News Digest — 8/29/23

Defense Minister Gallant To UN Secretary General: ‘UN Must Act Immediately’

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the UN Headquarters in New York on Monday (28th).

Minister Gallant was joined by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, Chief of Staff Shachar Katz, Military Secretary Brig. Gen. Guy Markizano, Head of the IDF’s International Cooperation Division Brig. Gen. Effie Defrin, and Director of the Policy and Pol-Mil Bureau Dror Shalom.

The parties held a positive and productive discussion, which focused on growing threats to Israel’s security and to stability in the Middle East region.

Minister Gallant raised the growing tensions on Israel’s northern border as a result of ongoing provocations and flagrant violations by the Hezbollah terror organization, including the erection of a Hezbollah tent within Israeli territory, the establishment of dozens of military compounds along the border, and increasing patrols and pressure by Hezbollah operatives.

Minister Gallant stressed the urgent need for immediate UN intervention in de-escalating tensions by strengthening UNIFIL’s authority in the region, ensuring its freedom of movement and implementing its mandate.

Minister Gallant noted that Israel will not tolerate increasing threats to the security of its citizens, and will act as required in their defense.

The parties also discussed the Iranian threat, with an emphasis on its nuclear ambitions and export of terrorism and weapons.  Minister Gallant emphasized the Lebanese case as an example of the consequences of Iranian entrenchment and support.

Minister Gallant expressed his appreciation to the UN Secretary General for his personal contribution and investment in solving the MIA issue – the Israeli citizens held captive by the Hamas terror organization in Gaza.  He asked for the Secretary’s assistance in resolving this issue. 



Nasrallah Warns Israel Against Targeting Hamas Leaders In Lebanon

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned that any Israeli assassination in Lebanese territory would “lead to a strong reaction” in response to reports that Israel could  target Hamas officials in the country, during an interview with al-Manar TV on Monday evening (28th).

Nasrallah referenced recent statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing Iran of financing terrorist attacks in the West bank, stating, “The Israeli enemy in the face of the escalation of resistance in the West Bank, fled to accuse Iran and to pretend that what is happening there is an Iranian plan and that the Palestinians there are tools, and this is foolishness.”

The battle in the West Bank is with the Palestinian people.  Yes, the Islamic Republic supports them, but the resistance project is Palestinian.”

The Hezbollah leader also downplayed the threats of targeted assassinations against terrorists in the Iran-backed axis of factions in the region, saying “The threat of assassination is not new, and throughout the conflict with the Israeli enemy, it carried out assassinations.  Were these assassinations able to shake the resistance?”

“These threats do not make the resistance recede.  Neither the threat nor the implementation of the threat will weaken the resistance, but will increase its determination, presence and strength.”

“The enemy must admit that he is in an existential dilemma, and he will not find solutions, no matter how his leadership meets, and if they consult all the experts of the world, they will not be able to get out of their predicament,” added Nasrallah.  “The only solution for the enemy is to leave Palestine to its people and owners, otherwise the fighting will continue generation after generation.”

The Hezbollah leader warned that any assassination of a Lebanese, Palestinian, Iranian, Syrian, or any other person would lead to a strong reaction.”

Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau who has often been tied to the terrorist movement’s operations in the West Bank, has been highlighted in media reports as a political target for assassination due to his role in West Bank terrorism.  Arouri has been residing in Lebanon of late.

On Monday (28th), the Lebanese Nidaa al-Watan newspaper reported that an intelligence delegation from a “friendly Arab country” planned to arrive in Beirut and intended to “advise” Hamas to have Arouri leave Lebanon due to the tensions.  The delegation hopes to help prevent an escalation between Israel and Hamas in the region.

Nasrallah also referenced efforts to renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), stating “the United Nations Security Council does not see what Israel is doing in Lebanon.  Rather, they see how southern Lebanon does not constitute a threat to the enemy.  Therefore they want UNIFIL to be spies for the Israelis and they want UNIFIL where the Israeli drone, spy, or camera cannot reach.”



Jordan Downs Drone From Syria In Third Incident This Month

The Jordanian Army said it downed a drone heading from Syria on Monday (28th) in the third such incident this month, while officials said an increase in weapons being smuggled across the border was raising concerns about a new Iranian-instigated threat beyond drugs.

The army said in a statement that the drone was brought down in its territory but did not say what it was carrying.  Officials have recently revealed weapons being smuggled as well as narcotics by drone.

Jordanian officials said the increasing use of drones carrying explosives was adding a new dimension in a relentless cross-border billion-dollar drug war the staunch US ally has long blamed on Iranian-backed militias that hold sway in southern Syria.

“This is Iran’s targeting of Jordan. helped by the presence of their militias near our border.  It poses a security threat that goes beyond drugs,” Samih Al Maitah, a former minister familiar with developments along the border said.

Syria is accused by Arab governments and the West of producing the highly addictive and lucrative amphetamine captagon and organizing its smuggling into the Gulf, with Jordan a main transit route.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies allegations by Jordan and the West of its involvement in drug-making, or complicity by Iranian-backed militias protected by units of the Syrian army and security forces.

Iran says the allegations are part of Western plots against the country.

Jordan, which has intensified military drills along its border with Syria, announced 10 days ago it had foiled a large smuggling operation, the latest bust that officials say refute allegations by Damascus that it was tightening controls along the border.



Is it Racist To Prioritize Freedom From Terror? By Jonathin S. Tobin

In discussing the recent surge of murders of Jews by Palestinians, who are then celebrated by their community and its leadership as heroes, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir told Israel’s Channel 12, “My right, the right of my wife and my children to move around Judea and Samaria is more important than freedom of movement for the Arabs.  The right to life comes before freedom of movement.”

Most media sources quoting Ben-Gvir didn’t include the last sentence.  Shorn of that line and taken out of context, the comment came across as unabashed  racism.  The notion of a Jewish right to free movement takes precedence over similar rights for Arabs is repugnant.  That was the way it was interpreted by the US State Department.

The problem with these assumptions is that those condemning Ben-Gvir are ignoring not only the context of his comments, but also whether there is an intrinsic right for Palestinian Arabs to attack and murder Jews that trumps the latter’s right to live in security.  Protecting Jews against terrorism by means that would inevitably inconvenience the population that both produced and supported the terrorists is not an extreme position.  Support in Israel for the checkpoints and security fence that helped to end the horror of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s is a matter of national consensus.

Even if you think it’s unwise for Israel to build communities in what is the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland, the idea that the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live there should be treated as legitimate targets for terrorism is both legally untenable and immoral.  Were terror against Jews not such a routine occurrence, then measures like checkpoints or fences would be unnecessary.  At stake in this debate is not the right of Palestinians to freedom of movement.  Rather, it is whether there is a right to commit terrorism against Jews.



Israel Discovers Massive Section Of Second Temple-Era Aqueduct In Jerusalem

The longest continuous section of Jerusalem’s ancient aqueduct has been discovered in Givat Hamatos, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Monday (28th).

The stretch of the ancient aqueduct, which measures roughly 1,000 feet in length, was discovered during archeological excavations of the area prior to the planned development of the settlement and the building of schools by the Municipality of Jerusalem.

One of the companies involved in the Givat Hamatos development, Armi, funded the archeological efforts.

A number of ancient coins, including a coin minted at the time of the First Jewish-Roman War, were also discovered.

Antiquities Authority excavation directors Dr. Ofer Shyam and Ruth Cohen note that the Jerusalem aqueduct was built to meet the ancient city’s growing water demands.

“In the late days of the Second Temple, the city of Jerusalem grew significantly.  The Temple had been rebuilt and the water that flowed in conduits and cisterns was no longer sufficient for the thousands of pilgrims and residents,” they explained.  “Water needed to be brought to the city from a distance.”

So in order to meet Jerusalem’s growing need for water, the Hasmoneans, and then King Herod, built two aqueducts to Jerusalem.  One of the aqueducts, “the Upper Aqueduct” channeled water to the upper city – what is presently the Jewish and Armenian Quarters of the Old City.  The other, “the Lower Aqueduct,” brought water to the Temple.

Shyam and Cohen describe these aqueducts as being “among the largest and most complex water systems in the land of Israel – and indeed, in the ancient world.”

The aqueducts were remarkable feats of engineering, each traversing the over six miles from Bethlehem Springs, where the water originated, to Jerusalem.

Additionally, “in the foundations of the aqueduct, from the days of the tenth legion, we found about 25 coins scattered at relatively equal distances,” Shyam and Cohen said.  “In our opinion, this was not accidental: it is quite similar to the custom today, where coins are placed there for good luck.”

Also found in the aqueduct’s infrastructure was a coin from the Second Temple era that was minted around 67-68 CE, during the Great Jewish Revolt, otherwise known as the first of three Jewish-Roman wars.

A press release noted that the researchers theorized that the builders of the ancient Jerusalem aqueduct incorporated it into the structure’s foundations when laying the conduit.

Plans are to preserve the site and to open it to public viewing at some point.