The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Ukraine has received fighter planes and aircraft parts to bolster its air force in the face of Russia’s invasion, the Pentagon says, declining to specify the number and type of aircraft nor their origin.
Ukrainian forces “right now have available to them more fixed-wing fighter aircraft than they did two weeks ago,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby tells reporters.
He notes the United States has “helped with the transshipment of some additional spare parts that have helped with their aircraft needs, but we have not transported whole aircraft.”
At least six people were killed and 24 wounded by two bomb blasts that struck a boys’ school in a Shiite Hazara neighborhood of the Afghan capital, police and hospital staff say.
The number of attacks in Afghanistan has significantly declined since the Taliban ousted the US-backed government in August, but the jihadist Islamic State group has claimed several since then.
Several bodies were strewn outside the gate of the school in the densely populated Shiite Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood in Kabul, alongside patches of blood, burnt books and school bags, according to images posted on social media.
“We were leaving school and had just stepped out from the rear gate when the explosion occurred,” Ali Jan, a student who was wounded in the first blast, tells AFP at a hospital.
The second blast took place as rescuers arrived to ferry victims from the first explosion to hospitals.
Outside a hospital treating the wounded, Taliban fighters beat back the families of students who had gathered, slapping or pushing some of them as they searched for information.
Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran tells AFP the attack outside the Abdul Rahim Shahid school was caused by two improvised explosive devices, killing six people.
A grenade was also thrown at a nearby English language center in the same area, wounding one person, he adds. Two hospitals say they are treating 24 wounded patients.
Reports swirling in Hebrew-language media indicate that police will close the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors starting Thursday or Friday, and will only allow them back following the end of Ramadan and the Eid holiday, nearly two weeks later.
Police regularly close the site to non-Muslims for the last few days of Ramadan, and analysts say the length of the restriction varies from year to year.
The move appears aimed at calming tensions that have erupted amid Palestinian riots on the site against Jews stepping foot in the compound.
But the announcement sets nationalists alight with anger against the government.
“The government of Israel has given in to the enemy,” tweets right-wing commentator Eran Segal.
Israel Hayom pundit Ariel Kahana tweets that the move shows “weakness” by leaders who already “got slapped on the other cheek.”
A group representing nationalists seeking increased Jewish rights on the holy site accuses the government of “folding severely after years of progress.”
“We call on the government to reconsider, rid the Temple Mount of terror and allow Jews to ascend any day all day,” the group says.
Following an urgent meeting this evening, various Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip agree to raise their alert level, sources tell Al Jazeera, amid fears that renewed rocket fire could quickly escalate into all-out war.
The network says the alert level will be raised for the next two days.
There is no immediate statement from Hamas on the matter.
In Israel, the Kan broadcaster reports that defense officials fear rocket fire out of Gaza may continue, and have put air defense units on high alert.
The UN’s envoy for the Middle East Peace Process says he is “deeply concerned” by rising violence and tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In a statement that pointedly avoids blaming fighting on either Israel or Palestinians, Tor Wennesland says the UN is working to defuse the conflict and calls on parties — he doesn’t mention whom — to keep talking.
He also calls for leaders to clamp down on rhetoric liable to stoke anger and more fighting, echoing Israeli statements.
“At this crucial moment, when tensions remain high and some difficult days still lay ahead, all efforts to lower tensions should be encouraged, while provocations, spreading of misinformation and incitement to violence should be categorically rejected,” he says. “Leaders on all sides have a responsibility to reduce tensions, create the conditions for calm and ensure the status quo at the Holy Sites is protected.”
The US State Department is dispatching two senior diplomats to the region in a bid to calm tensions, Walla news reports, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
Yael Lempert, acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, are expected to arrive in the region on Wednesday, Walla reports.
The two will meet with officials in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Amman and Cairo, according to the report.
An official familiar with the matter confirms the trip to The Times of Israel.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who traveled to the region last year to help defuse similar tensions after they had already snowballed into all-out war, decided on sending the lower-level delegation, Walla reports.
Blinken spoke to leaders and top diplomats in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman Tuesday.
Police have arrested an investigator in Israel’s high-profile 433 major crimes unit suspected of passing sensitive information to criminal groups.
The arrest of the suspect, who is not named in press reports, comes after a lengthy investigation, according to authorities.
According to reports, the suspect recently joined the police after graduating from the army’s vaunted 8200 SigInt unit.
Investigators began to look into him after he was allegedly caught accessing and exporting information from a police database, including files on some of the heads of Israel’s criminal organizations.
An arraignment in the case is scheduled for Wednesday.
The military wing of the Hamas terror group is publishing edited footage of its members launching surface-to-air missiles at Israeli jets over the Gaza Strip during airstrikes last night.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the missiles did not damage any aircraft in the attempt. The terror group has previously deployed such missiles to counter Israeli airstrikes, with no known success.
Hamas publishes a video of its military wing launching surface-to-air missiles at Israeli jets over the Gaza Strip during airstrikes last night. The Israeli military said no aircraft were damaged in the attempt. pic.twitter.com/W57pOUfgtx
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) April 19, 2022
President Isaac Herzog has spoken to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan about tensions and fighting centered around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
According to an Israeli statement, Herzog told Erdogan about Israel’s efforts to protect freedom of worship for all religions, including Muslims, and says leaders should condemn violence of all types, including against Jews attacked on their way to pray at the Western Wall.
“President Herzog added that we must not listen to the voices of incitement and mendacious propaganda, and that the public is looking up to the region’s leaders and expects us all to act responsibly and work for calm in these holy days for all religions in the region,” the statement reads.
It says the talks were “conducted in a good and open spirit.”
According to Israel, Erdogan stressed the importance of the site to Muslims, but “was happy to hear the Israeli leadership’s firm statements about maintaining” the status quo.
The two agreed to continue contacts, even in times of frayed ties, the Israeli statement says.
A statement from Erdogan’s office emphasizes his unhappiness over what he terms raids by Israeli extremists and police into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but refrains from some of the more inflammatory language that colored the Israel-Turkey relationship in the past, before the sides began to test out thawing their ties.
The price of oil has plunged by more than 5 percent as investors worry about a drop in demand after the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast.
Around 6:30 p.m. IDT (10:30 a.m. EDT) the price of Brent crude, the main international oil contract, was down 5.4 percent to $107.11 per barrel, while the main US oil contract, WTI, fell 5.5 percent to $102.30. They have since rebounded slightly to $107.24 and $102.70 respectively.
The drops came after the International Monetary Fund downgraded the outlook for the world economy this year and next, blaming Russia’s war in Ukraine for disrupting global commerce, pushing up oil prices, threatening food supplies and increasing uncertainty already heightened by the coronavirus and its variants.
The 190-country lender cut its forecast for global growth to 3.6% this year, a steep falloff from 6.1% last year and from the 4.4% growth it had expected for 2022 back in January. It also said it expects the world economy to grow 3.6% again next year, slightly slower than the 3.8% it forecast in January.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warns Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that steps Israel has taken to boost their economy are threatened by terror groups ramping up incitement and launching rockets at Israel.
“As I have also told leaders from countries in the region, we are maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, and we will not allow terrorists or provocateurs to harm the holy places,” Gantz says during a tour of a Border Police base in the West Bank.
There have been violent clashes between Palestinians and police in recent days at the Al-Aqsa Mosque which sits atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israel has accused terror groups of inciting these clashes over what it says are false claims that Israel has changed its long-standing policy of not allowing Jews to pray in the area.
Gantz says efforts to pull Gaza out of its economic malaise are at risk, the day after a rocket from Gaza was shot into Israel, drawing reprisal strikes.
“If the incitement and [rocket] fire continue, the terror organizations will be severely harmed, as will the residents of Gaza, who are currently benefiting from the moves we have taken to develop the economy,” Gantz says.
“These are moves we are planning to expand if stability is maintained, or we can roll them back, if the heads of Hamas choose to hurt them,” he adds.
Israel recently okayed increasing the number of Palestinians who can enter Israel for work to the highest quota since a blockade was imposed on the coastal enclave more than 15 years ago.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling for a four-day “humanitarian pause” in fighting in Ukraine, starting Thursday to coincide with Orthodox Christians’ Holy Week observances.
Guterres floats the proposal at UN headquarters, saying the ceasefire would allow for evacuating civilians from “areas of current or expected confrontation” and getting humanitarian aid into areas such as Mariupol, Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson.
“The four-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine,” the UN chief says.
Israel’s ambassador to the UAE has been dressed down by Abu Dhabi over violence in Jerusalem, underlining diplomatic tensions in the region even among countries that have largely backed off criticism of Israel since normalizing relations.
UAE Minister Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy conveys the Emirates’ “strong protest and denunciation” of events in Jerusalem to Amir Hayek, official UAE mouthpiece WAM reports.
“Al Hashemy stressed the need to immediately stop these events, provide full protection for worshipers, respect the right of Palestinians to practice their religious rites, and halt any practices that violate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” WAM says.
Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian rioters on the flashpoint Temple Mount several times in recent days, sparking international condemnation and an emergency UN Security Council meeting, set to take place shortly.
Al Hashemy also tells Hayek that Israel should respect Jordan’s custodial role and authority over the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa.
Israel says it is safeguarding the status quo and protects freedom of religion for worshipers at the site.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with US counterpart Antony Blinken by phone and told him that Israel will not tolerate statements that appear to support violence around Jerusalem, pressing Israel’s position as tensions with Palestinians rise amid days of rioting on the Temple Mount and in the West Bank.
Lapid told Blinken that Israel is making efforts to ensure freedom of religion for “the three Jerusalem religions,” the Foreign Ministry says, seemingly referring to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
“The foreign minister emphasized Israel’s balanced and responsible efforts against rioting by hundreds of Muslim extremists on the Temple Mount, and about gaps in information and false reports, distributed by extremists, stoking the fire and violence instead of bringing calm,” the ministry says, without naming whom Lapid is referring to.
Israel has accused Arab leaders of boosting tensions by pushing Muslim claims on the Temple Mount and claiming Israeli attempts to break a delicate status quo there.
There is no readout of the call from the US.
In an effort to sway UN Security Council members ahead of today’s emergency consultation on the recent unrest in Jerusalem, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has sent each of their delegations a communique that includes video clips of Palestinians hurling rocks and other objects at Israeli troops on the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The video comes with a message asserting that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, an Israeli official confirmed to The Times of Israel.
The Palestinian UN Mission has also been in touch with Security Council members, sending updates of its own on the volatile situation at the holy site from the past several days, a UN diplomat familiar with the matter says.
The Palestinian mission is pressing members to issue a joint statement “breaking its silence” on the matter and ostensibly condemning Israeli conduct on the Temple Mount, but is not optimistic about the prospects of getting the entire council on board, the diplomat says.
Before entering the emergency consultation, Norway’s Ambassador to the UN Mona Juul tells reporters that the delegation pushed for the meeting because “it is very important that the council meet, discuss… [and] call for restraint on all sides in order to de-escalate a very worrying situation… at risk of further escalation.”
“We as Norway are sending a very strong signal today by calling for this meeting,” she says.
Members will receive an update from UN Mideast Envoy Tor Wennesland on what has been taking place on the ground over the past few days along with his efforts to deescalate.
Juul admits that a joint statement on the situation, which would require the approval of all Security members, is unlikely, “but even if we don’t get any agreement on a statement, we think that the fact that the council meets, that we hear an update on the situation, and that the council continues to have focus on the situation in the Middle East, especially now when we have another risk of de-escalation” is important.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that continued Israeli incursions into Palestinian towns will lead to “dire and intolerable consequences,” official PA mouthpiece WAFA reports.
Abbas complained to Blinken, who called to discuss rising tensions, about Israelis “storming” the Temple Mount and calls for the return of a system under which Jordan has the power to ban all non-Muslims from the holy site.
According to WAFA, Blinken agreed with Abbas that Israel should stop carrying out raids in Area A of the West Bank, where Palestinians exercise the greatest control.
Israeli forces have carried out dozens of anti-terror raids in the West Bank in recent weeks to stanch a rash of attacks that claimed the lives of 14 people in Israel over the course of two weeks.
There is no confirmation of the call from US officials, but it comes amid an international effort to calm tensions.
The Safa news agency, which is close to the Hamas terror group, says various Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip will hold an emergency meeting shortly.
Citing an unnamed source, the agency says the meeting will be held at the office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
The report says the source refused to disclose the reasons for the meeting, but it comes after Israel launched airstrikes in the coastal enclave following a rocket attack on southern Israel last night.
Some 250,000 Israelis have visited national parks and other sites managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority Tuesday, the agency says, as the nation heads to the great outdoors for Passover break.
Among the top sites for visitors is Caesarea National Park, south of Haifa; Yarkon National Park, northeast of Tel Aviv; Ein Gedi and Masada, near the Dead Sea; the Banias Reserve, in the north; and Habesor National Park, in the northern Negev.
However, reports indicate that some tourists are staying away from southern Israel due to fears of spiking violence after Gaza terrorists shot rockets into Israel Monday night, as well as Jerusalem, where tensions and fighting have been on the rise.
“We’re in a situation where the fear has returned to the street,” Likud MK Shlomo Karhai, who lives in an Israeli community near the Gaza border, tells Channel 12 from a zoo near Haifa, as giraffes munch contentedly in the background.
The transfer of church property in Jerusalem’s Old City to Moscow’s hands is at the top of the Israel-Russia diplomatic agenda, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin says.
“The topic of Alexander’s Courtyard has long been at the top of the agenda of Russian-Israeli relations,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters, a day after Hebrew media reported that Putin had sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett demanding that the property be given over.
He added that Russia expected Israel to do what is necessary to hand the property over.
Moscow has for years been seeking to secure the Alexander’s Courtyard church compound, but a recent court decision set back its plans by nullifying recognition of its claims to the complex, located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Officials in Jerusalem fear the issue could harm Russo-Israel ties, Ynet reported.
Bennett has been criticized for showing deference to Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine, refusing to send weapons and refraining from blaming Moscow for alleged atrocities. The moves are thought to be aimed at keeping Russia from targeting Israeli planes on bombing runs over Syria.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed violence between Israeli and Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and elsewhere with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi, the State Department says.
“The Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to end the cycle of violence by refraining from actions and rhetoric that further escalate tensions,” the State Department says.
It says the talks took place Monday, but only announces them Tuesday.
Blinken also stressed that the US backs Jordan’s role in overseeing the administration of the Temple Mount.
“Secretary Blinken emphasized the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and appreciation for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s special role as custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” the readout says.
There is no immediate Jordanian announcement on the talks. On Monday, Safadi slammed Israel over police actions on the Temple Mount, and called for the return of a pre-2000 status quo in which only non-Muslims needed approval from the Jordanian Waqf to visit the holy site, in comments that omitted any Jewish connection to Jerusalem or its holy sites.
Associated Press journalists in Kharkiv say at least 4 people were killed and 3 wounded in a Russian attack on a residential area.
The attack on Tuesday happened as residents attempted to maintain a sense of normalcy in the eastern city, with municipal workers planting spring flowers in public areas.
Kharkiv is near the front lines and has faced repeated shelling from the Russian forces. Earlier on Tuesday, a regional governor in Kharkiv said 5 civilians had been killed and 17 wounded in the past 24 hours.
Elsewhere, an explosion rocks the eastern city of Kramatorsk, killing at least 1 person and injuring 3, according to AP journalists at the scene.
The return of Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe into Earth’s grip is set to take place Tuesday night, after his planned return earlier in the day along with three others aboard the International Space Station was delayed by NASA.
NASA informed SpaceX and Axiom that the delay was due to bad weather at the planned splashdown spot for the Dragon Endeavour, which is slated to bring the three tourists and one crew member back home.
The return ship is now slated to leave the ISS at 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday (5 a.m. in Israel) and hit the water at 3:24 p.m. EDT (10:24 p.m. IDT).
Stibbe spends his extra day in the heavenly firmament by reading the children’s book “Beautiful World” while floating around.
Moscow says Russian forces have opened a humanitarian corridor so that Ukrainian troops who agreed to lay down their arms could leave the embattled city of Mariupol.
“The Russian armed forces opened a humanitarian corridor for the withdrawal of Ukrainian military personnel who voluntarily laid down their arms and militants of nationalist formations,” the defense ministry said, adding the safe corridor was opened at 2:00 p.m. local time.
Israel’s counter-terror bureau may warn Israelis against traveling to Qatar for the World Cup in November, Hebrew language media report.
Israel already recommends against all non-essential travel to Qatar, a Gulf state where Iran continues to wield considerable influence, but has not raised its warning level from 3 to 4, the highest grade.
Almost 15,000 Israelis have already purchased tickets for the 2022 World Cup, set for November due to Qatar’s blazing summers, Israel Hayom reports. Agencies predict some 25,000 to 30,000 Israelis may travel there for the soccer tourney, but Israeli officials fear they could become easy targets for Iran or its proxies.
Nitzan Uriel, a former head of the counter-terror bureau, which issues travel warnings, tells Channel 12 news that it’s too early to issue warnings for the Mondial.
“I don’t think they can give a warning that will be relevant for the Mondial in November,” he says, suggesting that they issue a warning closer to the event and agree to reimburse those who already bought tickets.
He adds that with the exception of the 1972 Olympics, large international sports tournaments are not normally prime terror targets. “There are too many interests who want it to pass calmly and peacefully,” Uriel says.
The Russian defense ministry says Ukrainian forces, mostly made up of the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard, holed up inside Mariupol’s main metallurgical plant are facing a “catastrophic situation,” calling on them to surrender and survive.
“The Russian armed forces once again offer the nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries a chance to stop all military activity and to lay down their arms, starting at noon,” the Russian ministry says.
“Everyone who lays down their arms will be guaranteed survival.”
Azov Regiment commander Denys Prokopenko says in a video message that Russia has begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on the Azovstal steel plant where the group is holding out.
Donetsk rebel commander Eduard Basurin says separatist “shock troops” have already launched an assault on the plant with Russian support.
“The Russian Federation is really helping us with this, providing aerial and artillery support,” Russian news agencies quote Basurin as saying.
Basurin also rejects the idea that civilians may still be trapped in the industrial zone.
“There are no civilians there now,” he is quoted as saying.
Police have arrested two managers and two caretakers at a Rehovot daycare center, after media exposes showed kids there being smacked around, shoved, pushed and otherwise manhandled roughly.
The arrests came days after security videos from the daycare aired by Channel 12 News and the Kan broadcaster showed the alleged abuse taking place at the hands of two caretakers.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) April 17, 2022
At an arraignment, the judge orders the two caretakers released conditionally, but denies bail for the other two, Channel 12 news reports.
The Russian foreign minister says that Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine is entering a new stage.
Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Indian television broadcast Tuesday that “the operation is continuing, and another phase of this operation is starting now.”
Lavrov’s statement follows Ukrainian statements that Russia on Monday launched an offensive in the country’s eastern industrial heartland, Donbas. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years in the mostly Russian-speaking region and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Moscow.
Lavrov emphasized that the Russian operation is aimed at the “full liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.”
Right-wing Israelis are holding a march to the illegal West Bank outpost of Homesh under heavy security from the Israel Defense Forces.
Among the marchers are senior nationalist politicians, including Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich and Yamina MK Idit Silman, who was coalition whip until aligning with the opposition earlier this month.
The march is being held despite the fact that the army had warned organizers that it would not be able to secure the event, which is set to start at the Shavei Shomron settlement at 11 a.m. and run along 14 kilometers (some 8.5 miles) past several Palestinian villages.
Organizer Bareleh Kromby earlier told Radio 103 FM that they had reached a deal with the army to shorten the route by 3 kilometers (1.9 miles).
Organizers had planned for thousands at the event and claim 20,000 are there.
Video from the march shows hundreds making their way along the route to Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005, but which settlers regularly return to.
A deadly terror shooting near there last year led the government to commit to issuing permits for a makeshift yeshiva that has been operating at the site, though settlers say that has yet to happen.
Palestinians are clashing with Israeli troops guarding a large right-wing march to the West Bank outpost of Homesh.
In Burqa, near Nablus, videos show protesters hurling stones and setting garbage alight as troops shoot tear gas in their direction.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says 32 Palestinians in Burqa have been treated during the clashes, 25 of them for tear gas inhalation.
مراسلنا: شبان يواجهون قوات الاحتلال في برقة بعد إغلاقها مدخل البلدة لتأمين اقتحام المستوطنين للمنطقة. pic.twitter.com/eftMAY7Dva
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) April 19, 2022
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