News Digest — 9/27/23

Israel’s Message To Hamas: End Violence Near Border If You Want Palestinian Laborers Inside Israel

Israel delivered a message to Hamas on Tuesday (26th) via UN envoy Tor Wennesland, who entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing in an effort to facilitate calm.  The message stipulated that once the violent demonstrations near the border fence cease and incendiary balloon launches toward Israel end, the crossing will resume operations for the movement of laborers.

According to the message, the level of economic and civil development in the Gaza Strip is directly linked to the level of the stability of Israel’s security.  Israeli sources have stated that there are no current plans to improve the well-being of the population in Gaza, while also emphasizing that Gaza is considered an Israeli interest.  Simultaneously, announcements from the Gaza Strip indicated preparations for protests at multiple locations along the fence, which were scheduled to begin on Tuesday afternoon (26th).

About a week ago, the decision to close the crossing was implemented in response to rioting on the border, initiated as an attempt to revive weekly unrest that had ceased three years ago.  The closure of the crossing has exerted significant pressure on the Gaza Strip, as each day that 18,500 Gaza workers are unable to commute to their jobs in Israel, it results in a staggering economic loss of over $2.6 million for Gaza.

Israeli sources revealed that Hamas has presented a new demand, advocating for a rise in the laborer quota by 1,500 individuals, which would allow for a daily entry of 20,000 Gazan laborers into Israel.  Currently, Israel has not consented to this request.  However, Israeli officials have clarified that if the border remains peaceful, the request will be carefully considered.  It is important to note that such a decision necessitates the approval of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protests’ prime objective is to secure more economic assistance by capitalizing on what the Gazan rioters perceive as Israeli vulnerability.  These protests, which have been ongoing for almost two weeks, involve various activities such as the deployment of explosives and gunfire, all with the support and encouragement of Hamas.

The closure of the crossing has had a significant impact on the fish industry in the Gaza Strip, which relies on the crossing for exporting goods.  The Gaza Ministry of Agriculture has estimated that the agriculture and fish industries are experiencing losses of around $260,000 per day due to the closure.

Additionally on Tuesday morning (26th), there were instances of incendiary balloons being launched toward the surrounding area.  Furthermore, on Monday (25th) there was renewed rioting along the fence, and the Israel Defense Forces carried out an attack on a Hamas military position using a remotely operated aircraft.  According to the IDF, a terrorist fired at their forces from the targeted position, prompting the soldiers to retaliate and successfully neutralize the threat.

Moreover, Monday (25th), just minutes after Yom Kippur ended, the IDF responded to incendiary balloons sent into Israeli territory by striking two Hamas positions within the Gaza Strip.  Following these incidents, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported that six individuals were injured during the riots, allegedly from gunfire by Israeli troops.



Gallant Heads To Berlin To Sign $3.5 Billion Arrow 3 Air Defense Deal

Israel is set to sign a letter of commitment for its largest-ever single defense contract on Thursday (28th), moving forward with selling $3.5 billion worth of the Arrow 3 air defense system to Germany.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will fly to Berlin for a two-day visit on Wednesday night (27th) in order to ink the deal for the Defense Ministry, which developed the system in cooperation with the United States.  The US gave its blessing to the sale in August.

While in Berlin, Gallant will also meet with German counterpart Boris Pistorisu, who is hosting the Israeli defense delegation.  The two will issue a joint declaration on cooperation between the respective defense establishments.

The deal not only sets a high water mark for israeli defense sales and German efforts to beef up defense capabilities amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, but also carries symbolic overtones, with the Jewish state selling defense systems to a nation that less than a century ago turned its military might toward Jewish extermination.

The sale will also make Germany the second country, after the US, to obtain the Arrow from Israel, a decision that a Defense Ministry official called significant. 

Arrow 3 is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems of its kind, crafted to intercept ballistic missiles while they pass through space, beyond Earth’s atmosphere.  The system is designed to destroy projectiles and their nuclear, biological, chemical or conventional warheads close to their launch sites, from a distance of up to 1,490 miles.  It is Israel’s topmost layer of air defense, complementing the shorter-range David Sling and Iron Dome systems.

Selling the system in Germany points to the high degree of trust between Jerusalem and Berlin, and highlights their close defense ties, an Israeli Defense Ministry official said.

Furthermore, the acquisition by Germany is expected to give NATO access to Arrow 3, as the system is expected to be interoperable with Europe’s most prominent strategic alliance.  The move is significant, as the European Union – 22 of whose 27 members are NATO signatories – leads global aid to war-torn Ukraine, and several countries are separately casting their own wary eyes toward thwarting Russian territorial ambitions.

The German government has led a push to bolster NATO’s air defenses in Europe after seeing Russia’s relentless missile strikes on Ukraine, urging allies to buy deterrence systems together.  More than a dozen European countries have so far signed up to the so-called European Sky Shield initiative.

Accompanying Gallant as part of the Israeli delegation are Defense Ministry Director General Eyal Zamir, Directorate for Defense R&D head Dani Gold, and Missile Defense Organization head Moshe Patel.  At the signing ceremony, Gallant will also be joined by the CEO and chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries.



Unprecedented: Israeli Minister Leads Delegation To Saudi Arabia

In a clear sign that a landmark diplomatic deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia has gained momentum, Israel’s Tourism Minister Haim Katz on Tuesday (26th) led an Israeli delegation to Riyadh to take part in a conference hosted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Katz’s office described his visit as unprecedented for an Israeli minister and said he would hold discussions with officials from across the Middle East.

Tuesday’s (26th) visit by Tourism Minister Katz appeared to further accelerate the countries’ push for normalization.  Before taking off for Saudi Arabia, Katz described tourism as a “bridge between nations.”

“Partnership in tourism-issues has the potential to bring hearts together and economic prosperity,” he said.

When asked about Katz’s visit, Ahmad Deek, the director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that the Palestinian Authority “is in continuous dialogue” about the developments with Saudi officials and “trusts in their support for the rights of our people.”



Hezbollah Journalist Films Self Within Distance Of IDF Tank On Border

A Lebanese journalist for Lebanese-affiliated Al-Manar TV filmed himself Tuesday (26th) standing next to an Israeli tank on the border between Israel and Lebanon, as UNIFIL peacekeeping forces appeared to stand by.

In a video posted to Al-Manar’s website, Ali Shoeib is seen moving within feet of the armored military vehicle, claiming it was encroaching on “liberated” Lebanese soil and deployed to protect nearby Israeli soldiers.

A separate clip shared by Shoeib, shared on X, showed a number of Lebanese soldiers standing on Lebanon’s side of the unmarked “Blue Line,” opposite Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border.  Peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stood between them, saying that they were in a “state of alert.”

In another video Shoeib showed himself standing in front of the tank as he said, “This tank will leave, while we children of this land will remain here, and these attackers will leave.”

The incident took place in the Mount Dov area which Lebanon claims and refers to as Shebaa Farms, it is one of several so-called enclaves along the border that are part of Israeli territory, but on the Lebanese side of the fence.

The tank and Israeli troops were guarding Defense Ministry employees working at the site as part of the “Fortified Galilee” project to build a new security fence along the Blue Line, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

In April, Hezbollah crossed the Blue Line demarcation in Mount Dov to establish two tents manned by operatives from the Iran-backed terror group.  One tent was removed after Israel sent a message to Hezbollah threatening an armed confrontation if it did not dismantle the outpost soon.  But the second has remained there for months, with no military action.

Aside from the tents, Hezbollah has instigated other provocative actions along the frontier in recent months.  In mid-July, IDF troops filmed camouflaged Hezbollah members walking along the border near the northern Israeli town of Dovev.  IDF troops did not engage them.  The patrol was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

On July 15, a group of Lebanese, including a parliamentarian, crossed the border into Israeli sovereign territory, before being chased back to Lebanon by IDF troops who fired warning shots.



Secrets Of First Temple-Era Inscription Finally Revealed

Using advanced imaging techniques, a Biblical scholar has decoded a rock-engraved inscription from the First Temple era that was discovered in 1982 but whose contents had never been fully deciphered, Ynet reported Tuesday (26th).

Prof. Gershon Galil of the Institute for Biblical and Ancient History Research, said that the four lines on the 27cm x 23cm tablet, which is a fragment of a much larger stone, refer to three or four actions King Hezekiah is most famous for, as per other inscriptions glorifying him that have been found to date.

These were the building of a tunnel to bring water from a pool outside Jerusalem’s walls into the city in the face of an expected siege to protect the vital resource; accruing huge wealth; and winning a successful war against the Philistines.

Many words in the four extant lines that could not be seen until now were revealed, including the length of the water tunnel (two hundred thousand cubits), the fact that “silver and gold was amassed,” and that “men from there” were “displaced,” the latter word having been decrypted without its object.  According to Galil, the missing words referred to the displacement of people following war with the Philistines, as the same verb is used in the Scriptures in a similar context of displacing people from their land.

“As is known,” he explained, “in the inscriptions of Sennacherib. It tells of the exile of Padi, the Philistine king of Ekron, by Hezekiah to Jerusalem.”

The discovery was made thanks to two digital techniques, photogrammetry, and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).

Researchers used RTI to discover that damaged lettering in the famed Mesha Stele included a reference to the “House of David” in a Moabite battle with Omri, “King of Israel,” to prove again the ancient Jewish kingdom’s existence from a non-biblical source.

According to Galil, the fourth thing Hezekiah was most famous for was what led to the difficulty in understanding this fragment, as well as others that have been found over the years.

The Biblical account of his reign emphasizes his righteousness and determination to return the people to worshiping God rather than idols.  Those opposing Hezekiah’s religious devotion intentionally destroyed inscriptions mentioning his name and his projects after his death,” he said.

“All of Hezekiah’s inscriptions were intentionally shattered and defaced in an aggressive attempt to hide them,” Galil noted.

The holiday of Sukkot, which begins this Friday night (29th), will be the 41st anniversary of the stone tablet’s discovery.