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PM holds emergency meeting to plan for possible collapse of PA — report

Netanyahu, Finance Minister Kahlon concerned that Abbas’s decision to reject all tax revenues collected by Israel will collapse West Bank economy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in the Knesset on March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in the Knesset on March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Sri Lanka police raid mosque linked to Easter attackers

Sri Lankan police enter the main mosque of National Towheed Jamaat, just a day after authorities declared it and another organization terror groups over the Easter suicide bombings.

Police enter the mosque, located in Kattankudy in eastern Sri Lanka, and stop an interview with foreign journalists and officials at the mosque.

Relatives pay their respects in front of the graves of the victims of recent bomb blasts at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 28, 2019, a week after a series of jihadist bomb blasts targeted churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)

Later, a senior police officer dispersed journalists waiting outside, saying authorities were conducting a “cordon and search operation.”

Police then left, locking up the mosque just before afternoon prayers were to start.

Authorities banned National Towheed Jamaat over its ties to Mohammed Zahran, the alleged mastermind of the attacks that killed over 250 people a week ago.

— AP

Greek bishop skips arrival of ‘holy fire’ from Jerusalem

A lantern carrying a flame lit in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre Church has been welcomed to Greece with honors reserved for visiting heads of state on the eve of Orthodox Easter.

But a senior cleric boycotted the ceremony, miffed that the holy flame isn’t arriving at the airport within his territorial jurisdiction.

Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia tells Greek network Skai TV he learned Friday that the plane carrying the revered object would land at a military airport instead of at Athens International Airport.

Christian Orthodox worshipers light their candles from the Holy Fire as they gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 27, 2019 during the Orthodox Easter. (THOMAS COEX / AFP)

Nicholas says he thought the change of airports “degraded” the Holy Fire miracle that Orthodox Christians believe takes place every Easter at the site of Jesus’ tomb.

He decided not to join the official delegation that traveled to Israel on Saturday to collect the lantern.

— AP

Iran FM says he will visit North Korea

Iran’s foreign minister says he will visit North Korea as both countries struggle under US sanctions.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quotes Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that the visit is being planned and a date will be announced soon.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran on February 13, 2019 (Atta Kenare/AFP)

The United States has ramped up sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump withdrew from its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers last year. The US has tightened sanctions on North Korea to try to persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons.

An Iranian parliamentary delegation visited North Korea in December, and North Korea’s top diplomat, Ri Yong Ho, visited Iran in August.

— AP

Iran threatens to shut Hormuz Strait if tensions increase

Iran’s top general warned Sunday Tehran could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping route if it faces more “hostility,” news agency ISNA said, as the US tightens up sanctions.

“We are not after closing the Strait of Hormuz but if the hostility of enemies increase, we will be able to do so,” armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri tells semi-official ISNA.

“Also if our oil does not go through the strait, other countries’ oil will certainly not cross the strait, too,” he adds.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transit the Strait of Hormuz (photo credit: CC BY Official U.S. Navy Imagery)
Illustrative: The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transit the Strait of Hormuz (CC-BY SA 3.0/Official US Navy Imagery)

The statement comes after Washington said last week it would start imposing sanctions on countries such as India, China and Turkey that buy Iranian oil.

Eight countries were initially given six-month reprieves after the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November, following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear accord.

Iranian officials have repeatedly warned the Islamic Republic could shut down the strait, a vital shipping lane for international oil supplies, should it find its national interests or security threatened.


Leading Jerusalem rabbi who survived Auschwitz dies aged 96

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, known as the Admor of Kalib, died this afternoon at his home in Jerusalem at the age of 96.

Born in Transylvania in 1923, Taub lived through the Holocaust. He survived Auschwitz and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps and later was a subject of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s experimentation.

He moved to Israel in 1962 and spent his later years speaking and lecturing about the Holocaust.

Taub’s associates say the rabbi’s health had deteriorated rapidly over the last two weeks, when he slipped and fell in his home.

President Reuven Rivlin expressed his condolences, saying Taub “gave voice the spiritual heroism of Jews during the Holocaust and did all he could to honor the memory of its victims.”

Zarif: Iran exiting nuclear pact one of ‘many options’ after US sanctions

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says leaving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is one of the “many options” Tehran has to retaliate against US sanctions, according to state media reports.

The United States has imposed a raft of sanctions against the Islamic Republic since President Donald Trump withdrew last year from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers. Last week, Washington announced an end to sanction waivers for buyers of Iranian crude oil, and earlier this month the US declared Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards a “foreign terrorist organization.”

“The Islamic republic has many options… (leaving) the NPT is one of them,” Zarif says in remarks to Iranian reporters in New York aired by state television.

State news agency IRNA says Zarif was asked why he had not touted leaving the nuclear treaty as one of Iran’s possible reactions during his trip as he had done so previously.

“The country’s officials are deliberating” the different options and measures, Zarif replied, adding that the possibility of leaving the NPT was among those options. He did not list the other options.


Senior PLO official condemns ‘evil anti-Semitism’ after California synagogue attack

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat condemns yesterday’s deadly shooting at a Chabad synagogue in California, calling it “a hate crime.”

“Dr. Saeb Erakat…condemns with the strongest possible terms the cowardly hate crime committed against Jewish worshippers while praying in a San Diego synagogue,” Erekat, the secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Anti Semitism is evil.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Cairo, Egypt, 2011 (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

A teenage gunman who wrote a hate-filled manifesto opened fire at a synagogue in California yesterday, killing one person and injuring three others including the rabbi as worshippers marked the final day of Passover.

Pope Francis donates $500,000 to help migrants in Mexico

Pope Francis donates $500,000 to help migrants in Mexico, offering assistance to local projects that provide food, lodging and basic necessities.

The funds, from the Peter’s Pence collections, will be distributed among 27 projects promoted by 16 Mexican dioceses and religious congregations, Peter’s Pence said in a statement.

In recent months, thousands of migrants have arrived in Mexico, traveling on foot or with makeshift vehicles from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. But they have been blocked at the border with the United States.

In particular, the aid is intended to assist the more than 75,000 people who arrived in Mexico in 2018, in six migrant caravans.

“All these people were stranded, unable to enter the United States, without a home or livelihood,” the statement says.

— AP

Yad Vashem urges greater efforts to combat online hate speech after synagogue shooting

Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem condemns the deadly shooting at a California synagogue yesterday, and urges governments to step up efforts to combat online incitement and hate language.

“As we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is dedicated to commemorating the memory of the six million men, women and children murdered for being Jewish, we shall gravely consider the dangers of unchecked anti-Semitism,” the national memorial says in a statement.

“We are also troubled by various forms of incitement featured in the media – print, digital and social,” Yad Vashem says. “The world must act to combat such forms of hate speech by leaders and laypersons alike.”

Yesterday, a teenage gunman who wrote a hate-filled manifesto opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three including the rabbi as Jewish worshipers marked the final day of Passover.

Turnout for Spain’s vote higher than in 2016, far-right party could get in

Spain’s Interior Ministry says turnout for Sunday’s national election so far is 4% higher than the previous ballot.

The ministry says, as of 2 p.m. (1200 GMT), 41.5% of all eligible voters have already cast their ballots Sunday, up from 36.9% at the same time in the 2016 election.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party is favored to get the most votes, but it is expected to fall far short of a majority. The right-wing in Spain, long dominated by the conservative Popular Party, has now split into three groups, including the Citizens party and the far-right nationalist Vox party.

The uncertain outcome includes the likelihood that a far-right party could enter Parliament for the first time since the 1980s.

Polls close at 8 p.m. for the nearly 37 million Spaniards allowed to vote.

— AP

Rabbi recalls being face-to-face with synagogue shooter during attack

The rabbi of a California synagogue that was the scene of a mass shooting recalls the moment the suspected shooter pointed a gun at him.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein says he was in the middle of his Saturday sermon at the Chabad of Poway when he heard loud noises. Goldstein says during a phone interview Sunday on “Today” he was “face-to-face with this murderer, this terrorist” when he turned around.

“He was holding the rifle and was looking straight at me, and as soon as he saw me, he started to shoot,” he says.

Goldstein says he put his hands up to protect himself and lost one of his fingers in the shooting.

One person, 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, was killed in the shooting. The rabbi remembered her as a “pioneering, founding member” of the congregation and says he is “heartbroken” by her death.

Three others, including Goldstein, were injured.

— with AP

Crowdfunding campaign for Chabad shooting victims tops $26,000 in under 24 hours

A crowdfunding campaign established to help the victims of an attack on a Chabad synagogue near San Diego, California raised more than $25,000 in its first day.

More than 350 people donated some $26,520 toward a goal of $35,000 on GoFundMe, with many donations ranging from $10 to $36.

The donations will “be used to pay for any necessary medical operations for the victims, funeral services, synagogue reparations or anything else the synagogue would need assistance with,” wrote the person who set up the page, Cam N, who identifies himself or herself, writing “I do not worship at the Chabad of Poway, but I belong to another house of worship and seeing a place of prayer attacked horrified me and motivated me to start this campaign.”


German neo-Nazi party loses bid to air anti-migrant ad

A German neo-Nazi party loses a bid before the country’s highest court to force a national public broadcaster to show one of its campaign ads.

The Federal Constitutional Court late last night upheld rulings by two lower tribunals that the free-speech rights of the National Party of Germany (NPD) had not been violated.

ZDF public television had opted not to show the NPD commercial for next month’s European elections, which claimed that “migration kills” and called for “protection zones” for Germans.

The broadcaster had decided that the advert amounted to incitement of racial hatred, a crime in Germany. The NPD disputed this claim in a Facebook post on Thursday.

ZDF’s assessment had been backed by the superior administrative court in Rhineland-Palatinate state as well as the administrative court in Mainz, where ZDF is based.


Driver who critically injured 11-year-old in hit and run turns himself in

The driver who hit and injured an 11-year-old boy last week before fleeing the scene turns himself into police in Jerusalem following a week of searches.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, Netanel Sandrosy is being questioned by investigators about the circumstances surrounding the crash last Saturday night in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev, adjacent to the capital.

The child suffered head injuries in the accident, and was hospitalized at Shaare Zedek hospital.

Israel to close Kerem Shalom crossing this weekend for maintenance work

Israel will close its Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip on Thursday for maintenance work, the Defense Ministry says.

The crossing, which serves as Israel’s sole commercial terminal for the Palestinian enclave, will reopen the following Sunday, according to the ministry.

Residents from the south and activists from the right-wing Im Tirtzu organization block trucks entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, October 29, 2018 (Im Tirtzu)

The Erez pedestrian crossing will not be affected by the maintenance work and will be open as usual.

— Judah Ari Gross

Pence blasts NY Times for anti-Semitic Trump-Netanyahu cartoon

US Vice President Mike Pence condemns the New York Times for an anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the newspaper’s international edition over the weekend.

It showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind and skullcap-wearing US President Donald Trump.

In response to a tweet from the New York Times Opinion account saying the image “was offensive, and it was an error in judgment to publish it,” Pence slams the publication for anti-Semitism.

“We stand with Israel and we condemn antisemitism in ALL its forms, including @nytimes political cartoons,” Pence says.

Netanyahu backs Edelstein for another term as Knesset speaker

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Likud MK Yuli Edelstein he will back him for another term as Knesset Speaker in his next government, according Likud party statement.

Netanyahu earlier met with Finance Minister and Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, as part of coalition negotiations for Netanyahu’s new government,

Bolton: Trump agreed to pay North Korea $2M for Warmbier’s release, but never did

US National Security Adviser John Bolton says the White House pledged to pay North Korea for the release of American college student Otto Warmbier, but then never made a payment.

Bolton tells Fox News that US officials in 2017 signed a document promising to pay Pyongyang $2 million for Warmbier’s medical care, while he was incarcerated there.

But Bolton says that despite the agreement, signed a year before he joined the Trump administration, “no money was paid. That is clear.”

American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters on February 29, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, died in June 2017, shortly after he was flown home comatose after 17 months in captivity. He had been seized from a tour group while visiting North Korea in January 2016, and convicted on charges of trying to steal a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

North Korea, which has denied accusations by Warmbier’s relatives that it tortured the student, has said he was provided “medical treatments and care with all sincerity.”

Last week, after The Washington Post first reported the $2 million pledge, Trump dismissed the report as “fake news,” and insisted no money was paid for Warmbier’s release.

AG denies request to delay Netanyahu pre-indictment hearing

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit denies a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers to delay a indictment hearing scheduled for May 10.

In his decision, Mandelblit says he will not reschedule the hearing because Netanyahu’s lawyers have not yet collected the investigation materials from his office.

“This delay will not have an affect on the date of the hearing,” he says, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Iran FM: Trump withdrew from nuclear deal because he didn’t like Obama

The US decision to end sanctions waivers for purchases of Iranian oil later this week will backfire by angering Washington’s allies, Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells Fox News.

Zarif said US policy is designed to make life hard for the Iranian people so they will “take action” against the Tehran government.

“They are wrong in their analysis. They are wrong in their hope,” Zarif says, insisting instead that the people of Iran will get fired up to resist such pressure.

“This is coercion, pure and simple,” he says.

“People are not happy. China is not happy, Turkey is not happy, Russia is not happy. France is not happy. US allies are not happy that this is happening and they say that they will find ways of resisting it.

Zarif also says that Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal because he did not like his predecessor, Barack Obama.

— with AFP

Israel concerned deteriorating Palestinian economy could collapse PA — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu held an urgent meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon earlier today to discuss the deteriorating Palestinian economy in the West Bank, according to a report on Channel 12 news.

According to the report, Israeli officials are concerned that the Palestinian Authority will collapse entirely in the wake of President Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to accept tax revenues collected by Israel, after it withheld part of the money, commensurate to payments made by the PA to the families of Palestinian attackers and prisoners.

Israel announced in February that it would withhold $138 million in monthly payments to the PA to offset the PA’s payments to Palestinians jailed by Israel for terrorism and violence, and to the families of dead terrorists.

The Palestinians have protested the law, refusing to receive any of the taxes Israel gathers for them on a monthly basis, as long as the Jewish state does not transfer them their full amount.

The taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA make up hundreds of millions of shekels, more than half of its monthly budget.

Shrine of flowers grows on sidewalk at California synagogue

A shrine of flowers on the sidewalk to honor those shot at a San Diego-area synagogue is growing, near the location where a gunman killed a congregant and injured three others.

Next door to the Chabod of Poway synagogue, Father Alexander Federoff said Sunday that he is praying for the recovery of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the hand after Saturday’s shooting.

Federoff says his Orthodox Christian congregation was in the middle of a prayer service when the gunshots rang out and that his church welcomed Jewish congregants and tried to offer them comfort.

One worshiper, 60-year-old Lori Kaye, was killed.

Goldstein tells CNN that two other victims have been released from hospitals.

Investigators are searching the San Diego home of the 19-year-old shooter, who surrendered to police.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus has been meeting with residents, offering hugs, and vowing solidarity.

— AP

California synagogue worshipper recalls grabbing grandson when shots rang out

Shimon Abitbul says when gunfire erupted inside a San Diego-area synagogue, he immediately placed his 2-year-old grandson on the floor.

Abitbul says he was attending a service at Chabad of Poway yesterday with his son-in-law and grandson when the shooting started.

San Diego Sheriff deputies look over the Chabad of Poway Synagogue after a shooting on Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Poway, California. (SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP)

Abitbul says he grabbed the toddler and sprinted away when there was a break in the gunfire. He later returned to try to help a woman he described as having a hole in her chest. He later found out 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye died of her wounds.

He says the congregation’s rabbi was shot in the hand and had wrapped his wounded fingers in a prayer shawl.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and two other people who were injured are expected to recover.

Abitbul says he is still coming to terms with the carnage.

— AP

Polls close in Spain, as strong turnout is seen in national election

Polls have closed in most of Spain in an election with one of the highest turnout levels in recent years, amid division over the role that the far-right could play in influencing the country’s politics.

Participation in today’s election was more than 9 percent higher than during the 2016 vote, especially in the northeastern region of Catalonia, two hours after polls closed.

Voters pick ballots at a polling station in Madrid during general elections in Spain on April 28, 2019. (OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Spanish media showed long lines still in many of the polling stations at 1800 GMT (2 p.m. EDT), when all voting is supposed to end everywhere but the Canary Islands, where voting finishes one hour later.

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