ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Probe into cops who shot Arab man in Jerusalem is closed, finding no crime committed

State prosecutors say the evidence clearly supports police version that officers were acting in self-defense when they killed Mohammed Elasibi earlier this month in Old City

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Mohammed Elasibi. (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Mohammed Elasibi. (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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

Likud’s Amsalem calls to put Supreme Court President Hayut, former chief justice Barak on trial

Likud MK David Amsalem speaks in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Amsalem speaks in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud’s David Amsalem calls to put Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and former chief justice Aharon Barak on trial for “an attempted coup” following mass protests across the nation for months over the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

“What has happened in Israel in the last 3 months is an attempted coup started by Aharon Barak. He and Hayut should stand trial for this,” Amsalem tells Channel 12 news, noting the supreme court president’s extraordinary speech against the government’s legal shakeup plans.

“Today there is total anarchy. A commission of inquiry should be established,” he says.

Amsalem was recently installed as a second minister within the Justice Ministry.

Gallant rejects request to hold Israeli-Palestinian ceremony on Memorial Day

People attend a memorial ceremony commemorating the victims of the decades Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Tel Aviv on May 3, 2022, as Israel marks the annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
People attend a memorial ceremony commemorating the victims of the decades Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Tel Aviv on May 3, 2022, as Israel marks the annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says he has rejected a request to hold a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony on the eve of Memorial Day on April 24.

In a statement, Gallant’s office says he explained his decision by saying the Palestinian participants cannot be allowed to cross from the West Bank “due to the complex security reality,” and since a general closure will be imposed on the territory on that day.

The ceremony has been held for years, despite widespread criticism among the Israeli right that it equates Israeli terror victims with Palestinian attackers.

The Combatants for Peace group, which organizes the ceremony, reacts by saying Gallant has been “spooked” by his firing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — which has since been reversed — and is “toeing the line of fascist madness and silencing.”

Israel said to deploy Iron Dome batteries ahead of potential violence tomorrow

Illustrative: An Iron Dome air defense system is seen near the Israeli border with Lebanon, on February 18, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Iron Dome air defense system is seen near the Israeli border with Lebanon, on February 18, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Israel has reportedly deployed air defenses across the country in recent days in preparation for possible major violence tomorrow on the fourth Friday of Ramadan, which coincides with Iran’s “Quds Day” which frequently sees incitement and cyber attacks against Israeli targets.

The Kan public broadcaster and the Haaretz daily report that Iron Dome batteries have been deployed throughout the country and especially in the north, ahead of mass prayers expected at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Kan also reports that police are preparing for potential clashes in Jerusalem and deploying extra forces.

Netanyahu said to bar his son Yair from speaking with ministers, MKs

File: Yair Netanyahu, son of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in Tel Aviv, on November 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: Yair Netanyahu, son of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in Tel Aviv, on November 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly told his son Yair to stop being in direct contact with various government ministers and Likud politicians, following growing criticism of the influence the firebrand younger Netanyahu has on government policies and rhetoric.

Channel 12 news reports that the criticism related to alleged demands by Yair Netanyahu not to halt the judicial overhaul legislation for compromise talks, and not to walk back the firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who had demanded such a halt.

The Netanyahu family comments that the report is an “evil lie.”

Earlier today, the Walla news site said the premier has barred his elder son from posting on social media. The prolific tweeter has gone silent since late last month, and is on a trip to the United States.

Prosecutors close probe into cops who shot Arab man in Jerusalem, find no crime committed

Mohammed Elasibi. (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Mohammed Elasibi. (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

State Attorney Amit Aisman decides to close the probe into the conduct of the police officers involved in the shooting of an Arab Israeli man in Jerusalem’s Old City, which the cops said was self-defense after the man snatch a gun from one of them and fired it.

Police have been adamant that the killing of 26-year-old Mohammed Elasibi earlier this month was a response to an attempted attack. Eyewitnesses and Arab officials have mostly rejected that version of events, and former police officials said it is “hard to believe” the force’s insistence that the shooting wasn’t captured on any of the many CCTV cameras in the area.

But a probe by the Police Internal Investigations Department has now been closed “due to the lack of an offense,” Aisman’s office says in a statement, which adds the incident indeed happened in a place not covered by any cameras and that the cops didn’t have time to activate their body cameras.

After examining the various pieces of evidence, prosecutors arrive at the conclusion that it supports the police’s version of events and that there is “clear, direct and concrete evidence that no crime was committed.”

Herzog visits Arab city for Ramadan, says Israel committed to Temple Mount status quo

President Isaac Herzog pays a visit to the Arab city of Shfaram and says Israel is “committed to preserving the status quo in the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and to calm, quiet and security to all worshipers.”

Herzog visits the local community for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, days after clashes between police and rioters inside the mosque caused a wider uproar in the Arab world.

“I hope the month of Ramadan will bridge the gaps, lower the flames and heal the wounds,” he says.

“It is important to me to stress and teach the entire Israeli public about the importance of this month, a month of benevolence, a month when we should not, God forbid, speak about anger and violence.”

US Justice Dept to appeal abortion pill restrictions to Supreme Court

US Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Justice Department “strongly disagrees” with a court ruling tightening restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone, and will appeal it to the Supreme Court.

“We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care,” he says, referring to the Food and Drug Administration.

Police say restrictions on ‘Holy Fire’ event in Jerusalem were set by safety engineer

The Israel Police issues an English-language statement in response to accusations by the Greek Orthodox Church that police-imposed restrictions on Saturday’s planned “Holy Fire” ceremony infringe on Christians’ freedom of worship.

The church has decried the limit of 1,800 people at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre as “heavy-handed” and “unreasonable.”

Police say the limitation isn’t their initiative and is a “necessary safety requirement” set by a safety engineer to prevent a potentially deadly stampede resembling the crush that happened several years ago during a Jewish pilgrimage event at Mount Meron, where 45 people died.

Religious girls’ school apologizes for racist blackface video made by students

A religious girls’ high school, or ulpana, apologizes for a racist Purim video made by students a month ago, after it was noticed by the media and roundly condemned.

The video, titled “What if the ulpana was Mizrahi,” shows 12th-grade students at the predominantly Ashkenazi Horev ulpana in Jerusalem wearing blackface and displaying boorish behavior while purporting to imitate students of Sephardi origin.

The school subsequently deletes the video, saying in a statement that its creation had been an “error.” It apologizes for the content, adding that it “was made as satire and a parody” and doesn’t reflect Horev as an institution that “genuinely connects the various sects and parts of Israeli society.”

It adds it will hold discussions to prevent such incidents from happening again.

The students behind the video say the video featured “inside jokes” and was done “out of love and respect for the traditions, music, culture and role models” of Moroccan-descent Jews.

https://twitter.com/chaimlevinson/status/1646509231011659776

Man killed in crash between truck and car in north

A 65-year-old man is killed in a collision between a truck and a car in the village of Sallama in the Galilee.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the fatality is the driver of the car.

The truck driver, a man of around 50, is moderately injured and taken to Ziv hospital in Safed.

Israeli woman killed in Korea bus accident, 7 seriously injured — Foreign Ministry

The Foreign Ministry confirms Korean reports of a fatality in the bus accident involving dozens of Israeli tourists, saying that to the best of its knowledge, one woman has been killed.

The ministry says in a statement that Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has spoken to Israel’s envoy to South Korea, Akiva Tor, vowing to help the Israelis and their relatives until their return to Israel.

Cohen sends well-wishes to the injured and conveys his appreciation for Korean emergency and medical teams.

According to Tor, two Israelis are very seriously injured, five are in serious condition and 24 are lightly injured. They have been taken to four hospitals in the area.

Labor party chief Merav Michaeli announces birth of 2nd child via surrogacy

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli announces she and her partner Lior Schleien have given birth to a second son via surrogacy.

Michaeli, 56, and Schleien, 44, are now parents to Uri and Alon.

In her announcement on Twitter, Michaeli writes: “I am forced to miss the [weekly anti-government] protest on Saturday. I hope you understand.”

Sports minister Zohar calls violence by Greek basketball fans an ‘antisemitic attack’

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar says yesterday’s violence by Greek basketball fans against Israeli fans during a match was “an antisemitic attack against Jews,” demanding action against AEK Athens over the incident.

The match in the Greek capital descended into chaos when local fans burned an Israeli flag, launched fireworks and threw rocks at Israeli fans.

In a statement, Zohar says he has spoken with the head of world basketball association FIBA, members of Hapoel Jerusalem, and Greece’s deputy sports minister, Eleftherios Avgenakis.

The statement says Avgenakis conveyed to Zohar a message from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressing sadness over the incident, saying a suspect has been arrested and more arrests are possible.

Biden ‘concerned’ about leaked US documents

US President Joe Biden says he is “concerned” about the leak of highly sensitive US government documents relating to the Ukraine war and US allies, amid a probe into the matter.

“I’m concerned that it happened,” he tells reporters during a visit to Ireland, adding “there’s a full-blown investigation going on” and that it is “getting close” to reaching some conclusions.

Dozens of Israeli tourists said hurt after bus flips over in South Korea

A bus carying Israeli tourists that flipped over in South Korea, April 13, 2023  (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A bus carying Israeli tourists that flipped over in South Korea, April 13, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Dozens are injured after a bus carrying 33 Israeli tourists overturned in Chungju, South Korea, the Foreign Ministry says.

The Foreign Ministry confirms the incident and says diplomatic representatives are on their way to the scene and to hospitals. The ministry does not immediately confirm local reports of a fatality.

A bus with Israeli tourists on board that flipped over on a road in South Korea, April 13, 2023. (Chungbuk Fire Service)

According to Korea JoongAng Daily, 35 people in total have been injured in the incident, including 11 who are in serious condition. Local police have opened a probe and questioned the driver.

The Israelis were reportedly on their way to a hotel in Suanbo while returning from a trip in Gyeongju.

Palestinian Authority accused of blocking legal rights group representing PA detainees

Human Rights Watch criticizes the Palestinian Authority for obstructing civil rights after it denied the registration of a lawyers association.

Lawyers for Justice — which represents Palestinians detained by the PA — says the renewal of its registration has been denied after it was accused of accepting foreign funding in violation of its legal status.

The legal group was also accused by a PA official of “nonprofit activities” when its renewal was blocked in March, HRW says.

Lawyers for Justice says accepting foreign funding is not in violation of PA law.

“So long as the PA blocks groups from carrying out work focused on their abuses, their calls to safeguard Palestinian civil society and protect Palestinian rights will continue to ring hollow,” Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch says.

Without official registration, it could lose access to bank accounts, have its offices closed, and its staff could face arrest, the group’s head Mohannad Karaje tells Human Rights Watch.

The move to muzzle Lawyers for Justice reflects a larger trend of the PA “shrinking the space for civil society organizations and further empowering its security services,” Karaje says.

The PA does not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Late actor Chaim Topol was involved in Mossad missions, relatives say

In this April 8, 2015 photo, actor Chaim Topol speaks during an interview in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
In this April 8, 2015 photo, actor Chaim Topol speaks during an interview in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

A month after famed Israeli actor Chaim Topol’s death, his family members reveal he had been involved in international operations on behalf of the Mossad spy agency.

“I don’t know exactly what is the most fitting definition for the errands and jobs he did,” Topol’s son Omer tells the Haaretz news site. “But what is clear is that Dad was involved in secret missions on behalf of the Mossad.”

The outlet quotes Topol’s wife and two children saying the “Fiddler on the Roof” star went on unexplained trips abroad in the 1960s and 1970s while holding a miniature, state-of-the-art camera and tape recorder.

The relatives say Topol was in regular contact with Mossad official Peter Zvi Malkin, who would come to the family home through the backyard disguised in a costume, according to the actor’s daughter, Adi.

“What always motivated Chaim was a sense of adventure and bravery, which is why there is nobody more fitting than him to be involved in matters that are unspoken,” says his widow, Galia.

Bedouin woman accused of planning to stab cops in Jerusalem with scissors

A woman from the Bedouin city of Rahat has been arraigned in court over an attack she allegedly planned against police officers in Jerusalem earlier this month, police say in a statement.

The 31-year-old woman was arrested on April 2 near Damascus Gate in the Jerusalem Old City, after officers saw her keep her hand in her bag for some time, approached her and found scissors.

She later said, according to police, that she had intended to stab a cop with the scissors.

She has been remanded until Monday, by when prosecutors intend to file an indictment at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Russia may discuss prisoner swap involving WSJ reporter after verdict, says official

The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo. (The Wall Street Journal via AP)
The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo. (The Wall Street Journal via AP)

Russia may be willing to discuss a potential prisoner swap involving jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich with the US after a court delivers its verdict, a top Russian diplomat says.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov tells state news agency Tass that talks about a possible exchange could take place through a dedicated channel that Russian and US security agencies established for such purposes.

“We have a working channel that was used in the past to achieve concrete agreements, and these agreements were fulfilled,” Ryabkov says, adding that there is no need for the involvement of any third country.

However, he emphasizes that Moscow will only negotiate a possible prisoner exchange after a court delivers its verdict in the espionage case against Gershkovich, 31.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denies reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally sanctioned Gershkovich’s arrest.

“It’s not the president’s prerogative. It’s up to the special services, who are doing their job,” Peskov says in a conference call with reporters.

FIBA opens probe after Greek basketball fans burned Israel flags, threw fireworks, rocks

International basketball federation FIBA opens a probe into violence by Greek fans against Israeli fans during yesterday’s game between AEK Athens and Hapoel Jerusalem.

The match in the Greek capital descended into chaos when local fans burned an Israeli flag, launched fireworks and threw rocks at Israeli fans.

In a statement, FIBA’s Basketball Champions League (BCL) says disciplinary proceedings have been opened, adding that “clubs that are unable to provide… a safe environment will be sanctioned accordingly.”

Russia to probe video alleging Ukrainian soldier was beheaded

The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office says it is opening a preliminary probe into footage purporting to show the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war.

“In order to assess the reliability of these materials and make an appropriate decision, they were sent to the investigating authorities to organize a probe,” it says in a statement.

Palestinian would-be-stabber arrested in Jerusalem during Passover — police

A potential Palestinian terror attack was thwarted during Passover, the Israel Police says in a statement.

A resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur was arrested in the capital’s Old City during the last few days, the statement says.

The man, who was masked when he was arrested, said during questioning that he intended to take a knife from his workplace and carry out a stabbing attack in the city.

The man was recently involved in waving terror-supporting flags on the Temple Mount and was violating an order barring him from approaching the area, police add.

He has been remanded until Monday.

IDF says troops came under fire in West Bank town overnight

An IDF marksman is seen during an early morning operation in the West Bank, April 13, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
An IDF marksman is seen during an early morning operation in the West Bank, April 13, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces says troops came under fire from Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank town of Tammun overnight.

According to the IDF, no soldiers have been hurt, and the troops returned fire at the gunmen’s car as they fled the scene.

A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claims responsibility for opening fire at troops in the town.

Troops detain seven wanted Palestinians during overnight raids in other areas of the West Bank, the IDF adds.

Report: Tensions with Jordan still sky-high, Israel likens Amman’s FM to Ben Gvir

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi gives a joint press conference with his German counterpart on April 3, 2023 at the Foreign Office in Berlin. (John Macdougall/AFP)
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi gives a joint press conference with his German counterpart on April 3, 2023 at the Foreign Office in Berlin. (John Macdougall/AFP)

Tensions are still high in Israel’s ties with Jordan, and an Israeli official has accused Amman’s foreign minister of fanning the flames over the past week’s events in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount, according to the Walla news site.

The outlet quotes an unnamed senior Israeli official saying Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi’s conduct and statements exacerbated the crisis, adding that he had “acted like Jordan’s [Itamar] Ben Gvir” — a reference to the extremist Israeli national security minister, whose conduct and policies have been widely viewed as contributing to growing tensions with the US and other countries.

Jordan has repeatedly lambasted Jerusalem in more than 10 statements over an incident last week in which cops entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque to confront armed Palestinian rioters and were filmed beating some of them. At one point, Jordan refused to receive messages through the US or the UAE, saying it would only accept direct messages and only if Israel commits to not entering the mosque again.

Safadi held a series of interviews with international media in which he voiced scathing criticism of Israel. According to Walla, he is now still refusing to speak with Israeli government representatives and tensions are still very high.

“The Israelis told the US in the last few days that the fact that no ‘explosion’ happened [in relations] is the result of the Biden administration’s pressure on Jordan and the Waqf,” which administers the Temple Mount, an unnamed source is quoted as saying. “On the other hand, the Jordanians told the US that this was the result of the Biden administration’s pressure on Israel.”

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