July 30, 2018

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Eulogizing terror victim Yotam Ovadia at funeral, ministers lay blame on PA

A pair of Israeli lawmakers eulogizing Yotam Ovadia at his funeral Friday afternoon laid blame on the Palestinian Authority for the attack in the West Bank settlement of Adam late Thursday, in which a teenage Palestinian terrorist killed the 31-year-old father of two.

“To those who think that the Palestinian Authority is part of the solution, it is not! It is the problem!” shouted deputy defense minister Eli Ben Dahan. The Jewish Home lawmaker criticized the PA’s policy of payments to security prisoners and accused the PA of inciting Palestinian children in its schools.

“Responsibility lies with the Palestinian Authority. Those who teach hatred will pay a price,” warned Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

“The lowly terrorist will not achieve his goal. We will continue building on our land,” the minister told the crowd of hundreds at Ovadia’s funeral in Jerusalem. He vowed to expand West Bank settlements in response to the attack.

Ovadia was stabbed to death outside his home in the community near Jerusalem on Thursday night by 17-year-old Mohammad Tareq Yousef, who came from the Palestinian village of Kobar further north in the West Bank.

Levin said relatives told him that Ovadia was on his way to prepare a romantic meal for his wife in honor of Tu B’Av, the Jewish Valentine’s Day, when he was attacked.

״You were murdered in the midst of a gesture of love,” said the minister. “This beautiful act attests to your character and the love that will continue to prevail in your home.”

“Your name means simple. And that’s what you were: Simple and kind. Why would anyone want to kill you?” asked Ovadia’s uncle Yaakov Ovadia.

Ovadia’s father-in-law lamented hearing the cries of his young grandson for his father after he was killed.

“The heart breaks at the sound of your little son calling, ‘Daddy, Daddy.’ The little boy cannot go on without you,” he said.

According to Israeli authorities, Yousef climbed over Adam’s security fence sometime before 9 p.m. He then walked deeper into the settlement, crossing a playground area, where he encountered Ovadia, and stabbed him repeatedly in the upper torso.

Ovadia later died of his wounds after being rushed to a Jerusalem hospital.

A second resident, 58, was also stabbed after arriving on the scene. He was rushed to a hospital in serious condition but it was upgraded to moderate after doctors managed to stabilize him.

A third resident, 41, had just left his home when he heard the disturbance unfolding. Yusef approached him as well and managed to stab him once before the Adam resident pulled out a gun and shot him dead. The 41-year-old Israeli was lightly injured in the encounter, but was released from the hospital shortly after receiving treatment.

The last stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement was in April 2018, when a Palestinian tried to stab an Israeli with a screwdriver near a gas station in an industrial area connected to the Maale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem.

Kobar, north of Ramallah and some 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Adam, was also home to Omar al-Abed, who carried out a similar attack in the settlement of Halamish in July 2017 in which three Israelis were killed.

The IDF said it was investigating a possible link between them, though the mayor of Kobar said he did not know of the two being connected.

Authorities were investigating reports that Yousef posted about his intentions on Facebook ahead of the attack, condemning Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank, and declaring that “the time has come for a great revolt.”

A Shin Bet investigation will likely focus on whether Yousef had any help in planning or carrying out the attack, and whether others knew about his plot.



Liberman advances plans for 400 new homes in terror attack settlement

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday announced that he had directed his ministry to advance plans for the construction of 400 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Adam, in response to the deadly terror attack that took place there overnight.

“The best response to terrorism is increased settlement in Judah and Samaria,” he tweeted, referring to the West Bank by its Biblical name. “Therefore I instructed this morning that plans should be advanced to build 400 housing units in the Adam settlement and to approve it with the planning authorities in the next few weeks.”

The 400 homes would be part of an already existing plan which will add 1,000 houses in the settlement, 150 of which are already under construction.

Liberman’s directive likely means the plan will be prioritized by the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body that convenes once every three months to approve West Bank construction.

The plan still requires several approvals by planning authorities before ground can be broken — a process that sometimes can take years.

Liberman’s announcement followed a terror attack in which 31-year-old Yotam Ovadia was stabbed to death and two others were injured.

According to Israeli authorities, suspect Mohammad Tareq Yousef climbed over the security fence of the West Bank settlement of Adam sometime before 9 p.m. Thursday. He walked deeper into the settlement, crossing a playground area, where he encountered Ovadia, and stabbed him repeatedly in the upper torso.

Ovadia was father to a 2-year-old child and a 7-month-old baby. The Brinks security company announced on its Facebook page that he worked for it as a technician.

A second resident, 58, was also stabbed after arriving on the scene. He was rushed to a hospital in serious condition but it was upgraded to moderate after doctors managed to stabilize him.

A third resident, Assaf Raviv, 41, went outside to investigate the disturbance and, realizing that an attack was occurring, shot the Palestinian terrorist three times, killing him.

He was stabbed and lightly injured during the incident, and on Friday morning it was announced he had been released from hospital.  Overnight Israeli security forces entered suspect Mohammad Tareq Yousef’s village of Kobar. The IDF said that clashes broke out after around 150 Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli soldiers, as well as burning tires. There were no reports of injuries.

Thursday’s attack broke months of relative calm in the West Bank, which has seen only sporadic clashes between Palestinians and troops, and a marked decrease in terror attacks.



IDF strikes balloon-launching squad in Gaza amid weekly border protests

The Israeli military on Friday afternoon carried out an airstrike on a squad of Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip as they flew incendiary balloons towards Israel, the army said.

Palestinians said there were no casualties in the attack.

Meanwhile the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that several Palestinians were wounded during weekly clashes along the  border fence with Israel. One was said to be in critical condition.

Since March 30, southern Israel has experienced many fires as a result of incendiary devices attached to balloons or kites launched from Gaza across the border into Israeli territory.

Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. The attacks have continued almost daily, although there has been a marked reduction in numbers since the weekend when the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, said it agreed to a ceasefire.

Despite the drop, violence flared Wednesday and early Thursday after a Hamas sniper shot and injured an IDF officer. Israel responded with tank fire and airstrikes on Hamas targets, and rockets were fired from the Palestinian territory at communities in southern Israel.

The military has also bolstered troop presence in the West Bank after a Palestinian assailant sneaked into a West Bank settlement and stabbed three people Thursday, killing one.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said late Thursday it was sending two more brigades to the West Bank following the deadly terrorist attack in Adam. The move comes as Israel has also raised its military alert level in the Golan amid flare-ups there.



Netanyahu meets with Druze leaders but won’t commit to changing nation-state law

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with leaders of the Druze community Friday but did not commit to changing a recently passed controversial law defining Israel as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu’s office said the premier met with leaders of the Druze community, including spiritual head Sheikh Muafak Tarif, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Assad and former Labor MK Shachiv Shnaan.

Shnaan’s son Kamil was killed last year, along with fellow Druze soldier Haiel Sitawe, in a terror attack perpetrated on the Temple Mount by three Israeli Arabs.

After the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement which said that Netanyahu listened to what the Druze representatives had to say and their request to change the law.

“The representatives of the community said at the meeting that they trusted the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the statement read.

The Prime Minister’s Office stressed that Netanyahu did not commit to changing the law, but would continue his consultations.

“The goal is to reach a quick and acceptable solution which will express the great appreciation the State of Israel has for the unique partnership of fate with the Druze community,” the statement said.

However, after the meeting Assad said that the Druze community stood firm in its demand to change the law and to include a clause about equality. “We informed him that our protest will continue,” he said.

On Thursday Netanyahu met with coalition lawmakers from the Druze minority, including Kulanu MK Akram Hasson and Yisrael Beytenu MK Hamad Amar, as well as Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

Also present was Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, a Druze member of Netanyahu’s Likud party who voted in favor of the law.

On Thursday Tarif met with MK Tzipi Livni, head of the opposition Zionist Union faction.

“Not just a blood pact — a pact of equals,” Livni wrote on Twitter after the meeting. “Blood pact” is a phrase often used to describe the alliance between Israel’s Jews and Druze communities.

Livni presented Tarif with a copy of the Declaration of Independence — “the foundation on which the State of Israel was established.”

“Both the state of the Jewish people and equality for everyone, all Israeli citizens,” she said.

Members of the Druze community have been coming out against the nation-state law since it was passed by the Knesset last week, with Hasson, Amar and Zionist Union MK Salah Sa’ad filing a petition to the High Court of Justice on Sunday against the legislation.

Critics of the quasi-constitutional Basic Law say it effectively discriminates against Israel’s Arab and other minority communities. Supporters argue it is needed to place the country’s Jewish character on par with its democratic values.

The Druze, a breakaway sect from Islam, are the only minority that has taken upon itself Israel’s mandatory draft and serves in large numbers alongside Jewish soldiers in some of the IDF’s most elite units.

Earlier Thursday, Kahlon, the finance minister, called for fixing the nation-state law, making him the second minister in as many days to suggest tailoring the legislation in order to maintain equal rights for the Druze community.

“The legislation was done hastily,” Kahlon told Army Radio. “We made a mistake and we need to fix it.”

On Wednesday Education Minister Naftali Bennett vowed to work to “heal the wound” the law has inflicted on the Druze community. Sources close to Bennett told The Times of Israel that the Jewish Home leader was open to amending the legislation.

Netanyahu will not consider amending the law, however, Hebrew media reported. Even so, reports Thursday said he is open to “other moves aimed at improving conditions for the Druze.”



Dozens of Palestinians riot at Temple Mount following Friday prayers

Severe clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israeli security forces near the Temple Mount were reported on Friday in the early afternoon after Friday prayers.

According to the Jerusalem Police Spokesperson, when the prayer service on the Temple Mount ended,  rioters began firing fireworks directly at police forces.

The Jerusalem district commander Yoram Halevy ordered police forces to enter the temple mount and evacuate the area.

During the dispersal of the rioters, the police used stun and smoke grenades to control the clashes as police forces arrested a number of suspects.

Initial reports said a policeman was lightly injured.



3.7 earthquake hits sea of Galilee and surrounding area

An earthquake measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale was felt in the area of the Sea of Galilee according to the Geophysical Institute of Israel on Friday at 11:52.

At first, the earthquake was estimated to measure 4.2 but these reports were later corrected.

Dozens of tremors have been felt around northern Israel in recent weeks.

Experts in the field believe that the occurrence of a strong earthquake is almost certain and that its impact on various regions of the country will be enormous.

The State Comptroller’s Office stated that according to information received by the government, the situation it needs to prepare for could result in an estimated 7,000 people killed, another 8,600 seriously injured, 37,000 lightly injured, 9,500 trapped in rubble and 170,000 left homeless.

The office conducted an audit between July 2017 and February 2018 of the relevant ministries’ and authorities’ readiness in the face of earthquakes, focusing on a major one. Completion tests were conducted in May.



Praise and love for Israel; Iran criticism at CUFI summit

The 13th annual Christians United for Israel summit in Washington DC recently came to a close, during which the organization’s rock solid support for Israel was reconfirmed.

The summit was also notable for the widespread support of US President Donald Trump toward Israel. It prompted Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, to claim that the current White House administration is the best ally Israel ever had.

“From President Trump to Vice President [Mike] Pence to Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo, from [National Security Adviser] Ambassador [John] Bolton to [U.S.] Ambassador [to the United Nations Nikki] Haley to [U.S.] Ambassador [to Israel David] Friedman, from [Senior Adviser to the President] Jared Kushner to [Middle East envoy] Jason Greenblatt to Sarah Sanders, this is an administration that sees Israel as an ally and that treats Israel as an ally,” Dermer exclaimed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who addressed the approximately 5,000 assembled delegates on Monday via satellite link from his Jerusalem office – was effusive in his praise for American Christian supporters of Israel, while decrying Iran’s pernicious influence (a running theme of the conference) in the region. He said that Israel was the only country in the Middle East that actively safeguarded not only Christians as individuals, but also Christian practice.

“Israel is also the only country for thousands of miles where Christians not only survive, they thrive. Christian holy sites are protected and Christian worship is done without fear. Christians have achieved incredible heights in Israel. We have an Arab-Christian who served on our Supreme Court for 15 years. We have others — diplomats, businesspeople, university professors, doctors, everything. They’re in every field — many, many examples of Christians who contribute greatly to Israeli society and share in the great miracle of Israel’s success,” the prime minister said.

Other keynote speakers included the British Army’s Col. Richard Kemp – a fierce defender of IDF tactics and Israel both from podiums and in social media. Also, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who was presented to rapturous applause, with CUFI’s “Defender of Israel” Award for her sterling work at the poisonous United Nations. “Washington may be a swamp, but the U.N. is a cesspool—a cesspool of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism,” said Dermer.

Haley also gave a powerful speech in which she reiterated her criticism of the United Nations for kowtowing to serial human rights abusers such as Sudan and Venezuela who sit on the Human Rights Council (UNHRC). She denounced the organization’s rejection of the embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the singling out of Israel for condemnation in the ongoing flare-up with Hamas along the Gaza border. Haley also defended the U.S.’s withdrawal from the UNHRC, citing that, “The United States has no moral duty to be neutral between right and wrong. On the contrary, we have a moral duty to take sides, even when that means standing alone.”

Stuart Force, whose son, Taylor, was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Tel Aviv in 2016, also spoke at the summit.

The Taylor Force Act which was signed into law by President Trump as part of a $1.3 trillion omnibus in March, stops American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA changes its laws to cease paying terrorists and their families — a longtime policy known as “pay to slay.”

Pastor John Hagee founded CUFI in 2006 and it currently boasts approximately 4.5 million members. Hagee, who emceed the event, reiterated the importance of Christian support for the Jewish state. “You often hear the phrase ‘Christian anti-Semitism,’ ” he said. “There is no such thing as Christian anti-Semitism. Christianity is driven by the love of G-d.”