News Digest — 8/28/20

IDF Strikes Gaza After Six Rockets Fired Toward Southern Israel

IDF forces struck targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to the Hamas terror group early Friday morning (28th) in response to six rockets that were fired from Gaza toward southern Israel throughout the night.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Friday morning (28th) that, “The attack was carried out in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory early in the morning.”

“The IDF takes all terrorist activity against Israeli territory very seriously and is prepared and ready to act as much as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli citizens and their sovereignty.  The terrorist organization Hamas is responsible for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, and will bear the consequences of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens.”

The rockets came shortly after the IDF struck targets in response to the continued launch of incendiary and explosive balloons.

Sirens sounded on Friday morning (28th) in the town of Nahal Oz and Alumim.  

Underground infrastructure and military positions belonging to Hamas were targeted in the strikes by tanks and IAF aircraft, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Terrorist groups in the Strip have made a number of demands on Israel in order for them to agree to a de-escalation deal.  However, Israeli officials have said that balloon launches must stop before they consider relaxing any of its restrictions on the coastal enclave.



As Grenade Lands Near Greenhouse, Hamas Vows Arson Won’t Stop Until Israel Yields To Demands

A grenade attached to a large balloon sent from the Gaza Strip landed Thursday morning (27th) near the greenhouse at Moshav Ohad in the Eshkol Region and was safely defused by a sapper.

The airborne attack was one of hundreds of arson and explosive balloon launches that have occurred over the last three weeks, as Hamas attempts again to force Israel to make concessions in return for quiet.

Qatar’s official envoy to the Gaza Strip, Dr. Mohammed al-Emadi, is currently in the coastal enclave to mediate negotiations.  At least one reason Doha is involved is that one of Hamas’ key demands is additional financial aid from Qatar, which Jerusalem would have to allow.

Added to a list of Hamas demands is a new one.  Hamas wants Israel to transfer COVID-19 testing kits and ventilators, as it finds itself fighting a recurrence of the coronavirus pandemic.

The arson balloons have caused about 500 fires so far in Israel’s southern region – an average of 25 a day.  

Ezra Sasson, the Parks Authority Director said the fires have caused dozens of hectares to go up in smoke, and that the numbers will reach triple digits soon if there isn’t an agreement with Hamas.

“By and large, I can say that the balloons won’t defeat us,” he added.

Sasson said it does make him sad to see beautiful nature sites turned black with ash, and he noted that the animals living in the area are suffering.

“Our wildlife is simply consumed by these fires,” he added.



US Presses Israel To Decrease Its Ties With China

During their meeting in Jerusalem this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to further decrease relations with China, including limiting Chinese investments in Israel, reported Axios on Wednesday (26th), citing US and Israeli officials.

This development comes especially as China reached a partnership deal last month with Iran.

The United States believes that Chinese control of or investment in infrastructure and companies abroad, presents a serious security threat.  US officials have been hard at work convincing allies, including Israel, to create a level of distance from the country.

Israel has taken heed of these warnings to some extent, recently denying China the opportunity to build Israel’s Sorek B desalination plant.

Last year, Pompeo is said to have cautioned the Jewish state that allowing China more control over Israeli infrastructure could result in a reduction in US Intelligence-sharing.

China currently has investments in the ports of Haifa and Ashdod, as well as in Israel’s high-tech sector.  A Chinese firm owns Tnuva, Israel’s largest dairy producer.

After the United States, China is Israel’s second-largest trading partner with $11.9 billion in bilateral trade annually.  

“China has made its bed with Iran.  We think it is important to not let China have it both ways.  They can’t strengthen Iran, which chants ‘Death to Israel,’ and have a business-as-usual relationship with Israel.  We have been very clear about that.  I am sure Israel will do the right thing on China,” US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Axios.

Hook is leaving his position at the end of the month, to be replaced by Elliot Abrams, a veteran foreign-policy expert and policy hawk who currently is the State Department’s special representative to Venezuela.



Anti-Semitic Beliefs ‘Central Element’ Of Educational System In Qatar, New Report Reveals

Anti-Semitic tropes and beliefs are a “central element” of Qatar’s education of children from the age of 6 through high school graduation, a new report disclosed on Wednesday (26th).

School textbooks in the Gulf emirates teach that Jews exploited the First World War to gain hold of the global economy, that Jews were behind the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany and that the purpose of Zionism was to secure Jewish domination of the world.

“Jew-hate remains a central element of Qatari education,” Marcus Sheff – director of IMPACT-se, an Israel-based NGO that monitors school curricula in the Middle East – said in a statement accompanying his organization’s review of textbooks in Qatar from Grades 1-12.

“Textbooks teach Jews control and manipulate world powers and markets, and are treacherous killers of prophets,” Sheff said.  “Christians are infidels who will go to hell.”

The IMPACT-se report noted that the present curriculum in Qatar was a slight improvement on its predecessors, citing as one example the dropping of references to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – the notorious anti-Semitic fabrication of the Russian Tsar’s secret police that remains widely believed in the Arab and Muslim world today.

However, anti-Semitic portrayals of Jewish power and influence persist in the curriculum’s teaching of history, while Islamic religious textbooks, the report observed, “have been fashioned by Muslim Brotherhood affiliates targeting Jews, Crusaders, missionaries, secular modernists and secular Arabs.”

A deeply-conservative state founded upon Islamic sharia law that actively supports the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, Qatar has outwardly projected itself to the world as a modern Arab state, investing heavily in partnerships with Western educational institutions in recent years..

Seven US universities – including Northwestern, Texas A&M and Weill-Cornell Medical College – maintain full-time campuses in Qatar.

“The Qataris have pumped over $1billion into elite US universities since 2011,” Sheff noted.  “They might want to put some of that money into de-radicalizing their own curriculum.”



Israeli Firefighters To Help With California Wildfires

A delegation of Israeli firefighters is being sent to California to aid the largest wildfires in the state’s history.

This week California was deemed a “disaster area” after the devastating fires killed seven people to date, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes.  In light of this, operational preparations for the firefighters’ delegation began on Friday (28th), and the group will leave Sunday morning (30th) from Israel.

The delegation includes 10 officers, firefighters and experts in firefighting and rescue operations, who will assist in transferring knowledge and professional experience to the local fire brigades while examining and learning the concept of operating forces during huge fires.

Responsible for initiating the operation is the Foreign Ministry who has had intensive communications with the US Embassy in Jerusalem and authorities in the US, and the Israeli consulate  in San Francisco that examined and identified US operational needs and subsequently worked to regulate the permits for its activities.

Since August 15, over 650 fires have torched more than 1.25 million acres in California, an area larger than the Grand Canyon.

In recent years, Israeli fire brigades have worked to assist other countries such as Brazil and Ethiopia that have faced huge fires in their territories.

Israel’s firefighters have been praised for their operational and professional activities and have become a significant arm in Israel’s diplomatic toolbox.