News Digest—9/1/23

Four Terrorist Attacks In 24 Hours: A Timeline Of August 2023

August 2023 has been a deadly month of terror attacks in Israel, and between August 5 to August 31, five people have been killed, and multiple more people have been wounded to varying degrees.

August 5, 2023 – Tel Aviv city inspector Chen Amir was killed in a terror shooting in the popular pedestrian mall Nahalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv.  He is succeeded by his wife and three daughters.

August 19, 2023  – Ashdod residents Silas Shai Higerker, 60, and his son Aviad, 28 were killed in a terror shooting near Huwara in the West Bank.  The two men had stopped to perform some routine maintenance work on their car.

August 21, 2023 – Preschool teacher Batsheva Nigri, 42, was shot to death in front of her 12-year-old daughter in a drive-by terror shooting on Route 60.  The driver of the car, Aryeh Gottlieb, 39, was seriously injured.

August 30, 2023 – a 25-year-old man was moderately injured in a stabbing attack at the Shivtei Yisrael light rail station in Jerusalem.  The terrorist, a 14-year-old from the Beit Hanina neighborhood in Jerusalem was killed at the scene.

August 31, 2023 – At least one person, a 20-year-old lone soldier from Ukraine, identified as Sergeant Maxim Mulchanov, was murdered and an additional five people were wounded in a terror ramming at the Maccabim checkpoint on the central Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Route 443 highway.  The condition of the wounded ranged from mild to serious. 



Life Plus 26 Years For Terrorist Who Murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach

A military court on Thursday (8/31) sentenced the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach five years ago to life plus 26 years in prison.

Ahmad Kunba was part of the terrorist squad that murdered Rabbi Shevach, a father of six, in a shooting attack near his hometown of Havat Gilad in Samaria in 2018.  Kunba drove the vehicle from which the shots that killed Rabbi Shevach were fired.

He was convicted of intentionally causing death (the equivalent of murder in the military court), firing at a person, obstructing an investigation, plotting additional terror attacks, and other charges.

In addition to the jail sentence, Kunba was also ordered to pay NIS 1.5 million in compensation to the Shevach family.

Attorney Haim Bleicher of the Honenu legal organization said, “This is a hardened terrorist who was part of a unit that carried out many attacks.  Such a terrorist has no place on earth, and it would be better for the State of Israel to make sure that these terrorists are not allowed to surrender alive.”

“In any case, according to the verdict, the despicable terrorist is supposed to sit in prison until the day he dies, and we appeal to the authorities to act so that this despicable terrorist, together with his fellow murderers, will not receive any favorable conditions in prison other than the minimum required by law.  We are in the midst of a severe wave of terrorism against the citizens of Israel, and when terrorists are sentenced to a life of suffering, that has a great effect on strengthening deterrence.  It is time to resort to a complete worsening of the conditions of terrorists in prison.”

Rabbi Shevach’s widow, Yael Shevach, spoke at a court hearing in the case several weeks ago about how her children have been forced to grow up without a father.

“Benyahu is six and a half years old today, he is starting first grade.  He is the youngest of them.  Three of my children entered first grade without a father.  I am very afraid of this day, of Benyahu going to first grade, surrounded by fathers who are hugging their children.  I talk about my children a lot because it is hard for me to talk about myself.  I try to give them, as much as possible, the same great love that he gave them… and I only have them,” she said, adding “nothing will fill this void.”



Security Council Extends UNIFIL Peacekeepers’ Mandate, Rejects Hezbollah Demands

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted on Thursday (8/31) to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, hours before it was due to expire.

The vote was 13-0, with permanent members China and Russia both abstaining.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL has sought to maintain calm in southern Lebanon since its creation in 1978, and is currently tasked with enforcing a UN Resolution banning armed operations by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah near the ceasefire line that forms the de facto border.

The resolution approved by the Security Council demands that the Lebanese military and Hezbollah stop blocking the movement of the UN peacekeeping force and guarantee its freedom to operate, “including by allowing announced and unannounced patrols.”

Lebanese officials had pushed to remove a provision in the resolution, first introduced last year, that allows the peacekeepers to patrol without giving prior notice to the Lebanese army.

Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, said in a speech Monday (8/28) that the provision is a violation of Lebanese sovereignty, and that the United States wants the UN peacekeeping force “to be spies for the Israelis.”

But the council ignored the request, instead voting to strengthen last year’s text and reaffirming that under the agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese government, the peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL “does not require prior authorization or permission to undertake its mandated tasks.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the mandate renewal saying that the UNIFIL force “aids in maintaining stability in southern Lebanon.”  The ministry called on the international community “to take a firm stand against the attempts of the terrorist organization Hezbollah to create provocations and cause an escalation.”

Israel’s mission to the UN praised the vote as protecting UNIFIL’s  freedom of action, allowing the peacekeepers to continue operating without coordination with the Lebanese army. 

 UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after the 2006 war so peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.  That resolution also called for a full cessation of israeli-Hezbollah hostilities, which has not happened.



Israel Warns Travelers Of Kidnapping-Threat By Terrorist Groups Overseas

Ahead of the Jewish High Holidays in September, Israel issued an updated travel advisory on Thursday (8/31), underscoring concerns over the threat of kidnappings by Iranian-backed groups and Hamas.

The advisory, released by the National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, highlights continuous efforts by Iranian entities, often disguised as businessmen, to abduct Israelis abroad.

Apart from Iran and its terror proxies, international, Jihadist and Islamic extremist organizations persist in their global campaigns of terror, the advisory noted.  Notably, there’s a rising interest in specifically targeting Israeli and Jewish individuals, with lone-wolf attackers presenting a particular concern.  These organizations are most active in regions like Africa, Asia, and Europe, but sporadic attempts have been observed in other areas.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also feature prominently in the NSC’s report.  The Gaza-based terror groups are currently motivated to launch attacks in Israel to secure “bargaining chips.”  This motivation aligns with Hamas’ recent stance on stalled negotiations over prisoners of war and missing in action personnel.  Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh, even made a bold declaration suggesting that Hamas might resort to kidnappings.

Regarding specific regions of concern, countries neighboring Iran, such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Kurdistan, are considered high-risk zones.  The Sinai Peninsula also remains a vulnerable area.



Report: New Hamas Rocket Has One-Ton Warhead, Can Hit Israel’s Northern Border

A Telegram channel bearing the name of Mohammed Deif, supreme commander of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, reported that a missile that threatens the majority of Israeli territory has recently become operational.

According to the report the new rocket has a range of 118 miles, can reach Rosh Hanikra, on Israel’s northern border, from Gaza, and its warhead weighs one ton.

It was also reported that the rocket is manufactured by the Hamas Brigades in the Gaza Strip, and its explosives are imported from Iran.  On August 17th, 2023, this model of rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip toward the Mediterranean Sea, and according to the report, the launch was meant to send a message to Israel.

A separate message sent on the channel stated that the “Palestinian struggle organizations,” led by the joint operations room, are closely following the development in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem and have warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir against actions that harm the Palestinian people which will be answered by a massive bombardment of Tel Aviv with rockets.,

“We remind you Israelis that the decision to bomb Tel Aviv is easier for us than drinking water,” the message stated.



Saudi Arabia Offers To Resume Palestinian Authority Funding – Dion Nissenbaum

Saudi Arabia is offering to resume financial support to the Palestinian Authority, said Saudi officials and former Palestinian officials.  The Kingdom has pumped more than $5 billion into Palestinian causes, including direct support to the Palestinian Authority.  But Riyadh began cutting back funding to the PA in 2016 amid allegations of incompetence and corruption, with aid plunging from $174 million a year in 2019 to zero in 2021.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has connected the resumption of aid to the PA cracking down on militant groups and violence in the West Bank.  Militant groups hold more power than Palestinian security forces in some cities.

Saudi leaders have told US officials that they expect Palestinians to accept concessions short of statehood and that the Palestinians will not have any power to veto a Saudi-Israel deal.



Finland To Ban Holocaust Denial

Finland’s government on Thursday (8/31) outlined a plan to fight racism that includes a ban on denying the Holocaust, AFP reported.

The move comes after the coalition cabinet was twice rocked by scandals.

“Every government minister denounces racism and commits to actively work against it,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo was quoted as saying at a press conference.

As part of the new plan, the government will seek to criminalize Holocaust denial and explore the possibility of banning the use of Nazi and Communist symbols.

The move comes after Finance Minister Rikka Purra, leader of the far-right Finns Party, apologized after the emergence of years-old racist comments by her online, leading to condemnation from cabinet colleagues.

The inflammatory comments included anti-immigrant and racial slurs, as well as threats of violence written by Purra in 2008, according to AFP.

In June, another Finns Party minister, Vilhelm Junnila, announced his resignation after only 10 days in office following an uproar over Nazi remarks.

During his election campaign, Junnila had joked about the election candidate number 88 as being a reference to “Heil Hitler,” because “H” is the eighth letter in the alphabet.

With the new plan, Finland joins other countries that have outlawed Holocaust denial, including Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, and Switzerland, among others.

Thursday’s (8/31) announcement by Finland was welcomed by World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder.