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Syria: 4 Israeli Fighter Jets Strike a Military Site in Northwestern Syria, Breakdown of Russian-Israeli `Understandings' for S. Syria, Israel will Strike Iranian Targets

By DEBKAfile

Syrian and Lebanese sources report that 4 Israeli fighter jets while flying over Lebanon, targeted a "scientific facility" outside Masyaf southwest of Hama on Sunday. A Lebanese source said it was a Syrian army depot and disclosed there were Iranian and Hizbullah casualties. Air defense batteries reportedly intercepted some Israeli missiles. The US-Russian-Israel formula for South Syria, composed in painstaking discussions for weeks, is not working. This became clear in phone conversations on Friday, July 20, between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin and their defense ministers. The "understandings" they had reached were proving inoperable, including Russia's guarantees for the non-presence of Iranian militias and Hizbullah near Israel's Golan border. The breakdown stemmed from an abrupt Russian U-turn. Russian diplomats were suddenly claiming that Moscow never agreed to have Iranian proxies and Hizbullah pushed back from the Israel border or out of Syria at large. According to DEBKAfile's military sources, Netanyahu and Lieberman responded to this discovery by declaring that Israel would now feel free to wipe out any positions or bases those pro-Iranian and Hizbullah forces, fighting with Syrian army units, may set up in Daraa and Quneitra. Strikes would also continue as before against those targets in other parts of Syria. Moscow's abrupt reversion to the status quo ante effectively erased President Donald Trump's disclosure in Helsinki just four days earlier of a collaborative effort agreed between the US, Russia and Israel at his summit with the Russian leader: He told reporters: "President Putin is also helping Israel. We both spoke to Bibi Netanyahu. They would like to do certain things concerning Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. In that respect, we absolutely would like to work to help Israel. Israel will be working with us. So both countries would work jointly." Netanyahu discovered when he talked to Putin on Friday that the Russian leader has no interest in working together for "the safety of Israel"– certainly not in the way it is understood in Washington and Jerusalem. Their relations on the personal level will likely remain, but security ties at the strategic level will be wound back to their low point of a year ago.

Israel Evacuates 422 Syrian Civilians from War Zone to Jordan

By VOA News

Israel evacuated 422 volunteer White Helmet rescuers and their families from the Syrian war zone Saturday night and took them to Jordan in a convoy of buses accompanied by Israeli police and United Nations vehicles. The Israeli Defense Force, identifying the rescue workers as civilians, said on Twitter they were "evacuated from the war zone in southern Syria due to an immediate threat to their lives. The transfer of the displaced Syrians through Israel is an exceptional humanitarian gesture."

The Syria Civil Defense, or White Helmets as they are known, was founded in 2013 as a network of first responders to rescue wounded people in the aftermath of airstrikes and other attacks during Syria's seven-year conflict between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and insurgents trying to overthrow his government. The IDF said the evacuation, the first of its kind, was done at the request of the United States, Canada and European countries. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both asked him in recent days to facilitate the evacuation. "The lives of these people, who have saved lives, were now in danger," Netanyahu said. "I, therefore, authorized their transfer via Israel to other countries as an important humanitarian gesture." The U.S. State Department, in a statement, welcomed the rescue of "these brave volunteers, who have saved thousands of lives." The State Department statement also called on the Assad regime and its ally Russia "to abide by their commitments, end the violence, and protect all Syrian civilians, including humanitarians such as the White Helmets." Jordan said it authorized the rescue mission, with the civilians to be resettled in Britain, Germany and Canada within three months, due to "risk to their lives." Initially, Amman said 800 were rescued, but later corrected the figure to 422. Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, said the evacuees had arrived in Jordan after they were "surrounded in a dangerous region." He said they had been encircled in the Syrian provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, which border Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Britain's Foreign Office said the "White Helmets have been the target of attacks and, due to their high profile, we judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection." But Syria, which considers the White Helmets to be terrorists and has accused them of collaborating with anti-Assad insurgents, called the rescue operation a "scandal" and said Israel's involvement in the evacuation was evidence the White Helmets were cooperating with agents of a Syrian enemy.

LGBT Demonstrators Block Major Tel Aviv Highway in Start of Nationwide Strike to Protest Surrogacy Law

By JTA

Thousands of protesters marched through Tel Aviv and blocked the main Ayalon highway as day-long demonstrations kicked off across the country to protest a new surrogacy law that does not include gay couples. The marchers waving rainbow flags blocked the Ayalon in central Tel Aviv. At the same time, hundreds of protesters in support of the LGBT community launched a demonstration near the official prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. Major demonstrations also were held in Haifa in the north and Be'er Sheva in the south. Protests also were planned in smaller Israeli cities. The day's main protest was a rally Sunday night in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Some 60,000 demonstrators reportedly packed the square for the rally. The strike was announced shortly after the Knesset vote by the Aguda, the umbrella organization for the LGBT community in Israel.

The surrogacy law, which expands those eligible to hire surrogates in Israel to include single women, but excludes single men and gay couples, passed early Thursday morning in the Knesset by a vote of 59 to 52, part of a flood of votes before the lawmakers recessed at the end of the summer session. Following the vote, the local divisions of several international companies, including Microsoft and Apple, announced they would support financially any employees who want to start a family through surrogacy. Dozens of companies also offered a paid day off to employees who want to join the Sunday demonstrations. Many of those companies, and others throughout Israel, already were offering Sunday as an optional day off for employees to observe the solemn fast day of Tisha B'Av, marking the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem.

Pregnant Israelis Get to Skip to the Front of the Line

By JTA

An amendment to Israel's Women's Equal Rights Act will allow pregnant women to skip to the head of lines at "supermarkets, shops, pharmacies, the post office and other places that provide public service." The bill, which was proposed by Joint List parliamentarian Yousef Jabareen, was passed unanimously on Monday. "The idea for the bill proposal came when I was abroad with my wife who was pregnant,"The Jerusalem Post quoted Jabareen as saying during a Knesset debate. "And when we saw the long lines in public places, we thought of giving up on those places. But we were pleasantly surprised when the service providers told us that we did not have to stand in line. When we came back to Israel, we noticed the differences. It is time to give pregnant women the respect they deserve." The bill came just over a year after the Knesset passed a similar law granting citizens over 80 the same privilege. "In order to give pregnant women the respect they deserve and to make life easier for them," the amendment reads, she "will be granted the right to receive public service without waiting in line."

Law for Rabbinical Courts to Hear Non-Israeli Divorce Cases Approved

By the Jerusalem Post

A new law allowing the state's rabbinical courts to impose sanctions against non-Israeli recalcitrant husbands who refuse to grant a divorce to their wives and are present in Israel has been approved by the Knesset 42 votes against 24, with two abstentions. The law is seen as controversial since it expands the jurisdiction of the state rabbinical courts to non-citizens on the highly charged issue of divorce refusal, although several centrist members of the Knesset worked to moderate the terms of the law in committee. The legislation, which is a temporary three-year law, allows the Rabbinical Courts to hear a case involving a couple in which neither spouse is Israeli, on one of three conditions: if there is no rabbinical court where the couple lives to deal which can hear the case; the couple has not been in front of a rabbinical court for four months; or if a husband refuses to give a divorce after a rabbinical court in the Diaspora ruled that he must do so and made "reasonable efforts" to enforce its decision. The law only applies to recalcitrant men, and not women, and the recalcitrant husband must be present in Israel for the rabbinical courts to hear the case. The rabbinical courts in Israel can impose sanctions on recalcitrant spouses to persuade them to divorce, such as revoking driving licenses, revoking passports, placing restrictions on their bank accounts, and even imprisoning them for extended periods of time. But such sanctions are not at the disposal of rabbinical courts in the Diaspora since they are not state institutions, meaning that there are few effective tools for persuading a recalcitrant spouse to consent to a divorce. According to the Rabbinical Courts Administration, the Conference of European Rabbis, a major association of Orthodox rabbis in Europe, requested that the Israeli rabbinical court find a solution for cases of divorce recalcitrance involving non-Israelis, a request that is answered by the new legislation. Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria insisted, after the legislation was approved in committee for its final readings, that the law would indeed help women around the world who have been denied a divorce by their husbands. The original version of the law included a clause that would have given the rabbinical courts jurisdiction in cases where a couple married in a civil ceremony in the Diaspora and are facing difficulties obtaining a divorce in that country, including couples who are Israeli citizens. This clause was, however, removed, as was a clause which would have allowed the rabbinical courts to rule on ancillary matters to the divorce such as child support payments. A clause was added stipulating that the bill of divorce granted by a husband not be connected to any conditions – a clause designed to prevent him extorting more favorable terms in the divorce settlement in return for him granting the divorce. It is also stipulated in the law that the Israeli rabbinical courts are not superior to Diaspora rabbinical courts. Finally, the legislation was passed as a temporary law, with the rabbinical courts required to report to the Knesset every year about its implementation, to ensure that the courts do not abuse the new power afforded to them. Director of the Rabbinical Courts Rabbi David Malka said, after the bill was approved in committee, that the legislation would allow the State of Israel "to reach out an assist every Jewish woman in the world wherever she is, even if she is not an Israeli citizen," and enable the rabbinical courts "to act with determination and tirelessly to free chained women around the world." --

Arab Men BBQ in Tunisian Jewish Cemetery

By JTA
A Tunisian Jewish businessman has published photos showing Arab men holding a barbecue in a Jewish cemetery. Elie Trabelsi posted the photos taken at the Jewish cemetery in Sousse on Facebook on Thursday. The post was first flagged by the "Elder of Ziyon" blog. The mayor of Sousse, Tawfiq al-Oreybi, announced that police are investigating the incident and will take appropriate action, according to the blog post. Police arrested six men in the cemetery, the post noted, though not the ones pictured on Trabelsi's Facebook page. The cemetery reportedly has become a hangout. Only a few Jewish families now live in Sousse, which had a Jewish community of nearly 6,000 at the time of Tunisia's independence in 1956. Tunisia had a Jewish population of more than 100,000 at the time of independence in 1956, comprising the country's largest religious minority. Today nearly 2,000 remain, living mostly on the southern island of Djerba and around the capital, Tunis.


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