News Digest — 8/24/20

Pompeo To Visit Sudan After Jerusalem Meetings

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to travel to Sudan following meetings in Jerusalem, the State Department said on Sunday (23rd) as reports of a pending agreement between Israel and the African nation continue.

Pompeo will visit Israel on Monday (24th) and the United Arab Emirates a day later to discuss the countries’ normalization deal, two sources briefed on his itinerary said.

The secretary will also meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the Chairman of the Sudanese sovereign council, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

In its statement, the State Department said Pompeo’s visit to Khartoum was “to discuss continued US support for the civilian-led transitional government and express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship,” the department said.  Sudan is eager to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and normalizing ties with Israel would be a step toward that goal.

However, removal from the terrorism list is also dependent on the completion of a compensation agreement for victims of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  A tentative deal struck several months ago is still awaiting finalization.

During his visit to the area, the secretary will also discuss the security challenges posed by Iran and China in the region, according to a source who was not identified.

Israel and the UAE announced earlier this month that they would normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship.

The deal also firms up opposition to regional power Iran, which the UAE, Israel and the United States view as the main threat in the conflict-riven Middle East.



Hamas Leaders Go Into Hiding, Fearing IDF

Hamas’ leadership has gone into hiding after reports that Israel may return to a policy of targeted killings in the wake of renewed violence started by the terror group, Ynet News reported Saturday (22nd).

Hamas was warned by an Egyptian delegation arriving in the Gaza Strip to mediate a ceasefire in mid-August, according to Arabic reports.  According to a Lebanese newspaper, Hamas leaders told the Egyptian delegation that “they will burn Tel Aviv with thousands of missiles,” if Israel targets them. 

But the terror group’s leadership has decided that caution is the better part of valor, especially after the Egyptian delegates’ warning was underscored by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who said Israel knew how to hit more than buildings.

Gantz also said on Friday (21st), “The IDF is ready – it defends and will continue to defend the residents of the south and will attack anyone who hits us and deliver a very harsh blow.”

Similarly, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, while touring the south last week said, “The time will come when Hamas has to decide – and if they want war, they will get war.” 

Israel has not officially made a comment about targeted killings.  Even though Israel carried out a number of the killings in the early 2000s, they have, since then, used the attacks sparingly.

The last IDF attack targeting an individual terrorist was on November 12, 2019 when the Israeli Air Force killed Baha Abu al-Ata, an Islamic Jihad commander in his bedroom.  The operation was hailed for the technical precision of the strike, which avoided collateral damage.

Hamas over the last month has launched fire balloons and rockets at Israel in an effort to force Israel to meet a series of demands.  It has also restarted riots along the border.  

Early Friday morning (22nd), a rocket landed on a house in Sderot while the family slept through an air raid siren.  Even though the house was split in two, no one was killed or injured.



Erdogan Hosts Hamas Officials, Including Deputy Hamas Leader Who Has A $5 Million Bounty On His Head

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a large delegation of Hamas officials in Istanbul on Saturday (22nd), including Deputy Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri.

Arouri, who is a designated terrorist on the United States most-wanted list,  according to NBC news, has a $5 million bounty on his head.

Arouri is Hamas’ top official outside the Gaza Strip and is considered the mastermind behind many of the terrorist attacks that the group stages.  He is also in charge of directing Hamas operations in the West Bank, and is the group’s chief money man, securing funding for its operations, and deciding on its distribution.

Saturday’s (22nd) meeting in Istanbul came against the backdrop of growing tensions between Israel and Hamas.  Gaza-based terrorists have increased their arson attacks on Israel which, in turn, strikes Hamas sites in the coastal enclave almost nightly.

In other developments, Turkish media reported Sunday (23rd) that Erdogan has created a new security force, currently 500-strong, which will report directly to the Security Directorate in Istanbul.

The move has sparked concern among Turkish opposition and human rights activists who fear the new apparatuses (the authorities of which are ambiguous at this time) will be modeled after Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The IRGC reports to, and is loyal solely to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it also operates an elite extraterritorial arm – the Quds Force.

Turkish opposition officials said Erdogan’s move was “extremely dangerous.” 

The Turkish Peoples’ Democratic Party, slammed the move, saying in a statement that it “points to the fact that the Turkish president seeks a one-man regime through forming parallel forces that follow his personal authority … similar to the Iranian Guard.”

Opposition MK Ibrahim Kaboglu tweeted that the move “contradicts the Turkish constitution.”

Lawyer Mehmet Koksal was quoted by local media as saying that Erdogan’s attempt to create a police force that only answers to him “is a very dangerous development, … This is how a police force was formed during the era of Hitler in Germany.”



Austria: President of Jewish Community Attacked With Baseball Bat

The head of the Jewish community, Elie Rosen, of the Austrian city of Graz was attacked by an unknown assailant with a baseball bat on Saturday (22nd) as he got out of his car,  the Austrian paper Der Standard reported.  He quickly jumped back into the vehicle, at which point the attacker beat the car with the bat.

The Austrian government provided personal protection for Rosen following the attack.  Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expressed “shock” over the heinous act.

The synagogue in Graz has been vandalized twice over the past week.  On Wednesday (19th), unknown vandals spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti on the synagogue walls, reading, “Free Palestine,” and “Our country and our language are red lines.”

Rosen told the Wiener Zeitung that the messages were painted on a wall of the synagogue that was built from the bricks of the original structure that the Nazis destroyed in 1938.

“It’s not right-wing extremism,” Rosen said.  “In Graz we are increasingly dealing with left-wing and anti-Israel anti-Semitism.  We can see that clearly.”

The city of Graz, which is located about 80 miles southwest of Vienna, has about 150 Jews.

According to a report published in May by the Jewish Community of Vienna and the Forum against Anti-Semitism, 550 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in Austria in 2019, up 10% versus 2017.



‘Army Of Children’: UK School Teaching Islamic Terror Receives Official Warning – Josh Plank

The Charity Commission, the regulator of charities in England and Wales, issued an official warning on Friday (21st) to the Lantern of Knowledge Educational Trust after a teacher there admitted to teaching terrorist material to children.

Umar Ahmed Haque was employed from April 2015 to January 2016 as an Islamic Studies teacher at the Lantern of Knowledge Secondary School in east London, an independent school for boys between the ages of 11-16.

In March 2018, Haque was found guilty on multiple counts of terrorism charges and later sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 25 years.

“His plan was to create an army of children to assist with multiple terrorist attacks throughout London,” said Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.

 “He tried and did, we believe, radicalize vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14,” he said.

Haque admitted to showing children at Lantern of Knowledge an ISIS propaganda video.  He said he did not believe it would lead them to commit acts of terror, and the jury could not reach a verdict.

However, he was found guilty of charges connected to his teaching at a separate school run by the Essex Islamic Academy.

The Charity Commission said Haque showed children videos that depicted scenes of extreme and brutal violence, including footage of people murdered by beheading, shot at close range, and having their throats cut.

In addition, Haque taught children “physical training – role playing with military undertones.  This included having two opposing groups where children would take on the role of ‘martyrs’ and police officers.”

Tim Hopkins of the Charity Commission said, “Umar Haque’s action at this charity was appalling.”

“It is completely unacceptable for any charity to be associated with terrorism, and we are concerned by the corrosive effect this might have on public confidence in this and other charities,” he said.

The warning comes as both public and private schools will soon begin classes in the UK.