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Latest News in Israel – 23rd November

“Whoever condemned the attacks in France needs to condemn the attacks in Israel. It’s the same terror. Whoever does not do this is a hypocrite and blind.” — PM NETANYAHU

Young woman hurt in Gush Etzion stabbing attack dies of wounds

A Palestinian terrorist on Sunday afternoon stabbed and killed Hadar Buchris, 21, of Safed as she stood at a bus stop in the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.

IDF forces who responded to Sunday’s attack immediately shot and killed the suspected stabber, identified as Atzam Tuabata, a 34-year-old resident of Beit Fajar, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. According to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Tuabata did not have a criminal record.

Magen David Adom paramedic Zaki Yahav said that when he arrived at the scene he saw “on the sidewalk near the bus station a young woman in her twenties, who lay unconscious with stab wounds to her upper body.”


“Citizens at the site began to provide first aid and they were trying to stop the bleeding. We quickly moved her into the ambulance and we evacuated her to hospital on a respirator,” Yahav said.

Buchris was pronounced dead at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The head of Shaare Zedek’s trauma unit, Doctor Ofer Marin said that the woman had multiple stab wounds in her head and chest. She was not breathing when she arrived and did not have a pulse. The hospital’s medical staff was unable to revive her, Marin said.

It was the third such West Bank attack of the day and the second terror attack at the junction in the last four days. Three people were killed in a terror attack on Thursday, just around the corner from where the bus stop is located.

Vehicular and stabbing attack near Ma’aleh Adumin

In the morning a Palestinian taxi driver rammed into an Israeli car and then stabbed one of its passengers, wounded the man lightly in the hand, in the area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, just outside of Jerusalem.

Police superintendent Rafi Cohen, from the Ma’aleh Adumim station, said that the Palestinian taxi driver hit the Israeli car on Route 1, by the Mishor Adumim junction around 10:15 a.m. in what police initially believed was simply a car accident. Still, police forces arrived at the scene, in light of the heightened security situation, Cohen said.

After it was hit, the Israeli car spun around and came to a stop on the side of the road, Cohen said. The driver and the passengers got out of the vehicle.

Then the taxi driver left his cab with a 20-centimeter kitchen knife, Cohen said.

The terrorist then stabbed and lightly wounded one of the passengers. Another one shot and killed him.

Attempted stabbing attack in Samaria

Less than an hour earlier citizens and security forces killed a female Palestinian terrorist who attempted to knife Israelis as they waited by a bus stop and a hitch-hiking post, near the Hawara checkpoint just outside the city of Nablus in the West Bank.

Among them was former Samaria Council head Gershon Mesika, who ran over the terrorist with his car.

He had stopped at the bus stop to pick up hitch-hikers.

“I heard someone yelling, “terrorist, terrorist!” he later explained. “I looked up. I saw someone large running after a young woman. I didn’t think twice, I turned the steering wheel to the right, I pressed my foot onto the gas, and ran her over,” he said.

“She fell over and then security forces shot her,” he said.

His car, Mesika said, dropped slightly into a nearby ditch, but it was after he had already halted. He was not injured, he added.

There were two young women and two or three other people who were in the midst of getting into a car, he said.

It was his understanding, he said, that the terrorist had been dropped off in a car from Nablus, and then attempted to stab the young woman.

Avigail Shomriyah, 21, said that she had been at the bus stop attempting to hitch a ride to her college, when the terrorist attempted to stab her.

“I turned around and saw a terrorist with a large knife and murderous looking eyes. It was a very large knife. I ran in the direction of the soldiers, she ran after me. Then Gershon ran her over. Then they shot her,” Shomriya said.

“I continued to run, I was afraid someone would run over me,” Shomriyah said.

A resident of the nearby Itamar settlement had also stopped to pick up hitch-hikers, when the Palestinian woman took out her knife.

“I got out of my car. Gershon had already run her over. I shot her twice. Then a soldier shot her twice,” he said. “That is how my morning began,” he added.

Yossi Dagan, who now heads the Samaria Regional Council, said, “It is a shame that we in Israel have to deal with these scenes on a daily basis.

“We regret that this is our routine, but we can do nothing but praise that there are civilians like these,” Dagan said referring to Mesika.          (Jerusalem Post)

American teen named among victims of Gush Etzion terror attack

Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year old American on a gap year in an Israeli yeshiva was one of three murdered victims of a terrorist attack late Thursday afternoon at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank. Seven others were lightly wounded in the attack.

Palestinian Shadi Arafeh, 24, of Hebron, was also pronounced dead at the scene.

Yaakov Don, 49, a teacher and father of four who lived in the nearby Alon Shvut settlement was evacuated to Hadassah- University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Karem in serious condition and was pronounced dead upon his arrival in the hospital.

Schwartz was in a van with five others friends from Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh, where he studied. They had been in the area to distribute food to soldiers stationed in the area. Their van was among the many cars stuck in traffic at the junction.

A Palestinian terrorist driving through the junction opened fire with an automatic rifle at the cars before ramming a vehicle with his car. Security forces surrounded the terrorist and arrested him.

Magen David Adom paramedics pronounced Schwartz dead at the scene. His five friends were evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Three were treated for light injuries and two for shock; they were all released.

Two Israeli women, one lightly injured from the gun fire and another from the car accident, were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where they were kept overnight.

The United States harshly condemned the attack.

Ezra Schwartz[2]

“We condemn these terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in the strongest possible terms,” Edgar Vasquez, a spokesperson for the State Department, told The Jerusalem Post. “As we’ve made clear, we remain deeply concerned about the situation,” he said, “and continue to urge all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm and prevent actions that would further escalate tensions.”

Within hours after the attack, friends posted messages about Schwartz on his Facebook page.

The teen, from Sharon, Massachusetts, was a graduate of Maimonides Day School.

His friend Adam Kingstein wrote, “I only knew Ezra Schwartz for a few months, but he was always such a good friend. He was always so happy to see everyone and gave all his friends hugs whenever he saw them.

After only knowing Ezra for a few weeks, I asked him to room with me at Rutgers next year. We were so excited for it and spoke a lot about how college together would be. Even if we won’t be roommates next year, you’ll always be with me at college.”

Benjamin Edelman wrote, “Ezra was a great and kind friend to me” on our summer strip to Israel. “You feel like you’ve known a person forever after going on a trip like that with them. Some of my greatest memories on the trip were with Ezra. We, along with Dov and Henryck, would choose to room together every Shabbat, and he always made me laugh and have a great time. Ezra’s constant positivity and kindness made him an amazing human being, and I am shocked and deeply saddened by what happened today. Rest in peace my friend.”              (Jerusalem Post)

Washington silent over murder of 18-year-old American

Republican presidential candidate US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) remained one of the few US officials to acknowledge the brutal murder of 18-year-old American citizen Ezra Schwartz in a Palestinian terror attack in Gush Etzion on Thursday, amid a deafening silence from Washington.

Cruz noted in a Tweet that the Palestinian Arab terrorism behind Schwartz’s murder, as well as behind the whole terror war which has plagued Israel since September, is simply an outcropping of the same radical Islam the US does condemn – that of Islamic State (ISIS).

Fellow Republican nominee Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) also acknowledged the murder, calling for “Palestinian incitement to end.”

Florida governor Jeb Bush also acknowledged the attacks.

Ezra Yehiel Schwartz, 18, was a US citizen and a student at the Ashreinu Yeshiva in Beit Shemesh. He was murdered Thursday as he and a set of friends traveled to volunteer work in Oz VeGaon, the site in Gush Etzion established in the wake of the abduction and murders of three Israeli teens last summer.

The US State Department issued a general condemnation of terror to the media, calling on “all sides” to issue restraint late Thursday night, but without mentioning Schwartz by name.

The White House, President Barack Obama, and Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro did not release specific statements about Schwartz’s murder as of Friday morning, more than 12 hours after Schwartz was identified as the victim.                   (Arutz Sheva)

Police catch attacker in Kiryat Gat terror stabbing after four-hour-long manhunt

Security forces caught the perpetrator of a stabbing terror attack in Kiryat Gat on Saturday night, after a evening-wide manhunt for the assailant.

Four locals were wounded in the attack in the southern city Saturday evening before the assailant fled the scene.

The youngest victim was described by Magen David Adom as a 13-year-old girl who was stabbed in the upper body. The paramedic service said that in addition to the teenage girl, two women aged 56 and 44 were moderately wounded, as was a 51-year-old man. Dr. Eli Ben-Valid, the head of the emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said all four suffered upper body stab wounds.

Nearly two hours after the stabbing, Southern District police said they were still searching for the assailant, and had set up roadblocks in and around the city and dispatched a helicopter to search from above.

Police said they detained around 10 illegal Palestinian laborers found at construction sites near the scene of the attack.

Around 8 p.m. police announced that a man from the Beduin village of Segev Shalom had been taken to hospital with light injuries, after he was beaten by a crowd of locals, apparently after he was mistaken for a possible attacker.

MK Miki Zohar, a resident of Kiryat Gat, said “we are in a wave of terrorism that will not end on its own. Citizens of Israel are living like ducks in a hunting range.”

Zohar called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to “go to war for the security of our citizens and crush the nests of murderers in order to bring quiet back to the residents of Israel.”

The attack in Kiryat Gat comes two days after a man from Dura in the West Bank stabbed two Israeli civilians to death while they were attending an afternoon prayer service at an office building in south Tel Aviv.

The attack was not the only violent incident on Saturday. On Saturday evening a Palestinian man was shot and lightly wounded by IDF officers at the Oranit bus depot off Highway 5. The IDF Spokesman said soldiers called the man over for a security check and he “reacted violently,” and they shot at him

Earlier in the day, a Palestinian woman carrying a knife was arrested by Border Police officers next to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and taken into custody on suspicion of planning to stab security personnel or civilians at the site.

The Border Police said Saturday afternoon that officers patrolling next to the Tomb of the Patriarchs saw a woman who seemed suspicious and called her to stop, but she ignored their calls. The woman, a resident of the village of Yata outside Hebron, continued towards a police post, until officers cocked their rifles and overpowered her.

The Border Police said inside the woman’s bag they found a knife and they suspect that she was planning to attack officers at the site.

On Friday afternoon near Abu Dis, a Border Police officer was lightly hurt when a Palestinian motorist veered towards him and hit his leg, in what police suspect was an attempted ramming attack.

The officer was treated at the scene and evacuated to hospital.

The motorist escaped the scene and has not been found, the Border Police said.               (Jerusalem Post)

IDF arrests three knife-carrying Palestinian women alleged to have targeted army camp

IDF soldiers arrested three Palestinian women who allegedly tried to enter a West Bank military encampment armed with knives, the army announced on Thursday.

The arrest took place on the roadway connecting the Jewish settlement of Tekoa and the south Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.

The army conducted a raid on the Bethlehem refugee camp of Daheisha during which soldiers arrested a wanted Palestinian.

Troops also entered the homes of a number of Palestinians alleged to have taken part in terrorist-related activities on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The PFLP is a Marxist-Leninist faction and one of the founding groups that comprise the Palestine Liberation Organization.

IDF troops and Border Police officers rounded up 18 wanted Palestinians believed to have taken part in recent rioting against civilians and security forces.             (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Those who don’t condemn terror in Israel as they do in Paris are hypocrites

Israel will “settle accounts” with the terrorists and “exact a price” from their families, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday following a pair of fatal attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion that claimed five lives.

The prime minister, in a Facebook posting, said the homes of the terrorists will be demolished and their residency revoked.

Netanyahu held high-level security consultations in the evening with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), IDF and police officials. Following that meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office released a discussed regarding moves to carry out in the Hebron area, the region from where most of the terrorists have come in recent days, including the terrorist who carried out Thursday’s attack in Tel Aviv.

In addition, measures to be taken against Israelis illegally employing Palestinians without work permits were also discussed.

The prime minister, meanwhile, said on Facebook that those who do not condemn the terrorism in Israel as they do in Paris are hypocrites and blind. The same Islamist extremists who are trying to destroy Israel are attacking Paris and threatening Europe, he said.

Netanyahu said that Israel is waging a determined struggle against the terrorists, and the country’s intensive actions have prevented many more atrocities.

“Almost all the terrorists who have attacked us during this wave of terrorism have either been killed or arrested,” he said. “There is no immunity for the terrorists, we will settle accounts with them, extract a price from their families, destroy their homes and revoke their residency.”

Netanyahu said that he has set a rule: to destroy the home of every terrorist.

“This struggle did not begin yesterday, and will not end tomorrow,” he said. “We are struggling against terrorism already for a century, and the struggle will continue with determination: controlling the territory, continuing arrests, massive increase of force, entering the villages and the neighborhoods, destroying the homes of terrorists and thwarting the terrorist infrastructure.”

Netanyahu said the government will not hesitate to use any effective measure to ensure security.

“Those who will not learn the lesson of the power that we will use now, will pay a heavy price,” he warned.

Those methods highlighted by Netanyahu were slammed Thursday by the UN Middle East coordinator Nickolay Mladenov at his monthly briefing to the Security Council.

Mladenov opened his comments by extending his “deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims of the abhorrent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and the Sinai.”

While he did not mention Israelis at first, he did – after enumerating the number of Israeli and Palestinian casualties over the last month – “reiterate” the UN’s “resolute condemnation of all terrorist attacks.”

He called “on political, community and religious leaders on all sides to speak out against terror and all forms of violence.”

Mladenov specifically mentioned seven Palestinians, “injured in settler-related violence,” but said nothing of the Israeli motorists wounded in rock-throwing incidents last month throughout Judea and Samaria.

The UN envoy, a former Bulgarian foreign minister, noted that the epicenter of the violence has moved from Jerusalem to Hebron, and – as some Israeli politicians were calling for a closure around Hebron – called for restrictions within Hebron to be eased.

He declared that “punitive demolitions” of the homes of alleged terrorists are “illegal under international law, criticized Israel for arresting terrorist suspects in hospitals, and said, “The use of firearms by Israeli security forces should be employed only when less extreme means are insufficient to address an imminent threat of death or serious injury.”

In addition, Mladenov said, “the sanctity of burial rituals must be recognized, and Palestinians must be allowed to bury their deceased without unnecessary delay.”

Reacting to the attacks in Israel on Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin said, “Our hearts are pained and broken. The pain is the same pain. The mourning is the same mourning in Tel Aviv, in Paris, in Gush Etzion, and in the Sinai. The pornography of death is striking across the world.”

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan pointed out that the Tel Aviv attack took place a day after the anniversary of the massacre of worshipers in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.

“It has been a year since terrorism struck us so mercilessly, and once again there is a horrible attack in Tel Aviv. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter where it happens,” he said.

Ben-Dahan posited that terrorism is rooted in incitement and encouragement by the Palestinian leadership and called to demolish the homes of the terrorists as soon as possible, as well as to deport their families, in order to deter further attacks.

MK Nava Boker (Likud) took to Twitter to write, “Two more victims paid with their lives the price of incitement against Jews. My heart aches to see how my nation’s blood is still being shed at the hands of terrorists.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) called to close Israeli roads in the West Bank to Palestinians, saying that “the defense minister’s hesitation is dangerous.”

“The only solution for terrorism is cutting off the hope that motivates it,” Smotrich wrote on Twitter. “As long as there is a chance that there will be a Palestinian state, the Palestinians will do anything to make it happen.”

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni called it a “day of shocking terrorism in Tel Aviv, Gush Etzion and Marseille,” and sent condolences to the families of those killed.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman called to put the Hebron Hills area under siege in order to allow the IDF to “take care of the terrorist infrastructure so the place will stop being a terrorist factory.”

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On condemned the attack, but said, “The short-term solutions Netanyahu is offering are not a response to the terrorism that is running wild in the territories, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“The government of no-policies does not have a strategic plan to end terrorism, and the heavier hand that was supposed to give a short-term response is not effective.

In the end, the way to destroy the motivation for terrorism is a diplomatic solution,” she posited.             (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to revoke ‘special permits’ from Hevron Arabs

Israel will revoke the permits of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from the Hevron area who were given permits to enter Israel for “personal reasons”, Channel 10 News reported on Thursday.

According to the report, the measure was decided upon by the Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (COGAT), General Yoav Mordechai, following the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, which was carried out by a 36-year-old resident of Dura, near Hevron, who had been given a work permit and was gainfully employed at a nearby restaurant.

Mordechai’s decision stipulates that all permits for personal reasons that were given out to residents of the Hevron region will be canceled. However, no sanctions will be taken against residents who hold a similar permit of this kind but who reside in Israel.

At the same time, reported Channel 10, no new permits of this kind will issued and existing permits will not be renewed to Arabs throughout Judea and Samaria. The decision means that any Palestinian Arabs who have received this type of permit are required to leave Israeli territory as soon as possible.

There have been several other terrorist attacks which involved Arab workers who took advantage of their place of employment and access to Jewish areas to launch lethal attacks.

Another Arab restaurant worker in Bat Yam, another suburb of Tel Aviv, tricked IDF First Sergeant Tomer Hazan in 2013 to go on a drive with him to his village, before strangling him to death in an open field and hiding his body in a water hole.

Also in Tel Aviv where Thursday’s attack took place, early last month an Arab construction worker took advantage of his job to go out and stab five Jews with a screwdriver, lightly wounding them before being shot.

Last year construction worker Netanel Arami had his rappelling ropes cut by Arab terrorist coworkers and fell to his death, in a case police and the courts covered up for a long time.

In the massacre at a synagogue in Jerusalem’s western Har Nof neighborhood just over a year ago, one of the two Arab terrorists who murdered four Jews at prayer – reportedly beheading two of them – and shot a Druze police officer to death worked at a store meters from the synagogue.                                (Arutz Sheva)

After 10,956 days in prison, Jonathan Pollard is free

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was released from a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, on Friday, after spending 30 years in jail for spying for Israel. But he will now face restrictions as he rebuilds his life as a free man.

Pollard, now 61, was arrested and imprisoned in 1985 and, following his trial and conviction, was given a life sentence in 1987, in a case that has complicated diplomacy between Israel and the United States.

“[Blessed is God] who frees the imprisoned,” said President Reuven Rivlin upon Pollard’s release.

“We all welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard after long, hard years in prison. We felt his pain for all these years and we felt it was our duty to free him. We wish that Jonathan and his family be reunited for many years, in health and in peace.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also responded to Pollard’s release, saying, “The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard. Having repeatedly raised his case with U.S. presidents over the years, I looked forward to this day. After three long, difficult decades, Jonathan is finally reunited with his family. I hope this Sabbath brings him happiness and peace to accompany him as he continues his life.”

Effie Lahav, head of the Justice for Jonathan Pollard campaign, said on Army Radio, “This is a dramatic moment. … This is a historic moment that brings to an end a tremendous effort that spanned many years.”

Lahav, along with Pollard’s wife, Esther, and attorneys Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, eagerly awaited his release.

“I waited for this day for 30 long years,” said Esther Pollard, adding that “Jonathan is free today because of Jonathan,” rather than because of any government or outside help.

Pollard is expected to settle in the New York area while he spends at least the next five years on parole. During that time, he will be barred from traveling outside the country, including to Israel, without permission. According to some reports, he is also prohibited from giving interviews or using the Internet, among other conditions.

Pollard’s legal team has called on U.S. President Barack Obama to allow him to go to Israel immediately after release, but has noted that he has a job and a place to live in New York.

Democratic New York congressmen Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, saying that Pollard should be given permission to renounce his American citizenship and move to Israel.

Despite counting down to his freedom for three decades, those close to Pollard have asked to keep celebrations minimal to avoid irking the American government, which could lead to more stringent parole terms.

Israeli officials are also concerned that too warm a celebration over his release might hurt efforts to persuade the U.S. government to let him leave for Israel sooner.


Jonathan Pollard in his first photograph following his release from prison Friday, with wife Esther

Asked whether Netanyahu had issued his ministers with instructions regarding public statements on Pollard, Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Army Radio on Thursday, “We were asked not to speak expansively.”

Chairman of the Knesset’s Pollard Release Lobby MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) also urged Pollard supporters to harness their excitement for fear that restrictions on Pollard may be increased. Speaking to Israeli news website Walla, Shai stressed that the restrictions were already excessive considering that “[Pollard] served a longer sentence than any other American on the same charges.”

Pollard is the only American to receive a life sentence for spying for an allied country, having received an even longer sentence than others who spied for enemy states.

Meanwhile, Lahav said he received hundreds of support letters leading up to the release, which he plans to pass along to Pollard.

“We are approaching this day with happiness that is diluted with a lot of sadness,” Lahav said on Thursday. “Jonathan spent an inconceivable period of 30 years, 10,956 days, in darkness. He entered prison as a young man and he will be released, with restrictions, as a weak, ill 61-year-old man.”

He added that “the Pollards thank everyone who supported them over the years. Now they will try to return to their normal lives, away from the spotlight.”

A relative of Pollard’s said, “Esther is indescribably excited — Jonathan will sit at the Sabbath table, he will make the blessing over the wine. She has prepared food for him that he hasn’t eaten since he was 30 years old.”                  (Israel Hayom)

Pollard’s lawyers say they’ll appeal ‘unreasonable, unlawful’ parole terms

Attorneys for Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard announced on Friday that they are planning to appeal the conditions of his parole just hours after he was released from a federal penitentiary following a 30-year incarceration.

As per the terms of his parole, Pollard has to check in regularly with a parole officer for a year and can be returned to prison for poor behavior. He is not permitted to leave the United States for five years, to give interviews or to go online. He must also wear electronic monitoring devices that enable the government to track his whereabouts.

The official Free Pollard campaign and Pollard’s attorneys have declined to comment on the parole conditions, but they did encourage US congress members to ask the Justice Department to ease them. World renowned criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who represented Pollard in the past, told The Jerusalem Post that although such parole conditions were not unprecedented, they are “totally irrational.”

“He has no classified information, so he should be able to talk to the press, go online and go to Israel, where he’s a citizen,” Dershowitz said. “It’s an abuse of the discretion that parole authorities have in a case like this. Frankly, I think part of the reason they don’t want him to go to Israel is that they don’t want him to be a hero there or influence Israeli politics with his conservative views. It’s a political decision, and with him, it’s been about politics all along.”

“The Parole Commission has imposed conditions of parole that are unreasonable and unlawful,” Pollard’s lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said in a statement. “Accordingly, we have today commenced a proceeding in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging these illegal conditions and asking the court to vacate them.”

The attorneys said that to buttress their argument, they would cite a written statement from the Justice Department acknowledging its view that it was “reasonably probable” that Pollard would not commit further crimes following his release from prison.

“Notwithstanding its conclusion – necessary to granting parole – that it is not reasonably probable that Mr. Pollard will commit any further crimes, the Parole Commission has imposed onerous and oppressive conditions of parole,” the lawyers said. “These include a requirement that Mr. Pollard wear an electronic bracelet at all times for GPS tracking of his whereabouts, as well as the unfettered monitoring and inspection of Mr. Pollard’s computers as well as those of any employer who chooses to hire him.”

The authorities imposed these conditions on Pollard “to ensure that he does not commit further crimes, specifically the disclosure of classified information,” they said.

“The notion that, having fought for and finally obtained his release after serving 30 years in prison, Mr. Pollard will now disclose stale 30-year old information to anyone is preposterous,” the statement read. “Apart from the fact that the information is useless, disclosing it will result in Mr. Pollard’s swift return to prison to serve out his life sentence.”                (Jerusalem Post)

Foreign Ministry reveals name of Israeli killed in Mali terror attack

Shmuel (Sammy) Benalal (60) was the Israeli killed in the Mali terror attack Friday, the Foreign Ministry announced Saturday afternoon.

Born in Venezuela, Benalal, made aliya as a youth and later settled with his wife, Flori and three children, Asher, Avi and Netanel, in Tzur Hadassah near Jerusalem.

“We are shocked and hurting.  We hope that all the relevant actors are working with all the means to bring him home to us as soon as possible,” his family said in a statement.

Benalal had dedicated his life to promoting education in Israel and around the world. He was in Mali for work as a consultant on education to the government.

He served as the CEO of Telos Group Ltd., a private consulting firm that specializes in international development of education, and was senior faculty member at the Mandel Leadership Institute.

Students from the Mandel Institute took to Facebook Saturday night to honor their former teacher and mentor.

“Shmuel was one of my mentors at the Mandel Institute. He was an amazing man. Smart, kind, honest. A mentor that knew how to help in the right places and also did not spare criticism where necessary.  And he terribly loved to sing.  A great man with a big smile that I will never forget,” wrote one of his students.

The Mandel Institute also released a statement and said it “bowed its head” in honor of Benalal and sent condolences to his family.

According to the Institute, Benalal had more than 20 years of experience in international development projects including with the World Bank, European Union, USAID, UNESCO and UNICEF as well as serving as a senior consultant to governments in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

He specialized in planning, decentralization, management, institutional development and educational leadership training.

Benalal also assisted Jewish communities around the world and previously served as principal of the Tarbut Jewish School in Mexico  He was also an academic advisor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Foreign Ministry said that one Israeli was rescued in the aftermath of the attack.

Friday’s assault on the Radisson Blu hotel came a week after militants killed 130 people in a spate of gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State. France on Friday extended a state of emergency until February as police pursued raids and investigations, with over 250 people detained.

The bloodshed in Mali, a former French colony, was the latest sign of the problems faced by French troops and UN peacekeepers in restoring security in a West African state that has battled rebels and militants in its desert north for years.

The assault on the Radisson Blu hotel, claimed by jihadist groups Al Mourabitoun and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), ended when Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said two militants were killed in the commando operation.                                      (Jerusalem Post)

Berlin department store removes Israeli settlement products

Berlin’s high-end department store KaDeWe, which was boycotted in the 1930s because of its former Jewish owners, pulled Israeli products manufactured in settlements from its shelves on Friday because of new EU guidelines mandating labels on goods from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

“We have taken the corresponding [Israeli settlement] products out from our line of goods,” KaDeWe spokeswoman Petra Fladenhofer told Spiegel. “We will, after an appropriate labeling, put them back in our product line.”

The department store’s move adds fuel to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) debate targeting Israel’s economy in Germany. KaDeWe attracts tens of thousands a visitors a day and the store’s Jewish ownership was ended because of the Nazi’s anti-Semitic laws.

KaDeWe opened in 1907 and was initially owned by by Adolf Jandorf, a Jewish real estate businessman. The department store was purchased in 1927 by the Warenhaus Hermann Tiez, a Jewish family business enterprise. Berlin’s Nazi movement boycotted KaDaWe’s Jewish owners starting in 1933 and eventually seized the business.

KaDeWe, the largest department store in Berlin with 60,000 square meters of commercial space, was later coined the “Showcase of the West” during the Cold War because of its luxury products in West Berlin – in contrast to the substandard goods in the former communist East Berlin.

Events to punish Israel with economic penalties have recently become more pronounced in Germany. The mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, provided space to a BDS lecture in a city cultural building that coincided with the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms and the opening of the new Israeli consulate in the Bavarian capital. Reiter pledged after the anti-Israel event to ban BDS events in city forums.

Munich was the organizational seat of the Hitler movement and Berlin later launched the nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses.

Two of the three parties that make up Germany’s coalition government oppose product labels on Israeli products from the disputed territories. Jurgen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union factions in the German Bundestag, called the EU measure a stigma on Israel.

“In view of the background of a movement hostile to Israel, which seeks to boycott products from the settlements, the EU measure is false,” he said. “It is very likely that the EU’s measure will be exploited…by a campaign hostile to Israel.”

He added that the European Commission’s decision will not serve consumer protection but “rather prove to be a stigmatization.”

Kai Diekmann, the editor-in-chief of Germany’s largest daily, Bild, blasted Europe in a tweet last week for demarcating Israeli products. He wrote “pathetic Europe” and compared the label to the Nazi-era boycott call ” Don’t buy from Jews!”

In a Bild commentary last week, reporter Ralf Schuler said the product labels are “unworthy of Europe.”

“Europe has enough to do in order to better protect Jews and fight anti-Semitism than give the enemies of Israel a means to boycott Israeli products,” he wrote. “It is a horror that that once again there can be call to boycott Jewish products in Germany.”

German efforts to invoke economic warfare against the Jewish state prompted sharp criticism from German Jews.

“The BDS campaign disguises the socially unacceptable ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’ as a modernized form of Nazi jargon by demanding ‘Don’t buy from the Jewish State’,” Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and head of Munich’s 9,500 member Jewish community, told The Jerusalem Post earlier this month.

Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said the EU label measure is “disguised anti-Semitism.”                            (Jerusalem Post)

Letters to the Age (Vic)

After firing 5000 rounds of ammunition into one apartment in Saint Denis, I assume the French will no longer be using the word “disproportionate” when criticising Israel.

Daniel Small, Armadale, Victoria

More Palestinian and Western Mistakes

by Bassam Tawil              The Gatestone Institute


The Palestinian “victims” — victims of their own credulousness — are known as shuhadaa, martyrs for the sake of Allah, victims of the misconception that Allah wants us to die for him. But Allah forbids us to murder. Muhammad forbids us to murder. The Qur’an forbids us to murder.

Europeans, in general, obviously want the Jews dead — so long as the murder cannot be traced back to them. They seem to be hoping that their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, combined with Arab and Iranian “hit men,” will do the job for them.

Also tragically, it has taken Mahmoud Abbas too long to realize that the ultimate objective of Hamas, the local representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, after killing Israelis, is to have this violence cost the Palestinian Authority its existence in the West Bank. There, they openly plan to set up another Islamic emirate, like the one in the Gaza Strip.

The knife-wielding Palestinian children — and the other young people who commit murder — are also not a spontaneous occurrence. They do not simply “spring” full-blown from “imperialism,” “Syrian bombings” or an “endangered Al-Aqsa.” They are the product of a careful, methodical, ongoing tactic of brainwashing about how glorious it is to become a shaheed [martyr] by murdering.

We do need to liberated, but not from the people you think. We do not need help being liberated from Israel, which, even if it is harsh, has always been fair to us, but from the self-satisfied diplomats even now — in our name — swanning down the glossy halls of Europe.

The Palestinians have taken it upon themselves to sacrifice our younger generation — on the altar of pointlessness — again.

The Palestinians have been sending their children — still in their teens, and intoxicated by hatred and lies as the assassins of old were intoxicated by hashish — to the streets of Israel and the roads of the West Bank to murder Israelis again. And for what? Is Al-Aqsa mosque in danger? It is not. But the cynical, calculating Fatah, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hamas — and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement which has just been banned — are desperate to bring the Palestinian issue back to the headlines. They hope it would displace the true catastrophe of the chaos in Syria and Iraq, which has led to the flood of refugees to Europe.

The Palestinian “victims” — victims of their own credulousness — are known as shuhadaa, martyrs for the sake of Allah, victims of the misconception that Allah wants us to die for him. But Allah forbids us to murder. Muhammad forbids us to murder. The Qur’an forbids us to murder.

The Palestinian terrorists that murder Israelis usually die in the process; the question is, does murder keep the Al-Aqsa mosque out of “danger” — which it is not even in?

Do the senseless deaths on both sides advance the cause of a political solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state? No, only, apparently, to many Europeans — anti-Semitic racists who love Muslims as much as they hate Jews. These Europeans probably love Muslims because they hate Jews.

Europeans, in general, obviously want the Jews dead — so long as the murder cannot be traced back to them. They seem to be hoping that their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, combined with Arab and Iranian “hit men,” will do the job for them. Sadly, the Palestinians, instead of looking like people who want peace, look like the Muslim extremists to whom the European racists offer ever more help. It seems inconceivable to these Europeans that we may not want to live with these savages any more than they do.

We do need to liberated, but not from the people you think. We do not need help being liberated from Israel, which, even if it is harsh, has always been fair to us, but from the self-satisfied diplomats even now — in our name — swanning down the glossy halls of Europe.

The Palestinians are, not surprisingly, trying to avoid negotiating for peace. As any Palestinian leader will be killed, and go down in Palestinian history as a traitor unless he is able to come back with 100% of Palestinian demands, Mahmoud Abbas would only end up having to turn down any realistic offer — in full view of the international community. The Palestinian leaders are clearly hoping, as anyone would, that these Jew-hating Europeans — and others who breezily turn Jewish heritage sites into Muslim heritage sites — will hand them the whole 100% on a plate, free of charge.

The knife-wielding Palestinian children — and the other young people who commit murder — are also not a spontaneous occurrence. They do not simply “spring” full-blown from “imperialism,” “Syrian bombings” or an “endangered Al-Aqsa.” They are the product of a careful, methodical, ongoing tactic of brainwashing about how glorious it is to become a shaheed [martyr] by murdering.

Do the dispatchers send their own children out to become suicide bombers? Do the dispatchers go themselves? No, the Palestinians and other terrorists prey on swayable, possibly depressed children — looking for love or a “cause” in their lives to counteract the internal emptiness — to commit murder.

These murders by our young — and of our young — are, tragically, the direct result of the inflammatory lies of Muslim extremists, both secular and religious. Here, these include the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, Hamas, the Islamic Movement In Israel (banned last week), and ISIS.

Also tragically, it has taken Mahmoud Abbas too long to realize that the ultimate objective of Hamas, the local representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, after killing Israelis, is to have this violence cost the Palestinian Authority its existence in the West Bank. There, they openly plan to set up another Islamic emirate, like the one in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas seems to have woken up, but only after the genie was out of the bottle. He then had no choice but to appeal to his only lifeline, Israel, for support — while at the same time threatening to end security coordination with it. His hate-propaganda nevertheless machine continues to promote the murder Israelis while carefully ignoring Israeli deaths. Abbas instead still focuses on the “martyrdom” of the terrorists and their supposedly “cold-blood executions” at the hands of Israelis whose “crime” is stop them as they are in the act of trying to slit Jewish throats.

During the past six weeks, more than 70 Palestinians have been killed while trying to murder Israelis, and 12 Israelis have been murdered. Israel’s population, contrary to Palestinian expectations, has not collapsed and is, as usual, successfully moving to protect itself.

The real damage has been done to the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and to the belief, now held by fewer and fewer Israelis, that a political solution is possible.

The main questions still need to be directed to those who invented the slogan, “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger”:

Is al-Aqsa mosque now less in danger? Given that, throughout the Middle East, mosques are being blown up one after another, Al-Aqsa mosque is not only in no danger, it is, on the contrary, eminently secure.

Has the recent Palestinian violence and terrorism moved the Israelis one inch toward surrendering?

Are the Islamists, including the Israeli-Arab members of Knesset, really working to benefit the lives and careers of the Palestinian people? Or, to benefit their own careers, are these politicians keeping their public whipped up like manipulated fighting dogs, and forever poor, to make sure that we will be forever dependent on them? This is a way you treat infants or animals, not people.

Fortunately, the attempt made by Hamas and its subcontractor for collective suicide, Ra’ed Salah’s Islamic Movement, to incite a religious war around the totally false slogan “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger,” in order to oust Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies from the West Bank, the way they did in the Gaza Strip, has not succeeded. To begin with, their timing was off. The Arab and Muslim world is too busy engaging in mutual slaughter to bother itself with the lies of a gang of Palestinians. The Arab and Muslim world cannot be bothered with Israel, and it certainly cannot be bothered with preventing the overthrow of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

Even if the Israelis would like nothing better than to see Al-Aqsa mosque destroyed, a notion for which there is no evidence, they still protect it with the best of their police force, out of respect for others, as we all wish others would respect us. Protecting Al-Aqsa mosque guarantees Israel’s security by respectfully honoring the religion of people different from them. It is also a reminder that all of us might actually benefit from respectfully honoring the religions of others different from us.

It is absurd and offensive that after the Palestinians initiated — and then tried to justify the current wave of terrorism as “a legitimate non-violent peaceful protest against the occupation” — that they now cry crocodile tears about the supposed “Israeli executions” of Palestinian youths who take their knives and go Jew-hunting, but who then get killed in the process. Dimitri Diliani, of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, even had the effrontery to claim, falsely, to Russia Today TV, that Israelis, to justify their crimes, tried to plant knives near the bodies of the purportedly innocent Palestinians to frame them.

Mahmoud Abbas denied the Jews any access to the Temple Mount on the fabricated pretext that the Jews were defiling Al-Aqsa mosque. The Temple Mount, however is as sacred to Jews and Christians as to Muslims. To Jews, the Temple Mount is the location of their two Temples (the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.); to Christians, it was at the Second Temple where Jesus expelled money-changers and those who sold doves (Matthew 21:12).

Ultimately, the American secretary of state, meeting with the King of Jordan and the Israeli prime minister, concluded that it was Israel that guarded Al-Aqsa and would continue to maintain the status quo. Thus the status quo was confirmed in Israeli’s favor.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Islamic Movement were left with nothing to say.

The upshot was that Mahmoud Abbas’s claim of defilement was rejected, and that Jews would still be allowed to visit. The Palestinians no longer serve as active participants; the Jordanians will continue to serve as religious administrators of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Israelis will continue as sovereign, and manage the security of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.

Secretary Kerry’s repeated reference to the “Temple Mount, that is Al-Aqsa mosque” (Alharam Alshareef) to define the holy site struck a blow to both Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamists trying to deny the rights of the Jews. The Palestinian Authority has also — embarrassingly to many — been claiming that Jesus was a “Palestinian,” and trying to use the Temple Mount as an Islamic religious fulcrum for its baseless nationalist demands.

Secretary Kerry also put a stop to France’s pathetic attempts to curry favor with the Muslims living in its ghettoes when it proposed an international commission of inquiry to examine events in Al-Aqsa mosque. As Israel preserves full freedom of access throughout Jerusalem, the French can enter Al-Aqsa mosque and argue among themselves, but their attempts to enter Jerusalem through the back door was rejected by the Palestinians as an attempt to internationalize Jerusalem into a “Crusader city.”

When the Palestinians torched the Tomb of Joseph, it became clear that under Palestinian Authority control, Jewish and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem would be reduced to ashes, and that the Palestinians in the West Bank were no better than ISIS or the Taliban, which destroyed Palmyra and the ancient statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan.

The Jews, who dealt with two previous intifadas, are not particularly terrified by the thought of a third one. We have repeatedly seen that every violent Palestinian attempt has backfired and caused far more damage to us than to the Jews. The Palestinian Authority’s approval of Hamas’s incitement not only threatened its own downfall, but also looked as if it would precipitate the installation of an Islamic emirate in the West Bank — an event that would effectively have killed any dream of a Palestinian state.

Yes, the recent wave of stabbings and shootings has, to a small and transitory extent, diverted the world’s attention from the real tragedies of the Middle East. However, the millions of refugees in the Middle East (many knocking at the gates of Europe), will keep pushing to the sidelines the Palestinian cause; the slaughter; the mosques blown up; the churches burned down, and the genuine persecution of minorities, as opposed to the fairy tales invented by Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and the seditious Israeli Arab members of Israel’s Knesset.

The other real loser is the trust between Arabs and Jews. Trust — with special thanks to Palestinian groups working fiercely against “normalization” rather than toward peace — has been totally eroded. Again, the only people we have hurt are ourselves: the demand of Israeli Arabs for equality is rapidly slipping down the list of public priorities. As the old Arab proverb says, “Ask someone with experience, not the doctor.”

At the end of the current violence that we began, will be left, as usual, with nothing to show for it, while the Israelis, who always rebound, will continue to thrive, prosper and move forward.

Clearly the time will soon come again for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis — but the use of force, instead of than wresting concessions from the Israelis, will, as always, do just the opposite.

Why the Palestinians Keep Killing

by  Jonathan S. Tobin   Commentary Magazine


What if the supposed cause of terrorism against Israel were based on a lie? That’s the awful fact that was exposed yesterday by none other than Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10, Abbas admitted that in 2008 he flatly rejected an offer of statehood from Israel that would have given him control of almost all the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem as well as Gaza. While fascinating, the revelation — this is the first time he has owned up to the truth about what happened during the negotiations that took place during the last months of the Bush administration — is of more than historical interest. It also undermines the premise of the case against Israel used by critics that claim its policies are the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Moreover, the timing of the admission, coming as it did as a surge in Palestinian terrorism escalates, makes the true motive for the killing painfully obvious.

With each passing day, the toll of horrifying violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis grows. Today there were two separate attacks. One took place in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank. There (in an area that was settled by Jews before 1948) a Palestinian opened fire with a submachine gun on a group of people at a road junction killing an American Jewish teenage tourist, an Israeli man, and a Palestinian passerby as well as wounding several others. Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, a Palestinian killed two Jews and wounded at least two others with a knife at the entrance to a synagogue. The total of five fatalities is the highest since the current surge of terror began two months ago. One can only pray that’s a record that won’t be broken. Given the support for terror among Palestinians (as a comprehensive survey of Palestinian public opinion has proved), there’s no reason for optimism as what is being called a third intifada continues.

We know the slaughter will be cheered on Hamas TV. The Palestinian Authority will also honor those who committed these crimes. But even some Westerners who will condemn the terror will add that it is merely the result of Israel’s own wicked policies that oppress Palestinians. We’re constantly told, both by voices in the mainstream media and the Obama administration, that if only Israel would offer the Palestinians a state of their own and end the occupation, then none of this would be happening. As I noted earlier, European political leaders have echoed this theme blaming Israel not only for the attacks on its people but also for ISIS terror directed at non-Jewish Europeans. That kind of scapegoating is reminiscent of traditional anti-Semitic attitudes in which Jews are blamed for all of society’s ills rather than being focused solely on prejudice against Israel.

But what if Israel had already offered the Palestinians the state their apologists say would be the solution to all of the region’s problems? Well, actually they have. Several times.

Throughout the last century of conflict, the refusal of Palestinian Arabs to accept any compromise or partition including the 1947 United Nations partition resolution that would have created a separate Arab state alongside the new Jewish one. Nor did the Arab states or Palestinian groups react to Israel’s Six Day War triumph by offering the peace they had refused it until then. Israel was met with the famous “three no’s” — no negotiations, no recognition and no peace — from a unanimous Arab world.

But that’s ancient history, right? In 1993, Israel signed the Oslo Accords that gave the PA autonomous control over the West Bank and Gaza and put them on the road to statehood. In 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat the state he had wanted in exchange for peace. Arafat said no and responded with a terrorist war of attrition known as the second intifada. He said no again when Barak sweetened the proposed deal in 2001.

That’s where the Abbas story comes in. In 2005, the supposedly more moderate Abbas succeeded Arafat. In 2008, he came to Annapolis, Maryland for peace talks sponsored by the George W. Bush administration and got Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of statehood which gave the Palestinians even more land than Barak had put on the table. For years, the Palestinians claimed there had been no real peace offer in 2008. Left-wing apologists for Abbas said he had merely left the talks rather than answering no. But after seven years of prevaricating about the incident, Abbas finally owned up to his refusal.

Abbas justifies his no because he says he wasn’t offered a second look at the map Olmert gave him for a state. This is nonsense since if he had pursued the offer he would have gotten all the time he wanted to look at it and to try and better the deal. He also says that since Olmert was leaving office soon under a cloud of scandal (he’s since been given a jail sentence for his convictions on charges of official corruption) there was no point in continuing the negotiations. This is also absurd since Olmert had months to go before the next election would put a new prime minister in his place leaving plenty of time for the peace to become a fait accompli if the Palestinians had wished.

But they didn’t. Abbas knew that he could not sign any document that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. Nor did he have the power or the will to end the conflict for all time since he and the rest of the Palestinian leadership would view such a decision as a betrayal of Palestinian identity.

Which brings us back to the current outbreak of terror. The attacks have been incited in no small measure by Abbas in order to compete with his Hamas rivals. In doing so, he has stopped to using the language of holy war against Jews and stirred up hatred based on lies about non-existent Israeli plans to destroy the Temple Mount mosques. That means the attacks really have nothing to do with Jewish settlements or Palestinian statehood even though many in the West persist in believing that is the case.

But the main point here is that if the lack of a state was the problem, Abbas saying yes could have solved it in 2008. It’s just as important to note that the supposedly intransigent Benjamin Netanyahu that succeeded Olmert has also accepted the two-state solution and offered Abbas most of the West Bank in 2010. But the killing continues, not because the Israelis haven’t tried, but because the Palestinians don’t want peace. Just like Hamas, Abbas thinks all of Israel, not just the West Bank and Jerusalem, are occupied territory. That’s what Abbas’s admission means.

It would be nice if this would be taken into account when Western media and the Obama administration blame Israel for the situation. But those who are interested in the truth can no longer claim there is any doubt about who rejected peace. If the killing continues, it is because that’s what Palestinians want. Don’t take my word for it, just read Abbas’s confession.

Who decides where the bombs fall in Gaza?

The IDF’s Fire Command Center pulls together intel and recommendations from across the army to pinpoint targets for strikes

By Judah Ari Gross                      The Times of Israel


When Israel’s southern communities are hit by rocket fire, as they were on Tuesday evening, the IDF is called upon to respond to the attack and strike targets in the Gaza Strip to deter future assaults.

But who picks those targets? Who decides how and where to strike? Who weighs the possible risk to civilians versus the potential gains in a given operation?

The Times of Israel spoke this week with the operations officer of the unit that coordinates these actions — Major Reut of the Southern Command’s Fire Command Center (due to the sensitive nature of her position, Reut can only be identified by her first name).

The Fire Command Center works with “anyone you can think of,” Major Reut explained, including Military Intelligence, the Air Force, the Navy and Artillery Corps, in order to identify targets and determine the best way of hitting them — by sea, air or from the ground.

But success for the unit is not measured solely in the number or quality of strategic sites it hits. The Fire Command Center also works closely with the Military Advocate General (MAG) and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to ensure that innocent Gaza civilians are spared as much as possible, and that strikes are carried out to the letter of international law, Reut said.

Following Tuesday night’s rocket strike from Gaza, which hit just by the border fence, the Israeli Air Force struck two Hamas sites. That bombing run, according to Reut, was a success.

“We carried out the mission, and no innocent people were hurt,” she told TOI on Wednesday.

The rocket attack is unlikely to have been carried out by Hamas, which has refrained from launching attacks on Israel since 2014’s summer war. Some small, extreme Salafist groups have engaged in sporadic rocket-fire, often in defiance of Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

But Israel has long held Hamas accountable for any attacks emanating from the territory under its control. This policy is designed to put the onus on Hamas, instead of Israel, to enforce a ceasefire.

“Obviously we prefer hitting the people who carried out the attack, but Hamas is in charge and so that is where we strike,” Reut explained.

A well-oiled machine

The Fire Command Center’s primary duty is to translate the orders that come from up top — from the head of the Southern Command, the IDF chief of staff and the Defense Ministry — into action, Reut explained.

Turning those commands into an actual plan requires that the center collaborate with a host of military units, analyze their information and recommendations and incorporate them into a definitive plan of action.

In general, the unit, led by Colonel Yuval Ben-Dov, first receives information on potential targets from Military Intelligence. These can include static sites such as smuggling tunnels or more mobile targets like weapons caches, which are given an “expiration date.”

Those targets are then discussed with the MAG to ensure that a strike would be legally permissible.

However, Reut stressed, just because a target is deemed legal does not necessarily mean that it will be hit, if there exist concerns over civilian casualties

“It’s not only whether (a strike) will hurt civilians, but even whether it might hurt civilians,” she said.

Representatives from the air force, navy and ground forces then weigh in with their best options for hitting those sites.

All of that information is then compiled by the Fire Command Center and turned into an actionable plan that is entered into a “target bank,” a list of possible locations that can be hit by the IDF.

With all of those army units involved, this process has its fair share of red tape and bureaucratic hurdles. However, due to the frequency of rocket attacks from Gaza — approximately every week or every other week — the Fire Command Center has learned to streamline that process.

“Unfortunately, we are so well-versed in the process that the bureaucracy is handled quickly — within minutes,” Reut said. “We have become a well-oiled machine.”

That speed is crucial, Reut explained, as there are some targets with “short life-spans.”

Arbiters of death

Though the Fire Command Center has existed for decades, it is only in the past six years or so that the army has begun fully appreciating its importance.

Up until 2008-2009’s Operation Cast Lead, the head of the unit generally held the position as one secondary to another role in the Southern Command. Since then, however, the unit has been led by a dedicated commander, at the rank of colonel.

In August, Ben-Dov took over the unit, which operates out of a newly renovated building in the Southern Command’s home base in Beersheba. In “peacetime” the unit is staffed with just nine people from the IDF’s Artillery Corps — five officers and four soldiers. But in wartime, their ranks can swell to include close to 200 people, many of them reservists, Reut said.

The 31-year-old major, who has served in a variety of command positions in the Artillery Corps, admitted she did not know exactly why the Fire Command Center is run by members of the corps, but hazarded a somewhat boastful guess.

“The Navy knows how to attack from the sea and the air force knows how to attack from the air, but we know how to use all kinds of firepower,” she said.

Reut, who previously served as the first female operational artillery battery commander, entered the position of operations officer following last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

The unit is constantly updating the list of potential targets — weapons stores, terrorist hideouts and the like. But although the intelligence continually pours in, the IDF will typically only carry out a strike in retaliation, in order to help maintain quiet in Israel’s southern communities, Reut said.

“We don’t respond to everything because we don’t want to escalate the situation,” she explained.

The people serving in the Fire Command Center appreciate the grave importance of their task. Within an air conditioned building in Beersheba, miles away from Gaza, the team acts as arbiters of death, deciding, potentially days or weeks in advance, who will be hit in an IDF strike.

“No one here derives any pleasure from having to kill people. If someone dies in a strike, we don’t give each other high-fives and laugh,” Reut said.

“But it’s a matter of prioritizing. If we don’t act, innocent Israeli citizens can die,” she said.

Stockholm syndrome: Blame Israel first

Joseph Farah notes irony of Swedish official fingering Israel over terror

World Net Daily


When I wrote a column earlier this week titled “Watch Israel get blamed for Paris,” I didn’t actually expect to see what I call the “blame-Israel-first mentality” displayed quite so quickly and forcefully.

It came in the form of a statement by Sweden’s foreign minister, Margaret Wallstrom, in a Swedish public television interview.

“To counteract the radicalization, we must go back to the situation, such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is not future,” she said. “We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

Translation? The failure of Israel to sacrifice its own national security by carving up its own state and complete capitulation to Arab Palestinian demands, such as ridding historically Jewish lands of any Jews, and accepting terrorist attacks from its neighbors as a way of life, is the real cause of the brutal Paris attacks.

It was predictable indeed – especially from Sweden, a European leader in anti-Semitism and Israel bashing.

It’s called blaming the victim for the crime. No country in the world, no people in the world, face the daily threat of Islamic terrorism more than the one and only Jewish state, the one and only free state in the Middle East.

Well-named is the “Stockholm syndrome,” named for a 1973 incident that occurred in the Swedish capital.

It’s a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. It was named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of a bank in Stockholm. During the crime, several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from Aug. 23 to 28, 1973, while their captors negotiated with police. During this standoff, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal.

Sound familiar?

Thank goodness Israelis have not succumbed to the mental illness, for they are on the front lines of the terror war – literally surrounded by hostile neighbors who demonize the Jewish state day and night and incite the most vicious forms of anti-Semitic violence.

It is madness, indeed, that affects most of Western Europe, most of the international media and the global elite who find more fault with Israel than any other country in the world.

How do I put this politely? Nations that can no longer distinguish between right and wrong, truth and fiction, and justice and injustice have lost their moral and intellectual bearings.

Sweden has fallen in love with the “Palestinian cause,” which means it embraces terrorism against Jews. Last October, it was the first Western European nation to officially recognize the state of Palestine – a state that doesn’t exist, a fantasy of the Islamic Arab imagination, a country that has never existed in the history of the world.

Why does it do so? For the same reason those hostages declared their love and admiration for their captors.

Do Swedes think they will be exempt from terrorist attacks by pointing the finger of blame at other victims? Apparently so. But ignoring the real motivations of radical Islamic terror won’t prevent new ones. In fact, it only ensures there will be more in the future.

But as I pointed out earlier this week, failure to face up to the real enemy and name it is simply putting one’s head in the sand. It’s not only affecting the Swedes. It’s affecting the world – the U.S. included. Few are willing to speak the truth even in the U.S. for of being labeled an Islamophobe, a jingoist, an ultra-nationalist, a bigot, an extremist, a racist, a zealot, a fiend, a barbarian.

It’s the same kind of mindset that led directly to the Holocaust just a generation ago.

Recall the famous words of Martin Niemöller, the pastor who became an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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