Middle East Roundup: April 3, 2017

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With Passover in mind, Jerusalem security bolstered after attacks

(JNS.org) Following two Palestinian stabbing attacks in Jerusalem’s Old City within a week, a senior officer from the Israel Police has warned of a possible increase in terror attacks during the upcoming Passover holiday.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit Jerusalem during Passover, prompting security officials to take extra precautions before the festivities amid heightened tensions in the capital city.

Commander Doron Turgeman, who oversees security operations in the Old City, told Army Radio Sunday, “Holidays and festivals over the years have caused higher tensions and sensitivity and are a preferred period for attacks….Ahead of the festival, there will be wider deployment based on assessments of the situation. We are here to enable the holiday to go ahead as usual.”

The commander’s warning came after two Israeli civilians and a police officer were injured Saturday in a stabbing attack by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist in the Old City.



Palestinian terrorist hosted by left-wing Jewish group, vows to keep fighting Israel

(JNS.org) Convicted Palestinian terrorist and feminist activist Rasmea Odeh was granted a platform to denounce Israel Sunday by the far-left organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Odeh’s appearance at JVP’s Chicago conference came a week after she accepted a plea bargain revoking her American citizenship and forcing her to leave the country for failing to disclose to U.S. immigration authorities her conviction and imprisonment in Israel, over her involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem bombing attack that killed two Hebrew University students.

At the anti-Israel event, Odeh drew parallels between her case and the creation of the state of Israel, stating, “My heart screams against injustice. I thought when I came to [the] U.S., and made it my second home, it would be the last station in a journey of struggle that I share with my Palestinian people in response to the Nakba (“catastrophe,” an Arab term for Israel’s 1948 War of Independence) and the occupation of 1967.”

“Now I face a similar, unjust nakba—[I am] forced to leave the country and the life that I’ve built over 23 years in the U.S.,” she said.

Odeh, 69, also vowed to continue to fight against Israel.

“I will continue my struggle…for the establishment of the democratic state on the entirety of the historic land of Palestine,” she said.



Likud lawmaker challenges ban on Knesset members ascending Temple Mount

(JNS.org) Member of Knesset Yehuda Glick (Likud), a well-known advocate of Jewish access to the Temple Mount, petitioned Israel’s High Court last week in an effort to force the Israeli government to allow lawmakers to ascend Judaism’s holiest site before the Passover holiday.

Glick’s petition asks Israel’s attorney general to limit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s authority to intervene on operational police decisions, and comes in response to the implementation of an 18-month ban on Knesset members visiting the Temple Mount.

Glick petitioned the High Court a day after reports that Netanyahu agreed to lift the ban three months from now, following the Jewish and Muslim holiday seasons.

“The situation is insufferable and very strange, where all the people of the world can go in [to the Temple Mount] except for Knesset members,” Glick stated in his petition.

The visitation ban was implemented in response to an increase in Palestinian terror attacks in 2015. Palestinian leaders claimed the violence was agitated by Jewish calls to ascend the sensitive holy site, which is also home to the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The status quo on the Temple Mount forbids non-Muslims from praying at the site.


Temple Mount sifting project halted after major backer pulls funds

(JNS.org) The Temple Mount Sifting Project, an archaeological initiative to uncover rare artifacts buried in soil removed from the Jerusalem holy site in the 1990s, has been halted due to budget constraints.

The project issuing a statement on its closure Sunday, citing “lack of funding and differences between the directors of the Sifting Project and the Ir David Foundation.”

A year after the sifting project commenced, the Ir David Foundation had agreed to finance the operation, and did so for 12 years before pulling the funding in March.

A spokesperson for the foundation, Ze’ev Orenstein, said “about 12 years ago the Ir David organization helped save the earth that was excavated from the Temple Mount…since that time the group voluntarily funded the sifting, processing and research of the earth to the tune of millions of shekels. We hope that a way will be found for this national and international project to continue.”

Throughout its duration, the project involved the participation of more than 250,000 volunteers who helped sift through the salvaged Jerusalem dirt to uncover tens of thousands of small archaeological objects and fragments.


Gaza training accident injures 3 terrorists, Israel intercepts Hamas-bound wetsuits

(JNS.org) Three Hamas members were injured in an explosion near the town of Rafah Monday in what the Gaza-ruling Palestinian terror group’s Health Ministry described as a training accident at a terrorist base.

Ashraf al-Qidre, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said “three men sustained varied levels of injuries resulting from an accident near Tel a-Sultan, west of Rafah.”

According to Hamas-run media in Gaza, the large explosion occurred at a site belonging to the terror group’s “military wing.”

A day before the purported Hamas training accident, Egypt destroyed two Hamas terror tunnels running from Gaza into the Egyptian Sinai.

Further, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced Monday that security inspectors thwarted the smuggling of approximately 30 professional wetsuits suspected of being bound for Gaza-based terrorists, including Hamas’s naval commando unit.

“The suits were camouflaged in a seemingly innocent consignment of clothing and sports equipment that were imported from overseas by a supplier in the Palestinian Authority and then sent to the Gaza Strip without the necessary coordination,” the Defense Ministry said. “The shipment has been impounded and an investigation has begun to locate those involved in the smuggling.”



John Ford Coley set to rock Israels Golan Heights in April

(JNS.org) Grammy-nominated rock artist John Ford Coley is scheduled to headline a special concert dubbed “The Texan ‘Eclectic’ Rock Show” in Israel’s scenic Golan Heights April 13, at the Kfar Haruv Peace Vista overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Coley’s Golan Heights rock concert will feature songs from throughout his career, and performances by American songwriter Shakeh and harpist Susan Mashiyama. Proceeds from the concert will be donated to ILAN Israel, a nonprofit that assists special needs children and their families.

“I have always been in love with Israel, even as a young child,” Coley said. “It fascinates me, captivates me, and stirs my imagination and soul. When asked to do this show for ILAN, I got excited to do something so worthwhile for children.”

The concert will coincide with the release of Coley’s new double album, “Eclectic,” which includes a new instrumental track dedicated to Holocaust survivors called, “Quiet Victory.”

Coley is best known for his role in a rock duo with Danny Wayland “England Dan” Seals and has earned multi-platinum, platinum and gold records around the world, as well as No. 1 hits in Israel.



Palestinian terrorist stabs 3 in Jerusalems Old City, Hamas applauds attack

(JNS.org) Two Israeli civilians and a police officer were injured Saturday during a stabbing attack by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The terrorist, 17-year-old Ahmad Gazal of Nablus, was chased down by the Israeli Border Police and shot dead after attempting to stab the apprehending officers.

Paramedics from Magen David Adom arrived at the scene to treat the two civilians, ages 18 and 23, who had each been stabbed in the torso. Medics also treated the injured officer, who had been stabbed in the thigh.

Moments before carrying out the terror attack, the terrorist took photographs of himself on the Temple Mount and posted them on his personal Facebook page. Following the attack, Hamas-affiliated social media accounts celebrated him as a heroic “martyr.”

Saturday’s attack was the second such incident in Jerusalem’s Old City within a week. A female Palestinian terrorist attempted to stab security officers with a pair of scissors and was shot dead by police at the Old City’s Damascus Gate March 29.



Archaeologists discover gigantic dolmen in Israels Upper Galilee

(JNS.org) Archaeologists are stunned by the uncovering of what they described as a “gigantic” dolmen in Israel’s Upper Galilee region, saying the stone’s discovery contradicts current theories regarding the sophistication of the Bronze Age.

The dolmen—a 10-foot-wide, 6-foot-long flat stone weighing 50 tons—was found by archaeologists laid across several upright stones like a tabletop, and features several drawings engraved on its underside, reported Fox News.

The discovery is one of more than 400 large stones found in a field adjacent to a nearby kibbutz, and is the first dolmen unearthed in the Middle East featuring artistic engravings. It was uncovered as part of an archaeological initiative headed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), in partnership with Hebrew University and Tel Hai College.

IAA archaeologist Uri Berger said of the dolmen’s discovery, “No parallels exist for these shapes in the engraved rock drawings of the Middle East, and their significance remains a mystery.”

The dolmen’s discovery challenges existing theories regarding civilization during the Bronze Age, which had left little archaeological evidence of cities and large settlements.

“The gigantic dolmen…is without doubt an indication of public construction that required a significant amount of manpower over a considerable period of time,” said Prof. Gonen Sharon of Tel Hai College’s Galilee Studies Program.


Muslim baroness calls on government to prosecute British IDF soldiers

(JNS.org) A former prominent British Muslim politician has called on the U.K. government to prosecute British citizens who volunteer to fight in the Israeli military.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a former Conservative party cabinet member who resigned from her post in 2014 because the U.K. did not condemn Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, said she is seeking to eliminate a loophole allowing Brits to serve in state armies like those of Israel or Pakistan as well as non-state entities like the Islamic State terror group.

“If you go out there and fight for any group, you will be subject to prosecution when you get back. If you go out and fight for [Bashar] Assad, I presume, under our law, that is okay. That can’t be right,” Warsi said in an interview with Middle East Eye.

“The only reason we allow the loophole to exist is because of the IDF, because we are not brave enough to say if you hold British citizenship, you make a choice. You fight for our state only,” she added.


Israeli court extends remand of teen behind US bomb threats

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israel’s Rishon Lezion Magistrates’ Court extended the remand of an Ashkelon teen accused of making more than 100 bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the U.S. during the last two months.

Police said Thursday they were keeping the suspect, 19, who also holds American citizenship, in custody for another week and placing his father under house arrest. Both of them remain under a gag order.

The suspect was arrested last week following a trans-Atlantic investigation with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. American Jewish groups welcomed the breakthrough on the wave of JCC bomb threats, which had sparked concerns over rising anti-Semitism in the U.S.

Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Limor Tzanani, Staff Sgt. Maj. Lior Rotenberg and Chief Insp. Hofit Pima of the Israel Police were at the proceeding and confronted the teen’s defense attorney, Galit Bash, over her claim that her client has an inoperable brain tumor affecting his behavior.

“All the medical documents we have seen thus far indicate that there is no base to her claim [of a brain tumor]—just a benign growth,” the police officials argued.



Israel approves settlement for Amona residents, vows future construction restraint

(JNS.org) The Israeli cabinet unanimously approved the construction of a new settlement for the first time in decades, while promising restraint on future settlement construction.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised the new community as compensation for the residents of Amona, a Jewish settlement outpost evacuated in February following an order by Israel’s High Court over Palestinian land ownership claims.

“I promised at the outset that we would build a new community,” Netanyahu said Thursday, before the official announcement on the new settlement, during a meeting with Slovakian President Andrej Kiska. “I believe that I first gave that promise back in December, and we will uphold it today.”

The new settlement will be built near the existing settlement of Shiloh, which is near the former Amona community.

Netanyahu’s office later said that in accordance with discussions with the Trump administration, additional Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria would be limited to existing communities or in land adjacent to their boundaries.

“Israel is taking into account President Trump’s position and will therefore take significant steps to scale back construction beyond the boundaries of existing communities, and will exercise restraint,” Netanyahu said, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Articles from JNS.org are published on San Diego Jewish World through the generosity of Dr. Bob and Mao Shillman.


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