The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Adelson gives testimony to police in PM corruption investigation
US billionaire Sheldon Adelson is giving testimony to Israeli police as part of an ongoing corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The casino mogul arrives at the police Lahav 433 serious crime unit in Lod to speak with officers about the case. His wife, Miriam, is also expected to be interviewed by investigators.
Adelson and his wife, who are considered close friends of Netanyahu, both agreed to speak to police during their visit to Israel after being told neither is a suspect in the corruption investigation.
In leaked audio recordings from 2014, Netanyahu appeared to promise to advance legislation designed to hobble Adelson’s free Israel Hayom daily newspaper in exchange for more favorable coverage from the competing paper Yedioth Ahronoth.
Israeli investigators are expected to ask Adelson whether he was aware of the alleged quid pro quo deal the prime minister was heard discussing with Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes.
— Stuart Winer
Iran building third underground missile factory, official says
The powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has established a third underground ballistic missile production facility in southwestern Iran, the semi-official Fars News reports.
Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC’s airspace program, tells the Iranian news outlet the country would continue its ballistic missile program despite international criticism.
“We are increasing our missile capabilities,” he says. “It is natural that our enemies America and [Israel] are concerned and angry about the missile production and missile tests and showing our ‘missile cities’ because they want the Iranian nation always to be in a weak position.”
Hajizadeh tells Fars Iran’s newest underground missile production facility has been under construction for over a year.
— Judah Ari Gross
British PM May to raise Manchester attack leaks with Trump
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May says she will raise the issue of leaks from a probe into the Manchester terror attack that have infuriated British authorities with their US counterparts.
Speaking ahead of her departure for a NATO summit in Brussels, May says she would “make clear to US President (Donald) Trump that intelligence which is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”
May also says in televised comments that the terror threat level would remain at “critical” — the maximum level — after being raised on Tuesday following the attack in which 22 people were killed.
Jailed mafia boss arrested in connection with 2008 killing of his attorney
Prominent mafia boss Asi Abutbul is arrested along with two other suspects for the 2008 assassination of attorney Yoram Hacham.
Abutbul was detained in 2015 for his suspected involvement in Hacham’s car-bombing execution, but the charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.
However, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court recently reopened the investigation due to new evidence.
Abutbul is being accused of conspiracy and murder.
Many of the details surrounding the case remain under gag order imposed by the Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Abutbul is currently serving out a 13-year prison sentence for extortion and money laundering. Police have also linked him to the disappearance and possible murder of four people between 2000 and 2002, but has not been charged for those crimes.
EU’s Tusk says no ‘common position’ on Russia with Trump
European Union President Donald Tusk says talks with US President Donald Trump revealed no “common position” on Russia, a subject on which the US leader faces pressure at home.
Tusk, along with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, also argued for the benefits of open trade and the Paris climate agreement that Trump is opposed to.
Those issues “remained open,” Tusk says, though an EU official said the sides agreed to set up an EU-US task force on trade.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” Tusk says after meeting Trump at EU headquarters in Brussels.
In Ecuador, minister holds talks with Arab officials on Trump peace initiative
Likud Minister Ayoub Kara is holding a series of meetings with Arab officials in the Ecuadorian capital city of Quito to discuss Trump’s initiative to restart the peace process.
Kara, along with Israel’s ambassador to Ecuador, Edwin Yabu, has so far met with representatives from Oman, Qatar, Yemen and the president of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar.
In a statement, Kara says the meetings were “open and cordial,” and that all sides “expressed their approval to move forward with the political negotiations.”
Kara also spoke with the presidents of Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay and urged them to join Israel in its fight against terrorism.
“President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are coordinating every step of this political initiative, and there is progress on the issue,” the statement says.
Abbas asks US to mediate hunger-strikers’ demands with Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he asked the United States to intervene on behalf of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails currently on hunger strike protesting the conditions of their incarceration.
“The issue of the prisoners was discussed in depth with US envoy [Jason] Greenblatt to see what the American side can do in this area,” Abbas says, according to a report in the official PA news site Wafa.
Abbas met with Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations at the PA headquarters in Ramallah earlier today.
“We explained the issue of the prisoners’ strike in detail to the American envoy, and we hope during the near future to be in contact with him in order to give us an answer from the Israeli side on the demands of our prisoners,” Abbas says of his meeting with Greenblatt at the opening of a Fatah Revolutionary Council meeting.
The PA leader says the Israeli response could be presented as early as this evening or tomorrow.
“The world knows that the demands of the prisoners are humanitarian, and Israel has no reason to reject them,” Abbas says.
According to the PA, over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have reached their 38th day of a hunger strike. Israel says the number is closer to 800.
— Dov Lieber
Israel to reduce electricity supply to Gaza over unpaid bills
Israel later this month will begin reducing the amount of electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip by a quarter over its outstanding debt of almost NIS 2 billion ($530 million).
In an interview with BBC Arabic, head of the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai says the issue stems from the ongoing spat between the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules the Strip.
Mordechai criticizes Hamas for not prioritizing the quality of life of its residents, saying the group would rather spend its money bolstering its military capabilities.
Sissi’s Egypt cracks down on news websites
Egypt’s government, already accused of muzzling freedom of expression and opposition to President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has blocked access to a host of news websites including Qatar’s Al-Jazeera.
Around 20 websites based in Qatar and Egypt have been inaccessible since last night, including the Doha newspapers Al-Watan and Al-Raya, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ikhwan Online and Egypt-based Al-Sharq television which is close to the outlawed group.
Independent sites such as Mada Masr, which takes a strong stand against corruption, and Huffpost Arabi, the Arabic edition of the Huffington Post, have also been cut for Egyptian web surfers.
Father of Manchester bomb suspect ‘was in militant group’
The father of suspected Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was once part of a Libyan militant group with alleged ties to al-Qaeda, a Libyan security source says.
Abedi’s father Ramadan “was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG),” says Ahmed bin Salem, spokesman for Libya’s Deterrence Force, which acts as the police for Libya’s unity government.
The Tripoli-based force arrested Abedi’s father and brother after Monday’s attack at a pop concert which killed 22 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Ramadan Abedi was hunted by the regime of Muammar Gadhafi for his ties to the group, finding refuge in Britain before returning to Libya in 2011 to join the NATO-backed uprising that finally overthrew the dictator, British media reported.
Russia arrests 4 over IS plot to bomb Moscow transportation
Russia’s main domestic security agency says it has arrested four members of the Islamic State group who have been preparing attacks in Moscow.
The Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main KGB successor agency, says the suspects arrested in Moscow were preparing to strike at the capital’s transport network. The agency says in a statement that the four were working under directions from IS in Syria to prepare attacks using self-made explosive devices.
The FSB adds that the suspects were planning to join the IS in Syria after the attack. It didn’t give their names, saying only the group included citizens of Russia and ex-Soviet Central Asian nations.
The arrests follow last month’s suicide bombing in St. Petersburg’s subway that left 16 dead and wounded more than 50.
Manchester bomber transited through Istanbul, Berlin airports days before attack
The 22-year-old man who carried out the Manchester concert suicide bombing that left 22 people dead transited through the Istanbul and Berlin airports ahead of carrying out the attack, officials from both countries say.
According to German police, Salman Abedi spent a short time at Duesseldorf airport’s transit area four days before the bombing at Manchester Arena earlier this week.
Police didn’t provide any further information or say where Abedi was coming from when he landed in Duesseldorf.
Meanwhile, a Turkish official says that Abedi also transited through the Istanbul airport in the days leading up to the attack.
“I can confirm that he transited through Istanbul Ataturk” airport, the official tells AFP, asking not to be named and referring to the country’s main international airport.
The official said no intelligence had been shared with Turkey concerning Abedi ahead of his presence in Istanbul.
There was no immediate indication from the Turkish authorities where he had been traveling from or if he had crossed the border or merely changed planes at the airport
Anti-NATO, Trump protesters gather in Brussels
Several hundred protesters have gathered outside the NATO summit in Brussels to demonstrate against NATO and US President Donald Trump.
The group was tiny compared to the 10,000 demonstrators who came out Wednesday to protest Trump’s visit. But the summit won’t start until late afternoon, so the crowds could still swell.
Security officials have cordoned off a large protest zone outside NATO headquarters. Protesters there are holding banners that say “NATO game over” and “peace.”
— BreakingNews.ie (@breakingnewsie) May 25, 2017
At one point, some 50 demonstrators tried to block a road using banners.
Stephanie Demblon of the “Agir pour la paix” pacifist group says Trump “makes people scared” and says he’s “shown over the past months that he isn’t a man of peace.”
The anti-NATO activist says she’s worried that Trump, who criticized NATO during his campaign, is now beginning to see the partnership as “something very useful to his aims.”
Gaza news agency live-streams executions
A Gaza-based news agency is live-streaming the public execution of three Palestinian men found guilty of assassinating a senior Hamas terrorist in March.
The Facebook Live video streaming from the Gaza Now news agency appears to be filmed from a balcony above the square where Ashraf Abu Leila Hisham al-Aloul and Abdallah al-Nashar are set to be executed.
Mazen Faqha, a Hamas terror chief, was shot on March 24 outside his Gaza home. Hamas accuses the three suspects of collaborating with Israel and sentenced them to death on Sunday.
Abu Leila, 38, was sentenced to hang, while al-Aloul and al-Nashar will face the firing squad.
Traffic gridlocked throughout Jerusalem
Police are warning Jerusalem commuters to expect major traffic jams all across the city this afternoon.
A broken-down bus in the Tzahal Tunnel is causing traffic jams downtown and near the Old City. The tunnel’s southbound lane has since been closed to all traffic.
Elsewhere in the city, a car accident on Begin Blvd. has caused traffic snarl-ups from the southern neighborhood of Gilo to Yigal Yadin St, north of the entrance to the city.
Police say the accident caused a number of other vehicles to get stuck on along Begin.
There is no indication the accident caused any injuries.
Trump pledges to ‘get to the bottom’ of leaks
US President Donald Trump is pledging to “get to the bottom” of leaks of sensitive information.
In a written statement, Trump calls the recent leaks “deeply troubling.” He says he is asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter.”
Trump adds that “if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Trump’s comments come amid anger from Britain over intelligence leaks and a decision by Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week’s bombing.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will make it clear to Trump that intelligence shared between law enforcement agencies “must remain secure.”
Trump says many NATO allies ‘owe massive amounts of money’
US President Donald Trump is lecturing members of the NATO alliance about paying their fair share on defense during a ceremony at NATO headquarters.
Trump says NATO members must “finally contribute their fair share” and meet their obligations.
The president has been urging NATO leaders to live up to a 2011 decision to increase spending on defense to 2 percent of GDP by 2024.
Trump says 23 of the 28 member nations are not paying what they should and he says it’s “not fair” to the people of the United States. He says many of these nations owe “massive” amounts of money from previous years.
The president spoke as the other NATO leaders looked on.
Trump leads NATO summit in silence for Manchester victims
US President Donald Trump on Thursday led NATO allies in paying their respects to the victims of the Manchester bombing, which he described as “a barbaric and vicious attack on our civilization.”
“(British) Prime Minister (Theresa) May: all of the nations here today grieve with you and stand with you,” Trump says, calling for a moment’s silence for the victims and families hit by the “savage attack.”
Trump threatens prosecution over US leaks of Manchester probe
US President Donald Trump slams as “deeply troubling” US leaks on the probe into the Manchester suicide bombing, warning those responsible could face prosecution.
In a statement issued by the White House, Trump says he has ordered the Department of Justice and other agencies to launch a full review of leaks he described as “a grave threat to our national security.”
“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling,” Trump says. “If appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” Trump adds.
Trump says NATO must do more on terror, immigration, Russia
US President Donald Trump uses his first NATO summit on Thursday to urge the alliance to do more to tackle terrorism and immigration as well as Russia.
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” Trump says as he unveils a 9/11 memorial at the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels.
Nasrallah: Trump wants money and Israel
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a speech slams Saudi Arabia for embracing US President Donald Trump, and for the two countries’ recent positions against Iran.
In an address marking the 17th anniversary of Israel’s pullout from Lebanon, Nasrallah says the American president’s visit to Riyadh last week aimed to rally other Middle Eastern countries to confront Iran.
Trump, Nasrallah charges, is the “most hating president towards Muslims,” and says his meeting with Saudi leaders was aimed at “promoting [him] and making him look great.”
“What does Trump want? He wants money and he wants Israel — so Saudis thought, let’s give him money to save our backs,” Nasrallah adds.
The Hezbollah leader goes on to say the summit of Arab leaders who met in Riyadh at the end of Trump’s visit “was nothing more than a celebration.”
“The summit aimed at magnifying Trump and displaying Saudi Arabia as the center of decision in the region,” he says.
Nasrallah calls on Saudi Arabia to reach a compromise with its rival Iran.
Netanyahu to undergo kidney stone procedure under sedation
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will undergo a medical procedure to break up kidney stones under sedation later this evening.
The prime minister will be accompanied by his personal physician Dr. Zvi Berkowitz throughout the procedure.
Minister Ze’ev Elkin will act as interim prime minister while Netanyahu is under anesthetic.
Trump omits defense pact in NATO speech
President Donald Trump makes no explicit mention of NATO’s mutual defense pact even as he speaks at a ceremony unveiling a memorial dedicated to it.
Trump has so far refused to personally commit to abiding by Article 5, which commits allies to defend any of the 28 members that come under attack. Article 5 has only been activated once, after 9/11.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer says, “it goes without saying” that Trump’s presence at the event underscores the White House’s “commitments and treaty obligations.” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday said that “of course” the United States supports Article 5.
Trump was speaking at the unveiling of a steel beam from the 107th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels. The unveiling is intended as a reminder of NATO’s commitment to its collective defense clause.
Hamas warns against publishing footage from public execution
After a popular Gaza news site live streamed the execution of three men accused of killing a Hamas terror commander on behalf of Israel, the Strip’s interior ministry warns against publishing any footage from the scene.
“The interior ministry warns against publishing any footage or photos from the execution of the agents of the occupation involved in the assassination of the martyr Mazen Faqha,” the Hamas-run ministry says in a statement.
“Anyone who violates this will face legal measures,” it adds.
The Gaza Now news agency, which live streamed the execution from a distance, quickly responded to Hamas’s warning.
“The Gaza Now news agency did not receive any instruction from the Interior Ministry or from the Media Office in Gaza barring the shooting of the execution,” the site says in a tweet.
The site notes that yesterday it published footage from the exact same place.
— Dov Lieber
Trump special envoy hails ‘another productive meeting’ with Abbas
Trump’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt wraps up what he calls “another productive meeting” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Greenblatt’s tweet, the two met for a follow-up meeting in the wake of Trump’s visit to the region where he repeatedly emphasized his desire to help broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Yesterday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Trump “pressured” both Netanyahu and Abbas during his meeting with the two leaders this week to return to the negotiating table.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) May 25, 2017
Britain ready to send more troops to Afghanistan
Britain is ready to send more non-combat troops to Afghanistan as part of NATO efforts to help Kabul tackle an intensifying Taliban insurgency, a government source says.
“The UK is prepared to increase its contribution to troops in a non-combat role to demonstrate our continued support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan,” the source says.
Britain currently has around 500 troops in Afghanistan involved in training and mentoring local forces there. NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan formally ended in 2014.
Tillerson to make first UK visit in solidarity over Manchester attack
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make his first official visit to Britain on Friday in an expression of solidarity following the Manchester terror attack, the Foreign Office in London says.
The visit to meet his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, will be “an expression of UK-US solidarity following the terrorist attack in Manchester,” the Foreign Office says.
During the visit they will write messages of condolence for the victims of the attack and “hold talks on a range of foreign policy issues” before delivering short statements to media.
Relations between London and Washington have been strained by repeated leaks emanating from the United States of shared material from the British investigation into Monday’s suicide bombing at a pop concert, which killed 22 people.
Senate panel backs bill to authorize new Iran sanctions
A US Senate panel overwhelmingly backs bipartisan legislation that would authorize President Donald Trump to put new sanctions on Iran while keeping the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in place.
The Foreign Relations Committee votes 18-3 despite concerns from former Secretary of State John Kerry and several Democrats that the measure could nonetheless lead to the unraveling of the nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration.
6- After Rouhani’s reelection, there is much up in the air/room for misinterpretation. This is not the moment for a new Iran bill.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 24, 2017
Lieberman withdraws from FBI director search
Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman withdraws his name for consideration for the role of FBI director.
Lieberman interviewed last week with President Donald Trump, who publicly identified him as a leading candidate. But he says he’s pulling out in a letter sent to the White House.
He says he wants to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, given Trump’s hiring of one of Lieberman’s law partners to represent him in the investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The White House declined to comment. Several other people interviewed for the job have also withdrawn from consideration.
Trump fired former FBI director James Comey earlier this month.
Ex-Greek PM Papademos hurt in car blast
Greek former prime minister Lucas Papademos was hurt when an explosive device went off inside his car in Athens, state agencies say.
State news agency ANA says Papademos is undergoing surgery for abdominal and leg injuries at an Athens hospital.
State TV ERT reported that his life is not in danger.
Two of his guards were lightly hurt, the station says.
ERT says Papademos, prime minister from 2011 to 2012, was wounded by a letter bomb as he read his mail in the back of the car.
— with AFP
Libya vows to help identify ‘terrorist networks’ linked to Manchester attack
Libya’s UN-backed government says it is working with British authorities to identify the “terrorist networks” behind the Manchester concert bombing.
Interior Ministry Undersecretary Col. Abdulsalam Ashour condemns the attack and says the Tripoli-based government’s anti-terror force is investigating.
British officials have said the attack was by British-born Salman Abedi, 22, whose family is from Libya. Abedi’s father and younger brother were arrested in Tripoli yesterday.
Before his arrest, the father told The Associated Press that his son was innocent.
A statement from Libya’s Special Deterrent Forces claims the brother told investigators both he and Salman belonged to the Islamic State group.
The Monday night bombing killed 22 people. Abedi died in the attack.
Video of Trump pushing past a NATO leader making waves online
President Donald Trump’s push to get in front of the pack at the NATO summit in Belgium is getting attention.
Video footage from the gathering shows Trump putting his right hand on the right arm of Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and pushing himself ahead as NATO leaders walked inside the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels.
Maybe this is what Trump meant by America first….
— Yashar Ali
Trump then stands near Markovic and speaks to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. The video is garnering attention on social media.
Montenegro is scheduled to formally become NATO’s 29th member in early June.
Pope Francis may come to Israel to advance Trump peace push — report
Pope Francis may come to Israel this fall, as part of Donald Trump’s peace push, Channel 10 reports.
The TV station says a Vatican delegation will come to Israel in June to prepare for the possible visit.
The report quotes unnamed Vatican sources. There is no confirmation.
It says three possible dates are being explored.
Manchester bomber called his mother before attack, said ‘forgive me’
A spokesman for an anti-terror force in Libya says the suspect in the Manchester bombing attack telephoned his mother hours before the attack and said, “Forgive me.”
Special Deterrent Force spokesman Ahmed bin Salem said Thursday that 22-year-old Salman Abedi’s mother and three of his siblings in Libya were summoned for questioning. Abedi died in the attack.
Bin Salem says the mother told interrogators that her son left Libya for England only four days before the bombing and called her on the same day of the attack.
Bin Salem said: “He was giving farewell.”
Another sibling, 18-year-old brother Hashim, and Abedi’s father were arrested in Tripoli on Wednesday.
Bin Salem said Libyan investigators think, based on what Hashim Abedi told them, “the bomber acted alone.”
He says the brother told them that Salman learned how to make explosives on the internet and wanted to “seek victory for the Islamic State.”
Jerusalem to launch innovative wireless network across the city
Jerusalem is set to become the first city in Israel to install a wireless network using millimeter wave technology.
High-frequency millimeter waves greatly increase wireless capacity and speeds for cellular networks.
According to the municipality, Jerusalem’s new network will enable users to access a variety of services including emergency services and smart parking solutions. The network will also upgrade the internet connection speed in the city’s educational facilities, and will provide free wireless service throughout Jerusalem.
“We are positioning Jerusalem alongside the world’s leading smart cities,” Mayor Nir Barkat says in a statement.
US appeals court upholds block on Trump travel ban
A US federal appeals court deals a fresh blow to President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, upholding a lower court’s decision to block the measure, which targeted travelers from six Muslim majority countries.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals says it “remained unconvinced” that the part of the measure naming the specific countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had “more to do with national security than it does with effectuating the president’s promised Muslim ban.”
The court further says it could not say that the government’s security concerns outweighed the plaintiffs’ concerns about discrimination.