Newsletter : 19fx0122.txt
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Israel and Iran Escalate their 'War of Messages' in Syria
By DEBKAfile. World Israel News, IsraelNationalNews.com
The ground-to-ground missile aimed at the Golan on Sunday, Jan. 20 was fired by Al Qods
and made in Iran, the IDF spokesman said Monday. DEBKAfile reported that it was a
Fateh-110 missile that was launched from a point in the Damascus region that Russia had
promised would be kept out of bounds to the Iranians.
The missile was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system. It may be recalled
that last year, Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, affirmed that
the Iranians had withdrawn deep inside Syrian territory, more than 80km from the Israeli
IDF army spokesman Brig. Gen. Manelis said in a statement on Monday, Jan. 21 that Sunday's
missile attack on the Golan was aimed at civilians and carried out by the Iranian command
not local militias.
For the first time, an Israeli military spokesman named the Al Qods Brigades (of the
Iranian Revolutionary Guards under the command of Gen. Qassem Soleimani) as being present
in the Damascus region. He said the Iranians "had planned the attack in advance to deter
Israel from continuing its operations against them," stressing: "This was an Iranian
attempt to attack Israel."
Manolis said that early Monday, Jan. 21, Israel, in its most extensive offensive hitherto
against Iranian sites in Syria, had struck 10 targets, including "an important weapons
warehouse" near the civilian section of Damascus International Airport" and, in other
locations, an Iranian intelligence site and an Iranian training camp in Syria's south.
Some Iranian military facilities were embedded in Syrian military compounds. A series of
secondary explosions were set off.
Manelis said: "We warned the Syrians not to fire anti-aircraft missiles at our planes
during the strike and they chose to fire anyway." The IDF had responded with three waves
of air strikes against the Syrian batteries.
The IDF spokesman made no mention of Russian involvement in Syria's air defense operations
against Israel. On Monday morning, the Russian army issued the following statement: Syrian
air defenses destroyed over 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs when repelling the Israeli
air strike. The statement added that 4 Syrian soldiers had been killed in the Israeli
attack and 6 injured.
Iran is prepared for a cataclysmic final battle with Israel, a senior Iranian military
leader said Monday, following the latest escalation between the two countries. "We are
prepared for the decisive battle against Israel, which will lead to its elimination," Aziz
Nasir-Zadeh, the commander of the Iranian air force, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying
Monday morning, several hours after Israeli forces hit Iranian and Assad regime positions
He said that Iran's military is "well-prepared" for the decisive battle that will lead to
the end of Israel. "Our armed forces are well-prepared for the day of Israel's
destruction," he said, according to Israel Hayom. "Iran is ready to respond to all
threats. Our enemies don't have the strength to attack Iran directly."
The Russian military claimed that Syrian surface-to-air systems provided by Russia had
downed seven Israeli missiles fired at targets in Syria. In response to the rocket attack,
however, Israeli forces pounded multiple Iranian and Syrian targets, reportedly killing 11
soldiers. Following the attack on northern Israel, the Israeli military has ordered the
closure of Mount Hermon near the Syrian border to visitors. IDF forces in the Golan have
been placed on elevated alert, Hadashot 12 reported.
The targets of the predawn Israeli strikes Monday morning included Iranian weapons depots,
an Iranian intelligence site, and a military training camp used by Iranian forces in
Syria. The Israeli strikes also targeted multiple Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad NGO, a total
of 11 people were killed in the Israeli attacks. Of the 11 people killed, two were
Syrians, the SOHR claimed. "Israeli strikes targeting Iranian and Syrian military
positions near and south of Damascus killed at least 11 fighters including two Syrians,"
SOHR chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned, "We have a permanent policy: To strike
at Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us...Last night the air
force strongly attacked Iranian targets in Syria after Iran launched a missile from there
at our territory," the prime minister said. Following the Iranian missile attack, Israel
pummeled multiple Iranian and Syrian targets, with the death toll from the strikes
reportedly reaching 11 combatants.
He added, "We are acting against Iran and against the Syrian forces that abet the Iranian
aggression. Whoever tries to hurt us we hurt them. Whoever threatens to destroy us
will bear the full responsibility." The flare-up arrives amid saber-rattling on the part
of Iranian military officials, who routinely threaten to destroy Israel.
In Hungary, a Jewish Community Political Fight Taints Effort to Bury Holocaust
Relations between Hungary's two Jewish federation groups have recently deteriorated
from stony silence to a full-blown row. The fight between the Mazsihisz group, which is
critical of the Hungarian government, and the Chabad-affiliated EMIH group, which is an
advocate of the government, is essentially over government cooperation and funding.
How to work with the government is an understandably divisive issue in a country whose
government is often accused of encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric. But late last week, the
fight veered away from politics and spilled over into one of the major dilemmas facing
Eastern European Jewish populations: How to treat the remains of Holocaust victims.
The new dispute over giving such remains a proper burial marks a new and worrisome low in
the internal fight, which now has been extended to include a core issue of the Jewish
faith. It raises concerns as to the depths of division among the 100,000 Jews living in
Hungary by far Central Europe's largest Jewish community.
The burial fight began with a sonar sweep Jan. 15 of the floor of the Danube River.
Commissioned by EMIH's leader, Chabad Rabbi Slomo Koves, the sweep ended without meeting
its aim of identifying bones of some of the thousands of people that Nazi collaborators
shot and dumped into the river during the Holocaust.
But what started as an example of innovative technology being used to bring dignity to
unburied victims quickly devolved into a vociferous exchange that included even Israel's
interior minister, Aryeh Deri.
The sweep "insults the calm and dignity of Jewish or non-Jewish dead people who may be
found during the exploration," Mazsihisz wrote a day after the scan. "Moreover it breaks
halacha," or Orthodox Jewish law, the federation group, said in its statement. Rabbi
Zoltan Radnoti, the chairman of the rabbinical council of Mazsihisz, told JTA that any
bones found likely would be from one of the thousands of non-Jewish German, Soviet and
local troops and civilians who died in fighting along the riverbank.
Mazsihisz itself organized in 2016 a Jewish burial for bones that had been found in the
Danube in 2011 amid renovations on the foundations of Budapest's Margaret Bridge. "We had
a multifaith burial ceremony, with two priests and rabbis from various denominations,"
Radnoti said of the ceremony. "It's true that these were likely Jews but the truth is
there is no way of knowing for certain."
Koves said that most people killed in the Danube were Jews. He cited DNA testing on the
bones found in 2011. Of the 15 people identified from the bones, at least nine had
Ashkenazi Jewish DNA, the tests showed. Both groups can cite principles from halacha,
which state that bones should be buried when there is a danger to the dignity of the dead
but forbids disturbing Jews' remains in all but the most extreme circumstances.
EMIH, for its part, described the retrieval mission as fulfilling the "major mitzvah of
bringing the victims to burial." But the core of EMIH's dispute with Mazsihisz is not
about halacha. Rather, it is a fight over attitudes toward Hungary's controversial
government and its funding for Jewish groups, where EMIH seems favored. "This fight over
the Danube is part of the bigger fight," Radnoti acknowledged.
The two groups have clashed publicly recently over EMIH's taking over of a state-funded
Holocaust museum. The person tapped to head the museum, Maria Schmidt, is a right-wing
historian who has been accused of distorting the Holocaust. In light of this, Mazsihisz
criticized EMIH's decision to head the House of Fates museum, which has not yet opened.
"There is no way this museum will operate independently," Radnoti said in explaining his
group's objections. But EMIH said they would have total discretion over the museum's
For those seeking unity among Jews, internal fights about the memory of the Holocaust are
painful. But in Hungary, politics spilled over to disagreements about one of the
fundamentals of being Jewish. Deri, who heads Israel's Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party,
decided to wade into the fight and turn it into an interdenominational religious conflict
with a statement that inaccurately labeled Mazsihisz as a "Reform" community. (Mazsihisz
does have many members of the Neolog stream, an endemic movement that is fairly liberal
but far closer to modern Orthodox streams than to either Reform or Conservative Judaism.)
"I was deeply shocked by the [Mazsihisz] statement, in which it used pretenses to oppose,
in violation of the Jewish conscience, bringing to burial the remains of the martyrs,"
Deri wrote. "It is shocking and appalling that some are carrying out political
score-settling on the backs of those murdered in the Holocaust," he added. Radnoti said
that Deri's characterization of Mazsihisz was "a disgusting form of character
Jordan Slams New Ramon International Airport
Jordan on Monday hit out at Israel's move to open a new international airport along their
shared border close to the Red Sea, saying it would threaten the kingdom's airspace.
"Jordan rejects the establishment of the Israeli airport in its current location," head of
Jordan's Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission Haitham Misto said, according to state
media. Misto said the airport violated "international standards regarding respect for the
sovereignty of airspace and territory of other countries".
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attended the opening ceremony earlier in the day
of the Ramon Airport, meant to boost tourism in the Jewish state and serve as an emergency
alternative to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport. Initially, the sleek new terminal will
handle only domestic flights operated by Israeli carriers. A date has not yet been set for
the start of international flights. Jordan first voiced its objection to the new Israeli
airport when construction began in 2013.
The airport sits just across the border from Jordan's King Hussein International Airport
in the Red Sea city of Aqaba.
Texas Congressman Trying to Stop Freshman Lawmaker Trip to West Bank
A Republican lawmaker from Texas is trying to prevent freshman congresswoman Rashida
Tlaib from leading a delegation of freshman lawmakers to the West Bank. The trip led by
Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, would be held at the same time as the traditional
Israel mission for first-term lawmakers sponsored by the education arm of the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, which includes touring and meetings with
leading Israeli figures in business, government and the military.
Rep. Brian Babin said in a letter dated Jan. 17 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and
circulated to fellow congressmen that the taxpayer-funded trip led by "an outspoken
supporter of the `BDS' Israeli boycott movement and whose personal vitriol led her to
publicly brag about calling our President a "mother****er" to her young son, is both
ill-conceived and inconsistent with our national values."
He said that Israel is "of vital importance to U.S. interests in the Middle East," and
that a trip of lawmakers exclusively to the West Bank "threatens that relationship. To
signal to our most threatened ally in the region that the United States Congress sanctions
an official trip to visit Israel's nemesis would be an exceedingly dangerous path forward.
Please consider the damage that a yet unexperienced and overly caustic Member of Congress
may cause to Israeli relations, or the perceptions of our own Jewish-American citizens,"
he also wrote.
Tlaib has called the AIPAC-sponsored trip "one-sided." She said she would take lawmakers
to the northern West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa, where her grandmother lives.
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