Weekly roundup of world briefs


February 25, 2022

‘F— Jews’ sprayed outside Israeli restaurant on Upper West Side

By Lisa Keys

(New York Jewish Week via JTA) — A recently opened Israeli restaurant on the Upper West Side has been vandalized with vulgar, antisemitic graffiti.

On Thursday morning, staffers arrived at Miriam, an Israeli eatery on Amsterdam Ave. and 74th St. that opened on Jan. 24, to find the words “F— Jews” spray-painted three times on its outdoor dining shed.

According to Patch, the NYPD arrived on the scene around 12:20 p.m. and began the process to remove the hateful scrawl. An officer said they were investigating the incident a hate crime, but did not provide additional details, the news site reported.

Local politicians, meanwhile, took to Twitter to condemn the incident.

“My constituents woke up to hateful & disgusting antisemitic graffiti outside the Upper West Side’s new restaurant Miriam on West 74th Street and Amsterdam,” New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, wrote. “I encourage our neighbors to support Miriam.”

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who shared a photograph of the vandalism on his Twitter account, called the incident “disgusting.” “We must condemn this hatred everywhere it emerges,” he wrote. “We can’t accept this as normal.”

This latest anti-Jewish incident occurred as Mayor Eric Adams was scheduled to host a closed-door roundtable Thursday to address the rise of antisemitic incidents across the city.

As The New York Jewish Week reported last week, antisemitic incidents have spiked dramatically so far in 2022. The NYPD hate crimes unit reported 22 hate crimes against Jewish people from Jan. 1 through the first week of February, compared to eight in the same time period last year.

Israeli company Xtend unveils second generation of its VR-controlled drone

(JNS) — The Israeli company Xtend, which specializes in human-guided autonomous drones for use by militaries and law enforcement, unveiled its second-generation indoor drone on Thursday, called Xtender.

According to a company statement, Extender is a “revolutionary micro-tactical Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance platform, with built-in resilient indoor-outdoor navigation and AI capabilities,” enabling the remote completion of missions.

Powered by the “Skylord” operating system, the Xtender features virtual reality and augmented reality, and is controlled by an operator with a headset, “bringing the metaverse to the modern battlefield.”

The statement said that “the new generation of the Xtender enables multiple drones to enter a remote target site carrying various payloads, perform the required tasks with extreme precision and seamless exit, regardless of any indoor-outdoor transition limitations or GNSS [GPS]-denied locations.”

“Having deployed UAS [unmanned aerial systems] in combat for 20 years, we are excited about Xtender because, for the first time, forces can now carry out indoor missions without approaching the combat arena and without putting themselves at risk,” said Steve Ball, sales operations manager of Xtend.

In 2020, the Israeli Defense Ministry said Xtend’s Skylord mini-UAV was being developed in conjunction with the Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development, and the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office of the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Following a year of research-and-development and trials, the CTTSO is currently testing and validating the system’s capabilities in the field, meaning that U.S. soldiers will receive dozens of Skylord systems,” the ministry said at the time.

Skylord was field-tested by the Israel Defense Forces on the Gaza-Israel border and used to intercept incendiary balloons and kites flown by operatives acting on behalf of Hamas.

France to pull out forces out of Mali after nearly a decade

(JNS) — France announced that it was withdrawing its troops from Mali on Thursday after nearly a decade-long deployment to the country to fight radical Islamic terrorist groups.

“We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, reported AFP.

The country will remove 2,400 soldiers and other European nations also said they would remove several hundred soldiers in the smaller European Takuba force that was established in 2020.

According to the report, a breakdown in relations between France and the ruling regime, which informed that Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group arrived, led to the withdrawal. Other concerns revolved around Mali’s growing ties with Russia.

France sent soldiers to its former colony in 2013 to help fight back jihadists.

“What would have happened in 2013 if France had not chosen to intervene?” posed Macros. “You would for sure have had the collapse of the Malian state.”

He further noted that French soldiers had killed local Al-Qaeda and ISIS terror group leaders.

Shin Bet arrests Hamas operative who entered Israel for medical treatment

(JNS) — The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), together with the Israel Police, announced on Thursday that they had arrested a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip at the end of January who entered Israel with a medical-treatment permit and who “later exploited this in order to illegally remain in Israel.”

The suspect, 27, was recruited to Hamas’s military wing in 2009, according to the statement, and took part in training and military activity against the State of Israel, including activity for Hamas’s secret apparatus (the General Security Unit).

“His activity in Hamas and the extensive knowledge to which he was exposed led to a unique investigation that uncovered much intelligence on Hamas, including, among other things, tunnel locations, weapons storage locations and other military locations from which the organization operates,” said the Shin Bet.

The investigation further revealed that the suspect exploited his time in Israel to transfer intelligence to his commanders in Hamas, as well as made unsuccessful attempts to recruit additional members for Hamas.

The material has been transferred to Southern District Prosecutors, who in the coming days are expected to charge the suspect at the Beersheva District Court.

The Shin Bet said the investigation unveils the latest cynical attempt by Hamas to exploit humanitarian approvals given by Israel to Gazan residents in order to promote terrorist 

Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky to build first four of Israel’s 12 new transport helicopters

(JNS) — Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky announced on Wednesday that it will begin building the first four of Israel’s 12 new CH-53K transport helicopters under a U.S. Navy Foreign Military Sales agreement.

“This production announcement is for the first four of 12 aircraft for Israel and is on the heels of a contract to produce nine more aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps,” the company said in a statement. “The signed letter of offer and acceptance (Letter of Agreement) between the U.S. government and Israel states first deliveries of the baseline aircraft are planned for 2025,” it said.

The CH-53Ks will replace the Israeli Air Force fleet of modified CH-53D Yasur helicopters, which have been in Israel’s inventory for more than 50 years.

“The all-new CH-53K delivers modern state-of-the-art capabilities that result in improved survivability, safety and reduced aircrew workload over its predecessor, making it the perfect fit for the demanding IAF mission,” said Lockheed Martin.

“We are building on decades of experience and partnership in supporting the CH-53E for the Marine Corps and the CH53D for the IAF,” said Paul Lemmo, president of the Sikorsky company. “We are committed to providing training and sustainment support to ensure a smooth entry into service for the IAF.”

The aircraft will be manufactured at Sikorsky headquarters in Stratford, Conn.

On Dec. 31, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced the signing of a letter of agreement to purchase the 12 new helicopters from Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky, as well as two Boeing KC-46 refueling planes.

“These procurement agreements are significant milestones in the IDF’s force buildup processes. We continue to strengthen our capabilities and to change and adapt our Air Force to face future challenges both near and far,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at the time.

Israeli GDP grew by 8.1 percent in 2021, says Central Bureau of Statistics

(JNS) — Israel’s Gross Domestic Product grew by 8.1 percent, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday, according to a report by Globes. The figure represents a higher number than the growth forecast generated by the Bank of Israel for 2021, which was 7.5 percent.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Israel’s GDP grew by an extraordinary 16.6 percent, said the report.

“After seasonal adjustments, Israel’s GDP grew 16.6 percent on an annualized basis in the fourth quarter of 2021, after growing at only 2.4 percent in the third quarter,” it stated.

The national GDP had shrunk by 2.2 percent in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Israel’s population grew by 1.7 percent in 2021, so that GDP per capita grew by 6.3 percent after shrinking by 3.9 percent in 2020,” the report noted.

In countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes Israel, the average GDP per capita rose by 5 percent.

“Imports of goods and services in 2021 rose 18.7 percent after falling 9.5 percent in 2020,” said the report, while “private consumption in Israel rose 11.7 percent in 2021, after falling 9.2 percent in 2020. Private consumption per capita in 2021, rose 9.9 percent, very close to the Bank of Israel forecast of 10 percent.”

Massachusetts man gets five-year sentence for putting lit firebomb near senior facility

(JNS) — A man was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of supervised release for placing a lit firebomb outside a Jewish nursing home in Longmeadow, Mass., and for lying to the FBI about where he was on the day of the bombing attempt.

A U.S. District Court in Springfield also ordered John Rathbun, 37, of East Longmeadow to not enter the complex of the Jewish Geriatric Services Lifecare, Inc., for any reason, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

“Mr. Rathbun’s hate-filled and ruthless actions put the entire Longmeadow community at risk,” said U.S. attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “[This] sentence sends a powerful message that hate and bigotry have no place in Massachusetts. Everyone deserves to live free of fear and authentically and fully as themselves.”

On April 2, 2020, Rathbun assembled, placed and lit a homemade firebomb at the entrance of the Jewish-sponsored assisted-living facility. The bomb was a five-gallon canister of gasoline with a wick made of pages from a Christian pamphlet. Rathbun’s DNA was found on the canister and pamphlet.

No one was injured in the incident.

Days later, Rathbun falsely told an FBI agent that he was at home on the day of the bombing attempt, was not familiar with the location of the senior care facility, and that he did not own or even see the fuel canister.

He was convicted by a federal jury in June 2021 of two charges related to the crime. He was also convicted in November 2020 by another federal jury for lying to the FBI.

“There is no way to undo the damage John Rathbun did to the elderly residents of this Jewish assisted living facility, and to the entire community, with his hateful, repulsive, and violent behavior. But today’s sentence does hold him accountable for placing a lit firebomb in their path and for lying to us about it,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI’s Boston office.

Bennett to Pelosi: ‘You’ve stood up for Israel’

(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met on Thursday in Jerusalem. The leaders discussed the main strategic challenges facing Israel, especially the Iran nuclear issue, according to Bennett’s office.

“I want to personally thank you for your ongoing support for Israel,” Bennett told Pelosi. “We have a beautiful country here, a pretty tough place, but with beautiful people. You’ve stood up for Israel. Your dad, may he rest in peace, stood up for the Jews in our darkest hour of history when it wasn’t easy to stand up for Jews.”

Pelosi arrived in Israel on Wednesday, along with other top members of Congress. They met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Knesset member Mansour Abbas of the Ra’am Party and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy.

In a statement disseminated late Wednesday, Pelosi said that “in our meetings, we conveyed America’s ironclad commitment to the State of Israel and our partnership in advancing our mutual security, economic prosperity and democratic values. We repeatedly reaffirmed America’s commitment to a just and enduring two-state solution that enhances stability and security for Israel, Palestinians and their neighbors.”

The delegation had expressed the “unwavering support of Congress for Israel’s security and regional stability,” Pelosi said of her meeting with Gantz and Lapid. “We also discussed how our nations are together in the fight against terrorism posed by Iran—both in its proximity to Israel, which is a responsibility to us all, and its nuclear development, which is a global threat.”

In addition, at Palmachim Air Force Base, Pelosi’s delegation received a briefing from the Israel Defense Forces and saw the Iron Dome missile-defense system.

“We conveyed that in September, the House, with strong bipartisan support, passed H.R. 5323 in further support of Iron Dome,” said Pelosi.

Report: Israel asks Russia to help evacuate citizens in event of war

(JNS) — Israel has asked Russia to help evacuate Israeli citizens from Ukraine in the event that Russia invades the country, Axios reported on Thursday morning.

According to the report, a conversation was held between Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

“Ushpiz stressed the commitment and concern of the Israeli government to the safety and security of its citizens and diplomats in Ukraine,” Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lior Haiat told Axios.

Russia has been stepping up troops on the Ukrainian border in recent days and has amassed close to 100,000, according to media reports. Russia said earlier in the week that it was withdrawing its soldiers, but senior U.S. officials told the media that those claims were false.

“This is a military that … continues to grow stronger, continues to grow more ready. They’re exercising, so we believe that he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] has a lot of capabilities and options available to him should he want to use military force,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told MSNBC on Monday.

Axios said that “the message shows just how seriously the Israeli government is taking the threat of an all-out Russian invasion. While 3,000 Israeli citizens have evacuated since Sunday, the Israeli government believes around 10,000 remain in Ukraine.”

Israeli strike said to target Syrian military base used by Iranian militias

(JNS) — Israel launched a missile strike on targets in the Damascus area on Wednesday night, Syrian state media reported.

The Syrian Arab News Agency said early on Thursday morning that Israel launched the strike from the Golan Heights at around 11:35 p.m. on Wednesday. Syria’s air defense system was not activated and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

However, the agency said that Israel “hit several targets around the town of Zakiyah, south of Damascus,” causing property damage.

Israel’s Channel 12 news quoted a local journalist who said that the strikes had targeted a Syrian military camp used by Iranian militias.

This is the second attack attributed to Israel against Syria this month.

On Feb. 9, SANA reported that the Israeli Air Force had attacked four targets near the capital, including an advanced weapons complex.

Syria responded to that attack by launching anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli planes, one which exploded over Israeli territory but caused no damage.


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