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Arrested Hamas Fighter Reveals Tunnel Attack Plot

By YnetNews.com

Israel police and Shin Bet operatives arrested early in July Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer, a 21-year-old resident of Rafah and Hamas fighter with significant knowledge of Hamas' actions in Rafah and tunnel digging that was revealed during his questioning. Shaer's arrest was cleared for publication early Tuesday afternoon.

Among the intelligence gained from Shaer during his questioning, the Shin Bet was able to confirm that a road recently built by Hamas along the border fence was intended for a surprise attack on Israel involving vehicles that would even cross the border.

Shaer also disclosed specific emergency procedures followed by Hamas and the organization's intention of using tunnels rebuilt since last year's Operation Protective Edge to launch attacks in Israel. In particular, Shaer was able to supply the specific locations, paths, and digging sites of tunnels in the Rafah area leading in the direction of the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

As a Hamas operative, Shaer was personally involved in a wide variety of training including combat, command, use of advanced weapons and explosives. During Operation Protective Edge, Shaer was active in a logistics and support company that helped transport military equipment and explosives to fighters in the field. Shaer was also directly involved in combat zones including planting anti-tank mines and observation duties.

The Shin Bet said that Shaer had been privy to the details of many of Hamas' senior officials. During his investigation, he talked about Hamas' relationship with Iran which he said was shipping military aid to the Gaza Strip to strengthen the organization.

Shaer said that Iran was sending money, advanced weapons and electronic equipment to the Gaza Strip including devices to disrupt radio frequencies meant to help down Israeli UAVs above the Gaza Strip. He also claimed that Iran had trained Hamas operatives in paragliding with the goal of infiltrating Israel.

The Shin Bet also said that Shaer provided information regarding the formation of Hamas' elite units, their anti-tank abilities, anti-air abilities and observation abilities. Shaer explained that Hamas has the ability to film at a distance of approximately three kilometers into Israeli territory. He also detailed changes in strategy and unit formations since Operation Protective Edge.

Shaer told interrogators that Hamas used materials allowed into the strip for reconstruction to make weapons. In addition, he said that civilians were being put in danger as the organization regularly stores explosives in residential structures due to the fear that Israel would attack separate storage facilities for weapons.

An indictment against Shaer was submitted to Be'er Sheva's District Court on July 31st. He was accused of membership and activity in an unlawful association, attempted murder, contact with a foreign agent, forbidden military training and various weapons offenses.


Thousands Sign Petition Calling to Arrest Netanyahu in London

By IsraelNationalNews.com

A petition calling for the arrest of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during an upcoming visit to London has garnered more than 34,000 signatures, but the British Embassy in Israel said on Tuesday there is no chance that will happen.

The petition, which appears on the website of the British Parliament, notes that Netanyahu is due to visit London in September and adds, "Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014."

As of Tuesday evening, the petition was signed by 34,966 people out of the 100,000 its organizers are hoping to achieve. Under British law, the government must respond to all petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures. At 100,000 signatures, the petition could be considered for debate in Parliament.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Israel told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday evening, "According to British law, foreign heads of state enjoy immunity from the legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained." The Israeli Foreign Ministry made it clear Tuesday that they believe "this is a PR exercise with no practical significance."

"The bilateral relations between Britain and Israel are closer than ever, as evidenced by data on mutual trade which has doubled in recent years, along with fruitful academic, cultural and scientific bilateral cooperation," said the Foreign Ministry.

It should be noted that in Britain, anyone can initiate a petition of this nature on the website of the Parliament. Among the petitions one can find on the site is one calling for the legalization of drugs, which has already garnered 200,000 signatures.


New Open Fire Instructions: 'Fire Only in the Air'

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The IDF has changed its open-fire instructions for warriors serving in Judea and Samaria, making it even more difficult for them to fire at terrorists. The new instructions determine that only in cases of real danger to life may the soldier fire at the terrorist's lower limbs.

This is a radical change in the longstanding open-fire instructions that call for a soldier to call out warnings to terrorists, then fire in the air several times. If a terrorist ignores these warnings, the soldier was instructed to fire at the terrorist's lower extremities.

The new instructions appear to mean that terrorists can escape the IDF without fear of being shot, after mounting attacks. They also appear to mean that soldiers may not even fire at suspicious approaching figures, even if they continue to approach after having been warned.

The IDF said that "in view of the situation assessment, a temporary order has been disseminated, clarifying the way the forces are to confront threats that do not constitute actual and immediate threat to life."

In May, it was reported that IDF soldiers have been instructed by their commanders to avoid killing terrorists, even if they spot them as they are about to throw a firebomb or rock at a car. The only time soldiers may shoot to kill are when there is "real danger of loss of life" – but the parameters of this situation were not clearly defined.

The newspaper Makor Rishon cited S., a combat soldier who was stationed near Ramallah, as saying that rocks are not necessarily defined as life-threatening weapons in IDF orders. If the rocks are being thrown at Israeli cars on a main road, soldiers may fire at the legs of the terrorists, and only with the approval of a company commander, he said. In other cases, the company commander is only allowed to authorize firing rubber-coated bullets. "They want us to hit a knee or two, to achieve deterrence," S. summed up.


Will French Students be Forced to Eat Pork?

By IsraelNationalNews.com

A French court will rule this week on the decision by a right-wing mayor to ban non-pork meals in schools for Muslims and Jews, his lawyer said Tuesday. Mayor Gilles Platret announced in March that pupils in his town of Chalon-sur-Saone near Dijon in eastern France would no longer be guaranteed a non-pork option at lunchtime from the start of the next school year in September, according to AFP.

This decision triggered controversy across the country, including within his Republican party, led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem accused Platret of "taking children hostage" with his politics.

A legal complaint was filed by the Muslim Judicial Defense League, whose lawyer, Karim Achoui, said "a child would be extremely traumatized if a pork cutlet was served to him and he was obliged to eat it after he has been repeatedly told from a young age that it's forbidden food."

Another member of the group, Jean-Baptiste Jacquenet-Poillot, said the removing of non-pork options was a breach of France's stringent laws on secularism, which were about "integration, not assimilation." The mayor's lawyer responded in a statement to the court that the laws on secularism did not oblige authorities to "provide everyone what they need to exercise their religion".

But many see the decision as pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment at a time of heightened tensions over jihadist attacks. Last year, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said schools would no longer offer non-pork alternatives in towns that elected her National Front party.

Platret has argued that 40% of children in the town's schools did not eat meat at all because it was not halal, and made up for it with extra vegetables. Alternatives to pork have been offered in the town's schools - as they are across much of France - since 1984. France is thought to have the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe, although its secularism laws prevent the government from collecting data on religious affiliation.


Ukrainian Jews Waiting for Israeli Recognition

By YnetNews.com

DNEPROPETROVSK – On Vladimir Putin's occupied and bleeding lands, and on those which are (still) in the Ukrainians' hands, under a serious economic crisis and high inflation, Ukraine's Jews are living between the devil and the deep blue sea.

An average of 10 people die every day in Europe's backyard in the battles taking place in the fighting zones. Jews who have managed to flee the battle zones gather at a Jewish Agency refugee camp (or "fugitive camps," as they are called euphemistically) as a transit stop, on their way to a better future in Israel.

But the bad (and known) news is that not all those who have succeeded in proving their eligibility to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return to the Israeli consul will also be able to live in Israel as equals among equals. Most immigrants are required to prove their Jewishness to the Chief Rabbinate as a condition for getting married in Israel. And that's, it turns out, is a much more complicated matter.

According to official estimates, tens of thousands of Jews still live in Ukraine, but no one has accurate numbers. The Jewish community leaders say many of these people don't even know that they are Jewish, and even those who claim to be Jewish may not be able to prove it to the Israeli authorities, not to mention the Chief Rabbinate.

The immigration rate from Ukraine to Israel has grown by hundreds of percentage points, reaching a monthly average of more than 1,000 immigrants since the beginning of 2015, in what appears to be the biggest wave of aliyah since 2003. Jewish Agency officials refer to those who reach them as "fugitives," since Ukraine is intentionally avoiding granting basic refugee rights to its citizens who have lost everything they had.

Between procedures and bureaucracy, members of the Shorashim organization are now trying, in a last-minute effort, to not only prove these Jews' eligibility to make aliyah under the Law of Return, but also the halachic Jewishness of as many of them as possible. For this reason, Shorashim recently inaugurated an office in the Jewish community's Menorah Center in Dnepropetrovsk, which will also serve the refugees from the Russian-occupied areas.

Two people have taken it upon themselves to stop the catastrophe which has already become a national problem in Israel, with hundreds of thousands of people whose Jewishness is not recognized by the Rabbinate: Dr. Yaacov (Yasha) Gaissinovitch, a successful local mohel, the man who can get hold of any piece of information, often in ways he cannot elaborate on; and his partner in the crazy journey between elderly women in villages and moldy archives – Gene Blotsky, a local Jewish lawyer.

The organization members understand that it's almost the last chance to prove a person's Jewishness – a pretty complicated matter which requires an Yiddish-speaking grandmother, rare documents from pre-World War II archives, and sometimes also DNA tests. The journey to one's roots is a desperate journey against time, before it's too late, as the older generation which still knows something about its origin is fading.

This complicated operation is funded by the Triguboff Institute through a fund established by Australian billionaire Harry Oscar Triguboff, who is originally from the Soviet Union and is involved in variety of infrastructure projects in Israel.

Anna Neumann, Hannah in Hebrew, is lucky. The Shorashim members are relieved when she carefully pulls out a yellowish original document from 1926, the days of the beginning of the Soviet revolution. The document states the origin of the family of Anna's maternal grandmother, Hannah, when she got married. Her father's name, according to the document, was Nahum and her mother's name was Sara. Her place of birth and residence was Shpoli, a well known Jewish town recognized by anyone who was raised on the "shtetl" stories.

Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar organization, who is visiting the camp with us, holds onto the document excitedly: "This is the unequivocal evidence the Shorashim representatives are fervently looking for," he says.

"There are roots on the mother's side that are important for Jewish Halacha, which determines a person's Jewishness according to the mother," Attorney Blotsky explains. Rabbi Stav concurs: "We went back four generations here on the maternal side, and this document will determine her Jewishness. It's important because she is immigrating to Israel with her son, and he will want to get married at some point. This is her chance to prove his halachic Jewishness unequivocally."

The Pak family is also waiting for an approval to immigrate to Israel. They have no documents from the early Soviet revolution to prove that they are Jewish. It's a bit more complicated. They are from Donetsk. They have been joined by their cousin and little boy from the Crimea peninsula, which has already been fully occupied by the Russians. The grandparents with the relevant documents have not been permitted to leave Donetsk, and the family members are now waiting to reunite with them at the camp.

Yuri Pak decided that he wanted to make aliyah a year ago. The family even visited Israel last summer during Operation Protective Edge. His wife, Viktoria, hesitated. "But when we were there in the summer, it strengthened my feeling that that's where we want to live," she says. "I saw the importance given in Israel to every fallen soldier. Here (in Ukraine) they just write, 'Three people have been killed.' Without a name, without a story. It was important for me to see that the state gives a lot of meaning to the individual."

The Paks don't like to talk about what they left behind. Tears appear in the corner of their eyes when I ask them about it gently. They tell me what they found the day they returned from Israel: Three missiles had directly hit their neighbors' home, leaving complete destruction. Without unpacking, the family members fled.

When I ask their 14-year-old daughter, Alika, who hopes to start high school in Israel, what are her favorite things in Israel, she thinks for a while and then replies: "Patriotism, unity, army, culture and the fact that every person can study what he wants and find his place. That's what I like about Israel."

The Pak family was famous among the Jewish community in Donetsk before the Putin era. They were very involved in the communal activity, including studies in the Jewish school. But the distance from here to the Chief Rabbinate's seal of approval appears to be very far. "Even if the identity card says the mother is Jewish, it's not enough," a Jewish Agency representative says sadly. "They ask for all kinds of other documents, older ones. They are afraid of fraud."

Shalom Norman, CEO of the Triguboff Institute, who immigrated from such a camp himself in 1956, stresses that "documents with the word 'Jew' from before 1941 can prove a person's Jewishness beyond any doubt, as being Jewish wasn't such a bargain at the time."

The burden of proving their Jewishness doesn't only fall on the shoulders of Jews who did not lead a religious life or did not belong to the Jewish community. Chabad emissary in Dnepropetrovsk, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, says he faces a problem too: "It will be difficult for me to prove that I'm Jewish. My grandparents fled at the end of the war, and there are no documents. I wanted my daughter to participate in the Masa program and get to know Israel. The consulate people said to me, 'That's very nice, but you must prove that you are really Jewish."

So how do you prove a person's Jewishness? You go through the archives, starting with the Soviet army's archive to the Red Cross archive, which Norman says includes documentation of about two million Jews who fled during World War II following Joseph Stalin's "scorched earth" policy.

"Most of the Jews who live in Ukraine today, or immigrated to Israel from Ukraine, are the offspring of 'the great evacuation,' and you can find documentation of that in the archives, if you know where and how to look of course.

"Yasha (Dr. Gaissinovitch) always goes in through the window, and if there is no window – then through the chimney. He succeeds in obtaining things fast, after everyone else has given up: He locates grandmothers, tombstones, documents. I always say that the Jews here trust him with their most precious thing," he adds jokingly, referring to Dr. Gaissinovitch's profession as a circumciser.

Shorashim CEO Uri Shechter notes that "every case of proving a person's Jewishness which has been submitted to the Chief Rabbinate's approval has been approved. This points to the power of the work being done here."

Michael Katats, a young Jew whose parents escaped to Kiev to get away from the war, also wants to immigrate to the Jewish state. Part of his family is already in Israel, and fortunately for him, he is Jewish from his maternal side. His relatives who have already made aliyah sent a picture of great grandfather Shmuel and grandmother Chaya in traditional Jewish clothing, along with other documents revealing clear Jewish names, including combat documents from World War II which state that the document's owner is Jewish.

"This is the most important document for proving one's Jewishness," he says proudly, after experiencing firsthand the burden of proof. His grandparents were rescued during the Holocaust by a Ukrainian woman who hid them in her house until the end of the war and was later declared a Righteous among the Nations. "Despite all that, I had to visit the embassy at least five times," he says. "Each time they said to me, 'We need another document now.'"

Now, after the consul approved his immigration, the Shorashim representatives will have to make sure that the grandson of Shmuel and Chaya, who miraculously survived the Holocaust and Soviet cleansing, will not be rejected by the Rabbinate in the future.

The Chabad organization in Dnieper, which runs the local Jewish community fearlessly, is happy to help the immigrants. "It's also a matter of saving lives," Rabbi Kaminezki explains. "The medical care here is horrible. People die at an early age, simply because healthcare is lagging behind. By convincing them to make aliyah, you are giving them a gift of 50 years of life.

"With every Jew that makes aliyah, I find two new ones. Just now, as I flew here from London, I spoke to a local couple who told me, 'We are not Jews, but the grandmother was Jewish.' Clearly, they are entitled to make aliyah, and in this case they are also halachically Jewish.

"If it were not for the Jewish, Putin would already be here, in Dnepropetrovsk, too," rabbi Kaminezki believes. "They had a detailed occupation plan, but the money managed to unite the city, from the police to the mafia." He says even the ordinary Ukrainian sees the Jewish Ukrainian oligarchs as local heroes who saved Dnepropetrovsk from Putin.

One of the local community leaders, speaking anonymously, says to me: "At the end of the day, this isn't an ideological aliyah. We refer to it as the 'salami immigration.' People are looking for a good life in Israel. Being Jewish in Ukraine today is like being a rock star. It's an insurance policy which says that you don't only belong to the leading and influential elite – which is also perceived as smart and rich – but also that if things don't work out for you, you can always get up and leave. To Israel, of course."


Monarch Launches Two New Flights to Israel

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Monarch Airlines has announced two new routes from Luton to Israel. From December, the airline will operate three flights a week on Monday, Thursday and Sunday to Tel Aviv while a weekly Thursday flight will got to Ovda.

One-way flights will lead in at £89 outbound and £49 inbound with flight times of around five hours. Once they have landed, travelers to Tel Aviv will find they are 25 minutes from the city and 50 minutes from Jerusalem while Ovda airport is 45 minutes from beach resort Eilat.

Andrew Swaffield, chief executive of The Monarch Group, said: "These two new scheduled routes are the result of the ongoing work we are doing to develop our winter program which showcases a number of winter sun and ski destinations.

"Tel Aviv and Ovda are growing in popularity once more with tourists and with the diverse offerings of both these destinations we are sure they will be a very popular choice for winter short breaks and holidays. We are also looking forward to welcoming visitors from Israel to the UK."

Yariv Levin, Israel's minister of tourism, added: "I am delighted that Monarch Airlines is launching new scheduled services to Israel this December. "This is a great indication that Israel has the support of major carriers, such as Monarch, and will allow for even greater choice and accessibility for international travelers. "By signing the Open Skies Agreement in 2013, we have paved the way to form this partnership with Monarch."


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