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5th November – Latest News in Israel

PM Netanyahu’s Message of Hope at Masa Event

They want to destroy us. They want to push us in to the sea. But that won’t stop us, not even for a second, from being a light onto the nations in a sea of darkness!

Border Police officer critically wounded in suspected car ramming attack near Hebron

Doctors on Wednesday night continued to fight to save the life of a 20-year-old Border Police officer critically wounded in a suspected car ramming attack in the West Bank hours earlier.

The Border Police officer is suffering from very serious head injuries and injuries to his extremities, according to the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.

The incident took place at around 4pm on Wednesday, on Highway 60 near the Palestinian city of Halhul. In security camera footage from the scene, the vehicle can be seen approaching a curve in the road and then speeding up and swerving into a group of security personnel.

Border Police officers opened fire on the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The wounded officer was hit with great force, police said, and was treated at the scene in critical condition.

Magen David Adom paramedic Dvora Aviad said first responders found the wounded officer lying on the side of the road with serious and extensive internal injuries. Aviad said that MDA paramedics along with IDF medics gave the officer first aid and evacuated him while he was unconscious and not breathing on his own.

Not far away from the scene of Wednesday’s attack, three Border Police officers were wounded in a suspected ramming attack, when a Palestinian driver struck them at the Beit Einun junction on highway 60 outside Hebron.

Highway 60 in the West Bank has been the site of a series of ramming attacks and stabbings recently especially as the recent wave of attacks have moved to the West Bank, in particular the Hebron area and the Gush Etzion region.

As the attacks have migrated to the West Bank the security situation in Jerusalem has improved, to the extent that police announced Wednesday that they are making a series of security changes in the capital. Among these are the removal of some roadblocks set up in East Jerusalem in recent weeks and the moving of others.               (Jerusalem Post)

Jordanian combat pilots flew with Israel counterparts in recent US exercise

Jordanian fighter pilots trained closely with their Israeli counterparts at a US-hosted air force exercise this summer, an American official said, in a rare acknowledgment of intimate military cooperation between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbor to the east.

The US official’s comments, reported by Reuters on Tuesday, came as Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon more vaguely confirmed the cooperation. Ya’alon said in a speech Tuesday that Israeli pilots trained with unspecified Arab pilots in the course of July’s “Red Flag,” the latest in a series of joint combat training exercises frequently hosted by the US in Alaska.

Egypt is known to have participated in previous “Red Flag” exercises; Jordan is not.

“There were Arab pilots there too, and pilots from the various branches of the United States military and other countries,” Ya’alon said Tuesday.

The unnamed US official quoted by Reuters elaborated that Jordanian warplanes flew out with Israel’s jets in the course of the drill, and even refueled from an Israeli tanker over the Atlantic Ocean.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, and quietly maintain intimate security and economic relations. But they are not known to have ever acknowledged conducting joint air force training.

While the peace treaty is not popular among ordinary Jordanians, and is routinely criticized during flareups in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel and Jordan share many regional concerns, including over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the threat posed by Islamic State.

The disclosure of Israeli-Jordanian air force cooperation came three days after another rare instance of publicly acknowledged cooperation between the Israeli military and an Arab neighbor: Israel on Saturday assisted Egyptian and Russian authorities in the aftermath of the deadly crash of a Russian passenger jet with 224 people on board in the Sinai Peninsula.

IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner said the army coordinated with Russia and Egypt and provided “aerial surveillance in the efforts to locate the Russian airplane that lost contact over the Sinai Peninsula.”

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

For the past two weeks, the Israeli Air Force has been hosting the country’s largest ever international air exercise, drilling against a fictional enemy state.

The “Blue Flag” exercise, a follow up to “Red Flag” which was due to end on Tuesday, involves the Israeli Air Force, the United States Air Force, Greece’s Hellenic Air Force and the Polish Air Force, the captain in charge of all IAF exercises told The Times of Israel last week. A number of other countries, including Germany, also sent pilots and officers to observe the exercise but did not take part.

“Asked whether Jordan… was among the Blue Flag participants, Israeli military spokesmen declined to comment,” Reuters reported Tuesday. “Jordanian officials also declined comment on both drills,” it said.                (The Times of Israel)

Family of woman hurt in Rishon terror attack fumes at unhelpful mob

The family of an 80-year-old woman who was stabbed in a Monday terror attack in Rishon Lezion voiced outrage Tuesday that a mob of Israelis chased after her Palestinian attacker but gave the wounded woman no succor.

At least six people ran past the wounded woman as she lay injured on the ground.

Eisenkot was hospitalized with serious injuries. By Tuesday morning, her condition had stabilized and she had improved to moderate condition.

Eisenkot’s daughter Ruti Malka told Channel 2 that she was “shocked and disappointed” that the attacker’s pursuers ran past and leaped over her mother “like some object strewn there.”

A video from the scene of Monday’s attack, in which Rachel Eisenkot and two others were stabbed, showed the 19-year-old Palestinian suspect knife Eisenkot in the back while running.

Dozens of police officers had to protect the Palestinian terrorist — who stabbed and wounded two Israelis before running into a store, where he stabbed another — from an angry mob who attempted to lynch him.

Angry bystanders converged on the store and cornered the terrorist just as police on motorcycles arrived.

Cellphone video footage shows police officers holding back dozens of people attempting to reach the the attacker as officers handcuffed and arrested him. A handful of people can be heard shouting: “Why is he still alive?” and “Death to the Arabs.”

“I’d like to give them a dose more than what I’d like to give the terrorist,” Sagit Bracha-Eisenkot, the injured woman’s granddaughter, told Channel 2. “Thirty people chased after him. Just one of them should have stopped and helped my grandmother.”

“I think everyone needs to do some introspection,” she said. “What have we turned into?”

Yaakov Galantz, an eyewitness to the attack, defended the actions of bystanders, saying that “there was terrible panic in the street and we weren’t sure who the attacker was.”

“The first who arrived and continued onward asked first and foremost to stop the terrorist. It’s important for me to clarify that within less than 20 minutes of the stabbing i was already with [Eisenkot], I didn’t move from her side for a moment and I called an ambulance,” he said in a Channel 2 interview.

The stabbings came amid a wave of Palestinian attacks that have at times called into question some bystanders’ conduct.                                 (The Times of Israel)

Defense Ministry shuts down crossing near Jenin after finding pipe bomb

The Defense Ministry shut down the Gilboa Crossing north of the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday after soldiers IDF arrested a Palestinian man there with a bomb and a knife in his possession.

The suspect was arrested on the Palestinian side of the crossing, and confessed to soldiers that he was planning an attack, an army spokeswoman said.

Security forces took the suspect for questioning. There were no injuries.

The crossing, which has been the site of several incidents over the past two weeks including three attempted stabbing attacks, is one of the largest and most important between Israel and the West Bank, with thousands of Palestinian workers passing through daily on their way to jobs in Israel, as well as hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian trucks and thousands of Israeli-Arab motorists, including for shopping trips and trade in Jenin.

The decision to close the crossing, which is run by the Defense Ministry’s Overland Crossings Authority, was taken following “instructions by defense officials,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it will remain closed “until further notice.”

“Attempts to carry out terrorist attacks… lead first and foremost to damage to the Palestinian economy,” the ministry said.

The incident was the only terrorism event in the country Tuesday, after a series of some 60 attacks over the last five weeks in which Palestinian terrorists have killed 11 people with knives and guns and wounded more than 100.

“At the moment, we are fighting against a wave of terrorism. First it was missiles, and now it is knives,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We overcame the former wave; we will also overcome this one. This requires much patience. We have increased our forces and are investing in various means.

“While we do not shrink away from the steps necessary to defeat this terrorism, we know that in the end we rely on willpower, the iron willpower of our people who have been here over the past 100 years, which overcomes all obstacles and is developing the country in a way that inspires the world,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier in the day, soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron shut down a Fatah-affiliated radio station alleged to have broadcast incitement-filled content.

“Al-Hurriya [freedom in English] broadcasts harsh statements filled with incitement against the State of Israel,” the IDF Spokesman said.

“It encourages [Palestinians] to carry out stabbing attacks and it even supports violent processions.”

According to the IDF, there have been 29 terrorist attacks recently in the Hebron area, including 22 knifing attacks in the last month. At least 67 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces, including 40 armed with knives or other weapons; many were teenagers.

Of the Palestinians killed, 25 were from Hebron, including several shot dead near the crossing.

Hebron, 30 km. south of Jerusalem, is the largest city in the West Bank, with a Palestinian population of some 200,000, among whom live 1,000 Jewish settlers. The city itself is split; most of it under the Palestinian Authority, while a small portion is under Israeli military and civilian control.

When the violence started October 1, most of the attacks were carried out by what Israel described as “lone wolves,” with no sign of coordination by Palestinian political factions, as had been the case with previous uprisings. Many of the attacks were in Jerusalem, with some spilling over into the center of the country.

More recently, however, that has changed, at least when it comes to the stone-throwing demonstrations across the West Bank, as political factions are busing in participants from local universities. Locals said the radio station shut down by Israel had carried messages encouraging people to demonstrate, but added that this was normal and described the station as “liberal.”

“It plays lots of music; it’s everyone’s favorite,” said one individual.

Last month, a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) representative told the cabinet that senior PA and Fatah officials are involved in the incitement that is fanning the current wave of terrorism.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian football tournament named after murderer who stabbed two to death last month

Terrorist Muhannad Halabi murdered two Israeli civilians and wounded the wife and infant of one of them, in a stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem in October. Now, the Yasser Arafat Youth Center in Jenin has named a football tournament after the murderer.

Headline: “Bal’a Club wins the Martyr Halabi cup for football”

“The Martyr Yasser Arafat Youth Center (Al-Attara – Jenin) succeeded in organizing the first football tournament named after Martyr (Shahid) Muhannad Halabi, which took place on its football fields. The final game was played by the Yasser Arafat Youth Center and Bal’a, which rightly won the title.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 2, 2015]

Palestinian Media Watch has reported on official PA gestures in honor of this murderer. A PA municipality named a street after him and the mayor said, “This is the least we can do for Martyr Halabi.” Abbas’ Fatah movement brought soil from the Al-Aqsa Mosque to his grave. Private institutions and people have also honored terrorist Halabi, with the PA Bar Association awarding him an honorary law degree and parents in Gaza naming their newborn son after the murderer.

It is not surprising that private institutions and organizations like the Jenin youth club decide to honor murderers who have killed Israelis. Glorification of terrorist murderers is a practice repeatedly carried out by the PA and Fatah, as documented by PMW.

During the current terror wave alone, with numerous attacks carried out against Israelis, many official PA and Fatah institutions and leaders have honored and glorified the terrorists who have stabbed and shot at Israelis.

For example, the PA Ministry of Education issued the following press release on Oct. 8, 2015, only a few days after terrorist Halabi murdered two and Hamas terrorists murdered two Israeli parents in front of their four children, and several others were wounded in additional stabbing attacks. A big red sign with the text: “Very important notice” appeared below the press release, which expressed the ministry’s as well as the Palestinian Teachers’ Union’s “appreciation of the sacrifice of our people, and their efforts to support the heroic epic battle in Jerusalem” and included “greetings of admiration for the Martyrs”:

“In the name of Allah the All-Merciful

Press release from the [PA] Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the General Union of Palestinian teachers:

On Oct. 7, 2015, representatives of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, led by Minister [of Education and Higher Education] Sabri Saidam, met with representatives of the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, led by [Secretary-General of the General Union of Palestinian Teachers] Ahmed Sahwil, in the presence of members of the General Secretariat of the union and secretaries of the homeland branches.

During the meeting, both sides expressed their appreciation of the sacrifice of our people, and their efforts to support the heroic epic battle in Jerusalem, embodying loyalty to our national principles. They sent greetings of admiration for the Martyrs (Shahids), the wounded, and the prisoners, whose position has formed the basis for our righteous cause which continues blazing the memories of generations… Glory and eternity to our pure-hearted Martyrs, a speedy recovery to our injured, and freedom to our prisoners.”

[PA Ministry of Education’s official Facebook page, Oct. 8, 2015]

On Oct. 1, Israelis Naama and Eitam Henkin were murdered in a shooting attack on the road between Itamar and Elon Moreh, near the Palestinian city Nablus. Their four children, aged 9, 7, 4, and 4 months, were also in the car and witnessed the murders, but were not physically injured. Five Hamas members were arrested by Israel and confessed to the murders.

On Oct. 3, 2015, Palestinian terrorist Muhannad Halabi, 19, attacked Israeli citizen Aharon Bennet, 21, and his family, who were on their way back from prayer at the Western Wall through the Old City of Jerusalem. The terrorist killed Aharon and Israeli citizen Nehemia Lavi, who came to the family’s aid, and injured Aharon’s wife and 2-year-old son. Following the attack, the terrorist was shot and killed by Israeli security forces. Prior to his attack, in a post on Facebook, the terrorist justified his killings, stating that the attack was a response to Israel’s actions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This echoes PA incitement and is a reference to the PA libel that Israel is plotting to take over and destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosqueand to the PA’s portrayal of Jews praying on the Temple Mount as “an invasion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”                                    (Palestinian Media Watch)

Netanyahu: Last time it was rockets, this time it’s knives

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about Israel’s ability to overcome the current wave of terror that it is facing and said on Tuesday that he was sure that Israel would overcome the current threat as it has overcome other threats that it faced in the past.

“I know that we live in a stormy area. Extremist Islam is surrounding us and is also sending its arms into Israel,” Netanyahu said at a meeting about affordable housing in Afula.

“We are currently in a struggle against a wave of terror. Previously it was rockets and now it is knives,” the prime minister said, referring to the rockets that fell in Israel during last year’s Operation Protective Edge with Gaza and to the dozens of knife attacks that Israel has faced in the past few weeks.

Netanyahu said that Israel overcame the Gaza war and it will also overcome the current terror wave but it will require great perseverance.

He said that Israel was investing in means to fight terror and did not recoil from taking the required steps to destroy it.

“We know that in the end we rely on our will power. The iron will of our people who have been here for the last 100 years overcomes all obstacles and develops our country in a way that astonishes people around the world.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Hotovely: Those who label settlement products are boycotting Israel

Placing consumer labels on products from West Bank settlements is the equivalent of boycotting Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Tuesday before she embarked on a trip to European capitals to wage a diplomatic war against the selective singling out of such exports.

“The Foreign Ministry is leading the battle against the idea of labeling,” Hotovely said as she stood outside the Barkan Industrial Park in the Samaria Region of the West Bank.

Senior Israeli diplomatic officials have warned of the imminent publication of European Union legal guidelines that would allow member EU states to place consumer labels on Israeli exports produced over the pre-1967 lines in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

Her message, she said, is very simple. “Boycotting products from Judea and Samaria is a boycott against Israel. We do not see any difference between the industrial area of Barkan and the industrial area of Haifa. I came today to show the world what it really looks like, co-existence,” said Hotovely.

She explained that industrial parks in the West Bank where many of the exports to Europe are produced employ both Israelis and Palestinians who work together in the businesses.

Hotovely said she visited a factory in Barkan where 60 percent of the employees were Palestinians, many of them in management positions.

“When you do labeling you harm 10,000 Palestinian families and you do not do anything to the very strong economic system in Israel,” she said.

Avi Ro’eh who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria said that he too believed that the labeling of settlement products was just the first step to a larger boycott of Israel.

Experience has shown that battles that begin in Judea and Samaria spill over into Jerusalem and the rest of the state of Israel, Ro’eh said.

The Judea and Samaria industrial parks are the real life examples of the new Middle East that was spoken about when the Oslo Accords were first put in place in 1993, Ro’eh said.

Anger over the European move crossed the political divide on Tuesday as Opposition leader Issac Herzog (Zionist Union) met with the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey.

“It’s a process that ensures only one thing,” Herzog said, “the perpetuation of hatred and conflict in the region. Product labeling is a violent act of extremists that only want to make the situation worse, and the European Union has fallen into their trap.”

With this gesture, Europe is awarding a prize for terrorism, Herzog said. “It won’t contribute to the end of the conflict and will only inflict serious economic harm on tens of thousands Palestinians who work in factories in Judea and Samaria in good condition that allow them to support their families,” Herzog said.

His strong support for a two-state solution is well known, Herzog said, “But we won’t get there with measures like these.”                     (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog tells UK that labeling settlement goods ‘rewards terror’

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog told Britian’s ambassador to Israel Tuesday that a European Union plan to mark products made in factories over the Green Line is “a prize for terror.”

The EU will decide next week exactly how to label West Bank settlement products, after the European Parliament passed a resolution last month to approve the measure, according to a report by Haaretz.

Herzog, who heads the dovish Zionist Union Knesset faction, told David Quarrey he “strongly opposes this harmful and unnecessary measure,” calling it “a prize that Europe is bestowing for terror.”

“[It] serves only one purpose – continuing the hate and regional conflict. Marking these products is an act of violence by extremists who want to further inflame the situation and the EU is falling into their trap,” he said, according to a Hebrew-language transcript provided by Herzog’s spokesperson.

The Zionist Union chairman also warned that the move would be tantamount to a “blow to tens of thousands of Palestinians employed in factories in the West Bank under proper conditions who bring in an income for their families.”

The comments were a rare note of unity between Herzog and the ruling government, which has also vociferously opposed the prospects of a labeling regime.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely slammed the move in comments to reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking during a tour of a West Bank factory, she said that “the factory we stand in is a symbol of coexistence, and in my view anyone who wants to promote peace must at the very least see this place with their own eyes.”

She said she saw the factory trip as “a visit that marks the start of a struggle” against product labeling.

But Herzog is not likely to be part of that government effort.

He said his concern came from a belief that it wouldn’t advance moribund peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.

“My stance on separating from the Palestinians is well-known,” he said, “but you will not achieve this with this kind of step.”

Peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis broke down in April 2014 amid mutual recrimination. The past month has seen a spike in Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis in Jerusalem, the West Bank and cities across the country.

In April, the foreign ministers of 16 of the European Union’s 28 member states sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini asking her to promote the labeling of products from the settlements in store chains throughout Europe. Germany wasn’t among the signatories.

Then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman strongly condemned the bid,suggesting that European nations might as well label them “with a yellow star” such as the one used by Nazi Germany to identify Jews before and during the Holocaust.                            (The Times of Israel)

Sudanese attacks Israeli on Ethiopian Airlines flight

Ethiopian authorities arrested a Sudanese man Tuesday for allegedly attacking an Israeli on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from N’Djamena to Addis Ababa last week.

The suspect reportedly beat the Israeli man, identified by Ynet as a 54-year-old named Arik, with a metal tray and shouted “Allah is greatest” and “kill the Jews” in Arabic on the flight from Chad to Ethiopia’s capital on Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry said that there was an alleged assault on an Israeli citizen on a flight to Ethiopia, and that the suspected assailant was a Muslim from Sudan.

“On landing the Sudanese man was arrested by police, where he was questioned and has remained since the incident,” the ministry said in a statement. “The embassy was updated by local authorities.”

The Israeli man told Ynet that just before landing in the Ethiopian capital, the passenger behind him “identified me as Israeli and Jewish,” then started choking him, then beat him over the head.

“Only after a few seconds, just before I was about to lose consciousness, did I manage to call out and a flight attendant who saw what was happening summoned her colleagues,” he said.

After he was pulled free by airline employees, he said his attacker tried to rally passengers and crew to “finish me off.”

“During the moments when I thought I was going to die, I’d already begun to separate from my family in my thoughts.”                             (The Times of Israel)

Joseph’s Tomb restored after October arson attack by Palestinian rioters

The Jewish holy site of Joseph’s Tomb in the Palestinian city of Nablus was restored and repaired Tuesday night by the Shomron Regional Council after it was set ablaze and severely damaged by Palestinian rioters last month.

A team of 50 workers, including stone masons, painters, welders, and electricians arrived at the site at 1:00 a.m., with an IDF escort, to carry out the necessary repairs and worked at the site through the night until approximately 6:00 a.m. to complete the restoration.

The most serious damage was done to the stone tomb itself inside the external structure. The rioters smashed and broke several marble panels overlaid on the tomb, breaking them with hammers, iron bars and other implements.

The restoration work replaced the marble around the tomb, as well as repainting the site, and repairing and replacing lighting and other aspects of the site’s infrastructure which were damaged in the attack.

The repairs cost approximately NIS 100,000 and have been covered by the Shomron Regional Council.

“The sovereign over Joseph’s Tomb is the Jewish people, and so the jewish people have restored this place of rest of one of its ancestors,” said Davidi Ben Tzion, deputy chairman of the Council.


Ben Tzion also took the opportunity to protest the severely limited access for Jews to the site.

“We demand that the government of Israel enforce its sovereignty and allow access every day for Jews, not like thieves in the night but in an appropriate manner as is legally and ethically required.”

Under the Oslo Accords, Jews are allowed regular access to the site but Jewish worshipers can currently only access the tomb once a month in the middle of the night, when the IDF secures the roads that lead to the tomb.

The Book of Joshua records that the biblical figure Joseph was buried in the city of Shechem, close to present day Nablus. The tomb is believed to be his final resting place, although there is an archaeological debate on the issue.

Historically the site has been revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In the last 15 years, however, the site has been repeatedly targeted by Palestinian rioters and vandals and was badly gutted by another arson attack in 2000. It was only restored after that incident in 2011.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Israel ranks 6th on list of world’s healthiest countries

Israel is the sixth-healthiest country in the world and is the only Middle Eastern country in the top 10, according to recent world health rankings by media outlet Bloomberg and reported in British newspaper The Independent.

The rankings, which compiled data from the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, placed Singapore in first place of 145 countries, with a “health grade” of 89.45 percent.

Italy came in second, followed by Australia, Switzerland and Japan. After Israel came Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.

The United Kingdom ranked 21st and the United States 33rd. The U.S. came in after Costa Rica (No. 24), Denmark (26), Cuba (28) and the United Arab Emirates (30). Russia was in 97th place and Iraq in 98th.

In last place was Swaziland, with a health grade of only 0.26 percent.

The rankings were determined using a points system for positive and negative indicators of health, including life expectancy from birth, smoking rates among young people, and immunization rates.                             (Israel Hayom)

‘Egypt has done more damage to Gaza tunnels in a few weeks than Israel did in 2 decades’

Mahmoud Bakeer speaks with despair about the night of the flash flood, when he screamed at his wife and five children to flee their home on Gaza’s border with Egypt as the water rushed in.

They made it to safety during the flooding last week, but a network of Palestinian tunnels running under the frontier town of Rafah is now water-logged, destroyed by Cairo to sever what it says is a weapons smuggling route out of Gaza for Islamist insurgents in Egypt’s Sinai desert.

For Bakeer, 61, the fact that Egypt, once a gateway to the world for Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians, was behind his family’s suffering, was particularly painful.

“We respect our neighbors, we love Egypt, but our neighbors are making our life harder,” he said in his one-story unfinished cinder block house, around which water seeps and cracks in the ground are growing wider.

Egypt’s pumping of salt water from the nearby Mediterranean into the tunnels is not only creating a mess as it rises to the surface. Palestinian officials say it is also contaminating water supplies as well as threatening to wreck farmland and spread disease.

Local residents say that at the peak of the tunnel business, after Hamas Islamists seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 and Israel tightened a closure of its crossings into the enclave, nearly 2,500 underground passages snaked under the border with Egypt.

The direction of traffic was mainly into Gaza. Commercial goods – and weapons smuggled in separate tunnels controlled by Hamas and other militant factions – flowed in defiance of what Palestinians and many of their supporters decried as neighboring Israel’s siege.

In 2008-10, some tunnel owners were said to have become dollar millionaires as they shifted everything from Hummer vehicles and washing machines to cows and sheep through the underground system. Hamas imposed a tax on shipments.

At one point an estimated 22,000 Palestinians worked in the tunnel “industry”. However, it shrank markedly in 2010 after Israel, under international pressure to ease restrictions on commercial imports into Gaza, allowed more goods in through its overland crossings.

Then this September, battling an insurgency in northern Sinai, Egypt decided to shut down the tunnels once and for all. Determined to halt what it said was an arms flow in the opposite direction, from Gaza to the militants, it cleared the area on its side of the border and began pumping water into the underground maze, collapsing the land.

Tunnel-builders said Egypt has pumped in water several times since September, and that over the course of a few weeks had done more damage to the network, which once accounted for an estimated 30 percent of Gaza’s imports, than Israeli bombing had caused over the past two decades.

Now, the diggers said, fewer than 20 tunnels remain for commercial goods, with easy-to-smuggle cigarettes the main contraband. No one can, or will, say how many weapons tunnels remain – a secret that is guarded by Hamas and other armed groups, which last fought a war with Israel in 2014.

What is left is an environmental mess, residents and local officials said, with the sea water polluting underground drinking reserves. The overflow has reached streets and homes within 100 meters (yards) of the border fence. Vast puddles and mud are everywhere.

“One cubic meter of sea water pollutes 40 cubic meters of underground water,” said Tamer al-Sleibi, water department director in the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority in Gaza, who is concerned about long-term environmental damage.

Egypt’s campaign, he said, could weaken the foundations of homes already on shaky ground due to tunnel-building and make land unfit for agriculture in areas near the frontier. There is also a health risk as the water turns stagnant, allowing mosquitoes and other disease carriers to breed.

Rafah Mayor Subhy Rudwan said the six wells that serve the city of 230,000 are threatened with contamination. “We are monitoring the situation along the border closely and we have noticed some collapses of ground in some areas,” he said.

Last Friday, Rudwan said, Egyptian forces pumped in sea water from morning to night. “If they continue to do it, the lives and residence of people in the border area will be in danger, and they might be forced to quit their houses. We have appealed to Egypt to stop the flooding,” he said.

Hamas leaders have rejected Cairo’s allegations that it meddles in Egyptian affairs and that it has an armed presence outside Gaza. Representatives of the group have met Egyptian officials but failed to persuade them to turn off the taps.

In the tunnel zone, workers now move mud out of the once busy hub that provided a lifeline for Gaza’s inhabitants. The border crossing with Egypt has been largely closed by the Western-backed government in Cairo.

One tunnel owner said it had cost him $200,000 to build the structure, and the flooding had forced him to cut his workforce of 54 to only eight. “We bring in cigarettes for a few days a month and we spend the rest of the days clearing the mud,” he said, asking not to be identified.           (Jerusalem Post)

2,000-year-old Maccabean-era fortress unearthed in Jerusalem after century-long search

In what archaeologists are describing as “a solution to one of the great archaeological riddles in the history of Jerusalem,” researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that they have found the remnants of a fortress used by the Seleucid Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes in his siege of Jerusalem in 168 BCE.

A section of fortification was discovered under the Givati parking lot in the City of David south of the Old City walls and the Temple Mount. The fortification is believed to have been part of a system of defenses known as the Acra fortress, built by Antiochus as he sought to quell a Jewish priestly rebellion centered on the Temple.

Antiochus is remembered in the Jewish tradition as the villain of the Hanukkah holiday who sought to ban Jewish religious rites, sparking the Maccabean revolt.

The Acra fortress was used by his Seleucids to oversee the Temple and maintain control over Jerusalem. The fortress was manned by Hellenized Jews, who many scholars believe were then engaged in a full-fledged civil war with traditionalist Jews represented by the Maccabees. Mercenaries paid by Antiochus rounded out the force.

The site will be opened to the public by the Hanukkah holiday, which this year begins the evening of December 6, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.

The discovery of the Acra’s foundations ends over a century of intense speculation over its location, the archaeologists said Tuesday. The fortress is mentioned in the Book of Maccabees I and II, and by the Roman-era Jewish historian Josephus.

The archaeological record from the period of Seleucid Greek control of Jerusalem is scant, a fact that contributed to the difficulty in resolving the longstanding mystery.


Remains of the Acra citadel and tower in the City of David in Jerusalem

But in recent months, researchers digging at the site slowly unearthed a massive wall, the base of a tower “with impressive proportions,” 20 meters (66 feet) long and fully four meters (13 feet) wide, the IAI said. The wall’s outer base was coated with a layer of dust, stones and plaster, a slippery slope deliberately added to the wall to make it difficult for attackers to scale it.

The dig, which has been ongoing for the past 10 years, also uncovered lead sling stones, bronze arrowheads and stones shot by a ballista, an ancient catapult. The ballista stones were stamped with the image of a pitchfork, the symbol of Antiochus’s reign. Coins found at the spot were dated from the reign of aforementioned Antiochus IV Epiphanes to the reign of Antiochus VII Sidetes, who died in 129 BCE.

The finds were “silent remnants of the battles that took place there in the days of the Hasmoneans,” the priestly family that led the Maccabean rebellion, the archaeologists said.

The Acra fortress remained a symbolic and strategic foothold of Seleucid power in Jerusalem until it was finally conquered by Simon Maccabeus in 141 BCE, after a long siege during which the Hasmonean king essentially starved out the Greek defenders.

“This sensational discovery allows us for the first time to reconstruct the layout of settlement and the actual look of the city on the eve of the Hasmonean revolt,” the excavation’s directors Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen were quoted as saying.

“The new archaeological finds testify to the establishment of a properly fortified stronghold constructed on the high bedrock cliff overlooking the steep slopes of the City of David hill,” they said. “This stronghold controlled all means of approach to the Temple, and cut the Temple off from the southern parts of the city. The many coins dating from the reign of Antiochus IV [Epiphanes] to that of Antiochus VII [Sidetes] and the large number of wine jars (amphorae) that were imported from the Aegean region to Jerusalem and were found at the site bear witness to the citadel’s age, as well as to the non-Jewish identity of its inhabitants.”                        (The Times of Israel)

Why Palestinians Do Not Want Cameras on the Temple Mount

by Khaled Abu Toameh    The Gatestone Institute


The Palestinian Authority (PA) will continue to work against having cameras in the hope of preventing the world from seeing what is really happening at the site and undermining Jordan’s “custodianship” over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.

Another reason the Palestinians oppose King Abdullah’s idea is their fear that cameras would expose that Palestinians have been smuggling stones, firebombs and pipe bombs into the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the past two years.

The cameras are also likely to refute the claim that Jews are “violently invading” Al-Aqsa Mosque and holding prayers on the Temple Mount. The cameras will show that Jews do not enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, as Palestinians have been claiming. Needless to say, no Jewish visitors have been caught trying to smuggle weapons into the holy site.

It remains to be seen how Secretary Kerry, who brokered the camera deal between Israel and Jordan, will react to the latest Palestinian Authority escalation of tensions. If Kerry fails to pressure the PA to stop its incitement and attempts to exclude the Jordanians from playing any positive role, the current wave of knife attacks against Jews will continue.

Why is the Palestinian Authority (PA) opposed to Jordan’s proposal to install surveillance cameras at Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews?

This is the question that many in Jordan have been asking in light of the recent agreement between Israel and Jordan that was reached under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry. The idea was first raised by Jordan’s King Abdullah in a bid to ease tensions at the holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Shortly after Israel accepted the idea, the Palestinian Authority rushed to denounce it as a “new trap.” PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki and other officials in Ramallah expressed concern that Israel would use the cameras to “arrest Palestinians under the pretext of incitement.”

During the past two years, the Palestinian Authority and other parties, including Hamas and the Islamic Movement (Northern Branch) in Israel, have been waging a campaign of incitement against Jewish visits to the Haram al-Sharif. The campaign claimed that Jews were planning to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In an attempt to prevent Jews from entering the approximately 37-acre (150,000 m2) site, the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Movement in Israel hired scores of Muslim men and women to harass the Jewish visitors and the police officers escorting them. The men are referred to as Murabitoun, while the women are called Murabitat (defenders or guardians of the faith).

These men and women have since been filmed shouting and trying to assault Jews and policemen at the Haram al-Sharif. This type of video evidence is something that the Palestinian Authority is trying to avoid. The PA, together with the Islamic Movement, wants the men and women to continue harassing the Jews under the pretext of “defending” the Al-Aqsa Mosque from “destruction” and “contamination.”

The installation of surveillance cameras at the site will expose the aggressive behavior of the Murabitoun and Murabitat, and show the world who is really “desecrating” the Islamic holy sites and turning them into a base for assaulting and abusing Jewish visitors and policemen.

The cameras are also likely to refute the claim that Jews are “violently invading” Al-Aqsa Mosque and holding prayers at the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Islamic Movement have long been describing the Jewish visits as a “provocative and violent incursion” into Al-Aqsa Mosque. But now the cameras will show that Jews do not enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, as the Palestinians have been claiming.

Another reason the Palestinians are opposed to King Abdullah’s idea is their fear that the cameras would expose that Palestinians have been smuggling stones, firebombs and pipe bombs into Al-Aqsa Mosque for the past two years. These are scenes at the PA, Hamas and the Islamic Movement do not want the world to see: they show who is really “contaminating” the Haram al-Sharif. Needless to say, no Jewish visitors have thus far been caught trying to smuggle such weapons into the holy site.

By rejecting the idea of setting up 24-hour surveillance cameras at the Haram al-Sharif, the Palestinian Authority has found itself on a course of collision with Jordan. Jordanian politicians and columnists have voiced outrage over the stance of the PA, and have dubbed it harmful to Palestinian and Islamic interests.

The Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad, which is close to the government, quoted Jordanian politicians as denouncing the opposition of the Palestinian Authority to the cameras as “inappropriate, clumsy, tasteless and unfair.”

Sources in Ramallah explained this week that the PA’s opposition to cameras should also be seen in the context of the power struggle between the Palestinians and Jordan over control of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. The Jordanians have long been seeking to preserve their status as “custodians” of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. This is a status that some Palestinians and the Islamic Movement in Israel have been trying to change during the past two decades, especially after the signing of the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel in 1993.

The Palestinian Authority’s opposition to the installation of cameras is seen as an attempt to undermine Jordan’s status at the Islamic holy sites. Many Palestinians argue that they, and not the Jordanians, should be in charge of the Haram al-Sharif. Members of the PA are opposed to the cameras because it is a Jordanian proposal and reinforces Jordan’s role at the holy site.

As such, the Palestinian Authority’s position could be seen as an attempt to change the status quo at the holy site by driving the Jordanians out of the area. King Abdullah is obviously aware of the Palestinian attempt to prevent him from playing any role at the holy site; that is why he was quick to reach a deal with Israel about the installation of cameras. The PA, meanwhile, will continue to work against having cameras in the hope of preventing the world from seeing what is really happening at the site and undermining Jordan’s “custodianship” over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.

It now remains to be seen how Secretary Kerry, who brokered the camera deal between Israel and Jordan, will react, if at all, to the latest Palestinian Authority attempt to continue escalating tensions at the holy site. If Kerry fails to pressure the PA to stop its incitement and repeated attempts to exclude the Jordanians from playing any positive role at the Haram al-Sharif, the current wave of knife attacks against Jews will continue.

Israelis are being stabbed to death in the streets of Jerusalem − why doesn’t anyone care?


By  Yiftah Curiel         International Business Times  (UK)

October was a bloody month in Israel, with over 50 terror attacks, mostly involving stabbings, but also using firearms and vehicles. Over 100 Israelis were injured, 14 in a serious condition, and 11 were murdered. Many of the Palestinian perpetrators died in the attacks, some were teens, motivated by religious incitement and lies concerning the site known as al-Aqsa to Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews.

Here in London, the past few weeks have felt like a veil was lifted over political-correctness and a veneer of journalistic practice with regards to Israel. This was no Gaza operation, not a drone war, nor an exchange of unequal firepower. The facts were clear and simple: Israelis, from children to the elderly, were being murdered in broad daylight in towns across the country.

Yet the media does not seem to get it right even under these circumstances. Headlines still run as “Israeli police shoot Palestinian”, then change to “Palestinian shot in knife attack”, and again to “Woman who planned knife attack shot dead” (she didn’t just plan it, she actually carried it out). An Israeli whose car is stoned with rocks steps out and “pays with his life for attacking Palestinian trucks”, while a terrorist “becomes seventh Palestinian killed by security forces after Jerusalem stabbing”.

All of the above headlines are real, and all were subsequently corrected; some of them undergoing three or four different versions, reflecting the clear fact that editors understood that they did not make sense, simply did not reflect reality on the ground. Yet these corrections ensued, week after week, as if media outlets were unwilling to accept reality and forgo their automatic mode of reporting on the region, in which Palestinians must play the role of victims, and Israelis the aggressors.

Anti-Israel groups also seemed confused by the situation, and so they did the only thing they know how to do − call for a protest outside the Israeli Embassy. Under the vague banner of “Protest for Palestine”, last week we saw the familiar scenes of Hamas and Hezbollah flags, and of people telling an Israeli journalist that “all Zionists should be killed”. Thankfully, his equipment wasn’t trashed this time, as it was in last month’s “peaceful protest”.

Countless headlines were corrected this month, nearly one for every deadly terror attack in Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinian incitement was dismissed by some as “an Israeli line”, a “distraction”.

Radical clerics brandishing knives and holding up explosive belts, Hamas spokesmen acting as cheerleaders for terror attacks, and Palestinian radio playing songs of praise to the “martyrs”, were of little interest to a media focused only on Israeli actions.

The willingness to disregard reality, to display this level of animosity toward Israel at a time when its civilians were facing a wave of rampant terror, sends a clear message: “Your lives are of no interest to us”.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t conform to the attitude of the media, as we’ve seen in Syria, where civilians continue to die regardless of scant media coverage, or Gaza, whose population continues to suffer under Hamas even today.

When we read headlines focusing on Israel’s in-the-moment response to murderous Palestinian terrorism, rather than on the terrorist stabbings and shootings themselves, I wonder precisely what such people expect from Israelis? When a television presenter asks Jerusalem’s mayor if carrying a gun to protect oneself from a stabbing wasn’t “excessive”? Do they wish for Israelis to passively accept the terrorist’s knife in their chest, and not defend themselves lest this provokes another negative headline or protest abroad?

Solidarity and sympathy with Palestinians aside, what we have witnessed these past weeks has looked like solidarity with murderous Palestinian knife-wielders, mixed with callousness towards innocent Israelis’ lives.

Yiftah Curiel is spokesperson for the Israel Embassy in London.

Obama: The most anti-Israel president


by Joseph Farah    World Net Daily

As I headed to Israel this week, I was curious to read the latest security alert from Barack Obama’s State Department for travel advisories.

Since I’ve been to Israel many, many times over the last 35 years – four times in just the last three years – I take these notices with a grain of salt. Suffice it to say I think I have a better handle on the security situation than John Kerry does.

It turns out State is tightening restrictions on travel for its employees in Israel since the spike in Arab violence that has killed eight Israelis and injured dozens more. In fact, it is prohibiting U.S. employees from traveling to what it calls “the West Bank” and the Old City of Jerusalem after dark.

Note these are areas with heavy concentrations of Arab “Palestinians.” Those are the people attacking Israelis, mostly civilians. But the State Department doesn’t blame the perpetrators of these crimes. Instead, U.S. officials blame … the Israelis.

According to State Department “analysts,” the fact that Israel is building homes in the Jewish state accounts for the increased violence. A secondary “cause,” U.S. officials say, are visits to the Temple Mount area by Jews seeking to pray on what they consider to be the holiest site in Judaism.

“Such violence erupts periodically, with some analysts citing a correlation with conflict over Israeli settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods, Israeli visits to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount (HAS/TM) compound, restrictions on HAS/TM for Palestinians,” said the report.

Reports like this have some of our tour participants expressing concerns about safety.

You know what I tell them?

“I would be more concerned about walking around at night in Chicago, Baltimore, Newark and certain parts of Los Angeles and New York and Atlanta – all cities under nearly 100 percent Democratic Party control.”

It’s true.

Israel is much safer than those places. It’s not just because of the police and military presence. It is also safer because Israelis themselves are armed to teeth. Anyone who decides to stab an Israeli in a public place, the latest rage, faces almost certain death as a result. Even in a culture propagandized to believe dying for the cause of Allah brings instant rewards, it’s only a small minority who find such a decision inviting.

But the nonsense coming out of the State Department these days is indicative of one thing: The U.S. now has the most anti-Israel president ever. The blaming-the-victim mentality we see from State Department apparatchiks starts right at the top – Obama and Kerry.

If only Obama blamed his party’s policies for the violence in nearly every major U.S. city presided over by Democrats. Can you imagine that? Instead, he blames guns.

Well, you know, it’s always something … people praying, building houses, getting guns.

I’ve lived in parts of America where almost everyone is armed. You know what? There’s very little crime and precious few shootings.

I’ve been in places in America, like schools, where prayer is effectively banned. It hasn’t stopped the shootings and the violence.

I’ve seen lots of houses built in America, but never noticed a correlation between construction and terrorism.

I guess you have to be a U.S. State Department “analyst” to see these things.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Anyway, I look forward to returning to the U.S. in a couple weeks with some new insights into arguably the most controversial nation in the world – the one and only Jewish state, the one and only outpost of freedom in the Middle East and the bane of Barack Obama’s existence.

This information is compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman, Board Member of the Zionist Council of NSW