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Assad: Next Time, We'll Bomb Israel


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday there was "popular pressure" to open a military front against Israel on the Golan Heights, and warned his country would bomb Israel if it attacks Syria again.

"There is clear popular pressure to open a new front of resistance in the Golan," Assad said in an interview with Al-Manar, the television channel of his ally, Lebanon's Shiite Hizbullah movement. "This is a political-ideological matter that will eventually turn into a military one. There are several factors, including repeated Israeli aggression," he said. "The next time Israel attacks, if it attacks, we will have a strategic response. A bombing against a bombing."

Asked what kind of weapons would be used against Israel, he said, "There are things that will be determined in the proper date and time. We have informed all of the elements that contacted us that in the next times we will respond," Assad said.

Israel is believed to be behind several recent bombing attacks against Syrian weapons sites. Israel is concerned that amid the growing chaos in Syria, unconventional weapons will be transferred to Hizbullah or fall into the hands of rebel Islamists. It is also concerned that Assad may try to unite the country by staging an attack against Israel.

Israeli Intelligence Denies First Russian S-300s Arrive in Syria

By DEBKAfile

Senior Israeli intelligence sources emphasized to DEBKAfile Thursday that Syria had still not received the first consignment of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries – contrary to Syrian President Bashar Assad's claim.

Directly taunting Israel, Syrian president Bashar Assad said in an interview prerecorded for broadcast Thursday night, May 30, that the first batch of Russian S-300 anti-air missiles has arrived in Syria and a second consignment was on the way. The broadcast was scheduled to air simultaneously over Hizbullah's Al Manar and Syrian state television channels. The Syrian ruler was responding to the quote from Israel's National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror that the S-300 batteries have not been delivered yet and when they are, Israel will destroy them before they are operational.

On May 29, DEBKAfile reported the landing at Latakia airport of a large Russian transport carrying 60 tons of unidentified freight. Labeled by Moscow "humanitarian aid," it may in fact have contained the first S-300 delivery to which Assad referred.

The threats traded by Russia, Syria, Hizbullah with Israel have reached a new pitch of stridency. Israel's National Secuirty Adviser Yakov Amidror was quoted Wednesday night as warning that if the Russian S-300 anti-air missiles are delivered to Syria, Israel will strike them and prevent their deployment for operational use.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens voiced his certainty that the Russians are aware Israel is capable of destroying the batteries. DEBKAfile's military sources added that Moscow has made a point of stressing that the S-300s for Syria will arrive accompanied by Russian officers and advisers, in the belief that Israel will think twice before tangling with Moscow by attacking the missiles still in their crates and risking harm to Russian personnel. This eventuality came up in the tough conversation Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 14.

Netanyahu to Ensure that Every Israeli has Gas Mask

By The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking Thursday at a meeting concluding this week's Home Front drill, instructed government ministries to equip all of Israel's residents with gas mask kits. The exercise, called "Turning Point 7," tested the country's readiness for chemical and conventional rocket attacks.

Only 58% of Israelis have gas masks, and it is estimated that it will take NIS 1.3 billion (some $350 million) to cover the rest of the population. In addition, it will cost NIS 300 million (some $80 million) annually to maintain the kits.

Demand for gas masks has risen by 30% over the past two weeks, as Israelis have become increasingly skittish over the prospect of war breaking out in the north. The rise comes in the wake of two aerial bombings near Damascus earlier this month, reportedly carried out by Israel. An Israeli analyst said Thursday that Syrian-Israeli tensions are now "incendiary."

Up until two weeks ago, the rate of demand for gas masks was a steady 2,000 kits per day, said Israel Postal Company spokeswoman Maya Avishai. Over the past two weeks the rate climbed by 30%, reaching a new high of 4,730 on Sunday.

All told, Israel Postal has thus far distributed a total of 4,800,000 gas masks and kits, said Avishai. Hadassah Medical Center staff and Home Front Command soldiers during a drill Wednesday simulating a chemical weapon attack on Israel. Facing the threat of thousands of enemy rockets, Israel's home front is more vulnerable than ever, Netanyahu added at the meeting.

"We are deep in the era of missiles that are aimed at civilian population areas," Netanyahu said during a meeting of the Emergency Economy Committee. "We must prepare defensively and offensively for the new era of warfare. The state of Israel is the most threatened state in the world. Around us are tens of thousands of missiles and rockets that could hit our home front."

Netanyahu said that November's Operation Pillar of Defense, during which Hamas terrorists fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilian areas, was a small example of the change in the nature of the threats Israel faces.

In addition to training the military and emergency services, the three-day exercise also sought to prepare the civilian population. Air-raid sirens sounded twice, drilling the civilian population in finding shelter at home, work and school.

The prime minister explained that maintaining high public morale was a key element of national security. "Defensive preparations, first of all, mean preparing the spirit of the nation to be steadfast in order to allow the military to strike the enemy that wants to destroy us," Netanyahu said. "It is important to maintain functional continuity in the home front that is under fire. The Israeli home front is more accessible to the enemy than it has been.

"Defense demands many resources and this requires a change in our national priorities, including legislative changes," Netanyahu added in an apparent reference to ongoing political turmoil surrounding a universal draft law that would induct ultra-Orthodox youth into the army.

"It is the responsibility of government ministries to work together and see to it that the vital enterprises under their purview continue to operate even in emergencies in order to create functional continuity in time of emergency," said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan.

Landau: Yes, They're Auschwitz Borders


Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau gave a wide-ranging interview to Mazal Mualem for Al-Monitor Israel Pulse the day after Landau publicly quoted the well-known maxim of former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, "The '67 borders remind us of the borders of Auschwitz," at the beginning of a government meeting that took place on Sunday and was widely quoted in news broadcasts.

When. Landau was asked if "the Holocaust comparison [is] somewhat exaggerated" given the President's "vision of two states," he added: "So he is mistaken! But my argument is not with any specific person. The president of the state talks in his own name. After all, he has no authority to speak in the name of the government. I am in the government first and foremost to say these things when it is necessary to say them, and I'm saying them now.

"Not only there will not be peace, there will be no coexistence. Nor quiet. An agreement based on these guidelines will only lead to increase in terror. Exactly as the Disengagement [from Gaza in 2005] led to increase in terror and strengthening of Hamas."

When further pressed that Eban's "Holocaust borders"1967 comment was 45 years ago, Min. Landau again clearly responded: "That doesn't make these borders less Auschwitz-like. Before '67, they didn't have Katyusha rockets and missiles to the extent owned today by Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south that constitute a strategic threat to Israel. One thing must be clear: A Palestinian state is not the solution."

And as for the "deep thinking" generals who now advocate retreating from Judea and Samaria and creating a Palestinian "West Bank" state Landau wryly pointed out:

"I will quote Mr. Peres once again, who said that we should never take the defense system's recommendations as absolute truth. [Former Prime Minister Menachem] Begin bombed the Iraqi reactor against the opinions of all the heads of the service and defense systems [in 1981]. The heads of IDF Intelligence Branch, former chiefs of staff, were the ones who pushed for Israel to voluntarily hand over the Golan Heights and sever Syria from Iran as a necessary condition for coping with the nuclear problem.

"Does that point to deep thinking? If we had listened to their advice and signed the agreement over the Golan Heights — where would we be today? Evidently under gunplay over [northern town of] Kiryat Shmona or Kfar Blum."

Rabbinate: Palestinian Coke Not Kosher


The Chief Rabbinate released an urgent statement this week, warning the Israeli public against Coca-Cola manufactured in the West Bank town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, which is marketed alongside the strictly kosher beverage that has been manufactured in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak for the past decades.

According to the statement, written by Rabbi Yaakov Sabag, director of the Chief Rabbinates Kashrut Department, and Rabbi Rafi Yochai, head of the Kashrut Fraud Division, "We have recently discovered the marketing of a four-pack Coca-Cola, in which each bottle carries a caption in Arabic with no kashrut mark.

"This product is being sold for a reduced price and has created confusion among the population, as the brand is known to be kosher in Israel. An inquiry has revealed that the product is manufactured in the village of Beitunia, near Jerusalem, without any kosher supervision."

Businesses supervised by the Rabbinate were asked in the letter to avoid selling the Coke bottles from Beitunia, even if there is allegedly no fear that the beverage is not kosher. Moreover, many kashrut observers around the world buy the brand in local stores even without a kosher mark, and it is perceived as kosher.

Nonetheless, the Rabbinate wrote in its warning, businesses must avoid selling the Palestinian drink "due to the educational aspect, so as not to get the public used to purchasing products without a kosher mark."

Chief Rabbinate Spokesman Ziv Maor says that Coca-Cola is made in Israel and abroad according to the company's secret and accurate formula, yet there is no way of knowing whether a factory which is not supervised by the Rabbinate uses the machine that produces the Coke to pack other drinks which are not kosher, such as camel milk. The warning, he adds, is aimed at making it clear to be public that it must only consume beverages manufactured in a factory supervised by the Rabbinate.

The Coca-Cola Israel company said it had nothing to do with the production of the beverage in the Palestinian Authority. "There is no need to mention that all our products are under the fine supervision of Rabbi Landa and the Tel Aviv Rabbinate," the company noted in a statement.

Has the Oldest Torah Scroll in the World Been Found in Italy?

By Israel Hayom

A university in Italy has discovered what it said might be the oldest complete Torah scroll known to exist, according to a BBC report on Tuesday.

The scroll was found in a library at the University of Bologna. The report said the scroll was previously thought to be at most a few hundred years old, but textual, graphic and paleographic examination of the scroll, confirmed by carbon dating tests, determined that it was written around 800 years ago, between the second half of the 12th century and the beginning of 13th century (1155-1225).

A professor at the university was quoted as saying that the scroll had been mislabeled by a librarian in 1889. That librarian dated the scroll to the 17th century, even though it was apparently much older.

Professor of Hebrew at the Department of Cultural Heritage Mauro Perani recently re-examined the scroll and noticed that the script was characteristic of the oriental Babylonian tradition, signaling that the scroll was much older than thought.

The scroll's dating makes it about contemporary to Maimonides (1135-1204), the prominent Jewish philosopher and Halachic authority. It is elegant and finely written including graphical features and scribal devices forbidden by Maimonides in the rules that he codified for writing a Torah scroll, indicating that it was written before his rules were widely accepted. `

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