The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Jordan tourist site shut after deadly attack, probe launched
KARAK, Jordan — Jordanian troops with armored vehicles are blocking access to a popular tourist site — a Crusader castle — following attacks in the area that killed 10 people yesterday, including a Canadian visitor.
State-media says today that Jordan launched an investigation into the shootings, among the bloodiest attacks in recent years.
The attack was also the latest in a series of assaults over the past year that challenged the pro-Western kingdom’s claim to be an oasis of calm in a region increasingly threatened by Islamic extremists.
Canadian officials identified the slain tourist as Linda Vatcher.
The attack was likely to further harm Jordan’s battered tourism industry, on the decline since militants from the Islamic State group seized control of parts of neighboring Iraq and Syria two years ago.
Middle Eastern Christians facing ‘tragedy’ – church
A leading church figure in the Middle East says Christians across the region are facing a “tragedy,” and accuses the international community of failing to act.
“The situation of Christians, especially in Syria and Iraq, is a tragedy,” says Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, in a press conference ahead of the Christmas holidays.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem heads the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
He says up to two-thirds of Christians have left those two countries, citing in particular Aleppo — the previously mixed city in northern Syria which has been devastated by more than five years of civil war.
Stabbing attack foiled in West Bank
A Palestinian woman was arrested at the Qalqilya checkpoint in the West Bank after apparently planning to carry out a stabbing attack.
Channel 10 says the woman approached troops with a knife. They fired shots in the air and she surrendered and was arrested.
There are no injuries.
Diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz arrested
Diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz is the well-known businessman detained for questioning earlier today on suspicion of money laundering and bribing foreign public officials, following an undercover investigation in several countries.
His name was under gag order, but can now be revealed after a court sent him to house arrest for two weeks, Ynet says.
He is accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes along with his associates to government workers in the Republic of Guinea in exchange for the advancement of his business interests in the country, according to an Israel Police spokesperson.
Lapid says if guilty, Arab MK is a ‘miserable traitor’
Yesh Atid leader Yari Lapid says that if MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint (Arab) List is guilty of passing telephones and SIM cards to a pair of Palestinian security prisoners then he is “a miserable traitor” who deserves to be in jail.
Lapid says he wants Ghattas stripped of his immunity and not impeached, which will take too long.
“If he is guilty, he is a miserable traitor who should be sitting in prison, not touring the world in the next few years telling everyone he is being politically persecuted.
UNICEF: 47 kids evacuated from Aleppo orphanage
BEIRUT — The UN children’s agency says 47 children in an orphanage in the rebel-held section of Syria’s eastern Aleppo have been evacuated to safety, though some are in a critical condition.
UNICEF had previously expressed concerns about the children inside the orphanage near the front line in eastern Aleppo.
The agency’s spokeswoman Malene Jensen says that the children are being fed, clothed, medically examined and looked after by the agency and its partners, as well as by medical teams.
A UNICEF statement says some were in “critical condition from injuries and dehydration.”
It also cautions that there are many other “vulnerable children” among untold thousands of people still inside eastern Aleppo, according to estimates from the UN and humanitarian agencies.
Herzog slams budget cuts to fund outpost compensation
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog slams the cabinet’s approval of budget cuts on Sunday to compensate the residents of Amona.
The move shows that “those who are close [to the prime minister] get a million shekels. Those who extort — get a million shekels,” says the Zionist Union party leader at the start of the weekly faction meeting.
— Marissa Newman
Arrested billionaire’s company denies corruption allegations
The company of arrested billionaire Israeli Beny Steinmetz, BSGR, denies the corruption allegations against him.
“It is BSGR’s strong belief that these allegations of bribery by the government of Guinea are not only baseless, but are a systematic attempt by the government of Guinea to cover up the endemic corruption which has blighted this country for a number of years,” the company says.
Steinmetz was sent to house arrest earlier today.
Alleged Jewish gangster shot 5 times in Paris
A man described by French police as a Jewish gangster was shot five times and severely wounded in Paris.
The incident occurred Sunday evening in the upscale 16th district of Paris, which features the Eiffel Tower. The victim, identified as Dominique Guez, sustained at least one headshot from a drive-by shooting as he was parking his scooter on Flandrin Boulevard near the Arc de Triomph in eastern Paris, according to the RTL radio and television broadcaster.
Two unidentified men opened fire on Guez from a moving car.
Quoting police sources, the Le Parisien weekly reports the victim is “a member of the Jewish crime scene” with multiple convictions for fraud.
Netanyahu praises Amona residents
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises the residents of the Amona outpost for accepting a deal that would allow them to move to an adjacent plot of land and prevent a violent evacuation of the settlement.
”I want to praise the people of Amona,” Netanyahu tells the weekly Likud Knesset faction meeting. ”They took the right decision for them, for the settlement and for the State.”
Echoing his statements at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, he reiterated his party’s commitment to the settlement project.
“We will continue to strengthen and build up the settlements,” he says to applause. “There has not been and will not be a government that supports the settlements more than us.”
In faction meeting, @netanyahu praises Amona residents. Says they made "right decision for them, the settlements and the people of Israel"
— Raoul Wootliff (@RaoulWootliff) December 19, 2016
Jordan says Karak gunmen apparently planned more attacks
AMMAN — Gunmen who killed 10 people, including a Canadian tourist, in a series of shootings apparently had planned additional attacks, Jordan’s interior minister says, citing explosives belts found in the attackers’ hideout.
Sunday’s shootings were the bloodiest and most high-profile attacks in Jordan in recent memory. At one point, security forces and the armed men were locked in a standoff at a popular tourism site, a Crusader castle in the central town of Karak.
In all, seven members of the Jordanian security forces, two local civilians and the Canadian tourist, a 62-year-old elementary school teacher identified as Linda Vachter, were killed. Thirty-four people were wounded, including Vachter’s adult son, Chris.
Four gunmen were killed in the confrontation.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shootings.
UN Security Council unanimously backs sending observers to Aleppo
With Russia’s backing, the Security Council today voted to quickly deploy UN observers to Aleppo to monitor evacuations and report on the fate of civilians who remain in the besieged Syrian city.
The council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution that marks the first show of unity in months among world powers grappling with the crisis in Syria.
Netanyahu condemns Jordan attack
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today condemned the terrorist attack in Jordan that killed 10 people at a popular tourist attraction.
“On behalf of the people and government of Israel, I strongly condemn yesterday’s terrorist attack in Jordan,” Netanyahu says.
“We send our sympathies to the families of the victims and wish the wounded a speedy and full recovery.”
Trump picks billionaire Viola for Army secretary
President-elect Donald J. Trump has picked Vincent Viola as secretary of the Army. Viola is the founder of several businesses, including Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm. He also owns the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and is a past chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In a statement Monday, Trump says Viola is “living proof of the American dream.” Viola grew up in a family of Italian immigrants in Brooklyn. His father worked as a truck driver.
Viola is a 1977 West Point graduate. He trained as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division. He is a graduate of New York Law School. In 2003, he founded and helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Viola bought the Panthers for about $250 million in 2013.
Trump Nominates Billionaire Virtu Founder Vincent Viola As Secretary Of The Army https://t.co/nagmbWbS9f
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) December 19, 2016
Electoral College meets to formally elect Trump
Electors are gathering today in every state to formally elect Donald Trump president even as anti-Trump forces try one last time to deny him the White House.
Protests are planned in state capitals, but they’re unlikely to persuade the Electoral College to dump Trump. An Associated Press survey of electors found very little appetite to vote for alternative candidates.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.6 million votes. But Trump is poised to win 306 of the 538 electoral votes under the state-by-state distribution of electors used to choose presidents since 1789.
The AP tried to reach every elector and interviewed more than 330 of them. Despite the national group therapy session being conducted by some Democrats, only one Republican elector told the AP that he won’t vote for Trump.
Diamond magnate Steinmetz posts NIS 100 million bail
Billionaire Israeli Beny Steinmetz had to post NIS 100 million ($26 million) in bail today before being released to house arrest, Channel 2 reports.
Steinmentz, who was arrested on suspicion of paying millions of dollars to Guinea officials in order to advance his business interests, had to pay half of the bail in cash.
Tunisia searching for Belgian, Swiss behind killing of Hamas engineer
Tunisian officials say they are searching for two men travelling on Swiss and Belgian passports, believed to be involved in the killing of Mohammed Al-Zoari, an aviation scientist who developed the Hamas’s unmanned drones.
The officials say that a picture of Belgian man has been sent to Interpol.
Hamas accuses the Mossad of carrying out a hit on Al-Zoari.
Arab party head urges caution in ‘very serious’ charges against Ghattas
The chairman of the Joint (Arab) List MK Ayman Odeh says the charges that party lawmaker Basel Ghattas smuggled phones to inmates in Israeli prison are ‘very serious,’ but the Knesset should not act before they are proven to be true.
“The charges leveled against MK Basel Ghattas are very serious and as such they need to be clarified in an investigation and not a field court martial by lawmakers,” he says.
“Every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty and so the attempt to already convict Ghattas is forbidden,” Odeh says, adding that some lawmakers were attempting to use the case to target all Arab lawmakers.
— Raoul Wootliff
Heavy rains delay flights at Ben Gurion
Torrential rains in central Israel this evening are causing havoc, with flights interrupted at Ben Gurion airport.
All take-offs and landings were postponed by at least half an hour, Channel 2 reports.
Meanwhile, roads in Ra’anana are flooded leaving several cars submerged. There are also reports of snow on Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights.
Police minister says Ghattas has ‘gone undergound’
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan says police can’t find Arab MK Basel Ghattas who is suspected of smuggling mobile phones to prisoners.
“He has apparently gone underground, he and his assistant have turned off their phones,” Erdan tells Channel 2.
But Erdan says police have the ability to find him.
Yesterday Ghattas declined to go with police for questioning because he has parliamentary immunity.
Seven-year-old Syria war symbol evacuated from Aleppo
Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed, whose Twitter account has offered a tragic account of the war in Syria, was evacuated from the divided Syrian city of Aleppo today and was set to be brought to Turkey, Turkish officials and aid workers say.
The young Syrian girl is one of thousands of people evacuated from once rebel-held areas of Aleppo in the last days under a deal brokered by Turkey and Russia.
“This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from #Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them,” Turkish NGO the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) wrote on its Twitter account, sharing an IHH aid worker’s selfie picture with the girl.
— İHH BEYOĞLU (@ihh_beyoglu) December 19, 2016
Russian ambassador in Turkey reported shot, wounded
Turkish media say that Russia’s ambassador to Turkey has been shot in a gun attack in the capital, Ankara.
The reports say he is in a very serious condition.
Turkish TV showed pictures of the envoy lying on the floor of an art gallery after the assault. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Breaking: Russian ambassador to Turkey shot in Ankara while attending an art opening, Turkish media reporting.
— Piotr Zalewski (@p_zalewski) December 19, 2016
IDF to conduct large-scale drill in central Israel
The IDF Home Front Command will conduct a readiness drill across central Israel, including Tel Aviv and the surrounding towns, the army says.
Air raids will sound at 10:05 a.m. tomorrow as part of the exercise, and the home defense unit will test its emergency application and radio alerts, and army personnel will be mobilized, the IDF says in a statement.
In case of a real emergency a second siren will wail.
— Ilan Ben Zion
Russian ambassador assailant shouted ‘Revenge for Aleppo’
Witnesses say that the assailant who shot and wounded Russia’s ambassador in Turkey shouted, “Revenge for Aleppo,” before the attack.
Turkish media says gunfire continued in the art gallery for several minutes after the initial assault, but has now stopped.
Assailant was Russian envoy’s security guard, later killed by Turkish special forces
Reports out of Ankara say that the man who shot and critically wounded the Russian ambassador in Turkey was part of his security detail. He was later killed by Turkish special forces.
Photos show the man standing behind ambassador Andrey Karlov while he gave a speech.
He can then be seen standing over his body shouting and gesticulating.
Turkey’s Anadolu agency says the attacker was later killed by Turkish special forces.
— Aldin Abazović (@Ald_Aba) December 19, 2016
Russian ambassador dies of his wounds
Russian media says that Ambassador Andrey Karlov has died after his wounds.
Karlov was shot by one of his guards in Ankara.
US condemns attack on Russian ambassador
The US State Department has condemned the attack on the Russian ambassador in Turkey.
State Department spokesman John Kirby says that “we condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, when a man wearing a suit and tie shouted, “Allahu akbar” and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience.
Swiss media report shooting in Zurich Islamic center
Swiss media are reporting a shooting at an Islamic center in Zurich.
Three people are reported to have been injured.
Gunman was Turkish police officer
The gunman who shot and killed Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov was a Turkish police officer, Ankara’s mayor tells AFP
The assailant appeared to be working as part of Karlov’s security detail before he shot and killed him.
Russia says Ankara envoy killing a ‘terrorist’ act
The Russian ambassador to Ankara died Monday after being shot in the Turkish capital, the foreign ministry in Moscow says, describing the incident as a “terrorist act”.
“Today in Ankara, as a result of an attack, the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov received wounds that he died from,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in televised comments.
“We qualify what happened as a terrorist act,” she says. “The murderers will be punished.
“Today, this issue will be raised at the UN Security Council. Terrorism will not win out.”
The gunman, identified by the Ankara mayor as a Turkish policeman, shot the ambassador at an Ankara art exhibition, shouting “Aleppo” and “revenge”.
The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin had been informed.
Syria peace talks to resume February 8 in Geneva
Syria peace talks will resume in February in Geneva, the UN peace envoy says, as the UN Security Council votes to deploy observers to war-ravaged Aleppo.
“It is the intention of the United Nations to convene those negotiations in Geneva on 8 February 2017,” says Staffan de Mistura after the council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution to monitor evacuations from the city.
Erdogan calls Putin over envoy killing
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to brief him over the gun attack that killed the Russian ambassador to Ankara, the Turkish presidency says.
“The president has spoken by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin to share information about tonight’s attack,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin says in a statement.
Trump off to a strong start in Electoral College
Donald Trump started racking up electoral votes today. With about half the states reporting, neither Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton had lost any electors.
Trump has 154 votes and Clinton has 86. It takes 270 votes in the Electoral College to win the presidency. Electors are voting throughout the day and there was scant evidence many GOP electors would peel away from their Election Day winner. More than three dozen would have to abandon him to complicate his path to the presidency.
— Students for Trump (@SoCal4Trump) December 19, 2016
Turkey says won’t allow envoy killing to ‘cast shadow’ on Russia ties
Turkey says it won’t allow the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Ankara to damage relations with Moscow, describing the killing as a “terror attack” on bilateral relations.
“We will not allow this attack to cast a shadow on Turkey-Russia relations,” says the Turkish foreign ministry in a statement. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the killing of Andrey Karlov was “a terror attack on relations between Russia and Turkey.”
Shots fired at bus in West Bank, no injuries
Shots were fired at a bus near the settlement of Talmon in the West Bank, Channel 10 reports.
There are no injuries, but there is minor damage to the vehicle, the report says.
Truck drives into crowd at Berlin Christmas fair
A truck has plowed through a crowd of revelers at a Christmas fair in Berlin, the BBC reports.
German media says that at least one person was killed and some 10 wounded.
Video from the scene shows rescue workers around the vehicle, next to stalls decorated in festive lights.
Breaking: En lastbil er pløjet ind i et julemarked i Berlin. Årsag ukendt. Der meldes om tilskadekomne. Video angiveligt fra åstedet. https://t.co/y7cax62cfT
— Nicolas S. Nielsen (@nsnielsen) December 19, 2016
Israel embassy in Berlin in touch with police over truck ramming
The Israeli embassy in Berlin is in touch with German police to get further information about the truck incident at a Berlin Christmas fair, the foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon says.
A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market, killing at least one person and wounding several others.
— Raphael Ahren
German police reportedly believe Berlin incident an attack
The German Die Welt newspaper reports that police believe the Berlin truck crash may have been a deliberate attack.
According to the news site, there had been “indications of an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin” for days.
There are dozens of injured, according to the report.
Photos of the scene show carnage after the truck plowed through several stands in the crowded market.
A photo posted by the Berliner Morgenpost shows damaged tables and stalls.
— News_Executive (@News_Executive) December 19, 2016
Several people dead, at least 50 injured in Berlin market
AFP says there are several fatalities at the Berlin market, quoting local police.
Berlin truck driver may have fled the scene
Germany’s ZDF reports that the truck driver who ran over shoppers at a Berlin market fled the scene following what police believe may have been an attack.
Video from scene of likely attack in Berlin market
A person at the scene of what was most likely an attack in Berlin has uploaded a video from the devastated market.
Israel’s Turkish embassy ‘shocked’ by killing of Russian envoy
The Israeli embassy in Turkey says it is “shocked and saddened” by the murder of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov.
The Embassy of Israel in Turkey is shocked and saddened by the horrible assassination of a colleague, ambassador Andrey Karlov. +
— İsrail Türkiye'de (@IsraelinTurkey) December 19, 2016
DPA: Suspected truck driver arrested, co-driver killed
DPA is reporting a man suspected to be the driver of the truck that rammed into Berlin’s Christmas market has been arrested after fleeing the scene earlier.
A second man who was with him in the truck was reportedly killed in the crash.
Berlin police call on public to stay indoors
Police in Berlin are urging people to stay at home as they investigate the suspected attack at a Christmas market.
“Please help us. Stay at home and don’t spread rumors. Follow us here for important information,” police tweet.
Merkel ‘mourns dead’ at Christmas market
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she mourns the dead at suspected attack in market.
Truck belongs to Polish company, may have been hijacked
The Guardian reports that the truck that crashed into the market belongs to a Polish delivery company and had left Poland for Berlin earlier today.
The company lost contact with the driver at around 4 p.m. local time, and authorities are checking whether the vehicle was hijacked.