News Digest — 8/23/23

2023 Deadliest Terror Year Since Second Intifada; 1 Civilian Killed Per Week On Average

The year 2023 is shaping up to be one of the deadliest in terms of terror casualties for Israel in decades, with an average of one terror victim each week since January.

That average is in line with the bloody years of the Second Intifada, which occurred between 2000 and 2005.

Last year, 33 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks, but that number includes all casualties in 2022.  Eight months into 2023, 34 people have already been killed.

Earlier this year, Israel saw one of the largest numbers of casualties in a single event since 2008.  In January, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on worshipers and passersby near a Jerusalem synagogue on Shabbat.  Seven people were killed including a 14-year-old boy and a Ukrainian national.

This year also saw numerous incidents in which pairs of siblings or parents and children were murdered in the same terror attack.

In early January, a terrorist rammed into a bus stop in Jerusalem, killing brothersYaakov Yisrael Paley, 8, and Asher Menahem Paley, 6.  The Paley’s are the youngest victims of terror this year.

Brothers Hillel, 21, and Yagel, 19, Yaniv were killed at a junction in the terror hotbed of Huwara, after terrorists rammed their vehicle then shot them at point-blank range in February.

Sisters Maia, 20, and Rina,15, Dee were murdered alongside their mother, Lucy, 48, in April.  They were shot by terrorists as they drove from their home in Efrat towards the Galilee for a Passover family vacation.  The Dee family had immigrated from Britain and were dual UK-Israeli nationals.

Last Saturday (19th), father and son Shai Silas Nigrekar, 60, and Aviad Nir, 28, were shot to death while waiting for their car to be repaired at a garage in Huwara.

On Monday (21st), preschool teacher Batsheva Nigri, 42, was shot to death in front of her 12-year-old daughter while riding in a vehicle near Hebron.

Other victims of terror in 2023 include an Italian tourist who was mowed down by an Arab-Israeli terrorist while walking on Tel Aviv’s seafront promenade and American-Israeli Elan Ganeles, who was shot on a highway near Jericho while traveling to a wedding.



Israel Warns Of Strikes On Iranian, Hamas Targets To Halt Terror Wave

The Israeli Security Cabinet issued a veiled warning of pending IDF strikes against Iranian and Hamas targets when it met amid a terror wave on Tuesday (22nd).

“The security cabinet made a series of decisions to strike at the terrorists and whoever dispatches them,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office said after the closed-door meeting, whose details were withheld from the public.

It “authorized the prime minister and the defense minister to act accordingly,” the Prime Minister’s Office said after the meeting.

It did so after three Israelis were killed and one was seriously wounded in two separate terror attacks on Saturday (19th) and Monday (21st).

For Israel this terror wave is directly linked to growing military tensions with Tehran, which it believes is exploiting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – particularly by strengthening Hamas – to open a new front against Israel and to retaliate against it for its aerial attacks against Iranian-based targets in Syria.

Netanyahu and Gallant warned that Iran and its proxies were behind the terror wave, with the prime minister issuing a statement similar to that of the one from Tuesday”s (22nd) security cabinet meeting.

“We are using means, and we will use yet more, both offensive and defensive, to settle accounts with the murderers and those who dispatch them, near and far,” Netanyahu said.

With an eye to the region, Israel late on Monday (21st) launched missiles targeting the vicinity of Syria’s capital Damascus that left one Syrian soldier injured and “caused some material damage,” the Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Strategically Israel carries out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, to prevent Tehran’s growing entrenchment in that war-torn country.

With an eye toward increasing its ability to attack Israel, Iranian state media reported Tuesday (22nd ) that the Islamic Republic had built an advanced drone named Mohajer-10 with an enhanced range and duration as well as a greater payload that has the capacity to attack Israel 

Tzachi Hanegbi, head of the National Security Council, said that Iran is frustrated by its limited ability to push back at Israel’s decade-long policy of attacking Iranian military targets in Syria. 

“Tehran can’t respond directly from Syria or from Iran,” he said.  “It, therefore, decided to finance and arm the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas to act against Israel,” Hanegbi added.

“We have said that we will settle accounts with the dispatchers of terror,  and I have detailed where the dispatchers are – in Gaza and in Iran,” he said.

The security cabinet met as settler leaders and a number of right-wing politicians have called for an expanded military operation in the West Bank, such as Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, to route out terror, as well as for the IDF to take steps to increase security on the roads.

A number of the main leaders of the Yesha Council gathered outside the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday (22nd) to call for such a campaign.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said, “We demand the immediate launch of a comprehensive military operation… all over Judea and Samaria and wherever necessary.  There is no magic in the war on terror.  This is what worked last time, and this is what will work now.”

Hanegbi told Army Radio that one can’t compare the military action needed in 2002 with the kind of campaign needed today, particularly given the larger forces at play here, such as the Iranian military and financial support.

The security cabinet had originally been scheduled to meet in September, but convened instead on Tuesday (22nd) in light of the terror wave.



Canada Condemns Terrorist Attacks Against Israelis: ‘Horrific Acts’

The Canadian Embassy in Israel on Tuesday (22nd) issued a statement condemning the recent terrorist attacks against Israelis.

“Canada is concerned by the increasing number of terrorist attacks committed against civilians in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks.  We condemn these horrific acts and extend our condolences to the victims and their loved ones,” it wrote in a tweet.

The statement came a day after Batsheva Nigri was murdered in a shooting attack near Hebron.  The two terrorists who carried out the attack were arrested by security forces overnight Monday (21st).  On Saturday (19th) Aviad Nir and his father, Shai Silas Nigreker were murdered in a shooting attack in Huwara.

The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) welcomed the statement from the Canadian Embassy saying, “A welcome condemnation of the murder of innocent Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists.”  “However, we also should condemn the perpetrators and hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for incentivizing terror,” it tweeted.



Iran Unveils Armed Drone, Says it Could Potentially Reach Israel

Iran’s Defense Ministry unveiled a drone on Tuesday (22nd) resembling America’s armed MQ-9 Reaper, claiming that the aircraft is capable of staying airborne for 24 hours and has the range to reach the country’s archenemy Israel.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency published a photograph of the drone, called the Mohajer-10, on display at a conference marking Defense Industry Day with what appeared to be smoke-machine fog underneath it.

“Mohajer” means “immigrant” in Farsi and has been a drone line manufactured by the Islamic Republic since 1985.

IRNA said the drone is able to fly up to 24,000 feet with a speed of 130 mph, carrying a bomb payload of up to 660 pounds.  It also said the drone could carry electronic surveillance equipment and a camera.  Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also viewed the drone on Tuesday (22nd).

“Today, we can firmly introduce Iran as an advanced and technologic nation to the world,” Raisi said in comments aired on state television.

He reiterated Iran’s stance about friendly relations with “all countries in the world,” adding that “Iran’s armed forces will cut off any hand that will reach out in an attempt to invade Iran,” state TV reported. 

The Associated Press could not immediately verify the claims about the drone’s capabilities, though an arm of state television shared a video of it taking off from a runway.  Long-range drones like the Reaper also require ground stations and satellite communications.

Officials in Israel, which flies its own long-range, high endurance drones, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday (22nd). 

Iran has in the past captured U.S. drones or pieces of them, but there’s no evidence that it has taken a General Atomics’ Reaper, which is flown by the U.S. Air Force, and allied American nations “as a hunter-killer drone,” that can operate at high altitudes for long hours and follow a target before attacking.  North Korea in July showed off drones mirroring the Reaper, possibly designed from available publicity information about the aircraft.



Israeli Company Boosts Colorado’s Electricity Grid Stability

Israel’s SolarEdge, which recently formed a joint venture to implement solar energy initiatives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has taken another significant step by joining a program to enhance the stability of Colorado’s electricity grid.

On Tuesday (22nd), the company announced its inclusion in Xcel Energy’s new “Renewable Battery Connect” Virtual Power Plant (VPP) Incentive program in the US state of Colorado.

Residents participating in this initiative can earn significant financial incentives by contributing the energy stored in their home battery back to the grid during periods of high demand.  This arrangement allows SolarEdge’s customers with home batteries to play a role in stabilizing the community’s electricity grid while reaping financial rewards.

“We collaborated closely with Xcel Energy to create a program that addresses the specific energy requirements of the state of Colorado,” said Peter Matthews, SolarEdge’s CEO for North America.  “By leveraging our unique technological capabilities, we enable our customers to be part of the solution.  The integration of our technology and software capabilities lays the foundation for the growth of grid stabilization programs in the future as part of the transition to a green and stable energy.”

The company explained that its direct coupling solution has the potential to offer an additional 7% solar power output because of the efficiency achieved by circumventing the “triple-conversion penalty.”  Compared to alternating coupling alternatives, this solution requires two fewer power conversions.

As part of the new program in Colorado, automated management of energy charging and discharging from the home battery will be possible during “scheduled grid events” to which participants sign up.  This simplifies the process for program participants and the local utility company.

The new incentive program joins SolarEdge’s expanding portfolio of grid services, which saw 70% growth in sites enrolled globally in the second quarter of 2023, the company said.  In the U.S. 16% of the company’s battery installations are now enrolled in grid services programs.    

SolarEdge is Israel’s largest solar energy company.