Live updates (closed)

Israel said to be identifying remains of other bodies retrieved from Syria

Roughly a dozen bodies recovered from Palestinians’ Yarmoulk Refugee Camp along with that of Zachary Baumel, who had been missing since 1982 along with two other IDF soldiers

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel, an IDF soldier who has been officially missing since the 1982 First Lebanon. (Israel Defense Forces)
Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel, an IDF soldier who has been officially missing since the 1982 First Lebanon. (Israel Defense Forces)

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

Feiglin: I want to build the Third Temple ‘now’

Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin says, “I don’t want to build a (Third) Temple in two years, but now.”

Addressing the Maariv/Jerusalem Post Conference in Tel Aviv, the leader of the fledgling party, which has enjoyed growing popularity in the lead-up to elections, boasts of his faction’s ability to attract Israelis from all sectors.

Doctors say Nechama Rivlin showing ‘marked improvement’

Nechama Rivlin’s doctors say that test results for the president’s wife show “marked improvement” in her heart function and physiological readings, the office of President Reuven Rivlin relays.

The president is visiting the hospital bedside of his wife, who is currently under sedation and on a respirator but in stable condition after a sudden deterioration in her condition Tuesday evening.

A statement on the president’s behalf asserts that his wife is a “very strong woman” and “the world’s best mother and grandmother.”

Turkish authorities begin vote recount of Istanbul districts in local election

Turkish electoral authorities have begun a vote recount of Istanbul districts after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP challenged tallies showing an opposition candidate won a weekend local election.

The AKP won most votes nationwide in Sunday’s ballot but results also showed the party lost the capital Ankara and the country’s economic hub Istanbul.

AKP officials on Tuesday filed a challenge with electoral authorities saying they had found irregularities and falsifications in ballots in Ankara and Istanbul.

— with AFP

Gantz: If I receive mandate from president, I’ll be able to form a coalition

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz addresses growing speculation that he will be unable to form a coalition even if his party wins the most seats in next week’s election.

“If I receive the mandate from the president, I’ll be able to form a coalition,” tells Channel 12.

EU warns of long border lines if no-deal Brexit

The European Union’s top economy official is warning of long lines at borders and paperwork headaches for obligatory customs checks if Britain crashes out of the bloc without an agreement.

EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici says that Britain would become a third country overnight, creating “instantaneous and very radical legal change.”

He says that around 11,000 vehicles enter and leave the UK daily via the Eurotunnel rail service or ferries. EU countries estimate that paperwork would rise by 40-50% in the case of a no-deal.

But Moscovici says “I prefer strict controls at the price of a few lines of trucks to a health crisis or illegal trafficking. The security of Europeans will be our top priority.”

— AP

Venezuelan FM visits anti-US allies in Mideast

Venezuela’s foreign minister, meeting with anti-US allies in the Middle East, says that opposition leader Juan Guaidó is in breach of the constitution and that the judiciary has to “take care” of it.

Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, has stripped Guaidó of his immunity, putting him at risk of arrest for supposedly violating the constitution when he declared himself interim president in January.

“He is in breach of most part of the constitution, so the judiciary has to take care of those who violated the Venezuelan law,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tells reporters in Beirut.

The United States and roughly 50 other nations recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim leader, asserting that Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate.

— AP

Woman who threw vegetable at PM: I was aiming at my relative, not Netanyahu

The woman who was briefly detained after throwing a vegetable at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his tour of Tel Aviv’s Hatikva Market yesterday says she had been trying to get the vegetable to her relative on the other side of the market and was not aiming at the premier.

“We all support Bibi and I did not mean to hurt him, I’m sorry for everything that happened,” the woman says.

Moreover, she clarifies that it was not a tomato that she threw, as originally reported, but rather a pepper.

Detained Saudi women back in court but no more releases

A Saudi court hearing in the high-profile trial of detained women has ended without bail for eight of them, campaigners says, following the provisional release of three detainees last week.

Eleven women, some of whom allegedly faced torture and sexual abuse during nearly a year in detention, are on trial in Riyadh’s criminal court on charges that include contact with foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups.

Three of them — blogger Eman al-Nafjan, retired university lecturer Aziza al-Youssef and preacher Rokaya al-Mohareb — were seen entering the court after they were provisionally freed last Thursday.

The others were subsequently expected to be freed, but there was no decision from the three-judge panel on Wednesday.

“The third trial session for the Saudi women activists has ended with NO VERDICTS against any of them, and with no temporary release to any of them,” Prisoners of Conscience, a Saudi group that tracks political prisoners, said on Twitter.


Police open probe into apparent hate crime targeting Palestinian village

Police open a probe into an apparent hate crime targeting the central West Bank Palestinian village of Deir Jarir.

Residents find dozens of grapevines and fruit trees uprooted and several Hebrew phrases graffitied on adjacent stones along with a red Star of David.

The phrases include “regards from Kfar Etzion,” which was a settlement targeted in a similar incident last month, and “price tag,” the phrase used to describe vandalism and other hate crimes usually carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists in retaliation for government policies against the settler movement.

Poll: Left-center closing in on right-wing bloc with election 6 days away

A new poll from the Walla news site indicates that the right-wing bloc’s lead over the center-left parties is shrinking, with just six days until the election.

The Likud-led bloc maintains its lead over a Blue and White-led bloc, 62-58 seats.

The results of the poll are as follows:

Kidnappers demand $500,000 ransom for US tourist snatched in Uganda

Gunmen who kidnapped an American tourist and her driver in a Ugandan national park have demanded a ransom of $500,000 (445,000 euros), police say as they launched a hunt for the perpetrators.

“The kidnappers, using the victim’s phone, have demanded $500,000. We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap,” says a statement from police spokeswoman Polly Namaye.


Body of soldier missing since 1982 battle in Lebanon returned to Israel

After some 37 years, the Israeli military has retrieved the remains of Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who was killed in the 1982 First Lebanon War in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub against the Syrian army.

“His body is in Israel. The body has been identified. It has been verified,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus tells reporters.

“Head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz informed the family just a few minutes ago,” he says.

Baumel was one of three IDF soldiers whose remains were never recovered following the Battle of Sultan Yacoub, a skirmish between the Israeli and Syrian armies in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley.

Conricus refuses to comment on the specifics of how the remains made their way back to Israel, but says they were flown back on an El Al plane.

— Judah Ari Gross

Western Wall undergoes pre-Passover cleaning, safety check

Inspectors complete a biannual safety inspection and maintenance of the Western Wall, with rabbis overseeing the preservation of the corroding stone.

The Western Wall stones, portions of Wilson’s Arch, and the wall of the Makhama building were cleaned and loose rock and debris was removed, according to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

“During the recent pre-Passover inspection, a greater than normal amount of stone and plaster particles was removed from between the stones,” it says in a statement.

Under the supervision of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, experts also doused the stones in a material to prevent peeling — a process the organization said was done in accordance with Jewish law.

“This year, many ‘husks’ were removed.  In order to solve this, the preservation experts soak the peeling stone in binding materials based on natural lime (the stone’s consolidation).  This strengthens the layers and stops the peeling,” it says.

Next week, prayer notes will be cleared from the wall.

Turkish FM says no turning back from Russia arms deal

Turkey will not turn back from a major arms deal with Russia despite the US suspension of joint work on F-35 fighter-jets, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says.

“The S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this,” he tells a think tank forum in Washington, where he is taking part in 70th anniversary celebrations of NATO.


El Al flight attendant in serious condition after catching measles from passenger

An El Al Airlines flight attendant is in serious condition after contracting the measles virus from a passenger on a flight last week from New York to Tel Aviv.

The woman is unconscious and hooked up to a respirator at the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.

The Health Ministry calls on all passengers from El Al flight 002 that landed in Israel on March 27 who are experiencing signs of illness to see a doctor immediately.

Channel 12 reports that the flight attendant had been vaccinated, but the immunization is only 93-97% effective.

Russia reportedly involved in retrieval of IDF soldier’s body missing since 1982 battle in Lebanon

Russia was involved in the retrieval of the remains of Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who was killed in the 1982 First Lebanon War in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub against Syrian forces, Channel 13 reports.

The Prime Minister’s Office declines to comment on the report.

IDF head on retrieval of Zachary Baumel’s remains: We have an obligation to every soldier

Commenting on the retrieval of Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel’s remains, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says that “on the shoulders of IDF commanders, whom I lead, there is a great obligation to take care of every soldier who joins the IDF and swears allegiance to Israel.”

“This was a multi-year effort… during which various studies and operations were carried out to locate the missing persons. The culmination of the effort was a series of operations led by the intelligence branch, which led to the identification and return of Sergeant Major Baumel.”

Baumel was killed in the 1982 First Lebanon War in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub against the Syrian army.

Merkel vows to fight ‘until last hour’ to avoid no-deal Brexit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledges to work “until the last hour” to prevent a no-deal Brexit and warned of the security impact on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“I’ve always said I’m going to fight until the last hour… so we can see an orderly exit,” she says on the eve of an Ireland visit, warning that avoiding a hard border was a matter of preserving the peace.

Speaking at a Berlin press conference, Merkel said that an orderly Brexit would be “in the interest of Britain but also in our interest.”

She says that — because of the related issue of avoiding a new “hard border” between British Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — it would also affect “peace in Ireland.”

Therefore it was “a question of violence or no violence and here we naturally want to make a contribution,” Merkel says.

She stressed that ultimately “the solution has to be found by Great Britain itself” and expressed hope that Prime Minister Theresa May “will be successful.”


PM says Zachary Baumel’s remains retreived along with religious garment, tank gear

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that in retrieving Zachary Baumel’s remains, the military also recovered his tzitzit (religious fringed garment) along with his tank jump-suit.

“He was considered missing for 37 years. For all those years, the State of Israel had invested immense resources to resolve the riddle of his fate,” Netanyahu says in a live statement.

The premier recalls his interactions with Baumel’s father. “I remember his pain, when he spoke of his son.”

“Many times, Yonah told me in tears, that he had one prayer — to find Zachary before he passes away.”

Vandals spray swastikas on Berlin police graves

Vandals have spray-painted swastikas on the Berlin graves of two German police officers killed in the line of duty, sparking outrage and an investigation by the domestic security service.

One gravestone was toppled over, both were defaced with red spray-paint, and flowers were ripped out of their beds in the overnight attack on a cemetery in the Berlin district of Neukoelln.

The late officers are Roland Krueger, a police commando member shot dead during a 2003 raid on a Kurdish-Lebanese crime family, and Uwe Lieschied, shot dead while confronting a street robber in 2006.

The interior minister of the city-state of Berlin, Andreas Geisel, voices his “disgust and shame” about the violation of the graves, which he described as “a wicked act directed against those who died while working to ensure our safety.”

Other police officers restored the graves in the morning, while the BfV domestic security service took over the case because of the illegal Nazi symbol.


NATO chief says not seeking ‘new Cold War’ with Russia

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that the alliance was not seeking a new “Cold War” with Russia on its 70th anniversary but called for greater efforts at deterrence.

“We do not want a new arms race. We do not want a new Cold War. But we must not be naive,” Stoltenberg says in an address to the US Congress during NATO celebrations in Washington.


Facebook blocks page of Otzma Yehudit candidate Itamar Ben Gvir

Facebook has blocked the page of Otzma Yehudit candidate Itamar Ben Gvir for violating the social network’s community standards.

Ben Gvir says the move was in response to an election ad his far-right slate posted in January, in which fellow faction member Baruch Marzel vowed that “1,000 terrorists will die and not a single hair on our soldiers’ heads will be touched.”

Israel said still identifying a body among those retrieved along with remains of Zachary Baumel

In its operation to retrieve the remains of Zachary Baumel, Israel received nearly a dozen other bodies, Channel 13 reports.

Authorities have completed checking almost all of the bodies to confirm that they are not the remains of the other two Israeli soldiers missing since the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub against the Syrian army during the First Lebanon War, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz.

However, there is still one body that remains to be analyzed, Channel 13 reports.

Israel believes remains of Zachary Baumel will offer intel that could lead to 2 other missing soldiers

Intelligence officials tell Channel 13 that they believe the remains of Zachary Baumel will provide a lead to retrieving the other two Israeli soldiers still missing since the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub against the Syrian army during the First Lebanon War, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz.

PFLP commander says IDF soldier’s remains found in Palestinian refugee camp in Syria

A Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine commander says that armed factions at a Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus found the remains of an IDF soldier missing since the 1982 Lebanon war.

Anwar Raja tells the Hezbollah-linked al-Mayadeen news site that militants excavated Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel’s body from a cemetery near the Yarmouk Refugee Camp. He said Israeli intelligence services coordinated the search for the body with the armed factions.

Raja says it was likely that Turkey facilitated the return of Baumel’s remains to Israel.

Likud to hold election rally in Jerusalem 2 days before election

The Likud party announces it will hold an election rally in Jerusalem on Sunday, two days before the election, at which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak.

Under the banner “Protecting the land of Israel, strengthening Netanyahu,” the event appears to follow the format of a rally held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square two days before the 2015 election which was seen to have boosted Netanyahu’s support ahead of the vote.

This rally will be held in Jerusalem’s Paris Square, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, due to organizers failing to book Rabin Square in time, a party official told The Times of Israel.

A poster advertising the event warns that “the Land of Israel is in danger of being taken over by the left,” and that therefore, “now is the time to enlist to help Netanyahu.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Democrats ask FBI to investigate Mar-a-Lago vulnerabilities

Senate Democrats are asking the FBI to investigate potential security vulnerabilities at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida after the arrest of a woman carrying two Chinese passports and a device containing computer malware.

Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democrats wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray. They say the incident, in their words, “raises very serious questions regarding security vulnerabilities at Mar-a-Lago, which foreign intelligence services have reportedly targeted.” The woman, Yujing Zhang, briefly gained access to the club after lying about why she was there.

The Democrats previously asked Wray to investigate a Trump campaign donor from Florida who is the founder and onetime owner of a spa that has been implicated in an alleged human-trafficking ring. They say the FBI hasn’t responded.

— AP

Shas: If Gantz and Lapid win, they’ll hold gay parade at Kotel, serve pig at every shawarma joint

In a new ad targeting religious voters, the Shas party led by Aryeh Deri claims that if Blue and White wins next week’s election, its leaders will ensure that the annual LGBT pride parade will be held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and that shawarma restaurants will begin serving pig.

Pence says Germany ‘must do more’ on defense spending

US Vice President Mike Pence strongly criticizes Germany at NATO’s 70th anniversary gathering, saying the ally needed to pay more on defense and end a pipeline plan with Russia.

“Germany must do more. And we cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on Russia,” Pence says, calling the Nord Stream 2 gas project “simply unacceptable.”


read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed