The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
The family of Mohammed Elasibi — who was shot dead by police in Jerusalem late Friday — rejects police claims that DNA evidence proves the medical student was attempting a terror attack.
“We reject the police’s story, which is false and slanderous,” says one of his sisters, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation.
As hundreds gathered at his funeral in the southern Bedouin town of Hura, Elasibi’s sister describes her brother as a “polite and well-mannered person who loved helping others and [had] a peaceful personality.”
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides celebrates the extension of hours at the Allenby crossing to Jordan — a key promise US President Joe Biden made to Palestinians during his visit last year.
“Big news! As of today, the Allenby Bridge is now officially open 24/5,” tweets Nides, noting that “we kept @POTUS’s promise.”
Nides calls the move “a win for Palestinians and Israelis alike!”
The crossing will open on Sundays at 8 a.m. and remain open until Fridays at 3:30 p.m. On Saturdays, it will operate from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
In November, a pilot program tested the crossing’s ability to run at all hours of the day, after years of operating under more limited hours, which led to long lines for the almost exclusively Palestinian pedestrians.
Queues to cross into Jordan can last hours or up to an entire day, creating a headache for Palestinians, who are barred from traveling through Ben Gurion Airport. As a result, they fly in and out of Jordan’s Amman airport, but first must pay a series of fees to cross the border.
The roll-out of Allenby’s expanded hours was delayed several times, drawing the ire of the Biden administration, which announced over the summer that the crossing would begin permanently running 24/7 in September.
A 63-year-old man is shot dead in Umm al-Fahm, police and first responders say.
Police say they have opened an investigation into the incident. First responders say the man was brought to the Emek Medical Center in Afula where he was declared dead.
Activists say that today’s shooting marks the 42nd murder in the Arab community since just the start of the year.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir says that activists should not attempt to bring an animal sacrifice on the Temple Mount in the days leading up to Passover.
In an interview on Channel 12 news, Ben Gvir says he does not support such efforts, but he calls on all Jews “to go up to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is not just for Arabs… It’s the most important place in the State of Israel.”
Fliers have circulated in recent days calling on activists to attempt to bring a goat onto the Temple Mount for the traditional pre-Passover sacrifice, and promising a financial reward for those who are arrested by police while trying to do so.
Shortly after taking office, Ben Gvir paid a highly criticized visit to the Temple Mount in early January, and has yet to return, despite vowing to continue such visits.
A leading Russian military blogger was killed by a suspected bomb blast at a cafe today in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, Russian news agencies report, citing officials.
“One person was killed in the incident. He was military correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky. Sixteen people were injured,” Interfax news agency quotes the interior ministry as saying.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warns Iran and Hezbollah that Israel will not tolerate any efforts to harm it or Israeli citizens.
“We have tensions on all fronts,” he says in a pre-Passover toast with soldiers in the Etzion Brigade in the West Bank. “The Iranians are extending their outreach to Judea and Samaria and Gaza, and are attempting to entrench themselves in Syria and Lebanon. We will not allow the Iranians and Hezbollah to harm us. We have not allowed it in the past, we won’t allow it now, or anytime in the future. When necessary – we will push them out of Syria to where they belong – and that is Iran.”
Gallant did not mention the fact that he was fired last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — although he has yet to be sent an official letter notifying him of his dismissal, leaving him in limbo, while some in the government lobby for his return.
After the Caucasian country opened its embassy in Israel last week, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will head to Azerbaijan after the Passover holiday.
He is slated to take off on April 18, and will spend the next day on a state visit in Baku, where he is expected to meet President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.
The Foreign Ministry is also looking into the possibility for Cohen to fly to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, on the 20th, to open an Israeli embassy there.
The visit is likely meant to send a message to Tehran. Ashgabat is only 15 miles from Iran, and Azerbaijan is an enticing partner for Israel, as it too sits on Iran’s northern border. Foreign reports have indicated that Baku likely allows Israel to use bases on its soil to launch reconnaissance flights over Iran and to send operatives into the country to disrupt its nuclear program. In addition, Azerbaijan provides 30 percent of Israel’s oil.
Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan spiked in the aftermath of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, during which Israel provided key weapons systems to Baku.
A statement from the Israel Police says that DNA on the gun of a Jerusalem police officer patrolling in the Old City matches that of the Israeli Arab who was shot dead in disputed circumstances.
Police have described the incident as a “terror attack” — saying that 26-year-old Mohammed Elasibi grabbed the gun of a police officer and fired it twice — while eyewitnesses and the man’s relatives deny that account.
Police say that the DNA of Elasibi — a resident of the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel — was found on the grip and the slide of the weapon of the police officer in question.
“This was unequivocally a weapon grab and terrorist shooting attack — just as we reported on the night of the attack,” police add in a statement, decrying those who continue to “public falsehoods” about the incident.
The incident has raised eyebrows in particular due to the claim by police that there is no video footage of the incident, which is odd, considering the highly patrolled and observed nature of the Old City. Witnesses and family members have denied the police version of events, saying that Elasibi was not a terrorist and that he was “killed in cold blood.”
Actress and author Noa Tishby announces that she has been fired from her position as Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism after she spoke out against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul plans.
“It is not possible for me to know if their decision was driven by my publicly stated concerns about this government’s ‘judicial reform policy,'” Tishby writes. “But given the reality that antisemitism continues its dangerous rise globally, and the threat to Israel’s existence through delegitimization policies has not slowed, it is difficult to come to any other reasonable conclusion.”
Tishby was appointed to the unpaid, newly created position by then-foreign minister Yair Lapid.
“I am disappointed by their decision but remain steadfast in my commitment to fighting antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel on the global stage,” she adds.
She attaches a copy of a letter from the Foreign Ministry dated today, which says that her official term lasted through 2022, and while at the start of the year they had discussed extending the relationship, “under current circumstances, the ministry does not intend to renew the relationship.”
The letter instructs her to stop using the title “special envoy for combating antisemitism” moving forward.
Satellite images published by an Israeli intelligence and imagery firm show damage purportedly caused to the Syrian military airport at al-Dabaa near Homs in an alleged Israeli airstrike overnight.
According to ImageSat International (ISI), the airstrike late last night likely targeted Iranian-backed Hezbollah drone activity, destroying an aircraft shed, a UAV communication station and a communication vehicle.
Western intelligence sources told Reuters the strikes hit a series of air bases in central Syria where Iranian personnel are based.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls for the “immediate release” of a US journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges in a call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, a spokesperson says.
Blinken “conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a US citizen journalist. The Secretary called for his immediate release,” spokesperson Vedant Patel says in a statement, adding that the top US diplomat also urged Moscow to release detained American Paul Whelan.
Evan Gershkovich, the American son of Russian Jewish immigrants who worked for the the Wall Street Journal, was detained by security agents in Russia on Wednesday, the newspaper has reported.
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar warns at a memorial ceremony for late president Chaim Herzog that the current divisions and disagreements in Israeli society could prove disastrous for the nation.
“I am sure that if we could consult with him [Chaim Herzog] today and hear his opinion, he would be very disturbed by the language, the exclusion, the division, the unimaginable ease of online defamation — which could lead to a disaster from which we will not be able to recover,” says Bar in a speech at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
In rare public comments, Bar says he believes Herzog — the father of current President Isaac Herzog — would be comforted to know that the Shin Bet “has always operated under a set of clear values… its needle always points in one direction. And that needle, even now, will not move one degree, not right and not left.”
The cabinet votes to approve the creation of a Ministerial Environment and Climate Committee, to be chaired by Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman.
Silman says the committee will help coordinate work across ministries to ensure that Israel’s climate policies are appropriate and properly implemented, particularly against the backdrop of recent UN reports and in the run-up to the next UN climate conference in Dubai at the end of the year.
Silman says the committee is a step on the way to the government passing a Climate Law.
In February the coalition reversed a tax increase on disposable plastics imposed by the previous government, a reversal slammed by environmental activists.
Cabinet ministers vote in favor of establishing a “national guard” in Israel, meeting a key demand of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
The Prime Minister’s Office says that the “powers and subordinations” of the body will be decided by a committee of relevant security officials, who will issue a recommendation within 90 days. The committee will be the one to decide if the national guard will be under the purview of the Israel Police or “another body,” the PMO adds.
The cabinet approval comes after cabinet ministers voted earlier today to approve a major budget cut across ministries in order to fund the establishment of a national guard, said to cost NIS 1 billion.
Though such an idea was first floated in the last government, current opposition figures have decried handing further power to Ben Gvir, calling the future body his “private militia.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’s running for US president in 2024, offering himself as an alternative for Republicans ready to turn the party away from Donald Trump.
“I’m running because I believe that I am the right time for America, the right candidate for our country and its future,” he says.
Hutchinson, 72, tells ABC’s “This Week” in an interview aired today that he would make a formal announcement in April in Arkansas.
“I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America and not simply appeal to our worst instincts,” he says.
Hutchinson has ramped up his criticism of the former president in recent months, calling another Trump presidential nomination the “worst scenario” for Republicans and saying it likely benefits President Joe Biden’s chances in 2024.
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz — a former defense minister and former IDF chief of staff — says it is irresponsible for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hanging in limbo between being fired and not fired.
Netanyahu announced last week that he was firing Gallant after the defense minister held a press conference calling for the halt of government legislation on the judicial overhaul. A day later, Netanyahu himself announced a pause on the legislation, and has yet to send an official letter of dismissal to Gallant — but has also not retracted the firing.
“It is impossible to come to terms with the fact that the State of Israel, in a complicated and sensitive security situation during the month of Ramadan and under a range of threats and challenges, is being led by a conditional defense minister,” Gantz tweets.
“The time has come for Netanyahu to stop this deadly harm to security, and return Minister Gallant to his post immediately — politics cannot be prioritized over security,” Gantz adds.
Likud Transportation Minister Miri Regev says that the controversial judicial overhaul legislation will pick right back up once the Knesset starts its summer session.
“As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, the reform has only been paused and there is a very clear date for the next session. Right after Independence Day we will continue with the legislation,” Regev says in an interview with a Likud-backed newsletter.
Regev claims that “Netanyahu paused [the legislation] to allow for dialogue, but if there will not be any, we will bring it up for approval anew.”
Opposition and coalition figures are currently holding talks with President Isaac Herzog aimed at reaching a compromise on the government’s highly contentious plans to radically change the judicial system. Some opposition figures have accused the government of being insincere in its attempts to reach a deal through negotiations after Netanyahu called last week for the halt.
Pakistan denies rumors of trade with Israel following a Jewish businessman’s tweet about successfully exporting food samples to Jerusalem and Haifa.
Fishel Benkhald, a Pakistani Jew based in the southern port city of Karachi, went viral for tweeting about his first kosher food shipment to Israel. The two countries do not have diplomatic ties.
“Congratulations to me as a Pakistani. I exported the first batch of Pakistan food products to Israel market,” he said last week.
Congratulation to Me as a Pakistani
I exported first batch of Pakistan 🇵🇰 food products to Israel 🇮🇱 market
— Fishel BenKhald (@Jew_Pakistani) March 28, 2023
Benkhald shared a video clip showing his visit to an Israeli market. He walks past stalls with containers of dates, dried fruit and spices with product tags in Hebrew.
Pakistan denies having any diplomatic or trade relations with Israel. “There is no change in the policy,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch tells media in response to queries about bilateral trade.
Pakistan’s Commerce Ministry says rumors of bilateral trade are “sheer propaganda.”
“Neither do we have any trade relations with Israel nor do we intend to develop any,” it says in a statement.
A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem has been arrested on suspicion of planning to carry out a shooting attack against a bus transporting police officers in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet says.
The Shin Bet, in coordination with the police, says it had been investigating Omar Abedeen for the past month after he was “suspected of being involved in security-related activities.”
Twenty-one-year-old Abedeen, a Shin Bet statement says, is affiliated with the Hamas terrorist organization, and was apparently involved with Hamas’s student organization at Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah.
He was allegedly in contact with a terrorist operative in Lebanon, and was asked to carry out a shooting or bomb attack, in which he was told he would be assisted by terror groups operating in the West Bank.
Ministers vote in favor of a major budget cut across all ministries in order to fund the “national guard” that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has been strongly pushing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Ben Gvir last week that he would bring the issue to a vote today, in exchange for the far-right minister remaining in the government despite his opposition to Netanyahu pausing the judicial overhaul legislation.
According to Hebrew media reports, there were several ministers in the cabinet who expressed opposition to the move, but nevertheless voted in favor.
The move, which is expected to cost NIS 1 billion, has been heavily criticized by many in the opposition.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid decries the government’s priorities as “ridiculous and despicable,” slamming ministers for voting to “finance a private army of thugs for the Tiktok clown.”
The first pilot run of a drone transferring blood from one hospital to another in Israel is completed today.
Units of blood provided by Magen David Adom were flown by an autonomous craft built by the Brazilian company Speedbird Aero from Rambam Medical Center in Haifa to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, 25 kilometers (15 miles) away. The test involved the transfer of 3.8 kilograms (8.4 lbs) of blood. This drone model can carry up to 10 kilograms
An IDF cadet undergoing officer’s training collapsed and died during a routine patrol overnight in the West Bank, the military says.
Following her collapse, she was brought to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The circumstances surrounding her death are being investigated, the IDF adds.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists in a filing to the High Court of Justice that the consequences of his government’s judicial overhaul program are so far-reaching that he is obligated by dint of his office to be intimately involved in managing the deep political crisis that has arisen over the issue.
He argues there is no substantive conflict of interest between his ongoing corruption trial and his government’s far-reaching legal reforms, and asks the High Court to reject a request to hold him in contempt of court for involving himself in the matter.
And Netanyahu pledges that any judges appointed following passage of the judicial overhaul legislation will “not be involved in my issues.”
Attorneys for Netanyahu lay out this position in response to a request by the Movement of Quality Government (MQG) for the High Court to hold the prime minister in contempt of court for what the organization says was his violation last month of a conflict of interest agreement approved by the High Court in 2020 and updated earlier this year.
Netanyahu said that he was involving himself in the debate within his coalition over the judicial overhaul bills, leading MQG to accuse him of violating the conflict of interest agreement which states he may not involved himself in legislative matters that may impact his ongoing trial on corruption charges.
“With all due respect to any conflict of interest agreement, when there is an issue that the president of the country announces that he believes it may lead to a civil war; when the president of the United States and world leaders express a position on an issue and discuss it with the prime minister; when the issue affects the security of the country and its economy; the prime minister must by virtue of his position manage the matter and be involved in it and this has nothing whatsoever to do with his personal affairs,” write Netanyahu’s attorneys. “This is the meaning of the role of the prime minister, and this is the meaning of the choice of the citizens of the State of Israel.”
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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