News Digest — 8/26/2021

IDF Preparing To Strike Iranian Nuclear Sites As Gantz Warns Of Nuclear Capability Within Months

Israel’s military is working hard to develop plans to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, the IDF Chief of Staff revealed on Tuesday (24th), as Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made his way to Washington to discuss the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities with US President Joe Biden.

His comments came as Defense Secretary Benny Gantz warned that Iran was just two months away from developing the materials required for nuclear capability, with military experts warning that it would take just a few more months to assemble them into a nuclear threat.

Since taking the reins in January, the Biden administration has been seeking a joint return by the US and Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with indirect negotiations taking place via Vienna.  Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, claiming that it had done nothing to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capabilities.  Iran also exited shortly after.

However the Vienna talks stalled over the summer, in part due to the election in Iran of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, leaving the Israeli military with little confidence in the process.

“The progress in the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to speed up its operational plans, and the defense budget that was recently approved is meant to address this,” IDF Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi said.  Last month’s $18 billion overall defense budget for the coming year included a $620 million line for operations against Iran.

Addressing foreign diplomats at a briefing on Wednesday (25th), Gantz issued a similar warning, saying: “The State of Israel has the means to act and will not hesitate to do so.  I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

He added: “Iran is only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.  We do not know if the Iranian regime will be willing to sign an agreement and come back to the negotiation table so the international community must build a viable ‘Plan B’ in order to stop Iran in its tracks towards a nuclear weapon.”

The allocated funds are intended to purchase equipment and munitions for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are spread across the country and are shielded by an advanced air-defense system, according to Israeli media.

The last time Israel prepared for a direct attack on Iranian sites was in 2011/2012, when the government allocated some $3.4 billion for such a purpose.

More recently, Israel’s counter measures have focused more on Iran’s proxies in Syria and Lebanon.  Some 31 strikes have been carried out against Hezbollah targets in Syria over the last two and a half years, of which roughly half were against weapons depots and the remainder against Hezbollah’s positions in the Golan Heights.

“The IDF is operating constantly and in a variety of ways in order to minimize Iran’s influence in the Middle East,” Kochavi said.

Bennett will meet with Biden on Thursday (26th) where he is expected to advise against reentering the JCPOA, having previously spoken out against a new accord between Tehran and the international community.  He has also indicated that any agreement with Tehran must put the brakes on Iranian belligerence in the region.

Explaining Israel’s reasoning to the gathering of some 60 foreign ambassadors and envoys, Gantz said: “Iran has the intention to destroy Israel and is working on developing the means to do so.  Israel has the means to act and will not hesitate.  I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

The Defense Minister added: “All of Iran’s acts of aggression thus far have been conducted without nuclear capabilities.  Imagine what will happen if Iran achieves nuclear capabilities?”  



Activists Block Cargo On Way To Gaza, Demand Justice For Wounded Soldier

Activists from the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu and residents of the south blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning (25th), calling on the government to enact harsher measures to combat terrorism stemming from the Hamas-ruled Strip.

The activists blocked dozens of trucks bringing supplies to Gaza and chanted slogans including “If there’s terrorism, there are no supplies,” “The blood of our soldiers isn’t cheap,” and “Justice for Barel.”

Special Forces St.-Sgt. Barel Shmueli was critically injured on Saturday (21st) on the border with Gaza after a terrorist shot him as hundreds of Gazans  rioted.  On Monday (23rd) and Tuesday (24th), terrorists launched incendiary balloons into Israel, sparking more than 10 fires.

Despite the violence, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government has kept the Kerem Shalom crossing open and is permitting the transfer of supplies to Gaza, some of which has not entered the Strip in months.

On Monday (23rd) Egypt announced that it was closing the Rafah crossing into Gaza until further notice.  According to Egyptian security officials, the closure is due to security concerns following Hamas-led violence.

The activists blocking the roads also criticized the entry of supplies into Gaza as Hamas continues to hold captive two Israeli civilians, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg called on the government to halt the transfer of supplies to Gaza.

“We are witness to a dangerous neglect of Israel’s security in which terrorists are storming the border, soldiers are ordered not to shoot, and terrorists are launching incendiary balloons with impunity,” said Peleg.

“The Prime Minister and Defense Minister should immediately halt the transfer of supplies, or we will soon see a dangerous security deterioration and additional attempts to harm the residents of the south and our soldiers.”

Naif Rahal, head of the Bedouin Forum for the Security of Israel, also joined the protest and said that “There are many Bedouin soldiers who are involved in the fighting around the Gaza Strip.  It is important for us to express our loyalty and support in combatting terrorism in Gaza.”



US Jewish Group To Twitter: Ban Hezbollah, Hamas Accounts

A Tuesday letter (24th) from the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to end the presence of accounts on the social media platform linked to US-designated terrorist groups, including Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

“I write to you today to raise concerns about a gap in Twitter’s enforcement of its stated policies toward accounts linked to US-designated terrorist groups that exploit social media to incite anti-Semitism and deadly attacks,” wrote ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

“These accounts should be removed for representing terrorist organizations, for glorifying violence and terror groups, and for spreading hate-speech or other harmful disinformation, all in violation of Twitter’s most basic stated policies on these issues,” he argued.

Greenblatt said that despite Twitter previously deleting the account of the Hezbollah affiliate Al-Manar, at the request of a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, it continues to host an account for Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV, which boasts over half a million followers.

He also flagged another Hezbollah media outlet, al-Nour Radio, and two accounts attributed to Palestine TV, which according to the State Department is run by the Islamic Jihad terror group.

“These Twitter accounts are expressly for the purpose of promoting stories from media outlets serving terrorist organizations that propagate horrific anti-Semitism on their media platforms,” Greenblatt wrote.

The ADL said it first reported the offending accounts to Twitter on June 26, and that at a meeting on August 4, the company said they had “not been found to violate Twitter’s guidelines.”



Lebanese Doctor Sentenced For Helping Palestinians Get Treatment In Israel

A Lebanese military tribunal has sentenced a Lebanese-Australian doctor in absentia to ten years in prison for being a “traitor,” ABC News Australia reported.

His crime – helping Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon seek medical treatment in Israel.

“I was informed by my brother that a journalist close to Hezbollah in Lebanon made an announcement that the Lebanese military tribunal sentenced me to ten years’ imprisonment for being a collaborator and a traitor with the enemy,” Dr. Jamal Rifi told ABC News.

According to Dr. Rifi, the conviction is related to his work with Project Rozana, a Non-Governmental Organization which provides medical training to Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon and facilitates the transfer of Palestinian Arab patients to Israeli hospitals.

“We have Palestinian volunteers who pick up patients and their guardians, and take them from their homes to checkpoints or the border; they then cross the checkpoints or border, and are picked up by an Israeli volunteer who takes them to the hospital,” he said.

He described the ventilators the organization procured for the Palestinian Authority last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as “worth their weight in gold.”

Dr. Rifi blamed the Hezbollah terrorist organization and the corruption in Lebanon for his trial and conviction in absentia.

“This is a reflection of the Lebanese corrupt system, which failed to protect their own citizens in Lebanon and now they are chasing expatriates outside of Lebanon for doing  good deeds, for speaking the truth and for standing our ground by exposing their failures,” he said.

He said the true motivation behind the trial was to discredit his brother, Ashraf Rifi, former director-general of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), who is a vocal critic of Hezbollah and the damage it has done to Lebanon.  He criticized the government for focusing on him instead of addressing the myriad of disasters facing Lebanon right now, including inflation and fuel shortages.

As a result of the sentence, Dr. Rifi will be unable to return to Lebanon to visit his family.

Meanwhile, he has his hands full providing coronavirus vaccines at his clinic in the city of Sydney.



Israeli HMO Becomes World’s First To Use AI To Detect Gastrointestinal Cancer

The Research and Innovation Center of the Maccabi Healthcare Services has become the first laboratory to use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.

Ibex Medical Analytics, a pioneer in artificial intelligence-based cancer diagnostics, announced this week the deployment of its AI-powered Galen Gastric at the leading health care provider’s pathology institute.

According to the company, gastric cancer is among the most common malignant diseases in both men and women worldwide, with over a million new cases each year.

Pathologists play a crucial role in the detection and diagnosis of cancer – with their assessments being vital for reaching correct treatment-decisions by oncologists and improving patients survival rates – however, a rise in cancer prevalence and advances in personalized medicine have resulted in growing diagnostic complexity that significantly increases the pathologists’ workloads.

As labs transition towards digital solutions, pathologists can implement AI-enhanced workflows to improve the quality and efficiency of cancer diagnosis, resulting in better patient care.

Galen Gastric, which has recently been granted Breakthrough Device Designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), can help pathologists improve the quality of cancer diagnosis, implement real-time quality control, reduce turnaround time and boost productivity.

The solution is an addition to Ibex Medical Analytics’ Galen Prostate and Galen Breast that have already been deployed at Maccabi Healthcare Services, as well as other labs worldwide, where they are used in everyday clinical practice.

“We are excited to add Galen Gastric to what is the most comprehensive AI deployment in pathology, supporting us in providing quality diagnosis to our patients,” Director of the Pathology Institute at Maccabi Healthcare Services, Judith Sandbank said.

“The clinical benefit gained from using Ibex’s AI solutions has been the key driver in Maccabi’s decision to fully adopt digital pathology, and we are impressed by how fast AI technology has become an indispensable part of our diagnostic pathway.  We look forward to benefiting from its new insights in everyday practice,” she said.