Barcelona terror cell planned big attack on monuments – report
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Barcelona terror cell planned big attack on monuments – report

Chief Rabbinate challenges court jurisdiction to rule on Western Wall deal; Netanyahu to raise Iran's presence in Syria with Russia's Putin

  • Catalan police officers detain a suspect in Ripoll during a search linked to the deadly terror attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils, on August 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pau Barrena)
    Catalan police officers detain a suspect in Ripoll during a search linked to the deadly terror attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils, on August 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pau Barrena)
  • Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, stand under an Islamic State (IS) banner in the recently recaptured Syrian town of Al-Karamah, as they advance to encircle the jihadists' stronghold on Raqqa, on March 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)
    Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, stand under an Islamic State (IS) banner in the recently recaptured Syrian town of Al-Karamah, as they advance to encircle the jihadists' stronghold on Raqqa, on March 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 7, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Maxim Shipenkov)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 7, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Maxim Shipenkov)
  • Hateful graffiti sprayed on the Kehilat Ra'anan Reform synagogue in Ra'anana, November 24, 2016. (Yossi Cohen)
    Hateful graffiti sprayed on the Kehilat Ra'anan Reform synagogue in Ra'anana, November 24, 2016. (Yossi Cohen)
  • View of Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv in 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
    View of Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv in 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
  • American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson is seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony at Ariel University in the West Bank on June 28, 2017. (Ben Dori/Flash90)
    American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson is seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony at Ariel University in the West Bank on June 28, 2017. (Ben Dori/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Netanyahu asks court to reconsider ruling on revealing conversations with Sheldon Adelson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks the High Court of Justice to reconsider a ruling forcing him to reveal details about his conversations with the heads of the Israel Hayom newspaper over the years, including the paper’s owner, US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Netanyahu is under investigation for possible criminal activities linked to conversations he had with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth, during which he was recorded offering to act to limit the distribution of rival paper Israel Hayom in exchange for more favorable coverage from Mozes’s paper.

In his request Tuesday, Netanyahu asks the court to reconsider a ruling two weeks ago that he must hand over the dates and times of his conversations with Adelson and former Israel Hayom editor Amos Regev to Channel 10 and journalist Raviv Drucker. The court said the request from Channel 10 and Drucker were covered under the Freedom of Information Act.

In his appeal, Netanyahu promises to publicize the details of his conversations, but notes that the ruling could have far-reaching implications for privacy for public officials.

24 million affected by South Asia floods – Red Cross

GENEVA — More than 24 million people have been affected by some of the worst flooding to hit South Asia in decades, with large areas of land submerged in water, the Red Cross says.

Authorities in Bangladesh, India and Nepal put the death toll at more than 750 since August 10, when a series of deluges began spreading with the annual monsoon season.

“The situation is going from bad to worse,” Red Cross under secretary-general Jagan Chapagain says in a statement. “Almost one third of Nepal has been flooded. One third of Bangladesh is flooded,” he tells reporters.

“This is the worst flooding that parts of South Asia have seen in decades.”

Flood waters in the three countries have left hundreds of people stranded and entire communities cut off from road access, according to the Red Cross. Many villages are now only accessible by boat and “are running out of food” with clean water also in short supply, the organization adds.

— AFP

Germany welcomes Trump ‘long-term commitment’ in Afghanistan

The German government is welcoming “the United States’ readiness to continue its long-term commitment in Afghanistan.”

The government says in a statement after US President Donald Trump alluded to deploying more American troops in Afghanistan that Germany and the US share the aim of ensuring that no terror attacks are spawned there.

It adds: “It is right, and the German government has long advocated this, for the end of the deployment to be linked to the conditions on the ground.”

It pressed for the Afghan government to step up its reform and anti-corruption efforts, but also to “seek dialogue with the parts of the Taliban that are prepared for a peaceful reconciliation.”

Germany is one of the major contributors to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, with 950 troops largely in northern Afghanistan.

— AP

Jerry Lewis died of end-stage heart disease – coroner

LAS VEGAS — Authorities in Las Vegas say Jerry Lewis died of heart disease, but the wording of his death certificate differs from what was reported earlier.

Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg says the Jewish comedian’s official cause of death was end-stage cardiac disease and peripheral vascular disease.

Lewis was the clownish comic hailed as an artistic genius and the host for decades of annual muscular dystrophy telethons. He died Sunday of natural causes in Las Vegas at age 91.

Fudenberg says coroner deputies had been told Lewis died of ischemic cardiomyopathy.

— AP

Woman, 44, killed in Galilee hit-and-run

A 44-year-old woman is killed when a truck hits her on Route 85 in the Lower Galilee, near the Halafta Junction.

According to eyewitnesses who spoke to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the woman was standing next to her stopped car on the side of the road when the truck smashed into her and the car.

The truck driver sped away. Medics pronounced the woman dead at the scene.

At least 13 people have died in August road accidents, after an especially bloody July that saw 41 dead and 145 seriously hurt. In all, 250 people have died in traffic accidents in 2017, a slight increase from the 244 who died in the equivalent period last year, Hebrew-language media and Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics report.

Divers locate human remains in US warship after collision

SINGAPORE — Divers searching for 10 missing sailors on a US destroyer that collided with a tanker off Singapore have found human remains, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet says.

“The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search today,” Admiral Scott Swift tells reporters, referring to a search by divers of compartments on the damaged warship USS John S. McCain.

He adds that Malaysian authorities, one of three countries involved in the major hunt for the sailors, had also found a body and it was being transferred to the US Navy for identification.

The accident happened before dawn Monday in busy shipping lanes around the Strait of Singapore, with water flooding into the vessel after a huge hole was torn in its hull.

It was the second such accident in two months involving a US warship after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship off Japan in June, leaving seven sailors dead.

— AFP

Barak mocks ‘suspect’ Netanyahu for trying to hide Adelson calls

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, a longstanding critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mocks the PM over his request that the High Court of Justice reconsider a ruling forcing him to reveal details about his conversations with the heads of the Israel Hayom newspaper over the years, including the paper’s owner, US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

“Insanity grips Balfour,” Barak says in a statement, referring to the prime minister’s Balfour Street residence in Jerusalem.

“What is the suspect so scared of? What, and from whom, is he trying to hide? The State Attorney’s Office, like the rest of us, already understands that Bibi [Netanyahu] was commissioning headlines from the Bibiton [a derogatory term for Israel Hayom]. Who else could it have been?”

Netanyahu is under investigation for possible criminal activities linked to conversations he had with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth, during which he was recorded offering to act to limit the distribution of rival paper Israel Hayom in exchange for more favorable coverage from Mozes’s paper.

In his request Tuesday, Netanyahu asks the court to reconsider a ruling two weeks ago that he must hand over the dates and times of his conversations with Adelson and former Israel Hayom editor Amos Regev to Channel 10 and journalist Raviv Drucker. The court said the request from Channel 10 and Drucker were covered under the Freedom of Information Act.

Channel 10 demands Netanyahu hand over Adelson calls within days

The Channel 10 television channel and investigative journalist Raviv Drucker warn they will file a contempt of court appeal against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he does not hand over records of his phone conversations with US-Israeli billionaire Sheldon Adelson within a few days.

The warning comes after Netanyahu appealed today a two-week-old ruling by the High Court of Justice forcing him to reveal details about his conversations Adelson and former Israel Hayom editor, saying the request for the information from Drucker and Channel 10 fell under the purview of the Freedom of Information Act.

“There’s no [court-ordered] delay in implementing [the ruling], so if the information is not handed over in the coming days we will be forced to ask the court to launch contempt proceedings,” an attorney for Channel 10 says.

Netanyahu is under investigation for possible criminal activities linked to conversations he had with Noni Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth, during which he was recorded offering to act to limit the distribution of rival paper Israel Hayom, which backs him, in exchange for more favorable coverage from Mozes’s paper.

For third time in a week, truck hits bridge in Tel Aviv

A truck with an open crane smashes into a bridge on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, the third such accident in a week.

Last week, a truck driving down Route 4 with an open crane smashed into a pedestrian bridge, killing the driver and collapsing much of the bridge. Yesterday, a truck on Route 1 hit a bridge, causing a tractor to fall off the truck, hit a car and lightly hurt three of its passengers.

No one is hurt in the latest incident, which takes place at the LaGuardia bridge in southern Tel Aviv. Police close the key artery in both directions.

Four seriously hurt in car collision near Jericho

Four people are seriously hurt and two others lightly hurt in a head-on collision on Route 90 between the Almog and Arava junctions near Jericho, in the eastern West Bank.

Two passengers may be trapped in the vehicles, according to initial reports.

4 Barcelona attack suspects appear for court interrogations

MADRID — Four alleged members of a terror cell accused of killing 15 people in attacks in Barcelona and a nearby resort appear in court a day after the last missing member of the cell was gunned down by police.

The four men were arrested last week for their alleged involvement in planning or carrying out vehicle attacks on pedestrians in Barcelona on Thursday and the northeastern town of Cambrils early Friday.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, a 21 year-old arrested after he survived an explosion at a house in eastern Spain last week, was the first to testify. Suspect Driss Oukabir was arrested Thursday in the northeastern town of Ripoll, as were two others identified by Spanish media as Mohammed Aalla and Salh el Karib.

A spokeswoman for prosecutors says the four would be interrogated throughout the day in the presence of lawyers provided for them by the court.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

— AP

Billy Joel wears yellow Star of David in concert to protest Trump

Legendary singer Billy Joel appears onstage for an encore during his monthly concert at Madison Square Garden wearing a yellow Star of David on his jacket.

Photos of Joel wearing the yellow star began appearing on Facebook shortly after Monday night’s concert. At least one tweet bore the hashtag #Charlottesville. Other tweets called Joel “a true hero,” and his decision to wear the star “Epic and brave.” A tweet read: “So dope seeing Billy Joel live and seeing him take a stand to the hate in our country. Wearing the star of david is a huge statement.”

Another tweet took issue with Joel’s statement. “What is Billy Joel protesting? A president with part Jewish kids? The fact that Muslim immigrants in the US tend to be anti-semitic? WHAT!?” The tweet was in response to another which said “Ok, so Billy Joel has lost his mind.”

Joel’s parents are Jewish but he was not brought up religious. He has been described as a secular Jew and an atheist.

During the concert on Monday he invited singer Patty Smyth on stage to sing with him her hit song when she performed with the American band Scandal, “Goodbye to You,” while a screen behind them flashed pictures of fired White House staffers including former strategic adviser Steve Bannon, former press secretary Sean Spicer, and former communications adviser Anthony Scaramucci.

— JTA

India’s top court: Instant divorce among Muslims unlawful

NEW DELHI, India — India’s Supreme Court strikes down the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce their wives as unconstitutional.

The bench, comprising five senior judges of different faiths, deliberated for three months before issuing its order in response to petitions from seven Muslim women who had been divorced through the practice known as triple talaq.

Indian law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says on NDTV that since the court deemed the practice unconstitutional there is no need for any further legislative action by the government.

The decision is widely lauded by women’s rights activists as a step toward granting Muslim women greater equality and justice.

More than 20 Muslim countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice. But in India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious law in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.

— AP

Pentagon chief, in Baghdad, says Islamic State ‘on the run’

BAGHDAD — US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he is confident that US-backed Iraqi forces will finish off Islamic State fighters clinging to strongholds that are shrinking in size and number.

“ISIS is on the run,” Mattis tells reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other Iraqi government leaders. “They have been shown to be unable to stand up to our team in combat.”

Mattis spoke alongside Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, who is due to finish his tour of duty here in early September.

“The fighting is tough,” Townsend says, “but the momentum is with our partners.”

Earlier, Mattis described the extremists as being trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

— AP

‘Adopt-a-Nazi’ campaign seeks to counter white nationalist rally in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — It sounds like a deal with the devil, but a new GoFundMe page that asks people to “Adopt-a-Nazi” is actually a fundraiser for a civil rights group.

San Francisco attorney Cody Harris and the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco are behind the tongue-in-cheek response to a far-right “free speech” rally in San Francisco on August 26.

The campaign asks visitors to donate a small amount of money to the Southern Poverty Law Center by “sponsoring” each person expected to attend the rally. Some donors have pledged $6; others have given $600 or more. About 300 people are expected to attend the rally.

Launched on August 17 with an initial goal of $10,000, the campaign passed that target in 24 hours. The goal was changed to $100,000 and then to $125,000. As of Tuesday morning, more than $91,000 has been raised.

“What it shows is that people want to do something positive,” Harris says.

— The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA

Police arrest suspect in Ra’anana Reform synagogue vandalism

A 39-year-old man from central Israel is arrested on suspicion of vandalizing a Reform synagogue in Ra’anana and leaving threatening notes outside the Jerusalem home of a prominent Israeli ethicist and atheist, police say.

The Israeli man, who is not identified by police, carried out the hate crimes in 2014-2016 with a religious motive, police say. The police statement about the suspect’s arrest does not detail his religious leanings.

According to police, the suspect is linked to the defacing of the Kehilat Ra’anan synagogue in 2014 and 2016. In the latter instance, graffiti with biblical references was sprayed on the building and envelopes containing death threats against senior leaders in the Reform movement were left outside of the building along with a knife branded with scriptural references.

In January 2014, the Kehilat Ra’anan synagogue suffered a similar attack with biblical passages of the same nature sprayed in the same spot on the front of the building.

Police also say the suspect was behind the threatening notes left outside the home of Prof. Yaakov Malkin, director of Tmura, the International Institute for Humanistic Secular Judaism in January 2016. Graffiti depicting a Star of David and references to biblical passages were sprayed on the fence around Malkin’s house, and an envelope containing a threatening letter and a knife branded with a further biblical reference were also found at the scene, according to police.

2018 Youth Olympic Games to use Jewish group’s anti-racism program

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Simon Wiesenthal Center program against Racism in Sport will be implemented at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires with the support of the Organization of American States.

The Eleven Points Against Racism in Football program works with sports authorities, athletes and referees to stop and prevent racial hatred in athletic events and to use sports as a bond between peoples.

The Latin American representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Ariel Gelblung, confirms the agreement with OAS to JTA, and its support to implement the program during next year’s global event for teen athletes.

On Friday, OAS confirmed its decision to grant its support to the program as a way to fight for fundamental rights.

“If we succeed in eradicating racism, xenophobia and discrimination in sport, we can generate a greater awareness in society,” OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro says in a letter to the Wiesenthal Center. “As Nelson Mandela has shown, sport is a powerful tool for changing unacceptable behaviors and promoting inclusive societies.”

Israel will be among 206 countries sending athletes aged 15 to 18 to the games in October next year. The third edition of the global event has soccer star Lionel Messi as one of its main supporters.

— JTA

PA says ‘nothing’ achieved in 24 years of peace talks

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says peace negotiations with Israelis have produced “nothing,” and calls for the international community to unilaterally establish a state of Palestine.

“We convinced the international community that the best way to reach a state is through negotiations. But after 24 years of negotiations, we have not gotten anything,” says Maliki, in a meeting with British Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt in Ramallah.

In the face of stalled peace talks, Maliki calls for “active intervention” by the international community and the “imposition of peace” through the establishment of a Palestinian state, according to a report in the official PA news site Wafa.

The report says the meeting dealt with US efforts to renew peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Alluding to the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, Maliki calls on British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson to promise the Palestinians a state though a “Johnson declaration.”

— Dov Lieber

German cops seize thousands of Trump-shaped ecstasy pills

BERLIN — German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug ecstasy in the shape of Donald Trump’s head, a haul with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900.)

Police in Osnabrueck, in northwestern Germany, say they found the drugs while checking an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway on Saturday.

They say the people in the car, a 51-year-old man and his 17-year-old son, told officers they had been in the Netherlands to buy a vehicle but hadn’t succeeded so were returning home.

Officers said they found about 5,000 of the orange, Trump-shaped ecstasy tablets along with a large but unspecified quantity of cash.

A judge on Sunday ordered the father and son kept in custody. The car was seized and towed away.

— AP

Barcelona suspect says he thought he was renting vans for a move

MADRID — A person who attended proceedings at Spain’s National Court says Barcelona attack suspect Driss Oukabir told the prosecutor he had rented the vans used in last week’s attacks — but says he did that because he thought they were going to be used for a house move.

He is the second of four Barcelona attack suspects being quizzed Tuesday at the court in Madrid. His brother was one of the five radicals shot dead Friday by police after a vehicle attack on pedestrians in Cambrils.

People stand next to candles and flowers placed on the ground after a terror attack that killed 14 people and wounded over 120 in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
People stand next to candles and flowers placed on the ground after a terror attack that killed 14 people and wounded over 120 in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The person at the hearing says Oukabir denied being part of the attackers’ cell. The person says Oukabir said his first version of events — telling police that his documents were stolen by his brother — was something he said out of fear.

The prosecutor has asked for Oukabir to be jailed without bail before trial — along with the first suspect to testify, Mohamed Houli Chemlal.

— AP

Lebanon army says in final stage of IS border battle

Lebanon’s army says it has captured most of a mountainous area on the border with Syria during an operation to clear Islamic State group jihadists from the region.

The army began its campaign in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border on Saturday, capturing more than two-thirds of the 120 square kilometers held by IS jihadists in the first two days.

“We have captured around another 20 square kilometers, so we have about another 20 square kilometers to go,” says army spokesman Brigadier-General Ali Qanso.

He declines to be drawn on how much longer it would take the army to finish the operation.

— AFP

Finnish stabbing spree suspect admits killings

HELSINKI, Finland — The main suspect in last week’s stabbing attack in Finland admits to killing two people and injuring eight others but denies any intent to murder, his lawyer says.

The Turku district court places Abderrahman Mechkah, an 18-year-old Moroccan citizen, in formal custody after he makes his statement to the court via video link from hospital, where he is being treated for a police gunshot wound to the thigh.

“The main suspect admits acts which led to deaths, but denies that they were murders,” his lawyer Kaarle Gummerus tells AFP.

The stabbing is being investigated as Finland’s first terror attack.

“He didn’t explain the motive of the acts,” Gummerus adds.

Two Finnish women were killed and six women and two men were injured. Among the injured were a Briton, an Italian and a Swede.

— AFP

US House Speaker Ryan won’t support censure of Trump

MADISON, Wisconsin — US House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will not support a resolution to censure US President Donald Trump over his comments following a white supremacist rally in Virginia, but said Trump “messed up” by saying “both sides” were to blame for violence and that there were “very fine people” among those marching to protect Confederate statues.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 27, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 27, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Ryan made the comments during a town hall Monday night organized by CNN in his Wisconsin congressional district, after being asked whether he would back the resolution that comes following Trump’s comments about the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The question came from Rabbi Dena Feingold, the sister of former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who grew up in the same city as Ryan.

Ryan said censuring Trump would be “counterproductive.”

“If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, into some bickering against each other and demean it down into some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?” Ryan said, adding that it would be the “worst thing we could do.”

While Ryan said he wouldn’t support censuring Trump, he gave his sharpest criticism to date of the president’s comments in the wake of the rally where a woman protesting against the white supremacists was killed by a man identified as a neo-Nazi supporter.

— AP

US sanctions Chinese, Russians over N. Korea support

The United States slaps sanctions on 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting North Korea’s nuclear program and attempting to evade US sanctions.

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a statement.

The Treasury Department, which oversees US sanctions programs, says those targeted by the sanctions had helped people known to support the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, or had traded in North Korean energy, exploited its workers or acted as a conduit to the international financial system.

The sanctions effectively block their targets from accessing much of the global financial system, as well as freezing any US assets.

— AFP

In talks with Putin, PM plans to raise Iranian ambitions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds consultations with security officials a day ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia.

“I will discuss with him Iran’s accelerated attempt to establish a military presence in Syria,” says Netanyahu in a statement from the Prime Minster’s Office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

“This is evidence, of course, of Iran’s aggression that has not diminished in the least since the nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu continues. “It poses a problem not only for Israel, but for all the countries of the Middle East and the entire world.”

The prime minister will be joined on the trip to the Black Sea resort city by Mossad chief Yoram Cohen and national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

The pair will sit in on the meetings with the Russian leader, during which Netanyahu is expected to discuss a ceasefire in Syria brokered by Washington and Moscow. Israel has opposed the deal, saying it does not properly address Israel’s concerns about Iranian ambitions in the region.

The Israeli delegation will also try and secure assurances that after a ceasefire brings the fighting in Syria to an end Iranian forces will be pulled out of the country and its territory, a Ynet report says.

— Times of Israel staff and AFP

Shin Bet releases list of 20 Israelis in Islamic State, including two former Jews

The Shin Bet security service publishes a list of 20 Israeli citizens, one of whom is deceased, who joined the ranks of the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

The list is drawn up for Interior Minister Aryeh Deri after a law goes into effect this week allowing him to strip members of foreign terror organizations of their Israeli citizenship.

The list is made up mostly of Israeli Arabs, including two each from the towns of Fureidis, Kafr Kassem, Jaljoulya, Be’ena and East Jerusalem.

It also includes two Israelis who were born Jewish in the Soviet Union, immigrated to Israel at a young age, grew up in Israel, then converted to Islam as adults and traveled to Syria to join the ranks of IS.

One, a 28-year-old woman, grew up in Ashdod. The other, Alex, a 32-year-old man, grew up in Lod.

One person on the list died recently, while the list was being drawn up.

Deri is expected to formally strip them of their citizenship in the coming weeks.

Chief Rabbinate challenges court jurisdiction to rule on Western Wall deal

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate says the High Court of Justice lacks the jurisdiction to rule on the “intrareligious” struggle involving egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

In a 166-page brief filed Tuesday with the High Court, the Chief Rabbinate says in part, “The courts are not the appropriate tribunal to decide if Jewish law can be changed and the holy sites can be desecrated.”

The brief says the court does not have the authority to make decisions on the topic of religion, and noted that it would not attempt to make religious decisions for Israel’s Muslim and Christian communities. It adds that the case is about advancing political and feminist issues, not freedom of religion.

“The Rabbinate does not want to set up a wall or to stop Reform and Conservative visitors from visiting the Western Wall and other holy sites,” the brief says. “Each worshiper uses their own prayer book and prays as he or she pleases, and no one gets involved in their prayers. If the petitioners wish to pray at the Western Wall, they may do so. The Reform and Conservative are not obligated to pray in a mixed area by their beliefs, they simply want to. Their religious freedom is not harmed at all.”

The brief also notes that all decisions of a religious nature involving holy sites have been decided by religious leaders, not the courts, since the beginning of the British Mandate.

Filed in the name of the country’s two chief rabbis, the brief is responding to a petition filed with the High Court by the liberal Jewish movements in Israel and the Women of the Wall organization calling for the implementation of a government agreement to expand and upgrade the egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall.

— JTA

UN chief to visit Israel, PA next week

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is slated to visit Israel next week for a three-day state visit.

His itinerary, according to the Israeli Mission to the UN, includes meetings with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as visits to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Israel Museum.

The visit includes a helicopter tour of the country and a visit to Israeli villages on the Gaza border.

Guterres is also slated to travel to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian leaders, and to visit the Gaza Strip.

Israel envoy to the world body, Danny Danon, says in a statement that the visit is an opportunity, “at a time of efforts to harm Israel at the UN, to show the secretary general Israel’s true character, its impressive achievements and contributions to humanity, and the complex reality and challenges we face in a turbulent Middle East.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, Dec. 12, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, Dec. 12, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)

Police name suspect in Ra’anana Reform synagogue vandalism

Ro’i Efrati, 39, from Bnei Brak is the suspect arrested earlier today on suspicion of a string of hate crimes, including the repeated vandalizing of a Reform synagogue in Ra’anana and threatening notes outside the Jerusalem home of a prominent Israeli ethicist and atheist, police say.

Efrati allegedly carried out the hate crimes in 2014-2016 out of a religious motive, police say.

The Kehilat Ra’anan synagogue in Ra’anana saw graffiti spray-painted on it in 2014 and 2016 and envelopes containing death threats against senior leaders in the Reform movement left outside of the building along with a knife branded with scriptural references.

Police also say Efrati was behind the threatening notes left outside the home of Prof. Yaakov Malkin, director of Tmura, the International Institute for Humanistic Secular Judaism in January 2016. Graffiti depicting a Star of David and references to biblical passages were sprayed on the fence around Malkin’s house, and an envelope containing a threatening letter and a knife branded with a further biblical reference were also found at the scene, according to police.

Barcelona terror cell planned big attack on monuments – report

A suspected member of the terror cell that unleashed carnage in Spain last week admits to a judge that the jihadists had planned to hit monuments in an even bigger attack.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, 21, and three others are charged with terrorist offenses over the rampages in Barcelona and a seaside resort that claimed 15 lives and wounded more than 100 people.

They are the only survivors of a 12-man cell whose members rammed a van into pedestrians on a tourist-packed boulevard in Barcelona on Thursday and hours later carried out a similar attack in the seaside resort of Cambrils further south.

The cell was planning “an attack on an even greater scale, targeting monuments,” according to a judicial source.

Chemlal, a Spaniard, was injured in an accidental explosion at a makeshift bomb factory on Wednesday evening that killed an imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, thought to have radicalized him and other young suspects.

Chemlal says during interrogation that the imam wanted to blow himself up, according to the source.

Police previously revealed that the suspected jihadists had been preparing bombs for “one or more attacks in Barcelona.”

— AFP

Hackers portray Jewish Republican Senate candidate as David Duke supporter

The Twitter account of a Jewish Republican candidate for the US Senate is discovered to have been hacked after it showed that she liked several posts by white supremacist leader David Duke.

Lena Epstein, who is running for the nomination in Michigan and was a co-chair of the Donald Trump presidential campaign there in 2016, disavows any support of or connection to Duke, the one-time Ku Klux Klan head.

“As a Jewish woman with deep roots in the Jewish faith, a proud lineage of Jewish leaders, and relatives who were killed in the Holocaust because of blind hatred and prejudice, there is little that could be more offensive to me than the suggestion that I support, ‘like,’ or condone David Duke, neo-Nazis, or any group that promotes hatred and prejudice,” Epstein said in a statement issued Friday.

Jewish Republican candidate for US Senate Lena Epstein (YouTube screenshot)
Jewish Republican candidate for US Senate Lena Epstein (YouTube screenshot)

The tweets with her likes gained traction after the state’s Democratic Party chairman, Brandon Dillon, began sharing screenshots of them, the MLive news website reports.

Epstein shared a screenshot of a message from Twitter asking her to confirm her email address attached to her Twitter account, indicating that the account had been hacked. She also shared the link to a report by a private investigative agency which determined that an “illegal intrusion” of her Twitter account had occurred.

Epstein in a tweet called on Dillon to apologize for spreading the screenshots and to delete his tweets. Dillon responded in a tweet by calling on Epstein to “apologizing (sic) for liking David Duke.” He also called on the Michigan GOP to apologize for Epstein’s Senate candidacy.

— JTA

Officials say Trump’s Afghan plan involves 3,900 more troops

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s plan to end the stalemate in America’s longest war and eliminate Afghanistan’s rising extremist threat involves sending up to 3,900 additional US troops, senior officials say. The first deployments could take place within days.

In a national address Monday night, Trump reversed his past calls for a speedy exit and recommitted the United States to the 16-year conflict, saying US troops must “fight to win.” He warned against the mistakes made in Iraq, where an American military withdrawal led to a vacuum that the Islamic State group quickly filled.

Trump would not confirm how many more service members he plans to send to Afghanistan, which may be the public’s most pressing question about his strategy. In interviews with television networks Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence similarly wouldn’t give any clear answer. Instead, he cited Pentagon plans from June calling for 3,900 more troops.

“The troop levels are significant, and we’ll listen to our military commanders about that,” Pence said. “And the president will make that decision in the days ahead.”

— AP

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