News Digest—8/7/23

Alleged Israeli Air Strikes In Syria

Four Syrian soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in alleged Israeli air strikes near Damascus early Monday morning (7th), according to Syrian state media.

A Syrian military source told state media SANA that the airstrikes were conducted from the direction of the Golan Heights, adding that material damage was also caused in the strikes.

The Syrian Capital Voice news site reported that the strikes targeted sites near Saidnaya and Mneen, north of Damascus, hitting warehouses belonging to the Syrian military and used by Iran-backed militias.

According to the report, fires erupted at the targeted sites.

During the strikes, a surface-to-air missile reportedly fell near the Syrian town of Dourin, near the border with the Golan Heights.

The strikes on Monday morning (7th) were the first alleged Israeli strikes reported in Syria since late July when the Syrian Foreign Ministry accused Israel of attacking the country’s Internal Security Forces in al-Qahtaniyah in the Quneitra Governorate along the border with the Golan Heights.

That attack resulted in material damage and no injuries, according to the Syrian Foreign Ministry.  The statement did not provide details on when exactly the strike was carried out.

In mid-July, two Syrian soldiers were injured in alleged Israeli strikes in the Damascus area.  Reports by opposition-affiliated news sites indicated that the targets in those strikes were located west of Damascus near Qudsaya or As Saboura. Photos reportedly from the area showed multiple fires blazing after the strikes.

About two weeks before those strikes, the IDF struck a Syrian air defense battery after a Syrian air defense missile exploded mid-air over southern Israel.  Additional targets in the area were hit as well.

That airstrike came shortly after reports of alleged Israeli airstrikes in the Homs Governorate in central Syria.  Syrian state media reported at the time that Syrian air defenses were activated in the Homs Governorate in response to alleged Israeli air strikes in the area.  The Syrian state news agencySANA reported that no injuries were caused in the strikes.



IDF Takes Out Terrorist Cell Near Jenin, Thwarts Imminent Attack

Israeli troops on Sunday (6th) killed three Palestinian terrorists in the northern West Bank who were on the verge of carrying out an attack in Israel.

The IDF said it shot the three near the Jenin refugee camp – the site of a large-scale military operation last month.  It said the three men had just exited the camp and were on their  way to carry out an attack and that an M-16 rifle was recovered from their vehicle.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups condemned the killings, though it was not immediately known if the three men belonged to either organization.  Israel identified the leader of the group as Naif Abu Tsuik, 26, saying he was a “leading “military operative” from the camp.

The Jenin camp is known as a terrorist stronghold.  Last month, the army carried out a two-day offensive in the camp, killing many terrorists and causing widespread damage to the area.  An Israeli soldier also was killed in the fighting.

But the offensive appears to have done little to halt a broader wave of violence that began in early 2022.

On Saturday, (5th) a Palestinian terrorist shot and killed an Israeli policeman in Tel Aviv.  The attacker was shot and killed by police.



Tel Aviv Terror Attack: Tearful Farewell For Murdered Patrolman At Funeral

Chen Amir, a Tel Aviv municipal policeman who was murdered in an attack in Tel Aviv on Saturday (5th), was laid to rest Sunday evening (6th)  at Kibbutz Reim in the Negev.  He left behind a wife and three daughters,

Thousands of people came to accompany him on his last journey.  Among the participants were Minister Ofir Akunis, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, and members of the municipal patrol, including Oz, Chen’s partner who killed the terrorist.  Oz broke into tears over Chen’s grave.

“Chen, Chen, what a kind heart you have, the whole world saw what you did.  You exposed this despicable man.  You saved thousands.  You didn’t have a single injury, he came from behind you like a dog.  If he had come in front of you, you would have torn him apart.  As soon as he shot you I shot him – I avenged your death… What a warrior you were, what a sniper,” said Oz.

Chen’s wife, in eulogizing her husband said, “He was the most wonderful man in the world and an amazing husband who loved his daughters so much.  I hope we can get through this.”

Concerning the decision to donate Chen’s organs, she said: “There was no need to think about it.  If you knew Chen you knew.  I don’t know what disaster he prevented, but donating his organs is his finale, his last touch.”  

Chen’s corneas and tissues were donated and will later be transplanted into patients – thus saving the lives of many patients.

Chen’s sister Adia said: “Chen was a hero in Israel… he was not afraid, he always wanted to protect people.”      



Hamas Sentenced 7 Gazans To Death By Hanging For Collaborating with Israel

A military court in the Gaza Strip on Sunday (6th) sentenced 7 people to death by hanging for “collaboration” with Israel, the coastal enclave’s Hamas-run interior ministry said.

The court also sentenced 7 others to “life imprisonment at hard labor,” which in Gaza amounts to 25 years, the ministry said in a statement.

Regarding those sentenced to death, the court said they had provided information to Israel on terror groups in Gaza – including names, phone numbers, addresses and weapons caches – in return for money, the Maan News Agency reported.  One of the defendants was allegedly given a permit to work in Israel in return for information he provided.

The terror group Hamas controls Gaza, and the military court there has regularly issued death sentences for people found guilty of “collaboration” with Israel.

Under Palestinian law, a death sentence requires the approval of the Head of the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the West Bank.

But since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, it has repeatedly ignored this, and last September executed two Palestinians for “collaboration” with Israel as well as three others for murder. 

In April, two people were sentenced to death and four others were given life sentences on the same charges of collaborating with Israel.  At least 17 death sentences were issued in 2022 in the Gaza Strip.



Gaza Youth Demand Better Living Conditions Amid Renewed Protests

GAZA CITY – Thousands of outraged young demonstrators poured into the streets in different areas of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Friday (4th), as part of a popular movement calling itself “We Want to Live.”  The movement rejects the ongoing economic deterioration and political plight in Gaza and demands the basic necessities of life such as electricity.

The youth who protested on Friday (4th) and last Sunday (7/30) are reviving the slogan “We Want to Live” from its original use in the 2019 popular demonstrations against the high cost of living, the Palestinian internal divisions, electricity shortages, unemployment, and food insecurity.

The desperate Gaza residents believe that they were abandoned by two authorities: the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and the Hamas government ruling the Gaza Strip.  They called for the same demands as in 2019 and insisted that they will continue to protest until receiving their full rights.

Gaza-based political analyst Mansour Abukrayyem told The Media Line that there are several political factors that led to the formation of this kind of popular movement.

“The continuous Palestinian division and the internal Palestinian crisis that reflects on every single part of our lives, are the main roots of the public anger,” he said.

These protests, Abukrayyem says, coincided with a meeting between the heads of the different Palestinian factions that took place in the Egyptian city of New Alamein last Sunday (7/30).  The protesters aimed to send a message to their leaders that “the devastating situation in Gaza can no longer continue” and that Palestinian reconciliation is now indispensable more than ever.

“The harsh living conditions and the severe economic deterioration are also key players in the game,” added Gaza-based economist Mohammed Abu Jayyab.

“The high rates of unemployment exceeding 70% among youth – who are the primary participants in this movement, the extreme poverty, the economic paralysis for more than 17 years, and the suffocating shortage of electricity at a time the Strip has been witnessing a soaring heatwave with residents unable to afford energy alternatives, all have increased Gaza residents’ resentment and frustration,” he explained.

In rejection of this reality, organizers of the “We Want to Live” movement have called for more protests in the coming days.

According to one of the movement’s organizers, Ramzi Herzallah, “the Hamas government crushed the previous movement in 2019 and is using the same tactics now of intimidation, arrests, and use of excessive force against protesters under the pretext that they are “terrorists who belong to foreign agendas or support the Israeli occupation.”

The youth in Gaza have lost any hope for change, and therefore they have nothing to lose, Abukrayyem believes.

“If the situation continues as it is, the popular explosion will inevitably come even as Hamas continues to suppress these attempts,” he said.  “Historically, repressive and dictatorial methods have not succeeded in silencing an entire society in the long run.”



Israel Established Diplomatic Ties With Miniscule Island Of Niue

Israel last week quietly established diplomatic relations with the country of Niue, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific closely  tied to New Zealand.

Israeli ambassador Ran Yaakoby visited Niue on Monday (7/31) to sign an agreement with Premier Dalton Tagelagi establishing diplomatic ties.

“We opened the doors to a future of shared opportunities in areas such as technology, trade, education and cultural exchange,” Tagelagi said at the ceremony, according to the local BCN news website.

“This agreement not only strengthens our ties but also reflects our shared commitment to global peace and security to promote innovation, economic growth, and  people-to-government, a statement said Monday (7/31).

Israel has made pains to establish friendly ties with tiny South Pacific nations willing to vote against measures hostile to Jerusalem at the United Nations.  While neither the larger Cook Islands, which Israel established ties with in 2008, nor Niue are full UN member states, they have seemingly begun to move in that direction, joining various treaties and world bodies.

New Zealand for years opposed allowing the countries to remain part of its realm and apply for UN voting rights.  However, after the US recognized the Cook Islands last year, Wellington appeared to backpedal, energizing the countries’ push for more independent foreign relations, the New York Times reported in December.

Israel provides the Cook Islands aid money for health and sports programs and provides agriculture training via its Mashav foreign aid body.