Father of slain IDF officer: ‘I hope this is the final loss for Israel’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Father of slain IDF officer: ‘I hope this is the final loss for Israel’

Special forces soldier who died in secretive Gaza Strip mission gone awry is recalled as contributing to social activism, raising children with patriotic values

Israeli soldiers stand guard in Nahal Oz, southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, November 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Israeli soldiers stand guard in Nahal Oz, southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, November 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

The father of a senior special forces officer who was killed overnight during an operation in the Gaza Strip said Monday he hopes that his son’s death will be the last Israel suffers.

The army described the incident, in which another officer was moderately injured which sparked hours of clashes, as an intelligence-gathering mission that went awry.

Most details of the raid, including the identity of the officer who was killed, remained subject to a military censor and could not be published.

“This is a great loss,” the father said, according to a report from Hadashot news television. “I hope it will be the final loss for the people of Israel.”

A close relative said that the officer, who has been identified by the military only by the Hebrew initial “Mem,” joined the army after high school and had remained in the service ever since.

The lieutenant colonel was 41 years old, was married with two children and lived in a town in northern Israel.

“He was a social activist and contributed greatly,” the relative said. “The family didn’t know what he did aside from the fact that he was a senior officer in an elite unit. His family was exemplary, his wife works in the medical sector and helps children.”

A close acquaintance of Lt. Col. Mem said he volunteered in various organizations and “raised the next generation with values of patriotism, and values of contributing and volunteering.”

“He began to think of the future, of advancing in the civilian security establishment,” the acquaintance said. “Or alternatively, he considered progressing through the military establishment.”

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Condolences and commiserations over the death of the officer came from senior Israeli figures including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Netanyahu tweeted: “I bow my head in sadness at the loss of Lt. Col. Mem, a glorious fighter who fell during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.”

The injured soldier, who has also not been identified, regained consciousness Monday morning, and was not in life-threatening danger, Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center said in a statement.

After he regained consciousness, his wife and children were allowed to see him for a short time.

His mother, who was also at the hospital intensive care unit where he is being treated, told Hadashot news of her relief that he was still alive.

“I pray that my son recovers as soon as possible,” she said. “It is a miracle that I got him back alive. I couldn’t bear to see his children, my grandchildren, crying. It was hard. I left the room.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also paid a visit to the officer at the hospital and declared that the deceased soldier and his wounded comrade were “national heroes.”

“I send my deepest condolences to the family of Lt.-Col. Mem, and wish a speedy recovery to those wounded,” Bennett said.

The wounded officer’s brother told Hadashot news that he still had not seen his sibling.

“The whole family and I are praying for his health,” the brother said. “We believe God is watching over him. We want to thank all the people who are interested in his welfare.”

A helicopter carrying a wounded Israeli soldier who was injured during an operation in the Gaza Strip lands outside Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center on November 11, 2018. (Twitter)

IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said Monday that the overnight mission in Gaza was intended as an intelligence-gathering mission by IDF special forces operating deep inside Gaza, not an assassination or kidnapping attempt.

At some point during the operation, the Israeli troops clashed with local Hamas fighters, killing a senior commander and several other members of the Gaza-ruling terrorist group.

The IDF unit called in aerial support — aircraft to bomb the surrounding area — and made its away out of the Gaza Strip.

Manelis said the soldiers operating in Gaza overnight “became trapped in a highly complex situation but they had responded “heroically, hit those who threatened them and extracted themselves to Israeli territory.”

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, seven Palestinians in total were killed in the exchange and another seven were injured.

Following the raid, Palestinian terrorist groups launched at least 17 projectiles — rockets and mortar shells — at southern Israel. Three of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The rest fell in open fields outside populated communities, one of them causing light damage to a greenhouse in the Eshkol region.

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging an emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

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Rider, Colt Die In Training Accident At Churchill Downs

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LEXINGTON KENTUCKY NEWS CHANNEL 18)

 

Rider, Colt Die In Training Accident At Churchill Downs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — An exercise horse rider was killed Saturday morning at Churchill Downs when he was thrown by his horse, officials with the racetrack said.

According to a news release, 42-year-old Odanis Acuna died in a training accident about 5:45 a.m.

Officials said Acuna was riding 2-year-old New York Harbor when the colt collapsed near the finish line. The horse was euthanized.

The news release says onside medical help rushed to the scene to aid Acuna but “believe he died instantly.”

“Today is a somber day,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathy to Odanis’ family, friends, colleagues and the entire team at trainer Kenny McPeek’s barn. Our hearts are with them in this difficult time of extreme sorrow.”

Acuna was a trainer for Kenny McPeek and was known as “Cuba.”

“Odanis was one of the hardest working guys you’d ever meet; he was working the American dream,” said McPeek, who employed Acuna for nearly a decade. “He galloped for me in the morning and worked for the feed company in the afternoon.”Training was suspended for the rest of the morning at the track and a moment of silence was planned for 12:30 p.m. ahead of races.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

David Nichols

David is veteran journalist and online content editor.

Saudi Murderers: Khashoggi’s body parts transported in suitcases

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

Khashoggi’s body parts transported in suitcases: Report

Corpse of Saudi journalist was dismembered and put into five suitcases after he was strangled, Turkish daily reports.

Khashoggi's body parts transported in suitcases: Report
Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, right, entered Turkey through Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on October 2 [Sabah via AP]

Jamal Khashoggi’s body was dismembered and put into five suitcases after he was strangled upon entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last month, according to a report by a Turkish pro-government newspaper.

Citing unnamed officials, Sabah reported on Sunday that the suitcases were then taken to the Saudi consul-general’s residence near the consulate the day the journalist – a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS – was killed on October 2.

The officials said that Maher Mutreb, Salah Tubeigy and Thaar al-Harbi were the three key figures from a 15-member hit squad reportedly involved in dismembering Khashoggi’s body and removing it from the premises.

Mutreb was a direct aide to MBS, while Tubeigy was the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics and a colonel in the kingdom’s army.

Al-Harbi was reportedly promoted to lieutenant in the Saudi royal guard last year for bravery in the defence of the crown prince’s palace in Jeddah.

Sabah’s report came 48 hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believed that the order to kill the journalist came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi state.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Istanbul, said on Sunday the latest information added detail to the picture being formulated by Turkish prosecutors who say Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered soon after entering the building.

Simmons said that Mutreb, a senior intelligence official, appeared to be leading the operation, while Tubeigy has experience in forensic pathology.

CCTV footage shows the three individuals travelled in a number of vehicles from the consulate to the consul-general’s residence 200 metres away after Khashoggi’s murder at about 3pm.

Less than two hours later, Mutreb is seen leaving the residence, according to the footage.

It is at the residence that they reportedly disposed of the body parts, although it is unknown how this was done.

“This is a looming question. No one knows where the body went,” Simmons said. “One Turkish official is reported saying that there was acid used to dissolve the bodies; there’s another report that the well shaft was used in the garden of the consul-general’s residence – it is unclear,” he added.

“There is a real concern now that the Saudis aren’t being open enough with the Turkish investigators. Furthermore, on a political level, [there is] a big concern that world attention is beginning to wane somewhat on this whole case and whether or not the US is prepared to take firm action against the Saudis that Turkey wants to see.”

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Jamal Khashoggi case: All the latest updates

With a joint Turkish and Saudi probe into Khashoggi’s fate making little progress so far, Erdogan on Friday called on Saudi Arabia to answer outstanding questions concerning the 59-year-old’s killing.

“We must reveal the identities of the puppet masters behind Khashoggi’s killing,” Erdogan wrote in an opinion piece published by US newspaper The Washington Post.

‘Dismembered and dissolved’

Also on Friday, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan and a friend of Khashoggi’s, said the team that killed the journalist cut up his body in order to dissolve for easier disposal.

“According to the latest information we have, the reason they dismembered his body is to dissolve it easier,” he told Hurriyet newspaper.

“They aimed to ensure no sign of the body was left.”

A senior Turkish official has told Al Jazeera the journalist’s body was dismembered and dissolved in acid, without offering evidence.

Riyadh initially denied Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate but, following intense international pressure and after changing its narrative numerous times, the Saudi prosecutor admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a “premeditated” manner.

Still, Turkish officials have accused the Saudis of failing to answer questions regarding the case.

Two of them relate to the identity of a “local collaborator” to whom Saudi officials claimed to have handed over Khashoggi’s remains, as well as the identity of the person who ordered the killing.

On Wednesday, a senior Turkish official said the Saudi side appeared unwilling to “genuinely cooperate” with Turkey;s investigation.

“The Saudi officials seemed primarily interested in finding out what evidence the Turkish authorities had against the perpetrators,” the official told AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity.

“We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation.”

The Saudis have also launched their own investigation, vowing to “uncover every stone” and “punish” those who are responsible.

A spokesperson for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party said on Wednesday Khashoggi’s killing could not have been made possible without orders from someone in a senior position.

Omar Celik told reporters in Ankara that Turkey would not let anyone cover up Khashoggi’s killing, adding that it was not possible for Saudi officials to still not know the body’s whereabouts.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

What we know about the Indiana bus stop crash the children and the driver

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR NEWS)

 

What we know about the Indiana bus stop crash, the children and the driver

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Twin boys and their big sister died Tuesday when the driver of a pickup truck allegedly blew past their stopped school bus on a rural highway in northern Indiana.

Xzavier and Mason Ingle, both 6, and Alivia Stahl, 9, were struck while crossing the road to get on their bus. They died at the scene of the crash near 4600 North Ind. 25, north Rochester in Fulton County.

A fourth child, 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, was airlifted to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne with life-threatening injuries.

Alyssa Shepherd, 24, of Rochester, was arrested and charged Tuesday with reckless homicide and other crimes, records show.

Bus stop crash: NTSB is investigating crash that killed 3 kids boarding school bus
School bus safety: Here’s when you should stop

Here’s what we know about this tragedy:

Who are the children

Twin brothers Xzavier and Mason, their sister Alivia Stahl and Maverik Lowe were students in the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation. Xzavier, Mason and Alivia attended Mentone Elementary School.

Maverik is a student at Tippecanoe Valley Middle School, police said. He was critically injured with multiple broken bones and underwent surgery Tuesday at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne.

Maverik suffered back injuries, broken legs, arms and a knee cap and “may never walk again,” his relative Jocelynne Lowe posted on a GoFundMe page.

“He is a very, very strong kid,” Lowe wrote. “Please pray for this family.”

Maverik’s parents issued a statement through the Indiana State Police on Wednesday, in which they thanked the community for their prayers and requested privacy.

Sgt. Tony Slocum@ISPPeru

From parents of Maverik Lowe :“We would like to thank those who have prayed for our family/ families of those involved in yesterday’s tragedy. He is currently in stable condition. Our family is focused on his recovery at this time and requests privacy as we heal together.”

What happened at the bus stop

The children left their neighborhood to board their school bus about 7:15 a.m. when they were struck by the southbound Toyota pickup, Indiana State Police Sgt. Tony Slocum said.

The children were crossing the rural two-lane highway to catch their bus, which was stopped in the northbound lane with its lights flashing and “STOP” arm extended.

Police did not say how fast the pickup was traveling. The speed limit on that stretch of Ind. 25 is 55 mph.

Who is the pickup driver

Alyssa Shepherd works as children’s director at Faith Outreach, a Foursquare Gospel Church in Rochester. The Rev. Terry Baldwin, the church’s senior pastor, declined to answer specific questions Wednesday.

“Our hearts are broken for the families who have suffered such a tremendous loss,” Baldwin told IndyStar during a phone call. “We are fervently praying for everyone touched by this. We want you and your readers to pray with us.

“Also, please remember our community.”

What is the driver charged with

Shepherd was charged Tuesday with three counts of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor count of passing a school bus when an signal arm is extended, court records show.

She was booked into the Fulton County Jail and released after posting $15,000 bond, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

Shepherd remained at the scene after the crash and cooperated with investigators. She was given a blood test as is standard in all fatal crashes, but police said they do not think alcohol or drugs were a factor.

The investigation

Ind. 25 was shut down for hours Tuesday as Indiana State Police accident investigators measured the impact sites, skid marks and collected evidence needed to reconstruct the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Rochester on Wednesday to conduct its own investigation.

A state mourns

Gov. Eric Holcomb was among many who offered condolences Tuesday.

“Words cannot express the depth of sorrow Janet and I feel, which only pales in comparison to what family, friends, teachers, classmates and community are feeling right now,” Holcomb said in a statement.

“Today, and for many more to come, we mourn their loss. I ask Hoosiers around the state to join us by sending your deepest prayers for the strength needed to endure such a time.”

The Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation in a statement Tuesday asked the community for prayers for families, students and staff.

“We have deployed all school counselors to meet the emotional needs of our staff, students and parents,” the statement said.

How to help

GoFundMe pages have been set up to help the families. The page benefiting the family of Xzavier, Mason, and Alivia raised more than $46,000 by mid-day Wednesday.

The campaign benefiting Maverik’s family raised more than $15,000 by about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Call IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert at 317-444-2701. Follow him on Twitter: @VicRyc.

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Mob Boss Whitey Bulger Found Dead In Prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, notorious Boston gangster, found dead in prison, reports say

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James “Whitey’’ Bulger, the Boston gangster who eluded authorities for 16 years before being captured and convicted of participating in 11 murders in 2013, has died at a prison in West Virginia, according to media reports.

Bulger, who was 89, was found dead Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe and NBC News.

Bulger was the head of a violent South Boston crime ring known as the Winter Hill Gang from the 1970’s into the 1990s. In 1995, Bulger was tipped off about his imminent indictment by an FBI agent and escaped, remaining on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list until getting apprehended in 2011 in Santa Monica, California.

His life of crime was the subject of several movies, including “The Departed,’’ which won an Oscar for the Best Picture of 2006.

Bulger, who was serving a life sentence, had been recently moved from a federal prison in Florida to a transfer facility in Oklahoma City before being relocated to the Hazelton Penitentiary. He had been in ill health for some time.

Among the slayings linked to Bulger was that of Roger Wheeler, who was gunned down outside his country club in Tulsa in 1981. Bulger was also convicted for his role in murders in several states and for racketeering.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Four highly-trained snipers active in Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Four highly-trained snipers active in Kashmir, believe security agencies

Sniper attacks by Jaish-e-Mohammed militants have emerged as a new source of worry for security agencies in Kashmir with three personnel having been killed since mid-September, prompting agencies to re-calibrate their strategy to thwart such strikes, officials said.

INDIA Updated: Oct 28, 2018 23:51 IST

sniper,Kashmir,Jaish-e-Mohammed
Based on intelligence inputs, security agencies believe that at least two separate ‘buddy’ groups of the Jaish-e-Mohammed comprising two terrorists each have entered Kashmir Valley in early September.(AP/Picture for representation)

Sniper attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists has emerged as a new source of worry for security agencies in Kashmir Valley with three personnel having been killed since mid-September, prompting law enforcement agencies to re-calibrate their strategy to thwart such strikes by the Pakistan-based group, officials said.

The first such attack took place at Newa in Pulwama on September 18 when a CRPF personnel was injured. Security officials thought it to be a one-off strike till the recent spate of sniper attacks that claimed the lives of a Sashastra Seema Bal jawan and an Army personnel in Tral, and a CISF jawan in Nowgam.

Based on intelligence inputs, security agencies believe that at least two separate ‘buddy’ groups of the proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) comprising two terrorists each have entered Kashmir Valley in early September and have entrenched themselves in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district with the help of some overground supporters of the outfit.

These terrorists, according to officials, have been thoroughly trained by Pakistan’s external snooping agency ISI for carrying out sniper attacks in Kashmir Valley and have been armed with M-4 carbines, used by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

There is a possibility that these weapons may be part of the arms and ammunition captured by the Taliban, with whom the JeM cadre were fighting the allied forces in Afghanistan, security officials in the state said. However, they said that the weapon was also being used by the special forces of Pakistan Army.

In all the instances of sniper attacks, the terrorists used a nearby hillock to carry out strikes on a security force campus when unsuspecting jawans were using their mobile phones to talk to their family or friends. “These attacks have been precise, even while targeting a personnel inside a sentry post as he uses his mobile phone. They pick up the light of the mobile phone to carry out the attack on jawans,” said one of the officials.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has reacted to the rising cases of sniper attacks. “We’ve dealt with snipers on the border/LoC regularly and have SOPs to deal with those but never in the hinterland. This will force a rethink of all manner of security and protection procedures.”

The M-4 carbine is mounted with a telescope and the terrorists are using night vision devices to locate their potential targets, the officials said. The weapon can fire at its target up to 500-600 metres with precision.

The security agencies, including army, CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir police, have already issued fresh guidelines to their jawans and officers located in camps in the militancy-hit areas. Maintaining a silence over the change in tactics, the officials said that more combing operations would be carried out around the security camps.

They said that Jaish cadres were likely to carry out more such attacks in the future, but added that some modules had been identified and these cases were likely to be cracked soon.

The security agencies had been observing that while pushing the terrorists into Kashmir Valley from the Line of Control (LoC), ISI meticulously planned to send in Jaish-e-Mohammed cadre along.

Those terrorists were armed with the best possible arsenal including bullets with steel core – with the capability to pierce a static bullet proof bunker used during counter-terrorism operations, the officials said.

The first such incident was noticed on the New Year eve when JeM terrorists had carried out a suicide attack on a CRPF camp in Lethpora in South Kashmir. Five personnel of the para-military force were killed in the attack and one of them was hit by a bullet fatally despite using a static bullet-proof shield provided by the Army, officials said.

A thorough inquiry into the attack showed that the bullet fired by the terrorist from the assault AK rifle was of steel core with the capability of piercing through the static bunkers used by security personnel during encounters with terrorists.

Generally, the AK bullets used in the armoury have a lead core covered with mild steel which cannot penetrate a bullet proof shield but after the December 31, 2017 encounter and subsequent findings, the rules of the proxy-war changed, the officials said.

A detailed analysis of the previous suicide attacks was carried out during which ballistic analysis of the terror attack on district police lines of Pulwama in South Kashmir in last August showed that ‘steel core’ bullets had been used by the terrorists in that encounter with security personnel. Eight security personnel had lost their lives in the terror strike.

The ammunition, according to the officials, is being modified from across the border with the help of Chinese technology of encasing the bullet with hard steel core. At the United Nations, India has been seeking a ban the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group and designation of its chief Maulana Masood Azhar as global terrorist, but its efforts have been blocked by China four times so far.

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 18:26 IST

Islamic Jihad calls ceasefire as Israel hits back at 30-plus rockets from Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWS PAPER)

 

Islamic Jihad calls ceasefire as Israel hits back at 30-plus rockets from Gaza

Iran-backed terror group says it will halt fire after talking with Egypt; no acknowledgement of deal by Israel, which strikes IJ targets in 95 raids

Palestinians check damage to buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 27, 2018 after salvos of rocket fire from Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Palestinians check damage to buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 27, 2018 after salvos of rocket fire from Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Islamic Jihad announced Saturday it had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end an escalating exchange of fire with Israel, as Israeli jets struck sites in the Gaza Strip belonging to the Palestinian terror organization.

A spokesman for the group told the Gaza-based Safa news site that a ceasefire agreement went into effect following Egyptian communication with its leadership.

He said Islamic Jihad would remain committed to the ceasefire as long as Israel did likewise.

There was no immediate acknowledgement of the ceasefire declaration in Israel, which in the past has denied proclamations by Gaza-based terror groups regarding understandings to end fighting.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other top security officials at the time of the announcement.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other top military officers at Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 27, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

A few hours after Islamic Jihad announced the ceasefire, the Eshkol Regional Council lifted orders that residents must remain in close proximity to bomb shelters.

Restrictions remained in place, however, limiting gatherings outdoors to 100 people and those indoors to 500.

The declaration by Islamic Jihad to end the rocket fire came as the Israel Defense Forces said fighter jets struck eight targets tied to the Iran-backed terror group in three separate military facilities after Israel was hit by salvos of rockets from Gaza overnight and on Saturday morning.

The Gaza targets included weapons production sites and a factory that makes parts for subterranean tunnels, the army said, adding that the later was near a school.

The top IDF spokesperson earlier blamed Iran and Syria for the Islamic Jihad rocket attacks. Though he did not accuse Hamas of taking part in the launches, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis reiterated that Israel considers the terror group responsible as Gaza’s rulers.

Another IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said the rocket strikes were ordered by operatives from the overseas branch of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in Syria and warned Israel may not limit its response to Gaza.

“From our perspective, part of the address by which we will deal with this fire is also in Damascus and the Quds Force,” he said. “Our response is not limited geographically.”

Israel Defense Forces

@IDFSpokesperson

1. This Palestinian Islamic Jihad cement factory, which was used to build cross-border terror tunnels, was built RIGHT NEXT TO a , putting the children of at risk.

View image on Twitter

Israel Defense Forces

@IDFSpokesperson

2. We also struck this Islamic Jihad weapons manufacturing facility – they use their weapons to try to kill innocent Israeli civilians, we use our weapons to destroy their weapons. pic.twitter.com/bKqyBsaZwf

34 rockets were fired at Israel overnight and Saturday morning, according to the IDF, 13 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Two of the rockets fell in Gaza and the rest landed in open areas.

The Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians said a mortar launched during the barrages struck the ambulance terminal at the Erez border crossing, the sole pedestrian passage between Gaza and Israel.

In response to the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft and attack helicopters attacked 95 targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The army said the targets included military and weapons manufacturing facilities through the Strip, a factory in Khan Younis producing cement used in subterranean tunnels and a four-story building in Gaza City headquartering Hamas security services.

The IDF said in a statement Saturday morning it “views with great severity the rocket attacks tonight against Israeli communities.” It blamed Hamas for creating “a terror-enabling atmosphere…near the border fence which led terror groups in the Strip to carry out tonight’s attack.”

A four-story building in Gaza City’s Daraj neighborhood belong to Hamas’ General Security Services is seen on October 27, 2018, moments before it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian sources speaking to the Ynet news website claimed the attacks were carried out against the objections of the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza, though this had no official confirmation.

Israel views Hamas as ultimately responsible for any attacks emanating from the territory it controls, regardless of the source.

In response to the rocket barrages, the IDF’s Home Front Command overnight issued instructions restricting gatherings in the Gaza periphery: up to 100 people in open areas and 500 people in closed spaces.

The rocket fire comes amid a deadly flareup in violence in the Gaza Strip. Earlier on Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered at five locations along the border, burning tires and throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Five protesters were killed and another 170 were injured in the clashes with IDF troops, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said. One of those killed was blown up by his own hand grenade, which exploded prematurely, witnesses said.

Earlier this week, a rocket was launched at southern Israel from Gaza, triggering sirens in a number of communities in the Eshkol region, ending a week-long stretch of relative calm in the coastal enclave. In response to that attack, the IDF said it hit eight Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including training bases and a weapons production facility.

A picture taken on on October 27, 2018 shows an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The ramped up tensions are likely to complicate the mission of Egyptian mediators, who have intensified their shuttle diplomacy to achieve calm and prevent a full-blown conflict between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel.

Weekly large-scale riots by Gazans, and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, have become a mainstay along the Strip’s security fence since March 30, as part of a Hamas-led effort known as the “March of Return.”

These demonstrations take place each Friday, regularly sending massive amounts of thick smoke into the Israeli communities nearby, as Palestinians burn tires along the border and send incendiary devices affixed to balloons into Israel to spark fires.

The period since March 30 has also included a number of significant flareups and extended clashes. Another rocket launched from the Gaza Strip last week struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, causing significant damage, but no injuries as the family inside had reached their bomb shelter in time.

In recent weeks, the situation along the border has grown more precarious, as indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas — with the Egyptian military and United Nations acting as intermediaries — have reached a critical turning point.

A Palestinian holds a Palestinian flag as he uses a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli troops during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on October 26, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel has called for a cessation to all violence, including both the clashes on the border and the daily arson attacks that have burned large swaths of land in the south, in exchange for certain economic incentives and an easing of the blockade around the coastal enclave, which is imposed by Israel to prevent Hamas importing weapons.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of the Strip in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

The Associated Press and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Used to Hearing ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ a Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

Image
Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, prayed not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue.CreditCreditJeff Swensen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill has for more than 100 years meant certain familiar rituals. The handing out of prayer books as latecomers quietly arrive at temple, the genial shouts of ‘Shabbat shalom’ across neighborhood streets as friends spot old friends after services.

This is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America. And on this Saturday morning, it was the site of what one of the city’s chief federal law enforcement officers called “the most horrific crime scene I have seen.”

Tree of Life, an understated temple on a rising street of tidy brick houses and pumpkin-decorated front porches, was a revered and historic Jewish institution in a neighborhood full of them.

After Saturday’s massacre, this meant a grief deep and wide. Everyone knew someone, or someone who did. The Jewish Community Center, a few blocks away from Tree of Life, became a command post of sorts, with grief counselors, law enforcement officials, Red Cross volunteers, extended families, members of various synagogues and food, lots and lots of food.

Down the street from the temple, a woman who belonged to Tree of Life was sobbing, surrounded by other women. A SWAT truck pulled down the street.

“It definitely brought everybody together in the way that really awful things do,” said Jess Nock, 38, a lawyer who has worshiped at Tree of Life for eight years.

[A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue where three congregations worshiped.]

She spent the morning at the center, where information was difficult to follow. People arrived looking for others — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One family learned of the shooting from their son, who was in Israel and saw it on the news. Some Orthodox Jews in the community, who do not use phones on the Sabbath, would surely not know about it for hours.

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Law enforcement officers secured the scene at the Pittsburgh temple.CreditAlexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

“Every time somebody would say “Do you know where…” Ms. Nock trailed off. She had heard the worst about at least one member. But she did not know what had happened to many others.

Squirrel Hill is an old neighborhood, beginning as the quiet and leafy retreat of the better-off, who chose to take the trolley home after work and leave the smog-choked streets of downtown Pittsburgh. Prosperous German Jews followed, moving their temples with them and creating a vibrant culture that, unlike in so many other American cities, never decamped for the suburbs.

“It’s one of the only Jewish communities in the country that has stayed within the city,” said Barbara S. Burstin, a history professor who has written several books on Jewish Pittsburgh.

There are kosher bakeries and delis along Murray Avenue, and three Jewish day schools of different denominations. On Saturday mornings, Orthodox men in black hats and overcoats walk the sidewalks. More than a dozen temples — Reform, Orthodox and Conservative — dot the neighborhood, “all bumping up within a few blocks of each other,” Professor Burstin said.

[Read more about the shooting suspect, who frequently reposted anti-Semitic content on social media.]

The population of the neighborhood might not be majority Jewish anymore — there are more Asian restaurants along the main drag now than Jewish ones — but it is home to more than a quarter of all Pittsburgh area Jewish households, according to a 2017 report.

The Tree of Life congregation, originally formed in 1864, moved to Squirrel Hill in 1952. It thrived in the heyday of American Conservative Judaism, but like many houses of worship in big cities, it has seen its membership dwindle.

In recent years, to make better use of the space, two other synagogues were invited to worship at the building. Now all three do, in different rooms on Saturdays, all getting together in the atrium afterward.

A former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, suspected that perhaps 25 or 30 people would have been there at the start of services, when the shooting broke out. Others would have arrived later, entering easily.

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People attended an interfaith vigil in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Credit Jared Wickerham for The New York Times

“It’s not the type of place where you’re going to walk in and people are going to look at you and say ‘Wait, I don’t know you,’” Ms. Nock said. “And locked doors: no way. There’s nothing less welcoming than inviting people to a door that’s locked.”

That the killer chose Tree of Life has baffled many in the community. There are much bigger temples in the area, and others with more visible congregations.

“This is not an obvious target in the Jewish community,” said Richard Brean, a retired general counsel for the steelworkers’ union and a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

[From a Texas church to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, houses of worship have become sites of mass shootings.]

But the members of Tree of Life had prepared for the possibility of violence, if only in theory, in the way so many schools and workplaces have in recent years. A year and a half ago, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh hired a former F.B.I. officer to serve as a security director; he had trained dozens of organizations on how to plan for active shooters. The members of Tree of Life had developed such a protocol last year.

Anti-Semitic incidents had happened in the neighborhood before, recalled Shlomo Perelman, 68, who was walking down a street not far from Tree of Life not long after the shooting. Mr. Perelman recalled a rabbinical student being shot some 25 years ago.

But this was not about Squirrel Hill. It was about the country that surrounded it. “It’s not about the neighborhood,” said Mr. Perelman. He added, “The times are really changing.”

On Saturday night, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in a light rain at the intersection of Murray and Forbes Avenue, where nearby restaurants — a Turkish kebab house, a ramen bar and a bohemian tea cafe — were a testament to the area’s diversity.

“I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” said Sophia Levin, 15, one of several teenagers who spoke. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, her voice breaking.

“Tree of Life used to be just a synagogue that my grandparents went to, that my Mom grew up in, that we would go to on high holidays,” she said. “And today I feel like it’s something different.”

Trip Gabriel contributed from Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Torrent of Gunshots Shifts Reality: ‘I Am a Different Jew Today’ . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

ISIS Kills 41 SDF Fighters in Eastern Syria: Monitor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

ISIS Kills 41 SDF Fighters in Eastern Syria: Monitor

Saturday, 27 October, 2018 – 13:30
Members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), gather in eastern Syria on September 11, 2018 | AFP
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat
The ISIS terrorist group has killed 41 US-backed fighters in Syria who are battling to oust the extremists from their eastern holdout of Hajin on the Iraqi border, a war monitor said Saturday.

The ISIS-linked Aamaq news agency said that more than 40 SDF fighters were killed and posted a video of six gunmen captured alive.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said and that ISIS gunmen late Friday attacked SDF positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates river in east Syria and the fighting continued until early Saturday.

The SDF fighters, who are backed by US-led coalition air strikes, were killed overnight, the Observatory said.

In a statement on the Telegram messaging app, ISIS said it had attacked the village of Sousa late Friday and detonated a car bomb near the village of Al-Baghuza further south, down the Euphrates river.

The SDF last month launched an offensive against the militants in the Hajin pocket on the eastern banks of the Euphrates, in Deir Ezzor province.

ISIS has staged a bloody fightback.

Since September 10, 270 SDF fighters and 496 ISIS radicals have been killed in the offensive, the Observatory says.

The coalition estimates that 2,000 ISIS fighters remain in the Hajin area.

ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across the land it controlled.

But the extremist group has since lost most of that territory to various offensives in both countries.

In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajin pocket.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Two hikers die after falling from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

Two hikers die after falling from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/embed/video/38284401?sitelabel=reimagine&placement=snow-smallarticleattophtml5&keywords=hiking%2Cyosemite-national-park%2Cdeath-investigations&simpleTarget=disasters&simpleExclusion=disasters&pagetype=story&cst=news&ssts=news&series=

Officials at Yosemite National Park, California are investigating the deaths of a man and a woman who fell from a popular overlook that allows visitors to walk to the cliff’s edge, where there is no railing, an official said. (Oct. 26) AP

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Two visitors have died in Yosemite National Park after falling from an overlook, the National Parks Service said in a statement Thursday.

Park rangers were trying to recover the bodies of the man and woman who fell from Taft Point, a popular overlook at an elevation of 7,500 feet, as of 2 p.m. ET. The deaths are being investigated, but no other information is available yet, including the identities of the visitors, the statement said. Yosemite is located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

This is not the first time this year visitors have faced danger in Yosemite. Tomer Frankfurter, an Israeli teenager, fell to his death from Nevada Fall last month. Two hikers died in June while climbing El Capitan, and another died while climbing Half Dome in May.

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