Israelis, Palestinians just hunting Pokemon, acclaimed historian says
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Live updates (closed)Latest: Netanyahu: We want peace, we’re working toward regional effort

Swede PM raps Trump as film claiming migrants driving crime called faked

Policemen interviewed say documentary maker stitched answers to other questions to mislead viewers; JCCs threatened again, but not all evacuated; Russian envoy to UN Churkin dies suddenly at 64

  • The Jewish community center in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. (screen capture: Google Street View)
    The Jewish community center in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. (screen capture: Google Street View)
  • Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with French far right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, left, at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, February 20, 2017. (AP/Hussein Malla)
    Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with French far right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, left, at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, February 20, 2017. (AP/Hussein Malla)
  • Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, meeting with representatives of the Singapore Jewish community at the Maghain Aboth synagogue in Singapore on February 20, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)
    Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, meeting with representatives of the Singapore Jewish community at the Maghain Aboth synagogue in Singapore on February 20, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)
  • Gazan Jumana Daoud carries her 7-month-old daughter Maryam at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on February 20, 2017, as they meet for the first time since the baby's premature birth. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
    Gazan Jumana Daoud carries her 7-month-old daughter Maryam at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on February 20, 2017, as they meet for the first time since the baby's premature birth. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
  • Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)
    Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)
  • United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, and EU Council President Donald Tusk pose for photographers as Pence arrives at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.  (AP Photo/Thierry Monasse)
    United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, and EU Council President Donald Tusk pose for photographers as Pence arrives at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Thierry Monasse)
  • A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent runs as he searches for victims following a reported government airstrike on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2017. (AFP /Abd Doumany)
    A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent runs as he searches for victims following a reported government airstrike on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2017. (AFP /Abd Doumany)

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

Israeli man accused of plotting to blow up bus for Islamic State

An Arab Israeli man has been indicted over alleged plans for terror attacks on behalf of the Islamic State group, including bus bombings directed against IDF soldiers.

The suspect, Anas Haj Yihya, was charged in a Tel Aviv court with belonging to a terrorist organization and with multiple counts of contact with a foreign agent.

In his contacts with Islamic State members, Yihya was told to carry out attacks against soldiers, including blowing up buses filled with soldiers in central Tel Aviv, which he agreed to, according to the charge sheet.

Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)

Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)

Yihya also allegedly distributed information to IS members on how to create sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent, as well as how to manufacture explosive belts, bombs with cellphone triggers and which poisons can be added to explosives in order to make them more lethal, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Yihya, 35, was arrested on January 29, but details of the case were kept under a gag order until the indictment was filed today, the Shin Bet says.

The suspect made contact with other IS agents through internet forums, beginning last year, according to the indictment filed against him.

It was there that he also formally pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He comes from the Arab Israeli town of Tayibe in central Israel, which is not to be confused with the Palestinian village of the same name.

— Judah Ari Gross

Ofra residents ask court to seal homes instead of razing them

Nine families in the West Bank settlement of Ofra whose homes are slated for demolition after a court found they had been built on private Palestinian land have petitioned the High Court, asking that their homes be sealed instead of razed, according to media reports.

The residents are hoping that the newly passed Regulation Law will pave the way for their homes to be retroactively legalized and unsealed.

The nine homes in Ofra slated to be evacuated. (Google Maps illustration)

The nine homes in Ofra slated to be evacuated. (Google Maps illustration)

The court-ordered demolitions are to take place by March 5, after the court granted a one-month stay two weeks ago.

The delay was granted to allow security forces to prepare for the evacuation operation.

Videos show Iranians testing advanced rockets

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard has launched several sophisticated rockets during military exercises, Iranian media reported on Monday.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, considered to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, said the launch of the “smart and advanced” rockets came during an annual three-day maneuver which began on Monday in Iran’s central desert.

A rocket being shot during war games in Iran on February 20, 2017. (screen capture: Iribnews via Tasnim)

A rocket being shot during war games in Iran on February 20, 2017. (screen capture: Iribnews via Tasnim)

 

Later on Monday, state TV showed footage of several rockets launching from the back of trucks in the desert.

In one picture, rockets can be seen launching in front of the sun, with the camera making it look like they are hitting a Star of David, though it was not clear if the effect was intentional.

Rockets being shot during war games in Iran on February 20, 2017. (screen capture: Iribnews via Tasnim)

Rockets being shot during war games in Iran on February 20, 2017. (screen capture: Iribnews via Tasnim)

Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ ground forces told the channel that rockets with ranges of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) as well as the Fajr-3, Fajr-4 and Fajr-5 rockets, all believed to have under 100-kilometer range, were all successfully tested in the exercise.

Pakpour said the tests send a message to any of Iran’s potential adversaries: “We are ready to give a crushing respond to any threat.”

— with AP

Iran warns Israel: ‘Don’t get into serious trouble’ with us

Speaking to the BBC, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif issues a veiled warning when asked about a push for new sanctions by Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia.

“I advise them not only to respect the international law, but to be prudent enough not to get themselves in serious trouble,” Zarif says, according to a short clip of the interview published by the BBC.

Zarif also says “I certainly hope that prudence will prevail because Iran is not an easy target.

“We will defend ourselves. I do not believe that people looking at our history, people looking at our capabilities will ever make the decision to engage in that misadventure,” Zarif says, according to the BBC.

2,000 IS fighters defending west Mosul — US

An estimated 2,000 IS fighters are left in west Mosul to defend their bastion against a massive offensive by the Iraqi security forces, a senior US intelligence official says.

“There’s about 2,000 remaining,” the official tells reporters on condition of anonymity during a trip to Iraq by the new Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis.

Tanks and armored vehicles of the Iraqi forces, supported by the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitaries, advance towards the village of Sheikh Younis, south of Mosul, after the offensive to retake the western side of Mosul from Islamic State (IS) group fighters commenced on February 19, 2017. (AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Tanks and armored vehicles of the Iraqi forces, supported by the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitaries, advance towards the village of Sheikh Younis, south of Mosul, after the offensive to retake the western side of Mosul from Islamic State (IS) group fighters commenced on February 19, 2017. (AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

The estimate which the US-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces gave before the October 17 launch of a huge operation on Mosul was that the city was defended by 5,000 to 7,000 jihadists.

The coalition has not provided figures but it has said that the four-month-old campaign on Mosul had inflicted heavy casualties on IS.

— AFP

Austrian partyers get rug fix with Trump wigs

Just about everyone wants to be Donald Trump this Carnival season in Austria — so much so that some costume rental shops have run out of wigs mimicking the US president’s signature hairstyle.

State broadcaster ORF cites Manuela Plank, who says she has taken to fashioning normal blond hairpieces into Trump wigs just to meet the demand.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a mask of himself which he picked up from supporter during a rally in the Robarts Arena of the Sarasota Fairgrounds in Florida on November 7, 2016.(AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a mask of himself which he picked up from supporter during a rally in the Robarts Arena of the Sarasota Fairgrounds in Florida on November 7, 2016.(AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN)

She said over the weekend she had run out of ready-made ones in her store in the village of Pfaffstaetten, south of Vienna, and they are generally hard to find elsewhere.

Austria celebrates the pre-Lenten Carnival season with scores of balls and other masked events in the winter.

— AP

Four Russian troops killed in Syria blast

The Russian military says four of its servicemen were killed in Syria when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

The Defense Ministry says the explosion happened as a Syrian military convoy, including the vehicle with Russian military advisers, was driving to the city of Homs in central Syria last Thursday from the Tiyas air base, which is close to the ancient town of Palmyra held by the Islamic State group.

The ministry says the bomb was detonated by remote control. Two other Russian servicemen were wounded.

A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent runs as he searches for victims following a reported government airstrike on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2017. (AFP /Abd Doumany)

A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent runs as he searches for victims following a reported government airstrike on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2017. (AFP /Abd Doumany)

The deaths bring the number of Russian combat casualties in Syria to 27.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

— AP

Libyan PM unhurt after convoy comes under fire

The convoy of Libya’s contested unity government chief, Fayez al-Sarraj, came under gunfire in Tripoli on Monday, without causing any casualties, his administration says.

“The convoy of GNA (Government of National Accord) chief Fayez al-Sarraj… came under fire as it passed near the Abu Slim sector of Tripoli,” says spokesman Ashraf al-Thulthi.

“All the cars were armor-plated, and there were no injuries,” he says, adding an investigation was underway to identify the assailants.

Sarraj’s fragile GNA, formed under a UN-backed deal signed in late 2015, has struggled to impose its authority, particularly in eastern Libya where a rival administration holds sway.

— AFP

Netanyahu officially resigns as communications minister

Responding to a High Court petition calling for him to step down as communications minister over a criminal investigation into possible collusion with major media outlets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has officially announced his resignation from the position.

Netanyahu presented his resignation letter before he left the country yesterday for an official visit to Singapore and Australia. The resignation letter, which was made public as part of the state’s response to a High Court hearing, will go into effect tomorrow.

Netanyahu said Friday that he will temporarily give up the Communications Ministry for a period of three months. Speaking to reporters on his flight back from the United States, he said that Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi would replace him for the duration.

Netanyahu gave no reason for his decision, but he has been under increasing pressure to give up the ministry due to a police investigation into allegations that Netanyahu and the publisher of the mass daily Yedioth Ahronoth Arnon Mozes negotiated an illicit quid pro quo deal that would have seen the prime minister pass legislation to hamper a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Mozes’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog last month filed a petition with the High Court court demanding Netanyahu be suspended from his ancillary position as communications minister, arguing the latest revelations from the criminal investigations into Netanyahu disqualify him from holding the post.

Speaking his weekly faction meeting and holding up a letter of the resignation, Herzog says that “this is just the first stage, next it will be a letter of resignation as prime minister.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Netanyahu in Singapore: Israel in battle for future of humanity

Visiting the Maghain Aboth synagogue in Singapore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s values are being challenged “by the forces of barbarism and intolerance.”

“This is a battle for the future of humanity. That future is represented by Israel which is also a diverse country, which also has minorities, which respects people and we see that same respect here in Singapore,” he says, referring to his visit to the Muslim countries of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, where he says he saw Jews practicing their religion openly.

Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, meeting with representatives of the Singapore Jewish community at the Magen Avot synagogue in Singapore on February 20, 2017. (GPO)

Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, meeting with representatives of the Singapore Jewish community at the Magen Avot synagogue in Singapore on February 20, 2017. (GPO)

Netanyahu also compares Israel to the small island nation, saying they are both small economic powerhouses looked up to by many in the world.

“I believe that great powers around the world look at Israel and Singapore today and see tremendous opportunities. Tremendous. And one reason that is the case is we have an unbridled spirit and we put it to use,” he says. “That spirit is something that we have enshrined in our peoples for a long time, a long time. The Jewish peoples have passed learning from one generation to another, a desire, an inquisitive mindset and the ability to produce new things.”

Netanyahu is in Singapore for a short state visit before moving on to Australia on Tuesday.

Poll shows France’s Le Pen gaining on rivals

A new poll shows French far-right politician Marine Le Pen gaining against rivals Emmanuel Macron and Francois Fillon, though still falling short of winning the presidency.

The Opinionway poll shows Pen winning 27 percent in the four-way first rounding of voting on April 23, to easily move into the runoff round on May 7.

However, the poll shows she would fall to independent Macron 42% to 58%, and would lose 44% to 56% against Conservative Fillon.

Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with French far right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, left, at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, February 20, 2017. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with French far right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, left, at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, February 20, 2017. (AP/Hussein Malla)

On February 14, Le Pen was shown losing to Macron 64% to 36% and to Fillon 59% to 41%.

The poll results come as Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration National Front, is in Lebanon, her first major foray into foreign policy. On Monday she met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

After FAKE terror attack, Trump stays stuck on Sweden

A day after landing in lukewarm water over apparently claiming a terror incident had occurred in Sweden, and later explaining that he had actually been referring to a Fox News segment, US President Donald Trump is continuing to point fingers at Stockholm, claiming the country is in trouble for letting in too many immigrants.

On Twitter, Trump claims that the “FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully.” His addition of “NOT!” at the end presumably refers to the journalists’ contention, and not his own statement.

Trump’s claim at a Saturday rally, which befuddled Swedes and led Stockholm to officially ask the State Department to clear some of the fog on the issue from Foggy Bottom, was apparently based on a segment aired by Tucker Carlson Friday night in which he interviewed documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz on a new movie claiming to show a spike in crime in Sweden due to the influx of migrants.

On Twitter, former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt hits back at Trump, writing that there were more murders in central Florida, where Trump held his rally, than in Sweden last year, though he misidentifies the location of Melbourne, Florida, which is actually in Brevard County and not Orange.

Nasrallah: US source of all terror, Israel illegal

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says the US is “the mother of all terror” and that Israel is “founded on terror and illegal by all measures.”

The comments come in an interview to Iranian state TV, to be aired later Monday, at 9:30 p.m. Israel time.

“The US administration is the mother of terror and the founder of terror around the world,” Nasrallah says, according to a short clip of the interview released as a preview.

On Thursday, the head of the Lebanese Shiite terror group boasted that his rockets can reach Israel’s nuclear reactor in the southern city of Dimona, and said he would turn Israel’s reported nuclear arsenal against it.

A senior Israeli minister issued a threat against Lebanese infrastructure in response.

Likud minister: PM still committed to two-state solution

Regional Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still committed to the two-state solution, as outlined in his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech.

“It did not change since then. It’s still [the] valid policy of the prime minister of Israel and therefore the government of Israel,” Hanegbi tells Jewish American leaders in the Knesset, referring to Netanyahu’s address. “The principles of the Bar-Ilan speech became more relevant today than the time they were given. The Middle East is not the Middle East of 2009.”

The top Netanyahu confidant, who is set to become communications minister on Tuesday, says a binational state is “out of the question.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with MK Tzachi Hanegbi during a Likud party meeting in the Knesset on February 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with MK Tzachi Hanegbi during a Likud party meeting in the Knesset on February 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“One state will never happen. No Israeli leader will allow Israel to become a potentially Arab state in the future,” he says. No Israeli leader will “shatter the Jewish dream, the ZIonist dream.”

“This is out of the question,” he adds.

Hanegbi also praises Trump’s stance on the Iran nuclear deal, remarking that “we do see this agreement as jeopardizing Israel’s existence” if implemented without any changes.

When the deal expires there will be an “empire with vicious ambitions that the world recognizes its nuclear capabilities and allows it to produce and enrich uranium without limitations,” he said. Iran will then have “100 nuclear bombs really in no time,” says Hanegbi.

Israel is happy Trump “shares this view,” he says.

“This is a fight that we are not going to give up.”

— Marissa Newman

Attack will result in graveyard for aggressors, Iranian general warns

A top Iranian general is threatening that anyone who attacks his country will be annihilated, hours after Iran held war games during which it said it tested advanced medium-range missiles.

Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Islamic Republic’s powerful Revolutionary Guard military force, says any attack will turn simply Iran into a “graveyard for aggressors.”

“The enemies are aware of Iran’s power,” he adds, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Earlier the Revolutionary Guard has launched several sophisticated rockets during military exercises.

Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ ground forces, told the Tasnim channel that rockets with ranges of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) as well as the Fajr-3, Fajr-4 and Fajr-5 rockets, all believed to have under 100-kilometer range, were all successfully tested in the exercise.

Pakpour said the tests send a message to any of Iran’s potential adversaries: “We are ready to give a crushing respond to any threat.”

— with AP

Netanyahu not backtracking on new Amona, office says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not backtracking from his promise to build a new West Bank settlement as compensation for evicted settlers from Amona, aides say, rebutting recent reports claiming he had frozen these plans in light of his meeting with US President Donald Trump last week.

“There is absolutely no intention to violate the commitment that was made to the settlers of Amona,” a senior aide in the Prime Minister’s Office says.

“Just today, his chief of staff Yoav Horowitz spoke with [settler leader] Avichai Baron and told him that every effort is being made to find an agreed-upon solution, and that we are not reneging on our commitment.”

Reports on Sunday evening claimed that Netanyahu had told ministers he may have to abandon the plan under pressure from the Trump administration, seeing it as a trade-off for concerted action against Iran.

— Raphael Ahren

Former Shin Bet head predicts Abbas won’t allow elections

Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, a Likud lawmaker, says he doesn’t anticipate new Palestinian elections while Mahmoud Abbas, 81, helms the Palestinian Authority.

The last Palestinian elections in the West Bank were held in 2005.

“I don’t know who will be his successor,” Dichter tells a group of US Jewish leaders visiting the Knesset.

He notes jokingly that there is a “higher probability” that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal will step into Abbas’s shoes than “Israel winning the World Cup,” referring to the country’s historically poor record in the international soccer tourney.

— Marissa Newman

Israelis, Palestinians just hunting Pokemon, acclaimed historian says

In an interview published in The Atlantic, Hebrew University historian and thinker Yuval Harari, author of the new book “Homo Deus,” compares the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to augmented reality game Pokemon Go.

Yuval Noah Harari (Courtesy)

Yuval Noah Harari (Courtesy)

“Recently I went with my nephew to hunt Pokémon. We were walking down the street and a bunch of kids approached us. They were also hunting Pokemon. My nephew and these children got into a bit of a fight because they were trying to capture the same invisible creatures. It seemed strange to me. But these Pokémon were very real to the children. And then it hit me: This is just like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he says in the interview.

“I look at the stones of buildings in Jerusalem and I just see stones. But Christians, Jews, and Muslims who look at the same stones see a holy city. It’s their imagination, but they are willing to kill for it. That’s virtual reality, too,” he adds

This is not the first time Harari has used Pikachu and Co. to explain an idea. In a 2016 interview, he made the same point, though he made do with comparing the game only to organized religion.

Former US envoy Shapiro details failed peace bid in tweetstorm

On Twitter, former US ambassador Dan Shapiro confirms reports of a regional peace initiative pursued by the US, Israel and others, saying that the complicated dynamic left the parties skittish about taking risks to jumpstart the process, leading to its ultimate failure.

Shapiro says the idea was first pursued after talks broke down in 2014.

“The idea was also discussed during Obama admin, after breakdown of bilateral Is-Pal talks. If it works, no possible reason 2 object 2 it,” he writes.

He adds that while the US, Israel and Sunni states were on board, the Palestinians were “the most unenthusiastic party, fearing they would be bypassed & pressured to accept terms they deemed unacceptable. ”

“So we tested it. But it was hard to pull together. Everyone has to give something, but no one wants to jump first and be left hanging,” he writes. “Domestic political constraints in Israel & Arab states, & a complicated Arab-Palestinian dynamic (who pressures whom) made it difficult.”

He says some in the administration were skeptical of the plan but Secretary of State John Kerry pushed anyway. He declines to go into details as to why it failed.

On Sunday, Haaretz published a report revealing a secret summit in Aqaba a year earlier between Kerry, Netanyahu and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. According to the account, mostly confirmed by Netanyahu and other officials, Netanyahu rebuffed the proposal by saying his right-wing coalition would not go for it and offered his own counter-proposal involving Gulf states, and the initiative never got off the ground.

Netanyahu and Trump say they are pursuing a regional peace initiative.

Shapiro says that the Trump administration will run into the same wall if they don’t learn from their predecessors’ mistakes and push the sides harder.

Milwaukee JCC cleared out after bomb threat called in

A Jewish community center in suburban Milwaukee has been evacuated after a bomb threat was called in, local media in Wisconsin report.

The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay said on Facebook it had been closed and safely cleared out.

The bomb threat is the latest to hit a Jewish community center, after nearly 50 similar bomb threats were called in to centers around the country in a series of waves last month. However, the incident appears to be isolated for the time being.

The Whitefish Bay center was evacuated as well on January 31, during one of those waves.

Germany returns painting found in Gurlitt trove to owner

Germany’s culture minister has handed over an Adolph von Menzel drawing found in the massive trove of a reclusive collector to its rightful owner’s descendants.

A task force examining the late Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection determined more than a year ago the work was sold as a result of Nazi persecution.

Minister Monika Gruetters’ office says she returned Menzel’s “Interior of a Gothic Church” on Monday to a representative of Elsa Cohen’s heirs.

Cohen sold the piece to Gurlitt’s father in 1938.

The drawing was identified as looted art in late 2015, but the German government said its restitution was delayed by a court battle over Gurlitt’s will that only was resolved in December. A cousin of Gurlitt’s unsuccessfully challenged his wish to leave his collection to a Swiss museum.

— AP

Russian envoy to UN Churkin dies at 64

Russian officials say Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations has died suddenly in New York City. Vitaly Churkin was 64.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told The Associated Press that Churkin became ill in his office at Russia’s UN mission and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he died Monday. His cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on March 19, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York. (AFP/Stan Honda)

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on March 19, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York. (AFP/Stan Honda)

Churkin has been Russia’s envoy at the United Nations for a little over a decade and was considered Moscow’s great champion at the UN.

He had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee especially with his American and Western counterparts. He was previously ambassador at large and earlier served as the foreign ministry spokesman.

— AP

Gazan mother united with baby in Jerusalem after TV report

A Palestinian baby has been reunited with her mother after more than six months Monday, after Israel granted Jumana Daoud a permit to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem to fetch her.

Daoud and rights groups said she had submitted an application several months ago to reenter Israel to retrieve baby Maryam from a hospital in East Jerusalem, but received no reply.

The baby had been born there two-months premature after Israel allowed Daoud to receive treatment for complications from her pregnancy.

Gazan Jumana Daoud carries her 7-month-old daughter Maryam at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on February 20, 2017, as they meet for the first time since the baby's premature birth. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Gazan Jumana Daoud carries her 7-month-old daughter Maryam at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on February 20, 2017, as they meet for the first time since the baby’s premature birth. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Her story was covered by Channel 10 on Sunday night, and Daoud says Israeli authorities called hours later to say she could cross the Gaza-Israel border.

“The Palestinian side had unfortunately filed no request on her. When we heard about the case, we coordinated the mother’s arrival to the hospital within 24 hours,” said COGAT, the Defense Ministry agency responsible for the Palestinian territories.

However, the PA had circulated a document allegedly showing that the request had been submitted.

AFP was not able to independently verify the cause for the delay.

— AFP

Bomb threats hit three more JCCs

At least three more JCCs across the US have been targeted with bomb threats, bringing the totoal number to four on Monday.

Jewish community centers in St. Paul, Minnesota; Houston, Texas and Birmingham, Alabama, received bomb threats, according to local media reports.

The threat in Houston was described by a local official as “non-credible.” The JCC in Alabama was also given the all clear a short time later.

Bomb squads are still not allowing people to return to the St. Paul center.

Earlier, a JCC near Milwaukee was evacuated over a bomb threat.

Bomb threats called in at 10 JCCs — official

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network, an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security, says JCCs in 10 states have received bomb threats, though not all centers were evacuated.

News reports indicated that threats were received by JCCs in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin; St. Paul, Minnesota; Houston, Texas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Buffalo, New York; and Birmingham, Alabama.

The threats were called in on Monday morning. It is not known if they were live calls or recorded.

“It appears to be the same serial caller” as in the prior incidents, Goldenberg tells JTA.

Goldenberg says that some of the JCCs were evacuated and others were not.

“The JCCs are very well equipped to handle this,” he said.

Goldenberg says his office “is monitoring the situation.”

— JTA

Dozens of soccer fans arrested in pre-game donnybrook

Police have detained 25 fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club and another three supporters of Hapoel Tel Aviv after a pre-game brawl outside the stadium, according to the Ynet news website.

The incident occurs behind the Moshava stadium in Petah Tikva, outside Tel Aviv, where the two teams are slated to face each other at 9 p.m.

There is no immediate information on injuries.

The Beitar fan base has developed a reputation for harboring far-right wing elements.

The incident comes a day before the expected sentencing in Tel Aviv of soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of killing a wounded Palestinian assailant, who has become a cause celebre among some Beitar supporters.

Swedes bash Trump, film he based claims on

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has gently rapped US President Donald Trump over his apparent made-up claim of a terror incident in Sweden over the weekend.

“I was, like many others I believe, surprised by the comments made about Sweden this weekend,” Lofven says during a joint press conference in Stockholm with visiting Canadian Governor General David Johnston.

“We have opportunities, we have challenges, we’re working (on) them every day. But I think also we must all take responsibility for using facts correctly, and for verifying any information that we spread,” Lofven says.

Trump, speaking in Florida on Saturday, said; “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

The comment baffled Swedes and provoked much mockery on social media, as nothing major had happened there on Friday evening.

Trump later said he was referring to a segment on Fox News about a rise in crime, supposedly linked to immigration rates.

However two policemen interviewed in the film by Ami Horowitz now say the filmmaker tricked them and used answers to other questions to put words in their mouths.

”I don’t understand why we are a part of the segment. The interview was about something completely different to what Fox News and Horowitz were talking about,” Anders Goranzon tells Swedish news site DN. “It was supposed to be about crime in high risk areas. Areas with high crime rates. There wasn’t any focus on migration or immigration.”

“We don’t stand behind it. It shocked us. He has edited the answers. We were answering completely different questions in the interview. This is bad journalism,” Goranzon adds. “He is a madman.”

— with AFP

Vatican, Rome Jews team up for first-ever joint exhibit

The museums of the Vatican and Rome’s ancient Jewish community have teamed up to host their first-ever joint exhibit, building on decades of improved Catholic-Jewish relations after centuries of mistrust.

The exhibit’s focus is the menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum depicted in Jewish, Catholic and secular art over the centuries.

Since Rome’s Jewish Museum is tiny, it will host only 10 works. The other 120 works will be displayed at the Vatican Museums’ Carlo Magno exhibit space in St. Peter’s Square. A highlight will be a recently-discovered bas relief from a 1st-century Galilee synagogue.

Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, left, and Director of Rome's Jewish Museum Alessandra Di Castro pose for a photo in front of a bas-relief showing a menorah at the end of a press conference in Rome, Monday, February 20, 2017. (AP/Alessandra Tarantino)

Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, left, and director of Rome’s Jewish Museum, Alessandra Di Castro, pose for a photo in front of a bas-relief showing a menorah at the end of a press conference in Rome, Monday, February 20, 2017. (AP/Alessandra Tarantino)

The Jewish Museum flanks Rome’s main synagogue, site of a landmark 1986 visit by Pope John Paul II.

Lending museums for the exhibit, which runs from May 15 to July 27, include the Louvre and London’s National Gallery.

— AP

Netanyahu: We want peace, we’re working toward regional effort

At a dinner with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Netanyahu says he is committed to peace, citing his own experiences in battle, though without mentioning a two-state solution.

“I want to assure you that I am committed to peace and the people of Israel yearn for peace, all of us. We pray for peace because we have experienced, as you said, the cost of war, we lost loved ones. I myself was wounded in battle. Peace is better. Infinitely better. And I believe that the key to peace is the abandonment of the goal of liquidating people, accepting them, and working out the various conflicts,” he says.

Netanyahu was wounded during a rescue operation on a hijacked flight in 1972, when he was shot in the arm, apparently the result of friendly fire.

In apparent reference to efforts to cobble together a regional peace initiative involving Gulf states, Netanyahu also says Israel is expending considerable efforts toward that goal.

“I think there’s an opportunity to do this today because I sense a great change in the Arab world in many Arab countries, and I hope, as we discussed earlier, to be able to use that newfound attitude towards Israel to help to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict as well. This is something that we’re making a lot of efforts to, most of them are, so we say, not publicized, not public,” he adds.

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Israelis, Palestinians just hunting Pokemon, acclaimed historian says

In an interview published in The Atlantic, Hebrew University historian and thinker Yuval Harari, author of the new book “Homo Deus,” compares the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to augmented reality game Pokemon Go.

Yuval Noah Harari (Courtesy)
Yuval Noah Harari (Courtesy)

“Recently I went with my nephew to hunt Pokémon. We were walking down the street and a bunch of kids approached us. They were also hunting Pokemon. My nephew and these children got into a bit of a fight because they were trying to capture the same invisible creatures. It seemed strange to me. But these Pokémon were very real to the children. And then it hit me: This is just like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he says in the interview.

“I look at the stones of buildings in Jerusalem and I just see stones. But Christians, Jews, and Muslims who look at the same stones see a holy city. It’s their imagination, but they are willing to kill for it. That’s virtual reality, too,” he adds

This is not the first time Harari has used Pikachu and Co. to explain an idea. In a 2016 interview, he made the same point, though he made do with comparing the game only to organized religion.