News Digest — 8/16/23

Paraguay Leader Says He Is ‘Israel’s Greatest Friend,’ To Reopen Jerusalem Embassy

Some five years after Paraguay closed its embassy in Jerusalem, its new President , Santiago Pena announced Tuesday (15th) that the South American country will reopen it in the coming months.  This would make it the fifth country to relocate its embassy to the Israeli capital, after the US, Kosovo, Guatemala and Honduras.

Pena, who was sworn in on Tuesday (15th) met with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen just hours after his inauguration.  Cohen said he invited the leader “to make a presidential visit this year, during which he could rededicate the Paraguayan Embassy in Jerusalem.”  He added that Israel would also reciprocate by opening its embassy in Asuncion, the country’s capital.  Pena said in response, “I am Israel’s greatest friend.”

According to Cohen, the reopening of the embassy in Jerusalem “will bolster Israel’s standing and the important ties between the two nations,” adding that “we will continue strengthening the historical bond with Latin American countries, who have stood by Israel and the Jewish people.”

Paraguay moved its embassy to the capital in 2018 but several months later closed it after it elected a left-wing president.  Israel was outraged and shut down its embassy in the country in response.



AFJS Member: ‘Judea And Samaria Is The Heartland Of Israel’

Jack J. Gindi, a board member of American Friends of Judea and Samaria (AFJS), spoke with Israel National News during a trip to the Samaria region of Israel recently.

As a member of the board of AFJS Gindi has a deep appreciation for the significance of Judea and Samaria to the Jewish people and has long felt the spiritual and historical connection of the Jewish people to the region as the land where the Bible happened.  As part of his visit to the Samaria region, he issued a call from within Samaria itself for greater Jewish connection to the nation’s biblical heartland.

Gindi explained how his interest in Israel began: “I’m a Jew.  I studied Torah growing up.  It doesn’t take much more than that to have a connection and want to come visit – this is our land.”

“Judea and Samaria,” he says, “have particular importance to the future of the state: This is part of who we are, no less than Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Netanya.  Judea and Samaria are the backbone of the Jewish people, and if we want to go forward, we cannot abandon our past here.”

For those outside of Israel, Gindi has a simple method to stay in touch with Judea and Samaria: “Educate yourselves by coming here.  I came with an open mind and saw none of the things that I read about in the news.  There is no hostility here, no violence.  I met a Druze soldier who puts his life on the line for the Jewish people.  Come and see for yourselves, and you’ll get a much more accurate perspective on what is going on here in Israel.”

“American Friends of Judea and Samaria are trying to support the communities here.  We try to bring lectures from here abroad, and to bring delegations here.  We try to support agriculture and strategic planning.  Without numbers and support, though, it’s hard to exact change, so I encourage everyone to join us so that we can continue to deliver the truth to the world and bring people here to see this for themselves.”



Hamas And Islamic Jihad Seen Importing Gaza Military Tactics To The West Bank

Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been exploiting the power vacuum in the northern West Bank to strengthen their military presence and replicate the fighting tactics against Israel that they developed in Gaza, according to a new report.

The analysis, published last week by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) , highlights the various indications pointing at a new military infrastructure emerging in the Jenin and Nablus areas – resembling what already exists in the coastal enclave ruled by Hamas since 2007 – thanks to the dwindling control of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority over the area.

Among these indications are local manufacturing of weapons and advanced explosive devices; excavating tunnels; launching rockets; and fostering cooperation among different terror organizations, similar to the “Joint War Room” they set up in the Gaza Strip.

Like in Gaza, the main actors on this new terror front are Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Both groups enjoy significant financial and military support from Iran, and both groups regularly thank Iran publicly for the aid it sends to Gaza and the West Bank.  For instance, in a June 30 interview with the Iranian Arabic-language newspaper Al-Vefagh, PIJ leader Ziyad al-Nakhaleh said that armament of the West Bank has been taking place in accordance with instructions issued in 2014 by Iranian Supreme  Leader Ali Khamenei, who put forth a plan to “smuggle arms into the area, or buy them from the Israelis themselves.”

In recent months, however, it appears that explosive devices have been increasingly developed in the West Bank itself, and are more powerful than in the past.  For example, the report mentioned that a large explosive device that was detonated on June 19 against an IDF armored vehicle on its way out of Jenin weighed 176 lbs, and was allegedly produced by the engineering unit of the Jenin Brigade, a cross-factional group that emerged in September 2021.

Other terrorist groups have been boasting of their weapons-manufacturing capabilities.  For example, the engineering unit of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, posted a series of videoclips showcasing the explosive devices it produced including a new type called Shuwaz1, with alleged armor-penetrating capabilities.

Developing new military capabilities is not always a smooth affair.  On June 21 the Telegram channel of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades reported that two young men had been killed in a “work accident” in the Balata camp near Nablus while preparing an explosive device.  A month later, on July 18, another Telegram channel reported that a blast shook Jenin during experiments with explosive devices.

Another tactic that terrorist groups are trying to import from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank is the use of tunnels.  They were excavated by Hamas in and out of Gaza for years to smuggle weapons and merchandise from Egypt, with the intent of penetrating into Israel.  Tunnels recently made their appearance in the Jenin area, as exposed during the IDF military operation “Bayit Vagan” in early July.

The MEMRI report also highlighted the increasing launch of rockets from the Jenin area against Israeli settlements, the latest attempt taking place on Tuesday morning (15th) toward the Shaked settlement, west of Jenin.  The projectiles have been fired by a Hamas-affiliated group called “Al-Ayyash Brigade,” apparently named after a notorious Hamas bombmaker killed by Israel.

Further evidence of the fact that terror groups are replicating the Gaza model in the West Bank is the increasing military cooperation between armed Palestinian factions, the analysts said.  The model in this case  is the Joint War Room in Gaza, an umbrella organization that is mainly activated during rounds of fighting with Israel.

A larger and more structured emulation of the Gaza Joint War Room is the “Jenin Brigade,” also known as the “Jenin Battalion,” established in the northern West Bank city in 2021.  Divided into independent cells, the group is dominated by the al-Quds Brigades, the PIJ military arm, but also includes members from Hamas’ armed brigades, Fatah’s armed brigades, and the PFLP’s military wing.

PIJ secretary-general Aiyad Al-Nakhaleh reportedly praised the Jenin model as a success story to replicate throughout the West Bank.  In a July 9 interview with Iran’s news agency IRNA, the terror leader said that the armed factions “are acting in all seriousness to spread these brigades into all the Palestinian cities, and they are becoming a fact on the ground – this despite the many obstacles, primarily the shortage of weapons and difficulty supplying them.”

Al-Nakhaleh also stressed that the Jenin Brigade is a model of cooperation that in some ways is even more successful than the Joint War Room in Gaza, since members of different brigades share everything – money, arms and even food. 



Israeli Archaeologists Find Most Ancient Gate Discovered In The Holy Land

Israeli archaeologists excavating an area near Kiryat Gat’s industrial zone prior to the laying of a water pipe discovered a 5,500-year-old gate, the oldest such structure ever found in the Holy Land, the Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday (15th).

“The discovery of the most ancient city gate known in the country adds another important piece of knowledge to our archaeological knowledge,” said Antiquities Authority Eli Eskosido.  “Together with the cooperation of the Mekorot Water Company, it was decided to move the water pipe in order to preserve the ancient gate.”

The excavation in Tel Erani unveiled not only the gate, but also a portion of a fortification system, all dating to the Early Bronze Age, approximately 3,300 years ago.

According to the Antiquities Authority, the discovery provides valuable insights into the development of urban centers and their strategic defense in ancient times.

“This is the first time that such a large gate dating to the Early Bronze Age has been uncovered,” said excavation director Enily Bischoff.  “In order to construct the gate and the fortification walls, stones had to be brought from a distance, mud bricks had to be manufactured and the fortification walls had to be constructed.  This was not achieved by one or a few individuals.  The fortification system is evidence of social organization that represents the beginning of urbanization.

Tel Erani is a 37 acre site whose origins are associated with the ancient Philistines.  The city, located on the present day outskirts of Kiryat Gat, was destroyed in the 6th Century BCE, presumably by the Babylonians.

“The tel site was part of a large and important settlement system in the southwestern area of the country in this period,” explained the Authority’s Dr. Yitzhak Paz, a specialist in the Early Bronze Age.  Within this system we can identify the first signs of the urbanization process, including settlement planning, social stratification, and public building.  The newly uncovered gate is an important discovery that affects the dating of the beginning of the urbanization process in the country.”

Paz said that previous excavations suggested urbanization began at the end of the fourth millennium BCE, “but the excavations carried out at Tel Erani have now shown that this process began even earlier, in the last third of the fourth millennium BCE.”



Three Israeli Universities Rank Among World’s Best 100

Three Israeli universities were recognized among the world’s top 100 for the third successive year, according to the 2023 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) released on Tuesday (15th) by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy.

Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot jumped 16 spots from last year to 67th place and the Technion in Haifa climbed five places to 78th spot, while the Hebrew University of Jerusalem dropped seven places from last year to 85th.

Since 2012, the Technion has consistently been ranked among the top 100 institutions in the ranking except for 2020 and currently ranks as the fourth best technological institution.

Harvard University topped the ranking list for the 21st year in a row.  It is followed by two other US universities – Stanford and MIT.

England’s Cambridge ranked fourth, followed by University of California, Berkeley.  Other institutions in the top 10 are Princeton, Oxford, Columbia, Caltech and University of Chicago.

The US leads in the prestigious ranking with a total of 38 American universities making it to the top 100 this year.

The ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, published annually since 2003,is considered one of the most reliable rankings in academia.  The rankings assess the quality of research at academic institutions and are based on various criteria, including the number of faculty members and alumni who have won Nobel prizes and Field Medals, as well as the volume and quality of publications in leading journals.  The ranking includes approximately 2,500 universities, with the rankings of the top 1,000 being published.