French Hero of Entebbe Hostage Crisis Dies

Michal Bacos, the captain of Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris which was hijacked on 27 June, 1976 and brought to Entebbe Uganda, died on Tuesday at the age of 95. He was eulogized by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, where he has lived for the last several years. "He refused to abandon his passengers, who were taken hostage because they were Israeli or of Jewish origin, risking his own life," Estrosi wrote. "Michel bravely refused to surrender to antisemitism and barbarism and brought honor to France." Tributes to Bacos were posted by several French, Jewish and Israeli organizations, including the Israeli Airline Pilots Association who wrote that "this dear man passed away today after a long life. The pilots of the State of Israel salute Captain Bacos."

BDS Campaign Suffers Embarrassing Defeat in Holland
An attempt by Mieke Zagt, a political activist in Holland and a supporter of the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel to shame the Hema supermarket chain for stocking Israeli wine backfired this week, resulting in a massive increase in the purchases of the wine. Zagt tweeted a picture of wine produced in Efrat, an Israeli community just south of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills, on a shelf at Hema, proclaiming it to be from “an illegal Israeli colony” but the Tweet provoked a highly successful social media counter-campaign by Israeli-supporters. “It’s hilarious,” Esther Voet, the editor-in-chief of the NIW Dutch Jewish weekly told JTA. “Everybody started to buy Israeli wine.”

Iran Suffering Massive Flooding
The massive flooding affecting regions of both northern and southern Iran was threatening to reach the capital of Teheran on Tuesday, with President Hassan Rhouhani issuing a public plea for the military to step up its efforts to assist the civilian disaster response agencies which have been completely overwhelmed by the scope of the disaster. Recriminations have flared among Iran’s various governmental agencies even as tens of thousands of people have been displaced and at least 23 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the flooding.

Yad Vashem Announces New Campus
Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocoust Memorial and Remembrance museum announced this week that it has finalized plans to build a new “Shoah Heritage Campus” on the Mount of Remembrance, adjacent to its existing facilities. The campus will house the new Shoah Heritage Collections Center for the large number of documents and other pieces of historical evidence for the Holocaust, and other educational facilities. The project is estimated to cost $50 million and be completed by the end of 2021.

Storks Take a Rest in Israel on Their Way North
Tel Aviv University Scientist Daniel Berkovitch is among many observers currently watching and documenting the behavior of the hundreds of thousands of storks camping out in Dudaim park in the northern Negev, a stop on the migration routes north from Africa to Europe. “A stork arrived to the land of Israel with an African spear stuck in it in the 19th century, which is the first time it became apparent they fly here from Africa,” he explained recently to a group of fellow observers.

Today's video shows a recent panel discussion on Israel's relationship with Europe

Netanyahu Addresses AIPAC As Calm Returns to Gaza Border

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington by video Tuesday evening as a fragile calm returned to the Gaza border region. Telling the 18,000+ delegates in Washington that Israel destroyed “major Hamas terrorist installations on a scale not seen since the end of the military operation in Gaza four years ago,” Netanyahu assured them that the IDF would remain on high alert, even as the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Strip, has announced plans for large-scale border riots this Friday and Saturday.

Here is the video of Netanyahu’s full address to the Conference

Elsewhere, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov gave an address to the Security Council Tuesday, saying among other things “I ask you all today to join the United Nations in condemning the continued indiscriminate firing of rockets towards Israel. Such acts of provocation only dramatically increase the risk of escalation, and ultimately damage our collective efforts to support the people of Gaza and intra-Palestinian reconciliation. We must also call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint as the situation remains extremely tense.”

During his own statement to the Security Council, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon informed them that the rocket attack on Monday landed close to his own house, adding that “The international community must unequivocally condemn Hamas and recognize it as a terrorist organization. We will not accept a reality in which our children become targets of Hamas. The rocket was fired from a civilian area in Rafah, and sent to a civilian area in Israel. From start to finish, Hamas placed innocent people in the line of fire, making it guilty of a double war crime.”

Back in Gaza City, Hamas officials said that they and their colleagues in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia had agreed to an Egyptian demand that they cease rocket attacks on Israel for the time being.

In related news, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri made a press statement on Tuesday saying, among other things, that the terrorist group had what he described as “proof” that the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Force had cooperated with the IDF in its attacks against Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip in recent days. He added that the calls “reflect the filthy role the Palestinian Authority played in collaborating with the occupation in the war against our people.” A PA official denied the claims.

Southern Israel Bracing for More Rocket Attacks

A Hamas official was claiming on Tuesday that Iran ordered Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives to fire a rocket into central Israel on Monday, setting off a confrontation which saw Israeli aircraft launching over 100 strikes on terror infrastructure inside the Strip and dozens of rockets fired into southern Israeli communities. Reports of a cease-fire were being denied by Israeli officials Tuesday afternoon and residents of southern Israel were being told to remain close to bomb shelters as schools and many businesses, were closed. "The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible for all the goings on in and out of the Gaza Strip. The IDF is determined to carry out the task of protecting the citizens of Israel, and is prepared for various scenarios and intensifying its operations as necessary," the IDF said in a statement Tuesday morning.

Here is a video posted by the IDF about recent events


Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported interviewing several Palestinian residents of the Strip by telephone on Monday who blamed Hamas for the situation.

“A war with Israel will help Hamas divert attention from the growing anger towards its repressive measures,” said Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, a social worker from Gaza City. “The Hamas leaders are holding our people hostage. Most people here don’t want another war.”

Other people interviewed said Hamas was attempting to use hostilities with Israel to garner support against its rivals in the Palestinian Authority.

US Imposes Fresh Sanctions on Iranian Entities
The US slapped new sanctions on 31 Iranian scientists, technicians, and companies this week to punish them for participating in the Islamic Republics renegade nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that "Anyone considering dealing with the Iranian defense industry in general, and SPND in particular, risks professional, personal, and financial isolation." Meanwhile, the US signed an agreement this week with Oman to secure access to Duqm, a deep-water port near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which will allow the US Navy greater freedom of movement in the region.

Meanwhile, heavy floods in both the northern and southern provinces of Iran were being blamed for at least 23 fatalities and dozens of injuries this week along with hundreds of millions of dollars in property losses and other damages. Civilian relief agencies have reportedly been overwhelmed, leading the military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to move in and take direct control of some areas.

BDS Movement Suffers More Defeats
Alibaba Group, the e-commerce mega site, announced this week that it has purchased Ramat Gan-based start-up Infinity Augmented Reality in the latest defeat for efforts to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel. “Alibaba’s expertise in turning technologies into next generation products will be a great platform for the future technologies of computer vision, AR and AI,” said Motti Kushnir, CEO and cofounder of InfinityAR. In a similar development, US-based fast food giant McDonalds announced on Tuesday it is in the process of buying Israeli start-up Dynamic Yield in order to enhance it’s market-based research infrastructure.

Amnesty International Condemns Hamas Crackdown on Protests
Self-described “human rights” organization Amnesty International issued a report this week saying, among other things, that the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has been violently suppressing protests there and called upon the internationally recognized terrorist group to stop doing so. “The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels. Over the past few days, we have seen shocking human rights violations carried out by Hamas security forces against peaceful protesters, journalists and rights workers,” said Saleh Higazi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International.

“The Hamas de facto administration must immediately launch an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the unnecessary and excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture and other ill-treatment by security forces. Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspected perpetrators should be prosecuted in fair trials,” Higazi said.

Today's media is a podcast giving some analysis of US-Israel relations

Netanyahu Meets with Trump in Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on his way home Tuesday morning following a shortened trip to the US which included a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House. During their meeting, Trump signed an official document codifying America’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, despite fierce denunciations of the move from Russia, Turkey and several Arab governments, as well as Iran. During their joint press conference, Trump also declared his unwavering support for Israel’s defensive measures against rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Here are the videos from the meetings

However, close US ally Saudi Arabia, which has been quietly much friendlier to Israel in recent years, issued a scathing denunciation of the move on Tuesday. “It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region," a statement on Saudi Arabia's state news agency SPA said. Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait all issued milder statements, while Iranian leaders issued fiery statements describing it a sinister plot by America and Israel to violate international law and terrorize and dominate the Middle East.

Here is a podcast which gives some analysis of relations between Israel and the US

IDF Forces Brace for Violence on Northern Border

IDF and Israel Police units were deployed in and around the Golan Heights over the weekend amidst fears of unrest following last Thursday’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the territory by US President Donald Trump. In a Tweet, President Trump announced that “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” The move prompted sharp criticism from many governments around the world.

Here is a video of remarks by Israeli PM Netanyahu shortly after the announcement

Reports Indicate Germany Helping Iran Cheat on JCPOA
Reports emerged in various media outlets over the weekend that Germany has attempted to protect Iran from censure by keeping its investigations into attempts by agents of the Islamic Republic to purchase components for its renegade nuclear and ballistic missile programs in Europe. German officials were evasive and defensive in their response to media enquiries about the reports, with some analysts predicting that a major diplomatic row between Berlin and some of its most important allies is imminent.

In related news, reports out of Iran indicate massive flooding in the north of the country has led to evacuations of tens of thousands of residents of Golestan and Mazandaran provinces along the Caspian Sea. The military has been forced to respond to the disaster after civilian agencies were completely overwhelmed by the scope of the emergency. Also over the weekend, Iran was ranked 117th out of 156 countries in the “World Happiness Report” recently published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in conjunction with the Ernesto Illy Foundation.

Honduras and Romania to Open Embassies in Jerusalem
Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández and Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă both announced during speeches Sunday evening at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference that their governments would soon open diplomatic embassies to Israel in Jerusalem. Dăncilă added that “I am determined to contribute to closer relations between Israel and the entire European Union, particularly now, when Romania is holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union." The moves prompted mixed reactions from various world governments.

Beresheet Spacecraft Sends Another Selfie Back to Earth
Israeli spacecraft Beresheet took and posted another “selfie” over the weekend with the planet Earth in the background, this time from 265,000 km away, according to Space IL and Israel Aerospace Industries, which jointly launched the craft. Beresheet is scheduled to land on the Moon on 11 April. In other science news, Dr. Valentina Klymiuk of the University of Haifa was awarded the Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum (WIT) award on March 20 for her research into protecting wheat from yellow rust, a disease which causes massive crop losses around the world.

Israeli Athlete Wins Gold Medal in Qatar
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat over the weekend as Israeli gymnast Alexander Shatilov won the gold medal for the floor exercise during the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup series in Doha, Qater and Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel, was played at the medal ceremony. It was the first time the song was played respectfully at a public event in the Gulf Arab country. 

Israel Blesses the world
Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) approved a plan on Sunday to establish 26 new international undergraduate and master’s courses in English at several Israeli universities in order to attract more international students to the Jewish State. Most of the new degrees are in teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as well as entrepreneurship and innovation, cultural and religious aspects of Israel and the Middle East, agriculture, urban studies, environmental and natural resource studies, urban planning and design.

Rocket Attack on Center of Israel Prompts IDF Response

IDF combat units were being deployed to the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Monday afternoon following a rocket attack earlier in the morning that wounded seven people when it struck a private home in Moshav Mishmeret in central Israel. Hamas issued a statement saying the firing of the J-80 long range rocket was a mistake, but IDF Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told reporters that there would be a response, adding “The launch was carried out by Hamas from one of the group’s launchpads. We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens in Gaza.”

"I spoke to the IDF Chief of Staff, head of the Shin Bet and head of Intelligence and that he sees this as a criminal act against the State of Israel,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is returning to Israel early from what was supposed to be a four-day trip to the US for meetings with US President Donald Trump and an address to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC.

Some other Israeli officials appeared to cast blame for the crisis on the UN Human Rights Commission, which recently issued a report on the weekly riots along the Gaza border which accused Israel of war crimes for defending its border and barely mentioned the role Hamas and other terrorist groups have played in creating the situation.

Elsewhere, Israel received some diplomatic support from various quarters.

European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted, "Following with grave concern developments after a family home was destroyed in Moshav Mishmeret in central Israel by a rocket from Gaza. Wishing early recovery to those wounded. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians unacceptable."

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nahaleh issued a statement saying "we warn the enemy against any aggression on the Gaza Strip. Its leaders must understand that we will respond strongly to any aggression.”

Monday’s rocket attack came a day after rare night-time riots on the border ended with several rioters injured Saturday night and Sunday morning. Amidst the riots, the IDF struck two cells who were launching incendiary balloons into Israel from inside the Strip. In related news, two guards at Keziot Prison near Beersheba were stabbed by Hamas inmates Sunday evening, with one being evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in critical condition. Several Hamas inmates were also injured in the fracas and some were still hospitalized Monday morning.

Here is a video of the house hit by Monday morning’s rocket attack

Here is a video giving some commentary on the relations between the Palestinians and the Arab world

UK Laments Anti-Israel Hatefest at UNHRC

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt submitted an op-ed to The Jewish Chronicle newspaper this week in which he pledged to continue opposing the hurricane of anti-Israel resolutions currently being moved forward by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.  “We will continue to press for the abolition of Item 7, which only undermines the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum,” he wrote. “For too long, a permanent item on the Human Rights Council has been dedicated solely to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Instead of promoting reconciliation and compromise, Item 7 strengthens the narrative that one side alone holds a monopoly on fault." He added that he believes "this disproportionate and discriminatory focus on Israel undermines the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum and obstructs the quest for peace in the Middle East. That is why the UK will be opposing every Item 7 resolution at the HRC.” 

Here is a video giving some context to the situation

Israel Slips Two Places on ‘World Happiness Report’
Israel slipped two places from 11th to 13th on this year’s “World Happiness Report” published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in conjunction with the Ernesto Illy Foundation. The results of the survey relate to answers given by randomly selected Israelis in response to various questions about their satisfaction with various aspects of daily life from the availability of quality health care, entertainment, job security and many other things.

Fatah Glorifies Palestinian Terrorist
NGOs in Israel were reporting on Thursday that the official Facebook page of Fatah, the “moderate” Palestinian political faction led by ailing PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has posted several items glorifying the “martyrdom” of Omar Abu Laila, who murdered two Israelis in a stabbing and shooting attack at the Ariel Junction on Sunday. Palestinian Media Watch issued a statement that it “is surprised and disappointed that Facebook knowingly allows itself to continue to be an important platform for support of Palestinian terror.”

Israel Blesses the world
Prospera, an Israeli AgTech company, recently announced plans to partner with the US firm Valley to upgrade over 60,000 irrigation devices in several US states with artificial intelligence technology. The new devices will transfer precise amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides to crops, allowing farmers to drastically reduce costs and increase yields. The upgraded system, which will span approximately 9.6 million acres from Washington State to Nebraska, is scheduled to be fully operational by 2022.

Today's Video is about Purim in Israel

Pompeo in Israel for High-Level Meetings

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jerusalem on Wednesday for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on the sidelines of their regional summit. During extensive meetings with America’s top diplomat, Netanyahu and his regional colleagues discussed the opportunities for cooperation on energy exploration, trade and security, as well as the threats from regional instability and Iran.

“Last week we uncovered efforts by Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, to build up a terror network on the Golan Heights – and you can all imagine what would happen if we were not in the Golan,” Netanyahu said after his meeting with Pompeo. “We would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee…I think it is time for the international community to recognize Israel’s stay on the Golan – the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel.”

Here is the video of their full remarks to the press

Netanyahu, in his comments before the meeting with Tsipras and Anastasiades, declared his belief that the Eastern Mediterranean alliance is “one of the best regional associations in the world,” which his colleagues agreed with, adding their own reasons why they are eager to pursue closer relations with the Jewish State.

Here is the video of their joint press appearance

Election Rhetoric Heating Up Across Political Spectrum

Blue and White candidate for prime minister Benny Gantz gave interviews with different media outlets Tuesday evening in which he said, among other things, that he would “work to shape a new reality” between Israel and the Palestinians if he is elected on 9 April. However, he added that he didn’t believe there was any partner for peace among the Palestinian factions. “This is far away, unfortunately,” he told Channel 12 anchorwoman Yonit Levi. “There isn’t anyone to talk to.”

“I said that in the situation that was created, I cannot sit with Netanyahu,” he added during his interview with Channel 13 anchorwoman Tamar Ish-Shalom. “The situation has only gotten worse. I will not sit with Netanyahu. The only thing that could change that is if the situation changes in the [prime minister’s legal] hearing, and I unfortunately do not see that happening…I don’t know what happened to the man. The Netanyahu I see now is not the Netanyahu I knew.”

During another interview, he pointedly attacked Netanyahu over the issue of submarines which were purchased from a German shipyard for the Israeli Navy, prompting a response from Netanyahu during his own campaign visit to the West Bank community of Shiloh in which he said, “I have not received even one shekel from the submarine deal. The state attorney and attorney-general’s offices examined every detail of this matter and unequivocally determined that I am not suspected of anything – and that there was nothing wrong with my actions…I understand that [Blue and White leaders] Gantz and [Yair] Lapid are very stressed, to say the least, from Iran hacking Gantz’s phone – so they are trying to distract from it.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that they have such bad judgment,” the prime minister said. “Because they both supported the disastrous nuclear deal [between world powers and Iran], which I fought – and happily, together with President Trump, we see a change in direction in the US as well. But they didn’t understand that, and I think they don’t understand it to this day.”

Here is a video about Israel’s upcoming elections from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Security Forces on Alert Across West Bank

IDF forces on Tuesday evening tracked down Omar Abu Lila , the Palestinian terrorist who carried out a stabbing and shooting attack at Ariel Junction on Sunday, killing him after he fired on them as they approached the house in the West Bank village of Abwain where he was hiding. Also on Tuesday evening, a firebomb attack on Jewish worshippers near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus was repulsed by IDF troops guarding the worshippers, resulting in the deaths of two of the Palestinian attackers. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, “A number of explosives were hurled from a vehicle at Israeli army forces that were securing the entrance of worshipers at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus…as a result the two terrorists were killed, there were no casualties to our forces.”

On Wednesday morning, a stolen car being driven by a Palestinian driver towards a checkpoint near Jerusalem hit and severely injured a border police officer. The driver fled on foot and at press time had not been apprehended. Later on Wednesday, Israeli vehicles near Ariel were targeted by rock throwing youths.

Hungary Opens Diplomatic Mission in Jerusalem
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in Jerusalem on Tuesday to preside over a ceremony to open a diplomatic trade mission in the city linked to his government’s embassy in Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “the first European diplomatic mission opened in Jerusalem in many decades” which is important “for trade, for diplomacy and for the movement Hungary is leading right now to change the attitude in Europe toward Jerusalem.”

Here is the video from the launch of the mission

Israel’s Technological Accomplishments Shine
Israel’s technological prowess was on display Tuesday as the Beresheet spacecraft, currently in high orbit around the Earth, successfully  performed procedures in preparation for its scheduled landing on the Moon on 4 April. Closer to the surface of the planet, the David’s Sling medium-range air defence system, jointly developed by teams from Israel and the US, carried out several sucesful tests on Tuesday in the southern Negev desert. “The Defense Ministry, in cooperation with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), successfully completed a series of interception tests on David’s Sling weapons system,” the Defence Ministry said, adding that “The success of the series constitutes an important milestone in the State of Israel’s ability to defend itself against existing and future threats in the arena.”

Today’s video gives a glimpse at families in the IDF


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