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Russia Hands Over to Israel the Body of Missing Soldier Zachary Baumel

By DEBKAfile

The remains of Sgt. Maj. Zachary Baumel, who was killed in the battle of Sultan Yaaqub in Lebanon 37 years ago, has been returned to Israel. The IDF spokesman announced the missing soldier's recovery a day before Prime Minister/Defense Minister Binyamin flies to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, and six days before Israel's general election. DEBKAfile reported that it was handed over to Israel by Russian officials. Baumel was one of six soldiers missing from the Sultan Yaaqub battle in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley that took place on June 11, 1982, during the First Lebanon War against a large Syrian force. Twenty Israeli soldiers were killed in the battle. Two, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, are still missing. Baumel's body was brought to Israel by an El Al flight. He has been positively identified. Zachary and his family migrated to Israel from the United States. His mother and two siblings were informed of the event. His father died some years ago. A military funeral with full honors is being arranged. DEBKAfile reports that the handover of the missing soldier represents an exceptional gesture of goodwill by President Vladimir Putin towards Israel and its prime minister, and accentuates his intention to give Israel a role in determining Syria's future. It follows on his decision during a former meeting on Feb. 17, which lasted three hours, to establish a joint committee for dealing with the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria. This brought Israel for the first time into the decision-making process regarding an Arab nation. That accord appears to have opened the door for President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan. Our sources also reveal that, since 2016, Russian intelligence and Special Forces officers have been working diligently to uncover the whereabouts of the Israeli soldiers missing from the Battle of Sultan Yaaqub and restore their remains to Israel. The battle of Sultan Yaaqub in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley was the Israeli army's only encounter with a Syrian force during the 1982 Lebanon war. The IDF unit was vastly outnumbered in troops and tanks. Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, were in the Israeli tank that was hit. On May 29, 2016, Moscow handed the tank to Israel. It is on exhibit at the IDF museum. Syrian's motive in letting the Russians have the tank was for its engineers to discover the armor and electronic systems developed by Israel.

Qatari Sociologist Demonstrates 'Proper' Wife-Beating Technique


Qatari sociologist Abd Al-Aziz Al-Khazraj Al-Ansari uploaded a video to the Al-Mojtama YouTube channel where he gave a demonstration and explanation about how to beat your wife in an Islamically permissible fashion, reported the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). He said that it is not necessary to beat one's wife frequently, but that a man – as the leader of the house – must sometimes exercise his authority and discipline his wife "out of love" so that "life can move on." He said the beating should be light and painless, and that it should make the wife feel her husband's masculinity and strength, as well as her femininity. Al-Ansari then demonstrated how to beat one's wife on Nayef - a little boy who might be his son - by slapping him on the shoulders, grabbing him and shaking him, and saying loudly: "I told you not to leave the house! How many times do I have to tell you?" Al-Ansari said that punching your wife or striking her in the face is prohibited and explained that it is in some women's nature to like domineering, authoritative, violent, and powerful husbands.

Report: Netanyahu May have Benefited from Cousin's Libya Deals


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is enmeshed in a roiling scandal connected to Seadrift Coke, a Texas-based firm previously owned by his cousin Nathan Milikowsky, HuffPost reported on Wednesday. According to the report, Netanyahu made a return of over 700% from the company's stock, which he purchased in 2007 and sold in 2010. HuffPost said that while Netanyahu held Seadrift's stock, another company owned by Milikowsky, C/G Electrodes, was charged by the US Department of Commerce with selling electrodes to Muammar Qaddafi's Libya in 2007 and 2008 in violation of US nuclear nonproliferation regulations. During that time, according to HuffPost, Seadrift Coke was the main supplier of raw materials to C/G Electrodes, which means that Netanyahu likely benefited from the Libya sales. The documents related to the Commerce investigation do not detail which Libyan entity purchased the materials, which are essential in the production of steel for various industries. The Department of Commerce charged the company for the illegal sales to Libya on 23 occasions. The shipments, several of which went through Canada, were valued at $6.8 million. The agency fined the company $250,000 as part of a settlement agreement. In August 2007 ? a month after the Libyan transactions began ? Netanyahu purchased shares in C/G Electrodes' main supplier of raw material, Seadrift Coke, according to HuffPost. Since both companies were controlled by Milikowsky and Seadrift had binding supply agreements with C/G Electrodes to supply the majority of the raw material required to make graphite electrodes, the business ties between Seadrift and C/G Electrodes suggest that Netanyahu likely benefited from his cousin's Libya dealings. Milikowsky told HuffPost in response that Netanyahu did not know about C/G Electrodes' sales to Libya. "He was not involved in that company and was just a passive investor in Seadrift. Besides that, I won't say anything else, since I'm not talking to reporters," he stressed. A spokesman for Netanyahu made clear that the prime minister was a passive investor in Seadrift with a small percentage of shares. "He did not take any part in the company's management or business," said the spokesperson. "The actions taken in the case were reported appropriately to the relevant authorities," he added. HuffPost asked him to clarify whether he was referring to the Commerce Department or Netanyahu's investment in Seadrift, but he did not respond. He also did not respond to questions about whether Netanyahu was aware of his cousin's dealings with Libya.

Palestinians Pray for Fish as Israel Opens Deeper Waters

By Reuters

As their rickety motorboats puttered out into deep Mediterranean waters for the first time in almost two decades, the Palestinian fishermen prayed for deep-water mackerel and tuna to supplement Gaza's usual shallows fare of sardines, shrimp and crab. This week, as part of Egyptian-mediated efforts to ease the plight of 2 million residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip, Israel has extended the area where it permits Palestinians to fish. "Such a distance has been off-limits. And hopefully there are lots of fish to bring back," said 69-year-old fisherman Ahmed al-Amoudi. Israel keeps a naval cordon on Gaza, part of a blockade it and neighboring Egypt say is necessary to prevent arms smuggling by the Hamas Islamists that rule the coastal territory. Israel has long limited Palestinian fishing waters and has varied the size of the zone. It was tightened to just 6-9 miles (9-15 km) from the coast in recent years. But on Monday, Israel broadened the limit to 12-15 miles (19-24 km) out, it's widest since 2000 before a Palestinian revolt erupted. "This step is part of the civilian policy aimed at preventing a humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip and reflects the policy of distinguishing between terror and the uninvolved populace," an Israeli official said. Palestinians saw the move as an Israeli concession to a year of protests at the border, combined with several surges of cross-border fighting which have prompted mediation by Egypt, the United Nations, and Qatar on ways to help Gaza's economy. "Thanks to God and then to the 'March of Return,' which opened up the sea for us," al-Amoudi said, referring to the weekly demonstrations at the frontier, which demand a lifting of the blockade and the right for Palestinians to return to homes their families fled or were forced from when Israel was founded. April to June are peak Gaza fishing season. The sector accounts for less than 5% of the enclave's GDP and supports some 50,000 people, a fraction of the 2 million population. But the fishing has value beyond the numbers, as one of the few viable industries in Gaza, where more than half the population is unemployed, and nearly 80% receive some form of aid, according to the World Bank. With Gaza's land borders tightly controlled by neighboring Israel and Egypt, the sea's horizon provides many Palestinians with a glimpse of hoped-for freedoms of movement in the future. The fishermen still have it hard, with fuel and spare parts for their boats scarce. They say that Israel has also barred the importation to Gaza of wire cables that would allow them to line nets for plumbing the depths. But fisherman Wael Abu Mohammed was still cautiously upbeat. "With 15 miles now we will be comfortable if there are no problems with the Israelis," the father of 10 said. "We hope for the best." The Israeli navy has in the past fired on Palestinian boats that strayed from the fishing zones, sometimes impounding the vessels and detaining their occupants. In addition to smuggling, Israel worries about seaborne attacks. In the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas frogmen swam from Gaza to storm an Israeli coastal base. The Israeli official said that maintaining the expanded zone for Gaza fisherman "depends on [them] honoring the agreements" and that any attempt to venture beyond it "will be handled accordingly by the [Israeli] security services."

Germany's Military to have Jewish Chaplains for First Time in a Century


For the first time in a century, Germany's military will have rabbis as chaplains. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced this week that her ministry would appoint Jewish chaplains to the Bundeswehr based on recommendations from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the umbrella organization that represents the approximately 100,000 members of Jewish communities nationwide. Also, a treaty on the military chaplaincy will be negotiated between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Central Council of Jews, as it was for Protestants and Catholics decades ago. Von der Leyen and Council President Josef Schuster are among those who will address a high-ranking conference that began Wednesday on both the history of Jewish chaplains in the German military and the expectations of such a chaplain today. According to the Central Council, the future German military rabbi or rabbis will work both in a pastoral capacity, and in instructing soldiers of all religious backgrounds, "enriching their ethical education … with a Jewish contribution." Schuster called the decision "a sign of the growing relationship of trust between the Jewish community and the Bundeswehr as part of our democratic society." German soldiers are not required to identify their religion; the Defense Ministry estimates that about half have done so. According to the ministry, there are approximately 300 Jewish enlistees in addition to about 3,000 Muslims, 41,000 Catholics and 53,000 Protestants. Christian military chaplains were introduced to the Bundeswehr about 60 years ago. Germany was forced to disband its military following its defeat in World War I. After World War II, Jewish military chaplains in Allied armies served in Displaced Persons camps and later served their troops stationed in postwar West Germany. Some opened their military congregations to the participation of Jews in Germany, even bringing back Reform Judaism — a movement with roots in Germany. After the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, many Allied troops left the country, and with them the Jewish chaplains. Now it will be the Bundeswehr itself that will introduce Jewish chaplains. And as part of NATO operations and peacekeeping missions, the military may call on the rabbis to travel to areas where German soldiers are stationed. According to news reports, the rabbinical candidates will have to undergo security clearance. No appointment date for the rabbinical chaplain has been given. In her statement, von der Leyen said she was both "grateful and humbled to know that Jewish women and men serve in our Bundeswehr," adding that every soldier, including Jews and Muslims, has the right to "undisturbed religious practice and pastoral care." There reportedly also will soon be imams appointed as military chaplains, although there will be no treaty with the Federal Republic of Germany since instead of having a single representative body for Muslims in Germany, there are several.

Skeleton of Mother Cradling Baby Discovered at Holocaust Mass Gravesite in Belarus

By Algemeiner

Excavations at the site of a Holocaust mass grave in Belarus have uncovered the remains of more than 1,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis — including that of a female skeleton cradling her baby. A BBC reporter observing the excavations in the city of Brest relayed the harrowing scenes at the site, as skeletons, many belonging to children, were unearthed by military examiners. The military team usually searches for the bones of Soviet soldiers. But at the site in Brest, in the west of the country, "they have removed the small skulls of teenagers instead, and a female skeleton with the remains of a baby, as if she'd been cradling it," the BBC`s Sarah Rainsford reported. The BBC report noted that almost half the 50,000-strong population of Brest on the eve of World War II were Jews. Up to 5,000 men were executed shortly after the German invasion in June 1941. Those who remained were later crammed into a ghetto, across several blocks of the city center surrounded by barbed wire. In October 1942, the Nazis issued orders to wipe the Jewish population out. "They were herded on to freight trains and driven over 100 km (62 miles) to a forest. At Bronnaya Gora, thousands were led to the edge of a vast pit and shot," the report said. The Brest mass grave contains the remains of some of those who managed to hide from the Nazis at first, only to be rooted out. The remains were discovered at the end of February by construction workers on the site. Located on the Polish border, Brest was a part of Poland before the war.

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