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PM’s lawyers mulling High Court petition if AG refuses to delay hearing: report

Netanyahu’s legal team said to insist on postponing pre-indictment process by several months, is considering foregoing it entirely if demand isn’t met

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)

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

Islamic State group claims Sri Lanka attacks

The Islamic State group claims a series of bombings that killed more than 320 people in Sri Lanka.

“Those that carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters,” says a statement released by IS propaganda agency Amaq.


At least 45 children killed in Sri Lanka attacks: UN

At least 45 children were among the more than 320 people killed in suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, the United Nations says.

“The total now is 45 children who died,” UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac tells reporters in Geneva.

He adds that the toll from the Sunday attacks could rise as many other minors “are wounded and are now fighting for their lives in intensive care units across the country.”

Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it explodes when police tried to defuse a bomb near St. Anthony’s Shrine as priests look on in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

UNICEF has confirmed that 27 children were killed and another 10 injured in the attack at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo.

In the eastern city of Batticaloa, 13 children were killed, including an 18-month-old baby, UNICEF says.

Those 40 children who lost their lives in the two cities were Sri Lankan nationals, while UNICEF has confirmed that another five children of foreign nationality were also killed.

Boulierac is not immediately able to provide details on where the non-Sri Lankan children died.

Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who was on vacation in Sri Lanka with his family at the weekend, lost three of his four children in the attack, a spokesman for his clothing retail group Bestseller has said.

Twenty children have also been admitted to hospitals following the attack in Colombo, including four who were in intensive care.

Sri Lanka has named the local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, as the chief suspect, for the violence that has sparked local and international outrage.


India to observe US sanctions on Iranian oil

India says it will buy crude oil from other major oil producing countries in view of the United States’ decision this week to end waivers that allowed it to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar says the Indian government will continue to work with partner nations, including the United States, to find ways to protect India’s energy and economic security interests.

India bought 23.6 million tons of Iranian oil in the financial year ending in March 2019.

In November, the US granted a six-month waiver to India and seven other countries to continue importing oil from Iran. Washington decided to eliminate all Iranian oil revenue that it says funds destabilizing activity throughout the Middle East and beyond.

— AP

Israeli man has been missing for 5 days after disappearing in Berlin

An Israeli man visiting Germany has been missing since last Thursday, with his family saying they haven’t been able to contact him since.

Yaniv Avraham, 36, flew to Berlin last Wednesday. He updated his family that he had landed, checked in to his hotel, and according to data from Google was at a train station in the city the following morning at 6:15 a.m. when he disappeared without a trace.

On Sunday he was scheduled to travel to London, which he didn’t. His family, from the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, tells the Ynet website he normally calls them once a day when he’s abroad.

“Something happened there at the train station,” says his father, Herzl. “We are very concerned because we have heard lately about all sorts of anti-Semitic incidents in Poland and also in Berlin.”

At the family’s request, Israel’s diplomatic missions in Western Europe have contacted local police forces and asked them to look for Avraham.

According to Ynet, Avraham’s family have in the last 24 hours given an indication as to the country where he might be. The Foreign Ministry and insurance companies in that unspecified country are reportedly coordinating efforts to locate him.

Trump to make state visit to UK June 3-5: Buckingham Palace

US President Donald Trump will make a state visit to Britain hosted by Queen Elizabeth II on June 3-5, during which he will also meet Prime Minister Theresa May, officials say.

“The President of the United States of America, President Donald J. Trump, accompanied by Mrs. Melania Trump, has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Monday 3rd June to Wednesday 5th June 2019,” Buckingham Palace says in a statement.


Lebanon will agree to draw its maritime border with Israel under UN supervision

Lebanon’s house speaker announces that Beirut will agree to draw its maritime border with Israel under the supervision of the United Nations, Lebanese media reports.

Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri, August 31 2013. (screen capture: YouTube/MTVLebanonNews)
ILebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut, Lebanon, May 11, 2018 May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“We are ready to draw Lebanon’s maritime borders and those of the Exclusive Economic Zone using the same procedure that was used to draw the Blue Line under the supervision of the United Nations,” Nabih Berri tells Stefano Del Col, head of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping force, according to the Xinhua agency citing Lebanon’s National News Agency.

There are over 300 square miles (775 square kilometers) of waters claimed by both countries, which are technically in a state of conflict. Tensions have flared in the past over gas fields that might be located in the disputed area.

The Blue Line is the land border between Israel and Lebanon as drawn by the UN after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. Beirut disputes part of that line and claims an area known in Israel as Mount Dov and in Lebanon as the Shebaa Farms.

In US court, Arab Israeli woman admits planning Islamic State terror attacks

Waheba Issa Dais, an Arab Israeli woman living in the United States, admits that she helped plan a terror attack on behalf of the Islamic State terror group, US media report.

The 46-year-old living in Cudahy, Wisconsin — originally from Jerusalem — was charged last year with attempting to provide material support to IS, with officials saying she coached potential attackers on how to cook up ricin and kept a library of books on making bombs, poisons and suicide vests.

Dais, a legal US resident since 1992, reportedly signed a plea deal admitting she tried to help the potential attackers poison water sources and carry out terror attacks at crowded festivals.

This undated photo provided by the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department in Waukesha, Wisconsin, shows Waheba Issa Dais, of Cudahy, Wisconsin. (Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department via AP, File)

High Court throws out petition against Netanyahu forming next government

The High Court of Justice rejects outright a petition demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be prevented from forming the next government.

The petition was filed by Shahar Ben Meir, an attorney who argued that in light of corruption charges announced against Netanyahu, pending a hearing, President Reuven Rivlin’s decision to task him with forming the next coalition following his election win is “extremely unreasonable” and should be canceled.

The judges reject the petition without asking for a response, ruling that the current situation wasn’t so exceptional that it required the court’s intervention.

Saudi Arabia executes 37 citizens for ‘terrorism’

Saudi Arabia has executed 37 of its citizens who were convicted of terrorism, the interior ministry says.

The executions took place in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the central Qassim province and the Eastern Province, a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency says.


US move to end Iran exemptions sending oil prices higher

Global oil prices are climbing in the wake of the US move to impose sanctions on countries that buy Iranian oil.

And analysts say prices could keep heading higher.

The US announced the sanctions last year to push Iranian leaders to renegotiate an agreement aimed at keeping them from developing nuclear weapons. But some countries got temporary waivers that allowed them to import Iranian oil. The US now says those waivers expire May 2.

Among those affected are China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday the US is counting on ally Saudi Arabia to ensure sufficient supply.

New York Mercantile Exchange has risen 10 cents to $65.65 per barrel while international Brent crude rose 14 cents to $74.18 per barrel.

— AP

EU regrets US decision on Iran sanctions

The European Union is criticizing the US decision to impose sanctions on countries that buy Iranian oil and warns that the move could damage an international effort to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic expresses “regret” over the US decision and says it “risks further undermining” the Iran nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of that pact last year, saying it does nothing to stop Tehran developing missiles or destabilizing the Middle East.

Since then, the EU has put measures in place to sidestep US sanctions on Iran, including a way to keep financial supply lines to Tehran open and protect European businesses operating there.

— AP

Netanyahu remarks ‘destroying’ 2-state solution, PA prime minister tells US senator

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh meets US Senator Ron Wyden in Ramallah.

According to the official PA news site Wafa, he tells Wyden: “The talk of annexing parts of the West Bank… is destroying the two-state solution and putting an end to the opportunity to achieve an independent Palestinian state along 1967 borders.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently vowed to apply sovereignty over all West Bank settlements.

— Adam Rasgon

North Korea’s Kim, Putin to meet Thursday in Russia’s Far East

A Kremlin adviser says that President Vladimir Putin will meet the North Korean leader in Russia’s Far East on Thursday.

Yuri Ushakov tells Russian news agencies that the much-anticipated talks between Putin and Kim Jong Un will be held in Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean and will focus on North Korea’s nuclear program.

Local media have reported preparations and strict security measures undertaken in Vladivostok where the Korean leader is expected to arrive by train.

Kim had two summits with US President Donald Trump, but the latest one in Vietnam in February collapsed because North Korea wanted more sanctions relief than the United States was willing to give for the amount of nuclear disarmament.

— AP

Islamic State publishes names of 7 Sri Lanka attackers

The Islamic State terror group releases an official statement claiming the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, naming the seven bombers and saying “approximately 1,000” people were killed and wounded.

The statement names the seven as Abu Ubayda, Abu al-Mukhtar, Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu al-Bara’a, Abu Muhammad, and Abu Abdullah.

Israeli man missing in Berlin found dead in hotel

The Foreign Ministry announces that the body of 36-year-old Israeli Yaniv Avraham, who went missing in Berlin last Thursday, has been found in the hotel where he was staying.

In a statement, the ministry says it has notified Avraham’s family and that German police are investigating the circumstances of his death.

The ministry and Israel’s consul in Berlin are helping return the body to Israel for burial.

Islamic State publishes photo it says shows the 8 Sri Lanka bombers

The Islamic State terror group published a photo said to show the eight bombers who carried out Easter Sunday’s attacks in Sri Lanka.

Seven men are seen standing next to each other, allegedly taken shortly before the attacks, with an IS flag in the background.

Netanyahu says a community in Golan will be named after Donald Trump

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he intends to name a community in the Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump, several weeks after the latter recognized Israeli sovereignty in the northern region.

Touring the Golan with his family on the festival of Passover, Netanyahu says in a statement: “There is a need to express our appreciation by naming a community after Donald Trump in the Golan Heights. I will bring that before the government for approval soon.”

Gantz accuses Netanyahu of using coalition talks to secure legal immunity

Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party which is likely to be the biggest opposition faction in the upcoming Knesset, slams coalition negotiations in which a party has proposed a law shielding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from prosecution in three corruption cases in exchange for a full annexation of the West Bank.

This combination of pictures created on April 2, 2019 shows a file photo taken on April 1, 2019 of retired general Benny Gantz (L), head of the Blue and White party, and a photo taken on March 10, 2019 of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office. (Jack Guez and Gali Tibbon/AFP)

“Establishing a government whose sole purpose is immunity for Netanyahu,” Gantz says in a statement after several days during which he was criticized for staying silent over the issue. “Employing Natan Eshel, trying to delay the hearing, selling the basic values of democracy. How sad and how unsurprising.”

Eshel is a Netanyahu associate who resigned from the Prime Minister’s Office over sexual misconduct allegations several years ago, but has returned to the political fray as a representative for the ruling Likud party in coalition negotiations.

Reports yesterday indicated that Netanyahu was trying to delay the pre-indictment hearing process in the graft cases by failing to collect the legal documents from the attorney general’s office for 12 days.

“Blue and White will lead the struggle against the prime minister’s attempt to buy himself a coalition that is a legal fortress. We will not let that happen,” Gantz says.

In apparent dismissal of two-state solution, Kushner says past efforts ‘failed’

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner says the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan will “demand tough compromises from Israelis and Palestinians.”

Interviewed live at Time Magazine’s conference, Kushner says: “Normally they start with a process … what we’ve done is the opposite.” He says the document will be a “detailed proposal.”

Asked whether the proposal will include the two-state solution, Kushner says: “We’ve taken what i think is an unconventional approach. We’ve studied the past efforts and how they failed and why they failed. If people focus on the old traditional talking points we’re never going to make progress.”

He mentions the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative — which included a two-state solution — and says he thinks it was “a very good attempt, but if that would’ve worked we would’ve made peace a long time ago on that basis.”

He says the strategy is centering around “how do we make life for Palestinians better?” and “how do we make Israel safer?”

Confirming widely reported details, Kushner adds that “we’re going to wait until after Ramadan now.” The Muslim holy month ends June 4.

Full results: Zelensky wins Ukraine’s presidential election with 73%

Full preliminary results show Jewish TV comedian Volodymyr Zelensky won Ukraine’s presidential election with 73 percent of the vote.

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on April 21, 2019. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)

The Ukrainian Central Election Commission publishes the full and final count of votes in Sunday’s election, which also shows incumbent Petro Poroshenko with only 24%.

Zelensky, 41, is a political novice who is promising to build a “new country,” free of graft and the old, corrupt political establishment.

Zelensky’s campaign was extremely vague, leaving pundits wondering how he is going to tackle thorny issues like the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine and relations with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

— AP

Islamic State posts video of Sri Lanka bombers swearing allegiance to its leader

After publishing a photo of the bombers in the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka and claiming the attacks, the Islamic State group publishes a video of seven of the fighters swearing allegiance to the terror organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The video is published on the IS propaganda outlet Amaq.

Merkel: Ukraine vote gives leader Zelensky ‘strong mandate’

Angela Merkel’s office says the German chancellor has called Ukraine’s president-elect to congratulate him, saying the vote gives him “a strong mandate.”

Merkel speaks with Volodymyr Zelensky as election officials say the former TV comedian received 73 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff against incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Merkel’s office says she invited Zelensky to visit Germany, while he thanked her for supporting Ukraine and expressed an interest in continuing four-way talks with Russia and France on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Merkel’s office says Germany will “actively support Ukraine on its path of reform and in its right to sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The statement makes no mention of Merkel’s recent meeting with Poroshenko — widely seen as supporting his candidacy — before Sunday’s vote.

— AP

PM’s lawyers mulling High Court petition if AG refuses to delay hearing: report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers are considering petitioning to the High Court of Justice or even foregoing the hearing process altogether if Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit doesn’t agree to postpone the pre-indictment hearing by several months as they are demanding, Channel 12 news reports.

Polish prosecutors open probe into beating, burning of hook-nosed Judas effigy

The attorney general of the Polish province of Jaroslaw has reportedly opened a criminal investigation over an Easter ceremony last Friday in which a crowd in the local town of Pruchnik beat, hanged, beheaded and burned an effigy of Judas Iscariot — Jesus’ betrayer — who was depicted with a hooked nose and a hat and sidecurls typical of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

“Based on the videos I’ve seen, I decided there is a basis for the initiation of an investigation on suspicion that a hate crime occurred there,” Agnieszka Kaczorowska says, according to Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

“We need to collect all the video material distributed online, determine who was involved in organizing the ritual and identify the people in the videos, and then we will try to determine who shouted and beat the doll,” she tells Kan.

“The prosecution will also investigate what was the children’s role in the ritual — whether they beat the doll at their parents’ directions or others’ and whether they were aware of what they were doing.”

Berlin police kept Israeli embassy in the dark about dead son, father alleges

The father of Yaniv Avraham, whose body was found at a Berlin hotel after he was missing since last Thursday, criticizes Berlin police for allegedly keeping Israel and the family in the dark despite having found the body last week.

“We are surprised to discover that Berlin police found his body already on Thursday, and until today didn’t update the family or the embassy,” the father, Herzl, says. “Something in this tragic story is unclear. We didn’t get any information from an official source.”

Egyptian voters approve referendum extending Sissi’s rule until 2030

Egypt’s election commission says voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi at the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 16, 2019 (Sven Hoppe / DPA / AFP)

The referendum was widely seen as another step toward restoring authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising that toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the commission, says the amendments were approved with 88.83% voting in favor. The turnout was 44.33% of eligible voters. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through Monday to maximize turnout.

Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a “Yes” vote and a high turnout, offering incentives while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the three-day voting.

Authorities have waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent since Sissi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

— AP

After Revolutionary Guards, Syrian presidency says its Instagram account blocked

The Syrian presidency says its Instagram account has been blocked, one week after the photo-sharing website shut down the accounts of several Iranian Revolutionary Guards because of US sanctions.

A statement released on the presidency’s other social media channels says the move came without “prior warning or a logical justification.”

YouTube has previously blocked the presidency’s channel several times, it says.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, shakes hands with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, Iran, on February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP)

The “deliberate” decision to close-down official government channels and accounts on social media networks is part of a “growing siege” that has been imposed on Syria since the start of the country’s war in 2011, the presidency says.

It says it believes further measures may follow as part of a so-called soft war being waged on the country, now that “the military conflict is receding.”

Access to the Syrian presidency’s account, which was working last week, was denied when AFP tried today.

The presidency says a new Instagram account has been created.

An Instagram spokesperson told AFP last week that compliance with US sanctions prompted the website to block the accounts of several Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Since 2011, the US and the EU have imposed a flurry of sanctions against Syrian officials.

The Syrian presidency’s social media accounts have been used frequently during the conflict.

They are a key source for communiques and statements attributed to President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma.


AIPAC denounces Sanders’ for calling Netanyahu government ‘racist’

The US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC criticizes Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “racist” in recent remarks.

In a tweet, which doesn’t mention Sanders by name, AIPAC says that “name-calling by political leaders against the democratically elected government of Israel is counterproductive to maintaining close ties and advancing peace.”

Israel, US launch reciprocal investor visa programs

The United States and Israel have launched a reciprocal policy allowing major investors to reside in each country.

Israel’s Interior Ministry announces that it will grant investor visas — which permit US citizens, including vital workers and their families — to reside and work in Israel on a temporary basis for the purpose of managing and developing a business venture.

The visas are in response to an announcement earlier this month by the US embassy in Israel that it will grant US E-2 Investor visas for Israeli nationals, allowing Israelis to invest in the US economy and send qualified employees to the United States to develop the enterprise.

Both countries’ Investor Visas will be implemented beginning May 1.


Joe Biden to announce 2020 bid on Thursday — source

Answering perhaps the most significant question of the early 2020 election season, former US vice president Joe Biden will launch his presidential campaign on Thursday.

Former US vice president Joe Biden. (JTA/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The move, confirmed by a person familiar with his plans, sets up the 76-year-old lifelong politician as a front-runner in the crowded Democratic contest as the party fights to determine who’s best positioned to defeat US President Donald Trump next year.

Biden is scheduled to face union workers in Pittsburgh on Monday as part of the roll-out tour, the person says, speaking on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations.

— AP

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