The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Family of driver in alleged car-ramming demands police probe death
The parents of the driver killed during an alleged car-ramming attack in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran yesterday demand an internal police investigation into his death.
Local schoolteacher Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an ran his car into police during protests against demolitions in the village, killing a policeman and wounding another before being shot dead by other officers.
According to Haaretz, the lawyers for the family of Abu al-Qia’an argue in a court petition that both video and deposition of the incident show shots being fired at his car before it turned in the direction of the officers at the scene.
The lawyers also claim that officers violated police regulations and are only allowed to open fire as a last resort and only in cases of immediate danger.
WATCH: Police blow up 10 tons of fireworks
Sappers destroy some 10 tons of fireworks and “dangerous” toys in a controlled explosion in an unspecified, isolated location, police say.
According to police, the unprecedented detonation took place after the items, which posed a threat to public safety, were discovered in a yard in the center of the country during a drugs crackdown that began in 2015.
Police say sappers who examined the fireworks compared the impact of their detonation to an explosion of one ton of TNT, saying such a blast could cause injury and damage in a radius of hundreds of meters.
PM opens new tunnels on Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz attend a ceremony to open the new Harel tunnels on Route 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.
The tunnels, which are intended to cut the journey time between the two cities, will officially open to traffic tomorrow. The stretch of the highway where the tunnels are located will be closed from 10 p.m. tonight until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Syria’s Assad says Astana talks to focus on truce
Syrian President Bashar Assad says peace talks next week in the Kazakh capital will focus on enforcing a cessation of hostilities to allow aid access across his war-torn country.
The talks sponsored by regime allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey begin Monday in Astana, and are expected to last less than a week.
Details on the format of the talks remain murky, but Assad tells Japanese television channel TBS that a stop to fighting would be the priority.
“I believe that they will focus, in the beginning, and will prioritise, as we see it, reaching a ceasefire,” Assad says, according to excerpts released by his office.
“This will be to protect people’s lives and allow humanitarian aid to reach various areas in Syria,” he says.
Hundreds attend funeral for soldier killed in accident
Hundreds of people turn out for the funeral of an IDF soldier killed in a maintenance accident in northern Israel on Monday.
Corporal Viacheslav Gargay, 20, is laid to rest in the military cemetery in his hometown of Rishon Lezion, three days after after sustaining fatal injuries during routine work on an armored personnel carrier in the Golan Heights.
The high turn out comes after Gargay’s mother, Tina, calls on the public to attend the funeral, Israel National News reports.
Erdan asks A-G to probe Arab MKs for incitement
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asks Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to authorize an investigation into Arab MKs Ayman Odeh, Jamal Zahalka and Hanin Zoabi on suspicion of incitement to violence and murder in the run-up to yesterday’s alleged car-ramming attack that killed a police officer.
During the incident, which took place during protests against the house demolitions in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran, local schoolteacher Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an plowed his vehicle into the officers, killed officer Erez Levi. He was shot dead by other policemen at the scene.
Police say Abu al-Qia’an carried out a deliberate terror attack, while residents insist he was not in control of his vehicle when it accelerated into Levi.
“The attack that led to the death of First Sergeant [Erez] Levi did not happen in a vacuum, and did not occur independently of the events that preceded it,” Erdan writes in his letter to Mandelblit. “The vile terrorist attack was preceded by malicious and systematic incitement sustained over a long period, in which public representatives, members of Israel’s Knesset, took part,” he says.
Odeh slams ‘pathological liar’ Erdan over incitement accusations
Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh hits back at Erdan’s call for an investigation into incitement by him and two fellow party MKs, calling the public security minister a “pathological liar.”
“Minister Erdan is a serial inciter and a pathological liar,” Ayman says in a statement.
“We already called for a state commission [into the car-ramming] yesterday. We have nothing to hide. We are demanding a comprehensive investigation into the chain of events, and especially into the conduct of the police for the violent and cruel evacuation of Umm al-Hiran.”
“There are those responsible for the bloodshed that occurred in Umm al-Hiran. They are those who use the police force for political propaganda purposes,” the statement adds.
— Dov Lieber
11 arrested in Haredi protests against IDF draft
Police arrest 11 people during demonstrations in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh against the draft of ultra-Orthodox men into the IDF, Channel 2 reports.
The protests are held in a central location in each city, during which demonstrators block roads, set fire to trash cans, and throw stones and other objects at police officers.
Rescuers see no signs of life at Italian avalanche-hit hotel
Rescue workers on skis reach a four-star spa hotel buried by an avalanche in earthquake-stricken central Italy, reporting no sign of life in the building even though two survivors found outside say more than 30 people were inside when the snow struck.
As heavy vehicles try to reach the Hotel Rigopiano to help with the rescue, criticism mounts over the response to the four quakes, one a magnitude 5.7, and days of unusually heavy snowfall that have blanketed the region. Accounts emerge of hotel guests messaging rescuers and friends for help yesterday, with at least one attempt at raising the alarm rebuffed for several hours.
When rescuers on skis arrived in the early morning hours, they found just two people alive outside the hotel and no other signs of life, according to a video of the interior shot by rescue crews.
Islamic Cooperation group indirectly slams Trump plan
Foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation indirectly condemn plans by US President-elect Donald Trump to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A statement issued after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur does not mention the United States or Trump by name, but says the OIC rejects any actions that could undermine the ability of Palestinians to claim part of Jerusalem in a future state.
It calls on governments to desist from any activities that might encourage Israel to “pursue its illegal occupation and annexation of …East Jerusalem, including any such encouragement through the transfer of their diplomatic missions to the city.”
The statement invites its 57 member states “to take the necessary steps and measures” in response to any such hostile position, but does not elaborate.
Arab leaders vow to rebuild Umm al-Hiran homes
Israel’s Arab leaders vow to rebuild the 12 homes demolished by police yesterday in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran.
Police knocked down the structures in line with a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that determined the village was built on state land and its Bedouin residents had no legal rights to it, even though the state had originally moved them onto that land decades ago.
The decision to rebuild the homes comes during a meeting between the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and members of the Joint (Arab) List party in the town of Rahat.
The Arab leadership says it also intend to organize two large protests — a demonstration in Wadi Ara on Saturday and a convoy of vehicles from the central Arab city of Qalansawe to the Knesset in Jerusalem on Monday.
— Dov Lieber
Netanyahu thanks outgoing US envoy for years of cooperation
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with departing US ambassador Dan Shapiro in Jerusalem, who will be leaving his post tomorrow when Trump is sworn in as president.
Netanyahu expresses his appreciation for Shapiro’s “contribution to the vital and strategic alliance between the United States and Israel,” Channel 2 says.
The diplomat, who speaks fluent Hebrew, will be staying in Israel until the summer, so that his children can complete the school year.
Chelsea Manning thanks Obama for commuting sentence
Jailed US Army private Chelsea Manning thanks President Barack Obama for commuting her 35-year sentence for handing classified US documents to WikiLeaks.
“Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance,” Manning says in a tweet published on her official Twitter account, two days after the departing president decided that she would be freed in May.
Manning was convicted in August 2013 of espionage and other offenses, after admitting to the leak of 700,000 sensitive military and diplomatic documents.
Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance. =,)
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) January 19, 2017
“It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence,” Obama said yesterday.
“Let’s be clear, Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” the president added. “I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.”
Springsteen gives ‘elegiac’ secret show for Obama — report
A Bruce Springsteen fanzine says the rock legend performed a secret concert for US President Barack Obama and his staff as they got ready to leave the White House, urging optimism in uncertain times.
Backstreets, a long-running magazine and website that methodically documents Springsteen’s shows, says The Boss played a 15-song acoustic set in the White House’s East Room on January 10. Springsteen campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, telling a giant election-eve rally in Philadelphia that Donald Trump had a “profound lack of decency.”
The fanzine, quoting an anonymous “longtime Backstreets reader” in attendance, says Obama and his wife Michelle both attended but otherwise the crowd consisted of 200-250 mostly low-profile administration staffers.
The mood at the concert and a related reception “was not exactly somber, but it wasn’t festive, either. It was elegiac, I’d say,” the attendee writes.
“There was a clear sense of something ending, both with the conclusion of an adventure for the staff and the silent presence of the coming political transition,” the person says, referring to Trump taking power tomorrow.
Aid workers open new Gaza desalination plant
International aid workers open a new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, bringing some relief to a territory where 97 percent of the water is undrinkable.
It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials say the project marks an important step.
“Despite the small production, this gives symbolism to Gaza residents that the train of water solution is now on track,” says Monzer Shublaq, director of Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza.
The plant will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, a small fraction of Gaza’s needs. In all, the population uses 150,000 cubic meters a day, most of it from a depleted coastal aquifer.
The European Union says it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.
Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, did not participate in the project, and is not represented at the ceremony.
Blast targets home of Abbas ally in Gaza
Two explosions hit the Gaza Strip, police say, including one targeting the home of an official from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. There are no casualties.
Police and eyewitnesses say the first blast struck at around midnight in eastern Gaza City outside the home of Nayef Khuweter, a Fatah official in the territory.
Fatah condemns the attack, saying it would “disrupt” attempts at reconciliation with terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
In a separate incident, a car exploded in Nuseirat refugee camp of central Gaza.
The Hamas-led police say they are investigating both blasts, for which there are no immediate claims of responsibility.
Trump aide: Announcement on moving Israel embassy coming soon
Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer says an announcement will be “coming soon” on a declared plan by the new administration to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“There will be a further announcement on that,” Spicer tells reporters. “Stay tuned.”
Spicer adds that Trump “has made clear that Israel has not gotten the respect it deserves.”
— Eric Cortellessa
Trump asks some 50 senior Obama appointees to stay on
Sean Spicer says Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration appointees to remain in their posts after his inauguration to ensure continuity in government.
The officials include the highest-ranking career officials at key national security agencies like the Pentagon and State Department.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and America’s third-ranking diplomat, Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, will serve as acting chiefs of their agencies until successors for the top jobs are confirmed by the Senate, Trump’s spokesman says.
Also staying will be Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s special representative for the fight against the Islamic State group, and Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Trump also is keeping Adam Szubin, the Treasury Department’s top official for terrorism and financial intelligence.
French far-right leader Le Pen ahead in presidential poll
Far-right National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen is the leading candidate for president of France, according to a major poll.
Le Pen is polling at between 25 and 26 percent in the first round of the presidential election, according to the survey by Ipsos Sopra Steria for Le Monde, the French daily newspaper says (link in French).
Former PM Francois Fillon, representing France’s center-right Republicans party, trails Le Pen by about 1 percent.
According to Le Monde, Le Pen has not yet started her campaign in earnest. As late as last month, Fillon led Le Pen in opinion polls by about 3 percent. Incumbent president François Hollande of the Socialist Party was eligible to run for a second term, but last month announced that he would not seek reelection.
Eisenkot out of surgery to remove cancerous growth
IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot is out of surgery following an operation to remove his prostate, two months after doctors found a cancerous growth.
Eisenkot arrived at Rabin Medical Center (formerly Beilinson Hospital) in Petah Tikva earlier today. He will remain there for the next few days as he recovers, the army says.
The army had not initially commented on the IDF chief’s medical condition, but confirmed after the surgery that it had been a form of prostate cancer.
While he is incapacitated, Eisenkot’s deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, is taking his place as head of the Israel Defense Forces.
— Judah Ari Gross
Rabbi allows Ivanka to ride in car for inauguration on Shabbat
A rabbi gives Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner a special dispensation to ride in a car during tomorrow’s DC inauguration events for her father, some of which take place once Shabbat starts.
The couple are observant Orthodox Jews, with Ivanka converting to Judaism before her 2009 wedding.
The head of the Republican Party in Israel, Mark Zell, tells Israeli radio that permission was granted due to security concerns, The Forward newspaper reports.
PM wishes Eisenkot speedy recovery, says ‘IDF is waiting for you’
Netanyahu wishes Eisenkot a speedy recovery following an operation earlier today to remove his prostate gland, which had a cancerous growth.
“The IDF is waiting for you, the State of Israel is waiting for you,” Netanyahu says in his message to the army chief, Ynet reports.
Eisenkot is expected to remain in hospital for several days.
Prosecutors want 3-year term for soldier who killed wounded stabber
Military prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of 3-5 years for Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in Hebron in March last year.
According to Channel 2, prosecution lawyers have held “intense” discussions on the length of Azaria’s sentence. The report says military prosecutors apparently favor a three-year jail term.
The sentence is expected to be announced on Tuesday. Azaria was found guilty earlier this month.
Bush senior stable, Barbara ‘1,000 percent better’
Former US president George H.W. Bush remains in intensive care for treatment of pneumonia but doctors expressed hope he will be moved out of an intensive care unit in “a few days,” his spokesman says.
“President Bush had a good night’s rest and remains in stable condition in the ICU at Houston Methodist Hospital,” spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement.
Doctors are evaluating whether tubes inserted to help the 92-year-old former president breathe can now be removed.
And Bush’s 91-year-old wife Barbara, hospitalized yesterday, is feeling “1,000 percent better” after being treated with antibiotics and getting some rest.
The former first lady was admitted after experiencing fatigue and coughing, and ultimately diagnosed with bronchitis, the statement says.
Police officer’s widow: My husband wasn’t killed, he was murdered
The widow of a police officer who died in an alleged car-ramming attack in the Negev yesterday says her husband was not killed in an unintentional incident, but rather was murdered.
Umm al-Hiran resident and schoolteacher Yacoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an plowed his vehicle into a group of cops carrying out a demolition order against homes in the unrecognized Negev village, killing Erez Levi and wounding another officer before he was shot dead.
“My husband was not killed. My husband was murdered in the line of duty,” Clara Levi tells Channel 2.
“I know who my husband was, he would defend anyone with his body. He was the first to go in, the first to give.”
Police accuse Abu Al-Qia’an of jihadist sympathies, accusing him of “terrorism” and “murder.” Residents and activists opposing the demolition orders reject the accusation, insisting that Abu Al-Qia’an was shot by police before the ramming, and was not in control of the vehicle when it slammed into Levi and other officers.
Assange willing to return to US following Manning commutation
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says he is willing to stand by his offer to return to the US once the sentence of the American soldier who passed classified documents to his organization is freed from jail.
President Barack Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence earlier this week, and she will be freed in May.
“I stand by everything I said including the offer to go to the United States if Chelsea Manning’s sentence was commuted,” Assange says during a live Q&A session on Periscope.
He says, however, that Manning will not be released until May, adding that, “We can have many discussions to that point.”
Assange has been claiming refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since 2012, arguing that Swedish efforts to extradite him over a rape accusation would lead to him being handed over to the US.