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Rocket Reportedly Fired into Israel from Lebanon

By The Times of Israel & Israel Hayom

A rocket was fired from south Lebanon at Israel, Lebanese media reported Sunday night. Residents in the area of Metula, near the border with Lebanon, reported hearing a high-pitched whistle followed by a loud boom before midnight, according to a report in Ynet news. There were no initial reports of injury or damage. A security source told Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper that the rocket was fired from the area of Burj al-Marouk, near the town of Marjayoun. The town is about five kilometers (3 miles) from Metula.

Israel Defense Forces troops were dispatched to the area to locate the rocket, if it fell within Israel, Ynet reported. Troops from the UNIFIL peacekeeping force also conducted searches inside Lebanon, The Daily Star reported. The reported rocket fire came several hours after a Hizbullah stronghold in Beirut was shelled, injuring four people.

There was no claim of responsibility for that attack. However, a Syrian rebel commander threatened earlier this week to strike against Hizbullah strongholds in retaliation for the militia's military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Two rockets hit a Hizbullah-controlled district in the southern part of the Lebanese capital of Beirut overnight Saturday, residents said, wounding several people in an attack that may have been a response to a speech by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah earlier in the day.

Nasrallah vowed on Saturday to help propel Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to victory in Syria's bloody civil war, warning that the fall of the Damascus regime would benefit Israel and the West, give rise to extremists and plunge the Middle East into a "dark period."

It was the first attack to apparently target Hizbullah's stronghold in the south of the Lebanese capital since the outbreak of the two-year conflict in neighboring Syria, which has sharply heightened Lebanon's own sectarian tensions.

Hizbullah fired thousands of rockets into Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and the Shiite terror group has threatened to attack Israel in response to reported attacks by Israeli planes inside Syria earlier this month. Those attacks were said to have been carried out to stop advanced weapons transfers from Iran to Hizbullah, according to unnamed American and Israeli sources.

On Monday, Israel will hold a massive national preparedness drill, which will focus on chemical attacks, as well as rocket strikes on the Israeli heartland. The head of the IDF's Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, said Tuesday that the outbreak of a war in which Israel would be hit with a "large volume of rocket fire" was a certainty. "Our opponents hold long-range missiles with large warheads and the capacity to carry hundreds of kilos," he said.

The drill will include preparation for possible missile strikes against Israel, particularly in the greater Tel Aviv area. The first few days will center on protecting civilian populations at public institutions and private households. Two alarms will blare on Monday, at 12:30 p.m. and 7:05 p.m., and citizens will be requested to go to safe rooms or bomb shelters and to stay inside for 10 minutes.

The drill will mark the first time an entire network of early warning systems will be tested. In addition to sirens, civilians are to receive alerts from various sources, including from cellphones, social networks, and the television.

Palestinian Negotiator: No Talks Unless Israel Accepts '67 Lines, Freezes Settlements

By The Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Sunday that his side would only agree to renew peace talks if Israel ceased all settlement activity and openly declared that a future state of Palestine would be created on the 1967 lines with minor land swaps. He sounded exceedingly skeptical about the prospects of a breakthrough in the stalemate.

"We need to know what are the terms of reference for these negotiations. What are we negotiating about?" Erekat told Israeli reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at a Dead Sea hotel on the Jordanian side,. "If you have an Israeli prime minister who cannot utter the sentences two states on 1967 — come on, guys. Stop being politically blind."

Earlier on Sunday, President Shimon Peres, who also attended the conference, said he was optimistic about efforts made by Secretary of State John Kerry to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Peres was said to be holding private meetings with Abbas and other world leaders throughout the day. "We all agree with President Shimon Peres on the need for two states based on '67," Erekat said. "He should focus on convincing the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu," to accept that framework. The Americans, too, added Erekat, must push for Netanyahu to declare "publicly his acceptance of two states based on '67."

Despite talk about the imminent resumption of peace talks, Erekat accused Israel of apartheid and suggested that Palestinians would only agree to return to the negotiating table if Jerusalem ceased all settlement construction.

"We were there 20 years ago and we have heard this before; now the Israeli government must make a choice," Erekat said, referring to the Oslo Accords, which were signed in 1993. "The choices are very clear: Continu[ing] with settlement activity means you want a one-state solution," he said. "If you don't want to engage in serious negotiations leading to ending the occupation, what's developing in the West Bank and east Jerusalem today is a worse apartheid than existed in South Africa." If Israel doesn't cease with its "political blindness," it will drag the entire region "down the drain," he added.

Addressing Israeli reporters, Erekat said the Palestinian demand that Israel stop building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank should not be viewed as a precondition to talks but rather as an Israeli duty.

"The Palestinians have no preconditions whatsoever. The Israelis have to understand the difference between your obligations and our conditions," Erekat said. "I hope that you in Israel will be able to differentiate between point-scoring, blame-game, finger pointing, and obligations. You have obligations; settlement freeze, two states on '67, releasing [Palestinian] prisoners – these are obligations. And I hope the day will come when the Israeli government will understand the difference between its obligations and our conditions."

Farrakhan's 'Synagogue of Satan' Remarks Under Fire


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the statement by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) strongly denouncing Minister Louis Farrakhan's remarks during a meeting with Detroit City Council members and local clergy last week as "unacceptable, racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic."

ADL expressed appreciation for Conyers' response in condemning Farrakhan's statements and echoed the sentiment that his words "have no place in civilized discourse."

During his speech to the congregation at The Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, Farrakhan spewed hateful anti-Semitic invective, referring to "Satanic Jews" and the "Synagogue of Satan" supposedly controlling major institutions and added that President Obama "surrounded himself with Satan...members of the Jewish community."

As the longtime leader of the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan has frequently espoused bigoted and anti-Semitic rhetoric. In recent years, the Nation of Islam's campaign to demonize various groups including Jews, whites, and others has continued unabated.

El Al Plane Narrowly Avoids Crash Near Eilat

By The Times of Israel

An El Al plane almost crashed near Eilat in one of three known safety incidents in the past month, all of which were being investigated by Israel's Civil Aviation Authority.

With 100 passengers on board, the El Al flight to Eilat narrowly avoided flying into a mountain, clearing its peak by a mere 200 meters, Channel 10 reported Sunday. "It's as dangerous as it gets," Udi Zohar, the former head of the Civil Aviation Authority, told the news station.

According to the report, the plane — a Boeing-737 — approached the landing strip in Eilat's airport when the control tower asked the pilots to circle and then return, because the runway wasn't ready. What was supposed to be a routine procedure nearly ended in a tragic accident.

Flying without instruments, the pilots lost their sense of direction and flew west instead of south. It was a night with bad visibility and they didn't notice the mountains looming in front of them, the report said. At the last moment, the pilots pulled the plane up and avoided the crash, but continued flying into Egypt's no-fly zone before turning around. The Transportation Ministry's chief investigator was still looking into the matter, and in the meantime the pilots were suspended.

Zohar said that a situation in which the plane's alarm bells were ringing "isn't an event that can be ignored." If someone thinks they can fly at a certain altitude in a certain direction "and they fly at the wrong altitude in the wrong direction," it "invites them to crash into a mountain."

Israel Radio reported that there were at least two other serious safety incidents involving El Al planes in recent weeks, including one plane which approached Ben-Gurion Airport at a low altitude, much closer to the nearby roofs than permitted.

Bidding War?: Google vs. Facebook in Talks to Buy Waze

By Reuters

Google Inc is considering buying Israeli mobile satellite navigation startup Waze Inc, which may lead to a bidding war with Facebook Inc, Bloomberg news reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. Waze is seeking more than $1 billion and is fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties, Bloomberg cited a source as saying.

The Calcalist business daily first reported that Facebook Inc has held talks to buy Waze for as much as $1 billion. Google and other parties approached Waze after the Facebook talks became public but none of the bidders are close to clinching a deal, Bloomberg said, adding that the start-up might decide to remain independent. Apple Inc, which distributes a competing map tool, is not part of the discussions, Bloomberg said.

Waze uses satellite signals from members' smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic information.

The four-year-old company has 47 million users. Waze has 11 of its 100 employees based in the United States, with the remaining staff in Israel. By buying Waze, the Internet search giant would prevent the company from falling into the hands of Facebook, which is delving deeper into mobile technology as it tries to grow its user base.

Mapping services are among the five most-used applications on smartphones and are crucial to engaging and retaining mobile users. The key advantage of owning, rather than licensing, a mapping service is that it allows for the product to be tailored and personalized for users.

"Whoever holds the mapping data is going to be a hot commodity," said Brian Proffitt, author of several books on mobile technology and an adjunct instructor of management in the University of Notre Dame. "As larger vendors acquire mapping data, businesses and consumers will discover that it's more difficult to gain free access and correct errors."

Waze's real-time traffic information, generated continuously from data on users' smartphones about traveling speed and direction, is considered a particularly valuable asset that poses a threat to the search giant's existing offering, Google Maps. "Sometimes the best offense is defense," said a third source close to the situation, explaining Google's motivation to acquire Waze.

Still, Marcus Thielking, co-founder of rival mapping service, skobbler, said Facebook could easily develop a real-time traffic service similar to Waze's, thanks to its massive social network of more than one billion users. As a result, he said, it would be "shortsighted" for Google to acquire Waze strictly to keep it away from Facebook. "I can't really see much sense in a Google acquisition, especially not at a price that's close to what we're talking about," said Thielking.

Due diligence between Waze and Facebook had been under way and a term sheet signed after six months of discussions, Calcalist reported this month. But talks stalled over Facebook's demand that the Waze team, primarily working in Israel, relocate to California, the publication reported days later.

Waze has enjoyed years of spectacular growth. About 12% of its users hail from the United States, and it also has high penetration in Italy and Brazil. Its user base has skyrocketed to 47.5 million now, from about seven million in 2011.

Four-year-old Waze was the brainchild of Ehud Shabtai, a software engineer with a degree in philosophy and computer science from Tel Aviv University, who hit upon the idea when he realized commercially available GPS software could not reflect real-time conditions speedily enough, or provide certain useful data - such as speed traps.

According to Waze's website, Shabtai teamed up with entrepreneurs Uri Levine and Amir Shinar to found Waze in 2008. It has raised $67 million in funding to date from firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Blue Run Ventures, Hong Kong media and real-estate mogul Li Ka-shing's Horizon Ventures and semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc. According to Calcalist, Microsoft Corp owns 10.2% of the company, but Waze did not comment on that.

The startup partnered with Facebook in October 2012, when Waze released an updated version of its app that allowed users to share their drive with their Facebook friends.

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