Australia/Israel Review


Behind the News – January 2023

Dec 14, 2022 | AIJAC staff

The Iranian soccer team’s solidarity with protesters earned them threats against their families (Image: Twitter)
The Iranian soccer team’s solidarity with protesters earned them threats against their families (Image: Twitter)

ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT

One rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel on Dec. 3, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes. 

Bomb attacks at two bus stops in Jerusalem on Nov. 23 killed two Israelis and wounded about 20 others. On Nov. 29, a West Bank vehicular ramming injured a female soldier. There were numerous other attacks in the West Bank that caused no serious Israeli casualties.

On Nov. 23, an Israeli Druze man critically injured in a car accident was snatched off life support in a hospital in Jenin by Palestinian terrorists. It remains unclear if he was alive at the time or not. His body was returned 30 hours later following military and political pressure by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Druze community. 

Sweeping Israeli counterterrorism raids across the West Bank continued, with weapons confiscated, numerous terrorist suspects detained and several others killed in shootouts with the IDF. The IDF says this months-long program of raids has thwarted around 500 attacks and resulted in the detention of more than 2,500 terror suspects since late March. 

Shooting attacks have exponentially increased in 2022, and approximately 150 Palestinians have been killed this year, mostly in shootouts with the IDF or while carrying out attacks. 

The IDF also recorded a massive increase in settler violence against Palestinians in 2022, with more than 830 incidents compared to 446 in 2021. 

 

“MAN-MADE CAVITY” FOUND UNDER GAZA SCHOOL

On Nov. 29, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) announced it had identified what it called “a man-made cavity” underneath one of its schools in Gaza.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has built an extensive underground tunnel network to facilitate the movement of its militants and to store weapons, much of it under civilian homes and buildings.

There have been previous discoveries of tunnels and/or weapons stores at UNRWA’s Gaza schools in 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2021.

 

IRAN ACCELERATES HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM PRODUCTION

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on Nov. 23 an Iranian announcement that Teheran has started producing near military grade 60% enriched uranium at the Fordow underground nuclear plant. This is in addition to the ongoing manufacturing of similar fissile material at Natanz since April 2021. The IAEA also reported that Iran has recently tripled its capacity to enrich uranium to 60% purity, which is technically very close to the 90% used in nuclear weapons. 

Teheran also started construction of a new nuclear power plant in early December. The building of the Karoon 300-megawatt facility, near the Iraqi border in Khuzestan province, is expected to take eight years. 

 

IRANIAN DRONES TO BE BUILT IN RUSSIA

On Nov. 19, the Washington Post reported that Iran and Russia had concluded an agreement for the latter to mass-produce Iranian “suicide drones” inside Russia. Hundreds of Iranian drones have already been used by Moscow to attack Ukraine and reports say Iran is also directly supplying more drones, body armour and ballistic missiles to Russia.

Iran also reignited its tanker war against Israel on Nov. 15, hitting the oil tanker Pacific Zircon, indirectly owned by an Israeli billionaire, with what intelligence officials said was a Shahed-136 suicide drone fired from an Iranian base, causing damage but no injuries.

 

IRAN ALLEGEDLY BEHIND ANTISEMITIC ATTACKS IN GERMANY

German security forces reportedly believe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has orchestrated a series of antisemitic terror attacks in Germany.

According to a report in the political magazine Kontraste, the IRGC is believed to be behind a string of attacks against German synagogues in mid-November, including shots fired at a synagogue in Essen, the firebombing of a synagogue in Bochum, and an attempted arson attack at a synagogue in Dortmund. 

A German investigator was quoted as saying, “We’re talking about state terrorism here.” 

 

IRANIAN WORLD CUP PLAYERS, FANS DEFY THREATS TO SUPPORT PROTESTS

The families of Iran’s World Cup football team were reportedly threatened with “imprisonment and torture” by members of the IRGC if players failed to “behave” appropriately at the tournament.

This followed the team’s refusal to sing the national anthem before its Nov. 21 match against England in a sign of solidarity with the mass protests currently roiling Iran. Following the threats, Iranian players sang the anthem rather half-heartedly at their next match. 

Meanwhile, some Iranian World Cup fans sang Iran’s pre-revolutionary anthem in the stands, while others carried Iranian pre-revolutionary flags to the stadium, but were barred from entering by Qatari officials.

Mass protests and general strikes against the regime have continued across Iran, despite an estimated 15,000 Iranians arrested and more than 400 killed so far by security forces. 

There are also growing concerns regarding the regime’s use of capital punishment against protesters. According to the Iran Human Rights NGO, more than 500 people have been executed in Iran this year, far exceeding the 314 last year. 

The first execution connected with the recent wave of protests occurred on Dec. 8, and at least ten other arrested protesters have reportedly been sentenced to death. 

 

HEZBOLLAH CHEMICAL WEAPON MISSILES

Saudi media reported on Nov. 20 that Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy terror organisation in Lebanon, has stockpiled hundreds of missiles with warheads armed with the chemical weapon thionyl chloride. According to the report, 110 Fajr missiles and more than 300 Fateh missiles armed with chemical warheads are being stored by Hezbollah near Lebanon’s border with Syria. 

North Korean scientists mounted the missiles with the toxin while in Syria, supervised by an Iranian expert, said the report, before they were transferred to their current location in Lebanon. 

 

DEALS TO DEVELOP ISRAEL’S ANTI-MISSILE TECHNOLOGY

On Dec. 5, Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin announced the signing of an agreement to manufacture a high energy laser weapon system (HELWS). The US corporation’s involvement would focus on developing a variant for the American and international markets.

The system, called Iron Beam, uses laser beams to intercept rockets and missiles, and would complement existing Israeli missile defence systems, such as Iron Dome.

Rafael is also in the running for a contract with the Pentagon after a successful demonstration of its Drone Dome, a defensive system that detects, identifies, tracks and then downs unmanned aircraft.

 

ISRAELI PRESIDENT HERZOG VISITS GULF

Israeli President Isaac Herzog travelled to Bahrain on Dec. 4, the first-ever visit by an Israeli president to that nation. Herzog, whose delegation included representatives of Israel’s economic and trade sectors, met with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa. 

The following day, Herzog visited the UAE, where he met with President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, assuring him that support for the Abraham Accords, normalising relations between Israel and Arab states, is part of Israel’s national consensus. They discussed increasing Israeli-UAE collaboration, particularly in the climate and space sectors.

 


Stranger than Fiction

 

TOO MUCH BIAS IS NOT ENOUGH

On Nov. 30, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) passed five ridiculous anti-Israel motions as part of its annual cavalcade of such motions (for more information, see page 17). 

As usual, the motions passed easily, with small numbers of principled countries opposing, larger numbers of somewhat less principled countries abstaining, and the UNGA’s automatic pro-Palestinian majority voting in favour. On the bright side, it appeared more opposed or abstained than in past years.

Despite the lop-sided results in his favour, Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki was far from happy, directing his ire – and hypocrisy – at countries not supporting the motions. 

He demanded that they “stop their double standards, and their… encouragement of the occupation authority in its crimes.” 

This is particularly ironic given the PA relies on a blatant double standard, by which Israel is treated differently to every other country, to get these motions passed. As for encouraging crimes, it’s harder to think of a better example than the PA’s generous payments to terrorists and their families.

He accused those opposing the motions of “contributing to weakening the international system.” What weakens the international system is the UN’s disproportionate and discriminatory hyper-focus on Israel, while allowing genuine human rights abusers a free pass.

He then gave his prescription for a resolution – dismantle the “settler colonial occupation and apartheid regime,” create a Palestinian state and allow the “return” of refugees to Israel.

So having blasted countries for weakening the international system, he basically called for the destruction of Israel rather than showing willingness to negotiate a two-state peace, as the international consensus requires.

If this performance doesn’t demonstrate how the UN’s bias against Israel simply encourages Palestinian intransigence and is therefore completely counterproductive to peace, it’s hard to imagine what will (Translation from Elder of Ziyon).

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