after World War II, and were left that way with signs marking them as the places of mass murder.  The bodies were of Jewish people, mostly women and children.

The town of Sataniv was known to have had an organized Jewish community where numerous pioneers of the Haskalah Jewish movement once lived.  Having survived persecution in the region for centuries, the Germans infiltrated the region in 1942 and killed 800 people – the majority Jews.

It is reported that of the 800 killed, 268 were gassed in gas chambers in two separate basements, according to Ynetnews, citing the KGB’s records as well as eyewitness records from those who returned to the city after the war.  

Over the years, the entrances to the basements disappeared as did the signs, under the rubble of the ruined houses above.

It took the local Jewish community several legal battles in order to finally gain ownership of the buildings.  Searches began at the sites in 2019, and one by one, bones and articles of clothing of those savagely killed were found.  

Among the rubble was a mezuzah which stands at the doorway of Jewish homes, suggesting that the ruins of the buildings once belonged to Jewish families.

At Last, the remains of the Jewish people murdered in Ukrainian basements long ago, were collected in sacks and taken for burial to the city’s ancient Jewish cemetery, for interment.