News Digest — 8/1/23

Jordan Border Tensions: 5 Infiltrators Captured, ‘Unusual’ Weapons Smuggling Foiled

Recent days have seen several security-related incidents along the Israel-Jordan border, as seven people illegally crossed into the country, sparking an hours-long manhunt, and security forces thwarted an “unusual” weapons smuggling attempt.

During the early hours of Monday morning (7/31), seven people infiltrated into Israel via the Jordanian border, triggering alarms that summoned IDF soldiers to the scene.

Initially, five of the group were captured, with two managing to escape from soldiers.

After intensive searches in the area, including emergency alerts informing residents of nearby communities to lock their doors and windows, it was determined that the two men had run back into Jordanian territory.

None of the men detained by soldiers were armed, and authorities believe that they crossed into Israel in search of work.  The five men were expected to be returned to Jordan on Monday (7/31).

Following the partial gag order on the incident, the IDF said that it had thwarted an “unusual” weapons smuggling attempt last week that also occurred along the Israel-Jordan border.

While details about the incident remain scant, Hebrew-language media reported that the Shin Bet security agency is collaborating with the IDF regarding the matter.

The Matilan Border Police counterterrorism unit and another IDF unit were involved in busting the ring, which saw weapons presumably for use by Palestinian terrorists seized near the border.

Details regarding the number and type of weapons were not revealed to the media.

Israel and Jordan share a 300 mile long border, which stretches from the northern Golan Heights to the southern resort city of Eilat.

Weapons smuggling from Jordan has plagued Israeli authorities for years, as large swathes of the border are unfenced and unguarded.

In May 2022, Jordanian MP Imad al-Adwan was arrested at the Allenby Border Crossing after attempting to illicitly smuggle guns and gold from Jordan.

Although Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement in 1994, lawmakers from the Hashemite Kingdom have repeatedly made inflammatory statements regarding the Jewish state.  Visibly Jewish visitors to Jordan – or even those simply transiting through the country’s airport  – have repeatedly suffered anti-Semitic harassment and humiliation from Jordanian officials.



Israel, Zambia Forge deals As Jerusalem Pushes Into Africa; Presidents To Meet In Jerusalem

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met in Jerusalem on Monday (7/31) with his Zambian counterpart Stanley Kakubo, with the two signing several cooperation agreements.

“Africa is blossoming, and so is the potential for relations between Israel and the countries on the continent,” said Cohen, adding: “Zambia is an important nation for Israel in Africa, which is interested in strengthening relations with us.”

The top diplomats signed agreements to strengthen ties in the spheres of medicine, communications, agriculture and culture.

Last week, Cohen and his counterpart from the Ivory Coast, Kandia Camara signed framework deals in the fields of agriculture, water and technology.

Cohen also led a business delegation to the Israel-Ivory Coast Economic Forum in the West African nation.  The day before the forum, Cohen met with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey in Accra, in a bid to strengthen Israel’s position within the African Union.

Earlier in July, Cohen met with a senior official of an African Muslim country with no diplomatic ties to the Jewish state.  The development occurred in the context of Israel’s push to expand the Abraham Accords and counter Iranian influence in Africa.

The meeting took place during a 10-hour visit to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi at the invitation of the African nation’s president, William Ruto, and Foreign Minister, Alfred Mutua.  While there, the top Israeli diplomat attended the African Union’s Mid-Year Coordination Meeting.

President Isaac Herzog will host the President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, who is making a state visit to Israel, it was announced late Monday (7/31).  Hichilema will be received in an official ceremony on Tuesday (1st), during which the national anthems of both nations will be played and the presidents will together review a guard of honor.  The presidents will then hold a diplomatic meeting.



Israeli Navy, US Fifth Fleet Engaging In Joint Exercise

The joint Israeli Navy and the United States Fifth Fleet exercise that began Sunday (7/30), will take place over the course of the next two weeks and will include training on the land and in the sea.

Soldiers from the 914th Routine Security Fleet’s Snapir Unit will practice detection and monitoring in the maritime space, inspection of vessels, search and rescue scenarios, joint training for taking over vessels and responding to terrorist activity alongside their counterparts from the US Fifth Fleet.

The soldiers of the YALTAM Unit (Underwater Missions Unit),  alongside their counterparts, will practice joint dives, locating, removing and neutralizing naval mines using remotely manned underwater vessels.  Besides this training, the teams will carry out joint search and rescue training, using special means.

In addition, the two fleets will hold learning sessions in the field of naval and underwater medicine as well as emergency medicine.

“This is a significant exercise which constitutes an opportunity for joint learning, strategic and operational enhancement and the strengthening of the shared dialogue between the fleets,” the IDF stressed.  “Furthermore it assists in promoting regional partnerships to thwart the threats that the region is facing.”



Palestinians In Gaza Protest Economic Hardships – Call To End Hamas Rule

Following Sunday’s (7/30) widespread demonstrations in the Gaza Strip in protest of the high cost of living and shortage in electricity and gas supplies, Palestinian activists announced that they will resume the protests Friday (4th).

Thousands of Palestinians participated in the demonstrations that erupted in various parts of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.  According to some reports and witnesses, Hamas security officers used force to disperse the protesters.  Scores of Palestinians  were arrested and injured.

The demonstrations are seen by Palestinians as a big embarrassment for the Hamas leaders, many of whom are currently based in Qatar, Turkey and Lebanon. Yet, at this stage, the protests do not seem to pose a real threat to Hamas’ rule over the coastal enclave.

Similar protests took place in the Gaza Strip four years ago under the slogan “We want to live!”  The protests, however, were quickly suppressed by Hamas security forces and militiamen belonging to the armed wing Izaddin al-Qassam.  Then, Hamas accused its rivals in the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas of being behind the protests.

These latest protests coincided with increased talk about  a possible reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. 

On Sunday night (7/30), hundreds of Hamas supporters also took to the streets in a show of force and to express support for the Islamist movement.

Meanwhile, a leaflet signed by the “Youth Movement” thanked the “heroic” residents of the Gaza Strip for heeding its call to take to the streets on July 30 to voice their “rejection of oppression, hunger, and the bad economic situation.

The group said it had issued a two-week ultimatum to the Hamas leadership to implement the “just demands” of the people.  “We have broken the barrier of fear and silence,” the group said.  It condemned the arrests and physical assaults carried out by Hamas security forces against the protesters and called on local and international human rights organizations to intervene to secure the release of all those who were detained in the past few days.  “We announce the continuation  and expansion of our peaceful revolution until all our demands are met,” the group said.

“Oh the shame! Oh, the shame! They sold Gaza for dollars,” the protesters chanted Sunday evening (7/30).  At other protests, they chanted the famous slogan from the Arab Spring: “The people want the regime to fall!”  In one video the protesters are heard chanting: “Oh, Abbas, Oh Haniyeh, the Palestinian people are the victims.”  They also chanted slogans calling for the removal  of Hamas from power.

According to sources in the Gaza Strip, Hamas security officers on Sunday night (7/30) raided the Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah and arrested three Palestinian men who were injured during the protests.

The PA’s official WAFA news agency said Hamas security officers beat Walid Abdel Rahman, a correspondent for Palestine TV in the Gaza Strip, while he was reporting on the demonstrations.

“We are protesting against poverty and unemployment,” said Salah Naim, a political activist from Khan Yunis.  “The entire people took to the streets because they were fed up with the situation.  We are angry not only against Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority as well.”



At Least 4 Killed In Clash In Egypt’s Sinai

At least four Egyptian security personnel were killed in clashes at a police compound in the city of El-Arish in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, two security sources said on Monday (7/31).

The clashes broke out on Sunday (7/30) when a group of detainees seized weapons inside El-Arish’s Central Security compound in northern Sinai and attacked forces stationed there, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The four dead included a police colonel, they said.  Six were also wounded.

The interior ministry did not respond to a request for comment and there was no official statement from authorities about the incident.

Egyptian security forces have battled an insurgency by Islamist militants in northern Sinai for years and have recently extended their control over the coastal area, which runs between the border with the Gaza Strip and the northern end of the Suez Canal.

Northern Sinai has still seen occasional attacks and the Egyptian army and police maintain a heavy presence there.



El Al’s Newest 787 Dreamliner Lands In Israel

El Al Israel Airlines, announced the arrival of its newest Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which landed Monday morning (7/31) in Tel Aviv after a direct flight from the Boeing factory in Seattle, using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

The historic flight marks El Al’s first use of SAF and signifies the company’s commitment to reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses.  Thirty percent of the total fuel used in the flight from Seattle to Tel Aviv was SAF, which is chemically similar to traditional fossil jet fuel but is produced from sources such as carbon in the air and produces significantly less carbon emissions than fossil fuel.

In June 2023, El AL joined the IATA Environmental Assessment Program, which assesses the commitment of the world’s leading airlines to improving their environmental and sustainability performance.  El Al’s participation in the certification program is meant to establish the company as a global leader in sustainable air travel.

“Welcoming a new Dreamliner jet is always an exciting event for us.  Today’s historic arrival of our first jet using SAF marks another important milestone in our strategic plan – expanding and renewing our fleet and strengthening our commitment to sustainability,” said El Al CEO Dina Ben Tal Ganancia.

The new Dreamliner is the fourth 787-8 in El Al’s fleet and part of the company’s most recent acquisition of new aircraft.  The jet can accommodate 238 passengers in three classes: Business, Premium and Economy.

El AL’s Dreamliner fleet now includes four Boeing 787-8 aircraft and twelve 787-9 aircraft, which fly to international destinations in North America, Europe and the Far East.  The arrival of the newest Dreamliner aircraft is part of El Al’s strategic plan to expand and renew its fleet, improve the customer experience, and focus on more efficient fuel usage.