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

Sudan rivals announce latest truce extension as fighting rages

The two warring Sudanese forces announce the extension of an existing ceasefire for a further 72 hours — the latest of multiple truces that have largely been violated by both sides.

The Sudanese Armed Forces and the rival Rapid Support Forces both confirm the prolongation of a truce that was due to end at midnight, with the army saying the extension has come due to “US and Saudi mediation.”

US House Speaker McCarthy: If Biden doesn’t invite Netanyahu soon, I will

US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (right) arrives in Israel and is greeted by Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, April 30, 2023. (Noam Moshkovich/ Knesset Press Office)
US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (right) arrives in Israel and is greeted by Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, April 30, 2023. (Noam Moshkovich/ Knesset Press Office)

Amid much talk about US President Joe Biden not intending to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House due to the government’s judicial overhaul push, visiting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tells an Israeli newspaper that if a White House invitation does not materialize soon — he, McCarthy, will invite the premier to the House.

Speaking to Israel Hayom, the California Republican says Netanyahu is a good friend of the US and that he believes such a visit is overdue and should be held soon, though he does not specify a time.

3 polls: Gantz surging, current coalition failing to win majority if elections held

A new set of opinion polls again shows that the current government would not enjoy a parliamentary majority if elections were held today, although the surveys diverge wildly about what the margin would be.

Channel 13’s poll predicts that the coalition parties — Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit — would get a combined tally of just 49 seats in the 120-member Knesset, compared to their current 64. The Kan public broadcaster’s poll says they would get 51 seats, while the staunchly pro-Netanyahu Channel 14 predicts they would get 58 seats.

All the polls continue to show a surge in support for Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist National Unity party, who has won over many voters from both the ruling Likud and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s center-left Yesh Atid, getting between 28 and 30 seats compared to his current 12. According to two of the polls, his party would become the largest in the parliament.

The full results of the Channel 13 poll:

National Unity: 28
Likud: 22
Yesh Atid: 18
Shas: 9
UTJ: 7
Yisrael Beytenu: 6
Religious Zionism: 6
Otzma Yehudit: 5
Meretz: 5
Hadash-Ta’al: 5
Ra’am: 5
Balad: 4
Labor: 0

Kan poll:

National Unity: 30
Likud: 25
Yesh Atid: 18
Shas: 10
Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit: 9
UTJ: 7
Yisrael Beytenu: 6
Hadash-Ta’al: 6
Ra’am: 5
Meretz: 4
Balad: 0
Labor: 0

Channel 14:

Likud: 31
National Unity: 28
Yesh Atid: 14
Shas: 11
UTJ: 7
Yisrael Beytenu: 6
Religious Zionism: 5
Meretz: 5
Hadash-Ta’al: 5
Ra’am: 5
Otzma Yehudit: 4
Balad: 0
Labor: 0

Netanyahu said sidelining Levin in overhaul talks: ‘He no longer has veto power’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly said recently behind closed doors that Justice Minister Yariv Levin is not involved in the judicial overhaul compromise talks with the opposition, and that Levin’s approval for any understandings reached will not be necessary.

Given growing reports of a rift between the two — which have been denied on record — Channel 13 news quotes Netanyahu as saying last week that Levin “is not part of the event, only I decide,” after being asked about the possibility of Levin not accepting the eventual compromise reform pack.

“Levin no longer has veto power,” Netanyahu reportedly said, adding that he will make the decision even if his justice minister opposes it.

Government unveils first phase of plan to subsidize daycares for kids aged 0-3

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Education Minister Yoav Kisch unveil the first stage of the plan to subsidize daycares for children aged 0-3.

Netanyahu committed during the last election campaign to support a solution for free education for ages 0 to 3, but the government last month was said to only be planning to subsidize ages 2-3 in the upcoming state budget.

However, the first phase is revealed instead to be partial subsidies for all young children, including a NIS 940 ($260) grant per month to eligible, employed parents per child aged 0-3, starting January 1, 2024.

For children in state-regulated daycares, the subsidy will be almost complete.

Netanyahu says the goal is to lower the cost of living, to “raise the pedagogic level,” and to allow every “working family in Israel to get their kids into kindergarten.”

Teachers Union declares nationwide school strike Tuesday for grades 10-11

The Teachers Union announces a nationwide high school strike on Tuesday for grades 10 and 11, as part of an escalating fight over wages and conditions.

“I’m saddened to see the lack of interest shown by Education Minister Yoav Kisch in what is happening in the education system,” says union chairman Ran Erez. “The shortage of professional teachers, the abandonment and the disregard by Treasury officials of the high school teachers’ demands.”

2 Palestinians said wounded in alleged settler attack in northern West Bank

Two Palestinians have been wounded in an alleged settler attack in the northern West Bank earlier today, Palestinian medics and media reports say.

The Palestinian Red Crescent says the pair, reported to have been beaten by Israelis near the village of Burqa, have been taken to the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus for treatment.

The Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency, citing a local activist, says the settlers who apparently carried out the assault came from the nearby illegal outpost of Homesh.

There is no immediate comment from Israeli authorities on the incident.

Recent months have seen a rise in attacks by settlers against Palestinians and Israeli security forces, especially in the northern West Bank.

Haredi parties said to back down from demand to pass enlistment law alongside budget

Hebrew media outlets report that the Haredi coalition parties have agreed to make a significant concession that will enable the government to more easily pass the crucial state budget this month, averting a potential crisis for now.

As part of their coalition agreements, Shas and United Torah Judaism were promised that before the budget is approved, the government will pass a highly contentious law regulating exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men from military service, several versions of which have been struck down by the High Court as unconstitutional.

The parties had thus far refused to back down from this demand, with the coalition struggling to find an acceptable formula for the bill that could be approved by the court. This put the coalition in potential peril since it must pass the budget by late May or the government automatically falls.

The reports say Shas and UTJ have agreed to postpone the passage of the enlistment law until after the Knesset’s summer session, which begins today, due to the understanding that the coalition won’t be able to pass it in the coming few months.

Herzog urges politicians, others to ‘tone down remarks and behaviors’ amid overhaul rifts

President Isaac Herzog issues a statement urging politicians and others to calm their rhetoric in light of the deep societal rifts over the government’s judicial overhaul push, as he leads compromise talks.

“The crisis that has been accompanying us for several months now is evident, with the divisions, and sometimes — I say this with deep pain — also the hate, evident everywhere — from the streets, through family Shabbat meals and WhatsApp groups, to social media,” Herzog says.

“We at the President’s Residence are investing continuous, Sisyphean efforts in promoting widespread dialogue and understanding,” he adds. “This compels us all to act with moderation, to tone down remarks and behaviors, to show responsibility — especially in regards to public servants and public officials.”

Protesters disrupt Ramat Gan event attended by judicial overhaul architect Rothman

Protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul plan again disrupt a conference attended by prominent coalition figures promoting it.

As the overhaul’s chief architect, Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, and Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi take part in an event in Ramat Gan, protesters shout and wave banners when Rothman starts speaking.

Some of the protesters are removed from the area by police forces.

2 Gazans arrested by IDF after trying to infiltrate into Israel

View of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Black Arrow monument, March 21, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
View of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Black Arrow monument, March 21, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Two unarmed Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli troops after attempting to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip earlier today, the military says.

The Israel Defense Forces says soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras identified the suspects attempting to cross the security barrier in the southern part of Gaza.

Troops dispatched to the scene arrest the pair and take them to the Shin Bet security agency for further questioning.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip frequently attempt to illegally enter Israeli territory, often with hopes of fleeing the beleaguered enclave.

FM Cohen to meet top EU officials in Brussels; Iran, funding to Palestinians on agenda

Composite image: On left, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell arrives for the EU-ASEAN summit in Brussel, December 14, 2022; On right, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen  at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Composite image: On left, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell arrives for the EU-ASEAN summit in Brussel, December 14, 2022; On right, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will head to Brussels on Tuesday to meet EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and other top EU officials, the Foreign Ministry announces.

According to Cohen’s office, the visit will focus on enlisting European support for stopping Iran’s nuclear program, as have his recent Europe trips.

In a statement, Cohen says that the EU and Israel “have many shared interests in the Middle East, especially stopping the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian terror threat.”

Cohen also emphasizes that Israel has no issue with the EU sending humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority, but that Israel will not sit by as funds reach terror organizations or are used for incitement against the Jewish state.

The relationship between Cohen and Borrell has been tense. In March, Cohen blasted the European Union foreign policy chief for allegedly drawing a comparison between Palestinian terror attacks and IDF operations. Cohen also made it clear to Borrell that Israel would not welcome him on an official visit under the current government.

Cohen is also slated to meet with Oliver Varhelyi, commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement; EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola; and European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas.

Key climate bill delayed amid disagreement on which ministry gets responsibilities

The Energy Ministry proposed last week that it should be responsible for handling the climate crisis. This emerges during a Ministerial Committee for Legislation discussion about a proposed climate bill.

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman wants the committee to agree to advance the bill, but has been ordered to hold talks this week with other ministries — with the main one being the Energy Ministry — that oppose her draft bill.

Referring to the Energy Ministry’s bid for the climate portfolio, Silman says after the meeting that “the cat can’t guard the cream, the polluter will not prevent pollution, and we oppose it strongly.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry’s bill seeks to commit the state to cutting global warming gases by 50% by 2030, relative to 2015. The current policy, set by the government in 2020, is to cut it by 27%.

The Energy Ministry has failed to meet its own targets, set three years ago, to produce 30% of the country’s energy from renewable energy, mainly solar energy.

IDF officer ousted from his position for attending pro-overhaul rally in uniform

An IDF officer with the rank of major is seen participating in a protest in support of the judicial overhaul in Jerusalem, April 27, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An IDF officer with the rank of major is seen participating in a protest in support of the judicial overhaul in Jerusalem, April 27, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A military officer with the rank of major has been ousted from his position for participating in a demonstration in support of the judicial overhaul last week while wearing a military uniform.

Troops up to the rank of lieutenant colonel are allowed to participate in political protests, provided they are not wearing their uniform or are identifiable as servicemembers.

The Israel Defense Forces says the major participated in the rally in Jerusalem on Thursday while wearing a uniform, in violation of military regulations.

The IDF says he will be removed from his role and be given a non-command position. Additionally, he has been handed a suspended 25-day jail sentence.

Air Force plane makes emergency landing after malfunction during training flight

IAF T-6 Texan II planes fly over Tel Aviv while performing during an air show as part of Independence Day celebrations on April 26, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
IAF T-6 Texan II planes fly over Tel Aviv while performing during an air show as part of Independence Day celebrations on April 26, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

An Israeli Air Force T-6 Texan II aircraft has made an emergency landing at the Hatzerim Airbase in southern Israel due to a technical malfunction during a training flight, the military says.

The military says the training plane sustained light damage during the landing.

There are no injuries in the incident, which will be investigated further, the military adds.

Ben Gvir easing gun license bureaucracy, aiming to arm civilians to fight crime

Illustrative: A young Israeli holds a tear gas gun he just bought in a Jerusalem store for self-protection (File photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: A young Israeli holds a tear gas gun he just bought in a Jerusalem store for self-protection (File photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir approves measures that will make it easier to obtain a firearm license, as part of a controversial plan to fight rising violent crime rates by arming more Israelis.

According to the Walla news site, any former IDF combat soldier discharged in the previous five years, as well as police officers, firefighters and active reservists, will receive an exemption from personal interviews when applying for a license.

This will significantly shorten the bureaucratic process, which will consist only of filing a health declaration and police approval.

The outlet quotes the far-right minister as saying armed civilians are crucial in thwarting many terror attacks, “and we will do anything we can to allow all those who meet the criteria to get gun permits.”

Ben Gvir later confirms the report’s accuracy on his Twitter account.

‘An era is over’: Israel’s last COVID-specific hospital ward closes

An undated photo of Herzog Hospital staff in the COVID ward in Jerusalem at the height of the pandemic. (Courtesy/Herzog Hospital)
An undated photo of Herzog Hospital staff in the COVID ward in Jerusalem at the height of the pandemic. (Courtesy/Herzog Hospital)

Israel’s last COVID-specific ward will close tomorrow at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem. With this, any new COVID-19 patients will be treated in internal medicine departments at other hospitals throughout the country.

“An era is over. We learned a lot. We gained experience that we all hope not to have to use again in the future. We are all happy that this massive event is behind us,” says Herzog Hospital head Dr. Kobi Haviv.

Herzog Hospital’s specialized COVID ward has operated continuously since August 2020, having opened during the pandemic’s second wave.

Some 2,000 patients, many elderly and with severe COVID infections and complicating preexisting medical conditions, were treated over the 32-month period. Despite these patients’ profiles, the hospital experienced a COVID mortality rate that was lower than the national average.

The hospital treated most of the country’s critically ill patients in the early stages of each COVID wave, sometimes with 125 beds filled with those who were intubated. Unlike other medical centers that closed their COVID units between waves, Herzog Hospital kept its COVID unit open continuously. As it took in new admissions, other hospitals had time to prepare for reopening their COVID wards.

Prominent Ukrainian rabbi attends dedication of hospital rehab wing after donating equipment

Rabbi Moshe Azman, left,with officials at the dedication of a new rehabilitation wing of a hospital in the city of Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, April 28, 2023. (Office of Rabbi Moshe Azman)
Rabbi Moshe Azman, left,with officials at the dedication of a new rehabilitation wing of a hospital in the city of Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, April 28, 2023. (Office of Rabbi Moshe Azman)

Leading Ukraine Rabbi Moshe Azman joined the dedication of a new rehabilitation wing of a hospital in the city of Chernivtsi in western Ukraine on Friday.

Azman, chief rabbi of Kyiv’s Brodsky Synagogue, was invited by the hospital management after contributing the majority of the equipment for the wing. Oblast governor Ruslan Zaparanyuk was present as well.

He spent Shabbat with the city’s community and its rabbi, Menachem Glitzenstein.

US House Speaker McCarthy visits Western Wall, hails ‘bond that will never break’

A message written by US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on April 30, 2023. (Western Wall Heritage Foundation)
A message written by US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on April 30, 2023. (Western Wall Heritage Foundation)

In Jerusalem ahead of his Knesset address tomorrow, US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy calls Israel “a blessed nation.”

“Israel you are a blessed nation,” McCarthy writes in the Western Wall visitor book after landing at Ben Gurion Airport, adding: “Our shared values unite a bond that will never break.”

The California Republican is leading a bipartisan group of 20 US congressmen, who join Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch in prayer at the Kotel.

McCarthy places a note in the Wall, and says he is looking forward to Israel’s next 75 years.

US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy arrives in Israel, to be met by Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, April 30, 2023 (Noam Moshkovich / Knesset Press Office)

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana met him at the airport.

US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his delegation arrive in Israel, to be met by Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, April 30, 2023 (Noam Moshkovich / Knesset Press Office)

McCarthy will be the second US House speaker to address the Knesset plenum.

Ukrainian strike on Russian border village kills four, governor says

A predawn Ukrainian strike on a Russian border village has killed four people and wounded two others, the governor of Russia’s western Bryansk region says.

The strike on the village of Suzemka, which lies a dozen kilometers (seven miles) from the Ukrainian border, came the night after a suspected drone hit a fuel depot in Moscow-annexed Crimea.

“Two more civilians have been found and removed from the rubble. Unfortunately, both of them died,” Alexander Bogomaz, the local governor, says on Telegram. Bogomaz initially said two people were killed when “the Ukrainian army shelled Suzemka.”

Two other villagers were taken to hospital with injuries, the official says.

Bogomaz says Ukrainian shelling hit the village twice overnight and that Russian air defense “shot down several shells.” He says one shell hit a residential house, sparking a fire, and that two more houses were damaged.

The village has declared a state of emergency, Bogomaz says, adding that work “is continuing on the removal of rubble.”

Russian villages in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions bordering Ukraine have been hit by a number of strikes since Moscow invaded its neighbor.

2 young children pronounced dead after fire in their home in Tel Sheva

Firefighters work to put out a fire at a home in Tel Sheva, April 30, 2023. (Fire and Rescue Services)
Firefighters work to put out a fire at a home in Tel Sheva, April 30, 2023. (Fire and Rescue Services)

Soroka hospital in Beersheba says a 2-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy have been pronounced dead following a fire that broke out in their home in the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva.

Fire and Rescue Services says firefighters have gained control of the fire and determined that there were no other people inside.

Motorcyclist dies after car hits him in Tel Aviv

Doctors at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital pronounce the death of a motorcyclist in his 40s who was involved earlier in a crash at the central Tel Aviv intersection of Namir Road and Einstein Street.

The hospital says media reports that the man was also shot before or after a car hit him are incorrect, with his body having no signs of bullet wounds.

Police are investigating, with some Hebrew media outlets still reporting — without citing sources — that the incident may have been a criminal underworld hit.

Smotrich intervenes to cancel expected gas price rise

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich signs an order lowering the taxes on gas by 49 agorot (13 US cents) per liter, matching a rise in gas prices that takes effect tonight at midnight.

This effectively means gas prices in Israel won’t change for now.

Children aged 2 and 4 in critical condition after fire at their home in Tel Sheva

Two young kids are critically hurt in a house fire that broke out in a home in the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva in the southern Negev region.

The two, a girl aged 2 and a boy aged 5, are taken to a hospital, with Fire and Rescue Services working to put out the fire and determine if there are other people trapped inside.

Iran’s Raisi to visit Syria on Wednesday

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will go to Damascus on Wednesday at the official invitation of the Syrian president for a “very important” two-day visit, Tehran’s state media reports.

“Dr. Raisi’s trip to Damascus next Wednesday is a very important trip due to the changes and developments that are taking place in the region,” IRNA state news agency quotes Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, as saying.

High Court ends Orthodox monopoly on conversion of non-Jewish kids up for adoption

After proceedings that spanned 20 years, the High Court of Justice ends the practice of having non-Jewish children up for adoption undergo only Orthodox conversion to Judaism, and only be allowed to be adopted by couples who lead an Orthodox lifestyle.

An expanded panel of nine justices finally hands down a ruling on a petition filed in 2003 by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, which was held back for many years due to the perception that the decision depended on the outcome of several other petitions on the validity of conversions not done via the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.

Proceedings were renewed after that other ruling was issued in 2021, overshadowed by changes over the years that have seen far fewer non-Jewish children up for adoption in Israel than in the past. There were several dozen in 2022.

The state said its top priority was the benefit of the child, arguing that this includes having them undergo an Orthodox conversion since otherwise, they will find it harder in the future to marry due to the Orthodox monopoly in that field as well.

The justices say they didn’t accept that position, and that after further discussion, the state agreed last week — especially in light of the small current number of annual cases — that every case’s circumstances will be examined individually.

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