Israel News

News Digest — 6/7/21

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Israel Marks 40 Years Since Famed Raid That Destroyed Iraq’s Would-Be Nuclear Reactor – Lilach Shoval

Israel this week will mark the 40th anniversary of one of the most daring military missions in its history: the elimination of the would-be nuclear reactor in Iraq.  The operation stunned the world and went down in history as one of the most audacious Israeli Air Force raids ever performed and one that defied all odds.

Operation Opera was a surprise airstrike mounted by eight IAF fighter jets On June 7, 1981.  The jets dropped 16 bombs on their target, leveling Osirak, an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor located 11 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian were reportedly killed in the airstrike which Israel called an act of self defense, saying that the reactor had “less than a month to go” before “it might have become critical.”

Operation Opera essentially outlined Israeli policy with respect to preventive strikes on enemy targets, and it added another dimension to its existing policy of deliberate ambiguity, as it related to the nuclear weapons capability of other states in the region.

The attack was preceded by a series of diplomatic efforts by Israel, which for five years had tried to prevent Iraq from realizing its nuclear ambitions.  Israeli officials had tried in particular to influence the United States and France, which had supplied Iraq with the nuclear reactor, but to no avail.

While diplomatic efforts were underway, the defense establishment worked tirelessly to outline military options.  It was believed that bombing the Iraqi reactor would delay Baghdad’s nuclear project by several months, or at most by several years, making then-Military Intelligence Director Yehoshua Sagi, who opposed the strike, question whether the operational risk was justified, because of the reaction Israel would surely face in the international arena.

Seven veteran IAF pilots were selected for the mission, as well as one young pilot – Ilan Ramon, who would one day become the first Israeli astronaut, but for whom, at the time, it would be his first operational mission.

The pilots were only told of their targets after months of training, during which one of the gravest concerns was that of refueling.

Aerial refueling was not an option in those days, and the fuel held by the highly advanced F-16 jets was barely enough to strike Iraq and make it back to Israel.

“We faced considerable operational challenges, one of which was Iraq’s air defenses” former Military Intelligence Director Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, one of the eight pilots to participate in the raid, told Israel Hayom.

“Iraq was at war with Iran at the time, and the Iranians had already tried to attack the reactor in January 1981 with phantom jets, making the Iraqis realize that they had to protect the reactor.  Also, our fuel reserves would be low, and if we got into a dogfight, we wouldn’t have any fuel left to get home.”

Yadlin recalled that the jets “flew under the radar, at low altitudes over three enemy states – Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  The attack was very compact so that the smoke from the bombs dropped by [jets number] one and two wouldn’t obstruct numbers seven and eight’s view of the target.”

“The eighth and most dangerous place, in the strike formation, was taken by Ilan Ramon, who at the time was single and didn’t have any children.  The entire strike lasted about a minute and a half,” said Yadlin.

As for what was going through his mind during the operation, Yadlin said, “If anyone says that pilots are not afraid, he is not telling the truth.  We flew for an hour and 43 minutes, far into a place where no Israeli plane had ever gone, to a country with which we were at war.  As soon as I felt the bomb drop and hit its target – that’s when the pressure levels dropped.”

“If there is a law by which anything that can go wrong, will go wrong  – in this mission everything that could have gone wrong, didn’t.  No one on  the Israeli side was hurt and the reactor was destroyed.  It was an amazing achievement,” he concluded.



Israeli F-35 Jets To Participate In Joint Drill With US, UK And Italy

While Israel is not a member of NATO, it is classified as a major non-NATO ally and is often involved in exercises in the region.

In a joint effort to prepare for a possible military confrontation with Iran, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) will hold a wide scale drill with the US, Italy and Britain this week.

The drill will take place in Italy and will include the IAF’s newly purchased F-35 Adir fighter jets, making it the first time the stealth jets are deployed in a foreign country and used in a foreign environment.

IAF fighter pilots will train alongside Italian, American and British pilots in one of the largest exercises of this kind to take place in recent years.  According to a senior IAF official cited by Kan News, the drill will develop cooperation between the forces related to target identification and logistics, such as aerial refueling and providing support to ground forces.

The main objectives of the exercises are defined as strengthening military collaboration and preparing for a possible armed conflict with Iran in the near future.  Other goals include improving the deployment capabilities of the F-35 fighter jets in unfamiliar territory.

This exercise is the first of its kind to include such a comprehensive collaborative effort between Israel and three member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In 2018, Israel participated in a NATO annual drill for the first time, as tensions rose between Moscow and NATO.  The IDF sent dozens of combat soldiers from its Paratroopers Brigade to participate in the drill, which took place in eastern Europe.



Abbas Pays $40,000 To Family Of Terrorist Who Murdered Two Israelis

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday (6th) handed the family of a Palestinian who murdered two Israelis $40,000.

The money was provided by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to “complete the payment of the price” of the family’s house that was demolished by the IDF, according to the PA’s official news agency Wafa.

PA Governor of Ramallah and Al-Bireh, Leila Ghannam, handed over the money to the family of the terrorist, Muhammad al-Halabi, during a meeting on Sunday (6th).

On October 3, 2015, Halabi, 19, attacked the Benita family near the Lion’s gate in Jerusalem as they were on their way to the Western Wall to pray.

Halabi fatally stabbed Aaron Benita, the father of the family, and injured the mother Adele and their two-year-old son Matan.  Nehemia Lavi, a resident who heard screams and came to help was also murdered and his gun taken by the terrorist, who was shot dead by police officers.

Governor Ghannam, thanked Abbas who “paid special attention to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and fighters,” according to the Wafa report.



Israel Has Set A New Standard For The Ethics Of War – Rabbi Daniel Rowe

In the recent fighting in Gaza, Israel delivered the greatest moral victory in the history of warfare.  The conduct of the Israel Defense Forces vis-a-vis the protection of civilians on both sides has no equal or precedent.  Indeed, Israel has set a new standard for the ethics of war.

Urban warfare is horrific.  Since the 1990s, civilian deaths have accounted for 90% of all casualties of urban warfare.  Coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Mosul inadvertently killed 3,200 civilians.  American bombing of ISIS’ last stronghold in Raqqa killed 1,200 ISSIS fighters and 1,600 civilians.

In 11 days of fighting, Israel eliminated most of Hamas’ significant military infrastructure.  But the high number of civilian deaths Hamas counted on did not happen.  Many Gazans were killed by the 600 Hamas rockets that fell short and landed inside Gaza.  Whatever the precise civilian casualty count turns out to be, it is by far the smallest in the history of modern warfare.

Israel saved thousands of Israeli lives, as well as those of many thousands of Gazan “human shields.”  Those who are rallying to have the US Congress cut military funding to Israel are missing the point.  It’s because of military aid, technology and shared moral values that thousands of Palestinians and Israelis are alive today. 



Documents: Israel Knew Of Imminent Attack Before Yom Kippur War, Did Not Strike For Fear Of International Reaction

Newly released documents reveal that the Israeli government knew that Syria and Egypt were set to attack Israel on Yom Kippur 1973, but chose not to make a preemptive strike, fearing international condemnation.

The Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack on Israel’s southern and northern borders set off the Yom Kippur War, which proved to be one of Israel’s most traumatic conflicts – with over 3,000 dead, thousands wounded, and enormous economic damage to the Jewish state.

Israeli news site Walla  reported Sunday (6th) that the newly revealed documents include protocols of the Israeli security cabinet, which met on Yom Kippur just before the Egyptian-Syrian surprise attack to discuss newly arrived intelligence that war was about to break out.

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told the assembled ministers, “The assumption is that this evening, at dusk, or shortly before dark, a full-scale attack will begin on both fronts.”

This information, he said, had come from American intelligence, which had “credible information” that an attack was imminent and had informed the Israelis a few days before.

Israel had at first dismissed the information, but now believed it to be true, particularly because Egypt’s Russian advisors were leaving the country.  This, said Dayan, was a “red light.”

Several ministers and IDF commanders said Israel should undertake a preemptive attack on the enemy’s air bases and missile sites.

Prime Minister Golda Meir said that the idea was appealing, but “I know what kind of world we live in. … It’s a pity, but it’s not going to work.”

Dayan said, “We have to make sure it’s a clear-cut case” were Israel to attack.

Justice Minister Yaakov Shapira disagreed, noting that Israel had struck first in the 1967 Six Day War, and while it was seen as the aggressor by many, “It is very good that we were like that, because otherwise who knows if we would exist at all?”

Ultimately, however, the idea of a preemptive attack was abandoned, and the war began shortly after.



Dear Mr. President Of South Africa, There’s No Apartheid In Israel – Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote on May 17 about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the South African Sunday Times.  Warren Goldstein, who has a PhD in human rights and constitutional law, responded:

→ Mr. President, you have dedicated your life to achieving peace, and sacrificed much for this noble cause.  There can be no peace without truth.  The truth is that there is no apartheid in Israel.  All its citizens are equal before the law, have the right to vote, and serve at every level of government.  At this very moment it is Arab-led parties in parliament that hold the balance of power and may determine who will form the next government.

→ The truth is that this recent conflict also has nothing to do with the situation at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians, Jews and Muslims can safely practice their faiths, and have free access to all the holy sites.  The status quo at Al-Aqsa has remained unchanged for decades.  And though the mosque sits atop the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, the Israeli government has given custody over the site to a Muslim trust and bans prayer by Jewish visitors to the site.

→ The truth is that the ongoing conflict has nothing to do with “the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination,” as you put it.  There have been many opportunities to establish a Palestinian state.  Over the past two decades alone, there were two formal offers made by successive Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank with Jerusalem as its capital.  Both were rejected.

→ Hamas is open about the fact that it is Israel’s very existence that cannot be tolerated.  Their unambiguous goal is the eradication of the Jewish state, as they make clear by firing thousands of rockets into densely populated civilian areas.  Unsurprisingly, Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by most democracies in the world.

→ Finally, consider that since the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob there has been an unbroken Jewish presence in Israel for almost 4,000 years, and that the Jewish people are indigenous inhabitants of the land and not colonialists.