Putin told Assad he’d have to step down — officials
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Hollande says Paris attacks planned in Syria; Obama calls Islamic State 'the face of evil'; IS threatens attack in Washington

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

  • A photo from the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border shows a smoke trail of rockets being fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip into Israel, August 22, 2014. (AFP/Jack Guez)
    A photo from the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border shows a smoke trail of rockets being fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip into Israel, August 22, 2014. (AFP/Jack Guez)
  • French President Francois Hollande arrives for a speech at an exceptional joint gathering of Parliament in Versailles on November 16, 2015, three days after 129 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack in France's history (AFP PHOTO/POOL/MICHEL EULER)
    French President Francois Hollande arrives for a speech at an exceptional joint gathering of Parliament in Versailles on November 16, 2015, three days after 129 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack in France's history (AFP PHOTO/POOL/MICHEL EULER)
  • US President Barack Obama addresses the G20 summit in Istanbul on Monday, November 16, 2015 (screen capture: YouTube)
    US President Barack Obama addresses the G20 summit in Istanbul on Monday, November 16, 2015 (screen capture: YouTube)
  • The White House is said to be 'on fire' and ready for battle in defending the Iran nuclear plan. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/JTA)
    The White House is said to be 'on fire' and ready for battle in defending the Iran nuclear plan. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/JTA)
  • Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, in her office in Stockholm, October 31, 2014 (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)
    Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, in her office in Stockholm, October 31, 2014 (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)
  • Mugs bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin are seen on display at a shop in Hamidiya market in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on November 10, 2015 (AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA)
    Mugs bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin are seen on display at a shop in Hamidiya market in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on November 10, 2015 (AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA)
  • Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

Putin told Assad he’d have to step down — officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin posed an ultimatum to his embattled Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, warning him, during a meeting between the two men in Moscow on October 20, that he would have to abdicate his presidential powers and make way for a temporary government in Syria in the coming months, senior Israeli officials tell The Times of Israel.

The officials say that despite the red carpet that was laid out for Assad – it was the first time he exited Syria since the start of the civil war that has ravaged his country since 2011 – he received a markedly chilly reception.

Putin also demanded that Assad and his associates enter negotiations with moderate elements in Syria toward instituting a temporary government that would stay in place for about a year and a half – until general elections could be held, the officials say. Otherwise, Putin reportedly warned, Russia would withdraw its support from Assad.

The meeting preceded the talks that have been held in recent days in Vienna between representatives of Arab and Western states toward a possible political solution for war-torn Syria.

— Avi Issacharoff

Iran vows to repel IS threat at Afghan, Iraqi borders

A top Iranian army commander says that his troops will take “decisive” action if Islamic State group militants come within 40 kilometers of its borders with Iraq and Afghanistan.

The comments from General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, who heads Iran’s ground forces, come after Iraq’s foreign minister said intelligence sources showed Iran was among countries IS had plans to attack.

“The Iraqi foreign ministry warned us but the Islamic Republic of Iran’s army states that it has no fear of such threats and a red line has been drawn in Iraq 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border,” Pourdastan says.

“We have strongly warned that if any action is taken (by IS), it will face a decisive response from Iranian armed forces and we will do the same in Afghanistan,” Pourdastan says, quoted by state media.

— AFP

Police block exit from capital’s Jabel Mukaber neighborhood

Police place a concrete barrier at the entrance to the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in East Jerusalem.

The barrier is placed at an intersection that connects Jabel Mukaber to the Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, where residents have thus far been able to pass relatively freely.

According to police, “the change is made from time to time for operational and security reasons,” Ynet reports.

Bennett declares ‘world war,’ equates Paris to West Bank

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says the attacks in Paris are part of a “world war between radical Islam and the free world.”

Speaking to students at Ariel University in the West Bank, Bennett, who leads the pro-settler Jewish Home party, says, “Either you will be here or the Islamic State will.”

After invoking the radical Islamist group, which claimed the gruesome attacks in Paris, Bennett rails against the notion that Israel should compromise in its conflict with the Palestinians.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, leads the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, November 02, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, leads the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, November 02, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“If France were today to offer half of Paris to the Muslims – would that reduce terrorism or encourage it? If it were to release terrorists, would that decrease or increase [terrorism]?” he asks.

“Terrorism,” Bennett elaborates, “doesn’t stem from Palestinians losing hope, but from the fact that they do have hope. A Palestinian state is their hope. It is a central fixture of their phased plan.

“If we uproot their hope for the phased plan, their motivation to commit terrorism will be reduced. A Palestinian state is a strategic danger that must be uprooted.”

Hungary rails against settlement labels

Hungary will defy the European Union’s guidelines for the labeling of settlement goods, the country’s foreign minister says.

“We do not support that decision. It is an inefficient instrument. It is irrational and does not contribute to a solution [to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict], but causes damage,” says Péter Szijjártó, who is also Hungary’s trade minister.

At an event in Jerusalem hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, Szijjártó also rejects international criticism of Budapest’s policies vis-a-vis the refugee crisis.

“The allegation that Hungary is against the European value of freedom of movement is hypocritical,” he says. “We are only trying to prevent people from crossing our borders illegally.”

Raphael Ahren

2 explosions heard during Belgian police search

Two small explosions are heard during a major police action in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect in the Paris attacks. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm’s way.

Police refuse to provide any details about who may have set off the explosions or the purpose for them.

Two hours into the siege a first explosion is heard and a similar one follows it one hour later on a higher floor of a building with special security forces close by on roofs.

— AP

In video, IS appears to warn of attack on Washington

The Islamic State warns in a new video of an attack in Washington and in the cities of any country that participates in air raids against the radical group in Syria and Iraq.

“We say to the states that take part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day God willing, like France’s and by God, as we struck France in the center of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its center in Washington,” a man in the video says, according to Reuters, which notes that the authenticity of the video has yet to be verified.

If authentic, it would be IS’s first reaction to a massive French bombing run against it in the wake of Friday’s terror attacks in Paris.

Israel slams Sweden for linking IS to Palestinian grievances

Israel excoriates the Swedish foreign minister for implying that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could help pacify the radical Islamic State group.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry says Margot Wallström’s comments to that effect were “shockingly brazen.”

It adds, “The Swedish foreign minister is systematically biased against Israel and displays outright hostility by pointing to any link between the terror attacks in Paris and the difficulties between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Wallström had reportedly said, “To counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East in which not at the least the Palestinians sees that there is no future; we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

The Foreign Ministry said that the Swedish ambassador to Israel has been summoned for a clarification with the ministry’s director, Dore Gold.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry blasts the “senseless attempt to create a link” between the attacks and Israel, saying such rhetoric is not only self-deceptive, but “also deceives the international public.”

Sweden denies linking IS, Palestinians

In a tweet, the Swedish embassy in Israel denies that the country’s foreign minister had linked Islamic State terrorism to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Arab youths arrested for throwing rocks at Jerusalem train

Police arrest a number of Arab youths who they say threw rocks at light rail trains in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat and Beit Hanina neighborhoods.

In all, six youths aged 14-15 have been arrested, all of them residents of Shuafat, Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri says.

They all confessed to hurling rocks and bottles of paint at the train, she says.

The suspects all go to the same school, she says, and in the afternoon they would get together and attack the trains.

The suspects have been remanded at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Israel unveils Roman-era mosaic found during construction

Israel’s antiquities authority unveils a 1,700-year-old mosaic floor that archaeologists found last year while building a visitors’ center meant to display another mosaic, discovered two decades earlier at the same location.

The authority says the newly discovered Roman-era mosaic measures 11 meters by 13 meters (36 feet by 42 feet) and paved the courtyard of a villa in an affluent neighborhood that stood during the Roman and Byzantine eras. The scenes include hunting animals, fish, vases and birds.

“The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability,” says Amir Gorzalczany, who directed the excavation.

The new mosaic was found just a few meters from the first one, in what is today the central Israeli city of Lod.

The authority says the mosaic discovered in the 1990s covered the villa’s living room while the newly discovered one was in its courtyard.

The original mosaic has been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and is expected to return to Lod after the visitors’ center is complete.

— AP

Deputy FM: Swedish FM’s comments ‘borderline anti-Semitism’

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely lashes out at the Swedish foreign minister, calling her statements linking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Islamic State attacks “borderline anti-Semitism.”

“The vile manner in which she links the attacks in France and Israel is no less than a blood libel,” she adds.

— Stuart Winer

2 Arab men cop to trying to run over soldiers

Police have arrested two Arab men from northern Israel on suspicion that they attempted to run over Israeli soldiers earlier today, Israel Police says.

Spokeswoman Luba Samri says the two men, who are 20 years old, have confessed and are being brought to the Magistrate’s Court for an arraignment.

WATCH: Islamic State threatens attack in DC

CIA chief expects more IS terror attacks

CIA director John Brennan warns that the attacks in Paris were likely not a “one-off event” and that he expects Islamic State has more operations in the pipeline.

“Security and intelligence services right now are working feverishly to see what else they can do in terms of uncovering it,” he says at a Washington think tank.

The CIA chief says Friday night’s attacks by gunmen in suicide vests in the heart of the French capital were carefully planned and executed.

CIA Director John Brennan. (photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

CIA Director John Brennan (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“This was not something done in a matter of days. This is something that was carefully and deliberately planned over the course of several months in terms of whether they had the operatives, the weapons, explosives, suicide belts.

“I would anticipate that this is not the only operation ISIL has in the pipeline,” he says, using an alternate acronym for IS, the militant group that has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.

— AFP

Belgium charges 2 with terrorism over Paris attacks

Belgian authorities have charged two people who were arrested after the Paris attacks with involvement in terrorism, prosecutors say.

The pair were charged “with a terrorist act and participation in the activities of a terrorist group,” while five others detained at the weekend were freed without charge, the prosecutor’s office says in a statement.

It does not give the names of the people who were charged.

One of those released is Mohamed Abdeslam — whose brother Brahim took part in the attacks and whose other brother Salah is being hunted by police.

The prosecutors confirm that a major police raid in Brussels on Monday aimed at arresting Salah Abdeslam has ended without anyone being detained.

— AFP

Turkey discloses arrests with link to Paris

A Turkish security official says authorities have arrested more than half a dozen suspected Islamic State militants who had exchanged messages with the militants in Paris who conducted the deadly attacks across the city.

The security official says that the suspects included a man they believe is associated with Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John.”

The official speaks on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the investigation.

— AP

Sweden insists it didn’t link IS, Palestinians

Sweden reiterates its rejection of the assertion that its foreign minister tied Islamic State terror attacks to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a statement, a Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesperson says:

In the interview which is referred to, no implication or reference was made that implied that the Israeli Palestinian conflict had any relevance for the tragic events in Paris. We condemn all acts of terror. We must now unite as democracies to fight for our common values in these challenging times.

— Raphael Ahren

Hollande says attacks planned in Syria

Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were planned in Syria and staged from within Belgian territory with help from France nationals.

He says France is looking “resolutely” for a solution to the situation in Syria.

Obama: Attacks a ‘sickening setback’ for anti-IS campaign

Obama calls the attacks in Paris a “terrible and sickening setback” to the campaign against the radical Islamic State group.

“We’ve seen other outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara and routinely in Iraq,” he tells his audience at the G20 conference in Turkey, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State.

Still, he vows to carry on until IS is defeated, adding, “We have the right strategy and we’re gonna see it through.”

Obama says no precise intel before Paris attacks

Obama says the United States had no precise intelligence ahead of the Paris attacks that have been claimed by Islamic State jihadists.

“There were no specific mentions of this particular attack,” Obama tells a news conference following a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 top world economies in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

— AFP

Netanyahu thanks Hungary for opposing EU labeling

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Hungary for coming out against new European Union guidelines regulating the labeling of goods produced in Israeli settlements over the Green Line.

“Thank you for your decisive statement against the labeling of goods,” Netanyahu tells the Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, during a meeting at the Knesset.

Szijjártó, who is also Hungary’s trade minister, had said earlier in the day, “We do not support that decision. It is an inefficient instrument. It is irrational and does not contribute to a solution [to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict], but causes damage.”

— Raphael Ahren contributed

Hollande to extend France’s state of emergency

France’s president says a bill to extend the country’s state of emergency for three months will be presented to parliament on Wednesday.

He also says he will meet with US and Russian leaders to discuss pooling their efforts to destroy the Islamic State group.

French President Francois Hollande arrives for a speech at an exceptional joint gathering of Parliament in Versailles on November 16, 2015, three days after 129 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack in France's history (AFP PHOTO/POOL/MICHEL EULER)

French President Francois Hollande arrives for a speech at an exceptional joint gathering of parliament in Versailles on November 16, 2015, three days after 129 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack in France’s history. (AFP/Michel Euler/Pool)

Hollande, speaking at a special joint meeting of the upper and lower houses of parliament in the Palace of Versailles, says he has requested meetings with presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.

Hollande says he wants the talks “to unify our strength and achieve a result that has been too long in coming.” He calls for “a union of all who can fight this terrorist army in a single coalition.”

He doesn’t specify if he’ll meet Obama and Putin together or separately.

— AP contributed.

Security upped for England-France soccer match

The English Football Association says there will more security checks, a greater presence of armed police and a slower entrance procedure for Tuesday’s soccer friendly match between England and France at London’s Wembley Stadium, which is being played four days after the Paris attacks.

“The match tomorrow is going to have massive global significance,” FA chief executive Martin Glenn says. “It’s the first big event to happen since the tragedy of last Friday… the eyes of the world will be on Wembley tomorrow, not just the eyes of the French and English people.”

Glenn says it is important for the French and English teams to play and show solidarity, “to demonstrate that terrorism won’t win.”

England captain Wayne Rooney says he and his teammates have no concerns about playing the game.

“I think the world of football has to stay strong together,” Rooney says. “I’m sure everyone will do that and try to deal with the situation to the best everyone knows how to do. I’m sure football will bring people together.”

— AP

Obama ‘proud’ of Bush’s response after 9/11

During his speech at the G20 summit, Obama drops an unexpected name in discussing his controversial approach to the Islamic State, which plays down the group’s religious affiliation:

Obama also says it is hard to confront the group, because of its nonconventional tactics.

He says it is wrong, and playing into IS’s hands, to buy into the group’s idea of itself as a state.

“That’s not what’s going on here. These are killers,” he says, according to Reuters. “It’s not their sophistication or the particular weaponry they possess but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die.”

Palestinian terror suspect’s family deny they turned him in

A family member of Hebron resident Shadi Ahmad Matua, the suspected perpetrator of a deadly terror attack in the West Bank on Friday, denies reports that his father and brother turned him in.

Matua, aged 28 and married with two children, is suspected of shooting dead Rabbi Yaakov Litman, 40, and his 18-year-old son, Netanel.

The Shin Bet security service had said Sunday that Matua’s father and brother had informed the Israeli authorities of his involvement, in a bid to prevent the family home from being demolished.

Shadi Matua is believed to have killed Yaakov and Netanel Litman in a West Bank terror attack on November 13, 2015 (Courtesy Shin Bet)

Shadi Matua is believed to have killed Yaakov and Netanel Litman in a West Bank terror attack on November 13, 2015. (Courtesy Shin Bet)

But his uncle, Louis, tells Haaretz that the father, a merchant, was stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint sometime after the attack, but did not indicate to them that his son was involved.

“In his identity card, they went over the names of his children,” Louis is quoted as saying, “and when they got to Shadi they began to ask him a lot of questions. It was clear that they had information about him, and they asked the father where he was staying and he said at home.

“After that, they put the father into a military vehicle that departed in a convoy in the direction of the home. They surrounded [the house] and arrested Shadi, and a few hours later the father was released.”

— Stuart Winer contributed.

UN accuses Israel of carrying out ‘summary executions’

A United Nations team says Israeli security forces have used excessive force and may have carried out “summary executions” against Palestinians amid a surge in violence since the start of October.

“Cases of excessive use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinians, including some which appear to amount to summary executions, continue to be reported,” says the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories, Makarim Wibisono, and an expert on summary executions, Christof Heyns.

They call for an “end to the violence by all and strict compliance with international law.”

“We urge the authorities to carry out independent, thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary executions, and to provide compensation to the victims or their families,” the UN experts say.

— AFP

Rocket fired from Gaza said to fall short of border

Early reports say Palestinians may have tried to fire a rocket from Gaza in the direction of southern Israel.

The rocket fell short of the border fence, in Palestinian territory, the reports announce.

Hollande: Revoke citizenship of terrorists

French President Francois Hollande wants the constitution changed so that the government can revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists born in France who have dual nationality.

Hollande says in a rare joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles that “we must be able to revoke the French citizenship of a person convicted for threatening the nations’ interest or for terrorist acts.”

Under current French law, citizenship revocation can only be applied to people who have been naturalized, if they have dual nationality.

— AP

Fatah party said to post cartoon linking Israel to Paris attacks

The Facebook page of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party is said to have posted a cartoon implying that Israel is aiding the Islamic State group, which carried out a string of terror attacks in Paris Friday.

An Iranian cartoon depicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aiding an Islamic State shooter in Paris.

An Iranian cartoon depicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aiding an Islamic State shooter in Paris.

The cartoon shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helping an Islamic State terrorist aim his machine gun from a perch on the Eiffel Tower.

The watchdog Palestinian Media Watch reports that it was posted to Fatah’s official Facebook page on Monday.

The cartoon is not new — it was posted to an official Iranian news site in the wake of a previous wave of terror attacks in France in January of this year.

It also participated in a contest for anti-Islamic State cartoons in Iran in May.

Harvard evacuates buildings over bomb threat

Harvard University announces that four campus buildings are being evacuated over an “unconfirmed” bomb threat.

Israel dresses down Swedish diplomat

The Swedish ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus Nesser, is reprimanded at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem over comments made by his country’s foreign minister that appeared to suggest a link between the Islamic State and Palestinian frustration.

Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold “severely criticized the Swedish minister’s hurtful words, saying that any link between Islamic State terrorism and the Palestinian issue is baseless,” according to a press release form the Foreign Ministry, which claimed that Margot Wallström’s comments “could be interpreted as a justification for Palestinian terrorism.”

Carl Magnus Nesser, Swedish ambassador to Israel (courtesy Swedish Embassy)

Carl Magnus Nesser, Swedish ambassador to Israel (Courtesy Swedish Embassy)

Wallström had said in a TV appearance that “to counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East in which not at the least the Palestinians see that there is no future; we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

Gold also reprimanded Magnus Nesser for his country’s stance advocating the labeling of goods produced in West Bank settlements, the release said.

— Raphael Ahren contributed.

Eiffel reopened, relit in colors of French flag

The Eiffel Tower, which dimmed its lights in mourning following Friday’s attacks in Paris, has been relit in blue, white and red.

The 116-year-old international symbol of Paris will remain lit up in the colors of the French flag for three nights. Monuments around the world have done the same in recent days in a show of sympathy with Paris, including the Sydney Opera House, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue.

After the relighting, Paris’s motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur,” or “Tossed but not sunk,” was to be projected onto the 300-meter (986-foot) monument visible across the French capital.

The tower reopened to visitors Monday afternoon.

The Eiffel Tower is illuminated in the French national colors red, white and blue in honor of the victims of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The Eiffel Tower is illuminated on Monday, November 16, 2015, in the French national colors of red, white and blue in honor of the victims of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris. (AP/Frank Augstein)

— AP

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Putin told Assad he’d have to step down — officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin posed an ultimatum to his embattled Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, warning him, during a meeting between the two men in Moscow on October 20, that he would have to abdicate his presidential powers and make way for a temporary government in Syria in the coming months, senior Israeli officials tell The Times of Israel.

The officials say that despite the red carpet that was laid out for Assad – it was the first time he exited Syria since the start of the civil war that has ravaged his country since 2011 – he received a markedly chilly reception.

Putin also demanded that Assad and his associates enter negotiations with moderate elements in Syria toward instituting a temporary government that would stay in place for about a year and a half – until general elections could be held, the officials say. Otherwise, Putin reportedly warned, Russia would withdraw its support from Assad.

The meeting preceded the talks that have been held in recent days in Vienna between representatives of Arab and Western states toward a possible political solution for war-torn Syria.

— Avi Issacharoff