News Digest — 8/27/20

Netanyahu: Hezbollah Would Be Wise Not To Test Israel’s Crushing Resolve

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah Thursday (27th) “not to test Israel’s resolve,” following an incident that heightened tensions on the northern border on Tuesday evening (25th). 

The IDF struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon early Wednesday morning (26th) after terrorists opened fire on Israeli troops patrolling the border.  No injuries were reported.

“Israel sees the fire at its troops as a very serious incident,” Netanyahu said, “We will not tolerate any act of aggression and we will react forcibly to any attack.  I strongly suggest Hezbollah not test Israel’s crushing resolve.”

Netanyahu also warned that Hezbollah’s aggression “is placing Lebanon in danger” – a hint to a recent change in government policy declaring that Israel will hold Lebanon, as a sovereign state on whose soil Hezbollah operates, accountable for its actions.

A statement released by the military following the incident said, “The IDF views this incident very seriously.  Any attempts to violate Israeli sovereignty is a serious incident.  The IDF will continue to maintain a high level of readiness to protect and defend Israeli sovereignty and security.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, while visiting the IDF’s main induction base in central Israel Wednesday (25th), said “We continue to face security challenges on our northern and southern borders.”

“We will continue to ensure that the residents of the south can live their lives peacefully and in the northern sector, we will not allow Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to harm our troops or our state.  We will mount a forceful response to any border incident,” he added.



Petah Tikva Stabbing Victim: Father Of Four

The victim of the stabbing attack at Segula Junction in Petah Tikva Wednesday, (26th) was identified as Rabbi Shai Ohayon, a member of the Breslov Hasidic movement and the father of four.  He was 39 years old.

The terrorist, 46, Khalil Dwiekat, who was a Palestinian Authority resident from Nablus, worked in Israel.  He was apprehended by officers at the scene and transferred to the Shin Bet security agency for interrogation.

An eyewitness, Urel Torati told Channel 13 TV that the terrorist stabbed the victim five or six times with a large knife.  

“The wounded man was lying on the sidewalk unconscious, suffering from bleeding wounds to the torso,” said MDA paramedics, Ilan Mualem and Hezi Gutman.  “We immediately began to provide life-saving medical treatment including stopping the bleeding, and resuscitating techniques.  We then took him into the mobile intensive care unit and evacuated him to the Beilinson Hospital in critical condition, while continuing to attempt to resuscitate him.”  The victim died of his wounds.

Rabbi Shai Ohayon was buried on Wednesday (26th) at the Segula cemetery in Petah Tikva.  He leaves behind a wife of 14 years and four children.



Iranian Regime Believes “Defeat” Of US Coincides With Ashura Holiday

Iran is involved in a multi-day series of speeches and events linked to the month Muharram and the Ashura holiday which commemorates the death of the Imam Hussein at the Battle of Karbala.  For many Shiites this period is one of intense mourning and emotion but the Iranian regime also seeks to hijack the events every year to connect them to current events, using the symbolism of martyrdom, battle, and “uprising against oppression” to link Iran’s regional role to the historic Islamic period.

In Karbala in Iraq thousands have gathered to commemorate Hussein who was killed in 680, fighting the forces of the Caliph Yazid.  Hassan Rouhani, president of Iran, gave a “long speech” commemorating Ashura and these holy days in which he linked the current Iranian struggle with the US.  He said that the Battle of Karbala reminds us of the need to seek justice and to struggle against the deviation in the path of religion.  He said that the uprising of Hussein against oppression is today a symbol for Muslims around the world.  Iran has sought to push its version of “the faith” throughout the Middle East and the world, including more ceremonies in Syria and other countries than ever before.  

“We always need the culture of Ashura, especially today in the face of all conspiracies, especially from the United States,” said Rouhani.

“The resistance of the US against our diplomats will fail.  The US suffers defeat after defeat at the UN Security Council,” he said.  He pointed out that Iran defeated the US attempt to end an arms embargo.  Rouhani discussed Iran’s attempts to defeat US sanctions and the struggle against Covid-19.  His speech had elements of messianic devotion to it, the idea that Iran’s regime and its allies in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Gaza and Syria, are on a historic mission and entering unique times.  

Rouhani was largely seen as a “moderate” when elected but his regime has suppressed protesters, rapidly built new ballistic missiles, attacked countries in the region and uses religion wrapped in nationalism and militarism in the same way as past Iranian leaders.

“This nation is subject to Imam Hussein, this nation is the follower of the same Imam and all should now be afraid.  When the day of Ashura came and Hussein saw in front of him the huge enemy army of 30,000 gathered, he was not afraid to say ‘Allah, you are a trustworthy God, you are my refuge, I seek refuge in you in troubled times, said Rouhani.’”

If the United States wants to understand the mentality it is contending with, it should listen to Rouhani’s speech and the view that Iran’s regime is not entirely deterred and believes it is on a historic mission.  Its belief is bolstered by its own media coverage and the support it is getting from Russia, Iraq, and other supporters.



Defense Ministry Reveals First Photos From Ofek 16 Satellite over Syria

More than a month after the Ofek 16 reconnaissance satellite was launched into space, the Israeli Defense Ministry has published the first photos taken by the advanced satellite over the ancient Syrian city of Tadmor close to where Iranian forces are known to operate.

“The State of Israel knows how to defend against its enemies both near and far, as well as to protect its citizens everywhere, from any given location,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.  “The technological means we develop in the Defense Ministry, together with our industries, are effective and significant tools in maintaining Israel’s security.  We will continue to work and promote Israel’s technological advance and edge, an element that is essential in contending with the many challenges we face.”

The Space Administration in the Defense Ministry led the development and production of the satellite and its launcher.  Israel Aerospace Industries is the prime contractor, having assigned the program to its Systems, Missiles and Space Group, together with the MLM division, which is responsible for the development of the launcher.

The Ofek 16 carries Elbit’s electro-optic, high resolution camera which can photograph 15 sq. km. with each shot at a resolution of 50 centimeters from an altitude of 600 km. (372.8 miles).

According to the ministry, hundreds of millions of shekels were invested in the national infrastructure for the production of space cameras.  Shared by the Defense Ministry and Elbit Systems, the infrastructure includes labs for the production of lenses and mirrors, as well as a vacuum chamber that simulates conditions in space, which is used to test the satellite camera before it is launched for its mission.

The pictures released on Monday (24th) were taken over Syria and show the Tadmor world heritage site, ancient ruins and the renowned Roman theater.

The ministry plans to transfer the Satellite to the IDF’s 9900 Intelligence Unit in the near future upon the completion of its “in-orbit testing” process.  Like other reconnaissance satellites launched by Israel, Ofek 16 will be used to monitor threats facing the Jewish state.



Turkey Gave Hamas Members Passports, Israeli Official Confirms

Turkey has given passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, a senior Israeli diplomat said on Wednesday (26th), describing the move as “a very unfriendly step” which his government would raise with Turkish officials.

Speaking days after Turkey’s president met visiting Hamas leaders on Saturday (22nd), charge d’affaires Roey Gilad said Israel had already told Turkey last year that Hamas was carrying out “terror-related activity” from Istanbul, but Turkey had not taken action.

The two countries have had a bitter falling out in recent years despite strong commercial ties, expelling ambassadors in 2018.  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly condemned Israel’s West Bank occupation.

Gilad said Israel had proof that Turkey was providing passports and identity cards to members of Hamas, which runs Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union.

“Some are in the process, some already got the documents, but we are talking about around a dozen people,” he said.

“We have already one document that we will present to the government in copy,” he said.  “Judging by the last experience we had in presenting a well-based portfolio to the government… and getting no reply, I must say I don’t have high hopes that something will be done this time.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Saturday (22nd), Erdogan hosted Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and other officials in Istanbul for the second time this year, prompting objections from Washington, which linked one of the men to terrorist attacks, hijackings and kidnappings.  Ankara said it rejected the US criticism.

Gilad said the Hamas members who received Turkish documents are financing and organizing terrorism from Istanbul, which Turkey previously denied.  Many of them came to Turkey under a  2011 deal between Israel and Ankara to exchange a captured Israeli soldier for more than 1,000 prisoners, Gilad said.

Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, and the group has fought three wars with Israel since then.  Turkey says Hamas is a legitimate political movement that was elected democratically.

Gilad said the current tensions ruled out any cooperation with Turkey on exploiting gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara is challenging maritime claims by Greece, Cyprus and their allies.

Even if ties with Turkey were to improve, Israel would not “throw away” strategic alliances it has built up with other nations over the last 10 years, Gilad said.  “Israel is not going to throw under the bus, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.”