News Digest — 8/12/20

Israel Deploys First-Of-Its-Kind Laser System To Gaza Border To Fight Incendiary Balloons

Israel’s “Lahav Or” (Light Blade) laser system, designed to intercept airborne incendiary threats launched from the Gaza Strip, was deployed operationally by the Border Police for the first time on Tuesday (11th).

Said to be the first defense system of its kind in the world, the Light Blade system will target incendiary balloons and kites, which have started countless fires in the southern border vicinity communities in recent years, as well as drones.

The last week has seen a rapid increase in incidents when Gaza-based terrorists have sent explosives-laden balloons flying over the border.  On Tuesday (11th) alone incendiary objects launched from Gaza ignited 60 brush fires across Israel.  In response, Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas targets in Gaza overnight Tuesday (11th).

The new system resembles the Iron Dome missile defense system in technology.

Light Blade was developed by three civilian engineers working with Ben Gurion University researchers and the technology branches of the Israel Police and IDF.  The project was led by Border Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai.

According to available details, the laser is capable of engaging targets with an effective range of 1.2 miles, day or night.

Once the system locks onto its target it fires a unique laser beam at it.  If the target is a balloon or a kite, it incinerates it midair.  If the target is a drone, the laser burns parts of it until it crashes.

Shabtai said last year upon the system’s initial unveiling that “Light Blade” provides a near conclusive response to everything relating to balloons and kites, and delivers a safe and effective solution to the drone threat.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi warned that if the campaign of balloon terror persisted, Israel would respond in a “significant” manner.



Israel Threatened ‘Forceful’ Response As Over 60 Fires Sparked By Arson Balloons

Israeli leaders on Tuesday (11th) threatened Gaza’s Hamas rulers that Israel would take “forceful” action if a rash of airborne arson attacks was not brought under control, as incendiary balloons continued to fly following Israel’s shuttering of a key crossing into Palestinian territory.

Balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip sparked at least 60 fires in southern Israel throughout the day, according to firefighters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stern warning Tuesday (11th) that the Iran sponsored terror groups in Gaza would pay a heavy price if they failed to stop launching balloon-bombs at Israel.

Speaking during a tour of an Israeli Air Force base, Netanyahu pointed a finger at Iran for fostering most of the terror in the region.

“Ninety-five percent of these threats originate in Iran.  Iran threatens us with nuclear weapons, precision missiles and unguided missiles, with proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, and in other places,” Netanyahu said.

“I would like to make it clear to all of Iran’s proxies, including in Gaza: Balloon terrorism will have a heavy price.  We will not tolerate this.  We will take action and exact a heavy price.  They should remember, we have done this in the past, and we can do it now as well,” Netanyahu said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz echoed Netanyahu’s comments and warned of a firm military response.

“Hamas is permitting the continued attacks by incendiary and explosive balloons into the State of Israel – we will not accept that – this is why we closed the Kerem Shalom crossing,” Gantz tweeted.

“They would do well to stop violating security and peace in the State of israel.  If this doesn’t happen – we will respond, and forcefully,” Gantz added.



Iran Sees Lebanon Protests As Threat To Proxy Hezbollah

Iran is watching developments in Lebanon closely, wary of losing any of its influence – mainly through its proxy Hezbollah – after a deadly mega-blast in Beirut sparked angry demands for reforms to its delicately balanced system.

One week after the chemical explosion that wreaked destruction across swathes of the Lebanese capital, the strategic eastern Mediterranean country is still reeling.

The Lebanese have taken to the streets over the disaster that claimed at least 158 lives and injured over 6,000, with many calling for heads to roll and for major changes.

Late Monday (10th), Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his entire government, spelling even deeper turmoil ahead.

While some protesters have chanted slogans against Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah, most vented their fury against a wider ruling class whose corruption, incompetence and negligence they say caused the August 4 tragedy.

In Tehran, student members of Iran’s Basij militia gathered in front of the Lebanese Embassy, lighting candles and waving the flags of the disaster-hit country and Hezbollah.  In another tribute, Azadi Tower, the symbol of the Iranian capital, was lit up in the colors of the Lebanese flag.

The day after the explosion, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the people of Lebanon to show “patience.”

Khamenei sought to assure them that Iran would support Lebanon in the face of this “painful tragedy.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also expressed his country’s support for the “resilient” people of Lebanon.

“As always, Iran is fully prepared to render assistance in any way necessary.  Stay strong, Lebanon,” the top diplomat tweeted soon after the monster blast.



Netanyahu, Ashkenazi Hint Hezbollah Behind Beirut Blast

The massive explosion in Beirut shows Hezbollah’s use of Lebanese civilians and cities to cover for their terrorist actions Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told 12 ambassadors of UN Security Council member-states at Israel’s northern border on Tuesday (11th). 

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ashkenazi tied the massive explosion in Beirut to Hezbollah’s weapon stores in civilian areas of Lebanon.

Netanyahu spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday (11th) saying: “In order to avoid disasters like the one at the Beirut Port, we have to confiscate the explosives and missiles that Hezbollah has hidden in civilian population centers in Lebanon.”

It would be a “big mistake” for Hezbollah to try to distract from the situation in Lebanon by attacking Israel, the prime minister added.

Netanyahu also praised Macron’s leadership on the international response to the Beirut blast, repeating Israel’s offer to provide humanitarian aid.

Ashkenazi made thinly-veiled hints that the Iranian-backed terror group was responsible for the blast and that the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut Port may have belonged to the terrorist organization.  Israel has long-held that Hezbollah controlled the port.

“Israel cannot remain apathetic to Hezbollah’s attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty and citizens,” Ashkenazi told the 12 ambassadors..

“Hezbollah is acting in urban and populated territories and using Lebanese citizens as human shields as we saw in the unfortunate event last week.  Lebanon’s political instability allowed Hezbollah to take over practically the whole country,” said Ashkenazi.

The foreign minister also spoke with the ambassadors hours before a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday (11th) to discuss the UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), ahead of an expected renewal of its mandate this month.


Anti-Semitism Creating ‘Dire’ Situation In Germany, Says Security Expert

The head of one of Germany’s national security agencies has warned that his country is facing a “dire” situation in terms of rising anti-Semitism.

In an interview ahead of Monday’s (10th) publication of his department’s 100-page report on anti-Semitism, Thomas Haldenwang – president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the government agency tasked with defending Germany’s democratic institutions from extremists on right and left – noted that anti-Semitism crimes committed by right-wing extremists “increased by 71% in 2018 and by another 17% last year.”

In an extensive conversation with the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Saturday (8th), Haldenwang added: “In the everyday life of our Jewish citizens, this means they are often exposed to insults, threats and attacks.”

Haldenwang underlined that “when Jewish citizens tell me that they are wondering when they should leave Germany – that they should even reach this point – shows that the situation is dire.”

He said that the goal of the state was to ensure “that everyone in this country can wear a kippah whenever and wherever they want: just as we have to ensure that everyone can wear a cross or a crescent moon without being afraid.”

The report by Haldenwang’s office highlighted an “informal network of right-wing extremists working in key areas ranging from the domestic intelligence service to certain media outlets, who are skillfully repackaging Anti-Semitic propaganda to appeal to a broader public.” 

“The old hatred is becoming more socially acceptable,” the report asserted,  “and the limits of what can be said, shift in favor of the anti-Semites.”

Haldenwang emphasized that anti-Semitic messages were implicit in many of the conspiracy theories embraced on the right.

The same report observed that after right-wing extremists, Islamists were the main culprits in attacks on Germany’s Jewish community.

While hostility to Jews on the far-right was frequently based on discredited racial tropes, the report said, among Islamists, prejudice against Jews was grounded in “the anti-Zionist enemy image of the Jewish State of Israel.”