Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Europe’s Jews to move to Israel Sunday, drawing fire a day after a terror attack in Denmark targeted a synagogue and free-speech event.
The attacker was named as Omar El-Hussein, a 22-year-old native Dane who was previously wanted over a train stabbing.
Police say he may have been inspired by the Paris terror attacks last month and Islamic State propaganda, though others cautioned against linking the incidents.
A report that the US had stopped updating Israel on talks with Iran over its nuclear program was swiftly denied.
The Times of Israel followed events as they unfolded.
Ministers green-light European immigration program
Hours after Netanyahu calls for Europe’s Jews to move to Israel, the government okays an NIS180-million ($46-million) plan to promote immigration from France, Ukraine and Belgium, according to a statement.
“We are preparing for a wave of [Jewish immigration] from Europe; we are calling for a wave of mass aliya from Europe. I want to tell all the Jews of Europe, and Jews wherever they may be: ‘Israel is the home of every Jew… Israel awaits you with open arms,’” Netanyahu said hours earlier.
France and Belgium have both been the target of attacks against the Jewish community over the last year, amid fears of rising anti-Semitism.
In Ukraine, an ongoing war with Russian-backed separatists has caught the country’s Jewish community in the crossfire. Last week a Jewish woman was killed when a rocket hit her home near Donetsk, two days after a shell slammed into a Jewish center in Kramatorsk but did not explode.
Surveys: Most Israelis want to see election debate
Two separate surveys from Israel’s leading news channels find about seven in 10 Israelis want to see Netanyahu in a televised preelection debate with leading rival Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union.
A Channel 2 poll found fully 71% were in favor of the idea, 19% were against and 10% said they didn’t know.
Channel 10, meanwhile, found that 69.7% want to see the two go head-to-head, while 17% said they were not for the idea and 13.4% didn’t know.
Netanyahu has said he would only agree to a debate after his scheduled March 3 address to the US Congress, and would only debate Zionist Union leaders Tzipi Livni or Isaac Herzog, Channel 2 reported.
The Channel 2 survey sampled 405 Israeli Jews and had a margin of error of 4.8%. Channel 10 did not release its methodology.
Café shooting victim named as filmmaker
The victim of a fatal shooting in Copenhagen has been named as Finn Nørgaard, 55, a Danish filmmaker, according to Danish media.
Nørgaard was shot at a free-speech event in a café Saturday night in what is suspected to have been an Islamist attack. A second shooting a short while later targeted a synagogue in the Danish capital, where guard Dan Uzan, 37, a longtime security guard for the Danish Jewish community, was killed.
“Finn was an original, an incredibly warmhearted and very spiritual type. Tall and handsome. It is hard for me to say more about it now,” a friend tells Ekstra Bladet, according to the Danish English-language news site TheLocal.
Denmark shooter may have been inspired by Paris attacks — police
Police in Denmark say two attacks in Copenhagen Saturday night may have been inspired by a series of Islamist attacks in Paris a month earlier, AFP reports.
A gunman shot and killed a Danish filmmaker at a free-speech event honoring an artist who has drawn the Prophet Mohammad, before turning his gun on a synagogue in the Danish capital. Two people were killed in the attacks.
The man, who was killed in a shootout with police earlier Sunday, “may have been inspired by the events that took place in Paris a few weeks ago,” Jens Madsen from the Security and Intelligence Service tells reporters.
The gunman has not been identified.
In Paris last month, two brothers shot and killed 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Two days later, a third gunman killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket in the capital.
German city nixes parade over ‘Islamist threat’
The German city of Braunschweig has canceled a planned carnival parade Sunday because of a “specific threat of an Islamist attack,” police say.
The event, which was to begin Sunday morning, was called off following a tip by “reliable state security sources,” police said in a statement.
“Police request all visitors not to go to the planned parade route or not to make the trip to Braunschweig in the first place,” the statement said.
Police chief Michael Pientka told public broadcaster NDR there was no link between the cancellation and two fatal attacks in Copenhagen Saturday.
Organizers say the annual event in Braunschweig is normally the biggest parade in northern Germany during February’s Roman Catholic carnival season, with up to 250,000 visitors expected.
Hamas warns against reported Netanyahu visit to Hebron
A reported plan by Netanyahu to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron has raised hackles among Palestinians.
In a statement, the Hamas terror group calls the visit “a severe escalation.”
“We warn the criminal Netanyahu of the consequence of storming and desecrating the noble Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron city, and we consider this a serious escalation to which our people won’t remain silent,” Hamas spokesman Izzat al-Rishiq writes in a statement.
The site, known as the Ibrahimi Mosque to Muslims, is holy to both Jews and Muslims, who consider it the burial place of the Patriarch Abraham.
The visit, thought to be planned to shore up Netanyahu’s bona fides ahead of elections, was first reported on by right-wing Israeli news site Israel National News. Netanyahu spokesperson Mark Regev says the visit is not on the prime minister’s schedule.
President Reuven Rivlin visited the divided city last month, sparking low-level clashes.
Copenhagen gunman was on cops’ radar
Police in Denmark say the suspect behind Saturday night’s attacks had been “on the radar” of the intelligence service before the shootings.
The man may “generally have been inspired by militant Islamist propaganda issued by IS [Islamic State] and other terror organizations,” Jens Madsen from the Security and Intelligence Service says.
Madsen adds that police have not yet ascertained if the man had traveled to conflict zones, “including Syria and Iraq,” but he said it was at “the absolute center of investigations.”
Fatah vows to ‘defend’ holy site from Netanyahu
After Hamas warns of consequences, the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has also responded to a report that Netanyahu will visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
“The Ibrahimi Mosque is sacred Muslim property and… we will defend all our holy places,” the spokesman says, according to Israel Radio.
Denmark chief rabbi ‘disappointed’ by immigration call
Denmark Chief Rabbi Yair Melchior says he is “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s call for Denmark’s Jews to immigrate to Israel following Saturday night’s attack.
“People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism,” said Melchior. “If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”
The statement echoes similar sentiments expressed by some in France and elsewhere following a series of deadly attacks in Paris last month, which spurred calls for France’s Jews to immigrate.
UK’s Cameron condemns Denmark shootings
British Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the shootings in Copenhagen, which left two people dead, as an “appalling attack on free speech and religious freedom.”
Cameron says the two victims were “murdered simply for their beliefs.
“Denmark and Britain are both successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracies and we must never allow those values to be damaged by acts of violence like this,” he adds.
“We offer our full support for the Danish government and Danish people as they deal with these terrible incidents.”
Slain synagogue guard remembered as ‘amazing guy’
Denmark Chief Rabbi Yair Melchior says Dan Uzan, 37, killed guarding an event at a synagogue in Saturday night’s attack, was an “irreplaceable” member of the community who once lived in Israel.
“He was a person who was always willing to help. An amazing, amazing guy,” says Melchior.
— Vibe Voetmann (@VibeVoetmann) February 15, 2015
There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Jews in Denmark, including about 2,000 active members of the Jewish community, which operates its own security patrol that coordinates with police to protect Jewish institutions.
The community had previously asked police for enhanced security, and following last month’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, Denmark police began reevaluating security arrangements, Melchior said.
After an earlier shooting attack at a free-speech event in the city, police beefed up security at the Jewish community building where the event was being held, Melchior said. The gunman who killed Uzan in the attack just after midnight on Sunday also shot and wounded two police officers outside the synagogue.
Uzan’s family is active in Copenhagen’s Jewish community, Melchior says, and Uzan attended Jewish school and joined the community’s security efforts from a young age.
The slain guard was a talented basketball player, received a degree in politics, lived in Israel for a while and learned to speak Hebrew fluently, Melchior said.
Uzan wanted younger community members to replace him in the security detail, Melchior said, but the community pressed him to remain at his post.
Saudis condemn Copenhagen, N.C. killings
Saudi Arabia condemns the fatal attacks in Copenhagen as well as the murders last week of three Muslim students in the United States, calling them both “terrorist” acts.
“Saudi Arabia has followed with deep sorrow the terrorist, criminal, and ugly acts that took place recently in the Danish capital Copenhagen and the US state of North Carolina,” authorities say in an official statement on the Saudi Press Agency.
The kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest sites, called for “the need to respect religions” and to avoid “incitement against Muslims,” the statement says.
PM’s speech kept from White House to avoid ‘interference’
House Speaker John Boehner says the White House might have tried to quash his plan to have Netanyahu speak to Congress if it had gotten wind of the invitation.
Boehner says that is why he made the offer without letting the White House know in advance.
Boehner was asked by “Fox News Sunday” why he told Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, not to mention the invitation to the White House in advance.
Boehner says he “wanted to make sure that there was no interference.”
Audio records first Copenhagen shooting
Audio obtained by the BBC appears to record the moment a gunman burst into the Denmark cafe Saturday night, killing one person.
In the audio a woman is heard speaking before a long volley of shots rings out.
The shooting happened before 4 p.m. local time Saturday when the gunman used an automatic weapon to shoot through the windows of the Krudttoenden cultural center during a panel discussion on freedom of expression featuring a Swedish artist who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The artist, Lars Vilks, was whisked away unharmed by his bodyguards, but Finn Noergaard was killed and three police officers were wounded.
Two relatives of IS leader held
Two close relatives of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have been arrested in Iraq, according to Arabic media outlets.
Baghdadi’s uncle and niece’s husband were arrested in Samarra, Iraq, a security source told Iraqi state TV, al-Arabiya reports.
The source says the two, named as Saleh Ibrahim Abdulmomen and Dhiya Nouri Sadoun, are among the top Islamic State commanders in the city.
Blair calls for new approach on visit to Gaza
Mideast envoy Tony Blair says the world has forsaken the Gaza Strip and calls for a new approach while visiting the Palestinian territory Sunday.
Blair calls for Hamas, which controls Gaza, to clarify if it is part of a “broader Islamist movement with regional designs” or if it would accept a long-term peace alongside Israel.
He also called for a “radical change of approach” from Israel to lift trade restrictions on Gaza.
He calls the stagnation in reconstruction a “crime.”
Several arrested in Copenhagen police raid
Armed Danish police have raided an Internet cafe in a major operation in Copenhagen near the spot where officers killed the suspected perpetrator of two fatal shootings, local media said.
TV2, which reported from the scene, showed footage of armed officers in dark uniforms outside the Internet cafe and said at least two people had been taken away by police.
Police say swoop ‘part of investigation’
A police official tells Danish broadcaster DR that the raid on an Internet cafe is “part of our investigation.”
The swoop comes hours after police told reporters they were carrying out searches in several parts of the Danish capital.
Mother of bat mitzvah girl recounts horror
The mother of the girl celebrating her bat mitzvah at the synagogue at the time of the attack early Sunday morning, tells Israel’s Channel 2 news when the attack occurred the guests and children were forced to hide in a basement for two hours.
The guests were eventually escorted out under heavy guard through a back door, and put onto buses which took them to a police station, where they stayed until 8 a.m.
She thanks the police and other guards for being “heroes” and worrying about the guests safety even after seeing fellow guard Dan Uzan get shot and killed by the gunman.
Netanyahu comes out against ‘anti-Semite’ settler video
A video put out by the Samaria settler’s council showing a Jewish man accepting money to write unflattering stories for a “Mr. Sturmer” has enraged Israelis, and has now also been condemned by Benjamin Netanyahu.
The video portrays left-wing Israeli NGOs as working to help anti-Semites, with explicit references to the Holocaust.
“I am stridently against the comparison between organizations or Israeli individuals — from any political stripe — and between Nazi Germany and condemn any use of it for elections,” Netanyahu says in a statement.
The prime minister is under fire for his own video released over the weekend, which portrays a vote for the Israeli left as allowing Islamic State jihadists to take over Israel.
French leaders point to links between Denmark, Paris attacks
French President Francois Hollande has pointed to the similarities between the Copenhagen attacks and the Paris attacks last month, saying the “same targets” were hit.
“It was the same targets that were chosen by the terrorists,” says Hollande, speaking on a visit to the Danish embassy in Paris.
“We see there is a link that doesn’t show there is a network but does show the terrorists are determined to hit what we are, what we represent, the values of freedom, of law, of protection that every citizen — whatever his or her religion — should have,” the president added.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the similarities between the two attacks “striking”.
“First an attack on a symbol of freedom of expression, then an attack on Jews and finally a showdown with police,” Fabius says on French television on Sunday.
Expert warns against linking attacks
Despite official statements connecting the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, some experts are warning against drawing a link too hastily.
Terrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard says there were indeed “similarities” between the two attacks “but they follow the same basic trends we have been observing for several years.”
The gunmen aimed at “high-value targets” with “weapons that are increasingly less sophisticated” instead of using explosives that are “more and more tracked by security services,” says Brisard.
This type of attack “requires a lot less preparation than attacks that were carried out in the past,” which makes it harder for authorities to intervene in the preparatory phase.
Nevertheless, the security expert warns against “short-cuts” in linking the two attacks, as “we don’t know much about the Copenhagen shooter.” (AFP)
Suspect 22-year-old Denmark native — police
Police say the suspected attacker in the Copenhagen shootings is a 22-year-old male who was born and raised in Denmark, according to AFP.
He was known to police because of past activity related to gang violence and weapons possession, Reuters reports.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, was killed in a shootout with police early Sunday.
Denmark-raised former minister Melchior calls for dialogue
In a blog post for The Times of Israel, Denmark-raised former minister Michael Melchior, whose son Yair is currently chief rabbi of the country, calls for a dual track of fighting terror and seeking understanding with Islam in the wake of the attack.
“We will not hide. We will not run away, and in parallel, we will not stop our efforts to conduct a dialogue and to build coalitions with the world around us, including with Islam. This is the only way to isolate from within us those who identify with the insane messages of ISIS, [al-Qaeda] and the like,” he writes.
“Like in France, this attack, as well, was an attempt to harm the general civilization, and the Jewish life of which it is a part.”
US no longer updating Israel on nuclear talks — report
The US has stopped updating Israel on progress in talks with Iran over their nuclear program, Israel’s Channel 2 news reports.
The channel says Susan Rice has cut off contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen on the talks, and quotes Wendy Sherman as saying that she will no longer keep Israel informed of the talks.
The channel said the US had accused Israel of using the information for political purposes.
The move come as tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have skyrocketed over a planned speech by Netanyahu in Congress next month in which he will speak about sanctions on Tehran, against the Obama administration’s wishes.
Israel has staunchly lobbied against a deal that leaves Iran with the ability to enrich uranium, even as Washington and Tehran have apparently moved closer to an agreement before a talks deadline at the end of March.
Egypt says longest-ever Gaza smuggling tunnel found
Egyptian security officials say they have found a 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) smuggling tunnel leading into the Gaza Strip, the longest such passageway discovered in their crackdown on cross-border smuggling.
They say the tunnel was operated by the militant wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which Egypt says is a terrorist organization that played a role in recent attacks against Egyptian security forces.
Detonators and communications devices were among the devices found in the tunnel, which will be destroyed, officials say, speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to brief reporters.
After a major attack in October, the Egyptian military began clearing a buffer zone along the border with Gaza in an attempt to stamp out a cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline. (AP)
PMO says strategic ties with US remain ‘deep’
In reply to the report that the US has cut off ties with Israel regarding Iran talks, the Prime Minister’s Office tells Ynet news that “strategic ties between Israel and the US are deep.”
The PMO says NSC head Yossi Cohen is due to fly to Washington later this week to meet with both his counterpart Susan Rice and head negotiator Wendy Rice.”
Senior Israeli official: Report on US suspending Iran updates wrong
A senior Israeli official tells The Times of Israel that the Channel 2 report that the US is stopping updating Israel on Iran talks is false.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says there were meetings between Israeli and US officials on the issue in Munich last week, documents were exchanged and more meetings have been planned. The official says Yossi Cohen is still going to Washington as planned. (Raphael Ahren)
Suspected Copenhagen attacker named
The suspected Copenhagen gunman has been identified as Omar El-Hussein, Danish media reports. (AFP)
State Department denies halting updates to Israel on Iran
The US State Department also denies a report that Washington has stopped keeping Israel abreast of negotiations with Iran on the nuclear program, Haaretz reports.
Like Jerusalem, the official cites continuing contacts between Wendy Sherman and Israeli national security adviser Yossi Cohen.
“[US Secretary of State John]Kerry continues his conversations with Netanyahu about this issue, as has always been the case,” the official adds.
The official says Sherman met Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and Cohen in Munich recently.
Attacker was wanted for train stabbing — report
Suspected Copenhagen attacker Omar El-Hussein was wanted by police in November 2013 for stabbing a fellow passenger on a train, Ekstra-Bladet reports.
The report was corroborated by a statement issued by Danish police in 2013 describing an incident in which a man identified as Omar El-Hussein had stabbed a train passenger repeatedly with “a big knife.”
Police said earlier that the man believed to be the perpetrator of this weekend’s killings in Copenhagen had a history of assault and weapons offences and links to gangs.
Hundreds of Jewish graves defaced in France
France’s interior minister says several hundred tombs have been defaced at a Jewish cemetery in east of the country, in what he calls “a despicable act.”
“The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share,” says Bernard Cazeneuve without giving further details of the incident in the town of Sarre-Union.
President hints at opposition to Netanyahu Congress speech
Speaking at the opening of the INSS Security Conference in Tel Aviv, President Reuven Rivlin hints that he is against Netanyahu delivering a controversial speech to the US Congress next month.
“I believe that if we think it’s correct to speak on relevant international stages on the dangers awaiting us and the dangerous threats, then the more so we should take it upon ourselves to speak honestly, patiently, in Hebrew to our citizens at home,” he says. “We have no other voters and we don’t have any other elections and we don’t have any other parliament. Citizens of our land first. Anything we have to say can be said also here at home.”