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Legendary Jewish comedian Don Rickles dies at age 90

In unprecedented move, Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's capital; Sgt. Elhai Teharlev identified as soldier killed in car-ramming outside Ofra settlement; Israeli troops raid assailant's West Bank home

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • IAI's MRSAM missile during the test June 2016 (Courtesy Israel Aerospace Industries)
    IAI's MRSAM missile during the test June 2016 (Courtesy Israel Aerospace Industries)
  • Elhai Tehralev, an IDF soldier who was killed in car-ramming attack outside Ofra on April 6, 2017, in a picture dated from 2014. (Facebook)
    Elhai Tehralev, an IDF soldier who was killed in car-ramming attack outside Ofra on April 6, 2017, in a picture dated from 2014. (Facebook)
  • A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on April 5, 2017. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
    A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on April 5, 2017. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)
  • Israeli security forces inspect the site of a car ramming attack outside the Israeli West Bank Settlement of Ofra on April 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
    Israeli security forces inspect the site of a car ramming attack outside the Israeli West Bank Settlement of Ofra on April 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
  • Rabbi Ohad Teharlev eulogizes his son Elhai who was killed in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, at his funeral in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery on April 6, 2017. (Screen capture: Ynet)
    Rabbi Ohad Teharlev eulogizes his son Elhai who was killed in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, at his funeral in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery on April 6, 2017. (Screen capture: Ynet)
  • A sheep that is due to be slaughtered as part of a demonstration about the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem's Old City on April 6, 2017. (Alexander Fulbright/Times of Israel)
    A sheep that is due to be slaughtered as part of a demonstration about the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem's Old City on April 6, 2017. (Alexander Fulbright/Times of Israel)
  • Hundreds attend the funeral of 20-year old Israeli soldier Sgt. Elchai Taharlev at Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem on April 6, 2017. (Flash90)
    Hundreds attend the funeral of 20-year old Israeli soldier Sgt. Elchai Taharlev at Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem on April 6, 2017. (Flash90)

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

Sgt. Elhai Teharlev identified as person killed in Ofra car-ramming

The IDF identifies Sgt. Elhai Teharlev as the person killed in this morning’s car-ramming attack in the central West Bank.

Teharlev, 20, served in the Golani Brigade. He was from the Talmon settlement, northwest of Ramallah.

He was posthumously promoted to sergeant from corporal, the army says.

The fact that the victim of the car-ramming was a soldier was not released to the public until Teharlev’s family could be notified.

He will be buried in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery at 6:30 p.m.

Elhai Teharlev, in a picture dated from 2014. (via Facebook)
Elhai Teharlev, in a picture dated from 2014. (via Facebook)

Syria says it ‘did not and will not’ use chemical weapons

Syria’s armed forces “did not and will not” use chemical weapons, even against jihadist groups, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem says.

“I stress to you once again: the Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds,” he says.

Muallem is speaking at a press conference in Damascus two days after a suspected chemical attack left at least 86 people dead in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria.

The deaths have sparked international outrage with many pointing the finger at the government of President Bashar Assad, but Muallem cast doubt on the evidence.

“The first air raid conducted by the Syrian army was at 11:30 am (0830 GMT) on that day (Tuesday) and it attacked an arms depot belonging to Al-Nusra Front that contained chemical weapons,” he says.

Al-Nusra — now known as Fateh al-Sham Front — was once Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate and is the main jihadist rival of the Islamic State group.

“Al-Nusra Front and ISIS (IS) and other organisations continue to store chemical weapons in urban and residential areas,” Muallem adds.

The Syrian army denied on Tuesday that it had used chemical weapons against Khan Sheikhun, and Damascus ally Moscow said “toxic substances” may have been released when the army struck a “terrorist warehouse.”

— AFP

PA denounces Hamas for ‘illegal’ executions

The Palestinian Authority denounces the execution of three people in Gaza by Hamas, saying it was done illegally as the terrorist group did not get permission from PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Israel Radio, PA spokesperson Tareq Rashmawi says regardless of the allegations against the three men, Hamas needed to adhere to protocol in order to carry out the executions.

Hamas hanged the three men this morning for allegedly “collaborating” with Israel.

The executions came amid a hunt by Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, for those cooperating with Israel after the recent assassination of one of its terror chiefs, Mazen Faqha, which it blames on the Jewish state.

— Dov Lieber contributed

Israeli troops interrogating alleged car-rammer’s family

Security forces raided the West Bank home of Malek Ahmad Mousa Hamed, who drove his car into two IDF soldiers earlier today, killing one of them, the army says.

The troops are now interrogating Hamed’s family members in Silwad, northeast of Ramallah, the army says.

This morning, the 21-year-old Palestinian man drove into the two soldiers near a bus stop outside the Ofra settlement in the central West Bank.

One soldier, Elhai Teharlev, was killed, while the second was lightly injured.

25 injured in fresh Syrian regime gas attack — local media

Syrian media reports helicopters belonging to the Syrian regime dropped barrel bombs with chlorine gas on the town of al-Lataminah, located in the Hama province.

Around 25 people, including children, suffered suffocation from the gas and were transferred to a nearby hospital, the Syrian site Orient news reports.

— Dov Lieber

Yad Vashem calls for world response to Syrian chemical attack

The chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum calls on the international community to take action against the use of chemical weapons, following the reported sarin gas attack in Syria.

Chairman Avner Shalev says “following World War II, the global community enacted universal principles and instituted international organizations with the express purpose of averting future crimes against humanity.”

He calls upon “world leaders and the global community to act now in order to put a stop to the atrocities and avert further suffering.”

Human Rights Watch slams ‘barbaric’ Hamas executions

The Human Rights Watch organization condemns the executions of three men in the Gaza Strip who were accused by Hamas of collaborating with Israel, calling on the Islamist group to stop the “barbaric” practice.

The executions were carried out after Hamas vowed revenge for the mysterious killing of one of its commanders last month, which it blames on the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its Palestinian “collaborators.”

The men who were hanged this morning were not implicated in his killing but were accused of past acts of “treason and collaborating,” a Hamas interior ministry statement says.

“The abhorrent executions by Hamas authorities of three men in Gaza deemed to be collaborators project weakness, not strength,” Human Rights Watch says in a statement.

“Hamas authorities will never achieve true security or stability through firing squads or by the gallows, but rather through respect for international norms and the rule of law.”

— AFP

Florida legislature vote to fund Jewish school security

The budget committees of the Florida State House and Senate each voted to set aside funds to upgrade security at Jewish schools.

The amounts set aside by the lawmakers in the votes on Wednesday range from $254,000 up to $500,000, the Associated Press reported.

There have been threats made to 17 Jewish Community Centers and Jewish institutions in the state so far this year.

Many of the threats were part of the more than 100 bomb threats called into Jewish Community Centers and Jewish organizations. A dual Israeli-American citizen living in southern Israel has been arrested, accused of making most of the threats using high tech-equipment from his bedroom,

Republican State Rep. Randy Fine told the Associated Press that the money allocated by the state legislature would pay for security upgrades to protect the some 10,000 students at Jewish day schools throughout the state. Among the security upgrades would be fences and bullet-proof glass.

— JTA

Turkey: Syria autopsies show chemical weapons used in attack

BEIRUT — Turkey’s justice minister says the results from autopsies conducted on three Syrians brought to Turkey after this week’s assault in Syria’s Idlib province that killed 86 people show the victims were subjected to a chemical weapons attack.

The statement comes as international outrage is growing over the harrowing attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria. In France, the country’s foreign minister called for President Bashar Assad’s government to be prosecuted over its alleged use of chemical weapons.

The Syrian government has denied it carried out any chemical attack on the town in Idlib.

In Turkey, state-run Anadolu and the private DHA news agencies quotes Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying that “it was determined after the autopsy that a chemical weapon was used.”

Turkish officials say that close to 60 victims of the attack were brought to Turkey for treatment and three of them died.

Tuesday’s attack happened just 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Turkish border, and the Turkish government — a close ally of Syrian rebels — set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in the province of Hatay, where the victims were initially treated before being moved to hospitals.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the town’s eastern outskirts.

— AP

Russian police arrest 3 over links to subway bombing

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Russian investigators arrest three people suspected of links to a suicide bomber accused of attacking the city’s subway earlier this week, and defused elements of an explosive device in the apartment where they lived.

The Investigative Committee says the suspects are residents of the former Soviet Central Asia region like the bomber, 22-year-old Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, a native of Kyrgyzstan.

The building’s residents were evacuated before explosives experts went in to check the site. Konstantin Serov, the chief administrator in the city district where the building is located, tells Russian news agencies that police deactivated an explosive device at the apartment.

The committee, the nation’s top criminal investigation agency, says investigators also found objects that would help advance the probe during a search of the home on St. Petersburg’s eastern outskirts.

No one has claimed responsibility for the subway bombing, but Russian trains and planes long have been targeted by bombings staged by Islamist militants.

— AP

Border Police officer indicted for attempted rape of IDF soldier

An officer in the Border Police is indicted for the attempted rape of an IDF soldier last month.

Barak Avraham, 25, is accused of forcing himself onto the victim, “against her objection,” on the night of March 23, according to the charge sheet.

The victim knew Avraham from her army service, and the two had a friendly relationship, the court says.

On the night of the attempted rape, Avraham, along with another officer, invited the victim to his apartment in the central town of Ramat Hasharon. She initially refused, but later acquiesced.

When she walked into his room, Avraham grabbed her and started kissing her “forcefully.” He eventually moved her onto a couch and attempted to vaginally rape her, but she pushed him off, according to the indictment.

Avraham then apologized to her “a number of times,” according to the charge sheet.

Days later, Avraham sent her a WhatsApp message, expressing concern that she would report what happened to her commander.

The victim, whose identity is not being released to the public, told him that because of the incident she was now afraid to be alone in a room with a man.

Avraham was dismissed from his position in the Border Police and is now in jail for the trial.

He is indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court of attempted rape and coercing a false testimony.

Israel Nature and Parks Authority calls off planned Passover strike

National park and nature reserve workers call off a planned strike they had threatened to hold for two or more days during the upcoming Passover holidays, when hundreds of thousands of vacationing Israelis like to head out to see nature in full bloom.

Management at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority had asked the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court to prevent the strike. During court deliberations the workers agreed not to carry out the strike that would have shuttered 200 nature reserves and 70 national parks.

The strike was called after what the workers say is the suspension of negotiations over salaries and conditions.

— Stuart Winer

Undercover as soldiers, police arrest ultra-Orthodox assailants

Dressed undercover as IDF soldiers, police officers arrested eight ultra-Orthodox men for attacking them in the Mea She’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem, police say.

Following a number of incidents in which members of the ultra-Orthodox community assaulted soldiers in that neighborhood, the police sent undercover officers to draw out suspected assailants.

When the undercover detectives were attacked, their assailants were detained, along with others who attempted to prevent the arrest, police say.

“The Israel Police see, with the greatest severity, the incitement against and attack of religious soldiers over their service in the IDF,” police say.

IAI signs contracts with India worth NIS 5.83 billion

The Israel Aerospace Industries announces the company signed contracts with India worth more than NIS 5.83 billion ($1.6 billion).

The state-owned IAI will sell the MRSAM air & missile defense systems to the Indian Army.

The company will also supply the LRSAM air & missile defense systems for the first Indian aircraft carrier.

Report: Steve Bannon threatened to leave White House

Before being ousted from the US National Security Council, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon threatened to leave the Donald Trump administration altogether, according to NBC news.

“If my talents aren’t needed here, I can take them somewhere else,” Bannon said, according to reporter Joe Scarborough.

President Rivlin mourns soldier killed in West Bank car-ramming

President Reuven Rivlin mourns the death of IDF soldier Elhai Teharlev, killed today in an apparent car-ramming attack in the central West Bank.

“We have lost today a dear son, Elhai Teharlev, in the State of Israel’s ongoing struggle to ensure its security, and safeguard its citizens,” Rivlin says.

A Palestinian man drove his car into Teharlev and another soldier, while they were guarding a bus stop near the Ofra settlement, northwest of Ramallah.

Teharlev, 20, from the nearby Talmon settlement, was pronounced dead at the scene, while the second soldier was lightly wounded.

“I want to send my heartfelt condolences to the Teharlev family, and all the community of Talmon, and wish a speedy recovery to all the injured. The IDF, the Shin Bet, the police, and all the security services are working tirelessly to keep us safe, in a complicated battle in which the home front and the front line are one and the same,” Rivlin says.

Israel freezes work permits for car-rammer’s family

The Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories freezes the work permits of the Palestinian man who earlier today drove his car into two IDF soldiers, killing one of them.

This afternoon, the IDF said it raided the assailant’s home and interrogated his family.

— Dov Lieber

US planning Israeli-Arab peace summit for July — report

A Saudi-owned news outlet reports that the White House is planning an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit in the United States in July.

The conference is meant to be attended by Israel and various Arab governments, according to Al-Hayat.

The summit was reportedly discussed during US President Donald Trump’s meetings with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah, during their visits to the White House this week.

JCC hoaxer to stay behind bars, court rules

A court on Thursday rules to keep behind bars an Israeli-American teenager accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States that have stirred a political backlash.

The 18-year-old’s latest court appearance comes as reports emerged that his bitcoin account was estimated to be worth millions of shekels.

Haaretz reports that the finding raised suspicions that he was being paid in the virtual currency for the threats, though another report alleges he was believed to have sold forged documents online as well.

Police say the Rishon Lezion court extends the suspect’s remand until April 18, following his arrest on March 23 after an investigation that included the FBI.

His identity remained under a gag order, though authorities have confirmed he was arrested in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

In recent days, his mother and father have given television interviews saying their son was ill and not motivated by hatred, adding that they were unaware of his alleged activities and apologizing. His lawyer told the court last week that he has a brain tumor and suffers from autism.

— AFP

UN urges 72-hour ceasefire to bring aid to Syria’s Ghouta region

The UN calls for an urgent ceasefire in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region, near Damascus, to allow in desperately needed aid and avoid a repeat of the devastation seen in Aleppo.

“We need a 72-hour pause for Eastern Ghouta, and we need it in the coming days,” the head of the United Nations-backed humanitarian taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, tells reporters in Geneva.

He warns that the some 400,000 people besieged in the area near Damascus “are now suffering alone in the sense that they have a shortage of medical supplies, their hospitals have been bombed, and they are running out of food and other supplies.”

Eastern Ghouta, the last remaining opposition stronghold near the capital, has been under a devastating government siege since 2012, and is targeted regularly by air strikes and artillery.

During the weekly meeting of the humanitarian taskforce for Syria, co-chairs Russia and the United States, along with others had agreed to “look specifically at the Eastern Ghouta situation,” Egeland says.

“Everybody agrees, including the Russians, that the situation there is very dire, and that a special … agreement is needed for Eastern Ghouta,” he says.

“Nobody wants another eastern Aleppo to be happening on our watch,” he insists, referring to the drawn-out siege and massive Syrian army offensive last year to retake the former rebel stronghold.

— AFP

Iran conservatives shortlist 5 for presidential vote

Iran’s conservatives announce a shortlist of five presidential candidates on Thursday as they experimented with their first-ever democratic primary in a bid to find a leader to challenge President Hassan Rouhani.

Fearing another defeat at the hands of the moderate president in next month’s election, a new alliance called the Popular Front of Revolutionary Forces hopes to unite conservatives around a single figure.

Some 3,000 delegates gathered at an exhibition center on Tehran’s outskirts to vote for the shortlist, which was published by local media.

The list includes 56-year-old cleric Ebrahim Raiesi. Barely known a year ago, he is currently head of a powerful charitable foundation in the holy city of Mashhad and tipped as a possible successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Also included was Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, 55, who came second to Rouhani in 2013. He earlier said he would not put himself forward, but was nominated by others.

The other selections were Parviz Fattah, head of another charitable foundation, and former MPs Alireza Zakani and Mehrdad Bazrpash, both fierce critics of the 2015 deal with world powers that saw sanctions eased in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.

Analysts still see Rouhani as the frontrunner in the May 19 election, despite widespread anger over the country’s struggling economy.

Efforts to unite the conservative vote may prove difficult, with former hardline president Mahmud Ahmadinejad announcing Wednesday that he would back his deputy Hamid Baghaie as an independent.

— AFP

Bank of Israel keeps interest rate at 0.1%

The Bank of Israel announces it will not change the interest rate, keeping it at 0.1 percent.

According to the bank’s Monetary Committee, the economy grew in the first quarter of 2017.

“The labor market continues to convey a very positive picture and is near full employment,” the bank says in a statement.

“There are signs of the housing market cooling off, but it is too early to conclude that the trend of increases has halted,” it adds.

Islamic State downs Iraqi helicopter over Mosul, killing 2

The Iraqi government says Islamic State militants shot down an Iraqi army helicopter over Mosul, killing the two-member crew.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense says in a statement that the incident happened during the operation to retake the city from IS terrorists.

Officials say the chopper came down as a result of ground fire and landed somewhere in eastern Mosul. Footage from an AP cameraman shows a large ball of fire with a long trail of thick black smoke as the aircraft falling out of the sky Thursday afternoon.

Iraqi air force and army aircraft conduct regular strike operations over the city to support police and special forces units battling the militants. The operation to retake Mosul from IS started last October.

— AP

Nunes announces he will step down from Russia-Trump probe

Chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes announces he will step aside from an investigation into ties between Russia and US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Nunes was accused of having improper contact with the Trump White House during the investigation.

In a statement, the Republican congressmen says that several “left-wing activists” filed accusations against him with the office of congressional ethics.

Nunes says the charges are false and politically motivated. But he says it’s in the “best interests” of the committee to have Republican congressman Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily take charge of the committee’s investigation.

He says he will continue fulfilling other duties with the committee and wants to talk to the ethics committee as soon as possible to defend himself.

— AP contributed

Putin blasts Netanyahu for ‘unacceptable’ comments on Syria gas attack

Russian President Vladmir Putin scolds Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for attributing Tuesday’s chemical attack to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Putin tells Netanyahu over the phone that the accusation is “unfounded” and says it’s “unacceptable” to make such claims “before there’s a full investigation,” according to the Kremlin.

Father of slain soldier remembers son as a singing ‘angel’

Rabbi Ohad Teharlev mourns his son Elhai who was killed in a suspected car-ramming attack in the central West Bank today, calling him “an angel” who “loved to sing.”

“I thank God that he gave us 20 years with Elhai,” Teharlev tells Ynet news.

“He was a special kid, full of life who brought happiness to everyone around him. He loved to sing, to play music, to swim in springs,” he says.

Speaking to reporters outside his home in the Talmon settlement, Teharlev recounts hearing about the car-ramming near the Ofra settlement, northeast of Ramallah, where his son was serving.

Teharlev, a rabbi at the Lindenbaum Seminary, says he called his son’s friend and when he didn’t get a clear answer about what happened, he “then understood something had happened.”

The rabbi says he drove to Jerusalem to pick up his daughter and when they arrived home, he “saw the taxi pull up and inside it, IDF officers.”

Teharlev adds that he has no anger toward the army.

Sgt. Elhai Teharlev will be buried in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery at 6:30 p.m.

PM says he asked Putin to get chemical weapons out of Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirms he spoke with Russian President Vladmir Putin, but doesn’t comment on the reported scolding he received for official Israeli remarks attributing Tuesday’s gas attack to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, during the call, Netanyahu told Putin that the international community needs to “complete the effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria, as was agreed upon in 2013” and expressed sympathy for the bombing of a subway in Saint Petersburg, Russia, earlier this week.

The Kremlin said that Putin also chastised Netanyahu for comments that blamed Assad for the reported sarin gas attack, presumably referring specifically to remarks made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday.

US State Dept. designates Hamas commander as global terrorist

The US State Department designated Hamas military commander Abu Anas al-Ghandour as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”

This classification imposes sanctions on al-Ghandour. The US can no longer have any deals or transactions with the Hamas commander. Any money or property he has in the US is also “frozen,” the US State Department says.

Al-Ghandour was involved in the attack that led to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, a dual French-Israeli citizen.

“Ghandour has also served on the Hamas Shura Council and political bureau,” the US State Department says.

Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Russia announces that it recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, making it one of the first countries in the world to do so.

In a statement on its website, the Russian foreign ministry says it believes East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the ministry says.

Ya’alon: We didn’t do enough to bring back bodies of soldiers captured by Hamas

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon laments that Israel didn’t “do enough” to retrieve the bodies of IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed in the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

“More than two and a half years have passed since the Protective Edge campaign, and the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul are still in the hands of an enemy,” Ya’alon says, speaking at the opening ceremony of a memorial site for Goldin, according to Army Radio.

“Did we do enough to bring back Oron and Hadar for a burial in Israel? Unfortunately, I can’t give an affirmative answer to that question,” Ya’alon says.

President, PM praise deal between IAI and India

President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu praise a nearly $2 billion (NIS 7.29 billion) deal between the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and Indian military.

Rivlin speaks with the CEO of IAI, Yossi Weiss, congratulating him on the deal, which according to the President’s Office is the largest in the history of the country’s aerospace industry.

“Please pass on my congratulations to all who contributed to this important achievement. You have come such a long way to arrive at this point, it is truly exceptional,” Rivlin tells him.

Netanyahu also speaks with Weiss to congratulate him on the agreement, estimated to be worth $1.6 billion (NIS 5.83 billion).

US Democrats block Trump nominee to high court

US Senate Democrats block the nomination of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The Senate voted 55-45 to successfully filibuster the nomination of Gorsuch. Republicans are planning to unilaterally change Senate rules to remove a 60-vote filibuster requirement for Gorsuch and all future Supreme Court nominees, reducing it to a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats opposing Gorsuch say they believe he would favor corporations over workers and would be on the far right of the court.

They are also angry over the Republican blockade last year of President Barack Obama’s nominee for the same seat, Merrick Garland.

If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, 14 months ago.

— AP

Israel returns remains of Jordan soldiers from 1967 war

Israel says it repatriated the remains of three Jordanian soldiers, 50 years after they perished in the 1967 Six Day War.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michal Maayan says the bodies were unearthed by chance by workers in Jerusalem.

“Municipal workers discovered the remains of three Jordanian soldiers near the Sur Baher neighbourhood where a Jordanian army base had been situated,” she tells AFP.

They will be transported to Jordan overland to be “buried with dignity” in their homeland, Maayan says.

Jordan held East Jerusalem — where today Sur Baher is located — until June 1967, when it joined Syria and Egypt in a war against neighboring Israel.

By the end of the Six Day War, Israel seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

In 1980, the Jewish state annexed East Jerusalem in an act never recognized by the international community.

— AFP

IDF finds gun in Palestinian man’s car in northern West Bank

IDF soldiers arrest a Palestinian man after finding a pistol in his car at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank, the army says.

The troops were searching the man’s vehicle at a roadblock near Tapuah Junction, in the northern West Bank, when they found the gun.

“The weapon has been confiscated and the armed man was taken for interrogation,” the army says.

A gun found in the car of a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank on April 6, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A gun found in the car of a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank on April 6, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Hundreds attend funeral of slain IDF soldier

Hundreds of people arrive for the funeral of Sgt. Elhai Teharlev, who was killed in a car-ramming in the central West Bank this morning.

Teharlev is being buried in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery.

The soldier, 20, was from the Talmon settlement, northwest of Ramallah.

Teharlev was guarding a bus stop near the Ofra settlement when a Palestinian man drove his car into him and another soldier. Teharlev was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other soldiers suffered light injuries.

Kremlin says support for Assad not unconditional

The spokesman for President Vladimir Putin tells The Associated Press that Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad is not unconditional.

Thursday’s statement from Dmitry Peskov comes several days after a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held province in Syria. Moscow, Assad’s key backer, has supported the Syrian government militarily since 2015.

Turkey said on Thursday that autopsies of Syrian victims from this week’s assault in the Idlib province, which happened 60 miles from the Turkish border, show they were subjected to chemical weapons.

The Syrian government maintains it didn’t use chemical weapons and instead is blaming the rebels for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry says the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the town’s eastern outskirts.

— AP

Religious Jews slaughter sheep in demonstration of Passover sacrifice

A group of religious Jews sacrifice a sheep in Jerusalem’s Old City to demonstrate the traditional paschal sacrifice.

On Monday, the day before the Passover holiday, the group plans to do the same in order to fulfill a religious commandment requiring Jews to make an animal sacrifice for the festival.

This is the first time Jews performed this ritual inside the Old City of Jerusalem in nearly 2,000 years.

The sacrificed sheep will be butchered, roasted and eaten.

A sheep that was slaughtered as part of a demonstration about the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem's Old City on April 6, 2017. (Alexander Fulbright/Times of Israel)
A sheep that was slaughtered as part of a demonstration about the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 6, 2017. (Alexander Fulbright/Times of Israel)

San Diego Hilton cancels Passover trip for 700, tour operator alleges

A Hilton hotel in Southern California reportedly canceled a Passover trip for 700 New Yorkers, despite a $1 million deposit, the organizer says.

The New York Post’s Page Six reported Wednesday that the 10-day trip to the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines in San Diego was booked in November, according to the organizer, Joseph Allaham, owner of the New York kosher steakhouse Prime Grill.

Allaham, who told the paper that he has been organizing Passover trips since 2014 under the name Prime Experience, said the Hilton will not honor the reservations nor return the deposit. The trip was to include guest speakers, rabbis in residence, a camp and entertainment.

The hotel would not discuss the case, citing pending litigation. The dispute will go to arbitration in California.

— JTA

Trump considering military action in Syria — CNN

CNN reports that US President Donald Trump told some members of Congress that he’s considering military action in Syria.

The potential US military intervention would be in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly using sarin gas in an attack in Idlib, which killed at least 86 people.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that the attack was approved by Assad personally. The Syrian president has denied carrying out a gas attack, saying his regime’s air force hit a rebel chemical weapons depot.

PM sends condolences to family of killed soldier

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sends condolences to the family of Sgt. Elhai Teharlev, who was killed in a car-ramming attack in the central West Bank this morning.

The prime minister notes that the slain soldier studied at the Mekor Haim school and was friends with the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in the summer of 2014.

“Elhai was very loved by his friends and family. He was an inseparable part of the community of Talmon, which today is mourning the terrible murder,” Netanyahu writes in a Facebook post, referring to the settlement where Teharlev lived.

“May his memory be a blessing, and may his name be rooted in our hearts forever,” Netanyahu writes.

IDF restricts freedom of movement for car-rammer’s hometown

The IDF imposes a “breathing closure” on the West Bank town of Silwad, after one of its residents drove his car into two soldiers, killing one of them, the army says.

“As a result of the ramming attack, security measures are being taken in Silwad,” an army spokesperson says.

There are no restrictions on entrance to the village, but residents can only exit following “security checks,” the army says.

New commander takes over Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200

A new head of the Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 is appointed at a ceremony at the unit’s base in Gelilot, north of Tel Aviv.

Due to the sensitivity of the position, the outgoing commander can only be identified as Brig. Gen. “S” and the incoming commander as Brig. Gen. “K.”

Unit 8200 is responsible for signal intelligence, also known as SIGINT.

“Unit 8200, with its influence and the breadth of its actions, is a special group in Military Intelligence, in the IDF, in the Intelligence community, in the State of Israel and — I’ll allow myself to say — in the world,” says Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, commander of Military Intelligence, at the ceremony.

“I want to thank you ‘S,’ with never-ending appreciation, for the important, impressive and unparalleled work. And to you, ‘K,’ the incoming commander, I wish you great success on your new path, in a journey that begins today in Unit 8200,” Halevi says.

A ceremony for the incoming head of Military Intelligence's Unit 8200 in the Gelilot base, north of Tel Aviv, on April 6, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A ceremony for the incoming head of Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 in the Gelilot base, north of Tel Aviv, on April 6, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Car-rammer stole father’s car to carry out attack — Israel Radio

Israel Radio reports that the Palestinian man who drove his car into two IDF soldiers, killing one of them, had stolen the vehicle from his father.

Malek Ahmad Mousa Hamed, 21, of Silwad plowed into the soldiers outside the Ofra settlement, northeast of Ramallah.

Hamed was arrested nearly two years ago after he tried to break into the Adam settlement in the central West Bank. He served in prison for four months, Channel 2 news reports.

Turkey hopes US takes military action in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he hopes US President Donald Trump will take military action in Syria after this week’s chemical attack.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quotes Erdogan as reacting to news reports Thursday that Trump was mulling military action after the assault in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people.

It quotes Erdogan as saying Turkey would be prepared to do “whatever falls on us” to support possible military action. Turkey is a leading supporter of the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Earlier, Turkish officials said that autopsies of the victims from the assault, which happened 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the Turkish border, show they were subjected to chemical weapons.

— AP

More arrests made in Russia subway train attack

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Russia’s top investigative body says eight people in total have been arrested in connection with the suicide bombing of a subway train in St. Petersburg that killed 13 passengers.

The Investigative Committee says in a statement that six people were arrested Thursday in St. Petersburg and two in Moscow. The committee didn’t provide details on how the suspects may have been connected to Monday’s bombing.

Earlier Thursday, Russian security agents arrested three people suspected of links to the suicide bomber accused of attacking the subway. They also deactivated an explosive device in the apartment where they suspects lived.

The circumstances of the other arrests were not stated.

On Wednesday, six people were arrested on suspicion of recruiting for the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front militant groups.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

— AP

Reports of shots fired at IDF post in central West Bank

The IDF says it’s investigating reports of shots fired at an army position in the central West Bank.

The shooting was reported near the Psagot settlement, near Ramallah.

There are no reports of injuries.

Legendary comedian Don Rickles dies at age 90

Legendary, quick-tongued comedian Don Rickles dies in his home at the age of 90, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The New York-born Rickles had a career spanning some 60 years. He made a name for himself as an insult comic, poking fun equally at celebrities and the hoi polloi.

His prevalence for jibes and barbs earned him the ironic nickname “Mr. Warmth.”

The Lithuanian Jewish comedian grew up in the New York borough of Queens, speaking Yiddish at home.

Rickles died of kidney failure, his publicist Paul Shefrin says.

He is survived by his wife Barbara Sklar and two children, Mindy and Larry.

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