News Digest — 9/1/22

Two Palestinians Killed In Clashes With Israeli Troops Overnight

Two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank early Thursday (1st) as the IDF continues to crack down on terrorism as part of its Operation Break The Wave. 

According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Samer Khaled was killed in Balata when armed clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli troops who had come to arrest terror suspects.  Another Palestinian, Yazan Afaneh, was killed when Israeli troops entered al-Bireh to carry out additional arrests.

While the Palestinians accuse the IDF of having shot both men, the military only said it “knows of claims of a Palestinian death during the clashes in al-Bireh.” The military also said that IDF troops had fired shots after they were targeted by live fire in Balata.

Troops arrested six wanted individuals throughout the West Bank overnight, including  in Tulkarem. Beit Sira, Ubeidiya, and al’Azi.

In addition, during the night a report was received about the identification of an armed suspect and the hearing of gunfire in Hebron. IDF forces arrived at the spot, identified fleeing suspects and ran after them.  During the chase, an M-16 weapon was found along the road with additional ammunition nearby.

The IDF began Operation Break The Wave in April after a wave of deadly terror attacks by Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs that killed 20 people.   

In order to bring the current wave of violence to an end, the security establishment-IDF, Shin Bet, and Israel Police have been focusing their sights on the northern West Bank and have increased troop pressure along the Seam Line where Palestinians have illegally crossed into Israel through holes in the security fence.

The troop deployment, as well as the call-up of reserve forces, is expected to last into the coming year.

Over the four months since it began, over 2,050 counterterrorism operations were carried out, during which over 1,000 wanted individuals were apprehended and hundreds of weapons seized.



Report: Alleged Israeli Airstrikes Target Aleppo Airport

Alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted the international airport in Aleppo in northern Syria, Wednesday (8/31), according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

The state news agency claimed that only material damage was caused in the strikes, as four missiles hit the airport runways.

According to Syrian reports, air defense systems near Latakia, located southwest of Aleppo, were activated in an attempt to intercept the missiles headed towards Aleppo.  Less than an hour later, there was a second alleged Israeli strike in the Damascus area.

The airstrikes come less than a week after the last alleged Israeli airstrike targeted the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) in Masyaf, located southwest of Aleppo, causing injuries, material damage and fires.

While a number of alleged Israeli airstrikes have targeted sites near Aleppo in recent years, the last alleged Israeli airstrike that targeted the airport was reported in 2019.

Earlier this year, after alleged Israeli airstrikes destroyed runways at the Damascus International Airport, Iranian airlines suspected of smuggling weapons and equipment to Iran-backed militias in Syria and Lebanon reportedly began landing at Aleppo airport instead of Damascus.



U.S.: Hezbollah’s Amassing Of Weapons On Israel’s Northern Border Must Stop

Hezbollah must stop stockpiling weapons on Israel’s northern border, deputy US Ambassador Richard Mills told the United Nations Security Council in New York on Wednesday (8/31) after it voted to renew the mandate of the organization’s peacekeepers (UNIFIL) in that area of southern Lebanon.

“The US shares this council’s significant concern about the state of affairs in southern Lebanon, in particular, Hezbollah’s threatening activities,” he said.

The UNSC vote comes as tensions continue surrounding Lebanon-Israel border demarcation talks and maritime disputes.  The UN since 1978 has maintained a peacekeeper force along the border between the two countries known as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Since 2006, it has been specifically tasked with maintaining the ceasefire agreement that ended the Second Lebanon War and was codified in UNSC Resolution 1701.

UNIFIL at present has a force of 10,500 peacekeepers from 48 UN countries.  The patrol focuses on the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River, with an eye to preventing another arms build-up that would lead to another war, particularly by a non-state actor such as Hezbollah.

Israel holds that Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy group.

The UNIFIL resolution approved Wednesday (8/31) reiterated the UN position that the Lebanese Army should be the only armed force in the country.  It also called for UNIFIL to be given the freedom of movement to complete its mandate.

Mills said the resolution “reaffirms UNIFIL’s authority to operate independently and to conduct both announced and unannounced patrols.”

“We urge the Lebanese authorities as the host state to facilitate UNIFIL’s full and timely access to its entire area of operations,” Mills said.

He echoed a concern raised many times by Israel about the Lebanese failure to ensure that UNIFIL has freedom of movement in its area of operation.

“UNIFIL peacekeepers are blocked with increasing frequency from conducting their mandated tasks and accessing sites of concern,” Mills said.

The area between the Blue Line and the Litani River “must be free of weapons except for those used by the government of Lebanon and UNIFIL,” Mills said.

“With this resolution renewing UNIFIL’s mandate, the security council has made clear that Hezbollah’s continued amassing of weapons must stop,” Mills said.

He took particular issue with the actions of a non-governmental environment group called Green Without Borders which is an affiliate of Hezbollah and which operates in Southern Lebanon.

Mills accused the group of obstructing UNIFIL’s actions by placing containers near Israel’s border.

“The proliferation of prefabricated containers placed by Green Without Borders obstructs UNIFIL’s access to the Blue Line and is heightening tension in the area, further demonstrating that this so-called environmental group is acting on Hezbollah’s behalf,” Mills said.

“UNIFIL must also have access to the tunnels,” he said, referencing the sites where Israel has documented that Hezbollah dug attack tunnels along its northern border. 



Biden, Lapid Finally Discuss Brewing Iran Deal

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and US President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday (8/31) about the nascent nuclear agreement with Iran, which the European Union’s foreign affairs chief said will be completed “within days.”

Biden and Lapid both reiterated their commitment to preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear bomb, according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s office.  The two spoke “at length” about the negotiations surrounding the deal, the statement said, but did not elaborate further.

Lapid also welcomed US efforts against “Iran’s terrorist activity in the Middle East and beyond,” and pointed to recent strikes by the United States against Iranian militias in Syria, in which four Iranians were killed.

According to the EU’s Josep Borell, a new agreement was in its final touch up phase and could be signed between Iran and world powers in the coming days.

US national security spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday (8/31) that “we’re closer” than ever to completing a deal.

In their call, Biden “emphasized his deep commitment to the security of the State of Israel, and to preserving Israel’s capacity to deter its enemies and to defend itself by itself against any threat,” the PMO statement read.

According to Hebrew reports, the two leaders agreed that Israel will preserve the right to military action against Iran if needed. 

Lapid has repeatedly stated in recent days that Israel will not be bound by the agreement, should it come to pass.

Lapid reportedly tried multiple times to organize the telephone conversation with Biden last week, only to be rebuffed with the excuse that the American president was “on vacation.”

Earlier this week, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said he would not be party to a nuclear deal if UN inspectors did not drop their investigation of undeclared nuclear sites.  Raisi also issued a threat to Israel against destroying Iran’s nuclear program, saying “we will see if anything from the Zionist regime will remain or not.” 



Italian Candidate Pledges To Recognize Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital, Move Embassy

A former deputy prime minister of Italy pledged in an interview published Tuesday (8/30) to stand by his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should his coalition emerge victorious in upcoming elections.

Matteo Salvini’s party “Lega” is part of a right-wing coalition that garnered nearly 50% support in recent polling, and which is expected to win a majority of seats in Italy’s parliamentary elections on September 25.

When asked by the newspaper Israel Hayom if he would honor his “promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move Italy’s embassy to Jerusalem,” Salvini – who is expected to have a senior government role should the right-wing coalition come to power – affirmed, “absolutely yes.”

“I gave my word, I am fully committed with the people of Israel and I intend to keep my word,” he added.  In 2018, while serving as interior minister and deputy prime minister, Salvini likewise said he supports recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

He was also probed as to whether his party “recognizes Israel’s right to use all means, including military ones to prevent Iran from having a nuclear arsenal,” responding that “a democracy like Israel has every right to defend itself against any threat to its existence and its freedom.”

“Nuclear weapons in the hands of the ayatollahs would be dangerous for the entire world and must be stopped at all costs, even if I strongly wished for a diplomatic solution,” Salvini said.

The far-right “Lega” party chief also pointed to an event he hosted at the Italian Senate in early 2020 on antisemitism, “in order to reveal what is a true scandal of our times.”

“On the topic of antisemitism we are very alert, we do not let our guard down and nobody talks about it more than us,” Salvini said in the interview.

“Those that still feel a strong and groveling antisemitism should rediscover the important contribution that Judaism has given to Italian history, more generally European history,” he added.