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Obama to Rivlin: Mideast peace is remote, but we have to try

IDF soldiers raid Tulkarem area in hunt for shooters; Netanyahu says will meet with all visiting US presidential candidates; Rouhani slams Trump

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the CNBC debate on October 28, 2015 (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the CNBC debate on October 28, 2015 (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

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

Ex-MK calls for tighter security around Hebron settlement

A former Jewish Home lawmaker called for tightened up security around the Jewish settlement enclave in the West Bank city of Hebron after her son was lightly injured in a stabbing attack today.

Orit Strock says that “the time has come to close up all the breaches in Hebron,” the Walla news site reports.

“Just two days ago I asked the brigade commander to close the breach at the staircase where the attack took place. Right now I’m waiting at the hospital for my son,” she says.


Against sanctions, Israel exported heaps of gold to North Korea

The Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee has confirmed that Israel exported approximately $400,000 worth of gold to North Korea in recent years, despite international sanctions imposed in 2006.

The head of exporting at the Israel Tax Authority pointed out at the committee meeting that gold wasn’t the only item, but declined to elaborate.

“Unfortunately there was export of gold and unfortunately it was discovered and we were asked to give explanations,” David Huri says.

Huri pointed out that most of the exports to the Hermit Kingdom took place before 2011, and since then have mostly been books and dental implants, Ynet reports.

Elite soldiers suspended for shooting camel

Two elite IDF soldiers allegedly shot a camel as they were driving near the Dead Sea two weeks ago and are under investigation for the incident, Ynet reports.

A video of the incident taken by one of the soldiers led to their arrest. The driver of the vehicle can be seen drawing his sidearm and firing a round at a passing camel.

The two reportedly admitted to the charges of discharging the weapon and expressed contrition, but they were suspended from their unit until the end of the investigation.

Third Paris gunman IDed by text to mom

The third gunman who terrorized Paris’s Bataclan concert hall before being killed last month in the attack was identified Wednesday as a Frenchman who left for Syria in 2013. The development came after his mother received a text message announcing his death and gave a DNA sample to police.

Foued Mohamed-Aggad left Strasbourg for Syria in late 2013, a French judicial official said, at a time when about a dozen young men from the eastern French city headed to the war zone. Some returned of their own will — including his brother — telling investigators they were disgusted by what they had seen. The Frenchman whom many of the returnees said recruited them for IS, Mourad Fares, is also under arrest. All are charged with terror-related offenses and face trial.

Mohamed-Aggad’s mother received a text message in English about 10 days ago announcing her son’s death “as a martyr” on November 13 — a typical way that IS notifies families of casualties. Then she gave French police a DNA sample which showed that one of her sons was killed inside the Bataclan, his brother’s lawyer said, confirming an account by French officials, who requested anonymity to release details of the investigation.

“Without the mother, there would have been nothing,” said the lawyer, Francoise Cotta.

— AP

Angela Merkel Time’s ‘Person of the Year 2015’

Time magazine has named Angela Merkel as “Person of the Year 2015” for opening her country’s borders to refugees, and for pushing European lawmakers to back a $95.5 billion bailout for Greece to maintain the eurozone’s integrity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the weekly cabinet meeting on October 21, 2015 at the chancellery in Berlin. AFP/TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the weekly cabinet meeting on October 21, 2015 at the chancellery in Berlin. AFP/TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

Hebron stabber was cousin of Monday terror attack perp

The Palestinian terrorist who stabbed two Israelis, a civilian and a soldier, in Hebron earlier today is identified as Abd al-Rahman Maswada, the cousin of Ihad Maswada, who carried out a stabbing in the West Bank city two days ago, Ynet’s reporter says on Twitter.

Maswada was shot dead on Wednesday. His cousin was killed by security forces in Monday’s attack.

Father of Paris gunman: I’d have killed him had I known

The father of the third gunman in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris said Wednesday he would “have killed” his son had he known what he was planning.

Said Mohamed-Aggad told AFP he only found out on Wednesday, with the rest of the nation, that his 23-year-old son Foued was among the three gunmen who sprayed concert-goers with assault rifles, killing 90 people in the worst attack of the November 13 carnage.

“Of course I’m surprised,” he told reporters outside his home in Bischheim, a suburb of the northeastern city Strasbourg.

Had he known his son was planning to take part in the jihadist rampage that killed 130 people in total, “I would have killed him myself beforehand,” he said.

An unlocated picture posted in 2014 on his facebook account shows Foued Mohamed Aggad, who has been identified as the third bomber involved in the attacks at Paris's Bataclan music hall, police sources said on December 9, 2015. AFP/OFF/HO)

An unlocated picture posted in 2014 on his facebook account shows Foued Mohamed Aggad, who has been identified as the third bomber involved in the attacks at Paris’s Bataclan music hall, police sources said on December 9, 2015. AFP/OFF/HO)



Donald Trump ‘clearly out of his mind,’ London mayor says

London Mayor Boris Johnson says Donald Trump is “clearly out of his mind” for suggesting an immigration ban on Muslims, and calls the Republican presidential candidate’s claim that London police are afraid to enter certain neighborhoods because they’re so radically Islamic “complete nonsense,” the Guardian reports.

“I would invite him to come and see the whole of London and take him around the city, except I woudn’t want to expose Londoners to any unnecessary risk of meeting Donald Trump,” he says.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson rides an electric scooter during his visit to Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Mayor of London Boris Johnson rides an electric scooter during his visit to Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Trump rails at Time, Merkel for ‘Person of the Year’ pick

The Donald is going after Time magazine and German Chancellor Angela Merkel now after the publication named Merkel “Person of the Year 2015.”

“I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite,” the Repubican presidential hopeful says on Twitter. “They picked person who is ruining Germany.”

Lapid likens Trump to Nazis for Muslim ban comment

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid hops on the Trump-bashing bandwagon, saying that the GOP candidate calls for the barring of illustrious persons such as Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousefzai, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, acclaimed author Salman Rushdie, and IDF Major Alaa Wahib, former head of operations at the army’s training facility at Tze’elim — all of them Muslims.

“I hear people by us extolling Trump’s statements and my heart sinks,” he says on Facebook. “Do they don’t understand what kind of victory this is for radical Islam? Is it not clear to them that the only way to succumb to the Islamic State is to adopt the Islamic State’s set of values — xenophobia, disregard for the law, religious discrimination?”

“Do they not know Jewish history well enough to understand what happens when you go down this road?” he says, rounding off his allusion to Nazi Germany by quoting Martin Niemöller’s poem “First they came ….”

Bahrain’s king holds Hanukkah candlelighting

The director of an Orthodox European rabbinical association lit Hanukkah candles in the palace of the king of Bahrain.

According to a press release from the Conference of European Rabbis, the ceremony Monday in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, was the first of its kind in the Persian Gulf nation’s palace since the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Conference director Rabbi Moshe Levin, who was invited by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, recited the traditional blessings while lighting the candles, and sang a verse of “Ma’oz Tzur,” the traditional Hanukkah hymn. Some 50 Jews were present for the ceremony.

“A little light drives off a lot of darkness,” Levin told the king, according to the press release. “Bahrain under your rule is a little light in a dark world of radical fundamentalism.”


El Al workers evacuated after bomb threat at LAX

El Al employees were evacuated from a cargo facility at Los Angeles International Airport after reports of a suspicious object.

LAX operations were not yet affected, and the LAPD’s SWAT team was at the scene to investigate, ABC 7 reports.

US: Only 30% of Russian airstrikes in Syria target IS

Only 30 percent of Russian airstrikes in Syria target the Islamic State group while the rest are against opposition forces not affiliated with the jihadists, a senior US official said Wednesday.

“The Russian airstrikes in Syria, primarily, are not attacking (IS),” Brett McGurk, US President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the international anti-IS coalition, told a news conference in Baghdad.

“If you run the numbers, it’s about maybe 30 percent are actually attacking (IS) and the rest of the airstrikes are attacking other opposition groups… that are not affiliated” with the jihadists, McGurk said.

Russia began carrying out strikes in Syria on September 30 in support of its longstanding ally President Bashar Assad, whose regime is locked in a civil war with fractious opposition forces.

The conflict, which began in March 2011, has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions of others.


Molotov cocktails thrown at bus in West Bank

Firebombs were thrown at a bus near the Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. No injuries are reported, according to Walla news.

LA police give all-clear after El Al bomb scare

El Al workers at LA International Airport went back to work after police investigators determined a suspicious package contained a non-hazardous liquid, NBC 4 reports.

Former Australian PM defends comments on Islam

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday defended his comments suggesting that Western culture is superior to that of Islam, and called for US-led assistance in defeating the Islamic State group.

In a Sydney Daily Telegraph opinion piece published earlier in the day, Abbott, a staunch Catholic, wrote of a need to “modernize” Islam, saying it propagates a culture that is inferior to that of the West.

Critics associated his comments with those of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has proposed a controversial ban on all Muslim visitors to the US, with the exception of foreign Muslim leaders.

“I am more than ready to assert the superiority of a culture that is decent and humane, and welcoming, over a culture that thinks it’s right to kill in the name of God,” he said in a speech in Singapore.

Once you embrace the principle of killing in the name of God, “we have the war of all against all, until there is only one man, or one particular faith or version of faith left standing. Now, that is a recipe for catastrophe, absolute catastrophe,” he added.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (YouTube screen capture/ABC News)

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (YouTube screen capture/ABC News)

— AP

Sanders slams Trump as a ‘demagogue’ who wants US to hate Muslims

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders went after his Republican rival Donald Trump on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” Tuesday night, lambasting the real estate mogul as a “demagogue.”

“Throughout history, you’ve had demagogues trying to divert attention away from the real issues,” Sanders said. “And what someone like Trump is trying to do is divide us up. A few months ago, we were supposed to hate Mexicans that he thinks are all criminals and rapists. Now, we are supposed to hate Muslims. And that kind of crap is not going to work in the United States of America.”

“I think what the American people understand is that given the problems that we face, we’ve got to stand together, come together, and create a decent life for all of our people and stop this scapegoating of one group or another,” Sanders continued.

Syrian refugees join in Berlin menorah lighting

A group of Syrian refugee children along with other Muslim groups in Berlin joined with Jewish groups for a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in the German city.

On Sunday, the Syrian children joined with local Jewish kids to light the giant Chabad menorah at the Brandenburg Gate. Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, and representatives of Berlin mosques attended the ceremony.

At a time when concerns have been raised about possible anti-Semitism among the 800,000 Muslim refugees now seeking asylum here, the joint celebrations sent a message “that peace and tolerance are stronger than any dispute,” said Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, the head of Chabad in Berlin, said at the ceremony.

“Those who spread fear have but one purpose, to destroy the unity and peace between cultures,” he said.

The annual celebration at Brandenburg Gate took place even though many Jews in Germany are hesitant to display religious symbols openly following an increase in anti-Semitic violence in Europe. Chabad claims its menorah is the biggest in Europe, and has been lighting it in a public ceremony at the historical landmark for 14 years.

German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters also lit the menorah. Other guests included the US ambassador to Germany, John Emerson; Israeli diplomat Avi Nir, and the ambassadors of Britain, Poland, Italy, Ukraine, Brazil and Denmark.

“It is very symbolic that here at the Brandenburg Gate, which symbolizes Germany’s greatest moments on one hand and its darkest on the other, we celebrate Hanukkah together,” Grutters said.

Also Sunday, a family of Turkish Muslim background joined with Jewish families in creating their own menorahs in a program at the Frankeluefer Synagogue in Berlin.

The following day, refugees from Iraq’s persecuted Yazidi community helped light a menorah at the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin. The Yazidis are a monotheistic sect that has been targeted for genocidal persecution by ISIS.


In veiled remark, Rouhani says Trump ‘supporter of terrorism’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes an apparent reference to Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and his comment about banning Muslims from entering the United States, calling the real estate mogul a “supporter of terrorism.”

“Unfortunately, today, certain individuals across the world, under the pretext of combating terrorism, announce that Muslims should not be allowed into other countries and this is while these individuals are themselves among founders and supporters of terrorism,” PressTV quoted Rouhani saying.

Motorcyclist dead in crash south of Jerusalem

A 20-year-old motorcyclist is dead after he crashed south of Jerusalem on Route 398.

Paramedics pronounced him dead after he plunged about 16 feet off a bridge.

Diplomats release new draft of climate change deal

Negotiators released a new, shorter draft of an international accord to fight global warming Wednesday, leaving key issues unresolved just two days before the high-stakes talks in Paris are scheduled to end.

US Secretary of State John Kerry challenged diplomats to reach agreement by Friday’s self-imposed deadline, promising American funding for countries hit hardest by the rising seas and extreme weather that scientists attribute to human-made emissions.

The new draft released by the UN climate agency is 29 pages, down from a 43-page version issued Saturday. There are about 100 places where there are decisions still to be made, including multiple options left in brackets, or blank spaces.

One major issue remains money. The draft doesn’t settle the question of whether advanced developing countries should join wealthy nations in helping the poorest and most vulnerable nations deal with climate change.

It doesn’t resolve the question of the long-term goal of the accord — whether it is to remove carbon emissions from the economy altogether or just reduce them. Nor does it settle whether governments are aiming to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial times or closer to 2°C (3.6°F).

— AP

Shooting at Israeli car near West Bank settlement

Initial reports are coming in of a shooting at an Israeli vehicle in the vicinity of the Jewish settlement of Avnei Hefetz, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

Two people were reportedly injured.

Additional details aren’t immediately available.

Two injured, one seriously, in West Bank shooting

One Israeli was seriously injured and a second lightly hurt in an attack on a car near the West Bank settlement of Avnei Hefetz.

60-year-old woman taken to hospital after West Bank shooting

Magen David Adom paramedics are treating a 60-year-old woman for light injuries. She was being taken to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba for further treatment.

The seriously injured victim was being treated by IDF paramedics, MDA says.

IDF soldiers are searching for suspected perpetrators.

Netanyahu rejects Trump’s comments on Muslims

The Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement that Netanyahu rejects Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s statements about Muslims.

Netanyahu will nonetheless meet with Trump during the latter’s visit at the end of the month because the tete-a-tete was scheduled before the remarks were made.

Netanyahu to meet with Trump despite anti-Muslim comment

Netanyahu’s office says in a statement that the prime minister’s meeting with Trump was arranged two weeks ago, before the real estate mogul said Muslims should be banned from entering the United States.

“The Prime Minister decided earlier this year on a uniform policy to agree to meet with all presidential candidates from either party who visit Israel and ask for a meeting,” the PMO said in a statement.

“This policy does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views. Rather, it is an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”

Right-wing song celebrates Duma murders

A song circulating on social media among right-wing extremists celebrates the torching of the Dawabsha home in Duma last summer that killed three.

It comes out a week after investigators announced arrests of suspected Jewish terrorists in the murder.

“They burned three Arabs there and it annoyed all the Hellenists,” the track sung by an anonymous singer which came out today says, according to a recording published on Channel 10. It’s sung to the tune of a popular Hanukkah song.

Dubai company pulls Trump products

A Mideast company, the Dubai-based Landmark Group, says it would pull all Trump home decor products at its 180 Lifestyle stores in the region as it “values and respects the sentiments of its customers.”

Donald Trump has for years looked to do business in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf and the emirate of Dubai. Trump has lent his name to two high-profile Dubai golf course projects and an ongoing real estate development, and sought for years to expand his hotel chain into the region.

But some of his rhetoric about Islam on the campaign trail — including his call to monitor mosques and his proposal this week to temporarily bar Muslims from traveling to the US — has led to increased wariness in the Arab world.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to questions about his reputation and business dealings in the Middle East.

— AP

UK has no plans to ban Trump over Muslim comments

Britain has no plans to ban Donald Trump over his comments about Muslims despite a growing number of calls for his exclusion, the country’s Treasury chief said Wednesday.

British politicians have condemned Trump’s proposal for all Muslims to be barred from entering the US in the wake of violence by Islamic extremists, and official bodies in Britain distanced themselves from the Republican presidential nomination hopeful.

A university revoked his honorary degree Wednesday, and the Scottish government dumped Trump as an unpaid business ambassador.

Some Britons say the remarks amount to hate speech and have called for Trump to be barred from the UK, where he owns a Scottish golf course. An online petition has surpassed the 100,000-signature threshold that means a committee of lawmakers must consider it for debate in Parliament.

Finance minister George Osborne told lawmakers that Trump’s “nonsense” views “fly in the face of the founding principles of the United States.” But he said it would be wrong to “ban presidential candidates.”

Answering questions in the House of Commons, Osborne said “the best way to confront the views of someone like Donald Trump is to engage in a robust democratic argument with him about why he is profoundly wrong.”

— AP

IDF soldiers raid Tulkarem area in hunt for shooters

IDF troops are carrying out raids in the vicinity of Tulkarem in the search for suspects in the shooting of two Israelis earlier this evening.

Obama to Rivlin: US will try to reduce Mideast violence

President Barack Obama says the US will continue to try to tamp down violence between Israelis and the Palestinians even though prospects for a peace accord seem slim.

In remarks before meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, Obama says the leaders planned to discuss a new memorandum of understanding on security assistance.

Obama says this is a time when “prospects of a serious peace may seem distant” but, he adds, “it’s important that we continue to try.”

Rivlin says Israel will work hand in hand with the US to try to fight extremism.

— AP

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