News Digest — 9/16/20

Hamas Fires 13 Rockets After IDF Retaliatory Strike, Testing ‘Bomb For Bomb’ Equation

Terrorists in Gaza fired 13 rockets at Israel Wednesday morning (16th) as Hamas tried to divert attention from the historic signing ceremony in Washington where two Gulf Arab states established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

As President Donald Trump hosted the peace treaty signing ceremony at the White House Tuesday (15th), terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at Israel, sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis scrambling to reach bomb shelters.  The Iron Dome defense system shot down one of the rockets, but the second exploded on a street in the Port city of Ashdod, injuring five Israelis, one seriously and four moderately from shrapnel.

IDF aircraft retaliated with airstrikes at Hamas targets in Gaza, but overnight residents of a dozen communities that border Gaza were shocked out of bed by alerts starting at 4:30 a.m. when terrorists fired 13 rockets over the next hour.

Once radar detects incoming rockets and sets off alarms, people living in the small city of Sderot and other local towns and farming villages have only 15 seconds to reach shelter before the rockets explode.

Eight of the rockets fired on Wednesday (16th) were intercepted by Iron Dome and the others exploded in unpopulated areas, the army said.

The military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group announced that the morning attack was carried out as part of the “bomb for bomb” equation following Israeli Air Force retaliation.  Hamas spokesman Hazzem Qassem said that the rockets were a response to the “IDF attack.”

Following the successful signing of comprehensive peace agreements with two Arab nations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the rocket attack from Gaza was not unexpected.

“I am not surprised that the Palestinian terrorists fired at Israel precisely during the historic signing ceremony,” Netanyahu said before boarding a plane back to Israel.  “They want to move peace backwards; they will not succeed.  We will strike at anyone bent on attacking us and we will extend a hand in peace to anyone whose hand is extended in peace to us.”



During Peace Treaty Signing Rockets Fired At Southern Israel

The terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets at Ashdod and Ashkelon shortly after 8 p.m., Tuesday evening (15th), just as representatives of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain were poised to sign the historic Abraham Accords at the White House.

According to Israel’s Channel 13 News, five Israelis were treated for moderate to serious injuries from shrapnel at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod after one of the two rockets evaded the Iron Dome defense system and exploded near a shopping center.  Another eight residents were treated for shock.  Magen David Adom and police responders were on the scene, where heavy damage was reported.

Another rocket fired at Ashkelon was intercepted successfully, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported.

After the rocket fire, Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz held a security consultation with Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and provided directives to the IDF and security officials.

“On this historic evening, we received a reminder from our enemies that it is on us to always be strong and prepared to protect the residents of Israel in every arena and at every moment,” said Gantz.

Tuesday’s (15th) rocket fire comes barely two weeks after Hamas announced that it had reached an agreement through international mediators to end the latest round of cross-border violence with Israel.

Under the deal, Hamas halted launches of explosives-laden balloons and rocket fire into Israel, while Israel said it would ease restrictions that had been tightened in recent weeks.

As a result of indirect mediation efforts led by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar, Hamas said “several projects will be announced to serve our people in the Gaza Strip and contribute to mitigating” difficult living conditions.

Its statement didn’t detail any of the projects but it said conditions would return to “what they were before the escalation.”

Ceasefire notwithstanding, Hamas and Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party struck a deal last week for “joint resistance” against Israel as it seeks peace with its Arab neighbors.



Over 5,500 New Coronavirus Cases, As Government Rules Closing Schools Thursday

Israel’s school system will close Thursday (17th), the government ruled on Wednesday (16th), as the infection-rate hit a peak: 5,523 new cases in a single day.  Schools were originally supposed to shut down on Friday (18th).

The move came at the request of coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who sent a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday (15th) asking them to close schools immediately.

One out of 10 people who were tested for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday (15th) tested positive, the Health Ministry reported.  The death toll spiked to 1,147.  According to the commissioner, the spike is particularly centered on school-aged children, especially those 10 and up.

The push for closing schools early came only three days before the country is supposed to close down until October 11.

Israel will begin a three-week coronavirus lockdown beginning at the start of Rosh Hashanah on September 18th.



Ex-Albanian Minister Becomes First Muslim To Join ‘Combat Anti-Semitism Movement’

Valentina Leskaj, a former Albanian government minister from 2007-2017, joined the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) Advisory Board, thus becoming the first Muslim member of the board.

The CAM is a non-partisan, global, grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism in all its forms around the world.

She joins an impressive list of advisers leading the fight against anti-Semitism worldwide such as Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, former US Senator, Joe Lieberman, human rights icon Natan Sharansky, Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker, UK Lords John Mann and Eric Pickles, and acclaimed Harvard academic Dr. Ruth Wisse.

“The disease of anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly prominent in countries across the world.  It is not just a danger to Jews and Jewish communities, it is a threat to every decent society and to people of all backgrounds: Muslim, Christian and beyond,” Leskaj declared.

“Therefore, I have always been determined to fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism, wherever it is found,” she said.  “I am delighted to contribute to the important work being done by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and to join the distinguished names already on its Advisory Board.

While a member of the Albanian parliament, she served as minister of Labor and Social Affairs, deputy speaker of Parliament and vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe.

From 2013-2017, she was president of the parliamentary Albania-Israel Friendship Group and head of the Albanian Parliament Delegation for the Council of Europe.

“It is a real honor that Valentina Leskaj has agreed to become a member of our Advisory Board.  She is a hugely respected champion for human rights who has made a real impact not only in her home country, but across Europe,” said CAM director Sacha Roytman-Dratwa.

“She is also sending a crucial message that anti-Semitism is an important issue beyond Jewish communities, including the Muslim world, he said”



Turkish Hyper-Activity Reverberates Throughout The Middle East – Yossi Kupperwasser and Lanny Ben David

→ In recent months Turkey has increased its efforts to enhance its position as a regional power following in the path of the Ottoman Empire, adopting daring measures that border on megalomania at home, in the region, and internationally.  President Erdogan sees himself as the sultan of a resurgent Ottoman Empire and as the pillar of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.

→ A video recently broadcast by the Turkish Ministry of Information describes Turkey’s ambition to achieve superpower status.  It also displays a troubling appetite for Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia’s holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

→ Israel is perceived by Erdogan as a powerful rival that threatens Turkish and Islamic interests and promotes an ideology opposite to that of Turkey.

→ This can be seen through Israel joining the pragmatic Sunni camp in the region, led by the Emirates, Turkey’s sworn rival, that does not hesitate to confront Turkey in every arena including Libya, the eastern Mediterranean, Qatar, the Palestinian camp, and Saudi Arabia – the ultimate destination of Turkish hegemonic aspirations.

→ The Turkish provocation against Israel is reflected in the Turkish opposition to Israel’s normalization of ties with the Arab world, its attempts to thwart the plan to lay a gas pipeline from Israel to Europe, and in its championing the Palestinian cause, including that of Hamas.

→ At the same time, Erdogan recognizes Israel’s military and political power (especially its relations with the US, Europe and Russia) and realizes that without relations with Israel, its ability to intervene in the Palestinian system would diminish.  Turkey also recognizes the importance of diplomatic and economic ties with Israel.

(Kuperwasser and Lenny Ben-David both work for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)



Chattanooga Police Investigate Swastika-Spate In Tennessee

A bridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been defaced with swastikas, prompting a police investigation and condemnation from the city’s mayor.

NBC affiliate Channel 3 reported that the graffiti was found on the Walnut Street Bridge and in the Bluff View Art District.

A Chattanooga Police department spokesman, Jeremy Eames, said that the incident was under investigation, with security camera footage being examined.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said in a statement on Sunday (13th), “Early this morning, I learned that two of our city’s most beloved and beautiful public spaces had been covered with swastikas.”

Berke said that he has every confidence that the vandals will be identified and brought to justice soon.

“While we do not know the intent of those who perpetrated this act, we know that the end result is residents feeling less comfortable in their homes,” the mayor noted.  “Our city is resolved, as it always has been, to condemn anyone who seeks to intimidate, discriminate, or foment violence against any ethnic or religious group,”said Berke.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga said in a statement that it was “disturbed and saddened by the incident.”

“As a united Chattanooga Jewish community, we stand against all forms of hate,” it declared.  “As a faith community, as good citizens and as Americans, we condemn this act of anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.  Hate against one is hate against all.”