Rivlin: ‘The price of our liberty is paid in blood’
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Rivlin: ‘The price of our liberty is paid in blood’

Israelis pay tribute to 23,544 fallen; Abbas in Jordan to coordinate positions ahead of Trump meet; Le Pen makes discreet tribute to French Holocaust victims; PM reverses ban of bereaved father who heckled him

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron looks at some of the 2,500 photographs of young Jews deported from France during the WWII Nazi occupation, during a visit to the Shoah Memorial on April 30, 2017 in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER)
    French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron looks at some of the 2,500 photographs of young Jews deported from France during the WWII Nazi occupation, during a visit to the Shoah Memorial on April 30, 2017 in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER)
  • Israeli soldiers carrying the flag stand at attention at the graves of killed comrades at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery as the country starts to mark the memorial day for fallen soldiers in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
    Israeli soldiers carrying the flag stand at attention at the graves of killed comrades at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery as the country starts to mark the memorial day for fallen soldiers in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
  • An Israeli soldier lays flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 30, 2017, a few hours ahead of the start of Remembrance Day, commemorating fallen Israeli soldiers. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
    An Israeli soldier lays flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 30, 2017, a few hours ahead of the start of Remembrance Day, commemorating fallen Israeli soldiers. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
  • On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit on March 29, 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)
    On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit on March 29, 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)
  • 3,000 Israelis attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony at the Shlomo Group Arena in Tel Aviv after the Palestinian participants were banned by Israeli authorities on April 30, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
    3,000 Israelis attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony at the Shlomo Group Arena in Tel Aviv after the Palestinian participants were banned by Israeli authorities on April 30, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem at the Yad LeBanim building on Memorial Day on April 30, 2017. (screen capture: Ynet)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem at the Yad LeBanim building on Memorial Day on April 30, 2017. (screen capture: Ynet)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Le Pen lays wreath at Marseille Holocaust memorial

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen discreetly lays a wreath at a Holocaust memorial in the French city of Marseille.

A tweet from a National Front party official shows Le Pen marking the National Day of Remembrance for victims of deportation by the Nazis.

According to AFP, Le Pen did not invite the press to event.

Liberman says orphaned Dawabsha boy ineligible for compensation

Israel will not pay terror victims’ compensation to Ahmed Dawabsha, whose parents and brother were killed in a 2015 arson attack carried out on their home by Jewish extremists, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tells a Knesset member in an official correspondence on the issue.

Writing to Joint (Arab) List MK Yousef Jabareen in response to a question as to why Dawabsha has not yet received money from the state, Liberman says the six-year-old does not qualify to be considered a “terror victim” and will therefore not receive compensation.

The current law stipulates that the state must compensate Israeli citizens affected by terrorism, but does not apply to Palestinians “who are not citizens or residents of Israel,” Liberman writes.

“We have not found in our records a specific request [to receive compensation despite not being considered a terror victim],” the letter adds.

— Raoul Wootliff

Ukrainian prime minister to visit Israel in May

The Foreign Ministry says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart during the latter’s upcoming visit to Israel next month, after a previously scheduled visit between the two was nixed in protest over Kiev’s support for a UN Security Council resolution against Israel’s West Bank settlement policy.

Volodymyr Groysman, who became Ukraine’s first Jewish prime minister last year, will arrive for a two-day visit in Israel on May 14, in what reports in Hebrew-language media say will mark a formal end to the tensions between Jerusalem and Kiev.

The Ukrainian prime minister was originally scheduled to arrive in Israel for a two-day visit in December that was set to include meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other top officials.

— Alexander Fulbright and Raphael Ahren

Abbas in Jordan to coordinate position ahead of Trump meet

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to coordinate positions on the peace process ahead of his first meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington next week.

The meeting comes less than 24 hours after Abbas held similar talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo.

According to the Ynet news website, the leaders during the meeting agree that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the “only solution.”

Abbas will visit the White House on May 3 for a series of high-level meetings with the president and other senior administration officials in an effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Turkey threatens further strikes on US-allied Syrian Kurds

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday his country may take further action against Kurdish militants in Iraq and Syria and insisted US support for such groups “must come to an end.”

The US moved troops and armored vehicles through several Syrian cities and towns on Friday and Saturday in a show of force apparently intended to dissuade Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces from attacking each other.

Kurdish officials described the US troop movement as a “buffer” between them and Turkey.

The US has provided air cover and other support to Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, it is working with the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, but also includes Arab fighters.

Video from northern Syria shows the US patrols parked alongside Kurdish units flying the YPG flag.

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdish militants who have been waging a three-decade-long insurgency. It launched airstrikes against the YPG last week, killing 20 fighters and media activists.

“We will be forced to continue (our offensives),” Erdogan said. “We won’t provide a date and time for when we’ll come. But they will know that the Turkish military can come.”

— AP

Egypt sentences radical preacher to death in absentia

An Egyptian court sentences a radical cleric to death in absentia on charges of establishing a “terror group” after the 2013 overthrow of an elected Islamist president.

Wagdi Ghoneim, who currently lives in Turkey and is an outspoken supporter of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, dismisses the ruling, saying he has not been in Egypt since 2001.

Egypt has waged a sweeping crackdown against Morsi’s now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, jailing thousands and killing hundreds in street clashes in the months following his 2013 overthrow.

Ghoneim supports the Brotherhood, but espouses to hard-line views that are dismissed by more moderate members of the group, such as a prohibition on celebrating Christmas with Christians. He sparked controversy on a visit to Tunisia in 2012 by saying that “seculars and liberals” are “apostates,” and describing female genital mutilation as an “aesthetic operation.”

If he returns to Egypt, he would be retried on the same charges.

— Agencies

Toddler dies choking on sand at Kiryat Gat preschool

A three-year-old boy dies after chocking on sand at a preschool in the southern city of Kiryat Gat.

Magen David Adom paramedics called to the scene rushed the toddler to the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon where he was pronounced dead.

A teacher at the preschool told an MDA paramedic that sand had entered the boy’s mouth while he was playing in the sandbox.

Memorial day ceremonies begin in Jerusalem

Ceremonies marking Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism begins in Jerusalem at the building of Yad Labanim, an association of bereaved families.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat attend the ceremony that marks the beginning of a 48-hour period during which Israelis abruptly go from reflecting on national loss to celebrating their national independence.

Later, a minute-long siren will blare, and Israelis will bow their heads in memory of the 23,544 members of the country’s security forces who died while in active service.

Bereaved father who heckled PM banned from state memorial service

A bereaved father who heckled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony opening a new remembrance hall for Israel’s fallen soldiers earlier today is banned from attending the opening Memorial Day ceremony at the Yad Labanim building in Jerusalem.

Moments into his speech at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery, the prime minister was interrupted by Shaul Chitayat shouting, “Apologize! I don’t forgive you.”

Yad Labanim, an organization dedicated to helping bereaved families said in a letter that Chitayat was not welcome to attend the memorial “in light of the difficult interaction at the ceremony.”

PM says Jewish self-determination owed to sacrifice of fallen soliders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells bereaved families that the sacrifice of fallen Israeli servicemen and women enables the Jewish people to live freely in their own land.

Speaking at opening Memorial Day ceremony at the Yad Labanim building in Jerusalem, Netanyahu also hails Israel as a “historic wonder.”

“We are one people, and its is clear that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of our sons and daughters, we would not be a free people in our own land,” the prime minister says. “The State of Israel is a historic wonder.”

Edelstein vows greater support for bereaved families

At the Memorial Day ceremony at the Yad Labanim building in Jerusalem, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein vows to offer greater support to bereaved families after an earlier incident saw a bereaved father banned form the official ceremony.

“This year, we pledge to embrace you more than ever, and we pledge that you will remain above any dispute and outside of any argument,” Edelstein says.

“Just as they [the soldiers] know how to live as one both on and off the battlefield, we too must live as one family, every single day even when it’s difficult.”

Earlier, a bereaved father heckled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony opening a new remembrance hall for Israel’s fallen soldiers on Mount Herzl.

Moments into his speech at the national cemetery, the prime minister was interrupted by Shaul Chitayat shouting, “Apologize! I don’t forgive you.”

Chitayat was banned from attending the ceremony at Yad Labanim over his outburst.

PM reverses ban of bereaved father who heckled him

The decision to ban the father of a fallen IDF solider who lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Memorial Day ceremony earlier today is reversed at the request of the prime minister.

Shaul Chitayat interrupted Netanyahu moments into his speech at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery, shouting, “Apologize! I don’t forgive you.”

As a result, Yad Labanim, an organization dedicated to supporting bereaved families, banned Chitayat from its official ceremonies this year citing the “difficult incident.”

The organization later voted to reverse the ban after Netanyahu intervened and asked Yad Labanim to reconsider the decision.

Supreme Court reduces jail sentence of bribe-taking ex-chief rabbi

The Supreme Court reduces the jail sentence of Israel’s former chief rabbi Yona Metzger from 10 years down to three and a half.

Metzger earlier this year pleaded guilty to fraud, theft, conspiracy, breach of trust, money laundering, tax offenses and accepting bribes involving some NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) under a plea bargain reached with state prosecutors that recommended a three and a half year jail term.

But in a rare move, a Jerusalem District court judge rejected the plea deal, handing down a harsher sentence of four and a half years in prison for the slew of bribery and corruption charges.

Metzger appealed his sequencing to the Supreme Court, and justices agree to reduce the jail time back to the original three and a half years. The justices say their decision “does not detract from the harsh condemnation of the ugly acts for which he was convicted.”

Gaza officials say Hamas preparing to announce new chief

The new leadership of Palestinian terrorist group Hamas will be announced in the coming days, officials say, as it also prepares to unveil a new version of its charter.

Ismail Haniya, until recently head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, says the results of internal elections will be announced “in the coming days.”

A high-ranking Hamas official tells AFP the new leadership will be announced before May 15.

The official says Haniya is likely to be named the new head of the movement, replacing Khaled Mashaal who lives in Doha in exile and has completed the maximum two terms in office.

— AFP

Persian satellite TV channel owner ‘shot dead’ in Istanbul

The owner of a leading Persian-language satellite entertainment channel based outside of Iran was shot dead by unknown individuals in Istanbul in an unexplained assassination, Turkish media reports say.

Said Karimian, the owner of the GEM TV Group and a British citizen of Iranian origin, was gunned down late Saturday along with a Kuwaiti business partner in the upscale Maslak district of Istanbul, the Hurriyet newspaper says.

Initial reports on Saturday had said two Iranians had been killed, without giving the identities.

In a statement on its Facebook page, GEM TV confirms that Karimian had died, but without making clear the circumstances of the death.

“With great sorrow and regret we announce the death of Said Karimian,” it says, describing him as a “great man who with a pure and kind spirit spent his life with honesty and sincerity for dignity of Iran.”

— AFP

Coalition strikes kill 45 Iraqi civilians last month, Pentagon says

The Pentagon says investigations conducted during the month of March reveal that coalition airstrikes killed 45 civilians, mostly in and around the city of Mosul.

In a statement, the Pentagon says in each incident “all feasible precautions were taken,” but the strikes still resulted in “unintentional” loss of civilian life.

The Pentagon acknowledges at least 362 civilians have been killed by coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria since the start of the air campaign against the Islamic State group in 2014. Activists and monitoring groups put the number much higher, saying coalition strikes have killed more than 3,000 civilians in Iraq and Syria since then, according to Airwars.

The US launched a campaign of airstrikes against IS in August of 2014 after it overran Mosul and swaths of Iraq’s north and west.

— AP

Turkey arrests Iranian, seizes anti-tank missile parts

Turkish authorities arrest an Iranian national who they say was trying to smuggle in parts of a Russian-made anti-tank missile system with the suspected aim of delivering them to a terror organization.

The Customs and Trade Ministry said Sunday that the man, identified only by his initials E.E., was detained at the port in the Black Sea city of Zonguldak, after officials searched his truck that had arrived aboard a vessel from Ukraine.

A ministry statement said the truck was officially carrying diapers but inside was found the “main parts” of a Russian-made system used by violent groups, including Kurdish rebels and Islamic State militants.

The ministry says authorities believe the missile parts had probably been sent for repairs and were being returned to a terror organization.

–AP

Erdan says 300 Palestinian inmates end hunger strike

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan says that 300 Palestinians have agreed to end an almost two-week-old hunger strike launched in protest at the conditions of their detention.

The Palestinians, for their part, said 1,500 prisoners were keeping up their fast in Israeli jails.

Three-hundred hunger strikers have “agreed to take food without having obtained” any of their demands, Erdan tells army radio.

“Negotiations are out of the question,” he says, adding that 920 Palestinian prisoners remained on hunger strike.

Erdan adds the prison service plans to set up four medical centers inside jails “to avoid as much as possible the transfer of hunger striking detainees to civilian hospitals”.

The hunger strike began on April 17, with those taking part ingesting only water and salt. They have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access.

— AFP

Nation comes to a standstill for Memorial Day siren

Israel comes to a standstill at 8 p.m. for a minute-long memorial siren during which Israelis stand at attention to commemorate the 23,544 fallen soldiers and 3,117 terror victims who have fallen throughout the history of the State of Israel and the Zionist movement.

The siren is followed by the lighting of a memorial flame to the fallen at the Western Wall, the site of the official state commemoration ceremony.

Israel’s Memorial Day marks the beginning of a 48-hour period during which Israelis abruptly go from reflecting on national loss to celebrating their national independence.

Rivlin on Memorial Day: ‘The price of our liberty is purchased in blood’

At the official state Memorial Day commemoration ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin tells the families of fallen IDF soldiers they have paid the ultimate price for Israel’s independence.

“By this wall of tears and of hopes, this evening, 50 years after the liberation of Jerusalem, we remember: our liberty is sacred, both sacred and hard,” the president says to an audience of IDF soldiers and families of the fallen. “We know that there is a price to be paid for our existence here, for our liberty. There is a price, and we, in awe and terror, are willing to pay that price.”

“Dear bereaved families, we are living that privilege. You paid the price. The price of our liberty purchased in blood,” Rivlin says.

The president also says efforts to return the bodies of IDF soldiers killed in operations outside of Israel must not be abandoned.

“The task of bringing home the missing and the fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown has not been completed,” he says. “Our commitment to those boys remains firm.”

On Memorial Day, IDF chief says pain of war won’t break Israel’s spirit

At the official state ceremony marking Memorial Day, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot says the deaths of Israeli servicemen and women in the line of duty affects the entire nation.

“When the siren is heard, Israel turns in on itself, every man in his pain,” Eisenkot says. “An entire nation sadly and proudly carries the memory of their loved ones, appreciating the contribution of their fallen heroes by bowing our heads.”

“But today, in our silent pain, we will raise our head and we will see all of us holding each other, united as one people, whose spirit cannot be broken.”

Macron visits Paris Holocaust Memorial

Amid worries about rising nationalism, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is visiting the Holocaust Memorial in Paris with a somber message: Never again.

Excitement at his appearance mixed with tears of sorrowful remembrance for visitors as the centrist Macron walked past panels bearing the names of tens of thousands of French Jews deported to their death in Nazi camps. Holocaust survivors and children of its victims were among those present during the visit.

Macron also looked at documentation showing the collaboration by French authorities with the Nazis.

It’s the second time in three days that Macron is visiting a site tied to France’s wartime history. He is seeking to remind voters of the anti-Semitic past of his rival Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front.

The two face off in a May 7 presidential runoff.

Palestinians banned from joint Memorial Day ceremony in Israel

Some 3,000 people gather in the Shlomo Group Arena for a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service for Yom Hazikaron.

Noticeably missing are the hundreds of Palestinians who were supposed to attend and take part in the ceremony. In a last minute decision, the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories refused to grant the West Bank residents the permits required to enter Israel, according to the organizers, Combatants for Peace.

3,000 Israelis attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony at the Shlomo Group Arena in Tel Aviv after the Palestinian participants were banned by Israeli authorities on April 30, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
3,000 Israelis attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony at the Shlomo Group Arena in Tel Aviv after the Palestinian participants were banned by Israeli authorities on April 30, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The decision not to grant the permits was made in light of a stabbing attack by a Palestinian teenager earlier this month in Tel Aviv, who entered Israel as part of a peace tour on the same type of day pass Combatants for Peace was trying to get.

It’s the first time in the event’s 12 years that Palestinians will not take part.

Not surprisingly, the Israeli-Palestinian memorial service has its detractors. Dozens of right-wing activists are protesting outside the arena, calling those entering “traitors” and “collaborators.”

At least one protester was detained by police.

— Judah Ari Gross

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