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Russian Military Officials Visit Israel for Syria Talks

By AFP, Reuters & YnetNews.com

Russian military officials held talks with their Israeli counterparts in Tel Aviv on Tuesday after the countries' leaders agreed to establish a mechanism to avoid accidental clashes in Syria. Israel's military confirmed the two-day meeting on "regional coordination," which comes after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks last month related to Syria. The two agreed on a mechanism to avoid "misunderstandings" and clashes in Syrian airspace between the two militaries' jets.

Israeli military officials reportedly fear that Russian air strikes could cut their room for maneuvers in Syria. Several purported strikes on Iranian arms transfers to Hizbullah through Syria have occurred in recent months that were not officially acknowledged by Israeli authorities.

Moscow informed Israel it was about to launch air strikes in Syria before its attacks last week, the first by Russian warplanes in the years-old conflict. Russian warplanes have been flying over Syrian territory since last Wednesday, conducting air strikes on what Moscow says are targets belonging to Islamic State group jihadists in the country's northern and central provinces.

The West has accused Moscow of using the raids as cover to hit moderate opponents of Russian ally Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israel opposes Assad, but has sought to avoid being dragged into the war in neighboring Syria. It also fears that Iran could increase its support for Hizbullah and other militant groups as international sanctions are gradually lifted under a July nuclear deal that Moscow helped negotiate between Tehran and world powers.

Netanyahu has said he is determined to stop arms deliveries to Lebanon's Shi'ite Hizbullah movement and accused Syria's army and Iran of trying to create a "second front" against Israel.


Turbulent Day as Palestinian Storm Continues

By DEBKAfile, IsraelNationalNews.com, VOA News & YnetNews.com

Tensions remained on a knife's edge Tuesday as violent clashes wounded at least 50 Palestinians, three IDF soldiers, three police officers, and a baby girl.

The police officers were lightly wounded by rocks thrown Tuesday night by masked Palestinians during clashes that erupted in Israel's centrally-located Jaffa, part of the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo, just kilometers south of central Tel Aviv.

The violence came as an Arab protest against Israeli policy on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem got out of control and two of the rioters were arrested. Police said the protest was held without the proper licenses. A bus and vehicle were also damaged by the rock throwers. It is the first time clashes have reached central Israel since a wave of violence began recently in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian Israeli Arabs clashed with police in Jaffa, part of the Tel-Aviv-Yafo municipality, Tuesday night. Extra police were brought in when more protesters kept on coming in, brandishing Palestinian flags, blocking streets and throwing rocks that injured several police officers. See https://youtu.be/K6QD0JJ0oW0

Even though the protest had no permit, police decided to allow the illegal demonstration to take place in an apparent attempt to allow Arab residents to vent off steam, while warning the organizers to maintain public order. However, despite the promises the protesters at a certain stage began hurling rocks at cars driving near Yefet Street and Toulouse Street, and even blocked the roads with trash cans, tires and other materials. The rioters, some of them masked, began hurling rocks at police officers as well, and even assaulted and wounded two officers.

Also in Tel Aviv, Palestinian hackers who identified themselves as "Anoncoders," broke into Radio Tel Aviv's website on Sunday and uploaded a message in English that read, "We are always here to punish you." The anonymous group also wrote that their "Main Target Is Zionisme And Israhell."

Radio Tel Aviv's broadcasts were apparently unharmed by the breach, but the hacker's message remained online more than a day after it first appeared. It's not the first time that hackers have targeted Israeli media. During operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas hackers successfully broke into television broadcasts of Channel 10 and Channel 2 for a short amount of time.

Jerusalem's Shuafat neighborhood was the scene of particularly dramatic violence, near the mourning tent put up by the family of Fadi Aloun, who stabbed 15-year-old Moshe Malka overnight between Saturday and Sunday.

Jerusalem police detectives came to the area in order to arrest a stone-thrower, and were immediately surrounded by locals, who tried to prevent them from executing the arrest. A border police force that was close by was called in, and assisted the officers with the arrest.

Aloun, a 19-year-old from Issawiya, stabbed the teenager Malka at the juncture of Hanevi'im and Kheil ha-Handasa streets in Jerusalem. He then fled toward Bar Lev Road, where he was shot and killed by police officers who noticed the knife in his hand.

Violence also erupted Tuesday at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem, when Palestinians threw stones at police and border police forces. One border police soldier was lightly wounded by a stone thrown by Palestinians. Incidents of stone-throwing at police also occurred Tuesday afternoon at the Beit Hanina neighborhood in northern East Jerusalem. They were dispersed after a short time and no one was hurt.

In a separate incident, dozens of Palestinian teenagers and children threw stones and Molotov cocktails from the Jilazoun area in the West Bank towards the settlement of Beit El, and at nearby vehicles. An IDF soldier arrested one of them. A baby girl was lightly wounded when the vehicle she was in was hit by a stone near the settlement Eli in the West Bank. She was treated at the scene.

The 16-month-old baby was wounded after Arab terrorists threw rocks at a car on Highway 60 near Ma'ale Levona in Samaria. The child was lightly wounded. Both her and her mother, 32, were brought a local hospital for treatment, though both are stable and fully conscious.

The Honenu legal rights organization reported later on Tuesday that the father of the baby wounded in the attack was arrested by an IDF battalion commander in the area. The father allegedly chased after the Arabs who threw rocks at his car, endangering his family.

Such incidents of roadside terror in which Arab rioters hurl rocks at Jewish motorists have become a ubiquitous phenomenon in Israel. On Rosh Hashanah eve, Jerusalem resident Alexander Levlovitz, 64, was murdered in an attack by Arab terrorists in the Armon HaNatziv neighborhood of the capital. The terrorists threw a rock at his vehicle, which slammed through the car's window and made Levlovitz lose control and crash.

Two-year-old Adele Biton was hit in the head by a rock in a similar attack on the neighborhood in November 2013. She suffered severe neurological damage at the time of the attack and passed away 15 months later in February 2015 after her condition deteriorated rapidly from a bout of pneumonia.

Severe violence also erupted near the Israeli Civil Administration building in the Mateh Binyamin regional Council and near Ma'ale Labone.

Coordination with Palestinian security forces is still in effect, but the situation is making work difficult. The IDF, meanwhile, also has to contend with Jewish rioters, whom security forces have dubbed as showing similar behavioral patterns to Palestinian rioters, such as stone-throwing and forcing drivers out of their cars. Twelve Jewish Israelis were arrested due to these activities.

The Jerusalem Police Department also summoned several merchants and passersby who were in the area during the stabbing attack in which Aharon Bennett and Rabbi Nahmia Lavi were murdered, and Bennett's wife, Adele, and their son were wounded.

Adele said that not only did those present not help her, they cursed her and spat at her while the murderer's knife was still in her body. These individuals were identified via security camera footage and police said they would be investigated for failing to prevent a crime. The possibility of ordering the closing of the businesses belonging to the merchants among the suspects is also being examined.

The Israeli army has demolished Tuesday the homes of two Palestinian terrorists who carried out deadly attacks last year in Jerusalem. Israel says the move is aimed at deterring Palestinian terrorists after a wave of shootings and stabbings that left four Israelis dead since Thursday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised a "strong hand" to fight terror and to quell unrest that has raised fears of a third Palestinian uprising. Since both assailants were killed, the Palestinian Authority describes the home demolitions as collective punishment.

The simmering unrest began three weeks ago at a hotly disputed holy place in Jerusalem's Old City known to Muslims as the Mosque of Al-Aqsa and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to seize control of the site; but Netanyahu emphatically denies it, accusing the Palestinian Authority of "wild incitement."

The security cabinet early Tuesday approved Netanyahu's proposals for de-escalating the current wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks and disturbances by deterrent and preventive measures. One was to demolish the homes of terrorists guilty of murder and assassination; another to heavily reinforce the security and military units charged with maintaining order in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. And early Tuesday, security forces lifted the restrictions imposed during the two-day Simchah Torah festival on non-resident Palestinian entry to the Old City.

A Parallel Universe, Just a One-Hour Drive from Tel Aviv

By Oded Shalom (Commentary)

From the "Nablus Skies" café-restaurant, the city below appears trapped between the mountains surrounding it, although its houses reached the slopes a long time ago. It's a high observation post in northwestern Nablus, and the steep road climbing towards the city ends in a barrier at the entrance to a parking lot.

On one side, above the city, there is a promenade lined with restaurants and cafés, and on the other side there are amusement devices for children and picnic tables. During the summer nights and weekends, a line of cars as long as a snake jams the road leading here, and a thick cloud of hookahs and barbecues covers the area.

I toured Nablus a few weeks ago. I didn't go there to interview anyone or to cover an event. I just went with a friend, a journalist from Jaffa. An Israeli Arab who knows Nablus and knows where one should hang out.

We ate excellent kebab at a street stand in the city center (a plate packed with meat with grilled tomatoes and onions and a drink for 20 shekels). From there, we went to a Turkish bath in the Kasbah, which is located in a magnificent ancient building. We sweated in the sauna and then received a wonderful massage for only 15 shekels.

We arrived in the morning and left before sunset, with loads of tourists' experiences. Without any politics and without any talk about the conflict, less than a one-hour drive from Tel Aviv, a Palestinian city under full Palestinian control, a universe parallel to ours, which is closed to Israelis by law.

One cannot leave Nablus without a sense of frustration over the huge missed opportunity both sides are living in. We met Palestinians our age who have never been to the beach. When I returned to Tel Aviv and shared my experiences, many people told me they had never been there, and those who have did so as part of their military service. We live side by side, and are separated by light years. The occupation, the resistance, the terror attacks, the mutual hostility, have set up mental, not just physical, barriers.

The frustration grows when you hear settlers saying that up until the Oslo Agreements, they used to visit Nablus for shopping and errands. Nablus' residents, on their part, worked in Israel, shopped and visited it. The two sides are clinging to the memories of those days, which are fading due to the time that has passed and the rivers of blood which have been shed in both places.

And so, we have repressed our neighbors. In the summer and during the holidays, we visited Europe and vacationed in the Greek islands. We even returned to Turkey. There was such a big flow abroad, that the computers at Ben-Gurion Airport collapsed.

In a utopian reality, we could have also toured the West Bank, sat in restaurants in Nablus, received a massage at the Turkish bath, and the Palestinians could have visited Israel and bathed in the sea not only during their holidays, when Israel lets some of them in on a one-time occasion.

Most Israelis get a reminder of the life beyond the Green Line from news reports only. Stabbing attacks at checkpoints, shooting attacks on the roads, a soldier's attempt to detain a little boy which is documented and distributed around the world.

We have lost the desire to know what is happening there on a daily basis, to know about the banal life's routine. We have no desire to visit their cities because of the fear and hatred. A visit there involves taking a real risk. On the other hand, the Palestinians visiting or working in Israel don't feel completely safe either. The fear is mutual.

When evening falls, central Nablus is teeming with people. A human swarm fills the streets and the stores. There is not a single seat available at the kanafeh place in the Kasbah, and one portion costs five shekels. Not far from there, in the Rafidiya neighborhood, there are luxury restaurants with meat dishes for 120 shekels. The streets in the city center are clean, but above, in the Askar and Balata refugee camps, one cannot miss the dirt and neglect.

We left Nablus at 6 pm. At 7 pm, we were already back in Tel Aviv.


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