Friday, December 24, 2021

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Israel's gates are always open for aliyah
While they are all right to praise the increase in aliyah, we should not rest on our laurels. Israel must do more, must do all it can, to encourage Diaspora Jewry to make aliyah.

According to demographer Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the number of Jews worldwide stands at approximately 15.2 million, with more than 6.9 million living in Israel and the other 8.3 million in the Diaspora. The largest Jewish populations by country are the US (six million), France (446,000), Canada (393,500), the United Kingdom (292,000), Argentina (175,000), Russia (150,000), Germany (118,000) and Brazil (91,500).

Aliyah officials here cannot be complacent, though, especially when it comes to communities in distress. As Ethiopia again faces political turmoil, it is essential that Israel enable those awaiting aliyah to fly here, despite the pandemic. The cabinet voted on November 21 to approve the immigration of thousands of Ethiopians who have been waiting for years to fly to Israel, many in transit camps. But the government’s new regulations aimed at stemming the spread of the Omicron variant have apparently held up the process.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss, a regular Jerusalem Post columnist, wrote two columns recently urging the government to “bring home 10,000 members of Beta Yisrael waiting anxiously to immigrate to the Jewish state,” as well as the estimated 50,000 Jews living in South Africa. “This is a moment in time for South African Jews to gather up their courage, their vast talents and their families, and join us in our historic, divinely inspired march to redemption,” he wrote.

We echo his appeal to the Israeli government to seize the moment and expedite the immigration of Jews from Ethiopia, South Africa and elsewhere in the Diaspora. Israel has not sent a welcoming message to Diaspora Jewry by closing Ben-Gurion Airport to foreigners. But it can send a clear signal to all Jews abroad that its gates are always open to those who want to make aliyah.
Caroline Glick: The empty suit at the head of the table
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a primetime press conference about his COVID-19 policies Monday evening. It went poorly for him.

Channel 12 News reporter Ofer Hadad spoke for many Israelis when he said, "Mr. Prime Minister, on the one hand, you're signaling urgency and fear, and on the other hand, confusion.

"You decide to require a Green Pass for entry into shopping malls, and then you do an about face. You call for children to get vaccinated and then we discover that the education minister is – at best – refusing to mobilize the school system to this end. You ask the citizens of Israel not to travel abroad. And then your family flies off to the Maldives. You're confusing us."

Bennett's confused and contradictory policies on COVID-19 are of a piece with his confusing and failed policies in every other major policy sphere. From his dealing with the Biden administration, the Palestinians, Iran, Diaspora Jewry, the economy and beyond, Bennett's policies are a muddle of self-defeating contradictions.

Consider the situation with the Biden administration. Bennett said that by forming a radical ruling coalition dominated by the Left and the Islamist Ra'am Party, he would vastly improve Israel's relations with the administration. Bennett and his partner, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, insisted that then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had brought Israel-US relations to a crisis through his close relations with then-President Donald Trump and the Republican party. Bennett and Lapid claimed that once they took charge, ties with the Biden administration would vastly improve.
‘Israel’s contract with Diaspora suspended due to COVID-19’
Arsen Ostrovsky is disappointed with the State of Israel.

Ostrovsky is a leading human rights lawyer who moved to Israel from Australia in 2012. In 2018, he won the Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize recognizing outstanding English-speaking olim who embody the spirit of modern-day Zionism by contributing in a significant way to the country. Yet he wrote in an impassioned Facebook post this week that he feels abandoned by the country.

“We have chosen to make aliyah and devote our lives to this state that we love so much,” Ostrovsky said. “Yet, when we need the state for us, it is nowhere to be seen. No other way to describe this feeling other than pure abandonment.”

Ostrovsky’s story is unfortunately not unique.

Countless new and veteran immigrants have been struggling over the course of the pandemic to gain entry for their loved ones into Israel – for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, births and deaths. Some have succeeded, but others have been met with silence or, perhaps worse, form letters coldly stating a denial of entry.

“The State of Israel has a contract with the Diaspora, wherein Israel is a place of refuge for us, where there is a safety net that exists for all of us,” said William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “That contract has been suspended.”

Daroff was one of a small number of “exceptions” who was accepted into Israel to visit his daughter who, until last week, was a lone soldier. He and his family arrived just before the government voted to turn the United States, where Daroff lives, into a “red state.”

Now, there are few flights to and from Israel and the US, as not only are American foreign nationals banned from entering Israel, but Israelis are also banned from traveling to the US.


PM Naftali Bennett: Israeli Right and Left are in consensus about Golan Heights
On Dec. 14, 1981, the government of Menachem Begin applied Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights, in the face of harsh criticism at home and abroad. What Begin declared 40 years ago, we are continuing today.

Today, we are strengthening the Golan Heights and helping it grow. The billion-shekel plan for the Golan, which the government under my leadership will approve at the start of next week, is one of the Israeli government's flagship plans for this term.

Hundreds of millions will be invested in infrastructure, schools, roads, job opportunities, high-tech, and green energy – and the list goes on. We are shining a spotlight on the Golan and saying clearly, we are with the Golan, and we are on the Golan.

The Golan Heights are more than a strategic asset of importance to diplomacy and defense. It's also a home, it shapes the landscape of our homeland.

My special love for the Golan Heights goes back to my childhood, to hikes on the Golan Heights trails and in its green fields, and later as an IDF combat soldier and commander on navigation drills that lasted hours. Like many in Israel, the landscapes of the Golan – the sight of the basalt and the wide spaces that overlook the Sea of Galilee on one side and Mount Hermon on the other – hold a special place in my heart.


Ruthie Blum: Mansour Abbas’s ‘Jewish state’ bombshell
Even after being attacked by Arab Israelis and Palestinians across the spectrum, Abbas – who last month told the Nazareth-based Kul al-Arab newspaper and news site, “whether we like it or not, Israel is a Jewish state, and my central goal is to define the status of the country’s Arab citizens” – refused to retract. In fact, he doubled down.

In a lengthy post on Facebook, he reiterated what he had said at the conference, writing that Arabs need to distinguish between “desires and reality,” and not be fooled by the slogan “a state for all its citizens,” which is “employed to exploit people’s emotions without telling them that they’re talking about the state of Israel.”

The fact is, he emphasized, “legally and demographically, the State of Israel is a Jewish state.”

These words, from an Islamist party leader, are significant in and of themselves. That he uttered them unapologetically, publicly and in Arabic makes him not only courageous, but credible.

The hope is that his voters won’t be the only Arab Israelis weary of leaders championing the Palestinians while abandoning their own towns to gang wars and gun violence. It remains to be seen whether backers of Arab legislators, who use their seats in the Knesset to undermine the state, will undergo a shift in perception. Indeed, time will tell if he’s an actual trend-setter.

Though he deserves kudos for breaking with the longstanding tradition of his peers in the Knesset, let’s keep in mind that he’s a politician with an agenda beyond the one he touted in his election campaign. As is the case with his fellow coalition partners, it’s his unspoken ambitions that may reveal themselves as less than admirable.


Are the Palestinians Wrong about Everything? (An Average Israeli Perspective) (h/t jzaik)

Amid warming ties with Muslim world, observers see Bangladesh as potential partner for Israel
Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, there has been a remarkable shift in Israel’s relations with the Muslim world. New reports have emerged of the possibility of further breakthroughs in diplomatic ties with former foes like Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.

Another large Muslim country that observers see the possibility of normalizing ties with is Bangladesh. While Bangladesh and Israel have no formal ties, there have been reports of unofficial economic and military cooperation between the countries, and the Muslim country also dropped a key travel restriction to Israel earlier this year (though travel to Israel is still forbidden by law), fueling speculation that normalization may be on the horizon.

“After South Africa was delisted, Bangladesh established relations. Following Taiwan’s delisting, Bangladesh established relations. There is every reason to think that this recent change with regards to Israel will lead to the road of normalization and open relations,” Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of Weekly Blitz, a Bangladesh pro-Israel, anti-militancy newspaper, told JNS.

Economic and military cooperation is believed to be ongoing between the two countries, regardless of official diplomatic status. Multiple media reports indicate that Bangladesh has purchased Israeli military-grade technology, and the World Bank’s World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) database showed that between 2010 and 2018, Israel imported products worth around $333.74 million that originated from Bangladesh. WITS data shows that Israeli exports eventually making their way to Bangladesh stood at $3.67 million between 2009 and 2015. No data is available after 2015 in the WITS system.
Gov. Hochul Vetoes Anti-Chassidic Bill
Representatives of the Orthodox community in NY State were elated with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s veto on Wednesday of a bill to enable the town of Blooming Grove in Orange County to unfairly channel a property sales tax to purchasing and preserving land it wants to keep away from Orthodox Jews who want to expand their community, The Times Herald-Record reported Thursday.

Yossi Gestetner of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said, “It’s a disgrace that such bills even get out of committees. Those bills are written with the false and bigoted assumption that growth of said communities is a problem when in fact they are an economic and tax boon for local communities as shown in multiple data reports on our website.”

Governor Hochul explained that the bill she vetoed was almost identical to a conservation bill for the neighboring town of Chester that was vetoed in 2019 by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, for the same reason: rather than conserving parkland, the bill was aimed at limiting the available housing for the burgeoning Chassidic community in Orange County.

Hochul wrote: “There have been well-documented tensions in Orange County between local elected officials and members of the Chassidic community. Similar tensions in the nearby Town of Chester resulted in litigation. It would be inappropriate to sign this legislation at this juncture, while facts are still being gathered about the situation.”

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R-New Windsor), was not happy with the governor’s “late-night Christmas week veto.” He issued a statement saying, “For years community members and local leaders worked together in a nonpartisan fashion to develop a comprehensive preservation plan which was the sound basis for this legislation. This veto shows blatant disregard for the state’s constitutional principle of home rule and completely ignores legislators of both parties, local government requests, and the support of countless local, regional, and statewide organizations.”

In other words, what gives you the right to tell us how to deal with our Jews?
Is Germany intimidated by Im Tirtzu?
After the German government was faced with accusations that the federal republic uses taxpayer money to fund anti-Israel NGOs, BDS, and terrorism activities, German officials used allegedly harsh and undiplomatic language in internal messages about an expose launched by the Israeli organization Im Tirtzu Building the Zionist Deam, Israel National News can reveal.

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu, on Monday told Israel National News: "We've always said that the German government is in a state of self-denial, where on the one hand it purports to work to resolve the conflict, and on the other hand it funds anti-Zionist propaganda groups that profit from the conflict and work to escalate it.”

He added that “Now, after seeing their internal correspondence between the various divisions at their Foreign Ministry, it turns out that they are simply lying to each other.

The German government can either let this deception continue, or it can stop funding organizations that profit from the conflict and from human suffering such as B'Tselem, which is on the top level of disgracefulness."

In a complex back and forth email exchange between the German foreign ministry and former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chancellery, a text email was ostensibly mistakenly sent to Im Tirtzu as part of the German government's authorized response. The message reveals a rare look into the inner workings of top German diplomats and officials who deal with Israel.

The German officials seemed to express nervousness about the importance and “range of the organization [Im Tirtzu] in Israel” and expected that part of the government’s formal response to Im Tirzu’s letter would be published in the media.


Mark Regev: What is Israel's endgame in attacking Syria?
National-security specialists are familiar with the 19th century Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz who famously coined the axiom that “war is a continuation of politics by other means,” and Israel’s military operations in Syria are indeed designed to send realpolitik messages to both the Islamic Republic and the Syrian regime.

Israel wants Iran to understand that as long as its forces remain in Syria, they will face IDF attacks, as will Hezbollah and other allied militias. Iranian personnel will be hit, their equipment demolished and their installations destroyed. Israel will keep up the pressure through never-ending attrition, and in so doing, prevent Tehran from accomplishing its planned military expansion.

Yet not only will Israel deny Iran its strategic goals, Iran’s continued involvement in Syria will also demand a burgeoning cost in blood and treasure, a price Tehran will increasingly incur until it understands the folly of its deployment and takes the inevitable decision to disengage.

The Israeli message to Syrian President Bashar Assad is equally stark. Despite the predictions of many, Syria’s dictator prevailed in the civil war. But, despite coming out on top of that horrific struggle, he will not be able to enjoy the “fruits of victory” with there being no peace and quiet for Syria if Iran retains its military presence. Israel will see to that.

Moreover, with ongoing violence, Assad’s war-torn country will be unable to enlist the international financial support for much-needed reconstruction, the Arab world’s generosity is already limited by Syria’s military association with the Islamic Republic.

While the current president’s father, Hafez Assad, knew how to manipulate ties with Iran and Hezbollah to advance Syria’s interests, today it is they who exploit Syria to advance theirs. Like in Iraq, Iran is building autonomous military, social and religious structures that will ultimately challenge the regime’s monopoly on power. Did Bashar Assad survive the civil war only to see these “friends” usurp his authority? Here’s a cheeky suggestion for Syria’s president: Organize a victory party in Damascus. Have the Iranians and Hezbollah parade through the capital in their finest uniforms. Thank them for their efforts in support of your regime, award them medals for a mission successfully accomplished, and then, send them home.
The IDF’s Flawed Analytical Framework for Hamas and Hezbollah
On Dec. 10, a large explosion rocked the Palestinian camp Burj al-Shemali outside the southern Lebanon city of Tyre. The site of the explosion was a center belonging to the Palestinian terror group Hamas that includes a mosque and a health clinic. Residents told local media that a fire from the blast spread to the mosque, where it triggered the explosion of weapons stored inside.

On the surface, the explosion served as a reminder of Hamas’ habitual use of civilian structures for military purposes and of the group’s military activity in Lebanon. But, more important, the incident highlighted that Israel may finally be breaking with its shortsighted public posture that Hezbollah bears no responsibility for Hamas’ activity. Shortly before the explosion at Burj al-Shemali, there were long overdue signs of Israel developing a new willingness to acknowledge reality and hold Hezbollah responsible for attacks carried out in the country the group controls.

In 2018, Israel publicized an assessment of Hamas building training camps and weapons facilities in Lebanon with assistance from Hezbollah, but its posture toward Hezbollah in Lebanon mostly impeded its willingness to take any overt action to deter the buildup. Then the issue resurfaced this past May, during the brief war between Israel and Hamas. While the fighting was focused in Gaza and southern Israel, on three separate occasions that month, an unidentified group, which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the time maintained was a Palestinian faction, fired rockets at Israel from southern Lebanon. Most of them landed in the Mediterranean or failed to make it into Israeli territory. The IDF responded with artillery shelling, and that was the end of it. No second front opened up in the north, and Hezbollah didn’t join the fray.

After the May war ended, there were two more such rocket attacks, in late July and in early August. The last one saw a slight escalation in Israel’s response as the IDF used airstrikes in addition to artillery fire, but struck nothing of value. In turn, Hezbollah decided it needed to respond in order to preserve what it calls the deterrence equation, which says such Israeli strikes inside Lebanese territory cannot be left unanswered. Its response was therefore formulaic: a barrage of 20 rockets deliberately fired into open terrain in the Golan Heights. Once again, Israel and Hezbollah had performed their dance, and it ended there. There were no other rocket attacks by this so-called Palestinian faction.

While the attack-counterattack sequence was a predictable feature of the status quo, the Israeli response over the past six months was significant for how absurd it was. The messaging that came out of Israel about the power dynamics in Lebanon and what the proper Israeli course of action should be, presumably informed in part by the IDF, pushed two main points. First, that Hamas’ activities, although assisted and supervised by Iran, actually presented a challenge for Hezbollah. That is, Hamas supposedly was looking to operationalize a second front against Israel irrespective of or even against Hezbollah’s preference, which could in turn embroil Hezbollah in a conflict it didn’t necessarily want. Second, that Israel’s response to any provocation from Hamas in the north should be in Gaza, not necessarily in Lebanon, so as not to play into Hamas’ hand.
Lebanon ‘Regrets’ Assault on UN Peacekeepers
Lebanon’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it regretted an assault on a Finnish battalion of UN peacekeepers and awaited results of an inquiry as videos showed local people attacking their vehicles with rocks.

Videos circulated on social media and published by news outlets showed residents of a southern Lebanese town pelting United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicles with rocks on Wednesday.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants regrets the incident that occurred with the Finnish battalion in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Ministry confirms that it does not accept any form of transgression against the UNIFIL forces.”

Following the incident on Wednesday, UNIFIL said that “depriving UNIFIL of freedom of movement and attacking those who serve the cause of peace is unacceptable” and violated a peacekeeping agreement between Lebanon and the UN. It urged Lebanese authorities to hold those responsible accountable.

The peacekeepers, now numbering around 10,000, have been stationed in southern Lebanon since 1978, when they arrived following an Israeli invasion during the 1975-1990 civil war.

While Palestinian terror groups were active there at the time, Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah now dominates the area.
125 countries back opened-ended UNHRC war crimes probe against Israel
Among those 34 countries that abstained were: Albania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Central African Republic, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Lithuania, Madagascar, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Zambia.

Australia and Canada, who have a strong record of supporting Israel, both took the floor to explain their decision to abstain, noting that they often strove to support funding for UNHRC commissions of inquiry even when they opposed them.

Australia said that it was not a member of the UNHRC and could not vote on the resolution when it was approved in May.

"We oppose anti-Israel bias," its representative said.

"Australia supports human rights resourcing even for mandates we do not support," he said. But he explained that the mandate for this particular probe "is excessively broad" and "over resourced."

He added that Australia affirms "Israel's right to self-defense in accordance with international law."

Canada said that at this point in the process, the UNGA should be looking at funding and not revisiting the UNHRC decisions with regard to investigations.

But he said this probe was a particularly "unacceptable outlier" and that the resources needed were "significantly larger than" that those allocated for "all of the investigations we improved resources for today."
The Israel Guys: The TRUTH About the Israeli Settlers
The world is currently obsessed with a so-called “increase in settler violence” in the West Bank. In the meantime, another Jew has been murdered by Arab terrorists in Samaria.

On today’s show, we separate fact from fiction to bring you the real story of what is happening in Israel’s biblical heartland. Are settlers actually violent towards Palestinians? If so, is it comparable to Arab terrorism against Jews?


Israel’s Moment of Truth in Dealing with Hamas?
Evidence of Hamas’s growing military strength in the West Bank lies in the noticeable rise in arrests by Israeli security forces and the growing number of actively organized terror infrastructures and significant attacks that are thwarted. Data show arrests and thwarted attacks on a daily basis, as well as increased incidents of stone throwing, Molotov cocktails, stabbings, and car-ramming attacks. Further evidence of Hamas’s determination is the weakness shown by the Palestinian security mechanisms against Hamas activity. In some cases, the PA security forces avoid confronting Hamas activists, even when armed and operating openly against the Authority, in Jenin for example or on university campuses. In other cases, the security forces achieve fairly limited success and are exposed to growing public criticism, reflecting the erosion of their support and legitimacy.

Thus since Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel’s pledge that “what was is not what will be” has indeed appeared to be validated, albeit not in the sense that the Israeli leadership intended. Hamas’s strategic positioning after the round of fighting in May is better than before. Israel has eased the security closure of the Gaza Strip more than since Hamas took control of Gaza. In addition to 10,000 Israeli work permits granted to laborers from the Strip, imports and exports and bringing dual purpose materials into Gaza is easier. Egypt also significantly eased restrictions at the Rafah border crossing and even launched a number of projects to rebuild the Strip, with unsupervised entry of building materials. Not only did Gaza’s humanitarian conditions improve after the last round of hostilities, but Hamas is also stronger politically and with respect to its military infrastructures outside the Strip, including in southern Lebanon. Above all, it has more confidence – in spite of a growing sense of siege in the Strip, after the recent completion of the security obstacle erected by Israel along its border.

The ultimatums issued by Hamas in Gaza should be regarded seriously, because they clearly reflect how the leaders see the situation and how they wish to promote their strategic objectives. Given a zero sum game between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, any gain by Hamas is a loss for the PA, raising the chances of eroding the PA’s effectiveness in the West Bank, and leading to increased friction between the IDF and the civilian population, and even to further outbreaks of violence.

True, Israel did succeed in restoring calm to and from the Gaza Strip after Operation Guardian of the Walls, but the tacit price in strategic terms is greater than what Israel can afford. Hamas, as a terror organization that has developed significant military capabilities and is striving to develop military infrastructures in the West Bank and southern Lebanon, together with political efforts to reach out to Israel’s Arab citizens and tighten its cooperation with Iran, has become a more dangerous enemy in general, and particularly in the event of an operation on another front apart from the southern arena, or with Iran.

Now is the time for Israel to reassess its moves with respect to the organization. It should neutralize the dual resistance strategy and make it clear that it sees Hamas as a single entity, and therefore any terror activity in the West Bank or southern Lebanon will be treated in the same way as terror activity in the Gaza Strip, with some of the responsibility assigned to the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which is no longer trying to hide its involvement in other theaters. Israel must take the initiative, at a time it deems more strategically convenient rather than at a time imposed by Hamas, and inflict ongoing critical damage to the organization’s military infrastructure in all its theaters – even at the cost of harming the chances of reaching an arrangement. Avoiding this type pf action could prove to be a very bad option, and far more dangerous than the lack of an arrangement.
Hamas using ceasefire to rearm and destabilize West Bank
Hamas's attempt to undermine the security stability in the West Bank in recent weeks is a result of the terror organization's leadership abroad and within the Gaza Strip joining forces.

The brain behind this collaboration is the leader of Hamas in the West Bank, Saleh al-Arouri, who constantly pushes for more attacks, and tends to travel a lot to Beirut, Istanbul, and Doha in order the strengthen the organization's ties. Al-Arouri's title makes it seem that he is one responsible for Hamas' activity in the West Bank, but his credentials are much broader. He spends a lot of his time in an attempt to empower Hamas's military activity outside Gaza, in both the West Bank and Lebanon.

The endless work of the Israeli security forces in capturing armed cells in the West Bank does not appear to discourage al-Arouri, and he continues to devote more and more resources to it. Even last month, when Israel announced it had arrested more than 50 members of a Hamas cell in the West Bank, which was involved in planning terror attacks inside Israel, it didn't hurt his motivation to continue establishing other cells from scratch.

To do this, he uses Hamas' "West Bank headquarters" in Gaza, which is operated by prisoners who got released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, many of whom are West Bank-natives. These operatives are trying to create remote-controlled Hamas military squads in the West Bank, recruiting the people they know in the area.

Hamas also got used to the automatic Israeli pardon given to it in the Gaza Strip for the actions it conducts in the West Bank as a desire to keep the quiet on the southern border - even if some of the terror squads that carry out attacks in the West Bank receive instructions from Gaza.
Israeli Navy doubled in size within a single year. And Germany helped pay for it. (h/t MtTB)

2 Palestinian terrorists sentenced to life for 2019 killing of Israeli teenager
A military court on Thursday handed life sentences to two Palestinian terrorists who killed 19-year-old Israeli yeshiva student and Israel Defense Forces soldier Dvir Sorek in Samaria in 2019.

Qassem Asafra was sentenced to an additional 40 years behind bars, and his cousin, Nasir Asafra, to another 20.

Each of the perpetrators was also ordered to pay the Sorek family 1.5 million shekels ($476,000) in compensation. In addition, Qassem Asafra, who attacked two Israelis in Beersheba in 2011, but was not caught, was ordered to pay the victims another NIS 60,000 ($19,000) in compensation.

Sorek was found stabbed to death near his hometown of Migdal Oz in Samaria. He was a yeshiva student enrolled in a program that combines Torah study and military service. At the time of the killing, he was off-duty.

Sorek had gone to Jerusalem to buy books for his teacher as an end-of-year present and was returning home when he was targeted by the terrorists.

His body was found by the side of the road, still clutching the books he had purchased, by popular Israeli novelist and outspoken left-wing activist David Grossman.

According to the IDF, Nasir Asafra was a member of Hamas. He attacked Sorek after he got off the bus, subduing him with a stun gun and then repeatedly stabbing him in the chest.
Israeli army changes policy amid rise in Palestinian attacks

Elderly Palestinian killed by Israeli driver; Hamas warns Israel to ‘pay a price’
An elderly Palestinian woman was killed in an apparent hit-and-run accident near Ramallah on Friday morning. Ghadeer Masalmah, 70, was struck by an Israeli driver on Route 60 near the West Bank town of Sinjil. Magen David Adom ambulance medics who arrived at the scene said the woman had no vital signs.

Hamas said the Israeli army and settlers in the West Bank would “pay a price” for the incident.

The Israeli driver who hit Masalmah continued driving to the settlement of Shiloh, while reporting the incident to police. There, he was briefly questioned by officers, and his vehicle was impounded pending further investigation, police said.

The man told officers he feared to stop near the West Bank town following the incident. He was released, but summoned for further investigation, a law enforcement spokesperson said.

Masalmah’s body was taken by the Palestinian Red Cresent ahead of her funeral which took place a few hours later.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem called the incident “a new crime.”


Israel's Iran question: To strike or not to strike? - opinion
The targets in Iran would vary. The first would be Natanz, Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility. The complex consists of two large halls, roughly 300,000 square feet each dug somewhere between eight and 23 feet below ground and covered by several layers of concrete and metal. The walls of each hall are estimated to be approximately two feet thick. The facility is also surrounded by surface-to-air missiles.

The next facility would be the heavy-water plant under construction near the town of Arak, which could be used one day to produce plutonium. Iranians say the material will be used for medical and research isotope production, but in reality could have the ability to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Next is Iran’s Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), located at the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. Based on satellite imagery, the facility is above ground, although some reports have suggested tunneling near the complex.

And then there is Fordow, the uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom, not far from the Caspian Sea. Officially revealed to the IAEA in 2009, the facility can hold thousands of centrifuges. Built into a mountain, it would be difficult to penetrate the hardened facility. Former defense minister Ehud Barak has noted more than once that the facility is “immune to standard bombs.”

Military planners would also likely feel compelled to attack Iran’s centrifuge fabrication sites, since their destruction would make it extremely difficult for Iran to reestablish its program – although the destruction of Natanz, Arak and Isfahan on their own would be enough to set back the ayatollah’s dream of obtaining the bomb.


Iran's war games in Gulf were warning to Israel - top Iranian commanders
War games conducted this week by Iran in the Gulf were intended to send a warning to Israel, the country's top military commanders said on Friday, amid concerns over possible Israeli plans to target Iranian nuclear sites.

The Revolutionary Guards' war games, which included firing ballistic and cruise missiles, ended on Friday.

"These exercises had a very clear message: a serious, real ... warning to threats by the Zionist regime's authorities to beware of their mistakes," Guards chief General Hossein Salami said on state TV.

"We will cut off their hands if they make a wrong move... The distance between actual operations and military exercises is only a change in the angles of launching the missiles," Salami added.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said 16 ballistic missiles of different classes had been fired simultaneously and had destroyed predetermined targets.

Iran says its ballistic missiles have a range of 2,000 km (1,200 miles) and are capable of reaching Israel and US bases in the region. Israel, which opposes efforts by world powers to revive Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal, has long threatened military action if diplomacy fails. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has called on world powers not to allow Iran to play for time at the nuclear negotiations, in recess at Iran's request and scheduled to resume next Monday.
In ‘warning’ to Israel, Iran says it fired 16 ballistic missiles able to hit country
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired more than a dozen surface-to-surface ballistic missiles during an exercise this week, the official IRNA news agency reported on Friday.

The report said the Guards fired 16 missiles during an ongoing major military drill across the country’s south.

It said the missiles were of the models Emad, Ghadr, Sejjil, Zalzal, Dezful and Zolfaghar and that their range is from 350 to 2000 kilometers (220 to 1250 miles).

The short-range and medium-range missiles, Iran has said, can reach Israel as well as US bases in the region.

Iranian officials said the missiles fired during the drill successfully hit one target at the same time as 10 drones simultaneously hit their targets. State TV showed missiles launching in the desert.

Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, said the planned drill was an answer to Israel’s recent “massive but pointless threats” against Iran.

“This was a tiny part of hundreds of missiles that can hit any hostile target simultaneously,” he said.













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