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US envoy said to ask State Department to stop using the word ‘occupied’

Ambassador David Friedman wants a change in phrasing in official documents on Israel and the West Bank, but meets resistance from Washington

  • Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L) meets with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on December 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Heidi Levine)
    Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L) meets with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on December 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Heidi Levine)
  • Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman R) tours and IDF exercise in southern Israel on Tuesday with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on December 26 2017)
    Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman R) tours and IDF exercise in southern Israel on Tuesday with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on December 26 2017)
  • Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay (2nd L) and former defense minister Amir Peretz (2nd R) tour the Gaza border region on December 26, 2017 (Courtesy/Zionist Union)
    Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay (2nd L) and former defense minister Amir Peretz (2nd R) tour the Gaza border region on December 26, 2017 (Courtesy/Zionist Union)
  • Likud MK Oren Hazan boards a bus carrying family members of Gazans being held in Israeli military prison, December 25, 2017. (Screen capture: Israel Hayom)
    Likud MK Oren Hazan boards a bus carrying family members of Gazans being held in Israeli military prison, December 25, 2017. (Screen capture: Israel Hayom)
  • Israelis holding signs and shout slogans during a protest against corruption, in Tel Aviv on December 23, 2017. Ph( Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Israelis holding signs and shout slogans during a protest against corruption, in Tel Aviv on December 23, 2017. Ph( Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

Likud MK Oren Hazan gets extra security after Hamas threats

Likud MK Oren Hazan is getting a beefed up security detail after he was threatened by Hamas.

Hazan drew the ire of the terror group when he blocked buses carrying Palestinians from Gaza who were on their way to visit their relatives in an Israeli prison yesterday.

Likud MK Oren Hazan boards a bus carrying family members of Gazans being held in Israeli military prison, December 25, 2017. (Screen capture: Israel Hayom)

“We are telling that pig Oren Hazan that our honor will not be trampled,” the group warned.

Hazan and the others blocked the entrance to the Nafha prison in southern Israel to protest the fact that Hamas has refused to give Israel or the Red Cross information about Israeli captives it holds.

Anti-Semitic slogans painted on 3 Jewish buildings in Odessa, Ukraine

Unidentified individuals painted anti-Semitic graffiti on three Jewish institutions in the city of Odessa in southern Ukraine.

The graffiti, includes the words “toasting the Holocaust” on the gate of Odessa’s Holocaust museum, were discovered Monday. The city’s Brodsky Synagogue has the words: “Jews out, Ukraine for Ukrainians” written on its exterior fence.

An offensive symbol appears on a gate adjacent to the Beit Grand Jewish Community Center. It and the other two graffiti featured the symbol of the Azov Battalion, a National Guard of Ukraine regiment that was set up after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Last month, an anti-Semitic slur was painted on the wall of a Jewish charity in western Ukraine.

— JTA

Briton sentenced to 3 years in Egypt for smuggling painkillers

An Egyptian court sentences a British woman to three years in prison today, convicting her of trying to smuggle drugs into the country, a judicial official says.

Laura Plummer, 33, was arrested at Hurghada airport when customs officers found almost 300 Tramadol pills in her luggage.

The strong painkiller is tightly controlled in Egypt where it is often abused as a recreational drug.

Plummer and her relatives had told British media that she was bringing the painkillers for her Egyptian boyfriend who suffers from back pain.

The verdict can be appealed.

AFP

Saudi Arabia frees 23 detained in corruption crackdown

Saudi Arabia is releasing 23 of the more than 200 royals and businesspeople held since a November crackdown after they reached deals with the government, Reuters reports, citing the Okaz newspaper.

The report does not name those involved in what appears to be the first large-scale release since they were detained in the sweep headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Jihadists kill 45 since ‘liberation’ of last IS stronghold in Iraq

Jihadists have killed 45 people around the Iraqi town of Hawija in the nearly three months since the government declared its “liberation” from the Islamic State group, police say.

The Iraqi government declared victory at the start of October over IS jihadists in Hawija, their last urban stronghold in the country located about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Baghdad.

Since then, “at least 45 members of the security forces and civilians have been killed in IS attacks,” says a senior police officer in Kirkuk province.

Over the same period, “the Hashed al-Shaabi pro-government militia, police and paramilitary units have killed 288 jihadists and arrested another 55,” the officer tells AFP.

Iraqi military expert Sarmad al-Bayati says the presence of the jihadists “still represents a real threat to the region.”

AFP

Hamas military chief says Likud MK a coward for harassing women

The spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing is lashing out at Likud MK Oren Hazan, who blocked a bus of Palestinians from Gaza from visiting family inside Israeli prisons.

“Have the courage to deal with this issue in the right place and resolve the issue courageously instead of pretending to be strong against women,” says Abu Obeidah, referring to an old woman that Hazan traded barbs with.

Illustrative: Masked youth cadets from the Hamas terror group’s military wing march in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis on September 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Hazan and others blocked the entrance to the Nafha prison in southern Israel to protest the fact that Hamas has refused to give Israel or the Red Cross information about Israeli captives and the bodies of soldiers it holds.

“You put your soldiers into a battle in Gaza and left them to the unknown. Instead of confronting the truth and behaving with honor and manhood, you’ve chosen the path of cowardice to give up your responsibilities and run away from paying the price,” he adds.

Hamas is demanding the release of prisoners in exchange for the Israelis.

“We assure our heroic prisoners and their families that the occupation is doomed to fall and the dawn of freedom is inevitable,” he concludes.

Dov Lieber

Jerry Yellin, who flew the last combat mission of World War II, dies at 93

Jerry Yellin, who flew the last combat mission of World War II and later helped fellow veterans overcome their trauma, has died.

Yellin died last week in Florida at the home of one of his four sons after battling lung cancer. He was 93.

Captain Jerry Yellin, United States Army Air Forces, the P-51 pilot who flew the final combat mission of World War II. (Bob Eldridge/Wikimedia/ Creative Commons)

Yellin, a lieutenant in the 78th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Forces, was leading an attack on Japanese airfields on August 15, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender. When he returned to his base on Iwo Jima, Yellin learned that a ceasefire had taken hold, and that his squadron had not received the coded signal informing them to halt their attack, the last of the war.

Yellin was born and grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and enlisted in the military two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on his 18th birthday.

His wife of 65 years, Helene, died in 2015. He is survived by four children, David Yellin of Winter Haven, Florida, Steven Yellin of Orlando, Florida; Michael Yellin of Montclair, New Jersey; and Robert Yellin of Kyoto, Japan; a sister; and six grandchildren.

JTA

Gabbay favors letting workers from Gaza into Israel

Zionist Union chief Avi Gabbay says he favors allowing Palestinians from the Gaza Strip into Israel to work.

Touring around the Gaza Strip border area, Gabbay says that such a move is beneficial for both Israelis and Palestinians.

“In Israel we have a shortfall of workers that affects the cost of living and the cost of housing and here (in Gaza) there are tens of thousands of unemployed people who can pass security checks and make a living here,” Gabbay says, adding that the idea is supported by the security establishment, but blocked by the fears of politicians.

Speaking to residents of the Israeli communities near the border, Gabbay reiterates he has zero tolerance for attacks on them from Gaza.

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay (2nd L) and former defense minister Amir Peretz (2nd R) tour the Gaza border region on December 26, 2017 (Courtesy Zionist Union)

Greek anarchist group vandalizes Israeli embassy in Athens

Members of an anarchist group in Greece vandalized the Israeli embassy in Athens using bottles of red paint.

The group, Rubicon, filmed themselves committing the early-morning attack yesterday and posted the video online. The video shows the members of the group riding up to the embassy building on motorcycles and throwing the paint at it.

The embassy was closed due to the Christmas holiday. The building reportedly is located at a busy intersection.

“We identify with the Palestinians, a nation that for decades has been a victim of oppression,” Rubicon says in a statement released after the attack. “In reality, the Palestinians are pressured to leave their land. This is ethnic cleansing at a low intensity level for decades.”

In December 2014 a Greek far-left group fired shots at the embassy, also in a pre-dawn raid. There were no injuries.

with JTA

Defense minister hails reservists as ‘the true weapons of the IDF’

Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman toured a large-scale IDF exercise in southern Israel today, hailing the quality of the army’s reservists and the sacrifices they made.

“I came away amazed by the quality of the battalion and brigade commanders, most of them reservists with families and key positions in high-tech and leading companies, who are prepared to leave everything at short notice and come and serve the country,” Liberman says.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman R) tours and IDF exercise in southern Israel on Tuesday with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on December 26 2017)

“I was especially moved by the deputy battalion commander Rotem Lieberman — I checked and we are not related — who had his third child, Yair, two weeks ago, and Rotem has already been in reserve duty for 10 days, serving and leading his soldiers in the exercise,” Liberman says.

“The reservists are the true weapons of the IDF.”

Israel to discuss halting trade in cryptocurrency-based firms

The Israel Securities Authority says it is moving to ban trading in cryptocurrency-based companies on the Tel Aviv market until transactions involving digital coins are legally regulated.

The head of the authority, Shmuel Hauser, says that the stock market regulator would discuss the proposal at a meeting next week.

“So long there is no regulatory framework, we will make it that companies whose trade is primarily based on digital coins won’t be able to trade on the (Tel Aviv) stock market,” he says.

In addition, “the activity of a company that already exists and most of its activity is through bitcoin will be suspended,” he said.

“We’ll do that until we find an appropriate regulatory framework for this trade,” Hauser says. “This has to be done because the public is not protected as far as digital currency trade goes.”

Bitcoin prices had climbed in recent weeks before suffering a dramatic plunge on Friday, dropping 20 percent at one point below the $13,000 mark. By Tuesday, the currency had regained some of its value and crossed $15,000.

AFP

Greek minister vows to arrest those who vandalized Israeli embassy

Greek Minister for Public Order Nikos Toskas has spoken to Israel’s ambassador in Athens, Irit Ben Abba, promising her that the vandals who attacked the mission on Christmas morning will be arrested, the Kathimerini daily reports.

The anarchist group Rubicon sprayed the embassy with red paint in a pre-dawn incident yesterday, saying it was in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The report says Ben Abba conveyed Israel’s demand that the culprits be arrested and thanked Toskas for his efforts.

Turkish cycling star quits Israeli team over Jerusalem controversy

One of Turkey’s best known professional cyclists has joined a homegrown Turkish team after quitting his Israeli outfit due to the controversy generated by the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reports say.

Ahmet Orken, who will now cycle for Salcano Sakarya Buyuksehir in the Turkish Black Sea region of Sakarya, cited pressures on his family following the Jerusalem recognition as the reason for his departure.

Turkey, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has strongly opposed Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, calling a summit of Islamic countries that declared East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital.

“It was a difficult period in the last two weeks,” Orken says, quoted by the Dogan news agency, as he signed the contract in Sakarya.

“I took the decision so as not to worry about my country and my family. This is a decision that I have taken myself,” says the multiple Turkish time trial champion.

Israel Cycling Academy, the Pro Continental team with whom Orken had signed a two-year agreement in September, says it had agreed to release Orken from his contract.

AFP

Japanese FM invites Netanyahu to Tokyo meet with Abbas

Visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a four-way meeting in Tokyo with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US envoy Jared Kushner, Channel 10 reports.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L) meets with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on December 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Heidi Levine)

Quoting a senior official, the channel’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid says that Netanyahu responded positively, but conditioned it on US agreement.

The Walla news site also reported the offer.

The Palestinians have refused to deal with the Americans since US President Donald Trump  recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Dutch arrest four for alleged terrorism

Dutch police have arrested four men including a Swedish citizen suspected of being involved in terror-related activities, prosecutors say.

“Rotterdam police detained four men early on Sunday evening on suspicion of being involved in terrorism,” the public prosecution’s office says in a statement.

One of the men, aged 29, arrived on a flight from Stockholm earlier Sunday while the other three aged 21, 23 and 30 come from the cities of Vlaardingen, Delft and Gouda in southwest Netherlands.

Dutch police raided three homes in the three cities and seized data but found no weapons or explosives, the statement says.

Although “there is no concrete information to indicate a terror attack, police and the public prosecution’s office are not taking any chances,” prosecutors say without giving further information.

AFP

Israeli court extends detention of Palestinian who slapped soldier

A military court has extended the detention of a Palestinian teen who was filmed kicking and slapping Israeli soldiers.

Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old from the West Bank village of Nebi Saleh, was arrested last week by Israeli troops and faces charges of attacking soldiers. The court on Monday extended Tamimi’s detention, along with those of her mother and cousin, for four days for questioning.

AP

Syrian refugees in Lebanon drop below one million: UN

The number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon has dropped to below one million for the first time since 2014, the United Nations tells AFP.

As of the end of November, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) counted 997,905 Syrian refugees — a vast majority of them women and children — registered in Lebanon.

“The number reached one million in April 2014, and this is the first time it drops below that,” UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled says.

Numbers were decreasing, Abou Khaled said, as refugees had resettled in third countries, returned to their homes in Syria, or passed away.

From 2011 until September this year, nearly 49,000 Syrians left Lebanon as part of the United Nations’ resettlement program to third countries including the United States, Sweden, and France.

AFP

French children’s magazine recalled over ‘mistake’ on Israel

A French children’s magazine has been withdrawn from newsstands after it admitted a “mistake” in writing that Israel wasn’t a “real country.”

The news editor for Youpi, a magazine for children from 5 to 8, tells The Associated Press on Tuesday the January issue was being removed from kiosk sales in France and Belgium after writing that Israel was among a few states in the world that aren’t “real countries.”

Bertrand Fichou said he humbly apologizes for the mistake and that his intention wasn’t to challenge the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

He said that “I’ll blame myself for it all my life.”

The two-sentence text caused an uproar on social media, and French Jewish group CRIF asked the publisher to remove the January issue from sales.

— AP

Disabled protesters block main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway

Disabled protesters are blocking the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway during evening rush hour, police say.

“The road is closed in the direction of Tel Aviv. Officers are at the site,” Police say adding that motorists should take alternate routes.

The disabled have been blocking traffic at sites across the country over their demand that the government increase their social security benefits to equal minimum wage.

Netanyahu meets leading rabbis, asks for their support

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with leading rabbis from the national religious camp, asking them for their support.

“There is a political effort through protests and other means to bring down the national government I lead,” Netanyahu reportedly tells them, referring to a series of protests against corruption.

The rabbis said they would not lend their support to the anti-corruption protests that have until now been mostly by left-wing activists. A right-wing anti-corruption protest held on the weekend mostly fizzled.

Israelis take part in a demonstration titled the “March of Shame” as they protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government corruption in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on December 23, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

President Rivlin backs anti-corruption protests

President Reuven Rivlin is praising the anti-corruption protests even as Prime Minister Netanyahu called them an attempt to bring down his government.

Rivlin, speaking at a conference, says that online social involvement is not a substitute for real engagement in society, pointing to the recent wave of protests. “There is no replacement for the city squares.”

“We have to raise a generation that remembers that real democracy can maybe begin on the social networks but can never replace the real need to take part in real debate and social activities,” he says.

Syria rebels, opposition reject Russia-proposed talks

Syrian rebels and opposition groups are rejecting Russia’s proposed peace talks, accusing Moscow of failing to pressure its ally, President Bashar Assad, to end the conflict.

In a series of statements, 40 rebel groups, including some of Syria’s most prominent, as well as political opposition groups, say the talks expected next month are an attempt to “circumvent” the UN-led process, which has made virtually no progress since it began in 2014.

The rebel groups say Moscow has asked them to give up their demand for Assad to step down.

“We reject this, and we affirm that Russia is an aggressor that has committed war crimes against Syrians,” the statement signed by 40 rebel groups says. “Russia has not contributed with a single move to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and it has not pressured the regime it claims it guarantees to move an inch toward any real path toward a resolution.”

— AP

Education Ministry asks court for injunction against planned school strike

The Education Ministry is asking a court to grant an injunction against a planned school strike set for Wednesday.

The Israel Teachers Union called the strike of kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools in a dispute with the Education Ministry over how staff are docked for sick days.

The union is demanding an end to what it claims is the Education Ministry practice of considering each day that a staff member takes off for being sick as 1.4 days away from work.

Court extends gag order on submarine corruption case

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court grants a police request to impose a further gag-order on all details relating to the so-called Case 3000 investigation into alleged corruption and bribery involved in multi-billion-shekel naval deals with the German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.

Miki Ganor is seen at a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court following his arrest in the ‘Case 3000’ affair on July 10, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool/Flash90)

The unusually long 90-day gag order covers all details relating to state’s witness Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp’s Israeli agent, including any plea bargain he may have made with the state prosecution, and all details from other testimony collected in the case so far, or set to be collected until March 27, 2018.

A number of high-profile public figures close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are currently suspects in the case, including his personal lawyers David Shimron and Isaac Molcho, the former deputy head of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and the former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case. However, police are planning to summon him to testify on what he knows about the issue.

Raoul Wootliff

Police reopen main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway after protest

Police have reopened the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway after it was shut for several hours by disabled protesters causing rush hour jams.

Japan FM says no plans to move embassy to Jerusalem

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono  holds talks with his Jordanian counterpart, telling him the Asian nation has no plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

In Amman, a day after visiting Israel, Kono says longstanding US ally Japan will not be shifting its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem, Kono is reported by the Petra state news agency as saying, adding that the the city’s status should be decided at negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians..

Jordanian foreign Minister  Ayman Safadi also says  the status of the city should be decided “through direct negotiations and according to the relevant international resolutions.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

— AFP

 

 

Report: IDF warns cabinet Gaza situation could explode

The IDF has warned government ministers that the situation in the Gaza Strip is incendiary and could lead to a new round of violence.

The IDF told ministers at Sunday’s security briefing for the cabinet that even though Hamas has no interest in starting another conflict with Israel, the situation may get out of hand, Hadashot news reports.

The report quotes ministers as saying that they were told that there is a feeling of despair in Gaza due to the persistent humanitarian crisis there, the failure of the reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and the ongoing tensions in recent weeks over Jerusalem.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, visits an attack tunnel dug by a Palestinian terrorist group from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel during a visit to the area on December 20, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military told the ministers that the situation is reminiscent of the tensions on the eve of the 2014 Gaza conflict, Operation Protective Edge.

Several Ministers proposed both short and long term solutions, the report says, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his national security adviser to come up with a plan within three weeks.

 

 

US sanctions two North Koreans over missile program

The United States today sanctioned two senior North Korean officials over the country’s ballistic missile program, the Treasury Department says.

“Treasury is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate (North Korea) and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” it says in a statement.

AFP

Firefighters battle blaze at retirement home in northern Israel

Five teams of firefighters are battling a blaze at a retirement home in the northern Israel town of Kiryat Yam, north of Haifa.

Residents are being evacuated from the building and there are no immediate reports of injuries.

US envoy said to ask State Department to stop using the word ‘occupied’

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is reportedly asking the US State Department to stop using the term “occupied” in official documents referring to Israel and the West Bank.

Israel Radio reports that the State Department refused. However, due to pressure from above they have agreed that the issue will be discussed again soon.

This comes after US President Donald Trump shifted decades of US policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

 

Court halts school strike set for Wednesday

A court has upheld a request from the Education Ministry and granted an injunction against a planned school strike set for Wednesday.

The Israel Teachers Union called the strike of kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools in a dispute with the Education Ministry over how staff are docked for sick days.

The union is demanding an end to what it claims is the Education Ministry practice of considering each day that a staff member takes off for being sick as 1.4 days away from work.

The judge says that “calling a strike at this stage of the dispute was too hasty, to put it mildly.”

“Sick days have been counted like this for 30 years and the demand for a change was only made 4 days ago, the judge says.

Illustrative: First grade students sit in a classroom on their first day of school at a school. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
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Firefighters battle blaze at retirement home in northern Israel

Five teams of firefighters are battling a blaze at a retirement home in the northern Israel town of Kiryat Yam, north of Haifa.

Residents are being evacuated from the building and there are no immediate reports of injuries.