News Digest — 8/4/20

IDF Jets Strike Syria In Retaliation For Attempt To Plant Bombs On Border

IDF fighter jets, attack helicopters and aircraft struck military targets in southern Syria belonging to the Syrian Armed Forces on Monday night (3rd), making good on its promise that it would hold the Syrian government responsible for all terror activities against Israel conducted from Syrian soil.

The targets that were struck included observation posts and intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft artillery facilities and command and control systems on Syrian Air Force bases, the IDF reports.

The event that sparked the attack began around midnight Sunday (2nd) when IDF troops spotted a terror squad placing explosive devices next to the security fence.

“IDF troops and an IDF aircraft fired simultaneously toward the squad of four terrorists, identifying a hit.  No IDF injuries were reported,” the Army statement read.

Later on Monday (3rd), IDF troops found a knapsack at the scene of the attack containing deadly supplies, including IEDs ready to deploy against IDF troops.  It was found on the Israeli side of the Alpha Line, Syria and Israel’s de facto border.

The incident comes as tensions remain high on Israel’s northern border after a foiled Hezbollah infiltration attempt on July 27.  The terror group vows it still plans revenge for the killing of one of its members in late July.

However, the assessment is that the four-member terror group that planted the bomb late Sunday night (2nd) was not connected to Hezbollah.  There are several terror organizations operating on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Lebanon border, most of them tied to Iran.



IDF Steps Up Efforts To Curb Coronavirus In Jerusalem’s Arab Neighborhoods – Khaled Abu Toameh

The IDF has stepped up its efforts to help residents of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods as they face a sharp increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.  The Home Front Command has been operating in these neighborhoods since March, working in coordination with the Jerusalem Municipality’s community centers in the Arab areas.

Col. Itay Levi, Commanding Officer of the Jerusalem and Central District, said: “The pandemic does not differentiate between Jew and Arab.  Our mission as an army, and soldiers is to help people during disasters….In the beginning everyone thought it would be difficult for the IDF to deal with the Arab residents.  I believe we are making history when you see IDF soldiers working shoulder-to-shoulder with Arabs in Jerusalem.”

Brig.-Gen. Ben Tzvi Eliasi, Commanding Officer of the Control Center in east Jerusalem, said, “We are helping with the tests for coronavirus and hotels for absorbing the patients….We are now in the process of preparing more hotels in east Jerusalem for absorbing infected cases [and]….we are providing food and medicine to those patients who choose to remain at home.”



COVID-19 Brings Back Blood Libel Fear

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish communities worldwide are fearing the “repeat of historic tropes and historic scapegoating of Jews in times of crisis,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Senior Vice President of International Affairs Dr. Sharon S. Nazarian said in a recent webinar hosted by the American Society of the University of Haifa.

“As a vulnerable minority Jews feel sensitive to the rise of conspiracy theories – particularly in non-democratic governments which use scapegoating of minorities, and especially Jews, to deflect from their own failures,” said Dr. Nazarian.  “Governments that are not able to provide for their own citizens really use conspiracy theories as a mechanism for deflecting blame.”

Dr. Nazarian heads ADL’s work fighting anti-Semitism and racial hatred globally.  In her consultations with Jewish communities around the world since the start of the pandemic, she said that one of the very common themes we saw were the economic anxieties people were expecting to happen.  Jewish communities know that not only the pandemic itself, but the economic impact of a major slowdown like huge unemployment usually leads to anti-Semitism.

Regarding how social media has become a major amplifier of hate speech and anti-Semitism, Dr. Nazarian stated that large companies like Facebook must “come to terms with the fact that they have a role to play here and they have to be part of the solution.”

Dr. Nazarian also commented on a study published in June by the University of Haifa and Institute for Counter Terrorism researchers which brought to light the growing hotbed of extreme anti-Semitism on TikTok, today’s fastest growing social network platform.  In a scan of TikTok videos, the study found that the most prevalent form of far-right extremism pertained to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, comprising more than one-fifth of the posts that were analyzed.



Jordan Reiterates To Israel: Al-Aqsa Is A Place For Muslim Worship Only

The Kingdom of Jordan has requested that Israel “respect the sanctity” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the status quo, after it recently reopened to Muslim worshipers following a two-month hiatus amid coronavirus lockdown.

According to Jordan’s official news agency Petra, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has sent Israel, via diplomatic channels, a memo calling on Tel Aviv as an occupying power to respect the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif, and end all provocations and violations there.”  

The ministry’s spokesperson Deifallah al-Fayez condemned the “continued Israeli violations,” the most recent example given, was that “Israeli occupation forces allowed hundreds of Jews to storm the mosque” on Tisha B’Av.

The spokesperson reiterated, in a note of exclusion, that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only and that the Jerusalem Waqf Department, run under the auspices of Jordan, “is the sole institution responsible for administering the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”



IDF Hits Hamas Terror Targets After Missile Launched Into Israel

IDF fighter jets targeted Hamas sites early Monday morning (3rd) after a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel at 9 p.m. on Sunday (2nd).

Sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Sderot and in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip sending residents to shelters.  No injuries were reported as the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System intercepted the projectile.

The IDF’s retaliatory strike hit a concrete manufacturing site used for underground infrastructure building as well as military subterranean facilities belonging to the Hamas terror organization. 

An IDF statement said Israel views any terror activity with great severity and will continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians.

“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it, and will bear the consequences for terror activity against Israeli civilians,” the statement said.

It was the first attack in nearly a month.  On July 5, terrorists launched three rockets into southern Israel after which the IDF hit several Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

The south has been relatively quiet the last few months.

Beginning in March 2018, Hamas began its March of Return protests, including the launching of incendiary devices into Israel, burning thousands of acres of Israeli land.



Report: 2.6 Million Israelis Lack Adequate Rocket Fire Protection

A total of 2.6 million Israelis – approximately 28% of the population – do not have access to adequate protection from rocket fire, according to a new State Comptroller’s report.

The report, published on Monday (3rd), found that Israel was facing a serious aerial defense challenge, with several hundred thousand projectiles in the hands of its enemies, and it noted that between 2000-2019 there had been 21,000 rockets and mortars fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip alone.

One major vulnerability was “vital facilities,”only a small number of which have the proper aerial defense measures in place.  The Defense Ministry was warned concerning this issue.

The report also suggested reviewing the current plan for evacuating the civilian population from border areas in the event of a conflict, characterizing it as difficult to implement.

The IDF stated in response to the report, that some difficulties lie in some government decisions that have yet to be carried out.

It added that a plan for the defense of northern Israel was already in its initial stages, during which the IDF would survey communities up to  half a mile from the border and assess their security and defense requirements.

This information would then be used “to provide a defense solution for communities requiring it,” the army said.