The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s news in real time.

Court indicts far-right Facebook troll who dreamed of decapitating Arab babies

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court files an indictment this week against an Israeli resident of Petah Tikva on charges including incitement to violence, incitement to racism and support for a terror organization.

Between 2012 and 2017, Zohar Zuaretz, 33, published numerous posts calling for acts of violence against Arabs as well as Israeli security forces, the indictment says.

In one post, Zuaretz writes about a “rosy” dream where he decapitates Arab babies.

“Oh my God, what a dream I had! A maternity ward and there were all the cradles with babies inside.  I draw out my butcher knife and go to every baby and if it’s Arab, I decapitate it.  By a Jewish baby I place a tikkun [a religious book]. The rosiest dream I’ve ever had!

Zuaretz is charged with carrying out a “price tag” attack against an Israel Police car by spray-painting the vehicle and slashing its tires, and with spray-painting “death to Arabs” and other slogans on two buses belonging to the Afikim company, which serves both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

The far-right radical had over 1,000 followers reading his posts on Facebook, the indictment adds, pointing out that the defendant made no effort to alter his behavior after being interrogated by security forces a number of times over the five-year period.

The court concludes that Zuaretz poses a “clear risk of continuing criminal offenses on the internet, which would endanger the security of the Arab public and security forces.”

A Palestinian boy stands in front of a mosque near Ramallah in June. The spray-painting behind him says "price tag," referring to acts of vandalism by pro-settler extremists against Palestinians in the West Bank. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian boy stands in front of a mosque near Ramallah in June. The spray-painting behind him says “price tag,” referring to acts of vandalism by pro-settler extremists against Palestinians in the West Bank. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Syrian official: Government will cooperate with fact-finding mission on Douma

A Syrian government official says his country is “fully ready” to cooperate with the fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that’s in Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack that triggered US-led airstrikes.

Faisal Mekdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, says officials from his government have met with the delegation — which has been in Damascus for three days — a number of times to discuss cooperation.

The OPCW arrived in Syria a day before the joint punitive airstrikes from the United States, Britain and France a week after the alleged chemical attack in Douma, where activists say more than 40 people were killed.

The OPCW mission has yet to visit Douma, where government and Russian police deployed soon after the rebels in the town surrendered following the chemical attack.

— AP

Russia says it’s committed to letting UN-backed chemical watchdog into Douma

Russia insists it is committed to let the UN-backed chemical weapons watchdog do its work in Syria to investigate the suspected chemical attack earlier this month in Douma, a town just east of Damascus.

Russia’s Embassy in the Netherlands, where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is based, says in a statement that it “confirms its commitment to ensure” the security of the OPCW’s mission, which is working in Syria.

It add that Russia guarantees it won’t “interfere in its work.”

Western nations have criticized Russia for defending President Bashar Assad and denying a chemical attack by his forces took place.

The headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, Netherlands (photo credit: AP/Peter Dejong)

— AP

Police arrest 3 Palestinian minors who admit they tossed Molotov cocktails at IDF

The Israel Police says it has arrested three Palestinian minors who confessed to hurling Molotov cocktails at IDF soldiers in the central West Bank several days ago.

One of the teens has been indicted at the Ofer Military Court, a police statement says.

The police add that during their interrogation of one of the suspects, the minor confessed to buying the materials at a gas station in the Binyamin Regional Council and implicated two other conspirators.

Illustrative. A Palestinian protester throws a firebomb during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of al-Ram, near Ramallah, on September 27, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Liberman: Israel won’t allow Russia to restrict its activity in region

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says that Israel will not allow Russia to impose restrictions on its activities in the region.

In an interview with Walla news site, the defense minister still refuses to confirm that Israel was responsible for a strike on Iranian forces at a Syrian airbase last week, despite an unnamed senior military source telling The New York Times that the Jewish state was behind it.

“We have to do what’s imposed on us,” Liberman says. “We will not allow Iranian consolidation in Syria.”

At the same time, the defense minister asserts that Israel has succeeded in avoiding “friction” with Moscow and that the two countries are in constant contact.

He says that Iran also acts against Israel through proxies: Hamas and Hezbollah — terror groups that would not be able to function without funding from Tehran.

As with Syria, Liberman warns that Israel will not allow Gaza to become an “Iraninan front” either.

He says that in order for the poverty-stricken coastal enclave to be rehabilitated, its rulers would first need to demilitarize and then reach a prisoner agreement with Israel.

Ethiopian Jew participating in Bible Quiz gets Israeli residency

In a change of fortune, a Jewish teenager from Ethiopia participating in the International Bible Quiz in Israel is granted residency enabling him to stay in the country, a week after he was reportedly asked to deposit thousands of shekels as a guarantee that he will leave Israel when the contest is over.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has given residency status to Sintayehu Shafrao, 18, from Gondar in Ethiopia.

As a resident, rather than full citizen, Shafrao will not have an Israeli passport or the right to vote in elections, the Hadashot news channel reports.

Shafrao, who reportedly has siblings living in Israel, reached the final stages of the annual bible competition and will be representing Ethiopians who claim Jewish descent, known as Falashmura, in the event held as part of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations.

Sintayehu Shafrao from Ethiopia, who is competing in the annual International Bible Quiz in Israel, receives a National ID form Israel Minister of Interior Affairs Aryeh Deri during a ceremony at the Interior ministry office in Jerusalem on April 16, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Court grants wounded Palestinian protester permission to leave Gaza to save second leg

A board of three Supreme Court justices unanimously rule that 20-year-old Palestinian be allowed to leave Gaza for urgent medical care in Ramallah to save his remaining leg after the first one required amputation due to injuries sustained from IDF gunfire during a protest along the coastal enclave.

The court accepts the petition filed by the Adalah and Al Mezan rights group, ruling against the view of the state, which asserted that Yousef Kronz not be accommodated due to his participation in the Gaza protests

Palestinian Yousef Kronz pictured after being wounded by Israeli fire at protests at the Gaza border (Physicians for Human Rights Israel via Adalah)

Palestinian indicted for car-ramming attack that killed 2 IDF soldiers

The Israeli military indicts a Palestinian man who rammed his car into a group of IDF soldiers last month, killing two of them.

On March 16, Ala Qabha drove into four soldiers standing outside a military post near the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank, killing Cpt. Ziv Daos and Sgt. Netanel Kahalani and seriously injuring two others.

Car-ramming suspect Ala Qabha (Courtesy)

Qabha was immediately captured. During questioning he initial claimed the car-ramming was an accident, but later admitted to interrogators that he had deliberately hit the soldiers, the Shin Bet security service said at the time.

Footage from the scene showed him going past the soldiers, making a U-turn and then accelerating into them.

Qabha is charged with two counts of “intentionally causing death” — the equivalent of murder under military law — and two counts of attempted “intentionally causing death.”

Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, left, and Cpt. Ziv Daos, right, are identified as the soldiers killed in a car-ramming terror attack on March 16, 2018. (Courtesy)

Judah Ari Gross

Man who called right-wing lawyer a Nazi slapped with NIS 200K fine

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rules that a man who called controversial right-wing lawyer-activist Itamar Ben Gvir a Nazi must cough up NIS 200,000 ($57,014) in compensation.

In August 2017, Ben Gvir arrived at a Paz gas station in Tel Aviv. When he went inside the shop to buy a Coca-Cola, one of the employees — Jackie Dalek — began badgering him, calling him a Nazi and gave him the Nazi salute. Dalek also told other costumers to greet the “Fuhrer.”

The gas station defended its employee and for months ignored the complaint filed by the attorney, Ben Gvir says in a statement.

“Every employee in a gas station or convenience store will now know that he is to serve customers regardless of political views.”

“Just a few days after Holocaust Remembrance Day, there is an important message here that anyone who calls a Jew a Nazi or performs the Nazi salute will feel it in his pocket,” he concludes.

Ben-Gvir is known to represent far-right Israelis including those in the Otzma Yehudit group of which he is a member.

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a court hearing in what came to be known as the “Hate Wedding” at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on February 27, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police arrest 2 Palestinians for burning Israeli flags

Israeli police arrest two Palestinian youths from East Jerusalem suspected of burning Israeli flags in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill.

Police say they were called to the area after reports that a number of people were burning flags there, and found the suspects with the charred flags and a lighter “suspected of having been used to commit the crime.”

The suspects are residents of East Jerusalem, police say in a statement.

A burnt Israeli flag found on one of two East Jerusalem Palestinians arrested by police in the capital’s French Hill neighborhood, April 16, 2018. (Israel Police)

“The Israel Police will respond uncompromisingly towards any attempts to damage state symbols,” the statement adds.

The force says it will “place specific emphasis on crimes publicly directed against the 70th Independence Day celebrations and those that could disturb the public peace.”

On Thursday, Israel will mark 70 years of the creation of the state in 1948.

Raoul Wootliff

Israel’s population tops 8.8 million on eve of 70th Independence Day

Israel’s population stands at 8.84 million on the eve of the Jewish state’s 70th Independence Day, the Central Bureau for Statistics announces.

Jews make up approximately three quarters of the total population with 6.589 million residents, while the Arab minority has reached roughly 1.849 million, or 20.9 percent. The remainder of the population registry includes 404,000 people.

Israel’s population has increased by 1.9% — 163,000 people — in the past year, the CBS says. One hundred and seventy-seven thousand babies were born; roughly 41,000 people died.

Illustrative: Israelis wave Israeli flags as they parade around Jerusalem’s Old City on May 24, 2017 to commemorate Jerusalem Day, marking the reunification of the city following the Six-Day War of 1967. (AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA)

Scathing Comey interview provokes Trump

US President Donald Trump is renewing his attacks on James Comey after the former FBI director’s scathing interview on ABC.

Trump tweets that Comey drafted an exoneration of Hillary Clinton long before he talked to her as part of an investigation into her email practices. He labels Comey “disgruntled” and accuses him and others of having “committed many crimes.”

Comey said in the interview broadcast Sunday night that Trump is “morally unfit” for office.

Referring to what Trump called a premature Clinton exoneration, Comey said that after nine or 10 months he had a “clear picture” of the investigation into Clinton’s email practices and it’s common to draft statements before a probe is complete.

Trump again accuses Comey of lying to Congress. There is no indication he is under investigation for doing so.

(FILES) These two file photos show FBI Director James Comey (L) in Washington, DC, on March 20, 2017; and US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, on June 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM AND Nicholas Kamm

— AP

Iran environmentalist, symbol of expat return, quits

A top Iranian environment official, who symbolized government efforts to encourage expat Iranians to return home, has quit just seven months into his job, sources tell AFP.

The resignation of Kaveh Madani, who was a young professor at London’s Imperial College before returning to Iran in September 2017, follows reports of mounting conservative pressure against him.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani, which has called on Iranians abroad to come home and help develop the country, appointed the water conservation expert as deputy head of the country’s environment department.

Iranian environmentalist Kaveh Madani gives a Ted Talk in June 2015. (Screen capture/YouTube)

But in recent weeks, conservative outlets published photos purporting to show him drinking and dancing on vacation. Hardliners called him “debauched” and demanded he be sacked.

In February, Madani was briefly detained by one of Iran’s security agencies amid a crackdown on environmentalists that saw several activists arrested on espionage charges.


Jewish sport clubs commemorate Vienna, Warsaw soccer teams shuttered by Nazis

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Two Jewish sport clubs in Argentina honored their counterparts in Vienna and Warsaw that were shuttered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The Buenos Aires-based Hacoaj and Macabi sports clubs, as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day activities, wore authentic uniforms of the Hakoah Vienna and Makabi Warszaw teams during a match on Sunday.

Both institutions made their tributes to the European Zionist sports clubs that suffered during the Holocaust during Sunday’s events, recreating the atmosphere of the WWII era, and imagining an encounter between the two clubs. “The match that didn’t happen: A tribute to the Jewish sport before the Shoah” was the title of the soccer event.

In 1909 followers of Zionist Max Nordau founded Austria’s first Jewish sport club, Hakoah Vienna. On a tour in 1921, Hakoah became the first continental club to defeat an English team on their home pitch, when they thrashed current Premier League team West Ham, 5-1. The team also won the Austria championship in 1925 and then visited the US in 1926.

(Marcelo Freiberg/ courtesy of “El partido que no fue” via JTA)

The iconic European Jewish club was formally shut down by the Nazis in 1938. With more than 5,000 members, the club was especially successful in swimming and soccer. It was reopened in 2008.

Makabi Warszaw was founded in 1915 and had 3,000 members that practiced sports such as basketball, soccer, wrestling, fencing, tennis and rowing.

The Jewish Argentinean sport organization, Macabi, produced a replica of the same uniform worn during soccer matches during the Holocaust.

The replica T-shirts are included in the current exhibition at one of Argentina’s main soccer clubs.

Chemical weapons watchdog: Syria, Russia delay visit to Douma

The head of the international chemical weapons watchdog says that Syrian and Russian officials are citing “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching the site of an alleged gas attack.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, says that “the team has not yet deployed to Douma,” two days after arriving in Syria.

He tells an executive council of the OPCW that Syrian and the Russian officials who took part in meetings in Damascus told the team “that there were still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place.”

He explains Syrian authorities were offering 22 people to interview as witnesses instead.

Uzumcu says he hoped “all necessary arrangements will be made … to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible.”

Syrian opposition activists and first responders say a chemical attack by government forces in Douma on April 7 killed more than 40 people. The government has denied ever using chemical weapons and had welcomed the fact-finding mission.

— AP

UN says it has given permits for Syria probe

The United Nations says it has provided the “necessary clearances” for a fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate a suspected chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says that “the United Nations has provided the necessary clearances for the OPCW team to go about its work in Douma. We have not denied the team any request for it to go to Douma.”

He was responding to a report that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the OPCW team cannot access the site in Douma without an appropriate UN permit.

Asked about the report earlier, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky says: “We need to check it because it’s very strange for us to ask clearance from UN security.”

“There are no obstacles to them whatsoever,” he stresses. “We are facilitating their access as much as possible.”

— AP

COGAT sanctions Gaza transport companies that ferried protesters

Israel’s liaison to the Palestinians announces that sanctions will be imposed against 14 Gazan transportation companies that bused protesters to demonstrations on the coastal enclave’s border.

The Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, says Israel learned of 14 Gazan companies that “aided in transporting Hamas terrorists and violent rioters to the border. As such, sanctions will be imposed on the owners of these companies.”

“As previously reported, COGAT sent notices to the owners of transportation companies in the Gaza Strip, warning them not to aid in the transport of Hamas terrorists and violent rioters to the Gaza Strip border with Israel,” Mordechai writes in a statement.

The COGAT head asserts that “the violent riots that have been taking place are fueled by Hamas and are an attempt to mask terror activities.”

In a separate Arabic Facebook post, Mordechai lists the 14 companies by name.

Liberman says Lebanese army now part of Iranian-led threat on northern border

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warns of a coalescing, Iran-led threat on Israel’s northern border, which includes the Lebanese Armed Forces, during an event with the IDF General Staff.

“A new reality is coming together against us: the Lebanese army, in cooperation with Hezbollah, the Syrian army, the Shiite militias in Syria and, above it all, Iran — all of them coming together into one front against the State of Israel. The northern front,” Liberman says.

The defense minister makes his remarks at an event with the IDF’s top brass to mark Israel’s upcoming Independence Day.

“This is a strategic challenge of the first degree that requires all of us — the IDF and the entire defense establishment — to go up a notch and further strengthen our readiness and preparedness,” he says.

Liberman says he is sure that the IDF is up to the task, referring to the military as the “best and most moral army in the world.”

Lebanese army soldiers from the special forces unit patrol Qaa, a predominantly Lebanese Christian village near the Syrian border where suicide bombers had blown themselves up among civilians the day before, June 28, 2016. (AP Photo)

— Judah Ari Gross

Gazans fly kite into Israel carrying burning can, which again starts field fire

An Israeli wheat field near the Gaza border caught fire after a burning can full of fuel was flown into it on a kite from the coastal enclave, in the third such incident in as many days, the local fire department says.

The fire was quickly extinguished.

This method of airborne arson was attempted on Friday, but failed. However, on Saturday and Sunday, Gazans succeeded in flying kites, to which they’d affixed Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices, into Israeli territory.

— Judah Ari Gross 

Prosecution moving toward indicting PM on grafts probe — report

The prosecutor in charge of overseeing the graft probes into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving “in the direction” of an indictment over gifts he received from wealthy businessmen, Channel 10 reports.

However, the indictment in the so-called Case 1000 will be on the lesser charges of breach of trust rather than bribery as recommended by police earlier this year, the TV channel says.

Attorney Liat Ben Ari, head of the Tel Aviv prosecution is moving “in the direction” of making such a recommendation to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, according to Channel 10.

A breach of trust indictment would mean that Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan would likely not face charges along with Netanyahu.

The prime minister is suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, in return for certain benefits.

Regarding two other probes against Netanyahu — Cases 2000 and 4000 — the prosecution has not yet reached such an assumption regarding an indictment, the report adds.

However, Channel 10 says that the two cases “strengthen one another,” and that if Netanyahu were to be charged with one, he would also be indicted on the other as well.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister take steps weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on April 15, 2018. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

Birthright founder gives middle finger to protesters outside gala dinner

Michael Steinhardt, the co-founder and major funder of Birthright Israel, flashed his middle finger at protesters outside a gala dinner in honor of the 18th anniversary of the free trip to Israel for young Jewish men and women.

More than 150 students from colleges in the New York and New England areas protested in front of the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York, where the annual gala was held on Sunday evening. The students represented groups including Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, and the Democratic Socialists of America, all of which support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The protest was led by Return the Birthright, a campaign supported by Jewish Voice for Peace and Independent Jewish Voices. It calls on young Jews to boycott Birthright and to support the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. During the event, the anti-occupation group IfNotNow, which does not take a stance on the BDS movement, projected on the ballroom building an image with the words “Birthright Lied To Us,” and “Jewish Youth Demand the Truth.”

A quote attributed to the evening’s honoree, billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson — “Israel Isn’t Going to Be a Democratic State – So What” — also was projected on the wall.

The student protesters wrapped themselves in personalized Jewish prayer shawls and demonstrated by returning symbolic Birthright plane tickets. They also read out the names of Palestinian villages destroyed 70 years ago, and the names of the 32 protesters in Gaza killed in the past three weeks during the March of Return protests.

Students protesting outside of the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City, April 15, 2018. (Courtesy of Jewish Voice for Peace via JTA)


Russia begins blocking access to Telegram

Russia’s communications watchdog begins blocking access to the popular messaging app Telegram, after a court banned the service for refusing to give the security services access to private conversations.

“Roskomnadzor has received the ruling of (Moscow’s) Tagansky court to block Telegram’s services on Russian territory. This information was sent to providers on Monday,” the watchdog says in a statement.

Some Russian internet providers began blocking Telegram on Monday afternoon.

“Russian authorities have begun blocking Telegram. The service could be unstable without a VPN. We will inform you on the developing situation,” the messaging app notifies its Russian users.

Around 10 activists have been arrested after demonstrating outside the FSB security service headquarters against the move, Maria Alekhina, a member of the Russian protest punk group Pussy Riot, tells Ekho Moskvy radio.

Pussy Riot members were among those arrested, she says.

Telegram, a free application that lets people exchange messages, stickers, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000 people, has attracted more than 200 million users since its launch by Durov and his brother Nikolai in 2013.

A person holding a smartphone with the Telegram messenger application on display, April 6, 2018. A Moscow court on April 13, 2018 ruled to block the popular messaging app Telegram in Russia, after it refused to give state security services access to private conversations, an AFP reporter at the court said. (AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV)



Dutch Jews protest Turkish developer’s plan to turn synagogue into eatery

AMSTERDAM — The Jewish community of Deventer in the east of the Netherlands is protesting a Dutch-Turkish entrepreneur’s plan to transform their former synagogue into a restaurant.

The synagogue on Gol Street, a tall building in the neo-Moorish style, was built in 1811. Developer Ayhan Sahin bought the building in January, the daily newspaper De Stentor reported Saturday.

Tom Fürstenberg, chairman of Deventer’s Beth Shoshanna Jewish community, made up of several dozen members, told the regional newspaper that it would be “scandalous” if the municipality approves Sahin’s plans.

Sahin recently submitted a plan to municipal authorities to transform the synagogue into an eatery – a plan that would be the end of Jewish institutional life in Deventer, Fürstenberg said. He also said the plan ran contrary to agreements made with Sahin. The Jewish community had hoped to continue to be able to use the establishment for religious purposes under new ownership.


The synagogue in Deventer in the Netherlands was recently bought by Turkish developer Ayhan Sahin. (Martie Ressing/Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

Prosecution decides to avoid using confessions tortured out of Duma arsonists

The Central District Attorney’s Office has decided to avoid using confessions obtained out of the suspects from 2015 Duma terror attack using “special means,” the Kan Public Broadcaster reports.

The prosecution is believed to have other evidence off which to base its indictments against the two suspects, and recognized that testimony obtained through torture may not be admissible, the report says.

Two homes in Duma, south of Nablus, in the West Bank, were set alight in the July 31, 2015, attack, and the Hebrew words “revenge” and “long live the king messiah” were spray-painted on their walls, alongside a Star of David.

In the attack, 18 months old Ali Dawabsha was burned to death and father Saad Dawabsha, his wife Riham and their son Ahmed, who was 4 at the time, were critically injured. Saad died in August and Riham in September of that year, after treatment in Israeli hospitals. Ahmed, the only surviving member of the family, received months of treatment for severe burns.

Kan reports that the Central District Court will soon be ruling on the admissibility of any confession obtained by the Shin Bet security service using “special circumstances.”

Palestinians look at the damage after a house was set on fire and a baby killed, allegedly by Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma, on July 31, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
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