OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox at the Western Wall during the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, March 15, 2024. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
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IDF Central Command head to leave army in August
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Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox's policies have been criticized by supporters of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
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Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, head of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, which covers Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, the Sharon plain, Gush Dan (the Tel Aviv metropolitan area) and the Shephelah (the Judaean Foothills), will leave his post after three years and retire from the army.

Fox, who turned 55 on April 10, informed IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi that he intends to return to civilian life this summer. Fox attributed his decision to fatigue and the sense that he had nothing more to contribute to the security establishment.

He previously served as the Israeli defense attaché to the U.S., assuming the Central Command post in August 2021 under the government of then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Over the past years, Fox's policies in Judea and Samaria have regularly been criticized by Israeli residents, right-wing activists and politicians.

Judea and Samaria saw a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks in recent months, with shootings reaching their highest level since the Second Intifada of 2000-05, according to IDF data.

Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 15 alone, Hatzalah Judea and Samaria recorded more than 2,600 terrorist attacks against Israelis in the area, including 760 cases of rock-throwing, 551 fire bombings, 12 attempted or successful stabbings and nine vehicular assaults.

However, Fox repeatedly refused government and public calls to restore security checkpoints and roadblocks near Palestinian terrorist hotspots in the Jordan Valley and northern Samaria, critics charged.

Last year, Israel Hayom claimed he unilaterally undercut government policy by reducing the personnel tasked with the enforcement of Palestinian construction violations.

Earlier this year, Fox ordered the destruction of six Jewish homes in eastern Gush Etzion. He bypassed regular procedure in ordering the demolitions, taking the issue directly to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

In the wake of Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks, Judea and Samaria residents formed a protest group in response to Fox's decision to green-light Palestinian olive harvesting close to Israeli communities, even after several Arabs were caught observing security procedures.

Tensions reached a boiling point in February when IDF soldiers were ordered to conduct a training exercise that included a scenario simulating the kidnapping of Palestinian Arabs by Jewish residents of Samaria.

In a conversation with council leaders and local officials, Fox subsequently apologized to "anyone who was harmed."

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The Jewish state has no truer friend than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the visiting U.S. lawmaker during a tête-à-tête at his office in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

"We have no better friend, and I mean it, than Senator Lindsey Graham," Netanyahu said, according to a Prime Minister's Office readout.

According to the PMO, Netanyahu thanked Graham for his unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, as well as his "strong stand against the scandalous accusations against Israel by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoheItAmv0A

The South Carolina Republican touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday for his fifth visit since Hamas's Oct. 7 massacre.

Graham told Netanyahu that the past seven-plus months have been "one of the most challenging times for the State of Israel since its founding. There are so many problems and challenges to overcome, but one of the problems you never have to worry about is America.

"I promise you that we will do all we can, Mr. Prime Minister, to hold the ICC account for this outrage against the people of Israel," he vowed.

Meanwhile, Graham described the International Court of Justice, which last week ordered the Israel Defense Forces to limit the scope of its operation in the Gaza Hamas stronghold of Rafah, as a "joke."

"The head judge of the ICJ is a raving antisemite," he said of Nawaf Salam, the Lebanese diplomat who presides over the world court.

Following his arrival on Tuesday, Graham joined Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana to see some of the ballistic missiles that the Iranian regime fired into Israel last month and visit the site of Hamas attacks.

"This rocket behind us is just the latest example of how the Ayatollah's terror regime threatens world peace & destabilizes the Middle East," tweeted Ohana, adding that with Tehran racing towards anuclear bombs, "the free world is fortunate to have champions" like Graham.

https://twitter.com/AmirOhana/status/1795463243370025288

The senator on Tuesday also met in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who thanked the American for his "unwavering support for Israel as we fight to bring home 125 hostages, destroy the Hamas terrorist organization and defend Israel's northern border."

During a previous visit in March, Graham expressed support for destroying the remaining Hamas battalions in Gaza, including in Rafah.

"If these battalions are still standing when this is over, it would be the biggest mistake, maybe in history," the he said. "I'll say it again. If these battalions are still standing after the murder of the Jewish people, it would be the biggest mistake in history. Iran would celebrate."

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El Al Airlines on Wednesday announced a record profit of over $80 million in the first quarter of the year.

The unprecedented number for Israel’s national carrier comes at a time when many international airlines have suspended service to Tel Aviv in the wake of the nearly eight-month-old war against Hamas in Gaza, and amid complaints of price gouging that has sent airfares soaring.

By comparison, the company posted net loss of nearly $35 million in the corresponding quarter last year.

El Al accounted for 62% of the passenger traffic at Ben Gurion Airport in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Israel Airports Authority, compared with 22% in the first quarter of 2023.

Over the Passover holiday, traditionally a high tourism season, El AL was only the carrier to offer trans-Atlantic flights to the United States, after United suspended service anew in the wake of Iran's April 13 attack on Israel.

Both the Chicago-based United and the Atlanta-based Delta are slated to resume nonstop service to Tel Aviv next month. American Airlines is only expected to renew flights to Israel in the fall.

The Israeli airline forecasts that the second quarter of 2024 will be even stronger.

"In light of the instability in aviation in Israel and the increasing pressures on our flights, we continue to work intensively to increase the supply of seats and strengthen flight schedules, while providing individual responses to specific cases," said El Al CEO Dina Ben-Tal Ganancia. "We are doing everything in our power to provide an adequate response to the high demands and unusual loads on the company's service system, at a time when some of our staff are still serving in reserve duty and the company is operating on a war routine."

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Israel's Knesset on Wednesday passed in preliminary reading a bill designating the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a terrorist organization.

The draft legislation, initiated by Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker Yulia Malinovsky, would require Jerusalem to sever all ties with the U.N. agency.

If passed into law, the bill “will allow for a complete dissociation from the agency—no cooperation, no trade, nothing,” Malinovsky told JNS.

“For years this organization has been cooperating with Hamas, and on October 7 even actively participated in the murder, kidnapping and rape of Israeli citizens,” she said. “Today was the first step on the way to completing the legislation so that UNRWA is finally outlawed and defined as a terrorist organization,” she added.

Also passed in preliminary reading on Wednesday was a bill initiated by Likud MK Dan Illouz that seeks to strip UNRWA of various immunities, involving among other things taxation, imports and exports and lawsuits.

"This is an essential law for our national security. After October 7, we cannot continue as if nothing happened," Illouz told JNS. "We cannot allow the terror supporting organization UNRWA to operate against us. We are fighting for our security and our future and UNRWA cannot pretend to be a humanitarian entity while harming us. That ends today."

After the bills were passed, Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman tweeted: “UNRWA is a terrorist organization.” He praised Malinovsky for “leading the important initiative to legislate a law to define UNRWA as a terrorist organization. ”

He called on “all the Zionist factions in the Knesset to act together with us" to pass it into law "as soon as possible.”

UNRWA has come under fire since the start of the war on Oct. 7 for its terror ties.

In February, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told journalists that 30 UNRWA employees had participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, and that 1,468 of the agency’s 13,000 staff members in Gaza were members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He also shared the names and photos of 12 UNRWA employees Israel had accused in January of taking part in the massacre.

In January, a comprehensive report published by U.N. Watch revealed the existence of a Telegram group for UNRWA teachers in Gaza in which many glorified the massacre and advocated the execution of Israeli hostages.

“This is the motherlode of UNRWA teachers’ incitement to jihadi terrorism,” said U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer at the time.

Per the Knesset's legislative processes, the two bills will now be assigned to committees, where their details will be ironed out prior to first, second and third readings.

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The war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip will last at least until the end of the year, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi declared on Wednesday.

"We expect another seven months of fighting in order to deepen the accomplishments and achieve what we have defined as 'the destruction of the governmental and military capabilities of Hamas,'" said Hanegbi.

The former Cabinet minster stressed that Jerusalem has no choice but to act in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah and stop Hamas from smuggling weapons, funds and terrorists into the Strip from Egypt's Sinai.

"No one will volunteer to look after us, and we will have to look after ourselves," Hanegbi said in the interview with Kan Reshet Bet radio.

Both Egypt and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority have rejected Israeli proposals to reopen the Rafah Border Crossing and manage its operation jointly.

Israeli ground forces entered Gaza on Oct. 27 following weeks of airstrikes in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, wounded thousands more, and abducted more than 250 men, women and children to Gaza.

The IDF took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing on May 7. A day earlier, Israel's War Cabinet decided unanimously to "continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to promote the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war."

The Rafah operation, which Israel estimates will last around two months, is being carried out in phases as opposed to a full-scale invasion. The phased nature of the operation allows for it to be paused should a hostage release deal be reached between Israel and Hamas.

Commenting on Jerusalem's efforts to bring about a deal to release the remaining 125 hostages held in Gaza, Hanegbi stressed on Wednesday that "the prime minister, the minister of defense, and the Cabinet unanimously approved activities that carried the risk of casualties."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also "expanded the scope of the [negotiation] mandate; Israel had to erode its position so much that the Americans now say that the Israeli offer is very generous," he said.

Hanegbi added, "We meet with the families [of those held in Gaza] and talk to them. It's a nightmare that you can't even imagine. It's hard for us to understand the intensity of the nightmare that the families are experiencing. There are 125 people we need to bring home. We deal with this every day."

Israel's War Cabinet has approved updated guidelines for its negotiation team, and a delegation led by Mossad head David Barnea returned from Paris Saturday, where they agreed with counterparts to resume talks.

In December, Hanegbi warned that a war with the Hezbollah terrorist group in Southern Lebanon was likely after the defeat of Hamas in Gaza.

"We can no longer accept [Hezbollah's elite] Radwan Force sitting on the border. We can no longer accept [U.N.] Resolution 1701 not being implemented,” he added, referring to the 2006 Security Council resolution that bars the Iranian terrorist proxy from maintaining a presence south of the Litani River, which is located some 18 miles north of Israel.

Over 60,000 Israelis from more than 40 communities located within 6.2 miles of the Lebanese border have been internally displaced since Hezbollah joined the war in support of Hamas on Oct. 8.

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The precision weapon Israel used in Sunday night's Rafah strike was designed and manufactured in the United States, according to investigations by CNN and The New York Times, the results of which were published on Wednesday.

Two senior Hamas terrorists responsible for Judea and Samaria terror operations were killed in the precision strike on a compound in Tal as-Sultan in northwest Rafah. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, dozens of noncombatants were killed and wounded.

Both news outlets analyzed video footage of munition debris from the scene of the attack, determining that the fragments belonged to a GBU-39 bomb, a 250-pound precision-guided glide bomb made by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, which carries around 37 pounds of AFX-757 high explosive.

According to the Times, U.S. officials have been urging Israel to increase use of the GBU-39 bombs in Gaza because they can reduce civilian casualties, being more precise and better adapted to urban environments than larger bombs such as the 2,000-pound bombs that Israel also uses but that President Joe Biden said earlier this month he was pausing delivery of to the Jewish state.

“The Israelis have said they used 37-pound bombs,” U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday. “If it is in fact what they used, it is certainly indicative of an effort to be discreet and targeted and precise.”

Kirby also said said the press briefing that the Biden administration has made no policy changes in the wake of Rafah strike, noting that the investigation into the incident was ongoing.

“As a result of this strike on Sunday, I have no policy changes to speak to. It just happened,” Kirby told reporters. “The Israelis are going to investigate it. We’re going to be taking great interest in what they find in that investigation. And we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Israeli officials reportedly told the Biden administration that shrapnel may have ignited a fuel tank, starting a fire that engulfed tents housing displaced Gazans.

On Tuesday afternoon, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters that “our munition alone could not have ignited a fire this size. … We used the smallest munition that our jets can use.

“The fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended. This was a devastating incident that we did not expect. We’re investigating what caused this fire,” Hagari said, stressing that the strike targeted a “closed” terrorist structure almost a mile from the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone.

“There may have been weapons in the area. Our signals intelligence intercepted phone calls reinforcing this possibility that weapons stored in a nearby compound caught fire,” said Hagari.

He assured reporters that the “investigation will be swift, comprehensive and transparent. Our war is against Hamas, not the people of Gaza. This is why we convey deep sorrow over this loss of life.”

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Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urged immediate action on Wednesday after Palestinian terrorists fired on central Israel from northern Samaria for the second time this week.

"The terrorists in Judea and Samaria must be fought as in the Gaza Strip. They must not be allowed to do what they did on the seventh of October in the Gaza Envelope in the Sharon region," tweeted Smotrich, who oversees civilian issues in Judea and Samaria in the Defense Ministry.

"Terrorism must be eradicated everywhere, even if it means Tulkarem will look like Gaza looks today," he added.

On Monday, Hamas published footage of masked gunmen opening fire with automatic weapons at Bat Hefer, an Israeli village east of Netanya that borders the Green Line with Samaria.

A second attack on Bat Hefer took place on Wednesday morning, Israel's Kan News public broadcaster reported, adding that neither shooting caused any casualties. In the latest footage, three terrorists wearing full combat gear can be seen firing at the town.

https://twitter.com/carmeldangor/status/1795703157210890686

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that troops were searching the area, adding that "impacts have thus far not been identified" and that forces are "working to locate those who perpetrated the gunfire."

Smotrich said that he had spoken with Galit Shaul, the head of the Hefer Valley Regional Council, and that the two had agreed to meet "to address the immediate needs as a result of the worsening threat to the residents."

"Once again, we received a reminder this morning that those who consent to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land [of Israel] will bring existential danger to the State of Israel," said Smotrich.

Shaul also sent a letter to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday urging an emergency meeting on the situation, according to local media reports.

Gideon Sa'ar, who leads the New Hope Party, stated that the repeated gunfire at Bat Hefer was "intolerable and necessitates immediate and effective treatment" and urged the "failed" War Cabinet to "wake up."

Also on Monday, some 30 Palestinians advanced toward Bat Hefer after they managed to climb over the Samaria security fence near Tulkarem, local media reported. Security camera footage showed the infiltrators climbing the wall using a rope and entering vehicles on the other side.

Judea and Samaria saw a dramatic rise in Palestinian terrorist attacks in 2023 compared to the previous year, with shootings reaching their highest level since the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005, according to IDF data.

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Visiting Israel after the Oct. 7 atrocities "was the most powerful experience of my life," American Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld said in an interview with journalist Bari Weiss released on Tuesday.

The 70-year-old Brooklynite became visibly emotional during that segment of the sit-down talk in Southern California, struggling to speak about his experiences during his December solidarity trip to the Jewish state, in which he toured Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the Gaza border communities whose residents were murdered during Hamas’s onslaught on the northwestern Negev.

On the trip with his wife, Jessica Sklar, Seinfeld met freed hostages and survivors of the Oct. 7 massacre.

Asked by Weiss if he was thinking of someone in particular, Seinfeld nodded his head in the affirmative as his eyes watered, apologizing for getting choked up while taking out a tissue.

https://twitter.com/thehonestlypod/status/1795426388767592698

The 30-minute interview was for "Honestly with Bari Weiss" from The Free Press.

They also discussed Seinfeld's experiences of being hounded by anti-Israel protesters several times since Oct. 7, including students marching out while chanting "Free, free Palestine" before he received an honorary degree during Duke University's commencement celebration earlier this month.

The comedian said that he loved that the young people are trying to get engaged with politics by expressing an intense rage but that "it is so silly," saying that "they are a little off target" and "we have to correct their aim a little bit."

"They don't seem to understand that as comedians we really don't control anything."

Seinfeld expressed support for Israel a few days after the Oct. 7 massacre, writing on his Instagram account that he has “loved the Jewish homeland” since working at Kibbutz Sa’ar in the Western Galilee at the age of 16.

“My heart is breaking from these attacks and atrocities. But we are also a very strong people in our hearts and minds. We believe in justice, freedom and equality. We survive and flourish no matter what. I will always stand with Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.

Watch the full interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXAvkqXD-Fc

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The Israeli Cabinet approved a plan on Monday to officially commemorate Jews murdered in antisemitic attacks in the Diaspora.

Amichai Chikli, minister for Diaspora affairs and combating antisemitism, proposed the move, which is aimed at strengthening Jewish identity and fostering solidarity between the Jewish people and the State of Israel. 

“Hostile actions often target the Jewish people, both within our borders and across the sea,” said Chikli on Monday.

“The October 7 massacre and the Iron Swords War were launched against Israel for one reason: hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel. This is also the sole reason our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora suffer from severe and appalling antisemitic events,” he continued. 

The decision comes amid a wave of antisemitic violence worldwide partially triggered by Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. 

The initiative is part of the “The Ruderman Roadmap," strategic guidelines devised by the Ruderman Family Foundation to formally outline and codify the Israeli government's responsibility to Diaspora Jewry.

“This is a courageous government decision that strengthens the bond of shared destiny between Israel and the Jewish world, which has become more evident than ever since October 7,” said Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

“This is a historic day where the State of Israel has proven that only through our unity as a people and the mutual responsibility between us can we ensure security," she added. 

In May 2023, the Cabinet approved preliminary resolution 492 in light of "the need and moral obligation to commemorate the Diaspora Jews who are not citizens of Israel, who were murdered due to their Jewishness in antisemitic hostile acts in the Diaspora, and in order to promote this commemoration."

Among the initial recommendations made was to mark the commemoration of the Fallen in the Diaspora as part of a ceremony on Memorial Day; establish a designated state monument to commemorate the Fallen in the Diaspora; and make information about the Fallen in the Diaspora accessible through an open and available digital database.

“Israel’s official recognition for the victims of antisemitic violence is an important and necessary step—a step that implements the state’s commitment under the law, which stipulates that ‘the state will ensure the safety of the Jewish people and their citizens who are in distress and captivity because of their Judaism or citizenship,” said Chikli on Monday.

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  • Words count:
    641 words
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  • Publication Date:
    May 29, 2024

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday dismissed a media investigation alleging that Israel had "run an almost decade-long secret 'war'" against the International Criminal Court.

According to two articles published by Britain's The Guardian on Tuesday, Israel spied, hacked and intimidated the ICC for the past nine years with the aim of preventing the court from opening a war crimes investigation against it.

“The questions forwarded to us are replete with many false and unfounded allegations meant to hurt the State of Israel,” the PMO told JNS.

The first article claims that Yossi Cohen, while serving as Mossad chief, threatened then-ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The events allegedly took place in the years leading up to her February 2021 decision to investigate Israel for war crimes.

According to the Guardian, Cohen made veiled threats against Bensouda's family. “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family,” he allegedly told Bensouda.

The report is based on interviews with anonymous Israeli and ICC sources. One claimed Cohen was acting as an "unofficial messenger" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Some of the accusations appear to be based more on innuendo than evidence, with two sources referring to "suspicions" among ICC officials that Israel had "cultivated sources" within the ICC prosecutor's office.

"Another later recalled that although the Mossad 'didn’t leave its signature,' it was an assumption the agency was behind some of the activity officials had been made aware of," The Guardian reported.

The second article accused Israel of deploying its intelligence services "to surveil, hack, pressure, smear and allegedly threaten senior ICC staff in an effort to derail the court’s inquiries."

Israeli intelligence allegedly intercepted ICC officials' communications, including the "phone calls, messages, emails and documents" of numerous ICC officials, including those of Bensouda and current ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, the report stated.

The surveillance has been ongoing in recent months, the report claimed, adding that Netanyahu was “obsessed” with the Israeli intercepts.

According to the Guardian the intercepts were collected by the Israel Security Agency, Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate and Unit 8200, the army's signals intelligence unit.

The Israeli military flatly denied the accusations, telling JNS that “the IDF did not and does not conduct surveillance or other intelligence operations against the ICC.”

The Guardian report was part of an investigation conducted in cooperation with Israeli-Arab publication +972 Magazine and Hebrew language news site Local Call.

The report suggests that Israel's alleged efforts to derail the ICC were what Khan was referring to when, during his May 20 announcement that he would seek arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, he said, “I insist that all attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence the officials of this court must cease immediately.”

He also referred to a clause in the court’s treaty that makes any such interference a criminal offense, warning that if it continued, “My office will not hesitate to act."

While the Guardian accuses Israel of resorting to mob-like behavior, Avi Bell, a law professor at the University of San Diego and at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS that it's Khan who is "acting like a mafia boss."

"He said that somebody who threatens our work should understand that we have authority under Article 70 of the Rome Statute to arrest you. I think that in itself is a crime," said Bell.

"He is trying to influence the decisions of leaders in democratic countries with threats of false imprisonment. That in itself is worthy of a criminal indictment," he stressed, noting that this kind of extortion is a criminal offense in both the United States and Israel.

"That's very, very serious business. So I think that there is room for sanctions against the ICC prosecutor," he added.

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