News Digest — 8/19/2021

Nasrallah: Afghanistan Should Serve As A Lesson To Israel

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah asserted that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan should serve as a lesson to Israel that the US is not a reliable partner.

Nasrallah made the comments in a televised speech Tuesday night (17th) which was carried by official Hezbollah media and quoted by Israeli i24NEWS.

He claimed that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is the “moral downfall of America” and added, “Those watching most closely and drawing conclusions from this are the Israelis.”

Nasrallah further said that US President Joe Biden was willing to “accept a historic failure” to prove a policy shift that the US will in the future not fight wars for other nations, asking rhetorically what the new American foreign policy will mean for Lebanon and its neighbors.

“Everybody must consider this and meditate upon it,” Nasrallah said, referring to the Taliban victory.  “Those who most need to draw conclusions and wisdom from this are the peoples of this region.”

On Sunday (15th), Taliban insurgents entered the Afghan capital of Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani left the country.

The spokesman for the Taliban’s political office later declared the war in Afghanistan as over and added that the type of rule and the form of regime in Afghanistan will be clear soon.

The current American administration has come under fire for its handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.  This week President Biden gave a speech in which he justified the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and said  he “stands squarely behind” that decision.



Sinai Warning Level Lowered For Israelis After A Decade Of High Alert

The Sinai Peninsula beaches, including the popular Israeli tourist destination Sharm el-Sheikh, have been lowered from a Level 1 travel alert zone – “Very high concrete threat” – to a Level 3, Israel’s National Security Council announced Wednesday night (18th).

The decision was reached following discussions between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Egyptian Intelligence head Abbas Kamel during a meeting between the two, the statement added.

Sinai remains a popular tourist destination for Israelis ever since it was returned to Egypt during the peace accords in 1979, with a steady rise in visitors since 2016, according to Israeli media.

For the past decade, authorities have recommended Israelis avoid traveling to Sinai for fear of terror attacks by Islamic extremists, primarily ISIS and groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.  Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic, which minimized air travel prompted Israelis to flock to Sinai between lockdowns.

The National Security Council stresses that the northern regions of Sinai are still considered Level 1 alert, and that any vacationers planning to travel out of Israel are still subject to the coronavirus travel restrictions.



PM Bennett Invited For Official Visit By Egyptian President

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was invited on Wednesday (18th) for an official visit to Egypt in the coming weeks by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The invitation was relayed by Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel who arrived in Israel on Wednesday (18th) amid reports of a potential breakthrough in the negotiations with Hamas that may soon see the transfer of Qatari funds into Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages being held by the Gaza-based terror group.

Bennett’s official visit would be the second one of an Israeli prime minister in Egypt since 2011, when former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with president Hosni Mubarak in the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

In June, shortly after Bennett’s government was sworn in, the newly-appointed prime minister held a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart and urged him to continue his effort of advancing the release of Israeli captives held by Hamas.

During Bennett’s meeting with Kahel on Wednesday (18th), “the two discussed diplomatic security and economic aspects of Israel-Egypt relations, as well as the Egyptian mediation in the security situation in the Gaza Strip,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Bennett’s meeting with Kamel could be seen as Israel’s latest attempt of convincing Egypt to take on a more dominant position in regards to releasing Israeli captives held in Gaza.  Last month, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Egyptian counterpart in Brussels, with the same issues reportedly being high on the meeting’s agenda.

Egypt’s importance as a player in the region, as well as its ability to influence Hamas leadership, were made clear during May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, when Cairo helped secure the truce between Israel and Hamas.  

Following the operation, Israel announced that it would not allow humanitarian aid into Gaza unless Hamas releases two Israeli civilians being held captive for years and the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

However, it seems like Bennett’s government has agreed to shift its strategy regarding civilian relief to Gaza’s population, as some 1,000 traders from the Gaza Strip were allowed into Israel on Wednesday (18th), for the first time in over a year, and the shipment of goods into the Strip was expanded.

This may all point to an imminent breakthrough in the negotiations between Hamas and Israel regarding the issues of Qatari funds and the release of Israeli hostages.



Israeli Forces Thwart Stabbing Attack Near Jenin

An Arab terrorist attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli security personnel manning a checkpoint near Jenin on Wednesday (18th) and was stopped after they threatened to open fire.

The Defense Ministry stated that security guards at the Gilboa crossing spotted an Arab suspect running towards the crossing from the Palestinian Authority side.  The security guards called on him to stop and initiated an arrest procedure.

The suspect stopped, and surrendered throwing down the knife he was carrying.

The would-be-terrorist is a teenager from Jenin.  He was arrested and taken for questioning by Israeli security forces.  Some reports indicate that he is a relative of one of the four terrorists killed by Israeli forces during an operation to arrest a terror suspect in Jenin earlier in the week.

The Gilboa checkpoint has been the site of a number of previous attacks.



Remains Of 60 Jews Found In Mass WWII Grave In Polish Village

Remains of 60 Jews, including 20 children, have been discovered in a mass grave in a small village in Poland believed to have been dug during World War II.

The grave in Wojstawice was discovered by officials from the Shem Olam Institute for Holocaust  Education, Documentation and Research.

The Shem Olam made the discovery after receiving information about a suspected mass grave in the village, where a community of 1,500-2,000 Jews lived, before they were eradicated by the Nazi forces and their Polish collaborators.

After consultations with two elderly residents of the village, the Shem Olam team found the location of the grave in the backyard of a private residence in the village, using advanced technological scanners.

Rabbi Avraham Krieger, chairman of Shem Olam, said it was decided not to dig up the grave, and instead erect a monument in full cooperation with the village mayor.

“In the initial stage, we will place a metal sign with the names of the Jews who are known for sure to have been buried there, and then the place will be fenced off,” said Krieger.

“We were able to cross-reference information with the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation, and find the names of some of the bodies of the Jews in the grave,” he added.

“Among other things, we found the names of three families, which included about twenty people along with grandparents, parents and children.  These are the bodies of members of the Shimon Lang family and their children and the Pavel Mendel family and their children.”

In its prime, Wojstawice housed a vibrant Jewish community that had been there since the fourteenth century, and operated religious, educational and Zionist projects.

With the invasion of the Nazis in 1939, an “open ghetto” was established in the village, which was opened and closed at certain hours for specific needs.  The village’s Jews were subjected to hard and humiliating forced labor, their property was confiscated and about a hundred residents perished in the first week of the occupation alone.

In 1941, the Jews were concentrated in a “closed ghetto,” and in 1942 they were deported to labor and extermination camps across Poland.  At that time, two pits were dug in the village, which served as mass graves for every time the Nazis executed a local Jewish family or individual Jews.

At the end of the war, the remaining Jews in the town were marched to the Vlodaver and Belzec extermination camps, where they were murdered on the banks of the River Bug, on the border between Ukraine and Poland.

Currently, Wojstawice is known as a village that had been all but eradicated during the Holocaust, save for a single synagogue which serves to this day as a museum and monument to the slain residents of the village.



Swastika Burned Into New Jersey Yeshiva’s Driveway

A swastika was burned into the driveway of a Yeshiva in Union County, New Jersey on Tuesday night (17th).

The Anti-Defamation League’s New York/New Jersey chapter condemned the vandalism and thanked law enforcement for their fast response.

“Aware and angered by the disgusting anti-Semitic incident last night where a swastika was burned into the entrance of a Yeshiva in Union County, NJ” the ADL  tweeted.  “We cannot tolerate the continued use of swastikas to instill fear in Jews and their institutions.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, NJ said in a statement posted to social media that they were closely monitoring the investigation.

“We are closely following the results of a hate crime last night in Union County, in which an unknown individual(s) placed some floor tile with a burned swastika in the driveway by a Jewish community institution,” said Federation CEO Dov Ben-Shimon.

“We are grateful to the Township of Union Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and other law enforcement agencies for our dialogue and for their continued  commitment to keeping us safe and secure.”