Israel Police raised the national alert to its highest level after seven people were killed and three wounded in a terrorist shooting outside the Ateret Avraham synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neveh Ya’acov neighborhood on January 27. The murder victims were Asher Natan, 14; Ilya Sosansky, 26; Natali Mizrahi, 45 and her husband, Eli Mizrahi, 48; Rafael (Rafi) Ben Eliyahu, 56; Ukrainian citizen Irina Korolova, 59; and Shaul Hai, 68. Police said the Palestinian terrorist was shot dead after he exited the car and opened fire on officers while trying to escape on foot. In another attack on January 28, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire on pedestrians returning from Shabbat services in the City of David, wounding a 47-year-old man and his 22-year-old son. Although seriously wounded, the son – an IDF paratrooper officer – managed to shoot back and hit the terrorist, who was hospitalized in serious condition.
Nine Palestinians were killed, seven gunmen and two civilians, in fighting in the Jenin refugee camp on January 26 with Israeli security forces, which said they sought to thwart planned terror attacks as well as capture three Islamic Jihad terrorists. The joint operation was conducted by the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and the Israel Police. Although no Israeli casualties were reported, Arab social media channels showed a video of Palestinians shooting down an IDF drone as it hovered above the refugee camp. The Palestinian Authority announced after the operation that it was suspending security cooperation with Israel.
Israel was behind a successful drone attack on Isfahan on January 28, according to foreign press reports. The Jerusalem Post reported that despite Iran’s claim that the attack had failed, there were four large explosions at a facility developing advanced weapons, documented on social media. The New York Times noted that Isfahan is a hub for Tehran’s missile industry and is where the Shahab medium-range missile, which has a range capable of hitting Israel, is assembled. There were no public comments from Israeli officials about the strike, which came a week after Israel and the US conducted a joint military exercise dubbed Juniper Oak 2023 in the region.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel in late January, focusing his talks with Israeli leaders on Iran, the Palestinians and Israel’s proposed legal reforms. “Throughout the relationship between our countries, what we come back to time and again is that it is rooted both in shared interests and in shared values,” said Blinken after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “That includes our support for core democratic principles and institutions, including respect for human rights, the equal administration of justice for all, the equal rights of minority groups, the rule of law, free press, a robust civil society – and the vibrancy of Israel’s civil society has been on full display of late.” Netanyahu said Israel and the US “share common values – two strong democracies which will remain, I assure you, two strong democracies.”
Israel’s Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara informed Prime Minister Netanyahu on February 1 that he should not be involved in his government’s efforts to overhaul the judicial system because of a conflict of interest due to his ongoing corruption trial. “In your role as prime minister, you must refrain from initiatives involving the legal system within the framework known as ‘the legal reform,’” she wrote. In a written response to the High Court of Justice, Netanyahu said he viewed the attorney-general’s position as “unacceptable” and requested two weeks to respond fully to her letter.
Prime Minister Netanyahu joined Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno to officially open the African state’s embassy in Tel Aviv on February 2. “This is a historic moment,” said Netanyahu. “We are strengthening our common interests and friendship, and pursuing peace, security and prosperity.” Also on February 2, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen returned from a historic diplomatic visit to Sudan, during which he met with the east African state’s President of the Transitional Council, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to finalize the text of a peace agreement, due to be signed after the transfer of power in Sudan to a civilian government.
Szewach (Shevah) Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and former Knesset speaker, died on February 4 at the age of 87. Born in Poland in what is today Ukraine, Weiss was hidden by two Polish women together with his parents and two siblings during World War II. He made aliyah with his family in 1947, studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became a professor of political science at the University of Haifa. After serving on the Haifa city council, he entered national politics, serving as a Labor Party MK between 1981-1999, Knesset speaker between 1992-1996, chairman of Yad Vashem and ambassador to Poland, after which the Polish president gave him an award in 2004.