TIME Israel

Israel-Lebanon Border Calm Day After Escalation

Mideast Lebanon Israel
Spanish U.N. peacekeepers in an armored vehicle, patrol the Lebanese-Israeli border, in the southern village of Abbasiyeh, Lebanon, on Jan. 28, 2015 Mohammed Zaatari—AP

Israel remains on alert

(SHEAR YASHUV, Israel) — The Israeli-Lebanese border is calm but Israel remains on alert a day after the deadliest escalation since the two sides’ 2006 war.

The Lebanese National News Agency says Israeli warplanes were flying low over border villages on Thursday.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon says the military is “ready for any development” and warned against further attacks.

Wednesday’s flare-up started when the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group fired a salvo of anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military convoy in a disputed border area, killing two soldiers and wounding seven. The attack was in retaliation for a deadly Israeli airstrike on Hezbollah fighters inside neighboring Syria earlier this month.

Israel responded to the missiles with shelling. A Spanish peacekeeper with the U.N. force in southern Lebanon was also killed.

TIME archeology

Here’s What a 55,000-Year-Old Skull Teaches Us About Human Migration

Ancient Skull
This undated photo provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority on Jan. 27, 2015, shows a partial human skull excavated from a cave in Israel's western Galilee region Clara Amit—AP

The rare bone find is the first to connect humans in Africa and Europe

Part of a female human skull, found in a cave in Israel and believed to be around 55,000 years old, is giving researchers clues as to when humans migrated out of Africa, leading to the eventual colonization of Europe.

The partial skull, found in Manot Cave in western Galilea, is the first recorded instance of modern humans being in the Levant region during that time period, archeologists claim in the journal Nature. These early people may have been the first to pass through the region on their way to cooler latitudes.

“It’s amazing. This is the first specimen we have that connects Africa to Europe,” said Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University.

Neanderthal remains have previously been found in locations close to Manot Cave, dating between 50,000 and 65,000 years of age, so that places the two species in the same place at the same time.

Non-African humans have a tiny bit of Neanderthal DNA and studies suggest the mix happened 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.

Scientists say the new discovery offers the possibility that a spell of interbreeding between Neanderthals and early humans occurred at this time and in this region.

[Nature]

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 28

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The Big Dig

New Englanders savaged by a blizzard packing knee-high snowfall and hurricane-force winds began digging out as New Yorkers and others spared its full fury questioned whether forecasts were overblown

Drink to Your Health

The sun is the biggest culprit in causing skin cancer, but there’s a beverage that may thwart some of the tumor-causing effects of ultraviolet rays

Meet the Kingmakers

A new analysis by the Center for Public Integrity reveals that the top 50 political contributors spent more than $440 million in 2014

Elton John to Do Musical-Drama Pilot for HBO

The music legend is producing the pilot of a musical drama to be named Virtuoso, set in 18th century Vienna. True Blood creator Alan Ball is set to write and direct the show, which follows a class of young musical prodigies at the Academy of Musical Excellence

Apple Shines With Record Earnings

A larger-than-expected bump in holiday iPhone sales propelled Apple to record sales and the best quarterly earnings of any company ever. The tech giant racked up $74.6 billion in revenue last quarter, a 29.5% gain on the same period a year before

Hizballah Attacks Israeli Convoy

Several Israelis soldier were injured, possibly killed, when anti-tank missiles were fired at an Israeli convoy on the Golan Heights from Lebanon on Wednesday. Israel retaliated by firing dozens of artillery shells into Lebanon and convened a emergency security meeting

Who Ya Gonna Cast? Ghostbusters Stars Revealed

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig have reportedly been cast in the long-awaited, all-female reboot of the beloved ’80s classic, alongside Saturday Night Live‘s Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. Paul Feig, who directed Bridesmaids, will helm the new movie

Budget Cuts Hit Red States Hardest, Say Analysts

Funding for a range of discretionary grant programs has fallen 40% in Republican states compared to a drop of only 25% in swing states or states that tend to support the Democrats, according to new research

WHO Appoints New Africa Chief

The World Health Organization appointed Botswana’s Dr. Matshidiso Moeti to head its Africa region on Tuesday. The physician is tasked with revamping the organization’s operations on the continent in the wake of the Ebola outbreak

Ancient Solar System Discovered

Astronomers have discovered an ancient solar system very similar to our own that dates back to the “dawn of the galaxy.” Using NASA’s Kepler telescope, a team of international scientists found a star and five orbiting planets that are similar in size to Earth

Jordan Ready for ISIS Prisoner Exchange

Jordan’s information minister says his government is set to swap an Iraqi woman held in Jordan for a Jordanian pilot captured by extremists from the Islamic State group — but made no mention of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also being held by ISIS

Prepare for Future Pandemics as for War, Says Bill Gates

Bill Gates, whose charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation disburses nearly $4 billion worldwide, has cautioned that a technology-based action plan is needed to guard against future pandemics similar to how we “prepare ourselves for war”

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TIME Middle East

Escalation Feared as Hizballah Attacks Israeli Convoy

Israeli soldiers carry an injured comrade after an anti-tank missile hit an army vehicle in an occupied area on the border with Lebanon on Jan. 28, 2015.
Israeli soldiers carry an injured comrade after an anti-tank missile hit an army vehicle in an occupied area on the border with Lebanon on Jan. 28, 2015. Jalaa Marey—AFP/Getty Images

Israel fires dozen of shells into Lebanon after its vehicles were attacked

At least two Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday when anti-tank missiles were fired at an Israeli convoy on the Golan Heights from Lebanon.

Israel retaliated by firing dozens of artillery shells into southern Lebanon and convened a emergency security meeting in Tel Aviv.

Israeli military said an anti-tank missile was fired at Israeli military vehicle near Lebanese border, the Associated Press reports, leaving two soldiers dead. Lebanese security officials then said Israel fired 25 artillery shells into Lebanon.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister tweeted: “At this moment the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] responds to events in the North. We will not allow terrorists to disrupt the lives of our citizens and threaten their security. We will respond forcefully those who try to challenge us.”

Hizballah claimed on al-Manar TV in Lebanon that they had attacked an Israeli military convoy. In a statement, Hizballah said its fighters destroyed a number of Israeli vehicles that were carrying Israeli officers and soldiers and caused casualties among “enemy ranks.”

It said the attack was carried out by a group calling itself the “heroic martyrs of Quneitra,” — referring to an area in Syria where Israel killed six members of Hizballah and an Iranian general on Jan. 18.

Wednesday’s attack took place near Mount Dov and Shebaa Farms, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.

[AP]

TIME

At Least 2 Rockets From Syria Strike Israeli-Controlled Golan Heights

Israel Golan Heights Syria
Israeli soldiers, take up positions on the Israeli-Syrian border, near Quneitra in the Golan Heights, Jan. 25, 2015. Atef Safadi—EPA

The fire comes after an airstrike last week in Syria attributed to Israel that killed six members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and an Iranian general

(JERUSALEM) — At least two rockets launched from Syria struck the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights on Tuesday and Israel responded with artillery fire, the Israeli military said.

The fire comes after an airstrike last week in Syria attributed to Israel that killed six members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and an Iranian general. Israel has braced for a response to that strike, beefing up its air defenses and increasing surveillance along its northern frontier.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the fire “appeared to be intentional.” He declined to comment on whether the fire may have been connected to the strike last week.

A message on Lerner’s Twitter account said Israel “responded with artillery towards the positions that launched the attack.”

The military said sirens sounded in communities in the Golan Heights earlier Tuesday. It said that it had evacuated and closed a popular ski resort following the strike. No injuries were reported.

Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it.

Fighting in neighboring Syria’s civil war has spilled over to Israel in the past. Mortar shells have exploded sporadically inside Israeli territory since the conflict began, sometimes causing minor damage.

Israel believes most fire is errant shots but has at times accused Syria of aiming at Israeli targets. Israeli troops have returned fire on several occasions.

TIME White House

White House Chief of Staff Reaffirms ‘Deep and Abiding’ U.S.-Israel Ties

Meet the Press - Season 68
Denis McDonough White House Chief of Staff appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington D.C. on Jan. 25, 2015. William B. Plowman—NBC/Getty Images

Amid reports of a rift with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough repudiated reports of a widening rift between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday’s morning talk shows.

An unnamed administration official was quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying Netanyahu “spat in our face publicly” when he agreed to accept an invitation to speak to the United States Congress in March without President Obama having been consulted first.

But McDonough said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the alliance between the U.S. and Israel remained strong. “Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding,” he said. “It’s focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelmingly.”

The White House Chief of Staff said he could not “guarantee” that an administration official hadn’t made the remarks about Netanyahu, but said he had no idea who might have said them. “It’s not me. It’s not the President,” McDonough told interviewer Chuck Todd.

House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress when he visits the U.S. in March, without informing the White House first. The trip coincides with negotiations between the U.S. and others with Iran on their nuclear capabilities, which are strongly opposed by Israel and by some in Congress.

The White House said President Obama would not be meeting with Netanyahu during his visit, out of concerns that it might influence the Israeli elections due to take place two weeks after his trip.

The decision has been portrayed as a snub by the Israeli media, though McDonough said on Meet the Press that the principle would be the same for any other ally. “We think as a general matter we in the U.S. stay out of internal politics of our closest allies,” he said.

In a separate interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday, McDonough urged Congress not to pass new sanctions on Iran while the nuclear negotiations are ongoing.

“We’ve asked Congress for forbearance, for some time to allow us to run these negotiations so that it is we who are, united with our allies, maintaining Iran isolated, rather than going with some kind of premature action up there on the Hill that would risk really splintering the international community, making it we, not the Iranians, who are isolated,” he said.

TIME World

Israeli Barber Designs ‘Magic’ Hairy Yarmulke That is Basically a Toupée

Israeli hairdresser Shalom Koresh places a yarmulke, a skullcap made of hair samples, on a man's head in the city of Rehovot, Israel on Jan. 21, 2015.
Israeli hairdresser Shalom Koresh places a yarmulke, a skullcap made of hair samples, on a man's head in the city of Rehovot, Israel on Jan. 21, 2015. Dan Balilty—AP

Blends in with the wearer's hair

An Israeli barber has designed a hair-covered skullcap so that devout Jews can cover their heads without advertising their religion.

Shalom Koresh says he designed the “magic” yarmulke (also known as a kippa) to help Jews avoid trouble amid rising anti-Semitism in Europe. The yarmulke, which is designed to look just like hair on your head, has already attracted considerable interest in France and Belgium.

“This skullcap is washable, you can brush it, you can dye it,” Koresh told the Associated Press. “It was created so people could feel comfortable going to places where they are afraid to go, or places where they can’t wear it, and feel secure.”

While it’s not explicitly designed for this purpose, the “magic” yarmulke could have the added benefit of helping some men cover up signs of encroaching baldness, since it can be custom made to fit in exactly with hair color or texture.

The “Magic Kippa” is sold online. A synthetic hair kippa costs around $56, and a real-hair one costs around $91.

[AP]

 

 

TIME White House

Obama Won’t Meet With Netanyahu During Washington Visit

US-ISRAEL-OBAMA-NETANYAHU
US President Barack Obama(R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 3, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

White House blames upcoming elections in Israel

President Obama will not meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month when he is in Washington to address a joint session of Congress, the White House said Thursday.

“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. “Accordingly, the President will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress.”

MORE These Are the Elections to Watch Around the World in 2015

On Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that Netanyahu had accepted an invitation to address Congress on Feb. 11, but neither the Republican leader nor the Israelis informed the White House, in a move Press Secretary Josh Earnest called a breach from protocol. The personal relationship between the U.S. and Israeli leader has deteriorated in recent years, even as both leaders argue that the professional relationship has never been stronger.

“The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” he said. “That certainly is how President Obama’s trips are planned when we travel overseas. So this particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.”

His address comes as congressional Republicans are pressuring Obama over the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. During his State of the Union Address this week, Obama threatened to veto any additional sanctions legislation passed by the GOP-controlled Congress while talks are ongoing.

“The President has been clear about his opposition to Congress passing new legislation on Iran that could undermine our negotiations and divide the international community,” Meehan said. “The President has had many conversations with the Prime Minister on this matter, and I am sure they will continue to be in contact on this and other important matters.”

In a statement announcing the address, Boehner called Netanyahu “a great friend of our country.” “In this time of challenge, I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life,” he said. “Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”

Read next: Yemen’s President Resigns as Capital Remains in Hands of Rebels

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TIME Israel

See the Aftermath of the Tel Aviv Bus Stabbing

Three Israelis were in serious condition Wednesday after a 23-year-old Palestinian man from the West bank attacked bus passengers with a knife. Police are calling it a terrorist attack

TIME Israel

Palestinian Stabs Passengers on Bus in Israel

Israeli police crime scene investigators work at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, Jan. 21, 2015.
Israeli police crime scene investigators work at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, Jan. 21, 2015. Nir Elias—Reuters

Nine Israelis stabbed on a bus in central Tel Aviv

(JERUSALEM, Israel) — A Palestinian man stabbed 11 people on and near a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, seriously wounding three of them before he was shot and arrested by Israeli police.

Police described the assault as a “terrorist attack,” and the Islamic militant group Hamas praised it. It appeared to be the latest in a series of “lone-wolf” attacks in which Palestinians have killed and wounded Israelis using knives, acid and vehicles, citing tensions surrounding a disputed Jerusalem holy site.

The man, who was riding the bus with the other passengers, began stabbing people, including the driver, then managed to get out of the bus and run away from the scene, stabbing a woman in the back on his way.

Officers from a prison service, who happened to be nearby, saw the bus swerving out of control and a man running away. They gave chase, shot the man in the leg, wounding him lightly, and arrested him.

“He had murder in his eyes,” a bus passenger who gave her name as Orly, told Israel Radio.

Eleven people were stabbed and three remain in critical condition, according to Lee Gat, a spokeswoman at Tel Hashomer hospital, and a statement from the Ichilov hospital. Police earlier said nine people had been stabbed, citing initial numbers giving by paramedics at the scene.

Video aired by Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed the attacker running in the street and stabbing a woman in the back as he tried to escape. Police confirmed that the attacker stabbed a woman as he attempted to flee.

Police identified the assailant as 23-year-old West Bank resident Hamza Mohammed Matroukh, a Palestinian who had entered Israel illegally.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Matroukh was in custody and undergoing questioning. Police said he confessed to the stabbing, saying he carried it out in response to last year’s Gaza war and tensions surrounding a Jerusalem site holy to Jews and Muslims.

The stabbing appeared to be the latest in a series of attacks in recent months carried out by individual Palestinians with no known ties to armed groups, which have killed about a dozen people, including five killed when two men attacked a Jerusalem synagogue with guns and meat cleavers. Police say the attacks are almost impossible to prevent.

The violence comes weeks ahead of March elections, in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk, is facing a challenge from a joint list headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who support negotiations with the Palestinians. The violence could sway votes in Netanyahu’s favor.

At the scene of the attack, a Jewish head covering lay beside headphones on the floor of the bus, with blood splattered nearby. Police sealed the central intersection where the attack occurred, which is typically clogged with cars, as paramedics tended to the wounded.

Herzl Biton, the bus driver, was stabbed in the upper body and liver and was in surgery, his niece Cheli Shushan said. She said he had tried to fight back and sprayed the attacker with pepper spray.

Biton called his friend, Kazis Matzliach, as the attack was unfolding, describing the mayhem. Matzliach said he could hear the sounds of screaming while his friend was talking, telling him if “something happens to me, please take care of my children.”

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, did not claim responsibility but praised Wednesday’s attack as “brave and heroic” in a tweet by Izzat Risheq, a Hamas leader residing in Qatar.

The stabbing is a “natural response to the occupation and its terrorist crimes against our people,” Risheq said.

Israeli officials say the attacks stem from incitement by the Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.

“The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state,” Netanyahu said Wednesday. “This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, condemned the violence but said it came as a result of the Israeli occupation.

“You cannot have a violent military occupation with full impunity and then expect all its victims to be calm and quiet,” she said.

Most of the recent violence has occurred in Jerusalem, though there have been other attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

In Jerusalem, the violence came after months of tensions between Jews and Palestinians in east Jerusalem — the section of the city the Palestinians demand as their future capital. The area saw a wave of violence last summer, capped by a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

Much of the recent unrest has stemmed from tensions surrounding a key holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City. It is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because of the revered Jewish Temples that stood there in biblical times. Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

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