Kurdish fighters on Monday gained full control of the Syrian town of Kobani, taking it back from Islamic State militants after four months of fighting.

Also Monday, Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino said the police needs “a root canal treatment” after news emerged of yet another top officer who allegedly sexually assaulted a junior officer. The man is none other than Danino’s deputy, Nissim Mor.

Meanwhile, Yesh Atid presented its list for the 20th Knesset, with few surprises.

The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded.

‘Islamic State almost gone from Kobani’

Kurdish officials and Syrian activists say Islamic State gunmen were nearly pushed out of Kobani.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and senior Kurdish official Idriss Nassan say the group had been nearly expelled, with some sporadic fighting on the eastern edges of the city near Turkey.

“The Islamic State is on the verge of defeat,” said Nassan, speaking from Turkey near the Syrian border. “Its defenses have collapsed and its fighters have fled.”

— AP

Egypt doctor convicted of female genital mutilation

An Egyptian lawyer says an appeals court has convicted a doctor of manslaughter and performing a female genital mutilation that killed a 13-year-old girl, sentencing him to two years and three months in prison.

Lawyer Reda al-Danbouki says the verdict Monday was “a triumph for women” and for Sohair el-Batea, who died in 2013. An earlier court had initially acquitted the doctor in a landmark trial.

Rights advocates say the court’s decision could serve as a deterrent for doctors and families. Female genital mutilation was criminalized in 2008, but remains widespread in Egypt, where more than 90 percent of women are estimated to have undergone it.

Al-Danbouki said the doctor’s clinic was ordered closed for a year, and that el-Batea’s father received a three-month suspended sentence.

— AP

5,881,696 eligible to vote in March election

There are 5,881,696 citizens who are eligible to vote for the 20th Knesset, the Interior Ministry says in a statement.

An interesting piece of data is the relatively high number of Jerusalem residents who are not allowed to vote: While in Tel Aviv there are 403,206 eligible voters out of a total population of 511,676, in Jerusalem there are 385,807 eligible voters but the total population is nearly one million people (918,048).

Gazans test-fire 10 rockets into sea

Terrorists from the Gaza Strip fired 10 rockets into the sea on Monday in an apparent test of rocket technologies.

The rockets, fired from the northern Strip, all fell into the water off the Gaza coast and there were no reports of any casualties.

The IDF did not carry out any action in response to the event.

Channel 2 noted that gunmen have fired over 70 test rockets into the sea since the end of Operation Protective Edge last summer, in an effort to improve their range as well as test new explosive materials.

A la Modi – India PM wears name-striped suit

So the world leader with the ultimate sense of style was found and it’s not the Bolivian president (this guy). For his meeting with US President Obama on Sunday India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore a suit striped with… his name, many many times.

Modi was mocked by his fellow Indians for wearing the suit:

“Maybe he was afraid that someone would steal his clothes?” Suprateek Chatterjee tweeted, calling it a “vanity-striped suit.”

Other critics were more blunt. “WTF were his designers thinking,” tweeted one user.

— AFP contributed

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with US President Barack Obama on Sunday, January 25. Those thin yellow stripes on Modi's suit - they actually spell his name. (photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP)

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with US President Barack Obama on Sunday, January 25. Those thin yellow stripes on Modi’s suit – they actually spell his name. (photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP)

Assad jeers at US plans to train rebels vs IS

Syrian President Bashar Assad says US plans to train vetted rebels to fight the Islamic State group were “illusory” as they would eventually defect to the jihadists, in an interview published Monday.

The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground.


A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 26, 2015 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad giving an interview to US Foreign Affairs magazine in Damascus. (photo credit: AFP)

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 26, 2015 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad giving an interview to US Foreign Affairs magazine in Damascus. (photo credit: AFP)

Diyala, Iraq, said ‘liberated’ from IS

AFP reports Diyala, a town in Iraq, was conquered by Iraqi forces, who ousted Islamic State gunmen from the area.

An Iraqi officer told the news agency the army has “liberated” Diyala.


Meretz urges probe into PM’s planned US trip

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on turns to former state comptroller Yosef Shapira and asks him to “examine whether Prime Minister Netanyahu is making use of the Israeli Embassy in Washington to advance political and party interests, on the eve of an election in Israel.”

Gal-on went to Shapira following media reports that Ron Dermer, Israel’s envoy to the US and a close confidant of Netanyahu, made arrangements for Netanyahu’s trip unbeknownst to the US administration.

Yadlin says PM ‘irresponsible’ on US trip

Former Military Intelligence chief and the Zionist Camp’s candidate for the role of defense minister, Amos Yadlin, says Netanyahu “address to Congress will not change the deal with Iran.”

Speaking to Ynet, Yadlin says “I think what the prime minister is doing is irresponsible. When we manage relations with the US we need to take care of ties with both the president and Congress. The prime minister has turned this to a partisan issue in the US.”

Amos Yadlin, former director of military intelligence, Jan 2012. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

Amos Yadlin, former director of military intelligence, Jan 2012. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

IS in Sinai posts clip of Egypt cop’s killing

An IS affiliate operating in the Sinai Peninsula publishes a video reportedly showing the kidnapping and execution by firearm of an Egyptian police officer. The officer apparently worked at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The man’s body was found several days after he was shot, Ynet reports.

PA’s turn to ICC risky for Russia, too, Liberman tells Lavrov

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman meets Russia FM Sergei Lavrov in Russia today. The two discuss continuing the “tight relationship and cooperation” between Russia and Jerusalem and have signed a memorandum of understanding between the two countries, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, January 26, 2015. (photo credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, January 26, 2015. (photo credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP)

Liberman told Lavrov that on Iran, Israel is closely following the negotiations between Iran and world powers and said that as far as Israel is concerned, no deal is better than a deal that benefits Iran. Liberman said Israel “is keeping all options on the table.”

Liberman also discussed with his Russian counterpart the Palestinian turn to the International Criminal Court at the Hague and said Russia stands to be harmed by the Palestinians’ using the Hague “as a political tool.”

Danino says police need ‘root canal’

Police chief Insp. Gen. Yochanan Danino says police needs “a root canal” after yet another case where a senior officer allegedly sexually assaulted one of his subordinates.

Danino makes the comments during a press conference he convened after the senior officer was sent to house arrest amid the allegations.

“This is, on the face of it, a very severe incident,” says Danino. “It joins a series of incidents where senior officers were involved,” he adds.

If the allegations prove correct, the senior officer will be the sixth criminal offense by a senior police official over the past year.

Trajtenberg says he’s Labor’s economy chief, not Yachimovich

The Zionist Camp’s star economist, Manuel Trajtenberg, said several days ago that “I am in charge of the social-economic platform of the Zionist Camp and not Shelly Yachimovich. Period.”

Trajtenberg made the comments over the weekend and a recording of his remarks was leaked to Israeli website NRG.

Yachimovich, who has been devoting most of her energy to social and economic issues over the past several years, came in third in the Labor primary (after party leader Isaac Herzog and his second-in-command, Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni).

Trajtenberg was recruited to the party ranks as a leading economist. He became a household name after he headed a government-appointed committee that was set up to examine ways to lower the cost of living in Israel.

Many of Yachimovich’s loyalists raised an eyebrow when the newcomer was announced as the party’s choice for finance minister if the party wins the election.

8200 refuseniks dismissed from reserves

The IDF decides to expel from reserve service the men from unit 8200 who signed the refusenik letter, after they already said they would not take part in reserve duty in the future.

The Walla news website quoted a letter by an IDF general (identified only as A.), who wrote to the refuseniks: “You crossed a fine line dividing politics from army service. This is the line that allows us as a unit to supply high-quality intelligence answering all the needs of the IDF and other security establishments in the state of Israel.”

According to the Haaretz daily, several of the signatories on the letter did not receive a letter officially announcing their expulsion from reserve duty.

More anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium, Italy

Anonymous vandals in Brussels defaced memorial tiles placed outside the house where a Jewish family that perished in Auschwitz had lived. The tiles, engraved with the names of the family members, were covered in red concrete, Israel Radio reports.

In Florence, the door of a gas facility in one of the streets was spray-painted with the words “we will kill the Jews using gas.”

Disgraced cop says ‘I acted unethically’

The senior police officer investigated in the Police Investigative Department over allegation of sexual harassment says “it was unethical, I behaved improperly.”

During his investigation, Ynet reports, the officer was asked why he thought the female police officer “was into him.” He answered “because of my position.” At the end of the investigation the man said “I understand people who behave this way have no right to hold a position such as myself.”

Massive asteroid to pass close to Earth

An asteroid the size of a mountain is about to zoom by Earth, in a rare type of flyby that will not be seen for another decade, astronomers said Monday.

The asteroid, known as 2004 BL86, runs no risk of a colliding with Earth and will be about three times farther than the Moon when it passes.

“At the time of its closest approach on January 26, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

For this particular asteroid, it will mark the closest pass by Earth in around 200 years.

Europe warns Greece to stick to austerity

The EU issues a stern warning to Greece that its place in the eurozone is at risk if new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras fails to meet the country’s austerity and debt commitments.

From Brussels to Berlin officials say they were ready to talk to the new government led by Tsipras’ radical left party Syriza, but insisted that Athens must stick to prior agreements with its international creditors.

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels a day after Syriza storms to victory in elections on the back of Tsipras’ promises to end “disastrous austerity” and seek a cancellation of Greek debt.


Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras greets supporters following victory in the election in Athens on January 25, 2015. (photo credit: Aris Messinis/AFP)

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras greets supporters following victory in the election in Athens on January 25, 2015. (photo credit: Aris Messinis/AFP)

Alleged sex-offending cop named as Nissim Mor

The senior officer who allegedly sexually assaulted a junior female cop who sought his assistance was named as Maj. Gen. Nissim Mor, deputy to Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.

According to Haaretz, some of the incidents revealed during Mor’s investigation at the Police Investigative Department may “lead to a serious indictment.”

Israel Chief of Police Insp. Gen. Yochanan Danino (L) seen with Major General Nissim Mor at a ceremony for officers receiving new ranks, at the Police Headquarters in Jerusalem. September 22, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino (left) and Deputy Commissioner Nissim Mor (right) at a ceremony for officers receiving new ranks, at the Police headquarters in Jerusalem, September 22, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)


Yesh Atid gets 1st openly lesbian candidate

Yesh Atid will announce its final list for the Knesset this evening. Few surprises are expected. Adi Kol and Shimon Solomon announced they will not run in the coming election for the party.

The party will be the first to feature an openly lesbian candidate, Zehorit Sorek, head of the LGBT lobby in the party. Sorek will, however, be placed in a low slot, making her unlikely to become an MK. The party is currently polling at 10 seats or slightly less.

Sorek is not only openly lesbian but religious. Apart from her, Amir Ohana, head of the LGBT lobby in Likud, is the only other gay candidate. Ohana too has little chance of entering the Knesset. They are the only two openly homosexual candidates in the coming election, after Meretz MK Nitzan MK Horowitz left the party.

Steimatzky sells 550 Hebdo mags in 7 minutes

All 550 issues of Charlie Hebdo sold out on the Steimatzky booksellers website within seven minutes of the beginning of its sale.

Earlier today, the Haifa District Court rejected an urgent appeal for a temporary preventative warrant that was submitted on behalf of prominent leaders in the Arab community.

Steimatzky agreed in the beginning of the week to sell the magazine on its website and not in its stores. Each magazine was sold for NIS 35 ($9), generating Steimatzky a revenue of NIS 19,250 ($4,817) in less than 10 minutes.

Japan seeks Jordan’s help in freeing hostage

A Japanese diplomat emerged from talks in Jordan with no signs of progress in securing the release of a freelance journalist held hostage by the extremist Islamic State group.

Japanese officials refused direct comment on the contents of the talks in Jordan, where Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama is coordinating regional efforts to save hostage Kenji Goto.

The Islamic State group said in an online video on January 20 that it had two Japanese hostages and would kill them within 72 hours unless Japan paid it $200 million — the same amount Tokyo recently pledged in aid to nations fighting the militants.

— AP

Foxman says Obama, Hollande refuse to link Islam to recent terror attacks

National director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, says President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande are refusing to name Islamists as a threat to society.

Foxman made the assertion during a panel discussion in the Czech capital to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Russian troops.

Recent attacks on Jews in Europe dominated the debates during the event, titled “Let My People Live,” which was organized by the Czech government and the European Jewish Congress.

The ADL's National Director Abraham Foxman presents a poll on global anti-Semitism, May 13, 2014 (ADL screenshot)

The ADL’s National Director Abraham Foxman presents a poll on global anti-Semitism, May 13, 2014. (photo credit: ADL screenshot)

“For Hollande to stand up in front of the world and to say that Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with Islam is closing your eyes to a reality, to a truth,” Foxman said of the French president’s address following the slaying this month by Islamists of 17 people in the Paris area — four of them at a kosher supermarket and 12 at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly for its lampooning of Islam.

In a public address, Hollande said on January 9: “These fanatics, these ignoramuses, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.” His statement was widely understood to mean that the terrorists’ interpretation of Islam is false.

On Obama, Foxman said the US president “has called a meeting on February 18 at the White House to discuss what? Extremism? Radical extremism? Hello?! And nobody in the media says how can you close your eyes to what is?”


El Al reschedules NY flights because of storm

El Al has postponed Flight 001 to New York City, which was due to depart from Israel tonight. The flight is now scheduled to take off at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Other flights to and from Newark Liberty International Airport were delayed due to forecasts that a massive storm was headed for New York.

IS group pushed out of Syria’s Kobani

Activists say Kurdish fighters have gained full control of the Syrian town of Kobani, taking it back from Islamic State militants after four months of fighting.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kobani-based activists say the Kurdish fighters managed on Monday to push back Islamic State militants from their remaining footholds in the eastern parts of the town.

By evening, the Kurdish fighters were celebrating and gunfire echoed across the town.

The victory marked a major loss for Islamic State extremists, whose hopes for an easy victory when they pushed into Kobani last year instead dissolved into a bloody, costly and months-long siege.

— AP

Yesh Atid publishes list for 20th Knesset

The list of Yesh Atid for the 20th Knesset was announced this evening. It is as follows:

1. Yair Lapid
2. Rabbi Shai Piron
3. Yael German
4. Meir Cohen
5. Yaakov Peri
6. Ofer Shelah
7. Haim Yelin
8. Karin Elharar
9. Yoel Razvozov
10. Dr. Aliza Lavie
11. Mickey Levy
12. Elazar Stern
13. Penina Tamanu-Shata
14. Boaz Toporovsky
15. Dr. Ruth Calderon
16. Yifat Kariv
17. Rabbi Dov Lipman
18. Dr. Ronen Hoffman
19. Zehorit Sorek

Yesh Atid is currently polling at around 10 Knesset seats.

PM still ‘most capable’ of leading country — poll

44.4% percent of voters believe Benjamin Netanyahu is the most capable candidate to lead the State of Israel, according to a Channel 2 survey.

Labor leader Isaac Herzog wins the trust of 35.4%.

The rest of the respondents are “not sure.”

Zionist Camp still leads in new poll

A new poll aired on Channel 2 still shows the Zionist Camp, a joint list of Labor and Hatnua, leading with 26 Knesset seats.

The Likud comes a close second with 23, followed by Jewish Home with 15 seats; the new United Arab List (all the Arab parties running on a joint ticket) with 12 mandates; and Yesh Atid with 9 seats.

Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu wins 8 seats, while Yisrael Beytenu, Shas and United Torah Judaism all win 7 seats each.

Meretz, according to the poll, is the smallest party in the Knesset with 6 seats only. Eli Yishai’s new party, Yachad, would not pass the electoral threshold.

Lapid vows ‘to fight for our country’

“We came to the Knesset and the government to cooperate, to work with others, to connect between people to get things done, not to get involved in fights. Except that everything we did, every change, every correction, we had to fight against corruption that is difficult to imagine, against all those who don’t care about the country but only about their interests,” says Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid when he presents his list to the Knesset.

“Today there is a 300% increase in young ultra-Orthodox people looking for work and a 40% increase in enlistment into the IDF, and we ensured that core curriculum subjects are taught in schools, the Nahari Law was cancelled and we standardized the winter clock change and cut the budgets for yeshivot. That’s what happens when a group of committed people comes along and says, ‘It’s a fight for our country,'” Lapid adds.

“We learned that if we really want to change something then there is no alternative but to put the knife between our teeth and fight for it. So that’s what we did. That’s what we’re doing. It’s a fight for our country,” says the Yesh Atid leader.

Lebanese report Israeli aircraft activity along coastline

A Lebanese news agency reports that several Israeli surveillance aircraft were seen flying along the Lebanese coast during the past hour, including in the skies above Sidon.

According to the report, the aircraft fired flares in several locations along their route.

Jewish Home courting soccer legend Eli Ohana

Eli Ohana, famous as captain of Betar Jerusalem and later as a soccer coach, may join the list of Jewish Home for the Knesset, Channel 2 reveals.

Ohana has virtually no political experience; but he has great hair. Could it be that Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett became jealous of Moshe Kahlon for having Michael Oren — complete with mane — on his own list?

Here we see Ohana in an ad for Head & Shoulders shampoo from several years ago.

BBC Arabic tries to avoid ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’

The manager of BBC Arabic, the largest of the BBC’s non-English networks, tells the British Independent in an interview that the murderers from the Charlie Hebdo massacre should not be labeled “terrorists,” since it was too “loaded” a term.

Read it here.

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