News Digest — 8/3/23

At Lebanese Border, Herzog Warns Hezbollah Not To Test The IDF

President Isaac Herzog visited a military post on the Lebanese border on Wednesday (2nd) delivering a stern message to Hezbollah amid increased provocations by the Iran-backed terror group.

“Let no one among our enemies be mistaken – especially Hezbollah across the border.  The IDF is very strong, organized and ready for any scenario,” Herzog posted to the X social-media platform, formerly known asTwitter.

“The State of Israel will continue to maintain its sovereignty and the peace of its citizens.  To our neighbors, citizens of Lebanon, I say:  We see your country collapsing and we extend our hands for peace.  You do not deserve that Hezbollah is destroying your country.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi also toured Israel’s northern border on Wednesday (2nd).

As part of his visit, Halevi examined the security barrier being built along the border with Lebanon, which the IDF said has “progressed by dozens of kilometers in recent months.”  A security assessment was also held with the participation of regional commanders.

A senior French diplomat met with Hezbollah representatives on Tuesday (1st) amid escalating tensions at the Israel-Lebanon border.

Jean-Yves La Drian, former French foreign minister and President Emmanuel Macron’s envoy for Lebanese affairs, conveyed an indirect message from Israel that it is not interested in an escalation, according to Ma’Ariv.

Paris pledged to intervene following a visit to the French capital on July 20 by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in which he asked France to help stop Hezbollah “provocations” at the Lebanese border.



Jordan Valley Shooting: “My Wife Shouted ‘It’s A Terrorist, It’s An Attack!’ ’’

Raphael Avneri, the father of the family that was attacked by Arab terrorists in a shooting attack in the Jordan valley early Wednesday (2nd) recounted it to Ynet.

“We were returning home from vacation to Kochav Yaakov when suddenly I saw a Palestinian vehicle driving suspiciously, moving from lane to lane and making u-turns.  It turned on a red light to get to me,” he said.

“I thought it was a young driver or someone having fun with the vehicle,” he added.  “Before the Hamra intersection, I decided to stop.  I saw that he was moving to the other lane and was in front of me, and nudging me a little.   Then the car stopped, the front passenger door opened and a terrorist came out with an M-16 in his hand and walked towards us on foot.  At that time I was about seven feet away from him.”

Avneri said that “at this point, my wife shouted, ‘it’s an attack, it’s a terrorist.’  I put the car in reverse and drove backward while he shot at us.  In a few seconds, my car got stuck in a side ditch.  Then the terrorist returned to his car and drove toward Shechem (Nablus).”

Avneri’s wife was slightly injured from shards of glass when the terrorists in the other vehicle opened fire on the family car.  The couple’s two children, ages six and nine, were also in the car when the shooting occurred. Six bullet markings were found on the family car.



Pittsburgh: Synagogue Shooter Gets Death Penalty

Robert Bowers, the man who massacred eleven people in an anti-Semitic shooting attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2018 has received the death penalty.

The jury reached its verdict on the shooter;s sentence Wednesday (2nd).

Bowers, 50 was convicted in June on 63 counts in connection with the October 27, 2018 massacre.  Later, a federal jury announced that he was eligible to receive the death penalty.  He was found to have had a history of anti-Semitic comments on social media.

He entered the synagogue carrying three Glock pistols and an AR-15 rifle.  The sentence was reached after jurors asked to see the weapons used in the attack.  They had spent 10-hours deliberating over the sentence in the last two days.

Bowers’ defense, in an effort to convince the jury not to impose the death penalty, had said that he has a family history of mental illness and introduced evidence that his father, Randall Bowers, was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  The prosecution argued that Bowers did not suffer from any form of psychosis and had chosen to hold white supremacist beliefs.

US Attorney Eric Olshan said in his closing arguments on Monday (7/31) that Bowers “turned an ordinary Jewish Sabbath into the worst anti-Semitic mass shooting in US history, and he is proud of it.”

“This is a case that calls for the most severe punishment under the law – the death penalty,” he added.

Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, said following Wednesday’s (2nd) verdict: “Today’s decision represents a measure of justice for the slaughter of 11 Jewish worshipers on that fateful day in 2018 at the Tree of Life Synagogue.  Nothing can ever bring back the people killed in the attack, the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in the history of the United States.”

“I visited the synagogue in the aftermath of the attack, and at that time, I said the attack was not only on the Jewish community, but America as a whole.”

“The jury’s decision is a stark reminder to remain vigilant about countering anti-Semitism, wherever it may hide.  I call on American leaders to amplify their efforts to protect Jewish communities across the country so that such a tragedy never again takes place.”

“May the survivors of the attack and the victims’ families find some comfort from the jury’s decision and may the memory of the 11 people killed be for a blessing,” Lauder said.



 Report: Iran Is Working To Take Over Syria’s Chemical Weapons Industry

Iran is seeking to take over key parts of the Syrian defense industry, a new report by the Alma Research and Education Center, said on  Wednesday (2nd).

Alma is focused on security threats to northern Israel and regularly reports on Iran, Hezbollah, and other threats in Syria and Lebanon.

“Syria is still producing and storing chemical substances at CERS with the feasibility of future military use, breaching international agreements.” The report said.CERS is also known as the Scientific Studies and Research Center.

The investment in chemical weapons by Syria has been a serious threat for decades.  Syria was supposed to dismantle its chemical weapons during the Syrian Civil War.  However, the SSRC has continued work on various products.  Iran also plays a role in these sites.  Alma raises concerns that in any future confrontation with Israel, “Will this type of weapon be used against the IDF and Israeli civilians?”

The research also notes that any work with chemicals can lead to disasters like the explosion at the Beirut Port caused by ammonium nitrate.

The SSRC which is known in French as the Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS), was established in 1971.  It has a number of sites in Syria with some 20,000 employees.

Iran’s major focus is to develop and manufacture precision missiles and rockets, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Syrian soil, using the CERS Center’s institutes in general,” the Alma report says.

By working in Syria, Iran is able to shortcut the logistics needed to move weapons to Syria and Lebanon via long distance.

The Alma report says that CERS centers have been targeted over the years but that “the attacks disrupted but did not entirely halt work at the CERS sites.”  The Alma research describes 10 sites linked to CERS across Syria.

Some of the sites are also linked to Iran’s attempt to create a corridor to the sea, a route across Iraq and Syria that brings Iran to Lebanon and enables it to arm Hezbollah.  The Syrian regime and pro-regime Arabic media blames Israel for numerous airstrikes over the years, including near Aleppo and at sites linked to Iran in Syria.  Israel has said it opposes Iranian entrenchment in Syria and has worked through the Campaign between the Wars to prevent that.

The Alma report provides a key insight into the individuals behind the CERS sites in Syria.  It also sheds light on the sites themselves and the threat that Iran poses by infiltrating these sites and working with Hezbollah.



Over 2,000 Palestinian-Arabs Admitted To Israel In US Visa Waiver – Report

More than 2,000 Palestinian Authority-American dual citizens have traveled into or through Israel since it eased conditions for them at border crossings as part of a bid to achieve a visa waiver deal with the United States, Reuters reported Wednesday (2nd), citing an Israeli official.

Ahead of a September 30 deadline to qualify Israeli citizens for visa-free admission to the United States, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog and US Ambassador to Israel Tom NIdes last month signed a memorandum of understanding to allow all American citizens into Israel, this includes any American citizens who are also citizens of the Palestinian Authority.

The US embassy has declined comment on the trial period.

An Israeli official said that in the first week of the six-week pilot, 1,100 Palestinian Arabs with American citizenship had come through its “international crossings” –  the Ben Gurion Airport and the Jordanian border.  A similar amount entered Israel from Judea and Samaria.

“In total, more than 2,000 Palestinian Americans came in the first seven days,” the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters, citing the first formal tabulation of entry data.

The new arrangements mean additional travel options for tens of thousands of PA-American citizens who live in Judea and Samaria.



Israel’s Natural Gas Revolution Leads To $86 Billion In Savings

Israel’s economy saved more than ~$86.7 billion over the past decade thanks to its “natural gas revolution” according to an in-depth study released on Tuesday (1st).

That reflects a savings of more than ~$33,000 for every family in Israel over the past decade, according to the report by economic consulting firm BDO and the Israeli Natural Gas Trade Association.

The report also found that the price of electricity in Israel was nearly 50% lower than in Europe at the end of 2022 due to the country’s use of its offshore natural gas.

The savings, based on an analysis of public data published by Israel’s Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Environmental Protection and other entities, can be divided into two categories: savings of ~$34 billion in energy costs derived from natural gas, and environmental benefits amounting to ~$52 billion resulting from the use of natural gas over more polluting fuels.

During the past decade, more than ~$5 billion in gas revenue has been paid directly to the state treasury – 14 times more than in the previous decade.