EU concerned West Bank land seizure will threaten peace talks
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EU concerned West Bank land seizure will threaten peace talks

Russia can ramp up military presence in Syria within ‘hours,' if needed, says Putin; Supreme Court Justice Zilbertal to retire

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks following a meeting between the US and its European allies on March 13, 2016 in Paris. (AFP/Geoffroy van der Hasselt)
    US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks following a meeting between the US and its European allies on March 13, 2016 in Paris. (AFP/Geoffroy van der Hasselt)
  • Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan (Kobi Gideon/Flash90, File)
    Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan (Kobi Gideon/Flash90, File)
  • A Yazidi man waits for medical treatment at al-Tun Kopri health center, located halfway between the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk and Irbil, after being released by the Islamic State, January 17, 2015. (AFP/Safin Hamid)
    A Yazidi man waits for medical treatment at al-Tun Kopri health center, located halfway between the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk and Irbil, after being released by the Islamic State, January 17, 2015. (AFP/Safin Hamid)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Dayan still candidate for Brazil envoy

The Foreign Ministry says that in the next few minutes it will issue a correction to a statement on a tender for Israel’s ambassadorship in Brazil, which had indicated that Dani Dayan was no longer the Jewish state’s candidate for the post.

Dani Dayan attending a protest against the evacuation of a West Bank outpost at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, June 5, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Dani Dayan attending a protest against the evacuation of a West Bank outpost at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, June 5, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

The Foreign Ministry says the tender was published due to a “technical mistake,” and stresses that Danny Dayan remains Israel’s candidate for the role of Brazil envoy.

Russia can ramp up military presence in Syria within ‘hours’

President Vladimir Putin warns that Russia could ramp up its military presence in Syria within “several hours” if needed, as he urges all sides of the conflict to respect a ceasefire.

“If there’s a need, Russia literally within several hours can ramp up its presence in the region to the size required for the unfolding situation and use the whole arsenal of possibilities we have at our disposal,” Putin says in the Kremlin.

“We would not want to do that, a military escalation is not our choice,” he adds as he decorated officers who served in the war-torn country.

“And that’s why we put our hopes in the common sense of all parties, in the commitment to the peace process of both the Syrian authorities and the opposition.”

Putin’s warning comes after the Russian strongman on Monday ordered the surprise withdrawal of most of Russia’s armed forces from Syria, saying Moscow’s task had been “on the whole” completed.

— AFP

German ‘adventure-seeking’ triple agent gets 8 years in jail

A Munich court hands down an eight-year prison sentence to a German former intelligence agent who spied for both the CIA and the Russian secret service because he wanted to “experience something exciting.”

Markus Reichel had admitted to handing over “scores of documents and internal information” to the CIA, including names and addresses of agents for the Federal Intelligence Service or BND, in exchange for 95,000 euros ($107,000).

Some 200 of those documents sent to the US spy agency were deemed very sensitive, and even included papers detailing the BND’s counter-espionage strategies.

The 32-year-old had also delivered three classified documents to the Russian secret service.

Convicting Reichel on two counts of treason and breach of official secrets, as well as five counts of corruption, the court says his actions risked “serious detriment to Germany’s external security.”

Although the prosecution had sought 10 years, the court says Reichel’s lack of previous criminal records as well as his confession were mitigating factors.

Reichel’s case had emerged during a furore over revelations of widespread US spying in documents leaked by former CIA intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, which had also plunged its partner service the BND into an unprecedented crisis.

Partially disabled after a botched childhood vaccination, Reichel, who speaks haltingly, admitted that he had spied for foreign services out of dissatisfaction with his job at the BND.

“No one trusted me with anything at the BND. At the CIA it was different,” he told the court at the opening of his trial in November.

Not only did the CIA offer “adventure,” the Americans also gave him what he craved — recognition.

“I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like that,” he told the court.

“I wanted something new, to experience something exciting,” he added.

— AFP

Kerry determines IS committing genocide in Iraq, Syria

US officials say Secretary of State John Kerry has determined that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

The officials say Kerry will announce his finding later, meeting a congressional deadline just a day after the State Department said he would miss it.

US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the Fiscal Year 2017 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 25, 2016. (AFP / SAUL LOEB)

US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the Fiscal Year 2017 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 25, 2016. (AFP / SAUL LOEB)

The delay was sharply criticized by lawmakers and others who have advocated for the determination.

The finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS militants, according to the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly preview Kerry’s decision.

The officials say Kerry would specifically mention Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups as victims of genocide.

— AP

Shin Bet says Meir Dagan was a courageous leader

The Shin Bet issues a statement in honor of Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief who passed away this morning, saying the Israeli security official was “a courageous leader.”

Dayan comments on Foreign Ministry Brazil mishap

Dani Dayan says that for about an hour he was glad to have gotten out of a situation that was personally most embarrassing while being sad on a political level that Israel surrendered to “boycotts.”

Now, Dayan says, “it’s back to the other way around.”

Dayan remains Israel’s candidate for the ambassadorship in Brazil, the Foreign Ministry declared Thursday, hours after diplomatic officials said his controversial candidacy had been withdrawn.

“Dani Dayan continues to be our designated ambassador,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said in a message to reporters Thursday afternoon.

But hours earlier, the Foreign Ministry’s human resource department published a tender for the ambassadorships in Brasilia, Asmara (in Eritrea) and Budapest.

IDF investigating reports of kidnapping attempt in West Bank

The IDF is investigating reports of a kidnapping attempt near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa.

Further details are unavailable.

Syrian Kurds declare federal region amid wide criticism

The main Syrian Kurdish group declares a federal region in Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria, a move that is immediately rejected by both the government and opposition.

Nawaf Khalil, an official with the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, tells The Associated Press that the announcement was made at a conference being held in the town of Rmeilan in the northeastern province of Hassakeh.

People on a hilltop watch smoke rising from a fire caused by a strike in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, on October 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

People on a hilltop watch smoke rising from a fire caused by a strike in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, on October 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

The move is rejected by the Syrian Foreign Ministry describing it as “unconstitutional and worthless.” It warns against any attempt to encroach upon the integrity of Syrian territory.

The Syrian National Coalition, one of the main Syrian opposition groups, also says it rejects such unilateral declarations and warned of any attempt to form autonomous regions that, “confiscate the will of the Syrian people.”

Khalil says participants in the Rmeilan meeting have approved a “democratic federal system for Rojava-Northern Syria.” Rojava is a Kurdish word that refers to three distinct enclaves, or cantons, under Kurdish control in northern Syria: Jazira, Kobani and Afrin.

Khalil says participants who include Turkmen, Arabs, Christian and Kurds in northern Syria said after they approved the draft that they are now preparing a final statement that will be read later today.

“Federal and Democratic Syria is a guarantee of coexistence and brotherly relations between people,” reads a banner posted online from inside the room of the Rmeilan conference.

Salih Muslim, the co-president of the PYD, says by telephone that those meeting “are setting up the basis on how constituencies will deal with each other.”

— AP

Stabbing attempt reported in Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot

A stabbing attempt is reported at a mall in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot. One person is reportedly injured and the stabber is said to be on the run.

Further details to come.

Man lightly injured in Jerusalem stabbing

A man is reported lightly injured in a stabbing in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot.

Magen David Adom paramedics are treating the wounded man.

Police are investigating whether the stabbing was terror related or a criminal attack.

The stabber is reportedly on the run.

Dagan’s funeral to be held Sunday at Rosh Pina

Meir Dagan’s funeral will be held on Sunday afternoon at the Rosh Pina military cemetery, the IDF announces.

“Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Dagan will be laid to rest in a full military burial ceremony,” the army says.

The service will be closed to the media.

Supreme Court Justice Zvi Zilbertal to retire

Supreme Court Justice Zvi Zilbertal announces his decision to retire from office upon reaching the age of 65.

Zilbertal served in the Supreme Court for 27 years.

Kasich to speak at AIPAC

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich will speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference set to be held on March 20-22.

Injured man in Talpiot not stabbed

Police say a man who was lightly injured in an incident in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot was not stabbed, but was rather bruised in a scuffle.

It is still unclear whether the attack was terror related, but police are searching for the assailant.

The wounded man is taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center for treatment.

Kerry determines IS committing genocide in Iraq, Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry determines that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, as he acted to meet a congressional deadline.

Kerry’s finding does not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS and does not prejudge any prosecution against its members.

A day after the State Department said Kerry would miss the deadline, Kerry says he had completed his review and determined that Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups are victims of genocide and crimes against humanity by IS militants. The House earlier this week passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning IS atrocities as genocide.

“In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control,” Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

He outlines a litany of atrocities that he said the militants had committed against people and religious sites, as well as threats. “Daesh is genocidal by self-acclimation, by ideology and by practice.”

— AP

Kenyan-born runner granted Israeli nationality

Lonah Chemtai, a Kenyan-born runner who came first in this year’s Tel Aviv marathon, is granted Israeli nationality and will be eligible to represent Israel at the Rio Olympics this summer.

Chemtai, 27, came to Israel eight years ago, as a nanny for a diplomat at the Kenyan embassy.

Lonah Chemtai and her husband, Dan Salpeter (screen capture: Channel 10)

Lonah Chemtai and her husband, Dan Salpeter (screen capture: Channel 10)

A keen runner, she was introduced to Israeli coach Dan Salpeter, and the two fell in love.

Rivlin meets with Russian prime minister

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meets with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The two discuss strengthening agricultural cooperation between Russia and Israel and increasing Israeli exports of agricultural products.

“I am happy to discuss economic matters and bilateral cooperation,” the Russian prime minister says.

President Rivlin says that “our bilateral relations with Russia is multi-faceted and very important to us. When such a large segmant of the population is Russian-speaking, our relationship becomes stronger and unbreakable.”

Palestinian with security record arrested for illegally entering Israel

A Palestinian convicted in the past of security-related offenses is arrested at the Shefayim junction on suspicion that he illegally entered Israel.

Osama Amer, 32, from a village near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, served two prison terms in the past.

Amer claims he only wanted to find a job in Israel, and denies being involved in terrorist activity.

New Paris links emerge as Brussels manhunt continues

Fresh links between the Paris attacks and a bloody anti-terrorism raid in Brussels emerge as a manhunt continued for two suspected extremists who escaped.

The firefight on Tuesday, in which an Algerian national with suspected ties to Islamic State was killed, erupted after Belgian and French police searched a property in connection with the November 13 Paris massacres, claimed by IS.

Sources close to the investigation tell AFP that the officers visited the apartment believing it was rented under the same false identity as a hideout in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used by the Paris attackers.

In the Charleroi hideout, police had found DNA traces of Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud as well as Chakib Akrouh, both of whom were killed north of the French capital days after the Paris attacks under a hail of police bullets.

According to Belgian daily De Standaard, police believe both properties were actually rented by convicted car thief Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, who is at large.

Police officers secure an area during an apartment raid in Brussels, March 15, 2016. (AP/Thierry Monasse)

Police officers secure an area during an apartment raid in Brussels, March 15, 2016. (AP/Thierry Monasse)

His brother, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, is also known to authorities and served a nine-year sentence in 2010 after firing on police during a robbery, according to daily La Derniere Heure.

Sources close to the investigation tell AFP the search on Tuesday was to verify if the El Bakraoui brothers were to be found at the apartment, though expectations were low as water and electric power had been cut off for weeks.

According to De Standaard, the two suspects on the run from the firefight Tuesday are not the El Bakraoui brothers, though a spokesman from the federal prosecutor refused to confirm the information.

— AFP

Right-wing activist sentenced to 2 years for terror manual

Moshe Auerbach, a right-wing activist from Bnei Brak who wrote a manual that explains how to set fire to mosques and churches, is sentenced to two years in prison.

Auerbach is charged with sedition, possession or publication of incitement to violence and terrorism, and holding racist advertising.

Officials say more Arabs joining US-backed militia in Syria

Senior Pentagon officials say more Arab fighters are joining Syria’s US-backed militia due to its success against the Islamic State group and other militants.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells a Senate committee that the number of Arabs in the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces has doubled over the last month, from 2,500 to 5,000.

Gen. Joseph Dunford says a “snowball effect” is responsible for the growth.

He says Arab fighters are more willing to join because they see the amount of support that the US is providing and the level of success that these forces are having.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter wants lawmakers to quickly provide nearly $50 million that the Pentagon has requested to support the indigenous forces in Syria.

— AP

Carter calls Iran detention of US sailors ‘outrageous’

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter calls Iran’s brief detention of American sailors in the Gulf earlier this year an “outrageous” action inconsistent with international law.

Iran held 10 US sailors for less than 24 hours in January after intercepting them in Iranian territorial waters off Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf when their two small attack boats mistakenly veered off course.

“Iran’s actions were outrageous, unprofessional, and inconsistent with international law,” Carter says in remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

This photo released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)

This photo released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)

“Nothing we’ve learned since then about the circumstances of this incident changes that fact.”

The United States carefully avoided escalating the situation at the time, maintaining a conciliatory tone with Tehran days ahead of the implementation of a historic international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian media broadcast humiliating images of the American sailors during their detention, showing them kneeling on their boats at gunpoint with their hands on their heads.

The US military says a navigation error caused the American riverine command boats to veer off course.

— AFP

9 accused of smuggling people by air from Greece

Authorities in Greece say nine people from Greece and Iraq have been arrested after allegedly using use a light aircraft to transport stranded migrants from western Greece to Italy.

Police and judicial authorities say that the arrests were made a day earlier as arrangements were being made to transport a group of migrants from a flight club outside the western Greek town of Missolonghi. The suspects include a light aircraft pilot and a former municipal official from the town.

More than 40,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece following border closures and restrictions by Austria and several Balkan countries — leaving many to turn to smugglers to try to reach western Europe.

Police say the alleged smugglers in Missolonghi had used the aircraft to transport drugs to western Europe but had recently switched to migrant-trafficking.

Migrants were charged between 4,500 and 7,500 euros ($5,100-8,500) each for the trip to Italy, police said.

— AP

UN looks to Russia for more help with Syria aid

A UN official says that despite the Russian troops’ drawdown in Syria, the mission is looking to for continued help from Russia on aid deliveries in the war-torn country.

Jan Egeland, supervisor of U.N. humanitarian aid shipments, says he hopes Russia will remain as “instrumental” in helping convoys get through to besieged areas as it has been up to now.

He says that Russia helped “in many places” where convoys had problems getting through. He noted a case in Moadamiyeh, near Damascus, when a convoy was stuck at a checkpoint for over 30 hours and “Russia helped us getting through.”

Egeland, who is the humanitarian aid adviser to the UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, spoke to reporters after a meeting of his task force in Geneva on Thursday.

— AP

Ya’alon eulogizes former Mossad leader

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon eulogizes former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who passed away this morning.

“Meir Dagan was committed to Israel’s security and his work is intertwined with the history of the state,” he says.

“During meetings with him, it was impossible not to notice the sincere concern for Israel’s future and his desire to continue to provide to the state from his experience. The nation of Israel owes much to Meir Dagan for his outstanding contributions to our security.”

EU says Israel’s West Bank land seizure threatens peace

The European Union says the West Bank land seizure by Israel threatens the peace process with the Palestinians, according to Reuters.

The EU statement comes following Israel’s appropriation of 579 acres near the Palestinian city of Jericho.

“Israel’s decision … is a further step that risks undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state and therefore calls into question Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution,” the EU says in a statement.

“Any decision that could enable further settlement expansion, which is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace, will only drive the parties to the conflict even further apart,” the EU continues.

“The European Union remains firmly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions and confiscations, evictions, forced transfers or restrictions on movement and access.”

Officer who worked when phone call from kidnapped teen was received won’t be fired

The shift manager at the police’s 100 hotline during the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenage boys near the Gush Etzion in June, 2014 will not be fired, and will be promoted, even though other officers who failed to respond appropriately to a telephone call from one of the kidnapped teens were fired.

The three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in June 2014, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel. (Courtesy)

The three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in June 2014, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel. (Courtesy)

A report drafted by an investigative committee and approved by former police commissioner Yohanan Danino two years ago stated that the officers dismissed the call as a prank and neglected to convey the information to the army immediately, as they were supposed to do.

British Jewish leader: Jews can’t trust Labour Party

Citing recent allegations of anti-Semitism and Israel hatred against several members of the Labour Party in Britain, the head of a major group representing British Jews says Jews can no longer trust the party.

Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, made the statement in an interview published Thursday in the online edition of the Evening Standard.

“Frankly, most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour,” Arkush says.

Relations between the political, mainstream establishment of the British Jewish community and Labour deteriorated following the election of Jeremy Corbyn in September to head the opposition party.

A hardcore socialist deemed by many as too radical to lead Labour back to power, he has alienated many Jews – which as a community used to be traditionally supportive of Labour – with his endorsement of anti-Semitic enemies of the Jewish state, including the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Labour has seen a string of scandals involving alleged anti-Semitism, including at its Oxford University chapter, which is now the subject of a party probe.

Separately, a Labour lawmaker in Parliament, Vicki Kirby, was suspended this week after it was revealed she published a series of social media posts saying that Adolf Hitler might be a “Zionist god” and Jews have “big noses,” and asking why Islamic State was not attacking Israel.

Corbyn has rejected accusations that he endorses anti-Semites as “ludicrous and wrong,” and reiterated statements on his determination to fight racism in all its forms. But many British Jews remained suspicious in view of his public endorsements, including in 2009, of activists from Hezbollah and Hamas as “friends.”

Reacting to the incidents of alleged anti-Semitism by Labour representatives, Arkush says: “It confirms the belief we have had for a long time that there is a real problem of anti-Semitism on the far left, which now eclipses the anti-Semitism that we have always seen coming from the far right.”

— JTA

Santana to play Tel Aviv in summer

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana is set to play a show in Tel Aviv on July 30, according to Channel 2.

Santana was scheduled to perform in Israel in 2010, but canceled. He has never played a show in Israel before.

Rubio won’t run on anyone’s VP ticket

Senator Marco Rubio tells reporters he will not be anyone’s vice presidential candidate, and that he won’t run for governor of Florida in 2018.

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