News Digest — 7/7/20

Report: 2 Killed, Several Wounded As Another Explosion Hits Iranian Capital

Two people were killed and several more injured when an explosion rocked a factory in the Iranian capital of Tehran early Tuesday (7th), Saudi news site Al-Arabiyah reported.

According to the report, the explosion occurred at a “cutting factory” in south Tehran, not far from the building where Iranian nuclear archives were found by Israel in 2018.

Iranian authorities and state media have not commented on the reported incident, which is the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.

On Saturday (4th) a fire broke out in a power station in southwestern Iran, local media reported.

The blaze, which affected a transformer in the power station in the city of Ahvaz, was put out by firefighters and electricity specialists.

Also Saturday (4th), a chlorine gas leak occurred at a unit of the Karoon petrochemicals plant near the port of Bandar Imam Khomeini in the Persian Gulf, injuring dozens, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

On July 2, a fire broke out at a new centrifuge assembly center in Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.  Officials initially claimed operations were not affected, but on Sunday (5th) an Iranian official said, “The incident would slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term.”

On June 30th, 19 people were killed in an explosion at a medical facility in the north of the capital Tehran, which an official said was caused by a gas leak.

On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that Iranian authorities claimed was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.

But the large number of “alleged” accidents in Iranian facilities has raised speculation that the incidents may be the result of a covert effort targeting Iran’s nuclear program, or retaliatory efforts by Israel, after Iran targeted Israel’s water system.

A Middle Eastern intelligence officer was quoted Sunday (5th) by The New York Times saying “the fire that damaged a building used for producing centrifuges at Natanz was sparked by Israel and was caused by a powerful bomb.”

But the unidentified official said Israel was not linked to several other recent mysterious fires in Iran over the past week.

An Israeli reporter Friday night (3rd) said that Israel was bracing for a possible retaliation from Iran if it determines that Jerusalem was behind the Natanz explosion or any of the fires.



Palestinian Authority In ‘Construction Race’ To Lay Claim To Judea And Samaria

Against the backdrop of the debate surrounding application of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has launched a ‘construction race’ targeting areas slated for Israeli sovereignty, according to a petition recently filed by Regavim in the Jerusalem District Court.

Regavim’s petition focuses on Kfar Nahlin, near Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion.  Since the roll-out of President Trump’s “Vision for Peace to Prosperity,” an intensive PA effort has been underway to create facts on the ground through illegal construction on Israeli state land near the village of Kfar Nahlin.  Recent projects include construction of new buildings and extensive infrastructure work.

Kfar Nahlin, located in Area B, under PA jurisdiction, is bounded by a natural river channel.

Several months ago, construction and infrastructure projects crept beyond the boundaries of the village into the area designated as Area C, under full authority of the State of Israel.  After the announcement of the Trump Plan, the creeping encroachment turned into a tidal wave of land seizure, and the building of 20 new villas, small homes and other permanent structures.

As building has continued unhindered, Regavim petitioned the Jerusalem District Court, demanding effective law enforcement against the existing structures and preventive measures to head off any further illegal land grabs at the site.

Meir Deutsch, CEO of Regavim said, “while our heads of state are debating whether and how sovereignty will be applied, the Palestinian Authority is hard at work, establishing facts on the ground.  If we don’t wake up, in a few years we will find ourselves faced with an unchangeable reality – and the security and policy ramifications that come with it.”

Shlomo Ne’eman, head of Gush Etzion’s Regional Council, added: “There’s a storm raging in this region.  From the beginning of the corona epidemic we have been sounding the alarm against the Palestinian Authority’s hostile takeover of state land.  Now that sovereignty is approaching, the Arab race to plunder land throughout Gush Etzion has accelerated.  It is inconceivable that the State of Israel has not put a stop to this illegal activity.”



Iran Vows To Stand By Hamas In Destroying Israel

In an online letter Monday (6th), on Twitter addressing senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh in response to the latter’s letter on Israel, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commended the terrorist leader for his actions to thwart Israel’s intention to apply Jewish sovereignty on certain areas of Judea and Samaria.

“I thank God for the resistance movement’s successful efforts in defeating the US and the Zionist regime and in bringing dignity to the Islamic nation,” Khamenei tweeted to Haniyeh, a former Hamas prime minister who is now its political bureau chief.

“The abject Zionist enemy who has suffered irrevocable defeats in military fields, pursues its strategy through the economic siege of Gaza and the trickery of negotiations and compromise.  But the brave Palestinian nation continues its path of dignity and honor via wisdom and experience,” he continued, adding that it was essential for Hamas to join forces with its rival in Ramallah – the Palestinian Authority – in order to frustrate Israel’s intentions.

The Trump administration’s newly unveiled Vision for Peace stipulates that Washington will endorse an Israeli decision to apply sovereignty to about 30% of Judea and Samaria as long as Israel commits to holding good-faith negotiations with the Palestinians and avoids construction in certain areas that could become part of a Palestinian state.  That state will only be established four years after negotiations begin and only if the Palestinians fully renounce terrorism and carry out major reforms, and only if they are no longer considered a threat to Israel.

“Certainly maintaining vigilance, unity and harmony among the Palestinian people and movements will play an effective role in the nullification of the enemy’s plots and will bring about divine assistance,” Khamenei concluded, vowing that “Iran, just like before, and based on its religious and human duty, will not spare any effort to support the oppressed people of Palestine and to revive their rights as well as to repel the evil of the fake, usurping Zionist regime.”



Senior OECD Official: Israel’s Innovation Level Is Twice That Of Other Nations

Israel is a world leader in digitalization, cyber and medical technology, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Deputy Secretary General Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen said on Sunday (5th). 

Speaking at an online conference hosted by The Jerusalem Post marking 10 years since Israel joined the OECD, Knudsen said, “The Israeli level of development and digitalization is twice that of other OECD countries.”

The Jewish state contributes a great deal to the world’s knowledge and has a “very strong foundation” for future growth, said Knudsen.

“Israel has one of the highest levels in internet accessibility for children up to the age six.  Israel has a lot of information in the field of network security, and it contributes a lot to our knowledge and experience.  This has given Israel a very strong foundation and an opportunity for rapid development in the future,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the virtual conference, praising the strength of the Israeli economy over the past decade and noting that when Israel joined the OECD, structural changes to the country had been required, as well as the meeting of targets that he said had brought improvements in a range of fields.  However, Rivlin said that while much has been accomplished, much still remains to be done.

“While high-tech and the financial sectors in Israel have flourished, the Israel of minimum wage has struggled,” said Rivlin, according to a statement released by the President’s Office.  “Alongside the booming economy of Herzliya and Tel Aviv, the economy of Bnei Brak, Hatzor and Rahat have not kept pace.  These are all our children – these are all our citizens.”

The Israeli president expressed confidence in Israel’s ability to meet the challenge, saying, “There is an inherent tension between the vital aspiration to be the startup nation and the desire to excel, and the need to also stop and look at the situation of those left behind.  I believe we can do both, and that it is in our nature to do so.  I believe that cooperation and transparency, open economy, and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit are hopes that we all share –  and will cause us to succeed and reach our goal of making a more successful and better world.” 



Hebrew University Researchers Develop Tomato That Fights Degenerative Diseases

Israeli researchers have developed a new tomato strain that can help fight degenerative diseases, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said.

According to the university, “Xantomato” is rich in a substance called Zeaxanthin, a natural yellow pigment that helps plants in the photosynthesis process and can be found mainly in corn, orange peppers, pumpkins and citrus fruits, and at very low concentrations in melons, mangos, apricots and peaches.

Zeaxanthin could potentially inhibit degenerative diseases by protecting the light receptors in the retina from damage caused by strong blue light.

The researchers, headed by Professor Joseph Hirschberg, who specializes in genetics, molecular biology, and genetic engineering in plants, said that adding zeaxanthin to the daily diet helps to reduce the development of degenerative diseases especially macular degeneration, which causes blindness in adults.

Hirschberg noted that “Xantomato” – named for “xanthophyll,” the group of substances to which zeaxanthin belongs, and “tomato” – was developed using classical genetic cultivation and hybridizations of different strains.

Zeaxanthin makes up more than half of the pigments in the new tomato, on top of the vitamins and other essential nutrients found in regular tomatoes, he noted.  In fact, the new tomato strain has several times more zeaxanthin than corn, which is the main source of this substance in today’s diet.