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Israel Warns Against Religious War on Temple Mount

By the Jerusalem Post & Reuters
Israel accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting a religious war on the Temple Mount after a Palestinian Molotov cocktail attack on an Israeli police station on the holy site sparked a Tuesday afternoon riot. Police closed the al-Aqsa compound for the remainder of the day but are expected to fully reopen it Wednesday. PA President Mahmoud Abbas continued to lie and incite violence together with the terror organizations of Murabitoun and Hamas, in an attempt to ignite a fire and cause a religious war on the Temple Mount," Public Safety Minister Gilad Erdan said. "We will not allow this to happen. We will continue to act to restore calm on the [Temple Mount]. Police will respond with strength and determination to any act of violence or attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount." Tuesday's incidents began at about 1 p.m. when Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at the police post, which then caused a fire and damaged the building. One police officer was slightly injured from smoke inhalation. Police so far have arrested two minors, suspected of involvement in the incident. They will be brought to court on Wednesday. Some Palestinians, however, rejected the police account that the post was torched by a firebomb. At least two eyewitnesses claimed that children who were playing with fireworks caused the fire. Dozens of police officers rushed to the Temple Mount following the attack, sparking scuffles with Palestinian women and Waqf guards. Three Palestinians were immediately arrested in connection with the firebomb attack on the police post. The police closed the entrances to the compound after Palestinian activists and groups began calling on Palestinians to head to al-Aqsa Mosque to "defend it against the assault by the police and Jewish extremists." The police also temporarily closed the Old City's Damascus Gate and Lions' Gate. Hamas called on Palestinians to head to the Temple Mount to "break the closure." United Nations Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called for Israelis and Palestinians to show restraint. "Places of worship are for prayer, not for provocations and violence. Restraint must be shown to avoid inflaming an already tense situation. All must fully respect the status quo," he tweeted. The Palestinian Authority called for international intervention to "halt Israeli assaults on al-Aqsa Mosque" and warned that Israel's actions would have "grave repercussions." Abbas was in contact with relevant parties, specifically Jordan, to pressure Israel to "stop this dangerous escalation," said a statement issued by Abbas's office in Ramallah. PA government spokesman Yusef al-Mahmoud accused Israel of seeking "to carry out its schemes to control al-Aqsa Mosque and obliterate the Arab features of Jerusalem." PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani urged Arab and Islamic states to take quick measures "to stop Israel from igniting fires in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine." He and other senior Palestinian officials also claimed that Israel was working toward dividing the Temple Mount compound between Jews and Muslims.

"Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line," cautioned Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesman for Abbas' ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank. "Tampering with holy sites, especially al-Aqsa Mosque, is a direct call for violence. Fatah won't allow Israel to carry out its schemes, regardless of the price." Tuesday's tensions came as Israel and Jordan, which controls the Waqf Department in east Jerusalem, continued to search for ways to solve the crisis surrounding the Bab a-Rahma (Golden Gate) site on the Temple Mount. It is a situation that has also threatened to cause a violent outbreak on the Temple Mount, known to Palestinians as Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Israel has accused the Waqf of attempting to open a new mosque on the Temple Mount, by transforming a building that had been used as office space into a place of worship. "An additional mosque will not be built on the Temple Mount," Erdan said. "We will do everything necessary to maintain the status quo." Police Interim Commissioner Motti Cohen visited the Temple Mount in the afternoon to receive a briefing from Jerusalem district commander Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid. This was not the first attack of its kind against the police post, which Palestinians see as a symbol of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. In 1990, Palestinian rioters tried to attack some policemen who had barricaded themselves inside the post. The policemen managed to flee the scene and the rioters torched the post and damaged police equipment. In 2014, Palestinian rioters again torched the post after policemen who were stationed there were ordered by their commanders to leave out of fear for their lives. But the overall focus is on the Golden Gate crisis, which erupted when the Waqf unilaterally reopened the contested site last month. The site had closed by court order 16 years ago because of illegal construction and activity carried out there by the Islamic Movement in Israel and Hamas-affiliated activists. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, at the request of the police, said it would issue an order to allow police to once again close the Bab a-Rahma building unless the Waqf submitted a response to the court by last Sunday. Waqf officials have rejected the court order, saying they do not recognize its jurisdiction over Islamic holy shrines and did not submit a response. On Tuesday, the court extended its one-week closure deadline to the Waqf to allow Jordan and Israel more time to find a solution to the crisis. KAN News reported that one possible compromise in the works would allow the building to remain open with a pledge from the Waqf that it would not be turned into a mosque. The Waqf would be to give time to renovate the building as office space. Jordan's King Abdullah II has been in Washington this week meeting with US politicians about ties between the two countries and regional stability, including the Temple Mount. On Tuesday he spoke with the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate leadership, the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Separately in the West Bank city of Hebron, the IDF said soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man who had run with a knife toward a Jewish residential building with a knife. No soldiers were injured. The Palestinian higher judicial council said the 40-year-old man had worked in a Palestinian court in Hebron. It denounced the shooting as "a despicable crime."

The PA Ministry of Health said that in the West Bank city of Salfit a 23-year-old Palestinian was shot dead during clashes that broke out between the IDF and city residents. An IDF spokeswoman said soldiers had used riot-dispersal means, mainly tear gas, against dozens of Palestinians who threw stones at them and that the military did not know of any live fire being used. She provided no further details.

Indyk: `The Golan Heights are Syrian Territory.'

By World Israel News & Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and past U.S. envoy to the Middle East, says that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and cannot be transferred to Israeli sovereignty. "Like it or not, the Golan Heights are Syrian territory," Indyk wrote on Twitter. He acknowledged that "Israel cannot give them up now given its legitimate security concerns." He added, however, that "to recognize Israel's annexation of territory that is not its own is to play with fire for partisan political purposes. No Arab state will accept it," Indyk wrote. His comments were linked on the social media site to an Axios report that quoted an Israel Channel 13 reporter as saying that aides to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's main rival in April's Knesset election, Benny Gantz, were saying that "they think [U.S. President Donald] Trump could announce U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights during Netanyahu's visit to the White House two weeks from now." Gantz's aides were also quoted as telling the reporter "that if Trump does this, it will give Netanyahu a huge achievement to campaign on." "Not that anyone in Trump or Netanyahu land cares," Indyk said, "but for the U.S. to recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights would be a direct contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which the United States co-authored, and Israel accepted." The news report noted that "Netanyahu discussed the possibility of U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights during a visit to the territory on Monday with Sen. Lindsey Graham," and that "U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended all of Netanyahu's talks with Graham." Indyk served as ambassador to Israel twice from 1995 to 1997 and 2000-2001. He has also been an assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, a member of a U.S. Middle East peace team, and, most recently, a special envoy to the Middle East under President Barack Obama. He is currently executive vice president of the Brookings Institution in Washington. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said he aimed to change the current U.S.-designation of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. He spoke during a tour of the frontier with Netanyahu. "The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel," Graham said from a cliff overlooking Syria, where Syrian flags could be seen fluttering in the distance on buildings damaged in the country's civil war. "My goal is to try to explain this to the administration," he said. In past negotiations, Syria has demanded a withdrawal from the Golan as part of any peace deal. With Syria ravaged by a nearly eight-year-old civil war waged by brutal dictator Bashar Assad, peace talks with Israel seem unlikely anytime soon. Graham called the prospect of Israeli withdrawal from the Golan "a strategic nightmare" and political "suicide," citing shared Israeli and American concern over Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria. Israel has admitted to carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets, which prop up Assad and bolster the Hizbullah terror group. Netanyahu applauded Graham's remarks and asserted that Israel would never give up the land. "I think it's very important that the international community recognize this fact, and accept it, and most especially our great friend, the United States of America," Netanyahu said, thanking Graham for his "unbelievable support." Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, a move not recognized by most of the international community.

Eilat Cuts Itself Off from Israel for Four-Hour Citywide Protest


The southern Israeli city of Eilat launched a citywide strike at 11 a.m. Tuesday, closing down most shopping centers, public transportation, schools, municipal operations, and even some hospital services in protest of the planned closure of an airport in Tel Aviv. Along with the strike, which will cover most unionized workers, the city also shut barred entry and exit – not only to the neighboring countries of Egypt and Jordan, but also to the rest of Israel, starting at 10 a.m. Even departure or entry by road has been closed, with routes 90 and 12 shutdowns from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The four-hour closure, launched as a `state of emergency' by the mayor of Eilat, included a physical blockade on roads leading into and out of Eilat, with municipal vehicles used to block traffic. The closure and citywide strikes culminated in a demonstration, beginning at 11:30 a.m., at the entrance to the Eilat airport, which is slated to be closed. Eilat's mayor, Meir Yitzhak Halevi, called for the strike last month, in protest of the planned closure of the Sde Dov airport in Tel Aviv. Sde Dov, a smaller alternate airport about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northwest of the larger Ben Gurion International Airport, is used for many local Israeli flights, linking Tel Aviv to Eilat. The Knesset voted in 2015 to close Sde Dov, freeing up valuable real estate in the densely-populated center of the country. In 2017, however, the airport's closure was pushed off for two years, until July 2019. At the same time, Eilat's Uvda airport is expected to cease operations next Monday, with air traffic shifted north, outside of the city, to the new Ramon airport.

Locals worry that with the closure of both the Sde Dov and Uvda airports, Eilat will become isolated from the rest of the country, given the longer travel times to and from Eilat from Ramon airport, and to and from Tel Aviv via Ben Gurion airport.

Israel Becomes First Country to List all Cemetery Tombstones Online

By the Jerusalem Post

Finding a relative's grave can be a tedious experience. But now paying respects to a loved one can be done using an online app. Israel has become the first country in the world to have all its cemetery plots listed on the Internet. The wide-ranging project to document all cemeteries in Israel was created in a joint effort by the MyHeritage online genealogy platform and the BillionGraves database. The NIS 4 million projects included photographing more than 1.5 million tombstones in 638 cemeteries and placing them in an online searchable database, including GPS pins to be able to locate graves using a smartphone. MyHeritage noted the project was a race against time since many tombstone inscriptions can deteriorate over the years. Hundreds of thousands of ancient graves throughout the country may be unidentifiable for this reason. For example, the Mount of Olives cemetery near Jerusalem's Old City is the oldest Jewish burial site in the world. Many tombstones were removed during the Jordanian occupation of the Old City from 1948 to 1967. In Hebron, the ancient cemetery contained many unmarked graves due to a tradition not to carve an inscription on the stone. However, modern researchers have been able to identify and refurbish many of the final resting places of historic figures. In an ironic twist, MyHeritage researchers photographing the cemetery in Holon found members of their own family. "This is an important tool for preserving the memory of the deceased and enriching the family trees with relatives who are no longer with us," stated Ofir Abeslander, a spokesperson for MyHeritage. "Family members can be discovered several generations back, whose existence is forgotten and can be the first time to recite Kaddish for their graves." The database is currently in Hebrew but MyHeritage, which has offices in the United States and Ukraine, hopes to continue its partnership with BillionGraves to digitize every cemetery in the world. Founded in 2003, the MyHeritage online genealogy platform can help users create a family tree and research their roots. Gilad Japhet, founder, and CEO said, "Gravestones are among the most valuable information sources for family history research, and although there are many thousands of cemeteries worldwide, most of them have never been documented, and their information is not available online. Time is chipping away at the gravestones, and many are becoming unreadable over the years, so it's up to our generation to preserve them."

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