Hamas says it won’t be cowed by Abbas threats to cut Gaza funding
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Hamas says it won’t be cowed by Abbas threats to cut Gaza funding

Trump to visit Israel next month, UN envoy Nikki Haley to follow in June; police reportedly wrapping up Netanyahu gifts probe, to recommend indictment

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, October 1, 2016. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, October 1, 2016. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem on April 23, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem on April 23, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)
  • US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and WJC President Ronald Lauder at the WJC Plenary Assembly in New York on April 25, 2017. (Shahar Azran)
    US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and WJC President Ronald Lauder at the WJC Plenary Assembly in New York on April 25, 2017. (Shahar Azran)
  • Former NUS President Malia Bouattia (National Union of Students)
    Former NUS President Malia Bouattia (National Union of Students)
  • Donald Trump speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
    Donald Trump speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
  • This file photo taken on January 10, 2015 shows French police officers standing guard in front of a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, a day after four people were killed at the Jewish supermarket by jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly during a hostage-taking. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
    This file photo taken on January 10, 2015 shows French police officers standing guard in front of a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, a day after four people were killed at the Jewish supermarket by jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly during a hostage-taking. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
  • Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks during the Gush Katif conference at the Tel Aviv Museum on March 23, 2017. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
    Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks during the Gush Katif conference at the Tel Aviv Museum on March 23, 2017. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

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

Palestinian shot in attempted stabbing attack on IDF troops

A Palestinian man attempts to stab IDF soldiers in the northern West Bank, the army says.

A military spokesperson says the troops “responded with gunfire,” but the assailant’s condition was not immediately known.

No Israelis are reported injured in the incident outside the Shomron Regional Brigade headquarters.

The incident occurs at the same location where yesterday another Palestinian attempted to stab soldiers, but was shot and wounded before he could.

— Judah Ari Gross

Ya’alon: Netanyahu culture of ‘generating hatred’ a greater threat than terrorism

Israel’s hawkish former defense minister is attacking the government as corrupt and extreme — pledging to challenge it in the next election.

Moshe Ya’alon tells foreign reporters that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “didn’t demonstrate its responsibility” and had undermined the country’s democratic values.

Ya’alon, who now heads a new political movement, says the extremist culture of “generating hatred for short-term political benefits” posed a greater challenge to Israel than Islamic militants.

A former IDF chief, Ya’alon was forced to resign last year after Netanyahu expanded his coalition government and offered the defense post to Avigdor Liberman, a firebrand leader of a hardline nationalist party.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon had been at odds following a series of disagreements between political hardliners and IDF leaders, with Ya’alon backing the military.

— AP

PM says Israel preventing terror attacks on foreign embassies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israeli security is saving the lives of foreign diplomats, at a memorial ceremony for Israeli foreign service men and women who fell in the line of duty.

“The State of Israel is preventing a great number of terror attacks on foreign embassies, in foreign countries,” he says at the Foreign Ministry, without elaborating.

“Our activities save lives. They protect the lives of our men, of you, and also help protect the staff of the foreign services of other countries,” he tells the gathered diplomats and the families of 16 Israelis who were killed while serving the country abroad.

Netanyahu says the Jewish state is currently “enjoying a massive flourishing” of its foreign relations that he says is “unprecedented.”

“We’re considered a rising world power,” he adds.

— Raphael Ahren

Sinai Bedouin burn Islamic State militant alive, officials say

Egyptian security officials say that members of a prominent local tribe in northern Sinai have burned alive a suspected Islamic State militant.

Officials say the man’s charred body was found earlier today south the town of Rafah in the Sinai Peninsula.

They say the killing comes hours after an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint in northern Sinai and killed four Bedouin guards who were members of the Tarabeen tribe.

The incident is the latest escalation in the conflict in the peninsula, where Egyptian forces have been battling a growing insurgency with local tribes mostly remaining on the sidelines.

— AP

‘Accidental’ blast in Gaza injures 2 at reported Hamas military site

Two Palestinians are injured in an explosion in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry says, in what appears to be the second such accident at the terror group’s military sites this month.

Palestinian media in the Strip reports the explosion occurred in a site belonging to the terror group’s military wing, but gives no further details.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidre says in a statement that “two men sustained injuries, one critically and the other moderately, resulting from an accident in Gaza.”

In a break from past statements about other explosions in Gaza, Qidre declines to give an approximate location for the site of the blast.

Earlier in April, an explosion at a reported Hamas military site west of Rafah injured three men.

— Dov Lieber

10 held over 2015 attack on Paris Jewish supermarket

Ten people, including a suspected arms dealer, are in custody as part of an investigation into a deadly 2015 attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris, sources close to the probe say.

Claude Hermant, who is awaiting trial in a separate arms trafficking case, and the other suspects have been rounded up since Monday, and there could be more arrests, the sources say.

Investigators are trying to piece together how France-based jihadist Amedy Coulibaly obtained the weapons used in the January 9, 2015 attack.

A policeman stands guard, on January 21, 2015, in front the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket where jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish men on January 9, 2015 in Paris. (AFP/Eric Feferberg)
A policeman stands guard, on January 21, 2015, in front the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket where jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish men on January 9, 2015 in Paris. (AFP/Eric Feferberg)

Coulibaly killed four people after taking shoppers hostage at the Jewish store. Elite police later shot him dead as they stormed the building.

The attack was part of three days of terror in the French capital that began with the raid on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine offices that killed 12 people.

— AFP

Trump to visit Israel next month — report

US President Donald Trump will reportedly make his first official visit to Israel next month.

Israel’s Channel 2 reports that US and Israeli officials are discussing May 21, or later in the month, as a possible date for the visit.

Trump at a Holocaust memorial event in Washington DC yesterday vowed to “always stand with the Jewish people, and our great friend and partner, the State of Israel.”

UAE hands Iranian 10-year sentence over nuclear sanctions breach

A UAE court sentences an Iranian to 10 years in prison followed by deportation for attempting to ship a generator to his home country in breach of international sanctions.

The appeals court in Abu Dhabi found the unnamed man guilty of “attempting to export a power generator to Iran for its nuclear program, in breach of international sanctions,” state news agency WAM reports.

It did not say when the offense was committed. Nuclear-related international sanctions on Iran were lifted following a landmark deal between Tehran and major powers in 2015.

The influence of Shiite-dominated Iran in the Middle East remains a major concern for Gulf countries, including the UAE.

Tehran is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Yemen’s Huthi rebels and Shiite armed groups in Iraq and Lebanon.

— AFP

Israeli cyber authority says it stopped ‘major’ attack this week

The Prime Minister’s Office says Israel’s National Cyber Authority has thwarted a “major” attack on businesses and public institutions this week.

“In recent days, the National Cyber Authority has collected many testimonies about a planned cyber attack,” the statement says. “In response, the authority carried out an investigation and discovered the plan of the attack.”

According to the PMO, the hackers disguised themselves as a legitimate organization and sent emails to “120 organizations, government offices, public institutions and private individuals” in an attempt to infiltrate their networks.

The announcement comes days after the body faced harsh criticism from some of the country’s top security officials.

— Raoul Wootliff

‘Anti-Semitic’ UK student president defeated in reelection bid

The president of the UK’s National Union of Students who has been accused of anti-Semitism, loses in the 2017 reelection to head the umbrella student body.

Malia Bouattia is defeated by student education activist Shakira Martin in a 402 to 272 vote.

An activist in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Bouattia has previously advocated for Palestinian violence against Israelis, and has refused to condemn the Islamic State terrorist group.

Her election as president of the NUS last year sparked allegations of anti-Semitism and widespread criticism of the national student body.

Iraqi forces retake ancient city of Hatra from Islamic State

Iraqi pro-government forces announce their recapture of the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Hatra from the Islamic State jihadist group.

“Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) forces liberated the ancient city of Hatra… after fierce clashes with the enemy,” says the Shiite-dominated paramilitary group.

Hatra, which lies in the desert southwest of Iraq’s second city Mosul, includes a UNESCO world heritage site.

In this image made from a video posted on YouTube on April 3, 2015, a militant hammers away at a face on a wall in Hatra, a large fortified Iraqi city recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (AP, File)
In this image made from a video posted on YouTube on April 3, 2015, a militant hammers away at a face on a wall in Hatra, a large fortified Iraqi city recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (AP, File)

IS destroyed priceless objects in Hatra and at other archaeological sites after seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria in a lightning 2014 offensive.

The full extent of the harm to Hatra remains unclear.

— AFP

Turkey opposition to challenge referendum in European court

Turkey’s main opposition party says it will challenge last-minute changes to voting rules in the referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers at the European Court of Human Rights.

“The decision we have made is to go to the ECHR,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) spokeswoman Selin Sayek Boke says.

The move comes hours after the party’s legal challenge to the voting rule changes was rejected by the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State.

The opposition argues an “administrative” decision by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to accept ballot documents in envelopes without an official stamp paved the way for fraud.

The top court said yesterday it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the YSK move.

— AFP

Erdan bans PA-sponsored event from East Jerusalem

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan bans an upcoming political event in East Jerusalem sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, his office says in a statement.

The ministry says he issued the order banning the event titled “Palestine Under the Culture of Incitement in Israel” based on information received from Jerusalem police.

According to the statement, a number of senior PA officials were slated to attend the event at the Legacy Hotel.

Erdan says the PA “has repeatedly tried to undermine Israel’s sovereignty of the city, and we continue to fight for it in all parts of the city.”

Israel jumps 10 spots in world press freedom rankings

Israel in 2016 comes in 91st out of 180 countries ranked for press freedom in 2016 by Reporters without Borders, up from 101st place in 2015.

“The Israeli media are free to be outspoken, which is rare in the Middle East,” the newly released report says.

“Nonetheless, despite the existence of independent media, journalists are subject to ‘military censorship,’” the report adds.

Deri urges AG to revisit Shabbat mini-market case

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri requests the attorney general order another High Court of Justice hearing on allowing convenience stores in Tel Aviv to remain open on the Jewish day of rest.

Deri tells Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that the court’s ruling was flawed and that it was not aware when reaching its decision that he as interior minister had struck down the law, a statement from his spokesman says.

Illustrative: Israelis shop at the AM:PM convenience store in Tel Aviv on July 04, 2014. (FLASH90)
Illustrative: Israelis shop at the AM:PM convenience store in Tel Aviv on July 4, 2014. (Flash90)

Last week, the High Court upheld a 2014 Tel Aviv City Council ordinance allowing the stores to remain open on Shabbat, with the court saying it would protect the cosmopolitan character of the coastal and mostly secular city.

Deri’s claim that he had already struck down the bylaw appears to be an attempt to invalidate the High Court’s standing to rule on the issue, which on;y reached the court after his predecessors refused to rule on the matter.

The statement also says that Mandelblit agreed to give an answer soon on whether he will bring the ruling to the High Court for a retrial.

— Alexander Fulbright

Death toll in Turkish airstrike on Syria Kurds said to hit 28

The death toll in Turkish air raids on Kurdish positions in northeastern Syria rises to 28, a monitor says, a day after Ankara said it had targeted “terrorist havens” near its border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says most of those killed were members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is battling the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman says 19 others were wounded in the Tuesday raids on a media center and other buildings in Al-Malikiyah, a town in Hasakeh province.

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) visit the site of Turkish airstrikes near northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, known as al-Malikiyah in Arabic, on April 25, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN)
Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) visit the site of Turkish airstrikes near northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, known as al-Malikiyah in Arabic, on April 25, 2017. (AFP/Delil Souleiman)

Abdel Rahman says a female Kurdish fighter was among the dead.

The YPG yesterday gave its own toll of 20 fighters killed and 18 wounded.

The US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” that the strikes were conducted “without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition” that is fighting IS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

— AFP

Fatah beats Hamas in student elections for 2nd time this month

Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, takes 19 seats in elections at the Polytechnic University in Hebron, while Hamas’s Islamic Block party takes 11 seats, and left-wing groups take just one seat.

Last year at Polytechnic, Fatah won 18 seats, while Hamas took 12.

Earlier in April, Fatah won the student elections at An-Najah University in Nablus, the biggest Palestinian university in the West Bank.

Student elections are seen by analysts as a barometer of the Palestinian public in the absence of any elections that included Hamas since 2006.

— Dov Lieber

Road accidents in northern Israel kill 2 in under an hour

Two people are killed in separate road accidents in northern Israel this afternoon in under an hour.

In the northern town of Muqeible, a six-year-old boy was fatally struck by a car as he rode his bike. Muhammad Baida was taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula where he was pronounced dead.

Police open an investigation into the driver of the vehicle that stuck Baida.

Shortly after, a motorcycle driver is killed on Route 70 outside the nearby town of Tamra. Police say the driver appears to have lost control of his bike and fatally struck the rail guard on the side of the road.

Magen David Adom paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

US missile defense system in S. Korea operational soon, admiral says

A missile defense system that the United States has begun installing in South Korea will be operational in the coming days, a top American admiral says Wednesday.

US troops began delivering the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system for installation on a former golf course in the southern county of Seongju earlier this morning.

THAAD “will be operational in the coming days and able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korean threat,” Admiral Harry Harris, who heads Pacific Command, tells lawmakers.

Harris also says the US military is weighing whether it needs to install new missile interceptors on Hawaii, which could be one of the first parts of the United States to be in range of a North Korean missile.

— AFP

Liberman: Israel won’t allow buildup of Iranian, Hezbollah forces on Golan

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tells Russian ministers Israel “won’t allow concentrations of Iranian and Hezbollah forces on the Golan Heights,” during a meeting in Moscow.

Speaking with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Liberman expresses Israel’s concern that Iran is using Syrian territory to smuggle guns to Hezbollah in Lebanon — something Israel says it cannot abide.

Israel and Russia have maintained a level of security coordination in order to prevent conflicts between their two militaries in Syria, where Moscow is working to back Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israel occasionally carries out airstrikes.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on April 26, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on April 26, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Liberman notes there have been “nine meetings between IDF representatives and representatives from the Russian Army thus far,” and says the coordination mechanism has “proven itself effective at preventing unnecessary conflict.”

— Judah Ari Gross

US envoy Nikki Haley to visit Israel in June — report

US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley will make her first visit to Israel in June, Israel’s Channel 2 reports.

Haley has been one of the Trump administration’s most vocal members, and has received widespread praise from Israel and the American Jewish establishment for her tough stance against anti-Israel sentiment in the UN.

Earlier, the TV station reported that US President Donald Trump will visit Israel for the first time in late May.

Police wrapping up PM gifts probe, to recommend indictment

Police are in the final stages of one of the criminal investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and will recommend a corruption indictment against the prime minister, according to Channel 2.

Dubbed Case 1000 in Israel, the investigation revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family from billionaire benefactors.

Police were seeking to question Australian billionaire James Packer in connection to the case, but according to Channel 2, investigators have given up efforts to question him.

The report says police have over 90 testimonies, and are in the final stages of the investigation.

Kurdish forces call for no-fly zone in northern Syria

Syrian Kurdish forces call for a no-fly zone across the country’s north in response to yesterday’s deadly Turkish air strikes.

“Only (by) declaring north Syria as a no-fly zone can YPG defend the country unhindered. Turkey must adhere to no-fly zone,” wrote the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Twitter.

Earlier today, fighting broke out along the northeast Syria border between Turkish forces and Kurdish militiamen, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes erupted “after the Kurdish People’s Protection Units fired on an armored vehicle belonging to Turkish forces that had crossed the Syrian-Turkish border.”

Turkish forces were firing artillery at YPG positions west of Darbasiyah, a border town in Syria’s northeast Hasakeh province, and YPG fighters were lobbing rockets on Turkish outposts, said the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman.

There was no immediate information on casualties.

— AFP

Hamas in Gaza says it won’t be cowed by Abbas’s threats

Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group will not be cowed by threatened funding cuts, a senior leader says, signaling escalating tensions between the militants and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas has threatened to take “unprecedented” financial steps to force Hamas to cede control in Gaza, a territory it seized from his forces in 2007. Reconciliation attempts between rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza have failed.

The renewed push to regain a foothold in Gaza comes ahead of Abbas’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House next week. Abbas is under pressure to show that he represents all Palestinians, including those in Gaza.

Khalil al-Haya, the second highest ranking Hamas leader in Gaza, tells The Associated Press that Abbas will fail “if he tries to make Gaza kneel or expects to win our loyalty by force.”

— AP

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