Israel: El Al cancels flights to San Francisco, Europe amid ‘unprecedented’ virus crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

El Al cancels flights to San Francisco, Europe amid ‘unprecedented’ virus crisis

Israeli airline, hit hard by spread of coronavirus, combines flights, will use smaller planes as global travel slumps

El Al planes at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, March 16, 2018. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

El Al planes at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, March 16, 2018. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

El Al on Friday cancelled a flight to San Francisco and several others to a number of European cities amid a global drop in travel over fears about the new coronavirus, with a senior company official calling it “an unprecedented crisis.”

Flights that left for San Francisco Friday morning were combined, according to El Al, due to the low number of passengers on each plane.

In Europe, the Israeli airline was cancelling some flights to Berlin, Barcelona and Zurich. All three cities are located in countries which Israel began restricting the entry of non-nationals to on Friday as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

“This is an unprecedented crisis,” a senior El Al official told the Ynet news site.

“The consequences of this crisis are huge and we are trying to do everything we can [to handle it],” he said.

El Al was also expected to cancel flights on Sunday to Munich, Budapest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bucharest, Vienna and Marseille.

The official at the airline told the website that El Al was working to combine flights and use smaller planes.

Empty departure halls at Ben Gurion Airport. on March 4, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

On Wednesday, El Al fired some 600 permanent workers as it grapples with ongoing financial losses caused by the virus outbreak.

Other employees in high paying roles are likely to have their salaries cut.

The airline also axed hundreds of temporary workers, who are employed by the company for under five years. The fired staff include air crews, flight attendants, ground crews and others.

The company appears to be one of the hardest hit in Israel by the virus. On Wednesday, the Bank of Israel said the country’s economy was weathering the crisis, but was ready to step in to help if necessary.

On Tuesday El Al cut salaries of its senior staff by 20 percent. The salary reduction includes the company’s board of directors and chairman, and retroactively takes effect from March 1, Channel 12 reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the head of the union, Sharon Ben Itzhak, that he had assigned a ministerial committee to help El Al and other Israeli airlines.

Besides cutting back flights, El Al has also suspended flights to Italy and Thailand and and said it would delay its planned launch of direct flights to Tokyo until April. The airline extended its halt of flights to Beijing and Hong Kong until May.

A pilgrim wearing a protective mask visis the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City in Jerusalem on February 27, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Despite the damage to the aviation industry, the Tourism Ministry said Wednesday that the usual number of tourists entered Israel in February, with some 344,000 arrivals and an estimated tourist revenue of $486 million.

Israel has thus far taken far-reaching measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, forcing thousands of Israelis into self-quarantine, barring foreigners from countries hit hard by the virus, banning large gatherings, and advising against personal contact and travel abroad.

It was the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel entirely because of the outbreak, which started in China in December and has since infected over 100,000 in about 85 nations and claimed nearly 3,400 lives, almost all of them in China.

There have been 19 confirmed cases of the virus in Israel and no deaths.

Luke Tress contributed to this report.

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Israel and Palestinian militants exchange rocket fire

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Israel and Palestinian militants exchange fire as graphic video of Israeli bulldozer carrying a body goes viral

Israel said it launched a series of strikes on Islamic Jihad targets, and Palestinian militants fired more than 20 rockets at Israel by early Sunday evening, according to the Israeli army.

(CNN)The Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchanged fire on Sunday, hours after a graphic video showing an Israeli army bulldozer scraping the body of a dead man off the ground went viral.

Militants fired more than 20 rockets at Israel by early Sunday evening, according to the Israeli army, making it the largest single assault by militants on Israel in several months.
The army said its Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted more than half of the launches, with many others landing in open areas. There are no reports of any Israeli injuries from the rockets.
Israel said it launched a series of strikes on targets belonging to Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in Gaza. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN it was the army’s assessment that Islamic Jihad was responsible for the rocket fire.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility in a statement on its official website, saying its military wing, Saraya al-Quds, is responsible for the shelling. It promised to retaliate against any future “aggression.”
Among the strikes, Israel says it succeeded in hitting a group of Islamic Jihad operatives preparing to launch a fresh barrage of rockets.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said four people were being treated in Gaza’s Shifa hospital for injuries, though it was not clear whether they were involved in the rocket attacks.

Graphic viral video

The escalation began Sunday morning when the Israeli army says it spotted two men trying to lay an explosive device close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. The army — which released a video it said showed the two men carrying out their operation — opened fire, killing one of them.
The dead man was identified as 27-year-old Mohammed Al-Naim. The Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said he was one of their fighters.
Gaza sources tell CNN the other man is being treated in a Gaza hospital for severe wounds.
It was the second time in several days that members of Islamic Jihad tried to place an explosive device close to the fence, according to the Israeli army.
As the dead man lay on the ground, a local journalist captured the scene on video, which was subsequently shared widely on social media.
In the video, a group of four men is seen moving toward the body in an apparent attempt to retrieve it. A bulldozer from the Israeli army approached from the opposite direction.
Gunshots could be heard as the bulldozer moved up to the group, which was forced to abandon its effort to carry the body away. Other men nearby could be seen throwing rocks at the vehicle.
The bulldozer’s front scoop then appears to come down on top of the dead body as the driver makes several unsuccessful attempts to pick it up.
Eventually the body is seen hanging from the scoop before the bulldozer drives back to the Israeli side of the fence, protected by a tank.

Defense minister: ‘That’s how we must act’

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett defended the army’s actions in robust terms.
“I’m tired of the tainted left-wing criticism against the ‘inhumanity’ of using a bulldozer to bring to us the body of a terrorist who tried to murder Israelis. Hamas is holding the bodies of Hadar and Goldin,” he said in a statement, referring to the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the Gaza war of 2014.
The statement went on, “I stand behind the IDF that killed the terrorists and collected the body. That’s how we must act and that’s how we will act. In the face of terrorists, we will act with strength.”
An Israeli military official told CNN that using bulldozers to clear the area after a militant attack was standard practice and said they had been used previously to remove bodies, though he admitted it was not the preferred way to do it.
Sunday’s escalation came on the final day of the latest visit to Gaza by Qatar’s ambassador to the territory, Mohammed Al-Emadi, who discussed a further tranche of Qatari financial assistance for Gazans worth millions.
Aid from Qatar is a key part of multilateral efforts, which also include Egypt and the United Nations, to broker a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Gaza militants, which would see Israel loosen its restrictions on Gaza in exchange for a cessation of violence.
Islamic Jihad is widely seen as opposed to those negotiations, putting it at odds with Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Israel advances housing plan in Jerusalem area Trump plan marks for Palestinians

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Israel advances housing plan in Jerusalem area Trump plan marks for Palestinians

Project for 9,000 homes at inoperative Atarot airport would take over last open area in East Jerusalem neighborhood that US envisions will house tourism center for Muslims

The Qalandiya checkpoint near the Atarot industrial zone, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, seen on April 7, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Qalandiya checkpoint near the Atarot industrial zone, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, seen on April 7, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Housing Ministry has begun advancing a plan to build a massive Jewish neighborhood in an East Jerusalem area that appears to be earmarked in the Trump administration’s peace plan for a Palestinian tourism center.

On February 9, the ministry submitted a building plan that would see some 9,000 housing units constructed at the site of the Atarot Airport, which has been inoperative since the breakout of the Second Intifada in 2000.

While the Trump plan does not specify where exactly in Atarot the Palestinian tourism center would be located, the airport is the only open area in the East Jerusalem neighborhood where such a site could be built.

The new neighborhood in Atarot would break a long stretch of Palestinian urban areas extending from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Shuafat north to Kfar Aqab, Qalandiya and Ramallah on the other side of the security barrier.

Map of building plan in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Atarot advanced by Israel in February 2020. (Peace Now)

The project will still need to be authorized in several other planning stages that can take several years, but the submission of the building plan marks a significant step toward construction after several years of delays due to lack of funds.

The site designated for construction is mostly on state land but parts of the new neighborhood would sit on parcels currently privately owned by Palestinians, requiring the demolition of at least 15 families’ homes, the Haaretz daily reported.

In a statement blasting the Atarot building plan, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said the construction would prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

“Netanyahu is dragging Israel into a reality of a bi-national apartheid state and is putting the Zionist enterprise in jeopardy,” the left-wing group added.

According to the Trump plan, Israel will maintain control over Atarot and all other East Jerusalem neighborhoods west of the security barrier. However, the Jewish state “should allow for the development by the State of Palestine of a special tourism zone in Atarot, in a specific area to be agreed upon by the parties.”

“We envision that this area should be a world class tourist zone that should support Muslim tourism to Jerusalem and its holy sites. We envision that this zone will become a thriving and vibrant tourism center that includes state-of-the-art public transportation that provides easy access to and from the holy sites,” the plan states.

The Palestinians have rejected the US peace plan, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Israel has welcomed the proposal.

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Kushner says Abbas responsible for spike in violence since release of peace plan

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Kushner says Abbas responsible for spike in violence since release of peace plan

After briefing UN Security Council members on proposal, Trump’s son-in-law says Palestinian leadership has long history of ‘inciting intifadas when they don’t get their way’

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

NEW YORK — US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the architect of the US peace plan for the Middle East, on Thursday blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a recent spike in violence in Israel and the West Bank.

“He does have a responsibility for it,” Kushner told reporters after briefing UN Security Council members on the plan that has been rejected by the Palestinians.

“He calls for days of rage in response and he said that even before he saw the plan,” Kushner added.

Three Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and police officers took place within 12 hours on Thursday, leaving 14 service members wounded.

Two members of the Palestinian security services were also killed, at least one who was apparently mistaken for a terrorist by an Israeli sniper, as violence soared amid Palestinian anger at the US administration’s peace plan announced last week.

Rescuers at the scene of an attack near the Lions Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City in which a police officer was lightly injured and the assailant was killed, February 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Palestinian leaders said the violence was an inevitable result of the plan’s pro-Israel bias, while Israeli officials accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging the attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a direct appeal to Abbas: “This won’t help you. Not the stabbings, not the ramming attacks, not the sniping attacks, and not the incitement… We will do everything necessary to guard our security, secure our borders, and guarantee our future. We will do this with you or without you.”

Kushner said Abbas had “rejected the plan before he even saw it.”

“I think that he was surprised with how good the plan was for the Palestinian people but he locked himself into a position before it came out and I don’t know why he did that,” he added.

“There is a long history of the Palestinian leadership paying the families of terrorists, inciting intifadas (uprisings) when they don’t get their way,” said Kushner.

“I just think the international community has grown very tired of that behavior,” he added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of (L to R) historical Palestine, the 1947 United Nations partition plan on Palestine, the 1948-1967 borders between the Palestinian territories and Israel, and a current map of the Palestinian territories without Israeli-annexed areas and settlements, as he attends an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020 (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Kushner presented the plan to Security Council members at a private lunch Thursday hosted by the US Mission to the United Nations.

Kushner described the two-hour-long talks with the Council’s 14 other members as “very constructive.”

Last chance for the Palestinians

Kushner warned that his plan “may be the last chance to resolve the situation,” because the rate of expansion of Israeli settlements may preclude a contiguous Palestinian state.

Right now, Kushner said, “it’s very, very difficult to have a contiguous state where you can drive from the top to the bottom,” but it is still possible.

He said the most constructive thing the Palestinians can do is to sit down with the Israelis and go over the plan “line by line.”

“If they would like to meet, we’re happy to do it, but we’re not going to chase them,” Kushner said.

His briefing comes as Palestinian supporters have circulated a draft UN resolution that would reject the plan, saying it violates international law and Security Council demands for a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Six Day War.

The resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, could be put to a vote on Feb. 11 when Abbas is expected to address the Security Council and deliver his government’s objections to the Israeli-backed US peace plan. If a vote is held, the resolution is virtually certain to be vetoed by the United States.

The US plan, unveiled by Trump on Jan. 28, envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel, siding with Israel on key contentious issues including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in 1967  — for an independent state and the removal of many of the more than 700,000 Israelis from these areas.

But under terms of the “peace vision” that Kushner worked on for nearly three years, all Israeli settlers would remain in place, and Israel would retain sovereignty over all of its settlements as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.

Dismissing the plan as “nonsense,” Abbas declared: “We say 1,000 no’s to the ‘Deal of the Century,’” using a nickname for Trump’s proposal.

Netanyahu, who stood beside Trump when the plan was announced, called it a “historic breakthrough” equal in significance to the country’s declaration of independence in 1948. He said it provided a green light for annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint statement in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/AFP)

The proposed resolution, drafted by Indonesia and Tunisia, condemns recent Israeli statements calling for annexation “of areas of the occupied Palestinian territory” and stresses “the illegality” of any annexation.

It also reaffirms that all Israeli settlements and other measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem, are illegal and imperil the viability of a two-state solution.”

The draft emphasizes the need to preserve “the territorial integrity, contiguity and unity of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

It reiterates the call to achieve lasting peace “without delay” based on UN resolutions dating back to 1967. It would also give the Security Council’s “unwavering support” to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace based on pre-1967 borders.

The proposed resolution calls on all 193 UN member nations to comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions — and “not to render aid or assistance to illegal settlement activities” or recognize any actions or measures that might imply Israeli sovereignty over occupied Palestinian territories.

It would also express the council’s determination “to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions, including enforcement measures under Chapter 7 of the (UN) Charter.”

Chapter 7 provides for both military and non-military enforcement measures.

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Israel: Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

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Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

Attacking PM from the right, challenger blames Netanyahu’s ‘endless concessions’ for helping perpetuate the idea that a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve a peace deal

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gideon Sa’ar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sole challenger in the upcoming Likud party leadership race, said Sunday that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is an “illusion,” and attacked the premier for giving the notion credibility over the last decade.

“Throughout the world they say that a two-state solution remains the path to an agreement,” Sa’ar said, speaking at a conference.”I have to say to you, this is not a position that helps anyone. Two-states in an illusion.”

Sa’ar said this had been shown through decades of negotiations based around two-states that had failed to bring peace. He also blamed the Palestinians for “never being able to agree to a compromise, despite very generous offers.”

Sa’ar castigated Netanyahu for perpetuating the idea that two-states was the only solution, accusing him of making “endless concessions” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the last decade, including settlement building freezes in the West Bank.

He also referred to Netanyahu’s famous speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, in which the prime minister expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has since said conditions for statehood no longer exist in the current reality in the Middle East.

Sa’ar said that the solution needs to be an autonomous Palestinian entity linked together in a federation with Jordan. “Between the Jordan River and the (Mediterranean) Sea there cannot be another state,” he said.

Sa’ar appeared to be trying to outflank Netanyahu from the right ahead of the Likud party leadership vote, set for December 26. However, Netanyahu has in recent years also moved away from tacit support for a two-state solution and has, over the last few months, been promising to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if reelected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Likud MK Sharren Haskel on Sunday said she would back Sa’ar, becoming the fourth lawmaker to publicly endorse him. Most Likud MKs have announced support for Netanyahu, with a few notable lawmakers keeping mum. Despite the defections, Netanyahu is expected to defeat Sa’ar handily.

The vote marks the first real challenge to Netanyahu’s leadership of the party in 14 years. He and Sa’ar are the only contenders who have announced they will run in the primary.

Sa’ar argues that Netanyahu is divisive and has proved he cannot put together a coalition, after failing to muster a governing majority following two national elections in April and September. Israel will go to polls again on March 2.

Sa’ar has expressed his opposition to a two-state solution in the past. Earlier this year he was one of a group of right-wing lawmakers who sent a letter to US lawmakers warning that calls for a two-state solution are “far more dangerous to Israel” than efforts to boycott the Jewish state, and urging them to refrain from such appeals in the future.

“We believe (the proposed resolution) contains a grave error because it expresses, among other things, support for a so-called ‘Two-State Solution,’ meaning the establishment of a ‘Palestinian state’ in the heart of tiny Israel… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS,” they wrote.

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The letter was sent to the offices of the four congressmen who co-sponsored a resolution that condemned BDS but also called for a two-state solution — Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler and Ann Wagner. It was written and sent at the initiative of Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset and the National Conference of Likud, an informal group of hawks within the ruling party.

Creating a Palestinian state in the region would “severely damage” both Israel’s and America’s national security, the Israeli legislators wrote.

In recent years the Trump administration has moved away from its support for a two-state solution.

Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

US moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the moving of the US embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. These moves have been widely, though not universally, welcomed in Israel.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his point man for the Middle East peace process, has said that the administration’s as-yet-unreleased peace plan would avoid speaking about the two-state solution.

“I realize that means different things to different people,” he said earlier this year. “If you say ‘two states’ to the Israelis it means one thing, and if you say ‘two states’ to the Palestinians it means another thing. So we said, ‘let’s just not say it.’ Let’s just work on the details of what this means.”

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Jersey City mayor: Gunmen wanted to target next door yeshiva with 50 kids inside

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Jersey City mayor: Gunmen wanted to target next door yeshiva with 50 kids inside

If police hadn’t managed to trap shooters in kosher store where 3 killed, result would have been ‘much worse,’ says Steven Fulop; attack viewed as domestic terrorism

Police officers stand near the scene of a gun fight at a kosher supermarket and next door yeshiva in Jersey City, N.J., Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Police officers stand near the scene of a gun fight at a kosher supermarket and next door yeshiva in Jersey City, N.J., Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Friday that he believes that the two gunmen who attacked a kosher store in the city, killing three people inside, were actually planning to target a yeshiva next door that had 50 children inside at the time of the assault.

“My opinion is that as more info comes out it’ll become increasingly clear that the target was the 50 children at the Yeshiva attached to that store.” Fulop, who is Jewish, tweeted:  “We will never know 100% but the doorway to the yeshiva was 3 feet away + it seems he goes in that direction 1st.”

Fulop said that if police had not managed to trap attackers in store, the result would have been much worse.

“This is a horrible tragedy but even in so much darkness with lives lost there is some light in that without question had the bravery/quick response of the police not trapped them in the store this could have been much much worse,” he said.

Steven Fulop

@StevenFulop

My opinion is that as more info comes out it’ll become increasingly clear that the target was the 50 children at the Yeshiva attached to that store. We will never know 100% but the doorway to the yeshiva was 3 feet away + it seems he goes in that direction 1st

419 people are talking about this

On Thursday Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the attack was driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement and is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.

The two killers were armed with a variety of weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun that they were wielding when they stormed into the store in an attack that left the scene littered with several hundred shell casings, broken glass and a community in mourning. A pipe bomb was also found in a stolen U-Haul van.

The Meturgeman@DraftRyan2016

This may be why @StevenFulop tweeted this earlier today: https://twitter.com/stevenfulop/status/1205475151430717440?s=21  https://twitter.com/stevenfulop/status/1205475151430717440 

Steven Fulop

@StevenFulop

My opinion is that as more info comes out it’ll become increasingly clear that the target was the 50 children at the Yeshiva attached to that store. We will never know 100% but the doorway to the yeshiva was 3 feet away + it seems he goes in that direction 1st

The Meturgeman@DraftRyan2016

You can see the turn in this new video as well.

The massacre – while horrific – could have been so much worse. The 50 children upstairs had their lives spared only through an act of G-d.

Embedded video

134 people are talking about this

“The outcome would have been far, far worse” if not for the Jersey City Police, Grewal said Thursday. Authorities noted that the Jewish school was next to the market, and a Catholic school is across the street.

The attackers killed three people in the store, in addition to a police officer at a cemetery about a mile away, before dying in an hourslong gun battle with police Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

Fulop later clarified his views to the New York Jewish Week, saying: “My job is different than the people that are doing the investigation. I do my best to say it how I see it.”

He cited the locations of the store and yeshiva and the large cache of weapons that the shooters brought in their vehicle.

“It’s very, very clear that the perpetrator first doesn’t go directly to the deli, he goes toward the door adjacent to it, the building and the doors adjacent to it are the yeshiva…he brought a pipe bomb and he brought 5 guns and hundreds of bullets…we know that he drove deliberately to that location,” said Fulop. “You put all things together, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion.”

Jersey City’s mayor Steven Fulop, right, and the Director of Public Safety James Shea talk to reporters across the street from a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On Thursday Grewal said it was clear the attack was anti-Semitic.

“The evidence points toward acts of hate. I can confirm that we’re investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs,” the attorney general said. He said social media posts, witness interviews and other evidence reflected the couple’s hatred of Jews and police.

Grewal noted that after killing three people in the store, the couple concentrated their fire on police and did not shoot at others who happened to be on the streets.

This April 24, 2011 photo provided by the Kent, Ohio Police Department shows David Anderson, one of two gunmen who killed four people in Jersey City, N.J. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Kent Police Department via AP)

Grewal said the attackers, David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, had expressed interest in a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelite’s, whose members often rail against Jews and whites. But he said there was no evidence so far that they were members, and added that the two were believed to have acted alone.

The pair brought their cache of weapons in a U-Haul van they drove from Bay View Cemetery, where they shot and killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals, according to the attorney general.

The Tunnel2Towers organization, formed after Sept. 11 to support police officers killed in the line of duty, said Friday it would pay the mortgage of Seals, who left behind a wife and five children.

Director of Public Safety James Shea called Seals “the ultimate detective or officer we would point to to tell young officers, ‘This is how you should behave.’” He said Friday that he doubted Seals would have been ambushed by the pair. Authorities haven’t disclosed why Seals was in the cemetery or details of the confrontation that led to his death.

Anderson fired away with the AR-15-style rifle as he entered the store, while Graham brought a 12-gauge shotgun into the shop. They also had handguns with a homemade silencer and a device to catch shell casings. In all, they had five guns — four recovered in the store, one in the van — in what Grewal called a “tremendous amount of firepower.”

Serial numbers from two of the weapons showed that Graham purchased them in Ohio in 2018, the attorney general said.

Mindel Ferencz (Courtesy)

The victims killed in the store were: Mindel Ferencz, 31, who with her husband owned the grocery; 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there; and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49. A fourth person in the store was shot and wounded but managed to escape, authorities said.

Members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community gathered Wednesday night for funerals for Ferencz and Deutsch. Thousands of people, mostly men, followed Ferencz’s casket through the streets of Brooklyn, hugging and crying.

The bloodshed in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City spread fear through the Jewish community and weighed heavily on the minds of more than 300 people who attended a vigil Wednesday night at a synagogue about a mile from where the shootings took place.

In the deadliest attack on Jews in US history, 11 people were killed in an October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and wounding a rabbi and two others.

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Knesset dissolves, sets unprecedented third election in under a year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Knesset dissolves, sets unprecedented third election in under a year

Israelis to head back to polls on March 2 in latest bid to solve political deadlock that has engulfed country; short-lived 22nd Knesset automatically disperses at midnight

Benny Gantz walks during a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019.(Gali TIBBON / AFP)

Benny Gantz walks during a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019.(Gali TIBBON / AFP)

Israelis will return to the ballot box for the third consecutive national election in 11 months on March 2 after its top politicians again failed to build a governing coalition, in the latest twist in a sprawling and unprecedented crisis that has left the country in political limbo for a year.

The Knesset was automatically dispersed at midnight on Wednesday, but lawmakers continued debating until early Thursday on the date of the vote.

With no Knesset member having gained the support of 61 MKs by the midnight deadline, the Knesset officially dissolved and new elections set for 90 days time, March 10.

However, having started the debate before midnight, Knesset members had until President Reuven Rivlin’s official announcement on Thursday, that no MK gained enough support to build a coalition, to pass the law setting the date for the new elections.

A general view of the Israeli parliament during a vote on a bill to dissolve the parliament, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

With March 10 falling on the Jewish festival on Purim and various other calendar considerations, MKs eventually finalized a bill setting the elections for March 2.

The second and third readings of the vote passed by 96 in favor with seven against. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was absent for earlier proceedings, showed up for the votes that were passed just before 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

That vote brought to an official close attempts by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to assemble a coalition following the September election. Talks between Netanyahu and Gantz, leaders of the two-largest parties, on a unity arrangement broke down with both sides trading blame.

Over the past 21 days, lawmakers also had the opportunity to nominate any MK for a shot at forming a government by gathering 61 signatures, but no such candidate was nominated.

This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party’s electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)

The April 2019 election made history when by the end of May it became the first-ever Israeli election that failed to produce a government. At the time, Netanyahu was short just one vote of a majority. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had refused to join over disagreements on the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law with Netanyahu’s Haredi political allies, precipitating the repeat vote in the fall.

Following both elections, neither Gantz’s Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s Likud had enough allies to form a government without the other or the support of the Yisrael Beytenu party, but the two parties could not finalize the terms for a unity coalition.

Netanyahu will be campaigning in the upcoming election in the shadow of criminal charges against him in three corruption probes, which were announced by the attorney general last month. He faces an indictment over bribery in one case, and fraud and breach of trust in the three cases. He denies all wrongdoing.

He also faces an internal leadership challenge by Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar in an upcoming party primary.

A member of the Israeli Druze community casts her ballot during Israel’s parliamentary elections on September 17, 2019, in Daliyat al-karmel in northern Israel. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The criminal charges have been a sticking point in the coalition talks since September, with Blue and White insisting it won’t serve under a prime minister facing trial and calling for Netanyahu to publicly declare he won’t seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which the prime minister is widely expected to request.

The centrist party has also been critical of the prime minister’s insistence on negotiating on behalf of all 55 MKs in his bloc of right-wing and religious parties. The parties also could not agree on who would serve as prime minister first under a power-sharing framework proposed by President Reuven Rivlin.

Even as another election has now been called, some recent polls indicated it may not resolve the political deadlock, with Liberman again potentially holding the balance of power.

A Tuesday poll showed Blue and White increasing its lead over Likud, expanding its current one-seat advantage to a four-seat lead — 37 seats to Likud’s 33 in the 120-member Knesset. Meanwhile, the rightist Haredi bloc of parties backing Netanyahu is set to fall by three seats, according to the Channel 13 poll, from the current 55 total to 52, far short of the 61 seats it would need to form a coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.

The poll predicted Likud falling even further if the party drops the scandal-laden Netanyahu in favor of his main challenger, Sa’ar.

When asked who they blamed for the expected third election, 41 percent of respondents blamed Netanyahu, followed by Yisrael Beytenu leader Liberman at 26%, and Gantz at a mere 5%. Twenty-three percent said “everyone is equally responsible.”

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Suspected Jersey City gunman said to have railed against Jews online

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Suspected Jersey City gunman said to have railed against Jews online

Officials refuse to publicly elaborate on targeting of kosher market, but investigators reportedly believe rampage was motivated by anti-Semitism, anti-police sentiment

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, December 11, 2019. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, December 11, 2019. (AP/Seth Wenig)

One of the suspected gunmen in the deadly Jersey City shooting at a kosher supermarket on Tuesday railed against Jews and police officers on social media, according to a report Wednesday, as authorities indicated that the store had been targeted in the deadly incident.

A law enforcement official said police believe the shooter was motivated by the anti-Semitic and anti-police beliefs, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Details of the online posts were not provided in the article.

The two suspects, who were both killed in a shootout with police, were identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, NBC New York quoted law enforcement sources saying.

According to the network, Anderson was once a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite’s, who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelite’s and may practice elements of both Judaism and Christianity. Some Black Hebrew Israelite groups have been accused of racism and anti-Semitism.

Officials said a religious note was found in the vehicle allegedly used by Anderson and Graham but that they were still investigating a motive.

A neighbor of Graham’s in Jersey City told NBC she was formerly a home health aide in Manhattan who met Anderson after getting hurt and quitting her job. The neighbor said Graham became a “dark” person after meeting Anderson.

A police officer and three bystanders were killed in the violence, as were the two suspects, Tuesday afternoon in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. Two of the bystanders have been identified by local community members as Leah Mindel Ferencz, 33, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, both members of the local ultra-Orthodox community.

The 40-year-old slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, who led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, was cut down by gunfire that erupted near a cemetery. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market, where the five other bodies were later found.

Police officers arrive at the scene of an active shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 10, 2019. (Kena Betancur / AFP)

Local officials earlier on Wednesday said they believe the Jewish-owned supermarket was targeted, but stopped short of laying out an anti-Semitic motive. Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews.

“Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.

Fulop did not elaborate on why authorities now believe the market was targeted.

Steven Fulop

@StevenFulop

Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats

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Fulop said that there were no signs of further threats, although earlier reports had said a third gunman may have escaped the scene, and said he had been in close contact with Jersey City’s Jewish community following the attack.

“I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times,” Fulop said.

Next to the store, the only kosher supermarket in the area and a central fixture for the growing community, are a yeshiva and a synagogue. Around 100 Jewish families live in the area in the city’s Greenville neighborhood, with most of the families having moved there from Brooklyn in the last few years.

Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the store and attends the synagogue next door, said he spoke with the store owner, Moishe Ferencz, before Ferencz learned that his wife had been killed in the attack.

“He told me he had just walked out of the store into the synagogue not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn’t get back for hours,” Schapiro said. “His wife was inside the store. He said, ‘I hope my wife is safe.’”

New York City councilman Chaim Deutsch, a member of the city’s Jewish caucus, said that New York City police were providing extra security to synagogues and other sites.

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Seals was credited by his superiors with having led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, and might have been trying to stop an incident involving such weapons when he was cut down by gunfire that erupted near the cemetery, authorities said.

The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from New York City. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout.

A police officer pushes pedestrians back from the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kelly said that when police responded to the area of the kosher store, officers “were immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.”

“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.

Inside the grocery store, police found the bodies of who they believed were the two gunmen and three other people who apparently happened to be there when the assailants rushed in, authorities said. Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police.

Police officers arrive at the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 10, 2019. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

US President Donald Trump said he had been briefed on the incident, which he called a “horrific shootout,” adding that the White House would be monitoring the situation and assisting local officials.

“Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

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Israel: Elections to be held on March 2 if no coalition formed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Elections to be held on March 2 if no coalition formed

Two days before deadline, Likud and Blue and White agree on prospective date, a Monday, which must still be approved by Knesset

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Blue and White and Likud have agreed that the next round of elections will be held on Monday, March 2, 2020, barring a last-minute coalition deal in the next two days.

The Knesset is expected to dissolve on Wednesday night, confirming the failure of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a governing coalition following the inconclusive September elections.

If no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset by Wednesday — and no candidate appears poised to do so — elections will be called for the third time in less than a year. The months-long political paralysis has continued since a previous round of voting in April failed to result in a majority government.

The proposed election date must clear three Knesset plenary readings to be approved, though even with just Likud and Blue and White’s support it already has a parliamentary majority.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Monday the three votes would be scheduled for Wednesday.

“Even when it seems that there is no chance of preventing these costly and unnecessary elections, we will not begin this legislative process before Wednesday, to allow the party leaders to come to their senses in the eleventh hour, a moment before it’s too late,” said Edelstein.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The unprecedented third round of elections in under a year will also be held on a Monday, a first for Israel, which generally holds the national vote on a Tuesday.

The change was due to a series of anniversaries and holidays that fall out on March’s Tuesdays, including a memorial day for soldiers whose burial sites are unknown, the Purim carnival, and the death anniversary of a Hasidic sage that sees a large ultra-Orthodox pilgrimage to his Polish hometown.

On Sunday, Hebrew media reports said Netanyahu’s Likud was seeking the latest possible date for the elections, while Blue and White sought the earliest.

Following September’s vote, Netanyahu and Gantz publicly supported a unity government of their parties under a power-sharing deal outlined by the president, but neither would bend on who would serve as premier first; the prime minister insisted on negotiating on behalf of his allied bloc of 55 MKs; and Blue and White ruled out serving under Netanyahu due to the criminal charges against him.

Both leaders have traded blame over the logjam.

Netanyahu will be facing a challenge within his party — Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar will by vying for the Likud leadership — and will campaign in the shadow of criminal charges against him, announced last month by the attorney general, in three corruption probes.

On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel was appointed to head the Central Elections Committee, replacing Hanan Melcer, who presided over the previous two elections.

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Saudi: Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

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

 

Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

Sunday, 8 December, 2019 – 12:15
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli jets bombed several Hamas positions in Gaza early Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave toward southern Israel.

The military said in a statement the airstrikes targeted military camps and a naval base for Hamas.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, reported The Associated Press.

On Saturday evening, Israel announced that its air defenses, known as “Iron Dome,” intercepted two of three missiles coming from Gaza. Later, it said all three rockets had been shot down.

No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The Israeli army said Hamas was responsible for any attack transpiring in Gaza.

Cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza has ebbed and flowed in recent years. Last month, the two sides fought their worst round of violence in months.

Leaders from Hamas and the smaller but more radical Islamic Jihad are in Cairo, talking with Egyptian officials about cementing a ceasefire that would see some economic incentives and easing of restrictions on Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that no steps would be made toward any form of ceasefire as long as rocket fire continued.

He said last month’s onslaught, in which 34 Palestinians were killed, including a top militant commander, would be just a “promo” to what came next if aggression from Gaza continued.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since seizing Gaza in 2007 and dozens of shorter skirmishes.