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Flowers, candles and anger at LA street corner where a Jewish pro-Israel protester was killed

THOUSAND OAKS, California (JTA) —  Elena Colomba was on her hands and knees, covered in chalk, drawing a large blue Star of David on the sidewalk on Tuesday — a tribute to Paul Kessler, the Jewish man and pro-Israel protester who died Monday after an altercation with a pro-Palestinian protester.

The middle of the star framed bloodstains from Kessler’s fall that were still visible.

“I am a Jew by choice, and I’m here to hold space for my brother from another mother,” Colomba, who completed her conversion to Judaism in June, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Colomba, who lives in nearby West Hills and is a member of Hamakom Synagogue, said she had come to the scene of the incident Monday night around 8:30 p.m. and stayed until 1 a.m. before returning later on Tuesday morning.

Her star was surrounded by Israeli and American flags, yahrzeit candles and printouts of news stories of Kessler’s death. There were also signs featuring Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

And there were flowers. Bouquets and bouquets of blooms in all colors, part of a $400 haul purchased by a man named Marcus who said he felt compelled to do something, anything, in response to Kessler’s death.

Marcus, who declined to share his last name, places flowers that he bought at the site where Paul Kessler was killed during an altercation at a rally about Israel, Nov. 7, 2023. (Jacob Gurvis)

A Jewish father who declined to share his last name, Marcus said he had bought out a local grocery store’s flower supply with the ambition of covering the sidewalk at this intersection in Thousand Oaks, a suburb north of Los Angeles.

“When a man who’s in his 60s gets pounded in his face for standing up for Israel, every Jew needs to do something,” Marcus told JTA.

“I would rather put flowers on this corner, and put so many f—ing flowers, so there’s nowhere for these assholes to stand,” he said, referring to pro-Palestinian protesters. He said he planned to buy more and continue to line the sidewalks until each of the four corners of the large intersection where the rally had taken place were “covered with love.”

At the local Sprouts Farmers Market store where Marcus shopped, an employee confirmed to JTA that Marcus had purchased the store’s entire stock of flowers. The employee said he was unable to comment further due to his company’s policies, but said he was glad to help.

“If I didn’t do something, I felt like it was 1930 again,” Marcus said.

Colomba said people had walked by throughout the day cursing at her and yelling “Free Palestine.”

“And my response is, ‘I’m sending you love,’ because we need more love in this shattered world,” she said. Colomba said she also volunteers with her local chevra kadisha, a group that facilitates Jewish burial efforts.

Another local woman, who declined to share her name, told JTA she was Israeli and had family members who had been killed at the music festival where Hamas massacred 260 people on Oct. 7.

“The attacks are on our doorsteps,” she said after placing flowers on the sidewalk. “It’s coming to us on all fronts.”

The woman said she felt relatively safe there compared to in other neighborhoods, but on the whole her sense of security had been shattered.

“I want the person who was involved to be held accountable,” she added. “I want the world to know what happened here. I want people to wake up.”

Rabbi Moshe Bryski, the executive director of the Chabad of Agoura Hills, just a few miles down the road from the scene of the altercation, told JTA that his community was experiencing a mix of emotions, including “sadness, outrage, concern, but at the same time resolute and strong and united.”

Elan Carr, Donald Trump’s antisemitism envoy, and others speak at a press conference at the site of Paul Kessler’s death in Thousand Oaks, California, Nov. 7, 2023. (Jacob Gurvis)

Bryski, who had just spent a week in Israel, during which he met with the families of some of the hostages, said he did not know Kessler personally. He said a community vigil would be planned, in coordination with the family, which had been requesting privacy.

Speaking to JTA moments before the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on the matter, Byrski said the incident was “sure looking like a hate crime. If someone goes with an Israeli flag to an event and comes back dead, that sounds like hate to me.”

Sheriff James Fryhoff said investigators had not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. A 50-year-old suspect has been identified but not arrested, and an investigation is ongoing, he said.

Later in the afternoon, the sidewalk, situated in front of a Shell gas station, was crowded with reporters and news cameras as a makeshift press conference was held, featuring remarks from Rabbi Mark Blazer, the president of the Jewish Life Foundation and rabbi at nearby Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita; Jonathan Oswaks, who had attended the rally with Kessler and witnessed the altercation; and Elan Carr, the CEO of the Israeli American Council and former antisemitism envoy under President Donald Trump.

As the speakers each addressed the cameras, there were repeated pleas for law enforcement to act and for continued support of Israel and Jews in light of the continuing war in Gaza. The tone had turned noticeably more urgent and outraged.

“Stop killing us!” Blazer exclaimed at the end of his remarks. “Whether it’s in Israel or here in Southern California.” He said he was leaving for Israel this week and would bring Kessler’s story with him.

Oswaks, who was visibly shaken and angry, spoke for nearly 20 minutes, detailing his experience at Sunday’s rally and at a prior gathering two weeks ago. He said he attended both events with Kessler.

“None of you are safe!” Oswaks shouted into the cameras at one point during his remarks.

Oswaks said he had met Kessler two weeks ago on the NextDoor hyperlocal social networking app and didn’t know him well — adding that he didn’t even know Kessler’s last name when he attempted to visit him in the emergency room.

“He was a passionate Jew,” Oswaks said of Kessler, who he said had insisted on holding the Israeli flag they had brought that was later seen in photos of the altercation.

Kessler was also a dedicated author of letters to the editor to the Thousand Oaks Acorn, according to an editor there, who characterized him in a social media post as “an ardent Democrat” with a “sharp wit.”

The press conference concluded with the chanting of “El Maleh Rahamim,” the prayer traditionally recited at Jewish funerals, by Kenny Ellis, the cantor at Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks, where Kessler was a member along with his wife. Kessler’s funeral was also held on Tuesday.

Ellis told JTA that Kessler and his wife Cheryl had been more active in the synagogue when they were younger. While he said he does not know Kessler personally, Ellis said he had “only heard wonderful things about him,” adding that he was “kind and giving.”


The post Flowers, candles and anger at LA street corner where a Jewish pro-Israel protester was killed appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin said he would end the war in Ukraine only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow. Kyiv swiftly rejected the demands as tantamount to surrender.

Putin demands that Ukraine transfers to Russia four regions, including a 300,000 city of Kherson and 700,000 Zaporizhzhya as a “precondition” to “peace talks”. This man is delusional, and those in the West who speak of “negotiations” or “cease fire” are enemies of the free world. pic.twitter.com/fqTGVqMdDu

— Sergej Sumlenny, LL.M (@sumlenny) June 14, 2024

“The conditions are very simple,” Putin said, listing them as the full withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the entire territory of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Putin’s maximalist conditions apparently reflect Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war.

He restated his demand for Ukraine’s demilitarization and said an end to Western sanctions must also be part of a peace deal. He also repeated his call for Ukraine’s “denazification.”

“He is offering for Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering for Ukraine to legally give up its territories to Russia. He is offering for Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, rejecting the demands as “absurd.”

The post Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah

Illustrative. Some rises after an Israeli strike as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

i24 NewsEarly this morning, tragedy struck in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating explosion, marking the deadliest incident for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region since January.

The IDF has confirmed the casualties, with one soldier identified as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander from Beit Jann in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

The names of the other seven soldiers will be released after their families have been notified.

According to initial reports from the IDF, the soldiers were traveling in a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) as part of a convoy around 5 a.m., following a successful overnight operation targeting Hamas militants in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. During the operation, troops under the 401st Armored Brigade reportedly neutralized approximately 50 gunmen.

The convoy was en route to buildings captured by the army for the soldiers to rest, when the Namer CEV, which was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. The nature of the explosion remains under investigation, with possibilities ranging from a pre-planted bomb to an improvised device placed on the vehicle by Hamas operatives.

Initial findings suggest that explosives stored on the exterior of the Namer CEV may have contributed to the severity of the blast. Normally, such explosives are designed to minimize harm to troops inside if detonated.

The IDF probe indicates there was no gunfire preceding the explosion, and the vehicle was not stationary at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy have prompted intensified scrutiny into the safety protocols and operational procedures during military movements in hostile territories.

The deaths of these eight soldiers bring the total number of IDF casualties in recent ground operations against Hamas to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed during a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also slain in the conflict.

This is a developing story 

The post Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

i24 NewsRecent actions by both Israel and Hezbollah have sparked growing concerns among U.S. officials, who fear that the situation could escalate into a full-scale war, according to reports from CBS News.

The tension has intensified following a series of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese territory, which some American authorities believe are laying the groundwork for a larger military operation.

Sources within the US government have expressed worries that such a move could trigger a conflict that might strain Israel’s alliance with Washington.

Hezbollah, in response to recent events including the assassination of senior commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, has escalated its own actions. The group has begun launching daily rocket attacks targeting northern Israeli communities since October 8, citing solidarity with Hamas amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

US officials cited by CBS News have highlighted concerns over the potential unintended consequences of Hezbollah’s increased attacks. They fear that these actions could provoke Israel into launching a significant military assault, further exacerbating the volatile situation in the region.

The developments come amid ongoing international efforts to de-escalate tensions and prevent a wider conflict. Diplomatic channels remain active, with calls for restraint and dialogue from various quarters.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has historically played a crucial role in mediating and influencing regional conflicts. Officials are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding actions that could escalate tensions further.

The post U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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