News Digest — 9/15/22

Major Bar Falah Laid To Rest, Remembered For His Love Of Country

Hundreds of mourners arrived at the military cemetery in Netanya Wednesday evening (14th) to pay their respects to Maj. Bar Falah, 30, who was killed earlier in the day in an exchange of fire with Palestinian terrorists in Jenin.

“We promised that we would go through this together, we knew what we were getting into,” his wife, Ariel said.  “It’s hard for me to find the words to describe what a good man you are and how much you achieved.  Who can do anything to me – my biggest nightmare happened.”

Falah’s brother Amos said, “How much strength you had, how much bravery, resilience, leadership and love you had.  Mom’s home is full of young people crying and in pain – students you taught to surf and ski, your soldiers and commanders in the army.  How can you say goodbye to a brother?” 

Prime Minister Yair Lapid also offered his condolences, saying, “Bar was a dedicated soldier, who fought terror and led his troops until his last hour.  The operation in which he was killed thwarted a major terrorist attack and saved lives.  We feel the pain of his loss together with you.  May Bar’s memory be a blessing.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg said, “Heavy mourning has fallen over our city.  “Beyond being an exemplary officer, Maj. Bar Falah was an amazing friend and excellent surfer, loved by everyone who knew him on account of his great love of country, the city and the IDF.  He led dozens of initiatives to distribute food baskets to the needy and always volunteered to help everyone.”

Jenin, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s stronghold, has seen a surge of violence in recent months, leading to counterterrorism operations in the area.  The most recent spate of lethal Palestinian street attacks in Israeli cities in March led to Operation Breakwater which has continued ever since.

Before dawn on Wednesday (14th), the IDF said troops intercepted two men spotted approaching an Israel barrier near the Jalamah Crossing north of Jenin.  The terrorists opened fire, killing one officer, who was later identified as Falah, and were shot dead by other troops, the military said.

Since the attack, the Jalamah Crossing has been closed.



Heightened Terror Alert In Israel Ahead Of Jewish Holidays

Israel’s security and intelligence agencies are seriously concerned with the possibility of terror occurring during the upcoming Jewish holiday period, and presented Prime Minister Yair Lapid with a warning about some 70 potential attacks, Ynet News reported.

A record 20,000 police officers will be deployed throughout the country – the highest-ever number for the holiday period – in light of the terror threats.

The Jewish holiday period is “a symbolic time, during which terrorist organizations are naturally looking to carry out attacks [to show off], “an anonymous senior police official told Ynet.

Earlier this year, two axe-yielding terrorists carried out a deadly attack on the country’s Independence Day, in May.  Three unarmed Israeli men who were celebrating the holiday by barbecuing in a local park, were killed.

Notably, a senior security official revealed to Ynet that the IDF and Shin Bet will be stepping up preemptive arrests of terror suspects, also known as administrative detention.

Typically, Israel tries to wind down anti-terror raids and arrests ahead of the holiday period, but this year, officials deemed the risk of terror too great for the usual pause in detainments.

Recent days have seen an uptick in terror attacks, particularly in PA controlled areas in Judea and Samaria.

On Wednesday morning (14th), IDF soldier Bar Falah was killed during a firefight in Samaria with two terrorists.

The so-called Seam Zone, near the security barrier, where Falah was shot was the site of a previous shooting attack less than 24 hours earlier.

As Palestinian Authority (PA) Head, Mahmoud Abbas continues plunging in popularity among the Palestinian public, terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are strengthening their footholds in Judea and Samaria.

Although the PA has a longstanding policy of security cooperation with Israel, and PA police having arrested members of terror groups, the entity now appears to have adopted a hands-off approach towards terror in the area.

The PA recently rejected an Israeli overture to increase security coordination, together, according to Kan News.



In First, Morocco’s Military Chief Visits Israel

For the first time in history, Inspector General of the Moroccan Armed Forces, Lt.-Gen. Belkhir El Farouk arrived in Israel, to participate in the IDF’s International Operational Innovation Conference.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi led an honor guard as El Farouk arrived on Tuesday (13th).

Israel’s Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, Israel’s Minister of Justice Gideon Sa’ar, Issawi Frej, Israel’s Minister of Regional Cooperation, and IDF Chief of Staff  Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi all were in Morocco for an official visit over the summer.

The IDF launched on Monday (12th) its first International Operational Innovation Conference, attended by nine Chiefs of Staff and commanders from 25 armies from all over the world who are in Israel to discuss topics of innovation and future challenges on the modern battlefield in the week-long event.

The US, Greece, Germany, Italy, France, Cyprus, Finland, Poland, Morocco, the Czech Republic, India, Holland, the UK, NATO, Slovakia, Hungary, Canada, and Australia all sent delegations.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Michael Kurilla arrived for the conference, together with some 200 commanders and about 1,500 personnel from around the world.

Morocco was the fourth country to join the Abraham Accords with Israel.  The two countries announced  the normalization of relations in December 2020.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain announced in August 2020 the normalization of relations with Israel, followed by Sudan which announced their normalizing of relations with Israel in October 2020, Israel’s third peace treaty in two months.

The Abraham Accords, the first pact between an Arab country and Israel in 25 years, is expected to lead to similar agreements with other Arab countries, possibly Oman or Saudi Arabia.



Emboldened By Hezbollah, Hamas Demands Rights To Offshore Gas Fields

The Gaza-based Hamas terror organization is demanding rights to gas fields situated off Israel’s shores.  This follows Hezbollah’s threats to attack Israel over the same issue.

The common Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary is not yet agreed upon between the two countries.  The issue has been under discussion for over a decade.  The focus of both sides is the oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters which are under dispute.

In recent years the two countries held talks, mediated by the US and hosted by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) at Rosh Hanikra.  United States’ Amos Hochstein special envoy for International Energy, is currently serving as mediator.  He has traveled between Jerusalem and Beirut in recent weeks, and while expressing optimism, has not brought any final resolution.

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to attack Israel several times in recent weeks.

On Sunday (11th), the Al-Arabiya network reported that an agreement between Israel and Lebanon is almost complete and that the Karish field will remain in Israeli hands, while the nearby Kana field will be fully in Lebanese territory – an Israeli concession.

Following these reports, Hamas is demanding right’s to “Palestine’s natural resources.”

Sohail Al-Hindi, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, stated Tuesday (13th) that the terror organization “will defend our right to natural gas with blood and weapons.”

Gaza terror groups are preparing for protests at sea to put pressure on Israel to lift the military blockade on the Strip and get their their right to extract natural gas from gas reserves off the Gaza Strip coast.

Hamas said in a statement on Tuesday (13th) that “our Palestinian people and their valiant resistance will not allow the Zionist occupation to steal and plunder the wealth of our people.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that “our people have the right to live in freedom and dignity and to benefit from their natural wealth,” stressing that “there is no compromise on the rights, principles and natural resources of our people.”

He called on the Palestinian Authority to “carryout its duties and responsibilities to stop the Zionist occupation’s plundering of our people’s resources.”

Gas was discovered in the Gaza Marine field 23 miles off the Gaza coast in 2000.  Efforts to exploit the gas field essentially froze after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.



Flown From Ukraine At Death’s Door, Israeli Teen Recovers

When Russia attacked Ukraine, 18-year-old Israeli citizen Anna Kosma was studying in Ukraine and stayed there with her mother to assist in local relief efforts.

But in May, she developed a serious neurological condition that local hospitals there could not handle under the circumstances.

So the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office reached out to the Israeli branch of Hatzolah Air, a New York-based organization that has worked with Israeli first-response groups on several medical evacuation missions out of Ukraine since March.

The team that flew over to evacuate Kosma and her mom included Dr. Todd Zalut, director of the department of Emergency Medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem along with trauma coordinator Levi Levine and emergency physician Dr. Zvi Zilberstein.

Upon arrival in Israel, she was transported by Magen David Adom to Shaare Zedek’s Neurological ICU under the direction of Dr. Stefan Mausbach.

Imaging scans taken upon admission indicated that Kosma had no better than a 1-2 percent chance of survival.  She had been suffering intense seizures resulting from a severe brain infection and arrived in a coma.

Despite listing the patient in extremely critical condition, the physicians used a variety of techniques and medications to bring her back to health over the course of three months in the ICU under the direction  of Dr. Mausbach and Dr. Roni Eichel, and their efforts paid off.

Shaare Zedek announced this week that Kosma had “regained full consciousness and a high level of overall function, and was able to be released from the hospital in good condition.”

She has a long road of rehabilitation ahead, but she is alive and well.