4 acquitted in Denmark synagogue attack


Four Danish citizens accused of assisting the gunman in two deadly attacks in Copenhagen last year, including one outside a synagogue that left a Jewish security guard dead, were acquitted.

On Tuesday, a Danish court found that the actions of the four men were “not of such a character that the actions can lead to a conviction for complicity,” according to the verdict, the French news agency AFP reported.

Bhostan Khan Hossein, Liban Ahmed Saleban Elmi, Ibrahim Khalil Abbas and Mahmoud Rabea were accused of helping Omar El-Hussein carry out the attack against Copenhagen’s main synagogue on Feb. 15, 2015. They had faced life in prison if convicted.

El-Hussein, 22, was killed in a shootout with police hours after killing the guard, Dan Uzan, 37, in the attack.

Hossein and Elmi were convicted on the lesser charge of disposing of the assault rifle El-Hussein used hours earlier to kill Danish filmmaker Finn Noergaard and wound three police officers at a Copenhagen cafe. They will be sentenced at a later date.

 

Father of 10 killed in terrorist shooting remembered as intellectual and giving man


More than 1,000 mourners attended the funeral for a father of 10 who was killed in a West Bank drive-by shooting.

The funeral of Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark was held Sunday in the Otniel settlement in the West Bank followed by his burial in Jerusalem. Mark was killed Friday when terrorists opened fire on his car as he drove near Hebron.

President Reuven Rivlin, a distant relative of Mark, delivered remarks at his funeral.

“I stand in front of your coffin, Miki, Michael, in sorrow and anguish, and with me stand an entire nation, together grieving,” Rivlin said, according to Haaretz. “Even before the Sabbath began, the murderer’s hand robbed your family of you in cold blood, in front of two of your children, and in front of your beloved wife, Chavi, who was seriously injured.

“Miki, I am sorry to say that I learned about you, only after your death. I learned that you were a loving and beloved father, grandfather and son. An intellectual who was also a man of action. A person who loved hands-on work, but also excelled in the house of learning.”

Mark’s son Yeshoshua said that “as the years pass, we find greater depth. More people you helped. A community of admirers. You taught us to accept the other. You were a giving man with endless time, attention and thought. A man of perception at all levels.”

One of Mark’s daughter, Orit, called her father “the most amazing in the world.”

“How much you gave. How much you did,” she said.

His children, in a video posted on social media, had appealed for mourners to attend the funeral to memorialize their father.

“Come and hear how good our father was, and you’ll be better people, more loving people,” one of his daughters said.

Along with his wife, Chavi, being seriously wounded in the shooting, two of his children were lightly injured.

Dozens killed, more than 100 wounded in suicide attack at Istanbul airport


UPDATED 4:02pm

Three suicide bombers opened fire before blowing themselves up at the entrance to the main international airport in Istanbul, killing at least 28 people, the provincial governor said earlier.

The number of people wounded in Tuesday's attack on Istanbul's main international airport rose to 106, broadcaster NTV said, citing hospital sources, while another network, Haberturk, said the number was 147, citing a justice minister.

Police fired shots to try to stop the attackers just before they reached a security checkpoint at the arrivals hall of the Ataturk airport but they blew themselves up, one of the officials said.

Speaking in parliament, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that based on initial information he could only confirm there had been one attacker.

“According to information I have received, at the entrance to the Ataturk Airport international terminal a terrorist first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew themself up,” he said in comments broadcast by CNN Turk.

There was no immediate claim of responsbility for the attack.

Ataturk is Turkey's largest airport and a major transport hub for international travellers. Pictures posted on social media from the site showed wounded people lying on the ground inside and outside one of the terminal buildings.

A witness told Reuters security officials prevented his taxi and other cars from entering the airport at around 9:50 pm (1850 GMT). Drivers leaving the terminal shouted “Don't enter! A bomb exploded!” from their windows to incoming traffic, he said.

Television footage showed ambulances rushing to the scene. One witness told CNN Turk that gunfire was heard from the car park at the airport. Taxis were ferrying wounded people from the airport, the witness said.

FLIGHTS HALTED

The head of Red Crescent, Kerem Kinik, said on CNN Turk that people should go to blood donation centres and not hospitals to give blood and called on people to avoid main roads to the airport to avoid blocking path of emergency vehicles.

Authorities halted the takeoff of scheduled flights from the airport and passengers were transferred to hotels, a Turkish Airlines official said. Earlier an airport official said some flights to the airport had been diverted.

Turkey has suffered a spate of bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on Islamic State, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.

In the most recent attack, a car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university and the mayor's office.

Turkey, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, is also fighting Kurdish militants in its largely Kurdish southeast.

Soldier in West Bank shooting to face charges of manslaughter, not murder


The soldier caught on video shooting a supine Palestinian terrorist in the head will face charges of manslaughter, not murder, a military court decided.

The military tribunal met on Thursday and made the determination, according to reports.

The decision comes two days after the prosecutor told the tribunal it was working to determine the exact charges, and asked that the soldier continue to be held in military prison.

The soldier has still only been identified by his initials, as his identity remains under a gag order. He was held on murder charges on March 25 for shooting a Palestinian wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron one day earlier.

Knesset members from the Arab Joint List MKs condemned the downgrading of charges against the soldier, saying the decision “proves once again that such incidents must be investigated by an international war crimes tribunal.”

“This is a soldier who committed a criminal act of murder, as is clearly seen in the video, and the decision was influenced by the comments of the prime minister, who asked that the family of the soldier be considered,” Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi wrote in a joint statement, adding that the IDF should “investigate and punish the soldiers and officers and medical staff who stood by and did not lift a finger either before or after the murder.”

The soldier’s arrest has set off a national debate in Israel that has enveloped the country’s leaders. On March 24, the day of the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the soldier’s conduct “does not represent the values of the IDF.”

The soldier’s parents and politicians to Netanyahu’s right, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, defended the soldier and criticized Netanyahu for insufficiently defending Israel’s troops during a wave of terror attacks.

On Monday, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that the soldier’s father’s words “touched my heart” and wrote that he trusted the military investigation would be “fair to the solider.”

The prosecutor in military court said the soldier shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though he was down on the ground and no longer a threat.

The soldier arrived at the scene several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently, the Israel Defense Forces found in an initial investigation. The soldier’s attorney has said that he was concerned that the assailant was wearing a bomb and was planning to blow it up.

The military says the downed terrorist had been checked for explosives, though the Magen David Adom emergency medical service disputes this.

Military investigators say the soldier is cooperating and replies to their questions, but has refused to take a lie detector test, Haaretz reported.

Meanwhile, the left-wing human rights group B’Tselem said that its Hebron volunteer that caught the soldier shooting the downed Palestinian stabber on camera has been called in for questioning by police, the Times of Israel reported.

Right-wing activists filed a civil complaint against the volunteer, identified as Emad abu-Shamsiyah.

The complaint alleges that he conspired with the two Palestinian stabbers in last week’s incident in Hebron.

Biden says his family was near scene of Tel Aviv attack


Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his wife Jill and their grandchildren were dining on a Tel Aviv beach when a Palestinian killed an American tourist with a knife and wounded 11 other people on the seafront “not very far” away.

Since October, Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and two U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have killed at least 179 Palestinians, 121 of whom Israel says were assailants. Most others were shot dead during violent protests.

“I don't know exactly whether it was a hundred meters or a thousand meters,” Biden, on a visit to Israel, told reporters about Tuesday's assault.

“It brings home that it can happen, it can happen anywhere, at any time,” he said, after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Violence has surged since Biden's arrival in Israel on Tuesday as part of a regional visit. Two Palestinians, who Israel said opened fire and wounded one man in Jerusalem on Wednesday, and a Palestinian who the military said tried to stab soldiers in the West Bank, were killed by Israeli forces.

On Tuesday, Biden was meeting former Israeli President Shimon Peres several blocks from where the Palestinian was running along the Tel Aviv beachfront stabbing pedestrians and motorists stuck in traffic.

Taylor Force, a 28-year-old Vanderbilt University graduate student and a U.S. military veteran who Biden said served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, was killed and 11 people were wounded before police shot the attacker dead.

“Let me say in no uncertain terms, the United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said, with Netanyahu at his side, in remarks that appeared critical of Palestinian leaders.

Palestinian leaders say many Palestinian attackers have acted out of desperation in the absence of movement towards creation of an independent state. Israel says they are being incited to violence by their leaders and on social media.

Later in the day, Biden, who has visited the Gulf during his trip and plans to travel to Jordan next, met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

Abbas expressed his condolences over Force's death, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, and said the establishment of a Palestinian state was key to ending the violence.

South Korea, U.S. begin exercises as North Korea threatens attack


South Korean and U.S. troops began large-scale military exercises on Monday in an annual test of their defences against North Korea, which called the drills “nuclear war moves” and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive.

South Korea said the exercises would be the largest ever following North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch last month that triggered a U.N. Security Council resolution and tough new sanctions.

Isolated North Korea has rejected criticism of its nuclear and rocket programmes, even from old ally China, and last week leader Kim Jong Un ordered his country to be ready to use nuclear weapons in the face of what he sees as growing threats from enemies.

The joint U.S. and South Korean military command said it had notified North Korea of “the non-provocative nature” of the exercises involving about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

South Korea's Defence Ministry said it had seen no sign of any unusual military activity by North Korea, but Seoul's spy agency said it would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to check readiness against cyber attack after detecting evidence of North Korean attempts to hack into South Korean mobile phones.

North Korea's National Defence Commission said the North Korean army and people would “realise the greatest desire of the Korean nation through a sacred war of justice for reunification”, in response to any attack by U.S. and South Korean forces.

“The army and people of the DPRK will launch an all-out offensive to decisively counter the U.S. and its followers' hysterical nuclear war moves,” the North Korean commission said in a statement carried by the North's KCNA news agency.

North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as it is officially known, routinely issues threats of military action in response to the annual exercises that it sees as preparation for war against it.

The U.S. State Department said the United States took North Korean threats to use nuclear weapons seriously and urged Pyongyang to halt provocations.

“(We) again call on Pyongyang to cease with the provocative rhetoric, cease with the threats and quite frankly, more critically, cease with the provocative behaviour, the actual conduct, that has led to yet another round of international sanctions,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a regular briefing. 

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it was opposed to South Korean-U.S. military exercises as a way of pressuring North Korea but said Pyongyang's reaction was also unacceptable.

“The development of the situation on the Korean peninsula and around it is causing a growing concern,” the ministry said in a statement that called on the parties involved to show restraint.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing was “deeply concerned” about the exercises and added: “We urge all sides to keep calm, exercise restraint and not escalate tensions.”

The latest U.N. sanctions were drafted by the United States and China as punishment for NorthKorea's recent tests.

China though has been alarmed by discussions between South Korea and the United States on possible deployment of a new U.S. anti-missile system to South Korea.

The South Korean and U.S. militaries began formal talks on Friday on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which China sees as a threat to its strategic deterrence.

Student cartoon contest commemorates Charlie Hebdo


Last May, the Jerusalem Press Club (JPC) held an international conference on freedom of the press. Some 50 journalists and activists came here from all around the world to discuss the threats against journalists and the assaults on media freedom. The testimonials of participants from Africa and Asia were particularly moving.

One of the highlights of the conference was a session titled “Discussing Charlie Hebdo” (you can watch it on YouTube), at which Eva Illouz, a world-renowned sociologist and professor, conversed with Solene Chalvon, a member of the editorial board of Charlie Hebdo, about the special role played by the viciously biting cartoon in French political and cultural tradition.

At one point, Chalvon, who had proudly defended her magazine’s harsh line, stood up, and holding one of the recent issues, praised a certain cartoon that showed a happy Frenchman smoking a cigar, while in Africa, an armed Boko Haram thug tells a young, pregnant girl: “Now go to France and collect your social security benefits.”

Chalvon, however, was in for a surprise. And so was I. The audience — consisting of journalists and press freedom fighters, mind you — vocally disagreed with her over the value of this image. But it mocks the apathy of the French middle class to the grievances of the Africans, Chalvon argued. No, she was told by the audience, it offends Africans, women, and poor and miserable people. 

Listening to that heated debate about the limits of free speech, I wondered whether there was a compromise: a way of drawing a cartoon that could criticize effectively without hurting too much the feelings of people who looked at it. Furthermore, whether there is something that Israel — a country of so many religious, ethnic, social and national feuds, contrasts and sensitivities — can contribute to this discourse? And how about Israeli youth — maybe with their fresh outlook, they might come up with new ideas that previous generations failed to produce?

What emerged was a competition among Israeli high school students titled “Cartoon, Criticism, Care,” commissioned in cooperation with the Israel Museum of Cartoon and Comics and with the blessing of the commissioner of civic studies at the Israeli Ministry of Education. Thirty of the best cartoons selected by the jury are displayed in an exhibition that opens this week at the gallery of Mishkenot Sha’ananim conference center in Jerusalem, commemorating the first anniversary of the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo and the ensuing manhunt, which took place last Jan. 7-9.

To say the works that resulted from the competition were a surprise would be an understatement. One member of the jury, Michel Kichka, a world-renowned cartoonist, had expressed doubts, wondering whether high school students would be able to provide deep insights on the subject, let alone express them artistically. Summing up his impressions of the students’ cartoon submissions, he said, “This will make a very respectable exhibition.”

Naturally, many of the cartoons dealt with what bothers high school students immediately: The pressure of too many class assignments, the feeling that school dries up their creativity (one cute cartoon depicts a girl entering school from one side and coming out as a robot on the other side). Another laments the conformity and lack of individuality among young people, and one the quest of girls to be thin like models.

Overall, however, what struck the jury was the seriousness with which the students tackled issues and the artistic expression they used to portray them. Israel’s lack of separation between religion and state was a popular theme, as well as pollution, intolerance of the Other and, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

People often ask me how I can remain optimistic when everything in Israel looks so bleak. This time, I don’t have to come up with some elaborate explanation. Just come to the exhibition, or watch it online (jerusalempressclub.com), and you’ll know the answer yourselves.

Here are the three winning cartoons, with the narratives their creators attached to them.

First Prize
The Rabbinate
Amit Katz, 17, Hadera

Second Prize
Fun at the Beach 2116
Iosefa Jacobovici, 16, Ra’anana

Third Prize
Haaretz Hayom
Hava Herman, 15, Jerusalem

Israeli forces kill two Palestinian assailants


Israeli security forces said they shot dead two Palestinian assailants on Saturday in separate incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as 12 weeks of heightened violence showed no sign of abating.

Since the start of October, Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 128 Palestinians, 79 of whom authorities described as assailants. Most others have been killed in clashes with security forces.

Almost daily Palestinian stabbing, car-rammings and shooting attacks have killed 20 Israelis and a U.S. citizen, raising fears of a wider escalation a decade after the last Palestinian uprising subsided.

In the latest fatal incident, the Israeli military said a Palestinian rammed his car into Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint. “Forces responded to the imminent danger and fired toward the perpetrator,” the military said, adding that one soldier had been wounded and evacuated to hospital.

The 56-year-old Palestinian man died after being taken to hospital, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Palestinians disputed the Israeli military's account of the incident. Jamil Dawoud, 49, said he was traveling in the car behind the one of the man shot, at the checkpoint where soldiers were inspecting the vehicles and that the soldier who opened fire appeared to misunderstand what had happened.

“There were three soldiers. One soldier signaled for the man to come forward, a soldier was on the edge of the road and he tried to move backward when he slipped. The second soldier opened fire, firing four bullets at the man, after that they tried to give him first aid,” Dawoud said.

Hours earlier police officers shot dead a Palestinian who tried to stab a policeman near Jerusalem's walled Old City.

Officers approached a man they said was following Jewish worshippers, spokeswoman Luba Samri said, and asked to see his identification papers. “The terrorist whipped out a knife and tried to stab a police officer. He was swiftly shot and neutralized,” Samri said.

The incident was captured on security camera footage.

Palestinian leaders say a young generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy. The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

Violence has also been triggered by Muslim anger over stepped-up Israeli visits to Jerusalem's al Aqsa mosque complex. The site, Islam's holiest outside Saudi Arabia, is also revered by many Jews as a vestige of their biblical temples.

Israeli leaders says Islamist groups who call for the destruction of Israel have played a major role in inciting the recent violence.

Nicholas Thalasinos, a ‘Messianic Jew,’ among 14 murdered in San Bernardino terror attack


This story is being continuously updated. Latest update: Friday, Dec. 6, 10:30 p.m. (PT)

Among the fatalities in the deadly terrorist attack on the social services center in San Bernardino Wednesday that left 14 people dead and 21 wounded is Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, a “Messianic Jew” who worked at the Inland Regional Center, a county facility that assists people with developmental disabilities, as an environmental health specialist. 

Jennifer Thalasinos, Nicholas’ wife, told the New York Times that she and her husband were “devout Messianic Jews,” a religious group that identifies as Jewish but considers Jesus to be the messiah, combining elements of Judaism with core Christian doctrine. Jewish religious leaders and denominations do not consider Messianic Judaism to be Jewish. On Thalasinos’ Facebook page, he regularly posted politically conservative articles, was outspoken against liberals and about the threat of radical Islam, and supportive of Israel and gun ownership rights. 

In one photo with his wife, Thalasinos is seen wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. In a post Wednesday evening by Kuuleme Stephens, who identifies herself as Thalasinos’ younger sister, she wrote, “This shooting happened hours ago and I haven’t heard a word from my big brother Nicholas Thalasinos! He always answers his phone, even it’s to say ‘Let me call you back in a minute sis!’ Please pray for him and my sis Jennifer Thalasinos at this time! Pray that we get some news soon, and he gets home safe and sound.” Since news of Thalasinos’ murder broke, his Facebook page has been changed to that of a “remembering” status, and his wall is filled with condolences.

Vince Armijo, who identified himself  as the church leader at Shiloh Messianic Congregation, which meets weekly in Crestline and Calimesa, near to San Bernardino, told the Journal that Nicholas, who went by Nick with friends, was a member of the church for three years, had renewed his marriage vows with Jennifer six months ago under a chuppah, and “loved Torah.”

“He’s the type of man … [who] always stayed until the end; helped us put everything away,” Armijo said.

Jennifer told the Times her husband had worked alongside and been friendly with Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, who has been identified as the man who, with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, stormed the center on Wednesday dressed in tactical gear and armed with semiautomatic rifles and pistols. There's no indication that Thalasinos was targeted for his religious or political beliefs, although the Boston Globe reported that Farook and Thalasinos had a “heated conversation” two weeks ago about Islam. Whether that played any role in Farook targeting the Inland Regional Center is unknown.

Inside the center Wednesday, Farook and Malik unloaded dozens of rounds of ammunition into a room where some of Farook’s coworkers were celebrating a holiday party. Before fleeing the scene, Farook and Malik left behind an explosive made of three pipe bombs, which did not detonate. 

San Bernardino police officials later collected 1,600 rounds of ammunition from the couple’s car, and found nearly 5,000 additional rounds and 12 pipe bombs at their apartment in nearby Redlands, indicating that the attack had been planned.

Through Wednesday afternoon and evening, police pursued Farook and Malik throughout the area, and eventually killed both of them in a shootout that also left one officer wounded. San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan said all four weapons collected from Farook and Malik had been purchased legally.

The FBI, which is leading the investigation, announced Friday afternoon that it's investigating the massacre as “an act of terrorism.” Also on Friday, federal officials reported that Malik pledged allegiance on Facebook on the day of the massacre to ISIS's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Investigators also found the couple's cell phones near the attack site, but they were smashed, and they can't find the hard drive that Farook and Malik had in their computer.

Farook, an American citizen, was born in Illinois to Pakistani parents and was reportedly a practicing Muslim who traveled to Saudi Arabia multiple times, including in 2013 to Mecca for a hajj, the annual pilgrimage Muslims are required to make at least once in their lifetime. Malik entered the U.S. in July 2014 with Farook, coming here with a Pakistani passport and a three-month visa typical for a fiancée planning to marry an American citizen. She was granted a conditional green card in July. The couple had a six-month-old child, whom they left with a relative Wednesday morning before beginning their rampage.

The New York Times is reporting that the FBI has determined Farook “was in touch with people domestically and abroad who have Islamist extremist views.”

Armijo said Thalasinos regularly came to weekly Shabbat services at the church, and sometimes to Torah classes at its Calimesa location. Armijo said Thalasinos “was very faithful on Shabbat” and was looking forward to visiting Israel for the first time next year with the congregation.

“We’re really at a hard place right now,” Armijo said. “His wife is still in shock, but she’ll be there on the Sabbath morning.”

Blast at market in northeastern Nigeria’s Yola kills 32


A blast struck a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola on Tuesday evening, killing 32 people and wounding 80 others, both the Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said. 

The explosion occurred at a fruit and vegetable market beside a main road in the Jimeta area of Adamawa's state capital around 8pm (1900 GMT). 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the blast bore the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram which has killed thousands over the last six years in its bid to create a state adhering to strict Sharia law in the northeast. 

“Thirty-two people were killed and 80 have been injured,” said a Red Cross official who asked not to be named. NEMA regional spokesman Alhaji Sa'ad Bello later gave the same casualty figures. 

Suspected Boko Haram militants have carried out attacks in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in recent weeks but have not struck northeastern Nigeria since late October when bombings in Yola and Maiduguri left at least 37 people dead.

“The ground near my shop was covered with dead bodies. I helped to load 32 dead bodies into five vehicles,” said witness Alhaji Ahmed, who owns a shop in the market. 

A Reuters witness said he saw eight ambulances being used to carry casualties away for treatment. 

Suspected members of Boko Haram have killed around 1,000 people since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May, vowing to crush the militant group.

Since losing most of the territory they took over earlier this year to the Nigerian army, the militants have focused attacks on markets, bus stations and places of worship, as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages.

World shows solidarity, tightens security after Paris attacks


World leaders responded to deadly attacks in Paris with defiant pledges of solidarity and Europe tightened security after Islamic State said it was behind an assault by gunmen and bombers that left 127 dead in the French capital.

From Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin and across Europe and the Middle East, leaders expressed their condolences to French President Francois Hollande who said the attacks amounted to an act of war against France.

After the worst bloodshed in France since the end of World War Two, European neighbours including Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Italy increased security. France temporarily imposed border controls.

British Prime Minister David Cameron used French to express his solidarity after calling Hollande. London monuments including the London Eye and Tower Bridge were lit up in the red, white and blue of the French tricolour.

“Shocked, but resolute. In sorrow, but unbowed. My message to the French people is simple: Nous sommes solidaires avec vous. Nous sommes tous ensemble. We stand with you. United,” Cameron said.

The deadliest attack on Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings laid bare Islamic State's capability to strike at the heart of Europe and the difficulty of monitoring the movements of militants intent on killing.

It also triggered a debate on Europe's refugee policies and the failures of Western policy in Syria. 

DEATH IN PARIS

“This is an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share,” Obama said.

New York, Boston and other cities in the United States bolstered security, but law enforcement officials said the beefed-up police presence was precautionary rather than a response to any specific threats. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Obama, saying “our free life is stronger than terror.”

Western security sources said the attack on Paris was one of the “nightmare” scenarios for police forces: several well planned attacks with advanced weaponry on unarmed civilian revellers across a densely populated capital.

Islamic State militants said the attack was designed “to teach France, and all nations following its path, that they will remain at the top of Islamic State's list of targets”.

Hollande said the attack was planned outside France but carried out with internal help. 

Western security sources said the porous nature of Europe's internal borders – hailed as one of the major achievements of European integration – also allowed freer movement of advanced weaponry and potential attackers, including those who have travelled to Syria, across Europe.

EUROPE'S BORDERS

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands would tighten security at its borders and airports, and said the Dutch were “at war” with Islamic State.

Belgium imposed additional frontier controls on road, rail and air arrivals from France and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel asked Belgians on Saturday not to travel to Paris unless necessary. 

“Border control is absolutely critical,” said Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham.

“They can reinstate border controls so they know who is in their country, they know who leaves their country and they know where they've been if they leave their country.”

European Union leaders said that such attacks could not divide Europe.

But in a sign of potential divisions ahead, Poland's European affairs minister designate said after the attacks in Paris, Warsaw would not be able to accept migrants under European Union quotas.

In September, Poland backed a European Union plan to share out 120,000 refugees, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, across the 28-nation bloc. 

The attacks have also sparked a debate in Germany on Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy and how to get a better overview of the people entering the country.

At least 140 killed in Paris attacks


BREAKING: BFM TV SAYS ABOUT 100 DEAD IN BATACLAN PARIS CONCERT HALL

Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at locations around Paris on Friday, killing dozens of people in what a shaken President Francois Hollande described as an unprecedented terrorist attack.

Police sources said at least 40 people were killed and 60 wounded in up to five attacks in the Paris region. French media reported higher unofficial death tolls.

The apparently coordinated gun and bomb assault came as the country, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for terrorist attacks ahead of a global climate conference due to open later this month.

Hollande, who was attending an international soccer match with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when several explosions took place outside the national stadium, declared a state of emergency in the Paris region and announced the closure of France's borders to stop perpetrators escaping.

“This is a horror,” the visibly shaken president said in a midnight television address to the nation before chairing an emergency cabinet meeting.

All emergency services were mobilized, police leave was canceled and hospitals recalled staff to cope with the casualties.

Hollande said police were launching an assault at one of the attack sites as he spoke. A Reuters witness heard five explosions outside the Batalla music hall, where up to 60 people were being held hostage.

A second Reuters reporter later said police had completed an operation at the building. BMG TV said two gunmen had been killed.

Earlier, witnesses said an elite anti-terror unit had taken up positions outside the popular concert venue, which was attacked by two or three gunmen, who were reported to have shouted slogans condemning France's role in Syria.

“We know where these attacks come from,” Hollande said, without naming any individual group. “There are indeed good reasons to be afraid.”

HIGH ALERT

France has been on high alert ever since Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket in Paris in January, killing 18 people.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel led a global chorus of solidarity with France and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “despicable attacks” and demanded the release of the hostages.

Julien Pierce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, was inside the concert hall when the shooting began. In an eyewitness report posted on the station's website, Pierce said several very young individuals, who were not wearing masks, entered the hall while the concert was under way armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and started “blindly shooting at the crowd”.

“There were bodies everywhere,” he said.

French media reported five more or less simultaneous attacks in mid-evening in central Paris and outside the Stade de France stadium in the suburb of Saint-Denis, north of the city center.

There was no immediate verifiable claim of responsibility but supporters of the Islamic State militant group which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria said in Twitter messages that the group carried them out.

“The State of the caliphate hit the house of the cross,” one tweet said.

Three explosions were heard near the Stade de France, where the France-Germany friendly soccer match was being played. A witness said one of the detonations blew people into the air outside a McDonald's restaurant outside the stadium.

The match continued until the end but panic broke out in the crowd as rumors of the attack spread, and spectators were held in the stadium and assembled spontaneously on the pitch.

TF1 television said up to 35 people were dead near the soccer stadium, including two suspected suicide bombers.

Police helicopters circled the stadium as Hollande was rushed back to the interior ministry to deal with the situation.

In central Paris, shooting erupted in mid-evening outside a Cambodian restaurant in the capital's 10th district. There were unconfirmed reports of other shootings in Rue de Charonne in the 11th district and at the central Les Halles shopping and cinema complex.

“There are lots of people here. I don’t know what’s happening, a sobbing witness who gave her name only as Anna told BFM TV outside the Batalla hall. “It’s horrible. There’s a body over there. It’s horrible.”

The attacks came within days of attacks claimed by Islamic State militants on a Shi'ite Muslim district of southern Beirut in Lebanon, and a Russian tourist aircraft which crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Earlier on Friday, the United States and Britain said they had launched an attack in the Syrian town of Raqqa on a British Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John” but it was not certain whether he had been killed.

VIDEO: Explosion heard during soccer match.

Two suicide bombers hit Hezbollah bastion in Lebanon, 43 killed


At least 43 people were killed and more than 240 wounded on Thursday in two suicide bomb blasts claimed by Islamic State in a crowded residential district in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah.

The explosions were the first attacks in more than a year to target a Hezbollah stronghold inside Lebanon, and came at time when the group is stepping up its involvement in the Syrian civil war — a fight which has brought Sunni Islamist threats and invective against the Iran-backed Shi'ite group.

Hezbollah has sent hundreds of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the four-year-old conflict over the border. Government forces backed by Hezbollah and Iranian troops have intensified their fight against mostly Sunni insurgents, including Islamic State, since Russia launched an air campaign in support of Assad on Sept. 30.

Syria's civil war is increasingly playing out as a proxy battle between regional rivals, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which supports the rebels. The two foes also back opposing political forces in Lebanon, which suffered its own civil war from 1975 to 1990, and where a political crisis has been brought about by factional and sectarian rivalries.

The blasts occurred almost simultaneously late on Thursday and struck a Shi'ite community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj al-Barajneh, security sources said. A closely guarded Hezbollah-run hospital is also nearby.

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said 43 people were killed and 240 people were wounded.

Islamic State said in a statement posted online by its supporters that its members blew up a bike loaded with explosives in Borj al-Barajneh and that when onlookers gathered, a suicide bomber blew himself up among them. The group said the attacks killed 40 people.

Hezbollah vowed to continue its fight against “terrorists”, warning of a “long war” against its enemies.

Medics rushed to treat the wounded after the explosions, which damaged shop fronts and left the street stained with blood and littered with broken glass.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said a third suicide bomber had been killed by one of the explosions before he could detonated his own bomb. His body was found nearby.

It was a blow to Hezbollah's tight security measures in the area, which were strengthened following bombings last year. The army had also set up checkpoints around the southern suburb entrances.

'UNJUSTIFIABLE ATTACKS'

A series of bomb blasts struck Lebanon in 2013 and 2014, including attacks on Hezbollah strongholds. Most of them were claimed by Sunni militants in response to Hezbollah sending fighters to Syria to fight in support of Assad.

Hezbollah's involvement has brought many threats against it in Lebanon.

Security forces say they have foiled a number of attacks inside the country recently and dismantled terror cells. A security source said a man wearing a suicide vest was arrested in Tripoli on Thursday, and a bomb dismantled in the northern city.

The attacks drew a wave of condemnation across the country's political spectrum, including some of Hezbollah's opponents. 

Lebanonese Prime Minister Tammam Salam condemned the attacks as “unjustifiable”, and called for unity against “plans to create strife” in the country, urging officials to overcome their differences. France's foreign ministry also condemned the attacks.

The war in Syria, with which Lebanon shares a border of more than 300 km (190 miles), has ignited sectarian strife in the multi-confessional country, leading to bombings and fighting between supporters of the opposing sides in Syria.

Gun battles broke out in Tripoli last year in clashes that involved the army and Islamist militants, and regular infiltrations of Islamists from Syria into a Lebanese border town still draw army or Hezbollah fire.

The bombers also struck as Lebanese lawmakers held a legislative session for the first time in over a year. A political crisis has left the country without a president for 17 months, with the government failing to take even basic decisions.

Religious leaders warned last year that in the absence of a head of state, sectarian strife was threatening a country that was gripped for 15 years by its own civil war.

Palestinians attack Israeli soldiers, civilians with knives – one killed


Three Palestinians attacked Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and civilians in the Tel Aviv suburbs with knives on Monday and one of them was shot dead,Israeli authorities said. 

Now in its second month, the worst spate of violence since the 2014 Gaza war has been caused by tensions over Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, and by deadlocked talks with Israel on Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli military said troops approached two Palestinians at a petrol station near a checkpoint inside the West Bank boundary. One of them tried to stab a soldier and was shot dead, the army said. Palestinian officials said he was 16 years old. 

The second Palestinian was arrested, the Israeli army said.

Later, a 19-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Hebron stabbed three people in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion before being overpowered and arrested, Israeli police said. They said two of those stabbed, one an 80-year-old woman, were in serious condition. The third was slightly hurt.

In Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, another West Bank Palestinian in his 20s stabbed a 70-year-old man, seriously wounding him, and was shot and wounded by police, Israeli authorities said. 

At least 67 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since Oct. 1. Forty of them were armed mainly with knives, while others were shot during violent protests, Israel says. An Israeli air strike in retaliation for a cross-border rocket attack also killed a Gaza woman and her daughter.

Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings by Palestinians.

A growing number of visits by religious Jews to al-Aqsa plaza – Islam's holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and revered in Judaism as the location of two destroyed biblical temples – have stirred Palestinian allegations that Israel is violating a long-running agreement banning non-Muslim prayer there.

Israel has accused Palestinian officials of inciting the violence by spreading the allegations, which it says are false.

Knife-wielding Palestinians strike in West Bank, Jerusalem; two dead


Knife-wielding Palestinians attacked Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday and police said they had shot dead two assailants, in a further wave of violence spurred partly by tensions over a Jerusalem holy site. 

Four people, including another Palestinian assailant, were wounded in the incidents at an Israeli paramilitary police checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Nablus and at a tram station in East Jerusalem, ambulance officials said.

There were also violent confrontations on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah and in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians massed at the border and lobbed rocks at Israeli forces on the other side.

Around 40 demonstrators were wounded by Israeli fire, at least one critically, medics said. 

This month's welter of violence, the worst since the 2014 Gaza war, arose in part from religious and political tensions over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's walled Old City that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

A growing number of visits by religious Jews to the al-Aqsa plaza – Islam's holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and revered in Judaism as the location of two destroyed biblical temples – have stirred Palestinian allegations that Israel is violating a “status quo” under which non-Muslim prayer there is banned.

Israel says such allegations are false and that their voicing by Palestinian officials and circulation in Arab social media has been inciting the violence.

Since the latest unrest began on Oct. 1, at least 64 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israelis. Of those, 37 were assailants armed mainly with knives, Israel said, while others were shot during violent anti-Israel protests. Many were teens.

Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings. 

On Friday, two Palestinians used a motorcycle to reach an Israeli paramilitary police checkpoint at a junction near a Jewish settlement outside Nablus, dismounted and rushed at the troopers with knives drawn, a police spokeswoman said.

They lightly wounded one policeman before being shot by a policewoman, the spokeswoman said. One of the Palestinians was killed and the other critically wounded.

FRUSTRATION

In the second incident, police shot dead a Palestinian after he carried out a knife attack at a tram station near Jerusalem's Old City, medical officials and police said. 

They said two people, believed to be Israelis, were wounded in the incident. One was stabbed and another was hit by gunfire directed at the assailant.

Palestinians are also frustrated by the failure of numerous rounds of peace talks to secure them an independent state in territories, including the West Bank, that Israel captured in a 1967 war. The last phase of negotiations collapsed in 2014. The deadlock has bolstered the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza and advocates Israel's destruction. 

Jerusalem had in recent days been spared violence as it shifted to West Bank areas like the city of Hebron, site of the Cave of the Patriarchs, another shrine holy to Muslims and Jews.

Palestinians said Israel had announced it would declare the area around the cave compound off-limits to them after Friday's weekly Muslim prayers.

In a statement, the Israeli military said only that “several precautionary measures were taken in order to contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well being of Israelis” in Hebron, where there is a small Jewish settlement.

In West Bank stabbing attacks, 1 woman injured and assailant killed


An Israeli woman was stabbed in the back in the West Bank shortly after a Palestinian man who attempted to stab an Israeli soldier in Hebron was shot and killed.

The woman was moderately wounded in the Wednesday afternoon attack outside the Rami Levy supermarket at the Gush Etzion Junction, the Israeli military reported. The attacker was caught and detained by police.

The supermarket has been profiled in the international media for having both Jewish and Palestinian employees as well as shoppers.

In the Hebron attack an hour earlier, the alleged assailant was shot by security officials after attempting to stab a soldier near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that Israeli soldiers planted a knife on the Palestinian man.

It was the fourth attack in Hebron in four days.

Soldier and Eritrean migrant killed, 11 people wounded in Beersheba attack


An Israeli soldier and Eritrean migrant were killed and at least 11 people were wounded in a shooting and stabbing terror attack at the Central Bus Station in Beersheba.

Police said the Palestinian assailant stabbed a soldier and grabbed his M-16 rifle, then opened fire on the bus station.

Migrant Haftom Zarhum, 29, was also shot by police and died hours later at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Video images show him lying in a pool of his own blood being kicked by bystanders who thought he was an assailant. Eleven others were wounded in the terror attack.

It is not known how the attacker entered the bus station in the southern Israeli city with weapons, since security guards are posted at all entrances.

Four of the wounded are police officers, according to police, and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Bus and train service to the area was suspended.

Palestinian protesters rioted Sunday evening in the West Bank cities of Hebron and Tulkarem, throwing rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli soldiers and security officers.

Viral video puts Israelis and Palestinians at sharp odds


To Palestinians, the video shows a 13-year-old boy being left to die in the street as Israelis shout abuse at him. To Israelis, it shows a teenage knife attacker bleeding as police keep angry locals back and wait for an ambulance.

The two minutes of amateur footage has become one of the most divisive videos to emerge from a wave of violence sweeping Jerusalem, where clips of attacks are being shared at high speed on social media in what has been dubbed a smartphone intifada.

The problem, as with so much in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is about interpretation.

Palestinians watch the shaky video, with voices in Hebrew shouting “Die, son of a bitch,” and draw one set of conclusions that fuel anger and alarm. Israelis watch the same – and subsequent police CCTV footage showing the two Palestinian teenagers running through the streets with knives and attacking an Israeli boy – and come to totally different conclusions.

 

Posted by د . ناصر اللحام on Monday, October 12, 2015

 

“Both sides are living in different dimensions,” said Daniel Nisman, an intelligence and security analyst who runs the Levantine Group. “You can have an incident happen and it's interpreted in two completely different ways instantly.”

And it is also immediately shared with tens of thousands of people on social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook, where each community's outrage is reinforced in an echo chamber, driving an ever-deeper wedge between the two sides.

The video in question shows 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra, a Palestinian from Beit Hanina in northern Jerusalem, lying on the street in Pisgat Zeev, a nearby Jewish settlement, with his legs twisted behind him and blood coming from his head after being hit by a car.

It was taken on Monday, minutes after two Israelis, including a boy on a bicycle, were stabbed outside a nearby shop. Israeli police have accused Manasra and his 15-year-old cousin of carrying out the attacks. The family has denied they did it.

The footage shows police keeping passersby back while abuse is shouted. After a minute or so, an ambulance arrives, although it is not immediately clear if Manasra is treated. At one point he sits up, but the police tell him to lie back down and they can be seen checking him for explosives. No knife is visible.

OUTRAGE ON BOTH SIDES

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders quickly expressed outrage, referring to the boy and his cousin as having been “executed” by Israel “in cold blood.”

Ahmed's uncle told Reuters the boys had done nothing wrong, were not carrying knives and had gone to the area to rent video games. The boy was killed senselessly, he said.

In fact, Ahmed Manasra is still alive and is being treated in an Israeli hospital. His cousin was shot and killed by police at the scene. The Israeli boy stabbed remains in serious condition, while the second victim was lightly wounded.

Israel on Thursday released photographs showing Manasra sitting up in Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital, wearing green medical overalls and bandages around his head. In several of the pictures he is looking straight at the camera.

On Wednesday, two days after the first video emerged, Israeli police circulated closed-circuit TV footage showing the build up to the attack and the incident itself.

Two boys, one wearing the same t-shirt as Ahmed Manasra, can be seen chasing after a man with knives drawn. The man runs away and the boys turn towards some nearby shops. Another camera then captures them running along the street with knives drawn.

A third camera angle shows the moment they appear to stab the boy on the bicycle, and a fourth angle shows one of the stabbers running across the street before being shot by police.

CCTV DELAY

All the evidence presented by Israeli authorities pointing to the fact the teenage cousins carried out the stabbings has done little to quell Palestinian anger – the first video is still being watched much more than the CCTV footage.

Akram Attallah, a Palestinian political analyst who spoke before the CCTV images emerged, described the video of Manasra lying wounded as akin to the photograph of the Syrian boy lying dead on a beach in Greece.

“It was provoking to the national dignity of every Palestinian and therefore an immediate response was inevitable,” he said, suggesting it may have spurred other attacks.

From Israel's point of view, the way the videos of attacks are being distributed rapidly on social media, often whipping up a frenzy of anger, is a difficult phenomenon to counteract. Seven Israelis and 32 Palestinians, including 10 attackers, have been killed in a two-week surge in violence.

“The Israeli side that has the CCTV footage showing the actual attack had to wait two days before putting it out because of internal investigations,” said Nisman. “By then, the damage had already been done. It's too late.”

Abbas has not responded since the images of the boy alive in hospital were released. In online postings, many Palestinians have said they believe he is dead and a “martyr”. Asked for comment on Thursday, one Palestinian official said he now believed Ahmed was alive, but was still not convinced he and his cousin carried out the stabbings.

Israel says Facebook, YouTube videos encouraging Palestinian attacks


Israel said on Thursday it had asked Facebook and YouTube to remove videos it says have been encouraging Palestinian violence against Israelis in the past week.

Four Israelis have been killed in Jerusalem and the West Bank in the past week, and two Palestinians have been shot dead and scores injured in clashes with security services. Three suspected Palestinian assailants have been killed by police.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, providing an excerpt from a letter sent to Google Israel, whose parent company owns YouTube, said contact had also been made with Facebook.

“The videos depict recent terror attacks, praise the assailants and present Jews and Israelis in a hateful and racist manner, and since their publishing, three more attacks have taken place so far,” the letter said.

Spokespeople for Facebook and Google Inc said they could not comment on specific videos or contacts with governments.

“YouTube has clear policies that prohibit content like gratuitous violence, hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users,” said Google spokesman Paul Solomon.

The letter to Google included two YouTube video links, one of which has already been removed.

In one clip, archived on an Israeli news site, a song in Arabic-accented Hebrew calls for the killing of “Zionists” while another is an animation of the drive-by shooting of an Israeli couple killed in the West Bank a week ago.

Asked about the Israeli appeal, a Facebook spokeswoman said: “We want people to feel safe when using Facebook. There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook.”

The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Facebook had received complaints about anti-Arab postings.

But she said Facebook, as a rule, urged people “to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.”

Social media sites often flare-up when Israeli-Palestinian violence rises, such as the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, with fiery debates between users and sometimes even officials or fighters on either side, spreading across digital platforms.

A comment posted this week on the Facebook page of a prominent far-right Israeli settler activist called for people to use clubs to beat Arabs in Jerusalem's Old City, where two Israelis were stabbed to death.

Hushed Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation continues


In the aftermath of back-to-back terrorist attacks – one perpetrated by Jewish terrorists against a Palestinian family, killing an 18-month toddler; and one carried out by a Palestinian terrorist on a mother of three young children – Israeli and Palestinian security officials are seeking signs that the joint security cooperation itself not become a casualty of the growing tension.

Last Friday, the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, the ensuing flames killing 18-month old Ali and burning his mother and brother over most of their bodies. Israeli officials, including President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, wasted no time in issuing unequivocal, public condemnations while law enforcement was greenlighted to apply to the Jewish terror suspects the same controversial rules of administrative detention about which the Palestinians bitterly complain.

In an interview with the Israeli news platform YNet, long-time Palestinian leader and football association head Jibril Rajoub was more candid than his compatriots when he said the strong and unambiguous denunciation across Israeli society resonated with Palestinian leadership and played a major role in withholding calls for revenge. Most Palestinian officials accused the Israelis of systematic inactivity when it comes to investigating crimes committed by other Israelis.

So despite Rajoub’s words, there was no surprise at the almost immediate response of Molotov cocktails being thrown into Israeli traffic, one hitting a vehicle and causing severe burns to the young woman behind the wheel. This, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had ordered its security services in all regions of the West Bank to take precautions to ensure that local youths do not seek revenge in clashes with Israelis forces or civilians.

Referring to Israelis who live in Jewish communities located on land Israel acquired in the 1967 war that is claimed by Palestinians for the Palestinian state-in-formation, Maj. Gen. Adnan Damiri, spokesperson for PA internal security, told a news conference that, “Settlers who commit terrorist crimes against our people, especially those that came on Friday to burn and kill the Dawabsheh family in Nablus, have become from now on wanted by Palestinian security forces. They will be chased through the legal proceedings in order to defend the lives and property of our people,” Damiri said.

General Damiri went on to say that he had no confidence in the Israeli authorities to bring the toddler’s murderers to justice. If they are caught, he suggested in a thinly-veiled threat, the perpetrators will likely “only be imprisoned for a few hours or days.” Damiri finished by calling on Israel, the United States, the United Nations, and the international community to designate Jewish extremist groups as terrorist organizations.

“Even after Jewish colonial settlers attacked a village with Molotov-cocktails, burning to death one-and-half year-old Ali Dawabsheh and severely burning three of his family members, we have not been ordered to cooperate [with security coordination with the Israelis],” Major General Akram Rajoub, governor of Nablus, told The Media Line. “There is no shared committee to investigate what has happened – the Israelis never asked and they ignored our requests in this regard.”

Suggesting that in his experience the Israeli security forces will know exactly who conducted the attack but will not share such information with any PA investigation, Rajoub invoked a                                           political path, laying the blame well beyond those who threw the Molotov Cocktail: “The killer in this crime is not an individual, but the settler bloc – a group of terrorists, mass murderers and thieves of Palestinian land – which enjoys the full support and protection of the Israeli government,” Rajoub said, noting that under terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel is obligated to provide security for Palestinians living in the region designated “Area C” which is off-limits to the Palestinian security services.

“The attack would not have happened without the insistence of the Israeli government on continuing settlement activities and protecting settlers in the occupied territories,” Ghassan Daglas, chief of Nablus council’s file on settlements, told The Media Line. As a result, the PA has decided to go to the UN Security Council to request the adoption of a resolution condemning settler attacks against Palestinians “and ongoing development of Jewish communities in Palestinian territory,” Daglas said. The crime of the murder of Ali Dawabsheh will be put before the International Criminal Court as part of this move, he added.

In response to the threat of violence from Jewish extremists, groups of unarmed youths have begun volunteering to patrol Palestinian villages at night, Daglas confirmed. People from the villages of Burin, Qasra and Loban, all near Nablus, have initiated local patrols unaffiliated with any government body. In the event of a threat, volunteers will use mosque speakers to warn local residents and simultaneously send a message to the District Coordination Office (DCO) which communicates with the Israeli army.

Such communication used to be a regular occurrence. Mark Prowisor, former security chief for the Israeli community of Shilo, told The Media Line that prior to and during the early days of the second Intifada there were meetings between the security personnel of the Jewish communities and the chief of the Palestinian police, something he says no longer exists. But most of the Israelis interviewed for this article suggested that while collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian security officials continues in many forms as needed, even if Palestinians are unlikely to speak about.

Regarding the current incidents, Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told The Media Line that, “There has been no need until now to cooperate with the Palestinian police [regarding the firebomb on the roadway]. We are cooperating in the case of the Duma attack but the Palestinians will deny it. In the case of the Molotov attack against the Israeli, they don’t need it yet.”

Miri Ovadia, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Binyamin Regional Council, a post-1967 area of Jewish settlement on the West Bank (Samaria to the Israelis), paints a picture more positive than the Palestinian portrayal. She told The Media Line that, “We see normal level coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians in business, in joint construction projects in Jewish communities all over Israel [“joint” meaning Palestinians working in Israeli communities because it’s illegal for Israelis to work in the Palestinian territories.] Yet, she says there are many frequent attempts by Palestinians to harm Israelis on the roads.

For the past five years the PA has been complaining to the Israeli and American governments about the increasingly dangerous attacks by Jewish extremists in the West Bank, Daglas said, but claims the PA is powerless to prevent such crimes because they are not able to arrest Israeli citizens according to the Oslo Accords and placing CCTV cameras to watch for threats from Jewish communities is not permitted by the Israeli Army.

Spokesperson Ovadia, meanwhile, added that if she knew who the assailants of the Dawabsheh family were, “of course I would hand them over.”

Suspect confesses in French factory attack


The suspect accused of decapitating his boss during an attack on a gas factory in France has confessed, according to French news reports.

Yassin Salhi, 35, gave details about Friday’s attack and said he had a dispute with his boss at the U.S.-owned Herve Cornara factory near Lyon, the French daily Le Parisien reported Sunday. The father of three, who lives in suburban Lyon, told interrogators that he also had problems at home.

Salhi was transferred to Paris from Lyon on Sunday for further questioning.

Following the confession, Salhi’s wife and sister were released after being in police custody for nearly two days.

Salhi reportedly took two selfie photos with the severed head on the gate, which reportedly was covered with Arabic writing, and sent them via WhatsApp to a phone number in Canada.

French investigators believe that Salhi’s links with radical Islam are also related to the attack. Salhi had been known to French security services for “radicalization” but slipped through the net, the French news agency AFP reported.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday that Salhi had been investigated for links to radical Islamists in Lyon, but was not known to have participated in terrorist activities and did not have a criminal record, according to AFP.

In July 2011, two men identified as being of North African descent exchanged blows with a Jewish teenager aboard a train from Toulouse to Lyon. The teenager said one of the men, who he identified as Salhi, had made anti-Semitic remarks.

Al Shabaab kills at least 147 at Kenyan university; siege ends


Gunmen from the Islamist militant group al Shabaab stormed a university in Kenya and killed at least 147 people on Thursday, in the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the U.S. embassy was bombed in 1998.

The siege ended nearly 15 hours after the Somali group's gunmen shot their way into the Garissa University College campus in a pre-dawn attack, sparing Muslim students and taking many Christians hostage.

Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said four gunmen strapped with explosives were behind the attack, the same number that killed 67 people during the 2013 bloodbath at a shopping mall in Nairobi.

“The operation has ended successfully. Four terrorists have been killed,” Nkaissery told Kenyan media.

Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinet said the attackers had “shot indiscriminately” when they entered the university compound.

Police and soldiers surrounded the campus and exchanged gunfire with the attackers throughout the day but were repeatedly repelled. At least 79 people were injured and many airlifted to Nairobi, Kenya's national disaster body said.

Al Shabaab, who carried out the deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013, claimed responsibility for the raid on the campus in Garissa, a town 200 km (120 miles) from the Somali border.

The group has links to al Qaeda and a record of raids on Kenyan soil in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops to fight it in its home state of Somalia.

Al Qaeda bombed the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on the same day in 1998, killing 224 people and wounding thousands of people.

The United States condemned the latest attack and offered Kenya help in fighting al Shabaab.

One image provided by a local journalist showed a dozen blood-soaked bodies strewn across a single university classroom in Garissa. But some students managed to escape unaided.

“We heard some gunshots and we were sleeping so it was around five and guys started jumping up and down running for their lives,” an unnamed student told Reuters TV.

Authorities offered a 20 million shilling ($215,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of a man called Mohamed Mohamud, described as “most wanted” and linked to the attack.

Police chief Boinet said Kenya had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on four regions near the Somalia border.

TOURISM AND RELIGION

Al Shabaab, which seeks to impose its own harsh version of sharia law, has separated Muslims from Christians in some of its previous raids in Kenya, notably late last year in attacks on a bus and at a quarry.

Its repeated raids, together with attacks on churches by home-grown Islamist groups, have strained the cordial relations between Kenya's Muslim and Christian communities.

Having killed more than 200 people in Kenya over the past two years, Al Shabaab has also brought the tourism industry to its knees.

Thursday's attack undermined a renewed drive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to persuade foreigners the country is now safe to visit.

On Wednesday, he had urged Kenyans abroad to help attract tourists back despite the wave of militant violence, criticizing a warning from Australia of a possible attack in Nairobi and an advisory from Britain urging its citizens to avoid most coastal resorts.

Grace Kai, a student at the Garissa Teachers Training College near the university, said there had been warnings that an attack in the town could be imminent.

“Some strangers had been spotted in Garissa town and were suspected to be terrorists,” she told Reuters.

“Then on Monday our college principal told us … that strangers had been spotted in our college… On Tuesday we were released to go home, and our college closed, but the campus remained in session, and now they have been attacked.”

Many Kenyans living in the crime-ridden frontier regions blame the government for not doing enough to protect its citizens from the militants.

What Pakistan wants: its people or terrorists


Museum of death

Rows and rows of men stood in straight lines, hands folded in front of their chests, offering a Namaz-e-Janaza (prayer before burial) on Wednesday.  Some held their chests tighter as if to push back something that wanted to burst out; a howl, or a murmur or an injured heart. Some pretended to be strong and stood erect, ignoring the sound of those who wept through the prayers. Peshawar became a city of small coffins, too heavy to be buried.

The school walls were numb with thousands of bullet marks, and blood sprayed across. ‘These used to be freshly painted walls,’ a military officer showing me around said. The teachers' office was black like charcoal. One teacher was set on fire as she tried to stop militants from hurting the children, a student Ahmed who witnessed and survived his injuries at the Lady Reading Hospital said. ‘Blood dripped from her body, as her body was enflamed,’ he said. He said the militants also tried to slit throats of children. The principle of the school was shot and her throat was slit.

[12-year-old survivor: 'I witnessed the Peshawar massacre']

In the auditorium where most of the children were killed, broken chairs were strewn across the floor, slippery with blood. Books were wet in blood. School bags red with blood. Pencils boxes, broken eyeglasses and school shoes had been tossed around; a sight that preserved scenes from the assault. In one corner, there was a large dirty cloth with a heap of body parts; tiny fingers, portion of a palm, a small foot and some parts unrecognizable.

The military officer, who was helping a select group of journalists tour this place, broke into tears and said, “we have failed our children.” Too little, too late, I thought and said, “yes you have.”

Taliban released a statement saying they attacked Army Public School because these children were to grow up to become soldiers in Pak Military. The fact is although the Army Public School chain – with many branches across the country – is run by the military, it works like a private school. Many of its students are not children of military officials, but doctors, engineers, journalists, laborers and daily wage workers. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and aspire to all kinds of careers ahead of their school years.

One survivor, Ahsan Ali, 14 year old said he wanted to be an astronaut. He was shot in the leg and shoulder. After three bullets and a lot of bleeding, he lost consciousness, but he recalls the last scenes before that. “My friends and I hid behind the door, but they saw us, grabbed us by our arms and threw us on the ground. Then started shooting,” he said all his friends died, and being the only one saved among his friends, he has a renewed purpose in life. “I will take revenge from the Taliban. I will murder them, like they murdered my friends.”

Last week after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, when Malala Yusufzai saw her blood stained uniform again displayed at Oslo's Nobel Peace Centre, she broke into tears. There are more than 130 such uniforms stained with blood now. But their story is different from Malala's. Many mothers in Peshawar told me their children are too afraid to go to school. ‘Mama please don’t ask us to go to school,’ they say. The fear among younger children and anger among the teenage boys may be temporary, but the trauma has transformed their minds. Malala's campaign for child education has bigger challenges in countries where children are used as weapons of war. 

Pakistan’s inexcusable security failure

Their beards, long thick curls are easily identifiable in a city like Peshawar. No one can pull off that appearance without turning heads. They came with heavy weapons and suicide vests, at an un-busy hour. It isn’t very difficult to spot terrorists looking like that in a city that has strict security check point at every corner, including the neighborhoods.

One of my friends who lives in the Cantonment area has to present his National ID card at a security point every day when he goes home. They know his face, his name, his car number, but still ask his identification every day.

These efficient check posts did not notice large men with appearances uniquely like that of the Taliban when eight of them walked down the street from their vehicle to the school, where they climbed the walls, shot the guards and broke in.

One excuse for this security overlaps the state Military presented was that the militants had set fire to their vehicle before entering school, to distract security personnel nearby.

That excuse shows sheer lack of efficiency. Pakistan has no dearth of experience in facing sudden, large-scale attacks in unexpected locations, and the military soldiers took about 7.5 hours to handle half a dozen militants.

On the day of 148 funerals – mostly for children ages 6 to 17 – Pakistan’s PM lead an All party conference bringing together political players across the board, including his staunch opponent Imran Khan. Khan, who dramatically rose to popularity in Pakistan, is said to be under the wing of the country’s military and has spent several months bringing hundreds of thousands of supporters to the streets protesting to oust Sharif for corruption. Since their coming together on one table seemed unlikely only days ago, this meeting was taken optimistically by many Pakistanis who are frustrated with political instability in the country. 

Unfortunately the meeting did not produce much, except a plan to form a counter-terrorism team. Many such teams have been formed before, during many such debilitating times, and none have been effective. Such horrific attacks require quick remedies not tedious commissions or brainstorming sessions that in the past have proven to waste time. Despite the fact that the prime minister said he will make no distinction between good, and bad Taliban, he did not present any plan to deal with all the banned terrorist groups the state has been harboring for more than a decade. It did not call out on militant groups like LeT, JuD, LeJ, JeM, SSP and ASWJ, which are responsible for anti-India sentiment and sectarian violence of massive scale. That was supposed to be the first and foremost step. Of course, it’s not easy to kill your own creation, but Pakistan needs to choose its friends and enemies.

As all of India mourned with Pakistan, from Indian Prime Minister Modi sharing his condolences, to India’s school children who observed two minutes of silence during school assemblies, to Bollywood celebrities who went on social media calling out on Taliban brutality in bold tweets and letters, a Pakistani court granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the man accused of masterminding the most brutal attack on India in Mumbai, in 2008, that killed 166 people. It’s a gross kind of response from Pakistan.

Later, television channels that are often accused of biasses towards military interest ran back to back panel discussions, twisting facts to accuse India, Israel and the U.S. for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. One TV anchor, Mubashir Lucman, displayed an image of a New York Times correspondent Adam B. Ellick, calling him an American agent and one of the terrorists in the Peshawar school attack. These kind of conspiracy theories have emerged from every horrific incident in Pakistan, and they efficaciously fuel confusion among the masses, dividing the country between pro Taliban and anti Taliban sentiment. Weakening their hearts and minds to see with clarity and keep them from uniting against terrorism.

To question the ills, one needs a will

Pakistan, in it’s thick and thin, has proven to be a terrorism apologist state. Politicians do it for politics and the military does it to maintain their strategic assets. What the Pakistani military needs to be asked is why are these strategic assets needed? If India is a threat, is Pakistan's military so weak that it cannot handle the threat on its own? With a budget of $6.98 billion in a crumbling economy, where common man suffers sparing a piece of his bread, a portion of his shelter to make a contribution to the military, what kind of security does the military give back to its people? Why does a nuclear state need to harbor terrorists and proxies as strategic assets? Can Pakistan as a state justify its failures?

Pakistani politicians, military and public administration has successfully been able to dissolve public anger and has dissipated important questions, by making sentimental statements, blaming the US, blaming India, blaming Israel, blaming the ‘bad Taliban’, playing as apologists for either the ‘good Taliban’ or the good militants.

Pakistani military claims to have killed scores of terrorists in the recent operation called Zarb-e-Azb, has released no names or identification of these terrorists. This military operation has not worked, just like other military operations after which militants in the country have always reemerged from a new place with new capacities to disrupt the state. Two major attacks including Karachi Airport attach and the Peshawar school attack both after the operation in Waziristan are the proof.

On Thursday, Pakistani Taliban – the group that took credit for the massacre – released a statement saying they will target more children and continue to attack all civilian in Pakistan. Ofcourse they will. It’s easy for them in a country where the state has yet not decided whether it wants its people or its terrorists.

Survivor in Pakistan: ‘I witnessed the Peshawar massacre’


This is the testimony of 12-year-old Ali, survivor of the Peshawar massacre, as recorded by journalist Kiran Nazish. This transcription has been edited for clarity.

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Salam, my name is Ali. I am twelve years old. 

We were in between lessons during our first class, when we suddenly heard the sound of shooting. It was very aggressive noise. We did not have time to even imagine what it could be.

Within moments as the noise got closer to our class room our teacher told us to hide beneath our desks.

“Get under your desk, fast, get under your desk,” she said. Some of us cowered. Some of us stood confused and panicked. The whole classroom started asking our teacher “what is happening”.

Screaming children from the classrooms next door shocked us. It scared me so much, I could not even scream.

Our teacher was just about to lock the door when three militants stormed in the door.

They were already shooting, and I saw my teacher and class fellows immediately get hurt. Some of my friends started falling down (after being hit). Many of us went under our tables.

I knew I was going to die and started crying. Everyone was crying but no one (in my class) tried running away.

They shot my class fellows in the head, in the chest, on their arms, on the legs and in the stomach. Everyone was on the ground. Maybe, they knew many of us were alive. Then they started shooting straight in the skull. 

Bullets went over our heads. My best friend and class bench partner Irfan Ullah told me, “pretend we are dead.” I was shaking with fear. Our seats are in the last row of the classroom.

“Lay still, Ali, Lay still” he whispered to me. I was turned upside down. Everything happened very fast. I knew it was the terrorist. I knew it was Taliban.

My friend also got hit with bullets. I don't know which parts of his body but he didn't speak. I could hear him breath next to me.  

One terrorist screamed to the other, “Is that one dead?” and then I heard bullets and more shots. I felt like I was dead. 

They spoke in Pashto and were wearing shalwar kameez. All of them had long brown beards.

When they left the room, I whispered to Irfan, but he didn't respond. I thought he is playing dead. I continued (to play dead).  

I was very scared they will come back. I don't know when my friend died. He saved my life. 

I thought I was dead but my heart was beating very fast. I couldn't move.

I played dead for several hours. When the soldiers came to rescue, I could not move and remained still. I did not know if they were real soldiers. And I could not speak. I was very scared.  

I heard constant noise of bullets outside my class but didn't have the strength to open my eyes. There was a huge explosion. I thought the world will explode today.  

When someone picked me up I kept my eyes closed. It was the army soldiers.

I started crying. They took me to my parents.

I have come here to the hospital. So many of my schoolmates are here who are short of blood. I am offering my blood for donation.  

My parents insisted that we should go home. They are worried about me. They are sad. They are scared. I am scared too. But I am worried about my brothers and sisters who are at the hospital too.

These Taliban are evil. 

I can't believe I am alive.

If my country needs me, I am here to offer my life.

I will fight these terrorists who killed my friends. I will not forgive them. God is watching.

Palestinians in West Bank show support for attacks against Jews


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

Responding to Tuesday’s attack in a Jerusalem synagogue that took the lives of four Jews during morning prayers, some Palestinians in the West Bank say they believe it to be a “natural response” to recent events and the fault of the Israeli government.

The two Palestinian assailants also wounded nine others before being shot dead themselves.

The killings are adding to the already soaring tension in Jerusalem following Sunday’s discovery of the body of a 32-year old Palestinian bus driver who drove for the Israeli cooperative Egged. Despite the finding of suicide following an autopsy conducted by Israel’s Abu Khabir Forensic Institute in the presence of a Palestinian physician, people claiming to be eyewitnesses insist that Yousef Al-Rimouni was strangled by Jewish Israelis and that his body bears signs of a struggle  – a charge that continues to resonate throughout the Palestinian street.

The Palestinian doctor, Dr. Saber Al Aloul, who was involved in the autopsy, was unavailable for comment.  

The prompt condemnation of the attack by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently done little to assuage the anger on the streets of the West Bank, a mood typified by Jericho taxi driver Raed Seif who told The Media Line that those who call it suicide are “big liars.” Seif said he was “happy” to hear of the attack, saying, “It’s great. It’s very great because this is the price for Israel continuing with its occupation and the disgusting things they do to us.”

Ramallah resident Huda Al-Refai says Al-Rimouni was just trying to make ends meet and they killed him because “they are thirsty for Palestinian blood.”

“This operation is a normal reaction against these Zionists for killing our people,” she told The Media Line. “This is our land and it’s our right to resist and defend ourselves,” she added.

Ala, who works at a supermarket in Al-Azaria, says hearing about the deaths of the Jews this morning gave him a little comfort after hearing about Al-Rimouni. “They deserve it for killing Yousef,” he said.

Next door, at Abu Shadi’s popular restaurant, he listened to the details of the killings on the Voice of Israel radio as he fried falafel. “This is no surprise,” he told The Media Line. “The problem is that the international media will say ‘poor Jews,’ while they accept the Israeli lie that [Yousef] killed himself,” he said.

Palestinian journalist Qassem Qutaiba says it’s clear by looking at people’s expressions in the city of Bethlehem, they are angry over the death of Yousef.  “They have gone into revenge mode because they can’t stand that he was killed by settlers, a suicide was announced and the world bought it.”

Qutaiba suggests that what is new and alarming is the increase in [Arab] Jerusalemites and Palestinians from 1948 engaging Israelis since it was not seen in the previous Intifadas [uprisings]. “This is very dangerous,” he said, noting that both groups have Israeli identity cards and can therefore move about freely inside Israel.   

Clashes – often violent – between Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem neighborhoods and Israeli forces have been on-going in the city for more than a month. Palestinians accuse the Israeli government of  allowing “right wing Jews” to enter the holy site known to the Arab world as Al-Haram Al-Sharif to Jews, the Temple Mount while Muslims were prevented from access to the holy compound during the recent period.

Tension has increased, too, as the result of stabbings; two incidents where Palestinian drivers drove their vehicles into pedestrian Jews; and the deaths of two Palestinian girls.

Spokesperson for the Palestinian security forces Lt. Adnan Damiri says the time is now for the people of Israel to stand up to their government and demand peace. “I’m calling on all Israelis to agree to the two-state solution, to end the occupation which without, there cannot be peace,” he told The Media Line adding that the region is turning into “hell.”  

PA President Abbas has so far withstood pressure to end security coordination with Israel, often cited as the most significant achievement in the Palestinian-Israeli relationship since the Oslo Accords in 1993 — but something Giacaman says “is not easy to do.”

He warns that the Palestinians might revolt against their own security forces should they try to prevent West Bank residents from engaging in clashes with Israel, which is what they are obligated to do according to the Oslo agreement. “This would be a way of showing lack of confidence in the leadership,” he said.

The latest escalation follows separate meetings in Jordan between US Secretary of State John Kerry, King Abdullah II, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas. While the Israeli Prime Minister made the gesture of lifting the age restrictions for admittance to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the resulting calm did not last once word that Al-Rimouni’s body was found in the back of his bus he drives spread.

Ramallah resident Tala Abu Rahma is not surprised by violence from both sides.

“[Violence] is never a solution, but people are angry beyond measure at these terrible daily injustices, and when you think about our lives, can you really blame them?” she asked.

North of Ramallah in the village of Ein Senea, 26-year old Eman Ahmad says the conflict is turning into a religious one. “They attack the Palestinians who go to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque, but the difference is we are under occupation and they are not. They have the power and we don’t,” she told The Media Line.

Referring to the Palestinian teen that was burned alive by Israelis who are now in prison for the crime, she says she is not surprised that Israeli police called Al- Rimouni’s death a suicide because “it’s the last thing they need after Mohammad Abu Khdeir.”

The military wing of Hamas has threatened to launch attacks against Israel, which Ahmad says would not be wise. “The two-state solution will only ever happen if the United States or the United Nations forces Israel to do so.”

Jericho resident Munther Abdallah does not condone violence on either side. He calls the death of Al-Rimouni, “stupid, violent and terror.”

“They should not attack someone who is praying, Jewish or otherwise, because I think this would justify the other side to go and kill Muslims while they pray,” the 55-year old told The Media Line. He says both sides are facing a “dangerous situation.” He doesn’t know what, but he says negotiations and violence is not the solution.

Meanwhile, Tala Abu Rahma says that grief is a difficult thing. “Losing people we love is never easy or forgivable,” she said.

Jewish man beaten at Brooklyn train station in apparent anti-Semitic attack


Three assailants beat an identifiably Jewish man while shouting anti-Semitic epithets at a Brooklyn train station.

A bystander who intervened in the attack on Monday in the Williamsburg neighborhood also was attacked, the New York Daily News reported, citing the website JPUpdates.com. 

The Jewish man, who was identified as a tourist from Israel, was beaten with his own umbrella after he discovered them trying to take something out of his pocket. They called him a ‘dirty bloody Jew’ and a ‘f—ing Jew’ during the attack, according to the newspaper.

The attackers fled on a Manhattan-bound train.

The New York Police Department’s hate crimes unit is investigating the incident, The Associated Press reported.

Palestinian man kills one in Jerusalem car attack


A Palestinian rammed his car into pedestrians in central Jerusalem on Wednesday in the second attack of its kind in two weeks, killing one person and fuelling concerns of another Palestinian uprising.

The driver, who was shot dead by police, was identified by an Israeli security official as Ibrahim Akari from East Jerusalem, and the militant Islamist group Hamas claimed responsibility for what it termed “the heroic running-over operation”.

With tensions soaring in Jerusalem over access to a compound housing Islam's third-holiest site, where biblical Jewish temples once stood, Jordan denounced what it described as Israel's violations in the city and said it was recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

A Facebook page that appeared to be Akari's included praise for a Palestinian shooting a week ago that wounded an Israeli activist who advocates lifting a de facto Israeli ban on Jewish prayer at the sensitive site revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to change the delicate status quo at the compound, which houses al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, and have mounted daily stone-throwing protests at the site.

Jordan oversees religious administration at the site. Its state news agency said the decision to withdraw the ambassador was taken “in protest at the increasing and unprecedented Israeli escalation in the Noble Sanctuary”.

The move comes days after the two countries marked the 20th anniversary of a landmark peace accord.

The road rampage was the second in two weeks in Jerusalem, and the target was again a stop along its light railway, which links Arab and Jewish areas in what Israel has portrayed as a symbol of unity in its contested capital.

Police and witnesses said the driver slammed his white van into three paramilitary border policemen crossing a street straddling a Palestinian neighborhood and an ultra-Orthodox Jewish area and then into people at the railway stop.

Crashing to a halt at a nearby junction, he emerged from the van and began striking at pedestrians with a metal pipe.

“A border policeman, taking the initiative, drew his weapon and eliminated the terrorist,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told reporters at the scene.

Medical officials said one person later died in hospital and about a dozen people were injured.

In Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said the attack was a response to “continued Zionist crimes” against al-Aqsa.

On Oct. 22, a Palestinian motorist drove through a nearby train station, killing a baby girl and a woman before he was shot dead by Israeli police.

Violence has been mounting in Jerusalem since a Palestinian teenager was burned alive in July by accused Jewish attackers avenging the killing of three Israeli youngsters in the West Bank.

There have been daily Palestinian street protests in East Jerusalem, raising Israeli concern of a new Intifada, or uprising, after the collapse of U.S.-brokered statehood talks last April and nearly a decade after a previous revolt ended.

Hours before the road attack, Israeli security forces hurling stun grenades clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers at al-Aqsa mosque – a confrontation that has played out frequently over the past several weeks.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem, Noah Browning in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Sonya Hepinstall

Belfast synagogue vandalized on back-to-back days


A window was smashed on successive days at a synagogue in Belfast, Ireland.

The vandalism at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation took place on Friday night and the following day, the BBC reported. In the latter incident, the replacement window was shattered.

Police are treating the vandalism as a religious hate crime.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was “totally unacceptable” for places of worship to be targeted, the BBC reported.

Gerry Kelly, a member of the legislative assembly, condemned the attack.

“There can be no place for attacks on any place of worship, regardless of the religion or denomination,” Kelly said, according to Belfast’s News Letter. “The local Jewish community makes a valuable contribution to our society and there is no justification for hate crimes.”

It was not clear whether the attack was related to Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

Sinai-based militants claim responsibility for bus blast in Egypt; Israel prepared to treat victims


The Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said on Tuesday the bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt's Sinai that killed two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver on Sunday was a suicide attack carried out by one of its fighters, and threatened more strikes against economic targets.

The attack on the bus, which was travelling to Israel from St. Catherine's Monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, was the first assault on tourists since President Mohamed Morsi's ouster spurred an Islamist insurgency.

“Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has successfully sacrificed one of its heroes to detonate the bus headed toward the Zionists, and this comes as part of our economic war against this regime of traitors,” the group said in a statement.

Islamist militancy has risen sharply in Egypt, including the largely lawless region adjoining Israel and the Gaza Strip, since the army deposed Islamist Mursi in July, following mass protests against his rule.

Since then the army has launched a wide-scale operation in Sinai targeting Islamist militants, and security forces launched a crackdown on Islamists and Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood which authorities labeled a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood denies any links to violence.

“With God's will we will be watching this treacherous gang of infiltrators and we will target their economic interests in all places in order to paralyse their hands from (hurting) Muslims,” the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis statement said.

The attack marks a shift in strategy among Sinai's militants to targeting “softer” tourist and economic targets. Egypt's vital tourism industry has already been hit hard by three years of political turmoil and street protests.

Islamist militants launch near-daily attacks on security forces in northern Sinai, while the south, with its many Red Sea resorts, had been seen as a relatively safe tourist destination.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for several bombings, including an attempt to kill the interior minister in Cairo last year. The organization also said it was behind a missile attack on a military helicopter last month that killed five soldiers.

The bus attack revived memories of an Islamist uprising in the 1990s that often targeted tourists and took years for then-President Hosni Mubarak to crush.

In 2004, a bombing at the Sinai resort of Taba killed 34 people, including Israeli tourists.

Army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was behind Mursi's ouster, is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency soon.

Sisi had hoped a political roadmap unveiled after Mursi's overthrow would stabilize Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal, a busy world shipping channel on the Sinai's western edge.

Israel preparing to treat any casualties from Egypt border blast

Israeli police said they were preparing medics to treat any casualties from an explosion on Sunday in Egypt's Sinai peninsula near the border with Israel.

“The event is happening on the Egyptian side, and we are making our preparations,” a police spokesman said. An Egyptian army source said an explosion on a tourist bus wounded four people. (Reporting by Dan Williams, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

Reporting by Asma Alsharif and Ali Abdelatty; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

Nasrallah warns Israel that Hezbollah will avenge commander’s killing


Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday vowed to avenge Israel for the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in Beirut earlier this month.

Hassan Laqqis, who fought in Syria's civil war for the Lebanese Shi'ite militia, was shot dead outside his home on December 4.

A previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek brigade, claimed responsibility at the time of the attack, but Hezbollah quickly blamed Israel, with which it fought a 34-day war in 2006.

“All the indicators and clues points to the Israeli enemy,” Nasrallah said, in his first public comments since the attack.

“Our killer is known, our enemy is known, our adversary is known … When the facts point to Israel, we accuse it,” he said in televised remarks to supporters in southern Beirut.

Israel has denied any role in the shooting and hinted that the motive may have been Hezbollah's military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his war with mainly Sunni Muslim rebels.

The 2-1/2 year-old civil war in Syria has polarized the Middle East between Sunni Muslim powers, such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab states who support the rebels, and Shi'ite Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, who back Assad.

The president's Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Hezbollah has sent several thousand fighters to Syria, helping to turn the tide in Assad's favor this year. But Nasrallah said on Friday that would not prevent it from avenging the killing of Laqqis.

“If the Israelis think … that Hezbollah is busy and that Israel will not pay the price, I say to them today, 'You are wrong',” he said.

“The killers will be punished sooner or later and the blood of our martyrs – whether large or small – will not be wasted. Those who killed will not be safe anywhere in the world. Vengeance is coming.”

The open role of Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian civil war and the steady flow of Lebanese Sunnis joining the anti-Assad rebels have fuelled sectarian strife in Lebanon.

Car bombs killed dozens of people in Beirut in August and a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital killed at least 25 people last month.

But Nasrallah mocked critics who he said blamed Lebanon's woes – from sectarian tension to the flooding of a road during winter storms – on Hezbollah's intervention in Syria.

“Why isn't there a government? Because Hezbollah entered Syria. Why haven't we held elections? Hezbollah is in Syria. Why is the economic situation like this? Hezbollah is in Syria. Why did the tunnel on the airport road become a lake? Because Hezbollah is in Syria. This of course isn't logical.”

Reporting by Laila Basasm and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Mike Collett-White