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Israeli forces kill three suspected terrorists during West Bank arrest operation

Yamam counter-terror unit gets into gunfight near Palestinian city of Jenin, as tensions soar following deadly terror attacks

Illustrative -- Israeli troops patrol the streets of the West Bank city of Jenin, January 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Illustrative -- Israeli troops patrol the streets of the West Bank city of Jenin, January 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The Times of Israel live blogged Friday’s events as they happened.

Suspected terror squad may have been on their way to an attack

Army Radio reports the three suspected terrorists killed in a shootout with Israeli troops near Jenin may have been on their way to carry out an attack.

The suspects had been under Shin Bet surveillance for several hours ahead of the gunfight.

IDF forces made contact with them while they were in their vehicle.

A Shin Bet special operations command center oversaw the operation from inside Israel, Army Radio says.

Shin Bet: Terror team killed near Jenin was planning immediate attacks

Illustrative: IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank Palestinian town of Silat al-Harithiya, on December 20, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank Palestinian town of Silat al-Harithiya, on December 20, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Shin Bet internal security service says the three suspected terrorists killed in the West Bank were planning attacks that were to be carried out in the immediate future.

The terror group had already carried out a shooting attack near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, the Shin Bet says.

The suspects opened fire on Israeli forces, who responded with lethal gunfire, the Shin Bet says.

Israeli troops found weapons and grenades in the suspects’ vehicle.

Army radio posts a photo said to show the weapons found with the suspects, including an M16 assault rifle with an IDF logo on it and grenades. IDF weapons are sometimes stolen and sold on the black market.

Israeli forces kill three suspects in West Bank

Illustrative: Israeli troops carry out searches in the central West Bank village of Deir Nidham, on January 3, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli troops carry out searches in the central West Bank village of Deir Nidham, on January 3, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli forces kill three suspected terrorists near the West Bank city of Jenin, Hebrew media reports.

Troops from the elite Border Police Yamam counter-terror unit kill the suspects in an arrest operation.

UK intelligence says fuel depot blasts in Russia will strain troop logistics

In this handout photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Friday, April 1, 2022, firefighters work at the site of fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia. The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships into Russian territory and striking an oil depot Friday morning.  (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this handout photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Friday, April 1, 2022, firefighters work at the site of fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia. The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships into Russian territory and striking an oil depot Friday morning.  (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP)

The UK Ministry of Defense says in an intelligence update that the destruction of a fuel depot in Belgorod, Russia, will hamper Moscow’s ability to supply its troops.

Russia says Ukrainian helicopters blew up the fuel depot, in what would be the first Ukrainian airstrike inside Russia’s borders. Ukraine denies attacking the fuel depot.

British intelligence says in a statement that an ammunition depot was hit by explosions near Belgorod on March 30.

“The probable loss of fuel and ammunition supplies from these depots will likely add additional short-term strain to Russia’s already stretched logistic chains,” the statement says.

Minister talks boosting Israeli-Palestinian economic ties in meet with Blinken deputy

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej  (R) and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. (Collage/AP/Flash90)
Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej (R) and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. (Collage/AP/Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej met with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington, with the two discussing efforts to strengthen Israeli-Palestinian economic ties in ways that will produce tangible improvements for the lives of Palestinians while deepening Israel’s integration into the region, the State Department says.

Sherman also takes the opportunity to offer her condolences regarding the recent terror wave in Israel that took the lives of 11 people.

“They also spoke about efforts to expand normalization and the importance of building on normalization agreements to further progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track,” the state department says, with Sherman emphasizing the administration’s support for a two-state solution.

Suspects in West Bank hit-and-run turn themselves in; one victim dies of wounds

The scene of a hit-and-run accident in the West Bank on April 1 2022 in which one person was killed and another injured (Police)
The scene of a hit-and-run accident in the West Bank on April 1 2022 in which one person was killed and another injured (Police)

Police say a man suspected of carrying out a hit-and-run accident in the West Bank and a female passenger who was with him have turned themselves in.

Their vehicle earlier hit a motorcycle on Route 5502 near the settlement of Zufim in the West Bank.

One of the two victims, a man in his 40s died of his wounds, the hospital says. A second passenger is lightly hurt.

Police and the army ruled out early suspicions that the incident was a car-ramming attack.

Blinken, Jordanian FM speak on need for calm in Jerusalem during holy days

After meeting for the Negev Summit, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, center left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shake hands with Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, front left, and United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, front right, March 28, 2022, in Sde Boker, Israel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
After meeting for the Negev Summit, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, center left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shake hands with Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, front left, and United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, front right, March 28, 2022, in Sde Boker, Israel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

During a phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi earlier today, the top diplomats discuss “the need for calm in Jerusalem” during the confluence of Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays that will be celebrated in the coming days and weeks.

This year Passover, Ramadan and Easter all fall in the same period, with the Muslim holy month beginning Saturday. Last year clashes during Ramadan escalated into the May Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken and Safadi also spoke about the recent Negev Summit, which saw Blinken join the foreign ministers of every Mideastern country that has normalized ties with Israel, except for Jordan, gather in Sde Boker for talks on regional cooperation.

Safadi and King Abdullah were in the West Bank at the time meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Jordanian leaders have avoided taking trips to Israel absent a significant development on the Israeli-Palestinian peace front.

The last time Abdullah was in Israel was in 2004 for a meeting with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon to discuss his impending plan to unilaterally withdraw Israeli settlements and forces from the Gaza Strip.

The US readout says the two diplomats also discussed ways “regional partners can work together to support the Palestinian people.”

“The Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister for Jordan’s steadfast support for Ukraine, especially in the United Nations,” the statement adds.

Ukraine denies it hit Russian oil storage facility

In this handout photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Friday, April 1, 2022, firefighters work at the site of fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia. The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships into Russian territory and striking an oil depot Friday morning.  (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this handout photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Friday, April 1, 2022, firefighters work at the site of fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia. The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships into Russian territory and striking an oil depot Friday morning.  (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukraine denies it is behind a fiery explosion that rocked a Russian fuel depot near the border.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters had entered Russian airspace “at an extremely low altitude” and attacked the civilian oil storage facility on the outskirts of the city of Belgorod.

But Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, denies Ukraine is responsible.

“For some reason, they say that we did it, but in fact this does not correspond with reality,” he says on Ukrainian television.

Earlier, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said: “We are carrying out defensive operations on our territory. Russian authorities bear responsibility for everything that happens on Russian territory.”

Russian authorities “must figure out what’s going on in Belgorod,” he said. “Maybe someone smoked in the wrong place. Maybe there was something else. Maybe Russian troops are sabotaging orders and don’t want to enter Ukrainian territory by available means.”

93-year-old German woman jailed again for denying Holocaust

Ursula Haverbeck, accused of hate speech, arrives in the court room of the District Court in Detmold for a appeal hearing, Germany, on November 23, 2017. (Bernd Thissen/dpa via AP, file)
Ursula Haverbeck, accused of hate speech, arrives in the court room of the District Court in Detmold for a appeal hearing, Germany, on November 23, 2017. (Bernd Thissen/dpa via AP, file)

A Berlin court sentences a 93-year-old German woman to 12 months in prison for denying that Jews were systematically murdered during the Holocaust.

The Berlin regional court rejects an appeal by notorious neo-Nazi Ursula Haverbeck against two convictions for Holocaust denial in 2017 and 2020. Judges rule that the sentence could not be suspended because Haverbeck had shown no remorse or signs of changing her views during the appeal hearings.

Haverbeck has repeatedly asserted that the Auschwitz death camp was just a work camp. In fact, historians say at least 1.1 million Jews were murdered there by the Nazis.

Haverbeck has already paid several fines and served at least 30 months for similar crimes.

The ruling can be appealed.

Iran and USA to face each other in soccer World Cup

Former Qatari soccer international Adel Ahmed MalAllah holds up the name of Iran during the 2022 soccer World Cup draw at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Doha, Qatar, Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Former Qatari soccer international Adel Ahmed MalAllah holds up the name of Iran during the 2022 soccer World Cup draw at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Doha, Qatar, Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Geopolitical rivals the United States and Iran will face each other in the group stage at the soccer World Cup finals in Qatar after they were paired together in Friday’s draw.

The two countries last met in the 1998 finals in France when Iran won 2-1 in Lyon.

Two wounded in suspected hit-and-run accident in West Bank

Two cyclists are hurt after they were hit by a vehicle on Route 5502 near the settlement of Zufim in the West Bank.

Police say they are investigating the incident as a suspected hit-and-run accident.

Eyewitnesses tell Hebrew-language media that the driver fled the scene. Security forces are searching for the driver and vehicle.

The Magen David Adom emergency service says a man in his 30s is seriously hurt, and a woman in her 30s is moderately hurt.

They are being taken to Meir Medical Center and Beilinson hospital, MDA says.

Both police and the IDF dismiss initial reports that the incident was a car-ramming terror attack.

Red Cross: ‘Impossible’ to go ahead with Mariupol civilian evacuation

A Ukrainian serviceman helps an elderly woman get water from a well outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022. Emergency relief and evacuation convoys for the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol remained in doubt Friday following reports of Russian interference.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A Ukrainian serviceman helps an elderly woman get water from a well outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022. Emergency relief and evacuation convoys for the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol remained in doubt Friday following reports of Russian interference.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The Red Cross says the team it sent to facilitate the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Mariupol has been forced to turn around after conditions made it “impossible to proceed.”

“The ICRC team, which consists of three vehicles and nine personnel, did not reach Mariupol or facilitate the safe passage of civilians today,” the International Committee of the Red Cross says in a statement, adding: “They will try again on Saturday to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol.”

Erdogan calls Herzog to ‘sharply condemn’ recent terror attacks against Israelis

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls President Isaac Herzog and “sharply condemns” the terror attacks that killed 11 Israelis over the last two weeks.

“President Erdogan asked to send his condolences to the bereaved families who have lost their loved ones and wished a speedy recovery to the injured,” a statement from Herzog’s office quotes him as saying.

“Both presidents emphasized that on the eve of the holidays of Ramadan, Passover and Easter, there is a need for action to maintain calm in the whole region,” the statement says.

Israel and Turkey have been moving towards reconciling in recent weeks after more than a decade of tense relations.

Herzog also wished Erdogan and the Turkish people “a Ramadan Kareem.” The Muslim holy month begins Saturday.

“On behalf of myself and all citizens of Turkey, I want to wish citizens of Israel and the Jewish People a Happy Passover,” Erdogan says, adding that he sends wishes for the speedy recovery of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who tested positive for COVID this week.

Turkish leader speaks to Putin, asks him to meet Zelensky

In this photo provided by Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, gives a speech to welcome the Russian, left, and Ukrainian delegations ahead of their talks, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 29, 2022. (Turkish Presidency via AP)
In this photo provided by Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, gives a speech to welcome the Russian, left, and Ukrainian delegations ahead of their talks, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 29, 2022. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

Turkey’s president says he renewed a call for a meeting between leaders of Ukraine and Russia in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A statement from Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office says he and Putin also discussed the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia that were held in Istanbul earlier in the week.

Erdogan’s office says the Turkish leader told Putin that the Istanbul talks had “raised hopes for peace.” Erdogan says Turkey wanted to cap off those efforts by bringing Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky together, according to the statement.

The statement says Erdogan told Putin that it was important for the sides “to act with common sense and to maintain the dialogue.”

During the call, Putin thanked Erdogan for hosting the meeting between the delegations, according to Erdogan’s office.

Earlier, Erdogan says Zelensky was willing to participate in a leaders’ meeting to be hosted by Turkey.

UN atomic energy chief to visit Chernobyl after Russian troops leave

In this April 27, 2021 photo, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi in front of a shelter construction which covers the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
In this April 27, 2021 photo, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi in front of a shelter construction which covers the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says that Russian forces’ departure from the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant is “a step in the right direction” and the UN nuclear watchdog plans to be there “very, very soon.”

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi says he will head a support mission to Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, and that further nuclear safety missions to Ukraine will follow.

Grossi speaks after visits to Ukraine and Russia. He says Russian nuclear and foreign ministry officials didn’t discuss with him why Russian forces left Chernobyl.

Of the overall situation in the area, he says: “The general radiation situation around the plant is quite normal. There was a relatively higher level of localized radiation because of the movement of heavy vehicles at the time of the occupation of the plant, and apparently this might have been the case again on the way out.”

Ukraine’s state power company said Russian troops received “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches in the exclusion zone around the plant. But Grossi said “we don’t have any confirmation” that soldiers were contaminated.

Palestinians say man killed in clashes with IDF in Hebron

Palestinian Authority health officials say a 29-year-old Palestinian man was killed by live Israeli fire during clashes with soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The Israeli army says that it is looking into reports of the incident.

Palestinian media identify the man as Ahmad al-Atrash.

Al-Atrash formerly served prison time in Israeli jails for security offenses, Palestinian media report.

Bennett: Country will overcome this wave of terror too

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks in a video statement released on March 30, 2022. (Screen capture / YouTube)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks in a video statement released on March 30, 2022. (Screen capture / YouTube)

Acknowledging that Israel “is experiencing a series of difficult terror attacks,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett writes on Twitter that the country “will overcome them this time too, and we’ll strive to do so as fast as possible.”

He says authorities “are not standing by, but rather taking the initiative” to thwart future potential attacks.

“We’ve already taken numerous steps against those who in the past have supported or been active with the Islamic State, as well as against operatives in other groups. We’ve deployed police and soldiers throughout the country,” he says.

The premier says officials will also expedite action to find and confiscate illegal weapons in Arab society, where the problem is rampant.

“These weapons, estimated in the hundreds of thousands, have been amassed over years, and now we must root them out.”

Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa appear to have concluded peacefully

Reports from Jerusalem indicate Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque have concluded peacefully.

Security forces had been on very high alert ahead of prayers at the flashpoint Temple Mount on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Russia-Ukraine talks resume via video – Russian negotiator

Russia and Ukraine resume peace talks by video conference, after Moscow reported a Ukrainian strike on a fuel depot in western Russia, a negotiator says.

“We are continuing talks by video conference,” Moscow’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky says on Telegram. “Our positions on Crimea and Donbass have not changed.”

Israel inks free-trade agreement with UAE

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have finalized negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two countries, the Economy Ministry announces.

The “comprehensive and significant” agreement covers regulation, customs, services, government procurement, e-commerce and protection of intellectual property rights, the ministry says in a statement.

The statement says 95% of products traded between the countries will be exempt from customs duty immediately or gradually, under the agreement.

Health Minister Horowitz to visit Ukraine next week, ambassador says

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference about COVID-19, on December 30, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference about COVID-19, on December 30, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk tells reporters that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz will visit the country on Monday.

Korniychuk says Horowitz will meet his Ukrainian counterpart, and tour Israel’s field hospital in Mostyska, near Lviv.

There is no immediate statement from the Health Ministry on the trip, but an official confirms the details to the Walla news site, saying it has been coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk gives a statement to the media in Tel Aviv, on March 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

IDF chief visits section of security barrier where Bnei Brak terrorist crossed into Israel

Military chief Aviv Kohavi tours the West Bank security barrier, April 1, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Military chief Aviv Kohavi tours the West Bank security barrier, April 1, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Military chief Aviv Kohavi tours a section of the West Bank security barrier where the terrorist who killed five in Bnei Brak this week crossed into Israel illegally.

Diaa Hamarsheh, with a vehicle, crossed a gate for Palestinian farmers to access fields on the other side of the border fence.

“The terrorist took advantage of an agricultural crossing meant for the well-being of the Palestinians and their economy, to carry out a murderous terrorist attack,” Kohavi says at the scene.

Yesterday, the state ombudsman accused authorities of allowing the West Bank security barrier to fall into disrepair, saying that the defensive measure credited with helping staunch the Second Intifada over 15 years earlier was “no longer relevant.”

Matanyahu Englman made the comments while visiting a broken section of the barrier near the town of Matan, northwest of Tel Aviv.

Ukrainians struck oil depot in Russian territory, local governor says

Ukrainian helicopters carried out a strike on a fuel storage facility in Russia’s western town of Belgorod, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border, according to the local governor.

“There was a fire at the petrol depot because of an air strike carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters, who entered Russian territory at a low altitude,” Vyacheslav Gladkov writes on his Telegram channel.

Yesterday, explosions could be heard from an arms depot in Belgorod but the authorities did not provide any explanation for the blasts.

Footage posted to Twitter alleges to show the aftermath of the strike.

‘Not yet clear’ that Mariupol evacuation will happen today, Red Cross says

A convoy of volunteers carrying supplies for civilians stuck in Mariupol leaves Zaporizhzhya, on March 29, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
A convoy of volunteers carrying supplies for civilians stuck in Mariupol leaves Zaporizhzhya, on March 29, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Emre Caylak / AFP)

The Red Cross says it is “not yet clear” that the evacuation of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol will go ahead as planned today.

“We remain hopeful, we are in action moving towards Mariupol… but it’s not yet clear that this will happen today,” Ewan Watson, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, tells reporters in Geneva, as an ICRC team of three cars and nine staff heads toward the city.

Soldiers patrol major city streets as they boost police presence amid terror wave

Over 1,000 soldiers have joined police forces today in security patrols around the country amid a string of terror attacks.

Ynet’s Yoav Zitun shares some photos of troops maintaining security in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Balloon found in community near Gaza apparently did not come from Strip

The balloons found near Ibim in southern Israel are not believed to have been launched from the Gaza Strip, police say.

According to Channel 13 news, a resident of the area called police to let them know that he launched the balloons last night during an event in southern Israel.

No explosive device was found on the balloons.

Suspicious balloons apparently launched from Gaza into Israel

Police say officers are investigating reports of suspicious balloons with items attached to them flying near the border with the Gaza Strip.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, one of the balloons has landed near the town of Ibim.

In the past, Palestinians in Gaza have launched balloons carrying incendiary or explosive devices to spark fires in southern Israel.

300 Border Police reservists to help bolster security amid terror scare

Defense Minister Benny Gantz orders the voluntary call-up of Border Police reservists to bolster officers following a string of terror attacks in Israel.

Three companies — in total 300 officers — of reservists from the paramilitary police unit are to be brought in.

In a statement, Gantz says the move comes in response to requests from the Israel Police. The order is valid for 30 days.

Ukraine: Russia continues to bombard Kyiv despite promise to scale back

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says Kyiv and Chernihiv were pounded overnight, “despite Russian claims of reducing activity in these areas.”

The ministry provides further updates on the war in a series of tweets:

Israeli wounded in stabbing yesterday regains consciousness

A man who was stabbed and seriously hurt in a terror attack in the West Bank is brought to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, March 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH9)
A man who was stabbed and seriously hurt in a terror attack in the West Bank is brought to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, March 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH9)

A 28-year-old Israeli man seriously wounded in a stabbing attack on a bus near the settlement of Neve Daniel yesterday has regained consciousness at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the hospital says.

His condition has improved significantly, but he remains in the intensive care unit, the hospital says.

European Parliament leader says visiting Kyiv

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola address the media during a joint statement at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (Michele Tantussi/Pool photo via AP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola address the media during a joint statement at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (Michele Tantussi/Pool photo via AP)

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola says she is on her way to Ukraine, making her the first EU leader to visit the war-torn country.

The Maltese MEP, who was elected in January, tweets “On my way to Kyiv” alongside a Ukrainian flag, but gives no further details.

In mid-March the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers traveled to Kyiv to show their solidarity with Ukraine.

The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and his Czech and Slovenian counterparts, Petr Fiala and Janez Jansa, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in the capital.

Russia on Thursday said it will expand the list of EU figures banned from entering the country following Western sanctions over Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.

Russia has been hit with a barrage of sanctions after it launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

Russian forces block buses evacuating civilians from leaving Mariupol

A man walks with his dog near an apartment building damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, in territory under control of the separatist government of the Donetsk People's Republic, on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
A man walks with his dog near an apartment building damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, in territory under control of the separatist government of the Donetsk People's Republic, on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

The Ukrainian government says Russian forces blocked 45 buses that had been sent to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol, and only 631 people were able to get out of the city in private cars.

Twelve Ukrainian trucks were able to deliver humanitarian supplies to Mariupol, but the supplies were seized by Russian troops, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says.

According to Ukrainian officials, tens of thousands of people have made it out of Mariupol in recent weeks along humanitarian corridors, reducing the prewar population of 430,000 to about 100,000 by last week.

Vereshchuk said about 45,000 Mariupol residents have been forcefully deported to Russia and areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Ukraine: Russians deserve ‘Darwin Award’ for exposing troops to Chernobyl radiation

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 5, 2017, a radioactivity sign stands in the ground, outside Chernobyl, Ukraine. A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded on April 26, 1986, leading to an explosion and the subsequent fire spewed a radioactive plume over much of northern Europe. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
In this photo taken Wednesday, April 5, 2017, a radioactivity sign stands in the ground, outside Chernobyl, Ukraine. A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded on April 26, 1986, leading to an explosion and the subsequent fire spewed a radioactive plume over much of northern Europe. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The last Russian troops leave the Chernobyl nuclear plant early today, according to the Ukrainian government agency responsible for the exclusion zone around the plant.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says the Russian troops who dug trenches in the forest “voluntarily received such doses of radiation that the consequences will be explained to them by doctors in special protective suits.”

“They totally deserve to be nominated for this year’s Darwin Awards,” she says on Facebook. “This is a case when the enemy inspires fear through the sawdust in his head.”

The website of the Darwin Awards says they “salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it in a spectacular manner.”

The Ukrainian nuclear operator company Energoatom said Thursday that Russian troops were headed toward Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

Energoatom says that the Russian military was also preparing to leave Slavutych, a nearby city where power plant workers live.

Zelensky: Withdrawal in Kyiv area just a Russian tactic

Destroyed Russian armored vehicles are seen in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 31, 2022. Russian forces shelled Kyiv suburbs, two days after the Kremlin announced it would significantly scale back operations near both the capital and the northern city of Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Destroyed Russian armored vehicles are seen in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 31, 2022. Russian forces shelled Kyiv suburbs, two days after the Kremlin announced it would significantly scale back operations near both the capital and the northern city of Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says after Russian troops withdrew from the north and center of the country, the situation has been heating up in the southeast where Russian forces are building up for new powerful attacks.

In his nighttime video address to the nation, Zelensky says it was heartening for all Ukrainians to see Russian troops retreating from north of Kyiv, from around the northern town of Chernihiv and from Sumy in the northeast.

But he urges Ukrainians not to let up, saying the withdrawal was just a Russian tactic.

“We know their intentions. We know what they are planning and what they are doing,” Zelensky says. “We know that they are moving away from those areas where we hit them in order to focus on other, very important areas. There where it may be difficult for us.

“We all want to win,” Zelensky adds. “But there will be battles ahead. We still have to go through a very difficult path ahead to get everything we are striving for.”

Zelensky says he spoke Thursday with European Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while his adviser spoke with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“We need more support from our partners right now when Russian troops are concentrating additional forces in certain areas,” Zelensky says.

Jewish youths filmed walking through downtown Jerusalem chanting ‘death to Arabs’

A mob of dozens of young Jewish teens is filmed roaming the streets of downtown Jerusalem, chanting 'death to Arabs,' on March 31, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A mob of dozens of young Jewish teens is filmed roaming the streets of downtown Jerusalem, chanting 'death to Arabs,' on March 31, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

A mob of dozens of young Jewish teens is filmed roaming the streets of downtown Jerusalem, chanting “death to Arabs.”

The scenes join several others that have been captured in recent days following the terror attacks in Beersheba, Hadera, and Bnei Brak.

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