News Digest — 8/2/21

We Will Respond ‘In Our Own Way,’ Bennett Warned Iran After Attack On Israeli-Linked Ship

“In recent days, the world has received another reminder of Iranian aggression, this time at sea,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement regarding the maritime attack on a ship linked to an Israeli billionaire on Friday (7/30).

“I state absolutely: Iran is the one that carried out the attack on the ship,” Bennett stated Sunday (1st) at the weekly security cabinet meeting.

“The Iranians, who attacked the ship Mercer Street with unmanned aircraft, aimed to hit an Israeli target.  Instead, their pirate-act resulted in the deaths of a British citizen and a Romanian citizen,” Bennett said, adding his condolences to the families of the victims.

“Iran, in a cowardly way, is trying to evade its responsibility for the incident, they deny it,” he added.  “So, I state here absolutely: Iran is the one that carried out the attack against the ship.”

“Iran’s bullying is dangerous not only for Israel, but also harms global interests, freedom of shipping and international trade.”

“The intelligence evidence for this exists and we expect the international system to make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a grave mistake.  In any case, we know how to convey the message to Iran in our own way,” Bennett warned.



Will Israel Face Iran Alone? – Alex Fishman

Jerusalem cannot afford to ignore Iran’s provocative attack on the Israeli-operated oil tanker off the coast of Oman on Friday (7/30).

A lack of response by Israel would only ramp up Iranian aggression against it and other Middle Eastern governments – not to mention potentially diminishing Israel’s strategic standing in the region.

This is why Israel’s leaders are no doubt pondering the timing and scope of their response.

The attack on the oil tanker over the weekend was an Iranian misstep.  It damaged a Japanese-owned vessel operated by a British company that is part-owned by an Israeli and killed a Romanian citizen and a British national.

A Russian was also among the members of the crew on board.  What would the leaders of the Islamic Republic have told Moscow had he too been hurt?

No other country will carry out a response in Israel’s place for the West has grown weary of Middle Eastern wars.  But even so Israeli officials are trying to enlist the US, Europe and Japan in curbing Iranian subversive actions in the region.  Israeli politicians and representatives of the IDF are all attempting to convince their American and European counterparts that Iran is not Israel’s problem alone, and that it is time for others – including Japan and the UK – to take action.

Just three or four years ago, the US and European nations fought diligently against Middle Eastern terrorism.  Now the Americans barely respond to almost daily rocket fire on their own embassy and military bases housing troops in Iraq.

They are withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan and despite public denials, will leave Syria and Iraq too.  It is only a matter of time.

The ennui felt in the West over the Middle East has created a vacuum that Iran is racing to fill, unimpeded by everyone except Israel, which is fighting a “war between wars” on land and sea.

How can this be happening?  Where are the world powers who should be standing with Israel in the face of the Iranian threat?  Do they not understand that Russia is still waiting on the sidelines to reap the fruits of mistakes made by the West?

When Israel (allegedly) decided to act on Iran smuggling oil and weapons to Syria and Lebanon via the Mediterranean, its purpose was clear.  This was an effort to offset Iranian economic gains and weaken the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group backed by Iran.

It is unclear whether Israel’s inevitable response to Friday’s (7/30) attack will be part of an overall strategy to combat Iranian entrenchment in the region or an impulsive, knee-jerk reaction.

But with Iran to get a more extreme and conservative president who will surely want to prove himself, the country needs allies that today seem to be thin on the ground. 



US State Department Gives Green Light To Sale Of Helicopters To Israel

The US State Department has approved the sale of 18 Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters to Israel to replace its aging CH-53 Yasurs.

The deal will also include up to 60 T408 -GE-400 Engines, and up to 36 embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), as well as an unspecified number of GAU-21 50 caliber machine guns and more.

The main contractors will be Lockheed Martin Global and General Electric Company.  It is worth an estimated $3.4 billion.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the State Department said.

“The proposed sale will improve the Israeli Air Force’s capability to transport armored vehicles, personnel and equipment to support distributed operations.  Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense,” the statement added.

Israel announced in February that it would purchase one squadron of CH-53K over Boeing’s CH-47 to replace its fleet of Yasur helicopters at Tel Nof Air Base.

First used by the IAF in 1969, the Yasur is the air force’s primary helicopter used to transport soldiers and equipment and has taken part in a wide variety of missions, including secret operations as well as search and rescue missions.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the CH-53K has been “adapted” to the Air Force’s operational requirements and that the decision to purchase the CH-53K was a significant step in building up the IDF’s capabilities.

“It is also essential to the IDF’s ability to carry out a wide range of operational activities,” Gantz said, adding that, “the decision was made following a professional assessment that included test flights in all the proposed aircraft, as well as thorough examination of the various alternatives in terms of engineering, technology, maintenance, and other considerations.”

The CH-53K King Stallion, the successor to the CH-53, is powered by three engines giving it a cruising speed of 261 kph and a range of 530 miles.  Operated by a crew of 5, including 2 pilots and a combat crew of 3 gunners, it is fitted with self-defense weapons and ballistic protection and also has crash-worthy seats and retracting landing gear, signifying aircraft and crew survivability.

The fuel tanks have also been designed to have inert gases pumped into them instead of allowing oxygen to build up inside, giving them a better likelihood of survival if hit by incoming projectiles. 

The CH-53K is fitted with digital fly-by-wire avionics with fully integrated flight and navigation displays and has a mechanical diagnostic system that notifies maintenance crews when a part needs to be replaced and can carry three times more cargo than Israel’s older helicopters.



Hamas Ruling Body Gives Haniyeh Second Term As Leader

Ismail Haniyeh has been elected to a second term as head of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, two Palestinian officials said Sunday (1st).

“Brother Ismail Haniyeh was re-elected as the head of the movement’s political office for a second time,” one official told Reuters.

He was selected for his second four-year term by Hamas’ Shura Council, which is the group’s supreme decision-making body.

Haniyeh, the group’s leader since 2017, has controlled Hamas’ political activities throughout several armed confrontations with Israel – including the brutal 11-day conflict in May.

He was the right-hand man to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza, before the wheelchair-bound cleric was assassinated by Israel in 2004.

Haniyeh, 58, led Hamas’ entry into politics in 2006, when they were surprise victors in Palestinian parliamentary elections, defeating a divided Fatah party led by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh became prime minister shortly after the January 2006 victory, but Hamas – which is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union – was shunned by the international community.

Hamas seized power in Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 following a bloody internecine battle.  Israel and Egypt blockaded Gaza following the coup, citing threats from Hamas.

Since leaving the impoverished Gaza Strip alongside some other Hamas leaders, Haniyeh has been living in luxury as he splits his time between Qatar and Turkey.

Haniyeh has several known connections to top officials around the Arab world, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, as well as ties to terror group Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. 

The Hamas leader met with Nasrallah most recently during the May conflict to coordinate action against Israel.



Protesters In New York City: ‘Globalize The Intifada’

Several hundred protesters took part in a pro-Palestinian rally on Saturday (7/31) in Brooklyn, using inflammatory rhetoric and messaging against Israel.  They lauded “intifada” uprisings and called for taking control of Israeli territory, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.

During the protest, organized by a group called “Within Our Lifetime – United For Palestine,” demonstrators marched behind three large banners: “Globalize the Intifada,” “Zionism is Terrorism,” and “We will free Palestine within our lifetime.”

Intifada is an Arabic word meaning uprising or rebellion.  During the Second Intifada from 2000-2005, Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some affiliated with Fatah, carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel, killing more than 1,000.

During Saturday’s rally (7/31), marchers chanted, “We don’t want no two states, we want all of it,” referring to the two-state solution that has formed the basis of peace proposals.

A Twitter account was deleted on Sunday afternoon (1st) after it posted video footage of demonstrators chanting, “We don’t want no two states, we want all of it.”

Among the demonstrators’ other slogans were: “If we don’t get no justice, then they don’t get no peace, Intifada, Intifada.”  “There is only one solution, the Intifada Revolution,”  “Mobilize the Intifada,” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

Demonstrators held aloft Palestinian flags, fired red, green and black flares, the colors of the flag, and held up pictures of Palestinians who they say were martyred by Israeli security.  A pickup truck bearing activists flying the Palestinian flag led the rally.

Some demonstrators blocked traffic in the area and shouted vulgar expressions at commuters and pedestrians.