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Eurovision Song Contest defends itself after Israeli band dropped out to avoid singing on the Sabbath

The Eurovision Song Contest is answering for itself after an Israeli band dropped out of the competition because it learned its members would be forced to work on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Shalva group says Wednesday it’s quitting Israel’s qualifying competition after the Eurovision organizers said it would make no exceptions for Israel’s ultimate winner. The competition is held on a Saturday night and the compulsory rehearsal falls on the Sabbath.

“All broadcasters commit to abide by the Contest’s rules when agreeing to participate. The rules state that each broadcaster will undertake to enter a national song and a Contestant that complies with the present rules. These rules include obligation of attendance across all rehearsals and live shows, for delegation members and contestants,” a spokesperson for Eurovision Singing Contest told Fox News in a statement.

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The spokesperson explained that any application by a broadcaster to waive these rules under mitigating circumstances must be run through the contest’s governing body and changes would be made at its discretion based on its impact on the other contestants.

“In this instance a change to the rules to exempt a Contestant from performing in both the Jury Final and the Grand Final dress rehearsal would involve disruption to the production schedule and compromise the fairness of the competition. It would also deny audiences in Tel Aviv the chance to see the home country’s participant perform in both shows,” the statement read. “For these reasons, the Reference Group felt that it would not be possible to grant KAN’s request.”

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Shalva, which has several members who are blind or have Down syndrome, has become a fan favorite and serious contender to sing Israel’s entry. Israeli critics say the Eurovision seems tolerant of all besides Orthodox Jews.

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The Eurovision final is on May 18. Israel earned the right to host the competition thanks to Netta Barzilai’s win last year with “Toy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Five Israeli soldiers charged with beating two Palestinian detainees

Israeli troops withdraw from Ramallah in the West Bank on December 15 after blowing up a house belonging to a Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli soldier.

Israeli troops withdraw from Ramallah in the West Bank on December 15 after blowing up a house belonging to a Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli soldier.

Jerusalem (CNN)Five Israeli soldiers were charged with beating two handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainees, according to an indictment filed in an Israeli military court on Thursday.

The soldiers, whose names were redacted from the indictment, are charged with abuse and aggravated assault.
According to the indictment, on a day in early January the soldiers punched, slapped, kicked and beat the two detainees, hitting them in their head, face, chest, legs and more.
The detainees were arrested as part of a military sweep following the killing of two Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian gunman at a bus stop in the West Bank in December.
    The West Bank is a Palestinian territory, considered illegally occupied by Israel in the eyes of much of the international community. Israel disputes that characterization, but its military continues to maintain broad authority, controlling main roads and checkpoints, as well as having a presence in settlements.
    “During the time when they were carrying out this violent action and these strikes, they were swearing at the prisoners,” the indictment said. The prisoners were crying out in pain. At one point, one of the soldiers records the beating on his cell phone, according to the indictment.
    “The [soldiers] were shouting out cries of happiness and cheers, and all of this was going on in front of the camera,” the indictment said.
    The two detainees needed to be taken to a Jerusalem hospital after they were assessed at the clinic on the Beit El military base in the West Bank.
    The indictment described the injuries suffered by the detainees. One of the detainees had broken ribs and his nose was broken; he also suffered from internal bleeding. He was hospitalized for three days. The second detainee had soft tissue damage in his head, causing severe swelling.
    Two of the soldiers were also charged with obstruction of justice for trying coordinate their stories.
    A military defense attorney representing the soldiers said the charges should be dismissed.
      “This indictment should not have been filed to begin with, and we are confident that by the end of the trial all the details will be clarified and things will look differently,” Israeli news site YNet reported citing the attorney.
      “These are outstanding soldiers, whose comrades were killed just a month prior, [and who were] forced into a situation in which they had to carry out the arrest of those who murdered their comrades … the circumstances relating to their mental health should be taken into consideration,” the lawyer said.

      Man charged with murder in the death of Israeli exchange student in Australia

      Police arrest suspect in 'horrific' Melbourne murder

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      Police arrest suspect in ‘horrific’ Melbourne murder 00:58

      (CNN)A 20-year-old man arrested in the killing of an Israeli exchange student in Australia has been charged with murder, police said.

      The suspect will appear in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court shortly, Victoria police said in a statement
      Aiia Maasarwe, 21, was studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne, a city consistently ranked among the world’s safest places to live.
      Police picture of Aiia Maasarwe

      Police picture of Aiia Maasarwe

      She was talking on the phone with her sister overseas when she suffered a “horrific attack,” police said. Her sister alerted the police.
        The La Trobe University student’s body was found partially clothed in bushes early Wednesday in Bundoora, a suburb 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Melbourne’s center, CNN affiliate Nine News Australia reported.
        Police found a hat and a shirt near the crime scene that they believed were left behind by the suspect and were “key to solving this crime.”
        Then on Friday, police announced that they had arrested a suspect in Greensborough, another Melbourne suburb less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Bundoora.
        Maasarwe and her cousin, Manar Masarwa, at the beach in Israel in January 2017.

        Maasarwe and her cousin, Manar Masarwa, at the beach in Israel in January 2017.

        Maasarwe’s uncle, Rame, told the affiliate that her death was the “last thing” he expected in a country such as Australia.
        “It’s not easy for the family, it was shocking,” he said. “You never think anything (like this will) happen in Australia, it’s a very safe place.”
        Manar Masarwa, Maasarwe’s cousin, told CNN she spoke with her about coming to visit Melbourne in the days before her death.
          The victim told her life in Australia was “truly amazing” and she was planning on staying possibly until the late summer. It was their last conversation, Masarwa said.
          The incident comes months after female comedian Eurydice Dixon was raped and killed walking home from a performance in an inner-city Melbourne suburb. The attack prompted a nationwide debate about the safety of women.

          Arrest made in connection with killing of Israeli student in Melbourne

          Exchange student killed in 'horrific' attack

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          Exchange student killed in ‘horrific’ attack 00:59

          (CNN)Police have arrested a 20-year-old man in connection with the killing of Israeli exchange student Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne, Australia, authorities said in a news release Friday.

          Maasarwe’s body was found early Wednesday in Bundoora, a suburb about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Melbourne’s center.
          The suspect was arrested by police in in Greensborough, another Melbourne suburb less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Bundoora, police said.
          Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said Maasarwe, an exchange student at nearby La Trobe University, had been the victim of an “absolutely horrendous, horrific attack.”
            Police found a hat and a shirt about 100 meters (328 ft) from the crime scene, which Stamper said were believed to be left behind by the person responsible for Maasarwe’s death and were “key to solving this crime.”
            Authorities released pictures of the clothing along with an image of Maasarwe from security footage the night she was killed in the hopes that members of the public might recognize something and come forward.
            Police thanked the public for their assistance when announcing the arrest.
            The killing has shocked many in Melbourne, which is considered one of the safest cities on the planet.
            Maasarwe’s uncle, Rame, told CNN affiliate Nine News Australia her death was the “last thing” he expected in a country such as Australia.
              “It’s not easy for the family, it was shocking,” he said.”You never think anything (like this will) happen in Australia, it’s a very safe place.”
              The incident comes months after female comedian Eurydice Dixon was raped and killed walking home from a performance in an inner-city Melbourne suburb, prompting a nationwide debate about the safety of women and the right to be able to walk home at night without fear of attack.

              Israeli exchange student, 21, killed in Melbourne while on the phone with sister: police

              The Australian city of Melbourne is once against in mourning after another young woman was killed on her way from home from a comedy club – the second such murder in six months.

              Police said Aiia Maasarwe, a 21-year-old exchange student from Israel, was slain at 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday shortly after she got off a tram in the suburb of Bundoora.

              Maasarwe, a student at Shanghai University doing a six-month study aboard program in Melbourne, was the phone with her sister – who is overseas – when she was attacked by at least one attacker, Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said. The sister alerted authorities.

              The sister “heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground, she heard some voices and that was it,” he said. Maasarwe was less than a mile away from her home.

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              Maasarwe’s body was found at 7 a.m. Wednesday near the tram stop. Police assume the attack was random and opportunistic.

              “Out of respect to the family, we’re not going into details of injuries and the nature of the assault,” Stamper said. “This was an absolutely horrendous, horrific attack inflicted on a completely innocent young woman who was a visitor to our city.”

              Investigators said the 21-year-old woman’s bag was split open and some of its contents were removed. Police also recovered a black baseball cap with “1986” on the front and a gray and black T-shirt about 330 feet from the crime scene that they suspect belonged to Massarwe’s killer.

              The clothing, Stamper said, was the “key to solving this crime.”

              The shirt and hat found near the crime scene by authorities.

              The shirt and hat found near the crime scene by authorities. (Victoria Police)

              “Somebody in the community knows who did this. Somebody’s come home on Tuesday night or in the early hours of Wednesday morning, maybe with blood on them, missing items of clothing,” he said. “Somebody knows about this and we need help.”

              La Trobe University, where Maasrwe was studying, said its community was “shocked and saddened.”

              “La Trobe University is committed to providing a safe university environment. On campus we undertake a range of activities to improve personal and physical safety and our security has been intensified as a result of this incident,” the school said in a statement. “We are committed to continuing to work closely with all relevant authorities to address these serious community issues around public safety and violence against women.”

              In this Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, photo, police investigators work at the scene where the body of Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe was found in Melbourne, Australia. Australian police are looking for at least one attacker who killed the Israeli woman as she was walking on a city street speaking to her sister by phone.

              In this Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, photo, police investigators work at the scene where the body of Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe was found in Melbourne, Australia. Australian police are looking for at least one attacker who killed the Israeli woman as she was walking on a city street speaking to her sister by phone. (Stefan Postles/AAP Image via AP)

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              Maasarwe’s uncle, Abed Katane, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that her father has left for Melbourne in a bid to coordinate her body’s return home.

              “She was an excellent student, full of life,” he said. “She wasn’t in a very dangerous country at all, and yet we are still receiving such a painful message.”

              Israel’s embassy in Australia said it is ready to help and support Maasarwe’s family to return her body home for burial.

              “We have complete faith in the Victorian Police and have no doubt that they will leave no stone unturned in the search to bring the perpetrator to justice,” the embassy said in a statement.

              Hours after Victorian Police confirmed her identity, tributes began to pop up on social media, asking Melbourne’s residents to come together and reflect on the latest tragic event to hit the city.

              “Aiia Maasarwe, I am sorry you came to our country on a new adventure, ready to learn, live and enjoy life and someone so cruelly snatched that away from you. Australia is better than that. You should have been safe and I’m so sorry that you weren’t. It’s unforgivable,” one person wrote on Twitter.

              Jessamy Gleeson, who is organizing a vigil on the steps of Parliament, said she was “shattered and heartbroken” to be organizing another event just six months after bringing people together to mourn aspiring comedian Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and killed on her way home from a comedy club last June.

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              “There are a lot of things that need to change… and a lot of these changes can start with the government itself and the choices they choose to make,” she told SBS News. “We want women to be safe and to be able to walk home without being attacked.”

              Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city and draws more than 200,000 students from all over the world to study. Despite the two deaths, Melbourne is generally considered among the safest cities in the world.

              “It is a terrible tragedy,” Victoria state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, who lives in the Bundoora area, said. “As a government, we will do whatever is required to support this woman’s family and friends and I extend my sympathy to her family and friends at this terrible, terrible time.”

              The Associated Press contributed to this report.

              Israeli exchange student, 21, found dead in Melbourne after ‘horrific’ attack

              Security footage released by police shows Aiia Maasarwe Wednesday.

              Security footage released by police shows Aiia Maasarwe Wednesday.

              (CNN)A 21-year-old exchange student has been found dead in suburban Melbourne, Australia — a city consistently ranked among the world’s safest places to live.

              Victoria Police said the victim, Israeli national Aiia Maasarwe, appeared to have been “seriously assaulted.”
              The La Trobe University student’s body was found partially naked in bushes early Wednesday in Bundoora, a suburb about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Melbourne’s center, CNN affiliate Nine News Australia reported.
              Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said Thursday that further details about Maasarwe’s injuries would not be revealed out of respect for her family.
                “This was an absolutely horrendous, horrific attack that was committed against an innocent young woman,” he said.
                Investigators believe a T-shirt and cap found in bushes about 100 meters (330 feet) from the crime scene were left by Maasarwe’s killer.
                Stamper said the clothing was “key to solving this crime.”
                “Somebody in the community knows who did this. Somebody’s come home on Tuesday night or in the early hours of Wednesday morning, maybe with blood on them, missing items of clothing,” he said. “Somebody knows about this and we need help.”
                The shirt and cap found by authorities.

                The shirt and cap found by authorities.

                La Trobe University said its community was “shocked and saddened” by this appalling crime.
                “La Trobe University is committed to providing a safe university environment. On campus we undertake a range of activities to improve personal and physical safety and our security has been intensified as a result of this incident,” the school said in a statement.
                “We are committed to continuing to work closely with all relevant authorities to address these serious community issues around public safety and violence against women.
                The Israeli Embassy in Australia has yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment Thursday.
                Meanwhile, authorities have increased patrols and police escorts around Bundoora since Maasarwe’s body was found.
                Acting Superintendent Tony Ryan, from North West Metro, said the increased police presence would likely remain in place until the killer was caught.
                “We understand that this distresses the victim’s family. We understand that this distresses the local community. And we understand our role in this — and that is we need to be in that area, and we need to provide some comfort and some safety,” Ryan said.
                Authorities released CCTV footage showing Maasarwe at the tram stop on Tuesday night in the hope members of the community could come forward with further details of her murder.
                  “We have a grieving family who has had to fly halfway across the world under the most horrific circumstances and we want to be able to give them some answers,” Stamper added.
                  The death has sent shockwaves through Melbourne, which was ranked among the five safest cities in the world on The Economists’ 2017 Safe Cities index. It was also ranked the ninth-safest city for personal security.

                  ‘McJesus’ art sculpture at Israeli museum upsets Christians, sparks calls for removal

                  A sculpture of “McJesus” — Jesus modeled as Ronald McDonald — has upset Christians in Israel, where the art remains on display.

                  Hundreds of Christians in the Middle Eastern country are calling for the art to be removed from the Haifa Museum of Art, where the display has been up for months. It was previously on display in other countries without any issues.

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                  Police said that rioters who oppose the art have thrown stones and a firebomb at the museum, leaving three officers wounded. Authorities have dispersed the crowds with tear gas and stun grenades.

                  Nissim Tal, the museum’s director, told The Associated Press that the uproar was sudden. The protests appear to have been sparked by visitors who have shared photos of the exhibit online.

                  The display in Haifa, Israel is intended to criticize what many view as society's cult-like worship of capitalism.

                  The display in Haifa, Israel is intended to criticize what many view as society’s cult-like worship of capitalism. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

                  The display is intended to be a criticism of capitalism worship.

                  Amid protests, the museum hung a curtain over the entrance of the exhibit and posted a sign that said the artwork was not intended to offend people.

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                  However, that hasn’t pleased protesters. One, who remained outside the museum on Monday, stood with a sign that read: “Respect religions.”

                  Amir Ballan, an artist in Haifa and a Christian, said the display is “very offensive” and said protests “won’t be quiet until we reach a solution.”

                  Jani Leinonen, the Finnish artist behind “McJesus,” has also asked that it be taken down — but for a different reason.

                  He says he supports Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS, a Palestinian-led movement aimed at pressuring Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians. The group has made significant gains in recent years, persuading a number of foreign artists to cancel performances in Israel.

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                  Tal said the museum won’t remove the display, as they “will be defending freedom of speech, freedom of art, and freedom of culture.”

                  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

                  Drug-smuggling Israeli ex-minister jailed over spying for Iran

                  Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev, center, arrives at court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2018.

                  Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev, center, arrives at court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2018.

                  Jerusalem (CNN)Former Israeli Minister of Energy Gonen Segev will serve 11 years in prison as part of a plea deal over spying for Iran, the country’s Ministry of Justice said in a statement Wednesday morning.

                  The sentence comes as Segev pleaded guilty to charges of serious espionage and passing information to an enemy.
                  The disgraced former doctor was recruited in 2012 by Iran’s embassy in Nigeria, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) said at the time of Segev’s arrest last summer.
                  He had relocated to Africa’s most populous nation after serving time in an Israeli prison for a 2006 drug smuggling conviction. Segev had been found guilty of attempting to bring 25,000 Ecstasy pills into Israel from the Netherlands.
                    According to the ISA, Segev met twice with Iranian operatives, knowing they were from Iranian intelligence. A gag order remains in place on other details of the investigation and the plea agreement.
                    Segev served in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, from 1992 to 1996 in the Tzomet and Yi-ud political parties. He served as Minister of Energy and Infrastructure under prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres between 1995 and 1996.

                    Moshe Arens, former Israeli defense minister, dies at 93

                    Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, foreign minister and an early political mentor to Benjamin Netanyahu, has died. He was 93.

                    Netanyahu eulogized him Monday, saying there was “no greater patriot than him.” The prime minister said he loved him as “a son loves his father.”

                    Arens was born in Lithuania but grew up in the United States, where he served in the military during World War II. After immigrating to Israel, he became a stalwart in the hawkish Likud party, for whose governments he served three stints as defense minister.

                    An engineer by training, he was instrumental in developing Israel’s military and aircraft industries.

                    In the early 1980s, he was the first to recognize the skills of a young Benjamin Netanyahu and brought him into Israeli politics.

                    Israeli military strikes Gaza after overnight rocket fire

                    The Israeli military has struck Hamas sites in Gaza in response to rocket fire toward Israel.

                    The military says it targeted a militant camp in the northern Gaza Strip early Monday. It followed an overnight rocket attack toward the city of Ashkelon. The rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. There were no reported injuries on either side.

                    The exchange marked a brief flare up two months after a massive wave of rocket attacks led to fierce Israeli retaliation and nearly brought the region toward another war. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars over the past decade.

                    The Israeli military says it holds Hamas responsible for all rockets emanating from its territory. Hamas has ruled Gaza since it seized control of the coastal territory in 2007.