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Latest News in Israel – 24th November

Israeli soldier killed, 2 hurt in stabbing at West Bank gas station

An Israeli soldier was killed on Monday afternoon in a stabbing attack at a gas station on Route 443 in the West Bank, close to the central town of Modiin.

Two others were hurt in the attack. One of the wounded, an Israeli woman, was lightly hurt when her car was hit by gunfire from security forces. The other, a female Israeli soldier in her 20s, was lightly injured in the stabbing and evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for treatment.

The Palestinian assailant was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the area, according to Channel 2. He was named as Ahmad Taha of the West Bank village of Qatanna, near Jerusalem. Taha arrived at the gas station specifically to carry out an attack, according to the TV report.

Magen David Adom paramedics attempted to revive the 18-year-old soldier who sustained severe abdominal wounds, but were forced to declare him dead at the scene.

“A young man… was lying on the ground unconscious, with stab wounds to the upper body, on the highway next to the gas station. Nearby, there was a young woman… approximately 20 years old, with stab wounds to her limbs. We gave both medical treatment on the scene,” said MDA medic Yitzchak Aryeh Goldfarb.

Earlier Monday, a young Palestinian man armed with a knife was shot and killed as he approached IDF soldiers near a West Bank junction where an Arab woman attempted to stab Israelis on Sunday, the police said.

The victim, who has not been named, is the twenty-second Israeli casualty since the wave of violence broke out in October.

The IDF forces on the scene reportedly shot and injured the would-be assailant.

No Israelis were harmed in the attempted attack, which took place at a junction near the Samaria Brigade headquarters in the northern West Bank.

On Sunday, a Palestinian woman was run over and shot while attempting to stab an Israeli civilian at the junction. The bystander, former Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, said he rammed his car into the woman after seeing her attempting to stab a girl standing at a bus stop where a number of Israelis were standing. The attacker was subsequently shot by security forces at the scene.

The Monday attacks came hours after two Palestinian girls stabbed a 70-year-old Palestinian man in central Jerusalem with a pair of scissors. Police identified the two attackers as 14 and 16 years old, from northern Jerusalem. The 16-year-old died at the scene and the 14-year-old was detained, a police spokesperson said. She was taken to an Israeli hospital in critical condition, according to news reports. A 27-year-old Israeli was lightly injured by police fire at the scene.    (The Times of Israel)

Stabbing victim Ziv Mizrahi was nephew of heroic Cafe Hillel security guard

The Israeli killed in a stabbing attack at a West Bank gas station on Monday afternoon was named as Ziv Mizrahi, an 18-year-old IDF soldier from the settlement of Givat Ze’ev, north of Jerusalem.

Mizrahi sustained severe abdominal wounds when Ahmad Taha from the West Bank village of Qatanna stabbed him repeatedly at a gas station on Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Route 443.

A female IDF officer was also stabbed and wounded.

Magen David Adom paramedics attempted to revive Mizrahi, who was an IDF driver, but a spokesman said first responders were forced to declare him dead at the scene.

Mizrahi’s uncle, Alon Mizrahi, was murdered in a terrorist attack at Jerusalem’s Cafe Hillel in September, 2003.

He was the security guard at the cafe in the German Colony, and died trying to prevent the suicide bomber entering the premises.

The bomber detonated the explosives as they struggled.

Seven people were killed in the attack, including Dr. David Applebaum, head of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and his daughter Nava, whose wedding was to have been held the next day.

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Ziv Mizrahi z’l

The officer hurt in Monday’s attack, in her 20s, was lightly injured in the stabbing and evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian assailant was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the area.

Another woman was lightly hurt when her car was hit by gunfire from security forces trying to thwart the attack.

Palestinians in the village of Qatanna were shown on Channel 2 later Monday dancing in celebration of the “success” of the attack. The report also showed Taha photographed visiting the grave of another terrorist from the village who was killed carrying out an attack on the same Route 443 in August.

Mizrahi will be laid to rest at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. He is the 22 Israeli casualty since the wave of Palestinian terror and violence broke out in October.

Earlier on Monday, two Palestinian girls stabbed a 70-year-old Palestinian man in central Jerusalem with a pair of scissors. They mistook him for a Jew.

Police identified the two attackers as cousins Hadil and Nurhan Awad, aged 14 and 16, from Qalandiya in northern Jerusalem.

The 16-year-old died at the scene and the 14-year-old was badly hurt and detained, a police spokesperson said.

A 27-year-old Israeli was lightly injured by police fire at the scene.

Hadil Awad was the sister of Mahmoud Awad, who died in November 2013 at the age of 24. He was shot in the back of his neck with a rubber bullet by an IDF soldier eight months earlier during a protest near the Qalandiya checkpoint.            (The Times of Israel)

‘A sympathetic ear to whoever needed it’

Hadar Buchris, the 21-year-old who was killed in a terror attack at Gush Etzion junction on Sunday afternoon, was memorialized on Sunday evening at the Bat Ayin midrasha she joined last year. Girls attending the Zohar midrasha gathered there before setting off for the junction where their friend was murdered.

“Hadar was a fantastic, bright girl. She was always a source of good energy for the whole group,” said Ayala Eretz Hazvi, Hadar’s former theater teacher from her old school in the Golan Heights.

“She was a very talented theater student and a successful comic who always created positive vibes around her friends,” Hazvi continued. “She was also a kind of ‘psychologist’ who would lend a sympathetic ear to whoever needed it.

“We love her and her family very much and are sending them a strong embrace.”

Before moving to the Golan Heights, Hadar had attended school in Safed, where one of her sisters still studies. Those at the school say that she and her sister were very close and supported one another.

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Hadar Buchris z’l

Hadar previously lived with her mother, Frechia, in Netanya. Her father, Arieh, also lived in the city. After her studies, Hadar spent two years as a youth coordinator for her national service – first at a moshav near Tiberias, then at a kibbutz in Beit She’an.

After completing her national service Hadar went traveling around India. On her return to Israel she moved to a settlement in the Gush Etzion area with a friend she had met on her trip. She then joined the midrasha in Bat Ayin.

Buchris was murdered on Sunday afternoon when a Palestinian stabbed her while she was waiting at a hitchhiking point at Gush Etzion junction. A soldier standing nearby shot and wounded the attacker.

Magen David Adom paramedics treated Hadar and she was evacuated to Sha’are Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem, where she was pronounced dead. The Palestinian who stabbed Hadar also died from his wounds.

According to a witness to the attack, the Palestinian initially spoke with a soldier at the site before carrying out the stabbing.

The Shin Bet confirmed later that the attacker was Issam Thawabteh, a 34-year-old from Beit Fajjar, which is close to the Gush Etzion junction. Thawabteh had no previous security record.               (Ynet News)

IDF bans Palestinian workers from entering Gush Etzion after Sunday’s stabbing attack

The IDF has banned Palestinian workers from entering the Gush Etzion settlement block on Monday, a spokesman for the Gush Etzion Regional Council said after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed and killed a young Israeli woman on Sunday in the West Bank

Hadar Buchris, 21, was killed in the attack at a bus stop at the Gush Etzion junction in the third such West Bank attack on Sunday. It was the third such attack of the day in the West Bank, and the second at the junction in the last four days.

In light of the multitude of violent incidents at the flashpoint junction, the security establishment was also reportedly weighing steps to separate Israelis and Palestinians in the area, according to Channel 2.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian media report alleged that a contingent of IDF forces was headed to demolish the home, in the West Bank village of Beit Fajar, belonging to the family of the terrorist identified in the attack.

IDF forces who responded to Sunday’s attack immediately shot and killed the suspected stabber, who was identified as Atzam Tuabata, a 34-year-old resident of village near Bethlehem.

Following Sunday’s attack, Magen David Adom paramedic Zaki Yahav said that when he arrived at the scene he saw “a young woman in her twenties lying unconscious with stab wounds to her upper body on the sidewalk near the bus stop.”

“People at the site had begun to provide first aid and they were trying to stop the bleeding. We quickly moved her into the ambulance and evacuated her to the 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 Buchris had multiple stab wounds in her head and chest and was not breathing and did not have a pulse when she arrived. The hospital’s medical staff was unable to revive her, Marin said.

Buchris was studying at the Zohar seminary in the Bat Ayin settlement near Gush Etzion. She had just returned to Israel a few weeks ago from a half-a-year trip to India. She will be buried at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon.                                 (Jerusalem Post)

2 female teen terrorists attack Jewish and Palestinian men with scissors outside Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem

One female teenaged Palestinian terrorist is dead, and her female teen accomplice is in critical condition, after attacking a Jewish and Palestinian man with scissors outside the Mahane Yehuda Market Monday morning, in the heart of downtown Jerusalem.

A puddle of blood on Jaffa Road, a few meters outside the open market’s main entrance, marked the scene of the attack, where dozens of police and medical personnel worked feverishly to evacuate the wounded and secure the area.

Light rail cars, which run down the bustling thoroughfare, grounded to a halt, as hundreds of concerned bystanders and journalists looked on from behind police lines.

At 11:30 a.m., roughly 15 minutes after the attack, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the two unidentified Palestinian teens, aged 14 and 16, carried out the stabbing while thousands of pedestrians were shopping in the market, or walking down Jaffa Road.

“Two female terrorists carried out the stabbing using scissors,” he said. “Both of the terrorists were shot by police officers who responded at the scene; one of them was killed and the other one was taken to the hospital.”

A guard who responded to the attack also sustained a light wound to his hand in the resulting crossfire, police said.

“The area has been cordoned off, and forensics teams are looking at the scene while we look for the identities of both the female terrorists, and where they came in from,” Rosenfeld continued. “We have confirmed that they are Palestinian.”

Rosenfeld added that heightened security is continuing across the capital to prevent other attacks from taking place.

United Hatzalah of Israel volunteer paramedic Yehuda Goldberg said he treated a 25-year-old Jewish man stabbed in the hand and a 70-year-old Palestinian man who was stabbed in the head.

“Both were lightly injured and transferred to the hospital, and we treated about 15 witnesses for shock,” he said.

“One of the terrorists was shot dead, and the other was critically injured and is on the way to the hospital.”

It remains unclear why the girls stabbed the elderly Palestinian man.                         (Jerusalem Post)

Man hurt in West Bank hit-and-run; security forces searching area for suspect

A vehicle hit a pedestrian and sped off near the West Bank settlement of Homesh on Monday, leading security forces on a manhunt for the suspect.

An 18-year-old man was lightly injured in the hit-and-run event and was evacuated to the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.

It was not immediately clear if the incident was an accident or a deliberate car ramming attack.

Police have set-up roadblocks in the area and are currently searching for the suspected perpetrator                 (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu promises to keep up the fight on terror in wake of continued deadly attacks

At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is continuing to work with the various security agencies to combat the wave of terrorism facing the nation.

“We will continue to fight terrorism,” he said. “We are facing terrorism by individuals – this is not terrorism by organizations, this is terrorism by individuals, occasionally with kitchen knives, who are incited mainly by social media.”

Netanyahu said that such a phenomenon is particularly challenging for security forces to combat.

“It is very difficult to hermetically prevent the arrival of such knife-wielding or other terrorists to this or that place,” he said. “Therefore, in addition to the actions that we are taking in the centers of terrorism themselves, in addition to the actions by the security forces, citizens must be on maximum alert. I must say that we are showing such awareness, with considerable resourcefulness and courage, and this is deserving of all praise. We are still fighting and will continue to do so. This struggle has continued for nearly 100 years, but we will overcome this wave as well.”

The prime minister said that over the weekend he held discussions with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, regarding their joint efforts against such attacks.

“I instructed the security agencies to coordinate their efforts in the Hebron district, from which most or all of the attacks are originating,” Netanyahu said. “We are carrying out – inter alia – arrests and roadblocks there, and are boosting our forces.

“I would like to commend the security forces for their strong counter-terrorism actions, including the apprehension of the murderers. I would also like to express a word of appreciation to the citizens of Israel.”                (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Authority claims Israel planting knives near the bodies of Palestinians

The Palestinian Authority government on Sunday accused Israeli authorities of planting knives near the bodies of Palestinians who are killed during stabbing attacks against Israelis.

In response to the killing of 16-year-old Ashraqat Katnani after she tried to stab Israelis near Nablus, the government said: “Israel is violating all international treaties that provide protection for children. Israel has become professional in distorting the facts to divert attention from its crimes by accusing victims of its crimes that they were carrying knives or by planting a knife next to their bodies.”

The PA government said that Katnani was a “victim of daily crimes and organized terrorism carried out by the occupation.”

However, the girl’s father, Taha, was quoted by Palestinian media outlets as saying that his daughter had planned the attack because she wanted to die as a “martyr.”

He said that his high-school daughter set out to seek “martyrdom.” He added: “I’m proud of her. The father said that Katnani had also asked that her organs be donated after her death.

Citizens and security forces killed Katnani on Sunday, after she had 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.

Former Samaria Council head Gershon Mesika, who ran over Katnani with his car, that he “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.”

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

This incident was one of several which occurred on Sunday. In another incident, a Palestinian tried to ram a taxi into Israelis at a West Bank junction near Jericho and then got out with a knife in his hand to stab them, before an armed Israeli at the scene shot him dead, police said.

In the latest incident, police said a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli woman at a junction near a West Bank settlement bloc. A military spokesman said the assailant was shot and killed.                                                                                                               (Jerusalem Post)

17% of Israeli Arabs support ISIS, expert says

Around 57 percent of Israeli Arabs say the Islamic Movement truly represents them, according to a new study by Prof. Sammy Smooha of the University of Haifa, which will be released in full on Monday during a conference at Givat Haviva.

Smooha, who has been charting Israeli-Arab opinion since 1976, discussed with The Jerusalem Post some of the key findings from his 2015 study, which is titled Still Playing by the Rules: The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2015. It is based on an annual opinion survey of the adult Israeli-Arab population, and was carried out from May to July.

An overwhelming number of Israeli Arabs – 82 percent – agreed that Islamic State is an extremist terrorist organization and that they, as Arabs, felt ashamed of it, while 17% disagreed, said Smooha, pointing out that these statistics include Druse and Christian Arabs.

When including only Muslim Arabs, 18% disagreed with the statement. Of those respondents with higher education, 20% disagreed.

Among those who felt closest to the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, 28% disagreed with the statement.

“This is a very telling finding,” said Smooha. “Why, because all Arab political parties and the Islamic Movement’s two factions are against Islamic State, so this means a segment of the Arab public does not agree with the consensus against Islamic State.”

He attributes this to the possibility that some Israeli Arabs see the group as a powerful one that can stand up to Israel and major world players. It also reflects on their negative assessment of their conditions in Israel.

“Some of these people left to fight in Syria” and represent “a minority that is very against coexistence,” that hopes to replace Israel through violence with an Islamic state, he added.

Extreme and rejectionist attitudes are held by about one fifth or a quarter of the Israeli- Arab public. “We must bear in mind also that there is a parallel minority of Jews that rejects coexistence and supports the state’s encouragement of Arabs to leave the country,” he said.

Around 31% of Jews would deny Arabs the right to vote for the Knesset, he continued.

It is important to bear in mind that the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement is what most Arabs refer to when speaking of the “Islamic Movement,” Smooha said.

“When we ask about identification, more than two times as many Arabs identify with the Northern rather than the Southern branch,” he explained. “Most Arabs that support the Islamic Movement, support the Northern Branch.”

Smooha says that 42% of all Arabs in Israel define themselves as sympathizers, activists or members of one of the Islamic Movement’s two factions.

The state is reducing support for social services and the Islamic Movement is stepping in to provide these services, such as kindergartens, elementary schools, sports clubs and Koran classes, said Smooha.

When asked what movement or political party respondents felt closest to, “Most people mentioned political parties, but 9.4% said they were closest to the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement,” the professor said.

The Southern Branch participates in Israeli politics through the United Arab List party, which currently has three members serving in the Knesset, as part of the Joint List.

Smooha said that the Joint List, which 83% of Israeli Arabs voted for in the last election, is quite popular because the majority sees it as representative.

Most Israeli Arabs would like to see it be a partner in the government coalition, as it could then have more influence on their daily lives, he said. The majority of the Israeli-Arab public is pragmatic and wants to use its political power to affect policy change, improve living conditions, decrease violence within the community and increase affordable housing, Smooha said.                   (Jerusalem Post)

Gaza rocket lands in southern Israel

A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council Monday morning, the IDF confirmed.

No injuries or damage were reported in the incident. Red alert sirens were not activated, as the projectile exploded in open territory.

Security forces were sweeping the area for remnants of the projectile.

Last Tuesday, residents in the south were on edge after the Iron Dome missile system fired an interceptor missile at what it thought was an incoming rocket.

Apparently there was no rocket however, although residents of the south did hear an explosion, which is believed to have been the interceptor.

Previous to today’s launch, the last confirmed rocket to be fired into Israel was on 26th October, when a rocket exploded in the vicinity of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, also causing no casualties or damage.                               (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu commits to keeping current partners in government

A pact between coalition parties will make it nearly impossible for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring Zionist Union or Yesh Atid into the government.

A source close to Netanyahu said Sunday that the heads of coalition parties agreed that no new partners would be brought in at the expense of the current ones.

The agreement is another nail in the coffin for rumored talks of a unity coalition that would bring Zionist Union in, because the faction’s positions and those of Bayit Yehudi are so divergent, especially on the matter of a possible Palestinian state, which the former supports and the latter vehemently opposes. The current coalition’s guidelines do not mention a two-state solution.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog denied on Saturday night that he was negotiating joining the coalition, writing on Twitter: “In what language do you want it? Bibi [Netanyahu] must be brought down, not saved.”

Yesh Atid was always a less likely candidate to join the coalition, but the agreement between the coalition parties makes it nearly impossible, as United Torah Judaism’s Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has said more than once he would not sit in the same government as Yesh Atid.

Yisrael Beytenu, however, could join the coalition without any other parties having to leave.

One idea suggested by a senior coalition member that could entice Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman to enter the government is to pass the 2017 budget in the summer of 2016, which would guarantee several more months of stability for the coalition.

Liberman has said many times he think the current coalition will fall apart by the end of 2016.    (Jerusalem Post)

Ministers okay prison sentences for terrorists under age 14

Minors under 14 who commit nationalistically-motivated crimes may receive prison sentences, if a bill authorized by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday becomes law.

The proposal by MK Anat Berko (Likud) differentiates between acts of terrorism – defined as crimes motivated by nationalism – and other crimes, for which minors under 14 cannot receive prison sentences.

The bill states that those under the age of 14 who commit terrorist acts will be kept in a children’s home until they turn 14, at which point they can be sent to prison.

Earlier this month, 12 and 13-year-old Palestinian cousins stabbed a Jerusalem Light Rail security guard in the capital’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood.

Berko said she plans to expedite the bill’s passage into law because it could save lives.

“As long as the Palestinians recruit minors while knowing that the Israeli law does not have a real response to minor terrorists under age 14, we can only expect the phenomenon to spread, with the thought that, anyway, Israeli law enforcement will send the minors back home after they commit the acts,” Berko stated.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation also conditionally approved a bill by MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) that is the latest of several iterations of legislation meant to limit donations organizations can receive from foreign governments or entities funded by foreign governments.

According to Ilatov’s proposal, funding from a foreign country would not be exempt from income tax and any corporation, organization or person that is funded by a foreign country may be considered a foreign agent.

Foreign agents would be required to report which countries fund them and what activities the aid is meant for. They would be obligated to publicize that they are foreign agents on any websites, signs or advertisements they release. The fine for not doing so would be NIS 29,200.

The ministers approved the bill, but it will not go to a preliminary Knesset vote until a similar bill by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked moves to the legislature.

Shaked’s “transparency bill” would require NGOs who receive most of their funding from foreign governments to declare that they do so in their publicly available publications and reports, in any contact in writing, and at meetings with public officials or workers. They will also have to detail which foreign entities donated to them during the relevant years.

In addition, the NGOs’ representatives will be required to wear name tags listing the name of their organization when present in the Knesset, as lobbyists do. Any violation of the law will carry a fine of NIS 29,200.

“The blatant intervention of foreign countries in the State of Israel’s internal matters through funding is an unprecedented, broadly-occurring phenomenon that violates all the rules and norms of relations between democratic countries,” Shaked said earlier this month.                               (Jerusalem Post)

PM calls for voiding citizenship of Israeli Islamic State recruits

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he is pushing to revoke the citizenship of Israeli citizens who join the Islamic State terror group, several days after authorities said they uncovered a cell in a central Israeli town.

Netanyahu made the comments at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

“Last week indictments were served against citizens who joined Islamic State,” he said at the start of the cabinet meeting. “I have asked the attorney general to move ahead with revoking the citizenship of anyone who joins the organization.”

The prime minister was referring to a group of residents from the northern Israeli Arab town of Jaljulia who were charged after allegedly plotting to make their way to Syria and fight alongside the IS jihadist group.

“Whoever joins Islamic State will not be an Israeli citizen, and if he leaves the country’s borders he will not return,” Netanyahu added and noted that the concept of revoking citizenship for those who join IS was becoming more accepted in the international community.

Last week the district attorney filed indictments against the six men, who stand accused of contacting an enemy agent, conspiracy to commit a crime, attempting to travel to an enemy state and assisting travel to an enemy state.

The group had planned to join IS and two of its members traveled to Turkey in the hope of crossing into Syria but returned to Israel when they failed to link up with IS contacts. A seventh member of the group, Nadal Hamad Salah Salah, 23, flew a hang glider across the border from the Golan Heights and into Syria on October 24, setting off an intensive investigation by security services.

The Shin Bet said at the time it was expending resources on preventing Israeli citizens from leaving for Syria, calling it an immediate threat to national security.

A number of attackers linked to a series of bombings and shootings in Paris last week were thought to have spent time in Syria fighting for IS.

Recently three residents of the Lower Galilee town of Yafia, supporters of Islamic State, confessed to planning attacks in Israel, the Shin Bet statement added.   (The Times of Israel)

Israel Has 115 Nuclear Warheads, U.S. Research Institute Says

Israel produced 660 Kg of plutonium in its nuclear reactor in Dimona, and used it to make 115 nuclear warheads, which it holds in its arsenal today, a study by the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published Friday alleges.

The institute, headed by David Albright, aims at professional analysis and doesn’t take an anti-Israeli stance. The report on Israel’s nuclear program is a chapter in a series on the civil and military programs of nuclear nations.

According to the institute’s researchers, since starting to produce plutonium in its Dimona reactor, in December 1963, Israel has amassed between 400 to 915 Kg of fissile material, with a median of 660 Kg. According to Albright, the assessment is relatively conservative, since in the 1990s one of the former heads of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission told him that plutonium was “harder to produce than many think.”

In addition to weapons designed to be dropped from aircraft, according to the report, Israel also holds surface-to-surface and submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles, each with a warhead of 3 to 5 Kg of plutonium. The total output could be used to make 90 to 290 warheads, with a median of 115.

Other research institutes have put forward other estimates, mostly ranging from 80 to 200 nuclear warheads.   (Ha’aretz)

Jerusalem crime rate drops amid heightened police presence

One positive byproduct of the ongoing heightened police presence in Jerusalem is a pronounced decrease in daily criminal activity, police said on Sunday.

While no official figures have been published delineating the drop in crime, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the thousands of officers on the ground – coupled with the public’s acute awareness of suspicious activity – has proven to be a powerful deterrent.

“Police are primarily dealing with preventing and responding to terrorist attacks, but the public awareness of what’s going on in their neighborhoods, and of anyone who looks suspicious, has led to a decrease overall,” Rosenfeld said.

According to Rosenfeld, approximately 80 percent of the roughly 5,000 officers canvassing the city’s flashpoint Arab neighborhoods and the Old City primarily focus on terrorist activity, with 20% of the force exclusively focused on criminal activity.

Despite the imbalance, he said regular phone calls from concerned citizens throughout the capital reporting unusual or suspicious activity has helped streamline police responses, investigations and general preemptive action.

“There are also a significant number of undercover and detective units regularly patrolling the city to immediately respond to any criminal activity,” Rosenfeld said.

For the time being, Rosenfeld emphasized that police operations will continue unabated until the terror threat has been removed.

“Police will continue to leave nothing to chance,” he said                          (Jerusalem Post)

Thousands of Iranian soldiers stage mock siege of Temple Mount

Besieging Temple Mount

Thousand of Basij soldiers stage mock seige of Temple Mount.

Thousands of Iranian paramilitary forces participated in mock drills and exercises simulating the capture of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Friday.

Constructing a plastic replica of the al-Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, “tens of thousands of soldiers” conducted staged exercises dubbed “Towards the Holy City.”

The Fars report added that the drills involved over 120 Basij battalions, in which fighter-jets bombed targets in the dessert and dozens of gun-wielding squadrons representing IDF soldiers guarding the shrine replica.

Fars quoted one Basij commander as saying the drills were organized “to exercise preparedness to fight against possible threats in the region.”

Basij fighters are a volunteer arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and have been arriving in Syria to reinforce Syrian government troops in an offensive in the contested northern city of Aleppo and other insurgent-held areas.               (Jerusalem Post)

German department store apologizes, restocks Golan Heights wines

The German Department store KaDeWe, which on Saturday removed from its store wine produced in the Golan Heights, apologized for the move on Sunday and returned the bottles to its shelves.

Following a great deal of criticism on social media and a protest from the Green Party’s Volker Beck, president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Bundestag, a spokesman for the department store sent him a letter of apology.

“The eight Israeli wines will be immediately returned,” the letter read. “On this issue, dealt with following recommendations of the European Commission, we acted too fast and without sensitivity. We are sorry that the mistaken action of the KaDeWe Group lead to misunderstandings, and we want to apologize for that.”

The department store then went on to say that it carries a wide array of international products, including more than 200 Israeli products.

“KaDeWe is a symbol of cosmopolitanism and internationalism and we reject any discrimination and intolerance from any side,” the letter read.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the department store, and told the cabinet that the German government should take action against the move.

Pointing out that this department store was originally owned by Jews and confiscated by the Nazis, Netanyahu said that what began with the labeling of products, has evolved into a full-blown boycott of those products.

“We strongly protest this step, which is morally, substantively and historically unacceptable” Netanyahu said. “We expect the German government, which came out against product labeling, to act on this grave matter.”

A department store spokesman said on Saturday the wines had been removed from because of the new EU guidelines on settlement product labeling, and that they would go on sale again after they were relabeled.

On November 11, after months of discussion, the European Commission issued guidelines calling for products made in settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights to be labeled as such, and not as products from Israel because that would be “misleading consumers.”

Netanyahu’s comments dovetailed with what he said last week at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference about the need to condemn such moves.

“I think condemnation is very important,” he said. “When somebody does something outrageous, you say it. You don’t say: Oh, well, let it pass. It’s outrageous. It should be said so.”

Speaking even before the KaDeWe in Berlin took its steps, Netanyahu said of the whole labeling issue that it was morally abhorrent because within “living memory” Jewish products and stores were labeled on European soil.

He said he would expect that Europe would not “adopt this heinous act, which has such horrible historical overtones.”

KaDeWe social-media platforms, as well as its customer email account, experienced a wave of criticism for its action.

One customer wrote on KaDeWe’s Facebook page: “Whoever boycotts Jews, I will boycott them.” Another post read “such anti-Semitic behavior is not to be tolerated. Twitter was also alight with attacks on KaDeWe and calls for a boycott of the store.

After the department store restored the products, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, wrote on Twitter: “…slowly BDS demonization being exposed, Euro-funded NGO leaders losing influence.”

NGO Monitor is a watchdog organization that seeks to expose European funding for BDS activity.

Critics of the EU-labeling policy see the measure as a form of the Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment (BDS) movement targeting Israel’s economy.

In contrast to KaDeWe, the GALERIA Kaufhof department store chain in Germany did not remove Israeli products from its shelves.

According to German media, a GALERIA Kaufhof spokesperson said the chain’s policy is not to be influenced by religion or politics when purchasing products. GALERIA Kaufhof sells products made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.                   (Jerusalem Post)

The new normal: Stabbings, shootings and lulls

After a period of relative calm, Thursday’s five deaths marked the blackest day of Palestinian terror in the new upsurge. In prospect, more of the same

by Avi Issacharoff                             The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-new-normal-stabbings-shootings-and-lulls/

The minute we felt a lull in the current violence, the terror attacks on Thursday shattered that illusion.

Thursday was the deadliest day since the outbreak of violence, or in Palestinian terms, the so-called “third intifada.” Five killed (four Israelis, an one Palestinian bystander) and another five injured in two separate attacks.

In the first attack, 36-year-old Raid Halil bin Mahmoud, from the Palestinian village of Dura near Hebron, exploited his Israeli work permit and killed two Israelis in what appears to be the first attack carried out by a Palestinian work permit holder inside the Green Line. The second attack of the day was a combined shooting and car-ramming attack, and ended with heavy losses, with 2 Israelis and a Palestinian bystander killed.

After almost two weeks of relative calm which saw a decrease in the number of stabbing attacks, the Hebron area has seen an increase in shootings attacks. This past week, Palestinian gunmen carried out three separate shooting attacks on Israeli targets.

While some young Palestinian men and women have approached IDF checkpoints in the southern West Bank city armed with knifes, bent on attacks, in at least three other incidents the would-be attackers threw their weapons to the ground and expressed their desire to die.

So how do we explain the calm on one hand and the fresh upsurge on the other?

On one hand, pressure exerted by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, and the practice of demolishing the homes of attackers, has made it difficult for young attackers to carry out their plans.

On the other hand however, its impossible to completely eradicate the motivation to murder Israelis. The sentiment exists, and is unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future.

So despite the sporadic periods of calm, the new reality in the West Bank and its “third intifada” appears to dictate that attacks will not stop completely. This would seem to be the untenable new normal.

PA forces, shopkeepers thwart attacks

On Thursday morning, when Salma decided to carry out the attack on the Panorama office building in Tel Aviv, his hometown of Hebron was quiet, at least in the H-2 area under Israeli control. Perhaps an artificial quiet, but quiet nonetheless.

Last week, Hebron native Shadi Ahmad Matua opened fire on the Litman family near the Otniel Junction, and the week before, Jewish worshipers en route to the Cave of the Patriarchs were shot at by Palestinians.

In Hebron’s famous, once busy market, part of which is under Israeli control, only a handful of stores have been able to stay afloat.

When asked, one local business owner, Khader Shabaneh, told the Times of Israel the reason behind the lull in stabbing attacks: “We don’t want a mess, we just want the army to ease up on us a little bit.”

Shabaneh, who owns a bakery adjacent to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, said that he and some of the other shopkeepers nearby had begun stopping young Palestinians in the street they suspect could be planning a terror attack.

Shabaneh’s associate, “A,” said that many of the attackers hailed from a neighborhood called Bab Al Zawia. “PA forces dressed in civilian clothing are stationed there to stop anyone from making problems, and were able to stop several attacks,” he said.

Shabaneh said that recently when he saw children throwing rocks at Israeli security forces by his bakery, he approached them and told them to stop and explained to them that clashing with the IDF would result in a lock down of the neighborhood and be bad for business. “But I was trembling in fear that the soldiers would shoot at me, thinking that I was one of them,” he said.

He said that IDF soldiers’ lack of Arabic compounded the problem.

“Only recently there were Arabic-speaking troops stationed here, and they treated local residents with respect,” he said.

The lull in stabbings is at least partly a result of the cooperation of PA forces and local businessmen.

In light of the uptick in violence, many family dynamics have changed, an IDF officer said, and parents are increasingly monitoring what their children are doing.

This could also be seen an effort to restore a sense of order to the traditional family unit, which has been weakened in Palestinian society.

According to the same IDF official, after fatally shooting Rabbi Yaakov Litman and his son Netanel last week, Matua returned home and told several family members what he had done.

“When his father found out about, he went to Hazayit intersection, approached a soldier patrolling there and explained to him that his son carried out the attack,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the soldier did not speak Arabic, so he called his commander to speak with him. He also didn’t speak Arabic, and thought the father was indicating he had a bomb he wanted to smuggle inside Israel. The commander had to call another officer who was able to understand what the man was saying. In less than an hour, security forces were at the family home, the suspect apprehended, and his gun and the car used to carry out the attack found,” he said.

Why would a father turn in his own son? Turns out, the father is a local businessman who realized the implications the incident would have on the family, and chose to give up his son for the sake of the family rather than pay price for his son’s actions.

The young stabbers

One of the biggest problems facing the IDF and Shin Bet in this new model of an intifada is the lack of intelligence pointing to the intentions of would-be Palestinian attackers.

“None of the recent attackers from the Hebron area was not known to the security establishment,” the officer said. “In fact, we don’t have anyone on our watch list currently.”

“One of the attackers who carried out an attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs was sitting in a nearby internet cafe where he wrote a farewell message to his friends and family, asking for their forgiveness, but explained that he ‘had to act,’” he said. “Five minutes later, he walked out and attempted to stab soldiers. We have no early warning indicators here.”

The official said the impromptu attacks by young Palestinians were much harder to combat than those organized by known terror groups.

“Actually, activities that take place within the terrorism infrastructure are more straightforward for us, because when a threat emerges we can make arrests,” he said.

“And while there is a certain calm now, we have no doubt that the motivation of Hamas, especially from the Gaza Strip, is to perpetrate more attacks.”

In recent days soldiers stationed in the area have seen a new troubling trend: young Palestinians coming to die at Israeli checkpoints. They don’t attempt to mount an attack, but simply show soldiers that they are carrying knives in the apparent hope that the troops will shoot them dead.

When the captured young suspects were asked their motivations, many said they just wished to end their lives. Most of them struggled with psychological or social issues.

Earlier this week, one young Palestinian man from Hebron approached a checkpoint and followed this routine. He later told investigators his father had harshly reprimanded him for receiving a 95 on a test instead of 100.

Hebron now and forever

Although Tel Aviv terrorist bin Mahmoud had a permit to work inside Israel, and although the government subsequently froze the entry of hundreds of permit-holders, its unlikely that it will halt the daily influx of ten of thousands of Palestinian workers as a punitive measure. Such a would escalate tensions, not abate them.

In the West Bank, especially in Hebron, it’s not only the IDF, some Palestinians and PA security forces that are attempting to restore calm. In recent days, Jewish residents of nearby settlements have posted notices informing Palestinian residents of armed community patrols in an effort to prevent future attacks.

Its unclear if this a publicity stunt or a genuine emerging phenomenon in mixed Jewish-Arab areas of the West Bank.

“Most of the Jewish settlers in the main blocks are supportive and willing to help,” the IDF officer said.

Still, he said, “they have their own demands. For example, now, there’a a campaign to close Route 60 to Palestinian motorists, and that’s probably not going to happen.”

In response to reports of the armed patrols of Jewish settlers, IDF Colonel Yariv Ben Ezra, commander of the Judea district, said any IDF weapons discovered on the civilian patrols would be confiscated by security forces.

The IDF official said the army was trying to avoid friendly fire incidents, saying “If they want to patrol in their cars without taking action, then by all means yes. But we cannot have people taking action with weapons on their own. It could end in a disaster.”

In the Etzion Bloc, no easy answers to terror

After second lethal attack at junction in under a week, security personnel struggle to secure major West Bank thoroughfare

By Judah Ari Gross                      The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-the-etzion-junction-no-easy-answers-to-terror/

There were gun shots. Four of them, maybe five. Loud pops that clearly came from nearby.

The army spokesman sitting across from me at the cafe adjacent to the Gush Etzion Junction initially thought it was shooting practice at a nearby base. But as security guards and soldiers began running through the parking lot, it became clear that there had been an attack. The gun shots were not practice.

We ran to the junction. A young woman, Hadar Buchris, was lying on the ground, her upper body and head were covered in blood. A few feet away, an Arab man was motionless on the ground, with a police officer standing over him — gun drawn and pointed directly at him.

Literally seconds had passed since the attack, but the junction was already filled with army personnel, Magen David Adom medics and police officers. A crowd of civilians gathered — workers from the area, people who had been waiting at nearby bus stops, drivers who had been passing by — ignoring police officers’ calls to keep away from the scene.

The medics made quick work loading the 21-year-old Hadar Buchris onto a yellow intensive care ambulance. She was still conscious as they placed her on the stretcher, her eyes scanning the scene. She died of her wounds a few hours later in the hospital.

Army medics, meanwhile, began checking the terrorist who had attacked her for signs of life. They began treatment, but after a few minutes pronounced the assailant, Wissam Tawabte, dead on the scene and covered him with a silver Mylar blanket.

The Etzion Brigade commander, whose base was just a few hundred meters away, quickly arrived on the scene. Shortly thereafter the head of the Etzion regional council, Davidi Perl, pulled up and began speaking with reporters.

‘The highway is a problem’

On Friday afternoon Perl had sent an email to his constituents, following Thursday’s shooting attack nearby in which a Palestinian man killed three people. In it he informed the residents of the Etzion Bloc that the regional IDF brigade would increase its presence at the junction, which has become a focal point of attacks in the ongoing violence.

In addition to Thursday’s deadly assault, in which a Palestinian man unloaded multiple magazines of ammunition into passing cars, the junction had also been the site of three stabbings and a car-ramming attack since October 1.

In response, army units in the area stepped up their activities both offensively and defensively, the IDF spokesman for the regional brigade had been explaining at the cafe just before the stabbing.

In terms of offensive actions, one of the IDF’s elite commando units had been brought into the area to carry out arrests and to send a message that the army would not tolerate attacks against Israelis, the spokesman said.

On Friday and Saturday, the unit ventured into the East Jerusalem village of Abu Dis, where a number of terrorists have come from, the army official said. They also entered Sa’ir, an Arab village near Kiryat Arba with close ties to Hamas which the IDF generally tends to avoid, as incursions into the area typically end in violence.

‘We just had a meeting to discuss what to do with the highway, and we didn’t find an answer’

In terms of defense, army engineers had installed a chain-link fence around the junction over the weekend. The fence wouldn’t protect against a car-ramming attack, but would prevent an attacker from sneaking up on soldiers or civilians at the junction and would also help prevent an attacker’s escape. Meanwhile the brigade commander had been meeting with other army officials to determine the villages and roads where IDF troops should set up checkpoints to both deter and catch would-be attackers.

But even before Sunday’s fresh stabbing the spokesman admitted that “the Gush Etzion Junction is a problem. The highway is a problem.”

The junction is situated on Route 60, the main highway running through the West Bank, north to south. It passes both Arab villages and Jewish settlements, and shutting it down or introducing tight security would harm the lives of everyone in the area.

“We just had a meeting to discuss what to do with the highway, and we haven’t found an answer,” he said.

The IDF could set up more thorough checkpoints in the vicinity, but that would interrupt the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, he said. Moreover, officials are loath to turn the junction, and the adjacent commercial center, into “a closed military zone.”

However, he said, “that’s a price we sometimes have to pay.”

Desperate measures

In response to Sunday’s attacks Perl, the regional council head, called for a complete shut down of the Arab villages in the area.

“Look at this,” he said, motioning to the cars with Palestinian license plates passing by the scene of the stabbing. “How can it be that after an attack they drive through here so easily? This area needs to be ‘clean,’” Perl, a lean, bespectacled man, said..

“We need to go after them. We need to attack them — attack them hard,” he said. “We should shut down the Arab villages in the area for a week or two.”

He suggested enacting a closure similar to the buffer created between East Jerusalem and the Jewish parts of the city in recent months in response to the wave of stabbing attacks.

But approximately 120,000 Palestinians have work permits that allow them to enter Israel, and shutting off entire villages would hurt both the Palestinian workers and the Israeli economy.

Additional checkpoints and closures around Arab villages could also serve to further inflame the already bristling Palestinian population, the IDF spokesman said.

“Yes, it’s a complex situation, but look at what happened in Operation Defensive Shield,” Perl said, in reference to the large-scale 2002 campaign that saw tanks and ground troops enter heavily into West Bank towns. “Things calmed down after we went into Palestinians cities.

“What can we do?” Perl said. “We’ve tried being defensive, we’ve tried everything else.”

While the death toll in the recent wave of violence may be far lower than during the Second Intifada a decade ago, he said, the principle is the same. “It’s the same business, with these never-ending attacks.”

Some glimmer of hope

Eventually the scene of the attack began to clear. The victim had been taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Witnesses, including a teenage boy who had been on his way to school, gave their testimony.

The curly haired teen, still visibly shaken from what he had seen, described “the murder in the man’s eyes” as he carried out the attack.

The terrorist’s body was loaded into an ambulance. The Zaka crew, a group of ultra-Orthodox volunteers who clear away blood and remains for traditional Jewish burial, were finally allowed onto the scene. The men, in black suits and bright yellow vests, began rounding up bandages and digging up the dirt where Buchris’s blood had been spilled.

A short while later, I met with Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, one the heads of the Roots organization which seeks to foster change in Arab-Israeli relations.

In light of the ongoing violence Roots has recently dialed back its activities, which include speeches at Jewish and Arab schools, gatherings of Palestinians and Jews in individuals’ homes and discussion sessions with IDF soldiers and Palestinians.

“We are taking stock of what it really means to create change in this conflict,” said Schlesinger, an older man with a great gray bushy beard.

Schlesinger lives in the Etzion Bloc settlement of Alon Shvut and has a near constant and endearing smile, even when discussing the tough times at hand.

He helped start Roots along with other Jewish settlers and a number of Palestinians in the Etzion Bloc almost two years ago, and says the connections he formed with Palestinians “changed his life.”

During its short life the group has already hosted events for thousands of Israelis and Palestinians, and many of the people involved have noticeably changed after their encounters, Schlesinger said.

He was quick to say he was not an optimist about the situation in Israel and the West Bank. However, one of the roots of the current problem is fear, he said. And if the problem is based in humanity, maybe humans can solve it.

This reporter hopes so.

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