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Today's News

Jan. 28, 2015



IDF Attacks Syrian Artillery in Retaliation for Rocket Attacks

By & DEBKAfile


The IDF on Tuesday night attacked artillery targets belonging to the Syrian army, in retaliation for rocket attacks earlier on Tuesday towards the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon.


"[The rocket fire] was a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the State of Israel," the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, noting that direct hits at the targets were identified. “The IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for what occurs in its territory, and will work at any time and in any way it sees fit to protect the citizens of Israel,” the statement noted.


Meanwhile, residents of the northern Golan Heights reported shortly after midnight that sirens had been sounded throughout the area, including in Majdal Shams, Odem, El-ron, Buq'ata, Masade, Neve Ativ and Nimrod. However, no rockets or mortar shells were found to have landed in Israeli territory, and the IDF said it remains unclear why the sirens went off.


In the attack earlier Tuesday afternoon, the IDF confirmed that two rockets had been fired at Israel. IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said in a text message the Syrian fire was "intentional, not spillover from the Syrian civil war."


IDF forces returned fire. The IDF Spokesperson's Office confirmed at 2 p.m. IST that it had successfully struck the source of the rocket fire. The rocket fire follows reports aired less than 24 hours ago that the IDF has been building trenches along the Syrian border ahead of possible escalation with any number of rebel groups and outposts which pose a threat against Israel.


Northern residents and the IDF have been on high alert throughout the week, after an IAF airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed a senior Hizbullah commander and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general last Sunday, along with several other Hizbullah and Iranian fighters. Hizbullah responded by vowing an attack on Israel, but made clear it does not want another full-scale war.


Tehran had adopted two synchronous courses for getting back at Israel for the January 18 air strike near Quneitra which killed an Iranian general and six Hizbullah officers: Iraqi Shiite militiamen posted on the Syrian Golan along with Hizbullah fighters sent four rockets winging towards Mt. Hermon while some 1,600 people were skiing on its slopes: Two landed and exploded on the Israel side of the demarcation line - one near the skiers and the other outside Kibbutz Merom Hagolan. None caused casualties or damage.


Israeli forces stationed along the Syrian and Lebanese borders went on top readiness, a level still in force. Overhead, Israeli planes and other aerial vehicles remain on 24-hour patrol. In Tehran, two high Iranian officials Tuesday warned Israel to await retaliation.


Dep. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said: "We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act," adding, "Israel crossed our red lines." He spoke at a commemoration ceremony for the Iranian general Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi who was slain on the Syrian Golan a week ago.


In this warning, the Iranian official introduced two new features: Tehran has never before set red lines for Israeli military action; neither have the Iranians ever admitted to relaying a warning to Israel through Washington – at least not in public.


The Islamic Republic was saying in effect that it is not only acting in concert with the Obama administration over a nuclear accord, but the two powers will also be aligned against any potential Israel military action against Iran that is intended to upset the nuclear accord unfolding between Washington and Tehran.


In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on “private diplomatic contacts with Iran” beyond saying that no threat was delivered to Israel in the latest round of nuclear talks. "We absolutely condemn any such threats that come in any form," Psaki told reporters. Then, Tuesday night, The Revolutionary Guards’ acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, vowed that Iran would “retaliate soon.”



International Holocaust Day is Marked in Auschwitz and Israel

By DEBKAfile &


The main ceremony marking International Holocaust Day, set for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, took place at the site of the death camp Tuesday, attended by the presidents of Germany, Austria and France as well as US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew  at the head of an American delegation. Forty survivors of the Nazi concentration camp were present, led by Israeli Minister Silvan Shalom.


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem:

"My responsibility as Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that the State of Israel will never again be threatened with destruction. My responsibility is to see to it that there will not be a reason to build additional memorial sites such as Yad Vashem."


Turning to the threat of nuclear annihilation from the Islamic regime in Iran, Netanyahu said "the pending agreement with Iran is an agreement that endangers the State of Israel. It leaves Iran with the capabilities that will allow it to arm itself with nuclear weapons, one bomb at first and afterwards many atomic bombs."


"Even those who try to challenge us within our borders will discover that we are ready to respond with force. Israel views with utmost gravity the attack against it from Syrian territory. Those who play with fire will get burned," he warned.


Seventy years from Auschwitz, Netanyahu stated "preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever before. We live in an age of resurgent and violent anti-Semitism, and commemorations like this ceremony remind us where humanity's oldest and most enduring hatred can lead. Hatred of the Jews...has now returned in full force," emphasized the prime minister. "Around the world, Jewish communities are increasingly living in fear. But it’s not just the Jewish people that is being slandered, vilified and targeted. It’s the Jewish state as well."


Netanyahu noted that Hamas's very charter calls for the genocide of Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state, portraying Israel "as the embodiment of all evil in the world" as was done by anti-Semites against individual Jews before the foundation of the modern Jewish state.


"And what do the so-called ‘enlightened’ organs of the international community do in response?" asked the prime minister. Answering his own question, he listed the various atrocities being committed in the Middle East, and noted that the Geneva Convention members, UN Human Rights Council and International Criminal Court  meet precisely to condemn Israel.


"No rational examination of the facts could justify this assault on Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, the most beleaguered democracy on earth," he said. "This obsession with the Jewish people and their state has a name. It's called anti-Semitism."


While the hatred of Jews may not have changed, "the Jews have changed," said Netanyahu. "We are no longer a stateless people endlessly searching for a safe haven. ...Today we are an independent and sovereign people in our ancestral homeland."


Netanyahu went on to emphasize that while "the Jewish people will defend itself by itself against any threat," it is appreciative of support from friends around the world, particularly from the United States, "our great ally."


But after mentioning the dangers of Iran, he reiterated "it is the Government of Israel that holds the ultimate responsibility for the security of the one and only Jewish state. ...Israel will reject any agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state. Regrettably, our understanding is that the offer made by the P5+1 (world powers - etc.) does exactly that."


Not only would such an agreement threaten Israel with a nuclear-armed foe bent on its destruction, but it "is sure to spark a nuclear arms race in the region that would turn the Middle East into a nuclear tinderbox," he added.


"On this day of Holocaust remembrance, I pledge to you what we could neither say nor do 70 years ago," concluded Netanyahu. "Israel will always do what needs to be done to ensure the security of the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state. That is the significance of this day."


And in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin slammed what he called attempts to rewrite history at a Moscow ceremony marking the 70th anniversary. Speaking at a Jewish museum in Moscow, he said Nazi Germany's crimes including the Holocaust could be neither forgiven nor forgotten.


"Any attempts to hush up these events, distort, re-write history are unacceptable and immoral," said Putin, who is conspicuously staying away from the main events in Poland in a gesture laying bare divisions with the West over the war in Ukraine.


In the run-up to the ceremony Poland angered Moscow when its foreign minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, said it was Ukrainian soldiers - rather than the Soviet army - who liberated the camp. Moscow blasted Warsaw for twisting history for political ends.


Putin has repeatedly condemned the West for what he calls attempts to belittle the Soviet army's role in the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 and to glorify Nazi collaborators in eastern Europe and ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine.


Putin's absence at the main ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is now a museum, raised eyebrows at home since the camp was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945. In 2005, Putin traveled to Poland to participate in a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  Russian officials said earlier that Putin had received no formal invitation to fly to Poland.


Israeli Woman Gives Birth at 56



A 56-year-old woman from Kiryat Malachi gave birth to her first child, a healthy boy weighing 3.01 kilograms (6 pounds 10 ounces), at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot on Sunday. Tammy Trona, who came to Israel from Ethiopia during Operation Solomon in 1991, tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for many years, but never gave up.


"After many attempts to get pregnant, I decided to take a break, but my niece gave me strength and told me, 'Tammy, don't give up.' Soon after that conversation I became pregnant, and I and my family were overjoyed," Trona said. "I have no words to describe the medical team's dedication and courtesy. They kept me and the baby safe and healthy. I'm just so excited to hold this gift in my arms."


Prof. Zion Hagai, head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kaplan, said: "The medical staff at Kaplan Medical Center respect women's wishes to become mothers even at an advanced age. There is no doubt that over the age of 50 the procedure entails various risks, both during the pregnancy and during the Caesarean section. However, the pros and cons are weighed particularly when it is the woman's first child. The mother-to-be is then placed on bed rest in the hospital for several weeks, where she is kept under the watchful eye of the medical team. She then gives birth in the operating room, as in Tammy's case,"



More Shekels for Your Dollar

By  (Linda Gradstein-The Media Line)


It’s a good time for American tourists to visit Israel – flights, especially those going through Ukraine or Moscow cost less than $500 round-trip. Once you get here, everything from falafel to T-shirts are cheap, thanks to an exchange rate of four shekels per dollar, up from 3.5 just a few months ago.


About 40% of Israel’s GDP comes from exports, meaning the depreciation of the shekel is good news for the Israeli economy. However, the flip side is that imports now cost more in Israel, which could have led to inflation. But the depreciation of the shekel comes as the price of oil has hit a new low, to under $50 a barrel.


 “The reduction in the price of gasoline more than offset the effect of the shekel depreciation on consumer prices,” Avi Simhon, a former chief economic advisor at Israel’s Finance Ministry and currently a professor at Hebrew University. “The Bank of Israel would be very happy if the value of the shekel remains that low for a long period.”


However, the situation with the euro is completely different. The European Union, which is Israel’s largest trading partner, is trying to depreciate the value of the euro with respect to the dollar to boost the European economy.


While the overall picture of the Israeli economy is positive, the Israeli economy still faces some difficult issues. Two significant sectors of Israeli society – ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women – are significantly underrepresented in the Labor force. In addition, says Simhon, the standard of living in Israel is lower by 20 – 40% than in other developed economies like Western Europe.


Food prices are also much cheaper in Europe, which many Israelis discovered after an Israeli expatriate posted a receipt for “Milky”, a chocolate pudding dessert, which was cheaper in Berlin than in Tel Aviv even though it is produced in Israel. His Facebook post went viral, amid calls for more competition in dairy prices, which are controlled by two large companies in Israel. Beyond that, Simhon says, the average productivity of an Israeli worker is about 30% lower than a European worker, mostly because of less investment in machines and capital per worker.


Israel also has a shortage of affordable housing, and housing prices have shot up, meaning many young couples can’t afford to buy an apartment. Various Finance Minister’s have promised to build affordable housing, but have not followed through. Many in Israel’s middle class say that the combination of high housing prices, a high tax burden, and compulsory military service into their 40’s combine to make it impossible for them to make ends meet.









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 Paradise Regained, Paradise Lost

By Don Canaan (Commentary)

This year marked the 29th anniversary of the return of the Sinai by Israel to Egypt--a day of mourning by many of the 2,000 settlers who settled and later were forcibly evacuated by Israeli authorities under the command of Ariel Sharon, from the seaside city of Yamit on the Mediterranean.

Yamit was former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's dream--a projected seaport and city of 250,000 founded on the Sinai sand dunes overlooking date palm trees and the blue Mediterranean--a populated buffer between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on the other side of the Suez Canal.

Some alternate historians say Moses and the children of Israel passed near the site of Yamit 3,500 years ago as they wandered for 40 years through the Sinai Desert on their way to the proverbial land of milk and honey.

Since April 25, 1982 only the whine of the desert wind weaves its currents through the crevices of destroyed homes, businesses and monument--a memorial to the young men who died during the 1967 Six Day war.

Christians, Jews and Muslims died during three Arab-Israeli wars and battles that took place in the Sinai in 1956, 1967 and 1973--Egyptian and Israeli--young people who fought and died in that desolate, forsaken desert wasteland.

The modern-day chariot carrying Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat hugged the intermittently green coastline of Sinai on its historic mission to Jerusalem. Israelis glancing upward into the clear night sky saw merely a jet banking gently to the northwest.

Official Israeli government policy was that the settlers had to be removed and the army came and forcibly removed the remaining diehard residents. The Jerusalem Post described the scene: Apocalypse had arrived in Yamit and in the dust and noise and destruction one could wander freely. Dozens of bulldozers and giant mobile air hammers were loose in the city like a pack of predatory beasts."

April 25, 20011 marked the 29th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Yamit and Sinai and a cold peace between long-term enemies.

That gift of peace silently glided overhead as the Sabbath disappeared and the stars appeared. At 8:01 p.m. Sadat's jetliner landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and the first minutes of a then potential peace came to the Middle East.

Old enemies became new friends. The crowds roared its approval when Sadat shook hands with Moshe Dayan. A person standing nearby, according to the Jerusalem Post, said Sadat told Dayan, "Don't worry Moshe, it will be all right."

The peace treaty between the two nations was signed on March 26, 1979 and on April 25, 1982; the events that had started on a November day at Camp David came to fruition. Sinai was returned to Egypt. Yamit was bulldozed to the ground. But Anwar Sadat did not live to see that day. He had been assassinated seven months before.



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