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Ministers approve NIS 300 million to upgrade West Bank security barrier

Security cabinet votes to okay funds to improve 40 KMs of barriers along so-called seam line, after at least 1 terrorist in recent attacks entered Israel through gap in the fence

Israeli soldiers stand guard at a breach in the security fence which have been used daily by thousands of Palestinian workers to illegally enter Israel for work, near the Meitar checkpoint, south of Hebron in the West Bank, on April 3, 2022. (Hazem Bader/ AFP)
Israeli soldiers stand guard at a breach in the security fence which have been used daily by thousands of Palestinian workers to illegally enter Israel for work, near the Meitar checkpoint, south of Hebron in the West Bank, on April 3, 2022. (Hazem Bader/ AFP)

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

French exit polls predict Macron, Le Pen headed for run-off

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron leads far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of France’s elections today by a larger than expected margin, with the rivals now set to battle for the presidency in a run-off later this month, projections show.

Macron scored 28.1-29.7 percent in the first round and Le Pen 23.3-24.7, with the top two candidates going through to the second round run off on April 24, according to projections by polling firms for French television channels based on a sample of votes.

Fans at Israeli soccer match display banners commemorating terror victims

Israeli soccer funs unfurl banners commemorating the victims of recent terror attacks during tonight’s game between Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Hapoel Tel Aviv fans attending the match in Beersheba hold up a banner for Tomer Morad, a supporter of the team who was shot dead in the terror attack in Tel Aviv last week.

“Red forever,” the banner says, referring to the team’s primary color.

Supporters of Beersheba display a banner in memory of the 14 people killed in four separate attacks over the past several weeks, including the shooting in Tel Aviv.

Police: Jewish Israeli suspect took soldier’s gun near Ashkelon before being shot dead

Police say the suspect who was shot dead at a junction near Ashkelon managed to snatch a gun from an Israeli servicewoman, before being shot dead, citing a preliminary investigation.

Law enforcement officials say the suspect is a Jewish Israeli. Graphic images from the scene showed the suspect wearing what appeared to be military coveralls.

Soldier taken to hospital after suspect allegedly tried to take her gun

The female soldier who was assaulted by a man suspected of trying to steal her gun near Ashkelon is taken to hospital by medics.

“I evacuated the soldier from the scene to the Barzilai Medical Center with light injuries,” says United Hatzalah medic and ambulance driver Ahmad Abu Gouda.

Ministers approve NIS 300 million to upgrade part of West Bank security barrier

The high-level security cabinet has approved additional funding for construction on the West Bank security barrier, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

According to a statement, the ministers voted unanimously to allocate NIS 300 million (some $93 million) to upgrade 40 kilometers of barriers along the so-called seam line.

“We will fight terror with all the tools available to us and we will win,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweets.

The terrorist who recently killed five people in Bnei Brak entered Israel through a gap in the barrier, and security officials suspect the Palestinian assailant who shot dead three people in Tel Aviv did likewise.

IDF: Man tried to snatch soldier’s gun near Ashkelon, shot by Binyamin brigade chief

The Israel Defense Forces confirms that an officer shot a man suspected of trying to snatch an Israeli soldier’s weapon near Ashkelon a short while ago.

The officer is Colonel Eliav Elbaz, the commander of the Binyamin Territorial Brigade.

Police are scanning the area for other potential suspects. The alleged assailant has reportedly been shot dead. His identity remains unclear.

Austrian chancellor to visit Moscow, first European leader to meet Putin since invasion

VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow tomorrow, the first European leader to meet him since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Vienna says.

“He is going there, having informed Berlin, Brussels, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” to encourage dialogue, says a spokesman for Nehammer, who is in Ukraine today.

The spokesman confirms he will be the first European leader to meet Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Christians mark Palm Sunday with Jerusalem procession

Thousands of Christian pilgrims take part in Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem at the start of the Christians’ Holy Week.

Worshipers carry palm fronds and olive branches and march from the top of the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem.

In accord with Christian tradition, Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and is the start of the church’s most solemn week, which includes the practice of a reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on Good Friday, and the tenet of belief in his resurrection on Easter.

The procession makes its way from the Mount of Olives past the Garden of Gethsemane where, according to the Christian Bible, Jesus was betrayed, and then finally into the alleyways of the Old City.

Attacker shot after trying to grab weapon of soldier outside Ashkelon

A suspect attempted to snatch a weapon from an Israeli soldier at a junction near the southern city of Ashkelon, police say.

The alleged assailant has been shot by other soldiers at the scene. His status is not immediately clear.

There are no other reported injuries in the incident.

Bennett meets with Yamina MK amid rumors of another defection

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with fellow Yamina MK Abir Kara, as he continues to work to keep the faction whole, during a coalition crisis.

Last week, Yamina MK Idit Silman announced her surprise exit from the coalition, leaving the government without a majority in the Knesset and teetering on the edge of collapse.

Silman and Kara have reportedly met in recent days, and Kara is seen as a potential future defector from the government.

The future of the current government hangs in the balance, and its path forward remains unclear.

Gantz approves administrative detention for 2 Israelis allegedly planning attacks

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signs administrative arrest orders against two Israeli civilians suspected of planning terror attacks and being affiliated with terror groups.

Gantz’s office says the first man, a resident of Qalansawe, will remain under arrest without charge for four months over suspicions that he “intended to carry out serious security activity during Ramadan.” He is also suspected of supporting the Hamas terror group and being in contact with its members.

The second man, a resident of Tur’an, will remain under arrest for six months over suspicions he was “involved in illegal security activities and that he has access to weapons,” Gantz’s office says.

Russian forces continuing to strike Ukraine from the air and sea

The governor of the region that includes Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, Dnipro, says the airport was hit twice by missile attacks today. The Ukrainian military command says Russian forces also keep shelling Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and have kept up their siege of Mariupol, the key southern port city that has been under attack for nearly six weeks.

The Russian Defense Ministry says its air-launched missiles hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in two locations, while sea-launched cruise missiles destroyed a Ukrainian unit’s headquarters in the Dnipro region. Neither side’s military claims could be independently verified.

The Pentagon said Russia has a clear advantage in armored forces for its next phase in its war on Ukraine. Press secretary John Kirby said Friday that the Russians spread themselves too thin to take the capital, but now they’re more focused on a smaller region, and still have the vast majority of their combat power. A major effort by Ukrainian defenses and more Western assistance will be needed to push them back.

High Court: PA is liable for terrorism, can be sued by attack victims

Israel’s High Court rules that the Palestinian Authority can be held liable for its controversial policy of paying stipends to security prisoners in Israeli jails and those killed in confrontations with Israelis, including those who died committing deadly terror attacks.

Justice Yitzhak Amit writes in the ruling that the decision to pay convicted Palestinian terrorists and Palestinians killed as part of the “struggle against Israel” makes the PA liable for their actions.

“[The PA] expresses its consent to their actions, in a manner that takes responsibility for the acts. This justifies that [the PA] will be assigned personal and direct responsibility,” Amit writes.

Palestinians defend the payments as necessary social welfare for families who have lost a breadwinner. Critics slam the payment system — in which prisoners receive higher sums for higher prison terms — saying it effectively incentivizes terrorism.

The plaintiffs in the case are four families who lost loved ones in four separate terror attacks during the early days of the Second Intifada. The Jerusalem District Court rejected their petition, but the High Court, led by Amit, rules in their favor.

The legal debate in the High Court centered around to what extent Ramallah’s prisoner payments “retroactively authorized” the terror attacks committed by their beneficiaries.

Under Israeli damages law, a party can be held liable not only if they “provide counsel, aid… or order and permit” legal damage — but also if they retroactively “ratify” damage done to another.

The justice acknowledges that the decision is “precedent-setting and unusual” in its interpretation of the ratification clause in damages law.

Amit rules, however, that the PA can only be sued for compensation, rather than punitive damages. This means relatively lower payouts can be ordered by courts in which Ramallah may be tried.

Palestinian woman allegedly attempts to stab Border Police officer in Hebron

A Palestinian woman is shot dead by Israeli soldiers after allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, police say.

According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, one Border Police officer is lightly hurt.

Footage from the scene shows the alleged assailant lying on the ground near the officers.

IDF opens fire on car in Jenin carrying two brothers of Tel Aviv terrorist

The Israeli army says troops opened fire on a car in which the two brothers of Ra’ad Hazem, the terrorist who killed three Israelis in downtown Tel Aviv last week, were believed to be traveling.

The IDF says the bullets struck their targets but that the “pursuit was continuing.” The raid took place in Hazem’s hometown of Jenin.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reports that a Palestinian man was wounded by Israeli bullets in his pelvis during the Jenin shooting.

Fathi Hazem, the father of Palestinian terrorist Ra’ad Hazem, writes on Facebook that his wife and his younger son were traveling together in the car when soldiers shot at them.

Footage posted online shows Israeli military vehicles in the area. Another video shows a damaged car after it was allegedly shot at by soldiers.

Israeli security forces have sought to arrest the father and brother of Ra’ad Hazem for alleged involvement in the attack.

Terror victim Eytam Magini laid to rest in Kfar Saba

Eytam Magini, a 27-year-old high-tech worker who was killed in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday, is laid to rest in Kfar Saba.

“You acted like a magician who knew how to accommodate and respect everyone,” says his father, Eyal. “I will always love you until my last day.”

Magini’s childhood friend, Tomer Morad, was buried at the same cemetery right before Magini’s funeral. The third victim, Barak Lufan, is being laid to rest at at Kibbutz Ginosar.

Deputy public security minister claims shooting deaths in Arab towns have dropped

Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz claims that shootings within the Arab community have dropped recently as the government and Israeli security forces have worked to round up and confiscate illegal weapons.

According to Segalovitz, between October 17, 2020, and March 21, 2021, there were 56 murders within Arab society in Israel, compared to 42 between October 17, 2021 and March 21, 2022.

Speaking to a meeting of the Knesset Public Security Committee, Segalovitz says that as part of such efforts, a list of 631 suspects has been compiled, and 166 have been arrested and 144 indicted.

“Criminals need to understand that the rules of the game have changed,” he says. “This is a top-priority social mission. The discussions are over — we are moving on to action.”

More than 1,200 bodies found in Kyiv region, says Ukrainian prosecutor

Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova says 1,222 bodies have been found in the region around the capital Kyiv so far.

“We have actually now, only for this morning, 1,222 dead people only in Kyiv region,” Venediktova says in an interview with Britain’s Sky News.

Minister criticizes move to weigh cutting benefits from families of terrorists

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej speaks out against a government decision earlier today to weigh cutting off state pensions and other benefits from the families of terrorists.

“You do not harm the benefits of the children of citizens and residents,” Frej tweets.

The cabinet voted to establish a committee to look into the possibility of such a move, which has been proposed in the past but never came to fruition.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemns Russian bombing of Ukrainian train station

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issues a statement condemning the Russian bombing of train station in eastern Ukraine on Friday that killed dozens of people.

“The death of civilians at the Kramatorsk train station is a shocking event deserving of condemnation,” the ministry says. “Israel sends its condolences to the Ukrainian people and calls for the immediate cessation of the Russian attack.”

A Russian missile hit a train station in eastern Ukraine where thousands had gathered on Friday, killing at least 52 and wounding dozens more in an attack on a crowd of mostly women and children trying to flee a new, looming Russian offensive, Ukrainian authorities said.

About 4,000 civilians had been in and around the station, heeding calls to leave before fighting intensifies in the Donbas region, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said.

AP contributed to this report.

Funeral for first Tel Aviv terror attack victim begins

The funeral for Tomer Morad, one of the victims in the Tel Aviv terrorist shooting attack on Thursday night, is beginning now in Kfar Saba.

According to Ynet, more than 1,000 people are in attendance at Morad’s funeral.

“My dreams have been shattered, and me with them,” Morad’s girlfriend says at his funeral in tears.

“I want to say thank you,” she adds. “Thank you for the privilege to be by your side for seven years, every day, for all the incredible experiences we had together. I will be strong, I will be yours forever, my love.”

The three victims of a terror attack in Tel Aviv on April 7, 2022. From left: Tomer Morad, Eytam Magini and Barak Lufan. (Courtesy)

The funeral for Morad’s childhood friend, Eytam Magini, is slated to be held later this afternoon, as is the ceremony for the third victim, Barak Lufan.

All three were killed after a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at the Ilka Bar on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv Thursday evening. The attacker was later shot dead in a shootout with Israeli security forces in Jaffa.

Palestinian man arrested after alleged West Bank stabbing attempt

A Palestinian man has been arrested by troops after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli man near the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, the Samaria Regional Council says.

The Israeli man was slightly hurt in the incident, according to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service. A picture showed scratches on his arm.

The alleged assailant was detained without the knife after a brief chase by officers, police say.

Law enforcement officials say that the suspect only threatened the Israeli man with the knife, and that the motive is still being investigated.

Dnipro airport ‘destroyed’ by Russian shelling, says local official

The airport in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro has been completely destroyed in fresh Russian shelling, says a local official.

“There has been another attack on Dnipro airport. There is nothing left of it. The airport itself and the infrastructure around it has been destroyed. Rockets keep flying and flying,” the head of the city’s military administration, Valentin Reznichenko, writes on Telegram.

He adds that authorities are seeking to clarify information about victims. Reznichenko says attacks on the city, which lies on the banks of Dnieper River, intensified today.

Ukraine says it is probing 5,600 alleged war crimes by Russians

Ukraine is examining the alleged culpability of 500 Russian leaders for thousands of war crimes, including President Vladimir Putin, a top official says.

Speaking on Britain’s Sky News, Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova says that “what we see on the ground in all the regions of Ukraine, it is war crimes, crimes against humanity.”

Speaking in English, she says there is “full evidence” linking Russian forces to the missile attack on the station at Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, where officials said 52 people were killed.

“That’s why it will be one of the cases in our big profile,” Venediktova says. “You know that now we started 5,600 cases in Ukraine on the above war crimes,” involving “500 suspects” from Russia’s government and military, she adds.

“Vladimir Putin is the main war criminal of 21st century,” the official says, adding that as president, he may enjoy immunity from prosecution under international law but that would not last forever.

Silman: My decision to leave the coalition is final

Yamina MK Idit Silman says that she has no intention of walking back her dramatic decision last week to exit the coalition.

“My decision to end my time in the coalition was based on values and therefore it is final,” she says in a statement.

The renegade MK says she calls on her friends in the coalition and in the Yamina faction “to express the stance of the majority of the Israeli public and establish a national Zionist government within this Knesset.”

Silman announced her surprise departure from the coalition but not from the Knesset last week, leaving the government teetering on the brink of collapse with just 60 seats and no majority. Silman’s call to form a new government within the current Knesset would likely require several additional members of Yamina and other right-wing factions in the coalition, such as New Hope, to also defect and join with the right-wing opposition parties.

Palestinian Authority condemns Bennett’s comments on fighting terror

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry condemns Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks this morning as an “official license to kill Palestinians.”

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have spiked in recent weeks after a string of deadly terror attacks across Israel. Israeli forces have stepped up security activities in the West Bank, raiding Palestinian cities amid occasional firefights with Palestinian gunmen.

“We will get at anyone who has had a direct or indirect connection to the attacks,” Bennett told cabinet ministers. “The State of Israel is on the offensive.”

But Ramallah condemns Bennett’s remarks as “an attempt to sow the illusion in the international community that the occupying power was in a ‘state of self-defense’ and is now moving to ‘attack.’”

“This ignores the fact that Israel occupies the land of the State of Palestine and usurps it by force,” the PA Foreign Ministry says.

Ministers approve emergency housing assistance for new Ukrainian immigrants

The cabinet approves a plan to provide emergency rental assistance to new immigrants from Ukraine and other former Soviet countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The government plan will provide NIS 2,300 in rental assistance per month for a year to individuals, NIS 2,900 for a couple with up to two children and NIS 3,400 to families with three or more children

“Most of the immigrants are fleeing war in Ukraine and arriving after a difficult journey, forced to leave behind all their property and money,” says Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. “We as a government are committed to helping them and making it as easy as possible for them.”

This financial support will be granted regardless of income and on top of the financial package provided to every new immigrant, as well as the additional aid granted to refugee immigrants.

The Jewish Agency said last week that it has processed more than 10,000 immigrants from Ukraine and Russia since war broke out, and it has received more than 30,000 calls inquiring about immigrating to Israel.

Ukraine claims Russia is beefing up its military forces

The Ukrainian military says Russia is beefing up its forces and trying to probe Ukrainian defenses.

The Ukrainian military command says Russian troops have continued attempts to break Ukrainian defenses near Izyum, southeast of Kharkiv. It reports that Russia is sending reinforcements to Izyum while continuing the shelling of Kharkiv.

The military adds that the Russians also continue their attempts to take control of Mariupol, the Sea of Azov port that has been besieged by Russian forces for nearly six weeks.

After Russia’s attempt to quickly capture Kyiv and other big cities in northeastern Ukraine failed, Ukrainian and Western officials expect Moscow to launch a new offensive in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years.

IDF informs family of Bnei Brak terrorist of intention to demolish their home

The Israel Defense Forces has informed the family of Diaa Hamarsheh, the Palestinian who killed five people in a terror attack in Bnei Brak last month, that the military intends to demolish their home.

One day after the March 29 attack, the army mapped out Hamarsheh’s home in the West Bank town of Ya’bad near Jenin ahead of the planned demolition.

Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as a matter of policy. The efficacy of the policy is controversial even within the Israeli security services, and human rights activists denounce it as unfair collective punishment.

His family can appeal the demolition order, but such attempts rarely succeed.

Hamarsheh killed four civilians in the central ultra-Orthodox city before he died in a shootout with a police officer, who was his fifth victim.

Government to weigh stripping state benefits from families of terrorists

The government approves the establishment of a committee to examine the removal of state benefits such as pensions and other grants from the families of citizens who committed acts of terror.

A panel consisting of the directors of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Public Security Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Welfare Ministry and other officials will be convened to formulate a recommendation within 60 days of its establishment.

“We are determined… to change the equation so that it will not be worthwhile to take part in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens,” says Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “Providing benefits from the state to terrorist families is utterly absurd and it is time to redress the injustice.”

“The State of Israel will hold anyone accountable who has a direct or indirect connection to the terrorist attacks,” he adds.

Such legislation has been introduced in the past but has not succeeded in passing the Knesset. It would also likely face a challenge in the Supreme Court.

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