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IAF Strikes Hamas in Southern Gaza

By the Jerusalem Post & YnetNews.com The Israeli Air Force attacked Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Hamas evacuated its outposts according to a report by Arab media sources. "The IDF views with great severity any attempt to harm Israeli citizens and will continue to act vigorously against these incidents," the IDF said after the attack. "The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip that are consequences of terrorist activities originating in the Gaza Strip." The attack was in response to an incendiary balloon attack where balloons that were released from the south of Gaza, carrying an explosive device, detonated in mid-air damaging a house near the border, the IDF reported on Wednesday. The Israeli Air Forces launched an attack on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night after a balloon tied to an explosive device caused damage to a house in southern Israel earlier in the day. The IAF hit two Hamas positions in central and southern Gaza, striking at least one position of the terror organization's military wing. Earlier, an explosive device tied to a cluster of balloons landed in the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel, causing damage to the windows of a house there. No casualties were reported in the incident. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said the balloons were dispatched from southern Gaza and that it appears the device exploded in midair. Following the incident, head of the Eshkol Regional Council Gadi Yarkoni said: "The airborne incendiary and explosive devices tied to balloons are terrorism to all intents and purposes, and today this terrorism is stepping up. Eshkol residents have shown incredible patience, allowing the decision-makers and the Israel Defense Forces to exhaust all options to eradicate the terror-striking our communities. But we won't accept this reality and expect an immediate solution ensuring long-term calm." Former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, said that consistently ignoring the devices sent from Gaza had led to intensified attacks, culminating in explosive devices being tied to balloons. Lashing out at the prime minister he said, "Netanyahu, you failed. Israeli communities near the Gaza border are not safe. The only thing you have left is empty slogans. Explosive balloons should be viewed with the same severity as Qassam missiles."

Who's Jew? Rabbinical Courts Demand DNA to Prove Judaism

By the Jerusalem Post

Couples from the Soviet Union are being asked by rabbinical courts to take DNA tests to prove their Jewish heritage, an NGO who advocates for Jews within Israeli religious bureaucratic systems claimed. "This is discrimination against immigrants from the former Soviet Union - and a smokescreen," Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, the founder of the non-profit Itim, told the Hebrew website Ynet. Farber has threatened to petition the High Court of Justice, according to the report.

Over the past year, almost 20 couples with at least one spouse from the former Soviet Union were asked to carry out a DNA test to prove that they are Jewish if they wanted to register their marriages in Israel, Ynet reported. According to one account, a couple was legally married by the Rabbinate, but when they were looking to file for divorce, a DNA test was demanded. Some 5,000 immigrants were asked to prove their Jewishness in recent years, Farber said. Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau are promoting legislation that would allow the rabbinical courts to challenge the Jewishness of a person - even if he was not even registered for marriage, and did not apply for religious services, the report added. In 2017, there was a rabbinic ruling that permitted a specific genetic test to be used as proof of Jewish descent for certain Ashkenazi Jews, which was proposed by Rabbi Yosef Carmel, who is both co-head of the Eretz Hemdah Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies and a senior rabbinical judge on the private Eretz Hemdah rabbinical court in south Jerusalem. According to the rabbi, experts in Jewish genealogy and history have determined that 40% of all Ashkenazi Jews are descended from just four Jewish women who left the Middle East more than 1,000 years ago and settled in Europe. According to the scientific report commissioned by Eretz Hemdah for its ruling, there is a certainty of at least 90% and up to 99% that someone bearing specific genetic markers in their mitochondrial DNA is descended from one of these women. This study and many like it have been a contentious topic within the scientific community. Farber expressed his worries to The Jerusalem Post in 2017 that using scientific means to determine Jewishness could lead rabbinical judges to reject less precise but totally valid tools in Jewish law to establish someone's Jewish status. "In recent months, studies have been published clarifying that the examination is not unequivocal," Farber further explains in the report. "In addition, these rabbis are contemptuous of Halakha - for there are Halakhic tools for solving these problems. I do not understand why the rabbinical courts are suddenly ready to throw the halakha into the garbage and rely on science. Finally, it is clear that if we use the DNA test, we will create a split the Jewish people." "This is outrageous discrimination and racist," former minister of defense Avigdor Liberman said, adding that "no immigrant from another country was asked to do similar tests. Liberman is himself a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union.

UN Agency Warns: Locusts, the 8th Plague, to Strike Egypt in Time for Passover

By World Israel News

According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a massive locust infestation is spreading along the Red Sea coast, starting in East Africa but heading north toward Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The locust infestation is set to migrate around the time of the Jewish festival of Passover, which celebrates the nation of Israel's liberation from slavery in Egypt during biblical times and includes an infamous episode in which the Egyptian ruler is punished with a plague of locusts. Meanwhile, the modern-day plague already hit countries like Sudan and Eritrea during December, with a second generation of locust breeding continuing on the coast in southeast Egypt and on the central and northern coast of Saudi Arabia. According to the FAO, the locust population is increasing along both sides of the Red Sea. During February, there has been an "escalation in second-generation hatching and hopper band formation," with new swarms "likely to start forming at the end of the month in some places," the FAO warned. With moderate rains and plentiful green vegetation, locust breeding will continue until the plant life in affected areas dries out, after which locust swarms generally move on. Currently, mature adult locusts are laying eggs throughout the Red Sea region, and control operations are in full swing in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea and Sudan. Whether or not these nations can get a handle on infestation before they experience a modern version of the biblical plague of locusts remains to be seen.

GPS Kits Transform Hizbullah Rockets into Deadly Precision-Guided Missiles

By World Israel News

Israeli military sources recently expressed alarm over Hizbullah's plan to retrofit conventional rockets with global positioning system (GPS) kits, turning the terror group's massive collection of around 150,000 projectiles into a deadly arsenal of precision-guided missiles. Senior Israeli officers spoke about the threat during recent interviews with The Daily Beast, discussing the Iranian-backed Hizbullah threat, which spans Syrian and Lebanese territory. While Iran has transferred advanced weapons to Hizbullah throughout Syria's bloody civil war, the IDF has continued to pound Iranian positions near its border, carrying out over 200 strikes in the last two years alone. Notwithstanding Israel's attempts to beat back the Islamic Republic and its terror proxies, the Iranian presence still looms in Syria and Lebanon, with the introduction of Hizbullah's GPS "suitcase" missiles ramping up the threat level. According to the Daily Beast report, Iran has been forced to stop transporting heavy weapons due to Israeli strikes, with the Jewish state's air force now focused on cutting off the flow of GPS components, which appear to be the key to Hizbullah's ability to strike precise targets deep within Israel. The unidentified officials who spoke to The Daily Beast warned that Hizbullah's "dumb unguided rockets" are being transformed into "smart precision-guided missiles" with daunting accuracy. Unlike heavy weaponry, GPS components can even be smuggled into Lebanon via civilian flight routes, a phenomenon Fox News exposed last year. With regard to the specific missiles Hizbullah plans to upgrade first, a report by the British Israel Communication and Research Centre (BICOM) identified a stockpile of around 14,000 long-range Zelzal-2 rockets. Due to the size of the equipment needed to carry out the conversions, the terror group is able to use smaller, nondescript locations as workshops. To that end, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pointed to three underground locations next to Beirut International Airport that he alleged were workspaces for converting rockets into guided missiles, making the accusations at a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. While Hizbullah shuttered the locations quickly, the Israeli official who spoke with The Daily Beast warned, "[It's] always a cat and mouse game with them — they do a good job of covering their tracks. They can open in another place tomorrow." Right now, Israel is "running after suitcases," the senior officer said.

Bulletproof Backpacks: Israeli Firm's Answer to School Shootings

By Calcalist

In 2018, 114 people were killed or injured in school shootings in the U.S., according to Education Week, a non-profit journal covering education-related topics in the United States. To address the issue, Israeli company ArmorMe has developed a normal-looking backpack with not-so-normal capabilities: it comes with one or two kevlar panels, making it bulletproof on one or two sides. A single paneled backpack provides coverage from neck to knee when worn in front, while the double-paneled backpack provides coverage for both sides of the torso. It also comes in five colors. Ret. Israeli Defense Forces Colonel Gabi Siboni co-founded ArmorMe following the Las Vegas massacre in 2017 and started developing the backpacks in early 2018, around the time of the Parkland school shooting which killed 17 people in Florida. While ArmorMe understands that this may only be a Band-Aid solution to gun violence issues as a whole, Siboni said that the company is currently in the final stages of a partnership with a school safety non-profit organization, and proceeds from each backpack will go to the organization. "We didn't create the reality of mass shootings, but we are reacting to it," Siboni said in a Wednesday interview with Calcalist. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, 187,000 students attending at least 193 elementary or secondary schools have experienced an on-campus shooting during school hours in the U.S., according to a Washington Post report updated in March. At least 113 of these incidents involved only a pistol, according to the report. Besides its bulletproof capabilities, the backpack comes with a computer compartment for a 15-inch laptop, side pockets on each side, and weighs between 1.4 kilograms to 2.2, depending on the number of kevlar panels, Siboni said. While the backpacks offer official protection against bullets fired by handguns, in the event of a more serious weapon, full protection "can't be guaranteed, but still dramatically increases the survival rate," Siboni said.

However, ArmorMe developed the backpacks as an accessory that offers protection, not just as a bulletproof vest with straps. In fact, when the panels are opened in to fit like a vest, "the contents inside the backpack won't spill," Siboni explained. There are other companies selling bulletproof backpacks, including BulletBlocker, though ArmorMe's backpacks are slightly more affordable: ArmorMe's backpack retails at $160, for the single-paneled knapsack. The company is currently working on more designs, patterns and computer bags, which Siboni expects to hit the market sometime over the next three months.

Tel Aviv Recruiting Volunteers to Assist Eurovision Tourists

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest to is approaching and is expected to attract over 10,000 tourists from around the world. Ahead of the event, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality is working in order to create a positive experience for tourists and has issued a call for volunteers to assist tourists and journalists during their stay in Tel Aviv. The call was issued earlier this week and over 1,500 potential volunteers have so far sent in applications. The Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Ron Huldai, said: "The Eurovision Song Contest is an unprecedented and unique opportunity to show the beauty of Israel to the world. All the polls we do show that one of our greatest assets is that we are friendly, warm and welcoming and these are the assets we want to leverage in service of the thousands of tourists who will enjoy the best possible Eurovision experience." In 2016, 1.14 million international overnight tourists visited Tel Aviv. In 2018 that number rose to 1.85 million and in 2019 the number of international overnight tourists is expected to cross the 2 million mark and reach an overall new record.

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