News Digest — 7/30/19

Israel Hit Rocket Depot In Iraq, Expanding Target Area Beyond Syria, Report Says

Israel “carried out an airstrike earlier this month against an Iranian rockets depot” in Iraq, according to Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London.

According to the newspaper, the rockets depot which was attacked is located northeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Citing Western diplomats, the paper reported that “Israel has expanded the scope of its Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria.  It said that the attack took place on July 19 and was carried out by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet.”

The Pentagon denied a connection to the strike.  Israel did not react, said Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

Sources revealed that the strikes targeted Iranian ‘advisers’ and a ballistic missile shipment that had recently arrived from Iran to Iraq,” according to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Israel has been linked to repeated airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria including last week in Tal al-Hara.  The Arabic newspaper cites diplomatic sources as saying that the attack in Syria “targeted Iran’s attempt to seize control of the strategic hill, located in the Daraa countryside in southern Syria.”

On certain occasions, Israeli leaders have taken responsibility for attacks on Syrian territory.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken often of the need to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Due to the many attacks on Iranian interests in Syria, the Revolutionary Guard is making an effort “to concentrate military infrastructure in Iraq,” says Kan.



Israel Invests In High-Tech Upgrades At West Bank Crossings

It’s just after 6 a.m. and a Palestinian man’s face is momentarily bathed in crimson light, not by the sun rising over the mountains of Jordan, but by a facial recognition scanner at an Israeli checkpoint near Jerusalem.

The Israeli military has installed the face scanners as part of a multimillion dollar upgrade of the Qalandia crossing that now allows Palestinians from the West Bank with work permits to zip through with relative ease.

Qalandia is one of the main crossings for the thousands of Palestinians who enter Israel each day for a variety of reasons, including work, medical appointments, or family visits.

Among Palestinians, the heavily fortified crossing was seen as a notorious human logjam, where workers would wait for as much as two hours in order to pass into Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. 

Palestinian laborers from around the West Bank who had permits to work in Israel would wake up in the middle of the night to arrive at the crossing before daybreak.  Metal fenced entryways were often packed with people before dawn, waiting for the gates to open.

Israel’s Defense Ministry poured over $85 million into upgrading Qalandia and several other major checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank in recent years – part of a strategy to improve conditions for Palestinians.

Thanks to the upgrades, crossing through Qalandia now takes approximately 10 minutes, even during early rush hour, and has the feel of an airport terminal.  While much of the rest of Jerusalem sleeps, hundreds of Palestinian laborers stream through each morning on foot or riding bikes, buses and cars into Israel for work.

Many Palestinians seek employment in Israel, where there are more jobs and much higher wages than in the West Bank.  On any given day, an estimated 8,000 cross at the Qalandia crossing alone.

In exchange for this benefit, however, Palestinians seeking work in Israel must receive biometric identification cards, the only way to pass through Qalandia, according to Israel’s Civil Administration, which manages the crossing.

After passing through a security check – a metal detector and baggage scanner – the workers place their magnetic ID cards on a scanner and face a camera from which a glow of red light emanates – facial recognition software confirms the permit holder’s identity, opening a turnstile.



Turkey’s Erdogan: Whoever Is On Israel’s Side, We Are Against Them

“Whoever is on the side of Israel, let everyone know we are against them,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday (27th), according to Iran’s Press TV.

Erdogan made the comments as he addressed senior provincial officials from the ruling AKP party in Ankara.

“We do not approve of silence on the state terror that Israel blatantly carries out in Palestine,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan has a history of slamming the Jewish state and its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a history of slamming him back.

Erdogan made waves last year when he said that the spirit of Adolf Hitler had re-emerged among some Israeli policymakers.

In March, a spokesperson for Erdogan slammed Netanyahu for comments he had made regarding the Nation-State Law, inspiring Netanyahu to say that “Turkey’s dictator Erdogan attacks Israel’s democracy while Turkish journalists and judges fill his prisons.  What a joke!”

Erdogan’s party took a beating in mayoral elections in June, breaking his aura of invincibility in his country and delivering a message from voters unhappy over his policies.

The United States said last week it was removing NATO ally Turkey from the F-35 program, as it long threatened, after Ankara purchased and received delivery of Russian S-400 missile defenses



Captured Israeli-Arab ISIS Fighter: Israel Is A Democratic State

A captured Arab-Israeli ISIS-fighter in Syria, who holds Israeli citizenship, has said that living through the second intifada in the West Bank has taught him that Israel “has not done 1% of what Bashar al-Assad has done.”

In an interview with BBC Arabic’s Feras Kilani, as reported by MEMRI, Sayyaf Sharif Daoud said in a July 16 interview that despite tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, Israel does not rape women nor brutally kill its own citizens.  Assad’s forces have been accused of using rape as a weapon of war and carrying out summary executions of its citizens, since the Syrian conflict started in 2011.

“There was fighting and all that, but Israel has not brutalized and molested women, nor killed with such barbarity,” Daoud said in the interview.

While Daoud joined ISIS, he claims his father had warned him against joining either Hamas or Fatah, the ruling factions in Gaza and the West Bank.  Now, he said he hopes he is allowed to return to Israel and live a “normal life.”

He said Israel is a democratic state.  

“Us Arabs live together in Israel with the Jews.  There is no injustice. We are treated just like the Jews,” Daoud said.



Jewish German Spat On For Wearing Kippah In Public

A Jewish resident from the German city of Potsdam, near Berlin, who wore a kippah with a Star of David, was attacked and insulted in front of Potsdam Central Station, Sunday (28th).

“Officials identified two Syrian nationals as the alleged perpetrators,” reported a spokesman of Brandenburg police on Sunday.  Police are treating it as a hate crime.

The 25-year-old student told German press that he wears the kippah daily.

“When I got off the tram at the main station, I noticed shadows behind me,” he reported.

The next moment he was spat on and received anti-Semitic threats and gestures.  He then alerted the federal police. The two Syrians were taken for questioning and released while the investigation was ongoing.

Germany has witnessed growing anti-Semitic attacks recently, leading to a warning from the country’s commissioner on combating anti-Semitism about wearing kippot in public places.

This in turn led Germany’s best-selling newspaper Bild to print an extraordinary front-page commentary in May declaring that, “The Kippah Belongs to Germany,” with a cut-out of a kippah that could be worn as a sign of solidarity against rising anti-Semitism in Germany.



New Israeli Imaging Technique Could Help Doctors Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

Doctors could soon be able to compare brain scans taken over time from the same patient and to differentiate between healthy and diseased brain tissue without conducting an invasive or dangerous procedure, thanks to new research by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Dr. Aviv Mezer and his team at HUJI’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences successfully transformed and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) from a diagnostic camera that takes pictures of organs, bones, and nerves into a device that can record changes in the biological makeup of brain tissue.  This new MRI could help doctors more quickly determine the onset of disease and begin treatment.

Mezer believes the new MRI technique will provide a crucial understanding into how our brains age: “When we scanned young and old patients’ brains, we saw that different brain areas age differently.  For example, in some white-matter areas, there is a decrease in brain tissue volume, whereas in the gray-matter, tissue volumes remain constant. However, we saw major changes in the molecular makeup of the gray-matter in younger versus older subjects.”

The results, he believes, is that patients will more likely receive correct diagnosis earlier, speeding up the beginning of treatment, which potentially could help them maintain an improved quality of life longer, all via a non-invasive technique.