News Digest — 7/28/20

Netanyahu: Hezbollah Is Playing With Fire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded Monday evening (27th) to the incident on the Lebanese border in which three terrorists from Hezbollah attempted to infiltrate into Israeli territory.

“Nasrallah is embroiling the state of Lebanon because of Iran.  Today a Hezbollah cell infiltrated Israeli territory.  With its good operational readiness, the IDF thwarted this attempt,” the prime minister said.

“We view the attempt to infiltrate our territory with great severity.  Hezbollah and the State of Lebanon are responsible for this incident and for any attack that originates from Lebanese territory against Israel.  Hezbollah is playing with fire.  Any attack against us will be answered with great force,” Netanyahu warned.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “the IDF soldiers and commanders acted with great professionalism and precision in preventing a serious incident that could have claimed lives.”

“Israel is more determined than ever to prevent any harm to its sovereignty or its soldiers, and certainly to its citizens.  Lebanon and Syria are sovereign states and will bear the painful responsibility for any terrorist attack that originates from their territory.”

“Any action against the State of Israel will lead to a powerful, sharp and painful response.  I want to say clearly – the IDF is ready to respond, the IDF is ready for any response.  The State of Israel, the defense establishment and the IDF will continue to act wherever required, whether near or far,” Gantz said.

Earlier, an Israeli security source dismissed the Hezbollah terrorist organization’s denial of involvement in the attempted infiltration, saying “The whole incident was filmed, all documented, and the Hezbollah cell was armed.”

“Hezbollah had claimed that the Israeli government made up the confrontation which occurred when three of its members attempted to infiltrate into Israeli territory from Lebanon on Monday,” the source added.



Israel Can Seize PA Funds Paid To Terrorist, Court Rules

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Sunday (26th) that the Israeli government can seize funds paid by the Palestinian Authority to an incarcerated terrorist, citing a 2016 anti-terror law that permits the seizure of “pay for slay” salaries.

The court rejected a petition filed by convicted terrorist Fakhri Zahir Mansour Omar, who asked for the return of tens of thousands of shekels in payment to him that were seized by the Israeli government.

In October, 2005, Omar drove a suicide bomber to the scene of an attack in Hadera that killed seven Israelis and injured 55.

The request to seize the funds was made by the Economic Counterterrorism Bureau, which operates as part of the Defense Ministry.

The ECB said in a statement, “This precedent-setting ruling by the court allows, for the first time, the seizure of funds paid to terrorists by the Palestinian Authority.”

According to a report by the Washington Post, the PA paid approximately $160 million in 2017 to incarcerated Palestinian terrorists convicted of plotting or carrying out attacks against Israelis.

The PA paid an additional $183 million to the prisoners’ families as well as to the families of deceased terrorists.

The US and Israel have condemned the practice of “pay for slay” salaries for incentivizing and rewarding terrorism, but PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas has called moves to stop the payments “aggression against the Palestinian people.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement that he was encouraged by the ruling.

“I intend to continue leading various initiatives via the ECB to prevent the transfer of funds to terrorists and terrorist organizations,” he said. 

“This ruling will help us in the war on terror, through economic means.”

Last year the US Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, which slashes American aid to the PA until cash payments to terrorists and their families stop.

The law was named after US military veteran Taylor Force, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv in 2016.



Hamas Refused $15B In US Aid Over Demand It Disarm, Leader Says

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Monday (27th) that his organization recently turned down a substantial package from the United States because it would have had to lay down its weapons.

Speaking with a Qatari news outlet, Haniyeh claimed that as part of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, Washington offered to give Hamas $15B in aid if it would agree to disarm.

The offer was “categorically declined,”  Haniyeh said.

Hamas has consistently asserted that it will never relinquish its sizable arsenal of weapons, rockets and missiles.

Designated as a terrorist group by the EU, US, Israel and several other countries, Hamas ousted PA Leader Mahmous Abbas’ Fatah-led government from the Gaza Strip in a military coup in 2007, effectively splitting the Palestinian areas into two political entities.

All efforts made over the past decade to promote a reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions – the latest brokered by Egypt in late 2017 – have failed.

Haniyeh further claimed that plans to build air and seaports in Gaza were foiled by the Palestinian Authority and several Arab countries.



78 Future Lone Soldiers To Arrive on Two Nefesh B’Nefesh Group Aliyeh Flights

Throughout the summer, Nefesh B’Nefesh will be facilitating a total of 16 group Aliyeh flights, with designated blocks of seats reserved for Olim on commercial flights to Israel.

Two of these flights, arriving this week, will have 78 future Lone Soldiers aboard, which is being coordinated in cooperation with different Israeli and Jewish Ministries.

The future Lone Soldiers – those volunteering to serve in the IDF without immediate family living in Israel – will join 3,500 Lone Soldiers from around the world under the Nefesh B’Nefesh Friends of the IDF (FIDF) Lone Soldiers Program.  These young men and women, once they become Israeli citizens, enlist in the IDF as required of all Israelis at the age of 18.  The majority of those on these flights hail from California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Once enlisted, these Olim become part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Friends of the IDF (FIDF) Lone Soldier program which cares for thousands of Olim soldiers from around the world currently in active service.

“These young men and women who chose to make Aliyah from North America and will enlist in the IDF to serve in the front lines of Israel’s defense and security are our people’s greatest pride,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration, MK Pnina Tamano-Shata.  “We support and assist Lone Soldiers that made Aliyah through a variety of meaningful programs, and I intend to further expand their rights and benefits.  Along with the citizens of Israel, I salute them as an inspiration to us all,” she added.



Abbas Congratulates Turkey On Converting Famous Cathedral Into Mosque

Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday (26th) to congratulate him for turning Istanbul’s iconic cathedral Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

According to the Turkish press, the phone call was reported by Turkey’s Communications Directorate, which released a statement claiming that during the conversation, Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s determination to continue to support the Palestinian cause.

On July 10, Erdogan declared that the “resurrection” of the ancient Hagia Sophia church as a mosque bodes well for the “liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.”

Built in the sixth century CE by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the Hagia Sophia served as the world’s largest Christian church for nearly 1,000 years until Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell to the conquering Ottoman Turks in 1453.

In 1935, Turkey’s secular president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,  converted the building into a museum open to all people.

There has been outrage over Turkey’s requisitioning of the Hagia Sophia from many parts of the Christian world, and major Sunni Muslim scholars have also slammed the move, saying, “it is forbidden in Islam to convert a church into a mosque.”