Behind the News – May 2022
May 3, 2022 | AIJAC staff
ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT
The terror wave that started with an attack which killed four Israelis in Beersheva on March 23 continued into April. A shooting attack by two Israeli Arab Islamic State supporters killed two police officers and wounded several other people in Hadera on March 27. Two days later a Palestinian conducted a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, killing five.
On April 7, a Palestinian gunman opened fire in Tel Aviv, killing three and wounding nine, before being found and killed following a manhunt. Both the Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak shooters were members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.
In response, Israel launched counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank that resulted in the deaths of at least 14 Palestinians, including three Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives reportedly en route to conduct an attack. Numerous suspects have been rounded up and weapons and explosives confiscated.
There have also been several stabbings inside Israel in which Israelis were wounded.
On April 18, terrorist groups in Gaza fired a single rocket into Israel, followed by five more on April 20-21 and another three on April 22-23, most of which were intercepted by Iron Dome. Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to the rockets. On April 25, a rocket was launched into Israel from Lebanon, causing no damage and prompting retaliatory Israeli shelling.
FALSE RUMOURS SPARK TEMPLE MOUNT VIOLENCE
Violent clashes broke out repeatedly on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount during Ramadan, after Palestinian youths aligned with groups such as Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, were incited, largely on social media, to “defend” the holy site from the Jews.
The worst violence took place on the morning of Friday April 15, when rocks, fireworks and other projectiles previously stockpiled inside the al-Aqsa Mosque were thrown at police and at Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below the Temple Mount. Police waited until the completion of dawn services before deploying crowd control techniques such as tear gas and rubber bullets, entering the mosque and arresting rioters. A few hours later, tens of thousands of Muslims were able to gather there for midday prayers without incident.
The pretext for the riots was the false claim that the mosque required protection from Jews planning to make a Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount, contrary to Jewish law. Israeli police had already informed the Muslim Waqf that administers the Temple Mount that no such activity would be allowed to occur.
JOSEPH’S TOMB DAMAGED
On April 15, at the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday, mobs of rioters from Nablus broke into the nearby Jewish holy site known as the Tomb of Joseph. The rioters set fire to the site, smashed the cenotaph above the grave, destroyed electrical lighting, and burned prayer books. Similar attacks have taken place in the past.
Repairs were later made by the IDF. The status of Joseph’s Tomb and the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to protect it and those visiting it were agreed upon in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement.
EU MILLIONS FOR ILLEGAL WEST BANK BUILDINGS
A report from Israel’s Intelligence Ministry revealed that EU states are illegally financing Palestinian activities to construct buildings and grab territories in Area C of the West Bank, designated as under complete Israeli control by the Oslo accords.
The report, authored in June last year but only recently made public, says millions of euros have been funnelled into the building of up to 40,000 unauthorised structures, being constructed as part of a major effort by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to seize control over around 80 square kilometres of industrial and agricultural lands in Area C. European money was also used by the PA to construct illegal quarries which directly harmed archaeological sites and nature reserves.
All of this is in breach of EU commitments to uphold the Oslo accords, the report noted.
NEW IRANIAN NUCLEAR FACILITIES
In its April periodic report on Iran, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted the opening of a new Iranian underground facility at Natanz, for the production of uranium enrichment centrifuge parts.
The workshop’s equipment was transferred from a previous above-ground factory at Karaj, which was shut down after a reputed Israeli attack on it last year.
The new facility, as well as a similar one at Esfahan, is expected to produce advanced centrifuges which significantly speed enrichment, and which Iran was forbidden from deploying under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.
The IAEA has installed surveillance cameras in both new sites, but Teheran is refusing to allow the IAEA to access any footage captured by these cameras, at least until a new nuclear deal is signed. Analysts warn that withholding the footage undermines the IAEA’s ability to detect illegal Iranian nuclear activities.
NEW IRANIAN CYBER MISCHIEF
A suspected Iranian distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack temporarily restricted access to several Israeli government websites in mid-March. Shortly thereafter, Iranian hackers compromised what was allegedly an old cellphone belonging to Mossad chief David Barnea’s wife and released some material from it.
The Iranian proxy group al-Tahira in Iraq targeted the Israeli Airports Authority website on April 21.
Also in April, a long-running Hamas cyber-espionage campaign against Israeli soldiers and policemen, using mainly fake “honeypot” profiles to lure them into downloading malware, was revealed and said to demonstrate a “new level of sophistication” by the terror group.
UNPRECEDENTED NEGEV SUMMIT CONSOLIDATES NEW REGIONAL ALIGNMENTS
On March 27-28, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hosted his counterparts from the Abraham Accords partners – the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco – together with the Foreign Minister of Egypt, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at a historic summit in the Negev.
The summit took place at Sde Boker – home and burial site of Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion – and represented an unprecedented consolidation of the alliance between Israel and several Arab countries across the region.
It also highlighted how the warming ties between Israel and the Gulf states has encouraged greater involvement by Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
Foreign Minister Lapid said at the summit, “What we are doing here today is making history – building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security and intelligence cooperation.”
ISRAEL THE NINTH HAPPIEST COUNTRY
Israel is now ranked the ninth happiest country in the world, according to the UN sponsored World Happiness Index 2022 published on March 18. The index considers a nation’s levels of GDP, social support, personal freedom and corruption in government, as well as local respondents’ assessments of their own happiness. The survey ranked Finland the happiest country and Afghanistan the unhappiest. Australia came in eleventh.
The growth in Israeli COVID cases has slowed after a recent surge, with 201,866 new cases from March 27 to April 26, and 254 more deaths. 28,455 Israelis were listed as currently infected on April 26, down from 725,754 on Jan. 26. The Palestinian-ruled areas of the West Bank reported much lower figures, with only 1,067 new cases reported between March 27 and April 26, and eight deaths. There were 497 new cases reported in Gaza from March 24 to April 23.
Stranger Than Fiction
Putin it on the Jews
Palestinian Islamic scholar Mraweh Nassar is the Secretary-General of the Jerusalem Committee of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. That means he has really small writing on his business card. It also means that his pronouncements on Islam might be regarded as having some authority. However, we hope his pronouncements on international affairs, and in particular the Jewish role in them, are taken less seriously by his audience.
In a March 22 interview on Channel 9 in Turkey, an Arabic-language channel affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, he warmed up by claiming that during the “false Holocaust” the Nazis offered Jews to save other Jews at a cost of five dollars each, but “they took one look, saw that most of them were old, and said, ‘We don’t want them.’”
He continued that the Jews are now turning to Russia and China for help because “America has forsaken them,” telling them, “Your [Zionist] project is a failure.”
This, Nasser revealed in his masterful analysis, is what really caused the Ukraine war: “Even the Jews themselves… are now convinced that Palestine cannot be the state for the Jews. So, they started saying that holy Jerusalem is in Ukraine and not in Palestine. Ukraine is now the candidate to become the future Jewish state.”
And then he offered this “obvious” conclusion: “Perhaps one of the reasons they instigated this war was to empty out Ukraine.”
In fact, Nasser insisted, there already is a Jewish state in eastern Ukraine, which “the whole world knows about,” but the Jews “did not want to spread the word about it, so they would not be told to go there rather than come to Palestine.” So that explains everything! (Translations from the Middle East Media Research Institute)