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Putin's Top Officials Sent to Jerusalem after DEBKAfile Disclosed His Rift with Netanyahu


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov were sent urgently to Israel on Monday, July 23 over the Putin-Netanyahu rift that was exclusively disclosed by DEBKAfile. Israel rebuffed a new Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the Golan Heights ceasefire line, an Israeli official said, complicating Moscow's bid to stabilize the country amid a waning civil war. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the issue came up during a meeting between Netanyahu and a visiting Russian delegation led by Lavrov. Netanyahu said a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces 100 km (62 miles) from the border was not enough, telling Lavrov "we will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced the mission to the cabinet in words that were revealing: He said Israel would not accept the Syrian army's entry to the buffer zone set up by the 1974 Syrian-Israeli separation of forces accord, thereby indicating that he did not trust in Syrian compliance with this accord, despite the guarantee offered by President Vladimir Putin in their phone conversation on Friday, July 20. DEBKAfile's sources note that Putin's pledge came after he reneged on a series of promises he gave US President Donald Trump and Netanyahu in recent weeks, relating to keeping the Iranians and their proxies away from the Israeli border. Three important points emerged from Monday's events: The claim that the Syrian army is fighting in the battles for conquering southern Syria is more fiction than fact: Aside from tattered elements of that army, the battles are being fought by Hizbullah and pro-Iranian Shiite militias under Iranian command. So the "Syrian army" is a misnomer when referring to intrusions of the buffer zone, or proximity to Israel's Golan border – currently estimated by military sources at no more than 3-8km. They should correctly be attributed to Iranian plus proxies. Some of these forces enjoy Russian air force support. If Israeli fighter jets are confirmed to have fired missiles from Lebanon Sunday night at a missile depot at Masyaf near Hama, killing Iranian and Hizbullah officers, this raises a question: Why would Israel take military action against Iran and Hizbullah far from its borders, while thus far holding back from attacking those same forces close to its Golan border? Indeed, Netanyahu threatened as much in his last conversation with Putin in the harshest terms: "Any hill captured by Iran and Hizbullah near the Israeli border will become a crater," he vowed. The Russian president seems to have taken this threat seriously enough to send his top people to Jerusalem to hold Israel back. Israel had previously turned down a proposal by Russia, the big-power backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, that Iranian forces be kept 80 km from the frontier, according to Israeli officials. The Russian embassy in Israel tweeted that Lavrov and armed forces chief General Valery Gerasimov discussed with Netanyahu Assad's advance in southwest Syria and "issues related to Israel border security."

Another Israeli official described the meeting, which lasted for over two hours, as "an important meeting at a significant time in which we discussed the details of Iranian presence and activity in Syria, while presenting maps and intelligence materials, as we explained our policy to push Iran out of Syria." The official said Israel will maintain full freedom of operations for the IDF, and detailed what the removal of Iran from Syria should entail: "First of all, all the long-range weapons must be removed from Syria; precise weapons production must be stopped; other strategic weapons, such as air defense, must be removed as well; the border crossings that allow the smuggling of these weapons must be closed, including on the Syrian-Lebanese border where weapons are smuggled into Lebanon, and the Iraqi-Syrian border through which weapons are smuggled from Iran into Syria itself."

Israel Deploys David's Sling Anti-Missile System against Stray Syrian Rockets

By World Israel News

Israel for the first time on Monday deployed David's Sling anti-missile system after rockets from Syria strayed toward Israel. David's Sling air defense system knocked down Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives, according to the military's initial investigation. Israeli authorities said they feared the missiles were headed for Israel, but ultimately the two Syrian SS-21 short-range ballistic missiles did not clear the border and landed one kilometer inside Syria. The stray rockets from the fighting between President Bashar Assad's troops and rebels in southern Syria were targeted by David's Sling and reportedly shot down over Syria. The Syrian rockets set off red alerts across the north of Israel. Incoming rocket alert sirens blared throughout northern Israel on Monday morning, with residents reporting hearing sounds of explosions. Red alerts were sounded in the northern city of Safed, in the Galilee region and communities on the Golan Heights. In addition to hearing explosions, residents of northern Israel also reported seeing the trails left behind by Israeli anti-aircraft missiles.

PLO Secretary-General: Nation-State Law Destroys Two-State Solution

By the Jerusalem Post

The Palestinians are planning to ask the International Criminal Court and the United Nations to take action against Israel over the Nation-State Law that was approved by the Knesset last week, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said on Monday. He said that the Palestinians were currently holding contacts with world countries to "inform them about the gravity of this law." The Palestinians, he said, are planning to present the ICC with an opinion paper concerning the law and President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Erekat, who was speaking to reporters in Ramallah, said that the Palestinians would also submit a request to the UN General Assembly to see whether Israel was entitled to keep its membership in the international body in the aftermath of the Nation-State Law. Erekat accused the US of serving as Israel's "full partner" in the new law. He said that Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, which is also known as the "deal of the century" or the "ultimate deal," has begun with the president's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As part of Trump's unseen plan, Erekat claimed, the US administration has decided to cut funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees to "remove the issue of Palestinian refugees from the negotiating table [with Israel]." "A question mark hangs over Israel's membership in the UN," he added. "We have instructed our ambassador to the UN to ask the UN Office of Legal Affairs whether [Trump's decisions and the Nation-State Law] contradicted all that the UN has done to achieve peace, stability, coexistence and a peaceful settlement." The Nation-State Law "has torpedoed all UN resolutions adopted since 1949, and the issue is no longer one of two states for two peoples," the top PLO official said. "There is no right to self-determination for our people, not in the 1948 lands and not in the 1967 lands. The Jew will decide the fate of the Palestinian people, and this is an actual implementation of the Balfour Declaration." Erekat warned that the new law would "transform the conflict from a par excellence political conflict into a par excellence religious conflict." He also lashed out at Trump's senior advisor Jared Kushner and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, saying it was "shameful that they are peace envoys because they believe in an ideology that is based on a national state for the Jewish people." Erekat said that the new law also "legitimizes settlements and legalizes ethnic cleansing, aims at destroying the two-state solution and replacing it with Apartheid, and turning the conflict into a religious conflict."

Entire Western Wall is a `Danger Zone', Archaeologist Says


After a large stone fell from the Western Wall on Monday, an Israeli archaeologist declared the holy site's entire plaza a "danger zone." Other stones "could immediately fall" and hurt people, Zachi Dvira told The Times of Israel. He is completing a Ph.D. on the archaeology of the Temple Mount. The boulder that fell Monday morning at one of the site's areas designated for egalitarian mixed prayer weighed about 220 pounds, according to Israel Radio. It missed all onlookers but landed close to a female worshiper. "I didn't hear or feel anything until it landed right at my feet," Daniella Goldberg, 79, told Hadashot TV news. She said that they "tried not to let the incident distract me from my prayers." While the egalitarian section has been closed after the incident, he believes visitors should stand a few feet back from the wall in all of its sections, for safety reasons. He noted that several rocks from the Temple Mount's other three supporting walls have fallen in recent years. The rock that fell Monday was broken in two from moisture created by the plants in the wall. "It's a matter of life or death," he said. In 2004, large pieces of Western Wall stone fell during Yom Kippur, injuring one worshiper. The Western Wall's official rabbi weighed in on Monday's event. "This is an unusual and most rare incident that has not occurred for decades," said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. "The fact that this powerful incident happened a day after the 9th of Av fast, in which we mourned the destruction of our temples, raises questions which the human soul is too small to contain, and requires soul-searching." The ancient limestone wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great over 2,000 years ago. The Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Because of restrictions to non-Muslims entering the Temple Mount complex, which is administered by the Jordanian Muslim Trust, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, although the holiest site lies just above it.

Celebrating 70 years of Aliyah with 700 Olim

Three-hundred new immigrants arrived in Israel Monday from France, Russia, Argentina and Brazil. The olim landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and took part in a festive event of the Jewish Agency marking the 70th anniversary of Aliyah to the State of Israel. Hundreds of new immigrants from all over the world took part in the celebrations. About 700 olim in total participated in the ceremony. The ceremony was attended by the incoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, former opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog, outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver, Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chairman Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee MK Avraham Negosa, Jewish Agency Director Greg Meisel and donor representative Pim Vandrahoff. The incoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, Yitzhak Herzog, said: "It is exciting to receive new immigrants in the State of Israel upon the opening of my term, and I hope that they will acclimatize quickly, that they will find a warm and loving home here and have a happy life in Israel. We can really rejoice in their joy. The outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, said, "Despite all the challenges today in Israel and despite all the slander against it, Jews continue to make Aliyah, and the number of immigrants is rising from year to year. The 300 immigrants who came from all over the world on the day after Tisha B'Av are a guarantee that there will be no return to the past and the State of Israel will be even stronger." "This year we mark the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, the land of unlimited possibilities in which everyone can break the glass ceiling," said Sofa Landver. "Here, in our common home, a new citizen can go far and succeed in a big way. The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption welcomes you and adapts itself to every new wave of immigration and its needs, to assist immigrants to integrate into society, to advance in the new life and to be absorbed in the profession and employment."

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