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Israel News – 10th February

Six people wounded in Petah Tikva terrorist shooting and stabbing attack

Six people were lightly wounded after a shooting and stabbing attack at an open market in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva on Thursday afternoon.

Police said an 18-year-old from Nablus open fired on a bus at the entrance to the market on Hirsch street at around 4:45 p.m. and then ran to a sewing shop and stabbed someone before he was stopped by civilians and later arrested by police. The suspect was arrested on Montefiore Street with a weapon in hand according to Central District Police Spokesman Ami Ben David. Authorities are treating the incident as terrorism.

Magen David Adom said its emergency responders evacuated a man and a women in their 50s and woman in her 30s with gunshot wounds to the lower body. Another man in his 40s was evacuated in easy condition with a stab wounds to the neck and ear. The injured were taken to the Rabin medical center for treatment. Two others were injured in unclear circumstances and evacuated in easy condition.

Leon Itkin, who was in the sewing shop when the assailant entered said the man tried to shoot people in the room but was stopped by civilians. “I was in the store when suddenly there’s a terrorist with a weapon. He tried to shoot, but he was stopped,” Itkin reportedly said. Itkin added that the attacker then grabbed a screwdriver and stabbed one of the men who was attempting to control him.

United Hatzalah EMT Zev Topper stated that one of the patients treated had been beaten by passersby who mistook him for the assailant. The patient said that he screamed “I am not the terrorist I was chasing the terrorist. If I die, I die protecting the State of Israel.”

Gal Dover, a paramedic with United Hatzalah who responded to the incident said, “As I was treating a woman for gunshot injuries to her legs, the dispatch center informed me and my fellow EMS first responders that there were other injured people the next street over. After I finished treating the woman, I ran over to the other scene where I treated a man for a stab wound and head injury.”       (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s Iron Dome intercepts 3 missiles fired from Egypt

Israel intercepted three missiles fired from across the Egyptian border, towards the coastal city of Eilat, shortly after launching a response to mortar landing in the Golan Heights from across the Syrian border.

An IDF spokesperson confirmed that at least four missiles were fired in the direction of Israel’s southernmost city Eilat, from the direction of the Egyptian border. Three of the missiles were successfully intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, while the fourth landed in an open area.

The IDF responded earlier to a mortar shell that landed in the Golan Heights on Wednesday night, which was shot from across Israel’s border with Syria.

There were no casualties or damages that were reported.

The IDF said that it launched an attack on a target on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights region, holding the regime in Damascus responsible for such action.

“The IDF will not tolerate any attack on Israel’s sovereignty or the security of its citizens, and sees the Syrian regime is responsible for what happens in its territory,” an IDF spokesperson said.           (World Israel News)

Islamic State claims Eilat rocket attack, threatens more

An Islamic State-affiliated terror group on Thursday claimed an attack that saw four rockets fired at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday night.

The Islamic State Sinai Province said in a statement posted online, “A military squad fired a number of Grad rockets at communities of Jewish usurpers in the town of Eilat.”

The statement said the group attacked Israel “in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders a proxy war will not avail them of anything.”

“The future will be more calamitous with Allah’s permission,” the statement said.

The group has been waging a bloody battle against Egyptian forces in recent years. Egypt and Israel are known to have some level of security coordination in the Sinai.

Three of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the fourth fell in an open area.

There were no injuries or damage reported from the rocket salvo. However, city officials said several people were treated for anxiety attacks related to the incident.

Fragments of one of the rockets were found in a hotel swimming pool, according to pictures posted to social media.

Eilat is a resort city, popular with tourists from Europe. It is currently full to capacity with visitors.

Early Thursday morning, two Palestinians were killed and five were injured in the southern Gaza Strip near the Egypt border, in an explosion that Hamas officials claimed was an Israeli airstrike in retaliation for the rocket attack.

The IDF denied it had carried out an airstrike in Gaza overnight.

Sinai borders Israel and also the Gaza Strip for a few kilometers at the northern end of the peninsula.

Sinai Province was set up in 2011, ostensibly to attack Israel by firing rockets across the 240-kilometer (149-mile) border or sabotaging a gas pipeline that runs between Egypt and Israel.

But most of the fighting, by far, has been with Egyptian government forces and attacks on Israel have been relatively rare.

Jihadists have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen since the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 unleashed a bloody crackdown on his supporters.

In 2011, assailants who came from the Sinai killed eight Israelis in a triple ambush north of Eilat. Israeli forces in pursuit killed seven attackers and five Egyptian police.

In 2013, four jihadists were killed by an Egyptian airstrike as they were about to fire a rocket at Israel, according to the Egyptian military.

And in 2014, two patrolling Israeli soldiers were wounded by unidentified men who fired an anti-tank weapon from the Sinai during an attempted drug-smuggling operation, according to the Israeli military.

In 2015, rockets fired from Sinai landed in southern Israel, but did not cause any casualties. The Sinai Province group claimed responsibility.

Israel has denounced the movement of men and weapons between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the Hamas terrorist group.  (the Times of Israel )

Julie Bishop not condemning Israel legalising settlements on Palestinian land

Last week, when Israel announced it would build 3,500 new units for settlers in the West Bank, Ms Bishop called on both sides to avoid unilateral actions that diminish prospects for a negotiated peace.

The ABC asked Ms Bishop if she believed the controversial new law contradicted that call, but she declined to comment on the development.

“The Australia Government has consistently supported a two-state solution agreed from direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians,” she told the ABC.

“We continue to call on both sides to avoid unilateral actions that diminish the prospects of a negotiated peace.”

Last month Israeli settlers moved onto land 60-year-old Palestinian farmer Mohammed Naiief claims has been in his family for years.

Many took the permits granted for 560 units to be built in three areas of East Jerusalem as further evidence the “two state solution” is drifting towards fiction, writes Philip Williams.

“This land is my land and my neighbour’s land. We have our olive trees there, they were planted by my father,” he told the ABC from his village of Deir Al Hatab near Nablus in the Occupied West Bank.

“I saw bulldozers and trucks moving dirt around. And now there’s caravans there too.”

Outposts like this built on private Palestinian land without state approval have been classified as illegal under Israeli law.

But a controversial new bill has retroactively legalised about 4,000 of the illegal settler homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

“It’s a crime. Israel sets laws as they like,” Mohammed Naiief said.

“They can’t take over our land and our farms. It’s like taking a part of our bodies.”

Last night in Israel’s parliament, Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis told members they were voting “for the connection between the Jewish people and its land”.

“We are voting tonight on our right to the land, on the continuous connection of 3,000 years,” he told the Knesset just before the vote passed.

“This whole land is ours. All of it.”

International condemnation was swift.

“It shows the direction of the political will of the majority of members of the Knesset. It crosses a very, very thick, red line,” said the UN’s envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov.

Mr Mladenov said he was concerned the bill had set a “very dangerous precedent” and it could open the floodgates to the potential annexation of the West Bank.

“It is a radical departure from Israel’s policy that the Knesset does not legislate in the occupied territories of the West Bank and certainly not on Palestinians and their property rights,” the UN envoy said.

The UK Government joined the condemnation, with Minister for the Middle East Tobia Ellwood saying it “damages Israel’s standing with its international partners” and paves the way for “significant growth in settlements deep in the West Bank”.

Israeli Human rights groups vowed to challenge the law in the Supreme Court.

“The law that was passed yesterday basically robs Palestinians of their right to private property,” said Amit Gilutz, a spokesperson for B’Tselem.   (ABC News)

The Prime Minister’s Office says Regulation Bill ‘very balanced solution’ to illegal building

The Prime Minister’s Office responded Tuesday to the outpour of criticism from world leaders following the Knesset’s approval of the Regulation Bill, which will legalize government-backed outposts in the West Bank.

In a statement issued by the office, it stressed that the law is intended to address a reality in which Israelis unintentionally built houses in the West Bank on land that does not belong to the state.

Netanyahu’s office stated that most of the construction under discussion was carried out several decades ago, and that the new law states that the rights to the land would be transferred over to the state until an agreement is reached. It also pointed out the land proprietors will receive financial compensation exceeding the lands’ actual worth or alternative nearby plots.

“This is a very balanced solution for land owners as well as for families facing the risk of evacuation and losing the home they have been living in for decades,” the PMO explained. “The aim of this law is to minimize the need to destroy houses built many years ago. It is important to stress that the law will only apply to a limited number of existing cases and is in no way a license to expropriate land.”

The PMO also clarified that the law will not be applicable to any cases where a court had already ruled on the matter, such as in the cases of Amona and the nine houses in the outpost of Ofra still slated for evacuation.

“Israel is a law abiding country,” the PMO stated. “The State of Israel ascribes a great deal of importance to respecting the court’s decisions, and it will enforce the law among all sectors of the population, as has been proven by the painful evacuation of Amona.”             (Ynet News)

Israel offered prisoner exchange to Hamas through intermediaries

Initial Arabic reports on Wednesday morning suggested that Israel has extended an offer for a new prisoner exchange to Hamas through intermediaries.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigade, initially tweeted the report claiming that the alleged offer did not meet the terrorism group’s “minimum demands,” according to Al Jazeera.

The Israeli government has not commented on the matter.

Wednesday’s report came after a previous report that Hamas had turned down another Israeli prisoner-swap offer that would have allowed for one Israeli captive to be exchanged for one Hamas member.

According to a source from the terrorist organization who spoke with Israel Radio on Sunday, the offer proposed to exchange Hamas member Bilal Razaineh for one of two Israelis who are thought to be alive in the Gaza Strip.

Razaineh, 24, was caught attempting to enter Israel in November and is said to be a high-ranking Hamas operative, as he has reportedly been a member of the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, for nearly a decade.

The offer was said to be a “humanitarian exchange,” due to the fact that the Israeli nationals who crossed into Gaza in recent years and are currently thought to be in Hamas captivity reportedly suffer from mental or psychological illnesses. It was turned down because it had to be “all or nothing,” according to the source, who added that Hamas would welcome a deal with Israel that included Egypt as a mediator.

Israeli-Ethiopian Avraham “Abera” Mengistu was last seen in Israel on September 7, 2014, when soldiers saw him climb the fence into the Gaza Strip.

Hisham al-Sayed, a young Beduin man who suffers from schizophrenia, was last seen when he crossed into the Gaza Strip in April 2015. It remains unclear whether a third Israeli citizen, Juma Abu Anima, is also being held by the terror group.

Hamas is also thought to be holding the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.  (Jerusalem Post)

Submarine affair to turn into criminal probe

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce soon that the probe into the submarine affair will turn into a criminal investigation, Channel 2 News reported on Wednesday.

Israel’s purchase of four naval vessels and three submarines from Germany came under investigation by the Attorney General, following media reports suggesting a conflict of interest in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The report said that Netanyahu’s attorney, David Shimron, also represented the Israeli businessman who represents the German manufacturer of the submarines sold to Israel.

However, according to Wednesday’s report, the investigation does not involve Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at all, and it concerns the suspected alleged payment of bribes to officials in the defense establishment.

The probe has been ongoing for the past few months by the police, which transferred its findings to the Attorney General and state prosecutor.

According to Wednesday’s report, former Navy Commander Eliezer Marom, Shimron and businessman Miki Ganor are expected to be questioned as part of the criminal investigation.

Channel 2 reported recently that the saga does not apply only to events that took place in Israel, but is actually a part of an international bribery probe.  (Arutz Sheva)

Shin Bet nabs West Bank-Gaza cash smuggling ring

Security authorities have thwarted attempts in recent months to smuggle funds to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Wednesday.

The smuggling was facilitated by transferring debit cards through the Erez crossing via messengers and outgoing mail from the Gaza Strip.

The suspects are said to have obtained the PIN numbers to withdraw the money from ATMs in several ways, such as by calling Hamas members in Gaza or by having it written on the card.

Gaza resident Salim Fawzi Tutah and West Bank resident Ismail Ahmed Muhammad Hawamidiyya were arrested in November and December 2016, respectively, for their involvement in the transfer of funds.

According to the Shin Bet, 26-year-old Tutah had received a permit to enter Israel to work as a tractor driver for a Palestinian contractor as part of a project of USAID in the West Bank.

Tutah is suspected of delivering to Islamic Jihad cells in Jenin a debit card loaded by a Hamas official with thousands of shekels.

Hawamidiyya, 26, a Hamas member from the Hebron region, is suspected of having received debit cards from Hamas by mail.

During their interrogation, important information was gleaned about the methodology of terrorist organizations transferring funds, particularly how they make use of the entry permits issued to Gaza residents, the statement said.

“Terrorists in Gaza are continually working to promote terrorism in the West Bank,” and are funding terrorist organizations in the West Bank to “carry out military operations against Israel and its citizens. The State of Israel allows thousands of residents of the Gaza Strip to enter Israel each month for humanitarian purposes; terrorists take advantage of these permits for illegal purposes, including the transfer of funds for terrorism,” the statement read.

“These investigations once again demonstrate how Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are cynically exploiting the willingness of Israel to facilitate the entry of civilians into Israel and the West Bank by using permit holders to further the purposes of terrorism.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to reprimand Belgium over Breaking the Silence

The Foreign Ministry plans to reprimand the Belgian Ambassador to Israel Olivier Belle over his country’s support for the non-governmental groups Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to do so, after discovering that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel had met with representative of the left-wing group during his three-day visit to Israel.

“Israel views with utmost gravity Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel’s meeting today with the leaders of Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, during his visit to Israel. Initiatives are underway by the Belgian state prosecutor to try senior Israelis including Tzipi Livni and IDF officers,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The Belgian government needs to decide whether it wants to change direction or continue with an anti-Israel line.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has directed that legislation be advanced to prevent financing by foreign governments for NGOs that harm IDF soldiers,” the PMO said.

Breaking the Silence, which is made up of former IDF soldiers and officers, receives funding from European governments such as Belgium.

During his meeting with Michel on Tuesday, Netanyahu asked that Belgium stop funding Breaking the Silence. He issued the same request to British Prime Minister Theresa May when the two met in London on Sunday.  (Jerusalem Post)

New Dead Sea Scroll cave found near Qumran, but scrolls are gone

Over 60 years after the first excavations at Qumran, researchers from Hebrew University said Wednesday that they identified a twelfth cave near Qumran they believe contained Dead Sea Scrolls until it was plundered in the middle of the 20th century.

The latest excavation was conducted by Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority under the auspices of the IDF’s Civil Administration.

It yielded no new scrolls, but archaeologists found a small scrap of parchment in a jar and a collection of at least seven storage jugs identical to those found in the other Qumran caves.

Altogether there was “no doubt we have a new scroll cave,” Oren Gutfeld, head archaeologist from the dig, told The Times of Israel.

“Only the scrolls themselves are not there.”

The bit of parchment and other organic remains have been dated to the first century CE, when the community at Qumran was active during the twilight of the Second Temple period.

Pickaxes from the 1940s, a smoking gun from the Bedouin plunderers who dug in the cave, were found along with the ancient remains.

The dig in the cliffs west of Qumran, situated over the Green Line in the West Bank, was headed by Hebrew University’s Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia with the collaboration of Randall Price and students from Virginia’s Liberty University.

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea Scrolls in 60 years,” Gutfeld said. “Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea Scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the twelfth cave.”

At the same time, Gutfeld said, the cave’s association with the Dead Sea Scrolls means “we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea Scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

The first batch of ancient scrolls plundered from caves near the shores of the Dead Sea were purchased by Israeli scholars from the black market in 1947, and additional texts surfaced in the years following in excavations in the Jordanian-held West Bank and for sale on the black market. After Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, many of the scrolls stored in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem were transferred to the Israel Museum.


Remnant of scroll found in a cave near Qumran after it was removed from jar

Altogether, the nearly 1,000 ancient Jewish texts dated to the Second Temple period comprise a vast corpus of historical and religious documents that include the earliest known copies of biblical texts.

Roughly a quarter of the manuscripts are made up of material belonging to the Hebrew Bible, while another quarter detail the Qumran community’s unique philosophy.

The various scrolls and scroll fragments are identified by the cave they were believed to be stored in over the centuries. The new cave’s discovery shakes things up.

“How can we know for sure that they only came from 11 caves? For sure there were 12 caves, and maybe more,” Gutfeld said.

Among the other finds discovered in the cavern, now designated Q12 to denote its inclusion in the Qumran cave complex, were a leather strap for binding scrolls and a cloth for wrapping them, the university said in a statement announcing the find. Other discoveries included flint blades, arrowheads, and a carnelian stamp seal, all of which point to the cave’s inhabitation as far back as the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

Experts at the Dead Sea Scroll Laboratories in Jerusalem found no writing on the scrap of parchment found in the jar, but they plan to carry out multispectral imaging of the artifact to reveal any ink invisible to the naked eye.

The Q12 study was carried out as part of the IAA’s efforts to systematically excavate Judean Desert caves that may hold ancient scroll caches in a bid to foil antiquities theft. The expedition to Qumran was the first of its kind in the northern Judean Desert.

The IAA announced in November that it was launching a massive project to find as yet undiscovered Dead Sea Scrolls in the desert. Last summer an IAA team excavated the Cave of the Skulls in Zeelim Valley after the antiquities watchdog caught thieves in the act.

Gutfeld said he and his team “absolutely” plan to survey more caves in the region of Qumran in the coming months to determine where else to dig.  (the Times of Israel)

Unlike Obama, Trump isn’t obsessed with where Israel’s Jews live

by Jeff Jacoby    The Boston Globe


The world’s restless fixation with where Jews live has flared up again.

On Monday evening, Israel’s parliament passed a law authorizing the government to legalize thousands of homes built in the West Bank, in many cases on land against which there are claims of prior ownership. The measure allows the homes to remain, while compensating the previous owners with their choice of an alternative parcel of land or a payment equal to 125 percent of the land’s value.

The new law, highly controversial in Israel, is sure to be challenged in court. Many experts predict that Israel’s aggressively independent judiciary will strike the law down. It wouldn’t be the first time Israel’s government has lost a litigation battle — and if it comes to that, the country’s elected officials will bow to the court’s authority. Just days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following orders from the Supreme Court, sent in security forces to remove hundreds of Jewish residents from Amona, an unauthorized hilltop community in the West Bank.

Stories about Israeli settlements invariably generate breathless international headlines, as though there is something uniquely newsworthy about Jews in the Jewish state building homes and schools to accommodate a growing population. When those homes and schools are constructed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — land Israel seized from Jordan in the Six Day War 50 years ago — there is inevitably much handwringing about the threat they pose to the prospect of peace with the Palestinians and the “two-state solution” on which an end to the conflict supposedly depends.

Actually, the two-state solution is a chimera. The explicit goal of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is the elimination of the Jewish state, not the building-up of a Palestinian counterpart. That is why they have rejected multiple offers of statehood, why they insist that Jews cannot live in any territory claimed by Palestinians, and why the Palestinian Authority regards the sale of land to Jews as a capital crime punishable by death. When Israel relinquished all of Gaza to Palestinian control, the new owners used the territory not to develop a constructive and peaceful new State of Palestine, but to launch rockets and terror raids against the state of Israel next door.

There was nothing in UN Resolution 2334 at odds with official US policy. We should have vetoed it anyway.

It takes a curious derangement to conclude from this that all would be well in the Middle East if only Israel would stop enlarging Jewish neighborhoods. Yet that is the mindset of the UN and much of the international community. It was also the mindset of the Obama administration, which rarely missed an opportunity to condemn Israeli settlements — going so far as to facilitate a Security Council resolution declaring even East Jerusalem, with its storied Jewish Quarter, “occupied Palestinian territory.”

To its credit, the Trump administration rejects that paradigm. The Republican platform adopted last summer made no reference to the “two-state” unicorn, and Trump’s ambassador to Israel firmly backs the expansion of Jewish communities in the historic Jewish heartland. Last week the White House spokesman, while advising caution toward the construction of new settlements, made a point of emphasizing that the new president and his foreign-policy team “don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

Bizarrely, those words were spun in the media as a sign that Trump had come to embrace Obama’s way of thinking about Israel and the Palestinians.

That interpretation struck me as wrong-headed on its face. When Trump warmly welcomes Netanyahu to Washington next week, I expect it to seem even more outlandish.

Anything can change, of course, especially given Trump’s volatility. But on the evidence so far, Obama’s frostiness toward Israel is anathema to the new administration. Palestinian rejectionism has always been the insurmountable impediment to Middle East peace — not Jewish housing. Obama could never bring himself to acknowledge that elementary truth. I’m guessing Trump won’t have that problem.