Gal Mekel released by NBA’s Pelicans
Gal Mekel, the second Israeli to play in the NBA, was released by the New Orleans Pelicans after two weeks. Mekel, a point guard, had been acquired by the Pelicans on Dec. 5 and appeared in four games, according to NBA.com. In his four games for New Orleans he averaged 1.5 points and 3.3 assists. The Pelicans activated a clause in Mekel’s two-year, non-guaranteed contract that allowed them to release him without compensation before Jan. 10.
He was waived earlier this season by the Dallas Mavericks. The former Maccabi Haifa standout remained in the United States working out with a private coach after his release by the Mavs. The Indiana Pacers had been ready to sign Mekel in November following his release, but delays in renewing his visa tanked the deal, according to ESPN.
Mekel, who followed Omri Casspi as only the second Israeli to play in the NBA, had missed part of his rookie season with an injury.
‘Ida’ makes Oscars shortlist
A Polish movie about a Catholic nun who learns she is the daughter of Jews killed during the Holocaust made the Oscar Award shortlist for best foreign-language film.
“Ida” was among nine films that made the shortlist on Dec. 19. “Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem,” the Israeli entry that depicts the five-year legal struggle of an Orthodox wife to obtain a religious divorce, did not make the cut.
Among other contenders for the foreign-language Oscar are Russia’s “Leviathan,” in which a simple worker battles a corrupt city hall, and Sweden’s “Force Majeure,” depicting a family facing down an avalanche while on a ski vacation.
While such traditional cinematic powerhouses as France, Italy and Germany failed to qualify, outsiders Mauritania (“Timbuktu), Estonia (“Tangerines”) and Georgia (“Corn Island”) made the shortlist.
Rounding out the list of nine are Argentina (“Wild Tales”), Holland (“Accused”) and Venezuela (“The Liberator”).
The slate of nine nominees will be winnowed down to five finalists when the 87th Academy Award nominations are announced on Jan. 15. The Oscars will be held Feb. 22 in Hollywood.
Israel destroys Gaza cement factory in retaliation
Israel destroyed what the military said was a cement factory in Gaza following the firing of a rocket from Gaza that damaged agricultural fields in a southern Israeli kibbutz.
The Israeli Air Force destroyed the factory on Dec. 20 in response to the rocket fired the day before.
Speaking at a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall on Dec. 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cement factory “served to rebuild the tunnels that we hit in Operation Protective Edge.” Netanyahu said Israel would not ignore the firing of even one rocket from Gaza on Israel.
“Hamas bears the responsibility for any escalation,” Netanyahu said. “We will safeguard Israel’s security.”
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the strike “is a clear message to Hamas that we won’t put up with a ‘trickle’ of rockets on our citizens. We hold Hamas responsible for what happens in the strip, and we know how to respond to the attacks if they don’t know how to stop them.”
Hamas reportedly informed Israel late on Dec. 20 through an Egyptian mediator that it did not support Friday’s rocket attack and that it would crack down on the Palestinian groups behind it.
Former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reportedly said that the airstrikes constituted “a grave violation of the ceasefire agreement.”
The rocket that exploded on Dec. 20 was the third fired at Israel since the end of Israel’s 50-day operation against Hamas in Gaza, which ended on Aug. 26.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have fired several test rockets that were not aimed at Israel. Last month, the Israel Defense Forces reported that four such rockets were launched in the space of 24 hours into the sea west of Gaza.