The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Duma main suspect confessed under torture, lawyer claims
The central suspect in the Dawabsha family murders confessed under torture and reconstructed the July 31 incident, his lawyer, Itamar Ben Gvir says in a press conference outside the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court.
Ben Gvir alleges that Shin Bet security service interrogators “broke” his client after sexually harassing him, preventing him from sleeping for long periods of time and “harming his values.”
The suspect’s identity remains undisclosed.
Ben Gvir says the investigation should stop since his client admitted to the crime, defined as an act of Jewish terrorism, only due to the torture he went through.
Right-wing activists dramatize Shin Bet torture in protest clip
Right-wing activists post a clip in which they simulate torture in the “dungeons of the Shin Bet” as they call it.
One actor, hanging from his feet, is shown being beaten all over his body.
“Over the past month the Shin Bet is torturing our friends systematically. Tortures that are taken from dark regimes. They put them in a cell with other inmates who are in fact Shin Bet employees and then they beat the person senseless,” the activists say in the clip.
Netanyahu lauds Shin Bet’s ‘excellent’ work
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses strong support for the Shin Bet’s conduct in the Duma Jewish terror attack interrogations.
At the beginning of a meeting with the Ukrainian president, he says “Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen and his men are doing important and excellent work for the people of Israel and for the security of the State of Israel.”
“Attacks on them [the service] are not acceptable to me. We are a state of law. All Shin Bet activities are done according to the law and this is done with close supervision by the attorney general and the Justice Ministry, and with the approval of the courts,” says the prime minister.
Netanyahu says that while Israel “deals with Arab terror day and night and in any place, sadly there are terror attacks carried out by Jews and the Shin Bet needs to deal with them too. We will not tolerate terrorism of any kind,” he says.
Shin Bet says ‘central activists’ in Jewish terror group ‘grilled intensively’
The Shin Bet says in response to allegations by Itamar Ben Gvir, lawyer of one of the suspects in the Jewish terror attack in Duma, that the suspects were tortured:
In light of the significant security threat presented by the field activities of members of the group, and the duty to disrupt ahead of time their intentions to continue carrying out severe terror attacks that may lead to deaths, several activists who are central activists in the terror group were detained for interrogation, and they were interrogated intensively.
The Shin Bet doesn’t specify its methods of interrogation in the statement.
Rivlin meets Ukrainian counterpart
President Reuven Rivlin meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem today. Poroshenko then met with Netanyahu.
Explosive device thrown at cops in Jerusalem
Iin Isawiyah, an Arab neighborhood of northeast Jerusalem, an improvised explosive device is thrown at police officers.
The device explodes but no one is hurt in the attack. Police are looking for the perpetrators.
Police say in a statement they will “use all means at their disposal to find and arrest the suspects and to prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
Russia to start building 2 nuclear reactors in Iran
Russia will start constructing two nuclear reactors in Iran next week, the spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency says.
It comes a year after Tehran signed a contract with Moscow to build two reactors at the existing Russian-built Bushehr power plant in southern Iran.
Work on the two reactors “will commence next week,” the state television website quotes Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying.
A series of agreements signed between the two countries last year foresees eventually increasing the total number of Russian-built reactors in the country to nine.
The start of construction follows a historic deal between Iran and world powers in July that ends a decade-long standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The accord does not limit Iran’s development of civilian nuclear sites.
For weed to be legal it must be regulated, says academic
The Knesset Committee on Controlled Substances hosts Prof. Asa Kasher, an expert on ethics and philosophy, to discuss normalizing the use of cannabis in a democracy.
Regarding the use of recreational use of marijuana, Kasher says that “while there is freedom in a democracy, this freedom has some necessary limits, like the limits on the use of alcohol. Legalization can be promoted but only if the process includes relevant regulation.”
A Health Ministry representative, Dr. Yuval Landschaft, says that “in cases where it is deemed necessary, a doctor will be allowed to prescribe cannabis that can be obtained in pharmacies, but the Health Ministry believes it is not right to promote general legalization of the use of cannabis for social uses.”
Committee head Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who is herself a proponent of the complete decriminalization of the substance, says that “whether we like it or not, we are today at a point in which we’re waiting for gradual change in the field of cannabis. It is our job to recognize the coming change and prepare for it as best we can… The train, in this context, has left the station.”
Ya’alon calls attacks against Shin Bet ‘lies’
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says he fully backs the Shin Bet and its head Yoram Cohen.
“The men of Shin Bet act at the behest of the people of Israel and work days and nights to keep Israelis safe from Palestinian terrorism. Attempts to harm the Shin Bet and its people are based on bald-faced lies,” Ya’alon says.
El Al reschedules flights as general strike looms
El Al, the country’s national carrier, changes the flight schedule for Wednesday ahead of a planned general strike which will affect Israel’s largest airport.
The Histadrut Labor Union announces that it will begin an open-ended strike starting Wednesday, citing failure to reach agreement with the Finance Ministry over the wages of civil servants.
In order to minimize harm to passengers, the company brought forward more than 20 flights planned to leave early tomorrow morning to take off before 6 a.m., when the strike officially begins.
All passengers with flights scheduled for Wednesday were asked by the company to come to the airport at least three hours before the new departure times.
The company says the schedule update will remain in force even if the strike is averted at the last minute.
US ambassador sends out gifts from West Bank, Golan Heights
Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer sends out holiday presents made exclusively with products made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
“This holiday season, I decided to send a gift that would also help combat the latest effort by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state,” Dermer writes in reference to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “The main forces behind this movement are fanatics who actively seek to eliminate Israel. Unfortunately, they are occasionally joined by fools who naively believe that in promoting BDS, they are advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Dermer says “the fanatics and the fools are simply promoting a new anti-Semitism. Once Jews were singled out and held to a different standard than other peoples. Today, the Jewish state is singled out and held to a different standard than other countries.”
Dermer cites Europe’s decision to label goods manufactured in the West Bank as “the most recent case of this.”
The US ambassador writes that the EU’s decision is “all the more shameful” since “Israel upholds the highest democratic values in the darkest region on earth and while facing threats faced by no other nation.”
Dermer writes that in light of this and “to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. I hope you will enjoy them.”
This year I decided to send a gift for the holiday that would also help combat BDS pic.twitter.com/43haadtzvm
— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) December 21, 2015
Hadash Facebook post compares Netanyahu to IS
A Facebook post by Hadash, one of the Arab parties making up the Joint List, laments the assassination of Druze terrorist Samir Kuntar and criticizes Israel’s “bullying” in Syria.
The party “condemns the assassination carried out by Israel early on Sunday December 20, 2015 in Syria,” an act that reflects Israel’s “thuggish” behavior in the region.
The assassination “reaffirms Israel’s deep involvement in what is happening in Syria and may lead to serious consequences,” the post continues.
The party accuses Israel as well as the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supplying intelligence and military assistance to “forces of terrorism” in Syria.
The party’s post “affirms the right of the Syrian and Lebanese people to resist the occupation of their territories” and “calls again for Israel to withdraw fully from the occupied Syrian Arab Golan and Lebanese Shebaa Farms, as a prerequisite for peace in the region.”
The picture accompanying the post shows a ski-mask wearing Islamic State fighter taking off a rubber mask of Netanyahu. To drive the nail in further, his hand bears a tattoo with the letters CIA (in Gothic font) and his forearm is tattooed with a Star of David.
The party is secular and communist and is led by Ayman Odeh, who has been lauded by the Jewish Israeli Zionist left as a Palestinian Martin Luther King of sorts.
Herzog to Hadash: You crossed a line
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of Zionist Union, reacts to Hadash’s post. Writing on Facebook, he says: “It looks like there are those for whom Samir Kuntar was not a despicable murderer and his death is an ‘Israeli crime.’” Herzog comments that the post is accompanied by “rude, inciting and violent” graphics.
Kuntar was “a murderer and a despicable terrorist who continued to preach the murder of Israelis and refused to express regret for killing, with intolerable cruelty, the Haran family and their father. After being released from prison he did not stop planning and carrying out the murder of innocent Israeli and from being part of the dark forces supporting the bloodthirsty Assad regime, a regime that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians. If someone in Hadash thinks differently they are bitterly mistaken.”
Herzog tells Ayman Odeh, who he tagged in the post, “This is unlike you, this is collaborating with extreme craziness. Instruct [the party] to delete this ugly post, even if it was written in Arabic only.”
“As a public leader who strives for peace and quotes the writings of Martin Luther King you must be the one standing against the inciters from within and to clarify forcefully: You have crossed the line.”
Hadash shoots back at Herzog after his criticism
Hadash slams Herzog’s reaction to its Netanyahu-IS post, and says he’s simply parroting the government:
“Herzog has chosen to toe the line of the government and to incite against Hadash and the Arab public, instead of warning that Netanyahu’s decision to bomb in Syria is a provocation. Herzog has no political spine, his position is irresponsible. We have been against and will continue to be against harm to civilians wherever they may be.”
Company operating Amos 5 satellite now up for sale
Israeli company Spacecom is up for sale after one of its satellites, Amos 5, broke down irretrievably in space.
The satellite was insured but the companies’ stocks plummeted by 24 percent this year.
Sources in the company tell the Bloomberg news agency that the company hired an external adviser to help it find potential buyers.
Father, son freed in Venezuela after Jewish community pays $400K ransom
A Jewish father and son abducted in Venezuela were freed days after the Jewish community paid a $400,000 ransom.
Heavily armed men kidnapped the Orthodox Jews as they made their way to synagogue for morning prayers on Saturday. The crime was only reported in the late afternoon, when the two did not return home. At the same time, one kidnapper called the family to present the terms of ransom.
“We have in our community people who are specialized in rescuing captives, and they know how to negotiate with kidnappers,” the son-in-law of a Chabad envoy in Caracas tells the Behadrey Haredim news portal. “Such cases happen frequently here. Our community has a special fund designed to redeem captives.”
The kidnappers demanded a $1 million ransom, according to the CCN Es Noticias news portal.
Cases of kidnappings for ransom have become most frequent in Venezuela. Foreigners – mainly Israelis – who come to the country are familiar with the situation and are cautious.
Venezuela is home to some 9,000 Jews, down from some 25,000 in 1999. Many Jews left, mainly for Florida and Israel, due to a deteriorating financial and social climate, along with a growing anti-Semitic environment established under the Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro regimes.
Netanyahu and Putin speak, discuss Syrian civil war
Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, three days after the reported assassination by Israel early Sunday morning of Samir Kuntar in a Damascus suburb.
The call reflects Israeli and Russian efforts to coordinate steps while Russia supports sworn enemies of Israel in its efforts to prop up its ally Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war.
Kuntar was a close ally of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group that has sworn to destroy Israel but constitutes a key military force fighting with Russia alongside Syrian government troops and pro-Assad militias.
In their Tuesday phone call, Netanyahu and Putin agreed to coordinate “anti-terror” efforts, and discussed the Syria war, according to the Russian news agency RIA.
According to the Ynet news site, Arab media outlets have wondered why Russia didn’t use its S-400 air defense system, deployed to its Hmeimim military base on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, to prevent the purported Israeli strike.
Pundits have speculated Russia may be coordinating with Israel in Jerusalem’s operations against Hezbollah and its supply routes through Syria.
Such coordination was denied on Monday by the Kremlin, whose spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not know of any Israeli warning about an impending strike.
Palestinian sources say IDF shot, killed woman near Gaza border
A Palestinian woman succumbed to injuries she sustained after IDF troops shot her near Khan Yunis, on the border of the Gaza Strip, the Hebrew news website Walla reports.
The report quotes Palestinian media sources.
UN condemns fighting by Syria and rebels in Golan Heights
The UN Security Council is strongly condemning the fighting and use of heavy weapons by Syrian government troops and armed groups on the Golan Heights.
The area is supposed to be a demilitarized zone that’s separated Syrian and Israeli forces since 1974.
A resolution co-sponsored by Russia and the United States and adopted unanimously by the council on Tuesday calls on parties to the Syrian conflict to halt military activity there.
The resolution extends the mandate of the nearly 800-strong U.N. peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights until June 30, 2016.
The Security Council echoed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s findings that the ongoing military activities have the potential to escalate Syrian-Israeli tensions.
It reaffirmed its readiness to impose sanctions on individuals or groups supporting extremists.
Globes employees protest amid risk of massive layoff
Employees of the Hebrew language business paper Globes are protesting outside the home of Eliezer Fishman, who owns a controlling share in the paper.
The employees are facing cutbacks that may see some 60 employees lose their jobs.
France is Israel’s largest source of aliyah for 2nd straight year
For the second consecutive year, France is the largest provider of Jewish immigrants to Israel with a record total of 7,328 newcomers in 2015.
The number of French citizens who immigrated to Israel under its law of return for Jews, or made aliyah, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1 constituted a 10 percent increase over the 6,661 French olim who came during the corresponding period last year, according to Jewish Agency for Israel figures obtained Tuesday by JTA. In all of 2014, a total of 7,238 olim came from France.
Last year’s total, which was the highest since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, was surpassed last month with the arrival of 468 French Jews. According to the Jewish Agency, French aliyah has increased because of a mix of factors, including the community’s fear of anti-Semitic attacks, economic stagnation in France and its members’ attachment to Israel.
The most dramatic increase in aliyah this year came from Russia, which provided more than 6,000 olim in the first 11 months of 2015 — some 44 percent over the 4,458 who came in the corresponding period last year. In total, slightly more than 5,000 came from Russia last year.
Russian aliyah increased following a financial crisis last year that halved the ruble’s value against the dollar and amid lingering concerns among Russian Jews over rising nationalism and undemocratic practices, according to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
Aliyah from Ukraine, which is also suffering from a financial recession following a bloody revolution last year and the secession of two pro-Russian eastern enclaves, increased to 6,848 people this year compared to the 6,149 who came in all of 2014.
The United States has provided Israel with 2,730 olim this year compared to 2,940 in the corresponding period last year.
Udder panic! 4 injured as car smashes into cow
Four people were injured, one moderately and others lightly, in a traffic collision between a car and a cow on the road from the community of Hararit to Yodfat, in the Galilee.
Magen David Adom paramedics arriving at the scene gave them preliminary medical care and evacuated them to the Poriya Hospital in Tiberias.
Palestinians protest at Rafah, call on Egypt to open crossing
Palestinians are protesting at the Rafah border crossing during a rally calling on Egyptian authorities to open the crossing, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Egypt has kept the crossing largely shut since Cairo’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was toppled by the army in 2013. Since then, it opened the crossing partially on a few occasions to allow Palestinians to travel in and out of the Gaza Strip, border officials say.
Who will be on strike — if at all — from tomorrow at 6 a.m.?
Assuming the Histadrut will not reach an agreement with the Finance Ministry by tomorrow, these public institutions will be on strike:
All local councils and municipalities
All government ministries
Israel Tax Authority
Bank of Israel
Israel Lands’ Authority
Central Bureau of Statistics
National Insurance Institute
Israel Broadcasting Authority
Universities and colleges
Magen David Adom
Israel Antiquities Authority
Israel Airport Authority
Jewish National Fund
Israel Electric Company
Most larger museums
At least 12 arrested in right wing protest against Shin Bet
About 100 people are protesting near the Bridge of Strings at the entrance to Jerusalem against the Shin Bet handling of the Duma terror suspects.
One young woman was arrested for “disrupting the peace,” police says.
In northern Israel, a small group of people arrived at Hatishbi junction and tried to block vehicles with their own bodies, in protest against the Shin Bet.
Police officers arrived at the scene and demanded that they move since they constitute a risk to themselves and to drivers. When they refuse, police arrest 11 of them.
Police will allow the protesters to express their displeasure with Shin Bet, which, police say, is a democratic right. But only insofar as the protesters respect the law and under conditions which do not disturb public order and upset normal life.
The junction has been opened since the arrests were made.
More arrests in north — 17 far right protesters held
Police say the number of protesters arrested in Tishbi junction in northern Israel has risen to 17.
Uri Ariel wants to close ‘Jewish Division’ in Shin Bet
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and the party’s MK Bezalel Smotrich criticize the Shin Bet after Itamar Ben Gvir, lawyer of one of the suspects in the Duma terror attack, alleged that his client confessed under torture.
The firebomb that destroyed the Dawabsha family – killing two parents and a baby – was allegedly thrown by Ben Gvir’s as yet unnamed client.
According to Channel 2, Ariel wrote on Whatsapp to some of his close associates that the “Jewish Division of Shin Bet needs to be closed, and the sooner the better.”
The Jewish Division is the security service branch in charge of dealing with terror threats coming from the Jewish population.
Smotrich answers Ariel’s comment: “I agree with Uri, it is a division that apart from inventing Avishai Raviv did not achieve anything over the past few years.”
Raviv was an agent provocateur handled by Shin Bet. He was dismissed from service in 1995 shortly after the murder of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Smotrich and Ariel’s views run against that of their party leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who earlier today gave his full backing to Shin Bet and condemned Jewish terrorists, saying terror should be uprooted regardless of who perpetrates it.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also gave Shin Bet his full support.