Iran Races Ahead – Bennett Is Silent
IRAN IS RACING AHEAD WHILE BENNETT REMAINS SILENT: A spokesman from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Ramzan Sharif, has issued threats against Israel, saying that, “The process toward the downfall of the Zionist regime has reached the most important stage in the last 70 years.”
Responding to the statements, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Iran is racing forward while Bennett remains silent and buckles before it. The Bennett government is dangerous for Israel.” According to Israeli intelligence estimates (as reported on Kan 11), Iran is now closer than ever to obtaining enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb – between six weeks and two months away from reaching that stage. Last Saturday, December 25, the head of the Iranian Atomic Organization, Muhammad Aslami, said that Iran was capable of producing nuclear fuel on its own, and that it would soon commence the process at the Bushehr site. Aslami added that if the Vienna nuclear talks broke down and U.S. sanctions were not removed, Iran still did not intend to progress beyond enrichment of uranium to 70 percent. “Iran is already capable of producing its own nuclear fuel using its own resources,” he said. “We have been holding talks with the Russians and I hope that within the framework of our cooperation, based on the plans and contracts we have signed, we will be able to begin producing fuel and using it at the Bushehr plant.” (INN / VFI News)
WITH IRAN IN MIND, ISRAEL SIGNS DEAL WITH US FOR HEAVY CHOPPERS, REFUELING PLANES: On Thursday, December 30, Israel signed a long-awaited agreement to purchase a dozen heavy transport helicopters and two additional refueling planes from the United States, in a weapons deal worth over $3 billion, the Defense Ministry said.
These aircraft, along with a number of additional F-35 fighter jets that Israel plans to purchase from the US, are specifically meant to counter threats posed by Iran, including its nuclear program. According to the ministry, in addition to fighter jets, transport helicopters, and refueling planes, the deal includes “advanced aerial munitions, air defense systems, new naval and land-based platforms, and cyber and digital systems.” The 12 CH-53K Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopters will replace Israel’s aging fleet of CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, which have been in use for over half a century and have seen a number of maintenance issues in recent years. The first CH-53K helicopters are scheduled to arrive in Israel in 2026, according to the ministry. Under the agreement, Israel has the option to purchase six more CH-53K helicopters in the future as well. In addition, the delegation of the ministry’s purchasing department signed a deal to buy two more Boeing KC-46 refueling planes, which would be needed in order to conduct strikes against targets in Iran, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Israel and far outside the regular flight range of Israeli jets. Israel has already agreed to purchase two of these refueling planes, which are scheduled to arrive in 2025. Israel has asked that this date be moved up by a year — a move that would require the US to give up its spot in line to receive the planes from Boeing — but Washington has thus far rejected the request. The helicopter deal will cost Israel roughly $2 billion and the refuelers will cost another $1.1 billion, with the money coming from the $3.8 billion that Israel receives from Washington as part of the 10-year memorandum of understanding between the two countries, the ministry said. (TOI / VFI News)
JERUSALEM POST WEBSITE HACKED WITH IRAN WARNING ON ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEIMANI KILLING: Two Israeli media outlets were hacked early Monday, January 3, with warnings from an Iranian propaganda video linked to the second anniversary of the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani.
The website of The Jerusalem Post showed a scene from an Iranian missile drill last month in which Tehran destroyed a mock-up of Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona. In the picture, the rocket appears to be fired from the iconic ring Soleimani wore, with the caption: “We are close to you where you do not think about it,” in English and Hebrew. The Twitter account of the Maariv newspaper, which has the same owners as the English-language Post, briefly held the same message, but soon took it down. Maariv said its website was also hacked. “We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, alongside a direct threat of Israel. We are working to resolve the issue,” the Post tweeted. Former US President Donald Trump sent shock waves through the region on January 3, 2020, with the targeted killing of Soleimani, who was commander of the Quds Force, the foreign operation arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. The Quds force is designated by the US as a terrorist organization. Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad ordered by Trump, along with his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, infuriating Iran and its allies. Iran is preparing to launch week-long activities to mark the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing. Authorities said the main event of the commemoration would be held on Monday, without elaborating. They added that a display of “Iran’s missile capabilities” would be held on January 7. Iranian officials have pledged repeatedly that Soleimani would be avenged. (TOI / VFI News)
LARGE INCREASE IN TERROR ATTACKS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA IN 2021: Judea and Samaria recorded a significant increase of terrorist attacks in 2021, according to end-of-year data published by the IDF Tuesday, December 28.
In 2021, 5,532 stone-throwing incidents were recorded across Judea and Samaria compared to 4,002 last year, an increase of 1,530 incidents. There has also been a significant increase in the number of firebomb attacks, with 1,022 incidents this year compared to 751 last year. The number of shooting attacks against Jews doubled to 61 shootings in 2021 compared to 31 last year. The number of stabbing attempts also doubled – 18 stabbing incidents in 2021 compared to nine last year. (INN / VFI News)
UP TO A THIRD OF ISRAELIS PREDICTED TO GET COVID IN NEXT 3 WEEKS; TESTS ARE RUNNING OUT: A leading health expert advising the government predicted Sunday morning , January 2, that one out of every three or four Israelis will be infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus over the next three weeks, cautioning that most won’t know they’ve been infected because the country is quickly running out of test kits.
Testing facilities across the country were inundated with huge crowds on Sunday as thousands of Israelis lined up on foot or in cars to get tested, with many waiting hours to be swabbed. Health Ministry figures published Sunday morning showed that 4,197 new cases were confirmed on Saturday, January 1, a figure representing reduced testing on weekends, with the rate of positive tests rising to 4.57 percent. Daily infections in Israel have spiked from under 1,000 new cases some 10 days ago to almost 5,500 on Friday, December 30, and active cases have almost tripled in a week to 31,958. The total confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic stand at close to 1.4 million. However, serious cases have seen a far more moderate increase, from 77 on December 22 to 110 on Sunday. The death toll remained at 8,244. There have been four COVID-related deaths in the country since December 21. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting that there will soon be tens of thousands of daily infections. He hailed far-reaching travel restrictions imposed in recent weeks, saying they delayed Omicron’s arrival and enabled Israel to study the outbreaks in South Africa, Britain, the United States and other places, effectively “seeing into the future.” “Our goal is always the same goal: to enable the economy to function as fully as possible, while protecting the most vulnerable among us,” Bennett said, adding that the government was discussing potential solutions to the heavy strain on testing sites and reported shortage of testing kits. Bennett suggested that Israel may need to change the criterion for who can be tested due to the shortage of testing kits, a phenomenon he said was being experienced worldwide. In an official report handed to the coronavirus cabinet and in a series of media interviews, Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute estimated that 2-4 million out of Israel’s total population of some 9.5 million will end up catching Omicron, but the number of simultaneous serious cases won’t surpass the current record of approximately 1,200. Segal urged Israelis who haven’t received their booster vaccines to get them, retweeting new British data showing that the third shot increased the protection against Omicron hospitalization from 52 percent to 88%. (TOI / VFI News)
OVER A THIRD OF FOOD PRODUCED LAST YEAR WENT TO WASTE: Some 2.5 million tons of wasted food in 2020 cost the country NIS 19.1 billion ($6 billion), or the average household NIS 3,600 (US $1,140), according to Leket Israel’s 6th annual Food Waste and Rescue Report, published in partnership with the Environmental Protection Ministry on Monday, December 27.
This waste accounted for 35 percent of the food produced in Israel. Half of it was edible and could have been resold. The cost to the environment was an additional NIS 3.4 billion ($1 billion), the study found, when waste of land resources, water, waste collection, and processing was taken into account, as well as air pollution and the emission of an estimated 5 million tons of greenhouse gasses, accounting for 6 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Israel. In total, just under one in five (18.7%) of Israeli households suffered from food insecurity last year, equivalent to half a million households, Leket found. Food insecurity has been defined as the inability to ensure a constant supply of food that contains all the nutritional elements necessary for proper development and health. (TOI / VFI News)
ISRAEL’S POPULATION AT NEARLY 9.5 MILLION AS IT ENTERS 2022: Israel’s population grew by 160,000 (a growth of 1.7%) in 2021, reaching 9,450,000 people as it enters 2022, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) announced on Thursday, December 30.
As of the end of 2021, 6.98 million (73.9%) of Israel’s residents were Jewish, about two million were Arab, and 472,000 were from other sectors, including non-Arab Christians and residents not classified by religion in the population registry. Most of the population growth in the country this year was natural (83%), while the rest (17%) came from immigration. About 25,000 olim (immigrants) arrived in 2021, 5,000 more than last year, with 30% of the new immigrants coming from Russia, 14.6% from France, 13.9% from the US, and 12.4% from Ukraine. An additional 9,000 migrants entered the country as well this year. There were 22,700 immigrants arriving in Israel from January to November, a 28.8% rise compared with the same period last year. (JPost / VFI News)
MEET SOME OF THE NEWEST MEDICAL INVENTIONS CHANGING SURGERY: The surgical robots market crossed the $4.6 billion mark in 2020, and is expected to grow by more than 17.4% between 2021 and 2027, according to research in the field.
Several companies in Israel and around the world have identified the popular market and have developed technologies that combine robotics and artificial intelligence, creating a new reality in the field of surgery and allowing unprecedented accuracy during operations, along with a shorter recovery and hospitalization for patients. For example, the Israeli company Human Xtensions has developed a small robot that allows the surgeon to accurately perform very complex operations in the abdominal cavity, in hard-to-access areas. “The development addresses the increase in the frequency of minimally invasive surgeries and the need for a solution that combines the advantages of robotic technology with the flexibility and economic advantage of minimally invasive tools,” explained Tami Frenkel, Human Xtensions co-founder and CEO. The company is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and has approval from the FDA to market its products in the US. The Haifa-based start-up Beyeonics has developed digital headsets for eye surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and brain surgeries. The system combines augmented reality, 3D imaging and artificial intelligence-based information processing, which present the data to the surgeon, supporting real-time decision making. “Due to the increase in life expectancy, there has been an accelerated growth in the number of eye diseases of the past decade that require surgeries such as cataracts and glaucoma,” explained Beyeonics CEO Ron Schneider. Another giant company in the field is Medtronic, which works to relieve pain and prolong life for millions of people in more than 150 countries. Among the technologies Medtronic has developed is the Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve in patients with severe aortic stenosis. The metal frame is a blend of nickel and titanium. This material allows the frame to shape itself to a patient’s anatomy. In the past, patients who needed a valve replacement had to undergo invasive treatment including open-heart surgery, which involved a months-long recovery. Today, using TAVI technology, the catheterization is performed in about half an hour, at the end of which the patient remains under supervision for only two days – and then can go back to normal life. (JPost / 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