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Newsletter : 20fx0918.txt

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Israel Busts Iranian-Hizbullah Terror Cell in Jerusalem

By JNS

The Shin Bet revealed on Thursday the existence of a joint effort by the Iranian Quds Force and the Lebanese terror group Hizbullah to recruit Israeli and Palestinian civilians and residents to carry out terrorist activities in Israel. The recruitment network was uncovered through a joint investigation by the Shin Bet, the Israel Police's Lahav 433 investigation unit and other security agencies, the Shin Bet said in a statement. In August, Yasmin Jaber, a resident of Jerusalem's Old City who works at the National Library, was arrested for questioning, due to suspicions that she had been recruited by Hizbullah, according to the Shin Bet. Several of Jaber's acquaintances were also taken into custody, including one Tasnim al-Qadi, a Ramallah resident who has lived in Turkey in recent years. The investigation revealed that Hizbullah organizes conferences in Lebanon for young Palestinians for the express purpose of identifying potential recruits from Israel and Judea and Samaria. Jaber was identified as a potential recruit at one such conference in Lebanon in 2015. According to the Shin Bet, she was given the code name "Racheel," the Arabic form of "Rachel." During a subsequent visit to Lebanon in 2016, Attaya Abu Samhadna and Muhammad al-Hajj Musa, known operatives in the Quds Force and Hizbullah's joint terror unit, linked her to a senior figure in this unit, known as "Fares Awda." According to the Shin Bet, "Fares Awda" is the nickname of Jaafar Kabisi, who is known to have been involved in additional attempts to recruit assets in Israel and Judea and Samaria. Jaber maintained contact with her Hizbullah operators via secret messages on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. As part of her activities for Hizbullah, Jaber traveled to Turkey for meetings, during which she received instructions from Rand Wahba, code name "Wafaa," a Hizbullah operative in the joint terror unit. At these meetings, it was made clear to Jaber that her role was to recruit additional Israeli operatives to serve as a terror cell under her command. She was instructed to focus her efforts on recruiting Israeli Arabs, and particularly women, due to their greater freedom of movement in Israel. During her interrogation, Jaber's friend Tasnim al-Qadi revealed that she, too, had met members of the joint terror unit at a conference in Lebanon in 2015, and that she had maintained contact with them since. Al-Qadi served as the unit's liaison with Jaber, as part of the clandestine communication channels used by the terror unit to prevent the disclosure of its activities to elements in Israel, and even received money from them. Investigators discovered that in 2018, al-Qadi, too, had met with Hizbullah operative Rand Wahba, and accepted Wahba's offer to put her in touch with Hizbullah operatives in Lebanon. Jaber and al-Qadi will be indicted for security offenses in the coming days. A senior Shin Bet source called the investigation "another step in the counter-terrorism efforts carried out in the past year against Quds Force and Hizbullah attempts to recruit Israeli Arabs. The Shin Bet, together with its partners in the defense establishment, will continue to work resolutely to thwart all terrorist and espionage activities of Iran and Hizbullah, including those originating in the Turkish arena, and to expose all elements in Israel and Judea and Samaria."

Socotra Figures in Multiple Threats to Israel Following UAE, Bahraini Pacts

By DEBKAfile

Two radical forces are gunning for Israel's interests in the Gulf region since they were formalized in pacts with the UAE and Bahrain on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Middle East sources claim that the United Arab Emirates and Israel are setting up spy bases on the Yemeni island of Socotra which the Emirates took over in 2017. The same sources disclose that the UAE and Israel have deployed espionage equipment on the island for monitoring the Houthi insurgents on the Yemeni mainland, 350km away, as well as Iranian naval movements in the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz. The Yemeni government has called the takeover an act of aggression and Al Qaeda's Yemen branch (AQAP) threatens to attack the putative UAE-Israeli intelligence base on Socotra. AQAP warned that if Israel set foot in Socotra "you and your Emirati partners will be targets for our fire, our commando attackers and our martyrdom bombers." This Socotra archipelago sits athwart the Red Sea shipping routes from the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and is therefore a major strategic asset, especially if Iran were to block the Strait of Hormuz. At the other end of radical extremism, are Iran-backed Shiite terrorist groups in Bahrain. With close operational links to the Lebanese Hizbullah, they proclaim their intention of opposing the Gulf kingdom's pact with Israel. The Saraya Wa'ad Allah, the first group out with a statement, says it has set up a new specialized sub-unit for attacking Israeli interests. The group strongly denounced "this false normalization with the Zionist enemy…" calling it "a cancerous gland on the body of the Ummah."

On Eve of Lockdown, Netanyahu Warns Tougher Measures Could be 'Unavoidable'

By Israel Hayom & World Israel News

On Thursday, the day before Israel once again entered a strict nationwide lockdown that could extend for the entire duration of the High Holidays, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Israelis to make an extra effort to ensure that it produces the desired results by bringing down the coronavirus' community spread. Netanyahu warned that the lockdown, which begins at 2 p.m. Friday (7 a.m. EDT) just before Rosh Hashanah commences, may get another layer of restrictions next week, in the wake of criticism that there were too many exceptions aimed at catering to specific interest groups.


The current lockdown, approved earlier this week, is to last until early October at least. But even before it expires, Netanyahu said and that stricter measures that would do away with virtually all exceptions might become "unavoidable" throughout that period. A decision would only be made in the coming days, after the Rosh Hashanah holiday. "This lockdown is important, and it is essential; we will go through this together," Netanyahu said in a special televised address. He added that his government would soon pass an additional stimulus package aimed at encouraging businesses to keep employees and help individuals make ends meet despite the expected loss in income, including through government-backed loans. "I suspect all countries will ultimately have to decide whether to go into lockdown or not, and they will most likely have to do so as a last resort," Netanyahu said. "As I have said before, we will lift some of the measures when morbidity drops, and increase it when it spikes. One of the main criteria is the healthcare system and how overwhelmed it is, and that is why we are imposing the lockdown tomorrow." Netanyahu said that the lockdown could become much more restrictive because of the data he had received Thursday. "I held a long discussion with the health minister, with the coronavirus manager, and with various experts ... and following that meeting I have come to the conclusion that under the current infection rates, as per the recommendations of many, there may not be any other option but to add more restrictions. My job, as prime minister, is not just to take care of people's health, but to take care of those who are sick." For a lockdown to work, it requires the cooperation of its citizens. Israeli authorities aren't at all sure they have it. Some 6,000 policemen will enforce the curfew measures. They'll be assisted by hundreds of soldiers stationed at checkpoints throughout the country. It might not be enough if the grousing from citizens aired by the Hebrew media is any indication. Business owners interviewed by the news say they won't follow the health guidelines. They're still nursing their wounds from the first lockdown and say in one voice that they simply won't survive another. Giving a tailwind to those who threaten to disobey is the general disappointment among Israel's citizenry with the government, which is blamed for having allowed the pandemic to spiral out of control and has zigzagged in its decision-making, leaving Israelis confused. Indeed, the guidelines for the lockdown were only approved on Thursday morning, some 30 hours before it was to go into force at 2:00 p.m. on Friday. Perhaps recognizing that Israelis will not be following the rules exactly as laid out over the next three weeks, and that there are holes in the lockdown rules themselves, the health minister, the deputy health minister and the director general of the ministry all issued pessimistic forecasts for the lockdown's success. They said it was unlikely to stop the rising corona rate in any meaningful sense, and that even harsher tightening would likely be needed after the three-week period.

Hamas Nabs Explosives from Sunken WWI Warship

By World Israel News
The Hamas terror group in Gaza looted the high explosive ammunition from a sunken British warship off the coast of Gaza, even though the IDF had known the ship's location for years but failed to act on it, Channel 12 News reported. "Hamas discovered a British warship sunk in the Gaza Sea. The ship has a lot of weapons that can be developed or recycled. Everyone surrounded Hamas and prevented them from doing everything that could be manufactured as a weapon, so God opened a door for them," Hamas supporter Ahmad Samara tweeted, referring to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza to prevent Hamas from getting weapons. The Royal Navy ship HMS M15 was a Monitor-class warship with a large cannon for shore bombardment. It was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine on Nov. 11, 1917 and sank in waters 33 meters deep, about one kilometer off the shore of Gaza City. Of the 69 man crew, 26 were lost in the incident. Rami Sadnai, a veteran of the IDF's elite naval commando unit, says that the existence of the British ship was known to him and his friends. "For many years we planned to dive into it, we had accurate maps and suitable equipment, but each time the security situation prevented us from coming and diving," Sadnai said. "It simply sank too close to the Gaza coast and Hamas unfortunately beat us to it." According to the report, the ship lay on its side and its main gun had fallen off, spilling high-explosive artillery shells onto the seabed. Hamas divers who were on a training mission came across the wreck, saw the exposed artillery shells and realized the potential. For several weeks they made dives to the sunken ship and slowly brought the shells ashore, after which Hamas posted pictures of the underwater recovery. The ammunition was taken to underground rocket training workshops in the heart of the Gaza Strip, where they were dismantled by Hamas sabotage experts. It is not known how usable the material will be after being underwater for just over 100 years. Following the IDF closure on the Gaza Strip and Egyptian army efforts to shut down the smuggling tunnels Hamas used to have under the Egypt-Gaza border, the terror group has been having a hard time smuggling weapons materials for use in its home-grown rocket industry.

Survey: One-Third of Netanyahu's Voters Believe COVID-19 was Sent by God

By the Jerusalem Post

One quarter of Jewish Israelis, and more than one-third of Jews who voted for Binyamin Netanyahu, believes the coronavirus was sent by God as a punishment or to send a message, according to an annual survey. The survey includes 800 Jewish Israeli respondents and has a 3.5% margin of error. The survey, put out by Hiddush, which advocates for religious freedom and pluralism in Israel, also found that 70% of Israelis reject the notion that criticism of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, conduct during the pandemic stems from bigotry as opposed to how haredi communities have conducted themselves. The survey, which was conducted in July, was published Thursday, one day before Israel is due to enter a nationwide lockdown. The lockdown, Israel's second this year, is an attempt to curb the spread of the virus during a week when Israel has recorded some of the highest numbers of new cases per capita in the world. It's been a stunning reversal for a country that thought it had beaten the pandemic four months ago. The significant minority of Likud voters who see the coronavirus as a divine punishment, however, does not surprise Regev, who chalks it up as an emotional response to the pandemic. While only 26% of respondents overall accept that claim, the number jumps to 36% of Likud voters and 41% of right-wingers. "Look at the breakdown of the Likud voters: There is a high percentage of religious and some percentage of haredi," he said. "Here you touch a more emotional, faith issue." Otherwise, the survey's results resemble those of previous years: A solid majority of Jewish Israelis wants less Orthodox control over marriage, Jewish conversion and everyday life. Israel only recognizes Jewish marriages performed by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. Orthodox conversions are likewise the only recognized ones in the country. Public transit is shut down across much of the country on Shabbat, and haredi men are exempt from Israel's mandatory military draft. Most Jewish Israelis want all of that to change. As in past years, 63% of respondents want separation of religion and state in Israel. A similar percentage want Israel to recognize civil marriages and non-Orthodox Jewish weddings. More than 70% want the option of public transit on Shabbat and to obligate haredi men in military conscription or some form of national service. The Jewish-Israeli right, however, displays markedly less support for all of those things. Jewish right-wingers oppose separation of religion and state as well as recognition of civil and non-Orthodox Jewish marriages. They're split evenly on allowing public transit on Shabbat. Support for drafting haredi men is also weaker, though still a solid majority. That's likely in part because, as the survey shows, haredim and religious Jewish Israelis (like growing numbers of American Orthodox Jews) have placed themselves solidly in the right-wing camp. Among haredim, 84% identify as right wing, while 71% of religious nationalist Jews identify that way. Religious Jewish Israelis also make up a disproportionate share of Likud's base. While haredim and religious Jews together comprise 21% of the Jewish-Israeli population, they make up 36% of Likud voters. The trend has borne out politically as well. While haredi political parties were seen as something of a swing faction in previous decades, they have consistently supported Netanyahu in recent years. The vast majority of haredi voters vote for haredi political parties. "Their constituency is overwhelmingly right wing," Regev said. "They won't allow the haredi parties to enter into a pact with the left."


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