Thursday, November 26, 2015

Russia Employs Econ. Action on Turkey Over Jet; Freezes Joint Projects, Cuts Imports from Turkey

Russia threatened to implement an economic retaliation against Turkey today (November 26, 2015) and said it was still awaiting a reasonable explanation and an apology from Turkey for shooting down its warplane, but Turkey dismissed the threats as "emotional" and "unfitting," according to the Reuters website.

In an escalating war of words, President Tayyip Erdogan responded to Russian accusations that Turkey has been buying oil and gas from the Islamic State (IS) in Syria by accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers -- which includes Russia -- of being the real source of the IS group's financial and military power.

The shooting down of the Russian jet by the Turkish air force on November 24 was one of the most serious clashes between a NATO member and Russia, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants.

As an initial retaliation against Turkey, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered his government to draw up measures that include freezing some joint investment projects and restricting food imports from Turkey.

Syrian Church Head: Christians,West Betrayed Us; Syrian Christians Need to Reside with IS Terrorists

A Syrian Greek Catholic Church leader has condemned both U.S. foreign policy and Western media for ignoring Christian persecution and even worsening the conflict in Iraq and Syria, the Christian Post website reports today (November 26, 2015).

"Innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us," Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said.

"Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation's infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments, and archaeological sites," he added.

Younan also asserted that Christians are being targeted and are unable to live "in this chaos that produces militias, armed gangs, [Islamic State] terrorist groups, and Islamic parties."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pope Arrives in Kenya, Blasts Conflict, Terrorism; More Worried About Mosquitoes Than His Safety

Pope Francis arrived in Kenya today (November 25, 2015) -- the start of a three-nation tour of Africa -- welcomed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and yelling crowds at the airport in the capital city of Nairobi, according to the BBC website.

The Pope said conflict and terrorism fed "on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration." He played down his own security, joking he was "more worried about the mosquitoes."

A leading Muslim cleric in Kenya welcomed the Pope's visit, saying it gave hope to the "downtrodden in the slums."

Pope Francis's five-day visit to Africa will also see him go to Uganda and Central African Republic, which has been hit recently by Christian-Muslim conflict.

Israeli Lawmakers Discard Orth.Jews' Mil. Service; Similar Law Invalidated by Supreme Court in 2012

Israeli lawmakers approved an amendment this week that postpones the mandatory military conscription of haredi Orthodox men and removes the penalties for not enlisting, the Forward website reports today (November 25, 2015).

The amendment to the Equal Service Law was approved on November 23 by a vote of 49 to 36.

Under the amendment, the law will not go into effect until 2020, with a second set of deadlines in 2023. The new amendment also cancels penalties against yeshiva students who do not enlist and collectively against the haredi Orthodox community if enlistment quotas are not met.

The centrist Yesh Atid party -- led by Yair Lapid -- said it would appeal the amendment to the Supreme Court. The Tai Law -- which allowed haredi men to defer army service indefinitely -- was invalidated by Israel's Supreme Court in February 2012 and expired in August of that year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brussels Top Rabbi:No Future for Jews in Europe; Chief of European Jewish Assoc. Disclaims Belief

The chief  rabbi of Brussels, Belgium said yesterday that there is "no future for Jews in Europe," provoking criticism from the head of a European Jewish group, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphjic Agency) website reports today (November 24, 2015).

Rabbi Avraham Gigi told an Israeli radio station about the sense of fear on the streets in Belgium -- now in a lockdown state in order to prevent radical Islamic terrorist attacks --  and added, "People understand there is no future for Jews in Europe." He also stressed the importance of Jews going to Israel, although he added that Jews should move there out of love for the country, not because of fear.

In a statement issued today, Rabbi Menachem Margolin -- director of the European Jewish Association -- said his organization "is determined to continue our work to ensure that the three million Jews who live on our continent can continue to command a safe home and to be able to freely and proudly identify themselves as Jews."

Margolin stressed the development of Jewish communities across Europe, including synagogues, Jewish schools, and other community institutions.

Turkey Slams Russian Jet Due to Airway Breach; Rebels at Scene Fatally Shoot 2 Parachute Pilots

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane today (November 24, 2015), promising an angry retaliation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and heightening tensions in the global struggle over the future of Syria and the fate of the Islamic State (IS), according to the USA Today website.

The Turkish military said two F-16s shot down the Russian Su-24 attack aircraft after it breached Turkey's airspace -- and after Turkey issued 10 warnings in five minutes.

Russia defense ministry denied the plane ever strayed from Syria airspace.

The plane went down in the Bayirbucak region of northwestern Syria near the Turkish border. Rebels at the scene fatally shot two parachuting pilots, Alpasian Celik -- the second-in-command of a Turkmen rebel force -- told multiple media outlets.

Monday, November 23, 2015

State Dept. Issues Travel Alert for US Citizens; Expects Terrorist Acts during Holiday Season

The State Department released a worldwide travel alert today (November 23, 2015) for Americans, citing increased terrorism threats worldwide and advising U.S. citizens to "avoid large crowds or crowded places," especially during the holiday season, according to the Washington Times website.

Today's alert -- which also warned Americans of the risks of using public transportation and attending theater and sporting events -- is effective for three months and only expires on February 24, 2016, the State Department said.

The alert comes 10 days after Islamist State (IS) terrorists killed 130 people in several Paris locations, and while Brussels -- the capital of neighboring Belgium -- is on lockdown.

The alert -- which cited no geographic boundaries -- said, "U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events."