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Trump to host PA president Abbas on May 3: White House

Gazan cancer patient caught smuggling explosives into Israel: Shin Bet; needy Holocaust survivors lose benefits to convoluted bureaucracy: report

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, October 1, 2016. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, October 1, 2016. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
  • Hamas security forces stand guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
    Hamas security forces stand guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
  • This May 8, 2014 file photo shows Emirates passenger planes at Dubai airport in United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
    This May 8, 2014 file photo shows Emirates passenger planes at Dubai airport in United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
  • Itamar Ohana, who drowned in the Sea of Galilee, April 2017. (Facebook)
    Itamar Ohana, who drowned in the Sea of Galilee, April 2017. (Facebook)
  • Israeli security forces guard near the scene of a driving terror attack near Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank on March 4, 2016. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
    Israeli security forces guard near the scene of a driving terror attack near Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank on March 4, 2016. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
  • President Reuven Rivlin visits with Christian leaders in Jerusalem to mark the Easter holiday, April 19, 2017.
 (Mark Neiman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin visits with Christian leaders in Jerusalem to mark the Easter holiday, April 19, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
  • Drake performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., April 12, 2015. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, via JTA)
    Drake performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., April 12, 2015. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, via JTA)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

France’s Le Pen hardens tone as campaign clock ticks down

PARIS – French far-right presidential frontrunner Marine Le Pen says that French people feel “dispossessed” in their own country as she stresses the threats of immigration and terrorism in the final days of campaigning.

The 48-year-old former lawyer has spent years trying to broaden support for her National Front party, but she has signaled a return to the core concerns of many of her supporters in recent speeches.

Speaking on BFM television, Le Pen emphasizes how she would pull France out of the European Union, slash immigration, make it harder to get French nationality and crack down on suspected Islamists.

“French people have the feeling of being dispossessed of their identity, of their social security system and their sovereignty,” Le Pen tells the channel.

Polls show a four-way race developing ahead of the first round of the election on Sunday between Le Pen, 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron, conservative Francois Fillon and far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Two of them are expected to advance to a run-off vote on May 7.

— AFP

Turkey’s Erdogan to meet Trump in May, minister says

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Donald Trump in May, the Turkish foreign minister says, after the US president congratulated the Turkish leader for winning a referendum on enhancing his powers.

“We will determine a date for the two presidents to meet in May before the NATO summit as previously confirmed by the leaders,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tells reporters in Ankara.

The NATO summit is scheduled to be held in late May in Brussels and Trump is due to attend. Cavusoglu does not specify if the meeting will take place on the sidelines of the summit or at another venue.

After Erdogan’s narrow win in Sunday’s referendum on creating an executive presidency, Trump congratulated the Turkish leader in a phone call, in contrast to the muted reaction of European leaders to the result, which has been challenged by the opposition.

Cavusoglu says that during their call the two leaders had expressed a common desire to meet in Washington “to improve bilateral relations.”

— AFP

Syria destroys rebel tunnels after evacuation

BEIRUT – Syrian state TV says the military is destroying a tunnel network that linked rebel-controlled towns which are being evacuated as part of a population transfer.

Government media says the area between Madaya and Zabadani comes under military control after gunmen and opposition activists were evacuated.

The evacuations from the two towns, and the northern pro-government villages of Foua and Kfarya, resume after being delayed by a bombing that killed more than 120 pro-government evacuees on Saturday.

Al-Ikhbariyah TV says medical aid and bread are being distributed to the residents of Madaya and nearby Baqeen. Images of starved children in besieged Madaya in late 2015 caused an international uproar but the government-imposed siege continued.

Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people move across battle lines over 60 days, rewards siege tactics and amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines.

— AP

US woman released from Egypt prison after 3 years’ detention

CAIRO — The lawyer of Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi says she has been released from prison after nearly three years of detention.

Taher Abol Nasr tells The Associated Press she was released late Tuesday, two days after a court acquitted her of charges of child abuse that were widely dismissed as bogus by human rights groups and US officials.

Hijazi and her husband had established a foundation to aid street children, but were arrested along with six others in 2014. It is not immediately clear whether her co-defendants are also released.

US President Donald Trump did not publicly mention the case when he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi earlier this month, but a senior White House official had said ahead of the meeting that it would be addressed.

— AP

Evacuations of besieged Syrian towns resume after deadly bombing

RACHIDINE, Syria – The evacuation of four besieged Syrian towns resumes, with tight security in place for those leaving government-held areas after a weekend bombing against evacuees killed dozens including nearly 70 children.

A large convoy of buses sets out from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Syria’s Idlib province, carrying 3,000 people to the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin near Aleppo city, an AFP correspondent at the point says.

At the same time, 11 buses carrying around 300 people leave rebel-held Zabadani, Serghaya and Jabal Sharqi in Damascus province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.

In Rashidin, security is tight after a devastating bomb attack on evacuees at the site on Saturday that according to the Observatory killed 126 people, including 68 children.

— AFP

Madrid deputy mayor hosts event in solidarity with Palestinian terrorists

A deputy mayor of Madrid hosts an event honoring Palestinian terrorists from Hamas and other groups who are imprisoned in Israel.

The event, titled “International Day of Palestinian Prisoners,” is hosted Monday at the main municipal space of the district of Retiro in the southeastern part of the center of the Spanish capital and draws harsh condemnations from representatives of the city’s Jewish community, the Libertad daily reports Tuesday.

A poster advertising the event lists Deputy Mayor Mauricio Valiente of the Izquerda Unida far-left party first among four speakers, introducing him by his municipal title and as an expert on human rights.

Another speaker, introduced as a “television journalist and Palestinian former political prisoner,” is Mus’ab Muhammad Nimr Bashir, a 36-year-old Gaza native who has admitted to using his position in 2007 with Doctors Without Borders to plan to assassinate an Israeli official together with other terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Another speaker, Ana Sanchez De Mera, is introduced as an activist for “the boycott on Israel.”

In a statement, the Jewish Community of Madrid writes that it “views with alarm and consternation” the use of public resources in support of “prisoners, many of whom are imprisoned and convicted in a viable and consolidated democracy of bloody acts of terrorism.”

— JTA

Turkey’s premier warns opposition against street protests

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s opposition parties have the right to file objections to the outcome of a recent referendum on expanding presidential powers, the prime minister says Wednesday, but he warns that calling for street protests is unacceptable.

Binali Yildirim says the electoral board would rule on the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s request for the referendum’s annulment. Opposition parties complain of a series of irregularities, particularly an electoral board decision to accept ballots without official stamps, as required by Turkish law.

Yildirim says the “the path to seek rights” should be limited to legal objections.

“Calling people to the street is wrong and is outside the line of legitimacy,” Yildirim says, adding that “we expect the main opposition party’s leader to act more responsibly.”

Thousands have protested in Istanbul and Ankara since Sunday’s referendum, which has set into motion the transformation of Turkey’s system of government from a parliamentary to a presidential one.

Unofficial results show a narrow win for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “yes” campaign, which won 51.4 percent of the vote.

— AP

Woman breaks into Jewish rapper Drake’s home, raids fridge

LOS ANGELES — Authorities say an intruder was arrested at Jewish rapper Drake’s southern California house, but the woman apparently did nothing but drink the rapper’s water and soda.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says deputies from its Malibu/Lost Hills Station arrested 24-year-old Mesha Collins Monday inside the home of Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Graham.

Deputies called to the house find Collins inside a locked room surrounded by opened water and soda bottles from the house. There is no evidence she took anything else or did any damage.

She is arrested for entering a residence with intent to steal the victim’s property. She is being held on $100,000 bail and has a court date Wednesday.

Drake performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, via JTA)
Drake performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, via JTA)

— AP

3 men caught digging for antiquities near Roman-era site

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s theft prevention unit and Israel Police bust a group of suspected antiquities thieves digging in the forest near Beit Keshet, east of Nazareth in the Lower Galilee.

The three men, residents of the adjacent village of Daburiya, were digging in a nearby cave next to an archaeological site. The IAA says that the likelihood of them finding valuable antiquities was low, but the damage inflicted to the archaeological site is significant.

The head of the IAA’s theft prevention unit, Amir Ganor, says the group was the 12th busted since the beginning of the year. Last year, the unit arrested 41 separate groups of alleged antiquities thieves caught in the act, he says.

The archaeological site of Daburiya has yielded remains of a Roman- and Byzantine-era town, as well as artifacts dating to the Iron Age and Hellenistic period.

— Ilan Ben Zion

Police look to question welfare minister in IAA probe

Police investigators ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit today to approve a questioning under caution of Welfare Minister Haim Katz.

Katz is under investigation over alleged corruption at Israel Aerospace Industries, where he served as a longtime union leader.

Etan Patz murderer sentenced to 25 years to life in prison

A former grocery store clerk convicted of the 1979 kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Pedro Hernandez, 56, of New Jersey, is sentenced Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Hernandez, who was found guilty in February after two trials, is given the maximum allowable sentence. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

He did not look at Etan’s parents, Stan and Julie Patz, who were in the courtroom as he received his sentence, the Associated Press reports. Hernandez did not speak to the court.

Etan Patz (Screenshot from YouTube via JTA)
Etan Patz (Screenshot from YouTube via JTA)

Etan, who was Jewish, was one of the first missing children to be featured on the side of milk cartons. He disappeared in May 1979 while walking to his school bus stop two blocks from his home in the downtown SoHo section of New York for the first time by himself. Hernandez, then 18, worked nearby at a grocery store.

Hernandez was arrested based on a tip from a brother-in-law. He confessed in 2012 to having strangled Etan in the basement of the grocery store after luring him there with a soda, then putting the boy’s body in a box, which he left in an alley.

Hernandez’s defense attorneys said at the trial that Hernandez is mentally ill and the confessions were coerced. He also reportedly has a very low IQ.

— JTA

In Easter visit, Rivlin vows Israel will protect Christians’ rights, holy sites

President Reuven Rivlin today visits the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem’s Old City to meet with Christian leaders from a host of denominations to mark the holiday of Easter.

Among the leaders are Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III.

Rivlin recalls last week’s Palm Sunday terror attacks targeting Egyptian Coptic communities that killed 45.

“while we celebrate these new beginnings and festivals of freedom [Passover and Easter], we are forced to face the return of a very old evil,” he says, expressing his sadness at “the news of the innocent blood spilled; the men, women and children whose lives were destroyed in the brutal terror attacks against the Egyptian Christian community.”

He adds: “I say to you here, our Christian brothers of Jerusalem, our thoughts are with you at this difficult time. We have all seen the pictures from Syria; I visited some of the injured being treated in Israeli hospitals. What has happened there to the Christian community — and to the whole country — is a stain on all humanity.”

And he vows that “Israel will stand firm to protect your freedom of worship, your security, and the security of your holy sites.”

President Reuven Rivlin visits with Christian leaders in Jerusalem to mark the Easter holiday, April 19, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin visits with Christian leaders in Jerusalem to mark the Easter holiday, April 19, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

New tests indicate sarin used in Syria attack

Britain’s delegation to the chemical weapons watchdog says its director has told a meeting that tests indicate that sarin or a similar toxin was used in an April 4 attack in Syria that killed nearly 90 people.

In a tweet Wednesday, the UK delegation said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, made the statement at the opening of a closed-door meeting of the OPCW’s executive council, which was discussing the attack.

Turkish and British tests also have concluded that sarin or a substance similar to the deadly nerve agent was used.

The United States blamed the chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on the government and fired nearly 60 missiles at a Syrian air base in response.

Syria’s government denies the allegations.

— AP

One wounded in suspected ramming attack in Etzion Bloc

One person is reported wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack at the Etzion Bloc Junction in the West Bank, according to the United Hatzalah emergency response organization.

The assailant is said to be subdued.

There is no immediate report on the victim’s condition.

— Judah Ari Gross

Etzion Bloc suspected ramming victim said lightly hurt

According to the Magen David Adom rescue service, the victim in the Etzion Bloc suspected ramming attack from moments ago is approximately 60 years old. He is being taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center with a light head wound.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF confirms car-ramming attack, says soldiers shot the assailant

The IDF confirms the incident that left one person lightly wounded at the Etzion Bloc Junction south of Jerusalem was a car-ramming attack.

Soldiers who were on the scene shot the driver of the vehicle, neutralizing the threat.

The army does not give the alleged assailant’s condition, but says he was not killed.

— Judah Ari Gross

Russian agents kill 2 men suspected of plotting attacks

MOSCOW — The Russian counterintelligence agency, the FSB, says Wednesday its agents have killed two men suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Russia.

The FSB says the suspects, both from Central Asia, were killed in a shootout when they resisted arrest in a home in the Vladimir region east of Moscow. They were in contact with recruiters from international terror organizations, had shown an interest in making bombs and expressed a readiness to carry out attacks in Russia, it says in a statement.

The agency has appeared eager to demonstrate its ability to prevent attacks following this month’s suicide bombing on the St. Petersburg subway that killed 14 passengers. The bomber was from Kyrgyzstan, one of the impoverished, predominantly Muslim former Soviet republics in Central Asia that are seen as fertile ground for Islamic extremists.

The FSB doesn’t identify the suspects killed, saying only that they were citizens of one of the Central Asian countries. An FSB video broadcast on state television shows the bodies of the two men, one with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle lying next to him. The video also shows a collection of what are described as components for making explosives.

— AP

Turkey detains leftist activists after ‘No’ protests – lawyer

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Istanbul police on Wednesday detain 16 leftist activists involved in demonstrations against the “Yes” victory in the referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, a laywer says.

There have been daily street protests in anti-Erdogan neighborhoods in Istanbul since Sunday’s referendum, which the opposition claims was marred by blatant vote rigging.

The Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP), a left-wing movement not represented in parliament, says police detained its Istanbul chairman Mesut Gecgel on accusations of “agitating the public” by claiming the “Yes” vote was illegitimate.

Gecgel had himself written on Twitter that he was being detained for protesting against the “Yes” victory.

Gecgel’s lawyer Deniz Demirdogen tells AFP that anti-terror police raided houses of the suspects before dawn, saying 16 people are detained so far but arrest warrants are issued for a total of 38 people.

Describing the accusations as “strange,” he adds: “They are accused of provoking people to question the legitimacy of the ‘Yes’ in the referendum. But there’s no such crime definition in the penal code.”

— AFP

Itamar Ohana, who drowned last week in Sea of Galilee, laid to rest

Hundreds of people attend the funeral of Itamar Ohana, 19, the last of three youths whose bodies were found this week after they were swept underwater and drowned in the Sea of Galilee over the Passover holiday last week.

Ohana is buried in his hometown, the northern city of Kiryat Shmona. His body was found Tuesday night.

Itamar Ohana, who drowned in the Sea of Galilee, April 2017. (Facebook)
Itamar Ohana, who drowned in the Sea of Galilee, April 2017. (Facebook)

The funeral comes a day after the funerals of the other two youths, Nachman Itah and Liron Karadi.

Police search for three youths who went missing on the Sea of Galilee on April 13, 2017. (Police spokesperson)
Police search for three youths who went missing on the Sea of Galilee on April 13, 2017. (Police spokesperson)

Etzion Bloc assailant in critical condition – hospital

A spokesperson for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem says the Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a car-ramming attack at the Etzion Bloc Junction a short time ago has arrived at the hospital in critical condition.

One Israeli was wounded in the attack, which was stopped when soldiers at the site opened fire on the suspect.

— Judah Ari Gross

Boris Epshteyn, former Trump press surrogate, takes job as TV political analyst

Boris Epshteyn, who recently left his post as a special assistant to the president in the White House press office, takes a job as chief political analyst for the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Sinclair, among the largest operators of television stations in the country, announces that Epshteyn will provide analysis and insight on major political stories.

Epshteyn formerly managed the surrogate operation of the White House and Trump administration, and also appeared as an on-air spokesman for the president. Prior to joining the White House, Epshteyn served as communications director for the Inaugural Committee. He also was a surrogate and senior adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, where he managed messaging.

Boris Epshteyn in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, Nov. 11, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)
Boris Epshteyn in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, Nov. 11, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)

A former Republican political strategist, Epshteyn is an old friend of US President Donald Trump’s son Eric dating back to their time at Georgetown University, from where he received his bachelor’s and law degrees. Epshteyn immigrated to the United States from his native Moscow in 1993 at 11.

— JTA

UK lawmakers overwhelmingly back June election

LONDON — British lawmakers vote by a resounding 522 to 13 to back UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for a national election on June 8.

The result easily surpasses the two-thirds majority of the total number of 650 lawmakers needed to trigger an early vote. There are also a number of abstentions.

May says holding an election in June, rather than as scheduled in 2020, will give the country “certainty and stability” as it negotiates its departure from the European Union.

May is hoping to gain a bigger majority in Parliament for her Conservatives, strengthening her negotiating hand with the EU.

The opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats say they welcome the chance to put their policies to voters, though the Scottish National Party says the election call is a cynical ploy.

— AP

Palestinian assailant in Etzion Bloc attack dies in hospital

The Palestinian assailant who carried out the suspected car-ramming terror attack at the Gush Etzion Junction a short time ago dies of his wounds at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, the IDF says.

— Judah Ari Gross

High Court permits Tel Aviv convenience stores to open on Sabbath

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rules that the Tel Aviv Municipality is permitted to allow convenience stores to operate on the Sabbath.

Israeli law forbids businesses from operating during the Jewish day of rest, with exceptions including places of entertainment, restaurants and basic services such as pharmacies.

Tel Aviv, home to a mostly secular and mostly left-leaning population, has sought to widen the scope of businesses permitted to be open on the Sabbath, while ultra-Orthodox political factions have sought to add restrictions and improve enforcement of Sabbath laws.

The issue of Tel Aviv’s convenience stores has pitted secular and religious politicians against each other, ultimately reaching the High Court after two interior ministers, Shas’s Aryeh Deri and Likud’s Gideon Saar, refused to rule on the matter.

Needy Holocaust survivors lose benefits to convoluted bureaucracy — report

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira issues a report Wednesday harshly criticizing the government’s handling of care for Israel’s dwindling population of Holocaust survivors.

The report focuses in part on the labyrinthine bureaucracy tasked with caring for survivors, who are eligible for a wide assortment of financial and other benefits from many different government agencies. Many survivors struggle to navigate the bureaucracy, and in the end fail to apply for benefits. Similarly, large funds slated for survivors go unspent in the ministries of welfare, housing and social equality, the report finds.

“NGOs and organizations, joined by many volunteers from all parts of the country, work to fill the gaps for needy survivors,” the report notes. But these laudable efforts cannot fully compensate for the lack of a central governmental address through which survivors can receive their benefits, or which can coordinate policy and needs-assessment in a systematic way, the report concludes.

Largest Mideast airline cuts US flights after Trump administration curbs

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest airline, says on Wednesday it is cutting flights to the United States because of a drop in demand caused by heightened US security measures and Trump administration attempts to ban travelers from Muslim-majority nations.

The decision by the Dubai government-owned carrier is the strongest sign yet that tougher measures imposed on US-bound travelers from the Mideast are taking a financial toll on fast-growing Gulf carriers that have expanded rapidly in the United States in recent years.

Emirates’ hub at Dubai International Airport, the world’s third busiest, is a major transit point for travelers who were affected by US President Donald Trump’s executive orders temporarily halting entry to citizens of six countries.

The latest travel ban suspended new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and froze the nation’s refugee program. Like an earlier ban that also included Iraqi citizens, it has been blocked from taking effect by the courts.

Emirates says the reductions will affect five of its 12 US destinations, starting next month. It calls the move “a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand” in the three months since Trump took office.

“The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the US,” the carrier says.

— AP

Tel Aviv mayor welcomes High Court’s Sabbath ruling

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai welcomes the High Court of Justice ruling that permits convenience stores to remain open in the city on the Sabbath.

The decision is drawing angry responses from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, but Huldai praises the saying, saying, “As I’ve said in the past, Tel Aviv is a free city, and will remain a free city.”

The High Court ruling upholds the 2014 ordinance passed by the Tel Aviv City Council allowing convenience stores to remain open despite restrictions in law on businesses operating on the Sabbath.

Gazan cancer patient caught smuggling explosives into Israel: Shin Bet

The Shin Bet security service says Wednesday it foiled an attempt to smuggle explosives into Israel from the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing.

According to the agency, the explosive material was hidden inside tubes containing cancer medication.

The explosives were “sent by Hamas and it is believed that they were meant to be used to carry out attacks in Israel in the near future,” the Shin Bet says.

The explosives were in the possession of two women, sisters, who live in the Gaza Strip.

They received permits to enter Israel as one of the two sisters suffers from cancer and was traveling to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

The Shin Bet says the attempted smuggling was an attempt “to take advantage of the humanitarian aid and medical assistance that Israel gives residents of the Strip in order to conduct terror attacks in Israel.”

The explosives are found during a security check and are disposed of by police sappers, the Shin Bet says.

The two women are held for questioning by the Shin Bet.

— Judah Ari Gross

70-year-old woman killed in bus accident in Netanya

A woman, 70, is killed in Netanya when a bus hits her on Janusz Korczak Street.

Rescuers who arrive at the scene of the accident declare her dead on site.

Chile’s Palestinian Federation threatens country’s Jewish leaders

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Palestinian Federation of Chile threatens the country’s Jewish umbrella organization over its support of Israel’s decision to bar a Chilean boycott activist from entering the Jewish state.

“We warn the Jewish leadership not to play with fire,” reads a statement issued Monday in Spanish by the Palestinian federation regarding its executive director, Anuar Majluf, a prominent anti-Israel activist who was refused entry by the Israeli government on April 10.

“Such claims are absolutely false. Majluf has only exercised his right to legitimate political criticism of Israel and BDS, which he supports, is an essentially peaceful movement, framed in political activity,” adds the statement, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Chile’s Jewish community released a statement last week defending Israel’s ban on Majluf after the Chilean Foreign Ministry condemned the move.

“Any sovereign state, and Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East, has every right to admit or not a person who is fomenting the destruction of the state through boycott, divestment and sanctions such as what this gentlemen has been able to do,” Shai Agosin, president of the Chilean Jewish Community, declared in an interview with the Bio Bio radio station.

Chile is home to some 15,000 Jews. The country is also believed to host the largest Palestinian community outside of the Arab world, with more than 300,000 members.

— JTA

US weighs giving Saudis more military aid for Yemen efforts

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US officials say Washington is looking for ways to boost military support to a Saudi-led campaign against Shiite rebel forces in Yemen.

The goal is to help the Saudis put enough pressure on the Iran-backed rebels known as the Houthis to compel them to enter peace negotiations. The Saudis are partnered in their Yemen campaign with another key US Mideast ally, the United Arab Emirates.

The officials say any additional US military support wouldn’t include American troops on the ground in Yemen. The US already provides aerial refueling and intelligence to the Saudis.

The Trump administration is keen to stop what it sees as an Iranian ploy to increase its influence in Yemen.

— AP

Trump to host PA president Abbas on May 3: White House

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will host Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House May 3 for talks on efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the White House says Wednesday.

“They will use the visit to reaffirm the commitment of both the United States and Palestinian leadership to pursuing and ultimately concluding a conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer says.

— AFP

Police seek to question Jewish Home MK in sexual harassment case

Police investigators ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Wednesday for permission to cross-examine under caution a lawmaker accused of sexual harassment.

MK Nissan Slomianski, of the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, denied the allegations leveled against him after they surfaced during testimony given by several women before a rabbinic committee.

Investigators say several women have given testimony against Slomianski, and a full investigation would be the next step in an ordinary case. But police need special dispensation to investigate a sitting MK.

‘Incontrovertible’ results sarin gas used in Syria: watchdog

THE HAGUE, Netherlands –The head of a global arms watchdog says Wednesday that “incontrovertible” test results from an alleged chemical strike in Syria shows sarin gas or a similar substance had been used.

Samples from 10 victims of the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun analyzed at four laboratories “indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance … the analytical results already obtained are incontrovertible,” says Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

— AFP

IDF sees rise in number of terror attacks by Israeli Arabs

The IDF is worried about the rise in the number of Israeli Arabs who are involved in terror attacks against Israelis, Israel Radio reports.

A senior IDF officer tells reporters on Wednesday that seven Israelis have been killed by terrorists since the start of the year — six of them in attacks by Israeli citizens.

Fake Bernard Henri-Levy quote on French elections triggers anti-Semitic avalanche

A satirical article suggesting that the French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy plans to emigrate if a far-left politician is elected president triggers a slew of anti-Semitic comments on Twitter.

In the fake interview published last week on the satirical website NordPresse, Levy, one of the country’s best-known celebrities, is quoted as saying, “If Melenchon is elected, I’m leaving France.”

Jean-Luc Melenchon, who is the presidential candidate of the French Communist Party and several other far-left groups, has made considerable gains in polls ahead of the first round of the presidential elections on April 23.

Using the hashtag #BHL — the Jewish philosopher’s initials — hundreds of Melenchon supporters circulate the fake interview on Twitter, adding anti-Semitic comments about it.

“Shove off to Israel or the States, you son of a bitch,” one Twitter user writes in an apparent reference to the fact that Levy, who is a citizen neither of Israel nor of the United States, is Jewish. Another writes, “If Melenchon wins BHL knows where he can return.” The latter adds a banner advertising Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to tourists.

The L’Expresse daily accuses the satirical website of encouraging anti-Semitic discourse by inventing a quote by Levy.

— JTA

Israel believes Syria still possesses up to 3 tons of chemical weapons

A senior Israeli defense official says IDF intelligence believes the Assad regime in Syria still possesses as much as three tons of chemical weapons.

The official also tells reporters the April 4 chemical attack that killed over 80 civilians in Idlib province was ordered by senior Syrian military commanders, and that it was difficult to believe Bashar Assad himself did not know of the attack beforehand.

— AP and Times of Israel staff

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Live updates (closed) Latest: Israel believes Syria still possesses up to 3 tons of chemical weapons

3 men caught digging for antiquities near Roman-era site

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s theft prevention unit and Israel Police bust a group of suspected antiquities thieves digging in the forest near Beit Keshet, east of Nazareth in the Lower Galilee.

The three men, residents of the adjacent village of Daburiya, were digging in a nearby cave next to an archaeological site. The IAA says that the likelihood of them finding valuable antiquities was low, but the damage inflicted to the archaeological site is significant.

The head of the IAA’s theft prevention unit, Amir Ganor, says the group was the 12th busted since the beginning of the year. Last year, the unit arrested 41 separate groups of alleged antiquities thieves caught in the act, he says.

The archaeological site of Daburiya has yielded remains of a Roman- and Byzantine-era town, as well as artifacts dating to the Iron Age and Hellenistic period.

— Ilan Ben Zion