Mainstream media sources often demonstrate intentional or unintentional bias against Israel. So where do you go to find news about Israel and the Middle East? Once a week, we post an Israel News Recap (sans rhetoric) to keep you up to date on the latest developments.
Israeli security forces are bracing for what is predicted to be an incendiary weekend along the Gaza border as mounting tensions with Palestinians are expected to accumulate into mass protests.
Protests Predicted as Pesach Approaches
These protests are routine, annual demonstrations that begin on March 30, which is “Land Day,” to protest land rights issues dating back to events in 1976. This year, however, the beginning of the mass demonstrations coincides with the beginning of the Festival of Pesach.
Ha’aretz reports that the protests, which are backed by the Hamas government in Gaza, will set up six to eight big tent camps to house thousands of people near the Israel-Gaza border, but not directly at the fence line.
Last weekend, four Gazans did breach the border fence. Late Sunday evening, the Hamas military arm carried out a drill in preparation for the protests, which was said to simulate a clash with the Israeli military. Explosives fired in the drill set off a false alarm in Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, activating alerts and sirens in southern Israeli cities.
Israel has proven that it can deal with mass protests when given an advanced warning, which they certainly have this time. In addition to the regular border security, Israel is bringing in large troop reinforcements including sniper teams and police with riot control training. Anyone attempting to cross the border, as usual, will be shot at first with warning shots and then at the legs.
Even if the Seder weekend passes without major incident, that does not necessarily mean things have cooled down. The Jerusalem Post reports that the head of Israeli intelligence is warning of a major uproar from Gaza, resulting from pent-up desperation and hopelessness as internal fighting and infrastructure crises continue unaddressed. Additionally, the pressure is only intensified by the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and Israel’s upcoming 70th anniversary in May.
The camps are scheduled to remain until Nakba Day, on May 15th, as a form of peaceful protest but may fuel more violent activities.
Israel Leaps to Digitize Health Records
The Israeli government is doubling down on a scheme to digitize the personal health records of its nearly nine million citizens by investing $275 million into the system infrastructure.
The goal sounds simple. Create ease-of-access to everyone’s health records for medical professionals. But according to a statement released by the office of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the massive trove of data will also be available to private medical research and development companies such as those that produce drugs.
While most of Israel’s medical records are already digitized, this program, in partnership with the German tech firm SAP SE, will ensure the complete digitization and market it to global companies with an interest in mass data access.
“We want to make it accessible to researchers and developers in order to achieve two things: one is preventive medicine, and the second is personal medicine tailored to each individual,” Netanyahu said, according to a Reuters report.
Some privacy concerns have surfaced, but the current plan allows users to opt out of allowing their data to be used for research. For Israel, tapping into this market, which is a priority for Netanyahu, could give them a 10 percent slice of a $6 trillion digital healthcare industry pie.
French Consulate Worker Accused of Smuggling for Hamas
A French consulate driver faced an Israeli court recently charged with smuggling weapons out of Gaza to a Palestinian criminal gang in the West Bank.
The charges allege that the worker, who is in his early 20s, took advantage of his diplomatic privileges, such as access to embassy vehicles, which pass checkpoints with lighter inspection, to engage in smuggling. He stands accused of bringing seventy pistols and two assault rifles out of Gaza and into the West Bank in exchange for a cool $7,500, according to the Washington Post.
How did he do it? His indictment says that as many as five times he crossed through Israeli checkpoints at the Erez border crossing into Jerusalem with as many as twenty guns in nylon-wrapped packages. He then drove to Ramallah in the West Bank and transferred them to Palestinians.
It is believed that he acted without the knowledge of his supervisors. At least seven others were arrested in connection with this operation. The French representatives are reportedly working closely with Israeli security on this matter.
Israel Admits to Crushing Syria Nuke Program in 2007
It was an open secret that Israel is responsible for Syria’s lack of nuclear capability, but until last week Israel never admitted to the lethal airstrike in 2007 that thwarted the regime’s nuclear advancement.
Netanyahu broke the news on Twitter saying “The Israeli government, the IDF, and the Mossad have prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability, and they deserve every credit for this.”
The timing of this reversal after ten years of silence is no coincidence. Even though the prime minister did not mention Iran in his initial statement, the message to the international community was clear. Israel will not tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of their direct enemies. This message, which comes along with more declassified information about the 2007 strike, is directed at Iran, which is digging into Syria and tempting fate by militarily posturing against Israel.
The September 2007 air raid that crushed Syria’s nuclear reactor in northeastern Syria came prior to the Arab Spring movement and Syria’s current chaotic and fractured civil war. Israel is crediting itself not only with keeping a hostile government at bay but even more so with keeping the capability of a nuclear strike out of the hands of extremist groups like the Islamic State that hold swaths of land in Syria.
One likely reason Israel didn’t take responsibility for the attack for over a decade is that an open admission of responsibility would have demanded a retaliatory strike by Syria, which neither side wanted.