IDF soldiers

Israel News for December 22, 2015

Hezbollah Revenge
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address yesterday that he holds Israel responsible for the killing of Samir Kuntar in an airstrike over the weekend and vowed that Hezbollah would retaliate “in any place and at any time”.

Nasrallah concluded his speech by saying, “We will not surrender and will not retreat…I say to the Americans, the Israelis and all their allies: neither the moves against us nor sanctions will hurt us – they will only make us continue on our path.”

Thousands attended Kuntar’s funeral on Monday, including not only many senior Hezbollah militants, but also Lebanese politicians and leaders of Palestinian factions in the country. He was Druze.

The IDF is on heightened alert along Israel’s northern border. The biggest fear is that despite the losses that Hezbollah has suffered in the Syrian conflict, it has also gained valuable military and combat experience that has turned it into a much more skilled and professional force.

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UN Condemns
For a change, Israel was not on the receiving end of a condemnation. Following a request from Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon into northern Israel on Sunday.

In a statement, Ban said he is “greatly concerned over yesterday’s firing of rockets within UNIFIL’s area of operations from the area of Al-Hinniyah, in the vicinity of Tyre, towards Israel, which is a serious violation of resolution 1701.”

Just to be fair, he also noted Israel’s retaliatory shelling into Southern Lebanon and promised an investigation.

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Jewish Terror
Two smoke grenades were thrown into a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Beitillu this morning, in what is suspected to be a Jewish terror attack. The home was occupied by two parents and their nine-month-old son. No one was hurt in the attack. Graffiti in Hebrew was found nearby that said, “Revenge Regards from the Prisoners of Zion”.

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Terrorist Bodies
Over the weekend three bodies of terrorists were handed over to their families by the IDF for burial. The only condition was that the funerals be held quietly, without fanfare or publicity. The families followed the terms and held private funerals and burials for their terrorist loved ones. Based on this the IDF is likely to hand over another ten bodies to families for quiet burials.

Security officials claim that they will decide whether to return individual corpses of terrorists on a case by case basis. They assert that holding on to the bodies has had the opposite effect in that it has provoked incitement and violent protests instead of avoiding them by preventing the funerals.

Last Friday the PM and Defense Minister permitted the body of the 16 year old female terrorist who committed a stabbing attack in Mahane Yehuda along with her 14 year old cousin, to be returned to her family for burial. The funeral and burial were without incident.

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Cabinet Contest
Silvan Shalom’s resignation from his post as Interior Minister after allegations of sexual misconduct has triggered a battle over the coveted position, as the PM prepares for a cabinet reshuffle.

The two main candidates for the job appear to be Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud). Another minister who is vying for a promotion is Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), who might take over the Economy Ministry.

In the interim, the PM has taken over the Interior portfolio. That means that Netanyahu currently serves as Prime Minister, Economy Minister, Foreign Minister, Communications Minister and now, Interior Minister. And you think you’re busy?

Since Deri had to resign from the Economy Ministry over his refusal to sign the natural gas deal, the Shas leader has been expecting an appointment to one of the senior government ministries. Sources close to Deri said on Sunday evening that he has not spoken to anyone about the issue yet because he has been busy preparing for his daughter’s wedding on Monday. But Likud officials have clarified that “If Deri wants (the Interior Ministry), it’s his.”

Sources close to Regev said that she expects the PM to appoint her either Interior Minister or another senior position that becomes available. Appointing her has widespread support in Likud ranks and among Likud mayors.

Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara, a Druze Israeli, has also signaled the PM that he expects a ministerial appointment, because he is the oldest serving Likud member.

Minister Yariv Levin, who currently serves as the Minister of Tourism and as the liaison between the Knesset and government, is considered one of the ministers closest and most loyal to Netanyahu. That’s why Likud officials have said that there’s a possibility he too will receive an “upgrade” to a more senior position.

So the next few weeks will be interesting, to see how the cabinet reshuffle plays out.

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Super Missile
The Defense Ministry announced that it has successfully completed the last phase of trials of the David’s Sling air defense system. The system has entered production stage and the Israel Air Force is expected to take possession of the system in the first quarter of 2016.

David’s sling can intercept short to medium range rockets and ballistic missiles including guided projectiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and drones. Its range means it can destroy incoming threats over enemy territory, away from Israeli skies and high enough to prevent damage from shrapnel. It will play a crucial part in the multi-layered defense system being developed by the Israeli Defense Ministry, complementing the Iron Dome (which defends against short range) and the Arrow 3 defense batteries (which defends against long range missiles).

Shlomo S., head of the David’s Sling program said, “This is the first time technology of this kind has been used. It is on the verge of science fiction.”

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Abbas and Greeks
On an official visit to Greece, Palestinian Authority President Abbas announced that the PA is proposing to change its official name on the passports it issues from PA to State of Palestine. Abbas said that the change will happen in about a year.

Abbas arrived in Greece on Sunday, met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and is due to address the Greek parliament today. The parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has unanimously called on the Greek government to recognize Palestinian statehood.

This won’t be the first time that the Greeks have gone up against Israel. Remember what happened the last time (think Hanukkah)?

To be fair, Greece also has good relations with Israel. But still…

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