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Looking to salvage coalition, Bennett says he ‘understands’ renegade MKs’ criticism

Prime minister launches media blitz as government falters, saying he won’t work with Netanyahu or Joint List, defending right-wing bona fides and accusing PA’s Abbas of double game

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Judea and Samaria Division military base, near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, April 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Judea and Samaria Division military base, near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, April 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Monday’s events as they happen.

Mayor: 10,000 dead in Ukraine’s Mariupol and toll could rise, corpses ‘carpeting streets’

Ukrainian tanks move in a street in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Ukrainian tanks move in a street in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol yields up more horrors after six weeks of pummeling by Russian troops, with the mayor saying more than 10,000 civilians have died in the strategic southern port, their corpses “carpeted through the streets.”

As Russia pound targets around Ukraine and prepare for a major assault in the east, the country’s leader has warned that President Vladimir Putin’s forces could resort to chemical weapons, and Western officials say they are investigating an unconfirmed claim by a Ukrainian regiment that a poisonous substance was dropped in Mariupol.

The city has seen some of the heaviest attacks and civilian suffering in the war, but the land, sea and air assaults by Russian forces fighting to capture it have increasingly limited information about what’s happening inside the city.

Speaking by phone with The Associated Press, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko accuses Russian forces of having blocked weeks of attempted humanitarian convoys into the city in part to conceal the carnage. Boychenko says the death toll in Mariupol alone could surpass 20,000.

Boychenko also gives new details of allegations by Ukrainian officials that Russian forces have brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the corpses of victims of the siege. He says Russian forces have taken many bodies to a huge shopping center where there are storage facilities and refrigerators.

“Mobile crematoriums have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it, and there is a pipe inside and these bodies are burned,” the mayor says.

Boychenko speaks from Ukrainian-controlled territory outside Mariupol. The mayor says he has several sources for his description of the alleged methodical burning of bodies by Russian forces in the city, but does not detail the sources.

The discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians after Russian forces retreated from cities and towns around the capital, Kyiv, already has prompted widespread condemnation and accusations that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.

TV: Yamina MK Silman’s husband had row with MK Kara, who then reversed plans to quit

Yamina MK Idit Silman arrives with her husband Shmulik for the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yamina MK Idit Silman arrives with her husband Shmulik for the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Shmulik Silman, the husband of renegade Yamina MK Idit Silman, so offended Yamina’s Abir Kara that Kara abandoned plans to follow Silman out of the coalition last week, Channel 12 reports.

At a meeting last Wednesday, the day that then-coalition whip Silman resigned from the coalition, depriving it of its majority, Idit and Shmulik Silman, Kara, and others held a meeting to finalize a wider planned formal breakaway from Yamina.

The meeting was making headway, when an unspecified dispute surfaced. At this point, Shmulik Silman, whom the Channel 12 story describes as “the architect” of his wife’s resignation, reportedly told Kara: “I’m running things here; you’re in my hands now.”

Kara “did not like the tone or the content” of Shmulik Silman’s remarks, the meeting deteriorated into a shouting match, Kara walked out, and he abandoned his intention to bolt the party, the report says.

Channel 12 says Kara has confirmed the story, but also said that Shmulik Silman has since apologized.

Shmulik Silman, by contrast, said he merely drove his wife to the meeting, and that the story is untrue, Channel 12 notes.

It is not clear from the report which, if any, other Yamina MKs attended the meeting and/or intended to join the exodus. Kara and fellow Yamina MKs Ayelet Shaked and Nir Orbach are all reported to have made various demands of party leader Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as their respective conditions for remaining in the party and the coalition.

Troops foiling around two Palestinian terror attacks every day, officer claims

Israeli defense officials believe that they are stopping an average of two terror attacks every day that troops crack down on the northern West Bank city of Jenin and its surrounding area, Channel 13 news reports, citing an unnamed senior official.

The channel says that the military claims they are preventing attacks in which weapons or terrorists are already ready to go.

Aside from mass casualty assaults, which Israel has seen a rash of in recent weeks, defense officials also classify stone-throwing attacks and certain actions during clashes between Palestinians and troops as terror attacks.

Bennett: My mediation helped, but I’m wrapped in Israel’s flag, not Ukraine’s

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a special prayer for the Ukrainian people organized by Businessman Arie Schwartz, at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City on March 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a special prayer for the Ukrainian people organized by Businessman Arie Schwartz, at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City on March 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regarding his Russia-Ukraine mediation efforts, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tells Channel 12 news that he was asked to help and it was important to do so.

“I came to help” on a key global issue,” he says. “But my full dedication is to ensuring the security of the state of Israel.”

Asked if his mediation has achieved anything, he says, “Yes, in numerous components.

“But, let’s be clear, I was criticized [by President Zelensky], ‘Bennett isn’t wrapped in the Ukrainian flag.’ It’s true.”

“I’m wrapped in the Israeli flag. The interest that I worry about is that of Israel’s citizens — freedom of movement in Syria; to be able to continue to hit Iran as close to the source — a dramatic change — and to oppose the nuclear agreement.”

Bennett says he is not ‘vetoing’ Netanyahu, but former PM’s time is over

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he is not “vetoing” Netanyahu, but that what Israel needs is unity. “Netanyahu is not an enemy. He gave a great deal” to Israel “but let’s move on.”

Asked about the ostensible high cost of getting his home in Ra’anana into shape to serve as a prime ministerial residence, he says people are “spinning” lies against him. “I don’t need a shekel from the state,” he tells Channel 12. “I’m fine [financially].”

He says Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is a “friend” who is doing excellent work in the Foreign Ministry, and talks happily of his recent summit talks in Egypt with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and UAE crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid sits with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, December 9, 2021 (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Asked again how long the coalition will hold, Bennett says “It can see out its full term. It depends… This crisis has reminded people of the abyss that we could return to” of endless election campaigns “for one man’s legal needs.”

People need to put aside narrow political interests and work for the good of the State of Israel, he says.

Bennett savages Netanyahu, blames security barrier issues on past governments

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to Channel 12 news, April 11, 2022 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to Channel 12 news, April 11, 2022 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Speaking to Channel 12, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he will not have the Joint List in his coalition, insists he is not angry with Idit Silman for quitting and depriving his government of its majority, and claims the coalition will continue to function effectively.

He savages former PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, saying that “Bibi-ism is screaming all day against the left, and doing nothing, and in practice capitulating to the enemy.”

Asked about the terror wave Israel is confronting, Bennett says the IDF, police, and security agencies are tackling terrorism “at its source,” wherever that is, be it “Jenin or Yabad” in the West Bank where two terrorists who killed Israelis in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak came from, “or Syria or Iran.”

“I can’t predict” how long the terror wave will last, “but we will win,” he says.

Asked about his previous criticisms of past governments, he says they “neglected” the security barrier and allowed it to fall into disrepair, and this is now being corrected.

He says he’s following “a carrot and stick” policy, not to harm those who “don’t want to harm us” — hence the permissions for those Palestinians who want to work in Israel.

He accuses PA President Mahmoud Abbas of “playing a double game, … for years and now,” by “encouraging terrorism, including through the education system, and paying terrorists.”

“That’s why I won’t meet with him,” he says.

Bennett says that after years of neglect, Israel is now tackling rampant crime in the Arab community, where there are a quarter of a million illegal weapons.

He says he is a true right-winger — and, sniping at Netanyahu, says to be “truly right-wing means stopping the distribution of suitcases of cash in Gaza,” as he has done, and “hitting back at Gaza when there is a single arson balloon.”

Asked when there will be elections, he says: “We don’t need elections now and there won’t be elections now.”

A return to the previous political “paralysis would be a disaster,” he says.

On Silman’s resignation, he says that Bezalel Smotrich and Benjamin Netanyahu tricked her “with empty promises… that won’t be honored.”

“We’ve stabilized [the coalition],” he says. “What Idit Silman went through in the past 10 months, nobody went through in the history of the state.”

He says she told him in tears at his home that Netanyahu’s and Smotrich’s people screamed unmentionable things at her children through megaphones, and that her husband Shmulik told him that they called his place of work and threatened him that he would be fired if she didn’t quit the coalition.

“It’s very hard not to break in a situation like that,” he says.

He says she had told him often that it was possible to work together in their diverse coalition. “I understand what she went through,” but “the response to extortion is not to run into the arms of those who are killing you.”

“The door is obviously open” for her to return, he says, and “it is clear to me that, in her heart, she greatly believes” in the possibility and value of cooperation within the diverse coalition.

He calls the remaining members of his Yamina party “heroes” for resisting the pressure to bring down the government.

Netanyahu’s only intention, he says, is to “improve the conditions for his plea bargain” in his corruption trial.

He denies that Silman’s resignation means she does not trust him or his leadership, reiterating that “the brutality” of the pressure on her is what broke her.

“They called her children’s Bnei Akiva leaders and told them to boot the kids out of Bnei Akiva,” he says.

Asked how the government can function with only 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset, he says the government can and is doing a great deal, but acknowledges that it will be hard to pass “controversial laws” and says “there’s a Netanyahu, Smotrich, Ayman Odeh partnership” that will vote even against laws backed by the right.

Odeh and the Joint List “are absolutely not” legitimate political partners, he says.

Odeh’s comments yesterday, urging Arab Israelis to quit the police and IDF “and revolt against the State of Israel, in my view, are illegal and shameful.”

He says he is proud of those Israeli Arabs who serve, and loves them, and cites Arab police officer Amir Khoury’s heroism in giving his life in the firefight that stopped the Bnei Brak terrorist.

“The Joint List are not and will be part of the coalition,” he says.

The only partnership with the Joint List, he says, is that maintained by Netanyahu and Smotrich.

By contrast, Bennett says, his coalition includes the Arab party Ra’am, whose leader Mansour Abbas “recognizes Israel as a Jewish state” and wants to heal Israeli rifts, and help fight crime in the Arab sector.

Asked again if he is truly a man of the right, he insists he is, and takes pains to use the words “Judea and Samaria” to describe the disputed territories, rather than “West Bank,” which he had said recently.

“A man of the right is one who blows up Hamas over a single [arson] balloon,” he says again — not one who tolerates thousands of rockets “including on Jerusalem and says they were fired because of an electoral fault.”

He says that Netanyahu had agreed to the US opening a consulate for the Palestinians “in Abu Dis,” inside Jerusalem (“Google it,” he tells Channel 13 when making the same exact comment), but that when he met US President Joe Biden, he told him, “I greatly respect you, but Jerusalem is the capital of only one country and that’s the State of Israel.”

He says that as a man of the right, he has moved to double the population of the Golan, and approve new communities for Jews in the Negev.

“To be right-wing is not Bibi-ism,” Bennett says. “Bibi-ism is screaming all day against the left, and doing nothing, and in practice capitulating to the enemy. What is right wing? It’s standing strong, and [ensuring] the unity of the people.”

Bennett admits he didn’t pay enough attention to party

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appears to admit to Channel 13 news that he let his Yamina faction fall apart without him, but says it was only because he was putting all of his efforts into fixing the country.

He claims to be free of any political machinations, saying he only acts according to “what is good for the country.”

He says Yamina MK Abir Kara, also considering defecting, was correct when he criticized Bennett for not doing enough “to embrace” his right-wing faction and their right-wing base.

“He’s right,” he says. “Politics is very, very complicated. I’m stepping things up to deal with this.”

Bennett tells the channel that Yamina mutineers will not jump ship because the result will be “an abyss,” which he means to be more elections, dismissing the idea of an alternate Netanyahu government as a “fiction.”

He also dismisses criticism over his use of the term “West Bank,” and hints that he is no longer actively involved in mediating between Russia and Ukraine.

“When they call, I help them,” he says.

Amid crisis, Bennett says he ‘understands’ renegade MK, government working fine

Interviews with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are being broadcast on all three main newscasts in Israel.

Such media blitzes are usually only done for holidays, ahead of elections, or if the government is in crisis mode, and Bennett easily admits to the latter.

“I want to tell the public that the government is stable, is working,” he tells Channel 13, threatening that if his government falls, the country could see another four elections in a row.

Pressed on his coalition’s inability to pass legislation, he instead focuses on what he says are his government’s achievements, including what he says are efforts to bring down rising prices, which he blames on past governments, including those he was a member of.

He tells the channel that his government continues to operate without a majority, but admits that the defection of Yamina MK Idit Silman “has hurt us in no small way.”

He says he is not angry at Silman, but “understands her,” and claims that figures sent by Likud and by Religious Zionism harassed Silman’s children and their teachers for nine months, as well as those of Yamina MK Nir Orbach, though his own family was spared the same.

“It’s inhumane,” he says, in comments that appear aimed at not burning bridges with the renegade MKs.

“Her heart is in the right place,” he maintains.

Odeh refuses to back down despite outrage over comments

Ayman Odeh is doubling down on comments he made in a video that calls for Arab police to quit, rather than serve in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, now calling on Jews to do the same.

“I want to speak not only to Arab citizens who I spoke to in the video, but also Jewish citizens. Don’t serve in the occupation forces. Don’t kill,” he tells Channel 12.

Another Joint List MK, Sami Abu Shehada, backs Odeh in an interview with the same channel.

“Anyone in the occupation army should be ashamed,” he tells Channel 12. “This is an embarrassment. Israel has an apartheid regime and is committing war crimes.”

Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party, says Odeh’s comments are “inciting.”

Abbas says Odeh only made the comments to avoid having to choose whether to help bring down the current government by making his party too unpalatable to partner with. Toppling the government was suddenly a possibility with the defection of a Yamina lawmaker to the opposition, but the Joint List has refused to cooperate with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They are a power that always goes in the direction of bringing down the government,” Abbas says of his former partners, according to Ynet. “So there is no point to their politics. Odeh is running away from needing to give an answer about his responsibility to topple the government and coalition and so is pushing extreme positions for the Joint List.”

He adds that unlike Ra’am, which made history by joining the government, the Joint List is pushing the mainstream Israeli public away.

“You cannot want to be a partner and then go out and make outrageous, inciting comments,” he says.

In an interview with Channel 13, Bennett accuses Odeh and the Joint List of “dividing” society.

Greek Church says police unfairly limiting worshipers at Holy Fire ritual

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the Holy Land says it will not cooperate with Israeli police orders to limit the number of people attending the Holy Fire ceremony a day before Easter Sunday, which this year falls on April 24 for the Eastern Orthodox Church.

According to a statement from the church, police are allowing only 1,000 people to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on April 23, along with another 500 who can view the ceremony from outside the church.

“The Patriarchate believes that there is no justification for these additional unjust restrictions, and affirms its explicit, clear and complete rejection of all restrictions,” it says in a statement. “The Patriarchate is fed up with police restrictions on freedom to worship and with its unacceptable methods of dealing with the God given rights of Christians to practice rituals and have to access their holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

The church alleges that after attempts to work with police in the past, “promises were great and what actually took place on the ground was not even remotely close to those promises.”

Christian Orthodox worshipers hold up candles lit from the Holy Fire as they gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 27, 2019 during the Orthodox Easter. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

“Accordingly, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has decided, by the power of the Lord, that it will not compromise its right to provide spiritual services in all churches and squares. It also announces that prayers will be held as usual by the Patriarchate and its priests, hoping that believers are able to participate,” the church says, calling on followers to flock to the church to attend the ceremony in person.

The annual ceremony, in which believers believe a holy fire descends from heaven, lighting candles which are then taken around the world, is normally attended by large crowds, and scuffles are common, as worshipers fight for access to the candles.

Bennett: Netanyahu can’t form a government, it’s a fiction

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the idea of an alternative government being formed by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is a “fiction.”

“No, it’s either this government or, there’s no government for Netanyahu,” he tells Channel 13 news. “It’s a fiction, everyone knows it.”

“Someone who tried four times to form a government and failed, and because of that lost the whole country to improve his plea bargain, there won’t be a government like that, it’s not an option,” he adds.

Bennett tells the station he is not thinking about joining Netanyahu, even as his Yamina party appears to implode, with members either joining the opposition, or threatening to.

Pope may visit Israel in June — report

The Vatican is looking into the possibility of a visit to Jerusalem by Pope Francis, Reuters reports, citing two unnamed sources.

Thee news agency says the purpose of the visit would be a meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who has backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pope is already scheduled to visit Lebanon in mid-June. According to Reuters, Francis may extend his trip, flying to Amman on June 14 and then to Jerusalem by helicopter. He would leave from Israel back to Rome.

Francis last visited Israel in May 2014.

Pope Francis seen with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (L) and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014 (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/FLASH90)

‘Hard’ meeting between Putin and Austria’s Nehammer ends

A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has ended after just over an hour.

In a statement, Nehammer’s office says the meeting was not “a visit of friendship,” adding that conversation between the two men had been “direct, open and hard.”

“I mentioned the serious war crimes in Bucha and other locations and stressed that all those responsible have to be brought to justice,” he says in the statement.

Russia denies its forces have committed war crimes.

No joint press conference will be held but Nehammer is expected to address reporters alone at around 7 p.m. local time.

Group vows return to Joseph’s Tomb after shooting

Members of the Bratslav Hasidic sect say they will return to a disputed West Bank shrine, a day after a convoy of Jewish Israeli pilgrims came under fire while trying to reach the Nablus site.

Joseph’s Tomb, revered by some as the final resting place of the biblical Joseph, has been vandalized by local Palestinians twice in recent days, amid rising tensions over a series of terror attacks in Israel and an IDF crackdown in the northern West Bank.

“We’re going back tonight,” one person who had been in the convoy tells the Walla news site.

“Everyone known we are just going to pray at the tomb and leave. Tonight we’ll go in too,” adds the man, who complains about a lack of freedom of worship for Jews trying to visit the shrine.

He says the group had brought paint and other materials to clean up after vandals damaged the site the night before, but the last car in their convoy was shot at by individuals in a Palestinian police vehicle. Two people were lightly to moderately wounded.

Trips to the shrine normally take place once a month under close military supervision. The group had not coordinated the visit on Sunday night, and it’s unclear if any attempt to reach the site tonight is being coordinated with the IDF.

A military spokesperson tells The Times of Israel they do not have any information on the plans to return to Nablus.

Hungary sets up mechanism to pay for Russian gas with rubles

Hungary plans to modify its natural gas contract with Russian energy company Gazprom in order to satisfy a demand by President Vladimir Putin that Russian gas be paid for in rubles.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto tells a news conference that the subsidiary of Hungary’s energy group MVM, CEE Energy, would pay its gas bills in euros to Russia’s Gazprombank, which would convert the payments into rubles and transfer them to the gas provider Gazprom Export.

Putin, in retaliation over sanctions against Russia by the European Union, has demanded that countries pay for Russian gas in rubles or risk having their supply shut off.

While Hungary has voted with the European Union on most sanctions against Russia, it has lobbied heavily against blocking Russian energy imports, arguing that would cripple its economy.

Szijjarto said that modifying Hungary’s contract with Gazprom ensured the country’s energy supply while staying in line with the EU’s sanctioning policy.

Gantz says officer who killed mentally ill gun-snatcher acted correctly

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says a military officer who shot and killed a man who stole a soldier’s gun acted correctly, but calls the incident a tragedy.

“There was a tragic incident in which the Binyamin Brigade commander thought he was in a terror attack and in the end it turned out to be a tragedy. Because a gun was stolen, he acted correctly by intervening,” he says in comments provided by his office.

The man who stole the gun was an Israeli Jew with mental health issues.

Gantz connects the incident to an increase in tensions, but says troops will continue to be deployed inside Israel to be able to quickly respond to terror activity.

Medics are seen near Ashkelon after a man allegedly tried to steal the gun of a soldier, April 10, 2022. (United Hatzalah)

“We want there to be as many forces on the ground so that if we don’t manage to stop an attack, we can at least apprehend the attacker as quickly as possible,” he says, in comments sent out by his office.

Gantz says forces in the West Bank and seam zone between the security barrier and actual Green Line have been bolstered considerably and will stay that way.

Ukraine says Russian offensive on east imminent

Ukraine is expecting Russia to launch a major offensive in the east “soon,” defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk tells a briefing.

“The enemy has almost finished preparation for assault on the east, the attack will begin soon,” he says.

“We don’t know precisely when, but the preparation is almost over.”

Residents look at a destroyed Russian tank on the outskirts of Buzova village, west of Kyiv, on April 10, 2020. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

After rebuffing a Russian offensive on Kyiv, Ukraine has for days said a renewed Moscow attack on its east and south is looming.

“We are predicting that intense fighting will take place in these territories in the near future,” Motuzyanyk says.

“We cannot predict exactly when this will happen, these are sources from Western intelligence,” he adds. “The Ukrainian army is ready.”

Russian racer probed for Nazi salute on podium

A Russian karter who made what appeared to be a Nazi salute on a race podium is under investigation, the FIA motor sports governing body says.

Artem Severiukhin was filmed extending his raised right arm then laughing as he stood on the podium after winning a European Championship race in Portugal Sunday.

The incident happened while the national anthem of Italy was being played, as the former junior champion of Russia is competing under an Italian flag.

The FIA said it “launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr. Artem Severiukhin.”

The Paris-based organization said it would “communicate shortly on the further steps that will be taken in this case.”

Austrian chancellor begins meeting with Putin

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has begun a meeting with Vladimir Putin, becoming the first European leader to visit the Russian president since the start of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

“They are currently together in Mr. Putin’s residence” in Moscow, an Austrian government spokesman tells AFP.

Bank of Israel raises lending rate to rein in inflation

The Bank of Israel has raised interest rates to their highest level in over three years, in hopes of stanching runaway inflation.

The bank raises the rate by 0.25 percent for an interest rate of 0.35%.

“Israel’s economy has registered strong economic activity, along with a tightening labor market, amid an environment of rising inflation,” BoI says in a statement. “Therefore, the board decided conditions were ripe to begin a gradual rise in the interest rate. The pace of the rise will be decided according to statistics on activity and developments regarding inflation, in order to support achieving the state’s policy goals.”

The move, which had been widely expected, nonetheless sends stocks on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange tumbling. The TA-35 index is down nearly 0.8% and the TA-125 is down over 1% on the day.

The rate rise comes as the US Federal Reserve is considering also ramping up rate rises.

Fed officials indicated in notes from last month’s meeting they were considering raising the US benchmark rate by double the normal amount at upcoming meetings. They also indicated they may shrink the Fed’s bond holdings, which might push up commercial borrowing rates.

Investors see “increasing evidence the Federal Reserve will take a more committed approach” to fighting inflation, said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management in a report.

AP contributed

Boy, 6, dies after being hit by truck; driver arrested

A boy run over by a truck in the settlement on Emmanuel has died of his injuries, Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba says.

The driver of the truck has been arrested after he fled the scene. He was found in a neighboring community, police say.

Official French election results confirm 4.5 point lead for Macron over Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron won 27.85 percent of votes in the first round of France’s presidential election, while far-right veteran Marine Le Pen scored 23.15 percent, according to final results from the interior ministry.

The results allow both to advance to a run-off, while far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon came in third at 21.95 percent, knocking him out of the first round but still a higher score than many polls had predicted.

Analysts say his electorate will be key for determining how Macron and Le Pen fare in the second round on April 24.

Among the nine other candidates only one scored above five percent, the upstart far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour, who obtained 7.07 percent and has called on his voters to support Le Pen.

Police chief on Meron stampede: I’m responsible, but perhaps not guilty

At a hearing over the Meron disaster, in which 45 people were killed in a stampede, police commissioner Kobi Shabtai says his position means he is responsible for anything that happens under his command, seemingly reversing earlier attempts to point at failures by others.

“I am responsible for anything that happens in the police,” he says. “The question is if responsibility equals guilt.”

Shabtai earlier appeared to shift responsibility onto others, telling a panel investigating the cause of the disaster that the local commander overseeing the northern Israel site would have had a better grasp of what is going on, and that engineering failures were to blame.

“The police chief is not going to go and check every bridge, every crossing and every path. Can I set a level of slipperiness? Incline?” he said.

He also blamed the government’s mercurial COVID-19 policies at the time which led to confusion that contributed to the catastrophe.

“In my opinion, the lack of ability of government ministries to to come to an agreement on coronavirus rules was reflected in the difficulties that accompanied the Meron disaster — the lack of will or ability of thee political leadership to deal with the event and the site itself,” he said, according to the Kan news site.

The stampede occurred at an annual spring pilgrimage to Mount Meron, attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Some blamed the government, which at the time included Haredi coalition partners, for allowing the event to go ahead without curbs on crowd size. Forty-five people died in a crush on slippery makeshift ramp and many more were badly injured.

Last year, Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash told the commission that no government body had been willing to accept responsibility for ensuring COVID-19 policies were upheld during the annual event.

Prosecutor probing Joint List head over comments in video

The state prosecution has opened a probe into Joint List head Ayman Odeh after police complained about a video in which he urged Arab police officers to quit the force.

Odeh caused outrage on Sunday when he said Arab Israelis serving in the security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were “humiliating” their own people and called on them to throw down their weapons and quit. He also said his ultimate goal was to see the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem.

The Ramadan video was met with calls for Odeh to be investigated for incitement to violence. Joining the calls Monday is the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a nonpartisan good governance group.

The probe was launched by the deputy prosecutor for special positions, Walla news reports.



5 hurt in crash after Jerusalem stone-throwing attack

Five people, three of them children, are being treated for mild injuries after stones were hurled at their car near the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov and Beit Hanina, causing it to crash, medics say.

Medics treating victims of a crash in Jerusalem on April 11, 2022. (United Hatzala)

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it is taking an Israeli mother and her three kids to the Hadassah Mt. Scopus hospital in the city.

The United Hatzalah emergency service says it also treated the father at the scene.

Child fighting for life after being hit by truck

A boy, 6, is in critical condition after being hit by a truck in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel, the Magen David Adom rescue service says.

The boy is being taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.

The cause of the incident is not immediately known.

More polio vaccine doses arrive as inoculation program ramps up

The Health Ministry says it received another 500,000 doses of polio vaccine and will expand its inoculation program to stop a feared outbreak, the Health Ministry says.

It says another 2 million doses are on the way. It does not say where the vaccine drops are coming from.

As of Thursday last week, 21,812 had been vaccinated against the disease as part of a renewed campaign to stamp it out, following an outbreak in Jerusalem, according to official figures.

Boxes of polio vaccine in a warehouse. (courtesy DHL via Health Ministry)

The Health Ministry said at the time that there were seven confirmed cases of polio in children, including one symptomatic case. One more highly suspect case was not counted in the tally.

Tests of sewer systems have found traces of the virus in Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, the Health Ministry says.

Israeli hikers rescued from Italian volcano

Two Israeli hikers have been rescued while hiking the Italian volcano of Stromboli, local media and Italian authorities report.

The two, a father and son, were hiking in a canyon in the Vallonazzo area when the father fell, suffering injuries to his shoulder and chest, while the son was unharmed, according to Italian media, which identified the two as Italian tourists.

Italy’s firefighting force publishes a video of one of the hikers being lifted onto a helicopter via winch.

Stromboli, located on an eponymous island north of Sicily, is a popular hiking spot in southern Italy, despite remaining an active volcano in continuous eruption.

Army says 13 arrested in overnight West Bank raids

The Israel Defense Forces says 13 Palestinians suspected of terror activity have been arrested overnight across the West Bank.

In the towns of Burqa and Kafr Qallil, troops confiscated four vehicles and seized two firearms, the military says. Dozens of Palestinians hurled stones at soldiers, and gunfire was heard in the area, the IDF says. No troops were hurt.

Among the detainees are two Hamas members from Hebron, the army adds.

Tens of thousands killed in besieged Mariupol — Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he believes “tens of thousands” of people in Mariupol have been killed, as he asked South Korean lawmakers to provide military assistance.

Speaking to South Korea’s National Assembly by video link, Zelensky says Russia has “completely destroyed” the besieged city of Mariupol.

“The Russians completely destroyed Mariupol and burned it to ashes. At least tens of thousands of Mariupol citizens must have been killed,” he says, speaking by video link to South Korean lawmakers.

“But for Russia, Mariupol is just an example. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve seen a lot of destruction like this in the 20th century.”

Zelensky says South Korea could help his country’s fight against Russia by providing military equipment, from airplanes to tanks.

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