News Digest — 8/10/21

Israel To Send Firefighting Planes To Greece To Confront Wildfires

Israel will send three planes to help extinguish the fires raging across Greece, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett authorized on Monday (9th).

Two are firefighting planes, and the third is an Israel Air Force cargo plane loaded with equipment.  Last week 15 Israeli firefighters arrived in Greece to help.

Bennett spoke with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday (9th), telling him that Israel will help however it can to fight the huge fires.

“All citizens of Israel wish for quieter and better days in Greece,” Bennett added.

The Israeli aid package costs NIS 3.5 million, and was coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Finance, Defense, Foreign and Public Security ministries.

Wildfires have broken out in many parts of Greece during a week-long heatwave, the country’s worst in three decades, with searing temperatures and hot winds creating tinder-box conditions.  Across the country, forest land has burned and dozens of homes and businesses have been destroyed.

Greece has deployed the army to help battle the fires, and several countries, including France, Egypt, Switzerland and Spain have also sent help including firefighting aircraft.

Greece’s deputy civil protection minister, Nikos Hardalias, said emergency crews were undertaking “superhuman efforts” against multiple fronts.

“The night ahead will be difficult,” he said during an emergency briefing late on Sunday (8th).  Earlier, he said water-bombing aircraft in the region faced several hurdles including low visibility caused by the thick plumes of smoke rising over the mountains, and wind turbulence.

A fire in the foothills of Mount Parnitha that swept through the suburbs north of Athens had been contained, but weather conditions there could still cause it to flare-up again.  



Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Calls On Army To Confront Hezbollah

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi called on Sunday (8th) for the Lebanese army to take control of the southern part of the country, Hezbollah’s stronghold, and strictly implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, after recent clashes between Israel and Hezbollah.

“We call upon the Lebanese army, which is responsible with the international forces for the security of the south, to take control of the entire lands of the south, and strictly implement Resolution 1701, and prevent the launching of missiles from Lebanese territory, not for the sake of Israel’s safety, but rather for the safety of Lebanon,” said al-Rahi during Sunday (8th) Mass, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

The Maronite Patriarch stressed that he could not “accept, by virtue of equality before the law, that a party decides peace and war outside the national decision of legality entrusted to two-thirds of the members of government.”

On Friday (6th) 20 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, with the Iron Dome intercepting 10 and six falling in open areas near Har Dov along the Lebanese border.  The other rockets fell inside Lebanon.

It was the sixth such attack in recent months and the first that Hezbollah admitted to.

Al-Rahi also claimed that the clashes were meant to “divert attention from the sanctity and glow of the Mass of the martyrs and victims of the Beirut Port explosion” when the one year anniversary was marked last week.

The patriarch has repeatedly called for Lebanon to focus on neutrality and not to enter international and regional wars which he said have nothing to do with the country.

In 2014, al-Rahi visited Israel during a visit by Pope Francis.  Hezbollah and other groups in Lebanon expressed outrage at the decision at the time.



Israeli Ambassador:  UN Willfully Turns A Blind Eye To Hezbollah’s War Crimes

Israel’s Ambassador to the US and UN, Gilad Erdan, on Sunday (8th) responded to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ remarks regarding the incidents on Israel’s northern border.

In his statement earlier in the day, Guterres expressed “deep concern about the recent escalation between Lebanon and Israel across the Blue Line, including rocket fire into Israel and return airstrikes and artillery fire into Lebanon.”

He called on “all parties to exercise utmost restraint and to actively engage with UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination mechanisms.  It is paramount that all actors involved avoid actions that can further heighten tensions and lead to miscalculation.”

In response, Erdan said, “It is unfortunate that the UN Secretary-General repeatedly chooses to draw a moral equivalency between attacks perpetrated by designated terrorist organizations and the law-abiding, democratic state of Israel, which is a member of the UN.  Hezbollah to commit war crimes and target Israeli citizens from within the Lebanese civilian population, using and abusing them as human shields and committing double war crimes.”

“Israel does the very opposite – it takes every precaution, often well beyond the call of law, to protect all civilians,” he added.

“It is conceivable that the rocket fire for which Hezbollah itself explicitly took responsibility has not been attributed by the Secretary General to that terrorist organization.”

“The UN continues to willfully turn a blind eye to Hezbollah’s war crimes and acts of terror and its effective control of Lebanese territory.  These actions by Hezbollah will ultimately lead to the destruction of Lebanon,” warned Erdan.

“We expect more from the UN, which should serve as a voice of moral clarity before it’s too late for the people of Lebanon and the region as a whole,” concluded the Israeli Ambassador.



Visiting Israel, Bahraini Official Says ‘Iran’s Footprints In Every Regional Flashpoint’

A senior Bahraini official visiting Israel, warned on Sunday, (8th) that restoring the nuclear deal with Iran would be counterproductive. 

The kingdom’s undersecretary for political affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, met with reporters and said that the 2015 nuclear deal between the world powers and Tehran “did not contribute anything positive.”

He noted that “the deal only addressed Iran’s nuclear program, not its missile program or its regional aggression.”

The comments were made against the ongoing tension between Israel and Iran over suspected Iranian attacks on Israeli-linked vessels in the region.

A de facto coalition has been formed between Sunni Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and Israel to counter Iran’s growing interference and violence through proxies in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.  The Abraham Accords , which are a series of normalization deals between Israel and four Arab countries brokered by the Trump administration, have helped cement this unofficial alliance, especially as the new administration in Washington continues to engage Iran on a new nuclear deal that could see major provisions from 2015 restored.

The Bahraini official stressed on Sunday (8th) that “Iran continues to meddle in the internal affairs of my country, and sends explosives and weapons, as well as kills and injures thousands.”  He lamented that “this has continued for many years and you can find Iran’s footprints in every regional flashpoint.”

Al-Khalifa, who is in charge of handling the ties with Israel in the Bahraini Foreign Ministry, is staying in Israel for four days.  This is his second visit to the Jewish state.  He has so far met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and is expected to meet with President Isaac Herzog as well.

Meanwhile, an agreement for cooperation was signed on Sunday (8th) between two think tanks in both countries.

The agreement is between the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) headed by al-Khalifa, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, headed by former director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dore Gold.

Gold said the following before the signing ceremony: “We at the JCPA decided to create a network of research institutes in the Persian Gulf region and in other countries.  Our goal is to create an array of cooperation agreements with the countries of the Abraham Accords and to convey a message to the United States, Europe and other countries, of a realistic understanding of the challenges that we share – the danger of Iran’s policies in the region and in the world. “  Amb. Gold added that “the current naval incidents make collaborations such as these all the more timely and important.”



Historic Jewish Community Of Florence, SC Recognized By City Council

The city council in Florence, South Carolina is commemorating the contributions of its historic Jewish community to the city.

The city council rolled out a resolution on Monday (9th) marking the importance to Florence of the community, which dates back to the 1850s and the start of the city, reported SCNow.

Florence’s main synagogue, Beth Israel Congregation near downtown, was recently given a South Carolina historical marker that recognizes the Jewish community’s history in Florence.

“We are thrilled that the Florence Jewish community and Beth Israel Congregation are being recognized by the state of South Carolina with a historic marker,” Barnett Greenberg, a synagogue trustee, told the news media.  “The Jewish people have a rich history in Florence…for nearly two centuries.  We greatly appreciate this resolution from Florence City Council recognizing a pillar of Jewish life, faith and camaraderie.”

After forming a community in the 1850s as the city began to grow, in 1887 local Jews began the Florence Hebrew Benevolent Association.  In 1912 Beth Israel Congregation was born.  The institutions merged in 1922.  The first synagogue was built in 1949.

The resolution was put forward by Mayor Pro Tempore George Jebaily who said that the idea was presented to him by Greenberg.  He said, “I was supportive of it,” and praised the Jewish community for being active in every aspect of city life.  Florence has a population of 38,487.