Switzerland Becomes First Nation to Lift Iran Sanctions After Nuclear Deal
(JNS.org) The government of Switzerland became the first country to officially lift its sanctions against Iran in the wake of last month’s nuclear deal.
The decision, which took effect Aug. 13, removes a ban on precious metal transitions with Iranian state bodies, as well as requirements to report the trade and transport of Iranian petrochemical products, crude oil, and petroleum.
Switzerland is home to large oil trading companies such as Vitol Group, Glencore, and Trafigura Beheer BV. Ever since the U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic relations following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Switzerland has been functioning as a mediator between the two nations.
The lifting of sanctions underscores Switzerland’s “support for the ongoing process to implement the nuclear agreement, and its confidence in the constructive intentions of the negotiating parties,” the Swiss government said.
Obama Administration Seeks Lower Financial Burden for Palestinians in Terror Case
(JNS.org) The Obama administration has intervened in a lawsuit brought by relatives of victims of Palestinian terrorism, asking a New York City judge not to issue a high appeal bond that could destabilize the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The jury in the trial had awarded $218.5 million to American victims of the Palestinian terror attacks. While the case is being appealed, the plaintiffs have asked the PA to deposit a monthly bond of $30 million until the appeal is resolved.
“Senior U.S. officials have made clear to other governments that if the PA were to collapse, we would be faced with a crisis that would not only impact the security of Israelis and Palestinians, but would potentially have ripple effects elsewhere in the region,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, expressed disappointment that the Obama administration “failed to take any stand” against the PA’s policy of “putting convicted terrorists on their payroll as soon as they are jailed.”
“If the PA has enough money to pay convicted terrorists, it has enough to pay the judgment in this case,” Yalowitz said, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. and Israel to Cooperate on Preventing Satellite Collisions in Space
(JNS.org) Israel and the U.S. on Monday announced an agreement to cooperate on tracking and preventing collisions between satellites in orbit in outer space.
The agreement was signed between the Israeli Space Administration—which operates under the Defense Ministry—and U.S. Strategic Command. Israel is joining a comprehensive American initiative bringing together countries that see themselves as responsible for maintaining continuous and safe satellite operations.
Israel’s first satellite, Ofek 1, was launched into orbit in 1988, making the Jewish state the seventh country to achieve full capability to build satellites and launch them into space. There are now 12 such countries, including Israel, the U.S., the U.K., Russia, China, France, Italy, India, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine and Iran.
Unlike all the other countries, Israel must launch its satellites in a westward direction—against the direction Earth spins—to avoid launching over Arab countries.
Israel Offers to Free Palestinian Hunger Striker if He Leaves the Country
(JNS.org) Israel’s State Attorney’s Office on Monday offered to release hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee Mohammad Allan on condition that he be deported for four years.
The offer was made in response to the prisoner’s petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice that he be released due to his rapidly deteriorating medical condition. It is considered to be a lenient offer, as security officials have said Allan’s release constitutes a clear security risk.
Allan, an Islamic Jihad terrorist operative, is hospitalized in critical condition at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where he is in a medically induced coma. He has not eaten in more than 60 days.
Attorney Jamil Khatib, who is representing Allan, immediately rejected the release offer.
India Plans Jewish Heritage Tours for Israelis of Indian Origin
(JNS.org) India is urging tens of thousands of Jews of Indian origin to visit the country to explore their heritage, in a bid to help continue to strengthen bilateral ties between India and Israel.
“We want to tell the world proudly about the rich Jewish life in India with your efforts we are working to preserve the Jewish heritage in India. We hope to have a package tour to Jewish heritage sites in Mumbai and elsewhere by early next year,” Indian Ambassador to Israel Jaideep Sarkar told a gathering of Jews of Indian origin at the National Convention of Indian Jews in Israel, the Times of India reported.
There are about 85,000 Jews of Indian origin living in Israel from four different communities—Bene Israel, Cochini Jews, Baghdadi Jews, and Bnei Menashe.
Recently, the Indian government restored the Paravoor and Chennamangalam synagogues in Cochin in an effort to attract Jewish tourism, especially among the 25,000-strong Cochini Jewish community in Israel.
In a sign of India’s growing prioritization of Israel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to visit Israel later this year.
Egypt Approves Sweeping New Counter-Terrorism Laws
(JNS.org) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has approved sweeping new counter-terrorism laws in order to fight the growing threat posed by Islamic jihadists.
The new laws approved Monday include fast-tracked trials for suspected terrorists in special courts, with sentences up to 10 years; life sentences for financing of terror groups; sentences of five to seven years for inciting violence or creating pro-terror websites; and stiff fines for journalists for misreporting on terror attacks, the BBC reported.
Human rights groups have criticized the new laws, claiming they go beyond the so-called “emergency laws” that were in place under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that led to widespread abuse by security forces. Those laws were suspended following the ouster of Mubarak in 2011.
El-Sisi vowed new counter-terrorism laws following the assassination of prosecutor general Hisham Barakat in June.
An ongoing surge of violence led by Sinai Province, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group operating in the Sinai Peninsula, has killed hundreds of Egyptian security personnel over the last few years.
Osama bin Laden’s Son Calls on Muslims to Carry Out Attacks in U.S. and Israel
(JNS.org) The son of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden has called on Muslims to independently attack the U.S., Israel, and other countries from the inside.
Hamza bin Laden, 24, issued an audio recording telling Muslims that it “is your duty” to engage in lone wolf attacks—not as part of larger terrorist organizations—within the U.S. and other Western nations, including Israel.
Dubbed the “crown prince of terror,” Hamza bin Laden was with his father when the elder was killed by a U.S. Navy seal team in a Pakistan compound in 2011. The younger bin Laden managed to escape, while his brother Khalid was killed.
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, tweeted that Hamza bin Laden’s call for independent Muslim terrorism was recorded before June 2015, adding that the recording might be an effort to boost al-Qaeda’s popularity by reviving the bin Laden brand.
Protest Seeks to Put Pressure on Hamas to Release Ethiopian-Israeli man
(JNS.org) Friends and relatives of Ethiopian-Israeli man Avera Mengistu, who is believed to be held captive by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, staged a protest outside Hadarim prison in central Israel on Monday.
Mengistu, 28, disappeared after entering Gaza on his own accord on Sept. 7, 2014, two weeks after the end of Israel’s war with Hamas last summer. He is believed to be mentally unstable.
The protest at Hadarim prison was timed to coincide with visitors’ day for Palestinian inmates there. The protesters demonstrated against Hamas’s inhumane holding of Mengistu, noting that in Israel human rights are respected and Palestinian prisoners receive visits from their families.
Protesters asked Palestinians visiting their loved ones in prison to pass their message on to Hamas, handing out fliers in Arabic. The Mengistu family says this will be the first in a series of humanitarian protests against Hamas.
“This is just the beginning of a long struggle, and we don’t know when or how it will end,” activist Matan Ayala said at the demonstration.
Israeli Government Approves Major Offshore Gas Deal
(JNS.org) The Israeli government on Sunday approved a deal with a consortium of major gas companies on natural gas production in the Mediterranean Sea.
The deal, reached last Thursday with the Israeli gas firm Delek Group and American-based Noble Energy, sets a price cap for natural gas sales to Israeli companies and requires the gas companies to finish developing the Leviathan gas field by 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted 17-1 in favor of the agreement, with Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai (Kulanu) the lone opposing vote.
The deal resolves a pricing dispute in which an Israeli antitrust commissioner last year threatened to designate the Delek-Noble partnership as a monopoly. In June 2015, meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet declared that Israel’s offshore gas fields are a matter of national security because the Jewish state plans to export some of the gas to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu said the gas deal will “bring Israel’s citizens hundreds of billions of shekels in the coming years… This money will serve us in health, education, and social welfare.”
Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal Leads Terror Group’s Delegation to Turkey
(JNS.org) Hamas’s political chief, Khaled Mashaal, led a visiting delegation from the Palestinian terror group to Turkey.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Mashaal met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Aug. 13, and they discussed “political developments, the future of the Palestinian question, the situation in Gaza and in Jerusalem, and the Hamas-PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) reconciliation process.” A Hamas statement said the meeting was “positive and useful.”
The Turkey visit follows Mashaal’s recent meetings in Qatar with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and in Saudi Arabia with that country’s leader, King Salman.
In recent years, Turkey has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policy towards Gaza and has provided refuge to some of Hamas’s top leaders, including Salah Al-Arouri—one of the founders of Hamas’s armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades.
‘Jewish Schindler’ Saves More Than 120 Christian and Yazidi Girls
(JNS.org) A Canadian-Jewish businessman inspired by the Holocaust-era work of Oskar Schindler has rescued more than 120 Iraqi Christian and Yazidi girls from the Islamic State terror group.
Steve Maman, 42, founded a group called Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq after the Islamic State conquered northern Iraq last year, displacing more than 120,000 people and forcing many of them to convert or die. Women and children were also taken as sex slaves.
“We liberate children from their captors through the use of on-the-ground brokers,” Maman told the U.K. Catholic newspaper The Tablet.
Maman said the money he has raised for the rescue initiative has come from many of his Jewish business associates.
“We need Christians to open up at the same rate as my Jewish friends have,” he said.
Maman has launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding webpage that has raised more than $330,000 so far, with an ultimate goal of $2 million.
Anti-Israel Petition Calls for Arrest of Netanyahu During U.K. Visit
(JNS.org) More than 53,000 people have signed an anti-Israel petition calling for the arrest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the United Kingdom in September.
The petition, created on the British Parliament’s E-petitions website, states, “Under international law [Netanyahu] should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K. for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014 [during Operation Protective Edge].” Israel, however, has compiled data showing that about half of the “civilians” cited in the British petition were armed terrorists.
According to British law, the government must respond to all such citizen-submitted petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures, while a petition garnering 100,000 will be considered for debate in the parliament.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the petition “a public relations stunt.”
“The bilateral relations between Britain and Israel are closer than ever,” the ministry said, noting the doubling of trade between the countries in recent years.