Netanyahu praises confirmation of Trump’s US ambassador to Israel
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Netanyahu praises confirmation of Trump’s US ambassador to Israel

PM says David Friedman 'will be warmly welcomed as a close friend'; JCCs thank Israel Police, FBI for arrest of bomb hoax suspect

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

  • David Friedman, confirmed as US Ambassador to Israel, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    David Friedman, confirmed as US Ambassador to Israel, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • In this Jan. 10, 2017 file photo, then-Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP/Alex Brandon, File)
    In this Jan. 10, 2017 file photo, then-Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP/Alex Brandon, File)
  • Police officers and and Sedee-Dovo, the mine clearance service of Belgian defense, patrol  in Antwerp where Belgian police arrested a man on March 23, 2017 after he tried to drive into a crowd at high-speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp, a police chief said. (AFP/Belga/VIRGINIE LEFOUR)
    Police officers and and Sedee-Dovo, the mine clearance service of Belgian defense, patrol in Antwerp where Belgian police arrested a man on March 23, 2017 after he tried to drive into a crowd at high-speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp, a police chief said. (AFP/Belga/VIRGINIE LEFOUR)
  • A man brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, under suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions around the world, March 23, 2017. (Flash90)
    A man brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, under suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions around the world, March 23, 2017. (Flash90)
  • Illustrative: The Albany JCC closed briefly due to  one of the bomb threats, January 18, 2017. (Screenshot from Twitter via JTA)
    Illustrative: The Albany JCC closed briefly due to one of the bomb threats, January 18, 2017. (Screenshot from Twitter via JTA)
  • Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, right, speaks with Likud MK Benny Begin during a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill on December 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, right, speaks with Likud MK Benny Begin during a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill on December 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on her way to parliament, Thursday March 23, 2017, following the attack in London Wednesday. ( Jack Taylor/Pool via AP)
    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on her way to parliament, Thursday March 23, 2017, following the attack in London Wednesday. ( Jack Taylor/Pool via AP)

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

Islamic bloc of nations condemns London attack

The world’s largest body of Islamic nations and the Saudi king condemn the attack in London, saying they reject such acts of terrorism.

Yousef Bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, who heads the Saudi-headquartered organization, says acts of terrorism contradict the fundamentals of Islam. The OIC is composed of 57 Muslim-majority countries from around the world.

Three people were killed and 29 injured in Wednesday’s attack.

Paramedics load a victim into the back of an ambulance as members of the emergency services work on Westminster Bridge, alonside the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Niklas Halle'n)

Paramedics load a victim into the back of an ambulance as members of the emergency services work on Westminster Bridge, alonside the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Niklas Halle’n)

Meanwhile the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, describes the attack as “a terrible crime that is incompatible with all values and principles of humanity.”

The Saudi Press Agency reports that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a cable of condolences to British Prime Minister Theresa May in which he says the kingdom “strongly condemns this terrorist act.” London is a popular destination for thousands of Saudi and Arab Gulf tourists.

— AP

People from 11 countries hospitalized in London attack, May says

Britain’s prime minister says people from 11 countries were hospitalized after the Wednesday attack outside Parliament.

Theresa May said that 12 Britons, 3 French, 2 Romanians, 4 South Koreans, 1 German, 1 Pole, 1 Irish, 1 Chinese, 1 Italian, 1 American and two Greeks required hospital treatment. Police earlier said that seven of the 29 who are hospitalized are in critical condition.

A knife-wielding attacker driving an SUV mowed down pedestrians, killing two on Westminster Bridge before breaching Parliament’s grounds and fatally stabbing a police officer. The attacker was then shot dead by police.

— AP

London attacker born in Britain, previously investigated

The man who mowed down pedestrians on a London bridge and fatally stabbed a police officer on Parliament’s grounds was born in Britain and was known to intelligence services, the UK prime minister says.

Theresa May, who didn’t disclose the man’s name, says that he was once investigated for extremism links, but was considered a peripheral figure.

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017, following the terror incident at the Houses of Parliament. (AFP Photo/Pool/Richard Pohle)

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017, following the terror incident at the Houses of Parliament. (AFP Photo/Pool/Richard Pohle)

The revelation came moments after Parliament held a minute of silence and reconvened less than 24 hours after Wednesday’s brutal attack, which killed three victims and forced a lockdown of British government’s seat of power.

— AP

Sick Netanyahu cancels coalition talks to defuse crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels marathon coalition talks aimed at defusing an escalating political crisis threatening to bring down his government.

Netanyahu had been scheduled to hold talks with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and other cabinet ministers in a bid to resolve tensions over the launch of a new public broadcasting corporation, but the prime minister reportedly got sick on his recent visit to China and has canceled all his Thursday meetings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, February 19, 2017. (Olivier Fitoussi)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, February 19, 2017. (Olivier Fitoussi)

A new date for the talks has not yet been set.

AIPAC to open annual conference with Shimon Peres tribute

AIPAC, the largest US pro-Israel lobby, will begin its annual Policy Conference this on Sunday with a tribute to the late Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Peres, who is the only person to have served as both prime minister and president of Israel, died in September at the age of 93.

Shimon Peres speaking during an interview in the president’s residence in Jerusalem, April 10, 2013. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images/JTA)

Shimon Peres speaking during an interview in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 10, 2013. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images/JTA)

Attending this year’s conference will be Peres’s son Chemi Peres and Yousef Qaraja, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank Palestinian village of Halhul, whose life was saved 10 years ago after undergoing complex cardiac surgery in Israel through one of the Peres Center’s medicine and healthcare initiatives.

The first presentation at the conference will be by the Peres Center’s “Saving Children” program, which has saved the lives of around 12,000 Palestinian children through providing medical treatment in Israel.

In addition, Chemi Peres will speak at the plenary session on the strategic importance of Israel-US relations, as well as cooperation between the Israeli and American administrations.

Smotrich calls on rabbis not to send students to IDF

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich is calling on rabbis and teachers to keep students from enlisting into the army in order to protest what he labeled the “radical feminist” agenda which was leading to more mixed gender activities in the armed forces, and putting “equality above victory.”

Writing in the weekly religious newspaper B’Sheva, Smotrich says, “Just as a loving mother who sees her beloved son being dragged into the bad culture of a dangerous street gang, and pulls him back by force a moment before he descends into the abyss, even if she’s forced to cause him pain in so doing, so also we, with our great love for the army, must save it from the extreme post-modernist fingernails that have grasped hold of it…using pretty words about equality and accepting the other.”

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich attends a committee meeting regarding the so-called Regulation Bill, which is designed to avert the court-ordered demolition of the West Bank outpost of Amona by December 25, on November 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich attends a committee meeting regarding the so-called Regulation Bill, which is designed to avert the court-ordered demolition of the West Bank outpost of Amona by December 25, on November 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Smotrich’s call comes following political fallout over the leak of a recording earlier this month in which Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of a pre-army religious academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, told graduates from another academy that Israel Defense Forces service had “driven our girls crazy.”

In response, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has said he will cut funding to the Eli academy if Levinstein does not leave his teaching post.

Jewish Israeli arrested for JCC bomb threats

Following a months-long operation in cooperation with the FBI and other foreign law enforcement agencies, Israeli police arrest a 19-year-old Jewish Israeli on suspicion of carrying out hundreds of bomb threats called into US Jewish Community Centers.

Since January, more than 100 JCCs and other institutions have received bomb threats, prompting some parents to pull their kids from JCC programs.

The FBI, US Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies had been investigating the threats, but until now had yet to charge anyone with committing the vast majority of them.

Juan Thompson, a St. Louis resident, has been charged with committing eight of the threats, but appears to be a copycat.

Israeli JCC bomb threat suspect is also a US citizen

The suspect arrested by Israeli police in suspicion of carrying out hoax bomb threats on US Jewish Community Centers has dual Israel-US citizenship, sources say.

Upon searching his house, police discovered advanced communication equipment including satellites and antennas used to cover up the origin of his calls, police told The Times of Israel.

His father was also brought in for questioning.

JCC bomb hoaxer also grounded flights with bomb threats

In addition to being suspected of carrying out hoax bomb threats on US Jewish Community Centers, a Jewish teen arrested by Israeli police made threats to airlines, causing Delta flights to change course after receiving a call, sources tell The Times of Israel.

In January 2015 two Delta Air Lines flights arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, one continuing to and one arriving from Tel Aviv, were evacuated following a bomb threat.

An anonymous caller to an unnamed airline reported that a pipe bomb had been placed aboard Delta’s flight 468, according to reports. The airline has two flights with the same number.

One of the flights, a Boeing 777, was waiting to depart from Kennedy Airport at 9:23 p.m. when the call came in. The passengers were evacuated and waited on buses on the tarmac while security officials searched the plane. The luggage also was removed and rescreened. No explosives were found on board.

The second flight, a Boeing 757, arrived at the airport from San Francisco at 8 p.m. and was scheduled to continue on to Tel Aviv. After the passengers disembarked, the plane was searched. No explosives were found.

Queen expresses ‘deepest sympathy’ over London attack

Queen Elizabeth II says her “thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathy” are with those affected by Wednesday’s attack in London.

The monarch says: “I know I speak for everyone in expressing my enduring thanks and admiration for the members of the Metropolitan Police Service and all who work so selflessly to help and protect others.”

She also sent a message of apology to London’s police force after plans to have her preside over the opening of the New Scotland Yard building were canceled following the attack.

The queen says in the statement that she looks forward “to visiting at a later date.”

— AP

Islamic State claims responsibility for London attack

The Islamic State group says the attack outside the British parliament in London was carried out by one of its “soldiers.”

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency says that the person who carried out the “attack in front of the British parliament in London was a soldier of the Islamic State.”

It adds that the person “carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting citizens of the coalition.”

A man is treated by emergency services outside the British Parliament in London on Wednesday March 22, 2017. Reports claim this man to be responsible for the attack that killed three. (Screen capture/YouTube)

A man is treated by emergency services outside the British Parliament in London on Wednesday March 22, 2017. Reports claim this man to be responsible for the attack that killed three. (Screen capture/YouTube)

IS has called on its supporters to carry out attacks against citizens of the US-led coalition that has been targeting the group since 2014.

IS, which has been responsible for numerous bloody attacks around the globe, has also previously claimed certain attacks in a show of opportunism. Britain’s government has not identified the suspect.

— AP

Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Rome

Italian archaeologists discover part of the so-called Campus Iudeorum, the long-lost cemetery used by Rome’s medieval Jewish community.

Along with the discovery of 38 graves, with skeletal remains intact, a stone with part of a Hebrew inscription also was found.

The site, whose graves date from the 14th century to the early 17th century, was uncovered during excavations carried out during the restructuring of the Palazzo Leonori as the new headquarters of an insurance company.

Located in Rome’s Trastevere district, the site of the cemetery was already known through maps and archival sources but had disappeared physically centuries ago. It was taken over by the papal rulers at the end of the 16th century and finally razed in the mid-17thcentury when new city walls were built. At that time Jews, already confined to a ghetto, moved their cemetery to a location next to the Circus Maximus, which in turn was destroyed by the fascist regime in the 1930s. The city rose garden now occupies that spot, with a small plaque commemorating it as the site of a Jewish cemetery.

— JTA

Public Security minister congratulates police on arresting JCC bomb hoax suspect

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan congratulates police on arresting a suspect believed to have been involved in the recent wave of threats against Jewish centers in the US.

“I congratulate the Israeli Police on leading a complex international investigation, together with law enforcement agencies from around the world, which led to the arrest of the suspect,” he said in a statement.

“We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government.”

Man arrested for trying to drive into crowd in Antwerp

Belgian police arrested a man after he tried to drive into a crowd at high speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp, a police spokesman says.

“A vehicle with French plates has tried to drive at high speed into the Meir (shopping street). A man in camouflage was taken away,” the spokesman tells a televised news conference in Antwerp.

Netanyahu ‘vehemently condemns’ London attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “vehemently condemns” the Wednesday terror attack in London in which three people were killed and 29 injured, a statement from the prime ministers office says.

“The citizens of Israel were among the first to cope with car-ramming and stabbing attacks. We must stand arm in arm with the citizen’s of Britain and all of the civilized world against radical Islamic terror,” Netanyahu is quoted as saying.

The prime minister was traveling back from China during the attack and arrived in Israel early this morning.

EU security chief sees link between London and Brussels attacks

European Union Security Commissioner Julian King is suggesting there could be a link between Wednesday’s attack in London and the suicide bombings in Brussels exactly one year ago.

King said Thursday that “l don’t think it was a complete accident that this attack took place on the first anniversary of the Brussels attacks.”

He did not say whether the link went beyond that both took place on March 22. The attacks on Brussels’ airport and subway last year killed 32 people.

King also said that “the methodology of the London attacker fits into a pattern of behavior which we have seen before” in vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice last year.

King, who is from Britain, added that “the terrorist threat remains extremely high across Europe.”

— AP

Belgium raises security in Antwerp after car-ramming attempt

Belgian authorities raise security in the port of Antwerp after a car with French license plates drove at high speed through a busy shopping street, forcing pedestrians to jump out of the way.

The federal prosecutor’s office say the car was intercepted late Thursday morning at the port docks and a Frenchman living in France was arrested. Authorities then raised security in the center of town, in places where people normally gather.

In the car, authorities say they found knives, a shotgun and a gas can with an unknown liquid.

The office says “because of these elements, and the events in London yesterday, the case is being taken on by the federal prosecutor’s office,” which usually deals with extremist attacks.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said “we remain vigilant. Our security services have done excellent work.”

The events happened a day after the nation held remembrance services for the Brussels airport and subway attacks, which killed 32 people on March 22, 2016.

— AP

JCC bomb hoax suspect to remain under arrest for a week

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court extends by a week the remand of a teenager arrested on suspension of calling and emailing in out dozens of hoax bomb threats to US Jewish Community Centers.

The 19-year-old, a dual US-Israeli citizen, will remain under arrest until March 30.

A man brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, under suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions around the world, March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

A man brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, under suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions around the world, March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

The court also decided to keep the suspect’s name under gag order.

US attorney general praises arrest of JCC bomb hoaxer

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the arrest of a 19-year-old Israeli Jewish man in a string of bomb threats targeting US Jewish community centers shows the Justice Department will not tolerate religious-oriented attacks.

Sessions says in a statement that the arrest is the result of a large investigation into hate crimes against the Jewish community. He says the Justice Department “will not tolerate the targeting of any community in the country on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

He called work by the FBI and Israeli Police “outstanding.”

— with AP

JCC head hopeful threats will end after Israeli suspect arrested

The head of a Jewish community center in New Jersey that had been targeted by bomb threats says he’s thankful that US and international law enforcement prioritized the investigation and have caught a suspect.

Jordan Shenker, head of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, says he is cautiously optimistic that the man arrested in Israel on Thursday acted alone and that the threats will be over.

JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey (Google Street View)

JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey (Google Street View)

Shenker says the arrest has led to a feeling of being able to exhale, but that the center has always prioritized security and will continue to do so.

The Anti-Defamation League says there have been more than 150 bomb threats against US Jewish community centers and day schools in the US since January 9, including Tenafly and Cherry Hill.

— AP

Suspect in bomb threats covered his tracks

An Israeli police official says the suspect in a wave of bomb threats against Jewish targets in the US used sophisticated methods to hide his tracks.

Yaniv Azani, head of technology in the Israeli police’s cyber unit, says the suspect used “several different means to camouflage the various layers of communication mechanisms” to carry out the calls.

Nimrod Vax, co-founder of US-Israeli cybersecurity firm BigID, says the phone calls required a certain level of sophistication, but were “not too difficult” for an experienced hacker.

— AP

Venezuela expresses ‘desire’ to re-establish diplomatic ties with Israel

Venezuela’s foreign minister expresses to his country’s chief rabbi “the desire to establish full relations with the State of Israel” eight years after the South American nation expelled its Israeli ambassador.

“We suggested to start with a period of courtship, which means a beginning through consular relations, so that later it will become a marriage, which would be Israel’s own embassy again in Venezuela, as we have always had here,” Venezuela’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Isaac Cohen, tells the AJN News website.

Cohen says that he has been in touch with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“I am an Orthodox and Zionist rabbi, and for me it is Jewish pride to have the flag of the State of Israel hoisted here in Venezuela, as in any country where there is a Jewish community. That gives us peace and tranquility, it’s fundamental,” the rabbi says.

Last month, President Nicolas Maduro welcomed a Jewish delegation including Cohen and Farache at the governmental palace to strengthen cooperation that over the years has faced roadblocks. “A good day of dialog for peace. Boosting the co-existence and the dialog of civilizations, of religions to consolidate our nation,” the far-leftist leader tweeted after the meeting.

— JTA

JCC bomb hoax suspect tried to grab police gun during arrest

A teenager arrested in Israel on suspicion of causing dozens of hoax bomb threats to US Jewish Community Centers tried to grab a police officer’s handgun during his arrest, police say.

He was fought off and subdued by the officer.

PMO denies US asked for settlement freeze

The Prime Minister’s Office denies reports that US President Donald Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt demanded, during meetings with Prime Misniter Benjamin Netanyahu last week, that Israel introduce a settlement freeze.

“The reports concerning Mr. Greenblatt’s visit to Israel and any purported US demands of Israel in talks regarding the settlements are false,” a breif statement reads.

“A readout of those continuing talks will be provided later today,” it adds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

According to several Hebrew media reports Wednesday, Greenblatt set out terms under which the US would not oppose the construction of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods over the pre-1967 lines in East Jerusalem, and would accept an agreed number of new homes each year inside the major settlement blocs, while no new homes would be built in isolated settlements. Building in the blocs would be within an agreed annual quota, Greenblatt proposed, according to Channel 2.

Trump tweets condolences to family of ‘great American’ killed in London attack

US President Donald Trump tweets his condolences to the family of Kurt Cochran, a US citizen killed in the London terror attack, along with a UK policeman and a Spanish tourist, calling him “a great American.”

Cochran and his wife, Melissa, were on the last day of a European trip celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when the deadly attack played out in the heart of London.

Melissa Cochran remains hospitalized.

Police identify UK attacker as Khalid Masood

British police identify the person responsible for the terror attack near Parliament as 52-year-old Khalid Masood.

The police say in a statement Thursday that Masood was born in southeastern England and was most recently living in the West Midlands, in central England.

Police say Masood, who had a number of aliases, wasn’t the subject of any current investigation and that “there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack.”

He had been arrested previously for assault, possession of offensive weapons and public order offenses.

His first conviction was in November 1983 for criminal damage and his last was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.

— AP

US Holocaust Museum to award Angela Merkel with top honor named for Elie Wiesel

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum will bestow its highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award, on German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her work advancing Holocaust awareness.

“Chancellor Merkel has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to making the preservation of Holocaust memory a priority for Germany,” says Tom Bernstein, who chairs the council governing the museum, in a statement. “The Museum has partnered with the German government and institutions on many initiatives, and those partnerships have only grown deeper and more fruitful under Chancellor Merkel.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) walks with Holocaust survivor Max Mannheimer (3th R) at former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, southwestern Germany, during a ceremony to mark 70 years since it was liberated by US forces on May 3, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) walks with Holocaust survivor Max Mannheimer (3th R) at former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, southwestern Germany, during a ceremony to mark 70 years since it was liberated by US forces on May 3, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE)

Merkel was instrumental in 2011 in overcoming the reluctance among the 11 nations that run the International Tracing Service, the Germany-based documentation center of Nazi atrocities, to opening up its archives.

She will receive the award on April 24 during the museum’s National Tribute Dinner, which takes place on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Washington, DC Merkel will accept the honor by video from Germany.

— JTA

9 Venezuelan converts arrive in Israel to start aliyah process

Nine Venezuelan converts arrive in Israel for the purpose of aliyah after their initial request was denied.

The Venezuelans, five adults and four children, arrived without fanfare on Thursday morning, Haaretz reports.

The Ministry of the Interior, which claimed the Venezuelans’ engagement in Jewish communal life has not been sufficient, denied their request to make aliyah in December.

Under a compromise deal brokered by The Jewish Agency for Israel in the Knesset, the applicants — indigenous Venezuelans who belong to three families and converted to Judaism in 2014 under the auspices of a Conservative rabbinical court — underwent a second conversion described as “symbolic” earlier this week in Bogota, Colombia. They will have to wait nine months to claim citizenship after proving engagement in a Jewish community in Israel, according to the report.

The second conversion was directed by Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, who accompanied them to Israel.

— JTA

WikiLeaks releases CIA hacks of Apple Mac computers

The Central Intelligence Agency is able to permanently infect an Apple Mac computer so that even reinstalling the operating system will not erase the bug, according to documents published by WikiLeaks.

In its second release allegedly from the CIA’s arsenal of hacking tools, WikiLeaks also said that it appears the US spy agency has been able since 2008 to insert it bugs onto new and unused iPhones by intervening in Apple’s supply and distribution network.

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli cyber security firm NSO Group, on August 28, 2016 in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli cyber security firm NSO Group, on August 28, 2016 in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The release follows the initial publication on March 9 by the anti-secrecy group of thousands of pages of instructions and code from what it called the entire CIA arsenal of hacking tools.

— AFP

Man held for driving at crowd in Belgium’s Antwerp

Belgian security forces arrested a man after he drove towards a crowded shopping area at high speed in the port city of Antwerp, officials say.

Authorities found a rifle and bladed weapons in the car after the suspect, identified by prosecutors as a 39-year-old named Mohamed R., tried to flee and was detained in the northern city.

The man was “under the influence of something” but it was not clear what substance, a source close to the investigation tells AFP.

Police officers and and Sedee-Dovo, the mine clearance service of Belgian defense, patrol in Antwerp where Belgian police arrested a man on March 23, 2017 after he tried to drive into a crowd at high-speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp, a police chief said. (AFP/Belga/VIRGINIE LEFOUR)

Police officers and and Sedee-Dovo, the mine clearance service of Belgian defense, patrol in Antwerp where Belgian police arrested a man on March 23, 2017 after he tried to drive into a crowd at high-speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp, a police chief said. (AFP/Belga/VIRGINIE LEFOUR)

Authorities were not certain if it was an attempted attack and the incident remained under investigation, several Belgian sources added on condition of anonymity.

The prosecutor’s office says the man was a national of France, but a French police source told AFP he was a Tunisian holding French residency papers.

— AFP

UN’s troubled Syria peace talks restart in Geneva

UN-backed Syria peace talks resume in Geneva, with little hope of a breakthrough and the emboldened regime seen as unlikely to make concessions.

UN deputy special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy is meeting separately with government negotiators and the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) at hotels in the Swiss city.

“We have started today preliminary talks,” Ramzy tells reporters after his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives. “We hope we will be starting substantive discussions tomorrow.”

The UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura holds a press briefing on the Aleppo situation at the UN offices in Geneva on October 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI)

The UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura holds a press briefing on the Aleppo situation at the UN offices in Geneva on October 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI)

Ramzy’s boss, UN mediator Staffan de Mistura, was wrapping up a diplomatic tour of the key powers shaping the conflict, which included trips to Moscow, Riyadh and Ankara. De Mistura is due back in Geneva on Thursday evening to take charge of the negotiations which have yielded little in four previous rounds.

— AFP

JCCs thanks Israel Police, FBI for arrest of bomb hoax suspect

The JCC Association of North America, an umbrella group of US Jewish community centers, thanks Israeli and US authorities for the arrest of a 19-year-old Israel-American in Ashkelon today, suspected to have made dozens of hoax bomb threats to JCCs.

“On behalf of the JCC Association of North America and JCCs across the continent, we are gratified by the progress in this investigation, and applaud the commitment and leadership of the FBI and other federal agencies, Israeli law enforcement, and local law enforcement across the United States and Canada,” the groups says in a statement.

“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all – is reportedly Jewish,” it adds.

US bomb threat suspect has ‘serious’ condition

The lawyer for the Israeli suspect in the bomb threats on US Jewish community centers says her client suffers from a “very serious” medical condition that may have affected his behavior.

Galit Bash tells reporters outside a courthouse that the young man’s condition had prevented him from serving in the army or going to school. She says the medical condition could “affect the investigation.”

A Jewish Israeli teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

A Jewish Israeli teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

Police have banned publication of the man’s name, saying only that the 19-year-old is Jewish and a dual US-Israeli citizen.

— AP

Anti-occupation IDF draft dodger released from prison

Draft refuser Tamar Ze’evi has been released from prison after a committee accepted her exemption request over Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinians, she says in a statement.

According to Mesarvot, an organization of conscientious objectors, this is the first case of a draft refuser getting released from military service over refusal “to serve in an army that occupies another people.”

However, the Israel Defense Forces says it was not granted because of her specific disagreement with Israel’s policies in the West Bank, but as Ze’evi “opposed army service of any kind.”

The army adds that this is not a new phenomenon but is part of the “army’s years-long policy and Supreme Court precedent.”

Ze’evi served 115 days in the army’s Prison 6. Another draft refuser, Tamar Alon, who went into prison three days before Ze’evi was not granted an exemption, Mesarvot said.

— Judah Ari Gross

Egypt says Sinai fighting kills 12 security forces

Militants kill 10 Egyptian soldiers and two policemen in the Sinai Peninsula, underscoring the challenge security forces face in combating an Islamic State affiliate in the restive area bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Army spokesman Tamer el-Rifai says the troops were carrying out a raid in which they killed 15 militants and arrested another seven. The three officers and seven enlisted men were killed by roadside bombs while in pursuit of the militants, he says.

The Interior Ministry says the two police were killed near a police station in the city of el-Arish, where much of the violence has been centered.

Egyptian military soldiers inspect the scene after a suicide attacker drove his explosive-laden car into the bus near the border town of Rafah, November 20, 2013. (AP/Official Facebook Page of the Egyptian Military Spokesman of the Armed Forces)

Egyptian military soldiers inspect the scene after a suicide attacker drove his explosive-laden car into the bus near the border town of Rafah, November 20, 2013. (AP/Official Facebook Page of the Egyptian Military Spokesman of the Armed Forces)

Egypt has been battling an insurgency in northern Sinai for years. The army says it is taking the fight deeper into the peninsula’s sparsely populated desert and mountainous areas, targeting insurgent weapons depots and strongholds.

Troops destroyed a large amount of explosives in the raid and seized other weapons, ammunition and equipment, including roadside bombs, computers, solar panels, documents and mobile phones, al-Rifai said.

— AP

Jordan condemns IS and London attack

Jordan’s government spokesman says a deadly London attack by the extremist group Islamic State underscores the need for “coming all together to fight this evil.”

The group has claimed responsibility for the attack by a man who plowed an SUV into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer to death at Britain’s Parliament.

Jordan is part of a US-led military coalition against IS, which controls territory in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Spokesman Mohammed Momani says that Jordan “strongly condemns” the attack and stands with Britain “in these difficult days.” He said his country is fighting the group militarily and ideologically, and that “this evil and terrorism will be defeated sooner than later.”

— AP

David Friedman clears Senate hurdle

President Donald Trump’s pick to be US ambassador to Israel clears a procedural hurdle in the Republican-led Senate.

The 52-46 vote Thursday all but assures the nomination of David Friedman will be approved by the chamber.

Friedman, a combative attorney who once worked as Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, generated strident opposition from many Democrats. They objected to Friedman’s past verbal attacks against people with opposing viewpoints on Israel and argued he lacked the temperament for such an important diplomatic post.

David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Friedman sought to use his confirmation hearing in February to apologize for using inflammatory language and pledged to be “respectful and measured” if confirmed.

The son of an US rabbi, Friedman has been a fervent supporter of Israeli settlements, an opponent of Palestinian statehood and staunch defender of Israel’s government.

— AP

Police likely to recommend criminal investigation into MK Slomiansky — report

Police are likely to recommend opening a criminal investigation into Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiasnky, 70, over allegations of sexual harassment, the Walla news site reports.

Police have been conducting a probe since Slomiansky was named in December as the Jewish Home party member accused of sexual harassment in a Facebook post alleging multiple complaints against him.

They now believe that they have enough “meat” to turn the probe into a full investigation, the report says.

Constitution Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Nissan Nissan Slomiansky, at a meeting in the Knesset, February 23, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Constitution Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Nissan Nissan Slomiansky, at a meeting in the Knesset, February 23, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Slomianski, 70, in a statement after his name went public, denied “ever assaulting women,” saying that his “well-known loving nature may have been misinterpreted.”

Posting on Facebook, Jewish Home activist Chagit Moriah-Gibor said she and several other women were collecting testimony against a lawmaker who was known to have been “assaulting women for years already.”

David Friedman confirmed as US ambassador to Israel

President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to be US envoy to Israel, David Friedman, is confirmed by the Senate in a 52-46 vote that was entirely along party lines.

The 57-year-old bankruptcy attorney, a Hebrew-speaker and longtime friend of the president’s, will now be the United States’ representative to the Jewish state, considered one of the most sensitive diplomatic assignments.

David Friedman testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to be the US ambassador to Israel, Feb. 16, 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images via JTA)

David Friedman testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to be the US ambassador to Israel, Feb. 16, 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images via JTA)

Friedman served along with Jason Dov Greenblatt on Trump’s Israel advisory committee during the campaign, becoming one of his main representatives to the Jewish community and Jewish media.

Knesset speaker sends condolences for parliament attack to UK counterpart

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein sends condolences “on behalf of the members of Knesset and the people of Israel” to UK House of Commons speaker John Bercow following the deadly car-ramming and stabbing attack outside parliament in London yesterday.

Letter send by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to UK House of Commons Speaker on March 23, 2017 expressing condolences over a deadly attack outside of parliament. (Courtesy)

Letter send by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to UK House of Commons Speaker on March 23, 2017 expressing condolences over a deadly attack outside of parliament. (Courtesy)

“It is difficult to find the words to express my shock and horror at hearing the news of the heinous terror attack in central London yesterday,” Edelstein writes.

“In striking at some of the most honored symbols of British democracy, the attacker was clearly aiming to undermine the cherished values, traditions, and heritage that the United Kingdom has built up throughout the centuries. At his difficult hour, we stand together with you united against religiously motivated terrorism that seeks to supplant our guiding values of equality and freedom with intolerance, hatred and xenophobia.”

Last month Bercow visited Israel and the Knesset as a guest of Edelstein.

Despite confirmation, J Street praises ‘unprecedented’ opposition to Friedman

The left-wing pro-Israel US group J Street praises “the unprecedented level of opposition David Friedman faced” in his Senate hearing after he was confirmed as US ambassador to Israel by 52-46 vote.

The vote took place exactly on party lines with not one Democrat breaking ranks and supporting President Donald Trump’s nominee.

“Almost half of the Senate voted to oppose this deeply unqualified and inappropriate nominee, whose predecessors had all been confirmed without a single vote cast against them. The strong opposition to Friedman made clear that his extreme views and rhetoric about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are firmly outside the mainstream of American policy making,” J Street says in a statement.

Donald Trump and attorney David Friedman exit the Federal Building, following an appearance in US Bankruptcy Court on February 25, 2010, in Camden, New Jersey. (Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg News, via Getty Images/JTA)

Donald Trump and attorney David Friedman exit the Federal Building, following an appearance in US Bankruptcy Court on February 25, 2010, in Camden, New Jersey. (Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg News, via Getty Images/JTA)

Friedman, a combative attorney who once worked as Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, generated strident opposition from many Democrats. They objected to Friedman’s past verbal attacks against people with opposing viewpoints on Israel and argued he lacked the temperament for such an important diplomatic post.

“We hope, during his time in this role, the ambassador will live up to the promises of moderation that he made during his confirmation hearings, and that Congress and the administration will seek to hold him accountable to advancing longstanding bipartisan policy goals, including the two-state solution,” J Street adds.

Father of JCC bomb hoax suspect also to stay under arrest

The father of a teenager suspect 19-year-old Jewish Israeli suspected of carrying out hundreds of bomb threats called into US Jewish Community Centers, will remain in police custody for a further eight days after being arrested earlier today along with his son.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court extended his remand until March 30, police say.

The court decided to keep both the suspect and his father’s name under gag order.

1 Palestinian said killed and 3 injured in clash with IDF near Ramallah

One Palestinian was killed and three injured from IDF fire near the al-Jalazun refugee camp north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinians media is reporting.

According Israeli sources the Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers.

IDF says it is still verifying the details of the incident.

Netanyahu praises Friedman confirmation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcome’s David Friedman’s appointment as new US ambassador to Israel.

“He will be warmly welcomed as President Trump’s representative and as a close friend of Israel,” Netanyahu says in a tweet.

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