IDF Preps for Hezbollah Rockets
DRILL FOR 2,000 ROCKETS A DAY AND INTERNAL STRIFE – IDF PREPS FOR WAR: Israel’s Home Front Command and National Emergency Authority (RAHEL) is holding a week-long drill that started on Sunday, October 31, simulating a large-scale war in which civilians are evacuated from northern border communities and security agencies will deal with massive rocket barrages sent by Hezbollah.
The drill is taking lessons that have been learned from past events in the North, as well as those from the May fighting between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip – Operation Guardian of the Walls – and from the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Following the May fighting, the Home Front Command “carried out a very significant learning process with a lot of research, and this exercise is going to test what we’ve learned,” said Home Front Command Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Itzik Bar. Israel Police and Magen David Adom are also participating in the drill, which ends Thursday, and will see all security and various governmental bodies take part. “This exercise is also a great opportunity for all government ministries to understand the implications, starting with disruptions in the energy sector – we are talking about 24-hour power outages across the country, 72 hours in localized communities – and other such aspects in terms of continual functioning,” Bar said. According to RAHEL head Yoram Laredo, the drill is the first time that it is working together with the Home Front Command, and it will sharpen the abilities of the two to work hand-in-hand. The drill will focus on a new alert system for residents of northern Israel, as well as the rate of fire and the ability of Hezbollah to fire precision missiles and massive barrages toward specific areas – especially communities near the border fence. According to Bar, some of the issues that concern him are “the issue of precision-guided munitions and the effect that they will have on our ability to function and on things in the world of incoming fire alerts. The second is the rate of fire and Hezbollah’s ability to conduct truly massive rocket barrages at specific geographic areas – I’ll use the phrase ‘demolishing the front line’ – directed fire at the communities near the border.” On Wednesday, warning sirens with a new alert time and the unit’s emergency application will also be tested. Due to the large number of projectiles expected to be fired toward border communities and the continued lack of adequate bomb shelters, the drill will also focus on joint evacuation of residents of communities that are within five km. of the Lebanese border and their absorption into other locations in Israel. A scenario simulating a missile strike on an industrial plant containing hazardous materials will also be drilled at the Milotel factory in Nahariya’s Leiman industrial zone. In the exercise, a container holding the hazardous material is struck and forces have to contain the leak and provide care to the injured. As such, troops will enter the factory wearing protective suits to deal with the leak and ambulances will evacuate the wounded from the scene. (JPost / VFI News)
US AND E3 WARN AGAINST DANGEROUS IRAN ESCALATION: The United States and the E3 (Germany, France and Britain) urged Iran on Saturday, October 27 to resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal in order to “avoid a dangerous escalation.”
Leaders of the four countries, who are hoping to convince Tehran to stop enriching uranium to near-weapons-grade levels, said they wanted a negotiated solution. “This will only be possible if Iran changes course,” US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a joint statement they issued on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome. Bennett is opposed to the 2015 Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The 2015 nuclear deal unraveled after then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018, prompting Iran to breach various limits on uranium enrichment. Talks between Iran and world powers aimed at salvaging the deal, which started in April, are slated to resume at the end of November, the Islamic Republic’s top nuclear negotiator said on Wednesday, October 27. In their joint statement, the four leaders said they, “call upon President [Ibrahim] Raisi to seize this opportunity and return to a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations as a matter of urgency. That is the only sure way to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in any country’s interest.” They said that during their conversation they had shared their “grave and growing concern that, while Iran halted negotiations on a return to the JCPOA since June, it has accelerated the pace of provocative nuclear steps, such as the production of highly enriched uranium and enriched uranium metal. (JPost / VFI News)
IN 1ST-EVER INTERVIEW TO BAHRAINI PAPER, IDF GENERAL THREATENS IRAN: The Israel Defense Forces general tasked with countering Iran gave the military’s first-ever interview to a Bahraini newspaper on Sunday, October 32, hailing the ties between the two countries and discussing the threats posed by Tehran and its nuclear program.
In his interview with Bahrain’s al-Ayam, Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman said Israel preferred a diplomatic solution to halt Tehran’s nuclear ambitions despite Iran’s current intransigence on the matter, but warned that Israel was “preparing for other scenarios” should those negotiations fail, apparently alluding to a possible military strike. Kelman said that Iran’s nuclear program represented a threat not only to Israel but to the entire world. “There would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East because other countries would also want to obtain an atomic weapon,” Kelman said. (According to foreign reports, Israel maintains the Middle East’s sole nuclear arsenal, which it is said to consider an imperative for its continued survival in a historically hostile region.) In recent months, Iran has dragged its feet on returning to indirect negotiations with the United States about a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which then-US president Donald Trump needlessly destroyed in 2018 and Iran abandoned a year later. Last week, Iranian officials said they planned to return to the talks by the end of November, but US President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed growing impatience and threatened to explore some necessary “other options” should the negotiations fail or delay. (TOI / VFI News)
FOR FIRST TIME IN 20 MONTHS, ISRAEL WELCOMES TOURISTS: Israel on Monday, November 1, opened its borders for the first time since March 2020 to tourists who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.
The vast majority of tourists have effectively been banned from entering Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The reopening of borders has been delayed numerous times throughout the year, as COVID infections waxed and waned. The move is seen as a vital step to somewhat restoring Israel’s tourism industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic and accompanying restrictions. The Tourism Ministry welcomed Monday’s reopening, saying that “throughout the global corona pandemic, interest in visiting Israel has remained high and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has worked hard to find creative solutions to facilitate the safe return of tourists.” The ministry said that in recent months it had put in place a trial program with “several thousand tourists, primarily from the USA and Europe, visiting Israel’s religious, historical, cultural and natural sites within a safe and tourist-friendly environment.” However, not all tourists will immediately be eligible to visit Israel, and those that do come will face restrictions. Only tourists from countries that aren’t defined as “red” due to high infection rates will be allowed in, although currently there are no countries labeled as such. Under the new regulations, only tourists who have been vaccinated during the 180 days before they boarded the plane will be allowed to enter Israel. Fourteen days must elapse between the traveler’s second or third shot and entry to Israel (for Johnson & Johnson, one dose is required). The serology test, which detects antibodies, will verify that those who enter the country really are inoculated against the coronavirus, he said. Under the previous regulations, tourists began arriving in organized groups in May, though in a very limited capacity. Additionally, first-degree relatives of Israeli citizens or residents were able to apply for permits to travel to the country. While the reopening has been welcomed by tourism officials, it has received a mixed reaction from health officials with some concerned it will expose Israel to new variants. “We shouldn’t over-test the immunity we’ve built up here,” Prof. Gabi Barbash, a former director-general of the Health Ministry, told The Times of Israel last week. In contrast, Prof. Eyal Leshem, an infectious disease specialist at Sheba Medical Center, said that prior to widespread vaccination, there was a logic to keeping tourists out — as a single COVID-positive foreigner was liable to infect many others. But the risk is much lower now that inoculation has reduced transmission rates. Israel appears to be at the tail end of its fourth coronavirus wave, as new infections and serious cases have ticked down over the past few weeks. (TOI/ VFI News)
ISRAELI ‘NO CHECKOUT’ TECHNOLOGY HELPS TESCO, REWE COMPETE WITH AMAZON: In the past month, three of Europe’s biggest grocery retailers opened cashier-less stores that allow customers to walk in, select their items, and walk out, without having to wait in checkout lines or scan any items.
“Some people are saying this is the biggest thing to happen this year in retail,” says Michael Gabay, CEO of Trigo, the Israeli company providing the system’s technology. Shoppers at the Tesco Express store in central London and the REWE supermarket chain in Cologne, Germany got to experience the technology for the first time last month. After downloading the store’s app and creating a payment profile, shoppers must scan a QR code as they enter the store to get logged into the system. Then, after they walk around the store and choose their products, they can simply walk out of the store without doing anything else. A network of cameras placed around the store follow each shopper around, tracking just their skeleton, “with no biometric tracking, no facial recognition, and without knowing who you are,” Gabay explains. “The cameras track everything you take, with fraud prevention to make sure that people can’t fool the system. It is more than 99% accurate, and works amazingly.” That gives traditional retailers the tools to compete with Amazon’s growing network of no-checkout retail chains. Amazon now has about 30 branches of its Amazon Go convenience store chain and 18 Amazon Fresh supermarket chain around the US. The retail juggernaut recently entered the European market with six Amazon Fresh stores in the UK, with plans for more. “The global war between Amazon and the grocery industry has begun,” Gabay says. “Amazon entered the grocery space very aggressively. We are the only company offering retailers the technology to compete.” The deployment challenges are significant, Gabay says. “Amazon is building new stores that are designed with their technology from the ground up,” he says. “Our mission is much more challenging — to come into existing stores and implement the platform without disrupting the store’s layout. That’s not easy.” However, that also means that Trigo’s ability to scale its technology is broader. “We are working with retailers that already have thousands of stores around the world,” Gabay notes. “Amazon has to build each new location from scratch.” Tesco, the third-largest retailer in the world, began testing Trigo’s platform in 2018 at a small store on its main campus used mainly by company employees. (Prior to that, it ran smaller tests in Israel with the Shufersal chain). Trigo plans to expand into the US market next year and to work with other types of stores in the future, from department stores to electronics and toy stores. “Next year, we’ll be in dozens of stores, in two years, we’ll have hundreds of stores, and in five years, I expect we will be in thousands of stores. We have contracts for hundreds of stores already in place.” (JPost / VFI News)
AMERICAN JEWISH ASTRONAUT JESSICA MEIR DISCUSSES HER LOVE FOR ISRAEL: US astronaut Dr. Jessica Meir – the fourth Jewish woman and 15th Jewish person ever to travel to space – spoke last week by live broadcast to the Tel Aviv University (TAU) board of governors.
Born to a Swedish mother and an Israeli father who grew up in Tel Aviv, Meir has always felt close to Israel. During her virtual presentation to the symposium, Meir spoke of her connection to this country and displayed several images of the country captured from outer space. “Israel is a very important part of me,” she said, also describing the personal items she brought to the International Space Station including an Israeli flag, Hanukkah socks bearing Stars of David and menorahs, along with a commemorative coin honoring late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Meir. “We have to work together to truly preserve our planet for the future,” said Meir, who is a marine biologist and physiologist. She spoke to the Yehiel Ben-Zvi academic symposium entitled “Between Climate Change, Space Research and Life under Extreme Conditions,” held on the TAU campus. This year’s symposium topic highlights TAU’s prioritization of climate change research. As part of this campus-wide effort, TAU launched the Center for Climate Change Action in June of this year. (I365 / VFI News)
PLANNED LAW WILL LET ISRAEL COLLECT PERSONAL INFO ON ALL AIRLINE PASSENGERS: Israeli authorities are drafting a bill that will require airlines to share private information about travelers entering or leaving the country, including the credit card number used to pay for the ticket, their billing address and where else they might be traveling.
The proposal, which is nearing completion but has not been submitted to the government for approval, is expected to face serious opposition once it reaches lawmakers for a vote, though proponents note that its provisions are in line with standard information collected on passengers in the United States and Europe. Work on the bill has been underway for several years, initially spurred by terror concerns, but it has been given extra urgency recently by the coronavirus pandemic, defense officials told The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity. During the pandemic, Israel has sought to track where arrivals are coming from and their activities in the country as part of contact tracing efforts. Of particular interest to authorities during the pandemic is knowing where travelers were coming from — not just their last immediate port of departure, but every place they visited or had a connection. Israel banned entry for arrivals from certain countries and at times imposed varying quarantine rules depending on infection rates in different locations, but those rules were easily circumvented by connecting through a third locale. According to the text of the legislation being worked on by the Justice Ministry, Shin Bet security service and National Security Council, which is still under wraps but was seen by The Times of Israel, a passenger database will be created to hold a wide array of information on “any person who is landing or will soon land in Israel or is taking off or will soon take off from it.” Beyond the person’s name, nationality, date of birth and passport number, which are already transferred to authorities, the database will collect files used by airlines called PNRs, or passenger name records. These include a wide array of information regarding passengers, the flight or flights they took, how the tickets were purchased and travel status, including where they sit, how much luggage they check in or carry on, and any special requests like meals or other in-flight services. The database will allow authorities to see credit card numbers used to purchase a ticket, as well as a billing address and whether there are other related charges on the card. If a passenger is in a frequent flyer or rewards program, or got an upgrade, or bought a one-way ticket, it will be in the database, and if six tickets were purchased together, or someone missed their flight, it will show that too. (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