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US launches missiles into Syria in response to chemical weapons attack

The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011.

“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.

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Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said initial indications were that the strike “had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment … reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”

Trump said the base was used as the staging point for Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on rebel-held territory, which killed as many as 72 civilians, including women and children.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said from Mar-a-Lago, Fla. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

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The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, 3:45 a.m. Friday morning in Syria. Syrian state TV reported a U.S. missile attack on a number of military targets and called the attack an “aggression.”

U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack in an effort to avoid any accident involving Russian forces. Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”

Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that “there are Russians at the base,” but said they had been warned “multiple times” to leave. He did not know whether Russian aircraft were at the base when the missiles hit.

The U.S. also notified its partner countries in the region prior to launching the strikes.

U.S. defense officials tell Fox that two warships based in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Porter and the USS Ross, have been training for the past two days to execute this mission.

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“Our forward deployed ships give us the capability to quickly respond to threats,” said a Navy official. “These strikes in Syria are a perfect example – this is why we’re there.”

The original plans called for two targets, the airbase and a chemical weapons storage facility. However, Pentagon planners decided late Thursday to target just the airbase.

As a candidate, Trump warned against against the U.S. getting pulled into the Syrian civil war. But the president earlier in the week appeared moved by the photos of children killed in the chemical attack.

“I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Florida earlier , where he was holding a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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Late Thursday, a U.S. government official told Fox News that the intelligence community has high confidence that the attack was carried out by Syrian government aircraft.  The official said the analysis was consistent with eyewitness reports that fixed-wing aircraft launched the strike.

The official described the use of sarin gas in the attack as a watershed. The Assad government had agreed to disband its chemical weapons capability by 2014 under an agreement coordinated with the Obama administration and Russia. Tuesday’s attack was considered a breach of that agreement.

The Turkish ministry of health says the preliminary results show the use of sarin gas. Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid and is highly volatile moving easily from liquid to a gas, that unlike chlorine which the Assad government has used on a regular basis, does not dissipate quickly. This explains the high number of fatalities. The victims in Syria and Turkey show all the hallmarks of a sarin attack – including twitching, jerking and foaming at the mouth.

Trump’s decision to attack Syria came three-and-a-half years after President Barack Obama threatened Assad with military action after an earlier chemical weapons attack killed hundreds outside of Damascus. Obama had declared the use of such weapons a “red line.” At the time, several American ships in the Mediterranean were poised to launch missiles, only for Obama to abruptly pull back after key U.S. ally Britain and the U.S. Congress balked at his plan.

He opted instead for the Russian-backed plan that was supposed to remove and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

The world learned of the chemical attack earlier in the week in footage that showed people dying in the streets and bodies of children stacked in piles.

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The U.S. show of force in Syria raises legal questions. It’s unclear what authority Trump is relying on to attack another government. When Obama intervened in Libya in 2011, he used a U.N. Security Council mandate and NATO’s overall leadership of the mission to argue that he had legal authority — arguments that many Republicans opposed. Trump can’t rely on either justification here.

Unclear also is whether Trump is adopting any broader effort to combat Assad. Under Obama, the United States largely pulled back from its support for so-called “moderate” rebels when Russia’s military intervention in September 2015 led them to suffer a series of battlefield defeats. Instead, Obama sought to work with Russia on a negotiated transition.

Trump and his top aides had acknowledged in recent days the “reality” of Assad being in power, saying his ouster was no longer a priority. But the chemical weapons attack seemed to spur a rethink. In Florida on Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said of Assad: “There’s no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”

Canada: ISIS inspired radicalization at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport

Several employees at Canada’s Montreal Trudeau airport have shown signs of being radicalized Muslims, a report has revealed, adding that one Muslim employee had talked of Paris-style attacks.
The investigative report was revealed on Wednesday on TVA network’s JE program by a team of journalists who say they had been working in coordination with Canadian police.

The center of the investigation was Montreal–Trudeau International airport, Canada’s third busiest, which sees some 16 million passengers annually.

The investigation concerned at least four people, including three airport employees with profiles the police found “worrisome,” the report said, while noting that two of the four still work at the airport, but have been reassigned.’

The other two had their security cards revoked due to concerns about their mental health.

One employee, who reportedly had access to runways and planes, regularly visited pro- Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL]) websites, police said, as cited by TVA. He had also acquired “an impressive amount of books and documentation” on assault weapons.

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Though airport authorities neither denied nor confirmed the information in the TVA report, that employee was subsequently transferred to another position unconnected with runways and planes.

One airport employee with access to secure areas even reportedly suggested carrying out an attack similar to the Paris massacre of November 2015, but it is not yet clear where exactly he suggested them.

Another employee, a native Algerian, once posted an IS propaganda video on his Facebook page that shows Islamic state militants killing people in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

He also seems to support the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood and apparently sympathized with the regime of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the report said. He appears to have left Canada a few months ago, but is reportedly still in contact with airport employees with access to secure areas.

Patrick Lalonde, the assistant director of the Montreal Police Service (SPVM), admitted to TVA that the information is “worrying.”

“SPVM and its partners work every day to evaluate the threat and to counter it,” he said.

“We have a concern for all types of threats; radicalization is one of them,” said Pierre-Paul Pharand, vice-president of Aeroports de Montreal (ADM), the main airport authority responsible for Montreal’s two airports.

Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), found the prospect of some airport employees being radicalized “extremely serious.”

“It’s complicated for me to say if this should be the case [here]. In any case, people about whom the authorities have doubts should not have access to planes.”

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Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus wrote on Facebook that the authorities should “re-investigate each employee” in light of the incidents reported.

Marcel Savard, former head of counter-terrorism at Surete du Quebec, Quebec’s provincial police force, said he is concerned.

“What worries me is the strategic position that these people occupy,” he said.

In April of 2016, Belgian media revealed that Najim Laachraoui, one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up at the Brussels airport in Zaventem on March 22, had worked at the site for as many as five years.

Dual US-Israeli Jewish citizen from Ashkelon behind most JCC bomb threat calls

An 18-year-old dual US-Israeli citizen from Ashkelon has been arrested on suspicion of standing behind most of a series of bomb and other threats to Jewish communities ranging from the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months.

As of Thursday, with a gag order on the probe lifted by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, which extended his detention, sources indicate that most of the cases of threats against Jewish communities and organizations, though not all, led investigators back to Israel.

The first threat, which stood out and was picked up on by Israeli investigators, occurred in New Zealand around six month ago and led to the opening of the investigation.

Israel has been the lead coordinator with a number of other involved countries throughout the course of the probe.

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The suspect used complex methods to shield himself from identification, and law enforcement had to use a variety of their own complex methods to find him.

Law enforcement finally searched the suspect’s house on Thursday and are only now fully being able to piece together the breadth and methodology of his operations.

There are still few details available about the suspect’s profile, but he is not in the IDF, not ultra-Orthodox, and at some point made aliya and possibly has psychological and social problems.

The suspect’s father has also been detained and is being questioned as to whether he knew about the suspect’s activities, including the suspect’s use of a large antenna and other unusual hardware which could have drawn suspicion.

It is unknown how many others might have worked with the suspect, but it is believed that he was the main operator of the scare-spree and might have even acted completely on his own.

As of Thursday, it was still unclear what the suspect’s motivations were for the scare-spree which made international headlines. In light of the threats, US President Donald Trump faced accusations that he was light on fighting antisemitism when he did not initially condemn the scares along with some vandalism of Jewish graves, which presumably were not connected to the suspect.

Israel intends to indict the suspect in its own courts, but it is unknown as of Thursday whether other countries like the US might also seek to extradite and try him for his alleged crimes.

US bans laptops, iPads and cameras on inbound flights from some Muslim countries

The US government is barring passengers on Royal Jordanian Airlines flights from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and other electronics in carry-on luggage on certain U.S.-bound flights starting Tuesday, the airline said in a tweet on Monday.

The airline said cellphones and medical devices are excluded from the ban. Everything else would need to be packed in checked luggage.

It is unclear what other countries and airlines the ban will apply to, how long it will be in place or what prompted it.

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The airline has since deleted their Twitter post announcing the ban but many shocked social media users documented the initial message.

A US government official said such a ban has been considered for several weeks. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the internal security discussions by the federal government.

The ban would begin just before Wednesday’s meeting of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Washington. A number of top Arab officials were expected to attend the State Department gathering. It was unclear whether their travel plans were related to any increased worry about security threats.

An aviation security expert said the policy would raise other safety issues.

‘There would be a huge disadvantage to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage,’ said Jeffrey Price, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He said thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when England tried a similar ban in 2006, and ‘some laptops have batteries that can catch fire and it’s easier to detect it when it’s in the cabin rather than burning in the hold.’

However, there are also advantages to screening items in checked baggage instead of as carry-on luggage.

Most major airports in the United States have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag’s contents. They can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags.

US seeks extradition for Hamas terrorist who killed Americans

The US department of Justice announced on Tuesday its first ever extradition request to try a Hamas terrorist who murdered Americans during the Second Intifada.

Prior to US President Donald Trump taking office, the only legal proceedings against such terrorists have been criminal proceedings in Israeli courts or civil wrongful death proceedings brought by the families of victim, not by the US government, in US courts.

The request is addressed to Jordan to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, who was in Israeli jails for multiple murders connected to the August 9, 2001 Sbarro Pizza suicide bombing, but was released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

15 civilians were killed in the midday attack, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and 130 were wounded. Tamimi scouted for a target before leading the bomber, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, to the restaurant.

They arrived just before 2:00 p.m., when the restaurant was filled with customers and pedestrian traffic outside was at its peak.

Tamimi departed before Masri, thought to be carrying a rigged guitar case or wearing an explosive vest weighing 5 to 10 kilograms full of explosives, nails, nuts and bolts, detonated his bomb.

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She is currently a television host in Jordan, has hosted Hamas member Saleh Arouri (who ordered the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in June 2014), bragged of her involvement in other murders of Israelis and is considered as a symbol of the Palestinian terrorism.

Jordan will have to decide between honoring its strong alliance to the US, and trying to avoid offending its majority Palestinian population and an anti-extradition trend in its court system, according to Shurat Hadin which is representing the family of the victim Chana Nachenberg who was grievously wounded in the bombing and remains in Israel to this day in a coma.

Recently, a delegation of Department of Justice prosecutors visited Israel to meet with law enforcement officials and American families of the terrorist victims as part of efforts to promote the case.

 

Fresh wave of bomb threats across the US target Jewish centers during Purim

Jewish community centers and synagogues across the United States received another series of phoned-in threats Sunday, prompting another round of police response. No suspicious items were found.

In Brighton, New York, police checked and cleared a Jewish community center, located outside of Rochester. It wasn’t the first threat to the community they had responded to in recent weeks.

“We do believe that this is part of, as I mentioned on Tuesday, a larger picture – a national trend. That’s why I did mention that the FBI was involved. They are assisting us. The state police has taken a lead role from a New York state perspective,” Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson said.

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Bomb threats were received on Sunday by Jewish community centers in Indiana, Texas, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Vancouver, British Columbia, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America said. Sunday’s threats brought the total this year to 128 incidents at 87 community centers, the association said. So far, all have been hoaxes.

Sixth wave of bomb threats force more US Jewish centers to evacuate

A new round of threats against Jewish community centers across the United States forced the facilities to be placed on lockdown or evacuated on Tuesday, the groups said, and all 100 US senators asked the federal government to help them enhance security.

Threats were phoned in or emailed to JCCs in states including New York, Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida overnight and early on Tuesday.

Federal authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 hoax bomb threats in five separate waves in January and February against JCCs in dozens of states.

A Jewish school, daycare and community center was evacuated also in Toronto, after receiving a bomb threat.

Tuesday’s incidents appeared to be unconnected to the majority of previous threats, according to the Secure Community Network, which provides security expertise to Jewish groups.

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“Bomb threats tactics are evolving; copycats incidents appear to be on the rise,” the company said on Twitter.

A letter signed by all 100 US senators was sent on Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey requesting they assist Jewish groups to enhance security.

“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs,” the letter said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the nationwide probe, was not immediately available for comment.

One arrest was made last week, when former journalist converted to Islam Juan Thompson, 31, was charged in St. Louis with using fake email accounts to threaten to bomb Jewish sites while posing as his ex-girlfriend. But he is not believed to be responsible for the majority of threats.

In Chicago on Tuesday, police responded to a called-in bomb threat at a private Jewish day school at around 9:10 am, according to department spokeswoman Michelle Tannehill.

Following an evacuation, the school was declared safe by police and students were allowed to return, Tannehill said.

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Other targeted institutions included the Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center near Rochester and the Jewish Community Center of Syracuse, both in upstate New York; the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee; and the day school of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida.

There has also been a rash of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries since early January.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, also said it received bomb threats at multiple locations.

“Law enforcement personnel are responding,” the group said on Twitter.

Hundreds rally against hate after cemetery desecrations, bomb threats

Hundreds have turned out for a “Stand Against Hate” rally in Philadelphia in response to the recent vandalism of a Jewish cemetery and hate crimes around the country.

A Jewish federation says it organized Thursday’s rally to “restore a sense of security and peace to our community.”

Over 100 headstones were recently discovered damaged at Mount Carmel Cemetery. Police haven’t made an arrest or determined a motive.

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Jewish community centers and schools in at least a dozen states were also targets of bomb threats this past week, the fifth wave since January.

At the rally, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called the cemetery vandalism “the desecration of the values we all hold dear” and the bomb scares “threats against each and every one of us and our common humanity.”

The latest incident came when a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, New York, had at least five headstones toppled, according to New York and Jewish media reports on Thursday evening.

Leader of anti-Trump women’s march is ‘Palestinian’ terrorist who killed 2 Israeli students in Jerusalem

One of the organizers behind the next women’s march against President Donald Trump has been revealed as a Palestinian terrorist who took part in two deadly bombings in Israel.

Rasmea Yousef Odeh was convicted in 1970 for her role in the two terror attacks, one of which killed two students while they were out doing their food shopping.

After spending ten years behind bars, she then became a US citizen and even took up a job working as a navigator for Obamacare.

But in 2014, the activist was convicted for immigration fraud after it was revealed she failed to declare her role in the 1969 attacks on citizenship papers.

Now Odeh has been discovered to be the brains behind the Day Without A Woman protest due to go ahead on March 8.

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Earlier this month eight women – including Odeh – penned a feminist manifesto which called for a “new wave of militant feminist struggle.”

According to the comment piece, women should spend their day “blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work” and “boycotting” businesses that support Donald Trump.

It read: “In our view, it is not enough to oppose Trump and his aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies.

“We also need to target the ongoing neoliberal attack on social provision and labor rights.

“While Trump’s blatant misogyny was the immediate trigger for the huge response on 21 January, the attack on women (and all working people) long predates his administration.”

Organizers of the “international day of struggle” are calling it a protest “against male violence and in defence of reproductive rights.”

Odeh, who also goes by the names Rasmieh Steve and Rasmieh Joseph Steve, is allegedly a former PFLP terrorist who was sentenced to life in prison in Israel for her involvement in two terrorist bombings in Jerusalem in 1969.

The first attack in a crowded SuperSol supermarket killed two people and injured nine others, while four days later she was accused of bombing and damaging the British Consulate .

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But the terrorist only spent ten years in prison before being released in a prisoner exchange in 1980 and emigrating to the US, where she now faces a retrial over her immigration fraud conviction after she claimed she was suffering from PTSD at the time she filled out the application.

She has also claimed she was sexually assaulted and tortured while in prison in Israel, and was coerced into confessing.

Others behind the lengthy piece include Angela Davis, a university professor who is also known as being a long-time supporter of the Black Panthers.

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