News Digest — 9/14/23

Israeli Population Nearing 10 Million People Ahead Of Jewish New Year

About 9.8 million people are living in Israel ahead of Rosh Hashanah, with the country’s population expected to reach 10 million by the end of next year, according to data published by  the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday (13th).

By the end of 2048, Israel’s population is expected to reach 15 million people.

Of the 9.8 million people living in Israel, 7.2 million (73%) are Jews and about 2.1 million (21%) are Arabs.  Another 548,000 were from other sectors.

Israel’s population grew by about 194,000 people this past year, marking a 2% growth.  172,000 new babies were born, and about 70,000 people moved to the country, including about 66,000 new immigrants.

The Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Friday  (15th).



Armed Guards Deployed At All Jerusalem Synagogues Amid Rising Terrorism

For the first time ever, an armed guard will be stationed outside each synagogue in Jerusalem, as part of preparations for the upcoming High Holy Days and amid concerns over recent terrorist attacks.

According to reports in Israeli media, there have been 19 terrorist attacks in Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, with 31 other incidents successfully thwarted.  Just before the month of the Tishrei holidays, police announced on Wednesday (13th) that they have completed preparations in the capital for the upcoming major events.

Thousands of police officers will be deployed at crowded locations and holy sites.  According to the district commander, for the first time, armed personnel will be stationed at predetermined locations in every synagogue in the city, following thorough briefings.

As opposed to Jewish houses of prayer in Europe or in the US, Israeli synagogues don’t usually have armed security guards on a day-to-day basis.

As part of police efforts, checkpoints and crowd control measures will be put in place.  The aim is to manage the expected crowds at the Western Wall plaza, taking into account the crowd size and maximum capacity.  Additionally, security will be provided for pilgrims visiting holy sites during the events of forgiveness: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

“Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are significant holidays, and even though there are no simultaneous Muslim events, it remains a challenge,” emphasized Superintendent Doron  Turgeman, the commander of the Jerusalem District according to a report on News 12.  “We must maintain a high level of preparedness.  Those who come to Jerusalem trust us to ensure their safety.  The freedom to worship during Jewish holidays and Arab prayer times are of utmost importance.”

Since the beginning of the year, 110 potential targets in the eastern part of the city have been identified, resulting in 19 attacks within Jerusalem.  Notably all these attacks were carried out by individuals, and most of the perpetrators were terrorists under the age of 20.  As the holidays approach, there is an increased risk of attacks due to incitement on Palestinian social media, particularly concerning the Temple Mount.

Over the past few weeks, the police have been working diligently to secure the thousands of worshipers who gathered at the Western Wall plaza for prayer ceremonies.  Given the expected traffic congestion during the forgiveness events, the police will intensify their presence around the Old City, its alleys and along  prayer routes.



Iranian Jews Warned To Lay Low Over Rosh Hashanah     

Iran’s Jewish leadership warned its community Sunday (10th) to keep off the streets during this weekend’s celebration of Rosh Hashanah, ahead of expected demonstrations on the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, which coincides with the Jewish New Year, Iran International  reported Monday (11th).

In a Telegram posting, Iranian Jewish leaders discussed safety concerns without citing specific threats, writing, “All worshipers are strongly requested to refrain from stopping and gathering in the streets for any reason during Rosh Hashanah and after performing religious duties in synagogues.”

Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died a year ago after being taken into custody by Iran’s morality police after she was caught not wearing her hijab correctly.

Her death sparked months-long mass demonstrations throughout the country, led especially by women, whose slogan was “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

Five Jews were among those who are still being held in detention, allegedly over their roles in the protests.

Although the protests have quieted down in recent months after a fierce crackdown which killed nearly 500 demonstrators and made mass arrests, the mullahs fear that the anniversary, which falls exactly on the first day of Rosh Hashanah Saturday (16th), will bring demonstrators out to the streets again.

There are some 8,500 Jews left in Iran, down from over 100,000 who lived there prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.  They are in constant danger and fear of arrest for being “Zionists” and backing Israel.



Syria Says 2 Soldiers Killed, 6 Wounded In Israeli Air Strike Over Tartus, Second Strike Hours Later

Syrian state media on Wednesday morning, (13th) accused Israel of carrying out a daylight air strike over Tartus that killed two Syrian soldiers and wounded six others.  Israeli strikes usually are carried out at night.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition war monitor, reported that three Hezbollah operatives were killed in the attack, and loud explosions were heard in the area.  However, the reports have not been verified by Syria. 

A security official told the Arabic-language Sputnik network that this was an “Israeli attack against several targets in the Tartus region.  Several fighter jets fired missiles.  Syrian air defense systems managed to intercept some of them.”

Hours later, on Wednesday evening (13th), Syria media reported that Israel had conducted another airstrike in the Hama and Homs regions of the country.

The Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported that Israeli warplanes flew over the coastal plain in Lebanon and launched several missiles towards Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that explosions were heard in the area.

This is the second airstrike attributed to Israel on Wednesday (13th).  Two Syrian soldiers were allegedly killed in this strike. 

Last month, Syrian news agency SANA reported an Israeli attack in the Damascus area.  The Syrian Defense Ministry said that Israel carried out the attack at 11:05 pm from the direction of the Golan Heights and that a Syrian soldier was injured in the strike.  At that time, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that two people were killed in the attack and that Israeli missiles hit at least three Syrian military sites. 

A week prior, Sputnik reported that Israel had attacked Syria, though Syrian authorities did not comment on the matter.  It was claimed that the attack was carried out using a ground-to-ground missile, targeting a Hezbollah warehouse.



6 Killed in  Gaza Botched Blast During Rioting, Apparently While Planting Bomb

At least 6 Palestinians were killed Wednesday afternoon (13th) after an explosive device they attempted to detonate on the Israeli border, during a riot, blew up prematurely, the military and health officials in the Gaza Strip said.

The rally was organized in the Malka area, east of Gaza City to commemorate the 18th anniversary of Israel’s pullout from the Strip.

The Israeli military said hundreds of rioters participated in the violent protest, including some who hurled explosive devices and grenades at the security barrier.  IDF Troops responded with riot dispersal.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, at one stage during the riot, Palestinians attempted to plant and detonate a bomb against troops operating near the border fence, but the device exploded prematurely in the Gaza Strip leading to casualties.

In a statement, the Hamas terror group said it mourned the six “heroic martyrs” who were killed in the blast.

The IDF published footage showing the detonation of the explosive device on the Palestinian side of the Gaza security barrier.

In addition to the six dead, 25 other Palestinians were wounded, some seriously, according to the Hamas-run ministry.

Separately on Tuesday night (12th) the IDF said troops detained three Palestinians who were rioting on the border.

On Wednesday, September 6, Palestinians detonated a large explosive device on the Gaza border during a riot that saw a number of explosives being detonated and grenades hurled at the border barrier in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

The recent riots signal a possible return by Hamas and other terror factions in the Gaza Strip to a policy of regular mass protests along the border, as Hamas seeks to draw attention to the worsening living conditions in the impoverished coastal strip after Qatar, one of the biggest donors to the regime, has cut back on monthly disbursements.

Weekly protests along the frontier began at the end of march 2018 and continued almost every Friday until the end of 2019, with the demand that Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the coastal enclave, and called for the return of Palestinian “refugees” and “descendants” to lands that are part of the Jewish state.

Israel says its blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent Hamas from freely arming itself for war and attacks against Israel.

 The weekly protests on the border in 2018 and 2019 frequently involved violence, including the hurling of explosives and firebombs at IDF soldiers, as well as attempts to storm and sabotage the border fence, and in some cases live fire toward Israeli soldiers..  Troops often responded with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, as well as live fire.  More than 200 Palestinians were killed in the riots, with many injured.

In addition, Palestinians regularly flew helium balloons into Israel carrying explosives and incendiary devices, sparking fires that destroyed large swaths of agricultural land, and nature preserves’ foliage.



Israel’s Automatic Mortar System Unveiled At London Confab

Israeli defense industry firm Elbit Systems will debut its Crossbow next Generation Turreted Mortar System at the DSEI defense technology conference in London, the company announced Tuesday (12th).

The Crossbow is an automatic mortar system developed under an IDF contract, which can fire 10 rounds per minute and is compatible with NATO ammunition requirements.

“It is also a versatile weapon, being able to be integrated into both wheeled platforms, vehicles, and stationary platforms.

As an unmanned turret, the Crossbow comes equipped with a computerized fire control system and a land navigation system.  Boasting a short sensor-to-shooter circle, it can fire a wide range of ammunition, including Iron Sting guided mortar rounds. With a range of over 6 miles.

“The Crossbow is the latest and an important addition to our portfolio of automated turret systems.  It is the only automated turret on the market and offers high-performance and precision firepower,” Elbit Systems Land general manager Yehuda Vered said in a statement.  “We are proud to provide our customers with the most advanced platforms on the market,” he added.