News Digest — 8/18/2021

Syria Accuses Israel Of Missile Strike On Hadr

Israel struck a military outpost near Quneitra late on Tuesday night (17th), Syrian media reported.

The state-run SANA news agency said that two missiles were fired in the strike “west of the town of Hadr in the northern Quneitra countryside.”

Video sent to The Jerusalem Post and shared on social media showed a missile flying in the air before exploding.  The video was taken from the town of Magdal Shams, which is on the Israeli side of the border in the Golan Heights.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strike targeted the post that belonged to Iranian-backed militias including the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah near the Druze town of Hadr.

Hadr lies approximately 1.8 miles from the border between the two countries, on the Golan Heights in the Quneitra province.

Pro-opposition sources were quoted as saying that two sites were hit, one belonging to Hezbollah and the other housing the office of Syrian First Division 90th Brigade commander Brig,-Gen. Hussein Hamoush.

The IDF doesn’t comment on foreign reports, but in May it dropped leaflets accusing the Syrian Arab Army of cooperating with Hezbollah and explicitly named Hamoush as working with the head of the group’s operations on the Golan, Hajj Hashem.

“Stop cooperating with the Syrian and Lebanese personnel of Hezbollah.  Otherwise you will have no peace of mind,” the IDF warned.  “We note in particular Brig.-Gen. Hussein Hamoush, commander of Brigade 90.  He is among those who have sold their consciences and their homeland at the cheapest of prices in return for aid for Hezbollah to camouflage their image among their masters, ignoring the general interest and your safety.”

Israel has repeatedly warned that it would not tolerate Tehran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in the Syrian Golan and has admitted to hundreds of strikes against targets belonging to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.

Since Syrian troops recaptured southern Syria and returned to their positions, Hezbollah and Iranian-backed troops have been deployed to the area.  According to an ALMA Research and Education Center report, there are some 58 locations belonging to the group in the southern Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Dara’a.

According to the report last year, there are 28 locations with Hezbollah forces deployed as part of the Southern Command unit and 30 locations where cells are operating under the Golan Project.

“These two units, the ‘Southern Command’ and the ‘Golan File.’ pose an ongoing operational and intelligence challenge for the State of Israel and stability in the region,” the report said.

The Southern Command, led by Munir Ali Na’im Shaiti, is the Hezbollah unit in charge of southern Syria whose main function is to create Hezbollah infrastructure in the area, gather intelligence on the IDF and train the Syrian Arab Army 1st Corps for war with Israel.

The Golan Project is under the command of Ali Mussa Daqduq and has its headquarters in Damascus and the Lebanese capital of Beirut.  There are tens of operatives deployed in the Syrian towns of Hadr, Quneitra and Erneh who collect intelligence on Israel and military movement on the Israeli Golan Heights.

Recently, the group added another 10 villages in the Quneitra province and another 14 villages in the Dara’a province, establishing active cells belonging to the Golan Project, bringing the total number of cells near the Israeli border to 30.



Bennett Visits Gaza Border, Vows To Respond To Rocket Attack ‘On Our Terms’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett toured southern Israel on Tuesday (17th), less than 24 hours after Gaza-based terrorists launched a rocket towards the southern city of Sderot for the first time since May’s Gaza operation.

The prime minister’s visit came amid criticism over Israel’s lack of response to the attack and growing concerns over Bennett’s inability to carry out a military campaign without the required support from his coalition.

Joining the prime minister on Tuesday (17th) was Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, among other senior IDF commanders.

“The purpose of this visit was to make sure that the IDF, the Southern Command and the Gaza Division are prepared – and they are, “Bennett said.

“Our mission here is to provide long-term security to residents of southern Israel and the Gaza border communities.  We will choose the time, place and conditions of our response, not anyone else.” he added, stressing that Israel holds Hamas responsible for any and every attack carried out from Gaza.

Gantz blames Hamas for taking the population of Gaza hostage and referenced the delay of Qatari funds being transferred into Gaza, over the insistence by Hamas that the money be used to pay its operatives.

“Our only interest in Gaza is maintaining peace and returning our boys home,” Gantz said, adding that “Israel is determined to defend itself and will know how to when necessary.”

Bennett later met with soldiers from an Iron Dome battery and heard from them about their operational activity.  He thanked them for their important actions on behalf of the security of the citizens of Israel, during routine and emergency service, and noted that the State of Israel, including the IDF, is ready for any scenario.



Jordan, Israel Sign Agriculture Agreement For “Shmita” Year

Jordan and Israel signed an agricultural cooperation agreement ahead of the “shmita” (Sabbatical) year, in a meeting between Israeli Agriculture Minister Oded Forrer and his Jordanian counterpart Rasan al-Hajali on the border between the countries on Tuesday (17th).

“Shmita” is the biblical commandment for the Land of Israel to lay fallow every seven years, and Jewish farmers in most of modern Israel just observe it for their produce to be certified kosher.  One solution Israel has found is to purchase produce from neighboring Arab populations.  Others, which are preferred by many religious Zionists include symbolically selling their land to a Gentile or moving their farms from private to collectively-owned for the “shmita” year.

Forrer and Majali met on the Allenby Bridge, along with the ambassadors of the two countries.

They agreed for Israel to import Jordanian produce in the coming year. The Agriculture Ministry said it would diversify the sources of fruits and vegetables for those who keep kosher, and take advantage of benefits in the trade agreement between the two countries.

The ministers also discussed ways to partner on innovation and technological advances in agriculture, as well as fighting diseases in plants.

They also discussed fighting fires in both countries, and the role farmers can play.

The meeting “emphasizes the importance of the ties between Israel and Jordan to strengthen neighborly relations and promote cooperation, and the importance of the agricultural field as a way to advance relations between the countries and the nations,” a spokesman for Forrer stated.

In the two months since the new government took office in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Jordanian King Abdullah, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Sfadi.  Israel also agreed to sell more water to Jordan than stipulated in the peace agreement between the countries and to allow Jordan to increase its exports to the Palestinian Authority.



PA Systematically Annexing Israeli Land, Right Wing NGO Claims

The Palestinian Authority has been systematically annexing land for over a decade, the Regavim non-governmental organization said in a report published this week.  The group promotes Zionist land use and strives to protect Israel’s natural resources.

According to the report, 12 years since the introduction of the “Fayyad Plan,” the PA has been taking over Area C, which under the 1993 Oslo Accords is under full Israeli control, by employing tactics such as “mass-scale construction on vast swaths of land; incentivized relocation of Arab residents of Area A and B into Area C, creation of physical infrastructure to support a network of illegal outposts (roads, water systems and electricity networks); widespread agricultural work on Israeli land and destruction of archeological sites that confirm Jewish ties to the territory” – all supported and funded by European donors.

Put forth in 2009 by then-Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the plan was to create a de facto Palestinian state, not through negotiations with Israel, but by establishing facts on the ground – such as houses farms and schools – in strategic areas throughout Area C.

According to Regavim data, the PA controls approximately one-quarter of Area C, of which 20% is taken up by Palestinian agricultural  projects (20% on Israeli state land, absentees’ land and IDF firing zones) and at least another 2.5% by illegal construction, including thousands of kilometers of illegal roads.  In addition, the report said, the PA is planning, or has already begun constructing, illegal projects in another 5% of Area C.

“When viewed as a whole, the master plans are a clear statement of intent,” the report said.

“This massive effort aims to take control of the major traffic arteries serving the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, to disrupt Israeli territorial contiguity, to surround and isolate Israeli communities … to annex the Judean Desert and to lay siege to the Jordan Valley.”

Regavim Director Meir Deutsch warned that unless Israel took immediate countermeasures, in only a few years, the Jewish state would face a hostile and irreversible new reality.

“We have been warning of the organized Palestinian takeover of open territories in Judea and Samaria for over a decade,” he said.

“Instead of stopping it, the State is giving the Palestinian Authority a hand and allows it to act in Area C as it pleases.”

In response to the Regavim report, far right Knesset member and Otzma Yehudit chief Itamar ben Gvir lambasted the current government.

“This government sits with supporters of terrorism who are encouraging the Palestinian takeover of Area C.  The government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett must wake up before it is too late.  We need to see the full picture and examine the consequences of the PA’s actions on Israel’s security.”



Artificially Intelligent Israeli-Made Drones Securing UAE Oil Fields

Artificial Intelligence-driven drones developed by an Israeli start-up are monitoring oil fields, solar farms and other infrastructure facilities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), detecting infrastructure faults and providing real-time safety and security issues.

The uniqueness of Israeli skimmers is that they operate around the clock, including in extreme heat conditions, and regularly scan large areas without the need for human intervention.

The drones take off from a docking station, perform their patrols and return independently to recharge.

Powered by computer vision and AI, the drone provides aerial visual insights and enables users to optimize their security and business operations while reducing risks and operational costs.

Percepto, the Israeli company that developed the drones, works with the large energy, infrastructure and communications companies around the world, including the Florida Electric Company, which uses drones to diagnose and rehabilitate the electricity grid after hurricanes, US Fuel, which manages several refineries, the communications company Verizon, the Rio Tinto mining giant, and the Dead Sea plants in Israel.

The Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the use of robotics around the world, due to global constraints that make it difficult for human manpower to be available and deployed on the ground.  Percepto’s system allows any of the staff members on or off the site to use the system from anywhere in the world, and launch robots to difficult and dangerous inaccessible places.