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Hamas Leader Threatens Israel with 'Six Months' of Rockets on Tel Aviv

By Haaretz

The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said that talks were underway on reaching a cease-fire deal with Israel, while issuing a threat that "all of the missiles that the Palestinian resistance fired [at Israel] during the 51 days of the last war [in 2014] it can fire in five minutes." Hamas, he warned, had sent a message to Israel through intermediaries that it is capable of "causing six months of rising and falling air raid sirens" in the Tel Aviv area. "We don't want a military confrontation, but we are not afraid of one." About the negotiations with Israel via Egyptian and UN mediation, Sinwar said it was possible to make progress in talks on the return of two Israeli civilians being held in Gaza and the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in combat there in 2014, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. As reported by the Ma'an Palestinian news agency, Sinwar said the issue was not linked to contacts with Israel on a long-term cease-fire. Speaking to reporters, Sinwar said such a cease-fire agreement could be reached with Israel even in the absence of reconciliation between the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which controls the Strip. He said that Egypt had expressed a willingness to pursue such a deal. As for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, Sinwar said Fatah had responded on Wednesday to an Egyptian proposal and that the response was "worse than their initial proposal." Commenting on the prospect that the Palestinian Authority might impose sanctions on Gaza if there is no progress on Palestinian reconciliation, Sinwar said: "That would be a break with the rules of the game, and we would respond accordingly." Late on Wednesday, the White House took the Palestinian Authority to task for its refusal to be involved in efforts to reach an agreement on restoring calm to Gaza. The statement and its timing - shortly after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi had spoken to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about Gaza - are indications that the Trump administration and Egypt are attempting to ratchet up the pressure on Abbas to support an agreement and to have the Palestinian Authority gradually reassume responsibility for the Strip. Hamas forcibly took control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 after Fatah lost parliamentary elections three years before. In the statement, Trump's special Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said: "The Palestinian Authority cannot criticize from the sidelines. The Palestinian Authority should be part of the solution for the Palestinians of Gaza and Palestinians as a whole. If not, others will fill that void." He added that "it's time for the Palestinian Authority to lead the Palestinian people – all Palestinians – to a better future." Up to now, Abbas has voiced skepticism over talks under Egyptian mediation on Gaza. One of the reasons for Abbas' approach is concern that the talks would strengthen Hamas at the Palestinian Authority's expense.

On Wednesday, remarks about Gaza made by the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, were leaked to the press. In a telephone briefing to the American Jewish Congress, Friedman said an agreement on Gaza without the Palestinian would be a "tremendous reward" for Hamas. Despite the Palestinian Authority's many shortcomings, the Trump administration prefers to work with the Palestinian Authority rather than Hamas, Friedman added.

Facebook Deletes Auschwitz Photo for Nudity; Later Apologizes to Anne Frank Center for Decision.

By the Jerusalem Post

Facebook deleted a post this week that included an image of starving children in Auschwitz because of its policy against nudity. The post was shared by the US-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect last week. It linked to an article on the DailyKos about the need for Holocaust education in the United States. But on Wednesday, the Anne Frank Center complained on Twitter that Facebook had deleted the post. "Hi Facebook, you removed our post promoting the need for Holocaust Education for apparently violating community standards," the organization wrote. "You haven't given us a reason, yet allow Holocaust Denial pages to exist still. Seems a little hypocritical?" Around six hours later, Facebook responded to the Twitter post. "We put your post back up and sent you a message on FB," the official Facebook account tweeted. "We don't allow nude images of children on FB, but we know this is an important image of historical significance, and we've restored it. We're sorry and thank you for bringing it to our attention." Facebook came under fire last month after its CEO said it would not delete posts that included Holocaust denial. In a July interview, Mark Zuckerberg defended the social media platform's policy of not automatically deleting posts that make false claims. "I'm Jewish, and there's a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened," the Facebook CEO said. "I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong." After a great deal of outcry, Zuckerberg partially walked back his statement, saying: "I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn't intend to defend the intent of people who deny that."

Map Hack Renames New York 'Jewtropolis'

The Snapchat social application apologized after an anonymous user renamed New York as "Jewtropolis" on its mapping service. The change was attributed to Mapbox, a company that Snapchat contracts out its mapping service. The anti-Semitic moniker also appeared on any platforms that utilize Mapbox's technology, including Jump Bikes, StreetEasy, and Citibike. The 'Snap Map' directs users to assorted attractions around the city. A Snapchat representative told Buzzfeed that removing the name took time because its mapping service was not done in-house. "Snap Map, similar to other apps, relies on third-party mapping data from OpenStreetMap, which unfortunately has been vandalized," said a statement from Snapchat's parent company 'Snap'. This defacement is deeply offensive and entirely contrary to our values, and we want to apologize to any members of our community who saw it. We are working with our partner Mapbox to fix this as quickly as possible."

Blue-Eyed Immigrants Transformed Ancient Israel 6,500 Years Ago

By Live Science

Thousands of years ago in what is now northern Israel, waves of migrating people from the north and east — present-day Iran and Turkey — arrived in the region. And this influx of newcomers had a profound effect, transforming the emerging culture. What's more, these immigrants not only brought new cultural practices; they also introduced new genes — such as the mutation that produces blue eyes — that were previously unknown in that geographic area, according to a new study. Archaeologists recently discovered this historic population shift by analyzing DNA from skeletons preserved in an Israeli cave. The site, in the north of the tiny country, contains dozens of burials and more than 600 bodies dating to approximately 6,500 years ago, the scientists reported. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds] DNA analysis showed that skeletons preserved in the cave were genetically distinct from people who historically lived in that region. And some of the genetic differences matched those of people who lived in neighboring Anatolia and the Zagros Mountains, which are now part of Turkey and Iran, the study found. Ancient Israel (then called Galilee) belonged to a region known as the southern Levant, part of a larger area, the Levant, which encompasses today's eastern Mediterranean countries. The southern Levant experienced a significant cultural shift during the Late Chalcolithic period, around 4500 BCE to 3800 BCE, with denser settlements, more rituals performed in public and growing use of ossuaries in funerary preparations, the researchers reported. Though some experts had previously proposed that cultural transformation was driven by people who were native to the southern Levant, the authors of the new study suspected that waves of human migration explained the changes. To find answers, the scientists turned to a burial site in Israel's Peqi'in Cave, in what would have been Upper Galilee 6,500 years ago. Peqi'in is a natural cave, measuring around 56 feet (17 meters) long and about 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 m) wide. Inside the cave are decorated jars and burial offerings — along with hundreds of skeletons — suggesting that the location served as a type of mortuary for Chalcolithic people who lived nearby. However, not all of the cave's contents appeared to have local origins, study co-author Dina Shalem, an archaeologist with the Institute for Galilean Archaeology at Kinneret College in Israel, said in a statement.

"Some of the findings in the cave are typical to the region, but others suggest cultural exchange with remote regions," Shalem said. The artistic styles of these artifacts bear a closer resemblance to styles common to more-northern regions of the Near East, lead study author Eadaoin Harney, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, told Live Science in an email. The scientists sampled DNA from bone powder from 48 skeletal remains and were able to reconstruct genomes for 22 individuals found in the cave. That makes this one of the largest genetic studies of ancient DNA in the Near East, the researchers reported. The scientists found that these individuals shared genetic features with people from the north, and those similar genes were absent in farmers who lived in the southern Levant earlier. For example, the allele (one of two or more alternative forms of a gene) that is responsible for blue eyes was associated with 49% of the sampled remains, suggesting that blue eyes had become common in people living in Upper Galilee. Another allele hinted that fair skin might have been widespread in the local population as well, the study authors wrote. "Both eye and skin color are traits that are controlled by complex interactions between multiple alleles, many — but not all — of which have been identified," Harney explained. "The two alleles that we highlight in our study are known to be strongly associated with light eye and skin color, respectively, and are often used to make predictions about the appearance of various human populations in ancient DNA studies," she said. However, it is important to note that multiple other alleles can influence the color of eyes and skin in individuals, Harney added, so "scientists cannot perfectly predict pigmentation in an individual."

The scientists also discovered that genetic diversity increased within groups over time, while genetic differences between groups decreased; this is a pattern that typically emerges in populations after a period of human migration, according to the researchers.

By presenting DNA from the distant past, these findings offer exciting new insights into the dynamic ancient world and the diverse human populations that inhabited it, said Daniel Master, a professor of archaeology at Wheaton College in Illinois. "One of the key questions of the Chalcolithic has always been to what extent the groups in Galilee were connected to the groups in the Be'er Sheva Valley or the Jordan Valley or the Golan Heights," Master, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email. "The publication of the artifacts from Peqi'in has shown many cultural links between these regions, but it will be interesting to see, in the future, whether those links are genetic as well," Master said. The researchers' results also resolve a long-standing debate about the pivotal factor that changed the trajectory of the Chalcolithic peoples' unique culture, Shalem said in the statement. "We now know that the answer is migration," she said. The findings were published online Aug. 20 in the journal Nature Communications.

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