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Hamas' Anniversary Approaches: No Pre-emptive IDF Action, Security Declines Further

By DEBKAfile

Nothing will stop Hamas' drive to celebrate the first anniversary of its violent "March of Return against Israel at the end of this week – neither Egyptian mediation, generous Qatari- nor Israel economic largesse, which the United Arab Emirates recently offered to join, or even the massing of an Israel war army on the Gaza border. The Palestinian terrorist group is determined come what may to mark the event with hundreds of thousands of rampaging mobs hurling IEDs at IDF forces and forcing their way across the border into Israel. Hamas leaders view this peak event as a kind of victory march. It was presaged Wednesday night, March 27, by attacks by hundreds of Palestinians tossing explosive devices and hand grenades at Israeli troops along the border and floating more explosive balloons over Israeli farms. The Egyptian officers who sat down Wednesday in Gaza city with Hamas leaders knew the score: they had no hope of talking those leaders around to exercising self-restraint and curbing the demonstration of arrogant violence planned to mark their anniversary. Neither were the Egyptian officers able to sell Israel the well-worn line that by turning the other way when the Palestinian terrorists went on the rampage, calm would follow. This gambit has proved too often in the past to be a reward for terror. The claims that Israel has laid down tough terms for Hamas are deliberately misleading. For months now, Israel has lost its deterrent strength against the Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and it is now Hamas which is dictating terms. The only way to break out of this ill-fated pattern was for the IDF to go into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and conducted a pre-emptive offensive to spoil Hamas' victory march. Since this was not decided at the drawn-out deliberations taking place between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who holds the defense portfolio, chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Shin Bet security service director Nadav Argaman, the initiative remains in the hands of Hamas. Failing resolute Israeli counter-action, the security situation centering on Gaza will, therefore, continue to decline in the coming days.

Poll: Israel's Response to Gaza attacks Was Too Soft

A majority of Israelis say the IDF's response to rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip was insufficient, a new poll shows, even as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu touted Israel's "powerful" response to the attacks. On Monday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed deep in Israeli territory, striking a home in the town of Mishmeret in central Israel, 50 miles from the Gaza Strip and 75 miles from the rocket's launch site in Rafah in the southern Strip. The attack, which left seven Israelis injured, marked a major escalation in the long-simmering conflict between Israel and the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Washington DC following the attack and ordered the IDF to respond with a series of airstrikes on Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip. AFP reported Tuesday that seven Gazans were injured in the Israeli retaliatory strikes. As Gaza-based terrorists continued to fire rockets at Israel, the IDF struck again in Gaza late Tuesday night, hitting Hamas targets in Rafah. While the prime minister touted Israel's "very, very strong response", a poll released Wednesday morning finds that a majority of Israelis believe the IDF's response to the attacks was insufficient. According to the poll, which was conducted by Direct Polls and published by Kan, 53% of respondents said Israel's response was too weak, compared to just 3% who said it was excessive. Just 29% said Israel's response was sufficient without being excessive. Also, the poll found less than a quarter (24%) of Israeli adults characterizing Netanyahu's performance over the past few days as "good," with 33% who said it was poor, and 33% who gave the premier a `moderate' rating.

Jewish Leader to Germany: Cancel Payments to Ex-SS Members


The head of Germany's Jewish umbrella organization is calling on Germany to review – and possibly cancel – pension payments to former SS members who were injured during World War II, and who are living abroad. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the payments of pensions to people who might have committed war crimes was "intolerable." Schuster spoke with the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, which reported that more than 2,000 former SS soldiers outside Germany receive state pensions averaging about $370 a month, plus special health care allowances. Some recipients are non-German collaborators, who were injured while serving with the Nazi forces. They reportedly had been promised pensions by the Nazi authorities. The benefits come through the Federal Pension Act, which was passed in 1950 to support war victims, whether civilians or veterans of the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS. Germany is already checking on the cases of four retirees living in the Netherlands. According to German law, membership in the SS alone is not a reason for denying a pension or compensation claim. The individual must be found to have participated in crimes against humanity or the rule of law, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung reported. Germany's Ministry of Labor indicated that there are 18 recipients of such pensions in Belgium and 49 in Switzerland. The ministry said none of the recipients in Belgium are former SS members, but a historian and three members of the Belgian parliament demanded three years ago that Germany reveal the names of the pension recipients. A ministry spokesperson told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung that the payments are not made for service in the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS per se, but rather as compensation for injuries received while serving. Meanwhile, the number of recipients is dwindling; reportedly, 33 died in the past month.

Decorated Air France pilot from Entebbe Hijacking Dies at 95

By Israel Hayom and

Captain Michel Bacos, the pilot of the Air France flight that was hijacked to Entebbe in 1976 who refused to leave behind his captive Israeli passengers, passed away at 95 on Tuesday. He died in the south of France where he had been living with his wife for the last 30 years, their son Eric Bacos told AFP. On Sunday, June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139 departed from Tel Aviv carrying mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers. The plane flew to Athens, where it picked up additional passengers and then departed for Paris at 12:30 p.m. Moments later it was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations, and two German nationals, who demanded that Israel and other countries release imprisoned terrorists. The hijackers diverted the flight to Benghazi, Libya, where one passenger, who was thought to have suffered a miscarriage, was freed, and then continued to Entebbe, where they were held in an old terminal. Out of the total 248 passengers, more than 140 passengers who had non-Israeli passports were released. Bacos and his 12-member crew were given the same option, but Bacos refused, saying he would not leave without all passengers being freed. He and his team would go on to stay with the remaining hostages, about 80 of whom were Israeli, expecting the worse. Bacos was initially denied any interaction with the captive Israelis, but he did not relent and was ultimately allowed to join them. He would ultimately become the intermediary between the hostages and the hijackers. Less than a week later, on July 4, Israeli commandos freed hostages in a daring raid that took the hijackers and the Ugandan authorities off guard. Three hostages – Jean-Jacques Maimoni, Pasco Cohen, and Ida Borochovitch – were killed in the rescue, as was Yoni Netanyahu, the leader of the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and brother to future Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. A fourth hostage, Dora Bloch, who had been taken to a hospital in Kampala before the rescue mission, was later dragged from her hospital bed and murdered by officers of the Ugandan army. Bacos later recalled in an interview how he had asked one of the hijackers why he was targeting a French airliner, to which he was told, "Because France sold arms to Israel." Bacos said he dismissed this accusation. "This is rubbish, your claim was true 10 years ago [in 1960s], but now only the U.S. sells arms to Israel," he told the hijacker. Bacos refused to take more than two weeks off after being freed, and upon returning to the cockpit, he insisted that his first flight would be to Israel. He remained in close contact with the survivors and with the Netanyahu family in the following decades. Bacos was awarded the Legion of Honour, France's highest civilian decoration, in appreciation of his heroic actions. He was also given a special award from the Israeli government.

Rabbinate Judges Rush a Divorce Deal to Allow Husband's Marriage to Another Man


Rabbinical judges were baffled by a recent case they had to rule on, when a man asked them to quickly grant him a divorce from his wife — so he can go abroad and join his new male partner. The religious man, a father of several children, walked into the Netanya Rabbinate office in early March and asked for an urgent divorce — "right this instance." When the Rabbinate's team inquired about the urgency of the matter, the man revealed he had recently "came out of the closet" and found a male partner who lives in Italy — who now awaits him there. The rabbis had fierce discussions and were torn whether their approval of the divorce means they will be indirectly supporting a homosexual relationship, forbidden by religious law. Finally, fearing that the man's wife will remain a "chained" women, bound in marriage until granted a divorce document that according to Jewish law can only be given by the husband, the Rabbinate approved the divorce. "My lover is waiting for me there, and he said that if I don't get a divorce today — he'll leave me," said the man who sought to end his marriage. He added that he intends to leave Israel for Italy to marry his new partner. "I have to divorce my wife since I don't want to ruin her life. She's a very religious woman and we have children," the man explained, referring to the consequence of him leaving the country without a formal divorce leaving his wife unable to remarry. The Rabbinical judges, fearing the man will leave the country if they don't act immediately, quickly called in a scribe to write the divorce document. They even went as far as postponing other discussions they had scheduled for that day. An hour after his arrival, the man was already divorced from his wife by Jewish laws and customs — and was off to the airport, to be united with his new love.

Ancient Jewish Village from Temple Period Discovered in Eastern Jerusalem

By United With Israel

An excavation dig taking place in the Sharafat neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem, where an elementary school is to be built, has uncovered the remains of a Jewish village dating back some 2,000 years to the Hasmonean period, says the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The IAA says that the finds have included the remains of a large wine press containing fragments of many storage jars, a large columbarium cave (rock-cut dovecote), an olive press, a large ritual bath, a water cistern, and rock quarries. "It seems that this burial estate served a wealthy or prominent family during the Hasmonean period. The estate was in use for a few generations as was common in that era," according to Ya'akov Billig, who is directing the excavations for the IAA. The most significant feature of the excavation is an extravagant burial estate, which included a corridor leading to a large courtyard chiseled into the bedrock, says the IAA. "Such quality craftsmanship of architectural elements is very rare, found mostly in monumental buildings or burial estates in the Jerusalem area," it added. The entrance into the multi-chambered burial cave was through its facade, behind which oblong burial niches were carved into the stone walls. The earth covering the courtyard of the burial estate contained some large building stones, some of which are elaborate architectural elements associated with the Second Temple period. The current excavation is said to have exposed only a small part of a larger village that existed to its south. However, despite the limited exposure, the finds seem to indicate that the village was agricultural, and among other things produced wine and olive oil, as well as breeding doves. During the Temple eras, doves were needed for both a Temple offering and for food.

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