News Digest — 8/19/20

Israel, Sudan Close To Peace Agreement?

Israel and Sudan on Tuesday (18th) said they were close to reaching a peace agreement – setting the stage for a second dramatic diplomatic breakthrough for Israel with its Arab neighbors in a matter of days.

A Sudanese Foreign Ministry official announced that his government is “looking forward to concluding a peace agreement with Israel,” drawing a promise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “do all that is needed” to wrap up a deal.

The announcement came days after Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced an agreement to establish formal diplomatic ties.

While Sudan does not have the resources and influence of the UAE, it has a far more hostile history toward Israel.

Sudan hosted the landmark Arab conference after the 1967 Mideast war where eight Arab countries approved the “three no’s: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.”

In 1993, the US designated Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism for its support of a number of anti-Israel Islamic terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

But in recent years those hostilities have softened, and both countries have expressed readiness to normalize relations.

Sky News Arabia quoted a Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying his government looked forward to a peace agreement “based on equality and Sudanese interests.”

“There is no reason to continue hostility between Sudan and Israel,” the spokesman, Haidar Badawi, was quoted as saying.  

“We don’t deny that there are communications” with Israel, he added, saying both countries would gain much from a deal.  In a statement, Netanyahu said Israel, Sudan and the entire region would benefit.  “We will do all that’s needed to turn this vision into a reality” he said.



Gaza Militants Renew Rocket Fire As Israel Rejects Hamas’ Demands

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening (18th) renewed its rocket attacks on Israeli citizens after Israel reportedly rejected the demands put forward by Hamas for cessation of cross-border hostilities.

At around 8:53 p.m., rocket alert sirens sounded in the city of Ashkelon and smaller communities bordering the Hamas-controlled enclave as residents headed for bomb-shelters.  Two children were injured lightly while running for cover.  

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit later confirmed at least one rocket had been fired by the militants, which landed in an open space, with no damage reported.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channels reported just hours earlier that Israel had rejected the conditions of the Hamas terror group, which would see the militants halt the launching of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory.

The list of demands reportedly included: Israel’s commitment to approve large-scale infrastructure and economic projects, an ability to export and import goods from the Gaza Strip, an increase in work permits for Gazan workers being employed in Israel to 100,000, a permit to facilitate the UN-developed projects, increase of the fishing zone to 20 miles and opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Tuesday (18th) warned Hamas against the continuation of border violence after 39 fires broke out in Israeli communities due to incendiary balloons sent from the coastal enclave.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited southern Israel, where fires have been set in and around Israeli communities. 

He said of Hamas, “The time will come when they have to decide if they want war.  If they want it, they will get it – it is up to them.”



UN Tribunal Convicts 1 Hezbollah Member For Killing Of Lebanese PM

A United Nations tribunal has convicted one member of the Hezbollah terrorist organization for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Salim Ayyash was found guilty by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the suicide truck bombing in which Hariri was assassinated.  21 other people were killed and 226 people were wounded in the attack.

Three other Hezbollah members, Assad Sabra, Hassan Oneissi, and Hassan Habib Merhi were acquitted by the tribunal in Hariri’s murder.

The tribunal also stated that there was no evidence that the leadership of Hezbollah or the Syrian government were involved in the assassination.

Presiding judge David Re said the judges were “of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri, and some of his political allies.”  But he added that, “There was no evidence that Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder, and no direct evidence of Syrian involvement in it.”

The tribunal could only rule on individuals, not organizations or nations such as Hezbollah and Syria.

The verdict had originally been scheduled to be released on August 7, but was delayed until Tuesday (18th) following the August 4 explosion at the Beirut Port in which 180 people were killed and about 6,000 wounded.



Closed For Five Months, The Western Wall Tunnels Are Reopening

In accordance with new regulations and the reopening of other museums, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation on Tuesday (18th) announced that the Western Wall Tunnels’ sites will reopen on Thursday (20th).

The tunnels will reopen in a measured manner and with strict adherence to the government’s coronavirus regulations.  Tours can be reserved in advance and for groups of up to 20 participants.

In a statement, the Western Wall Foundation said: “Throughout the entire period of time, we have been working creatively to allow the public to connect to the Western Wall remotely – for prayer and virtual tours.  Prior to the pandemic, over half a million visitors came to the Western Wall Tunnels’ sites every year.”

“Now we are pleased to be able to renew the visits, in accordance with regulations that preserve the public’s health.  As the end of the summer vacation nears and with the approach of the first of the Hebrew month of Elul, and of the emotional time of penitential prayers, we invite families and the entire public to return to visiting the Western Wall sites.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation also runs a series of tours in Jerusalem, with Health Ministry approval, as well as virtual tours of the Western Wall Tunnels, new excavation sites, and the Jewish Quarter for participants from Israel and around the world who cannot physically come to the Western Wall.  So far, the tours have been enjoyed by over 20,000 people from countries around the world, including Hong Kong, USA, Russia, Australia, Italy, Great Britain, Mexico and more.

The tours are available with advance reservations, and visitors must abide by all regulations in place at the sites.



‘Heil Hitler’ And ‘Juden’ Sprayed On Jewish-Owned House In Lyon, France

It could have been a story of desecration of a Jewish home in the 1940s, but this actually happened on August 19, 2020 in the city center of Lyon, France, when two anti-Semitic phrases were discovered sprayed on a Jewish house: ‘Heil Hitler’ and ‘Juden.’  The owners were away on vacation at the time.

The League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), a French NGO, announced over social media that they will take the matter to court, explaining that “Neo-Nazis are enemies of the Republic and its values,” and “they must be fought as such with all means of law.”

Lyon Mayor Gregory Doucet, for his part, “strongly” condemned this act, tweeting that “the perpetrators of these heinous acts defile the humanistic spirit of our city and put us all in danger.”

Thomas Rudigoz, district representative in the National Assembly was concerned, and pointed out that, “racist and anti-Semitic acts are on the rise,” referencing several incidents that occurred during the past several months.

Rudigoz also reacted to the LICRA’s condemnation by stressing that “we must all –  the government, the City of Lyon, the National Assembly – fight against racism and the far right.”

This incident happened amid a wave of racist and anti-Semitic incidents in both Lyon and in other parts of France.

In June, anti-Semitic symbols were discovered on David Kimefeld’s campaign posters for the Lyon city government.

Last week, in Paris, a young Jewish man was violently attacked and beaten in the 19th district of Paris.