Nancy Pelosi: The Most Powerful Person In America

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

NANCY PELOSI STRODE confidently into a Capitol meeting room Thursday, papers in hand and a get-to-work look of determination on her face. She had just finished decisive negotiations to ensure she had the votes in her Democratic caucus to return as House speaker when the 116th Congress begins in January. It was harder this time than when the California representative became speaker in 2007, as the veteran lawmaker this month faced opposition from some younger members who wanted a fresh face or new image for the party. But Pelosi had done it – agreeing to stay in the job four years, unless there was overwhelming support for her to remain further – and this time, the prize was even bigger than when she made history by becoming the first female speaker a decade ago.[ 

READ: Pelosi Shows Off Skills in Securing Nomination as Speaker ]

Pelosi, as leader of the opposition party, arguably will become the most powerful person in the country.

Not only will Pelosi head the House chamber that is expected to investigate President Trump and possibly impeach him, but she can thwart the president’s legislative wish list as well, experts note. Even before she had tied down the final votes she needs to become speaker, Pelosi was adamant to Trump in an extraordinary, combative public negotiating session Tuesday that he would not get the border wall he had promised during his campaign.

She never said it out loud, but the implication was clear: Pelosi might be ascending to a third-ranking post – behind the president and vice president – but she holds much of his fate in her well-manicured hands.

“She’s not only [about to be] the most powerful person in the country, but she’s exactly the right person to be in this role at this time,” says political strategist Les Francis, who has known Pelosi since the mid-1970s. “She’s smarter than Trump. She’s tougher than Trump. We saw that the other day in the Oval Office,” Francis says.

Speakers have had reduced power in recent years in their own caucuses. Parties now have less control over which candidates were fielded for office, making freshman members less nervous about challenging leadership. The elimination of earmarks – federal money dedicated to specific local projects – deprives speakers of a tool to corral lawmakers. Intraparty divisions, such as the conservative Freedom Caucus’s feuds with more establishment Republicans, have also limited the ability of leaders to keep their members in line.

“She’s smarter than Trump. She’s tougher than Trump. We saw that the other day in the Oval Office.”

Pelosi, however, has a more united caucus and will have a kind of power over Trump, who will need Democrats to approve parts of his agenda on the Hill and who has been weakened by the special prosecutor’s inquiries.

“Nothing can come through the House without her involvement, which puts her in an incredibly powerful position,” says James Curry, a former Hill staffer and political science professor at the University of Utah, where he specializes in Congress and the legislative process. “Major policy is largely done at the leadership table. She’s going to be in on every single major policy meeting and then come back to her party with a take-it-or-leave-it offer.”

And it’s not just the job, experts say – it’s Pelosi herself. While some of the younger members chafed at reinstalling the 78-year-old lawmaker to the top leadership job, Pelosi, Hill-watchers say, showed why her extensive experience negotiating with presidents matters.

“She has the political force of character, and she has the temperament and the strategic instincts that come with being very experienced in the Democratic Party leadership,” says Wendy Schiller, chairwoman of the political science department at Brown University and a former Senate staffer. “She knows how to play the short game and the long game.”

Part of that, experts say, is that Pelosi has a very canny sense of when to pull the trigger on investigations or impeachment and when to focus on policy issues directed at the middle class. When George W. Bush was president, for example, Pelosi rejected demands from the left that the Democrats impeach Bush over the war in Iraq, aware that the effort could provoke a backlash.[ 

SEE: The Week in Cartoons ]

“In some ways, the biggest problem for Trump is that Pelosi is very savvy when it comes to whether to pursue investigating versus legislating,” says Matthew Green, a Catholic University political science professor and co-author, with Douglas Harris, of the upcoming book, “Choosing the Leader: Leadership Elections in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Addressing reporters on Thursday, Pelosi downplayed any plans for dragging Trump administration officials before the House to testify – a scene that has many rank-and-file Democrats salivating in anticipation. Instead, the presumptive next speaker ticked off two items she said the House Democrats could work on with Trump – lowering prescription drug prices and building infrastructure – and said the House would move onto other issues, such as preventing gun violence, strengthening the Voting Rights Act and protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

And instead of casting Trump as corrupt, Pelosi continued with a line she expressed during the meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer – that Trump simply isn’t in touch with reality.

Trump, she noted, was ready to shut down the government and take the blame for it.

“Perhaps he doesn’t understand people need their paychecks. That’s not the life he leads,” she said. Pressed about whether the impasse over the budget would indeed lead to a shutdown, Pelosi looked baffled at the president’s pronouncements.

“He doesn’t know that much about what it means to shut [the government] down,” she said. As for Trump’s insistence that Mexico would, in fact, pay for his border wall, through the economic impact of the pending new trade deal among the U.S., Mexico and Canada, Pelosi shook her head.

“It doesn’t make sense. Does that sound familiar to you?” Pelosi said. First of all, she said, the trade deal isn’t even finalized. And, secondly, any economic benefit would be just that – a trade benefit for the country’s consumers and businesses – and not a kind of Mexican payment for a wall.[ 

VIEW: The Photos You Should See – December 2018 ]

“I think the Oval Office is an evidence-free zone,” Pelosi said.

Incoming House committee heads are signaling that they indeed will investigate the Trump administration: Intelligence is expected to look into the Trump family’s connections to Saudi Arabia, Ways and Means will likely seek Trump’s tax returns, and the Judiciary Committee is expected to take an ever broader look at the embattled administration.

None will result in impeachment proceedings without Pelosi’s OK – and experts say she will only give the go-ahead if the political climate is right. But Trump must now look to Nancy Pelosi to see his future.

“I did tell the president I pray for him,” Pelosi said. He may need it.

Susan Milligan, Senior Writer

Susan Milligan is a political and foreign affairs writer and contributed to a biography of the …  READ MORE

Tags: Nancy PelosiCongressHouse of Representatives

Putin Raising Likelihood of War, Ukrainian Navy Chief Says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

Does Putin Want WW3?

Analysts predict an ‘imminent’ surge in conflict between Russia and Ukraine in and around the Black Sea.By Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security WriterDec. 12, 2018, at 10:23 a.m.More

Ukrainian Admiral: Putin Raising Likelihood of WarMore

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a narrow-format meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St Petersburg.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be planning to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, onlookers say.ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/POOL/TASS

RUSSIA APPEARS POISED to escalate hostilities in Ukraine, according to a new analysis – signs of an uptick in the broader war that the country’s top naval officer says is directed exclusively by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It is extremely centralized power in Russia. Everything is in the hands of Mr. Putin,” Ukrainian Vice Adm. Ihor Voronchenko tells U.S. News.[ 

SEE: The Week in Cartoons for Dec. 10-14 ]

Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors and seamen on Wednesday remained in Russian custody following a November encounter between the two countries’ navies and security forces in the Black Sea. Russian ships have also blocked access to the Black and Azov seas, limiting Ukraine’s ability to use critical commercial ports and raising the specter of war following four years of simmering conflict.

“I can say with 100 percent probability, all command and control in this operation was run from Moscow. Not Rostov, not Crimea. Everything was given instructions by Mr. Putin,” Voronchenko says.

Russia’s latest activity has followed a monthslong, intense propaganda campaign seeking to spread disinformation about Western activity in Ukraine – home to a U.S.-led military training mission in place since Russia began supporting separatist rebels in the country’s east in 2014. Moscow appears prepared to escalate the conflict.

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During a meeting last week, NATO members did not agree on a unified response to Russia’s latest activities, though the U.S. has begun preparations potentially to sail a naval vessel into the Black Sea in defiance of what it considers Russian aggression. American aircraft have also stepped up surveillance flights, including at least one through Ukrainian airspace as an affront to Moscow and show of support for Kiev.

“Russia will likely escalate militarily against Ukraine imminently,” Catherine Harris and Mason Clark, members of the Institute for the Study of War’s research team, wrote in a Tuesday analysis.

“Russia likely perceives the lack of a unified NATO response to Moscow’s aggression in the Sea of Azov as an opportunity to escalate against Ukraine and elsewhere in the future,” they wrote. “None of the responses are likely sufficient to deter Putin, whereas the disagreement itself will likely embolden him.”

Russia has moved ground units nearer its border with Ukraine in recent days, according to the ISW report, and deployed new ships to the Black Sea under the auspices of preparing for training exercises. It has also reportedly begun a propaganda campaign designed to alarm the populations in Ukraine about a Western attack.[ 

READ: U.S. Issues Nuclear Ultimatum to Russia ]

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander and head of U.S. armed forces in Europe, was scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, in Azerbaijan on Wednesday “to promote military predictability and transparency.”

Voronchenko says Putin appears frustrated and surprised because the Russian leader does not understand why Western countries have responded so intensely to these particular events.

“Now he is extremely nervous, and he’s like a rat in the [corner] of a dark room. He doesn’t know what to do,” the admiral says.

Voronchenko says he has been in email contact with at least one of the detained sailors, who said this week that his morale remains high, though he’s tired of listening to the Russian music his captors offer.

One of the captives was reportedly supposed to begin training to command one of two retired U.S. Coast Guard cutters that Ukraine received in September to add to its modest fleet of naval vessels. Bohdan Nebylytsia was a cadet at the Ukrainian naval academy in Sevastopol, Crimea, when the strategic peninsula was annexed by Russia in 2014 – a move Western countries say was illegal. He was among those who refused to side with the Russian occupiers, a spokeswoman at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., says, adding that he sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the Russian flag-raising ceremony.

Voronchenko met with defense officials at the Pentagon on Thursday and was scheduled to meet Navy Chief of Staff Adm. John Richardson on Friday to discuss a new naval strategy Kiev released earlier this year and to plan for countering the threat posed by Russia.

“The U.S. government continues to work closely with our allies and partners in Europe and around the world to support Ukraine in its pursuit of a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the ongoing Russian aggression, including Russia’s recent unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon says. “DoD leaders will reiterate the U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, as well as the right of its vessels to traverse international waters.”

The new strategy focuses on modernizing the Ukrainian navy and coastal defenses and coordinating with NATO for exercises in and around the Black Sea.

“These steps and others, I think, demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment, and we are currently considering additional ways the United States might assist Ukraine to further develop its maritime capacity,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said at a security conference in Kiev on Nov. 29.Updated on Dec. 13, 2018: This story has been updated with additional details about meetings between U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security Writer

Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow h…  READ MORE

Tags: RussiaUkraineworld newsforeign policyVladimir PutinNATO

What would a warmer world look like?

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Jupiter’s Atmosphere: Composition & the Great Red Spot

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Look Up! Gleaming Geminid Meteor Shower of 2018 Peaks Tonight

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Trump Was In The Room When Illegal Payments Were Being Discussed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 Ohio on July 18, 2016.John Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file Dec. 13, 2018 / 3:41 PM ESTBy Tom Winter

Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

As part of a nonprosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, admitted that “Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The “statement of admitted facts” says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment “in concert with the campaign,” and says that Pecker, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the “other member” was Trump.

David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.
David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.Francois Durand / Getty Images

Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn’t detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. “But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.

Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison

DEC. 13, 201802:37

McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to keep the story from circulating publicly.

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When Cohen pleaded guilty to arranging the payments in August, he said he had done so “at the direction” of an unnamed candidate, and that a $150,000 payment prior to the 2016 election was “for the principal purpose of influencing” the election. The meeting between Cohen, Pecker and unnamed other parties to discuss suppressing stories was referenced in the criminal information document to which Cohen pleaded guilty. The document also refers to “at least one other member of the campaign” being present.

The statement of admitted facts says that AMI’s “principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payments were made to spare Trump’s family from embarrassment.

I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

44K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

On Wednesday, Judge William Pauley sentenced Cohen to a total of 36 months behind bars, and three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, violating campaign finance law and other charges. The judge ordered him to pay almost $1.4 million in restitution and forfeit $500,000, while fining him $50,000 for lying to Congress. Cohen must turn himself in to start serving his sentence by March 6.

At his sentencing, Cohen said that “time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

President Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

Asian Tick Invading Eastern U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

The Asian longhorned tick most likely began invading the United States years ago. Now found in nine states, the tick may soon occupy a large swath of eastern North America as well as coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest, according to research published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Entomology.”This tick can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife,” said Ilia Rochlin, author of the study and an entomologist and researcher associated with the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology.

What you need to know about ticks

What you need to know about ticksUntil recently, this species was found only in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia as well as in parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. Then, in 2017, the first established Asian longhorned tick population was discovered in New Jersey, followed by detections in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arkansas.Although the tick is capable of causing infectious disease, no cases of illness, either in humans or in animals, have been reported in the United States.”There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” Rochlin said. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.”

Unusual reproductive abilities

Dina M. Fonseca, director of the Center for Vector Biology, a Rutgers professor of entomology and co-author of a previous report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained the Asian longhorned tick’s strange capacity to reproduce asexually.”These ticks are parthenogenetic, which means that females create diploid eggs (with a full set of the mother’s DNA) that develop into adults without needing the DNA of a male,” she wrote in an email. (Fonseca did not contribute to the new study.)Of nearly 700 species of “hard” ticks — of which the Asian longhorned tick is one — only a handful are known to be parthenogenetic. “So it is a rare ability but not exceptional,” said Fonseca. This unusual method of creating clones means it is possible for the tick to cause “massive” infestations of its hosts. “We have seen very large numbers on livestock as well as on dogs.”

A museum of blood-sucking nightmares: the US National Tick Collection

A museum of blood-sucking nightmares: the US National Tick CollectionOne of the diseases Asian longhorned ticks can transmit is severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, a hemorrhagic illness that has recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan, according to the previous CDC report.This syndrome, which also causes nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain, results in hospitalization for most patients and leads to death for up to nearly a third of those infected. This possibility is a concern because a close relative of the illness, the Heartland virus, circulates in Midwestern and Southern states, Rochlin noted.

Two Asian longhorned ticks: a nymph or immature tick at left and an adult female.

Two Asian longhorned ticks: a nymph or immature tick at left and an adult female.The tick can also carry other pathogens, including viruses that cause Lyme disease,ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, Rochlin said. Each of these illnesses can lead to severe disability.In Australia and New Zealand, the Asian longhorned tick has transmitted theileriosis to cattle. Also called “bovine anemia,” the illness causes lethargy, lack of appetite and, in pregnant cows, spontaneous abortion or stillbirth. “In some regions of New Zealand and Australia, this tick can reduce production in dairy cattle by 25%,” the CDC report says.

Summer campers face deadly ticks and mosquitoes

Summer campers face deadly ticks and mosquitoes

‘Where could it go or where could it be?’

Because the tick has been found in widely separate regions of the United States, Rochlin believes that it “has been present in the United States for a number of years” and is likely to gain additional ground. For his new study, he modeled likely habitats in North America.He looked at climate data from Asia, Australia and New Zealand where the tick is established and then compared that with climate reports for North America.The most suitable habitat for the tick included coastal areas as far north as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to as far south as Virginia and North Carolina, Rochlin found. On the West Coast, the coastal area where the tick is likely to survive ranged from southern British Columbia to Northern California.

Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases more than triple, since 2004, in the US

Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases more than triple, since 2004, in the USLarge inland swaths might also become home to this tick: from northern Louisiana to Wisconsin and into southern Ontario and Quebec, as well as westward into Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, his study showed.Asian longhorned ticks can become “very abundant” in favorable habitats, Rochlin said. “Coupled with the aggressive biting behavior of this species and its potential for carrying human and animal pathogens, this species represents a significant public health concern.”

Putting the Asian longhorned tick in perspective

Erika Machtinger, an assistant professor of entomology in Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agriculture, said what’s “wonderful” about the new study is that it gives the “information everybody’s wanting to know: Where could it go, or where could it be?”Machtinger, who was not involved in the new research, said she likes to “put these scary new things in perspective. The Zika virus was one of those.””When you think about the native pathogens that we have here that are a problem, Zika virus was a blip on the radar,” Machtinger said of Zika concerns in mainland United States during 2016. The native pathogen of Lyme disease infects about 320,000 people every year and “can cause mortality. It can cause serious debilitating affects,” she said. “That’s a problem. This [tick] is something we need to be aware of and continue to monitor, but people don’t need to be afraid of this.”

Exploding tick population -- and illnesses they bring -- worries government

Exploding tick population — and illnesses they bring — worries governmentBecause there have been few instances of this tick feeding on humans, the bigger concern may be cows and other veterinary issues, Machtinger said. Still, she did not downplay the threat entirely because this is the first introduction of an invasive tick that the United States has seen in 80 years, she said.Very similar to the rabbit rick, the bird tick and other native species, the Asian longhorned tick was “overlooked for quite a few years,” said Machtinger, who believes that it may have been here since 2010 or even earlier. “That’s the important piece: It’s here, but it’s been here,” she said. “And it’s not going to take over the northeast or eastern part of the US quickly if it does build up numbers.”Get CNN Health’s weekly newsletter

Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.Although its ability to clone itself means a tick can easily produce a couple thousand eggs, “so can our native black-legged ticks,” Matchinger said. Ultimately, she said, the Asian longhorned tick may be no more scary than some native species.Rochlin said this tick species infiltration of the United States “strengthens the need to develop a comprehensive strategy for tick control and tick-borne disease prevention.” He added the best defense for those who are worried is to practice “the usual precautions against tick bites recommended by the CDC,” such as treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin and checking your body for ticks after being outdoors.Machtinger advised, “be diligent in protecting yourself and your animals.” And, if you happen to find a tick you’ve never seen before, bring it to a veterinarian or a university and ask for help.”We rely on our community scientists,” she said. “We rely on folks who are out there and find weird things on their animals that they haven’t seen before to bring it [in] and say, ‘Where can I get this identified? Can you help me?’ “

Another Terrorist Attack In Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

2 soldiers killed in West Bank terror shooting; civilian, serviceman hurt

Attackers flee, prompting manhunt; incident occurs near site of Sunday drive-by in which seven Israelis were hurt, including a pregnant woman whose baby later died

By JUDAH ARI GROSSToday, 11:41 am  8

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Israeli soldiers, medical officials and police inspect the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers, medical officials and police inspect the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and two people were injured — a serviceman critically and a civilian woman seriously — in a terrorist shooting attack in the central West Bank Thursday, close to where another terror attack occurred earlier in the week, officials said.

The perpetrators fled the scene of the attack, which occurred at a bus stop along the highway near the Palestinian town of Silwad and the Israeli settlement of Ofra, north of Jerusalem, prompting a large-scale manhunt, the army said.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, one gunman exited a vehicle along the Route 60 highway and opened fire at a group of Israelis at the bus stop, among whom were both soldiers and civilians, before running away.

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According to Palestinian media, the vehicle used in the attack was abandoned nearby, and the two suspects — the driver and the shooter — continued on foot. The IDF said they fled in the direction of Ramallah.

Two of the victims, soldiers in their early 20s, were declared dead at the scene.

The injured soldier, 21, was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head, according to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.

“His condition is very serious. There is a threat to his life,” a Hadassah spokesperson said.

The female civilian was seriously injured with a gunshot wound to the pelvis and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s trauma unit in Jerusalem for treatment, the hospital said.

Doctors there said her condition stabilized after she received blood transfusions, and she was taken into surgery to repair the damage caused by the bullet.

The military censor initially prevented publication of the fact that three of the victims were soldiers until their families could be notified.

The servicemen were guarding the bus stop when the shooting occurred.

Thursday’s attack took place on Route 60 near the Givat Asaf outpost, some two kilometers (1.25 miles) from Ofra, where on Sunday a number of terrorists driving in a white car opened fire at a group of people standing at the settlement’s bus stop, hitting seven of them, including a seven-months pregnant woman who was critically injured and whose baby later died as a result of the attack.

Israeli soldiers, medical officials and police inspect the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

It was not immediately clear if the two attacks were carried out by the same group — according to the army, only some of the perpetrators of Sunday’s shooting have been apprehended — or if it was a “copycat” attack, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

The Hamas terror group praised Thursday’s attack, but did not claim responsibility for it.

“The heroic Silwad operation is a response to the Zionist occupation’s crimes and behavior in the occupied West Bank,” Abdelaltif al-Qanou, a spokesman for the terror group, wrote on Twitter. “The West Bank’s youth and men will remain rebels against the occupation and continue to clash with it until it is banished.”

The IDF said it closed off the entrances to the nearby city of Ramallah and set up roadblocks throughout the area in an effort to locate the perpetrators. The army said it was not yet sure how many people were involved in the attack.

Palestinian media also reported that Israeli troops launched raids in the Ramallah suburb of el-Bireh.

Israeli soldiers guard the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Additional infantry battalions were sent into the West Bank both to defend roads and settlements and to conduct additional searches and arrests, the army said.

The West Bank has seen a significant increase in the number of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent weeks, after months of relative calm in the area, raising concerns of a potential renewed outbreak of regular, serious violence in the region.

The military blamed the increase in attacks both on terror groups’ ongoing efforts, the “copycat” phenomenon and a number of significant dates coming up this week, notably the anniversary of Hamas’s founding.

On Wednesday night, the Israeli military arrested a number of suspects who were believed to have carried out Sunday night’s shooting attack and shot dead a third, who security officials said tried to attack Israeli troops during an escape attempt. On Thursday, the army said the search for additional perpetrators was ongoing.READ MORE:

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Too late, all gone.

Rusted Honey

architecture balcony black and white black and white

So there I was
guts out, making a scene,
hanging off the balcony
waiting to leave.

I knew I’d been low
for far too long,
I peeled off my face
and said it’s all wrong.

I tried telling you
I lost the plot again,
now I slow dance to death
with eyes wide open.

© Nancy Botta, 2018

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