News Digest — 9/28/23

Israel Security Forces Bust Weapons Production Facility

Israeli security forces busted a weapons production facility and seized weapons during raids throughout the West Bank overnight Tuesday (26th), the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Wednesday morning (27th).

Four lathes for producing weapons like Carlo submachine guns were confiscated by the Israeli Defense Forces, Shin Bet, and Israel Border Police in Hebron, along with a few dozen 9mm cartridges, AR-15 type rifle parts, an old hunting rifle, and Hamas paraphernalia.

Two people were arrested along with the weapons manufactory.  Eleven other people were arrested in Qalqilya, Tubas, Nablus, Beit Duqqu, Beit Ummar, Shuyukh Al’arrub, and Dheisha.  Military equipment and three weapons were seized in Tubas, and in Beit  Ummar two Carlos were confiscated.

Rioters and gunmen engaged with soldiers at these sites, but no casualties were suffered by the IDF.  In Qalqilya soldiers encountered gunfire, thrown explosives, and rock-throwing.  Rocks were also thrown at troops in Shuyukh Al’arrub and Nablus.

The IDF has conducted sweeping raids and operations against terrorist infrastructure during the High Holy Days.  On Saturday night (23rd), security forces destroyed a terrorist command center and explosives arsenal in Nur Shams.

Israel Police have been operating at a high level of alertness during the holiday season and on Wednesday (27th) said that they were preparing for Sukkot, which starts on Friday night (29th).  Police presence will be heavy during prayer services at the Kotel on Monday (10/2) and next Wednesday (10/4).  A march is also expected on Wednesday (10/4), to which hundreds of police will be deployed.

The security tensions have also continued along the Gaza border, with riots continuing for a 12th day.  Terrorist groups have been launching incendiary balloons during the violence, sparking fires in Israeli territory.  Two fires were started in the Be’eri forest on Wednesday (27th.  The forest has been the site of several incendiary balloon fires.

National Unity MK Benny Gantz called to stop the arson attacks at a memorial service for Colonel Nabiya Meri on Wednesday (27th).

“If Hamas thinks that the way to advance civil policy is to burn fields and terrorize the area, the result should be and will be completely the opposite,” said Gantz.



Gallant Warns Hamas: ‘We Won’t Hesitate To Use Our Full Force’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant addressed the recent Arab riots on the Gaza border Wednesday evening (27th) during the central event marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

“This evening it is important that we remind the terrorist elements in Gaza of the real power dynamics between the IDF and Hamas and its partners.  We don’t want an escalation and we don’t want to fight, but if we reach a situation where it is necessary to act, Operation Shield and Arrow should serve as a reminder to any terrorist elements what the capabilities of our security systems are,” Gallant said.

“If Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers are harmed, we will not hesitate to use the full force at our disposal to ensure the safety of our citizens, and to restore peace to the sector,” he added.


The riots on the Gaza border in recent weeks have seen terrorists resume the use of incendiary balloons to set fires in Israeli territory.

Defense Minister Gallant left late Wednesday evening (27th) for a 2-day visit to Germany.  Israel sold the Arrow 3 air defense system to Germany for $3.5 billion and the two nations will ink the agreement in a signing ceremony during his visit.



Israel Gets Green Light To Join US Visa Waiver Program

The US administration announced Wednesday (27th) that it is admitting Israel into the United State Visa Waiver Program (VWP), allowing visa-free entry by Israeli citizens from Nov. 30, officials said.

The decision, which Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday (25th) was expected, is a win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government, whose relations with Washington have been somewhat strained.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday (27th) announced the designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program.

“Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, and the stringent requirements it entails, will make both of our nations more secure,” they said in a statement.

Palestinian Americans both living in the West Bank and living in the United States now have the ability to enter Israel visa free, and fly in and out of Ben-Gurion International Airport, reducing barriers to travel for these Americans, the US said.

For admission to the program that allows visitors to stay for up to 90 days without a visa, Washington requires countries to meet requirements on issues such as counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management.  Countries must also treat all US travelers equally, regardless of what other passports they hold.

In Israel’s case, that means free passage for Palestinian Americans at Ben-Gurion International Airport.  Some Palestinians have protested against Israel’s entry into the VWP, citing what they say are decades of issues at Israel’s borders.  However, in a pilot period since July 20, Israel has eased access for Palestinian Americans through its borders and the West Bank.

Between 45,000 and 60,000 Palestinian Americans live in the West Bank, a US official estimated.  An Israeli official put the figure lower, saying that of 70,000 to 90,000 Palestinian Americans worldwide, 15,000 to 20,000 are West Bank residents.

There were previously 40 countries in the VWP, with nations added infrequently, Croatia being the most recent, in 2021.

On Tuesday (26th), the American -Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee filed a suit against the Department of Homeland Security , seeking to block Israel’s entry to the program. 

A US judge in Detroit denied an emergency motion on procedural grounds, saying the department had not been provided proper notice of the lawsuit.



OPINION: Netanyahu Knows That Erdogan Can’t Be Trusted  – By Enes Kanter Freedom

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first-ever meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week might seem like a welcome sign of thawing between the long-strained countries.

After years of bad blood, the two leaders spoke on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly about efforts to normalize Saudi-Israeli relations and other issues.  Erdogan later met with a group of Jewish leaders, denouncing anti-Semitism as a “crime against humanity.”

It was a different story than past Erdogan visits  to New York, like when he compared Israeli actions in Gaza to the Holocaust and cast Israel’s history as an attempt to wipe out the Palestinians.

“Our ties are growing stronger,” Netanyahu declared Tuesday (26th), picking up from where his predecessor Yair Lapid left off in trying to mend bilateral relations.

In reality, this is exactly the narrative Turkey’s strongman hopes to tell – and Netanyahu has every reason to see straight through it.

Serving as Israel’s prime minister during the peak of Turkish relations, in the 1990s and at their lowest point in the 2010s, few world leaders have had a better view of Erdogan’s lack of scruples and his destructive ideology.

But, if he needed a reminder, Israel authorities revealed last week that they discovered 16 tons of rocket-making material hidden in a shipment from Turkey bound for the Hamas terror group in Gaza, which has long counted on support from Ankara.

For the moment, cozying up to Netanyahu is convenient for Erdogan.  But as soon as it suits him, Turkey’s president won’t hesitate to again turn his back on Israel, regardless of whether it serves his people’s interests.

What’s behind the reconciliation?  In part, Erdogan needs all the help he can get, facing economic pressures, public dissatisfaction, and a slew of regional challenges.  Friendly relations with Israel are now expedient:  offering strategic muscle, a boost of tourism, and an olive branch for the Biden administration.

Fresh off Erdogan’s closest election race ever – in which he could not muster a first-round majority – American support has become especially precious (and that means being nice to America’s allies).

But, as Netanyahu knows firsthand, Erdogan has spent much of his two decades in office trying to turn the Jewish state from a potential friend of Turkey into a public enemy, fueling anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hostility.

The two nations have little underlying reason for animosity.  In 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim majority state to recognize Israel.  Amid the process of the 1990s, they saw greater cooperation across trade, military, tourist, cultural, and humanitarian areas, as their citizens grew closer than ever.

ERDOGAN’s RISE to power in 2003 set a fuse that would help to ignite those ties, just as it has done to many of Turkey’s prospects.  While relations remained friendly for a time, Erdogan seized on Israel’s 2008-2009 military operation in the Gaza Strip, leading a charge of international censure.

The next year, he broke off relations over the Mavi Marmara incident.  Instead of working with Israeli authorities to provide genuine humanitarian aid to Gaza, Erdogan got the crisis he wanted.

In 2013, just 2% of Turks told pollsters they had a favorable view of Israel, the lowest mark for any country.  Although relations became somewhat restored, things would later escalate again, – with Erdogan comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany and Netanyahu to Hitler, and recalling Turkey’s ambassador after the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem.

Perhaps more destructive, is Erdogan’s support for Hamas, which for years has looked to Ankara for political, financial and logistical backing.  Turkey has hosted Hamas leaders, granted passports to known terrorists, and has even welcomed an Istanbul headquarters for the group since 2014.  This past May, Turkey claimed it busted an 11 person Mossad cell operating in the country to surveil Iranian threats.  

At the cultural level, Erdogan’s attempt to infuse Turkish society with his strain of Islamist ethno-nationalism has not spared Israel.  IMPACT-se, an Israel-based nonprofit that studies educational materials in the region, finds that the Turkish curriculum has been “significantly radicalized” in recent years – with Christians and Jews portrayed as “infidels” and a demonization of Zionism that verges on anti-Semitism.  Erdogan’s own son-in-law has himself financed anti-Semitic conspiracy materials about Jews and Israel, helping fuel a poisonous media environment.

As one of too many Turks who has faced personal retribution for speaking out against Erdogan, I know that Israel has no easy choices.  It lives in a tough neighborhood, and has legitimate reasons to engage with Turkey, sharing areas of concern like energy, security, and the environment.  More thawing is already in the works., with Erdogan describing plans for a visit to Jerusalem.

Yet the defense of democracy and human rights doesn’t always have to conflict with national interests for Israel, both would be better served if its leaders remember who they are dealing with in Erdogan – a brutal dictator who can’t be trusted as far as the narrowest point on the Bosporus (the world’s narrowest strait, the Istanbul Canal separating Anatolia from Thrace).



Iran Claimed To Launch Imaging Satellite Into Orbit As Tensions Simmer With The West

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran claimed on Wednesday (27th) that it has successfully put an imaging satellite into space.

The state-run IRNA news agency, quoting the country’s Communication Minister Isa Zarepour, said the Noor-3 satellite had been put into an orbit 280 miles above the Earth’s surface.

There was no immediate acknowledgement from Western officials of the launcher of the satellite being put into orbit.  Iran has had a series of failed launches in recent years.

Zarepour said the aerospace arm of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched the satellite carrier, which has had success in launching satellites from its previously secret launch program.  Authorities did not immediately release images of the launch.

The United States has alleged that Iran’s satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  The US intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment claims such a satellite launch vehicle “shortens the timeline” to an intercontinental ballistic missile for Iran as it uses “similar technologies.”

Iran, which has long claimed it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component.  Israel accuses it of secretly continuing a nuclear weapons program Tehran says it abandoned in 2003, noting uranium enrichment to levels that have no civilian use and repeated threats to annihilate the Jewish state.