House Democrats gave Israeli envoy Ron Dermer an earful Wednesday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March, during which the PM is expected to continue to press his case for a tougher line on Iran. Meanwhile, Jordan executed two al-Qaeda prisoners before dawn, hours after the Islamic State released video of its members burning a captured Jordanian pilot alive.
Inside Israel, the Bedouin town of Hura observed a day of mourning as eight local women were buried after Tuesday’s horrific bus crash. Another top police commander is suspected of sexual harassment. The Foreign Ministry recalled diplomats who retweeted messages attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
The Times of Israel blogged the events as they unfolded.
IS replays pilot’s death on big screens
In Raqaa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, Islamic State fighters gleefully play footage of the death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz Kasasbeh on big-screen televisions, according to Syrian activists in the city.
Before dawn Wednesday, Jordan executed two al-Qaeda prisoners, hours after IS posted video of the pilot’s death.
Sunni school calls for crucifying IS members
Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious center of learning, calls for the killing and crucifixion of terrorists from the Islamic State group, expressing outrage over their murder of a Jordanian pilot.
In a statement after the burning alive of Lt. Moaz Kasasbeh, the Cairo-based authority’s head, Ahmed al-Tayib expresses his “strong dismay at this cowardly act.”
Tayib says this “requires the punishment mentioned in the Koran for these corrupt oppressors who fight against God and his prophet: killing, crucifixion or chopping of the limbs.”
The Islamic State group in a video on Tuesday claimed the gruesome killing of Kasasbeh, who was captured in Syria when his plane went down in December.— AFP
Deri latest to back out of Haaretz conference
Shas leader Aryeh Deri is the latest politician to drop out of Haaretz’s annual “Israel Democracy Conference” after discovering the event was sponsored by the left-wing organization the New Israel Fund this week.
“Unfortunately, I have been witness recently to the fact that the conference has turned into a divisive discourse, and awakens controversy in Israeli society, and I am not especially interested in being part of this festival during the elections season,” Deri says to organizers.
After the conference program was published Sunday, both the Likud and Jewish Home parties canceled their plans to participate.
The conference is scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv on February 17.
The Fund, which gives grants to liberal and left-wing organizations, has come under fire many times in the past. Critics say the group promotes anti-Zionist values and distributes money to civil organizations that actively work against Israel.
Another top police commander suspected of harassment
A senior police commander, with the rank of deputy commissioner, is being investigated for sexual harassing female officers under his command.
Details about the commander, including his name and specific job, are still under wraps.
The senior officer is the sixth senior police officer accused of misconduct, sexual or otherwise, since 2013.
In January, Deputy Commissioner Nissim Mor, once a contender for police commissioner, was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting a policewoman, as well as carrying on inappropriate relationships with other female subordinates. Earlier in the month, Judea and Samaria District Commander Kobi Cohen announced his resignation after admitting to an improper relationship with a subordinate officer.
Top anti-corruption police official Menashe Arviv resigned in 2014 amid allegations that he received thousands of dollars and other assistance from a rabbi accused of corruption. In September 2014, Central District chief Bruno Stein, resigned after he was spotted at a party thrown by Ronel Fisher, an Israeli attorney under investigation for allegedly bribing multiple police officials. Former Jerusalem district police chief Nissan “Niso” Shaham was dismissed in late 2013 over allegations of sexual harassment, breach of trust, fraud and indecent acts.
Young woman injured by Golan landmine
A young hiker is injured by a landmine explosion near Nahal Saar on the Golan Heights.
She is flown to the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Ynet reports.
The incident is under investigation.
Israeli injured by Golan mine is IDF officer
The Israeli woman hurt by a landmine on the Golan Heights is an officer in the IDF.
UK party comes out against kosher slaughter
Britain’s right-wing UKIP party has come out in support of passing legislation that would ban the production of ritually slaughtered meat.
The move by UKIP, or the United Kingdom Independence Party, came Tuesday in a statement sent to media, making UKIP the first major political party in the country to call for a ban on religious slaughter for halal and kosher meat.
“Animal and veterinary science has long concluded that cutting the throats of animals whilst they are fully conscious can cause significant distress and pain,” the statement reads. Stunning before slaughter must occur as it is “fully compatible with all world religions,” the text also said.
Jewish religious laws, or halacha, requires animals be conscious when they are slaughtered – a principle which is accepted by the major denominations of Judaism in certifying food as kosher. A similar requirement exists in Islam, though it is less strictly observed according to some accounts.
Many Jewish professional slaughterers and rabbis claim that kosher slaughter, or shehitah, is as quick, painless and compassionate as any other method used in Western commercial slaughterhouses.
Victims of Tuesday’s crash buried
The eight victims of Tuesday’s fatal crash are being laid to rest in the Negev Bedouin town of Hura.
Hundreds of mourners arrive, many of them expressing anger over the condition of the roads.
The victims, all Bedouin women returning from prayers in Jerusalem, are: Fatima Abu Alkian, Manwa Abu Alkian, Kafiya el-Usiwa, Issra el-Nabari, Hadra a-Lasid, Noura el-Atrash, Zana Abu Trech, Naama Abu Shachta.
Twenty-eight people were reported injured in the crash.
Group claims December Athens embassy attack
The anarchist People’s Fighter Group claims responsibility for the December drive-by shooting at Israel’s Embassy in Greece, Israel Radio reports.
The Greek group makes the announcement via a sign left near a garbage receptacle in Athens.
Days after the attack, Greek police said they suspected the group.
A gunman riding on the back of a motorcycle raked the embassy with at least 54 rounds from a Kalashnikov rifle, police said, as it passed the embassy, which sits on the corner of a busy road in the affluent northern suburbs of the Greek capital.
No one was injured in the attack.
Officer who stepped on mine undergoes surgery
The IDF officer who stepped on a landmine in the Golan Heights is operated on at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital. A doctor at the hospital, speaking to Channel 2, says the officer, in her 30s, was intubated and in serious condition during the procedure.
‘Islamic State frustrated by defeats’
Avi Issacharoff argues that the brutal murder of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz Kasasbeh means that the Islamic State “has suffered defeats in battle and is letting out its frustration in brutal and vicious acts that go beyond even its past depravities.”
The Kurdish victory in Kobani, allied airstrikes, and Shia advances in Iraq have taken their toll on the terrorist group, and its oil-based income has been drastically cut.
Read the full analysis here.
We found site of pilot’s murder – activists
Members of the anti-Islamic State activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently say they have pinpointed the location where the terrorist group burned a Jordanian pilot alive.
The activists used landmarks seen in the background of the slickly produced film showing the pilot’s death to determine that the gruesome crime was committed in the southern end of the city Raqqa, a few hundred meters north of the Euphrates River, the Daily Mail reports.
A tower in the background was an important clue to the location.
If confirmed, the information may help the anti-IS alliance better target the group.
Remand of Negev crash driver extended
The remand of the driver of the truck involved in Tuesday’s fatal crash on Route 31 is extended by three days.
The driver’s lawyer, Shai Gilad, tells Channel 2 that the extension is only to allow the police to finish their investigation, after which the driver will be released to house arrest for five days.
Gilad also says that the two police cruisers that accompanied the bus carrying the Bedouin women, eight of whom were killed, should also be investigated as possible contributors to the accident.
Pentagon nominee leans toward arming Ukraine
Speaking to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing, President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, says he’s inclined to back increased US assistance to Ukraine, including lethal arms, to fight anti-government rebels backed by neighboring Russia.
The White House is reconsidering its opposition to giving Ukraine defensive weapons and other lethal aid to help its struggling military repel the insurgents backed by Moscow. That would be a possible escalation that has been strongly supported by many members of Obama’s national security team, but it also would risk turning Ukraine into a proxy war with Russia.
Carter also says that Russia’s military moves in Ukraine are “a clear violation” of a 1994 commitment that Russia made to respect the sovereignty of the newly independent Ukraine as part of Ukraine’s agreement to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the former Soviet Union.
Nominated to be the fourth Pentagon chief of an Obama administration now in its 7th year, Carter faced questions about Iraq, Afghanistan, the Islamic State, the Guantanamo Bay military prison, Russia and other hot spots during his Senate appearance. His confirmation is widely expected, yet members of the committee used the heavily attended hearing to challenge and criticize Obama’s foreign policy decisions.
On Golan, PM blasts possible Iran deal
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon tour Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights, where the PM pans Iran for its actions in the region, and the international community for negotiating with Tehran while it supports terror.
“For some time, Iran has been trying to open a new front here against us,” says Netanyahu. “Instead of the leading players in the international community demanding that Iran stop the terror it is enacting in the region and in the entire world, they are running toward an agreement that will allow it to arm itself with a nuclear weapon.”
“This deal is very dangerous — dangerous for Israel, dangerous for the region and for the entire world, and we will oppose it strongly.”
He also sends his condolences to Jordan’s King Abdullah and the Jordanian people over the murder of a pilot at the hands of Islamic State.
PM’s residence caretaker: I have more dirt on Netanyahus
Meni Naftali, the prime minister’s residence caretaker who is suing the Netanyahus for his treatment at the hands of the prime minister’s wife, tells police that he has additional incriminating information on the couple, Israel Radio reports.
But Naftali refuses to give more details until police promise him immunity, to which they have not agreed.
Police say that without more information and a consultation with the attorney general, they cannot promise immunity.
House Dems lay into Dermer over speech
Israel’s ambassador to the United States gets an earful from a half-dozen House Democrats angered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Republican invitation to address Congress next month.
Ron Dermer meets privately with seven Jewish Democrats to discuss Netanyahu’s plans for a March 3 speech on Iran.
A senior congressional aide says the lawmakers complained about the escalating partisanship surrounding the speech.
House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation came with the Obama administration in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Boehner’s move has angered the White House and Democrats.
— Associated Press
Top cop not cooperating in harassment probe
The senior police commander suspected of sexually harassing female officers under his command is not cooperating fully with investigators, Channel 2 reports.
Additional complaints are expected to be filed against him.
He is the sixth senior police commander to be investigated for misconduct since 2013.
Diplomats face termination after anti-PM, -FM tweets
Israeli diplomats could be fired after they retweeted messages criticizing the prime minister, foreign minister, and economy minister, the news site NRG reports.
“It can’t be that employees who are supposed to be representing the country write such things about the prime minister and the ministers,” the Foreign Ministry says.
The Israeli envoy to Switzerland, the political adviser in New Delhi, and another employee are being recalled for a hearing before being fired.
Rivlin praises Martin Gilbert’s conservation of Jewish history
President Reuven Rivlin releases a statement on the death of historian Martin Gilbert: “I was saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Martin Gilbert. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his invaluable contribution to the documentation, and conservation of the history of the Jewish people. His comprehensive biography of Churchill did so much for our understanding of Churchill’s character, and of his pivotal role in the war against the Nazis. For me, especially having grown up in pre-state Jerusalem, I was fascinated to read in his book ‘Churchill and the Jews’, of Churchill’s commitment to the Zionist movement.”
Tunisian tennis player quits before facing Israeli
A Tunisian player retires from a match after winning the first set in a French tournament Wednesday, citing an injury that keeps him from facing an Israeli in the next round.
Malek Jaziri quits after winning the first set 6-3 against sixth-seeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in the first round of the Open Sud de France.
Tournament organizers say in an email to The Associated Press that Jaziri, who called for a trainer twice during the match, “suffered again from an elbow injury he picked up” at the Australian Open.
Had Jaziri beaten Istomin, he would have played Israel’s Dudi Sela in the next round.
The 65th-ranked Jaziri, who lost in the third round at the Australian Open, also withdrew from the doubles, where he would have faced an Israeli opponent. He and Spanish partner Marc Lopez had been set to play Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Cermak Frantisek of Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.
Both the ATP and the Tunisian tennis federation did not reply to emails and phone calls seeking comment.
In 2013, Tunisia’s tennis federation ordered Jaziri to withdraw from a match against Israeli opponent Amir Weintraub at a second-tier tournament in Uzbekistan. Jaziri had been scheduled to play Israel’s Amir Weintraub in the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger tournament in Tashkent. He withdrew before the match.
The ITF subsequently banned Tunisia from the 2014 Davis Cup, saying that the Tunisian federation was guilty of “interfering with international sporting practice.”
— Associated Press
Boko Haram kills dozens in Cameroon
Boko Haram fighters kill almost 70 civilians and six soldiers in an onslaught on the Cameroonian border town of Fotokol on Wednesday, a Cameroonian security source tells AFP.
“There are many (dead) civilians, nearly 70. The toll for the soldiers stands at six,” says the source in Fotokol, adding that there were also Boko Haram bodies “everywhere”.
The attack comes a day after Chad sent troops across the border to flush the jihadists out of the Nigerian town of Gamboru, which lies some 500 meters from Fotokol on the other side of a bridge.
9/11 plotter says Saudis helped al-Qaeda
The only Al-Qaeda plotter convicted over the 9/11 attacks tells American lawyers that members of the Saudi royal family donated millions to the terror group in the 1990s.
French citizen Zacarias Moussaoui, dubbed the “20th hijacker,” makes the revelations in court papers filed in a New York federal court by lawyers for victims of the attacks who accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting Al-Qaeda.
He says he created a digital database of Al-Qaeda donors, including members of the royal family such as former intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was Saudi ambassador to United States for 22 years until 2005.
Moussaoui says he met in Afghanistan an official from the Saudi embassy in Washington DC to discuss Al-Qaeda’s plots to attack the United States, and that he was supposed to meet the same man again in Washington for help on a plot to shoot down Air Force One.
He also claims there were direct dealings between senior Saudi officials and bin Laden, saying he traveled to Saudi Arabia twice to deliver handwritten letters between the Al-Qaeda mastermind and senior Saudis, including Prince Turki.
The Saudi embassy in Washington DC denies the allegations.