News Digest — 9/23/19

Airstrikes Again Target Iran-Backed Militia Base In Iraq

An airstrike was reported Sunday afternoon (22nd) in western Iraq, targeting a military base belonging to an Iran-backed force – the third such attack on the militia in a week and the fourth in a month.

“An unidentified aircraft targeted the area surrounding a military base next to the al-Murssinat (military) airport in the western part of the al-Anbar province,” Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen quoted sources as saying.

It added that the targeted military base belongs to the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias.

On Thursday (19th), Arabic-language media reported that unknown aircraft attacked PMF posts in the Bukamal region of eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least five people and wounding nine, after a similar strike two days earlier.

Certain Syrian and Iraqi outlets said Israel was suspected of being behind the strikes, although there were no public allegations by Syrian or Iraqi officials.

On September 9, aircraft targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in the Bukamal region, killing at least 18 fighters and destroying at least 8 storehouses.  A Syrian security official said at the time that Israeli jets were behind the attack but denied there were casualties.

Since mid-July, eight arms depots and training camps belonging to the PMF have been targeted in apparent attacks.

The Saudi owned al-Arabiya network reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group also maintains a presence in the Bukamal region.

The PMF has blamed Israel and the US for the string of blasts and drone sightings at the bases.  Israeli officials have not publicly commented on these allegations, although Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility.



IDF: Drone Captured By Syria Near Border Is Iran’s Not Israel’s

Syrian state news agency SANA announced on Saturday (21st) that authorities had sequestered an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with explosives, posting several photos of the drone without additional details.

Israel frequently conducts airstrikes and missile attacks inside war-torn Syria but rarely confirms them.  Israel says it targets mostly bases of Iranian forces and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said it was not clear if Syrian troops or Hezbollah had downed the drone.  Hezbollah has members in different parts of Syria where they are fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad’s forces.

On Saturday evening (21st), the IDF denied Syrian allegations regarding the drone, saying “it is, in fact, an Iranian aircraft,” reported the Times of Israel.

“Today we saw the Syrians prove that [Iranian commander Gen. Qassem] Soleimani does whatever he wants in Syria and doesn’t tell Assad’s regime what he is doing,” said the IDF’s Arabic spokesperson Avichai Adraee, according to the Times.

The incident came two days after another drone was destroyed over Aqraba, a suburb of the capital, Damascus.  That’s the same suburb where an Israeli airstrike killed two Hezbollah operatives last month.



Israel Begins Cutting Palestinian Electricity In West Bank Citing Debts

Israel’s national electric company said Sunday (22nd) it has begun reducing power supplies to Palestinian areas of the West Bank due to a financial dispute.

The Israel Electric Corporation said that it took the step because the Jerusalem District Electricity Co., the Palestinians’ main power distributor, has debts of roughly $485 million.

Ali Hamodeh, an official with the Palestinian distributor, said power is expected to be cut two hours daily in several Palestinian towns in the coming weeks.

He accused Israel of “exaggerating” the level of debt and called the power cuts “political.”

The Palestinians rely on Israel for nearly all of their electricity.

According to Al-Monitor, the Palestinian distributor received its first warning in August, prompting it to take out a $28.3 million loan to repay a portion of the debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.  This was deemed insufficient, however, and the IEC issued two additional warnings before taking action on Sunday (22nd) to reduce power to Palestinian areas.

Palestinian officials have decried the step as a form of “collective punishment,” according to the official PA Wafa news agency.

According to a report by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster on Saturday (21st), the IEC, fearing an escalation of violence, will cut power gradually and only in certain areas, stepping up the penalties gradually if the debts remain unpaid.



Kelly Craft Promises: Israel Will Have No Better Friend At UN

Kelly Craft, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wasted no time showing her support for Israel at last week’s UN Security Council debate.

“The United States has always supported Israel in the past.  The United States Supports Israel today. The United States will always support Israel moving forward.  Israel will have no better friend than Kelly Craft,” she said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon congratulated Craft on her new position and said, “We welcome your presence here and look forward to your voice being heard on behalf of the American people.”

“The United States will have no better friend than the State of Israel.  Ambassador Craft made it clear today that the US remains strongly committed to Israel and our security.  With her help, together we can continue to change the culture at the United Nations,” he added.

After his welcoming remarks to Craft, Danon addressed the danger that Iran poses to the world.

“Iran poses the greatest danger to regional stability and security.  Iran must be stopped. Not with smiles and handshakes, but with economic, political, diplomatic and any other pressure as necessary.  I call on the members of this esteemed Council to act against the Iranian violations and exert more pressure on Iran,” he said.

Craft, who once served as US ambassador to Canada, was appointed by President Trump to represent the United States at the United Nations after her predecessor Nikki Haley resigned at the end of 2018.

Last month, the US Senate approved Craft by a vote of 56 to 34 to represent the nation’s interests at the world body.



Austria’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor Dies At 106

VIENNA – The oldest Austrian Holocaust survivor, who lived through four concentration camps, has died at the age of 106, Vienna’s Jewish Community organization IKG said Friday (20th).

Marko Feingold, who survived Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland and three German concentration camps, died in the city of Salzburg on Thursday (19th) after a lung infection, Austrian news agency APA reported.

Despite his advanced age, Feingold had remained active in speaking out about the Holocaust, taking part in numerous conferences and events for schoolchildren.

“I must have spoken to around half a million people in all,” he told AFP in a 2018 interview, adding that he swore to himself in Auschwitz that he would tell his story.

Born on May 28, 1913, in the Austro-Hungarian empire in what is now Slovakia, Feingold was arrested in Prague and deported to Auschwitz in 1940.  From there he was transported to other concentration camps, including Dachau and Buchenwald.

Having lost his father and siblings in the camps, he was freed from Buchenwald when it was liberated by American forces in 1945.

Feingold then decided to go to Salzburg near the German border, which was in the American occupation zone.  There he founded a network which helped 100,000 Jews emigrate to Britain-administered Palestine.

He himself stayed in Austria despite the difficulties in the face of the country’s deep-rooted anti-Semitism.  It was impossible for him to find a job, so he struck out on his own, and started a clothing shop in Salzburg, and became very successful.

Feingold said once attitudes changed, he was “literally covered in honors,” including being received in 2018 by Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and other government leaders.