German neo-Nazis face terror trial over refugee attacks
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Live updates (closed)Latest: US State Dept. says Israel should hold back on settlements

White House condemns bomb threats against Jewish centers

ADL says it 'will not be deterred'; WikiLeaks publishes thousands of alleged CIA documents; Israeli man stabbed in the arm in possible terror attack

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • The Lavachet Wall at the Tignes ski resort in the French Alps on February 14, 2017. French officials say an avalanche has struck the Alpine ski resort on March 7, 2017. (Luca Bruno/AP Photo)
    The Lavachet Wall at the Tignes ski resort in the French Alps on February 14, 2017. French officials say an avalanche has struck the Alpine ski resort on March 7, 2017. (Luca Bruno/AP Photo)
  • Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman, military prosecutor in the trial against IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, speaks to press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv following the verdict of Azaria on January 4, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
    Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman, military prosecutor in the trial against IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, speaks to press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv following the verdict of Azaria on January 4, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
  • Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is seen departing Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle on July 11, 2016, for his first leave from prison since he began his 19-month sentence in February. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
    Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is seen departing Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle on July 11, 2016, for his first leave from prison since he began his 19-month sentence in February. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
  • ADL says it 'will not be deterred'; WikiLeaks publishes thousands of alleged CIA documents; Israeli man stabbed in the arm in possible terror attack
  • The Louis S. Wolk JCC in Rochester, New York, which was evacuated on March 7, 2017. (JTA/Screenshot from WHEC)
    The Louis S. Wolk JCC in Rochester, New York, which was evacuated on March 7, 2017. (JTA/Screenshot from WHEC)
  • Jonathan Greenblatt (Courtesy)
    Jonathan Greenblatt (Courtesy)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s news as it unfolded.

IDF prosecutors appeal Hebron soldier’s light sentence

Army attorneys file an appeal against the 18-month sentence given to soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of manslaughter in January for shooting dead a disarmed, incapacitated Palestinian assailant last year.

According to the prosecutors, the sentence “significantly deviates” from what is expected of the court, given the seriousness of the offense.

The prosecutors request the appellate court at least double Azaria’s sentence, calling for a prison term of three to five years.

Last week, Azaria’s attorneys filed their own appeal against not only the sentence, which they said was too harsh, but against the guilty verdict.

Avalanche strikes French ski resort; no fatalities

French authorities say there are no fatalities in an avalanche in the Tignes ski resort in the Alps, and a large search and rescue operation is over.

An official with the regional administration, or prefecture, says that the operation has been called off.

The avalanche struck Tuesday morning on the La Carline ski slope, prompting the resort to shut down. French media earlier reported that several skiers were caught in the sudden snowfall.

— AP

Israeli man stabbed, lightly wounded in possible terror attack

An Israeli man is stabbed and lightly wounded in his car south of Jerusalem by a Palestinian assailant, police say.

The victim had taken his car for maintenance at a garage in the village of al-Walaja. As he was driving home, he stopped to pick up a hitchhiker, who he says stabbed in him the arm. His attacker then fled.

Police say they are investigating if the incident was a terror attack.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the victim is approximately 40 years old.

He received treatment from MDA medics before being taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment, the ambulance service says.

Supreme Court justice says he’s stepping down for ‘personal reasons’

Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger unexpectedly announces his resignation from his position, citing “personal reasons.”

Danziger will serve on the court for one more year, before stepping down in February 2018, he says.

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor “expresses sorrow” at Danziger’s resignation, the court says in a statement.

Danziger has served on the court since 2007.

“I have decided to end my tenure in a year for personal reasons that do not have to do with my judicial work,” he says.

In 2011, Danziger was suspended from the court following corruption allegations. He returned to the court in 2012, after investigators found no wrongdoing and closed the case.

JCC in Rochester, NY, evacuated due to bomb threat

A Jewish Community Center in Rochester, New York, has been evacuated following a bomb threat, local media reports.

The local sherif and police departments are on the scene, according to the local ABC News affiliate.

JCC employees and members have been moved away from the building and all the entrances have been closed off.

Dozens of Jewish Community Centers all over the United States have received bomb threats in recent weeks and a number of Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized, including in Rochester last week.

German neo-Nazis face terror trial over refugee attacks

Eight members of a German neo-Nazi group are put on trial over terrorism charges, accused of a series of attacks against refugees and political opponents.

The so-called “Freital group” — named after the members’ hometown outside Dresden, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony — consists of seven men, aged 19 to 39, and a 28-year-old woman.

Prosecutors say they staged five attacks with explosives between July and November 2015 targeting refugee housing and left-wing groups, causing two injuries.

Charges against them include creating a terrorist group, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.

“They wanted to create a climate of fear and repression,” federal prosecutors said last November as they prepared the case.

— AFP

IDF outfits soldiers with new gear, in bid to cut equipment donations

The IDF rolls out a new program to better equip its combat soldiers without the need for external donations, in what it’s calling a “revolution.”

Beginning last month, combat soldiers who finish their advanced training receive a kit of brand new equipment, including a bulletproof vest, helmet, protective glasses and more.

“It’s fresh out of the plastic,” a military spokesperson says.

In the past, soldiers would sign for new equipment upon beginning each stage of their service — basic training, advanced training, specialty courses, deployment, etc. — and then return the gear at the end. They will continue in this way during basic and advanced training, but they will use the same gear throughout the rest of their service.

Beginning in August 2017, new recruits will also receive funds from the IDF to purchase additional gear, like socks, undershirts and underwear, from specific stores as part of a program known as “Stars,” the army says.

The exact amount each recruit will received has yet to be determined, the spokesperson says.

The combined cost of these two aspects of the new outfitting program is expected to be NIS 200 million ($54.5 million) in 2017.

“But these are things that the army needs to be providing,” an army spokesperson says. “We’re not going to scrimp on combat equipment for our soldiers.”

In first, unmanned Israel Navy ship test fires missile

For the first time, an Israeli Navy unmanned vessel fired a missile during an exercise, Ynet news reports.

For years, the navy has used “Protector” and “Sea Knight” unmanned ships to help patrol the country’s coasts, but these have not typically been outfitted with heavy weaponry.

The “Sea Knight,” which is larger than the “Protector,” comes equipped with remote-controlled machine guns and a water cannon.

But this new model, being developed by the Rafael Systems defense contractor, is believed to be equipped with an interceptor missile that could knock down rocket-propelled grenades and other incoming projectiles, according to Ynet.

The unmanned boats would presumably work in tandem with manned navy gunships and patrol boats.

Imprisoned former PM up for parole in June — report

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is expected to appear before a parole board on June 7, Channel 10 news reports.

The board will consider cutting short the disgraced politician’s 19-month sentence for corruption by a third. Olmert also received an eight-month sentence for two separate incidents.

Olmert entered prison in February 2016.

Jewish group calls for Iraqi musician to be stripped of UN award over Israel comments

Simon Wiesenthal Center calls for the UN to reconsider naming an Iraqi musician its “Artist for Peace,” in light of “belligerent expressions” toward Israel.

In February, Iraqi Oud player Naseer Shammah attended an event in Paris, where he shook hands with Israeli Ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen.

After reports of the meeting came out, Shammah took to Facebook to say he had been unaware of Hacohen’s identity and that the Israeli ambassador had taken advantage of his ignorance.

The oud-playing star also denied reports that he was planning to perform in Israel.

“UNESCO, which has given me the honor of representing the relationship between art and peace, does not recognize the occupation, as evidenced by the recent resolution on Jerusalem,” Shammah wrote on Facebook, referring to a resolution that did not recognize the Temple Mount as a Jewish holy site.

In light of the Facebook post, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for UNESCO to “strip this hypocritical warmonger of his undeserved ‘Artist For Peace’ Award.”

11 Palestinians charged with throwing rocks, bombs at Bethlehem holy site

Eleven Palestinians are charged with throwing rocks, firebombs and improvised explosive devices at the Rachel’s Tomb holy site in Bethlehem, police say.

Police arrested the 11 suspects, eight of them minors, over the past few months, as part of an “intensive investigation” to stop attacks at the Bethlehem destination.

Citing interrogations and physical evidence, investigators say they determined that the suspects would come to the area after school to throw rocks, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs at the site and then flee.

The suspects all came from the nearby al-Ayda refugee camp, police say.

Additional arrests are expected.

PM ‘not surprised’ by new testimony in graft case, attorneys say

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys deny claims he was “surprised” by new testimony from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, as part of a graft investigation against the politician.

On Monday night, Netanyahu was grilled for approximately four hours regarding expensive cigars and champagne that he and his wife Sara allegedly received from Milchan.

The producer had been interrogated in Israel, but police apparently also traveled to the United States to speak with Milchan again in his Los Angeles home.

Israeli media reported that Milchan’s testimony “surprised” Netanyahu during his fourth round of questioning yesterday.

Netanyahu’s attorneys say these reports are “erroneous.”

“The prime minister was not surprised by anything. The interrogation was to the point, Netanyahu answered every question and left the interrogation feeling completely comfortable,” the attorneys say in a statement.

WikiLeaks publishes thousands of what it says are CIA documents

WikiLeaks publishes thousands of documents that it says come from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, a dramatic release that appears to give an eye-opening look at the intimate details of the agency’s cyberespionage effort.

The dump could not immediately be authenticated by The Associated Press and the CIA did not return repeated messages seeking comment, but WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top secret government documents.

One expert who examined the dump, Rendition Infosec founder Jake Williams, tells the AP it appeared legitimate.

If it does prove legitimate, the dump will represent yet another catastrophic breach for the US intelligence community at the hands of WikiLeaks and its allies, which have repeatedly humbled Washington with the mass release of classified material.

— AP

Trump says White House hard at work on health care issues

US President Donald Trump assures Americans that his administration is “getting along great,” amid frequent reports of tension and conflict inside the White House.

In a series of tweets, the US president also criticizes his predecessor Barack Obama as weak and discusses the Republican party’s proposed answer to his Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which he has vowed to replace.

“For eight years Russia ‘ran over’ President Obama, got stronger and stronger, picked-off Crimea and added missiles. Weak!” Trump writes.

The US leader also says he is looking to reform the drug industry and bring down costs of medication for Americans.

“Don’t let the FAKE NEWS tell you that there is big infighting in the Trump Admin. We are getting along great, and getting major things done!” he says.

Wisconsin JCC also evacuated after bomb threat

A Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, was evacuated following a bomb threat, hours after a similar incident in New York.

On Facebook, the JCC writes that it received a threatening email and was forced to shut down temporarily, presumably until the building could be searched.

The Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC says it will reopen at 9 a.m., local time.

“We welcome all members and guests at that time, and apologize for the inconvenience,” the center writes.

CNN president: ‘We are not perfect’ on Israel coverage

Responding to accusations of bias by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the president of CNN says that his news organization needs to be “conscious that there are always two sides to a story.”

Speaking at a television networks conference in Israel, Erdan says that “far too often the international news coverage is driven by a narrative that has all the complexity of an old fashioned western: there are the bad guys and the good guys.”

In that narrative, he says, Israel is the “violent colonial oppressor” while the Palestinians are “the passive locals.”

In an on-stage interview during the conference, CNN president Jeff Zucker says he understood Erdan’s claim and that his reporters strive to provide the “full context.”

“Do I think that perfect? We are not perfect,” he says.

Brooklyn man arrested for drawing swastikas at Penn Station

A Brooklyn man has been arrested for drawing swastikas and other graffiti in men’s bathrooms at Penn Station in New York City.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, says in a statement Monday that detectives from the transit service arrested Pasquale Vargas, 65. He is accused of multiple incidents of hate-crime graffiti at Penn Station since February 28, according to the MTA.

Vargas admitted to drawing the graffiti during an interview with MTA police, according to the statement. He was arrested while carrying a black Sharpie permanent marker in his bag.

He was charged with eight counts of criminal mischief in the fourth degree, which are being prosecuted as hate crimes.

“This arrest sends a clear message that all hate crimes will be thoroughly investigated, and we will prosecute those found responsible for perpetrating these reprehensible actions,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says. “We have zero tolerance for these acts of bigotry, which stand in direct contrast to the values that we New Yorkers represent.

— JTA

Amid talk of West Bank annexation, White House calls for ‘reasonableness’

As Israeli politicians argue about how the White House would react to a possible Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, an administration officials reiterates US President Donald Trump’s call for the two sides to act reasonably.

“The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward. We are just getting that process started. As the president has said, he would like to see a ‘level of reasonableness of both parties,'” an administration officials tells The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He is referring to comments made in an interview Trump gave the Israel Hayom newspaper last month.

The official refuses to say if legislation advancing the annexation of even small parts of the West Bank, such as the Jerusalem suburb Ma’ale Adumim (which would remain part of Israel under any conceivable peace deal, it is generally agreed), would be considered as “not reasonable” in this context.

On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he received a direct message from the US saying that “Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank means an immediate crisis with the new administration.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel, the White House official says the administration was aware of Liberman’s comments but refused to “speak publicly about the details of private communications between governments.”

— Raphael Ahren

Two more JCCs cleared after bomb threats

Jewish Community Centers in Rockville, Maryland, and Portland, Oregon, have been evacuated after receiving threats, in the third and fourth incidents of the day, according to Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Earlier today, JCCs in Rochester, New York, and Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee, were also targeted with bomb threats.

Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, says that in every instance protocols were observed and went smoothly.

“Our constituents and members have remained safe,” he says.

More than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Rochester, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.

Israel’s UN ambassador urges probe into UNRWA-Hamas ties

Israel’s UN ambassador calls on countries who donate to the UN Relief and Works Agency to investigate alleged connections between the organization and the Hamas terrorist group.

In recent weeks, allegations have come to light that Suhail al-Hindi, head of the UNRWA Staff Union in Gaza and the principal of an UNRWA school, as well as Muhammad al-Jamassi, from UNRWA’s engineering department, were elected to the terrorist organization’s political wing.

“In light of these disturbing revelations, it is crucial to conduct a thorough investigation of the organization’s operations in order to ensure that no employee who is involved in terror play any role in UNRWA or the UN,” writes UN Ambassador Danny Danon in a letter to ambassadors from UNRWA-funding countries.

“It is time to put an end to the absurd reality in which UNRWA staff, who are expected to provide humanitarian assistance, are instead acting on behalf of terror organizations,” he says.

Netanyahu says he’ll turn Eilat into a global trading hub

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Eilat residents he wants to turn the Red Sea city into a “global transportation hub,” promising to discuss the issue on his upcoming trip to China.

Israel wants to turn Eilat’s port into “another shipping lane between Asia and Europe,” he says.

The prime minister also discusses the plans for a larger airport in the area.

“What a tremendous opportunity, that the whole world will come here,” he says.

Netanyahu also discusses his efforts to keeping African migrants out of the city.

“I remember this woman [in Eilat] who cried and said, ‘Mister prime minister, save us, save us, we’re being flooded,'” Netanyahu recounts.

“She spoke about her daughter, and I thought, ‘This has to end,'” he says.

“So what did we do? We built the fence and stopped all that.”

100 US senators calls on White House to address JCC bomb threats

All 100 US senators sign a letter calling on the Donald Trump administration to address the dozens of bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers across the United States.

The letter, written by Senators Gary Peters, Rob Portman, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, will be sent to US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey.

“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” the senators write in the letter.

“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities,” the letter reads.

In the past two months, approximately 100 JCCs and Jewish day schools at 81 locations in 33 states had bomb scares. Threats were also made to two offices of the Anti-Defamation League. And at least three Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized.

Two more JCCs, ADL offices receive bomb threats

Two more Jewish Community Centers have received bomb threats, joining the four others who were evacuated earlier in the day, as have “multiple” Anti-Defamation League offices, according to the organization.

A JCC in Davie, Florida, was evacuated, according to WSVN 7 News.

In addition, the JCC in Syracuse, New York, was put on lockdown after a threat was called in, according to Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, said the Syracuse threat was different in nature from the other threats.

Meanwhile, the ADL confirmed that several of its regional offices had been threatened.

“We just received multiple #bombthreats at ADL offices,” ADL said on Twitter. “Law enforcement personnel are responding. More details to come.”

US fines China’s ZTE $1.2 billion for violating Iran, North Korea sanctions

The US government has slapped over $1 billion in fines on Chinese telecom giant ZTE for violations of US export controls for selling goods to Iran and North Korea, officials announce.

It is the largest criminal penalty in US history in an export control or sanctions case, government officials say. The company will pay $892 million, while another $300 million in penalties are suspended for seven years.

ZTE agreed to plead guilty to three charges, including obstructing justice for hiding information from government investigators, the officials say.

— AFP

CNN president ‘shocked’ by Trump’s attacks on media

The president of CNN says it is “shocking” to watch the political establishment’s silence regarding US President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media, calling it an abdication of their responsibility.

Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, tells the INTV media conference in Jerusalem that Trump’s labeling of the media as the enemy of the state was dangerous and that “words can have consequences.”

He also says he was stunned politicians did not speak out fiercely against the assault on the free press. He singled out Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham as two of the only ones to have the courage to stand up for their convictions.

Since taking office, Trump has lashed out repeatedly at CNN as “fake news.” He’s upbraided its reporters publicly and attacked Zucker personally.

— AP

3 more N. American JCCs, 1 Jewish school get bomb threat

Two Canadian and a US Jewish Community Centers, along with a Jewish day school, have been evacuated, following bomb threats.

In Canada, centers in Toronto and London, Ontario, received threatening phone calls. In the United States, a JCC in Birmingham, Alabama was evacuated, as was a Jewish school in Chicago, according to local media reports.

Thus far today, 10 Jewish institutions have been evacuated, as have a number of Anti-Defamation League offices, the organization says.

The six other JCCs evacuated were in: Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin; Rockville, Maryland; Portland, Oregon; Rochester, New York; Davie, Florida.

Court rejects state’s appeal for harsher sentence for Jewish rock throwers

The Supreme Court rejects an appeal by the state to overturn a lower court’s decision not to give a prison sentence to two Jewish teenagers who threw rocks at Palestinian cars in the West Bank, Israel Radio reports.

The state argued that the rock throwing attack on Palestinians was a “grave incident” that required a “clear and distinct message” that such actions come at a “steep price,” according to the radio report.

The rock throwing occurred in the summer of 2014, after three Israeli teenagers had been kidnapped and murdered. The two Jewish rock throwers had come from a prayer service for the kidnapped teenagers.

The lower court determined that the rock throwers did not require a prison sentence as they expressed regret and an interest in joining the IDF, and because no damage was caused by the attack.

The court required them to perform community service, in lieu of prison time.

Hamas blasts Abbas for helping in ‘siege’ on Gaza

Hamas accuses Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of helping maintain the “siege” of Gaza., after his government rejected solutions put forward by the terror group to solve the ongoing electricity crisis in the Strip.

“Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah continue to insist on the their role in completing the siege of our people in Gaza and crushing them through many ways and mean, by ignoring all the efforts and solutions…to resolve the electricity crisis and end the suffering of the besieged Gaza Strip,” says Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum in a statement on the group’s official website.

— Dov Lieber

Abbas names new head of PLO’s US delegation

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swears in Husam Zomlot as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s delegation to the United States.

Zomlot, who was formally a senior political advisor to Abbas, was tapped for the position in October, but is officially confirmed today, following an extended waiting period.

He will replace Maen Areikat, who is slated to become the PLO’s representative in London.

Zomlot, a Ph.D. graduate in international political economy from SOAS University of London, was a PLO representative in London from 2003 to 2009.

In January, Zomlot told The Times of Israel, “Our expectation is that the long-held US policies with regards to the illegality of the settlements, the status of Jerusalem and with regards to the contours of the solution will remain.”

Activist asks ICC to investigate Hamas leader for war crimes

An Israeli activist files a motion with the International Criminal Court that calls for an investigation of alleged war crimes committed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh against the Palestinian people in the 2014 Gaza war.

Attorney Michael Calev Myers, who is affiliated with a number of right-wing Israeli non-governmental organizations, claims that Haniyeh violated Palestinian’s rights by using them as human shields, which constitutes a war crime.

In addition, Myers alleges that Hamas under Haniyeh targeted Israeli civilian centers during the war, not just military targets, which is also considered a war crime by the ICC.

However, it is highly unlikely that Myers’s lawsuit will have any real effect. The ICC is meant to complement pre-existing national courts, not replace them, meaning it would likely not have jurisdiction over Haniyeh, as he could be tried elsewhere.

Hamas, moreover, is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document.

Myers files his claim on behalf of a new movement he founded called “Israel-Li.” The organization “prefers not to wait for an attack on Israel in the international arena, but rather take the initiative and go after those who wish us harm,” he tells the Israel Hayom newspaper.

ZOA welcomes Trump’s refugee ban, JCPA opposes

The Zionist Organization of America says it welcomed President Donald Trump’s immigration order banning refugees and new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, while the umbrella body for Jewish policy groups joined an array of Jewish groups opposed to it.

The order “fulfills the president’s basic duty of protecting the nation by suspending entry by nationals from six nations (Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) where current screening abilities are inadequate, resulting in an unacceptable risk that individuals who intend to commit, aid or support terrorist acts here will infiltrate into the US,” the ZOA says in a statement.

The ZOA statement comes after an array of Jewish groups, including the Reform movement and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as Democratic Jewish lawmakers, condemned the order. Trump revised the order after an earlier one was stayed by the courts.

The consensus-driven Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups and regional Jewish community relations councils, on Monday evening joined in opposition to the order, but in language less condemnatory.

“We continue to oppose such a travel ban because it reduces the number of refugees coming into this country and still specifically names Muslim-majority countries,” the JCPA says in a statement. “There’s no evidence that refugees from these countries represent a special threat.”

— JTA

Twitter briefly suspends account of white supremacist David Duke

The Twitter account of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is reinstated a day after it was suspended following a tweet in which he called to “SHUT DOWN a few synagogues.”

Duke’s account was suspended on Monday and reinstated hours later, but with all of his followers erased. The suspension followed a tweet on Sunday in which Duke linked to an article by the Haaretz newspaper about synagogues serving as sanctuaries for those who might be affected by the Trump administration’s new immigration policies.

Following the reinstatement, Duke issues several negative tweets about Jews and Israel. Several of his supporters blame the suspension on the Jews.

“David Duke, great American Patriot & Trump supporter has been suspended from Twitter. Just another example of Jew power over all of U.S,” read at tweet by @dawg_norman.

“Dr David Duke has been shoahed by the Jews running Twitter,” read another by @AdolfJBiden.

Last week, Twitter added an automated system for shutting down users who violate its terms of service, including using hate speech, according to CNNTech. A Twitter spokesman told the news outlet that if an account is found to be suspended in error it is immediately restored.

— JTA

ADL says it ‘will not be deterred’ by bomb threats

The head of the Anti-Defamation League calls on the government to take action against the more than 100 bomb threats that have been made to Jewish institutions in recent weeks.

Thus far today, 10 Jewish Community Centers, a Jewish school in Chicago and four ADL offices have received bomb threats.

“This is not ‘normal.’ We will not be deterred or intimidated,” ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, says in a statement. “It is time for action, and we call on the administration and Congress to take concrete steps to catch those threatening the Jewish community.”

The ADL says its national office on New York’s East Side, its office in Washington, DC, and its regional offices in Atlanta and Boston had been threatened.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he has ordered state police to open an investigation into the bomb threats made against the ADL’s New York office and against community centers in the state.

Knesset passes bill to compensate Israeli casualties of terror attack abroad

A bill that would allow Israelis killed or injured in attacks abroad to be recognized as state victims of terror passes its first reading in the Knesset.

People injured or killed by “enemy hostilities” are entitled to financial compensation and other forms of assistance from the state. However, currently Israel does not have an official mechanism in place to give that designation to Israelis hurt or killed in attacks outside the country.

The bill, proposed by MKs Haim Yellin and David Bitan, would set up a special committee that would investigate “irregular” cases and grant the “victim of enemy hostilities” status to Israeli citizens, “even if the act was not directed against Israeli citizens or the Jewish people,” the Knesset says.

The bill cites two recent cases in which Israelis were killed in terror attacks abroad, the shooting attack on a night club in Istanbul and a car-ramming attack in Berlin.

The bill passes with no opposition and now moves to the Knesset’s Work and Welfare Committee.

PM promises tit for tat on attacks against Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel “won’t allow anyone to disturb the quiet” on the country’s borders, the Walla news site reports.

Speaking in Eilat, Netanyahu says that any attack on Israel will draw a retaliatory strike in return.

“Even when we have a peaceful border, we are concerned with security,” he says.

Last month, the Islamic State in Sinai launched four rockets at the southern city. Three were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the fourth hit an open field.

In recent weeks, terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip launched rockets at Israel, fired shots at troops and placed improvised explosive devices along the security fence.

WikiLeaks: CIA used television sets to spy on people

WikiLeaks says the CIA worked with UK intelligence officials to turn microphones in TVs into listening devices.

Samsung smart TVs have microphones so viewers can make voice commands, such as requests for movie recommendations. The commands typically aren’t transmitted outside the home unless users activate the feature. If the TV is off, there’s no listening being done.

But WikiLeaks claims that documents it obtained show that through a program called Weeping Angel, the target TV appears to be off when it is actually on — and listening.

WikiLeaks says the audio goes to a covert CIA server rather than a party authorized by Samsung. In such cases, audio isn’t limited to TV commands but could include everyday conversations.

— AP

Homophobic rabbi speaks out against female soldiers, gay men

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who runs a pre-army religious academy, tells new recruits that military service drives female soldiers “crazy” and makes them “no longer Jews,” according to footage broadcast by Channel 2 news.

“They’ve driven our girls crazy,” he says. “They go [into the army] Jews, but they aren’t Jews on the way out.”

Levinstein drew censure this summer after a speech he gave calling homosexuals “deviants.” He wrote a letter to the Defense Ministry, explaining his comments, but has had many of his activities with the military cut short in light of his controversial remarks.

In his speech to recruits, Levinstein references this, saying he met recently with an IDF general to smooth things over.

Levinstein also discusses gay men in his latest remarks.

“They call them ‘new families,’ with two dads. It’s an insane asylum, simply an insane asylum,” he says, shaking his head.

Steven Spielberg to direct film about publication of Pentagon Papers

Director Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a film about the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Hanks will star as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Streep as publisher Kay Graham, who challenged the federal government in the Supreme Court over the right to publish the leaked classified documents about US involvement in the Vietnam War, the entertainment website Deadline first reported.

Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures purchased the script, and Pascal will serve as a producer, along with Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger.

Spielberg is currently in post-production on the Warner Bros. film “Ready Player One” and is also in pre-production on “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” about the struggle of Jewish parents to regain their son who was forcibly taken to be raised as a Christian.

— JTA

Turkish, US, Russian military chiefs discuss Syria tensions

Top generals from Turkey, the United States and Russia meet in Turkey to discuss mutual suspicions over northern Syria military operations, as Russia’s military announced a two-week long cease-fire between rebels and the government in the suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The Russian military says its cease-fire will extend until March 20, for the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus, but activists reported a number of airstrikes and artillery strikes by government forces, killing two civilians.

The surprise meeting between Turkey’s Gen. Hulusi Akar, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, was called to address reciprocal mistrust between Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces, US-backed Kurdish forces, and Russian-allied Syrian government forces, fighting their way toward the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, Raqqa.

Turkey, a NATO ally, views the Kurdish group that dominates the Syria Democratic Forces as terrorists and has threatened to drive them from the northern town of Manbij, which the alliance captured from the militants last year with the aid of US-led coalition airstrikes. Turkey and Syria meanwhile support opposite sides in the Syrian civil war.

The US has a few hundred special operations forces embedded with the SDF and wants the alliance to lead the march on Raqqa. The Pentagon said Monday that US forces have also taken up positions on the outskirts of Manbij to try to keep a lid on tensions.

— AP

White House condemns bomb threats against Jewish institutions

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer condemns the threats made against Jewish community centers, schools and Anti-Defamation League offices, during his daily press briefing.

“We denounce these latest anti-Semitic and evil threats in the strongest terms,” Spicer says.

“I share the president’s hopes that we don’t have to continue to share these disturbing reports with you,” he adds.

Israeli takes gold in European fencing competition

Vera Kanevski wins the gold medal in a European fencing championship in Bulgaria, beating out her Ukranian opponent, Israel Radio reports.

The championship was for fencers under the age of 20.

In order to reach the finals, Kanevski had to win seven matches.

The 17-year-old comes from the Maccabi Maalot club in northern Israel.

MK calls rabbi a ‘chauvinist’ for comments on female soldiers

Labor MK Ksenia Svetlova condemns remarks made by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein against female soldiers, calling him “dim and chauvinistic.”

Levinstein, who runs a pre-army religious preparatory academy, was recorded telling recruits that female soldiers have gone “crazy” and are “not Jews” when they come out of the army.

“Don’t worry,” Svetlova says, “women will come in droves to the army and to the places where decisions are made in society, in the military and in politics.”

US State Dept. says Israel should hold back on settlements

US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner reiterates US President Donald Trump’s requests for Israel to hold back on construction in West Bank settlements.

Toner refers to Trump’s statement at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he asked Israel to rein in settlement expansion. “We’re in discussions with Israel about how exactly that would look like that,” he says. “It’s under consideration.”

Regarding the peace process, Toner says the new administration is still “looking at the situation and looking at next steps.”

The State Department will defenitely play a role, he says

Toner also responds to rumors the US is considering quitting United Nations Human Rights Council, saying they are “just that — rumors.”

— Raphael Ahren

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Live updates (closed) Latest: US State Dept. says Israel should hold back on settlements

German neo-Nazis face terror trial over refugee attacks

Eight members of a German neo-Nazi group are put on trial over terrorism charges, accused of a series of attacks against refugees and political opponents.

The so-called “Freital group” — named after the members’ hometown outside Dresden, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony — consists of seven men, aged 19 to 39, and a 28-year-old woman.

Prosecutors say they staged five attacks with explosives between July and November 2015 targeting refugee housing and left-wing groups, causing two injuries.

Charges against them include creating a terrorist group, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.

“They wanted to create a climate of fear and repression,” federal prosecutors said last November as they prepared the case.

— AFP