News Digest — 7/9/20

US Affirms Lebanon Support As Hezbollah Steps Up Criticism

A US general voiced Washington’s backing for Lebanese stability on Wednesday (8th) on a visit that triggered a protest by demonstrators including supporters of the Iran-backed Hezbollah against US policies in the country.

General Kenneth McKenzie’s visit to Beirut, a big recipient of US military aid, comes after Hezbollah stepped up criticism of US ambassador Dorothy Shea on Tuesday (7th), accusing her of blatant interference in Lebanese affairs.

Lebanon is in the throes of an acute financial crisis seen as the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

The heavily armed Hezbollah, founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, is classified as a terrorist group by the United States.  It is also a major player in Lebanese policies and backs the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

A US embassy statement said McKenzie “reaffirmed the importance of preserving Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty…”

Several dozen demonstrators, some waving Hezbollah flags, gathered at Beirut airport in a protest which the group’s al-Manar TV said carried several messages against Washington.

These included a rejection of a US embassy plan to hold a memorial  for 241 US Marines killed in 1983 by a bomb attack on their barracks in Beirut, during McKenzie’s visit, an al-Manar broadcaster said.

The US embassy statement said McKenzie’s one-day visit included “a brief stop at memorials honoring the memory of those who have perished in service to their country.”

The United States says Hezbollah carried out the 1983 attack, which was preceded by the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech on Tuesday night (7th), said Dorothy Shea had intervened in official appointments at the central bank, calling this “colonial” behavior.



Hamas: ‘We Will Never Recognize The Enemy’

On the occasion of the sixth anniversary of Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the Hamas terror organization says it will continue the fight against the “Israeli occupation” until it is uprooted.

The terrorist organization said in a statement released on Wednesday (8th) that the fight would not stop until the Palestinians regained all their rights to their land, the holy places and the natural resources stolen from them.

Hamas stressed the importance of the unity of the Palestinian people, the land and the national sentiments, and added that any harm to the Palestinian people or the land constitutes harm to the entire Palestinian people in Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

“We will never acknowledge the existence of our enemy on our land and holy places,” Hamas said.  “Our enemies have no place among us and have no future on our land.”



Deceptive Quiet: IDF Prepares For Conflict With Gaza

The IDF remains vigilant on the Gaza border six years following Operation Protective Edge.  Reconnaissance operations take place at all hours of the day, including technologically advanced intelligence gathering and air force activity.

Arutz Sheva toured IDF positions along the Gaza border to see those preparations, as soldiers at an IDF observation tower watched Hamas positions only a few hundred meters away, just across the security fence.

Traveling along the border with Gaza reveals how advanced and significant the fence is.  The barrier extends dozens of meters above and below ground to prevent the construction of cross-border attack tunnels.  While the citizens of Gaza appear to be peaceful, Hamas and other terrorist organizations continue to arm and prepare for another round of fighting with Israel.

Different IDF units are sent to protect the Gaza border every few months, which is dotted with many lookout towers and technologically advanced observation tools – but the most important resource remains the military’s human capital.

All movement along the border, from passenger vehicles to donkey riders, is seen by the IDF.

The current commander of the forces on the Gaza border, Lieutenant Colonel Shemer Raviv, said that “The IDF has changed its modus operandi [since Operation Protective Edge] and its level of readiness is currently high.”

Both Israel and Hamas have learned from the last major confrontation in 2014, and both sides are aware that the next round of conflict could begin at any time.



Israel Asked The US Department Of Defense To Speed UP Aerial Refueling Aircraft As Tensions Rise with Iran

In March the US Department of Defense announced approval to sell new KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft to Israel, with delivery expected in four years.

However, Channel 12 News reported Wednesday (8th) that Israel has requested that the aircraft be delivered within two years.

The report came amid an uptick in tensions with Iran, after Tehran on Tuesday (7th) called for action against Israel following a recent blast at the Natanz nuclear facility that has been blamed on Jerusalem.

Iran appeared to publicly acknowledge on Tuesday that last week’s fire at Natanz, which badly damaged a building used for producing centrifuges, was not an accident.

Israeli TV reports, without naming sources, said the blast destroyed the laboratory in which Iran developed faster centrifuges and set back the Iranian nuclear program by one or two years.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets can reach “anywhere in the Middle East,” following threats against Israel by senior Iranian officials.

Israel is to buy up to eight of the Boeing-built KC-46 refueling aircraft and related equipment for an estimated $2.4 billion.

The multi-role aircraft makes mid-air refueling possible for fighter jets and other aircraft, but can also be used for military transport.

The new planes would replace the Israel Air Force’s current fleet of aging refueling planes.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Israel having its own KC-46s would help back up the US military’s own, “potentially freeing US assets for use elsewhere during times of war.



Palestinian Banks Refuse To Distribute Salaries To Terrorists

At least four Palestinian banks are refusing to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority to distribute salaries to terrorists and their families, Israel based research institute Palestinian Media Watch reported on Monday (6th).

According to PMW’s head of legal strategies Maurice Hirsch, PA Prisoners’ Affairs Commission director Qadri Abu Bakr was quoted by Palestinian daily Al-Quds on Sunday (5th) as saying that the banks had canceled the ATM cards of these groups.

Abu Bakr said the PA was working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and demanded that the banks transfer the salaries and reinstate the ATM cards, according to the official PA WAFA News Agency.  He said that “non-payment of the prisoners’ salaries constitutes a violation of the instructions of the Monetary Authority and the PA government, and opposes the agreement that was achieved in the past.”

In April, PMW sent warning letters to all the banks operating in the PA that under new anti-terror legislation promulgated by the IDF Military Commander for Judea and Samaria, any bank transaction connected to the payment of rewards for acts of terrorism was a criminal offense.

The banks responded by writing to PA Finance Minister Shukri Bushara on May 7, 2020 that considering the “risks to which the banks will be exposed as a result of the presence of these accounts [of prisoners, released prisoners, and families of martyrs and prisoners]…all of the banks hereby ask Your Honor to stop transferring any sums into these accounts.  The banks will instead transfer the balances of these accounts to the Ministry of Finance.”

As a result the PA has decided to try and circumvent the anti-terror legislation by creating a new bank.  However, that bank has yet to be established, according to PMWs Maurice Hirsch.



Report: Anti-Israel Harassment On US College Campuses Up 60%

A recent report from the AMCHA Initiative found a significant increase in anti-Israel harassment on US college campuses.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.  The group has documented over 3,000 anti-Semitic incidents since 2015.

“The current study of anti-Semitic activity in 2019 has shown that Israel-related harassment continues to be the dominant and steady increasing form of behavior targeting Jewish students for harm and is easily adaptable to the online platforms that are likely to play a major role in the 2020-2021 academic year, and perhaps longer,” the report said.

The study found that the number of incidents of anti-Jewish harassment identified as expressing classic anti-Semitism was down 49 percent compared to 2018.

However, the number of Israel-related incidents was up 60 percent from 121 reported incidents in 2018, to 192 in 2019.

The study also found that 72% of the Israel-related instances of anti-Semitic harassment occurred via online transmission.  This trend is expected to continue to increase in 2020 as classes and other campus activities shift to online platforms due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Another trend appearing this year is the increase in anti-Semitic harassment linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In early June, a petition titled “Justice for Black Lives: End All University of California Police and Imperial Contracts,” signed by dozens of student groups and thousands of students and faculty, accused Israel of training the Minneapolis police force in the “chokehold…used to murder George Floyd [that] has been used and perfected to torture Palestinians…through 72 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession.”

The petition demanded that the university “divest from companies that profit off Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine.”

At least 90 chapters of the anti-Israel campus organization, “Students for Justice in Palestine” have signed a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.