News Digest — 8/11/23

200 Israeli Jews Rescued From Northern Ethiopia In Secret Mission

More than 200 Israeli and Ethiopian Jews were rescued from war-torn northern Ethiopia on Thursday afternoon (10th) amid ongoing violence, the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem announced in a joint statement.

A total of 174 Israeli citizens and Jews eligible for aliyah visas were evacuated from the besieged city of Gondar, while 30 others were rescued from the city of Bahir Dar, the statement noted.

“In the last few days, citizens of Israel and persons entitled to make aliyah from Ethiopia entered into distress in the battle zones.  I ordered them to be taken out of there,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  “The State of Israel takes care of its citizens wherever they are.”

“The people are now on their way from Gondar and Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa, and from there they will come to the State of Israel.  We will receive them here with warmth and welcome,” the premier added.”

The Prime Minister’s Office organized the rescue flights in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel.  Jewish Agency chairman Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog praised all those involved in Thursday’s (10th) courageous operation.

The Israelis and foreign nationals were rescued by Magnus International Search and Rescue and PassportCard in coordination with local officials, Israeli diplomats in Addis Ababa and the Israel Foreign Ministry.

Officials had discussed the possibility of sending in an armed convoy for a 14-hour rescue mission in coordination with the Ethiopian military, local media claimed earlier this week.



Lebanon At ‘Point Of No Return:’ Politician Attacks Hezbollah

The head of the Christian Kataeb Party warned Thursday (10th) that Lebanon has reached “the point of no return” after Christian villagers clashed with members of Hezbollah in a village south of Beirut on Wednesday night (9th).

A member of Hezbollah, identified as Ahmad Ali Kassas and a Christian resident of the village of Kahaleh, identified as Fadi Bejjani were killed in clashes that erupted after a truck belonging to Hezbollah overturned in the village.  The Lebanese Army stated on Thursday (10th) that the truck was carrying ammunition and that army forces arrived at the scene after the clashes erupted, to calm the situation and transport the munitions to a military center.

Hezbollah claimed that after the truck overturned, “members of militias present in the area” began throwing rocks and firing at the truck, with the Hebollah members responding with shooting.

The incident, the deadliest clash between Hezbollah and Christians since clashes in the Tayouneh area of Beirut in 2021, has raised tensions between Hezbollah and Christian groups in Lebanon.

“Lebanon is in a dangerous situation, and we cannot continue like this,” said Samy Gemayel, the head of the Kataeb party, on Thursday (10th).

“We know where it led us in the past,” added Gemayel in an apparent reference to the Lebanese Civil War.  From 1975-1990, Lebanon was wracked by a civil war among a number of Christian, Shiite, Sunni, and Palestinian militias.  The Kataeb Party played a central role in the civil war as part of the Lebanese Forces, which was opposed to Shiite movements and Palestinian movements in the country.

“What if the truck had contained explosives and the incident led to a huge explosion and hundreds of people were killed?  We are not prepared to coexist with an armed militia in Lebanon, and this will be followed by practical steps, opposition meetings, and decisions,” stressed Gemayel.

Gemayel addressed members of his party, stating “Know that your party has moved to a new stage, and starting today our struggle is existential and is no longer a traditional political struggle.”

Former Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, stated that Hezbollah “does not consider the army and the people [as represented by the state with its president and government] as equal to it, but it asks them to support its steps and decisions without even having to coordinate with them before acting.”

Hezbollah-affiliated politicians and journalists have accused the Christians involved in the clashes in Kahaleh of helping Israel, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Hezbollah-affiliated reporter Ali Shoeib accused the residents of the village of attacking the truck “with the aim of forcibly revealing its contents” and linked the incident to a recent visit by Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to the Lebanese border.

The mayor of the town and the head of the Lebanese forces have both called on Lebanese security forces to work quickly to identify the perpetrators of the suspected attack, with the head of the Lebanese Forces, Sami Geagea, warning of potential consequences for the attack. 



U.S. Pressures Israel To Sacrifice Security For Visa Waivers – Jonathan S. Tobin

• There’s no use pretending that Israel’s agreement to treat all U.S. passport holders in the same manner, rather than singling out those who are also Palestinian Arabs for special scrutiny, doesn’t present genuine risks for the country’s security.  Making this change was the price Prime Minister Netanyahu had to pay in order to get the U.S. to change its own entry policies for Israeli citizens.

• Up until now, Israel was denied the visa waivers extended to 40 other countries.  Now, those Palestinians with U.S. passports will have the same free entry to Israel and its international airport as other Americans, as will Palestinians with American citizenship currently living in terrorist-run Gaza.

• Israel and the U.S. have very real differences in their approach to security, especially concerning air travel.  There is no question that an unwillingness to treat everyone the same is at the heart of Jerusalem’s efforts to keep terrorists from boarding Israeli airplanes or entering the country.  Israelis, as well as those who travel there regularly, are used to putting up with a great deal of security measures.  But they largely accept it as a reasonable price to pay for safety.

• Israeli security personnel hone in on the people most likely to be terrorist suspects.  Yet it’s a mistake to assume that Israeli security is purely a matter of group profiling.  To the contrary, Israel has long relied on sophisticated behavioral analysis, reading eye movements and body language as people respond to questions to try to filter out potential risks.

• But those tasked with defending Israel understand that members of groups that are broadly supportive of anti-Israel terror, like the Palestinians, have to be given more scrutiny than others, even if that might seem unfair to some peaceful individuals.  The main thing is to make it harder for potential terrorists.

• It’s possible that terror groups will take advantage of the situation by using those with American documents to commit some outrage.  That’s why the chiefs of the Israeli security agencies were reportedly opposed to the decision to bow to the American demand.

• The problem here is an American mindset that treats Israel’s security concerns as less important than making a point about protecting Arab and Muslim Americans.  Israel remains a nation under threat in a way few Americans understand.



In Surprise Move, Abbas Dismisses Several PA Governors

Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday (10th ) issued a decree forcing several Palestinian governors in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into retirement. 

The surprise move is seen in the context of Abbas’ effort to reassert the PA’s control over many areas, especially in the northern West Bank, in light of the growing power of armed groups affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Some of the governors have been accused of failing to enforce law and order in their districts, paving the way for the emergence of several armed groups.

Moreover the move is seen in the context of Abbas’ efforts to pave the way for the emergence of new leaders.

No reason was given for the decision, which is seen by some Palestinians as an expression of Abbas’ dissatisfaction with the performance of the governors.

The governors who are all affiliated with the ruling Fatah faction headed by Abbas are appointed by the PA head.  The PA has 16 governors – 11 in the West Bank and 5 in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas also issued a decree to form a committee to select new candidates for the vacant positions.

Some of the governors said they were surprised to hear about their removal from their jobs, adding that they were not given any reason for the decision.

So far, governors were removed from the following cities: Jenin, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jericho.



Gaza Protest Movement Maintaining Momentum On Social Media  – Gianluca Pacchiani

“People are much more outspoken against Hamas on social media today than they were ten or five years ago,” said Rami Aman, a prominent Gazan critic of Hamas living in Cairo.  “If you look at the official social media pages of Hamas and its ministries, you find a plethora of critical comments, with people writing openly from their Facebook accounts, showing their name and profile picture.  You will find more positive comments on the Facebook page of the IDF coordinator than on the pages of Hamas.”

“There is not a single family in Gaza that has not suffered at the hands of Hamas in one way or another, because of arrests or persecution.  People are tired of having no opportunities and no way out.  The only way to make a decent living is to be affiliated with Hamas.  If you want to apply for a government job, you need a letter from your mosque.  In the meantime, Hamas leadership lives in nice villas, drives expensive cars and eats in fancy restaurants.  And the top leaders, of course, don’t live in Gaza at all.”

The current round of popular outrage was sparked by the accidental killing by local authorities of a resident of Khan Younis, Shadi Abu Quta, on July 27.  Abu Quta became trapped under a wall of his own house as it was being demolished by a municipal bulldozer.



‘Era Of The Jews Will Soon End,’ Islamist Leader Tells UK Students

The ISAB (Islamic Student Association of Britain) regularly allows incendiary, anti-Semitic speakers associated with terror organizations to give public statements in the heart of London on behalf of the organization, including claims that the Holocaust was “fake” and that the “era of the Jews” will soon “come to an end.”

The Jewish Chronicle revealed in a report, that the ISAB has been ideologically taken over by agents acting on behalf of the Islamic regime in Iran, who are leveraging the organization to deliver radical Islamist messages to British audiences.   

According to the JC investigation , the ISAB has hosted at least 8 senior members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is designated as a terrorist organization by numerous Western countries, for events in the UK.

In January 2021, Saeed Ghasemi, a prominent IRGC commander from a branch that tortures political dissidents, gave a speech on ISAB’s social media platforms that charged the ISIS terror group was created by “the Jews and the Zionists.”

Ghasemi also maintained that “the Holocaust, that the Jews say happened is fake.  The real Holocaust happened to my country in the First World War, when the UK occupied Iran.”

Russia, Turkey, and Britain all maintained presences during World War I in the country, but there was never a mass slaughter of Iranian civilians.

Hossein Yekta, Ghasemi’s colleague in the secret police unit, said in a different ISAB speech that Jews “are destroying the environment and destroying the family.”  He added that the “era of the Jews will soon end.”

Beyond the statements from Ghasemi and Yekta, ISAB speakers have called for British Muslim students to “raise the flag of the Islamic Revolution, Islam and martyrdom” and “prepare yourselves for governance of the awaiting Islamic civilization.”

Former British M16 Chief Richard Dearlove told the JC that the report was “deeply troubling.”  

“According to British counterterrorism laws, ISAB should not have given the IRGC members a platform to speak,” he said.