Hamas Plots Foiled
SHIN BET FOILS HAMAS PLOT TO ASSASSINATE MK BEN GVIR, BOMB JERUSALEM RAIL WITH DRONE: Israeli security forces uncovered an active Hamas terror cell in East Jerusalem that planned a series of attacks, including against far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir, authorities said on Tuesday, May 24.
According to the Shin Bet security agency and Israel Police, the five men planned a shooting attack against Ben Gvir and other Israeli targets, as well as kidnappings of Israeli soldiers, and a bombing attack on the Jerusalem light rail using a drone. The security authorities said the cell was led by Rashid Rashak, “a prominent Hamas operative, a resident of the Old City of Jerusalem.” He was also accused of establishing a network of Hamas supporters who led recent clashes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount last month. Shin Bet and police said Rashak planned, together with Mansour Safadi, another Hamas operative from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor, a shooting attack or suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem. Authorities seized a drone that was intended to be armed and used in an attack on Jerusalem’s light rail. The foiled attempt by the Hamas cell came amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, against a backdrop of terror attacks that have left 19 dead since March 22. In a rare move, Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for one of those attacks — a terror shooting that left an Israeli security guard dead at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ariel. (TOI/VFI News)
FREED BRITISH WOMAN SAYS IRAN FORCED HER TO SIGN FALSE CONFESSION: A British-Iranian charity worker who was detained in Tehran for almost six years says she was forced by Iranian officials to sign a false confession to spying before she was freed two months ago.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said British government officials were present at Tehran airport when, “under duress,” she signed the false admission to spying. She said she was told by Iranian officials, “You won’t be able to get on the plane,” unless she signed. “The whole thing of me signing the forced confession was filmed,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe told the BBC in an interview broadcast Monday, May 23. “It’s a tool. So I’m sure they will show that someday.” Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Tulip Siddiq, who represents Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s home district in London, said the revelation raised “serious questions” for the British government. She said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss “must set out in Parliament what she knew about this shocking revelation and what consequences it could have for my constituent.” Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at Tehran’s airport in April 2016, as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family in Iran. She was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, but she was on vacation at the time of her arrest. (TOI / VFI News)
BENNETT MOURNS ‘HORRIFIC MURDER OF INNOCENT CHILDREN AND TEACHERS’ IN TEXAS MASSACRE: Israeli leaders on Wednesday, May 25, expressed their condolences after a gunman massacred at least 19 children at an elementary school in Texas.
Local authorities said two adults were also killed during the shooting spree in the town of Uvalde. The attacker, who shot and critically wounded his grandmother before the attack, was killed by law enforcement. “Israel mourns together with the American people the horrific murder of innocent children and teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “Our prayers are with the victims, their families and the American people,” added Bennett, who himself attended an American elementary school when his family lived in the United States for two years. “Our hearts are broken. The death of a child is a tragedy beyond measure, let alone the killing of nineteen innocent children and two adults,” President Isaac Herzog said. The assault at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a US school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. (TOI / VFI News)
IRAQIS COMMUNICATING WITH ISRAEL COULD FACE EXECUTION: A drastic anti-Israel law set to come into effect in Iraq will see citizens who communicate with Israelis in any way sentenced to death. The bill will apply to all Iraqi citizens, foreigners visiting Iraq, and Iraqis abroad, and will extend to Israeli-linked organizations and online communication via social media.
There are far-reaching implications of the legislation, which goes further than similar bills that exist in other Arab states, such as Kuwait. Titled “Banning Normalization and Establishment of Relations with the Zionist Entity,” the bill strictly forbids “contact and communication of any kind and means with the occupying Zionist entity, its nationals, and representatives, whether individuals or institutions or organizations, for any reason.” The bill, which was introduced by anti-Western Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, also forbids the “promotion of any ideas, ideologies, principles, or Israeli or Zionist conduct, in any form,” with transgressors facing potential “execution or lifelong imprisonment.” On a more practical level, the bill bans any form of “financial or moral assistance” to Israel or any institution affiliated with it, raising concerns for Iraqi Jews living in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan — once home to a vibrant Jewish community that has largely relocated to Israel since its establishment. This means that any form of contact between Jewish relatives from Kurdistan and Israel could result in the death penalty. The bill still needs to receive the approval of a parliamentary subcommittee, but it will likely become law. (TOI / VFI News)
SHIN BET UNCOVERS IRANIAN ATTEMPTS TO LURE ISRAELI BUSINESSMEN: The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) uncovered operations by Iranian intelligence to lure Israeli businessmen and academics abroad in order to kidnap or harm them and to gather intelligence.
The Iranian operatives stole the identities of foreign and Israeli academics, journalists, reserve officers, businessmen, and philanthropists and used the stolen identities and relevant cover stories in order to gather intelligence about Israelis and to lure them to locations abroad in order to kidnap or harm them. The operatives would send an email from an address that was similar to the authentic address used by the person whose identity had been stolen, changing just a letter or symbol, before asking the target to switch to a WhatsApp conversation. The operatives used real information that could be verified by a check on the Internet. The Israelis who were contacted did not respond and alerted security forces about the attempts. In one case, an operative disguising himself as Swiss researcher Prof. Oliver Thränert, sent an invitation to an academic conference in Europe from the email address Oliver.firstname.lastname@example.org, which is similar to Thränert’s real email. The operative pretending to be Thränert contacted a number of Israeli citizens and sent them files and links that were said to be related to the conference. The citizens who were contacted were suspicious and contacted the real Oliver Thränert, who denied the existence of the conference and expressed concern that his email had been hacked. The Shin Bet said that a number of Israelis were already on the verge of traveling abroad in order to attend the fake “conference” and the exposure of the Iranian operations prevented this. The security agency called on Israelis to be cautious of suspicious emails that come from addresses that are similar to the authentic address and are accompanied by a request to switch to WhatsApp on an unfamiliar phone number. If the person avoids a video call or sharing a face photo, that’s another red flag. Unusual invitations to unique or prestigious conferences accompanied by a showering of praise about the Israeli target in a way that does not necessarily match reality is another red flag, according to the Shin Bet. The agency warned against sharing personal details or responding in any other way, and asked that anyone who receives such an email contact security officials. (JPost/ VFI News)
A FIRST IN ISRAEL: UNIQUE CARDIAC VALVE TRANSPLANT PROCEDURE: A few weeks ago, a 76-year-old patient in severe cardiac shock arrived at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, with a history of critical stenosis of the aortic valve.
The patient suffered from a severe vascular disease that made it impossible to use the accepted approach through the groin artery and the alternative approaches were disqualified due to anatomical limitations and previous bypass surgery. Dr. David Planer, Director of the Catheterization Department at Hadassah Ein Kerem explains: “Until two decades ago, access to patients who required an aortic valve replacement was a surgical approach that involved opening the chest and a long and difficult recovery. The patient who came to us urgently needed a valve transplant and no accepted and common options were suitable for him due to various diseases from which he suffered. The case presented us with a real challenge and we realized that we had to think outside the box in order to save his life.” The physicians decided to implant the valve using a unique approach through the cervical artery (carotid artery), a procedure that has never before been performed in Israel. In a collaborative effort between Dr. David Planer, Dr. Gabby Elbaz-Greener, Dr. Amit Korach, Prof. Ronen Beeri, Director of the Echocardiography Unit and a Senior Anesthesiologist, and Dr. Tamer Abu Jreis, the valve was successfully replaced with this unique catheterization approach. Dr. Planer said, “Thankfully, the operation went smoothly, without complications, and we are proud to be the first team in Israel to carry it out and pave the way for an additional therapeutic option for these seriously ill patients. The patient was discharged to rehabilitation and we wish him a full recovery.” (INN/ VFI News)
NIR BARKAT INSISTING SALARY TOTAL OF ONE SHEKEL PER YEAR: Likud MK Nir Barkat, former mayor of Jerusalem, is insisting that his salary as an MK not total more than one shekel per year.
Currently, the back pay owed to Barkat totals over two million shekels. On Monday, May 23, Barkat appeared before the Knesset’s Wages Committee, since he had refused to withdraw his salary and the Knesset’s accountant did not know what to do with the enormous sum owed to him. During the meeting, Barkat explained to the Committee members that working for one shekel a year is his basic right and that he has no intention of changing the custom that he has adopted throughout his 14 years in public office. “It is a great merit for me to serve the People of Israel for one shekel a year – as I did during my decade as Jerusalem mayor, as I am doing now as an MK, and as I will do in any public office that I hold in the future,” Barkat said. “My father blessed me in my youth that I should pay a lot of taxes to the State and that in the merit of this, I should be able to serve in public office for one shekel a year. Thank G-d, I have merited that his blessing has been fulfilled. I explained to the Committee members that I have no intention of receiving the salary and that this is my basic right. The public’s money is holy to me. I thank the members of the Knesset’s Wages Committee and believe that they will accept my position.” (INN/ VFI News)
ARAB ISRAELI WINS KICKBOXING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN TURKEY: Israeli kickboxer Loai Sakas won a gold medal on Wednesday, May 18, at the world championships in Turkey.
Sakas, a Christian Arab from the northern town of Kafr Yasif, draped himself with the Israeli flag as he stood in the ring after he defeated his Slovakian opponent in the under-75 kilogram (165.3 pound) weight class of K-1 style kickboxing. “I’m first and foremost an Israeli citizen,” he said. “I do not care about Judaism, Islam, Christianity, or Druze — I represent the country and want everyone here to live in peace with each other.” “The Moroccan delegation, along with their entourage, also shouted at us all sorts of things during the fight and made a small demonstration, but of course, I did not react to it,” he said, recounting the incident. Sakas said that his being a Christian Arab was not a reason for him not to wave the Israeli flag after taking the gold. “I expect every Israeli citizen to wave the Israeli flag. I do not try to rile up people or anything like that, I wave the flag because I am an Israeli citizen,” he said. While he noted that he had received some backlash from people in his town for representing Israel, he stressed that they or their remarks did not matter to him. “I also get a lot of support from a lot of people for what I do and I concentrate on that. People can think what they want — I am Israeli. If I walk down the street and I see someone attacking a Jew, I will protect him,” he added. (TOI/ VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff