The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Israel, Italy, Greece and Cyprus eye longest undersea gas pipeline
Israel, Italy, Greece and Cyprus pledge to move ahead with the world’s longest undersea gas pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to southern Europe, with support from the European Union.
If carried out as planned, the long-discussed $6.2 billion pipeline will take gas from Israel and Cyprus’s recently discovered offshore gas reserves to Europe and could help reduce the Continent’s dependence on Russian energy at a time of ongoing tensions.
In a joint news conference in Tel Aviv, energy ministers from the four nations, as well as the EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete, pledge their commitment to the project.
Feasibility studies had been completed, the ministers said, but work on developing it would not begin for several years — with current expectations for it to go online in 2025.
“This is going to be the longest and deepest sub-sea gas pipeline in the world,” said Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Cemetery daubed with anti-IDF graffiti amid ultra-Orthodox draft protests
Police launch an investigation into anti-military graffiti that was spray painted on a wall surrounding a cemetery in Beit Shemesh.
Municipal workers were called to the scene to remove the offending graffiti, police say, adding that the incident itself took place last week.
Labor union threatens strike over broadcasting authority
The Histadrut Labor Union declares a labor dispute over the deal for the new public broadcaster.
The move paves the way for a general public strike in the next few weeks in protest of the deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to strip the new broadcaster of its news division.
“The decisions on the changes were made with complete disregard for the workers’ representatives,” Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn says.
According to the deal announced Thursday over the new broadcaster, known as Kan, to end a coalition crisis, the new broadcaster will be stripped entirely of its news division. In its stead, a separate broadcast entity will be established to deal with all current affairs offerings, staffed “primarily” by former Israel Broadcasting Authority employees.
Kahlon says he ‘paid a price’ but it was worth preventing elections
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon defends the deal he made with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to effectively cripple Israel’s new public broadcaster, saying that it prevented elections that would have harmed the country.
“If there were elections, none of you would be sitting here,” he tells an audience of young couples at a ceremony marking a new housing project in Beit Shemesh. “You would have had to wait a year for a campaign and an election and then the government to be formed. And in elections, you know how you go in but you don’t know how you come out. No one knows.”
His comments appeared to be directed at Netanyahu, who was also attending the ceremony. The prime minister has threatened to “go to elections” if Kahlon did not accede to his demands over the new broadcaster.
According to the deal signed last week, in which Kahlon was largely regarded to have capitulated, the new broadcaster will be stripped entirely of its news division and a separate broadcast entity will be established to deal with all current affairs offerings.
“The responsibility that we showed was required and needed, and you know what, I paid a price for it,” Kahlon said. “But when I see the young couples, I know it’s worth paying the price for them. Not everyone thinks so.”
Gidon Saar said set to announce return to politics
After a two-and-a-half year hiatus, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar will announce his return to politics this evening, according to Channel 2 news.
Sa’ar, who was once seen as a favorite in the battle to eventually succeed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Likud chairman, had been rumored to be considering starting a new party. The announcement, however, is set to take place at a 6.30 p.m. press conference in the Likud headquarters in the northern town of Akko, suggesting Sa’ar may be planning on mounting a challenge within the party.
Sa’ar has said that his once-close relationship with Netanyahu deteriorated after Sa’ar opposed what he deemed “undemocratic” moves by the prime minister in attempting to prevent President Reuven Rivlin from winning the presidential election in 2014. The latest announcement comes in response to the prime minister’s efforts to prevent the new public broadcaster from beginning full transmission, Channel 2 reports. The new corporation, which is now set to lose its entire news division, had hired Sa’ar’s wife Geula Even-Sa’ar as its main news anchor.
Sa’ar, 47, started off as an assistant to the attorney general before being appointed by Netanyahu as cabinet secretary. He was first elected to the Knesset in 2003, and later served as the party chairman, deputy speaker of the Knesset, education minister and interior minister.
US court rules Jewish descendants can sue Germany for return of Nazi-looted collection
A US district court clears the way for descendants of Jewish art collectors to sue Germany in the United States over objects allegedly obtained from their ancestors under duress during the Nazi era.
The ruling comes three years after a German investigative commission found that the owners of a collection – known as the Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure – were not forced to sell it by the Nazis.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia says that claims regarding the collection – which the Dresdner Bank purchased on behalf of Hitler’s deputy, Hermann Goering, in 1935 – can be filed in a US court.
It is the first time that a court has held that Germany can be sued for the return of Nazi-looted art and artifacts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
Holocaust survivor, 91, celebrates her bat mitzvah in Buenos Aires
Eugenia Unger, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, celebrates her bat mitzvah at the Herzliya Jewish community center and temple in Buenos Aires, 79 years late.
Unger was born in Warsaw, Poland, on March 30, 1926. She tells the Argentinean radio program Radio Cultura that “the culmination of my whole life is my bat mitzvah; it is a ritual that is very important in Jewish life.”
Unger lived in the Warsaw Ghetto as a teen and was later taken to the Majdanek and Auschwitz Nazi camps with her family, including her parents, two brothers and a sister. Unger is the only member of her family who survived the Holocaust. When she was liberated by Soviet forces, she weighed slightly more than 59 pounds.
After a journey across Central Europe, she lived for two years in a refugee camp in Modena, Italy, where she met David Unger. Both immigrated to Argentina in 1949.
Israel seizes Hamas-bound wet suits
Israel thwarts an attempt to smuggle wet suits into the Gaza Strip, apparently for Hamas’s naval commando unit, the Defense Ministry says.
The ministry’s Crossing Authority, working with the Shin Bet security service, finds some 30 professional-grade wet suits on their way into the coastal enclave hidden in a shipment of sporting wear.
The wet suits came from abroad to an importer in the Palestinian Authority, who forwarded them along to Gaza, “without the required coordination,” the ministry says in a statement.
“The shipment was confiscated, and an investigation was opened into locating those involved in the smuggling,” the Defense Ministry says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Explosion hits Saint Petersburg metro, injuries reported
The subway in the Russian city of St. Petersburg is reporting that several people have been injured in an explosion on a subway train.
The subway’s administration says several stations in the northern Russian city have been closed and that an evacuation is underway Monday afternoon.
“An evacuation from the stations is ongoing, there are people injured,” the Saint Petersburg metro said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies. “An unidentified object supposedly blew up in a (train) carriage.”
Russian news agencies quote Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about the explosion. Putin is visiting the city Monday and is expected to hold talks with the Belarusian president later in the day.
— AFP, AP
10 killed in Saint Petersberg metro blasts
At least 10 people were killed in a blasts on the metro system of Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg, a source in emergencies services tells Russian news agencies.
“According to the first preliminary data, around ten people were killed,” the source says after the Saint Petersburg metro said that an unidentified object had blown up in a train carriage.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) April 3, 2017
Hamas arrests ‘Israeli agents’
Hamas’s internal security forces arrest a group of “Israeli agents” as part of an ongoing operation to root out people working with the Jewish state, media close to Hamas’s military reports.
“Hamas internal security forces are currently undertaking a large campaign to pursue Israeli agents, during which a group has been arrested and others are being pursued,” the Palestinian news site al-Majd, known as close with the Izz-a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, writes.
The campaign follows a declaration by Hamas that it would crack down on “collaborators” with Israel after the recent assassination of one of its military leaders, Mazen Fuqha, which it blames on Israel.
— Dov Lieber
Jewish center in Sweden to close after anti-Semitic threats
A Jewish center in northern Sweden decides to close after receiving anti-Semitic threats.
The members of the Judisk Föreningen, or Jewish Association, in Umea, Sweden, at a meeting on Sunday decided to close its building and end the association’s activities, The Local-Sweden reports.
The association has received threatening emails, and its building was vandalized with stickers of swastikas and spraypainted threats such as “we know where you live,” The Local reported, citing the Swedish-language SVT News Västerbotten.
“Too many things have happened lately which mean that Jewish parents don’t feel safe having their kids at the schools. Our children shouldn’t live in a world where they have to be ashamed for what they are, but it’s not possible to operate if people are scared,” Umeå Jewish Association spokesperson Carinne Sjöberg tells SVT.
Putin offers condolences to victims of Saint Petersberg blasts
President Vladimir Putin, who is holding a meeting near Saint Petersburg in his official Strelna presidential palace, offers “condolences” to those hurt in the blasts in the country’s second largest city.
The Moscow metro announces that it is “taking additional security measures” as required by law in such situations, according to the network’s official Twitter account.
Russian senator: Explosions have ‘every sign of a terrorist attack’
The head of the Federation Council defense and security committee, Senator Viktor Ozerov, says the deadly explosions on the Saint Petersberg metro have “every sign of a terrorist attack,” according to the Russian Interfax news service.
Israel asks Russia if Israelis injured in Saint Petersberg blast
Michael Lotem, the Israeli consul general in Saint Petersberg, asks Russian authorities for information on whether any Israelis were injured in an explosion on the city’s metro in which at least 10 people were killed.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it will provide updates when it receives them.
Electro music pioneer plans Dead Sea show to defy Trump
Pioneering electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre says he wants to use an all-night concert at the Dead Sea to highlight what he sees as the anti-environmental policies of US President Donald Trump.
The French musician, who shot to fame in the 1970s, will perform in front of the ancient Masada fortress in Israel on Thursday in a bid to draw attention to the “urgency of saving the Dead Sea,” he tells AFP.
The lake shared by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, which is the lowest and saltiest body of water in the world, is receding by roughly a meter (three feet) per year. Experts have warned it is on course to dry out by 2050.
The musician said he wants to “make the world aware” of the danger.
Russia to tighten transport security nationwide
Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee announces that security will be tightened at all critical transport facilities following a deadly explosion in Saint Petersburg.
Andrei Kibitov, spokesman for the Saint Petersburg governor, confirms to Russian television that 10 people have been killed and 50 injured in the subway explosion.
Germany jails 4 Islamists over attack plots
A German court sentences to life in prison an Islamist terrorist who plotted a failed bomb attack at a railway station, and hands jail terms to three other extremists.
Marco Gaebel, 29, a German citizen, planted a home-made pipe bomb in a sports bag at the main train station of Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany, in December 2012. The bomb failed to go off, but its discovery sparked a major terrorism alert that caused travel chaos at the station two weeks before Christmas.
Gaebel and the three others were also found guilty of forming a terrorist organization and of plotting to shoot dead the leader of anti-immigrant group Pro-NRW in North Rhine-Westphalia state in March 2013. The four militants were furious after the right-wing fringe group had staged an anti-Islamic street protest and displayed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed outside a local mosque.
Sex offender rabbi to be transferred from prison to rehab house arrest
The Prison Service parole board grants an early release from prison for convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland, deciding to transfer him to house arrest on condition he enter a rehabilitation program and regular psychological assessments.
Berland, 79, who enjoys a cult-like following in the Bratslav Hasidic sect, was convicted in November on two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault as part of a plea bargain. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court sentenced him to 18 months in prison, though they decided that some seven months that he spent in jails in South Africa and the US will count as time served.
Despite his early release from prison, he will remain under house arrest and constant surveillance until October 2017, the parole board decided.
Berland fled Israel in 2013 amid allegations that he molested two female followers, one of them a minor. He was on the run from authorities until earlier this year, eluding several Israeli attempts to extradite him. He moved between Zimbabwe, Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Africa, accompanied by a group of devout followers numbering around 40 families.
Lod stabbing attacker arrested
The Shin Bet reveals that a stabbing in the city of Lod last Monday, in which a Jewish woman was moderately hurt, was in fact a terror attack, allegedly carried out by a 19-year-old Palestinian.
The suspect, Malek Bassem Ismail Saada, was picked up a day after the attack, the security service says, but details of the case were not revealed to the public.
According to the Shin Bet, Saada carried out the attack “because he was tired of his life” and hoped he would be killed by police, in a so-called suicide by cop.
The Palestinian teenager brought a knife with him to a parking garage in Lod just before 8:30 p.m. on Monday. When he spotted a woman with her hair covered, which identified her as a religious Jewish woman, Saada ran after her and — shouting a sentence in Arabic — stabbed her in the upper body, the Shin Bet said.
Saada fled the scene, but was arrested as he made his way back to his home in the West Bank town of Halhul.
“This is another case of a Palestinian deciding to carry out a terror attack as a solution to his personal problems,” the Shin Bet says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Britain’s May begins Jordan, Saudia Arabia trip focused on security, trade
British Prime Minister Theresa May lands in Amman for a three-day trip to Jordan and Saudi Arabia focused on security and post-Brexit trade efforts.
In Jordan, May is expected to announce that British military trainers will be sent to help the country’s air force fight the Islamic State group. She will visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and Wednesday for talks focused on trade and investment as Britain begins the process of leaving the European Union.
May said before leaving Britain that it was “clearly in the UK’s security and prosperity interests to support Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
May will set out a package of measures to boost cooperation between British forces and the Royal Jordanian Air Force, which along with Britain is part of the US-led coalition bombing IS in Iraq and Syria.
“To tackle the threats we face from terrorism and from geopolitical instability, we must meet them at their source,” May said, describing Jordan as “on the frontline of multiple regional crises.”
Remains of a new pyramid discovered in Egypt
A top antiquities official says an Egyptian excavation team has discovered the remains of a new pyramid that dates back to the 13th Dynasty, some 3,700 years ago.
The head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, Mahmoud Afifi, says in a statement Monday that the remains were located north of King Sneferu’s bent pyramid in the Dahshur royal necropolis south of Cairo. Due to the bent slope of its sides, the pyramid is believed to have been ancient Egypt’s first attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid. The necropolis was the burial site for courtiers and high-ranking officials.
— Margaret Maitland (@eloquentpeasant) April 3, 2017
Adel Okasha, the head of Dahshur necropolis, says that the remains belong to the inner structure of the pyramid, including a corridor. Other remains included blocks showing the interior design of the pyramid.
Unexploded device found at second Saint Petersburg metro station
An unexploded device was found at a second Saint Petersburg metro station after a blast in the underground that killed around 10 and injured dozens, local news agencies cite Russia’s anti-terrorism committee as saying.
The national anti-terrorism committee (NAK) says in a statement carried by Russian agencies that such a device was “found and neutralized in a timely fashion” at the Vosstaniya Square station.
Russian media says security camera may yield clue to bomber
Russian news reports say that a security camera caught a person who could be responsible for a blast on St. Petersburg subway.
The Interfax news agency is citing an unidentified source who says the suspect in Monday’s blast might have left the explosive device in a bag. It didn’t explain why the man was believed to be the culprit.
Israel’s most expensive road set to open tonight
A new road, the most expensive in Israel’s history, is set to be opened this evening to enable drivers to transfer between the trans-Israel and coastal routes without passing a single traffic light.
Route 531 connects Route 6, a toll road that goes from the south of the country to the north, with the coastal Route 2 that runs along the shore line.
The project, 10 years in the making, cost some NIS 4.7 billion ($1.29 billion), twice the original estimate.
A key interchange, the South Ra’anana Interchange, inaugurated by the Transportation Ministry and the National Roads Company, cost NIS 1 billion to construct and has four levels of traffic as well as a rail line through it. The interchange handles the complex movement of traffic between Route 531 and Route 4 leading to the north of the country.
Gideon Sa’ar announces return to politics
Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar announces his political comeback at the party’s headquarters in the northern city of Acre. Widely seen as a major potential challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from within the ranks of the Likud, Sa’ar resigned from the Knesset in October 2014, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Speaking to Likud members and activists at a pre-Passover toast, Sa’ar says, “I came here this evening to say to you: break’s over.”
“I am returning to public and political life, for the sake of the Likud, for the sake of the people of Israel and for the sake of the state. My goal is to strengthen the Likud in the face of its challenges and to ensure that the Likud is the party of the future,” he says.
In a possible veiled criticism of Netanyahu’s recent decision to limit settlement building at the request of the US administration, Sa’ar said the upcoming Passover festival, also known as “the festival of freedom,” was a time for introspection about the future of the Likud party and the country.
“We must ask ourselves: Who are we? As a country, as a people, as the Likud,” he said. “We can sense a danger of a return to the same old demand of Israel to withdraw to the ’67 borders, something that we believe, and have always believed, would be a great danger to Israel and a danger to its security. In the face of this challenge, we must strengthen the country and strengthen the Likud as the central national political party in Israel.”
Trump welcomes Egypt’s Sissi to the White House
President Donald Trump is welcoming Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to the White House.
The Egyptian president arrived Monday morning. Trump greeted him with a handshake before the pair headed inside.
Topics el-Sissi may broach with the new president include military aid for the country.
Trump has repeatedly mentioned Egypt as one of the Muslim-majority allies that the US should maintain its partnership with, in the fight against extremists like the Islamic State group.
The White House welcome comes after a tense relationship between Egypt’s leader and the previous administration.
Former President Barack Obama never invited el-Sissi to the White House and allowed his administration to repeatedly admonish his government over its human rights record. Obama also briefly suspended some US military aid.
Tunisia shuts nightclub over call to prayer remix
Tunisian authorities shut down a nightclub and open an investigation after a DJ played a remix recording of the Muslim call to prayer.
A video, widely shared online since Sunday, shows clubbers dancing at the weekend to music that includes the call to prayer at the club in the northeastern town of Nabeul. The footage sparked a storm of debate on social media.
The party, near the popular resort of Hammamet, had been organised by two European DJs.
“After confirming the facts, we decided to close this nightclub” until further notice, Nabeul governor Mnaouar Ouertani tells AFP. He said an investigation had been opened and the club’s manager detained “for violation against good morals and public outrage against modesty”.
“We will not allow attacks against religious feelings and the sacred,” Ouertani says.
Russia probes metro blast as ‘act of terror’
Russia opens a probe into a suspected “act of terror” after 10 people were killed and dozens more injured in a blast that rocked the Saint Petersburg metro.
Russia’s Investigative Committee says it is probing an “act of terror” but adds it will look into all other possible causes of the blast.
Pictures screened on national television showed the door of a train carriage blown out, as bloodied bodies lay strewn on a station platform. Above ground, emergency services vehicles rushed to the scene at the Technological Institute metro station, a key transport hub in the city center.
Health minister Veronika Skvortsova said the blast had killed seven people on the spot, with three more succumbing to their injuries later. 39 people were hospitalized, including a 15-year-old girl, Skvortsova said.
Netanyahu sends condolences to Russian blast victims
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sends his condolences to victims of a deadly explosion on the Saint Petersburg subway in which 10 people were killed and 50 injured.
“On behalf of the Israeli government, I send condolences to President Putin and families of those murdered at the bombing on the St Petersburg subway,” the prime minister says in a statement.
Probe into Netanyahu’s illicit gifts could take 2 more months — report
The police investigation into allegations Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen is likely to take a further two months, Channel 2 news reports.
Police are reportedly still seeking to question Australian billionaire James Packer as well as several figures outside of the country. Packer has emerged as a key figure in the ongoing corruption, along with Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
In what they have dubbed “Case 1000,” police are probing whether Netanyahu’s accepting expensive gifts from Milchan and Packer, and then taking actions on their behalf, amounts to an illegal conflict of interest. The gifts reportedly amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars and included expensive cigars, champagne, meals, and hotel rooms.
If police do recommend pressing charges against the prime minister, the attorney general could take up to a year to officially present an indictment, the report adds.
National Archives to White House: Save all Trump tweets
The National Archives is telling the White House to keep each of President Donald Trump’s tweets, even those he deletes or corrects.
The head of the National Archives and Records Administration, David S. Ferriero, told two Democratic senators in a letter that the White House has assured him it’s already doing this.
The archives contacted the White House about the matter because such correspondence is required to be preserved for history under the Presidential Records Act.
The letter doesn’t describe how the White House is saving Trump’s tweets. The Obama administration used an automated system to keep copies of President Barack Obama’s tweets.
Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Tom Carper of Delaware raised the issue following a spate of instances in which Trump had deleted or corrected tweets.
Dems have the votes to try to block Gorsuch
Senate Democrats now have enough votes to try to block Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch with a filibuster, setting up a showdown with Republicans who plan to confirm him anyway.
The crucial 41st vote came from Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware who announced his decision Monday, as the Senate Judiciary Committee met to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination.
Coons said that he had decided to oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee over concerns that include his vague answers in his hearing.
Coons’ opposition will prevent Republicans from reaching the 60 votes they need to move Gorsuch over procedural hurdles to a final Senate vote. Determined to confirm him despite Democratic objections, they will likely change Senate rules later this week to reduce the threshold from 60 to a simple majority.
Chief of staff praises IDF for preventing terror attacks
Army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot praises the military for standing in the way of terrorists looking to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.
These attacks were prevented “thanks to the determination, fortitude and professionalism of IDF warriors,” Eisenkot says, speaking at a ceremony honoring outstanding officers and non-combatant officers (NCOs).
“And beyond our borders, we are witnesses to attempts to smuggle dangerous weapons into the wrong hands, and we are taking action to preserve the essential interest of the State of Israel,” he adds.
This is an apparent reference to airstrikes carried out against Hezbollah weapons caches and convoys, which are regularly attributed to Israel, though the Jewish state refrains from officially taking credit for them.
— Judah Ari Gross