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Sanders decries ‘distortion’ over his remark on 10,000 Gaza dead

Campaign for Democratic presidential hopeful says senator corrected himself on 2014 death toll, no candidate is 'a stronger supporter of Israel'

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

  • Bangladeshi students block the road and stage a protest following the murder of a law student, hacked to death by four assailants the night before, in Dhaka on April 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Munir UZ ZAMAN)
    Bangladeshi students block the road and stage a protest following the murder of a law student, hacked to death by four assailants the night before, in Dhaka on April 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Munir UZ ZAMAN)
  • A new section of Israel's security barrier in the Cremisan Valley, adjacent to the Christian Palestinian town of Beit Jala, in the West Bank, on April 7, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
    A new section of Israel's security barrier in the Cremisan Valley, adjacent to the Christian Palestinian town of Beit Jala, in the West Bank, on April 7, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
  • Israelis shopping in the Malha Mall in Jerusalem on March 15, 2009. (Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
    Israelis shopping in the Malha Mall in Jerusalem on March 15, 2009. (Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
  • An Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron at a military court hearing in Jaffa on April 7, 2016. (Flash90)
    An Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron at a military court hearing in Jaffa on April 7, 2016. (Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s news as it unfolded.

3 Palestinians arrested for laser attacks

Three Palestinians from a village near Ramallah are arrested on suspicion of blinding Israeli drivers with lasers on a nearby road and throwing stones at cars, Israel Radio reports.

The three were all from the village of Dir Abu Mashal, northwest of Ramallah in the central West Bank. The Israeli settlement of Halamish is just to the east on Route 465, where the incidents took place.

Secular Bangladeshi activist murdered by suspected Islamists

Three motorcycle-riding assailants hacked and shot a student activist to death as he was walking with a friend in Bangladesh’s capital, police said Thursday.

The killing on Wednesday night follows a string of similar attacks last year, when at least five secular bloggers and publishers were killed, allegedly by radical Islamists.

Police suspect 28-year-old Nazimuddin Samad was targeted for his outspoken atheism in the Muslim-majority country and for supporting a 2013 movement to demand capital punishment for war crimes involving the country’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971, according to Dhaka Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nurul Amin.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

— AP

E. Jerusalem man indicted for plotting terror attack

An East Jerusalem man was indicted for allegedly plotting to carry out a terror attack on a Jerusalem shopping mall two months ago, Channel 10 reports.

Abd al-Mu’ati Abu Sneina, 22, of Kafr Aqab was charged with meeting another man in a Ramallah cafe and saying he planned to shoot at security personnel at the Malha Mall in southern Jerusalem on a Thursday, when there are a lot of off-duty soldiers in transit there.

He claimed that he had a gun in his possession, as well as an IDF uniform, which he would wear to disguise himself.

Detention of soldier in Hebron shooting extended

The detention of an IDF soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist who was incapacitated after carrying out an attack near a Jewish settlement in Hebron last month is extended by eight days. He will remain detained on an IDF base, the Jaffa military court rules.

Meanwhile, Zionist Union MK Zuheir Bahloul reiterates his position that the Palestinian who attempted to stab a soldier was not a terrorist.

“The word ‘terrorist’ has become sweeping and turned every Palestinian into one,” he says in an Army Radio interview.

Denmark arrests 4 suspected of joining Islamic State

Danish police say they have arrested four people in greater Copenhagen who are suspected of having “enlisted” in the Islamic State group with the intention to commit terror.

In a statement, police said all four suspects were arrested Thursday in Copenhagen.

They declined to immediately disclose further details.

Police said the four suspects have been identified through “a close cooperation” between Denmark’s intelligence agency and the police in the Danish capital.

The four will face a pre-trial detention hearing Friday.

— AP

Nearly 40% of Israelis support segregated maternity wards

A Knesset Channel poll finds that nearly 40% of Israelis surveyed support Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich’s remark advocating racial segregation of maternity wards.

The survey asked Arab and Jewish respondents alike.

Smotrich’s comments on Twitter were roundly rejected by Israeli politicians and pundits.

He had tweeted in response to an exposé by Israel Radio that found that a number of major hospitals were separating Jewish and Arab mothers, contrary to the law.

Rockets from IS-held area hit southern Turkey town

Three people were wounded on Thursday when two Katyusha-type rockets fired from an area in Syria controlled by Islamic State (IS) jihadists slammed into the center of a Turkish town near the Syrian border, a report says.

The rockets hit the center of the town of Kilis at around 0545 GMT, the Dogan news agency reports. Ambulances were sent to the scene as police threw a security cordon around the area.

Dogan says one of the rockets hit a building used by Syrian refugees and two of those wounded were Syrian citizens.

Another person was wounded by the second rocket and police also evacuated a school nearby.

Pictures broadcast by Turkish television showed the rockets had badly damaged masonry and windows on one building.

In line with its rules of engagement, Turkish artillery fired back at the Syrian region where the shots originated, Turkish media says.

— AFP

Jewish Home: ‘Yitzhak Rabin is turning over in his grave’

The Zionist Union says that MK Zuheir Bahloul’s comment that a Palestinian who attempts to stab an Israeli soldier isn’t a terrorist doesn’t reflect the position of the party.

The Jewish Home party responds to Bahloul’s remarks saying that the Labor Party (the majority of the Zionist Union faction) “has slowly transformed from post-Zionist to pro-Palestinian.”

“[Former prime minister and Labor Party leader] Yitzhak Rabin is turning over in his grave,” the party says in a statement, according to Channel 2.

Putin denies links to offshore accounts in Panama Papers

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies having any links to offshore accounts and describes the Panama Papers document leaks scandal as part of Western efforts to weaken Russia.

Putin, speaking Thursday at a media forum in St. Petersburg, says even though his name didn’t figure in any of the documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm, Western media pushed the claims of his involvement in offshore businesses.

Putin described the allegations as part of the US-led disinformation campaign waged against Russia in order to weaken its government.

Putin said his longtime friend, cellist Sergei Roldugin, who figured in the Panama Papers as the owner of $2 billion in offshore assets, has done nothing wrong. He said he was proud of Roldugin, adding that the musician spent his personal money to advance cultural projects in Russia.

— AP

Paris police arrest gunman near site of November attacks

Police in Paris have detained a gunman who fired shots near cafes targeted in last November’s attacks. No injuries have been reported.

Security forces cordoned off the area, and several police officers stood with their weapons drawn at the building, according to a witness. He spoke on condition of anonymity for his security.

Paris police spokeswoman Johana Primevert says officers deployed Thursday after shots rang out and the gunman later surrendered to police.

The building is at the junction of the Rue de Bichat and Rue du Faubourg du Temple in eastern Paris, near two cafes targeted in the Nov. 13 Islamic State attacks that left 130 people dead and wounded hundreds. France remains on edge and under a state of emergency since the attacks.

— AP

3 Palestinians missing for over a week

Three Palestinian youths have been missing since March 30 and their families fear for their lives after their cellphones and two of their ID cards were found near Ramallah last Friday, Bethlehem Radio reports.

Palestinian police notified the families of Basel Mahmoud Ala’raj of al-Walaja, near Jerusalem, Mohammed Abdullah Harb of Jenin, and Haytham Sayaj of Hebron of the find on Sunday.

The families say that they’ve had no word about their whereabouts.

The Palestinian security forces say they’re doing their utmost to find the three as quickly as possible.

Israel, Turkey hold new reconciliation talks

Turkey and Israel held a fresh round of talks Thursday in an effort to normalize ties after relations were partially frozen five years ago, says Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

“Meetings with Israel have been taking place for a while and they are continuing today,” Davutoglu says in Ankara.

“If our demands are received favourably, then the next steps will be clear and the necessary announcements will be made to the public.”

An Israeli official confirms the meeting was taking place, but its location was not made public. Previous meetings are believed to have been conducted in Geneva.

— AFP

Wanted Sudan president to step down in 2020

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he will step down in 2020 after his current term in office ends.

“In 2020, there will be a new president and I will be an ex-president,” Bashir says in an interview with the BBC broadcast on Thursday.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, seized power in a 1989 coup.

— AFP

Herzog: Jewish Home MKs should ‘shut their mouths’

Zionist Union and opposition leader Isaac Herzog says on Twitter that Jewish Home party leaders who are leading the “racist campaign” to segregate hospitals, and are pushing for the release of the soldier involved in the Hebron shooting last month “should stop preaching to us and shut their mouths.”

Concerning party member Zuheir Bahloul’s remarks that a Palestinian who tries to stab an IDF soldier isn’t a terrorist, he says he told Bahloul that he “rejects and strongly condemns his statements and that the position of the Zionist Union is that a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.”

Israeli man injured in rock throwing in East Jerusalem

An Israeli man was lightly injured when he was struck by a rock thrown at his car in the a-Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem, police say.

The victim, who is approximately 30 years old, was hit in the neck. He was lightly injured and is in stable condition, according to the spokesperson for Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Police officers are searching the area and have opened an investigation into the incident, spokesperson Luba Samri says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Israeli hospital server hacked

Hackers infiltrated several external portal accounts belonging to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center website, Ynet reports. The hospital says no significant damage was caused by the cyber breach.

Israeli businesses and government websites are on high alert today for possible hacking attempts by the Anonymous group, which attacks Israeli sites annually on April 7. Thus far there have been no major incidents.

Fugitive rabbi nabbed in South Africa

A fugitive rabbi wanted for sex offenses in Israel has been arrested in South Africa.

South African police raided Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s hotel room in January, but he escaped arrest.

The rabbi’s attorney says “we will continue to fight for his innocence now as well,” Walla news reports.

Netanyahu blasts Zionist Union MK’s statement as ‘shameful’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins the chorus of criticism against Zionist Union MK Zuheir Bahloul, calling his comment “shameful.”

“IDF soldiers are protecting our lives with their bodies from bloodthirsty murderers. I expect every citizen of Israel, especially members of Knesset, to give them their full support,” he says on Facebook.

Government agrees to bring 1,300 Ethiopian Jews to Israel

The governing coalition has reached an agreement on bringing 1,300 of the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel this year, Walla news reports.

Scout, US diplomats honor slain American

The Israeli Scout Movement and US Embassy marked a month since the murder of Taylor Force, an American student, in a Jaffa terror attack.

In the event organized by The Israel Project and attended by the deputy chief of the US mission to Israel, Force, who was an Eagle Scout, was posthumously granted a Badge of Honor and a Scout uniform.

Israel Scouts and members of the US mission to Israel honor Taylor Force in a ceremony in Jaffa on April 7, 2016 (The Israel Project)

Israel Scouts and members of the US mission to Israel honor Taylor Force in a ceremony in Jaffa on April 7, 2016 (The Israel Project)

Interior minister’s finances probed by state comptroller

A week after the attorney general announced a criminal probe into Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s finances, the state comptroller has asked him for clarifications for an investigation into Deri’s properties, Channel 2 reports.

The report says the clarifications likely had to do with an undeclared vacation home Deri had built in Safsufa, in the Galilee.

Israeli man hurt in East Jerusalem stoning

An Israeli man is lightly injured after a stone was thrown at his vehicle in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz.

He was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment and police are searching for suspects, NRG reports.

‘Hezbollah has Russian-made SA-17 missiles’

An Israeli intelligence source has told a German reporter from Bild that Hezbollah is now in possession of SA-17 anti-aircraft missile systems that Moscow delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad last year.

Sanders slams ‘distortion’ over his remark on 10,000 Gaza dead

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issues a statement clarifying that his recollection that there were 10,000 civilian Palestinian civilian deaths was inaccurate and that the interviewer corrected him in the course of the conversation.

Any attempt to claim that he made a statement of fact was a “distortion,” his campaign says.

“As many people know, Sen. Sanders, as a young man, spent months in Israel and, in fact, has family living there now. There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security,” says Sanders’ spokesman, Michael Briggs in a statement from the campaign.

“The path to peace in the Middle East is not an easy one,” Briggs added. “As we go forward in this campaign, distorting the truth is not useful. We hope there can be an honest discussion of this important issue.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally on April 5, 2016 in Laramie, Wyoming (Theo Stroomer/Getty Images/AFP)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally on April 5, 2016 in Laramie, Wyoming (Theo Stroomer/Getty Images/AFP)

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders suggested Israel had killed “over 10,000 innocent” Palestinian civilians in Gaza during the war there in the summer of 2014, and said the high casualties were the result of an “indiscriminate” Israeli military offensive.

“Anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?” he said first.

Hamas health authorities in Gaza put the civilian death toll at about a seventh of the figure cited by Sanders; Israel puts it lower still.

“The idea that Sen. Sanders stated definitely that 10,000 Palestinians were killed is just not accurate and a distortion of that discussion,” Briggs says. “Bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be easy. It would help if candidates’ positions on this issue are not distorted.”

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‘Hezbollah has Russian-made SA-17 missiles’

An Israeli intelligence source has told a German reporter from Bild that Hezbollah is now in possession of SA-17 anti-aircraft missile systems that Moscow delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad last year.