Terror Suspect Admits Plan to Attack Israelis in Thailand (Bangkok Post-Thailand)
Investigations into two suspected foreign terrorists are progressing swiftly as one of the men admitted to a planned attack on Israeli tourists, according to an investigator.
The men, arrested on suspicion of links to the militant Islamist group Hizbullah, have been identified as French-Lebanese national Daoud Farhat and Lebanese-Filipino national Youssef Ayad.
Assistant national police chief Winai Thongsong said the men were arrested in Bangkok after Thai police received intelligence from Israel about a planned attack on Israeli tourists during Passover.
A source said investigators believe at least nine suspected foreign terrorists connected to Hizbullah are in Thailand.
Ayad admitted his group entered Thailand to carry out a bomb attack against Israeli tourists.
Christians Mark Good Friday in the Holy Land (AP-Washington Post)
Christians in the Holy Land are commemorating Good Friday with prayers and processions through Jerusalem's Old City.
The Easter holiday and Jewish Passover coincide this year.
Amsterdam Fined Holocaust Victims for Unpaid Taxes While They Were in Camps (JTA-Times of Israel)
The City of Amsterdam collected more than $10 million from Holocaust survivors who were charged ground lease fees for periods they spent in hiding or in concentration camps, researchers said.
The team of researchers for the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, or NIOD, wrote their findings at the city's request, the Het Parool daily reported Tuesday.
Nazi authorities began in 1942 the deportation and murder of 75% of the 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands then.
Many of their houses were used by Nazi officers and local collaborators. The city went after Holocaust survivors for missed payments as late as 1947 and imposed fines on them for missing payments.
"What has come to light is a scandalous procedure, in which people were stripped of their homes and then made to pay for those who moved in in their place," said Ronny Naftaniel, a former chief negotiator for the Dutch Jewish community in restitution talks and a member of the supervisory committee of the NIOD research.
Culture Secretary Is UK Cabinet's New Israel Ally - Marcus Dysch (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Sajid Javid, the first Asian male Conservative minister, was appointed Culture Secretary last week.
Speaking at a Conservative Friends of Israel event in 2012, he described himself as: "a proud, British-born Muslim" whose father came from Pakistan.
He said that if he had to settle in the Middle East, he would opt for Israel, "the only nation in the Middle East that shares the same democratic values as Britain."
IDF Introduces Mobile Radar for Infantry and Armored Units - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF is introducing a mobile radar called Wind Shield that will be carried by infantry or armored units and track the sources of incoming rocket and mortar fire, the IDF said on Wednesday.
Lt.-Col. Yigal Katzav of the IDF Northern Command said the device will provide an early warning to forces on the ground. It will also allow the army to return fire on the source of an attack within a very short time.
Israeli Company Develops Belt that Protects Against Nuclear Radiation (World Tribune)
The Israeli company Stemrad has developed a belt designed to block harmful gamma radiation.
"StemRad's tested...technology protects hematopoietic stem cells from the toxic effects of gamma radiation, providing affected individuals with an increased chance of survival in the event of inadvertent exposure...from a nuclear catastrophe such as an explosion or reactor leak," the company said.
StemRad has received orders from Israel, Japan and Russia.
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- Iranians Carry "Death to Israel" Signs as Rouhani Tells Crowd He Supports Dialogue - Parisa Hafezi
Chanting "God is Greatest," Iranian troops paraded missiles carriers, some bearing banners saying "Death to America" and "Death to Israel,"
at an annual parade in Tehran, state television reported on Friday.
"We don't attack any country and don't want war, but we will firmly confront any aggression against Iran," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the crowd, as helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead and parachutists landed near the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. (Reuters)
- Israel, Palestinians Hold Peace Talks with U.S. Envoy
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met Thursday with U.S. envoy Martin Indyk to try to find a way to extend faltering peace talks.
The discussions are "very difficult," one Palestinian source said.
- Former Iranian Atomic Energy Director: We Hid Information from IAEA
In a March 17, 2014, interview with the Iranian daily Khorasan, former Atomic Energy Organization of Iran director Fereydoon Abbasi, who headed the agency under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, revealed that over the years Iran had concealed from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) information on its nuclear program, on its activity at the heavy water reactor in Arak, and on the location and activity of its production workshops.
- U.S.: Forfeiture Deal over Iran Assets Sets Record
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says a federal judge Thursday approved a settlement with 19 holders of terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran.
It includes the sale of a 36-story New York office building and other properties owned by Iran in the largest ever terrorism-related forfeiture.
The settling creditors include families and estates of victims of the 1983 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and terrorist attacks in Israel. Besides the Manhattan tower, buildings will be sold in California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia.
- Syrian Army Steps Up Homs Offensive - Loveday Morris
Fewer than 1,000 people, the vast majority of whom are fighters, remain in the last rebel-held areas of Homs. A series of events in recent weeks helped clear the way for a military offensive by pro-Assad forces.
An explosion wiped out a number of rebel leaders. Then a Dutch priest who had refused to leave the opposition areas was assassinated.
With their spirits beaten down, hundreds of rebels have accepted government offers to hand over their weapons, activists and Syrian state media said. At least 300 fighters have left in the past month, according to three activists in the city, and one put the number at nearer 1,000. Virtually no civilians remain.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- PA Says Ratification of Geneva Convention Makes Israel Liable for War Crimes; Israeli Officials: Entire Palestinian Leadership Should Be Indicted - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
Israel is liable for war crimes over the prisoner issue now that the Palestinian Authority has ratified the four Geneva Conventions, including the one relating to prisoners of war, PA officials charged on Thursday.
An Israeli official, however, said that it was the Palestinians who had now made themselves vulnerable by signing the Geneva Conventions.
"According to the Geneva Conventions, the entire Palestinian leadership should be immediately indicted for the thousands of rockets that have been fired from Palestinian territories into Israel in what is a double war crime," the official said.
Palestinians "deliberately targeted innocent civilians, and they are using Gaza's civilian population as a human shield....The Palestinians should be extremely careful if they think that international legality can be exploited as a tool against Israel."
On Thursday, rallies took place in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm and Gaza, calling on Israel to free all Palestinian prisoners. Public opinion in Israel has swung against any further releases as an incentive to the Palestinians to continue negotiations. Such calls grew stronger after a pre-Passover attack on Monday in which a Palestinian terrorist killed Baruch Mizrahi, a father of five, while he was driving with his family in the West Bank.
Ambassador Alan Baker, a former legal adviser for Israel's Foreign Ministry, disputed the claim that the Palestinians were prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The Palestinians are not fighting "an armed conflict....They were put in prison for terrorism and tried for terrorism." (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinians Riot in Hebron on "Prisoner Day" - Tovah Lazaroff
On Thursday at a Hebron demonstration to mark Prisoner Day, Palestinian rioters threw stones at IDF soldiers and Border Police, who attempted to quell the violence with riot dispersal means. The clashes took place as thousands of Jewish visitors streamed to the Cave of the Patriarchs and other areas of Hebron under Israeli control so they could celebrate the Passover holiday.
- Tens of Thousands at Western Wall in Jerusalem for Passover Priestly Blessing Ceremony - Nir Hasson
Tens of thousands of people participated in the "Priestly Blessing" ceremony, Birkat Hakohanim, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Thursday morning, despite the violent clashes between Israeli police forces and Palestinians the day before at the Temple Mount, located just above the Western Wall plaza.
See also Video: Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall, Passover 2014 - Yaakov Kornblit (News 24-YouTube)
- Arab Population of Jerusalem Has Doubled in 20 Years - Arik Mirovsky
Between 2008 and 2012, the number of Jerusalem residents grew by 55,600 from 759,700 to 815,300. Most of the growth was in Arab neighborhoods, which added 32,200 residents, while the Jewish population grew by only 23,400. Over the past 20 years, the Arab population of the city has doubled in number and stood at 312,500 at the end of 2012.
- Wait for a Palestinian Leader Who Can Unite All Palestinians to Coexistence with Israel - Zvi Gabbay
Negotiations with the Palestinians, mediated by the Americans, are going on as if Gaza does not exist. One must suppose that if an agreement is signed, Hamas or Islamic Jihad (based in Gaza), supported by Iran - which also opposes a deal with Israel – will continue to attack Israel with missiles and rockets. The current negotiations are completely cut off from the Palestinian reality, which has two entities, one in Ramallah and one in Gaza, competing for supremacy on the Palestinian streets.
Abbas is not the leader of all Palestinians. Although he sits in Ramallah, where the Palestinian government traditionally sits, he does not speak for all Palestinians. Therefore, he's in no rush to seal the deal with Israel. The goal of Palestinian leaders, who are the descendants of the leaders of gangs that fought against the Jewish pioneers, is to uproot the Jewish state from the region.
We must wait until a Palestinian leader arises who can unite all Palestinians around him; one that truly, honestly aspires to coexistence with the Jewish entity - the State of Israel. In the meantime, independent Palestinian government should be encouraged, in order to increase their quality of life and promote economic cooperation between the two peoples.
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Ireland and deputy director general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Palestinians Need More Than Borders - Tom Wilson
PA head Mahmoud Abbas wants the next round of negotiations to focus on the borders of a Palestinian state. But the precise geographical parameters of a Palestinian state must be of less concern than the internal nature of that state. Indeed, if we could all be confident that a future Palestinian state would have the national characteristics of, say, Switzerland, then the question of the defensibility of Israel's borders might be somewhat less critical.
But because there is good reason to suspect that a future Palestinian state in the West Bank, like the Palestinian polity in Gaza, would have more in common with Afghanistan, the exact positioning of its borders should hardly be our most pressing concern.
The Palestinian Authority's nascent country-in-waiting in the West Bank has been the model of what a failed state looks like and it only remains in existence today because of phenomenal levels of international aid coupled with an IDF presence. Were it not for the Israeli military, Abbas and his governing Fatah movement would likely have been swept away long ago just as Fatah was in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority's dress rehearsal for statehood has demonstrated what a Palestinian state would look like. As things stand, wherever the borders of a Palestinian state were drawn would present Israel with a strategic nightmare.
- The Golan Heights, Where Al-Qaeda Fights Hizbullah - Avi Issacharoff
Most of the Syrian Golan Heights has fallen to the opposition. Along the Syrian-Israeli border there are only two areas still under the rule of the Assad regime - Kuneitra in the central Golan, and Khader, the Druze area in the north. Jabhat al-Nusra, a group created as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq, now controls the southern Syrian Golan Heights. From the Israeli side of the border, one can make out the group's black flags waving over homes in the village of Kudna. But not every area in opposition hands is controlled by Islamists. In some areas, more moderate groups are in charge.
(Times of Israel)
- Israel's Relationship with the UN Human Rights Council: Is There Hope for Change? - Michal Navot
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC), since its establishment, has been characterized by its obsessive bias, selectivity, discriminative attitude, and double standards toward Israel.
On January 1, 2014, Israel was admitted as a member of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in Geneva.
As a full member of a regional group, Israel will be able to participate in shaping policies and be able to better defend its position. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Lutheran Nuns End Jerusalem Mission to Holocaust Survivors - Renee Ghert-Zand
Beit Avraham (House of Abraham), run by the sisters of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood, is closing down. Since 1961 it has served as a guesthouse for Holocaust survivors. But with so few survivors still alive, the nuns have decided their work has come to an end.
The sisters had originally come to Israel in 1957 to work as nurses in Israeli hospitals as a way of doing practical repentance for not only what the Nazis had perpetrated, but also for "the 2,000 years of Jews' suffering because of Christianity," as Sister Gratia puts it. "We as Christians had to do something in Israel. We couldn't continue as though nothing happened."
Sister Gratia, 71, who arrived in 1975 from Austria and became an Israeli citizen two years ago, has no plans to leave the Holy Land. (Times of Israel)
The Middle East War on Christians - Ron Proser (Wall Street Journal)
- Over the past century, a plague of persecution has swept across the Middle East, emptying the region of its Christian population. At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26% of the Middle East's population. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 10%. Intolerant and extremist governments are driving away the Christian communities that have lived in the Middle East since their faith was born.
- In Syrian cities like Aleppo and Damascus, Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters. In Egypt, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues. And in Iraq, terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers.
- Over the past 10 years, nearly two-thirds of Iraq's 1.5 million Christians have been driven from their homes. Many settled in Syria before once again becoming victims of unrelenting persecution. Syria's Christian population has dropped from 30% in the 1920s to less than 10% today.
- In January, a report by the nondenominational Christian organization Open Doors documented the 10 most oppressive countries for Christians; nine were Muslim-majority states noted for Islamic extremism, tyrannical regimes that uphold archaic blasphemy and defamation-of-religion laws. The Islamic Republic of Iran has executed dozens of people for the crimes of "waging war against God" and "spreading corruption on Earth."
- Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded. Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab Israeli, has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2003.
- Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest living in Israel, recently told me: "Human rights are not something to be taken for granted. Christians in much of the Middle East have been slaughtered and persecuted for their faith, but here in Israel they are protected."
The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.
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