Im Tirtzu director suspends self after controversy
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Im Tirtzu director suspends self over controversial campaign; 3 soldiers hurt in shooting attack by PA security officer

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 31, 2016. (Amit Shabi, Pool)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 31, 2016. (Amit Shabi, Pool)
  • The campaign launched by the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu on January 27, 2016, singling out Israeli artists associated with the left-wing. (Screen capture: Im Tirtzu)
    The campaign launched by the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu on January 27, 2016, singling out Israeli artists associated with the left-wing. (Screen capture: Im Tirtzu)
  • Security forces attend the site of a possible car-ramming attack on Route 443 near Jerusalem that left a soldier wounded, on January 26, 2016 (Photo: Israel Hatzolah)
    Security forces attend the site of a possible car-ramming attack on Route 443 near Jerusalem that left a soldier wounded, on January 26, 2016 (Photo: Israel Hatzolah)
  • Illustrative photo of women dancing with a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, April 20, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Illustrative photo of women dancing with a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, April 20, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) seen with Angel Gurria (2R), Secretary-General of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) , during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 31, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) seen with Angel Gurria (2R), Secretary-General of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) , during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 31, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
  • President Reuven Rivlin visits the Krigman home to pay his condolences to the family after their 23-year-old daughter Shlomit is stabbed to death in a terror attack (Mark Neyman / GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin visits the Krigman home to pay his condolences to the family after their 23-year-old daughter Shlomit is stabbed to death in a terror attack (Mark Neyman / GPO)
  • Shlomit Krigman, 23, died of her wounds a day after being stabbed in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon on January 26, 2016. (Facebook)
    Shlomit Krigman, 23, died of her wounds a day after being stabbed in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon on January 26, 2016. (Facebook)
  • [Illustrative] Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack at a checkpoint near the Beit El settlement in the West Bank on Sunday, January 31, 2016 (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
    [Illustrative] Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack at a checkpoint near the Beit El settlement in the West Bank on Sunday, January 31, 2016 (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.

President visits bereaved Krigman family

The father of 23-year-old Shlomit Krigman, who was stabbed to death in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon last week, tells President Reuven Rivlin that his daughter “so enjoyed life.”

“We moved here [to Shadmot Mehola] from Beit Horon when Shlomit was just a small baby. There she was born, and there she was murdered,” says Yitzhak Krigman. “She was deeply connected to this place, and talked about living in the Jordan Valley to all she met. She had lived in Beit Horon for the past few years, and there she died. She so enjoyed life.”

The president tells the family Krigman “did her part” for the country.

“We all play our part in service to the country, each person and their deeds – we lose the very best of our people – and Shlomit was taken from us while doing her part. A girl so full of joy, and so active, with a creative mind and love for her fellow man,” Rivlin says.

“I know there can be no real comfort following such a loss, but I want you to know that Shlomit’s special character will be known across the country. She is such a terrible loss, and gave so much during her life,” he says.

Shlomit Krigman, 23, died of her wounds a day after being stabbed in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon on January 26, 2016. (Facebook)

Shlomit Krigman, 23, died of her wounds a day after being stabbed in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon on January 26, 2016. (Facebook)

MK says French proposal buoys Palestinian obstinacy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the French ultimatum — renewed peace talks or they would recognize Palestine — encourages the Palestinians “not to compromise.”

“You’ve certainly heard about the proposal raised in French circles, to convene an international conference with a threat over it — that if it doesn’t succeed, then France will adopt the Palestinian position, to a large degree,” says Netanyahu. “This is incentive to the Palestinians to come and not compromise. The essence of negotiations is compromise, and the French initiative, as it was reported, gives the Palestinians reason not to.”

“Our position is very clear,” adds Netanyahu. “We are willing to enter direct negotiations without preconditions and without prescribed terms.”

OECD report ranks Israel 2nd in economic inequality

Israel’s economy is sound but the serious issues of low productivity, poverty, and inequality must be addressed, urges a new report released by the OECD on Sunday.

The report ranks Israel as second in economic inequality, after Mexico.

Titled “Economic Survey of Israel” 2016, the study analyzes the current state of the Israeli economy in detail and concludes: “the economy has strong fundamentals, but productivity performance has been weak, income inequality and poverty are high, and the fiscal framework is not conducive to inclusive growth.”

The report raises concerns about high housing prices (far higher than the US, OECD, and Europe) and a high cost of living, and criticizes Israel’s educational standards.

Lee Gancman

At least 30 killed in 3 Damascus bombings

At least 30 people are killed and dozens more wounded on Sunday in three bombings near the Shiite Sayyida Zeinab shrine south of the Syrian capital Damascus, state media says.

State news agency SANA says 40 people were wounded in a car bomb attack and two suicide bombings, citing an interior ministry source. An earlier report says more than 10 people were killed in the blasts.

AFP

Cabinet okays mixed-gender area at Western Wall

The cabinet approves the expansion of a non-Orthodox prayer section of the Western Wall, intended for mixed-gender services.

Called Ezrat Yisrael, the new area would be located in the plaza’s southernmost corner underneath Robinson’s Arch, separate from the Wall’s main plaza.

The plan is opposed by ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, who reportedly intend to try to block funding for it.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) said earlier Sunday that they would vote against the initiative in the cabinet, with Deri adding that the State of Israel had always conducted itself according to the principles of Orthodox Judaism.

Also opposed are Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay (Shas) and the head of the Knesset Finance Committee Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism).

– Stuart Winer contributed

In this Friday, Oct. 8, 2010, file photo, an Israeli woman of the Women of the Wall organization wears tefillin, a leather strapped box containing Torah scripture which is used for prayer, as she holds a Torah and prepares to pray at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill, File)

In this Friday, Oct. 8, 2010, file photo, an Israeli woman of the Women of the Wall organization wears tefillin, a leather strapped box containing Torah scripture which is used for prayer, as she holds a Torah and prepares to pray at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill, File)

Damascus death toll climbs to 45

At least 45 people are killed and 110 wounded on Sunday in three bomb blasts near a revered Shiite shrine south of the Syrian capital Damascus, state media reports.

State news agency SANA had earlier reported 30 people killed in the three blasts, which it said were caused by a car bomb and two suicide bombers.

AFP

Jordan census counts over 1.2 million Syrians

Jordan says the most recent census counts 1.265 million Syrians in the kingdom, or twice the number of registered Syrian refugees.

The preliminary figures are released ahead of next week’s annual Syria aid conference.

In appealing for more international aid, Jordanian officials usually cite the total number of Syrians in the country, including those who arrived before the outbreak of the 2011 Syria conflict, often in search of work.

The United Nations has registered about 635,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan since 2011.

The census, conducted late last year, indicates that 9.5 million people live in Jordan, including 6.6 million Jordanians and 2.9 million non-citizens. The figures were published in Jordanian media and confirmed Sunday by statistics department chief Qasem al-Zoubi.

Syrians make up the largest group of foreigners.

AP

Women of the Wall praises cabinet decision as ‘revolution’

The Women of the Wall group hails the cabinet decision.

“Revolution for Women and Jewish Pluralism in Israel: Government approves Mendelblit Plan for a third, pluralist prayer section at the Western Wall. In approving this plan, the state acknowledges women’s full equality and autonomy at the Kotel and the imperative of freedom of choice in Judaism in Israel,” it writes on its Facebook page.

No injuries in attempted car-ramming

Army Radio reports an attempted car-ramming attack on Highway 443 in the West Bank.

There are no injuries, according to the report.

The IDF says it is investigating.

Would-be car-rammer shot in West Bank

A would-be attacker is shot and critically injured as he attempts to drive his car into Israelis on Highway 443.

The foiled attack takes place near the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon.

Saudi arrests 9 American ‘terror suspects’

Saudi authorities have arrested nine American citizens among 33 terror suspects rounded up over the past days, the Saudi Gazette newspaper reports.

Four Americans were arrested on Monday and five others over the past four days, the paper reports citing an unidentified source.

The arrests also include 14 Saudis, three Yemenis, two Syrians, an Indonesian, a Filipino, an Emirati, a Kazakhstan national and a Palestinian, the paper said.

It does not say if any of the “terror suspects” was linked to the Islamic State group, which has claimed several deadly attacks against security and Shiites in the kingdom in recent months.

AFP

At least 21 killed in massive Egypt car crash

At least 21 people are killed and 16 injured in a massive multi-car pile-up on a road south of Egypt’s capital.

The Health Ministry says in a statement that fog and excessive speed led to the massive crash Sunday near Beni Suef, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Cairo, keeping the road closed for three hours.

Deadly traffic crashes claim over 10,000 lives annually in Egypt, where roads are poorly maintained and traffic rules often ignored. Most accidents are caused by speeding, bad roads or a lack of regular vehicle maintenance.

AP

5 ministers opposed Western Wall plan

Five ministers voted against the plan to build the non-Orthodox prayer section at the Western Wall: Litzman, Deri, Azoulay, Uri Ariel and Zeev Elkin.

The new platform, where mixed-gender prayer will be allowed, “will blend in” with the look of the entire area, a member of the commitee overseeing the project says. Mixed prayers will be permitted there but the use of music and instruments on Shabbat and Jewish holidays will be forbidden.

Raphael Ahren

West Bank shooter’s body said returned to PA

Israel returns the body of the West Bank gunman who injured three Israelis, two badly, today to the Palestinian Authority.

The shooter, Amjad Sakari, 35, was a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces who was working as a bodyguard for the Ramallah district attorney.

An undated photo of Amjad Sakari, a member of the Palestinian Authority said to have carried out a shooting attack in the West Bank on Sunday, January 31, 2016 (screen capture: Twitter)

An undated photo of Amjad Sakari, a member of the Palestinian Authority said to have carried out a shooting attack in the West Bank on Sunday, January 31, 2016 (screen capture: Twitter)

30 people cross into Israel from Lebanon — report

A group of thirty people, including Lebanese security forces, cross the Blue Line at Har Dov, in northern Israel, the NRG website reports. Israeli soldiers escort them out of Israeli territory, according to the report, which could not immediately confirmed.

Haredi MK says Reform Jews are ‘clowns’

In response to the decision regarding the Western Wall, the head of the Knesset Finance Committee calls Reform Jews “clowns.”

“The Reform are a group of clowns stabbing the holy Torah,” Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party says, according to the Walla news website. “We will never ever recognize this group of clowns, not at the Western Wall, nor anywhere else.”

MK Moshe Gafni on October 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

MK Moshe Gafni on October 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

‘Major risk’ of IS hiding among migrants — French minister

Islamic State fighters hiding among refugees traveling from Libya to Italy pose a “major risk” to Europe, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says Sunday.

Le Drian says there is an “urgent” need for a political solution to the crisis in Libya to help combat the spread of the Islamic State group (IS), which now has several thousand fighters in the North African country.

“Daesh is installing itself,” Le Drian tells French TV, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.

“I have been very worried about Libya since September 2014. They are there, nearly 300 kilometers from the coast, and they are spreading.”

He says that put IS only 350 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, the arrival point for thousands of migrants and refugees leaving Libya for the European Union.

“When good weather comes to the Mediterranean, there is the risk that (IS fighters) could make the crossing, mixing in with refugees. It’s a major risk,” says Le Drian.

“Everyone is aware of the danger of transferring the conflict in the Levant (Syria and Iraq) where we are starting to see some positive elements, to a new conflict in Libya,” he says, adding that a political solution was the “only way to eradicate” the problem.

– AFP

IS claims deadly Damascus bombings

The Islamic State group on Sunday claims responsibility for bombings near a revered Shiite shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus that killed at least 45 people.

In a statement circulated on social media, the jihadist group says two of its members had detonated suicide bombs near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine.

“Two soldiers of the caliphate carried out martyrdom operations in a den of the infidels in the Sayyida Zeinab area, killing nearly 50 and injuring around 120,” the group says.

AFP

Ministerial committee approves paternity leave bill

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves a bill to grant new fathers eight days of paternity leave, thus lending it coalition support.

The bill is by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg.

Illustrative photo of a father and his baby. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of a father and his baby. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Army confirms soldiers hurt in shooting

The Israel Defense Forces confirms that the three Israelis injured in a shooting attack near the West Bank settlement of Beit El earlier Sunday are soldiers.

Over 10,000 migrant children missing — Europol

Over 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared in Europe, the EU police agency Europol says on Sunday, adding that it fears many have been whisked away into sex trafficking rings.

Europol’s press office confirms to AFP the figures published in British newspaper The Observer.

The agency’s chief of staff Brian Donald tells the newspaper that the figures are for children who disappeared from the system after registering with state authorities following their arrival in Europe.

“It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children,” Donald says, adding that 5,000 had disappeared in Italy alone.

“Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with.”

Over one million migrants and refugees, many fleeing the conflict in Syria, crossed into Europe last year.

AFP

Young Syrian refugees stand at the Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan on January 30, 2016. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Young Syrian refugees stand at the Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan on January 30, 2016. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Khamenei rewards oficers who captured US sailors

Iran’s supreme leader hands out medals to five senior Iranian officers who helped capture US sailors earlier this month, the Tasnim News Agency reports.

Several other Revolutionary Guards officers are promoted for playing a role in the brief detention of the US troops.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 24, 2016, meets the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy unit that detained US sailors earlier in January.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 24, 2016, meets the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy unit that detained US sailors earlier in January.

Herzog asks: Why doesn’t IDF order tunnels demolished?

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says the government should order the demolition of Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas tunnels must be blown up. This is a threat that must be destroyed. Why doesn’t the government give this order to the IDF? Why are the defense minister and prime minister hesitating?” Herzog says in a statement.

“The Egyptians are blowing up Hamas tunnels on the border with Rafah while the residents of the Gaza periphery must warn again and again that they hear digging under their homes? What are we waiting for? For terrorists to emerge, with guns drawn, in some kibbutz or moshav?”

Screenshot from an Iranian TV report purporting to show a new Hamas tunnel that reaches into Israeli territory, June 28, 2015. (Screenshot/Al-Alam)

Screenshot from an Iranian TV report purporting to show a new Hamas tunnel that reaches into Israeli territory, June 28, 2015. (Screenshot/Al-Alam)

Women of the Wall leader wants everyone to come to egalitarian section

Women of the Wall founder Anat Hoffman says she wants the new egalitarian section at the Western Wall to compete with the other areas. I want those who make a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah to come to the new site, she tells Channel 2.

Chairwoman of the "Women of the Wall" Anat Hoffman wears a prayer shawl as she prays along other members of "WOW" at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem on July 08, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Chairwoman of the “Women of the Wall” Anat Hoffman wears a prayer shawl as she prays along other members of “WOW” at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem on July 08, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Greek police arrest 2 suspected of trying to join IS

Greek police say they have arrested two men suspected of possessing weapons and attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

One of those arrested was a 29-year-old Serbia-born Swedish citizen who was released from prison in 2011 after serving six years for possessing explosives and threatening to carry out a terrorist attack, a police officer tells The Associated Press Sunday. The man had been arrested and convicted in Bosnia before he was transferred to serve the last part of his sentence in Sweden.

He was arrested again Thursday near the Greek-Turkish border alongside a 20-year-old originally from Yemen. Both were traveling on Swedish passports and Greek police said they found two long knives, a rifle holster and military uniforms in their luggage.

The police officer, who demanded anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation, said they are believed to have been on their way from Sweden to Syria. They had left Sweden by car and then flown from Copenhagen to Athens. After that, they traveled by bus to Thessaloniki and then to the northeastern city of Alexandroupolis, where they were arrested while trying to find local transport to the Turkish border, which they planned to cross on foot.

AP

Reform Movement applauds Western Wall decision

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), hails the cabinet approval of the non-Orthodox Western Wall section.

“This effort is the result of the extraordinary commitment shown by those in Israel who wouldn’t agree to the second-class status imposed by the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment, and by all of us outside of Israel whose unconditional love for our Jewish state compels us to tirelessly advocate for a more equal, pluralistic, and Jewishly vibrant Israel,” he says.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs (photo credit: Ben Fink Shapiro/Union for Reform Judaism)

Rabbi Rick Jacobs (photo credit: Ben Fink Shapiro/Union for Reform Judaism)

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism says the decision will make the Reform movement “a powerful force” in Israel.

“This struggle and this potential victory is just the beginning of our efforts to ensure that the Jewish state of Israel is indeed a state where all forms of Judaism are practiced freely and without state prohibition – and where those of us who represent the largest force in Jewish life in the world today, the Reform Movement, will be a powerful force inside of Israel and a more visible alternative for worship for Israeli Jews,” he says.

Republicans ‘grasping at straws’ over emails — Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says the hubbub over whether she had secret emails on her server is “very much like Benghazi,” a politically motivated scandal that’s likely not as serious as Republicans suggest.

Clinton tells ABC’s “This Week” that “it’s pretty clear” that Republicans are “grasping at straws” in their response to the latest release of emails from Clinton’s private home server. The State Department announced it’s withholding some of those emails because the information they contain is too highly classified. The former secretary of state says she’s been told some of that email correspondence included a public newspaper article. Clinton insists she never sent or received information on her personal email account that was classified at the time. She repeats her call for the emails’ release.

As secretary of state, Clinton presided over a key piece of the government’s response to the deadly 2012 assaults on a diplomatic compound and CIA quarters in Benghazi, Libya. The attacks killed four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, and quickly became a political rallying cry for Republicans.

AP

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the media during during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Saturday, October 31. 2009.(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the media during during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Saturday, October 31. 2009.(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Kerry urges both sides to ‘seize moment’ at Syria talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry urges Syria’s opposition and regime to play a full role in peace talks Sunday, while accusing Bashar al-Assad’s forces of starving civilians.

“This morning, in light of what is at stake in these talks, I appeal to both sides to make the most of this moment,” he says, in an online statement broadcast from Washington.

AFP

Western Wall rabbi says decision not ‘historic’

Western Wall rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch downplays the significance of the decision to expand the mixed-gender plaza.

“I can’t say that the government decision made this step historic,” he tells Army Radio. “It was an option all along.”

Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Im Tirtzu director suspends self after controversy

The director of the Im Tirzu organization says he is “suspending” himself from his position.

Matan Peleg tells Channel 2 that someone must take responsibility for the controversial campaign that “outed” left-wing artists and cultural figures as “foreign agent moles.” It was not immediately clear how long his self-imposed suspension would last.

The right-wing group apologized Friday for the campaign, which sparked a firestorm of criticism and was likened to McCarthyism.

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu on July 31, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu on July 31, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinian hunger-striker ‘lost ability to speak’

A Palestinian detained by Israel and on hunger strike for over two months has lost his ability to speak and most of his hearing, his lawyer and family says.

Mohammed al-Qiq’s condition is “very dangerous. He lost his ability to speak and 60 percent of his hearing,” his lawyer Jawad Boulus says in a statement.

Boulus visits Qiq on Sunday at the Emek Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Afula, where he is being treated.

Speaking at a press conference, Qiq’s wife Faihaa says doctors had told her family that her husband could no longer speak.

“What are they waiting for in order to release my husband or look into his arrest?” she asks, and answers: “Until he suffers a brain hemorrhage or becomes a martyr.”

Spokeswomen for the hospital and the Israel Prison Service would not comment on the reports.

AFP

Campaign poster calling for the release of Palestinian hunger striker Mohammed al-Qiq, who was arrested on November 21, 2015. (screen capture: YouTube)

Campaign poster calling for the release of Palestinian hunger striker Mohammed al-Qiq, who was arrested on November 21, 2015. (screen capture: YouTube)

Venice’s carnival gets new anti-terrorism measures

Carnival-goers in Venice are being asked by police to momentarily lift their masks as part of new anti-terrorism measures for the annual festivities.

Police are also examining backpacks and bags and using metal-detecting wands before revelers are allowed into St. Mark’s Square, the heart of the Venetian carnival.

Sunday’s main crowd-pleaser known as the Flight of the Angel went off without a hitch. In that event, a costumed young woman, attached by wires, “flies” over the crowd, starting from St. Mark’s bell tower and gradually descending to the square.

— AP

Revellers in costumes pose before attending the performance of the "Angel flight" or "Flight of the dove" from the bell tower of Saint Mark's square (Piazza San Marco) to officially launch the Venice Carnival on January 31, 2016.(AFP / VINCENZO PINTO)

Revellers in costumes pose before attending the performance of the “Angel flight” or “Flight of the dove” from the bell tower of Saint Mark’s square (Piazza San Marco) to officially launch the Venice Carnival on January 31, 2016.(AFP / VINCENZO PINTO)

Palestinian indicted for Herzliya armed robbery

A Palestinian, 22, is indicted for breaking into a house in Herzliya two weeks ago, and demanding money from an Israeli woman while threatening her with a wire cutter.

The West Bank resident is indicted for aggravated robbery, extortion, threats, and residing in Israel illegally.

The suspect is accused of knocking on the door of the woman’s home two weeks ago, asking to see her husband.

“Is your husband home? He owes me money,” he said, according to Channel 2. The woman attempted to block the doorway, but he pushed the door open, entering her home. The suspect then grabbed her, placed his hand over her mouth to silence her, and put the wire cutter to her neck. When the woman’s children, who were home, came downstairs, he threatened to kill their mother if they didn’t keep quiet.

The Palestinian then demanded that she give him all the money and jewelry she possesses. The woman handed over a Rolex watch and NIS 300 ($75) from her wallet. Before exiting, the suspect demanded that the woman and her husband give him NIS 2 million ($500,000) by the following week.

He later called the woman’s husband to demand the money, while threatening the lives of his wife and children. The Israeli man said he didn’t have this sum of money, and the suspect lowered the demand to NIS 800,000 ($200,000). The two arranged to meet in the West Bank, where the Israeli man showed up accompanied by police, and the Palestinian was arrested.

Rivlin says peace talks should be direct

Rivlin addresses the French peace ultimatum, saying that talks on Israel’s security should not be conducted “over our head.

“In the last few days, we have heard the comments made by the French foreign minister relating to an international peace conference. In relation to this, I wish to say — it is proper that the dialogue between us and our close allies on all issues relating to the security of Israel and its citizens should be conducted in a direct manner, not over Israel’s head in a conference with many participants,” he says.

“We cannot be condemned to passivity due to the current absence of a political process. The improvement in the relations between the two peoples is a distinct Israeli interest, which must go hand-in-hand with the active and assertive defense of the State of Israel and its citizens. Such a policy proves that Israel is cautious, not reactionary, and that the security of its citizens — together with efforts for peace — stands at the forefront of our national priorities.”

‘Suspicious’ Palestinian arrested in West Bank

A Palestinian man who raised the suspicions of IDF soldiers at the Gush Etzion Junction is arrested, the Ynet news website reports.

Soldiers had ordered the man to stop, at which point he broke into a run. The troops arrested him after a brief chase.

Soldiers later discovered a metal rod in the area, and concluded that the Palestinian had planned to attack Israelis at the site, the report says.

Also in the area, a Palestinian hurls a firebomb at an Israeli car. There are no injuries.

3 Jewish teens charged over Jerusalem church graffiti

Israeli prosecutors press charges on Sunday against three Jewish teenagers for allegedly scrawling anti-Christian graffiti on some of Christianity’s holiest sites in Jerusalem, the Justice Ministry says.

Two are suspected of writing sectarian slogans on January 16 in the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus is believed to have walked to his crucifixion, before being joined by the third teen and vandalizing an outside wall of the Dormition Abbey, where tradition says the mother of Jesus died.

The Benedictine abbey is on Mount Zion across from East Jerusalem’s Old City and next to the site where Christians believe the Last Supper took place.

The Hebrew graffiti at the sites included “Christians to hell” and “Death to the Christian infidel enemies of Israel,” the justice ministry says in a statement.

The three, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on January 20 and charged on Sunday in a juvenile court with “vandalism motivated by religious hostility and offending religious sentiment,” the ministry says.

AFP

Boko Haram burns kids alive in Nigeria

A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death, among 86 people officials say died in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists.

Scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds littered the streets from Saturday night’s attack on Dalori village and two nearby camps housing 25,000 refugees, according to survivors and soldiers at the scene just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast.

The shooting, burning and explosions from three suicide bombers continued for nearly four hours in the unprotected area, survivor Alamin Bakura said, weeping on a telephone call to The Associated Press. He said several of his family members were killed or wounded.

The violence continued as three female suicide bombers blew up among people who managed to flee to neighboring Gamori village, killing many people, according to a soldier at the scene who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.

AP

PM berates Abbas for not condemning shooting

Netanyahu condemns PA President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to denounce a shooting attack earlier Sunday by a member of his security forces.

“The Palestinian terrorist who shot three IDF soldiers today near Beit El was a member of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. Mahmoud Abbas has not condemned this attack that was carried out by one of his men. I demand that the international community stop its hypocrisy and do everything in its power to pressure the Palestinian Authority to stop its incitement against Israel,” Netanyahu says.

20,000 Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan border

The number of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan’s border and waiting for permission to enter has risen to 20,000, with 4,000 to 5,000 more arriving in the remote desert area every month, the head of the UN refugee agency in the kingdom says Sunday.

In recent months, Jordan has permitted only several dozen refugees to enter each day, leading to rapidly growing crowds of Syrians, including women and children, who are stuck in two areas along the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Jordanian authorities have cited security concerns for the bottle neck, saying many refugees come from areas controlled by the Islamic State group and need to undergo strict vetting. International aid officials have urged Jordan to speed up the process and move refugees quickly to the UN-run Azraq refugee camp which is still more than half empty and could house thousands of newcomers.

Andrew Harper, the refugee agency chief in Jordan, tells The Associated Press on Sunday that he is working with Jordanian officials to provide the “most basic necessities” to refugees stuck in the desert. It’s challenging because the nearest town is about 150 kilometers (more than 90 miles) away, Harper says. The UN understands the Jordanian security concerns, but is also working with local officials to try to expedite the vetting, he adds.

AP

Egypt arrests cartoonist for illegally running a webpage

An Egyptian cartoonist, whose work is occasionally critical of government policies, is arrested in the capital, Cairo, on Sunday and charged with running a webpage without a license, the country’s Interior Ministry says in a statement.

The arrest of Islam Gaweesh appears to be part of an intensified clampdown on activists and journalists in Egypt, where many have been detained, questioned and even forcibly disappeared in recent months.

In custody, Gaweesh was told that the only charge actually against him so far was “publishing drawings that are offensive to the regime,” his lawyer Mahmoud Othman tells The Associated Press.

Most of Gaweesh’s work dealt with the mundanities of life in Egypt. One of his most recent cartoons tackled the recent cold snap in the country by showing a man asking his love interest on the phone why she is cold in an effort to appear manly. “The weather is great,” he says before being interrupted by a group of penguins in the window telling him to shut up.

One of the few cartoons Gaweesh has recently drawn that are critical of government figures targeted a foul-mouthed pro-government lawyer and lawmaker Mortada Mansour, who often threatens to beat his political opponents with his shoes. Earlier this month, Mansour was selected to head the parliament’s human rights committee.

AP

Netanyahu to Hamas: Don’t try us

Netanyahu warns Hamas not to “try us,” or you’ll face “much more force than Operation Protective Edge.

“We are working methodically and calmly against all threats, including threats from Hamas, both with defensive and offensive measures. And of course, in the event we attack the tunnels in the Gaza Strip, we will act very forcefully against Hamas, and with much more force than Operation Protective Edge,” he says, referring to the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

“I think they understand this in the region, understand this in the world,” he continues. “I hope we won’t need to, but our capabilities — both defensive and offensive — are developing rapidly, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to try us.”

Raphael Ahren contributed

UK woman gets 6 years for taking toddler to join IS

LONDON — A judge has sentenced a British woman to six years in prison for going to Syria to live under the rule of the Islamic State group.

Tareena Shakil was convicted last week of being a member of the group and encouraging acts of terrorism.

In October 2014 she and her 1-year-old son boarded a plane to Turkey and then traveled to Syria. After three months Shakil fled, taking a taxi to the Turkish border and returning to Britain.

Shakil denied the charges, claiming she wanted to live under strict Islamic law, not support terrorism.

But judge Melbourne Inman said Monday that the 26-year-old had been “well aware that the future which you had subjected your son to was very likely to be indoctrination and thereafter life as a terrorist fighter.”

— AP

Palestinian arrested with knife near Hebron

A Palestinian armed with a knife is arrested at Beit Anoun junction, near the West Bank city of Hebron.

The man was stopped after arousing the suspicions of security forces in the area and his weapon discovered, Channel 10 says.

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Im Tirtzu director suspends self after controversy

The director of the Im Tirzu organization says he is “suspending” himself from his position.

Matan Peleg tells Channel 2 that someone must take responsibility for the controversial campaign that “outed” left-wing artists and cultural figures as “foreign agent moles.” It was not immediately clear how long his self-imposed suspension would last.

The right-wing group apologized Friday for the campaign, which sparked a firestorm of criticism and was likened to McCarthyism.

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu on July 31, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu on July 31, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)