update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Netanyahu convenes top security chiefs amid elevated threats

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar were among those consulted.

From left: Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visit the IAF control center, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
From left: Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visit the IAF control center, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday held a high-ranking security consultation amid ongoing terrorist threats from Judea and Samaria and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and as Iran presses forward with its nuclear program.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Ronen Bar were among those attending the meeting.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was conspicuously absent, with Ynet reporting that he was purposely excluded.

“He comes to meetings and constantly strives for targeted assassinations, a ban on bringing in workers from Gaza and various closures on all kinds of villages and cities in Judea and Samaria,” a source told the publication.

“He does not understand that with such a policy, the prime minister cannot fly anywhere and he certainly will not be granted receptions around the world,” added the source.

The meeting comes amid heightened tensions on Israel’s borders to the north, east and west.

Gazans had until last week staged near-daily riots along the frontier, targeting Israeli forces with explosive devices and gunfire, renewing the launch of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory and setting fire to tires on the border.

Israeli authorities on Thursday reopened the Erez Crossing, the Jewish state’s sole pedestrian crossing with the Palestinian enclave, after terrorist groups agreed to temporarily halt the rioting.

The Israeli Defense Ministry body that oversees the coordination of civil affairs in Palestinian-controlled territories said that the decision was made “in accordance with security assessments and with [a view to] the preservation of stable security.”

The Hamas-affiliated Revolutionary Youth group on Sunday announced that it would resume the violence. In a statement, the group said it would “expand the scope of the confrontation and add fuel to the fire, and ignite our eastern borders with flames and the blast of our bombs.”

The group subsequently retracted its call, saying it would instead still “closely monitor” the “Zionist enemy.”

Some 17,000 Gazans have permits to enter Israel through the Erez Crossing for work.

Also last week, Israel bolstered its forces on the country’s northern border after a Lebanese “engineering vehicle” strayed a few meters into Israeli territory.

IDF troops fired stun and smoke grenades after Lebanese “engineering equipment” penetrated about 2 meters over the Blue Line into the Mount Dov area, the military said in a statement. No Lebanese troops crossed the demarcation line and the vehicle returned to Lebanese territory.

U.N. cartographers created the Blue Line demarcating the 120-kilometer (75-mile) border in 2000 to verify Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, which the U.N. Security Council later certified as complete. The border runs from Rosh Hanikra on the Mediterranean coast to Mount Dov, where the Israeli-Lebanese border converges with Syria.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization does not recognize the Blue Line and disputes numerous points along the border.

In July, the IDF revealed that armed Hezbollah terrorists were spotted patrolling the border in clear violation of a binding U.N. resolution. Two months ago, the IDF foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to damage the border fence.

In early April, Hezbollah pitched two tents a few meters on the Israeli side of the Blue Line. The position, located across from an IDF post, was reportedly manned by three to eight armed terrorists.

On March 15, a terrorist who infiltrated Israel from Lebanon planted a roadside bomb that severely wounded a motorist. Shareef ad-Din, 21, from the Israeli Arab town of Salem, was wounded when the explosive device detonated behind a road barrier near the Megiddo Junction, some 18 miles southeast of Haifa.

Judea and Samaria

Tensions also remain high in Judea and Samaria in the wake of relentless Palestinian terrorism, which Netanyahu and Gallant have charged the Islamic Republic of Iran with orchestrating.

On Wednesday, the Shin Bet announced that Israeli forces had caught a Tehran-sponsored terrorist cell plotting to carry out attacks in the Jewish state, including assassinating Ben-Gvir.

Last month, Mossad Director David Barnea said that the agency, in cooperation with international allies, had so far this year foiled 27 plots by Iran to murder Israelis and Jews outside the borders of the Jewish state.

“The plots being pursued by these [terrorist] teams were orchestrated, masterminded and directed by Iran,” he said, noting that the plots took place “all over the world,” including “in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense on Friday released a report warning that Iran has the infrastructure in place and the know-how to make a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks.

“It is assessed that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program at
this time, but has the capacity to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear device in less than two weeks,” said the 2023 Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction report, which outlines Washington’s strategic approach to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction globally.

Sunday’s security meeting also comes as Israel is considering making concessions as part of a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia.

On Friday, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Jerusalem and Riyadh have “hammered out” the contours of a possible American-mediated deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Netanyahu instructed his country’s leading nuclear and security specialists to work with U.S. negotiators to find a compromise that lets Saudi Arabia enrich uranium.

Israeli officials are “quietly working” with the White House to develop a “U.S.-run uranium-enrichment operation” in Saudi Arabia for a civilian nuclear program, a key condition of the kingdom for accepting a normalization agreement with Israel, officials from both countries told the Journal.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said that bringing the Sunni kingdom into the Abraham Accords would constitute a “quantum leap” for peace in the Middle East.

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