Rescue teams in Romania discovered the ill-fated helicopter’s black box at approximately midnight on Tuesday, which has been transferred for inspection in Israel. While there a hope it will shed new light on the circumstances of the fatal accident, air force investigators currently suspect that human error stemming from poor visibility caused the fatal crash, and not a technical problem.
Meanwhile, the Air Force’s Rescue Unit 669 and members of the military rabbinate plan to depart for Romania this morning in order to retrieve the bodies of the six crew members and transfer them to another area where they can be identified.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
8:30PM: Ma’an reports on the latest Hamas restrictions.
Gaza police announced Wednesday restrictions on women’s lingerie and dress stores across the Strip.
Among the prohibitions include displaying lingerie or pajamas in store windows, having fitting rooms or cubicles inside shops, and using tinted glass for store windows. Security cameras inside women’s stores will also be banned.
Gaza police spokesman Brigadier Ayman Al-Batniji said the new restrictions will “protect morals and allow people to feel comfortable as they walk down the street.”
Well, as comfortable as one can feel having people like this walking next to you.
5:44PM: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck was slaughtered by customs and standards inspectors in Gaza.
5:20PM: Quote of the day:
“I know that today all of our hearts are somewhere else. Six of our beloved sons have fallen. Six of the most beautiful people that we have in Israel have fallen. There is no beautiful Israel without the beauty of the Israelis.”
“I think that the army is the most precious thing that the Jewish people has, and the sons who fought and have fallen are the most precious thing that the army has. Our hearts are with the families, with the parents, with the wives, the small children, with one pregnant woman and her child who still hasn’t come into the world. They were so young. I want to pass on to them the feelings of the entire nation and to embrace everyone.”
“I felt the two following things as an Israeli citizen over the last two days: first, the nation is united in concern, in mourning, and in the pride that we have such people; second, there are new dangers and new challenges not to let our hearts and heads fall down. It is both a moment of pride and deep sadness, that of the families and that of the entire nation”.
– Israeli President Shimon Peres commenting on the helicopter tragedy in Romania
2:48PM: US Basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire is apparently on his way to Israel. And the reason for his trip may surprise you.
12:30PM: In the past, I have posted on the preponderance of “Gaza caged in” photos from the mainstream media – photos, which no matter where taken in Gaza, are designed to give the impression that the people are prisoners.
Here’s a sample from the last few days only.
9:45AM: Global airline pilots are not happy about a new Israeli security program that could lead to planes being shot down.
Pilots of commercial airlines that fly into Israel are expressing increased opposition to a security program imposed by the country’s Ministry of Transport that they say could subject inbound flights to possible attack by Israeli warplanes.
Last week, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 flight to Tel Aviv was intercepted as it approached Israeli airspace when pilots failed to correctly submit a code confirming their identity as required under the security program. The plane was prohibited from landing until it was determined not to be a security threat.
“People were scared; we didn’t know what was going on,” one passenger on the plane was quoted by Israeli newspapers as saying.
The incident was at least the second since the security program began its trial phase last year. It has brought out into the open a debate that has been ongoing in the international aviation community over the program, which was designed exclusively by and for Israel as a security measure.
Commercial pilots, including Israelis, say it creates logistical problems and safety hazards without improving security.
“It raises a serious possibility that in an extreme case, use of the system could bring about the shooting down of an innocent plane and its passengers,” said the president of Israel’s pilots union, Capt. Boaz Hativa.
The security program requires the pilot to carry an Israeli-supplied card with a personal PIN that must be submitted electronically before entering Israeli airspace. Clearance to land is dependent on the input of the correct code.
In April 2009, an incoming Delta Air Lines flight triggered an alert and an Israel fighter jet was scrambled to intercept. “The aircraft was determined to be a threat, placed in a holding pattern,” according to a letter written by Delta’s managing director of corporate security, Randy L. Harrison, to the Ministry of Transport. A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.
While the plane was eventually escorted into Tel Aviv by the Israeli fighter jet, Mr. Harrison complained that “the subsequent investigation into the failure was never released to Delta and Delta was never informed of what corrective measures were implemented to prevent recurrence.”
Susan Elliott, a spokeswoman for Delta, said the letter was written to encourage the Israelis to work out these problems with the International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing 230 airlines. Steve Lott, spokesman for the association, called the program “one of the most complicated and counterintuitive systems for ensuring aircraft security.”
Approximately 30 percent of flights to Israel fly through disputed airspaces that can increase the workload in the cockpit, making it more likely that pilots may err in entering the security code, according to the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations. And because it there is no set procedure for how to handle these kinds of pilot errors, critics say, flights can be put in jeopardy.
“People do shoot down airliners, sometimes on purpose,” said Gideon Ewers, a spokesman for pilots association. “Sometimes they shoot them down by mistake. Whether intentional or unintentional, things can happen.”
In addition to safety concerns, international airlines and the European Union say, the program creates logistical problems by separating pilots into those with PINs who can fly into Israel and those who cannot. The director general for the European Commission’s Air Transport Directorate, Daniel Calleja, told the Israelis this could restrict “the ability of airlines to efficiently allocate their personnel.” In a letter sent earlier this month, Mr. Calleja made a veiled threat that this could “have immediate implications on the current air services agreement between the EU and Israel.”
Mr. Ewers said another meeting was scheduled with the Ministry of Transport for later in the week where pilots would ask that the program be scrapped.
The ministry declined to answer questions about the program. But it said in an e-mail message that the security program was still in the trial phase and that a decision on whether to continue it would be made soon.
Ziad Haddad, an international airline compliance specialist, discounted the possibility that commercial airliners were threatened by the program. “I am sure that the risk factor was reduced to the minimum and the Israeli authorities have studied that thoroughly to protect against overreacting or mistakes, meaning that to enter a wrong code or data by mistake will never lead to shooting down the aircraft,” he said.
Richard Bloom, a professor and airline security expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., said it was possible that Israel would push back even in the face of strong opposition. “If they have validated some sort of risk that suggests, with all its superficial flaws, it is the right system, I doubt they would share it with many people,” he said.
8:45AM: Who won the final battle between the Israeli commandos and Navy SEALs on Deadliest Warrior? Click here for the video.
6:12AM: Last week in Brisbane, Australia, the international Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) Campaign targeted the Israeli cosmetics company, Seacret and succeeded in shutting down their Myer Centre store for the day.
But this was just the beginning! The action launched a campaign that will continue to grow – targetting Seacret stores across Brisbane and as the momentum builds, expanding to also target other Israeli companies.
The next action will be on the morning of August 14 (more details soon). We need as many people as possible to be part of the action to make it a success, so please mark the date in your diary. And if you can make it, come along to the next Justice for Palestine meeting to plan the action – Wednesday July 28, 6:30pm at the TLC Building (2nd floor), 16 Peel St, South Brisbane.
Meanwhile, as the person who mailed this to me wrote, it is not rabid palestinian activists, but seemingly ordinary Australians in the demonstration.
6:04AM: A writer’s conference at a French university has been canceled after unidentified Arab participants refused to attend with an Israeli author.
A writer’s conference at a southern French university was canceled when unidentified Arab participants refused to attend with an Israeli author.
The University of Provence Aix-Marseille nixed the conference last week aimed at featuring Mediterranean authors.
“The story beneath all this — and it’s an enigma — is that nobody knows the names of the Arab writers” who refused to dialogue, Esther Orner, the Israeli author who was invited to the confab, told JTA Tuesday.
Jean-Raymond Fanlo, a Spanish literature professor at the University of Provence Aix-Marseille, told the French media that one of the Arab authors against Orner’s presence at the conference was “a major writer around which we will organize a vast program in Marseille schools for back to school.”
Fanlo refused to divulge the author’s name for fear of adding controversy to the widely covered story.
As a result of the Arab refusal, the university said in a July 20 statement that it was forced to cancel the whole program.
The professor who invited Orner to speak on a panel titled “Writing in the Mediterranean” reportedly quit the group that organized the conference following the incident.
“I don’t understand how people from another country can dictate what a prestigious university can do,” Orner said. “I find it incredible.”
Orner said she felt obliged to publicize information about the conditions of her revoked invitation to speak because “individual people like me have to do something” in reaction to propaganda aimed at “delegitimizing Israel.”
6:02AM: Khaled Abu Toameh describes the dream of many palestinians.
Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have a dream: to work or live in Israel. Some even say they are prepared to pay large sums of money to obtain Israeli citizenship.
Others pay a lot of money to Palestinian and Jewish traffickers who help them bypass checkpoints to enter Israel in search of work and good life.
These are not self-hating Palestinians. Nor are they “pro-Israel traitors” who support the Zionist movement.
Many Palestinians feel that neither Fatah nor Hamas has done enough to alleviate their suffering. Many Fatah leaders who stole billions of dollars of international donations earmarked for the Palestinians have invested their fortunes in hotels, tourist resorts and real estate firms in the West. Hamas, on the other hand, prefers to spend millions of dollars on purchasing [and smuggling] large amounts of weapons, including rockets and ammunition.
It is a disgrace for Arab and Muslim dictators, particularly those who make billions of dollars from selling oil, that their constituents have to seek work and refuge in Israel and the West. It is also a disgrace for Fatah and Hamas that thousands of Palestinians cannot find jobs or a good life in the two Palestinian states in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Arab and Islamic regimes are spending billions of dollars on building new mosques and madrasas while nearly half of their people are illiterate and live under the poverty line. University graduates in these countries are forced to search for work in the West because of poor working conditions and lack of opportunities.
The absence of good government, transparency, accountability and democracy in these countries is driving Arabs and Muslims to seek work and a better life not only in North America and Europe, but even in places like Israel.
A wealthy Arab prefers to spend millions of dollars on a private zoo than building a hospital or a university. Why should he when he and his family members could travel anytime they wish to receive medical treatment at Mayo Clinic or study at Harvard University?
In many ways, these Palestinians are not different from the African immigrants who try to infiltrate Israel every day through Egypt. The immigrants come from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eretria, Nigeria and other African countries.
Like the Palestinians, the Africans are prepared to pay a lot of money to get into Israel. Egyptian traffickers charge up to $1,000 for each immigrant.
But for the African immigrants, the journey is also a very dangerous one. In the past three years, Egyptian border guards have shot and killed dozens of African men and women who tried to cross the border into Israel.
Last week a 23-year-old Sudanese man was fatally shot by Egyptian troops as he tried to enter Israel. Another four asylum-seekers were taken into custody.
While the Egyptians are killing the African immigrants, Israel is providing the lucky ones who manage to cross the border with jobs, as well as medical and social services.
True, Israel is not 100% perfect. But an African Muslim or Christian still prefers Israel to countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a “refugee” from Darfour, Sudan, who now lives in Tel Aviv, explained: “I feel more secure in the Jewish state than in Sudan or any Arab or Islamic country.”
For many Palestinians, it is easier to find a job in Israel and Canada than in any Arab or Islamic country, most of which impose strict travel and work restrictions on them. Palestinians cannot enter most Arab and Islamic countries without a visa.
One can understand why a Palestinian needs a visa to enter the US or any European country. But why does a Palestinian need a visa to visit his relatives in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt?
Many Palestinians from the West Bank who visit Arab countries often find themselves thrown into detention centers for weeks, months and years without trial. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians are believed to be languishing in prisons throughout the Arab world, especially in Syria and Egypt.
5:58AM: In case you are wondering why Israeli air force helicopter pilots were training in Romania, the answer is like a bad Thanksgiving dinner: no Turkey.
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