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UK Laments Anti-Israel Hatefest at UNHRC

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt submitted an op-ed to The Jewish Chronicle newspaper this week in which he pledged to continue opposing the hurricane of anti-Israel resolutions currently being moved forward by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.  “We will continue to press for the abolition of Item 7, which only undermines the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum,” he wrote. “For too long, a permanent item on the Human Rights Council has been dedicated solely to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Instead of promoting reconciliation and compromise, Item 7 strengthens the narrative that one side alone holds a monopoly on fault." He added that he believes "this disproportionate and discriminatory focus on Israel undermines the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum and obstructs the quest for peace in the Middle East. That is why the UK will be opposing every Item 7 resolution at the HRC.” 

Here is a video giving some context to the situation

Israel Slips Two Places on ‘World Happiness Report’
Israel slipped two places from 11th to 13th on this year’s “World Happiness Report” published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in conjunction with the Ernesto Illy Foundation. The results of the survey relate to answers given by randomly selected Israelis in response to various questions about their satisfaction with various aspects of daily life from the availability of quality health care, entertainment, job security and many other things.

Fatah Glorifies Palestinian Terrorist
NGOs in Israel were reporting on Thursday that the official Facebook page of Fatah, the “moderate” Palestinian political faction led by ailing PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has posted several items glorifying the “martyrdom” of Omar Abu Laila, who murdered two Israelis in a stabbing and shooting attack at the Ariel Junction on Sunday. Palestinian Media Watch issued a statement that it “is surprised and disappointed that Facebook knowingly allows itself to continue to be an important platform for support of Palestinian terror.”

Israel Blesses the world
Prospera, an Israeli AgTech company, recently announced plans to partner with the US firm Valley to upgrade over 60,000 irrigation devices in several US states with artificial intelligence technology. The new devices will transfer precise amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides to crops, allowing farmers to drastically reduce costs and increase yields. The upgraded system, which will span approximately 9.6 million acres from Washington State to Nebraska, is scheduled to be fully operational by 2022.

Today's Video is about Purim in Israel

Pompeo in Israel for High-Level Meetings

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jerusalem on Wednesday for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on the sidelines of their regional summit. During extensive meetings with America’s top diplomat, Netanyahu and his regional colleagues discussed the opportunities for cooperation on energy exploration, trade and security, as well as the threats from regional instability and Iran.

“Last week we uncovered efforts by Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, to build up a terror network on the Golan Heights – and you can all imagine what would happen if we were not in the Golan,” Netanyahu said after his meeting with Pompeo. “We would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee…I think it is time for the international community to recognize Israel’s stay on the Golan – the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel.”

Here is the video of their full remarks to the press

Netanyahu, in his comments before the meeting with Tsipras and Anastasiades, declared his belief that the Eastern Mediterranean alliance is “one of the best regional associations in the world,” which his colleagues agreed with, adding their own reasons why they are eager to pursue closer relations with the Jewish State.

Here is the video of their joint press appearance

Election Rhetoric Heating Up Across Political Spectrum

Blue and White candidate for prime minister Benny Gantz gave interviews with different media outlets Tuesday evening in which he said, among other things, that he would “work to shape a new reality” between Israel and the Palestinians if he is elected on 9 April. However, he added that he didn’t believe there was any partner for peace among the Palestinian factions. “This is far away, unfortunately,” he told Channel 12 anchorwoman Yonit Levi. “There isn’t anyone to talk to.”

“I said that in the situation that was created, I cannot sit with Netanyahu,” he added during his interview with Channel 13 anchorwoman Tamar Ish-Shalom. “The situation has only gotten worse. I will not sit with Netanyahu. The only thing that could change that is if the situation changes in the [prime minister’s legal] hearing, and I unfortunately do not see that happening…I don’t know what happened to the man. The Netanyahu I see now is not the Netanyahu I knew.”

During another interview, he pointedly attacked Netanyahu over the issue of submarines which were purchased from a German shipyard for the Israeli Navy, prompting a response from Netanyahu during his own campaign visit to the West Bank community of Shiloh in which he said, “I have not received even one shekel from the submarine deal. The state attorney and attorney-general’s offices examined every detail of this matter and unequivocally determined that I am not suspected of anything – and that there was nothing wrong with my actions…I understand that [Blue and White leaders] Gantz and [Yair] Lapid are very stressed, to say the least, from Iran hacking Gantz’s phone – so they are trying to distract from it.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that they have such bad judgment,” the prime minister said. “Because they both supported the disastrous nuclear deal [between world powers and Iran], which I fought – and happily, together with President Trump, we see a change in direction in the US as well. But they didn’t understand that, and I think they don’t understand it to this day.”

Here is a video about Israel’s upcoming elections from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Security Forces on Alert Across West Bank

IDF forces on Tuesday evening tracked down Omar Abu Lila , the Palestinian terrorist who carried out a stabbing and shooting attack at Ariel Junction on Sunday, killing him after he fired on them as they approached the house in the West Bank village of Abwain where he was hiding. Also on Tuesday evening, a firebomb attack on Jewish worshippers near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus was repulsed by IDF troops guarding the worshippers, resulting in the deaths of two of the Palestinian attackers. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, “A number of explosives were hurled from a vehicle at Israeli army forces that were securing the entrance of worshipers at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus…as a result the two terrorists were killed, there were no casualties to our forces.”

On Wednesday morning, a stolen car being driven by a Palestinian driver towards a checkpoint near Jerusalem hit and severely injured a border police officer. The driver fled on foot and at press time had not been apprehended. Later on Wednesday, Israeli vehicles near Ariel were targeted by rock throwing youths.

Hungary Opens Diplomatic Mission in Jerusalem
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in Jerusalem on Tuesday to preside over a ceremony to open a diplomatic trade mission in the city linked to his government’s embassy in Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “the first European diplomatic mission opened in Jerusalem in many decades” which is important “for trade, for diplomacy and for the movement Hungary is leading right now to change the attitude in Europe toward Jerusalem.”

Here is the video from the launch of the mission

Israel’s Technological Accomplishments Shine
Israel’s technological prowess was on display Tuesday as the Beresheet spacecraft, currently in high orbit around the Earth, successfully  performed procedures in preparation for its scheduled landing on the Moon on 4 April. Closer to the surface of the planet, the David’s Sling medium-range air defence system, jointly developed by teams from Israel and the US, carried out several sucesful tests on Tuesday in the southern Negev desert. “The Defense Ministry, in cooperation with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), successfully completed a series of interception tests on David’s Sling weapons system,” the Defence Ministry said, adding that “The success of the series constitutes an important milestone in the State of Israel’s ability to defend itself against existing and future threats in the arena.”

Today’s video gives a glimpse at families in the IDF

Manhunt Continues for Ariel Junction Attacker

The search continued Tuesday for a Palestinian man who carried out a stabbing and shooting attack at the Ariel Junction in the West Bank on Sunday, murdering 19-year-old IDF Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan and 47-year-old father of 12, Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, while a third victim, another 19-year-old soldier, was reportedly “out of mortal danger” although still in the intensive care unit of Bellinson Hospital near Petah Tikvah. "He is conscious, breathing on his own and talking to staff. His condition still remains serious," the said a statement from the hospital.

“Security forces continue in their pursuit of the terrorist who conducted the attack at the Ariel Junction and the Gitai Avishar Junction earlier this week,” the IDF said in a statement. “Overnight, troops searched the area of the village of a-Zawiya, southeast of Qalqilya.” The statement added that the search had uncovered several illegal weapons and resulted in the arrests of suspects wanted in connection with terrorist activity.

Phone Hacking at Center of Political Fracas
Tuesday morning brought some embarrassment for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a report emerged in a Saudi Arabian newspaper that Iranian intelligence had hacked into the smartphones used by his wife Sara and his son Yair, just a few hours after he had chided Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for the hacking of his phone by Iranian cyber-agents. However, a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office declared that "after an inquiry made with security officials, it never happened" and the Shin Bet also denied the report. During a Likud Party event Monday evening, Netanyahu said that Gantz, who he reminded his audience was in charge of a cyber security firm that went bankrupt, “was supposed to protect his phone. That is his personal failure. If Gantz can’t protect his phone, how will he protect the country?”

In related news, Labor leader Avi Gabbay addressed a factional rally at Expo Tel Aviv on Monday using his speech to, among other things, beg Labor supporters not to cast their ballots for Blue and White in order to achieve their long-time hope of unseating Netanyahu. Polls show a large percentage of voters who supported Labor in the past plan to do just that.

Internal Feuding Among Palestinian Factions
In the latest sign of intense internal feuding between rival Palestinian factions, Atef Abu Seif, the Fatah spokesman in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, was reportedly accosted from his home in the Gaza Strip by unidentified gunman Monday afternoon and severely beaten, leaving him in critical condition. Fatah has accused the Hamas terror militia, which rules the Strip, of being behind the attack. Hamas has, in turn, accused Fatah of provoking street demonstrations against it in recent days. The protesters themselves, who have been brutally suppressed by Hamas security forces, say they are fed up with Hamas’ poor leadership and the economic hardship it has caused in the Strip.

Here is a video about Hamas activities

IAG Delegation in Tel Aviv Looking for Aviation Tech
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat this week as a large group of senior representatives from the International Airlines Group (IAG) arrived in Tel Aviv’s WeWork ToHa pavilion for presentations by some of the Jewish State’s cutting edge hi-tech suppliers. “Israel is one of the leading technology centers in the world, certainly for its size,” Dupsy Abiola, IAG head of Global Innovation, told The Jerusalem Post. “If you’re serious about understanding what’s interesting and bubbling up in technology, I think you can’t ignore Israel.”

In related news, an official at the Israel Export Institute told Reuters this week that the chip manufacturing plant Intel built and recently expanded in Kiryat Gat has been largely responsible for a massive increase in the volume of Israel’s exports to China over recent years. "Israel has the technology and China has the market – the space for cooperation is big," said Gu Wenjun, chief analyst at ICWise, a semiconductor consultancy in Shanghai.

Israel Blesses the World
United Hatzalah, the Israeli medical first-response organization, opened a new franchise in the South American country of Columbia this week, standing up an initial unit in the city of Cartagena. Another unit is being planned for the capital of Bogota, to be deployed in the next few weeks. Citing the long wait time for an ambulance, local Columbian medics said that they were happy to copy the model they had seen work so well in Israel.

Israel on Alert Following Weekend Terror Attacks

Israeli security forces were on high alert Monday following a weekend which saw rockets fired at Tel Aviv and the southern Negev by terror militias in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as well as a stabbing and shooting attack near the West Bank community of Ariel. There were no casualties from the rocket attacks, which Hamas officials claimed were a “mistake” but two Israelis, 47-year-old Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger and 19-year-old IDF soldier Gal Keidan, died in the attack at a road junction near Ariel. The attack near Ariel began when a Palestinian man identified by security forces as Omar Abu Lila stabbed Keidan and stole his weapon, using it to fire on nearby vehicles including one in which Ettinger was riding in. Although wounded, Ettinger managed to return fire on Abu Lila with his pistol, a move which his son-in-law Zeev Goldstein said probably prevented a more severe attack.

However, Abu Lila managed to steal a vehicle and drive to the nearby Gitai Avishar junction where he shot and wounded another Israeli civilian, identified by media outlets as Alexander Dvorsky, who recently immigrated to Israel from Moldova.

At press time, he was still at large and the subject of a manhunt by Israeli security services.

The attack came hours after IDF aircraft struck over 100 terror-related sites in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a barrage of rockets from the Strip, beginning with a pair of Iranian-supplied medium-range rockets fired at Tel Aviv, the first such attack on the coastal metropolis since 2014. The Islamist terror militia Hamas which rules the Strip later told Israel through Egyptian intermediaries that the firings were a “mistake” but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement Sunday saying that “Hamas bears the responsibility for all attacks from the Gaza Strip, whether the firing is intentional or in error. The IDF hit them hard, if necessary, we will intensify those attacks as is needed, in order to continue to ensure quiet for Israel’s citizens.”

Here is a video about Hamas' activities in the Strip

Here is a video which shows the recent attacks on Israel from Gaza

UN Official Offers Rare Rebuke to Hamas

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov issued a rare rebuke of the Islamist terror militia Hamas on Sunday, saying “I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days. The long-suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip. It is their right to protest without fear of reprisal. I call on all Palestinian factions to engage in earnest with Egypt in order to implement the Cairo Agreement (2017) in full. The United Nations will continue its efforts to avoid escalation, relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, lift the closures, and support reconciliation.”

Here is a video about Hamas' activities in the Strip

IRGC Commander Mocks and Threatens Israel
Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari gave an interview with Iranian media outlets Monday in which he said, among other things, that Israel is “under full siege from all around their borders,” before adding that Israel “has not been successful in the region and all its plots and operations have ended up with nothing but failure for them and success for the Islamic Revolution and the Resistance Front.” He added that the Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah has rockets that can hit everywhere in Israel and that it merely awaits his command to do so.

US Position in Syria Remains Fluid
A report in the Wall Street Journal newspaper that the US is keeping nearly 1,000 Special Operations troops in Syria despite an announcement several months ago that they were being withdrawn was disputed Sunday by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. However, analysts assessed that the US position in Syria remains fluid amidst lingering concerns regarding the presence there of Iran and other enemies including the Islamic State (IS) terror militia.

Israeli Athletes Shine in Abi Dhabi
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered several crushing defeats in recent days as the Israeli team at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi collected nine medals in three different sports and over 40,000 runners from 80 countries around the world came to Jerusalem to participate in the annual Marathon. Israel’s medal haul included a gold medal in swimming when 39-year-old Avital Naveh won the women’s 100-meter individual medley Saturday evening following her bronze-medal performance in the 100-meter backstroke on Friday. Israeli athletes won a silver medals in Individual Bowling as well Judo and another two bronze medals in swimming. Additionally, the Israeli squads won silver and bronze in Unified Bowling.

Today's video shows the recent attacks on Israel from Gaza

Sea of Galilee Level Rises Amidst Late-Winter Storm

A late-season storm hit the eastern Mediterranean region Wednesday evening bringing low temperatures, wind and rain to many parts of Israel, including the north where the Sea of Galilee reportedly rose 2 cm, bringing it 49 centimeters above the lower red line. The Water Authority announced that the ancient body of water still needs to rise another 3.71 meters to reach the top red line after a multi-year drought has vastly depleted it. Rain continued to fall in much of the country, including Jerusalem, throughout the day on Thursday.

US Signals Possible Shift in Longstanding Policy
The US State Department published its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Wednesday, including a section on Israel which, for the first time, described the Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem without saying they were “occupied” by Israel but rather being under Israeli “control”. However, Michael Kozak of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor told reporters Wednesday that “My understanding is that there is no change in our outlook or our policy vis-à-vis the territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there.”

“We decided not to use the term in the reports because it is not a human rights term and it was distracting,” he added. “What we’re trying to do is report on the human rights situation in those territories.... You’re just trying to find a way of describing the place that you are reporting on. ‘Occupied territory’ has a legal meaning to it. What they tried to do was shift more to just a geographic description. So we said Israel, Golan, West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.”

However, several Israeli political leaders immediately issued statements thanking the Trump Administration for agreeing with Israel’s position that it will retain the Golan Heights indefinitely and to work towards annexation of the West Bank.

Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to Prison, Lashes
In a move roundly condemned by Human Rights groups and governments around the world, the clerical regime which rules Iran has sentenced human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes with a whip. The US State Department declared the sentence to be “beyond barbaric” while her husband, Reza Khandan has appealed to the United Nations to help his wife, who was convicted of charges including “'encouraging corruption and debauchery,” "colluding [and] propaganda against the system,” and “disrupting public order," as well as making statements that insulted the dignity of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Report Indicates High Levels of Poverty in Israel
The Adva Institute, a private Israeli think tank, issued a report Wednesday providing statistics on poverty in Israel, including an estimate that as many as 1 in 4 Israelis live at or just above the poverty line. “We found that the distance between those that are not poor but are near the poverty line is very small,” Dr. Shlomo Swirski, academic director of the Adva Center and author of the report, told The Jerusalem Post.

Today’s video shows the opening of a recent conference on anti-Semitism at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank at Tel Aviv University

Iran Menacing Israel on Northern Border

Satellite images were posted by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) on Wednesday showing what appears to be a new factory being built in the town of Safita, east of Tartus on the Mediterranean coast in southern Syria, designed to build missiles. The images are raising fresh questions about Iran’s malign influence in Israel’s northern neighbors, as the layout of the facility is similar to a surface-to-surface missile production plant in Khojir, Iran. “The construction patterns, the compound location and the activity signs at the compound and its region, increase the probability that this is a missile manufacturing site,” (ISI) said, adding that “if this site is indeed related to SSM manufacturing it is possible that the two hangers include production line and the third is for manufacture or assembly.”

In related news, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon issued a formal complaint to the Security Council Wednesday regarding the “Golan Project” which involves attempts by the Lebanese-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah to establish bases and infrastructure in the Syrian zone of the Golan Heights to attack Israel. The Project was revealed publicly by Israel on Wednesday as Danon wrote in an official letter to the Security Council that Israel "will not ignore the conversion of Syria and Lebanon to a military front against us and will act with force against the aggression from Tehran."

Here is a video about the issue posted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

IDF Reveals Hezbollah Buildup in Syria

The IDF announced on Tuesday that is has evidence showing that the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah “has begun an attempt to establish and entrench a covert force in the Syrian Golan Heights that is designed to act against Israel when given the order.” The project, which the IDF said was not yet operational, is being directed by Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative who spent five years in an Iraqi prison for his part in an attack in 2007 which killed five US soldiers in the Karbala Governorate. 

“Hezbollah is taking advantage of the fact that Assad is busy in the north of the country and that villagers in the Syrian Golan need the money,” the IDF said, adding that “if Assad is serious then he has to have full control and know what is happening in his territory…the proximity of these communities to Israel is what allows the operatives to conduct observations continuously and without revealing their true goal – to convey information about the regular activities of our forces to Hezbollah and the leaders of the network.”

“We hold the Syrian Regime as the sovereign its territory and expect it to honor the terms of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement. We expect it to prevent any hostile elements, including Hezbollah, from operating out of its territory. The IDF will not allow any attempt by Hezbollah to entrench itself near the border and we will act with all our might to force this terrorist organization out of the Golan Heights and ensure the stability of the region.”

“The Northern Command and the 210th Division have identified the enemy’s movements and are acting to strengthen the security response at the border by strengthening intelligence gathering capabilities, fire capabilities and are defending the sector with increased forces,” said Brig.-Gen. Amit Fisher, Commander of the 210th Division. He added that IDF troops “are operating overtly and covertly to locate the enemy, force them away from the border and ensure security near the border.”

Israel’s Relations with the World Improving
There was some good news for Israel’s foreign relations this week as the 2020 budget proposed by US President Donald Trump and submitted for review by the US Congress on Monday included the full $3.3 billion in military assistance to Israel promised under a 10-year memorandum of understanding between the two countries signed by the previous US Administration. It was one of a small handful of ongoing Federal programs that the White House proposal didn’t include cuts to.

In related news, the Keren Kayemet L'Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) along with JNF Holland inaugurated a Water Project in Mitzpeh Ramon in honor of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Dutch Ambasador to Israel Gilles Beschoor Plug, President of the JNF Holland Professor Moshe Kon, CEO of the Mitzpeh Ramon Local Council Dror Dvash and other Dutch and Israeli officials honored the occasion with their presence.

Iranian Generals Threaten Israel Over Maritime Smuggling
Iran's Minister of Defense Amir Hatami issued a scathing rebuttal Wednesday to a recent statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel would act against illegal oil smuggling operations by the Islamic Republic. Characterizing such statements as a threat to carry out “piracy” Hatami said that 
"The Iranian armed forces have certainly the capabilities to protect the country's shipping lines in the best way against any possible threat.”

"We never welcome any war, but we are ready to respond to any invasion. We hope the aggressors do not need to understand this point by trying it and paying a high price," Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Gholamali Rashid added in remarks to Iranian media regarding the issue.

Israel’s Club Football Season Ends
The Maccabi Tel Aviv football (soccer) club finished the Premier League regular season with an undefeated record on Monday night, with 20 wins and six draws. This record puts the club in good position in the post-season as it attempts to continue its long tradition of success in Israeli football.

Today’s video shows yet another way Israel Blesses the World

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