Israel News

News Digest — 1/26/23

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

IDF Foils Major Terror Attack, Over A Dozen Terrorists Shot In Jenin Gun Battle

A massive gun battle broke out in the Palestinian Authority-administered city of Jenin Thursday morning (26th), after Israeli security forces entered the city as part of a counter-terrorism operation aimed at preventing a massive attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

The incursion into Jenin was carried out jointly by the IDF, Border Police, and Yamam police special forces unit in a rare daytime operation which Israel’s military said Thursday morning (26th) was aimed at apprehending a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist said to be orchestrating a “large terror attack.”

The Shin Bet internal security agency coordinated the operation, based on intelligence information it had received regarding the planned attack.

During the arrest operation, riots broke out, and armed terrorists opened fire on the Israeli forces.

Israeli security personnel returned fire, killing at least eight terrorists and wounding or injuring dozens of terrorists and rioters.  Thus far, the Ibn Sina Specialist Hospital has admitted 13 terrorists suffering gunshot wounds.

The Palestinian Authority media outlet WAFA identified one of the slain terrorists as 24-year-old Saeb Essam Mahmoud Azirqi.

Local health officials said a number of rioters were affected by tear gas exposure, and were treated.



Government Plan Could See Settlement Population Increase By Hundreds Of Thousands

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government is poised to take a series of steps that could result in a massive increase in the population of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria over the coming years, Israel Hayom learned.

During a recent meeting between Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and settler leaders, some of the components of the plans were revealed.  If finalized, they would come on top of the pledges already written into the Coalition Agreements that were signed between the Likud and its allies in the Knesset.

The plan’s components include convening the Higher Planning Council in Judea and Samaria as soon as possible and approving some 18,000 new housing units in the coming months.  The plan also calls for having the council meet regularly every month rather than once every three months under previous Netanyahu governments and only twice during the past year under the shared premiership of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.

Another measure would create a separate entity that would approve construction that is not for residential living, such as daycare centers and industrial complexes.  This mini-planning council would meet every several weeks to approve construction plans.

If these proposals get finalized and pass the relevant hurdles, they could increase the number of settlers in the coming years by hundreds of thousands and streamline the approval process for such construction so that only two entities would have to sign off on civilian construction rather than five.  As a result of cutting this red tape, the plan would also dramatically shorten the time it takes from the planning phase to the full construction of housing units.

Netanyahu, Gallant, and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich met to finalize this process earlier this week, as part of the implementation of the agreement that stipulates moving some functions from the Defense Ministry to Smotrich’s portfolio, as he is also defined as a minister within the Defense Ministry.  If carried out as planned, Jewish settlers would essentially have the same experience dealing with government agencies as other Israelis, as they would no longer have to go through the filter of the Defense Ministry.

The officials also discussed changing the metrics for how infrastructure projects are measured.  Rather than use the prism of the Jewish residents – which currently stand at some 500,000 in Judea and Samaria – projects would take into account the overall number of residents in the affected areas, essentially adding millions of non-Israelis to the official headcount beyond the Green Line for planning purposes ahead of their construction, such as in the case of paving roads.  This could create a political backlash, with some on the Left potentially calling this “mini-annexation.”



Israel’s Elbit To Supply Anti-Missile Systems To NATO Planes

Israeli aerospace and defense company Elbit has signed a contract with NATO to supply anti-missile systems for its fleet of tanker transport planes.

The five-year plan announced Tuesday (24th) also includes the establishment of a service center at the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in Luxembourg for logistical and tech support.

NATO’s Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet of Airbus A330 planes will be equipped with Elbit’s Direct Infrared CounterMeasures (DIRCM) system.  The DIRCM system has the capabilities to protect larger aircraft from the threats posed by infrared-guided missiles.

“Demands for our DIRCM systems are growing due to increased threats posed to aircraft.  We are proud to provide NATO with a logistics and service center for local repair and maintenance of our systems,” Oren Sabag, general manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR & EW, said in a statement.

The MRTT is based on the civilian A330 and is used by air forces around the world in addition to NATO, including Australia, France, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, and Canada.

Elbit was also awarded a follow-up contract from NSPA for its laser-based fully autonomous system that protects against advanced heat-seeking ground-to-air missiles.

The agreement gives Elbit and Israel a bridge to the international arena and to NATO members.  It also proves once again that the “made in Israel” brand of defense technology is helpful – in the context of the war in Ukraine and new technologies of missiles and drones flowing from Iran to Russia’s forces.



Auschwitz Museum: Russia Will Be Excluded From Auschwitz Liberation Ceremony

The Auschwitz Museum said on Wednesday (25th) that Russia will be excluded from the upcoming ceremony marking 78 years since the Red Army liberated the Nazi death camp, citing the war in Ukraine.

“Given the aggression against a free and independent Ukraine, representatives of the Russian Federation have not been invited to attend this years’ commemoration,” Piotr Sawici, spokesman for the museum at the site of the former camp, told AFP news agency.

Friday (27th) is the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.  That date is now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Until now, Russia has always taken part in the commemoration held every year on January 27th with its delegate speaking at the main ceremony.

Museum director Piotr Cywinski said it was obvious that he could “sign no letter to the Russian ambassador having an inviting tone” in the current context.

“Russia will need an extremely long time and very deep self-examination after this conflict in order to return to gatherings of the civilized world,” he added.

The museum denounced the Russian offensive as a “barbaric act” on the day Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th last year, AFP noted.



In The Netherlands, A Majority Do Not Know The Holocaust Affected Their Country

A recent study of the Dutch population conducted by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany showed an alarming lack of education around the Holocaust in the Netherlands.

For one, a majority of Dutch respondents, across all age groups, did not cite their own country as a place where the Holocaust took place, despite the fact that the Netherlands was the setting of the world’s most widely-read Holocaust memoirs – Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” which has been translated into over 70 languages.  About 75% of the country’s Jews were killed during the Holocaust, one of the highest rates in Europe.

The study, for which Schoen Cooperman Research surveyed 2,000 people across the country of over 17 million, also found that a majority of respondents (54%) and a slightly larger share of those in the millennial and Gen Z generations (59%) did not know that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis totaled 6 million.  Many said the total was as little as 2 million or fewer.

“Survey after survey, we continued to witness a decline in Holocaust knowledge and awareness.  Equally disturbing is the trend toward Holocaust denial and distortion,” said Gideon Taylor, the Claims Conference president, in a statement about the study released on Wednesday (25th).  “To address this trend, we must put a greater focus on Holocaust education in our schools globally.”

The Netherlands is not in a category of its own with such numbers.  A study published Tuesday (24th) by the American Jewish Committee found that a similar proportion of Americans – 47% compared to 54% in the Netherlands – did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

However, researchers also found that the percentage of Dutch people who thought the Holocaust was a myth or greatly exaggerated (12%) was higher than in any other nation previously surveyed by the Claims Conference, an organization that advocates for and distributes restitution funds to Nazi victims and their descendants.  Nearly a quarter of those in the younger generations believed it acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views.

“One of the more troubling trends we continue to see in these surveys is the rise in numbers of people who believe the Holocaust was a myth or that the number of Jews murdered is exaggerated,” said Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference executive vice-president.

Despite those findings, a majority of Dutch respondents (77%) said that they felt that Holocaust education was increasingly necessary in the country.

“While many of the historical facts related to the Holocaust in the Netherlands are not known, I am encouraged by the number of respondents to this survey that believe Holocaust education is important,” said Emile Schriver, the general director of Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter and one of the people who conducted the survey.  “We know that we can work together with educators to ensure the trends we see in Holocaust denial and distortion and the rise in anti-Semitism are countered by a robust curriculum of Holocaust education.”



5.9 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Mediterranean – Felt In Israel

An earthquake of 5.9 magnitude hit the area of the Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece, and was felt in the coastal areas of Israel, the country’s Geological Survey said on Wednesday (25th).

Meital Bar who works in Haifa’s Grand Canyon Mall said she felt the tremor, and understood she was not imagining it when she saw a news report moments later.

“It was not very long,” she said, “but I felt the earth move.”

There were no injuries or damages reported in Israel.

The earthquake was mostly felt in the Greek Island of Rhodes and in Turkey, with its epicenter being recorded some 34 miles from Rhodes.  No injuries or damages were reported in either Greece or Turkey.

Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt all reported feeling tremors.

Israeli geological experts have long warned that a megaquake could jar Israel any time because of its location along the Great Rift Valley – a particularly active fault line.

Major earthquakes in the area happen on average once every 80 years, though two minor quakes were felt in Israel back in February 2022.