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Catastrophic fire engulfs Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, roof and spire collapse

Firefighters race to salvage art from capital’s iconic medieval church; massive fire may be linked to ongoing renovation work

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

Israeli scientists unveil first 3D printed heart with human tissue, vessels

Scientists in Israel unveiled a 3D printed heart with human tissue and vessels, calling it a first and a “major medical breakthrough” that advances possibilities for transplants.

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv on April 15, 2019. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The heart, about the size of a rabbit’s, marked “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” says Tal Dvir, who led the project.


Arab lawmaker calls for probe of Netanyahu involvement in polling station cameras

Outgoing Joint List and incoming Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Sliman is demanding that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit order an investigation into the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after party officials placed hidden cameras in dozens of polling stations in Arab towns on Election Day.

Likud admitted that it was behind the 1,200 or so cameras and other recording devices, which party officials claimed were in place to counter widespread voter fraud.

“This is an unprecedented move by Netanyahu of direct and deliberate incitement, this time with deeds and not only with words,” Touma-Sliman tells Mandleblit in a letter.

She also asks that Mandelblit order the video footage recorded by Likud activists be turned over to police. Touma-Sliman says that allowing activists to keep the illicitly recorded footage is “problematic” and a violation of privacy.

On Election Day, Melcer issued a directive prohibiting any photographing inside polling stations, “except in the case of a special event,” in which case audio recording was allowed.

Belgian man arrested on terror charges

Belgian authorities say they have arrested a man on suspicion that he was part of a terrorist group and might have been planning an attack.

Federal prosecutors said Monday the 22-year-old Belgian man, identified as Jimmy K., is charged with “taking part in the activities of a terrorist group.”

Searches were conducted in three Belgian towns in connection with the arrest but no weapons or explosives were found. No other details were provided.

State broadcaster RTBF says the man was detained early Sunday at his grandmother’s house in Wavre, 30 kilometers (19 miles) southeast of the capital, Brussels. It said he had converted to Islam and become radicalized and was in the early stages of preparing an attack. RTBF did not identify the source of its information.

— AP

Iran’s top leader releases special funds for flood damages

Iran’s top leader has approved the use of special funds so authorities can deal with damages from major flooding that has hit the country over the past weeks, killing at least 76 people.

The official IRNA news agency says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the government permission to use the National Development Fund should the country’s regular budget not meet the needs.

Since March, flash floods have been hitting the northern and western parts of Iran, with damages estimated so far at nearly $2.5 billion.

President Hassan Rouhani last week asked Khamenei to release about $2 billion from the development fund. The fund, established in 2000, collects some of the country’s foreign revenue and uses it for emergency needs.

— AP

Zarif reminds European powers Iran can enrich uranium under nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issues a “reminder” to European powers that Tehran is allowed to enrich uranium under its nuclear deal, after a senior French diplomat claimed otherwise.

“There is no prohibition on the enrichment of uranium by Iran,” Zarif tweets.

“Might be useful for European partners to actually read the document they signed on to, and pledged to defend,” he adds.

His comments are addressed to France, Germany and Britain who signed up to the landmark 2015 accord with Tehran under which uranium enrichment is curtailed but not banned. They come in response to France’s ambassador to Washington declaring: “It’s false to say that at the expiration of the JCPOA (nuclear deal), Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium.”

The claim on Saturday by Gerard Araud has since been deleted from his Twitter account.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran can only enrich uranium to 3.67 percent — far below the roughly 90-percent level needed for nuclear weapons.

The European powers have vowed to stand by the historic nuclear deal despite the United States pulling out of the agreement last year and imposing sanctions on Iran. The UN atomic watchdog in February reported Tehran has been abiding by the terms of the accord despite Washington’s pullout.


SpaceIL chairman, co-founder to light Independence Day torch

SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn and its co-founder Kfir Damari will light a torch at Israel’s 71st Independence Day ceremony on May 8, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev announces.

“SpaceIL has been working for eight years to promote scientific and technological education in Israel and to encourage Israeli innovation,” she says in a statement from the ministry. This year’s Independence Day theme is “The Israeli Spirit.”

Morris Kahn speaks on Channel 12, April 13, 2019 (screenshot)

Following the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet’s failure to land safely on the moon this week, Kahn on Saturday announced he was launching project Beresheet 2, effective immediately, adding: “We started something and we need to finish it. We’ll put our flag on the moon.”

The small spacecraft, the world’s first privately funded moon lander, crashed into the lunar surface Thursday night during an attempted landing, apparently due to a technical glitch that caused its main engine to stop mid-landing.

Bank Hapoalim CEO to step down after 4 years

Bank Hapoalim CEO Arik Pinto announces that he will not be extending his contract when it expires at the end of 2019.

Pinto, who has been the CEO of Israel’s largest bank for the last 4 years, does not give a reason for his decision.

Bank Hapoalim chief executive Ari Pinto, March 26, 2018. (Hadashot screenshot)

EU green lights trade talks with Washington to defuse tension

European Union countries have overruled France to give the green light for Brussels to open trade talks with Washington as soon as possible and defuse trans-Atlantic tensions.

The EU’s 28 member states has struggled for months to agree on a mandate to open the talks, with some fearing the delay would restart a trade war with US President Donald Trump.

But EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg this morning approved a mandate to negotiate “an agreement limited to the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods only” and another accord designed to remove non-tariff barriers.

The ministers say their mandate will exclude agriculture products, which EU trade minister Cecilia Malmstrom says amounted to a “red line” for Europe.

US officials have insisted that farm products be included in any trade talks.


Senior employee at Dimona nuclear reactor suspected of corruption

Police investigators recently detained a senior employee at the Dimona nuclear reactor for questioning on corruption suspicions, according to a police statement.

The statement says that the questioning came at the end of a covert investigation into the man’s activities, which was carried out under the auspices of the Director of Security of the Defense Establishment.

This photo taken on September 8, 2002, shows a partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Israeli Negev desert. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Police said their investigation into the employee was no longer under wraps. However, a judge imposed a gag order prohibiting the publication of further details in the case.

Merkel calls Netanyahu, stresses need for two-state solution

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his reelection and stresses the need to work toward a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Merkel’s office says the German leader in a phone conversation stressed the continued relevance of a two-state solution, which she said should be the goal of international efforts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands during a joint press conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on October 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Merkel also expressed her willingness to work closely and trustingly with the incoming Israeli government.

During the final stretch of his election campaign, Netanyahu pledged for the first time to annex parts of the West Bank in a desperate bid to rally his right-wing base. Netanyahu has reneged on election eve promises before, but should he follow through on this one, it would mark a dramatic development and potentially wipe out the already diminishing hope for Palestinian statehood.

— AP

Trump lashes out at Pelosi for defending ‘anti-Semitic and anti-Israel’ Omar

US President Donald Trump is lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for supporting Representative Ilhan Omar, accusing the Democratic freshman of making anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements.

“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful US HATE statements Omar has made,” Trump tweets.

“She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!” he adds.

Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump for tweeting a video that purports to show Omar being dismissive of the 2001 terrorist attacks, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker.

Yesterday, Pelosi said took steps to ensure Omar’s safety and demanded Trump take down the video.

Palestinian prisoners say hunger strike over after deal reached with Israel

Palestinian security prisoners are calling off a planned mass hunger strike after reaching an agreement with Israeli prison authorities, according a Palestinian advocacy group.

“An agreement in principle has been reached between the prisoners and the management of the occupation’s prisons regarding their demands,” the Palestinian Prisoners Club announces in a Facebook post. The group said details of the preliminary agreement would be announced at a later date.

Illustrative: Ketziot Prison, August 2009. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

The prisoners launched a mass hunger strike last week to protest an Israeli crackdown on illicit cellphone usage among inmates.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli authorities, but Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has previously denied that prisoners would offered any concessions to end the strike.

Israeli delegation pulled out of Bahrain confab after threat from Shia terror group

The Israeli delegation that canceled its participation at a conference in Bahrain this week pulled out of the business confab after a Shia terrorist group released a video directly threatening the Israeli participants.

The video uploaded to social media by Saraya Waad Allah Militia showed explosions targeting the hotel the delegation intended to stay at and the conference center where the Global Entrepreneurship Network was being held.

A number of Israeli officials, including Economy Minister Eli Cohen, were scheduled to attend the conference held in Manama this week. The delegation backed out yesterday, citing an unspecified security threat.

US terror label for Iran Revolutionary Guard takes effect

The US terrorism label for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard formally takes effect, amid a battle between the Trump administration and some in Congress over waivers on oil and nuclear sanctions that are due to expire or be extended early next month.

The Guard’s formal designation as a “foreign terrorist organization” — the first-ever for an entire division of another government — kicks in with a notice published in the Federal Register.

The move adds a layer of sanctions to the elite military unit and makes it a crime for anyone in or subject to US jurisdiction to provide it with material support. Depending on how broadly “material support” is interpreted, the designation may complicate US diplomatic and military cooperation with certain third-country officials, notably in Iraq and Lebanon, who deal with the Guard.

— AP

Iran top leader says normalizing ties with ‘Zionists’ contradicts Quran

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayataolla Ali Khamenei says that normalizing ties with America and the Zionists contradicts Islamic teachings.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of a Quran competition in Thenran, Khamenei blasts “certain Islamic nations” were not adhering to Muslim principals.

“They have become servants and followers of America and the Zionists,” he says according to state-run news outlets.

Khamenei adds that certain Arab countries were “colluding with Israelis to shed the blood of Palestinians and violate their rights.”

US measles count up to 555, with most new cases in New York Jewish communities

US measles cases have surged again, and are on pace to set a record for most illnesses in 25 years.

Health officials say 555 measles cases have been confirmed so far this year, up from 465 as of a week ago.

While 20 states have reported cases, New York has been the epicenter. Nearly two-thirds of all cases have been in New York, and 85% of the latest week’s cases came from the state. Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

The 2019 tally is already the most since 2014, when 667 were reported. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine.

— AP

40 years later, IDF commander returns Yoni Netanayhu’s personal effects

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his brother Ido say they are “touched” to be given some of the personal effects of their older brother who was killed in an IDF operation more than 40 years ago.

Yosef Shemesh, who served as Yoni Netanyahu’s IDF commander in the armored corps in the Golan Heights, kept a number of his personal items since the 1970s.

Yoni Netanyahu, in a photograph taken shortly before his death at Entebbe in 1976 (Wikipedia)

Among the items Shemesh returned to the Netanyahus was Yoni’s Passover haggadah, his coveralls, a t-shirt, gloves, sleeping bag, and compass.

“It’s very emotional to see these items again after so many years, especially the Passover haggadah that Yoni wrote about,” Dr. Ido Netanyahu says. “He spoke of celebrating a special Passover seder in one of his more emotional letters, so thank you.”

Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu was killed during a rescue operation to release Israeli hostages during Operation Entebbe in 1976.

Gaza arson balloons spark 2 fires in southern Israel

Two small fires were started in southern Israel by balloons carrying incendiary devices from the Gaza Strip, the local fire department says.

The blazes were quickly brought under control by firefighters, the department says.

One of the fires was located in the woods outside Kibbutz Be’eri. The other was outside the community of Shokeda.

Once they were extinguished, investigators inspected the scenes to determine what caused the blazes.

“The investigation found that the fires were caused by balloons,” the department says.

— Judah Ari Gross

EU calls for new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after Netanyahu re-election

The European Union is calling for a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in the wake of Israel’s election last week.

The EU statement says it will work with the sides “in order to make progress toward a just and lasting peace based on a two-state solution.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats in last Tuesday’s election. It is expected to form a new right-wing coalition in the coming weeks dominated by hardliners who oppose Palestinian independence.

During the campaign, Netanyahu talked about annexing West Bank settlements, a step that would likely kill any chance of a two-state solution.

There have been no substantive peace talks since Netanyahu took office a decade ago.

The Trump administration has not said whether it supports a two-state solution.

— AP

Redacted Mueller report to be released Thursday

A redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the probe into the Russia links of US President Donald Trump’s campaign team will be released Thursday, the Department of Justice announces.

The release of the 400-page report will come more than three weeks after Attorney General Bill Barr’s controversial summary allowed Trump to declare it “a complete and total exoneration” of him, after nearly two years of investigation.

Barr said Mueller found no evidence that Trump’s 2016 campaign team conspired to collude with Moscow to influence the election. The attorney general also said there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

William Barr, then US attorney general nominee, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 15, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

But Mueller himself took no stance on the weight of the evidence of obstruction, Barr noted, raising doubts over whether Trump had truly been exonerated by the report.

Barr has been under pressure since his March 24 summary to release the entire report, which wrapped up a 22-month investigation that saw 34 people charged, including six former Trump aides.

But he has stressed that he will only release a version with intelligence information and secret material from the investigation grand jury convened by Mueller blacked out.


SpaceIL confirms new moon mission after failed lunar landing

The Israeli start-up behind last week’s failed lunar landing has vowed to create a second mission to steer a privately funded spacecraft onto the moon.

Morris Kahn, Israeli billionaire and chairman of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the botched lunar mission, says he has already formed a task force of engineers and donors who will build another spacecraft. He called the new mission a lesson in persistence for “the younger generation.”

Beresheet on display before its launch, December 17, 2018. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

In a statement, SpaceIL confirms that the crew will convene in the coming weeks to figure out how to fix the technical glitches that caused the first mission to crash, while still keeping the venture relatively fast and cheap.

The crash ended an ambitious eight-year effort to make Israel the fourth nation to land on the moon.

— AP

Liberman says he’ll recommend Netanyahu as next PM, giving coalition a majority

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman says he is not satisfied with the results of last week’s general elections, but that he will recommend Benjamin Netanyahu as the next prime minister. This means Netanyahu now has the publicly confirmed support of 65 of the 120 members of the next Knesset, giving him a confirmed clear path to a majority coalition.

“There’s a leader, and the people have decided, and that decision must be respected,” Liberman says at a press conference in Jerusalem. “We will recommend Netanyahu as prime minister tomorrow.”

He says he promised before the elections that he would be part of a right-wing government, and that he stands by his promise, but that the new coalition must act like a right-wing government and not just talk like one. Liberman resigned as defense minister last November in protest at Netanyahu’s ostensibly weak response to rocket fire and other violence from Hamas-run Gaza. He says tonight that he wants to be defense minister again, and also wants the Absorption Ministry for his party.

However, he won’t sign a coalition agreement with Netanyahu, he says, unless or until he is certain that the Draft Law, on conscripting more ultra-Orthodox males into the IDF, will be passed in its current form.

Liberman also says that the five Knesset seats won by his party represent a “significant victory against all the odds.”

“We fought against a wall to wall coalition that sought to destroy us,” he says. “It was an all out war” that was fought on the digital and political fronts “in a way that I have never seen before.”

TV news reports claim Liberman and his party may now formally join forces with Netanyahu’s Likud, as Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu is also reportedly in negotiations to do.

Major fire rips through roof of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

Firefighters are battling a massive blaze at the French capital’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.

Flames and black smoke were seen shooting from the base of the medieval church’s spire on Monday.

The peak of the church is undergoing a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project.

French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to the renovation work.

— AP

Trump calls Notre Dame cathedral blaze ‘so horrible’

US President Donald Trump called the blaze engulfing Notre Dame cathedral in Paris “horrible” on Monday and suggested the deployment of flying water tankers.

“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” Trump tweets.

The massive fire is spreading rapidly through a major portion of the magnificent Gothic cathedral at the heart of Paris. The Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, says firefighters are “trying to control the flames.”

— with AFP

Paris mayor laments ‘terrible fire’ at Notre Dame

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says firefighters are trying to contain a “terrible fire” at the city’s Notre Cathedral.

An AP reporter at the scene of the fire says the roof at the back of the cathedral, behind the nave, is in flames and yellow-brown smoke and ash fill the sky.

Flames burn the roof of the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, during a fire. (FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Hidalgo is urging residents of the French capital to stay away from the security perimeter around the Gothic-style church. The mayor says city officials are in touch with Roman Catholic diocese in Paris.

Macron delays TV speech due to Notre Dame fire

French President Emmanuel Macron has postponed a televised speech to the nation because of a massive fire enveloping the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Flames are shooting out of the roof behind the nave of the 12th cathedral, one of the world’s most visited landmarks.

The sight stopped pedestrians in their tracks along the Seine River, which passes under the cathedral.

Authorities say the fire could be linked to renovation work. It is unclear whether anyone has been hurt in the fire.

Seen from across the Seine River, smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Macron’s pre-recorded speech was set to be aired later Monday on French TV. Macron was expected to lay out his plan to address the citizen complaints that gave rise to the yellow vest protests that have rocked France since November.

Roof, spire of Notre Dame cathedral collapse in massive fire

The spire and roof of the Notre Dame cathedral have collapsed in the huge fire, according to Paris officials.

The blaze remains out of control. The fire is now burning into the heart of the building, below the roof line, Sky News reports.

The fire has swept through the roof of the famed Cathedral in central Paris this evening, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky.

A spokesman for the cathedral tells AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof is being gutted by the blaze.

The fire service says the fire could be “potentially linked” to ongoing renovations.

— Agencies

Police say no deaths seen from Notre Dame fire

Police in Paris say the cause of the massive fire enveloping the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t yet known.

The French capital’s police department said no deaths have been reported from Monday’s fire. The police department did not say anything about injuries.

The peak of the 12th century cathedral is undergoing a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project.

French media quoted the Paris fire brigade saying the fire is “potentially linked” to the renovation work.

Located on the Ile de la Cite in the center of Paris, the Gothic cathedral is among the most famous from the Middle Ages and was built on the ruins of two earlier churches.

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (Patrick ANIDJAR / AFP)

Macron tweets ’emotion of a whole nation’ on seeing Notre-Dame ablaze

French President Emmanuel Macron expresses the “emotion of a whole nation” on seeing the famed Notre-Dame cathedral ablaze and its spire collapse.

“Notre-Dame consumed by flames. Emotion of a whole nation,” Macron tweets, adding that “like all my compatriots I am sad to see a part of us burn this evening” and expressing solidarity with “all Catholics and all French people.”

Macron, who cancelled a major policy speech to follow events, is on his way to the scene.

The steeple of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Germany laments fire at Notre Dame, ‘symbol of France’

Germany laments the huge fire devastating Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office calling the building a “symbol of France and of our European culture.”

“These horrible images of Notre-Dame on fire are painful,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert says on Twitter. “Notre-Dame is a symbol of France and of our European culture. Our thoughts are with our French friends.”

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral, in central Paris, on April 15, 2019. (LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

Firefighters race to salvage art in Notre Dame

The deputy mayor of Paris says Notre Dame Cathedral has suffered “colossal damages” from a fire that started in the spire and caused it to collapse.

Speaking to BFMTV, Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire says first responders now trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.

Flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Earlier, a cathedral spokesman said the entire wooden interior of the Notre Dame is burning and likely to be destroyed.

— AP

London ‘stands in sorrow with Paris’ over Notre-Dame fire

London “stands in sorrow” with Paris over the devastating Notre Dame Cathedral fire, says the mayor of the British capital Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“Heartbreaking scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in flames,” Khan tweeted. “London stands in sorrow with Paris today, and in friendship always.”


UNESCO says ‘at France’s side to save and restore’ Notre Dame

The United Nations’ cultural agency says it “stood at France’s side to save and restore” Notre-Dame cathedral, “a priceless heritage” which erupted in flames earlier today.

Audrey Azoulay, secretary general of UNESCO, says the agency is monitoring the effort to put out the blaze, which consumed the iconic church’s spire as flames spread across the roof.

Seen from the Belleville Park, smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Aurore MESENGE / AFP)

Notre-Dame was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1991, Azoulay added in a tweet.


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