News Digest — 8/9/23

Gaza Drone Smuggling Attempt Thwarted By Israeli Military Canines

Defense Ministry personnel on Wednesday (9th) thwarted an attempt to smuggle into Gaza 10 reconnaissance drones concealed within a blackbag inside a minibus at the Erez Crossing.

A statement by the ministry said that the drones were intended for reconnaissance purposes by terrorist groups operating within the Gaza Strip, though it did not say whether the plot was connected to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

According to the statement, security guards and a K9 unit at the Erez Crossing were responsible for catching the smuggling attempt.

Dogs do not directly smell bombs or drones, but they can deconstruct the components of different kinds of odors which are contained on different kinds of mechanical devices when trained.

The incident has been transferred to security forces for further investigation.

The statement did not yet name the culprit smugglers and it is unclear if security forces  know which of the minibus passengers were responsible.

One defense official said, “Yet they want us to lift the siege…, hence, advancing our own demise…And the EU and UN are eager for this very development to materialize.”



Terror Squad Directed From Lebanon Arrested

In recent months a number of Palestinian Authority residents in Judea and Samaria have been arrested while plotting to carry out attacks against Israeli citizens, it was cleared for publication Tuesday (8th).

The detainees were operating under the direction of Alam Kaabi, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization who was deported to Gaza as part of the Gilad Shalit deal and currently resides in Lebanon.

Kaabi oversaw terrorist activity in Judea and Samaria in which he recruited Palestinian Arab terrorist operatives, some of whom were close to his family, in order to carry out attacks against Israelis.

The operation was uncovered during an investigation by the Shin Bet and IDF.  One of the operatives who was questioned was Marad Kaabi, who revealed that he had received instructions from Alam Kaabi to carry out attacks.  Several assault rifles were seized as well.

Another suspect, Khaled Abu Al Hija, revealed that he had also been recruited by Alam to carry out attacks and to lead a military unit that would have operated in the Jenin area.

Both suspects have been indicted for terrorist offenses in the Samaria military court.

Additional suspects recruited by Alam Kaabi have also been arrested.



In Blow To Lebanon’s Economy, Gulf States Tell Citizens To Stay Away

Gulf States Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain urged their citizens to leave Lebanon “for their own safety” days after fierce fighting between Palestinian groups took place in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, southern Lebanon.

The four days of fighting between Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group and Islamic groups have left 13 dead, dozens injured, and thousands displaced.

The Saudi Embassy in Beirut published a statement Friday night (4th) on X formerly known as Twitter, calling on its citizens to keep away from areas where there are “armed conflicts” and to leave Lebanon quickly.  The embassy statement stressed “the importance of adhering to the Saudi travel ban to Lebanon.”  

Kuwait also issued an advisory early on Saturday (5th) calling on Kuwaitis in Lebanon to stay alert and avoid “areas of security disturbances” but stopped short of asking them to leave the country, according to a statement by the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry posted on X.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said Bahrainis should abide by the government’s previous decisions to avoid travel to Lebanon.

Fahad A-Shulaimi, president of the Gulf Forum for Peace and Security, told The Media Line that the main reason behind the decision of the Gulf States is the presence of armed clashes in the Ain Al-Hilweh camp and the fear of its expansion beyond the camp’s perimeter.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati headed a cabinet meeting at the government palace in Beirut following the Gulf States announcements, in which he said: “About the evacuation of nationals – it is the duty of states to preserve the interests and lives of their nationals, especially in unstable countries, and it is a normal procedure by many countries.  It is not unusual for governments to issue such advisories.”

Last week Britain and Germany advised their citizens not to travel to south Lebanon.

To ease these countries’ fears, Prime Minister Mikati said on Saturday (5th) that there was no cause for “concern or panic” about the security situation.

In a statement, Mikati said he had spoken with his security chiefs and assessed that the situation “does not call for concern or panic.”  He said there had been “significant progress” in resolving the violence outbreak, adding that Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib had been in contact with Arab countries to assure them that their citizens were safe in Lebanon.

However, the commander of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Subhi Abu Arab told The Media Line that the situation continues to be very “sensitive” and “dangerous.”



Syrian Precision Weapons Expert Dies In Alleged Strike By Israel

A scientist working on the production of precision missiles was killed early Monday morning (7th), in a strike attributed to Israel, in the Syrian capital of Damascus, security officials believe.  They also said that  although his demise would not cause a major change to weapons production, it would have a real chilling effect and could act as a deterrent.

The officials’ claim aligns with the position expressed by Western intelligence organizations that believe that Iran and Hezbollah were producing such weapons at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS), which was struck in the attack.

A study published last week by the Alma Research and Education Center, which specializes in Israel’s northern frontier, provided a look into the real purpose of CERS, which is where Syria developed chemical weapons in the 1980s.  According to reports, the facility had come under numerous Israeli attacks in the past year as well as in the more distant past.

The complex which operates under the guise of a civilian institute for scientific research, houses classified military facilities that serve the Syrian army, the Iranian regime, and Hezbollah, and is used for the production of precision missiles as well as others, which pose considerable danger to Israel.

Those weapons include the ground-to-ground M600 missiles,produced in cooperation with Iran which also manufactures the matching Fateh-110 missile, as well as Scud 275 missiles, Shihab 1, Shihab 2, ODAB, Zelzal, and Fajr missiles.  According to the latest report, the weapons are produced for use by Hezbollah, under the supervision of Iranian experts.

Some 20,000 people work at CERS, mostly Syrian researchers, engineers, and members of the Syrian military.  The CERS Center serves as Syria’s military industry.

After the airstrike on the Damascus Airport and near Al-Kiswah was reported earlier this week, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that is affiliated with the opposition to the Damascus regime, said that the attack targeted military sites and storage facilities containing weaponry belonging to local Iranian militias.   

The rights group claimed six people, among them four soldiers and two others who were not identified, were killed and seven others wounded.



El AL Flight Transporting Paralympic Athletes Lands In Netherlands

Members of the Israeli Paralympic delegation landed in the Netherlands on Wednesday morning (9th) with the help of El Al – the official carrier of the Israeli Paralympic Team – en route to Rotterdam, the site of the 2023 European Para Championships.

The initial flight, which carried members of the Israeli basketball team, is one of many departing both this week and next week to the Netherlands.

The European Paralympic Games, which began Tuesday (8th) in Rotterdam, are widely considered the most significant and extensive competition before the 2024 Paris Olympics.  Nearly all the disciplines that will compete in the Olympics will also compete in Rotterdam. 

Israeli athletes hope to build on their success in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  The 2020 Israeli Paralympics delegation of 33 athletes – 18 women and 15 men – competed in 11 sports and returned home with nine medals in swimming and rowing.

“We are proud to fly the athletes who inspire us and wish them great success in the competitions,” said Dina Ben Tal-Ganansia, CEO of El Al.  “For us in Israel, you are already champions,” she declared.

“Thanks to El Al, we will take off for the games,” said Moshe Motz Matlon, MM Chairman of the Paralympic Committee, before boarding the flight.



IDF Pioneering “Dronebulance” In Leap Forward For Battlefield Rescue Operations

The Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) within the Defense Ministry is nearing the operational deployment of the first so-called “dronebulance,” an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of swiftly and securely transporting heavy loads or wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

The dronebulance, a project developed by the Defense Ministry for the IDF, underwent a comprehensive test flight in southern Israel this past May.  It successfully executed multiple scenarios and landings, reinforcing the developers’ confidence in the platform.  The upcoming phase, set to start early next year, will involve trial flights carrying the intended payloads, from dozens of pounds of ammunition, water  and fuel intended for combat forces, and eventually human passengers.

“At this stage, we are in the process of developing an integration plan for this equipment in collaboration with IDF officials.  Subsequently, a systematic trial protocol will be established.  I anticipate that within one to two years, we will make substantial strides, and possess the practical ability to employ these tools for military use, capable of bearing even heavier payloads and operating over greater distances,” said a defense ministry official.

Over the last decade, the national security establishment has attempted to develop other, slightly smaller drones for transporting injured personnel from the battlefield, but these projects largely failed due to safety concerns.  The current platform, which is larger than the previously attempted drones, may become the first such system to become operational in the IDF.

The dronebulance will fly autonomously with a pre-programmed waypoint, similar to standard military drones that today no longer require human remote control.  “Until now, similar projects have not succeeded because their batteries did not have the required capacity, mainly because they were relatively small devices with a ceiling that was limited,” said the official.

“This time we’re essentially talking about a small aircraft, akin to a Cessna, capable of reaching the same altitude as this type of plane.  This platform features a retractable canopy similar to a sports car, a quiet electric engine with simple charging, a tablet screen in the passenger compartment, and four rotors that provide the capability for vertical takeoff and landing from any location.  Then, it transitions mid-air to a configuration for fast and horizontal flight, akin to an airplane.” explains the official, noting that the aircraft is reminiscent of the Boeing V-22.

“Last year, the world invested NIS 30 billion in airborne electric vehicles, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t capitalize on this trend.  This Israeli system has already reached an advanced stage of maturity.  It’s no longer a science fiction concept; the initial capabilities have been demonstrated to us, and now we’re enhancing them for the needs of the IDF, while also developing a maritime version,” added the official.

Currently the cost of each of these aircraft in their basic version is estimated at $150,000 per unit but the price is expected to decrease once its development is completed.



11,000 Trapped Jewish Descendants In Ethiopia Await Rescue

As violent clashes escalate between the Ethiopian Army and the FANO militia in the Amhara province, over 150 Israelis find themselves trapped in the Gondar region of Ethiopia, with Israel’s Foreign Ministry actively monitoring the situation and working to ensure the safety and evacuation options for its citizens and eligible immigrants.

The ministry is in direct contract with 160 Israelis and 54 individuals who are eligible to immigrate to Israel.  These efforts are being coordinated even as Foreign Minister Eli Cohen receives updates while on a diplomatic visit to Moldova.  The situation room at the Foreign MInistry maintains communication with Israelis  and Jews in the conflict-ridden area, aiming to ensure their safety and exploring potential evacuation avenues.

Cohen expressed his commitment to resolving the situation promptly.  “We are acting to find quick solutions to help all  of the Israelis through diplomatic channels in Ethiopia and the international arena,” Cohen stated.  “We will make every effort to ensure the wellbeing of  all the Israelis and Jews who are trapped in the region.”

The situation grew dire after clashes erupted not only in Gondar but also in other cities and villages in the region.  Among those caught in the crossfire, 13 Israeli travelers were successfully rescued by the  PassportCard insurance company and Magnus International Search & Rescue on Monday (7th).  These organizations are closely monitoring the unstable situation to determine if further rescue operations can be undertaken or if it is safer for individuals to remain in designated secure areas.  

A senior official within the Jewish community in Ethiopia conveyed the gravity of the situation.  The official told The Jerusalem Post that the figures provided by the Foreign Ministry include those entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return due to their Jewish lineage.  Meanwhile the ongoing conflict has led to immense fear among the community members, with some people afraid to leave their homes because of the fighting.

The official also cited a need for swift action, stating that tens of groups of Ethiopian olim in Israel are planning a demonstration in Jerusalem this week in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, demanding the immediate aliyah of all those who are eligible, in light of the war.  “The demand is to bring to Israel all those who are waiting from the seed of Israel, which is close to 11,000 when Addis Ababa is also included.”