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Gazan rocket hits near Sderot home after day of Jerusalem tensions

No injuries reported in second attack this week, but four treated for shock; unclear why Iron Dome missile defense battery not utilized; house lightly damaged

  • Israeli police block right wing activists from marching towards the Old City, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
    Israeli police block right wing activists from marching towards the Old City, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israeli right wing activists gather for a march  in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
    Israeli right wing activists gather for a march in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israeli nationalists scuffle with police outside Jerusalem's Old City on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
    Israeli nationalists scuffle with police outside Jerusalem's Old City on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
  • Rockets fired by Hamas terrorists in Gaza into Israel, seen over the central Israeli town of Kiryat Gat on May 18, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
    Rockets fired by Hamas terrorists in Gaza into Israel, seen over the central Israeli town of Kiryat Gat on May 18, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
  • Israelis wave flags outside Jerusalem's Old City on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
    Israelis wave flags outside Jerusalem's Old City on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
  • Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to the media at Safra Square in Jerusalem ahead of a right-wing march on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
    Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to the media at Safra Square in Jerusalem ahead of a right-wing march on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians watch as Israeli security forces patrol near Damascus Gate, just outside Jerusalem's Old City, on April 20, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)
    Palestinians watch as Israeli security forces patrol near Damascus Gate, just outside Jerusalem's Old City, on April 20, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)
  • Israeli security forces escort a group of Jews outside Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)
    Israeli security forces escort a group of Jews outside Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

Video appears to show rocket attack from afar

Grainy video footage shared on social media appears to show the rocket being fired out of Gaza toward Israel.

In the video, the rocket can be seen on a more shallow trajectory than normally used, which may be the reason it was not shot down.

Police say rocket, not shrapnel, hit Sderot, sappers at scene

Police say officers are at the scene of an apparent rocket impact in the southern city of Sderot, indicating that the projectile directly hit the area and was not intercepted.

“Sappers are handling the item in order to safely remove it from the scene,” a police spokesperson says in a statement.

It is not immediately clear why the Iron Dome anti-missile system was not used to knock the rocket down before it could hit the city.

Rocket fired at Sderot, home slightly damaged

One rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces says.

There are no immediate reports of injuries, but four people are treated for shock, Kan reports.

The military does not say if the rocket was intercepted or not.

Footage from the southern city of Sderot, where sirens sounded a short while ago, appears to show shrapnel from a rocket impact near a home.

 

Rocket sirens blare in Sderot

Rocket sirens have sounded out in the southern city of Sderot and adjacent towns, close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Residents of the area report hearing an explosion.

The army confirms the alarm was activated, but does not say if any projectiles were launched from the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

Airport websites hit by denial of service attack

The website of Israel’s Airports Authority has been knocked offline due to a denial of service attack, the agency says.

The attack on its website, it says, is not affecting any airport operations.

Denial of Service, or DDoS attacks, target a website by overwhelming its servers with too many requests to connect.

The incident comes after a group of pro-Iran hackers in Iraq had threatened a large cyber attack on Israel in response to police actions in Jerusalem.

Iran says three Mossad spies arrested

Iran says it has arrested three spies working for the Israeli Mossad, the semi-official Fars News reports.

The three are accused of disseminating classified information, including documents.

They were arrested in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province, Fars says.

Ben Gvir hunkers down; Jews and Arabs break bread in former flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah

Police in Jerusalem remain on high alert despite tensions mostly dissipating following a partially foiled right-wing march through the Old City, Kan reports.

At Tzahal Square right outside the Old City, MK Itamar Ben Gvir and a few dozen nationalists are continuing to camp out in protest of police blocking them from Damascus Gate, but traffic and life there have mostly returned to normal.

A few kilometers away, in Sheikh Jarrah, dozens of Arabs and Jews sit down for a large communal Iftar meal to break the Ramadan fast.

The show of coexistence is especially salient given the day’s events and the fact that it is taking place in the exact neighborhood that sparked tensions a year ago that led to war.

Officials warned all day that another major conflict could break out if Ben Gvir was allowed to whip up nationalists at Damascus Gate, drawing direct parallels to a year earlier.

The juxtaposition is not lost on many.

Despite the goodwill, there are initial reports of light clashes in the area.

 

Ukraine says Mariupol evacuation stymied by Russian shelling

Efforts to evacuate civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol failed again Wednesday because of Russian shelling, officials in Kyiv say.

“Unfortunately, the humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol today did not work as planned,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says on Telegram.

She blames Russian forces for failing to respect a temporary ceasefire needed for the convoy because they were unable to control their own troops on the ground.

Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun tweets that Ukraine did what was needed, but Russia “ignored” an agreement for the corridor, including a video showing an endless line of empty buses waiting for evacuees.

Return of capsule with Israeli spaceman Stibbe delayed by weather again

NASA says bad weather is continuing to delay the return of the Axiom 1 mission from the International Space Station, slated to bring home four astronauts, including Israel’s Eytan Stibbe.

“Due to unfavorable weather forecasts, we are still assessing when it’s safe to bring the #Ax1 mission home from the @Space_Station,” NASA tweets.

The mission had originally been slated to leave the station over 24 hours earlier, but has been delayed by weather several times, casting a shadow over the first US-led commercial space tourism mission, which had mostly avoided hitches thus far.

Ran Livne, the head of the Ilan Ramon Center, which was involved in sending Stibbe skyward, tells Channel 13 news that there are seven possible splashdown spots, but they all have high waves “so they decided not to risk the lives of the crew.”

“We were joking with colleagues at NASA that we know how to send capsules to the space station, but can’t control the weather,” he says.

Speaking before NASA announced the delay, he said if it was delayed again, it would likely mean Stibbe would be staying in space for another 24 hours.

Gantz gets word out about Israel protecting status quo on Temple Mount

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wants to make sure the world knows that Israel is safeguarding freedom of religion and the status quo on the Temple Mount, tweeting out messages to that effect in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

“Israel has ensured and will continue to ensure and defend freedom of prayer, the status quo on the Temple Mount and most importantly– the security of all the citizens of the area,” he writes.

Despite the message going out just as the army announces a new closure on the West Bank and Gaza for the end of the Passover holiday, Gantz is sure to note that Israel did not extend the restrictions over the holiday’s intermediate days between Sunday and Thursday.

He also joins other leaders in protesting comments from Arab leaders, particularly Jordan’s prime minister, appearing to back violent Palestinian protests.

“I call on the Palestinian leadership and all the region’s leaders to act responsibly to ensure security stability and to expand the civil policy we aim to implement before Eid al-Fitr,” he writes.

 

Pentagon says Russian missile test no big threat

Russia’s test of a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile is not seen as threatening to the US and its allies, the Pentagon says.

Moscow “properly notified” Washington of the test following its obligations under the 2011 New START treaty, which placed limits on the two countries’ nuclear weapons, says Department of Defense Spokesman John Kirby.

“Testing is routine, and it was not a surprise,” Kirby tells reporters.

The Pentagon “has not deemed the test to be a threat to the United States or its allies,” he says.

“Of course, the department remains focused on Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine,” Kirby adds.

No arrests among nationalist marchers, despite misconduct

There were no arrests during scuffles between police and right-wingers who were attempting to reach the Damascus Gate for a nationalist march, according to a police statement summing up the incident.

According to the statement, two people were arrested at Damascus Gate, where hundreds of Palestinians gathered to confront the marchers, one for throwing a bottle and the other for throwing stones. Police distributed a video of them arresting a young Palestinian man after he threw a bottle.

The statement accuses the nationalists of misconduct in their attempts to reach Damascus Gate, but says most turned for Jaffa Gate after police were forced to push them back.

Army orders general closure on West Bank, Gaza over last Passover days

The Israeli army announces it is imposing a closure on border crossings between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the final days of Passover.

The closure will begin Thursday, starting at 5 p.m., and last until Saturday, April 23, at an hour to be determined.

Palestinian worshippers will still be allowed to enter Israel for Friday Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem, subject to existing restrictions, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians says.

The border crossings for Palestinians will reopen “subject to a situational assessment and in accordance with the usual operating hours,” the Israel Defense Forces says.

Such closures are standard practice during festivals and holidays, in what the military says is a preventative measure against attacks at those times, which are seen as periods of increased tension.

A closure was imposed during the first day of Passover but was not extended over the entire holiday, and during the holiday of Purim in March, the military skipped it all together for the first time in five years.

Exceptions will be made for humanitarian and other outstanding cases, but will require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Yamina lashes Golan for boasting that Ra’am’s demands being considered

As if the coalition didn’t have enough infighting, the Yamina party is launching an attack on deputy minister Yair Golan, after he told Channel 12 news that the government was “proudly” considering demands made by the Ra’am party regarding the Temple Mount.

The Islamist Ra’am froze its participation in the coalition earlier this week and issued a list of demands to be met for it to rejoin, including returning the Temple Mount to a pre-2000 status quo in which, Ra’am said, police coordinated with the Jordanian-controlled Waqf administering the site on visits by non-Muslims.

“Yair, let me understand. Are you trying to dismantle the opposition?” tweets Nir Orbach, a Yamina MK who last week issued his own list of demands and threatened to dismantle the coalition.

In a statement, the party rejects the comments from Golan, a Meretz MK and former general who is one of the government’s most dovish members.

“The Temple Mount is under total Israeli sovereignty, and any decisions made will be done so in light of the security considerations of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, which enshrines freedom of religion for all,” it says.

US has told Europeans it doesn’t plan to delist IRCG, senior Israeli diplomat claims

This photo taken on September 22, 2018, shows members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) marching during the annual military parade that marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran. (Stringer/AFP)
This photo taken on September 22, 2018, shows members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) marching during the annual military parade that marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran. (Stringer/AFP)

Biden administration officials have notified their European counterparts that Washington does not plan on delisting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as part of the nuclear talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a senior Israeli diplomatic official claims.

Speaking during a briefing with Israeli reporters, the official says that the nuclear talks are currently at a standstill, largely due to the Iranian demand that Washington remove the IRGC from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Israel has lobbied publicly and privately against the move.

Despite the message the US has passed along to European negotiators, the Biden administration is still considering delisting part of the IRGC while keeping its elite Quds force on the FTO list, the Israeli official claims.

“We’re part of this conversation, but there isn’t a final answer yet,” he says.

Ben Gvir vows to stay put outside Old City as other marchers move on

While many marchers have left Tzahal Square after being blocked from reaching Damascus Gate, far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir is vowing to stay put until Thursday in protest against what he says is an illegal order barring him from that area of the Old City.

In a statement Ben Gvir’s office says he will camp in the square overnight and set up a temporary office there the next day, only leaving for the last day of the Passover holiday on Thursday night.

He claims that police have refused to show him the order banning him from Damascus Gate.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that some marchers who left the square moved toward the Jaffa Gate, but then marched right past it, seemingly in an attempt to reach other Old City gates.

Video from the scene shows police attempting the block the group.

Top diplomat: Russia using stance on Palestinians to retaliate over our position on Ukraine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,  shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during their meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Bethlehem, January 23, 2020. (Alexander Nemenov, Pool via AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during their meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Bethlehem, January 23, 2020. (Alexander Nemenov, Pool via AP)

A senior Israeli diplomatic official claims Russia is staking out a position on the recent unrest in Jerusalem that is very critical of Israel as a way to retaliate for the latter’s stance in favor of Ukraine.

“Russia is not happy about our position on Ukraine so it is coming out against us on the Palestinian front,” the official says in a briefing with Israeli reporters.

The official then clarifies that the Russian stance on the Palestinians is actually rather consistent with its principles over the years, but he notes that the Kremlin’s readout from President Vladimir Putin’s call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week did not include a condemnation of Israeli actions on the Temple Mount as Ramallah had expected.

“We didn’t think the Russians would be satisfied with our position on Ukraine. We’re also not satisfied with their attack on a sovereign nation,” the official says, adding that Israel will continue its policy on Ukraine that seeks to balance the need to align with the Western world with security interests in Syria where Israel has long enjoyed a green-light from Moscow to attack Iranian proxies from Russia-controlled airspace.

Anti-vax activist detained after breaking order to stay away from official’s home

Prominent anti-vaccine activist Sadi Ben Shitrit has been detained by polic for questioning after he refused to comply with a restraining order against him approaching the home of a top public health official.

Police on Tuesday ordered Ben Shitrit to stay at least 400 meters from the home of Dr. Sharon Alroy-Pries, the Health Ministry’s top public health official, after he was filmed haranguing her and others via a megaphone on a sidewalk outside her home.

Despite the order, Ben Shitrit returned to Alroy-Pries’s home Wednesday, leading police to haul him in, Walla news reports.

Iran claims all technical issues in nuke talks resolved

Iran says “technical issues” in the now-paused negotiations to restore its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers have been resolved, but “political” issues persist ahead of concluding any deal.

“Technical issues and discussions in the Vienna talks have been completed,” Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, is quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

“Only political issues remain,” he adds.

Israel disappointed by Emirati response to Jerusalem unrest, but doesn’t think it’ll impact ties

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the latter's Abu Dhabi palace on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the latter's Abu Dhabi palace on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

A senior Israeli diplomatic official says Jerusalem was disappointed by the UAE’s response to the recent unrest in Jerusalem but doesn’t believe there has been any real damage to the relationship.

The UAE summoned Israel’s ambassador to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and issued a statement afterward blasting the conduct of Israeli police who have entered the Temple Mount in recent days in order to quash Palestinian rioters. The UAE also spoke out aggressively against Israel at Tuesday’s UN Security Council closed-door meeting on the issue, according to two diplomats familiar with the matter.

Speaking during a briefing with Israeli reporters, the senior diplomatic official sought to downplay the issue, noting that the content of the discussion between UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy and Israeli Ambassador Amir Hayek and what was printed in the subsequent Emirati readout were not at all the same.

Regardless, Israel passed along its dissatisfaction with the Emirati response. “I don’t see what happened as damaging our relations,” the diplomatic official says.

Marchers begin to move toward alternate Old City gate after route stymied

Organizers of the Jerusalem flag march are calling on activists at Tzahal Square to not fight with police, though some have continued to scuffle with officers as they try to break through a line of gates set up to block their way.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir, who had vowed to reach Damascus Gate, says he is done trying.

At the Damascus Gate, police chase a small group of nationalists who managed to reach the area, as hundreds of Palestinians gathered there to yell and look on.

Other marchers are beginning to move toward the Jaffa Gate, where police have suggested they go, though it is unclear if they will abide police orders to march through the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall and not the more direct route through the Arab Souk, which skirts the Christian and Muslim quarters.

The march is coming about an hour before the iftar break fast meal, when the Old City is packed with Muslim worshippers for Ramadan.

Putin says new ballistic missile will make enemies ‘think twice’

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia has successfully tested the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, saying the next generation capable of carrying nuclear charges will make Kremlin’s enemies “think twice.”

“I congratulate you on the successful launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile,” Putin tells the army in televised remarks.

Russia’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from an undisclosed location in Russia, March 1, 2018. (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP)

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those who, in the heat of aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice.”

Marchers reject police suggestion that they parade through Jewish Quarter

Organizers of the Old City flag march have been given the option of continuing their march through the Jaffa Gate and to the Western Wall via the Jewish Quarter, but have refused the route, police confirm to ToI.

A relatively small phalanx of several dozen police are still working to keep the thousand or so marchers from reaching Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter.

At Damascus Gate, which is the center of Jerusalem Palestinian life, especially during Ramadan, things are calmer, but some Palestinian youths are gathering there in order to oppose the march, should it reach the area.

‘It’s not taken for granted’: Senior Israeli official lauds PA’s Abbas for condemning terror attacks

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a rare meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, on Sunday, February 6, 2021. (WAFA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a rare meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, on Sunday, February 6, 2021. (WAFA)

A senior Israeli diplomatic official lauds Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnations of the recent terror attacks in Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv.

The diplomatic official recognizes the impact in Ramallah from the fatalities and injuries on the Palestinian side as a result of the recent IDF activities in the West Bank in response to the recent terror wave. Seventeen Palestinians have been shot dead by IDF forces in the West Bank since the beginning of the month. The majority, but not all, were participating in clashes with Israeli troops.

The official says the PA faces its usual dilemma where it wants to maintain the security coordination with Israel because it allows Ramallah to maintain its stronghold in the West Bank, while also recognizing the unpopular nature of the cooperation among Palestinians and the need to maintain “national independence.”

But while Israel was pleased with Abbas’s response to the recent terror wave, it took note of the remarks made by PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh who claimed that the Al-Aqsa compound, known by Jews as the Temple Mount, is for Muslims only and accused Israel of trying to divide the site.

“We didn’t respond publicly because it’s not worth it at the moment, but I have a good memory and everything is written down,” says the senior Israeli diplomatic official.

Marchers scuffle with cops trying to divert them away from Damascus Gate

As nationalists ready to march toward Damascus Gate, police have set up trucks and vans in a bid to block them.

The array of vehicles are close enough to touch each other, stretched across streets and sidewalks near Safra Square and about a kilometer from Damascus Gate, in a bid to block the marchers.

Marchers are instead diverted to IDF Square, where they try to break down police cordons set up there, setting off scuffles.

 

Senior diplomat slams Jordan for berating Israel to domestic audience

A senior Israeli diplomatic official blasts Jordan for playing a “double game” in its response to recent unrest in Jerusalem by publicly lambasting Israel on the one hand while speaking much more reasonably behind closed doors.

“They tell us that this is the way that they keep those calling for Jordan to sever its ties with Israel at bay,” the diplomatic official says during a briefing with reporters, part of which is held on condition of anonymity.

“I’m prepared to accept this double game up to a certain point, but the line was crossed with the prime minister’s speech in parliament,” the official says, referring to Bisher Al-Khasawneh’s remarks earlier this week in which he praised the Palestinians hurling stones at the “Zionist sympathizers defiling the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The senior diplomatic official says no country can put up with this kind of speech from a fellow ally and that this message was passed along to Amman at a level of assertiveness that the Jordanians are not used to.

Islamic Jihad puts fighters on alert as Jerusalem tensions spike

Islamic Jihad has announced a “state of alert among its fighters” as tensions spike in Jerusalem.

“The resistance announces a state of alert among its fighters in defense of Al-Aqsa [Mosque],” says terror group spokesperson Tariq Silmi, referring to the Jerusalem holy site.

Ben Gvir joins marchers, vows to go to Damascus Gate unless deal reached

MK Itamar Ben Gvir is mobbed as he arrives at Safra Square to join a right-wing march to the Western Wall.

He vows to go to Damascus Gate, where he is ostensibly banned from, unless there is a compromise between police and organizers changing the route of the march.

Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to the media at Safra Square in Jerusalem ahead of a right-wing march on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

“I haven’t gotten any message about anything,” he tells a media scrum of the ban. “I don’t know of any order about this. If there’s a deal, I’ll go along with it. If not, I plan on going to Damascus Gate.”

He also dismisses warnings that his appearance could spark fresh rocket fire, saying such warnings have been issued before and did not come to pass.

Attacking Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, he accuses him of being worried about the security of the coalition, not the state.

Lapid accuses marchers of trying to ‘burn’ capital

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says that the participants in today’s march of Jewish nationalists around Jerusalem’s Old City are trying to “burn” the capital and the government will not allow them to do so.

“The flag march today is simply an irresponsible, horrible step. These are extremists who are trying to stage provocations that will cause violence,” Lapid says in a briefing with journalists.

The foreign minister expresses his support for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision not to allow far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir to attend the rally, noting that concerns for public safety trump the parliamentary immunity that would normally allow a lawmaker to ignore a police directive barring him from attending such a march.

In fiery remarks against the nationalist marchers, Lapid says that “what they want is for there to be violence and for fire to burn Jerusalem and we will not allow them and their politics to burn Jerusalem.”

“They are horribly straining our security forces who are already stretched to their limit,” Lapid says, adding that Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai told him as much.

The march also causes Israel a major headache in the diplomatic arena as the conversation about the events in Jerusalem turn from one about Muslim rioters acting against a state that governs based on the rule of law to one about the extremists on both sides.

“It causes Israel to look like a country of extremists,” Lapid says.

Bennett: Flag march will take place on Jerusalem Day, not now

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is defending his decision to not back a nationalist march through the Old City, saying he is steering the country through the current crisis “with determination, but responsibly.”

He says a flag march will take place on Jerusalem Day, next month, as it does every year.

“The main thing is protecting residents of the capital,” he tells Army Radio in a recorded interview. “You can’t ignore the fact that this is a very sensitive and flammable period. We’re managing it with sensitivity.”

He says banning firebrand MK Itamar Ben Gvir from Damascus Gate, where the march will enter the Old City, is justified.

“There’s a limit to freedom,” he says, comparing the situation to a person yelling fire in a theater.

Bennett also says his decision to bar Jewish entry to the Temple Mount for the last 10 days of Ramadan is in line with a policy put in place by his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

Chanting nationalists gather at Safra Square ahead of Old City march

Hundreds of nationalist protesters are gathered at Jerusalem’s Safra Square, awaiting the expected arrival of right-wing MK Itamar Ben Gvir and the start of Wednesday’s controversial Flag March through the Old City.

Singing nationalist songs, distributing and waving flags, protesters chant “Bibi is King,” referring to Benjamin Netanyahu, “Abbas is with Hamas,” seemingly referring to Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, and “we need a prime minister like Ben Gvir.”

Israelis wave flags outside Jerusalem’s Old City on April 20, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

Despite tensions and warnings that the march could spark another war, few police are seen.

Ben Gvir appearance at Damascus Gate could spark regional conflict — minister

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev says allowing firebrand MK Itamar Ben Gvir to attend a nationalist marc at Jerusalem’s Old City would be risking a “regional conflagration.”

Ben Gvir’s appearance “is a provocation liable to quicken the security deterioration,” he says in a Facebook post, noting that he asked Bennett to bar Ben Gvir.

“Just him showing up would endanger the country’s security and force the police, already stretched thin in order to continue safeguarding order and security, to shift resources to tasks not needed at this time.”

Earlier, an unnamed security official told Kan news that Ben Gvir showing up could spark another war in Gaza and rockets on Jerusalem.

“We are seeing the same indicators there were before” last year’s Gaza war, the source said.

That war began when Hamas shot rockets at Jerusalem during a nationalist flag march through the Old City attended by Ben Gvir following days of tensions over the Temple Mount.

German intel agency says antisemitism filtering into mainstream discourse

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency says antisemitic offenses are continuing to rise and those that come to light are only “the tip of the iceberg.”

The head of the BfV agency, Thomas Haldenwang, says antisemitic narratives are increasingly being embraced by people in “the middle of German society,” coming out in protests against coronavirus restrictions or over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in a few cases, in connection with Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The internet serves as “fertile ground” for antisemitism, he adds.

A report from the BfV, its second on the subject, says that 2,351 antisemitic offenses, including 57 acts of violence, were reported in 2020 — compared with 2,032 and 73 respectively the previous year. The overall figure for offenses has risen steadily since 2015, and the 2020 figure was the highest since counting started in 2001.

The government’s antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein, tells the Welt newspaper that “the pandemic acted like a fire accelerant for antisemitism, also in that it linked together many environments that previously stood for themselves.”

Israel sending helmets and flak jackets to Ukraine, Gantz says

Ukrainian emergency services carry bodies of civilians killed by the Russian troops over the destroyed bridge in Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine, March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian emergency services carry bodies of civilians killed by the Russian troops over the destroyed bridge in Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine, March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israel is working on supplying Ukraine with defensive equipment such as helmets and flak jackets for the nation’s emergency services amid Russia’s invasion.

Gantz speaks to his Ukrainian counterpart following several requests for such equipment from Ukraine’s defense ministry, his office says.

Gantz “approved the purchase of protective equipment… which will be transferred to the Ukrainian rescue forces and civilian organizations,” a statement reads.

Ukrainian officials have long asked Israel to provide air defense weapons, which Jerusalem refused in order to avoid angering Russia. But Israel also refused repeated requests for helmets, flak jackets and other equipment, much to Kyiv’s chagrin, instead sending only humanitarian aid.

Gantz’s office says the helmets and flak jackets Israel intends to send to Ukraine are “in the process of being procured.”

“The two discussed the world’s efforts and Israel’s efforts led by the prime minister to bring an end to the war. The defense minister wished to emphasize that Israel stands by the side of the citizens of Ukraine, and the need to continue to assist the country, and to act to end the war,” the statement adds.

Nationalist ‘flag march’ will rely on incidental police protection — organizer

Organizers of a controversial “flag march” through Jerusalem’s Old City say they plan to go ahead despite police rejecting the route and refusing to permit or secure the parade. Nonetheless, organizers are maintaining that their route, through the Old City to the Western Wall plaza, will likely be covered by routine police presence anyway.

“We aren’t going onto the Temple Mount, we’re walking… to the Western Wall, following a route in which the police are supposed to be there to protect us regardless,” says Noam Nisan, one of the organizers of the protest march, which is planned to traverse the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

“We’re going to Damascus Gate and we’ll march with flags in the Muslim Quarter and other areas around the Old City,” Nisan says.

“There’s no legal prohibition against walking here, so [trying to block us] is a political decision,” Nisan adds. “It’s not meant to be provocative.”

Israelis wave national flags during a Jerusalem Day march, in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The hastily organized “flag march” is planned at a time of heightened tensions over the Old City and the Temple Mount, which have both been flashpoints for increased violence at the confluence of Passover, Ramadan, and Easter.

“We saw this week the pictures of rocks thrown at buses on their way to the Western Wall and of Jews attacked in the Old City,” says Nisan, referring to two recent incidents in Jerusalem that circulated in the Israeli press. “We wanted to do it in the place where rocks were thrown on buses.”

Palestinians throw rocks at an Israeli bus outside Jerusalem’s Old City on April 17, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The march is modeled on an annual event tied to Jerusalem Day, in which Jewish Israelis march through the Old City and its Muslim Quarter, waving Israeli flags and dancing to commemorate Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

Nisan says that protest organizers suggested an alternative and ultimately rejected route to the police, which would go through the Christian Quarter, today home to Arab residents of both Christian and Muslim faiths.

Erdogan: Jerusalem tensions won’t affect ties with Israel

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that Ankara’s rapprochement with Jerusalem will continue despite tensions over the Temple Mount.

Erdogan says that Turkey will continue to loudly protest Israeli actions on the Mount, revered by Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, but that it will not have direct bearing on the countries’ diplomatic ties.

“It is clear that the way to effectively defend the Palestinian cause is to have a reasonable, consistent and balanced relationship with Israel,” he tells lawmakers in parliament, according to Hurriyet.

The speech marks a sea change from previous years in which Turkey downgraded ties with Israel to protest actions in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

On Tuesday, Erdogan spoke to President Isaac Herzog about the violence, and afterward released a statement that expressed concern but did not blame Israel’s leadership and was free from much of the fiery rhetoric used in the past.

Putin says Russia will work to ‘normalize’ life in Ukraine’s Donbas

Russia will “act consistently” to make sure that life in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland “normalizes,” Russian President Vladimir Putin says.

Speaking at a meeting with members of a state-funded non-profit group, Putin pledges that “we will act consistently and make sure [that] life in Donbas normalizes.”

Putin says hostilities in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, prompted Russia to launch a military operation.

“All these eight years, bombing, artillery strikes and hostilities continued there. And of course, it was very, very hard for people,” Putin said. “The goal of the operation is to help our people living in Donbas.”

Ben Gvir vows to defy effort to bar him from nationalist march

Responding to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to bar him from Damascus Gate, where nationalists are planning to march, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir is vowing to disobey the order and says he will be there.

“After he abandoned police and citizens, [Bennett] has turned into a dictator who harms the freedom of movement of Knesset members,” complains Ben Gvir, noting that MKs have parliamentary immunity.

“If there is no agreed framework [for the march] and [no] compromise between the police and organizers, I intend to go to Damascus Gate, without asking Bennett, [public security minister Omer] Barlev, the Shura Council or Hamas,” says the firebrand lawmaker in a statement.

Bennett bans Ben Gvir from powder keg Damascus Gate

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office says far-right Knesset lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir will be barred from the Damascus Gate at Jerusalem’s Old City, where Jewish nationalists have vowed to hold a march, raising fears of clashes with Palestinians who frequent the popular square during Ramadan.

A statement from Bennett’s office says the decision to prevent Ben-Gvir, who heads the opposition’s extreme-right Otzma Yehudit faction, from reaching the Damascus Gate was made at the recommendation of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai.

“I have no intention of allowing petty politics to endanger lives. I will not allow Ben Gvir’s political provocation to endanger IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers and to add to their burdens,” Bennett says in a statement from his office.

Police already rejected a permit for the nationalist march, scheduled for 5 p.m., due to its route through the Damascus Gate.

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