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Rockets from Sinai Fired Towards Eilat: Three Intercepted by Iron Dome

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Sirens were sounded on Wednesday night, shortly before 11 p.m., in the resort city of Eilat and in the Eilat Regional Council. Residents in the area reported hearing explosions immediately after the sirens.

The IDF confirmed that three rockets were fired from Egypt towards Eilat and that the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted them. A fourth rocket exploded in an open area. There were no damages, but four people who suffered shock were evacuated to the Yoseftal Hospital in the city. IDF forces are continuing to search the area.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, a tank shell from Syria landed in an open area in the Golan Heights. No injuries or damage were reported. The IDF believes that the shell was a result of a spillover from the civil war in Syria, and that Israel was not targeted for attack.

The IDF responded by attacking a target in the northern Golan Heights belonging to the army of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. "The IDF will not tolerate any attack on Israel's sovereignty or the security of its citizens, and sees the Syrian regime is responsible for what happens in its territory."

Russia to Give Syrian Army High-Precision Weapons

By DEBKAfile & YnetNews

Moscow signaled on Wednesday, February 8, that it has started - or is about to start - supplying precision weapons to the Syrian military in order to boost its capabilities against the Islamic State organization.

It came in an announcement by Ilyas Umakhanov, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, who said, "Russia will continue an asymmetrical response (to terrorism) in Syria, which may include the regrouping of forces and means…and of course the supply of high-precision weapons to the Syrian government."

He added that “It is impossible to defeat terrorism only by efforts of one country. Terrorism has assumed a global character and, having achieved obvious victory in one place, there is no reason to create additional vacuums where terrorists can resume military operations.”

It is clear that Umakhanov was referring to two main topics: 1. Military cooperation by the US, Russia, Syria and Turkey in the war against ISIS, with the first signs already visible on the fronts in northern and eastern Syria. 2. Russian estimation of the need to supply the Syrian military with the most advanced weapons to ramp up its capabilities to the same level as those of the other militaries taking part in the war against ISIS in Syria.

According to Russian media reports, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said recently that more than 160 types of advanced weapons have been tested in the course of Moscow’s military intervention in Syria, which started in September 2015. The reports did not specify where or when Shoigu made the comment.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources have revealed the types of weapons that the Russians have decided to send the Syrian army. They include small drones armed with precision bombs; shoulder-fired, laser-guided antitank and antiaircraft missiles; “loitering munitions” which follow their targets after being dropped from planes; small unmanned vehicles for clearing tunnels; advanced night vision equipment; laser and infrared sights; intelligence systems for locating targets; and long-range sniper rifles.

Loitering munitions combine the traits of missiles, drones and bombs. They are dropped from a plane and then controlled by a soldier on the ground or in the air. They can fly for many hours as long as they have enough fuel and electricity. The munitions use a GPS system to show their precise location, and are usually fitted with a video camera which shows targets in real time in high resolution, even in poor weather conditions or at night, via remote control.

As soon as the target is identified, the bomb is directed to its target, such as the window of a building, an armored vehicle or a group of fighters. In addition to the target, all of the bomb’s sensors are destroyed when the bomb explodes.

Russia’s announcement was a complete surprise to the highest levels of the Israeli government and military. During the six years of the Syrian civil war, the IDF, particularly its intelligence bodies and its air force, made great efforts to prevent the flow of such precision weapons to the Syrian military and to the Iranian and Hizbullah forces in Syria.

But now that the Russians have announced that they will provide those weapons to the Syrian military, it is obvious that some of the arms are bound to fall into the hands of the Iranians and Hizbullah.

Russian Ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shane, said that his country is working to prevent the transfer of Russian weapons to Hizbullah. During an interview with the Interfax news agency, Shane noted that Israel presented Moscow with its "red lines" and shared concerns about Russia's cooperation with Iran and Syria.

According to Shane, Israel presented red lines to the Russians about events in Syria, the most important of which were the transfer of modern, advanced weapons to Hizbullah and the establishment of an anti-Israel base with Iran in the Syrian Golan.

"Russia explained to Israel how it thinks the crisis in Syria can be solved in order to unite all forces in the war against terrorist groups and establish a steady future for Syria by Syrians themselves," said Shane.

Shane added that Israel understands was his country is doing in Syria, "but for them, the best thing that can happen is cooperation between Russia and the United States—and not Russia and Iran—to solve the crisis in Syria and the fight against terrorism in the Middle East."

According to Shane, "Israel sees Iran as the biggest threat and cause of instability in the region." he added that "Russia promised Israel that Russian weapons will not make it to Hizbullah. Israel wants a deal between Russia and the United States to end the war in Syria."

A Wall Street Journal report claimed that the Trump administration is trying to find ways to break up the military and diplomatic pact between Russia and Iran. The report relied on the words of a senior official in the administration as well as statements from European and Arab officials who are involved in the matter. "If we can drive a wedge between Russia and Iran, it’s an option we have to check," said that same American official.

According to the same Wall Street Journal report, the White House has no illusions about Russia and does not think President Vladimir Putin is a "choir boy." However, the real question, according to European officials, is what Putin will demand from Trump in return for weakening his alliance with Tehran.


40% of IDF's Female Recruits Ask to Serve in Combat Unit

By Israel Hayom


Although around 40% of young women who enlist in the Israel Defense Forces are interested in serving in a combat unit, only 10% are ultimately assigned to combat positions, according to Lt. Col. Gili Ben-Menachem of the IDF Personnel Directorate. Ben-Menachem disclosed the finding at a meeting of the Knesset's Subcommittee for Personnel in the IDF aimed at using the enlistment to its full potential.

"The IDF aspires to complete equality between men and women in the selection process," Ben-Menachem said. He said the IDF has authorized 50 more military occupations to be made available to women, and expects the number of technical positions open to women to increase from 11% to 23% by the end of the year. He said female soldiers will soon comprise over half of those taking part in the IDF's academic track.

Despite the high demand for combat positions among female recruits, 35% of young women eligible to be drafted are exempted from military service on the grounds of religious observance. Ben-Menachem said that in the last five years, the IDF had investigated 450 cases in which officials believed women who had requested such exemptions were merely pretending to be religious to avoid mandatory military service. After their charade was exposed, 223 of the young women revoked their requests.

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) has called for assistance for young religious women interested in military service. "The religious institutions are closed to military representatives. There is a campaign against the draft of religious girls that will continue to gain traction," she said.

Dror Granit, a lawyer for the Justice Ministry, said the law allows for the revocation of an exemption on religious grounds only after charges have been filed and a conviction has been issued. According to Granit, the existing correction to the law is also inefficient in that the committee tasked with deliberating requests to annul the exemptions mandated by the law was never established.

Ben-Menachem said that 1,500 yeshiva students enlist in the IDF every year, 17% of whom opt out of the hesder yeshiva track, which combines yeshiva study with shortened military service over five years. He said a majority of the yeshiva youths who enlist in the IDF serve in combat units and are highly motivated.

Oren: Our Goal is Direct Talks with No Preconditions

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Deputy Minister in charge of Public Diplomacy and former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren sat down with Arutz Sheva to speak about to the prime minister's impending visit to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump.

Oren said that "every first meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a new American president is interesting, moving and historic. The meeting will take place during a period of instability and violence in the Middle East, as well as considerable challenges faced by Israel in the security and political arenas and especially with regard to the Iranian nuclear program."

He added that "the hope and expectation is that we will raise these issues and deal with them. Our hope is that the Palestinians will come back to the negotiating table without preconditions in order to talk with us and advance towards an agreement which will be based on two states for two nations."

Recently the prime minister has been speaking less about a two-state solution. "I don't know what the prime minister said. Our goal and desire is to return to direct talks without any preconditions in order to achieve a solution based on two states for two nations. This however is at present unacceptable to any Palestinian."

Russia: American Chabad Rabbi is Security Risk, Must Leave

By JTA

An American rabbi who has worked for the Chabad movement in Russia since 2002 said he and his family are facing deportation under a provision dealing with threats to national security. Ari Edelkopf, a father of seven who grew up in the United States and lived in Israel before settling in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi as Chabad’s envoy there, wrote on Facebook on Sunday that he was informed of the decision without receiving further information on specific allegations.

Amid a crackdown in Russia on organizations with foreign funding, Edelkopf’s staying permit was revoked in December, according to Interfax. He lost an appeal at the regional court, forcing him to leave Russia by Feb. 11. He has denied any involvement in political issues or crimes.

The Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia condemned the move. Boruch Gorin, a spokesperson for the federation, said it was “far from an isolated incident” during an interview with AFP. He added that at least seven rabbis have been forced to leave Russia in recent years for alleged immigration violations. Gorin said this was “an attempt to establish control” on Jewish communities in Russia, which he said are serviced by some 70 rabbis, of whom half are foreign.

Separately, police arrested in Moscow the civil rights activist Mark Galperin on Tuesday morning on charges that he incited to extremism, the Kommersant daily reported. Galperin, who is Jewish, is accused of organizing unlicensed protest activities.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and other Jewish groups have praised the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which critics accuse of fomenting xenophobia against Muslims and gays, for combating anti-Semitism and restituting Jewish property. At the same time, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia has criticized expressions of anti-Semitism by officials, including from Putin’s party and steps perceived as anti-democratic.

Last year, a court in the city of Cherepovets 250 miles north of Moscow scrapped the association known as The Jewish Community of Cherepovets from the national register of nonprofit organizations, citing its repeated failures to file the financial activity reports required by law of such groups, the Interfax news agency reported. The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said this was due to a technical issue, adding the community did not meet legal requirements expected of nongovernmental associations.

The previous year, Russia’s Justice Ministry placed a Jewish cultural association with ties to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on its list of nongovernmental organizations defined as “foreign agents.” The Hesed-Tshuva group, which is based in the city of Ryazan located 120 miles south of Moscow, was placed on the list on Sept. 11, 2015.


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