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Israeli astronaut returns to earth after mission to space station

‘Welcome back to Planet Earth,’ mission control tells Eytan Stibbe and other members of Axiom-1, the first all-private mission to travel to International Space Station

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

US meets with allies on upping arms shipments to Ukraine

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Top US officials are hosting emergency talks with allies in Germany on supplying Kyiv with more weapons to fend off Russia’s assault, as the UN’s chief headed to Moscow in a bid to avert further escalation of the conflict.

Today’s meeting of 40 countries at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine of only “pretending” to negotiate a ceasefire and warned of a “real” risk of a new world war.

Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor, now in its eighth week, has triggered widespread outrage among Western nations who have provided weapons and other assistance to Ukraine’s embattled president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

But the Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their direct involvement, wary of drawing Moscow’s ire and sparking military confrontations beyond Ukraine’s borders.

“We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said following his visit to Kyiv on Sunday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The two officials promised $700 million in new aid to Ukraine, after months of pleas by Zelensky for heavier firepower.

And Germany said it would begin supplying anti-aircraft tanks, a clear shift after refusing for weeks to provide more advanced equipment, and a sign that Berlin was abandoning its cautious approach towards Moscow.

Biden calls to preserve Temple Mount status quo in call with Jordan’s king

US President Joe Biden speaks with Jordan’s King Abdullah about recent tensions in Jerusalem.

The call comes less than a day after Biden spoke with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the same issue as the US has amped up its diplomacy aimed at de-escalating the situation.

“The two leaders discussed in detail recent efforts to stem violence in Israel and the West Bank, including at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem,” the White House says.

“The president welcomed recent steps to reduce tensions and expressed his hope that the final week of Ramadan will pass peacefully. He underscored the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” the US readout adds.

The Jordanian royal court issues its own statement on the call that says the two “noted the importance of maintaining coordination to prevent the recurrence of violations in Jerusalem that may undermine peace prospects and lead to further escalation.”

According to the statement, Abdullah also reiterates Jordan’s backing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an independent Palestinian state established along the so-called 1967 lines and with a capital in East Jerusalem.

Eytan Stibbe, Axiom-1 team egress from space capsule

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe and the rest of the Axiom-1 team egress from the space capsule that brought them back to Earth, taking their first breaths of fresh air since departing for the International Space Station.

NY judge finds Trump in contempt for not fully responding to AG’s subpoena

NEW YORK — A New York judge finds former US president Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to adequately respond to a subpoena issued by the state’s attorney general as part of a civil investigation into his business dealings.

Judge Arthur Engoron orders Trump to pay a fine of $10,000 per day.

“Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” Engoron says before issuing the ruling from the bench in a Manhattan courtroom, following a hearing.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, had asked the court to hold Trump in contempt after he missed a March 31 court-imposed deadline to turn over documents. The judge says a contempt finding was appropriate because Trump and his lawyers had not shown that they had conducted a proper search for the records sought by the subpoena.

Trump, a Republican, has been fighting James in court over her investigation, which he has called a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

James has been conducting a lengthy investigation into the Trump Organization, the former president’s family company, centering around what she has claimed is a pattern of misleading banks and tax authorities about the value of his properties.

The contempt finding by the judge comes despite a spirited argument by Trump lawyer Alina Habba, who insisted repeatedly that she went to great lengths to comply with the subpoena, even traveling to Florida to ask Trump specifically whether he had in his possession any documents that would be responsive to the demand.

“The contempt motion is inappropriate and misleading,” she says. “He complied… There are no more documents left to produce by President Trump.”

Trump spokespeople do not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Turkish court sentences Erdogan critic to life in prison

ISTANBUL, Turkey — A Turkish court has sentenced leading intellectual and rights campaigner Osman Kavala to life in jail on highly controversial coup plot charges that had already seen him locked up without a conviction for more than four years.

The panel of three judges also sentenced seven other defendants to 18 years in jail each, on charges of aiding the attempt to topple the government.

The judgement is almost certain to attract a chorus of condemnation from Turkey’s main allies in the NATO defense alliance.

The court’s ruling drew boos from a packed audience that included Western diplomats who have been trying to stress the importance of rights issues and judicial independence in their relations with Ankara.

Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch calls it “the worst possible outcome to this show trial.”

“Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions,” Amnesty International’s Europe director Nils Muiznieks adds.

Kavala’s attorneys immediately vow to appeal.

Eytan Stibbe, rest of Axiom-1 crew splash down off Florida coast after space mission

The Dragon spacecraft carrying Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe and the rest of the Axiom-1 crew has splashed down off the coast of Florida, returning from their trip to the International Space Station.

“On behalf of the entire SpaceX team, welcome back to Planet Earth. The Axiom-1 mission marks the beginning of a new paradigm for human space flight,” mission control tells the crew, the first all-private mission to ever travel to ISS.

UN’s Middle East envoy appears to back Israeli account on recent Temple Mount unrest

The UN’s Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland appears to adopt the Israeli account of how major clashes between Palestinians and police on the Temple Mount sparked earlier this month.

“On 15 April, during the early morning hours, a large number of Palestinians gathered at the Al-Aqsa compound. Some Palestinians threw stones, fireworks, and other heavy objects towards Israeli Security Forces, and ISF used stun grenades, sponge-tipped bullets and batons, including against some bystanders,” Wennesland tells the UN Security Council during the forum’s monthly session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians have claimed that the police breached the compound unprovoked and that the Palestinians only began clashing in response to the intrusion.

“In the midst of these clashes, several dozen Palestinians entered a mosque in the compound, with some continuing to throw stones and fireworks towards ISF. Following a standoff with those inside, Israeli police entered the mosque and arrested those barricaded inside. During the clashes, some damage was caused to the structure of the mosque.”

The account appears to justify the police decision to enter the mosque after Palestinians “barricaded” inside and threw stones.

However, he also notes the over 160 Palestinians who were injured during the clashes that day, saying the “conduct of Israeli forces has raised concerns about possible excessive use of force.”

“Despite the tensions, overall, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians have been able to celebrate the holy days in and around the Old City in relative peace and without further escalation.”

Wennesland also lauds recent statements from Israeli officials “reiterating Israel’s commitment to upholding the status quo and ensuring that only Muslims would be allowed to pray on the Holy Esplanade,” in praise not often heard from such a senior member of the international community.

Gaza pedestrian crossing to reopen following closure over rocket attacks

The Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip will reopen tomorrow, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians says.

The pedestrian crossing between Israel and the coastal enclave was shuttered over recent rocket attacks on southern Israel.

With it reopening, some 12,000 Palestinians with work permits can again enter Israel.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories says the move depends on “maintained security stability in the region.”

Palestinian envoy to UN: ‘Jewish extremists and settlers’ seeking takeover of Temple Mount

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour claims Jews visiting the Temple Mount are seeking to takeover the entire site known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.

“Jewish extremists and settlers are not just visitors, as Israel claims. They are in fact pursuing an agenda when they enter Al-Haram Al-Sharif, they are seeking a takeover,” Mansour says in his remarks to the UN Security Council during its monthly session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“How do we know it? We just listen to them, they do not hide their intentions, they proclaim them. When Israeli forces allow them to enter the site and provide them with protection and support, they do it knowingly. Pretending not to understand the outrage provoked by such assault on the Haram when each time it triggers the same reaction is outrageous,” he claims.

Over 4,600 Jews visited the Temple Mount during the Passover holiday last week — a record number, which was twice as many as there had been in 2019 and seven times as many as there were in 2014. The vast majority of visitors are from the national-religious sector.

Israel says it maintains the status quo, under which Muslims may visit and pray the site while non-Muslims can only visit. But Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai acknowledged on Saturday that there has been a “deterioration” and that Jews have been allowed to stop and pray while circling the compound. Footage from recent years indicates that it happens regularly.

Mansour points to Israel’s capping of Christian worshipers allowed inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for this past Saturday’s Holy Fire ceremony as a further violation of the status quo at Jerusalem holy sites. Israel limited the number to some 4,000 due to fears of overcrowding, which caused a deadly crush at Lag B’Omer festivities in Meron last year.

The Palestinian envoy says Israel further violated the status quo when its forces “stormed” the Temple Mount last week during clashes that led to over 150 Palestinians wounded. Police say they only entered the compound after rioters began hurling stones, shooting off fireworks, stockpiling weapons in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and targeting the Western Wall complex below.

“Clearly, Israeli officials are the only ones to believe such actions are anything but a flagrant violation of the historic status quo,” Mansour says.

Britain estimates 15,000 Russian troops killed since Ukraine invasion began

LONDON — The British government says it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion two months ago.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says 25 percent of the Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered not combat effective,” and Russia has lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and more than 60 helicopters and fighter planes.

Russia has acknowledged 1,351 military casualties.

Wallace says Russia had failed in most of its military objectives so far. He tells British lawmakers that “we anticipate this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas in order to connect it via Mariupol” to Russian-controlled Crimea. He says international aid and weapons are crucial to help Ukraine withstand the anticipated onslaught.

Wallace says Britain had sent more than 5,000 antitank missiles, as well as air-defense systems and anti-air missiles, and will soon send “a small number” of Stormer armored vehicles equipped with missile launchers.

Gaza farmer finds statuette of ancient goddess

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A stone statuette over 4,500 years old depicting the face of an ancient goddess was discovered in the southern Gaza Strip, archaeological authorities in the Palestinian enclave announce today.

Carved out of limestone and 22 centimeters (8.6 inches) long, the 2500 BCE statuette was found by a farmer working his land in Khan Younis, according to the ministry of tourism and antiquities for Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza.

“The statue represents the Canaanite goddess Anat,” Jamal Abu Reda, in charge of antiquities at the ministry, says in a statement.

Anat, one of the best-known Canaanite deities, was the goddess of love and war.

It was uncovered on what was an important “overland trade route for several civilizations” that lived in what is now the Gaza Strip, according to Abu Reda.

Israeli envoy to UN rails at calls for ‘calm from both sides,’ amid Jerusalem unrest

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan lambastes the international community for urging “calm from both sides” given recent unrest in Jerusalem, insisting that Israel should not be placed on the same level as the “bloodthirsty terrorists” clashing with police on the Temple Mount.

“From both sides?! Who are the sides?!” Erdan says during a press conference ahead of the UN Security Council’s monthly meeting to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“On the one side, we have the mobs of bloodthirsty terrorists, calling to murder Jews, carrying weapons into their places of worship, throwing firebombs and rocks from mosque windows, and shooting firecrackers from within their holy sites,” he adds.

“On the other side, we have a law-abiding democracy, which ensures the freedom of worship for all, is committed to protecting holy sites, and shows respect and restraint before using minimal force only when necessary to protect others.”

“And calls are made for calm from both sides? How detached from reality has the international community become?” the envoy laments.

He asserts that Palestinian terror groups have “spun a web of lies” to blame Israel for the recent violence at the Temple Mount.

Erdan then plays footage of Palestinians hurling rocks and shooting fireworks toward Israeli police at the Temple Mount over the past week and a half.

Police arrest man in Jerusalem over suspected attack plan

Police say they have arrested a man in Jerusalem after receiving information about suspected plans to carry out an attack in the area.

A police statement says the suspect was arrested near the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood and taken for questioning.

Police stress that the suspected attack plans have not yet been verified.

According to Channel 12 news, the suspect is an Arab Israeli from Rahat who is believed to have been planning an attack in Jerusalem.

Finland, Sweden said to agree to file NATO applications at the same time

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A pair of newspapers — one Swedish, the other one Finnish — are reporting that the governments of Sweden and Finland have agreed to submit NATO applications at the same time and that it will happen in the middle of next month.

The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti says the Swedish government has expressed a wish to Finland that they apply together in the week starting May 22, and Swedish government sources have confirmed the information to Sweden’s Expressen tabloid.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to growing support in Sweden and Finland, a Russian neighbor, for joining NATO.

Though not members, both Nordic countries closely cooperate with NATO, allowing, among other things, the alliance’s troops to exercise on their soil. Helsinki and Stockholm have also substantially intensified their bilateral defense cooperation in the past years.

Health Ministry: 3 cases of Omicron subvariant detected among arrivals in Israel

The Health Ministry announces that three recent arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport have tested positive for the BA.4 Omicron subvariant.

One of the arrivals came from South Africa, where the subvariant has been spreading, while the other two came from Singapore and Italy respectively.

The ministry says it has no further information on BA.4 at this time.

Absorption ministry: 15,000 new immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus in past 2 months

Over the past two months, nearly 9,000 people from Ukraine have immigrated to Israel — nearly three times as many as in all of 2021 — as have nearly 6,000 Russians and 400 Belarusians in the wake of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, according to the Immigration and Absorption Ministry.

Another 10,000 people have expressed interest in immigrating as well, the ministry says. While this would make the current wave of immigration by far the largest in the past 30 years, it would be far, far short of the initial projections of up to 100,000 new immigrants as a result of the Russian war.

“We have been through two intensive months of absorbing immigration. From the start of the war in Ukraine, the State of Israel has received more than 15,000 new immigrants and this is a source of great national pride,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata says in a statement.

The significant majority of the Ukrainian immigrants are women, children, and elderly, as the country’s draft laws have made it difficult for adult men to leave. Twice as many women have immigrated as men, according to the ministry.

Of the 15,000 immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, roughly a quarter are minors and 18 percent are over the age of 66.

According to the ministry, Netanya has become the most popular destination for the immigrants, with roughly a tenth — 1,543 — choosing to settle in the coastal city. The other leading cities are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the country’s largest three municipalities: Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Knesset panel due to vote on declaring Yamina rebel Chikli a ‘defector’

The Knesset House Committee has reconvened to vote on a request by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party to declare rebel MK Amichai Chikli a “defector.”

In a speech before the panel, Chikli rails at Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Yamina’s No. 2, accusing them of violating their campaign promises to voters.

“The damage they caused Israeli democracy will take a long time to fix,” he says.

During a heated hearing earlier today, members of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party tore into Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg, who was filling in as chair for Yamina’s Nir Orbach, whose mother died.

Likud MK Miri Regev called Ginzburg a “colonialist pig,” while Keren Barak denounced him as a “wretched dictator.”

Stats bureau: World Jewish population stands at 15.2 million, 45% in Israel

The Central Bureau of Statistics say that at its last count, there were 15.2 million Jews around the globe, of whom 6.9 million live in Israel.

Among Israeli Jews, who account for 45 percent of the global Jewish population, the CBS says 5.4 million were born in the country, while 1.5 million were born overseas.

The country with the next largest Jewish population is the United States, which the CBS says has 6 million Jews, followed by France with 445,000, Canada with 393,000, the United Kingdom with 292,000, Argentina with 175,000, and Russia with 150,000

It adds that Germany and Australia each have 118,000 Jews.

The bureau, which says the figures are from the end of 2020, announces the numbers in a press release for Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Wednesday evening this year.

Ra’am MK says Mansour Abbas at Jordanian royal palace for iftar meal

A Ra’am lawmaker says the Islamist party’s leader, Mansour Abbas, is currently in Jordan.

“He received an invitation for an iftar meal at the royal palace,” MK Walid Taha tells news site Kul al-Arab, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Taha says Abbas may also meet with Palestinian Authority officials, but no date has been set.

Ra’am is part of the ruling coalition, but recently froze its membership as the party faces pressure over unrest at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which Jordan has also criticized Israel over.

Strauss announces major recall of chocolate products over salmonella discovery

Israeli food manufacturer Strauss Group announces a major recall of products from its Elite chocolate brand after salmonella traces were found at a factory.

A statement from Strauss says salmonella samples were also found in the chocolate that is used to make the various products.

According to Hebrew media reports, Strauss was aware there may be salmonella in the chocolate as early as last Wednesday but the final results confirming the presence of the bacteria were delayed because of the Passover holiday.

Separately, Israeli importer K.A. Chocolate & Gourmet Ltd is recalling a Nutella product due to a mistake on the allergies disclaimer label.

According to a statement issued by the company, the Nutella Biscuits product made by the Italian company, Ferrero Group, will be taken off the shelves after a routine check conducted by the Health Ministry found that hazelnuts were omitted from the product’s allergies label, despite appearing as one of its ingredients.

The warning specifically refers to Nutella Biscuits products with an expiration date of June 11, 2022.

Russia claims to foil ‘neo-Nazi terrorist’ plot against pro-Kremlin TV anchor

MOSCOW, Russia — Moscow says it has arrested members of a “neo-Nazi terrorist” group in Russia, who allegedly planned to assassinate pro-Kremlin TV anchor Vladimir Solovyov on orders from Ukraine.

“The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation detained a group of members of the neo-Nazi terrorist organization National Socialism/White Power, which is banned in Russia,” Russia’s FSB security agency says in a statement carried by news agencies, adding that those arrested are Russian citizens.

The FSB claims that the group is planning the “murder” of Russian TV and radio journalist Solovyov “on the instructions of the Security Service of Ukraine.”

It adds that the group “confessed to preparing the murder of Solovyov, after which they planned to flee abroad.”

According to the FSB, “fake” Ukrainian passports, arms, drugs and an improvised explosive device were found during a search of the detainees’ homes.

Speaking at a meeting of Russian prosecutors, President Vladimir Putin suggests Washington was involved in planning the “murder of a famous Russian TV journalist.” without naming him.

“They have resorted to terror! To preparing the murders of our journalists. We know by name the curators of Western secret services, primarily, of course, from the CIA, who work with the security agencies of Ukraine,” Putin says in televised remarks.

“Apparently, they give such advice (to kill journalists). So much for their attitude towards the rights of journalists… (and) human rights in general,” Putin adds.

A staunch supporter of Putin and Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Solovyov — who is Jewish — is under EU sanctions for spreading state “propaganda.”

Ukraine: No deal yet on evacuating wounded troops, civilians from Mariupol steel plant

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says Moscow has not agreed to its request for a humanitarian corridor to let wounded soldiers and civilians leave the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

“Unfortunately, there are no agreements on humanitarian corridors from Azovstal today,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vershchuk says on Telegram.

Zelensky hails ‘encouraging’ talks in Kyiv with Blinken, Austin

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as “encouraging” and “effective.”

Speaking in a video address today, he says the US is offering “powerful” support to his country. Zelensky adds that they agreed “on further steps to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army.” He notes that ramping up sanctions against Moscow also was on the meeting’s agenda.

Blinken and Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.

Zelensky notes that Ukraine would expect the United States to lead other allies in offering a set of security guarantees in the future.

The Ukrainian president also denounces Russia for launching strikes on Orthodox Easter Sunday, describing them “deliberate destruction of life in Ukraine.”

Bennett vows Israel ‘won’t let up the pressure’ after alleged Islamic Jihad cell busted

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hails the arrest of Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell in the West Bank that was allegedly planning a bomb attack.

“The Shin Bet and security forces are in constant pursuit of Palestinian terror cells that are planning to murder us. We won’t let up the pressure,” the premier says in a statement.

“Every terrorist should know… that ultimately we’ll put our hands on him.”

IDF exposes alleged Hezbollah drug-running, smuggling operations along northern border

The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee says the military has exposed Hezbollah’s methods of drug-running operations on the northern border.

In a series of tweets, Adraee says that Hatem Sheet, a resident of Kfarkela in southern Lebanon, has used his home near the border to throw drugs from his balcony over the fence to be picked up on the other Israeli side.

He says Sheet has also been conducting reconnaissance work for the Lebanese terror group on the military’s activities along the northern border.

Adraee separately names a Hezbollah man he says is responsible for coordinating the smugglings on the border with Sheet — Hasan Sara’eni.

He says Sara’eni is an assistant to senior Hezbollah commander Khalil Harb, long accused by the Israel Defense Forces of managing the terror groups drug smugglings operations.

Shin Bet says it busted Islamic Jihad cell in West Bank that planned bomb attack

The Shin Bet security service says it has foiled an attempt by the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group to enlist residents of the West Bank to commit attacks against Israeli targets.

The agency says several Palestinians from the Jenin area — including Yasmin Shaaban, a 40-year-old mother of four — were detained for planning a bombing attack against farmers in the area.

It accuses Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip of directing the cell to build explosive devices to use in an attack.

Shaaban is accused of passing information between Islamic Jihad members in Gaza and members of the cell in the West Bank. Her interrogation led to the arrest of seven others allegedly part of the cell, the Shin Bet says.

Footage released by the agency shows the members testing out an explosive device, shaped similar to a rocket.

Shaaban and five others have been formally indicted in the case.

Ukraine removes image of Japan’s WWII-era emperor alongside Hitler, Mussolini from video

TOKYO, Japan — Ukraine’s government has apologized and removed a photo of Japanese wartime Emperor Hirohito from a video showing him with Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini after Japan protested, officials say today.

Japan will continue to support Ukrainians who are defending their country from Russia’s invasion despite the “completely inappropriate” portrayal of Hirohito, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki says.

The video, posted by the Ukrainian government on Twitter on April 1, criticized Russia’s invasion as “rashism.” Underneath the photos of the three World War II-era leaders were the words “Fascism and Nazism were defeated in 1945.”

Japan fought World War II in the name of Hirohito, who was revered as a god until he renounced his divinity, after Japan’s defeat. Historical evaluations of his role in the war remain divided. He is known posthumously in Japan as Emperor Showa.

“Portraying Hitler, Mussolini, and Emperor Showa in the same context is completely inappropriate,” Isozaki tells reporters. “It was extremely regrettable.”

Isozaki says Japan lodged a protest and demanded the removal of the emperor’s image, which Ukraine has done.

“Our sincere apologies to Japan for making this mistake,” the Ukrainian government tweeted yesterday. “We had no intention to offend the friendly people of Japan.”

Ukraine Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky also apologizes in a tweet today, saying the creator of the video lacked an understanding of history.

Hirohito’s son, former Emperor Akihito, devoted his reign to atoning for the impact of the war in and outside Japan.

The video has been replaced with one without Hirohito’s photo, but many Japanese on social media continue to criticize the original as an insult and say Japan should stop supporting Ukraine. Others say Hideki Tojo, the Japanese wartime prime minister who was later convicted of war crimes and hanged, would have been a better choice than Hirohito for the video.

Iran calls for nuclear negotiators to meet ‘as soon as possible’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran is calling for a new meeting “as soon as possible” in the talks that have been held in Vienna aimed at restoring its frayed 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Tehran has been engaged in negotiations with Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia directly, and the United States indirectly to revive the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“It is appropriate that a face-to-face meeting is held as soon as possible,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tells his weekly press conference.

“It is not yet decided where and when to have this meeting and at what level it should be held, but it is on the agenda.”

The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee that Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon, something it has always denied wanting to do.

The United States unilaterally withdrawal from the accord in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump and reimposed biting economic sanctions, prompting Iran to begin rolling back its own commitments.

Iran and the United States, adversaries for decades, have been exchanging views through the European coordinator of the Vienna talks, Enrique Mora.

Khatibzadeh says today that Iran and the European Union agreed that “prolonging the pause in the negotiations is not in anyone’s interest.”

He adds that the talks “have not stopped and are continuing through the coordinator of the Vienna negotiations.”

The Vienna talks have been paused since March 11, after Russia demanded guarantees that Western sanctions imposed against it after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine would not damage its trade with Iran.

Days later, Moscow said it had received the necessary guarantees.

The Vienna talks, which started a year ago, aim to return the United States to the nuclear deal, including through the lifting of sanctions on Iran, and to ensure Tehran’s full compliance with its commitments.

Among the key remaining sticking points is Iran’s demand that Washington delist its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a US terror list.

Gantz warns Israel will use ‘necessary force’ if any more Lebanon rocket attacks

Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatens Lebanon with further retaliation if more rockets are fired at northern Israel, after the military struck a launch site in response to a rocket attack last night.

“The State of Israel demands that the Lebanese government take responsibility for what happens on its territory,” Gantz says during a meeting with Druze officials for celebrations of Nabi Shuayb at the tomb of the Prophet Jethro

“If terrorism and violence continue, we will know to use the necessary force against the right targets,” he adds, in comments provided by his office.

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