Israel News

News Digest — 6/8/21

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Blinken: US Committed To Replenishing Iron Dome

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday (7th) that the United States is committed to replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

“We are working with the Israelis to fully understand their needs and working with Congress,” Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during testimony on US President Joe Biden’s 2022 budget request and the department’s foreign policy priorities, according to i24NEWS.

“This is under very active review and we look forward to working with you to make sure that happens,” Blinken said of fulfilling Israel’s request for $1 billion in emergency funding for Iron Dome following 11 days of fighting with Gaza-based terror groups who launched more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli territory.

The Secretary of State reiterated the Biden administration’s position that Israel has a right to defend itself against rockets fired indiscriminately at Israeli civilians.

“It would be unacceptable for any country to have rockets rain down on it indiscriminately targeting civilians and not do something about it,” Blinken said, according to i24NEWS.

He added that “as a democracy, Israel has an extra burden to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties.”

On Hamas, Blinken said it was  “hard to fathom” how anyone in the world could accept a terrorist organization that has “vowed in its own charter to destroy Israel.”

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said last week that Israel would ask the US for $1 billion in aid to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“The Iron Dome performed incredibly well, saving thousands of lives and tens of thousands of Palestinian lives, so I would imagine that the administration will say yes to this request and it will sail through congress,” Graham said.

At least 55 House members, both Democrats and Republicans, last week wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging the Pentagon to quickly work with Congress on fulfilling any request to restock Israel’s supply of interceptors for the Iron Dome system.



IDF Strike Reveals Hamas Terror Tunnel Under UNRWA School

The UN Agency for Palestinian refugees has admitted finding what appears to be a tunnel utilized by armed Palestinian groups during the 11-day conflagration with Israel beneath one of its schools.

In a statement released Saturday (5th), UNRWA claimed that “the Israeli Air Force conducted strikes that caused damage to UNRWA installations, most notably Zaitoun Preparatory Boys’ School ‘A’ and Elementary Boys School ‘A’.”

While declaring the inviolability of UNRWA premises and noting all UN buildings “are marked as such and fly a United Nations flag on the roof,” the agency acknowledged that “no displaced persons were inside the school at the time of the strike and no physical injuries were caused.”

The agency failed to mention that the Israel Defense Forces was very likely to have called ahead of the strike to warn that the school would be targeted.

In the statement UNRWA said that “while investigating how to secure the building from future attacks, a detailed assessment on May 31, 2021 revealed a cavity and a tunnel at the location of the missile strike.  The depth of the cavity is approximately 25 feet below the surface of the school, with a tunnel discovered near it.

While the UN body publicly condemned the existence and potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath its schools “in the strongest possible terms,” this is by no means the first time Gaza Strip terrorists have stored and even fired weapons from UNRWA schools.

UNRWA has recently faced criticism from the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers, with Hamas ousting the agency’s Gaza director after he called Israeli airstrikes “precise” in an interview with an Israelis news channel last week.



Iranian Cleric Who Founded Hezbollah Dies Of Coronavirus

An Iranian cleric who helped found Hezbollah, as Iran’s ambassador to Syria, and later lost his hand in a book bombing allegedly carried out by Israel, has died at 74.

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour died of the coronavirus, reported the Associated Press.

Mohtashamipour was reportedly a close confidant of Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  In the 1970s, he made inroads with terrorist groups across the Middle East.

After Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Mohtashamipour was one of the founders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  Later, as ambassador to Syria he brought in the Revolutionary Guard to help with the formation of Hezbollah.

In his later years, he backed reformist causes in Iran, attempting to change the theocratic regime and backing opposition leaders in Iran’s Green Movement protests that came after the controversial 2009 re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to the Associated Press, an obituary published by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) called him “one of the founders of Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

According to the book “Rise and Kill First” by Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman, at the time of the attempted assassination of Mohtashamipour the Mossad had received approval from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to go after the Hezbollah founder.  They planted a bomb inside a book about Shiite holy places in Iran and Iraq in February, 1984, which exploded when he opened it, injuring him.  However he survived the blast and continued his career becoming Iran’s Interior Minister.



Israel Flooded With Trademark Applications From Gulf

The newly announced peace deals in the region between Israel and four Arab countries has led to an influx of trademark applications from companies in the region.

The deals, commonly known as the Abraham Accords were brokered by former US President Donald Trump in 2020 and are considered a major foreign policy accomplishment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his administration.

The peace agreements have led to varying degrees of normalization between Israel on the one side, and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan on the other side.  The expectation is that full-fledged ties will be established in the near term ( in the case of Bahrain and the UAE this has been achieved).

According to data exclusively obtained by Israel Hayom from government agencies, the number of applications from the UAE, Morocco and Bahrain has increased several-fold in the wake of the deals.

For example, in the two years prior there were only 26 applications from the UAE, but in the months since the announcement of the normalization deal, there have been more than 100 requests, a surge of 400%.

The citizens of the Arab countries can now register their trademark in Israel using the Madrid Agreement, which applies in multiple countries for five years.

Ariel Dubinsky, an attorney dealing with intellectual property, says the data indicates that “businesses in the Arab world are serious about making the Israeli market part of their general outlook.”



David Dushman, Last Auschwitz Liberator, Dies At 98

David Dushman, the last surviving soldier who took part in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1945, has died at the age of 98.

Dushman, a Red Army soldier who later became an international fencer, died on Saturday (5th), the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

On January 27, 1945, Dushman used his T-34 Soviet tank to mow down the electric fence of Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, helping to set prisoners in the death camp free.

“We hardly knew anything about Auschwitz,” he said, recounting that day in an interview in 2015 with Sueddeutsche daily.

“They staggered out of the barracks, sat and lay among the dead.  Terrible.  We threw them all our food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists,” he said.

Only after the end of the war did he learn about the scale of the atrocities in the camp.

Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, said Dushman’s death  was “particularly painful.”

“Dushman was on the front line when the Nazi murder machinery was smashed in 1945; as a ‘Hero of Auschwitz’ he was one of the liberators of the concentration camp and saved countless lives,” she said in a statement.

“Today, he was one of the last to be able to recount this event from his own experience,” she added, describing Dushman as a “brave, honest and sincere man.”



Headstones Smashed At Jewish Cemeteries In Ukraine And Romania

In two separate incidents, a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in Romania and Ukraine.

The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania (MCA) reported Sunday (6th) an incident in the town of Ploesti, located about 60 miles north of Bucharest, where multiple head stones at a Jewish cemetery were knocked over and smashed, some dated as recent as 2009.

On Thursday (3rd), at least 10 of the 60 headstones in the Jewish cemetery of Radvanka were destroyed, at a western Ukraine village on the outskirts of Uzhgorod, according to the United Jewish Community of Ukraine.

The group also reported that on Friday (4th) at an unfenced hillside graveyard nearby, several of the headstones were smashed.

In both incidents, police were informed of the damage.  There are no suspects in either case.

In 2012, the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental body that is not part of the European Union, adopted a nonbinding resolution placing responsibility for the care of Jewish cemeteries on national governments.  The resolution was based in part on a “report” that said Jewish cemeteries are “probably” more vulnerable than other cemeteries.

In addition to frequent vandalism, including for anti-Semitic reasons at the cemeteries, the report also noted instances of Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe being turned into “residential areas, public gardens, leisure parks, army grounds and storage sites.  Some have been turned into lakes.”