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Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

  • File: The settlement of Har Bracha in the northern West Bank in September 2014.
    File: The settlement of Har Bracha in the northern West Bank in September 2014.
  • In this Jan. 12, 2016 file photo, MP Tawfiq Okasha sits in an anteroom after he taped his mouth shut in protest at not being given the floor during a parliamentary session, in Cairo, Egypt. Arabic writing reads, "Banned from speaking inside and outside the house by government orders." (AP Photo/Said Shahat, File)
    In this Jan. 12, 2016 file photo, MP Tawfiq Okasha sits in an anteroom after he taped his mouth shut in protest at not being given the floor during a parliamentary session, in Cairo, Egypt. Arabic writing reads, "Banned from speaking inside and outside the house by government orders." (AP Photo/Said Shahat, File)
  • Palestinian mourners chant slogans while carrying the body of Mahmoud Shalan, 17, during his funeral in the West Bank village of Deir Debwan, near Ramallah, March 2, 2016. (Photo by Flash90)
    Palestinian mourners chant slogans while carrying the body of Mahmoud Shalan, 17, during his funeral in the West Bank village of Deir Debwan, near Ramallah, March 2, 2016. (Photo by Flash90)
  • US Vice President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Ben Gurion airport, March 8, 2010. (Pool/Yariv Katz Flash90)
    US Vice President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Ben Gurion airport, March 8, 2010. (Pool/Yariv Katz Flash90)
  • Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Jerusalem in 2014.
    Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Jerusalem in 2014.
  • "Arrest illegal occupation Edelstein," projected onto the walls of the Palace of Westminster, March 2, 2016. (Screenshot from YouTube)
    "Arrest illegal occupation Edelstein," projected onto the walls of the Palace of Westminster, March 2, 2016. (Screenshot from YouTube)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, confers with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on December 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, confers with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on December 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

PM asks attorney general for legal opinion on expelling terrorist’s families

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit whether it is possible to expel the families of West Bank terrorists to Gaza, days after Mandeblit reportedly ruled out such a measure.

“Many terror attacks in recent months were carried about by terrorists who fit into the profile of ‘lone attackers.’ These attackers come from families that support and assist their actions,” Netanyahu writes in a letter to Mandelblit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit in Jerusalem on December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

“I am requesting your legal opinion regarding the possibility of expelling family members that support terror to Gaza. I am convinced that such a measure will lead to a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks against the State of Israel, its citizens and its residents,” he continues.

A few days ago Mandelblit shot down the idea, arguing that it would contravene Israeli and international law.

— Raphael Ahren

Islamic State behind deadly Jordan raid, planned more attacks

Jordanian intelligence say that seven men killed in a shootout with troops had ties to the Islamic State group and had planned attacks on military and civilian targets in the kingdom.

The arrest raid took place late Tuesday in the northern city of Irbid.

Security forces tracked the suspected militants to a residential building in Irbid, and troops opened fire with automatic weapons after the fugitives refused to surrender, according to the intelligence service.

Seven wanted men wearing explosives belts were killed, along with a member of the security forces, it says. Weapons and explosives were found at the scene. The statement says 13 men linked to the same group were detained in previous raids in Irbid, but did not say when those arrests took place.

The Irbid raids began late Tuesday. City resident Abdullah Nashwan said he heard the sound of shooting, and that security forces cut off power to parts of the city during the raids.

— AP

George Galloway wants to meet UK chief rabbi

London mayoral candidate George Galloway would be “honored” to meet with the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, according to a spokesman for his campaign.

After Mirvis met with candidates from the Labour and Conservative parties, the spokesman told The Jewish Chronicle that “Mr Galloway is always happy to meet religious and community leaders and would of course be honored to meet the Chief Rabbi.”

Galloway, the leader of the tiny Respect Party known for his strident anti-Israel rhetoric, last year declared his district “an Israel-free zone,” including barring it to Israeli goods, services, academics and tourists.

“We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford even if any of them had thought of doing so,” Galloway said. “We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel — and you have to do the same.”

Galloway also has said Israel should be abolished and replaced with a binational state. He called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “American stooge.” He also has organized aid convoys to Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip.

Biblical sheep to flock to Israel after visa battle

A Canadian couple raising an ancient breed of sheep said to feature in the Biblical story of Jacob and Laban say they expect to bring the flock to Israel within the year, after a breakthrough in the bureaucratic impasse preventing their import.

Gil and Jenna Lewinsky tell Reuters they are close to a deal that would allow them to bring some 100 sheep “back home” to Israel.

“It would be a very important and historic moment when the sheep return after basically 2,000 years,” Jenna Lewisnky says.

Eitan Weiss, the spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Canada, says he facilitated a dialogue between the couple and the Israeli Agriculture Ministry and sent along “strong recommendations” for the sheep to be allowed entry.

Due to concerns over diseases, Israel only permits the importation of live livestock from a limited number of countries where there is no evidence of such illnesses as the bluetongue virus or the mycoplasma bacteria, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said.

“When Jenna and Gil talked to me, I thought it was a very beautiful story,” Weiss says. “Why not promote it? Why not bring the valuable sheep to Israel, especially when we know about rarity of sheep in Israel? That was before we knew of limitations.”

Ex-Charlie Hebdo cartoonist sues Jewish thinker who called him anti-Semitic

A caricaturist who used to work for the Charlie Hebdo magazine says he is suing for libel the French-Jewish philosopher who had accused him of anti-Semitism.

Maurice Sinet, better known by his pen name Sine, announced the lawsuit against Bernard-Henri Levy on his website, urging readers to show their support in a petition and “return honor to all those whom this person has spit on.” The petition has received more than 700 signatures since it was posted on Monday.

Levy, who is one of France’s best-known philosophers, wrote in a column that appeared in the Le Point magazine in January that Sine is “a former employee of Charlie Hebdo who was kicked out for his anti-Semitism and racism.”

French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy addresses a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on anti-Semitism, January 22, 2015 (AP/Richard Drew)

French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy addresses a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on anti-Semitism, January 22, 2015 (AP/Richard Drew)

In 2008, Sine published in Charlie Hebdo a text which implied that Jean Sarkozy, the son of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, was able to avoid blame for a vehicular accident because he plans to convert to Judaism and marry a rich Jewish woman — all unfounded claims that that the caricaturist later said were satirical.

A French court that year ordered a motorist who sued Jean Sarkozy to pay $2,300 for filing a false claim.

Amid a controversy that reverberated for months through France’s literary circles, media and courts, Sine’s employment at Charlie Hebdo – a left-leaning publication known for its lampooning of religion — was terminated after more than two decades.

The magazine, which last year was targeted by Islamists who killed 12 people at its offices, cited threats of legal action against it and the targeting of an individual person for his ties to Judaism as the reason for the dismissal.

— JTA

Minister Yisrael Katz welcomes effort to expel terrorists’ families

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz praises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for seeking to expel the families of terrorists to Gaza, after Netanyahu asked the attorney general whether the move is legal.

Katz called for the measure earlier this week.

“I welcome the public support of the prime minister in the initiative to expel the families of terrorists and on his request for a legal opinion on the topic from the attorney general,” Katz writes on his Facebook page.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz during a Knesset plenary session, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz during a Knesset plenary session, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Next Tuesday I intent to present to the Knesset a proposal to amend the current law to allow the expulsion of terrorist families to Gaza or Syria. If the government supports the bill, the legislative process will be quick. Once we change the law, then we will deal with the international pressure,” Katz adds, referring to expected opposition from foreign governments and human rights NGOs.

EU eyes spending $760m on refugee crisis

The European Union’s head office wants to swiftly push through a proposal to earmark 700 million euros ($760 million) in humanitarian aid to deal with the refugee crisis.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides says Wednesday that 300 million euros ($325 million) would be earmarked for this year and be used “where it is most needed,” alluding to Greece and the nations along the Balkan trail that refugees use to move into the heartland of the 28-nation bloc The overall total would cover three years.

Refugees and migrants queue to receive food from the Greek Red Cross, at the port of Piraeus, southwest of central Athens, on February 29, 2016. (AFP / PANAYOTIS TZAMAROS)

Refugees and migrants queue to receive food from the Greek Red Cross, at the port of Piraeus, southwest of central Athens, on February 29, 2016. (AFP / PANAYOTIS TZAMAROS)

Stylianides says the funds would not be diverted from aid programs aimed at non-EU nations.

His proposal will still need to be approved by the European parliament and the member states. EU leaders meet Monday for a summit focusing on the migration issue.

— AP

Zuckerberg beats out Ellison as world’s richest Jew

Marc Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, is the wealthiest Jew in the world and the sixth wealthiest person alive, according to the 30th annual Forbes list of billionaires released Wednesday. At the age of 31, his net worth is $44.6 billion.

Zuckerberg inched out Larry Ellison, Oracle founder, who has been the top Jew for last few years. Ellison netted $43.6 billion. With a net worth of $40 billion, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is the third wealthiest Jew on the list and 8th wealthiest person overall.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, March 2, 2015. (David Ramos/Getty Images via JTA)

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, March 2, 2015. (David Ramos/Getty Images via JTA)

Microsoft founder Bill Gates topped the list again, clocking a net worth of $75 billion.

Other Jews who made the list:

12. Larry Page
13. Sergey Brin
22. Sheldon Adelson
23. George Soros
26. Steve Ballmer
35. Michael Dell
42. Joseph Safra
43. Carl Icahn
53. Len Blavatnik
60. David Reuben
63. Mikhail Fridman
72. Steve Cohen
78. Ronald Perelman
80. Stephen Ross
85. David Tepper
90. Alain Wertheimer
108. John Paulson
113. Stephen Schwarzman
122. Leonard Lauder
124. Dustin Moskovitz

Powerful quake off Indonesia prompts tsunami warning

Indonesian officials say a powerful, shallow earthquake has hit off the western coast of Sumatra and warn that it could trigger a tsunami.

The US Geological Service said the earthquake, which struck Wednesday evening, had a preliminary magnitude of 7.9. It said it was centered under the ocean at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

Shallow earthquakes are more apt to cause damage, but the USGS said the quake was located quite far from land, about 662 kilometers (411 miles) from Muara Siberut.

A monster quake off Indonesia in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Most of the deaths were in Aceh province.

— AP

Catholic priest caught snorting cocaine amid Nazi memorabilia

A Catholic priest is caught on video snorting what appears to be cocaine in a room with Nazi memorabilia.

The video of Father Stephen Crossan, 37, was taken at what was then his parish home in Northern Ireland after a “two-day bender” in July 2015, the Sun on Sunday reported.

Crossan told the newspaper that he is not a Nazi and that he collected historical items from around the world. He confirmed that he is using drugs in the video but said, “It was just the one night and that was it. I do not have an issue with drugs.”

Crossan told the newspaper he had been on sick leave with depression at the time and had since left the church but was being supported by the parish. In his statement, the bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, said Crossan had been granted leave from his pastoral duties in May 2015. He said the priest had been receiving counseling and was considering his future.

At the start of February 2016, McAreavey said, Crossan had asked for an extended leave of absence from the priesthood. The bishop said he was concerned for Crossan’s health.

— JTA

Edelstein after protests at UK Parliament: ‘Our enemies will not deter me’

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says he is undeterred by a wave of anti-Israel protests and calls for his arrest ahead of an address to members of the British Parliament later today.

Activists projected messages calling on Britain to “arrest illegal occupation Edelstein,” and charged “Israel’s racist leader Edelstein not welcome,” on the outer walls of the Palace of Westminster Tuesday evening objecting to Edelstein’s scheduled address.

"Arrest illegal occupation Edelstein," projected onto the walls of the Palace of Westminster, March 2, 2016. (Screenshot from YouTube)

“Arrest illegal occupation Edelstein,” projected onto the walls of the Palace of Westminster, March 2, 2016. (Screenshot from YouTube)

“Our enemies will not deter me,” he says in response to the incident, telling reporters he anticipated encountering both supporters and opponents on his first diplomatic visit to London.

“This is an opportunity for me to voice Israel’s stance without hesitation,” he says.

— Tamar Pileggi

Germany tries again to ban main neo-Nazi party

Germany’s top Jewish organization applauds a new attempt to ban the country’s main neo-Nazi party.

Three days of hearings began Tuesday in Germany’s top court – the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe – to examine the
constitutionality of outlawing the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

It is the second attempt to ban the party – the first failed on a legal technicality in 2003. Observers say a second failure would be
devastating. At issue is whether the NPD poses a threat to democracy. It is very difficult to ban a party in Germany, due to post-Nazi era laws designed to safeguard free speech.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, says in a statement Tuesday that a trial would “show [the NPD’s] true face” to the world.

“The NPD wants to do away with our democracy and set up a nationalist state where there is no more room for minorities” says Schuster. A trial would not work as an advertisement for the party, but rather as a deterrent, he added.

The NPD blames foreigners for Germany’s problems and belittles the Holocaust. Though the party has never made it into the federal
parliament, its representatives have been elected into two state parliaments in the past decade by barely passing the 5 percent vote minimum. It currently has representatives in the state legislature of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Election success earns the party federal taxpayer money.

— JTA

Deri warns 2nd facility will be needed for African migrants

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri says if the Supreme Court prevents Israel from expelling illegal immigrants from Africa to third countries, Israel will need to build a second detention facility to house those currently in the country.

Over 3,300 asylum seekers and migrants are currently incarcerated in the Holot detention center in southern Israel, where inmates are required to check in during morning and evening hours but are free to leave during the day.

“The Holot detention center is not enough and we will need to build another large facility,” Deri tells a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee. “I prefer not to get to that and to work to maximize orderly agreements with other countries”

In August, the Suprme Court ordered the government to free illegal migrants held for more than a year at the site, in a ruling that affected 1,178 asylum seekers.

African migrants protest outside the Holot detention center in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, February 17, 2014. (Flash90)

African migrants protest outside the Holot detention center in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, February 17, 2014. (Flash90)

Official figures show some 47,000 illegal immigrants are in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Most of those who have not been detained live in poor areas of southern Tel Aviv, where there have been several protests over their presence.

Since 2006, Israel has struggled to establish and implement a clear legal framework to deal with the large influx of migrants, resulting in confusing and often conflicting ad hoc immigration policies.

The vast majority of African migrants living in Israel claim asylum seeker status, but the state has recognized fewer than 1% as asylum claimers and, since 2009, less than 0.15% — the lowest rate in the Western world.

Nisman’s death to be investigated as homicide after ex-spy’s testimony

Former Argentine spymaster Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso accuses the government of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of being responsible for the murder of Alberto Nisman.

Stiuso, the former operations chief of the Intelligence Secretariat, or SI, the country’s spy agency, testified for more than 15 hours yesterday in connection with the death of Nisman, the AMIA Jewish Center bombing special prosecutor. Stiuso had assisted Nisman in the investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Nisman was found shot and killed in the bathroom of his apartment on January 18, 2015, hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack.

Alberto Nisman gives a news conference in Buenos Aires on May 20, 2009. (AFP Photo/Juan Mabromata)

Alberto Nisman gives a news conference in Buenos Aires on May 20, 2009. (AFP Photo/Juan Mabromata)

Argentinean media reports that Stiuso said that the late AMIA prosecutor’s death “was intimately linked with the complaint that he made.”

— JTA

Russia: Syria truce violated 31 times in 3 days

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says that the ceasefire in Syria has been violated 31 times since it came into effect midnight Friday.

During a Wednesday press briefing in Moscow, Maria Zakharova rebuffed suggestions that the ceasefire would end after a two-week period.

When asked about the possible federalization in Syria, Zakharova said it is up to the Syrian people to determine their government’s structure. She echoed previous statements from Russian officials that the Kurds should be part of future peace talks in Syria.

People wait in front of their damaged house following heavy fighting between government troops and Kurdish fighters, on March 2, 2016 in the southeastern Turkey Kurdish town of Cizre, near the border with Syria and Iraq. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)

People wait in front of their damaged house following heavy fighting between government troops and Kurdish fighters, on March 2, 2016 in the southeastern Turkey Kurdish town of Cizre, near the border with Syria and Iraq. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)

A Turkish official says Turkey has not hit any targets other than the Islamic State group since the ceasefire came into effect in Syria.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic tells reporters that Turkish artillery units fired at IS positions on February 28 and no other action has been taken.

Turkey had warned before the truce came into effect that it might continue attacking Syrian Kurdish militia if they posed a threat to its security. Bilgic said Turkey has received information that both Russia and the Syrian government have carried out bombings in breach of the truce.

— AP

Biden to visit Israel next week

The Government Press Office announces that US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in Israel for a two-day visit next week.

He is set to land at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

In January, Biden met Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland, shortly after the US lifted sanctions on Iran as part of a nuclear deal. The US has sought to soften Israel’s concerns regarding the deal through discussions about a new long-term agreement on US military aid for Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left and US Vice President Joe Biden meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left and US Vice President Joe Biden meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

According to Netanyahu’s office, the two discussed security and strategic interests in the Middle East as well as energy.

“The meeting was friendly and warm and took place in an excellent atmosphere,” a Prime Minister’s Office official said at the time.

Biden’s last visit to Israel sparked a diplomatic spat with Washington in 2010, when Israel announced settlement construction plans during Biden’s visit.

18 US-backed rebels killed in Syria car bomb

Opposition activists say a car bomb in southern Syria has killed at least 18 rebels including the commander of a US-backed armed opposition group.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the car bomb exploded Wednesday afternoon in the southern village of Asheh, in Quneitra province, killing at least 18 fighters.

A Quneitra-based opposition activist who goes by the name of Abu Omar al-Golani says that 20 fighters were killed in the blast, including the commander of the Syria Revolutionaries Front, Capt. Abu Hamza al-Naimi.

He says the blast went off when several commanders were meeting at the group’s office in Asheh.

The Syria Revolutionaries Front is a moderate rebel group that was largely crushed in northern Syria in late 2014 by al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, known as the Nusra Front.

— AP

Banker, Jewish philanthropist Bram Goldsmith dies at 82

Bram Goldsmith, a renowned banker who left a deep imprint on Los Angeles and its Jewish community, passed away in his Beverly Hills home. He was 92.

Born in Chicago in 1923, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, Goldsmith served in the US Army Air Corps during World War II and then launched his business career in Los Angeles, first in real estate construction then joining City National Bank.

During Goldsmith’s tenure, 20 years as chief executive and 38 years as chairman, City National Bank became known as “the bank to the stars,” providing highly personalized services to a Who’s Who of Hollywood celebrities.

In 1984, he was the highest paid banker in the United States at an annual salary of $3.1 million, more than the combined salaries of the next three CEOs at Bank of America, Citibank and Chase Manhattan.

As his bank’s and personal wealth grew, Goldsmith became a patron of the arts but increasingly put his energy and money into Jewish causes. Among numerous local and national offices, Goldsmith served as national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal.

“There is no single individual in the history of the Jewish community in Los Angeles who has had greater impact and leaves a greater legacy than Bram Goldsmith,” Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told the Jewish Journal.

Bram and his wife Elaine Goldsmith were major supporters of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, endowing two buildings, a professorial chair and an instrumentation fund.

— JTA

Egyptian parliament said to oust member for meeting with Israeli envoy

Egyptian parliamentarians vote to throw out a fellow lawmaker for meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Cairo, according to Egyptian media reports.

Tawfiq Okasha, a popular TV talk show host and parliament member, has been engulfed in controversy since Thursday when Israeli ambassador Haim Korem posted a picture on the embassy’s Facebook page of the two of them meeting the evening before.

Two thirds of the parliament reportedly vote in favor of throwing out Oskasha. The move comes after the parliament decided on Sunday to form a special committee to investigate Okasha’s visit. One lawmaker threw a shoe at Okasha during Sunday’s session.

Egyptian television host and parliament member Tawfiq Okasha (YouTube screen capture)

Egyptian television host and parliament member Tawfiq Okasha (YouTube screen capture)

Egypt has full diplomatic relations with Israel, but directly dealing with the Jewish state remains deeply taboo in Egyptian society.

Okasha, who has been previously described by state-run media as “controversial,” publicly — during a broadcast — invited Haim Koren to his house for dinner. Koren agreed, and the two met last Wednesday at Okasha’s home and discussed politics, trade and agricultural cooperation between the countries.

Turkey opens 1,845 cases for insulting President Erdogan

As many as 1,845 cases have been opened against people accused of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since he came to office in 2014, a top official says.

Erdogan has been accused of aggressively using a previously seldom-used law that bars insults to the president as a way to muffle dissent. Those who have gone on trial include celebrities, journalists and even schoolchildren.

Critics say Erdogan, who has been accused of increasing authoritarianism, even considers strong criticism as insults.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, France, on November 30, 2015. (AFP/Jacques Demarthon)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, France, on November 30, 2015. (AFP/Jacques Demarthon)

Responding to questions in parliament late Tuesday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag says his ministry has allowed 1,845 cases on charges of insulting Erdogan to go ahead.

He defends the prosecutions, saying: “I am unable to read the insults leveled at our president. I start to blush.”

Erdogan last year also filed a complaint against the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editor-in-chief Can Dundar and the paper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gul for their reports on alleged arms smuggling to Syria, which led to their arrests and subsequent charges of spying and aiding a terror organization. They go on trial March 25.

— AP

University of Missouri investigates ‘Hitler rules’ graffiti

University of Missouri officials condemn an anti-Semitic incident at a campus residence hall, the second this school year and the third in less than a calendar year.

A poster reading “Hitler rules” was hung Monday on a bulletin board in the Gateway Hall student residence on the university’s main campus in Columbia, according to the school’s newspaper, The Maneater.

“This type of vandalism attacks everyone,” reads a statement released by the school’s interim chancellor, Hank Foley, and interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity, Chuck Henson. “Our core values — including that of Respect — must become more than words on paper or a banner. They are the foundation of who we desire to be as a campus community and the way we all need to conduct ourselves.”

No one has been apprehended in the vandalism.

The university’s Jewish Student Organization says it “strongly condemns this expression of hatred.”

“This type of hate speech isn’t merely an attack on religious minorities; it also targets other cultural and ethnic groups,” the group said. “This act occurred in a residence hall, a place students call home. Home should be a haven where people feel safe from hatred.”

The statement adds that the Jewish Student Organization was “humbled by the support from student leadership on campus since the incident was reported.”

Egyptian MP who met Israeli envoy refused entry to parliament after ouster

Video footage captures security guards refusing entry to Egyptian lawmaker Tawfiq Okasha being refused entry to parliament after his colleagues voted to to ban him for meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt last week.

In a video released by AlMasry AlYoum, Okasha is seen walking through the halls of the parliament surrounded by aides and press. As he reaches the plenum a security guard signals to him that he is not allowed to enter and the door is closed in his face.

Voting in favor to ban Okasha were 403 parliamentarians, totaling more than two-thirds of the house.

West Bank road closed, Palestinian media says due to settler rock throwing

The army has closed the main road leading to the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, the IDF says.

Palestinian media is reporting the closure took place after settlers from the community thew rocks at Palestinian cars. The army is not giving a reason for the measure.

No injuries are being reported.

Egyptian parliament speaker says lawmaker ousting was due to ‘security breaches’

Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament Ali Abdel-Al said the vote to oust lawmaker Tawfiq Okasha was due to security breaches during his meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt last week and not sue to the fact that he met an Israeli official, Egyptian media outlets report.

Abdel-Al said before the vote that “We are not going to talk about a meeting of MK Tawfiq Okasha with an ambassador of a foreign country, but rather on the discussion of issues related to Egyptian national security during a meeting.”

Before leaving the building under armed guard, Okasha told the al Masry al Youm news website, “I’m not commenting on this decision. I was slaughtered and there’s a determination to strip me of my membership.”

— Dov Lieber

US holding an IS leader in Iraq

US officials say the military is holding an Islamic State leader who was captured in a raid by American special operations forces.

The militant has been in custody in Iraq for about two to three weeks. Officials say they believe he is the first significant Islamic State leader to be captured by the US in Iraq, but wouldn’t release his identity.

American soldiers at a base complex in Iraq, December 29, 2014 (AFP/ALI AL-SAADI)

American soldiers at a base complex in Iraq, December 29, 2014 (AFP/ALI AL-SAADI)

They said he was grabbed by members of what the Pentagon calls an expeditionary targeting force. The force aims to disrupt Islamic State operations in Iraq and Syria and gather intelligence information that can be used to conduct follow-on raids and strikes.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

— AP

Two Israelis injured in West Bank stabbing

Two Israelis are reported injured in a stabbing outside the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha.

One of the victims is in moderate condition and the other suffered light injuries, Army radio reported.

Initial reports suggest there are two attackers and that the incident is ongoing.

Stabbers stole guns, fled scene

The two perpetrators of a terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha reportedly stole the guns of two soldiers they had stabbed and fled the scene.

Chairman of the Shomron regional council Yossi Dagan tells Army Radio that the attackers opened fire before fleeing.

The army is searching the area.

Stolen guns said found outside settlement

Channel 10 news is reporting the guns of the two soldiers injured in a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha have been found after the perpetrators stole the weapons before fleeing the scene.

The army is still searching the area for the two attackers.

Yitzhar, Har Bracha residents told to stay indoors

Residents of the West Bank settlements of Har Bracha and Yitzhar have been told not leave their homes after two attackers stabbed soldiers in Har Bracha and fled the scene, according to Hebrew media reports.

The army is searching the area for the perpetrators.

Attackers reportedly apprehended

Two Palestinian attackers who stabbed two soldiers in the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha and fled the scene have been caught by security forces, according to Channel 2 news.

They were apprehended in a valley between Har Bracha and the neighboring settlement of Yitzhar.

One soldier transferred to Beilinson Hospital, second being treated by army medics at site

Magen David Adom paramedics say they treated one soldier for light-to-moderate wounds in his upper body at the site of a stabbing in Har Bracha before transferring him to the Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tivka.

A second soldier was being treated by army medics. His condition has been reported as moderate.

Major German supporter of Israel arrested for drug possession

One of Israel’s strongest political supporters in Germany has been found with illegal drugs during a police search, according to German press/

Volker Beck, the Green Party’s parliamentary spokesman for interior affairs and religion, and president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Bundestag since 2014, will give up both roles, a spokesman from his office tells the Spiegel Online magazine. The tabloid Bild reports that the substance found was likely crystal meth.

Beck, 55, who had addressed 150 members of the Rabbinical Conference of Europe visiting Germany’s capital on Monday, was subjected to a search Tuesday while on foot in the city and did not resist, Berlin state prosecutor Martin Steltner tells Spiegel Online. The prosecutor did not confirm reports about the substance itself, which is undergoing a chemical evaluation. Beck reportedly was found with 0.6 grams of the substance.

In a statement, Beck says he had “always supported a liberal drug policy” and that his attorney would address pending charges.

— JTA

Attackers may still be still on the loose

Two Palestinians who stabbed soldiers in the West Bank settlement of of Har Bracha may still be on the loose.

The army continues to search the area surrounding the settlement and residents of Har Bracha and neighboring Yitzhar have been told to stay indoors.

Two Palestinians reported arrested near the settlement appear not to be connected to the stabbing attack, according to Channel 2 news.

Army confirms attack, searching area for perpertrators

The army is confirming that two assailants stabbed two soldiers at a post guarding the community of Har Brakha, south of Nablus.

The two soldiers were injured and are receiving medical treatment, according to an IDF statement.

The assailants fled the scene and IDF is currently searching the area, the statement confirms.

— Judah Ari Gross

Biden will meet Netanyahu, Rivlin, Abbas on Israel visit

The White House says Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will depart Washington on Saturday. The trip begins in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where Biden will meet with the country’s leaders.

Biden heads to Jerusalem and Ramallah for meetings Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, as well as with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left and US Vice President Joe Biden meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left and US Vice President Joe Biden meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Biden’s final stop is Amman, Jordan, and a meeting with King Abdullah II to discuss the Islamic State group and Syrian.

Biden also expects to visit a US-Jordanian military training camp.

— AP

Israeli envoy to Egypt says he’ll meet with anyone willing to

In a video posted to Israel’s official diplomatic page to Egypt “Israel in Egypt,” the Israeli Ambassador Egypt Haim Koren acknowledges that his meeting with Egyptian lawmaker Tawfik Okashahad “sparked debate and controversy within Egypt.”

Okasha was ousted from the Egyptian parliament on Wednesday over alleged ‘security leaks’ during the meeting.

Nevertheless, Koren says he would meet with any Egyptian citizen who wanted to set up a meeting with the Israeli embassy. The ambassador adds that he already had a number of successful meetings with Egyptian journalists.

— Dov Lieber

Yaalon: ‘The Palestinians educate towards hate, we educate towards peace’

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon slams the the Palestinian Authority for “terrible incitement” and “educating towards hate.”

Speaking at a ceremony marking the end of the naval officer’s course in Haifa, Yaalon says the State of Israel, “is today contending with factors who have not yet come to terms with the fact of its existence, and they are tirelessly working to damage the state and to ruin the lives of its citizens.”

“We are witnesses to this in the current wave of terror when they are trying to kill us because of who we are – a consequence of the terrible incitement by the Palestinian Authority among the young generation. They educate towards hate while we educate towards peace,” he adds.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks to students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks to students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Edelstein in UK parliament: Rightists ‘killing me’ for settlement freeze

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tells a meeting of UK parliamentarians that focusing on the Israeli presence in the West Bank will not bring solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Edelstein says making the debate about settlements is counter productive.

“We need to focus on dealing with the problems of right now and not throw these cliches of settlements and settlement issues,” he says.

“I promise you that when I get to my constituency in Israel, I have a desire to run away because they’re killing me for the freeze in Judea and Samaria, killing me! They say ‘you just promise, you don’t build anything, get out of here we don’t want to hear these lies any more, everything is frozen, not a single house is being built.’

“We will not get to any solutions as long as we will believe that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria in the heart of the problem in the Middle East,” he says.

Amnesty: Russian, Syrian regime forces target hospitals

Russian and Syrian government forces have been targeting hospitals as a strategy of war in Syria’s conflict, says a new report from human rights group Amnesty International.

Amnesty says it has “compelling evidence” of at least six deliberate attacks on medical facilities in the Aleppo governorate over the past twelve weeks, which killed at least three civilians, including a medical worker, and injured 44 more. It says the attacks amount to war crimes.

According to the group, the attacks on medical facilities aimed to pave the way for pro-government ground forces to advance on northern Aleppo.

Aleppo witnessed some of the country’s fiercest fighting in the buildup to the partial ceasefire that came into effect Friday, as government forces backed by Russian airstrikes cut off a rebel supply route from Turkey.

— AP

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Minister Yisrael Katz welcomes effort to expel terrorists’ families

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz praises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for seeking to expel the families of terrorists to Gaza, after Netanyahu asked the attorney general whether the move is legal.

Katz called for the measure earlier this week.

“I welcome the public support of the prime minister in the initiative to expel the families of terrorists and on his request for a legal opinion on the topic from the attorney general,” Katz writes on his Facebook page.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz during a Knesset plenary session, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz during a Knesset plenary session, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Next Tuesday I intent to present to the Knesset a proposal to amend the current law to allow the expulsion of terrorist families to Gaza or Syria. If the government supports the bill, the legislative process will be quick. Once we change the law, then we will deal with the international pressure,” Katz adds, referring to expected opposition from foreign governments and human rights NGOs.