News Digest — 9/21/22

Report: On Eve Of Jewish New Year, Israel’s Population Nears 10 Million

Israel’s population reached 9,593,000, said a report published Tuesday (20th), on the eve of the Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah and as the year 5782 – according to the Jewish calendar – ends.

In its annual report, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) says that the country’s population is on course to reach 10 million by the end of 2024, will be 15 million by late 2048, and 20 million by 2065.

The Israeli population grew by 187,000 (about 2%) over the past year.  According to the CBS, 7,069,000 residents of the state are Jews (about 74% of the population), 2,026,000 are Arabs (about 21%), and the rest are defined as other – i.e. Christians who are not Arabs, other religions, and people without religious classification in the Interior Ministry.

Some 177,000 babies were born in Israel this year, 49,000 people made Aliyah – or immigrated, and 2,000 Israelis returned from living abroad, according to the CBS records.

Meanwhile, 53,000 Israelis passed away this year, some 4,400 of them due to COVID-19 complications.  In addition thousands left the country, some for a short period of time, such as for education.

An Israeli male’s life expectancy is 80.5 years, while a female in Israel lives an average of 84.6 years, one of the world’s highest.

CBS data also shows that 45.3% of Jews in the country define themselves as secular, 19.2% consider themselves marginally observant, 13.9% are partially religious, 10.7% are religious and 10% are ultra-Orthodox.

Figures show that 89.3% of Israelis are satisfied with their lives.  Among Jews that percentage has reached 91.5%, compared to 70.7% among Arabs.  The report also showed that 70.4% of Jews are satisfied with their economic situation, compared to 51.1% of Arabs.

The CBS said that 74% of Israelis live in cities, 15% in local councils, 10.4% in regional councils, and the rest in communities without municipal status.



Suspected Terrorist In Killing of Woman, 84, Found Dead After Apparent Suicide

The body of a Palestinian suspected of killing an elderly woman Tuesday evening (20th), in what security officials described as a terror attack, was discovered Wednesday morning (21st) in an abandoned building in Tel Aviv. 

The man was found dead in a building on Bar Kochba Street, close to the city’s central Dizengoff Street.

Police officers at the scene,  including Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, believe Mousa Sarsour, 28, a Palestinian from Qalqilya – died by suicide.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops arrested five suspects in the town of Sarta, among them Sarsour’s relatives, in connection with the attack during overnight West Bank raids.

The 84-year-old victim was named Wednesday morning (21st) as Shulamit Rachel Ovadia.

Ovadia was killed by blows to the head from a blunt object on a street in Holon, a Tel Aviv suburb.  Police were called to the scene after a resident heard her scream, arriving to find her seriously wounded.

In the ensuing hours, officials said the Shin Bet security agency was involved in the investigation, amid growing suspicions that she was the target of a terror attack.

CCTV footage showed a man in dark clothes trailing Ovadia as she walked toward her house, then attacking her from behind, landing multiple blows and fleeing the scene.  Nothing was stolen from her.

“We have no idea what happened, we are in shock,” Ovadia’s son-in-law told Channel 13.  “She was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Sarsour had a permit to enter Israel for work.  He was reportedly questioned twice by police in recent weeks, but was released after authorities found that his permit was valid and there were no warnings listed against him, as he did not have any prior security offenses.

The killing came less than two weeks after police said they had thwarted a terror attack planned by a Palestinian man found in Jaffa carrying a gun and explosives, with tensions running high in recent months.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, was updated on the attack.  “This is a shocking attack by a despicable cowardly terrorist who murdered an elderly woman who could not fight back,” he said through a spokesperson.

Israeli troops have also repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids in the West Bank.  The military launched the operation after a series of deadly attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May.

More than 2,000 suspects have been detained since the beginning of this year, according to the Shin Bet security service.

In addition to the five suspects allegedly involved in the Holon attack, another six wanted Palestinians were arrested by troops overnight across the West Bank, the IDF said.



Palestinian Authority Bolsters Forces Amid Growing Unrest Over Hamas Member’s Death

Palestinian Authority forces including snipers, were positioned in West Bank cities on Tuesday (20th), hours after the arrest of Musab Shtayyeh, a senior Hamas operative, by the PA security.

Hundreds of Palestinian youths in Nablus hurled rocks at the PA’s armored vehicles as gunfire was heard across the city throughout the day and during the funeral of a Hamas member killed in clashes earlier.

Militants also smashed several security cameras belonging to the PA across the city, burned tires and fired at local media stations.  Riots were also reported in nearby villages and in Balata.

More demonstrations were expected in Jenin and Ramallah.

Palestinian factions in Nablus announced a general strike, demanding Shtayyeh’s release, warning the PA not to hand over the militant to Israeli authorities.  Nablus’ An-Najah University suspended in-campus learning and sent their students home, as institutions of the Palestinian government were closed.

A Hamas spokesperson slammed Palestinian Head, Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently in New York for the United Nation’s General Assembly – and said he was working in the service of the Israeli security apparatus and against the Palestinian people.

The spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, Nabil Abu Rudeina, called for “calm.”

“We must maintain national unity and respect for law and order.  We must focus on our main battle against the Israeli occupation and for the liberation of Jerusalem,” Rudeina said.



European Union Condemns Iranian President’s Holocaust Denial

The European Union’s mission to the State of Israel condemned the comments of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who questioned the reality of the Holocaust in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday evening (18th).

“The EU is appalled by and condemns the recent comments made by Iranian President Raisi, in which he seems to question whether the Holocaust happened.  We remain committed to combat any form of anti-Semitism and any attempt to condone, deny, justify or trivialize the Holocaust,” the mission wrote on Twitter Tuesday (20th).

“Anti-Semitism & Holocaust denial are incompatible with universal values.  Such denial is insulting to the memory of the millions of people who died terrible, inhumane deaths in the Shoah.  No one should ever forget the victims of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis & their proxies.”

Raisi gave his first interview with a western media outlet on Sunday (18th) when he spoke with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes.”

When asked if he believed the Holocaust happened, Raisi replied that “historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians.  There are some signs that it happened.  If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”

Raisi also called Israel a “false regime” during the interview.



Israel To Seize Millions Of Shekels In Terrorist Funding

Israel has begun seizing millions of shekels that were transferred by the Palestinian Authority to the private bank accounts of terrorists who were involved in severe terror attacks.

According to a report by Israel Hayom, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a seizure order on approximately ten million NIS, of funds that were transferred to the terrorists.  The orders were signed as part of a larger effort by the Ministry of Defense to fight against terror organizations and the regular payments made by the Palestinian Authority to security prisoners who were involved in terrorist operations.

The funds that Gantz has authorized the seizure of, are paid by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists in Israeli prisons, discharged terrorists, and families of terrorists who are serving in Israeli prisons.

The orders were signed following cooperative work by the Israel Security Agency, the National Bureau for Counterterror Financing, Israel Police, the Tax Authority, and other authorities.  The order pertains to 86 terrorists who are currently jailed or have been freed and their families, and seizes a sum of approximately 10 million NIS.  In accordance with the order, the banks that transfer the funds, those that the terrorists and their families have their accounts in, were contacted and ordered to “withhold the funds.”  

The funds which are seized will be transferred to the public custodian.

This is the second time that Israel is seizing the funds of terrorists.  It previously took such steps a few years ago.  The Department of Defense clarified that this is not a one-time operation, and it will continue into the future.

Defense Minister Gantz commented on the effort: “We will continue to fight the funding of terror and strike it any way possible, we will continue to act against those who are involved in terror, but at the same time we will also strengthen the financial and social situations of those living under the Palestinian Authority who are not involved in terror, out of a will for stability and growth.”