Tuesday, April 28, 2020

From Ian:

PM Netanyahu: This year, we commemorate in different ways
My brothers and sisters in bereavement, in our 72 years of independence we have known various memorial days. We have marked them in times of wars and battles, in times of military campaigns and raids, in waves of terrorist, and in peaceful times when vigilance was the order of the day – as it always is.

This year we remember the heroic acts of our sons and daughters in the midst of the fight against the coronavirus. This is a new kind of enemy, but God willing, we will defeat it, too. We will do so with determination and national solidarity and cohesion.

These values are the legacy of the fallen, the legacy of our loved ones. In trying times, they led the charge to defense our shared home and protect the vision of national resurrection. We are forever in their debt.

I also know another thing: They would want us to go on, to live our lives safe and sound. This principle has guided us this year – to preserve life and health and not endanger either needlessly. This is why, this year, we will avoid gatherings in military cemeteries and have military honor guards stationed there.

I know how hard this is. I would like to visit my brother's grave just like you want to visit the graves of your loved ones.

But this year, we will commemorate them in different ways – in stories, movies, and songs; by lighting candles, meeting online, and above all – in our hearts.

President: Rivlin: Our strength lies with solidarity
Who would believe 72 years have passed. I remember, as a child, the days leading to the establishment of the state. They are etched in into my memory.

I remember the reports from the UN on Nov. 29, 1947, the dancing in the streets, and how Jerusalem immediately transformed into a battlefield; the harsh siege on the city, the exciting declaration of statehood on May 15, which was quickly clouded by the news of the fall of Gush Etzion, and later the fall of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem and the armistice agreements.

In Jerusalem, the joy was intertwined with grave concern. We felt the fragility of the moment well, knowing we were living history. At every turn, be it happy and festive independence days or harder, somber moments, we've always had the Israeli sense of togetherness and unity.

This sense of togetherness saw us through the pain and lifted up higher in joyous times. Even on this Independence Day, in the shadow of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic that is claiming lives and the economic crisis, we will not forfeit our "togetherness." Not now and not ever. We celebrate together – even from a distance.

The State of Israel is a miracle and a wonder. We created an advanced industry, founded innovative agriculture, which the whole world looks to.

We have created a diverse and rich culture and become a country renowned for its development and invention, its entrepreneurship, technology, medicine, science and research.

We have proven that we are an ancient but innovative nation, a nation that draws its strength from its ancient traditions; a nation that grows and develops daily, even if it means being audacious, taking risks - and winning.
Remembrance Day to Independence Day: From Holocaust to rebirth
From Holocaust to rebirth is a yearly theme for our people. This is especially strongly felt in the State of Israel, where one week we observe Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the next week we celebrate Independence Day.

This proximity raises an old question about the relationship between the Holocaust and the State of Israel. Was it the Holocaust that enabled the establishment of the state?

If this theory is valid, it leads to a very painful question. Did six million Jews have to die in order for the Jewish people to be allowed to have its own independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel?

I believe that it is wrong to try to explain why the Holocaust happened. The ways of God are hidden. Any theological explanation that we give for the Holocaust does not satisfactorily resolve the question. All answers are insufficient.

It is impossible, even wrong, for us to say that the Holocaust is what led to the establishment of the state.

On the other hand, one cannot deny the proximity of the two events. I would imagine that there was some sympathy for our people after the Shoah. But, as a religious person, I believe that the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was part of a divine plan. The time had come to bring the remnants of Israel back to the Land of Israel. That is why I celebrate Israel Independence Day. That is why I say Hallel on that day. I see the hand of God in history.

I HAVE long chosen not to be a deep philosophical thinker as to the whys of the Holocaust. But I have chosen to be a religious thinker as to the whys of the State of Israel.

Remembering the fallen: Israelis mark a Memorial Day like no other
The cemeteries, normally filled with mourning families and friends, were all but empty Tuesday morning as sirens rang out across the country, a few soldiers acting as honor guard standing at attention with masks on their faces as Israel marked a Memorial Day from within the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time since Israel’s founding 72 years ago, military cemeteries were blocked off, and most people were being asked to mourn or pay their respects in private, transforming the country into an extraordinary mosaic showing the infiltration of COVID-19 into a nation’s most sacred spaces.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Israelis around the country stood for two minutes of silence for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, bowing their heads in respect.

Memorial Day — Yom Hazikaron, in Hebrew — began Monday night with an air raid siren at 8 p.m. marking out a minute of silence. The sirens halted whatever cars remained on the roads and brought many Israelis to their balconies and yards to privately mark a day of mourning usually punctuated by public ceremonies and remembrances.

The number of Israeli casualties of war, which includes soldiers, police, Shin Bet and Mossad officers killed during their service, stands at 23,816, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry on Friday. Another 4,166 terror victims are also being remembered. Both numbers date back to 1860, before the state was founded.

Since last year’s Memorial Day, 75 new names of soldiers and members of other security forces were added to the numbers of dead. Forty-two were IDF soldiers and police officers, and 33 were disabled veterans who died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service.

WATCH: Israelis sing Hatikvah from balconies, usher in Remembrance Day
Tens of thousands of Israelis set out to their balconies to sing Israel's national anthem Hatikvah together in lieu of attending the Memorial Day ceremonies cancelled across the country because the coronavirus crisis.

Israelis were asked to participate in singing from their balconies following the the official Memorial Day ceremony held at the Western Wall. The ceremony held for the first time in Israel's history without an attending audience as Israelis watched the ceremony broadcast live from their homes.

After speeches were held and prayers were said, the ceremony coordinator Dan Caner asked viewers to participate by singing along to anthem led by Lt-Col. Shai Abrahamson during the ceremony.

"Go out to your balconies, stand by your windows, and we'll all sing the national anthem together as one," he said, addressing bereaved and families, and citizens of the State of Israel.

The singing of Hatikvah from balconies was an initiative organized by the Defense Ministry's Department of Family Commemoration and Legacy together with the Organization of Community Centers in Israel. At the end of the official Memorial Day ceremony, several communities across Israel took part in singing the national anthem together.

My brother’s body must not be left behind
In 2014, a UN-US brokered ceasefire brought a pause to the fighting in Operation Protective Edge. During that ceasefire, my twin brother, Hadar, of blessed memory, a lieutenant operating inside Gaza at the time, was ambushed, killed and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. His body is yet to be returned to Israel for burial.

Hamas also still holds the body of Oron Shaul, another soldier from the same operation, along with living Israeli citizens, who are held captive by this terror organization.

Those realities shape what Israeli Remembrance Day means to me.

Israeli Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism has always been the most powerful day of the year for me. This is the day that marks our national honor, and the day on which the basic values that unite Israeli society take center stage. It is a day of national solidarity and pride in our liberal, democratic, and Jewish character, and in what is sacrificed in order to preserve them.

On this day, our country stops and thinks of our fallen. We think of those who went into battle, never to return. We think of the wounded veterans. And we think of the civilians who fell victim to terror attacks.

I never imagined becoming one of the community of bereaved families; a community made up of those who never sought to become members. The years since Hadar was killed and kidnapped have been years of pain for me. Yet our family is not only bereaved. We are also captive to a dreadful limbo as we wait for Hadar to be returned home.

We will forever be bereaved. Our mission is to cease being captives.

This Officer Is A Son Of a Fallen Hero
Brig. Gen. Erez Gerstein was the commander of the Golani Brigade. He fell in the line of duty in southern Lebanon in 1999. Today his son Lt. Omer is an officer in the Golani Brigade.

The IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, recently met Omer and shared his memories of Omer’s father.

The Heroic Story of IDF Staff Sgt. Yanai Tuvia Weissman

‘US Prepared to Recognize Application of Israeli Law to Areas of the West Bank’
A US State Department spokesperson said on Monday that the United States remains ready to recognize Israel’s annexation of territory in the West Bank, but expects Israel to continue negotiations with the Palestinians.

“As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the vision [US President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan] foresees as being part of the State of Israel,” the AFP quoted the spokesperson as saying.

The spokesperson added however that this support would be “in the context of the government of Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians along the lines set forth in President Trump’s vision.”

According to the terms of the unity agreement reached by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, the issue of extending Israeli sovereignty can be brought to the Knesset for a vote on July 1 at the earliest.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that it was up to Israel whether or not to annex territory in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, and that discussions on the issue are taking place through private channels with the Israeli government.

The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with the Trump administration.
Appearing to confirm Syria airstrike, Bennett says IDF will keep fighting Iran
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday appeared to confirm that Israel was behind an airstrike against pro-Iranian forces in Syria the day before, saying the military was working to drive Tehran out of the country.

“We have moved from blocking Iran’s entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop,” Bennett said in a statement.

“We will not allow more strategic threats to grow just across our borders without taking action,” he said. “We will continue to take the fight to the enemy’s territory.”

The airstrike early Monday on a military airfield outside Damascus — the latest in a series of attacks on Tehran-linked forces in Syria in recent weeks — killed four pro-Iranian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Three Syrian civilians were also reportedly killed by shrapnel, though it was not clear if the fragments came from the incoming missiles or Syria’s air defenses.

The Observatory said a number of Iranian-linked command centers were destroyed in the attack.

Bennett did not explicitly confirm Israel’s involvement in the airstrike, though his comments were seen as a clear hint to that effect.

Woman, 62, stabbed in suspected terror attack in central Israel
A Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli woman in the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba on Tuesday afternoon in what police called a terror attack before he was shot by a security guard.

The woman, 62, was in moderate-to-serious condition and received treatment on the scene before being taken to Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

According to police, the suspected terrorist was shot by an armed civilian who was driving by. He was said to be in moderate condition after medical treatment.

“The terrorist, 19, from the West Bank, took out a knife and chased after her. A civilian who lives nearby saw what was happening. He stopped his car and opened fire at the terrorist,” police said.
Medics treating a woman after a stabbing in Kfar Saba on April 28, 2020. The suspect is on the ground in the foreground. (screen capture: Twitter)

The Zaka emergency response service said the assailant was taken to Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Center with light injuries.

According to police, the suspected terrorist was a 19-year-old from the West Bank. Palestinian media reported that he was from the city of Tulkarem. His name was not immediately released.
Israeli Women Stabbed on Israel's Remembrance Day

French ramming suspect says he attacked cops for Palestinian cause
A driver who rammed two policemen in France Monday afternoon said that he carried out the attack because of “the situation” in Palestine.

The suspect, identified by French newspaper Le Parisien (French) as pro-Palestinian activist Youssef T., drove his black BMW into two motorcycle cops as they conducted roadside inspections in Colombes, near Paris.

According to French news reports, during his arrest he mentioned Palestine, Gaza and the Islamic State terrorist organization and said that he wanted to die while killing policemen.

Pictures of the incident shared on the Twitter account of the country’s police union showed a motorcycle crushed between a police car and the assailant’s vehicle.

One of the policemen was seriously injured in the head, the other in the legs and pelvis. Both have been hospitalized but their lives are not in danger.

In the suspect’s car, investigators found a knife and a “letter explaining his action,” and he “said during his arrest that he had watched videos on Palestine before acting,” prosecutors in Nanterre said.

Egypt Building Steel Wall along Border with Gaza
Egypt has recently started constructing a steel wall along its 14-kilometer (7-mile) border with Gaza, eyewitnesses said.

The eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that the Egyptian army started the construction of a 7-meter high wall along the Gazan border and will be equipped with electronic sensors.

They added that so far 1 kilometer of the wall has been built from the eastern side of Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom).

The construction of the wall came in parallel with a concrete wall, whose construction started in February and almost half of it has been completed.

Both walls are within the Egyptian territories and the space between them is not more than 8 meters, the eyewitnesses said.

The Gaza-based Interior Ministry, under the Hamas group control since 2007, has not yet commented on the development.

Also, no statement has been issued on the construction work from the Egyptian authorities.
FDD: Gaza’s Militant Groups Battle COVID-19
Even before COVID-19, Gaza’s healthcare system had fallen into utter disrepair. The Hamas government had diverted resources from public health to its never-ending war with Israel. But even if these resources were appropriately allocated, it is unclear whether the terror group has the skills necessary to coordinate an effective response to the virus. Thus, Hamas and its allies will continue to tout their efforts to fight the virus, but will also lean heavily on outside assistance.

Among the external assistance it solicits, Hamas has little choice but to ask for help from Israel. There are some signs of this already. For weeks, Hamas and Israel have been conducting back-channel negotiations, with Israel pressing Hamas to release the remains of two fallen Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilian hostages in Gaza. In exchange, Jerusalem is offering to release Palestinian prisoners and increase medical assistance. Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, publicly declared Hamas’ willingness to make “partial concessions” on the prisoners issue if Israel meets its conditions.

This progress should not be viewed as a warming of ties, however. Hamas is threatening to attack Israel if it does not meet the group’s demands. Sinwar recently threatened, “If ventilators are not brought into [Gaza], we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis.” The group also continues to launch rockets into the Mediterranean Sea to test range and accuracy, in preparation for a future war with Israel. Rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip landed in Israel on March 27, resulting in a retaliatory Israeli strike on Hamas positions.

What to Watch for
With only 17 confirmed cases, Gaza’s COVID-19 outbreak may still be containable. If the virus spreads, it could place enormous pressure on Hamas to cooperate with Israel to care for Gaza’s population. A pandemic in Gaza could also put pressure on Israel to provide more assistance. But such cooperation will not be possible if Hamas continues to threaten violence and war.
USAID blocks corona relief for Gaza over Hamas rule
The Trump administration will not be sending US coronavirus assistance to the Gaza Strip due to concerns that funds could fall into the hands of the US-designated terrorist group Hamas.

"The Trump administration is not supporting assistance to Gaza," a senior administration official with knowledge of the decision told The New York Post. "There is a Hamas government in Gaza. They have indicated no interest in engaging with us, no interest in peace with Israel, and in fact, they continue – despite having coronavirus cases in Gaza – to fire rockets at the Israelis on a regular basis."

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman announced on April 16 that the United States would give $5 million to the Palestinians to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm very pleased the US is providing $5M for Palestinian hospitals and households to meet immediate, life-saving needs in combating COVID-19. The US, as the world's top humanitarian aid donor, is committed to assisting the Palestinian people, & others worldwide, in this crisis," tweeted Friedman.

The relief would come from international-disaster assistance from the US Agency for International Development, according to the US State Department. The funds would go to Palestinians through a contractor in the West Bank.

Riots break out in impoverished north Lebanon city as currency crashes
Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces in northern Lebanon Monday amid a crash in the local currency and a surge in food prices. Dozens of young men smashed the fronts of local banks and set fire to an army vehicle, as the protests turned into riots.

The Red Cross said its teams were working on evacuating wounded people in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and one of the most neglected regions in Lebanon.

Scattered anti-government protests resumed last week as the government began easing the weeks-long lockdown to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in Lebanon, which has reported 710 cases and 24 deaths so far. The number of registered cases has dropped over the past two weeks, leading to the shortening of the nighttime curfew by one hour and allowing some businesses to resume work on Monday.

The virus outbreak has exacerbated a severe economic and financial crisis gripping the country since late last year, the most serious to hit Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war.

Trump Admin Vows to ‘Enforce and Expand’ Pressure on Iran in Wake of New Military Threats
The Trump administration is working on new efforts to "enforce and expand" its maximum pressure campaign on Iran in the wake of increased military threats, including Tehran's launch last week of a spy satellite.

The White House will continue to amp up the economic pressure on Iran until it comes to the table for "comprehensive negotiations," a demand Tehran has rejected since President Donald Trump took office, a senior Trump administration official told the Washington Free Beacon.

Officials are contemplating an array of options including sanctions on Iran's sponsorship of regional terror groups operating in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon—military hotspots where Tehran arms and directs militia groups including Hezbollah. Other efforts are currently taking place at the United Nations, where the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to expand an embargo on Iran's purchase of military equipment from countries like Russia and China.

"The president has been clear that the United States will enforce and expand maximum pressure to impose costs on Iran's malign behavior so the regime will enter comprehensive negotiations," the senior administration official told the Free Beacon.

The increased pressure on Iran comes less than a week after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully launched its first-ever military satellite, marking a significant step in Iran's ballistic missile program, portions of which would be legitimized if the U.N. arms embargo were lifted. Iran has also stepped up aggressive action in the Persian Gulf and recently threatened to attack 400 U.S. military sites around the world.

Michael Doran: The Islamic Republic on the Brink?
Ahmad Obali discusses with Mike Doran whether the regime in Iran is finished.

Iran: Mullahs Using Coronavirus to Heighten Anti-Americanism
Iran's covert disinformation operations concerning COVID-19 are not only aimed at inciting hatred toward the US; they are also, it seems, aimed at negatively impacting the international community's efforts to fight the virus.

Whenever social media accounts or websites linked to the Iranian regime's disinformation campaigns are exposed and removed, the Islamic Republic seems to find other outlets or else creates new accounts to continue spreading its propaganda.

Even amid the coronavirus outbreak and public health crisis, the Iranian regime seems to still prioritize its revolutionary ideals and its anti-American agenda. Unfortunately, the United Nations and the EU remain silent on the Iranian regime's efforts to spread disinformation as well as on its other malign behavior.
MEMRI: IRGC Aerospace Force Commander General Amir Ali Hajizadeh: We Are a Superpower Now
IRGC Aerospace Force Commander General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said in an April 23, 2020 interview on Channel 2 (Iran) that he would like to thank the start-up companies, the universities, and the people from Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industries Organization for their help in the construction of the first-stage engine of the missile that launched the Noor satellite into orbit on April 22, 2020. Saying that Iran is now a superpower, he said that the Noor satellite’s orbit passes over the U.S. and other countries that Iran can’t fly planes over, and he went on to explain that the first-stage engine used liquid fuel that is also used in surface-to-surface missiles because it was a cheaper option. He elaborated that the first-stage engine had belonged to an old missile that had been in storage, and that in the future, Iran will develop a solid-fuel first-stage engine. Furthermore, he said that since Iran used a portable launch pad, it has no need for a stationary command center. He also promised to advance Iran’s space technologies, to strengthen Iran every day, and to secure Iran such that nobody would dare threaten it. Later in the interview, General Hajizadeh said that the Americans have a false sense of security, that they only threatened to attack Iran and its cultural sites after hearing the Iranian people’s chants of revenge following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, and that Iran had a plan to strike 400 targets in the event that the U.S. retaliated immediately after the Ayn Al-Asad attack.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Iran Promises To Spend Only 100% Of Aid Money, Sanctions Relief On Weapons (satire)
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s sanctions- and coronavirus-battered regime urged the international community today to break with the United States and reopen commercial ties, on top of a request for monetary help in combating the spread and effects of COVID-19, asserting that they would limit the use of the resulting revenue for the funding of terrorism, nuclear weapons development, ballistic missile technology, and other malign pursuits, to a mere one hundred percent of the funds.

The Islamic Republic of Iran continued Tuesday to demand relief from economic sanctions aimed at curtailing and discouraging the country’s path toward atomic weapons, stating it requires an urgent influx of money to address the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic within its borders, three days after Iran launched a surveillance satellite into space as part of a larger program to manufacture weapons deliverable via that route, a program that has required a massive diversion of funds that could have paid for coronavirus containment efforts several times over. Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif assured potential donors and trade partners that Iran would not divert more than all of the donations and proceeds to its military programs and state-sponsored terrorism.

“The world must defy the evil machinations of the Great Satan,” he declared, resorting to familiar Iranian descriptor of the Unites States. “The Satan’s efforts to deprive the suffering people of Iran even as they face the twenty-first century’s greatest epidemiological scourge must prompt all moral countries to resume normal economic activity with us. Concerns that we will use or divert such income to malign ends are far, far out of proportion to our actual intentions. We commit to using all the monies, one hundred percent, for purposes that are not not support for Hezbollah, the Houthis, Iraqi Shiite militias, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, drug-trafficking, Basher Assad, nuclear weapons development, nuclear weapons delivery mechanisms, or sabotage of foreign nations’ interests all over the world.”

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