News Digest — 8/16/2021

Massive Wildfires Burn West Of Jerusalem, 10,000 Evacuated From Their Homes

In what was the second major wildfire in the Judean Hills this month, six communities west of Jerusalem were evacuated Sunday afternoon (15th), and several roads were closed to traffic.

A thick cloud of smoke stretched over much of the capital as hundreds of firefighters from across the country were working to gain control over the blaze.

Several homes were burned.

At least 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes, Police said.  Rescue helicopters from Air Force Unit 669 were launched to rescue patients and staff of the Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital, which was totally evacuated.  The director of the Prime Minister’s Office ascertained that all needs during the evacuation were fully met.

A fire and rescue source told News 13 that “apparently, the fire was man-made – either negligence or arson.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett interrupted the discussion of the political-security cabinet due to the fire to hold an emergency consultation concerning it.  He emphasized that people must act with utmost caution, saying “In any doubt that arises regarding the need for evacuation, the stringent approach must be taken, and everyone should evacuate.”

The Prime Minister noted that the Defense Ministry and IDF would assist the fire and rescue services in their efforts as needed and without restriction.  He also asked to be updated if the need arose for enlisting aerial assistance from other countries in extinguishing the fires.

Participating in the discussion were the Public Security Minister, the Interior Minister, the Israel Police Inspector General, the Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner, the head of the National Security Council, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s office, the Jerusalem District Police Commander and other senior officials.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, in coordination with Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, ordered assistance from the Home Front Command.

No serious injuries were reported, other than one firefighter who fell while working to put out the fires and sustained injuries to his limbs.  “He received medical treatment at the scene and was transported by ambulance to Ichilov Hospital in moderate condition,” said Gedaliah Weldman, the EMT who took care of the wounded worker.    



Nazareth Invites Victims Of Jerusalem Fires To Stay In Hotels For Free

The Nazareth Municipality invited victims of the Jerusalem fires to come stay in the northern city for free for a few nights, Twitter users shared on Sunday night (15th).

“Nazareth invites families from communities that were evacuated due to the fires in the Jerusalem region to come stay in hotels in the city for a few nights without pay,” Yoseph Haddad, social activist and CEO of Arevim Ze La Ze, a group that promotes Arab and Jewish partnership, said in a tweet.  “What a wonderful example of mutual comradeship – proud of my city.”

Fires have been raging in the Jerusalem area since Sunday afternoon (15th) straining fire-extinguishing teams and evacuating residents from their homes.

“This may be the biggest fire in the last few years in the Jerusalem hills,” said the Jerusalem Fire Commander, Nissin Twito.



Terrorists Killed In Clash With Security Forces In Jenin

Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank city of Jenin came under fire in the early morning hours of Monday morning (16th).  No injuries were reported among IDF troops.

Palestinian media reported that at least four terrorists were killed and three others were wounded in the clash.

According to available details, the incident took place as Israeli troops were on a security raid to arrest a suspected terrorist who resides in the city.

Jenin is a known hub of terrorist activity.

As the troops, comprising border policemen and the border police counterterrorism unit, were approaching their destination, they came under heavy fire by what the IDF described as “a large number of terrorists.”

“The troops engaged the fire, neutralizing the threat.  They completed their mission and arrested the suspect,” the military said.



Report: Hamas Gearing Up For Violent Escalation With Israel

Gaza-based terror groups are on the verge of launching a military offensive against Israel and are demanding that the Jewish State make concessions or face violent escalation, Arabic language media reported Sunday (15th).

Sources told Arabic newspaper Al Quds that Israel had agreed to a number of concessions concerning the entry of Qatari cash into the Strip and the opening of border crossings in May 2021, during the last days of the Operation Guardian of the Walls clash.

In exchange for those concessions, Hamas reportedly agreed to the ceasefire agreement which brought about the end of the conflict.

Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups will meet on Monday evening (16th) to determine the next steps, which will likely include the resuming of riots along the border fence and an uptick in incendiary balloons that have plagued Israel’s southern communities.

A Hamas spokesman told Arabic language media on Saturday (14th) that the terror group was gearing up for an attack.

“Israel’s siege policy on the Gaza Strip is unacceptable and the conditions in the Gaza Strip are difficult, so Hamas will not be able to restrain itself and Israel will be held accountable,” he said.

According to Al Quds, international mediators from Egypt, Qatar, the United Nations and the European Union, have been working overtime to discourage Hamas and other terror groups from engaging in violence against Israel.

On Friday (13th), Israel announced that it was opening the Erez border crossing for the first time in 18 months and would allow some 1,000 Gaza-based businessmen to enter Israel.

Israel also announced it would permit medical and telecommunications supplies to be brought into the Strip.

But Palestinian groups consider the goodwill gesture “meaningless” and an effort to divert attention away from Israel’s failure to fulfill the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Al-Quds  reported.

Due to fears that humanitarian funds and construction materials meant to rebuild Gaza after the conflict would be seized by Hamas and other terror groups, Israel has not allowed millions in Qatari cash and building supplies to pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Hamas has charged that the Palestinian Authority is collaborating with Israel to prevent Qatari money from entering the Strip – an accusation which the PA strenuously denies.



Israel Offers Aid To Turkey In Light Of Disastrous Floods

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reached out to the Turkish defense attache in Israel on Sunday (15th) with an offer to send a Home Front Command delegation to Turkey to assist with disastrous flooding that has plagued the country.

Flash floods that have swept through towns in the Turkish Black Sea region have killed 58 people, authorities said on Sunday (15th), in the second natural disaster to strike Turkey this month.

The floods brought chaos to northern provinces just as authorities were declaring wildfires had been brought under control after raging through coastal regions for two weeks.

Forty-eight people died as a result of floods in Kastamonu province, another nine people died in Sinop and one in Bartin, the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said.

Frontpage footage from Reuters showed massive damage in the town of Bozkurt in Kastamonu province.  Emergency workers were searching demolished buildings for the missing.

Torrents of water tossed dozens of cars and heaps of debris along streets, destroyed buildings and bridges, closed roads and cut off electricity to hundreds of villages.

More than 2,000 people were evacuated from affected areas, some with the help of helicopters and boats, AFAD said.

Recently, strained Israeli-Turkish relations have shown signs of thawing.  Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated President Isaac Herzog on his election victory, the first conversation between Erdogan and a senior Israeli official since 2013.

It is not yet known if Turkey will accept Israel’s offer of help at this time in the aftermath of its two devastating disasters.  But the offer remains.



New ‘Think Israel- Buy Israeli’ Promotes Purchase Of Blue And White Products

Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry in cooperation with the Ministry’s attaches in New York, has unveiled a unique collaboration with the American Communities Helping Israel (ACHI) organization to expand the circle of customers and sales of Israeli manufacturers with a “Made in Israel” label in the US and Canadian markets.

The ACHI has launched a dedicated sales platform for the products, and the collaboration encourages members of Jewish and pro-Israel communities in the US and Canada to purchase products manufactured in Israel and thus support employment in Israel and strengthen the Israeli economy.

The platform is being promoted and marketed by the ACHI under the slogan “Think Israel-Buy Israeli” which encourages target audiences, Jewish communities and pro-Israel communities in North America, to prioritize Israeli businesses and products.

The head of Israel’s New York Economic Attache, Anat Katz stated that “the project with ACHI is an important activity for the promotion of Israeli products in the United States, especially in Jewish and pro-Israel communities, and is of great synergistic value to the activities attached to this sector.  Joining the activity as a blue-and-white manufacturer is free of charge.  But it is conditional on the Israeli business having a permit to mark products with a “Made in Israel” label, with the contract being made directly between the manufacturer and ACHI.

Businessmen must have an English-language ecommerce site and be able to ship their products to the US and Canada.

ACHI was founded in 2004, during the Second Intifada.  Based in Monsey, NY, ACHI’s website makes it possible for Americans to order made-in-Israel jewelry, cosmetics, pottery, Judaica, candies, hats, wines, kippot, books and toys from more than 100 merchants.