Zio-Watch News Round-up

Dr. Patrick Slattery’s News Roundup, February 27, 2015



From Russia Today

Saudi Arabia to allow Israel use of its airspace to strike Iran – report

Published time: February 27, 2015 00:10

Israel Air Force (Reuters / Amir Cohen)

Israel Air Force (Reuters / Amir Cohen)

Saudi Arabia has reportedly agreed to let Israel use its airspace to attack Iran if necessary, in exchange for “some kind of progress” on the Palestinian issue, Israel’s Channel 2 TV station quoted an unnamed European official as saying.

“The Saudis have declared their readiness for the Israeli Air Force to overfly Saudi air space en route to attack Iran if an attack is necessary,” the report stated. In return for cooperation, Saudi Arabia wants to see some “progress” on the Palestinian issue.

The move will reportedly allow Israel to bomb targets in Iran by offering a shortcut, which will save fuel and time.

The Saudi position was confirmed during multiple diplomatic talks, according to the TV report. “The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” the European official from Brussels was quoted as saying.

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From Russia Today

ISIS militants destroy ancient statues, relics in Iraq (VIDEO)

Published time: February 26, 2015 20:31

The Islamic State has posted a video online showing a group of militants destroying ancient statues and other artifacts, saying they are symbols of idolatry. Some of the objects date from the seventh century BC. Specialists say the damage is incalculable.

The video, which appeared online on Thursday, shows monuments and relics of the Assyrian era – including a winged deity – being smashed with sledgehammers and an electric drill. The militants placed the statues in a large exhibition room and shattered them on the floor, breaking the smaller sculptures to pieces.

The attackers do not state their location, but it is believed to be a museum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which was seized by the Islamic State last June.

The statues, described by ISIS leaders as “idols,” and must be removed is a part of the militant group’s policy.
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 From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Argentine judge dismisses Nisman accusations against Kirchner in AMIA case

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — A federal judge in Argentina dismissed the complaint against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner that she covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.

Daniel Rafecas in a 62-page ruling on Thursday said the accusation against Kirchner and other government officials cannot be sustained by the evidence collected.

The complaint filed by state prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita was based on evidence presented by his predecessor, the late Alberto Nisman. Pollicita, who can appeal Rafecas’ decision, earlier this month charged that Kirchner ordered her Foreign Ministry to sign a pact with Iran to ignore Iran’s responsibility in the Buenos Aires Jewish center attack in exchange for commercial benefits.

Pollicita based the document on the 290-page complaint drafted by Nisman, who was found dead on Jan. 16, hours before he was to present allegations to Congress about Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Israel Electric cuts Palestinian power again

(JTA) — Two West Bank cities had their electricity cut for the second time in a week because of unpaid bills.

The state-owned Israel Electric Corp. cut power for an hour to Nablus and Jenin on Wednesday to protest what it says is $482 million in debt. The company also briefly cut power to the cities on Monday.

In a statement released by the Israel Electric on Wednesday, the company said, “Having issued numerous warnings and attempts to reach an agreement, the IEC’s board instructed the CEO to take action to minimize the debt,” the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen criticized the electric company’s decision, citing the potentially high humanitarian and diplomatic costs the blackouts would cause, according to Haaretz.
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From PressTV

Palestinians walk on the rubble in Gaza’s northern district of Beit Hanoun to check their homes following Israeli bombardments on July 26, 2014.

Rebuilding the besieged Gaza Strip, which suffered heavy damage during a 50-day Israeli war last summer, may take “100 years” if the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave continues, charity organization Oxfam says.

“It could take 100 years to complete essential building of homes, schools and health facilities in Gaza unless the Israeli blockade is lifted,” Oxfam said on Thursday.

Gaza, which has experienced three destructive wars in the last seven years, has been blockaded since June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standards of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.

Over 800,000 truckloads of construction materials are needed for the reconstruction of Gaza facilities and infrastructure, according to Oxfam.

“Yet, in January only 579 such trucks entered Gaza,” the aid agency said, adding, “Less than 0.25 percent of the truckloads of essential construction materials needed have entered Gaza in the past 3 months.”
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From PressTV

Israeli forces fire tear gas at demonstrators protesting the closure of the eastern entrance of Azzun town in the W Bank, Feb 26, 2015.

Israeli forces have fired tear gas at a group of Palestinian protesters demonstrating against the blockade of their city, Qalqilya, in the north of the occupied West Bank.

Several Palestinians suffered respiratory problems following inhalation of tear gas on Thursday after Israeli forces attacked a peaceful protest in the town of Azzun in Qalqilya Province, al-Quds News Agency reported.

The deputy governor of Qalqilya, Colonel Hussam Abu Hamda, was among the victims of tear gas.

The march began from the center of Azzun and continued towards the eastern entrance of the town which has been closed for more than 14 years by the Israeli regime.

The protesters called for the opening of the entrance in order to facilitate the citizens’ transportation.
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From The Times of Israel

Jerusalem Christian seminary targeted in apparent hate crime

Greek Orthodox center torched; graffiti reading ‘Jesus is a son of a whore’ found at the scene; mayor condemns attack

February 26, 2015, 8:07 am

Police open an investigation into the fire at a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem on Feb. 26, 2015. Ultra-nationalist and anti-Christian graffiti on the walls leads investigators to suspect the fire may have been a hate crime. (Photo credit: Jerusalem Fire Department)

Police open an investigation into the fire at a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem on Feb. 26, 2015. Ultra-nationalist and anti-Christian graffiti on the walls leads investigators to suspect the fire may have been a hate crime. (Photo credit: Jerusalem Fire Department)

A fire broke out early Thursday morning in a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem in what police suspect may be a hate crime. No one was injured.

The fire started at approximately 4 a.m. in the bathrooms of the seminary.

The walls of the building were vandalized with ultra-nationalist and racist graffiti.

“Jesus is a son of a whore” and “Redemption of Zion” were among the slogans painted in the areas surrounding the bathrooms.

Three teams of firefighters were called to the seminary, which is located near the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, and quickly extinguished the flames, preventing it from spreading through the rest of the building.
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From Russia Today

Paris livid after French lawmakers hold ‘unauthorized’ meetings with Assad, Hezbollah

Published time: February 26, 2015 18:16

French President Francois Hollande (Reuters/Vincent Kessler) and Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters/SANA)

French President Francois Hollande (Reuters/Vincent Kessler) and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters/SANA)

Four French lawmakers have been slammed by their government and one of them threatened with sanctions and suspension after an unauthorized meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus as well with a Hezbollah member.

The group of four cross-party lawmakers, identified as Gerard Bapt, Jean-Pierre Vial, Jacques Myard and Francois Zochetto, went to the Middle East on a ”personal mission to see what is going on, to hear, listen.”

According to the Syrian state news agency, Assad and the French lawmakers discussed developments and challenges facing Arab and European nations, especially those pertaining to terrorism.

“We met Bashar al-Assad for a good hour. It went very well,” Jacques Myard, an MP from the opposition UMP party, told AFP but refused to give details.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Susan Rice, Samantha Power to speak at AIPAC conference

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Susan Rice, the U.S. national security adviser who said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress has been “destructive” to the Israel-U.S. relationship, will speak at the AIPAC conference.

So will Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said Thursday, three days before the March 1-3 conference launches.

Rice’s appearance suggests that the administration is separating its unhappiness with Netanyahu, whose March 3 speech to Congress has infuriated Obama administration officials, from AIPAC. Netanyahu plans to speak against the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers now underway. Obama backs the talks.

AIPAC has not weighed in on the propriety of how the speech was organized — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu without informing the White House or Democrats — but is encouraging lawmakers to attend.
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From PressTV

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The Israeli attorney general has ordered a preliminary investigation into alleged financial misconduct at the private home and state residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The evidence collected from Netanyahu’s official Jerusalem al-Quds residence and his private home, and the testimonies of a former employee at the residence contributed to the decision, the office of Yehuda Weinstein said in a statement on Thursday.

The attorney general’s office “believes that the variety of affairs justifies a probe, at the end of which it will be decided whether to launch a criminal investigation,” the statement added.

The attorney’s office reviewed “a number of cases in which evidence has been collected and raised suspicions that actions constituting criminal offenses took place,” according to the statement.

Among the instances of alleged misconduct are using state funds to pay for private costs, including for the purchase of garden furniture for the residence, and mishandling funds from recycled bottles by Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah.
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From Russia Today

​Kiev’s West-backed ‘ludicrous demands’ may derail ceasefire – Moscow

Published time: February 26, 2015 10:58 

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride armoured personnel carriers in Artemovsk, eastern Ukraine, February 24, 2015. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride armoured personnel carriers in Artemovsk, eastern Ukraine, February 24, 2015. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Kiev has been making unrealistic demands for the rebels to meet before pulling back their heavy weapons, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. It appears that some politicians in Ukraine and the West want to derail the Minsk ceasefire, he added.

The Minsk peace deal has produced a noticeable reduction of violence in Eastern Ukraine, which is confirmed by OSCE observers on the ground, Lavrov said Thursday. But the progress may be reversed if the authorities in Kiev and their foreign sponsors maintain the confrontational stance they have now, he warned.

#Lavrov: Those who aim to undermine the Minsk agreements are trying to create the impression that the ceasefire is ineffective #Ukraine

— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) February 26, 2015

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From The Times of Israel

Hezbollah campaign stalls on Syrian Golan Heights

Shiite group and regime forces unable to claim significant achievements against opposition forces in contested region

February 26, 2015, 9:58 am

Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria's Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with President Bashar Assad’s forces, seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria’s Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with President Bashar Assad’s forces, seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

Contrary to reports by Lebanese and Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets regarding a widespread, successful offensive designed to purify the Syrian Golan Heights of rebel forces, it turns out that the military operation carried out by the Assad regime and the Shiite terrorist group has not borne much fruit.

The major operation, which was devised with the assistance of Iranian officials, began about two weeks ago. During the first days of the offensive, Lebanese and Syrian media reported rapid gains by regime and Hezbollah forces in the Syrian Golan Heights, citing the occupation of a large number of villages that had previously been under opposition control.

In reality, however, the military achievements of the operation were poor and there have been no substantive gains in the region. A couple of thousand Syrian army soldiers along with a few hundred Hezbollah fighters indeed did take control of individual villages and several outposts, yet the Syrian opposition — both secular factions and members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front — also managed to capture several villages and outposts.

The situation in the Syrian Golan Heights, in essence, has not changed at all following the operation. Hezbollah first explained that this was due to the difficult weather. However, even after the storms and blizzards passed, the offensive did not pick up. Several battles are still raging across the region, but neither side can claim a decisive advantage yet.

Syrian army troops and Hezbollah fighters are focused on trying to take over the center of the Syrian Golan Heights, near the main road between Damascus and the border town of Quneitra. This move is apparently intended to secure the road to the Syrian capital, and probably has no connection to Israel.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Study: Global anti-Semitism reaches seven-year high

(JTA) — Global anti-Semitic incidents reached a seven-year high, a new study found, while social hostilities involving religion declined somewhat in 2013 following a six-year peak.

The Pew Research Center’s annual study of global restrictions on religion, released Thursday, reported that approximately one-quarter of the world’s countries are “grappling with high levels of religious hostilities within their borders.”

Christians and Muslims, together making up more than half of the world’s population, faced harassment in the largest number of countries. However, the study noted a “marked increase in the number of countries where Jews were harassed.”
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Canada’s Parliament unanimously condemns rise of anti-Semitism

OTTAWA (JTA) — Canada’s Parliament unanimously adopted a motion condemning the rise of anti-Semitism around the world.

The Feb. 24 motion grew out of a four-hour discussion, called a “take-note” debate, in the House of Commons on the rise of global anti-Semitism.

The motion cited “an alarming increase in anti-Semitism worldwide,” including “the firebombing of synagogues and community centers, the vandalizing of Jewish memorials and cemeteries, incendiary calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, and anti-Jewish terror.”

The measure reaffirmed “the importance of the Ottawa Protocol on Combating anti-Semitism as a model for domestic and international implementation,” and called on the government to “continue advancing the combating of anti-Semitism as a domestic and international priority.”
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From Russia Today

Too much screen time raises kids’ blood pressure

Published time: February 27, 2015 02:27

Reuters / Marcelo del Pozo

Lack of physical activity and getting more than two hours of “screen time” significantly increases the risk of high blood pressure in children, according to the results of a recent study.

The claim was published in the February issue of the International Journal of Cardiology and relies on the analysis of data gathered on over 5,000 children from eight European countries, examined by 15 researchers from Spain and Brazil.

They found a “worryingly high” incidence of high blood pressure in children – 110 cases per 1,000, or double the expected rate of five percent. Spending more than two hours a day in front of a screen, whether watching television or playing computer games, increased the probability of high blood pressure by 30 percent. The article also noted that anything less than an hour per day of physical activity increased the probability by 50 percent.

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From The Times of Israel

US Senate resolution to condemn European anti-Semitism

Bipartisan initiative calls on EU governments to appoint special envoys to address growing phenomenon in wake of series of attacks

February 26, 2015, 2:54 am

Illustrative photo of anti-Semitism in Europe (photo credit: CC BY-SA Beny Shlevich/Flickr)

Illustrative photo of anti-Semitism in Europe (photo credit: CC BY-SA Beny Shlevich/Flickr)

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of US senators announced a new resolution Wednesday condemning European anti-Semitism and calling on the US administration to work with European authorities to combat the phenomenon. The resolution, which was backed by a majority of senators and thus expected to face clear legislative sailing, renews calls for European states and the European Union (EU) to appoint special envoys to address anti-Semitism.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored the resolution which was co-sponsored by 52 other senators. It calls upon the US secretary of state, the attorney general and other relevant government agencies to work closely with the European Union and European governments to further address anti-Semitism in Europe.

The resolution notes that “an alarming increase in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents targeting Jewish institutions, places of worship, and individuals continue[s] to take place in Europe and remain[s] a challenge to stability and security.”

It calls on the US to work with its European counterparts to ensure that steps are taken to combat anti-Semitism, including “undertaking prompt, impartial, and effective investigations of any acts of violence motivated by anti-Semitism and fully prosecuting those responsible for such violence within the extent of the law”; cooperating on developing programs to counter violent extremists; integrating measures combating anti-Semitism into national action plans for the prevention of hate crimes and violence; convening regular consultations with the Jewish communities; and increasing cooperation on training initiatives related to hate crimes, particularly crimes motivated by anti-Semitism, for law enforcement personnel, and improving monitoring and reporting efforts.

The resolution also calls on the US to encourage European states and the EU to designate senior-level special envoys to “monitor, prevent, and combat anti-Semitism regionally and domestically.”
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