News Digest — 7/27/22

Israel Warns Hezbollah After Threats On Offshore Gas Field

Israel issued warnings to the Lebanese Hezbollah, threatening that any attack will be answered with force, officials said on Tuesday (26th).

The warnings were delivered using French and American diplomatic and military channels.

The Iran-backed terror group was told that if it attempts to attack the Karish gas field once again, the response from the IDF will be harsh.

Hezbollah launched UAVs at the Karish rig earlier this month, which were shot down by the military.

According to the officials, the IDF has not raised its level of alert despite threats made by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, on Monday (25th).

However, in September, when the gas field becomes operational, the military will reinforce the defenses around it.

Hezbollah’s secretary-general has been vocal about opposition to Israeli extraction of natural gas, which he claims is done from oil reserves within its maritime borders, specifically the Karish gas field.

“All of Israel’s gas fields are under threat from our missiles – not just Karish,” Nasrallah said.  “The ships that extract the gas are Israeli, even if under a Greek banner.”

Meanwhile, the American mediator Amos Hochstein is scheduled to arrive in Lebanon this weekend.  Israel is urging the US to complete the negotiations before the offshore gas field is operational but demands the Lebanese position be accepted by Hezbollah before any agreement is signed.

Israel said an agreement is in Lebanon’s best interest and could prevent further deterioration of the crisis.

Hochstein will propose a compromise in which each party will drop half of what it demands, but the Karish offshore gas field will remain in Israeli waters.

The area in dispute between Israel and Lebanon is relatively small, and is some 322 square miles.

For Israel, the disputed territory is less than 2% of its economic water, and for the Lebanese 3%.  In 2012, Israel signaled that it was ready to compromise, and divide the region in a ratio of 42:58.  However, Beirut did not show any desire to accept the offer, thus no real progress has been made.

American mediated talks have been halted and restored periodically since 2000.

Last week, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz toured the Israeli-Lebanon border with senior IDF commanders and security officials just a day after a Hezbollah drone was shot down upon entering Israeli territory.

“Hezbollah’s actions are a threat to Lebanon,” Lapid said at the border.  “We are not interested in an escalation of violence, but cannot accept Hezbollah’s actions that can ignite the entire region at a time that Lebanon can begin to develop its energy resources,” he said, adding that Israel is prepared for any eventuality.

“Israel will continue to act against any Iranian terror proxy,” the prime minister said adding that the government will cooperate with other Mideast nations to prevent Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region.



Jerusalem Arab Arrested For Setting Up Kindergarten, Soup Kitchen Under Hamas Cover

A Palestinian man from eastern Jerusalem has been indicted for setting up a kindergarten and a soup kitchen on behalf of Hamas in order to embezzle funds for the terror group’s local operations, the Justice Ministry said.

According to the indictment, Bilal Suv Laban met with a member of Hamas in Turkey in March, who ordered Laban to “promote Hamas activity’ in eastern Jerusalem.  The Hamas operative, who had been convicted of murder and other acts of terror, was deported to Turkey after Israel released him as part of the prisoner exchange deal with captured soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

The Hamas operative gave Laban an encrypted mobile phone that he used to communicate with him.  He instructed Laban to open a kindergarten and, a soup kitchen and a charity to funnel funds for the terror group, as well as to distribute Palestinian flags with the purpose of recruiting new members, according to the indictment.

Laban also met with a group of Turkish tourists on the Temple Mount in June and presented himself as a mediator working on behalf of Hamas.  He collected a large sum of money from them for the terror group, the indictment said.  Some $13,000 was seized when Laban was arrested last month.

The indictment charged Laban with membership and activity in a terrorist organization, operating on public property for terrorist purposes and obstruction of justice.  The prosecution also requested from the court that Laban be detained in custody until the end of the legal proceedings against him.



Report: Russian Forces In Syria Fired At Israeli Jets In May

Israeli military aircraft came under Russian anti-aircraft fire over Syria in May in an isolated incident, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday (26th).  The anti-aircraft fire missed its target.

Gantz’s disclosure came amid tensions between Israel and Russia over the former’s condemnation of the Ukraine war and the latter’s steps to shut down the local branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Having helped Damascus turn the tide of a more than decade-old civil war, Russian forces in Syria regularly turn a blind eye to airstrikes attributed to Israel against suspected Iranian-sponsored deployments and arms transfers.

But on Tuesday (26th), Channel 13 News reported that on May 13, a Russian-operated S-300 defense battery fired on Israeli jets as they carried out a Syrian sortie, without hitting any.

“It was a one-off incident,” Gantz told a conference hosted by Channel 13, when asked to confirm the report.  The Russian launch happened when the aircraft “were no longer around,” he said.

The Russian Embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Israel’s coordination with Russia over Syria is “a situation that is stable right now, I think,” Gantz said.  “But we are always reviewing this story as if we’ve only just begun it now.”



Bosnia And Herzegovina Adopt IHRA Definition Of Antisemitism

The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the three-member panel which serves as the country’s head of state, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism on Friday (22nd).

The adoption of the definition was announced by Milorad Dodik, the Serb representative in the presidency.

“Upon my initiative, the Presidency of BiH adopted today the legally non-binding definition of anti-Semitism,” he said on Twitter.  “By doing so, BiH has joined 30 other countries that also adopted the same definition.”

Days earlier, during a trip to Israel, Dodik said: “it is no secret that I feel a great appreciation for the State of Israel and I simply love the Jewish people, mainly due to the sense of historical partnership that my people went through with the Jews during World War II.

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) advocacy organization applauded BiH’s decision to adopt the definition.

“Congratulations to Bosnia and Herzegovina for joining the more than three dozen nations that have adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, an essential step in fighting Jew-hatred globally and building bridges between peoples of all faiths,” they tweeted.

“Promoting the adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is a top priority for CAM,” the group said in a statement.  “We warmly welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina’s decision, and hope additional countries will follow suit in taking this important step in combating antisemitism, in all its contemporary manifestations.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations praised BiH for the move.

“We commend Bosnia and Herzegovina for adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.  Thank you Presiden@MiloradDodik for your initiative, following your successful visit to Israel this week,” CEO William Daroff tweeted. 

The World Jewish Congress echoed the same sentiments, tweeting, “Fighting hate requires drawing a firm line in the sand.  Thank you to the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina for ensuring the country joined the list of those that have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism.”



Jordan Refuses Entry To 150 Religious Jews

A group of some 150 Haredi tourists were denied entry into Jordan via the Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal, some two miles north of Eilat on Tuesday (26th).

The group was on its way to visit Jebel Haroun, traditionally believed to be the burial place of Aaron the High Priest.

According to the Israel Airports Authority, group members were “disruptive” and wanted to bring food across the border with them, in violation of a Jordanian ban.  The Haredim, meanwhile, claimed that they were “humiliated” and that the Jordanians asked them to cut off their peyote (sidelocks).

The IAA put out a statement saying that “A group of Haredi Israelis were not allowed into Jordan because of disruptive behavior at the border crossing to Jordan in response to Jordan’s refusal to allow them to bring food with them.”

“Despite warnings by border terminal staff, they decided to take the food with them,” the IAA said.

Haim Goldberg, a writer and photographer for the Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, said that the Jordanians on duty at the border crossing told the group that only after they cut off their peyot would they be allowed into the country.

“I’m with a group of Haredim who are stuck at the Jordanian border, and what’s happening here is delusional,” Goldberg said.

“We arrived at the crossing on time, but the moment the Jordanians picked up that we were Jewish, the trouble started.  The Jordanians are trying to ask people to cut off their peyot.  Everyone here is undergoing humiliating searches while those who don’t look Jewish are allowed to cross without any problem.  The only disturbance at the Jordan border that the IAA spokesman talked about in the press release was by the Jordanians, who use force against anyone who takes pictures or wants to,” Goldberg said.

Every year a few hundred Haredim visit Jordan at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av to take part in a modest ceremony honoring Aaron, Moses’ older brother and the first High Priest.  Long-standing tradition holds that Aaron is buried at Jebel Haroun in southwest Jordan, near the ancient site Petra.

Tuesday’s (26th) incident was not the first time that the Jordanians allegedly refused entry to visitors clearly identifiable as Jews by their dress or ritual objects.

Rabbi Yaakov Herzog, who calls himself the rabbi of Saudi Arabia, posed a video in which he explains that Jewish visitors can bring tefillin and prayer shawls into Jordan, despite them being banned.

“This week is the yahrtzeit of Aaron the High Priest, and of course people want to go to Jordan to visit the grave,” Herzog said.  “You know that frequently, the Jordanians make problems over tefillin, prayer books, and other Jewish items.  I was at the border this week and they tried to do the same thing to me.  I insisted, I sat with them for hours, and I proved they have no law about that,” Herzog said.