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Israel Hits Iranian Military Posts in Syria

Israeli aircraft carried out strikes on Iranian military posts in Syria early Wednesday morning in response to a barrage of rockets fired at Israel by Iranian-backed militia forces near Damascus Tuesday morning. When Assad-regime air defense units fired at the Israeli aircraft, they were also targeted. Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett declared that "the rules have changed: Anyone who shoots at the State of Israel during the day will not sleep at night. Like last week and now this week.  Our message to Iran's leaders is simple: You are no longer immune. Wherever you stretch your tentacles-we will hack them off. The IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens "

Syrian opposition groups claimed that there were 11 people killed by the strikes including 7 non-Syrians, presumably members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.

“The Iranian attack against Israeli territory yesterday is further proof of the current Iranian purpose in Syria. Their presence in the region is a danger to Israel's security, regional stability and to the Syrian regime,” the IDF said in a statement.

Deadline for Gantz Coalition Deal Approaching
Midnight Wednesday is the deadline for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a governing coalition, but as of Wednesday afternoon the prospects of such an event coming about looked dim. Gantz spoke to reporters Wednesday morning, devoting his remarks to blaming the Likud Party led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the impasse, saying Netanyahu “would do anything to drag us to third elections." He added an entreaty to Netanyahu to "accept the election results," and to "give up the immunity and the right-wing bloc and negotiate the foundations of the two biggest parties."

Head of the Likud negotiation talks MK Yariv Levin responded by saying "The prime minister agreed to terms that would violate his rights and shorten his candidacy. Show me one concession, even a little one, made by blue and white. I have never seen negotiations being held where there hasn't been a meeting for ten days. The reason is that Blue and White are busy forming a delusional minority government. I hope that fails."

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman appeared to end the final hope of a unity government being formed before the midnight deadline by telling reporters that he would not cooperate with Blue and White plans to form a minority government with the support of the Joint (Arab) List party and he also wouldn’t join with the Right-wing bloc led by Likud to form a government with a slight majority. He added that both major parties were equally to blame for the imbroglio, but he still had hope that a third election could be avoided.

Pentagon Issues New Report on Threat from Iran
A Pentagon study released this week said that the arsenal of missiles possessed by Iran’s military is larger than that of any of its Middle Eastern neighbors. "Lacking a modern air force, Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries in the region -- particularly the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia -- from attacking Iran," the report said. Defense Intelligence Agency director Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said: "Iran sees itself as closer than ever to achieving its goals. Tehran has played the cards dealt it by the fall of Saddam [Hussein in Iraq], the uprising in Syria, the rise and retreat of ISIS, and the conflict in Yemen."

Here is a video about the threat from Iran



Massive Street Demonstrations Continue in Lebanon and Iraq
Lebanon’s titular parliament appeared to be hopelessly checkmated Wednesday by protesters who have twice this week physically prevented them from entering the capital building to hold sessions. Protesters chanting “revolution, revolution," continued to occupy the streets around the building Wednesday morning, as rumors circulated that security forces had refused orders to violently disperse them. In Iraq, protests have been more frequently violent, with protesters expressing deep skepticism at statements by lawmakers that reforms are imminent.

Today's video shows a recent panel discussion about Russia's growing presense in the Middle East

US Declares West Bank Settlements ‘Not Illegal’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a dramatic announcement at a press briefing Monday afternoon, saying that the Trump Administration has reviewed the legal arguments regarding Israeli settlement communities in the West Bank and does not view them as illegal under international law. Reactions to the announcement were swift, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying “the United States adopted an important policy that rights a historical wrong when the Trump administration clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law. This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea.”

“I am pleased that the effort has concluded and that the secretary’s conclusions have been published,” US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Friedman told the Jerusalem Post. “I believe that they will bring truth and clarity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and advances the cause of peace.”

Speaking for many on the Right of Israel’s political spectrum, Foreign Minister Isreal Katz (Likud) said, “The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is indisputable. I would like to thank the Trump administration's consistent and steadfast support for Israel and its commitment to furthering peoples' relations and to creating a Middle East of prosperity and stability.”

Blue and White party head Benny Gantz also praised the announcement, saying it demonstrated Washington’s “firm adherence to Israel and its commitment to security and the future of the entire Middle East." He added that "The fate of the communities and residents of Judea and Samaria should be determined by arrangements that meet security requirements and can promote peace. [These should be] arrangements that will serve both sides, and will also reflect the facts on the ground."

Joint List Party head MK Ayman Odeh voiced his disagreement, declaring that "no foreign minister will change the fact that the settlements were built on occupied land on which a sovereign Palestinian state will be established by Israel's side." Another MK, Tamar Zandberg of the Democratic Union faction said that next "the United States will also announce that the sun rises in the west.”

Other voices, including the leadership of the settler communities and some Rightist MKs, called for Israel to immediately announce its application of sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian Authority denounced the decision with PA Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh summing up the PA’s position by declaring that the new US position was “void, unacceptable and condemned” as it “totally contradicts international law and resolutions that reject settlements.”

"The European Union's position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334," added EU Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. "The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power. The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties."

Here is the video of Pompeo's statement

Rockets Fired at Israel From Syria

IDF units in the northern part of the country were on high alert Tuesday following the interception by the Iron Dome air defense system of four missiles which had been fired from inside Syria over the Golan Heights towards the Galilee region in the early morning hours. The incident occurred while IDF units in the south remained on alert following rocket attacks directed at Beer Sheva from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Monday. Meanwhile, units deployed along the border with Lebanon were also closely monitoring the possibility of spillover from the escalating street demonstrations rocking that country.

Members of Lebanon’s national parliament were physically prevented from entering the capital building in Beirut on Tuesday morning, even as confrontations including live gunfire were reported between protesters and security forces in several cities around the country.

Iran Sanctions Waivers Cancelled as Protests Rage
The US State Department announced on Monday that it is cancelling one of four sanctions waivers that allowed foreign firms to cooperate with Iran's civilian nuclear program without penalties, specifically the waivers related to the nuclear facility at Fordow, which Iranian officials recently said would be re-activated for the purpose of enriching uranium. Also on Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that the Islamic Republic’s supply of heavy water has surpassed what it’s authorized to have under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The announcements came as Iranian cities remained under a harsh security lockdown following recent riots to protest unpopular new tax increases on gasoline and other grievances.

The protests, which began on Friday afternoon and have reportedly resulted in over 100 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage in several cities, had subsided by Tuesday morning according to security officials. However, videos streamed on social media sites showed intense demonstrations late into Monday evening including violent clashes between protesters and security forces, despite a warning by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that a harsh crackdown would ensue if the protests continued.

Here is a video of protests in Iran



Clock Ticking on Knesset Coalition Talks
As the clock ticks down to a midnight Wednesday deadline for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a governing coalition, MKs from the 55-member bloc of Rightist and Orthodox parties have put heavy pressure on Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman to drop his objections to joining a coalition led by Likud leader and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lieberman has met with leaders of both parties in recent days in an apparent effort to bridge the gaps between them and bring about the formation of a unity government, but at press time no breakthroughs had been reported with both large parties blaming the other for the impasse.

Argentina and Uruguay Play Friendly Match in Israel
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat on Monday when the national football (soccer) teams from Argentina and Uruguay played a friendly match at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium. The stadium was filled to its capacity with 25,000 cheering fans, who expressed their excitement as the two legendary teams ended the game tied 2-2.

Today’s video shows highlights of one of Israel’s most prestigious universities

Iranian Street Explodes in Anger

Amidst large-scale street demonstrations across Iran, which have turned violent in several cities, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a live address on State TV in which he said, among other things, that “ sabotage and arson is done by hooligans not our people," and that he primarily blamed Israel, Saudi Arabia, the US and UK for stirring up resentment against his regime. However, the protests were sparked by tax increases on gasoline and other commodities, which protesters said were being made to fund the clerical regime’s support for Hezbollah and other terrorist proxy groups instead of alleviating the poor living conditions of Iranians.

The US and many other Western governments have condemned the use of lethal force against protesters in Iran, which have reportedly led to the deaths of dozens of protesters as well as some police officers, although it’s difficult to get a clear picture because internet access has been shut off in most of the country.

"The United States supports the Iranian people in their peaceful protests against the regime that is supposed to lead them," the White House said in a statement. "We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators."

Scatters reports out of some of the over 100 cities and villages across Iran where protesters have taken to the streets indicate that many banks have been burned by protesters, as well as buildings and facilities associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and their Basij youth militia. Some analysts speculated that the riots were partially inspired by reports of the mass protests against the hereditary regime in Lebanon as well as in neighboring Iraq, where over 300 people were reportedly killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces over the last month, including several more this past weekend.

Here is one of the videos of the riots circulating on social media 



Here is another video about recent events in Iran

Israel Hosts Successful Blue Flag 2019 Air Drills

General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, was in Israel last week to observe the Blue Flag 2019 drills, which this year included 70 combat aircraft from Israel, the US, Greece, Germany and Italy and was centered on Ovda Air Base in the Negev. During his visit, Goldfein discussed strategic matters with senior IDF officers and met with President Reuvin Rivlin. “The U.S. and Israel enjoy a strong and enduring military-to-military partnership, one we’ve built upon trust developed over decades of cooperation. What an honor and privilege to be here in Israel today. We thank you all for your hospitality, and look forward to building on our already rock-solid alliance,” Goldfein told his hosts.

The Blue Flag 2019 air defense drills involved air crews and pilots practicing a variety of scenarios, and continued despite the rocket barrages fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip last week. “We are on high alert and ready for various scenarios,” said an IDF Spokesperson. “We will focus on the north and stabilize the south.”

Following his visit to Israel,. Goldfein continued on to the Dubai Airshow where he publicly pleaded with Washington’s Arab allies to put aside their political differences and concentrate on dealing with the shared threat from Iran.

Israel Blesses the World
Dr. Gabriel Agar from Shamir Medical Center and Dr. Ron Arbel from Ramat-Aviv Medical Center recently performed a surgical procedure to implant an “artificial meniscus” into the knee of a patient, pioneering a new method for treating an injury which has ended the careers of many promising athletes and great discomfort and inconvenience among the general population. The medical-grade plastic implant and the procedure for inserting it was developed in Israel by Active Implants LLC and promises to replace painful, expensive and time-intensive treatments.

Ted Davis, president and CEO of Active Implants, said, "Filling the gap in treatment options between minimally invasive meniscus repair and total knee replacement is a large unmet need in the orthopedic market. The NUsurface Implant was invented and developed in our R&D [research and development] center in Israel, so for us it is very exciting to finally bring the device to people in Israel.”

Here is a video about other ways Israel is blessing the world



Netanyahu Re-iterates Willingness for Targeted Assassinations
Following last week’s rocket fire into Israel which persisted despite a cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror militia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the meeting of the security cabinet Sunday morning that the policy of carrying out targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders would continue. "Our security policy has not changed, not even slightly,” he said. “We have maintained our full freedom of action and we will harm anyone who tries to harm us."

“This weekend, Hamas fired [rockets] at Beersheba," Netanyahu said. "I instructed the IDF to immediately attack Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Again - those who harm us will be harmed. We are prepared for every scenario. The security forces know exactly what they must make do to protect the State of Israel in every arena. We will do everything to ensure Israel's security," he said.

Today's video shows some fun place to see on your next visit to Israel

FRIDAY FEATURE - Waiting out the Latest Rocket War

The escalation along the Gaza border this week has had Israelis fretting over whether this would turn into yet another prolonged rocket war with their Palestinian adversaries. After the drawn-out rocket wars against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, and against Hamas in Gaza in 2008-2009, 2011 and 2014, the Israeli people are understandably on edge about how long they will need to hold out until calm is restored. It can take several broken ceasefires before quiet really returns. Meanwhile, Israeli leaders know there is public pressure to finally deal with the source of this rocket threat inside Gaza, but that it also would come with a great price and that any solution is also hampered by the current political impasse in Israel.

As we all watch to see how this latest rocket war will play out, here is some important background information concerning the main players involved and when this crisis could abate.

Who is Firing at Israel?
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the main force attacking Israel in the current confrontation, is a terror militia created by Iran in the early 1980s solely as a means to bleed Israel. It is essentially an extension of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), and until now has never exhibited any real political aspirations to rule over the Palestinian population. Rather, the ayatollahs in Tehran have offered weapons and a salary to any Palestinian males of fighting age who want to attack Jews, while their commanders answer directly to the IRG in Iran.

This distinguishes Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Hamas, which is an indigenous Muslim terror militia that arose from the alleyways of Gaza in late 1987, at the start of the first Palestinian intifada, in order to both destroy Israel and turn “Palestine” into an Islamic state. Taking its ideology from the wider Muslim Brotherhood movement, Hamas aimed from the beginning to 1) eradicate the Jewish state, 2) replace Fatah and the PLO as the rulers of the Palestinian people, and 3) impose shari’a law in the entire Land of Palestine.

Who is Calling the Shots in Gaza?
Hamas has been the main power broker in Gaza since 2007, when it seized control of the coastal Strip from Fatah. They allow PIJ to operate in Gaza so long as they do not challenge Hamas rule or endanger its grip there by going too far against Israel. Hamas does not mind Islamic Jihad firing a few hundred rockets into Israel, but not to the point that it would invite a heavy IDF response, especially a ground incursion into Gaza, which might threaten Hamas. 

Both PIJ and Hamas receive financial and military support from Iran, but because the vast majority of Palestinians are Sunni Muslims, they each have faced criticism from fellow Sunni Arabs for coming under the patronage of the Persian/Shi’ite regime in Tehran. Hamas tries to guard its independent decision-making, while PIJ is simply an arm of the Iranian military. Because Iran has more direct control over Islamic Jihad than Hamas, it appears from recent reports that Tehran has bolstered their rocket arsenals in Gaza to a point where they are now on a par with Hamas in terms of advanced weaponry, though not foot soldiers and small firearms.

How Long Might it Last?
First of all, because Hamas has the burden of governing Gaza, and in particular of feeding its people, they have tended in recent years to moderate – in relative terms – their hostility towards Israel. With Egyptian mediation, they had recently reached a temporary ceasefire with Israel which was allowing money from Qatar to once again enter the Gaza Strip to help salvage its failing economy. Reports indicate that Egyptian security officials are working with Hamas to restore the truce as soon as possible.

Second, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been launching waves of rockets into Israel ever since Israeli surgical air strikes in Gaza City and Damascus took out two of its top militia commanders, who were in the process of planning terror attacks on Israelis. PIJ is widely expected to keep firing rockets at Israel until they feel they have exacted enough revenge for their losses. Barring any major incident that could further escalate the conflict, most in Israel hope and expect it to last only a few more days.

At the same time, it is clear that Israel pulled off another stunning intelligence coup and dealt the terrorist organization a serious setback. Besides having to quickly fill major holes in its chain of command, at some point the leadership of Islamic Jihad will be summoned to Tehran to explain how its upper echelons got infiltrated so effectively by Israeli intelligence. Hizbullah faced a similar dilemma just a few months ago when it was discovered that Israel not only had found their cross-border terror tunnels in south Lebanon, but also had somehow gotten its hands on the very blueprints for their construction. Such situations breed a lot of distrust within the inner circles of these terror mafias and it can take time to recover.

Will These Rocket Wars Ever End?
Over the past two decades, the Israeli military has preferred to deal with the persistent rocket threat from Gaza through a three-pronged approach involving 1) the use of heavy air power against military targets in Gaza, 2) strong civil defense systems like the Iron Dome, and 3) limited, temporary incursions into Gaza – when necessary – to “mow the grass.” Israelis along the Gaza border have been demanding a tougher response to finally eliminate this threat, and political rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have portrayed him as weak for allowing the threat to fester and grow over the past decade.

Israeli government and military leaders must continue to weigh the pros and cons of a major incursion into Gaza to try to end the rocket threat once and for all. So far, they have banked on outlasting the Palestinians through the steady use of superior air power, the impressive success of Iron Dome, and the Israeli public’s resilience.

In many respects, the relentless rocket threat from Gaza resembles the march of Palestinian suicide bombers from 1996 to 2005. Many Israelis despaired in those days that there was no clear way to stop this brutal tool of terror. But Israel found a way, and the Palestinians eventually came to the realization that their strategy of destroying Israel one human bomber at a time was futile. With renewed Israeli alertness, ingenuity and resolve, the rocket threat one day will prove itself equally pointless in Palestinian eyes.

Erdogan in Washington Despite Bi-Partisan Opposition

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House on Wednesday despite sharp bi-partisan protests against the visit. During their meeting, the two leaders reportedly discussed Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems and other aspects of what has become a highly problematic bi-lateral relationship between the two long-standing allies.

Here is the video of the press conference the two leaders held after their private meeting



In related news, Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, the senior Pentagon official in charge of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program testified before a Congressional committee on Wednesday that alternative suppliers have been found for all but a handful of parts being produced for the aircraft.

“We began just over a year ago, very quietly but deliberately, taking actions to find alternate sources for all of those parts,” said Lt. Gen. Fick, adding, “We are not quite there yet, so we have, on the air frame side, 11 components we have to mitigate to be at full-rate production ... and on the engines, there’s one: integrated bladed rotors, IBR’s.”

Fragile Cease-Fire Brings Calm to Israel’s South

Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia appeared to have reached a cease-fire agreement early Thursday morning, although there was a barrage of five rockets a few hours after the initial announcement underlining the fragility of the situation. IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen. Hidai Zilberman declared that Israel had achieved a great deal of operational success during the 50 hours of fighting, as "The purpose of the operation was to improve the security situation in the south by weakening the PIJ and the continued promotion the stabilization process. In this operation, we struck a heavy blow to PIJ’s operational capabilities.”

However, he added, “we used only a little of the IDF capabilities - PIJ is not Hamas, nor Hezbollah nor Iran.”

“We are at high readiness and preparedness on all fronts, not only in Gaza. We are facing a significant challenge against Iranian activity in a variety of arenas and not only in Syria.”

“The new rules of the game are clear: the IDF will operate with complete freedom of action, with no restrictions,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett added during his own remarks. “At this point, it's not over yet. Only the acts in the field will determine the end.”

Here are some videos pertaining to the recent conflict





Lebanon Shaken by Renewed Street Protests
The intensity of street protests in Lebanon increased on Thursday following the death of a protester Wednesday evening in the town of Khalde, just south of Beirut, after he was shot by soldiers from the national army who had been deployed to contain demonstrations. President Michel Aoun’s speech earlier in the day in which he attempted to calm the populist uprising only exacerbated the situation, leading to renewed calls to replace him and the rest of the governing apparatus in the country, although part of Aoun’s speech was devoted to expressing his opinion that the neutral technocrats protesters want to form a new government would be hard to find.

Hamas Decries EU Parliament’s Bias for Israel
The Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip but mostly stayed out of the latest round of fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia, blasted the European Union in a statement Thursday morning claiming that the EU Parliament in Brussels has a “weak position towards the Palestinian cause” because a “Zionist lobby” exercises excessive influence over “political actors in Brussels.” The statement apparently came in response to an EU statement on Tuesday condemning the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians from inside the Strip.

Political Factions Continue Coalition Talks
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman held a brief meeting in Ramat Gan Thursday morning, emerging to tell journalists that they are determined to do whatever is necessary to avoid a third election early next year. Gantz added during his comments that he blamed incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the fact that a third election is such a strong possibility.

Today's video shows a recent breifing on the threat from international terrorism

PIJ Refuses to Stop Firing Rockets Into Israel

Rockets continued to be fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip throughout the day Wednesday despite appeals for calm by the UN and several world governments and despite the refusal of the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Strip, to join the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia in attacking Israel, leaving it to bear the full brunt of Israel’s retaliatory response. "We are not talking of mediation, it's not appropriate to talk about it,” a PIJ spokesman said early Wednesday afternoon. “When we complete our response that we want to send, it will be possible to talk about calming things down."
 
At press time, over 220 rockets had been fired into Israel since the beginning of the current flare up late Sunday night, which began when Israeli aircraft fired a missile into the home of senior PIJ leader Bahaa Abu al-Ata, killing him and his wife. Reports have surfaced that Israel has threatened to begin targeted killings of PIJ agents in Syria if the rockets do not stop immediately, but the PIJ response to these warnings has been to continue firing.
 
 Here are some videos about the recent events





Lebanon Rocked by Escalating Street Protests
Massive street protests continued in Lebanon on Wednesday despite an appeal by 84 year old President Michael Aoun for the demonstrations to end and warnings from several prominent analysts that the country’s economy was on the verge of catastrophic collapse after nearly three weeks of banks, schools, universities and most businesses being closed. The local currency has been in freefall and many banks have restricted withdrawals, while many shops have reported running low of food, fuel and other basic necessities.

Turkey Hosts Iranian Diplomat Wanted for 1994 Terror Attack
Hadi Soleimanpour, who served as Iran’s ambassador to Argentina in 1994 and is suspected of involvement in the Hezbollah attack on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that year that killed 85 people and injured more than 150 others, was a guest of the Turkish government recently. Instead of enforcing an international warrant for Soleimanpour’s arrest, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warmly greeted and personally hosted him at last Saturday’s Economic Cooperation Forum in Turkey’s resort city of Antalya.

Russian Hacker Extradited to US
Israel’s decision to extradite Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov to the US this week closed the door on the possibility that Jerusalem would trade him for Israeli tourist Naama Issachar, who was arrested in Moscow in April. Lawyers for Issachar have explained to the media that she landed in Moscow on a flight from India and was on her way to a connecting flight to Israel when she was searched by police and found to have 9 grams of marijuana in her luggage, for which she was found guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison. A Russian attempt to trade her for Burkov was rejected by Israel with the agreement of her family.

Russian Veterans Honored in Jerusalem
Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Leon and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Zeev Elkin hosted Russian officials on Tuesday for the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Memorial Candle Monument dedicated to the defenders and residents of Leningrad, including over 150,000 Jews, which refused to surrender to the Nazis despite being surrounded and besieged for over a year during the Second World War. The monument was funded by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC) and Viktor Vekselberg. Jewish National Fund (KKL), Keren ha-Yesod, and the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC).

Today’s video shows some of the natural beauty of Israel

Israel Responds to Rocket Attacks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv late Tuesday morning to address the barrage of rockets fired into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip following an Israeli strike which killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior commander in the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia early Tuesday morning. "Terrorists think they can hit civilians and hide behind civilians," the prime minister said. "We showed that we can hit the terrorist with minimal damage to civilians. Anyone who thinks they can hit our civilians and get away with it is wrong. If you hit us we will hit you."

IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. General Aviv Kochavi said during his own remarks that al-Ata had undermined efforts to reach a long-term cease-fire agreement with Hamas, adding that "in recent days he was working to perpetrate attacks against Israel. We tried to thwart his efforts in different ways without success and we then recommended a targeted killing. We are not interested in an escalation but we are ready - on the ground, in the air and at sea."

The press conference followed a difficult morning which saw over 150 rockets fired into Israel, including a handful of strikes on Tel Aviv. Many of the incoming rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system but a few landed in populated areas. One strike on a busy highway intersection south of Tel Aviv was caught on camera and widely circulated on social media, although it caused no injuries or damage.

“We stand behind the security forces, who have been working for the success of this morning’s operations for a long time," said President Reuven Rivlin in a statement. "I know that they, and the Israeli government that approved the operation, have Israel’s security, and only that, in their minds. This is no time for political squabbles, and those who do so bring no credit to themselves. It is the time to stop such statements immediately. Israeli citizens – please listen to the life-saving instructions of the IDF Home Front Command and take good care of yourselves.”
 
Nevertheless, thousands of Israelis all over the country stayed home and/or kept their children home as many schools, businesses, government offices and other public places were closed until further notice. Several injuries were reported, mostly from people hurting themselves while running for shelter in response to incoming rocket alerts.

Here is a video about the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia



BDS Movement Celebrates Rare Success
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel celebrated a success on Tuesday when the European Court of Justice issued a ruling that “foodstuffs” produced in Jewish communities in the West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem can be labeled as such, instead of being labelled as “Made in Israel”. Several analysts expressed concern that the ruling would enable BDS activists to put pressure on European governments and consumers to participate in their economic campaign against Israel.

Iran Again Violates JCPOA Nuclear Deal
Former national security council chief Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror spoke at the INSS Conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, saying among other things that “there might come a situation where we will have to act directly in Iran to stop the Iranians. The world is not ready to act…not NATO, not the US…they prefer to close their eyes. It might be costly, it might be problematic, it’s not going to be easy,” but Israel might have no other choice. The speech came shortly after Ali Akbar Salehi, chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told journalists that the Islamic Republic has re-started uranium enrichment at its Fordow facility and a UN inspection team announced it had discovered evidence of nuclear work at a previously undeclared site in Iran.

Here is a video about Iran’s recent regional activities



PIJ Commander Reportedly Killed in Syria
The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia issued a statement Tuesday morning complaining that the Damascus home of one of its senior commanders had been attacked by Israel, coinciding with a report by Syrian state news agency SANA saying that a house near the Lebanese Embassy in Damascus had indeed been bombed, leaving two people dead and six others wounded. In related news, the Pentagon announced that between 500-600 US troops will remain in Syria to continue operations against the Islamic State (IS) terror militia.

Rioters Attack IDF Troops in West Bank
Rioters attacked IDF troops outside Ramallah and Hebron on Monday afternoon amidst demonstrations to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that left one Palestinian man dead and several others injured, along with three IDF troops. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas laid a wreath at Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah during the events, saying "Israel says the martyrs are criminals, terrorists and murderers. We will never agree to give up on our martyrs, our most sacred martyrs.”

Today's video shows you an app you can enjoy on your next trip to Israel


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