July 27, 2018

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Hamas goes on alert, vows revenge, as IDF kills 3 fighters after soldier shot

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, announced Thursday morning that its forces were going on high alert, deploying at the highest readiness level in expectation of a possible full-blown war with Israel.

The announcement followed Wednesday night’s sniper fire from Gaza that moderately wounded an IDF officer near Kissufim, which was followed by retaliatory strikes by IDF tanks and planes that targeted multiple Hamas installations and left three members of the terror group dead.

The soldier injured by sniper fire from southern Gaza on Wednesday was rushed to Soroka hospital in Beersheba, where he underwent surgery for gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, according to a hospital spokesperson. His condition was initially described as serious, but improved after the surgery. He is currently said to be in moderate condition.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes. It named them as 28-year-old Ahmad al-Basous, 29-year-old Abada Farawna and 27-year-old Muhammed al-Ara’er.

Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, later said the three were its members.

“Israel will pay in blood for its latest crimes,” the group said in a Thursday morning statement.

Following the exchange of fire, nine rockets were launched early Thursday from Gaza toward Israeli towns, eight landing in uninhabited areas and one shot down by the Iron Dome system. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Rocket sirens rang out in the Eshkol region just after 5:30 a.m., sending residents of three communities in the area scrambling into bomb shelters.

Earlier, sirens had sounded in the Hof Ashkelon, Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Hanegev areas at about 11:30 p.m. and just after midnight.

The IDF responded to the rocket fire, firing tank shells at seven Hamas posts along the border.

Late Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a meeting at army headquarters in Tel Aviv with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to discuss the rising tensions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was updated by the group by telephone, according to Army Radio.

The outburst of violence came after several days of calm following intense Israeli airstrikes in the Strip over the weekend in retaliation for the shooting death of an IDF soldier on the border Friday. On Tuesday, UN mediator Nickolay Mladenov said the sides were “minutes from war” before a tacit ceasefire was reached.

According to the IDF, the sniper fire came as a group of IDF soldiers arrived at a part of the fence that saw a group of 20 minors rioting on the other side. The minors were used as a decoy by the sniper to fire on the soldiers.

Some Hebrew media reports cited initial army assessments that the sniper was not acting on behalf of Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza. Military sources told Army Radio late Wednesday, however, that Hamas had encouraged the demonstration by young Gazans at the fence, drawing an IDF patrol, and then its snipers opened fire on the soldiers.

The sources said the same sequence played out on Friday, when IDF soldier Aviv Levi was shot dead by a Gaza sniper at the border.



No decision from security cabinet on death penalty for terrorists

The security cabinet on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on whether to advance a bill calling for capital punishment for terrorists.  Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, who sponsored the bill that passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset in January, said he was “disappointed” by the non-decision.  “We expect that an additional discussion will be held as soon as possible to finish the process and quickly complete the legislation,” he said.  Prior to the security cabinet discussion, Liberman posted on Twitter that “finally the death penalty for terrorists will come for a decision.”

“I am sure that my ministerial colleagues understand that we need all the means possible in the war on terrorism,” Liberman wrote. “A terrorist who slaughters a family does not need to return home. There is no reason we should be more enlightened than the United States and Japan in the war on terrorism.”

Both the US and Japan have capital punishment.  The Prime Minister’s Office did not issue any statement about Wednesday’s security cabinet meeting.  In January the Knesset voted 52-49 in a preliminary vote for a bill that would make it easier for the military courts to sentence terrorists to death. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time he supported the death penalty for terrorists in “extreme cases.”  Capital punishment was a central part of Yisrael Beytenu’s plank in the 2015 elections.

Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Beit (Israel Security Agency) reportedly told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committee in December that he was opposed to the death penalty. In the past, some senior security officials have opposed the idea out of the fear that it would only spur more terrorism.

Lior Akerman, a former IDF brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet, said on Kan Bet radio said that the death penalty would not deter terrorists.  “Those who set out to murder and carry out suicide attacks are going from the premise that they will not return alive,” he said.   “They want 72 virgins [in heaven] and payments for their families, and they will get all that if they are given the death penalty. This will only increase their fame.”

Akerman said that while the death penalty may serve a desire for vengeance, it will not deter attacks and will give the terrorists “international legitimization.”



Iranian general warns Trump that ‘nation of martyrdom’ is waiting for him

TEHRAN, Iran — A top Iranian general said his forces were ready if US President Donald Trump followed through on his warning that Iran would “suffer consequences” if Tehran threatened the United States.

Though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday there was no need for him to “respond to any nonsensical comment,” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who heads the elite Quds Force of Iran’s hardline paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said on Thursday that he had an obligation to reply.

“As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to Trump’s threats. If he wants to use the language of threat, he should talk to me, not to the president,” Reuters quoted him as saying, citing comments reported by the news website Young Journalists Club, which is affiliated with state-run television.

“Trump should know that we are a nation of martyrdom and that we await him,” Soleimani said. “We are ready to confront you.”

He called Trump a “gambler” and said, “You will start the war but we will end it.”

“Trump’s language is still the ethics of nightclubs and gambling halls,” he continued.

Following his Sunday warning tweet against threatening the US, Trump suggested on Tuesday that talks were an option, saying “we’re ready to make a real deal.”

Earlier, Rouhani gave a speech warning the US that a military confrontation with Iran would result in the “mother of all wars.” He also directly addressed Trump. “Do not play with the lion’s tail,” he said, “because you will regret it eternally.”

The threaten-and-negotiate tactic seemed to mirror that employed by Trump against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom the president also sparred with on Twitter before a historic summit in May.

The back-and-forth came after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal forged under former president Barack Obama. The move set in motion a renewal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic that were removed once the landmark accord was implemented in January 2016.

Those sanctions are now set to be reimposed in November, causing more than 50 international firms to exit the Iranian market, according to State Department policy and planning director Brian Hook.

The Iran nuclear deal — which was also concluded with other world powers, including Germany, France, England, Russia, and China — still technically remains in place, as the other countries have vowed to remain a party to the accord despite America’s absence.

Iran has said it will not renegotiate the hard-won 2015 pact.



Double whammy: female IDF officer downs Syrian jet and drone

Captain Or Na’aman commanded the Patriot battery which shot down a Syrian fighter jet over Israel’s northern Golan Heights on Tuesday, the IDF has confirmed to The Jerusalem Post.

As the commander of the Air Force’s 138th Battalion’s Patriot battery, Na’aman was also in charge of the interception of a Syrian drone which fell south of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) almost two weeks to the day after the downing of the jet.

The Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet was intercepted Tuesday by two Patriot missiles launched from Safed after it penetrated two kilometers into Israeli airspace. The pilot, identified as Colonel Umran Mare of the Syrian coastal city of Tartus, was confirmed to have been killed.

Israel says it shot down the jet after it entered Israeli airspace from the Golan Heights border.

While it is now believed that the pilot likely made a navigation error, the incident is still considered by Jerusalem as a serious breach of Israeli sovereignty.

Syria confirmed that the plane, which was taking part in an offensive against Islamic State fighters in the Yarmouk Basin, was downed by Israel – but Damascus has denied that it crossed into Israeli airspace.

According to a report by the Ynet news site, Russian officials protested the downing of the jet claiming that it had not breached Israeli airspace.

Israel then presented clear radar images which “unequivocally” proved that the Syrian jet had flown into Israel.

On Tuesday a Lebanese news site quoted a Syrian military officer as saying that Damascus has no intention of rushing into a war with Israel after the downing of the jet but that “the response… will come soon enough.”

“You will not have to wait long for a response, but we’ll get there in a few steps. First, we need to finish all the ongoing military operations in the country. The direct response to the Israeli forces will come at an appropriate time.

The final step will be thwarting any attempts to remove the Syrian allies from the region,” he was quoted by the El Nashra news site as saying.

“In Tel Aviv they are aware that the situation that existed before the civil war is different from what will be after. It must be careful not to light the kind of fire that it will not be able to extinguish later. Israel shot down the plane knowing it was a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace,” the source added.

Acting charge d’ affairs of Syria’s permanent delegation to the UN Munzer Munzer said Tuesday that Damascus had informed the UN Security Council that Israel has given “unlimited support” to terror organizations in southern Syria and has carried out “repeated military direct aggression” in the war-torn country.

Syria, he was quoted by the SANA news agency as saying, would not negotiate or relinquish its rights to the Golan Heights until “our occupied territory is fully restored.”

“Israel also continues its colonial settlement campaigns in the occupied Syrian Golan and the policies of repression against Golan citizens, looting their resources and arresting the Syrian people in a blatant violation of Geneva treaties,” Munzer said.



IDF delegation explores Jewish identity in Eastern Europe

An IDF delegation explored their Jewish roots and heritage as part of the MAHUT project last week. The project, which aims to strengthen Jewish and Israeli identity of IDF commanders and increase their motivation to continue their service, provided participants with a seven day trip through Lithuania and Latvia.

Each year, MAHUT, a collaboration between the IDF Education Corps, Genesis Philanthropy Group and the American Friends of the IDF (FIDF), supports a delegation of IDF commanders to explore their Jewish background.

The project aims to expose the IDF’s future leadership to the history and cultural heritage of Russian-speaking Jewry and the contemporary life of Russian-speaking Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

During the trip, the delegation visited Jewish history landmarks, honored the memory of the victims of the Holocaust at the concentration camps and met with the Jewish communities in the main cities of the Baltic states. The delegation comprises 38 participants, including officers ranking from captain to colonel and senior NCOs.

The delegation visits the FSU after being briefed on the history of the region and, upon their return, participants join or create various projects to encourage new immigrants and their children as well as populations with special needs to embrace meaningful service in the IDF.

Lt. Col. Hadar Harel, who is responsible for the delegation on behalf of the IDF, said that “the Education Corps sees MAHUT delegations as part of the educational activity for IDF officers, the purpose of which is to strengthen their sense of mission and their Jewish-Israeli identity.”

Natalie Shnaiderman, Director of Global Grantmaking at Genesis Philanthropy Group, explained that “direct contact with Jewish history and Jewish communities in the Diaspora are important tools in building the Jewish identity of the younger generation of Russian-speaking Jews in Israel, and we are proud of our partnership with the IDF in this unique project, which has proven itself over the years.”



Man who said he knew neighbors were Jewish by ‘way they spoke’ sentenced to jail for painting swastika on their home

A man who painted a swastika on a New York family’s home was sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation.

James Rizzo Jr., who was 37 at the time of his arrest in October, told police at the time that he knew the Staten Island family was Jewish “because of the way they spoke.” He misspelled a Jewish slur on the garage.

Rizzo, who served the jail time while awaiting trial, pleaded guilty last month in State Supreme court to third-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime, the Staten Island Advance reported.

He was seen on surveillance camera footage vandalizing the white door with black paint of a house located down the street from where he lived.

Debra Calabrese, who at the time of the incident had lived in the house for 14 years with her husband and is not Jewish, originally told the local media that she did not plan to paint over the graffiti because she wanted people to see it, despite being urged by police to cover it up once their investigation was completed.

Following Rizzo’s arrest, a clean-up team arrived at the home to power wash and repaint the garage door at the behest of local City Council members.



Israel looks at massive military aircraft purchase from US firm Boeing

The Israeli Air Force is planning its largest-ever acquisition in an $11 billion deal being negotiated with the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

The deal appears set to include a squadron of F-15 jets with upgraded stealth features, a squadron of cargo helicopters and aerial refueling planes, according to a report in the Israel Hayom daily.

The purchase will be funded from US military aid money, which comes to some $3.8 billion annually, over the next decade as the new planes and helicopters are delivered.

According to military officials, Israel’s Yas’ur cargo helicopters (otherwise known as the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions) and refueling planes are thought to be outdated, and their replacement has been a priority for the Air Force.

The Air Force favors replacing the aging squadrons with Boeing platforms over some of the company’s competitors for several reasons, the report says. Boeing’s refueling planes are based on the 767 passenger jet, have a proven record of reliability and can be delivered fairly quickly. Boeing’s helicopter lines, specifically the CH-47 Chinook and V-22 Osprey, mean a single procurement deal can deliver a helicopter squadron with more diverse capabilities.

The Chinook is among the most load-bearing of military helicopters on the market, while the Osprey is a tilt-rotor craft that can take off and land like a helicopter but flies like an airplane.

If the deal goes through and Israel returns to purchasing F-15s, it would mark the first Boeing fighter jet acquisition by the Israeli Air Force in two decades. In the years since, Israel has bought 100 F-16s and another 50 F-35 stealth jets from Boeing’s chief competitor, Lockheed Martin.

The F-15s being considered in the deal, to be dubbed IA for “Israel Advanced,” according to Israel Hayom, would be an upgraded version of the old plane that would include certain stealth capabilities, such as radar-absorbing paint and internal weapons carriage.

The deal has yet to be finalized. A final recommendation from the Air Force is expected to be delivered soon to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and the Defense Ministry. A final decision on so hefty a purchase would then have to be approved by the 10-member security cabinet.