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Top Iran official says power restored, enrichment resumes at Natanz nuclear site

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of country’s atomic agency, says main electricity supply connected to the grid after last week’s sabotage blamed on Israel

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, speaks with media while visiting the Natanz enrichment facility, in central Iran, November 4, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, speaks with media while visiting the Natanz enrichment facility, in central Iran, November 4, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

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

Ultra-Orthodox mob ambushes cops in Jerusalem, injuring 3

Three police officers were injured in overnight clashes with an extremist ultra-Orthodox mob in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, according to police.

According to police sources quoted by Hebrew media, cops entered the neighborhood to arrest organizers of repeated violent protests against work on the light rail that is set to pass through Haredi neighborhoods, raising the objection of some extremist factions who fear it will harm their lifestyle and existing public transportation.

The force was ambushed by dozens of local men who hurled rocks, metal objects, potted plants and glass shards at them, police say.

In one incident, rioters locked several officers inside a building using metal chains. Additional forces were called in to rescue them and disperse the crowd.

One of the protest organizers allegedly attempted to evade arrest by dressing up as a woman, but was nevertheless apprehended today.

Police say it was a “serious incident” and vow to continue enforcing the law “with determination” and with a heavy hand against violent attempts to prevent them from doing so.

Likud charges Bennett ‘rushing to a left-wing government’

After losing a key vote yesterday that likely ends Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s realistic chances of forming a coalition, the ruling Likud party accuses Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett of “rushing to a left-wing government” with the left-wing Meretz party and with backing by the majority-Arab Joint List.

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting of right-wing parties, on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Upping the pressure on Bennett, Likud adds in a statement that “whoever wants a right-wing government doesn’t vote against the right and with the left-wing Knesset bloc as Bennett did last night, and doesn’t negotiate with it over the distribution of roles to [Meretz leader] Nitzan Horowitz, [Labor chief] Merav Michaeli and [Labor No. 7] Ibtisam Mara’ana.”

Bennett in fact voted with Likud on the key vote on the makeup of the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee (the opposition won that vote thanks to the Islamist Ra’am party). But after that, Yamina voted with the opposition on appointing deputy Knesset speakers.

Chad president Deby, who oversaw resumed Israel ties, dies after fighting rebels

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the presidential palace in N'Djamena, Chad, January 20, 2019. (Brahim Adij/AFP)
Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the presidential palace in N'Djamena, Chad, January 20, 2019. (Brahim Adij/AFP)

Chad’s newly re-elected president Idriss Deby Itno, in power for three decades, has died of injuries while fighting rebels in the north of the Sahel country, the army says.

Deby, 68, “has just breathed his last defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield” over the weekend, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna says in a statement read out on state television.

In January 2019, Deby met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and announced the resumption of Israel-Chad diplomatic ties, in a breakthrough that preceded the later normalization deals with four other Muslim nations.

Neo-Nazi graffiti found on Parliament House in Tasmania, Australia

Neo-Nazi messages daubed on the Parliament House in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, April 2021. (Anti-Defamation Commission/courtesy)
Neo-Nazi messages daubed on the Parliament House in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, April 2021. (Anti-Defamation Commission/courtesy)

Neo-Nazi graffiti was daubed last weekend on the Parliament House of the Australian state of Tasmania in Hobart, drawing condemnation from the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) rights group.

The words “Heil Hitler” and “Kristallnacht” were daubed on the outside of the building, according to a photo provided by the ADC.

“This cowardly attack on our democracy and our values shows that the contagion of antisemitism and neo-Nazism continues to strike cities throughout Australia with disturbing regularity and shows no sign of abating,” says ADC chairman Dvir Abramovich.

“This sickening and brazen targeting of our elected representatives was intended to create a climate of fear and is yet another reminder that white supremacists, who have surged out of the shadows, are out in force and are a persistent reality in the country.

“We have much work to do in fighting back against this kind of sickening intolerance, and we hope that those responsible are arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Hearings in Netanyahu trial delayed by 2 weeks ahead of Walla CEO’s cross-examination

Planned hearings in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been delayed by two weeks, to let the defense prepare for the cross-examination of former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua after he finished his testimony today.

Jerusalem District Court judges cancel the four hearings planned for tomorrow and next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The next hearing will be held on May 3 to discuss several requests by Netanyahu’s attorneys to release pieces of evidence.

The cross-examination of Yeshua will begin May 4.

Abbas adviser says Palestinian elections ‘very likely’ to be postponed

Nabil Shaath speaks to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 1, 2011. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Nabil Shaath speaks to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 1, 2011. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, says in a statement that the Palestinian national elections scheduled for next month are “very likely” to be postponed in light of Israel’s refusal to allow the vote to go forward in East Jerusalem.

Shaath says that if Israel continues to ignore the PA’s request to hold the elections in East Jerusalem, “the electoral process will be postponed.”

He adds that PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has been sent to Europe to push for international pressure on Israel on the matter.

The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel considers the entire city its undivided capital and bars any PA activity from taking place in the city.

Rare bird species spotted in Israel for 1st time

A Chinese pond heron observed in Israel for the first time, April 20, 2021, in Jerusalem's Botanical Garden. (Ori Fragman-Sapir/Jerusalem Botanical Garden)
A Chinese pond heron observed in Israel for the first time, April 20, 2021, in Jerusalem's Botanical Garden. (Ori Fragman-Sapir/Jerusalem Botanical Garden)

A bird species has been observed in Israel for the first time ever in recent days, according to a statement by Jerusalem’s Botanical Gardens.

The Chinese pond heron, common in East Asia, was spotted and photographed today at the garden’s pond by 16-year-old birdwatcher Shahar Hizkiya, according to the statement.

Hizkiya was sent to the area after Dr. Yoav Perlman, science director at the Israel Ornithological Center, received a report about the arrival of the rare guest.

British COVID strain 45% more infectious than original virus — Israeli study

Tel Aviv University researchers find that the British COVID-19 variant is 45% more contagious than the original coronavirus strain.

The study is based on data from some 300,000 PCR tests conducted and processed at the university campus.

The study was conducted by Prof. Ariel Munitz and Prof. Motti Gerlitz of TAU’s Clinical Microbiology and Immunology Department, together with Dr. Dan Yamin and PhD student Matan Yehezkeli of the university’s infectious disease lab. It has been published in Cell Reports Magazine.

Hezbollah will suffer ‘heavy consequences’ if it ‘challenges’ Israel — Gantz

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C) touring the Lebanese border area with senior IDF commanders, April 20, 2021. (Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C) touring the Lebanese border area with senior IDF commanders, April 20, 2021. (Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz warns Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group that it will suffer “heavy consequences” if it acts against the Jewish state.

Touring the northern border with senior IDF commanders, Gantz says the IDF “is ideally prepared along the northern border and definitely on the Lebanese front.”

“We are aware of Hezbollah’s attempts to challenge us in new ways,” he says without elaborating on the new tactics. “We will deal with any threat. If Hezbollah challenges the IDF and the State of Israel, it will suffer very, very heavy consequences and I hope they don’t do that.”

He highlights the terror group’s backing from Iran, which is speeding up its efforts to achieve weapons-grade enriched uranium and has threatened to avenge several recent attacks it blames on Israel.

Navalny ‘very weak,’ not receiving medical care — lawyer

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who has been on hunger strike for three weeks, is “very weak” in a prison hospital and is not receiving medical care, his lawyer says.

“He is very weak. It’s difficult for him to speak and to sit up,” lawyer Olga Mikhailova tells reporters outside Navalny’s prison colony, adding that “medical care in this case is not being given” and calling for the opposition figure to be transferred to a civilian hospital in Moscow.

Israel, UK weighing ‘green travel corridor’ for vaccinated, recovered — ministry

Israel says Jerusalem and London are weighing the possibility of allowing travel between the countries for vaccinated and recovered individuals, citing both countries’ successful inoculation campaigns, as a senior British minister visits the Jewish state.

A Foreign Ministry statement cites Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as saying: “We will promote, together with the UK, mutual recognition of vaccines in order to allow tourists and business people from both countries to safely return to their routines,” according to Reuters.

The ministry says this opens the “possibility of creating a green travel corridor.”

Askenazi met British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove in Jerusalem, according to the report.

Likud members asked if they support government led for 1st year by Yariv Levin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Likud MK Yariv Levin during a faction meeting at the Knesset on December 9, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Likud MK Yariv Levin during a faction meeting at the Knesset on December 9, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Thousands of members of the Likud party’s central committee have received a text message asking them if they would support forming a government headed for the first year by current Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, with Benjamin Netanyahu as alternate prime minister.

It isn’t immediately clear whether the message was sent by actual Likud officials, but it appears to be the latest in a series of increasingly desperate attempts by Netanyahu and his party to cobble together a coalition.

New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar has said he is willing to join a coalition with Likud, but only if it isn’t headed by Netanyahu. After Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas supported the opposition in a key vote, it appears Sa’ar’s support is critical to forming a Likud-led government.

Ben Gurion Airport train station to resume normal operations for 1st time in a year

Ben Gurion Airport’s railway station will resume normal operations on Thursday for the first time in over a year, the Transportation Ministry says.

After a year of almost no traffic through Israel’s main international airport, travel is slowly resuming and Israel will next month start accepting foreign tour groups if they have antibodies.

EU diplomat says progress made, but ‘hard work’ remains to save Iran nuke deal

The EU chief negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal talks says “much more hard work” is needed to save the 2015 landmark agreement, following the latest discussion round in Vienna.

EU diplomat Enrique Mora hails “progress made over the last two weeks” but says “ongoing challenges” remain to get the accord — that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief — back on track.

The deal was thrown into question when the US withdrew from it in 2018 and sanctioned Iran, which in turn started ramping up its nuclear activities.

US President Joe Biden is seeking to revive the agreement.

Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia have been meeting regularly since early this month in a luxury Vienna hotel, while US diplomats are participating indirectly in the talks from a nearby hotel.

Netanyahu: Israel preparing for new vaccination push in 6 months, including kids

After signing deals for millions of more vaccines with Pfizer and Moderna, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a press statement that Israel is preparing for a new vaccination push in six months that will include children.

“Prepare your shoulders and kids,” he says.

Netanyahu gives up on Ra’am-backed government, says it’s not an option

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he sees no option of him forming a government backed by the Islamist Ra’am party, after Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas voted against him yesterday in a key Knesset vote.

Rather, Netanyahu says the only options are Gideon Sa’ar reneging on his central campaign promise not to join forces with Netanyahu, or holding special, one-off direct elections for prime minister, an idea floated — and criticized by many — in recent days.

“We don’t need Ra’am,” he says in a press conference. “We need direct elections so that we can form a government.”

He calls on Yamina chief Naftali Bennett to declare his support for the direct election initiative “today.”

Lapid slams Netanyahu’s direct election idea as ‘bypass aimed at buying time’

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid dismisses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for direct election just for prime minister.

“Netanyahu, the State of Israel doesn’t need another election,” the Yesh Atid party leader tweets. “This isn’t a direct election, it is a bypass aimed at buying time at the public’s expense.

“It is time to form an Israeli unity government. It is possible,” he adds, referring to a potential government that doesn’t include Likud, which would face significant hurdles since it would have to include both right-wing and Arab parties, or both ultra-Orthodox and secularist parties.

Rouhani says talks on reviving nuke deal have reached ’60-70% progress’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the negotiations with world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal “have achieved 60-70% progress,” according to the IRNA news agency.

“If the Americans act honestly, we will reach a conclusion in little time,” Rouhani is quoted as saying.

Hamas bans nightly gatherings, including Ramadan festivities, to curb COVID

As coronavirus infections continue to rise in the Gaza Strip, Hamas authorities ban nightly gatherings — including Ramadan celebrations — in an attempt to curb the spike.

The new rules will see a nightly curfew instituted beginning this Thursday, April 22. All foot and vehicle traffic will be banned after the call to prayer at sunset echoes throughout the Strip, indicating that it is time to break the Ramadan fast.

Mosques will be closed as well after the evening prayer. Ramadan normally sees Palestinian Muslims observe the so-called taraweeh prayers in their mosques and public spaces, long Quranic recitations which can extend long into the night.

Gaza saw 1556 new coronavirus infections today, the Gaza Health Ministry reports. Around 37% of coronavirus tests came back positive, indicating that many cases are likely going undetected.

Biden says evidence ‘overwhelming’ in George Floyd trial

US President Joe Biden calls for the “right” verdict in the trial of the ex-policeman accused of murdering George Floyd and calls the evidence “overwhelming.”

“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. I think (it’s)… overwhelming in my view,” Biden tells reporters, noting that he is only speaking openly because the jury has been sequestered.

Biden, speaking with the Floyd family, says they are feeling “pressure and anxiety.”

Ra’am won’t support Netanyahu’s push for direct premiership election — report

Channel 12 news quotes a senior source in the Islamist Ra’am party saying it won’t support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s push for direct premiership elections.

The report says Ra’am isn’t happy with Netanyahu’s rhetoric regarding the issue, and won’t be willing to back the proposal, which would relieve Netanyahu of any commitment to the party.

Without Ra’am’s support, Netanyahu doesn’t appear to have a realistic majority supporting the initiative, even if Yamina leader Naftali Bennett supports it.

Power restored, enrichment resumes at Natanz plant — Iran nuke agency chief

File: The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi delivers his speech at the opening of the general conference of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, September 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
File: The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi delivers his speech at the opening of the general conference of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, September 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Power has been restored in Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and uranium enrichment activities there have been renewed, the head of the country’s atomic agency says.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, is cited by the IRNA news agency as saying that “the cables damaged in the accident were speedily replaced and… the main power supply to the Natanz enrichment facility [is] now connected to the grid.

Salehi adds that “thanks to the timely measures taken, enrichment in Natanz never stopped, even when the main power cable was cut,” according to the report.

Israel said to urge US to boost UN inspectors’ powers in renewed nuclear deal

Israel is lobbying the US to include improvements to the oversight of Iran’s nuclear program in the talks over reviving the 2015 deal with world powers, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Jerusalem is pushing for International Atomic Energy Agency officials to have more powers in inspecting the nuclear sites, according to the report.

Mossad chief Yossi Cohan and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat will both head to the US early next week to push the matter on Jerusalem’s behalf, the report says.

Israel is said to have conceded that the deal will be renewed without addressing its concerns about Tehran’s ballistic missile program and support for terror.

Big hurdles to overcome in Bennett-Lapid coalition talks — report

Party leaders Naftali Bennett (left) and Yair Lapid during the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset, at the Knesset building in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Party leaders Naftali Bennett (left) and Yair Lapid during the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset, at the Knesset building in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

While Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chances of forming a government shrink further, the bloc seeking to oust him isn’t close to agreeing on a formula for creating an alternative coalition, with significant hurdles remaining, Channel 13 news reports.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid is said to be pushing for minister portfolios to be distributed proportionately between parties according to their size, with roughly one minister per three lawmakers.

But Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett opposes that, arguing that it would put the right-wing partners in that government at a disadvantage. He is said to demand control of all the politically sensitive portfolios, such as justice minister, interior minister and culture minister, while Lapid insists on an egalitarian distribution.

The report quotes Yamina sources expressing anger toward Lapid, charging that he isn’t sensitive to Yamina’s concerns.

Netanyahu meets British minister Gove to discuss vaccine cooperation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove in Jerusalem, according to Hebrew media.

The two leaders discuss “the option of increasing cooperation in the research, development and manufacturing of vaccines against the coronavirus and future viruses,” the reports say.

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