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Latest News in Israel – 5th January

 

‘The bullet that pierced your heart shattered ours for eternity’

Shimon Ruime survived the battlefields of Gaza and Lebanon but was killed in Friday’s Tel Aviv shooting spree while celebrating a friend’s birthday.

“You went through Gaza. You went through wars, but did not survive the bullet of unending hate. The bullet that pierced your pure heart — filled with love and happiness — shattered our hearts for eternity,“ said his aunt Mor Peretz as she eulogized him on Sunday in the small cemetery in his home city of Ofakim.

Thousands of mourners stood around her as she clutched a hand-held microphone and spoke on behalf of the family about the young man nicknamed Shimi, who was fatally shot outside of the Simta Pub just one month before he turned 31.

The pub’s manager Alon Bakal, 26, was also killed in that attack and eight others were injured.

“Instead of celebrating your birthday, we are burying you in the ground,” said Peretz. She wore a brown coat against the cold. Her long brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail.

“You came from dust and to dust you shall return,” said the petite woman who called on God to avenge her nephew’s death. Her words were greeted by screams and cries from the mourners.

She described for them how the family had parted from Ruime’s body before the funeral. They kissed him and told him that they loved him.

“I hope you heard us, I believe you did,” she said.

He was always at the center of the action. He loved life and all those who knew him loved him, said Peretz.

The city of Ofakim and the nation as a whole is mourning her nephew’s death, said Peretz.

“You have become everyone’s son. Not a single eye is dry. We all refused to believe it was you. But the heart understood what our lips refused to say, that you were no longer with us” said Peretz.

“God knew who to take, the one who was most precious and beloved, the jewel in the crown,” Peretz said.

One of Ruime’s friends, Israel Avitan, said that Ruime was the life of the party. His motto was carpe diem, ‘seize the day,” said Avitan. “Parties without Shimi will not be the same,” said Avitan.

He and Ruime were part of a group of five close friends who “did everything together,” said Avitan. They were all at the pub on Friday, when an Israeli-Arab gunman attacked it.

“I am sorry that we were not able to save you,” said Avitan.

“You were taken from us in a moment when we were most enjoying ourselves. It was the start of a weekend, in which, as they say, we had no idea how it would end,” said Avitan.

“Shimi, in 25 days, you would have celebrated your 31st birthday,” said Avitan who had planed to attend that party as he and their friends had in years past.

This year, they will also gather on that day, but this time at the cemetery and without Ruime, said Avitan.

“But instead of laughing and drinking, we will cry over your grave,” he said.    (Jerusalem Post)

Hundreds pay respects at funeral of Alon Bakal in Carmiel

Some 2,000 friends, acquaintances and family members attended the funeral of Alon Bakal in the northern town of Karmiel on Sunday, following his murder in an attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon.

Bakal, 26, was shot outside the Simta bar which he helped manage, as was Shimon Ruime, 30, while another eight people were wounded in the attack believed to have been perpetrated by Nashat Milhem, 31, on Friday.

“We have been left crushed and you are there above with your great soul,” said Bakal’s father, David, in his eulogy at the funeral, Maariv Online reported. “Alon, my dear and beloved son, how is it possible to write a parting letter for a son who is not yet 27.How can a father write about you? You had such a good attitude… You were such a giver, you collected food for Holocaust survivors… Everyone knew you would go far. You loved people and you loved the State. What a king you were.”

Said Bakal’s mother: “We had it good. Good up to the brim. My beloved son, the joy of my life, my Alon, beloved son of my heart, beloved of my soul. I always bear a heavy burden, but the pain, this hard pain I will never be able to bear.”

Alon’s brother, Avi, also gave a eulogy extolling his brother as someone who set high goals and achieved them.

“You were a man of values. You knew how to get close to people and to touch them and to make people happy,” he said. “You acted and got others to act… You were the commander of whole groups of people. But all this doesn’t help us now. We are broken and you are missing. At least at the end of the path you were happy.”

Bakal served in an elite unit of the Golani Brigade during his IDF service and had been working as a shift manager at the bar where he was shot and killed. He had just graduated from law school in Netanya, and moved three months ago to Tel Aviv, where he was due to start working at a law office.

Adi Eldar, the mayor of Karmiel, who knows the Bakal family personally, was at the funeral, as was Deputy Interior Minister Yaron Mazuz, as a representative of the government.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also attended the funeral to give his respect to Bakal, who was a Yesh Atid party activist.

Speaking at the service, Lapid said that he had read several things Bakal had written, and that the country should live up to his idealism.

“He told us that terrorism was trying to force us to live lives of hate and fear and the only response was to live life as he did – full of love for Israel and solidarity,” said Lapid.

“That was his will and that is what he left behind. And that’s our test; how will we behave in the coming days, in the coming months, in the coming years? That is the test he set for us and we must live up to it.”

Amin Shaaban, who was found dead in north Tel Aviv on Friday, was also buried on Sunday. Several hundred mourners attended his funeral in Lod.

Shaaban, 42, a taxi driver, was found dead shortly after the Dizengoff Street attack. The police are checking whether his death is connected to the earlier incident. Shaaban, a Muslim, had three wives and 11 children.                     (Jerusalem Post)

Tel Aviv gunman fled scene, hailed cab, killed driver, police believe

The gunman who shot up a bar in Tel Aviv Friday, killing two, fired into two other establishments, fled the scene on foot, hailed a cab, and rode to north Tel Aviv where he murdered the driver before abandoning the vehicle, police said Sunday.

Police had said earlier they were certain fugitive Nashat Milhem, the suspected perpetrator of the deadly attack in central Tel Aviv, was also responsible for the murder of taxi driver Amin Shaaban, which took place less than an hour after the first shooting.

According to Hebrew media reports based on police sources late Sunday, Milhem is now known to have fled the scene of the shooting on Dizengoff Street on foot, and hailed a cab on nearby Ibn Gabirol Street. The vehicle drove to north Tel Aviv, where Milhem worked. There, Milhem is alleged to have killed Shaaban outside the Mandarin Hotel. He then drove the cab to Namir Road, where he abandoned it near a bus stop.

Namir is a major north-south artery in north Tel Aviv, from which Milhem could have caught a public bus or other vehicle transportation out of the city.

His mobile phone was found on nearby Reading Street in Ramat Aviv. “And that is the last point of reference for investigators,” the Ynet news site reported.

Since Friday afternoon, Milhem, 29, from Arara in northern Israel, has remained at large. Authorities have warned he is armed, dangerous and capable of striking again.

A schoolgirl from Ramat Aviv discovered Milhem’s cellphone Friday. Some reports said she had found it at 2 p.m. that day — minutes before the attack. But the police information late Sunday suggested that Milhem threw it away after the attack, after his taxi journey to the north of the city.

The girl and her father turned on the phone and it immediately began to ring with calls from mostly Arabic speakers, Ynet said. One of the callers was Milhem’s boss, who was reportedly looking for his employee. The family believed that the phone belonged to an Arab worker employed in the area, and only realized it might be significant to the shooting investigation after Milhem’s name was released on Saturday night.

Milhem still has the sub-machine gun he used in Friday’s attack, and plenty of ammunition, Israel’s Channel 10 quoted police sources saying late Sunday, as the search for him continued into the night. The TV report described Milhem as “a ticking bomb,” who, it was feared, could carry out additional acts of violence including a further shooting attack or an attempt to take civilians hostage.

Police do not have “any kind of a lead” as to his whereabouts, Channel 2 reported. In a statement late Sunday, the police thanked the public for its alertness, and said it could not release details of the investigation for fear of prejudicing the ongoing manhunt.

As more information on the suspect emerged, people who have come into contact with him in recent years described a violent man, quick to take offense.

A police officer who guarded Milhem when he was jailed for attacking a soldier with a screwdriver and trying to steal his weapon in 2007 — ostensibly to avenge the killing of a cousin in a police raid — described the alleged killer as a “very problematic” and “violent” individual, who was “full of hatred.” When he heard that Milhem had allegedly carried out Friday’s attack, the police officer said, “I couldn’t believe he’d been set free” after the five-year term to which he was sentenced for attacking the soldier.

Sunday’s search for Milhem focused in part on the Ramat Aviv area of north Tel Aviv, where he worked as a vegetable delivery man — for a branch of the same Anise natural foods store he was seen leaving on Dizengoff Street when he began his shooting spree.

“He knew this whole area very well,” said Yoel Galatkin, a store owner in the Ramat Aviv Schuster Center where Milhem worked. “He slept here [in this area] every night.”

Workers in the area who know Milhem disputed his family’s claim that he was not of sound mind, describing him as energetic and focused, albeit quick to take offense. Yigal Markis, owner a nearby dry cleaners, described him as “sociable.”

A report prepared for a drugs rehabilitation center that refused to admit him, shown by Channel 10 news, described him as “easily angered” and prone to believe that he had “superpowers.”

Cab driver Shaaban, a Bedouin father of 11 from Lod who worked for a taxi station at Ben Gurion Airport, was laid to rest on Sunday.

The two victims of the Friday Dizengoff Street shooting — Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi — were also buried Sunday, with thousands in attendance. Two people critically injured in the shooting are no longer in danger, according to a report from Ichilov Hospital. One of them has a bullet lodged in his skull, which cannot be removed, the hospital said.  (the Times of Israel)

In TA suspect’s hometown, many condemn attack, but see radicalization of youth growing

Residents of the northern Arab village of Arara, hometown of suspected terrorist Nashat Milhem, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that they condemn the attack carried out in Tel Aviv on Friday, but see local youth as susceptible to radical influences.

“The question is if he is Islamic State, but there are no signs,” said Ahmad Milhem, a distant relative of Nashat Milhem and a member of the Arara Local Council.

There were no signs that Nashat Milhem became an Islamist, Ahmad Milhem, who often goes by the nickname Abu Anas, said, adding that he has been under psychiatric treatment since around 2007. This incident was surprising to the family and left it in an uneasy situation, he said.

Abu Anas said he was chosen by the family to speak to the press and was continually interrupted by phone calls and visiting journalists throughout the day. Abu Anas knew Nashat Milhem and said he was quick to get angry and irritable.

The suspect’s brother, Jaudat Milhem, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack, but Abu Anas dismissed any notion that he was involved and said that he was not in close contact with his brother.

Jaudat “would come over for coffee and then return to the mosque to study and pray,” said Abu Anas, adding that he was part of a quietest Salafi group called Dawa, spending almost all of his time in Islamic study and pray.

Jaudat was largely cut off from the family, added Abu Anas.

Abu Anas went on to discuss what he called the dire problem of violence and the frequent shootings within the Arab sector.

Nashat Milhem was part of “the tens of thousands of Arab youth unemployed and without anything to do,” he continued.

Milhem could not hold a stable job and jumped from one temporary job to another.

Abu Anas sought to link the terrorist attack to endemic violence in the sector and the lack of government effort in getting guns off the streets. The murder weapon allegedly belonged to the suspect’s father, who had the weapon for more than 20 years and worked in security.

“The police don’t do anything,” Abu Anas said, arguing that most of the weapons loose in the Arab sector originate in the army.

The Post contacted the Arara municipality and was told that it did not want to add anything to the statement that it had released, condemning the shooting attack.

The council had said the attack was by one man and does not represent the residents of the village.

Abu Anas showed slight displeasure with the municipality, saying it did not offer enough help to the distraught family.

In a Kebab fast food joint on a main street of the town, one youth who refused to give his name said the victims of the shooting attack “deserved it.”

“They kill our children,” he angrily declared, adding that the government persecutes Palestinians.

Another resident, appearing to be in his 50s or 60s, told the Post that “everyone condemns it. Nobody supports it.”

“I work with Jews,” and this killing is not good for us or for them, he said.

He also raised the issue of unemployed youth without anything to do and said a solution needs to be found. “Weapons can be bought like cigarettes,” he said.

The resident complained that half the town did not have electricity or a proper certificate of occupancy for their home.

He added, however, that these things are “no justification to kill.”

Asked if he thought Nashat Milhem could have been radicalized by Islamic State videos online, he replied that this was doubtful.

“Everyone is watching Islamic State videos, but they do not kill,” he said.              (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian gunmen wound two soldiers in separate Hebron area terrorist attacks

The IDF was searching Sunday night for the Palestinians who wounded two soldiers in separate shooting attacks in the Hebron area earlier in the day.

Separately, an unidentified male Palestinian teen was arrested Sunday afternoon for trying to stab a Jew who was waiting at a bus stop in the capital’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.

The most serious of the three attacks took place around 2 p.m. when a sniper from Hebron’s Abu Sneineh neighborhood moderately wounded a female army cadet as she stood by the main staircase leading from the street to the Cave of the Patriarchs.

She had been on an IDF educational tour of the cave.

The shooting marks an escalation in the attacks against soldiers and Jewish civilians in Hebron, which have largely consisted of stabbings.

Last month, a source from the Ram Battalion, a Home Front Command unit serving with the Etzion Brigade, told The Jerusalem Post that it was preparing for a significant escalation in the severity of West Bank terrorist attacks, such as increased firearms attacks, as well as attempted intrusions by armed assailants into settlements.

The Hebron attack occurred just a short distance from the bus stop where Genady Kaufman, 41, was stabbed in December. He died last week from the knife wounds he sustained in the assault, and his funeral was held on the same street where the cadet was wounded Sunday.

The cadet was hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

On Sunday evening, a soldier sustained light wounds from gunfire during a shooting attack at Hakvasim junction, in the South Hebron Hills.

A Palestinian gunman opened fire on soldiers who were checking vehicles at the junction, the army said.

The wounded soldier was evacuated to the hospital, and the army began searching the area.

Also at Hakvasim junction, at the end of December, a 25-year-old Hebron man tried to stab a soldier with a screwdriver at a checkpoint.

Nearby soldiers fatally shot the attacker before he was able to reach them, the army said.

Sunday’s attempted stabbing attack, meanwhile, took place some 200 meters away from the site where three Israeli men were murdered in October by two terrorists from the abutting Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber, according to police.

The unidentified intended male victim in Sunday’s attack was not wounded, as the suspect dropped his knife and fled into the Arab neighborhood, police said.

“The attempted stabbing took place less than 200 meters from where two terrorists killed three men on an Egged bus,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, referring to Haim Haviv, 78, Alon Govberg, 51, and Richard Lakin, 76, who were murdered October 12.

“After receiving a description of the suspect, police searched Jebl Mukaber and found the youth hiding in a courtyard of a house. He remains in custody and was arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court,” said Rosenfeld, who added that police continue to patrol the capital at a heightened alert level.           (Jerusalem Post)

Terrorist attempts stabbing near light rail in Jerusalem

A 16-year-old Palestinian terrorist was shot in the leg by police in the capital on Monday evening after attempting to stab a female teenager and Jewish man near the light rail tracks off the city’s well-traveled Bar Lev Street.

At approximately 5:30 p.m., police said the unidentified assailant from east Jerusalem, was spotted behaving suspiciously by officers stationed in the area while wandering near the tracks between the Shivtei Israel and Ammunition Hill light rail stops.

“Police units immediately began tracking the suspect, and when officers closed in on him to question him, he pulled a knife from his pocket, at which time he was shot in the leg,” said spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

A 15-year-old girl and 29-year-old male student attempting to flee the scene were lightly injured and transferred to Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, after being treated by Magen David Adom paramedics, Rosenfeld said.

According to Hadassah spokeswoman Hadar Elboim, neither the girl nor man was stabbed during the attack.

“The girl sustained a very light leg injury, possibly after falling while trying to escape, but she was not stabbed,” said Elboim Monday night. “It’s unclear how she sustained the injury, but it is very, very light.”

The unidentified Jewish man, Elboim said, lightly wounded his hand and hip after falling to the ground when he attempted to flee, and is being treated for shock.

Meanwhile, Shaare Zedek Medical Center spokeswoman Shoham Ruvio said the Palestinian teen is in stable condition after being shot three times in the leg.

“He did not require surgery and is recovering in the orthopedics unit,” Ruvio said.

Rosenfeld said police halted light rail service for roughly 30 minutes after the attack to secure the scene and gather evidence.

He praised the responding officers for their quick actions.

“Police units that were in the area responded rapidly after identifying the suspect and prevented innocent people from being attacked,” he said.            (Jerusalem Post)

Hezbollah sets off large border bomb targeting IDF heavy vehicles

Hezbollah set off a large bomb on the Israel – Lebanon border, on the western section of Mount Dov on Monday, targeting two armored military vehicles that were clearing a road in the area.

The IDF has responded with cross-border artillery fire at targets into Lebanon.

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said two heavy armored vehicles, one of which was a D-9 bulldozer, were targeted in the Hezbollah attack, describing the explosive that was set off as “relatively large.” “We have opened artillery fire, and created a smoke screen to cover the area. We are in control of the incident,” Almoz said.

At this stage, there are no known injuries among IDF soldiers. Israeli farmers situated close to the Lebanese border have been moved back by the army. Beyond that, Almoz said, there are no special safety instructions for northern residents.

The army is in touch with security coordinators in northern communities, he added. The army is unaware of any cross-border infiltrations at this stage.

Almoz posted a Facebook statement, saying that the IDF completed a special security assessment meeting headed by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.  “We view the incident with severity, and we are on high alert for as long as necessary,” he said.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack on the IDF vehicles, according to Lebanese Al-Mayadeen television.

“A cell of the martyr Samir Kuntar detonated the large explosive in Sheba farms area in occupied Lebanon during an IDF patrol causing the destruction of a Hummer and injuring all its passengers,” Hezbollah said.

Lebanese media reported that that the explosive was meant to harm a senior Mossad official.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon held a security assessment meeting on Monday night at IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv. Ya’alon met with Eisenkot, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Herzl Levi, the head of the IDF Operations Branch Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, and other senior officers. No statement was released at the end of the meeting.

Lebanese media earlier reported that Israeli shells were fired at the Sheba Farms region near the intersection of the Syrian, Israeli, and Lebanese frontiers.

The news reports north of the border are consistent with eyewitness accounts of Israelis on the Golan Heights who told The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Ma’ariv that they heard the roar of artillery fire over the weekend.

According to Lebanese news outlets, the IDF fired 20 shells toward the vicinity of Sheba Farms, which is also known as Mount Dov.

An Israeli military official told Ma’ariv on Sunday that the purpose of the artillery fire was to deter Hezbollah from planting explosives along the border in an effort to avenge the death of Samir Kuntar, the commander who was killed in an airstrike in Damascus. Israel is believed to be behind the killing, though Jerusalem did not confirm this.

“I cleared up this issue with the army after I received numerous complaints from residents,” a security guard in one of the Israeli towns along the border said. “A senior officer in the IDF Northern Command told me that there is a real concern that Hezbollah will plant a bomb along the border under the cover of fog, so whenever we spot suspicious activity we fire an artillery shell in that direction for the sake of deterrence.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, speaking a week after the assassination of Kuntar, praised the terrorist who killed four Israelis in an attack in Nahariya in 1979, saying he was an icon for the school of resistance.

“The Israelis are hiding like rats along the border,” he said. They are worried and they should be worried along the border and inside Israel. Their threats will not benefit them.

“The retaliation to Samir’s assassination will inevitably come,” Nasrallah said, adding that Hezbollah would not tolerate the “blood of our jihadist fighters and brothers to be shed anywhere in this world.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday sent an apparent message to Nasrallah in response, warning, “Our enemies should know that we will aggressively retaliate to any attack against us.”

Netanyahu made the comments at an awards ceremony for outstanding Mossad employees just two days after Nasrallah vowed retaliation.

On Monday, Eisenkot said the military stands ready to face “any challenge” from the North, and Israel’s enemies will pay a dear price if they seek to undermine Israeli security.

“Beyond our borders too, facing the threats we hear to the North, we stand ready for any challenge, and as we have proven in the past, we know how to find and hit all who seek our harm,” Eisenkot said.

The chief of staff warned that “our enemies know that if they try to undermine the security of Israel, they will face severe consequences.”              (Jerusalem Post)

Terror thwarted: ‘East Jerusalem men planned to set off bomb in Eilat hotel’

Two Arabs from east Jerusalem hatched a plot to bomb an Eilat hotel and were thwarted by hotel employees who notified authorities, it was cleared for publication on Thursday.

The case went public after Southern District prosecutors indicted Halil Nimri, 21, and Ashraf Salaimeh, 23, on charges of conspiracy to assist the enemy in wartime, for their ill-fated plot to bomb the Be Center in Eilat.

According to the indictment, two months ago the suspects – who were living in Eilat and working in a local hotel – decided to build a bomb and detonate it inside a hotel, ideally while a group of religious Jews were staying there.

The indictment stated that Ashraf wanted to carry out an attack in order to avenge the death of 19-year-old Fadi Alon of the capital’s Isawiya neighborhood, a childhood friend who was gunned down by security personnel in Jerusalem on October 4 as he allegedly tried to carry out a stabbing attack in the city.

The indictment said Halil wanted the two to commit a stabbing attack against a religious Jew in Eilat but Ashraf convinced him that they would both get caught and that it was better to set a bomb and detonate it from a distance.

The two then began carrying out surveillance on the hotel and a group of religious people staying there, and watched bomb-making videos on the Internet.

On November 30, Ashraf went to the hotel to gather more intelligence for the attack, and began asking a receptionist and a manager a series of questions. He allegedly said he was looking to book a room at a future date and asked to see a number of rooms in the hotel, including one underneath the dining hall.

In addition, he asked the hotel employees a number of questions they found suspicious, including how many people stay at the hotel on average, the hotel’s occupancy, and whether or not a large group of religious Jews was expected to be staying there anytime soon.

As soon as he left, the two employees contacted the hotel’s management, who notified police, and soon after the two suspects were arrested.

The two men were investigated by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the special investigative branch of the Southern District Police.

The indictment does not include any indication that the pair actually succeeded in making an explosive device or were supported by an organized terrorist group.

The southern city, a tourist resort that has for years been rather detached from the violence and conflict that plagues other areas of Israel, has remained largely untouched by the lone-wolf attacks of the “stabbing intifada.”

In October, an Israeli Arab from the Wadi Ara city of Umm el-Fahm stabbed and lightly wounded a woman in Eilat after “he had been influenced by videos of stabbing attacks that have been published recently,” according to the Shin Bet.                              (Jerusalem Post)

Anticipating Hezbollah action, Israel shells Lebanon border

The Israel Defense Forces shelled the Lebanese border for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday, aiming to deter an attack by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

The group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly vowed revenge for the assassination of arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar two weeks ago, which has been attributed to Israel.

Anticipating such a response, the army has been firing artillery rounds at the border fence. The army reportedly expected the terror group to take advantage of the stormy weather and the poor visibility to launch a strike.

On Sunday, Nasrallah reiterated the group’s threats of revenge, saying the retaliation will “certainly come.” His comments echoed those he made the week before, in which he warned that retaliation for Kuntar’s assassination was “inevitable.”

“The Israelis are worried and they should be worried — along the border, inside Israel and outside of it,” he was quoted as saying by Lebanese news site Naharnet. “The Israelis are hiding like rats along the border.”

Nasrallah added that Hezbollah was not afraid of Israeli threats of a crushing response to any potential attack, adding that the terror group “cannot tolerate that the blood of our jihadist fighters and brothers be shed anywhere in this world.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot fired back at the terror group last Monday, promising swift retaliation for any strike, and “harsh results.”

Kuntar was killed in an airstrike on a building outside Damascus on December 19, 2015. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Nasrallah alleged that Israel may have coordinated the hit with Syrian rebel “terrorists” operating in the area. The Assad regime also blamed “terrorist groups” for the strike.

There was no official Israeli confirmation of the attack, although officials expressed satisfaction over Kuntar’s death. Kuntar was with a group of commanders from different terrorist groups that were planning attacks on Israel, unsourced Israeli reports said.

A Lebanese Druze, Kuntar became infamous for a brutal 1979 raid from Lebanon in which he helped kidnap an Israeli family from Nahariya, then smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl, Einat Haran, with his rifle butt, killing her. Three other Israelis, including her father, Danny Haran, were killed in the attack. Kuntar was 16 at the time, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front.

He spent 29 years in an Israeli prison before being traded to Hezbollah in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. After that, he took on a senior role in the group, was honored by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and helped to organize Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights and elsewhere into terror cells charged with carrying out attacks against Israel.

Syrian media said that among the dead in the strike was also Farhan Shaalan, a commander in the Syrian anti-Israel resistance group founded by Kuntar and others. Those reports said that senior Hezbollah members were also present in the building at the time of the attack.                      (The Times of Israel)

Tel Aviv shooting more similar to ISIS copycat attacks than terror wave in Israel

by Yossi Melman    The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-Tel-Aviv-shooting-more-similar-to-ISIS-attacks-than-terror-wave-in-Israel-439219

The characteristics of Friday’s shooting attack in Tel Aviv that killed two people are different than any other terror attack that has hit Israel during the wave of violence that has plagued the country over the past three months. In this instance, the assailant is an Israeli Arab resident of the Wadi Ara region, with a history that includes security-related crimes and a stint in prison, and according to members of his family – and a court ruling – he had been defined as “strange,” and “mentally unstable.” He acted calmly and fired indiscriminately in order to kill as many people as possible, and succeeded in escaping with his weapon before security forces arrived at the scene of the tragedy.

The assailant’s motives are still unclear, but the circumstances of his life can help to better understand them. He faced a traumatic incident when he was an eyewitness to the death of his cousin, who was shot by police who came to the family’s home in 2007 in a drugs raid. A year later, he was arrested on suspicion that he had tried to snatch a soldier’s weapon and was sentenced in a plea bargain to five years in prison during which he was hospitalized and received psychiatric care.

It is possible that a combination of criminal and nationalistic motives were behind the attack. It is also not clear if he was influenced by nationalistic incitement or religious extremism. Past terror attacks investigated by the Shin Bet domestic security agency show that on more than one occasion the decision by a single terrorist or multiple attackers stems from a number of reasons and not from a single motivation. But even if the Tel Aviv shooter is mentally unstable, it is clear that he carried out the attack with a great deal of expertise.

It is still not clear if he was aided by an accomplice or acted alone and arrived at the scene of the murder alone – in a car or on a bus. The assailants in other terror attacks of recent months – most of whom were Palestinians from the West Bank or east Jerusalem – whether they stabbed or ran over their victims, did not flee the scene of the attack. This fact indicates that they wished to be killed by security forces.

This is not the case with the suspected assailant from Arara. He did not wait for security forces to kill him, but escaped with the hope that he would be able to hide. The attack bears more of a resemblance to the terror operations inspired by ISIS in Brussels, Paris or California, in which a single attacker, a pair of assailants or a group of terrorists engage in a murderous rampage.

In any event, there is no doubt that the easy access to videos, programs and instructions on the Internet, detailing how to make an explosive device or effectively kill someone, provide inspiration to anyone who wants to carry out a terror attack.

The attack raises some difficult questions on the functioning of the Shin Bet and police. One of the biggest of these questions is whether there was tracking and follow up on the suspect after he was released from prison. It is surprising as well that authorities allowed the suspect’s father to keep a firearm in the house, while his son, a former security prisoner with mental problems, is living at home. Those same authorities will also have to explain why they prevented the publication of the suspect’s name in the media in the first 24 hours after the attack, but allowed the publication of his picture.

More eavesdropping on friends

Despite promises to cut it out, President Obama targets Israel this time

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/3/editorial-us-spying-on-benjamin-netanyahu/

Washington Times Editorial

If we take them at their word, Barack Obama and his not so merry men have demonstrated incompetence once more in “inadvertently” listening in to conversations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of Congress and other American friends of Israel who saw the president’s sweetheart deal with the mullahs in Iran as the disaster that it is. On the other hand, the eavesdropping may have been deliberate.

Only yesterday Mr. Obama’s spies were busily tapping into telephone conversations of the leaders of America’s friends. It’s true, of course, that everybody spies on everybody — no nation has permanent friends, only permanent interests, as her prime minister once told an incredulous Queen Victoria. But once caught spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Obama promised, perhaps with his fingers crossed, that he would no longer eavesdrop on friends of the United States. Mr. Netanyahu quickly learned that he was not among those friends, and indeed had concluded long ago that Mr. Obama does not number the leader of the Jewish state among his trusted friends.

The eavesdropping on Mr. Netanyahu had little to do with national security, but with his obsession with the “legacy” he will leave of his dealings with the mullahs in Tehran. Mr. Obama thought the mullahs would make him look good even if he only delayed Iran’s Islamic bomb, and not prevent it, as he promised. The Israelis, not being burdened by the fantasy of good faith by the mullahs, opposed the deal. They correctly saw it as assuring the development of the nuclear bomb, sooner rather than later.

President Obama, as if cultivating fecklessness, has delayed his plan to impose financial sanctions on Iran for continuing to develop the ballistic missiles that could carry the bomb to targets in Europe and eventually even to North America. As the White House announced the delay in imposing sanctions, Iran, rubbing the president’s face in foolishness, announced that it would continue work on the missiles.

Republicans accused Mr. Obama and his administration Thursday of having no will to challenge Iran for its manifold transgressions. “If the president’s announced sanctions ultimately aren’t executed,” Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas told The Wall Street Journal, “it would demonstrate a level of fecklessness that even the president hasn’t shown before.

All of this explains but cannot excuse what the NSA was doing. Power once granted is eventually abused by those who have it, as we have seen here. It’s why the National Security Agency, and other officials of Mr. Obama’s administration, proceeded without leaving a paper trail. They knew there was a possibility they would get caught, but proceeded, anyway. It’s up to the Congress to find out in this new year just what happened, and make sure it won’t happen again. That’s a tall order for Congress, but a necessary one.

The Israeli-invented device that’s saving American lives in Afghanistan

Pocket BVM mini-ventilator is being used as a first-line rescue device by armies, EMS services, and now El Al

By David Shamah                     The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-israeli-invented-device-thats-saving-american-lives-in-afghanistan/?

When American troops are injured in the field, the first piece of life-saving medical equipment they may come into contact with nowadays is an Israeli-invented mini-sized manual ventilator. And not just American soldiers on the battlefield; the Pocket BVM has been used to treat thousands of people at the scene of numerous natural disasters, like in the huge earthquake that devastated Nepal earlier this year.

“The US Army decided that our Pocket BVM (bag valve mask device) would fit into combat scenarios much better than traditional BVMs,” said Dov Maisel, an American immigrant to Israel who invented the unique manual ventilator with his friend and fellow United Hatzalah volunteer Akiva Pollack. “It’s really taken off since the Americans adopted it last year, and now we are working with several NATO armies, first-aid groups in Europe and Asia, businesses, hospitals, and airlines among others.”

To that latter category add El Al, said Maisel; the Israeli airline several months ago signed a contract with MicroBVM, the commercial supplier of the device, and now all El Al planes have miniature BVMs scattered throughout their cabins, so that life-giving oxygen can be provided to a patient quickly and efficiently

The story of the Pocket BVM is one of ingenuity, a drive for start-up success – and a “Jewish heart,” as Maisel puts it.

United Hatzalah is one of the premier rescue services in Israel, and works not only locally, but around the world. United Hatzalah volunteers have worked in Japan, Nepal, and many other places hit by recent natural disasters, and in 2013 the organization was nominated for consultative status as a United Nations NGO (non-governmental organization). “What’s unique about United Hatzalah is that it’s people from the community helping people,” said Maisel. “We’re not on the clock and we’re not on the payroll – all we do is try to help save lives.”

It was that desire to streamline the life-saving process that led Maisel and Pollack to dream up the Pocket BVM in 2004.

Traditional bag valve masks have been used since the early 1950s to manually pump oxygen into the lungs of individuals who are not breathing properly, or not breathing at all. A mask is attached to a patient’s face, and the first-aid worker forces air into the lungs, either manually (as is most common in rescue situations in the field) or with electric pumps. The flow of air into the lungs aims to help revive the patient or keep him or her alive while wounds or other issues are treated.

A Pocket BVM system,[1]

A Pocket BVM system, out of the box

The problem with BVMs, said Maisel, is that they are just too big to schlep around in many scenarios.

“For soldiers in the field who have to carry all their supplies on their backs and stay alert for the enemy, carrying a rubber or plastic mask and a big balloon-like bag is going to be very difficult. It’s one thing if you can store it in a vehicle, but even if you can, the precious moments you spend running back to the vehicle, pulling out the BVM and bringing it to the patient and then hooking it up could be the critical few moments you need to save them.”

Maisel learned that lesson the hard way as a medic who was called to the scene of many tragedies during the Second Intifada.

“Each time we got called into the field, we had to gather up our intubation and array management,” he said. “We would get to the scene of a bombing or shooting attack and try to help the victims, spending precious seconds gathering up our ventilator equipment and moving from victim to victim.”

It was then that Maisel first thought about a portable, flexible, foldable, and storable BVM that could be collapsed to fit into a small circular case, popped up and ready for use within seconds. It made sense. Since BVMs were made of flexible material anyway, it would be a matter of just engineering in a little more flexibility to create a foldable version of the device.

Thus was born the Pocket BVM, which Maisel himself admits was “the next logical step” in the evolution of the device, created in Germany in 1953. As to why no one had thought of this before, Maisel admits that he was puzzled. “I actually couldn’t believe that this hadn’t been invented yet, but I checked the patents on these things very carefully, and I found that no one else had developed a system like this.”

With money from an angel investor, Maisel set to work on perfecting the system. He introduced it at the end of 2013, and throughout 2014, he showed off the device at medical conferences across the US, where an Army representative saw the Pocket BVM in action. The rest was history, he said.

Now with patents in 27 countries, Pocket BVM is a big hit with first-responders the world over.

As United Hatzalah’s international relations liaison, “I go to conferences and events around the world to show this off, and I get a lot of compliments.” said Maisel. “Once I went on a mission with an American rescue unit in Afghanistan, and they very proudly showed off their Pocket BVM – and nearly fainted when I told them I had invented it.”

With one life-saving device under his belt, Maisel said he is working on other devices that will make life easier for first-responders, enabling them to provide assistance more efficiently.

“This is not a business I am going to get rich off of,” said Maisel. “The market for this kind of equipment is large, but limited. The reason I am doing it is to ensure that we as first-responders can get help to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. That’s what we try to do in United Hatzalah, so it works out for the best for everyone.”

In Israeli City of Haifa, a Liberal Palestinian Culture Blossoms

by  Diaa Hadidjan                        The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/04/world/middleeast/in-israeli-city-of-haifa-a-liberal-palestinian-culture-blossoms.html?ref=world&_r=0

Arabs make up a fifth of Israel’s population of eight million, and in recent years, they have grown more assertive in expressing their Palestinian identity, allied with their brethren in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But their public life in Haifa is a striking secular counterpoint to the conservatism of many of Israel’s Arab communities, where sex before marriage is taboo, and single men and women rarely date and tend to marry at relatively young ages, in matches often arranged by their mothers.

Haifa’s relative liberalism is a product of its unique, cosmopolitan tradition. It is easy for young, single people to get out in this city, which is built on a steep coastal hill, with Jews tending to live on its heights and Arabs by the sea. The once working-class city of 280,000 has several universities and has embraced its diversity. The 30,000 Arab residents, around 10 percent of the population, include equal numbers of Muslims and Christians, and they are generally wealthier and better educated than Arabs elsewhere in Israel.

This makes Haifa a comfortable place for liberal Palestinians who want not only to escape the constraints of conservative Arab communities but also to be among their own people.

“If you are in an Arab neighborhood, you have a community. If you live in a Jewish neighborhood, you are a stranger, and that gives you freedom as an Arab woman,” said Fidaa Hammoud, 32. “There are many de facto couples, and older women living alone without having to hear gossip.”

Haifa[1]

The Kabareet bar in Haifa, Israel. “We want a gay couple to go to the dance floor and kiss each other, and nobody to even look at them,” said Ayed Fadel, who runs the bar.

“This is the new Palestinian society we are aiming for.”

Haifa provides a comfortable refuge for liberal Palestinians who want not only to escape the constraints of conservative Arab communities but also to be among their own people. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Ms. Hammoud moved to Haifa in 2011 after studying speech therapy for four years in Barcelona, Spain. She and her partner live together in a Jewish neighborhood where they run a Palestinian cafe called Rai. “I couldn’t do this anywhere else,” she said.

Ayed Fadel runs Kabareet, a bar off a four-lane industrial road, through an alley and down some stairs. He envisions his out-of-the-way speakeasy with its red painted walls and old Arab movie posters as a place where people can truly be themselves.

“We want a gay couple to go to the dance floor and kiss each other, and nobody to even look at them,” he said. “This is the new Palestinian society we are aiming for.”

That society was on display late last year, when some bars and cafes held screenings for Kooz Queer, the first Palestinian gay film festival. And Dar al-Raya, a cafe that doubles as a publishing house, recently published “The Book of Desire,” believed to be among the first volumes of modern erotica by Palestinian authors.

For some, the blossoming Palestinian scene in Haifa is reminiscent of the city during British rule, when a lively Arab cultural life flourished. Much of that ended in 1948 with the war in which Israel was established, when Arabs fled, or were forced to leave, their homes in many cities, including in Haifa, said Mustafa Kabha, a lecturer in Palestinian history at the Open University of Israel.

Outside the Elika cafe and bar in Haifa. “The people in Haifa, especially in these cafes, they are making revolutions,” one patron said. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Haifa in the 1930s and ’40s, he said, “had clubs, cafes, hotels, theaters and newspapers” for Arabs, including the Sham Cafe, where Syrian and Lebanese workers met, and the Port Cafe, for workers from the city’s busy port.

“You feel that the place is returning to a very natural harmony; in an old Arabic house you hear Arabic,” said Bashar Murkus, who recently opened the Khashabi Theater in an old warehouse owned by an Arab merchant in an industrial seaside neighborhood.

The liberal Arab renaissance in Haifa began with the opening of Fattoush, a Palestinian restaurant, in 1998. The restaurant, which hosted cultural discussions and art exhibitions, was once a scandal to polite Arab society because men and women openly drank alcohol and flirted. Now, it is a tourist-friendly fixture on Ben Gurion Boulevard, Haifa’s main drag.

More Arab-owned businesses opened on that street in the years since, with signs welcoming all people in Arabic, English and sometimes Hebrew. Many of these bars, cafes and restaurants were crowded on a recent weeknight with couples strolling along teeming sidewalks decked with Christmas lights.

Back up the road at the Elika bar, Samer Asakleh was hanging out with a co-worker. A folksy Arab song about smoking marijuana played from the speakers, and posters tacked to the wall advertised a concert featuring an Arab ska band, Toot Ard.

“The people in Haifa, especially in these cafes, they are making revolutions,” said Mr. Asakleh, 23, his long hair tied in a messy bun. He moved here from his home village of Mughar, in Galilee, to study management and was initially surprised by the open, seemingly libertine attitudes and social mores of people he met. He said he had not encountered any openly gay people before moving here in 2011, and he used to excuse himself from parties when gay couples would show up because he did not approve of homosexuality.

Since then, he has mellowed, he said.

“I am for people’s freedoms, social, personal and individual, and you can’t divide that up,” Mr. Asakleh explained. “You can’t just not accept queer people. I believe in freedom for the Palestinian people, so we also have to support personal freedoms.”

Channukah excitement in Bialik Street Tel Aviv

Even though Channukah is over, this spectacular is well worth watching.

As the Mideast Descends into Chaos,Israel Must Have Defensible Borders

The Middle East is imploding in waves of violence whose impact has reached Israel.

To the north, radical Islamists in Syria linked to both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are approaching Israel’s border on the Golan Heights and threatening Jordan as well. At the same time, Iran is sending thousands of rockets with increasingly accurate guidance systems to Hizbullah in Lebanon to again attack Israeli cities.

To the east, Israel faces an array of potential threats from hostile forces that include Iranian Revolutionary Guards, pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias, and radical Islamist terror armies.

To the south, the Islamic State is in Sinai, threatening both Israel and Egypt. At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza are working feverishly, with Iranian assistance, to rebuild their rocket capabilities to enable renewed attacks on Israel.

As the military experts in this new video emphasize, Israel must have defensible borders to protect itself against a broad range of current threats from radical Islamist forces, as well as against future threats in an unpredictable and constantly shifting region.

Watch the video:

(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs )