News Digest — 8/28/23

Analysis: Aleppo Airstrikes Showcase Iran’s Strategy, Regional Concerns

An Israeli air aggression put Aleppo International Airport out of service, the Syrian Defense Ministry said on Monday (28th).

“The Israeli enemy carried out an air attack…targeting Aleppo International Airport,” a military source said.

The alleged Israeli airstrike took place at 4:30 a.m., according to Syrian state media SANA.

In the attack, runways at the airport were damaged, rendering it out of service, as per the report,  

“The aggression caused material damage to the runway’s airport and it is closed,”the source said.

The Syrian regime last claimed the airport was attacked in early May.  At that time, Syria claimed that several soldiers and civilians were wounded.  

In March, the state news agency SANA said Israel carried out an airstrike from the direction of the mediterranean Sea, west of Atakia, targeting Aleppo International Airport.”  Syria claimed damages to the airport at that time as well.

Iran has used Aleppo Airport to move weapons and military equipment to Syria, according to Reuters, which relied on various sources for a report in April.  Iran also used the airport to exploit the movement of aid after a February 6 earthquake in Turkey which also caused damage and death to northeastern Syria.

Aleppo is located close to the Turkish border and also areas of Idlib and Latakia that were damaged.  The Syrian regime re-conquered Aleppo in 2016 from Syrian rebels.  Since then pro-Iranian proxies, including Hezbollah have been active in the area.

A document that was leaked as part of a wider leak of American intelligence reports, also noted that Iran used the earthquake as a cover for arms shipments to Syria.

The Aleppo Airport was also damaged in two airstrikes in September 2022.  Satellite images from ImageSat International (ISI) at the time showed that the runway appeared to be out of service. The ISI report noted that according to the media, the “airport was used by Iran to transport weapons to Hezbollah…. ISI assessment: The attack’s aim was to get the runway and the airport out of service.”

According to the Alma Research and Education Center, there is also a Syrian defense ministry complex near Safirah, near Aleppo.  The research center published articles earlier this year focusing on Aleppo.  There is also believed to be a Syrian CERS center in Safirah that is linked to Syria’s advanced weapons and missile program.



Netanyahu Warns Hamas Will Pay ‘Full Price’ After Its Leader Threatens War

Hamas and Iran will pay “full price” for their terror attacks against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the government at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday (27th) after Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri threatened regional warfare.  

“Hamas and other Iranian proxies understand very well that we will fight with all means against their attempts to promote terrorism against us – in the West Bank, in Gaza and anywhere else.”

“Whoever tries to harm us, whoever finances, whoever organizes, whoever sends terror against Israel – will pay the full price,” Netanyahu said.

It was a message that Al-Arouri had broadcast  last week, in the aftermath of two deadly West Bank Palestinian terror shootings in which three Israelis were killed.

Israel has fingered both Hamas and Iran for the attacks, blaming the latest waves of terror in particular on funding from Iran.

He spoke after the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau Saleh Al-arouri gave an interview about Israel from Lebanon to the news outlet Al Mayadeen.

“This extremist [Israeli] government will suffer a resounding defeat, which would lead to their withdrawal from the entire West Bank,”Al-Arouri said.  “Further, the leaders of the occupation government, with their extremist policies, will cause an all-out war in the region.”

Netanyahu told the Sunday (27th) cabinet meeting, “I heard the verbiage by Al-Arouri, from his hiding place in Lebanon.  He knows very well why he and his colleagues are in hiding.”

“I would like to appeal to the citizens of Israel: We are facing waves of terrorism, both internal and external,” Netanyahu said. 

“These are not simple times; these are challenging times.  We need to unite our forces against terrorism, against the crime in the Arab sector, and against the external and internal threats that are being organized, to a large extent, by Iran via its proxies.  If we stand together, we will prevail.  This is my call to all members of the government, MKs , and all Israeli citizens.” he added.

“The Government of Israel is determined to fight the criminal organizations in the Arab sector.  This is a national blight,” Netanyahu said.

“I appeal to the Arab public.  I appeal to the MKs, local council heads, and opinion-makers, and I tell them – stand together with the Government in the joint effort against the criminal organizations,” he added.



Iranian Bombs Smuggled From Jordan To Israel

The Iranian involvement in sponsoring terror in Israel is increasing, and now it has been revealed that a smuggling attempt from Jordan to Israel that was thwarted last month included explosive devices that originated in Iran, Kan News reported.

According to the report, at the end of July, IDF and Border Police forces successfully thwarted an unusual arms smuggling operation on the Jordanian border near Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov in the Jordan Valley.  In contrast to previous smuggling attempts of ammo and firearms, this time, it was an irregular attempt.

The defense establishment estimates that the smugglers were carrying bombs with active explosives that apparently originated in Iran.  According to the estimates, the bombs were supposed to be transferred from Jordan to Israel and from there to terror organizations in Judea and Samaria to be used in terror attacks against Israel citizens and IDF soldiers.

Because of the bombs’ characteristics, the investigation into the smuggling operation was handled by the Shin Bet.  During the investigation, security authorities followed the smuggling route to understand if the bombs came through Hezbollah and other Shia militia’s smuggling routes through Lebanon and Syria, or were smuggled straight from Iran through Iraq.

Over the weekend, the Shin Bet revealed that Arab crime families from Kfar Qassem and Lod were in contact with Hezbollah and also received Iranian-manufactured bombs from the Shiite organization for criminal uses.



Driving Through Terror: Teaching Israelis Skills To Survive Highway Attacks

Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are lining up to take a driving course that teaches survival skills in the event of a terrorist attack on the road.

Courses began a month ago and 10 have been taught so far, with 24 additional communities requesting the course.

“In each community, we’ll teach it two to three times.  We teach 20-25 people at a time,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, which sponsors the course.

Darshan-Leitner admits it’s a little off the beaten path for her group, which specializes in the legal battle against terrorism.

“Shurat HaDin usually fights terror after it happens.  This time we are trying to prevent terror before it happens,” she told JNS.

“We cannot sit idly by when terrorism is rising and escalating on the roads.  We decided to take it upon ourselves and raise the funds and resources for these courses.”

During the four-hour training session, participants drive through a simulated gauntlet of tennis balls, paintball guns, water balloons and burning tires.

While it may sound far-removed from the rocks and real bullets that Jewish drivers in Judea and Samaria must contend with, Darshan-Leitner said the course, led by professionals, provides enough verisimilitude to get the point across.

The main goal is to get away.  Participants learn they can drive over a burning tire and can continue even with a flat tire.  “They put you through what feels like a real terror attack to give you confidence to push forward rather than stay back or refrain from driving,” she said.

In the case of the Dee family, when a mother and two daughters were murdered in April, the driver lost control of the car and hit a tree after which the terrorist approached and fired 22 bullets at a point-blank range, Darshan-Leiter noted.

In another case, just over three weeks earlier, a man was able to rescue himself when he came under fire in his car.  That man David Stern, a former US Marine, was able to draw his weapon, shoot through the windshield and wound the terrorist.

“We thought if people would be trained to rescue themselves in a terror attack, and not lose control over the car, perhaps they too, would be able to save their lives,” Darshan-Leitner said.

Stern, the former US Marine, is one of the organizers of the course.  “He comes and speaks to the people and sets an example.  We’re not teaching how to shoot – that’s not our job.  We are teaching resourcefulness,” she said.

Darshan-Leitner wants the government to help fund the courses.

“This is an emergency course, so we wanted to start it right away – they should fund it,” she added.

She said that regardless of whether the government helps, her group intends to continue the courses.

Darshan-Leitner has in mind to approach several ministries, including the Ministry of Finance under Religious Zionism MK Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a deputy minister in the Ministry of Defense with extensive authority over civilian matters in Judea and Samaria.



Papua New Guinea To Open Jerusalem Embassy Next Week, Israeli Official Says

Papua New Guinea is set to open its embassy in Jerusalem next week during a visit to Israel by Prime Minister James Marape, according to an Israeli official.

The inauguration of the embassy will take place on September 5, according to Channel 14, which first reported on the development, without citing sources.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report, but an Israeli official told the Times of Israel that the “details are not wrong.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Marape on the day of the ceremony, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

In February, the Foreign Ministry announced that Port Moresby would be making the move, after Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke with his Papua New Guinean counterpart, Justin Tkachenko.

Hungary and Fiji are expected to announce embassy moves in the coming months as well.

Papua New Guinea does not currently have an embassy in Israel, but does maintain a consulate near Tel Aviv.  Israel’s relations with the island nation are handled by its embassy in Australia.

The two countries established ties in 1978.

News of Papua New Guinea’s embassy opening comes on the heels of two similar announcements by other countries.  On Friday (25th), Sierra Leone said that it would open an embassy in Jerusalem, and Paraguay announced the week before that it would reopen its embassy in the Israeli capital.

Currently, the US, Guatemala, Honduras,and Kosovo  have embassies in Jerusalem.

Israel sees the moves as strengthening its claim to the city as its capital, though most foreign countries situate their embassies near Tel Aviv.  

Papua New Guinea is one of the Pacific nations that regularly vote with Israel at the United Nations, and Tkachenko told Cohen during a telephone call that his country would continue to do so.  In December, Papua New Guinea was one of the 25 countries that joined Israel in opposing the UN General Assembly resolution requesting that the International Court of Justice weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The island nation’s geopolitical importance is on the rise as China and the US jockey for influence in the country and neighboring states in the Pacific Ocean.



U.S. Marines Move Forward With Purchase Of Israel’s Iron Dome

The United States Marine Corps is reportedly planning to purchase dozens of Iron Dome launchers and thousands of interceptor missiles, in a deal that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The deal, which would see the USMC purchase three batteries’ worth of the Iron Dome System, would be conducted with Raytheon, which has a deal with Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to distribute the system to the United States.

The deal was reported on by Defense News website The WarZone on Saturday (26th), citing a procurement notice of intent publicly available online.

The prime contractor for the development and production of the Iron Dome is Rafael, who adapted the system to USMC requirements and assisted with testing support.

As part of the deal, the USMC will purchase 44 launchers and 1,840 Tamir interceptors.