The Times of Israel live blogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.
New Islamic State video shows mass executions
A new video released by the Islamic State purportedly shows two mass killings of Christian hostages in Libya.
In the first, the hostages are executed by a firing squad. In the second, jihadists slit the throats of the captives.
The video could not be immediately authenticated.
Corruption charges against Dahlan dismissed
A Palestinian court dismisses a high-profile corruption case against exiled Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, one of his lawyers tells AFP.
Speaking after the hearing, Sevag Torossian says the Ramallah-based corruption court had ruled that the charges against Dahlan — once a leading figure in the Palestinian Fatah movement — were “inadmissable,” in a move the lawyer hailed as a “great victory.”
Would-be Mamilla bombers sentenced
Two residents of East Jerusalem receive prison sentences for planning a terror attack in the Mamilla shopping center in Jerusalem in April 2013.
Ahmad Rishek is sentenced to 10 years, while Ismail Abu Mifalfel receives an eight-year sentence.
Khamenei blasts West for nuclear Iran ‘myth’
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei launches a tirade on Twitter against the US for inventing the “myth” of the Iranian nuclear program. He lashes out at the US and Israel for “destabilizing” the region, and decries the threat of military action against the Islamic Republic as “insolent.”
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 19, 2015
They faked a myth abt nukes to claim that #Iran is a threat. No!the threat is the US which commits unrestrained destabilizing interventions.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 19, 2015
#Iran has proved that it acts powerfully in defending itself. The entire nation acts like a fierce fist to defend against the invaders.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 19, 2015
The other side insolently threatens to take military action agnst us.They act so shamelessly & then say IRI shouldn't possess defense power.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 19, 2015
Jordan hosts international anti-terror contest
Jordan is hosting a competition of elite anti-terrorism squads from 18 countries, including fellow members of the military coalitions fighting rebels in Yemen and Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria.
Spokesman Col. Khaled Abu Hamad says the 7th Annual Warrior Competition offers a chance for team leaders to “meet and to know each other, as the terrorists have become international.”
The competition opens with a drill by Jordanian special forces rescuing hostages from a plane and rappelling from a helicopter. Teams compete in 10 events. China won the 2014 competition.
Among those participating are the US, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
Police looking at possible murder in Nazareth
Police are investigating reports that a body of a 20-year-old woman is found in Nazareth, in a suspected murder.
The body of the woman, who has not been identified, is located in a grove near a school. Police are at the scene.
After migrant tragedy, pope urges ‘decisive’ action
Pope Francis urges world leaders to respond “decisively” after 700 migrants were feared drowned in the worst migrant shipwreck yet in the Mediterranean.
“These are men and women like us, brothers seeking a better life,” the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics says in his weekly address to the faithful in St Peter’s square, urging leaders to “act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring.”
French president urges EU meeting over migrants
French President Francois Hollande calls for a meeting of EU foreign and interior ministers after the feared drowning of some 700 illegal migrants highlighted a growing crisis in the Mediterranean.
Hollande calls for more maritime and aerial surveillance after the latest incident, which he said could be the “worst catastrophe in recent years” in the Mediterranean.
3 Egyptians get life for ‘spying for Mossad’
A Cairo court sentences three Egyptians to life in prison for espionage.
According to the Egyptian paper Al Youm al Sabaa, the three are convicted of working for Israel’s spy agency Mossad.
The specific allegations for which the men were convicted were not published, Ynet reports.
— Jonathan Beck
Khamenei tells military to up ‘preparedness’
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urges the armed forces to increase their “defensive preparedness,” hitting out at a US warning of possible military steps.
Khamenei tells commanders and soldiers in a speech that Iran “will never accept such stupid remarks,” in a jab at General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, though he does not name him.
Poland to demand apology over FBI chief’s Holocaust comments
The US ambassador in Warsaw will be summoned to explain the remarks of FBI Director James Comey in the Washington Post decrying Poland’s complicity in the extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust, the Polish Foreign Ministry says.
According to Reuters, Poland’s ambassador to the US says Comey’s comments are “unacceptable,” and says he sent a letter “protesting the falsification of history, especially … accusing Poles of perpetuating crimes which not only they did not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”
A Foreign Ministry spokesman says Poland will demand an apology from the US envoy during the meeting.
In his column, Comey wrote: “In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.”
Har Nof killers’ homes not yet demolished
Channel 2 reports that the East Jerusalem homes of the two terrorists who killed four people in a Jerusalem synagogue in November remain standing, although the government issued demolition orders after the attack which were later approved by the High Court.
In January, the High Court shot down appeals against the demolition of the East Jerusalem residences of Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal.
According to the report, the IDF says the police were meant to tear down the homes, while the police maintain house demolitions are exclusively carried out by the army.
Body found in Nazareth is missing Polish tourist
The body of a 20-year-old woman discovered earlier today in Nazareth is identified as a Polish tourist who went missing on Thursday, according to Hebrew media reports.
She is not yet named.
Rescuers search for survivors at shipwreck scene
Rescuers at the scene of a Mediterranean shipwreck feared to have claimed 700 lives are searching for survivors among corpses floating in the water, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says.
“They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water. This could possibly be the biggest tragedy to have ever taken place in the Mediterranean,” Muscat says at a political meeting.
“Children, men, and women have died.”
A Maltese patrol boat is among 17 vessels at the scene.
Italy’s coastguard says 28 people were known so far to have survived the overnight capsize of a packed fishing boat that was attempting to smuggle hundreds of migrants from Libya to Italy. The coastguard says 24 bodies had been recovered, an unchanged tally from several hours earlier.
Muscat says the tragedy was further evidence that Italy and Malta needed more support from their European partners in dealing with the migrant crisis.
“Although we are seeing encouraging signs from European politicians, action must be taken,” he said. “There is a tragedy going on in the Mediterranean. A time will come when Europe will be judged harshly for its inaction as it was judged when it had turned a blind eye to genocide.”
5 chemical plants shuttered in Haifa over cancer fears
The mayor of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, orders the closure of five petrochemical plants following a Health Ministry warning linking high cancer rates to air pollution.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav further says that municipality trucks were blocking the entrances to Israel Oil Refineries and Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures, both of which are based on the bay in the northern port city.
“From now on, no tankers will have access to the factories,” he says in remarks relayed by his office, which says five factories had been ordered to shut down.
The move came after a senior Health Ministry official sent a letter to the interior ministry’s planning department warning of a disproportionately high cancer rate in the Haifa area due to the operation of such plants.
Body found in Arbel national park
A body is found by hikers in the Arbel National Park in northern Israel.
The identity of the body, or its gender, could not be immediately determined.
Police open an investigation.
Arab army chiefs to meet on joint force
Arab military chiefs will meet this week in Cairo to discuss the forming of a joint military force to fight the region’s growing extremist threat, an Arab League official says.
After Arab League leaders agreed to create such a force at a March summit in Egypt, army chiefs from member states will hold talks on Wednesday on details of how the force will be created, its role and its financing, a League source tells AFP.
Germany commemorates liberation of two concentration camps
Officials in Germany are solemnly commemorating the liberation of two Nazi concentration camps 70 years ago in the closing days of World War II.
Poland’s first lady, Anna Komorowska, joins in remembrance activities Sunday at the site of the Ravensbrueck women’s camp in northern Germany. Many of the prisoners came from Poland.
Ceremonies also are taking place at the former Sachsenhausen camp near Berlin.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum says 30,000 to 50,000 people died at Sachsenhausen, where inmates included Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and opponents of the Nazis. More than 130,000 women were imprisoned in Ravensbrueck; 20,000 to 30,000 died there.
Sachsenhausen was liberated on April 22, 1945, Ravensbrueck on April 30. Beforehand, Nazi officials forced thousands from the camps into death marches that killed many inmates.
Remand extended for car-ramming attack suspect
The detention for the suspect in a car-ramming attack last week in Jerusalem is extended by six days.
Police say Khaled Koutineh, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, deliberately crashed into a bus stop where Shalom Sherki and Shira Klein stood on Tuesday night. Sherki was killed in the attack, and Klein remains in serious condition.
Car-ramming victim’s shoe, glasses untouched
The ultra-Orthodox Kikar HaShabat website reports that the shoe and glasses of Shalom Sherki, 25, who was killed in a car-ramming attack last week, remain at the scene untouched.
The report features pictures of the items, as well as comments by eyewitnesses appalled that police failed to retrieve Sherki’s personal effects.
Ethiopia condemns Islamic State killings
Ethiopia condemns the reported killing of Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya, and vows to continue its fight against Islamist extremists.
“We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians are not,” Ethiopian Minister of Communications Redwan Hussein tells AFP.
Ethiopia’s embassy in Egypt is working to verify if those killed were indeed Ethiopians, he adds.
The Islamic State jihadist group on Sunday released a video purportedly showing the executions of some 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya.
Israel said to snub Russia event over S-300 sale
No high-level Israeli representatives will attend a ceremony marking 70 years since the Red Army’s victory over the Nazis, in what is perceived as a message to Putin over the sale of S-300s to Iran, Channel 10 reports.
Putin personally invited President Rivlin to the event, set for May 9, but it conflicted with the president’s trip to Germany to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations. Moscow also extended invitations to Avigdor Liberman and Sofa Landver, but the two declined a few days ago, in what the report says is a subtle jab at Moscow’s decision to lift the ban on shipping the missile defense systems to Iran.
Former president Shimon Peres was similarly asked to attend, but declined.
The Israeli envoy to Moscow is slated to attend.
60 killed in Yemen clashes, airstrikes
Clashes between rebels and pro-government forces and Saudi-led air strikes killed at least 60 people in Yemen, medics and military sources say Sunday, after Riyadh pledges to fund a UN aid appeal.
Ten Houthi rebels and four pro-Hadi “popular committees” militiamen were killed in pre-dawn clashes in the southwestern city of Taez, the sources say.
On Sunday, coalition warplanes pounded Houthi positions in Taez, an AFP correspondent says, adding that the streets were empty and shops were closed.
Air strikes on Shiite rebel positions in the southern city of Daleh as well as clashes on Sunday killed 17 Houthis and six southern fighters.
Seven more Houthis were killed in an attack by tribesmen in the southern province of Shabwa.
In Aden, 11 Houthis and five pro-Hadi fighters were killed in clashes on Saturday night and Sunday morning, military sources say.
The pro-Hadi fighters recaptured the Russian consulate and a Hadi residence from the Houthis, they add.
Saudi King Salman orders the aid pledge following a UN appeal on Friday for $274 million (253 million euros) in emergency assistance for the millions affected by Yemen’s multi-sided conflict.
The kingdom “stands with its Yemeni brothers” and hopes for “the restoration of security and stability”, the state Saudi Press Agency says.
German FM says Israel-German ties ‘seem like a miracle’
Germany’s foreign minister warns against racism and xenophobia, at a ceremony marking 70 years since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen near Berlin.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier joins Holocaust survivors and other guests at the site which was built while Hitler celebrated the 1936 Olympic Games, and where tens of thousands of Jews and other inmates died.
Steinmeier says Germany had an enduring responsibility not to forget its horrific past, which meant it must “stand against injustice, against any form of xenophobia and discrimination.”
“Do we want to live in a country where there is still anti-Semitism and exclusion? Where asylum homes are set on fire? Where a young man is beaten up on a Berlin subway because he is a Jew?” asks Steinmeier.
“A country where people take to the streets in packs to rant dull slogans against anything they see as foreign? Is that our country?… This is not the open country which the vast majority of Germans want.”
Steinmeier says Sachsenhausen, 35 kilometers (20 miles) north of the capital, “exemplifies the monstrosity of a regime that institutionalized horror,” according to a copy of his speech sent to AFP.
“The crimes of the Nazi regime are without equal,” the minister said. “They make us shudder — the murder of millions of Jews in Europe, the crime against humanity that is the Shoah.
Steinmeier says that, in view of such horrors, it “seems like a miracle” that Germany and Israel now have a “deep friendship,” marked by 50 years of diplomatic ties and a renewed “flowering of Jewish life” in Germany.
Palestinian cabinet ministers visit Gaza
Ten months after taking office, cabinet ministers in a Palestinian unity government are making a rare visit to the Gaza Strip.
The cabinet ministers, all from the West Bank, are spending the week in Gaza in hopes of wresting more control from Hamas.
The rival factions agreed to form an apolitical unity government last year. But the unity effort has faltered, and Hamas remains firmly in control of Gaza.
Ihab Bsaiso, the government’s spokesman, said the visit was meant to “break the freeze.”
Turkish Airlines urges pilots to wed
After the Germanwings crash, Turkish Airlines — seeking to avoid similar calamities — is encouraging its pilots to marry.
“That crash happened after the pilot, who caused the accident, broke up with his girlfriend. Hence, my friends, know that we are absolutely encouraging single pilots to marry,” CEO Temel Kotil says, according to Turkish reports.
’30 percent of young Arabs unemployed’
More than 30 percent of young Arabs are jobless because of unrest in many Arab nations and not enough investment, a top labor official says.
“The unemployment rate among Arab youth until the age of 30 years exceeds 30 percent,” the director general of the Arab Labor Organization Ahmad Mohammed Luqman tells AFP.
“Unrest and a lack of investments have boosted the number of jobless.”
He says many graduates fail to find employment because their specializations are not needed by the private sector.
“Due to unrest in several Arab nations, the number of Arabs without jobs has jumped two million since 2011, making the total number of unemployed Arabs at 20 million,” Luqman says on the sidelines of the annual Arab labor conference.
Germany urges EU op against human trafficking
Germany’s vice chancellor calls for European action against human traffickers after a refugee boat shipwreck in the Mediterranean was feared to have claimed 700 lives.
“All European police and border authorities must make every possible effort to fight the criminal trafficking gangs who profit from human misery,” says Sigmar Gabriel.
“We need an international operation against people smugglers.”
Gabriel spoke after the overnight capsize of a packed fishing boat that was attempting to smuggle hundreds of migrants from Libya to Italy.
“We must no longer accept that Europe on its outer borders too often means death, not humanity,” he says.
Iran won’t accept Australia deportees
Iran is not willing to accept its nationals being forcibly deported from Australia but will welcome back citizens of their own free will, a top official warns.
The remarks by deputy foreign minister Hassan Ghashgavi came as Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Tehran but failed to make a breakthrough on a long-running immigration dispute.
Ghashgavi, whose brief covers consular affairs, signals the two countries are widely at odds and even launches a thinly veiled dig at foreign states that send people back to their place of origin.
“Any forced deportation is contrary to human rights, but we believe that the voluntary return of every Iranian to his country is not a problem,” the ISNA news agency quotes him as saying.
“All immigration countries make a selection. They welcome those they consider useful to their society… and reject others to be forcibly deported.”
French far-right patriarch Le Pen leaves hospital
The elderly founder of France’s far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been discharged from hospital after a short stint for a heart problem, a source close to the former party leader says.
The source says Le Pen is at home, without specifying when exactly he had been discharged after his hospitalization on Thursday just days after a bitter public spat with his daughter Marine who now heads the FN.
“It is a small heart problem, nothing serious. The beast is strong,” Le Pen told AFP on Thursday from the hospital.
A party source had linked the medical visit to stress from a highly publicized political blow-up with his daughter, saying it was related to recent “emotional shocks.”
Hundreds commemorate Warsaw Ghetto uprising
Hundreds of people commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
The main ceremony is held in Warsaw at the monument to the ghetto heroes in front of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Polish authorities and visiting Israeli youth join Warsaw residents at the commemoration.
Many of those on hand wear paper daffodils pinned to their clothes, symbolizing the memory of the uprising.
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, secretary of state in the Prime Minister’s Office of Poland, participated in the uprising and speaks at the ceremony. Bartoszewski, 93, was an Auschwitz prisoner and a Resistance fighter who was recognized by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel as Righteous Among the Nations for his help in saving Jewish lives.
“This is not the speech of the representative of the government, but a man who was and is witness to historical events,” he said. “It is the fulfillment of my life that after 72 years since those events, I talk about it also in the name of those absent.”
Iraqi forces clear largest oil refinery of jihadists
Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes cleared the country’s largest oil refinery of the Islamic State group, the international coalition helping Baghdad fight the jihadists say.
IS has repeatedly attempted over the past 10 months to capture the Baiji refinery north of Baghdad, most recently seizing parts of the facility and holding out for days.
Iraqi forces “regained full control of the Baiji Oil Refinery after having successfully cleared the massive facility of any remaining (IS) fighters,” the US-led coalition says in a statement.
Mother, five children killed in Syria bombardment
A mother and her five children were among at least 19 civilians killed on Sunday in Syrian regime bombardment of the southern province of Daraa, a monitoring group says.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the six members of one family died in the rebel-held area of Dael.
All of the children were under the age of 18.
Two brothers and another relative were killed in another house in the same air attack, the Britain-based group says.
It says a regime barrel bomb attack in the Al-Karak al-Sharqi area killed six people in the same family, including three women and a child, as well as a couple.
Two more civilians died in raids on the rebel-held area of Tafas.
Party of ex-leader of Yemen urges UN truce
The political party of Yemen’s former longtime autocrat says that it welcomes a UN resolution calling for a cease-fire in the country, urging all involved in the conflict, including a Saudi-led Arab coalition, to observe it.
In a statement issued Sunday on its website, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress says that it would “respond positively” to the UN Security Council resolution issued last week. Pro-Saleh forces have been fighting alongside the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who have seized the capital, Sanaa, and other cities.
“(The party) welcomes the UN Secretary-General’s call to for a cease-fire from all sides and a return to dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations,” it says. It adds that it urges parties “inside and outside” the country to respond to the call.
The resolution demands that all Yemeni parties, especially the Houthis, end violence and return swiftly to UN-led peace talks aimed at a political transition. It makes no mention of the Saudi-led airstrikes targeting the rebels and pro-Saleh forces.
US envoy to Poland sorry about FBI chief’s comments
The US ambassador to Warsaw apologizes after being summoned by the foreign ministry over comments by the head of the FBI that Poland shared responsibility for the Holocaust with Germany.
Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski said the comments in an opinion piece by FBI director James Comey were an “insult” to Poland.
“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil,” Comey wrote in the April 16 Washington Post article.
After meeting with Poland’s deputy foreign affairs minister, US ambassador Stephen Mull tells reporters the Nazis bore sole responsibility for the Holocaust, which left six million European Jews dead in World War II.
“I made clear that the opinion that Poland is in any way responsible for the Holocaust is not the position of the United States,” Mull says in Polish. “Nazi Germany alone bears responsibility.”
“I now have a lot of work before me to make things right in this situation,” he adds.
Egypt recovers ancient artifacts smuggled to US
Egypt says it has recovered 123 ancient artifacts that had been smuggled outside the country and were later confiscated in New York.
Egypt’s major archaeological sites were targeted for looting after the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of artifacts, most obtained from illicit digs, later surfaced on the international market, at auction and on websites.
The 123 arteficts to be returned were “illegally taken outside Egypt, and have been confiscated by the US customs authority in New York,” Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati says in a statement.
“Egypt proved its ownership of the artifacts and the United States has decided to return them.”
IDF censor demands probe into leak on Iran
Channel 2 reports that the IDF censor turned to the attorney general to ask him to investigate a leak to the Haaretz daily on the arbitration of oil debts between Israel and Iran — a report the censor says damaged Israel.
The article, by editor Aluf Benn, detailed — among other sensitive information — a secret Israeli bank account containing a billion shekels at the heart of the case. The report was published last January.
‘Kahlon will only join coalition if Liberman, Herzog are in’
Kahlon and Netanyahu agreed that the next government will not be a 61-member coalition, meaning that either Liberman or Herzog will be in it, Channel 2 reports.
The report says the Kulanu party leader is expected to sign a deal with Netanyahu by Tuesday.
Houthi leader accuses Saudi Arabia of trying to occupy Yemen
Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, accuses Saudi Arabia of trying to take over Yemen, Reuters reports.
Arab MKs to meet with Arab League, Abbas says
Arab-Israeli lawmakers will meet in two Arab capitals with the Arab League, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says.
Abbas makes the statement on Saturday in Ramallah during his second meeting in less than a month with Ayman Odeh, the head of Israel’s Joint (Arab) List political coalition.
The lawmakers will go to Cairo and Doha, Qatar, the PA leader says, but did not say when the visits would be arranged.
Also present at the meeting is the head of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Abdullah Nimer Darwish.
Hundreds march in Prague against anti-Semitism
Hundreds of demonstrators, many waving Israeli flags, march in Prague to protest the rising levels of anti-Semitism in Europe.
The 12th annual event, titled “A March of Good Will,” is held Sunday in the center of the Czech capital. The demonstration is organized by the Czech branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a Christian Zionist group.
The participants, many of whom also waved Israeli banners with slogans denouncing anti-Semitism, include several Holocaust survivors and some hundred young Germans who came to Prague for the occasion.
The march moves from the city’s Old Town across the Vltava River to the gardens of the Czech Senate, where the minister of culture, Daniel Hermann, along with the Israel’s ambassador to the Czech Republic and other officials address the crowd.
Two Israeli jazz bands were to perform at a Prague theater to conclude the event.
Yemen rebel leader vows to ‘never give in’
Yemen rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi vows he will “never give in” to a Saudi-led air war on his Shiite militants, branding the campaign “savage aggression.”
“Our Yemeni people will never give in — it will resist in the face of the savage aggression,” Huthi says in an television address on the 25th day of the air strikes targeting his rebel group.
I joined The Times of Israel after many years covering US and Israeli politics for Hebrew news outlets.
I believe responsible coverage of Israeli politicians means presenting a 360 degree view of their words and deeds – not only conveying what occurs, but also what that means in the broader context of Israeli society and the region.
That’s hard to do because you can rarely take politicians at face value – you must go the extra mile to present full context and try to overcome your own biases.
I’m proud of our work that tells the story of Israeli politics straight and comprehensively. I believe Israel is stronger and more democratic when professional journalists do that tough job well.
Your support for our work by joining The Times of Israel Community helps ensure we can continue to do so.
Tal Schneider, Political Correspondent
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel