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.
A missile strike on a Syrian air base housing Iranian troops left 14 dead and is one step closer to what some are calling an open war between Israel and Iran in Syria.
Poison Gas Kills Forty Followed by Israeli Strike in Syria
Israel and Iran have been sparring for months now in a series of escalating encounters such as the downing of an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace and the subsequent downing of an Israeli jet that was part of a retaliatory airstrike into Syria. Although Israel has not publically accepted responsibility for this latest strike on the Syrian T4 air base, Russian and Syrian sources allege that Israel was behind the strike. Israel struck this same air base after a drone violated their airspace.
This attack matches Israel’s past methods and is in accordance with Israel’s determined stance to halt Iranian expansion into Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that two Israeli aircraft targeted the base in Homs with eight missiles and that Syria shot down five of them (likely with Russian provided air defense systems). The Associated Press reports that Syria initially blamed the U.S. for the strike (a charge the U.S. denied) before switching to Israel.
It isn’t beyond doubt that this was a U.S. strike since just over a year ago the U.S. barraged a Syrian air base with dozens of cruise missiles after a chemical attack. Additionally, after learning about the gas attack, President Trump tweeted that there would be “a big price to pay.” It seems possible that this new strike, whether from the U.S. or Israel, is in retaliation for the latest deadly chemical attack over the weekend.
One hypothesis is that this strike is in response to an alleged chemical gas attack that killed forty people, many of them civilians and families hiding in shelters, in a rebel-held town near Damascus. If this was an Israeli strike, which it seems to be, it serves two purposes: a forceful retaliation to a chemical strike on civilians and continued aggression against Iranian advancement toward Israeli borders.
It is worth noting that the suspected poison gas attack is still alleged because it has not been confirmed and tested by independent sources yet. The attack has resulted in calls from many world leaders for something to be done, but some of the same Arab countries, such as Kuwait, that have called for investigations into Israel’s use of force at the Gaza border are much less vocal regarding the horrific death of civilians in Syria.
Gaza Riots Continue, Death toll at Thirty-One
The thick black smoke of burning tires engulfed the Israel-Gaza border over the weekend as the Hamas-orchestrated Palestinian protests boil into their second week.
Protestors set fire to hundreds of tires to produce thick, toxic smoke that choked the air making it difficult to breathe for soldiers guarding the border fence and many of the rioters. Al Jazeera reported that the intent of creating the toxic cloud was to obscure the vision of Israeli sniper teams, which have effectively engaged dozens of Palestinians who have approached the border fence, killing some including nine this weekend.
The casualties incurred this weekend brought the total death toll to approximately thirty based on several accounts including the Palestinian Health Ministry. Live fire wounded hundreds more.
The clashed this weekend reportedly equaled the intensity of the first weekend with several extreme incidents. On Sunday afternoon the IDF says three men breached the border fence and were fired upon by Israeli tanks. No casualties were reported, and they retreated into Gaza.
A Palestinian journalist was also killed by IDF fire as he was reporting on the protest from the Gaza side of the border while wearing a clearly marked press vest. This killing, since he was a clear non-combatant, has raised questions about the rules of engagement. An IDF spokesperson said he was flying a drone over IDF troops at the time. The IDF has said it only uses deadly force as a last resort and is investigating the journalist’s death.
Israel is still calling the mass protests an excuse to cover for Hamas terrorist enterprises such as breaching the fence and says they are using the crowds to provide human shields as cover. For example, they shot two terrorists who fired at IDF troops last week, and this weekend released a photo of explosives they said were left at the border fence. The majority of the international community understands the event as a peaceful protest and is decrying Israel’s use of deadly force.
The International Criminal Court, a largely symbolic judicial body with little enforcement power, says both Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes through Israel’s live fire on civilians and Hamas’ use of human shields. Images are also circulating of a Swastika alongside the Palestinian flag on a pole at the border.
In response to the tire-burning, the IDF deployed water cannons and a huge fan to disperse the smoke. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel has also halted all imports of tires into the Gaza Strip.
The protests are scheduled to last for several more weeks into May.
Terrorist Stabbing Foiled in West Bank
A potentially fatal stabbing was prevented on Sunday when an armed Israeli civilian shot a Palestinian who was attempting to stab another Israeli with a screwdriver at a West Bank gas station.
Ha’aretz reports that the suspect was seriously injured and taken to a hospital for treatment. No other injuries were reported, though three were treated for shock.
This attempt comes days after a knife was found hidden in a Palestinian’s sock at the Cave of Machpelah.
Political Infighting over Independence Ceremony
An internal political tiff between senior members of Israel’s conservative Likud party is becoming a public dispute over Israel’s scheduled Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony on April 18.
Essentially, it comes down to this. Traditionally, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein presides over the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony. But other elements inside the same political party want Netanyahu to preside and speak at the ceremony, which is a big offense to the speaker of the Knesset. So big an offense that Edelstein said if Netanyahu insists on appearing, he might boycott the event, Ha’aretz reports.
Now it seems that a deal has been reached where Edelstein will still run the show, but Netanyahu will have the honor of lighting the torch, a part of the ceremony that has its own controversial Latin American connection. Honduran President Juan Orlando is set to participate in the torch ceremony, and he would be the first foreign head of state to do so, but some are saying he is not the right person for this honor given a long list of human rights atrocities and corruption charges under his regime.
Political showdowns and international diplomacy aside, this year’s independence celebrations are highly anticipated as they will mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Secular Schools to use only Bible for religion class
For the first time, Israel’s Education Ministry is banning the use of workbooks for Bible classes in secular state schools mandating the use of the original biblical text instead.
So instead of using lessons, worksheets, and textbooks in religion classes in the secular schools, students in Bible classes will be reading straight from the original text.
Ha’aretz reports that the Education Ministry believes that the books “deprive the material of depth” and don’t put students in close enough contact with the text.
Opponents of the new switch are worried that the teachers may not be able to deal with some of the more difficult passages in the text without the teaching aids. The plan will be implemented over time starting in 2019, and this applies only to the state-run secular schools. Religious schools and private institutions are still free to use their own material.
While this might not be front-page news, it provides a window into the debate over religious instruction in a politically secular state.