The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Deputy Labour leader says Livingstone ‘continues to discredit party’
Deputy Leader of Britain’s Labour Party Tom Watson condemns as “incomprehensible” the decision not to permanently expel Ken Livingstone from the party, and says the Jewish community’s outrage over the disciplinary measure is justifiable.
“I find it incomprehensible that our elected lay members on the disciplinary panel found Ken Livingstone guilty of such serious charges, and then concluded that he can remain a member of the Labour party,” he says in a statement.
“This shames us all, and I’m deeply saddened by it,” Watson says. “I am ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress.”
Watson adds that Livingstone’s attitude remains “unrepentant,” and he “continue[s] to discredit the party.”
“It is hard not to conclude that his use of inflammatory language to dismiss the fully justified outrage of the Jewish community and others will incite further distortions of the Holocaust in our public discourse,” he says.
The Labour Party yesterday suspended Livingstone for one year over comments he made last year about Hitler supporting Zionism after a disciplinary committee found those remarks “grossly detrimental” to the party.
Islamic State claims Tikrit suicide bombings that killed 31
Islamic State fighters claim the shooting and suicide bombing attacks in the the Iraqi city of Tikrit yesterday that killed at least 31 people and injured over 40 others.
A police lieutenant colonel says three militants shot dead three policemen in central Tikrit and then opened fire on civilians, before later blowing themselves up inside homes in the area.
IS issues a statement claiming the attack, saying it was carried out by seven militants who clashed with security forces until they ran out of ammunition and then detonated explosive belts.
— with AFP
Sadiq Khan ‘deeply disappointed’ by Labour’s decision on Livingstone
London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan joins the Jewish community and fellow party members in condemning the decision to suspend Ken Livingstone for one year over his anti-Semitic comments.
“The Labour party disciplinary panel’s decision to suspend Ken Livingstone but let him remain a member does not reflect the severity of the verdict – this is deeply disappointing,” he says in a statement.
“As the Labour party it is our duty to lead by example and demonstrate that we take a zero-tolerance approach towards anti-Semitism wherever we find it,” Khan says. “Sadly this gives the impression we are not fulfilling that duty.”
Britiain’s Jewish community and several other party officials have also voiced disappointment at the party’s disciplinary measures levied against Livingstone.
Turkey says treating 30 after suspected Syria chemical attack
Turkey’s health minister says some 30 Syrians have been brought to the Turkish city of Gaziantep, bordering Syria, for treatment following a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Recep Akdag said Wednesday that initial symptoms and findings confirm that the wounded were the victims of a chemical attack. His comments were reported by the Haber Turk news channel.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 72 people died, including 11 children, in Tuesday’s attack in a rebel-held town in northern Syria.
WHO: Syria attack victims show signs of exposure to ‘nerve agents’
Some victims of a suspected chemical attack in Syria have symptoms consistent with exposure to a category of chemicals that includes nerve agents, the World Health Organization says.
The UN health agency says the deadly attack in Idlib province Tuesday appeared to have involved chemical weapons, pointing to the “apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”
“Some cases appear to show additional signs consistent with exposure to organophosphorus chemicals, a category of chemicals that includes nerve agents,” it adds.
MKs urge mass condemnation of Syria chemical attack
A pair of opposition MKs are urging parliaments around the world to hold “emergency” discussions on the suspected chemical attack in Syria yesterday that killed at least 72 people.
Zionist Union MKs Erel Margalit and Nachman Shai send their request to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization of national parliaments around the world.
They urge fellow parliamentarians to condemn the alleged attack, which they say is “taking humanity 70 years backwards.”
“The day when mass extermination measures are taken against people is the day when we as members of parliaments should stand fierce in the fire front and stop the horror,” they write.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in neighboring Syria, though it has carried out airstrikes on suspected arms shipments to Syrian ally Hezbollah.
— AP contributed
Hollande urges international response to Syria ‘war crime’
French President Francois Hollande calls for an international response to the suspected chemical attack that killed scores of civilians in Syria, calling it a “war crime.”
Hollande “reiterated his indignation over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for a reaction by the international community commensurate with this war crime,” the president’s office says in a statement.
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting later Wednesday on the attack, with Britain, France and the United States pushing a resolution demanding a swift investigation.
Pope Francis calls Syria attack an ‘unacceptable massacre’
Pope Francis calls the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens, including many children, in Syria “an unacceptable massacre.”
During his midweek public audience in St Peter’s square, Francis says that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and said he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”
He calls on the “conscious of those with political responsibility both locally and internationally to cease this tragedy and bring relief to that dear population that for too long has been exhausted by war.”
The 80-year-old pontiff also encourages those bringing aid to the stricken population “even amid insecurity and discomfort.”
Russia to continue Syria operation
Russia says it was pushing on with its support for President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria, after deflecting blame from Damascus over a suspected chemical attack.
“Russia and its armed forces are continuing the operation to support the anti-terrorist operation to liberate the country, which the Syrian armed forces are conducting,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells journalists.
Russia earlier defended its ally Damascus against international outcry over the suspected chemical attack yesterday that killed at least 72 civilians, saying a Syrian airstrike hit a “terrorist warehouse.”
Hollande backs military campaign against Assad
French president Francois Hollande is condemning what he calls a “war crime” after a suspected chemical attack in Syria.
Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll reported Hollande’s comments during a weekly cabinet meeting.
Hollande recalled that France had pushed for an international military campaign against Syrian President Bashar Assad over his use of chemical weapons in 2013.
“France has not changed its position on this issue,” he said according to Le Foll.
France has supported Syrian rebels against Assad for years.
Iran condemns ‘all use of chemical weapons’ in Syria
Iran condemns “all use of chemical weapons” in Syria, but suggests the blame for this week’s deadly attack may lie with “terrorist groups” rather than President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“Iran strongly condemns all use of chemical weapons regardless of who is responsible and who are the victims,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said, while emphasizing the need for “the chemical disarmament of armed terrorist groups.”
The suspected chemical attack that killed at least 58 civilians in rebel-held northwestern Syria has prompted widespread outrage and calls for international action.
Germany says Russia and Iran, as allies of the Assad regime, “carry a responsibility” for the attack.
Palestinian Authority slashes salaries for Gaza employees
The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority says it has slashed the salaries of some 50,000 government employees in the Gaza Strip who have been idle since the rival Hamas terror group took over the coastal territory a decade ago.
Spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud says the salaries are being cut by 30 percent because of a reduction in foreign aid.
He says that “without this step, the government cannot pay the salaries of its employees.”
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) April 5, 2017
The PA ordered its workers to step down after the Hamas takeover in 2007. But it has continued to pay the salaries of former policemen, teachers and civil servants.
The decision deepens the divide between the two territories and will increase hardship in Gaza, where the economy already is in poor shape.
— with AP
90% of complaints against police are dismissed, comptroller finds
Some 90 percent of complaints against police were dismissed by the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department in 2015 without charge, while “thousands” of allegations — primarily of excessive force — are shelved without even preliminary review, according to a state comptroller report published today.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira also criticizes the department, founded in 1992 to independently investigate alleged police misdeeds, for failing to hand over materials to the Israel Police’s Disciplinary Department when criminality is ruled out.
— Marissa Newman
Russia to share information on Syria attack with UN
Russia says it will submit information from its Defense Ministry to a UN Security Council session called to discuss a suspected chemical attack in Syria yesterday that killed at least 72 civilians.
Western countries say evidence indicates that Syrian pro-government forces were behind Tuesday’s attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Russia is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and is waging an air campaign on his behalf.
Earlier, the Russian military claimed the chemicals were released after Syrian warplanes bombed a facility where rebels were making their own chemical weapons.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that at the UN meeting Russia “will at least cite in a well-argued manner those data that were mentioned by our Defense Ministry.”
PLO extends Passover greetings to ‘our neighbors’
The Palestine Liberation Organization issues Passover greetings, wishing liberty and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The greeting released by the Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society wishes a “happy holiday, that will hopefully bring liberty to the Palestinian people, and new beginnings with the establishment of a Palestinian state, and peace with our Israeli neighbors.”
Palestinian Authority wishes "our neighbors" the Israeli public a happy Passover asking also that freedom be granted to Palestinians pic.twitter.com/TiGzcAFWhL
— Aaron Magid (@AaronMagid) April 5, 2017
Temple Mount sifting project to remain open
A project searching for artifacts buried in soil removed from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the 1990s will remain open following the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Temple Mount Sifting Project said this week it was “on the verge of closure” after the Ir David Foundation pulled its longstanding financial support.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office says Ir David will continue to fund the “important project,
It says Israel Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson will meet with Ir David director David Be’eri in the coming days.
Hamas says ‘collaborators’ directly involved in Faqha killing — reports
The Hamas interior ministry says Palestinians collaborating with Israel were directly involved in the assassination of one of its top officials in the Gaza Strip last month, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
Yesterday, the Gaza-based terror terror group offered so-called collaborators with Israel a week to turn themselves in and receive clemency as it investigates the killing of Mazen Faqha in the Palestinian territory.
Hamas has blamed Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its “collaborators” for the killing of Faqha in his Gaza City home on March 24.
IDF soldier attacked in Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood
Residents of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem attack an IDF solider, throwing eggs and hurling insults at him as he walks down the street of Mea Sheraim.
A video of the incident shows angry residents shouting at the Givati Brigade soldier to “get out” and calling him “hardak,” a derogatory term for ultra-Orthodox Jews who join the army.
Police are called to the scene and arrest one man involved in the assault.
— חדשות 10 (@news10) April 5, 2017
The attack comes amid widespread protests in recent months by members of the ultra-Orthodox community against Israel’s compulsory military service.
Last week, police were called to rescue an ultra-Orthodox soldier who was trapped inside a Mea Shearim bookstore by an angry mob of protesters.
IDF soldiers get 42 days for violent arrest of Palestinian man
The Southern District Military Court sentences three IDF soldiers to 42 days in jail for using unauthorized and excessive force while detaining a Palestinian man last year, the army says.
The soldiers admitted to violently arresting a Palestinian man in October 2016, who was protesting his detainment as part of a plea deal reached with military prosecutors.
Reports from eyewitnesses at the scene prompted the IDF to open an investigation into the incident in March.
The IDF says the conviction would not appear on the soldiers’ criminal record.
Israel approves work visas for Indians ahead of Modi visit
Israel approves five-year, multiple entry visas for businessmen from India, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon announces.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated the gesture in the framework of growing ties between Jerusalem and New Delhi, which will culminate in July with the planned visit of Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi in Israel.
— Raphael Ahren
UK Labour leader won’t interfere with Livingstone affair
The leader of Britain’s Labour Party says he will not interfere in the internal disciplinary process taken against Ken Livingstone over his anti-Semitic remarks, and warns that the former London mayor could face additional penalties if he refuses to apologize.
“It is deeply disappointing that, despite his long record of standing up to racism, Ken has failed to acknowledge or apologize for the hurt he has caused, party leader Jeremy Corbyn says in a statement.
“Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.”
Yesterday, the UK Labour Party suspended Livingstone for one year for comments he made last year about Hitler supporting Zionism after a disciplinary committee found those remarks “grossly detrimental” to the party.
A number of high-ranking party members and the British Jewish community have criticized the decision as a slap on the wrist.
“Since initiating the disciplinary process, I have not interfered with it and respect the independence of the party’s disciplinary bodies,” Corbyn says. “Ken’s subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the National Executive Committee after representations from party members.”
Russia says proposed UN resolution on Syria ‘unacceptable’
Russia says a UN resolution put forward by Britain, France and the United States on a suspected chemical attack in Syria was “unacceptable,” after deflecting blame from its ally Damascus.
“The text as presented is categorically unacceptable,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says, calling the resolution “anti-Syrian.”
“It pre-empts the results of an investigation and just immediately designates the guilty. Damascus is portrayed as guilty.”
Zakharova denounces the proposal at the UN as an attempt at “whipping up” the political situation in Syria and said that Moscow “does not see any particular necessity to pass the resolution at the current moment.”
Resolutions that have already been taken will allow an investigation to take place, she adds.
Israel believes Assad forces behind chemical attack
Israeli defense officials say military intelligence believes Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were behind the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 72 civilians yesterday.
The officials say Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as they are not allowed to brief media.
Israel has warned against “game-changing” weapons reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon from Syria, which along with Iran supports the militant group. Last month Israel shot down an anti-aircraft missile fired at its planes as they struck a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy.
Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of Syria’s civil war, with the UN blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group.
Trump removes Bannon from National Security Council
US President Donald Trump removes chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council, reversing the controversial appointment made at the start of his presidency.
BREAKING: Trump removes chief strategist Steve Bannon from National Security Council, reversing controversial early decision.
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 5, 2017
NGO finds signs of ‘neurotoxic agent’ in Syria attack
Doctors Without Borders says its team had found victims showing symptoms consistent with toxins such as sarin gas after an attack in a rebel-held area of Syria that killed more than 70 people.
The team saw victims at the Bab al-Hawa hospital, 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of the attack on Tuesday, the charity says in a statement.
“Eight patients showed symptoms –- including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation -– which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds,” the statement says.
The team also visited other hospitals where casualties were being treated “and reported that victims smelled of bleach, suggesting they had been exposed to chlorine.”
UN Security Council meets on suspected Syria chemical attack
The UN Security Council opens an emergency session to discuss an apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed scores of people including children.
Britain, France and the United States have presented a draft resolution demanding a full investigation of the attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province, but Russia said the text was “categorically unacceptable.”
“We are talking about war crimes here, war crimes on a large scale, war crimes with chemical weapons,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre tells reporters as he entered the council chamber.
Hamas to execute Israeli ‘collaborators’ in Faqha assasination
Hamas officials say the Palestinians arrested for their alleged role in the assassination of one of the terror group’s top officials last month will be executed in the coming days if found guilty of aiding Israel in the killing.
Hamas has blamed Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its “collaborators” for the killing of Mazen Faqha in the Palestinian territory in March.
The Islamist terror group has vowed “radical measures” against Palestinians who “collaborated” with Israel, with interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum saying that could mean arrests, trials and even executions.
Security checks and searches have increased, including roadblocks.
Bozum says “several collaborators were arrested” after investigators determined “their direct role in the assassination” of Faqha.
Hamas’s prosecutor general Ismail Jaber says those found guilty of aiding Israel would be executed “in the coming days.”
A few dozen people demonstrated on Wednesday morning in Gaza to call for executions.
US envoy to UN slams Russia over suspected Syria chemical attack
US Ambassador Nikki Haley lashes out at Russia for failing to rein in its ally Syria after a suspected chemical attack left scores dead including children.
“How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” Haley tells an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called to discuss the attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 5, 2017
Trump condemns ‘unspeakable’ chemical attack in Syria
President Donald Trump is denouncing the chemical attack on Syrian civilians, calling it an “affront to humanity.”
“These are very troubled times in the Middle East,” Trump says as he welcomed King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House.
He calls the attack a “horrible thing, unspeakable” and says, “It’s a terrible affront to humanity.”
Trump also thanks the king and his wife for visiting the White House, saying the two leaders will engage in some “very interesting discussions.”
MOMENTS AGO: Pres. Trump meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan, says Syria attack is "horrible, horrible thing — unspeakable" pic.twitter.com/rDErdahhkf
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 5, 2017
Asked how he plans to respond to the attack he blames on Syrian President Bashar Assad, Trump says, “You’ll see.”
A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people on Tuesday. It’s one of the worst attacks in the country’s six-year civil war.
US threatens unilateral action if UN fails to act on Syria attack
The US envoy to the UN warns that the Trump administration may take action against chemical attacks in Syria that bear “all the hallmarks” of President Bashar Assad’s government if the UN Security Council fails to act.
Ambassador Nikki Haley urges the council at an emergency meeting to immediately approve a draft resolution sponsored by the US, Britain and France that condemns and threatens consequences for the use of chemical weapons.
Holding up photos of victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack yesterday that killed dozens of civilians, she accused Russia of blocking action.
She says Moscow had closed its eyes to the “barbarity” of previous chemical attacks by vetoing a resolution in late February that would have imposed sanctions on those responsible.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, opposes the draft resolution, saying it was based on information from “discredited” groups.
Haley ends her remarks by warning that “when the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”
Israel approves controversial law on house demolitions
The Knesset votes in favor of a controversial law against illegal constructions that critics say will mostly target Arab homes built without required, but hard-to-get, permits.
The law, which has the backing of Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, was passed with 43 votes for the bill and 33 against.
The bill provides punishment of up to three years in jail, increases fines and reduces the powers of courts to postpone the date of demolition orders.
Arab Israelis, who make up around 17 percent of the population, say discrimination by the Jewish state makes it impossible for them to obtain planning permission to expand their communities.
The result is that many families resort to building homes without permission, leaving them liable to demolition.
With Abdullah, Trump says ‘we’ll be successful’ at reaching Mideast peace
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump vows to partner with King Abdullah of Jordan to strike an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
The president says he is “working very, very hard” to facilitate the coveted accord. “I think we’ll be successful. I hope we’ll be successful, I can tell you that,” he tells Abdullah.
Standing in the White House Rose Garden, the king says the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the “core conflict” of the region, and Trump’s early attempts to broker a deal are “very encouraging.”
— Eric Cortellessa
Abdullah says Trump ‘understands the nuances’ of Israeli-Palestinian conflict
WASHINGTON — At the White House, Jordan’s King Abdullah II endorses the Arab Peace initiative that would see normalized ties between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for a signed peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Abdullah says the president “understands the nuances and the challenges” and that he felt a need to “smooth the edges” between Israelis and Palestinians to help his peace efforts “get over the finish line.”
— Eric Cortellessa
Trump says Syria attack ‘crossed a lot of lines’
US President Donald Trump denounces the Syrian regime’s latest alleged chemical weapons attack as an “affront to humanity,” warning it would not be tolerated.
Speaking alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah at a White House news conference, Trump does not lay out in any detail how the United States would respond to the killings.
“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump says. “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies… that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines.”
He adds that his attitude towards Syrian President Bashar Assad “has changed very much.”
Trump on the chemical attack in northern Syria, killing at least 72 people.
"My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much." pic.twitter.com/hN9VtHFWGU
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) April 5, 2017
Paris man arrested in connection to death of Jewish neighbor
Police in Paris arrest a 27-year-old man in connection with the death of his neighbor, a Jewish woman whose lifeless body was found outside their apartment building.
Sarah Halimi, 66, died Monday night. Police have not said whether they have a theory as to what led to her death or whether she was pushed from her window on Vaucouleurs Street in the crime-ridden 11th district of the French capital, according to a report in the Actualite Juive weekly.
The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism watchdog, however, believes it may have been premeditated murder possibly aggravated by racial hatred, the watchdog’s president, Sammy Ghozlan, tells JTA.
Ghozlan says relatives of Halimi said that she had previously experienced anti-Semitic harassment by a relative of the man under arrest.
Halimi’s family wants to have her buried in Jerusalem. The body will undergo an autopsy.
Trump renews vow to destroy IS and save ‘civilization’
US President Donald Trump reaffirms his vow to destroy the Islamic State group and “protect civilization” during a White House press conference.
Speaking after talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Trump predicts that the campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq will be “a shorter fight than a lot of people are thinking about, believe me.”
“We will destroy ISIS, and we will protect civilization. We have no choice,” he says, using an alternate acronym for IS.