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IDF Attacks Iranian Targets in Syria

By the Jerusalem Post, World Israel News, DEBKAfile IDF forces attacked targets of the Iranian Qud Force in Syria late Sunday night, according to the IDF Spokesperson Unit. The IDF announced that the IDF warns the Syrian army from attempting to attack Israeli territory or IDF forces. Following the attack, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced that the Hermon skiing site would be closed to visitors on Monday. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit added that the residents of the Golan should continue their routine as usual unless further instructions from the Home Front Command are issued. The IDF air strike took place late Sunday night, hours after a projectile was identified over the Golan Heights. The Iron Dome successfully intercepted the missile. The projectile was launched from Syria after Damascus accused Jerusalem of carrying out a rare daytime attack on the south of the country on Sunday. Pictures from Israel's popular Mount Hermon ski resort, which was full of tourists enjoying the snow-filled hill, showed two trails from Iron Dome missiles while screams from children were heard in a video from the scene. The interception came shortly after the Syrian regime accused Israel of carrying out airstrikes in the south of the country, triggering air defenses that intercepted several of them. "A military source said that our air defenses had successfully engaged an Israeli aerial attack targeting the southern region and prevented it from achieving any of its objectives," read a report by the official Syrian news agency SANA. Al-Manar, Hizbullah's media network, reported the attack near Damascus but gave no further details. Syrian regime supporters said that regime air defenses intercepted a total of nine Israeli missiles. Russia's Ministry of Defense, according to RIA news agency, said four Israeli jets fired seven rockets at the international airport, causing no injuries to Syrian nationals. The Syrian regime used the Buk and Pantisr systems to intercept the missiles, according to Sputnik, the Russian news agency. The Syrian air defenses were alerted on Sunday afternoon as a Mahan Air flight from Tehran to Damascus was about to make its approach to Damascus. At 1:30 p.m. the flight turned around and headed away from the city. A Syrian L-76 cargo lifter from Tehran was also en route to Damascus on Sunday morning. These kinds of flights have been seen as suspicious over the last year amid allegations that Iran delivers weapons to Syria and Hizbullah using different airlines as cover. Social media said that the airstrike followed just hours after the Iranian cargo plane had touched down in the Damascus International Airport, based on airport flight information, and that another flight from Iran had been on its way to Syria but "turned back right after Israeli airstrikes." Israel has vowed repeatedly to fight against Iran's presence and influence in Syria. Syrian state TV said the air defenses "prevented" the attack from achieving its goals. It said Israel fired six missiles on an area near Damascus International Airport, of which five were shot down and one diverted to nearby empty farmland. It marked a rare daytime raid, as most previous strikes have been at night. Residents of the capital said they heard five explosions early Sunday afternoon, apparently the sound of air defenses firing into the air.

There was no comment on the strikes by Israel, which rarely comments on alleged Israel Air Force operations on the northern front, but Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran's presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hizbullah in Lebanon from Tehran via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State. "We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory," it added. With the presence of Iranian and Hizbullah forces, Israel's northern front has become the IDF's number one priority with former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot admitting that Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. Israel "operated under a certain threshold until two-and-a-half years ago," when he got "unanimous consent" from the government to change the rules of the game and dropped some 2,000 missiles against Iranian and Hizbullah targets in 2018 alone, he said. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last week that Israel conducted airstrikes on Iranian weapons near Damascus airport on January 13 and Russia warned Israel against further strikes near the airport. Syria is therefore on high alert for any potential airstrikes. Nevertheless, daytime strikes by Israel against targets in the war-torn country are extremely rare with the IAF operating during the night. Earlier on Sunday, Syria announced that its air defense systems had foiled an Israeli air strike in the south of the country. A military source told the official Syrian SANA news agency, "Our air defense systems thwarted Israel's air strike and prevented it from achieving its objectives." However, the source did not add further details. The IDF Spokesperson did not respond to the Syrian reports and claims. Netanyahu later hinted that Israel was behind the daytime air strike against Syria. "We have a permanent policy: To strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us. This policy does not change whether I am in Israel or on a historic visit to Chad. This policy is permanent," Netanyahu said in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, as he was about to board an airplane back to Israel. Netanyahu last week broke with his country's long-standing policy of not publicly accepting responsibility for airstrikes in Syria, and acknowledged that Israel's air force had attacked Iranian weapons depots at the Damascus International Airport. "Only in the past 36 hours the air force attacked storehouses of Iran with Iranian weapons at the Damascus international airport," Netanyahu revealed.

Hizbullah Leader Under `House Arrest' by Iran over Missing Millions

By & Israel Hayom The online version of the Saudi newspaper Al Watan is reporting that Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is under heavy Iranian pressure to explain the disappearance of "tens of millions of dollars" from Hizbullah bank accounts funded by Tehran. According to the report, Nasrallah is under "house arrest" as the ailing leader of the terror organization receives Iranian medical treatment. The Al-Watan report painted a dim picture of Nasrallah's situation, saying that the Iranian forces guarding him were pressuring him to divulge what had happened to tens of millions of dollars that Iran had deposited into Hizbullah's accounts. Nasrallah and his associates are suspected of taking the missing money for personal use. The Hizbullah chief has not been seen in public for many weeks, opening the door to such reports of what has become of him. His periodic disappearance from the public eye in Lebanon, where Hizbullah is based, is fairly common, with Israeli military sources connecting it to his fears of an Israeli assassination attack. Nasrallah has often been referred to as living a secluded life in a bunker. The reported accusations of embezzled money are also not new but questions are asked as to whether the allegations are themselves tainted by a Saudi agenda. In October, the Saudi Gazette reported that Hizbullah militias had kidnapped someone by the name of Akram Saad "under charges of embezzling US $15 million…supervising money laundering operations…from the Hizbullah drug trade." The regional intrigue also includes Qatar, which has involved itself not only in the Hizbullah quagmire through alleged drug trading for the benefit of the organization, but also through its controversial financing of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with Israel's consent. Al Watan reports, in the name of "observers," that the "conditions of the organization's leadership are the worst" since Iran founded Hizbullah in Lebanon. The Saudi daily also says that Nasrallah's disappearance from the public is due directly to the embezzlement allegation. However, a Lebanese correspondent recently reported that the secretary-general had suffered a heart attack. Other news outlets said that he had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. These reports were said to be based on scenes of large Hizbullah forces guarding various hospitals in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Covert Burger Delivery Service Takes Over Tel Aviv

By CTech (Calcalist)
A covert burger delivery service operated by a mysterious man known only as "The Professor," a reference to the criminal mastermind character from Netflix' show Casa de Papel (Money Heist), is taking Tel Aviv by storm. In a video stating the rules of the delivery service, which is shared on WhatsApp, The Professor is seen donning the mustachioed mask associated with the popular show. To buy in, one must get a hold of a secret phone number, passed on by well-connected friends, and order the fixed-price meal via Whatsapp message, sometimes days in advance. Most nights, demand simply exceeds the supply. "80% of the orders are rejected each night because we run out of meat," The Professor, who agreed to an interview with Calcalist on condition that his identity will not be revealed, said, adding that people order their burgers days, even weeks in advance. A restauranteur with 15 years of experience, The Professor decided to go underground a few months ago, a decision he links to the rising costs of operating a restaurant in Israel. Abrasive taxation and rising costs of labor and foodstuff in recent years have made it exceedingly expensive to operate restaurants in the country. Many local restaurateurs have taken to protest what they call unrealistic tax demands in recent months. In December, hundreds of restaurants, cafes, and bars went dark for eight minutes as an act of protest. The secret to the underground burger's taste and its viral popularity is that it is smoked, not grilled, leaving it juicy and giving it a strong smoky note. The menu has one option: a meal for two, with fries and accouterments, which costs NIS 189 ($50), plus delivery fees. This places the underground burger at the high end of Tel Aviv's gourmet burgers. The Professor's commitment is uncompromising quality. He only makes 120 burgers a day; he said, "So we can make them right." Israel's burger culture has come a long way since the first McDonald's restaurant opened here in 1993. Restaurants selling high-end burgers—some offering lavish toppings such as foie gras and lobster—have been gaining a cult following, quickly multiplying with new locations and sporting long lines at dinner time.

`The Invisibles' Tells the Story of Jews Who Somehow Survived in Nazi Berlin

In May 1943, after years of killings and deportations, the Nazis declared Berlin "judenfrei," or free of Jews. What they didn't know was that approximately 7,000 Jews remained in hiding in the city, and not only in attics and basements — often in plain sight. "The Invisibles," a German film, tells the story of four of these real-life Jews who hid from their oppressors in everyday Berlin society. It's a story that has been told before — in 1982, Leonard Gross published "The Last Jews of Berlin," a critically acclaimed best-seller that covered similar ground — but never in such a unique way. Part documentary, part cinematic re-creation, the movie weaves together footage of interviews with four of these survivors into a slightly fictionalized docudrama. For co-screenwriter and director Claus Rafle, the project started in an unlikely place: a bordello. He was shooting a documentary in 2004 about the legendary Salon Kitty, a brothel that German intelligence bugged to get dirt on high rollers, both Germans and visiting dignitaries. In the research phase, an old man told him that he had information about a young Jewish woman who was hidden by the establishment's owner and immigrated to America after the war. Supposedly, Rafle was told, she was a subject of the popular mid-1950s Ralph Edwards TV show "This is Your Life." That a Jew managed to survive in Berlin during the war amazed and fascinated Rafle, and his mind filled with cinematic possibilities. With the help of historians, he tracked down and interviewed 20 or so of these survivors who stayed in Berlin. He ultimately decided to concentrate the film on two women and two men: Hanni Levy, Ruth Gumpel, Cioma Schonhaus and Eugen Friede.

They hid in abandoned buildings or were hidden by righteous Germans, and all had epic stories. Schonhaus, for instance, forged hundreds of passports and used one of them to cross the border into Switzerland just before his imminent capture. Friede joined the Jewish resistance, spending much of his time handing out leaflets and hunting Jewish traitors and informants cooperating with the Nazis. "The Invisibles" is Rafle's first theatrical film; his previous documentaries aired on German television. In part because of the bigger canvas, he decided to forego the traditional mix of head-and-shoulder interviews combined with archival footage. Instead, he chose to add re-creations of actual events, believing it would provide audiences a "deeper understanding" of the events. Rafle, 57, has a dark connection to the subject matter: His grandfather was a Nazi. "He was one of those Germans who thought the Nazi movement was one of the best things to happen to Germany," Rafle said. "I remember when I was 13 or 14 years old, I asked him if he was in the army. He didn't want to talk about it." In part because of this, Rafle was uncertain how the film would be received when it was shown in Israel in April. "I was a little bit nervous about how the people would feel about it. I'm not Jewish. The movie touches a very sensitive point of [Jewish] history," he said. But crowds in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv liked it very much. "The people of Israel liked it because it showed some [German] people with a heart, who wanted to do something to help," Rafle said. "There weren't many, but there were some. And there were people in this terrible dark age who survived in Berlin because of them." While in Israel, he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem and was happy to find that the people who aided the four survivors in his film were all honored as Righteous Among the Nations. Feedback wasn't all positive though: Following the film's successful release in Germany, neo-Nazis responded on social media. "I didn't get emails or anything like that because I'm not really on social media," Rafle said. "I heard about those negative comments, but I didn't read them." After Hanni Levy appeared on a French television show with Rafle, she was subject to threats so potentially serious that the matter was turned over to the police. But aside from that, reaction to the film has been positive and emotional. "The Invisibles" debuted last year at the New York Jewish Film Festival, and Rafle remembers watching one of the last climactic scenes, when Russian troops capture two young men they assume are Nazis. They say they are Jewish, but the Russians can't imagine Jews surviving the war in Berlin and don't believe them. One of the Russians is Jewish, and he insists his prisoners say a Jewish prayer. So they recite the Shema. "My wife and I were standing at the side [of the auditorium] and we were watching the people, many of whom were Jewish, and some of them were moving their lips," Rafle said. "They were saying the prayer as well."

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