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Putin: Syrian Downing of Russian Jet Was 'Tragic, Accidental'

By VOA News and

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the downing of a Russian Ilyushin IL-20 turboprop reconnaissance plane by Syria "a chain of tragic, accidental circumstances," tamping down what could have turned into a tense situation with Israel. Fifteen people aboard the Russian reconnaissance jet died when the Syrians shot it down, responding to an Israeli missile strike. But Putin stepped in, calling it "a chain of tragic, accidental circumstances." He said Russia would respond by "taking additional steps to protect our servicemen and assets in Syria." He said "everyone will notice" those steps. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his sorrow at the loss of Russian lives and blamed Syria for the incident. The Israeli military said its jets were targeting a Syrian military facility supplying arms to the Iranian-backed terror group Hizbullah. Israel said it had warned Russia of the airstrike, and its jets were already back in Israeli airspace when Syria fired its missile. The Russian defense ministry said Israel's warning came less than a minute before the airstrike. It accused the Israelis of using the Russian plane as a cover to avoid Syrian air defense systems. While Putin did not appear to blame Israel outright for causing the Russian plane to be shot down, the Kremlin said it told Netanyahu that Israel had violated Syrian sovereignty and urged it "not to let such situations happen again." President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that, based on what he had been told, Syria shot down the Russian plane. He called the deaths of those aboard "a very sad thing." Trump took a moment to say the United States has done a "tremendous job" in helping eradicate the Islamic State from Syria and said, "we are very close to finishing that job." Putin is striving to maintain his good relationship with Israel while continuing to back the Syrian government in its fight against the rebels. Russia also has healthy relations with Iran, Israel's archenemy. Israel has said it will not allow any permanent Iranian military presence inside Syria and has looked to the Russians to help keep Iranian-backed forces away from the Israeli-Syrian frontier. A delegation of senior Israeli security officials is scheduled to fly to Russia early Thursday morning, in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute with the Kremlin. Russian defense officials had originally accused the IAF of downing the IL-20, claiming Israeli fighter jets had used the Russian plane to shield their radar signatures – a claim Israel denied, noting that IAF aircraft were not present in the area when a missile hit the IL-20, and that the IL-20 itself had been outside of the combat zone during the strike. According to an Israeli inquiry into the incident, the IL-20 was downed by one of the many surface-to-air missiles fired by the Syrian air defense network following the IAF strikes. On Thursday, senior IDF officials, led by the Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, will fly to Moscow in a bid to convince Russian security officials that Syrian surface-to-air missiles fired after the IAF jets had left the combat zone were responsible for the downing of the IL-20. The IAF commander and other IDF officials are expected to present the full IDF file on the incident, including the pre-mission information and the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event. Also, an IDF spokesperson said Wednesday night; the delegation will present evidence linking Iran to ongoing attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hizbullah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.

Russia to Beef up Air Defenses, Aircraft to Curtail Israeli Air Operations in Syria

By DEBKAfile (Analysis)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's response to the downing of the Il-20 by Syria was mild in tone, but his reference to a probe in depth and extra security for Russian troops was coldly menacing. On Tuesday, Putin took a call from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who expressed regret for the loss of 15 Russian military lives aboard the plane downed over the Mediterranean on Monday and held Syria responsible. Putin had just attributed the misfortune to a "chain of tragic circumstances," without blaming Israel – in contrast to his Defense Minister. Gen. Shoigu, in a harsh telephone call to his Israeli opposite number, Avigdor Lieberman, said that 15 Russian military service people had died because of Israel's "irresponsible actions." This was a bit like a good cop, bad cop routine, except that behind it Putin and Shoigu had almost certainly agreed on the need for hard-hitting measures to curtail the Israeli Air Force's freedom of operations in and near Syrian skies. Most alarmingly, even though the plane was shot down by a Syrian missile, Israel appears to be in line for a diplomatic clobbering as well, judging by the ominous official comments coming from Moscow on Wednesday: The Russians are launching a criminal probe into the crash, according to an announcement by Russia's Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko. Who is the criminal and what is the crime? That announcement was followed by a tart remark from Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peshkov that "Israeli data on the Il-20 crash in Syria has not yet arrived." He added that the Russian president and Israeli Prime Minister had agreed that a delegation of experts led by the Israeli Air Force commander would visit Moscow and bring with him data referring to the circumstances of the crash. "Our experts will certainly study it," he said. The exact military measures to be taken by Moscow are still to be determined, but an approximate precedent may be indicative. Three years ago, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Su-24M over the Syrian-Turkish frontier, triggering a major crisis between Moscow and Ankara. One of the pilots was killed and the second rescued by Russian special forces. Moscow responded by rushing over the Moskva missile cruiser, armed with S-300F air defense missiles (NATO code: SA-N-6 Grumble), to the waters of northern Syria and southern Turkey. Advanced S-400 anti-air batteries were shipped to the Russian Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia. These measures gave Ankara due notice that any Turkish planes are venturing into Syrian airspace henceforth did so at their peril. And indeed, up until the present, the S-400s are still in place, and the Turkish air force gives Syrian skies a wide berth – excepting only the Afrin enclave north of Aleppo which the Turkish army seized earlier this year. None of this interfered with the efforts of the Russian president and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan to build a coalition with Iran for Syria while pretending that Moscow-Ankara relations were in perfectly good working order. Putin may, therefore, keep his relations with Netanyahu as cordial as ever before, while, at the same time, we may soon see, in the aftermath of the shooting down of the Ilyushin by Syrian missiles, the arrival in Syria for the first time of Russia's most advanced air defense and radar systems. Of most concern to Israel is the possible installation of those systems on Tel al-Haara, a peak rising 1,100 meters over Quneitra, which commands Israeli airspace over the Golan and its northern regions, as well as northern and central Jordan and the eastern Mediterranean. Advanced Russian fighter jets may also be posted to Khmeimim to waylay Israeli warplanes. In some ways, the Il-20 incident and these new measures have come at a convenient moment for the Russian deployment in Syria. On Sept. 7, Alexander Kinshchak, Russian ambassador to Damascus, quietly remarked: "We are helping our Syrian partners to restore, modernize and boost the efficiency of the integrated air defense system." He explained: "Much is yet to be done because everything was in utter devastation, but certain results can already be seen." Our military sources inferred that the Russian envoy was talking about arming Syrian air defenses for the first time with advanced Russian S-300 batteries. Their delivery may well coincide with Moscow's response to the Il-20 incident. The Israeli Air Force will soon, therefore, be called on to tackle new and daunting challenges in its operations against Iran in Syria.

Palestinian Attempts to Stab Worshiper, Cops on Yom Kippur

By YnetNews

Police shot and killed a Palestinian terrorist on Tuesday evening who attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against a Jewish man and police officers near Jerusalem's Old City during the festival of Yom Kippur. Police opened fire when the Palestinian man charged at his intended victim—a Jewish worshiper—with a screwdriver on HaNevi'im Street at 7 p.m., shortly after Yom Kippur began, the holiest day of the Jewish year during which Jews fast for 25 hours. No one was injured in the attempted attack carried out by the 26-year-old terrorist from Qalandiya. "As part of the extensive preparations for the eve of Yom Kippur, policemen stationed on the route used by worshippers spotted the attacker running toward a Jew, attempted to harm him and bypassers tripped him up," a police statement said. "Afterward, he continued to run at police officers while brandishing a sharp object in his hand at them to stab the officers. The police acted immediately and with determination and neutralized the attacker," concluded the statement. According to police, he remained in Israel illegally, thereby breaching a closure imposed around the West Bank for the duration of Yom Kippur as part of beefed-up precautionary security measures. Also on Tuesday, Gaza's Health Ministry claimed that two Palestinians were killed and at least 46 wounded by the IDF fire in the northern Gaza Strip during violent demonstrations which took place on Yom Kippur.

The IDF said hundreds of Gazans participated in the riots, burning tires and throwing explosive devices and rocks at the soldiers. In one incident a grenade was thrown at the troops, prompting the forces to respond with crowd dispersal measures in accordance with IDF's open-fire regulations. Israel began placing a closure around the West Bank overnight Monday while shutting the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip ahead of Yom Kippur.

New Book Reveals Depth of French Collaboration with Nazis

By AFP and

A new book and documentary have revealed the lengths to which the French wartime Vichy regime went to please the Nazis during the German occupation of France. The new research carried out by historian Laurent Joly and filmmaker David Korn-Brzoza uses previously unseen documents to show how the French police and top officials were willing collaborators in the rounding up of tens of thousands of Jews. During World War II some 75,000 Jews were deported from France to Nazi death camps, where almost all were murdered. Joly's new book "L'Etat contre les Juifs" ("The State Against the Jews") uses a previously unseen register compiled by the French collaborationist police to target "foreign Jews" in France. Tens of thousands had fled to the country to escape the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany and Eastern Europe in the years leading up to the war. Joly told AFP that Paris police had "one of the most sophisticated systems in the world to classify foreigners," Some 125,000 Jews were recorded in a roll based on the census the Nazis demanded in 1941 which Joly said has "curiously remained unknown until my research." It was this list which was used during the infamous Vel' d'Hiv roundup of 13,000 foreign-born Jews on July 16 and 17, 1942. Men, women and children were dragged from their beds by French police and officials and taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver (Winter Velodrome) near the Eiffel Tower before being deported to concentration camps. "The Germans were not asking for the Jews who lived in the Vichy-controlled part of France to be handed to them," Joly said. "Vichy was always trying to demonstrate its goodwill towards the Germans," he said. "There were ways in which they could have resisted their pressure. But the policy of collaboration was a deliberate choice." The film Joly made with Korn-Brzoza, "The Vichy Police", which will be broadcast on French public television, has also obtained the only known photograph of the velodrome during the roundup. Taken by the Germans, it shows police vans lined up outside and officers milling around, and was later censored by the Nazis themselves. The film also reconstructs the bureaucratic "mechanism" through which the Vichy ministers responsible for the police during the war collaborated with the Germans. The director said this was the first time anyone has tried to portray what happened through the lens of those who "put the Final Solution into action in France." Using their testimony to the courts who judged them after the liberation of France, Korn-Brzoza shines a light on the roles played by Vichy's elderly leader, Marshal Philippe Petain, his prime minister Pierre Laval, and police ministers Rene Bousquet, Joseph Darnand, Pierre Pucheu, Marcel Peyrouton and Adrien Marquet. Laval claimed that he was "convinced that the Jews were being deported to Poland to create a Jewish state." Korn-Brzoza said through his dramatized reconstruction of the events we can hear Bousquet -- a friend of future French president Francois Mitterrand -- claim that it was he "who saved the French Jews and four-fifths of the foreign Jews" in France at the time. Joly said that Bosquet managed to escape execution even though he was head of the police "during the time of the worst repression... while both his predecessor Pucheu and successor Darnand were shot." He said the film's dramatic reconstruction of the events was about trying to "understand the psychology of these police chiefs," who were stuck in the logic of the system that was in place. "Nothing was made up," he insisted, everything came from transcripts of their interrogations and statements after the war. The historian said "a fundamental and little known moment" which set the template for Vichy's willing collaboration was when its first interior Minister Marquet accepted "that a Gestapo official would be given an office at Vichy" in summer 1940 -- even though it was not a part of the terms of the armistice. "That December the SS officer demanded totally illegally that two German political refugees, Rudolf Hilferding and Rudolf Breitscheid, be handed over to the Nazis," despite the fact that they both had visas which would have allowed them to escape to the United States, said Joly. "Both were sacrificed on the altar of collaboration by Peyrouton, Marquet's successor, who wanted to get into the Germans' good books," he added. That decision, he argued, "is the beginning of this mechanism of police collaboration" which eventually ended up with 40,000 Jews in 1942 alone being handed over to the Germans.

The Day the Rabbis Marched in Washington Right Before Yom Kippur

By (Commentary by Dr. Rafael Medoff ) In an era that has seen more than 400,000 people take part in a Women's March on Washington, it may not sound very impressive that 400 rabbis marched in the nation's capital in 1943. But numbers alone don't always tell the whole story. This week marks the 75th anniversary of the rabbis' march, which took place three days before Yom Kippur. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are among the most hectic periods for a pulpit rabbi, who has major sermons to prepare and countless logistics to arrange for the most well-attended services of the year. So there was no small inconvenience involved for the rabbis who in the autumn of 1943 answered the call of the political action committee known as the Bergson Group and the Orthodox rescue advocates of the Va'ad ha-Hatzala, to come to Washington to plead for the rescue of Europe's Jews. And their journey likely was made more than a little jittery by the fact that just one month earlier, a new high-speed train on its way from New York City to Washington, DC had derailed, killing 79 passengers. Nevertheless, more than 400 rabbis put down their books, left their communities and congregations, and headed for Washington. Most came from the New York City area, but others traveled from as far away as Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Worcester, Massachusetts. As the station master shouted, "Clear the way for those rabbis!," the protesters emerged from Washington, DC's Union Station and made their way toward the cluster of buildings known as the Capitol. It was not only their numbers but also their stature, that was noteworthy. The marchers were led by Rabbis Eliezer Silver and Yisroel Rosenberg, co-presidents of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis. There were notable Hasidic rebbes, such as the Boyaner Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Friedman, and the Melitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Horowitz. And there were some younger rabbis who would soon become leaders of their generation, in particular, Moshe Feinstein and Joseph B. Soloveitchik. A columnist for the Yiddish-language newspaper Der Tog (The Day) was impressed by the reaction of passers-by. As the rabbis in their "long silk and gabardines and round plush hats, moved along Pennsylvania Avenue…there [were] absolutely no snickers, no smirks on the faces of the onlookers," he wrote. "They did not gape or guffaw as almost any crowd in a Central or East European land most decidedly would have. They watched in wonderment and in respect. The traffic stopped, and here and there a burgher removed his hat. I myself saw many a soldier in snap in salute…" Fear of East European-style anti-Semitic mockery actually was a large part of the reason that the rabbis' march was so unusual. It was, in fact, the only march in Washington for the rescue of the Jews during the Holocaust years. Many American Jews, as immigrants or the children of immigrants, were extremely anxious to be seen as fitting in. They worried that noisy Jewish protests might be perceived as unAmerican. One Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Sol Bloom (D-New York), reportedly sought to persuade the rabbis to cancel the march because "it would be very undignified for a group of such un-American looking people to appear in Washington." The Jewish communal leader Cyrus Adler once referred to that attitude as "the ghetto crouch"—the phenomenon of Jews walking with their heads bowed so as not draw the attention of non-Jews. The rabbis were greeted on the steps of the Capitol by Vice President Henry Wallace and members of Congress. After brief remarks, the rabbis proceeded to the Lincoln Memorial to recite prayers and sing the national anthem. Then they marched to White House. While most of the rabbis waited across the street in Lafayette Park, their leaders approached the gates of the White House to ask if President Roosevelt could "accord a few minutes of his most precious time." They wanted to present him with a petition calling for the creation of "a special agency to rescue the remainder of the Jewish nation in Europe." A White House staffer informed the rabbis that the president was unavailable "because of the pressure of other business." FDR's schedule was clear that afternoon. But a presidential meeting would have conferred legitimacy on the protesters' pleas for U.S. rescue action. And Roosevelt's policy was that there was nothing that could be done to help the Jews except to win the war. So, to avoid seeing the marchers, the president quietly left the White House through a rear exit. That move backfired. "Rabbis Report `Cold Welcome' at the White House," declared a Washington Times-Herald headline the next morning. A leading Jewish newspaper columnist angrily asked: "Would a similar delegation of 500 Catholic priests have been thus treated?" The editors of the Jewish daily Forverts (Forward) reported signs of a new mood among some American Jews: "In open comment it is voiced that Roosevelt has betrayed the Jews" —a shocking sentiment in a community that repeatedly cast 90% of its ballots for FDR. (Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and the author of The Jews Should Keep Quiet: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust, forthcoming from The Jewish Publication Society in 2019.)

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