News Digest — 9/7/21

Ahead Of Rosh Hashanah, Israel’s COVID Infection Reaches 2-Week Low

As Israelis were preparing to celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah on Monday evening (6th), health officials reported in the afternoon hours that the country’s coronavirus infection rate had hit a two-week low.

The Health Ministry said 5,810 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday (5th).  After more than 115,000 tests had been conducted, the infection rate now stands at 5.31% – the lowest it has been since August 19.

The ministry did not post any other data on COVID in its daily update due to the Jewish New Year, which began Monday evening (6th) and ends Wednesday evening (8th).

The Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, however, said that 689 patients are currently being treated in hospitals due to complications from the virus.

The center, which is part of the IDF’s Intelligence unit, also said that 49.9% of the newly diagnosed are under the age of 19, some 30.2% are between the ages of 20 and 39, 15.1% are aged 40-59 and only 4.5% are aged 60 and over.

“Along with the optimistic signs of a certain halt in infection spread, it remains to be seen whether the reopening of the Israel education system and High Holidays will affect the current trend,” said the center in a statement.

It added that in order to overcome the fourth virus wave, authorities and the public must continue with the vaccination campaign, continue to wear masks in confined spaces and enforce quarantine on new arrivals in the country.



IDF Strikes In Gaza Following Incendiary Balloon Attacks

IAF aircraft attacked Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday night (6th), in response to the firing of incendiary balloons into southern Israel.

The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement that the airstrikes targeted a Hamas rocket manufacturing site and a military compound in Khan Yunis, where a concrete plant used to build terrorist tunnels is located.

“The IDF will continue to respond strongly to terrorist attempts and considers the Hamas terror organization responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.” the statement said.

Earlier on Monday (6th), three fires broke out in open areas in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council as a result of incendiary balloons fired from the Strip.

Last week, IDF fighter jets attacked a military compound of the Hamas terror organization which is used for training and the production of weapons.

A shaft of a terrorist tunnel near Jabalya was also attacked.

The IDF said the attacks were carried out in retaliation for the firing of incendiary balloons and the violent riots in the Gaza Strip.  

Israel just several days ago approved relief measures for Gaza, including the expansion of the fishing area in the Strip of up to 15 nautical miles.

In addition, the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing was expanded for the transfer of equipment and goods.

Last Tuesday (8/31), Kan11 News reported that the Israel government had approved the entry of construction materials intended for the private sector in the Gaza Strip, and not just for humanitarian projects as has been the case until now.  This was the first such approval since the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls in May.

According to a report, dozens of trucks with cement, iron and gravel have been brought into the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing over the past few days.



Israel On Manhunt For Terrorists: Six Security Prisoners Escape Overnight

Six security prisoners escaped early Monday morning (6th) from Gilboa Prison in the north of Israel, using a tunnel they had dug.

About an hour after guards noticed the prisoners were missing, the escape tunnel was discovered, Hebrew-language N12 News reported.

Helicopters and skimmers are patrolling the area.

Investigators estimate that the excavation of the tunnel took years, and said that outside the prison area six readied vehicles were waiting to take the escapees directly to the Palestinian Authority-run territories.

Among the escaped prisoners was  Zakaria Zabeidi, former commander of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin who is suspected of carrying out a series of terrorist attacks.

Residents of the PA city celebrated with fireworks upon learning of the escape.

According to a TV report, farmers working in the area saw the men fleeing and thought they were fugitives and reported the incident to police.

It is suspected that the prisoners may have even gone to Jordan.  

Internal Security Minister Amir Bar-Lev said that “it may take a day, two days, or weeks, but we will catch the prisoners,” Channel 13 reported.  

“This is a serious incident that requires the efforts of all security services,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

Meanwhile, the remaining prisoners in the Gilboa facility were moved to other prisons across Israel.



Croatia Joins Growing List Of Nations Boycotting Durban IV Event   

Croatia has announced that it will be boycotting the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 2001 Durban conference, known as the Durban IV conference, which will take place later this month.

The September 14th event will occur during the opening session of the 76th United Nations General Assembly.  It has been widely condemned by many countries for being a vehicle for reaffirming the original Durban conference, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noted was “permanently tainted as a notorious vehicle to promote anti-Semitism and incite hatred against Israel.”

By refusing to attend the conference, Croatia joins a growing list of countries that have stated their intention not to attend, including Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany and Bulgaria.

All Durban Conferences, including the upcoming Durban IV event, “reaffirm” the original Durban Declaration in its entirety, Jewish groups have noted.

Commemorating the original Durban conference is “outrageous and shameful,” said the ADL.

The original event, held in Durban South Africa, descended into an anti-Semitic hatefest, with participants distributing anti-Semitic documents, including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and flyers praising Hitler.



Jewish Population Rises To 15.2 Million Worldwide

Days before the new Hebrew calendar year of 5782, the number of Jews worldwide stood at approximately 15.2 million compared to 15.1 million in 5781, according to newly released statistics by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

In Israel the number of Jews is close to 6.9 million, while 8.3 million live outside the Jewish state, including around 6 million in the United States.  The updated estimate by Professor Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be published in the American Jewish Yearbook 2021.

The numbers include those who define themselves as Jews and who do not identify with another religion.

The percentage of Jews living in Israel, from Jews worldwide, stands at 45.3%.  The number of Jews living in the United States has increased by an estimated 300,000 according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

“The year 5781 was very challenging, living in the shadow of a global epidemic, yet more than anything, it taught us the true meaning of mutual responsibility among the Jewish people,” said Acting Jewish Agency Chairman, Isaac Herzog.

“Tens of thousands of new immigrants came to Israel with the help of the Jewish Agency despite the extreme difficulties in international travel, and thousands more young Jews came to Israel on Masa volunteer and career development programs,” said Herzog.

Updated Jewish population figures from additional countries include:

France: 446,000; Canada: 393,000; Great Britain: 292,000; Argentina: 175,000; Russia: 150,000; Germany: 118,000; Australia: 118,000; Brazil: 91,500; South Africa: 52,000; Ukraine: 43,000; Hungary: 47,000: Mexico: 40,000; The Netherlands: 30,000; Belgium: 29,000; Italy: 27,000; Switzerland: 18,500; Chile: 16,000; Uruguay: 16,000; Sweden: 15,000; Turkey: 14,500; Spain: 13,000; Austria: 10,000 and Panama: 10,000.

Around 27,000 Jews live in Arab and Muslim states. 

There are dozens of countries worldwide with Jewish populations of 500 or less including Cuba, the Philippines, South Korea, Slovenia, Bolivia, Cyprus, Syria and Egypt.  

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, there are at least several thousand Jews waiting to make Aliyah to Israel.