Azerbaijan reveals arms purchases from Israel reach nearly $5b
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  • Candidate for the socialist party presidential primary election Vincent Peillon answers questions after visiting an emergency shelter, on December 12, 2016 in Paris, as part of his campaign. (AFP PHOTO / Eric FEFERBERG)
    Candidate for the socialist party presidential primary election Vincent Peillon answers questions after visiting an emergency shelter, on December 12, 2016 in Paris, as part of his campaign. (AFP PHOTO / Eric FEFERBERG)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara (L) pose for a photo with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva (R) at Baku’s Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara (L) pose for a photo with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva (R) at Baku’s Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev at Baku’s Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev at Baku’s Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
  • The knife police said female resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina had in her position during a suspected car-ramming attack at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank. (Police spokesperson)
    The knife police said female resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina had in her position during a suspected car-ramming attack at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank. (Police spokesperson)
  • Illustrative photo of a man dressed as Santa Claus with a Christmas tree, outside of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
    Illustrative photo of a man dressed as Santa Claus with a Christmas tree, outside of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
  • Syrian residents fleeing the violence gather at a checkpoint, manned by pro-government forces, in the Maysaloun neighborhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo on December 8, 2016.
(AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHAN)
    Syrian residents fleeing the violence gather at a checkpoint, manned by pro-government forces, in the Maysaloun neighborhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo on December 8, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHAN)

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

Car-ramming at Qalandiya checkpoint, no injuries

Police say a Palestinian woman tried to carry out a car-ramming attack at the flashpoint Qalandiya crossing near Ramallah in the West Bank.

Police say she approached the crossing at high speed in her vehicle and troops forced her to stop. She then got out of her vehicle with a knife.

Guards at the checkpoint subdued and arrested her, police say.

There are no injuries.

— Judah Ari Gross

Bad-boy MK Oren Hazan facing assault charges

The state attorney’s office says it will give controversial Likud MK Oren Hazan a hearing before deciding whether to press charges in an assault case.

“Before deciding to press charges, the suspect has been summoned for a hearing,” says a statement from the courts.

Hazan is suspected of assaulting a senior official in the municipality of the West Bank settlement of Ariel some two years ago in an apparent dispute over a debt.

After the city froze his bank account, Hazan arrived at the office and cursed and pushed the municipal director, the courts say.

Hazan, who entered the Knesset in the last election, has become known as the enfant terrible of Israel’s parliament.

Likud MK Oren Hazan seen at the Magistrate's Court in Tel Aviv on March 6, 2016, for a hearing for a libel lawsuit Hazan filed against Channel 2 News reporter Amit Segal. (Flash90)

Likud MK Oren Hazan seen at the Magistrate’s Court in Tel Aviv on March 6, 2016, for a hearing for a libel lawsuit Hazan filed against Channel 2 News reporter Amit Segal. (Flash90)

Last week he had his driver’s license suspended for traveling at a speed of over 140 kilometers per hour (over 87 mph) on Route 90, where the limit is 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph).

Shortly after he entered politics, a Channel 2 expose alleged that Hazan had previously run a casino in Bulgaria where hard drugs and prostitution were allowed. He sued the station’s journalist Amit Segal for libel but the court rejected the lawsuit.

Israel snubs Swedish foreign minister

No Israeli officials will meet Sweden’s foreign minister during her trip to the region, a spokesman says today, after she called for a probe into the killings of Palestinian assailants.

Erik Wirkensjo, spokesman for Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, told AFP she had wanted to meet both Israeli and Palestinian officials during her visit to the region from Thursday to Saturday.

“This time it was not possible to visit Israel,” Wirkensjo says.

Asked why there were no meetings planned, he says such questions must be “asked to the Israelis.”

Swedish Foreign minister Margot Wallstrom talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on January 18, 2016. (AFP / JOHN THYS)

Swedish Foreign minister Margot Wallstrom talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on January 18, 2016. (AFP / JOHN THYS)

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon blames “schedule problems” and declines to provide further details.

In January, Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely said Wallstrom would no longer be welcome in the country after she called for investigations into the killings of Palestinian assailants by Israeli forces.

Wallstrom had earlier said Israel must avoid “extrajudicial executions”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Wallstrom’s call as “outrageous.”

— AFP

Israeli Air Force takes F-35 out for a first spin

The Israeli Air Force took one of its new F-35 fighter jets for its first Israeli flight today, the IDF says.

With the maiden flight, Lt. Col. Yotam, commander of the F-35’s “Golden Eagle” squadron, becomes the first Israeli pilot to try out the fifth generation stealth fighter. For security reasons, Yotam’s last name cannot be published.

There is no word on how it handled.

Earlier, a specially trained maintenance team had checked the new F-35 fighter jets’ systems, before it was handed off to the “Golden Eagle” pilots.

An F-35 fighter jet, after landing in the Nevatim Air Force Base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

An F-35 fighter jet, after landing in the Nevatim Air Force Base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

On Monday night, the first two F-35 fighter jets touched down in Israel. They are the first out of 50 that Israel has decided to purchase from Lockheed-Martin.

They were flown from the factory in Fort Worth, Texas, to the Nevatim air base in the Negev desert by American pilots.

Judah Ari Gross

MK Oren warns against banning pluralistic prayer at Western Wall

Deputy Minister for Diplomatic Relations Michael Oren says he will oppose a Shas party proposal that would make it illegal to hold pluralistic prayer services at the Western Wall plaza, warning it could “cause an irreparable rift in the Jewish world.”

Responding to the bill presented on Sunday, Oren tells The Times of Israel that the proposal will be a “tremendous blow to our credibility and our security.”

“This legislation would not only cause an irreparable rift in the Jewish world but could possibly have far reaching ramifications for our strategic relationship with the United States,” the Kulanu MK says, adding that he will vote against it in the Knesset.

“The majority of American Jews identify with the Reform and Conservative movement and their support is vital for the US-Israel alliance,” he says.

Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, November 2, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, November 2, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The proposed law would impose penalties of six months’ imprisonment or a fine of NIS 10,000 ($2,600) on those who hold mixed-gender services or women’s Torah readings, and women who don a prayer shawl or phylacteries.

Should it pass into law, it would effectively end the negotiated agreement passed by the cabinet almost a year ago that approved the construction of an egalitarian prayer plaza alongside the Orthodox-controlled one at the holy site.

— Raoul Wootliff

Car-ramming suspect identified as Jerusalem resident

Police say the woman who tried to carry out a car-ramming attack at the Qalandiya checkpoint is a 31-year old resident of Jerusalem.

She was arrested earlier today after guards at the West Bank crossing forced her speeding car to halt. She got out brandishing a knife, but was subdued by guards

— Judah Ari Gross

 

Azerbaijan reveals arms purchases from Israel reach nearly $5b

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Azerbaijan’s president today hailed his country’s military cooperation with Israel, revealing that it is buying Israeli defense system to the tune of nearly $5 billion.

“We actively cooperate in the area of defense industries. This cooperation lasts already for many years,” President Ilham Aliyev says at a joint appearance before the press with visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“To give you one figure to illustrate how broad this cooperation is, so far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to $5 billion. To be more precise, $4.85 billlion.”

Most of these contracts have already been executed but there is more to be done, he adds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (R) during a visit to Baku on December 13, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (R) during a visit to Baku on December 13, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO)

“We’re very satisfied with the level of this cooperation,” he says, addressing Israeli and Azerbaijani reporters at Baku’s Zagulba Palace.

Two Israeli officials say they are surprised that the Azerbaijani chose to reveal exact figures regarding his country’s defense deals with Israel

Azerbaijan, which has a long border with Iran, is a secular state that has long-had warm relations with Israel.

Nearly 98 percent of its 10 million inhabitants are Muslim, the vast majority of them Shiites. Baku is one of Israel’s main trading partners, buying Israelis weapons systems and providing the Jewish state with a lion share of its oil. Israeli trade with Azerbaijan is said to be significantly higher than trade with France.

Baku is reportedly interested in acquiring Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, a deal that is likely to be discussed during this week’s visit.

Raphael Ahren

UNICEF says dozens of children trapped in Aleppo

The UN’s children’s agency is warning that dozens of unaccompanied children are trapped in a building under fire in eastern Aleppo and is calling for their immediate evacuation from the rebel enclave.

UNICEF says in a statement that there could be more than 100 children trapped in the building.

UNICEF regional director, Geert Cappelaere, says it’s “time for the world to stand up for the children of Aleppo and bring their living nightmare to an end.”

Pro-government forces have launched a ferocious assault on Aleppo’s few remaining opposition-held neighborhoods, trapping thousands of civilians under unrelenting heavy fire. There are unconfirmed reports that government forces are killing civilians.

Cappelaere says that UNICEF is “deeply concerned” over the unverified reports of the “extrajudicial killings of civilians, including children.”

— AP

A general view shows destroyed buildings in Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed district, on December 12, 2016, after Syrian pro-government forces retook the area from rebel fighters. (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)

A general view shows destroyed buildings in Aleppo’s Sheikh Saeed district, on December 12, 2016, after Syrian pro-government forces retook the area from rebel fighters. (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)

Netanyahu says Israel-Azerbaijan ties an example of coexistence

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s close ties with Azerbaijan are not only about the arms, but also about the respect.

“There is one other, special aspect of the relations between us,” Netanyahu says during his visit to Baku.

“Israel is the Jewish state and Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a large Muslim majority. Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us,” he says.

His comments come after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reveals that his country has purchased nearly $5 billion in Israeli arms.

Netanyahu also stresses growing cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, agriculture, IT and education.

Raphael Ahren

Putin has ‘good, businesslike’ relations with Tillerson — Kremlin

The Kremlin today lauded the “good” ties between President Vladimir Putin and US President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson.

“Russian representatives, and not just the president, have good, businesslike relations with Tillerson. He is a very solid figure,” Putin’s top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov tells journalists, adding that Tillerson was “very professional in his field.”

AFP

Jerusalem city hall to hand out free Christmas trees

The Jerusalem city hall says it will continue its annual tradition and hand out free Christmas trees to Christian residents.

It’s first-come-first-served, and with only 150 trees available, it’s best to get down to Jaffa Gate early on December 20.

Prospective tree owners will need to present their ID cards, showing they are Jerusalem residents, the city says.

Illustrative photo of a man dressed as Santa Claus with a Christmas tree, outside of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of a man dressed as Santa Claus with a Christmas tree, outside of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Vincent Peillon announces his candidacy to succeed French president

Vincent Peillon, a former education minister of France, announces his candidacy to lead France’s Socialist Party, where he is already receiving key endorsements from the party’s left wing.

Peillon, a lawmaker in the European Parliament whose mother is Jewish, announced his candidacy Sunday to succeed President Francois Hollande and run as their party’s presidential candidate in the election in April. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo pledged her support for Peillon Monday, according to the French daily Le Figaro.

In the Socialist primaries in January, Peillon will face off against Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Peillon’s mother, Françoise Blum, was a chief researcher for the French national institute for health and medical research. His father, Gilles Peillon, was a communist and a banker, according to Le Journal de Dimanche. Peillon was appointed education minister in 2012 and served in that position for two years.

Peillon, who rarely talks about his Jewish roots publicly, signed a petition by the left-wing Jcall group, which is the European counterpart of J Street. In 2009 he celebrated the bar mitzvah of his son Elie at a Paris synagogue, according to Jacques Benillouche, a columnist for Slater and Tribune Juive. His other son is named Isaac. Peillon is married to Nathalie Bensahel, a journalist who has written about France’s anti-Semitism problem.

JTA

Iran to develop nuclear-powered ships

Iran’s president says Tehran will respond to US sanctions by developing nuclear-powered ships.

“The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is ordered to develop the country’s peaceful nuclear program … to plan for designing and building propulsion systems to be used in marine transportation,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani ordered, according to Iran’s official Fars news agency.

The US uses nuclear reactors to power its aircraft carriers and submarines.

Rouhani said the move was a response to the US Senate voting to extend the Iran Sanctions Act by 10 years earlier this month.

The president of the Islamic republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, addresses the 71st UN general assembly debate at the UN headquarters in New York City, on September 22, 2016. (Amir Levy/FLASH90)

The president of the Islamic republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, addresses the 71st UN general assembly debate at the UN headquarters in New York City, on September 22, 2016. (Amir Levy/FLASH90)

The nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers lifted a variety of international sanctions in exchange for limitations on the Iranian nuclear program. However, the US still maintains its own separate set of sanctions, which will expire on December 31 if President Barack Obama does not sign the extension into law.

State attorney will not represent PM over submarine affair

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have a private lawyer represent him in front the High Court of Justice in an appeal over the submarine affair, Israel Radio reports.

The state’s attorney announce that they will not represent him, but note that this is not an exceptional decision and there have been similar instances in the past, the report says.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel is petitioning the court to have the attorney general explain why he has not ordered a criminal investigation in the submarine affair in which Netanyahu’s personal lawyer allegedly swayed multi-billion shekel deals in favor of the German shipbuilder he was representing.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has so far only ordered a preliminary probe, which is not yet a full-blown investigation, into the issue amid allegations that Netanyahu and attorney David Shimron may have acted with a conflict of interest in the affair.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with members of the Israeli Navy at a ceremony welcoming the INS Tanin submarine in the Port of Haifa on September 23, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Government Press Office )

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with members of the Israeli Navy at a ceremony welcoming the INS Tanin submarine in the Port of Haifa on September 23, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Government Press Office )

Carter says 3 key Islamic State militants killed in Syria

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the US has killed three key leaders of the Islamic State group in Syria.

Among the dead were two militants believed to be tied to the November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Carter announced the killings during an address today to US airmen at a military base in Italy.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visits sailors aboard the USS Monterey in port in Manama, Bahrain, December 10, 2016. (DOD/US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visits sailors aboard the USS Monterey in port in Manama, Bahrain, December 10, 2016. (DOD/US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Carter’s spokesman, Peter Cook, said later that the three were killed in an airstrike December 4 in Raqqa.

Cook says the two involved in the Paris attacks, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, were close associates of Islamic State external operations leader Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who was killed in August.

He says the third person, Walid Hamman, had been convicted in absentia in Belgium for a disrupted 2015 planned attack.

AP

Rescuers missed man who died in flooded car

Medics say that a 74-year old man who died this morning in Haifa after the car he was driving became stuck in a flooded underpass, was apparently missed by rescuers who saved another person stranded nearby.

The Magen David Adom rescue service says the man was apparently in the car for several hours before anyone reached him. He died of hypothermia.

But several hours earlier a woman was rescued by fire and rescue services just several meters away, and responders did not see the man who had apparently climbed into the back seat.

Ynet says police and fire services are trading blame for missing the man and failing to call in a diver to check the mostly submerged vehicle.

Palestinians don’t want Trump involved in peace process — poll

A new poll published today indicates that most Palestinians don’t want US President-elect Donald Trump to play a role in future rounds of peace talks with Israel.

A slim majority of the respondents (53 percent) say they want him to stay out, while 30 percent said they want him to play a strong role in that process. Some 10 percent want him in the same role the current administration plays.

However, 65 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank no longer believe a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel is possible.

According to the survey, carried out by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, the Palestinian loss of faith in the two-state solution is nine points higher than it was three months ago.

— Dov Lieber

Kerry congratulates Tillerson

US Secretary of State John Kerry is congratulating his successor Rex Tillerson.

“I congratulate Rex Tillerson on his nomination as Secretary of State,” Kerry says in a statement. “The State Department will continue to provide our full support for a smooth transition, so that the incoming Administration can pursue the important work of U.S. foreign policy around the world.”

Earlier today US President-elect Donald Trump announced he has settled on the ExxonMobil CEO to be secretary of state, saying that he’s “among the most accomplished business leaders and international deal makers in the world.”

Netanyahu says moving US embassy to Jerusalem would be ‘great’

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that if US President-elect Donald Trump decided to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, that would be “great.”

Netanyahu, who is visiting Azaerbaijan, was asked what his reaction was when told that Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway said moving the embassy was a “very big priority.”

“I answered with one word — ‘great’,” Netanyahu says.

This comes after reports that Israeli security and diplomatic officials are worried about the consequences of an immediate relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, with fears of adverse reactions from the Arab world and on the streets of Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

Raphael Ahren

The US Consulate in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

The US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Netanyahu hopes visit will help end Israel’s UN isolation

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his visit to Muslim nations is meant to show that Israel and Muslim nations can cooperate and ultimately end the automatic majority against Israel at the United Nations.

Netanyahu is visiting Azerbaijan and on Wednesday will travel to Kazakhstan.

Netanyahu tells reporters travelling with him that he hopes that this visit and its message – that Jews and Muslims can live together in peace etc. — will “influence” Arab states to change their public stance on Israel.

“My intention is first and foremost not to dismantle the wall of isolation around Israel. That is already happening, it is to end the automatic majority against Israel in the UN,” Netanyahu says.

Raphael Ahren

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara (L) pose for a photo with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva (R) at Baku’s Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara (L) pose for a photo with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva (R) at Baku’s Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Jews are world’s most educated religious group, study finds

Jews are the world’s most-educated religious group, with an average of more than 13 years of formal schooling, a new study finds.

The Pew Research Center study published Tuesday found that Jews worldwide have four years more of schooling on average than the next-most educated group, Christians, who average about nine years of schooling. Muslims and Hindus are the least-educated religious groups, each with about 5 1/2 years of formal schooling. The global average is less than eight years.

Among Jews, Americans have the highest rate of higher education, at 75 percent (compared to 40 percent of Americans generally), and have an average of 14.7 years of schooling. Jewish Israelis have an average of 12 years of schooling, and 46 percent have had higher education.

The least educated Jewish population is in South Africa, where Jews have an average of 12 years of schooling, and only 29 percent have higher education.

JTA

Government members skip meeting on woeful war preparedness

No government members showed up at a Knesset debate today on the report released by the state comptroller earlier this month, on Israel’s woeful preparations for missile attacks.

Instead it was left to opposition figures to highlight Israel’s predicament.

Zionist Union MK, and former IDF general, Eyal Ben-Reuven says the next war in northern Israel is inevitable, but predicts the government will only act to safeguard the area after there has been a tragedy.

“After [the 2014 Gaza war] — with an emphasis on after — we fortified the south, and that’s fine. But maybe one time we can do something ahead of time? One time?,” he asks.

Devorah Israeli, of Nitzan, with 8-year-old Idan and 6-month-old Ron in the sewage pipe bomb shelter next to her caravilla during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

Devorah Israeli, of Nitzan, with 8-year-old Idan and 6-month-old Ron in the sewage pipe bomb shelter next to her caravilla during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

“The state is abandoning its residents,” he says.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Beinhorn from the State Comptroller’s Office warns that approximately one-third of the residents of northern Israel do not have access to a proper bomb shelter and that though many schools in southern Israel are protected against rockets, some remain vulnerable to attack.

In addition, he says, evacuation plans for civilian populations are not fully realized and implementable. Ze’ev Tzuk-Ram, the deputy head of the National Security Council, tells the committee that the NSC had begun working on evacuation plans, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman put the kibosh on them.

Judah Ari Gross

UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Aleppo

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today to urgently address the crisis in Aleppo following reports that Syrian forces executed dozens of civilians in the city.

France and Britain requested the meeting scheduled for midday (1700 GMT), diplomats say.

AFP

A member of the Syrian government forces stands in a severely damaged street in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighborhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN)

A member of the Syrian government forces stands in a severely damaged street in Aleppo’s newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighborhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN)

Kanye West and Donald Trump meet, talk about ‘life’

NEW YORK — A newly blond Kanye West visited Donald Trump on Tuesday, and Trump says later they talked about “life.”

West stood silently next to the president-elect for photos in the lobby of Trump Tower after their meeting. Asked why he wasn’t speaking, West says, “I just want to take a picture right now.”

President-elect Donald Trump and Kanye West pose for a picture in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

President-elect Donald Trump and Kanye West pose for a picture in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Trump says he and West were “just friends” and called the musician a “good man.” He says they discussed “life.” The two did not answer questions about whether West would perform at the Inauguration.

West entered the building shortly after 9 a.m. with a large entourage. He was not accompanied by wife Kim Kardashian West.

The 39-year-old recently spent over a week in Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles for stress and exhaustion. Days before his hospitalization, he abruptly canceled his US concert tour.

Last month during a concert in San Jose, California, West said he didn’t vote for president, but if he had, he would have cast a ballot for Trump. He also praised the president-elect’s “method of communication” as “very futuristic” and spoke about his plans to run for that office in 2020, saying that he will become “a different kind of president.”

AP

Air Force shows off its new F-35s

The IDF releases a video showing the first flights of its two new F-35 fighter planes.

The pilots put the new jets through their paces before returning to applause and some hugging.

https://twitter.com/JudahAriGross/status/808707070455324672

 

Deal to evacuate civilians, fighters from Aleppo: rebel official

An agreement for the imminent evacuation of civilians and opposition fighters from east Aleppo in Syria has been reached, a rebel official tells AFP.

“An agreement has been reached for the evacuation of the residents of Aleppo, civilians and fighters with their light weapons, from the besieged districts of east Aleppo,” says Yasser al-Youssef from the political office of the key Nurredin al-Zinki group.

He says the deal was “sponsored by Russia and Turkey” and would be implemented “within hours”.

— AFP

Syrian residents fleeing the violence gather at a checkpoint, manned by pro-government forces, in the village of Aziza on the southwestern outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on December 8, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHAN)

Syrian residents fleeing the violence gather at a checkpoint, manned by pro-government forces, in the village of Aziza on the southwestern outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on December 8, 2016.
(AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHAN)

US cancels weapons transfers to Saudi in protest at Yemen campaign

President Barack Obama’s administration has canceled the transfer of some munitions to ally Saudi Arabia, amid anger about the civilian death toll from the Kingdom’s campaign in Yemen.

“We have made clear that US security cooperation is not a blank check,” a senior administration official tells AFP.

“Consequently, we have decided to not move forward with some foreign military sales (FMS) cases for munitions,” the source says.

“This reflects our continued, strong concerns with the flaws in the coalition’s targeting practices and overall prosecution of the air campaign in Yemen.”

AFP

Trump considering Blackstone exec for trade rep

President-elect Donald Trump is considering major Republican fundraiser Wayne Berman as the US Trade Representative.

That’s according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

Berman is a senior adviser at the Blackstone Group and was a strong supporter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. He served in the Commerce Department during President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

Trump made his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and other multilateral trade deals a central part of his campaign. He’s pledged to negotiate bilateral trade agreements, work that would fall in part to the trade representative.

The people with knowledge of the discussions insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the internal deliberations.

AP

Hundreds protest outside PM’s residence for Amona

Hundreds of youths and right-wing activists are protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, demanding he find a way to save the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona.

The outpost is set to be evacuated by December 25, following a High Court ruling that it was built on private Palestinian land.

Several West Bank regional heads are expected to address the protest later in the evening, Ynet says.

Netanyahu is not at home and is currently on his way to Kazakhstan.

Police questioning art student who made Netanyahu noose poster

Police are questioning an art student who made a poster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alongside a hangman’s noose.

Jerusalem police are questioning her under caution, Ynet reports.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit earlier ordered an investigation into alleged incitement after the work o drew widespread condemnation.

The artwork was the work of a first-year art student at Bezalel, part of a school assignment, which she put up for a few hours in a school stairwell on her own initiative.

US calls for international observers in Aleppo to oversee evacuation

The United States is calling for international observers to be sent to Aleppo to oversee the evacuation of civilians following reports that Syrian forces had executed people during house-to-house searches.

US Ambassador Samantha Power tells an emergency Security Council meeting that the observers would “oversee the safe evacuation of the people who wish to leave but who, justifiably fear that if they try, they will be shot in the street or carted off to one of Assad’s gulags.”

AFP

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. ( AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI)

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. ( AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI)

Several Haifa roads shut due to flooding

Police shut several roads in the Haifa area this evening due to floods caused by heavy rainfalls.

Earlier, a man was killed when his car was trapped in a flooded tunnel in Haifa.

Bus driver lightly wounded by ultra-Orthodox rock thrower

A bus driver was lightly wounded in Beit Shemesh after ultra-Orthodox protesters threw a stone at his bus, smashing the windshield.

Police say he was treated at the scene and the suspects fled. Police are carrying out searches in the area.

The incident happened during a protest against the recent arrest of one of the members of the community on assault charges.

 

Heavy police presence at Amona protest

Police say there is heavy security at the Amona protest in Jerusalem with some 150 officers on duty.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says that there are about 2,000 people at the protest against the planned evacuation of the illegal outpost.

Hundreds of people gather in Jerusalem to protest the planned evacuation of the Amona outpost on December 13, 2016 ( Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

Hundreds of people gather in Jerusalem to protest the planned evacuation of the Amona outpost on December 13, 2016 ( Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

here are no immediate reports of violence as many left the protest amid the rain.

“This is our home, you have to fight for your home,” says one protester, Matti Barnea, who was wearing a shirt that said “I’m a settler from Givataim.”

Barnea said the Supreme court, which ordered the evacuation by December 25, was “The biggest criminal.”

Joshua Davidovich

Netanyahu lands in snowy Kazakhstan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in snowy Kazakhstan tonight on the second leg of his Central Asian trip.

Netanyahu will be hoping for another warm reception, similar to the one he received in Azerbaijan.

Talks in Kazakhstan are expected to focus on sharing Israeli counter-terrorism know-how and cooperating with Israel’s high-tech sector.

— Raphael Ahren

Russia says Aleppo fighting is over

Russia’s UN ambassador says all military action in eastern Aleppo has ended and the Syrian government has re-established control over the former rebel-held area.

Vitaly Churkin is speaking near the end of an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, saying “according to the latest information that we received in the last hour, military actions in eastern Aleppo are over.”

He says that as a result, “there is no issue of some cessation of hostilities, or some special humanitarian operation.” He added that “the Syrian government has re-established control over eastern Aleppo.”

The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm that the fighting had stopped or that all the rebels had surrendered.

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. ( AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI)

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. ( AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI)

Churkin said earlier that “all militants” and members of their families, as well as those wounded in the fighting, “currently are going through agreed corridors in directions that they have chosen themselves voluntarily, including toward Idlib,” a rebel stronghold.

The evacuation of the remaining rebels would mark a major victory for President Bashar Assad and return Syria’s largest city to full government control for the first time since rebels seized the eastern half in 2012.

AP

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Azerbaijan reveals arms purchases from Israel reach nearly $5b

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Azerbaijan’s president today hailed his country’s military cooperation with Israel, revealing that it is buying Israeli defense system to the tune of nearly $5 billion.

“We actively cooperate in the area of defense industries. This cooperation lasts already for many years,” President Ilham Aliyev says at a joint appearance before the press with visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“To give you one figure to illustrate how broad this cooperation is, so far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to $5 billion. To be more precise, $4.85 billlion.”

Most of these contracts have already been executed but there is more to be done, he adds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (R) during a visit to Baku on December 13, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (R) during a visit to Baku on December 13, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO)

“We’re very satisfied with the level of this cooperation,” he says, addressing Israeli and Azerbaijani reporters at Baku’s Zagulba Palace.

Two Israeli officials say they are surprised that the Azerbaijani chose to reveal exact figures regarding his country’s defense deals with Israel

Azerbaijan, which has a long border with Iran, is a secular state that has long-had warm relations with Israel.

Nearly 98 percent of its 10 million inhabitants are Muslim, the vast majority of them Shiites. Baku is one of Israel’s main trading partners, buying Israelis weapons systems and providing the Jewish state with a lion share of its oil. Israeli trade with Azerbaijan is said to be significantly higher than trade with France.

Baku is reportedly interested in acquiring Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, a deal that is likely to be discussed during this week’s visit.

Raphael Ahren