The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
A man and child are rescued after their vehicle was trapped by flooding from the Kana Stream in the West Bank.
Rescue forces managed to extract the man, aged 20, and the 11-year-old boy who was with him.
The two are treated for mild hypothermia by emergency services on the scene.
Police say two people are trapped after their car was swept away in the Kana Stream in the West Bank.
Rescue forces are on the scene and working to rescue the driver and passenger.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai responds to the freeing of the hostages from a Texas synagogue, saying the attack shows the need for “adequate protection” for Jewish communities around the world.
“The freeing of the hostages in Texas is a blessed relief and Israel is grateful to the security services and the governor for the successful operation. This incident demonstrates again the dangers Diaspora Jewish communities can face and the need to provide them with adequate protection,” Shai tweets.
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) thanks law enforcement for their work to rescue the hostages at Congregation Beth Israel in the Texan city of Colleyville — a synagogue in the Reform stream of Judaism.
“We are relieved to learn the hostages are free and safe. The day began in prayer for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and his congregation and now it has ended with prayers of gratitude to God and to all who helped liberate the hostages,” the statement reads.
“We extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to law enforcement for their work to free the hostages and ensure they will be returning home to their families,” the organization says.
The URJ highlights the interfaith work done by its communities.
“Thank you to everyone who has stood in support and solidarity with the Jewish community on this difficult day, including our wonderful interfaith partners. Our diversity makes us strong and can keep us safe. Now, we must work together to protect our communities and simultaneously heed God’s call to build a world of safety, equity, and love.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomes the release of the hostages from the Texas synagogue and says Israel stands with Jews around the world in the fight against antisemitism.
“Relieved and thankful that the hostages of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas have been rescued. I commend the law enforcement agencies and teams on the ground who responded swiftly & courageously to ensure the safety of the hostages,” the premier tweets.
“This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide. To the Jewish community in Colleyville and around the world: You are not alone – we stand united with you,” Bennett says.
COLLEYVILLE, Texas — Footage from ABC’s Dallas affiliate shows at least two of the hostages running out of Congregation Beth Israel after the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team breached the building at around 9 p.m.
One of the four hostages was released earlier in the day. All made it out physically unharmed.
— LockharTVMedia (@LockharTVMedia) January 16, 2022
COLLEYVILLE, Texas — The now deceased gunman who took four worshipers hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas “was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community,” an FBI representative tells reporters at the scene.
Matthew Desarno, the special agent in charge of FBI Dallas says the suspect’s demands were “specifically focused on one issue,” without elaborating.
On a livestream of the first several hours of the hostage situation that was broadcast on Facebook Live, the suspect could be heard referencing Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national known as the “Lady al-Qaeda.”
Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 by a New York City federal court of attempting to kill US military personnel. She is currently serving an 86-year sentence at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, some 15 miles southwest of Colleyville.
ABC, citing a source at the scene, said the suspect was demanding Siddiqui’s release.
COLLEYVILLE, Texas — Colleyville Police Chief Mike Miller tells reporters that the gunman who took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel is now “deceased.”
The hostages were all freed unharmed after roughly ten hours.
Miller declines to elaborate as to whether the suspect was killed by the SWAT team that entered the synagogue at the end of the crisis or whether he took his own life.
FBI special agent Matthew Desarno tells reporters that the law enforcement has determined the identity of the suspect but is not prepared to divulge it at this time.
“We will conduct an independent investigation,” he adds.
Aafia Siddiqui, a security prisoner named by the man who took four Jews captive at a Texas synagogue, had a history of antisemitism and blamed Israel for her imprisonment.
A US court convicted her of trying to kill American service members in 20210.
After her conviction, she said, “This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America. That’s where the anger belongs.”
During her trial, she told her judge she didn’t want Jews in the jury “if they have a Zionist or Israeli background.”
“I have a feeling everyone here is them, subject to genetic testing,” she said.
Congregation Beth Shalom is still an active crime scene, after all the hostages escaped and the captor died, police say.
Bomb technicians are clearing the site, CNN reports, and people who live nearby who were evacuated are still barred from returning to their homes.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, says after the Texas hostage crisis that US leaders must take a stand against antisemitism.
“This horrific incident reminds us that US leaders must act today. Disaster awaits if serious action is not taken against antisemitism,” Erdan says.
US President Joe Biden releases a statement following the end of a hostage crisis at a synagogue in Texas.
“Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.
“There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate—we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.”
COLLEYVILLE, Texas — After the hostage situation concluded with the release of all four people who were held at Congregation Beth Israel, a representative for the FBI says there is no ongoing threat.
“I do not have any information right now that indicates that this is part of any kind of ongoing threat,” says Matthew Desarno, the special agent in charge of FBI Dallas during a briefing with reporters at a press staging area a quarter of a mile from the synagogue.
“We obviously are investigating, and will continue to investigate,” he says, noting that the area remains an active crime scene.
Over 200 law enforcement officers were involved in the hostage situation throughout the day, including a special hostage rescue team of 60 to 70 members who flew in from Washington, DC.
The hostage rescue team breached the synagogue at around 9 p.m., Colleyville Police Chief Mike Miller says.
All of the hostages were adults, he adds.
Area residents who were evacuated from the neighborhood are still not allowed to return home, since the area is an active crime scene, a police representative told The Times of Israel.
The Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions across the US, says there are no known threats to US Jewish communities, following the end to a hostage crisis at a Texas synagogue.
“There is no information to suggest there is a broader threat to the Jewish community at this time as it relates to this incident. SCN will continue to monitor the situation and provide any updates as necessary,” the group says.
The man who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue is dead, according to a local reporter.
Matt Leclercq, an editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says “The hostage-taker at Colleyville Beth Israel synagogue is dead.”
The hostage-taker at Colleyville Beth Israel synagogue is dead.
— Matt Leclercq (@Matt_Leclercq) January 16, 2022
A law enforcement official later confirms the death to The Associated Press.
His death apparently came during a rescue operation.
Reporters at the scene heard loud bangs and were told law enforcement had cut power to the synagogue.
Shortly after, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that all hostages had been released “alive and safe.”
All of the hostages at the Texas synagogue have been released.
“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” says Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
All hostages are out alive and safe.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 16, 2022
Local police confirm the rescue, saying, “The SWAT situation in Colleyville is resolved and all hostages are safe.”
Details of the rescue are not immediately clear.
Reporters from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the scene of the synagogue hostage crisis report hearing loud, explosive sounds. The source of the sounds is unclear.
Reporter James Hartley says, “Hearing what sounds like gunshots and a much louder bang, possibly a flash grenade. Heard the loud bang followed by two fast pops.”
Hearing what sounds like gunshots and a much louder bang, possibly a flash grenade
— James Hartley ☀️ (@ByJamesHartley) January 16, 2022
Jessika Harkay, also of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, says, “We just heard a huge ‘BOOM.’ Unsure what the source of it was, or what it’s connection is to the situation.”
We just heard a huge “BOOM.” Unsure what the source of it was, or what it’s connection is to the situation.
— Jessika Harkay (@JessikaHarkay) January 16, 2022
Jamie Landers of Dallas Morning News says “Just told to hit the ground. Either a bomb or shots fired just now. Trying our best to get information.”
She says she was told officials cut power to the synagogue.
Just told to hit the ground. Either a bomb or shots fired just now. Trying our best to get information. https://t.co/UUE3EIj3PH
— Jamie Landers (@jamielandersx) January 16, 2022
Congregation Beth Israel Charlie Cytron-Walker is believed to be among the hostages at his synagogue in in Colleyville, Texas where the crisis enters its tenth hour.
Anna Salton Eisen, a founder and former president of the synagogue says Cytron-Walker has worked hard to build interfaith relationships in the community, including doing pulpit swaps and participating in a community peace walk. She described Saturday’s events as “surreal.”
“This is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. You know, it’s a small town and it’s a small congregation,” Eisen says. “No matter how it turns out it’s hard to fathom how we will all be changed by this, because surely we will be.”
Cytron-Walker was with the community three and a half years ago during the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh.
The following are remarks he gave at a community vigil hosted at Beth Israel the day after the shooting.
“When I heard about the deadly attack in the middle of our Sabbath service, the feeling was all too familiar. The emptiness and the pain, the anger and the helplessness. I have mourned the loss of Sikhs and Muslims, Baha’is and Christians. I’ve mourned for children and dancers and concert goers, black men, women and children, police officers, and first responders. I’ve mourned the loss of people of every background killed in senseless and needless violence based on prejudice and ignorance and hatred. I’ve mourned for so many Jews, including the eleven worlds destroyed on Saturday morning. I’m not alone. We all have mourned. We all are mourning.”
“As we mourn – we look around tonight at a truly diverse and overwhelming number of our neighbors who have come together (approx. 400 people, with over 25 community leaders beside me). All the love and support matters. The flowers and notes and texts and emails and calls – your presence – they all help us feel like we are not so alone. Too many times in Jewish history we faced tragedy without love or support. Too many times to count, we were left to pick up the pieces of tragedy and destruction. Believe me. The love and support matters. It is something that we all should be able to expect of each other. Thank you for helping us through these dark times. Thank you for standing together.”
AP — The man who authorities say is holding hostages inside a Texas synagogue demanded the release of a Pakistani woman who is imprisoned nearby on charges of trying to kill American service members in Afghanistan.
The woman, Aafia Siddiqui, is serving an 86-year prison sentence after being convicted in Manhattan in 2010 on charges that she sought to shoot US military officers while being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier.
For the Justice Department, which had accused Siddiqui of being an al-Qaida operative, it was a significant conviction in the fight against international extremism. But to her supporters, many of whom believed in her innocence, the case embodied what they saw as an overzealous post Sept. 11-American judicial system.
Here’s a closer look at the case:
Who is Aafia Siddiqui?
She’s a Pakistani neuroscientist who studied in the United States at prestigious institutions — Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She attracted the attention of American law enforcement in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Top FBI and Justice Department described her as an “al-Qaeda operative and facilitator” at a May 2004 news conference in which they warned of intelligence showing al-Qaeda planned an attack in the coming months.
In 2008, she was detained by authorities in Afghanistan. American officials said they found in her possession handwritten notes that discussed the construction of so-called “dirty bombs” and that listed various locations in the US that could be targeted in a “mass casualty attack.”
Inside an interview room at an Afghan police compound, authorities say, she grabbed the M-4 rifle of one of a US Army officer and opened fire on members of the US team assigned to interrogate her.
She was convicted in 2010 on charges including attempting to kill US nationals outside the United States. At her sentencing hearing, she gave rambling statements in which she delivered a message of world peace — and also forgave the judge. She expressed frustration at arguments from her own lawyers who said she deserved leniency because she was mentally ill.
“I’m not paranoid,” she said at one point. “I don’t agree with that.”
What was the reaction?
Pakistani officials immediately decried the punishment, which prompted protests in multiple cities and criticism in the media.
The prime minister at the time, Yousuf Raza Gilani, called her the “daughter of the nation” and vowed to campaign for her release from jail.
In the years since, Pakistani leaders have openly floated the idea of swaps or deals that could result in her release.
Faizan Syed, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas, said the group considers Siddiqui to have been “caught in the war on terror” and as well as a political prisoner who was wrongly accused through flawed evidence. He nonetheless strongly condemned the hostage-taking, calling it wrong, heinous and “something that is completely undermining our efforts to get Dr. Aafia released.”
She has also garnered support from accused militants in the United States. An Ohio man who admitted he plotted to kill US military members after receiving training in Syria also planned to fly to Texas and attack the federal prison where Siddiqui is being held in an attempt to free her. The man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, was sentenced in 2018 to 22 years in prison.
What’s the latest on her imprisonment?
Siddiqui is being held at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas. She was attacked in July by another inmate at the facility and suffered serious injuries, according to court documents.
In a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons, Siddiqui’s lawyers said another inmate “smashed a coffee mug filled with scaling hot liquid” into her face. When Siddiqui curled herself into a fetal position, the other woman began to punch and kick her, leaving her with injuries so severe that she needed to be taken by wheelchair to the prison’s medical unit, the suit says.
Siddiqui was left with burns around her eyes and a three-inch scar near her left eye, the lawsuit says. She also suffered bruises on her arms and legs and an injury to her cheek.
The attack prompted protests by human rights activists and religious groups, calling for improved prison conditions. The activists have also called on the Pakistani government to fight for her release from US custody.
The Conservative and Orthodox movements issue statements of solidarity with Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform synagogue in the midst of a hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas.
“What affects one of us, affects us all. This attack on peaceful Jewish worship, despite our community’s vigilance, creates fear, frustration, anger, and sorrow,” says United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism CEO Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal.
“Our prayers are with the families of Beth Israel and we will continue to have the Colleyville community, including its law enforcement, in our thoughts. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution,” he says.
“We call on all congregations to pray for the welfare of those inside Beth Israel and the federal and local law enforcement officers on scene,” the Orthodox Union says in a statement.
Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group, says, “Praying for the safety of our brothers who are being held hostage in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX. Hate and terror have no place in our country. Thank you to law enforcement and government agencies.”
The Union for Reform Judaism says it is monitoring the situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX and praying for the safety of [Congregation Beth Israel] Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and congregants.
“We are in touch with community leaders, and we deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support. We are also very grateful to law enforcement who are working to free the hostages,” the URJ adds.
The lawyer for a US security prisoner mentioned by the Texas hostage taker says the prisoner has “absolutely no involvement” in the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue.
In a video from the scene at the Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, the hostage taker can be heard referencing Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani who was convicted in 2010 by a New York City federal court of attempting to kill US military personnel.
She is currently serving an 86-year sentence at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, some 15 miles southwest of Colleyville.
Siddiqui’s lawyer, Marwa Elbially, tells CNN that Siddiqui “does not want any violence perpetrated against any human being, especially in her name.”
Elbially has not spoken with Siddiqui since the crisis began.
Early reports said Siddiqui’s brother was the attacker, but he has denied any involvement.
The Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions across the US, says there are no known threats to any other Jewish institutions as the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas continues.
“This situation appears to be local and isolated,” the organization says.
“SCN is not aware of any direct, credible threats to any other institutions. SCN encourages all organizations to constantly evaluate their security efforts, and maintain vigilance in implementing them.”
The group is monitoring the situation and is in contact with law enforcement agencies and Jewish organizations.
SCN says representatives from Congregation Beth Israel took part in one of its security training programs last year. The training in Fort Worth focused on situational awareness and how to respond to emergency situations.
Police in several US cities have increased patrols around synagogues, and Jewish community protection groups have also stepped up activity in New York.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemns the hostage taking at a Texas synagogue, amid criticism over its past statements on US synagogues.
“No cause can justify or excuse this antisemitic crime. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community,” the group says on Twitter. “We pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages.”
The group has come under fire since the attack because the leader of its San Francisco office told attendees at a pro-Palestinian conference last month to focus on “Zionist synagogues.”
“When we talk about Islamophobia, we think oftentimes about the vehement fascists,” Zahra Billoo said.
“But I also want us to pay attention to the polite Zionists. The ones that say, ‘Let’s just break bread together.’”
“They are not your friends,” she said.
The comments were widely seen as antisemitic and were condemned by a number of Jewish institutions. The vast majority of American Jews say they feel a connection to Israel and that it is an important part of their Jewish identity.
CAIR defended Billoo’s comments after criticism from Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League.
The organization has also repeatedly called for the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is imprisoned in the US for trying to kill American military personnel. The hostage taker in Texas has demanded her release. CAIR believes she is imprisoned unjustly.
Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, the scene of a hostage situation, is the latest in a series of US Jewish institutions that have been attacked in recent years.
In October 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In April 2019, an attacker shot one congregant to death at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California.
In December 2019 an assailant killed one and injured four at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York. The attacker initially tried to break into a synagogue next door.
Also in December 2019, two shooters killed three people in an attack on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey. Police said they were motivated by antisemitism and they may have been targeting a Jewish day school next to the synagogue.
There have also been deadly attacks in recent years against Jewish institutions in Germany and France.
There are regularly acts of antisemitic vandalism against synagogues and Jewish schools in the US.
Jews are the targeted in hate crimes in the US more than any other religious group, by far, according to the FBI.
Police say one hostage has been released unharmed from the Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas.
The man was released go shortly after 5 p.m. local time, the Colleyville Police Department says.
The assailant is believed to be holding three other hostages, including the congregation’s rabbi.
FBI Crisis Negotiators are in contact with the suspect, the police say.
The hostage taker at a Texas synagogue can apparently be heard saying in a live video from the synagogue that congregants let him into the building.
The synagogue was live streaming a service on Facebook when the incident began and broadcast the first few hours of the crisis.
Facebook removed the video, but in segments that have been posted online, the attacker can be heard speaking, although much of what he says in unintelligible.
At one point, he says “They let me in. I said ‘Is this a night shelter?’ and they let me in and they gave me a cup of tea so I do feel bad.”
“I like the rabbi, he’s a good guy, I bonded with him, I really like him… I’ve only been here for a couple hours but I can see he’s a good guy,” the attacker says.
Livestream clip inside Colleyville, Texas synagogue where a hostage situation was unfolding within the last hour. pic.twitter.com/ncgmZTGDnb
— crabcrawler (@crabcrawler1) January 15, 2022
The hostage taker at a synagogue in Texas had its rabbi call another rabbi in New York, NBC news reports.
The call was meant to demand the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui.
The rabbi in New York reported the incident to New York police.
The NYPD sent counter-terror personnel to the New York synagogue out of an abundance of caution, NBC reports.
Police in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas increase patrols at synagogues, as a hostage situation unfolds in the Texas city of Colleyville.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson says the city’s police force is
“deploying additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites. Police are working with the Jewish Federation and our local, state, and federal partners to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville.”
The Los Angeles Police Department says: “We’re working with our federal partners, increasing patrols around synagogues in LA as a precautionary measure.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams says, “Out of an abundance of caution, the NYPD has deployed additional resources to key Jewish locations around the city tonight.”
New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, who is Jewish, says, “As the hostage situation continues to unfold at a Texas synagogue, I want to assure my constituents that I have spoken with NYPD and they have increased patrols outside of Brooklyn synagogues.”
Police in Ramapo, New York, outside of New York City, said they were increasing patrols at “houses of worship” in response to the incident.
Jewish community protection groups in New York also say they are on heightened alert.
The local police department in Colleyville, Texas, where an attacker has taken hostages at a synagogue, says there are no known injuries in the incident so far.
The department says the first call about the incident came in at 10:41 a.m.
The Colleyville Police Department is on the scene along with the FBI, a SWAT team and other law enforcement agencies.
FBI crisis negotiators are in contact with the suspect.
The hostage taker at a Texas synagogue is believed to be motivated by the case of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national who was convicted in 2010 by a New York City federal court of attempting to kill US military personnel.
She is currently serving an 86-year sentence at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, some 15 miles southwest of Colleyville.
She was dubbed the “Lady of al Qaeda” by the press and her release has become a cause celebre for some Muslim groups, who believe she was imprisoned unjustly.
Some reports had said her brother was the attacker, but Siddiqui’s brother denies any connection to the incident.
Her biological brother, Muhammad Siddiqui, tells the Daily Beast through his lawyer that he is unhappy about being connected to the case.
The suspect may have referred to Aafia Siddiqui during the standoff as his “sister” in a figurative sense.
The hostage taker at a Texas synagogue was “screaming hysterically” in the livestream, a congregant tells CNN.
The attacker screamed that he hates Jews, but also later apologized, the congregant says.
The synagogue had been live streaming a Shabbat service when the attacker entered and broadcast the first several hours of the hostage situation.
Israel’s consul general to the US southwest, Livia Link, is on her way to the scene of a hostage standoff in a synagogue in the Texas city of Colleyville.
“I’m on my way to the area as we are closely monitoring and receiving updates on the developing situation in Colleyville, Texas and am here standing with the congregation at this difficult time,” Link says.
“My heart and my prayers are with the Jewish community today.”
Link earlier spoke to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid about the situation.
Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, says:
“We are hoping for the best In light of the frightening situation unfolding at a synagogue in Texas right now. Once again, it appears violent antisemitism has targeted a house of worship. Our thoughts are with the hostages and the brave 1st responders on the scene at this time.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he is monitoring the hostage situation at a synagogue in the Texas city of Colleyville.
“The Texas Dept. of Public Safety is on the scene of the tense hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas,” Abbott, a Republican, writes on Twitter. “They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.”
Abbott’s first statement on the situation does not mention a synagogue and comes over five hours after law enforcement arrived on the scene. He did find time in the interim to tweet out an attack on Biden’s law enforcement policies.
The Texas Dept. of Public Safety is on the scene of the tense hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas.
They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 15, 2022
US President Joe Biden is briefed on the hostage crisis at a synagogue in the Texas city of Colleyville.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says Biden “will continue to receive updates from his senior team as the situation develops.”
“Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership.”
.@POTUS has been briefed about the developing hostage situation in the Dallas area. He will continue to receive updates from his senior team as the situation develops. Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) January 15, 2022
CAIRO — Egyptian authorities announce the arrest of a prominent member of a US-designated terrorist group. According to government media, the suspect was detained after a Turkey-bound flight from Sudan that he was on made an emergency landing in Egypt.
The Interior Ministry says in a statement that a man, identified as Hossam Menoufy, was arrested earlier in the week, but doesn’t provide further details.
A man with that name is known to be a member of HASM, a group previously implicated in several deadly militant attacks in Egypt. Authorities also say that HASM was responsible for a car bombing outside an Egyptian hospital that killed 20 people in 2019.
HASM, which the United States designated a terrorist group in 2018, is considered to be a splinter of the Muslim Brotherhood group. Egypt has long banned and declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Egypt has been waging a campaign against the Brotherhood since the country’s military in 2013 removed President Mohammed Morsi, who hailed from the group, after massive protests against his rule. Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, thousands of Brotherhood members but also other Islamists and many secular dissidents have been jailed. El-Sissi’s government has also continued to fight Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
Menoufy was sentenced in absentia in 2017 to life in prison, along with hundreds of others, for alleged involvement in the attempted assassination of a top judiciary official, according to the government-run Al-Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper.
HASM also claimed responsibility for the attack that killed an Egyptian National Security Agency officer and an attack that attempted to kill Egypt’s former top religious leader, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa.
Another two Knesset members — Yesh Atid’s Moshe Tur-Paz and Yisrael Beytenu’s Alex Kushnir — have tested positive for COVID-19, further expanding the list of lawmakers who currently have coronavirus.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he is keeping close track of the apparent hostage crisis at a synagogue in the Texas city of Colleyville.
“We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers,” Bennett writes on Twitter.
The American ambassador to Israel says that he too is keeping tabs on the apparent hostage crisis at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.
“Praying for an immediate and safe end,” Tom Nides tweets.
I am closely monitoring reports of the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Texas, where the community is gathered for Shabbat services. Praying for an immediate and safe end.
— Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) January 15, 2022
WASHINGTON — Twitter says it has permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.
“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson tells AFP.
The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.
The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite,” was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.
According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.
The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.
As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.
He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.
Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.
The suspect in an apparent hostage situation at a Texas synagogue is identified as Muhammad Siddiqui by ABC News, which reports that he’s holding the rabbi of the congregation and three others hostage.
Siddiqui claimed during the livestream to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national who was convicted in 2010 by a New York City Federal Court of attempting to kill US military personnel. She is currently serving an 86-year sentence at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
ABC, citing a source at the scene, says Siddiqui is demanding his sister’s release.
The report has not been confirmed.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has spoken with Israel’s consul-general in Houston, Livia Link, about the apparent hostage crisis at the synagogue in Colleyville, according to a statement from his office.
The statement says Link is on the way to the scene.
“We are closely following the situation of the hostages and are in close contact with law enforcement authorities in America,” the statement adds.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai says he is closely following the hostage situation at a synagogue in the Texas city of Colleyville.
“Praying for an immediate and safe end,” Shai tweets.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi, says he is praying the incident at Congregation Beth Israel ends without any injuries.
Monitoring closely from Israel the hostage situation unfolding at Beth Israel Congregation where the Jewish community gathered for Shabbat services in Colleyville, Texas. Praying for an immediate and safe end.
— נחמן שי- Nachman Shai (@DrNachmanShai) January 15, 2022
The FBI has gotten involved in the hostage situation at the synagogue in Colleyville, a police sergeant in the Texas city tells CNN.
“The FBI negotiators are the ones who have contact with the person in the building,” Sgt. Dara Nelson is quoted as saying.
She adds that there is currently “no threat to the general public” and says the Texas Department of Public Safety is also involved.
In a livestream on the Facebook account of a Texas synagogue where an apparent hostage situation is taking place, the gunman can be heard speaking on the phone, according to a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“I’m going to die. Don’t cry about me,” the man says repeatedly before the stream on Congregation Beth Israel’s Facebook page ends.
The incident comes as members of the reform synagogue attended Shabbat prayers.
"I'm going to die. Don't cry about me," the man has repeated over and over. "Are you listening? I am going to die," he repeats over and over.
— Jessika Harkay (@JessikaHarkay) January 15, 2022
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian state television says today that three Iranian citizens have died after they were infected with Omicron, the new, more easily spread variant of the coronavirus.
Iran first detected the Omicron variant in mid-December but this is the first time fatalities were reported. The TV report quotes Mohammad Hashemi, an official in the country’s health ministry, as also saying that a fourth person who was a confirmed case of Omicron was in critical condition. He doesn’t elaborate.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, COVID-19 has killed more than 132,000 people in Iran, the worst fatality rate in the Middle East. On August 24 alone, 709 people died of the illness. The number of deaths has decreased in recent months due to the vaccination, experts say.
Iran has stepped up vaccinations in recent weeks and now has reported that more than 53 million Iranians have received their second shot, and 12 million have received the third shot or booster. Iran has a population of about 85 million. When hard-line President Ebrahin Raisi took over in late August, only 7 million Iranians had been vaccinated.
Iran mostly uses the China-made Sinopharm vaccine, though the Russian Sputnik-V and the vaccine made by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca are also in use.
The Omicron variant has already become dominant in many countries. Though it can infect those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus, early studies show it is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant. Vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Police in Texas are responding to a hostage situation at a synagogue in the city of Colleyville, according to local media reports.
The Colleyville police department says its SWAT team is conducting operations in the area but doesn’t confirm reports that an armed suspect took hostages at Congregation Beth Israel.
“All residents in the immediate area are being evacuated. Please avoid the area,” the police say on Twitter.
We are currently conducting SWAT operations around the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Rd. All residents in the immediate area are being evacuated. Please avoid the area.
— Colleyville Police (@ColleyvillePD) January 15, 2022
The Health Ministry lashes out at a prominent doctor for criticizing Israel’s response to the Omicron variant of coronavirus and the government’s quarantine policies.
In an op-ed published today on the Walla news site, Dr. Idit Matot of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said decision-makers continue to be driven by “anxiety and a sense of fear” and noted that despite being more contagious, Omicron is less virulent than previous strains of coronavirus.
“It’s important to know: The numbers shown to us about coronavirus patients in hospitals — both mild (for the most part) and serious — have coronavirus, but the large majority of them aren’t hospitalized for coronavirus,” wrote Matot, who is director of anesthesia at the hospital.
She said two children being treated at the hospital — one for a cerebral hemorrhage and the other for a bladder infection — are listed as serious coronavirus cases, even though that is not what they are hospitalized for.
“Therefore, the publication of the number of serious patients with coronavirus that appears each day in the media is misleading,” she said.
Matot went on to say that a new approach was needed for Omicron and called for eased quarantine rules for children, particularly those who are asymptomatic.
“People are forced to be imprisoned in their homes. We are in a de facto lockdown and the country is on the verge of collapse. Have we gone crazy?” she said.
Hours later, the Health Ministry releases a statement against Matot calling her proposal to ease quarantine rules “unacceptable.”
“The policy Prof. Matot is suggesting is liable to lead to serious harm for at-risk groups and a rise in the numerous serious patients and mortality,” the ministry says.
“Unfortunately, Prof. Matot’s conduct, and the language in which she chose to express herself, raise concerns that the lust for publicity sometimes overtakes responsibility,” it adds.
It also hits out at Ichilov Hospital for posting excerpts from Matot’s op-ed on its Twitter account, saying this is “improper and forbidden.”
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group and its main Shiite ally, Amal, say they are ending their boycott of cabinet meetings after a three-month deadlock that has worsened the small nation’s unprecedented economic meltdown.
The two Shiite groups say today in a joint statement they’ll attend cabinet sessions to approve a new budget and measures for dealing with the two-year crisis, and to discuss a recovery plan. They say they will attend because of the accelerated economic deterioration in recent weeks.
The two groups had boycotted the cabinet since October, demanding changes in the national probe of the devastating August 2020 explosion in Beirut’s port and effectively paralyzing the government.
Hezbollah had called for the judge in the port blast to be removed, accusing him of bias. Judge Tarek Bitar has meanwhile faced a slew of legal challenges and lawsuits calling for his removal, which forced him to suspend the probe at least four times. The probe is currently suspended.
Bitar had summoned and charged several senior officials on charges of intentional negligence that led to the explosion, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. The two Shiite groups vow to continue their efforts to remove the judge investigating the port blast.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati welcomes the decision of two groups to end their cabinet boycott. He said earlier this month the state budget should be ready for discussion within days.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, which began unfolding in late 2019, is rooted in years of mismanagement and corruption by the same political class that has been in power for years. The crisis has driven more than half of the population into poverty, sent the national currency tumbling and inflation and unemployment soaring.
In a first, Israel has signed an agreement to supply natural gas to Lebanon, Channel 12 news reports.
The network says the deal was brokered by US envoy Amos Hochstein and secretly signed this weekend. It will see Israel transfer gas from the Leviathan field to Jordan, from where it will be sent on to Lebanon by way of Syria.
The agreement was approved by the United States and was also coordinated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the report.
It says the deal was partly designed to provide Lebanon an alternative to Iran as it seeks to recover from a deep economic crisis.
Former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak says opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to speak with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit about a possible plea deal in the former premier’s graft trial.
“I won’t deny that when I reached out to Mandelblit, Benjamin Netanyahu’s contribution to the country was always on my mind. He was one of the greatest defenders of the Israeli justice system, until his trial,” Barak tells the Ynet news site.
Barak says that in recent months, senior figures in Netanyahu’s Likud party asked him to initiate talks with Mandelblit.
“I asked them if Netanyahu sent them, they denied it,” he says. “I recently received a personal appeal from Netanyahu and I decided not to remain indifferent.”
Barak also says any plea deal must include a demand that the court convict Netanyahu of “moral turpitude,” which would bar him from public office for seven years.
A few hundred people protest near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva, following reports that he has been holding talks with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu about a possible plea deal in the former prime minister’s corruption trial.
The demonstrators are opposed to such an agreement.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 15, 2022
New Health Ministry figures show over 50,000 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed this weekend.
The ministry says 39,015 people tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday and that another 11,351 Israelis have been diagnosed today, bringing active infections to 267,734.
The number of serious cases jumps to 387, including 93 people on ventilators.
The death toll stands at 8,303, up five from yesterday.
The positive test rate continues to rise, hitting 14.02 percent yesterday, while the R-rate — which measures how many people each COVID carrier infects — dips to 1.71.
MOSCOW — A top law-enforcement official in Kazakhstan says that 225 people died during the violent demonstrations that shook the country this month, a significantly higher number than previously announced.
Serik Shalabayev, head of the criminal prosecution service in the general prosecutor’s office, says 19 police officers or servicemen were among the dead, news reports said. More than 4,300 people were injured, he says.
The previous official death toll was 164.
Demonstrations started on January 2 in the oil and gas-rich Central Asian nation to protest a sharp rise in fuel prices. They quickly spread nationwide, widened into a general protest against the country’s authoritarian government and descended into violence within several days, especially in Almaty, the country’s largest city. Protesters stormed government buildings and set them ablaze.
At the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization sent a force of more than 2,000 soldiers, mostly Russians, to act as peacekeepers. The Russian Defense Ministry says today that its troops have returned home, but it was unclear if forces from other alliance countries remain in Kazakhstan.
A building used as a synagogue at a memorial site in the south Hebron hills has been torched in an apparent act of arson, firefighting officials say.
The synagogue, located at Ziv’s Lookout, near the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Hever and the Palestinian village of Birin, was found with its entire contents burnt, including Jewish prayer books and an empty Torah ark.
According to the Israel Fire and Rescue services, firefighters found several car tires inside the building, which were apparently lit on fire and hurled inside.
“The findings at the scene indicate arson,” the fire services say in a statement.
The site is dedicated to security guards Yehuda Ben Yosef and Yoav Doron, who were killed in a friendly fire incident in 2003, and has seen several incidents of vandalism and arson over the years.
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says he tested positive for coronavirus, joining several other ministers who have contracted COVID-19 over the past week.
In a tweet, Liberman writes that he “feels good” and will quarantine at his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.
“I will continue to lead a responsible economic policy from home, keep track of the data and plan steps ahead,” he says.
Also testing positive for coronavirus is Likud MK David Amsalem, swelling the list of lawmakers currently infected with COVID.
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