US shelves drone sale to Turkey over exposing Mossad spy ring

Turkish outlet Daily Taraf says Turkish military intelligence chief Hakan Fidan’s disdain for the Mossad was apparent after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident • Turkish official: U.S. angry over $4 billion weapons contract it lost to a Chinese competitor.

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The U.S. has canceled a shipment of 10 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey, following that country’s exposure of an Iranian spy network that worked with the Mossad, Turkish media outlet Daily Taraf reported on Monday.

The shipment of drones was reportedly shelved due to U.S. frustration with Turkish military intelligence chief Hakan Fidan ‘s intelligence cooperation with Iran.

According to the report, Fidan’s disdain for the Mossad had already been noted earlier, following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish nationals were killed and several Israeli soldiers wounded when Israel Defense Forces commandos seized a ship that was attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Turkish intelligence reportedly halted cooperation with the Mossad a year later, and then proceeded to provide Iran with information on the Israeli spy agency.

A Turkish government official was quoted as saying that the U.S. chose to announce Fidan’s role in exposing the spy ring because Turkey recently rejected a U.S. missile defense system $4 billion proposal in favor of a Chinese competitor’s.

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The chief of staff to the rescue…again

Top soldier and his security aide tend to car accident victim until paramedics arrive

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz in action during a live fire exercise for battalion commanders on the Golan Heights, September 4, 2012. (photo credit: Shay Wagner/IDF/Flash90)

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz in action during a live fire exercise for battalion commanders on the Golan Heights, September 4, 2012. (photo credit: Shay Wagner/IDF/Flash90)

When Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene of a car accident on Road 4 north of Ashdod Saturday night, they were surprised to find that somebody had beaten them to the punch.

“From afar, we saw flashing lights and thought police had arrived before us,” MDA paramedic Ravit Martinez told Yedioth Ahronoth. “But when we got closer, we saw that they weren’t police cars, but civilian security vehicles that had closed off the area safely.”

It turns out that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz had been on the way home from dinner when he passed a car that had collided with the safety rail. He and his security attaché stopped to evacuate the driver from the car and began giving him medical assistance until paramedics arrived. Gantz was not in uniform.

“When we arrived they gave us the details of the crash and the first aid they’d administered to the injured man,” the paramedic said. “I tapped the shoulder of one of them, a tall, sturdy guy who was standing next to me, and asked him to help me lift the injured man onto the stretcher. He said ‘no problem at all’ and helped. I was focused on work and didn’t really pay attention to the person I was talking to. Only afterwards in the ambulance did I realize that the person who was helping me so much there was the chief of staff.”

The IDF said in a statement: “That is exactly what an officer is expected to do when he arrives at the scene of an accident. Even if he is not in uniform, it is on him to do all that he can to help.”

This isn’t the first time that Gantz has been in the news for Good Samaritan actions.

In December 2011, he was eating at a restaurant in Ra’anana when a woman had a stroke and fainted. He and his security detail administered first aid until paramedics arrived.

A year later, Gantz ordered his helicopter to turn around in order to evacuate a paratrooper who had been injured during a routine drill in the Jordan Valley.

This past July, Gantz, who was at sea in a navy vessel, changed course and then worked side-by-side with the IDF’s rescue unit to pull an F-16 pilot and navigator to safety after they ejected when their fighter jet malfunctioned off the Gaza coast.

“If the chief of staff finds the time, we’d be very happy to see him volunteer with us on a regular basis,” joked MDA spokesman Zehi Heller. “He certainly displayed resourceful and exemplary citizenship.”

President launches new Q&A app on FB

Shimon Peres invites Facebook followers to submit questions which he will personally answer

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President Shimon Peres launched a new social media application on his Facebook page Monday, urging readers and followers to submit their questions to him, without specifying the limits to the genre of queries people are invited to send. It’s safe to assume they will be moderated.

The project, which sets a deadline of October 31, is called “You ask, President Peres answers.”

Peres’s office indicated that the questions with the most “likes” will personally be answered by the president in writing and/or video messages.

The application “creates a direct link between President Peres and people all over the world who are interested in the State of Israel,” his office said in a statement announcing the new initiative.

As of Monday, the president had just over 182,000 followers on Facebook. Throughout his presidency, he and his team have remained avid social media users, publishing pictures, statements, videos — and even a music jam titled “Be my friend for peace” featuring the nonagenarian — on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

His online presence is dubbed “Peres 360,” which creates “transparency and accessibility to the president through social media,” his office said.

Pope to visit Israel next year

Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, says the pope has raised the possibility of visiting Israel in March 2014 • “We are planning to visit Israel together in the coming year,” Skorka says.

 While the exact date is not yet known, Pope Francis will visit Israel in 2014, likely in March or July. The trip has not yet been coordinated with Israel's Foreign Ministry. In May, President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis to visit Israel, and the pope responded that he intended to. Two weeks ago, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) met with Pope Francis and also invited him to visit Israel. The pope told Edelstein that he was considering coming in July to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's historic 1964 visit to the Holy Land. Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, said that in a recent conversation the pope had raised the possibility of visiting Israel in March. "We are planning to visit Israel together in the coming year," Skorka said. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, "The Holy See announced that he plans to visit Israel."


While the exact date is not yet known, Pope Francis will visit Israel in 2014, likely in March or July.

While the exact date is not yet known, Pope Francis will visit Israel in 2014, likely in March or July.

The trip has not yet been coordinated with Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

In May, President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis to visit Israel, and the pope responded that he intended to. Two weeks ago, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) met with Pope Francis and also invited him to visit Israel. The pope told Edelstein that he was considering coming in July to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s historic 1964 visit to the Holy Land.

Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, said that in a recent conversation the pope had raised the possibility of visiting Israel in March.

“We are planning to visit Israel together in the coming year,” Skorka said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, “The Holy See announced that he plans to visit Israel.”

 

Facebook buys Israeli mobile analytics firm Onavo

Tel Aviv-based company announces lucrative sale, which is estimated at somewhere between $150 million and $200 million • Onavo offices to be used as first Facebook headquarters in Israel, company’s 30 employees to join social media giant’s staff.

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Onavo, a Tel Aviv-based mobile analytics company, announced Monday that it has been acquired by Facebook. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the deal is estimated to be worth between $150 million and $200 million.

According to reports in Israeli financial media, the company’s 30 employees will join Facebook, which plans to use Onavo’s offices in Tel Aviv as its first headquarters in Israel.

Technology website TechCrunch defined Onavo, which was founded in 2010, as developing “consumer-facing apps to help optimize device and app performance and battery life on iOS and Android devices,” as well as “an analytics business for mobile publishers to chart how well its own apps are performing, and to chart that against apps of its competitors.”

Onavo has so far raised $13 million in venture funding from investors including Horizons Ventures, Sequoia, Motorola and Magma Venture Partners.

Facebook confirmed the deal was inked in a statement quoted by technology website AllThingsD: “Onavo will be an exciting addition to Facebook. We expect Onavo’s data compression technology to play a central role in our mission to connect more people to the internet, and their analytic tools will help us provide better, more efficient mobile products,” the statement said.

“We are excited to announce that Facebook has agreed to acquire our company,” Onavo co-founders Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger said in a statement posted on the company’s blog.

“Three years ago, we started Onavo with the goal of helping today’s technology consumers and companies work more efficiently in a mobile world. We developed the award-winning Onavo mobile utility apps, and later launched Onavo Insights, the first mobile market intelligence service based on real engagement data. Our service helps people save money through more efficient use of data, and also helps developers, large and small, design better experiences for people.

“As you know, Facebook and other mobile technology leaders recently launched Internet.org, formalizing Facebook’s commitment to improving access to the internet for the next 5 billion people — this is a challenge we’re also passionate about.

“We’re excited to join their team … and we are incredibly proud of the talented team we have assembled and, recognizing this, Onavo’s Tel-Aviv office will remain open for business and will become Facebook’s new Israeli office,” the statement said.

This is Facebook’s third acquisition of an Israeli company: the social media giant bought Israeli startup Snaptu in 2011 for $70 million, and in 2012 it acquired Face.com, an Israeli company that develops facial-recognition technology for $100 million.

Facebook’s latest acquisitions are in line with the company’s desire to enhance its hold on mobile interface technology.

Five Palestinians arrested for Jordan Valley killing

Housing minister says he will bolster settlement after retired IDF colonel Seraiah Ofer bludgeoned to death outside home by ax-wielding attackers

Troops combing the area next to the Brosh Habika vacation village Friday. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Troops combing the area next to the Brosh Habika vacation village Friday. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Five Palestinians were arrested Friday in connection with a suspected terror attack in the northern Jordan Valley in which a retired IDF colonel was bludgeoned to death overnight.

The arrests came after several hours of searches and roadblocks by security forces in the area, following the early-morning killing.

IDF Chief Benny Gantz called the attack “serious” and President Shimon Peres said “no one will rest” until the perpetrators were caught.

Officials initially said they were not sure whether the attack was nationalistically motivated or criminal in nature. However, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, “We strongly believe this was a terror attack.”

Seraiah Ofer, 61, was beaten to death by men wielding metal bars and axes outside his home in the Brosh Habika vacation village, which he owned and operated, at about 1 a.m. Friday.

Seraiah Ofer (photo credit: screenshot Channel 10 news)

His wife, Monique Mor Ofer, 51, managed to escape. She was lightly injured on barbed wire before reaching a nearby highway, where she flagged down a car for help.

The attack, coming on the heels of a number of isolated incidents over the past month, drew harsh responses from politicians.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, from the nationalist Jewish Home party, said in a statement Friday morning he would work to “enlarge and strengthen” settlement in the area.

“This is the proper Zionist response to a revolting murder,” Ariel said.

The home of Seraiah Ofer, where he was killed on Friday. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

The vacation village, which was empty at the time of the attack, is located about five kilometers south of the settlement of Shadmot Mechola, in the northern Jordan Valley, a sparsely populated wilderness on the eastern edge of the West Bank.

Ofer and his wife reportedly heard noises outside the house, and when he went out to investigate, he was attacked by the men. Mor said the attackers, who used iron bars and an ax, spoke Arabic.

Monique Mor, whose husband was killed in a suspected terror attack, speaks to reporters from her hospital bed, October 11, 2013 (photo credit: Walla news screenshot)

Ofer had served as commander of the Gaza district and in elite combat units, Mor said. He moved to the area in the 90s to invest money in tourism in the area, and became a popular local figure.

He built the Brosh Habika vacation village six years ago over an old Jordanian base, the news website reported.

Ofer’s brother, Yitzhak Ofer, a pilot, was killed exactly 40 years ago — on October 11, 1973 — while flying a mission for Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel  (left) with the mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim Benny Kasriel during a ceremony in the tract of land known as E1, located between the large West Bank settlement and Jerusalem, in April. (photo credit: Flash90)

Ariel said Ofer was a personal friend of his, and one of the best officers in the IDF.

“Ya-Ya was always the pioneer,” he said, using Ofer’s nickname. “He was like that in the IDF and he was like that in the settlement enterprise, leading many behind him to settle in the Jordan Valley, which he saw as of prime Zionist importance.”

Israel has responded to terror attacks by upping settlement activity in the past, most recently in late September, when the defense minister allowed settlers in Hebron to move into a disputed home following the killing of an Israeli soldier, Gal Kobi, thought to be from Palestinian sniper fire.

Ariel and other politicians also called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop Palestinian prisoner releases and rethink peace talks with the Palestinians in the wake of the murder, which came on the heels of a shooting of a 9-year-old girl in the Psagot settlement outside Ramallah on Saturday. Noam Glick was lightly injured in that attack.

“Again Palestinians are translating our desire for peace as weakness and are answering with murder,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud party said Friday morning.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Israel Radio he blamed the attack on Palestinian incitement, and called on the government to reconsider peace talks and the freeing of prisoners.

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Palestinian television he saw any refusal to free prisoners as freeing him to go to the United Nations Security Council to lodge complaints against Israel.

In show of military might, Israel drills long-range air force attack

Week after warning from the PM about acting alone against Iran, IAF runs — and publicizes — midair refueling exercises and simulated strike on distant target

n a display of muscle-flexing to Tehran ahead of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Israel made a rare announcement Thursday that its air force had conducted a series of drills in which fighter aircraft practiced midair refueling and a simulated strike on a distant target.

A video, unprecedentedly uploaded to YouTube by the IDF Thursday, shows F-15 and F-16 fighter jets refueling midair over the water. It was published shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a series of European TV interviewers, warning the EU not to ease sanctions against Iran. “When a murderous regime engages in soft diplomacy and uses calming words of peace, but nevertheless continues to acquire immense power — it must be stopped, immediately,” Netanyahu said.

According to the military, most of the Israeli Air Force squadrons, including all the combat ones, participated in this week’s drill. An IDF statement, highlighting the drill’s relevance for Israel’s capacity to thwart Iran by force if necessary, noted that the IAF “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary” and had therefore been “exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights.”

The less-than-discreet message directed at Iran came as a series of Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, warned that Israel was ready to act alone to defend itself and prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Last week, speaking at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu said Israel would “stand alone” against Iran if needed.

The exercises, which included midair refueling, exceptionally long-distance coordinated strikes, and dogfights, were carried out over Greek waters, according to a Channel 10 report. The station noted that the video of the exercises released Thursday by the IAF marked the first time the military had made such a clip publicly available.

“The Israeli message was clear,” the channel said, noting the announcement’s proximity to next week’s round of talks between world powers and Iran in Geneva. “Here is an attempt to show the world that, a moment before the talks, Israel is not giving up its military option.”

A commander who took part in the exercises “explained that challenges stemming from these long-range flights continue as the plane moves further from its point of origin. These challenges include difficult weather conditions, unfamiliar terrain and threats that could emerge during the flight,” according to the official IDF blog, which noted that “long-range flying demands several hours of concentration and exceptional physical preparation.”

The IAF, which “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary… is exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights as well as other exercises,” the IDF said, though it also noted that the exercises were “no different from training exercises conducted in the past few years.”

The drill over Greek waters was the latest in a series of joint military exercises between Jerusalem and Athens. The navies of Israel, Greece and the US in March held a two-week joint military exercise for the third year in a row. There was no immediate indication, however, that the exercises — announced Thursday — involved Greek military forces.

Israel has threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear production facilities if the Islamic Republic develops the ability to create a nuclear weapon. An aerial attack over such a long range — close to 1,000 miles as the crow flies — would necessitate midair refueling. In 1981, the IAF carried out a long-range airstrike to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.