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White House: ‘We expect Palestinian leaders to condemn acts of terror’

Abbas and Biden meet in Ramallah; PA official says he expects ‘nothing’ from VP's visit; family of US victim in Jaffa stabbing to get benefits from Israel National Insurance

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

  • US Vice President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 9, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
    US Vice President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 9, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
  • Shin Bet officer Amir Maimoni, 29, killed by friendly fire during an operation outside the Gaza Strip on March 8, 2016. (Shin Bet)
    Shin Bet officer Amir Maimoni, 29, killed by friendly fire during an operation outside the Gaza Strip on March 8, 2016. (Shin Bet)
  • US Vice President Joe Biden poses with his family and priests outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, March 9, 2016 .(AFP/Debbie Hill)
    US Vice President Joe Biden poses with his family and priests outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, March 9, 2016 .(AFP/Debbie Hill)
  • US Vice President Joe Biden and President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
    US Vice President Joe Biden and President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
  • US Vice President Joe Biden and Isreali President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
    US Vice President Joe Biden and Isreali President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
  • Tourists walk past a metal detector in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on October 8, 2015 following a spate of knife attacks. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibon)
    Tourists walk past a metal detector in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on October 8, 2015 following a spate of knife attacks. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibon)
  • US Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give joint statements to press in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (AFP/POOL/DEBBIE HILL)
    US Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give joint statements to press in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (AFP/POOL/DEBBIE HILL)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara greet United States Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara greet United States Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
  • Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)
    Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)
  • File: Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force was killed Tuesday, March 9, 2016 in a terror attack in Tel Aviv- Jaffa. (Facebook)
    File: Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force was killed Tuesday, March 9, 2016 in a terror attack in Tel Aviv- Jaffa. (Facebook)

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

Biden responds to Iranians’ missile test: We will act if they break deal

US Vice President Joe Biden says the United States will take action against Iran if long-range ballistic missile tests Tehran said it carried out were confirmed.

“I want to reiterate, as I know people still doubt, if in fact they break the [nuclear] deal, we will act,” Biden said during his two-day visit to Israel.

“All their conventional activity outside the deal, which is still beyond the deal, we will and are attempting to act wherever we can find it.”

A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew "Israel must be wiped out." (Fars News)

A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew “Israel must be wiped out.” (Fars News)

Biden was speaking after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Earlier Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles, which an Iranian news agency said had the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on them in Hebrew. An Iranian commander said the test was designed to demonstrate to Israel that it is within Iranian missile range.

— AP contributed

Trump urges party unity after wins in 3 states

Donald Trump says there’s a need for the party to unite around him, but argues that it isn’t yet time for him to dial back his aggressive campaign style.

Celebrating victories Tuesday night in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, the billionaire real estate declares that “I am a uniter.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

He says he was the victim of “vicious” campaign ads on behalf of his rivals last week and that “I didn’t set the tone of negativity” in the race.

He tells CNN’s “New Day” show Wednesday that “I have to finish off the project.” Trump adds that he expects Thursday night’s GOP debate in Florida to be “a nicer, softer, lighter” event in the wake of his latest triumphs.

— AP

Tourism Ministry: Terror wave hasn’t decreased visits to Israel

The director of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, Amir Halevy, tells Army Radio that the number of tourists visiting Israel has not gone down since the start of the ongoing terror wave in October.

Speaking from a tourism conference in Berlin, Halevy says the industry has grown since the previous year.

“Tourism to Israel is expanding every year. Everyone understands that the tourist industry is continuing to grow despite acts of terror,” he says. “This year, more than in other years, people have understood that the problems are not only in Israel,” he said, referring to terrorism in France, the US and other Western countries.

Tour group in Israel via Shutterstock.

Tour group in Israel via Shutterstock.

Taylor Force, an American tourist visiting Israel, was killed in Tuesday’s terror attack in Tel Aviv, and 10 Israelis were injured.

Kerry, European foreign ministers to meet on Syria next week

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his French, German, British and Italian counterparts will meet Sunday in Paris to discuss the Syrian crisis ahead of planned peace talks in Geneva, according to France’s foreign minister.

The five diplomats will examine the status of the ceasefire in effect since February 27 and “if everything is going forward as we hope… encourage the opposition to return to the negotiating table,” Jean-Marc Ayrault tells reporters as he arrives in Cairo Wednesday for a two-day visit.

Ayrault says the European foreign ministers will also ask the United States, which with Russia brokered the truce, “to be closely involved in monitoring the effectiveness of the Syrian ceasefire”.

He says the European ministers intend to ensure that the Russian air strikes in Syria are aimed only at jihadist organisations the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra Front, and not against the more moderate opposition.

“We must remain vigilant,” Ayrault says.

The Syrian regime has announced it will attend the Geneva talks starting on March 14. The opposition has said it was still considering whether to go despite a major lull in fighting since the ceasefire began.

— AFP

Foreign journalists up in arms over excessive Hamas charges

The Foreign Press Association in Israel is “deeply disturbed” by Hamas raising the fee for registration of armored cars used by journalists covering the Gaza Strip, calling the new prices “excessive.”

In the past, authorities in Gaza applied the same fee for armored cars as for other vehicles with the same size and type of engine, namely NIS 2,100 ($538) a year for a diesel vehicle. Hamas officials are now impounding foreign news organizations’s armored cars and demanding NIS 4,000 a year.

Palestinian boys simulate an attack on an Israeli car during a show as part of an anti-Israel rally on February 26, 2016, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Palestinian boys simulate an attack on an Israeli car as part of an anti-Israel rally on February 26, 2016, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

“In July last year, representatives from the FPA met with Hamas officials in Gaza, including the deputy minister for transport, and it was agreed that the usual 2,100 shekel fee would be applied, with the deputy minister citing the PA’s own Transport Ministry legal guidelines. That agreement is not being respected,” reads a statement released on the group’s website.

“We call on the Hamas authorities to respect their own laws and previous commitments. News organizations are prepared to pay the legal fee to operate vehicles on Gaza’s roads, but will not submit to excessive fees that appear to have no basis in law.”

Bloomberg to receive honorary doctorate from Haifa’s Technion

Israel’s Technion University in Haifa announces it will give an honorary doctorate to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former three-term mayor of New York City.

The distinction will be given for Bloomerg’s work “to bring the Technion to New York city” and his contribution to the city’s education, according to a statement from the university.

In 2015 Bloomberg donated $100 million to Cornell University’s new high-tech campus in New York City, a joint venture with the Israeli Technion University.

Cornell Tech was founded in December 2011 when it was selected, along with the Technion University, as the winner of an applied sciences initiative by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which sought proposals to build a campus that would spur the growth of the tech industry in partnership with the city.

The campus is expected to open in 2017.

University College London Union votes to boycott Israel

The student union of University College London, the UK capital’s largest higher-education institution, has voted to officially adopt the Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The motion passed 14-4 in a vote of the union’s senior staff. A proposal for the motion to be debated at a General Assembly of the student union was rejected, as was another calling to change the language to remove the word “boycott.”

The vote was proposed by representatives from the UCL Friends of Palestine society who celebrated the passing of the motion on Twitter.

The Pinsker Centre for Zionist Education, a pro-Israel group working with students at British Universities, released a statement rejecting the motion.

“UCLU’s adoption of an academic and cultural boycott of the State of Israel is a slap in the face for all those who believe in the principles at the heart of University College London: liberal tolerance and freedom of expression,” read the statement. “It marks the latest example of an extreme minority cynically manipulating the corrupt aspects of student democracy in order to pass policies which do not represent majority-student opinion. As recently as Monday evening at a debate at UCL, students voted to condemn the BDS movement.”

The group said it would be working with the UCL Friends of Israel society to mount a legal challenge to the decision.

‘Radicalized’ Frenchman held after flying to Morocco with knives in baggage

A Frenchman described as “radicalized” was arrested in Morocco Wednesday after flying there with low-cost airline Ryanair with knives and a gas bottle in the hold, a local government official says.

The 31-year-old man, who had been under house arrest in France, was held upon his arrival in Fez, where authorities discovered the items in his luggage, which also included a black balaclava.

He took the flight from Nantes in western France, despite heightened security in the country which is still under a state of emergency imposed after an Islamic State attack on Paris in November that left 130 people dead.

The Dublin-based carrier Ryanair tells AFP the case was “the responsibility of Nantes airport security officials who are investigating.”

— AFP

IS commander ‘likely killed’ in Syria airstrike: US official

The Islamic State group’s equivalent of a defense minister is believed to have been killed in a US airstrike in northeastern Syria, a US official says.

A US official speaking on condition of anonymity says Omar al-Shishani, a red-bearded Georgian fighting with the jihadist group in Syria, “likely died” in a March 4 assault by waves of US warplanes and drones, along with 12 other IS fighters.

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, known by his nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Shishani, a senior Islamic State commander. (Wikipedia Fair use)

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, known by his nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Shishani, a senior Islamic State commander. (Wikipedia Fair use)

Al-Shishani is the nom de guerre of Tarkhan Batirashvili, who ranked among the most wanted under a US program with a $5 million bounty on his head.

The United States stopped short of declaring him dead.

The lack of a US presence on the ground makes it difficult to assess the success of operations targeting militants in Syria, and Shishani’s death has been falsely reported several times.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook described Shishani as “a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria.”

— AFP

Cyprus Parliament president condemns Israel terror attacks

Cypriot Parliament President Yiannakis L. Omirou condemns the ongoing a wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis during a visit to the Knesset in Jerusalem

Omirou expresses his ”deep sympathy” for the victims of the terror attacks which took place in Israel yesterday and today.

”I have to strongly condemn these attacks, which undermine the efforts for peace, stability and cooperation in the Mideast and the wider region,” he says.

Cypriot Parliament President Yiannakis L. Omirou and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, March 3, 2016. (Itzik Harari)

Cypriot Parliament President Yiannakis L. Omirou and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, March 3, 2016. (Itzik Harari)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein welcomes Omirou to Jerusalem and the Knesset, ”the beating heart of Israeli democracy,” and says, ”You are one of Israel`s closest friends. Your visit here today is part of a series of important measures that reflect the strengthening of the relations between our countries.”

These measures, he said, include reciprocal visits by the heads of state of Israel and Cyprus, as well as the establishment of a trilateral strategic alliance between Cyprus, Greece and Israel.

Biden to Rivlin: Israelis cannot go on being afraid

Speaking during a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, US Vice President Joe Biden says the current wave of violence — 29 Israelis and four non-Israelis have been killed in Palestinian terror attacks since October — cannot be ended with force alone.

“Israelis and visitors to Israel cannot go on being afraid to go about their lives for fear of being attacked. The violence has to stop, period… it cannot and will not be done just by physical force,” Biden tells Rivlin.

“The United States of America resoundingly condemns the terrorist violence we have seen lately including yesterday… Our hearts go out to those who have suffered and their families,” he says.

US Vice President Joe Biden and Isreali President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

US Vice President Joe Biden and Isreali President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Rivlin responds saying yesterday’s attacks which left one US tourist dead and 10 Israelis injured were not new to Israelis and would not break the country’s spirit and dedication to democracy.

“To my sorrow, Israel has faced this kind of terror nearly every day over the past year. Israel will continue to stand firm in the face of this violence and hatred. Terror will not break us, and it will not shape our future,” Rivlin says.

Biden concluded, “So Mr. President, I am anxious to get to our discussion because when I sit with you I always learn something – I mean that sincerely, you have wisdom. President Obama and I were very honored to welcome you and your wife to the White House in your first visit in December. You said at that time Israel has no greater friend than the United States. I am here to reaffirm that that assertion is absolutely right and we have no greater friend.”

France: No automatic recognition of Palestine if talks fail

France will not “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if a Paris initiative to host an international conference to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks fails, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says.

His predecessor, Laurent Fabius, stirred Israeli anger in January by proposing such a conference and saying France would “recognize a Palestinian state” if peace talks failed.

— AFP

Biden says he had a ‘long’ and ‘fruitful’ meeting with Netanyahu

US Vice President Joe Biden describes his working meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “fruitful,” calling the relationship between Israel and the United States “unshakable.”

Speaking during a press conference with President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem, Biden says he has just finished “a meeting with the prime minister – a long meeting which started at 10 o’clock, a fruitful meeting – and I touched on a broad range of issues where Israel and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder. America’s commitment to Israel is absolutely unshakable, it is unquestionable.”

In an apparent reference to the widely reported rift between the White House and Jerusalem, Biden says the disagreements do not bring into question the US’s commitment to Israel’s security.

US Vice President Joe Biden and Isreali President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

US Vice President Joe Biden and Isreali President Reuven Rivlin meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

“Like brothers we will disagree, sometimes disagree really strongly about what path should be taken. But never, never, never, over the 40 years I have been doing this, or since the State of Israel was established, have we disagreed on the principle that there is an absolute, unyielding necessity for all world Jewry for there to be an independent Jewish state called Israel. That is our commitment and that rests on this grand state being able to be secure.” he says.

But, according to Biden, Israel’s long term security will be challenged in the absence of a two-state solution.

“Ultimately, a peace that leads to a state where there are two peoples is still the surest path to a prosperous future for all the people here – a two-state solution. A strong and secure Israel is very much in the interests of the United States,” he concludes.

Netanyahu describes Biden meet as ‘friendly, cordial and warm’

The closed meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Vice President Joe Biden was “friendly, cordial and warm,” the PMO says, pointing to the two leaders’ 30-year friendship.

After their public statements, Netanyahu and Biden and their respective aides talked about various topics, including the Islamic State and Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war; weapons smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon; efforts to reach a detente with Turkey; the construction of a regional natural gas pipeline; security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority; and ongoing Palestinian incitement.

US Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give joint statements to press in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (AFP/POOL/DEBBIE HILL)

US Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give joint statements to press in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (AFP/POOL/DEBBIE HILL)

During the meeting, Netanyahu showed Biden a clip with examples of Palestinian incitement, the PMO says. He mentioned that the PA’s Facebook site praises yesterday’s terror attacks, in which one US citizen was killed.

— Raphael Ahren

Cuba says Obama ‘welcome’ but shouldn’t expect much

Cuba’s state newspaper says US President Barack Obama will be warmly welcomed when he makes a historic visit later this month but warns him not to expect political concessions.

“The US leader will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and its people with the hospitality that distinguishes them and will be treated with all consideration and respect,” official daily Granma says in an editorial.

But it hastens to add: “No one can harbor the slightest doubt about Cuba’s unconditional adherence to its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals.”

Obama will visit the island March 21 and 22 — the first visit by a US president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, and a symbolically charged capstone to the rapprochement that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced in December 2014.

— AFP

Trump’s torture support hurts US global ‘standing’: UN expert

Comments by Republican front-runner Donald Trump in support of waterboarding and the torture of terror suspects have damaged the United States’ global standing, according to a UN expert.

“I think the… standing of the United States as a law-abiding nation and as an example to other states to fight crime and terrorism within the strictures of the rule of law is very seriously damaged by this kind of rhetoric,” says Juan Mendez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture.

Although he does not use Trump’s name, Mendez was responding to a question about the real-estate mogul, who has said during the Republican campaign that he supports waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques that are a “hell of a lot worse” and said he had “no problem” with the targeting of terror suspects’ families.

“If any of these candidates gets elected and reinstates waterboarding or any of the other harsh techniques — euphemistically called enhanced interrogation tactics — that is going to be illegal,” he says. “They are illegal as a matter of international law, they are illegal as a matter of constitutional law in the United States, they are illegal as a matter of military law. The uniform code of military justice (in the United States) expressly prohibits torture.”

Jerusalem shooting victim comes out of surgery

The victim of the Jerusalem shooting attack has come out of surgery in Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, a spokesperson says.

He remains in critical condition, the hospital official says.

The 57-year-old Arab Israeli man was hit during an exchange of gunfire between two terrorists and police forces near the New Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City.

He was first brought to Hadassah Hospital Mt. Scopus, but was later transferred to the Ein Kerem facility for surgery.

–Judah Ari Gross

Hitler’s personal copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ to be auctioned

Adolf Hitler’s personal copy of his autobiography “Mein Kampf” is set to be auctioned off.

The red leather-bound book will put be on the block by Alexander Historical Auctions at the Maryland Auction House in Chesapeake City on March 17-18. The book has an estimated value of $12,000 to $15,000, but it is expected to sell for more.

Historic copies of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” are displayed during the book launch of a new critical edition at the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte in Munich, Germany, January 8, 2016. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

Historic copies of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” are displayed during the book launch of a new critical edition at the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte in Munich, Germany, January 8, 2016. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

Other personal items owned by Hitler will be among the approximately 1,000 World War I and World War II relics in the sale, according to the local CBS affiliate WJZ.

The copy of “Mein Kampf” was found in Hitler’s apartment and bears the signatures of the American soldiers who found it, auctioneer Bill Panagopulos told WJZ. It had been kept by one of the soldiers’ daughters until recently, The Associated Press reported.

–JTA

Shin Bet: Officer was killed by friendly fire outside Gaza

The Shin Bet officer who died last night outside the Gaza Strip was accidentally killed by a fellow officer, head of the security service Yoram Cohen reveals in his eulogy for the fallen officer.

The 29-year-old Shin Bet officer, Amir Mimuni, had been on a “necessary and complex mission,” Cohen tells the family and friends present at the funeral.

“Unfortunately, there was a tragic operational development that took place last night during a mission in the field,” Cohen says.

“As a result, a fellow Shin Bet officer misidentified [Mimuni] and shot at Amir, hitting him,” he says.

Shin Bet officer Amir Mimuni, 29, died during an operation outside the Gaza Strip on March 8, 2016, though the cause of his death was not immediately revealed. (Shin Bet)

Shin Bet officer Amir Mimuni, 29, died during an operation outside the Gaza Strip on March 8, 2016, though the cause of his death was not immediately revealed. (Shin Bet)

“All efforts to revive him were for naught.”

Bernie Sanders: ‘Level playing field’ needed in Israeli-Arab peace brokering

Bernie Sanders, speaking in an Arab-American stronghold, says he would aim for a “level playing field” in US Middle East policy.

Sanders tells a rally in Dearborn, Michigan that brokering Israeli-Arab peace is daunting.

“For decades now there has been hatred and warfare in the Middle East, everybody knows it,” he says. “We’ve had some presidents — Carter, Clinton others — who have tried their best to resolve it. All I can tell you is I will make every single effort to bring rational people on both sides together so that hopefully we can have a level playing field, the United States treating everybody in that region equally.”

“I know, I know there are people of good will in Israel and the Arab communities, this is not an easy task, but it is a task that we must pursue,” Sanders said. “We cannot continue to have for another 60 years with the kind of hatred and conflict that exists in the Middle East,” he says.

Biden makes unexpected stop at Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Under heavy security, Biden made an unannounced stop Wednesday along with three of his grandchildren and his daughter-in-law at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.

US Vice President Joe Biden poses with his family and priests outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, March 9, 2016 .(AFP/Debbie Hill)

US Vice President Joe Biden poses with his family and priests outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, March 9, 2016.(AFP/Debbie Hill)

The church is built at the site revered as the location of Jesus’s crucifixion and tomb.

— AFP

Severed head found at Amsterdam hookah bar

Dutch authorities close down a notorious Amsterdam hookah bar after a severed human head was discovered at its entrance, a grisly find believed to be linked to a drug war between rival gangs.

A passer-by signalled the gruesome scene to police, who linked it to the discovery of a decapitated body in a burnt-out car elsewhere in the city.

Police say the body belonged to 23-year-old Amsterdam resident Nabil Amzieb, who was known to the authorities.

“A police probe later confirmed the head belonged to the body,” they said in a statement.

The hookah bar called the Fayrouz Lounge is a “well-known gathering spot for criminals involved in the so-called “Mocro-war,” a power struggle mainly between Moroccan gangs in the city, public broadcaster NOS said.

It most likely represented a “new phase” in the gang war, which has seen several others murdered in the scenic Dutch capital, including one man who was killed after visiting the same bar, Dutch media reports said.

— AFP

Minnesota U student body strikes resolutions on BDS, anti-Semitism

The Minnesota Student Association voted to strike resolutions calling for divestment from companies that support Israel and on another condemning anti-Semitism on campus from its agenda, preventing them from coming up for a vote of the student representatives, the Daily Minnesota student newspaper reports.

The divestment resolution was sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine. The campus anti-Semitism resolution was sponsored by the Students Supporting Israel organization.

Dozens of students and faculty members filled a campus lecture hall, some wearing T-shirts reading University of Minnesota in Hebrew letters and others wearing a traditional Muslim hijab.

University President Eric Kaler said in a statement before the meeting that he did not endorse either resolution.

Kaler says he does not support divestment from Israel because such a boycott violates the university’s “commitment to the free exchange of ideas,” and that he thinks the anti-Semitism resolution could limit the ability of students to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I am also concerned that the second resolution may limit the prospects for constructive campus dialogue in light of its possible implication that supporters of the disinvestment resolution are also supporters of anti-Semitism,” Kaler said in the statement.

— JTA

PA official says he expects ‘nothing’ from Biden visit

Ahead of talks in Ramallah between US Vice President Joe Biden and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, senior Palestinian official Ahmed Majdalani says he expects “nothing” from Biden’s visit.

“Mr. Biden is only coming to the region in the context of his plans regarding the fight against terrorism in Syria, not for us,” he tells AFP, referring to talks between Biden and Netanyahu on the Islamic State jihadist group.

Biden is set to meet with Abbas this evening following his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin earlier in the day.

Saudi Arabia could turn page if Iran changes policies: FM

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies could turn a page and build strong relations with Iran if it respects them and stops “meddling” in their affairs, according to Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

“If Iran changes its way and its policies, nothing would prevent turning a page and building the best relationship based on good neighborliness, with no meddling in the affairs of others,” he tells reporters in Riyadh.

“There is no need for mediation” in such a case, says Jubeir, whose country severed all links with the Islamic republic in January after crowds attacked the kingdom’s diplomatic missions in Iran.

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, January 3, 2016. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP)

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, January 3, 2016. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP)

Jubeir says relations with Tehran had deteriorated “due to the sectarian policies” followed by Shiite-dominated Iran and “its support for terrorism and implanting of terrorist cells in the countries of the region”.

“Iran is a neighboring Muslim country that has a great civilization and a friendly people, but the policies followed that the revolution of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini have been aggressive,” he says.

Jubeir was speaking after a meeting for Gulf foreign ministers and their counterparts from Jordan and Morocco.

— AFP

Iraqi officials: US captured chief IS chemical arms engineer

US special forces captured the head of the Islamic State group’s unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq, according to two senior Iraqi intelligence officials.

The Obama administration launched the new strategy in December, deploying a commando force to Iraq that it said would be dedicated to capturing and killing IS leaders in clandestine operations, as well as generating intelligence leading to more raids.

US officials said last week that the expeditionary team had captured an Islamic State leader but had refused to identify him, saying only that he had been held for two or three weeks and was being questioned.

The two Iraqi officials identify the man as Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, who worked for Saddam Hussein’s now-dissolved Military Industrialization Authority where he specialized in chemical and biological weapons. They say al-Afari, who is about 50 years old, heads the Islamic State group’s recently established branch for the research and development of chemical weapons.

He was captured in a raid near the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, the officials say.

— AP

Swastikas drawn on sidewalk in suburban NY’s Five Towns

Swastikas were drawn on the sidewalk of a heavily Jewish community in suburban New York, according to local news reports.

They were discovered two blocks apart in Cedarhurst, part of a grouping of Long Island villages and hamlets known as the Five Towns bordering the Queens borough.

Children who saw the swastikas on the sidewalk on their way to school told their parents, who called police, WCBS-TV reports.

“My wife’s parents were the only survivors of a very large family from the Holocaust,” a local resident who lives in the house next to the sidewalk where a swastika was drawn tells WCBS. “Even though it was a long time ago, it’s very real to us.”

Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky arrived on the scene of one of the swastikas and helped to clean it off the sidewalk, according to WCBS. The Long Beach Democrat said he believes teens from a nearby school could be responsible.

“We need to show them right away that this is serious, that we won’t stand for it, and that we need to come together as a community,” Kaminsky says.

Nassau County police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. The police reportedly are scanning surveillance video from nearby homes in an effort to identify the vandals.

— JTA

Shakespeare play to mark 500 years of Venice ghetto

The 500th anniversary of the creation of the Venice ghetto is to be marked by an unprecedented performance of Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” in the neighborhood to which the city’s Jews were confined for centuries, according to orginisers.

The play, in which the best known character, Shylock, is a Venetian Jewish moneylender, is to be put on by the Compagnia de’ Colombari and Ca’ Foscari University.

It will be performed in the “New Ghetto” neighbourhood of the floating city in the last week of July as one of the highlights of anniversary events which kick off on March 29, exactly 500 years after the world’s first ghetto was proclaimed.

Al Pacino as Shylock in the Michael Radford-directed 2004 production of Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' (courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

Al Pacino as Shylock in the Michael Radford-directed 2004 production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ (courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

Given what the ghetto represented, the events marking the anniversary will have a bittersweet element, says Renzo Gattegna, President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

“As Jews, we do not have any nostalgia for the ghetto which was a symbol of the contempt and arrogance with which we were treated at the time,” he says.

The current community of around 500 people can also trace its roots back to Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal and the Middle East.

The segregation of Jews in Venice was abolished at the end of the 18th Century after the collapse of the Venetian Republic following its military defeat by Napoleon.

Family of US victim of Jaffa stabbing to get benefits

Israel’s National Insurance Institute announces that Taylor Force, an American tourist killed a day earlier in a terror attack in Tel Aviv, will be recognized as a “victim of hostilities,” a status that confers on his family financial benefits.

The decision will also extend to other tourists to Israel turned terror victims, allowing them or their families to receive financial support from the social security office, Israel Radio reports.

As part of the decision, the NII is also considering subsidizing flights to Israel for family members of victims.

Israel’s Victims of Hostilities Law recognizes a person injured or killed “due to hostile action by enemy forces” as eligible for benefits from the state. However, the law explicitly defines an eligible victim of hostilities as a resident of Israel, an Israeli citizen or a person who entered Israel with a visa or permit.

— Tamar Pileggi

White House says it won’t be surprised if Iran launches more missiles

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Iran is “aggressively working to enhance its ballistic missile capability” and may launch more test missiles in addition to rockets launches earlier today and yesterday.

“We will continue to redouble our efforts with allies and partners in the region to limit Iran’s ability to develop their missile program outside of international conventions,” he tells reporters at a briefing.

“We know Iran is in a season for carrying out a number of military activities. It would not be a surprise if there are additional launches over next several days in addition to launches we’ve seen this week,” he adds.

WH: ‘We expect Palestinian leaders to condemn acts of terror’

White House spokesman Josh Ernest says terrorist attacks in Israel are worthy of condemnation “not just from Israel and the United States, but by countries around the world, including the leader of the Palestinian people.”

Ernest’s statements come in response to a question about responses to yesterday’s attack in Jaffa which left US citizen Taylor Force dead and 10 Israelis injured.

“This type of attack would be outrageous even if didn’t involve an American… Our expectation would be that public officials and particular those who are in a position of leadership would condemn any act of terrorism and any efforts to kill civilians,” he says.

Ernest’s comments come after US Vice President Joe Biden, during an ongoing visit to Israel, appeared to condemn Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for not speaking out against terror attacks.

Asked if he expected the topic come up during Biden’s meeting this evening with Abbas Ernest says, “it does seem hard to imagine the issue will not come out during the meeting.”

Biden meets Abbas in Ramallah

US Vice President Joe Biden meets PA President Mahmoud Abbas at his Muqata compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The two are to hold a bilateral meeting behind closed doors followed by public statements.

US Vice President Joseph Biden shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 9, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

US Vice President Joseph Biden shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 9, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

 

Range of measures planned as Israel ‘tightens security’ after attacks — official

A senior Israeli official says the government will tighten security in response to recent attacks.

Speaking anonymously, he says possible measures include closing gaps in the separation barrier that surrounds Jerusalem, revoking Israeli work permits for West Bank Palestinians, closing media organizations “that deal in incitement,” and toughening punishment for those who assist Palestinians entering Israel illegally.

— AP

Another poll shows coalition losing majority

Channel 1 news releases a new poll showing a drop in support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

According to the poll conducted by the TNS Global market research company, if an election were held today, Likud would drop from its current 30 Knesset seats to 25. Opposition party Yesh Atid on the other hand would jump from 11 to 21 to become the second largest party in Israel.

If made up of the same parties as it is now, the coalition would lose a majority, retaining just 59 seats, the poll predicts.

The survey shows similar results to a poll released last week by Chanel 2 news and the Midgam Institute.

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Severed head found at Amsterdam hookah bar

Dutch authorities close down a notorious Amsterdam hookah bar after a severed human head was discovered at its entrance, a grisly find believed to be linked to a drug war between rival gangs.

A passer-by signalled the gruesome scene to police, who linked it to the discovery of a decapitated body in a burnt-out car elsewhere in the city.

Police say the body belonged to 23-year-old Amsterdam resident Nabil Amzieb, who was known to the authorities.

“A police probe later confirmed the head belonged to the body,” they said in a statement.

The hookah bar called the Fayrouz Lounge is a “well-known gathering spot for criminals involved in the so-called “Mocro-war,” a power struggle mainly between Moroccan gangs in the city, public broadcaster NOS said.

It most likely represented a “new phase” in the gang war, which has seen several others murdered in the scenic Dutch capital, including one man who was killed after visiting the same bar, Dutch media reports said.

— AFP