Israel approves first new settlement in decades to replace Amona
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Israel approves first new settlement in decades to replace Amona

Cabinet also okays some 2,000 new settlement homes in other areas of West Bank; UN calls on Hamas to reopen Gaza crossing; AG says incarceration times for Palestinian detainees to be reduced

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (C)  meets with a delegation of Jewish leaders at the US Department of Justice in Washington D.C. on March 30, 2017.  (JCC Association of North America)
    US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (C) meets with a delegation of Jewish leaders at the US Department of Justice in Washington D.C. on March 30, 2017. (JCC Association of North America)
  • Trump Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2011. (Wikipedia)
    Trump Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2011. (Wikipedia)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
  • A Jewish Israeli-American teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)
    A Jewish Israeli-American teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)
  • Illustrative image of Hamas security forces standing guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
    Illustrative image of Hamas security forces standing guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
  • Meir Ephraim Goldstein, suspected of beheading his wife in burning her body in Tiberias, is seen at the Nazareth Magistrate's Court as he arrives for a hearing on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)
    Meir Ephraim Goldstein, suspected of beheading his wife in burning her body in Tiberias, is seen at the Nazareth Magistrate's Court as he arrives for a hearing on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)
  • Illustrative: Palestinian demonstrators attempt to damage an iron fence, setup by Israeli security forces, between the Palestinian village of Beit Jala and the Jerusalem area, on March 30, 2017 during Land Day protest in the Israeli occupied West Bank. (AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
    Illustrative: Palestinian demonstrators attempt to damage an iron fence, setup by Israeli security forces, between the Palestinian village of Beit Jala and the Jerusalem area, on March 30, 2017 during Land Day protest in the Israeli occupied West Bank. (AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
  • Shira Nir, a lawyer of an American-Israeli teenager suspected of calling in fake bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the world, shows the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court what she says is an image of a cancerous growth in her client's brain, on March 30, 2017.  (Flash90)
    Shira Nir, a lawyer of an American-Israeli teenager suspected of calling in fake bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the world, shows the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court what she says is an image of a cancerous growth in her client's brain, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

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

Cabinet okays new settlement to replace evacuated Amona

In a unanimous vote, the security cabinet decides to establish a new West Bank settlement for families evicted from Amona, an outpost razed last month after the High Court of Justice ruled it had been built illegally on private Palestinian land.

The new community will be located near Emek Shilo, north of Ramallah, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. It will be the first new government approved settlement in some 25 years.

Defense Ministry dismantling Amona outpost in the central West Bank on February 6, 2017. (Courtesy Amona Council)
Defense Ministry dismantling Amona outpost in the central West Bank on February 6, 2017. (Courtesy Amona Council)

The rest of the Israeli cabinet is currently voting on the matter to approve the decision.

In addition, Prime Minister Netanyahu announces that some 2,000 new West Bank housing units were recently okayed out of 5,700 homes he announced two months ago, after Amona was evacuated.

— Raphael Ahren

Jewish leaders meet US Attorney General in wake of bomb threats

A delegation from the JCC Association of North American and US Jewish leaders met with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the aftermath of the hundreds of bomb threats made against Jewish institutions in recent months.

At some locations swastikas were scrawled on walls and cemeteries desecrated.

Israeli police last week arrested a young Israeli-American man and said he was the primary suspect in the majority of the threats.

A former journalist from St. Louis has also been arrested on suspicions of making at least eight threats against Jewish institutions to harass an ex-girlfriend.

12-year-old in serious condition after snakebite

A 12-year-old boy is rushed to the hospital in serious condition after being bitten by a snake in the Haifa-area town of Givat Ada.

Magen David Adom paramedics say the boy was taken to the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera for treatment.

Paramedic Asaf Miterini says the boy is conscious, but his condition is unstable.

Jordan’s King Abdullah to visit White House April 5

Jordan’s King Abdullah will visit the White House next week for his second meeting with Donald Trump since the US president took office, a US official tells AFP.

Abdullah’s visit comes amid burgeoning diplomatic efforts to get the Palestinian-Israeli peace process back on track.

Trump and Abdullah briefly met at a prayer breakfast in Washington last month.

— AFP

UN calls on Hamas to reopen Israel border crossing

The United Nations is accusing Gaza’s Hamas rulers of endangering their own people by closing the territory’s main crossing with Israel.

Hamas imposed the lockdown in the wake of a mysterious killing of a senior Hamas commander last week. It has accused Israel of being behind the killing.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA says the measures are “negatively impacting already vulnerable sectors in Gaza.”

The agency says dozens of people have missed hard-to-get medical appointments in Israel or the West Bank, while international consultants have been unable to enter Gaza to work on development projects.

Hamas says the measures will remain in place until further notice.

Woman murdered, beheaded by ex-husband to be buried tonight

Adele Goldstein, the Tiberias woman who was murdered and beheaded by her ex-husband yesterday will be laid to rest later this evening in Ashkelon.

Meir Ephraim Goldstein was arrested yesterday afternoon after passersby reported him wandering around the neighborhood in bloodstained clothes clutching a woman’s severed head under his arm.

He told police investigators after his arrest that he was acting on divine instruction and that he was the messiah.

The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court remanded his detention for two weeks, during which he will be held in a psychiatric hospital.

Israel to reduce incarceration times for Palestinian prisoners

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informs the High Court of Justice the state will shorten the incarceration time of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israeli forces in the West Bank, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Under the new directive, Palestinian minors under the age of 14 who are not suspected of security offenses will no longer he held by Israeli security forces for longer than 12 hours.

Mandelblit says adult detainees not suspected of security offenses will also see a drop in their incarceration times, but does not give a specific time period.

Additionally, underage detainees remanded into custody until the end of the legal proceedings against them will be freed after a period of 45 days, while adults will be released after 90 days.

The directive comes in response to a petition filed to the High Court of Justice by the Association of Civil Liberties in Israel and the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Fewer than 1,000 jihadists left in embattled Mosul, coalition says

The Islamic State terrorist group forces locked in battle with Iraqi troops for the northern city of Mosul are estimated to be down to fewer than 1,000 fighters, a spokesman for the US-led coalition says.

Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition, says IS had an estimated 2,000 fighters in west Mosul when the Iraqi push began in mid-February. “We believe it’s less than half now,” he says.

–Agencies

White House drops human rights demand in Bahrain arms deal

The Trump administration tells Congress it plans to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.

If finalized, the approval would allow the Gulf island to purchase 19 of the jets from Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp., plus improvements to other jets in Bahrain’s fleet. Though Congress has opportunities to block the sale, it is unlikely it will act to do so, given the Republican majority’s strong support for the sale.

The decision is the latest signal that the Trump administration is prioritizing support for Sunni-led countries seen as critical to opposing Iran’s influence in the Mideast over human rights issues that Obama had elevated.

Number of Syrian refugees tops 5 million, UN says

More than five million Syrians are now refugees, the UN refugee agency says, as aid groups urged the international community to end the country’s six-year war and provide more assistance.

The new figures mean around a quarter of Syria’s population has fled since the March 2011 start of a conflict that has killed over 320,000 people.

Syrian families at the Zaatari refugee camp, on the Jordanian border with war-ravaged Syria on March 28, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
Syrian families at the Zaatari refugee camp, on the Jordanian border with war-ravaged Syria on March 28, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

UNHCR urges more international assistance, with spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly calling the figure an “important milestone.”

–AFP

Senators demand probe into Trump’s dealings with Iran-linked oligarch

A group of Democratic Senators call for a federal investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s links to an Azerbaijani businessmen said to have extensive ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, violate US anti-corruption and sanctions laws.

Sherrod Brown, Ben Cardin and Dianne Feinstein outline their concerns in a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.

The letter says even though the president’s real estate company pulled out of the Trump Tower Baku project, “serious questions remain unanswered about the Trump Organization’s potential criminal liability.”

A report in The New Yorker earlier this month alleged The Trump Organization’s “notoriously corrupt” local partner for building project in Baku previously headed an IRGC construction company and fought in the Iran-Iraq war.

US military ‘better get out’ of Persian Gulf, Iran general warns

Iran’s defense minister warns the US to remove its military presence from the Persian Gulf, comparing American troops to an “insane armed robber” invading a home.

“What are Americans doing in the Persian Gulf? They had better get out of this region and not cause nuisance for the regional countries,” Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan says according to Iranian media reports.

Dehqan says it’s not “logically acceptable to let mindless armed robbers enter your place and lay red carpet for them.”

The minister’s remarks come after US Central Command chief General Joe Votel told the House Armed Services Committee that he was “extraordinarily concerned” by the buildup of Iranian naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz.

Palestinian protesters marking Land Day clash with IDF troops

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops during a protest in the northern West Bank in commemoration of “Land Day,” an annual event marking 1976 riots against a government decision to confiscate Arab Israeli land.

The Red Crescent ambulance service reports that 45 Palestinians are injured by rubber bullets during the protest.

An Israeli army spokesperson says she was investigating the claim.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the demonstrators threw rocks at the security forces on the scene.

Palestinian demonstrators run as Israeli security forces fire tear gas toward them following a protest to mark Land Day in the village of Madama, south of Nablus, in the West Bank, March 30, 2017. (AFP/JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)
Palestinian demonstrators run as Israeli security forces fire tear gas toward them following a protest to mark Land Day in the village of Madama, south of Nablus, in the West Bank, March 30, 2017. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Elsewhere in the West Bank, dozens of Palestinians protesters march toward a segment of the security fence outside the Bethlehem-area town of Beit Jala.

They lit a tire on fire and hit the fence with a piece of metal, before Israeli police officers dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

–Judah Ari Gross

UK comedian banned from Palestine Marathon over Israel show

British comedian Eddie Izzard is banned from running in the Palestine Marathon in and around Bethlehem for refusing cancel a show in Israel.

Izzard, known for his rambling monologues and cross-dressing, is due to perform in Tel Aviv tonight.

Palestine Marathon organizers say the comedian, who ran 27 marathons in 27 days for charity in 2016, is not welcome unless he cancels the gig.

“British comedian Eddie Izzard cannot run for freedom this Friday if he entertains in Tel Aviv on Thursday,” the race’s official Twitter site said. “We refuse to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Izzard’s whitewashing of Israel’s occupation and apartheid.”

The left-wing comedian tweeted earlier today that he was looking forward to running the marathon after the gig.

https://twitter.com/PalMarathon/status/847428507454070784

–AFP

Egypt-Jordan-PA coordinate positions ahead of White House visits

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry says yesterday’s tripartite meeting between the leaders of the PA, Jordan and Egypt resulted in coordinated positions on regional peace efforts ahead of their respective meetings with US President Donald Trump next month.

On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit, PA President Mahmoud Abbas met with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)

“In this meeting, positions were coordinated in what should be said or focused on regarding the Palestinian issue” when the three leaders visit the White House in April.

This visit, the statement says, comes “in the framework of influencing the stages of crystallization of the new American position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

–Dov Lieber

Kahlon vows new public broadcaster won’t be politicized

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says Israel’s new public broadcasting cooperation ensures press freedoms and would be free from political intervention.

At a Tel Aviv press conference officially announcing the compromise deal reached with the prime minister earlier today, Kahlon says the new broadcaster “guarantees free press, free speech and conservative budgetary spending.”

Kahlon says his long-simmering conflict with Netanyahu over the pubic broadcaster “was over principles, not over ego.”

He reiterates that “public funds will not be wasted, and the agreement will not affect the framework of political journalism.”

Assad’s future to be decided by Syrian people, Tillerson says

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Syrian people will decide the future of President Bashar Assad.

“I think the .. longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” Tillerson tells a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevut Cavusoglu in Ankara.

— AFP

Palestinian NGOs demand Hamas reopen Israel border crossing

Palestinian NGOs and rights groups are calling on Hamas to reopen the only foot crossing into Israel, after the terrorist group ruling the Gaza Strip closed it following an assassination of one of its top military leaders.

Hamas shut the Erez crossing into Israel on Sunday after blaming the Jewish state for assassinating Mazen Faqha, 38, in his home last Friday.

Reports say Hamas are continuing to search for the alleged assassins, who they believe remain in Gaza.

Hamas security forces stand guard at Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017, after it was shut by the Islamist movement after blaming the Jewish state for the assassination of one of its officials in the Palestinian enclave. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
Hamas security forces stand guard at Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The Palestinian NGOs Network, a coalition of more than 100 charities and rights groups, are demanding the “lifting of restrictions and restrictive measures which violate human rights,” a statement says.

“Security goals should not come at the expense of human rights,” it adds.

–AFP

Netanyahu welcomes Slovak president in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes Slovak President Andrej Kiska to Jerusalem on first visit by a leader of the Eastern European nation to Israel in almost two decades.

“You’re a friend and I hope that our visit enhances our friendship and our cooperation in a changing world where we have so many common values, so many common interests,” he says at a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

“And we also have opportunities, not only challenges, so I look forward to discussing both of them with you, and it’s a pleasure to welcome you here,” Netanyahu says according to a statement from his office.

Slovakian President Andrej Kiska (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 30, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / ABIR SULTAN)
Slovakian President Andrej Kiska (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 30, 2017. (AFP/Pool/ Abir Sultan)

Kiska in response tells the prime minister he is “very glad that after 17 years again the Slovak president is here in this country because we are not only partners, but we are friends. And that is very important. And we know that nowadays, the world is difficult and friends to have to stay together.”

Israel and Slovakia established diplomatic relations in 1993.

Tillerson in Turkey for talks amid Syria strains

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with Turkish leaders for talks clouded by differences over Syria, a day after Ankara announced the end of its military offensive there.

Tillerson, the most senior US official to visit Turkey since President Donald Trump took office in January, is seeking to turn around recently rocky relations between the NATO allies.

After meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Tillerson affirms that Turkey is important to American security and economic ties in the region.

— Agencies

Tehran rejects criticism by Arab leaders at summit

Iran strongly denies any meddling in Middle East conflicts after Arab leaders condemned “foreign interference” in their affairs at yesterday’s Arab summit in Jordan.

A statement from a senior Iranian official says the criticism of its foreign policy is unwarranted and the Arab would should instead focus on condemning Israel.

“It’s very regrettable that some are trying to change reality and replace the Zionist regime (Israel) with Islamic Iran as an illusory and fabricated enemy,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says.

Ghasemi says Tehran could not hide its “deep sorrow” for leaders of the Arab and Muslim world who “fail to distinguish friend from foe.”

Palestinian teen indicted for incitement over Facebook posts

A 17-year-old Palestinian teen from East Jerusalem is indicted on charges of incitement to violence and terrorism, police say in a statement.

Police say the suspect was arrested last week over his social media posts that expressed support for terrorist organizations.

During the interrogation the suspect confessed to circulating the offending posts.

He is remanded into police custody until the court proceedings against him are completed.

JCC bomb threat suspect remanded in custody another week

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court orders the Israeli-American teen suspected of calling in dozens of fake bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the US to remain behind bars for an additional week.

The 18-year-old from Ashkelon is facing charges of extortion, making threats, publishing false information and sowing widespread fear and panic.

A Jewish Israeli teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)
A Jewish Israeli teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

The suspect’s father, who was detained by police along with his son over suspicions he turned a blind eye to his son’s illegal activities, is released by the court to house arrest under restrictive conditions.

The suspect has not been named and details about him or his possible motive remain unclear.

His defense team reportedly tell the court the 18-year-old suffers from a nonmalignant brain tumor that causes behavioral issues.

Australia finds no proof its World Vision aid went to Hamas

The Australian government says it had found no evidence that any of its donations to the Christian charity World Vision had been siphoned to the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group.

But Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says its World Vision funding in Gaza would remain suspended while Israeli charges against the global aid agency’s Gaza manager Mohammed el-Halabi remain unresolved.

Muhammad el-Halabi, a manager of the World Vision charity's operations in the Gaza Strip, was indicted on August 4, 2016, for diverting the charity's funds to the terrorist organization. (Screen capture: World Vision)
Muhammad el-Halabi, a manager of the World Vision charity’s operations in the Gaza Strip, was indicted on August 4, 2016, for diverting the charity’s funds to the terrorist organization. (Screen capture: World Vision)

“DFAT has reviewed the management of its funding to World Vision in the Palestinian Territories. The review uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds.” the department says in a statement.

“Australia’s funding to World Vision in the Palestinian Territories remains suspended until we have considered the outcomes of the court case against Mr. el-Halabi and reviews being undertaken by World Vision Australia and World Vision International into this issue,” it adds.

Australian is the biggest single donor to World Vision’s humanitarian work in Gaza, providing more than $2 million in the past three years.

–AP

Dershowitz says Trump ‘clearly’ endorsed Palestinian state

Prominent US lawyer Alan Dershowitz says President Donald Trump spoke to him “clearly” about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would lead to an independent Palestinian state.

Trump broke with longtime US policy last month when he withheld clear support for an independent Palestine alongside Israel, declaring he could endorse a one-nation solution.

But Dershowitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tells Army Radio that Trump endorsed two states in a conversation with him this month.

“Clearly he was talking about a two-state solution. He was not in any way suggesting, at least in his conversation with me, a one-state solution,” Dershowitz says.

Dershowitz says Trump is “anxious” to broker peace and believes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also “anxious” for a deal.

–AP

PM, Kahlon strike compromise deal on embattled broadcaster

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon reach a compromise over the future of Israel’s new public broadcasting cooperation, ending a coalition crisis that has threatened to bring down the government and force new elections.

According to the deal, the corporation set to begin transmission on April 30 will be allowed to go ahead, albeit with a slight delay, but it will lose its news division, and a separate broadcast entity will be established to deal with all state-funded current affairs offerings.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says the new news corporation will be staffed entirely by former IBA employees.

— Raoul Wootliff

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