The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Attacker shot during Hebron stabbing attempt
A Palestinian woman has been shot and disarmed in Hebron amid a stabbing attempt, according to Israeli army and police officials.
No Israelis are injured in the attempt, which takes place at a checkpoint.
The condition of the woman is not immediately clear. The rescue service Hatzala says the woman was shot with rubber bullets, which is unconfirmed.
A second stabbing of a tourist in the Palestinian village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, is found to be non-terror related.
The tourist is moderately injured.
Would-be stabber reported in moderate condition
The female attacker is listed in moderate condition according to news site Walla, quoting medics on the scene.
A picture purportedly from the scene shows a woman with a head wound being treated by Red Crescent medics.
— שי ויספיש (@shai0527) December 20, 2015
Paris-bound flight lands in Kenya over bomb scare
Police are investigating after a suspicious package was found on board an Air France plane bound for Paris, Kenyan police said.
Flight AF463, which had 459 passengers and 14 crew members on board, left Mauritius at 9 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) and had been due to arrive in Paris Charles de Gaulle at 5:50 a.m.
But it made an emergency landing at Moi International Airport in the southern port city of Mombasa at 12:37 a.m. local time.
“It requested an emergency landing after a device suspected to be a bomb was discovered in the lavatory, an emergency was prepared and it landed safely and all passengers evacuated,” police spokesman Charles Owino said.
“Bomb experts from the navy and the CID were called in and took the device which they are dismantling to establish if it had any explosives,” he said.
צילום של הפצצה שנמצאה על המטוס pic.twitter.com/7AgkUuv691
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) December 20, 2015
A Facebook page purporting to represent the Kenyan Airports Authority calls the device a bomb, but there is no official confirmation that it was in fact an explosive device.
“Kenyan bomb experts discover a bomb inside Air France at Moi International Airport, Mombasa. The explosive was carried away to a safe place outside the airport,” the Facebook message reads.
— with AFP
Riots reported in Hebron
Riots have reportedly broken out in Hebron following the shooting of a Palestinian woman the IDF says attempted to stab soldiers.
Low-level clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops often break out in the wake of such incidents.
Police say the concurrent stabbing in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem, which left a tourist lightly wounded, was over a money dispute.
— with Judah Ari Gross
Israel said to stop patroling northern border
Lebanese news site A-Nasra reports that Israeli patrols along the northern border have ceased Sunday morning, as the army nervously anticipates a Hezbollah response following the assassination of arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar, Walla News reports.
There is no official word from the IDF.
Hezbollah mouthpiece Al-Manar says Israel’s lack of confirmation that it carried out the strike is giving Hezbollah a chance to think hard about how it will respond.
“The Israeli authorities are avoiding the direct claim of responsibility, in a bid to give the other side a chance to mull its retaliation choices and in order for this retaliation to be deliberate and well-calculated,” a commentator is quoted saying on the Al-Manar website.
Assad said to plan Iran visit
Syrian President Bashar Assad will reportedly visit Iran in the coming days, according to Iranian media.
The visit will focus on the situation in Syria, and he will meet with several senior Iranian officials in Tehran, according to several Iranian news outlets quoted by Lebanon’s NOW news website.
According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, Assad’s plane will traverse Iraqi airspace and be escorted by four Russian fighter jets.
“The US-led international coalition’s air command has been warned not to approach Bashar Assad’s plane to avoid engagement,” Fars quotes the Lebanese al-Diyar daily saying.
The visit, planned for the next few weeks according to Fars, will be Assad’s second abroad in several months after he visited Moscow in October, since hunkering down amid the civil war that has raged for nearly five years.
Panel gives Mandelblit nod as new attorney general
Avichai Mandelblit has been named as the single candidate recommended by a vetting board to become Israel’s next attorney general.
Mandelblit, a former military advocate general who now serves as cabinet secretary for Netanyahu, is reported to gain the vote of everyone on the panel but Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis.
The panel says in a statement that the decision to recommend only Mandelblit came after interviewing candidates and holding 14 meetings on the matter.
Current Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is slated to leave his post in January.
Ex-security chief: Kuntar was plotting attacks
Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror says Samir Kuntar had been “very active in the north part of the Golan Heights in the Syrian side, responsible for preparing the area for attacks against Israel,” before he was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike.
“And if he is neutralized by someone, it’s good news for the State of Israel,” said Amidror, but added that he did not know whether Israel was responsible for his death.
Asked why Israel does not claim credit for such incidents, he said it makes it less likely for the other side to retaliate.
6 questioned over suspected Air France bomb
A Kenyan police official says six passengers are being questioned over a suspected bomb found on an Air France plane that forced the jet flying to Paris from Mauritius to make an emergency landing in Kenya.
The police official, who insists on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, says during the flight a passenger noticed something in a lavatory that looked like “a stopwatch mounted on a box.”
The passenger reported the device to the cabin crew, who informed the pilots, leading to an emergency landing at the airport in the Kenyan city of Mombasa.
The official said one of those being interrogated is the man who reported the package.
Palestinian would-be attacker IDed as 35-year-old woman
The Palestinian who the Israeli army says tried to stab soldiers in Hebron is identified by Palestinian media as a 35-year-old woman from a nearby village.
The woman was shot with rubber bullets and suffered moderate wounds, according to Israel’s Army Radio.
Ministers partially approve upping fines for business open on Shabbat
The ministerial panel tasked with evaluating legislation gives a stamp of approval to a proposal to significantly hike fines against business that open over Shabbat, a controversial measure.
According to news site Ynet, the coalition agreed to let the bill pass on preliminary reading, but to leave it in committee for a more in-depth look by an ad-hoc panel of business leaders before letting it move forward.
Syria, Hezbollah condemn ‘cowardly terror’ killing of Kuntar
Syria’s Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi condemns the reported Israeli airstrike near Damascus that killed Samir Kuntar, calling it “a cowardly act of terror,” according to Syrian state run news site SANA.
SANA also quotes the country’s parliament issuing a statement condemning the “classified terrorist crime” and says Syria is fighting “Takfiri Zionist terrorism led by several countries topped by the Israeli occupation entity.”
The statement also accuses other regional states, like Sunni Arab ones, of being accomplices in the strike.
Kuntar’s brother Bassem tells AFP he is more than ever committed to wiping Israel off the map.
“The resistance will end only when the Zionist entity disappears,” he vows.
In Lebanon, Ali Amar, a Hezbollah member of parliament, says the terror group won’t let the strike pass without some retaliation.
“Hezbollah will in no way let the death of the martyr Kuntar pass without a price,” he says according to a translation by Israel’s Channel 10. “The subject of retaliation is in the hands of the relevant commanders, and will determine the way, place and time that we will punish the killers — the Israeli enemy.”
— with AFP
Iran offers ho-hum condemnation of Kuntar hit
Iran’s foreign ministry also weighs in on the killing of Samir Kuntar, unsurprisingly offering its own condemnation of the reported Israeli airstrike, albeit a seemingly laconic one when compared to fiery statements issued by proxy Hezbollah.
In comments reported in Iranian media, spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari calls on the international community to condemn what he calls the “terrorist and aggressive measure.”
Ansari also calls the strike a violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
No bomb found on plane — police
A Kenyan police official says no explosives have been found yet in a suspicious device left on an Air France flight that caused the plane to be diverted to Mombasa, Kenya.
The police official, who is part of the investigation and who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, says during the flight to Paris a passenger noticed something in one of the plane’s lavatories that looked like “a stopwatch mounted on a box.”
The passenger reported the suspicious device to the cabin crew and pilots requested an emergency landing.
The police official says the box has been taken apart and no explosives have been found but the digital watch has not yet been analyzed.
Kenyans edit claim about foiled bombing
The Kenya Airports Authority has now edited its announcement on Facebook regarding an explosive device aboard Air France Flight 463, which was diverted while en route to Paris.
The authority now says the Air France Boeing 777 made an emergency landing in Mombasa due to “a suspicious object.” Earlier Sunday, the post said security forces had foiled “a bombing attempt.”
The updated Facebook post indicated questions about whether the device, described by a security official as a box with a timer on top, was some kind of hoax.
Pope backs peace efforts in Syria, Libya
Pope Francis is praising a diplomacy-backed plan for a ceasefire in Syria’s war as well as a recent breakthrough in efforts toward creating a national unity government in Libya.
In comments to the faithful Sunday, Francis expresses “strong appreciation” for the plan calling for talks between the Syrian government and the opposition to begin next month. The UN Security Council has given the peace plan unanimous support.
Francis says he encourages all to continue with “generous impetus on the path toward the end of violence and a negotiated solution that brings peace” to Syria.
He expressed similar sentiments about Libya. The violence-wracked country’s rival factions signed a UN-brokered deal last week to form a unity government. Francis called that commitment an “invitation to hope for the future.”
Syria and Russia using cluster bombs, group charges
Human Rights Watch is charging that Syrian government forces and their Russian allies have been making “extensive” use of cluster munitions against rebel groups since late September.
The New York-based rights watchdog says in a report it had documented the use of cluster munitions on 20 occasions since Russian and Syrian forces launched their assault on September 30.
HRW “collected detailed information about attacks in nine locations that have killed at least 35 civilians, including five women and 17 children, and injured dozens,” the report states.
All the bombs were either made in Russia or the former Soviet Union, the rights group said.
“Syria’s promises on indiscriminate weapons ring hollow when cluster munitions keep hitting civilians in many parts of the country,” HRW’s Ole Solvang says in the report.
Record numbers feel the Bern
Bernie Sanders may be a long-shot to enter the White House, but the Jewish Democratic candidate has rival Hillary Clinton, and US President Barack Obama, beat in at least one category: Making it drizzle.
Politico reports that Sanders has set the record for most individual donations in a non-election year, topping Obama’s 2,209,636 donations set in 2011, according to a campaign announcement Saturday night.
At an average of $25 per donation, though, Sanders still isn’t quite making it rain like Clinton in the overall money race.
Old Hezbollah rocket found in northern hills
With northern Israel already on edge fearing a Hezbollah retaliation over the killing of Samir Kuntar, officials reportedly found a literal blast from the past: a Grad rocket shot during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah.
The armament was found in the hills near the town of Kfar Giladi, near Kiryat Shmona, an area that was bombarded by thousands of rockets during the 2006 war.
The area where the rocket was found is mostly inaccessible, according to Channel 10 news.
It was dismantled by an IDF team of sappers.
Nasrallah to deliver address on Kuntar Monday night
Hezbollah news outlet Al-Manar reports that the terror group’s chief Hassan Nasrallah will give a televised address at 8:30 Monday night.
Nasrallah will address the killing of Samir Kuntar, reportedly in an Israeli strike, during his speech.
Manar also reports that Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan, Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric, is threatening that “the Zionist enemy” will pay the price for killing Kuntar, the latest in a series of threats from Hezbollah.
Greece to recognize Palestinian state
Greece is set to recognize the state of Palestine in a parliamentary vote to be attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a government source says.
A solemn ceremony will accompany the vote on Tuesday as Greece joins dozens of other countries that accord recognition to Palestine, the source says.
Abbas in Athens will meet President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Last week, the Greek parliament’s foreign affairs committee unanimously approved a motion to recognize Palestine.
Greece won’t fully recognize Palestine, but will still tout move
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has no immediate comment on Greece’s planned recognition of Palestine.
The recognition will not be a full measure, like Sweden where the government recognized Palestine, but rather closer to what happened in Britain, France and Spain and Belgium, where the parliaments recognized the Palestinian state.
However, officials in Athens are playing this up as if it’s a full recognition, with an official ceremony with Abbas slated for Tuesday.
— Raphael Ahren
Sirens sound in northern Israel
Air raid sirens are sounding the Western Galilee, warning of likely incoming rockets.
Northern Israel has been bracing for a possible Hezbollah response since the killing of Samir Kuntar overnight.
Sirens in Nahariya, no word yet on rockets
The rocket alarm is sounding in several towns near Israel’s border with Lebanon, including Nahariya, according to initial reports.
There is no word yet on whether rockets have been launched or any impacts or injuries or damage.
Explosion heard near Nahariya, no confirmation
A woman in Nahariya tells Army Radio she heard an explosion from a falling rocket.
Channel 2 says there is no confirmation of any rocket hitting Israel.
Rocket falls near Nahariya — report
There is one rocket that hit near Nahariya, Channel 2 reports.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The army is carrying out searches to locate the rocket according to Channel 2.
No word from Hezbollah on rocket fire
There is no word on a rocket being shot at Israel from media outlets linked to Hezbollah. Al-Manar, the terror group’s official outlet, is mum.
Al-Meyadeen, a cable channel closely linked to the group, sticks to reporting on Israeli reports of the rocket fire.
Both news outlets are busting at the seams with condemnation of Israel over the killing of Samir Kuntar.
3 rockets hit northern Israel — IDF
The IDF confirms that three rockets hit northern Israel.
According to reports, at least one rocket landed in an open area near Nahariya. It’s not clear where the other two landed.
“Forces are searching the area,” the IDF says in a statement. There are no reports of injuries or damage.
Lebanese media: Four rockets shot
Lebanon’s Naharnet reports that two rockets were fired at Israel from the al-Hinniyeh area and two others were fired from Tal al-Maaliyeh.
Some reports suggest one rocket landed in the sea.
There are also initial reports of IDF artillery fire into Lebanon following the attack. There is no official confirmation of a counterattack.
Reported site of rocket launch was also site of launch in 2014
The al-Haniyeh area of southern Lebanon was the site of a rocket launch against Israel in July 2014.
Nearby is al-Maaliyeh, where two other rockets reportedly came from.
Naharnet reports another source saying the rockets were shot from a trash dump in the Ras al-Ain area.
All three are on the outskirts of Tyre, and about 15 kilometers from the Israel border.
Lebanese media: Israeli jets over south of country
Lebanese news site MTV reports heavy Israeli air activity over southern Lebanon, along with flares being fired at the al-Mansour area.
There is still no Israeli army confirmation of any response.
No need to open bomb shelters, mayor says
Nahariya Mayor Jackie Sabag tells residents not to panic over the rocket fire, as leaders try to telegraph calm amid spiraling tensions.
“We are used to situations like this and at the end of a situational assessment we went right back to our routine. I ask residents to pay attention to updates but to continue going about their normal lives. Right now, there is no need to open bomb shelters and if there is a need we will do so immediately,” he says, according to news site NRG.
The head of the Metula Regional Council on Israel’s northern border also tells citizens to keep calm despite increased tensions along the frontier with Lebanon.
“By us things are continuing as normal and we are following developments and are in touch with security officials,” he says in a message to residents.
One group that is apparently reacting to the increase in violence is UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, which has upped patrols along the buffer zone separating Israel from Lebanon, according to a Lebanese media report.
Loud booms heard in Gaza
Gazan sources on social media are reporting that two loud explosions have rocked the coastal strip.
The explosions are apparently from sonic booms, though with people on edge given tensions in the north, rumors are rampant that it’s from an Israeli bombing campaign.
UNIFIL, Lebanese Army searching for firing point
There is still no official word from Hezbollah on the rockets shot at Israel. Just as Israel did not take responsibility for the reported strike on Samir Kuntar, Hezbollah may also seek to distance itself from any reprisal campaign, as both sides seek to keep a lid on spiraling tensions.
Hezbollah is also not the only group capable of shooting rockets at Israel. In July 2014, a Palestinian group linked to Hamas fired a volley of rockets at Israel from the same area near Tyre, as the country battled Gazan fighters in the south.
In Lebanon, troops with UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army are searching for the firing point, a Lebanese source tells AFP.
The source says that “two Katyusha rockets were fired from a Lebanese village five kilometers [three miles] from the border with Israel.”
Kimye heading back to baptize new son — report
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West reportedly will baptize their son in Jerusalem.
Saint West was born earlier this month to the celebrity couple. The announcement of the baptism, scheduled for the spring, was first reported last week in the London-based Daily Mail, citing an unnamed source.
“She will focus on spending time with Saint and not take on work commitments for the first three months,” the source says.
The couple baptized their daughter North West at the St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem in April. Kardashian is half Armenian.
Silvan Shalom to quit politics — report
Israel’s Channel 2 news is reporting that Interior Minister Silvan Shalom will resign from public life, after coming under fire over the last several days amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment by women who worked under him.
Shalom has maintained his innocence, but was slated to meet with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein Sunday evening to discuss the possible opening of a criminal case against him.
The channel reports that police have opened a criminal probe against him.
Thirteen women have come forward to make allegations against Shalom, though none has apparently filed an official police complaint.
Silvan Shalom confirms he is quitting
Silvan Shalom has sent out a message confirming he is leaving political life, saying he is doing it to protect his family.
“For 23 years I have served with dedication and the public faith as a Knesset member and minister in different roles, from a sense of calling and will to advance important social and public matters,” he writes. “I am weary of the suffering that has been parceled out to my family, my wife, my children and my elderly mother. My family fully supports me, but there is no justification for the price demanded of them. For these reasons I have decided to quit my position as a minister and Knesset member.”
IDF confirms it shot back at southern Lebanon
The IDF confirms in a statement that it has responded with artillery fire at southern Lebanon.
“The IDF sees the Lebanese Army as solely responsible for any actions taken on its territory, and we will continue to act against any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens,” the army says in a statement.
The statement does not detail what sites in Lebanon have been hit.
Lebanese media earlier reported heavy Israeli air activity in Lebanese skies.
The army says Israelis in the north should not alter their routines in response to the flare-up.
No reports of injuries or damage from strikes in Lebanon
Lebanon’s MTV news channel reports that seven artillery shells fell in the area of Wadi Nafkha and Wadi Zebqein, both in southern Lebanon.
There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the Israeli strikes.
MK Zandberg calls Shalom resignation ‘victory’
MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz is seemingly among the first out of the gate to comment on the resignation of Silvan Shalom, calling it a “victory,” albeit without mentioning Shalom by name.
“This is a victory for proper public norms. I am proud, together with my colleagues Zehava Galon and Michal Rozin, to belong to the group of those who came out against [him], despite everything,” she writes on Facebook.
Galon and Rozin, both from Meretz, had led calls for Shalom to resign as allegations against him mounted.
‘Goodbye, Shalom’ is not original, as it turns out
Proof that an original thought is hard to come by is on display on Twitter right now, where everybody finds it hilarious that Shalom, the last name of disgraced minister Silvan Shalom, also means “goodbye.”
Cue the same joke again and again
— Josh Breiner (@JoshBreiner) December 20, 2015
— Yishai Harel (@YishaiHarel) December 20, 2015
and again and again
— chaim gridinger (@chaimgridinger) December 20, 2015
סילבן, שלום pic.twitter.com/W461yj3msC
— li-at steinitz (@LiSteinitz) December 20, 2015
and, well, you get the point.
(Special hat tip to blogger Nehemia Gershuni for pointing out this sad, sad phenomenon)
Attorney general calls to open criminal probe against Shalom
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has told police to open a criminal probe against Silvan Shalom, several Hebrew-language news sites report, after a hearing with the State Attorney’s Office and police officials.
Speaking to Channel 10, one of Shalom’s security guards says he saw the outgoing minister enter a bathroom with a worker, in the latest allegation of sexual impropriety leveled against him.
The guard says he saw Shalom and a worker at a table at a cafe, before things got weird.
“After a few minutes, the girl got up and went toward the bathroom, and a minute later the minister also went to the bathroom. After the minister went into one of the stalls, I checked all the other stalls, of the men and the women, and there was no doubt they were in the same stall. The noises coming out also left no doubt as to what was going on in there,” the unnamed guard is quoted saying.
PFLP-GC terror group reportedly claims rocket fire
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a Syria-based Palestinian terror group, has taken responsibility for the rocket fire on Israel this evening, according to Lebanese media cited by Israel’s Channel 2.
Meanwhile, the Israeli towns of Shlomi and Nahariya have opened up bomb shelters, apparently anticipating more possible attacks as tensions ramp up following the killing of Samir Kuntar.
All three rockets that hit Israel Sunday night apparently landed near Shlomi, a small town near the Lebanese border. Sirens also sounded in Nahariya, a larger coastal city about 10 kilometers southwest.
Shalom’s wife responds: ‘Sad’
Silvan Shalom’s wife, Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, speaks out on Twitter about her husband’s resignation amid sexual harassment claims.
“Sad, but my kids come before anything else,” she writes.
עצוב. אבל הילדים שלי מעל הכל.
— Judy Mozes (@JudyMozes) December 20, 2015
Vegas paper vows to fight Adelson meddling
The Las Vegas Review-Journal follows up its muckracking reporting about new owner Sheldon Adelson with a front page editorial promising not to break the public’s trust, despite Adelson’s penchant for meddling.
“You can be assured that if the Adelsons attempt to skew coverage, by ordering some stories covered and others killed or watered down, the Review-Journal’s editors and reporters will fight it. How can you be sure? One way is to look at how we covered the secrecy surrounding the newspaper’s sale. We dug in. We refused to stand down. We will fight for your trust. Every. Single. Day. Even if our former owners and current operators don’t want us to,” the paper writes.
On Saturday, the R-J reported that three reporters had been ordered to dig up dirt on three judges who were involved in a lawsuit against Adelson’s company.
Adelson, who owns the Israel Hayom tabloid in Israel, was recently outed as the secret purchaser of the Las Vegas newspaper for $140 million.
Israel Hayom is often criticized as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, who counts Adelsons among his most important financial backers.
Yemen ceasefire extended extra week
Yemen’s much-violated ceasefire will be extended for seven days after it officially expires Monday, the head of the government negotiation team said Sunday at UN-brokered talks in Switzerland.
“The truce will be extended for seven more days and will then be automatically extended if it is respected by the other party,” Foreign Minister Abdel Malak al-Mekhlafi told reporters in Bern, referring to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Police searching for missing soldier
Police are asking for the public’s help in locating a soldier missing since Saturday.
The soldier, Menachem Mendel “Mendy” Mazryova,19, from Bat Yam, was last seen leaving home on his way to his base on Saturday evening.
He is described as skinny and 1.76 meters tall, with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information is asked to call 100.
Peacekeepers up Lebanon border patrols to stem violence
UNIFIL releases a statement saying that it has stepped up patrols along the border between Israel and Lebanon in a bid to tamp down on cross-border violence.
The statement notes that UNIFIL radars detected three rockets shot at Israel earlier in the evening, with one of the rockets landing in the sea, according to the IDF.
It says Israel fired eight 120-mm shells in response to the rocket fire.
UNIFIL chief Luciano Portolano is in contact with officials in Lebanon and Israel in a bid to restore calm, the statement says.
“This is a serious incident in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area. It is imperative to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack. Additional troops have been deployed on the ground and patrols have been intensified across our area of operations in coordination with the LAF to prevent any further incidents,” Portolano says, according to the statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
Gunman fires on IDF troops in West Bank; no injuries
A gunman opens fire on IDF troops near the West Bank city of Hebron, the army says.
No one is injured in the attack. Some damage was caused to a military post.
Israeli forces launch a search of the area for the assailant, who fled the scene.
— Judah Ari Gross