News Digest — 7/6/20

All-Israel Ofek-16 Launch Hailed As ‘Tremendous Achievement’

Israel successfully  launched its Ofek-16 (or, “Horizon-16”) satellite at 4 a.m. on Monday (6th).  It joins a collection of satellites Israel has deployed recently.

Not only the satellite, but its Shavit launcher were developed locally in Israel.  The project could be described as all “Blue and White,” referring to Israel’s national colors used to describe locally produced products.

The satellite has already entered orbit and has undergone initial tests.  It will begin transmitting its first pictures next week.

Ofek-16 is a reconnaissance satellite.  Although Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) made no comment about the details of its mission, reports are that it will bolster Israel’s ability to monitor Iran, particularly its nuclear weapons development.

Israel is one of the few countries with satellite-reconnaissance capabilities.  Iran is another in that elite group.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted on Monday (6th), “Israel’s technological and intelligence superiority is a cornerstone of its security.” 

“The success of the launch of the satellite tonight is another tremendous achievement for the defense establishment, the security industry in general and the aerospace industry in particular,” he said.

Ofek-16 follows the 2016 launch of Ofek-11.

“The Ofek-16 is highly advanced, including breakthrough ‘blue and white’ technology that serves our defense interests,” said Shlomi Sudari, who heads IAI’s space program.

“We will continue to strengthen and fortify Israel’s power on every front and everywhere,” Gantz said.

Israel defense firm Elbit systems, which specializes in electronic defense systems, developed the satellite’s payload.



Netanyahu Says Israel In ‘State of Emergency’ As Nation Struggles To Control Virus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is in a “state of emergency” at a cabinet meeting on Sunday (5th) as COVID-19 gains the upper-hand despite the country’s efforts.

“We are in a state of emergency, we cannot delay the legislation on adopting virus measures, we must move forward with it to stop the spread.” he said.

“We will have to take steps beyond what was agreed upon during the coronavirus cabinet meeting last week.”

Israel is ordering 30,000 people into quarantine and has restarted a phone surveillance program to track patients as cases have surged, according to news sources.

The country has passed 11,000 patients.  Although the number of serious cases has been relatively low compared to the first wave, that is changing, officials say.  The number of serious cases stands at 86.

“We are seeing – as I have warned before – the outbreak is accompanied by an increase in the number of serious cases, which will challenge the Health Ministry,” Netanyahu said on Sunday (5th).  He said the number of newly confirmed sick daily is 116.

The government has been gradually reimposing restrictions.  On Friday (3rd), it tightened guidelines on gatherings, reducing the number of people who could attend event halls, clubs and prayer centers to 50.  All other indoor gatherings were reduced to 20.

The total number of Israeli cases since the pandemic began is 29,366, of which 17,847 have recovered.  There have been 332 deaths.

Israel had done a relatively good job of containing the pandemic in the first round.  However since reopening the economy and reducing restrictions, the virus has made a resurgence.

The government is hoping to avoid a complete lockdown and is instead using targeted curfews on corona “hotspots” to avoid delivering another blow to an already struggling economy. 



IDF Strikes Hamas Targets Following Gaza Rocket Fire

Israeli aircraft struck Hamas positions in Gaza after three rockets were fired from the Hamas-run enclave towards southern Israel on Sunday night (5th), a week after the last round of rocket fire.

IAF jets and helicopters struck an underground facility belonging to Hamas in the northern part of the coastal enclave, the IDF said.

“The IDF views any kind of terror activity aimed at Israel with great severity and will continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said, adding that Hamas will “bear the consequences” for all attacks against Israel.

Two of the rockets, which caused thousands of Israelis in southern Israeli communities to run to bomb shelters twice in less than an hour, landed in open fields and caused no damage.  The third was intercepted by the Iron Dome.

The rocket fire comes as tensions are high with the coastal enclave as Hamas and other Gazan terror groups have vowed to oppose Israeli plans to place some Jewish settlements in the West Bank under Israeli government control.

On Thursday (2nd) the leaders of Hamas and Fatah, two rival Palestinian factions, held a joint-press conference and announced that they would unite to fight US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and Israel’s plans in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

“We are now talking about a joint struggle, a campaign on the ground,” senior Fatah official Jabril Rajoub said.  “We call on all Palestinian factions to see cooperation between Hamas and Fatah as a historic opportunity for a joint fight to establish a Palestinian state and oppose the Israeli occupation.”

Calling Hamas a “complete partner” in the plans, Rajoub said that “we are leaving this meeting under one flag, with which we oppose annexation.”



At Brooklyn Pro-Palestinian, BLM Rally, Calls To Eliminate Both Israel And The US

At a pro-Palestinian, Black Lives Matter demonstration in Brooklyn, NY on Wednesday (1st), participants called to eliminate the Jewish state as well as the United States amid chants of “Death to Israel,” “Death to America” and “From Gaza to Minnesota, globalize the Intifada!”

Several hundred people took part in the New York City borough, defined as a “Day of Rage” event to respond to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally intended to start the process on July 1, but it has now been postponed.

One protester said, “The 1948 land that Israel exists on is still stolen – Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv…all stolen.  We don’t want to just go back to Gaza and the West Bank.  We want all the land.”

Also speaking at the event was a pro-North Korean activist, who said: “I believe that within our lifetime, Palestine will be yours again,  and Korea will be one again.  The United States of America and all it’s puppet governments will be no more.”

At another “Day of Rage” event in Washington, DC, protesters linked Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian Cause together, chanting “Israel, we know that you murder children, too.”

The march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building was led by a Harvard student who read a poem about Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, according to the Washington Examiner.  The poem referred to Israel as “puppet-master of continents,” an age-old conspiracy theory that Jews run the world.     

The Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement, “We are horrified by this vicious hate-mongering by Black Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter charter is filled with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic lies.  It is deeply disturbing, but not surprising to hear these sentiments chanted in the streets of Washington, DC.” 

The statement called on former Vice President Joe Biden, “As the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, to condemn these anti-Semitic chants by BLM protesters and others.”



IDF’s New Drone Unit To Maintain ‘Hovering Supremacy’ Over Terrorists 

The Intelligence Directorate of the IDF inaugurated a new drone unit on Wednesday (1st), consisting of over a dozen drones, some large and some small, that will be controlled by operators in Unit 9900 who will run the intelligence agency’s satellites and a wide range of visual technologies.  

The machines will fly and hover over enemy-held territory and use mapping information taken from satellites and airplanes as well as topological information gathered en route to build a three-dimensional map of a target.

That info will then be shared with IDF soldiers and pilots during their missions.

The drones won’t be affected by changing atmospheric conditions as they fly low – specialized cameras aren’t impacted by changes either, allowing the ability to provide up-to-the-minute accuracy that will better protect soldiers and innocent civilians who might be in the area.

A senior officer of the unit told Makor Rishon on Friday (3rd) that both Hamas and Hezbollah have decent drone capabilities themselves to spy on the IDF.  The Army invests a good deal of resources to counter the terrorists’ intelligence-gathering abilities.

In any future confrontation, the officer said, the big challenge will be to gain “hovering supremacy” over the terrorist organizations, just as the IAF works to achieve regular air supremacy against state actors.

As reported in Makor Rishon, the cutting-edge technology involved is not in the cameras or drones themselves, which are available commercially, but in the artificial intelligence program created by the intelligence officers that possesses all the data and the encrypted communications network that allows for the safe transmission of top-secret information.

The new investment in the intelligence realm was planned well before COVID-19 hit, since it is part of the IDF’s five-year Momentum plan being rolled out piece by piece by Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.