Weekly roundup of world briefs
January 8, 2021
Pakistani court orders release of 4 men acquitted of Daniel Pearl murder
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — A court in Pakistan on Thursday ordered the immediate release of four men who had been jailed there since 2002 for the murder of the Jewish-American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The Sindh High Court in Karachi ordered the release of the men, who had been acquitted of the murder, calling their detainment “illegal,” the Dawn newspaper reported.
They had been involved in Pearl’s kidnapping, the court found, but not in his murder. The court did not identify the killers in the acquittal.
Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil were acquitted of murder in April but kept in jail on executive orders as prosecutors appealed their acquittal.
On Thursday, the two-judge panel of the court ordered their release from “any sort of detention” and declared all orders of the government related to their detention “null and void.”
The men are to be put on a no-fly list and must appear before the court whenever summoned as the court considers the appeals against their acquittal, the court said.
Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants. He was 38.
Ukraine Airlines to compensate Israeli couple over anti-Semitic slurs
By Shimon Yaish and Shlomi Diaz
(Israel Hayom via JNS) — An Israeli court has ruled that Ukraine International Airlines will have to pay an Israeli couple 5,000 shekels ($1,550) in compensation for publicly humiliating the two in an incident that happened two-and-a-half years ago.
According to the couple, airline personnel refused to fly them from Vienna to Israel even though their luggage was already checked in.
The couple was asked to pay an extra charge of 60 euros ($70) due to excess weight in their carry-ons. The two attempted to move an item from one bag into another and were “humiliated in public” when airline workers made anti-Semitic remarks, such as “Why do Jews always have a problem paying money?”
The workers refused to give the luggage back to the couple until after the two arrived in Israel on a different flight.
The airline denied the allegations but did not contradict the plaintiffs’ testimony.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Following rocket attack on US embassy in Iraq, Trump sends warning to Iran
(JNS) — Following a rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed Iran for the action and warned that the United States will hold the regime “responsible” for any American deaths.
“Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch. Guess where they were from: IRAN. Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq … ,” tweeted Trump.
“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
The attack targeting the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, where the embassy and a base housing troops part of the U.S.-led coalition are located, included 21 missiles that killed at least one Iraqi civilian and partially damaged the embassy compound. Half of the missiles landed inside the embassy compound, reported The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, citing a review by U.S. Central Command that refuted initial Iraqi reports that there were eight rockets fired by Iran-backed groups into the heavily-fortified area.
Two buildings, an exercise gym used by troops and embassy personnel, and an Iraqi apartment complex generator near the embassy compound were also damaged.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed “Iran-backed militias” for the attack.
Two days later, U.S. Central Command leader Gen. Frank McKenzie told The Wall Street Journal, “I do not know the degree to which Iran is complicit. We do not seek a war, and I don’t actually believe they seek one either.”
Israeli Air Force appoints first Druze colonel
By Lilach Shoval
(Israel Hayom via JNS) — The Israeli Air Force promoted Awad Suleiman on Tuesday to the rank of colonel, making him the first Druze to attain this rank in the IAF. IAF Commander Amikam Norkin also named Suleiman head of the air force’s Drone Warfare Unit.
While Suleiman is the first Druze to attain the rank of colonel in the IAF, recent years have seen Druze citizens serving in more and more elite roles.
In September 2020, Lt. Col. A. made history by being appointed the first Druze commander of the IAF’s Shaldag (“Kingfisher”) commando unit.
The appointment made A. the first Druze commander of any of the IDF’s four elite units: Sayeret Matkal, its top special forces unit; Shaldag; the Shayetet 13 naval commandos; and Unit 669, the air force’s combat search and rescue unit.
In June 2019, Lt. G. became the IAF’s first Druze pilot upon successfully completing the 178th’s pilot training course.
In addition to welcoming minorities into the upper ranks of the IAF, Norkin also appointed the first woman to serve as bureau chief to the IAF commander when he named Maj. N. to the sensitive post. She became a navigator on F-16 fighter jets in 2016.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Indonesia could get billions in additional US financing if it normalizes ties with Israel
(JNS) — Indonesia could get billions in additional U.S. financing if it normalizes ties with Israel, according to a U.S. official.
Adam Boehler, CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), told Bloomberg on Monday that the government agency, which provides and facilitates financing in lower- and middle-income countries, could more than double its current $1 billion portfolio if the Indo-Pacific country, which has the world’s largest Muslim population with 225 million, establishes ties with the Jewish state.
“We’re talking to them about it,” said Boehler. “If they’re ready, they’re ready, and if they are then we’ll be happy to even support more financially than what we do.”
He noted that he wouldn’t be surprised if his organization’s funding to Indonesia was boosted by “one or two more billion dollars.”
Currently, the Abraham Accords includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and, most recently, Morocco. Boehler was part of the U.S. delegation that took part in the inaugural direct flight on Tuesday from Israel to Morocco.
As a result of the normalization deals, the DFC helped create a $3 billion joint Israeli-Emirati-U.S. fund based in Jerusalem to invest in the Middle East. The fund is led by Aryeh Lightstone, a senior adviser for U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Boehler also said the DFC would likely partake in a debt syndicate to fiscally assist Israel’s sale of its largest seaport in Haifa. He said that U.S. companies and an Emirati firm have expressed interest in the tender.
Second flight from Ethiopia arrives in Israel carrying 219 new immigrants
(JNS) — A plane carrying 219 new immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday. Their arrival was overseen by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency of Israel, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
It marks the second flight of “Operation Tzur Israel” (“Rock of Israel”).
The group was welcomed by Pnina Tamano-Shata, Minister of Aliyah and Integration; Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the Fellowship; and Amira Ahronoviz, director general of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Tamano-Shata said that “through the end of January, and in accordance with the government decision I approved last October, a plane carrying hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants will land in Israel almost every week until the 2,000 people who have waited many years to arrive are reunited with their families.”
She was referring to Government Resolution 429, which provides a framework to bring 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel by the end of the year. The Dec. 22 flight — the second to arrive under the operation — brought in 219 immigrants, including 136 adults, 70 children and 13 babies.
Eckstein said her organization will make “every effort to assist them and the entire Ethiopian community.”
“This is the closing of a particularly moving circle,” said Ahronoviz. “After years of not seeing one another, entire families are being reunited. Since the establishment of the state, the Jewish Agency has brought 95,000 immigrants from Ethiopia and helped absorb them into Israel. I wish to thank our partners in Israel and around the world for their joint participation to end their suffering after many long years of waiting.”
The new arrivals will go into quarantine, as is the procedure for incoming passengers during the coronavirus pandemic. They will then be reunited with family members. As part of the absorption process, they will receive support and guidance in all aspects of Israeli life, including learning Hebrew and preparation for employment and education.
The flights were made possible by the Jewish Agency; the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod; and the support of international donors and foundations.
Lockdown 3.0 to cost Israeli economy $1.6 billion
By Gilad Zwick
(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Israel’s third nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus will cost the economy a minimum of 5 billion shekels ($1.55 billion), according to Bank of Israel estimates.
The lockdown is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday and last for at least two weeks. The Bank of Israel assesses that each week the economy is shut down will come at a cost of 2.5 billion shekels ($775 million).
However, this is projected to be a less expensive lockdown than the two previous ones, according to Israel’s central bank. The first lockdown, which began in March, cost the economy 5.4 billion shekels ($1.67 billion) per week, and the second lockdown, around the time of the High Holidays, cost 3.2 billion shekels ($993 million) per week.
The Bank of Israel projects that the current lockdown will affect the economy by 10 percent, compared to the 20 percent hit it took in March-April and the 12 percent hit in the second lockdown. The bank reported that during the summer, when businesses were operating under COVID-19 restrictions, the economy was running at 95 percent capacity, which caused a loss of 1.3 billion shekels ($403 million) each week.
Officials with the Bank of Israel explained that at this stage, the restrictions for the third lockdown are less severe than the previous ones.
“Businesses that do not deal with the public will continue to operate on a partial basis, and the school system for younger grades will operate as usual,” said officials.
“It’s likely that businesses continued to prepare to operate under pandemic conditions. The October lockdown came during the holidays when business activity drops anyway. But now the lockdown will take place during normal business days,” the officials added.
Over the long term, the Bank of Israel officials said, the lockdowns will continue to affect the Israeli economy. Officials pointed out that the direct losses of the lockdown itself did not include bankruptcies and ongoing payment of unemployment benefits, and did not take into account losses that could not be assessed financially, such as restricted freedom of movement or loss of time with family.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
A third ‘Wonder Woman’ with Gal Gadot already in the works
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA) — Just two days after the debut of “Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros. announced that it’s not through with the Gal Gadot superhero just yet: A third movie in the series is being “fast-tracked,” Variety reported Sunday.
While “Wonder Woman 1984” was released on HBO Max as well as in theaters on Friday, the next installment will have a more traditional theatrical release, the studio said.
“Wonder Woman 1984” had the best debut for a film in the coronavirus era, according to Variety, raking in over $16 million in theatrical sales. Warner Bros. rattled the industry earlier this month when it announced that it will release all of its 2021 films on streaming platforms at the same time as they debut in theaters.
There is no timetable yet for the third “Wonder Woman” film, and Variety added that Gadot’s Cleopatra remake in the works could complicate scheduling.
Israeli model ranked world’s most beautiful woman
By Ziva Mograbi-Kobni
(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Israel model Yael Shelbia has been awarded the top spot on the magazine TC Candler’s list of the most beautiful women in the world for 2020.
The list ranked actress and “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot No. 22.
Overnight on Sunday, TC Candler released a video compilation showing its readers’ picks for the most beautiful women in the world. The 15-minute clip ends with a picture of Shelbia’s face and her title.
The clip garnered some 200,000 views in the first two hours it was posted online. Later Monday, the magazine was expected to formally announce Shelbia as “loveliest of them all” on its official Instagram page, which has roughly 1 million followers.
Shelbia has recently climbed in the list’s rankings over the past few years. In 2017, the model placed 14th; and in 2018, she was up to third place. In 2019, she came in second, and now she has made it into the top spot.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad launch large-scale ‘military’ drill
(JNS) — The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations on Tuesday launched a large-scale drill involving 12 armed groups in the Gaza Strip, among them the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah, according to Israeli media reports.
The drill, codenamed “The Strong Base” (a Koranic reference), involved the firing of rocket barrages into the Mediterranean and a simulated naval commando raid on Israel.
This is the first time that the Gaza-based terrorist groups’ “military” wings have conducted a joint exercise of this kind, with each having its own role and field of operation. In the past, each such branch carried out its own exercises, noted Ynet.
The Hebrew website also pointed to the timing of the drill, which comes on the heels of recent Israel Defense Forces exercises along the Gaza border in the south of the country, and the Lebanon and Syria borders in the north. The joint exercise may also be an attempt by the terrorists in Gaza to deter Israel from launching a major Israeli military strike before the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tenure in less than three weeks.
The mass “military” exercise took place three days after Israeli Air Force jets hit several targets in Gaza in retaliation for two rockets fired at Israel on Dec. 25. Both projectiles, aimed at Ashkelon, were intercepted by the Iron Dome air-defense system.
A few hours before the drill began, just after midnight Monday, the IDF reported that terrorists in Gaza had fired a rocket at Israel, but that the projectile did not make it across the border.
US policy of labeling West Bank products as ‘Made in Israel’ takes effect
(JNS) — The U.S. policy of requiring products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “Made in Israel” took effect last week, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
CBP published a notice in The Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government, on Dec. 23.
The notice allows for a three-month transition period (until March 23) for manufacturers to comply with the new guidelines, which were issued by the U.S. State Department last month, requiring products manufactured in Israeli-controlled settlements in the West Bank to be labeled as “Israel,” “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel” when exported to the United States.
Products made in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank will be marked as products of “West Bank,” and goods produced in Gaza will be marked as products of “Gaza.” This rejects the “West Bank/Gaza” label that had been allowed since 1997.