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Suspected terrorist caught in Nahariya after manhunt

Iran says it disabled Arak reactor, calls for sanctions removal; Justice minister says US ‘doesn’t have to worry about NGO bill’; stabber of French Jewish teacher was inspired by IS

  • Iran's heavy-water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran, on January 15, 2011. (AP/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)
    Iran's heavy-water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran, on January 15, 2011. (AP/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)
  • Security forces in the village of Arara, where fugitive gunman Nashat Milhem was shot dead on January 8, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
    Security forces in the village of Arara, where fugitive gunman Nashat Milhem was shot dead on January 8, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on Sunday, January 10, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on Sunday, January 10, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
  • A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)
    A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)
  • Lin Dror and Alon Marcus marry in a Reform Jewish wedding in front of the Knesset, March 18, 2013. (Flash90)
    Lin Dror and Alon Marcus marry in a Reform Jewish wedding in front of the Knesset, March 18, 2013. (Flash90)
  • Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
    Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

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

Israel won’t release Milhem’s body ‘until family agrees to funeral demands’

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says Israel will not release the body of terrorist Nashat Milhem until the family agrees to police demands that it ensure the funeral does not celebrate Milhem’s actions.

Milhem, an Israeli Arab from the northern town of Arara, opened fire on a Tel Aviv pub on January 1, killing two. He then escaped, killing a cab driver as he made his way back to his hometown, where he hid from authorities until last Friday, when he was killed in a shootout with police.

“When the family complies with the demands of the Israel Police, which are intended to ensure that the terrorist’s funeral does not turn into a rally in support of terror and incitement to further attacks — the body will be release,” Erdan says in a statement today.

“If that doesn’t happen,” he adds, “the release will be delayed until we can be sure these conditions are met.”

Zionist Union takes natural gas framework to court – again

The Zionist Union party is appealing to the High Court of Justice today against the natural gas deal.

This is the fourth appeal against the deal. It urges the court to throw out the controversial framework, saying its legality is tenuous as it establishes a de facto duopoly in the nation’s strategic gas supply, and was passed through problematic constitutional procedures, including the resignation of Economy Minister Aryeh Deri in order to allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to become the acting economy minister and gain the power to override antitrust rules in order to ensure the deal’s passage.

The appeal is led by Knesset Economics Committee Chairman MK Eitan Cabel, Labor Party no. 2 MK Shelly Yachimovich and noted economist (and former Netanyahu economic adviser, now opposition lawmaker) MK Manuel Trajtenberg.

It is also joined by Zionist Union’s Economics Committee members: MKs Yossi Yonah, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin and Yael Cohen-Paran.

The court has set the first hearing in the case for early February.

High Court won’t stop Deri’s appointment to interior minister

The High Court of Justice declined on Monday to give a staying order against the appointment of incoming Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

The Movement for Quality Government appealed against Deri’s appointment to the post, noting that he last left the position in 1993 over bribery charges. He served 22 months in prison after losing his last appeal in the case in 2000.

While the court has yet to fully debate the appeal, Justice Noam Solberg said in rejecting the staying order that “this is not an irreversible” appointment, and so there was no justification for the delay.

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist said in critical condition

The condition of a Palestinian journalist on a 48-day hunger strike in an Israeli jail is deteriorating, the man’s wife and a Palestinian official say Monday.

Mohammed al-Qeq is protesting his six-month detention without trial or charge, under a measure called administrative detention that allows the detention of terror suspects. Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Al-Qeq is in critical condition after 48 days on hunger strike and his life is at risk,” says Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs.

Al-Qeq is being monitored in an Israeli hospital, according to Israel’s prison service, which would not comment on his condition. His wife, Faihaa al-Qeq, says Israel “accused him of incitement.”

Al-Qeq, 33, works as a correspondent for the Saudi channel Al-Majd and also appears as an analyst on channels linked to the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel has arrested him in the past for his activities with Hamas’s student organization. He was arrested Nov. 21.

Palestinian prisoners have used hunger strikes before to draw attention to their detention without trial or charges. Al-Qeq is the first journalist to do so.

– AP

Aid convoys head toward 3 besieged Syria villages

Aid convoys are heading to besieged villages in northern Syria and near the Lebanese border on Monday, Syria’s official news agency and humanitarian groups say, as residents gather in the streets for desperately needed food and medicine.

SANA says the deliveries are headed toward the adjacent Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya in Idlib province, under siege by rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad, as well as toward Madaya, which is blockaded by government troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group.

The aid operation was agreed on last week. Activists report several deaths from starvation over the past weeks in the affected areas, and images of starvation have been circulated across social media.

The United Nations and Red Cross also report that the convoys are on their way, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the aid is expected to reach the towns in the coming hours.

— AP

EU foreign policy chief says Iran sanctions to end soon

The European Union foreign policy chief says she expects the economic sanctions against Iran to be lifted soon.

Iran and world powers led by the US agreed to a nuclear deal to limit Tehran’s enrichment of uranium in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

Speaking to reporters in Prague Monday, Federica Mogherini says there was no date set yet but that “the implementation of the agreement is proceeding well.”

Mogherini says it is necessary that all steps agreed have to be “properly done,” including the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But after consulting recently the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States she believes “things are going well” and the sanctions might be lifted “rather soon.”

— AP

France demands halt to bombings of Syrian civilians

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calls on the Syrian regime Monday to end the siege of rebel-held Madaya and says a halt to air strikes by the regime and its Russian ally is an “absolute necessity.”

It is an “absolute necessity for Syria and Russia to stop their military operations against civilian populations, and in particular that the ordeal facing Madaya and all the besieged Syrian villages come to an end,” Fabius tells journalists during his New Year’s greeting.


EU tells Turkey migrant flows ‘still way too high’

The number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to EU member Greece is still “way too high” despite a November deal with Ankara aiming to limit the flow, the EU’s first vice president says today.

“The numbers are still way too high in Greece, between 2,000-3,000 people (arriving) every day. We cannot be satisfied at this stage,” Frans Timmermans tells reporters after talks with Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir in Ankara.

Under an action plan agreed in November, EU leaders pledged three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid for the more than 2.2 million Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey, in exchange for Ankara acting to reduce the flow.

File: Migrants and refugees arrive on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, on October 14, 2015. (AFP Photo/Dimitar Dilkoff)

File: Migrants and refugees arrive on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, on October 14, 2015. (AFP Photo/Dimitar Dilkoff)


666,000 Israelis can’t legally marry in Israel – report

A Knesset caucus on religion and state receives startling figures on the growing divide between Israelis and their state rabbinic institutions.

According to Hiddush, an advocacy group that presented a report on the subject to the Knesset Nation, Religion and State Caucus today, 666,000 Israelis are unable to marry at all under Israeli law. These are Israelis who do not fit any state-recognized religious categories — Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Druze, etc. — for which the state offers a publicly-funded religious court system.

Israel has no civil marriage.

This reality leads some 20 percent of Israeli couples to register their marriages abroad, Hiddush says.

The group quotes a survey that found some 70% of secular Israelis would choose to marry outside the Orthodox state rabbinate if they were legally allowed to do so.

“The rabbinate’s monopoly not only fails to contribute to preserving Judaism; it is a cause for the public’s hatred of Judaism, identifying [the religion] with dark zealotry,” Hiddush head Rabbi Uri Regev says.

The figures are based on Central Bureau of Statistics numbers, a poll conducted by pollster Mina Tzemach for a religion-and-state advocacy group, and public opinion research by Smith Consulting, Hiddush says.

Iran sacks security official over Saudi embassy attack

Iran sacks a senior security official over his failure to stop the ransacking of Saudi Arabia’s embassy, which led the Sunni-ruled kingdom to sever diplomatic relations.

Safar Ali Baratlou’s replacement as security deputy to Tehran’s governor general was already under review, but the interior ministry says “a blind eye could not be turned” to what happened at the embassy.

The mission and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, were attacked and torched on January 2 in anger over Riyadh’s execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent cleric from the kingdom’s Shiite minority.

“After initial investigations, failures… were confirmed” in connection with the “assault on the Saudi embassy,” the ministry says, as quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

“Because of the importance of the matter, the interior ministry cannot overlook the smallest failures and factors that led to this incident,” the statement adds of the attack and Baratlou’s dismissal.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the incidents, deepening the crisis over the execution.


Likud’s early primary approved; Netanyahu to run alone

The Likud’s elections committee approves the February 23 date requested by party leader Benjamin Netanyahu for the party’s primary race.

Netanyahu moved up the date in order to head off the candidacy of popular opponents waiting in the wings to challenge him, including former party number-two Gideon Saar.

The new date means no serious candidate will be able to register in time to challenge Netanyahu. Some 100,000 eligible Likud primary voters will thus have the choice of two tickets: one in support of Netanyahu, and one empty white ticket signifying an abstention.

Palestinian prisoners riot in Beersheba prison

Several Palestinian security prisoners riot in Beersheba’s Eshel Prison.

The prisoners break a glass panel separating them from visitors during visiting hours.

Officials say they have regained control of the situation. No one was hurt in the incident.

The prisoners are being placed in solitary confinement, and the Prisons Service is launching an investigation into the riot.

There is no immediate information on the cause of the riot.

Justice minister opposes rent control legislation

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked says today she opposes legislation that would impose rent controls in Israel’s housing market.

The bills being advanced by Zionist Union and Kulanu MKs would set up a rental registry that would enable the government to enforce rent prices.

But the bills would be “more a curse than a blessing,” Shaked says at a press conference today.

The added layer of bureaucracy proposed by lawmakers Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu) would only further stifle an already choked housing market, she argues. “European countries have seen that these sorts of controls actually lead to higher rents,” she said.

Israeli man forces emergency plane landing in Canada

A 35-year-old Israeli man is facing charges after an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna to New York had to divert to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The man faces several charges, including causing a disturbance and uttering threats.

Police say they were called to the St. John’s International Airport after the plane landed Sunday.

The passenger was removed from the plane and taken to a hospital to be seen by a doctor.

— AP

Russia has begun directly arming Hezbollah – report

Hezbollah is now receiving weapons directly from Russia as coordination between the Russian military and the Shiite terror group grows closer in the Syrian civil war.

The Daily Beast has the story:

Lebanese Hezbollah field commanders with troops fighting in Syria tell The Daily Beast they are receiving heavy weapons directly from Russia with no strings attached. The commanders say there is a relationship of complete coordination between the Assad regime in Damascus, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia. At the same time they say the direct interdependence between Russia and Hezbollah is increasing.

“We are strategic allies in the Middle East right now — the Russians are our allies and give us weapons,” said one of the Hezbollah officers who chose to call himself Commander Bakr. He is in charge of five units in Syria, around 200 troops.

Bakr said that Russia has been increasing its support for his armed movement since 2012. Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov met with Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut in 2014 to discuss regional developments. Last November, Bogdanov issued a statement making clear that Russia does not consider the organization a terrorist group.

Al-Qaeda threatens Saudis, US over executions

The expert bomb-maker from al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch threatens Saudi Arabia and the United States, vowing revenge for the Saudi execution of several militants earlier this month.

Ibrahim bin Hassan al-Asiri says in an audio recording released Monday by the group’s official media that the militants were executed because they fought “Crusaders” occupying the Arabian Peninsula. He vows to continue battling America and says the Saudis will be dealt with in a “different way,” without elaborating.

Al-Asiri is believed to have built the sophisticated bombs used in a failed attempt to bring down a US passenger plane and a failed assassination attempt on Saudi Arabia’s then-deputy interior minister in 2009.

Saudi Arabia executed 47 people earlier this month, including several al-Qaeda operatives, in its largest mass execution since 1980.

— AP

Liberman: Release Milhem’s body so we can see how much support he has

Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman urges the Tel Aviv gunman Nashat Milhem’s body be returned to his family.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said earlier today that the body would be returned only when the family agrees to hold a quiet funeral that does not serve to “incite further terror attacks.”

But at a Knesset faction meeting today, Liberman, a former foreign minister, criticizes the decision, saying it was important to show that Milhem enjoyed support in his hometown of Arara, something residents of the Arab town have denied since Milhem’s January 1 killing rampage in Tel Aviv.

“We can’t be afraid all the time. I call on the public security minister to release the body, and let them all come [to the funeral] so we can photograph [Milhem’s supporters] one by one. When they tell us stories about him being a lone wolf who has no support, we will see that this simply isn’t true — we know that there are a number of accomplices who helped him and others who were silent and didn’t turn him in, dozens if not hundreds in the village who knew that he was there,” Liberman claims.

Police finally found Milhem hiding out in Arara last Friday. Milhem opened fire on police forces who tried to arrest him. He was killed when police returned fire.

Western sanctions ‘severely’ harming Russia: Putin

President Vladimir Putin acknowledges Monday in an interview with German daily Bild that Western economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis are affecting Russia.

“Concerning our possibilities on the international financial markets, the sanctions are severely harming Russia,” he says in a long interview, calling the EU sanctions “a theater of the absurd.”

Moscow has been hit by US and European sanctions over the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces which has claimed more than 9,000 lives since April 2014.

In late December, the EU extended its sanctions by six months, arguing that the Minsk peace agreement signed by Moscow has not been fully implemented.

Putin says, however, that “the biggest harm is currently caused by the decline of the prices for energy,” according to an English-language transcript published by Bild online.


Netanyahu mocks claims he was responsible for B’Tselem electrical fire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mocks today those who rushed to blame him for last night’s fire at B’Tselem’s offices in Jerusalem.

At a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset today, he lists recent successes in the security forces’ fight against the wave of Palestinian terror attacks, then turns his attention to his opponents.

“And I look at the opposition,” he begins. “What does the opposition do at a time like this, while we are in the throes of a war against terror? They put out an ad campaign. They’re determined to chatter. That’s what they do. Chatter.”

He continues: “Sometimes it reaches comic proportions. For example, yesterday there was a fire unfortunately in the offices of B’Tselem in Jerusalem. Our opponents rushed to condemn, even before the flames were extinguished. Before the fire investigators even arrived at the scene, left-wing MKs and NGO heads charged that I and the national camp were directly responsible for the fire.

He then offered quotes from left-wing activists and lawmakers.

“This is what Peace Now CEO Yariv Oppenheimer said yesterday: ‘The arson in B’Tselem’s offices was an attempted terror attack that only by a miracle did not lead to the loss of human life, and those responsible for it were government ministers led by Benjamin Netanyahu.’

MK Zehava Galon added: “Netanyahu is the ‘baron’ of incitement, hate and fire.”

And head of the Joint (Arab) List, MK Ayman Odeh said that: “The source of the fire started tonight in the offices of B’Tselem is the government and its leader.”

“Well, I don’t know if there was arson involved,” the prime minister said. “All signs point to an electrical short, but maybe they will still blame me for the short. I won’t be surprised.”

Lawmaker defends rent bill after justice minister lambasts ‘rent controls’

Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir defends her rent control plan today after it drew criticism from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked earlier in the day.

“Minister Shaked is detached from the reality of the Israeli rent market,” Shaffir says in a statement, adding that the justice minister “lacks expertise in international legislation on the subject.”

Shaked said earlier today she opposes bills proposed by Shaffir and MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu) that would impose “rent controls” in Israel’s housing market, explaining that the bills required creating a rental registry for enforcement that would only further stifle an already choked housing market.

But according to Shaffir, “MK Folkman and I have already reached agreements with the finance and justice ministries” on a mechanism “that doesn’t require [additional government] oversight, but offers incentives to apartment owners to offer fair rental contracts in exchange for [lower] capital gains taxes on real estate.”

Shaked, she says, “is repeating slogans, and in her rejectionism is neglecting two million renters in Israel who lack even the slightest protection of the state.”

Shaffir argues that “the housing rental market in Israel is not free,” noting the difficulty inherent in moving out of an apartment as rent prices rise, especially for parents of schoolchildren.

Seven Arara residents in custody over alleged aid to TA gunman

Seven residents of the northern Arab town of Arara remain in police custody on suspicion of aiding Tel Aviv gunman Nashat Milhem, Channel 2 says.

Two are in court today as police ask to extend their remand. One saw his detention extended by nine days, the second by four days.

Milhem evaded a manhunt by police and Shin Bet forces for several days following his January 1 rampage in Tel Aviv in which he killed three. He died in a gunbattle with police in Arara last Friday.

Aid convoys reach outskirts of 3 besieged Syria villages

Aid convoys arrive at the outskirts of a besieged rebel-held town near the Lebanese border on Monday with enough supplies to last for a month, as another convoy heads to two besieged villages in northern Syria — part of a large-scale UN-supported aid operation in the war-ravaged country, Syria’s official news agency and aid groups say.

A group of residents gather at the main entrance to Madaya, hoping to receive desperately needed food and medicine. The town, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) northwest of Damascus, has been blockaded for months by government troops and Hezbollah. Opposition activists and aid groups have reported several deaths from starvation in recent weeks.

The UN-supported aid operation was agreed on last week and appears to be proceeding Monday. Syria’s Red Crescent President Abdul Rahman Attar says the convoy reached the outskirts of Madaya shortly after midday, according to a statement posted on the organization’s Twitter account.

A similar convoy reaches the outskirts of the Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya in Idlib province, both under siege by rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.

— AP

Qatar bans sex change film ‘The Danish Girl’

Qatar has banned “The Danish Girl” movie — about an artist who undergoes one of the world’s first sex changes and which stars Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne — from cinemas, officials announce Monday.

The move follows protests online about the “depravity” of the film, which had begun screening at some cinemas in Doha this month.

“We would like to inform you that we have contacted the concerned administration and the screening of the Danish film is now banned from cinemas,” the culture ministry writes on Twitter.

“We thank you for your unwavering vigilance.”

The film, which is loosely based on the lives of two Danish painters in the 1920s, was first screened in Qatar last Thursday.


Turkish TV show probed for pro-Kurdish propaganda

Turkish prosecutors launch an investigation into a popular television show after a caller criticizes military operations against Kurdish rebels, as Turkey continues to crack down on dissenting voices.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reports today that Istanbul prosecutors are investigating Kanal D television producers and the show’s presenter, Beyazit Ozturk, for alleged “terrorist propaganda.”

On Friday, a teacher from the mainly-Kurdish Diyarbakir city called the show, and urged Turks to speak up against the operations, saying children were being caught in the middle. Ozturk then asked the audience to applaud her words during the live broadcast.

A Turkish human rights group says up to 162 civilians, including 32 children, have been killed since August in the increased fighting between the security forces and the Kurdish rebels.

— AP

US ٍSupreme Court won’t hear appeal over anti-Palestinian ad

The US Supreme Court rejects an appeal from an anti-Muslim group that wants to put ads on Boston-area mass transit that authorities rejected as inflammatory.

The justices on Monday let stand court rulings that upheld rejection of the ads by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The agency says ads from the American Freedom Defense Initiative using the word “savage” to describe Palestinians and Muslims were “demeaning or disparaging.”

The group, which bills itself as pro-Israel, claims the rejection violates its right to free speech and shows a double standard on the part of the transit agency because it allowed a pro-Palestinian group to run a subway ad.

The ads in question described the conflict as between “civilized man and the savage.” The MBTA accepted a different version that was critical of people engaged in “savage acts.”

— Agencies

Police arrest unnamed left-wing activist at Ben Gurion Airport

Police say they have arrested a left-wing activist at Ben Gurion International Airport who was trying to leave the country.

The man is being held on suspicion of conspiring to commit a crime.

Police would not identify the suspect, nor say whether the arrest is linked to the weekend exposé by the Uvda investigative news program about far-left activist Ezra Nawi, who was shown on video saying he had helped Palestinian security forces identify Palestinians who sold land to Jews. Nawi acknowledged in the video that this was likely to lead to the sellers’ torture and death.

The suspect was taken for questioning by the Judea and Samaria Police, the branch of the Israel Police that operates in the West Bank.

— Judah Ari Gross

Jordan says 16,000 Syrian refugees stranded on border

Jordan says some 16,000 Syrian refugees are stranded on its border, up from 12,000 a week ago.

Government spokesman Mohammed Momani says the refugees at the remote desert camp are being “carefully monitored” by authorities and have received tents, heaters, food and medicine from UN and other aid organizations. He says there are clinics in the camp supported by international agencies and the Jordanian military.

Many of the refugees have spent weeks or months in what aid agencies say are deteriorating humanitarian conditions. In December, the UN refugee agency urged Jordan to allow the refugees to enter.

Momani says about 50 to 100 are permitted entry each day, with priority given to women, children, the elderly and sick people, but that “security is the first priority.”

— AP

Gunmen attack Baghdad mall, killing 10 and taking hostages

Iraqi officials say gunmen have stormed a mall in a mainly Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and taking hostages.

Police and medical officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, say the gunmen set off a car bomb at the entrance to the mall on Monday before moving in. The officials say another 25 people were wounded in the attack and that three police are among the dead.

The officials estimated that 50-75 people are trapped in the mall.

No one is immediately claiming responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State group often targets the country’s Shiite majority.

— AP

Stabber of French Jewish teacher was inspired by IS

A Turkish teenager who stabbed a Jewish teacher with a machete on Monday in the southern French city of Marseille tells police he was attacking in the name of the Islamic State group, a prosecutor says.

The attack, which left the 35-year-old teacher with an injured shoulder and hand, occurred in broad daylight in the south of the city, prosecutor Brice Robin says.

The 15-year-old ethnic Kurd rushed the victim from behind and stabbed him in the shoulder, then chased after him for a few yards until he fell, Robin says.

The victim fended off the assailant using his arms and legs, as well as his “holy book,” which was damaged in the scuffle, the prosecutor says.

The suspect “has the profile of someone who was radicalized on the Internet,” Robin tells a press briefing.


Pakistanis, Syrian attacked in Cologne amid tensions

A string of attacks on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve blamed largely on foreigners was “intolerable,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says Monday, but “nothing excuses” retaliatory assaults on immigrants.

Merkel has proposed making it easier to deport immigrants involved in crimes, and her spokesman Steffen Seibert emphasizes the government is looking into both “possible consequences for criminal law (and) possible political consequences for the intolerable crimes.”

But after Cologne police said a group of Pakistanis and a Syrian were attacked in the city on Sunday, Seibert says Germans must not blame all the nearly 1.1 million migrants who entered the country last year, and says the government is also focused on their welfare.

The six Pakistani nationals were attacked Sunday by around 20 people and two of them were briefly admitted to a hospital, police said. Also Sunday evening, five people attacked a Syrian man, who was injured but didn’t need treatment.


Justice minister says US ‘doesn’t have to worry about NGO bill’

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked says the US government “doesn’t have to worry” about the NGO bill she is advancing.

“I find it very strange that foreign governments are sending their long arms into an internal [Israeli] legislative process,” she says in response to news reports that the EU is funding lobbying efforts against the bill and after meeting with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro earlier today.

“I was happy to meet with the American ambassador, and I came away believing that their concern is genuine. But they don’t have to worry. Israel is a strong and lively democracy, one that doesn’t need the intervention of other states in internal legislation.”

She adds: “The US does not have to worry. Our door is open to dialogue.”

Swedish police accused of covering up sex crimes by Muslim migrants

Swedish police face allegations of a cover-up Monday for failing to inform the public of widespread sexual assaults against teenage girls at a music festival last summer by purported “young men who are not from Sweden” — an apparent euphemism for migrants from the Muslim world.

Police hadn’t mentioned the August incidents at the “We are Sthlm” festival until newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported on them this weekend following a string of sexual assaults and robberies on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany.

Stockholm police spokesman Varg Gyllander confirms to The Associated Press on Monday there was “a large number” of sexual assaults during the five-day festival and that scores of suspects were detained.

He says police should have reported on the incidents at the time “given the nature of the crime.” He denies suggestions in the newspaper report that police kept quiet because the suspects were foreigners.

“We probably should have communicated this,” Gyllander tells the AP. “But we wouldn’t have discussed ethnicity at all.”

Police in Germany have been criticized for not immediately reporting the incidents in Cologne, where authorities and witnesses later described the attackers as predominantly Arab and North African men.

Gyllander couldn’t confirm the ethnicity of the alleged attackers in Stockholm but said “this involves young men who are not from Sweden.”

Roger Ticoalu, who heads the city government’s events department, tells the AP that a “large part” of those detained were from Afghanistan, many carrying temporary ID cards issued to asylum seekers.

— Agencies

Knesset votes 54-43 to approve Aryeh Deri as interior minister

Shas party chairman MK Aryeh Deri won the Knesset’s approval moments ago to be appointed Israel’s next interior minister.

The Knesset plenum votes 54 to 43 to approve the government’s request to allow the appointment, hours after the High Court of Justice rejects a petition asking to stay the appointment while appeals are filed against it.

Deri left the post of interior minister in 1993 under a cloud of corruption allegations. He was later convicted of bribery, and lost his final appeal in 2000, beginning a 22-month prison term.

His appointment is being challenged in the High Court by the Movement for Quality Government.

Iran says it disabled the Arak reactor, calls for removal of sanctions

An Iranian state media outlet is saying that Iran has filled the core of the Arak heavy water reactor with cement, a key demand of the nuclear deal signed last July with six world powers.

“Iran has taken out the heart of its Heavy Water Reactor in Arak in full compliance with its nuclear deal with the world powers that will now require the sextet to initiate action to remove all sanctions against Tehran, an informed source told FNA [the Fars News Agency] on Monday,” the agency reports.

The IAEA will have to confirm Iran has taken the step.

Fars quotes an Iranian source saying, “Following the IAEA approval, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini will issue a joint statement to declare that Iran has met its end of the bargain…. And then it will be the six world powers’ turn to comply with their undertaking and remove the sanctions.”

Corbyn appoints pro-Israel MP to Labour foreign policy post

The Jewish Chronicle in London reports on the surprising appointment of a pro-Israel shadow foreign minister within the shadow cabinet of the decidedly less Israel-friendly leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

MP Fabian Hamilton is not unaware of the tensions, he makes clear in an interview with the Chronicle:

One of Labour’s new shadow foreign ministers has said he believes he can work under Jeremy Corbyn despite their differences of opinion on Israel.

Fabian Hamilton, a vocal critic of the party’s approach to the issue of Palestinian statehood during Ed Miliband’s leadership, said he knew there would be “difficult bridges to cross” in his work alongside Mr Corbyn.

Mr Hamilton said: “I know what the Jewish community thinks about Jeremy’s leadership and I’m well aware of Jeremy’s views, but the Labour Party is more than one person.

“I did point out my own particular views that are very different to Jeremy’s on the Middle East and I was told ‘that’s fine, he’s perfectly happy with that.’”

French president calls for humanitarian action in Syria

French President Francois Hollande calls for the immediate implementation of humanitarian measures in Syria in order to build the conditions of a “credible ceasefire” two weeks before a new round of peace talks expected to take place in Geneva.

Hollande says in a statement that humanitarian aid should reach besieged areas, especially the rebel-held town of Madaya.

The French president meets Monday with Riad Hijab, coordinator of the opposition team that will negotiate with the Syrian government.

Syrian President Bashar Assad “can’t have a role” in Syria’s future, Hollande says.

— AP

Hundreds march in support of Israel in Warsaw

Several hundred people participate in a march of support for Israel in Warsaw.

Sunday’s march is organized by Christian organizations operating in Poland. It is also attended by Polish Jews. The marchers carry Israeli and Polish national flags, and sing and dance as they march, the website reported.

“I’ve never seen such a large demonstration of support for Israel,” says Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, during remarks thanking the march’s participants.

The premise of the march is to support Israel in the face of a third intifada. The march reportedly is peaceful and calm, even though a small group of representatives of the National Rebirth of Polish try to disrupt it, waving flags of the Palestinian Authority.


Police roadblocks deployed on coastal roads, no reason given

Police have set up roadblocks on highways along the Mediterranean coast in the Nahariya area due to a “security deployment.”

There is no word on the nature of the threat.

— Judah Ari Gross

Manhunt in Nahariya for possible terrorist

Police deploy checkpoints and begin checking cars in the northern coastal city of Nahariya as a manhunt gets underway for a possible terrorist.

A young woman, resident of the northern Arab town of Taibe, is believed to have expressed a desire to carry out a terror attack, and is headed to the Nahariya area, say police.

Cars and buses are being systematically searched in the city.

Three guards pelted with stones in E. Jerusalem

Three Israeli security guards are injured when they are pelted with stones after intervening in an apparent street brawl between two Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.

The guards were protecting a Christian site in the city, according to the NRG news site.

They are hospitalized with light wounds at the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Suspected terrorist caught in Nahariya after manhunt

A suspected terrorist has been caught in the northern city of Nahariya, bringing to an end a tense manhunt along the country’s northern coast.

The suspect, a young woman from the northern town of Taibe, is caught by police who are looking for her on Trumpeldor Street.

Sappers are examining the woman for possible explosives after she reportedly said she wanted to carry out a terror attack in the city.

The roadblocks in the area are being taken down. Police are saying that residents can return to their routine.

Photo of police apprehending Nahariya terror suspect

Channel 2 shows footage of police apprehending the young Arab woman in Nahariya suspected of traveling to the city this evening in the hopes of carrying out a terror attack.

Police apprehending a terror suspect in Nahariya on January 11, 2016 (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Police apprehending a terror suspect in Nahariya on January 11, 2016 (Screen capture: Channel 2)

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