The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Netanyahu calls off trip to Davos
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels a planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 17-20.
A statement from his office, announcing the schedule change, gives no reason for the decision.
Last month, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Palestinian incitement and violence.
Following the resolution’s passage, Netanyahu reportedly canceled a meeting at Davos with British Prime Minister Theresa May over the UK’s support for the resolution and promised to take diplomatic measures against other countries as well.
In addition, Netanyahu has been the subject of two police investigations for corruption, involving expensive gifts from wealthy benefactors and an alleged quid pro quo deal with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
— Raphael Ahren contributed
Cameras, toy airplanes smuggled into Gaza in TV sets
The Shin Bet busted an alleged smuggling ring last month that is accused of bringing hundreds of cameras, toy airplanes and electrical cables hidden inside washing machines, refrigerators and television sets to the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, the security service reveals.
One Palestinian from the West Bank, Nader Masalmeh, and another from the Gaza Strip, Nofal Abu Sraya, were picked up in December, the Shin Bet says, though details of the case were kept under a gag order.
An indictment has been filed against the two men in a Beersheba court.
Another two Gazan members of the smuggling ring, Ahmad Abu Nafer and Zahar Bitar, have yet to be arrested, the Shin Bet says.
The illicit goods, which Israel designates as having both civilian and military uses, were brought in to Gaza inside permitted appliances and were later unpackaged and sold within the coastal enclave.
Last November alone, hundreds of the cameras were smuggled into Gaza, the Shin Bet says.
The recipients of the illegal goods included Hamas — a fact which was known to at least some of the members of the smuggling ring, according to the Shin Bet.
Pope Francis decries jihadist attacks as ‘homicidal madness’
Pope Francis describes jihadist attacks around the world as “homicidal madness” and urged religious leaders to reassert that “one can never kill in God’s name,” in a speech to Vatican diplomatic corps.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics also calls on government leaders to combat the poverty that, he said, could allow fundamentalism to flourish.
In a hard-hitting and wide-ranging speech to the diplomatic corps, the 80-year-old pontiff voices sorrow that, at the start of 2017, religion was still being used as a pretext for “rejection, marginalization and violence.”
He cites the “fundamentalist-inspired terrorism” that in 2016 claimed victims in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.
“These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travelers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul,” Francis says.
“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power.
“Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”
Terrorist who killed Israeli student, shot another gets 2 life sentences
A West Bank military court on Monday sentences a Palestinian terrorist to two consecutive life sentences for the 2015 murder of an Israeli student outside the Dolev settlement and attempted murder of another Israeli.
Israel’s military prosecutor last year convicted Muhammad Abu Shaheen on charges of murder and attempted murder for shooting 25-year-old Danny Gonen and his friend at point blank range as they drove away from the Ein Bubin spring northwest of Jerusalem.
Gonen was rushed to a Tel Aviv hospital in critical condition, but died of his wounds shortly after. His friend, Netanel Hadad, was injured in the attack.
The Judea Military Court hands the 31-year-old Abu Shaheen, a Fatah member, one life sentence for each charge.
The court also orders he pay the Gonen family NIS 3.5 million ($900,000) in compensation.
In the ruling, the judges note that Abu Shaheen’s “cruel and calculated attack was motivated by nationalism and extremist ideology.”
The judges recommend Abu Shaheen be ineligible for early release under a potential prisoner swap with Palestinians.
— Tamar Pileggi
US Navy fires warning shots at Iranian ships — report
A US Navy vessel fires three warning shots at a group of Iranian ships that approached it at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz, Sky News reports.
US officials say the USS Mahan had called on four Iranian ships to slow down, but they carried on at high speed.
The American destroyer fires flares and a helicopter dropped a “smoke float” signaling device, the Reuters news service says.
The Iranian trips came within 800 meters (0.5 miles) of the USS Mahan, which was escorting two other ships, in the Strait of Hormuz.
‘Why do we deserve this?’ mother of fallen soldier asks at funeral
Hundreds of people attend funeral of Shir Hajaj, one of the four soldiers killed in yesterday’s terror attack, at the country’s military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
“What a beauty God gave us. How proud we were of you. Our Shir. Why do we deserve this? Why? What will we do without you?” Hajaj’s mother, Meirav, asks at the ceremony.
Hundreds of soldiers from Hajaj’s unit, Military Intelligence, attend the funeral, along with residents of her hometown of Maale Adumim, classmates, prominent rabbi Shlomo Amar, MKs Moti Yogev and Omer Bar-Lev, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the head of the Maale Adumim regional council, Channel 2 news reports.
The commander of her department, Lt. Col. Asaf Weiss, remembers Hajaj for being determined and unrelenting in pursuing her goal of being in the academic reserve, earning a university degree as part of her army service.
After missing an interview due to a trip abroad, Hajaj pestered the army into giving her a make-up interview and, upon its completion, was ranked first among the applicants for the program, Weiss says.
“She will leave behind her a hole that will remain forever,” he says.
The other three soldiers are being buried in funerals across the country.
18 wounded in highway pile-up near Hadera
At least 18 people are lightly injured in a crash involving a bus and six cars on Route 4, outside Hadera, according to Hebrew news reports.
Medics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service treat those injured in the crash and transport people requiring additional care to the nearby Hillel Yaffe hospital in Hadera.
The crash occurred at the Haroshet Junction near Or Akiva.
Abbas asks world leaders to keep Trump from moving embassy
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sends letters to world leaders urging them to prevent the stated goal of the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump to move its embassy from the Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
According to the official PA news outlet Wafa, Abbas sends letters to the heads of Russia, China, France, Germany, Britain, the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Arab League, “asking them to spare no effort to prevent moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.”
The PA president on Monday also sends a letter to Trump, explaining what he believes are the pitfalls of fulfilling his controversial campaign promise.
Abbas argues the move will “likely have a disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution and on the stability and security of the entire region, since Israel’s decision to annex East Jerusalem contradicts international law.”
— Dov Lieber
Liberman: Attempts to connect Jerusalem attack to Azaria ‘just not right’
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman calls for Israelis to stop connecting yesterday’s terror attack in Jerusalem to the Elor Azaria case, at a faction meeting for his Yisrael Beytenu party.
Liberman says he was “sorry to see all kinds of statements about IDF troops, about the soldiers who were on the scene.”
In the aftermath of a truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem, in which four soldiers were killed and more than a dozen were wounded, allegations came out that the soldiers hesitated to open fire because of the Azaria case, in which an IDF soldier was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant.
According to the army and video footage from the scene, while some soldiers scrambled for cover, others took positions and opened fire at the driver of the truck.
Attempts to connect the Jerusalem truck-ramming attack to the Azaria case are “just not right,” Liberman says.
“Since the Azaria case, we have killed 39 terrorists and injured 15,” Liberman says.
Funeral for Lt. Yael Yekutiel begins in Tel Aviv
Hundreds of people have gathered in Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul cemetery for the funeral of Lt. Yael Yekutiel, who was one of four soldiers killed in yesterday’s terror attack in the capital.
Yekutiel, from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, was among a group of IDF soldiers who were struck by a driven by a Palestinian terrorist in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem.
The other three soldiers who were killed in the attack are being buried throughout the day.
Hamas ‘surprised’ by Turkey’s condemnation of Jerusalem terror attack
Hamas says it is “surprised” the Turkish prime minister and his deputy have condemned the Palestinian truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem yesterday, in which four Israeli soldiers were killed.
On Sunday, Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek tweeted, “Again we condemn another despicable act of #terrorism -today in #Jerusalem. Humanity deserves nations to unite against terrorism w/o excuses.”
— Dov Lieber
Diplomats: World powers okay natural uranium shipment to Iran
VIENNA — Two senior diplomats say that the six world powers that negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran have approved a large shipment of natural uranium to the country as compensation after Tehran exported tons of heavy water.
The diplomats say the agreement foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium from Russia. They demanded anonymity Monday because their information is confidential.
Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel to the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it has no interest in such weapons, and is expected to use the shipment for peaceful enrichment permitted under the nuclear deal.
Heavy water is used to cool reactors that can produce large amounts of plutonium — like enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear arms.
Zionist Union calls for probe into Netanyahu-Israel Hayom links
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, speaking at the Zionist Union Knesset faction meet-up, says reports of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trying to cut a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for favorable coverage in exchange for shutting down Israel Hayom is proof of Netanyahu’s “deep ties” to the Israel Hayom tabloid, demanding Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit investigate.
“I demand the attorney general uncover the full ties between Netanyahu and Israel Hayom and prove that the newspaper constitutes a forbidden contribution to the Likud party worth millions, a service working for one candidate and one party,” he says.
Zionist Union #2 Tzipi Livni also attacks Israel Hayom as a “propaganda tool” for the prime minister.
“Today we discover who sits in the prime minister’s chair — a man who thinks everyone owes him, from businessmen to regular citizens who work hard for a living,” she says.
Pakistan test-fires first sub-launched nuke
Pakistan on Monday test-fired its first submarine-launched cruise missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and giving the country a credible second strike capability, the military says.
The missile was fired from an underwater mobile platform and hit its target with precise accuracy, it says in a statement.
A military spokesman confirms to AFP the missile, with a range of 450 kilometers (280 miles), could carry a nuclear warhead.
“Babur-3 is a sea-based variant of Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) Babur-2, which was successfully tested earlier in December, last year,” the statement says.
“Pakistan eyes this hallmark development as a step toward reinforcing the policy of credible minimum deterrence.”
While Pakistan has traditionally locked horns with India, it recently became embroiled in a nuclear farce with Israel after Pakistan’s defense minister warned on Twitter about his country’s nuclear capabilities in response to a fake news report that Israel had threatened to nuke Pakistani soldiers in Syria.
Liberman to Azaria family: Drop plans to appeal
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tells his Yisrael Beytenu Knesset faction meeting that he suggests soldier Elor Azaria should refrain from appealing his manslaughter conviction for killing a wounded Palestinian assailant and instead pursue a pardon.
“If I can give Azaria and his family some advice, and this was an excellent soldier with a terrorist, it would be to stick to the law and keep on this path and not to go for an appeal,” he says.
Liberman also dismisses those who say soldiers present at Sunday’s terror attack failed to open fire at first because they were worried about being prosecuted like Azaria.
But he does attack the Palestinian Authority for failing to condemn Sunday’s attack.
“We watched the whole time after the attack for an official response from the PA in Ramallah — silence. On social media we saw instead a lot of joy, a lot of support for the attacker. We saw candies [being given out] in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza,” he says, using a biblical term for the West Bank.
Unknown group claims Armon Hanatziv truck attack, vows more to come
A previously unknown group calling itself “the martyr of Baha Alyan collective” has claimed the deadly ramming attack in Jerusalem yesterday.
In a press statement circulating online, the group says Fadi al-Qunbar, the 28-year-old East Jerusalemite truck driver who plowed his vehicle into a group of soldiers, killing four and wounding many others, was part of their group.
The group’s statement says this attack was not the first carried out by a member, and will be followed by “a torrent of unyielding quality attacks.”
It is impossible to immediately confirm the reliability of the claim.
Baha Alyan was one of two men that attacked a bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on October 13, 2015, shooting and stabbing passengers.
The attackers killed three people. Police who arrived at the scene shot and killed Alyan. The other attacker, Bilal Abu Ghanem, was shot and taken into police custody. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to three life terms plus 60 years.
— Dov Lieber
Russian Embassy tweets out picture of hate frog Pepe
Russia’s London embassy is taking flak online after tweeting a picture of Pepe the frog, a cartoon meme co-opted by the neo-Nazi alt-right and widely seen as a hate symbol.
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) January 9, 2017
The tweet, which tags Theresa May and also flags a number of other dignitaries, including Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and others, notes reports of the British leader trying to “disrupt possible Russia-US thaw.”
The tweet is quickly ridiculed by hundreds online.
The ADL added the frog to its online hate database in September.
Images of Pepe, often depicting him in Nazi garb or with a Hitler-style mustache, are frequently included in anti-Semitic and other attacks on Twitter.
Last week, the Wendy’s fast-food chain faced criticism for tweeting a picture of Pepe tweaked to resemble the chain’s mascot, a red-haired, pig-tailed girl named Wendy. Wendy’s quickly removed the image
— JTA contributed
Probe shows several soldiers fired at attacking driver — TV report
Channel 2 News reports than an initial army investigation into the killing of the driver who rammed into a group of soldiers Sunday shows that seven people shot at the terrorist, including five cadets and an officer.
The investigations comes after a video seemed to show armed soldiers fleeing the scene rather than shooting at the rampaging driver, as he attempted to mow down the troops a second time.
Channel 10 reports that officer Eyal Koren says he stood opposite the front of the cab and shot at the driver through the windshield.
He says there were several soldiers next to him and he told them to hold their fire.
UAE scraps textbook that used ‘Persian Gulf’ name
The United Arab Emirates has ordered the removal from a textbook of the term “Persian Gulf” for the waterway that is the subject of a bitter naming dispute with Iran, a newspaper there reports.
The UAE education ministry stepped in after complaints that the book was using that name instead of “Arabian Gulf,” which Arab countries use to describe the body of water, Emirat Al-Youm says.
The ministry said the fourth-grade textbook, which features a map with the name, had been on “trial and will be corrected in future prints,” the daily reports.
The United Nations and international maps generally refer to the stretch of water between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran as the “Persian Gulf,” the term used by ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy.
Arab states, particularly the Gulf monarchies that are arch rivals of Iran, call it the “Arabian Gulf.”
Officer who shot terrorist says she was not alone
An officer who was one of the soldiers to shoot dead the truck driver in Sunday’s attack is rebuffing reports that cadets at the scene failed to effectively neutralize the attack, saying that she was not alone as she shot at the terrorist.
“We were really [to shoot], but we weren’t sure this was really a ramming attack,” Lt. Maya Peled tells the press. “Just as I got my magazine in my gun, he went in reverse and we understood this was really a terror attack. I heard one shot that stopped the truck and I shot at the terrorist, right by his side. Also to my side there were other cadets who came and covered and also took part in the shooting. I was not alone.”
Coalition whip appoints Oren Hazan his No. 2
Coalition chairman David Bitan has appointed Oren Hazan as his deputy, saying the Likud backbencher is owed a political appointment.
Hazan is known for his brash, unorthodox style and has been dogged by a series of scandals, eventually being stripped of his deputy speaker role last year.
“He’s gotten a lot of promises in the past but they haven’t come to be, and it’s time to give him something back,” Bitan says, according to Walla news.
The coalition chairman position is a powerful role key to shepherding government legislation through the Knesset and keeping coalition members in line, akin to the whip position in Congress.
French immigration to Israel dips to 5,000 in 2016
5,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel last year, figures show, continuing a trend that has seen tens of thousands quit their country of origin after a series of attacks targeting the community.
The number, though, is a significant dip from the record 7,900 who moved to Israel in 2015, and 7,231 who immigrated in 2014, according to numbers provided by the Jewish Agency.
In total, 40,000 French Jews have emigrated since 2006, according to figures seen by AFP.
The Jewish Agency issued the update as France marked two years since attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and on a Jewish supermarket in Paris, where four shoppers were shot dead.
Daniel Benhaim, who heads the Israeli-backed group in France, says insecurity had been a “catalyst” for many Jews who were already thinking of leaving.
Hezbollah praises Jerusalem attack, says it’s not terror
Hezbollah has issued a statement hailing the Jerusalem terror attack and rebuffing international condemnation, saying the incident in which a driver rammed his car into a group of cadets getting off a bus was not terror.
The Lebanese terror group says it is wrong to compare the attack, which left four dead, to similar attacks by the Islamic State, claiming instead that “the Zionist entity is the source of all terror,” according to Lebanese news outlet al-Manar, a Hezbollah mouthpiece.
In July, the terror group condemned the Nice, France, truck attack, as did Hamas, which has also praised the Jerusalem truck-ramming.
Israeli officials have drawn links between the attacks in Nice, Berlin and Jerusalem and say attacker Fadi al-Qunbar was inspired by the Islamic State.
Berlin lights Brandenburg Gate with Israeli flag
Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate has been lit with the Israeli flag, in a show of solidarity with the Jewish State following Sunday’s terror attack.
— חדשות 10 (@news10) January 9, 2017
Like the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks, the gate is often used as a screen for national colors to show support in the wake of attacks and other incidents.
The landmark was illuminated with the Turkish flag last week following the Istanbul New Years attack.
Renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman dies at 91
Zygmunt Bauman, one of the most prominent and prolific European sociologists of recent decades, has died at the age of 91. The Polish-born left-wing thinker’s works explored the fluidity of identity in the modern world, the Holocaust, consumerism and globalization.
Bauman died at his home in Leeds, England, on Monday surrounded by his family, according to Anna Zejdler-Janiszewska, a Warsaw-based philosophy professor and friend of Bauman’s who was informed of his death by his wife.
Renowned for an approach that incorporated philosophy and other disciplines, Bauman was a strong moral voice for the poor and dispossessed in a world upended by globalization. Whether he was writing about the Holocaust or globalization, his focus remained on how humans can create a dignified life through ethical decisions.
Though he was a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, once likening the West Bank to the Warsaw Ghetto, Bauman lived and taught for a short time in Israel. He lectured at universities in Tel Aviv and Haifa from 1969 to 1971, before he and his family settled in the UK.
Bauman’s wife of 62 years, Janina Bauman, died in 2009. He is survived by his second wife, Aleksandra Jasinska-Kania, the daughter of postwar Polish president Boleslaw Bierut, three daughters and several grandchildren, including prominent Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard.
Sister and father of attacker released, police unhappy
A court has ordered the release of Shaida al-Qunbar and Ahmad al-Qunbar, the sister and father of Jerusalem truck attacker Fadi al-Qunbar, ruling there is not sufficient evidence to keep the two in custody, and released them under restrictive conditions.
Police are shocked at Shaida al-Qunbar’s release, Ynet news reports, claiming that they had not yet had time to collect evidence. Shaida was accused of incitement when she spoke to a journalist immediately after the terror attack, telling him that she was happy her brother became a martyr.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan calls the move “an extremely bad decision of the court,”
“It is simply unbelievable that the court does not see incitement and support for the awful terror attack in [what she said]. This entire wave of terror is based on the support for murder and terror and praise of murderers. It is sad that judges do not understand this and harm the struggle [against terror],” he writes on Twitter.
The remand of five other suspects — brothers Hamza (31), Muhammed (30) and Mahmoud (28) al-Qunbar, and two residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, where al-Qunbar lived — is extended for a further seven days on suspicion that they knew in advance about Qunbar’s plan to carry out the attack and did nothing to prevent it.
Obama: Netanyahu attacked US to deflect attention from settlements
Channel 2 previews an interview it will broadcast on Tuesday with US President Barack Obama, in which the outgoing leader criticizes Netanyahu for his claims that the US orchestrated last month’s anti-settlement UN resolution and stabbed Israel in the back.
“That kind of hyperbole, those kind of statements don’t have basis in fact,” Obama says in a clip of the interview aired by the TV station. “They may work well with respect to deflecting attention to the problem of settlements. They may play well with Bibi’s political base, as well as the Republican base here in the US, but they don’t match up with the facts.”
Obama also expresses doubts whether Trump will in fact end up being better for the Israeli prime minister, ducking a question on whether he is planning any more moves in the international arena, or will let him “sleep well until January 20.”
“I think there’s an interesting question as to whether he’ll sleep better after January 20,” Obama says.
In a portion of the interview not aired, Obama says Netanyahu already had the best friend in the White House, but didn’t always realize it, according to Channel 2.
Jewish centers across US evacuated over spate of bomb threats
Bomb threats have forced the evacuations of Jewish Community Centers in five states in the US and two schools in Britain, American media reports.
JCCs in cities in Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee and Delaware were cleared out after a series of threats were made.
In London, police are investigating claims that explosives were placed next to two schools.
It was not immediately clear if there was a link between the threats.
All clears have been given for JCCs in Miami and Jacksonvile, Florida, as well as in London.
US and British law enforcement are investigating the threats, according to the reports.
UN chief condemns terror attack, says peace efforts should persist
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned the Jerusalem terror attack and called on Israel and the Palestinians to assure it doesn’t lead to nascent peace efforts being derailed.
“Violence and terror will not bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — quite the opposite. All those responsible for such acts must be brought to justice, condemned and disavowed. Their acts should not be allowed to deter from the need for a renewed commitment to dialogue,” he says.
Netanyahu orders ministers to attend funerals after all skip out on terror victims
After parents complain that not a single government minister showed up to any of the four funerals for soldiers killed in Sunday’s terror attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders new rules drawn up to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Netanyahu orders Cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman to “put together a directive obligating the participation of government members — ministers and their deputies — to attend funerals of soldiers killed during operations or in terror,” the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.
Netanyahu, who was reportedly unhappy after hearing reports of parents’ unhappiness, himself visited several wounded soldiers in the hospital Monday morning and then held a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.