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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Report: Israeli intelligence provided ISIS intercepts in Russian plane crash case

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Some of the intelligence intercepts being used to assess what happened to a Russian airplane that crashed over the Sinai Peninsula came from Israel.

Israeli officials would not comment on the claims by an unnamed U.S. official and a diplomatic source, CNN reported Sunday.

The communications between ISIS affiliates in Sinai were captured by Israeli intelligence focused there and passed along to the United States and Britain, the sources said, CNN reported.

Investigators looking into the crash of the Metrojet flight bound for Russia told Reuters on Sunday that they are “90 percent sure” a bomb on board is the cause. All 224 people aboard were killed in the Oct. 31 crash, including a former program director for Hillel Russia.

The Sinai affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for bringing down the passenger flight, saying it was in retaliation for Russian airstrikes on rebels in Syria’s civil war.

Russia began launching airstrikes on Syria in September, saying it was coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad to combat terror groups such as the Islamic State.

Israeli police officer succumbs to injuries from car-ramming attack

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli Border Police officer who was critically injured in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank has died of his injuries.

Binyamin Yakobovich, 19, died Sunday from injuries sustained Nov. 4 in the attack at the Halhul junction near Hebron on Route 60. He had been fighting for his life in Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem since the attack.

Yakobovich is the 12th Israeli to die in Palestinian violence that began two months ago.

His family said they would donate his organs, according to the Israel Police, who said he would be promoted posthumously.

The driver, a 22-year-old Palestinian man from the Tulkarem area of the West Bank, was shot and killed at the scene.

Arrest made in attack on Rabbis for Human Rights activist

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Jewish-Israeli man was arrested in the assault on a Rabbis for Human Rights leader.

Israel Police on Sunday brought in the man who last month threatened Rabbi Arik Ascherman with a knife while he was helping Palestinians harvest olives near the settlement of Itamar, not far from the West Bank city of Nablus, Haaretz reported. The masked assailant kicked and punched Ascherman.

The incident was caught on video.

In a statement released on the Rabbis for Human Rights Hebrew-language website, Ascherman, the former executive director of the human rights organization, thanked police for apprehending the suspect, adding that the arrest proves the police can arrest right-wing attackers of Palestinians when they try.

“Even when suspects are arrested for attacking Palestinians, there are very few convictions,” Ascherman said in the statement, citing statistics from the human rights organization Yesh Din. “We hope that the truth will be found out quickly in court and in the interrogation room—while preserving the rights of the suspect—and that the suspect will be severely punished if he is found guilty.”

Yitzhak Navon, 94, Israel’s first Sephardic president, buried in state funeral

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s first Sephardic president and the first president to visit Egypt, was buried in a state funeral on Mount Herzl.

Navon, who served from 1978 to 1983, died Friday at 94. His body lay in state on Sunday morning before his funeral at noon. Along with his family, the mourners included current and former Israeli leaders.

In his eulogy at the funeral, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Navon “a jewel that adorned our capital, Jerusalem.”

Navon served in four Knessets, becoming one of the Labor Party’s most respected members. He served one term as president; he chose not to vie for the position a second time, preferring to serve again in the Knesset. During his presidential term, he threatened to resign unless an investigation committee was set up to look at the events that took place in 1982 at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, where an Israel-allied Lebanese Christian militia massacred hundreds of people.

Netanyahu also remembered Navon earlier Sunday, at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“Israel’s heritage was his guiding principle as president, especially the heritage of Sephardic Jewish communities, and he also worked to advance this heritage among all parts of the nation as deputy prime minister, minister of education and culture and—of course—as president,” the prime minister said.

“I will always remember the clarity of his spoken Hebrew. The love of Jerusalem was embedded deep in his heart; this was the city in which he grew up and lived, and wrote books to which he was deeply linked. He will be remembered as a president who brought people together; his memory will be enshrined in the heart of the nation.”

The current Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, who also eulogized Navon at the funeral, said in an earlier statement that Navon “created a new style and practice for the presidency. Yitzchak was a noble man, unceremoniously aristocratic, a president who came from the people, and whom the people greatly loved and appreciated.”

Navon, Israel’s fifth president, was born to a Sephardic family who had lived in Jerusalem for over 300 years.

He worked as a teacher and in the 1940s became an officer in the Haganah, which later became the Israel Defense Forces. He was one of the closest advisers to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and also served as private secretary to Israel’s first foreign minister, Moshe Sharet.

Navon was the author of several books and a play.

At least 6 Israelis injured in West Bank terror attacks

JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least six Israelis have been wounded in West Bank terror attacks.

The attacks—two stabbings and a car ramming—took place Sunday.

Four Israeli civilians were wounded, two seriously, in the morning car-ramming attack at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank when the driver accelerated his car into a crowd waiting at a bus stop. One of the victims reportedly was hit by a bullet meant for the driver, who was shot and killed by Border Police officers stationed at the traffic junction, a main thoroughfare.

The driver was identified as a 22-year-old Palestinian man from Ramallah.

Later in the morning, a civilian security guard was stabbed in the chest at the entrance to the city of Beitar Illit by a Palestinian woman. Surveillance footage of the incident shows the woman talking to the guard as she reaches into her large purse for a butcher knife, with which she stabs him.

The assailant—who was identified by the Palestinian Maan news agency as a 22-year-old Palestinian woman from the Husan village west of Bethlehem—was shot by the security guard and taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

Later in the day, a Jewish-Israeli man was stabbed in the village of Nebi Elias, near the border town of Alfei Menashe and the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba, where he had reportedly stopped to shop. Two men reportedly jumped the man and stabbed him in his upper body. The victim made his way to his car and drove to a nearby crossing between Israel and the West Bank. He suffered severe injuries, according to Magen David Adom.

Michele Bachmann: Bring into Christianity as many Jews as we can

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann called for an intensified effort to convert Jews to Christianity.

Bachmann, a former congresswoman from Minnesota who ran for the Republican nod in 2012, was in Israel last week on a tour organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.

Toward the end of the week, she spoke on the council president’s radio program, “Washington Watch,” and discussed the meaning of the recent intensification of violence in Israel and the West Bank. She cast the violence as a signal of the return of Jesus, which would necessitate mass conversions.

“We recognize the shortness of the hour,” Bachmann said on the program hosted by Tony Perkins, “and that’s why we as a remnant want to be faithful in these days and do what it is that the Holy Spirit is speaking to each one of us, to be faithful in the Kingdom and to help bring in as many as we can—even among the Jews—share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, He’s coming soon.”

The first to report Bachmann’s call was Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, a church-state separation advocacy group.

Rocket fired from Gaza lands in southern Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A rocket launched from Gaza landed in an open area in southern Israel.

The rocket was fired Sunday evening, setting off the Code Red alarm in Gaza border communities, according to the Israel Defense Forces. No damage or injuries were reported.

The rocket landed about a mile outside of a residential community near the Gaza border.

It was the third rocket to be fired from Gaza in as many weeks.

Amos Oz: I won’t appear at Israeli Embassy events, but I oppose BDS

(JTA)—Israeli writer Amos Oz announced that to protest what he sees as extremist government policies, he will no longer participate in Israeli Embassy-sponsored events.

Oz, who is arguably Israel’s most famous and most widely translated author, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “Following the radicalization in the policy of the present government in various areas, I told my hosts abroad that I prefer not to be a guest of honor in events organized for me by Israeli embassies.“

However, the 76-year-old novelist, memoirist and essayist told the Post, “I strongly oppose the BDS [movement] and I strongly oppose the idea of boycotting Israel. My decision is aimed against the government, not against my country.”

Oz, whose memoir “A Tale of Love and Darkness” was adapted into a film by Israel-born actress Natalie Portman earlier this year, was one of the first Israelis to call for a Palestinian state, in a 1967 article, and was a founder of the Peace Now organization.

PA shutters paper that criticized its Israel ties and accused it of torture

(JTA)—The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank shuttered the local office of a pan-Arab newspaper over its reporting on Palestinian security coordination with Israel.

As Palestinian-Israeli street violence surged last month, Al Araby Al-Jadeed daily accused the administration of jailing “dozens of (Palestinian) political prisoners on charges of resisting (the Israeli) occupation,” Reuters reported last Friday.

The newspaper, which publishes a broadsheet in London, Beirut and Doha, also accused the P.A. of torturing prisoners in Palestinian jails. The paper branded the closure on Nov. 3 as politically motivated.

Such domestic scrutiny is touchy for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, whose forces have helped Israel curb violence in the West Bank while he publicly condemns Israeli crackdowns and alleged policies at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian administration closed Al Araby Al-Jadeed’s Ramallah bureau “as it lacked a license to operate,” Deputy Information Minister Mahmoud Khalifa told Reuters. He did not elaborate.

An Oct. 20 letter from the Information Ministry to the attorney general, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the newspaper had published a report that was “offensive to the State of Palestine and its security services.”

Israeli troops rescue Africans seriously wounded by Egyptian troops

(JTA)—Israeli troops evacuated to medical treatment five people who Egyptian soldiers shot as they tried to cross over into Israel.

Two of the casualties sustained critical injuries to internal organs, and the remaining three were lightly wounded after Egyptian border guards opened fire last Friday on 29 Africans who tried to cross over to Israel, according to the news site nrg.co.il.

An Israel Air Force helicopter flew the wounded to the Soroka Medical Center, where the two critically wounded Africans were rushed to surgery. The 24 Africans who were unharmed during the attempt to cross the border were taken to a detention facility for illegal immigrants.

According to reports compiled for the Israeli Knesset, approximately 60,000 Africans have illegally entered Israel from the Sinai Peninsula at a rate of several thousand people each year. The erection in 2012 of a wall along Israel’s border with Egypt brought down the infiltration rate drastically, to several dozen annually.

Egyptian soldiers are under orders to shoot anyone approaching the border. Israel regularly rounds up Africans who cross into it and place them in detention facilities. Immigrants with a refugee status are granted work permits and are allowed to live at a place of their choosing.

US slaps Hezbollah agents with sanctions

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The U.S. Treasury has sanctioned several foreign entities for procuring military equipment for Hezbollah, part of an intensified bid to isolate Iran and its proxies.

The Treasury on Nov. 5 named Vatech SARL, a Lebanon-based company, and the China-based firms Le-Hua Electronic Field Co., Aero Skyone Co. Limited and Labico SAL Offshore. Also named were the owners of the entities.

According to the Treasury statement, the entities have supplied unmanned aerial vehicles and material for improvised explosive devices to Hezbollah.

Adam Szubin, the acting undersecretary of terrorism and financial intelligence, in recent months has told Israeli officials and Congress that his office is intensifying its scrutiny of Hezbollah, partly to demonstrate a commitment to monitoring disruptive activities by Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal reached between the Islamic Republic and six world powers in July.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss strategies for keeping Iran isolated when they meet in Washington next week.

One of Israel’s principle objections to the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, was that sanctions relief would free Iran to expand its influence in the region. Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, launched a war against Israel in 2006 and is helping Bashar Assad, another Iranian client, maintain power in Syria.

“Today’s action highlights Hezbollah’s exploitation of the commercial sector to support its military capabilities and facilitate acts of terrorism,” Szubin said in the statement. “Treasury will pursue any individual or company providing support for this violent group.”

Treasury accused Hezbollah of sending to Yemen the explosive devices manufactured with parts purchased by Le-Hua for use by the Iran-backed Houthi insurgency in that country.

Separately, the Anti-Defamation League last week called on the U.S. Senate to confirm Szubin as undersecretary.

“Especially as all eyes are on how Iran complies with the recently reached nuclear agreement, blocking the confirmation of this watchdog would be counterproductive and send just the wrong signal,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said last week in a statement. “The Senate should send a clear message to the world that there is unflinching bipartisan support for enforcing U.S. sanctions against Iran.”

The confirmation of Szubin reportedly has been hindered by Republican unhappiness with the Obama administration’s Iran and Russia policies.

Report: Investigators ‘90 percent sure’ bomb downed Russian airliner


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