Netanyahu responds to car-ramming, calls on Arab MK to ‘stop fanning flames’
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Obama on UN resolution: We wanted to send a wake up call to Israel

In final press conference, outgoing US leader warns Trump that actions in region could have explosive reactions, not to make large policy shifts 'off the cuff'

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

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

Police release footage of suspected car-ramming attack

Police have released video footage of a suspected car-ramming attack that took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran.

The video shows confusion as a car slams into officers overseeing house demolitions in the village and protests opposing the measure.

Israeli policeman 1st Sgt. Erez Levi was killed in the suspected attack and the driver of the ramming vehicle, identified as Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, was shot and killed, according to police.

Israeli journalist beaten, pelted with rocks at Umm al-Hiran

An Israeli journalist is pulled free from a scuffle with residents in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran after being beaten and pelted with rocks by protesters.

The incident took place as residents were returning to the site with police permission following house demolitions that were being carried out since this morning.

Violent protests have been taking place.

— Dov Lieber

 

 

 

Attack in northern Mali kills 33, injures dozens more

At least 33 people are killed and several dozen injured after an explosives-laden vehicle targets a camp housing armed groups in northern Mali, a local official says.

The blast hit the Joint Operational Mechanism base in the city of Gao. The base houses hundreds of fighters including members of armed groups that signed Mali’s 2015 peace agreement. The camp also houses Malian soldiers.

The local official calls the death toll provisional.

“I am with the injured now,” Dr. Sadou Maiga at Gao’s hospital says. “We have stopped all hospital activities to handle the many injured who are arriving. Some have died from their wounds, and others are in a very grave state. At this point, it’s not the toll of dead and injured that interests me, it’s saving who I can.”

Witnesses say the car bearing explosives breached the camp at around 9 a.m., just as hundreds of fighters were gathering for a meeting.

— AP

Iraq military: Troops have ‘full control’ of eastern Mosul

Iraq’s military says government troops are now in “full control” of eastern Mosul after routing Islamic State militants from that part of the northern Iraqi city.

Army Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati, who commands the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, says the success of the Iraqi forces is “unprecedented.”

The advance — more than three months after the operation to free Mosul started in October — comes following Iraqi troops’ push over the past days in the last IS-held neighborhoods in Mosul’s east, closing in on the Tigris River that roughly divides the city.

Civilians congratulate each other after the fight between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants in a neighborhood recently liberated from the militia on the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, January 17, 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Civilians congratulate each other after the fight between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants in a neighborhood recently liberated from the militia on the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, January 17, 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city and the Islamic State group’s last urban stronghold in the country — fell to IS in the summer of 2014, when the militant group captures large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

— AP

University students protest Bedouin house demolitions

Israel-Arab students at universities across the country are protesting the house demolitions that took place today in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran.

Dozens of students are protesting in Tel Aviv University and Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

Students at Jerusalem's Hebrew University protest house demolitions the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Students at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University protest house demolitions the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Other protests are being organized for Wednesday afternoon in Haifa, Beersheba, Umm el-Fahm and Acre.

Funeral for policeman killed in car ramming set for 4 p.m.

The funeral for Israeli policeman 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, killed in a suspected car-ramming attack this morning, will take place at 4 p.m. today, according to family members.

Thirty-four-year old Levi, from the southern town of Yavne, will be laid to rest in the Yavne military cemetery.

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Footage of ramming appears to show shots fired before car accelerates

New aerial footage of a suspected car ramming attack in the Bedouin Negev village of Umm al-Hiran appears to show police firing shots at the car before it accelerates towards officers.

In the video, shot from a drone monitoring the protests against house demolitions that took place at the site, a car can be seen driving slowly along a dirt track in the village with police officers on either side of the road.

Towards the beginning of the video one of the officers appears to fire at least four shots at the car, which then accelerates towards other policemen.

Israeli policeman 1st Sgt. Erez Levi was killed in the suspected attack and the driver of the ramming vehicle, identified as Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, was shot and killed, according to police.

Eyewitness says police fired before car accelerated

Uriel Eisner, an activist for the Center for Jewish Non-violence who witnessed the car-ramming in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, says police fired shots at the car before it accelerated toward officers.

According to Eisner, the car was trying to leave the village in order to avoid confrontation with police.

Israeli policeman 1st Sgt. Erez Levi was killed in the suspected attack and the driver of the ramming vehicle, identified as Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, was shot and killed.

President Rivlin to undergo pacemaker surgery

President Reuven Rivlin will over the weekend undergo a procedure to be fitted with a pacemaker. In order for the procedure to be carried out, he will be admitted to hospital for around 24 hours before returning to work, the president’s office says.

Rivlin’s doctors have recently detected cardiac arrhythmia requiring greater monitoring capability, the statement says.

The procedure will be carried out without general anesthetic. The president is due to return to the President’s Residence after a short hospitalization.

Arab sector to strike in protest of demolitions

The Arab Higher Committee has called for a national strike of the Arab sector in Israel tomorrow to protest the house demolitions that took place today in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, according to Joint (Arab) List MK Aida Touma-Sliman.

Businesses will close across the country but children will go to school for three hours to learn about the demolitions, Touma-Sliman says.

Auschwitz museum seeking personal SS documents

The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum is appealing to Germans and Austrians to donate documents, photographs, personal letters, or any other materials related to the SS staff of the camp.

“Without a comprehensive analysis and understanding of the motivation and mentality of the perpetrators, our efforts to wisely counsel future generations will only remain intuitive. Today, we ask you to help,” reads the appeal.

The Schutzstaffel, or SS, was a major paramilitary organization under German fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party.

Last week, the museum published a book containing excerpts of testimonies of SS staff of the camp given during the trial in Krakow in 1947. Accused were 40 SS members of which 23 were sentenced to death. One person was acquitted.

“So far, we have relied mainly on the accounts and memories of former prisoners, preserved camp documentation, and post-war court trial materials. We do not have multiple sources that allow for a better and more comprehensive understanding of the motivation of the perpetrators. The archives contain very few private materials created by members of the SS staff of KL Auschwitz,” said museum director Piotr Cywinski in a statement issued Wednesday.

— JTA

Four Jewish Democrats among 59 from House who plan to skip Trump inaugural

Four Jewish Democrats in Congress are among 59 of the party’s US House of Representatives delegation who will not attend Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.

The four are Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York.; Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland; Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky; and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

The movement to boycott the inauguration was launched over the weekend when Rep. John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, a civil rights hero who helped organize the protests in the 1960s that brought about civil rights and voting rights reforms, said he would not attend because he saw Trump as an “illegitimate” president.

Lewis cited, in part, reports of Russian attempts to swing the election toward Trump.

Trump, on Twitter, replied by describing Lewis as “all talk, talk, talk – no action or results,” prompting an outcry, including from Jewish groups that have over the decades worked closely with Lewis to advance civil liberties.

— JTA

Netanyahu responds to car-ramming, calls on Arab MK to ‘stop fanning flames’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to this morning’s car ramming in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in which a police officer and the alleged attacker were killed.

“I send my condolences to the family 1st Sgt. Erez Levi. Erez was an outstanding policeman, the son of a policeman, and he was killed this morning in a ramming attack,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

“Not only does this incident not intimidate us, it strengthens us, its strengthens our determination, to enforce the law everywhere,” he says.

The incident took place during protests against house demolitions taking place in the village. Joint (Arab) List chair Ayman Odeh was injured in the clashes.

“I request of everyone, first and foremost Knesset members in the Israeli parliament, to act responsibly, to stop fanning the flames and stop inciting violence,” Netanyahu adds. “Police forces act with authority and permission and no one will stop them from their mission.”

PM, police chief hold emergency assessment after car-ramming

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds an emergency “situation assessment” with Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan following a ramming attack in the Bedouin village of village of Umm al-Hiran.

Israeli policeman 1st Sgt. Erez Levi was killed in the suspected attack and the driver of the ramming vehicle, identified as Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, was shot and killed.

Iraqi jihadist among Paris bombers — French intelligence

An Iraqi jihadist was one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up outside the Stade de France during the November 2015 attacks on Paris, a French intelligence source says.

Until now, only one of the three bombers who detonated their explosives outside the stadium during a France-Germany friendly had been identified: Bilal Hadfi, a 20-year-old Frenchman living in Belgium.

Fans leave the Stade de France amid a stream of fatal attacks in Paris, including explosions near the stadium, November 13, 2015. (Foto AP/Michel Euler)

Fans leave the Stade de France amid a stream of fatal attacks in Paris, including explosions near the stadium, November 13, 2015. (Foto AP/Michel Euler)

France’s DGSE intelligence agency now believes that one of Hadfi’s accomplices, who was carrying a fake Syrian passport, was Ammar Ramadan Mansour Mohamad al-Sabaawi from the Iraqi city of Mosul.

He and the third attacker, whose identity is still unknown, are believed to have slipped into Europe with a group of refugees who landed on the Greek island of Leros on October 3, 2015.

— AFP

Rivlin meets with Muslim leaders from Indonesia

President Reuven Rivlin receives at his residence a delegation of Indonesian Muslim leaders visiting Israel on the initiative of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

Rivlin spoke to the group about Jewish-Muslim relations in Israel, a spokesman for the president says.

“I assure you in Jerusalem, the city of God, everyone can worship according to his belief, and Israel will continue to defend this right – it doesn’t matter what the anti-Israel propaganda may say. The propaganda only comes to try and provoke the Islamic world against Israel,” Rivlin says.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with a delegation of Muslim leaders from Indonesia at his residence in Jerusalem, January 13, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin meets with a delegation of Muslim leaders from Indonesia at his residence in Jerusalem, January 13, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

The president also speaks of his hope for greater cooperation and interaction between Israel and Indonesia.

Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Professor Istibsjarob says: “It is an honor to be here, as President of the Institute for Higher Education, as a chairperson on the Islamic Council Board, and as a former senator of the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia consists of more than 17,000 islands, and flying from one side to the other can take ten hours. Although there are many different religions and cultures, they are all one as Indonesian citizens.”

Russia, Turkish in joint airstrikes on IS in northern Syria

The Russian military says it has teamed up with Turkey to conduct joint airstrikes against an Islamic State group stronghold in northern Syria.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the military’s General Staff said nine Russian warplanes and eight Turkish jets have taken part in the strikes on the outskirts of al-Bab in the province of Aleppo.

Rudskoi’s statement is the first acknowledgement of the Russian strikes in support of the Turkish offensive on al-Bab.

People walk next to a destroyed building in the once rebel-held Shaar neighborhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria, January 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

People walk next to a destroyed building in the once rebel-held Shaar neighborhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria, January 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

It highlighted an increasingly close alliance between Russia and Turkey, which last month jointly brokered a Syria truce and are working to prepare Syrian talks in Kazakhstan next week.

The two nations have backed opposing sides in the nearly six-year Syrian conflict, with Moscow supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Ankara backing his foes.

— AP

Police chief slams Arab leaders for reaction to car ramming

Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich criticizes Arab community leaders for their response to this morning’s car ramming in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in which a police officer and the driver of the car were killed.

Speaking at the funeral for 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, Alsheich says, “Unfortunately, specific leaders from within the [Arab] sector chose to incite to violence instead of condemning the terror attack.”

The incident took place during clashes between police and protesters, including several members of the Joint (Arab) List, over house demolitions at the site.

US Senate begins hearing on Trump’s UN ambassador nominee

The US Senate begins a hearing on President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for UN ambassador Nikki Haley.

Haley plans to open her comments with a broadside against UN treatment of Israel, according to a transcript of the remarks obtained by Reuters ahead of the hearings.

“Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” Haley, who has been the governor of South Carolina since 2011, will say, according to Reuters.

— with JTA

Israeli Air Force receives its first Arrow 3 missile defense system

The Israeli Air Force receives its first Arrow 3 missile defense system, a little over a year after its first real-world test, the Defense Ministry says.

After years of development and testing, the system is now considered “operational,” though it will continue to undergo checks and improvements, the ministry says.

The Arrow 3, which was developed in a joint Israeli-American program, is designed to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, intercepting the weapons and their nuclear, biological or chemical warheads close to their launch sites.

The missile defense system is considered to be one of the most advanced in the world.

“The entrance of the Arrow 3 into the air force’s operational network will mark a meaningful leap in the State of Israel’s air defense envelope. Along with the Arrow 2 system, this will add interception opportunities, which will lessen the chances of a strike against the State of Israel,” the ministry says.

Many of the shared systems between the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 have also been upgraded, the ministry says.

— Judah Ari Gross

US congresswoman Gabbard makes secret Syria trip

A US congresswoman made a rare secret visit to Syria as part of her effort toward ending the years-long conflict in the Middle Eastern nation, her office says.

House Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, made a fact-finding mission to the capital Damascus despite continued fighting in the war-torn country in contravention of a frail ceasefire.

“As an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders,” says Gabbard spokeswoman Emily Latimer.

The exact dates of the trip were not provided for security reasons, but her office says she is currently in the Middle East.

— AFP

Palestinian-owned trees uprooted in ‘revenge’ attack

Police have received reports that 12 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers were uprooted near the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya and that threatening graffiti was found at the site.

The anti-settlement NGO Yesh Din released photos of the graffiti bearing the word “Revenge.”

The word "revenge" graffitied onto rocks at the site where 12 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers were uprooted near the West Bank town of Turmus Aya, January 18, 2017. (Yesh Din)

The word “revenge” graffitied onto rocks at the site where 12 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers were uprooted near the West Bank town of Turmus Aya, January 18, 2017. (Yesh Din)

An investigation has been opened into the incident, police said in a statement.

Danny Danon welcomes Trump’s UN ambassador nominee’s Israel statements

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon welcomes statements by US Ambassador-designate Nikki Haley during her Senate confirmation hearing.

“We thank Ambassador-designate Haley, a true friend of Israel, for her unequivocal support and her clear statement regarding the UN’s discrimination against Israel,” Danon says. “We look forward to working together with her to undo the damage done by the shameful Security Council resolution, and to lead towards a new era at the UN which includes real reforms that will put an end to the biased obsession with Israel.”

Haley earlier told the Senate hearing that the United Nations’ most consistent record of failure is with Israel.

Eisenkot visits Northern Command before medical procedure

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot visits the army’s Galilee Division and meets with officers from the Northern Command to get a briefing on the area before he enters the hospital for a medical procedure.

Eisenkot speaks with head of the Galil Division, Brig. Gen. Amir Baram, along with the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Liberman okays Eisenkot to stay chief of staff for another year

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman extends Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot’s tenure as head of the army by one year, pending final approval by the government.

The position of IDF chief of staff is a 3-year position, but it can be extended by up to two years.

Liberman, following a discussion with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has decided to grant Eiesnkot an additional year as IDF chief of staff, citing his “success and professionalism.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot salutes during the state ceremony marking 43 years since the Yom Kippur War, held at the military cemetery at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, on October 13, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot salutes during the state ceremony marking 43 years since the Yom Kippur War, held at the military cemetery at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, on October 13, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The government will decide whether or not to approve Eisenkot’s extension on January 29.

Eiesnkot entered his postion in February 2015.

New bomb threats made against multiple US Jewish community centers

Bomb threats have been called in against Jewish community centers in at least 10 US states in a similar occurrence to multiple threats made against JCCs last week.

JCCs in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, California, New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland all received threats, according to multiple local US news outlets.

A number of them have been given the all clear.

Last week, threats were reportedly received in Miami Beach and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as Rockville, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee ; South Carolina and California. Authorities were also investigating a bomb threat in a New Jersey JCC, a New York NBC affiliate reported.

Those calls were prerecorded in some cases and live in others, with the caller using voice-disguising technology, and likely came from a single source, said Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network, the group affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America that coordinates security for the Jewish community.

All the alerts were false, Goldenberg said, and designed to produce maximum disruption.

Liberman says Obama decision on Manning ‘a shame’ given Pollard case

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman criticizes US President Barack Obama’s decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence, saying it’s “a shame” she is getting better treatment than Jonathan Pollard.

Earlier this week, Obama decided to pardon Manning, a former US military analyst who received a 35-year prison sentence in 2013 for leaking classified information to the WikiLeaks organization in 2010.

Speaking at a Netanyahu College conference, Liberman says the decision to release Manning in May is unfair, when one considers the case of Pollard, who served a 30-year sentence for giving information “to a friend of the US.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Bomb threats reported in 18 JCCs across US

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks, says there were bomb threats called to Jewish institutions in Miami; Edison, New Jersey; Cincinnati; Alabama, and on the West Coast. News reports also cited threats in Albany, New York; Nashville; suburban Boston and Detroit; West Hartford, Connecticut, and the Orlando area.

Whether the institutions, which include schools and community centers, evacuated depended on the practices of local law enforcement, Goldenberg said.

“It’s the second salvo in 10 days. We’re asking people to ensure they stay in contact with local law enforcement,” he says.

— JTA

Nikki Haley pledges support for moving US Embassy to Jerusalem

Speaking during a hearing in the US Senate, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley pledges her support for moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a shift firmly endorsed by Donald Trump but one that could trigger more violence in the Middle East.

Koret Foundation gives $10 million to Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People

The San Francisco-based Koret Foundation is giving the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv a $10 million grant — the largest from a US philanthropic foundation in the museum’s 40-year history.

The grant will establish the Koret International School for Jewish Peoplehood, the museum said in a statement. The school will expand the work of Beit Hatfutsot’s International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies and offer individually tailored personal and professional educational programs for visitors, online users, students, educators and community leaders, according to the museum.

In addition to programs taking place at the museum, they will be offered through learning curricula for Jewish day schools and community centers, traveling exhibits, and professional training and certification programs for educators from around the world.

“The Koret Foundation’s grant reflects an exciting and growing convergence of interests around the revised mission for the Museum of the Jewish People, bringing leading foundations into conversation and partnership with our ongoing and much-valued partner, the Government of Israel,” says Irina Nevzlin, chair of the board of directors at Beit Hatfutsot. “With the visionary support of the Koret Foundation, The Museum of the Jewish People will be the unquestioned global hub for a new conversation about what it means to be not just Jewish, but a member of the Jewish people.”

— JTA

Swastika drawn in snow at home of Canadian Jewish newspaper columnist

A swastika is found drawn in the snow on the front lawn of a columnist for a Canadian Jewish publication.

The swastika and a sexist slur were drawn on Saturday night at the home of B’nai Brith Canada columnist Sara McCleary, who frequently writes about anti-Semitism. McCleary lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which has a small Jewish population.

McCleary wrote in her column on the organization’s website Monday that at first she thought the drawn symbol was random, but then realized that she was being targeted.

B’nai Brith Canada’s Sara McCleary found this on her lawn. (Sara McCleary)

B’nai Brith Canada’s Sara McCleary found this on her lawn. (Sara McCleary)

“But the more I thought about it — and after seeking advice from a B’nai Brith professional who deals with hate crimes — the more I came to think that it was targeted at me,” she wrote. “I’ve said before in previous posts that I live in a small city with a tiny Jewish population. What are the odds that it would just so happen to be in my front yard, when my name and face is on the website of Canada’s foremost Jewish advocacy organization every week? No, this was clearly meant for me.”

Sault Ste. Marie police said Tuesday that they have opened an investigation into the incident. There are no suspects, a police spokesman said in a statement.

— JTA

Joint List lawmakers complain to EU reps over house demolitions

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List meet with European Union representatives following violent demonstrations against Israel’s demolition of homes in a Bedouin village this morning, during which a deadly car ramming attack took place.

Four MKs from the party tell the delegation, headed by the EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen and the European Commission envoy to the Middle East Michael Kohler, that Israel’s “cruel policy” is damaging the Bedouin community in the Negev.

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List meet with European Union representatives in the Knesset, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List meet with European Union representatives in the Knesset, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

“The MKs also spoke about the anti-democratic laws that have been legislated by the coalition in the past two years,” a statement from the party reads.

Key rebel group to stay away from Syria peace talks

Key rebel group Ahrar al-Sham says it will not take part in peace talks in the Kazakh capital next week aimed at ending Syria’s nearly six-year-old war.

The announcement comes as Russia and Turkey — which along with Iran organized the talks starting in Astana on Monday — carries out their first joint airstrikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in the war-torn country.

Ahrar al-Sham, which counts thousands of fighters in central and northern Syria, says it will not attend the Astana talks due to “the lack of implementation of the ceasefire” in force since December 30 and ongoing Russian airstrikes over Syria.

The Islamist faction was among the signatories of the ceasefire deal that does not include IS and Fateh al-Sham, which changed its name from Al-Nusra Front after breaking ties with al-Qaeda.

— AFP

US ex-president George H.W. Bush and wife hospitalized

Former US president George H.W. Bush has been admitted to an intensive care unit in Houston, suffering from pneumonia, Bush’s office says, adding that wife Barbara Bush has also been hospitalized.

The 92-year-old ex-president, who was initially hospitalized on Saturday, was moved to intensive care “to address an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia,” Bush’s office says in a statement.

“Doctors performed a procedure to protect and clear his airway that required sedation.”

He was originally admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital for shortness of breath, Bush spokesman Jim McGrath posted on Twitter.

“President Bush is stable and resting comfortably in the ICU, where he will remain for observation,” the office says.

Early Wednesday, the former first lady Barbara Bush, 91, was also admitted to the same hospital “as a precaution after experiencing fatigue and coughing,” it said.

— AFP

President Obama set for final press conference

US President Barack Obama is set to address the press for the final time on Wednesday.

The press conference, which will take place at the White House, is scheduled for 2:15 p.m EST (9:15 p.m in Israel).

President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th US President on Friday.

Obama: Two state solution opportunity may be passing

Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama tells the press conference that the UN resolution was meant to send a wake up call to Israel that the window on reaching a two-state solution could be closing.

“It was important for us to signal — to send a wake up call to Israel that this moment may be passing and Israelis and Palestinians need to understand that,” he says.

He says he continues to be worried that the “status quo is unsustainable” in Israel. He says his administration has tried to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution because he does not “see an alternative to it.”

He admits that his administration realized that they could not force the sides to make peace, but only facilitate it.

He also warns Trump that he should be careful about making large moves in the region without thinking them through — a possible reference to the new administration’s controversial plan to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“The actions that we take have enormous consequences and ramifications. We are the biggest kid on the block,” he says. “It is right and appropriate for the new president to test old assumptions, reexamine the old way of doing things. But if you are going to make big shifts in policy make sure you thought it through. Actions typically create reactions. You don’t want to do things off the cuff when it comes to an issue this volatile.”

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Netanyahu responds to car-ramming, calls on Arab MK to ‘stop fanning flames’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to this morning’s car ramming in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in which a police officer and the alleged attacker were killed.

“I send my condolences to the family 1st Sgt. Erez Levi. Erez was an outstanding policeman, the son of a policeman, and he was killed this morning in a ramming attack,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

“Not only does this incident not intimidate us, it strengthens us, its strengthens our determination, to enforce the law everywhere,” he says.

The incident took place during protests against house demolitions taking place in the village. Joint (Arab) List chair Ayman Odeh was injured in the clashes.

“I request of everyone, first and foremost Knesset members in the Israeli parliament, to act responsibly, to stop fanning the flames and stop inciting violence,” Netanyahu adds. “Police forces act with authority and permission and no one will stop them from their mission.”