News Digest — 8/17/2021

Israel Turns To International Aid For Fire-Fighting Assistance

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid contacted his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, on Monday (16th), requesting air assistance to put out the fires in the Jerusalem mountains and received a reply from him that Greece would help as much as it could.

At the same time, the Foreign Minister held consultations with the ministry’s staff dealing with international assistance operating from the ministry’s situation room, where inquiries were made to Cyprus, Italy, France and other countries in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, in cooperation with the Public Security Ministry.  In addition, Lapid spoke with Fire Commissioner Dadi Simchi about the efforts to contain the blaze and the needs of forces on the ground.  Simchi emphasized the need for additional fighting planes for Tuesday morning (17th).

Even though the fires were somewhat contained on Tuesday morning, (17th), the winds are expected to pick up in the afternoon, causing the fires to again spread.



Christian Lebanese Party: ‘Prepare For Conflict To Bring Down Lebanese Government’

Lebanon’s Christian Kataeb Party called on Monday (16th) to prepare for a field confrontation to bring down the Lebanese government “by all available means,” after at least 27 people were killed in a fuel tank explosion in Akkar in northern Lebanon.

The party, which played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War, called on Lebanese President Michel Aoun and the entire Lebanese parliament to resign and called on the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Lebanon.

“The Lebanese are subjected to a genocide carried out by a criminal group.  Thus, support must be provided  for them to stand socially and economically during these difficult circumstances until the parliamentary elections are held and a democratic transition is secured under international supervision,” read a statement by the Kataeb Political Bureau following its weekly meeting in Saifi.

The party warned that it could no longer stay silent about the “crimes of this murderous regime, and its patron and guide, Hezbollah, which repeatedly explodes its people and leaves them to their fate.”

“The time has come to put an end to this suicidal slope, to renounce this authority with its entire system, and prepare for a field confrontation to bring it down by all available means,” added the Kataeb Party.

The party also warned against suppressing the rebels and trying to intimidate them through arrest, calling these practices worthy of what it called an occupying power.

On Saturday night (14th), a fuel tank exploded in Akkar in northern Lebanon, killing 27 and injuring dozens.  As of Monday morning (16th), searches were ongoing for missing persons.

On Sunday (15th) Lebanese reports indicated that the fuel tanks had been holding fuel meant to be smuggled to Syria.  Hezbollah has been accused of smuggling oil from Lebanon into Syria for years.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing and no official statement has been made concerning the cause of the explosion.

The explosion quickly led to another explosion in the Lebanese political scene as some officials from the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, and the Free Patriot Movement, founded by Aoun and allied with Hezbollah, accused one another of being responsible for the situation and accusing specific MPs of being directly involved with the tanks that exploded.

Lebanese media reports have expressed concerns that the anger and unrest following the explosion could develop into violence.

On Sunday (15th), former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri called for Lebanese President Michel Aoun to resign, telling him to “leave now and preserve some dignity for your future, because you will not find an embassy to shelter you soon or a plane that will help you escape the curse of history.”

During a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council on Sunday (15th), Aoun warned against “the politicization of the tragedy that occurred in Al-Tleil and the exploitation of the blood of the martyrs to raise slogans and launch calls that clearly reveal the intentions of those who launched them and their involvement in schemes aimed at harming the regime and its institutions.



Iran, Hamas Embrace Violent Takeover Of Afghanistan By Taliban

Iran and Hamas on Monday (16th) effusively welcomed the final capitulation of the Afghan government to Taliban insurgents over the weekend, praising the hardline Islamist organization for its “brave leadership” in defeating the “American occupation.”

As reports poured in from around the country of Taliban fighters seizing unmarried girls to serve as slaves and carrying out executions of members of the Afghan military, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi gushed over the “defeat” of the US, claiming that the Taliban’s violent seizure of power reflected “the reign of the will of the wronged people of Afghanistan.”

The theological and political divide between Shi’a Iran and the ultraconservative Sunni Islam of the Taliban has not prevented cooperation between the two in the past.  During this year alone, at least two delegations of Taliban leaders have visited Tehran for talks with the leaders of the Islamic Republic.

In July, as Taliban fighters reported significant advances on the ground, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told a visiting delegation of Taliban chieftains that his regime stood ready to support negotiations involving Afghanistan’s armed factions.  At a press conference that followed the private discussions, Zarif – a key architect of the ill-fated US-led 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program – hailed the Taliban’s “defeat” of US troops after 20 years of war.

“We are proud to have stood alongside our noble Afghan brothers and sisters during the jihad against the foreign occupiers,” Zarif declared at the time.

Separately, the presence of a Taliban delegation in Tehran in January was depicted as an exercise in realpolitik by a regime spokesperson.

“The Taliban is part of today’s reality in Afghanistan,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated, insisting at the same time that Iran had not forgotten its “martyrs in Mazar-e-Sharif” – a reference to the execution by the Taliban of a group of Iranian diplomats in the northern Afghan city in 1998.

Meanwhile, Iran’s ally in Gaza, the Hamas terrorist organization, similarly cheered the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan capital Kabul in a statement published on social media by one of its main spokesmen.  

“Today the Taliban is victorious after it used to be accused of backwardness and terrorism,” said Musa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas political bureau.  “Now, the Taliban is more clever and more realistic.  It has faced America and its agents, refusing half-solutions with them.  The Taliban was not deceived by the slogans of democracy and elections and fake promises.”

Abu Marzouk continued: “This is a lesson for all oppressed peoples. Will they learn the moral of this story?”

Taliban leaders have also held cordial meetings with their Hamas counterparts.  On Monday (16th), several social media feeds ran photographs of an encounter that took place in Doha, the capital of Qatar, shortly after the hostilities between Israel and Hamas ended in May.  The Hamas delegation was led by Ismail Haniyeh, the Qatar-based head of the Hamas political bureau, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader leading the Taliban envoys.

At the meeting, Mullah Barader offered Hamas “congratulations” for its “victory” over the IDF during the fighting in May.



First Gaza Rocket Fired Into Israel Since May

Rocket sirens sounded near the southern town of Sderot on Monday (16th) after a single rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip.  It was the first rocket fired from Gaza towards Israel since the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls in May.

The IDF confirmed that a rocket had been fired from Gaza at Israel and that another launched from the coastal enclave landed inside the Gaza Strip.

Videos uploaded to social media showed smoke trails of what appeared to be an Iron Dome interceptor that was launched at the incoming rocket.

No casualties were reported.

Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip were to meet on Monday afternoon (16th) to discuss “important national issues” soon after the rockets were fired. 

Earlier on Monday (16th), the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group stated that they were holding Israel responsible for the deaths of four Palestinian terrorists in Jenin earlier. 

On Sunday (15th), Palestinians warned that Israel and Hamas were headed toward another round of fighting because international mediators appear to have failed to achieve a breakthrough on bringing Qatari aid money to the Gaza Strip.



JDC Provides Critical Medical Supplies To Haiti After Earthquakes

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is responding to the August 14 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti by providing critically needed medical supplies – surgical instruments, fluids, IV starters, sutures, gloves, masks, face shields and clean linens – to local hospitals treating the wounded.

The 7.2 magnitude event and its aftershocks flattened thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings as the resulting death toll reached into the thousands as of Sunday night (15th).

The JDC is working through its long-time partner, the Afya Foundation, to ship materials to a hospital in the city of Aquin. As the extent of the damage unfolds, JDC, which has worked in Haiti since 2010, continues to assess emerging needs and is raising additional funds to address them.

“We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of life in Haiti and send our prayers to a people and nation in mourning yet again,” said JDC CEO Ariel Zwang.  “As we have done so many times in the past, we’ll be there to offer care, healing and opportunities to empower Haitians to build again, better and safer.  It’s all the more fitting, and poignant, that we are doing this work during the Jewish month of Elul, when we engage in introspection and work to mend the broken parts of our personal and collective lives.”

The agency’s work in Haiti includes its long-term responses to the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  In addition to providing emergency needs such as food, water and medical care, its programs reach hundreds of thousands of people by addressing health care for women and children; care for people with disabilities; rebuilding infrastructure (schools, hospitals); disaster preparedness; employment; and empowering social-service leadership and local non-profits.

The JDC also had a historic presence in Haiti dating to the World War II period.  Haiti allowed Jews fleeing the Nazis to settle on the island, and JDC provided care to those refugees and to others who found safe haven in the Dominican Republic with JDC’s help.

Disaster-relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors.  Relief activities are coordinated with the US State Department, USAID, the Israeli government and the United Nations, as well as local and international partners.

The JDC and its partners have recently responded to the coronavirus pandemic in Africa and Asia, as well as natural disasters in Mozambique, the Bahamas, Guatemala, Indonesia and Mexico.  The group continues its post-disaster development work in the Philippines and Haiti, and leads the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR) made up of 49 North American Jewish organizations that address disasters and challenges worldwide.