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Israel Kills 7 ISIS Terrorists in Overnight Strike on Syrian Golan

By Reuters & Israel Hayom

Israel killed seven ISIS militants in an air strike on the Syrian-held Golan Heights, preventing a "grave incident," Israel Radio said on Thursday without citing sources. The Israeli military confirmed carrying out an air strike overnight, saying overnight it had targeted "several armed terror operatives in the southern Syrian Golan Heights," 200 meters from the border. The military's statement did not elaborate on any casualties. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group, said early on Thursday that clashes continued between the Syrian army and ISIS terrorists in that area. There was no immediate Syrian government response to the Israeli statements. The Israeli military said that, after the air strike, "explosive belts and an AK-47 assault rifle were found in the area". The statement did not specify how they had been found. According to available information, Israeli Air Force aircraft were scrambled to target the cell after its members were spotted approaching the security fence. Israeli troops later found several explosive belts ?and an AK-47 assault rifle near the border. IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis issued a statement stating that the terrorists were identified as members of the Islamic State terrorist organization and were hit a mere "200 meters from the border fence." He stressed that "at no point was there any threat to any [Israeli] soldiers or communities. We had them at a far enough distance from the border that they posed no threat to the troops, and certainly not to communities. ?"The IDF remains on high alert and is ready to ?defend the Israeli public." Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman predicted that the Golan Heights frontier ??would be calmer with Assad's rule restored.? Before the Syrian civil war began in 2011 and ??throughout the seven years of fighting, Israel and Syria have ??mostly been careful to observe the 1974 cease-fire ??agreement between them. ? "From our perspective, the situation is returning to ??how it was before the civil war, meaning there is ??someone in charge, a central ruler." Asked whether Israelis should be less wary of ??potential flare-ups on the Golan, he said, "I believe so." But he then qualified that with, "We remain ready and willing, and we ??will prove our abilities at the moment of truth. We ??will not compromise when it comes to our security interests."? Israel has been adamant about preventing Assad's ??ally, Iran, from entrenching itself militarily in ??Syria. Russia, the superpower that sided with Assad ??in 2015, effectively ensuring his survival, has ??presented Israel with guarantees that Iranian-backed ??forces would remain 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the ??border. ? Israel insists this measure still falls short and ??demands the removal of all the Iranian-backed forces ??from Syria, something Russian Foreign Minister ??Sergey Lavrov has called "unrealistic."? Lieberman stressed Thursday that "Syrian soil cannot ??be used as an Iranian front against Israel and Syria ??cannot be used as a conduit for weapons smuggling to ??Hizbullah."? Commenting on the tensions on the Israel-?Gaza Strip border, Lieberman said that Hamas has ?been using children to send incendiary balloons over ?the border into Israel, and its operative have been ?using civilian homes and venues as cover for the terrorist cells.? The Palestinian arson campaign has been ?wreaking ?havoc on Israeli border towns for three ?months and has caused millions of dollars in damage. ? Residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza border, as well ?as several cabinet ministers, have demanded that the ?government handle kite terrorist cells with the same ?lethal force it does rocket launching cells. But top ?defense officials have been wary of such a move, ?saying that directly targeting kite and balloon ?cells, which mostly comprise teenagers and children, ?would lead the already volatile situation on the ?border to spiral out of control. ??"We have to targets those [Hamas leaders] who give ?the flaming balloons cells their orders, not the ?pawns," Lieberman said.?

Israelis Tickled by Sacha Baron Cohen's Grotesque Caricature

By Israel Hayom

Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again. After tapping into his familiarity with Israel and his fluency in Hebrew to shape previous eccentric personas such as Borat and Bruno, the Jewish comedian has created his most stereotypical Israeli character yet – a grotesque, faux counterterrorism instructor in his new Showtime series "Who is America?" Retired Colonel Erran Morad has already managed to dupe former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney into signing a waterboarding kit, convinced former Senate majority leader Trent Lott to endorse a plan to arm kindergartners, and caused a Georgia state representative to resign after he shouted racial slurs and exposed his rear end in a supposed self-defense drill against homophobic jihadists. Another of those pranked, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused Baron Cohen of preying on Israel's friends in America and seeking to "embarrass, humiliate, and mock" the Jewish state. But in Israel – where Baron Cohen's mother was born and where he spent much time in his youth – people seem to be in on the joke. "The reaction has mostly been astonishment about the accuracy of the portrayal. He really got some of our traits down," Einav Schiff, a TV critic for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, said with a chuckle. "Everyone here knows an 'Erran Morad' but I haven't recognized any outrage or embarrassment about the character. It's mostly been ridicule for these Americans who have fallen for him." Typically wearing black boots, fatigues and a military-type sweatshirt with inverse Hebrew writing on it, Baron Cohen's Morad character sports a scar in his bushy unibrow and speaks in heavily accented, broken English peppered with Hebrew expressions and in a choppy cadence typical of Israel's gruff military types. Though he is said to be a colonel, he sometimes refers to himself as a general, major or captain, or alternatively someone who served in the Mossad spy agency. With Cheney, the alleged retired operative showed up in a full olive-green IDF uniform and the insignia of a staff sergeant, none of which seemed to set off any alarm bells with the former U.S. defense secretary. It's that type of lunacy that has mostly tickled Israelis. Besides exposing the prejudices of his targets, Baron Cohen's humor has also uncovered the fetishized version of Israel believed in by many of its supposed staunch supporters on the religious Right. Nearly all were drawn to the interviews under the guise of a fake pro-Israel award for their support, when in fact all it did was expose their ignorance. In practice, most Israelis are secular, gay-friendly and, even with the country's mandatory military service, have little interest in firearms as recreation. Israeli gun laws are in fact quite stiff and most look at America's obsession with weapons incredulously. Nowhere is that more evident than in Morad's "kinderguardian" program segment, in which a string of gun-loving conservatives is fooled into believing Israel arms preschoolers to counter school shootings. More astoundingly, they go on to endorse such "child-friendly" products as "Puppy Pistol," ''Gunny Rabbit," and the magical "Uzi-corn." "The intensive three-week kinderguardian course introduces specially selected children from 2 to 4 years old to pistols, rifles, semi-automatics, and a rudimentary knowledge of mortars," former Republican congressman Joe Walsh says in one segment. "In less than a month – less than a month – a first-grader can become a first-grenade-er." In a subsequent CNN interview, Walsh admitted he was duped by a program that struck him as fishy. "I'm thinking to myself, 'Well, this is kind of crazy, but it is Israel and Israel is strong on defense,'" he explained. Such reasoning has raised some concern in Israel that others may be naive enough to take Baron Cohen's spoof literally. "Yes, your satire was outrageously on point and Col. Erran Morad was spot on. Still, bad enough that Israel gets demonized for the things it actually does, you have to go and make horrifying fake stuff up?" wrote Allison Kaplan Sommer, an English-language columnist for the Haaretz daily. "Satire or not, I'm afraid the American public is going to be left with the impression that we are, in fact, gun fans when the truth is our gun control is a million times stricter than in the U.S." Baron Cohen, 46, no doubt knows his material. He is an observant Jew who belonged to a Zionist Jewish youth group while in high school in England. Upon graduation, he spent a year working and studying on a kibbutz in northern Israel and has since returned for several visits. His fluency in Hebrew and grasp of Israeli politics and culture has found its way into his comedic acts before. In the film "Borat," his wacky fake Kazakh, misogynistic, anti-Semitic character really speaks Hebrew, a twist that made the 2006 movie a fan-favorite in Israel. The film is filled with Hebrew vulgarities, and in one scene Borat sings the lyrics of the legendary Hebrew folk song "Koom Bachur Atzel," meaning "Get up, lazy boy." Borat's signature catchphrase – "Wa wa wee wa," an expression meaning "Wow" – derives from a skit on a popular Israeli comedy show. Three years later, he portrayed Bruno – a flamboyant Austrian fashionista with a Nazi streak – and visited Israel, nearly sparking a riot in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem after strutting down the street in a sexed-up Hassidic outfit. He also comically referred to the chickpea dish "hummus" and the Islamic terrorist group "Hamas" interchangeably. With Moore, who has denied multiple allegations that he pursued romantic or sexual relationships with teenage girls while he was in his 30s, Morad taps into Israel's image as a high-tech nation to introduce its newest gadget: a "pedophile detector" that beeps every time he swipes the wand in front of Moore.

But even that pales in comparison to the humiliation heaped on Jason Spencer, the Georgia state representative. Egged on by Morad, Spencer proceeds to repeatedly shout a racial slur against black people, derogatorily imitates Asian tourists while slipping a selfie-stick between the legs of someone in traditional female Muslim garb, and then caps it off by charging at Morad with bared buttocks to incite fear in his homophobic assailant. Dor Hillel, a 26-year-old former Israeli soldier, said he found the gullibility so astounding it took him a while to figure out what he was watching. "Apparently these people are so naive that they really think we are like that," he said.

Caving to Pressure, Tunisia to Host 7-Year-Old Israeli Chess Whiz

By Israel Hayom

The Tunisian Chess Federation has agreed to allow a 7-year-old Israeli girl to take part in the World School Individual Chess Championships in Sousse, Tunisia, in 2019. In response to a request for clarification from the World Chess Federation, the organization issued a letter saying players from all countries, "without exception," are invited to participate in the tournament. The World Chess Federation had demanded that the North African country confirm it would provide visas to all participants or else risk losing the right to host the competition, following a campaign by Israel advocacy group StandWithUs. After Tunisia initially showed no signs that it intended to let European School Individual chess champion Liel Levitan into Tunisia to play in the tournament, the group launched a campaign called "Let Liel Play" in which hundreds of Israel supporters signed a petition demanding that she be allowed entry. StandWithUs also wrote to World Chess Federation Administrative Manager Polina Tsedenova about the matter. In a statement, StandWithUs representative Gilad Kabilo said Tunisia's decision to provide visas to all participants was "an unprecedented achievement, which shows that civil pressure by Israel supporters on international organizations works. We welcome the statement, and we will continue to act to defend the dignity of Israeli athletes."

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